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First blog post

This is the post excerpt.

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As I am bumbling through this blog design process, I realize that this is no different than virtually every other area of my life: it’s not exactly how I planned it, I’m realizing half way through that I don’t really know what I’m doing,  I’m feeling out of my depth (but not too embarrassed to admit it), I’m wondering how everyone else does it and seems to make it look so effortless, and I’m thankful that people are kind enough to encourage me along the way. Technology is not always my friend, but WORDS are! And since I am nothing if not verbose, unmarried, and the parent of a male child who cannot possibly receive all the words I have to share, I am very grateful for this venue which allows me to share them with anyone who is interested. God bless you!

Mom’s Antidote for Depression

I have not been prone to depression and for this, I am very grateful. But, that is not to say that I haven’t had times in my life when I have struggled with what was probably more serious than ‘the blues’. Most of the time it’s been centered around a legitimate reason for deep sadness; a divorce, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one. The first time, however, it was completely undefined and I had no idea how to deal with it. So I called my mom.

It was my first year of college, I was living on campus and it was back in the day before cell phones, when there were two pay phones at the end of the dorm hall. You had to use a couple of the quarters you were saving for laundry, hope someone was at home to answer the phone (no answering machines) and ask them to call you back (it was long distance – too many quarters). Then, you sat in the little booth until the phone rang. What was Mom’s advice after I told her I wasn’t feeling like myself? After the standard, “Get some sleep. Things will look better in the morning.” she spoke these words into my life, and they truly were, and are, words to live by: “Do something nice for someone else.” She went on to say, in the kindest way possible, “You are spending too much time focused on yourself and your own problems. You need to think of a way to do something kind for someone else. It will make you feel better. You’ll see.”

It wasn’t hard to find something I could do, even though I had no money and I was overwhelmed; leaving notes of encouragement in people’s mail cubbies (nobody gets mail during spring quarter!), folding a random person’s clothes in the laundry room, sharing the treats in the care package I got from my grandma, french braiding a friend’s hair. It really did make me feel better. It was the turn around I needed to get me out of the dark place I was in and through to the end of the quarter. In the last few months I’ve found a much deeper meaning to those simple words of advice from my mom; a way of life that focuses on gratitude and kindness when self-pity and depression begin to saturate my thought processes.

For reasons I can’t explain, about four or five months ago I became gradually more aware that there was a rapidly growing population of people in my community who were experiencing homelessness. Of course this has been going on since the beginning of civilization, but I began to SEE it, see THEM as if for the first time. I began to ask questions in earnest. Why is this happening? What is the root cause? What do we do about it? What can I do about it?

Then, I lost my job and suddenly I didn’t feel so far removed from ‘it’, from ‘them’. Although I was far from destitute, I was painfully aware of how precarious my financial situation was. The first time I went grocery shopping during the day, when I should have been at work, a person outside the store asked me if I had spare change and for the first time in my life I answered truthfully. I had always lied, flat-out lied, in front of friends, in front of my son. Lied. “No, I don’t have any change.” But I did. I had change and chose not to give it to them. And this time and from then on, when asked, I gave it. I don’t know if it was out of some sense of kinship, being unemployed myself, but I decided that I would take people at their word. If they said they were hungry, they were. If they said they needed money for gas, they did. If they said they were buying a bus ticket, they would. I got in the habit of putting a dollar’s worth of change in my pocket before I left the house, having my son drop his pocket change in the cup holder in the car, and making sure I had back up in a coin pouch in the bottom of my purse. I didn’t have any delusions that my dollar’s worth of change was going to change anyone’s life, I just didn’t want to lie, dismiss and ignore. I wanted to see, acknowledge and connect. And I did.

