Packing My Life Away

Packing Pic

Still in the middle of selling our house.

The inspector has come.

The appraiser has come.

The termite guy comes next week.

What I need now is a good psychiatrist.

Maybe she’ll come next week too.

I told my realtor selling a house is not for the faint of heart, she readily agreed.

We’ve packed up belongings that hold more memories than my heart can bear.  I cry at the least little thing these days. For example, we pulled out an old box from our overly packed garage, which I am sure is a fire hazard, by the way.  In this box were little scarves and small gloves with matching hats.  They were neatly packed just the way I’d left them fifteen years ago when we loaded up all our earthly belongings and headed south from Iowa.

Each and every glove, hat, and scarf I touched brought back a collage of memories. Squeals of running and catching snowflakes. Rolling a snowball until it was big enough to be a snowman. Red cheeks and runny noses; proof we’d been making the most of a snowy winter. I closed my eyes and I could see small faces sitting around our modest table sipping hot chocolate cooled by too many marshmallows.

How was I supposed to pack this stuff up in a black garbage bag and give it to Goodwill?!?!

A time capsule of our life, how could I cast it aside? Ugh!  Packing is hard.

“Get excited,” friends tell me. “Don’t look back, keep going forward,” I tell myself. But no matter which way I look I see life coming and going like a train passing. I think I understand mid-life crisis. It’s the slow realization that YOUR LIFE is MORE than half gone.  I’m not trying to be dismal and I’m certainly not trying to be a negative nanny.

I am trying to tell you I AM IN MID LIFE CRISIS AND I AM NOT OKAY.

Send help.  Preferably with a cheese tray. Okay, so that may be a little bit exaggerative, but you get my point.

The Bible says we get three score and ten years on this earth. You know what that means?  If you do, kudos, I didn’t know until a couple years ago.  What’s up with “score” anyway? Three score and ten actually means, in Bible language, about seventy years. We get about seventy years, some of us will get more, some less. But seventy is the average.

I’ve spent a long time thinking over how I want to spend this next half of my life. I’ve always said I want to make a difference, I want to leave a legacy.  But, that’s hard to see right now amidst the boxes crowding my view.

These next few weeks are going to be crazy as we continue to pack our lives into cardboard and haul it across the country. But, in the middle of it all, I want to continue to ask the Lord what is next for me.

I quit my beloved job of thirteen years, well, I still have a week or so of training my replacement ahead. But, for all practical purposes, I’m unemployed. First time since I can remember.

So many endings. Can somebody send help?!

I don’t know, bring coffee or donuts or something to help me cope with all of this change. And if you do bring those donuts or coffee, please say a prayer for me and my family on your way.

I’m not quite ready to be excited about all of this because I’m constantly looking back.

That’s what packing does for you, it forces you to remember and in the remembering we’re reminded of God’s abounding goodness, even if it does lead us to tears.

So maybe there’s a little good in the chaos of it all.

Thankfully, because I’ve lived a number of my days already, I KNOW the Lord is walking down memory lane with me.  He sees my tears, the Bible tells me he saves them in a bottle.  Isn’t that sweet? I love the idea of his mercy over me. He knows the loss I’ve suffered over the last four and half years, and now a major life change.

And, even though I have no idea what’s next, I KNOW I’m not alone.

I have one thousand boxes and the Lord Jesus right by my side.

“You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.”   Psalm 56:8


Open Heart

Hospital pic

Pictures you take when you spend countess hours in a waiting room.

I love surprises.

Well, I love the kind that involve flowers and/or travel.

Honestly, it doesn’t have to cost money.  A good surprise could be cleaning out my car or washing the dishes before I can get to them.

Or chocolate, always chocolate.

What I don’t like are surprises that involve a hospital stay.

And that’s exactly what happened just a few days ago.

It’s no secret how much I love my daddy.  I’ve written about him several times over the last few years.  He was heroic in Mom’s last days and has fought to really LIVE the days that followed.

It’s also no secret he’s battled some health issues, but you’d never know it by his positive attitude.

It was an ordinary Tuesday, a day I would normally be at work.  Dad was scheduled for a heart cath after some abnormalities showed up on his stress test.  True to his nature, he didn’t think it was a big deal, he was already planning to eat at Cheddar’s following the procedure.

