Dear Momma

sunflowers 2

Dear Momma,

The sky is so blue today, you would’ve loved it.  I still can’t believe you’re not here.  I wonder if you know how often I drive up to see you.  Well, the place we left you.  It still feels surreal to talk to a stone carved in the shape of a cross with your name at the bottom.  I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.

There are so many things I want to tell you.  Where do I begin?

Three years is a long time to be without you, Momma.

All the kids are in college now, I can’t believe how quickly those years flew by. I am so thankful we moved here so long ago so they could share life with you. The memories you made together will be more valuable than silver or gold as they grow older.  Like the times you took them to McDonald’s for french fries and a coke or the countless sports activities you attended in sweltering heat and unforgiving cold.  I still see you sitting faithfully in the stands cheering and enjoying family.  None of the kids were ever superstars at anything, but you never minded, they were super to you.

I’ve been reminiscing about you a lot lately, thinking about your smile, your laugh, your red hair and your love of Gator football.  Your Gators really aren’t doing well these days, but I know you’d still be wearing your orange and blue if you were here.   You never could stand a fair weather fan. I don’t have the heart to wear your Gator earrings, maybe someday…

I was in the meat department recently at the Pig and they had hamburger on sale.  Memories came pouring into my mind of all the times you’d bring me a tray telling me excitedly where it was on sale and how much it was per pound.  I had to smile.  I’m not sure where you picked up your obsession with putting meat in the freezer, although I think it may have come from being raised by a depression baby.  I think you’d be a little disappointed if you saw how little meat is in my freezer these days.  In my defense, you’re not here to alert me about all the sales. 

I really miss those calls about the least of things and everyday life. 

It seems there are so few people with whom to share the ins and outs of everyday living these days.  No one cares about random stuff and useless information like you did.  No one wants to talk me through a long boring drive, or help me calm down during a storm, or hear about what color to paint the living room, or about how much I miss days gone by. 

No one cares about stuff like that except your momma.

I bought some pumpkins for my porch a few days ago since it’s getting close to Thanksgiving.  None of the kids are interested in carving jack o lanterns this year, it feels kind of sad.  I keep thinking about how you and I would walk through Lowe’s together and enjoy the harvest decorations.  This time of year was your favorite.  You especially loved to talk about the house you and daddy bought in the country.  You could see the finished product in your mind’s eye and I always needed to see on paper. I wish you could tell me your visions again, I’ve forgotten what you wanted to do with the place and it makes me so sad.

I wish you could see the yard behind the house.  It is full and green, the view has become what you imagined it would be someday, full of life and filled with peace. I was there last week and I could imagine you standing at the window sipping a cup of steaming coffee looking out the kitchen window over that field of green.  I have to admit, it’s still really hard for me to visit the country house; I get so choked up remembering how you doted on every room, promising to make it beautiful.  Oh, and your crossword puzzles are still on the table where you left them, they’re getting a little yellowed and I’m pretty sure we’re going to have to move them soon.  I couldn’t bring myself to do it, but I know it has to happen. 

Life is changing, moving forward, and it’s time to let some things go.   

It’s the time of year when beautiful colors and fresh winds fill the days.  The fall season is rolling in and with it comes the harvest.  Watching the tractors plow through the cotton fields and munching on boiled peanuts was all so much more fun when you were here.  I passed a field of huge sunflowers the other day and I smiled at the thought of how much you loved them.  The simplest flower for a simple soul, they fit you perfectly.   It seems like everywhere I look there are reminders of you.  A harvest moon, a windy creek, a cloudless sky all bring back times we shared together. 

Now as I walk through your old house and wipe away the dust that reminds me there is no life in this place, sorrow begs to take over as winter comes to take fall.

It’s inevitable.

I wish I could thank you for all the sacrifices you made for us.  I don’t think I really understood then like I do now.  I wish I could ask your advice about a few things, like how you survived the transition between a house full of kids and the silence of an empty nest.  Or what you would do when someone you love hurts you deeply?  I wonder why I didn’t seek your wisdom sooner about the challenges that go along with relationships.  I said something I wish I hadn’t the other day and I wanted to tell you about it so bad.  I picked up my phone and wished with all my heart I could dial your number and you would answer, but instead I turned to my heavenly Father and asked for wisdom.  I know you would’ve wanted me to do that anyway, but it would have been so good to hear your voice reassuring me everything was going to be okay. 

