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I had the amazing privilege of attending the She Speaks conference from Proverbs 31 Ministries last weekend. There is so much to say and think and process through… It’s truly an incomparable event. It’s well-run, phenomenally organized, perfectly staffed and tailored to Christian women writers, speakers and leaders down to the  last detail. It is unequivocally the best conference I’ve attended.

Even so, the things listed above are not what make it exceptional.

Lysa Terkeurst, the President of Proverbs 31 Ministries, leads this group of breath-taking women in a culture of sisterhood, team playing and true humility that exceeds my capacity to describe in a way that does it justice. The vision and execution of equipping women to learn and teach God’s Word is inspired….and unanimous. Each of the leaders and staff members has embraced the core values, and none of them waver in the slightest from the mantra.

“We have to go to God’s Word, to truly be with Him, in order to stay in alignment with His assignment. Keep the sacred space. Getting sent out is second.”                                                                                             Lysa Terkeurst

 

Every speaker wove this theme throughout her lessons and advice seamlessly, which tells me that they walk this walk as well as talk the talk. They were gracious and funny and wise, giving us a plethora of tools to put in our arsenal for study and use, sprinkling each lesson with the reminder to really listen for God’s voice….and then do as He says.

Are we serving where needed, regardless of what that looks like, knowing that our call is never mundane?

I was uplifted, overwhelmed, encouraged and enriched.

I was mentally and emotionally spent by the end of my time there.

And I was determined to stay true to the spirit and wisdom shared by these women I so admire. I prayed for God to help me hear Him clearly, to have the discernment to understand when and how He speaks to me, and to have the discipline and humility to obey by serving as He wills even when it doesn’t match up to what I plan or think.

I spent my last night there meditating on this while girding myself up for the return home, knowing that His voice gets harder to hear and His will feels less clear in the chaos and noise of my everyday space. I waited at the gate to board the plane, anxious to get seated, anticipating a few hours of concentrated reading/studying/writing time as I processed through my copious notes, aware that my patience would have to increase back at home, given the distractions and people who constantly need me in some form or fashion.

As usual, God had a different idea; and it became obvious that my testing would begin the moment I stepped onto the plane.

I made my way down the aisle and found my seat. Looking at the row behind mine, I discovered that a family of five was sitting there – two parents and three children below the age of four…on their first flight as a family. Two of the kids were wired, bouncing in their seats with excitement and chattering non-stop when I made eye contact, the baby was already not happy to be there, her mommy looked incredibly stressed and was on the verge of a small freak-out (every mom recognizes that look, we’ve all been there), and her husband was trying to follow orders as fast as she was spitting them out. Turning my head to the seat next to mine, I saw a lovely teen girl, who I had noticed at boarding because she was escorted onto the plane as it was her first time flying alone and she had special needs.

All thoughts of focused study time flew out the proverbial window at this point.

I didn’t get upset, not really. I could almost hear the question: “What now? What are you going to do? Do you remember the point?”

And I found that I actually did. I smiled at the kids as they jabbered excitedly about their first time on a plane, their first time going to Texas, all the things they thought would happen during the flight. I joked with their mommy about the adventure of flying with three kids, and how we had just done so last month. I had a lovely visit with my new friend, Misty, as she told me her entire life story and exclaimed over how fun flying is. She chatted about her best friend, and how he would miss her while she was gone, and about how her sister fixed her very own room up since she was staying there for a whole month.

Transparent moment: I might have given myself a tiny mental pat on the back, preening at my cheerfully smooth handling of this curve ball….which set me up for a bit more correction.

The real fun began when the plane started moving. Misty was quite insistent I look out the window with her to see take-off; and then she began to loudly proclaim that she hoped we had a good pilot because planes can crash, you know. She saw it on the news once, so she knows it’s true. It could happen to any plane, even ours.

Those of you who know me, or have been reading this blog for a while, may already be chuckling. For those of you just tuning in, let me bring you up to speed.

I don’t fly well. At all.

I hate flying. I am terrified of planes. I generally spend take-off and landing with my eyes closed praying and/or singing Amazing Grace under my breath as I try not to cry or vomit. I envision plane crashes with tremendous ease. Every instance is cause for alarm.

For example:

This flight was oversold. Which means they kept asking people to give up their seats for vouchers. It also means the luggage space was over capacity, so they had several of people check their carry-on at the gate. More luggage means heavier plane. What if we went over the weight limit? What if they underestimated fuel needs, not realizing how packed the flight was? I was already shaking as I boarded.

Before take-off, the flight attendant came and asked the guy in front of me if he would switch seats with someone in the exit row who didn’t feel comfortable sitting there. The man who ended up sitting in front of me was a perfectly healthy, normal-looking gentleman in his 50’s or 60’s. Why would he switch? Why would he be uncomfortable? Did he know something? Had he placed an explosive device under his seat?

Apparently, if there’s not a crash, I’ll create a terrorist.

It’s ridiculous, I know, but I can’t help it. Every time I fly, I mentally end up with my children orphaned and my husband a widower who (after a less-than-meets-my-approval period of time) marries a 25 year-old blonde aerobics instructor who has no idea how to properly care for either him or his kids.

I am a lunatic. But, I’m a lunatic who listens when the promptings are so very obvious.

What else was there to do, other than agree that yes, planes can crash and assure her that our pilot was much too skilled to let it happen? How else could I respond, except to lean over and look out the window at everything she pointed at while maintaining a pleasant facade as I fervently prayed I wouldn’t throw up all over her? Who better to sit there, comfortably unfazed by this beautiful and special child of God than a mother who works with special children as a career?

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Even as He works to teach us lessons, He provides….. for everyone.

And what a lesson He was driving home. He reminded me, as He does with increasing regularity, that the call to love my neighbor, the command to love His children, always comes first. Always. Without exception. Without equivocation. Without end.

Perhaps because I was more open than usual to listening, He decided I had done reasonably well, and to further drive home His ability to provide for and pursue us, He threw me a bone. About an hour into the flight, the kids settled down, the baby stopped crying, and my friend decided to take a nap.

So, I got to write and journal and study a bit. And the exact instant I lifted the pen from my final sentence, Misty woke up, ready to resume our chat and share her M & M’s.

God is so good. And I was so humbled at the reminder of His goodness (following that tiny slap on the wrist).

He thinks of everything, and loves us enough to cover the details that fill our minds and trouble or excite our hearts. No whisper is too silent. No prayer is too small. No slip-up is too large. No accomplishment goes unnoticed….even if He has to guide us in baby steps to the goal.

What a gift. What a blessing. What a Father.

Solidarity, sisters. When He speaks, listen.


Courtesy of Steven Sheppard

Courtesy of Steven Sheppard

I’ve had this post floating around in my head for months…just haven’t found a way to let it out. You know how that happens? You get a thought or idea or epiphany rattling around in there, bouncing off the sides of your skull, but it’s stuck and loses it’s impact or point when you try to explain it out loud or on paper.

So, I started to think maybe I shouldn’t try, even though I keep hearing echoes in my head; whispers, if you will, of a concept that needs to be explored.

It came to me several months ago at church, when I looked up and noticed the section in back.  This row had the distinction of housing several of my brother’s co-workers – all of whom happen to be former military members of varying experience.  They filled the seats, crammed together like a line of well-muscled birds, with their backs straight and their eyes focused, drinking in the sights and sounds and words coming from the stage.