Something baked, of course, since he has to watch his blood sugar.

We were sitting in the sterile space divided only by a curtain on either side, waiting for the nurse to escort him back to the exam room.  We, as in me, my dad, and his wife, we were shooting the breeze and talking about my recent gallivant to New Orleans.  Dad was cool as a cucumber and I was fidgety as a field mouse.

I don’t like “procedures.”

Especially on my only living parent.

A few minutes after one in the afternoon and it was finally his turn.  I kissed him on the cheek and told him I would be praying for him and headed for the waiting room.

I also don’t like “waiting rooms,” for obvious reasons.

I took the opportunity to return some phone calls and text messages, hoping to take my mind off what was happening not too many yards away behind the gray double doors

After about an hour, the doctor emerged.  By then we’d all made our way back to the waiting room.

He began to tell us in language I didn’t understand about Daddy’s heart, all I remember for the life of me was his last sentence.  “I plan to keep him. He needs open heart surgery immediately.”

Wait, what!?!

Weren’t we just talking about going to Cheddar’s??

You could’ve heard a pin drop.  Our nervous chatter turned to silence.

Open heart surgery?

My throat went dry and I couldn’t swallow.

The moments that followed felt surreal: we peppered the doctor with questions, we paced the room, cried and made more phone calls to family and friends.

I hated every minute of it.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with Dad in a room overlooking the parking lot.  We drank lots of bad coffee and attempted conversation.

Honestly, no one really felt like talking.

That night before open heart surgery has got to be near the top of my “worst nights ever” list.  Leaving the hospital knowing in a few short hours my dad would endure traumatic, invasive surgery kept me awake until the wee hours of the morning.

And then it was time to get up and be back at the hospital.

We had to be there REALLY early if we wanted to see him before he went back behind those dreaded gray doors, and, of course, we did.

One thing we understood from the doctor was daddy had a diseased artery, one of the main ones.  It was diseased from one end to the other and they weren’t sure they’d be able to bypass it, it was just too far gone.  Something about “no place to attach the new artery.”

The second bypass should be a piece of cake.

Except a piece of cake didn’t sound so good once the doctor finished telling us all that was involved.

Until you’ve been in a situation like this, you really don’t understand the gravity of what the family is going through…not to mention the patient.

My sympathy has turned to empathy.

Again, that cold March morning, when most were just rising from bed, we sat again in sterile make-shift room with curtains for walls and waited for daddy’s turn.  You know, when you’re sitting there looking at someone you love so much, the reality you may not see them again squeezes your heart like a wrench bearing down on a pipe fitting.

Mortality becomes very real.

Of course, you speak none of this, you just sit there and crack uncomfortable jokes and shiver, but not just because it’s cold.

Doctor after nurse after anesthesiologist came by to introduce themselves and we all nodded and thanked them for what we prayed would be a successful surgery.

I keenly remember the moment we were asked to leave.

Daddy was lying in the bed with all sorts of apparatuses attached to him and several nurses lined either side of the bed, ready to roll him back.

All I could think were the words he’d spoken a few minutes earlier…

“You know, I don’t usually get scared for medical stuff, but I’m scared.”

My heart shattered.

Daddy was scared and there was NOTHING any of us could do but reassure him he was in God’s hands and promise to be there when he woke up.

As I was walking away, I stopped to look back, I just needed another moment to snap a picture in my mind.

I never wanted to forget, you know…just in case.

A tear slipped down my cheek, I willed the rest into submission.

I turned and headed for the waiting room where a small crowd of friends and family waited.

An hour or so later, a nurse called to tell us all was going well.  She did this every hour for the duration of the surgery.  Every time the phone rang, we held our breath.

Finally, after more cups of bad coffee and shallow chit chat the doctor entered the waiting room.  He signaled for us to join him in a smaller room off to the side.  I hadn’t seen any other doctor who came into the waiting room do this so, of course, fear gripped my heart.

I know what the Bible says about fear.

We shouldn’t live in it.

But, I also know God understands the heart.

There is a price for love.

The price takes you to fiery pit of hell and back.

I understand this all too well.

But it’s worth it.

Standing in the smaller room off to the side, our family stood waiting for the physician to tell us the outcome.

I knew the next few words could alter my world, so I stood firmly on both feet to keep me grounded.

