These Are The Days…

There are days when the words inside my head and heart strain and push to get out, leaking through the cracks in dribs and drabs. There are days when my fingers can’t move fast enough to capture the thoughts and insights pouring out of my mind and heart. Then there are days when my brain feels as dry as a desert and there’s nothing to offer. And finally there are days like these.

Days when the weary monotony of the “have-to” list drown out the siren call of the “want-to” or even the “called-to” list. Days when the dishes won’t stay caught up and the cat throws up on the carpet and three girls want to do three different activities. All at once. With me. And somehow making the time to write finds a home on the bottom of the to-do list.

And then if I miraculously do find myself facing a blank page on the screen, my mind seems to be just as blank. Now what?

typewriter

Life is moving along at lightning speed and it doesn’t slow down for much. Except in the hard and bad times, when it seems to be moving at a snail’s pace.

And I look around me and everyone else seems to be doing stuff that really matters, and I’m not doing much of anything. At least that’s how it looks from here.

Oh, this is not a whiny post, or at least I don’t mean it to be that. It’s more of a stream of consciousness post. Bear with me. I’m going somewhere with this.

I want so much. I want to be an involved Mom. I want to be more intentional with this blog. I want to write more articles and short stories. I want to write a book (I can’t believe I just put that in writing!). I want to go to writers’ conferences. I want to take better care of my health and fitness. I want to spend more time in the Word. All those wants, and then there are the needs, like the need to find a part-time job when school starts back in order to get some bills paid off.

But what does God want of and for me?

Maybe it all comes back to this: Love God. Love others. Everything I do should flow out of my love for Him and my willingness to let Him love others through me.

So it’s summer here for a little less than six more weeks, when school starts back. I should just accept that it’s going to be a little hectic until then and write in the stolen moments like right now, when 2/3 of the children in my care are still sleeping. Should they be up? Probably. Am I going to wake them up? Not a chance!

Until my time is more free I will need to be content with loving God (reading His Word, spending time in prayer whenever possible, meditating on scripture, posting verses around the house to keep them in mind, worshiping through music) and loving others (my husband, my kids, my friends, my kids’ friends, my church family, my online friends, other parents at the cheer gym, the cashier at Kroger, etc.) and maybe putting the focus on others will take my attention off me and all those wants.

Because one day I’ll find myself with all kinds of free time. My kids will be grown and either moved out or off doing whatever grown kids do, and I will miss this needing. It’s hard to believe in the days when I can’t find a free moment to shower, but one day I will have the freedom to shower several times a day if I want to. No one will ask me to make their lunch or pop some popcorn, and I won’t need to break up some sibling argument.

And I have to admit that this oh-so-busy life is full, rich with moments that I wish I could properly capture and put on the page because they are truly God-given gifts. Rides in the van with one or the other of my daughters when we let down our guard and talk about things that matter, like faith, and boys, and adoption. Walks at the mall when she reaches out to take my hand even though she’s long past the age when she needs my help navigating a parking lot. Splashing together in the pool. Sitting with her on the couch snuggled up watching a movie. Spending kid-free time with my husband on a last minute 24-hour anniversary trip. Reading a book after they’re all in bed. Reading the Bible and a devotional over a cup of coffee before the kids wake up.

I see now that it’s a rich life I lead, y’all. The Lord is my shepherd and I lack nothing.

May I wander through these chaotic remaining days of summer vacation with eyes open for those rich moments and a heart grateful for the life I’ve been given.

Advertisements

19 Years Later

weddinglaugh2

Yep, you guessed it – I had an anniversary recently. I marked nineteen years of marriage to one of the most honest and upstanding men I have ever known, and I am honored to call him my husband. He loves me totally and accepts me as I am. He became an instant father to my then 8-year-old daughter when we married and he has never looked at her as anything but his very own daughter. It takes a very special person with an open heart to do that.

The photo above is a perfect representation of our wedding day. It was just plain fun for me and such a pleasant surprise to see how many people in our lives cared enough to show up on that blistering hot July day. I vividly remember when the doors opened for my stepfather to walk me down the aisle and I saw all the friends and family assembled there, for US. I felt so loved and I wanted to hug each and every one of them.

We left the church to go to the reception and made a stop in our wedding finery to see our friends Keith and Brennan, who owned a snowball stand. They took pictures of us holding our wedding cake snowballs before we dove back into the air-conditioned car to get to the reception.

