My Week of Interviews – And Sharing One with You!

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Mother’s Day was certainly unique this year due of the COVID-19 pandemic. For me, the week leading up to Mother’s Day was interesting as it was full of video interviews and preparations for various opportunities to share my story.

  • I recorded an interview with a local pastor (and friend of mind) for his Mother’s Day message
  • I recorded an interview with my local church that was used for the sermon application
  • I did a Facebook LIVE interview with my cousin, who is a children’s pastor in Erie, Pennsylvania where we talked about parenting during this pandemic
  • And I did an interview with author and speaker (any my personal friend) Sara R. Ward, for a Mothering Strong Under Stress Virtual Summit
  • Then, I found out that an interview I recorded last fall was set to air on Mother’s Day as well. 

I felt like a “virtual movie star!” Haha! Thankfully, in “real time,” I was able to stay in my pj’s on Mother’s Day to watch these things from my family room. Then, my family made me lunch and we had a wonderful, relaxing day together. Yay for pre-recordings!

I wanted to share one these interviews with you today. I am grateful to Mitch Kruse of Restoration Road for this opportunity. I hope it encourages you!

Feel free to share and send me your feedback! I love hearing from you!

Have a great weekend!

Christy

This Too Shall Pass, But What Will Remain: PART 2

I chuckled at the stranger’s tweet.  The words brought me a moment of joy in the midst of these crazy Coronavirus days. The Twitter user shared that their child had asked if “Daddy had lived through COVID 1 to 18 when he was a little kid.” How sweet… and how sad.

The truth is, none of us have done this before. No one. We are all learning as we go. Each day brings fresh understanding, and new questions. Each morning, we read updated guidelines based on new statistics. Each evening presents a dichotomy of hope and fear.

In the midst of all of this confusion, there are those of us (myself included) who are adding our voices to the sea of those trying to make sense of it all. We write blogs, post videos, make graphs, share photos, and more in hopes to find some meaning and purpose in these days.

And it’s wonderful.

I’m grateful for those who are presenting ideas and virtual help. Indeed these things are a gift!

As I’ve shared in previous posts, I lived through a three-year period of isolation and social distancing due to our toddler son’s cancer diagnosis and compromised immune system. That was 2007-2010. Even though that really was not very long ago, I didn’t have many of the “modern” conveniences that we have now. For example, I wasn’t on any form of social media during those days. I was so isolated and had very little idea what was going on in the lives of friends. I shared about this in my book, Brownie Crumbs and Other Life Morsels:

Social media had not yet taken off, so I did not have Facebook, Twitter, or other platforms where I could keep my finger on the pulse of society and the happenings of my friends. The isolation left me out of the loop. One of my girlfriends, Amy, recognized this and began to send me weekly emails she entitled, “The Society Pages.” These updates made me smile, and sometimes laugh out loud, as she humorously informed me of news she thought I’d wish to know. This ranged from the story of a mutual friend who had recently received a traffic ticket for not wearing his seatbelt in the passenger seat, to news about a girlfriend who was due with a baby any day and her antics to start labor. She was considering drinking castor oil, but hadn’t yet brought herself to do it. I read the list of possible baby names for that little one, details of a remodeling project at our church, a friend struggling with her thyroid, and a couple whose water meter had burst and flooded their garage. And I was delighted to be part of it all, even if just in the reading of Amy’s words. She offered me social media before its time, without the annoying political rants and recipes. These emails filled a need for me, and I loved them. She cared for my soul, and it only took a little bit of time, and an Internet connection.

So, let me be clear that I LOVE the added connection technology has provided. That being said, there is something I keep thinking about that I want to share. Yes, I’m adding my voice to the din again.

Sometimes the opinions we hear and the posts we see add unrealistic expectations to our lives. 

It’s a new form of peer pressure, virtual pandemic pressure, if I may. We think we should be accomplishing what she is, teaching what he is, upgrading like they are, etc.

In This Too Shall Pass, But What Will Remain: Part 1, I shared 3 “G” words that helped me during our son’s cancer days; Grieve, Gratitude, and Give. Basically, I shared that I had learned to grieve what was lost, have gratitude for what I still had, and give back when I was able.

I stand by these three G’s and think that the process of grieving, having gratitude, and giving back is a continual cycle we all need to keep working through. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But, I’d like to add 2 more “G’s” to the formula. I think these new “G’s” help give it some added health. If we don’t add these two G’s to the cycle, the gear can get stuck when trying to spin. These two round it out and make it run much more smoothly.

Go on and Grace. 

First, Go on. Live. Simply just keep breathing. I know that many of us are trying to draw every lesson we can out of this time. I confess, this is me. This is a major “pot calling the kettle black instance” for me. I am not one to waste a moment, whether it be good or bad. (Um… my entire first book is based on this idea). I savor and I strive to learn and grow. This is okay, BUT, sometimes we just need to live. We have to go through the moment instead of around it in order to draw from it. 

This past Sunday was Palm Sunday, and in a way it felt like deja vu to me. As my daughters cut out paper palm branches and we did an online “Hosanna lesson,” my mind flashed back 13 years ago when our son, now too old for children’s church, was sick and isolated on another Palm Sunday. That day in 2007 we didn’t have an online church service, but we held one of our own at the kitchen table. My husband, son, and I cut out paper palm branches that morning as well. We made it through and found joy and worship in 2007, and we made it through in a different but similar way to joy and worship in 2020. Paper and scissors and a little effort were enough both times.

So, make the best of it today. Live right where you are, sheltered in place, six feet away from others.

Go on. Just be YOU and live in your own way where you are. 

And while you’re going on, give yourself and those around you some GRACE!

