Faith · Love · Perspective

Be the Good.

What to say and how to say it? I’m not sure as I start to type.

I’m reeling from Sunday night’s events in Las Vegas. I sat at my desk this morning and listened to the first responder’s audio. Tears streamed down my face. For those experiencing this tragedy firsthand, I offer my sincere condolences. I weep with you.

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As more details become available, a slightly clearer picture of this man comes into focus. Alone. Premeditated. Succumbed to evil. Apart from love. Was he mentally ill? I don’t know. Depressed? Maybe. Angry – ABSOLUTELY.

We may never know what spurred this on. It will leave us all with a shard of fear, questions about that person living down the street or in the hotel room next to us, a hesitation about crowds and what’s on the other side of the door. That is EXACTLY what evil wants for us. To worry, hesitate, and isolate ourselves. To withdraw. To lose trust- in ourselves, in each other, and in God.

Free will. The ability to make our own choices. I’ve said it before. It is a double edged sword.

We have the CHOICE- good or evil. We have the CHOICE- help or hurt. We have the CHOICE- forgiveness or retaliation.

He CHOSE evil, hurt, and retaliation. He CHOSE to inflict pain on innocent people.

This is where we have to fight back. I CHOOSE good, to help, and to forgive. I CHOOSE to love my neighbor. I CHOOSE to shine with the love God gives me to use.

Yes, I’ve been hurt. I’ve been damaged and flat out broken at points. Some moments in life take your breath away, sink you all the way to the bottom, and suck away the life you are clinging to.

I’m also redeemed, accepted, forgiven and loved for all my low and high points. If only the shooter had felt a small portion of that, I can’t help but think he might have chosen differently.


Yesterday, on top of the sadness about Las Vegas was a bitterness that I’ve not experienced before from someone I personally know. It was directed at people who are praying.

“Frankly, if you’re still just thinking and praying, you’re an asshole.”

Ouch! Whoa buddy. Hold that rancorous, spiteful thought for just a moment…

I’m not “just thinking and praying.” I’m currently working with youth at a welcoming faith-based outreach program. I’m also active at my children’s school- not just as a PTO member, but as a caring person willing to stoop down to help tie a shoe, hold a door, and say good morning or hello to that sweet little face that is scowling on his way in or out the doors. I don’t know what they are experiencing and absorbing at home, but for the love, I am going to be a positive influence on them!

I’m doing my little piece as big and as wide as I can. And YES. I’m praying.

I challenge you if you find yourself not only sad, but also bitter and angry, to find a way to positively interact with those around you. This world is broken. It always has been. It seems that more of the pieces keep shattering. But in this, I keep seeing the good. The good surfaces where there is brokenness – in the aftermath of the hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and crimes – neighbors step up, charities step in, people start looking outside themselves and praying for the benefit of others.

The GOOD rises.

Be the GOOD.

 

Family · Love · Parenting

Morning Glimpse

It isn’t a great picture. I was trying to be covert.

Aside from the obvious imperfections in my photography skills, I love this picture. It illustrates the love between a little girl and her father. Hugs are given each morning before she or he leaves for school or work.

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The bond between father and daughter is truly a special quality.

Family · Love · Parenting · Perspective

Kindergarten

Kindergarten.

It’s centers and numbers, letters and games, grass grinders in PE and primary colors in Art. Musical songs about shapes are a regular concert at our house in the evenings.

She is flourishing and loves it. M thinks it is easy, fun, and doesn’t want to miss a single minute!

Five mornings a week, she bounces out the door to the bus. She’s gotten dressed, brushed hair and teeth, eaten breakfast, filled her water bottle and hugged her father and I. She puts on her pink backpack that is absolutely as big as she is, hops down the steps after her brother, crosses the lawn, and takes enormous steps up onto the yellow bus.

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At the end of the day, she takes those enormous steps back down off the bus to my office, her freckled cheeks flushed, bobbed strawberry hair wild, and lasts about 3 minutes before breaking down.

My sugar bean is tired. Naps were 1hr plus, 5/7 days a week before the school year started. She is young for her class, borderline to the point that we discussed holding her back just due to her age. Both her preschool teacher and my mom, an early Ed teacher, discouraged that. She’s bright, eager, and not having any behavioral issues, so she moved on.

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She would have been LIVID if we’d kept her back to half days in preschool. She does rest during “rest time” on her lime green towel. However, she made it very clear to us that she doesn’t HAVE to sleep then.

I took all this in consideration last night when our home was deep in the throes of a meltdown by 6pm. Sweet girl was asked to pick up 8 books and a retro (mine from the 80’s) My Little Pony stable in her room. Both kids are required to do one chore an evening – only one simple thing to help the family – i.e. pick up shoes, put away kitchen towels, pick up toys, sweep under the table, water flowers…

It. Was. Impossible. Tears sprung forth. Her body crumpled on the kitchen floor.

