Sunday, July 9, 2017

Birthday Stones

Nobody gives you a guidebook in grief for how to handle holidays, anniversaries or birthdays.

One of the biggest fears, as parents of loss, is that our child will be forgotten. Celebratory milestones magnify that. While you want your child remembered, it's necessary to tiptoe to the occasion in case the pain is too much.

In the past nine years, we've recognized Austin on his birthday in many different ways. None of those years were ever really planned, I just let it be. For a natural born organizer, that's difficult to do but grief changes what is and used to be. Instead, I've let God and Austin guide us through the day.

Landmark birthdays have been the hardest for us...16, 18, 21. Most of the time, Austin is forever 14 but birthdays push us to realize how much time has passed and imagine who he might've been.

His 23rd was yesterday so I knew it would be special. 23 was Austin's favorite number. His first baseball jersey adorned that number and it just stuck. Through the years, he's used 23 to send us sweet signs to let us know he was there.

But the symbolism also put pressure on how we could remember him. Everyone handles grief differently and truly you never know how a certain day will hit you – until it does. Because of this, I never make definite plans in case one of the three of us can't commit.

Sadly, other than Austin's 16th birthday, we've never included other family in his day. Most years, I don't even hear from the majority of them. Maybe it's too hard for them too, or maybe they've just forgotten. While that hurts, my focus moves to my three guys – my husband and sons, one towering over me and one watching from above.

A few days ago, the inspiration came to paint rocks in Austin's memory. Rock painting and hunting has become a recent fad for kids to do at local parks. Our county even has a Facebook page where people can post pics of hints or tag the found rock before rehiding. Knowing how much my boy loved rocks, this seemed like a beautiful way to remember him.

I spent Friday afternoon surrounded by stones and art supplies. With each stroke and swish, my stress seemed to brush away. It's been too long since I've painted and I realized how much it was missed. Creating is therapeutic. I may have found a new hobby.

Saturday the guys agreed to help me hide. We decided to focus on the parks where Austin played ball. Driving down memory lane, we recalled funny moments at the field. Baseball and rocks were two of Austin's passions. His spirit filled the car and every mile of our day.

                   



 


Watching three adults pull into a park, run and play around, searching for the perfect spots to hide, even playing on the equipment probably doesn't look like grief to an outsider. We laughed and enjoyed the day without guilt. We talked about Austin without tears.



Nine years of loss is a place we never expected to be but it's given us permission to grieve out loud. Sometimes grief is uncontrollable sobs and sometimes it is the sweet sound of laughter.

Pulling into the driveway, eight parks and many miles later, I glanced at the clock on the dash and felt Austin's hug. 2:30 pm. A beautiful birthday, indeed.









Friday, June 30, 2017

Tourist Trap

My news feed is swimming with tropical destination photos of families frolicking and posing on the beach.  Or hiking through the mountains and jumping into lakes.  And everyone I know seems to be visiting Disney.

If I'm being honest, there's a bit of jealousy as I scroll.

It's been so long since our family has been on a vacation.  We dreamt of doing so this year, as it is Noah's last summer home before going to college.  But, then a medical scare with my husband wiped out the vacation days saved along with the hope of spending any extra change we might find in our couch cushions.

Geez...

When the enemy seeks to hiss and remind me of all the things I don't get to do - or have - or places we can't visit, I must cling to the roots of the One who has already given me all I'll ever need.

I'm already a traveler, a tourist, as this earth is not my home.  May I not get trapped by the enemy's lies and manipulations to make me feel He has given me less.  Comparison is the thief of joy!

After my pity party, I'm reminded of all I have to be thankful for.  Despite not having answers, Tim is gaining health daily and by my side.  We have each other and an amazing son who still enjoys simply hanging out on the couch with his parents.  In so many ways, I know we are more fortunate than most.

Ironically, many of the photos I've seen online also contain complaints about the vacation they're on.  Disney may be known as the happiest place on earth but apparently it can also bring out the worst. I can recall some vacation disasters myself, or at least moments of the trip that were not so enjoyable.  In fact, our last beach trip ended with a visit to the ER, when our son fell and tore a ligament.  Not the souvenir we intended to bring home!

A wise and dear friend summed it up best today and I couldn't word it any better.  Sweetly, she agreed to let me share.

 No matter where we may be, we can still choose that happy place in our world. Someone is always going to want to rain on our parade, but we can choose joy, despite their disposition. 
Our own position is what really matters.

I know that my position places me in a bloodline as an heir to Christ. I am a child of the One True King! I celebrate the Giver of life and all He has given me! 
I can stand under His umbrella when others try to drown out my Son-shine! 
And I must remember that a little rain helps my growth process.

Tomorrow, my location may change, but I can still choose joy



Wherever life takes you this summer, I hope you pack and carry a little JOY with you!



Monday, June 19, 2017

Dad's Day Delimmas

After the month Tim's had, I wanted him to have a good Father's Day.  Not knowing how he'd feel though made planning difficult.  And, being that we couldn't do his favorite outing - fishing, it left us wondering how to make it special.

We set out Saturday for lunch and a movie, figuring both were indoors and cool so not to aggravate his breathing.  But about 10 minutes into the meal, Tim quickly deflated.  Actually, he later admitted that he wasn't feeling well when he awoke but he didn't want to disappoint us so he pushed through, hoping it would pass.  Stubborn man...

Once home, we got him tucked into bed and worked on making the most of Sunday for him.  It further put a kink in our plans because, as a side effect to the numerous meds they've pumped into Tim, he now has thrush.

Poor guy.

Father's Day is hard enough.  Every day is difficult when you've lost a child but a holiday dedicated to reminding you about being a parent adds to the sting.  Not that we'll ever forget Austin - or want to - but I usually try and plan things centered around what he loves most, in hopes to somewhat distract from the pain of the day.

When you take away fishing, fun and food from my guy, there isn't a lot left to make him smile.

But his baby boy stepped up big this weekend and helped Tim feel extra loved.  And the best part is, he did it on his own.  Sometimes I forget how grown up he has become.

Having his Dad in the hospital was tough on Noah and I think the timing of the holiday allowed him to share how much he really means to him.  When we returned home from church, Tim found a note and photo collage that brought tears to both of our eyes.

While his dad was napping, Noah set to prepping the feast he'd shopped on his own for.  My spice master had to tone down his plans a bit, taking into account Tim's tender mouth.  But, as always, our chef in the making did not disappoint.  (those ribs...that sauce!  Man, I'm hungry now)

As you can see from Tim's expression he was well-pleased.
And that was before he even tasted!

