ten

 

 

I recently read the fiction novel by Laine Moriarty, “What Alice Forgot”.  In the novel, Alice, 39 years old with three children and a failing marriage, has a freak head injury and wakes up thinking it’s 10 years prior, when she was happily in love and expecting her first child.

15085193The book was a page-turner. Laine Moriarty has a way of weaving humor and fun into hard story lines.  More than anything, this book had me thinking about my own life.

How can 10 years change a person?

In the story, Alice changed quite a bit in 10 years.  Her situation was much different, yes, but Alice the ‘person’ was also much different.  As she journeyed through those tough days, she learned about the Alice of today and many times was baffled and appalled at what was revealed.

I don’t want to give away too much of the story because it was a great read.  Check it out of the library! (I’m a big library buff these days.)

TEN seems to be a number that’s been swirling around me.  It’s been 10 years (a little over) since we first moved to Georgia from Pennsylvania.  It’s been 10 years since I became a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom.  It’s been 10 years to the day that I gave birth to at 10 pound (on the nose) baby boy.

I’ve changed A LOT in 10 years.

Since reading about Alice, I’ve spent time thinking about that.  Some circumstances have changed.  Some of my roles have changed.  But how have I changed as a person? Has the change been good or not so good?

Alice found the person she had become in many ways wasn’t as true as the 10 year younger version of herself.  Is the same true for me?  I think it’s a bit of the opposite.  I think I’ve become a truer version of myself.

I wouldn’t say this journey has all been filled with peaches and roses.  It surely hasn’t.  I’ve had love, hurt, pain, sadness, exhaustion, laughter, depression, anxiety, drive & rest.  I’ve made good friends and lost good ones too.  I’ve had thoughts I regret and said words I regret.  I’ve been jealous.  I’ve compared myself to others. I’ve been over-confident and also highly insecure. I walked away from some friendships for selfish reasons.  I’ve felt desperation over friendship. I’ve struggled with acceptance.  Sounds like a bumpy, noisy road.

I also have grown up.  I’ve had courage to walk away from people and things that are no longer serving me.  I’ve used my voice, even in times when it’s shook.  I’ve been vulnerable & authentic.  I’ve grown in my marriage and as a mom. I’ve found a faith and a trust in a God and Savior that I knew of, but really didn’t know.  Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have ever said that I had a personal relationship with my Heavenly Father.  Today, I can say that I do, and that to me, is the best change of all.

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Have you ever driven over rumble strips?  If you haven’t heard of them, the actual definition of rumble strips are “a series of raised strips across a road or along its edge, changing the noise a vehicle’s tires make on the surface and so warning drivers of speed restrictions or of the edge of the road”.  Pennsylvania roads are always under construction (and full of potholes, by the way – blame the snow, ice & salt) and rumble strips were a frequent sound we heard while traveling.  I remember a time when I was probably about 10 years old myself.  We would travel about 15 minutes north of our home to visit my Uncle, Aunt & cousins.   This journey was not far away, mind you, but the rest of my family all lived within 2 minutes of each other, so really, this was a trek for us.  There were rumble strips placed off of the exit for Brighton Township, as they were doing construction work.  I can see (and hear) my great grandmother, my Nonna.  She spoke very broken-English and her ‘R’ sound was definitely a rolling-r.  Rrrrrrrumble streep.  I loved when she said it.  I used to make her say it again.  We’d giggle.  Oh how I loved my Nonna.

Without driving over the rumble strips, how would we appreciate the silence and feel the contentment of the smooth road?

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Yesterday, my baby boy, on his last day of being nine, said in a moment of frustration, “You just don’t understand me!”  I broke down – because we all want to be understood.  I want to be understood.  And more than anything in this world, I want my babies to feel understood.

It was a rumble strip.

Today, he woke up a 10 year-old.  A bright smile, soft skin, sweet cheeks, squinty eyes…  I felt the contentment of the smooth road.

We have to find thanksgiving in the rumble strips of life.  Without them, we wouldn’t savor the joy.

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Jeff came downstairs this morning and gave Austin a huge hug and a kiss on the forehead.

“I wondered how different you would look this morning since you’re 10!”

He smiled.  Giggled.

He posed for a picture by the big cupcake and cuddled on the couch with me.

If I have one prayer for this boy, it’s that he knows joy.

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10 years old.  10 pounds.  Hardest day of my life by far.  But I had to go over that rumble strip to know the love that he could bring.

