Grief… this is nothing new

I’m not the first person in this world to grieve.

I’m not the first person in this world to say, “It’s like an ocean and comes in waves.”

Grief is like the ocean-R

I’m not the first daughter to lose her daddy.  I’m not the first daughter who had a rough relationship with her daddy from the age of 12-30, who restored that relationship and then lost her daddy. I’m not even the most recent daughter to lose her daddy… I’ve had two friends lose their daddy in the last six weeks.

But I am the first ME and so, like others who write to process their mess, I’m going to write about it to get it all out.

You see… yesterday was the last day of school for my kids. I am the PTO (Parent-Teacher Organization) President at their school. The PTO hosted a lunch for the staff & teachers of the school – and let me tell you – our parents sent in more food than I could possibly imagine. One random question… “Are you the PTO representative helping set up the luncheon?” sent my brain in a HUGE spiral.  I was not… As president, I delegate out what others can take care of and I’d delegated that lunch on out – especially after getting our Swim Team meet schedule and knowing we were going to have our first meet on the last day of school.
So I immediately texted the person in charge and their response was that the principal had said in an email that it was all taken care of and that we were appreciated.
But my brain would NOT let go. We were failing in every possible way as a support – not only for our teachers, but for our Principal and Associate Principal who should’ve been out and about in classrooms saying good-bye and not setting up a lunch in the teacher’s lounge.
My first breakdown was really, really random and I was shuttled into the book room by the principal who asked me not to look/act distressed because that made the other parents distressed and I was a leader and an example. I pulled myself together and went to the classroom of a teacher who has become a friend where I asked her a completely unrelated question and then lost my ever-loving emotional mind. (Thank you, God, for friends.) To be honest, I felt reprimanded and my concern belittled. Yes – I am a leader and an example, but I’m also a parent who can’t figure out when I’m on the good list and when I’m on the naughty list and that stresses me to the maximum. 
I left my friend’s room pulled together and okay – heading to the cafeteria to party with our fifth graders before they left the school.
Then I passed the teacher’s lounge where the Associate Principal was by herself and popped my head in to say, “I have 30 minutes before I have to leave to run errands. Do you need help?” I barely got the words out before walking in past her and turning into the copier room and bursting into a sobbing mess… where the Principal walked in to find me and assured me I was not letting anyone down.
After getting myself together (again), I went to dance and take pictures of our fifth graders and then headed out to run my errands before the bus arrived home at 11:30-ish.

My first errand involved a quick trip into Target for something where I was immediately confronted by the wall of Father’s Day cards. Well then…

I actually picked out a card for Jeff (because I haven’t done a card in ages) and got my other items and never once gave it a second thought.

You see… for YEARS, daddy and I had what I call a “rough relationship”. He was a fantastic minister, but absent in areas of my life where I needed him. I didn’t show him the respect being my father deserved – regardless of my anger or jealousy. We were a lot alike and that meant that when we disagreed it was explosive with neither of us backing down.
For YEARS, I struggled to buy him a Father’s Day card because they were all LIES. “Thanks, Dad, for your support”, “Without you for a Dad…”, “I’ll always be your girl, Daddy” – UGH! I’d spend an hour reading every card finding one that kinda fit.
The funny one with the grill? Nope – I’m sure my dad grilled, but I have no memory of it.

Anyway – I had several more emotional breakdowns over the course of the day when it dawned on me that tomorrow will be my first Father’s Day without my Father.  And thus the crashing waves of grief. Not at all connected to the things I was crying about, but still there in the back of my mind.
And it likely started a year ago with a comment by a friend who is transferring her membership to our church tomorrow – on Father’s Day. She told me it was going to happen and wanted to be sure I’d be there. She picked Father’s Day because she’d been baptized on Father’s Day by her own daddy when she was younger.  I replied that I, too, had been baptized on Father’s Day by my own daddy – June 16, 1985 –

Ummm… I just cussed in my head because tomorrow is June 16, 2019. I might die.