     

After dinner, when Tim starting hinting for dessert, Noah left to get his favorite shake, extra soothing in his recovery.  He came in with more than a frosty cup though and shocked his Dad even more.

We'd heard Tim mention a new pole the store got in stock and knew it was on his wish list. After losing a pole to the "one that got away" earlier this year, he was tickled to have a high tech version with an bite alarm.  Both Noah and I got a chuckle at him dream fishing from his recliner.  He held on to the pole until time to leave for work!

In the end, I think he had a Father's Day to remember and felt how loved and treasured he is to both of us.  Now to just get him well and back on the boat!



Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mind over Matter

One of our summer traditions every Friday is that Noah and I will go out for lunch on a culinary adventure.  We've been doing this for the past couple years and it's something we look forward to all week.  Given his interest and passion in the field, our trips seem to fuel his desire to be a chef even more.

We're a month into the season and this has been the first outing I've been able to really enjoy.  Sickness seemed to hit our family on the cusp of Memorial day weekend, so our summer hasn't quite been what we'd imagined.  Given that it is Noah's last before college, it makes it even harder to see the weeks slipping by.

Illness has taken the driver seat in the Blair house and attempted to steer and control our emotions.  While it has been what has kept from writing, I'm determined to not let it steal my joy.

Even when you're aware and fighting against it, stress has a way of sneaking in and distracting you without your permission.  I've noticed it in my guys, as they've been very forgetful.  Tim fell asleep the other day and left the dogs outside.  Noah turned his back on the stove and filled the house with smoke.  I'm not even sure what day it is most of the time so I know I'm not in any better shape!

For those of you who are inclined to pray, we're hopeful for complete healing for my husband from an unknown respiratory illness.  And answers.  This momma has a hard time hearing "unknown" and respiratory illness in the same sentence, after losing her son in a very similar way.

It doesn't matter how many eye rolls, avoidance, or even being called "Dr Google" by physicians, who don't seem to care about my concerns or lack of a diagnosis, I will press on.  

As determined as I may seem at present, it has been difficult to stay focused on what matters most and find joy in every day.  Yes, even this joy-seeking girl was knocked on her bottom the past week and had my own share of pity parties.

Though we've been blessed with church family and friends, who have walked alongside us, visited Tim in the hospital, checked in regularly, and are praying constantly, there have been times I've felt very alone. 

But God hasn't ceased in sending me hope and encouragement. 

Somehow messages always seem to come when I need them most, as well as scripture. It is no surprise I've been studying Ephesians, Philippians and 1 Peter, Suffering is inevitable in this world but despite life's roller coaster, our constant is the JOY of the Lord.  

We may never get the answers to why this is happening but we do know Who is in control.  Time and time again, I'm reminded that my joy is not tied to my circumstances.  Happiness can change with the weather but my joy comes within and nothing can take that away.

Aside from my faith, I've been practicing a simple technique I read about during the long hours waiting in the ER.  When we're faced with every day obstacles, chores, needs, we can choose our attitude in how we approach it.

Instead of saying I have to....I try to say I GET to.

Goodness, how that shifts my perspective.

I get to sleep in the chair next to my husband, night after night, because he is still with me.
I get to drive back and forth from home to hospital because I have a job to help provide for us.

I get to do extra laundry and dishes and sort out medicine and take on extra responsibilities around the house because God gives me the strength to endure.

I get to ask for prayers for my family because we have loving relationships with faith-minded friends who will stand with us in trials.

I get to stay inside where it is cool and keep my husband from the heat because we are fortunate to have a home with air conditioning.

And funny enough, I used the same technique to get through a creepy culinary bite that my son ordered.  Our goal each Friday is to either eat somewhere new or try a dish we've never had.  Yesterday we checked both those off our list and ordered a quail egg appetizer off the sushi menu.  



I'm not sure what we expected but the raw eggs staring back at us on a plate were not what either us envisioned.  Noah's giant hand gingerly picked up his tiny shell and held it up for me toast the moment.  

Instead of saying, I have to eat this slimy egg, I whispered, 
"I get to try a new experience with my son"....
several times before I sucked the concoction through clenched teeth.


I can't guarantee that this technique will make what your facing any easier to swallow 
but it will help you stomach what's ahead!





Friday, May 12, 2017

Braking for Butterflies

Self-care has been the topic of conversation in the homes I visited this week.  As Mother's Day approaches, I felt it was timely to remind these new and young mommas to put themselves first - at least once a day.

That's not easy for most moms.  It's natural for us to want to help and care for others and put ourselves last.  But, if we are running on empty, we aren't offering anyone our best.  Practicing self-care is the one time in our day it is ok to be selfish.  Mommas, you need this time.  

It doesn't have to take long or even cost money.  In digging online to find nuggets of inspo for my visits, I found two great resources that I'll share with you too:  31 Quick Self-Care Tips and a Self-Care calendar.

I also found a list of Affirmations I'll challenge each of you to print and read to yourself as you begin or end every day.

In my final visit of the week, as we were painting butterflies with tiny baby footprints, a mom made a suggestion that changed my day.  She mentioned that if I drove a different direction home, I'd come across a spot where butterflies liked to play.  Little did she know how special those tiny flying creatures are to me.

Butterflies, specifically yellow ones, have been a sign from Austin since we lost him in 2008.  He's sent them at times there can be no other explanation than to know it was heaven-sent.  For instance, we've been visited by butterflies in the middle of winter, upon freshly fallen snow.

As I headed out her driveway, I began to make excuses as to why I didn't have the five extra minutes it would take to go another direction.  But a persistent little butterfly cut in my path and demanded my attention.  It danced in front of the car as if to say, follow me!

I'm so thankful I listened.

What a difference one turn or choice makes in our day.  Within moments, it felt as if I was on Butterfly Drive because I had to slow down, just to prevent hitting them from fluttering across the road.  Easily finding the spot she'd recommended, I pulled over to take in the scenery.

They were very camera shy so I didn't capture any to share.  Honestly, I was so mesmerized and at peace, I didn't think to take any until almost ready to leave.

I did pause to take a photo of a nearby creek because it was also breathtaking and stilled my soul.


Though I stayed only a few moments, it was sustenance I didn't even realize I needed.