If you are a healthcare worker or other essential worker, your life has not suddenly become more still, but has gotten more stressful than ever! We are so thankful for your time and talent. You are amazing! Give yourself some grace if you are doing nothing more than what is essential. You aren’t getting house projects done or playing games with your kids. And that is okay. What you ARE doing is helping many people do those very things you are missing.

If you are working from home and trying to hang on to your job and your laptop while trouble-shooting your teen’s math homework and breaking up a fight over Pop-Tarts amongst your children (speaking from experience here), give yourself some grace! You didn’t seize the moment today? Guess what? No problem. Take a deep breath and try again next time. We are not going for perfection here, we are going for grace. And grace is a much better companion.

We are not failing if we simply make it through this pandemic. No! Simply making it through this pandemic is the goal!

If we don’t capitalize on every moment, glean from every change, or produce something beautiful from every scrap, that is okay. Those things are bonuses! Extras! Wonderful gifts! But let’s not throw out the baby with the hand sanitizer, the goal is to do our best, not be perfect. And grace makes this possible.

Go on, and as you do, give yourself and others grace.

GRIEVE, BE GRATEFUL, GIVE BACK, GO ON, GRACE…

It’s a cycle. Let’s keep it moving individually and together.

And we’ll be ready to face COVID-20 to 100!

This Too Shall Pass, But What Will Remain? PART 1

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As the COVID-19 virus continues to affect our world and our daily lives, I have been reminded of another time in my own life when my plans were canceled, and fear of the unknown loomed heavy. As I’ve reflected on that time, I’ve been comforted by the reminder of lessons learned.

Because these lessons were derived from pain and trial, I certainly don’t want to take them lightly or waste them by not applying them when they could once again be relevant and uplifting. Therefore, it is with that heart and motive that I share these thoughts with you.

In 2007, my husband and I were told that our then only child, our two-year-old son, Karson, had cancer. Our toddler entered a three-year chemotherapy regimen involving port chemo, oral chemo, steroids, 22 spinal taps, injections, and more. Karson’s immune system was hit hard, and we therefore had to self-quarantine for months on end. We spent the first year of his treatment in very strict quarantine; wiping down surfaces and hand sanitizing became second nature to us. We practiced social distancing, even with relatives, and we kept in touch by sending VHS tapes of cousins playing and chatting before the days of FaceTime would have made this much easier! I remember looking at my calendar during those years and having absolutely nothing scheduled other than chemo or clinic appointments.

If you had told me, before that dreadful day of Karson’s diagnosis, that I would basically have to cancel my life, I would have told you I couldn’t do it.

If you had told my busy and social self that I’d have to stay home and away from friends and family for the sake of potentially saving someone else’s life, I would have doubted if I could make the right choices to comply.

If you would have told me that many hardships were in my future, the stuff of parenthood nightmares, I may have fallen into the fetal position and begged it not to be so.

And yet, through those three years of pain, isolation, fear, and unknowns, there was goodness too.  There was mixture of tears and laughter, dread and hope, exhaustion and persistence.

And three responses rose to the top of the heap of emotions.

Grief, gratitude, and giving.

I grieved. Oh, did I grieve! I grieved the loss of life as I knew it. I was sad that I would not experience the normal “preschool life” with my little boy. He would not be allowed to have the typical play dates and parties that his buddies enjoyed. And neither would I. I would miss out on many events, and my dreams were shoved to the back burner.

The grief would come in waves. Some days I’d feel in control. I’d be okay. I’ve got this. I can do this. I’d think. Other days, I knew I could not. It was unpredictable and often, life felt surreal. But, I learned to look grief in the eye and call it by name. I didn’t have to like it, but I needed to acknowledge it. How else could I move forward if I did not acknowledge it as a barrier to my healing?

Now, with the changes to our lives and plans due to the Coronavirus, I think we need to grieve. It’s okay to give yourself permission to be sad. I’ve heard of family vacations to Disney being canceled, anniversary trips to Italy sidelined, senior athletic seasons being abruptly cut short. It hurts. These things are heartbreaking and deserve to be grieved. Grief is not reserved for death alone. Grief is valid for any loss. And so I think we should grieve these personal losses, and the changes brought on by this new period of quarantine and social distancing.  If they aren’t worth grieving, were they really worth doing in the first place?

In between the waves of grief throughout our long cancer journey, I also experienced swells of gratitude. I learned to be thankful for things to which I’d never before given much thought.  A late night playing with toys on the family room floor by the light of the Christmas tree with my little boy who was healthy enough to use his imagination and laugh. Friends who took the time to bring a fast food meal to my front door. The fact we lived in a world where our son could have access to medication and benefit from brilliant minds who commit their time to research.

Gratitude was a game changer for me. It rerouted my train of thought from self-pity to the realization of the gifts I already possessed.

Today, in the midst of the chaos of COVID-19, I hope we can all strive to be grateful. We can hope to spread something that is not viral, a new perspective and goal of aiming to find the good in the difficult. To realize the gifts we have in 2020. Internet connections, which allow virtual meetings, emails, video games, and e-learning. What an amazing opportunity to connect and dream together about how to not just survive, but thrive. Our virtual capabilities are now our reality. Thank goodness we have such a wonderful ability! Board games, television, face-to-face conversations with our quarantine pals, phone calls, books. These things are all gifts. Have we noticed how wonderful they are recently? Have we been thankful for them or have we been taking them for granted? And once again, I’m so thankful for those who dedicate their time and talent to finding treatments, tests, and cures for our ill. It’s impossible for me to fully express my gratitude to these selfless and brilliant individuals.

