the thin line between good and hard…

If you post on Facebook regularly, you are familiar with your “memories” from a year or two or five popping into your daily newsfeed.

This week, this photo memory caught my attention.

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It was exactly one year ago that one of my new daughters-in-law very bravely, on her own, bought a cute little house.  She searched, weighed pros and con, did the math and just plain did a great job on her first home purchase.  Our son was out of town, so I snapped this picture and posted it on Facebook.  The message was that Andrew had much to look forward to.

I’ve been reflecting on the good stuff from April 2015 to April 2016.

  1. This particular son came home to a big wedding and a new home.  He’s only a few weeks away from his university graduation.
  2. We had a mini family reunion last June… so rare to get our sons together.
  3.  Our son, David, got married right after Christmas prompting yet another family reunion.
  4.  Recently, Doug and I went on our first vacation in 4 years.  It was extra special to have our oldest son and his wife with us.
  5. On said vacation, we witnessed David retire from a 21 year military career… and enjoyed quality time with our newest daughter-in-law.
  6. And sprinkled throughout the year were holidays and occasional Sundays with grandchildren.

Sweet memories.

Fortunately, Facebook doesn’t throw our screw ups and failures into the daily newsfeed.  But you never know… I suppose they could develop an App for that!

Those happy memories I listed, came easily to mind.  I’m glad, because I’ve worked hard to stay focused on the good and let go what pulls me down.

The reality is that lingering close by, on the flip side of good, are the hard parts of life none are exempt from:  health issues, fractured relationships, losses, having to wait.  The photo I snapped and posted to Facebook a year ago was for a military son in Iraq.  David followed for a short deployment later in the year.  And after Andrew’s happy wedding day, the very day after, his youngest brother was seriously injured in a motorcycle crash.

I had no idea this past year, April to April, would be filled with so much good and so much hard.  I’m glad I didn’t know.  And kind of think that’s how God must plan it.

I’m learning.  To rejoice in the good stuff.  To rejoice.  Period.

To hold lightly the hard.  Fix and learn what I can.  Then let it go.

Over and over and over again.

This week we had several days of summer weather.  At 8 o’clock one evening, there were still soft breezes.

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The next evening we had a very different sky.

And before I had the dishes done, it was raining.

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…on being “Support Staff”

Years ago when I lived somewhere else and was gainfully employed at our local university, I was at a “Support Staff” meeting where employee labels were being discussed.

There were “Faculty”, who were pretty much the stars of the show.  (oh yes, just ask them!)

There were “Administrators” with power to hire, fire and make big decisions.  They went to lots of meetings.

And there were “Support Staff”… you know, the ones who cook, clean, maintain, repair, pay bills, punch data (sometimes literally) into computers and prepare reports to be taken to the meetings.

Some thought the support staff label offensive.  Some thought the word “staff” sounded like an infection.  I personally didn’t care what they called me as long as there was a paycheck at the end of the month with my name on it.  (actually, most everyone who worked there didn’t care about labels either… a great crew no matter the label.) (and I had to say that in case anyone I know back then is reading this!)

What I believe is we are all support staff… if you’ve ever loved someone, or been given the grace to serve a difficult person.  And I don’t think there’s anything remotely offensive in the label.

In a marriage, when one has temporarily lost her mind and he holds steady until she comes to her senses… that’s being a classic support staff person.  And of course, it flips the other way.  Or it should.

When you raise a child, they run into mess after mess.  You clean things up and teach them better.  Then before you know it they run out the front door and into a life of their own.  You hope you taught them enough.  But when things are difficult (and they will be) you’re still there to encourage.  Support.

If you care for an aging parent, you take them where they need to go, make sure they have their pills, listen to their stories and watch in frustration as their abilities evaporate and memories fade.  But that doesn’t always feel like support.  It feels more like helpless.

Mom has wanted to go out for dinner for quite a while now.  So this week I took them to a tiny diner in our tiny town.  We got there about 4:30 p.m. so there wouldn’t be a crowd.  (It’s not likely you’ll find a crowd in a town of 630, but you never know.)

Dad has forgotten so much that he couldn’t think how to bend his body to fit into my car.  At the restaurant you could see his discomfort at being in a space he wasn’t familiar with, handling a plate and fork he had never used before.  He struggled with his fork and knife like a toddler and eventually stopped eating in frustration.  I spent more time waiting outside the men’s room for him than I did in our booth.  We all left exhausted.

I stopped at the little market and bought him ice cream bars.

And later I wrote in my journal – –  how do I keep step on this slow walk to death and still fully live?  I felt selfish when I wrote it.  And forgiven at the same time. 

I got the distinct impression it wasn’t my walk to take.  But more on that in a minute.

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Two weeks ago Doug and I were on the other side of the USA at our son’s army retirement.  We were there to honor his 21 years of service, yet he was the one bearing gifts.

