Five Minute Friday: Hold

Lately it seems the only time I write is Friday, when I link up with brave writers all over the world to write for five minutes, just five, on the same one word prompt.  Hopefully it’s just a season and soon I’ll be back here spilling my guts and asking tough questions much more frequently.  Anyway, if you want to play along with the FMF crowd, check out Kate’s blog here.

Mark Schultz sings a great song about raising children called “Roots and Wings”.  There’s a line in it that says, “it’s only for a moment you were mine to hold” and I’ve heard it reverberating in my head the past few months.  It seems like only yesterday my girls were babies and now none of them are even remotely babyish.  As I get older time appears to speed up.  Those days that felt endless with a grumpy teething baby and napping and diapers and mess after mess, well they take on a soft glow when I look back at them now.

My oldest is grown with a not-so-little one of her own.  I look at her and can still see the face of my first and so adored baby girl.

My middle one is on the cusp of becoming a young lady.  It pains me yet brings me such joy to watch her growing up.  One day she was lining up 75 My Little Ponies and sorting them by color, and now look at her:

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My baby…well, just don’t call her “baby” within her hearing.  She may be double digits but she’s still on the small side, and she still needs me.  A lot.  Sometimes I chafe against all that neediness, but then I think about how I’m going to miss it when it goes, as it inevitably will.  What will I do when I’m not actively, daily mothering?  What will I be?

And while I want to hold on to all three of them with both hands, it’s my job to let them go.  I’ve done it once.  You’d think that might make it easier but it really doesn’t, because now i know what letting go means.  We hold them for a moment and then we let them fly.

Five Minute Friday: Ready

It seems like forever since I joined up with my FMF pals!  Between getting the kids back in school and trying to find a new rhythm to life, writing has slid further and further down my to-do list and that’s just not right.  So today I’m stepping in and stepping up to write from the heart, for five minutes, without polishing, editing and all that other overthinking.  Want to play along?  Go to Kate’s blog for all the details.

I don’t like change and I am a careful person who likes to think through the details and all the eventualities before making a big move.  When we moved here to Virginia three months ago (has it really been only three months?  Seems like years.) I kept a notebook.  It had diagrams of all the rooms in our new house so I could decide how to place furniture, lists of things to pack, all my notes on doctors (apparently we require a lot of professional care), and information on schools and activities for my kids.  It was a great help and I still consult it regularly.

I think this cautiousness is born of my need for control, which is related to my frustrated perfectionism.  This is something I struggle with constantly.  I’m always giving things to God and then snatching them back like He’s untrustworthy or something.  And yet time and time again He has proven to me that He alone should be in control of my life and that He can be trusted.  He created me and He knows me – who better to direct my life?

But even with all my careful planning I still wasn’t ready when the day came to move.  I’m not sure I ever would be completely ready.  There were still so many preparations yet to be done.  But you know, sometimes you just have to jump off the diving board, ready or not, because if you wait until you feel ready your feet will remain stuck there.  Just like kids playing Hide and Seek, life keeps coming, ready or not.  There are so many things I would never have done if I had waited until I felt ready:  have my first child, get married, adopt, buy a house, take a job, leave a job, and on and on.  But here’s where the trust comes in:  God is there and He’s my soft place to land.  I know He’s got my whole life in His hands and I don’t have to wait until I’m completely ready because He’s always and forever ready.  He fills in my empty spaces and bridges the gaps so I don’t have to have it all together before I take that first step.  Sometimes He just wants me to trust Him enough to jump – ready or not.

Five Minute Friday: Tell

Life is crazy these days, but I’ve been writing this post in my mind ever since I read the prompt last Thursday night..  Five Minute Friday is an online gathering of some of the best and bravest writers in the world, where we write for five minutes on the same one-word prompt.  If you want to play along, check out Kate’s blog for all the details.

Tell me your story.  I want to hear it.

Use words, use body language, but more than that, use your life.  I promise to listen.

Tell me when you first met Jesus and what led you there.

I want to know how following Him has changed you.

I need to hear what God has done for you.  How He saved you, how He’s saved you over and over since then, from bullies and betrayals and bad decisions.  Tell me about it, because He’s saved me too.

Tell me what passions He’s set on fire in your heart.  I need to know because we might share them.

Tell me what dreams keep you up at night, those God-sized things that stretch impossibly big and can only be reached if we stand on His shoulders.  I want to know.

Tell me what breaks your heart and what heals it – the things that make you cry and the ones that make you laugh.  I need to know these things so I can pray for you and so we can build a relationship.

Because you know what?  God made us for relationship.  First with Him, and then with each other.

