Wednesday, September 28, 2016

50 Shades of Suprised

Last year, around this time, my hubby conquered his fear of heights and rode a sky lift with me and Noah. Somehow that turned into a plan to celebrate his 50th birthday in 2016 by jumping out of a plane.  As the months drew nearer however, I could tell there was a bit of trepidation in following through with the crazy idea.  For one, the price tag was rather hefty for the chance of a jump, considering Kentucky's unpredictable weather.  For another, fear of heights had not disappeared.

Wanting to still have something special for Tim to remember this milestone birthday, I went into planning mode.  Typically, his birthday is a carbon copy of the years before, at his request - fried chicken and some type of yummy cake, usually from scratch.  Last year, although he still got his annual fried chicken, I changed things up a bit and had a surprise pizza party where our son works.  Tim thought we were just joining him for dinner and walked in to see family and balloons.

But 50 needed something....more.  50 is one to remember.  

He never takes selfies - proof he was pleased
Tim would just shrug, as I searched for interest and ideas, and say he didn't need anything but us.  Turning to my trusty pals, Pinterest and Google, I began combing ideas to celebrate his big day.  As both guys had already asked off, it hit me that we had an opportunity to get away for the weekend.

It's been a year since we've been on a trip, even longer for a true vacation, but regardless of the short time frame, I accepted the challenge to find an amazing excursion.  And after lots of queries, a few tears and many prayers, Operation 50th Surprise was born.

What helped was that Tim was away the entire week leading up to his birthday, traveling for work.  This gave me extra planning time and allowed us to talk freely about ideas without him overhearing.  Noah and I would work late into the night, writing out menus, packing and preparing.  By the time he arrived home, everything but his boat was ready to go.

It was the only hint I gave him, leaving him with a small list of last minute needs to have ready by the time I would be home.  He headed out for bait, ice, and to gas up the boat with a puzzled but excited look.  Adding a trip to the dog kennel gave him one last hint we'd be gone at least overnight.

Later that day, as we hit the parkway, he continued to question and beg for tips on where we were going.  Each twist and turn of the GPS would confuse him even more.  As we pulled into the cabin, he was all smiles.  I managed to check everything off his perfect getaway checklist - fishing, food, family, beautiful views and quiet.

just of the many breathtaking views!

I settled in to unpacking and sent him down the hill to explore and take in some fishing.  

view from his fishing spot
As Noah wouldn't be joining us until much later, I'd planned a romantic steak dinner for two to kick off his birthday weekend.  He came back to the scent of potatoes roasting on a wood fire, music floating through the air, and a giant porch swing to watch the sunset.  

Deeming him master of the remote, we snuggled in to await Noah's arrival, which ended up being close to midnight.  I didn't even nudge him when he nodded off a few times, as I know that is a late hour for his senior age.  (tee hee)

Having a dock right off the property, allowed Tim to do both night and early morning fishing, something he loves, so he took in the sunrise by the creek.  I had coffee perked and a big breakfast of pancakes and sausage to greet him good morning.  We again enjoyed swinging and watching the dozens of birds flitter between all the unique birdhouses on the grounds.  

God blessed us with an uncharacteristically warm weekend, so we were able to head out for a fishing trip on the boat and actually take along sunscreen.  The creek, a watershed from the river's dam, was low and quiet.  Shady spots felt like you were floating into a magical movie scene.  Though we didn't catch a thing, it was a perfect outing, complete with relaxation and lots of laughs.  The boys were proud I even managed to keep myself composed, despite the fact that we saw three different snakes while out.  (A quick search of previous blog posts will let you know that was no easy feat for me!)

We returned home to shower and cool off, as Tim took in a long nap before sneaking down the hill to take in a bit more creek time, while we prepared his birthday feast.  

Having a chefy son has many perks, including that he loves to grocery shop, which he fully did for this trip (even paying for them!).  Noah started the wood fire pit (such a lovely addition!) while I chopped and prepped.  The boys played cornhole and I helped baby the most delicious pork loin we've ever eaten.  
Just as the sun was beginning to set. we called him outside for dinner.  And what a meal it was!

In fact, I don't think he even noticed or missed the fried chicken.

Sunday morning was much of the same, although we did take the long, lazy way home and stopped along the way to remember a trip from years ago where time stood still.  It was a sweet way to include our boy, who I know was smiling down at Dad on his special day.  As he always does, Austin sent special signs throughout the weekend.

All in all it was one blessed, surprise weekend I am sure Tim won't soon forget.
Here's to 50 more, my love...

