Thursday, December 13, 2012

What If Time Doesn't Heal All Things?

That was the question that I was eating, sleeping and breathing as the countdown to my parent's 50th wedding anniversary / family reunion approached.  We have a big family.  Like so many other families (big and small) we have had good, bad and ugly moments... ok, or years. My concern was because I had held on to things.  I had a lot to forgive and a lot to be forgiven.  I hoped that we would all be able to come together for my parents sake and "play nice" for a couple days and then go our separate ways.  In my minds eye that was really the best case scenario I could envision.  I was wrong. 

The McCoy Clan
It turns out that the act of putting all of us under one roof, had a much different outcome than I could have dreamed.  We healed.  We talked, laughed, smiled, trusted and healed.  Out of my parents, all their children and grandchildren, there were only four missing.  My ex-sister in law would not allow my brother's children to attend and I feel so sorry for them.  They missed a beautiful moment in our family history, that I pray lays the groundwork for our future.  We grew up. 

Maybe it wasn't the same for everyone but I will tell you my side of the story.  I am the youngest and so I have an image of my brothers that I carry with me.  What I learned through this weekend was that I had an image based on mental pictures taken over many years... many years ago.  I was forced to ask myself what it would mean for me if they (or anyone) judged me now on who I was when I was seventeen.  For all of you who knew me then... I think you know that image is a bit in contrast to who I am now.  Yet, I will tell you, that is the standard that I have held my brothers to.  I didn't let them grow up in my heart or my mind.  They are men now.  They have grown and changed.  They are amazing.  I love them.  All of them. 

There were members of their families that I was afraid to see.  I was nervous and scared that I would be hurt.  I didn't need to worry.  The old adage is true.  Time really does soften so many things.  I was able to spend time and talk through things with some and just love and encourage others.  It was a time to come together as a family.  It was a chance that all of us took together and the payoff was huge.  We did not just bring our family together for a weekend... we brought our family back together.  There is nothing quite like family.  There is a sacred tie that binds.  Sometimes that tie hurts and wounds people.  There have been times in our family that I have seen that.  However, that tie can also hold us fast in a world that seems to spin faster everyday.  That tie can lift us up when we are too tired and weary to stand on our own.  That tie can increase our faith and give us courage.  I am thankful for my family now, in a way that I have never been.  This Christmas I celebrate the fact that I have been adopted into a family that I was able to choose and I will celebrate anew the family that I was born into.  The family that God chose for me.  I will open what is under the tree with joy but I will do so knowing that I have already received my "big" gift this year.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

This Christmas Will Be A Little Different...

You may have heard me hinting around that this Christmas our family is doing things a little differently.  We were waiting until "Tree Day" which, for those of you who don't know, is our personal family holiday the day after Thanksgiving when we cut our tree and deck the halls.  We were fairly sure that our children would go along quite gladly and I am so happy to say our suspicions were dead on.  Having gone so much of this year with little to no income made it clearer than ever to us what we really value.  We were reminded that need and want are two very different things.  In case you think our kids are just going along, I will tell you that we made this decision because when we asked them if they had thought about what they might want for Christmas, they said there just wasn't anything they needed.  They  could each think of a few things they would like but nothing they felt like they needed.  It made us realize that we had an opportunity that we just didn't want to miss (and very grateful children).

Although I cannot tell all the details I will share a few.  We believe that all of us have enough.  In fact we do not need a single thing more to be happy.  We are satisfied, content and want for nothing.  God has seen to all of our needs and so many of our wants.  As a family we have decided to embrace the real reason for the season and give.  Just give.  It is our goal to say "Merry Christmas to each person that we encounter in the month of December.  We are hoping to spread good cheer and the gospel.  Our home will be opened, our hands will be hard at work and our goal is to love the people around us.  We cannot change the world but we can do something.  We can and we will.  So, allow it to begin with me...

My personal goals for this season are to not give a single gift out of obligation, enjoy the traditions and fun with my family, show gratitude for what I am given and look for ways to help, encourage and love the people that are put in my path. I hope that you will take time this season to talk to, write to or spend time with the people that you love.  I hope that you remember to be kind and gentle with the people around you.  My wish for you is that you feel the joy this season, of giving something to someone else, with no expectation of receiving anything in return.  I hope you sing Christmas carols and sit down to a hot cup of cocoa and some Christmas letters.  Even if you have never been before, I invite you to attend a church service and see what the reason for the season really is.  It really is the most wonderful time of the year!  Christmas is not about spending money you don't have on things you don't need for people that either love you or they don't (and nothing in a box is going to change that).  Christmas is about the world being offered the greatest gift we could ever ask for and all you have to do to really celebrate it... is to accept it.  Jesus is the reason for the season.  Something so amazing happened over 2,000 years ago that people are still talking, fighting, worshiping, singing and even giving up their lives for it.

Merry Christmas! May God richly bless you and may you find that Jesus is the reason for the season... but the reason for Jesus... is you.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Heart of Thanksgiving... not the art.