They maintained this intensity throughout the service, never fidgeting or looking away from our pastor as he delivered his message.  Their in-the-moment focus and patience was a sight to see.  It grabbed my attention, and I’m sure caught the eye of many others in the congregation.

It has stayed with me since.

It’s an impressive thing to watch, the functioning of the heart and mind of a soldier.  It’s unique, and in many ways inspiring.

Memorial Day was this past weekend, and even so I was unsure of whether to share my thoughts on this topic.  People feel strongly about patriotic holidays and subject matter, and military references evoke a variety of reactions in all of us.  I am not one to be overly concerned with what others say or think, but soldiers are near and dear to my heart, and matters involving them strike a raw chord with my family.

Two things happened to make me pick up a pen:

1) I saw a post on Facebook in which someone made disparaging remarks to those who would thank a soldier over the weekend. He went on to explain that Memorial Day is not about veterans or GIs, it’s about the ones who have been lost, who never made it home.  Thanking a these men/women is inappropriate behavior, according to Mr. Opinionated, and he was happy to correct us in this.

Let me go on record to say that thanking a veteran (or active member of the military) is never inappropriate.  Period.

2) I am writing the draft of this post in an emergency room, surrounded by the sights and sounds of machines beeping and medical staff coming in and out, as I sit by my unconscious brother.  My baby brother, lying in a bed, with a tube down his throat allowing a machine to help him breathe.  His arms are strapped down to keep him from tearing at the tubes should he wake up.  Every so often he twitches, or grimaces in pain.

I have lost count of the number of times we have sat like this over the past eight years.  It’s a way of life for our family.  This time didn’t require a helicopter ride…so that’s something.

He’s only 37 years old.  He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.  And Memorial Day is most certainly about him.

Because while he did come home, miraculously, after many deployments and engagements, we did not get him back, not completely.  We got him back broken and fragile, with pieces missing or shattered or irrevocably changed.  We got back his nightmares and PTSD and brain trauma and horrific scars, both seen and unseen.

The boy that left for boot camp, shiny and new and excited to serve did not come home.

He was lost years ago.  We mourn him every Memorial Day, and every time we sit in a hospital surrounded by machines and unanswered questions.

The man who survived, who continues to fight his way back from every single this-could-be-really-bad episode would do it all again….with pride, and without hesitation.  We celebrate him every day.

We celebrate the others like him, who come in and out of our lives with stories and nightmares and survival battles of their own.

We mourn with them for the losses of their brothers who never made it home.

We are humbled by their ability to serve with every fiber of their being.

It begs the question, when was the last time we did so?

When was the last time we believed in something enough to sacrifice everything?  To create and maintain a lifestyle around turning ourselves into a protector and advocate?  To know that it’s worth dying for?

We talk the talk about being soldiers of God, of fighting His battles with Him, of spiritual warfare.  Do we walk the walk?

1 Thessalonians 5:8 – But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.

There are lessons to be learned from the ideals of the American soldier.

1.  Believe in the calling, no matter what

They fight for our freedom, even when it’s not pretty, or easy, or popular.  The entire group has but one aim – the protection of America and its people.  They don’t argue this point.  They don’t debate its validity.  They don’t vacillate.  The purpose is the point, not the individual.  Forge ahead with everything you’ve got, whether anyone sees, or cares, or hears about it.  Many won’t understand – do it anyway.  There will be blood, sweat and tears – wipe them off and keep going. Cry when you need to.  Scream if you have to. Know that it’s worth it, and your part will make a difference.

2.  Stay focused

Once the objective is made clear, they move towards it.  There is a plan.  There is a goal. There is no other agenda. There is no time for rabbit trails or distractions or besides-the-point stress. There is no time for pettiness or in-fighting.

3. Create strong relationships

Ever notice how tight these guys/gals can get? They are a unit, bonded my multiple layers of commitment and experiences. They are aware of the risks, and know that there is a very real chance one or more of them will be lost along the way. They form the relationships anyway. They love fiercely and without limits, forging bonds and brotherhoods that seem disproportionate at times. They don’t let the fear of being hurt or losing a member weaken their attachments or decrease their enthusiasm. They know when the pain of loss comes it will be crushing. They don’t let the anticipation or anxiety of this win over the importance of trust and human connection – the strength of this union may make all the difference in a tight spot.

4. It’s a lifestyle

There’s no such thing as lip service to a battle field.  They’re all in.  They live, eat, sleep, breathe, read, hear, experience and learn throughout the military experience. Every space points toward growing into the role, training each individual for the part he/she will play in obtaining victory. It’s not put on the shelf when inconvenient.

5. Live, and find your joy

Soldiers, perhaps more than any other, understand the fleeting nature of life.  They have an uncanny ability to find laughter in the oddest places, and celebrate at every opportunity (sometimes in rather over-the-top ways).  They know their days are numbered, so they grab life by the horns. They embrace their place in the grand scheme, accepting the byproducts to the best of their abilities.

They are human, and imperfect…and that’s okay.  They make mistakes, some more costly than others. They can be broken, or derailed, or put out of commission.

It does not diminish them. It does not negate their contribution to the fight. It does not make them less deserving of love, respect, or a place in the pages of history.

What if you and I did Christianity this way?

What if we took the lessons as ideals, and put them into practice?  If we treated the battle for true freedom and the redemption of human souls as a life or death issue, instead of a topic to banter about while mouthing platitudes?

What if we served with every fiber of our being, and seized the chance to love our neighbor with ferocity and fervor?

What if no amount of blood, sweat, tears or ridicule could sway us from our goal or distract us from the face of our Father?

Would our lives look different than they do now?

For most of us, the honest answer is yes.  So, what are we going to do about it?

Solidarity, sisters.  It’s never too late to join the fight.

 


 This past Saturday was World Down Syndrome Day (the date, 3:21 signifies the presence of a third 21st chromosome, which defines Down Syndrome, or Trisomy 21).  While I couldn’t get it together enough to post on the actual date (it was a Saturday, we were on vacation, I can’t write when locked in a small condo at the beach with my children – let’s all hear it for rainy days during spring break), I can’t let this occasion go by without comment. I won’t fire out a bunch of statistics for you today.  You can find plenty of that on Google, or more qualified sites than this one.  And that’s not what my point is anyway.

My point, very simply, revolves around the basic human elements of love and friendship.

One of my favorite people on the planet has Down Syndrome.  His name is Aaron, and he is incredible.  Our entire family loves him (as do so many people), but none more than his little BFF, our youngest child and princess, Emry.

They are buds, pure and simple.  They generally get along well, mostly because Aaron lets her boss him around, and that’s an important trait in a friend to her (I’m sure she’ll outgrow this).  When he gets tired of her orders, he walks away….sometimes shaking his head, sometimes stomping off in irritation.  They always reunite, though, with lots of hugs and plenty of smiles.  It’s beautiful.

Don’t ever try to tell her that he’s “different”.  It irritates her, and she gets impatient with that conversation.  I’ve only tried it once, due to an unfortunate cucumber-to-the-face incident (apparently, there are times when walking away just doesn’t get the point across strongly enough).  I opened with something along the lines of, “You know, baby, how God makes everyone unique?”  It earned me a glare, a raised finger in the universal sign for shush-it, and an indignant, “Don’t, Mommy.  Just don’t.  He knows exactly what he’s doing, and I do not want you to tell me he can’t help it.”

Okay, then.  I’ll just go get you an ice pack…….

He’s her forever friend, and she loves him, pure and simple.