I had the chance to be the calming voice to one of the kids the other day and I thought how things had come full circle. Suddenly I find myself in the position you were once in: the voice of “momma.”  I sure hope I handle myself like you did, I hope I am half the woman you were.  I hope my children miss me as much as I miss you when I’m gone. 

I always feel especially full inside when someone tells me I have qualities like you.  That’s the greatest compliment of all.  I want you to know I’m smiling more and more these days.  For a while I didn’t feel like it, but I remember how often you told me to give my smile as a gift, so I offer it to others, just like you said.   I try to be kind and loyal, and I have that little bit of fire in my soul just like you had.  I think you were better at managing it than I am though.  Seems like I have to say I’m sorry a lot! 

So many have told me time will help with the wound of loss, I guess I agree.  Now when I look over a field of green I see your smile in my mind’s eye and I don’t burst into tears like I used to.  I still can’t go a single day without thinking about you.  I’m not sure I ever want to do that.  Thoughts of you and conversations with you bring me needed comfort.  Although, I’m not sure you can hear me when I have these talks with you; I read a book recently that says you can’t.  I think I like the idea of you listening in on my life and cheering me on in hardship, it makes you feel closer and holds my heart together a little better.

I sure wish you were going to be here for the holidays, it doesn’t feel the same without you.  I’m doing my best to keep up the traditions and good cheer, but there’s always a part of me longing and looking for you. 

Three years is a long time to be without your momma. 

Remember when we used to talk about meeting each other at the heavenly gate one day?  I always thought that day was far off, but here I am writing this…it came a lot quicker than I expected.

I’m praying for more years here, momma, to see my children have children and to grow old with my precious husband. But, when I do cross over, would you be there waiting for me? You know, by the gate. 

I will be looking hard for you because eternity is too long to spend without your momma.

 Love you,

Me

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Holding Pattern

Holding pattern pic

Many of you already know my husband flies airplanes.  He’s always telling us stories about the folks he flies with, the passenger and the fellow employees alike.   Sometimes it’s pretty funny stuff and other times it’s sobering; all in all it’s quite entertaining.  We look forward to the tales he spins when he arrives home from a trip.  But, as much as I love a good story, I think what I’ve learned from him more than anything in all these years is terminology.  “Airport language” I like to call it. For example he might say, “it looks like a mechanical delay, I’ll be stuck in Dallas for a while.”  Or, “we were low on fuel and there was weather so we diverted to a closer airport.” “We had to sit on the ramp for quite a while until a gate opened up for us.” “I did my walk-around in twenty degree weather today.” 

I understand exactly what he is saying and I don’t think twice about it. 

I’ve been trained, schooled, whatever you want to call it.

Recently my man and I were talking about our life and our empty nest and what comes next.  I was telling him how I feel kind of stuck in time.  I have no children who need me on a day-to-day basis, I’ve had the same job for eleven years, we’ve lived in the same home for ten years, we’ve gone to the same church for eleven years,  we’ve had the same dog for fourteen years, shoot, I have shirts in my closet that are fifteen years old.  It’s been a whole lot of the same for a very long time. 

Well, except there are three important people missing from our home and a parent that is in heaven.

That’s been difficult.

But the everyday things keep rolling on and it feels like we’re waiting for whatever’s next but nothing’s changing. 

I was explaining this to him in the best language I could, it’s hard to capture the mood swings of the heart into words.  It was then he said something that I’ve heard at least ten thousand times before but never in this context, it fit and made perfect sense.

He said, “It kind of feels like we’re in a holding pattern.”

Yes and yes!  That’s EXACTLY how it feels.  Like we’ve been told by “tower” to type in a coordinate and stay there for a while flying in circles until notified.  And so, hypothetically, here we are flying around and around and our people are no longer on the plane, but we’re still flying.   Round and round. 

I am dizzy from the circles and ready to be notified.

Many of you empty nesters will understand what I am talking about.  It’s like you leave the last kid at college, drive away sobbing, go home to an empty house, take several weeks to adjust and then you look around once you’ve somewhat recovered and say, “what now?”   And I don’t mean the weepy, “what are we going to do with ourselves now that we have no kids in the house? I think I might just die!”  I mean, the “what do you have for me now Lord?  I can think straight again and the tears don’t come as often, what’s next?”

