To us, they really will always be kids…

It’s all Olympics all the time around here. I’m exhausted. If we could get a medal for dedication to watching and cheering on, I feel I deserve at least a bronze. I went to bed at ten last night after looking up the results online because I was just too tired to spend another night watching TV so that knocks me down a bit in the medal stand.

The Olympics are emotional. No matter who wins or loses, I find myself in tears almost every single time. Every race, every match, every event is the culmination of dreams come true for some and dashed dreams for others. We are watching lives unfold before our very eyes, and it is exhausting.

P & G’s Thank you, Mom series of commercials isn’t helping. This particular commercial turns me into a blubbery mess every single time.

The other one that messes with me is this one, because it’s true. No matter how old, or how big, or how great they become, to us Mama’s they’re frozen in time, the little ones who begged for nighttime hugs and kisses, one more drink, a few more snuggles and can I please sit on your lap, Mommy?

Their giggles are frozen in time, the freckles that dot their noses imprinted in our memories until the day we close our eyes for the final time. As much as I love to watch the athletes succeed, I love to watch their parents even more. With each twist and turn, each stroke made, each stride, the mothers and fathers who walked this road alongside them move. You can see the tension in their faces, the relief in their eyes when it’s all said and done.

Most of us parents won’t be sitting in those sidelines. Most of us won’t welcome home an Olympian or a Super Bowl Champ or a World Series MVP. Most of us will allow those dreams to foster in our kids knowing that it’s probably not really in their futures and we’ll be okay with it.

But we will all watch our children grow and learn and succeed and fail in different areas – maybe on a world stage, maybe in an office cubicle, maybe in a classroom or a mission field or a boardroom or as parents raising their own children. We will watch them grow and develop and become who they were meant to be.

And we will love them fiercely and deeply and proudly.

Some of us will be disappointed by the decisions our children make. We will sit back and watch them struggle and we will ache and cry and pray and long to see them crawl out of the pit that they have dug for themselves.

And we will love them fiercely and deeply and proudly.

As we drove home from Sloan’s football practice the other night, he shared with us some of his fears. He is not an aggressive child making football an odd choice for him. He’s built for the game and is talented enough, but his heart is so tender and competition is not really in his genetic make up.

But he wanted to play, so we signed him up.

“I’m afraid I’ll hurt someone,” he said. “And, I’m afraid I won’t do a good job and you will be disappointed.”

“Son, let me tell you something,” Lee said, turning the rearview mirror so he could look into the eyes of his first born. The one he loves fiercely and deeply and proudly. “You can make every single play, throw the ball perfectly and win the top championship in the world, and I will be so proud of you and I will love you,” he said and Sloan nodded.

“And you can miss every pass, fumble every ball, miss every tackle and trip over your own two feet the entire game, losing every game you play and I will be so proud of you and I will love you.” Sloan nodded again.

“There is nothing you can do on or off that football field that will change the fact that I am proud of you and I love you. Because you are my son and that’s all that matters to me.”

To us, they will always be kids. They will fail and they will succeed. They will hurt and mess up and get angry and they will still be our children.

I don’t need a gold medal or a championship ring or a World Series pennant to be a proud and emotional Mama.  

Are you watching the Olympics? Are you as tired as I am?

Softer, Younger Looking Skin? Yes, Please!

I don’t do a lot of reviews around here, but every once in awhile the product is either fun enough, or catches my eye enough to make me holler Yes! And then I share it with you.

This product is not a new one to me as I’ve been using Dove products since I was in high school. (Or since the “olden days” as my children like to say when referring to my youth. *eye roll*) But when the tag line of Dove’s new line of body wash is Visibly more beautiful skin from a body wash, well, I am all in.

Remember, I am the girl obsessed with all things skin related. If a product promises me younger looking skin, I buy it hook, line and sinker. And I like to think my obession is paying off. Just this week two different people told me I didn’t look old enough to have a nine year old. I shared this with my husband in an attempt to get him to quit trying to add up how much I’ve spent over the years on skin care goodies.

It’s best for everyone involved if we not focus on that aspect…

Me being dorky with my Dove Body Wash, which is very photogenic, I might add...

I’ve been using the new Dove® Visible Care Renewing Creme Body Wash for a week now and I love it. First and foremost, it smells delicious, both clean and pretty. But not so pretty that Lee couldn’t use it – cause my man likes to smell like a man.

Honestly, I can’t say that I’ve noticed a huge difference in my skin since I began using it, but I do love how I feel when I get out of the shower.

