The day has come

Sitting here in a quiet, empty house, finally taking a few minutes just to breathe. The start of the school year is normally crazy and hectic, but this year – year three of pandemic teaching – has been especially exhausting. On top of the long hours and late nights, I am in the last few weeks of my Master’s program, which means multiple projects and looming deadlines. I have not really been able to take time to process all the emotions that I am feeling about the upcoming weekend.

In just two days, my son will marry his one true love. My baby boy. My firstborn. The one who gave me the title of momma. I am beyond excited and proud of my son and all that he has worked for and achieved. I am thrilled that he has found his lovely bride and will stand before his family and friends on Saturday and vow to share his life with Katie.

I find myself flooded with so many memories as we prepare to celebrate this big day. I think back to the day that we brought Zach home from the hospital. I think about spending every minute of every day of his first months of life. I remember saying to my family that at that point in his life I remembered every day that he’d been in the world. I wanted it to be like that forever. When he began walking and talking he would say the cutest things that I swore I would never forget. When I was pouring his milk he would say “Too nough, mommy.” I have never forgotten that sweet little face sharing his own sweet words.

As he grew older, the days became too many to remember every minute. The busyness of childhood and adolescence felt never ending with the countless practices and homework and uniform washing. Looking back now though, it went by in a blink. I am so very thankful for all of the memories that my son has given me over the years. And while I can’t recall each and every day that I have been blessed to be his momma, I do have so many amazing memories of him growing up. I can so easily recall the summer days when he would play football out in the street with the neighborhood kids, race Big Green Machines up and down the cul-de-sac, and play flashlight tag in the backyard. I have amazing memories of cheering on my son from the stands as he played football with all of his heart. There were out of town baseball tournaments with families who became lifelong friends. And I can never forget all of the mischief that Zach and his best friend since birth, Tyler, found themselves in. Like the time they thought it would be fun to see what happened when they threw grapes (an entire bag) at the ceiling fan. Or the time they thought it would be funny to cut the neighbor’s swings?!? Although I cannot remember every day, I realize that I am blessed with so many memories of being his momma.In 48 hours, my son will start the next phase of his life with his wife! He will begin creating his own memories as they build their new life together. We will spend the weekend celebrating their love and I know that the memories that we create this weekend will be added to the long list of memories that I cherish. So for now, I am enjoying this quiet time of reflection, recalling all of the joy that Zach has brought into my life an eagerly anticipating the weekend because the day has come.

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!

Small things

One of my favorite things about spring is the return of so many birds to my back patio. I love hearing their joyful chirping early in the morning. I filling the bird feeder and then sitting and watching them come feast. They are like familiar friends who faithfully visit each year. This picture is from last spring, right after I had filled the feeder for the first time in the season. The simple pleasure of watching my feathered friends return each spring feels normal in a world that is anything but normal right now. As I enjoy my spring break at home this year, I am focusing on the small, simple things that bring my heart joy. Filling the feeder and waiting for my friends is one of those things. I’m encouraging each of you to slow down – even for just a moment today – and find joy in the day. Much love!

I am a Writer

Recently I have shared a lot of writing I did more than a decade ago when I returned to college. I share it partly because I love the memories of the process of completing that portfolio. For me it meant so many different things. It boosted my confidence in myself as a writer, while also being cathartic. The other reason that I find myself sharing these pieces recently is that many days when I sit down to write, I feel like I have nothing to say. Writing is one thing that brings me so much joy, but lately I feel empty when thinking about what to write. It feels very frustrating. I think these ruts that I find myself in at times are natural to some extent. but I think there are also other underlying causes for them. I doubt myself. I doubt that anyone else on the planet would even be interested in what I have to say. I compare my ramblings to “real” writers and become filled with apprehension. And then I get down on myself for falling into the comparison trap at all.

Teddy Roosevelt is credited with saying that “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I’m pretty sure that he spoke these words specifically for me. When I compare my writing, my blog, my followers, my likes…I lose my joy. I lose the happiness that writing brings me on a daily basis. I have to stop thinking about what people may think about my words, and get back to just sharing my thoughts. It really is all about the process. I find joy in taking one thought and choosing words to express all of it. Will I produce my “best” writing every single day? Not at all likely. But will writing every single day bring me joy? Help me hone my craft? Make me feel whole? Those things are very highly likely.

