Give Thanks (and love those who need it)

“Sending love to everyone who is trying to heal from the things they do not discuss.”
Anonymous

You got cut off in traffic…. he can’t pay his car note.

You found a wrinkle on your face…..she’s recovering from a double mastectomy.

Your husband didn’t do the dishes…..her husband’s having an affair.

That co-worker doesn’t pull her weight….. the man in the grocery line has to tell his wife he lost his job.

The baby kept you up last night…..she’s tried to conceive for years.

Your parents live far away…. her parents passed away.

That group of ladies didn’t invite you….. she’s new in town and has no friends.

You haven’t had date night in weeks…. her husband is deployed for six months.

Your teenager is disrespectful …. their teenager ran away.

Give thanks. And love those who need it right now.

You Have To…. But Not Alone

I’m thankful for this view.

“I can’t do it anymore.” I started to think as a feeling of dread washed over me. The situation(s) at hand hadn’t changed for the better. Actually, they were somewhere in between being at an impasse to possibly worse. Every time I thought something was about to change for the better, I was dealt another blow. “I can’t do this anymore.” was the thought that ran through my mind again. My stomach began to turn and my heart skipped. “What do I do? I’ve done everything humanly possible. Why isn’t this getting better?” I hadn’t prayed at this point of my helplessness.

Pray. This wasn’t lost on me. I HAD prayed. One million times. Maybe more. Obviously, nothing on the part of my human striving was solving anything. So pray, I did. One step at a time. One day at a time. I will keep going. I have to. You do, too. When the situation at hand seems impossible, keep praying. It’s not the only thing to do. It’s the best thing to do. When the fear washes over you and makes you want to cower and hide, be brave. Bravery is the choice to act in the presence of fear and regardless of that fear. When you lose hope, be thankful for the small things… a cup of coffee, a flower, the sound of your child laughing. Thankfulness begets hope.

I’m not going to tell you it’s easy or feign spiritual deepness here. But I will say that God is bigger than any circumstances you are facing. He hears your prayers, your questions, and even your “why’s.” Growing pains hurt. Profound, huh? Ever work out? You’re actually tearing down muscles just so the fibers can build themselves up even stronger than before. Hard circumstances are much the same. It’s going to hurt. It may even break you down sometimes. There’s no way around that. You have to feel the pain to develop the strength. But you don’t have to do it alone. Pray. Keep praying. And when your stomach lurches and the tears start…. pray even more.

This Time Last Year

Sewanee, TN, where my son visited last year. It was beautiful, but he is happily playing baseball for my alma mater, Hinds Community College.

This time last year…..

I had just started a blog. It was exciting and I would write once a week… mostly funny things. Getting older and the perils of shopping for Mardi Gras formals were the “choix de jour”. It was funny to me and (hopefully) slightly entertaining.

My son was a senior in high school. We were navigating scholarships, prospects for playing college baseball, and graduation invitations. Dorm shopping had commenced.

My daughter was still a girl. No talk of driver permits or even plans after high school.

The baby was still a baby.

This time last year….

I had hopes, dreams, and fears.

And now?

I still have hopes dreams, and fears… albeit different.

Writing is tricky. It takes time. Honestly, blogs are tough at times. . I’d love to be an open book, but life isn’t always funny and cute. I love it and will continue.

My first-born has settled into dorm life. He’s a good student and athlete with a good head on his shoulders….. but I miss him. I miss Nerf Gun wars and prayers at night.

My daughter is almost sweet sixteen. She’s getting ready to drive and talks of future plans. But I miss Build-A-Bears and shopping at Justice.

My last baby, a toddler now out of diapers. Our surprise miracle. He’s getting so big…. too fast for me.

A lot can change in a year.

Nativity

noun

The occasion of a person’s birth

This beautiful nativity ornament is from a friend of mine.

This Christmas I received three different nativity ornaments. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten three ornaments at one time with a similar theme. I have a nativity scene in my home and one nativity ornament. Now I have four nativity ornaments, and I’m very pleased. Not one to believe in accidents, the timing of these ornaments is interesting. This year has been one of growth and with growth comes growing pains. Obedience is tough…. tougher when we can’t see the fruits of our struggles.