Friday, September 16, 2016

See Inside!

What a blessing it is to be on the road this time of year.  Actually, most days I enjoy that my desk has a windshield.  But late summer/early fall in Kentucky is just fabulous.

Blues skies, amber rows of farmland, and the slightest hint of changing leaves.
Be still, my soul...

Even though my travels are among the same winding roads each week, I am continually joyed at finding new views, hidden gems along the way I've missed before.

Yesterday, although I was in a bit of hurry to get back in time for a training, a sign caught my eye.  Lately, I've been interested at the number of homes for sale.  I always wonder what the story is, as to why they are selling and the life lived among those walls.

The sign on the road was an obvious real estate notice but the wording was what grabbed me.

"I'm beautiful on the inside!"

Chuckling out loud, God nudged me and inspiration rose for this post.

The home wasn't a show-stopper.  I've driven past it more times than I could count the past few years and never paid it much attention.  Yet the sign made me want to stop and explore more.

I pondered how often I feel overlooked or insecure because of my outside.  My self-doubt often causes me to retreat or feel uncomfortable in gatherings.

If someone does glance my way, I will their eyes away, at the same time mentally panicking on how many things about me they could be scrutinizing.  I'm overweight, scarred and misshapen, thanks to injuries and auto-immune issues.  If I catch someone looking at me, I feel they are focused on my crooked face, scars, lumpy, deformed knee or any of the other areas that cause me to lack confidence.

Or, when I'm hoping to be noticed or chosen, I assume my appearance will be the reason they don't.  While internally, I may be screaming but I'm beautiful on the inside!

And I don't care if you are a size 0 or in double digits, I would guess there are far more women who have these feelings than not.  In a society focused on appearance, we so desperately just want to be noticed and known for who we are at the core.

How different might our interactions be, if we complimented the inside, opposed to the outer shell?

You exude kindness.  
Your laugh makes me smile.  
What a generous heart you have.  
How creative you are.
Your faith inspires me.

And how sad it is, we often don't stop to take the time to get to know someone better and see the inside.  

My prayer is that I start by seeing myself as God sees me, worthy and beautiful, and that I take the time to see others with His eyes too.

People judge by what is on the outside, but the Lord looks at the heart.  1 Sam 16:7

Monday, September 12, 2016

Breathe, Momma...Just Breathe

If you're a mom and you're stressed out....
funny, I couldn't even finish the sentence because of the irony that hit me.

It would probably be simpler to remove the word "and" because "Mom & Stress" seem to go together.  I know this because I am one, and my job is to visit with moms every single day, so I live and see lots of stress.

Not to say that everyone doesn't have some, we live in a hectic world, but most mommas tend to take on all the burdens of the family.  We're women and we worry, whether we want to or not.  And it doesn't matter what season you are in - from waiting to meet your bundle of joy, to chasing toddlers, to approaching an empty nest, we all have our own set of stressors.

I'm in the latter, so I'll tell those of you behind me in the mom line, it doesn't necessarily get any easier.  Just different.  You swap out sleepless nights from a crying baby to restless nights awaiting a teen driving home. Gone are the crazy, jam-packed weeks of homework and after school activities.  Now is learning to find new ways to spend your time, because your nearly grown child is working or out with friends.  For everything you are wishing away, you'll long for those days again.  Promise.

Truly, the stress I'm feeling lately has nothing to do with raising a teenager and everything to do with being a 40-something woman.  I think...

I'm blessed with a wonderful kid.  He still hugs us and says "Love you," no matter who is around. He's mature and wise beyond his age.  This school year, I've been especially proud to see him growing up, handling more responsibility, and staying very organized.  As a mom, I can't complain.

But there's this feeling of anxiety I can't seem to shake.

I'm not sure when it started or where it is coming from but it isn't enjoyable.  In fact, it threatens to suck the very joy out of me.  If I tally my list of potential stressors, I could blame it on many things.  But being worried about Noah's safety on the road, having a heavy caseload at work, church obligations, tight finances, or the start of the holiday season isn't why.  Not even November looming, my now least favorite time of year, because of such painful memories of loss.

If I'm being honest, there isn't a valid reason for the anxiety.  It is just upon me, which makes it that much worse.  It would be easier to accept if I could blame it on a laundry list of valid causes.

I'm jumpier, emotional and impatient.  Things that would never bother me before are now.  The other night from out of nowhere I was covered with overwhelming panic.  Heart racing, tears falling, I didn't know where else to turn but scripture.  With a shaky voice, I began reciting peaceful, hopeful phrases from memory.  When that ran out, I searched my Bible under those key words.

