Welcome Home

This is a post I wrote three years ago and part of what prompted a friend of mine to give me a push to start this blog. I was in Italy with my husband while he was there on business. I also turned 40 while I was there.

Observations about life and me on this side of the pond: so traveling to a foreign land where I didn’t know the native language made me feel both brave and very small. It reminded me how similar we all are, while also being worlds apart and vastly different. I learned that 13 days is a long time for me to live on such limited hugs (Thad is not a hugger- I’m lucky to get the obligatory good morning and good night kisses; not complaining, it’s just who he is). It made me remember that beauty is everywhere and looks very different depending upon where we are. Our job is to find it. This makes life a sort of Seek and Find Puzzle. Luckily, I am a fan of such puzzles. I discovered that standing in a cathedral so large and ancient and beautiful, I could almost feel the millions of prayers and praises that came before mine. The mothers that have cried out to God on behalf of their children, the sons mourning their fathers, the lost seeking direction- they were all there with me as I lifted my own prayers. So small and so seen, I felt somehow closer to Heaven in such a holy place. I realized that adventure is wonderful and makes the world bigger and filled with wonder, and returning home makes life sweeter and that familiar also tastes so sweet. I was reminded how lucky I am to live in a village full of people that will step up and fill in in larger ways than I deserve. Forty isn’t scary- it’s the time when I might finally be starting to get it right, and that getting it right requires far less striving than I’ve done my entire life. And if it turns out that I got all of this wrong, well, I’ll always have Italy!

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My Words

I want my words to reach out and lift up the chin of the discouraged. I want them to wrap the cold and hurting in a blanket of warmth and peace. I want to speak light and love and encouragement. May the syllables I speak be music to the ears of all who hear them. When someone feels lost, may the things I say act as a compass, pointing toward true north and never cause them to go more astray.

I want to speak powerful words, Psalm 51 Words. I want to speak of God’s righteousness and sing His praise.

Let the things that come from my mouth build others up, working to strengthen and never to destroy. I want what comes out to be pleasing to the Lord and soothing to the human.

May my words create a place that feels like home to someone that didn’t even realize they weren’t already there. May they be familiar and comfortable. Let the utterances I speak bring unity and never division. May they bind us, one to another, and not act as a wedge.

Words- mine, yours, theirs- whether realized or not, carry great power and heavy weight. They can inspire, create, motivate and comfort. And they can destroy, sicken and discourage.

Please, oh God, let the words from my mouth bring honor and glory to you!

43

I’m going to be 43 on Sunday. That means I’ve been driving for the majority of my life. I’ve been married nearly half of it. And you know what? They say women aren’t comfortable revealing their age. Not me. Not anymore!!

The older we get, the harder the things are that we have to survive. We have to push through the really rough stuff. Dying parents, divorcing friends, scary doctor appointments and teenagers! And the not quite so rough but still very hard stuff- hot flashes and wrinkles and feet that are expanding and body parts that are drooping and some parts that even leak! What the??

So you know what??! I am claiming all 43 of my years. I’m declaring them with gusty, pride and rejoicing.

Gone are the days when I quietly think “I don’t want to make a fuss over my birthday.” BOLOGNA!! Make a big deal. Feel free to hire sky writers, buy as many balloons as your car can hold, bring me the cakes and flowers and put all the cards in the mail!! Because I’m grateful to be turning 43. I’m grateful that I’ve made it this far. And I’m glad that I have friends and family around that would want to celebrate with me. That itself is worth celebrating.

So pass the cake, pour yourself a glass of your favorite beverage and let’s toast to 43. Cause it’s gonna be awesome!!!

I Want To Apologize

I want to apologize.

To my kids- I’m sorry that we don’t spend our breaks traveling the world, going on adventures and creating memories of places near and far. I’m sorry that you don’t get to go away like so many others do. I’m sorry that instead we pile on the couch for marathon showings of our favorite tv series while in our pjs. Or that we take long naps. Or that it’s 3 p.m. and we’ve only eaten things that come from a box or right out of the frig.

I’m sorry that we haven’t made sure that you’ve been surrounded by family and feel close and connected to people that share your similar gene pool. I’m sorry that it’s mostly just been the four of us all of this time.

I’m sorry that our default position is set on lazy and that we have more stuff than we can manage and I haven’t given you the tools you need to be better domestically.

I want to apologize.

