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!)

 

 

 

 

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

SURPRISE! A Super Kid and an “Up Sydrome” Adult…TT (Season #01, Episode #07)

Sometimes, someone comes into your life so unexpectedly, takes your heart by surprise and changes your life forever.  (viacuriano.com)

The past two Tuesday evenings, I “cheated” on my husband and went on two dates.  The first was with a little beacon of light, my five-year old friend named Olivia.  We went and got ice cream FIRST, poked into a pet store and checked out the fish and the hamsters, went to Staples and spun around on chairs and bought Silly Putty, ate pizza while we bowled, and ended our night playing arcade games.  The second one was with my friend Robby, a man who thinks he should have something called “Up Syndrome.”  He is right.  We ate hamburgers and french fries (only pickle, ketchup and a bun for him), enjoyed ice cream (see a running theme here), played a matching game that he handily beat me 12-8 and sat and watched a couple of episodes of Full House while we waited for his dad to pick him up.

 Of course, I made these “dates” to bring help to my friends who are the caregivers of these precious souls.  I mean, what parent wouldn’t want someone to come along and love on their child while they get a much-needed break?  But as usual, God seems to have had something else up His sleeve.

God is wise and knows what He is doing.  He knows exactly how to reach deep into our hearts and souls and bless us, heal us.  Many times, when we think we are helping others, we are being helped.

These two people I spent time with couldn’t appear more different.  One is a typical little girl who is navigating Kindergarten (learning her ABCs with the Super Kids reading program – anyone heard of Cass who loves to Cook Casseroles in the kitchen with her Cat, Coconut). The other is an adult male with Down Syndrome (and I totally agree with him, why isn’t it called Up Syndrome?) who goes to Pride College (as he calls it), a school for adults with special needs.

They are so dissimilar at first glance.  Olivia is 5.  Robby is 30.  Olivia is a fireball.  Robby is chatty.  Olivia likes soccer.  Robby likes swimming.  Plain, straight-up different.  But, as you know, God is filled with surprises and likes us to repent (all that means is THINK A NEW THOUGHT) for our own journey of healing and wholeness.  These two beautiful souls are alike in so many ways that really matter, thus bringing me to tears filled with gratitude (hence the Thankful Thursday post).

  • They BOTH see the world through fresh eyes.  Everything is exciting to them.  The simple things I take for granted and go through the motions doing are seen with a new vision.  Spinning around on chairs at Staples (don’t judge me) and imitating Joey imitating Popeye while watching Full House are enjoyed to the full (check out the video below).

 

  • They BOTH are very smart and want to learn and grow.  Olivia is able to tell me all the rules in her classroom along with counting in both English and Spanish to 20.  Robby is able to tell me all about his family (who is still alive and who has passed on and what towns they live in and how they are all related to him) and also actually spelled out words for me when I had a hard time figuring out what he was trying to tell me (he has a speech impediment).
  • They BOTH are free with their love.  And I mean FREE!  No holds barred.  When I look at how closed off and closed up I am, it is such a beautiful thing to watch and then experience personally.  Their complete, uninhibited love for me frees my own heart just a little bit more.  I don’t have to hold back either and I am free to love them in return (this is not a lesson to be learned, but a heart to be changed and healed).

This all sounds so magical.  But to be honest, this is how it really played out.   The first date was super easy and I was looking forward to it.  I have spent the better part of the past 30 years immersed in children:  children’s ministry and having my own children.  I love children.  They are easy for me to figure out.  I actually play a little game with them to see if I can get each one to open up and light up when I interact with them.  My goal is connection and I like the hardest and most closed off ones the most.  It’s an adventure that I embrace fully.   And I am usually successful.

Leading up to the second date was hard for me.  I knew I wanted to stretch myself and go outside my comfort zone, but I was very nervous.  What would we talk about?  Would there be awkward silences?  How much do I have to keep him occupied?  How long should it be?  Will he be bored or afraid?  What happens if something goes terribly wrong?  It’s sad to say that I have never spent time with anyone with special needs other than in passing during child ministry.  I feel downright confused and uncomfortable, and there is probably some “special needs phobia” I struggle with.  But this is a man I kiss every Sunday (he’s the only other man in my life I kiss right on the lips other than Allen) when I grab my church bulletin from him.  A date was certainly the next logical step (I hear you.  Kissing usually comes after you’ve had a date or two).

