Love is Sweet

This past weekend was one that I have planned for and looked forward too for a long time! On Saturday, I hosted a shower for my soon to be daughter-in-law, Katie. Katie is a lovely, endearing young woman whose sense of style is amazing. She is beautiful inside and out, and my son is head over heels in love with her. We are so very excited to welcome her into our family.

I planned for months for this special day. I wanted to celebrate Katie in the special way she deserved to be celebrated. I will not lie – there were times that I felt very stressed about all of the details, but it was all truly a labor of love. My biggest concern was that I was able to be able to be present in the moment and enjoy the day with all of our family and friends. Thankfully, on the morning of the shower, my closest friend, my girls (including Katie and Cai), and my husband came together to help me bring my vision to reality. When the time came, I was able to enjoy each moment of the shower. I loved meeting Katie’s extended family, spending this special time with my own family, and watching Katie glow as we showered her!

Twenty-three years ago when I had my son, I began praying for his future. I prayed for him to grow in love and to find love. I asked God to bring a woman into his life who would love him in just the way he needed to be loved. All of his life I have prayed for Katie! I was honored to be able to love on her this past weekend. I am so excited for the upcoming wedding this fall, but I am even more excited for the life that Katie and Zach have ahead of them.

Reason to celebrate

Yesterday was such an amazing day of celebration. First and foremost, we celebrated Easter – Resurrection Day! The day the we declare that the tomb was empty, Jesus had risen and in that we find our freedom. We gathered at our house later in the afternoon to hunt Easter eggs and share a meal together. But we also celebrated being together. It had been more than a year since we had broken bread with my parents. We had shared some driveway visits over the last year, and lots of FaceTime calls, but we had not been in the same room for more than 365 days! I had not felt a hug from my mom and daddy for over 12 months!

So we gathered, my parents, Chris’ parents, and our girls. We missed having Zach and Katie, and our siblings and nieces and nephews. And we hope that someday soon we can ALL gather together. But we enjoyed the precious time we did have with those who were able to be together. We laughed. We talked. And we listened. Sometimes we just sat – perfectly content with the silence of each other’s company.

The lesson we will take away is a lesson that many of us have learned through this incredibly challenging year. We learned to not take for granted the time we have with those we love. We learned to take every opportunity to be present with each other. I am so thankful for those lessons.

You might have to look for it

Just this morning, I wrote a blog post about enjoying joy. About appreciating the joy that is to be found around us in our lives. A few hours later I was sitting on the floor of my laundry room overwhelmed to the point of tears. Not tears of joy. These were tears of a momma who was teetering on the edge of hopelessness. Mommin’ ain’t easy. Somedays it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

So there I sat in the floor of my laundry room, surrounded by mountains of clothes (six people create a lot of dirty laundry) feeling like a big fat fraud. Where was my joy now? Didn’t I just post about how joyful life is and how all you have to do is look and find the joy? Now, to be totally transparent, I wasn’t crying about how much laundry I had to do. No, this was not about that. I will not share the details of what caused my meltdown – not because I am trying to hide my “ugly” – but out of respect for the privacy of others involved in the situation. And the situation is not really the point anyway.

The point is about joy. There are some moments where I am not naturally, organically overwhelmed with life’s joy. But that does not mean that it is not present. What it truly means is that I have lost my sight of it, while choosing to focus on the yucky stuff. My perspective shifted from being thankful for all of the good stuff, to wallowing in the muck that threatens to steal my joy. But here’s the thing….I am not at all saying that life should be rosy and rainbows every single day. I know that fact all too well. I think what I am trying to say (I’m discovering it as I type) is that even though life feels like a mess sometimes, and we as humans can feel way too caught up in the chaos, we don’t have to unpack and stay there. We can shift our perspective and choose to be happy in our circumstances. No, we don’t “fake it” and just act like everything is okay so that our friends and neighbors don’t judge us. No, we don’t bury our heads in the sand and not deal with the hard stuff because we want to dance around the house like a Disney princess. We face things, we learn to cope with things, we grow from things – all while we focus our eyes on the good stuff that we can hold on to.

I guess what all of my rambling here really means is that when you find yourself sitting on your laundry room floor crying and feeling like you just might drown – its okay. You are not alone! Just don’t camp out there too long because you might miss out on the goodness that there is out there for you!

Enjoy the Joy

Yesterday morning I began planning my future daughter-in-law’s bridal shower. (I tried out the new stories feature on here and shared that tidbit). My son, Zach and Katie will be married in September of this year. Zach is my oldest and my only son. He has always been a momma’s boy…but now he’s about to outgrow that title and become a husband. A husband to an amazing woman. When he was little I began praying for the woman who would become his wife. I have prayed for this young lady for many, many years. God answered in a BIG way and brought Katie into our world.

