A Full Life

My life is full of amazing people. Strong and beautiful women that live their lives working to serve others. Mothers that put all their efforts into raising good children. Daughters that care for ailing parents. Men that love their wives and children well. Husbands that work hard to provide for their families. Neighbors that look out for others.

People I don’t even know, doing their part to make my world, our world run and operate as it should. People that clean up after us, without thanks. Folks that haul our trash away, unknown to most of us. People that bring our orders- whether that be food to a table, medicine to our homes or packages we’ve ordered.

Each of them, a human, a person working at their job to serve others. And I want to remember to be grateful. These people are making my life easier. They are freeing my time up so that I can do something else. Focus on something else.

Today, no, always, I want to focus on seeing how full my life is, how full the world is. I want to put on a lens of gratitude. I want to see through eyes of appreciation. And I want to help others to as well.

I want to help others see how lucky we really are. To recognize that, whether it’s half full or half empty, if there is water in the glass, it’s worth appreciating and being thankful for.

When that happens, when that’s our perspective, our lives become full. Much fuller than we deserve, if we’ll just learn to notice.

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Wrap me in a blanket of your love. Cover me in the shelter of your arms. Kiss my cheeks with the warmth of the sun. Draw me close like the moon draws the ocean to the shore. Whisper to me sweet sounds like the birds singing. Make me feel as if I am the only one in the world, as if we are the only two. If just for a moment, let us disappear into one another. No beginning, no end, just two pieces of the same whole. Perfectly imperfect. Wholly together.

I Miss You

It’s been two years since you left this earth. Free to roam the streets of Heaven. Able to breathe deep breaths without struggle. Free from the cancer filled vessel that had you bound in this life. And I am so happy for you. Forever in the presence of our Lord.

But I miss you.

I miss the way you loved my children. I miss the way you could gently push me to complete the projects that I felt “too busy” to have gotten done. You made me feel accomplished. I miss your help. The tangible kind, the folding laundry and fixing breakfast kind. But also the less obvious kind- the quiet support and shared wisdom.

I miss hearing stories of your girls’ trips, the adventures that you’d go on. What lovely part of the country you’d checked out most recently. I miss your tales of work. The dedication and devotion you had to doing it so well. And, while it surprises even me, I even miss the occasional all day shopping trips you’d take me on.

I miss the gifts you’d get me. Things that I didn’t know existed, and until you introduced them to my life, had no idea I needed. (How did I live without a purse organizer? And those handmade scrubby things have changed my life!!!)

I think of you so often. I wonder if you’d be pleased with us. Would you think we are doing a good job? I know you’d be proud of the kids. Well, proud of everything but how they are keeping their rooms.

I hate that you aren’t here to see them growing, maturing, becoming. You’d love it. And they’d love having you cheer them on.

I am so grateful for the time I had with you. So rocky at first, but as the years went on, I treasured our relationship. Having someone love your son and occupy so much of his life after you’d done it for so long, that can’t be an easy thing. But we figured it out, you and me. And in the end, ours was a relationship that I cherished. I like to think you did too.

I was a lucky one. I often said in the mother in law lottery, I was a big winner. I got you!!!

All I know is that, when it’s my turn to wear the title Mother-in-law, I hope I wear it as well as you!

I miss you.

Chest Pain

I have this ache in my chest. I’ve noticed it happening off and on over these last few weeks. And also, a small catch in my throat. One that keeps me from being able to swallow at times, and occasionally from speaking clearly. These two symptoms are sometimes accompanied by the watering of my eyes. Not necessarily watering that breaks the barrier and makes its way down my cheek. More often than not, just floating on my lashes.

I’m realizing that it has been happening as I see pictures of young adults dressed for prom, young men and women in caps and gowns, familiar faces beginning to appear on drivers licenses, and children that used to be small now as tall as the parents they are standing next to. It happens at my house when my son is gone with his girlfriend and my daughter is discussing plans for her upcoming 13th birthday or when there is no one there but me.

It’s not a completely unfamiliar pain, though it is beginning to increase in intensity. It’s the bittersweet ache of watching my children grow. The joy of seeing them learning to navigate their lives and the terrible pain of knowing this phase of my life is almost over.

As I drive around with no one in my car, with only my own plans on my calendar, the expanse of the freedom has me feeling a little lost. What to do with this newfound time? And how to learn to sit with the pain of it so that when all my days look like this I don’t completely crumble.

I want this for them. I want them to know the joys of accomplishment, the power of contributing, the knowledge that comes from experience. And how do I give them that without also having my own heart break into a thousand pieces? Or perhaps that’s the job. Doing my best in the years that I have them to make it all count, have it all matter. I empty the vessel of who I am, pouring it into them so that they can be full. And then, as the cracks come, I trust that God will pick up the pieces and repurpose me. That He’ll honor the work that I’ve done and allow the joy of watching them go be greater than the loss of having them gone.

