A Broken Hallelujah…

Happy New Year! … and a belated Merry Christmas, too. I had the best of intentions to log in and provide some kind of grand blog on ending 2016 and beginning 2017. But, time, energy and “too many other things” got the better of me. That’s OK…it’s only January 2nd. Plenty more time to provide wit, wisdom and great depths of knowledge.

I had a really fun Christmas. We live in South Texas and my husband and I just completed building a pool. It was done in time for Christmas. (We thought it was going to be done back in October. If you’ve had to do any work with contractors you understand that there is no schedule that can’t be broken and no timeline that can’t be extended…frustratingly so. I digress) As I was mentioning we have a beautiful, new, blue pool.

Having lived up north for pretty much all my life, it’s a new experience to have weather warm enough in which to swim. We had lots of nights in the hot tub. My kid, I’ve learned, is part fish. He would live in the pool if he could. This unfortunately means that we experienced our first bout of swimmer’s ear. Not cool.

One thing about getting a pool that no one ever tells you about is the increased amount of laundry that comes with getting in and out of water repeatedly throughout the day. Wet beach towels are heavy and start to stink if not properly aired out. Ergo…I did close to twenty loads of laundry during the 3 or 4 days surrounding Christmas.

In this frenetic effort to keep Christmas traditions, enjoy the pool, enjoy my family and, Christmas baking done (because no perfect Christmas isn’t without gingerbread cookies) and try not to miss out on the true meaning of Christmas…I started to get a little panicky. You know when you get that feeling of frustration because you feel like you are doing ALL the work and “why in the world am I doing all this work!” and “if I have to fold another towel I swear I’ll…!” and “I’m doing all this work and missing out on Christmas and this is my one chance to enjoy it because it only comes around once a year!”…you smelling me?

At this stage of frustration the sweet, cheerful, perfect-Christmas attitude exits and the ticked-off, “Get away from me; don’t touch me” attitude joins the Christmas party. She’s a joy. Killjoy is more like it. She’s also a  tough nut to crack because she just won’t leave.

Groan.

All I want to do is celebrate the birth of my Lord. Love my husband. Enjoy my son’s delight. Instead I’m bent out of shape because things aren’t picture perfect and what the frick am I folding all these towels, for?!?

Then comes my favorite part…guilt. On top of the towels and grumpy attitude let’s spread a little guilt on this craptastic parfait. Guilt you ask? Yes. That sick, guilty feeling of , “I know it’s Christmas and I’m really trying to have that Mary not Martha attitude. But I can’t help it…I’m grumping-out big time and I know I’m missing out on this fun season because of my own crabby attitude and now I feel really guilty about it.” That guilt.

At the end of this schizophrenic tale it finally occurred to me. I celebrate Christmas everyday. The saving of Christ’s birth. The closeness of his presence. The newness of a new year. The stillness of His breath. I guess I don’t have to cram Christmas cookies, decorations, family time into one season because each day of my life is a rhythm of re-birth…a rhythm of Christmas and  New Year.

I’m sure next Christmas season I’ll try harder to slow down and soak up the joy of Christmas…but, I might fail…actually, I will fail. A broken hallelujah. That’s OK. I’m just one woman and I can only fold one towel at a time. But one thing is for sure…I’m not going to feel guilty. My Jesus has given me Christmas and New Years rolled up into one and I get to enjoy it everyday. He’s given me grace to screw up and the hope of knowing He’ll make things new. That’s a relief.

I’ve got to run…towels need to be loaded into the dryer.

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

– Revelation 21:5 NIV

Rhythm

I love the word ‘rhythm’. It’s got that awkward letter ‘y’ right in the middle and preceded by a silent ‘h’…it’s a phonetic pronunciation nightmare. All the same…it’s a great word. Good rhythm is what we all hope to have when our favorite beat drops in the grocery store, or the car, shopping at Costco and most especially when we ‘re dancing in front of our family at our cousin’s wedding. Some of us don’t have very good rhythm. I tease my husband all the time that he has terrible rhythm. He taught me how to dance the ‘water-sprinkler’ when we were in college. That’s the sum total of his rhythm. Likewise…i’m not sure that my rhythm is very good either. I firmly believe I know how to drop my beat when my favorite tune comes on…but the looks on everyone’s faces is not one of being impressed at my moves …more like they’re embarrassed for me. My son, on the other hand, he’s got it….and thank goodness for that. That kid can drop his groove anywhere, anytime; no matter what song. He even dances to Neil Diamond! It is truly impressive.