And finally, the third response that rose out of the fire of our childhood cancer journey was the desire to give. Obviously, I first wanted to give all that was needed to my son. I gave him love, syringes full of medication, rides to the ER, and mashed potatoes at 3:00am when his little steroid-filled body craved them. But I learned to not just think of our family and myself, but to see the bigger picture. There were many families on the 5th floor of our children’s hospital who fought cancer just like us. Many had it worse than we did, and my heart broke for them. I wanted to give back when the timing was right, and in the years since we climbed out of the cancer trenches, wounded, but not lifeless, we have given back. We’ve served on committees, shared our story in front of crowded gymnasiums and banquet halls, attended chemo appointments with other sick children, answered the questions of panicked parents who are following in our path, donated our money, and more. And I don’t say that to get credit or recognition. I say this to show you that the desire to give grew out of pain. And it produced beautiful fruit!

In the midst of this pandemic, I hope we can all remember to give. We can remember there is a bigger picture. It’s not all about us. There are many who are weak and marginalized who can use our help. Part of that help looks like us following directions to quarantine and utilize social distancing. Part of that help may be leaving some items on the shelves once we have enough. Not plenty, but enough, so that others can get what they need as well. Some of that giving may be with your own children while they do their schooling at home. What atmosphere are you creating in your home in which they are learning? Is it one of panic, dread, and complaining, or one of hope despite grief and gratitude despite disappointment?

In April of 2010, our son received his last dose of chemotherapy. That too did pass. Now he’s 15, cancer-free, and healthy. We didn’t know this would be our happy ending when we first heard his diagnosis. We didn’t know that someday he’d be a tall, smart, and happy high school student instead of a chubby, bald and sickly child. But our journey did come to an end. We eventually returned to our regularly scheduled life, though we were changed tremendously through the battle. We learned many things, not the least of which were three main responses: grief, gratitude, and giving.

This Coronavirus pandemic will someday be finished as well. We’ll look back at these weeks and months and tell our next generations about our losses and quarantine adventures. This too shall pass. It’s true. And what do you we want to remain? What will rise to the top of the heap when all the dust settles?

For me, I hope to once again find I’ve learned to grieve, have gratitude, and give. Lessons far too precious to waste.

On Fear and Falling Shoes

Hi friends,

With the current state of our world, and the unknown effects of the Coronavirus, many people are gripped with fear and anxiety. I get it. I can fall into the same trap, and it’s a dreadful way to live! But, there are truths we can remind ourselves of to help us guard against fear and turn to peace instead. Peace. Doesn’t that sound nice?

This is an excerpt from the “Worry and Anxiety” chapter of my book, If Only It Were a Piece of Cake. Yes, I struggle with worry and anxiety enough to write an entire chapter about it! I told you I can relate! This is only part of the chapter, an excerpt! But, maybe it will encourage your heart today.

You’re not alone! We can do this together!

Christy

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On Fear

 

I stood frozen and unblinking. I held my breath, trying to listen. Trying to prepare for the moment of impact. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

And it did.

It was a size-five boys black dress shoe, to be exact, hitting the ceramic tile on the lower floor of our home.

I had already heard what I surmised to be the first shoe dropping.

Thhuuuuumpp!!

In that super-speed mom-brain mode that can think faster than the Road Runner can get away from Wile E. Coyote, I knew what had happened. It was a Sunday morning, and our then seven-year-old son was getting dressed for church. I knew I had laid out his black dress shoes. I also knew that since recently moving into a home with a second-story landing, that our son discovered a newfound interest in gravity. I thought I had made it clear that no “hard objects” were to be dropped below, but with seven-year-old boys I should have been a bit more specific.

So I waited. I waited for the other shoe to drop. It thumped as loudly as the first, and the sound reverberated off the walls and tile floor. I twisted shut the lid to my mascara and placed it back in the drawer. Then I found Karson in the hallway. We reviewed the “landing rule.” Dropping hard objects is not good for the walls, floor, objects being dropped, or little sisters who happen to be standing below. Lesson learned, it appeared, and so we moved on with our Sunday morning.

But, as I was blowing my hair dry, I thought about it some more. I had literally just waited for the other shoe to drop. I figuratively do it so often that it was interesting to actually experience it for real!

I sometimes use the phrase “waiting for the other shoe to drop” when trying to explain how I feel about fear. I struggle with fearing what big, hard trial will happen next in my life.

I’ve had some whoppers of a “shoe drop” in my past. My mother’s sudden death when I was in fifth grade. A cancer diagnosis for our two-year-old son. Miscarriages. These things all contribute to my struggle with fear.

Because I know that shoes do fall, when things are going well, I sometimes find myself waiting for the next one to smack the floor. Before I know it, I’m frozen, unblinking, and holding my breath. Instead of enjoying life and living in the moment, I’m listening. I’m waiting for that figurative other shoe. It can be torturous.

The accessibility I have to the Internet worsens this for me. Maybe this is true for other shoe-waiters as well. I find myself scrolling through Facebook, or reading the news headlines, and suddenly fear seizes me. It’s like hypochondria, only broader to encompass things beyond the health-related. Fearing that all of the awful headlines I read or hear about are going to happen to me. A school shooting at my child’s school, a giant sinkhole suddenly opening in my front yard and swallowing up someone I love, a deadly nuclear attack in my neighborhood, an outbreak the CDC is warning about sweeping through my city, a deranged and deadly alligator on my back patio (I live in Indiana). I imagine it all in detail.

Twitter also poses a problem for me in the sense that it’s so blunt and time specific. I follow my local news stations on Twitter, and they report traffic accidents in 280 characters or less. They frankly state that there has been a crash on a specific road and sometimes they throw in the two words, “with injuries.” I am affected and afflicted by these tweets. I cannot simply scroll past them without caring. I worry that someone I know was involved in the crash. I worry for those who were injured. My worrisome thoughts exceed 280 characters, without a cut off.

