Growing Up, Up and Away

pic of kids

As a little girl I loved nothing more than being outdoors.  Trees beckoned to be climbed, rocks called out to be turned over, you never knew what treasure might lie beneath.  Most of the time it was an earth worm, but occasionally there’d be a penny and that was pure gold.  I loved to run, play and draw pictures in the clouds with my imagination.

But, I think the thing I liked best was riding my bike.

I don’t remember having a particularly nice bike, probably a T, G & Y special.  I’m showing my age here as many of you will have no idea what T, G & Y is.  (Ask Google.)   I do remember flying down the beat-up asphalt on my two wheeled way of escape to the wooded lot at the end of the road.  Over the years a trail had been carved through those trees and vines and for any youngin’ willing to brave the spider webs and pot holes scattered throughout it, it was a shortcut to the next street over.  And if you were bike racing to the next street over, it was practically a “gimme” that you’d win.  Not everyone had the guts to take “the trail,” as we called it.  Very original name, I know.   So, when and IF you emerged safely to the other side, having successfully maneuvered it, bragging rights belonged to your brave heart.

Those were the days.

These days were back before a lot of life happened.  Many years later the realization would hit that riding a bike was scarier than you remembered.

At my age, riding could be a hazard to good health.   Now, don’t get me wrong, I still ride, but these days I’m a lot more cautious and choose my “trails” wisely.

Still, there’s nothing like the wind whipping your hair in and out of your face while you balance your weight on two wheels.

Remember when you ran alongside your small child holding onto their very unsteady bike until just the right moment and you let go! If you’re like me, you jumped for joy, screamed their name and clapped as long as their bike stayed up on two wheels.  You stood, probably in the middle of the street or a parking lot, and watched their unsteady profile wobble away.

It was a moment of pride and a rite of passage.

I remember being so excited for their new accomplishment only to watch them fall four thousand times.  It took the excitement right out of it and I found myself wanting to keep them safe.  Thankfully, their adventurous spirit kept me from holding them back and soon enough their riding skills were good enough to venture on the asphalt trail near our house.

A far cry from “the trail” I flew down as a kid.

As I think this through right now on this sheet of virtual paper, I realize it was a lot more fun when I LEARNED to ride than it was to WATCH my kids fall and get up, fall and get up…repeat.

Kind of reminds me of where I am in life right now.

Today I was again reminded how little I control.  Letting go of that bike is reminiscent to letting go of my young adult children.  You know, I’ve spent my whole adult life raising these people, pushing their “bike.”  As they’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to let go repeatedly only to watch them fall and get back up…repeat.  Each time I’ve made sure to be there when they got “back up” and tried to “ride” again.

When they studied for a test and didn’t do as well as they’d hoped, I was there to console and encourage them not to give up.  If they were left out of a sleepover or some other social event, we took them out to dinner and a movie to cheer them up and remind them they were loved.  When they weren’t chosen for a scholarship they’d worked so hard for, we rallied behind them and made sure they knew there was still hope for a scholastic future.  We’ve prayed countless hours, cried buckets of tears, shared long talks, and I knew it would be hard when they began to live lives of their own.  But, I didn’t realize it would feel like that small child “wobbling” away from me with each experience and lesson of life.

It feels like they don’t need me.

Now, I can hear you say, “Oh, they need you, kids always need their parents.”

And I agree with you.

BUT, it doesn’t FEEL like it.

When my kids were learning to ride their bike there came a point when after what seemed like the thousandth fall, they didn’t want help getting up.  They wanted to do it on their own.  And I would stand back, bite my nails and let them drag the bike back to its upright position and hoist themselves onto it and try again.  It was painful to watch, but so important in learning.

That picture is what parenting a young adult feels like.

They’ve fallen again, made a bad decision or lost a job and you run to help only to be pushed away so they can get up on their own.  Now, I know it is important to let them learn to stand up on their own, so I back away and bite my nails, praying desperately they’ll figure it out.

