Can Anybody Find Me Somebody to Love?

Mondays are long days for our household. Mondays are good days-fun days, but long days. We are members of a local homeschool co-op that meets on Mondays and takes up most of our day. Our evening is full of one activity or another for several members of our family.
I allowed myself to sit for a short time on the love seat in our kitchen before I accepted a simple everyday fact- yes, these people really do need to eat (again) and I probably should feed them. I sat just long enough to feel my hips stiffen and my knees ache. We had decided on boxed organic chicken noodle soup and drop biscuits for dinner. A simple meal.  Lydia and I took on the role of biscuit makers. After we made our buttermilk substitute we mixed the remaining ingredients. My oven reminded me for the umpteenth time this week that it was long overdue for a cleaning, as I stood fanning the smoke detector to appease the head-splitting beep. All three dogs chose to hide under my legs each time the box on the wall screeched.
As the soup began to steam and the cheese bubbled on the biscuits, I had many hands wanting to help and make our workload lighter. I wasn’t sure I wanted help. The extra patience to make sure this one didn’t get burned on a cookie sheet and that one on dripping hot liquid was a virtue I had to dig deep in the moment to find. I was hot and tired. I was weary from our pace of life, but it took me more than a minute to realize I was hot because I stood over the open flame of the burner, forgetting to turn it off as I lifted the pot to pour.
The song, ” Can Anybody Find Me Somebody to Love?” played in the background. We had one of those TV commercial moments where everyone was singing as we ladled the soup and placed our nourishment on the table. We were in sync. Singing and dancing rejuvenated us all.
As the music faded and we bowed our heads, all I could think was, “Thank you God for giving me many somebodies to love.”

Savor the treasures

Wow this has been quite a year for us! But it is such a joy to see all the beauty God has brought to our lives this year- a sweet marriage, a beautiful babe, and today I find myself philosophical as we celebrate our sweet Phoebe girl’s 17th birthday. Our former neighbor in Richmond posted a tribute of sorts to her son Jimmy. I met Jimmy when he was 13 and he died when he was 21. He died of a heroin overdose. I have never forgotten Jimmy or watching the boy grow into a man. His life and his death impacted me greatly. These are Karen’s words:

“Our son was a delight to all of our family and was born again as a child of God, but chose to try heroin and became addicted to it. While he was trying to get free from it’s control( moved back home, daily N.A. meetings, working daily) he succumbed to that lure and died in a work van of an overdose. The thing that a friend said at his funeral is always a comfort to me. “Jimmy is in heaven, not because he was good, but because he is His(God’s)” . Even suffering the pain of the loss of this precious son, I have remained grateful that I was allowed to enjoy him while he was here and I look forward to the day that I will see him again in glory. One thing I have learned is that my husband, the daughters we have and the precious grandbabies we enjoy are treasures to be savored. I don’t want to waste a second of such a gift.”
She also posted a link about the crisis of heroin today and its link to OxyContin. Here it is in case you are interested in reading it:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-farrell/im-a-heroin-addict_b_8371058.html

Karen’s words touched me today and were a great reminder. I have never forgotten Jimmy and the beauty of a young man that he was- I still think of him often. The ugly of his death does not define the beauty of all that was his life.

I know all of our children are in various stages of ages and we are on a journey molding them and watching them grow. Our children will do things and have things inflicted upon them that we would NEVER write as part of their life path. They will at times, and on different levels, pull us through heartache and struggles, or one could say, we will help pull them through and out of heartaches and struggles. It is not a tug of war that necessarily has an equal balance. But friends, as most of you know, there is beauty in the ashes. Sometimes we will feel like a spectator on the sideline watching them as they grow, unable to place a cartoon character band-aid on their scrape. Sometimes their wounds are not mere scrapes but gaping gouges strewn across the mapping of their heart.
Remember there will be times when we feel like they rebel against us- even hate us, but their true issue is not with us. It is their wrestling and working out their relationship with our great God who we stand for and love. And love is where I will leave this letter. Friends, love really does, it-

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love sees past the temporary. It sees past the long hair, the nose piercings, the angry rants, the hurtful words, the poor choices. It sees past the appearance of things, the derailment of our plans to their plans, our hopes to sometimes their desires, our need to control and our deepest fears. It sees past the good choices they choose to make for their lives. The choices that make us proud and keep us awake in the night, crying out  “Please just keep them safe!”

 Love sees the heart.

It sees the heart of a person, the heart of our child. It sees past the child to our God who loves them even more than we possibly could. Love sees and trust that He who created them has a plan for them, a plan of hope and one to prosper.

So whatever struggle you may have in life, whatever fears, whatever triumphs,  release them to God. He’s got this, He really does. Breathe in deeply, look around, soak in the beauty of the big and little moments, do not waste a minute- savor them. See the love and beauty ; see the treasures.

   One of my treasures, my birthday girl, koala Phoebe šŸ˜Š

We are called to be bold

I am blessed to share with you the guest post and words of my new friend and Boston Marathon runner Linda Leonard Ambard. May her journey and words encourage you and deepen your faith in humanity and God.

Thanks Linda!