I am writing this post because my daughter asked me to.  She and I are attending a Bible study on Tuesday mornings and we have been using this as an awesome excuse to spend Tuesday together.  Over lunch today we got in an intense conversation about something that came up via the facilitator of the group.  With Thanksgiving this week she was talking about the people coming to her house for the holiday.  Originally, she was just hosting her usual family but is now hosting her brother and his family and all that en-tales.  I do not use the term hosting lightly.  Here is the problem.  There were several references to how it was going to be different for 'their guests' as they have many rules in their home that all invited guests would need to adhere to.  The one that she chose to use as an example (more than once) was that in their home, there would be no alcohol, even though she knew that would be a problem for many of the guests... it is not allowed in their home.  Don't get me wrong, I understand that when "in Rome" but allow me to tell you what my problem with this was... really.

Just minutes before, she had told us a story about the same family members.  In her story she explained that she has never looked to spend holidays with them as they are so "materialistic" and their home is not family friendly.  Just so that you understand, she was clear that nearly everything in the home is white.  The furnishings are literally priceless.  They are art collectors and it is just not well... what one would call 'kid friendly'.  She then told how it came to be that they needed (not wanted) to come to their home for Thanksgiving.  Somehow there was an issue with a fuel delivery and their house was pumped throughout with soot.  For "normal" people that would suck but clearly for them... bad, bad, bad.  So, here they are at the mercy of someone who should be merciful. Maybe it is because I am a clean freak with OCD, but I get why it would be not only devastating to be unable to host your guests but even harder to call and ask for someone else to host them, especially knowing that they will not be treated or considered in the way that you had planned to.  When she told the story she was chuckling.  I get it.  I understand. I would be a liar if I didn't say that had I been in the same place I would not have been tempted to chuckled a bit myself.  It is still a sad irony.

The reason that Raven wanted me to write this is because after we talked it through, she felt that this was something people needed to hear.  I am a Christian.  I believe that God looks at the heart more than the behavior.  I think that there is a huge difference between hosting and hospitality.  Hospitality has a heart.  I believe that God is more pleased with someone who pours a glass of wine in a home where it is frowned upon (if you read the same Bible as me it clearly isn't sinful) because it is what the guest is wanting, then someone who opens their home with a smirk because (due to an unexpected hardship) someone is in need of help.  Thanksgiving is the ultimate opportunity for others to see what you value.  It is an intimate look into each others lives and traditions.  When you share that meal I think it is important to share it all... but if the rules and traditions are more important to you than the people they will not feel you shared anything. God looks at the heart.  I believe that so much could have been achieved by showing the heart of hospitality and not the art of hospitality.

Hospitality is offering what you have to someone else with joy and without expectation.  The art of entertaining is to further your own reputation and achieve accolades.  Hospitality can even leave you feeling like you gave something... because you did.  The art of entertaining leaves you feeling better about yourself... well at least until you read something like this.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Shame, Shame, Shame... Change.

This a line from one of my favorite songs (Murder of One), written by one of my favorite bands (Counting Crows), off my favorite of their albums (August and Everything After).  Shame is something that you experience when you know, want and believe better of yourself.  It is something that you honestly have to have a moral compass to even understand and it can be a powerful motivator for self destruction... or change.  I don't believe in coincidences and so when I found myself humming it this morning and then it came on my ipod, only to be followed by an overwhelming self slap of my personal feelings of shame in the face of truth, I was not left wondering if perhaps I was going to be learning a lesson today.

Sometimes I do shameful things.  I make choices that I know are wrong.  In most instances I look back and feel ashamed but in some I know it will come even as I choose to do it anyway.  What on earth do you do with that?  When you find yourself in one of those places where you know that you chose willingly to do something you knew was wrong and it brings you to this sick disgusting place where you knew you would be.  You can't blame anyone else.  You can't say you didn't know it would end this way.  It feels... shameful.

I was in a Beth Moore Bible study recently when she made the statement "You cannot shame someone out of sin".  It took me a bit to really grasp that.  She pointed out that when we (and boy do we as women, churches and especially church women, do this) try to pull someone out of sinful behavior by calling them out and telling them how ashamed they should be.  It only inevitably pulls them back into it.  You see, without a desire to change we are just drug back under with feeling like we simply are so shameful and damaged that we don't fit anywhere else but in our sin and shame.  I have at times sat in that shame and let it eat me from the inside out.  It has been the mainstay diet of many personal demons.  As I let the words of this song roll over my soul this morning I was reminded of the other choice.  Change.  You see the lesson I learned today is that the same truth applies to me.  I cannot shame myself out of sinful behavior.  Infact... the more I allow myself to feel and dwell on my feelings of shame the more likely I am to (you guessed it) be drug back under with feelings like I simply am so shameful and damaged that I don't fit anywhere else but in my sin and shame.  That's right, the self proclaimed preacher of the gospel of "thou are not the exception" must humbly admit... I'm not the exception.  There is still good news for me however.  I am not dead, so therefore I can still change.  I am not the first person who has failed.  Some people say that the only way to truly fail is to never try.  For me today, I will add to that.  The only way to truly fail is to never change.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I Blame Your Parents

