I am enough. You are enough.
I am enough. You are enough.
I wish somebody would of told me that
Someday these will be the good old days
All the love you won’t forget and all these reckless nights you won’t regret.
Someday soon your whole life is gonna change
You’ll miss the magic of the good old days.
Never thought we’d get old, maybe we’re still young
Maybe we always look back and think it is better than it was
Maybe these are the moments
Maybe I’ve been missing what it’s about
Been scared of the future. Thinking about the past while missing out on now.
We’ve come so far
I guess I’m proud
I ain’t worried about the wrinkles around my smile.
I got some scars
I’ve been around
I throw some pain; I’ve seen some things but I’m here now.
Those good old days.
You don’t know
What you got
Til it goes
Til its gone
“Good Old Days”- Macklemore
I’m focusing on being intentional about finding the positive. Today, I drove to work in a massive downpour in February. It was hard to see and I white knuckled the 30 miles to work. But, I walked in the door and told the security guard, “Man, if we got as much snow as we did rain, we’d be in trouble.” Count your blessings. Find that glimmer of happiness.
When I think about the good old days, I reminisce on my college years. The ability to sleep in, knock on someone’s door at 2 a.m. just to talk, and the multitude of activities that can be done with little money. Or the good old days of early dating when you were just learning about your partner. My husband is super chill and would plan 75 things in one day.
Him: Hey, do you want to get together on Saturday?
Me: Sure. What time should I be over?
Him: 10 a.m. I’ll make omelettes. Then, we’ll go swimming at the gym. Then, we’ll catch the train downtown and catch a concert. After a late lunch, we can do a museum . . . .
Me: OK (Me in my head: I think that is too many eggs in one basket)
We always had fun, even if we didn’t get around to everything planned.
What are your good old days?
However, the good old days are also now. Maybe more like good new days. I make the most of my time with work, volunteering, donating, reading, exercising, relaxing, and even a bit of cooking. To participate in book club with a full schedule, I check out the book on CD and listen to it in the car on my commutes. I paint my nails while watching TV. I listen to music while organizing or cleaning the house. I can also take a nap on a Saturday.
This weekend I’ll be volunteering with a nephew at a Special Olympics Polar Plunge. He needs the volunteer hours and I ‘plunged’ last year- so I’d prefer volunteering on land this year. He’ll be over for the weekend and I’ll enjoy the change in pace. These good new days . . . .
My church is growing and there are a number of new volunteers getting trained this spring. As the church branches out, I decided to send the pastor an email about a personal experience.
“As we prepare to add new talent”, I wrote “may I make a suggestion for the upcoming training? Instead of asking, ‘Do you have children?’, ask, ‘Tell me about yourself’ or ‘How did you hear about us?’”
I explained what had happened when we were looking for a new church. We had moved to a new city and spent the summer looking for churches. The summer is a challenge as pastors are out, schedules change, and services are more flexible. However, we visited a different church every week and had many adventures (and misadventures). One Sunday, a location played a movie instead of having a traditional service. One Sunday, a location had a church picnic instead of having a traditional service. One Sunday, a location was singing from Godspell the musical instead of hymns/choruses. We heard many guest speakers or junior pastors speak as pastors were on vacation. It was better than a vacation itself; a comedy of errors but I grew to look forward to each Sunday and what we’d experience next.
One Sunday, we visited a new location and were sat next to a volunteer couple. After service, the man stood in the aisle and asked if we have any children to make small talk before we could get out of the aisle. I am introverted and don’t share personal details until I know you well. However, my husband shared that we moved to the area after a foster care loss and were looking for a new church. The conversation went from friendly to aggressive since that couple had adopted from foster care and the husband voiced firmly that we should give it another try. Several questions in, I was shaking sobbing in the row- not being able to get out and feeling very much a stranger in a strange place. His wife smoothed things over and made apologies, saying they would take us on a church tour. The first stop was children’s church.
Are you kidding me?
What do you even say when you’ve poured your heart out and shed tears about a loss and then you are STILL taken to an area that stings? I was crushed; I said we had to head out and ended the tour. I told my husband on the way home, “Please don’t ask me to visit another church again because I won’t go.” We didn’t go for a year. I would eventually find my home church after much fear and trepidation.