To my neighbors- I’m sorry we are “that house.” The one where the weeds grow wild and the landscaping is, well, what landscaping? I’m sorry that we aren’t tidy and neat and that, despite our best intentions, the bushes need trimmed and the grass needs mowed and the pressure washer hasn’t seen the light of day in several seasons. I’m sorry that the weed and seed, though purchased, has never been applied and watered in because this morning it wasn’t wet enough and that morning it was too windy and, well, our default position is lazy.

I’m sorry that I haven’t invited you over to break bread at our house like neighbors of old. I’m sorry that I don’t know your story, much less your last name. I’m sorry that I haven’t brought you baked goods and created the sense of community that I long for in my heart.

I want to apologize.

To my husband- because I know you love me, but I also know you’d like clean underwear and gourmet dinners and to be able to walk through our bedroom without having to navigate an obstacle course like an American Ninja Warrior. I’m sorry that the to donate “pile” has become more of a mountain than a pile and has overtaken our entire bathtub and spilled over into the bathroom. I know I’m not what your 22 year old self thought he was getting. I know I’m more than that, and I know I’m less. And I’m sorry.

I want to apologize.

To all the people that don’t look like me- I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I used to like to pretend I was color blind only to realize that I’m not. And the older I get, the less I want to be. I want to see ALL OF THE COLORS!! And I want to enjoy them all. I’m sorry that, in a naive attempt to try to make the world better, I wanted to lump everyone into one group and pretend we are all the same rather than learning to value each group as their own and celebrate our differences. I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that I am afraid of you sometimes. Afraid because I don’t know you well enough, so sometimes I let stereotypes be my guide. I fear the unknown more than I should, more than I want to. I’m ashamed that it’s true, and I want to apologize.

I’m sorry that too many people that look like me say mean spirited things and have hatred in their hearts. I’m sorry that you have to worry more than any parent should about the safety of your sons. I am deeply, deeply sorry for this.

I want to apologize.

To the people that look like me that assume because we live life side by side and share the same religion and join hands to pray that we are the same- I’m sorry. I know you think I am a certain thing, but I’m not. I’m all of the things and none of the things. And I enjoy your company and want to continue to share life with you, but I probably don’t vote like you or view guns like you or want to cut the same social programs you do. If you feel like I’ve tricked you, it hasn’t been my intention. I just sat quietly, afraid that your love for me might not extend beyond our perceived similarities. I’m sorry.

I want to apologize.

To myself- I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I rarely give you the benefit of the doubt. I’m sorry that I forget that the things I put in my mouth may taste good but then have an impact on your body that rarely justifies the temporary pleasure. I’m sorry that I haven’t taken better care of you- moved you more, stretched you, savored you.

I’m sorry that I haven’t extended to you the same grace and mercy that I offer friends, and often, strangers. I’m sorry that I make you pay too high a price for small things. For all of the times you deserved a break and I didn’t give it, I’m sorry.

I want to apologize.

To God- for pretending that I have known better than you, I’m sorry. When you looked me square in my face and I pretended that it was anything but you before me, I am sorry. As I say with my words that I am giving you my burdens only to slide them back in my pockets as I walk out the door. To pretend that you are too busy to care about the little things that trouble my heart, I’m sorry. To turn my back so that you can’t see this thing I’m doing, as if omniscience doesn’t apply. For knowing what you want from me but then still sitting down and doing nothing, I’m sorry. Or for not even asking what you want from me or for me. Skating along as if I didn’t require your daily presence in my life, when I know so certainly that I do, I’m sorry.

I want to apologize.

The Plus Side of Aging

There are some things that I truly love about getting older. I love that I am willing to walk into a restaurant all alone and ask for a seat on the patio (where people will see me dining alone- gasp!). I love that I’m totally comfortable ordering exactly what I want, which tonight happens to be guacamole, beer and a side of black beans. I love that I can sit and enjoy my own company. I’m not nervous or uncomfortable or embarrassed to be alone. In fact, I savor it.

I can watch as people walk by- some, couples on dates holding hands, some parents with littles, some single moms herding kids like cats, some teenage kids trying their best to walk far enough behind their parents that maybe people won’t notice they are here with them (likely against their will)- just observing. Watching humans be human. All shapes and sizes and colors. And like the sweetest of fragrances, I breathe it in, inhaling deeply. Appreciating the diversity, the ordinary, the possibility.

But the thing I think I enjoy most of all is knowing that I have mastered something that a younger me would have worked so hard to avoid. The joy it brings me makes me hopeful that there are many other things ahead of me, things that I once was afraid of, that will be beautiful and wonderful and that come with the comfort of aging. Moments like this leave me with with hopeful anticipation of the aging ahead.

