Thursday, January 4, 2018

Life Goes On

My dad is dying of cancer. 

We brought him home from the hospital on Christmas Eve and brought in hospice for his final days.

It stucks. 

Until recently, I didn't tell very many people that he was sick.  We found out last year that Dad had prostate cancer and by the time they caught it, it had already invaded his spine.  Dad insisted he could beat it and could have 5 good years. 

And I believed him. 

My dad is the luckiest person I know and if anyone could kick cancer's booty, it was him.  Have I mentioned he's only 64 and is in great shape--or rather--he was in great shape up until a few months ago?  And that medicines and shots and treatments that were thousands of dollars were given to him for free?  If he set his mind to something, it just always happened.

But that isn't the case this time.  Less than 2 weeks ago, I had to face the fact that he is not going to beat this.  His PSA is over 1000 and the ugly, evil tumors are literally popping up all over his body.

Luckily, the office for one of my jobs was closed for the week and I was able to take off on the only day I was scheduled to work at my other job, so I was able to spend most of my time at my dads.  In fact, my girls had to wait until the day after Christmas to celebrate because I wasn't home (and even then, a few of their presents weren't wrapped and I handed them to them in the bags I brought them home from the store in).  Between all my family, the house was full and I liked sleeping on the couch, knowing I was close to my dad if he or my stepmom needed me.

But then this week rolled around and I had to go back to work.  I walked in on Monday and literally thought I was going to lose it.  I felt incredibly guilty that I was there and not with my dad.  And I resented the fact that my co-workers were laughing and joking and oblivious to the fact that my dad was laying at home in a hospital bed with maybe only hours to live.

But, life does go on. 

Even though part of me doesn't want it to. 

And through all of this, a thought that has circulated in my head is "I have failed so many friends who have gone through losing their dads."  In fact, I didn't even attend the funerals of some because I just didn't think it would matter.   And even those I did attend, I don't think I empathized with them enough or offered them the support that so many have given me the past few weeks.  I didn't text them to tell them I was praying for them or pray for them afterward as often as I could have and should have.  So, Courtney and Stacey and Ali and Tonya and the many others I brushed past when you were in my shoes--I'm sorry.  I didn't realize the depth of what you were feeling.  And even if I had, I don't know that I still would have been able to say anything that would have changed your sadness. That will always be a regret I have.

Grieving sucks almost as much as cancer.  And  grieving someone who is still alive is excruciating.  I find myself wondering what Easter and Christmas and birthdays will be like without him.  And don't even get me started on Father's Day and even Mother's Day since he was both for so many years to me.  And while there is comfort in knowing he will be in heaven and able to eat any kind of pie he wants, it's still just so very hard.

But, life does and will go on.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Gift of New Books

Some girls like jewelry and shoes.  Some like to eat out at trendy, new places.  For me, new books and blank journals make me giddy.

At the start of every new year, I love to sit down and figure out what books I want to read.  I know--it's a nerdy thing, but it truly gets me excited about the new year--which sometimes feels daunting to me.  Especially if the last year didn't end on the high note I wish it had.

One of my favorite things to do is to send someone a book after talking to them.  Again, I know it's a bit nerdy, but books can be so personal.  I never send the same one to everyone--each is specifically chosen for that person.  I have several favorites that I often rotate through, but that's just because they are sooo good that I want to share them.  Every one is one I've read and that made an impact on me.

Last night, I decided to start a wish list on Amazon of some of the books I hope to read this year.  I have a list I carry on my phone, but those are more the books I want to get on my kindle.  I like to read my more inspirational things in a physical book that I can write in and highlight.  I figured the wish list would be a good place to start in separating my lists so they weren't jumbled together. 

This morning I woke up to an Amazon gift card in my inbox from a friend who gets me.  And the card was enough to cover 2 books and leave me a quarter toward my next purchase!!  While I am sooo very excited about the new books, I'm equally as excited about the fact that my friend thought of me and picked out a gift specific to me.

Of course, being me, I went deeper with the simple act of kindness.  It reminded me that in this new year, people need to be noticed for who they are. Not who we want them to be or think they should be.  Giving a gift to someone based on what THEY enjoy makes them feel seen.  And in a world where we can hide behind screens so very easily, that is a felt need.

Who was the last person you talked to?  What type of gift do they need?  It might just be more time with you.  Or help with a small project--or even big project.  It might be more phone calls from you or a coffee date.  It could even just be a card in the mail instead of just a text.

Or, it might be a book.  You decide.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Best Gift Ever

Today we celebrated the life of our sweet Lois who went to be with Jesus last month.  Several people shared stories of praying with Lois and listening to her pray for others.  She was seriously the best prayer warrior/interceder that I've ever known and left some Goliath-sized shoes to fill.

But, as I reflect on Lois, I am reminded of many other things.

I met Lois when we worked together in childcare at our church.  From day one, she loved my Caroline. She was in the room next to where Lois and I worked together and the ladies in there had problems with her, because she cried a lot.  After them coming to get me one day, Lois told me, "Bring that baby in here--don't take her over there again.  I've got this."  And she did.