Again – it was a moment in time… a friend giving a friend information and asking for support (which I am SO EXCITED to give). She chose Father’s Day because of that memory tied to her daddy who died suddenly and unexpectedly on June 29, 2004. She’s been walking this road I’m on for 15 years. She, her sisters, and her mother are testaments to survival through survivable loss.  We were right in the middle of the busy after church kid pick up and my brain didn’t even begin to process all the information I’ve put in the last seven sentences. But I cannot ignore that my brain did indeed begin to process all of that (and maybe more) and this has been building up in me all week long.

Looking back, I’ve not been really focused on major holidays or events and what this loss means to those. I acknowledge that they are coming and that I will indeed be sad on those days, but I have not been remotely prepared for how some of them will affect me.

I got up on my birthday knowing full well that my daddy would not be posting his usual very long post about my birth. I got up and got dressed and took my kid to soccer and came home and lost my ever loving mind and went back to bed.

This week leading up to Father’s Day has seen me lost my temper and my tears far more often than I should have and I just needed to take a moment and acknowledge that it’s there – GRIEF.
Since November, posting photos on Facebook has become unimportant – because my daddy isn’t there to comment on them. I’m not sure I realized how much of what I posted was for my daddy, but in the wake of his death I just don’t take the time to post pictures like I did. Eventually I will get April, May and June up… because I like having a record.

Y’all… this grief thing is NO JOKE and it is NOT FUN.

I’m not the first person to say this, but I needed to write about it and get it out for my own good.

Tomorrow, I will CELEBRATE that I had a daddy who loved me.
Tomorrow, I will REMEMBER that, though we had years of disconnect, we spend the last 10 years of his life close – super close.
Tomorrow, I will REJOICE that my friend is placing her church membership at Fairmount.
Tomorrow I will CRY because I will miss my daddy and miss hearing him preach and miss his Facebook posts.
Tomorrow, if your daddy is living – be sure to hug his neck or call his phone and tell him you love him.

Happy Father’s Day in Heaven Daddy… I sure to miss you.

Facebook Cover Collage 2019-02-05 (2)

Let’s Get Real…

Funny, as I typed in the above title I misspelled “Real” as “Read”.  That could be a whole other post – the books I’ve read that guided me, encouraged me, challenged me, or just let me veg in another person’s (character’s) world.  Having just wrapped up the Harry Potter series with my 10-year-old daughter, I can say that I love living in Harry’s world and love returning to it through my kids. (Who am I kidding… my reading it with The Bean was my fifth or sixth time through the series and I’m on my sixth or seventh trip through now with The Boy, age 6, as we’re halfway through Chamber of Secrets.)

BUT… that’s a post for another time.  Today, let’s get real.

The thought of being real has really struck me this week. A friend, who attends Two Rivers Church in New Bern, NC has been posting a picture of herself immediately after waking up up all this week. It was a challenge from their preacher this past Sunday to post a photo of oneself (quoting her post on FB this morning) “All laid bare. No makeup. No staging. No fixed hair. No filters.” Are you brave enough to participate in such a challenge?  Am I?

On Monday I started #TheLittleWay Challenge. Already, on Friday, I’m failing.  I missed Day 1 all together and made it up on Day 2 while participating in Day 2. However, I haven’t gotten a single physical work out in!  I have upped my water take (some, but not enough to pee too often, so obviously failing at that) and I’ve tried to choose better things to eat (but I’ll admit that the family discovered my stash of reese’s cups miniatures and peanut butter m&ms and I restocked my jar with reese’s eggs last night).
On Monday, the Bible Study group I’ve barely attended for nearly a YEAR (say what?) started Beth Moore’s David study and I met our leader on Tuesday to get the book and still haven’t done a single day’s homework. Every time I sit down to do it I get interrupted by a little one. I used to get up at 5 AM and haven’t been able to get up when the alarm went off. A year ago, I was the substitute if the leader couldn’t be there.

A year ago, I was less than a month away from turning 40, which I celebrated with a 5K Run with a couple friends (and a cool El Patron party hosted by my brother & husband). I ran my first 10K in March 2018 and then fell completely off the running wagon shortly after. I haven’t donned running clothes in over 6 months and, while I miss it, I cannot get up with the alarm to go meet the best running gals a girl could ask for.  They’ve left me in their dust, moving on to a half and (I’ve heard rumor of) a full marathon run this year.  I’m already signed up for the same 10K and desperately need to start training, but just cannot seem to get up. The best solution is to run WITH my kids after they get off the bus… but I’ve only done that one day and then failed at that.