Our small group friends helped serve at the reception and one of them arranged for a DJ. When Jon and I left the reception to go to our hotel and change clothes for a romantic dinner, we realized we’d left our luggage in a friend’s car, so we drove by the reception hall to retrieve it. We noticed several cars that we recognized so we went up to the hall to see who was still there. The hotel staff was cleaning the room but our small group was dancing in the corner where the DJ was set up. So we stayed and danced a little bit. Wouldn’t you? Like I said, it was lots of fun.

I’m not going to lie: marriage hasn’t always been easy. If you’re married you already know this yourself. We don’t always agree and there are plenty of times one of us has to apologize to the other. I’m sure there are things we’d change about each other if we could wave a magic wand, but while we’re not perfect, we are perfect for each other. He is the peanut butter to my jelly. Our strengths are not the same ones, but we work together well. It’s a good thing we’re not alike – I don’t think I’d want to be married to contrary ol’ me.

And we’ve had our share of sorrows. We struggled with infertility and loss, and we’ve buried many loved ones in nineteen years. But we’ve also had so much joy. We welcomed a daughter in 2001 through birth and another in 2005 through adoption. We married off our oldest daughter and became Papa and Nana to our sweet granddaughter in 2010. We’ve traveled (not nearly as much as we’d like) and we’ve snuggled at home on the couch with our girls and thought, “This is the life!”

We’ve seen God’s hand in our relationship from day one, when we met in the Burger King on the Cumberland Avenue strip. We’ve sought His will as we made decisions for the family and tried our best to follow Him. And we’ve enjoyed fellowship and friendship as we served and worshiped with other believers.

So in honor of our nineteen years of wedded (mostly) bliss, here are nineteen gems of wisdom based on all I’ve learned (so far) about marriage:

1. Don’t ever marry someone and expect to change them. Period. It’s not going to happen. If you don’t like who they are RIGHT NOW, don’t marry them. But…

2.  Expect them to change, and not always in ways you like or want. Something happens after the wedding, a kind of “letting down your hair”, that reveals things you may not have realized about your new spouse. Unless it’s dangerous or illegal, better to just roll with it.

3.  Marriage retreats and marriage enrichment classes are helpful but only if both of you are there for the right reasons.

4.  It takes two people to get married but only one of them to destroy the marriage. Don’t be that one.

5.  Speaking of which, marriage is WORK. Just like a garden, you can’t just leave it alone and expect it to thrive. Weed it, fertilize it, work on it.

6.  You will have ebbs and flows of affection. I’m sorry to all you newlyweds, but it’s true. Wait it out. It’ll come back, I promise. Look back at pictures of you when you were dating and remind yourself of why you fell in love in the first place.

7.  Contrary to what The Beatles might say, love is NOT all you need. You need commitment, trust, honesty, companionship, and a whole load of other things too. And work. See #5.

8.  Don’t make the mistake of expecting your spouse to be like your parent of the same gender. Your own parents are usually your first example of marriage and it’s easy to cast yourselves in their roles, except your spouse had other parents and he or she is busy casting you in his or her own parent’s role. It’s not fair. Plus you didn’t really want to be married to your own parent, did you? That’s just weird.

9. In fact, just check all your expectations at the door. Period. Don’t come into marriage with a bunch of preconceived notions because you’ll only find yourself disappointed to be married to an actual human, who has faults and might have their own notions. Unless you’ve discussed it and agreed ahead of time, it’s not fair to assume that the man always mows the grass and the woman always cooks dinner.

10. Premarital counseling is worth the time and money. I know, I know: you and your beloved have no points of disagreement and will ride happily off into the sunset with no help from any silly counselors. Just do it anyway. Trust me.

11.  Consider yourself married until death does you part. If you allow yourself to entertain the idea of ending your marriage, before you know it it becomes a possibility, and then an option. Don’t make it an option. (unless something dangerous is going on, of course)

12.  Apologize first. Yes, even if you didn’t start it and/or even if you’re not the one who is wrong. Apologize for your part in it. Just do it. Pride will get you nowhere.

13.  Remember you are a team. You need to work together and consider your spouse your partner, not your enemy. Sometimes being a team means compromise. Okay, LOTS of times that means compromise.

14.  Be willing to be broken in front of your partner. I am independent to a fault and it would be tempting to try to handle everything by myself, but then why be married? Let your partner see you at your weak points, and let them help you.