So I will continue to share things that I have written in the past, because I do enjoy my strolls down memory lane. But I will also find joy in the process of creating new pieces to share and be proud of. And I will be grateful for the process, the ups and downs, the mountains and the valleys. Because I am a writer!

It’s okay

IMG_2517When I decided to create a blog to share my writing, I promised myself that I would always do my best to be genuine with my words. Authenticity is a non-negotiable for this whole process for me. I don’t think it’s real to share just the happy highlights and keep the ugliness all to myself. Sharing a skewed view of my world seems like such a fraud and that’s not at all who or what I want to be. So…here we go. Yesterday morning I wrote about joy and how its not based on circumstances but rather it comes from God and its constant and a whole bunch of other thoughts that I do believe to be truth!

Last night by dinner time, I was on the verge of a breakdown. I am not using that phrase flippantly either. I was panicked, tight-chested, breathing heavy, sobbing, and shaking.  Swollen, puffy eyed, snot slinging, ugly crying. I had spent the entire evening worrying about anything and everything and had come up with the absolute worst-case scenario for each member of my family and myself. Yes, I was extreme catastrophizing. Where was my joy? Who was I to even create a post about being joyful in all of life? These questions led me to feeling even worse about myself…which led to more tears and feeling awful about myself. Why is this whole situation so hard for me? Why can’t I just do better, be better, live better? And the cycle continued….questions, self-loathing, tears.

This morning my perspective is a little brighter. Actually, my perspective is a little more rational. This morning, after a decent night’s sleep, two cups of strong coffee, and some allergy medicine, my thoughts are a little more clear, my emotions are a little more calm (it’s all relative), and heart is not quite so heavy. I thought back to the words my therapist spoke to me this week in our “virtual” session when I told him that I just don’t feel like I’m doing a very good job balancing everything. He asked me this question; “Have you ever done this before? Have you ever been quarantined indefinitely for a worldwide pandemic where you had to teach remotely and help your school aged kids with their schoolwork and help all five of your children navigate the fears and worries of this new normal?”  

*crickets

When I say that I hate when he goes all Jedi-mind tricks on me, I really don’t hate it because it forces me to answer the question that he and I both already know the answer to. Point made.

No, I have never done this before. No, I should not have it all together effortlessly. Yes, I should slow down, take a deep breath and allow myself some grace. Yes, we will all be okay if the school work is late, the dishes are dirty and we are wearing three-day old jammies. Today, in this moment, I am a MESS.  I do not “feel” joyful. I am bitter and angry that life is so hard right now. I am wallowing in self-pity in my unwashed, messy bunned hair. I will not stay here. I will seek my center, begin to balance and claim my calm. But for now, it’s okay.

It’s okay.

Strength from Joy

joy strengthThis sounds good, right?! This is a great “go to” verse when times are hard. These words make for a great, inspirational social media post for those of us who are feeling run down and weak. But do I really believe it? Am I living everyday (in lockdown mode) with this joy? Is my behavior truly reflected in this quote?

As I sit and soak in the word this morning, I found myself dwelling here, in this verse. Lingering on these words in Nehemiah forced me to earnestly check my heart, and not only to ask the tough questions, but also to answer them.

So, I go back to the way I was taught to read and understand the Bible – one word or phrase at a time. Break it down and listen for meaning. Joy – different from happiness. Happiness is based on circumstances or events, and is primarily about MY feelings. It centers around ME. However, joy is a constant. Joy is a contentment of the heart, regardless of happenings and surroundings. Joy is a purposeful choice. This joy is found in the Lord – it is  the Lord. And this very joy  – is mine! It is my strength. It is what stands in the gap when I am overwhelmed by life. It is there to satisfy my needs when I can’t find my own way. This strength from joy calms my fears, dries my tears, and soothes my spirit – even in the ugliest of circumstances.

It is a promise from the word of God. And I believe with all of my heart that God’s promises are real and true and everlasting. So…..do I believe this “go-to” verse? Am I deeply, truly, strongly “bought in”? YES! I am and I am carrying it with me today and going forward. In this scary, unpredictable world, I will find my strength in the joy of the Lord!

The Wonder of Spring

fullsizeoutput_6d7eI wonder if the blooming buds all around us
know what is going on
in the world they are entering?

I wonder if these sprigs of hope
know what their presence means to us
as we look at them from our windows.

I wonder if these emerging blossoms truly
know the joy they bring
to our scary, broken world.

The wonder of spring surrounds us,
envelops our fragile spirits and
promises us new life.

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)