Speaking of being cut off, Kraig told me one evening that he was going outside to fix the riding lawn mower and to install a new belt on the mower deck. My immediate response was, “Please don’t cut your arms off.” I was serious. He was going to be working near a sharp blade. Granted, the chances of him actually cutting his arms off, especially both arms, seems pretty drastic, but I needed to issue this warning anyway. As with most every time I make such a ridiculous statement of concern, Kraig responded with, “Oh, thanks. I was planning to cut my arms off, but now I won’t.” Then he rolls his eyes, winks, and walks away. I’m glad I’m getting through to him.

I hate, I repeat, hate, living in this state of mind. Worry and anxiety are lies, and they steal from my peace and joy. But, knowing this doesn’t change the fact that I deal with their ugliness on a regular basis. That’s why it’s a struggle…

Time progresses, but the passage of time doesn’t automatically fix things. It doesn’t end the struggle. Sometimes it just changes the scenery for the battle. The fear and worry fight is a daily one for me. Actually, and unfortunately, more than daily. But I’ve learned it helps if I remind myself of two things when it comes to fighting fear and worry.

One, is this: the other shoe is going to drop.

I know, it’s difficult. But, we all know it’s true. This life is full of disappointment, hardships, and trial. No one is exempt. There are going to be some falling shoes, Chicken Little. You’re just going to have to accept that fact and be thankful it’s not the entire sky.

But, as depressing as the first point is, the second point helps.

Two, I believe in and serve an Almighty God who never allows a “shoe to drop” without it passing through his sovereign, merciful hands.

We’re getting into some deep theology here. We’re opening the discussion about God allowing evil and pain. That’s a tough one. Why would He do such a thing?

I’m not a theologian. I have a simple mind and a simple faith. And so if you’re looking for mind-blowing intellect, you’re reading the wrong book. I’ve already referenced Chicken Little, the Road Runner, and Wile E. Coyote in this section. Hardly John Wesley-level thinking. But, what I do have is a relationship with the God of this universe. I know Him. I don’t claim to understand Him completely, but, I do know what He says to be true about Himself.

God is the inventor of love and life. He’s the one who thought them up. He then put them into practice by creating us. He loves us. Truly. Deeply. Enough to give us life.

But we, us stinking humans, brought sin into this world by our own free will and choosing, and through a couple who just couldn’t keep their little hands off a piece of forbidden fruit. Before we speak too harshly about Adam and Eve, let’s remember we probably would have been the ones to do it if it had been us in that garden. I won’t speak for you, but I know I’m a rotten sinner, I don’t even need a forbidden fruit tree to prove it.

When sin entered the world, the world broke. It wasn’t created for sin and death. Sin leads to death and death just doesn’t sit well with us. I think that’s why death hurts so much. It wasn’t supposed to be that way. We weren’t created for death.

But with sin and death come tragedies and pain. A lot of shoes have fallen throughout history and they have caused significant damage.

Now God, who is perfect, is still in control. That’s what He tells us in His Word. Romans 8 is a good place to start reading if you want to see what He said about this through the apostle Paul.

God could stop every shoe from falling this very second if He wanted to. But instead, He allows them to pass through His sovereign hands. Why? Well, I can’t answer that completely. But, I do know those shoes, and their ensuing pain, have led me closer to God and have helped me to recognize my need for Him. The pain and hurt remind us that we live in a broken world that is not our home. A quote credited to C.S. Lewis (see, I can discuss theology without using cartoon references) says, “The fact that our heart yearns for something Earth can’t supply is proof that Heaven must be our home.”

As foreigners in this broken world, we long for home. At least we should. Maybe sometimes God uses those awful shoes that fall to help us yearn for Him. Like I said, I can’t explain it all, but I believe it. And I find comfort in it.

When I find myself in fear and worry mode (more often than I’d like to admit) and realize I’m missing life because I’m holding my breath and listening for the impact of a falling shoe, I remember point number two. God is still in control. He is only going to allow what He knows is good and perfect in His sovereign way. I don’t know how He does it, but I trust Him.

Furthermore, I think about the fact that God allowed a gigantic shoe to fall on His own Son, Jesus. Perhaps now I’m taking this analogy a bit too far. Can’t you just hear the preschoolers telling their mommies and daddies that Jesus was squashed by a giant sandal? Crushed by a sole to save my soul? On a hill far away stood an old rugged Croc? I digress.

Let me start over with this point.

God allowed His own Son, Jesus, to be murdered by the very people He created. God allowed horrible things to happen to His Son on our behalf. God allowed Jesus, who had no sin, to suffer because of our sin. He did this so that those of us who believe, repent, and accept His sacrifice can someday live eternally in a world without pain. That’s the gospel, folks. It really is that simple.

What’s more, in the meantime, before we experience the wonder of God’s presence in Heaven, we have His presence with us here on Earth. God’s faithfulness, provision, unconditional love, mercy, grace, and hope are always available to me. Now. Today! By choosing to acknowledge and accept them, I can start to conquer that stupid worry and fear. I can thaw out from the frozen stances of waiting for a shoe to drop, and instead move and blink again. I can live! I can even take a deep breath knowing that no matter what shoe drops, God is in control, and He will be with me through it.

I don’t know when the next shoe will hit the ground near me. I hope it’s a flip-flop or something light, but I don’t get to make that choice. I do, however, get to choose how I’ll live in the meantime.

Am I going to waste my time worrying about the future and being frozen with fear, or am I going to live joyfully and fully while trusting in my Sovereign Lord?

I know, I know. It’s easy to say, and much more difficult to live. I understand. I’m right there with you in the trenches trying to make this trust a habit in my every moment. I’m desperately working to replace worry and fear with peace and joy. I certainly haven’t perfected it, but I’m nothing if not persistent. I’m going to keep at it. We can do this together.

A boy’s dress shoe began this mental dialogue and had such a profound impact on my thinking. In the future, I hope that’s the only place Karson’s shoes make impact!

