the importance of cheerleaders

I’ve got enough negative words in my own head about myself. I don’t need more. You don’t need more. We’re stuck in an ugly, losing game sometimes. Heckled by our own hearts.

photo cred: College of San Mateo Library
photo cred: College of San Mateo Library

I was in Ceres, California last Monday when I heard Glenn Frey had passed away. And the mental collision was so real.

I did two years of high school in that town. And one of those years, I tried out for cheerleading.

We had to do a yell routine, of course, and I was astonishingly not good at that part. But I was even worse at the dance routine — which was “The Heat is On” sung by Glenn Frey. It’s been 30 years, but I can still dance the first sets of beats.

These moves have provided endless entertainment for my family and a few select friends over the years. I’m sure I remember them so well because it is the only dance routine I ever learned… Our cheerleaders at Ceres High School were awesome dancers. And I was an awesome, rhythmless, regular Baptist.

(Oh, BTW, my sincere apologies to the friends I would have loved to see in California, but it was a whirlwind one-day visit for my Grandma’s 90th birthday. Go Grandma!!! *insert pom pom shake here*)

I always wanted to be a cheerleader. I love, love, love synchronization. Whether it’s dance moves, or coordinating colors, or plot lines. It’s all so lovely to watch. Movement, staging, timing = favorite things.

When I think about why cheerleading was so hard for me (high school was not my first attempt to make the squad), I can acknowledge now that, in addition to being terribly uncoordinated, I’ve always been too self-conscious. There’s a certain amount of just going for it that a person needs in order to cheer well.

But, I’m getting pretty decent at cheering from the sidelines these days — as long as I keep it under a certain decibel. My yell is weird. And sort of screamy. The voice comes out not at all what I imagine it to be in my head. Something about watching my babies do stuff out there just makes me lose my self-consciousness and yell out their names. Which they just LOVE!

As much as they may hate it in the moment, they will remember mom (and dad) shouting praises from the sidelines for the rest of their lives.

Because praise, encouragement, cheer… everyone needs this. Everyone.

In fact, nothing simultaneously makes me angry and breaks my heart more than hearing parents yell from the sidelines in angry, disgusted tones at their kids.  I’ve been at games where I wanted to tell some parents to GO HOME. I cannot imagine listening to anything more discouraging than your voice. Your baby has run 18 miles today in the blazing sun. Give him a break!

All of us need cheerleaders. We do. Especially at critical points of life when discouragement clings to you, sucks you in, and threatens to drown you like quicksand.

I’ve been reading “For the Love” by Jen Hatmaker and in one chapter she puts on her old cheerleader voice to tell her readers some things. I needed to read this pep talk and maybe you do, too.

Here’s what she said that just lifted me right out of my pajamas, into the shower to ponder, and back into my bathrobe (keepin it real here) to write this post:

We will cheer each other on, refusing to speak doubt into our gifts. When you are scared, I will declare, ‘You can do this.’ When you whisper a dream, I’ll holler through a bullhorn that you are brave and wonderful and important! When I am beaten down, you will remind me that I am an approved worker with no shame….Let’s do this. Let’s fulfill the good work we’ve been commissioned to. Silence any voice that whispers ‘not enough’ and stand in truth as an approved worker. You are. Jesus made you so. If God surveyed the cross and declared it finished, then it wasn’t sufficient for everyone but you. If Jesus covered it all, then He covered it all….If you need to deal, then deal…Forgive, release, acknowledge, confront, feel the feelings, let something go, believe the truth, whatever you need to do. Then dust your hands off and get ready to go….This really is your one wild and precious life. You matter so much. You are writing a good story for your children. Your community and church need you, your neighbors and family need you, God adores you and Jesus is obsessed with you. Here we are, your community of women running this race together, proud of you, moved by you.

-Jen Hatmaker, For the Love

I need people in my life who cheer for me. My husband, my kids, relatives — they do an amazing job at this. And oh how I love my dear friends who speak even the smallest words of encouragement to me. Friends who believe I can. And should.

