“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.

Outside the Ministry Zone – When God Leads You Down a Desert Road

Outside the ministry zoneHave you ever learned something new only to then read your own journal or notes and realize it isn’t actually the first time you’ve learned that very thing? You’ve learned this before, you just forgot!

Yeah, me too.

It happened to me again this week. I was doing my “homework” for BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). In this study, we go through one book of the Bible each year, chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse. I’ve been in BSF for about 9 years, and I enjoy the learning. The group discussions are so interesting. The lectures are illuminating. I even like the homework. (There’s almost never math involved, so that really helps!)

This week, we learned about Acts chapters 8 and 9. I read about Philip, who is a believer, and disciple of Jesus, going to Samaria and preaching and doing miraculous signs. Things go well. There’s a response. People hear and believe what he tells them about Jesus. The leaders of the early church, Peter and John, come and affirm his ministry there by praying for the Holy Spirit to come to these new converts.

Ministry is happening here.

And then I read further. Right after this ministry-rich time in Samaria, God asks Philip to

“Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” Acts 8:26

Philip obeys. He travels down the desert road.

Wow, I thought, he’s going away from the perceived “ministry” spot, and going by himself on a desert road where there’s no ministry opportunities in sight.

And then I read what I’d written in ink in the margin of my Bible.

“Away from where the ‘ministry’ is happening.”

Oh. I’ve learned this before. Okay. Good thinking, Christy. Good thought.

Apparently, I need a refresher. I need to learn this anew. In this particular season of my life, this idea means something different to me than it must have years ago when I wrote with a pen in my Bible’s margin.

Let me be clear. God’s Word doesn’t change. It was true last time I read it too. And, I am not to take verses out of context, or make them mean only what I want them to mean. But, God’s Word is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) and it teaches me and impacts me in fresh ways as I apply it to different seasons and experiences in my life.

Such is the case with this passage.

This week, I was struck by the fact that Philip could have thought that his ministry opportunity for the day, or the week, was complete. Check that off the scroll, buddy! Good work.

But it turns out a man, an Ethiopian guy, was on this desert road, sitting in a chariot reading the Old Testament book of Isaiah, and needing someone to help him understand it.

The man was not in the perceived, “ministry zone,” but away from everyone else. He was in the desert. On the side of the road. Not waiting for Triple A, but waiting for someone to help him find The Way.

And Philip was God’s chosen instrument that day. God partnered with him to help this Ethiopian understand who Jesus is.

For me, in the season of life I’m in right now, I sometimes get into a rut of thinking that ministry is a “regularly scheduled program.” My husband is in full-time ministry. He has official ministry duties. I write and speak about faith and hope. Ministry does happen in these zones.

But, who is out the ministry zone waiting for me to help them know Jesus?

Is it the woman cutting my hair in the salon?

Is mom in line behind me at Starbucks?

Is it my own child who wants me to take time to listen and help them understand something they’ve been wondering through in their faith?

Philip was so obedient to travel down the desert road with no ministry plan or programming in place. He just climbed up into this guy’s chariot and started right where the Ethiopian was reading and told him about Jesus from there.

I like that.

What empty seat can I slide into? What searching heart can I help? Am I listening to God’s leading and allowing myself to partner with Him where He calls me?

I hope I can put this thought into practice. That’s what really helps me learn something for good – putting it into action.

Writing it in my margin was a good start. This time, I’m looking for the chariot on the side of the road.

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

Assault with a deadly pair of socks.

 

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I’m not sure if it’s a blessing, or a curse. Maybe it’s both.

I’ll just come straight out and say it. I have an unusually good sense of smell.

I hate to brag. But, yes. I’ve got a good sniffer.

Case in point, I have called the city gas company on several occasions alerting them of a specific address or intersection where I smell a potential gas leak. Do you know how many of those times I have later seen a crew repairing said gas leaks in the exact spot that I’ve reported? Every single time. I’m not saying the city should hire me as a “gas sniffing unit” just yet, but they might want to keep the idea in the back of their minds.

Anyway, this sense of smell can come in handy, but it can also lead to suffering. Suffering in the form of extreme awareness of foul odors.

And let me tell you, I have I met some foul odors in my day. But just this past weekend, I experienced a new level of one particularly rancid odor.

And it wasn’t it a gas leak.

It was my son’s socks.