I began to hear people, look them in the eye, speak to them and shake their hands. One of the first was a woman outside the grocery store who asked me if I had spare change. “Actually, I do.” When I placed it in her hand I felt her palm was callused, and all the way home I wondered what kind of hard work she had been doing to have such rough hands. Another was a man wandering up and down the grocery check stands with a package of hot dogs. I assumed he was looking for the shortest line and they were all long. I asked him if he wanted to go ahead of me because he only had one item. He hung his head in shame and said, “I’m just trying to figure out what to do. I need ninety seven cents to buy these and all got is thirty seven cents.” He pulled his change out of his pocket to show me. I pulled the change out of my pocket and said, “Well, I can spot you a dollar if you want to get in line ahead of me.” He said, “Really? Well, thank you!” and got in line with his hot dogs. He pulled out his wallet and showed me his ID and said, “I’m 57 years old. You’d think I’d be doing better by now.” We visited while we waited in line and he told me he thought if he went to Alaska he’d have a better chance of finding work. I didn’t ask him how he planned to get there. I bought him a bag of chips, too, and he left with a smile and a handshake. Then, there was Jack, who introduced himself because I was walking my dog, also named Jack. He knew that since my dog was a rescue from Maui that his particular mix of mutt was bred for hunting feral pigs in the Hawaiian islands. He didn’t ask me for money, but we walked together, the three of us, for about a quarter mile and he shook my hand and patted Jack’s head before we parted ways. He was camping in a park near my house. I thought about Jack the Human for many days and was haunted by his words. In referring to the dog, I had said, “Jack is a happy guy.” Jack the Human responded, referring to himself, “He used to be.”

I began to refer to this as my Change Experiment and I looked forward to leaving the house each day with a dollar’s worth of change in my pocket. Sometimes I came up with a reason to get out and about, just so I could look for an opportunity to give away my change. Oddly enough I never ran out of change. I still haven’t.

As days turned into weeks and I still didn’t have a job, I was losing momentum. After years of working myself into exhaustion, I was completely rested up. I had used my initial surge of enthusiasm about free time to get several projects done, but now depression began to set in. It was not an unreasonable response to my circumstances; I was a single parent, the sole provider for my family, unemployed and with a very uncertain future for myself and my child. But, what was the appropriate action? I continued to do what I could humanly do to get a job; the rest was in God’s hands. What did God require of me to be accountable for the rest of my life during this time? I knew the answer, of course. I needed to take my Change Experiment to the next level. And I couldn’t do it alone.

With another heatwave in the immediate forecast, I put out the call on social media: I wanted to invite people to join me in handing out supplies to people living outside – Gatorade, juice, nutritious snacks, treats, personal items and Bibles. Within 24 hours supplies began pouring in and my little living room was filled with bags and boxes and within two days I had a motley crew of people from the odd corners of my life, some brand new friends, some I had known for over 30 years, and my 13 year old son, gathered at my house, ready with loaded backpacks and open minds to head out on foot. That first expedition was the most humbling because the people we found, camping in tents and hanging out in parks, were no more than a few blocks from my house.

The following day, my mom and I went out in the car scouting for where I might return on foot but I ended up bailing out of the car with a backpack and handing out more supplies. We drove around town to the places where I handed out my change and found some folks in the outer corner of the grocery store parking lot and when we got out to talk to them, a man said, “I sure appreciate this! Things is gettin’ so hard.” I thought he meant the heat and I commented on it. He said, “No, the heat don’t bother me. But they keep kicking us out. There’s just no place left for us to go.”

A few days later a former coworker contacted me and asked if she could help. She came over, we loaded backpacks, parked downtown and walked around looking for people who had shopping carts or sleeping bags. That day, nearly everyone we gave supplies to had alcohol, which lead to some thought provoking conversation. A week later, I was scheduled to get together with a friend and instead of the outing we had planned, she asked if we could drive around and distribute supplies. I had barely two full packs left, so we pooled our resources (two single mothers, struggling financially) packed a couple of simple sack lunches and headed out. Again, as with my mom, she parked and waited with the car (it was hot and she had a baby in a car seat) while I bailed out of the car with a backpack and looked for people. My last two packs handed out in the downtown park, we decided to loop around through the ‘hood. At an intersection, we handed a man who was asking for money a sack lunch. He was thrilled and began eating it immediately. With one lunch left, we were heading home, looking for a need, and my friend spotted an infant seat, sitting in front of a dumpster. After making a pact to raise the baby together, she made a U-turn, pulled in, I jumped out of the car and with a pounding heart, discovered… an empty infant seat. (We were relieved, and, both admitted, a little disappointed.) It’s funny what you notice when you are truly looking.