10 minutes in and the rest of us carrying on about life around her (this usually works), the waterworks weren’t letting up. Oh precious worn out little girl. I helped her get her dress off and pajamas on. I carried her to her room where she continued to sob.

I laid her on a pillow with a blanket and a snuggly stuffed animal. Sob. I told her she could rest there and gain control. Hugs. Sob. You need to pick up those books and pony stable before you can come out.

10 more minutes – I was in and out the door grilling. My husband and son were outside playing catch. It got quiet. I peeked in at her and saw that she was cleaning up her few items as asked.

She came out with her pillow, blanket, and stuffed animal and laid on the couch until dinner.

I’m not mother-of-the-year by any means. I’ve yelled and overreacted. However, this time it was obvious that compassion and patience were the keys to this sad situation.

No yelling. No time outs. No anger. Just compassion for a worn out little soul.

Aren’t we all feeling like this sometimes? Just too tired to take on anything else? We don’t always end up in a heap on the kitchen floor, but bless you if you have. Sometimes we just need a minute or thirty to compose and make sense of the task at hand.

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Hugs — Jen

**She was asleep shortly after 8pm. 🙂

 

Faith · Love · Perspective

Harvey

Harvey may be one of the most horrific and uniting events we’ve had in recent times. As many in the media and far-out ideologues have pursued divisive tactics and even at this extreme low point criticized politicians from every corner, the rest of the country is pulling together to assist each other. A literal pulling of each other from the water and destruction to safety is occurring as I type this. It has been happening for days.

Watch this video from the NY Times to see neighbors helping neighbors.

Are our neighbors in the south fighting each other and throwing one another from the boats? No. They are working together to save lives.

Are we selfishly turning a blind eye? No. Americans are donating their physical time, strength, money, and supplies to provide for the needs that are increasing each day.

This is who we are as Americans. We are not the hate-filled stereotypes and labels that are so carelessly being splattered around and thrown on people. We are neighborly love for every language, skin shade, origin, and economic status.

Harvey is horrific. Deadly. Heart-breaking. Devastating. It does not have to be divisive. Though the storm is almost past, let it continue to unite us in our kind attention to each other’s needs. As the storm reminds us that we can’t prevent natural disasters, we need to recognize that we are able to prevent our own national disaster.

It starts with each of us personally. Reach out and get to know one another. Say hello. Look someone in the eye. Treat them with respect. Listen. Help your neighbor. Soothe the hurt.

I have a firm faith in God. Prayer, even if you can’t see or understand, (or for some even believe it), does have an impact. So I will continue to pray humbly for those affected by the hurricane and for every person in this country. As we respectfully close our eyes and bow our heads each night before bed, my family prays for those who are sad, hungry, angry, lonely, or sick that we might be able to show God’s love to them through our actions.

Each of us can do our little or our large to help both with Harvey and with our country. Please pay it forward positively.

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Faith · Fitness · Health · Love · Parenting · Perspective

2 Steps Back and 5 Forward

5F2B2 Steps Back and 5 Forward: An effort to get to know yourself and who you are made to be, deeper than the outward reflection shown in the mirror.

A local women’s group did a short exercise with the ladies who were present. It is a Christian non-denominational group for new, seasoned, young, and older. A lovely mix of women.

*I follow online because although it is God-centered, it still isn’t a Best Yes for my time when I add in the driving to town and back and how it disrupts my family’s schedule.*

The exercise asked the women to say or describe two things about themselves that are negative.

  1. I overshare details and stories… then spend anxiety-ridden time mentally re-hashing all the oversharing moments that just spewed forth from my lips. Ugh. Thank goodness I don’t publish on here every thought I actually say out loud. Awkward!
  2. I get extremely frustrated during transition times with my kids. Daycare pickup is the absolute WORST. I’m overwhelmed. They’re talking and arguing over each other for my attention. We all end up with our feelings hurt when I have to SHUT IT DOWN.

^^^ It honestly didn’t take much to come up with those. ^^^

The exercise then asked the women to say or describe five positives. I’ll take this one step further, in honor of the book I’m currently reading – Walking with Purpose, and say it can’t be about my job or my duties as a mother or wife.

giphy4Ummmm…. Hmmmm… Maybe…. ?

  1. I am compassionate for ALL things. I catch spiders and release them outside. I don’t want anyone to suffer. If it has to be the end for a living creature, I want it to be quick and painless. Hungry? I want to feed you. Confused? Let’s figure this out.
  2. I very rarely rush to judgement. I like to gather my own research before forming an opinion. I have friends from all sides of the political, geographical, and faith spectrum. Discussions, when respectful, are thought-provoking and enlightening, even if I disagree with the other parties.
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  3. I am determined. Four years and two babies ago, I decided if I ever wanted to get in shape and feel good mentally, physically, and emotionally, I had to make it happen. No one else could do that for me. It was MY job to exercise; MY job to make devotion time; MY job to figure out where my life was going. Yes, I have a husband, two littles, a job, a pet, family, friends, etc… but what was my path? my goal? Was I just supposed to feed small people and handle advertising from my computer? No.