I’m asking myself a lot lately “have I hit a mid-life crisis?”  Am I going to be one of those people who sells everything, buys a camper and drives around to old camp grounds using the port-a-potty?  And will I proudly display each and every state we visit on a bumper sticker that covers the back window?  Or will I buy my dream car and take off on a road trip stopping in every small town to eat with the locals?  I imagine you can meet some great people that way.  Or will I fly standby at my own risk and see the world one airport at a time?  Maybe I’ll take mission trips or move to a remote village in Africa.  Wait, do they have indoor plumbing in small villages in Africa?  I’m thinking the Lord needs to speak REAL CLEARLY if I am going to a place where there is no indoor plumbing for more than a minute.  What if I invent something, like a gadget for the kitchen or write a book that somebody besides my husband would like to read. 

There’s just so many possibilities.

And yet, tomorrow morning I’ll get up and go to work and do exactly what I’ve done for the last decade.  On a side note here, I love my job and the people I work with, so there is no dread in being there.  And, it seems, for now, that’s exactly where God wants me.  But, I still can’t help but wonder “what’s next, Lord?”

It’s hard to wait.

It’s difficult to be patient while the Lord works out the “next” part.  I want to run into the next season of my life with arms wide open and get started with whatever it is.  I type that with a smile on my face because many of my faithful readers know I thought I might die a month or so ago.  Thankfully, the Lord hears and answers our prayers and I feel I am adjusting more and more each day to my “new normal.” I don’t love it yet, but I am definitely taking steps toward healing.

It’s the waiting that’s hard to bear.

You know, now that I feel I am somewhat ready to face the daunting future with some excitement, it seems like the future looks an awful lot like the past.  I’m not sure how I feel about that, I don’t know what I was expecting?  Maybe what I’m doing now is what I’m supposed to do for the next decade, who knows?  I do know the Lord has brought me through pain and loss and many good times, He’s taught me so much as we walked the tough and easy roads together.  I’ve learned through experience that I can trust Him with my “next.” 

Even if it looks an awful lot like yesterday. 

These are just a few of my thoughts today, nothing real theological or important really.  I guess my writings really aren’t meant to be anything more than one person being transparent with another.  This is my real life, my inner thoughts and I bet one of you can relate to how I feel.  How about we keep doing what we’re doing and trust God is using it for others and for our own good.  I am going to try and quit thinking so much about “next” and focus on making my “now” the best it can be. 

We aren’t promised anything more.

Holding patterns aren’t so bad, most times they help to avoid bad weather or overcrowded airports or worse…I think I’ll hold steady and wait for “tower” to give me clearance.  Besides, the weather up here above the clouds and next to the Son is pretty glorious. 

Isaiah 40:31-1 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Uncomfortable

trail at the park

The morning sun had not shown its face as I rolled over denying in my mind what I knew to be true.  It was time to get up. I pressed snooze more than once but the alarm clock continued to shout I was eventually going to have to face this day.  I was so comfortable all snuggled up and cozy, I didn’t want to leave the warm cocoon my blankets had become.   Hadn’t I just climbed in bed a few minutes ago, at least that’s how it felt to my weary body?

Reluctantly I threw back the covers and shifted my feet around to touch the floor, slowly I rose and began to get dressed in the lamplight.  Many of you know I signed up for a half marathon early next year and these are the very unglamorous days of training.  The LAST thing I wanted to do right then was run a couple of miles, but I told myself I didn’t have a choice.

I’d made a commitment.

I drove to our little park with my headlights on as it was still dark this early in the morning.  The whole two miles it took to drive there I gave myself a pep talk.  “You’ll be glad you did this.”  “All of this training will pay off in the end.”  “Don’t give up!” and “You can get yourself a treat at McDonald’s when it’s over.”  I know, I’m pathetic, but those yogurt parfaits are my downfall.  Once I arrived I stood for a while and just looked at the asphalt trail in front of me.   I wanted to climb back in my car and drive home to the comfort of my bed and a warm cup of coffee. 

But, I knew I had to put the miles in to get the results I wanted.

So, slowly, but determinedly, I started to put one foot in front of the other.  I wish I could tell you I suddenly felt a wave of energy come over me and the next few minutes flew by as I flew around the park trail. But, that would be untrue.  At first I couldn’t catch my breath and I thought I might surely fall out right there, but who would have seen me in the dim hours of the morning.  No, I better push through.  Then it was my legs, my right one to be exact.  My ankle hurt and then my calf felt weak. Goodness, I had many reasons to stop and retreat back to the comfort of home.

