Think on these

This morning when I woke up, there was a single moment before I was truly wide awake that I forgot. I forgot about the fear. The panic. The craziness. I forgot about the next month of being home and missing my students. I forgot that the world is not the same place that it was mere months ago. In that still, quiet moment I found peace. I found comfort in my warm bed and my furry puppy snuggled close to me. I felt safe as I listened to my husband’s soft breathing as he slept. I eagerly anticipated my first, glorious sip of coffee from my favorite, just right mug. But then, in the blink of a sleepy eye, I remembered. In that instant all of those comfortable, familiar sounds and thoughts were taken over by the realization of the current state of our world, and I climbed out of bed and said my first of many prayers of the day. 

Throughout the day today, I found it best to keep my hands and my mind busy. I sought after the normalcy of a schedule. Of the routine things that keep the household going. I tried to keep moving. Took a nice, long walk and soaked in the chilled, fresh air. However, right in the midst of my busyness, of my normal routine (which isn’t normal at all – normally I would be at school) the reality of the complete lack of anything even remotely normal washed over me. Wave after wave of reality crashed my sense of peace and sent me into another round of panic. I could trick my mind temporarily by doing things I always do, but eventually the anxiety of the unknown won out. 

I wish I had some super positive take away from all of this. I wish I could say that I have found a perfect, foolproof way to remain positive and not let panic creep in at all. But that would not be sharing the truth. What I can say about today – my first day of 4 weeks off – is this; my mind is going to be filled with thoughts all day, regardless of what I am doing. And I can’t always control the thoughts that creep into my consciousness. But I can control what I do with those thoughts. I can choose to dwell in the scary, doubt-filled moments, or I can replace those thoughts with the truths and promises of Jesus. I can fix my eyes on Him and let his word fill my mind. I am still a work in progress, and I still fail daily…but in these scary times, I am learning to rely on the spirit to guide my mind and fill me with His comfort. I am fixing my heart and mind on the one who knows my heart. I lost count of the number of prayers that I spoke today. I just know when I took the time to “cast my cares on Him” He stilled my heart and mind, and I found peace. 

 

It’s your choice

IMG_2190Some days I just don’t even know what to think about the world. Schools shut down across the country. Social distancing. (By the way – this doesn’t work with a class of 10 year olds). A run on grocery stores (and toilet paper?!?). PANIC. My mind struggles to sort it all out. My feelings about this COVID-19 crisis are like a giant pendulum. One minute, I am fine, not really worried or concerned about the impact. And then I swing wildly to near hysteria. “What ifs” run rampant through me. And then back and forth. And back and forth. Constantly swinging between “Should I be more worried” and “I am freaking out about this!”

I’m not really worried about myself getting really sick from this virus. I worry for my parents (who still don’t seem to put themselves in the “elderly” category). I worry for my husband’s parents and grandparents. I worry about my 5th graders and not seeing them and pouring into their lives for the next month! (Side note: school let out yesterday at 3:00…since then I have received 10 emails from students). I worry about my 19 year old daughter who is on a girl’s trip with two other 19 year olds. (Do they know what to do in an emergency? I worry about my 22 year old son who is supposed to graduate from college in a few weeks and is trying to finish classes and exams in an unexplored way. I worry about his girlfriend who is a nurse and is working tirelessly. I am fearful for our world. Unsettling is the best way I know to describe it all.

So this morning as I sit sipping (gulping) my coffee in the almost quiet house, I am having to make a choice. I am the only one who can stop the swinging pendulum of emotions. I am choosing JOY. I am choosing freedom from fear. I am choosing to rest in the refuge of the Lord. He is my safe haven.

I prayed to the Lord and he answered me. He freed me from all of my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy. No shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed and the Lord listened. He saved me from all my troubles. For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh the joys of those who take refuge in him!

