Friday, June 15, 2018

Reaching Out

I have a friend.

She's not someone I see very often.  In fact, I've seen her less than 5 times in the last 20 years.

And I have talked to her on the phone about as many times.  Typically we text.

I haven't been a very good friend to her over the years.  I went MIA for a majority of the time after college.

But she showed up at my dad's funeral and has continued to send me random texts in the months since.  There's no rhyme or reason to them, but they always come at a time when I need to know that someone knows that grief doesn't end at a funeral. (Actually, that's probably when the real grief starts.)

I received one text on a Sunday that said she was praying for me because going to church after her dad died was hard for her.  Just that morning, I was telling someone how singing songs about death (which we do a lot of in church) made me sad and relieved at the same time.  Sad because death seems so final, but relieved (maybe even joyful) because Jesus overcame it and the power of that overwhelms me.

Here's what I've learned from my friend:

  • When God brings people to mind, I should let them know.  It doesn't need to be a grand gesture, just a simple text or comment on their IG pic or blog post will often suffice.
  • Never think that my grief/challenges are unique to me.  Someone else around me is going through, has gone through or is about to go through the same thing.
  • God speaks to us through friends as much as He does through the Bible and church.  And if we see them as such, life is so much more fun.
  • Even though we don't deserve it, grace abounds.  I can hold grudges or I can give grace to those who don't live up to my expectations.  
What I'm trying to do is to ask myself every morning, "Who do I need to reach out to?"  It might be a co-worker, a friend or even one of my daughters, but there is always a face that comes to mind.  Sometimes I text.  Sometimes I make it a point to have a conversation.  One time, I just ordered a book for her and had it sent.  Every day it looks different.  

And some days, I fail and am too busy looking inside myself to do more than survive my day.  

But, even if I only reached out to 1 person each week, that would be over 50 for the year.  And if YOU reached out to 1 person per week, that would make over 100.  And if we each invited a friend to do it with us, that's over 400.  And we could go on and on here... 

But it all starts with ME being willing to reach out...

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Consistently Consistent

I don't often allow myself to dream and create a bunch of new year's resolutions, but I love the idea of a Word for the Year.  In fact, the last 2 years, I've created a project for other families to come up with their word and it's been a hit.

But it's harder for me to find one of my own.  The word that typically comes up over and over is not the word I want.  There have been years when I've tried to change it to what I wish it was (like the year I wanted whimsy to be my word) and it's been like trying to make a round peg go into a square hole--it will work, but it wobbles around and just doesn't fit (I mean, seriously...whimsy is not a word I would ever even say, let alone model my life after--no matter how cool it is).

The word that kept coming to mind this year was "CONSISTENT."  Blah.  Such a boring word.  I tried to find others in the thesaurus that would mean the same thing and most of them were just as dull: dependable, uniform, steady, expected...

And I argued that this really wasn't my year to be consistent--I mean it started off with my schedule all out of whack and dealing with my dad's death and the grief that comes over me at inconsistent time.  I changed jobs. I have teenage daughters. Brian's job is feast or famine.  There's really not a lot of consistent things in my life.

But the word won't go away (which is why I'm finally posting about it in June).  It's come to mind even more the last few weeks as I've tried to get into a rhythm of exercise.  I want the excitement of boxing or noticeable weight loss, but those are not really part of my program right now.  Putting one foot in front of the other and walking a mile and a half in the morning is.  Convincing myself to get out of bed when the sun is just peaking out and putting on my tennis shoes instead of curling up with a book is.

And I still don't love it.  The exercise or the word.

But, they are both right.

I'd like to think that one day, both will bring me joy, but I'm not confident in that dream.  It may be one that I see down the road in my rearview mirror. I want to have this great "AH HA!" moment that I can share in my memoir of how everything changed.

But I don't think it works like that for most of us. 

I think it's the simple choices we make every day to do the next right thing.  The choices that change us in small, unnoticeable ways.  The ones we make while we're trying to get to the ones we think will make a drastic difference. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Do You Feel Loved?

Heavy title for a blog post, huh? 

I turned 46 yesterday--which I was dreading (and not just because I'm now officially closer to 50 than 40).  This is my first birthday without my dad.  I woke up early and looked through my "on this day" on facebook and he was my most consistent birthday-poster.  The last few years he posted a pic of me that I absolutely hated and kept trying to figure out how to tell him that.  While seeing it yesterday in the memories didn't make me sad that it wouldn't be out there this time, it did make me wish I had him speaking into me again--reading the words he wrote over the years made me cry (I KNOW--that's a shocker since I NEVER cry!  Sheesh!).

My dad was always telling me I didn't give myself enough credit.  He would tell me to stand tall and not feel like I need to apologize all the time.  What's ironic is that I always thought he was critical of me and that I never measured up to what he was hoping I'd be. 

Since his death, I've realized those words I heard were not his--they were mine.  I know now that he truly DID mean it when he told me I was kind and beautiful and loving.  He wasn't just saying it to make me feel better about myself because he was disappointed that I wasn't living up to my potential.

