Posted in Family, love, Parenthood

The Goetz Family Law

There were 613 commandments in the original Jewish law.  There were almost the same number of rules in our home in the first several years of our parenting.  I spent countless hours coming up with different “Goetz Family Laws” based on our kids’ ages and stages.

I read book after book on parenting, trying to get a grip on how this whole thing was supposed to work, how I could be a successful mother.  In fact, about six months ago, I found an old Word document from 2006 and it was entitled, “Family Boundary Agreements.”  Inside, there were contracts with each of the four kids, ages 17 down to 10, filled with expectations about right behavior and clear consequences if that behavior wasn’t met and privileges given if it was met.  I was desperate to just manage the chaos that seemed to be a natural part of raising a family.  Reading it 10 years later basically caused me to LOL (seriously LOL).  I probably had never followed through on any of it, no matter how hard I had tried.

Needless to say, this went on for many years until one day, I cried in desperation to one of the kids (I may have been in a bit of a frenzy at the time.  Just saying), “Take care of your SELF and your STUFF and you’ll never have to hear from me!”  If I had been a cartoon at that moment, a giant “lightbulb” would have appeared over my head.  HUGE PARENTING CLARITY MOMENT!

When I had a minute to analyze this to see we could actually adopt this as our new framework, I mentally began to test all of the things that might happen in our home:

  • dropping wet towels on bedroom floor (STUFF)
  • brushing teeth (SELF)
  • not eating 17 cookies (SELF)
  • doing homework (STUFF)
  • putting away toys (STUFF)
  • washing hands after wiping (SELF)
  • getting a job (BOTH)
  • taking off shoes in the middle of the kitchen and leaving them there (STUFF)
  • going to bed  (SELF)
  • developing friendships (SELF)
  • putting gas in car (STUFF)
  • etc.  etc.  etc.

Believing this was the answer, we adopted a new Goetz Family Law, one that didn’t take hours of preparation and doctorates for each of us to understand.  I could pretty much throw out the charts and the contracts.  Each situation was evaluated by these two simple questions:  “Are you taking care of yourself?  Are you taking care of your stuff?”  It didn’t matter how old these precious children of mine were.  It didn’t matter what kind of personality they had.  It didn’t matter if they were a boy or a girl, an introvert or an extrovert, played the guitar or lacrosse, 15 or 3.

As time marched on, many things fell under this purview.  I had great relief as I had a tool to help me.   External behavior that aids in teaching character traits like responsibility, ownership, and stewardship were more easily managed.  However, not all things landed neatly in the columns of self and stuff.  We still faced:

  • cooperation
  • generosity
  • kindness
  • respect
  • compassion
  • thankfulness
  • forgiveness
  • patience

These were the deeper issues of the heart.  Thankfully, I didn’t have to muster up another lightbulb moment to address these.  Someone much wiser than me had already done the job about 2,000 years ago.  In fact, He had summed up all 613 of those rules in the Jewish law with just two:  “Love God.  Love your neighbor as yourself.”  No rocket science needed here.  Easier on the mind and on the heart (so glad I live on this side of history).

I am coming out of the parenting years (very slowly and painstakingly…in fact, our youngest just graduated high school yesterday).  Can I put all of this away now?  My answer to myself is “no.”  All of this stuff applies, not just to parenting, but to life.  And certainly to me.  I need to take care of myself and my stuff (my health, my family, my finances, my emotions, my home, etc.).   But my greater need is one where love (the love of God, self and others) is the center of my heart and all the richer and deeper things of life flow from that center.

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What “rules” do you live by?  How might living in and from love change your world?  Would love to hear your comments.

