Adios, Summer….

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven…. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Summer is definitely NOT my favorite season.  Too hot.  Too many bugs.  Idle hands (and all that entails.)  And yet, of all the four seasons, it is the most magical!  Anything can (and usually does) happen in the summer.  Long days lend themselves to contemplation, soul-searching and deep pondering…three of my absolute favorite things.

Summer is complicated and easy at the same time.  For me, innumerable hours of drive time, ball games and travel make for a hectic schedule, but it’s a good kind of busy.  Dealing with active/bored teenagers 24/7 has its cons, but with each passing year I experience so many more of the pros.  Soaking up sunshine and staying up late under starry skies makes for a happy heart.  (And hiding out in the AC is equally as good!)  It’s during these times that I find true gratitude and real, meaningful peace.  I know it won’t always be like this.  Maybe that’s why I savor these summer days so much…and I’m so incredibly saddened when this special season ends.

As we wrap up Summer 2018, I offer up my “song of summer.”  I choose one every year…a habit that began in my youth.  This summer’s song sparked tons of dialogue on long car rides as I FORCED any (and all) passengers to sit and listen.  And if you think pop stars Macklemore and Kesha have little to offer…think again.  My kiddos could probably write a paper about why this song speaks to me and then list the lessons in it for them as well.  I’m not trying to say this track will change the world, but as far as summer songs go…there’s something to be said about the “Good Old Days.”  Adios, summer….

“Someday soon, your whole life’s gonna change,
You’ll miss the magic of these good old days…”

 

 

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College Bound? READ THIS.

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy – I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”  -Art Williams

College living at it’s finest! (Note the paper calendar taped to the wall. Sorry HGTV.)

Congratulations!  You’re about to embark on an exciting adventure!  And if you’re anything like I was at age 18, then you had one foot halfway out the door during senior year.  I originally offered this advice to my niece when she made her BIG move, but I thought I would offer it again here.  (Original post January 5, 2017.)

  1. Moving away from home/going to school takes guts. Not everyone can do it. Not everyone should do it, but having the courage to walk away from everything you know and try something new/exciting/scary and uncomfortable deserves some major props. In doing this, you have already proven one thing: you are WILLING to take chances. Kudos.
  2. In many ways you’ve been preparing for this your whole life and in many other ways you’re not prepared at all. This is okay. In fact, it’s better than okay. It’s absolutely normal.
  3. Good things will happen and bad things will happen, too. How you deal with these things will make all the difference. My favorite quote is by author Og Mandino. It says “Count your blessings, proclaim your rarity, go another mile, USE WISELY YOUR POWER OF CHOICE, and one more–to fulfill the other four–do all things with love…love for yourself, love for all others, and love for GOD….You Are the Greatest Miracle in The World.” You can always choose. Remember that no hole is too deep, no place is too far for redemption.
  4. Never date a man with hair longer than your own. Random, I know…but really. Who needs the competition? I actually came up with this rule while visiting friends at K-State. I can’t remember what the circumstances were exactly, but it’s a rule that has served me well. BTW…man buns are now included in this one!
  5. Talk to God (a lot) and don’t forget to listen, too. Although I think you should go to church, I have to admit that I didn’t attend while I was in college. I can honestly tell you that I missed out and I would definitely do this part differently today. Nonetheless, I did a whole lot of praying during that time and LISTENING to God, too. This saved my bacon more than once and I am eternally grateful. Looking back I can clearly see God at work during my college years. Make your relationship with Him a priority.
  6. Practice the “pause.” I didn’t come up with this…I’m not sure who did, but it makes a lot of sense and it may actually save your life someday. “When in doubt, pause. When angry, pause. When tired, pause. When stressed, pause. And when you pause, always pray.”
  7. Keep an eye on your drink. Again, another random one…but this is vital. There are bad guys (and girls) out there. People who do not have your best interest at heart. People who will try to use (and abuse) you and hurt you to satisfy their own evil desires. These people will buy you drinks and worse, they may even spike your drink. I made it a practice to never, ever, EVER accept a drink from a stranger (and eventually I didn’t accept any drinks at all.) It was not always well received. I’ve been called countless names, been yelled at, and made fun of. I didn’t care. In fact, it just proved that this was someone who I definitely didn’t have any business hanging out with. If someone wants to buy you a drink, great. The two of you can go up to the bar and order it together. At a party, keep in mind that you are perfectly capable of pouring your own drink. Carry a water bottle (drunkenness is overrated anyway.) Be on guard. Protect yourself…and look after your friends, too.
  8. You’re not expected to peak now. While these clearly are some of the best days of your life…they’re not the only days of your life. Someday you might choose to travel, land your dream job, become President, meet an awesome guy, have a fabulous wedding, start your own business, become a mother…the list goes on and on. Life is a series of journeys. Never think that your best days are behind you…always look forward.
  9. Trust your gut…that’s the Holy Spirit at work. Look people in the eye, but more importantly watch what they say and do. I wholeheartedly believe God speaks to us and a little warning light goes off when we’re in bad company. Do not ignore this! Women (especially) tend to discount this small little voice. We want to be nice, we want to give people the benefit of the doubt, we don’t want to seem childish or afraid…you get the point. So we make nice…and often times this puts us in very vulnerable situations. If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t right. End of story. You owe no one an explanation.
  10. Finally, know this…you can always go home. ALWAYS. There is no shame. You’ve stepped out once, you can and will do it again. This IS life. Having a home base is a luxury not afforded to everyone. You have a family that would move mountains for you (just ask.) This is an incredible blessing.

