An Identity

While I’d love to say my identity is secure in knowing that I am a child of God, I’d like to add an additional  ‘life-applicable’ way I learned my identity as a Child of God.  If any of you know me personally, you also know that I don’t like to wear my faith so obviously on my sleeve, so to speak.  I prefer to show my faith, rather than speak about it.  So, this is a different thing for me to share.  A different thought pattern, perhaps a little ‘heavy’ for me, but one that as we approach a new stage of parenting, needs to be shared.   (Also, I do not claim to be highly theological or even remotely knowledgeable on things of faith – this is simply my perspective, take it or leave it).  

 

Our children, all 3 of our beauties, attended RCS since preschool.  All 3 of them had a different Preschool and Kindergarten teacher.  All 3 of them had the SAME 3rd and 6th and 8th grade teachers and school secretary! (YAY!)  We’ve experienced 3 principals, 2 custodians, multiple bus-drivers, coaches, recess and hot lunch volunteers, and room-moms.  The building has been the same for all three – same carpet, same lockers, same playground, same parking lot, same smelly trees surrounding the property (they are pretty, but man, do they stink!).

One thing that is also the same, and is probably the most important but most difficult for our children to understand, is that this is their beginning.  This is their start, their home-base, their roots.  This is where their identity as individuals, as human beings, really was kick-started.  This is the place that called us to live out our faith in ways that, even as an adult, a parent, hadn’t been challenged.  RCS not only developed 3 amazing children to be active participants in the Kingdom of God, but it unknowingly developed their parents.  

For years we would seek to become parents whose children were “good” kids, children who did the right thing, got grades they deserved (especially when they actually did their homework and applied themselves – what a concept!!), and were able to think for themselves in situations both good and bad.  We knew early on that we weren’t the parents who could do this alone, but with a village, an army, a collective group of people with a similar goal.  My husband went to Christian schools for his entire education, including college.  I went to Christian schools for all but two years of high school.  We were raised similarly with similar values.  We came from similar socioeconomic backgrounds, from similar churches, from similar parents.  

So early on in our parenting, we drank the Christian-education Kool-Aid, so to speak.  For years we did everything “right.”  We showed up, we participated, we volunteered, we donated, we encouraged others, we were THERE.  Yet, I still wasn’t ‘feeling’ it.  We went through some struggles personally and financially and debated leaving this place, this home away from home.  But, the kool-aid…it tasted so good and it was so unbelievably necessary to our lives at this point.  Literally.  We relied on this school, as adults, for our own personal reasons as much as our children did for their education.  identity.jpg

Rarely, if ever, in your life will you be able to say, “everyone in that building wants what is absolutely best for me,” unless you’ve been a part of Rockford Christian.  The staff, parents, students, and administration truly do want you to reflect and share God’s light everywhere you go.  This is the place, this school, where you have been taught that, where you have learned the necessary tools to be that torch, where you have engaged in difficult and frustrating and annoying and lovely and happy conversation – all of which will take you one step closer to bringing the light of Jesus to someone who doesn’t have it.

My identity is not simply in how I look – my blueish green eyes, by blonde-ish silvery hair, my height or my weight.  My identity lies not only in my simple DNA and if I have freckles and a funny laugh or a competitive spirit.  My identity also lies in my community and those who have loved me when I was most unlovable.  When I’ve made mistakes so big it seems hopeless (we all do this and, unfortunately, we continue to!).  When I’ve questioned the way things have always been done because it doesn’t seem to make sense, those people in my community who have gently steered back to the deeper reasons for things make my identity stronger, more defined, more powerful to impact God’s creation.  When I’ve been unsure, this community, the RCS community at large, has (mostly) loved me where I’m at and encouraged me to keep going.  

Was it always easy?  Absolutely not.  Did we question God and his power and infinite wisdom?  Often and regularly.  But, here’s the takeaway, in the end, we were taught love and authenticity.  We were taught that there is a love bigger than anything we could ever imagine that fully enfolded us in it’s tight embrace and has slowly released us into the world to share it with everyone we come into contact with.  RCS and it’s amazing staff, parents, students, and administration will leave us with a bit of a void in our hearts.  The world can be big and scary, but we’re prepared and we know that the door at RCS is ALWAYS open to us, no matter who is teaching preschool, who is the custodian, who is the principal, who is the secretary, or who is the 6th grade teacher.  The children and families that enter these doors do not leave the same; their world view is broader and their ability to love goes so deep.  Go and be the light, scatter joy, and be who God created you to be – one of his children, fully and completely loved, authentic and real.