As always, you can follow me on all the social media channels (except SnapChat, because I’m too old for that, according to my kids).  If you’re not a social media person, and want to do things the old-fashioned way (unbelievable that it’s already old-fashioned), subscribe to my email list.  I would love for you to share, share, share.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in beautiful mess, Emotions, Family, grief, sacred, suicide, taboo

Grief – One Friend’s Journal Entry (For Steven)

“True love between two human beings puts you more in touch with your deepest self.  The pain you experience from the death of the person you love calls you to a deeper knowledge of God’s love.  The God who lives in you can speak to the God in the other.  This is deep speaking to deep, a mutuality in the heart of God, who embraces both of you.”  (Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love)

Grief.  Most of us try our very hardest to shy away, or even run away from it.  We question what to say when someone is grieving.  We are unsure how often or even if to “bring it up” once life supposedly goes “back to normal.”  We don’t know what to expect from ourselves or what the other might need from us.  Should we come close or give the other space?  It can be a very confusing time for everyone.  And truthfully, if I can speak candidly about myself,  I don’t like to be in pain or be with others in pain.  It’s just downright uncomfortable.

The past couple of years have been filled with family and friends who are grieving.   And like most things in my life, I am not an avoider.  I want to throw myself headlong into the process, engage in it, learn from it, deal with it.  After all, it’s fairly new to me and I’ve heard that it’s horrible, sacred, beautiful intimate, and gut-wrenching all at the same time.

I lost my own sister-in-law, Denise Maret, just under a year ago, after a year-and-a-half long battle with colon cancer.  My brother and 19-year-old niece are left to raise my nine- and ten-year-old nephew and niece, along with the help of their grandparents.

My friend lost her precious brother to suicide.  He has left behind a wife, three children and two grandchildren and her heart is broken.

Our friend and former babysitter lost both her dad and her husband to cancer during her two pregnancies and she is left to raise two young children alone.

I reconnected with someone on Facebook who lost her only son to teen suicide.  This was the second time she lost a child, the other, a daughter, in early infancy.

A friend from church battled kidney cancer for many years.  His wife faithfully cared for him, only to lose him.  He missed his step-daughter’s wedding by only three short months.

One of my best friends from high school lost both of her daughters, her only children, in a tragic car accident on Good Friday.  They were only 19 and 20 years old, absolutely stunning girls, one only 10 days away from her college graduation.

You have your own stories.  So much horror.  So much sadness.  Grief multiplied.

This is probably where you want to click off, log out, go find puppy videos on the internet.  Me too.  At times.  But not today.  Come with me.  Lean in.  Learn along side of me.  Today, we will catch just a glimpse inside the world of my friend, Annie, who lost her baby brother to suicide at just 51 years old.  I promise you that it’s not all horrible.

When she first shared this journal entry with me, my heart was filled with horror, joy, sorrow, connection, injustice and comfort.  Yes.  All of those things.   Loss feels raw and sad and terrible and wrong, but also sacred and beautiful and precious.  Entering in to the pain allows our hearts to be touched with a deeper knowing and beauty that we will miss if we click away.  I ask that you would read on.

Annie’s Journal Entry on 6/17/2017.  Four months later.

Steven is gone.  He is gone.  He is gone from me.  How can this be?  How can he be gone, just gone?  I don’t feel disconnected from him . . . but definitely disengaged.  He is not here to hope, or dream, or plan for a future together.  All those things are gone.

My connection to a future here that includes him is gone, and nothing will take its place.  It is an empty space…and it will stay empty.  It is a space that holds his absence and my missing him.  My own future will always hold this empty space.  I am suffering.  I will suffer, but I will not be destroyed or left desolate by an empty space.

This empty space where Steven is missing is a sacred place.  I would rather have this sacred, empty space than no space at all.  Our love and connection to each other created a space for our future together.  If there had been no love and connection, there would be no space – – and I am thankful for it, for our empty space . . . for my empty space.

I am thankful for all the other spaces, the other spaces that are full – – beautiful, cherished spaces filled to bursting with love and life and memories.  Memories of the two of us.  All the precious moments we had together and apart-but-connected.  All the treasured memories we had together with others.  Those spaces are filled up and will stay full . . .
nothing will change that.

I don’t have you with me now my Steve, my beloved Steven, but I am forever grateful for you – my one time little brother, my forever friend.