For five years, I felt like I was called to do more than I was doing with my life. For five long years, I prayed that God would help me to be the woman I was being called to be. When I didn’t find the answer, Phil told me that it was because I was living my faith, yet I knew that there was something I was to do. On 27 April 2011, that calling was directly shown to me. I could never have foreseen the events of that day–events so terrible that the human heart cannot wrap it’s arms around the vile act. Do I think that God took my Phil? No, I think that my Phil was received into heaven, but I believe that God knew that it would take me five years to be ready for what was going to be asked of me.

You see, my husband of 23 years was assassinated by someone he liked and trusted. This vile monster looked at my Phil and shot him time and time again. The media figured out who the fallen Air Force Academy Professor was and my children found out through social media. Imagine finding our from Facebook or an acquaintance. I, however, was at school teaching. I thought I might lose my job that day because I had volunteered to be the one let go (because teachers were losing jobs due to district bankruptcy essentially). I knew we would be moving when Phil returned from Afghanistan. When my principal got me and we were walking up the hall, I saw media trucks outside. I thought I would have to give an interview about school politics. I never dreamed that the media would be at the school, my house, and the airport because Phil was never coming home.

As I saw the military men and women in uniform, and as the words began to be uttered, I fell to my knees keening. As I fell to my knees and I heard sounds I could never again replicate, a singular thought crossed my mind. I had a choice to make. How could I claim to have faith if in my darkest hours I get angry or question God about the loss of Phil. I chose. I chose to fall into my faith and in that singular act, I have been carried and blessed beyond belief. Make no mistake, the walk is hard; it is lonely; and I do not understand why him and why not me, but here is what I do know. I see the people God has put into my life. I see the ways that I have grown in faith and with my testimony, but again, it was a choice.

This year, I was running the Boston Marathon to honor the second anniversary of the terrorist that took Phil. I had been given a number because of my story. I was the girl running in a red polka dotted skirt, a smile, and with a spring in her step. I was running well and I was but a quarter of a mile away from the finish line when all hell broke loose. I had conquered 26 miles of the course. The finish line was in sight. I never got to cross the finish line. Another terrorist sought to take the singular facet of my life that gives me joy and lets me fall into my faith, but even as I cowered and broke in a Dunkin Doughnuts shop, God worked through people and through my heart. My heart began to blaze. I cannot let evil people take any more from me. I must stand up and be bold. I am a woman of faith and no matter what happens, I can say, it is well, it is well with my soul. Easier said than done at timesā€¦.

Faith and happiness are choices. I am nobody special really, but God can make a work of beauty even among the debris and ashes of my life. There are days, days like the Boston Marathon, when I am transported back into the darkness, but I am well aware that God is in control. People make choices. I choose to be bold and to step forward one faltering step at a time. I choose not to let my tragedy define who I am, rather I embrace the life I have been given because if I don’t evil people will have won two of us versus just one. By standing firm in my faith, and by choosing to live in the light (sometimes with pink polka dots), I know that though today I may break, there will be someone some where that will be the hand that carries me. I know that some day some how, I will live a life of joy. I have seen it, and I own it.

My writings are the story of my walk in faith and it is the story of the way I can find joy and life even now.

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Linda and her Phil

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

David and I were riding down the street the other day when we stopped at a red light. It was finally a warm spring day and we had the car windows rolled down. It was fun to listen to the sounds of the city. Lawn mowers buzzing, children playing, radios blaring, car engines idling, sirens in the distance, birds chirping, dogs barking and people’s voices.

Right next to us, two men were having an animated conversation. One elderly man with excitement in his voice and eyes was leaning on his building while he shared statistics and facts to another man standing in the street leaning on his trunk. They were talking about the Cincinnati Reds.

I love how the Cincinnati Reds bonds this city together. Whether or not you like baseball, there is an energy that is brought to the city with the first crack of the bat on opening day. The city practically shuts down on opening day with a parade and parties. Flags fly, jerseys are proudly worn, upscale women’s boutiques mix and match stylish red outfits in their display windows, radios are tuned to the voice of Marty Brennaman announcing the game, and strangers engage in laughter and smiles all over our city’s beloved Reds.

Cincinnati does a fantastic job making a family outing relatively cheap with decent five-dollar seats with a view you can’t beat – overlooking the Ohio River. The Reds Heads program for children 14 and under can’t be beat. For $25 a child receives a hat, dog tags, a jersey, a backpack, special prizes, four game tickets, and special promotion events like autograph signing, pre-game parades and running the bases. This is smart fan-base building. Bring them in young, make them feel special and a part of the team – you have fans for life.

We love the Reds. It’s not just the cooler packed full of game snacks (yes you can bring your own food) or the line for $1 hot dogs, we love game food! We even chuckle at the outcome when Caleb attends the game without Mom and Dad is in charge. Caleb sneaks into the snack bag one too many times and he always ends the night tossing his cookies – literally. I can’t complain – David follows through on clean-up. It’s not just the roar of the fans, the entire stadium standing to participate in the wave, the kiss cam, the smell of popcorn and cotton candy in the air, the cool breeze blowing off the Ohio River, the ball soaring out past left field for a home run – it is the camaraderie.