Now, before you go jumping on me for getting down on myself – I promise, I’m not wallowing. And, no, I can’t push off any of these areas of letting myself down on losing my daddy to cancer in November. I’d started slacking off long before his brain cancer diagnosis on 8/4 and his passing on 11/5.

I’m just in a slump of epic proportions and can’t seem to pull myself out of it.
AND. THAT’S. OKAY.  It’s okay to not be okay. It’s the whole reason I named this blog what I did – Ministering Through My Mess. Because life is messy and being a Christian doesn’t make it less so. I fail and Jesus picks me up, dusts me off, and sets me back on the path.
I shared this image on Facebook & Instagram this morning…
jesus compass
It had been posted by Jennifer Dukes Lee from her book, It’s All Under Control: A Journey of Letting Go, Hanging On, and Finding a Peace You Almost Forgot Was Possible.
I ordered the Kindle version of the book and can’t wait to read it after I finish the book I’m currently on.

How many times do we ask for God to lead us, but refuse to follow?
How many times does my 4:15 alarm (running) have to go off or my 5:15 alarm (Bible Study) have to chime before I stop hitting ignore and get my rear end out of bed?
I don’t know that answer yet… but maybe posting this confession here will help with my motivation.

In an effort to live out my #OneWord2019 SHINE, I promise to be REAL – to be AUTHENTIC. I feel like, as a Christian, authenticity is one of the best character traits I can have. Being honest when I fail – or when I’m not okay.
I wouldn’t describe myself as a stellar wife (and darling husband only would to not bring me shame). I wouldn’t describe myself as a stellar mom (ask The Bean about that – our battle this morning could convince you). I am definitely not a stellar house keeper – a reason we rarely host people in our house. So what am I good at? Well, I WANT to be a light for Christ and I hope that as I journey through 2019 that I’ll become more and more a beacon for God to use. I want to shine so brightly that other “wonder what [I’ve] got”.

To quote a Newsboys song… “Shine. Make ’em wonder what you’ve got. Make ’em wish that they were not on the outside looking bored. Shine. Let it shine before all men. Let’em see good works, and then let ’em glorify the Lord.”

Now… Time to get real – Where are your pictures just waking up?
(Just kidding)

One Word – 2019

SHINE

Matthew 5:16 (NASB)
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

I have struggled to come up with my #OneWord2019. For 2017 and 2018, my word was Pause. I have a pretty good temper and I often don’t pause before reacting. This happens mostly at home, and I haven’t perfected it, but after two years, I’ve definitely gotten better and I wanted a new word for 2019.
In my funk yesterday, a friend suggested I claim the word “Grace”. She said, “Grace to allow yourself to grieve, love, hurt, hope, and find new joy.” It was an excellent suggestion!
But, as my funk started yesterday, the word SHINE crossed my mind. I scowled at myself and told myself I didn’t feel like shining just then… but the word grew on me.

Daddy’s calendar on 12/26/18 said,
“We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.”
I called mama and read it to her and she said, “That’s also how God’s light gets out of us.” (Woman is brilliant, by the way.)

Whoa! The idea of my own brokenness being the best way I minister as been a theme in my life for years. My blog (which I’d love to be my career, but I don’t take the time to do create in a way to get paid sponsors) is called “Ministering Through My Mess”.

WE ARE ALL BROKEN! Eve and Adam broke us and we’ve been broken ever since, but God uses our brokenness to reach other broken people. Our healing and survival through our brokenness is what makes us stronger…

I have loved Kintsugi for YEARS (though I don’t own any yet). Kintsugi (金継ぎ, “golden joinery”), also known as Kintsukuroi (金繕い, “golden repair”), is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique.