As I went through my day yesterday, the plans for the shower were on my mind. Katie has a very keen sense of style, and I want to give her a beautiful shower that matches her style. So all day, I was thinking about ways to create this perfect party. More than once – okay at least a dozen times – I was overwhelmed with emotion and began crying. I would find a picture that inspired the flowers, and then I would cry. I would think about sharing this time with Katie and all of our family, and then I would cry. I envisioned all of the smiles and laughs and pictures of that day, and I would cry.

Initially I was confused about these emotions that were bubbling under the surface. Were they sadness from the feelings of “losing” my son? Were they happy tears at the thought of having this special family time to celebrate Katie as a new member of our family? Did these tears come from a place of worry and anxiety about planning the perfect party for my son’s bride? I thought deeply about these emotions (its just what I do), and sorted them out in my head and in my heart. I think that may some of those tears were from each of the things I had thought, but the overwhelming and overpowering emotion I was feeling was pure JOY.

Joy was what was bubbling up from my head and my heart. There is no other word for what I am feeling as we prepare for my son’s wedding. Joy for the joining not only of two people but of two families! Joy at the thought of my daddy being the one who will perform the ceremony for his grandson and bride. And here’s the thing, joy feels good.

I am sure that as the day approaches for the shower and the ceremony, there will be some times of stress and maybe even some not so joyful emotions. I know that worry and anxiety may set in, but none of that will steal the joy of this very special time for our family!

Carty – like party with a “C”

My baby girl recently turned twenty. She went on a girls’ trip with her closest friends and had the time of her life. Sadly, with everyone’s schedules, we didn’t have a big celebration, just a low key dinner out with her and Chris and myself. I loved the time with her, but I almost feel like I didn’t do enough to truly celebrate her twenty years here on earth. Carty is one of a kind for sure. Her full name is Caroline McCarty Smith. I was the last hold out – still calling her Caroline, until she gently told me I was the ONLY one who called her that and she really preferred Carty. When people would ask her how to spell it, she proudly said “It’s like party with a C,” and that sums her up perfectly.

Carty has grown into such a mature, responsible, fun young lady. I could not be more proud of who she is and how she lives each day. She is beautiful inside and out – and when I look at her now it’s hard to see the little tomboy who insisted on wearing her brother’s hand me down athletic shorts and t-shirts. In light of her recent jump from her teens to her twenties, I thought I would share a poem I wrote about her when she was little. I hope someday she will understand how much joy she brings to me and to this world.

Carty
She struts down the sidewalk
As if she was walking
The red carpet.

Even with grubby, skinned toes
And lollipopped, sticky fingers
She is prissy

Her stringy strands of dishwater blonde
Fall across her face,
Hiding her crystal blue eyes.

She is constant motion
Perfectly happy to play alone
Confident and absorbed in herself.

Oblivious to anyone’s world
But her own.
She is Carty

I wish…

I got a message from my mom this week that shook me. One of my many cousins had passed away in his sleep. He was just a few years older than me. I hadn’t seen him in way too many years, but when I received news of his death, that didn’t matter. Steve was that one relative that everyone was drawn to. He had an amazingly quick wit and was always laughing. He included everyone in the conversation and made those around him feel special. My most vivid memories of him were the times we all spent on Granny’s farm – mostly at family reunions. Those days – oh how do I long for those days again.

We would typically start to gather at the farm on Friday night. Often there would be a bonfire with roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. When Saturday would roll around, more and more family would arrive with food and hugs and hellos. After catching up – the day would really get started. One of my favorite memories of those days was the volleyball games we played in the field between Granny’s house and the old barn. I never tired of those games. We crowded as many as we could on to each side of the “court” and everybody got a turn. Laughing and joking were as prevalent as setting and spiking during those endless games. Near the volleyball game, was the horseshoe game – most often played between the “uncles” – who could be heard jeering and bragging about whose shoe was the closest.

The only thing that would stop us from playing was when the food was ready. Table after table cut through the middle of Granny’s front yard, covered in homemade dishes that seemed to never run out. We would find a spot in the shade of the tree and sit to eat. I remember listening to stories from Granny and all of my aunts and uncles about growing up in a house with 12 kids. What I wouldn’t give to sit and listen to those stories now. As a young kid, I liked hearing them, but truly didn’t understand how special the memories of those times would become. After eating (not that it really ever stopped, as we sort of grazed for the remainder of the day) there would most certainly be music. It seemed everyone had a guitar or banjo and they all came out for our afternoon entertainment. I can still feel that music in my soul. It is who I am – who my family is.

Sitting here typing, I wish I would have spent just ONE more summer day down on Granny’s farm. I wish I would have done a better job of keeping in touch with all of my cousins. I wish more than anything that I could remember every single minute of every single reunion – every taste, every laugh, every song. I am so sad that I did not know Steve as well as an adult as I did when we were kids. Life is so precious – and so fragile. And while I am so very sad for all the time that has gone by, I am more than grateful for the beautiful memories I have.

“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?