Other Places….

Eighteen years ago at this moment, I was standing in my living room, my 2 year old was running around singing, carefree, and I was staring at the t.v. watching a plane fly into the 2ndtower of the World Trade Center, my phone was still in my hand and I could vaguely hear my husband’s voice calling my name.  I remember the words I said to him “Is this real?”.  It was real. Moments later I saw scenes from the Pentagon, a gaping hole in one side of it and people running in all directions. Then suddenly the scenes changed again and I watched first one, then the second tower collapse in a cloud of smoke and debris.  People running from the billowing cloud chasing them, terror on their ash covered faces. They were in shock.  Running for their lives. Then, yet again, breaking news of a plane crashing into a field in Pennsylvania.  By this time, I’m sitting on the couch, no longer on the phone, holding my little girl who was begging me to read her a story.  I couldn’t quite collect my thoughts.  I had a sense of fear creeping up from somewhere inside me. What was happening?  These things happened other places.  Not in America.  People bombed other places.  Other places dealt with this kind of violence on a regular basis, not here.  As I sat taking in scene after scene, I heard my two-year-old ask me with concern “Why you cryin’ Mamma?”  I didn’t even realize that tears had slipped unnoticed down my cheeks.  “I’m okay, sweet girl, let’s find you a fun movie to watch.”  I took her hand and led her to her chair in her room, popped in the first video I came to and she promptly sat down to watch it.

I felt numb.  In a matter of minutes, our world had changed.   Violence and hate from other places had spilled over into our world and now fear was roaming free across our country.

This is the crazy part. I had made plans to go shopping with a friend and her little boy.  For some reason, we decided to go ahead.   Maybe it was our attempt to try to be normal.  Maybe we thought it would make things normal.  It did not.  We drove to the outlet mall, our conversation strained as we talked about shopping, then about the events of the morning, then quiet.  We walked around for forty-five minutes looking, but not really seeing what the stores had to offer.  People were acting strangely.  Awkward. I told my friend I thought we needed to go home, and so we loaded the little ones back up and headed back to the safety of our homes.

I was in line early to pick up my older two girls, so were many anxious parents.  I formulated over and over what I would say to them, how I would explain that our country had been attacked by evil men who hated America. I watched as teachers lead students out, dazed looks on their faces as they watched carefully after their students. Children, kept unaware of the events of that morning, laughed and skipped and held their friend’s hands. “They have no idea.” I thought to myself.

As they got in the car, my oldest who was ten asked “What’s going on today, Mom, the teachers have been acting weird all day.”  So there it was, the acknowledgement that things had changed and they sensed it. “Let’s talk about it when we get home.” I looked in the rearview mirror at their faces as they exchanged looks that said more than words.

At home I fixed them something to drink and we sat down.  I slowly started to tell them about what had happened that morning.  I chose my words carefully.  I did not want to stir up fear in their hearts.  My seven-year-old, in all her innocence asked “Are they gonna blow us up?”  I looked at her and said “I don’t think so, I’m sure we are going to be fine.  But we need to pray for all those people in New York and Washington DC who were hurt, and the families of those that were killed. I’m sure they are all in shock and afraid.”  But were we really going to be fine? My ten-year-old, who was more serious about life, came and sat beside me.  No words were necessary.   I decided that the t.v. would stay off, it would not help them to see scene after scene of the carnage in the aftermath played over and over.

I teach 11th& 12thgrade girls in Sunday School, and I realized a few weeks ago that to them  9-11 is just a history lesson.  Something they read about in school.  Just like I did when I was in school when I read about Pearl Harbor or WWII.  They don’t know that life was different before that day.  This life they live now is normal for them.  They live in a world that is a constant intake of news and media in the palm of their hands.

So today, we remember. We remember all the lives that were taken by people who have some twisted reasoning for causing so much death, so much damage, so much fear.    We remember a day when bombings or shootings were not news worthy for a moment, until the next act of violence grabbed the media attention.  We remember a day we didn’t look at people who were different than us with some trepidation.  We remember the heroics of the police, the EMT’s, the firemen, the medical personnel, the average man or woman who ran to help others.  We remember the victims on board those planes, who knew in an instant that this was the end for them, yet they still bravely fought back saving lives and losing their own.  We remember a president who we didn’t always agree with, yet he stood on that mountain of what was left of the World Trade Center and shed tears and hugged average people who had done above average acts of bravery.