“…but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light.”         ~Ephesians 5:8

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It’s very much like Kindergarten, right?

My firstborn is leaving for college in less than 2 weeks. I knew that this moment was coming and perhaps it was a little denial and perhaps it was genuine thoughts of ‘it is a long way off;’  but, either way, now that moment is practically here and I’m having a mini panic attack.  I realize all parents have this moment in their lives, but how I’m reacting to it, is a bit odd…especially for me.  I’m not one to show much, if any, sentimentality or emotion – particularly tears – but I’m finding that even the littlest things are creating small leaks in my eyes.  A song on the radio (thank you Tim McGraw ‘Humble and Kind”), a photograph, her shoes left in a pile by the door, a gathering with friends who have poured their hearts into our child for 18 years.  So, please forgive me if you hear me sniffling in the corner or catch me wiping my eyes at a seemingly random moment…

I remember these same feelings, while definitely not as strong, when this same child went to kindergarten.   She was ready, eager to learn, meet new people, and seek adventure beyond the comfort of our home – at 4 years old.  She stood on our front porch, with her cute striped pink dress and bright white shoes, backpack and lunch box in hand, with an adorable proud, eager, and confident smile on her face.  When we arrived at school I kissed her and she looked up at me with those huge blue eyes, smiled, and said, “Bye, mom.  See ya later.”  She smiled and waved at me one last time and then turned to start playing with some other children.  She was ready…READY.  

Now at 17 (almost 18) she’s doing the exact same thing…except she won’t come home to us each afternoon anymore.  She’ll be 2+ hours away, in a new city, a new environment, a new ‘home.’  We’ll hear about the exciting things in her life long after they happen.  We won’t be able to give her a hug when she’s had a bad day or sit on the couch and hold her as she cries over a broken heart or a failed assignment.  We can’t remind her to set her alarm or to eat vegetables.  We can’t help her pick the strong trees to hang her hammock on.  We can’t pretend to understand politics or calculus or genetics while she does her homework.  

It’s very much like kindergarten, but it’s not.

My mama brain has a million thoughts every day lately like this (with very good answers, but whatever):

     What if she doesn’t like her professor/teacher? (suck it up)

     What if she gets hurt or sick? (go to Health Services)

     What if she can’t figure out the washing machine? (ask the cute guy next to you for help)

     What if she doesn’t like the food for lunch? (eat it anyway or starve)

     Will someone call me if she’s having a bad day? (yep, she will)

      What if she fails a test? (Study harder)

     What if there’s a creepy guy living next door? (Trust those little hairs on the back of your neck)

     What if she doesn’t get along with her roommate? (there are lots of other people to hang out with)

     What if she uses all the data on her phone? (Figure out the wi-fi spots or buy more from mom and dad)

     What if she gets lost while riding the bus? (ask for directions)

     What if she can’t find a group of people that are her people? (keep looking)

     What if all her dreams come true and she doesn’t want to come home? (That’s actually the whole point, and we can go to her)

     What if ?  (What if!)

     What IF?  (What IF!)

     WHAT IF???  (WHAT IF!!)

 

The rational side of my brain knows that we’ve taught her to handle all of these situations and more, but my (sometimes) irrational mama brain is having a difficult time shutting off…just like when I dropped her at Kindergarten for the first time. The best part about kindergarten (well, K-12)?  She found her people, she found her passions, she found her heart and soul, and, best of all, she found herself.  We know she will be true to all of those things and develop new and interesting passions.  We know she will be nothing short of successful and have a college experience unlike anything we can even imagine.  We are so very, very proud.  

 

While the tears are likely (at least for me), and a little depression is probably going to happen, this is a temporary but necessary step in her life and I cannot wait to hear about every single failure, every single lesson learned, every single relationship that makes her heart swell or the ones that break it, every single adventure.  

 

So, go, sweet child of mine, and conquer the world.  Break the glass ceiling – don’t just tap on it and crack the surface – SHATTER IT.  Create adventure.  Be brave and strong and kind.  Experience true wanderlust.  Remember where you came from.  And, most importantly, BE where you are.  