But, it still hurts to be pushed away.

I’m not trying to be psychologically correct about all of this, I am just speaking from my heart.

I understand they NEED to do it on their own, but I also grieve not being needed.

I’ve been told I’ll get used to it, one day I’ll appreciate the freedom that comes with not being as needed.  I believe that’s true.  But, today, freedom feels a lot like loneliness and that truth feels a lot like a lie.

I’m struggling with how I should wrap up this piece.

I want to leave you with a word of hope, a cute analogy, anything to make this feel a little less intense.  But, you know what, I’ve tried so hard to keep it real in all of my writings. They are an invitation into my heart, my life.  I know all I’m feeling could fall into the category of growing pains, learning to be a parent to adults instead of a caretaker of small children.  There is a chasm between the two and I find myself straddled over the top of it, and I don’t do the splits…

AT. ALL.

So, I guess if I have to sum this up, I would say the difference between parenting children and adults is basically learning to do the splits.

Good luck to those who are as stiff as me.

Now, please excuse me, it’s lovely outside and I think I’ll go for a bike ride.

 

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…”  Ecclesiastes 3:1

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Change and a Cup of Coffee

 

I am not highly motivational or inspirational.

BUT, I DO long for those around me to grow…in every way.

I’m an encourager, maybe??

I’ve encouraged my kids their whole lives to follow their dreams.

I want to see those around me stand on the edge of the unknown and step off into it.

But, honestly, for me, it sounds super scary.

Not the idea of an adventure, but the LIVING IT OUT.  The “how I get from where I am to where I dream to be” part.  I wish I could view the “gap” in between as the adventure.

I want ALL of it from start to finish to feel adventurous.

But, it doesn’t.  It feels scary and uncertain.  Wait, did I already say that?

I lay awake some nights praying for the good Lord to open doors and calm my heart as I face days with an unknown narrative.

I like knowing when I wake up what I’m going to do for the day.

I like KNOWING.

And dreaming isn’t KNOWING.

And, of course you know, that’s the catch.

There’s no such thing as KNOWING.

There’s only faith in the impression God has laid on your heart, the word He has spoken through scripture reading or a loving friend.  Something that says, this is the way, “WALK THOU IN IT!”  I jumped off into some Old Testament language there, falling back hard on my roots.

Right now, there are so many different narratives in the lives of my family, and NONE of them seem secure.  I’m sure many of you can relate to that feeling.  I would ask God why He keeps us unsure, but I already know the answer.  It is a matter of faith, trusting in Him, believing HE knows where we’re going and that we can follow Him with assurance.

But, because I struggle with walking into the unknown, I find myself in constant dialog with the Lord.

My daughter recently graduated from college with an English degree.  She decided teaching wasn’t for her and is now awaiting direction from the Lord about what is next. Now, we KNOW God has something for her, but the wait is painful.  Especially when well-meaning folks ask if she has a job lined up or what she plans to do now.   I have asked many college graduates these same questions over the years, but I’ll be more careful in the future.  For young adults, like my daughter, who are patiently waiting and anxious for direction, this is a question to which there’s no answer.  It makes her feel like she owes an explanation for waiting instead of being giddy about her future.

And I lay awake another night asking God to show Himself faithful as my daughter cautiously steps out into the unknown to trust.

My son wants to be an actor.

It took me a long time to be able to accept this decision.  I don’t doubt his talent level for one moment, he is good at what he does.  But, a LOT of people are good at something and never get the chance to do it for a living.  This career path seems so unsure and we’ve had long talks about doing something a little “safer.”

It sure would feel safer to tell other parents, “Oh, he’s going to be a coach or a lawyer,” or anything.  Instead, when I answer the common question, “What does your son want to do when he graduates?” I say with all the enthusiasm I can muster, “he wants to act.”  If I could take a picture of the look on some of their faces you might just understand how I feel.

This son of mine has forced me to think outside of the box.

Like WAY outside the box.