A few years later, I started working full time at the church and needed to find childcare for Caroline.  I tried a couple of different places and had this crazy thought that I should ask Lois.  So I did.  And she said, "YES."  We weren't able to pay her much, but I really think she would have done it for free.  She and Caroline adored each other.

They had lots of adventures.  Lois took her to the park and to feed the ducks.  She bought a pool for her backyard and she and Caroline spent a lot of time out there in the garden and sandbox and back porch.  She turned one of her bedrooms into "Caroline's room" and filled it with books and toys and a play kitchen. 

And she taught my daughter to be creative.  They baked all kinds of desserts in the kitchen--kolaches and rolls and cupcakes and cookies.  They made fairies out of flowers from her garden and fairy houses out of  egg cartons and paper towel holders.  They painted and colored and watched videos of "Hermie"  and played with her cats--Tigger and Missy. 

One of my favorite memories was of her talking about a day our church sent everyone to buy food for the local food pantries.  She told me that she used her "babysitting money" to go to Costco and was able to buy several items to donate.  As she said this, she laughed and clapped her hands.  I remember being struck by how utterly joyful she was about being able to give. 

We still have the dresses and poodle skirt and pillowcase that Lois made for Caroline.  We found one of the dresses a few years ago and took a picture of Caroline wearing it like a halter top to show Lois.  We have a few pics of the gorgeous gingerbread houses and little chocolate mice she made and great memories of the kolaches she use to "pay" Brian with when he came over to fix things around her house.

When we remodeled the church and created a servant cafe for our kids ministry volunteers many years ago, I asked her if she would make kolaches to feed our leaders while they were serving.  Every Tuesday, she came up to the church and with one other volunteer, made kolaches for hundreds of leaders who devoured them every Sunday morning.  We would have to hide some so that those serving during the 2nd service could have some.  I think those were the years we had the highest attendance numbers and I KNOW it was because Lois prayed over those kolaches as she made them and for the leaders who ate them.   

I've asked people to pray for me any times over the years and most of them probably did.  But when I asked Lois to pray for something specific, she would remind me that she always prayed for me and my family and would add this to the list of things she prayed for us.  And the tone in which she said it, let me know that she believed her prayers would be answered. 

And while I selfishly grieve that she's not here to pray for my girl, I take comfort in knowing that she is in her true home now.  I can see her now, grinning from ear to ear, and not leaving Jesus' side.  Brian asked today if we thought she had whipped all the angels in shape by now and Caroline and I laughed.  Truth is, she probably did that before her first day there had ended.

One of the best gifts anyone can give a mom is to love her kids.  Lois did that for me and I will forever be grateful for that.  I can't wait to hug her neck again. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

What I'm Learning

There's this hill by my house.  Well, it doesn't SEEM like a hill.  If you look at it, it just looks like a long, flat street--but it is SOOOOO not! 

A few years ago, when I was riding my daughter's bike (because I was too cheap to buy one of my own), I felt the burn when I was halfway down it.  You know the feeling--when you have to stand on the pedals, but your legs are so shaky you feel like you are gonna topple sideways?  Or maybe that's just me. 

ANYWAY, I could never figure out why it was so hard--it looked flat and surely I wasn't THAT out of shape (which I probably was, but telling ourselves little white lies every now and then is okay).  Then, one day, I mentioned it to someone else and they said that there was no way that street was flat--there was definitely an incline--you just couldn't see it because it was so gradual, but anyone who walked/rode on it definitely felt it. 

That's kinda how life is these days.  Now, don't get me wrong--there are several things that make that street harder to travel--like the wind in my face this morning and the podcast that stopped working yesterday and the zero dark thirty it looks like out there.  BUT, it's the getting up and going anyway.  Even when I know that I will have to do more than just walking a mile and a half to get rid of this overly excessive amount of weight my body seems to want to hold onto.  Even when I know it means I will have to juggle some other things and figure out what I won't have time for today.  Even when my legs feel like jelly from JUST WALKING!

And even when I look back and it doesn't seem like it should've been that hard for as little progress as I made.

What I feel like God is telling me is to continue to be faithful in the small things.  "Do the basics and don't stop.  Empty the dishwasher when you are tired.  Put that load of laundry in the washer before you go to work.  Answer that next phone call at work and follow through on what needs to be done.  Make the time to sit with ME--even though you think you need to plug in and work."

It's not glamorous.  It's not even fun most days.  And I certainly don't look back at the end of the day and see much progress (the sink is ALWAYS full of dishes, there is ALWAYS laundry that is waiting, the girls ALWAYS seem to want to eat lunch--go figure--I could go on and on, but you get it). Somedays it's only walking 1/2 a mile because that's all I can do in the moment. 

BUT, it's consistent.  It's putting one foot in front of the other when I'd rather just sit. 

And while I wish that one day I will look back on this time and see how God was preparing me in this season for something BIG and GLORIOUS, I'm not setting my hopes on that.  I'm trying to hear His voice in the little (emphasis on trying--I don't do that very well most days) and have it be enough.