I am a survivor.  I have never had cancer but I am a survivor.  I was not just teased as a child I was tormented.  My parents did everything that they knew how to do and then some until I just stopped telling them.  I was  a precocious child (understatement of the century) and the only girl of 5 children.  My life at home was amazing.  Spoiled was my first language and being the baby of the family was the runway to my success.  Unfortunately, my story didn't end at home.  I was enrolled in a private school at an early age.  This can be a good thing but for me it was not.  I was in a small class and I was the only overweight child most of that time.  I remember well the birthday party of a friend that began my downward spiral. I made a choice that I still struggle with today.  I decided that my value and worth had more to do with  my weight than with my talents, abilities or God given gifts.  When I eventually left the private school world (ok, I demanded my parents take me out or I would purposely fail all my classes) and entered the public school system I discovered a whole new set of challenges. I was called a slut, whore and opportunist.  I went from being the unwanted to the ultimate temptress. The families in our neighborhood did not want their girls spending time with me and certainly not their sons. Some of them took it upon themselves to call my parents to tell them my reputation and ask them to help keep their child away from me.

Tonight I heard and watched the story of a girl in her 16th year who decided to end her own life.  I saw, in her words, many of my own thoughts and experiences.  I know what it is like to beg people to love you. I know what it is like to be the one not invited... not just once, but over and over again.  I  largely blame the parents.  I know that so many people will disagree with me but hear my  heart first.  I have children.  There are kids they like and kids they don't. Sometimes they even have very good reasons why they feel that way.   My children have been taught that they are to either, invite everyone or invite a few and if by chance others find out about it... it is now an open invitation.  There will be no "uninvited" guests.  My children know why.  Parents (if they chose to listen) know their children better than anyone.  If you see that your child is making decisions based on outward appearance or social status... you know it.  You do.  If you allow it, you should be ashamed of yourself.  I know that we all want our child to be at the top of the heap but never lose sight of the ultimate goal.  We want our children to be better than we are.  We want them to love and give more than we have.  Our dreams for them should not be centered around the kind of success that fades and fades quickly. By applauding them for the the things that really matter we are teaching them to applaud others for the same.

I struggle everyday with the echos of the words people have spoken.  After I grew older it expanded from my weight to other things about me that people didn't like or find attractive.  Time and date do not matter when it comes to the heart.  Think about what you say.  Think about what you allow others to say in your presence.  Be better.  Do better.  Be the first line of defense and teach your children how to speak to other people and how to speak about other people.  Teach them not only respect but what really deserves respect.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ask And You Shall Recieve!

Oh you know you've heard it a million times and occasionally you even hear the part before it (you know, where the catch is) that says it only works if you ask for something that is in God's will, but sweet cheeks I just went and lived it!  For any of you who were forced to read/wade through the heaviness of my last blog post you will see that even the cadence of my writing is different on this one.  I prayed (and you thought what you wished for was dangerous... oh, honey be extra careful what you pray for) that God would relight my pilot light.  I begged him (ok, I might have yelled a little too and you know there was some fist to the sky action as that is a specialty of mine) to renew a passion in me for SOMETHING!  I just wanted a renewed vision... a new set of eyes... a fire in my heart for His service... is that too much to ask?  NO! Apparently not!

If you have known me for awhile you know that I used to be a speaker.  I say used to because well, my life fell apart, my faith was shaken, I went through a very deep depression (I am becoming emotionally winded just typing this), we moved to the middle of nowhere, where I knew no one and to say the least, I quit all that. Full stop.  At one time however, it was the joy spring of my heart.  It lit me up like a Christmas tree in the community park.  There is not a doubt in my mind that it is what I was made to do.  I will spare you most of the details (although they are amazing and I will happily spill for anyone who wants the detailed version) and get to the goods.  God answered my prayer.  He not only answered it... I think He was yelling back.  I have been called back into speaking with a bit of writing on the side.  I know that down the road I want... no, will be writing a book based on some of the topics that I used to speak on.  In the near future I am hoping to be able to return to the "circuit" as we speakers like to call it.

Had this been the end, it would have been great but there is so much more!  That thing that was missing in my spirit... it has returned! That passion that used to wake me up in the middle of the night to write it all down before I forgot (instead of bad dreams) has awakened again!  The hope, the joy, all of it has come bubbling up like a long forgotten spring in a dry land!  I know it won't be easy and every day will come with the same challenges, dishes, laundry, bills and cries of "what's for dinner?" but the seeds of faith have been planted and if they are watered by my tears of sorrow or joy matters not, for they will be watered! Thank you Lord for not giving up on me!  I cannot believe you still bother to listen let alone to answer and give so freely!

P.S. I give this post a cheese factor of around 85% but it just cannot be helped! Sometimes one must give in and just serve it up on a platter with crackers and of course wine (you had to know that was coming)!

