Posted in Celebration, Emotions, Faith, Family, Health, Love, Marriage, WTF

Make a Marriage Great Again (Part 6 of 10 – Anniversary Edition)

It’s not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.  (Friedrich Nietzcsche)

This weekend marks the 27th anniversary of the date Allen and I said “I do,” May 18, 1991 (cute pic, don’t you think??).  The weeks and months leading up to the big event were filled with all the romance human beings can muster:  a promise ring given as the sun rises in the east and George Winston’s “Pachelbel Canon in D” plays in the background, love notes communicating the eager anticipation of our future lifetime together, passionate dates ending with lingering kisses , celebrations of our love in the forms of showers and parties with family and friends, and hearts that long for the knitting together of our bodies and souls.

The day finally arrives and the romance continues in all the typical wedding fare:  songs declaring promises that “I Will Be Here,” vows exclaiming our undying love and commitment to one another, pictures of eyes gazing into each other, a big celebration with family and friends where I was told that the three most important words in a marriage were the following (from Allen’s dad, our very Pittsburghy Best Man): “Pirates, Penguins, Steelers” (okay not so romantic, but I digress), and a wedding night filled with dinner, candles and “you know.”

The romance is prolonged for the next 10 days as we spend our Honeymoon in a cabin nestled in the heart of the Smokey Mountains exploring underground caverns, dining at white-laced tablecloth eateries, white-water rafting, watching “The Hunt for Red October” (again, NOT so romantic and NOT one of Allen’s finer moments), bike-riding, long, lazy talks about our future, hiking to water falls through quiet walkways, spending uninterrupted time together (no cell phones in those olden days), and more “you know.”  Life is just as I imagined it should and would be for the next 50 years:  filled with the excitement and mystery of these things called love and marriage.

Enter reality:  home rental with option to purchase, unexpected pregnancy only two short months in, long work hours, church commitments, and normal, every-day activities like paperwork, food prep, and yard work.  Not sounding too romantic anymore.   My dream is mildly shattered.  Is this really what makes up marriage?  How will we last?  This just seems like a lot of hard work.  And yes, yes it was and still is.

So without all the constant romance (which we still have after 27 years in fits and starts and are committed to), where does the rubber really meet the road?  What is the force that weaves our hearts tightly together?  I would hazard a guess that it finally dawned on us on our 10th anniversary, the first weekend we spent away from our four young children:  FRIENDSHIP (there you have it, the 6th of the 10 “WTF’s” for marriage…see first five at end of post).  I remember it like it was yesterday.  We were hiking the Appalachian Trail, running desperately from a swarm of mosquitoes, hysterically laughing at ourselves and we just looked at each other and one of us said, “This is why we are married.  We actually like each other.”

Without even knowing it, we had spent the first 10 years of our marriage cultivating a long-lasting friendship.  We had, as Elisabeth Foley, describes, forged a relationship that “doubles your joy and divides your grief,” and we encountered the beautiful discovery that “true friends can grow separately without growing apart.”

Friendship is absolutely VITAL to the health of any marriage.  It is forged through mutual trust, unconditional support and selflessness, all things that must be fought for and worked through.  Marriage requires these marks of true and abiding friendship: equality, attachment, honesty, companionship, emotional safety, respect, understanding, vulnerability and closeness.  There’s just no way around it.

To be candid, I am not always a good friend to Allen, nor he to me.  We tend, in our humanness, to find fault, treat each other with contempt, push each other away, become too busy, listen half-heartedly, hide and shut down.   And for these times, just as any true friendship needs, grace and compassion must flow out of our hearts for ourselves and each other.  After all, this is really the stuff that makes up a lifetime of babies and home ownership, job changes and heart-breaking losses, bill paying and love-making.

So on this 27th anniversary (such a weird, random number), I write what I texted a friend this morning:

“I am actually in Pittsburgh spending the weekend with Allen, celebrating our anniversary.  So so so thankful for my long-lasting friendship with him.  That’s what my post will be about this weekend:  our friendship in our marriage.  I can’t even imagine what my life would be like without his constant companionship and friendship.”  😊

I love this man, my husband, from the depths of my soul.  He has all that it takes to make a great friend:  loyalty, kindness, compassion, grace, integrity, respect and understanding.  What a gift he has given me.

One last aside.  There is another piece to this puzzle that our Pittsburghy best man understood about marriage:  entering into and embracing what is important to the other person is paramount to true and abiding friendship!  It is telling the person:  I will love what you love!  As you can see below, I have done my best to make it a reality!

Happy Anniversary, Allen John Goetz!  You have truly “doubled my joy and divided my grief!”  Here’s to 27 (at least) more!