Granted, the poor kid has been hearing complaints from me for years about his socks. They’ve never smelled like roses. In fact, roses are probably now offended that I even dared make the comparison. Please forgive me.

Anyway, one time, in a hotel room, our family decided to put Karson’s socks and shoes in the hallway overnight because none of us could stand the odor with them in the room. We figured if anyone dare steal them, then bless their hearts. And noses. We’d buy new ones. But, his socks and shoes were there in the hallway the next morning, and my son’s pride remained in tact. Karson owns up to it. He’s just thirteen, but he’s a true man when it comes to owning his stinky feet. He’s not ashamed.

So, this past weekend, my husband and I “divided and conquered” with the kids. I took two of the kids to Michigan for my son’s basketball team to play in a tournament, and my husband stayed home to coach our third child’s game. We all had fun. It was a wonderful weekend of friends and basketball, and my son’s team got to play in seven basketball games over the course of two days. And bonus, they won them all! What great memories!

But here’s the problem. Minutes after getting into our van to drive the two hours home Sunday evening, I smelled trouble. I did not even have to turn around to verify my suspicion. Karson had taken his shoes off.

And I was about to pass out.

And then I find out why it’s this bad. This whole new level of awful. This “my eyes are burning” odor that is now assaulting me from the back seat.

He wore the same socks for all seven basketball games.

Yeah. You heard me. All seven basketball games. Same pair of socks. No washing machine. No spray deodorizer. No “airing them out outside.”

No comprendo. 

So… the conversation went like this.

“Karson. Something has to happen right now with your socks. I can not make it the rest of the way home in this condition. This situation is not going to work.”

Deep breath. Hold it. 

Exhale.

I continue. “I don’t care if you like those socks or that they’re Under Armor socks. Do we need to pull over and throw them away?”

“Hmm.” Karson thinks. Karson shrugs. Karson barely notices the odor and doesn’t understand why wearing socks seven games in a row without washing them is bad.

I exhale and reload. 

“Okay,” I add. “I have an idea. Why don’t we find a bag and you can put your socks in it and wrap them up SUPER tight to try and stifle the odor.”

Karson thinks. Karson shrugs. Karson slowly wraps the socks of death in a trash bag that we miraculously found in the van.

And we made it home.

Who knows, we may have passed several gas leaks on our way and I was not able to sniff them out and call them in because of the sock situation.  I guess I may never know.

But this I do know.

Seventh grade boys aren’t always going to smell great. Or even acceptable.

And they don’t care.

But, if you can hold your breath for awhile, and remember how much you love them, stink and all, you’re in for a great ride!

 

 

3 Things I Expected and 3 Things That Surprised Me About Releasing A Book.

IMG_0757My latte not only tasted delightful, but it looked good too. How accomplished it must have felt to bring joy to my senses of sight, smell, taste, and touch all wrapped in one warm ceramic mug. That is, if a caffeinated beverage can feel accomplished.

My remaining sense, my sense of hearing, was also being satisfied by the voice of a dear friend who sat across the table. Terri and I don’t get together often anymore, but when we do, we make it count. When I sat down in my chair, the steam from my latte had barely risen to my nose before she asked the question.

“So, it’s been about a year since we’ve really been able to chat. I want to know this. In the last year, as you’ve released your book, what has it been like? Do this. Tell me three things that have gone as you expected they would, and three things that have been a surprise to you.”

Terri doesn’t mince words.

There was no, “How was your Thanksgiving?” or “It’s unseasonably warm today.” No, we got right down to it. And I like that. I find it the mark of a true friend who is able to take you to the heart of things before your coffee is cool enough to sip. I believe it’s an accomplishment. A decaffeinated one at that.

“Hmm.” I said. “Let me think.” And I did. I thought it over for a few moments as I reflected on the previous seven months since the release of my book, Brownie Crumbs and Other Life Morsels. And here is what I said.

Three things that have gone as I expected with the release of my book.