Upon leaving, I broke down in tears and found myself in prayer the remainder of my drive.  Mother's Day weekend will always be bittersweet.  When you have lost a child, it changes the holiday forever.  And although I am beyond blessed to have a towering gentle giant still at home, I will never forget the one who made me Mom first.

Though I prayed for peace and strength as I face the weekend, what I found is that most of my prayer was gratitude.  For the 14 years we had with Austin...for the way God has healed us through this journey...and for the sneak peaks of Heaven he allows when Austin sends us whispers of love.

If you are facing this holiday with loss, whether from a baby you never got to meet, a child gone too soon, or even your own mother's passing, my heart goes out to you.  Be extra gentle on yourself this weekend.  Allow tears to fall.  Embrace the memories.  And if one dances by, brake for butterflies.



Monday, May 8, 2017

Fancy Dance

My baby attended his junior prom this past weekend.  It's hard to believe he is old enough for such a thing.  I'm still getting used to the fact he can drive.  Goodness, how quickly kids grow...



Seems like just yesterday he was preparing for his first grade school dance.  In fact, while attempting to search for a photo from long ago, I stumbled on a funny story.

(Gotta love Facebook for a history log of memories!)

I asked Noah what he wanted to wear to his
 Valentine's Dance tonight. 
He said, "Mom, it is just a 4th grade dance, 
not the Jr Prom...who cares?!" ...such a boy!

After reading it, I remembered the occasion, and thought it was timely to find, since he just went to his actual Jr. prom.

Being one of his first dances and on Valentine's, I expected he would want to go all out.  Noah was quite the romantic in grade school.  In first grade, he actually had five "girlfriends" - one for every day of the week!

And even though he commented he didn't care what he wore, pictures don't lie.  He was stylin and profiling.

He certainly changed his tune for this event, as he had definite ideas for how he wanted to dress for the occasion.  Purple became the main color because it is his favorite but each piece, even the suit, had stylish details.  He chose a pop of orange, despite the frown of the clerk measuring him, just because he wanted to.  I loved the end result.  And of course, as you'll see below, he had to include funky socks from his ever-growing collection.

Seven or eight years may have dramatically changed his height, maturity and looks but he still has lots of spunk and character.  We were rolling in laughter Friday night, while trying to take photos.


     

Oh, how I love his spirit.
This boy sure brings me joy!

Not having a current girlfriend, he contemplated even attending this year.  Momma talked him into it though, as I didn't go to prom and always regretted it.

Going with friends made for a unique experience.  They met up for sushi and went bowling afterward but neither were really planned.  I'm sure there were lots of laughs and stories he didn't choose to share through the night.  The only thing he didn't do a lot of was dance.  Mr. Social, he said he spent most of the night just making rounds and talking.


However, I'm sure there was a girl or two there that wished he had asked them to dance.  This mom may be biased but he is a cutie pie.

I asked him later what he thought about prom.  He said he was glad I nudged him to go but that in the end he decided it was just an expensive homecoming.  Aka - a Fancy Dance.

That's my boy...


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Panoramic View

Phones are so advanced now they can take a panoramic picture that moves 360-degrees, to let you view any direction from a single position.

I've been around long enough to move from Polaroids (to back again), to inserting film and having it developed, to disposable cameras, to digital, to ones we carry with us everywhere we go.

I remember when panoramic options came out on cameras and how cool that seemed.  That is, until I realized they were too big to fit in my acid free photo album.


Lately, I feel like my life is in a bit of a panoramic view.  As a 40-something, I consider myself somewhat middle aged.  (Yikes, that was hard to type!) But, I'm truly at a point where I can look back over the first half of my life and see ahead to the last.

Sitting in the middle has its ups and downs.

Looking back, I can see lessons learned and share that advice with my nearly adult teen.  The trials I thought were insurmountable, I've now gleaned wisdom from the experience.  And I can see big picture, full circle moments from God.

Thinking ahead though sometimes wears me out.  I wonder, if I'm this tired and achy at my age, what in the world will become of me in 40 more years!  Sometimes I find myself staring at the elderly, or even those just 10-15 years older, and imagining what life might be like at that stage.  Often I compare their physical abilities to mine.  Sadly, there are quite a few senior citizens who can run circles around me.

This past Sunday, our sermon was on how we're to press forward, not focused on the past.  For a girl big on memories and childhood nostalgia, that can be hard.  But I get the point, especially if we're letting the past weigh us down.

What I know, from experience, is that the future can sometimes seem just as daunting.  We can let fears of what is to come overwhelm us. So aside from knowing and clinging to what my ultimate prize is, I'm choosing to focus my view on today.

With the beautiful weather we've been having, my husband and I enjoy spending time on our deck.  Whether for early morning coffee or evening skyscapes, we've been amused at bird watching lately.  There's a nest of robin eggs above our security light, right over our back door.  The parents of this nest aren't too happy with our new seating arrangements and momma bird will often squawk her objections.

We have tried to stay quiet and I've resorted to holding a pillow so I won't talk with my hands.  This weekend she eventually braved up and hopped onto her nest while were out there.  I whispered under my breath for Tim to notice and the silly man tried to take a picture!  Of course, she flew off and then went into an argumentative rebuttal that had us both chuckling.

I tried to reason with momma bird and explain that sometimes we just can't control our men.  She cocked her head as if to say, "Girl, don't I know it."  My hope is that she'll forget his mistake and earn our trust again.

Aside from me fussing at Tim to be nicer to our extended family, we did have a good conversation about God all because of the birds.  If He can take the time to create so many different types, who each sing a different tune, and knows all the feathers in their wings, plus provides for their every need, won't He do the same (or more) for his children?

And looking back over the view of lessons from the weekend, I think He was trying to tell me just that.  Do not worry about tomorrow (or what has happened in the past), simply enJOY today!




Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Protect your Balloons

My mother has battled depression for many years.  For any one who faces this demon, my heart goes out to you for your bravery in battling each day.

I say it is a battle because I've watched her fighting.  It is tangible, physical.  Some days it is an uphill struggle.  Some days the attack defeats you.  Some days the enemy retreats and there are breaks of peace.

As of late, I have noticed a shift in mom's attitude though, and as a direct result, I think her depression is improving.  Things that would normally bother her, I see her shrugging off.  Where negative comments once would have entered, she spouts something positive.

She said something so wise to me a few weeks ago at lunch that I've wanted to share.

"When my balloons are up, I'm not risking being around someone who will pop them!"



I'm not sure she realizes how profound this is but I'm so very proud of her.