Enjoy the rest of the “WTF?” marriage series:

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Posted in Childhood, Family, Holiday, Love, Parenthood

My “Top 10” Epic Mom Fails (With Help from My Kids)

“Some days I amaze myself.  Other days, I put laundry in the oven.”  (Moms Everywhere)

I am not sure if you will be horrified or happy when you read these.  I mostly hope you feel like you aren’t the only one.  HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!  Here goes nothing (make sure you read with snarky voice in your head):

  1. Letting nine-month-old “cry it out” during nap for 45 minutes only to find both legs stuck between crib rails after “giving in” and checking on baby (this was the olden days when this could actually happen).
  2. Allowing (almost encouraging) 21-month-old to give “propped up” three-month-old sibling a ride in walker, smashing infant into kitchen cabinets, laughing hysterically and doing it again and again.  (I hope I am remembering this wrong, but I doubt it.)
  3. Forgetting about “RED DAY” in child’s kindergarten class.  Only kid not wearing any red (except for a tiny spot on sneaker that child very sadly pointed to in desperation when the teacher asked what red they were wearing).
  4. Leaving eight-year-old eating chips and watching movie in van with engine running, while watching freshman field hockey (van was kind of visible from side-line locationChecked on child at half-time).
  5. Finding that our fourth child made own “memory verse chart” complete with stickers.  (Believe this:  there were numerous charts for the older three.  One of the “OhMyGoodnessThisIsCrazy” moments of parenting!)
  6. Forgetting to inform “pet sitter” about two tree frogs for week-long, very hot, summer vacation.  End result:  crispy critters.
  7. Making 12-year-old babysit for 14 (yes, you heard that right) younger kids in basement while five couples have “Bible Study” upstairs for 2 hours every other week.   (Reminded this week that 10- and 11-year-olds were hot-gluing sequins to their heads in said basement and forcing the 4- and 5-year-olds to be their servants.)
  8. Leaving two middle school boys home alone with all the necessary equipment to make a blow torch in garage (think water gun, gasoline, and a BIC multi-purpose lighter).
  9. Picking up tipsy teenager from a party and driving at midnight to Walmart to get a breathalyzer to no avail.  Driving around until 1 am searching and finding a police officer, asking him to give test (NOTE:  police officer did not comply).  Driving home making threats of grounding for life.
  10. Standing in driveway holding on to the hood of college student’s car, supposedly preventing college student (in mild – okay not so mild – argument with) from leaving.  Doesn’t work (shocker).  College student gets out and leisurely walks down street to awaiting friend’s car, while yours truly is screaming “don’t come back.”  Topping it off, our neighbor most likely sees the insanity unfold in all its glory.

I hope this has brought you much laughter and grace for yourself and all the other moms you know (especially me).  I need grace and kindness and love and to be told it will all be okay and we are all just a little desperate and nuts sometimes!  Happy Mother’s Day to those of you who love your little, or not-so-little-anymore, kids and grownups.  You are doing a great job (and if you aren’t today or weren’t yesterday or might not tomorrow, take a moment to laugh at yourself just a little).  

(SINCE I’VE PUT MYSELF OUT THERE AND FEEL BASICALLY LIKE I SHED SOME OF MY CLOTHES IN PUBLIC, I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR ONE OF FUNNY EPIC FAILS!  PLEASE COMMENT HERE OR GO BACK OUT TO SOCIAL MEDIA AND COMMENT THERE.  I NEED SOME GOOD LAUGHS TODAY!)

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Posted in Anxiety, Beautiful Mess, Emotions, Faith, Freedom, God, Health, Hope, Sacred, Thanks, Word of the Year

TW – Not TT (Season #01, Episode #07) Why It’s Not Just for Turkey Day

I’ve been fairly crabby this week.  And anxious.  Allen has also been anxious.  Lots going on in our home and family to merit this.  Definite and possible job changes.  Future home changes.  Friends with health and emotional challenges.  College kids coming home for the summer.  The normal stuff that makes up life, but tends to ramp up the crabbiness and the worry.

Last weekend, while meeting with our marriage mentoring couple, I was reminded once again about my strong passion for thankfulness.  Sitting at the table, surrounded by French croissants (brought by our amazing baker bride) and cups of tea, I spoke (okay, preached with passion…in other words, “went on a verbal rampage”) about the merits of thankfulness, spewing phrases like “it’s never a wrong decision,” “we actively see and acknowledge God’s hand in our lives,” “it brings healing,” “I am highly committed to it and it’s changed my life,” and on and on.  They listened to me with open hearts and wide eyes, jotting down notes in their manuals.

After they left, I sat down at my computer to give myself a good “pat on the back” and re-read all my thankful posts.  After all, I am highly committed to it and my blog will prove it to me once again.  Well, my “pat on the back” came to an abrupt halt when I opened my website and realized I hadn’t written a “Thankful Thursday” post since the end of November:  FIVE MONTHS.  Five long months.  I tried another avenue for the pat:  the daily thankful app on my phone.  Surely that would boost my ego and make me feel good about my dedication.   What I saw there was sporadic at best, certainly not daily, heart-felt reflections on how I have been blessed (those red notification circles on my phone are not doing their job – LOL).  So much for my tireless commitment.