Today, that means walking that hill and putting the blanket the dog peed on in the wash and making lunches and choosing to not open up work email so that I can sit and listen (and maybe even shaving my legs when I know I'm wearing pants to cover them up anyway--I know TMI--guess this is where I need to stop, before this gets really awkward). 

It also looks like writing this blog when I know the words are not necessarily life-changing or ah-ha moments for me or anyone reading them. 

But I do it because it's the next step in front of me and sometimes, that it enough.

The Gift of Giving Nothing

Yesterday was Brian's birthday.  The weeks leading up to it are stressful for me as I try to figure out what to buy or do for him.  When I ask him, the answer is always the same--"Don't buy me anything."

Now, when most people say that, they don't mean it, but when Brian says it, he means it.  Over the years, I've ignored it and tried to be creative with my gifts.  Last year, I was out of town for work on his bday, so I had his favorite bbq place in Tulsa send him their bbq sauces.  But, I'm not usually good with coming up with those kind of creative things.

This year, he allowed me to invite 3 of our favorite family friends over and we had a fish fry and sat around the fire pit.  So simple.  So relaxing.  So fun.  So US!

Even with that, I still felt myself feeling the need to come up with a present.

As I was out gathering twigs for a project (more about that later) and clearing my head--don'tcha just love how being out in nature does that for you?--I had an epiphany.  What if the best gift I could give is nothing.  What if I actually honored what he wanted and didn't do anything else?

What if we didn't make a big deal at the fish fry that it was a birthday celebration?  What if we didn't sing and make him blow out candles?  What if we didn't do a present?

Those little voices in my head that tell me what a loser I am started speaking up and telling me I HAD to do something or else I was a bad wife.  I had to have a surprise element of the night so that he would feel celebrated and loved.

And that's when I just STOPPED.  Brian would NOT feel celebrated and loved by being the center of attention and feeling the need to give a speech.  If I did that, it would be to make ME feel better.

How often do we do this in life?  We say we are doing something for another people, but we are really doing it to make ourselves look and feel good. We don't want to look like the loser wife who didn't  buy candles or a card.

But in doing stuff that makes us feel better, we dishonor those we love most?

So, while my love language is acts of service, it's not Brian's.  Love gets past our own hang-ups and expresses itself in the way others' feel celebrated--even if it would make us cringe.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Being Invited

Today, I received 2 different texts, inviting me to things.

Now, you may receive 2 invitations on the same day all the time, but, honestly, I don't get many invitations.  One was to play hooky and watch a movie and the other was to attend a fundraising gala.  Both were from dear friends that I don't get to see enough.

But what they were for and who they were from are really not the point in this post.

Being invited is.

I was taught years ago to "never do ministry alone."  What that means is to always bring someone with you--whether you are doing something big (like creating a non-profit AND when you're doing the mundane--like grocery shopping).  For those of you who are introverts, this probably just sent cold chills up your spine--I get it--the older I get, the more I need my space away from people.  Sometimes, I even make #mynameiswillow leave my room.

I used to be a great inviter.  I embraced what I was taught and just did life alongside people--a LOT.  The last year, I haven't been such a great inviter.  First of all, I live kinda far from most people.  Secondly, I haven't had the finances to do much and who wants to come hang out at my dirty house where someone always seems to be yelling and the dog hair never goes away?  Thirdly, I've been in a bit of a funk and really haven't wanted to spread that to anyone else.  I could go on and give you many other excuses, but you get the idea...

And here's the kicker, I couldn't do one of the things I was texted about, and I don't think the other will work out either.  So, both of those people might feel like they wasted an invite on me. (Be honest, haven't you ever felt that way when someone turned you down?  I know I have!)

But those invites were NOT wasted.  They came at a time when I needed to be invited to something outside of myself.

And it just makes me many times do we think of inviting someone to something and we don't because we know them saying "YES!" is a long shot?  How many times do we get frustrated when we are turned down, once again by that friend who says they never get invited?  How many times to we attend an event and afterwards think, "??????  would have loved this?"  And how many times do we just want to feel like our presence is wanted somewhere--even if we can't go?

So, what are you doing today or this weekend or next month?  What is on your agenda that you can invite someone to do with you?  Who's name/face is God bringing to your mind right now?

You don't know how powerful that seemingly small invitation is.  And honestly?  You may never know.

But do it anyway.

Invite someone today.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Conversations with a Teenager...Part 1

I've decided to start a new series since I can only do so many #askingforafriend posts.  I thought I had "interesting" conversations with my girls when they were little, but I've had some doozies lately.  I'll have to edit out some since many of our conversations are not appropriate outside our home, but we'll see how many come along.

Here's part 1:

Me: Did you see the comments on the pic I posted of you on facebook?
Unnamed Teen (UT): Yes.
Me: You should say "Thank you" to those who commented.
UT: No.  I don't want anyone to know I'm on facebook.
Me: are fb friends with them and I tagged you in the photos so they already know.
UT: Yeah, but I don't comment.  I just look at what you post.
Me: But people still know you are on there
UT: Yeah, but they forget.
Me: (Rolling my eyes) Oh, okay...THAT makes sense