One sack lunch left, which I kept in my car, and I felt that I was done with my project, when I received a card in the mail that brought me to tears. A thank you note from my aunt and uncle who were inspired by my attempts to do something, anything, in my little corner of the world, and in the envelope, fifty dollars; seed money towards my next round. I wasn’t sure where to go from there. I needed some time to regroup, re-evaluate and come up with a plan for the next phase. A week ago, a man was standing at the corner by the grocery store with a cardboard sign with only a smiley face drawn on it. He was on the passenger side, and I was alone in the car, so I was unable to give him change, and he wasn’t asking for it. But, I remembered, I had the last lunch buried somewhere in the back seat. I pulled over, got out, found it and ran across the street. “I have this little lunch if you want it.” He smiled really big and said, “Yes! Thank you so much!” I ran back to my car and looked back at him as I pulled away and he was holding a pudding cup up in my direction, as if to say, “Cheers!”. I remembered the man who received the other lunch, pulling out the banana and peeling and eating it immediately as if he’d been craving one for days. It brought me back to the simplicity of my mom’s advice: Do something nice for someone else. I can’t run a food bank, or a head up a charity organization, or work in a rehabilitation facility, but I can do something, SOME LITTLE THING nice for someone when I’m looking for the opportunity. And when I do, it makes me grateful for what I have and kinder to everyone around me.

Here’s a few things I have learned in talking and interacting with people in various stages of need: When people don’t want or need help, they will tell you – just move on.  If you’re going to offer something, you have to give it freely, regardless of your own biases – if the woman smoking a joint says she really wants a Bible, you give her one, and if the happy drunk sitting in the sweltering sun with a case of Coors says he could really use a Gatorade, you give it to him. Tent dwellers might appreciate some supplies, but might not want to meet face to face – ask permission to approach, leave it at the zipper door, and beat a hasty retreat (the disembodied hand will appear to collect what you leave). Some people just really want to speak to another human being, to tell you their name, to know yours, to shake your hand and to tell you a little about themselves – this has been the best part of this experience!

I still have fifty dollars in my wallet for the next project. I’m waiting to be inspired. It may come with the next harsh season; ponchos and tarps when the constant rains set in, or gloves and socks when the first cold snap comes. My own future, and my child’s, is still very uncertain and our situation, precarious. But, I’m continuing to be challenged to focus on gratitude and kindness. Whatever your circumstance may be, whenever you feel yourself begin to circle into that downward spiral I offer Mom’s simple advice: Do something nice for someone else.

~ Love is Risk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beauty from Disaster

I made a pilgrimage to Mount Saint Helens with my son, recently. It’s an easy day trip from where we live; I don’t know why we haven’t done it sooner. It was a perfect summer day in late July, a gorgeous drive, wildflowers in bloom, a blazing blue sky and a ring of white, puffy clouds hovering over the rim of the crater like a saintly halo. As we were repeatedly shown the dramatic before and after photos of the mountain pre-eruption and post-eruption side by side, my son asked me an odd question: “Which do you like better?” I shrugged and said, “It’s beautiful both ways.” But he pressed me. “No! Which do you like better?” and he stopped and waited. I searched for a truthful and thoughtful answer and said, “The way it is now. Because it’s the mountain I know and love. I was there in Vancouver when it happened and it was one of the most awesome things I’ve ever experienced in my life. It changed me. So, I like it better the way it is now.”

On the drive down out of the mountains I saw, tucked into the trees on the side of the road in the beautiful forests that line the mountainsides, what I wasn’t able to see on the way up: signs that read “Planted in 1983”, and “Planted in 1986”. I pointed them out to my son, reminding him that that was just three and six years after the devastation of the eruption. “Look at all the growth! Look how gorgeous these trees are!” And all the way down out of the mountains I kept thinking about his question: which do you like better?

It called to mind another time in my life when I felt like I was shaken to the core, blasted away, stripped bare and taken down to the bare essence of who I was apart from any construct of society; no marriage, no career, no status of any kind. Simply me and my willingness to open myself up to God’s call upon my life and my basic ability to connect with the world around me. I remember singing the lyrics of a Switchfoot song while driving in my car: “This is your life. Are you who you want to be?” And shouting the answer to myself: YES! Yes, I was the person I wanted to be! And yes, I am the person I want to be, now, even while showing the obvious damage left behind from the disasters of my life.