David gave me a wooden box, inscribed with his words.  Inside, a rose.  A steel rose.  Beautiful… and quite possibly lethal should I ever need to defend myself!  Seriously though, I love it.

A rose of steel.

Support. Staff.

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Through all of David’s deployments… and his younger brother’s, I lived fully.  I went to work, I went to church, I hosted holiday dinners, I took my grandson to the park.

When talk of labels made me crazy and I wanted to tell them that people are lobbing bombs and bullets at my boys and I didn’t care about their stupid labels, I kept quiet.  I did my job.  Then I went home to bake cookies.  Because nothing says love from home like a box of stale cookies that have crumbled to bits by the time they make it to the desert.  No.  Nothing at all.

And the truth is no one but Jesus could walk beside my sons when they were in harms way, anyway.

And no one but He can walk with my father now.

The God who spoke my father’s life into being, the God who knew I needed a dad just like him, will be the one to open Heaven’s door when the time is right.  And I don’t need to worry one bit about it.

It’s my job to make the coffee, mind the meds, run the errands.  Be support staff with a smile.  And to live fully, in this moment, the life I’ve been given.

Last night as I finished dinner prep, Dad mentioned his cousin had stopped by.

“Really, Dad?  Your cousin was here?”

“Yes.  We had a good lunch.”

Dad’s cousin – the one who served in Europe during WWII – the one who saw Dad’s name on a casualty list and frantically searched until he found him at a troop hospital in France – the one who died about ten years ago.

“Well then, you must have had a great day, Dad.”

“Yes.  I did.” he smiled.

Then we sat down to dinner.  At the familiar table.  With his familiar plate and fork.

He ate every bite.

 

 

hold on to your vacation heart…

While on vacation your body was busy but your mind was relaxed.  You ate good food, reunited with family, saw new places, recorded new memories.

Then it stopped.

And, oh, how well I know the feeling that followed…

You squeeze yourself into a Lilliputian airline seat, spend the day alternately chilled or overheated on the plane, then run into that stranger with the bad attitude.

If you’re lucky, your vacation heart is revived over the next day or two as you recount your adventures to anyone who will listen.  But the inevitable awaits.

Work piled up in your absence.  There are phone calls to return.  Bills to be paid.  The calendar is full of appointments.  And worst of all, for me anyway, I walk into the kitchen expecting dinner only to find I’m the one who must cook it first!

Vacation is truly over.

My first evening home, Mom was thanking me and apologizing that I had to cook.  No worries.  I reminded her she had cooked and cleaned well into her eighties.  We ended up laughing, but it made me think… another 20-ish years of kitchen duty?  Not even a remotely vacation-y thought.

When I’m away from my daily routine, my mind opens up.  Old dreams resurface.  New ideas pop.  Resolution to problems become clearer once I’ve gained some distance.  Some perspective.

Breathing room does that for you.

So how do I connect my refreshed mind to the every day normal?

I’ve got three ideas to keep some breathing room tucked inside my vacation heart….

  1. Make a huge list – – as big as the North Carolina beach I recently walked on.  I’m listing every thing I want to do, every place I want to go, every habit I want to change.  From the simplest task of hanging pictures on the wall, planting new flower baskets on the deck, to where I’d like to live 5 or 10 years down the road… it all goes on the list.  Even the not-so-fun things.  They need to get done too.
  2. Move those items into loose categories – – things that must be achieved and things I would like to achieve.  Things that can be done right now, next month, next year or further down the line.
  3. Then, I’ve got to break it down to practical steps I can do each day… like creating a weekly menu plan to deal with that 20 years of kitchen duty.  I used to do that when my kids were growing up.  Why not now?  I suspect it will eliminate a lot of late afternoon aggravation.

These three points are simplistic, I know.  And there are some great goal-setting strategies available.  This is just a way to start.  Something to build on for one who’s been a bit too undisciplined for a little too long.

While on vacation we discussed the possibility of a large family vacation in a year, maybe two.  Coordinating the schedules of 10 adults and 7 children is daunting.  It might not be possible.  For sure it won’t be possible if not researched and discussed.  An item for the list.

I want need to loose a few  many pounds.  But that won’t happen without a plan and commitment.  It won’t happen until I decide to hold on to that breathing space in my heart, my soul, my physical life.  It for sure won’t happen until I say,

Step away from the pie and into your walking shoes!

Here I go.

Forward

When the road has changed,
When I feel unknown,
When there are more questions than answers, I remind myself;

You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me…..
     Psalm 139:5

Truly, there is no place I can go where my Father is not already waiting.

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Easter… short and sweet

You laid your life down FIRST, because that was the plan.

And goodness… how You knew we needed a plan!

SECOND, they nailed You to the tree, because they were blind.

Like me.