Like I voiced earlier, God is a God of surprises.  The first date was not a surprise, but filled with all the goodness I expected.  Olivia was a bundle of light, joy and curiosity that touched the depths of my heart with exactly what I needed that evening.  However, the second date was one of the happiest surprises of 2018 so far.  Robby made it easy to connect.  He answered all the questions I asked.  He shared his likes and dislikes without fanfare.  He embraced each activity I had planned for him.  He even put his feet up on our coffee table and relaxed in his socks while we watched his all-time favorite show.  He was happy and made it so easy to be with him.  It was one of the best first dates I’ve ever had, filled with all the goodness I did not expect.

These will not be the only dates I have with these two.  Next time, Olivia and I might paint together (I learned that about her on our first date) and Robby and I will go bowling, but still eat hamburgers and have Diet Coke (I learned that about him on our first date).  I want to get to know both of them better so our time together is even more to their liking.

Isn’t this what so much of our journeys are all about?  Meeting others, getting to know them and loving them right where they are.   Connection.  Relationship.  Intimacy.  Freedom.

I don’t do this often, but today I will ask this question:  how about you?  What surprise can you be on the lookout for, that God has up His sleeve just for you, possibly a person that might bring more healing to your heart?  It might be a typical individual or someone with special needs.  It might be someone in your family or a complete stranger.  It might be someone similar to you or a person completely and utterly different.   It might be someone you already know or a brand new person you’ve never met.  Expect the unexpected!  Right now, I just envision God crouching down behind His heavenly “couch” and jumping up when you come in the door and shouting “SURPRISE!”

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 Celebration, Freedom, God, Holiday, Hope, Joy, Love, Sacred

We are the Gift

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.  (Hamilton Wright Mabie)

As I sit here listening to needles fall from my Spruce, I am not sure if our tree will survive until tomorrow.  It’s one of those minor stressors that come about because we bring something that’s alive from the outdoors into an environment where it is not designed to thrive.  The tradition seems silly at times, but it’s one of my favorite parts of Christmas.

Tonight and tomorrow, many of us head into environments where, like my tree, we are in survival mode.  There are so many reasons why it might be the case.  Thriving is not even on the agenda.  We are just going to “make it through.”

From the thousands of Christmas movies, books, and shows, we know in our heads that “Christmas cannot be bought from a store.  Christmas is just a little bit more.” (The Grinch)  But our actions speak otherwise.  We rush around buying gifts and would never be caught dead without one in hand for those on our list.  Part of the survival of Christmas.  Get a gift.  Bring a gift.

I don’t really want to just survive until Tuesday.  My thoughts swirl as I think about how to “make that happen, keep my needles from falling off.”  And then my heart is quieted.  It’s not the outer world:  other people, the food, the dying Spruce, the gifts, and even the Steelers game that are going to do it for me.  It’s a gentle reminder from my friend Annie that she has hammered into my head for the past ten years (obviously I am a slow learner):  We don’t just HAVE gifts to offer.  We ARE the gifts.

As you go into today, tonight and tomorrow, be encouraged.  You ARE the gift for those who spend any moments of precious time with you.  Open yourself up.  Unwrap yourself.  Let others in.  Help them to know you.  At the same time, view others as the gifts that they ARE.  Seek to unwrap their hearts.  Get to know them.  It’s scary and vulnerable and you might just be hurt and rejected, but you will be giving the best gift of all:  YOU.

I long for one thing in this life and just perhaps you do too (whether you know it or not):  being fully-known and fully-loved.  I am so thankful that Jesus paved the way for us and showed us how this works.  He opened His heart fully for us, taking a huge chance on being vulnerable and rejected, giving Himself without pause.  He knew beyond a doubt that He IS the best gift for us and that you and I ARE the greatest presents He could ever receive.  All of the scary rejection paled in comparison to the JOY that this union of hearts would bring.  We were worth the risk.

I don’t know what’s going to happen today, tonight, or tomorrow when you risk your hearts for the chance of knowing and being known, loving and being loved.  I can’t promise you that it might not end up painful.  I can’t promise you that you might not be rejected.  But I can promise that your heart will be more open, and in turn, more healed. And you might just be a little closer to getting what you really want this Christmas!

