Monday, September 18, 2017

Something about September

September  - an interlude between summer and fall.  Warm days and cool nights.  Butterflies among falling leaves.  Where daylight is slower to disappear.  Golden hues adorn the landscape, under a blue canvas.

Outside my kitchen window I see the faintest turn of color in my trees.  Early mornings greet me with a foggy sunrise.  Crickets still chirp as darkness stretches into night but there is a coolness in the air. The last of summer with hints of autumn mixed between.

There's just something about September that makes me want to linger.  As if time stands still for just a moment more...


"By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather
And autumn’s best of cheer."
-   Helen Hunt Jackson, September, 1830-1885

Fall is my favorite season.  This Friday officially welcomes it in but I've seen signs for a few weeks. While October steals the spotlight, with it's patchwork quilt of Autumn leaves and pumpkins galore; September is silently sweet.   

The pause before the busy holidays swirl and fill every empty space.  

Maybe I'm more sentimental as this is my baby's Senior year.  Every moment and memory has an invisible stamp of "last" attached, though I'm trying not let it.  Instead I'm making an effort to live in the present - and be fully present.

Perhaps that is why I've realized how special September is and am willing it to slow down.  The month is half over already.  It seems that after Labor day, you blink and find yourself in the new year. 

So I'm purposefully hesitating the quick passing of each day.  Soaking up the simple joys.  

Pastel skies said hello against an amber sunrise today.  Normally, I'll shut the blinds soon after waking, as it is difficult to read with the sun beaming in the window; but this morning I let it be and sat quietly watching the world awake, coffee mug steaming beside me.

I'm pulling over to take in the changing countryside or pausing in the warmth of the day.  Too soon, I know colors will fade and cold weather with seep in.  Storing up the smiles of this season before it goes away.

My wishlist for fall includes crunching through leaves and a caramel apple.  Picnics in the park. Bonfires and blankets under the stars. Picking pumpkins and mums.  Lazy country roads and colorful trees.  Hot bowls of soup and hayrides.

What's on yours?...

  




Monday, August 28, 2017

Hairy Adventures

When I was pregnant with Noah, I suffered horrible heartburn.  Every. Single. Day.  There's a wives' tale this causes your baby to have lots of hair.  In Noah's case, it was very true.

He was born with a head full of dark hair.


As a toddler, he had the sweetest curls and his hair began to lighten a bit.



Though he was blessed with good, thick, curly hair he was cursed with a double crown. When he was younger, he called it a "double crayon" and would pout when I'd lick my hand and force it to tame.

One year, as I was cutting his hair, he asked if he could have a "real person" do it.  That ended my days trimming  -but not styling.  Through all the years, he's asked me for help with his hair.  I too have thick curly hair and know what a pain it can be.  You either cut it short or learn to work around it.  As a boy, he doesn't have the patience but he likes having different hairstyles.


And like most with curly hair, you always long for something different.  He played ball with a boy who had slick straight hair that flipped when he dribbled across the court.  Noah wanted his hair.  Much as I tried, his tight curls wouldn't give.  So we had a chemical straightener applied at a salon.  Though we pulled it off, those mornings were torture.  He was convinced I was going to burn off his ear with my flat iron.


As he grew older and started to drive, he began to branch out more on his hairstyles.  In the summer, he's usually more adventurous and tends to let it grow out.  Which in his case, can become pretty hairy.


This is a version when the curls are "tamed"...


I love running my fingers through those curls.  Though these days, the older her gets, I wonder what other girls might as well. 

This summer, he shocked us by coming home with a mini mohawk.  Though it startled me when he first came in, I quickly fell in love.

             

I wish I'd taken photos since the start of the school year because almost every day he asks me to do something different with his hair.

We've slicked it back old school style, straightened to the side, let it be curly, afro-like, and this morning it's grown long enough to full spike it.

He kept his eyes closed the whole time and was shocked it got so high.  He's already so tall but with the spike it makes him seem even bigger.  I love how it turned out but, most of all, I love his confidence and willingness to be himself.  In a world of copycats, I'm proud he marches to the beat of his own drum.

 

And I'll happily be his stylist as long as he allows because our mornings bring me lots of JOY!








Monday, August 14, 2017

Senior Sentiments

I almost lost it in the underwear aisle.

Back to school shopping with my son, it hit me this was more than likely our last outing for such a thing.  Part of me tearing up and the other wanting to laugh at how sentimental one can become about buying boxers with their kid, er -nearly grown man.

I'm facing this season with the heavy weighted knowledge that it is our final year as mom and child.

My baby is entering his senior year.  Towering over us, his large frame makes most think he's already graduated college.  At 17, there are ways he's still very much a boy though.  The Nerf attacks he and his friend has through my house when together is proof.  But in many ways, he is changing into a responsible adult.

This teetering on adulthood has my momma-heart bursting with emotions.

His last "first day of school" found me sobbing, after he pulled out of the driveway.  My husband shook his head, not understanding my reason for tears.

But a mom is forever connected to her child.  Growing inside inside my belly for nearly a year, our hearts beat in sync.  And with each step further into becoming an adult, I feel that tether being stretched.

Nobody really warns you of this stage of parenting.

Sure, you hear, "they grow so fast."  And, as you're buying shoes and pants mid-school year, because he's already outgrown them, this knowledge is easy to understand.  Yet, I wasn't prepared for how quickly the years would pass by.  It seems as if I have blinked to find my little boy standing before me as a man.

