Posted in Anxiety, Beautiful Mess, Childhood, Emotions, Family, Freedom, God, Grief, Hope, Joy, Love, Parenthood

Launch Sequence (I thought it would be easier)

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you.”  (Frederick Beuchner)

Jared moved to Pittsburgh five days ago.  Since graduating last December, he’s been living in our basement apartment, working with his business partner to launch a web-based company, while doing odd jobs and serving at a restaurant.  As a nervous “millennial” mom, I asked him every so often if he was okay and was he going to be living in our basement when he was 30.  I don’t want to be that parent, the one everyone talks about, that does not “launch” her adult children properly (if there even is such a thing, but I can assure you, there are tons of articles about this very thing that make me a little crazy).

About a month ago, I got the phone call.  “Hey Mom, what do you think if I move to Pittsburgh with Joe?” (see business partner above)  Shortened version of my response:  “Sounds great, Jared.  You could live in Dad’s apartment while you get one of your own (for those of you who don’t know, Allen commutes there three days a week and has a one-bedroom apartment).   You could work for Uncle Charley while finding a job (Charley has a large landscaping company).  I think you will love it.”  Inside my head, I was doing a little cheer, because it would be the beginning of the launch sequence.  I could even hear the countdown in my head.   After all, Pittsburgh is the perfect place.  Allen grew up there.  His parents are there.  His brother is there.  His other brother just bought a farm and moved there with his wife and seven children.  Even his sister is moving to Pittsburgh one week a month.  And most importantly, Jared is a huge Steelers and Penguins fan and his favorite part would be that there would be no more game black-outs.  All the ducks would line up in a perfect row.  YAY!  But of course, part of me believed it wouldn’t come true (negative thoughts rearing their head).

As the month marched on, I was proven more and more wrong.  All the pieces kept falling into place.  Joe got a good job and Charley said yes to Jared.  Everyone in Allen’s family did a jump for joy when they heard the news.  Jared in Pittsburgh.  What a treat!  Even Charley, when he heard the news, said to him, “You finally came to your senses.”  So, on January 2, 2018, Jared packed up his car and moved to “Da ‘Burgh” as it’s known to the locals.  He started work for Charley just two days later on January 4.  All seemed super happy and positive.

Here’s where it gets a little sticky!  I thought I would be elated.  Doing my own jump for joy.  Proud of myself for getting another one out of the house, “launched” as I frequently say to friends (we even use the rocket ship emoji every time this happens to someone).   No more extra food-making.   No more dishes from the basement to wash.  No more feelings of being tied down.  Although those things did happen, other emotions flew in unannounced.   Sadness.  Worry.   Sentimentality.  No more “do you want a smoothie” texts with a reply “Would love one.  Thanks Mom.”  No more “where are you?” texts from him as he pulls in the driveway and my car is gone, causing me to feel needed and loved.  No more hugs as he comes up the stairs to get his laundry.  On New Years, the night before he was to leave, tears flowed unprovoked.  We shared the following texts.

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 2.09.10 PM

Life is filled with this.  We experience “BOTH AND” as I like to say.  On many occasions and even at the same time.  BOTH happy AND sad emotions.  BOTH difficult AND easy situations.  BOTH scared AND brave thoughts.  BOTH excited AND anxious feelings.  BOTH joyful AND sorrowful events.  This is one of the times.  I thought (once again, because I am slow learner) that I would only have all the good emotions since this is exactly what I want for Jared (and myself).  But that is not to be.  My heart is filled with a myriad of emotions and a cornucopia of thoughts.  And I am okay with all (okay most) of them (finally).

I lived a lot of my life trying to live in and for ONLY the positive and the good.  I shunned the negative and the bad.  It created much anxiety in anticipation of the “shoe-dropping” moments I dreaded might come true.  I have slowly come to realize that life is filled with it all.  And each part, either negative or positive, can be embraced, lived with and through and then incorporated into who I am and becoming.  It’s a much more whole and integrated place to live and be.  And believe it or not, my anxiety and fear about the dreaded “what bad thing is around the corner” has dissipated.  Bad things will happen.  Good things will happen.  I will be happy and sad.  There will be joy and grief.  It all may happen even in the course of the same event or moment.  BOTH AND.  A much more freeing place to live from.  I keep plugging away toward this place as my life marches on, repeating this mantra, “BOTH AND.”

