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Friday, February 14, 2014

Hope Floats.

To all the married folks…

So here it is Valentine’s Day and you are either posting pictures of the lovely flowers/card/letter/jewelry you are getting or giving.  (And all your single friends smile politely and go eat another Reese’s heart!)

Or maybe not. Maybe you post no pictures and share no comments because to be honest, your marriage isn’t super awesome right now.   If you really were honest, really honest, it’s hard and it’s lonely and most days these days, it feels like more like a strained business partnership than a love connection.

So what in the world could this single girl have to say to your situation?  Well- I’ve been single lonely.  But I’ve also been married lonely.  And honestly, seasons of married lonely were much harder.  

Last week, a demo crew was in my home tearing up all my wood floors, down to raw lumpy, bare concrete.   Full of cracks and holes and uneven spots.  When the new floor guy came, he shook his head in dismay.  “Got a bunch of low spots here", he said, "We’re gonna need a lot of float”.  He mixed up bag after bag of grey stuff and slowly poured it over the floor in the bad places and watched it spread out. Float did it’s job.  Cracks disappeared.  Uneven places were filled in. 

Float.  The stuff that fills in all the low spots.  And evens out the ugly.

Maybe your marriage needs some ‘hope’ to float in today and fill in the low spots.  You don’t need flowers or candy but simply hope.   Hope that it’s gonna be ok.  Hope that you are still in this together.
And to remember:  ‘May the God of all hope, fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’ Romans 15:13

Maybe you could float some hope today by simply writing honest words on a card and looking into the eyes of the one that you married and say, “Yep, I still do. “
Because, after all:  

Happy Valentine’s Day.  Make your middle count today!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Letter to my ten-years-ago self...

Ten years ago I sat under a Banyan tree and told an eight-year-old the shocking news that her dad had just died of a heart attack.  I will never forget the puffy clouds and the sounds of children playing and the way her blond head tilted just so to the side as blue eyes filled with tears. The future seemed hopeless and scary and impossible--to both of us. Looking back over the years and miles I wish I could write a letter to my ‘ten-years-ago’self ...


Hey You,
Sitting there with tear stained cheeks and puffy eyes.  Can I talk to you for a minute?
Your world has been rocked.  The unthinkable has happened. All of the clich├ęs that people say at times like these have been said, and you are left standing there, holding the ragged pieces of  your ‘happily ever after’ in clenched hands.  

I want to tell you a few things. The first is simple. It may sound trite but it is true, O so true.  
You are going to be ok. 
In spite of it all or, some days, because of it all, you are going to be ok.
God is big enough for every moment you will face and every sobbing scream you will stifle in your pillow in the night.  He holds the future, but more importantly, He holds you.  

It seems impossible to believe right now, but you will get through the services and the awkward conversations and the endless paperwork.  The irony will not be lost on you that while everyone else is filling out back-to-school forms and soccer club applications, you are agonizing over what to have written on your husband’s tombstone. Sigh. And oh that tombstone. The sight of it will bring you to your knees; there is something about the phrase ‘written in stone’ that is so true, but God being God will provide a way through it for you and your kids, and at the end of that particular long unbelievable week there will be a quiet confidence that He was somehow right there with you all.

You will grieve.  That is a fact.  But it is important that you learn to grieve well. That is, to grieve not in hopeless anguish but to grieve with the hope of heaven in your heart. There is a difference. This takes time, a lot of time.  There is no magic point of being 'done' (though many will assume so and say dumb things that make you want to scream!). 

You will worry. A lot. Your own lonely will seem insignificant in the light of the worry you have for your kids and the fact that they are going to grow up without a dad’s daily hugs and unconditional love. As kids usually do, yours will take their cues from you. That is a huge responsibility to bear. But even though you cry sometimes and don’t have answers for their many questions, you are usually filled with love and memories and enough Jesus to be strong for them when they feel scared and alone.  

Every milestone they experience will be a difficult reminder for all of you that he is not there. You will be surprised at the big things that become no big deal and the little things, like singing Happy Birthday, that bring you to tears. You will find new ways to celebrate and establish new family holiday traditions.    