Posted in love, sacred

The Ta-Da List

“What did you do right today?”  (You’ll find out – keep reading)

Based on the fact that there are about 17,000,000 apps and web sites out there to manage your to-do list, many believe that the crossing off of such a list is top priority.  Get ‘er done.  The feeling of accomplishment and thus a sense of peace is promised at the end of the day when it’s all finished.

However, if I’m like anybody else, and I know you people are out there, I was trained from a young age to spend time at the end of each day focusing, not on what I had accomplished, but on what I had done wrong, admitting it out loud and asking God for forgiveness.  No matter how much good I had given to the world, my last thoughts as I said my bedtime prayers were how I had messed up and what I hadn’t done well and who I had offended (in many cases, this happened to be the God of the universe…yikes).

This line of thinking followed me into my adult years and into my marriage.  I ended most days, as did my husband, with final thoughts of how much I had done wrong.  For reasons I don’t remember, one night I changed it up and asked Allen this question, “What did you do right today?”  Crickets.  More crickets.  Finally, after several minutes, he answered with something like, “I smiled at the store clerk.”  If I know him at all, he had probably been kind, sought justice, served those he worked with, and treated everyone he met with complete dignity and respect, along with all the daunting tasks he had crossed off his list.

Appalled at how much of our day was taken up with negative thinking about ourselves, we decided to make this a best practice for the end of our days.  We spent time each evening before we closed our eyes to sleep asking each other this question, “What did you do right today?”  Instead of only beginning our days (which I do as you can see from the picture above…it’s my actual current list for the day I write this) with a to-do list, we ended our days with a “ta-da list.”

Although this was a really nice way to end to my day, something I enjoyed even more was when I slipped into one of my children’s rooms and watched them as they slept (something that still happens from time-to-time, even though they are literally giants at this point).  My heart would be filled with love, joy and peace (after all, this was mostly the only time there was peace) and no matter what had happened during the day, both good and bad, it didn’t seem to matter any more.  I was completely and utterly in love with them.  I was just happy at the thought of them.

To tell you the truth, this sounds a little like the God I have come to know and love.  While the to-do lists and the ta-da lists matter to us, they don’t seem to matter much to Him.  He has bigger things on His heart that He wants to share with us, His children.  He longs for us to hear His voice in the depths of our soul as He says to us at BOTH the beginning and end of each day, regardless of either of those lists, “I will quiet you with my love.  I will rejoice over you with singing.”  (Zephaniah 3:17)  This is what brings my heart the true joy and peace that I long for.

What did you do right today?   What can you say “ta-da” about?  I would love for there not to be crickets this time around.  Comment below and/or share the link with those who might need to hear this question as well.  I am off now to check some more boxes on my to-do list.

(One last thing, please check out my WORTH THE READ page and then tell me your favorite reads.  I would love to get to know you more!  You can either send me a note on my WHO ARE YOU? COME SAY HI page or comment below.)

 

 

 

 

Posted in beautiful mess, thanks

TT (Season #01, Episode #01)

“It’s not happy people who are thankful.  It is thankful people who are happy.”  (Unknown)

Several years ago, our women’s group (we call ourselves the Beautiful Mess, which couldn’t describe us any better) read and walked through one of my all-time favorite books, One Thousand Giftsby Ann Voskamp.  The author had gone on a mission to find three things a day for one year for which she could find grace and beauty, gifts as she came to call them, and give thanks for them.  By the end of the year, she had accumulated over 1,000 of these gifts (for you non-math people, that’s 365 x 3 = 1,095), hence the name of the book.

This began my journey of thanks.  Since I am thankful-challenged, I downloaded an app simply called “thankful”, a private gratitude journal.  I began to keep track of one thing a day because my phone buzzed every night at 7 pm to remind me and I received one of those red notification circles that forced me to get rid of it. (How many are on your phone as you read this? I have to get rid of them at all costs.  It’s my mission in life.)  As of today, I am at 385 (and to confess, it’s been about 3 1/2 years, and now it’s your turn to do the math).