Honestly, I like the comfort of my box.  It’s safe and predictable.   But, this kid…this kid wants to jump off into the unknown head first and trust he’ll have wings to fly.

I’m still back on the edge of the unknown…waiting, too afraid to move, much less jump.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not apologizing for his choices, I am just being transparent about how it feels when your child is jumping off the edge and it scares you slap to death.

I find myself admiring him more and more lately.  He’s taken a lot of “ribbing” about what he wants to do and he is undaunted.

My youngest is a sophomore in college.  He is studying graphic design.  If you could see his work you would agree he is on the right path.   He’s had the privilege being shown in a local art show.  He. Was. Thrilled.  It’s been fun watching him grow as a person and develop his talent.

He is the baby.

It nearly KILLED me when the last one left the nest.  He walked through so much of my grief with me after mom died, our bond is tight. BUT, lately he’s wanted more and more freedom.  I can tell he is trying to establish himself as a man and it is time for me to step back and allow him the space.

He’s jumping off into a different kind of unknown…adulthood.

No one tells you when you have these children how hard it will be.  Every season of growth I think to myself, “it’s going to get easier now.”  But, it doesn’t.   Let me be a voice that goes before some of you…it won’t get easier, but it is ALL WORTH IT.   Well, most days I would say it’s worth it.  Other days, I would tell you to put on a pot of coffee, grab a bag of chocolate, find a cozy blanket and head for the couch.  Anything that doesn’t get done will be waiting for you when you’re ready to face the world again.

Just a nugget of wisdom from a mom who’s been there.

It’s fun to talk about dreaming.  It’s exciting to encourage others to dream. I love to blog about dreaming and who doesn’t dream about chasing dreams?  But, it gets real when your own children start chasing ideas and hopes that are out of the norm, ones that feel impossible.  The kind that make you blush or stammer when asked by another what your child is doing these days.

That’s when you have to decide to stand by what you say you believe.

Because your kids are watching.

This year, this brand spanking New Year holds some big changes for our family.

Some are dreams come true, others are necessary because life is always changing and we have to roll with it.

I will be sharing some of these “life changers” in the next few blogs.

I have to be honest, I’m scared.

I’m on the edge of the unknown and I’ve lifted one foot off the ground…

I think it’s time I took the leap.

 

 “We can make our own plans,
but the Lord gives the right answer.

People may be pure in their own eyes,
but the Lord examines their motives.

Commit your actions to the Lord,
and your plans will succeed.

The Lord has made everything for his own purposes…”

Proverbs 16:1-4a

What a Year!

Happy New Year pic

SHINE!

I still have a calendar on my fridge.   A real life paper one.  Yes, I’m still one of the last Mohicans who hasn’t recorded all of their lives on a cell phone.  Digital everything is the name of the game these days.  I’m sure it is very convenient to have your schedule right at your fingertips any time night or day.

But, still I hang my trusty old paper calendar on the side of the fridge.

I make sure it has the big boxes for each day so I can record appointments etc.  Each year it is a big deal for me to pick out the color ink I want to use in my calendar as it is the ONLY color allowed to grace the pages of each month.  For. The. Whole. Year.

This is no joke to me.

My family knows better than to use a different color…I don’t consider myself OCD, I’m actually not sure why this matters, but it does!

Last night I pulled down the calendar and began to turn back the pages, which are the months of my life, to jog my memory on the happenings of 2018.  It’s amazing how much I had forgotten.  It’s also amazing how long this year has been.  As I’m living each day it feels fast, but when I look back to the beginning it seems like a decade ago.

Last January my husband was hired by American Airlines.  At the time he was flying for the regionals.  This move was kind of like a baseball move from the minors to the majors.  We were overjoyed!  He’d been working for the regionals for twelve years and to make the move “up” was a dream come true.

We had no idea what to expect, but we knew it was going to be good.