I’ve got enough negative words in my own head about myself. I don’t need more. You don’t need more. We’re stuck in an ugly, losing game sometimes. Heckled by our own hearts.

Maybe you feel beaten down and discouraged, too. Maybe you don’t have cheerleaders in your life, or your cheerleaders are fighting their own battles. Maybe you need to do what I’m going to do and Stuart Smalley that quote from Jen Hatmaker right onto your bathroom mirror and “silence any voice that whispers ‘not enough’ and stand in truth as an approved worker.”

And if you’re dealing with a husband, wife, child who is struggling with addiction (or anything else for that matter) take some time to think about your role in their life.

Are you the voice on the sidelines (maybe you need to get back to the sidelines) calling out every wrong move, every failed attempt when they’re fighting to get on their feet? Or do you cheer them on toward victory?

Cheering on someone you love through recovery takes selflessness and patience. We have to set aside our uncertainties, insecurities, fears and allow hope to fill us and give us grace and encouraging words. And pray for wisdom. Lots and lots of wisdom.

I suppose the same is true for any relationship, really.

Encouragement revives.

* * * * *

Who in your life needs your words of encouragement? A child, a spouse, a pastor, a friend?

Sometimes, you just need to go for it.

But maybe not with pom poms.

…encourage one another and build each other up…

1 Thessalonians 5:11

 

 

 

 

Life should be celebrated. And that includes birthdays.

This past week, I reached an age I’ve been dreading.

No, it’s not 50. But I’ve spent months avoiding thinking about this birthday, so there was quite a bit of angst in the days leading up.

I made good use of my pensive reflectiveness and wrote some thoughts about getting older.

I jotted them down on scraps of paper, spoke them into my voice recorder as I drove, wrote them in my journal, voxed (Voxer is an awesome smartphone app) them to my sister and even got so far as to write a few drafts of thoughts here.

Some thoughts were complaints, really. About catching my reflection in the mirror and not recognizing myself. About memory and the lack of it. About sleep and aches and wrinkles.

Some thoughts were mournful and full of regrets and should haves. I questioned all my life choices, my mothering, my relationships, my work…

My mother was the one who put my lament to words. I like to call and thank her on my birthday, you know, on account of all the work she did to bring me into the world. It’s as much a celebration for her as it is for me.

Neither one of us enjoys math, so I just tell her right out how old I am now so she doesn’t have to do any calculating. “Ah,” she says. “You’re closer to XX than XX now.”

Precisely…

People who are better with words than numbers just round things up or down…

and that is why I have been feeling so sorry for myself. We’re past rounding down now.

I know every one of you who has passed the 50 year line is saying, “Forty-something? You’re still a baby!” Which is exactly what I want you to say. It makes me feel better. Please keep saying it.

And math is also responsible for this new habit I have of noting whose parent I could be. NCAA basketball player? I could be his mom! The guy giving the presentation at work? I could be his mom! The new PE teacher? I could be her mom! But wait, you don’t do math, you say.  Well, it’s easy. I just laid awake one night and divided my age in half (which every second grader could do with my age), realized that’s how old I was when I got married, used that number as a convenient dividing line, and now anyone who is younger than that is officially my offspring. It’s not exact.

Story problems…

My sons are actually good at math and are not into rounding down, especially if it involves skipping past another rounding point. They are into exact. Some years ago now, when they were in the habit of  asking how old are you? how old is dad? how old is grandma? how old is that guy?, I told them I was 32.

The boy who was in second grade at the time was immediately suspicious. He said, I thought you were 38 last year and refused to comply with my request to default to “32” moving forward.  He was right. Good memory, that one.

They have learned, however, so this year when they asked and I said, “As far as you’re concerned I’m 39,” they didn’t object. If they did any math, they did it in their heads — and kept the answer to themselves.