Lest you worry about me plunging headlong into despair (that’s not my modus operandi), I forged ahead and re-read my thankful posts, looking for gentle reminders and the encouragement to pick up this best practice again.   Could there be a connection between my crabby and anxious heart and this drop off in thanksgiving?  The answer came to me:  I’m NOT sure.  Life isn’t having the right formula.  It just doesn’t work.  But as I re-read my posts, I AM sure the gratitude is really important.  Here’s why:

  1.  It gives words to the gifts that have been strewn to us by a generous hand and loving heart, treasures from a God who longs to speak His presence into our very souls.  We actively seek and remember those gifts.  We find out we are not alone on this journey and that there is someone who constantly loves and cares for us.  Read more HERE.
  2.  Sharing our thanks with someone opens the door for more relationship.  It provides connection in a world of disconnection.  It speaks love and kindness into someone’s world where these might be lacking.  It is always a good and right decision, something elusive in an ever-changing and complicated world.
  3. It shouts beauty to a world bombarded with the ugly.  It multiplies thanks in my own heart.  It is one of those sure-fire, good things in my life.  And it is simple, super simple (with all of the formulas out there for changing my crazy life for the better, this one doesn’t require a book to be written or a class to be taken).  Read more HERE.
  4. Thankfulness is one of the environments I can provide for myself that brings healing.  No.  It’s not magic or formulaic (believe me, I have lived a lifetime of that destructive line of thinking). But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s GOOD.  Read more HERE.
  5. There are “unwrapped gifts and free surprises” straight from the heart of God, just waiting for us if we open our eyes to see them.  My life tends to be filled with negativity from all kinds of sources, things that consume me about what’s wrong with the world instead of what’s right.  Thankfulness combats that enemy of my soul and soothes it.  Read one of my all-time favorite posts HERE to find out more.
  6. It brings the voices of HOPE and RESTORATION instead of voices of fear, divisiveness and destruction.  Many days, I am those voices of hope and restoration. But I also need those voices from others, the voices that reflect the very heart of the God of unity, truth, healing, encouragement, kindness, love, hope, peace, joy, patience, all that is GOOD.  Read more HERE.
  7. It’s a gift from others to me.  When someone remembers to say thank you, my heart becomes a little less empty and a lot more full, a little less broken and a lot more healed.  It brings unity where there is division, joy in the midst of sorrow, and clarity instead of confusion.  Thanksgiving heals.  Read about this HERE.

This is what I know so far about my endless journey towards this practice of gratitude.  This is why this weekend (note the title TW which stands for Thankful Weekend…I know you were wondering), I am reflecting on my week and sharing these quick thoughts with you.  Speaking aloud again about what gifts God has given me:

  1.  A lunch with a friend who, after I made a snarky comment, said to me, “This is why we’re friends.  I wish I could live across the street from you.”  She validated why she loved me.  HUGE (especially for this “words of affirmation” girl).
  2. A phone call from a long-time friend about what one of my blog posts meant to him.  He encouraged me to continue to write.  STRAIGHT UP GIFT.
  3. Another friend called and asked me for my advice about her teenage son.  For those of you who have the battle scars of parenting, you get this.  All that work is not wasted.  Someone else can benefit from my successes and mistakes as a parent.  YAY!
  4. A sleep-over with one of my “brides” who we mentored several years ago.  A lazy dinner and a chat about boundaries and marriage and friendship and church and good books to read.  BALM TO MY SOUL.
  5. Sharing communion with my Beautiful Mess girls.  Reminding ourselves about the Deep Deep Love of Jesus and the Reckless Love of God.  FAVORITE NEW SONGS!  Take a few minutes to listen.
  6. A heart-to-heart talk about struggles and decisions with another friend.  Her text to me afterwards reminding me she treasures our friendship.  OH MY GOODNESS.  LOVE IT.
  7. Date night with Allen sharing wine and worries over dinner and then taking the time to paint.  SO INCREDIBLY THANKFUL FOR THIS PARTNER IN HOPE AND HEALING.

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As I sit here and take the time to reflect (which I am actually doing as I write this), my heart is gently reminded again why this matters.  People matter.  Loving them matters.  They are some of the greatest gifts I have.  God matters.  Loving Him matters.  Seeing His provision and gifts in my life matters.  He actually is THE greatest gift.

Maybe I have just “TENDED” to the best thing this morning.  (And I can breathe a prayer that I might just be a little less anxious and crabby.)

I hope you can too.

(Let me know if you do and what you are thankful for either in the comment section or privately at this link or connect with me on my social media pages:  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn).

Posted in Uncategorized

24/6 (A Beginner’s Journey into Sabbath)

Today I need to heed my own words: “What will happen if I don’t?”

The Dolly Mama

“Sabbath is a time to transform from human doings to human beings.”  (Matthew Sleeth)

Driven.  Workaholic.  Adrenaline junkie.  Type A.   24/7.  Savior of the world (or at least my world).  All of these and more.  That was the person behind this post.  Until I wasn’t.  Until it was stopped FOR ME several years ago.

Stopped.  Key word.  Stopped.  Everything stopped.  This mom of four, wife of one, ministry leader, job holder, keeper of an ordered house, ducks-in-a-row, mover and shaker stopped.  Little did I know then, but a terrible and precious gift had been given to me that changed my world: the word STOP.

After this emergency “stop” in my life (which came in the form of a complete nervous breakdown…the summer where my four kids ate goldfish for breakfast and watched endless amounts of TV instead of the completing the summer transition homework I usually planned for them…it might…

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Posted in Celebration, Emotions, Family, God, Grief, Hope, Sacred

Cheers to You Cathy! (and your beautiful girls you loved so very very much)

“I am exhausted from trying to be stronger than I feel.” (Whisper Quotes)

April 14, 2017.  Good Friday.  “My beautiful daughters were killed in a head on collision on I-17 by no fault of their own. They died instantly and went home to be with the Lord.”