January was also the month my son landed his first commercial.  He was thrilled!  Turns out it was a training video for Target employees, but it was one of the first times he earned money for “acting,” so it was just as exciting for him.  If you ever get hired by Target, you might just see my brown haired, brown eyed boy sporting the famous red and khaki worn by all their employees.

February rolled around and my husband headed off to Dallas for training.   I was invited as well for their “Welcome to the Company” banquet. This is where I received my “wings.”  Some of you will remember me telling you about those, I still wear that necklace regularly.  It was such a special time for us, I will NEVER forget.

I also ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon at the end of February.  I had trained so hard for it, but still managed to hurt my leg during the race.  I limped most of it and then around the Disney parks afterwards.  I know you’re wondering why I would go to the parks with an injured leg, I don’t have an answer except that I am a child and I couldn’t resist being THAT close and not going inside.

Sadly, this race ended my ability to run for the better part of this year. It takes longer to heal as I get older, but, just like in life, I’m not going to give up even if I do limp a bit from time to time.

March brought Holy Week.

Some of you may remember I wrote a blog about this week in our small town.  It is such a special time and I love how the churches come together to remind us what this season means to our faith.  If you’d like to know more about it, click here.

I facilitated a Bible study at our little church that started in March.  A few ladies met faithfully on Wednesday nights for several weeks to learn more about God’s word.  I love personal Bible study, and I love doing it with friends. There’s just nothing quite like the setting of women who want to grow.  I learned so much.

April was filled with Wednesday night Bible study and a busy work schedule.

By the time May rolled around, 2018 was full on.

We had two college graduations and a wedding in the magical month of May.  It was bittersweet as Momma was noticeably absent for all of the festivities.  But, you know what?  It was all still good.  I’ve told you before I’ve learned you can live with joy and sadness mingling in your heart. I think it’s impossible to avoid as you age.  Heartache is the price of love but its proof we’re here doing this thing called life to the best of our ability.

June brought the beginning of summer and my college boys came home.  I was thrilled to have my family of five living under one roof for a while.  I need to say, in full transparency, having five grown people living together was a challenge.  I never want to give the impression that we live drama free, nothing could be further from the truth.  BUT, we do take the time to work things out, sometimes that involves long conversations other times it means everybody going their own ways for a while, space can be a respite when it’s not used as a weapon.

In spite of it all, we had a WONDERFUL summer.

July my husband and I celebrated twenty six years of marriage.  Boy, that number is BIG.  We’ve fought hard for our marriage, trust me when I say we are VERY different people.  It’s funny, after this many years we don’t fight like we used to.  Not because we are super mature or incredibly spiritual, quite the contrary, we are just too lazy to be mad.  You get old enough and you realize it’s just not worth all the energy it takes to fight.

We are happy and I love him more than ever.

I’d rather let it go and have a cookie than to be mad and stew over something.

Life is short.

August brought my forty eighth birthday.   Another big number.  I celebrated the WHOLE month.  Seriously, if you follow me on social media you know I’m not exaggerating.  You only get one birthday, and you should celebrate it with all your heart.  Or in my case with all of your heart and for thirty one days.   It was loads of fun and I highly recommend a month long birthday extravaganza!

Abbie and I took a trip to Charlotte, North Carolina in September.  Our first real mother/daughter trip.  We planned carefully to go to Charleston, NC, only to have our AirBNB cancel on us twelve days before we were supposed to leave!  Ugh!  Nearly lost my religion over that one.  But, not to be daunted, we regrouped and planned for Charlotte instead.

I’m so glad we did!

We took her rescue dog, Rileigh, and made all of our plans around pet friendly places.   It was such fun and I never knew how many places welcome pets.  We ate on a lot of outdoor screened in porches, but I wouldn’t change a thing about our trip and especially our time together.

I started a thirteen week journey in September.   Griefshare.   If you’ve read any of my blogs or follow me on social media, you know I lost my mother four years ago. She was my best friend, my working companion and the love of my life.  Not a single day goes by that I don’t miss her.  But, there came a time in my grief journey that I needed to learn to let go and move forward.  Griefshare taught me how to do that, and so much more.  I HIGHLY recommend this study for anyone who has lost someone they love.  Grief recovery is WORK.  But, there is life after grief.  If you’d like to read about “The Other Side” of grief, click here.