All that being said,  I am BOTH sad AND happy that Jared has moved out of our little basement apartment into a whole new experience in Pittsburgh.   And Jared, I write this again (even though it’s on a graduation plaque in your bedroom downstairs) to remind you of my heart for you and my dreams for you.

May the Lord bless you, Jared, and grant you His favor FOR:

  • a life filled with knowing and receiving God’s amazing and unconditional love.
  • a wife, children and grandchildren who will love and respect you with passion and fierceness and that you can grow with as you journey through life.
  • success in the work of your hands. 
  • you to find your passion and that your work would bring fulfillment for you.
  • blessing financially so that your generous heart would be able to give freely.
  • a long and health-filled life, unhindered by disease and suffering
  • deep and abiding friendships that will build you up and support you on your life’s journey
  • you to have the peace of God that will guard your heart and your mind.
  • you to have the confidence to be yourself and hold onto who you are in an ever-changing world.
  • purity and integrity in your mind, body and heart.
  • a kind and gentle spirit who will continue to seek out those who need help and offer them yourself.
  • you to entrust yourself to the God who is trustworthy.
  • you to hold fast to God and be unwavering in your loyalty to Him, as He is to you.

I love you Jared!  You are one of the best gifts I have ever known and I will miss you.

Mom

P.S.  I loved your snapchat pic when you were pulling out of the driveway.

By the way, Jared’s web-based company is on the move.  For all of you who are of have up-and-coming college students, you will want to check it out!!  Look for a launch date coming soon!!

Posted in Childhood, Ethiopia, Freedom, God, Holiday, Hope, Love, Missionary, Third Culture Kid

The “You Better Watch Out”…God

“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
(Prince Caspian, Chapter 10)

I lay on my bunk bed at boarding school in Ethiopia.  My bunkmate stirs below me.  I wind my musical Raggedy Ann doll over and over, hoping to get some sleep.  Sleep does not come.  I rehash the day.  Thoughts swirl:  “I did a bunch of wrong things.  Maybe that’s why I can’t sleep.  I should confess my sins.  Hey God, I’m sorry for all the bad things I did today.  Please forgive me.”  Still no rest for my eyes and tired body.   I go into a bit of a panic.  “Maybe I didn’t mean it for real when I prayed the magic prayer asking God into my heart.  If I did mean it, I would not be so naughty.”  I whisper the same thing for the umpteenth time, “Please come into my heart.  I really mean it this time. I will be better tomorrow.”  Still nothing.  I lay there wide-awake.  My mind happily drifts to earlier in the evening, when my dorm mother read us another chapter in the story of Narnia and especially Aslan, a loving lion who makes everything good and right in a strange land, and seems to adore children and even play with them.  “I love Aslan.  I wish God was like Aslan.  Why can’t He be?”  As I finally drift off to sleep, resting in the comfort of the lion who loves children, I have a flicker of hope:  “Maybe He is.”

For decades, Santa has flooded the Christmas season.  A jolly man with a jolly heart.  A man who rewards good behavior with toys and naughty behavior with “a lump of coal.”  We all know of him.  Believe it or not, I had a friend who “prayed to Santa” all year and confessed her sins, much like I did with God as a young girl.  After all, how different are they?  “He (Santa) sees you when you’re sleeping.  He knows when you’re awake.  He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.  YOU BETTER WATCH OUT…Santa Claus is coming to town.”  It is eerily similar to the Sunday School song from my childhood:  “Be careful little eyes what you see, for the Father up above is looking down below, so be careful little eyes what you see.”  Both of them are watching.  You better watch out.

More recently, Santa’s Elf (on the Shelf) has taken off as a new family tradition.  If you’re not familiar, this Elf (which comes in different sizes and even sexes in the form of a cheaply made elf doll that will set you back 30 bucks), is dispatched from the North Pole at the start of Advent.  He or she enters homes to keep a watchful eye on the children, ensuring good behavior during the rough parenting patch when kids are over-sugared and over-excited for Christmas.  His or her “job” is to make sure they belong on Santa’s “nice” list.   You better watch out!