It’s been one year.  One year.  Hard to believe.  Hard to still fathom what happened and especially why it happened.  Losing one child is hard enough.  But losing both?  Horrible.

Cathy was one of my best and dearest friends in high school.  Our parents worked at the same mission organization and we went to the same church and youth group.  We both grew up in different parts of Africa so we had that in common.  We both had the middle name of Joy and we sang together in competitions under the name of Double Joy.  We had boatloads of fun, dated friends, were on our Bible quiz team, loved one another fiercely, and even got in some mischief together (like the time we were arrested because I pointed a dismantled BB gun out of the window of my car and an undercover policeman happened to see it…long story for another time).  I think my mom made me “break up” with her because of this (little did my mom know that I was really the one to blame and Cathy was the one who should have been breaking up with me).  Needless to say, Double Joy (and maybe Double Trouble) fit us perfectly.

After I left for college, Cathy went on in her career and then moved to North Carolina to become a highly successful mortgage loan officer and then top sales rookie for Aflac Insurance Company her first year.  During that time, she raised two beautiful girls, Karli and Kelsey, into wonderful adult women.  Karli went to Grand Canyon University and was about to graduate at the end of  April 2017 with a BA in Communications with plans to get her masters degree.  Kelsey was a Bio-Medical Premed student at Western Carolina University.  They both loved life, their Savior, their friends, their mom and one another!  Please read more HERE.

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In the early-morning hours of Good Friday, April 14, 2017, the girls were killed in a wrong-way crash.  Please check out the first news story HERE.  There are more links to come.

Photos, videos, condolences, tributes and a GoFundMe fundraiser immediately flooded social media on behalf of Cathy and her girls.  News stories from North Carolina and Arizona went viral.  Check them out HERE and HERE.

Three days later, April 17, 2017, Cathy posted:

“The past 72 hours have been more than I can bear and my sorrow and broken heart I can’t even share. So much I want to say but I still just can’t. My tears are many and my soul and body know no rest.”

The morning of the viewing:

“Tomorrow starts the worst 36 hours of my life.  I’m afraid to even go to bed because it means I have to wake up. I still struggle to breathe and function.  I ask for much prayer as I truly physically and mentally hurt more than I ever thought possible. Smarli and Smelsey, Mommy is here and will love you forever. My heart belongs to you both forever and my life will forever be unhappy because your smiles and laughter will not be seen or heard anymore on this earth. I’m jealous of those in heaven as they get to be near and with you: which is where I want to be. Mommy”

The day of the funeral:

“Today I bury my children, something a mother should never have to do. I ask for prayers every minute as I do the final task for my children today, the one last thing I can do for them as mommy. I will lift them up to the Lord and I will speak on their behalf.”

That afternoon, with the church packed to the gills, Cathy stood on stage for more than an hour, at times reading from notes, but more often speaking freely and telling stories about her girls.  She spoke haunting words to the audience, asking “Are You Listening?,” wanting others to heed the call of her girls’ tragic and undeserved deaths.  You can actually watch the Youtube video HERE.

Fundraisers all across Arizona and North Carolina popped up.  Richard Petty’s iconic #43 race car drove in honor of the girls.  Dutch Brothers Coffee in Arizona raised money.  A GoFund Me page was set up and more money poured in than expected.  Vigils were held.  Benches were dedicated.  Pictures were painted.  Videos were made.  Trees were planted.  Letters of support came from across the globe.

Only 10 days later, Cathy flew to Arizona and walked in Karli’s place at the Grand Canyon University graduation ceremony to receive her daughter’s diploma.  Check out this article and the following very touching interview.

 

 

In the painful weeks to follow, Cathy spent time with family, friends, Cathy’s kids (a group of several young adults who call her “Mom” and spent Mother’s Day with her) and her cats, found a plot of land to build K2 Ranch, a home she wants to invite others into in honor of the girls, and went to vigils and fundraisers.  She grieved often and openly, finding some purpose in their deaths.  Read more HERE.

Kelsey’s birthday, July 15, was marked by great grief and incredible joy as friends gathered to celebrate her:

“July 15, 1998.  Kelsey Mae Richardson was born. Intense labor and you entered the world screaming. Full head of hair, the famous eyebrows and the beautiful pouty lips: from day one you had it all. You grew into a incredibly smart, beautiful, full of life, talented loving young woman: only to have it all taken away in the blink of an eye.  From the moment I heard you to the moment I first held you, I loved you! As you grew and got mouthy, then extra sweet, then clingy, then adventurous and even more beautiful than ever, I loved you more. Your incredible mind made you uniquely different and as that developed I became your best friend: the one who really understood you and “got you”. Kelsey, I still “got you”!  You now have a future with the Lord God Almighty, and “He got you” way more than I do. HE is your protector now and your guide: watching you love and laugh as you run around heaven carrying Karli.  I know where you are today on your birthday, you are with Jesus, you are celebrating with the Most High. Tonight look down about dusk, I’m sending presents up to heaven to you tonight. You’ll love it and you’ll think to yourself: “aw, mom still has my back”. I gotcha Smelsey, I love you and miss you and I gotcha! Happy Birthday Kelsey, mommy loves you forever and always”

Eleven days later, the truth came out.  The girls had definitely been killed because of too much alcohol.  Cathy began to share their story anywhere and everywhere people would listen, at Kelsey’s college, on the radio, and through social media.  She desired (and still does) to inform others about the dangers and devastation of drinking and driving.