In October we thought we were getting a Hurricane.  At the last minute the beast turned and hit land directly over my older sister’s home.  Hurricane Michael changed the landscape of the Florida panhandle and left damage that looked like bombs had exploded.   My sister and I were just talking about all of the damage over the Christmas break.  Many are still jobless, homeless and working hard to restore some sense of normalcy.  Please continue to pray for this community.

By the time November arrived, I was ready for the holidays.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are my favorite times of the year.  I put my Christmas tree up before Thanksgiving, and I have yet to take it down. I know, scandalous.  I just LOVE the festive atmosphere in my house right now and I know as soon as all the red and green are packed up and stored soundly in the garage, my living room will look like a barren land.

I’m not excited about it.

December also holds something near and dear to my heart, besides the birth of our beloved Savior.  My oldest child, and only girl, graduated from college with Bachelor of Arts degree in English.  She is my lover of the written word.  I’m really not sure who is more excited about it, me or her?!  I offered to walk with her across the stage to get her degree, just in case she were to get stage fright or something, but she said she’d be okay.

Right after she rolled her eyes.  Not sure why??!!  😉

As I sit and type this, I wonder to myself what 2019 will hold.  I read a post recently that encouraged me.  It said, “a lot of good and bad has happened this year and I’d be lying if I said I’m not a little intimated by a new year, but the Lord brought us through this year and I know He will see us through the next.”

Amen!

2019, I have no idea what you have in store, I’m not a youngster anymore, I realize sparklers and fireworks are fun but fleeting.   I will tip my glass in a toast as you enter, but remain wide eyed with anticipation as you pass through.

Merry Christmas!

Pic for Merry Christmas blog

I kept a promise to myself last night.

I promised I would spend some time sitting by the Christmas tree soaking in its cheerfulness and remember what it felt like to be a kid again.  I used to do this as a child.  I would sneak out of my room and sit as close to the tree as I could get and wonder what was inside of all the brightly colored packages that lay beneath it.  And worry about how Santa could get into our house since we didn’t have a fireplace.

Oh, the ponderings of a child.

Life gets so busy this time of year and somewhere between the egg nog and the list making I forget to enjoy the hustle and bustle.  So often I’m too tired or harried to stop and be thankful for the wonderful people around me and for ALL God has done.

So, with determination to keep my vow, I crept out of bed and tiptoed down the hall, careful not to wake the sleeping souls in each bedroom.  I found my way to the living room and nestled down onto the couch, covering myself with a big, fluffy, cozy blanket.

I closed my eyes and began to think over the last year.

It has been full of so many highs and lows.

The house was quiet, except for the light roar of the heater.  It was working hard to fight off the cold air creeping into every nook and cranny.

But, even though my body was slightly chilly, my heart was warm with thankfulness.

I pulled my blanket up higher to my chin and fixed my eyes on the beauty of our Christmas tree.  Every ornament hanging from its boughs is either homemade or a gift.  Every one tells a story of childhood or friendship. The lights were steady aglow and I felt my heart melt in the presence of it all.

The gifts reflected the twinkling lights and looked like a spectacular array tucked under the tree; there was something for everyone who slept soundly in the house this night.

It made me think, life doesn’t always shimmer and glow, but it is always a gift.

As I sat there reminiscing, my scattered thoughts turned into prayers of thankfulness.  Soon, tears streamed down my cheeks as I realized how God has truly blessed.   Not because life is easy or even close, but because I am rich in all the things that matter.

I prayed for 2019 to be a year of great blessing.

I asked my Heavenly Father to give me excitement for what’s ahead, to tear down the dread of the future that’s held me captive the last few years.  I want that childlike wonder to enter my heart again; I want to feel the freedom of no worries about the future.