My mom has loved Eeyore for as long as I can remember.  Maybe it is because she could relate to his moods.  There are times we have to 'kick her in the pants' and remind her she is being like her purple friend.

But I can't remember the last time I've had to give her a pep talk.  Instead, I find her giving them to me!

You can't control when depression hits but you can control your attitude every day.  You can control your outlook on life and how you face each obstacle.  And that helps you battle this disease.

Choosing to protect your "balloons" keeps from letting others drag you down.  If you know you're prone to sadness, don't be around negative Nancies.  It just adds rain to the cloud.

Finding joy can be difficult when facing depression or great loss, but it is possible.  The first step is choice.  Choose to get up, put one foot in front of the other, and focus on the now.  Choose to see the beauty in the day, despite the sadness that may be present.  There is always something, even if a tiny sliver, that can bring you hope.  And if you'll do this day by day, the joy becomes easier to find.  Pretty soon, joy floods and cancels out darkness.


Imagine starting each morning with a balloon.  

That balloon represents the good - the JOY - that you have.  It could be watching a beautiful sunrise.  Hearing birds chirping outside your window.  Hugging a friend.  Having two legs to get out of bed.  A strong cup of coffee.  You choose...

But visibly put that joy inside your balloon and let it float.  Take it with you, wherever you go.
If you can find more than one joy, imagine more balloons.  

Now, protect them.  
If you see storm clouds brewing, stand strong.  
If someone threatens to pop them, walk away.  
Do whatever it takes to hold on to that balloon.

And then do it again tomorrow.




Sunday, April 16, 2017

Choices

According to multiple sources online, the average adult makes over 35,000 choices a day.  That number seems unreal to me.

Thinking through my typical day...
Will I get up immediately or hit snooze?  Shower or no?  Curly or straight?  Dress up or down?  Should I wake my son now or let him sleep?  Will he get up easy or struggle?  Extra coffee or make time for breakfast?  And that is only the first 15 minutes of my day.

Most of my choices are habitual, automatic, turning in places before I've really thought out loud.  At work and on the road I'm faced with choosing and prioritizing, shifting and dealing with constant changes in plans.

Once home, the ultimate question my husband and I face daily - what's for dinner?  Even being the planner I am, that one still plagues me, as it depends on my mood, energy level, and the weather to what sounds appealing to us both.

The majority of my choices don't have heavy consequences.  When I am faced with ones that require more thought, I am one to analyze and pray, if given the time.

Yet today, after a simple sunrise service, I've thought about nothing else but choices.

Sitting on the front row, my view was three simple wooden crosses under a sky, still streaked with black and navy, as morning began to wake.

There's a lot of focus put on the cross at Easter.  For Christians, it is a symbol of our freedom from death, the sacrifice of our Savior, but also a heavy reminder of our guilt in sin that led him there.

This morning though,my eyes shifted to the two crosses on each side.  And I was reminded how a single choice had such very different endings for the men who were with Jesus that day.

One chose life, in asking for forgiveness, moments before his death.  The other mocked Jesus and sealed his own fate.

Darkness to light.  One single choice.

As the sun began to stretch across the horizon, I noticed the glow it cast onto the cross in the middle.
At one point all I could see was light and the reminder of death had all but disappeared.


For the men on those crosses that day, they knew their time on earth was short.  Most of us don't have that foreshadowing.  But all of us have the opportunity to make the ultimate choice between everlasting life and eternal death.  Until we don't.






Thursday, April 13, 2017

Where's your Focus?

My husband's simple prayer at dinner one night this week nearly brought me to my knees.

We were both struggling with back pain, though for different reasons.  I've been blessed to not really have back issues until the past month or so.  It has been one of the few parts of my body I can count on (or could!). Whether from age or changing needs at work, I come home most days lately in pain.  Tim is battling a kidney stone (ouch!) something he's been lucky to avoid for many years as well.  

As we eased down to our meal, we were both hurting but the words my husband spoke completely changed the focus.

"If it be your will, help us with this pain, though we know it is nothing compared to what your Son endured this week for us."

Lord, help me...

My temporary pain seemed so trivial compared against what Jesus suffered for my sins.  Was I really just whining about the inconvenience?  At the same time I was both upset and frustrated for Tim.  He's had a rough six months medically.  It's difficult to watch someone you love hurting, knowing there isn't much you can do to help.

When we're in the midst of troubles, it is easy to wallow around in a pity party and question why we go through the trials we do.  I know I've even tried to quantify it in the past, as if God is keeping a tally sheet and I'm somehow eligible for exemption based on a lifetime of pain and loss.

Yet, it's made me ponder since, how often do we get so wrapped up in our hurts and hangups that we have blinders to anything else?  

This world is so hectic and fast paced, even on an ordinary day we can walk right past someone in need without noticing.  But it's much more likely we miss them when we're bogged down by own issues and pains.  It's certainly hard to help someone when you're hurting yourself.

And that's just where the enemy wants us.

Friends, life is hard.  He wants you so focused on your needs that you don't have the ability to see anyone else.  Or, to be so inundated with physical and emotional needs that we have no time to dwell on the one that means the most - our spiritual health.

Facebook is flooded with prayer requests.  Every day I read stories that cause me to shake my head in disbelief.  Heartbreaking needs that pause me to pray.  We're so quick to ask for prayers on social media that sadly there are now even fake chain requests.

And I'm not saying we shouldn't pray for those hurting or in need of healing.  I believe in the power of prayer and am grateful for an extra outlet to lift those up in need.

But aside from my Lifegroup and a dear prayer partner, I rarely get requests to pray for someone's salvation.  When is the last time you saw a status update asking for prayer for someone who is lost? #prayingforsalvation

It just doesn't happen.  Maybe because we're so weighed down with the every day chaos that is life.  However, we have the power to change and shift our focus.  To lean in closer and hear the whispers of God.

When an ache presses me to move or take notice, my new hope is that it reminds me to pray for someone who is facing eternal pain.  If I feel overwhelmed from a minor issue, may it help me to refocus on what matters most.  Whatever we endure here is temporary.

Nothing - no pain on this earth - equals the void and loss that comes with not having a personal and everlasting relationship with Jesus.  

As we enter this Easter weekend, my prayer is that I'll be more burdened to notice those with the greatest need of all.  If I'm focused on One that matters most, I know He'll lead me in the right direction.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Terrific Twos

Last weekend, we had the pleasure of keeping my nephew, Eli.  He was good as gold but I forgot how exhausting caring for a toddler can be!  Maybe that's why it has taken me a week to recap our adventures.