So... anybody need a speaker for a women's group, high school girls or the girl half of a college group? Bring it :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Cracks Are Starting To Show

I have just spent several minutes staring at this blank screen.  I have so much on my mind and weighing on my heart that I simply don't know how to even begin.  Is what I have to say something anyone even wants to read?  Will it do any good to try and put it into words? Maybe it will and maybe it won't but if I go one more hour without letting some of it out I very well may just have some sort of break down.

My daughter, who is 14, asked me the other day why we stopped doing everything.  "What in the world do you mean?" I asked.  "We haven't stopped doing anything... in fact I am pretty sure that our calender is going to break me."  She explained that what she meant was when did we stop doing all the things we used to do.  As she expounded my heart started to ache.  As she began to recall memories of her younger years and the things that she missed in our life now I relived the loss of each one.  Being the adult that made those decisions I knew when and why they had gone by the wayside.  I know that as an adult not everything can be fun.  I know that you have to do things sometimes because if you don't... no one else will.  We call them responsibilities and obligations.  My problem however is that my life feels as though it has become nothing else.  The things my daughter was looking for were the sweet fun moments and traditions that we used to enjoy together.  They were the reasons that I chose to home school  and stay at home with my children.  She is right, we don't do them anymore.  Over the years I have taken up responsibilities left and right.  The joy in the everyday has ebbed away.  There are so many things that I have to do that there is no time or energy left for what I wanted.  None of these things cost money. None of these things took away from anyone else.  All they required was my excitement, energy and of course time.   Unfortunately, I don't have any of those readily available most days.

Someone told me recently that the years your kids are growing up is just a blur and not to worry about it.  The problem is I didn't want it to be a blur.  I wanted to be intentional and be here in the moments with them. Instead I feel like I am in a chaotic mess.  I am weighed down by the obligations and worries of this life.  I am drowning in fear and stress.  You only get one shot at this and I feel like I am wasting mine.  I feel like everyone gets their piece of me except my children.  I am afraid to even post this because I will undoubtedly hear how bad it made other people feel but it still won't change anything because it's not like they don't still need me to do everything I am doing for them.  I don't need a break.  I don't need someone to listen and tell me it will all work out if I have faith.  I need it to change.  I need to change. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I Haven't Changed Much...

     A long time friend got me to pull out my old yearbooks today.  Okay, it wasn't hard as they are on a book shelf, designated for my personal memorabilia, in chronological order (yes, I know I have OCD and I don't try to hide it).  As I read through the messages sent to the 13-17year old me I learned something.  I really haven't changed much.  I typed her messages to me and she typed my messages to her and as I read them it made me smile because I could still read the same cadence in my words.  I took some time to look over the other messages and realized, as an adult, the things I did then that I am fairly confident my peers did not do.  I saw the messages written by my friends but mixed in were sprinklings of teachers and staff.  As I read them, one stood out very clearly to me.  I saw where the janitor had signed my yearbook.  I remember asking him to and watching him blush.  I remember him asking why I would want him to sign it.... and I remember my answer.  He didn't just sign one yearbook he signed them all. He commented that he loved the times I would drop by his office (which was a glorified closet/locker) and bring him a surprise or lunch.  Many of my teachers and the custodian at my middle school said the same.  He said he would miss me just saying hello to him everyday. 
     Maybe it's because I was teased so much when I was younger.  Maybe it's because I remember what it is like to feel (to sometimes still want to feel) invisible.  My parents called me "Captain of the Underdogs" but I just wanted to stop people from feeling as lonely as I did most of the time.  It made me so happy to make other people feel special.  It still does.  I have changed in a lot of ways and I have had people who have wanted to change me in every way but I am relieved to see that somethings haven't changed at all. I still openly share my faith where ever I am and with anyone who takes time, to spend time, with me.  I still mean it when I say I will be there if you need me.  I still mean it when I say I love you.  As jaded as I have become (and some days it feels like my heart has gone rock hard) I am still the girl you can call because I really do care.  The people that God has allowed through my life have brought me joy, singing, heartache, hurt and healing.  I wouldn't trade even one of you. Not one.