But then as my birthday approached, heartbreak and pain and loss touched people around me and across the world, and I snapped out of my mourning for myself. Mourning is for loss and I have gained. I am blessed, so very, very blessed to have lived this many years. And life should always be celebrated.

The processing the passing of time is necessary for growth. Reflecting on the bad and good, remembering God’s grace, mercy and His deep love.

“Teach us to number our days,” said Moses, “that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) 

The problem is we get stuck counting — I get stuck there — counting yesteryear’s messes and failures. I let them weigh on me and press doubt into my calling. I let them silence me.

This year, rather than resist time, I will try to embrace it. I will keep asking God for a heart of wisdom and keep leaning on my sisters and mothers and grandmothers ahead of me.  I’ll own my years, because I have always believed that experience — both good and bad — has value and the wisdom that comes with age has inestimable worth. I will not stop believing that now, even if it scares me.

And I will number my days.

They are 16,790.

I’ll let you do the math…

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dear mom who is trying to do everything right

I remember reading the list in the What to Expect Book carefully and following every detail. Like I was making a lemon meringue pie. Or replacing the water pump in a car. I had never washed a newborn before! I needed detailed instructions.

Somewhere in that picture, there’s a baby.

She’s wearing her “in case the ultra-sound was wrong” turned “emergency backup clothes for when I don’t get out to the shared laundry” blue long johns. (It was a good thing I had several back ups.)

I put this picture in her baby book, captioning it: Mommy was afraid she’d make a mistake! and laughing at myself a little. I had just had baby number three when I wrote it — bathing a baby wasn’t such a big deal anymore.

But the first bath? I remember reading the list in the What to Expect Book carefully and following every detail. Like I was making a lemon meringue pie. Or replacing the water pump in a car. I had never washed a newborn before! I needed detailed instructions. And when I took a step back to see what the supply list looked like in real life, well, I had to take a picture.

But it was only the beginning of trying to do it all right: crying it out, pacifiers, potty training . . .

It’s funny, looking back . . . Our first three babies each came home with a different instruction for how to lay them in their crib. Side, tummy, back . . . and car seats changed from front to rear facing. It was a struggle to keep up with the latest thing that’s best for your baby. I didn’t always. I couldn’t.

Twenty years have passed since that first baby bath. And I’ve made more mistakes in parenting than 25 year old me would care to know. She would judge me. Me and my dirty van and my belly fat. Because she was determined to get it as right as possible.

I’ve had to learn to relax a little and be okay with some imperfection. I mean, I was the mom with the birthday themes you couldn’t buy party goods for at Party City — making fancy cakes and invitations. And look at me now — I sent a cake mix, cup cake liners and candles to my college girl to help celebrate her 20th birthday and didn’t even think about frosting til I walked out of the post office.

But I have to be honest with you, every now and then an accusing voice says you did it all wrong, it’s because you didn’t ____  and other sorts of things accusing voices say.

So I listen for a minute, or a while, or a season, and try and separate the truth from the lies. And then I have to tell myself some truth: So many of the things we think are important for our kids just aren’t.

Sleeping all night by three months old? Not necessary.

Preschool? Not necessary. (Unless it’s for mom’s sanity.)

Having their own room? Not necessary.

A smart phone? Not necessary.

How do I know these things? Because none of them were a big deal until our lifetime.

Babies were born and bathed for generation upon generation without What to Expect. And babies slept next to mom for warmth and protection and were probably nursed back to sleep so they didn’t wake pa and the other kids up before morning chores. And in some states, still, kids aren’t required to be formally educated until age 8 — long past pre-school.

Oh, mom trying to do everything right, do you love your children with your whole life? Then you already are doing it more right than you know. Forget the trappings of baby and childhood that are all the rage today and gone tomorrow. Think of what lasts. It’s not the latest must-have your child needs. It’s you.

You are showing your child God’s love through every bath you give, every meal you make, every nose you wipe, every dream you encourage, every time you drop them off or pick them up when it’s totally inconvenient.