Then he spoke, “The surgery went well, both bypasses were successful and the diseased artery wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought.”

I felt the air return to my lungs.

All of us, including the doctor and his assistant, were all smiles at this point.

Daddy was going to be okay.

We nearly skipped over to tell extended family and friends who were waiting on pins and needles.

It’s been a couple of weeks now since the surgery and daddy is recovering nicely.  He still has a long road ahead, but, hey, we’re happy he’s here on the road.

And he is too.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget these events.

I want to leave them here in black and white as a testimony to future me.

Future me who may doubt God’s provision.

So future me will always remember…

the day God healed a broken heart.


House Pic

This week has been an emotional roller coaster ride.  It seems like I’ve been on this “ride” for a long time, anybody know how to get off?

I honestly feel since my mom was diagnosed with the disease that took her life, I haven’t been able to catch my breath.  One life-changing event after another has kept me white knuckling the seat in front of me.

This has to be the longest roller coaster ride in history.

In these four years, Mom went to heaven, my kids left the nest one by one, my husband started working for a new company and now…

(Insert suspenseful music here.)

We’re moving.

And I don’t mean moving across town, I mean moving to a different zip code.

There is a “For Sale” sign in my yard as a constant reminder that this isn’t a joke.

Let me back up a bit and explain how we got here.

We moved here twelve years ago for a second time.  Yes, I said a second time. We had come a year earlier to stay with my parents while my husband started flight school.  After a long year with my husband in school in Florida and the kids and me in lower Alabama, we knew we had to make a change.

So off the kids and I went to Florida thinking we would live down there for a while.

It didn’t take long for me to realize with a traveling husband, I needed and wanted the help of my family. So in 2006 we drove our Penske truck into the small town where we now live, and called it home for the indefinite future.  We knew we would probably have to leave this town one day; but not for a long while. The thing is, this place is not real accessible to a big airport and because of that we have sweated many a day and night while my husband tried to get to work.

Most people get in their car and drive to the office.

Not us, my husband wakes up in the wee hours of the morning, drives an hour and a half to the nearest airport, waits in hopes to get a seat on the next flight to his “base.”  If he’s lucky he’ll catch the first flight out.  He’s been based in New York, Chicago, Dallas and Miami so far.

To give you some perspective, I work five minutes from my house.  How about you?

Whoever said the life of a pilot is the “high life,” must have meant it literally.

It has been hard.

But, we’ve managed and for good reason.  Having family near and small, award winning schools has made all of the hardship worthwhile.

And now, here we are, twelve lightning fast years later.

We are empty nesters with two dogs and a lot of square footage.

Only the grace of Jesus can help you cope when life brings more change than you thought was bearable.

And now we must face another change.

My sweet husband has commuted all of these years with little or no complaint and now it’s time to position ourselves closer to an airport big enough to offer more flight options.  We’ve talked about this day over the years, but nothing really prepares you for its arrival.

My emotions are so mixed up, my heart must look like tie dye.

When we bought this house it wasn’t because we couldn’t resist its charm or because we loved the layout or even because it was so close to all the places we frequented, even though all of those things were true.

We bought it because it’s what we could afford.

We didn’t have a big budget, but we did have three kids and a dog.  We were tired of renting and, well, it just made sense.

And maybe we were a little desperate.

It’s funny how time works magic.

When we moved in, we literally dragged our stuff across the street.  The house we were renting was a stone’s throw from this one.  At the time I thought I didn’t need to pack up everything in boxes, we were only moving a hundred feet, after all.

Boy, was I wrong!

We made countless trips across the yard, the pavement and then another yard with handfuls and baskets full of stuff.  It took me weeks and weeks, months to get everything squared away. One of my sweetest memories is my mom walking those hundred yards with us, over and over.  She helped lay contact paper in the kitchen cabinets and basically kept me from having a meltdown more than once.

It was the most unorganized, ridiculous move-in day ever.

Looking back, the only thing I would change about it is my attitude.  I would laugh more.  It’s only stuff.  These days, I care less and less about the stuff. I think often about the people from that move-in day.  It was mostly family and a few friends.  Some aren’t here anymore, I wish I’d realized how things were going to change; I’m sure I would’ve been a lot less temperamental.