I want to trust and run into the coming year like it’s the best one yet.

Who knows?  It could be.

What’s in your heart this Christmas?  What’s the greatest gift you could receive?

Look around…maybe it’s already yours.

 

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Related image

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.””

 Luke 2:8-14

The Other Side

The end and the Beginning the pic
Seems my theme this Christmas season is joy.

Joy left me a few years ago and I wondered if it would ever return.  I spent a lot of 2018 doing the hard work of recovery from devastating grief.

Grief has been my banner for four years…but not anymore.

I’ve learned a lot over the last several months, things like you really can get to the “other side” of loss.  I didn’t believe it at first, but I do now.

Now that I’ve lived it.

I’ve been taking Griefshare, a study to help overcome devastating loss, over the last several weeks and I’ve learned so much.  It was during one of the video sessions the idea of an ending to grief was introduced to me.  I honestly thought I would grieve until the day I died. Oh, it might get less intense, I mused, but grief would live on.

When I think about it, the idea of being done with grief made me feel like I might “get over it,” and I didn’t want to.  The thought of it being “over it” meant mom’s memory would fade and I couldn’t bear that thought.   Or what if others forgot about her?  Or if I went on with life, and outwardly it looked like everything was okay, how would others know how important she was to me?  I carried all of these questions in my heart in the form of feelings, not knowing how to put them into words.

It was a heavy burden.

But what I’ve discovered is although grief may be gone, sadness never leaves.  A kind of sadness where your heart begins to unthaw and you start to feel again. It’s good when the time of grieving has ended, the ending is not something to be feared.  Admitting your grief is over doesn’t speak to the value, or lack thereof, of the relationship.  No textbook definition of the ebb and flow of emotion can define what you shared.  The end of the grieving cycle allows you to say your name in the same sentence with the word healing, and that pushes you into a new place.

You’ve crossed from grieving into sadness.

It’s like grieving takes up your whole heart, that’s all there is…but sadness leaves room.

Room for laughter, room for warmth, room for friendship, room to grow…just room.

And now here we are, our fourth Christmas season without mom, and I find myself nearly giddy with expectation. First time I’ve wanted to be jolly since she was diagnosed.

My joy is not JUST because of a deeper healing that has only come with time and the LOVE of God, but also because I finally WANT to celebrate again.  I was afraid my desire to celebrate might never return.

So, we put up our Christmas tree ridiculously early and I’m not sorry about it.  We’ve strung lights, carefully placed Christmas decorations and most recently hung the stockings…by the chimney with care.   We’ve toasted pecans, had too much egg nog, and lit all the Christmas candles; the house smells heavenly.    Hallmark is playing Christmas movies on a loop and I’m crafting a plan to make cookies that I don’t like so I won’t eat them ALL!

I’m trying to figure out gifts for all the people I love.

While my mind is on earthly things, I still find myself wondering if Christmas is celebrated in heaven.  I started a book, “90 Minutes in Heaven,” and it’s made me ponder what mom might be experiencing.  Although it hurts, I can finally smile and mean it when I think of her.

She’s in perfect peace.

And isn’t that what Christmas is really about, peace on earth?

I always thought I knew what peace meant.  The absence of fear.  But, that’s only a small part of it…peace means being okay even when everything is not okay.  Resting in the FACT that although life WILL bring sorrow and pain, it will also bring joy and happiness.

It’s the seasons of each that teach us what really matters.

And what matters?

Well, that’s up to you.  For me, it’s family and making memories…lots and lots of memories.  One day when it’s my turn to cross over into eternity, those who loved me will be able to laugh and tell stories about our times together.  Hopefully, while they’re sitting around a brightly lit Christmas tree sipping egg nog.

Life is short, and it is hard, but it is worth LIVING.

And, this Christmas, that’s EXACTLY what I plan to do.

If you agree, raise your glass of egg nog and let’s make a toast…

“Merry Christmas to all and to all a healed heart.”

 

Psalm 30:5b “weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”