But something way down deep inside reminded me of the goals I’d set, with every step I was getting stronger.

So further I pressed.

To any onlooker I’m sure I looked as normal as any middle aged, a little desperate amateur runner could look; but on the inside I was complaining and whining.  About half way into my first lap around the park, the Lord cut into my thinking. You know it’s so inconvenient when He does that, I had a really a good rant going on in my head!  But, nonetheless, there He was, still small voice and all.  He began to move my thoughts to how uncomfortable my life had been as of late.  My mom dying, friend troubles, family adjustments, college kids, college kids (yes, I know I said college kids twice, it deserved a double mention.  If you have kids in college, you’ll understand.) Busy season at work, changes at church, I mean, just everywhere I looked there was hardship or difficulty.  It wasn’t all my own personal difficulty, some of it was in the lives of people I love so it affected me too. 

It was all so uncomfortable.

Slowly, like the sun rising around me, I began to realize something.  I crave comfort.  I really crave it.  I love a warm cup of coffee, a blanket and a good book or a movie.  Those things make me happy.  I love baking chocolate chip cookies and smelling the house up like melted chocolate and butter. I love meaningful conversations that flow easily, I enjoy pumpkin spice candles, lattes, crackly leaves and corn mazes.  And then I realized, my life had very little of those things lately.  I felt tired, pushed and frustrated. It was then I asked the Lord, “Why don’t you let me be comfortable?  Why must life feel prickly instead of smooth? Everybody else is comfortable, why can’t I be?”  Ok, so don’t quit reading right there as you feel totally misunderstood because your life is hard too. Remember, I was pleading my case with the Lord and was pulling out all the stops.

I was in the middle of pleading and again the Lord interrupted my thoughts.  He does that to me so often!  “Where would you be if I allowed comfort all the time?”  I was thinking, “I’d like to find out,” when images of conversations I’d had recently with friends began to pass through my mind.  Meaningful conversations that were deep and relatable because I’d passed through something similar at an earlier time and was able to give a word of encouragement.  How mentally and emotionally stunted would I be if I hadn’t been forced through uncomfortable circumstances to face the dark chasms of my heart where fear, loneliness, and so many other unhealthy emotions live.  What if I’d never felt the pain of debilitating loss?  How could I ever speak of deeper waters if I’d only been in the shallows?  And how could I live a life of depth if I’d only ever known easy?

Maturity is born, developed and refined through hardship.

Sweat dripped down my forehead and landed directly in my eye and I was startled from my thoughts back to my reality.  The sun had partially risen and the dew on the morning grass sparkled against a green blanket that refused to die in the heat of this warm October.  It was beautiful.  And to think, I would’ve missed it had I decided to stay cozy and comfortable in the warmth of my bed.

By the time I finished running I was exhausted, sweaty and appreciating the discomfort.  It reminded me I was growing stronger and better and wiser and hopefully ready to face what comes next.  I have no idea what that will be, but I’m going to view my present circumstances as training to run the race of life. I was suddenly thankful I’d made the decision to stick to my training plan, I not only met a goal but had a powerful spiritual awakening to an important truth as well. 

One step, one lap, one morning run and meditation at a time.

Psalm 19:14 “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

When I Am Afraid, part 2

me in Hawaii overlooking shoreline

This is a conversation we need to be having in our churches as we live in a society that is driven by fear. 

Don’t think our society is running over with fearfulness? 

How about the commercials reminding us if we don’t save for retirement we may end up destitute, homeless and hungry.  And then the advertisements that recommend we get insurance to cover our retirement in case the bottom falls out and we lose all that we worked our whole lives to save.  And if that isn’t enough to trouble your heart, buy gold because the banks will be useless once the apocalypse hits.  Oh, and the apocalypse IS coming, don’t doubt it according to most news channels it’s called the next world war.  And then there’s North Korea shooting missiles over the ocean trying to hit somebody…anybody.  I can’t even count how many commercials I’ve seen advertising drugs to help prevent or fight diseases we may get one day, better buy some and be prepared for your impending illness, according to the company selling it. 