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She doesn’t want his idiosyncracies explained away. She doesn’t want him labelled, or categorized, or put in a diagnosis box. She doesn’t want limits put on him to explain what he can or can’t do, what his behavior looks like, or what his goals should be (she’s still a bit bitter that he started Kindergarten before her).

Over the weekend, I was talking about Aaron to my husband, and I made the comment that he is beautiful (because he so totally is).  Emry, ever listening from across the room, perked up and whipped her head around.  This made me a little nervous about what might come out of her mouth, since she tends to have issues with compliments not aimed at her.  We just recently got her to quit announcing, “I’m cuter than her/him” every time someone admires anyone who is not her.  I’m pretty sure she still says it silently to herself, but at least we’ve started the appearance of humility.  It’s a work in progress.

Back to the conversation.  It went a little something like this….

Emry: Aaron’s beautiful?

Me: Yes, he is.

Emry: Um….no, he’s not.

Me: What?

Emry: Aaron is handsome, Mommy.  Not beautiful, handsome.

And then my heart melted a little.  Because she loves her friend, and sees him as handsome.  Because she corrected me to use a word she knows is socially appropriate for boys – we call her brothers handsome.  Same goes for her friend.  Because she didn’t have to think twice about it, or qualify it, or add anything other than the simple statement of fact.

And a little because she actually gave another person a compliment without hesitation or competition.

She gets it.  Most kids do.  It’s the adults who screw things up.

I have hope for this generation.  I think if we get out of the way, if we don’t try to categorize, or label, or define everything for them, they will surpass and surprise us at every turn.  I think they get it right a lot of the time, and they deserve our forgiveness when they don’t.  I think if we model grace and acceptance, they won’t need to attack that which they don’t understand or recognize, because it won’t be scary.

If we stand behind them, instead of barricading paths in front of them, and teach them to do the same, we’ll let the world move forward….and spend less time focused on differences from this angle. How great would that be?

Solidarity, sisters.  Happy Belated World Down Syndrome Day.


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DCM Photography

Hi, love:You don’t mind if I call you “love”, do you?  After all, you’re about to be a part of our family now, which makes you a person of great importance in my life.  As such, please know that I really do love you and truly have your best interest at heart.

I know you haven’t asked, yet, but I’d like to give you a few pieces of advice.  Before you roll your eyes and prepare to ignore every word I write (or say), please consider my qualifications:

1)  I raised your husband, and know him incredibly well.
2)  I’ve managed to stay married to his father for a not-insignificant amount of time, so have experience in this matter.
3)  I am totally, 100% vested in the success of your marriage, with no agenda other than the happiness of my son and stability of my grandchildren’s home.

There are just some basic principles I’d like to review – some dos and don’ts, if you will.  Ready?  Here we go:

Don’t be crazy

It’s not cute.  It’s not cool.  It’s usually manipulative and sometimes cruel.  No one likes that girl, believe me.  They may tolerate her, but they don’t like her.  He’s in love with you.  It’s that simple.  He wants to spend the rest of his life with you.  Trust in that.  Playing with his emotions or trying to control him via tantrums, or threats, or hysterical crying fits will eventually lead to more problems than you can handle.

Contrary to the proclamation of Miss Taylor Swift, boys do not only want love if it’s torture.

I’m not saying you can’t ever have an outburst, or meltdown, or bad day.  He’s lived with me (and with his sister) for many years.  The boy can handle some drama, let me tell you.  I’m just saying save it for the really necessary or special occasions.  He’ll just learn to ignore you if you overuse the melodrama and mood swings.

Please, for the love of all things everywhere, don’t be a Bridezilla

No one is disputing that you are the Princess of Your Wedding.  You absolutely are.  You’ll be the prettiest, best dressed, most sparkly focus of the entire event.  We will all bow to your wishes and carry out every one of your ideas with enthusiasm and smiling faces, no matter what our true feelings may be.  After all, you’re one of the two most important people of the day.

The groom is the other one, in case that isn’t obvious.

No matter what the bridal magazines or your girlfriends say, it’s not actually all about you.  He’s sort of a big deal, too.  Without him, there wouldn’t be a wedding.

Marriage is about two individuals coming together as one in the most sacred relationship you can have with another person on this earth.  The wedding is the celebration around your formalization and public proclamation of love and commitment.

This is one of the happiest days of your life.
Focus on that, and don’t let anything else take precedence.Your groom may have an idea or two as to how this looks.
Listen to him.

He comes from a family that loves music and parties.  We are all hoping to enjoy ourselves at this, his most important party.

FYI – there may or may not be a Mother-Son breakout dance number in the works.

Just saying…..

It’s not a competition

You win.  By definition, as his wife, you have officially displaced me as the most important woman in my son’s life.  Believe it or not, we’ve spent years ingraining this mentality into his way of thinking  – through Biblical teachings, in talks we’ve had, by example in our marriage and way of life.

Ephesians 5:31 – “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife….”

You don’t have to wonder if he loves you best.  He does.
You don’t have to wonder if you come first.  You do.
You don’t have to test him or make him prove it to you over and over by declining invites to our house, or haggling over holidays, or announcing that your cooking is better than mine.

There is no contest.

I know my place, and I will do my very best to respect it.

That being said, this is probably going to require patience on both our parts.  Just because I know the new order of things doesn’t mean I like it.  It’s going to take some getting used to.

I’m working on it.

Love him most

It’s a simple, three-word sentence, and it will change your life if you can embrace it.  Love him most, as in more than all else.
More than Facebook (or whatever social media is in vogue now)
More than your job
More than your house
More than being right
More than your pride
More than your agenda
More than anyone else on the planet, including your parents, your siblings, or your best friend.

Love him with all your heart, and watch him bloom.  He’ll become more than the man of your dreams.  He’ll thrive in every area.  He’ll treat you like the Queen of the World, and give you the moon.  Trust me.  He’s his father’s son.  I know this to be true, because I’ve lived it his whole life.

Keep the main thing the main thing

You are getting an incredible guy, which I assume you know.

He’s breathtakingly handsome (I may be a bit biased, but still…..truth is truth).
He can cook.
He can dance.
He’s smart and creative and motivated.
If he’s stuck with the lessons we pay so much money for, he’s a great musician by now.
He hunts and fishes, and cleans his own game (mama started that from the beginning).
He loves me, and adores his sister, which means he is tolerant of and sensitive to women.
He is a hugger, and loves to make other people laugh.

I am aware, my dear, that he is not perfect.  Unless miracles have occurred, he’s got some things that may very well drive you crazy.

He leaves his shoes out.  Constantly.  You will always trip over them.
The hunting/fishing thing means camo everything all over the place – and it has to be washed with special, non-scented detergent or all hell breaks loose (you can thank his dad for that one). It also means you will spend your life fighting for vacations that do not revolve around those two activities (again, go see your father-in-law…not my area), and finding bait or bullets in weird places. He can’t hear a word you say if the TV is on.  Ever.
He has no concept of time when he’s distracted.  Which is often (that one may be on me).

Love him anyway.  Pick a hill or two to die on.  Three, max.  Then let the rest go.  Come see me when it gets to be too much.  We’ll sing the song together.

Find God

Wherever you go, whatever you do….seek God with all your heart.  You’ll find Him, I promise.  He’s there.  He’s already got you in His arms, you just need to discover Him for yourself.

And once you encounter Him, keep Him in your sight.

You’ll wander a little, I can almost guarantee it.  That’s okay.  You can never go so far that He can’t find you and bring you home.  Remember that.