 

In late August, I had the chance to spend the day with this incredible woman.  We drove around with the top down in her fancy sports car and enjoyed the gentle breeze and the beautiful day.  She showed me her land and her plans to build K2 Ranch.  She shared endless stories about her amazing girls.  She took me to see Memorials that have been made and we even stopped in to visit local veterans at Richards Coffee Shop which houses Welcome Home Veterans Living Military Museum where she and the girls spent so much time and energy honoring those who have served and continue to.  We even stopped to see one of her clients that she “gave a talking to” about how his choices were bad for his health and his family, but that she was still going to try to get whatever money she could for him from the insurance company.  We ended our time with a wonderful dinner on a lake at her favorite local eatery and she still had time to drive me home and have a quick visit with my parents.  I was enamored by her.  Her grief was open.  Her spunk was not destroyed.  Her joy was unhindered.  Her love for others was evident.  Her heart was the same, filled with adventure and kindness.  She was all of those things at the same time and in the same moments.

More grief as her cat Ollie dies on September 12:

“I woke up to find the cancer had finally won the battle with my precious little Ollie. A year ago Ollie walked into my yard and rescued me. I didn’t rescue him, he rescued me. God knew this would be the year of my life that would forever change me, and He gave me this little guy to sit on me when I’d cry, sleep with me at night so I wouldn’t be alone, be silly and cause laughter and smiles. To be loved completely and greeted immediately: that’s my Ollie. What he gave was what humans just can’t give me this year.  He helped me to be calm when I was restless and lost. I love you Ollie and I’m so grateful for you saving me this year. Give kisses to Karli and Kelsey and tell them I miss them and love them.”

September 14, 2017

“Five months ago, God took you both home. I still don’t understand why but I’m trying. I struggle daily and some days are good and others unbearable. My heart is heavy but when I close my eyes I can feel your soft skin and smell your hair and feel it run through my fingers as I hug you tight and you hug me back. So brokenhearted today…”

September 17, 2017  Cathy spoke:

“I had the honor to speak at Western Carolina University on behalf of my beautiful daughter about the tragedies of drunk driving. It was a emotional night but I know God is using my beautiful girls for His glory and knowing this I will make it through life until one glorious day I have them both in my arms again.”

Cathy spent Christmas with her elderly mom, but it was an unimaginably hard day:

“1 year ago. Laughing and smiling and loving my life 100%!!! All I love around me. Never again will smiles be the same or a fully happy heart. God let’s me know they are happier than I can imagine but my heart is broken beyond imagination. Thank you for texts calls and emails. Knowing I’m prayed for and my children are not forgotten is one thing that warms my heart and makes me smile. May they never be forgotten. My soul will one day be full again when the Lord takes me home and I will feel them in my arms and hear their laughs and smell their hair and know that my babies are with me and we are together.”

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On New Years’ Eve, the reality of the night ahead pierced Cathy’s heart.  Too much drinking and possible driving tonight.  Other families will grieve as a result.  She warned:

“I pray you all READ and remember: SHARE this especially tonight.

This should never have happened. My incredibly smart, funny, loving and beautiful daughters should be ALIVE today! DRUNK DRIVING caused this, killed them and killed the drunk too! DO NOT DRIVE DRUNK TONIGHT!!! For EVERYONES sake DO NOT DRIVE DRUNK TONIGHT! No mother should get the knock on the door tomorrow morning like I did. If you think it can’t happen to you, it happens. DO NOT DRIVE DRUNK!!!!!!!!!!!”

Cathy’s birthday, January 7, is marked by another day of horror and beauty, brokenness and redemption:

“There was a plan that the girls devised, of how our older years would be and how the girls would take care of me.  Kelsey would work and make all the money.  Karli would watch all the children and clean Kelsey’s house and mine. I was the cook and financial planner. We would all live on 15 acres which Kelsey would buy with her “doctor’s” income.  Today, they are taking care of me but in a way that I wish I could change. I’d rather live in a tent than live without them! But today, they are building me a ranch house in the country to live and retire in. It will be handicap accessible and will protect and care for me.  Beautiful acreage and everything I could possibly ever need and want. They are providing for me and caring for me from above in a way I never thought of. It’s hard and emotional to build this.  I cry almost every time I go out to see it. People ask if I’m angry at God, and the answer is sometimes I am. I cry and I yell and I wonder why everyday. Yet, through all this He made sure I would still be cared for as I was left here on earth: they are caring for me and keeping their word and will forever provide for me till I see them again. My precious babies mommy loves you so much and I can’t wait till the Lord brings us back together again in heaven…”

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In February, we had lunch together as I was back in Charlotte to care for my mom.  She spoke of how she was doing, what was happening with the ranch, and listened to my stories with a kind heart.  Again, she was authentic and vulnerable, not sugar-coating her grief, but also filled with laughter, the same girl I had known my whole life.  It marked a wonderful three hours as we tried to eat healthy, but ended up having some treats, just like two 50-somethings would do when they went out to lunch.  So normal, yet so “not normal.”  It’s never normal to talk about your children’s deaths and all the after effects.