And in the middle of all that business of life, you are going to make mistakes.

But that love you have for your child, that sacrificial love, is going to carry you and that child through all the mistakes you are going to make — and all the mistakes that child is going to make because she’s not perfect either. Love, dear mom, covers a multitude of sins.* 

So why do we stay up so late then, and get up so early and wear ourselves thin and ragged?

Sometimes it’s love, yes. But I wonder sometimes if it’s because we’re trying so very, very hard to do it all just exactly right. And perfectionism doesn’t translate so well into love.

Love your children with you today. Love them even if it gets really messy and don’t be afraid of making mistakes.

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*1 Peter 4:8

 

 

dear mom who feels the darkness

May Your unfailing love be with us Lord, even as we put our hope in You. Psalm 33:22

***originally posted October 31, 2014***

It has not been a quiet week in our town.

Poulsbo, Washington sits on Liberty Bay 18 miles across the Puget Sound from Seattle. Our “Little Norway”is full of Scandinavian charm and actual Scandinavians.

On a clear day from various hills around town you can see the Olympic Mountains to the west and Mt. Ranier to the southeast. Woods hide flaws here. And tides mark time.

But this week, our hearts are raw from shock, fear, alarm, and now grief over yet another young person in our little town overcome by darkness.

As parents, we are shaken, and moved to pray deeply, from broken hearts, for our kids. To love them more clearly, more vocally. To give them hope that darkness passes.

Honestly, sometimes, it feels like it never will. The world outside is war, and disease, and death. And school is fear. And tragedy hits home.

Sometimes, it feels foolish to hope. Every day the headlines are worse.

They see it, too. They know. They can count. One every year, my son said.

* * * * *

Dear mom who feels the darkness,

I feel it, too. So heavy. A darkness consuming days, raining sorrow.

Inescapable dread, eclipsing joy.

It’s so hard to see in the dark. My eyes are old. And tired of seeing pain. I bet yours are, too.

But night does not last forever.

This is a promise we can trust. We have evidence every day as night passes into dawn.

Tell your children you love them and pray they will hear and embrace the truth that God loves them and has a purpose for their lives.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord . . . Jeremiah 29:11-14

And tell stories of when you were nearly overcome by darkness, but you reached out to God for help and he helped you even when the situation looked impossible.

“Exactly at the instant when hope ceases to be reasonable it begins to be useful . . . . the only kind of hope that is of any use in a battle is a hope that denies arithmetic.” G.K. Chesterton

And pray always, dear mom who feels the darkness, because you are fighting a spiritual battle for your children’s lives.

* * * * *

The silver rectangle in my hand with the cut out flower was a gift from a teacher for working in my

youngest son’s kindergarten classroom. She gave it to me for Christmas just weeks after my husband lost his job and we lost our home. It was the darkest time of my life.

 

Hope was the thing I needed most desperately. I needed to believe God had a future for me, for Dave, and for our family.

And He did.

But I could not see any of it for a very long time. Not just days, but weeks and months.

The walk through darkness does not have to end in despair. Cling to hope and pray through til the light dawns again.

May Your unfailing love be with us Lord, even as we put our hope in You. Psalm 33:22

* * * * *

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dear mom who wishes she could home school

Still, the beautiful ideal to me is a hard but simple farm life and a dining room table school. But that’s not my life at all . . .

I home schooled for a while.

While I did, we lived on one income. And my life was consumed with caring for four small children and making everything, including pudding, from scratch because it was cheaper. This family has eaten their fill of ham-less split pea soup and depression-era bread.