And those kids, your precious kids will surprise you! That eight year old and newly adopted two year old  will grow and flourish into beautiful, compassionate young ladies.  Their smiles and laughter will bring you so much joy and the journey they have walked will turn them into the type of friend that others dare to confide in.

You will learn so many new things over the next ten years.  You will fix stuff and grow stuff and argue with contractors and car repair men when necessary. The gender lines in your home will become blurry at times and your kids will grow certain that their momma can do anything and repair almost anything (and with the help of Youtube videos, maybe you can!).  

Many times you will be unsure of what to do with those big life decisions.  Find a few trusted advisors that you can talk to. Take the time to get all of the facts and go beyond your shifting emotions. Breathe in peace and breathe out fear and anxiety, and the way will eventually seem clear. 

I won’t lie to you - you will experience a lonely like never before.  The lonely feeling in a crowd of Noah’s ark couples shuffling two by two into church, or school events or the movie theater.  There will be people you can call, but not him. And mostly you will decide that this is a lonely that is better experienced alone.

The sound of football won't fill your house as much on a Sunday afternoon and the toilet seat will always be down. Middle of the day cell phone calls and quiet shared moments after the kids are in bed will always be missed.

Yet, there will be  travel to new places and make new memories and meet new people.  You’ll be in charge of all of the arrangements and all of the finances and will laugh through your tears as you stand at the trunk of the car and realize there is no-one there to criticize how many clothes you packed for a four day trip!

One day it will hit you that you have a whole new circle of friends who never knew him.
Life will indeed go on. And while in early days you were sure it would never happen, you will learn to laugh again.  Deep belly laughs that will surprise you and free your heart from the shadows that you were sure would never leave.

Life will never cease to be divided into ‘before’ and ‘after’ that fateful day, but time and distance will blur the sharp edges until the memories become like a treasured photograph, slightly faded, hanging on your fridge.  And one day you will realize that you are still a family – a real family , not just a broken fragment of what was.

And yes, you will be ok!  YOU WILL BE OK!

Because you see, you are still here.
And if you’re still here, that means God still has purpose to unfold for your life.
And maybe your story, the one that you were not certain you would survive,  
that story will be the very thing to give someone else hope to make it through their own story.

Instead of being filled with grief, you will become a giver of hope.
Only God could have put such a plan in motion.
Here’s to the next ten years. 
May we choose to live them grace-fully, hope-fully, and joy-fully.

Romans 15:13   May the God of living hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope! 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Best. Gift. Ever.

It is my birthday. Again. Funny how that happens.  Which means this post is officially one year late!  I have a confession to make. For me, this one was all about the gifts.  
O, those gifts.  They came by the dozens from friends near and far. Each and every perfect one made me well up with tears.  Birthday morning dawned clear and sunny and I woke up to a ringing doorbell and a yard full of birthday blessings.  Two amazing friends had gone on a stealth mission and beat the birthday drums on Facebook.  The result? A yard covered with giant signs from my friends.  Seriously.  I read and cried and read and wiped my eyes with the sleeve of my robe.  It felt like Sally Fields at the Oscars that year, “You like me, you really like me…” Words of love that brought tears of joy.  Later that day, a box from my sister arrived with 50 little gifts, each one covered with memories and words of love.  I can’t tell you much about the presents, but oh the words.  The Words! 

Best. Gift. Ever.  Thank you, dear ones.

You see, we never really know what effect we are having on the folks around us. We go through life doing what we do, living and loving and carpooling and doing laundry; making phone calls and dinner, chairing committees and doing our jobs. There is no report card with a gold star. No ‘satisfactory progress’ at the end of our quarter. 

But these ‘words from friends’ that littered my yard were like glittery stars and student of the month all wrapped up in a shiny bow.  A little ‘you go girl’ whispered in my ear at just the right moment. 

Maybe this Christmas, it’s ok to make it about the gifts. Just a different kind of gift. What if we leave the mall and close the online shopping cart and sit down to write an old fashioned letter to a friend or two ( or mom or dad or husband or child or sibling).  Maybe the best thing we could give those we love is the encouragement they need to keep on doing what they are doing day after day.

Just words? Yes, WORDS.  O, how we need each other’s words in our lives.
Long after the candle is burnt and the gift card is spent and the shirt has gone to Goodwill, words will be the things that last, tucked away in a drawer to read again and again.  