This prodded me to take another small step, this time posting one “someone” each day this past November on social media for which I was grateful.  It brought me great joy and kept me grounded during the holiday rush and gently reminded me of the people in my life that are true gifts (I can see you right now checking my Timeline to see if you might have been one of them).

My thanksgiving ritual extended beyond November as I started to share a “something” or “someone” each #thankfulthursday on social media.  Still not having overcome my thankful-challenged ways, I set a reminder each Thursday at 12 pm to receive another one of those very annoying red circles (yes, I deem them the bane of my existence).

And now here comes the “giant leap for mankind” in my gratitude journey.  After all, I do believe the quote above and certainly could use a little more happiness in my life.  I hope to send some your way as well.

Now, with no further ado, and what you actually came on the site to read, my week of thanks:

  • Headspace App (For those who have the same delightful disorder of anxiety that I do, this has been worth the cost.  In fact, last night when I was awake at 3 am, this was a life-saver and a sleep-giver.  Whoever you are, you British man with a soothing buttery voice, I could listen to you all day.)
  • Clematis in full bloom (This beauty welcomes me every time I open my garage door for three blissful weeks in late May, early June.)

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  • Our Penguins winning the Stanley Cup (When we were getting married, my father-in-law was our best man.  His toast was the following:  “The three most important words in any marriage are the following:  Pirates, Penguins, Steelers.”  This has, I hate to admit, proven to be true.  Congrats to Syd the Kid and all the rest.  And to my adopted home city of Pittsburgh, PA.)
  • Some of the sweetest words ever spoken in our home on Wednesday by my son Josh:  “Sure Mom, I can make dinner.”  Enough said.
  • One of my “fifth children’s” bridal shower and having the privilege of mentoring her and her fiancee on their marriage journey.  #marriedtothemax
  • Hanging out at Lincoln Center watching my niece make our family look smart by becoming a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.  You go Court!
  • Lastly, all of you, my readers, my life-giving and hope-sharing readers (you just might be on this list every week).

You know the question I am going to ask today (and every Thursday for the future as we know it).  What are you thankful for this week?  Can’t wait to read all your comments below.  After all, I long for this to be journey we are sharing and the gifts you have received in the past few days matter to me!  I would be thrilled to hear them!

 

 

Posted in Boss, Emotions, FitBit

Not the Boss of Me!

“I will not be mastered by anything.”  (The Bible)

Fitness trackers are the latest things in the exercise world.  Promises of helping you become more active, eat and sleep better and ultimately, turn you into a healthier human being abound.  I bought into this promise about two and a half years ago.

Dosed with excitement because a friend was using a FitBit, I ordered one immediately, very excited to get my 10,000 steps and track my sleep.  At first, it served me well.  I was paying attention to my activity level and exercise, walking more, going to bed earlier and becoming what I hoped was a healthier person.

Very quickly, however, this servant “became the boss of me.”  I found myself leaving family at Thanksgiving evening and going out alone at 9:00 pm in the chilly darkness to get my 10,000 steps.   At 11:50 pm one night, I began running in place just to eek out those last 300 steps, missing the mark by just a few as the clock struck midnight.  I became obsessed.

It worsened when I bought my husband one for his birthday and found there was also a “community” I could invite friends to.  Now, I had others to compete with, especially the man I shared my home with.  I spent my days keeping track of and trying to beat those who walked miles and miles a day.   I became a lunatic about “keeping up” with the person who had the most steps.

The day I realized that it was no longer serving me, but had become my master, was a light-bulb and life-giving moment.  It wasn’t just about FitBits, but about life.  I recalled a quote by John Seymour, “Emotions are excellent servants, but tyrannical masters.”  I realized it wasn’t limited to emotions.  It wasn’t limited to FitBits.  Most things in life make great servants, but terrible masters.  Here’s a taste:

(Aside: my FitBit just buzzed to remind me to get off my behind and get moving…WOW)

  • Emotions

Anger, fear, sadness and happiness are all great servants.  Anger causes us to act for justice and right the wrong in the world.  Fear prevents us from doing things that would harm us or warns of impending trouble.  Sadness helps us process through loss and heartache.  Happiness invites celebration of blessings.  However, each one is a terrible master.  Rage causes both physical and emotional harm.  Anxiety cripples.  Depression paralyzes.  The pursuit of happiness at all costs can destroy.