I know many families who choose to home school make sacrifices to make it happen.  I know it annoys them when people with professionally kept hair and nails who drive reliable and fairly nice cars and go out to movies and out to eat a lot comment, “It must be nice to be able to stay home.” Whether you home school or not, for any mom who makes financial sacrifices to stay at home the comment is equally grating. (Friends, if you home school or home schooled, please scroll down to the bottom of this letter past my signature right now and read a special note to you before you read any further.)**

And then again, mom who wishes she could home school, you know that it really must be nice. Because in spite of your home-schooling friends’ protestations that you can make it work you know there are reasons you cannot. Some are fairly obvious, and you wish your friends would just stop talking about how great home school is and how they’d never put their kids in school in a sort of way that makes you feel like somehow you’ve chosen a lower road and there is no hope for you ever of being a mom anyone would want to be like because not only are you not home-schooling but you put your kids in public school.

I know those reasons.

Because I home schooled for a while . . . and then I couldn’t.

And it wasn’t until I could and then I couldn’t that I noticed how much the Christian community often glorifies home schooling to a level of spirituality unattainable for a whole lot of women.

Dear mom who wishes she could home school and absolutely cannot, I know you’ve noticed this.

And I’m sorry if I ever made you feel like you were less than a wise, spiritual and sacrificial and mom. You are doing it all alone. All of it. With no one to earn even a small income to let you stay at home and spend exhausting days teaching little ones to read while feeding a baby, staying up late to prepare science experiments, learning advanced math to keep up with your high schooler, scrounging car change to buy a bag of split peas. Shame on us if we ever gracelessly rubbed home school in your face.

My reasons for not home schooling are different from yours. But we made a choice and you never had one.

Maybe you are like me. Maybe it’s not that you have no husband. Maybe at some point you had to choose between your marriage or home schooling.

Maybe you had to choose between health or home schooling. Maybe you had to choose between a healthy relationship with your child or home schooling. And maybe you will never, ever tell any of these reasons to anyone, so I will tell you mine just so you know you are not alone.

In my house, a raging battle with addiction elevated the stress level during the home school years to extremely unhealthy.

Our kids needed a break. I was unable to focus on anything but how on earth this marriage was going to make it. My strength was sapped by late nights arguing and worrying over how another unexpected debt would be resolved, and why I didn’t know about it yet again. My temper was short with the 5 year old who knew how to read and could not be taught the purpose of silent e because he already knew far better than me. Trying to teach math concepts to a variety of cognitive levels strained my patience and my brain to the point where there was no capacity to be both mom and teacher at the same time. No one learns math from a yeller. Or maybe they learn to hate math. We didn’t need the added stress of private school tuition — we couldn’t afford it. No. Really could not.

The answer for us was public school. And the school our boys landed in turned out to be the most amazing blessing we could ever have imagined. Sure, we had a couple of teacher struggles. Sure, as a former teacher, there were things I thought could have been done better. But our boys got the stability they did not have at home. Through losing a job, an amazing camp home, they went to a public school that wrapped their arms around our family in a way we never knew could come from anywhere but a community of believers.

For our oldest the transition from home school was harder. Middle school was not great time to jump into the system at all. But with the help and support of the district’s home school program for secondary students, some classes at the high school and some at a local community college, a very dear friend who generously folded her into her own daughter’s home school days to learn Latin and life, a few fantastic music teachers and a great base of support in local theatre, she managed to piece together a pretty incredible high school education.

Hear me, mom who wishes she could home school and cannot, God knows.

* * * * *

You would think that a person who had wanted to home school so badly would be really involved in their kids’ schools.

For a while I was. I was an art docent. I went on field trips. But I had to work, too (which is a topic for another post). I tried to get a job with the district, but there were no job openings for part-time English teachers (I will never teach high school English full time again — it’s actually TWO full time jobs), and the job I chose to stick with was consuming and not a good fit for moms trying to do it all who are not very adept at trying to do it all.

It wasn’t that I didn’t volunteer or go to my kids’ things. Just not a lot of school day things. I was at the theatre or soccer games or meets after school/after work. But it was hard to be at school. Hard because for a lot of years, being in a school reminded me of all I had given up.