Yesterday we spent the day at the beach and I came home sandy and salty and dirty. The Dove® Visible Care Body Wash was especially reviving afterward and I could see it being extremely useful during those dry winter months when your skin threatens to grow scales.

Or at least mine does…

Here are a few of the benefits you will reap when using Dove® Visible Care Body Creme:

  • You will be using a revolutionary line of premium body wash.
  • It contains the highest concentration of Nutrium Moisture techology across the Dove portfolio.
  • It gives you visibly more beautiful skin in just one week.
  • It is available in three different variants – New Dove® VisibleCare Toning Crème Body Wash (helps to promote skin’s elasticity and strength), Renewing Body Wash( nourishes and replenishes skin), Softening Body Wash (softens skin and dry spots).

Now this blog post is not just another product pitch. Oh no. There is potential involved for your endurance in reading through my love of all things skin related.

First, visit Dove® VisibleCare® to get a coupon for $1 off so that you can try out their new line of skin renewing body wash for yourself!

And second, who wants to win a $500 Spafinder Gift Certificate? Anybody? Anybody?

Enter to win one of two $500 Spafinder gift certificates!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY

COMMENTS TO THIS POST ARE NOT SWEEPSTAKES ENTRIES. PLEASE SEE BELOW FOR ENTRY METHODS FOR THIS SWEEPSTAKES.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

a) Follow this link, and provide your email address and your response to the Promotion prompt

b) Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and then visit this link to provide your email address and the URL to that Tweet.

c) Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and then visit this link to provide your email address and the URL to that post.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. Winners will have 72 hours to claim the prize, or an alternative winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 7/18/2012 – 8/22/2012

Be sure to visit the Dove® VisibleCare™ Crème Body Wash brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ reviews and find more chances to win!

May we all now raise our glasses to the promise of younger, healthier, more beautiful looking skin! Visit Dove’s site for more information on their products.

Disclaimer: This is a paid promotion on behalf of Blogher and Dove. I was provided a sample of the product to try out. All opinions expressed are my own.

The Decision

I wrestled endlessly this Spring with our schooling decision. I made lists, I attended open houses, I prayed, I cried, I decided and waffled and changed my mind and stressed and worried and fretted and wished and hoped.

And I finally went to my husband with all of the information, laid it out in front of him and put the decision in his hands. I told him my first choice, a hybrid homeschool program in which the kids would attend three days a week and I would facilitate lessons the other two, but it had a cost involved that concerned us both.

I told him my willingness to homeschool again if he felt like we needed to and I gave him all the information on the public school. And I asked him to decide because I was paralyzed. I had analyzed and dissected every option and was well versed on each Pro and every Con and it left me completely inept to see what would be best.

So I gave it to Lee and waited for him to make the decision. After a few weeks of thought and prayer he pointed me to the public school and, while that had been my last choice, I felt a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. A decision was made by my husband and I had no doubt that it was the right choice.

He wasn’t plagued by every little detail like I was. He simply knew what would be the best next step and I trust him so Tuesday I marched to the public school and enrolled Sloan and Tia for next year.

I feel peaceful, but I’m nervous. I know it’s right, but there’s the unknown that keeps me prayerful.

I loved homeschooling the kids. I really did. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. Something really special happened this past year when I had them home with me.

I fell in love with them.

Of course I always loved my children, but I didn’t always love being with them. I was happy to ship them away whenever the chance presented itself and I hoarded my alone time with no small amount of selfishness. While they were home this past year, though, I really enjoyed just being with them.

We laughed a lot.

We learned a lot.

We enjoyed one another more than we ever have before.

We had freedom to go where we wanted to do what we pleased and learn what was interesting to us. I loved that.

However…

I firmly believe that homeschooling is the best education a child can receive if the parent teaching them is doing it really well. While I was having fun with them, I still did not feel like I was giving them the best educational foundation simply because I don’t know how.

I don’t know how to teach Math or Science. I didn’t love trying to break down grammar and teaching a six year old to read is just short of being stabbed in the eye with a hot poker. It’s hard.

I really believe there are other people more qualified to teach my children core subjects at this stage in our lives, but I also don’t doubt for a second that I will homeschool again someday. I can really see myself enjoying it a little more when they’re older and are a little more independent in their studies and I have more resources for help in the subjects I am not qualified in.

In short, I loved everything about homeschooling but the schooling part. Which…well, it’s kind of a key component.