At least that’s my prayer. Because today the ache is great, and I have to believe that there is some relief for the pain.

When I Grow Up

What will I be when I grow up? I didn’t have any idea as an 18 year old girl graduating high school. I never had visions of myself as a teacher or a vet or an, anything, really. I’m not quite sure I imagined life after high school.

So I picked a major and went a direction. I studied hard, worked fairly hard, and… changed my major. As it turned out, while I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, I learned I didn’t want to do THAT when I grew up.

New major, new idea, pursued something else that seemed like a better fit. Picked a broad field, something helpful in scope, surely it would translate into some job. Still no vision of what I was going to be when I grew up, but I went about the day to day of getting it done.

Graduated with a degree and honors, and still I had no idea what I was going to do. I got married right out of college (like 4 weeks out of college 😳), so a wife was apparently something I was going to be. Grown up or not, that was going to be my first thing.

Working a job, still no “career” I couldn’t see myself as one thing. At that point I only knew what I didn’t want to be when I grew up. Mother- I didn’t want to be a mother. Pretty sure I wouldn’t be good at it, very sure I didn’t want to share my husband and mess up that gig, no mothering for me.

Until I did want that.

So, wife and mother have filled my days. And I love it. I’m grateful that I’ve been allowed to spend my time being those two things- focusing on the joys and responsibilities of each. Savoring them, some days more than others. Enduring them, also some days more than others.

But as my kids get older and begin to outgrow this nest, the question is coming back around. What do I want to be when I grow up?

What I enjoy most and the things I feel I’m good at are things that I’m not sure I can find anyone willing to pay me to do. I like to write. It feels good to get it out and to maybe allow someone else to grab hold of my words to allow them to feel less alone- like a piece of wood floating by a person stranded at sea. A safe place to cling to if just for a minute.

Or being a friend. Not sure that’s something I can put on a resume. Listening to a friend’s heart, hearing her pain or her joy and sitting in each alongside her. Sometimes, when it’s required, speaking difficult truths in love to help her see the forest and the trees. And laughing with her. Definitely laughing. Know anyone hiring for this position?

Professional hugger, toucher, hand-holder-maybe I could find someone to pay me for this, but I’m afraid we’d probably be at odds about the true nature and duties of the position. 🙄

As I talk with all of these high school kids approaching graduation and ask about their plans for the future, I guess it just reminds me. It reminds me that perhaps, for some of us, our lives aren’t so clear. We may spend our days figuring out what we don’t want to be when we grow up. And hopefully, as we whittle away at what we don’t want there, we’ll find that we are making a worthwhile life in the meantime. I hope so at least.

I guess I can let you know when I grow up.

God the Provider

I host a weekly prayer group for moms. Every Monday we meet, and we always focus on one attribute of God and give Him praise for it. This week I chose God is the Provider.

During this time of the year it often seems time is short and schedules are full. We have a bunch of things coming up- many school events that require volunteers and food, competing sports schedules for two kids, concerts, etc. I picked God is the Provider because I wanted to remind myself that I serve a God that is capable of making all of the impossible things on my lists happen.

I saw the next couple of weeks laid out before me, and I was beginning to freak out. It seemed like it was more than could be done. My human heart was coming up empty. So, I picked something that I needed to focus on- an attribute that I needed to remind myself was real.

I wanted to trust Him to provide the money our PTO team needed for an unexpected expense we had. I needed for Him to stir hearts and push people to sign up to fill those empty volunteer spots- urging people to give of their time. I wanted to let go and count on Him to provide the food we needed to spoil our staff and teachers next week at a luncheon and to feed companies coming to talk to our students about jobs. I prayed for Him to provide protection over the hearts of a group of girls facing a difficult situation. I needed Him to make a way for me to be in all of the places I was supposed to be without dropping too many balls. I needed so many provisions.

And to my great delight, He has been faithful!! Through some effort of a great leader, the money needed was given. Volunteers are coming forward to help serve and provide food. The group of girls persevered and rose above their circumstance, their hearts intact. I was even given back an evening that was otherwise claimed by a sporting event. As a reprieve, it was moved to next week, providing me a small pause in the middle of my crazy.

And this morning, as I heard the birds singing, I was reminded of God’s promise and prompt to us in Luke 12:22-28, 32.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable are you than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you- you of little faith!

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”

And this week the kingdom has come in the form of extra time, donated dessert, volunteer hours filled, local business support, protected girls and the provision of so much more.

So, like the birds, I sing!! I sing praise. And like the flowers, I glory in splendor. The splendor of my God, the Provider!!

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!

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.