To be honest, I started this particular blog a couple of weeks ago. Okay…. three weeks ago. What with Christmas, back to school and work, a toddler, and a new puppy, I didn’t finish it. So here we are in January and my blog photo is a Nativity. I tend to celebrate LEADING up to Christmas, and the blasted tree that’s shedding profusely on my floor comes down ASAP (i.e. December 26). This year, however, I continued to enjoy it for several days afterwards. My Nativity in the living room is still on display.

During this Christmas season, I thought often about Joseph and Mary. What were their plans? I’m certain Joseph fully expected to marry this innocent girl and provide as he should. He probably thought about future children and maybe how he could teach a future son his trade. For her part, Mary was probably excited and nervous as a bride-to-be and was making preparations with her family for a wedding. That’s not what they got, though.

And I thought that this might be an illustration for our lives….the job loss, the health crises, the wayward child, the strained finances, the faltering marriage….no wonder we lose hope for better times.

But God had something better for Joseph and Mary than what they had planned. Actually, He gave them His best….. His perfect son.

God has something better for you, too. You might not see it yet, but His timing is perfect and so is His provision.

And they were obedient to His calling….even though it was uncomfortable and they didn’t fully understand. We must push on and not lose hope, either.

The Nativity… the birth of Christ, our Savior, our hope.

Miracles

This cover picture doesn’t match the title. It’s okay with me if it’s okay with you. I thought it was beautiful. I had tried a new cake recipe which overflowed in the oven… THEN I tried to auto clean the oven and we almost had to move. The smell was horrendous…. I had to go outside and got a few minutes of quiet. This in itself is a miracle, as I have three kids and a husband. My oldest is 18 and very independent. My middle is 15 and still needs me from time to time. The youngest is two so that’s self-explanatory! Add my job as a teacher, and quiet time is literally a miracle.

For a long time now, I’ve been praying for a miracle. You may call it a need or prayer request…. it’s a coveted miracle, none the less. Maybe I should add that I’m not a Hallmark-type girl. I’ve seen maybe three of these movies. They are full of miracles! There is NOTHING wrong with watching them. It’s just not my “thing.” The happy endings are sometimes hard to believe.

Are you waiting on a miracle? Does it ever seem like it will never come? I was thinking about this today as I had a hard conversation and processed some hard realizations. Maybe the miracle is in the waiting. The fact that you or I continue to wait and pray when the miracle hasn’t happened is a sign of faith… and faith is belief in things (and a Heavenly Father) unseen. Maybe the miracle is in the person we become in the waiting…. God’s way of changing us into the person he uses to help someone else. Maybe the miracle is in the strength God either gives us to fight one more day or in the strength of others he has ordained to cross our paths.

The miracle may not come right away, but God does miracles every day. He can do miracles along the way while we await an answer to all our prayers in the form of a friend to help carry our burdens , a strength we didn’t know we possessed but found when pushed to the limit, or even unexpected quiet time to experience His peace that passes understanding. Miracles come in all forms… even while we wait.

Expectations

Expectations: (pl.noun) A strong belief that something will happen; a belief that someone should achieve something

I feel two sizes smaller the second I open the mailbox. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I mean, it’s not completely unexpected. Living “out” as they put it, my mailbox is down the road. It’s not a bad deal, though, because watching the cows in the field across the way is so peaceful. As I drive home, the discontent begins to stir. “I hate feeling this way,” I think . “Just when I think I’ve gotten past all the insecurities, it seems like I get reminders…literally in the form of mail.” The doubts keep coming at me like darts.

As I place the mail on the counter, I look at the addresses on the Christmas cards. Yep. I’m not surprised. The senders always have their acts together. Sure enough, the envelopes from the two different families contain festive Christmas cards with professional poses and meaningful Bible verses in beautiful fonts. My heart sinks. I tried. I did. Our college son was home during Thanksgiving. A relative took our family picture with her phone. She did fine, but either there was a shadow on our faces from the trees or the sun was in our eyes. I chose not to use a professional photographer because my husband was still not back at work after having surgery. Oh, well… maybe next year.

My mother-in-law comes over later to watch the baby so I can attend a work Christmas party. As I drive up to my co-worker’s house, I see her wreaths and lights outside. My wreath still isn’t up yet and we don’t normally put lights outside because we live “out” (as I said before). Goodness… I wish my porch was more festive. As we all visit, I’m struck by how outgoing everyone is and many of my co-workers have lots in common. They live fairly close to each other. Many attend the same church. Several have daughters that take dance together, as well. I try to make conversation without feeling like I’m intruding. However, I’m afraid if I’m too quiet I will seem aloof….. “Boy, can’t I do anything right?”