I loved celebrating Santa with my children (we just dug out Rachel’s letter from the North Pole) and might currently have an Elf on the Shelf  if I still had littles.  But as you read above, and this is the point:  I believed in a “you better watch out” God very early and sadly, it continued well into adulthood.  God was no different than Santa or Elf on the Shelf.  He was up there watching my every good and bad behavior, ready to reward or “smite” me for each one, his main goal to get me to behave.  It’s not hard to figure out what my relationship with Him was like because of this.   I was filled with and acted out of fear and guilt.  I hid from Him, or at least (fruitlessly) tried to…who wouldn’t? I struggled to feel close, spending much energy and time on my external, visible behavior, hoping that it would be enough, trying to avoid that proverbial “lump of coal,” God’s disapproval of me.  My internal craving for love and belonging was completely sacrificed on the external “behavior management” altar.

Enter the stories of Narnia and a reunion with Aslan as the mom of four kids.  I found three-hour radio theater dramatic renditions absolutely a must-buy if you have kids) of these stories that I loved as a child.  I could kill two birds with one stone:  share this amazing lion with my own children and at the same time, keep them quiet on long car rides (keeping it real people).  As I came to reconnect with Aslan, I found even more so that he is wise, playful, generous, kind, mysterious, terrifying, magnificent, beautiful and unconditionally loving all at once.  He is the one who I longed for my whole life.  He is too good not to be true.

I had finally found the answer to that hopeful thought I had as a child.  God is not like Santa.  God is not like the Elf on the Shelf.  God is not ultimately concerned with “behavior management.”  God is like Aslan.  God is wise.  God is playful.  God is generous.  God is kind.  God is mysterious.  God is terrifying.  God is magnificent.  God is beautiful.  God unconditionally loves and He unconditionally loves me.  Period.  His agenda is a loving, intimate, close relationship with me.  He loves me because of who He is, not how I behave.  He actually can’t help Himself.  True, lasting change will come, but it will be born FROM of a place of love and acceptance, the inside out, not FOR love and acceptance, the outside in.

What relief!  What freedom!  Even as I write this, “you better watch out” is quieted again and my heart settles down with a big inner sigh.  A long deep breath of safety and belonging.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  This is what I long for.  This is a line I can get in, a lap I can climb up onto and take pictures of every day for a lifetime!  My flicker of hope so long ago, “Maybe He is,” is a burning light of hope that shouts, “YES.  YES HE IS.”

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P.S.  I have told people that, as a child, I loved Aslan more than I loved Jesus (see Ethiopia Tikdem post).  I found out that a concerned mother once wrote C. S. Lewis on behalf of her son, Laurence, who, having read The Chronicles of Narnia, became concerned that he loved Aslan more than Jesus. In his response, Lewis offered this relief:

“Laurence can’t really love Aslan more than Jesus, even if he feels that’s what he is doing. For the things he loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Laurence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before.”

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, God, Hope, Joy, Love, Parenthood, Sacred

Letter to Baby Bear

As soon as I saw you, I knew a grand adventure was about to happen.  (Winnie the Pooh)

Dearest Broden Andrew Meassick,

You are already one week old!  Last Saturday, I was nervously sitting in the waiting room after a long night of helping your mommy get ready to bring you into the world.  My cell phone buzzed.  It was a picture of you from your daddy.  There you were, all pink and healthy.  Tears of relief, gratitude and joy sprang from my eyes.  Your grand adventure was officially beginning.  Born on 11/18/2017 at 7:03 am, you were 7 pounds, 6 ounces and 20 1/2 inches long.  We had been waiting for you, the Baby Bear (as your mom and dad nicknamed you), to come and change our worlds forever!

After a short time, I was told I could meet you in person.  My heart did a little (okay, a HUGE) leap for joy.  I walked quickly to your room where your mommy was holding you against her skin, a sight I will never forget:  my baby holding her baby.  Feelings I hadn’t known before flooded my soul.  After a few moments, I brought you into my own arms and as I gazed into your very alert and big eyes (thank God you got your daddy’s eyes…this was a specific prayer we all had based on the small-eyed relatives on your mommy’s side) for the first time, I thought to myself, “What will you be like?  What adventures will life bring you and you bring it?”