Sometimes I wonder if we are having a love affair with being terrified.  Or maybe a love/hate relationship.  I mean, look at the movies that make bajilliions of dollars whose sole purpose is to scare the “you know what” out of its audience.  And how many CSI’s are there now? No wonder we worry when our kids don’t text back right away, in our overactive imaginations we have them living out a scene in Criminal Minds.  For the record, I watched that show once, NEVER AGAIN.  Talk about the creeps!

I could go on, but you get the idea.

I’m not saying we wish anxiety on ourselves. But I guess I am saying we need to pay more attention to what we listen to and watch that might be feeding our already established fears.

So what CAN I do to live in peace, to feel safe?

That’s the golden question.

I don’t have the answer.  There, I said it.  I know, all that reading only for me to say that I don’t have the answer.  I know that’s not what you expected to hear.  BUT, I know ONE who DOES have the answer, as a matter of fact, HE IS THE ANSWER.  This idea of talking positively enough to make my fears vanish or acting like my fears aren’t there will somehow make it true is not how to find the peace we seek.  Trying to shove it under the rug so others won’t see and judge us will only prolong the agony. Turn on the light in your soul and look at your fears in the face.  I know it will be hard, but it is the only way to BEGIN to find peace. 

It is a PROCESS.

And maybe a LONG process, I’m not even sure we ever reach the destination of “no more worries” until we get to heaven. But, I DO know we can find more and more peace as we learn to surrender what we don’t know. What does that mean?  As we lay our uncertainties before the Lord in prayer, and we remind ourselves that He is working ALL things together for our good, and that His plans are good, we find our way to a place of trust.  And trust is the opposite of anxiety.

Freedom from anxiety involves a very deliberate process, a training of how we think. And we have to accept that the healing will most likely involve pain, because life hurts. 

For me personally, instead of letting my mind go to the worst case scenario when I hear of a place crash, I stop and remind myself WHO is really in control of our lives.  I remind myself that I can trust God’s judgement and know He is on my side and then I am better able to cope with the uncertainty.  

This is my goal, not always my reality.

What we are chasing is a daily, deliberate walk into a deeper more trusting relationship with Jesus.

It takes TIME.

This walk we’re on from here to heaven can feel crushing at times, but we don’t have to let fear have the last word.  We must learn to keep walking in spite of the fear all the while deliberately focusing our minds on the FACT that God is in control and NOTHING is spinning out of control.  We may not like the direction God has us headed, or the heavy burden He seems to place on us at times, BUT we can take it one day, one hour, one moment at a time. 

Manageable bites.

So, as I told you at the beginning, when these nights happen, I have learned to pray.  I turn my cares over to God, sometimes by prying my own hand off of them, and return in my mind to the present where He is constantly sustaining me.  It sounds so easy, but I know from experience how feelings of anxiety can make your heart beat faster and make you want to run for cover, literally. 

I’ve hidden under the covers more than once. 

I want to challenge you to ask yourself and God to show you what is “driving” your anxiety? What is it that makes you feel like you can’t handle your reality? Are you accidently “feeding” your anxiety by what you may be watching?  Start there and make small daily choices to turn to God when those familiar feelings of fear rear their ugly head. 

You’re right if you think you can’t overcome anxiety, YOU can’t but you AND your Heavenly Father CAN

Be patient with yourself and DON’T GIVE UP!  The work for freedom will be worth it in the end.

Don’t let anxiety steal anymore of your life.

I sure hope I don’t leave you feeling like I have my act together.  These are things He’s teaching me.  There are days where it seems like my trust is never ending and then on other days I cry…a lot.  My point in writing all of this is to encourage you and let you know…

YOU ARE NOT IN THIS ALONE!

Psalm 142

1-2 “I cry out loudly to God,
loudly I plead with God for mercy.
I spill out all my complaints before him,
and spell out my troubles in detail:
3-7 “As I sink in despair, my spirit ebbing away,
you know how I’m feeling,
Know the danger I’m in,
the traps hidden in my path.
Look right, look left—
there’s not a soul who cares what happens!
I’m up against it, with no exit—
bereft, left alone.
I cry out, God, call out:
‘You’re my last chance, my only hope for life!’
Oh listen, please listen;
I’ve never been this low.
Rescue me from those who are hunting me down;
I’m no match for them.
Get me out of this dungeon
so I can thank you in public.
Your people will form a circle around me
and you’ll bring me showers of blessing!”