 

Dream a little dream

So, a few weeks ago, I wrote about why I haven’t written in a while.  Life.  It just got ugly financially.  It still is ugly financially.  And the dishwasher?  Officially out of commission.  I have dish-pan hands now.  For real.  The messed up transmission? Repaired with a used one and being paid for on credit, ‘cause you know, we had $3200 just laying around.  The major financial situation?  Still major.  Still looming over our heads.  Still just as important to us as ever to make it work.  And yes, we can afford food and housing, and no, we have not cancelled our already paid for vacation plans.  And we certainly don’t want your sympathy.  We were unprepared.  Plain and simple.  There is no one to blame, but us.  

But even though so much has gone sideways, I had a dream, a big dream, one that kept me awake at night trying to figure out how to get it started, to make it happen.  Okay, let’s be real, I have LOTS of dreams that keep me awake at night (what can I say?  I have a highly active imagination!).  But this current dream is becoming a reality.  My husband and I have what we like to call our “10 year plan.”  Every year it bounces a little and remains a “10 year plan.”  

This month, we started our plan.  Not out of simple desire, but also out of necessity.  We have started to sell antiques and vintage goods for people to purchase for either home decor or to re-purpose however they see fit.  I am a huge fan of antiques being salvaged and brought back to their original glory, yet I don’t have the knowledge or know-how to make that happen, but I love the thrill of the hunt, the picking, the search.  And the best part?  Our three kids are doing this with us – because they WANT to; they enjoy it as much as we do (well 2 of them do, for sure)!

I don’t have an eye for every aspect of this industry, and we know there are many people with their finger in it that are much smarter and much better entrepreneurs than we are, as well.  We don’t and won’t claim to know everything, but we will do what we can to learn the answers.  We found an area of commerce that we love and thought, “Why not?  If not now, when?”  So, here we are.  We do not have a formal web-presence, except for on Etsy or Facebook – search for us (Blue Tulip Antiques), like us, follow us, share our stuff, and until we can afford store-space, we are using our garage.  We will rely on word of mouth and street markets to make this happen.

While I’d love for this to be our main source of income, we aren’t naive on that either.  Afterall, wasn’t Microsoft (among other super huge companies) started in a garage?  I think that gives us pretty good odds, right?!?  For now, it’s a passion that will hopefully (fingers-crossed!) earn us some additional income.  And, along the way, hopefully teach us a few things about commerce and business.  And if we never make enough money to do more than break-even, we’re okay with that, too.  We are tightening our reigns and chasing this dream a little bit at a time.

Here’s the thing – this isn’t something that we can allow to consume our time like one would think a dream becoming a reality should.  We have children, we have jobs, we have other areas of our life that will continue to take the majority of our focus.  As a result, we will update our Etsy and Facebook information as we have the time to do so.  Hopefully we aren’t too slow about this, but we want to be accurate in our descriptions and pricing.  We also know that there are many people who know a LOT more than we do about this business and will be much more successful at marketing and selling their wares.  We just hope to find a few unique pieces that you or your friends may want to use for your home decor or as a gift for someone else.  We want you to love your stuff!

We know some of you are skeptical, after all, who wants someone else’s old useless stuff?  Obviously we do, and clearly, we aren’t the only ones who see the value in antiques and preserving a previous way of life, a simpler life.  If this isn’t for you, we’re okay with that.  We probably don’t like all of your hobbies, either.

So, this is simply the start of the next section of this book we are writing, together, a new volume for our family story.  We hope you enjoy the beginning of what we hope and pray will be a successful venture; whether as a follower, a fan, or (hopefully) a customer, we appreciate your support and love.      

 

P.s.  I’m in the process of writing something more profound, but thought this deserved some explanation.  Thank you for allowing me this platform to explain our new venture.

Every so often

Every so often, life throws a curve-ball.  The past few weeks we’ve had a few thrown at us.  We should have been better prepared, but we weren’t.  We received some rather depressing news about a financial situation, then the transmission on my car thought it was a good time to stop working, we’ve ended relationships with toxic people, and now my dishwasher is making a really weird noise – it’s dying a slow and agonizing death.  (I know, I know, first world problems…)  At this point, most people scream and yell and cry.  I have, however, been laughing…a lot.  Probably a little more laughter than is healthy given the situations.  But, here’s the thing – I’m grateful.  I’m grateful that we have friends who can come over on moments notice and hang out around a campfire sharing life’s joys (like the last day of school for a teacher!) and memories from a simpler time.  I’m grateful for co-workers and friends who help us with our vehicle situation.  I’m grateful for professionals who try to find alternative solutions.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to figure out our situation without fear.  We have the ability to earn a living and spend it all on things that shouldn’t have snuck up on us, but did.  I’m grateful for a husband who continues to find ways to figure out this thing called life and for his chronic support of my crazy ideas to make additional money (there is more to that story…stay tuned)

