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.

Monday, January 2, 2017

One Word: Selfless

If there's one quality I admire most about my husband it is his selfless personality.  He's always been the type of guy who would give you the shirt off his back, the last piece of pie, or whatever he has that you might want or need.  No surprise he eagerly joined the volunteer fire department at 18 and has served in multiple capacities for the past 30 some odd years.

Though many might look at someone on the side of the road and think to themselves they should stop, he's one who almost always will.  If he hears of someone in need, he's there to lend a hand, giving up his day off or working through hours he should be sleeping before his night shift.  Often in his side business, he has gone on a job knowing the client couldn't afford to pay and didn't expect it.

Selfishness is a characteristic I've always struggled with.  While I enjoying serving and helping others, I am also cautious and stingy with my time, sometimes to a fault.  Though family should come first, I often calculate how help can be carved around whatever I have to spare, instead of just plunging in messy regardless of the time I have.  An introvert, I enjoy "me time" as well and look forward to unplugging and relaxing in the comfort of my home.

Perhaps it is my birth order, or growing up with sisters who took my things without asking.  Or because I'm stubborn and possess all the qualities of a Capricorn.  And maybe it is just an area that God hasn't fully polished yet, but one I feel him tugging on for me to focus this year.

Service.  Selflessness.  He is more, I am less.  Having a servant's heart.  These words and phrases have floated through my mind the past several days, as I've prayerfully considered the One Word for 2017.  I've wavered back and forth and landed on the one that encompasses all.

One can serve without fully giving, or even having the right attitude.  But truly being selfless means putting your own needs aside.  It means serving without calculation.


adjective  self·less \ˈsel-fləs\

concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with one's own; unselfish.

self-sacrificing, self-denying; considerate, compassionate, kind, noble, generous,  
ungrudging, charitable, benevolent, openhanded

While it is a word I often use to describe my husband, it is also a symbol of Jesus himself.  If my desire in my one word for the year is to become better, to improve myself, what other model should I seek?

3 In whatever you do, don’t let selfishness or pride be your guide. Be humble, and honor others more than yourselves. 4 Don’t be interested only in your own life, but care about the lives of others too.  Philippians 2:3-4

I know it won't be easy, old habits die hard.  It's only day 2 and I've already missed opportunities to serve others before myself.  But I did finish off New Year's Day in service, out my comfort zone and the warm comforts of my bed.

Our church joined hundreds of others across Kentucky by having the word of God read aloud beginning midnight NYE until the entire Bible is read.  I signed up for the late shift last night and was the last to read.  Just a few chapters to an empty parking lot but my prayer is that in an apartment or home surrounding this effort, someone will hear just the needed words in God's perfect timing.
Settling in for the night, I pondered upon the blessings of the day, in gratitude and hopes for such simple, beautiful days to fill all of 2017.

Beginning and ending in worship and prayer.  Lunch out with mom and my guys.  Visits and sweet baby snuggles.  Putting away Christmas with as much spirit as we set it out. Reflections on the past 365 days and lessons learned.  Anticipation for the ones ahead.  And dinner at home, full of tradition for the new year.

I'm ready for a year of serving others, selflessly.  And learning much along the way.

Prayers for a blessed 2017 for each of you!  If you choose a #oneword for the year, I'd love to hear it about it below.

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