How many of us look at our dearly loved ones who show the damage of their own physical and emotional disasters and say, “Yes, I know how painful they were. I see the scars they left behind, but they made you the person you are, and I LOVE that person! And, they brought you to me, and I will not even imagine my life without you.

Perhaps my son’s question wasn’t so odd, for him. He has often asked me a series of “Do you ever wish…?” questions about my life. Do you ever wish you were married? Do you ever wish you would have finished college? Do you ever wish I was… different? Which leads to a deep, if brief, spiritual discussion: “Then, I wouldn’t be me, you wouldn’t be you, and we wouldn’t be a family. And, you know this, but I’ll keep telling you: apart from Jesus’ finished work on the cross, you are the best thing that has ever happened to me!”

You, like me, may have had some considerable disasters in your life. Failed relationships, career setbacks, chronic illnesses or sudden, tragic losses.  Some may be your own decisions, some were completely out of your control, and you came away from the destruction looking, feeling and acting NOTHING like you did before. Allow me to ask you: Which YOU do you like better? I have asked and answered that question at several times in my life. I didn’t enjoy the process, but those disasters have made me who I am, and I wouldn’t go back to the person I was before. Do I want to stay this way? Heck no! There’s always room for more growth, more healing, and good company along the way.

~Love is Risk, and there is growth in the blast zone!

 

 

Growth Happens

Parents, have you had those feelings of foreboding, when your child spent the previous month eating everything in your house, and mooching food everywhere you went, as if you hadn’t fed them in a week? Then spent the current month, sleeping twelve hours at a stretch, napping at inopportune and embarrassing (for you) times and they were so hard to get out of bed in the morning you thought you were going to have to hire a marching band to parade through their room each morning at 6:30? You know what’s coming don’t you? When they come out of their room with their arms full of clothes, pretty much ALL of their clothes. What’s this? Hey! Come back here! What’s going on? “They don’t fit.” What do you mean they don’t fit? All of them?! “What part of, ‘they don’t fit’ don’t you understand! Yes, all of them. Oh, and, I’m gonna need new clothes.” Or, when a person of adult stature, looking oddly like your child, is standing just out of your field of vision and you turn your head in horror only to discover: IT IS YOUR CHILD!!!  AGGHH!

Growth happens. And it’s a good thing! It means we are nurturing our children and their bodies are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing. The problem is, the visible, measurable, physical growth doesn’t always come with the emotional growth and maturity attached to it. That size 12 shoe on a 12 year old isn’t necessarily accompanied by a new level of reasoning or self-awareness. It’s just big feet and expensive shoes.

But then, sometimes, that other kind of growth happens. It’s so much more subtle. You might miss it if you’re not paying attention. I have been trying really hard to pay attention.

This recent growth spurt started the day he walked past me on the way to the bathroom and said oh-so-casually, “I’m going to take a shower.” Just like that. No reminding, nagging or ultimatums. Just, I’m going to take a shower – and he did. Then, he asked me to remind him to brush his teeth, and a few weeks later (while brushing his teeth) told me I suck at reminding him to brush his teeth. Then, he began walking out of his room with dirty dishes, and bringing them to the kitchen! Then, there was the time when he did a load of laundry before he ran out of clean clothes because there was a certain shirt he wanted to wear the next day. And, you’re going to want to read this: last night, he said these words at the age of 13, “Mom, grab the trash from the kitchen and hand it to me and I’ll get the can out to the street.” (I had completely forgotten it was trash night!) Yesterday, we opened a bank account for him because he’s been working and earning money… but not spending it.