Pray

You’re so young.  Currently, as I write this letter to you, you may not even be out of elementary school.

I’m already praying for you.

I’m praying for your health and well-being.
I’m praying for your growth and development.
I’m praying for your strength and purity.
I’m praying for the day you meet my son, and for the life you will build together.

Talk to God.  All the time.  The sooner you learn to do this, and the better at it you are, the easier your life will feel.  Your paths will be clearer.  Your heart will be lighter.  Your steps will be more secure.

There is no truth stronger than this.

We’re excited to meet you.

I know we’re a loud bunch, and can be a lot to take in.  We love big, we laugh big….we’ve got big hair.

We’ve also got big hearts.

And we’re really fun.  I promise.

We’ll always have your back.  And we’ll all be dancing at your wedding, celebrating with absolute joy.

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DCM Photography

Just know that in my head, he’ll look like this that night, because he’s my baby even though he’s your man.

Solidarity, sister.  Welcome to the family.


 

Cinderella

We had another first this weekend.  It was amazing.  It was epic.  It was unforgettable.  It was our first Daddy Daughter dance.  Oh, the preciousness.  I’m not sure I can do the description justice. But I’ll try. I’ll begin by saying that I went into this historic weekend with some small trepidation, mostly because after the past few months (and past few weeks, in particular) I am so over girls and their frippery I could scream.  I mean it.  I’m done – with flowers and dances and Valentine theatrics…the whole she-bang.  Middle school girls are crazy.  I’m just putting it out there.  My apologies to those of you who have daughters in this age range.

But, they are.

The middle school Luke attends is doing a fundraiser that involves buying and sending carnations to the recipient of your choice next week.  PTA took orders last week (I was up there helping as part of my quest for Good Motherhood) and will deliver them next Thursday in all the Valentine frenzy.  The morning of the sale, I had a heart-to-heart with Luke, which basically involved me telling him that he was not, under any circumstances, to buy a flower for anyone.  Period.  Not a single person.  To ensure his comprehension of my seriousness, I then explained to him that if he attempted to do so, I would choke the life out of him.  Then bring him back to life.  And kill him again.  Are we clear?

I also proceeded to fill the other mothers at school in on my orders, and to enlist their help in shooing Luke away from the flower sale table should he be so foolish as to approach it regardless of his peril.

Mama don’t play.

Over it.

However, since Emry is only five, and her date was her daddy, I managed to put aside my irritation and work up some genuine enthusiasm for her big night.

Friday we went and got pedicures together (it was the cutest girl time ever) and had lunch, then went shoe shopping (for her…this was not about me.  I didn’t even try a single pair on.  Restraint at its best). We discussed how I would do her hair, and what to expect from the evening, and how pretty her dress was….. At one point she looked at me and said, “I can’t believe I am having a date with Daddy!” And then I melted.

Saturday was a gorgeous day.  When the time came to start getting ready, I sat her on a barstool in my bathroom and put hot rollers in her hair.  She chatted and laughed, squirming on her stool under the unfamiliar weight of curler-bound hair.  It was a little surreal, since my memories of my mother putting curlers in my hair are still all so clear.  Has it been that long?

We grabbed her favorite blanket and book of princess stories, then cuddled on the couch and read while we waited for the rollers to cool.  I held her hand, alternating between the tales on the page and questions from her fascinating little mind.  She sat up straight with a concerned frown after about 15 minutes and said, “Mommy….I don’t think I know how to dance right for this.”  Oh, angel girl…..I assured her that Daddy had that part under control.  She thought about this for a moment, roller-heavy head cocked to the side, then nodded once and gestured for me to continue reading. Rapunzel waits for no man.

When the time came, we got her hair roller-free and fluffed, put a flower in it, and headed to get her dressed.  After a brief argument over tights (they were non-negotiable for me), we got her flouncy dress and sparkly shoes on.  Then, we headed to strut our stuff for Daddy.

He came out in his suit, looking ever so dapper, and made all the right comments and compliments over his beautiful girl.  It was just too adorable.  And when he bent to one knee to hand over her flower and kiss her hand, her smile was like the sun coming up.

Cinderella2

I was so completely in love with both of them I could hardly breathe.We checked for tickets, gave hugs and kisses, and got them loaded into the car after only 50-60 more pictures.  The fact that they were riding with several of our friends and their daughters only added to the chaos….and the fun.  The innocent excitement of a night like this is in a class all its own. Steven Curtis Chapman has a song, “Cinderella”.  It’s one of my favorites.  As they drove away for their magical night, my darling princess and her handsome prince, the chorus played in my mind:

So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
‘Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh I will dance with Cinderella
I don’t want to miss even one song
‘Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she’ll be gone

 I’ll admit to a tear or two in that moment.

And maybe one or two more when they returned home.  A strong daddy walked in holding his sweet, sleepy girl….sparkly shoes long gone, curls tumbling down – and my heart just melted.

She had the night of her life. And while there will be other Daddy Daughter dances, and other date nights…some without her daddy’s presence….there will never be another first time, not like this.  She experienced a fairy tale, with all the parts important to her – ice cream at dinner, dancing with her dream date, giggling with her friends, petting the horse and then riding in a carriage behind it, playing chase around the venue trees (apparently, dad still moves pretty fast, even in a suit)…. And when it was all over, she was carried home, safe in the arms of her father.  She could rest her weary little head on his shoulder, secure in the knowledge he had her, and would hold her tight in his arms no matter what.

Cinderella3May she never forget this night – any of it.
May she hold these memories close and smile as she adds to them.

May she always know the comfort of her father’s arms, as she grows to know the comfort of her Father’s presence.

May we all hold on to that, and be secure in our hope because of it.

Solidarity, sisters.  And may you all live happily ever after.



40th kick-off

It’s my last night as a thirty-something, and since I think this is my 39th blog post (I think…it most likely is, but we all know my issues with math…..let’s just go with it for synergy), I wanted to be sure to write one before the day dawns on my 40th year of existence.  As I sit here on my couch with the Christmas tree twinkling, fire going in the hearth, kids safely tucked into bed and Gregg dozing his way through a football game next to me, the word that keeps coming to mind is “bliss”.  I am, quite simply, sublimely happy.Had I written this 48 hours ago, you’d be reading an entirely different blog.

Lest you get the wrong idea, or feel like I am lying, let me assure you…..I am not exactly going gently into that good night.  I haven’t particularly embraced the idea of turning forty with grace, and am raging against the dying of my thirties with an intensity that Dylan Thomas would envy if he could see it.  In fact, as long as I’m being transparent here, I’ll fill you in by confessing to the fact that I cried for a solid hour the night before last.  My poor husband sat there alternating between hugs and awkwardly patting me as I sobbed, “I’m just not ready to be forty” over and over again.  Since he just had this lovely milestone himself three weeks ago, he was a little more empathetic than he might have been otherwise.

You may be thinking unkind thoughts at this point.  Silly? Perhaps. Superficial? Undoubtedly. Selfish? Maybe. Human?  Absolutely.  I didn’t say I was proud of myself.  I just said I was honest.  It’s how I felt, and I couldn’t help my reaction despite how embarrassed I was about it.  It’s been building all year.  I knew forty would be a tough one, and it hasn’t disappointed.  This number has been a hump I’m dreading to go over for quite some time.  And I’m not sure why.  I’ve never had a birthday meltdown before.  Maybe because all my other marker numbers occurred during milestones in my life that distracted me – at 25 I was getting married; at 30 Luke was a baby and we were walking through the frustration of fertility meds and hit/misses while trying to have Drew; at 35 I had just given birth to Emry and was in the midst of newborn craziness and post-partum depression splendor. Who had time for a birthday freak out?