Remind yourself that change is what shapes your journey and makes your story unique.  Life throws us these curve-balls to challenge us, make us stronger and keep us moving forward. ~ unknown

For the past few years we were getting a handle on some poor choices we made early in our married life.  These recent developments have completely derailed that progress, but we’re okay.  Our children are healthy and happy.  Our home is safe and secure.   We have bad moments and moments without faith.  We occasionally threaten to sell everything and live in our car – hey, it’s got a “new to us” transmission so we could make it work, right?!?!  But, cliche as it sounds, we know we’re being held firmly in the palm of God’s hand.  There’s a plan and He’s got us.  We’re good (but we’ve had enough curve-balls to last us a while).  

The Storytelling is Hard

Words.  Lately I’m struggling to take my thoughts and put them on paper.  I’m not sure what the real problem is, other than I’m not sure my words make an impact and I am afraid of what people will think.  But then, therein lies the problem.  Does it matter if my words are impactful?  Does it matter if people read them?  Who am I writing them for?  I have written this little blog post multiple times in multiple ways and yet never has it felt complete.  It still doesn’t.  But that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

I’ve done a lot of reading lately of authors like Jen Hatmaker, Shauna Niequist, Glennon Doyle Melton, and Brene Brown.  All of whom stress being authentic and vulnerable and putting yourself out there – telling your story.  Guess what, I love these authors, these trail-blazing women.  I love how they encourage my generation of women to be themselves and to not be afraid and to be brave and a million other cheerleader-y type things.  

Brene brown quote

But here’s the deal.  Sometimes putting the story into words is hard.  Sometimes wanting to be heard is the battle.  Sometimes the story is life itself and is still being developed.  Sometimes the reality of putting it all out there is overwhelming and suffocating.  Sometimes there is no audience, no one to tell.  Sometimes the author doesn’t have the friends, family, and loved ones to help them put it on paper.  Sometimes there is no support system.  

I have no doubt that some of my story is interesting.  I know most of my story is boring…I haven’t experienced much tragedy or illness in my 40 years (hallelujah!).   My husband and I were helping our 17 year old prepare for an interview last week and she said, “What do I say if they ask what one difficult struggle I’ve been through and how has that shaped me?”  Crickets.  There literally hasn’t been anything difficult or majorly life impacting in her life (Hallelujah, again!).   I am a middle class married woman who isn’t routinely persecuted for her beliefs or skin color or career or home or car or clothes (well – maybe my children would beg to differ on the clothes) or how she raises her children.  I have it pretty good…really good.  Your story is your identity.

But the storytelling is hard.

Often we are led to believe that our “perfect” lives aren’t worth sharing; that unless we have some significant dark stain in our lives, no one wants to hear about it.  We all have had moments in our life that we feel define us as adults, as women, as humans.  Some of us have addiction stories (Drugs, sex, gambling, etc.).  Some of us have stories of being bullied.  Some of us have amazing stories of redemption and faith.  We all have stories…all of the stories are important.  Some are crying out and begging to be told, others are hiding – waiting until the moment and the audience is just right.  Other stories will remain untold and go with us to the grave.

“Nothing haunts us like the things we do not say.” – Mitch Albom

So, here’s the deal.  I’m going to use my writing as a platform (it’s election season, everyone has a platform, right?!?).  I’m done tiptoeing around the grief and the life-shattering reality that so many women carry with them every single day.  We lost our Anna Joy almost 14 years ago.  (We were just learning of her existence about this time 14 years ago!).  I’m going to dig into the topic of miscarriage and infant death (occasionally other unique and interesting things will grace my thought process), more for myself than anyone; it’s a topic I significantly identify with even though I will never fully understand it, and it’s a HUGE part of my story.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think “what if” or “if only” or wonder why.

So, all of you husbands, brothers, fathers, grandfathers, uncles, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, and moms, let’s all try to stop belittling the grief and the struggle.  It is real.  It does hurt.  And it NEVER goes away.  It’s not supposed to be awkward and uncomfortable, but yet we all make it that way.  So, here I go.  I think it’s time.  Ready or not, here we go.  Besides, if you don’t want to join in or read my stories, I won’t ever know.  I’m okay with that – finally.  I’ve let go of wanting to impress people with my story.  It’s strangely therapeutic…

There’s a tattoo on my right foot of 4 stars.  My good friend, Michelle, got a similar one at the same time.  Both of us have special meaning for our star tattoos (hers is way more fancy and artistic and fun).  Hers symbolizes her grandchildren.  Mine – my 4 children, the three who live life alongside me, and the one who lived life inside me, if only for a short time.  I love this tattoo.  It tells part of my story so simply, yet so completely.  I intend to tell this story, over and over, even if the storytelling itself is hard.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou

To keep warm.