  1. It has been a lot of work. I am not complaining when I say this. Like I said, I expected a book release to be a lot of work, and I was mostly prepared for it. Writing a book takes a lot of time and effort. Releasing it to the world does too, only you have to add courage, money, time, hopes, dreams, logistics, public scrutiny, a speaking tour, and the cost of shipping. It’s not for the faint of heart, or the faint of public speaking. Thankfully, I’ve enjoyed the work my book release has brought, and as I told Terri, I mostly expected it to be as it has been.
  2. It has been brought me a lot of joy! I had a feeling that writing and speaking would be would right up my alley. Not that I had never done either before the release of this book, but since the birth of this book baby, I’ve definitely done more writing and speaking than ever before. And I’ve loved it. It has been so much fun, and I’ve found that there is such a joy and peace in serving God and others in what you feel is your God-given purpose (at least for the season of life you’re in). And, my joy has been almost immeasurable at times, like when my own children have read my book and talked to me about it. My conversations with my son about his cancer (‘That was a sad chapter, Mom.’ ‘Yes, Karson. It sure was.’) and with my nine-year-old daughter about how her Daddy and I met and dated (‘Daddy said he liked your legs!’ My face turns red.) have been beyond special. What great joy there is in seeing the fruits of your labors, even when the labor is plentiful.
  3. It has complicated the family life vs. work balance. I figured this would be an issue, and it has been. The delicate balance of knowing when it’s okay to say yes to an oppuntuntiy that takes me away from home, and husband, and kids is a tough one. Overall, I feel like we’ve been blessed with our family schedule and my speaking and travel schedule working together pretty well. But, there have been occasions when I’ve missed events and/or when I’m home, but busy and distracted with preparations and such. This is tough. In the near future, I’m traveling and will miss a band concert, at least three basketball games, and more. I hate that. But, it’s been a growing experience. It has taught me, and it has taught my family. My kids don’t need me to be involved in everything they do. My life doesn’t actually revolve around them and which set of bleachers I’m sitting on (though sometimes it feels like it does)! My kids know I am present at their events most of the time, and it’s proven healthy for them to see me work hard and share the message of hope and faith with others when I’m not in the stands. They are excited for me and the opportunities I’ve had, and so far, they haven’t seemed to resent it (it would break my heart and cause a lot of revaluation if they did.) We’ve been open about this family life vs. work balance as a family. We’ve prayed together over opportunities, and talked honestly about how it makes us feel. Has it been all bad? No. Has it complicated the issue. Yes. Did I expect it to become complicated. You bet. But just because you expect something doesn’t necessarily make it any less difficult when it arises. 

Three things that have surprised me with the release of my book.

  1. The amount of speaking I’ve done in past 7 months. I know that I just said above that I expected it to be a lot of work. Yes. And I did expect to do some speaking in relation to the book. However, the opportunities that I’ve been given to speak and share have been far more than I ever dreamed! It has taken a lot preparation (think Power Point, handouts, outlines, discussion questions, travel, logistics, book tables, business cards, credit card readers, etc.) but it has been SO much fun! I’ve had the opportunity to speak to groups of women, senior groups, MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) groups, my alma mater’s student body chapel (Huntington University), a corporate chapel, podcasts, radio interviews, a parenting seminar, private home book parties, my denomination’s national conference, and even as a keynote speaker at a church’s women’s retreat. It has grown me and pushed me and sometimes worn me out (at the women’s retreat where I spoke three times in three days, I feel asleep in the middle of the day on the bed during free time with all the lights on and with my shoes on – and woke up two hours later!) Yesterday someone asked if I now call myself a communicator, or a speaker. I said I don’t call myself anything! But, I sure have enjoyed these opportunities.
  2. The fact that people actually read and care about my story. This sounds like a really stupid thing for an author to say. If you’re going to put a book out there, you shouldn’t be surprised when people read it. But I have been. I’ve been surprised that people care about my life story. I mean, I figured my parents would read it. And maybe my husband. But the rest of you? Bonus! And, the comments you’ve made to me, sent to me in cards, messages, etc. have absolutely humbled me. It has been special (and surprising) to hear how the stories or Life Morsels have touched many readers in very meaningful ways. As I was sharing this with Terri, I speficially mentioned how many comments I’ve gotten about Kraig and my love story. Terri said, “I still count it as one of the diamonds in my necklace of life that I was able to actually live that out with you all those years ago.” How can you not like a friend how feels that way? Or who says “necklace of life”? Anyway, the various ways the book has impacted its readers has been humbling. I still can’t get over it.
  3. The amount of work… and joy… and complicated schedules it has brought me. I know. I know. I’m cheating here. I’m basically taking all three points from above that I said I expected, and now I’m putting them down here in the surprise section. Deal with it. I’m serious. They go both ways. I expected to be busy and for it to be complicated and for it to bring my joy, but it has all surprised me at the same time. You know how that is. Things can feel both ways. I’m sorry I told you to deal with it. What I mean is, thank you for understanding.