People in other parts of the world say we are indulged Americans who are self-centered and arrogant. Maybe so.  But we average Americans love our country and we love helping people. We live in a world now where we are more aware than ever that violence and hate roams within our borders.  We are more aware of the dangers.  How could we forget because the media tries to keep a spirit of fear stirred up every day.  But there is still goodness in this world.  We Americans may not agree on a lot of things:  politics, immigration, and global warming, all are topics that stir up heated discussions and anger.  But one thing ties us together.  We are Americans.  We come to the rescue of the injured, the weak, the hungry.  We send food and medical help to people who are suffering in disasters or war-torn countries.  The world may say they hate us, but they come to us first when they need help.  I believe, that if the need arose, we Americans, we would stand and defend our people, our country, and our borders, against a twisted religion that condones violent acts.  We will stand up against a people who are invading our country under the guise of pursuing the American dream, only to try to force us to change our laws to their laws, or force us to accept their mindset.  We won’t do it.  We may make efforts to respect your beliefs.  We may offer help if you need it.  We may even try to call you friend.  But we are not ignorant of your hidden agenda.  We are not idiots.  We see. We listen.  We stand against the ugliness that has taken root in your mind and in your hearts.  We were not defeated or disabled on September 11, 2001.  We were awakened.  We were educated.  We will remember.  We will teach our children to remember.  We will remind each other of what is right and good.  To all those families and friends who lost people they love on that day. We remember.  We pray for you.

What’s the next step?

Since my rant on “I’m in a weird place” and my 2:48am episode with caffeine induced sleeplessness, things have calmed down.  This is the first week I have started to get a picture of the next season of life.  I mean, not fully, but a glimpse maybe.  Monday was Labor Day and my big guy and I just hung out around the house, then spontaneously went out to dinner.  Yesterday I cleaned our bathroom from top to bottom, pretty much. I cleaned our bedroom.  I cleaned the kitchen.  Then I chatted with our 20 year old when she came home from her grown-up job.  Today a friend rode with me to the wedding venue where my baby girl is going to get married to measure a few things.  We had lunch.  Then back home.  Chill.  That is a good word for the last few days.  I’m trying to figure out a schedule, or plan or something for this season of life.  It feels strange to not be working, not be running children somewhere, to not be planning dinner, washing mountains of clothes.  But I am trying to gather my thoughts.  MY thoughts.  MY plans.  Trying to find who I am now that I won’t be helping, nurturing, feeding, chauffeuring, disciplining, clothing, and parenting busy, loud, beautiful daughters anymore.   I’ve spent the last 28 years happily being a Mom to 3 amazing young women.  But now, it’s time for me and this big guy I’ve been married to for the last 30 years (this month) to figure out what it is we want to do.  It’s time for me to figure out what I want to do.  It is time for me to sit down and be still and hear what God wants me to do in this next season.  I have to admit, I have a feeling of anticipation.  Not dread, not sadness, not lost or useless.  I feel like God has something cool in store, that this new season will be just as interesting and exciting as the last.  So.  Here we go!!!!

2:48 AM

2:48 AM.  The last time I looked at the clock this morning. Here I sit.  Awake. Miserable.  All because of a large unsweet tea from Foosacklys.  That’s right.  I’ve been robbed of blissful slumber because I can’t handle my caffeine.  I admit it.  What was I thinking?  That’s the problem, I wasn’t.  I just rode through that drive-thru with my daughter, chatting away, ordering dinner, and as bold as a twenty-something, I ordered a LARGE unsweet tea with my meal. I’m 58 years old and I know that I cannot consume anything caffeinated after 5:00pm!  I admire those people that can guzzle coffee or tea, or even devour chocolate at any given time of the day and not suffer from sleep deprivation!    The sad part of this saga, is I have lay in my bed for the last 4 hours straining to go to sleep, my eyes feeling like sandpaper, but my mind running in five different directions all at once!  I have redecorated soon to be vacated bedrooms, organized things to do for a ministry kick-off, planned rehearsals and costumes for student choir, sent out texts to people (and that should be interesting when they get up and read the time I sent them), reviewed details for a meeting I need to have on Thursday, planned out how to help two of my daughters get settled in their new houses over the next two weeks, hold on, I’m not done yet, made notes of editing I need to do on my childrens book, chided myself for not being more disciplined about dieting, planned Christmas gifts for family members, planned dinner for tomorrow, I mean today,  made a list on my phone of anything and everything I need to do in the coming days with neat little check off circles so I can feel good about myself when I check them off, and considered what kind of things we want to do on the Alaskan cruise we’re planning for next year.  I’m just going stop right here.  There are probably twenty more items I could add to that list.  Now you see why I just surrendered and got up, I mean I had already started writing this blog entry in my head, so why not just get up and go ahead and put it in black and white!  Why not, I’m awake, right?  Did I mention in that crazy, chaotic thinking, I was counting forward twenty years to 78 and wondering if I’d be still kicking!  I mean, who knew I’d get to 58 so fast, and still feel 38 in my head?  The last 20 years have flown by so fast, I’m sure I’ll wake up tomorrow, if I ever go to sleep, and be 78!  I won’t be drinking any tea after 5:00pm, you can bet on that!

