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Life's Little Lessons

"If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud." – Emile Zola

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Today is the last day of our cruise so needless to say, I woke up at 8:45 AM with a vision of how the day was going to go and in my mind, it was going start with coffee and some breakfast.

My kids, not so much. All the lights may have been turned on and all the words may have been said and for a brief moment in time, visions collided and our togetherness became separateness in a very small cabin on the seventh deck. Sadly, division oozed from the four corners of the room of minutes.

Truth was, I was trying to do what I thought was best. I was up at what I thought was a very reasonable hour and to be honest, could no longer lay in bed in a dark cabin and pretend to be asleep for the sake of three other people. And as their Mother (and yes I began playing the Mother card) I didn’t WANT them to be asleep any longer either. I didn’t want them laying in their beds, thumbing through their phones.

As their Mother, I wanted them to squander their day as I had planned…which was having breakfast together and doing nothing but lay by the pool.

As their Mother…I had an expectation. I was the boss. I was steering the ship of the vacation that I had paid for.

As their Mother, I can be an asshole.

Long story short, I left the cabin agitated but told the kids that I wasn’t when I clearly was and marched off to have breakfast on my own. Looking back now, I needed that hour by myself. I needed to sit in silence and think things through and figure why I was getting all bent out of shape over such non-important things.

The answer of course, was easy to spot. My vision was all good and such and was perfectly perfect but it was MY vision for the day and mine alone. My kids on the other day, though birthed from my body, had their own that were separate that I forgot to consult. As their mother, I often get what I think is best entangled with what is right and what was right on this day, in that moment, was to allow them to have their own day just as I wanted to have mine. We are all so very different.

So I came back to the room and told them what I’d like to do today and let it at that. I listened and was open to suggestion but more so, had extended them each an invitation to do somethings together. The last thing I wanted was to be likened to a tyrant whom told them this was this and that was that when deep down, all I was really wanting was quality time with my children. You can’t really have that when you force a HAVE TO on the people you want to spend time with. Sometimes you just need to put it out there and hope their WANT TO (and not yours) brings them back into the center of life’s hub.

I think if you create room for people to step into that space on their own rather than bullying, guilting or coercing them into what you think is best or right, they will meet you in the middle and your relationship can remain intact and strengthened. And if they choose not to take that step, it’s not you. It is them.

Unless of course you’ve made it about you, just like I was trying to do this morning all about me.

When you take people’s freedom to choose away from them, even if you feel like you have earned the right to pull some special card at the table, you better be prepared to have more than just a choice or two taken away from the mix.

It might cost you the very relationship you say is most important to you.

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when Easter isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

It’s Easter and it was an off day from the start. The dog ran away (again) and everything on the inside of me was done with his antics and officially didn’t care if he ever returned home. I was not in the mood. We fought briefly over going to Church and when I was there, I had a hard time being as awe-struck as those around me and found myself loathing the hype of the Holiday that exalts Jesus one day and not the next. I forgot to fill and hide the baskets till my youngest asked where they were and sadly no one (myself included) was all that excited about taking a family picture so I took pictures of the puppy instead.

Middle places are hard. Foreign lands are rough. If you haven’t been where you are now at, you can feel like a fish out of water. I secretly wished all day that Jesus would come along my shore in His boat and scoop me up in His net before I exhausted every last breath I had left inside of me because breathing has been laborious.

I went about my day being a lesser version of the self I know I can be. This put together Mom who has all her baskets lined up in a row. This in-step-with-Jesus-praise-be-to-God woman. Today I wasn’t, the reality is I haven’t been and I don’t know how to get back to her. I can’t seem to find her lately and I swear if someone tries to tell me how I might not only cry but scream and pelt eggs filled with candy at them from the egg hunt I just didn’t have the energy for.

But the great and wonderful thing about Easter is this…

Jesus says I don’t have to try to get back to her.

Easter is for people everywhere, yes.

But today Easter was especially for me.