You can trust me with your stories, I promise. 

And if you ask me to, I will gladly tell you mine.

Fifty Things

It’s a big day for me. I’m hitting the half-century mark today, and to be honest, I’m still a bit in denial. But I keep trudging forward, albeit a little more slowly and occasionally with a limp (until I work out the kinks). In honor of my half-dollar’s worth of years, here are fifty things I’ve about me you might or might not know.

1. I never got over my crush on Donny Osmond.  Nope.  Still swooning over here.

2. I thought I was an extrovert until a couple of years ago.  Now I realize I’m an introvert who likes people. 

3. I lived with my great grandmother for a while when I was in elementary school. That marked me in more ways than one.  We watched a 13-inch black and white TV and only turned it on for certain programs.  No elementary aged child should be that excited about The Lawrence Welk show, but frankly I was just thrilled to see her turn it on.  I didn’t care what we watched!  But I loved The Carol Burnett show. :-)

4. I learned to read at the age of four.  And I am a very, very fast reader.  I can go through a book a day easily if given the time to sit down and read.

5.  In fact, I usually have two or three books in progress at any given time.  I keep them stashed all over the house and in my car so I’m never caught without something to read.  I have on occasion read an entire book on my iPhone.

6. I got my first library card at eight and it changed my life.  I read the entire Nancy Drew series and the entire Hardy Boys series at least three times.  Maybe four.

7.  Also, regarding the Hardy Boys TV series, I was Team Parker Stevenson.  Too much fan competition for Shaun Cassidy.

8.  But I had Shaun Cassidy’s album.  Two of them, in fact.  Possibly three.  Did he record three?  I had them all, however many there were.  I may or may not still have the very first one, with Da Doo Ron Ron on it.  (What does that title even mean??)

9.  I have an incredible memory for song lyrics.  Ditto movie quotes, especially from “The Princess Bride”.

10.  I also tend to break out in song randomly, usually in reaction to something I just heard.  And even if I don’t sing out loud, you can be sure I’m singing in my head.

11.  When I was a kid, I used to write out lyrics to my favorite songs (in multi-colored ink!  With Bic banana markers!) and post them on my wall.  With glue.  Oops.

12.  I started my first blog in 2009.

13.  With my first two daughters, I was firmly convinced each was a boy until the moment a medical professional told me they were girls. 

14.  There’s a rumor that when my first daughter was born and the doctor said, “It’s a girl!” my response was, “Are you sure?”  I don’t remember saying that but it makes a good story, and I do appreciate a good story, so I let it stand.

15.  One reason I was convinced I would have boys is that I am not the most girly-girl around, and I figured I would mess them up  I have three girls now and so far, so good.  God knows what He’s doing.

16.  My biological father died the day after he turned 50.  If you think that’s on my mind a lot lately, you’d be absolutely right.  He missed so much of life, and most of the health problems that caused his early death were brought on by his own choices and bad habits.

17.  I am a diabetic, like my paternal grandmother and my paternal half-sister.  That is also something on my mind lately, as I would like to live a good long time and that’s going to require me to make healthier choices.  I am much better at self-indulgent choices than I am at responsible ones.

18.  My children have been telling me lately that at 50, I’m “halfway to dead”.  I would have considered myself 3/5 or 2/3 of the way, but considering that my great-great grandmother died at 100, maybe half-way is more accurate.

19.  I came in third place in my school spelling bee when I was a 6th grader.  I was eliminated on the word “echelon”.  You can be sure I never ever forgot how to spell that word again.

20.  My middle daughter won her school spelling bee in 5th grade. I would be lying if I said I got no personal satisfaction in that win. (I was also incredibly, incredibly proud of her!)

21.  I didn’t attend my first concert until I was around 20 years of age.  It was David Meece, Russ Taff, and Pam Mark Hall, and it was awesome!

22.  Since then, I have had the joy of seeing many artists perform live, usually in the company of one or more of my children.  This may be a way of making up for lost time, or a way to bond with my children, or both.  However you look at it, I spent an evening with One Direction recently and I’m not ashamed to admit it.  Furthermore, I liked it.

23.  Speaking of concerts, I fulfilled a nearly lifelong dream when I saw Barry Manilow in concert back in the mid-90’s.  I would have loved to see Air Supply, but alas, they broke up before I had the chance.

24.  Again, not ashamed.  Though maybe I should be.

25.  I like to say that I’m not very competitive, but I can be ruthless in a game of Spades.  Like, embarrassingly so.

26.  I have a wicked sense of humor.  One of my gifts (at least I think it’s a gift) is my ability to find humor in anything.  The challenge is finding funny that doesn’t hurt or insult someone.  Which means I don’t get to exercise my fluent sarcasm much.  Sad.