I am a broken person – I’ve made bad decisions. I’ve been hurt and I’ve hurt other people. But My God isn’t broken and he uses my experiences to help others. While many Christian churches (and ministers) refer to Jesus’ broken body, only the King James Version uses the word “broken” in reference to Jesus’ physical body. The KJV words 1 Corinthians 11:24 “And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.”
The KJV was used for so long that the idea of Jesus’ body being broken has held on. Even I thought the scripture was worded that way in each translation until I started really looking into the wording. In every other translation I checked, Jesus is quoted saying that His body is given for us.
It is important in scripture to know that not a single bone in Jesus’ body was every broken. This is crucial because he was the PERFECT sacrifice for us – for our sins.
But he did suffer great cruelty and physical abuse as he made his way to the cross. From the moment that the people called for him to die and Barabbas to be released, he was beaten and mocked.

Anyway – as usual, I’ve digressed. God uses MY brokenness to minister to others. God doesn’t look for perfection. One of my favorite lists is that of the other broken people God used in the Bible…
Jacob was a cheater, Peter had a temper, David had an affair, Noah got drunk, Jonah ran from God, Paul was a murderer, Gideon was insecure, Miriam was a gossip, Martha was a worrier, Sarah was impatient, Moses stuttered (we believe), Rahab was a prostitute, and Lazarus was dead.
If God can use the list above for his glory, then God can certainly use my boy-crazy teenage self, my rush into marriage at 21, my subsequent divorce, my temper, my occasional bad word, my struggle as a parent, and so on, and so on…
I want to use 2019 to SHINE God’s light out of myself so that others will want God in themself, too. Standing on a box and shouting about end times will not bring someone to Christ, but my life reflecting HIM just may.
May God, shining INTO my brokenness and filling my cracks – repairing my brokenness with HIM, make me a vessel to be used by Him for His Glory. MAY HIS GLORY SHINE OUT OF ME.

Matthew 5:16 (NASB)
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

shine - kintsugi lamps

When Fear Faces God

Seven days before my dad’s surgery this summer, I wrote a story about my daughter and daddy’s surgery on Facebook.  Three days before his surgery I shared it here.

Yesterday, September 19, my dad posted the following Church Sign quote on his church’s Facebook page: “Don’t dig up in doubt what you planted in faith.”

Before reading the devotion that followed, I immediately raced back in time to July 23…

The day before my dad’s surgery I left Richmond to drive to Norfolk.

I was petrified. I hadn’t felt that until that very moment.
You see, I woke up that morning with the plan to go out to camp for “church” camp style.  Jonathan Thayer was bringing the Word to our staff and teens that morning and I love the messages he lays on us.
As I was getting ready I felt such a weight… I knew I wanted to be at my church home, Fairmount, and hear our minister, Rick, preach.  I knew I wanted to worship with my church family before heading to Norfolk to spend days with my blood family.
Leaving home, Oh My Soul by Casting Crowns came on the radio.  I didn’t really hear the first verse, but as I turned left from Ellerbee onto Royerton the chorus of the song started.
The chorus says:
“Oh my soul you are not alone.
There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know.
One more day; He will make a way.
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down.”
 
THERE’S A PLACE WHERE FEAR HAS TO FACE THE GOD YOU KNOW.
WHOA………………………………………
That line hit me like a ton of bricks.
My daddy’s surgery was going to be the moment where My Fear had to face My God.
I want to interject here that while I was late to 9:30, I made it before communion and got to hear Scott Mullins sing Rich Mullins’ Hold Me Jesus.  You want to have God step down into your mess and speak right to you?  Be at the end of your faith and pray for a miracle.
Here are the lyrics for the first verse and chorus:

Well, sometimes my life just don’t make sense at all
When the mountains look so big,
And my faith just seems so small