After the evening routine of baths and goodnight hugs, I lie in bed feeling the typical exhaustion that comes with being both a momma and teacher this time of year. This is my time to think every night. Everyone else is asleep. It’s about the only quiet time of day. I think of a word that God has put in my heart this week.

Expectation. Christmas is definitely a time of expectation. As Christians, the expectation during this season is palpable as we light Advent candles and sing Christmas hymns. As parents, we see the expectations in our children as they await Christmas morning and its many surprises. Sometimes the word has a negative connotation as the expectations we set on ourselves far exceeds what we can or should do this time of year.

What are my expectations of myself? Of others? Of this Advent season? My Christmas cards didn’t get made because I’m blessed to have a son attending a college where he can get a first-rate education and live his dream of playing college ball. He’s not always home to take a picture. Also, I was trying to be responsible with our finances. My wreath isn’t on the door because the door is too tall for me to hang it. My husband went back to work and hasn’t had time to hang the wreath, but he is providing well for our family. I have wonderful co-workers who just so happen to be outgoing. God made us all unique, and that includes my propensity for being more introverted.

When we don’t even realize it, our blessings far exceed any expectations we may have of ourselves, of others, and of our Creator. I will finish my decorating, my true friends will like me for who I am, and my Heavenly Father will provide. And that far exceeds any expectations I could ever have.

Fine

Artwork: Becca Presley

Christmas ads have literally taken over Facebook, Instagram, and my television. Am I getting old? Is it just me? It’s almost as if the whole holiday season is being shoved down my throat. Easter has always been my favorite holiday. No pressure. No scrambling around.

As a Christian, I won’t/can’t separate myself from the Christmas season. However, it occurred to me that this isn’t always a “holly jolly” time of year for everyone. Can we be joyful about our Savior’s birth and struggle simultaneously? Absolutely.

There are people who are very sick.

There are people who just lost a loved one or facing the prospect of losing a loved one.

There are people struggling financially to provide much less meet society’s expectations of a Christmas morning filled with gifts.

There are people with fractured relationships who are grieving a broken family.

There are people grappling with their faith.

There are people, although close to family, who are physically separated by many miles this season.

There are people with emotional struggles that you will never see.

“How are you?”

“I’m fine. And yourself?”

“Can’t complain.”

It’s a lie. It’s a lie we tell others to save face. It’s a lie we tell ourselves to make it through the day . From an early age, we are taught to grin and bear it. Don’t make anyone uncomfortable. Boys are taught to “man up.” Deal with it.

My daughter and I saw a girl the other day. I said, “How are you?” She said, “Fine.” My daughter mentioned that she knows the girl and the minute she said this, I actually realized who the girl is. I mentioned to her that she needed to be extra kind to this young lady. Her mom is very sick. “Goodness,” I said to my daughter. “This girl is so brave. Always be kind. You don’t know what people are facing in their lives.”

During this season of Black Friday sales, too much food, piles of presents, parties, and all that comes with it, it’s easy to forget what the season it about It’s easy to focus on ourselves. I know because I’m guilty.. Please remember to be kind. Not everyone you meet is fine.

You’re Never Alone… Seriously, Moms. Never

Husband:”Put him to bed later. I mean, it’s Friday night. Maybe he’ll sleep late in the morning.” Personally, I’m calling his bluff. By 5:50 Saturday morning, I’d been drooled on, slapped accidentally, and coerced into counting to five 400 times per the directions of a forty-three pound toddler. Listen up, new moms. I’m not a spring chicken. I’ve been around the block two times before. We ” started over” so it’s all new again. Your tiny newborn with the sweet baby breath is going to be a rambunctious toddler with a mouthful of teeth and sinus drainage breathing right in your face. Yep. It’s happening.

The conversation was as follows (in my bed at 5:50 am):

“Go back to bed, little man.”

“Uh-uh.”

“Santa brings toys to big boys who stay in their beds.”

(Hysterical laughter)

“Then be still and go to sleep with me.”

“I love you, Mommy.”

Well, one can’t argue with that, right?

Need a side gig to pay for all that plastic under the tree this Christmas? I’m going to start charging a cover charge to come in the bathroom. I’m not kidding. Last night, I was trying to take a simple 10 minute shower. That’s usually the only time I can be alone. My daughter came into the bathroom (it was legit because I needed to ask her something). Next, the toddler. Finally, the husband came in looking for the toddler. By this time. I was hoping someone had brought chips and dip.