Recently, I’ve been struggling with the entitlement issue of my generation and that of my kids’ generation.  I’ve  been doing a lot of reading, soul searching, and praying to find a way to give back and encourage my family and friends to join me.

Strangely, inspiration struck me while doing laundry – a mundane and boring task, of which I seize significant control of in my household.  I was washing sheets and blankets and realized that that are so many people who don’t even have a warm home in which to sleep at night, much less, a warm blanket to keep them safe and somewhat warm sleeping on the streets.  So, I quickly said to my husband, who, mind you, is used to my outbursts and crazy ideas (most of which never happen), “we need to organize a blanket drive.”  His response, “Ok.”  So, I ran with the approval and here I am, typing up a quick little diddy about a blanket drive for the homeless people in my community at large in West Michigan (it gets cold here, if you’re not familiar – like really really cold…last night it was 15 whopping degrees at my house).  

We are not able to solve the problem of homelessness by doing a blanket drive, but we are able to make a difference in the lives of those in that situation who do not have access to shelter each night.  It’s the least we can do…really.  How many of us have way too many blankets lying around our homes, folded up in a corner, just begging to be used at least once this year?    Old sleeping bags?  You get the picture.  

I saw a quote recently that said, “Don’t ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, ask them what problem they are going to solve…then encourage them to do so.”  I have no idea who said this, but they are a genius.    

We know there are formal organizations who do this type of thing all the time, but taking personal ownership is important to me, to my husband,  and hopefully to our children.  So, here’s the deal, we don’t want your money (it gets too messy with the IRS and stuff), we just want your new/unwanted non-holey blankets.  If you want to drop off some blankets, bring them to Plainfield Township Water Department, 5195 Plainfield Ave, NE, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 49525 and put them in the bin out front.  (if there’s no bin, just set them under the overhang – we’ll make sure they get inside).  

So, you’ve been challenged.  Bring us your old blankets.  We’ll deliver them around January 1, or sooner if we have SO many to hand out.  (if you want to help with that, let me know!)  Obviously, I haven’t thought through all the details, but I am excited, so that usually works out, right???!?  Check my facebook page “Blue Tulip Life” for details as they unfold.  Let’s make a difference, even if it’s just a temporary one for a few nights or weeks.  

Thirteen.

Thirteen.  Today marks 13 years ago that we suffered the unimaginable loss of a baby.  Over time, the details have gotten rather fuzzy, but I do remember the significant physical and emotional hurt and pain of this late miscarriage.  We were well into our 2nd trimester; friends and family knew we were expecting our third child.  I remember going into full-labor and not fully understanding that was what was happening to my body.  I remember knowing something was wrong.  I remember my husband trying to occupy our other two children so they wouldn’t know what was happening.  I remember lying on the bathroom floor, white as a sheet unable to move due to blood loss and my husband on the phone with the doctor – not sure if he should call an ambulance or not.  I remember those details.

I remember the unbelievable care and genuine sympathy shown to me by the hospital ER staff.  I remember the awkward stares and what seemed like lack of concern or verbal acknowledgement of my church family (a few people did send a card) and some of my own family.  I remember people saying the dumbest things to me afterward – “how are you, I mean, really, how ARE you?” “you’ll be fine in a few days” “something was wrong with the baby” “God knows what He’s doing” or, my personal favorite “you already have two children” etc.  I don’t know what I needed at that moment, but I do know that I needed something different.  I remember crying myself to sleep for many nights.  I remember withdrawing from friends and church.  I remember feeling like a zombie for two months, just going through the motions because I had two other children who needed me.  I remember hearing myself laugh a few weeks afterward and feeling embarrassed that I even allowed myself to smile.  I remember being angry, so very angry, for a very long time.

We named this child, our daughter, even though there is no birth record, no cemetery plot, no headstone, no place for us to go to visit her.  We named her so we could remember. And every year, on this date, the calendar catches my breath; it reads “AJ’s birthday.”  Oh, be still my heart.