Adventure awaits you, sweet Broden!  Those words are written on the sheets in your crib.  Great adventure.  Hazardous adventure.  Wonderful adventure.  Terrible adventure.  Quiet adventure.  Exciting adventure.  Sweet adventure.  Sad adventure.  Unique adventure.  Hard adventure.  Joyous adventure.  Helen Keller writes, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”  That’s one thing I can promise you, Broden:  it will be an adventure and it will be all of those things at one time or another.

The very best and first thing about your adventure is that you are extremely loved.  The God who formed you has absolute and unconditional love for you.  Nothing you can ever do will make Him love you less or love you more.  He loves you just because you are you.  You will find rest for your soul in that place.

Your creative, smart, kind, hard-working, compassionate mommy and your free-spirited, adventurous, wise, level-headed, willing-to-grow daddy are absolutely head-over-heels in love with you.  They will love you no matter what and nothing you can do will change that.  You will find rest for your soul in that place.

You also have grandparents, aunts, uncles, first-cousins once-removed (or maybe they are second cousins…it’s been a debate since you were born and Google has not been a help at all) and friends who have loved you from the first moment of hearing about you.  You will never find yourself in a place that you won’t be loved.   You will find rest for your soul in that place.

Rest for your soul matters because the adventure that awaits you matters.  It’s yours and yours alone.  Your inner soul anchored in unconditional love will be of immense value for living your outer adventure to the fullest.  All kinds of small and large experiences will come your way, some good and some hard, some easy and some terrifying, but never forget that you have a safe place deep down inside that no one can take from you.  You have a God, parents, family and friends who love you.  Nothing can touch that!  No one can take that away!  Live in and from that place!

You are nicknamed the Baby Bear.  You even have a stuffed “bear head” hanging on your wall in your room (kind of like your dad’s “party buck” head hanging in your family room).  Bears are incredible animals.  They have four characteristics that I find intriguing.  They are extremely intelligent, strong, protective and affectionate.  I’m sure you will be all of these and much more.   But there is a fifth that is most important:  every bear is an individual with a completely unique personality.   You, Broden, are an individual with a completely unique personality.   I want you to know that I will do all that I can to foster and encourage your very unique self and what aspects of life you find interesting.  I don’t care if you love sports or music, if you are an introvert or an extrovert, if you can count to ten by age two or it takes you until two to take your first step.  I promise to love you and love what you love.  I have shared this with your mommy many times and I’m sure you will hear it from me every year on your birthday when I read you “Happy Birthday” by Dr. Seuss:  “Today you are you, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive that is youer than you.”  Be you, Broden.  Be you.

For your mommy and your aunt and uncles, I asked God to give me one verse from the Bible (my mom had a verse for me and it has been a light for my heart and soul).  I have been asking God for the same thing for you.  And guess what, Broden.  God didn’t just give me one verse.  He gave me a whole bunch.  You must be extra special.  They actually came because your grandpa was reading through the book of Colossians and I was prompted to check it out.  These verses right at the beginning of the book struck me as those God would have from my heart to yours.

From the day I heard about you, I have not stopped praying and making special requests for you. 

I pray that…

you will be filled with a deep and clear understanding of His will for you, that you will have insight into the ways and purposes of God. 

you would live how God designed you to live, from a fully-known and fully-loved place and that you would have complete trust in Him.  This brings Him the most pleasure.

your life would bear much fruit from all your hard work. 

you would have a full, deep and clear knowledge of God. 

you will be invigorated and strengthened with all power from God so that you will have much patience and joy.

I thank God because He has made you fit to share in all that is His.  He has brought you into His Kingdom, one that is filled with love.

(Colossians 1:9-14 – EJGV – “Esther Joy Goetz Version”)

Broden, how fun that you are here!  I am absolutely thrilled!  I can’t wait to get to know you and go on some of your adventures with you.  I just bet I will love you even more than I do today!  I can’t imagine how that is even possible.  But it is!

From one very excited person in your life who loves you like crazy,

G-ma

(If you enjoyed this, please head back to your social media account and like it for me so we can spread the world of hope and healing.)