We weren't sure how he would do, never having spent the night with us, but he was eager to travel with Aunt Heather.  Living in the city, I don't think he's used to long distance because if he said "we go Heather's" once during our drive, he said it a hundred times.  

Since I know a two year old can really only wait patiently about two minutes, we passed the time by talking about the view out our windows.  I mentioned the barns, horses, fields and cows we saw along the way.  Somehow that translated into me actually having cows in my backyard.  Once we got settled at home, he kept going to the back door and looking for them.

Although it was a little chilly and we were running short on daylight, I decided to surprise him and run up to our family farm to visit the longhorns.  The cows weren't visible when we pulled in but a quick shake of the gate had them rounding the hill in no time.  Excitement turned quickly to fear as they drew closer and Eli took off back for the safety of the car!  It took a bit of coaxing but he was soon a master farmhand and loved feeding the cows.  


In fact, the rest of his stay that's about all he talked about.  He still believed they were in my backyard and would look out the door asking for them.  "Feed cows?" he would sweetly say.

After a day of reading, playing, naps and cows, Aunt Heather decided dinner would be easier if someone else cooked!  Noah happened to be working that night and, knowing Eli loved him and pizza, that became our dinner plans.  He couldn't have been better, passing the picking on uncle Tim and watching Noah cook.  We shared so many laughs at his funny, inquisitive personality and spunk.    And we couldn't have asked for a more well-behaved toddler out and about.
Noah snuck him off a piece of dough and he pretended to "cook" with his buddy.  He was so focused, rolling and patting, adding sauce with his fork and even a pepperoni on top.  I love watching their little brains think and work.


Or imagine, create and build.


And decorate the doggie...


Who says these are the terrible twos?  I'd say they're pretty terrific!



  

Saturday, March 25, 2017

As for me and my house...

In some ways, 15 years seems so long ago.  In others, it seems like just yesterday.

I can vividly remember pulling into the subdivision of our soon-to-be home for the first time, with our excited boys in the backseat.  They eagerly bounced into the empty rooms, laughter and racing footsteps echoing off bare walls.

Tim had discovered the house through a friend and had already inspected it prior to showing us.  He quietly guided me around the space, letting me imagine our life in this home.  I could envision the boys growing up here, playing in the backyard and making friends in the culdesac neighborhood.  The green street sign seemed to welcome us, displaying the word HOPE, symbolizing the dreams we had for our future.

As I wrote the check for our last mortgage payment this week, tears threatened to smudge the ink.  Emotions overtook me so I stopped to praise God in the driveway before heading to the bank.  Not just because home ownership at our age is an accomplishment but also due to the journey we traveled to get here.

I'm not sure those two young kids realized the roller coaster they were signing up for when they signed the loan papers to purchase this home.  It was the first major purchase for either of us and we knew nothing about interest rates, property taxes or insurance.  By the grace of God, we listened to someone along the way and chose a somewhat higher payment to ensure a fifteen year mortgage, instead of thirty.

At the time, the price difference didn't feel a burden.  I had recently been promoted at my job, Tim had managed to move up in his and we were doing well.  We would never have guessed that a few short months of moving in, Tim would lose his job.  Unemployment as new home owners was a scary awareness that we weren't prepared for the real world.  Somehow we made it through that hurdle and lots of smaller financial roadblocks along the way.

Midway through we suffered the greatest loss ever and questioned if we could still live here without our oldest son.  So many memories in every corner of this little house.  Many offered opinions about it being better for us to move.  In the end, we realized those imprints and moments were all we had left of Austin and they brought more comfort than pain.

For both boys, this was their childhood home.  They grew up along with the pear trees we planted our first year.  Birthdays and celebrations were held here.  Basketball games and bicycle lessons given in the driveway.  Homework and family meals shared at the table.  Giggles and wrestling in the living room floor.  Tent sleepovers, pool parties, and barbecues in the backyard.  A lifetime of precious moments over the course of a decade and a half.

Noah was only two when we moved in and couldn't even reach the light switch.  Now he has to duck to not hit his head on the ceiling fan!  Soon, we'll become empty-nesters, free to tinker around with the someday tasks we've put off through the years.

As we reached the tail end of our payments, we would be hit with job losses for both us and a significant change in income.  Prayerfully, we clung to our trust in God and turned to him for guidance.  Somehow he made less stretch into enough.  And though these last few years have been the tightest, it has taught us much.

Less is more.  
Comparison is the thief of joy.  
Live like nobody today so you can live like nobody tomorrow.

Ours will never be on a home tour for Christmas, as it is more of a "before" pic than a show-stopper after. But there's more love and stories in these faded walls, tinged with fingerprints and dings from rowdy boys than any model house will ever have.  I'm beyond blessed for this simple home, even more so now that it is paid in full!


Thankful. JOY-filled and giving God all the glory on this milestone!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Forever Young

Noah catches me staring at him often.  And sometimes sneaking pictures.


But I still can't believe my boy has gone from baby to grown in the blink of an eye.

I wish someone told me how fast time flies.  Like really told me.  Life goes by so much quicker than you imagine.  Because in my mind, he's still a rambunctious, rowdy, spunky toddler running through the house, superhero cape flapping behind.  Well, some things never change I guess -minus the cape.

I'm sure no matter how old he becomes, I'll always see a mixture of childhood mingled with man.

About a moment after snapping the photo above, a pillow went flying through the air toward my head.  (He thoroughly dislikes having his picture taken.)  Yet amazingly, a few days later, he actually sat and smiled for a pic.


I reminded him we hadn't taken a good photo of his healed tattoo.  Still proud to show it, he gladly paused and let me.

A tattoo in honor of his big brother, representing everything he stood for...baseball, band and being a firefighter.  And of course, Austin's life verse - 1 Timothy 4:12.

first tattoo
 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, 
but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

Noah's first view

After many drawings, revisions, discussion and final artwork by the tattoo artist, we're all happy with the end design.  Noah most of all, who moments after seeing it, breathed, 
"I've wanted this for so long."

I'm sure there are some who think he's way to young for a tattoo.  And in some cases, I would agree. But this wasn't a rash decision made by an inexperienced youth. 

Sadly, he's been envisioning this tattoo for nearly eight years.  He went with both his dad and me to watch us get memorial ink. For years, he's shared his desire to have one of his own.  He wanted our blessing and we were by his side every step of the way.   He now has a tangible piece of Austin looking over his right shoulder.  