I see this same thing in my daughter.  I see her lack of confidence in the amazing-ness of who she is.  I feel the defensiveness as she is looking for the words I'm not saying or reading into my actions because she feels like I'm disappointed. 

Loving ourselves is hard.  I won't get all new-agey on you, but I do feel like we have done a bit a dis-service by insisting we love others first when we don't even know how to do that.  Jesus told us to "love others as we love ourselves."  It's following that command that has gotten our world into the mess it's in with the hate spewing back and forth.   Not the loving others part--the loving them like we love ourselves.  Most of us don't love ourselves.  We feel shame and fear and grief and disappointment when we look at who we are--not love.  If that's how we "love" others, then that's a problem.

I'm not saying we drop everything and only focus on ourselves--that's tipping the scale in the opposite direction.  I'm not even saying go out and buy yourself a new outfit or get a pedicure (ways I've tried to show myself that I love me).  Simply, what words do you believe-- in your head and  in your heart (because we all know, those 2 are often VERY different)?  Do you truly know how to love others?

Do you love you? 

Because until you do, you won't be able to love others well. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

It's the weird things that get me--usually they are small and insignificant. 

I worried that Easter would be hard.  Even though we didn't take any pics of the kids on the stairs like we did most years, I made it through without being incredibly sad all day.  For the first 2 months after my dad died, I would cry almost every Sunday at church during worship.  We sing a lot about death.  And dad's death just feels so final--even though I know it's not.  The thought that Jesus overcame that, and created a way for us to eventually do the same, overwhelms me and makes me experience Him in a totally new and different way. 

Yesterday was the 3 month anniversary of Dad's death.  I made it through the day with minimal tears.  And then I saw a pic on facebook that my Uncle Allen posted of him, my dad and my Uncle Terry. And I lost it.  I took that picture and was in denial that the end was so close as I was snapping it.  I knew my dad wasn't feeling well and even had to be the bad guy for him and tell some family he wasn't up to more people in the house. But, he still looked very alive in that picture and it made me miss him so very much.

And then this morning, I went to get a cup for my orange juice and his old Bugs Bunny cup was on the shelf staring at me.  My Grandma Mary gave it to me many years ago and it mostly just sits in the cabinet.  Today, it made me sob and smile at the same time.  I cried for me and my loss.  I smiled because the cup reminds me of both my dad and Grandma Mary and I know they are together again in heaven. Dad feels no more pain from tumors and Grandma can remember every little thing again.

I still can't seem to form the words to write a post to honor my dad.  It has come easy for me to do this for others, but this one escapes me.  Writing has always been how I process so, even though it's been 3 months, I know I have not processed through all I need to yet.  Maybe I never will.  But I DO hope the words will come eventually so that I can share the depth of love and emotion I have/had for my dad.

Until then, I will continue to be thankful for the tears because they mean that there are good memories there and things to miss.  They mean that my dad left a hole from all the good he did for me and others.  They mean that I realize what I had and didn't take it for granted.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

I cried...Again

We were driving on the way home from church tonight and my daughter said, "You really need to do Lovepacs in my school."  I started in on making my excuses for why that's just not feasible...Yeah, but I still need to find someone to head up our Aubrey community...And I really don't know anyone in your district yet (my kids just moved there this year)...And while I know there is probably a need, I just don't have time to take it on right now.

You get the drift--I was saying all the things I've said before so that I could pretend that it just isn't possible.

And then, she made me cry.

"Mom, there was this kid talking about his fast food job and how they let him take home the excess food at night.  Then this other kid asked him if it would be possible for him to get some of that tomorrow because his family ran out of money this week and he was trying to figure out how to help feed his younger brother and sister because they didn't have any food."

Y'ALL!!!  This kid is a freshman!  Instead of worrying about zits and girls and parties, he's worrying about food--and not only for himself, but for his siblings.

So, what do we do?  We can't save the world, right?  We can't feed every kid, right?  It's really not my responsibility--it's his parents job, right?

I just can't live with that anymore.  I can't take Lovepacs to this school district...YET...but I can do something.  I went to my pantry and pulled out some of the items we typically put in a Lovepacs box.  And guess what?  I had over half of what I needed.  JUST IN EXCESS IN MY OWN PANTRY!

So, tomorrow, I will be making a phone call to the school counselor and explaining what Lovepacs is and does and asking her if she can make sure this kid gets this bag of food to help tide them over.

And I'll pray.

Because I know the need is bigger than these 3 kids.  And now that I've been hit in the face with it, I can't go on my merry way and pretend I don't know about it.  There's no more burying my head in the sand.

THIS is why your newsfeed is full of me talking about Lovepacs.  I know we can't save the world, but what if we each did a little?  What if we made sure that the kids that lived in our community weren't hungry.  What if the statistic that 1 in 5 kids in the US doesn't have enough food changed to all kids in America went to bed with full tummies tonight?

And here's what I CAN happen.  We had a little dream of feeding 6 kids...and other people starting dreaming and doing with us...and 7 years later,over 4500 kids got fed over spring break.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

What in the World is She Doing Now???