    I have a bigger purpose. It is one that is constantly evolving and coming into focus as I make another trip around the sun.

  4. Honesty. I told my children that if they ever ask me a question (which they do 3:1 for every statement – truly, I counted), I will ALWAYS tell them the truth. Don’t want to know about Santa? Don’t ask unless you want the truth and history behind Ol’ Saint Nicholas. What happened to Nana & Papa’s old dog? It died because a body gets old and unable to heal. NOT that it went to live on another farm with other old dogs…. Right Mom and Dad?

    I really think honesty is key here. We sugar coat too much to the point where the next generation won’t understand reality.
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  5. Love. Love for my family. Love for my friends. Love for people I don’t even know. I am unconditionally loved by God and want to share that love with those around me.

    I separate love from “like” and “enjoy” and “happiness.” Sure, those are comfortable feelings, but in the uncomfortable is where we grow, support, and care for one another. It’s easy to give a high-five or a smile at the end of a game. It isn’t as easy to sit with a bestie after her engagement ends or know what to say when a friend miscarries, but those are the places that love illustrates beauty. Spending time volunteering to give a hand up to the less physically fortunate or going to an elder care facility and touching a frail, lonely hand, that’s love. Parenting with grace (so hard sometimes!) is another form of love.

    We don’t all “do” love the same way, but think of the world if we all “did” real uncomfortable love in SOME way for somebody.

So there it is. My five positives and my two negatives are out there. Time well spent looking a little deeper into myself.

Much love — Jen

Family · Love · Parenting · Perspective

Pink Sequins

Pink sequins. That’s what my daughter chose to wear this morning for school.

pink sequins2We could have argued about it. The pink sequins adorn her dance recital costume – a pink sequined sleeveless leotard with a pink glittered tulle skirt. She chose to pair it with a pair of faux-denim jeggings, her favorite Minnie Mouse sandals, and a mint colored bow. She asked for a “ballerina bun” in her hair. Glowing with happiness, she was pretty proud of the fashion statement she put together .

There was no argument this morning. The outfit covers everything it needs to. It fits our 3 rules about dressing for school:

  1. Covers all the necessary body parts.
  2. At least close to seasonally appropriate.
  3. No major holes or stains.

It’s not just that I’m tired and nursing a migraine for the second day. It isn’t just that this is the end of the line for this year’s school. “Pick your battles” doesn’t completely cover it. Although she is absolutely adorable and made her dad melt when she pranced out in it, that’s also not it.

This is about trust. Yes, you read that right. How could letting her kid wear a pink sequined dance costume to school be about trust?

It occurred to me a few days ago that I’m constantly asking begging my children to make good choices about things that we, as adults, care about. Her father and I have high expectations for both children’s decision making skills. This situation was something that SHE has strong feelings about.

My little fashionista followed our rules about how to dress appropriately. She picked out the outfit herself. She dressed herself. These are big things for a four year old! This was her saying “Look mom! TRUST me! I’m listening!”

This was a BIG deal in her little world.

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One of the most eye-opening moments as a parent comes when you realize that this little child is, in fact, a little person with unique opinions, big feelings, and an original personality. Inquisitive, stubborn children grow into complex, intelligent adults who make millions of choices. As a parent, it is my job to guide and trust her on these small glittery choices. By doing so, someday she will make larger decisions with faith in herself.

Moment by moment, she’s growing up.

Faith · Love · Perspective

She Lives On.

On Monday, we attended a beautiful funeral. Funeral and beautiful in the same sentence. That’s hard to write. It was throat-tightening hard to attend too.

The phone call 14 months ago that told us Mary Ann had pancreatic cancer took our breath away. She was young in years and spirit, vibrant, with her first grandbaby just having arrived a few months earlier.

She fought like a warrior. Full of grace. Determination. And yet always with a smile on her face. An easy, smooth laugh. All characteristics her three children have.

I’d only met and spent time with her here and there when events with her daughter -my husband’s college friend, wife to his best friend and now my close friend- brought us to the same location. I knew Mary Ann on a surface level. After hearing her eulogy written and read by her daughter, I know the joyful and loving soul I experienced was just the tip of the iceberg. Her love, faith, and kindness was deep and all-encompassing. She was beautiful.

She IS beautiful.

She lives on in the example she gave in her marriage. She lives on in the way her children love and forgive. She lives on in all the lives she touched through her service in the church and community.

She LIVES. Her body was tired. Her soul no longer needed it. She IS smiling with God, greeted by Jesus with a joyful embrace.

I sit at my desk – Friday evening – work is done and over, typing this as tears stream down my face. Her physical life was beautiful but her soul IS beautiful.

I am completely inept at funerals. I don’t know how to console anyone. I never ask if someone is ok, because honestly, no one is. But Linds, I hope these words bring comfort to Ash, Chris, Gary, you and your family. I faithfully believe them.

We love you all.