I visited my trusty oil box for a natural dose of God's gifts from the earth.  Soon sweet scents were diffusing through the room, uplifting me with every breath.  I prayed, journaled, read.  And I turned on soothing music.  Before long, the feelings passed.  But it wasn't a solitary issue.

While it is uncomfortable to share and write about, I know this same scenario is all too familiar to many reading.  Maybe anxiety is something you struggle with daily, or you've just experienced recently like me, maybe you're in a season of continued stress, or maybe you just really need a mom time-out.

With moms, I know all too well, we tend to put ourselves last.  Self-care goes way down on priority for both time and money, but it is so very important.  Much like when flying in an airplane, the demo speaks to the importance of using the oxygen mask on yourself first.  Because you can't fully care for someone if you are out of air.

So what gives you breath?  What sustains you?  What refills you when you're empty or drained?

I've shared some of my go-tos for stress relief, I welcome you to share yours below.  Or prayer concerns.

If you aren't currently memorizing scripture, I encourage you to do so.  Write it out.  I write a scripture each month on our family calendar, I've been known to write out a treasured one on an index card and place strategically where I need to see it, I've written them on mirrors and even on my hand.  They truly are pieces of armor you can use to weather life's storms.

And as of late, I've been putting my Ipad on a timer and going to sleep listening to God's word.  It has helped my mood, my dreams and my spirit.

I'll close with an invitation for those of you who are local to our church Friday night.  We're having a family movie night and showing the comedy, "Mom's Night Out."  You're guaranteed a free, fun night of laughs.  My cousin and I escaped for a mini hotel getaway when it came out on dvd so I know you'll enjoy it.  It's worthy of a repeat watch.  Message me for details or follow us on Facebook.

And for those afar, I'll leave some of my favorite scriptures that I'm praying will bring you renewed breath.  Put on that oxygen mask and let Him sustain you!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Lessons from the Road

Ok, big oops for the few that read this UNfinished post a few days ago.  
Not sure what happened there....but now it is complete.  Yikes!  

My newly licensed teenage son called me the other night as he was leaving the house.

"I think I may need to replace a tire or something." he says, calmly.

A dozen frantic mom-thoughts ran through my head but I managed to get an equally calm-ish response back to him.  In our brief conversation, I realized he probably had a flat tire.  He turned back into the house to wake his sleeping dad up for a check.

Sure enough, there was a nail inside.

Dad took the opportunity to instill some life lessons in the checking and patching of said tire.  While it may seem obvious to someone who has driven awhile, for a newbie on the road everything is a first.  In Noah's case, he has "low profile" tires - whatever that means - so it wasn't as easy to tell.

Regardless, I'm so thankful for God's protection, and that he took the time to call mom when something didn't seem quite right.  He was going to a night Lifegroup meeting on a curvy road he's never driven, in what was later a nasty thunderstorm.

As he headed back out, a little behind schedule but safe, I thought about how often we barrel down life's highway without checking first.  Or rather praying.  Instead, we just hit the road, oblivious to the dangers that may be lurking.  Taking the time to check - a prayer pit stop - can make all the difference when you're hit with a surprise around the next corner.

This past weekend, Tim and I snuck off for a mini hotel getaway and concert from tickets he'd won on a radio contest.  It was a venue I'd been to before but still needed guidance from the GPS to get me across metro-streets I'm not used to.  I knew the general direction and could basically follow the signs but felt more secure having the back-up.

Though the GPS was guiding me, Tim was in assistance mode from the passenger seat.  He knows I can sometimes get antsy if directions aren't quick enough for the twist and turns ahead.  At one point, I rejected both their suggestions and went with my gut.  My husband let out a sigh and dramatically motioned to the phone, which was also objecting to my lack of turning.

"You're going the wrong way," said Tim.

"Please make a U-turn," states Google.

And I just as dramatically motion for Tim to look up and out.  We were at our destination!

I'm not sure where either were taking me but I had the advantage of seeing where I was going and not just depending on someone else to get me there.  Sometimes, no amount of counsel can get us where we need to be if we're not focused on the road ahead.  I chuckled, remembering our Bible study discussion that same morning.

Prayer is important.  But we sometimes use it as an excuse.

"Well, let me pray on that...."

Goodness knows I'm guilty.  Often I know what I should do, what direction God is nudging me, but I lean on the brakes in hesitation.

When we know where we should go and where God wants us, we just gotta get in, buckle up and drive!  Trusting that, with God as your co-pilot, He'll never steer you wrong.
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