Most importantly is that he is able to own up to his mistakes, sincerely apologize and move forward quickly in a positive way. Maybe you should read that last sentence again. I did. It’s truly inspirational. Not because I wrote it, but because it’s an area we all probably need growth in, am I right? I do. Or, how about this one: to have a solidly formed opinion about a current trend or event that is completely opposite to what all of his closest friends and peers are thinking and saying. Was I capable of that at age 13? I doubt it. Are most adults capable of that in our culture right now? I doubt it.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re still slogging through the yuck of adolescence one day, sometimes one hour, at a time. Sometimes I feel like we haven’t made any progress at all. Last night we had a good yell over bed time. Yep. That’s been going on since he was three. A decade of bedtime battles. Still doing it. I’m pretty sure I’ll be calling him at 11:30 when he’s 30 and telling him to go to bed. (Wait, my mother still does that to me….) But along with the pencil marks on my bedroom door frame, we are inching forward, sometimes leaping forward. I can see it if I pay attention. Growth happens.

 

~ Love Is Risk

 

 

Learning How to Rest

I have recently had a lot of free time. I mean ‘recently’ as in, within the last month, all of a sudden, unexpectedly. I lost my job. It was earth-shattering. It was devastating. It was terrifying. It was… a blessing? I am trying to view it as such; and learning how to REST.

I have worked full time nearly my entire adult life, and been single for most of that time. And since I adopted my son as the only parent, I am the only provider for our family. So, certainly, for the past decade, changing my tax filing status from ‘single’ to ‘head of household’ has certainly kicked my already responsible nature into hyper-drive. Toss a mortgage and a few animals to feed into that mix and let’s just say I take WORK very seriously. Which may be why I’ve stayed in jobs that made me miserable at times, why I’ve worked for less pay than I could have made elsewhere, put up with a lot of pettiness, and even taken abuse from employers and co-workers. A job is a job is a job. And what I really wanted to do was to focus on my child and raise him the best I could, come home to my tiny house and be content with our modest lifestyle, and make a difference in my community and in the world, as God provided opportunities.

Don’t get me wrong; I have always found satisfaction in my toil! Learning, growing, challenges, PEOPLE, always people, both co-workers and the public that gave me the confirmation that I could be used by God in any and every vocation as long as I was willing. My life, my home, my time, my money was shared freely. And then….

Then came a time when grief, world-weariness and finally, sheer exhaustion began to set in. I lost my father, saw my mother transitioned out of our family home, went through four job changes in one year, was dealing with my son’s challenges on my own, and I hadn’t had a real vacation in, well, I can’t count how many years. I was living on five or six hours of sleep a night, eating way too much fast food, and some days never saw daylight. I was doing it! I was SO doing it! I was doing what I had to do to be a responsible adult, a dependable employee, and the best parent I could be, but, for the first time in my life I began to ask myself, “How long can I keep this up? Is this life I’m living sustainable? How long before something gives and I start falling apart?”

Funny how God often answers those difficult, rhetorical questions in an unexpected way, isn’t it? Thunder clap! After the first panic stricken week of phone calls, doctors appointments (before medical insurance runs out), filing for benefits, re-working the budget, applying for twenty jobs and feeling like my whole life had been destroyed in one heartless blow, I realized, suddenly, I’ve got all the time in the world to rest. But, it’s not that easy.

I have to LEARN to rest. I have to re-train my body that it’s OK to go back to sleep after five hours and sleep two more hours. I need to make myself read something other than click-bait, something with paper pages, and even for an hour at a time! I need to have conversations with God in which I’m not the only one talking. That requires listening, and listening requires silence. (That’s a hard one.) I have to not only read, but meditate on God’s Word. Sometimes that requires a nap. Naps are good. Very good. Especially when the kitten wants to nap with me. I have found, in order to rest, I have to make a daily effort to forgive those who have wronged me. Sometimes more than once a day. Not only is that a burden I don’t want to carry around with me, God commands me to forgive – and He’s really, really serious about it. I need to rest in being home alone and not be ashamed that I am ‘that’ pet owner who has too many conversations with her animals and takes her dog on two walks a day; once because a friend came over and a second time because he ‘asked me so sweetly’.

I have learned that sometimes resting is working hard and getting dirty doing projects in my yard. Sometimes it’s making lists of things I’ve needed to do for years and now, finally, having the time to do them. That can be very restful. (And some days, choosing NOT to do them and go for a walk with a friend, instead.) Sometimes rest is having loved ones sitting around my table with me after having a whole afternoon to prepare a meal. (Oh, yeah! I forgot. I like to cook!) Rest is sitting on my back porch and watching the sun go down and listening to the day go to to sleep and the night come awake.