And then I got to know you better, moms who wished they could and moms who home schooled until they couldn’tAnd moms who never did and never wanted to.  And I didn’t feel so bad anymore. In high school, there is a comfortable blend of all sorts of moms. As so many women around me who once home schooled are going to work, I’ve noticed that our lives are becoming more alike even as they have drifted away from the days of home school co-op.

* * * * *

I would be lying if I told you I don’t wish any more.

Still, the beautiful ideal to me is a hard but simple farm life and a dining room table school. But that’s not my life at all, and I think after kicking against the goads and wishing my life was something it wasn’t for too many years, I’ve finally accepted that it is what it is.

For the first time maybe ever, I waltzed in to the parent teacher conference arena last week in confidence that my parent/work/life/educator world was exactly what it should be. And I looked teachers in the eye as they told me some things I didn’t know about my kids, and I wasn’t ashamed that I didn’t know. I know plenty of good moms of teenagers — home-schooled or not — who don’t know them either.

* * * * *

If you made it this far in this very long letter, I’m guessing it’s because you’ve felt the same as me. Your wishes have been on my heart for so long, I just had to blurt it out all at once, as though you asked and I answered over coffee. I don’t want to go back and cut out words that might be important to you.

Dear mom who wishes, keep living the life you’ve been given and not the one you wish you had.

And please never feel like you’ve missed it all when you can’t do the thing you really cannot do. You know those things. You talk with God about them — a lot. And maybe you sometimes you yell at Him. Or maybe you yell at your husband. Or maybe you yell at the collection agent harassing you over your medical bills . . . . because it hurts.

God knows.

Give your wishes to God and pick up the now and embrace it. I wish I had done that a long time ago.

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** Dear mom who home schools her children, I respect so much what you do, and I know it isn’t easy. And I know some of you who keep on and kept on in spite of incredibly difficult things in your home. But this post is for women who sincerely wishes she could home school, but for one reason or other cannot. And by that I mean a mom who is a single mom who has to work outside her home to provide for her children. Or maybe there is someone in their home battling addiction to alcohol or drugs and school offers stability they don’t have at home. Or she has health issues or one of her children has issues that make it impossible to give them both love and an education. Or her husband lost his job and they are struggling to make it financially. Or her husband is not supportive of home schooling at all. So please, I admire you so much and would be grieved if you took offense at my post. It’s meant to encourage women like me.

 

dear mama who worries

I think every mama on this Monday morning will say a prayer. Whether she believes in God or not. Because someone has to watch them. Someone, please.

Dear mama who worries,

I will admit it. I worry all year long. September to June. You, too?

I schooled, and home schooled and schooled again through various moves in the early days of my children’s education. But in the summer of 2006, I was too overwhelmed by all that was going on in our home to take on another year. My boys had so much energy. And I was struggling to get myself out of the house, let alone out of bed.

I needed help. So we sent our middle boys to school.

Just four weeks later, on October 2, I wanted to pull them out forever.

My heart has never stopped aching since that day. Maybe yours hasn’t either.

On that day, I learned that if evil can find it’s way into an Amish school, evil can find children anywhere. And the ache deepens day after day as I understand more fully, over years and releasing just  what that means.

No matter how hard I try to protect my child from harm, I can’t be there every moment. And even if I was? I am not a super hero. I’m not even an armed guard.

The ache is a longing now. A longing for things to be set to right. For wickedness to end.

* * * * *

It is an act of faith to let our children out the door every morning.

And every morning, we commit our precious children here and far into God’s care. Whether they are 5 or 11 or 14 or 20 or . . .

And after every tragedy, whether in a school, a theater, or mall, or car, there is a time of fear and we face the temptation to pull them in close and never let them leave our side ever again. Not ever.

I think every mama on this Monday morning will say a prayer. Whether she believes in God or not. Because someone has to watch them. Someone, please.

Watch over my babies. Keep them safe. Protect them from evil. 

Oh Lord, hear our prayer.

* * * * *

I happened on a word of comfort tonight . . .

from a woman who reminded me that we begin to worry for our children before they ever leave our body.