It is the bond of rooting for the same team. It is the sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves and it is big – The Big Red Machine. Anywhere you go in the city, you will most likely overhear a conversation about the Reds. And feel free to join in the bantering and add your two cents. The human connection of walking away from a complete stranger feeling a bond – it may be a very superficial one, but it is still a connection outside of our busy lives.

On game day, life slows down a bit. Even when you are walking downtown to your car caught up in a sea of red and white jerseys listening to the street drums on the corner, you breathe a little deeper, smile a little more. There is a fever, an excitement in the air. It is no longer my team or your team – we are unified by our team and we can’t wait until the next time to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

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Mason Jars

After dinner I was washing the dishes and scrubbing a jelly jar as well as a spaghetti sauce mason jar to get the labels to come off. I was enjoying the heat of the steaming water splash over my hands as I rolled the jars from side to side and it brought a sweet memory to mind.

I first started using mason jars as our drinking glasses at seminary. We had dinner at my friend Leslie’s house and when she poured a glass of milk for her husband into a mason jar, I thought to myself, “How cool!” Leslie was coolā€¦long, flowing, silken black hair often under a black cowgirl hat with a stylish shirt and jeans accessorized with boots. Leslie oozed confidence. She knew what she liked and really wasn’t too concerned whether something she liked was the “in thing” or not.

I purchased a flat of mason jars and began to drink my water, milk or juice with gusto. As the rimmed lip of the jar touched my mouth I was transported out of our 1,000 sq. ft. apartment into my own imaginary world. Some days I was on the prairie tending the homestead quenching my thirst as I wiped my brow while I took a break from the hot noon sun. Other days I was in a field of wildflowers sipping lemonade as I rested on a picnic blanket with David. And well, quite frankly, some days the noise and chaos in my home became the noise in the OK Corral of the wild west as I saddled up to the bar and wet my whistle. Who knew a simple jar could be so transforming, make me feel so alive?

I realize many people use mason jars to have a drink. I no longer purchase my glass imagination transporters; I just recycle from my grocery store purchases. JalapeƱo jars, jelly jars, spaghetti sauce jars, pickles jars, really as long as I like the shape and size, I keep it. For me now, it just seems practical. Why throw out a perfectly good, functional glass jar? Besides between the dishwasher and the human dishwashers in my house we break enough glasses that it just seems to fit the bottom line of our spending dollars.

And even though I am no longer in that tiny apartment, some days as I raise my glass, I begin to smile, feel the sun on my face, the cool breeze in my hair, the smell of the salt air and off in the distance I see the pirate ship raise its flag for its voyage into the sea…

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We all need a little grace sometimes

Grace. We all need to give one another a little more grace. I attended a Christmas party this past December for a local home school group. I was feeling a little under the weather from the lingering effects of a bad coldā€¦just the sinus fluid stuff that makes you feel like your head is a big marble rolling around on top of your shoulders. Truthfully, my ears felt full and throbbing. I had made the mistake earlier in the week of taking my blood pressure while I was feeling anxious, and naturally it was slightly elevated. So with every throb of my ear I sat secretly wondering if I was going to keel over from a stroke or some malady. Getting older, not old mind you, is not for the faint of heart. I am learning to not be a sissy, one breath at a time, one prayer at a time.

Anyway, I was placed in the 0-2-year-old room as a helper and very quickly realized I was not up to the challenge of the up and down, move around that goes with caring for little people. I asked to be moved. I was told to stick with my assignment and they would try to find a different place for me to complete my volunteer requirement. Fifteen minutes passed and I decided I would be fine playing with the little rug rats, but alas, it was too late – they were moving me to the teen room. As the other mom in charge of coordinating something walked me to the teen room, she walked at least 10 paces in front of me. My murmurs of where are we going and apologizing for the inconvenience were met with no response.

I walked into the teen room feeling like a little kid who was being taken to the principal’s office. I sat in my newly assigned room, dejected and internally grumbling. She could have shown a little grace. She could have said some pleasantries to put my mind at ease. Doesn’t she know how awkward I was feeling? Couldn’t she tell what an effort it was for me to even come? Pitiful thoughts about poor ME were swirling around in my mind.

Then it hit me. What about the kindness, the courtesy I could have shown her? What about how she was feeling about rearranging classes on her feet? After all, I was one of at least forty home school moms in attendance. It wasn’t her job to know I was struggling with being forty-five years old, thirty pounds overweight and not coping well with a sinus infection, which was really just a symptom of not coping well with not feeling as young as I would like!

So with my shift over and moving on to the next event in the party’s schedule, I was grateful I bumped into her in the hallway. I thanked her again for bailing me out earlier. She smiled warmly and said she was processing the situation when I first approached her, juggling a million thoughts in her brain, but that it all worked out in the end. I was glad we had another encounter. Not because I left the party feeling like I had made a bosom friend or even a friend. But it encouraged me to make that deeper connection, even if only for a moment, past either of our quick and hasty judgments of one another.

Grace for me, grace for her, grace from above. How many moments of precious grace do we miss because we don’t take the time to look past ourselves, our own internal struggles, thoughts and fears? Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our fears.