So hold me Jesus,
Cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

Friends, I have never been so scared in my entire life.
Not in Haiti when our tiny plane took off from the Port-au-Paix dirt runway airport and the pilot turned around (yes, TINY plane) and told us someone had ciphoned off the gas and that we’d have to make an unplanned landing in Cap Haitian to refuel.
Knowing that the surgeon, who is RENOWN for heart surgery, would be cutting 1/4 of my father’s heart out and rebuilding it was terrifying.
I left Fairmount and went to have lunch with my camp crew.  Then I said my goodbyes, taking a picture with everyone so that I’d have a camp picture even though I was not officially part of my own week this summer, and hit the road to Norfolk.
I willed “Oh My Soul” and “Thy Will Be Done” to play as I traveled throughout that day.  I am ministered to and I love to minister through music.  It’s been years since I sang on a stage, but it burns in my soul to share God’s Word through music.
I was gifted hearing both of them more than once as I switch stations near Williamsburg.
I was okay on Sunday.  I really was.  We hung in the room with Mama and Daddy until after 10:00, then headed for a “family” room that Warren had rented for the two of us.  I could barely sleep and was up again around 4 AM when Warren got up to go help daddy with his last wipe down.  I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I packed up and headed to daddy’s hospital room.  Around 5 AM it was just the four of us.  I pulled up the Rich Mullins song and did my best to read the words through my sobs.
Mama asked that we each pray as we held hands.  I. Couldn’t. Say. A. Word.
Oh, I was praying I just couldn’t vocalize anything but sobs.  It was awful…
Then we were supposed to sing the Doxology – something my mom, brother, and I can sing in beautiful harmony.  I couldn’t make a sound besides something that sounded like a whine.
I just have never been so scared in my entire life.
The Episcopal Priest that had been sent to us weeks before by one of daddy’s high school friends came and anointed daddy (me, still sobbing) and prayed with us.
Then friends from Richmond and beyond started showing up.
They took daddy to the prep area, allowing us to go with him.
Warren and Sharon Grubbs showed up there to hold our hands and pray with us.
The very new middle school youth minister from Northside showed up to pray with us.  We really liked him.  He could’ve been so uncomfortable in the face of our fear – we were total strangers to him – but he rock that visit out.  I need to tell someone at Northside about that…
Then, they said it was time and we got to walk with him to a set of doors.  I stayed on one side of his bed down the hall, in the elevator and to those doors where I did my best to say “See you later” with a smile that likely looked more like a grimace.
Then we walked through the doors and I fell completely apart in my brother’s arms.
**Sidenote – I don’t know what possessed me to write this right now – I’m sitting at my computer sobbing hysterically and have to leave for work in 10 minutes.  But daddy’s sign quote has stuck with me for 24 hours so I guess I needed to address it.**
Friends, there is a place where our fear has to face our God.
In the Bible there are 365 instances of “Do not fear” in some form of wording… One for every day of the year.  But that mattered not one iota to me that day.
It was me, holding the fear of losing my daddy, facing my all powerful, all loving, all knowing God.  He knew I was full of fear.  He know I was full of doubt that he had a miracle for me.
And while I got my miracle that day, we don’t always, do we?
One more song before I sign off… This one is SO POPULAR right now, but do we really mean the words?  I pray that I do because I sing it with all my heart and as loud as I can when it comes on. Even If by MercyMe
EVEN IF my miracle didn’t come – MY HOPE IS IN JESUS.
Where is yours?
If you don’t have a place to focus your hope, let’s talk.
Because God can meet you right where you are – in darkness, in heartache, in FEAR.
He can take our sorrow and our hurt when we’re willing to hand it over.
Sometimes He allows us to wear it and suffer through the unthinkable, but He’s still right there… holding us up.
I needed my daddy’s surgery this summer to KNOW that my faith was in God.
To know that if my worst fear came to pass, I’d be okay.
I’d have My God to hold me.  He’s faithful. He’s good.
Even when our fear looms so very large.
God loves you, friend.

My Word (and an update)

I’ve shared a couple of my older posts this weekend – one about being content and one about myself as a mother.  I promise, I’m not getting down on myself unnecessarily or lamenting my failures.

We all have failures, don’t we?  And one of the best things to do on occasion is to look at ourselves clearly and make the changes that need to be made.  This could be hairstyle, weight, wardrobe, or a real change with our behavior and attitude.