 

Posted in Anxiety, Childhood, Emotions, Freedom, God, Hope

For What It’s (uh…I Mean I’m) Worth

The Lord Your God will take great delight in you.  He will quiet you with His love.  He will rejoice over you with singing.  (The Prophet Zephaniah)

I was a smart, speedy child.  I could read when I was just four.  I skipped kindergarten, went to first grade at five years old, did three grades in two years, moved to the United States and repeated third grade (there was no way the Ventnor school system would have a seven-year old in fourth grade), skipped fourth grade when I went back to Ethiopia and ended up in fifth grade when I was only eight years old.   Sounds exhausting just writing it, much less living it.  After that, I actually did only one grade per year, but it meant I graduated high school at 16, even before I got my New Jersey driver’s license.

Needless to say, I was praised all the way through for how smart I was.  What a great performer I was.  How “special” I was.  I loved the attention and thought of myself as the “one to beat.”  But to tell you the truth, I actually did not believe you would ever “win” if we had a competition when it came to smarts.

This perpetuated itself in high school when I received the award for the #1 Bible quizzer in the United States for our church’s denomination and was deemed worthy of a spot at the “Harvard of Christian colleges,” Wheaton College in Illinois.  I had performed well and was rewarded for it.

Lest you think that I sailed through with flying colors both outside and inside, there were many times that I struggled with embarrassment.   I did not want to be the “odd man out,” the one who was different, “special.”  I lived with two conflicting emotions:  I loved being the best, the fastest, the smartest, but I also wanted not to HAVE to be that, desiring to be average, normal, the right age and be accepted anyway.  I actually purposefully got a “C” in Physical Science in ninth grade to fit in (not even with others, but just within my own head).  Opposing messages swirled inside of me:  I am worth a lot because I am smart and I wish I was worth a lot because I am me.

I took these two opposite notions with me well into adulthood when one day, I heard the phrase, “Your worth is not based on your performance.”  Really?  Really?  Because my worth certainly was.  As time marched on, I began to entertain this thought and realized much damage had been done to my heart so long ago and still continued.  It began to make sense why I was driven to achieve and worked tirelessly at everything I did and ended up in an adrenaline-overloaded life-style, constantly feeding the “worthy monster.”   It morphed into terrible anxiety in my late 30s as I struggled with the idea that if I wasn’t “pulling my weight” here on earth, God might just deem me unworthy of staying and he would take me to Himself.  Weird thoughts prevailed:  if I wasn’t the perfect mom, God might just give me cancer.  If I don’t make that person dinner or take their kids to soccer practice, they might not want to be my friend.  If my kids misbehave in church, people will judge me.  So I paddled along, hearing that good message faintly echo in my thoughts, but living from the louder opposing voice.  I wanted to believe that I was worthy even if there was no performance, but my actions proved that I still held to the contrary.

It didn’t help that our culture permeates this point of view.  Constant evaluations based on performance in school, community, church, sports, friendship and even marriage flood our lives.  Learning is replaced by good grades, teamwork is replaced by winning games, compassion is replaced with mandatory volunteer hours, Christian community is replaced by behavior-management sermons, long talks on porches are replaced by a “what can I do for you” mentality and intimacy is replaced by well-manicured lawns and magazine-worthy homes.

I spent years combatting this highly destructive-to-the-soul belief, shouted truth from the mountaintops to my children, friends and anyone who would listen, hoping it would penetrate my own soul and that I would finally live within the framework of knowing I was worthy just because I am who I am and God had deemed it so.  Until this past week, I would have told you that I had won the war for my heart.

Not so.  While waiting for Broden, our grandson, to arrive (and yes, we are still waiting not-so-patiently), I was scurrying around cooking meals for home and for the soon-to-be-parents, cleaning out every cabinet in the house, washing every last dish and dirty clothes item, and tackling projects long-laid to the side, when I asked myself the deeper question:  what’s going on?  why do you feel the need to get “all your ducks in a row” before this baby comes?  Of course, there is the natural “nesting” that takes place when a baby comes into the world, and that is all well and good, but I sensed a below-the-surface wound that was oozing out again.  After all, I am making the transition from motherhood to grand-motherhood.  I can justify my worth if I have children and take care of them.  But what about now that they are grown?  I had a huge moment of clarity: once again, I am trying to prove my worth.  This does not come from a deeply-loved place, but from an earning place.  Keep working.  Keep doing.  Get praised.  Be loved for what you do.  Prove.  Prove.  Prove.  YIKES!