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Ten years can change a person.  The next ten, God willing, will continue to change me.  But with my roots growing deeper in the love of Christ, I pray that I can find the joy in the most difficult times.

 

 

 

 

hope

When you don’t have the answers, but your mind is flooding with thoughts, the best thing to do is just write.  That’s where I find myself today.

Yesterday marked the 8th school shooting since 2018 began – only 45 days ago. First thing’s first – I do not have all of the answers.  I have thoughts…  opinions…  ideas…  hopes…  and of course, fears…

I dropped my 3 children off at school, kissed their little faces before they went in and prayed for their day, as I do every day.  That sounded perfect, didn’t it?  Ok so actually, the ride to elementary school this morning was filled with some yelling, as my little one was a bit peeved that I threw away the ‘Air Heads’ and ‘Fun Dip’ that he got yesterday during the Valentine exchange (that has now turned into another version of Halloween…  but I digress).  But hey, taffy is bad for your teeth and pure sugar is just evil and that’s just how I feel about those candies. So yes, our ride to elementary school at 7:15am contained some yelling, some frustration, and then some apologies, as I sat thinking about letting my kids out of the van without them knowing that I love them.  Some kids yesterday maybe got out of their cars after arguing with their mom and didn’t hear those words before they entered the school – and the didn’t come out alive.  SO….  Here we are.  This is what we think of now when we drop our kids off at school.  Do they know I love them in case they don’t make it home today?

This is not normal.

This is painful.

This is just nonsense, if you ask me.  Maybe you aren’t asking me, and if so, you don’t have to read anything else.  Because like I said, I do not have all of the answers.  Just some thoughts.

Our view of the world comes from within the four walls of our home.  The things we are taught begin with our parents and grandparents and from those teachings come the core of our being – our values, morals, character.  Next, come our own life experiences. This is the window in which we see the world.  With so many different ways of being taught and so many different life experiences, we all see things in a little bit of a different way.  You know the funny thing is – if we are open to learning from others and understanding WHY they see things the way they do – even if we don’t quite see it the same way – we practice empathy and understanding.  We grow this way.  Unfortunately, in the world we live in today, it’s rather difficult for our society to believe that someone else’s belief may be the right one.  We are so driven by the need to be right that we are blinded to learning and to hearing.  Do you feel it’s possible that two people can actually be right?  That there could be a middle ground?  That one person’s perspective could actually shift your own?  We aren’t listening to one another.  We’re just spouting.  Sometimes we are spouting blame.  And sometimes we are just spouting our stuff.  But we are spouting and not listening – and that is Issue #1.

Next, we come to the sad state of mental health in our country, which honestly, I do not feel educated enough about to even begin a deep discussion – except to say – it is as real as high blood pressure or diabetes.  I know it’s real because I live it.  I know it’s real because I also have a child that lives it.  I have other family members that live it.  Likely, you probably do as well.  Here’s what I see when it comes to conversations of mental health – fear and shame.  Shame from others, stigma from the community, fear of being judged.  All of it.  Personally, I allowed my own fear of being judged to alter how I was treating my own mental illness.  It took two doctors and a counselor to talk me out of the mindset that medication was the wrong path and a cop out.  It took some therapy for me to get the voice out of my head that said, ‘people that take anti-depressants just can’t cope with motherhood.’  GARBAGE.  But I bought into the lie and sacrificed my own quality of life and my family’s quality of life.  I put that fear, or my own ego, before taking care of them.  All this to say, if you have mental illness in your home, you are not alone.  You shouldn’t ever feel alone.  If you have a child suffering from it, even the mildest form of anxiety, it is as real as that broken bone they may have gotten last week.  And it’s up to us, in the four walls of our homes, to take care of it, to take care of them.  It is not shameful.  In the instances of the millions out there that perhaps don’t have a safe four walls they call home, that don’t have a confidant, a mentor, a teacher to help them…  It’s our duty to recognize these individuals and reach out.  Show them love.  Be a friend. We can’t stay silent.

Another topic I don’t know enough about to talk in an educated fashion is gun reform.  Except to say that it is possible to believe in a right to bear arms and gun ownership and NOT believe that we should be able to access assault rifles.  I know there’s big money and a lot of other stuff I don’t understand that is leading the lack of regulation.  And we are all suffering because of it.  It’s a middle road way of thinking and I don’t care, it’s just how I see it.  At the highest levels of this country, people were elected to protect our citizens.  They are paid to do this job.  And with it, seems a huge responsibility.  Please act on your responsibility, whoever you are out there that is not.  This is not blame.  I am not saying that this sole issue lies in lawmakers hands alone.  But I am saying that they can choose to be part of a solution because they have a responsibility to be part of it.  They represent us all.