Now, to be fair to myself, I will say I did a good job teaching them this past year. When we started the year Sloan was reading at a first grade level, could barely spell and had very little exposure to Subtraction. By the end of the year he was reading at a fifth grade level, spelling at a fourth grade, writing beautiful poems and paragraphs and had a working knowledge of Multiplication.

It’s not that I can’t teach them. But I did live under a constant wave of stress all year long and there are areas where I know they would benefit from a teacher who understands how to break things down more than I did. I never doubted my ability to teach them well. But I did fully realize that if I were to homeschool again, I would need a little more help in some key areas.

So next year they will go to school, and Landon will be in preschool five mornings a week, which means for the first time in nine years I will be alone during the day time hours on a consistent basis. I’m not going to lie – that’s an attractive thought.

But it’s also scary. I’m going to miss them. So when they all start back to school, to celebrate my first day home alone, I have vowed to go to Busch Gardens and ride every single roller coaster in the park.

By. My. Self.

How do you make the education decision for your children?

Why I Will Continue to Eat Mor Chikin

Chick-fil-a Rally Cow. Source Unknown

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock or you are one of the few who don’t have a Facebook account (the horror!), then chances are good you’ve heard about the recent controversy surrounding the nation’s premiere seller of all things chicken.

Dan Cathy, son of Chick-fil-a founder Truett Cathy, made a statement last week that incited waves of both rage and support. It was a bold move and, as much as people may not like his decision to publicly state his beliefs, it was an inevitable move. For several months I’ve watched, slightly bemused, as people began posting the news on Facebook of the organizations financially supported by Chick-fil-a.

Given the intense scrutiny they were under for the organizations they chose to support, I figured it was only a matter of time before Chick-fil-a was forced to make some kind of statement.

For days now, I’ve watched with a bit of confusion as people left and right, from Facebook posts, to official statements by major companies and public rants by elected officials, have tossed out words such as “tolerance,” “diversity,” and “discrimination.”

“You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against the population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion. That’s the Freedom Trail. That’s where it all started right here. And we’re not going to have a company, Chick-fil-A or whatever the hell the name is, on our Freedom Trail,” huffed Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

“The Jim Henson Company has celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness for over fifty years and we have notified Chick-Fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors,” stated CEO Lisa Henson.

“I, along with many others, are boycotting chick-fil-a for your bigotry,” someone wrote on Chick-fil-a’s Facebook page.

And my personal favorite from their Facebook page: “Chick-fil-a is anti-gay!”

More than anything, I find the terminology being used here disturbing. What Dan Cathy said is anything but discriminatory. He stated a belief and an opinion, both of which he has every right to uphold. He did not say that anyone who believes different was not welcome to work at his chain or eat at his restaurants. Let’s not diminish the horror that is true discrimination.

Not allowing blacks to share the same bathrooms, sit on public buses, eat in public restaurants and so on…that was discrimination.

The holocaust was discrimination.

History itself is rife with examples of true discrimination.

Supporting an organization financially out of your own earnings is not discrimination. To try and compare the two is absurd. Chick-fil-a has not denied anyone any rights so the words discrimination and bigotry cannot be used in the truest sense of what they mean.

Is Chick-fil-a intolerant for their belief? Well, it seems that depends entirely on where you stand on the issue at hand. There has been little mention in the media of Office Depot’s $1 million pledge of support for Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” foundation, a large supporter of same-sex marriage. No one is breaking down their financial statements on Facebook with battle cries of “Anti-Traditional Marriage!” Or “Office Depot discriminates against heterosexual marriage.”

Chick-fil-a has every right to support who they want to support and fight for what they believe in. Should Mr. Cathy have taken his stance public? That’s hard to say. Again, I’m not sure he had much of a choice, but perhaps it’s wise moving forward to not toe the line of political hot button topics.

On the other side of that token, we have every right as a population to decide what we believe and how strongly we believe it. If you disagree with Chick-fil-a and don’t want to eat there, you have that right. Personally, I cannot imagine a world without waffle fries and the perfect chicken sandwich.

But that’s just me.

We all have the right to support and back those things in which we strongly believe. Not eating at Chick-fil-a may be enough to prove a point, but it’s not going to change anyone’s mind about how they feel and what they believe and, in all honesty, it’s probably not going to hurt Chick-fil-a’s business in the long run.

We can all stand up for what we believe, to be sure, but we can’t sacrifice free speech in the process. Dan Cathy was firmly within his rights to express his beliefs, even if the repercussions were a few less sandwiches sold.