So, as I get ready to post this and try to leave you with something spiritual to chew on, check out this verse I found during my sleeplessness:

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

Psalm 4:8

I think that’s a sweet promise.  A promise that if we will quit trying to plan, make lists, re-think our lives or even plan out the next twenty years, we can know a peace that passes all understanding, we CAN lie down and sleep, for in His arms we are safe, knowing He is our Lord, our Father, our Savior, our Provider, our Redeemer, our Healer, our Everything!  I think I’ll sign off now, and go lie down and sleep.  He is such a sweet and loving Father to give me this verse in my delirious, caffeine induced insomnia.  He is bigger than my sleeplessness!!!  Goodnight!

What Now?

I am in a weird place.  Not like an actual location or anything.  I haven’t taken a road trip that has gone awry.  I am not in a crowd of people that have an agenda I know nothing about.  But now that I read back over those last three sentences, I have to back track and say they all are pretty accurate, generally speaking.  I’ve been chugging along for the last twenty-eight years as a mother of three daughters.  Thirty years as a wife.  And here and there for periods of time as an employee.   I have been mothering, pushing, washing, feeding, nurturing, loving, disciplining, teaching, wife-ing, cooking, chauffeuring, guiding and loving three girls and a husband.  Mixed in with that, I have been teaching Sunday school to mostly 11th & 12th grade girls, serving in Women’s Ministry, singing in the choir, and many other ministries here and there. But today, I am sitting in a quiet house, wondering.  Wondering what now.

I’m not sure who I am now.  Before you become concerned that I am a writer with dementia, I know who I am, but I don’t know WHO I am.   I’m not despondent.  I’m not even downcast or depressed.  I’m trying not to measure myself to unrealistic expectations or compare myself to all the amazing women of God out there making a difference!

I know things I want to do.  Like have a clean house.  Don’t laugh.  It hasn’t been uber clean in months.  Our oldest daughter and her family have been living with us while they are looking for and buying a house.  So, keeping the house perfect has been low on the list and enjoying our grandson living in our house 24/7 has been at the top of that list!!!  I have to say he is the cutest baby you’ve ever seen and having him here has helped us acclimate to being Lolly and Pop, especially considering he’ll be getting a baby sister in four short months.  They are now about to close on their house and will be moving next week.  Our middle girl child has been living her new married life to her sweet man  in a downtown loft.  She is now realizing her dream of working from home and as we’ve always said, we’ll all be working for her one day!   The baby girl of the family is getting married in just over ninety days.  Ninety-four to be exact.  Our baby girl.  She was an unexpected blessing twenty years ago.  I know God has her here for a specific purpose because she was not in our plans, in fact we were done and moving on in life with the two beautiful girls we had!  I have both smiled at her boldness to get married so young and cried that she’ll be off doing her own life without me in ninety four days.  I keep saying she’s not old enough, that they don’t know what they’re doing, they aren’t ready.  But then God reminds me that He created her, He saved her, He has a plan for her life, not me.  She and her fiancé love Jesus and are gonna follow Him, not my plan.

Back to this weird place.  So I am soon to be out of the mothering job and I am not working a job outside our home any longer.  This happened last year while my sweet man was going through cancer treatment.  It was both a blessing and a difficulty at the same time.  But God has taken care of us, as always, and after much deliberation (mostly on my part), my man said he wanted me to stay home.  So this weird place has taken away the two things that have been consistent for some time in my life.  I don’t know why I’m so lost, because I have wanted to have the freedom to write and now I have it.  And yet.  And yet I don’t know what to write.  We write to inspire others.  We write to tell stories.  We write to unleash the words that fill our brains every minute of every day.  I am sure if we could look inside an average person’s brain and the brain of a writer we would see that the writer is constantly writing about life as it is observed.  Always adding to the story.  Always editing.  Always creating. The words never stop swirling.