Sometimes I’ll walk into my kitchen, open the cabinet and stare at the contact paper liner. I remember mom kneeling on the floor trying hard to reach the very back so the whole shelf would be covered.

I never had the heart to remove it, so it will sit faithfully on the shelf for the next person to stack their countless dishes.

People tease me because I get easily attached to things.  Not because of any earthly value but because there is usually a story that goes along with it.

A memory.  A little time capsule of my life held in a trinket or a kitchen cabinet.

I’ve watched my kids grow up inside these walls.

We’ve had late nights, early mornings, temper tantrums, praise and worship services, Bible study and youth events all inside these now freshly painted rooms.

If these walls could tell our story you might hear how my husband and I came home after leaving our oldest child and only daughter in a large town to attend college, we cried the entire way.   When we dropped our middle child off for higher education, we sat on his bed that night and cried like babies.  There were many nights when my youngest and I would sit on the couch and watch a movie together or cry again because grandma was sick and then gone.

The day the last child left, the silence of these walls was deafening.

But, they stood, nonetheless, faithful and strong even as I crumbled day after day inside of them.

You might hear stories of triumph when we were championing life.

And stories of defeat when we’d failed yet again.

I can still walk down the hall and hear the laughter and chatter of little children.

Leaving this place is not going to be easy.

I will leave a part of my heart and soul here, right inside these walls. You don’t just walk away from over a decade of memories without shedding some tears.

So, what’s next?

So many have asked.

Well, at this point we will wait for the right person to buy our house and then we will be heading north to a little town called Charlotte, NC, you may have heard of it?  Charlotte or somewhere thereabouts.

There is a BIG airport and my husband can get up every day and drive to work like the rest of us.

After thirteen years of commuting this will be a welcome relief.

It will mean more time for each other and that makes me so happy.

I’ve learned a little something in my forty something years on the planet:  take time for your people, love them well and spend all the time you can with them.

One day, you will be left with only memories.

Memories of contact paper and messy moves.

But, oh, how thankful you’ll be you were willing to move across continents (literally and figuratively) for the sake of love.

No regrets here, just a “For Sale” sign and a heart so full it just might burst.

But, for right now, here in my reality, it’s time get up and clean the kitchen.   Someone is coming by to view the house.

Hope they’ll see how much joy lived here.

Now that I think about it, this home, it is worth way more to me now than when we first moved in.

As a matter of fact, it might just be priceless.


Pic of Travis

I’ve just recently passed an important milestone.

I remember being a young woman with my life stretching out before me like an endless country road.  As the days went by I never really thought about what life would look life after my children were grown.  I just lived one day to the next taking care of needs and making supper.  It’s ironic because I am a planner at heart, but planning beyond high school wasn’t on my radar. Oh, I knew it was coming, but I never planned what I would do with myself once it happened.

My husband and I always said we were glad we had kids young so we could enjoy the years on the “other side.”  Meaning, when they were grown we would still be young enough to live some life together.  Maybe sow some oates, and I mean that in the most Christian way possible.  You know, take a cruise, visit some famous buildings, check out the National Parks blah, blah, blah.

For those of you who’ve followed my journey, you know it’s been a year and a half since my youngest went off to college.  He’s doing fine, just swell as a matter of fact.  I’m the one who has taken long walks, consumed a lot of hot tea and learned meditation so I could handle the undeniable fact that I was done raising children.

And, trust me, I tried to deny it.

It’s taken years off my life learning to live in this new space called “middle age.”  And just when I think, “you know this isn’t so bad,” ANOTHER milestone stands up and slaps me in the face with reality.

My youngest child turned twenty a few days ago and I’m about to lose my mind about it.

I officially have no more teenagers.

Who am I?

I remember seeing those mom’s in church.  You know, the ones with no small children to drag along, and no teen in the youth group.  She would come into the building all put together; perfect make up, a color coordinated tailored outfit with nail polish to match and every hair in place.  I would wonder what it was like to NOT have three little ones in tow as I blew my stringy, freshly anointed with dry shampoo, hair out of my eyes.  I was pretty sure my life would be so much simpler, and dare I say it…uncomplicated.  But, I never put more than one minute into this inner dialog, I didn’t have time because someone inevitably had to go to the bathroom.

And now…I AM THAT MOM.