Or maybe forty was my lose-your-mind number all along and there was no avoiding this.  Who knows?  It doesn’t really matter.  It just is what it is.  The only reason I didn’t totally sink into a black pit of despair was that my girlfriends had something up their sleeves – and this crew knows how to do surprises.

So, yesterday morning, we got up and dressed, packed an overnight bag, and headed to the rendezvous location as instructed.  I cried almost the whole way over, which was stressful for my lovely hubby.  I tried explaining to him that my tears were no longer about mourning my march across the sands of time, but now they were tears of joy.  My primary love languages are gifts and acts of service, and a surprise weekend is the culmination of both of those things.  He just wanted me to calm down and stop weeping, regardless of the reason behind the tears.

Our friends had literally been planning this weekend for six months – it was a dual surprise birthday extravaganza to celebrate both my and Gregg’s birthdays.  And it was epic.  The moment the first surprise was revealed, the screaming began (we never outgrow that, do we girls?), and I spent the next 36 hours laughing and/or crying in rapid succession and alternating cycles.  It was epic.  And I will always remember this weekend as one of the times in my life when I have felt the most blessed.

We did a wine tour bus (the same company we used a few years ago for Kat’s 40th, and I think our precious guide/driver was at least as excited as we were – we’re a memorable group), and the amount of singing and dancing and revelry on that bus (and all the stops) was beyond what I can express in words.  The guys were a bit overwhelmed at first, but eventually joined in (at perhaps lower volumes….and with less dancing), adopting a “when in Rome” kind of mentality.

You don’t get this in your twenties, not really.  I mean, sure, you have fun weekends and parties and memory-making events.  You have fun and laugh and sing and dance, and you may even build friendships that go deeper than most and/or last for many years to come.  In rare circumstances, you might possibly even do a weekend like this with no drama.  But here’s what you haven’t gotten to, at least not yet.  Some things are forty years in the making.

Like, friends whom you love with an intensity that rivals blood family, because they are truly the sisters of your heart….in every way.  And surprises that involve your spouse, which mean so much because as much as he loves your girlfriends, he gets to see them doing what they do best, to be on the receiving end of it…..in a totally carefree setting, and he is blown away by their love and generosity and attention to detail just as much as you are.  Also, the rarity of totally carefree times, because it takes so much more finagling and juggling of schedules and children and budgets and responsibilities than it did before – which makes it all the more precious.  There’s so much more to leave behind, both figuratively and literally, yet they found a way to do so.  You have to be that much more intentional about being in the moment, and creating the momentum of energy and fun it takes to pull off a festive experience.

And what an experience.  They thought of everything.  At some point, late into our day while we were at our last stop (a fabulous little place in Hye, which is not quite ready or totally open for business, yet arrangements were made for them to open for us and do a private catered tasting/dinner), the sweet young staff member/waitress making our drinks and chatting with us (and I don’t label her as sweet solely because her reaction to my status as birthday girl was, “You don’t look a day over 32!”), leaned in to me and said, “Y’all are so fun!  I mean, I have good friends, and I think they’re fun, but your friends……wow.”  I, of course agreed.  And then she said the best thing, “And they really love you.”

Yes, they do.  They really, really do.  It showed in every element of our time together.  Truth be known, it shows in every element of our friendship.  It shows when Brenda’s hubby skips a marathon to join us (this is possibly a sign of End Times), then tells me “it was totally worth it” with a hug.  It shows when Shanie’s parents send us birthday money, even though gift enough was them driving six hours to come keep kids so the party could leave town.  It shows when Steph and Shayne coach precious Aaron to tell us “Happy Birthday!”, and he does so over and over at random intervals.  It shows when Mel and Darrin are all in, even though their wedding is next weekend and they have a kazillion things to take care of.  It shows when the amazing Kat leaves her beloved store (and gives presents from it), even though it’s holiday retail season.

How can I possibly stay sad in the presence of such love?  The answer is I can’t, of course.

Because forty is just another number.  And while well-meaning people keep telling me “it’s the new thirty”, it’s not.  Thank goodness.  I have no desire to do my thirties over again.  That decade was a serious learning experience.  It brought me to where I am today.  And where I am is pretty sweet.

I’m basically comfortable in my own skin.  I may wish it was a bit firmer.  I may wish things were a bit smaller or perkier or less grey……but then again, I’ve earned every scar, every stretch mark, every line on my face and body.  Some I earned growing and birthing babies.  Some I earned ignoring the need for sunscreen or consistent exercise.  Nevertheless, the only way to remain perfectly preserved is to stay still and protected….or to spend more time and money on the effort than I’m willing or able to do right now.  I reserve the right to change my mind on that one at any time.

I’m confident in my career.  I’ve spent fifteen years treating children with special needs and their families.  I love it.  It’s my sweet spot, for sure, and I can’t imagine another career path that would have been half as rewarding for me.  Do I want to write more?  Absolutely.  Would I like to speak at more events?  Of course I would.  Would I enjoy a less hectic schedule? Sure.  Will any of that happen?  I have no idea.  But, lately, I’ve decided that’s okay, too.  The chance to change and grow and start something new is filling me less with a sense of frustration and more with a sense of anticipation these days.  I’ve got time, God willing.

I’m joyful in my role(s) in life.  Being a wife and mother are the epitome of my existence – they are my favorite and most overwhelming titles.  I am undone by the honor it is to be both.  Being a daughter keeps me connected to my childhood and upbringing, which helps my sense of self and identity – thank God for amazing parents. I get to be a friend, a sister, a cousin, a mentor, a student…. I get to redefine myself if I so choose.  Because I’m here – still breathing, still growing, still learning, still living, as opposed to merely existing.

I’m hopeful about the future.  There’s still so much to do and see and discover.  Every time I think things might get stagnant or boring or mundane, something happens to show me just the opposite – sometimes this is a good thing, other times not so much.  Regardless, the ebb and flow of life goes on.  My kids keep getting more interesting and amazing – I can’t wait to see all the phenomenal things they are going to do and be.  I fall more in love with Gregg every day.  We have running jokes about the idiosyncrasies and oddities we’ll continue to develop as we age – Heaven help us.

Our friends reminded me this weekend of a very important truth, one I need to continue to hold onto even as I kick and scream my way over the hill.  There is life to be lived here, and it’s a blessing to have another year under my belt.  There is life to be loved here, and I do….I really do.  There are memories to be made, jokes to be shared and tears to be cried.  There are people to meet and impact, some we may not ever see again, others are permanent fixtures in our lives.  There are words to write, songs to sing and prayers to lift.  There are days to come in which our wisdom will be needed, and younger generations to inspire as we go before them.  The ride is far from over.  And I, for one, am ever so grateful for that.

This may or may not prevent me from staying in my pajamas all day tomorrow as I wallow and eat ice cream.
I’m still a work in progress, you know.

Solidarity, sisters.  We’re still the life of the party.


PictureThe Friday before last was the Annual 5th Grade Talent Show at the boys’ school.  There is a lot of hype surrounding this event – over the years, school tradition has elevated talent show time to one of the Premier end-of-year events.  Since we are currently experiencing 5th grade with our oldest child, I have never actually attended this phenomenon, and am therefore a rookie.

At least, I was until that Friday.