This weekend, he asked if we could go out.  As the waitress brought our tickets, he quickly grabbed them. And again, as we pulled into the drive-in, he handed his cash to pay.  I was tickled enough he chose to spend a free Saturday with his parents, much less offer to cover the cost.

By the first of the year, he'll be officially an adult.  Next summer, a college student.  With such milestones hovering, it is difficult to not feel like a giant clock is counting down the days you have left with them.

I'm trying to embrace the days instead.  To not dwell on the lasts but to soak up the moments.  To let my heart record more than my phone does so I am fully present.  To linger in the laughter and simple joys.  To lift up thanks for the blessing it is to be called "momma" and to hear it spoken from his stubbled lips but still baby face.



Monday, August 7, 2017

Checkin' off Boxes

I'm a planner-organized-check the box kinda gal.  Forms on the first day of school make me smile.  A neatly stacked cabinet or freshly straightened area is happiness.  Tackling to-do lists is my jam.

(Now, please don't think if you stop by my house you'll see perfection.  While I love a clean home, housework is not on my list of faves to do!  Life is too short to scrub toilets and floors every day!)

This past weekend however, we were super productive.  Saturday was packed with accomplishments, for both Tim and me, and with each checking off I felt a sense of contentedness.


With the summer we've had, wish lists and need-to-dos have piled up more than I care to admit.  Whenever I've tried to plan something, life has had a way of turning things upside down.  But, thanks to a healthy dose of energy, we knocked out much of my internal list.  Because school starts in days, this has me breathing a little easier.

I'm not sure why organizing and back to school go to together but they just do.  Last night, Noah and I cleaned out last year's battered backpack and kept what we thought was reusable.  I've definitely passed down my OCD to him, as although the exterior of his bag was well-worn, the inside was immaculate and everything had a spot.  How he's grown from the early days of finding soggy banana peels on top of permission slips shoved deep into the scary bottom of the backpack!

Before he'd made it home, I surprised him by finishing his laundry and organizing the closet.  Dirty clothes is a chore I gladly assigned to him when he hit puberty.  Stinky socks, no matter how much you love them, are not fun to touch.  Plus, I know this is a life skill he will need when he moves away to college, or marries a girl who thanks me for teaching him.  Luckily, everything had been washed, just not put away.  The back-to-school shopping bags from weeks ago were still stacked, waiting to be put on hangers.  So, I helped him out.  In doing so, I quickly discovered this boy has such a collection of T-shirts, he could literally wear a different shirt through the first nine weeks - and then some!

As soon as he entered his room, he made a U-turn and gave me a giant bear hug in gratitude.  That was so worth the hours spent tackling the task.

Tim spent Saturday repairing our deck.  Ten years of sun and weather had worn it down to the point that one of our steps was nearly broken.  It's a blessing that he noticed it before someone's foot found the damage.  He's become quite the handyman the past few years.  Hearing the saw and hammer and watching him work quickly filled my eyes with tears.  When you've seen them down in sickness, normal feels amazing.  I lifted a prayer in thanks for the healing he's had over the summer.  My guy is a doer so I know he felt the same relief and praise for a day's hard work.

Lots accomplished, yet I still went to bed with dishes in the sink.  Guess it gave the ants something to do...I'm a sharer like that!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Sweet Summertime

We've not had much of a summer.

My husband was in the hospital and not well most of June.  Dealing with respiratory issues, being outdoors was pretty much out of the question.  There's summer heat and there's Kentucky summer heat.  Trust me, air conditioning around here is a pure blessing from above!

Being confined meant our normal summer activities were put on hold.  As soon as Tim was well enough to work again, he pushed himself to get extra hours, medical bills looming.  Our son has also taken advantage of extra hours at work, being out of school.  We've all been ships passing the past few weeks.  As it is Noah's last summer home, that makes me a little sad.

It seems we blinked and we're at the final stretch of freedom before school begins.  Thankfully, we had an amazing, impromptu weekend to celebrate the last hoorah.

Friday, I spent the day with my Aunt and nephew painting rocks, my new hobby.

Eli, like my Austin was, is a lover of rocks (and trucks).  Our day began at the landscaping yard to scoop a bucket of tiny canvases.  Beside us, a construction crew was moving, plowing, and lifting.  I do believe, for Eli, it was Christmas in July!

"Look!  Look!" he'd exclaim, "It's lifting!"

He knows all the "official" names of the machinery.  Aunt Heather would call this a scooper.  
You'd have to ask him what it really is!


I came home to find hubby prepared for dinner.  Such a loving gesture, since he knew I'd be tired from my adventures.  And it kept us from the dreaded, "What's for dinner?" dilemma.  

Saturday's weather was unexpected for the end of July - low 80s and NO HUMIDITY.  In unison, Tim and I said, "Let's go fishing!"


Even though I didn't catch a thing,
 floating on the river on such a serene day was just what I needed.  
We were so relaxed we nearly napped on the boat!

Noah had a rare Saturday night off and, since none of his friends did, he opted to spend it with us.  
One of our favorite activities in the summer is going to the drive-in.  Unfortunately, ours is in the middle of a remodel.  But a hop and skip away is one that features five screens.  We'd never been, as our schedules don't seem to ever match up so this was the perfect opportunity.

Nestled between my guys, under the stars, I was content as one could be.

Sunday capped it off with a wonderful worship service and glorious afternoon nap.
A simple, blessed summer weekend bursting full of JOY 
that has me still smiling this Monday morn.













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.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
 
 photo design by_zpsv1mvteci.png