But, you know what, unlike the mom’s I THOUGHT I saw, I am never all put together.

Makes me wonder if it was all an illusion, maybe those women way back then weren’t as perfect as they appeared.

My conservative church upbringing burned into my soul that God has a purpose for every season of life, and I believe he does.  And my church language is clear, as I hear myself telling another inquiring about my well-being, “I know God is in control, He uses all things for my good and His glory.”  There’s absolute truth in that statement, but if I were to open a window into my heart, you might see a different story.

You might see that I’m a mess every time one of these milestones looms on the horizon.

You might see that I deal with jealousy when another mom talks about how much God is doing in her life.  Not the jealousy that wishes she wasn’t happy and fulfilled, the kind that wishes I could be like her.

Maybe that’s the root of the problem, I have all of these expectations, or maybe I’m making too many comparisons.

Maybe I’m longing for the life I think I SHOULD be living instead of embracing the one I’m ACTUALLY living.

Maybe I’m looking for purpose in all the wrong places.

Or love…  (Couldn’t resist!)

I wish I could type “my future” into Google Maps and have the directions appear.

“Make a right turn out of your driveway, then head south to start your day.  More instructions to follow.”  Then I would KNOW I was on the right path.

Anybody else out there relate to this?  Am I the only one?

My dad, who also happens to by my pastor, spoke to us on Sunday about God’s plan for your life.  He assured us God has one.  What I didn’t expect was how keenly aware I would be of the time clock, ticking away the minutes, hours and days of my future.  I’m not getting any younger and I don’t feel I have time to waste wondering what to do next.

Where are you Google Maps?

What’s the plan, Lord?

My dad/pastor took us to Philippians 1:6, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

He got my complete attention after reading this verse the apostle Paul penned all those years ago.

I am holding on tight to it.

Thanks, Paul.

I wanted to stand up in church and declare it MINE, it is FOR ME.

I need it.

Since a ranting empty nesting mother standing in church to declare in language uninterpretable through tears is not smiled upon, I kept my seat.  But, in this place where I write my heart and where I can be fully transparent I declare it MINE.

He who began this work in me is FAITHFUL to COMPLETE it.

And I can say it in writing so you can understand it despite my tears.

I don’t know what’s next for me.  I don’t know what I am supposed to do next.  Sometimes I think I’ve hatched a plan only to feel it deflate and disappear.

I want to do something.

I guess it will be the next thing.

Come to think of it, that’s how Google Maps works, right?

One piece of the directions at a time.

I’ve learned over the years the Lord can speak through circumstances or people or whatever He chooses.  When I see a resonating theme I stop and pay attention because I know He’s saying something.


That’s the theme lately.


“Look back and see I’ve been faithful throughout your whole life.”

So, today, I have my little piece of the directions.

I’m going to remember.

I’m going to look back before this milestone of all my children in their twenties and reflect on God’s goodness.  Maybe in the remembering I’ll have more courage to step out in faith without knowing where the plan will take me.

Without Google Maps for comfort.

Guess there’s only one way to find out.

And one more thing, here’s to all the mommas out there with grown children, the ones who look like they’ve got it all together…but really don’t!

Don’t let appearances fool you, we’re all just over here trying to figure this thing out on the “other side.”

Cracker Barrel Conversations

Pic of fam

My husband and I had a meaningful conversation with one of our kids recently.  I still marvel that this human being, so big and handsome and full of life, started his journey inside of me.  There are times I look in the mirror and find I’m disappointed in the way I look.  Having babies, aging and Oreo cookies have taken their toll.  I know my self-image isn’t a good one. Certainly it’s not of God, He loves me and scripture tells me He looks upon the heart.   But, in an effort to be transparent, thinking about my heart doesn’t help me when I can’t fit into my shorts, you know?!

I’m working on it, ALL of it.  My self-image as well as my health and well-being.

And I would do it ALL again for the sake of this child of mine.

Anyway, what I was trying to say before I got sidetracked thinking about my ill-fitting shorts was, how much I love to sit and have lengthy conversations about real life adult stuff with my children.  It amazes me to watch them grow into wonderful people…and to think I had a part in it blesses me so deeply.

Our conversation jumped from one topic to the next and eventually landed on the rite of passage between adolescence and adulthood.  Goodness, those years can be perilous.