One of my biggest shortfalls is that I react to my kids and husband very, very quickly – and not usually in a good (healthy) way.  I expect the kids’ room to be clean, but I have a stack of boxes with some clothes on top of them in my own room.  When I walk into their room and it’s a wreck, I loose it.  When I’m not in a touchy-feely mood (that mood is rare for me), I snap if someone touches me “too much.”  When my kids start yelling at each other, I yell at them.  I react in anger quite often and that needs to change.

I read a poem? concept? something about pausing before you react to the world and people around you.  Over the course of the last two weeks with my kids at home and the last week with my husband home I’ve discovered that I do not incorporate the pause at home very well – with the people who matter the most to me.

So that’s my word for 2017 – PAUSE 

I’m going to work on pausing before reacting to my kids & husband – and let it bleed over into the rest of my world, though I already pause better there.

And an update:
My last post announced that I had something big going on.  Well, that something big didn’t come to be, but it did help me redefine some priorities.

God loves it when I make plans and especially when I make big public declarations of those plans.

I taught a break out session at this past Fall’s Women’s Retreat with Oak Hill Camp.  My topic was Godly Passion.  I had just finished going through some meetings about going back to work full-time teaching middle school math and I was PUMPED about all the opportunities there and fulfilling a plan I made 15 years ago and never got to follow through.

Then, a really cool part-time job was coming open at my church.  I’d be getting paid to work for God – something I’ve done in the past and regretted walking away from.  I was so sure I’d get it, too.  I had several big time cheerleaders behind me on the position I was seeking and I really did feel like it was a sure thing.  I starting putting things into place to make it work and told a few people it would affect.
I even talked to Jeff about wanting it to be my goal instead of teaching full time.  I want to have a more flexible schedule next year when Joe is in kindergarten.  I want to be his room mom and go on field trips – something my current job and the job I was seeking would allow.

It didn’t happen.  I didn’t get the job, but will support the person who did in every way I can.  Church folks reading this – please know that I’m not disappointed.  I just know God has something else in mind.

Maybe he wants me to go through with teaching full-time, so he didn’t want me to take this path into something that would prevent that for more than a couple years while I get Joe settled into elementary school. I do miss working with teens full time & miss my sarcasm landing instead of soaring over the heads of my 3 & 4 year olds.

So, tomorrow I go back to the preschool I’ve come to love and DREAD leaving if that day ever comes.  I’ll work at North Run for the rest of my working days if I can make it work.  Honestly, while I never saw myself working with preschoolers, I love it more than I ever thought I would and would miss it.
I’ll continue in my volunteer positions at church (something that would’ve had to go if I’d gotten the job) and love the people and kids I work with in those.
I’ll keep my ears & heart open to God’s leading in the next couple of years to see where He’s really leading me.

Over and over again I hear the song, “Thy Will”.  Melanie Savage sang it in church a few months ago.  I’d heard it before, but really paying attention to the words when she sang it made it become a focus when it comes on.   Funnily, it played on the way TO and FROM church yesterday – the day the new position started with someone else in it.
Obviously, God is telling me that HIS WILL is at work and I need not fear or worry.
I know he sees me.
I know he hears me.
His plans are for me.
Goodness he has in store.

But first, I PAUSE…

http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=1JM9ECNU

Ministering Through My Mess

Here We Go Again (take what?)

I named my blog.

It’s called Ministering Through My Mess.

It’s a line I used back in the Spring when I spoke at my church’s Ladies Salad Banquet and it really stuck with me.

See, I have GREAT intentions on being a blogger that you’ll want to follow.  That you’ll wait anxiously to see what I’m going to share next.  I have a couple blogs that I’ve read faithfully for years, though as the kids get older and no one sleeps on my lap at the computer comfortably while I peruse I don’t even have time to read those.
Anyway, I WANT to be a blogger – the real deal – the person who gets PAID to sit and write what is on my mind.  But to do that, you have to blog regularly (not once a year) and you have to have followers that are total strangers and still suggest you to their friends.  Your posts have to be shared far and wide – enough so to attract sponsors that will pay you to use their products and then write a post promoting them.
I’m so not there…

My world is messy.  The world I live in and my personal world.  I’m a total mess!  I don’t cook well, though I do try and none of us is underfed.  I don’t clean well – I’m not being humble. I’m awful at cleaning and I’m lazy about cleaning so putting those two together is a bit disastrous. (Yet the mess makes me crazy & stressed out so you’d think I’d work on this more.)  My kids are constantly needing me making concentration very difficult.  I’ve already walked away from the computer three times to answer their needs just writing these few paragraphs.