Mayor Menino is firmly outside of his rights to block Chick-fil-a from building in Boston simply because of what they believe and support. If that’s the stance he’s going to take, then chances are he’s going to have to boot a lot of businesses and churches out of his city as well. I wonder if he’s really ready to try and strong arm his way through that battle.

Chick-fil-a is not discriminating against a population of people. Everyone is welcome inside their stores. Everyone can order from the same menu, eat at the same tables, use the same bathrooms, drink the same glorious lemonade and benefit from the same clean environment and excellent service, regardless of race, gender, orientation or religious belief.

It’s not an easy topic to cover and believe me when I say I don’t write these things without a measure of trepidation. I don’t like cyber fights and it is not my intention to start one here. I believe in our rights as individuals to express what we believe freely and to fight for what we think is right and good. Your opinion may differ from mine, but I hope that together we can come to a place of respectful, mutual dialogue and not resort to petty name-calling.

What are your thoughts?

Please be nice. What if I throw in a happy emoticon for good measure? Would that help? :)

This is the part where I would compliment your hair or your shoes in an effort to let you know I think you’re super cool and don’t want to offend you or hurt your feelings and still want to be your friend and maybe we could go get a chicken sandwich later? Wait…

No.

How ’bout a Starbucks. They’re neutral, right?

Have a nice day!

Image credit

Til Death

His bent frame curved low over the chair in which he sat. His head was bald, but a photograph in the corner told me he once sported quite a mop of dark hair. His face bore a perpetual smile and his hands trembled mildly as he passed me a black and white photograph of a young woman dressed all in white.

“We were married 60 years, 4 months and 22 days before she passed away,” he said and he offered a wide smile. “She was the prettiest girl I ever laid eyes on.”

I was in a Waco nursing home on an afternoon service project. On my left hand, the engagement ring sparkled and shined and I wore it with such pride that some days I wondered if my heart would burst. As I sat and spoke with Abe, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the picture of his wife, who had passed away only months earlier.

“Tell me about her,” I said. When he spoke of his wife, his face split in two and his eyes sparkled. Love has a way of preserving youth, doesn’t it? I could see the young man Abe had once been when his eyes danced in the memories.

“She had a lot of spunk,” I remember him saying. “Did you know we were married for 60 years, 4 months and 22 days before she died?” I nodded.

“That’s wonderful,” I told him. “I am getting married in just a few months.”

Leaning forward he looked deep in my eyes. “You enjoy it,” he said very seriously. I nodded and he leaned back, satisfied and content. He was, quite possilby, the most joyful man I have ever had the honor of speaking with. “Did you know,” he asked me again, “that we were married 60 years, 4 months and 22 days before my wife passed away?”

I wish I could remember all that Abe told me that day. He shared at length stories of his life with his beloved wife. Stories of the war, of raising children, of traveling and of growing old. And every other sentence was peppered with the fact that they had been married 60 years, 4 months and 22 days before she died.

When I walked out of that nursing home, I rushed to Lee’s house and told him all about Abe. “That’s what I want for us,” I said, lacing my fingers through his. “I want to be married for 60 years, 4 months and 22 days…plus some!” And that became our mantra. I even had it engraved inside his wedding band, which he lost a year ago. Some day I’ll replace it.

On our wedding day, Lee and I recited vows that we had written ourselves. In the vows we included the line, “I will never divorce you.”

Later, someone made the comment that she thought we were irresponsible for using those words. “How do you know what will happen in the future? How can you say you’ll never divorce someone?”

My first inclination was to react defensively. What do you think ‘Til death do us part’ means? Our vow was not meant to be a holier than thou approach to the institution of marriage. Rather, it was the acknowledgement that  marriage is hard and we were in for the fight.

Yesterday we marked twelve years since vowing to spend the next 60 years, 4 months, 22 days plus with one another. I can honestly say it’s been the best twelve years I could have ever imagined. Not the easiest, but the best. Our path hasn’t been smoother than anyone else’s. We’ve had to fight for one another, but it’s been more joy than fight and for that I’m so desperately grateful.

We have been through unemployment, the frustration and discouragement of wanting to be pregnant and not being able to get pregnant, the fear of nearly losing a child, two big moves, a house renovation (oy), the death of loved ones, loss of hair, thickening of waists and the list could go on and on. There have been times when I did not like him much and other times when I was not all that likeable. We are no different from any other couple on the planet.

But in the midst of it all there has been joy so deep that sometimes it takes my breath away. Lee makes me laugh harder than anyone else on this planet and there is no one on this Earth I would rather spend a day with than him. Marriage hasn’t been easy, to be sure.

But it hasn’t been that hard either.