I am a woman of prayer. It sounds bold-faced to write it down, but there it is. I write it anyway. Prayer comes easily to my spirit – perhaps it is because a former pastor of ours once told us that the same part of us that worries is the part of us that prays. I knew I could worry constantly, so that meant I could pray constantly. — Sarah Bessey

We carry our babies next to our hearts. We love them deep inside before we ever see them.

* * * * *

The world is broken, but evil is no part of God. And He sends His angels to protect. At every moment, they fight. And we pray

a Psalm of protection for our children . . .

Long ago, my favorite writer wrote a song for the children in his care:

This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
He is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday . . . .
For he will order his angels
to protect you wherever you go.
They will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
You will trample upon lions and cobras;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.

Psalm 91, a song of Moses

Oh Lord, hear our prayer.

* * * * *

Dear mama who worries, I do, too.

But today can we breathe those worries into prayers? All day long.

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a season of sharing the work

What is it about sitting in the presence of someone cooking a fresh meal that soothes?

I spent this rainy afternoon with women gathered around a table.

We watched and listened as our hostess demonstrated chopping and cooking techniques to create a soup meant to feed a crowd.

What is it about sitting in the presence of someone cooking a fresh meal that soothes? The steady rhythm of chopping, the steam from the pot, the aroma of onions and spices sauteed in butter? Is it that the cook does not skip a beat as she makes the meal just for you? While you watch. While you wait and listen. Comfort. This is comfort.

Thou preparest a table before me . . .

A hot bowl of red savory soup in the grayness of a stormy day, in a weekend of sadness. The world around is chaos. But here, in the corner of a dim sanctuary, we are breaking bread.

A scattered hum of words is spoken.

Just the sorts of conversations women who are grandmothers, great aunties, daughters, mothers of grown children have when they sit separated only by a full bowl, a full cup, a full plate. The stuff of life that fills novels and movies. Only real. Real people. Real tears. Real joys. Real life.

When the meal has ended and we prepare to go to our homes, we work together: washing dishes, collapsing and hauling away tables, setting the church to rights, loading the car with all the preparations and leftover food.

The motions are second nature. Each of us does exactly what we would alone, only there in harmony, in God’s house, working side by side.

We have been bonding over the work since time began.

Gathered at wells drawing water, gathered in fields harvesting grain, gathered at wine presses trampling grapes, gathered around rivers washing clothes.

In the common work of living and surviving we have always leaned on each other even as we do in this hour: Carrying heavy pots, folded tables, boxes of kitchen tools side by side by side. Wiping counter tops. Covering leftover food.

We are comforted, refreshed, encouraged. Ready to face the storm again.

Because of a simple bowl of soup, shared work, and living this season together.

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17 things I say to my kids that I really should say to myself

If anyone anywhere very desperately needed to take her own advice, it would be me.

If anyone anywhere very desperately needed to take her own advice, it would be me.

Things I say to my kids hourly, daily, and every so often:

1.  You need to be drinking water ALL the time!

2.  Get off the internet and do something productive.

3.  Eat some protein.

4.  What you really need to do is get ready the night before.

5.  Put that back where you got it.

6.  Be diligent.

7. Make good choices.

8.  Stop saying negative things about yourself, you’re going to end up with a self-fulfilling prophecy.

9.  You can do this.

10.  You don’t have to be the best. Just do your best and let it be what it is.

I talk a good game. Don’t you wish you were one of my kids?

* * * * *

It’s amazing how when you ask God to open up your eyes to where you’re missing the mark, He shows you.

Sometimes the answer comes like a punch in the gut. Sometimes, it’s an echo. Your own words coming back to you.

You can do this, I hear myself say . . .

11.  Focus.

12.  Do your best with what you have.

13.  God gave you a gift — use it.

14.  Quit comparing.

15.  Don’t be so afraid of rejection.

16.  Keep at it and don’t quit.

* * * * *

There are seasons . . .