Rhythm is a wonderful thing. It’s the steady drumbeat to not only our favorite music but also to life. Our lives move and sway to a rhythm. Sometimes the movement is fast…frenetic almost. Other times, the rhythm is slow, methodical. Our life can go through a rhythm of positive and negative. Of ups and downs….side-to-side. The rhythm can abruptly change or it can go on seemingly forever. When my son was a toddler my husband traveled extensively and I found myself alone in a town where I didn’t know many people. (We had moved shortly after my son was born) That was a tough rhythm; seemed like it would never end. Countless hours of diapers, picking up, wiping tears, making meals, etc. When life’s rhythm is difficult it’s easy to be lost in the frustration and not see the joys because in addition to the diapers, meals, cleaning up, etc…there was also story time, laughter, singing together, cuddle time, etc.

It’s important not to fight the life-rhythm in which we find ourselves. If we are in a rhythm of mourning…we have to mourn. In high school my best friend was killed in a bicycle accident just before starting senior year. I continued to tell myself that we weren’t very close and that her death shouldn’t affect me. I would dream about her. In my dreams I was so angry with her. It took years to bring myself to go to her grave…i couldn’t accept the finality of the situation. It’s scary to show yourself grace when you are heartbroken. Ignoring the rhythm of mourning meant ignoring my heart-break. Instead of showing myself grace, I withheld it. Not cool.

Rhythm is very much a God-thing and He has woven it all over the place.The heart He made you with beats in a rhythm. The lives He has given us moves from the rhythm of childhood to adult to senior. Parenting is a rhythm that changes as our children get older and become more independent. There is a rhythm to learning…it’s called a learning curve. Students begin in kindergarten barely knowing their ABC’s. By 12th grade they read, write and can, hopefully, reason. This earth moves in the rhythm of spring, summer, fall and winter. There is a steady drum-beat everywhere not only in what we do but in what is going on around us.

Most importantly rhythm cannot be rushed. We can’t “push” through life rhythms. We need to walk, move. sway to the beat. Sometimes my life’s rhythm is somber and discouraging. In those moments,  the presence of my Lord gently reminds me that it won’t always be this way…it’ll change. Other times, my rhythm is exciting…pure joy. I soak it up and relish every moment.

The rhythms of our life are a gift. They are periods of time that form our character and shape our opinions. They are journeys that reveal God’s grace; moments where we have to be carried or pulled through life followed by moments where we dance to the beat.

Through it all, good or bad, rhythms bring us into a deeper, more intimate relationship with God. We experience rhythms of sadness and find His comfort, rhythms of hunger and He fills us, rhythms of anger and we are given His wisdom, rhythms of joy … and we are reminded of His grace.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)

Peggy

You know how sometimes some folks are just “on your mind?” You keep thinking about them and can’t get them out of your thoughts. Today…been thinking about my Grandma. I can’t really pinpoint a reason why she’s been on my mind lately. She’s a fun person to think about. Full of lots of spunk, sass and very snarky. That was my favorite part about her.

Here’s something I wrote two years ago and wanted to ‘re-blog’. Her name was Peggy…

It’s late & I’m tired. This has been a long day tacked into a long week. Nothing really tasking has happened. It’s just that feeling of moving quickly through space and time …completing the checklist and feeling unhinged from the moment. That is until I received a package on my doorstep today. It’s funny, I kept racking my brain trying to remember what I or my husband had ordered. I opened the box. It was filled to the brim with white packing popcorn. The kind that generates static electricity and makes it difficult to remove the object from the box without spilling styrofoam pieces everywhere. Setting aside my anal retentiveness, I plunged my hand in and pulled out the smaller box that was inside. All the while my son is constantly chattering to me and delighted to track down all the styrofoam pieces and crunch them. I move through the motions of opening the smaller box. Upon seeing what was inside, time stopped. I was no longer unhinged from the moment and became immediately connected.

The package was from my uncle and inside was a wooden Anri figurine that belonged to my grandmother. It’s of a young girl carrying a tea set. The girl is dressed in clothes that look similar to what Laura Ingalls wore on Little House on the Prairie…only much finer. Her hair is pulled back in a bun and she has a puffy hat on her head. Her tea set is complete with teapot, sugar, creamer and two cups…all decorated with little blue flowers. Perhaps to me, the most touching part was draped around the figurine. It was a wooden beaded necklace with my name in beads. My grandmother had purchased the necklace for me and one for all my cousins, for that matter. Each necklace had our names. My necklace had been placed on this little figure over 30 years ago. My uncle included a letter describing the story behind my grandmothers love and collection for these figures. His letter describes how this one, because the necklace was on it and the little girl appears to be going to a tea party, she had intended for me.