Monday, July 30, 2012

My Life As a Medical Experiment

    When I say I will do just about anything for money I am usually speaking in vague and suggestive terms but not this weekend.  I was just released from a laboratory after spending the weekend being a willing (and paid) subject in a fatigue study.  I could bore you with the details of the deal but the long and the short of it is that I was paid to stay awake for a really long time and take tests every hour on the hour to help approve or disapprove a shiny new tool for pilots to test their ability to fly.  Although the tests and all that went with them were interesting they are clearly not my take home prize... and neither is the money. 
     If you have met me, you know that I am a people watcher to the core.  I love people. I want to hear their stories, see what they do and learn why they do it.  This experience was a dream come true for someone like me.  We were pre-screened, screened, drug tested, drug tested again and then locked in a lab together for three days.  There were meant to be 4 of us but one backed out literally at the door and so we went on with just three.  We had never met.  We were screened for safety not personality and so it is safe to say just about anything was possible. 
    Over the course of time we shared our stories.  We told the tales and opened up our lives to each other.  We may never meet again but their opinions on family, faith, travel, relationships, politics, government, organics, books, movies, music... the world, will forever be a part of my opinions and decisions on all of them.  A funny thing happens when you are forced to really BE with other humans.  We were allowed to play games and watch movies but whatever we did we had to do together.  There was only one room so you couldn't escape to your own space.  We did not have access to phones, computers, television or outside influences.  We had to be present, awake and together.
    What did I learn?  I learned that when you take away all the tools that we claim "keep us in touch" and "give us access" to each other the intimacy was nearly immediate.  Connecting on a deep level was simple and you could see how hungry, no... starved, for it we all were.  No one was in a hurry or late for the next thing.  No one put you one hold while they took an all important call.  No one used being tired, hungry or having different beliefs or priorities as an excuse to end the conversation.  We were all tired, hungry and had different beliefs and we supported and encouraged each other to stay present.  I really didn't realize how dry and empty my heart is.  I am so lonely for real intimacy and relationship.  So much of my life is spent in rooms full of people who are already gone.  They are already at the next place, the next conversation full of platitudes, the next task or scheduled activity. 
    I can't make anyone ignore their phone.  I can't make anyone value conversation with me more than a good nights sleep.  I can't make anyone get a cramp from laughing instead of putting their iPod in their ears and hitting the gym for their "me" time.  I can't change the speed of the world that I am living in but there are somethings I can do.  I can be there.  I can be present in the moment when I am with you and not look at the clock, phone, iPod, or door.  I can BE PRESENT when I am with you and if you choose to be present with me when you're with me then maybe we can finally get connected, be in touch, have instant access to each other and all those other things that we claim we are doing when what we're really doing is isolating ourselves. 
    Some of you may read this and think "well that was a downer".  Some may read it and scratch you head thinking "I have no idea what she's talking about I can text on the treadmill while my ipod is in and I'm like surrounded by my besties who's lives are also full and satisfying".  Some may read this and think "poor dear...".  What I wonder is, did any of you read this and make a choice to do the same for me.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Long Avoided Truth

I have avoided a simple truth in life for a very long time.  Hours of concentrated effort have been used to explain my argument and defend my false belief.  It remains the truth however and so I have had to come to a place where I deny it no longer.  I need people.  There it is.  Oh how I have fought this one!  I have even had some of my well meaning 'Christian terrorist' friends back me up with their mantra of "God is all you need"... but it's still true.  I need people.  When I isolate myself (one of my personal favorite defense mechanisms) it does not take long before the shadow of loneliness spreads over my life like the "nothing" in The Never Ending Story. I feel it seep into my bones until my heart literally begins to grow cold from the lack of companionship and camaraderie. It is a hard thing for me to know this about myself.  I prefer positions like independent, strong, self soothing (I HATE that one actually... what an oxymoron of a concept), stand alone and fighter.  Saying I need other people feels like admitting I am weak, pathetic and needy.  The joke is on me though because when I allow myself to openly need others to talk to, spend time with and share life with I find myself feeling strong, independent and capable.  When I isolate myself I become weak, pathetic and needy... oops. 

God created me to need other people.  If I do not talk through a problem or situation with someone else it is very easy for me to get "stuck" in it and overwhelmed.  I find joy and fulfillment in spending time with people and hearing their stories.  Making people laugh (ok, and sometimes cry... mostly in a good way) is like a natural high for me.  The times that I hide and keep to myself feel like punishment and I tend to act like someone who is being punished.  I start to lash out and wound the people around me which just creates a vicious cycle and I end up even more alone.  I have been thinking a lot about this today as I watch a friend struggling with this same thing I don't think she knows it yet but well... isn't it always easier to see it in someone else? It doesn't hurt that our pastor covered the whole "first take the plank out of your own eye and then you will be able to see to help your brother take the speck out of his" scripture last Sunday.  It forced me look at myself and realize I am doing it again right now.  I have been avoiding people and keeping my thoughts and feelings all bottled up inside and it's no wonder that I feel like I am ready to blow my lid every other minute. Looks like it's time to make a concentrated effort to reconnect.  It's like the song says "I'm not as good as I'm gonna be but I'm better than I used to be".  

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Accidental Funeral...

I had been to only two funerals in my life thus far.  One was for my beloved auntie Louise who had loved and served the Lord all her life and it was a joyful graduation ceremony.  The second was for a three day old infant of my friends who were not believers and it was filled with a hopelessness and agony unlike anything I had experienced.  With these as my only reference points you can see why I had no idea what to expect when I accidentally attended a funeral this week.  I say accidentally because I wasn't invited and although I knew something of the deceased I had never met her and I had no intention of being at the service.  There was a hearse parked outside the church but it was clear that they had not set up the sanctuary yet and so I asked if I could play through a few ideas for Sunday on the piano.  I assumed that at some point they would let me know it was time to bring in the... deceased and I would get to gettin'.  Imagine my surprise when I glanced over while turning a page and realized people were being seated for the service!  Now if I stopped playing and just got up it would be awkward and so... I just kept playing and looking for the pastor (aren't they always supposed to know what to do?).  When the pastor did appear it was to quietly thank me for playing and to ask me if I could sing Amazing Grace during the service.  I lovingly responded with "I hope you are kidding?" and he just smiled and said "Please... it would really help me out" (since even I know you can't really say no to a pastor when they say please, especially on their home turf) I agreed.  Begrudgingly.