The initiation into the world of 5th Grade’s Got Talent began a few weeks ago.  Luke came home, informed me of his burning desire to participate (thus making me smile and experience a happy dance of the heart), then announced our need to get to work on his act immediately, as try-outs were the next day (which dimmed my smile somewhat and slowed the dance considerably).  Seriously?

Why?  Why?  Why are my children incapable of timely notice for any event in which they are involved?  Why does no one listen or communicate until the last minute?  Why, just once, can’t we pretend to be organized instead of acting like headless chickens?  When I expressed my annoyance with this to Luke, his reaction was to fling his arms wide, exclaiming, “What can I say, Mom?  I’m a procrastinator!”

I blame his father.

Before you judge me for my irritation, let me explain to you the scope of his idea.  His vision stemmed from a funny conversation we had the week before at dinner.  And from the fact that I am his mother and view life through the lens of a musical (reference Life’s A Dance).  It was “so simple”.  All we had to do was create a parody of Jason Derulo’s song, “Talk Dirty to Me” – reworking the lyrics, choreographing a dance and putting together a costume; all culminating in a clever and funny rendition of a new song, “Talk Nerdy to Me”.

Starting at 4pm.

To be done, polished and audition-ready for school the next day.

In spite of dinner, homework and soccer practice.

While waiting on Gregg to get home with a second load of dirt to haul in and dump in our newly-constructed raised garden…..and then put the remaining plants in it….before dark.

No problem.

Because that saying…..you know, the one people hang on clever little signs in their office cubicle to tell everyone that “Lack of prior planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”, thus letting the world know they require notice for any project or situation…..yeah, that rule in no way applies to parenthood. Everything involving children constitutes an urgent situation on Mom’s part.

Every.  Single. Thing.

Thank goodness for YouTube and iTunes – it had the karaoke version of the song,  Score!

So, with dinner cooking, a carpool going and a daddy not quite home for gardening, we pulled out math, science and social studies notebooks and Luke started making lists of every 5th grade fact he’s learned this year. Brainstorming at it’s finest, folks.

I booted up the laptop and got to Googling.  I’m going to do you a solid, here.  Because I love you all, I’m taking one for the team and saving you some pain.  Do not, under any circumstances, look up the lyrics to this song. Or watch the video.  It’s time and brain space I can’t get back.  And the lyrics (especially the uncensored version) defy description.

This from a Beastie Boys fan.

Even so, and in spite of my constant stopping to pause or slap my hands over young ears making their way into the kitchen as I tried to get the song’s flow in my head, Luke and I managed to bang out some pretty clever lyrics.

nerd Luke
He figured out a basic costume and some dance moves, made it into the show, and spent the next week or two practicing and polishing his act.

When the actual date and time for performance came, I was a total basket case.  Seeing how nervous he was at lunch (he didn’t eat all his food – I cannot think of the last time that happened) sent me into the nausea level of anxiety.  How did my mom handle all my years of shows and performances?  It’s insane how nervous you can get for your kid!!

Finally, it was show time.  Our whole family came.  The cafeteria filled with students, staff and family members => an audience of close to 800.  Yeah….try that on for size as 11 year old kids who have to stand in front of a crowd that size and find the guts to strut their stuff.  Luke’s turn was at about the halfway point of the show.  And strut his stuff he did.  He killed it!  I mean, totally killed it.  From the moment he walked out onto the stage, in full nerd character, he owned that room and everyone in it.  He remembered all the lyrics, he projected and he danced his adorable little rear end off in the funniest “nerd” hip hop moves I have ever seen.  Adults and children alike were screaming with laughter, cheering him on and clapping wildly throughout and at the conclusion of the performance.  My face about split in two with the size of my smile. Gregg was in total awe, unable to believe the courage and swagger of his son.  His grandparents and aunts were ecstatic. Drew was hopping in his seat, calling “That’s my brother!”.  And Emry……well, our little bug was having a bit of an identity crisis.  She clapped for her brother, maybe not with full enthusiasm, but she did applaud him. Then, she sank into a pouty melancholy for the remainder of the show, her expression darkening with every act that followed (especially the girls).

Trying to leave the school afterwards was like trying to exit an arena with a rock star.  Luke was surrounded by kids asking him to show them the “nerdy dance” or breaking into their own rendition of it. His buddies were clapping him on the back and teachers doled out high fives.  We took pictures and gave hugs.  And a certain curly-haired little cutie did cartwheels until she could hardly stand upright…..to no avail.  The star of the hour remained her oldest brother.  Hmm…..

We (finally) made it to the car, loaded up and headed home.  The boys and I were rehashing the various feats as Emry perused a catalogue with studied indifference (I am not even kidding – it was an Oscar-worthy affectation.  She was fully peeved).  Every once in a while, when we spoke of one of the girls’ song or dance numbers, she would pause and toss out, “I’m prettier than her”, then go back to casually flipping magazine pages.  We chose not to react.  Finally, when Luke was talking to me about one of the emcee’s, he described her as “the one in the blue dress with the pretty hair”.  That was the proverbial last straw for our little prima donna.  Her head snapped up, she slammed her reading material closed, and with eyes flashing she announced, “Let me just say that I am cuter than all of them!”

The hair compliment not aimed at her just pushed her right over the edge.  She could take no more.

I bit my lip, torn between wanting to laugh and wondering whether to chastise her.  Luke looked at me, eyebrows raised.  Drew stared at her in shock, unable to process this level of sassiness (even though he tells everyone he knows that his sister is the sassiest girl ever born).

I gazed at her in the rear view mirror, seeing the hurt and confusion in her little face, the tender heart hidden under the cheeky words.  I thought about the fact that while, yes, we are learning and working on humility and an ability to let others shine….she is only four years old.  And much of her identity is wrapped up in how others speak to and about her – often this is in the form of applause and attention to her dancing/singing/cartwheeling self, her big brown eyes and long lashes, her amazing long and curly hair.  She is still small enough to garner lots of words of affirmation and praise for simple things.  And she adores her brothers, who constantly tell her what a cutie she is….especially Luke.  She just couldn’t handle any more of his (and all of our) attention to be elsewhere.

She’ll have to learn how to do so.  Lest you think we let her ego run unchecked, know that we rein her in with regularity, and will continue to do so as she grows.  This will be a lot less cute at fourteen, we know.

But it’s a lifelong lesson.  I can openly admit to you, I still have days where I battle this.  If you’re honest, as you roll your eyes at my admission, you probably need to acknowledge a bit of the same.

It’s hard, sometimes, to sit back and watch as what feels like the rest of the world gets their turn, reaps their reward, has their 15 minutes of fame….all while we trudge along, feeling unrecognized or unsatisfied or unfulfilled.  Our inner child waves her arms and stomps her feet, crying out, “What about me?”

We know, just know, that we could do as well or better, if only given the spotlight and a chance to shine.

Waiting is never the fun part.

The phrase “do your time” is never one we want to hear.  Nor is “it’s not your turn this time”.

Yet, like it or not, want to or not….it’s part of life.  Our experiences, our disappointments, our challenges and moments out of the sun prepare us just as much as the accolades, attention and limelight for what it is we are meant to accomplish in this lifetime.  Our destiny rarely looks like we think it should or imagined it would.  Yet, if we are patient and open-minded, listening to the still small voice and answered prayers (as well as the unanswered ones), we may just find a mind-blowing life path and storybook ending that surpasses all we could have ever hoped for or envisioned for ourselves.

What a magnificent day it is, when we finally get that picture.

What an even better day it is when we successfully pass it on.