(Check out this fun video – What If We Saw Everything as a Gift?)

 

 

 

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,

Nana

(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 Celebration, Emotions, God, Health, Joy, Love, Marriage, Travel

Ciao Italia! (Due cose che ho imparato)

“In Italy, they add work and life onto food and wine.”  (Robin Leach)

I spent the past 10(ish) days in Italy (with a one-day jaunt to Switzerland) with my wonderful husband.  It was our 25th anniversary trip 18 months late (somehow we couldn’t stop Sarah from getting married, Josh from needing surgery, Jared from graduating college, and Rachel having high school and no license yet so that we could take our trip on time).

We had two days in Rome, one day in Pisa with Daniella, Josh’s girlfriend, two+ days in Cinque Terre (the Five Lands) on the west coast, two days in Milan (part of which was our day in Switzerland) with our good friends and missionaries, and then two days in Venice.  It was a whirlwind.

We found out that in order to get by as an English speaker, you basically need 5 words:  ciao (hello and goodbye), grazie (thank you)prego (you are welcome, please come, after you, have a seat)allora (total filler word, like “um”, “well”) and toilette? (I’ll let you figure that one out all on your own).  We became pretty good at fudging our way through and made it home in one piece with our passports and luggage.  Of course, I am up at 3 am writing this blog post because it’s full-blown day-time there.  I should already be finished with breakfast and have logged about 5,000 steps!

If you haven’t looked it up yet on Google Translate, “due cose che ho imparato” (the subtitle above) means “two things I learned.”  Amid all the incredible eating of pasta, pizza and gelati (I had it for 10 straight days and sometimes even twice.  It was my goal!), touring breath-taking architecture and landscapes, endless shopping in fantastic local boutiques, and traveling on boats, trains and planes, my mind kept meandering to two central “take-aways” from the trip, having nothing to do with any of the above.

1.  I took myself with me.  I would love to tell you that it was 10 completely magical days, that I was immediately changed into an always thankful, patient, kind, loving and joyful human, but the truth is, I brought my real self (the broken and the beautiful) along with me.  There were times where my eyes and heart leapt with the adventure of it all and I was filled with sheer gratitude and awe, but there were other times where I immediately lost patience over train schedules and people cutting in line.  There were times where Allen and I were like two young honeymooners, selfless and in love, but there were other times where we were unkind and hurtful to each other.  It hit home once again that it’s not the quick-fix, external circumstances that heal us in the internal places of our hearts, but the slow and sometimes day-to-day inner work we do in cooperation with a God who is in it with us for the long-haul.  Phew!

2.  I didn’t belong.  Not being able to fully communicate (to understand and be understood) was the first clue to realizing this was not my place and these were not my people.  I felt lost and confused and at times, didn’t seem to even know how to get the help I needed.  Cars and trucks (albeit miniature-sized) darting in and out of pedestrians without many traffic laws, militia standing on street corners with machine guns, currency that looked like monopoly money, and strange food (okay, I got you there…it felt like New Jersey with the pizza, pasta and ice cream shops on every corner) assured me that I was “no longer in Kansas” as the saying goes.  I was drawn into the adventure, the “otherness,” and am truly grateful.  I was changed a bit.  My eyes were opened a little more.  It was really fun and I needed that.  However, being with Allen (my person) was the best part of the whole trip.  And now I know why.   Deep within me, my soul aches for belonging, community, understanding, being understood, my place and my people.  This is most often where healing and the journey towards wholeness takes place, within the belonging to a kind and gracious God and a loving community of others.  My biggest “inner reaction” surprise of the whole trip was when we were standing in line waiting for our passports to be checked upon our return to Newark and the agent said, “Welcome home!”  I could feel my heart let out a sigh.  I belong here.  (A huge shout-out to those of you who are on this life journey with me!  I have missed you!)

Italy was a dream-come true and a big check mark on our bucket list!  And the travel bug has been tickled in my soul!  I am already making plans for a family trip to Alaska.  But today, on a mundane Monday morning, it’s really really okay for me to say Caio Italia and HELLO LONG HILL!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!)