As I listened to them speak the eulogy I was surprised.  She was a wife and mother.  There were letters from family and friends and stories and accolades shared but that was it.  We didn't hear a list of the titles she had received.  If she had any degrees or alma mater I didn't hear them mentioned.  They didn't list the countries she had visited or number of mission trips she went on.  Instead they spoke of baking cookies, sacrificed time so that she could be at practices and concerts.  Her husband of 64 years sat in the front row and I saw his hand reach absently toward the empty space just to the side of his knee several times.  I imagine that must be the side she usually sat on.  How empty that space must feel now.  They spoke of this woman whose life was given to them as a gift to make theirs richer and it was enough. 

When we moved out here to the community of Elk one of the things I was hoping for was to find a slower pace and a different lifestyle.  Where I grew up that wasn't considered enough.  Outside of the home I grew up in, it was more important for women to feel accomplished and reach personal goals, then to give themselves up to help others reach theirs.  I found out that she was one of the charter members of the Elk Homemakers Club that I attend and coincidentally attended that day right after the service.  I am living in her legacy.  I am reaping the benefit of what she helped to build.  Because of her and other women like her I now live in a community that respects women who spend their lives caring for their families and loving their husbands for a full lifetime.  My heart needed to hear that message.  I desperately needed to be reminded that it is enough.  She may not have left her "mark on the world" but she left her mark on their hearts and on this community... on me.

I may have attended by accident but it was an honor to play and sing at her celebration service.  I hope someday that I will get a chance to meet her but to be honest as I looked around the table at our Homemakers meeting, it felt like I already have.  I still don't know why anyone would park a hearse outside a church when the body has already been laid to rest.  Is that someones weird equivalent to tying balloons to the mailbox when your hosting a birthday party?!  I will say that in this instance it worked in my favor and now you know how a person accidentally attends a funeral they weren't invited to, for someone they never met and learns that there are no accidents.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ode To My Daddy

There are lots of different kinds of fathers out there.  When I was growing up I thought my dad was harsh, cruel, and maybe the meanest man alive.  Now as an adult with a family of my own, I realize that my father was and is what I see as the perfect kind of man.  My dad loved me enough to let me hate him for doing what was right for me, and put me in my place.  My father taught me that I was worth more than I ever thought I was on my own.  My dad never pretended to be perfect but he has never given less than his best.  For so many years I have heard people tell me what it means to be prepared for the future and to invest well... but my father showed me.  He has always told me that he is not anxious to leave me, but knows his creator and cannot wait to see heaven.  He has always told me that everything belongs to the Lord God and that if he has been given extra, it is to be given away.  He has set an example for me so foreign to the world.  My father taught me that God has, will, and does provide for those who place their trust wholly in Him.  I LOVE my dad.  I could not have asked for, or wished for, a better earthly father.  I know you are not perfect daddy, but you are the perfect dad for me.  With my father and my mother, I have been doubly blessed. I hope that I have been half as good as a daughter, as you have been father to me.  Daddy, you make me feel like a princess and my value in your eyes, is what every girl should have.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Dream Fulfilled!

This week we pulled up to the mailbox after a long day and I had no idea that one of my life long dreams (I would say fantasy but that seems like a sticky descriptive word for this) was about to be fulfilled.  Ben looked over the pieces of mail and handed me a mustard yellow envelope.  Well, it looked mustard yellow before I opened it, then suddenly before my eyes it turned golden!  As I read over it I whispered the words I have always wanted to say... I have been summoned for Jury Duty.  This dear reader is how the rest of the conversation went (well... pretty much)...

"I am sure  you can get out of it" my misguided husband said.

"WHAT? Why would I do that?" I gasped in horror.

"Well for one thing what about the gas... do you know how long a drive it is to the courthouse (not long enough as it turns out but we'll get to that) everyday?" he said.

"They will be paying me $40 per day. I replied. They are going to pay me to be judgmental! Can you believe it... you are so looking at a future jury foreman right now!" I cried.  "I have been preparing for this practically my entire life. I wouldn't be surprised if after the two weeks they ask me to be a special liaison for the court  or an  honorary assistant DA or something"

"What are you talking about?" my silly husband (who apparently was unaware of my qualifications) said.  "You think that because you are good at being judgmental they will offer you a job?"

"You did not just call me judgmental?" I  balked.  "I happen to have good judgment (significantly better than most clearly), that does not make me judgmental!  I meant because of all my experience in the court room and with the legal system in general"

"You have no experience in the legal system or the courtroom" he said.