If I have ever experienced first hand the finished work of the cross, it was today. In what feels like BLAH. In what feels like muddling through mire and muck. In what is tasteless and listless…

When I don’t feel like it, He literally expands Himself into my gaps. When I question or just stop questioning all together, He IS regardless and doesn’t just negate where I’m at or tries to drag me out of my slump I’d call an awfully large pit, He sits in it with me.

So when significant Holidays aren’t all that and then some, there’s things called grace, mercy, forgiveness and love.

Mounds of love.

This is what Easter is all about, right?

Making Sense Out of Christmas 

I woke up early this morning and said good-bye to our son. His ninety-six hour leave would come to an end in a few hours and he has to report back for three days before he could venture home again. I hug him and his girlfriend tight and tell them to be safe and that I love them, all the things I’m growing accustomed to saying when we part ways and moments later I crawl back to bed. I don’t have any trouble falling asleep and I wonder if I had truly woken up because sleep comes quickly and the minutes spent saying good-bye now feels like a dream.

I wake up for real several hours later and take the dogs out. The thought of heading to the barn crosses my mind but the thought of hot coffee nags and wins. I resolve to feed my miniature pig Rosie the next time I’m out and walk through the front door. My brain scans the living room that houses an incredibly dead Christmas tree and I begin plotting out my day.

It’s time to make sense out of Christmas.

Needles lace the floor and I almost cannot see the carpet. I’m not really sure what happened because I never missed a beat and was faithful in watering but I apparently missed something somewhere because evidence points to the obvious. It is dead. The tree has got to go…today.

The dog quickly finds a candy cane and then shortly after, a forgotten toy, and I feel as if I never stopped raising toddlers and somewhere between the living room and the coffee pot, I remind myself to go slow and smile because smiling is important.

I get to work.

I start in the kitchen and eventually meander my way back to the living room; sorting, unpackaging…trying to find a place for everything that was recently brought into this home. “Christmas is more than this,” I remind myself. It is more than the gifting and the eating and the cleaning.

But today it feels just like that and I am done.

An hour later, my husband comes into the house and tells me he went out to feed the chickens and found Rosie. She had died sometime between when I fed her yesterday morning and today. At first I have no words. I really don’t even know what to say about a pig I wasn’t supposed to love.

But did.

I think of our barn and how it’s housed calves, chickens, 4-H pigs and now little Rosie. I think of the smell, the cobwebs, the mice and the dirt and I wonder if moving Rosie from our home to the barn a few years was a good move. Did we cut her life short in the transfer? My brain scrambles to make sense and it can’t. Was she old in miniature pigs years? Was I feeding her enough? She was social and here I stuck her in the barn, no longer having room for her in my house. I don’t have answers so I shake my head and resolve to let those thoughts go. It will do no good to sort that out because there is no sorting. My little pig is dead.

The most random of all pictures comes to my head; a feeding trough. It’s one of the dirtiest and foulest things in a barn if not kept clean and I instantly think of how Jesus was laid in one at His birth. I don’t know why I think of this at the same time I think of that little pig, laying cold on the barn floor but I do.

I think of the packages that fill my home and the needles from my dead tree that fill the floor and the list of all the things I want to get done and thoughts of my son still flutter through my head. I look around the kitchen at my husband and kids. They sit, both quiet and compassionate, waiting for me to respond terribly with tears, but I don’t. It would be awkward to cry over a little pig and I do awkward enough. 

This is what I tell myself.

I think in my trying to make sense out of Christmas, I was trying to package Christmas up so I could move forward and get back to life as normal. I wanted to move forward from the gifts. Move forward from the floor laced with needles. Move forward from the busy and the chaos and the goodbyes.

And here all along, Jesus was reaching into me from the barn, reminding me there is no normal to move on to. He was trying to show me what Christmas really is: Love comes in unexpected ways and in unexpected forms. Jesus, the baby in the manager who I now call my closest friend, reminds me to open my heart wide; unbiased and unrestricted. Hours later I give myself permission to cry, even if just for a little and I wonder if the Innkeeper had known who Jesus was if he would have given him more than just the barn, more than just a feeding trough, more than…

So I choose today to not put Christmas away. I choose to stay focused on my family as I walk around the clutter as needles cling to my feet. I choose to allow my heart to relentlessly love who and what it loves, to be surprised when the unexpected stranger knocks on its door and to embrace the unsuspecting.