  • Money

Much good comes from making and using money.  We care for ourselves and our families and even provide for the poor.  However, money as a master can be all-consuming, with the result many times being workaholism and even soul-wrecking addictions.

  • Power

Many of us exercise power in our worlds.  We influence the next generation, bring people together for a cause and lead others to a better place.  However, the thirst for power produces dictators at every level, and even, at its worst, war.

These are just a glimpse.  What about food, shopping, phones, medicine, exercise, just to name a few? And in the end, something as simple as my FitBit.

I am certainly not opposed to my FitBit.  In fact, it’s one of the things I love (see What I Love and Don’t) and if you click here, you will be brought to Amazon to find out more about the one I wear.  It sits proudly on my wrist and some days I do better than others allowing it to be the boss of me.  The problem doesn’t lie in the technology.  It resides in me.

When I sense the “take over,” as I like to call it, the simple questions I ask of myself are “Who is the boss?  Is this my servant or am I the one in chains? Who is serving whom?”  The immediate answer in my heart tells me all that I need to know and I am reminded of the great and loving Master who never makes me a slave, but calls me a friend and a daughter.

Now I will ask you.  What might be something in your life that started as a really wonderful servant, but now may have become your tyrannical master?   Feel free to comment below, just hold it in your private place or maybe share with a trusted friend.  Lastly, and as always, please share and subscribe below so that you don’t miss out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Slow, Turtles

Go With The Slow

“And the turtles, of course…all the turtles are free, as turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.” (Dr. Seuss)

In the tale of the Tortoise and the Hare, I am the Hare. I move at break-neck speed much of the time: my brain, my feet, my hands, my heart and my mouth. When I was a young mom, our elderly neighbor, and whom my young children called “Grandma,” said to me, “I watch you out of the window heading to your car and I don’t think your feet ever really touch the sidewalk.”

I was wiggly, energetic, smart and super-speedy as a kid. I did my first three grades in two years and then skipped right over fourth grade, landing me in fifth grade when I was just eight years old. Break-neck speed. “Can’t sit still.” Lots of childhood memories of those words from the adults around me.

I’m a fast thinker, typer, talker, mover, decision-maker. Probably most of the reason I have tended to be on the thin side during my life is that every cell of my body is wiggling.   Other people get tired thinking about what I do during a day.  You get the picture.

For some reason, though, I have always loved turtles. I was fondly known as the “turtle rescuer” for quite some time.   I loved “helping “ them get where they needed to be. After all, I am much speedier than they are. (SIDENOTE: If you find a turtle in the road, move them in the direction they were heading. Never turn them around. The turtle is on a mission, and if you turn it around, it will simply go back across the road when you drive away. —the Turtle Rescue League)

Little did I know, in my young and “rescuing” years, that turtles didn’t really need my help.  I needed their help.  I loved the Turtle in that tale I mentioned.  I remember the moral of the fable so clearly: “Slow and steady wins the race.” But I am not slow and steady.  I am fast and wobbly.  Why does he win?  Doesn’t the fastest always win? However, somewhere deep in my heart, I knew this was profound truth.

Several years ago, I began to read an author by the name of Dallas Willard.  I actually heard him speak not too long before he went to be with His Savior.  He seemed kind of “turtley” to me.  Slow and steady.  In fact, deeply steady.  “Why is he like this? What does he have that I don’t have? I want this.”  As I got to know him better through his writings and videos, I found that he only had one piece of advice for those who would ask him: “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

Slowly (intended thought) I have found, even though I don’t act on it nearly enough, that my very well-being (emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental), depends on following his prescription.   Stay-tuned for more on this in the future.