BUT, I believe that God has called me to teach and to share.  I believe that God knows I’m pretty much an open book (He made me, so, duh) and He’s desiring to use that to reach others through me and my mess so that they’ll be drawn to him.  And I love that He’s like that. That He designs us to be who we are, but then expects to use who we are to reflect Him.

I posted an edited picture on Facebook today that was actually two pictures.  Here it is along with what my “caption” is:

Perfection vs Reality 2

Because it’s too important to keep it in focus…
Posting the top picture gives the image of a sister and brother
walking harmoniously down an wooded path.

In reality, little brother wanted NOTHING to do with taking such a sweet picture.
I had to bribe him to do it so that I’d get that sweet picture to cherish for years.

So much of our online personality is edited. Maybe not to impress others
or even to intentionally give a wrong impression.

But who wants to see kids fighting and mom as a sweaty mess?
(Yes, I should’ve taken a selfie for some real reality.)
No one has a perfect life or perfect family and I definitely don’t.

My life is messy, but God wants to use it.

My kids aren’t perfect, but God made them cute and they sure seem perfect when they are asleep (haha).

My marriage isn’t perfect, but God is still at work in it because I invite him there every single day.

So, I’m going to give this writing thing a go again.  Yes, again.
I’m actually going to SCHEDULE time to sit and type my thoughts.
Hopefully you’ll join me for it.

Also – a quick plug for an event I’m taking part in (again).
Oak Hill Christian Service Camp is hosting its second Ladies Day/Women’s Retreat and I’m teaching a break out session.  I’d love for you to come.
It does cost money, but it is money well spent and you’ll be blessed.
You don’t even have to choose my session!  There are four and you only get to pick two.
Pick the two that you think you need the most (class titles and descriptions on the website).  Here, check it out:
Oak Hill Camp Ladies Day

I keep waiting for the sadness to come…

I’ve posted a lot on Facebook lately and suddenly felt like this post deserved to be on my blog.  I’ve missed writing and getting the opportunity to write about my Granny the past 12 days has brought that back to me.  I want to write.

So, the sadness – I keep waiting… and waiting… and waiting…

I had a touch of it yesterday.  We got to Newport News and went in the house the same as always (though through the front door).  Carla was in the back office and I went to talk to her, knowing that we were going to tell Ella that her G.G. died, but not realizing how quickly that moment would come.

When I walked away from her, she asked my mom where G.G. was.  Warren came to get me and I abandoned Carla mid-sentence (hers) and rudely (though understandably) ran through the house to get to my daughter before my mom could tell her.

I made it in time.  Mom had started 11 days before – when Granny fell at Hammricks.  She talked about her hip and the surgery.  By then, I’d picked Ella up out of the rocking chair, sitting down in her place and putting her on my lap, expecting the inevitable.

And it came.  Mom told Ella that G.G. had died and gone to Heaven and Ella started to cry.  Not sobbing, but she turned into me and cried.  And I cried too.  And Warren started as he walked in to sit.  And Aunt Evelyn (E.E. to the kids) did as she walked in.  And I think Aunt Carla did, too…

Ella asked “Why?” and just as mom started to explain as best as she could, Joe realized the piano cover was up and started hitting keys.  Ella sat up, yelled “PIANO!” and jumped out of my lap to go play.  That was it.  Moment over. Tears gone – even mine.

Twenty-six years ago, my grand-Dad died (I write it that way because we just called him “Dad” and that causes great confusion).  I was ten years old and it devastated me.  I was left with horrible separation anxiety.  I couldn’t sleep with my door shut and demanded that my parents’ door be open all night also so that I could sit up and see them there if I needed to.  (Looking back, I’m pretty sure I killed their “romantic” life.  Sorry, dad.)  I got that he was in Heaven, but I found no joy in that thought.  I cried and cried and cried and when I cried in school I told Shirley Hill (the secretary at Trevvett and a dear friend of our family) that my Dad had died.  She panicked and called my Daddy (hence my knowing that I cause confusion).  I was sad in the deepest way.