Deep at the heart of all of this is the growing lack of faith in this country.  I’ve read numerous articles about Christians leaving the faith in ‘DROVES’.  It is my belief that without a relationship with Jesus, without following Him, we are becoming immune to love.  Care for each other, for humanity, is dwindling.  Truly knowing the call to love others as Jesus calls us to love would not result in these mass murders.  It just wouldn’t.  Andy Stanley says it best when he says, “Following Jesus will make your life better and make you better at life.”  I believe that with all of my being.

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Finally, we all have a voice. We all have a way to act and be heard.  And for each of us, our way is different.  But if you are one that is called to love others like Jesus did, let’s stop accepting this ‘problem’ and let’s focus on changing it.  I’m not 100% sure how this looks for me personally, but I know that God wants to use my gifts to bring about change.  As I pray for those, I ask you to do the same.  How can He use you?  It’s going to look different for us all.  Acceptance of this way of life is not the answer, so let’s stop accepting it.  This is not normal.  WE are better than this.

Examine what’s in your heart.  Examine what’s in your four walls.  Look deeply at your people.  Pray over them and pray WITH them.  Teach them to be difference makers.  Educate them on what this world looks like so they can be equipped to go out and make change themselves.  Recognize when things just don’t seem right and have the courage as a parent to step in the direction of help.  You are not powerless.  You mothers, you fathers, you sisters, you brothers.  YOU are not powerless.  And you are certainly not alone, regardless of how you may feel.

Let’s also realize that prayer is powerful.  The privilege of prayer is amazing.  God wants to hear your prayers. God also wants you to act in love.  To believe in Jesus is to believe in that call.  We are really really good at saying the words, but not following through on the action.

The child out there sitting alone, needs love, not shame.  The kids that cheat, they need love, not shame.  The kids that lie, they need love, not shame.  The kids that steal, they need love, not shame. The kids that have mental illness, they need love, not shame.

Oh how I wish we could snap our fingers and change our world.  Lord, can you please make all of this pain and suffering go away?  I believe the tears of Jesus are real today. He told us –

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

We live in a broken world.  We have never been promised perfection.  We have never been promised fairness.  But we have been given hope.  So that is where I’ll rest today. The Air Heads and the Fun Dip are still staying in the garbage, but my boys just walked in safely from the bus stop, and gave me a kiss, so I’ll say ‘Thank you’ for this day.

 

Love FOR Self

This day, Valentine’s Day, has me thinking about love.  Not the romantic love that is conveyed in the ‘Hallmark Holiday’ creation, but love for self.

What does it look like to love who you are? Not only to look in the mirror and love what you see on the outside, but to know that the person on the inside is good?

What about loving the journey you’re on? Taking some time to stop over-thinking, over-reacting, judging, hoping, yearning and always expecting more or perhaps better?

This year, I’ve focused on the word contentment.  That word can mean many different things to many people, and perhaps it does for me as well.  More than anything, I knew that as 2018 began, I desired to find a level of contentment that I had not found in prior years. The contentment I was searching for had to begin within me – with loving who I am and loving the journey that I’m on.

First, I desired a deeper relationship with my Heavenly Father.  The essence of that relationship is what is allowing me to begin to see and find some of the missing pieces.  It is my belief that He leads us all on the journeys that we find ourselves walking – the large jigsaw puzzle of life, the map of all the winding roads, mountains & valleys.  He directs us, nudges us, guides us and certainly sends people to cross our paths that guide, advise and carry us to the next stop.  Sometimes we listen and sometimes we don’t.  Sometimes we really just think we know better (how dare we even say it) than what His plans may be.   That’s simply love OF self.  Selfishness.  Ego.  Pride.  We have our plans.  We know our walk.  We know which step to take to bring us to that next big ME moment.  LOVING the ME that other people SEE.  The ‘all important’ me.

I’m sure many of you can relate, but there have been times in my life that I wanted to be seen. When you get the taste of a stage, it’s hard to step off of it.  When you get a sniff of other’s envy, it can get a bit addicting.  Privilege & status (in big and large circles) and all of that crap just gets in your head in a bad way.  Luckily for me, God allowed me to see – He literally opened my eyes to some of these things growing in me and around me.  And He has helped me continue to walk the jagged road of love OF self to love FOR self.  Not easy, I’ll tell you!  But worth it on the other side.