One thing we should never have to do is apologize for our hearts.

 

Try Again

My head was full of soap and I only had one cup of coffee in my system vs. two so I was already contending. I was running through my head the day and it hit me, I forgot her.

Last night I went to tuck our youngest into bed, who is ten years old, and she was busy reading. She does not sleep easy or well so giving her time at night to read in her bed helps. I popped my head in, she begged as usual for one more minute. I told her no problem and that I’d be back. I then closed the door.

And I went to bed.

I did this once before over the summer and my child stayed up till 2:00 am waiting for me to return. She obviously gets her pateince from her father. I can still FEEL her hovering over me as I slept and I can still HEAR her whispering voice as she shook my shoulders, “Mom…you forgot to tuck me in.”

I swore I would not do it again. She is the youngest of five and the last one left who actually LIKES me acknowledging her exit in the evening. The rest just give me a low wave and a nod and slowly meander up the steps hoping I don’t follow. So she, SHE is my prize. She is the one who is gifted all that I never fully gave the others…my intentioanlity.

She is making up for them all.

So bathroom shower. Soapy head. Lack of coffee. Realization that I sometimes SUCK as a mom. I instantly feel that gray and heavy veil come over me. My heart breaks. I wonder how long she waited. There was no standing over me in the middle of the night this time. No. She left awareness and horror be my teacher and reality check.

I get dressed and make my way to the coffee pot. I have some dark rum in my cupboard and it crosses my mind that perhaps this would be the day to mix coffee and cocktails but I know better. Still the thought lightens my mood and I put down my second round. I pop my head once more into her room, this time to say “Good Morning” and I hear her grumble. I cannot get this child to go to bed and I cannot get her to wake up and I already feel that I’m drawing from an empty account. She eventually makes it down the stairs and is CLEARLY upset.

“You forgot me. Again.”

Friends, at this point I know it may just seem like NOT a big deal, “So you forgot to tuck your ten year old kid in a time or two,” but to HER, it is. And if it is to HER, it is to ME.

I tried to hug her and hold her close. She fought me. I knew I had to push through. I knew I had to teach HER how to. I got down on my knees and wrapped my arms around tighter and she began crying real tears, tears that would surely rip any heart out of any chest. I knew in my gut my instinct as a fixer is to explain and then explain some more but I just couldn’t. I know I have to stop reaching for that one. I held her close as she cried and fought my embrace and I said, “Dara, I am so sorry.”

My heart meant ever word. I. Am. So. Sorry.

“Please forgive me.”

Her demeanor changed, her tears dried and she nodded yes.

Was the world perfect again in our home? No. Were we movning in the right direction? I am going to choose to beleive, yes.

I knew that we both had our work cut out for us. She would have to make her own choices and choose her own path and I would have to choose mine. She would be faced with the choice to forgive me in her heart, as best as her ten year old self could allow and I would have to choose to forgive MYSELF and let myself off the hooks that defeat and guilt had hung me on earlier that morning.

“Try again.” Jesus said. He is good. He is faithful and constant.

All morning long I had to choose. There was no once and done, at least not today. It was a continual journey of choices. Of letting feelings come and letting feelings go and allowing truth to lead. I know the more I dwelt on it, the heavier it became so I took Jesus’ advice and I tried once more. I called my mother and asked her to lunch and I started washing a pile of my oldest sons laundry, even though he does his own. Focusing on others cleared my head. Focusing on others opened my heart.

I am not a sucky mom.

To err is human, to forgive divine.

And every path in between holy ground.

 

 

How to Master the Art of Hospitaility

So you are having friends into your home? GREAT! I can help. My husband and I LOVE to entertain and have friends into our home, both old and new. Just last night we hosted a dinner with 8 other couples from our church so I literally JUST experienced what I am about to share.