As the week progressed, it came to the forefront that I still have ways to go.  I am still surrounded by constant evaluations, some of them coming from inside of me.  The battle is not “one-and-done.”  It’s a daily fight to the place of wholeness and healing.  There is good news:  I believe and live whole-heartedly from the place that YOU are valuable, beyond any measure.  YOU are of infinite worth, whether you ever perform another task again.  I never measure YOUR worth on your performance.  And there is future good news:  I am much closer to living from that same place for myself.  After all, my mantra in this blog is this: wholeness and healing is for all of us.  And finally, there is the best news of all, a spark of hope:  it can start with me.  I am loved and that is enough.

(Please like or comment on this on social media if you came from Facebook, Instagram or Linked In.  It helps in spreading the good news of hope.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Childhood, Family, Joy, Love, Parenthood

Ending Well (and a surprise beginning)

“I’m so tired, I’ve forgotten how to spell the word tried.”  (Google search of “parenting” + “tired” + “quote”)

I am tired.  I am counting down the hours to ending my active parenting.  It’s been 25++ years.  I am sitting on the floor, covered in empty boxes, and about to sleep on a futon that has been through three other college students.

When I think back to active parenting, I have:

  • used q-tips covered in alcohol carefully for 10 days on each of four babies’ umbilical cords until that gross thing turned black and fell off
  • grocery shopped with four children under seven (it was like taking four goats to the store…I “kid” you not…get it?  get it?  I “kid” you not)
  • sorted legos into bags by color, size and type at least 52 times (to be exact)
  • played Ms. PacMan on Nintendo 64 surrounded by eight excited eyes until I beat all the levels and killed the witch
  • kept Pokemon cards carefully in plastic sleeves inside of books and monitored whose cards were whose
  • filled out back-to-school forms until my eyes twitched and my hands curled up in agony (can’t this be computerized people?)
  • packed 180 (# of days in a school year) X 4 (# of kids in this house) X 13 (# of school years in the life of an average child) lunches (for you math heads, that’s 9,360)
  • created chore charts, memory verse charts, learn-to-pee-and-poop-on-the-potty charts, and behavior charts, all complete with stickers and prizes
  • watched (or at least heard from the kitchen) ad nauseum reruns from the Disney Channel, Nick Jr., PBS, Cartoon Network and now Netflix
  • coached and watched basketball, soccer, baseball, lacrosse, wrestling, field hockey, swimming, track, volleyball, and softball (I’m pretty sure our records for all of those sports combined was .500 exactly)
  • listened to piano, clarinet, bassoon, guitar, and recorders (some of it, shall I say, “more pleasing to the ear” than others)
  • gone to the doctor, dentist, oral surgeon, voice therapist, orthodontist, counselor, ENT, orthopedic surgeon and emergency room enough that I felt like I should have “frequent shopper cards” (buy 10 visits, get one free)
  • planned themed birthday parties each year complete with specialized decorations and games (Pin the Tail on Pikachu anyone?)
  • endured graduations from preschool to middle school to high school to college (best memory is Josh and I rolling our eyes across the gym at Rachel during her 8th grade graduation…don’t judge me)
  • driven at least 5 or 6 times the distance of the globe to practices, lessons, youth groups, parties, play dates, school, and girl/boyfriend’s houses (you parents out there feel my pain as you read this)
  • broken up 3,247 fights over paper-cup lids, halloween candy, bathroom etiquette (or lack thereof), and on and on and on
  • taught (or I should say freaked out in the passenger’s seat) four teens how to drive
  • moved four kids in and out of college dorms and college apartments (one night I actually slept on bath mats…it was the softest thing I could find in Jared’s apartment)

You can see why I’m tired.  25++ active years of this.

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About six months ago, I felt done.  Yes.  Done.  After all, Rachel was independent, easy, and didn’t really need me anymore.  Could I get out of this parenting thing early?  Loved that thought for a moment.  Relished it.  And then some force within me rose up and put a stop to that thinking (it had to because it was running amok).  