My grandma and I used to have tea party’s, often. Our tea party’s were on toy tea sets made from real china. I didn’t really like to play dolls; although she was an avid collector. Frankly, I’ve always found dolls to be weird. I couldn’t ever get into cross stitch and she was marvelous at it. I remember several times, after having attempted to work with me on a cross stitch project or taking me to the toy store and almost begging me to buy a doll, she would shake her head and say, “I can’t believe I’m related to you.” But we did have tea party’s.

She passed away 8… Almost 9 years ago. I still have dreams about her, routinely. Sometimes in my dreams she’s ill from the Alzheimer’s she battled and, to cheer her up, I pull out pictures of her grand kids. We start to talk about all my cousins and it seems to make her smile. Other times, she’s in my dreams and completely healthy. I ask her, bluntly, “What are you doing here? I thought you died?” (remember, it’s a dream and nothing really makes sense) In her usual spunkiness she responds, slightly miffed that I even asked her, “Yes, yes, I know. ”

You know that scripture verse in Hebrews…12:1, I think. It talks about how we have “so great a cloud of witnesses….to run with endurance the race set before us.” I think my grandma is in my cloud of witnesses. I think, that as I run this race, she is cheering me. That I can’t quit the race and I’ve no choice but to run in such a way as to win.

The little “tea time” figurine was an unexpected blessing today. She is a reminder of where I come from. A reminder of my grandmother. A strong woman filled with grace who taught me that the art to having a tea party is learning how to slow down and live in the moment.

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Good Morning Sunshine :)

I was in the doctor’s office last week for an annual wellness visit. My doctor was running behind which is usually my opportunity to get caught up on all the style and gossip magazines…the ones that talk about fashion, and makeup, and clothes and all that really fun stuff. The particular magazine I picked up was about all the latest fashions and trends. Seeing as I how I don’t receive theses magazines at home, I thought it a good opportunity to bone-up on my fashion sense.

Thumbing through my magazine I happened to come upon an article chronicling the morning routines of three busy, successful females. Each of the women provided, in detail, what they did in the morning to get themselves started. One was a venture capitalist, another a global fashionista and the third an entrepreneur of a flavored-water company. All the women appeared beautiful, intelligent and accomplished in their own right. All of them got up early…between 5:15 to 7 am. (one lady gets up at 6:05 because she hates the snooze button and 6 am seems too early…ergo..6:05 am) Each of them performed some activity to wake up their brain…exercise, meditation, walking, etc. They all had very healthy breakfast habits: hot water with ginger and lemon (to detox), Greek yogurt, lattes, eggs, toast, grapefruit, or smoothie. Further still, their morning beauty habits made me jealous: vitamin E body scrub, face washes I can’t pronounce, lotion exfoliators I can’t pronounce, sun screen, age repair serums, mineral frizzy shine serums for hair, regenerating firming lift oil, plumping mascara, brilliant gloss for the lips and much, much more. In the end, between the beauty/hair treatments, morning exercise/meditation and light breakfast, each lady made it out the door between 8 and 8:50 am.

I’m quite envious of these ladies…here’s my morning routine:

7 am – Hit the snooze button. I believe in the snooze button and I believe it has a place in my life.

7:09 am – Get up. Get kiddo up. This usually requires an explanation (sometimes an argument) that contrary to his internal clock it is in fact time to get out of bed. (PS…remind kiddo that when he washes his hair in the shower he is to wash all of his hair not just the front half of his cranium)

7:11 – Turn off exterior house lights. They don’t go off automatically and those bulbs are expensive to replace.

7:11 – Start hollering for Oswald (8 year old English bulldog) that it is time to get up. He’s old and he’s a bulldog = stubborn.

7:15  – Now that Oswald is in an upright position begin wiping all his wrinkles…around nose, eyes, mouth, ears etc.  Once his face is clean, pull (and I do mean pull) dog into laundry room to begin eating his breakfast.

7:18 – Get kiddo’s bed made and holler into the bathroom to remind him that ALL his hair must be washed.

7:20 – Make kiddo’s breakfast (equates to heating up frozen pancakes), pack his lunch. Holler to hubby to see if he needs lunch today or if he wants toast for breakfast.

7:30 – Explain to my son that he better kick it into high gear because he needs to feed his cat. Then turn around and hug and kiss hubby out the door.