My prayer, when he looks at the black and grey lines, is that he remembers the pattern and mark Austin left behind.  That he'll recall the happy memories they shared more than the pain of loss.  And that he will, in turn, share with others the legacy of Austin.  Age is just a number.  Anything is possible, achievable, no matter how old - or young you are.  But whatever you do, live your life to bring glory to God.

Austin will always be forever young.  He may have left us too soon but lived more in his 14 years than most do in a lifetime.

Noah lives each day with the same passion and drive.  He never doubts or questions if he can do something, especially when others might think age is a factor.  I know Austin would be proud of his little brother.  We certainly are.  

I hope he continues facing life forever young - full of ambition and excitement, eager to learn, willing to be an example to others, ready to face the next chapter, whatever it holds.



Friday, February 24, 2017

Keep on the Sunny Side

It's the middle of February and we're having a heat wave.  Trees budding, plants blooming, and birds chirping to announce spring is here.  Maybe... By this evening our temperature will drop from a near record 80 to mid 30s.  With a change that drastic, storms are inevitable.

From sunny to dreary in a matter of a day.  High to low, no in between.

I know a few people like this. They're either really happy or they're deeply depressed and there doesn't seem to be a middle.  There is no contentedness in the every day.

What I see is that their happiness depends on their circumstances, which can change as quickly and unpredictably as the weather.  As the storms of life appear, their emotions waver.

We have a local radio station that airs for one hour each day during lunch.  At least once in the week, they ask callers to share a complaint, or as they call it, "What's their beef?"  There is no shortage in phone calls.

Turn on the news.  Scan social media.  Spend more than a few minutes with most people and you are sure to hear complaining, whining, or griping.  Negativity is everywhere.

I'm not without blame.  In my house, I probably complain more than anyone else.  Of course, when compared to my two guys - that is a hard act to follow.  It is rare, and normally takes intense physical pain, to see either of them slightly protest or grumble.

But in the big picture and every day, I am more likely to see and announce the silver linings.  There's something deep within that drives me to search for the good of the situation.  Despite the storm clouds looming, I am looking for the rainbow that may appear.

It is what fills me with hope and brings me joy.

Some days it comes easy, others you have to make an effort.  What I've found is that surrounding yourself with more light than dark ensures the difference.

Turn off the news.  Block the negative Nancies online.  Steer clear of sandpaper paper, or kill em' with kindness.  Focus on the good in every day.  Practice self-care.  And remember, positive always defeat negative.


Happiness is fleeting...JOY is everlasting!


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Love is...

Valentine's Day.
The ultimate opportunity for comparisons and gauging the level of love in one's relationship.

Was the gift big enough?  Did it surprise?  Better than a friend's online or the next desk over?
Did they remember at all?   I'm sure many ended their night either on a high or low from whatever their loved one did or didn't do.

But that isn't love.

Love isn't symbolized by something you buy in a store.  Love isn't meant to only be expressed one day of the year.  Love is everything that the commercialized version of Valentine's Day is not.



Love is buying chocolates the day after because they taste better when half price.  And being frugal is sexy.

Love is flowers, just because, picked from the side of the road on a day you don't expect them.

Love is being content with a simple dinner at home and snuggling in pjs on the couch.

Love is coming home to an empty sink and freshly vacuumed floor after a long day at work.

Love is also hard.

Love is not giving up when things get tough.  Loving them even when they aren't lovable.  Love is forgiveness.

Love is a note tucked under a pillow or written in the fog on the mirror.

Love is letting you warm your feet on them under the covers on a cold night.

Love is lifting the other when they are weak.  Caring for them not only when they are sick but often when they're sad.  Love is being their safe place to fall.

Love is knowing all their flaws or failures and seeing the best parts above them all.  But love is pushing, encouraging and helping them be better too.

Love is saying "I do" every single day.

Love is rare.  Love is a gift.  Love is enough.








Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Temporary Home

Catching the last few lines of a popular song by Carrie Underwood the other day brought me back to saying goodbye to my Grandpa in the hospital, many years ago.

While it was difficult to let him go, and I still miss him to this day, we'd watched him suffer from kidney failure and other complications for years.  He needed the peace that comes with leaving this earth.  At a certain point we even prayed it for him and gave him permission to leave, our family circling his bed in unison and love.

And I will never forget the serenity in the room when, after weeks of holding on but in a lifeless state, he raised his arm, smiled that unforgettable grin of his, and said, "Jesus."  There was no doubt Who was in the room with us -or where he was about to go.

I've had similar experiences with elderly loved ones.

I sat with my Grandmother the night before she passed.  Her children had been taking turns for weeks at the hospital and I offered to give them a break.  My goal wasn't just to let them have rest but to be there specifically to pray for her to have peace.  I knew the only way that would come for her, is if she left us.

Hers was the first I actively prayed for her passing.  Suffering from COPD, she struggled for every single breath.  And with each new shift, she was adamant the nurses rewrite in bold red letters "DNR" on her erase board.  When I left her that morning, I knew it would be the last time I hugged and kissed her goodbye.  My phone rang telling me of the news within minutes of making it home to bed.

And I had the priviledge to sit at mother-in-law's side, hours before she transitioned from this world.  Stage 4 cancer wrecked havoc on her small frame and I pained along with her as she tossed and moaned from her hospital bed.  Pulling out my Bible app, I began to read scripture aloud.  Instantly peace fell upon the room.  Again, where before there was only mutterings, the name of "Jesus" was clear upon her lips.  Her body was at ease and restful as her sons arrived to visit.

In all of those situations, though I grieved the loss of their presence in my life, I was at ease in knowing they'd moved to a better place.  To their Home.  And it is perhaps why I often don't feel sadness at funerals of those who have lived a long and good life.  I knew that for them, there was no more sickness, no more pain, only peace.


Though I knew the same for my son, the grieving process is so very different when losing a child.  A child's death is sudden, unexpected, even if they were ill.  In our case, it was a total shock.  And that made the timing even more difficult to let go and move forward.

He was so young....

There was so much life ahead for him...

Wonder what he would have become...

As a momma, you want your babies HOME with you, even long after they've grown.  A struggle I'm feeling in a new transition, as my baby is counting the days to be college bound.  His plans include being home less, which is a difficult adjustment for this mom.

It's an internal, magnetic pull to want family together in your home.

My favorite time of the day is the end, when we're all back and settled from our outside lives and gathered together under one roof.