. . . you stick to it and see change. You master the piece through practice. You labor over tedious assignments to get an A. You dribble incessantly in every spare minute and make the team.

And then there are seasons . . .

When you do all the things. Practically killing yourself to get there. And the promotion doesn’t happen. The part goes to someone else. The ref makes bad calls and you are defeated.

There are people — I used to be one of them — who thrive in that spot.  Don’t tell me I can’t because it will only make me work harder.

But as I dispense these true true phrases to my kids, I realize a thing about myself. Because I’ve seen it not happen like it should too many times. Cynical. I am cynical.

Because there are places where men’s voices are heard over women’s. Where tall dancers are cast and short ones aren’t. Where popularity wins over goodness. Where bankruptcy gets a pass and paying off debt takes decades. Where good suffers and evil is rewarded.

Yes, bad happens. Yes, the bad guys sometimes win. Yes, it isn’t fair.

But it doesn’t mean you’re a loser, or that you don’t have talent, or that you’re not worth listening to. Not in any way. And maybe that’s the most important thing I really should say to myself:

17. Tell yourself the truth. Over and over. Whenever lies begin to fill your head, tell them the Truth.

* * * * *
1500 size Live the Season

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P.S. That’s my mom pep talk. I”ll leave the rest to this guy . . .

 

Michael Jordan

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Also, if you click on it, you can watch the commercial.

when you fall asleep writing a title and hit publish on accident

One day, my memory will be even worse. And I will be the lady with the cats and the books and the unruly garden, living on spinach dip and tortilla chips and feeding Dave TV dinners.

So, I started recording myself.

Yep.

Because I have thoughts. Many of them. And I can’t write them down legibly fast enough.

I have an app on my phone called “Tape a Talk” which is far better for everyone than the old write and drive. Oh yes, with my eyes on the road . . . and yes, sometimes I couldn’t read it. Thoughts always come to me when I am driving.

Maybe because I used to do so much of it — driving. Hours and hours. For years. But for some beautiful, unselfish reason, my husband does most of the driving now.  He manages to get one to practice on one end of town, take the other two to work out with him on the other end of town, and go back to pick the other one up. Drives them to the bus. Picks them up from football games . . .

I know. I am utterly spoiled.

Anyway, I’m listening to one of my recordings, (which is a whole lot like listening to my sister’s voice messages — our voices are practically twins) and — now remember, I am only talking to myself. There is NO one to interrupt my thoughts — I’m chatting away on the recording and suddenly, for no conceivable reason:

loooooooonggg pause

“There was something I was just now thinking of . . .”

“ummm . . .”

“I can’t remember what it is.”

<<end recording>>

This is a conversation with myself. Out loud. Recorded. 

And there you have it: I get distracted even when I am talking to myself.

But the conversation I had with myself was a good one. I was talking about our kids, and I got a little wistful thinking about how much I loved them from the day they were born, and how love grew as they did, and how now I love them more than I could imagine.

Really.

And when I got home, I browsed the photos on my computer and realized our youngest grew up overnight in spite of my watchful eye.

And tonight, on his tip-toes he was taller than me, and my husband said “no” when I wanted him to look, and I suddenly realized why he drives them everywhere . . .

* * * * *

One day, my memory will be even worse. And I will be the lady with the cats and the books and the unruly garden, living on spinach dip and tortilla chips and feeding Dave TV dinners. And our kids will drive me around when they come home, and I will talk to myself . . .

(I’m guessing that will happen in about six years. Or around Christmas.)

And I was reminded of this verse — children are a gift — and I found it attached to the other one that has been nagging at my mind and I realize maybe my memory is not so very bad after all.

Maybe it just needs a little sleep.

 

* * * * *

It is useless for you to work so hard
from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
for God gives rest to his loved ones.
Children are a gift from the LORD;
they are a reward from him.
Children born to a young man
are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.
How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!

Psalm 127:2-5

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