For those of you who follow me on social media, you’ve probably seen these photos as you’ve followed along with my speaking over the last seven months. For those of you who are not on social media (What’s a Instagram and why does someone want to request my friendship?)  I will post some photos below.

Thanks for reading and for your support in this journey. I wish I could share a chat and a latte with each and every one of you. But then again, that would be an awfully lot of caffeine.

Cheers.

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My turn signal pinged its rhythmic song. I heard it, but wasn’t really listening. I watched the oncoming traffic, and waited for my chance to make a right turn.

My thoughts were ringing in my head, playing the harmony to the accompanying noise around me. I was trying to give my thoughts my full attention in hopes I could corral them into orderly conduct.

“You, over there. Yes, I know I have laundry in the washer that’s been sitting there wet for three days. I’ll run that load again when we get home. And yes, I’ll add detergent again. I know it stinks.”

“Excuse me, what? I have to write two checks to the school when I get home? One for a lunch account and then I have to order that sports gear. Oh, and the photograph form. Got it. I’ll try to get that done before picking up Karson from practice. Wait, is his jersey in the washer? What time is his game Sunday afternoon?”

“What’s that, Mr. Stomach? I haven’t made dinner plans yet for this evening? Give me a break. I’ve barely even been home this afternoon. You’ll just have to wait.”

My own mental conversation was not the only one echoing in my ears. In the backseat of the van, my daughters, ages seven and nine, were having one of their own.

I could hear them, but I wasn’t really listening.

“Let’s make up our own cheers, Kenzie.” My oldest daughter was saying.

“Okay. Let’s use letters and then think of words that they stand for,” Kenzie replied.

I tuned them out again.

Where did I put the checkbook?

“I know. For the letter ‘O’ we can make it stand for ‘Honesty!’ ‘O’ says ‘Ahh’ so honesty is a good word! I like honesty!”

“Yeah! ‘O’ for ‘Honesty’. Good idea Kenzie!” Karly responded to her little sister.

“Honesty actually starts with an ‘H,’” I chimed in. “How about ‘Octopus,’ instead?”

“No way, Mom!” Kenzie said. “I like ‘honesty’ better.”

I looked back at the road. I never was a cheerleader. What do I know?

“Okay, now for the letter ‘C.’ Kenzie continued, “Let’s use the word “Kind!” I looked in the rearview mirror. She was smiling and enthusiastic.

Once again I broke in to the conversation.

“Kind actually starts with a ‘K’ not a ‘C.’” I informed.

“No, it doesn’t.”

“Yes, it does.”

“No, it’ doesn’t”

“Yes, it does.”

The turn signal kept the beat.

“Well, we don’t really care. We like honesty and kindness so we’re going to use them.” Kenzie said.

I thought about it.

Whose team mascot is an Octopus, anyway?

“You know what?” I said in my best Mom Authority voice. “I like honesty and kindness too. Go for it!”

And they did. They completed their homemade cheer and happily chatted the rest of the drive home.

They may not be winning the spelling bee anytime soon. But, I’ll tell you what, I don’t really care.

Honesty and kindness trump winning in my book, anyway.

Hip. Hip. Hooray! You go girls! Let honesty and kindness be traits you always cheer about.

And who knows. Maybe I could have been a cheerleader, after all.

That’s How We Roll.

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The grass felt damp and cold under me. The late summer sun was setting and the warm day was giving way to a crisp evening. I wasn’t prepared. My jacket was in car. I guess I’d need to adjust my thinking now that fall was fast approaching. It’s jacket season, Christy. Like it, or not.

I turned and looked over my left shoulder. My kids were standing on a small hill. Each had a golf putter in hand and a pile of golf balls at their feet. They were playing around on the putting green and I was enjoying the show. Mostly, I liked the commentary.

“Which of those three flags on the putting green are you aiming for?” I asked.

My middle child, the one who just turned nine, answered quickly.

“Whichever one the ball rolls closest to when I hit it.”

I smiled and shrugged my cold shoulders. I guess sometimes we all adjust. Our mindsets, our golf swings, our wardrobes.