I know how blessed we are. I have seen marriages fall apart and I know that sometimes divorce is the only option. I used to not think that. I used to believe that one should stick it out no matter what, but I know better now. I’ve seen people who were abused in their marriages, emotionally and physically. I’ve seen friends fight tooth and nail for their marriage only to realize that it would be healthier for everyone to just walk away. There is a lot of healing that can take place when someone leaves an unhealthy marriage. Sometimes walking away is necessary and I will never stand in judegement of a failed marriage.

I don’t proclaim immunity to difficulty in our marriage. We are falliable human beings, Lee and I, entirely susceptible to temptation and selfishness and capable of breaking the vows we uttered a dozen years ago. But deep in my heart, I know that there is no one better suited for me than the man I stood before as a fresh faced, naive twenty-two year old.

And with that in mind, I will continue the fight and will keep carving a path toward forever by his side. I will fail, he will fail, but together I believe the two of us are in for quite a journey. One thing I know without a doubt, we’re going to have a good time along the way.

We’ve got 48 years, 4 months and 22 days plus some to keep figuring this thing out.

Image by Avodah Images.com

Edited to add this link to my current favorite song. I love me some Ingrid Michaelson. Listen to it. Download it. Love it. Amen.

One more glance

We are on our last days of vacation. Tomorrow, the kids and I begin the two day drive home from Arkansas where we’ve enjoyed a week of swimming and playing with family. I’m tired and looking forward to sleeping in my own bed.

I’m still plugging away on the novel. It’s coming, very slowly but very surely. Some days the words flow freely. Others days it’s like plodding up Everest with a bag of rocks on my back. Some characters are sure and free and beautiful. Others are chunky and in need of a good editor.

But it is coming along.

This character, Maria, is coming into her own. Her story is heart wrenching and a couple of times I’ve had to stand up and walk away, the emotions have run so high. When I told Lee this he looked at me with narrowed eyes. “You know you’re the author, right?”

Yes. I do know that. But sometimes I’m not writing the story.

Kinda weird.

Here is one more piece of Maria’s story:

 

For three full days we rocked slowly along the tracks, all of us stuffed in tight and wrapped in heat and terror. After the first day, when dehydration and starvation began to set in, emotions ran high. We were a car full of teenage girls, all ripped from the ones we loved and forced into a situation of extreme stress. The tears fell freely and emotions ran hot. By the afternoon of our second day on the train, girls were screaming and wailing. Panic set in and several beat on the sides of the train until their fists were raw and bloody.

Others tried to shut out the wailing. Polina and I wrapped our arms around one another and slid to the floor, each a lifeline to the other. After awhile fatigue set in and most of the screaming faded into pitiful wails.

If the sounds of our enclosement didn’t set me over the edge, the smells threatened to. We all forfeited every bit of dignity we had as time went forward. Girls defecated publicly, and threw up repeatedly from stress and heartache. Even I had to finally give in to the calls of nature and with the deepest of sorrow in my eyes I released the pressure on the floor right where I sat.

Never have I felt such a sense of shame.

Polina did all she could to allow me some sense of dignity. She did not mention it and gently turned her eyes away from me when I could resist no more. And she did not complain when together we finally had to sit in the mess.

By the third day, everyone had made a sort of pile on the floor. In an unspoken agreement, we all allowed the smaller girls to lay on top of the larger ones, making a sort of long patchwork of grief and fatigue.

It was this day that I thought we would die. I envisioned the Nazi’s pulling open the door to find us all rotting in our own stench and somehow I took some comfort in this vision.

But it was not to be so.

Instead we finally pulled into a station and stopped. We had made many stops along the way, but this was the first time that the door was opened. The light that streamed into the cabin assaulted my eyes and left me blind. We were all so weak by this point that the Germans who began herding us out the door had to physically lift most of us and set us on our feet. Polina and I did not let go of one another’s hands. We clung tight as they set us upright and both of us, stiff-legged and squinting, followed the line of females into the unknown.

We were soiled, dirty and smelled of human feces and vomit. We did not look like young girls, but old women who had endured years of abuse. What a difference three days made.

There were four girls who did not make it. I watched as their lifeless bodies were pulled from the train car and tossed on a waiting truck with such indifference that I wondered if our captors were, indeed, even human. How can one witness death with no expression at all?

I don’t understand it.

©Kelli Stuart, 2012

Home Base

GEEK ALERT GEEK ALERT GEEK ALERT

There is an episode of the show LOST that has been running through my head on a constant loop this past week, kind of like the constant loop that Rousseau’s message ran on for sixteen years.