Is It Worth It?

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Sometimes I can’t remember if I just put a new coffee pod into my coffee maker, or if the one I’m staring at in puzzlement is the used one from yesterday. Even though I would have had to put the coffee pod there mere moments before, I seem to forget if I actually did it, or just thought about it. My memory seems to short out like that sometimes. But, I can remember what I wearing on a certain Friday evening in January of 2002. Black slacks and a lightweight pale pink sweater.

I remember because it was an evening that held a pivotal conversation in my relationship with my then boyfriend, Kraig. I had just gotten home from work, and had not yet changed into more comfortable clothes. I was planning to do so, because my plans for the evening were to sit around my house and wonder. Wonder why Kraig had not invited me to go with him to his nephew’s first birthday party. We’d been dating for about two months, and I’d met his family before, so I wasn’t sure why I was being excluded from this event.

And then the phone rang. This was in the days when one had to pick up the receiver without knowing who was on the other end. There was no caller ID or special ring tones for VIPS. I know, youth today shudder at the thought, but we somehow made it through.

I answered the phone and it was Kraig. He said he was on his way to his nephew’s party (he had a cutting-edge flip cell phone) and would I like him to pick me up as he drove by my house? I said yes and kept my slacks and pink sweater on after all.

The hour drive to his brother’s was where the aforementioned pivotal conversation took place. I started it.

“Why didn’t you invite me this evening until last minute?” I asked him from the passenger seat of his Chevy sedan.

Kraig paused for a bit and then told me that he was a little nervous about the evening. This was a party with his family members, and though some had met me, there could be others there this evening that I hadn’t yet met. He further explained that we’d only been dating a couple of months and if he introduced me and included me in such events as this party, then it would take the relationship to another level and it would be more difficult if it didn’t work out and we ended up breaking up.

I thought about this for a bit. Then I decided to speak my mind.

“Kraig, you need to decide if I’m worth that risk. Yes, this could make things more difficult if we break up someday, but we can’t just plan and act in a manner that protects us from pain because then we’ll miss out on the fun stuff. You just have to decide if I’m worth that risk or not.”

I’m not sure if this was a mic drop moment or an expedited way to get myself dumped.

Spoiler alert: Kraig decided I was worth the risk. We’ve been married now for over 17 years.

I’m not here to make a statement about dating relationships. No. I was young and naive then, and in many ways, and I’m still naive now. But, I am here to say that some things in life require a risk.

No one likes failure, but successes worth anything are almost always preceded by risk.

When I wrote my first book, a memoir of many personal stories from my life, I had to decide if I was willing to risk people actually reading it. Because I knew some would not like it. I might get poor reviews (I have!). I would not be everyone’s cup of tea. And that stings. And it’s scary. And I don’t like the pain it causes. But, I took the risk anyway. And let me tell you, the joys and the opportunities to bring hope to others through my words has been worth the pain.

When we decided to have kids, we didn’t know how it would go! We were twenty-somethings who had never parented before. We sat through the classes at the hospital as wide-eyed rookies. But, we decided the joys of raising children would far outweigh any risk that we’d fail them. And guess what? Sometimes we have failed them! But the joys they bring us far outweigh the struggles. We wouldn’t trade parenthood for anything!

Speaking of our kids, we’re trying to teach our three that anything truly worth striving for may involve pain and risk. We told our son that yes, he might get cut from the sports team, but he should still try out nonetheless. How will he know if he doesn’t try? We tell our daughter that yes, she may not be given the part in the school play that she’s been practicing for and dreaming about. But that’s okay. What would she miss out on if she didn’t try at all? How would she learn and grow for next time? We tell our youngest that yes, she should try running club though she’s never run a mile before. Who knows, maybe she’ll find a new skill and make some friends along the way. How can you cross the finish line if you never crossed the starting line?

If it’s worthy, it’s probably risky. I wish it didn’t have to be so, but I haven’t yet found a way around it.

I still lose track of my coffee pods, but I do know what I was wearing one evening in December of 2002. A white dress. And Kraig was wearing a tux, and we were standing in front of family and friends. He had told me something weeks before. He said that because my own mother had died at the age of 34 from a sudden heart issue, he considered that I could die young also (another spoiler alert: I now know I don’t have the same heart condition). Kraig said he decided that even if he only got to be my husband for a short time because of such a tragedy, that I was still worth it. He’d marry me for whatever amount of time we were given. Basically, he was telling me I was worth the risk.

And that’s something I hope to never forget.

 

“But It’s Not Like Last Time!”: Finding Joy in Unmet Expectations and Change

Remember this?

Her face was red and wet with tears. Her fists were clenched and she was shaking her head spastically making her blonde hair flail around her head. She continued to whine and complain, but I could barely understand her words through her deep sobs. She was having a full-fledged meltdown.

Baggage was to blame.

No, not figurative baggage, as in difficult life circumstances that travel with us from our pasts into our future, I mean baggage, as in, our suitcases.

My 9-year-old daughter, Kenzie, was sitting in the one back row seat of our van that we had not folded down so as to have more room for our luggage. The van was still snuggly parked in our garage, and we were testing out the seating arrangements for our twenty-hour drive to Florida. This would be our second year taking a Spring Break vacation as a family of five. There was a lot of stuff shoved into our minivan: golf clubs, suitcases, beach chairs, snacks. Kenzie was surrounded by all of it in this trial run of making sure we could get everything in the van, including the kids.

Kenzie wasn’t crying because she was crowded or uncomfortable, she was crying because the suitcases were not close enough to her.

Sob. “Last year when I sat here the suitcases were right up against me!” Sob. “That was one of my favorite parts of the drive.” Sob. “I want it to be just like last year!” Wail.

There are moments in parenthood where you lose your cool. There are also moments when you’re overjoyed with your child. Then there are moments like this one when you’re just plain confused.

