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.

 

Read the Directions.

It is no secret that I am a poor navigator. I have written about the GPS lady and how she has tried to cause issues within my marriage. I have shared about my personal Bermuda Triangle, and I’ve heard from many of you that I am not alone in my need for landmark descriptions when given directions, as opposed to such vague terms as, “It’s on the northwest corner of the intersection.”

But, we are not here to discuss my lack of navigational skills today. We are here to discuss direction. And the GPS lady is not invited.

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According to the dictionary, direction means:

a course along which someone or something moves.

I think of peeling the cellophane off a brand new board game and pulling out the shiny sheet of directions that I have to read about 12 times before I can explain the game to my family.

I think of the nurses in the hospital that sent us home with our newborn and directions to lay our baby on his back to sleep, not his tummy.

I think of the GPS lady bossing me around.

And I have to admit, though I despair over my navigational issues, sometimes it is nice to be given directions. To be told just what to do and how to do it.  Because then you have a clear verdict on whether you have succeeded or failed. You are either at your destination, or you’re not. You’ve accomplished the task, or you haven’t.

When I come to a figurative fork in the road of life, I sometimes feel like the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz is the one giving me directions. One minute I think I should go left, the next minute I’m convinced right is the correct path. What do I do? Where do I go? What is the plan for my day? My week? My life?

Will someone just give me a landmark to guide me!

And yet, Someone has.

God has given us His Word, the Bible. I don’t wish to come off as super-spiritual (yuck!), and I am not aiming to sound “holier than thou” (Ew!). I am just telling you what I believe to be true. When I read the Bible and live according to it, I find direction.

No, the Bible is never going to say, “Head north to that new job offer.” Or, “Change lanes here and break-up with your boyfriend.” Or, “Recalculate your decision to buy everything in your Amazon cart!” No. But it’s going to guide us, lead us, give us a course along which to move.

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

God’s Word illuminates our way. It guides us and keeps us heading in the right direction.

We just have to read it and then put it into practice.

Read it.

Listen to it.

Study it.

Apply it.

Direction.

And any failures, when following God’s Word, are a result of user error, not of the navigational tool itself.

The GPS lady and I still differ on who causes our failures.

 


This post was written as part of the Five Minute Friday challenge, where writers are encouraged to write for about 5 minutes based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: DIRECTION

Listen closely.

“I learned something really cool today in biology,” my freshman son stated as he began to search the pantry for an afterschool snack.

His words caught my attention. This was better than the grunts and shrugs that often follow my “How was your day?”

“What did you learn?” I asked as low-key as possible.

“Did you know that humans have a faster reaction time to sound than we do to sight because our eardrums are 3 centimeters closer to our brains than our optic nerves?”kisspng-tape-measures-ruler-adhesive-tape-measurement-clip-measurement-tape-5b1665d7538f80.2881284015281945193423I thought about this for a moment and felt my eyes and ears in an attempt to measure how this was possible. Then I decided to take his word for it. He went on to explain how it was tested and proved, and I enjoyed the science lesson, glad I wouldn’t have a test.

Later in the evening, I began to doubt this fact as I watched this same boy, stretched out on the couch watching a baseball game, reach his arms behind his head and accidentally knock over a glass of water on the end table behind him.

Tink. Tink. Tink.

The sound of the glass hitting the table was easily audible. Yet, my son’s reaction time was almost nonexistent. He propped himself up on an elbow and glanced apathetically at the water that was running across the end table toward my husband’s phone and various papers.

“What are you doing?” my husband said. “Go get a towel! Quick!”

Of course, it may not have been the best timing, but I was happy to add, “You heard that spill before you saw it so you should have had a quicker reaction time, son.”

He rolled his eyes at me on his way to the kitchen. Science does sometimes come in handy.

But here’s my point.

Perhaps technically, we should react faster to sound than to sight, but we still have to make a choice to do so. We have to not only hear the sound, but listen.

Listening requires action, whether it be in the form of a nod, or a response, or a thought you file away in your mind for later. We can hear something, but not truly listen, and sometimes, that can be detrimental to those around us.

Listen. It can make all the difference. Three centimeters at a time.

 


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

If it ain’t broke.

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It’s one of our family’s favorite “home videos.” Our middle child, then two-year-old Karly, attempting to drive a small motorized golf cart.

Attempting is the best word for this scenario.