I remember my own journey from high school to sticking my toe in the water of adulting.

It’s like, finally, you graduated, packed up your earthly belongings and galloped off to college with joy and anticipation.  College is code for staying up as late, eating whatever you want and basically, doing what you want and it feels freeing and wonderful.  But, then a few weeks, months or even a year into secondary education and you realize you’re sick of chicken nuggets and the other unidentifiable foods you’ve been eating for more days than can count.   You’ve won all the video games and staying up late doesn’t feel as freeing as it used to; it feels tiring.

I remember I couldn’t wait to move out of my parents’ house. Oh, life was going to be so grand.   No one to answer to, no one telling me to clean my room or wash the dishes.  I was going to do what I wanted, when I wanted. There would be an endless supply of money and, of course, I would marry a prince.   I had it all worked out.

Funny how reality can slap the fiction right out of you.

Well, I guess some of it came true, I did marry a prince of a guy.

But, in my REAL life, there are ALWAYS dishes to do, and not just a room to clean…a whole house!

Life just didn’t go the way I’d imagined and learning to accept that was difficult.

When I was young and freshly “escaped” from my parent’s house, I quickly learned you have to have money to eat so a job was necessary.  So much for “no one telling me what to do.”   I needed a place to stay and because money was tight I needed a roommate.  It didn’t take long for me to long for my own room back at my mom and dad’s.   And, you guessed it, I had to do my own dishes.

My point is, being an adult seemed a lot more glamourous when I wasn’t one.

That was the point I was trying to make in our Cracker Barrel conversation between mouthfuls of baked fish and steamed broccoli.

Adulthood is not the easy peasy life I’d imagined it to be.

I remember trying to figure out life between the years of being told what to do and finally being able to make my own decisions.  It’s like no man’s land; you’re not living at home but not you’re really at home in a college dorm or apartment.  I wasted a lot of time, procrastinated too much, and avoided things that were too hard.  No one was telling me what to do and I thought I liked it that way until I began to feel like there was no point to anything I was doing.

Ever felt purposeless?

Ever wondered what the heck you’re supposed to be doing with your life?

I still feel that way sometimes!

I was given the senior discount at a local restaurant recently.  I’m not quite old enough for that, by the way, but it makes the point about my age.

I knew even LESS about what I was supposed to be doing back in those young “fresh out of the house” years.  We make decisions in college that affect the rest of our lives and hope to high heaven we‘re doing the right thing.  If you had asked me at eighteen what I wanted to be when I “grew up,” I would have told you something outlandish, and I would’ve meant it.  But, also at eighteen, I wasn’t doing a whole lot to make any of my bigger than life dreams come true.

I didn’t know how to.

I knew I wanted good things, but the road from being oblivious to greatness isn’t on Google Maps.

I did learn this…stumbling into real life happens by experience.

Successes and failures.   One after the other, one building on the other.  Until you wake up one day and realize you’ve been “adulting” for a little while and you might just have the hang of it.  Don’t say that too loud because, you know, jinxing and all.

After a long, especially meaningful conversation, I said something to my child that resonated deeply in my own heart.  It was like the Lord helped me to put into a simple phrase what I’d been trying to say with a thousand words unsuccessfully.

Real life hurts a little.

LIVING hurts a little.

Real living.

To me, becoming an adult is learning to be your best.  It’s learning what matters most to you.  It’s figuring out where you want to be and busting your chops to get there, one step, one success or failure at a time.  It requires mental toughness and physical tenacity.

It ISN’T easy.

Living is work.

Living and adulting means getting up each day and DECIDING to keep blazing the trail that becomes your life.

It’s a mystery that continues to unfold.

It’s your story.

And there’s not another one like it.

I think when we realize there’s no perfect way and no way to be perfect, we find joy in the journey.

And when we can finally see joy in the journey, we’ve become a full blown adult.

We sat so long at the same table in Cracker Barrel I felt guilty for the poor waitress.  Don’t worry, we left her a good tip!  You know, I love the kind of meaningful conversations that aren’t planned.  The ones that cause you to linger over a second cup of coffee and leave you feeling hopeful, even if your back is hurting from sitting in a straight back chair not meant for loitering.

It’s just another reminder that real life hurts a little.