"Besides being a student of human nature and an avid people watcher, I have seen every single episode of Matlock EVER made... several times!  (I can quote most of them)  I know what it takes to make a good foreman.  I know how to tell when a witness is being coy or lying. I even know how to commit the perfect murder (Matlock taught a college class about it as part of his pro bono work... I have seen that one like 15 times).  I have studied under what most people (meaning me, myself and I) consider to be the greatest legal mind of our time!  I did what practically counts as my undergraduate with the Judge Wapner, Judge Judy and watching Perry Mason (oh I hope the attorneys aren't like Mason... the droning on and on in near monotone could put a person to sleep which is why I haven't watched them all).  Add all that to my personal insight and experiences and I owe it to the good people of Washington State to do my duty and serve as a civil servent" was my impassioned plea.  "How far is it to the courthouse would you say?" I asked.

"Why?" he asked suspiciously.

"Because it says that if you live over 60 miles from the courthouse a hotel room will be provided for you as well" I replied (trying to keep the smile out of my hope filled voice).

"Maybe 30 miles... probably less" he said (giving no thought to the fact he was bursting my fun bubble).  "So, you're not going to try to get out of it?" he asked

We have been married for nearly 17 years and the man doesn't know me.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ode To Mom...

Dear Mom,

My mom... isn't she cute?
I am so sorry... I didn't know.  You made it look so easy... it's not.  I can honestly say that I have no memory of you missing a single practice, concert, performance or event (unless I didn't tell you about it... cause I was a schmuck like that) in all my years of school.  I remember countless  hours on sidelines and bleachers while you did the same for my four older brothers.  What is amazing is that you didn't stop there, at the public events.  Hours of spelling practice (sadly, that time was truly wasted and I bet you wish you could have it back), mindless drills for History and Science tests (not wasted... I totally use it... ok, I don't but I don't want you to regret everything), and that's to say nothing of the fevers, ear aches, fights with girls (so many, many fights with girls), and breakups with boys (lots of those too because I was irresistible what can I say?).  Every time one of  kids leaves their clothes on the floor I remember the time I told you that "When I move out I am not even going to buy hangers because I will just have a pile of clean and a pile of dirty and you will never come to visit me because I will live in a pigsty!" (gosh, I was the sweetest thing wasn't I?) and I want to go back and backhand my former self for you.  Thank you for  cleaning the bathrooms (I think of you when I do that too... 4 BOYS! Ewe) doing the laundry (that I purposely shoved under the bed),  doing the shopping (even though I never once gave that a thought while bringing home all my friends unannounced after school to the loaded pantry), for sitting in the car for hours everyday (I really had no idea that that wasn't fun... strange), forcing me to go to church (ok, I knew that wasn't fun for you... hehe), teaching me to swim, ride a bike, read, and count.  I know you think when I don't call for a couple days that I have forgotten all about you but the truth is those are the days that I think about you the most... as I cook, clean, drive, read to, discipline,  spout vocabulary, pray with and tuck in.  All the while hoping I make it look half as easy as you did. I love you mom.

Love, Amy

( HA... It's not even Mother's Day! Extra points coming my way! )

"Her children arise and call her blessed, her husband also, and praises her:  Many women do noble things but you surpass them all.  Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a women who fears the Lord is to be praised." Proverbs 31: 28-30

(Triple word score!... now I'm just showing off... LOL)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Drum Roll Please...

This is my 100th post... wow, that's a lot of pressure! I have been staring at the blank box for a bit now (not to mention all the mental plotting ever since I realized the last one was #99) trying to come up with something profound and amazing to increase the files of your cerebral cortex... but the harder I try to be clever the lamer I become.  So let's just get this over with...

I started all this (the blogging I mean) by saying that this would be my diary online and I think I have stuck to that.  I haven't scared you all away yet and to be honest, that surprises me.  Maybe I'm the only one (but I doubt it) that wants desperately to to be loved and liked despite my obvious drawbacks.  It means more to me to know that you are my friend even though you read my blog because here, I am (for better or worse) truly me.  The anonymity of it takes some of the fear out of saying what I think out loud and as a person who just needs to process things sometimes it has been such an amazing outlet.  I have worked very hard to learn to think before I speak (so imagine how bad it was before) and to be gracious and kind when dealing with others (again, just imagine... LOL) and it is nice to have a place to just calls em as I sees em.  So, thank you to all of you who have read what I have to say and not only still put up with me but keep coming back for more.  I know for some of you this is the only way you can watch "The Amy Show" as there are no live tapings near you at this time.  For those of you who appear regularly throughout the episodes these are like watching the directors cut or bonus scenes!  Perhaps some of you are even former cast members that were killed off mid season... but to all the members of my audience I give a rousing Cheers!

(whew... I did it... now I have 99 pressure free posts before I face this again)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

So here's the thing...

Here I am... again... late at night in front of the glowing screen thinking "I just want to talk it all out with someone" but there is no one here who wants to talk... well, except for you my little captive and willing audience.  I am struggling.  I have so many dreams, visions and goals (and so little belief in myself) that it is hard.  It seems like each time I find my voice on some situation I am thrust before several different opinions about the same subject very soon after.  How do you cope with feeling like your opinion is correct when others are not? How do you know if you are leading... or leading astray?