She pushes the gas pedal with her little purple shoe, and the cart lunges forward. Karly’s hands are resting down by her sides. She moving, but not controlling where she’s going.

At the prompt of her big brother yelling “Stop!”, she lifts her foot off the gas and narrowly misses driving into a row of bushes.

“It’s not working!” She claims as she climbs out of the cart (the cuteness of it all multiplied by the fact that she can’t pronounce her ‘r’s’ and rhymes the word ‘working’ with ‘looking.’)

Oh, but it is working, sweetheart. To drive you must steer. To steer, you must put your hands on the steering wheel.

It ain’t broke.

You ain’t doin’ it right.

I’m guilty of it too. No, not driving with my hands by my sides (Geesh! Give me some credit!) but of getting off course.

I wish to get somewhere. To head in a new direction.

Toward better conversations with friends. Talk that is rich and uplifiting, not gossipy and self-focused.

Toward better understanding of who I am in Christ. Life that is lived free from worry and fear.

Toward a healthier body. One that makes wise decisions to eat well and exercise regularly.

But, sometimes I end up in a row of bushes.

“It’s not working!”

Oh, but it is working, sweetheart. To drive you must steer. To steer, you must put your hands on the steering wheel.

I can’t just wish to be somewhere. If I really want to get there, I must steer myself in that direction.

Steering rarely requires large movements. It’s tiny corrections and changes that put you on a different trajectory. 

Little changes, small tweaks, tiny adjustments. They can add up to big change, and put you in a whole new place.

You just need to keep your hands on the steering wheel and your foot on the gas.


This post was inspired by the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are encouraged to write for five minutes based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: WORK

 

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

 

Math is easier without numbers.

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I don’t have a beautiful mind like the guy in the movie by that title who is a brilliant mathematician. In fact, when it comes to math, my mind is anything but beautiful. Equations go into my mind to scoff and mock.

“Larry, get a load of this mind! She’ll never get us. We’re safe here!” (Yes, math equations are sometimes named Larry.)

I’d say instead of a beautiful mind, I have a busy mind. It sometimes serves me well. Minds need to be busy, right? We have places to go, people to see, things to do.

But there are times my busy mind is not a good addition to life, but a subtraction. (Wait, did I almost make a math problem? Larry, is that you?)

When my mind is busy with the wrong things, things like worry, irrational thoughts, fears, imaginary scenarios, I suffer.

But I have a little equation that helps me pull out of it. (Okay, maybe I really CAN do math- just not with actual numbers.)

Truth + Trust = Peace

When I find my busy mind is focused on questions like,

“What did my friend mean by that comment? Does she hate me now? What did I do to offend her?”

“What if my daughter doesn’t know how to navigate this difficult situation at school today? What if I’ve completely failed as her mom?”

“Is this health symptom weird? Am I dying of some rare disease?”

When those questions haunt me, I go back to my equation.

Truth + Trust = Peace

Truth. What do I KNOW to be true.

Trust. Who do I KNOW to be in control, no matter the circumstance (spoiler alert: it’s God).

Peace. Ahhh. There is it. The wonderful resulting exhale of relief and hope filled inhale of comfort.

When I go back this equation, this simple formula without numbers, my busy mind becomes more beautiful after all.

That’s right, Larry. Deal with it.

 

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

See Now.

dsc_0451Why do I have to use the scissors to cut the tape off this dispenser? It’s designed to tear off easily on these little pointy things. Annoying.

Should I wrap these gifts in one box or separate them so he has two presents to open?

Where did I put the scissors? How do I always manage to lose them?

“Mom!” my son yelled. His eyebrows raised and his tone firm.

“What?” I said shaken from my mental dialogue.

“I asked you three times what to put on this cut.”

“What cut?” I asked.

“What do you mean what cut? I just told you! I have a cut on my foot and you said ‘You do?’ and then I asked if I should put a Band-Aid on it and you said ‘Yes.’

“I did?” This was not ringing a bell. How long had Karson been sitting there?

He continued, “Then I asked you if I should put anything on my cut before the Band-Aid and you’re not answering me anymore.”

My hands ceased moving. I held the lame tape dispenser feeling a bit dysfunctional myself. I willed my mind to catch up with the present.

“I’m sorry, Buddy. Even though I was answering you, I wasn’t really listening. Now, let me see your foot.”

It’s not the only incident of multi-tasking malfunction I’ve experience this holiday season. Unfortunately, my distracted and poorly executed interactions are piling up faster than gifts under my tree.