Even back then, I desired this.  My last words to Austin were, "Be home...before midnight."
I just didn't expect he would arrive in his Heavenly home instead of ours.

With another birthday under my belt, I'm aware of a shifting.  I find myself studying older people, pondering on the life they've lived.  When visiting with people decades older, I'm now gauging their health against mine.  I know with each year, it is more important to have quality over quantity.  I feel a responsibility to be the best me I can be for as long as I'm here.

Yet I also realize a change in the pull to be home.  The older I get, the more I appreciate the gift that is each day but the more I'm focused on my someday permanent home.

It's not that I am ungrateful to be here but rather the opposite.  I realize how precious life is.  I'm filled with wonder at the beauty of another sunrise and the blessing it is to spend time with those you love.  I'm driven to fulfill my purpose for as long as God deems fit but drawn more often to things not of this world.  My soul is expectant for that day I will forever be Home.

In the waiting, my prayer is that I make the most of every moment and honor God in all I do.  Though this home is temporary, it is given to me with a heavenly expectation of purposeful service.



Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Joy in Pain?

When pain is present it tries to take over everything.  Priorities shift without your consent.  Focus is lost. Panic spreads. Fear invades.  Pain is controlling, isolating, debilitating.

My poor hubby is still battling lots of pain and little answers.  He's been strapped onto a health roller coaster the past six months and all of us are ready for departure.

Watching someone you love hurting and being unable to fix it is the absolute worst feeling.  This past weekend was spent in a cloud of chaos and emotions, as we witnessed him suffering with nothing to do to ease his pain.  At times, the pain was so great that there was no position to find comfort and sleep wasn't even possible.

He had every reason to be grumpy or irritable but wasn't, even when we made a wasted trip out for help or when two giant needles were shoved into his knee.  Through it all, he joked around, shared kindness and left people with a smile.  He continually amazes me.

I'd like to say his wife modeled the same but instead I stewed...and worried...and showed frustration.  Sunday I snapped at Noah to get out of bed and ready for church, then slumped onto a footstool in tears, pouring out my prayers at His feet.

I was saddened for Tim, scared for our future and angry this was happening.

When you've faced great suffering in life, there comes a point when you feel the quota has been met.  At times I just wanted to scream, haven't we been through enough?  Bitterness can easily creep in and fill the spaces, pushing out any chance for hope, if we let it.  I could feel emotions bubbling, as I battered back and forth with God.  From irritation to desperation.

Yet every time the enemy would hiss and bring up flashes of all we've endured, I would find myself countering with all God's blessings and promises.  And my heart would lift up scripture from deep within that would bring me peace.

In this life you will have trouble...
but do not worry about tomorrow...
for our present troubles are small...
not worth comparing to the glory that awaits

In the midst of Tim's struggles, our family has been in constant prayer for the new pastor God is calling to our church.  I know it isn't a coincidence that as I have served in this role, we've been under ongoing attacks.  I also know the enemy wants nothing more but to distract me from the task at hand. This could easily discourage me, yet the fact that Satan has been so busy fills me with excitement for what is to come.  Big spiritual attacks mean bigger plans for salvation.  

This I know above all....My God is greater.  My God provides.  My God's promises never fail.

Good - beyond my imagination - is on the horizon and I'm sustained in resting in this knowledge.  Joy fills me, despite the pain we are presently enduring, because I know who holds our future.

Even when we feel weak, we can be strong in God's power.  Even in suffering and pain, we can rejoice.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Nerdy Boys

When meeting with pregnant moms and new families, I often do an exercise that has them look ahead to the future, to envision who their child may be.  This particular session helps parents choose characteristics that are important to them and see how they have the ability to help shape who they become.

As my boys were growing up, I sensed they would be athletic but it was obvious early on that neither would be a jock.  Both loved baseball and began playing almost before they could reach the tee.  Austin grew to love watching the sport more than playing and even coached, though he was young.  Noah dabbled in about every sport through grade school, from soccer to basketball to a short stint in football.  Though they had the build, sports just weren't their passion.

Austin took after me and was quiet, reserved, with a handful of close friends, but a friendly face to many.  He was content reading and being alone, collecting rocks, playing chess and being in the band.

Noah, on the other hand, was a talker who never met a stranger.  Every parent-teacher conference I've ever attended, the teacher has made it a point to comment on how much Noah likes to talk.   It's a characteristic of his I love and one that will serve him well in life so he's never been told to "quiet down."  Well, except maybe in a church pew!

When Noah was little I wondered if he would be our popular triathlete, the way he picked up friends and each sport so quickly.  But as he transitioned out of grade school, we began to see a shift in his interests.

He traded in the balls for a bow and began archery.  Like his brother, he learned to play chess and found a love for strategy games.  Food and cooking became his passion.  He's especially interested in how science and food can work together and is a flavor fanatic, blending spices you would never consider but are always a pleasant surprise.

Like his mom, his taste in music is eclectic, though he's found more obscure genres than even I did as his age.  He knows artists from other cultures and nationalities by name.  I think he shocked his Spanish teacher by requesting songs for the music she plays in class.

His recent obsession is dueling.  Years and years of collecting cards as a kid has paid off, as his friends now gather daily to play and strategize.  They even managed to get it recognized as a club so they could meet at school once a month.


For his birthday this past week, stopping at a gaming store was one of his requests. Tim and I stayed in the car while four teenage boys went inside to "nerd it up" (their words).  Through the swishing of my wipers, my smile grew watching their excitement.  They browsed the store, card by card, for more than an hour and we were happy to wait.  Considering the choices boys their age have to occupy their time, I consider myself pretty blessed to have a nerdy boy.

Nerdy boys are smart and worldly, having a variety of interests and can carry great conversations.  They are creative and imaginative.  Sensitive and sweet.  Nerdy boys may not have hundreds of fans cheering them on but this mom will always be rooting loudly for hers.

Surrounded by friends, strategy games, and strawberry champagne cake.  
Happy 17th, baby boy.  I hope it was one to remember.




Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Marked Blessings

All boys seem to have a love for stones and rocks when they are little but our oldest son, Austin, was fascinated with them throughout his life.

In his younger days, he thought a piece of gravel was cool. I have fond memories of walking with him and stopping whenever he found a new treasure. He'd squat on chubby legs, eyes bright with excitement, as he held the discovery in his little hands. After turning it over a few times, it would get shoved into his pockets, as he was ready to continue in his search.