15.  Worship together. Read the Bible together. Do a couple’s devotional. Somebody once told me that a marriage is like a triangle, with God at the top, you at one bottom corner and your spouse at the other. The closer each of you gets to God, the closer you get to each other. Cheesy? Maybe, but also true.

16.  Try things your spouse likes to do, even if it’s not your cup of tea. I once took Jon white-water rafting. That’s totally outside his comfort zone but he was a great sport, and he actually enjoyed it enough to do it again a few years later. Or maybe it was just that his memories had faded.  Likewise, I’ve been camping even though for me it’s just like being at home except outside. Without A/C. Or my bed. Or a proper refrigerator and stove. And lots of bugs and other critters.

17.  God, spouse, children, everyone else. That’s the order. It’s tempting to make your kids the focus of your marriage but don’t. One day they will (hopefully) leave home and your spouse will still be there. What will you have to talk about when the kids are gone?

18.  You are your spouse’s biggest cheerleader. Don’t get into the habit of sharing his or her faults and foibles with your friends. Telling funny or embarrassing stories about your spouse is easy and everybody seems to be doing it. Praising them to others takes more thought. Ask yourself if your words are building up your spouse or tearing them down. Don’t let the things you say about your spouse leave others wondering why on earth you married that person, if that’s how you really see them. Better yet, let your spouse hear you say nice things about them.

 19.  You need friends. Yes, your spouse is your lifelong companion and the one person you know you can rely on, but you need other friends too. Your husband shouldn’t have to hear every single detail about the last book you read and what the humidity does to your hair. He’s not going to be interested in hearing about how it felt when you had an ovarian cyst. (sorry, guys) Your wife probably doesn’t care about the post-game analysis of your favorite basketball team’s lastest game. (because I don’t care for basketball. Football is a different story, but I digress.) You need friends of your own gender who share your interests because they make your life richer. You also need couple friends (for double dates), and you need friends with kids the same ages as yours (so the kids can play while the adults talk). What you do not need is close friends of the opposite gender because that kind of emotional investment can lead places you really don’t want to go.

And here’s a bonus, because I couldn’t edit my list down to just 19:

20.  If you ever feel like something is wrong in your marriage, look in the mirror first. Don’t automatically assume it’s the other person’s fault. Examine your own heart. Pray. See a counselor. Yes, maybe it really is your spouse’s fault, but you can’t do a single thing about how someone else behaves. All you can control is your own behavior.

It’s your turn. How long have you been married and what are some things you’ve learned?

In Memoriam

Once upon a time there was a small gray striped kitten with random orange patches. She was surrendered to the local Humane Society as a tiny baby and found herself one day in a cage outside a pet store with three of her furry siblings. A little girl with blond hair came along and stuck her fingers into the cage to get the kittens’ attention. The girl turned to her father and begged to be allowed to take a kitten home, and her Daddy said yes. The blond girl chose the striped kitten, who was so small she could fit into the palm of the Daddy’s hand! She rode to her new home in a box perched on the little girl’s lap.

At home, the parents told the little girl that she should give the kitten a name, so she did: Sally Hannah Juliana. The girl liked the way the last two names rhymed, and besides, Juliana was her own middle name. Over the years Sally Hannah grew and grew. She never tired of chasing laser pointers and she had a stuffed mousie that squeaked and she loved to carry the mousie around in her mouth. Sometimes she liked to run outside when the door was opened so she could roll around in the grass. She was always willing to bat around a little ball with a bell inside.

IMG_3984

During the day she followed the sun around as it shone through the windows so she could lay in its warmth. At night she would curl up on the bed with one of her people and keep their feet warm as they slept. It wasn’t always the same bed or the same person because she liked to keep things fair.

As Sally Hannah got older she got bigger and bigger. Her people said she weighed twenty pounds! Sally Hannah didn’t know what a pound was but if it was anything like food, she wanted as many as she could get. Sometimes she would lay on her back in the floor with all four paws in the air. For some reason this made her people giggle and take pictures. She didn’t care because it made them happy and it felt good. She also liked to look out the window and watch the birds and squirrels, who seemed to be teasing her. That was okay, though, because she had a comfortable house and nice people who took good care of her.