But for now, go with the slow.  Be a little more turtley!  As they said in one of my all-time favorite movies, The Master of Disguise, and I ask myself on many days, “Are you turtley enough for the turtle club?”   (Click HERE for quick look at the movie clip and a good laugh!)

Are you a turtle or a hare? Would love you to just write a one-word answer below letting me know. I don’t mind being a hare, but I certainly want to be a hare that has learned the lessons of a turtle. Maybe a turtley hare!

Posted in Childhood, Ethiopia, Family, Missionary, Third Culture Kid

Ethiopia Tikdem!

“Narnia taught me we must all grow up and leave our childhood behind, but must never forget it.”  (Some place on Pinterest)

In my young years, I heard this shouted and chanted: “Ethiopia Tikdem!  Ethiopia Tikdem!  “Ethiopia First!  Ethiopia First!”  Sitting at one of my favorite Ethiopian restaurants earlier this week, it came to mind as I ate injera ba wat and savored every bite.

The year is 1966, the month is February and a little girl is born. Not in a hospital, but in a back-woods clinic in a tiny town called Deder, Ethiopia. I, Esther Joy Maret, was born the fourth child of missionary parents who wanted to serve God.  Having three older brothers, I was the answer to my mother’s prayer for a girl.  Much to say, I did not have your typical American childhood (I guess that has to be left to author Annie Dillard and many of you to describe).  Here is a peak at my Ethiopian childhood…

  • I had a Somali nanny who didn’t speak much English during my preschool years (see picture above).
  • I went to a local French kindergarten because I was wide-eyed, early reader at four years old.
  • I was in boarding school at just five.
  • We memorized Bible verses each morning at 6:45 am. Our end-of-the-year prize was going to the airport for a luncheon if we memorized all of the verses.
  • I knew “O Canada,” “God Save the Queen” and the “Pledge of Allegiance” because our school was filled with people from all different countries.
  • We learned the local language of Amharic.
  • I saw my brothers in passing as they were much older.  I never saw my oldest brother because he was away in Kenya for his boarding school.  We spent vacations and holidays together.
  • I played outside unsupervised after school with my dorm mates (it was like being a college student when you were seven).
  • We had field day, sporting events, Halloween parades, chapel, piano lessons, school plays and homework. Sometimes, parents showed up to these.
  • I stood in endless lines waiting for vaccinations. Gamma Globulin was the worst. It was hard to sit for a week.
  • We listened to the Chronicles of Narnia being read by our dorm mother each night after we were fed and washed up.  (And here’s a little secret: I loved Aslan, the kind, loving and gracious lion in the stories more than I loved Jesus. He seemed like the kind of Savior and friend that I wanted and so desperately needed, very different from the one I had learned about or conjured up in my head, the angry one who might just send me to hell if I didn’t behave or believe the right thing.  I still love Aslan.)
  • I saw my parents on random weekends and vacations or if I was sick (which was super fun because I got to listen to The Wizard of Oz on reel-to-reel and drink tea).
  • I lived in guarded and walled compounds when with my parents, being frequently robbed for our clothes and plastic, even our Kerplunk game.  (We got a kick out of that because when the thief got home, he or she would find that the plastic was filled with holes and useless for whatever his purposes were.)  So much for the guard and the wall.

A communist coup came in 1974 that brought the death of King Haile Selassie, many of his children and grandchildren.  War ensued.  There were communist marches and guns fired in the streets.  Famine came.  After two long years of brewing hatred for foreigners, my parents decided that they would leave all their belongings behind and take their four children back to the United States.  Not your typical childhood.

But like each and every one of our childhoods, it was filled with good and bad, happy and sad, ups and downs, boring and interesting.  These are the things that make our childhoods sacred and unique and form us into who we are today, the beautiful and broken and complicated and messy and wonderful us.  And probably like you, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Would love to hear what things made your childhood typical or completely unique?  Is any childhood typical?  Who are you because of yours?

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