So this weird place is me standing, no, sitting, in my chair, staring at a computer screen.  Me, looking around at the things that need to be done.  Me, longing to be some kind of spiritual giant that could inspire people to cling to Jesus in every area of their lives.  Me, longing to finally get a handle on losing weight and finally finding victory over the scale. Me, measuring myself up to the expectations in my head and failing miserably.  Me, crying and asking God to please help me be good at something.  Help me find success at something.  And ultimately, just giving in and finding a quiet, cool place in the house to take a nap, to think about these things another day.  I’m 58 years old.  I have no degree.  I’m an okay writer, but not a profoundly gifted writer.  I am not particularly disciplined.  I don’t look like Beth Moore or speak like Priscilla Shirer.  I never quite meet the expectations in my head.  I think I may have wasted this life that God gave me.

This weird place has locked doors right now.  I feel like I’m standing in the middle of this weird place, completely baffled at what I am to do next.  What door do I choose? I’m frozen.  Not sure what I’m supposed to do next.  I preach to my daughters and my Sunday school girls all the time that “God has a plan for your life, now go walk in it”.  But here I am, in this weird place, wondering if there really is a plan for me and, if so, what that plan for my life is!

 

One Year Ago

One year ago. One year ago we were being hit by one storm after another. But the ultimate storm of cancer came and stayed….and now, on the other side of that storm looking back, I am once again reminded of God’s faithfulness, His provision, His comfort, His healing power. I read back over the blogs of the past year and I see a woman clinging desperately to the Savior. I am reminded of the woman who reached out to touch the hem of His garment and I understand her in a new way. I know myself, that I have tightly gripped the hem of His garment in my clinched fists refusing to let go. We have walked through this cancer journey saying over and over “I trust you” aloud for ourselves mostly, but also to our God, declaring that while we don’t understand, and while we know His plan is perfect, and while we were even fearful at times, we would TRUST HIM, no matter the outcome. Our faith is stronger, our family is stronger, our love is stronger and our compassion is stronger. Today, after a year of diagnosis, biopsies, surgeries, chemo, radiation, doctor appointments, uncertainties, waiting, frustrations and sometimes fear, we got the official words of cancer free. I hesitated to even post this because we have friends and family still doing battle with this evil disease. But I want those reading this who are in the battle to be encouraged, optimistic and strengthened. God is with you and you can trust Him with whatever the outcome of your journey may be. People have stated over and over that “God is good” and it is so true. But if we had gotten different news, and the battle with cancer had continued, the truth is that God is still good. He is good even when things are seemingly bad in our lives and life’s storms are coming at us so fast they are tearing us apart. When we feel like we can’t catch our breath between storms and we are staring death in the face, God is good. He is trustworthy. He is faithful. So wherever you are, whoever you are, whatever battle you are in, trust Him. “Be strong and courageous, do not be discouraged or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

150 Chapters in 150 Days: Psalm 1

Where are your roots planted? What do they cling to for nourishment? according to Psalm 1 the man who plants his roots in the living water is blessed and will see fruit in his life, and no matter the season, his faith and joy will not diminish or waver, but will find abundance in what he does as unto to the Lord. The Lord provides and meets our needs, we do not need to worry, or seek what the world offers. Our delight, our contentment, our fulfillment is in the truths of His Word. God will guide us if we only will seek Him for guidance.

It Matters. (Found this in some old files of things I had written a few years ago)

I stayed home from work today.  I felt somewhat achy, was it headache?  Was it a tummy ache? I wasn’t quite sure, but I stayed home.  The thought of sitting at my desk pushing papers to and fro, and answering the endless phone calls was all too much to face.  I gave into the aches and pains that usually disappear within moments of my fifty-three year old feet hitting the floor.

After the hustle and bustle of one daughter off to college and work for the day, another daughter starting her second week of her sophomore year and my sweet hubby heading off to work, the house was at last quiet.  I sat on the couch still in my nightgown and looked around my “lived in” house.  “Lived in” is my daughters favorite line to use when I am on a rampage about the house being messy.  “Mom, it doesn’t matter, it just looks lived in?”, they will say.  They don’t understand the inner pressure I struggle with to make my home look like a Better Homes & Garden magazine, or worse, Pinterest!  “It matters to me” I will tell them and then I set off on a mission to clean every nook and cranny.