 I've been pinching myself all week to make sure I'm awake.  Have you ever done that?  Something so stinkin good has happened that I've feel like I'm dreaming.

I began a new job this week.  I know, I know, you are probably thinking, "Again? How many different jobs has she had in the last 18 months?"  And you should.  I know I've probably seemed a little flaky--okay, a lot flaky.  And I've really enjoyed every job I've had.    I've had the opportunity to travel, to serve and to create.  AND, I've gotten to meet and work with some absolutely amazing people.

But THIS job, this new job I started is one that is so much a part of me that its just naturally something I should be doing.  Something that just "fits."

As of this past Monday, I work part-time for Lovepacs.  Can you believe it?  This little dream of mine I had over 6 years ago--that maybe one day we would be big enough to hire someone has come true!!! And I GET TO BE THE ONE TO DO IT!!!

I was scared to tell very many people until it actually happened--just in case they found someone better, but now, I want to yell it at the top of my lungs!  Not only do I get to work for Lovepacs, I GET to coach and serve  and encourage leaders.  I GET to put processes in place to equip them to serve more kids in their community.  I GET to work with people I love dearly.  I GET to make a difference--one kid and one community leader at a time.

I will still keep my other part-time job at The Container Store, answering phones and designing closets--something else I've found that I really like. I'm not as good at it as I wish, but I'm making progress every day and I truly enjoy serving the person I'm talking to in the moment.  Selfishly, I love that I have a tangible finish every day I'm there--that's not typically something I've experienced in most of the jobs I've chosen. A closet may not seem world-changing, but really listening to the customer and designing something that makes their life a little easier means they have more time to focus on other things.  And I can pray that those things they choose to focus on will be world-changing. 

As you may know, this year did not start out great for me.  My dad was always proud of my work with Lovepacs and I've caught myself starting to call him a couple times in the last week to tell him about my new job.  But, he already knows.  And I like to to think that his smile is as big as mine has been this week. 

So, please excuse all the giddy posts that will fill your facebook newsfeed.  And if you're not familiar with Lovepacs, let me know and I'll be happy, happy, happy to fill you in on all that God has done and continues to do through amazing people in the communities all around us. 

P.S.  If you realize I really am dreaming, DON'T WAKE ME UP!!!

P.P.S.  Just a few of the hundreds of pics I have from packing and delivery

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Why Parents of Teenagers NEED a Dog

We all see the posts about the parents who "just love spending time with their child" (cue heart-eyes emoji and shiny, happy pics of them together).  And, at one time or another, we have all been there with at least one of our kids.  But that doesn't change the fact that seeing those posts right after we've taken our kids phone away or been told how crazy we are by our teen or cried because we weren't sure what to say/do to help our child make better choices, doesn't make us feel like a failure as a parent.

I can't fix the voices in your (and my) head, but I can give you some great advice:  GET A DOG!

Yep, a dog--or puppy if you have the energy to deal with potty training again--is the best thing you can do for yourself while parenting a teenager.  Here are a few reasons why:

 A dog is ALWAYS happy to see you.  If you leave the room and come back, they wag their tail.  When you walk in from work, they won't even let you put your bags down before smothering you with kisses and wiggling to get as close to you as possible.  The response you get from your teen: What's for dinner?

Dogs don't roll their eyes or slam their door.  In fact, when they do something wrong, they immediately admit their guilt and assume a submissive position.  Not so much with a teenager.

A dog doesn't require you to get their approval before posting their pics on social media.  (This is why you will eventually have more pics of them than your kids.)  They might give you a sigh when you insist they take a selfie with you--not that I've ever tried that--but they will eventually cooperate with you and give you a new profile pic.

A dog doesn't care if she eats the same thing every day, she's just so stinkin grateful that you fed her.  While teens are fine to eat ramen every time they are in charge of getting their own meal, they are not okay with eating chicken more than one night a week or spaghetti every other week.  (They WILL however, never say anything about how often you eat tacos and will probably always ask for them more than you cook them).

Dogs allow you to pet them and will sit as close as possible to you--maybe even snuggle.  Teenagers will tell you they "just need their space" and head to their room.

Dogs wake up happy EVERY morning.  They don't care how early/late you put them in their kennel.  They don't care if you have coffee made or have a busy day planned.  They are just happy to be alive and, going back to #1, are thrilled to see you.  If you have a teenager, I don't have to describe the horror of waking them in the morning--esp. on a school day when they have early practice. I just got chills up my spine thinking of it.

If your kids are still in the preschool or elementary stage, you will think I'm crazy--why would you want a dog and have one more thing to take care of?  If you are a parent of middle or high schoolers, you will understand FULLY why a dog could actually save your life and remind you that you are a sane human being and not a crazy stalker/ATM machine/weird and very uncool old person.

Oh, and a word of caution.  If your husband consistently tells your dog that she's his favorite daughter in front of your teens, they might get a bit upset...again, not that I know anything about this or have experienced it personally.  

In fact, I don't claim to know any of the things I've said in this post from a personal level.  I, like you, have a lot of friends who tell me things...

Do "your friends" have things they would add to the list "my friends" compiled?

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.