THEN You became the pathway for whosoever would… for me…

      … to find our way home.

To You.

 

The Lord is my shepherd,

   I have everything I need.

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encouragement to grow on

One advantage of having your parents live with you is tapping into their memories.  And your mother’s photo album.

These are my grandparents, Dan and Gladys, holding my mom.  So this must have been 1927-ish.

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It’s fun to see my grandmother standing on the California beach where I grew up, sporting a bathing suit.  Might have been a bit scandalous in the day!

Since I never saw her in a bathing suit, ever, this sight isn’t in my memory bank.

My memories include a garden full of geraniums, a spotless house,  new Easter outfits, her piano, the long drive to church camp every summer, paints and glass jars filled with brushes, the smell of wet ceramic clay.

But no bathing suits.

In fact, I still see her in the every day uniform of long, wide-legged pants and a work smock.  This allowed her to move from home keeping to gardening to art creating without ruining her good clothes.  Very common sense of her.

I loved to visit because there was always something different for me to do.  And she didn’t hover while I did it.  She would give me a canvas and paints and tell me to paint it… a hunk of clay and tell me to shape it… a tablet and pencils and tell me to write it.

She let me make my own, messy art.

Then we talked about it.  Approvingly.  Maybe a gentle lesson on how to mix paint colors, or if you pinch the clay a certain way you get “this”, or a suggestion to write a couple more sentences to give detail about “that”.

She always pushed me to do a little bit more.

Once after a heavy rain, we went to a bare patch in her garden where she gave me a hand trowel, an assortment of old dishes and told me to make mud pies.  When I was done we sat in the sun with a cup of coffee and pretend ate my pies.

I was six.

I loved her.

I love that she never stopped creating her own art.

And I’m pretty fond of coffee.

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When I joined the blogging world several years ago, I found many blogs full of inspiration, courage and beautiful art.  Some were created by regular folks like me.  Some more well known.  But all of them inspire in their unique way.  And encourage me to hang on and do a little bit more .  Just like my grandmother did.

You might have noticed, in fact, there is another tab on my blog which says Favorite Links and Things.  It’s been “under construction” for too long.  I’d intended to list blogs and websites, books and such that might be interesting to others.  Of course, I realize there’s Pinterest for that purpose, but I’m going to keep my own little list going right here anyway.

It’s a partial list.  So hope you’ll check it from time to time for some great reading, photo viewing, and inspiration gathering.

hope and time

Time is moving on.

I’m still mourning the end of Downton Abbey.  I wasn’t finished with it yet.  There will be no familiar theme music at 9pm tonight.  I’ll just have to deal with it.

And Daylight Savings Time started today.  Spring Forward.

I lost one precious hour and do not like it.  I know I’ll get it back in the Fall, but in the meantime it feels as if something was stolen from me.

This week my granddaughter lost her first tooth.  Among the younger of my grandchildren, it shocked me that she’s old enough to loose teeth.  Here she is next to the toothless grin of her father some 35ish years before.

“How did it get so late so soon?”  Dr. Suess

 

See.  I told you. Time is moving on.

(And I’m sorry, son.  About that haircut.  I was trying to save money by doing it myself.  You were adorable… trust me.)

Fleeting time is something I used to stew about.  But I’m learning to lighten up on the subject because the thing is… the more I stew about time’s passing, the more of it I waste in the stewing.

And there’s no time for that.  Not if I want to live every moment well.

This week I had two odd, time related dreams.  Actually, one was substantially more than odd.

…I’m in a huge government building getting ready to leave on a space mission.  So already, anyone who knows me can see this is crazy because I don’t even like to fly in airplanes.  But here’s the thing (please don’t judge), the space mission was being lead by Donald Trump… and we were both having our blood pressure taken… and mine was 200 over 85 (probably because I’d just heard one of his speeches).

I was told I couldn’t go on the mission, it wasn’t my time to go and I needed to get that blood pressure down.  Maybe later.  Keep trying.  There’ll be time later.

Time.  Later.

I was crushed (in the dream) because I really, really wanted to go (in the dream).

I woke up super relieved to be on earth, but couldn’t stop thinking about the weirdness that had been in my head… and wondering if I should call my doctor.

The next night I dreamt my 3rd born son was getting ready for school.  Elementary school.  He was dawdling and I was impatient, late for work.  Finally he’s out the door with his backpack and I’m in my car.  He begins walking.  I begin driving with no intention of giving him a ride.  He made me late, after all.  But being a mom, I had to ask if he had a lunch.  Which he didn’t.  So I slammed on the brakes and a huge clock popped up on the dashboard.

6AM it said.  We had time!  We had two extra hours of time!

I woke up feeling the need to call my son with an apology.

And relieved to know there is time.

I’m not sure what any of this means.

But I feel hopeful.

And happy for this new day to make the most of.. lost hour and all.

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So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12