7:35 – Make my bed. Get out of my pajamas. Put on some walking clothes

7:40 – Let Oswald outside, fill up his water bowl and follow it up with a quick “Son, what is taking so long? You’ve still got to brush your teeth?!?”

7:45 – Let Oswald inside and perform the most loathsome task of the morning. (For any of you English bulldog owners this will come as no surprise. However if you have the pleasure of owning a pet without a corkscrew tail, this will seem a bit over the top. Rest assured it is quite necessary) After Oswald has finished his morning constitution, I pull out a hemorrhoid wipe and proceed to wipe my English bulldogs butt and tail. I am not joking. If I don’t perform this task he takes on the smell of dead, rotting fish.

7:50 – Scrub my hands. Check my hair in the reflection of the microwave. Holler to my son…”Time to go!”

We head out the door and walk to school. It’s a 1.2 mile walk. We talk about everything. Video games, his friends, what he read in his devotions that morning…nothing is off limits. I walk him up to the school… hug, kiss and watch him walk through the doors. I then walk for the next hour or so around our neighborhood; finally making it back to my house to a bowl of raisin bran, cup of coffee and then a shower.

There isn’t any lemon, ginger water to detoxify my system, although it does sound like a good idea. I’ve no fancy face scrubs. I don’t meditate to focus…but I do read my Bible to stay grounded and hopeful. I feed little mouths and wipe wrinkles…and butts. My morning is a far cry from the three ladies in the magazine, but I’m equally as successful, accomplished and as beautiful as they are. My morning is not fancy…it’s controlled chaos and it happens to be full of grace.

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Oswald…his usual pose.

I Am Retouched “Untouched” Perfection

Couple of weeks ago a picture surfaced of Cindy Crawford. In of itself this is no biggie as Cindy is/was a supermodel and remains active in the public eye. She has appeared on many runways, countless magazine covers and even starred in her own workout videos. The unusual nature of this event lies in the perfection…or lack of perfection in these photographs. Supposedly the photos were ‘leaked’ prior to any photographic touch-up of the body, clothing or face. Cindy is standing in this sort of “I’m-just-stretching-my-back” pose wearing a black bra and underwear. She’s sporting a cool looking black fedora, some sweet earrings and wearing a black-feathered Cruella DeVille type coat…or maybe its a robe. At any rate, she looks awesome. Makeup, expression on her face…it all looks sexy. More compelling is that the photo shows her tummy NOT as a tight, flat midsection but instead a “I’ve had a couple of babies” midsection. Further still, regardless of how Cindy’s tummy (AND thighs) were not a perfect, plastic, Hollywood-ized expectation, the expression on her face shows that she really doesn’t care. She’s acting FLY. Appearing more than comfortable in her own skin, she acts sexy.

The “leak” of this photograph to social  media and news outlets caused quite the stir. I had friends on my Facebook & Twitter pages posting and tweeting the photo and congratulating Cindy for being “brave.” Brave…I guess because it takes a lot of guts to appear as your normal self and not your ‘pretend’ self in front of bunches of people.

So that was a couple of weeks ago. Fast forward to today, March 2nd. The photos now are being claimed to be retouched so that they appear untouched. You follow? In other words, the photographer of the original photos states that the pictures were stolen and were retouched (altered) to appear that they were untouched … untouched suggesting the real (untouched) Cindy Crawford is like the rest of us…not perfect; blemished. To further support  the “nonsense”  that Cindy’s tummy does NOT look like cottage cheese, Cindy’s husband tweeted a photo of her in a swimsuit looking amazing…like a supermodel.

The most interesting part in this story is not Cindy Crawford…it’s us, me and you. We saw what we thought was a person willing to be uniquely herself  in front of everyone regardless of wrinkle or age. We are drawn to that…at least, I know I’m drawn it. Realness. Vulnerability. Not fake.

That being said I have decided, and you are welcome to participate with me, that I am going to be retouched “untouched” perfection. I don’t plan on limiting it to just my sassy, sexy looks. I’m going full tilt. Home, mommy and wife…I’m all in. My ‘not-a-supermodel’ tummy will be the least of my retouched, untouchables. For that matter, my house is just sometimes going to NOT look like it’s out of Architectural Digest. On occasion my husband and I might NOT agree on everything. Further, I MIGHT loose my temper with my son. And you know Vogue magazine, it’ll have nothing on me, because I’m going to act like I’m smokin’-hot regardless of whether or not I’ve done my 35 burpees.

So here’s to us. The hot mess that we are…the retouched “untouched” perfection that is you and me.