Have I mentioned my obsession with the show LOST in the past?

I have?

I apologize.

So this episode was the fifth episode of Season Four ran some time during Season Four and was called The Constant and I can’t remember what it was titled…

Ahem.

If you aren’t LOST fans, bear with me for a second. I swear I have a point. If you ARE LOST fans, doesn’t the mere mention of the show make you want to go watch the entire series all over again?!

Image from Lostpedia.com

 

In this particular episode, a character named Desmond starts experiencing unexpected side effects from his prolonged exposure to the time traveling mysterious island.

Of course he does.

Desmond repeatedly loses consciousness and when he does, he flashes to an alternate reality in the past. The time flashes become severe and, naturally, his brain cannot withstand the strain of these two realities.

On one of his “trips” to the past, he runs into Daniel, who works as a scientist at Oxford and who also happens to be one of the characters who have mysteriously shown up on the island a few episodes earlier. Thus he is both in Desmond’s past and his present.

Confused yet? This is why you should watch the show!

Daniel of the past tells Desmond of the past that the time travels will continue to occur and will eventually, likely, kill him if he doesn’t find some sort of constant to keep him grounded in one place. “If you don’t have a constant to attach yourself to, you won’t be able to tell the difference between the past, the present and the future,” Daniel of the past  tells him.

Naturally, Desmond’s first thought goes to his love, Penny, and he takes steps to connect with her in the past and make her promise to listen for a phone call from him in the future. In the nick of time, future Desmond manages to call future Penny, just as his brain is beginning to hemorrage. Reaching out to his constant was like touching home base. It stabilized him and allowed him to remain stable in the present, move forward in the future, and hold dear to the past.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

No?

This isn’t perfectly clear?!

Sweet friends surprising Sloan for his birthday.

 

Our week last week in St. Louis was like touching home base. It was reaching out and grabbing hold of our constant. Before heading back I worried if I could emotionally handle the visit. What if it made me long to go back? What if I left feeling overwhelmed and scared of the future without so many of the people I love so dearly?

It was exactly the opposite. We were loved fiercely for a week. We were poured into, prayed over, fed and hugged by the people that know us deeply. And as we pulled out Saturday I felt peace. I felt like life stabilized a bit in the present and it gave me the courage to keep looking forward.

It was a reconciliation of our past, our present and our future. The friends we have in St. Louis are a part of our past, but this week showed me they are also a part of our present and our future as well. They are our constant and after that week I feel so much more confident in my ability to continue to walk boldly into our future.

I am constantly amazed at the God-given capacity we have to love. God has woven into our beings the inate ability to love many people and many places. A piece of our hearts will always be in St. Louis and it will always be home to us, probably moreso than Texas, which is where we started our marriage.

Our first house is there. Our children were born there. Our family originates in St. Louis. That won’t go away, even if we no longer live there.

But our life is now in Florida and there is a place for us to build new memories and there are friendships that are blossoming and growing and we have a future there that is new and exciting and promises to hold blessing. Our past and our future blend together in our present and as we prepare to head home, I have no other thought than this one:

We are desperately loved and more than adequatly blessed.

How is your summer going?

LOST Image credit

I think my GPS is out to get me

We were two hours to our destination, with fifteen hours of road time firmly tucked behind us. Minus a rather disasterous hotel stay (in which children didn’t sleep, children fought incessantly, children jumped around the room screaming like apes on crack) that resulted in me shedding tears (it’s a long story that has little to do with the children and more to do with lack of coffee…) the trip had been a wild success.

Until…

3 MILE BACK UP AHEAD

45 MINUTE DELAY AHEAD

CONSIDER ALTERNATE ROUTE

The signs flashed at me as we buzzed through Illinois with St. Louis waiting for us just across the river. Consider alternate route? What alternate route?!

Then I saw the detour sign and, feeling brave and daring, I zipped off the highway and followed the orange arrow that promised to help me bypass whatever horrible traffic lie ahead. I figured going around the traffic would likely not save us time, but as long as we’re moving, the children think we’re making progress and they’re less likely to start throwing things at my head…

A mile into our detour I hit a snag. The sign pointed left, but my GPS firmly directed me to go right. I know this because she said, in her very smug and know it all voice, “At the fork, keep right.” I decided to trust her because she just sounded so confident in her direction.

So I turned right.

In 300 yards, turn right onto County Road 1500, Essex Lane.”