I sat there on that couch for an hour, in the quiet, just thinking.  I thought about my life and the road I have been travelling for the last fifty-three years.  It isn’t playing out exactly as I had planned.  That sounds like I am unhappy, but I am not, though I am finding myself at a crossroads.  Many parts of my perfect plan have come to fruition.  I am happily married to a wonderful man who loves me more than I ever imagined being loved.  He makes me laugh, he understands me to the best of his ability as a man to understand a woman, and he supports me.  I have three amazing daughters.  The oldest is newly married, the middle daughter is in college and the youngest is in high school.  They are strong in their faith and they are living it out.  Nothing could make me more proud. I attend a wonderful church with many longtime friends.  I have been on mission trips and I have taught Sunday School  for high school girls long enough that I am now teaching the teenagers of the students I taught years ago.  Frightening!

We have experienced hardships just like everyone else.  God has blessed us time and time again.  He has met our needs even when we probably didn’t deserve to have those needs met.  We have learned so much as a married couple and as a family about God’s grace and mercy.  All this matters.

Five years ago I went to work full time after working five years part time.  Our daughters were getting older and more expensive.  My husband had experienced a lay-off from a job he had been at for nearly ten years and had started over at a new company.  Financially it seemed the right thing to do.  Up to that point I had only worked twenty hours a week to help out our finances.  The full time employment came at a time we were really struggling.    Now five years later I am still working full time, mostly because we have become accustomed to the extra money.

This full time employment had never been part of the plan.  I was supposed to have finished my first book, become published and obtained a lucrative book deal for additional sequels.  The plan also consisted of me becoming a women’s speaker and ministering to women through conferences and retreats.  This kind of work mattered.

I got up from my place of contemplation on the couch and decided to do something that matters.  I got to work cleaning up the house.  I made beds, I washed some clothes, I organized a cabinet and I even straightened up the girl’s bathroom.  I had forgotten what it was like to be home in the middle of the day.  The house was peaceful and I was getting so much done.  The last time I had been home during the day on a regular basis was when my youngest was four years old.

At 3:00pm my fifteen year old came in from school.  We sat and talked for an hour about school, friends, homework and anything else that came to her mind.  Things got quiet for a moment and she suddenly said, “I like you being home when I get home from school.”  Then she was off to her room to take a short nap.

I sat there a while longer thinking about that moment.  It won’t be long till she is graduating and then off to college.  This is what matters.  It matters that I am there for her when she comes home.  It doesn’t matter if we have lots of extra money to spend.  Being there for her is what matters.  Preparing my home is what matters.  Serving others is what matters.  Seeking God above all else is what matters.  This is not what the world preaches through every social and public media.  It is subtle.  It is constant.  But it ways in heavy on what really matters.  We become confused about what is important.  We strive to have it all and do it all.  We push our children to be involved in everything and to maintain great grades while forgetting that they sometimes just need to be kids.  We feel like failures when we haven’t achieved some kind of recognized symbol of an extraordinary woman who is perfect at parenting, leading and achieving, all while providing healthy meals, a spotless, well designed home and meaningful moments all chronicled on social media for all to admire.

I cannot compete with the ideal that floats around in my head of how I should be doing everything.  It’s too exhausting.  I will never live up to my expectations.  The realty of life is that my house is not always clean, I do not have a particular set of skills that allows me to have every room decorated and looking magazine worthy.  I am not a great cook!  There I said it.  I have go to meals that are no longer considered healthy or “Keto friendly” or any other kind of healthy friendly.  I don’t have a deep desire to be a chef.  I probably won’t be the granny cooking up amazing treats and creating lasting memories.  I will probably never be a published writer.  As of this writing, I have yet to have the children’s book I wrote achieve even one request for further chapters.

Loving, talking, laughing, hugging are things that matter.  Nurturing is what matters.  Encouraging faith in a God who loves unconditionally and who sacrificed His Son just so we could spend eternity with Him matters.  Cheering each other on matters.  Calling a friend matters.  Writing a note matters.  Listening matters.  Spending time with our sweet Savior matters.  Not measuring ourselves against the world’s standards matters.

Our family is FAR from perfect.  We are loud.  We laugh inappropriately sometimes.  We may be a little judgmental at times.  No one is brilliant.  No one is incredibly talented.  Not one of us will be famous.  We are not rich.  But what matters is we love each other.  We talk about everything.  Our girl’s poor fellas probably find the constant conversation overwhelming sometimes, but we all know what everyone else thinks about everything!  We share meals, we share vacations, we share last minute road trips.  We support their activities, we beam with pride at their accolades.  We go to church together.   I love how my youngest daughter once told us, “Not all families are like ours!  We are freakishly close.”  If freaky means we love each other and we are in constant communication with each other, that  we talk a lot, we laugh, we cry, we fight.  We hug and make-up.  Then yes we are freakishly close.

There is one thing that matters.  Love.