Which is why I wrote to the pastor: “Instead of asking, ‘Do you have children?’, ask, ‘Tell me about yourself’ or ‘How did you hear about us?’” What advice to you have for churches to include all members?
I keep a little metal picture on my desk at work. It has a girl standing in a puddle in yellow rain boots. The saying says: This journey is yours. Enjoy each and every step.
I bought it at a Hallmark when I was training for a half marathon- a stretch goal for myself a few years ago. It reminded me of tackling a large project and breaking it down. Like the saying: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” How do you run a marathon? One step at a time.
And, so it is with life- take it one step at a time. The girl standing in the puddle reminds me that you have to choose to ‘enjoy’ the journey because circumstances aren’t perfect. What is a stretch goal of yours? What is something you are choosing to enjoy, despite imperfections?
You’ll notice that in the puddle is: ‘Believe you can.’ The girl is standing in a puddle, but she is prepared in her rain boots. Show up prepared and believe in yourself.
I can be my own toughest critic and the single words around the picture speak to me: amazing grace, hope, imagine, and inspire. Grace and hope, to me, speak of my beliefs. The grace of forgiveness and the hope of eternity. Imagine is using your gifts to the fullest. Inspire is when people see what you did with what you have and are urged to take action themselves.
In the shadows at the bottom is written in white: ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13)’. At the right angle, you don’t even see the quote because the writing is white against a multi-colored background. Like the still, small voice of God- it can be drowned out by the fierceness of the present messages screaming louder and more urgently. Yet, it is there. Settle the noise. Hear the Calm. Reassuring- the same yesterday and tomorrow. What is your life motto?
This sits on my desk, right under my computer monitor. A reminder of the journey- each day, each step. We need to look for the silver lining in the even the most mundane of tasks and to keep moving forward. Enjoy your journey this week.
This weekend marks my (foster) daughter’s birthday. Wherever she is, she’ll be 13. Even though we are no longer together, her and her brother are woven into the fibers of my heart. I still get ‘weird’ and quiet on their birthdays because I am missing them. My tribe understands and is patient with me while I work through the day. If you are dealing with grief, please don’t deal with it alone. If you don’t know of anyone in your social circle who has experienced loss, look to see if your church has a recovery, loss, or infertility group.
An open letter to my daughter:
Happy Birthday! You are officially a teenager . This birthday marks the first of many milestones which will be celebrated and show your growth as you transition into adulthood.
You are so smart and I hope you find joy in learning and are excelling in school. But, beyond school, I hope you enjoy learning about people, faith, nature, ideas. Try new sports, seek adventures, and figure out things. Spend time in noble pursuits.
You are so kind; I hope you are kind and people are kind to you. I remember a shy boy in your kindergarten class whose mother approached me to say that her son felt comfortable when you sat next to him at the movie night. And your Aunt still remembers you watching out for your cousin when we visited out east one summer when his brother was born.
You have an inner sparkle and I hope you are still dazzling. I often pray that you are using your talents for good and that no one can dull your sparkle. It is what makes you special.
You are loved. This weekend, I will look up at the moon and know we are both looking at the same moon on your 13th birthday! I will send up a prayer as you begin this new year and your first one as a teenager.
“My feet are frozen on this middle ground.
The water is warm here but the fire’s gone out.
I played it safe for so long that the passion has left.
Turns out that safe is just another word for regret.
So, I step to the edge and I take a deep breath.
We’re all dying to live but we’re all scared to death.
This is the part where my head tells my heart turn back around. But there’s no turning back now.
I’m going all in. “
Matthew West- All In
I find that when I take risks to learn something new or push myself on a new skill (physical, mental, emotional), I feel deliciously alive. When I get it, I want to pump my fist in the air- Yeah, you got this! The first step, though, is scary. Like learning to ride a bike, there are jerks and starts, bumps and bruises. But, slowly and then all at once, you gain momentum, speed, and confidence.
As an introvert, stepping up as a leader in my professional organization was socially exhausting and tough to fit in all the commitments. But I took on a challenge, then accepted another, and I picked up speed as I gained knowledge and confidence. What is it you are looking at doing or seeing or completing? Are you standing at a safe distance or have you dove in?