Revisiting

I found this from a year ago. And while I vaguely remember writing it, I very much know the feelings that drove it. Revisiting it today as a reminder to myself and for someone that may see it for the first time.

I feel certain that I am discovering my purpose. When I was young, I wanted it to be grand and imagined it to be lived in a giant public extraordinary way. But in the mundane happenings of the checkout line, I heard a whisper that said my purpose was to love others and be kind, exactly where I was planted. My purpose didn’t have to be on a stage or in all caps to be important. It didn’t have to be fancy or award winning or even recognized by others. But for a long time I thought it did. Or perhaps I just wanted it to be.

I can remember pleading with God, begging Him to use me. Surely I was meant for something more than just an ordinary life. Surely my capabilities and talents should be put to better use than just the everyday duties of mother, wife, daughter, sister, neighbor and friend. On my knees, crying with desire to do His will, begging for Him to show me what He wanted. Months and years spent in ache wanting to be a tool for Him. So willing.

Or at least I thought I was willing. I was willing as long as it fit into my construct of what I thought He’d made me to achieve. So focused on the “out there, the next thing,” I couldn’t see that my purpose was right before me. It was in the ordinary moments of a quiet life. Surely that couldn’t be it- my desire was so deep and so great that surely what I was purposed for had to be equally great?! How could ordinary, simple and everyday be enough?

But it is more than enough. Because it’s what I was designed to do. I am clear that I love well. And that’s not said in pride; that’s me acknowledging the gift that God has given me. I am good at loving others. But that’s because of God’s faithfulness to me. For years I prayed that the light of God’s love would shine through me and that I would see His light as it shines in others- even in the least likely of people. He answered that prayer.

For years I stood in the way of His will for my life. I kept tripping over my days and getting in my own way. I was so focused on what I thought I was going to see, that I wasted much time not seeing what I already had.

I’m grateful to have clarity about my job here on earth. And wherever in this life I end up, whether on a stage speaking to women about God’s love, or driving a minivan full of kids, or answering a phone at an elementary school, or writing my words down to share with others, I am CERTAIN that I can do what I’m called to in each of those places. I’m fortunate enough to have the resource I need living inside me- a heart full of love!

Can you hear me?

When I open my mouth to speak, can you hear me? In my head, it seems like I’m saying something. It feels like I’m making noise, asking something of you. But your response, or lack of response as it turns out, leads me to believe that the only voice IS in my head. The blank stare you give me, the glazed over look- is that because you can’t make out why my mouth is moving without sound, or is it because you can hear me and what I have asked of you is too big for you to handle? I’m not quite sure.

I get it, cleaning the toilet, picking up your room- pretty burdensome. For a child that believes magic fairies replace the toilet paper, provide clean towels, and supernaturally keep you in shampoo and deodorant, I can see how this might seem a daunting task. But, I believe in you!! I know you can do it.

I am certain that you are so very capable of doing these things I ask. Sure, it might require time away from your phone. You might miss an Insta story or two. Perhaps even an entire episode of your favorite show will be over before you finish. But I have good news! Technology is such that these things can wait for you and be available at your convenience. Crazy, right??

I need you to show me you can be obedient. I need to see that you respect me as an authority, and you will do what you’re asked. I need you to make a real effort. Because if not, I’m pretty sure that this mouth you can’t seem to hear, is TOTALLY CAPABLE of biting your head off. You better not test it!!

Uncertainly Certain

Standing at the edge. Ready to take the leap. Uncertain, but not afraid. Excited even, as I know that you are there. Looking forward to how you will make yourself seen through this. Sure that you are present, and praying with all that I am that my actions as I jump, as I fall or as I fly, will bring honor and glory to you. Grateful for this opportunity!! Ready for what’s next.

Prayers In a Messy House

There is so much to do. Tomorrow I will have a group of women in my house- my messy, cluttered, dirty house. We will lift up our children, their teachers and their school in prayer. And you know what? God will hear our prayers. He won’t care that there’s not a single empty space on the floor or table in my dining room. It won’t matter to him that I haven’t dusted and that there is laundry piled high in nearly every room in the house. It’s my great hope that these women won’t care either. But to not open my home in fear that they might care just isn’t an option.