Psalm 34:4-8

Why I Write

IMG_2115I set a goal for myself recently to do more things that make me happy. I am learning that self care is something that I’ve been desperately missing. I love doing things for others and taking care of everyone’s needs, but in the process of all of that, I tend to neglect what I really need. When I sat evaluated my self care goals, I was saddened that it was hard for me to articulate the things that would bring me happiness. In that process, I felt lost. I had lost sight of how to take care of myself. Eventually, I came up with a list of a few things that do bring me joy. The number one item on that last is writing. I’m not sure why I enjoy it so much. Part of it is the journey of taking a spark of an idea and turning into something more. Another part of it is just the release of thoughts and ideas and emotions that writing brings. I have journaled for years – and still do it often. But there’s something about putting a blog post out to the world. It’s not about the stats (although I do look at them), but rather its more about being comfortable enough in my own voice to share. There is a lot of vulnerability that comes with it. But also a lot of reward that comes with being a little uncomfortable. And when I do think about the numbers, it is nice to think about someone else in the universe is taking the time to hear my voice. 

Last week I wrote about my writing portfolio from my senior capstone. I came across a poem that I had not even remembered writing, but reading it really was the seed for this post. I guess if there is anything to take away from all of this it is this…find joy in what you do. Take care of your soul. Listen to the inner voice. Quite the noise, slow down and be at peace.

why i write

i write for me
to feel, to grieve
to let go and to remember

i write for validation
from my soul
and from my mind

i write to say the things
that i will never
have the strength to say aloud

i write to heal
to mend old wounds
and bandage fresh cuts

i write to make my world
meaningful, real, and 
worth living in

Micro what?

Today I received a blogging newsletter that pretty much changed my life. In this newsletter there was an article about microblogging. Yep, it’s a thing. Microblogging is the idea that blog posts don’t have to be long, multi-paragraph dissertations on the topic of choice. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…) It’s okay for a blog post to be like any other post on a social media outlet, such as Twitter or even Instagram. Blog posts can be short updates, or long thoughtful essays. It’s okay!

I am not sure why I needed this validation from a random blogging newsletter, but it sure did make me think differently about the way I want to share on my blog. Sometimes I have an idea pop into my head that I really would like to write about, but I find myself thinking “do I really have anything/enough to say about that topic?” According to whose standards?!? I’m not sure where this self-imposed word count nonsense came from in my brain, but I am glad that it doesn’t really matter anymore anyway. Maybe I felt like I needed to be like the “real” bloggers who are amazing writers with lots to say about things in ways I could never do. But the more I have thought about what I read this morning, the more I know and understand that I don’t have to blog like anyone out there but me. If its something that I want to share, I should be okay to share it in any way that works for me! Maybe a sentence. Maybe a picture. Who knows?! The possibilities are really endless know. What a relief!

I’m almost embarrassed that I didn’t come to this conclusion all on my own, or that I didn’t have the confidence in myself to create whatever and however I wanted to on my own blog… I would not be honest if I said that I came to this revelation all on my own. Nonetheless, I am excited to push myself to not conform to the way I think things “should” be according to some standard that really doesn’t exist. I am excited to write more and share more…with no boundaries!

Road trip

IMG_2107This mommin’ thing is not easy at all. Just when I think I may have it sort of, somewhat, almost under “control,” I am quickly reminded that I do not. Tonight my 19 year old daughter packed up her suitcase, a bag full of snacks, and her backpack to head out on a week long trip with some of her girlfriends. Her first trip with no parents. Nine hours away. Driving. Like…driving in a car. On the highway. For nine hours. Let the catastrophizing begin. What if they break down…What if they get lost…What if they are kidnapped and sold as slaves. What if I never see her again…

We loaded up her car and hugged her goodbye and I squeezed her just a little tighter and held on just a little longer than usual. The excitement for this first “no parent” adventure was evident on her face and in her cute grin. What if she makes amazing memories…What if she has the time of her life…What if she grows up just a little more while she’s gone. What if she comes home to me in a week…

Home

I went back to college in my late 30’s to earn a teaching degree. I had two school-aged children at the time. To say that managing it all was a challenge is an understatement. One year into my three year journey, my 16 year marriage ended. This event did not make life easier. But I kept going… My senior capstone work was creative writing. Considering the season of life that I was in, my writing from that time was raw and full of emotion. After the program was over and I had graduated, I put that writing portfolio away. It was a reminder of the pain and hardship of that time in life.

Recently, I came across my senior capstone portfolio. As I sat in my basement office in our quiet house, I read. And read. And read. Tears flowed freely as the words flooded my mind and heart with the memories of that year. I was surprised by some of the pieces. I hadn’t even remembered penning the words. Some of the writings were almost too difficult to read, and I moved through those quickly. But others were full of sentiment and happy memories of life “before” all of the hard stuff came along.