Solidarity sisters.  Eventually, we all get our turn.


It’s been eight months.
There are days, moments, milestones in our lives that brand us or change us or impact us in a permanent way.  Whether happy or sad, they are the times that leave their permanent mark upon us, and propel us into a new chapter in our life’s story.  And as with all chapters, they deserve to be written.

So, here goes……

It’s been eight months – time enough to avoid, deny, or hide.  That season is over.  Now it’s time to share.

My Medzma, my grandmother, was one of the absolute most important, influential, amazing, beautiful, strong, incredible influences on my life.  She was, literally, a force of nature and explosion of life, love and energy.  No one who met her could ever forget her.  Anyone who spoke with her was instantly mesmerized.  Everyone who knew her was completely in love with her, none more than I, her first grandchild and namesake.
She was unafraid.
She was unconventional.
She was uncontrollable.
And she was unapologetic.

It’s taken me this long to write about her, not only because my heart was completely broken by her death, but because she was such a funny, interesting, charming individual that I wanted to be able to communicate that in writing and to do her vivacity and sense of humor justice.

I’m not sure that is possible.

How do you explain such a colorful character?  How do you adequately paint a picture of an indomitable spirit?  Someone who lived a fascinating and tragic history – born in Jerusalem, child of Armenian immigrants, survivors of genocide; raised by a widow as the middle of six siblings (one who died in infancy); married at age 17 by arranged marriage; bore her daughter a year later only to be widowed a year afterward; survivor of the Israeli Wars; who moved across the globe to Uruguay and found a way to start a new way of life and bring her family over.  She worked and fought and saved, making sure her daughter had the best possible education – so much so, that the child in question went on to become a Fullbright scholar and was sent to the U.S. on an exchange program upon completion of her time at University.

She had big plans for her child, my Medzma did, and those plans did not include an American upstart with a Texas address.  So, when my mother began to write home about a guy, Medzma hopped on a plane, flew to Texas, and made her presence known.  When the young man in question invariably asked for his love’s hand in marriage, her answer was, “No”, followed by a promise to live with him permanently should he dare to persist and marry her daughter.
He thought she was kidding, tossing out empty threats.
She wasn’t.
She moved in after the honeymoon, and remained a member of their household for the next forty years.
A lady always keeps her word…..

My entire life, I was blessed to have her near.  She was my third parent, the one who often advocated, begged and cajoled on my behalf when I really needed extra fire power for that fabulous outfit or concert tickets or special treat.  She interceded to decrease sentencing for grounding or punishment.  She was a fabulous negotiator, and lived for fun, laughter and adventure.  No wonder I was so in love with her.
She was tireless in her work ethic and drive to improve, both herself and those around her.
She had a sharp tongue and soft hugs.
She had a wicked sense of humor and quick wit.
She had a temper (oh, did she…), yet she forgave and forgot with enviable ease.

The stunts and stories of her youth were the stuff of legends.  One in particular resurfaces often in our family.  I won’t share too many details here, since I am unsure of the statute of limitations on international incidents.  Let me just say it involved matches, a Jewish national monument, and a headline in the then-Palenstinian papers.
Her poor mother.
And my poor mother, sandwiched between us.  Bless her heart, truly.  We must have totally exhausted her with our drama and clashes and shenanigans.
Boy, did we have fun.

I wish she was still here.  The fact that she lived a full, beautiful, long life is wonderful and I celebrate that.  It doesn’t make me miss her any less, though.  I’d give anything to hear her laugh one more time.  Her laugh was one of my favorite sounds on this earth.  Life isn’t the same without it.

And that’s the thing….the thing about grief.
The thing about grief, I have discovered, is that it always involves a one-two punch.  First, there’s a loss.  It can be anything, really, anything dear to your heart – a person, a relationship, your health, a dream, an expectation, a job, a house, a vision of what should have been….the list goes on.  Regardless, it’s someone (all too often) or something that is taken from us in some manner.  And from that point on, our life is changed forever.  The second punch comes in the form of change, because nothing is ever the same and our path veers away from what it was, whether we want it to or not.  We don’t get to choose the what, when, where, or how.  And somehow, we are expected to move forward,  because life stands still for no one.

Sometimes, the changes brought about by a loss are good ones.  Sometimes, we see the big picture, grow from the circumstance, and get our “a-ha” moment in this lifetime.  We can embrace our new path with gratitude and forge ahead into the new opportunity afforded us.

Sometimes, but not always.
The loss of a loved one rarely leads us to react with gratitude.  Because that loss, that grief, just plain hurts.

The thing about this grief is, it’s part of the human experience.  There are no exceptions.  We all live through it.  We all take part in it.  No one gets a free pass.  Jesus himself grieved during His time on Earth.  We know that when his friend, Lazarus, died Jesus wept (John 11:35, the shortest verse in the Bible).  He knew, knew without a shadow of a doubt what was waiting for Lazarus in Heaven, and how much better off he would be.  Yet, He still grieved.  Because loss hurts, and change is hard on our hearts.  It makes us uncomfortable, and resets our definition of “life as we know it”.

We adjust and we grow because we don’t have a choice.  There is an ebb and flow, and no matter how slowly or quickly we make our way through the stages, eventually finding our way to acceptance, our hearts beat a little differently going forward.

We spread Medzma’s ashes on what would have been her 86th birthday, releasing them into the river we all love as our final overt act of closure.  As we sat on the banks together, a family bonded by love and grief, we sang one of her favorite hymns.
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
   When sorrows like sea billows roll.
   Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
   It is well
   It is well with my soul.

She lived that, had that ability to find peace and joy and unassailable faith in all of the circumstances and seasons of her incredible and eventful life.  For us to do any less would be an insult to her legacy, a stubborn refusal to learn from her…..and would infuriate her beyond the telling.

Because the thing about grief is, it teaches us.  It molds us and grows us.  It pulls us along, and once we step out from under its crushing weight, it reminds us step into the sunlight where we belong.  After all, this is also a part of the human experience, isn’t it?  The tentative beginnings of hope and healing that bloom when we least expect them to.  The reminders that we are loved and a part of something bigger than ourselves.  The ability to smile through our tears, and find joy through our pain.  Our hearts demand it, with their resiliency and need to laugh and love again.  Our memories pave the way, easing us back on course.

I sat that day, on the banks of the river, and I saw my Medzma there.  Not in the dust that floated away, returning her earthly body to the physical cycle of our planet, but in my mind, surfacing as one of my favorite mental and literal pictures of her.

Medz

She had come to visit, shortly after my wedding, and somehow convinced Gregg that she absolutely needed to sit out in the middle of the river.  Bless his athletic and insanely coordinated heart, my eager new husband carried her across the rapids on his back (how they made it without incident is amazing, and was a sight to behold, especially given how hard she was laughing the whole time) to set her up for sun a water fun.  There she lounged, happy and carefree, as tubers floated by, toasting her at the top of their lungs with various beverages held high.

That woman knew how to have fun.
She created it everywhere she went.

And that is how I see her.
I see her dancing and singing in a multitude of settings.
I see her holding each of my babies, tirelessly rocking them as infants.
I see her, head flung back, hands wildly gesticulating as she tells a story with dramatic flair.
I see her laughing until her tears run when something struck her as truly funny.
I see her hugging, kissing, loving and living, fiercely and fully focused on every moment under the sun.

She lived.  In her 85 years on this planet, she lived at a higher capacity then most of us could in two lifetimes.  Her life was a gift and a blessing, and she knew it with every fiber of her being.  She never lost sight of her self as a child of God, and she never lost clarity of her faith.