I swerved right into a retail parking lot from the left lane because the conversation on my phone was trumping my defensive driving skills.

I unloaded groceries from the trunk only to realize I forgot the one thing I went to purchase.

I clicked off the computer tab of a work project to open Amazon to search for the gift that’s been eluding me.

I’m distracted in the present.

And when I see pictures from Christmases past my heart hurts as I realize how quickly chubby toddler cheeks have given way to little girl faces. How gifts of blocks and rocking horses have changed to those of video games and craft supplies. Ornaments with globs of dried glue and too much glitter remind me of sweet little hands that now color inside the lines.

The present will soon be the past.

I don’t want to miss life in the future as it plays out in front of my face.

I want to appreciate moments as they happen.

I want to live in the now.

To stop my train of thought and still my hands. To look. To see. To notice.

To pause my typing fingers and wink at my youngest child and study the way her whole face squishes up in such an adorable way as she tries to wink in return.

To look my oldest in the eye and laugh with him as he recounts the antics of the boys at his lunch table.

To hold my second grader’s hand as we walk to the mailbox and to remember how soft her mitten feels in my cold, bare hand.

To feel. To smell. To taste.

To watch. To laugh. To hold.

To notice the now.

To see the present as the gift it truly is.

 


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

Finding Sense In The Common.

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I pull the spoon out of the dishwasher and stack it with its fellow tablemates in the drawer. My motions are robotic. I do this same thing almost every single day. It is such a common task that I don’t even have to concentrate on what I am doing.

I push the clothes into the drum of the washing machine and reach up to grab the detergent. My mind is thinking about something else. There is no need to pay attention to each motion of the laundry routine. It is a common work in my life, and I have memorized the actions it takes to complete it.

“Grab your book bag.”

“Where are your shoes?”

“You will need a jacket today.”

All common phrases heard in my home each weekday morning. The same idea. The same routine. Over and over. And then almost always, I see the same results.

My life feels so common.

Being common doesn’t feel very empowering. It’s just so plain and normal. So mundane and run-of-the-mill. So regular. Isn’t that basically the definition of the word itself?

Common.

How can being common be significant?

How can my common life make a difference in this world? How can God use my common routine for His glory? How can common amount to anything at all?

But surely it does.

It just sometimes hides behind the extraordinary.

For example, in the Old Testament, Joseph does an amazing work of interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams in regards to a coming famine. He leads the Egyptians in the storing up of food for seven years in order to survive the impending drought. His ability and his leadership is so uncommon. He saves a nation from starvation.

But behind his uncommonness are the common. The farmers. The men and women who each day do the work of planting, and tending, and harvesting. The people who put their hands to the plow. The people whose mundane and run-of-the-mill tasks brought up the very food that was stored and that saved.

The common work provided daily bread for the saving of many lives.

Solomon, in his riches and splendor, in his uncommon life as a King of Israel, built a temple in Jerusalem that stunned the onlooker. It was majestic and extraordinary. But behind the amazing structure hid the men who cut the stones in the quarry. Who day-in and day-out did the heavy lifting. Whose brows dripped with sweat and whose muscles grew strong. They did the common daily difficult labor.

The common work laid the very foundation for the House of God.

A crowd of 5,000 hungry men sat waiting to hear Jesus. They then witnessed a wondrous moment when the lunch of a small boy fed them all. Their stomachs were full because of an uncommon miracle of God. Yet, behind the miracle, there was probably a mama who had simply packed her son’s lunch. She did the mundane, robotic task that she probably had done hundreds of times before. She did not know that the very hands of God would take the fruits of the labor, as meager as they were, and multiply them for the glory of God the Father.

The common work fed a multitude and pointed many to the power of God.

So my hands will continue to do the common work. To unload the dishes and reload the washing machine. To pack the book bags and tend to the growth of the children. To complete the mundane tasks that seem insignificant.

Because in the hands of God, the common is extraordinary, after all.


This post was inspired by 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: COMMON

Temporarily derailed.

I walked through my kitchen this week and the sight I beheld across the room into my family room caused me to stop dead in my tracks. My body’s physical reaction is difficult to put into words. It was mixture of nauseous and weakness along with a heightend sense of adrenaline.

Cue the emotional and dreadful music.

Hold your breath.

Wait for it.

Thomas and Friends was on my tv. My 6th grade son was laying on the couch covered in a blanket and staring at the screen.