Earlier in the week, that same child sat and sobbed at the thought of making a decision. It wasn’t even a bad set of options she was choosing between, she just felt overwhelmed and fearful that she’d pick the wrong one.

“There is no wrong answer here, Karly.” My husband said. “These are both good choices. Mommy and I understand that it’s sometimes hard to make a decision, but what we have learned to do is to just pick one — to the best of our knowledge, and then later, if we need to adjust, we do.” I stood there nodding my head in agreement.

Sometimes we just have to swing the putter, hit the ball, and watch where it rolls.

And then we adjust.

We learn. We think about how we hit the ball and what it felt like, and we decide if that’s how we want to do it again. Or, do we want to try something different next time? Should we try to aim at something else?

Life is full of adjustments. Full of surprises. Confusion. Change. Clarifications.

And that’s okay. We truly live and learn every. single. day.

Sometimes we guide our decisions, and other times our decisions guide us.

Either way, we’ll never be succesful if we don’t swing the putter, hit the ball, and watch it roll.


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 prompt: GUIDE

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

Home Base.

When I was 10 years old, my dad took the position of pastor at Emmanuel Community Church. Six weeks later, my mom died suddenly in our kitchen while sitting at the table. She had been reading a book, and drinking a cup of coffee when she began to collapse.

Needless to say, it was a rough beginning of my tenure at Emmanuel Community Church. But our bond became strong, and we stayed together, and for the past 28 years, I’ve grown up at ECC. And come to think of it, the church has grown up with me too.

Last night I began the “speaking tour” for my book Brownie Crumbs and Other Life Morsels. I will be traveling and sharing the messages of the book at various churches and venues across the country over the next several months.  I hit the road on Friday to speak in Erie, PA, and Buffalo, NY.

Last night I was able to start by speaking at ECC.  Home. What a logical place to step into the batter’s box.

As I stood in front of that room of women, many of whom are close personal friends, I marveled at how God had brought me to that moment.

And even that very spot.

You see, the church has grown and changed over the past three decades. The place where I stood and spoke last night is now called “The Commons,” and it’s a large gathering room with round tables for discussion and a little kitchen window in the corner for snacks. But it used to be our sanctuary. And the very spot where I stood last night is where my dad stood for years when he would preach. Now we have a bigger sanctuary (they say it’s called the ‘Worship Center’…) and the building has been remodeled.

But before the room became “The Commons,” as it is now, it went through some other transitions.

While it was still the main sanctuary, my dad got remarried, to the woman I now call “Mom.” I was her maid of honor, and stood up in that wedding – exactly where I stood last night as I spoke.

That room, in its original form, was where I sat through sermons, performed in children’s musicals, attended VBS weeks, and where I learned to love those people who became my church family.

I attended Sunday school classes behind the sanctuary in a little room with ugly red carpet.

When the room was remodeled to include a second-story loft, I helped with middle school youth group up there and later taught kids about God’s word using my Grow in His Word for Kids curriculum.

At one point, the room was transformed into a hallway with three classrooms on each side. In that hallway, I first walked past a man name Kraig Cabe. I saw him, but he didn’t see me. We didn’t meet for a few month after that, but eventually, we started teaching a Sunday school class together in one of those rooms – just a few feet from where I stood last night – and we eventually fell in love and got married in that big new sanctuary, er… Worship Center.

That room, that very spot where I stood and spoke last evening, has great significance for me. And I was so blessed to begin my speaking tour right there. It was the perfect launching ground. And as I shared about these things with the ladies and told them some stories from my life (old news to many of them!) they laughed and cried along with me.

And they served brownies. What more could you ask for?

After I finished, these friends of mine lined up to get my autograph in their books. I laughed. “Really?” I said, “It’s just ME!” They hugged me and supported me and got their picture taken with me. And I laughed all the more.

Because who would have thought this dream would become a reality. That God would redeem my life – my story – and use it for His glory through a book with a brownie on the cover and an imperfect girl-turned-woman who is willing to share.

That room, that spot where I stood last night, has been repurposed, reshaped, and put to the best use for each season.

Sounds a lot like me.

And for this season of my life, God has given me the opportunity to share my story. I’m thrilled, and nervous, and excited, and hopeful.

Because God has proven faithful through every season thus far.

And I have no doubt He’ll direct me, around each stop along the way, until I get back home.

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For more about my speaking schedule, or to have me consider speaking at your venue, click on Speaking or Contact in the menu.