I made this promise to myself (and made the same one for Allen, whether he liked it or not): “I am going to end my parenting well.  Rachel deserves the same parent the other kids got until the day they skipped out the door to their dorm rooms.”   I can’t say that it was perfectly executed by any means after that or that I just had all the exact amount of love and energy I needed to do this every moment of every day.  But you know what, I did do it.  And it was good.

Good.  That is all that was needed.  Not perfect, but good.  I have no idea and I am super grateful for whatever rose up inside of me to keep fighting the good fight until the very last picture was hung, Walmart kitchen table built (complete with chairs) and Bed Bath and Beyond order picked up.  And I do have the proof:  I am sitting on the floor, covered in boxes, about to sleep on a very well-worn futon.  I have ended well.

But (SURPRISE!!! you thought this blog post was over) it does not really end.  Love does not end.  It changes, but does not end.  My hands may be less busy (I am seriously praying this is true), but my heart will never be.  My heart is bigger and wider and busier than ever before.  Love does not end.  It multiplies.

And guess what.  Big news.

On or about the beginning of November, a new baby boy will be born to our Sarah and her husband Cody.  And the cycle of love will begin again, and actually, it already has.

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(an aside for those of you still in the thick of it:  you are doing great!  you will make it!  it will be okay! and yes, it is very hard and very worth it!  you are a super hero!)

 

Posted in Childhood, Family, God, Joy, Love, Parenthood, Sacred, Thanks

Pennies

“The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside by a generous hand. But- and this is the point- who gets excited by a mere penny?”  (Annie Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

Allen hatched a plan at dinner one night many moons ago.  He had been reading the above book (worth the read) and was captivated by an anecdote about a game Dillard used to play in her childhood. She tells the story of how she used to hide her own “precious penn(ies)” in nooks or crannies in trees or sidewalks, drawing chalk arrows to them so a stranger would find the surprise penny and pick it up.  Many times, she would lie in wait to catch a glimpse of the excitement in the finder’s eyes.

Allen’s favorite thought, just like Annie Dillard, was that 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.  Thus came Allen’s mission for our family:  find these pennies every day and tell us about them at dinner.

What started as a game ended up changing our lives.  Each one of us searched and found many things each day that we believed were “strewn by the generous hand” of God Himself, “surprises” just for us He had hidden along the path, many times with “big arrows” signaling where we might discover them.  We had things like flowers, actual pennies (those were super fun to find), frogs, the best parking space at the mall on a rainy day, butterflies, a kind word from someone, scoring an unexpected goal on the soccer or field hockey field, etc.  Sometimes, we would joke that what we had been given was a “nickel,” a “dime” or even a “quarter,” depending on the magnitude of what it meant to us.

Maybe I’m the only one here, but I have a confession to make.  My life (and mostly my head) is filled with negativity from the news, struggles in my home, animosity on social media, work-place uncertainty, sickness and even the death of those I love, all things that  consume me by what’s wrong with the world instead of what’s right.  And really, truth be told, it causes me to doubt whether or not there is a God who is alive and who actually loves us people down here on this beautiful, but hurting planet.

As the events of the past week unfolded, my mind traced back (and thankfully did so) to the game we played for a whole year at our dinner table, the one that changed my life and maybe can change it again.  Are there terrible things?  Yes.  Are there sad things?  Yes.  Are there things that are just downright wrong?  Yes.  But are they the only things? NO!

I don’t want to stick my head in the sand, but I also don’t want to be swallowed up either.  I want to wisely navigate that tension between the bitter and the sweet of life, compassion rising within me in the bitter and joy enveloping my heart in the sweet.

One does not negate the other.  They both matter.  They both have their place in my day. I would venture to say, however, that I don’t have to look very far to see the bitter.  I am bombarded from sun up until sun down.  And that’s why I want to open my eyes, like Annie Dillard implores me, to search for the sweet, find it, and name it.  Those “pennies” might be just what I need.  And they just might quiet those doubts and remind me of a God who is alive and loves little old me, a God who has put special pennies all throughout my day, pennies just for me.  This is a soothing and healing balm for my soul.

Will you play this game with me, even if it’s just for today?  Pennies from heaven.  Mine today was a beautiful view of the James River from outside our train window on the way to Florida taking Rachel to college.  What was yours?

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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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