Comfort food

There is just something so very special about sharing a meal with loved ones. Today is my mom’s birthday so we had my parents over for dinner to celebrate! My husband made his famous meatloaf accompanied by mashed potatoes and sweet skillet corn. That meal was a staple from my childhood. Sitting with my parents and listening to my daddy bless our food was pure comfort.

My parents spent the last month in Canada visiting my baby sister and her family. We have not seen them in nearly two years and we miss them terribly. As much as I worried about my parents making the 28 hour car trip, I know that it was good for all of them to be reunited. And even though I don’t see my parents nearly as often as I would like, I missed them. They were too far away. When they phoned to let me know they were safe at home, I was so relieved and happy. It made me smile to think that I used to have to call them to let them know that I was home safe…and now I was on the other end of that phone call.

As we broke bread around the kitchen table I was filled with comfort and peace. They shared stories of their time with my sister, brother-in-law and their grand-babies. We giggled as we listened to my daddy’s stories of his thick Kentucky accent causing some serious confusion on the French-speaking island that my sister calls home. They tried to make light of getting lost in Rhode Island for the better part of two hours (pretty sure you could see the whole state in two hours), and not being able to find a gas station that sold paper maps.

I count it as a blessing to still have my parents here on Earth to share birthdays, partake in family meals, attempt to pose for selfies and to hug around the neck. I am so thankful for these sweet hours spent together, for the comfort my parents bring with their presence, and for each and every memory we are able to create each time we come together.

It’s my process

This weekend I had an encounter with someone who I don’t really know that really shook me up. It was not a “big” encounter, and I truly don’t know this person enough to even care about her – or her opinion about me, but I just can’t shake the way she left me feeling. I can’t shake the whole thing for many reasons.I am a thinker. I spend sleepless nights replaying words spoken to me, trying to understand why certain things affect me the way they do. I reflect a lot on the “whys” of my own emotions and dig down into past hurts that are quickly brought back to my mind by current situations. At times, this is a really good character trait to have. But at other times, it is near torture. It’s why I just can’t let some things go. It’s why I take so much to heart and am still crying over nasty words days after they have been spoken. When a “normal” person just brushes things off and tells me to just “get over it” or “let it go” I want to scream and attempt to explain my feelings, but find the explanation buried in a lifetime of past emotions.

As I wade through the emotions that feel way too deep for a simple snarky comment from a practical stranger, I wish that I could climb out of the muck and walk on. But I can’t. And here’s the thing…no one else gets to tell me how to feel about any situation. I own my feelings. I get to process them for as long as it takes me to understand them and work through them. I will not go into the details of this moment in time, because I have already replayed it too many times in my head and heart. But I will share the lesson that I am taking away from this ugly moment in my day. It’s okay for me to not be okay for a while if that’s where I’m at. I will move on eventually. I will not unpack my suitcase and stay here – but I will take the time I need to “get over it.” And I will pray. I will pray that God helps me use this hurt to process all of the unhealed layers that still remain. I will pray for a more forgiving spirit. I will pray for those who excused this woman’s behavior and chalked it up to “that’s just who she is.” I will pray for all of us – that we will learn to see each other the way God sees us. Beloved children.

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!