God gives us ordinary and exotic gifts- so let’s not waste them. I remind myself when beginning a new pursuit that “you can’t die of embarrassment.” I love hot yoga and I know my first attempts were cringe-worthy. I’m working on my quiet times and my prayer life. I want to be like the Velveteen rabbit who comes to the end of life with the sheen rubbed off because every bit of my gifts have been used up. To hear the words “well done my good and faithful servant.” I fall short, but I’m still diving all in.
“Success is like a camera. Focus on the objective. Concentrate on it. See your most important goal image for success. Ignore all distracting, minor details. Develop your pictures. If they don’t turn out, stick to it. Take more shots for success. Be persistent. Focus on working to make things happen. Visualize optimum success. Use perseverance to achieve your goal.”
― Mark F. LaMoure
I use January as a time of reflection rather than a re-set. For me, I reflect on what was achieved, who I connected with, and where I fell short. This last year, I was proud to be on leadership for a half marathon fundraising team and in leadership for a professional development group. And, I renewed my professional certification. I got a chance to take some small trips with various friends and even had a spa day on a Friday off of work with a bestie. But, I fell short in my patience and home organization.
Think about the highlights of your year.
Like a camera, and especially now with technology, there is a lot that can be cleaned up. Photoshop can change the background or erase a reflection. However, a creative friend of mine who is an artistic foodstylist said, “You can’t change the focus.” There is a lot you can do with a photograph, but the photo has to be in focus. You can add to an image. You can delete from an image, but you can’t change the focus.
As soon as she said it, we both looked at each other because the message hit for life in general.
Make sure your focus is on point for 2018. It will steer the direction for your year.
As I look forward to 2018, I am checking with siblings about their kid’s vacations to carve some summer time adventures. I have taken on a bigger role in volunteering at my church and dialed back on volunteering at the professional organization. I would like to organize and minimalize my closet. And, I would like to be more like Paul who was content in all situations. That’s my focus.
As the minutes wound down, bringing the year to a close, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had declared a moratorium on mourning starting at midnight. As I stepped into a new year, a new season would begin- a season where I’d focus on finding contentedness, kindness, happiness,. . . me.
As the ball dropped and the party horns sounded, I sipped Veuve Clicquot champagne and pondered the year ahead. I saw it as fitting to be drinking Veuve Cliquot. In French, veuve means widow. Widow Cliquot succeeded in spite of her own grief. I knew she’d understand my predicament. We’d for sure both shed our share of tears.
Only, she has a title and I don’t. There isn’t a word to describe my situation. I once was a mother but now am not. She once was a wife and now is a widow. One word and people understand. For me, I awkwardly dance around the question, “Do you have children?” It’s easier to say, “No” as it ends the conversation but it’s not the truth. If I say, “Yes, but . . . “ then I have to add too much detail, more than I am comfortable giving. Why don’t we, as English speakers, create a word to describe a parent who has lost a child. I can utter one word, would prefer to give definition to that one word and have people understand, change subject, or end the conversation there.
Grief comes in waves. At first, it is as strong and fierce as a turbulent ocean. You are constantly knocked off balance as memories flood your existence. The waves consume you, exhaust you, and surround you.
After a while, and with time and distance, the waves receed and their intensity lessens. Something will trigger a memory. Someone will say a phrase that was common, a song will play that was a favorite, and you are knocked off balance by a wave.
I was sitting in a city theatre with my toddler nephews waiting for the Christmas play to begin. I was looking around the audience and realized I was scanning the audience for them unconsciously. Christmas is especially hard- we got our foster kids December 18 and spent that first Christmas in a flurry of last minute preparations with just one week to get to know each other, buy gifts, and make plans with grandparents, cousins, etc. to include the new family members. It was magical with kids bringing their excitement and their unquestioning belief to the season. Walking to see the Christmas lights at at a local zoo, our daughter said, ‘Merry Christmas’ to everyone who passed us. When I told her that not everyone celebrated Christmas, she was astounded. She looked around at the lights and crowds, having just helped the ice sculpter place a red nose on his ice reindeer and said, “Who doesn’t love Christmas?” They took that magic with them and it took a year or two to be able to put up any decorations, send any cards, attend any holiday functions. I didn’t have it in me.
My kids left to another placement one August. The following December I was walking through the lobby at church and an older man asked me where my kids were (since it was the December children’s choir concert). It’s these kind of occurrences that come fewer and farther between but still hit you unaware. This Christmas (5 years since they left), we received a card from a high school friend of my husbands. Her note said she didn’t remember our kids names but wished all 4 of us a Merry Christmas. My husband saw her at a high school reunion and it has been years since they’ve had contact, but we’re on each other’s card lists. These occurrences catch you off guard.