March 26, 2018, Karli’s 21st birthday, another speaking engagement and a cake made by a friend.  Another day of grief and beauty.

Good Friday, March 30, 2018:

“A few weeks ago I got permission from the new owners of our old home to remove a 10 year old Pin Oak tree that Karli and I planted when she was in 3rd grade. It was a sprig in a paper cup she brought home from school and insisted we plant. She watched over and watered and protected that sprig, and it actually began to grow.  I will be able to look out my back porch and see the tree that my little big girl and I planted years ago, and as it grows I will remember my little big girl who never gave up and believed that she could do anything she put her mind to.”

Same day, right before bed:

“Many of you have texted, called, messaged and done very kind things for me today: and I truly appreciate it all. It is Good Friday and last year the girls died on this day.  I struggle daily with so much. I remember day one, minute one, second one when each were born. How I long to go back.  April 14 will be the toughest, the actual day when 1 year will have passed without us laughing, hugging, talking, giggling, watching Scooby Doo, going to DQ and Pomodoros, watching movies with Gma, shopping and sharing in the life we had put together and loved so much. Karli I can’t stand it that I don’t get your constant Facetime calls, and Kelsey it’s almost unbearable to sit on the couch on Fridays now and know you aren’t going to walk through the door and surprise me with a weekend visit. God needed you and I don’t know why, but knowing how safe and loved you are up in heaven gives me the comfort I need to know I will see you again: I WILL SEE YOU AGAIN! Good Friday is a important day and when I think about it you both are so special and important it makes sense He would take you home on that day: you had to go and you both were so good and how honored to go home on the day the Lord did too. He will rise on Sunday, and because of that you rose out of your grave and are with Him: and someday I will be up there also and again we will laugh and hug and be together again, only this time forever. Nothing will ever again separate us once God brings us back together again. Pain and suffering, forever down here I will have, but Praise God for Easter as one day all suffering will end.”

 

April 7, 2018 “In one week it’s been a year. Breakdown today. I can’t take it.”

Sunday night, April 8, I sent her a message.

“I have felt so compelled to write a tribute to YOU this week on my blog. For a year, your heart has been laid out for all to see and especially the excruciating pain you have gone through. I have admired from near and far. I just want to give you a huge shout out, but wanted to get your permission first.  It will be a way to honor you, your heart, what you want to come of this and also your girls and their legacy. You are one beautiful soul, Cathy, and I want to honor you.”

 Her reply:

“Oh thank you Esther. How kind. I’d be honored and humbled.”

 

April 9, 2018  “Karli’s tree is doing beautifully if you look closely there are full buds on every branch of the tree is living just like Karli and Kelsey are living in heaven above mommy loves and misses you both so much.”

April 14, 2018  Cathy is currently in Arizona heading on a hike and a luncheon to honor the girls on the anniversary of their deaths.   A “Come Light a Candle Event” is taking place in North Carolina.  These girls were so loved and they are very missed.  This morning, her heart poured out again.

“I was reminded last week that Paul told us in Philippians that we all should run the race to receive the prize for the mark of the high calling. It hit me, it really hit me. God puts us here to run the race for Him and we are to run for Him and when we have won the race He put us on earth for, He takes us home.  God gave me two incredibly and wonderfully-made girls and by the age of 18 and 20, they had finished the race TOGETHER that God intended for them.  I sat there looking up to heaven with tears streaming down my face and all I could think of was ‘I get it!.’  They ran the race for the mark of the high calling and they won!  My children ran and they won!” 
So Cathy, here’s to you, sweet Mama, and to your beautiful and broken heart.  Your girls won their race and you are winning yours!  So many times, we wait until a funeral (really until it’s too late) to tell people how valuable they are and what they mean to us.  You did not do that with your girls.  You told them every day how much you loved them and what they meant to you.  I am learning that from you.  So today, I choose to tell you this:  YOU are the one left here and standing and sad and YOU are beautiful and important and wonderful.  I see you.  I hear you.  You matter.  You haven’t given up. You’ve been authentic and real in the heartache and struggle of it. You have questioned and trusted God through it all.  You’ve honored your girls in such a profound way. You’ve loved those around you.  I love you.  Cheers to you Cathy!
Posted in Emotions, Faith, Freedom, God, Holiday, Hope, Sabbath, Sacred, Word of the Year

How’s My WOTY? (And Yours? Even Your WOTQ?)

A Word of the Year is “intended to be a kind guide that walks along side of you during the year, not a harsh master that dictates a set of “to-do’s” (God knows we don’t need any more of those voices in our heads).  It’s a friend that accompanies you during your journey.”  (The Dolly Mama)

Three months have gone by.  Winter is moving out like a sloth, but 2018 is barreling down the tracks like a freight-train.  My Word of the Year (referred to lovingly as WOTY from here on out), “TEND,” silently shouts from my computer screen each time I sit down to send an email, check Facebook or do paperwork (the picture above is my background).  There are some days when I stop and listen and others where I just glance and shut it out of my mind and move on with my day.