“So you’re telling me that you’re throwing a fit right now because the golf clubs are closer to you than the suitcases?” I said with a bit of a growl in voice.

Sob. “Yes! I want the suitcases to be closer to me so it’s just like last year!”

And thus began year two’s vacation where we frequently heard the phrase, “but last year we ___________ (fill in the blank).

My kids are huge fans of tradition. They savor life and enjoy each season and activity that comes with it. Each fall, they want to make a trip to the same apple orchard. Each Christmas, they want to hang the garland on the banister just like we did the year before. They love each tradition and have big hopes, expectations, and emotions involved in each one.

Speaking of apple orchards… the apple has not fallen very far from the tree. I wish I could say my husband was the tradition-lover who has thus modeled big feelings toward repeating expectations, but he ain’t that tree, folks.

I’m going to have to take the blame on this one. This baggage comes with me.

I love tradition, and I have a lot of hopes riding on expectations. And for many reasons, I’m going to say that’s a fine way to live. We tradition-lovers are also big on noticing and appreciating things, and we are often full of gratitude. If I do say so myself, we can be really lovely people to be around when traditions and plans go as scheduled.

But hitching our hopes to tradition and expectations can sometimes lead to a bumpy ride when plans come unhinged.

Over the years, I’ve had to learn how to recalibrate when it comes to traditions and expectations. Just as an infant is trained to self-soothe when she cries in her crib and no one comes to pick her up immediately, I’ve learned to self-soothe when expectations turn into disappointments. I’ve come to understand that joy can still be found in the changes, even if joy seems to be wearing a disguise.

Our first year in Florida, we went to a beach on a beautiful intercostal waterway where we found about a dozen whole sand dollars. It was amazing, and the kids loved these fragile sea treasures. But on our second trip, when we returned to the same beach, the wind was strong and the choppy water churned in a way that made it impossible to find any sand dollars. The kids were super disappointed.

But, as we walked along a different beach, we found some really cool shark teeth, a treasure we hadn’t found the year before. I capitalized on this and starting saying a five-word phrase each time one of the kids, or myself, would let disappointment creep in over a failed expectation or change.

Sand dollars and shark teeth.

Guys! Think about it! Both are treasures! So we didn’t find sand dollars this year, kids. But, we found shark teeth! How cool is that? It doesn’t have to be just like last time to be good.

“But last year ate at that one restaurant that had the popcorn shrimp!”

Sand dollars and shark teeth.

“But last year we made those apple pies!”

Sand dollars and shark teeth.

“But it’s our tradition to have cinnamon rolls every Christmas morning!”

Sand dollars and shark teeth.

And this doesn’t just help my kids deal with changes and unmet expectations. It helps me!

When my second book launched and it didn’t go the same as the first book had, I repeated “sand dollars and shark teeth” in my mind often. It was a mantra to remind myself that it didn’t have to be just like last time to be successful or good.

When my child’s schoolteacher didn’t run their classroom the same way my older child’s classroom was operated when they were in that same grade, I had to recalibrate. Wait, I thought I knew what to expect and how this was going to work! But it’s okay. Sand dollars and shark teeth.

When holiday plans changed last minute due to illnesses or activities beyond my control my gut reaction was, “this won’t be as good as last year.” But maybe it was. We made new memories! Sand dollars and shark teeth.

I’m going to be honest, Kenzie’s meltdown over not sitting close enough to the suitcases was a little over the top for me. I did not initially understand her response and I got pretty upset with her.

But after a week of finding zero sand dollars and realizing that unmet expectations and change were the reason for her tears, I understood a little more. I didn’t let her off the hook for behaving like she did, but I file the realization away in my mind.

“But, it’s not like last time!” can be baggage that travels with each of us. I get it. I’m a frequent flier in this club. But just because it’s different, changed, or not what we expected doesn’t mean it can’t still be good.

Sand dollars and shark teeth.

Tuck that phrase away in your baggage.

Book Excerpt – “Letting Go and Moving Forward,” From – If Only It Were a Piece of Cake

Letting Go and Moving Forward

With school starting, parents dropping their sons and daughters off at college, young people beginning their first jobs, and empty nest transitions of no more preschoolers in the nest during the day, or kids living under the parents’ roof at all anymore, there’s a lot of LETTING GO and MOVING FORWARD happening this time of year.

Here is an excerpt from my book, If Only It Were a Piece of Cake, that deals with that very topic!

An excerpt from chapter eight, “Letting Go and Moving Forward”


There’s a difference between moving on, and moving forward. Not to brag or anything, but I’m in the company of Albert Einstein with this thought (this sentence may be the only time I’m mentioned with Einstein. Savor it.)

He said,

“It is the same with people as it is with riding a bike. Only when moving can one comfortably maintain one’s balance.”

Moving forward indicates you’ve already been somewhere, and by moving, you’re continuing the journey. It doesn’t mean the past is forgotten, but that you’re now moving forward from it.

Moving on sounds a bit more like you’re leaving the past behind. You’ve finished the delivery, you’ve made the stop, you’ve completed the task. Now you move on and forget. This is fine if you’re a pizza delivery person, but as a general rule, we can’t just expect to move on to the next stop in life and forget everything else.

We cannot deny that the past happened. We should not deny the good or the bad. The past, the stages and seasons we loved and lived, are always going to be a part of us! The stages and seasons we loathed are too. That’s okay. We shouldn’t move on from them, but move forward in spite of them, through them, with them.

I often call to mind 1 Corinthians 4:16-18 in times of change and letting go. It reads,

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Yes, this passage is about dealing with hardships, but also about change and letting go. You see, as we live, we are “wasting away.” Each day we are moving closer to the end of this earthly life. But inwardly, those of us who are in Christ are being “renewed day by day.”