Fast-forward to this morning. I tried to sneak to the bathroom and got caught red-handed. “”Momma? You potty?” ”

“Yes, baby. Can you go see daddy?”

“No. I stay with you.”

“Of course you do, Dear. Mommies are never alone.”

All joking aside, it is the highest honor to be called “mommy” by my three blessings. We moms get tired, frustrated, and question our parenting at times. When I hear, “I love you, Mommy.” it’s like God is saying to me, “See? You’re doing what you’re called to do.”

Eat Your Wheaties

This isn’t alcohol. It’s a vitamin-packed drink. Mamas… eat your Wheaties. It’s a long ride.

One day I’m going to sound eloquent. Today’s not the day. I made an attempt last week, and someone responded with a MUCH more eloquent response to my blog. Then I read a couple of other “mom-type” blogs and the writers need to win a Pulitzer for goodness sake. That’s okay. My hero, Erma Bombeck, started out writing obituaries. I have an excuse. It’s lack of decent sleep (that’s also my excuse for forgetting things). Last night was no exception.

I’m a good person. Really, I am. I even taught preschool during the fair and Halloween. It can’t be that hard? I give you 3.5 seconds. Tops. I just know I’m being punished for something. Whatever I did must have been really bad. Oh, yeah. Maybe it was the word I muttered to myself at the traffic light on Airport Boulevard. There ought to be a law.

3:20pm: Rush home from work; husband puts baby in car (he’s sick)

4:00pm: Doctor’s office

4:45pm: Mobile, Alabama, traffic. All red lights. All last two minutes and forty-five seconds.

5:00pm: Chick-Fil-A. Ain’t nobody cooking after Halloween week.

5:25pm: Satan’s playground (I mean, Mobile traffic).

5:50pm: Safely arrive in the sleepy hamlet of Grand Bay, Alabama. Get baby’s medicine at CVS. She knows his name, his ailment, and my underwear size. I love small towns.

7:30: Put baby to bed after bathing him and reading 500 books. Yep. It’s time to relax.

12:00am: Screaming and gnashing of teeth. Get baby up. Give Tylenol, juice, a snack, and produce a documentary.

1:30am: Husband and daughter return from ballgame. Baby still awake. Rock baby… but not before he dances around the den. Put baby to bed. Whew! Time to sleep!

1:45am: Tell my husband about the camel video on Facebook. “Cry-laugh” trying to tell husband about the camel video on Facebook. Toss and turn. Mentally make Christmas lists for my three children and everyone else’s.

5:45am: Screaming and gnashing of teeth, Part Deaux. Put baby in bed with us. Fun times.

6:00am: Husband’s phone rings. Memaw Katie has panic attack. It’s the college child telling husband he is at a hunting camp.

6:45am: FINALLY get up after a great night’s sleep. Give baby breakfast. Decide Ninxia Red should contain an alcohol component.

Please enjoy this video of the baby at Ungodlythirty last night. This morning? I don’t know anymore.🤦🏼‍♀️

These Days

Shout out to Jerry Lee’s grocery store in Pascagoula, Mississippi. This apple crisp is angelic.

My teenagers are both at friends’ houses tonight. Our oldest is home for a visit and our middle child is having fun at the fair. We spent time at home with our little one today and I told my husband that even though we still have two children at home, I still feel like an empty-nester….. I don’t like it.

It is what it is, but it got me thinking about the crazy schedules we’ve had since our older two were younger. School, football, cheerleading (both school and competition), two full-time jobs, a masters degree while working, and then a third blessing to our family have made the years fly by quickly… not without challenges or tears. As I was making some apple crisp tonight (a fall favorite), I thought about my day.

This morning, the youngest got into the bed with us and snuggled. We watched cartoons and then I got up to make muffins and coffee. After buying some Halloween treats and other items at Walmart, I went to pick up my husband’s birthday cake. The little man and I got in the swing and hunted for fall leaves. I made coffee again. My father-in-law took him to feed the cows and then it was tacos for supper… apple crisp for dessert.

The day is almost at an end, and there’s nothing I would change, except to do it again. On the hard days, I’m grateful for these memories. Don’t take the small moments for granted because small moments make these days.