Because I am an avid to-do list follower (okay sometimes I am a slave to it), “WRITE UPDATE POST ABOUT WOTY” appeared on my iPhone reminders about a week ago.  Inside, I sighed a little and thought, “Nah.  Not happening.  After all, what would I even talk about?  It’s not like this “gentle friend” has been happily guiding me and I have this awesome relationship with said friend.

But here it is, my Sabbath, the day I make “room” on my plate to ponder things like this and allow restoration and creativity to enter my soul.   And today, I am spending on this word “TEND” once again.  Come with me on this journey over the next few hours.  Take a peak into my probably not-going-to-be-perfect day.

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9:56 am  Check out my piece of paper that I scribbled all over on January 1, 2018 in order to find my WOTY.  First question at the top.  WHAT DO I NEED?  Get out another piece of paper.  Write “WOTY Update April 2018” at the top.  Ask myself the same question.  Scribble some things down.

Peace.  Wisdom.  A house that’s in order.  More connection with Allen.  Clear direction on next steps with this whole blog/writing/communicating thing.  Support from others.  The sun.  My kids to be okay.  To “TEND” to the right things – to find the balance between others and self. Compare notes.  Many are the same.  Some are different already.   I wonder why.

(Take a break and make first cup of tea with cream and sugar in 46 days.  (It’d better be all I dreamed it would be.)  Be back at around 11.  Need to go sit and stare and drink for a while.)

(Tea is okay and I am distracted by phone call from insurance company and FaceTime with Sarah and Broden.  Flip on TV and watch CSI for 15 minutes.  Tell myself this isn’t what I want to be doing right now.  Turn off TV and come back to paper.  After all, I am going to write this down and share with world.)

10:43 am  See next question.  WHO DO I WANT TO BECOME?  Add this:  WHAT DO I WANT TO BECOME?

WHAT?  Wise, gentle, tender-hearted, less judgmental and more gracious.  Integrated.  Free.

WHO?  A better wife.  An influential communicator.

(Rachel walks in the door after breakfast with Allen.  Have a sweet heart-to-heart for a few minutes.  Insurance company calls back.  Sabbath is hard to come by.)

Compare notes again.  Notice that tender-hearted, wife and communicator are on both lists.  They must be important this year.  How does “TEND” fit in to them?  Hmmm.  Let me think on that.  No rushing.

(Pee and send a “happy birthday” message to my sweet friend Annie!  Make myself a smoothie.  Watch more CSI while I drink my smoothie.)

(Didn’t work out so great watching CSI.  Sarah needed me for a few minutes. #babiesarehard)

12:26 pm  Look at definition of “TEND” again.  “To apply oneself to the care of, watch over, cultivate.  To stand by something.  To take charge of as a caretaker, overseer.”  Those three words:  tenderhearted.  wife.  communicator.  Am I to tend to these God?  Oversee them?  Take charge of them?

The phrase, “GO DEEPER BEFORE YOU GO WIDER” keeps coming into my mind and heart.  I can’t seem to shake it.  How does that play in?  Half-thought:  Roots of plants need to go deep into the rich and nourishing soil (see pic above) before they go wide and bear fruit.  I want so desperately to bear fruit, but I probably need to “tend” to receiving the rich nourishment from God Himself in the deep places of my soul first.  Sarah had that whole phrase in college from Colossians 2:7 about this very thing.  “BE ROOTED (in Christ).”  More hmmm.

(Call insurance company back.  Check in on Sarah again.  All is well there.  Lay down and finish this one dang episode of CSI.)

(A friend texts.  Ask her if she can wait a little while before I call her back.  Head back to process.)

1:41 pm  Review my final notes in the process of choosing my WOTY.  Rewrite all the “tend” things that I don’t want:

preTEND – ingenuine
conTEND – try harder 
(doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know this just does not work)
disTEND – enlarge from internal pressure (this goes along with try harder…ugh!)
hyperexTEND – expand beyond a safe point (this is the hardest for me)

Also, rewrite the things I do want:

atTEND – be present
exTEND – make wider 
(Be careful on this one.  Deeper before wider.)
inTEND – direct mind on

I think I am done for this quarterly check-in.  My heart is directed to these three:  tenderhearted (oh my goodness, that even has the word TEND inside it), wife (be present, go deeper and direct mind on this one), and communicator (write to “express not to impress”).  I believe I might just be friends again with my WOTY.  I need to take a nap now (but first, that phone call with a friend who needs some tending…I know it’s my Sabbath, but I’m not the most perfect at keeping it as you’ve all just witnessed).  Then a much-needed nap.