SPECIAL NOTE:  You cannot live on Ramen.  You will try (we all do.)  But I repeat, you cannot live on Ramen.  

Remember, there are a lot of people rooting for you, kid!  You got THIS.  Welcome to your next adventure!

The old is gone.  The new is here.  2 Corinthians 5:17

Invincibility+Avoidance=Denial (My Silent Midlife Crisis)

Silence is the most powerful scream.  —Anonymous

When 40 reared its ugly head my reaction was twofold:  First, gratitude…not everyone is afforded such a luxury!  And my second thought was…this is it?  Really?  Midlife doesn’t look so hard.  Naïve, so very naïve.

I was duped on so many levels…most of them of my own doing.  First of all, I felt great!  On my 40th birthday I felt as good as any day in my 30s.  Only now I thought I had the advantage of WISDOM on my side.  Clearly, I’d made it through the hardest part of any person’s lifespan.  Far from adolescence, long past the early stages of discovering myself in adulthood, and just beyond the trials of thirtysomething.  All the “growing up” and “what-ifs” were behind me.  I was so comfortable in my own skin that I should have pinched myself!  In hindsight, I wish I had.

It’s not that midlife is scary or daunting…I just really wasn’t prepared for the level of introspection that accompanies this milestone.  Let me elaborate.  We’re all familiar with the clichés that surround the dreaded midlife crisis.  Extreme images like buying fancy sports cars, dating someone half your age, and plastic surgery always come to mind.  However, midlife can also be as benign as a new haircut, a tattoo or training for a marathon.  I knew about all these tell-tale behaviors, but it was the internal unrest that took me by total surprise.

Of course, all of this didn’t happen right at 40.  I was a late bloomer, so I should have expected that my midlife symptoms would show up late to the party as well.  And they did!  Look, I’m an introvert by nature, so being lost in thought is nothing new to me.  I wear it like a badge of honor.  I’m thoughtful and reflective.  I make informed decisions…I’m cautious to a fault.  I process everything…ABSOLUTELY everything.  This has always been my way.  Still, nothing could have prepared me for this new level of self-analysis and soul-searching.  Somedays, I carefully walk around my own thoughts…like a misplaced piece of bulky furniture that no one wants to move or deal with.  Other days, I can’t get away from myself…I’m practically tripping over my own musings!  And it’s not about regret.  My conscience is clear here.  It’s just that I wonder…should I have, what if I did, and my least favorite…is there still time to….

I truly thought I had it all figured out and when I realized that I didn’t, I decided to ignore that truth.  I told myself, I couldn’t possibly be prone to a midlife crisis.  I didn’t plan for this!  I didn’t authorize this!  I’m not doing this!

Naïve, so very naïve.

So, here I sit…wavering between dumbstruck and flat-out denial (all while trying to raise teenagers! God is so funny sometimes.)  It can’t be this hard, right?  Surely, everybody deals with this on some level? I know I’m not the only one (please tell me I’m not the only one!)  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a functioning adult.  I have every intention of processing the heck out of this and coming out better on the other side.  And while I’ve already ruled out getting a tattoo, that doesn’t mean the fancy sports car doesn’t look good to me!

UP NEXT:  Is It Hot in Here or Am I Just Dying? (My Silent Midlife Crisis, Part II)

 

 

“Eye” Opening (A Lesson in Perspective)

The fingerprints of God are often invisible until you see them in the rearview mirror. -Levi Lusko

It had been a long season…one of more “downs” than “ups.”  Sometimes life is like that.  They say that a mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child…and, wow, do I get that now.  Still, I held out hope (even if it was just the tiniest glimmer.) I had been looking forward to this day, a day where we could all unceremoniously start a new chapter.  It had arrived…without fanfare and without jubilation.  Only numbness and fatigue.