I should have noted the hint of hesitancy in her voice at this point, but I was too busy admiring the scenery. In fact, I believe I congratulated her, and myself, for bringing us along such a scenic path. “Well, done,” I said as we entered an expanse of Illinois farmland.

“Who are you talking to?” Sloan asked.

“Look at the scenery guys!” I called to the backseat where the kids were sitting in a daze due to over consumption of junk food and the hypnotic rhythm of the car. “Isn’t it pretty?”

“When are we going to be there?” they asked.

No appreciation for geography, those three…

“In 200 yards, turn left on County Road 5687214, then keep right.”

It was this momnet when I began to doubt her ability to lead. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the horses that greeted me upon turning. Or perhaps it was the fact that I turned onto a one lane gravel road with nothing in sight on either side but corn and a few run down barns.

“Are you sure?” I asked her as we bumped along the narrow road. She didn’t answer. She’s very passive aggresive sometimes.

When I came to the end of the one lane road, I waited for her instruction. It was at this point that she began to mock me.

“Turn right.”

I turned right.

“You’ve gone  a different way. Tap anywhere for new instructions.”

“Cannot find alternate route. Satelite lost.”

Then she laughed at me. If she had hands, I’m sure they would have been pointed in my direction in a haughty display of boastful glee. I looked before me to see where we were. It was another narrow, graveling road. “What is that noise?” Sloan shouted over the sound of loose rocks pelting the underbelly of our (smokin’ hot) minivan.

I tapped her screen again only to be met with silence. Basically, the GPS gave me a big fat middle finger.

So I turned right at the next intersection, assuming that the highway must be in that general direction. I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it, but I’m fairly certain God forgot to install my inner compass when He formed me. Every time my husband gets impatient with my lack of direction, I like to remind him that that quality of mine is both fearful and wonderful.

Finally, after an eternity of turning and passing rusted pickups and el Caminos, I decided it was time to give up on my beligerant GPS and stop for directions. The outside temperature read 111 degrees and I kind of wondered at what point my tires would begin to melt. Being stranded on a desert island is one thing. Being stranded in Illinois farmland is something completely different. I began looking for a place to stop.

First Unity Free Will Baptist Church of Illinois? Nah…

That shack tucked back inside acres of tall corn?  No…

The house standing next to a run down barn where a handful of cats sat baking in the sun? Definately not…

“We want to get to St. Louis!” the kids began to cry. So I pulled into the driveway of a normal looking home where two men stood in the garage chatting. They stopped and stared as I pulled my van into the driveway and put her in park. I hopped out and I could sense their bewilderment.

Minivan mom in a skirt with pink striped hair. I fit right in.

Turns out I was quite a long way from the highway. They gave me instructions on how to make my way back, their voices laced with amusement. I thanked them, hopped back in the car, backed up and…

Did you have a nice ride?” her voice was sugary sweet, as though she simply had to step out to use the bathroom and had no idea we were terribly lost.

“In 400 yards, keep right, then turn left.”

She has a lot of nerve, I’ll give her that. Suddenly, as quickly as she left me she was back, smugly trying to get us out of the mess in which she’d left us. But I was wise to her wily ways. I clicked the exit button and her voice trailed off. Twenty minutes later we were back on the highway, having bypassed the traffic and seen parts of our country the kids wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

“Well that was an adventure,” Sloan piped.

“Pretty cool, huh?” I said and all three of the shrugged in unison.

“Not really,” he mumbled and I sighed. And deep in the recesses of her metal belly, I heard the GPS cackle grandly. I’m fairly certain she is out to sabatoge me.

Nine

Photo by Avodah Images

I love this child with a ferocity that cannot be strung into words. He is smart, funny, kind, passionate, loving, silly, outgoing and…tall.

Lord Almighty, this kid is tall.

I can’t believe I have a nine-year-old. I learn something new every single day parenting this child. He shocks me with his constant ability to love others deeply and fiercely. He is going to change the world, this one – perhaps for the masses, perhaps for just a few, but I have no doubt he’s going to make an impact wherever he goes.

As we drove home last night, the golden glow of headlights zipping past us, we just talked. The other two were asleep and there was no sound beyond the gentle hum of wheels on the highway.

“What should I be when I grow up?” he asked. “Not what you think I could be, but what do you want me to be when I grow up?”

The questions are getting harder to answer…

I won’t tell you what you should be,” I answered. “There are just too many possibilities.” I went on to list the many things I think he’d be great at: Missions, Pastoring, Business, News reporting, Sports, Science – really, at nine? The sky is the limit.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I asked.

*pause*

“I don’t know,” he said thoughtfully. “I just want to glorify God.”