This renewal is a process. It’s preparing us for eternity and shaping us to be more like Christ on this Earth. We can’t always detect the process or see the change, but it’s happening. Our bicycle wheels are barely spinning, but it’s enough to keep us upright.

Being renewed each day by Jesus requires letting go of what we were yesterday. Not denying it happened, but moving forward anyway.

A sweet little girl, a friend of our daughters, was learning to water ski last summer. I sat in the boat with my girls and our friends, who were driving and shouting out instructions to the little girl. My husband was in the water trying to help her get her skis on and learn how to hold the rope.

And she did it! She got up on the skis and took a long ride around the lake. In fact, a very long ride. I realized we had not clearly explained that she only needed to let go of the rope when she’d finished. Simply let go. But we didn’t make this clear to her, and so, she never did. She skied on and on. After awhile, her little body bent forward at the hips and she looked exhausted.

“You can let go!” her aunt yelled from the boat.

“Do you want to let go of the rope?” my girls yelled as they made a motion with their own hands of dropping the handle.

She wasn’t understanding, and so she skied on, looking as if she were about to break in half.

Her uncle, the boat driver, wasn’t sure if he should stop the boat because we weren’t positive if she wanted to be done, and getting up again would be hard work. So she just kept on going.

Finally, we looped back around to our shoreline and stopped. She fell slowly into the water, still not letting go of the rope until she was forced to by the plunge.

“My back hurts! I’m so tired!” she said.

We all laughed. She could have stopped long ago if she would have just let go of the rope.

I get it, girl!

Sometimes I want to move forward into a new season, and I know it will be exciting once I get there, but I just don’t want to let go of the rope. I’m comfortable where I am. I’m not sure how the transition will feel. I like the way things are going now. Even if my back hurts and I’m tired of the fight, I’d rather hold on and be safe then let go into the unknown.

It’s not just about the unknown. Sometimes it’s about the sadness I feel that a particular stage is ending. I’ve loved it so much, whether it be having preschoolers at home, or working outside the home, or watching my children compete in a sport that they have now finished, that I don’t want to face the sadness by letting go of the rope.

But facing the sadness offers the chance for joy in remembering, and anticipation of what’s ahead. Just as looking grief in the eyes helps bring healing, admitting the sadness of leaving a season of life helps us to move forward with it. When we face the sadness, we also acknowledge the goodness of that particular season, and then hopefully that turns into gratitude that it happened!

As Dr. Seuss says,

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

I say, if you want to cry too, that’s okay. Cry, laugh, remember, grieve, and then move forward. And if you need to cry, laugh, remember, grieve, and move forward again later this afternoon, that’s okay. This isn’t a one-time deal. You may have to let go of the rope multiple times. You may not realize you’ve grabbed hold of it once again.

Letting go is a process. It’s a healthy and natural process at that.

As I said in the Chronological Change chapter, Genesis 1 shows us that God created the seasons and time on the fourth day of creation. (Genesis 1:14) They were part of the original creation, before the fall, when sin entered the world. A part of the original design. So, this tells me that even if sin and death never entered this world, seasons and time still would have existed. Now, they would have been different in the sense that they would not have led to death, as time does for us now, but they would have still been part of creation. Seasons still would have been a beautiful framework by which to live, and this encourages me.

We see cycles in life when one season begins, and another one ends. When the leaves fall off the trees, they yield to winter. When the snow melts and the flower bloom, winter yields to spring. And so forth. If we’re still holding on and trying to live in the fall, we’re going to miss every other season.

Letting go is part of living.

I always remind myself that the alternative to letting go and moving forward is holding on and stagnating. Stagnant is never a positive word, is it? Nobody desires to drink from a stagnant pond that is holding on to its growths. Instead, we want to drink from a babbling stream that is moving, and fresh, and purified. Jesus didn’t call Himself  “Stagnant Water,” but “Living Water.” (John 7:38) Stagnating and holding on to the past doesn’t seem appealing anymore, does it?

So how do we let go of the rope?

We process the journey, remember the moments, grieve the loss, move forward. Process, remember, grieve, move forward.

Opening our grip and releasing the rope frees our hands to grab the present in front of us. 

When we’re free to move forward and live in the present, we’re ready to open the front door and usher in life, with all of its opportunities.

We shouldn’t put it off any longer.


For more, you can find If Only It Were a Piece of Cake on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1091280215/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i1

 

Temporary Regret.

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Regret. She was feeling it.

Karly had wanted to go to the butterfly exhibit at the local Botanical Gardens. The colors and delicate flapping wings had put smiles on all of our faces. We read the informational packets and tried to identify the different types of the beautiful creatures. How fun.

And then a butterfly landed on Karly’s head.

She wasn’t thrilled. Let’s just say that.

I get it. She inherited the “freak out when an animal touches you” gene from her mother. You might remember my tale of fish touching my legs in the lake where I was swimming (how DARE they!) that I wrote about here. https://christycabe.com/2012/08/13/do-as-i-say-not-as-i-swim/ Need I say more?

So, Karly’s reaction to the creature on her head spoke clearly to me. I read her nonverbal clues and knew exactly how she felt. And I did what any mom would do.

I took a picture.

I’m happy to report that Karly did survive the “landing” and she now looks back at the day with fondness.

Her regret was only temporary.

I get that too. I have moments of temporary regret. But, looking back, the regret dissolved. It fades into something else. Gratitude. I feel thankfulness for the moments I pressed on and through the temporary regret in order to get to the goodness on the other side.

The temporary regret that accompanied my pounding heart and shaking knees as I stood in front of 700 college students at my alma mater and chose to share my vulnerable story in their chapel service turned into gratitude that maybe I encouraged one heart that was needing hope.