This all feels a little... beige and vague.  Let me give an example and perhaps that will help.

I bring you to our little church last week with a visiting pastor (a man I have a history with and know well but perhaps had no idea I was in the room) as he did an amazing job of fire and brimstone (the likes of which I have not seen since I was a child) at our pastor's bequest.  Then I came home to find a poet/prophet on (of all things) Facebook and was forced to look at the contrasts.  One preached shame, guilt and damnation, while one preached forgiveness and redemption despite our obvious unworthiness.  To be honest I am much more comfortable with damnation.  I know full well that I am not worthy.  I know that the one true living God gave all that I might live.  When I hear all the reasons that I am unworthy... they do not surprise me.  In fact, my unworthiness is my second skin.  However,  something happens in my heart and in my head when I hear that I am damned.  There is a pilot light that will not go out.  I feel a hope, that seems to spring eternal in my heart, whisper to me that in my weakness I will find strength and in my failure lies my only hope of success, because I was willing to call out for redemption and a Savior.

I will never be the shining example of how to behave or what to say but let me be an example in this...

Lord God, I was created by you in your image.  I know that my reflection of you is shallow.  I only pray that as you watch that image you can see how much I want to please you.  I want other people to love you more because of how I speak about you.  I want other people to trust you because they have heard the stories of your faithfulness from me.  I may not do chain letters or idle threats about you being ashamed of me because I didn't forward someones junk mail but I do desperately want to thank you and please you. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012


So a facebook friend posted this the other day as her status:

Cycling is so hard, the suffering is so intense, that it's absolutely cleansing. The pain is so deep and strong that a curtain descends over your brain...once; someone asked me what pleasure I took in riding for so long. "pleasure??? I said" "I don't understand the question." I didn't do it for pleasure I did it for the pain. Lance Armstrong

I took some heat the other day for a statement I made about the obsession and self worship aspect of some people's views about their physical selves especially around January.  I must admit as I read this quote, that the first thing that came to mind was "that is exactly how a cutter describes cutting".  Perhaps it is because I have had the opportunity to work with people who are in Olympic training and have been able to see first hand some of the incredibly unhealthy things that become part of their everyday to win or even just qualify to compete and have also spent time with addicts and people in recovery, that I see so many similarities.  They are both entrenched in compulsive behavior.  It is simply that one is far more socially acceptable and so they are rarely encouraged to stop and are many times held up as an example for others to pattern after.  I believe that my friend posted this as she finds it encouraging and inspiring but to me I just see warning signs and red flags.

Then I was privileged to read a blog post written by a women I have never met but must come from the same cloth from which I was cut as we could be sisters of the heart. This is an excerpt from the letter that she writes to her daughters that was part of that post.

*see below
And so I will sing a song of wonder and beauty about womanhood for you to learn from my lips.

I will lead the resistance of these lies in our home by living out a better truth.

I will not criticize my sisters for how they look or live, casting uncharitable words like stones, because my words of criticism or judgement have a strange way of being more boomerang than missile, swinging around to lodge in your own hearts.

I'll wear a bathing suit and I won't tug on it self-consciously. I will get my hair wet.

I will easily change my clothes in front of your Dad, proud of my stretch marks that gave us a family, of breasts that nourished his babies.

I will prove to you that you can be a size 12 and still be sexier than hell.

I will prove to you that you don't have to be all angles and corners, that there is room for some softness because you all love to hug on my soft bits, burrowing into my arms and my breasts to rest for a while.

I will eat dessert and raise my glass and laugh my way to deeper smile lines.

I will celebrate your own beauty, my tall girls, but I will do my best to praise your mind, your heart, your motives as much as I praise your beauty.

I will not let the words "I'm fat" cross my lips - especially in front of you, my beautiful girls.

I will celebrate beauty where I find it, in a million faces uniquely handcrafted by a generous God with a big tent of glorious womanhood.

I will tell stories of women and surround you with a community of women who are smart and strong, crazy and hot-headed, gentle and kind, women who love and you will see that this is what is beautiful, that a generous love is the most gorgeous thing you could ever put on.

 And so I find myself looking for the balance between my own struggles with image and my desire for my children to not share them.  I find that I must curtail my rage toward those who push this crazy obsession before the eyes of my daughters at every turn and fight with the tools I have in the arenas I am given.  I ask you to help me by not posting what you eat for dinner of facebook and calling it "accountability". I ask you to not constantly talk about how you need to loose weight and how fat you feel and please stop using pathetic phrases like "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels".    If you want to give me a compliment in front of my children, compliment me, not my image.  Don't look all excited and say "wow, you look great, have you lost weight?" JUST STOP.

*My daughter and I were selecting photos for  group frame and she said she loved this one "because we look so happy... those are our real smiles" and she didn't think they looked posed enough for the group frame... screw posed.