Even as I type this, the tears prick the corners of my eyes. Nine years ago, I held him in my arms for the first time and I had no clue what I was doing. I just knew, as I looked in his tiny eyes, that I was meant to be his Mom. I didn’t know how hard it would be to be his Mom. I didn’t know the tears I would shed and the inners corners of my own sin and selfishness that would be laid bare before me in his reflection. I didn’t know what this would be like.

I just knew that this kid was something special and he was meant just for me.

God, I’m grateful for that gift.

Avodah Images

The In-Between: A Repost

We are almost a year to the day since leaving St. Louis. This has been, by far, the hardest year we’ve experienced as a family. It’s been the hardest year of marriage, the hardest of parenting and simply the most uncomfortable we’ve felt. But there have been miracles along the way. They are victories that are meant only for us as a family to experience, but I can share without a shadow of a doubt that this hard, hard year has been a miracle in itself.

As we drove into St. Louis a couple of days ago and I navigated the streets so familiar to me, I realized what a blessing it is to know that my heart can be fully present in two places. St. Louis is home, but Tampa is home, too. And so is Texas! Our lives are richer and better for knowing the people we’ve met through the years in the different places we’ve lived. Perhaps that is our miracle!

This was published on July 24, 2011.

He didn’t want to try it. Fear prevented him from true joy, from enjoying to the fullest that which stood before him. The vibrant blue waters of the pool were enticing and he tasted the joy when he stepped into the water.

But fear held him back.

He couldn’t bring himself to put his face in the water. The fear of the unknown was too much and so he simply watched in longing. Every once in awhile he put his chin beneath the surface, delighted to feel the cool water – such a contrast to the blazing heat of the sun. If, by accident, water splashed into his eyes he cried and dashed for a towel, wiping it away before realizing how refreshing it could actually be.

I wondered if he would ever overcome this fear. I wondered if he would ever experience the miracle and joy that comes with taking the plunge and diving beneath the surface. I wondered if he would ever realize that conquering fear leads to freedom.

And then one day he did it. He stepped off the edge and took a leap of faith. Faith that he wouldn’t sink, but would indeed return to the surface as promised. Faith that fun awaited if he just took a chance. And do you know what happened?

Photo courtesy of my sister-in-law, Becke'

Inexplicable Joy. Freedom. And he hasn’t looked back.

We’re stuck in the in-between right now. We’re in Arkansas for a week visiting family, which simply feels like any other vacation. I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that we won’t be going back to St. Louis from here.

We head to Clearwater to stay in my parent’s condo until we either find a house or decide to rent. That, too, will feel like a familiar vacation, which in the past has always ended in us returning home. But Florida is home now. It doesn’t feel that way yet, but that’s what it is.

Mark Twain once wrote, “Change is the handmaiden Nature requires to do her miracles with.” I so hope for miracles as we make this move. What does a miracle look like? I don’t know. Maybe it will be something big and measurable. Maybe it will be something that can’t be seen but only felt…realized only upon looking backward after time has propelled us past this unsure moment.

Maybe the miracle is our willingness to take the plunge – to face our fear of change and dip our head beneath the cool waters of the unknown. We would have been fine splashing in the waters of familiarity, but then we might have missed out on the joy and freedom that comes from taking a plunge beneath the surface.

Maybe the miracle will be my children suddenly waking up each morning with smiles on their faces and nothing but kindness on their lips. Maybe the miracle will be my children sleeping past 6:30 every morning!

I can dream can’t I?

Change leaves your heart and spirit in a vulnerable place. When you’re cut off from the passivity of the familiar, suddenly a whole new world of options are opened before you. There are no schedules to keep up with, no obligations to meet. Those will likely develop quickly, of course, but in the beginning, when life has finally, mercifully, slowed down the prospects of a clean slate leave me excited. What will we finally do that we’ve been dreaming of but lacked the time? What lies in wait for our fragile hearts?

It’s terrifying and exciting and wonderful. A tightly woven ball of “What if?” What if we had the time to finally do that? What if we were closer to finally participate in this? What if we finally set aside the resources to accomplish that dream? What if we watched in grand expectation and looked for the miracles?

While the in-between has given me a touch of vertigo, unsure of which way to turn, it’s also left me excited. I love what ifs. I love to see miracles happen and for the first time in a long time, I’m finally watching for them.

“Change is the handmaiden Nature uses to do her miracles with.”

Have you seen any miracles lately? Let’s share and all join in the excitement!

“For I know the plans I have for. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11