As I thought about contentment and what that looks like for me, I thought about the things in my life that bring me joy today and have brought me joy in the past.  I thought about the things that stole my joy.  And somewhere in the middle of that, I’ve struggled with discernment of things that both brought me joy and also stole it.  Could it be possible that certain things in my life could do both?  And how did the Lord want me to move forward with those things?

I’m not sure I have all of the answers yet, but I do know that I pray and I try to follow the Lord’s nudges.  There has been one little nudge in that ‘somewhere in the middle’ zone that has been pushing me to write again, despite knowing that my eagerness to spread my opinions and believe that I have the answers to all of the world’s problems puts love OF self before love FOR self.  But then again, does it?  Am I overthinking that? Does God want to use me to speak words that others need to hear?  It’s that in-between that I’m trying to figure out.

If you’re searching for contentment, maybe this can be your guide too.  Identifying your joy givers and your joy stealers is the first step towards contentment.

First – JOY Givers:

  • FAMILY – I’ve concluded that THESE people, these 4 others that I share this lovely home with, are my people.  Nothing else should get in the way of loving them and putting them first ALWAYS, but more particularly, at this very moment.
  • CHURCH/BIBLE STUDY – God wants to do good things in all of us, and finding Him, learning about Him, and leading others to Him is part of the plan. Woodstock City Church continues to bless us on that path.
  • BOOKS – I love to read.  In this push to greatness, I allowed lies like ‘there’s no time for books or TV on the journey to the top.  When you get there, you’ll have all the time in the world for that.’  OK LISTEN.  THAT IS TOTAL AND COMPLETE BS AND I AM PRAYING TO GET OVER THE ANGER FOR ALL OF THE PEOPLE OVER THE LAST 9 YEARS THAT PUT THAT IDEA INTO MY HEAD.  Without time for you, time to escape to the land of novels and amazing television shows like ‘This is Us’ or ‘The Crown’.  PLEASE PEOPLE.  Climbing to the top can surely allow you to miss some great stuff if you let it.  I was letting it.  So, back to books. I’m on my 15th for the year so far and I’m super proud of that one.
  • DOG – Have you seen my dog?  He’s the best.  He’s my favorite companion.  He lays next to me while I read and wraps his paws around my arm.  We will forget about all of the not so good things he does.  He loves me unconditionally.  And I love him.

Second – JOY Stealers:

  • FACEBOOK – Dearest Facebook, you stole my joy for at least the last 5 years.  You, like a drug, kept me on a News Feed repeat, always needing more, never seeing enough, saying enough, sharing enough, friending enough.  Although I love being connected to many of you and I really do miss that connection, what I find in the scrolling of Facebook is ENVY and COVETING.  Also a lot of eye rolling.  My eyes just honestly were hurting.  Some of us have a really really big LOVE OF SELF around these parts (not to exclude myself).
  • SHAMERS – I no longer have time in my life for people that shame others.  Until I read Brene Brown’s books, I didn’t recognize shame like I do today.  I’m grateful I see it now and I’m thankful when the little ‘ping’ goes off that allows me to recognize it.  There is no place for shamers in Sandora Land.
  • USERS – Dear ones that are great friends when they need you and when their kids love your kids, but quickly forget about you, in fact, even turn on you, when they no  longer need you, nor do their children.  Done, ok?  Just done with all of that.  The road to friendship along with giving my heart to someone, is going to be a lot more careful and cautious going forward.

Finally – JOY Givers and Stealers:

  • FOOD – Dearest Food, you are an addiction.  You are the greatest thing and also the worst.  You provide me so much joy, but the results of too much of you steal my joy.  So for the time being, I’m taking all of the knowledge on whole food nutrition that I have learned since 2009 and I’ve started eating plant based.  Mind you, it’s been 2 weeks.  But 2 weeks is something.  Is it forever?  This I do not know.  It’s for now.
  • WRITING – I am going to figure you out.

Just making these determinations has given me more contentment.  Acting on them, has brought even more.  I realize that the one who clears my paths, who opens and closes my doors, is also the one that calls me worthy.  He wants the best life for me.  I want to give my best to Him by paying attention, prayerfully and patiently.

Contentment can not be found in love OF self.  Never ever.  The only place true contentment can be found is in Christ.  Finding that relationship, strengthening it, brings you to love FOR self.

Psalm 34:10 Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

2 Cor. 12:9-10 “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Much love – and Happy Valentine’s Day!