“LEFT…LEFT”

Yesterday, Chris and I got up early and loaded up the bikes and our three youngest to hit the bike trail – before the thermometer registered 90+. Trying to keep all 5 of us together(ish) on the very congested bike trail we ride is always a challenge, but we had a lot of success last time and everyone had a great time. Kelsie’s little legs pedal hard the whole time, but at times she struggles to keep pace and stay in her lane. There are a lot of “serious” cyclists on this trail, but also many families and older couples – which is why we love it so much.

At one point in our ride traffic got very heavy. We had stopped and were attempting to get moving again (a feat in itself). Kelsie had swerved slightly to the right but was doing great. An older gentleman (and I use that term very loosely) approached and indicated he would be passing to the left. And then he yelled it again -even louder. And again a third time – even louder. He was obviously yelling AT our 7 year old who was doing her very best to just stay upright in all the traffic. I was in front of our little group and couldn’t see exactly what was happening, but I could sure hear it and I knew that Kelsie was struggling a bit. I was more worried about Chris at this point – because I was certain he would be livid.

The next voice I heard was Chris’s….he bellowed “WE HEARD YOU!” I immediately tensed up – not knowing at all how this would play out.

“WELL SHE DIDN’T MOVE,” shouted the mean old man!

“SHE’S SEVEN! GIVE ME A BREAK!” Chris retorted.

By this time, the man was coming up to my left and I was beyond furious. Who yells at a little girl trying to ride her bike!?! If I knew that I could have pulled it off, I so badly wanted to swerve at him, just to make him fall off but not injure myself (pray for me)…but I’m not that skilled on two wheels. I did enjoy all the jeers and insults that were hurled his way by everyone who witnessed his behavior though. I wish I could say that when he passed me I had some kind, encouraging words for him. I wish I could say I asked him if he was having a bad day and that’s why he yelled. I can’t say I did either of those things. I will not share the parting words I had for him (keep praying) but I was so very glad to see him pedal on by.

My observations about this whole day…there are some mean, nasty people in the world. Who knows why? Maybe he’s a really good person who had a momentary lapse in judgment?! Maybe his dog just died and he was decompressing on the bike trail. Or maybe he’s a jerk all of the time. Here’s the deal…I have no idea how many people we encountered on the bike trail that day – but it was in the hundreds. ONE person was nasty for one minute. We did not let that tiny exchange define our entire time. We can’t say that because one biker was mean, that every biker on the trail was mean. Other people we encountered were kind and friendly. They encouraged the girls to keep going. They greeted us with good mornings. That one man does not define all bikers! Maybe…just maybe we could all learn a little something from this little incident.

Side note – Kelsie was “over” it within a few minutes. Chris calmed down after 30 minutes or so. I was still scanning the trail on our return trip – hoping to get another shot at this guy! We should all be more like Kelsie!

Trust enough

“God is not at all concerned with me being good enough, but completely concerned with my being TRUSTING enough.”

I came across this quote this week while looking through an old journal of mine. I think it is so enlightening to dig back through old writings to help me see where I’ve been and how far I’ve come, and even how so many emotions have repeated themselves in the years of my life. This quote came from a sermon. One of those sermons that wrecks your heart. One of those sermons where you wonder how in the world the pastor knew exactly what you needed to hear. One of those “He is talking directly to me” sermons. Looking back, I do not honestly remember what I was going through at the time that made these words hit me so hard. But I do know that the quote resonates with me in a big way today.

Throughout this pandemic/stay at home/lockdown crisis, I have struggled. My emotions have controlled me. I have tried to face this out of control situation and control it. Worry has wrecked my sleep. Anxiety has overtaken my thoughts. Fear has captured my focus. I have been short-tempered with my family. I have spent days crippled by sadness – and then beat myself up for not accomplishing anything. All of this has left me wallowing in that old, lingering feeling that I’m just not good enough. I have allowed the small, powerful “IF” drive me crazy. If I was a better mom….If I was smarter….If I could manage my time better. ..If I could just be better…If I was good enough!