I had gotten so used to the old pattern, the barely breathing pattern where the emotions were so close to the surface that it was practically a miracle if no one noticed.  The questions still resounded in my head, “if only…could I have…and what if?”  Pointless questions really.  I had gone over them a thousand times in my mind. Day after day.  I prayed.  And I kept praying.  I trusted that the lesson would reveal itself.  Maybe.  Someday.

In the quietness of that afternoon I found myself searching out a needle and thread.  Crossing a “finish line” meant that I could now tend to things that I had put off.  The scattered stuffing of the basement tiger could no longer be set aside.  I asked, “Don’t you think it’s time we got rid of this?  Maybe it’s time to throw the tiger away….”  No.  It was a gift.  It was still useful.  It was a part of the family.  In reality, it was huge, it had a hole, it was getting stuffing EVERYWHERE.

When I finally found the sewing supplies I needed, I headed downstairs.  Needle in hand I realized that I forgot to bring my reading glasses.  “There’s no way you’ll be able to thread the needle without them,” the voice in my head noted.  Uggghh.  I tried any way.  Nope.  Tried again.  Ain’t happenin’.  On the third attempt I adjusted my perspective.  Moving the needle in front of the golden belly of the tiger changed the background just enough…allowing me to focus.  Suddenly the eye that had eluded me stood out clear as day.  The black thread easily went through.  Victory.  (I needed that.)

I stitched up the stuffed tiger and ran my fingers over its new battle scar.  Not bad.  For the most part, the new stitches were practically undetectable…that is until the last few.  Probably where the hole started, I thought.  Damaged faux fur, but totally fixable.  With the right perspective…totally fixable.

For I know the one in whom I trust.  And I am sure that He is able.  2 Timothy 1:12

Love Story: The Pen Remains Mighty

More than kisses, letters mingle souls. –John Donne, author and poet

When my children were little, they loved to sing this little ditty from Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues:  “We just got a letter, we just got a letter, we just got a letter…I wonder who it’s from?”  Maybe you’ve heard of it? (And if not, sorry for the brain worm!)  They would sing this song on the way to the mailbox daily.  The song continued no matter what kind of mail had arrived.  Electric bill…sing.  Junk mail…sing.  Not at this address…sing.  You get the picture.  When an actual package, card or letter would arrive (grandmas are awesome for this,) there would be absolute pandemonium–sheer unbridled jubilation!  As holidays approached, especially birthdays, the anticipation level in the house was off the charts.  Today, they’re “super chill” teenagers, but I can still feel this same anticipation meter slowly (and in the most cool manner ever) rise like in the “old” days! It makes my heart smile.

I had one of those heart smile moments just the other day at church.  As part of our CARDS ministry, a large display sits in the gathering area outside the Sanctuary.  This portable, mini Hallmark booth houses handmade greeting cards for all occasions.  Anyone is welcome to browse and choose one of these colorful creations in exchange for a $1 donation to the larger ministry which sends these amazing little gems overseas to our service men and women (who then fill them out and send them home to their families and loved ones.)  It’s a beautiful circle of love, one that mutually benefits the card crafters, our country’s service personnel, military families and friends, our church community and, above all, brings honor to our Creator.  It’s such an amazing mission ministry, but here’s the part where my heart smiled.  While walking through the gathering area with a group of elementary girls, one young lady stopped to pause.  And while it’s not unusual for the kiddos who participate in our Wednesday night children’s ministry programs to check out the display, she pointed several out to me, and shared that she had recently bought one herself.

I was taken aback, fourth graders aren’t your typical greeting card shoppers.  She said it was for her mother’s birthday.  Later, when I had an opportunity, I asked her about the card.  She told me that she had been scoping the cards out for weeks, trying to pick the very best one.  At the same time, she started saving her coins.  When her mother’s birthday arrived, she had reached her $1 goal and chose a card.  She said, “I’m a kid.  I can’t go to the store…I wanted my mom to have something beautiful to open on her birthday.”  And just like that, the mission field expanded.  Heart smile…can you feel it?

I always tell people that amazing and wonderful things happen at church!  And while I believe God is truly everywhere, it seems as if the Holy Spirit is palpable here…how else could we get filled up each week, ready to share the Good News and be Light to others?  When I went home that night, I thought about that little girl and the card she gave to her mom.  As a mother myself, I know what treasures these gifts are!  Written on that card in ink pen she would find more than her sweet child’s fourth grade handwriting and autograph, she would experience thoughtfulness, a child’s innocence, and unconditional love.  Words written on mere paper, yet guaranteed to leave a permanent mark on a mother’s heart.  In an age of texts and emails,  it is gratifying to know (that on so many levels) the pen remains mighty indeed.