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UPDATE SAT 7:38 am

I am glad that my iPhone reminder app did its job this week.  I needed the little kick in the pants to stop avoiding my WOTY and check in (as scattered as it was).  I want this to be your kick in the pants (I mean tender push) to do the same.   Some of you are thinking, “I never chose one.”  It’s not too late for this kind of friendship.  With winter slowly fading into the background (please God, let it be so), there’s never a better time than spring for new thoughts and renewed hope!  You could do a WOTM (word of the month) or even a WOTQ (word of the quarter).  Just follow the steps I outlined for myself in January by clicking HERE.  And if you are renewing your relationship with the one you’ve already chosen, I hope this post is your gentle guide as to a super realistic and very “not-so-perfect” way to approach it.  I would love to hear from you what happens, from your heart to mine!

Do me a huge favor and go back and “Like” my post if you came from social media!  It’s one of the ways I can get more views (I guess only do that if you actually like it…LOL)!

 

 

Posted in Beautiful Mess, Celebration, Emotions, Faith, Freedom, God, Holiday, Hope, Joy, Love, Marriage, Missionary, Sacred

Best Friday!

“Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.” (Song of Songs 2:12)

For months now, the anticipation has been building!  The final countdown came about 10 days ago.  Last night, it came to fruition.  Yes, I know it was Good Friday, the day we Christians reflect on the unconditional love of God as found in the death of Jesus Christ.  But this Good Friday had been named “BEST FRIDAY” by my friend Jody several months ago when she planned her future wedding date.  “Come to my wedding on Best Friday,” was her invitation to her family and friends, Allen and I being among them.  “Can’t wait, Jody!” was my reply and I sent emojis and texts over the past few weeks reminding us both of the imminent celebration!

Jody is one of the members of my women’s group, the Beautiful Mess, that meets every Thursday morning.  She has been with us from the very first day over 11 years ago.  On that day, we found out that her dad and my mom were raised by missionary parents in the same small African country, working for the same small organization and actually had grown up together.  Immediately, we had a connection and an unbreakable bond.  I loved her from the start.  As I spent time with her, I found her bright, sunny smile, gracious heart, and super upbeat, yet laid-back disposition intriguing and delightful.  Her relationship with her four boys wins her the “best mom award” (as I playfully reminded them last night and heard no argument…in fact, they were all very quick to agree).   I am pretty fierce in my love for and desire to protect her.

Thanks to Jody, this phrase “Best Friday” has been reverberating in my head and heart for quite some time.  The excitement of the anticipation of something long-waited for has brought me sheer enjoyment.  Coupled with the fact that this “Best Friday” celebration marked the end of my 40-day fast, Jody would receive “her happily ever after.”  This put a huge smile right on my heart (and my face, I will admit). The fast had started the day after my birthday, one celebration, and was ending it with another.  I couldn’t have asked for better book ends.  And celebrate we did.  Dancing.  Food.  Friends.  Love.

I am so thankful for the fast.  I removed the external, physical pleasure for the sole purpose of internal, soul-level healing.  It brought me better health, both physically and spiritually.  It reminded me that I am much more than JUST the physical.  It’s a mystery to me how it works (even though I am confident that it definitely does) and I’m okay with that.

Richard Foster, in his book, Celebration of Discipline, speaks of all the “serious-side of spiritual growth” practices like prayer, meditation, solitude, fasting, etc.  They are valuable.  They matter.  But one of my favorite chapters is titled the “Discipline of Celebration.”  Wait?  What?  Celebration is a discipline in and of itself?  Why?

After last night, I am again reminded of why.  Why do we dance and cheer and weep for joy along with our friend who finds the love of her life?  Why do we buy balloons and ice cream cakes (which I am doing again today for our son Josh) to celebrate the birth of someone?  Why do we get dressed up, go to church, have egg hunts and gather with family on Easter Sunday?

Celebration says to others, “you are valuable, I choose you today,” not out of convenience, but actually with fierce intentionality.  It says, “I really know you and love you.  You matter.” 

Yes!  There are times for fasting!  The practice is invaluable.  In fact, I want to incorporate it into my week and not just go back to “business as usual.”  I want be reminded often of HOSANNA (God, Come Save Us!).

But yes!  Last night, on Best Friday, the time for fasting was over.  It marked the time for feasting and celebration!  At least for the three days this weekend!  Here goes!

Jody, you are valuable.  I love you.  What matters to you matters to me!  I celebrate with you!  As John said to me last night, “Jody is the best person I have ever met!  I promise you I will take care of her!”  How could I not do a little internal leap for joy  (and some external leaps as well for those of you who saw me dancing the night away) as I know you are fully-known and fully-loved by this man!  Yippee!

Josh, you are valuable!  I love you.  Your birth marks one of the best days in my life!  I hope that you find that we, as a family, celebrate all the facets of who you are.  You are truly one of a kind!  You are loyal, bold, curious, and determined, along with being super quirky!  You one of my favorite people in the whole word!  How could I not have tears welling up in the corner of my eyes as I write this!  Yippee!

Jesus, you are valuable!  I love you.  You matter!  Your fierce pursuit of me by your coming to earth, living among us humans, dying on that cruel cross and then overcoming the worst that humanity could do to you by rising from that death is the reason I have hope for the healing of my heart (and you readers out there by the way)!  I can’t wait to join my family to celebrate you on Easter Sunday!  I choose you!  Yippee!

Happy Easter to each of you!  Let’s celebrate together! (Even if it’s just on our screens!)