Most of all, rest has been learning new ways to love my son with acts of service; BECAUSE I CAN! What a joy! Cook your favorite food three days in a row? If you say so! Drive you across town to buy that video game you’ve wanted forever? Let’s go, now! Your friends want to come over for a fire in the fire pit? I’ve got marshmallows! You want me to watch that movie with you? I’ve got time right now. You’re tired and cranky and you want me to toss food into your room and shut the door? OK, I can do that. BUT I’M RIGHT OUT HERE IF YOU NEED ME!!!

There’s still about a hundred times a day that I am overcome with worry; how am I going to support my family? How am I going to pay the bills? Am I EVER going to get a job?! And my tendency is to feverishly take all that responsibility on myself. If I just apply for more jobs. If I just cut back our budget even more. If I just…. learn how to rest. God made it happen. He must think I need it. I better enjoy it while I can.

Oh, and, as it turns out, plenty of sleep, lots of fresh air and sunshine, a little exercise, Mom’s home cooked meals, and absolutely no fast food – does a body good! We have never been so healthy! Go figure.

~ Love is Risk, and life is hard work. Learn to rest while you can.

Celebrating Less than Perfect

Spring is the season of celebrating children in the United States. Graduations, sports trophies, scholarships, achievement awards, recitals, concerts. Schedules are packed with events; our kids, nieces and nephews, grandchildren, our friends’ kids, if we’re blessed enough to have friends like that. Social media is plastered with photos and proclamations of all those outstanding accomplishments; parents sharing their love and pride for their children, as well they should. Excellent grades, excellent performances,  excellent achievements – they are all worth celebrating and sharing. As your family member or friend, I am celebrating with you. And learning to celebrate… less than perfect.

I’d like to post a tribute to all of the children who didn’t quite achieve excellence this year, at least in any quantifiable, measurable, social media-worthy way. In fact, maybe they labored, struggled, barely made it, or even failed. Maybe for each step forward it felt like they took a step back. Or, they had to work twice as hard just to reach milestones that their peers have passed by months ago.  Maybe you struggled together toward goals that turned out to be unreachable, or maybe you felt like your child fought you every step of the way as you used every resource you had to try to help them. Or, maybe they are simply normal, non-attention seeking, happy to fly under the radar kind of personalities living in the shadow of larger than life siblings or friends. Do you love them just as much as those over-achievers? Of course you do! In fact, I’ll bet you have a special soft-spot in your heart and a fierce protective instinct when it comes to them, because you know they struggle, you know they don’t receive all the affirmations and accolades that those other kids do. Their hard-won accomplishments go largely unnoticed; no F’s on this term’s report card! or, you made it through the school year without getting suspended! or, you made a friend, a real friend! or, you are managing yourself and your stuff more responsibly every day! or, you are a kind and decent person and the world needs more of those!

Every parent has a fantasy about their child becoming someone amazing, someone incredible, someone larger than life. It is our greatest desire that our children would surpass us, in every way possible, isn’t it? Because we love them and we want… more for them. But often we are faced with the reality of a child with limitations and challenges – whether they are mental, physical, emotional or psychological, they are facing the world as damaged and flawed human beings no matter how hard we have tried to give them every help, encouragement and advantage that we can. Here’s a news flash for you: SO ARE WE! We, too, are all damaged and flawed, and doing the best we can. Some of us make it look better than others, but we all have our issues. It’s how we cope with our issues, how we deal with our challenges and how we reach out to others who are damaged and flawed that makes a difference in our world.

The end of this school year for us did not come with any awards; not for academics or sports or achievement of any measurable kind. But we made it. Together. And we’re still talking to each other. And, on the rare occasion, at 13 years of age, when we have a serious conversation about politics or social injustice or a life-altering event I am astonished with his depth of thought, his maturity and his kind-heartedness! There is no grade, no certificate, no trophy. Just me, knowing that he really is that beautiful person I have always believed him to be.

Feel free to join me in celebrating less than perfect! Plaster the social media venue of your choice with photos and narratives of those precious, unique and wonderful people who teach us every day: how to survive, how to persevere, how to overcome, and how to make the world a better place.

 

~Love is Risk, and they are worth it!

 

On the Eve of 52

It’s 11:03 on the eve before I turn 52 years of age and I am taking inventory of things I have learned this past year and in life thus far. Turns out, it’s a lot less than I thought it would be by this age. I have more questions than answers, more doubts than affirmations and I am far less likely to give, and take, advice than I was at an earlier age. Here’s a few things I know for sure:

My body isn’t what it used to be, and it lets me know in strange and not-so-wonderful ways all the time now, “Nope. Not going to happen. You might have been able to do that before, but, not now.” I’ve recently discovered I cannot sit cross-legged on the floor anymore; my right hip has decided it does not wish to participate in assuming that simple position. I don’t know how or when that happened, but, it has.

The pets that I took on reluctantly, under intense pressure from my son, have become my ‘creature comforts’. I’m secretly certain that I love and enjoy them much more than he does. I am the primary care-giver, after all. I began my life as an animal lover and I am circling back around to that. I will always have animals and am compiling a list of critters that I wish to add to my menagerie. I asked my mother for a miniature donkey for my birthday this year. She thought I was kidding. I wasn’t.

I used to think that the fact that my son would be going through puberty at the same time I would be going through menopause was some sort of cruel cosmic joke. But, now, I think it’s probably just as well that we deal with our hormonal upheaval together, commiserate as best we can, and move on. If we survive, we’ll be the stronger for it. If we crash and burn, we’ll go down together.

There is no time of day or night that is ‘too early’ or ‘too late’ for a nap. For a single, working mom who operates on 5-6 hours of sleep per night, and a growing boy, when the opportunity for extra sleep presents itself, WE TAKE IT!

I think this surprised me this year more than anything; help and comfort may come from very unexpected sources. Although I’ve been disappointed by friends and acquaintances, I’ve been blessed by new friends and brothers and sisters in Christ who have stood in the gap and provided for us in tangible ways that are invaluable: transportation, meals, mentoring, and unwavering love and encouragement. There are those who say, “You should….” and, “Have you tried…?” and there are those who say, “I’ll be there.” or, “I’m on my way.” or,  “I can do that for you.” or,  they just show up with a bag of groceries, or hot soup and biscuits. I joke about it, but I kinda mean it: food is one of my love languages.

Through the din of some challenging and chaotic times, through my own faltering faith and lack of faithfulness, God has been speaking to me, in the last month so consistently, that the message is undeniable. It is so simple it’s humbling because I must be that desperate to need it concentrated to a single phrase: God is LOVE. That’s it. That’s all. It’s ridiculous, right? But, apparently, my battered, weary soul needed that message more than any other right now. My choir recently sang an arrangement of Psalm 103, and the words have been ringing in my ears for a month; I will bless the Lord, who redeems, who restores, who forgives every sin, who renews your youth. Who at age 52 doesn’t need a little youth renewed? Am I expecting my body to feel youthful again? No. But I am hopefully expecting a youthful renewal of faith in a God whose very essence is LOVE, and whose end game, no matter how bad we manage to mess it up in the meantime, is to set all things right again. That means our broken world, our broken lives and our broken hearts. In moments of intense stress, lately, this has been my meditation.

One last thing I have learned, and some of you may be shocked, but some of you may find this incredibly liberating: it really doesn’t matter if you mix your darks and lights in your laundry. I’ve been doing it for years and nothing bad has ever happened. You’re welcome.

~ God Is LOVE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Kids and Pets Wreck Your Life… But in a Good Way

I remember an evening when I hosted a dinner party for my boss and my co-workers. The menu was carefully planned; one of the guests was vegan, so I had to be creative. The table was beautifully set ahead of time, with matching dinnerware. My house was spotless and cozy with candles flickering and carefully selected music playing softly in the background. As we sat around the table, my boss, who was known to be quite the dragon lady said with a smile, “Your home is just as I’d expected; a place for everything and everything in its place.” I could not have been more pleased.

Yeah, that was B.C.  Before Child. No one would ever make a comment like that about my home now. And dinner parties? Well, they are more a, “Grab a bowl from the counter, serve yourself some soup from the crock pot and sit where ever you want.” kind of fare. None of my dishes match, I no longer have open flames anywhere in the house, music just ads to the din, and now I rarely sit while I have company. I hop out of my chair every three minutes to manage my surly teenager, my hyper and overly friendly dog, and the sassy kitten who thinks she owns the joint. Everything is most decidedly not in its place, even if it had a place. Which is why there is always a pile of papers, pictures and clothes behind my bedroom door and if I get tired of tripping over something long enough, it goes down to the murky depths of the cellar, where I can trip over it every time I do laundry. The 768 square foot house that was juuuust right for single me when I bought it, is a little more of a challenge to contain two humans, a 62 pound canine, an indoor feline, a leopard gecko, and all our stuff. The once oatmeal colored berber carpet intermittently has a pattern; what I like to call ‘Muddy Dog Paw’ print. The kitten has little friends she plays with; she finds them under the furniture and behind the TV; they’re called dust bunnies. My car looks (and sometimes smells) like a college dorm room. And my yard? Well, let me just say this: I recently purchased a bale of straw to spread over the back ‘lawn’ to combat the mud when it’s wet, and dust when it’s dry. That’s one battle I have lost completely.

My sister reminds me that, for much of this, it’s a season; dirty floors, a muddy yard and a messy car – par for the course when raising kids and animals. The child will eventually grow up and move out, and the animals won’t live forever, and order will be restored. But part of me knows, my life has been wrecked forever, but in a good way.

I married young and was divorced and single again after six years. I did not come to alone-ness easily and had never been on my own as I had gone from my parents home to being a wife. I spent the first many years desperately working at filling my life with as many people, activities, and obligations as I could so as to be alone as little as possible. After I found my footing I began to enjoy my independence and freedom and became much more comfortable. Too comfortable. It’s not as if I didn’t have any challenges in my life, in fact, I sought them out: travel, missions, ministry, vocations, home ownership. But it was on my own terms and at my own pace and within a reasonable budget.

When my desire to be a parent out-weighed the prudence of waiting for a spouse, I made the decision to adopt on my own. This wasn’t a second-best option for parenthood for me. I had always wanted to adopt, even while I was married. Of course, making the decision to adopt and having that dream come to fruition… well, let’s just say that the seven years it took for that to happen gave me a lot of time to imagine, think and dream about how parenting would change my life. Yeah. I had NO IDEA. Nobody does. And boy, howdy! he was a challenging kid if you ever met one. And just about the time the child started to turn a corner into, “Whew, I feel like things are almost getting easier!” We got a dog. Same thing. I had no idea. (It was a downhill slope from there to getting a kitten….)

About now, you may have decided that I have lost my mind, and, you may be right. However, if you are considering being a parent, or want to begin with the starter kit of puppy or kitten, or, if you are just in the midst of the mess like me, and have a few minutes between shuttling your kid around and have the dog barking at the back door and the kitten climbing up your pant leg, here is my point: YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE. You are not now, never have been, nor will you ever be. Having children and animals will make sure you will never forget this truth. These ‘creatures’ grow and change and move on to the next developmental level so quickly, whether you are ready or not. And they drag you along with them. You learn things you never would have learned, meet people you never would have met, go places you never would have gone. You learn to LET THINGS GO that aren’t important and embrace things that are important and live in the moment, because they clamor for your attention and don’t take No for an answer. Most importantly, they teach you to love deeply, tenderly and selflessly. They don’t fill you up, emotionally, they empty you completely so you are forced to find what stuff you are truly made of, who your friends really are, and in Whom your faith lies.

At the end of my life, for what do I want to be remembered? You could eat off of her floors, they were so clean, and her yard was the envy of the neighborhood. Or: She was a rescuer of lives, human and animal, and when I spilled coffee on her couch, she said, “That’s why I chose brown, because it’s the color of coffee and chocolate.”

If you are finding yourself at a comfortable place… a little too comfortable, kids and pets are a great way to make your ‘perfect’ home and life a little less comfortable, a lot less perfect and much more… honest. You are not in control of your life, but you can allow your life to be wrecked, in a good way.

 

~ Love is Risk, and messy