I do not believe that I came across this quote by accident this week. God knew I needed to hear it now. Because God truly does not need my goodness. He doesn’t need to me fight and claw to be good enough…because guess what, I never will be. I will never be “good enough” to earn His love. And that’s a good thing, because His love is offered free. What God does want from me is my trust. He desires that I would let go of the control I crave, and to trust Him with all that I am. He wants me to trust that He is in control. Trust should trump fear, anxiety, worry, and all of the other emotions that do not come from Him.

So, my prayer for today, and for every day going forward is to just trust. I pray to be wholly surrendered to Him and to trust Him enough!

 

Zach

77251012_1068918693440446_4906038921999155200_nThe oldest of my five kids is Zach. He is finishing out his senior year at Otterbein University in Columbus, Ohio. I am quite certain this is not how he envisioned his final chapter of school going. Zach played football for the Cardinals, so during the fall I got to see him every single weekend – and it made my momma heart happy. Since we have all been under a stay at home order, I have not been able to see him. Many days I wished more than anything that he was here with the rest of us – to share in all of our family time. I know that he is with his own little family – his amazing girlfriend, Katie (superhero nurse), and their dog (my granddog) Archie. I know they are safe and happy – but I sure wish they were all here with us!

I wrote a poem about Zach when he was 12 years old. While so much has changed about my “little man” in the last decade, so much still remains the same. Here are those words from his childhood.

Zach

They call him
Mr. Intensity
On the field

But it fits
Him
In every way

He is passionate
And intense
Emotional and loyal

The kind of personality
That draws a crowd
And then entertains them

He is tender
And caring when
No one is looking

He will have his
Heart broken
Many times

But it will not
Change his intense
Caring nature

He is my
Little man
Zach

Zach is now a grown man who has not lost his intense, caring nature. He has survived a few heart breaks, and has found his forever love. He set goals and accomplished them. I know in the big picture, everything will be okay. But it’s hard to know he’s missing out on the end of college the way he had it pictured – saying goodbye to friends, parties, graduation, etc. But I also know that he is going to continue to do amazing things with the life he is building. And through it all, he will always be my Zach!

Forced confinement

sidewalk chalkToday started out as a sad day. This may sound silly, but if you are from Cincinnati, you will get it. Today was supposed to have been Reds Opening Day. That means the streets of downtown should have been lined with fans for the Opening Day Parade. Today should have been celebrated as a holiday – as is always the case for the start of baseball season here. When I was finally awake enough to look at my bullet journal and realize all of this, the tears came. I just felt so sad. So many things we are missing out on.

But then, I stepped outside and felt the day warming, saw the sun greeting me with its bright yellow smile, and my mood began to lift. And rather than being sad about all the things we are going without, I fixed my thoughts on all the positives that are coming about as a result of our forced confinement.

Sidewalk chalk. Four of my five kids are here at home. All day. Every day. While that can be a bit chaotic (and by a bit I mean a lot at times), it also is time that we would never actually take for ourselves. Never have all four of my daughters and I spent over an hour in the sunshine creating with sidewalk chalk. Being that they range in age from 7 years old to 19 years old, we just rarely spend time doing activities together (stop judging – just being real). But today, we did! We laughed and worked together and created something we were proud of. We were happy.

Later, my oldest daughter, Cart, and I took a walk through the neighborhood. If you have a teenage daughter, you understand that any time at all you get to spend with her is amazing…so my momma heart was happy. We took selfies, we shared songs, we talked. And as we walked I noticed so many positives all around us. At the end of driveways throughout our subdivision, there were notes of encouragement written in chalk. Smiley faces, hearts, and phrases. Each one brought a smile to my face. And the more and more we saw, the bigger my smile got, and the more my mood lifted. Families worked together in the yard. The smell of fresh grass wafted through the air. Children played in yards, rode bikes, climbed on swing sets while their parents lounged on freshly cleaned patio furniture and watched.