  1. Go to Pinterest for ideas on THEMES. If you are going to entertain in your home then be prepared to ENTERTAIN your guest. Everyone wants an EXPERIENCE and coming to your home for dinner is NO different. Party favors are a must and though matchy match is kind of outdated, coordination is key. From the table decor to your plates, napkins and cups…remember presentation is EVERYTHING.
  2. Clean your house. It must be immaculate. If you have thicker carpet, you are in luck. Make sure that when you sweep, perfectly straight lines are clearly visible; NO feet marks please. This will make your guest feel incredibly honored as they walk into your home knowing that their feet are the first to grace your newly swept carpet. Also as you are sweeping, pull furniture out and sweep behind AND under. Why is this important? Remember how your mother used to tell you, “Make sure you put new underwear on in case you are in an accident?” The premise is the same. When your guest are welcomed into your home, you need to be prepared in the event they look under your couch in search of hidden fur balls.
  3. If you have children, you need to remove ALL traces of their existence. Remember that your guest are coming to your home to be entertained. You must minimize all obstacles that could jeopardize that mission from being accomplished. If hiding your children away in your downstairs den with a bag of Cheetos, some Benadryl with an incredibly engaging movie series is NOT an option, remember the 15th Century proverb that said, “Children should be seen but not heard.” It’s an oldie but a goodie and still rings true in this home as it should yours. If they are not quiet, remember that the Bible says “He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” Proverbs 13:24. That’s scriptural.
  4. Fix a gourmet meal. The more money and time you spend preparing, the better. The main objective in mastering the art of hospitality is to WOW your guest. You want to be THE house that everyone gets invited to so go over the top and then go over the top some more. In this case, MORE is NEVER ENOUGH. Whatever expectation you THINK your guest have, you most likely are only luke-warm and probably not even close to what could totally ignite their taste buds on fire so go bigger so not to disappoint.
  5. Last but not least and this is THE most important so listen up and pay close attention. Whatever is happening in your home prior to guest arriving, like whatever is REALLY happening, you best HIDE it. Just had a fight with your husband? Wipe those tears off your face and go reapply your makeup. Put your game face on. Smile BIG and smile PRETTY. Your life IS perfect. You have perfectly unheard of children and a house that Martha Steward would be proud of. When asked how you are doing, the answer is ALWAYS, “I am great!” Everything is great. Your marriage. Your kids. Your job. You talk about the vacation you are planning and how many burpees you did the other day at the gym and what Gina down the street wore to the bus stop. People DO NOT want to know how you are really doing because they do not want you to ask them how THEY are doing. They want to know that you bought milk today and that you spent 28 hours preparing their meal so girdle up and talk the talk. Pleasantries are most important to leave your guest with lingering good feels hours after leaving your home.

Over the years these, these are some helpful tips we have found that keep friends and family returning to our home and if you believe any of that to be true then I have some books to lend you on how not to live life too seriously. Thing is, at some point in my life and to some degree, I HAVE tried these things as a recovering people pleaser.

*I HAVE tried to create an experience instead of BEING someone TO experience.

*I HAVE tried to present a house that was completely unrepresentative of our everyday life having everyday people living in it, not only exhausting myself but the relationships in my home  while doing so.

* I HAVE growled my kids for being themselves in their own home. I HAVE lectured about what to DO and NOT DO when guest arrive and have secretly looked at their presence as being inconvenient to my entertaining which broke their spirits and my heart in the process.

*I HAVE tried to impress with my culinary skills or overcompensate for my lack of them.

*I HAVE faked it in hopes to eventually make it. Yes, I have been GREAT!

At the end of the day, mastering the art of hospitality is more about YOU and YOUR GUEST, the people IN your home and AROUND your table then ANYTHING else. Your front door is being opened for a relationship so don’t just open the door to your home but open the door to your heart. It may sound fluffy but it’s true. If your guest show up to a fully present YOU, a YOU that is excited to sit with them, engaged in being present WITH them, it’s enough.

It’s more than.

Cheers to being hospitable!

Much Love,

August

 

ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION:

What stresses you about having people into your home and why?

Do you find it hard to sit down and engage in conversation that goes deeper than regular, everyday surface living?

When you are invited into someone’s home, what excites you about going?

 

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