 

Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.  Proverbs 3:3

 

Food Network is Winning (aka Writer’s Block)

Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.  –Charles Bukowski

Ugggghh.  In case you haven’t noticed, things have been a little quiet.  Not by choice, but basically because of choices.  Kind of like no one gains 50 pounds by avoiding potato chips.  (Does that even make sense?  I’m pretty sure that’s not even a real saying.)  All foolishness aside, I’ve definitely hit a season of writer’s block.  It actually came on in the summer.  I could feel it (barreling at me like a big truck,) but I didn’t know what to do about it.  I figured if I ignored it, it might just go away.  (It could happen!)  It didn’t.

The experts say look for every opportunity to write.  Create goals for yourself.  Write, even if you have nothing to write about.  My solution to the whole problem was to create a blog series and force myself to write every day.  Every.  Single. Day.  I can laugh about it now.  What started out as a “Countdown TO Summer” became a “Countdown THROUGH Summer.”  Still, it was writing and they say some writing is better than nothing.  Ugggghhh.  (What do they know?  I wonder if they ever had writer’s block?  They think they know everything.)

It seemed like every time I sat down to write, nothing new or interesting was happening.  In reality, everything uninteresting was happening.  Time was marching on.  Life was moving fast.  And Food Network just kept calling my name…and you know that I am absolutely not a foodie.  So what gives?  I wasn’t watching to improve my cooking skills or to discover cutting edge cuisine.  I wasn’t watching because of some celebrity chef crush.  I wasn’t watching for the original programming (ha–that made me laugh!)  It turns out that nothing new or interesting was happening on the Food Network, either.  Maybe this is where misery just loves company.

Ok, it hasn’t been all that bad.  I found joy in painting.  (Painting furniture.  Painting my daughter’s bedroom.  Painting wall décor.)  I fed that creative drive with baking.  I took on a new project at church.  I watched (and continue to watch) a lot of baseball, softball and soccer.  I helped my son learn to drive.  I have racked up hundreds of hours listening to (and learning from) podcasts.  Still, it’s a strange season that I’m in.  One where I long to hear the clickety-clak of the keyboard, but  wonder if I have anything truly worthwhile to say.

Every writer knows that writer’s block is unavoidable.  I don’t want to call it a necessary evil, but it is a reality…especially now.  Perhaps, just maybe, this is how a writers knows he/she has arrived…yeah, I’m just going to go with that.  Clickety-clak, clickety-clak!

To give an appropriate answer is a joy; how good is a word at the right time! Proverbs 15:23

 

 

 

 

KEEP CALM, Summer’s Coming (15 Sunshine-Inspired Songs) SONG 15

Laughter is an instant vacation.  –Milton Berle

Me in Hawaii…being eaten alive by tropical mosquitoes. Yay!

Have you ever tried vacationing with an introvert?  It’s the absolute worst!  I know because I am THAT introvert.

Basically, I’m a home body.  I’m perfectly content with staying inside ALL DAY.  This becomes problematic when your entire family is made up of extroverts.  They like to do things (like go out of the house,) hang out with friends, see new things and try adventurous stuff…in the HEAT of summer!  Ugggghhh.  I’m not “anti” all of this…I’m just a lot more particular about how it all gets done.  Thus, the worst introvert to vacation with.  EVER.

So what does this have to do with the last song on my summer playlist?  A lot actually.  “Vacation” by the Go Go’s was a smash hit in 1982.  Quirky, fun-loving, and surfy…these girls really nailed the pop/punk rock/girl power kind of sound.  A tune about trying to use a vacation to get over a guy–well what could be more practical than that?  (Introverts LOVE practical!)  “Vacation” further cemented the popular girl group as 80s icons resulting in the song earning the number eight spot on both the Billboard Top 100 and the Rolling Stone Best Summer Songs of All Time list.  And while these ladies seem like the “vacation” type, interviews and soundbites reveal that they were actually a little salty.  Group members wrote their own songs, learned how to play their own instruments, scoffed at the record label executives, and basically did everything on their terms.  Which sounds a little bit like my approach to vacationing…why do we need to go, what will we see there, how much is this going to cost, is it really worth my time, is it safe and (my favorite question) how many people are going to be there?  So who wants to travel with me now?

Seriously, I love this song and remember thinking as a kid how cool it would be to perform synchronized water-skiing with my best girl friends.  We all wanted to be Belinda Carlisle and the catchy chorus still brings a smile to my face.  Besides, the music video actually depicts the best kind of vacation ever–virtual!  Enjoy YOUR summer!