This virus is awful and the havoc it is wreaking on our world is devastating. But there is a flip side to all of the negative. The world is slowing down. People are slowing down. We are talking. Playing games. Putting puzzles together. Creating art and music. It’s almost like this virus has reminded us about who we are as humans.

Sitting here typing I have tears flowing down my cheeks. (I’m a complete sap these days!) (Ok – not just these days…I’m a complete sap all of the time). If you stop and look, slow down and listen, you will find the beauty in all of the chaos. We will all look back on this time of our lives and will be filled with the memories we made when the world made us all stop.

What memories are you making today?

Only the Holy Spirit

fruitsLockdown. Shelter in place. Stay at home. No matter what it is called, it still means the same thing. We are ordered to stay in our homes. Together. For an undetermined amount of time. Of course we all love our families and we all want to do all that we can to keep ourselves and our communities safe. But let’s just get real for a minute…it ain’t easy. There are six of us who live in our house. Six humans and one very rambunctious, energetic dog. No matter how much we love and care about each other, we are still going to get on each other’s nerves. We are going to bicker and argue. We are going to have ups and downs.

I woke early this morning to steal the quiet moments that exist when everyone else is still sleeping. The weight of the coming day and week was bearing down on me. In my prayer I wept and cried to God “I’m not sure if I can do this…” God gently nudged me with “You can’t…but I can.”

These words: love, peace, self-control, peace, goodness, gentleness, kindness, joy. They are not going to come naturally or easily to me during these difficult times. Trying to teach from home, manage the house, help my own children do their school work, and help my whole family navigate this storm is so stressful to me! Those words do not describe my demeanor over the past few days. And its hard for me to admit that I need help…but the reality is, I need help. So my prayer for my household today and going forward is that I learn to rely on the Holy Spirit to change me. I will lean into to the power of the Spirit. “Only the Holy Spirt can produce the kinds of fruits in our lives…” (Galatians 5:22)

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.”

 

 

 

Choose your hard

I have a sign that hangs in my office/craft room/hideout. That sign reads “Choose your hard.” It’s a reminder to me as I try (once again) to lose weight and get myself in shape. I saw a saying once that said “Working out is hard. Being overweight is hard. Choose your hard.” That stuck with me and I thought it was a great way to think about it. But as a grow and work on myself I am learning that not everything that I’ve thought of as hard is truly hard. What I’m learning is that most of the time, things are uncomfortable, not hard. Climbing Mt. Everest…hard. Advanced Calculus…hard. Brain surgery…hard. But many of the things we say are hard to us are really just uncomfortable.

Think about it. How many times have you heard “relationships are hard”? No….not really. Relationships can be uncomfortable, but not necessarily hard. As I work through so much of the “stuff” from my past I hear myself saying over and over – “it’s just too hard.” In all honesty though, it’s just really uncomfortable to face the ugly things that I’ve kept buried so long. And none of us really like to be uncomfortable. Having conversations with people about the things that matter is really uncomfortable at times – but not hard. The craziness of raising 5 kids, chaotic schedules, outbursts, teenage hormones, undecided paths, sleep deprivation, worry, anxiety, endless laundry….ask a tired mom. It all feels so hard. But in all reality, everything that goes along with parenting is just really uncomfortable. It’s not hard to raise our kids because we love them so much and want the best for them in every way. But there are certainly many moments of “uncomfortable.”

So the sign that hangs over my desk will be changed very soon to reflect this new mindset I am working toward. Changing the way I think about the world around me will be a drastic change, and it will be uncomfortable, but it won’t be hard.

Milestones

stepping stonesAs a new parent, I remember being so excited for each of my children’s milestones; crawling, walking, talking, first tooth, etc. I couldn’t wait for them to reach each of them, and then to move on to the next “big” event. I would mark each of these glorious days in their baby book and swear I would remember them forever. As they got older, they still continued to reach new ones, but they didn’t seem to capture as much attention as when they were babies. Maybe that’s because life just got so busy that I didn’t take the time to fully appreciate them as I should have. What I wouldn’t do to have some of that precious time back to just slow down and enjoy each moment for its true worth. I feel like I almost wished their childhood away by saying things like “I can’t wait until they walk…I can’t wait until her first day of school…”. 