IMG_6261

Then one day Sally Hannah Juliana started feeling sick. Something inside her body didn’t feel right. All she wanted to do was sleep, and it seemed like too much trouble to walk to her food dish to eat, so she didn’t bother. Her people were worried so they took her to a doctor and the doctor put her in the hospital for a couple of nights. Once when she woke up in the hospital she had a tube sticking out of her neck and it felt weird. The people at the hospital kept doing things to her and wouldn’t leave her alone to sleep, which was what she wanted to do. Finally one of her people came to take her home and Sally Hannah was hopeful that maybe everything was going to be okay.

But it wasn’t. She came home with the tube-thing in her neck and it made her drool all the time, which was messy and caused her to lick her lips a lot. She still didn’t want to eat and she wanted to rest but it was hard to find a good position with the tube there. And now instead of doctors it was her people who kept coming in and doing things to her with that uncomfortable tube, and while she loved the people, she wished they would just go away and let her sleep.

Then one morning Sally Hannah’s people came to feed her and they could see that she was feeling worse than ever. They were worried and sad. All of them petted her gently and told her how much they loved her and what a good kitty she was, with tears in their eyes. Even through her pain she could tell they really cared. And then they showed her how much they loved her because they finally, finally, let her go to sleep, which was what she had been wanting all along.

Yesterday we had to say goodbye to our Sally Hannah Juliana. She was a part of our family for nine years and was full of personality. She was never any trouble, unless you count sharpening her claws on the sofa and harking up the occasional hairball. All she desired in life was a full food dish and a soft place to sleep. She was a good kitty right up until the end, even though I know we must have made things more difficult for her by trying so hard to hang on when she was ready to go. RIP, Sally Hannah Juliana. We will miss you.

Small Things Matter: Fair Trade Friday Club

With the 24-hour news cycle nowadays it’s hard to turn a blind eye to the fact that people all over the world are suffering. I see the news stories about a famine here, and a flood there, and poverty everywhere. And I think, what can I do? 

I don’t have a lot of money to make grand gestures or give to charity. I wish I did because there are many, many worthy organizations out there doing all they can to help people and they could use support. I mean, I do what I can when I can. I just don’t always know if it’s truly helpful – know what I mean?

FTFClub

A few months ago I started seeing posts about something called Fair Trade Friday Club popping up on my social media. I didn’t know what it was. I thought maybe people made a point of purchasing fair trade goods and wearing them on Fridays. But it was (and is) so much more than that. The Fair Trade Friday Club is all about empowering women who live in extreme poverty by enabling them to work as artisans and earn a fair wage.

But the artisans aren’t the only ones who benefit. Fair Trade Friday Club was born in order to help support Mercy House Kenya, an organization established to help young women who have become pregnant as a result of rape or forced prostitution. Mercy House provides a safe place to live in addition to education and health care for these mothers. As the mother of three daughters myself, I have a soft spot for Mercy House and the good work they do there.

And let’s just talk about how much fun it is to open the box and examine the lovely items, all of which are well made and carry a story.

Take this beautiful pouch, for instance. On the tag are the names of three women who contributed to its creation. Three women I can now pray for by name used their skills to make this bag and were paid fairly for their work, which enables them to support their families.

IMG_6707-001

Or these beaded bracelets. Oh my word! My box came with two of these lovelies and although I don’t normally wear a lot of jewelry I can already tell I’m going to be wearing these with everything. These were made by someone in Nepal and they are simply exquisite. The photo does not do them justice. I can’t decide whether to wear them both or to keep one and give one away.

IMG_6705-001

And this journal. Y’all, it’s so pretty I’m not sure I can bring myself to write in it.  The pages are creamy, unlined, and textured, and the cover is a sunset orange/gold with a silver print and somewhere in India are the hands that made it. Every time I use it I will be reminded to pray for the artisans who produced this beauty.

IMG_6708-001

If you love these items and you want to be a part of the great work being done by Fair Trade Friday Club and Mercy House Kenya, it’s easy to get involved. Go to Fair Trade Friday Club and sign up to receive your very own box of awesome every month. (If you sign up and find that next month’s boxes are all claimed, please sign up for the waiting list.) If your budget won’t support the cost of an entire box every month, consider signing up for the Earring of the Month club. Or if you’d like to try it out to see if it’s for you, you can order a one-time box. You can also go to the Mercy House Shop and order some of the individual items that tickle your fancy. To me (and maybe to you too) the cost of a box, or a pair of earrings, or a scarf might be a small thing. But to someone on the other side of the world that small thing matters.

FTFearrings

It also turns out that we can tackle poverty, one month at a time, one box at a time, and look good while doing it. I call that a win-win.

FTF2