27.  Especially since my children have taken to quoting Matthew 5:37 to me:  Let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no. (paraphrasing here)

28.  In line with the humor/sarcasm theme, I have a whole-hearted appreciation for irony.  I also enjoy a good farce (referred to in our house as “stupid humor”) a la Monty Python.  

29.  I am nearly always willing to laugh at myself and I like being with others who don’t take themselves too seriously either.

30.  Despite my ever-ready snicker or smirk, I feel very deeply about certain causes.  In fact, I cover the caring with humor sometimes as a defense mechanism.  If I let myself fully feel all those feels they would very likely overwhelm me.  This world is just so harsh and unfair, you know? 

31.  Moving on… I am a frustrated perfectionist.  What this means is that if I don’t think I can do it perfectly, many times I just won’t start.  Or more likely I’ll start and never finish.  

32.  I took three years of French in high school and never made less than an A.  In my senior year I took Latin because there were no more French courses.  Again, nothing less than an A.  I still don’t know what kind of career would have utilized those mad language skills.

33.  People tell me that I should write a book about my great-grandmother that I lived with.  (I know that’s technically grammatically incorrect but I stuffed a rag in my inner perfectionist’s mouth so I can get on with it already.)  Granted, some of the people who say it are my relatives, but still.But I haven’t because of #31. 

34.  I was painfully shy as a child although I’m less so as an adult.  But I am still somewhat socially awkward, and at times painfully so. 

35.  I have lived enough years to (mostly) stop caring what other people think of me.  That’s their business, not mine.  You’d think that might make me less perfection-y, but it doesn’t.

36.  If you could make a business out of judging and being critical, I’d be the next Steve Jobs.  But I’m working on finding a positive in it by setting up a proofreading and editing business.  People will pay you to point out their mistakes?  Sign me up!

37.  When I was a kid I wanted to be a librarian when I grew up.  I still think I’d enjoy that. 

38.  I worked as a Human Resources Manager for many years, despite my lack of a college degree.

39.  Did you catch that I never finished college?  Didn’t even complete the first year.  I got married instead. 

40.  (Are you still with me?)  I became a Believer…ok, not exactly true.  I grew up believing, but I became a follower of Jesus Christ at the ripe old age of 17.  I went to church off and on my entire childhood and knew the Gospel, spending each invitation hymn white-knuckled in the pew because I knew God was calling me.  Thank Him He never gave up on me!

41.  I sang alto in school and church choirs for years and on the church worship team as well.  I’m still struggling with some feelings about my last experience on a worship team and this is something God is helping me wrestle into submission.  (Hey, just keeping it real!)

42.  Because feelings are normal and good, but they do NOT get to own us.  It’s the other way around, actually.  Clearly I am still working on this one.

43.  I was married for the first time at 19, and divorced at 26.  It was a trauma I would not wish on my worst enemy.  However, God has redeemed that experience because as you know, with Him nothing is wasted.

44.  Which brings me to this.  The song “Unredeemed” by Selah is like my faith theme song.  If you haven’t heard it, go listen to it now.

45.  When I was a senior in high school I was set on a course that would lead to the adoption of my youngest daughter in China, over 20 years later.  Just one more example of how God works things out in His time. 

46.  I am an extremely picky eater and always have been.  The list of things I do NOT eat is long and varied.  I have a daughter who is also a picky eater (more extreme than I am) which we now know is a result of sensory processing issues.  It is hard to advocate for her in a world where people don’t understand why she won’t try certain foods or why we don’t make her clean her plate, but I get it because I have been there.

47. I acted in plays in high school.  I used to think I wanted to be the star and get all the accolades but now I think that’s just added pressure.  I just love being a part of the cast and the feeling of belonging that comes with it.

48.  I had an article accepted for publication by a magazine recently, for the first time ever.  To say I was stoked would be understating the situation.

49.  I like to think I’m fairly realistic about life and about myself.  I know that I tend toward the practical side of things, like my mother does.  I have ceased being surprised to hear her words come out of my mouth.

50.  I am going to have to make myself hit “publish” on this post or else I will edit it to death and spend a week doing it. 

So Long, Forties!