I miss her…..some days to the point of physical pain.  That’s the thing about grief.  I celebrate her every time I talk about her, or write about her, or laugh or cry at her memory.  That’s the thing about the gift.  May I always know the importance of both.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 4
There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die
a time to weep and a time to laugh
a time to mourn and a time to dance.

Solidarity, sisters.  May God bless you in each of your seasons.


Pigskins and Prayer timeI am a football fan.  I am.  Not in a crazy, overly fanatic, I-know-all-the-stats-and-history-of-the-game kind of way….but I do enjoy the game. This phenomenon is probably good fodder for the whole nature versus nurture argument.  I was raised in West/Central Texas in the era of Friday Night Lights. Yes, my friends, the movie and television show are pretty accurate in their depiction of that culture.  The high school I attended (shout out to my Central High School peeps) was a huge rival of Odessa Permian (the FNL team, for those of you who may not know), and I was there in their Time of Greatness.  I’m talking football game attendance of 50,000+….for high school….in towns that only have a population of 80,000-90,000.  It’s about 90 miles from San Angelo to Odessa, and when we travelled to away games the road was peppered with orange and blue balloons tied onto stakes placed in the ground at 1-2 mile intervals.  No joke.  Can you even imagine how long it took the parents to make that drive?  That’s some dedication.

When the movie Friday Night Lights came out, Gregg and I saw it in the theater.  When it was over, and he was asking my opinion of it, I pointed out that while I enjoyed the movie a lot (and I really did), it was not historically accurate.  Odessa Permian lost in the quarter finals that year…they went on to win State the following year.  He looked at me, perplexed, and asked, “Who are you?  How do you even know that?”.  Bobcat football, my dear.  It’s a powerful thing.  In spite of my heritage as  first generation Texan (and first generation American on my mother’s side), the power of the Football Belt rings true.  Plus, I paid a lot of attention to this sport during high school.  I really liked dating the cute boys who populated the field……

Despite my enthusiasm for football (and its players), neither my husband nor myself were thrilled when Luke began expressing a desire to play this game.  I also happen to work with injuries for a living, and Gregg had a very short, very painful football carrier (it ended with the shattering and pinning back together of his left arm).  To say we were hesitant about this choice is an understatement.

Being good parents and not wanting to squash our child’s athletic dreams, we did what any mature, loving set of parents would do.  We started making up rules.  Not a chance before you turn ten.  You have to complete certain physical requirements ( we created a whole workout and checklist with fitness goals and everything – yes, I know we’re crazy).  You have to play a season of flag and stick with it.  Mandatory attendance at both summer football camps (relax, they were only two hours in the evening for a week each).  Every time we thought we’d worn him down, he persevered.  It was actually pretty amazing.  He’s only ten years old.  Think of what this tenacity means for the future!

Sorry, I digress.  Back to football.

It came time to sign up for the fall tackle season, and we had to relent.  With more than a little trepidation (and really long conversations with the head coach, assistant coaches, friends whose kids played and the Man upstairs), we signed him up to play.  I must admit, by this time I was much calmer.  I think I’ve mentioned Luke’s stature before.  Here he is (the one in the black shirt)….

He’s standing by two of his teammates….and they are average-sized kids.  He looks like this next to 90% of the other players on any given team.  The other 10%, he towers over by just half a helmet.  There’s a kind of security to watching this game when your kid is the biggest one on the field.

And he loves it.  I mean, really loves it.  The child has found his sport….and he comes alive when he is out there.  Thank goodness.  Can you imagine if I had to spend this much time and energy watching him golf?

This past Saturday was our first game.  We had some scrimmages, and I had gotten to see him in action, but Saturday was when the season began.  So, of course, we were scheduled to play last year’s division champion team.  All of the kids and coaches were a bundle of nerves.  I won’t even attempt to describe the tension pulsing off of the parents.  It’s not even about the game itself, or the competition….not really.  It’s about wanting your child to have fun and feel joy and experience success.  I know that sounds crazy, but…that’s parenting, right?

The game was a nail biter.  Both teams are talented and tough and well-coached.  Both teams had impressive plays and costly mistakes.  Going into the last few minutes of the fourth quarter, we were tied 6-6, and they had the ball, first down, on their ten yard line.  I was pacing and cheering and praying….I couldn’t sit still, or stay under the canopy we had to protect is from the 122 degree heat.  Luke was playing defensive end.  The ball was snapped, hand-off was faked, and the quarterback held on to the ball as he ran behind his two lead blockers.  All of a sudden, Luke came flying up the side.  He shoved the tight end out of his way, barreled through the full back and tail back (splitting their block) and hit the quarterback, taking him down behind the line of scrimmage.  It was beautiful.  The sidelines erupted, grown men jumping and yelling, players stomping….and no one was louder than Luke’s dad.  I turned, stunned into silence and immobility (which is saying a lot) as before my eyes, my Type B, laid back, always put together and generally reserved husband completely lost his mind.  I watched, transfixed, as he transformed into a jumping, screaming, arms wildly waving lunatic running along the sidelines.  I really expected him to take flight at some point, he was leaping so high, yelling, “Yeah!  Yeah!  That’s my boy!”.

He turned and caught my eye, and before I could move shouted, “Did you see that?  Did you see that play?  That’s it!  That’s exactly what we teach defensive ends to do!!  That right there!”  At junctures, he was actually pounding his chest with a fist.  It was fascinating.  He continued, oblivious to my shocked expression, “Tight end? Bam (making a shoving down motion with his hands)!  Full back?  Bam!  Tail back?  Bam!”  His euphoria knew no bounds.  I can honestly say, it is one of my favorite mental images of him now.

Luke was heading back to the line of scrimmage for the next play, a bounce in his step after the hoopla and helmet-slapping of his coaches and teammates.  I could feel his smile, shining through like the sun, reaching out from behind his helmet.  He went on to make another big play, helping to put us into overtime, and then yet another huge block after that.  We won in overtime, and I don’t know that I can accurately do justice to the images of us as parents doling out high fives and hugs as we rejoiced.

I may not survive the season.

As I laid on the couch later that afternoon – dehydrated, hoarse, exhausted and exhilarated….I kept replaying the game and its highlights in my head.  I couldn’t help but picture Gregg over and over again, as he vaulted through the air, cheering.

And I had a thought…..

Is this how Heaven looks when we get it right?  Does God illuminate His kingdom with the brilliance of a proud father’s smile as He gives a fist pump or two?  I can only imagine His joy when we read the playbook He so graciously gave us, and then successfully put His word into practice.  When life brings up obstacles and blocks our way…and we find the strength and courage to knock those things aside, does He take to the air with a resounding “Yes!”?  Does He recount the play-by-play with pride?
Anxiety?  Bam!
Relational stress?  Bam!
Depression?  Financial worry?  Insecurity?  Bam!  Bam!  Bam!
I smile at the thought of my heavenly Father saying, “That’s my kid!” on the occasions we let nothing detour us as we charge forward to tackle the challenge or goal that is our destination.

How He must delight in our smiles and sense of accomplishment as we dust ourselves off and jog with renewed vigor to rejoin the game known as life, continuing on after our moment of success.  We may screw up the next play, but that’s okay.  Our moment in the sun is there for us to remember, providing encouragement and inspiration.

We need to be sure and hang on to that.

Solidarity, sisters.  It’s all about how you play the game.