Grief

Fast forward to 2015…my thoughts of that little girl that didn’t get a chance to breathe her first breath, to see the brightness of light, to feel the warmth of my touch, to feel the instant love of her father and siblings, are nothing but how I have imagined her to be.  If she had survived, she would be a beautiful 13 year old who is becoming a young woman.  She would have requested a double chocolate cake with lots of frosting.  She would have strikingly beautiful deep blue eyes (like her dad) and long straight brown hair and freckles.  She would have dimples (like her mom).  She would love sports and give her older siblings a run for their money on every athletic field.  She would love ice cream as much as her siblings…maybe even a little more.  She would have lots of friends.  She would love animals, she would climb trees and skin up her knees, she would be adventurous, courageous, smart, generous, kind, and loving.  She would be getting ready for 8th grade.

I know now, 13 years later, that God has a purpose for everything.  I get it, even though I still do not understand this part of my life.  I still grieve and I still don’t know how to answer the question “How many children do you have?”  I still sneak peeks at the one photo I have of her – an ultrasound photo from the end of my first trimester.  I know that the brief time I carried her inside of me I fell in love with her.  And, as cliche as it sounds, now I know that she is in heaven waiting for the rest of her family to join her someday.  I have gained perspective, empathy, and a heart that is likely too big for those going through similar experiences.  I feel it all over again when someone speaks of miscarriages or premature babies.  Every woman who experiences loss, has a unique extremely personal experience.


So, today I celebrate the beautiful angel that watches over me, my husband, my children, and the rest of my family. Happy 13th birthday, Anna Joy!  I can only imagine the intense joy you would have brought to our lives.

…and to think, the first thing she saw when she opened her eyes was the face of Jesus. ~unknown

Half or Whole?

A few short months ago I had big lofty goals and dreams.  I thought I was invincible; that I was the epitome of my ‘once upon a time’ athletic self.  In these few short months I’ve realized that not only am I again athletic, just not with the same prowess I once had, but I’m also realistic.  I’m realistic to the point of knowing when I need to bow out of the fight, to take a knee, to walk away.

All that being said, I’ve decided that a full marathon is not going to happen for me this year.  I’m not injured, but my time with my children is.  I am spending too much time away from them, trying for what has become a selfish goal.  They are all in a season of life where I NEED to be present, as much for them as for me.

jen hatmaker quote time with children

And to be honest, I’m okay with all of this.  I know what my body is capable of at 39 years old.  I know that, moving forward, if I want to run a 5k or a 10k, I can.  I know that I am in shape (finally!).  I also know that my daughter is facing her senior year of high school, and college applications, and the end of this season in her life.  My son is entering high school, beginning a new season in his life.  My other son is entering 7th grade (and that’s middle school and, well, you remember middle school – so very much AWKWARD).  These are tough years for my babies.  I am their mother first and intend to be present for everything they need me to be present at…even if that presence is just to snuggle on the couch and complain about the pressure of college applications or to play catch in the yard with a football or even just to make dinner together.  Soon enough, they won’t be needing me in quite the same ways.

time with children

I know what you’re thinking…’you need to do things for you.’  I hear you.  However, I can still do things for myself without feeling like it consumes every spare moment I have.  In about 15 months, one of my children will be, most likely, going AWAY to college (which sucks, by the way).  I do not have any regrets about this decision, not one.  I do apologize to those of you who have invested in my lofty idea to try this.  But, I’m not really sorry.  I know this is the right thing.

For the next 6 weeks, my life will be (relatively) consumed by training for my first ever ½ marathon (taking a few moments here and there to celebrate some birthday’s and other life moments and milestones).  I’m not a fast runner (like, not even a little), but I have decent endurance which will help me to finish the race and be proud of myself…even if it takes me 3 hours.  After that, I intend to be fully and completely present for my children, my husband, and myself.

And today, I went shopping with my daughter instead of running.  I don’t even like shopping, but I know it was the right decision.  She got stuff and I got time.  Win-win.

 

Sometimes…

Sometimes…

…we’re tired, grumpy, cranky, exhausted, and just want to be left alone.

…our children aren’t perfect and will misbehave.

…spouses will argue and disagree.

…our houses are a mess.

…we say “yes” when we should say “no”

…being joyful is hard – really really hard.

…we’re wrong (I rarely admit this one).

…we need a friend, a real, true friend.

…we are scared of the unknown.

…our dreams do not become reality

…our smile masks hurt and pain.

…we make mistakes and need forgiveness not condemnation.

…we laugh until our sides hurt.

…we cry until the tears stop falling and yet keep crying.

…we need to know someone cares.

…we need to be loved.