Today I say good-bye to my forties.  It was a good decade – far better than I expected when I turned 40.  I always hate when someone asks me where I see myself in five years, or ten years, because there are just too many variables to make an educated guess.  For instance, if you had asked me that question on August 13, 2004, I would have never pictured myself in suburban Richmond, Virginia, yet that’s exactly where I sit today.  There was just no way to know.  I had no inkling back then that I would start a blog.  Wait a minute.  Did blogs even exist ten years ago?  Probably so, but if I’d had one it would have been handwritten in a cute journal with lined pages.  Ten years ago fifty seemed ancient and used up, yet here I stand on the threshold and it suddenly seems ripe with possibilities.  I am not done yet.  God is still moving in me and I believe He still wants to use me.

So what happened in my forties?  Let’s see…I moved from the only state I have ever lived in to South Carolina, and then I moved again, this time to Virginia.  I never saw that one coming. 

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I adopted my third child, which necessitated my first passport and my first ever trip to another country.

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I married off my oldest daughter and gained a son in my son-in-law.

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I became a grandmother to the cutest little girl ever.

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I accepted the title of writer.

I traveled.  In the past year alone I’ve been in South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, DC, Kentucky, Wisconsin, even briefly in New York (but only in the airport).  That doesn’t sound like a lot of places, but it was a lot of trips – some of those states saw us twice or more.

I started a book club, which became my tribe of closest friends.  I made new friends, lost touch with other friends, reunited with old friends, and maintained bonds that transcended time and distance. 

Those are just some of the highlights.  I could go on all day.  God has been so very good to me, and I don’t say that at all lightly.

All of this has taught me that God is full of surprises, as if I still needed to figure that out. 

I had big plans for the Year of 49.  I even wrote about it here – my 12 in 12 plan.  Life intervened and I didn’t cross many things off my list, although I did get a new piercing in one ear and learned to paddle board.  

But I’m not slowing down.  I still have time, and there is much more to do.  God is showing me that just because my age is a certain number and my hair is graying doesn’t mean I have to conform to some image in my mind of a granny rocking on the front porch.  (not that there’s anything wrong with that.)  There’s a time for that one day but not now. 

There is a legacy to be left for my children and grandchild(ren).

There are new things to learn.

Life awaits.

I’m just getting started.

Bring it on, fifties.

 

Five Minute Friday: Fill

I’ve spent a lifetime filling myself with things that don’t matter.  Junk food, questionable reading material, unhealthy relationships.  You can look at me in pictures and see some of my choices have made for lasting results, and not in a good way.  And although I know better, there are times that I still run for those familiar comforts when I should run for something else.

The world tries to tell us what we “need” to feel fulfilled – new job, new clothes, new toys – but those things just leave us hungry and wanting.  There’s a God-shaped hole in every one of our hearts that only He can fill.  We can try to stuff it with..well, stuff…but there will still be gaps.  Only one piece fills that space perfectly – the one Who made us.heartpiece2

I want to be so full of Him that there’s no room for anything else.  I want to commit His word to memory so I can hear His voice in my head overriding my own.  I want His heart to fill mine so that I love the ones He loves. 

It’s a new era for Five Minute Friday.  Starting today we meet up at Kate’s place to write out our hearts for five minutes flat.  Come join us?  There’s always room for more.

Five Minute Friday: Begin

These are my people, these brave writers who gather online every week to write on a single one word prompt.  I would not be the writer I am without them surrounding me, and without Lisa-Jo Baker, who started the whole thing.  Tonight is her last night hosting Five Minute Friday, and while I are going to miss her loving leadership, I look forward to continuing this wild ride with Kate Motaung.  And so, here we go, one last time:

They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, but that’s only part of the story.  Taking that step means leaving something behind, because that beginning is the end of something else.  Maybe you feel it as a loss, maybe not, but it’s an ending all the same. The end of the old thing is the beginning of the new.

People throw words around like “new beginning” and “begin again” like they are shiny, happy gifts, totally ignoring the extra layer of “begin” that signifies “end”. The other thing they don’t say?  Just how absolutely terrifying new beginnings can be!  Stepping through the fear to just start is a huge accomplishment, and taking that first step is as huge as leaping the Grand Canyon sometimes.  First Five Minute Friday post?  Scary!  First FMF Party?  Dizzying! But oh so worth it!

I will go on the record and confess that I can usually begin just fine.  (Finishing is another story.  I continually start things I never finish – Bible reading plans, craft projects, blog posts.)  Maybe it’s because I have lots of experience with endings (and therefore “new” beginnings) in my life, or maybe I’m kind of brave, or maybe just naive, thinking this beginning will be the one that changes everything, the start of a whole new life, or a whole new me.  I’d like to think my optimism is grounded in trust in The One who holds my future in His hands.  Maybe the point of beginning is in finding the courage to take that first step and not worry about the ending.  Because He already knows the ending, and that’s a good enough reason to start the journey.