This past year has been full of milestones for both of my “big” kids. Zach finished his junior year at Otterbein University. And instead of coming home for the summer, he moved into his first apartment in Columbus (which is now home to him). For the first time in 21 years, my son does not live with me. It’s left so an odd emptiness in our house and in my heart. Carty played her last soccer game ever, attended her last prom, graduated from high school, and is at her college orientation as I type this! She is no longer a child. She is embarking on her life after school. So many milestones for her this year. As I left her at orientation (why the heck were parents not allowed?) she got out of the car and told me to drive away before she walked in. I got a big smile on my face because I knew that she knew that I was going to snap a picture of her heading straight into her next milestone. I did as she asked and drove away without a picture on my phone. But I did pause to capture the image in my mind and saved it to my heart. (Jeez that sounds so cheesy – honest but cheesy). 

Why did it all happen so fast? That sounds so cliche…but wow is it so true. I can remember so many people telling me that it would. But in those busy times of practices and homework and laundry, at times it felt like it would never end. So here I sit, tears streaming down my face, wishing that I had paid more attention along the way. Somehow, all of a sudden, my babies are grown. They are moving on to their own lives. Yes, I will always and forever be their momma…but things will never be the same. I’m sad that they are not babies anymore, but I know that there will continue to be more events that we will share. We will learn to navigate this new normal. And I will cherish each new milestone that comes along. 

*(I’m sorry (not sorry) for the emotional messiness of this post. Writing is my way to process and take time to feel what I’m really feeling. And also just to ramble a little bit.)

Joy and Pain

Next month my husband and I will celebrate our first anniversary. Every day that I have been married to him has been amazing. I have done things and gone places that I never would have done without him. Marrying him truly made me feel like the luckiest woman in the world and I feel like I have it all. Including fibromyalgia. I was recently “diagnosed” with it and am really having a hard time learning to manage/live with the pain on a daily basis. It sucks. I’m not good at staying positive when I’m experiencing such pain levels each day. And then when I complain, I feel guilty because I should just be able to be happy with my wonderful life. I AM happy with my life – except the pain. And then I feel like maybe I am dealing with this because I somehow didn’t deserve the husband and home and children. Somehow I’m being punished for having more than I deserve. I don’t like the way that makes me feel either. Sometimes I just get mad. I am pissed that I finally found my happiness and then this is heaped up on me. And then on top of sad and mad and scared and okay I feel hopeless. I am not sure that I will ever be pain free again and that scares me to death. I can’t imagine living the rest of my life in pain and tired like I feel now. How am I even supposed to live like this for the rest of my life? Oh and then there are the conversations I have with people who tell me that I’m not really “sick” and that maybe the pain is “imagined” – those are fun talks.

I would like to think that I am a woman of faith. I believe in God and in his plan for my life. I believe that He is in control and that He loves me. I pray everyday. I try my best to live my life the way that shows the world who I belong to. But some days I fail. Some days I let my sadness or bitterness take over and I fall. I can’t just walk around all day spouting sunshinyness and pretending that I’m okay. YES, I have a joy in my heart because of my relationship with God. But I also need to be authentic and transparent and real. Life is hard. Life is painful. Life is running me over right now.

I know that this is just a season in life. I know that it will either get better, or I will learn to better manage my emotions that surround all of it. Either way I will not be stuck right here where I am. In the meantime, I want to be truthful about where that is and what I’m dealing with. Anyone can share all the good stuff. Everyone has a highlight reel that they want the world to see. But I want to share it all. Life is about the ups and the downs. It’s about the pretty and the ugly. The smiles and the tears. Joy and pain (haha…now that song is in your head…sunshine and rain).

So there it is. It will be an interesting journey. I am going to pay attention to all of it and listen to myself as I learn about who I really am in all of it.