…we don’t have enough money.

…we have to say goodbye.

…we want to scream at someone.

…getting out of bed seems like a really bad idea.

…we put extra sprinkles on our ice cream.

…we need to celebrate the little things as much as the big things.

…we feel broken, battered, and bruised.

…we need a vacation – a real vacation, not just a day off.

…saving money isn’t very much fun.

…life is sucky.

…we forget our children’s names (what???  don’t judge.)

…we drink the whole bottle of wine.

…exercise is WAY overrated.

…we find out who our true friends are.

…we break the law.

…we are scared, frightened, and confused.

…taking a nap is the best medicine.

…we disappoint.

…time moves too quickly.

…we don’t get to have an opinion.

…our opinion makes a difference.

…we move on (from friendships, jobs, and difficult situations)

…being a parent is hard, really really hard.

…we pretend everything is okay.

 

This week – not my best week.  I was not on my “A” game and had a tough time with simple tasks at work and made more mistakes than I care to admit.  I told my children they were lazy when they weren’t doing homework (because they should only ever do homework and not be children.  Whatever). I barked orders at them for not seeing there were chores around the house that needed doing.  I didn’t spend any time with my husband. I didn’t take the dog for a single walk (she’s needy and LOVES to go for walks).  My half-marathon training was done half-heartedly.  I’m tired, and, quite frankly, a little burned out in this season of life.  I’m busy.  My family is BUSY.

 

And, sometimes…

…a quiet evening at the lake watching the sunset and reconnecting with your spouse puts everything in perspective.

…your children, while growing SO quickly, remind you of how blessed you really are.

…witnessing a baptism AND profession of faith of an entire family steals your breath right out of your lungs.

…attitude really IS everything.

Sometimes…God whispers to me when I’m most distracted to see if I’ll notice.

 

Here I am, Lord.  Send me.

Here I am Lord

Letter to my (almost) 40 year old self

Dear Me,

You are embarking on a new journey in a few months.  One that will take you places many others have gone before you.  One that takes you on paths you never dreamed of.  One that will challenge you, make you question yourself, make you laugh, cry, and want to scream.  One that will ultimately be the most defining chapter in your life.  You will be part of a great crowd of people – those that have experienced heartbreak, suffered incomprehensible loss, made bad choices, suffered the consequences of their actions, started a family with the love of their life, watched their children grow into almost adults, realized what their body can (or can’t) do, had friendships end for good reasons and bad reasons and no reason at all, been successful, been a total and complete failure, watched with pride as their children have achieved something they worked so hard for, had their heart break for their child when something they worked hard for didn’t work out they way they wanted, been judged, have judged, been angry at God, and been grateful to God.

This a good crowd of people.  This over 40 group.  They get it.  They’ve experienced it all.  You’re in good company.  Strangely, the list of what-if’s will get shorter and less weird.  The comparisons among others will diminish.  You will be happy for others when they have successes, you won’t push yourself on others.  You will be genuine.  Get it?  GENUINE!  Be you.  You’ve earned the right to finally be yourself.  Quit caring so much what everyone else thinks…because, really, they don’t care; they don’t!  You have friends, not hundreds or thousands, but a good handful and that’s okay; in fact, it’s probably ideal.  You know those who really love you and care for you.  Those that speak truth when you need it and still love you.  Those that love your quirks and your obnoxious laughter.  Those are your real people.  That’s your personal army.

life begins at 40 quote40 is a good number.  You’re ready.  You’ve jumped out of an airplane, you’ve bungee jumped, you’ve climbed a mountain (well, part of one, and it was more like hugging the side of it because you were so afraid you were going to fall to your premature death, but whatever), you’ve white-water rafted, you’ve snorkeled (if you want to call sticking your head in the ocean for 10 seconds and then getting back on the boat because you were afraid of sharks and barracuda eating you alive ‘snorkeling’), you’ve tattooed your body, you’ve lived some crazy adventures.  Appreciate this journey, this number.  It’s going to be fun, promise.