There is a song Landslide: “Can the child within my heart rise above? Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life? Well I’ve been afraid of changing because I built my life around you. Time makes you bolder, children get older and I’m getting older too. “
I did find joy and contentment but had to actively fight for it. I rebuilt my life and was intentional in the rebuild. When I feel like I can’t control much, I do an act of kindness. Pay someone’s toll, bring coffee to the security guard, help a neighbor with a task. It is a way to put out positivity into my life, change my perspective, and help me to focus on what I can control
Happy New Year. May the new year bring contentment and may you feel God’s hand upon you.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house, and it fell with a great crash.” -Matthew 7:24-27
Do some of you remember the Biodome from the 80s? It was a glass dome that contained a controlled environment under it. It offered perfect growing conditions for vegetation. Everything grew well, but scientists were baffled that trees would grow only so tall and then topple over. Why, if things were protected and controlled, would trees fail to grow? They discovered that trees need resistance. “Trees need wind to blow against them, which in turn causes their root systems to grow deeper into the soil, which in turn supports the tree as it grows taller.- Dennis Merritt Jones (Huffpost)”
We need resistance in our life to develop our roots. And when we experience the ‘wind’ or resistance, we find if we have our foundation built on rock or on sand.
The storms of life aren’t looked at favorably. It seems like things would be better if we were able to bloom in a controlled environment without resistance. Sometimes my prayer life reflects a cry for things to be easier. And, yet, nature shows us that this resistance is needed for growth and value. Vegetation grows roots when faced with resistance. We build muscle through resistance training. Even a diamond is forged out of pressure.
What things are making you stronger? Can you see the storms as rooting you to a strong foundation? Instead of crying out, “Why me?” could you instead ask, “Why not me?”
My hope for you today is to see the troubles as blessings in disguise. That by developing roots, you’ll feel like you were given wings to lighten your spirit. This shift in thinking has been freeing for me.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas. May you feel God’s love this season.
“I don’t care if the house is packed or the strings of light are broken.
I don’t care if the gifts are wrapped, or there’s nothing here to open.
Love is not a toy and no paper will conceal it.
Love is simply joy that I’m home.
I don’t care if the carpet is stained, we’ve got food upon our table.
I don’t care if it’s gonna rain, our little room is warm and stable.
Love is who we are and no season can contain it.
Love would never fall for that.”
Love is Christmas- Sara Bareilles
Are you in the holiday spirit? When you are struggling in an area of your life, the holidays can feel awkward- socially, emotionally, or financially. It can be hard to feel festive in the midst of failed attempts to conceive, adopt, or foster.
It’s then time to remember that Christmas is about love. A gift freely and sacrificially given. God made man come down to help. Jesus come to save.
If you are struggling this holiday season, pair down your activities. You may have noticed Anna’s absence lately. She is walking through some decisions and could use your prayers. Anna is choosy about her activities and is making intentional decisions about what to say yes to. Take time for yourself and remember self care. Especially around the holidays I find that women (at least in my family) get the bulk of the holiday planning, buying, shopping, wrapping, and sending. If you are struggling, pair down activities, gifts, commitments.
Get to the heart of the season. Could you volunteer or donate to a cause? Could you give of your time by visiting a neighbor in need or an elderly relative? I find that when I can’t control my circumstances, I try to do something kind. There’s so much in life I can’t control. But, I can control my attitude and my decisions. I can control what I pass on. And, passing on my melancholy or anger or hurt isn’t going to help anyone.
Think about what brought you joy as a child. For me, I turn on the Christmas lights and fall asleep one night to their multi colored glimmers. I normally sleep in the dark, but this bit of festive light seems somehow magical and brings back memories of so many happy Decembers. Pause in the small moments and soak in some joy, no matter how small. There is an outside mall near me and the roundabout in the middle has a huge lit tree set to Christmas music. Coming out of a store, I stood for a few minutes, in the cold, and just watched the blinking lights ‘dance’ in rhythm to the music. It made me happy.
May you feel the love that Christ freely gives this Christmas. May you find some joy and give some joy.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas.