Posted in Christian, Depression, God, guest writer, happiness, longreads, motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I had no idea 2 years ago when I started diving deep into my Bible journaling and studying what the next 18 months had in store for me. Marriage struggles (we’re good now), financial problems (also good), parenting challenges (still doing our best), depression dive (I’m in my comeback!), deaths close to us, sickness around us, and struggles for people we love. I have been through hard times before but 2018 and 2019 may have been the hardest years on my heart to date.

I came across many verses which continue to help me when I struggle and I am still finding new ones all the time. Even new meanings in old ones as I read them again. However, in 2017 I found two in Colossians and Thessalonians which speak to my heart so strongly here in 2019 that I wanted to share them with you. Both are really great books to read this time of the year, in my opinion;  full of beauty, hope, thankfulness, and truth. A little like me. 

Colossians 3:15 “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace and always be thankful.”

I look around the world, my state, my town, my office, my church, my family and I can find people I agree with fully. People who stand for what I do and stand up to what I do also. I love those people. They are easy to get along with, to be thankful for, and to work closely with. They fill my heart. 

I can also find plenty of people in each of these places I do not agree with at all. I find their stances to be unfair to many, hurtful, based in exclusion, omission, and rejection. Hearing them talk makes me want to cry for the world and apologize to my children. Sometimes, I actually do. I struggle to work with them and be thankful for their work in the world. They break my heart. 

There are also many people who walk the fine line between filling and breaking my heart. These are the people I love so dearly and support in so many ways, yet cannot understand how their heart sees the world’s issues how they are. I am roughly 50-75% thankful for these people at a glance, depending on if they are doing what I like or not in a given moment. They confuse my heart. 

Colossians 3:15 was an epic wake up call for me (also, if you really want to think about the body of Christ idea, check out this sermon from my church recently!). We are all different. We are not all the same parts, which can lead to some issues, but need to live in peace. We need to be thankful for the people around us. I do not agree on many things with a friend who spends a lot of time volunteering at a veteran’s hospital. He’s doing good, even all of his work isn’t what I want. People I wish would open their eyes to causes around the world volunteer at their churches to help the hungry. I’m thankful for that. 

We don’t have to agree to be thankful for one another. 

Thessalonians 5:18 “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 

How hard is this one? I stared at this one for a long time when I first came upon it. It’s hard to be grateful in hard times. I think its only human to see the bad at face value. It’s easy to get lost in the sadness, hopelessness, and darkness surrounding hard times. If you’re anything like me, the easy path is the preferred one whenever possible. Life is hard enough without volunteering yourself for more, right?

In this case, that couldn’t be more wrong. Being down, brings you down further. Letting the sadness get too far, lets the depression sneak in and take over. Losing sight of the goodness and being thankful makes life a long, miserable sentence. Even in the hard times, there is something good in each day. 

Every night for as long as I can remember, I ask my daughter at bedtime “What was something kind someone did for you? And what is something kid you did for someone?”. Some nights she’s got more than one answer for each question queued up for me. Some nights she bursts into tears and we need to talk a bit to come up with two answers together. Some days are better than others. 

The point of this verse and the point I’m trying to make to her is this: there is something good in every day. Sometimes we have to look harder than others, but it’s there. Find it. Don’t let the hard times or sad times win. 

There are so many more, I could go on, but go find them for yourself. This year? I’m thankful for you, for healing, for my family, my friends, my job, my health, my cat, and all the hard things I have been able to overcome. I’m ready for whatever is next.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in kids, longreads, moms, motherhood, parenting

Dear Teenage Son – I don’t know it all but I do know some.

Dear teenage son,

I am ridiculously excited to have a front row seat for the big, bold life you are creating and to be your guide for this part of your life. So excited, it’s freaking me out a little bit about how quickly you’re getting the hang of things on your own. You need me less these days. Which makes me proud and sad all at once. I still want to protect you and I can’t believe how big you’ve already grown; but don’t think for a minute you know everything. You’re not grown yet (even when you are, you still won’t know everything – trust me on that too).

You’re not the only one feeling a flurry of conflicting confusing feelings in your teenage years. They suck for you, I get that, middle school is literally the worst – anyone who claims otherwise as an adult has clearly blocked it all out. It’s really hard for the parents too, though. So hear me out and cut me some slack. I know I’m old and I don’t understand (just like grandma was old and didn’t understand me) but I really do know a thing a thing or two about where you are.

Let’s be honest: I really liked being your number one person when you were little. I was like a fabulous superhero mom. I still want to tell you the direction you should go, then swoop in to save you from any trouble I see. I want to warn you about friends or situations which could lead to heartbreak. I want to save you from the hard things but I know I can’t. As good as it might make me (or you) feel in the moment – it wouldn’t do either of us any good.

I know these things because I learned by living. I need to give you that chance too. Even if it sucks for us both. That doesn’t mean you’re on your own. Not all all. I saw the perfect saying the other day about it: There are three places you will always find me: in front of you guiding the way, behind you cheering you on, or by your side. I can’t think of a better way to put it.

I’m trying to lead the way for you. I want to show you right from wrong, that’s totally a requirement of this mom gig. I also want to show you its ok to stumble or make a mistake – just say you’re sorry and learn from it.

I want to show you that pure love exists. No matter where you go or what you do (even if I don’t agree), I will love you. The people willing to tell you the truth, even when it hurts, but still love you fully are the kind of people you need to cling to. Those are your people. I will always be that kind of person. 

I will always be behind you. I may not agree with all you do in life, but I am cheering for you. I hope it always turns out for the best. When everyone else walks away, even if I think we’re both crazy, I’ll back you up. I’ll cheer you on. I’ll be in your corner. I have seen you do amazing things, I know what you are capable of. If you’re all in, so am I. Tell me what you need me to do.  

And on those days when you are lost and don’t know what to do – I will be beside you. I may be just as scared and lost as you, but I will never leave you on your own. I make no promises I will know what to say to make you feel better (yeah, that’s right, I might be speechless). I may have no idea or suggestion to help with the situation, but I will not budge. Even if all I can do is listen, hug, and hold your hand – I will be there. Forever.

I will also hold you accountable for your actions or words. I will stand by consequences from other adults when you’ve goofed up with them. You will not always like what I have to say. There will be lectures, groundings, apologies, and arguments along the way. You’ll roll your eyes and hate me for an evening, but I am as ready as I’ll ever be for that. I love you more than life itself but that doesn’t mean this is the cakewalk portion of life (spoiler alert: I’m almost 40 and I’ve yet to find the cakewalk part; I’ll let you know if I do). I don’t plan on raising assholes and we’re bound to have the occasional growing pains getting there. I still love you though.

This is new territory for us both. I’m trying not to screw it all up but we already butt heads from time to time. I’m sure that will go on for years to come. I have never done this before as a parent, only as a kid. It’s a little confusing on this end of the spectrum too. I am doing my best, so cut me some slack if I get a little crazy trying to help, guide, or protect you.

It’s hard being your age and that’s coming from me (I have seen some shit, man). Navigating friends, teachers, parents, and all the other things in your life is crazy hard. I remember. I am doing my best to help you navigate and be by your side. Sometimes, it’s scary.  Then I remember this line from a book you and I shared long ago “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” 

Its like Dr. Seuss knew you were coming and wrote a cheer just for you. Or he knew how much I’d love you and wrote a reminder for me. Either way, he was right. You’re doing an amazing job and going in an exciting direction. You’re a good kid, becoming a good man. I am eternally grateful to be along for the ride – even on the days I have to control to get you back on track. 

I love you always, Mom

Posted in dads, kids, parenting

Bashing dads doesn’t make you a better mom.

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts in my news feeds lately urging dads to help without being asked or pointing out what they should be doing to better support their wives. I get it, some guys may need a push (some moms do too). But, newsflash: some guys definitely don’t. 

Don’t lump them all into some sort of clueless, bumbling stereotype. 

Sure I have to get the kids up, ready, and out the door to their schools every morning; but it has nothing to do with him being clueless or unhelpful. He is already gone and well into his work day by that time.

He is up at 3am and out the door by 4am to get through his work day in time to pick up our kids from school. He could start later and let them walk or ride the bus home, they’re plenty capable, but we feel it’s important for a parent to be home after school. So he is, as an equal parent.

Years ago, our schedules were different and I was home with the kids before he got home. I could have dinner made, dishes done, and we could have a jumpstart on our evening family plans. When things flipped, he could have just waited for me to get home to keep doing what I’d done before. 

Only, this dad knew dishes needed to be done, dinner cooked, and evening activities gotten to. So he cooks, washes, and helps ferry kids to things. He wasn’t told to or even asked to; he’s a grown man for crying out loud. He’s a parent, he’s doing what needs to be done.

He doesn’t “babysit” our kids, he parents them. He doesn’t “help” me around the house, he does what needs to be done (honestly, more than me plenty of the time).

He cooks dinner. Like, COOKS it. Not just eggs, cereal, frozen pizza or take out. 

He mows the lawn, fixes anything broken, and takes out the trash. He has used his pocket knife to perfectly cut tiny pads for tiny ballet shoes in the dance studio waiting area to make his little girl’s feet feel better.

I know he’s not the only one. I see dads navigating the grocery store with kids in tow like professionals. I see them coaching soccer teams, attending tea parties, raising kids solo, reading stories, pulling sleds, shooting hoops, and showing their kids (and everyone else) how amazing dads are.

So before you click the next link shaming dads for not doing more or bashing their contributions, stop for just a moment and think about all those who do not. They deserve some recognition and praise also.

Well done, dads. For silly games, monster hugs, hair brushing, donut dates, training wheel removal, laundry folding, vacuum hauling (that thing is heavy), and all the ways you keep your families going.  

Thank you. You’re doing a great job.

Posted in books, Christian, guest writer, Uncategorized, What I'm Reading

What I’m Reading – November 2019

Another month, another list! Check out dinner of my favorite books and PLEASE let me know what I should check out next!

The Bible – by various authors

Ok, this is a bit of a “gimme” and stretch for my reading list. I get that. However, November is a month I really focus on taking the time to read and journal my Bible each year. I started this a few years back and have really learned a lot about myself with this method. You can follow a devotional, select a specific book, or find a guided study plan online (check my Pinterest board for lots of great ones!). Generally speaking, I read a few verses and jot down my thoughts. Some days I’m all done in 5 minutes. Other days I wind up writing pages for myself and digging way deeper into the chapter than I planned to. What you find will not disappoint you and I am excited to be doing this again. 

Click here for my Pinterest board to get YOUR start on an easy daily plan – FOR FREE!

Seasons in Hell – by Ed Vulliamy

Honestly, this book is not one I would classify as light, pleasurable reading. It’s dark, scary, intense, and horrifying. Worst of all? It’s all true. I remember hearing about violence and a war raging in Bosnia as a teen, but to be honest I never really gave it much thought. When you are 14 and something is happening on the other side of the world, it doesn’t exactly become important to you. Especially not before social media (because I’m that old). 

Fast forward 25 years and I work side-by-side with a survivor of this nation’s infighting. As I’ve watched scenes from our nation and others unfold on the news, I can’t help but see how lucky I am to live where I do – even if I’m not a fan of everything going on here. Furthermore, I grew up here. I have no idea what it’s like to fear for my life and see guns on the street – PRAISE THE LORD. I wanted to know more about where he is from and he recommended this book. 

Whether you read this book or another, I believe reading books about other cultures, places, religions, and nations is important for us all. We try to blend together and work together, but we all have different backgrounds that impact how we interact with the world. Taking a moment to glean some understanding about the people and world around us is the first step to being a part of a more unified world.

Transforming Your Thought Life: Christian Meditation in Focus by Sarah Geringer

I love meditation, mindfulness, and Jesus – this book helped strengthen my meditations in a Christian manner. If you have questions or are unsure about how this practice can be useful to Christians because of its Eastern religion books, you need this book. Sarah guides you through how to incorporate this practice in your day, step-by-step. 

And Riley Runs by N. Annette Knight 

Great news! This one is a short story. Which is great because is an addicting story that will pull you in. A teen separated from her class trip, a mother frantic to save her, and a dark figure lurking close by. 

Definitely the best deal on Amazon! You won’t regret your evening spent with Riley!

My list is slowly shrinking… whaaaat should I read next? BONUS POINTS for a Christmas Book recommendation! 

Posted in Depression, longreads, selfcare, Uncategorized

This is important: learn to step out of your comfort zone.

It can be scary to step out of your comfort zone. I like volunteering at my kids’ schools. I wish I loved it, but the idea of having a weekly commitment makes me itchy and takes the joy out of it for me. I’ve done the weekly commitments but sporadic volunteering is by far my strength. That is what I like. Specifically, the book fair. I like the book fair because I love books. And shopping. This combines the two for a good cause! Plus, I can score some great deals on Christmas gifts. It’s literally the perfect gig for me.

A few weeks back, was the fall book fair. I’m sure you’ve seen a similar set up before. Large metal bookshelf carts form a large horseshoe in the center of the school library. Brightly colored tables display books for every age. It’s a visual reminder to me of my children sitting on my lap with plump board books, now curled onto the sofa with chapter books I’m not a part of. Some books have memories and some I wish I had a child small enough to buy it for.

That night, I stood near a table of posters and books, watching families weave through the maze of shelves. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed an older man with a young boy walk into the library. Grandparents and grand kids aren’t an unusual sight at these events, but something about these two caught my attention. 

Most kids jog into the book fair. Or at the very least power walk. This boy walked in slowly, almost unsure if he should even be there. He paused next to the first metal cart, briefly inspecting the chocolate calculators no child can resist touching, before his eyes fell on a table full of his favorite books. 

Silently, he approached the table and began flipping through the pages of each book. I wasn’t the only one who took notice and soon his grandpa was by his side asking him questions about the books. I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation:

“Do you like these books? Have you read them”

“My teacher has them. She lets me read hers. I read this one, but she doesn’t have all the other ones.”

“You can read them though? The words make sense and you like the stories?”

“Yeah, I like them a lot.”

“We should get you one. Everyone should have a book to read. Which one do you need next?”

“Are you sure? How much are these?” the boy held up the book and the man looked around the table for a price sign.

“I don’t know. I don’t see a sign and I don’t really know how books work,” he took the book from the boy, flipping through the pages and spinning it in his hands trying to spot a price to no avail. 

“Its ok grandpa, I can get it at the library,” he reached for the book to place it back on the table, but his grandpa pulled in back.

“No. This is important. I might not know how this works but I know its important, we’re finding someone to help.”

It took all my self-restraint not to buy every book on the table for the boy. When grandpa and I made eye contact, I stepped in to tell them the price of the book they were holding. He asked if I could show him and his grandson “how books work”. I gave them a quick crash course on where to find book prices, what the book is about, and what number it is if it’s part of a series. Things I take for granted that my children and I know, were totally new info for the two standing before me. They paid for the book and left. I returned to where I was watching the book browsers but I couldn’t quite shake the older man’s words. 

“This is important. I might not know how this works but I know its important. We’ll find someone to help.”

They could have said nothing and walked away. The grandpa could have been so ashamed about his lack of book knowledge he directed his grandson back out into the hallway. He could have just thrown the book on the counter and prayed the cost wasn’t going to be something out of his budget when it was rung up. Instead, he admitted he was not an expert, did not shy away from asking for help, and made sure they got what they needed before heading out that evening. Not only did he step out of his comfort zone – he bravely long jumped himself into the unknown.

That’s kind of how I feel about my journey in life and wherever this is going. I do not know it all. I am actively still in the middle of figuring things out. The only thing I am really sure of is how important it is to share, even if I need help along the way. I am not an expert on many things. I hold no fancy degrees in psychology, social work, Christian studies, writing, the Bible, marketing, or depression. I can still know those things are important. Instead of hiding away, I can find the help I need to get the outcome I want and share what I learn with anyone else in need. 

I think that’s something a lot of people allow to hold them back. I am totally guilty of it. I see people doing or achieving things I want to, then I quickly assess my progress toward those goals. If I am not on par with them or at least catching up, I immediately believe I am not as good as them. The idea of working through those feelings or getting help doesn’t cross my mind. You’ve either got “it” or you don’t, right? I know I’m not the only one carrying these ridiculously high standards with me.  

I wonder how many amazing things I have missed out on because I didn’t feel I was an expert at it soon enough. How many things have we all missed out on which could have helped improve our lives or the lives of others? Why do we let doubt and fear take the wheel so often? Why do we act like we can only do the things we already know? When you step out of your comfort zone, you take back control. 

If a man in his 70s can wander into an elementary school library and admit to his grandson, then a woman he never met before, he doesn’t know how books work – we can chase after our dreams. If he can stand there, surrounded by Captain Underpants, Dogman, and Baby Shark books while he learns where to find information on a book sleeve without an ounce of embarrassment – we can ask questions and allow others to guide us too. You just need to step out of your comfort zone.

If you don’t know how, but know its important – do it. Do it scared, unsure, shaky, and uncertain – but do it.