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Granted, this may not sound like your typical horror scene. I don’t think the little blue train with the happy talking face has been a villain in many settings. He and his colorful train friends are actually quite cute and sweet.

But it’s not them, it’s me. I associate those talking trains with something else. Something painful. Something sad.

The same lanky preteen boy who now lays on the couch fighting pneumonia was once a toddler diagnosed with leukemia. We spent over three years watching this boy get chemo treatments and we lived in isolation. Our most frequent companions were the colorful trains from Thomas and Friends. James, Percy, Gordon, Thomas, Edward… I can still quote many of their friendly British lines.

But it has been over six years since our son finished chemo and he is now a happy and cancer-free middle schooler. He’s active in sports, does his homework, and rarely sits still.

That is until this week when he caught a nasty virus that decided to settle in his left lung and cause him to miss several days of school. It’s pneumonia, but it’s not cancer. It’s “one of those things” that he probably caught from the germ smorgasbord known as public school. It is unrelated to the cancer. It is going to be okay.

But as I walked through the kitchen and saw him sick on the couch not caring enough or possessing the energy to change the channel when Thomas and Friends came on PBS, I stopped and took notice.

Not this again. Please!

After I caught my breath, I took a picture on my smartphone and texted it to my husband. He understood its meaning without much explanation.

“This makes me sick too,” he replied. “But remember how far we have come and that this is not our norm anymore.”

Yes. Another quote I want to commit to memory.

This is not our norm anymore. Time has passed. Change has come.

Our son is healthy. Our God and brilliant doctors helped to heal him.

It took me a few minutes to calm my heart rate and sooth my nerves, but the moment and the perspective I gained have stayed with me.

Sometimes, remembering where you’ve been brings gratitude.

Sometimes, seeing how far you’ve come brings hope.

Sometimes a little blue talking train can remind you that healing does in fact come with the passing of time.

 


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

 

Together.

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The five of us knelt by the couch in our family room. Our hair was blonder and our skin more tan than three months before when summer began. Now it was the night before school started back in session. The eve of routine and alarm clocks.

My husband asked if I’d be the one to pray aloud for the family as we prepared for the next morning and new season of life. I agreed, but took a deep breath first as the thoughts of all the transitions to come filled my mind.

Our oldest child would be heading to middle school in the morning at a somewhat ungodly hour. Many days he’ll leave before the sun comes up. He had practiced his locker combination and reviewed his new schedule sufficiently, yet it felt like the unknowns still trumped our preparation.

Our middle child was off to second grade, where reading skills and independence increase at a surprising but encouraging rate. She’s turning into a little lady right before my eyes.

And the biggest transition that was looming over me and causing my shoulders to be tense with dreaded anticipation was sending our youngest child to Kindergarten. After twelve years of staying home full-time with my children, I felt a sadness about my impending empty day-time nest.

Finally I began to pray aloud. My voice quivered a few times as thanked God for His goodness and the gift of a wonderful summer. I had to swallow several times and clear my throat as I asked Him to guide our children this school year and to give them each the two things I most often request on their  behalf: wisdom and courage.

Wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it. 

As I said “Amen” my son glanced my way to verify his suspicion that I was holding back the tears. I shrugged and made small talk about getting up to bed. Transitions are hard enough for the kids without them realizing Mommy is about to melt.

Before they got their last drinks of water for the evening and headed up the steps we gathered in a circle and put our hands together. We were as ready as we could be to face the newness.

Now five days later with a week of school under our belts we’ve dealt with a few highs and lows. We’ve rejoiced about sitting next to best friends and eating really good middle school cafeteria lunches (really?). We’ve also had sobbing at the bus stop wishing for more days at home with Mommy. My heart and neck muscles have been wrenched even further. We’ve had excitement over new opportunities to play in the school band, and disappointment for getting scolding for taking too many grapes in the 2nd grade lunch line. Oh, the grapes of wrath!

But we have each other still.

We’ve got each other’s back and we’ve wiped each other’s tears. We’ve delivered forgotten items to the school and slapped each other on the back with joy over new successes.

And so dear family, my favorite home team, here’s to a great school year and to acceptance of all the transitions that comes our way.

May we have the wisdom to know how to live well, and courage to make it happen!


This post is linked up with the Five Minute Friday blogging community. Each Friday a one-word prompt is given here and bloggers are challenged to write for about five minutes about whatever come to mind based on the word. This weeks’ word: TEAM