I don't remember why Austin began gathering rocks, but over time his collection and knowledge grew. He studied about them and could tell you what a rock's scientific name was or where it could be found at a glance.  Proudly displayed in his room were some of his favorite finds and he loved nothing more than to share stories about them.

These stones have been on my mind lately, as I've been studying the Bible.  I'm currently reading a devotion in Joshua and the importance stones had then.  It's even more interesting, as our family had a discussion the other night about blessings God has given us in our life and how that related to stones in Biblical times.

There's a space in the front of my new Bible that allows you to record milestones and blessings, to remember what God has done, is doing and will do within your family.

It was easy thinking of major events, like the boys' births and baptisms.  But there came a point when my memory stalled and I asked the guys for help. I'll admit there was a moment of silence when we reached the year Austin passed.  It is bittersweet because the pain still lingers, even though there is joy in knowing where he know calls home.  As we continued through our timeline, it became apparent how quickly we fail to recall the blessings of our life, both big and small.

 That was the purpose of the stones back then.  Marked monuments to tell future generations of all that God had done.  Reminders of His promises, big and small.

In this gloomy month that begins a new year, I can feel Satan's pull and hissing in my ear of all the things I've yet to accomplish.  Goals not reached.  Failures.  Inadequacies.  He would have me to focus on the things I have lost or didn't get and would want nothing more than for me lose trust and not cling to God's promises.

So instead I've been picking up imaginary stones, marking the simple blessings that come with each and every day.  And as I'm not too far into the year, I went back from the start of 2017 and lifted thanks for each one.  It's a joy to say my pockets are full and lumpy, beyond my expectations.


I can't wait to continue the search for more treasures to come.










Monday, January 9, 2017

Birthday Blues

I'm sensing a theme and it isn't a good one for a blog about joy!  So far my titles for the year have been a little down and depressing.  But, I've always tried to keep it real and raw with my writing, even if that makes it harder to share.

Yesterday was my birthday and I went to bed teary, although I can't really explain why.  When you reach a certain age, they just sort of flatten.  Other than major milestones, which I celebrated last year, there isn't much hoopla to be had.

The guys did their best, especially my baby boy, to make it a good day.  My morning began with a gigantic birthday bear hug first thing from my gentle giant.  As he isn't an early riser and normally a tad grumpy, seeing that effort and feeling the warmth of his hug is truly all I should've needed to make yesterday special.  My husband fixed me a cup of coffee and ran out to grab breakfast so I could linger a little longer by the fire before church.

Our pew was full of family and sweet baby snuggles from my great-nephew Isaiah.  My lap held a splurge purchase from Saturday's outing, a new Bible.  I've been wanting a new one but had so many requirements, I wasn't sure I'd find the one.  Tim and Noah were patient and encouraging as I browsed the rows at Lifeway.  Eventually, I spotted just the fit - a study Bible, in the translation I prefer, with space in the columns for notes, not too heavy, and opens flat for easy writing.

Once home, Tim retreated for his nap before work and I planned to settle in to my recliner and relax.  Instead, I was surprised with a teen, eager to spend the afternoon with mom.  We played ping pong and old school video games, bouncing laughter back and forth for hours, ending with a Chopped marathon.  Time with my son, at his request - what more could I really ask for?

Dinner went a bit upset down, when the steaks were still half frozen and falling apart (how is that possible?) but a quick trip to Taco Bell saved the night.  We ended with some family tv time, something rare, since we're never all home together long enough to do so.

As my head hit the pillow, I prayerfully reflected on the fact that with all these blessings, how could I still feel less than?  Why wasn't it enough?

Birthdays are maybe the most selfish day of the year.  The total focus in on you and the anticipation of what others might do to make it special.  And in a year of shifting to selflessness, it seems silly I could get wrapped up in wishing for more.

This morning, I realized part of the issue is that I'm placing my happiness in the hands of others.  I'm depending on them to bring me joy when I know the true source only comes from God.  If I am honest, there isn't an outing, gift or custom cake that would've given me the fulfillment for which I'm yearning.

I am not content with who I am.  

This girl that I see when I look in the mirror isn't what I pictured for 41.  She's aged in ways no magic wrinkle creme can fix.  And in many ways, I appreciate what time has added to me.  There's wisdom and contentedness I didn't have twenty years ago.  But with the lessons learned, it also has me searching for more.

In this process of becoming selfless, I am finding it is more than just giving, but rather, I must push myself to be the best "me"I can be.  If there are flaws, I need to magnify, inspect and adjust, not just sweep aside.

So maybe that is the best gift received yesterday.
Awareness of change needed.  A growing desire to be more.  Transformation from the inside out.



Friday, January 6, 2017

Winter Woes


Well, it is only a few days into the new year and I've already failed miserably on my "one word" of being selfless.  Not to excuse it but we've been hit with some winter weather and this 40-something body is feeling it.

It is SNOW fun to get older.

My body is like a weather radar, beeping in protest before the first snowflake.  I've joked with my husband he needs to suddenly inherit a beach house and the income to "winter" in Florida.  I'm only a fan of cold weather when I'm able to recline by the warm fire and color, sipping hot cocoa, safe and snug.

The past few evenings, I've come home so tired and sore from being out in the cold I haven't been able to serve anyone.  In fact, my first day back to work, I barely made it through the process of peeling layers, donning PJ's and collapsing into my chair.

When Tim awoke to get ready for his night shift, instead of finding me cooking, he caught me snoozing by the fire.  Being the sweetheart he is, he went to the kitchen and whipped up a simple supper.  As he served me, I felt pretty guilty and a failure in my quest to be less selfish.

On Fridays, I often have the day off but with the holidays I needed to go in for a few hours.  Not having to work a full shift though allowed me to sleep in.  My phone forgot however and woke me normal time.  Now, a selfless gal would've taken that opportunity to get up and surprise her hubby with a hot breakfast.  Instead I remained in the comforts of my flannel sheets and awoke later to our excited dog, a sure sign Dad was home.

As I creaked out of bed, I found him making coffee and sweeping off the steps so I wouldn't slip on my way out.  He'd even brought home new gloves, overhearing that I'd lost my others.

Perhaps this short reprieve from my resolution is to show me what it feels like to be served, so I'll be better equipped and eager to help others.  Maybe I can chalk it up as early birthday goodness, as I will be celebrating another year on Sunday.  Or, by chance, it is a lesson in humility that we can't improve ourselves overnight.  And that, just maybe, I need to stop relying so much on my self and more on God to get there.

Trudging on....some days, uphill in the snow.


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