…And that is all we need to be.

“Good Morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, Beautiful inside and out! God be with you.” said Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1:28 MSG)

Let Go and Let God…***middle finger***

I think if I hear the phrase “let go and let God” again I will have to flip that person the bird. Truly. I detest that saying. I’m in a bit of a sour mood…grumpy actually…as I’ve been coming to terms with slowing my life down from recent MS news. New spot on MRI. Re-MRI in the spring and in the meantime take care. If more new spots at next MRI, than I’ll have to start taking a new drug that will have not-so-fun side-effects. I’m not dying…(that’s good news)…but, this isn’t fun.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last several weeks being pretty PO-ed with myself for being bitter. I shouldn’t be bitter. Again, I’m not dying. My son is happy and healthy. Hubby is gainfully employed and even my dog has remained healthy.

It can be tough learning to walk a different pace. Just because you are living a slower pace doesn’t mean that all of the sudden you are living in perpetual vacation. It’s a balance. A balance between life and moments of pause. Finding what that balance looks like is aggravating. Some days are perfectly balanced with activity. Others with downtime. Some days I want to be active, but I just can’t seem to find my gumption.

The phrase ‘Let Go & Let God’ means that I let go of my internal struggles and let God take over. Fabulous. Why hadn’t I thought of that? The truth is that there is no reality behind the phrase ‘Let Go & Let God.’  I fight and fight…and fight. And, no matter how many times I try to let go…the struggle is still there. It is unrealistic for me to ignore the situation, to not be afraid, to not be disappointed and to not fight. The burden remains.

All that being said, I can still hope. Not hope in my situation but in a Savior. My situation can have either a positive or negative outcome. Flip a coin and sure hope that my MRIs look good, but there is simply no guarantee. But I know that in Christ my hope is safe regardless of circumstance. The burden acts almost as a catalyst moving me closer until I am a whisper away from the mouth of my Savior and finally, I can hear Him. The voices that keep screaming frustration in my head begin to silent. My situation remains unchanged, but His presence brings peace and the burden becomes lighter because I no longer carry it alone.

We, me and you, were never designed to fight our struggles all alone. We were meant to give our struggles over to God, but not in a vacuum. Not without dialogue. Not without relationship. Not without the constant going back and forth conversation that takes place between a kid and her dad.

Reality check: continuing to believe that God will become the manager of our problems if we only “let go” is a lie. Recognizing that our problems are an opportunity to be drawn into relationship is pure grace.

I turned 40 a few months back…

I did. I had intended to write some really deep, inspiring blog post on the day it happened, but…the day got away from me.

Fast forward a few months…my little boy just had a birthday and has moved into double digits. That was tough. He’s my only so I don’t get another ‘turn around the bend’ ; I’ve got to soak it all up now. At any rate, my son’s birthday reminded me that I missed blogging on my 40th …it also reminded me that I’ve got something to say on the matter:

I love birthdays.

Granted that’s not a very deep statement, however it’s true. And it’s not for the reasons one might think such as cake, fav foods, lots of good drink, partying with good friends. I did all those things on my birthday and in abundance…my jeans told me that I might’ve birthday-ed it up a little much this year…you only turn 40 once. (I do love buttercream frosting)

Frankly, birthdays are a great reminder that you aren’t dead. That you are alive and regardless of your age, you’ve got to live. I see my son getting older. Wanting to go faster on his bike, watch scarier movies, talk about more adult-type stuff. It makes me sad that he doesn’t need his training wheels…but, good grief, we can’t use our training wheels forever.

This year, after having spent the last 10 years taking shots every day for treatment of MS, my dosage changed. The FDA approved my drug at a higher dose so that I only have to take it three times a week. Holy cow, was I excited. I felt like I was playing hooky on those days I didn’t have to take my shot. I have pretty bad necrosis on my arms and legs from years and years of shots, but this year…this point in time…I get a break. Without the last 10 years I wouldn’t be able to appreciate the change in my drug.

These were the thoughts on my mind this year after turning forty. Not incredibly deep or philosophical. I don’t plan on meditating every day now that I’m 40…beyond quiet time I spend in my Bible. I don’t really get the whole “make the world a better place crap for my son because now I’m older and he needs a better earth to live in.” Every day of life, regardless of health or circumstance, is a gift. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know I can’t hold my breath waiting for it. In the end, life doesn’t need to be complicated… just need to keep your eyes forward and live.

…”I came so they can have REAL and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” John 10:10 (MSG)