See, here’s what I know and why I have to be willing to let my worry about my house go. I know that we aren’t perfect, whole beings. Not one of us. We all have cracks and are broken. Something, somewhere in our lives is askew. I fully believe that it’s in showing our brokenness that God’s light shines through- it’s seen through the cracks in our lives. If I put a candle deep inside a perfect vessel, it provides light to no one. But, if I am willing to show others the mess that I am, that’s how God is glorified. Because if there is any good in me, any light that shines, it’s Him shining through me. My mess makes that clear. I have to be willing to admit to and show my imperfections if anyone is to see what God can do with broken people. He really can make beauty out of them (though He’s yet to do so with my house 😜).

My great hope is that He’ll do so tomorrow as a group of loving mothers step into my mess, fight past the dust bunnies and climb over my clutter to lift their voices in prayer. May He be glorified in my lack of pretending, and may the other moms know perfection is overrated. 🙏🏼

It Wasn’t Always This Way- Part One: Parenting

**Warning: If you are someone who is made uncomfortable when people share the ugly details of a truly human life, you might not like this series of posts. Also, because I know no one wants to read a super long blog, I’m going to break down this topic into parts.  Spilling out all of my guts at one time is too much for any person to handle. You’re welcome. 😏**

It wasn’t always this way. The way my life is now, the joy that I have, the peace that I know. This contentment. It’s taken 42 years, some seriously deep valleys, countless prayers, oceans of tears, many mistakes, bunches of scars, the companionship of many, and the persistence of a God who loves me better than I deserve.

At certain moments in my life as a mother, if you had asked me if I would do it all again, I would have told you “no.”  Not a popular (or socially acceptable) response. But it was true. I loved my children- deeply and fully. I was just overwhelmed by the amount of work it was, how endless the hours seemed, and quite frankly by my certainty that I was definitely going to screw them up. The weight of it was crushing.

I felt like every choice I made was a “make them or break them” decision. What if I only serve one vegetable instead of two for dinner? Am I talking to them enough, singing to them enough, touching them enough?  Did we read an ample amount today?  Am I speaking into their lives as I should?

I was so focused on the work of it, the “getting it right,” that it wasn’t always easy for me to find the joy of it. It was a job I took very seriously (after all, these were PEOPLE I was helping mold- a task that shouldn’t be taken lightly), and it was one that had no weekends, holidays, breaks or vacations. There was no annual review to check my progress and there was no raise for a job well done. I was tired and felt inadequate and was pretty sure I was probably going to end up producing a rooftop shooter and a pole dancer.

So, no, I wouldn’t recommend parenthood and, if given the choice, I wouldn’t do it again. The world deserved better, my husband deserved better and these kids definitely deserved better. I wasn’t enough.

But, thank goodness, things can change. People can stop seeing everything through the filter of “me.”  We can learn to ask for help, can recognize that doing our best is the best we can do, and learn that not everything matters all that much. So what if dinner was a meat, a bread, and ONE vegetable?  I was remembering to feed them, and we had the resources to do so. It was a win!!

When I finally accepted (through the advice of great friends, the benefit of medication, and a closer walk with God) that perfection was neither expected and clearly not possible, things began to shift a bit. The best that this broken human could do was love on and raise broken humans that tried to be kind and recognized that their brokenness could only be made whole in Christ. I was trying to take on the job of  God. Not on purpose, but because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. I was trying to be all things for them. A job that, as much as I tried, as much as I wanted to, was not even possible.

So, I taught them to laugh. I tried teaching them that walking close to God is the best way to walk. I was honest about my flaws. I stopped pretending I had all the answers, and I stopped being disappointed in myself when I didn’t have them. I modeled for them what it looked like to mess up and to apologize and ask for forgiveness. I spent more time being authentically who I was, and I retired my self-awarded super hero cape.

True, it didn’t hurt that they were now big enough to wipe their own behinds, tie their own shoes and formulate complete and complex sentences, but with the weight of my over exaggerated duties gone, we were free. I could look up from “the work of them” to watch them. I could enjoy them. Who they were was no longer  going to be solely determined by my raising of them (as if I had that much power- the arrogance). I could breathe and so could they. It was a thing of beauty.

Ask me today if I’d do this parenting thing all over again, and I can give you a genuine 100% YES!! I’ll say that it’s the second hardest job I’ve ever had (being a spouse is first), and it has broken my heart and brought me more joy than anything I could have ever imagined.  Watching little people become bigger people navigating the world, it’s a pretty amazing show. I’m grateful for my front row seat. I’m glad to be a mom. But,

… it wasn’t always this way.