The temporary regret of my aching back muscles from hours spent on bleachers watching my children compete dissolves into gratitude for the friendships and the lessons gained on the court.

The temporary regret of sleepless nights and swollen ankles during the late weeks of pregnancy led to a gratitude I can barley contain now that I have those babies who have grown into young people I adore.

The temporary regret of burning muscles and screaming lungs as I excercise turns to health and happy endorphins.

The temporary regret of choosing not to watch that television show and instead having a face to face conversation with my husband leads to a real life romance that beats any that would play out on the screen.

Temporary regret. I get it. I’ve felt it. I don’t love it.

But I do love the beauty it produces in its aftermath.

The delicate and fleeting moments of temporary regret are soon gone, like the butterfly wings that fly away and leave behind something beautiful.

 


This post is part of the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are encouraged to write for about 5 minutes about a topic based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: REGRET

 

I Care About How My Kids Look During Their Sporting Events.

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When we were kids, my younger brother owned a sweatshirt with words on the front that read,

“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you look playing the game.”

Oddly enough, this statement was accompanied by a cartoon penguin wearing a baseball cap. Apparently this image was to help convey the message that we too could look as cool as an athletic penguin while competing in sports. Built-in tuxedo not included.

Regardless of the marketing scheme, I remember the motto. “…it’s how you look playing the game.”

I never really bought into the sentiment.

I’m more for playing the game with determination and grit than winning any style points. But, as I’ve gotten older, and have become a mother to young athletes of my own, I’ve changed my mind a little.

The sentiment has taken on a new meaning to me.

Don’t get me wrong; I care very little about my kids’ appearance on the court or field when it comes to their fashion. The cartoon penguin may have them beat in the “cool” department.

But, I do care about how my children look during their sporting events.

How they look in the manner of what they do.

Because what they do is an overflow of who they are.

For example, if my son accidently collides with an opponent at first base, I’m concerned about what his next actions look like. Will he get up and brush himself off and argue with the umpire over the call? Or will he get up and reach out his hand to help his opponent to his feet? No matter the umpire’s call.

If my daughter is called for a travel on the basketball court, will she slam the ball down and roll her eyes, or toss the ball to the referee and continue to play the game to the best of her ability? Even if she knows in her heart she didn’t travel in the first place.

If my son’s team wins on a buzz beater will he still line up to give the other team high fives and congratulate them for a game well played?

If my son’s team loses a heartbreaker, and he’s the one to miss the game-deciding free throw, will he still believe his life is no less valuable than it was twenty minutes before?

You see, how my kids look during their athletic competitions is the indicator of who they are that I can see as their mother. Their actions are an overflow of their heart. Their responses and reactions to the game show me their character.

And as their mom, I care deeply about their character.

Matthew 12:34b says, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

I want them to be children who value kindness more than victory. Empathy more than points. Integrity more than statistics. Sportsmanship more than sports.

I want them to look their coaches in the eye and truly listen to their instruction. I want them to be respectful to the referees, as well as to their own teammates, and opponents. In victory, or in defeat.

Don’t get me wrong. I want them to win. They get their competitive nature from both their dad and me. And it’s a pretty strong one at that! But, as much as I want them to win, I care about their character even more.

The games will end. The scoreboard lights will be turned off. But who my kids are, as a result of what they learn on the court, will remain. And that’s how I ultimately define winning now.

I guess how they look playing the game is pretty important to me now.

Too bad I don’t have one of those penguin sweatshirts to wear to their games.


This article originally appeared as a guest post on the Winning Women website: “Connecting and Equipping the Female in Sport.”

Just visiting.

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The pictures in my iPhoto library scrolled in front of my eyes like credits rolling on a screen at the end of a movie. Only faster.

I was feeling a little uneasy in my stomach. Granted, I could have been getting motion sick from the quick movement (No, really. I’m serious. This happened to me once at the library in the 1990’s while looking at microfiche), but the real fact of the matter was that I was nauseous from nostalgia. Sick from sentimentality. Pained from pondering.

You get the idea.

I had to sort through the memories for a reason. All three of my children have had the same woman as their kindergarten teacher. My youngest is now “graduating” from kindergarten, and our tenure in her class is over. Just like that.

This teacher is amazing, and in an effort to make her a gift containing a photo of her with each of my kids when they were in her class, I had to search through approximately 12 billion photos in hopes to find three. Eventually, I did find them, but in the searching, I found many more that pulled on my heart strings.

My now twelve-year-old’s third birthday party with the Thomas the Tank Engine cake that I spent HOURS making.

My now eight-year-old’s first pigtails.

My soon-to-be first grader’s birth. The first time her siblings held her in their arms.

Chubby cheeks.

Little toes.

Birthday parties. First days of schools.

My seven-year-old’s store-bought birthday cake.

The time my girls got their pigtails cut off to donate to children in need of wigs.

The three of them arm in arm at a baseball game.

I found myself lost in a world of memories, yet feeling like these events had happened in my life almost as quickly as the photos on the screen were whizzing past me.

And in a few more minutes, it seems they’ll be more photos in the camera roll.

Graduations.

Weddings.

Grandkids.

Another generation of chubby cheeks and little toes.

More firsts. More lasts.

The knot in my stomach was now fully tied.

The moments of this life are so fleeting. I try to hold on to them. To keep them. To at least make them slow their pace.

I mentally place the events in my bucket as I cross the firsts and lasts off my list. But I must have a hole in my bucket because as fast as they pile higher, they’re gone.

Each moment is only here for a visit. No, they can’t linger for long. The are just passing through.

But regardless, I’m going to keep inviting the moments of life in. I’ll keep putting them in my bucket, my iPhoto library, and my heart.

And I’ll enjoy each visit, for as long as it lasts.


This post is part of the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are encouraged to write for about 5 minutes based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: VISIT