That marathon dream you’re chasing?  Keep chasing it.  We get it, once upon a time you were a fast runner and now you’re not.  Big deal.  Seriously.  We all have “once upon a time’s” and you know what?  No one really cares anymore.  Live in the now.  Run that marathon – complete it on your own schedule.  If it takes you 7 hours, so what!  (but, now that you’re getting older, do it safely – stretch, warm up, drink plenty of fluids, eat right, stretch some more, drink more water, etc.  Safety first at your age!)

cs lewis quote on getting older

Those people you once called friends who no longer are a part of your life?  Delete them from facebook, instagram and twitter.  If these people attend your church or they send their children to the same school as your children attend, you can still be courteous and respectful in person, but there is absolutely no reason why you need to see their lives through social media.  They hurt you unapologetically and didn’t think twice.  It’s the right move to move on.  What benefit is there in being reminded of the hurt?  Besides, life is too short to care what they think.  Obviously they didn’t care about you in the first place or they wouldn’t have hurt you and not looked back.  On that note, the same goes for the two-faced people in your life.  If someone is only nice to you when it’s convenient for them, move on.  MOVE ON!  People will enter and leave your life for a variety of reasons.  You can’t make someone want to be your friend.  You cannot be everything to everyone.

Mistakes you’ve made?  Those are in the past.  Move on.  Seriously. GET.OVER.IT.  Everyone does stupid stuff; sometimes the stupid stuff is REALLY stupid, but everyone has regrets.  Every single person in the world makes mistakes.  We all mess up, screw up, and are ashamed of ourselves at some point.  Forgive yourself.  Ask forgiveness of those you’ve hurt.  Be the adult.  The past is the past.  If someone can’t forgive you when you’ve asked for forgiveness, that’s their problem – not yours.  There is nothing wrong with owning your mistakes, acknowledging the junk, and moving forward; in fact, it shows maturity…and 40 year olds are supposed to be mature, right??

That body you see in the mirror?  The one you hate, the one you think is old?  Guess what – it is almost 40.  So, yep, there are saggy parts, wrinkly parts, broken and bruised and damaged parts.  There are scars – visible and invisible.  There is a muffin top that drives you crazy and stretch marks from pregnancy (newsflash: those stretchmarks are the most beautiful of all the marks on your body).  There are no longer the muscles or the tone you had when you were 18.  Know why?  BECAUSE YOU’RE ALMOST 40!  Be healthy.  Eat healthy (ok, healthy-er), exercise regularly, laugh daily (yes, daily), and embrace this body that scares you when you look at it in the mirror.  Get over the idea that you need to be perfect.  You don’t.  You aren’t.  You never will be.  Just be the perfect you (as cliche as that sounds).

mark twain quote wrinkles

Those children you and your husband are raising?  They are turning out to be pretty amazing humans.  They have their own personalities, their own hopes and dreams, and you are allowing them to pursue those things while gently nudging them to keep working hard and not give up just because once in a while life is really really hard.  You’re a good mama.  You ARE!  You are teaching those children to be genuine and not apologize for it.  That’s good stuff.

That husband you have – well, he’s a looker.  Handsome as ever and a great example of a Christian man that others only wish to be.  He loves you more now than he did 20 years ago and will tell everyone as much.  He will do absolutely anything for you.  He’s rather smitten with you.  And your eyes that change color, your quirks, bad moods, wrinkles, stretch marks and cellulite and scars?  He loves it all…know why?  Because they tell a story…your story, which, coincidently, completely intertwines with his story.  You’ve got a genuine man.  (see the theme here?)

A few character traits that will serve you well as you face your forties – learning to listen, patience, love, forgiveness, and the ability to see other peoples’ perspective.  Not everyone has the same upbringing, the same income, the same lifestyle.  Be open to other ideas and processes.  Not everyone has the capacity to deal with things the same way you do and vice versa.  Quit comparing yourself to everyone else.  There isn’t anything wrong with their way, it’s just different than yours.  No.big.deal.

Now, some advice and none of this will be easy – keep improving a little more each day.  But, don’t lose yourself in the process.  Love the woman you’ve become.  Spread that love and confidence to those around you.  Make decisions and stick with them, even when others don’t like your decision.   Don’t gossip.  Take a stand.  Learn to say no.  Forgive – especially when it’s hard.  Be genuine, don’t apologize for who you are – some will love you for it, others will leave you for it, and many will want to copy it.  40 is not the new 30.  40 is 40 and it’s not something to be afraid of.  (Bring it, 40).  Finish 39 with your head up and do 40 proud.  You are an amazing, kind, beautiful, loving, forgiving, caring, fun-loving, passionate, hilarious, tender-hearted, spirit-filled woman.  Your sparkly personality is one of your best character traits.  Don’t be fake; be you.

Be a strong woman; be genuinely YOU.

Much love,

Me


p.s.  you will likely adjust and change this letter as time goes by.  Good!  If you are never changing or making yourself better, you’re missing the point.