These writings have been in a beat up red file folder for more than a decade, and I would like to finally share them. So, over the course of the next few weeks I will share one at a time. The first piece is called “Home.” This was written in November, 2008.

Home

Home is the smell of sausage frying in a ridiculously heavy, old cast iron skillet once belonging to Granny. The smell would sneak down the hallway to my bedroom in the early morning hours. It was our signal that it was almost time to get up. The sound of cabinet doors and drawers opening and not so gently closing always came with morning. Daddy was the responsible party – and we knew when we smelled the biscuits in the oven, it was time. Daddy would whistle while he cooked each morning – yet another not so subtle wake up call for us. And when we finally stumbled to the kitchen we were always greeted by an awful mess. Homemade biscuits always left a trail…a light covering of flour on every available surface.

Home is the quiet of late afternoon – the dull rhythmic thumping of the dryer in a distant room. Background noise – a lone television broadcasting afternoon headlines to an empty room, the occasional creak of the ironing board as my mother ironed in the living room. The perfect blend of these sounds in the late of day is a recipe for home.

Home is the small tree growing in the front yard. Not an impressive tree – at least in stature – but to my sister and me it was…a princess castle, a pirate ship, a mountain top, in the jungle, a hiding place, base, and adventure, a swing, monkey bars…and the dreaded sources of our daddy’s “switches” – used only in the worst of circumstances. When Daddy went to grab a switch from our beloved tree, it was only then that we wished it didn’t exist.

Home is dinner around the dining room table, saying prayer before eating, holding hands as a family and thanking God for the nourishment which he had provided. And not complaining about what was on the evening menu. “It’s not right to thank God for our food and then complain about what it is, ” Daddy would often remind. Familiar meals, comfort food, were served in a weekly rotation…foods such as meatloaf, and fried chicken, and once a week…breakfast for dinner…a concept my own children will not warm up to.

Home is the conflict and tension of teenage brothers, resentful of their “step” mother and angry over the death of their own. It is the open defiance and harsh words heard by my sister and me as we hid at the top of the stairs – terrified but curious. It is the sound of objects thrown, painful sobs, and endless slamming doors. Home is the feeling of being torn between family members. Admiration for older brothers, and the natural love for a mother and father.

Home is the gentle reminder from our father each time we left the house. We were not sent on our way with rules or threats but rather with four simple words from our soft-spoken patriarch…”Remember who you are.”

 

 

 

You just never know.

When I started blogging, I did so simply as a way for me to express myself. I decided that I wanted to write with complete authenticity and I wanted to write just to share my perspective on the world around me. I truly never knew if anyone else would ever read my words, but that didn’t really matter. I was doing it for me. It was my expressive outlet. Do I look at my view numbers? Yes I do. Do I worry about how high (or low) the number is? I honestly do not. But it does make me happy knowing that people are taking the time to read my ramblings.

Today made me especially happy. Today not just one, but TWO different people stopped me and shared that my words had meant something to them this week. They shared that they had read my post and that the words I wrote really hit them in the heart and made a difference to them. I was so deeply touched by this. It is hard for me to imagine that anything that I could write or share could touch someone in such a way. I was honestly humbled by the thought of it. My next thought was “What if I hadn’t shared my words? What if I had listened to that voice in my head that told (and still tells me) that I have nothing really important to say?” We all get so busy rushing around taking care of ourselves and our own full lives that we don’t take the time to encourage each other. Yes, life is busy, and yes we all have things to take care of in our own lives. But shouldn’t we all be worried about taking care of each other too? Isn’t that really what it’s all about. Sometimes, I will think something nice about someone else, but then I don’t actually say it out loud to them (weird, right? Does anyone else do this?) When I keep those thoughts to myself I miss out on speaking positivity into another person’s day. And couldn’t we all use that?

I guess my takeaway is this. Do not ever pass up the chance to share what you have on your mind and in your heart. If you have been given a gift, share it. If you have a desire in your soul, chase after it. If you feel a tug to do something out of your comfort zone, act on it. Someone out there could really need what you have. Someone could be inspired or uplifted by your actions. Someone’s day could be brightened by your words. Someone might be able to face one more day because of you…you just never know.