Let’s be generous with our words this year.  Pretty stationery, funny card, or giant yard sign, it really doesn’t matter.  The point is simply to tell those we love that we do. While they are still around to hear it.

And just in case you are worried about sitting there in front of a blank card or letter…here are some ideas to get you started:

I remember ___________ and it meant so much to me that you __________.
Because of you, I am a better ___________.
You have a gift for _______________.
When I think of you, I think of ___________ .

Thank you for _____________.   

Your words matter more than you know- your words are life giving and life changing.  Someone needs your words this holiday season!  Thank you for your words in my life...now get busy!  :) 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Five Minute Friday Here's the deal. Five Minute Friday. You go find the little prompt at the wonderful Lisa-Jo's blog, set the timer and write for five minutes, and then just stop. Where you are, no edits, just publish raw words. After way too much time off, seems to me like a great way to dive back in to writing...
Here is the prompt- write for five minutes on :

ready, set, begin.  

It was like any other family trip, except it wasn’t.
The van, full of two girls and a mama and what it takes to fill a college dorm, would turn around at the end and return with a mama and a sister and a whole lot of empty.

'Welcome Home'... the sign said.  
Wait a minute, what are they talking about? ....home is 600 miles away with me, isn't it? 
And then...
Excitement. Pottery Barn comforter. Roommates. College. Classes. Fluffy new towels. Room Keys.
Scared and excited  all at once.  That was her.  
Nervous and full of hopes and dreams for her.  That was me.
Busy in the doing and the fixing and the hanging pictures and stocking the bathroom and putting on a too small fitted sheet, we avoided the big ‘last’ waiting in the lobby below.
How is it possible to drive away from the blue eyes that captured my heart 18 years ago? The government says she’s grown up now. Seriously?  Your baby is ALWAYS your baby. The old quote that having a child is to choose to forever have your heart walking around outside your body’ is no longer just words, but an ache that I can’t even begin to describe. My. Heart. Hurts. 
Life is full of so many firsts. We capture them in photos and journal them to death and share them all pretty perfect on Facebook.
But there are just as many bittersweet lasts.  Sleeping in a crib. Riding with training wheels. Preschool graduation.  Holding hands across the street. Tub baths and reading aloud and when they stop being the passenger and become- gulp- the driver.
And now...a last goodbye before driving away from the big college move-in. 
Room 402 was in order and the drive ahead was long.  It was time for the last hug.  Not ever.  But the last hug when she was still living in my house and part of my everyday life and eating my Cheerios and making me giggle with stupid make up song lyrics. Wise mommas who have walked this journey before me tell me it is never quite the same again. 
It was time.  ‘Do it quick, mama,’ she said. ‘If you hug me long, I am going to lose it right here in front of the lobby where everyone can see.  Just please hug me quick one last time and go. ‘

And so I did. 


Saturday, June 30, 2012

All for good....really ?

We were just cruising along with our Sunday.  Had a great church service in the morning.
Spent time making plans for a Women’s event on Friday night.  Enjoyed lunch at Panera with my girls.
Then…wind/rain/gail force winds as Tropical Storm Debby blew into town. 
“We’re ok”, I told my nervous kids.  “We are safe in our cozy house. Everything is fine.”  
The television screen flashed images of damage and danger throughout the area.  Tornadoes were spotted.  Trees blew over.   Roads were flooded.
Still we were safe.  Cozy in our house.  Then we heard it.  Drip. Drip. Drip. 
Safe and cozy had become leaking and vulnerable.    The living room ceiling swelled with the burden of water which had entered through tiny cracks in our stucco walls. 
Drip. Drip.  Splash.    The bucket began to fill as we grabbed beach towels and mopped puddles and scooted furniture out of the way.  Wood floors squished with water. 
We no longer felt safe and cozy. 
Water seeped under the baseboards.  More beach towels.   Grabbed the shop-vac from the garage and began the impossible task of sucking water from our hardwood floors and new area rug.
The 10 yr old sat on the shop vac to keep it from tipping.  The 17 yr old anchored the rug to keep it from moving.  And I used all my strength to pull the vac along the rug, sucking up storm water.   Family bonding at its best!  
O my!   Sigh….  Why?   Cry.