My grandpa died almost ten years ago.  I had been through his side a lot in his last years of life and I wasn’t there at his final moment.  I sobbed for days.  I sobbed passing Chestnut Grove for a year after his funeral.  I knew he was in Heaven, but his loss hit me like a ton of bricks.

That isn’t happening this time and there is only one reason.

I have found the Holy Spirit in a way that I’ve never let myself find.

To reference one of my daddy’s church posts – I have been CAUGHT by Jesus.

I have loved Jesus since childhood.  A few months ago, I would’ve told you that I’d been caught before.  But my Granny’s illness and death have proved to me that my true capture didn’t happen until recently.

I sat down on the sofa with Aunt Evelyn last night, wanting to be close to our remaining matriarch.  Though not a mother herself, she’s always been our bonus mom and grandmother.  An extra without her own kids to worry over and able to just fuss over us – being part of our Disney trips and Christmases and Birthdays.

We talked about the fact that she’d decided to continue living in the house they own.  That she’s promised to get Life Alert and actually wear it while home alone… especially when she decides to climb ladders into the attic or trim bushes at 6:00 am.  Yes, she’s done both of those things pretty recently.  For 90, she’s feisty and spry.  Trying to explain the word “elderly” to Ella today (thanks, random five minutes of Kid President last night), I told Ella that G.G. had been elderly.  I started to classify Aunt Evelyn in that category and then realized – NOPE! Doesn’t fit.

Anyway – back to the sadness… I asked her if SHE was upset that I wasn’t more emotional upon seeing her, my mother, and my aunt in her house, but without my grandmother.  She isn’t and that is confirmation for me.  She too is a lifelong follower of Jesus and my love comes from her just as much as it came from my Granny.

So here I am… waiting for the sadness that is sure to come.

Although, friends, I’m not 100% convinced it will.

I KNOW for SURE that I will cry at the service on Saturday where we will celebrate her life (almost 94 years of it!).

I know that I’ll finish singing and speaking and then the floodgates may open (note to husband: please have box of tissues at our seat).

But right now?  I AM JOYFUL!

In my Bible study last week, we spent a day focused on JOY and the difference between Joy and Happiness.  Beth Moore’s son-in-love said this: “Joy is happiness without the moodiness.”  That took my breath away because I can be quite moody and yet I consider myself joyful.  So I’ve been mulling it over.  In our discussion our leader, Bev, reminded us that JOY is a choice we make each day. I want to choice to be joyful each day. And I need, desperately, to lose the moodiness when it comes.

But I don’t feel like I’m making a choice to be joyful about this.  It feels natural and complete. It feels like breathing.

MY GRANDMOTHER IS IN HEAVEN!!!

How on earth do I not rejoice in that?

Please do not get me wrong, I am well-aware that I will have moments of sadness.  I will miss her dearly this weekend when we’re all gathered in “her” house and she’s not among us.

BUT SHE WILL BE IN HEAVEN.

She will not be looking down on us and missing us.

Because she will be with Jesus.

She will not see me make the mistakes I will make as a mother.

Because she will be walking streets paved with gold.

She will not know when I make a bad choice.

Because she will be offering eternal praise to God.

I believe that when I reach Heaven, she will know who I am and will welcome me into worship, but I do not believe that she will be watching over me before I get there.  If she was, it might make her sad and SADNESS IS ONE THING WE DO NOT FEEL IN HEAVEN.

OH, what joy and peace that gives me!!!!

My grandmother will no longer be using a walker.  She will no longer get her words mixed up as she has since her stroke.  She will no longer forget a name.  She will no longer fall.  She will no longer hurt.  She won’t have to worry about what to wear because she’ll be in Heaven’s white garments… truly white after being washed in the blood of the lamb.

Oh, thank you Father above for giving me a grandmother who was a follower of Jesus.

A woman who taught her two daughters to love God above all else.

One of those daughters helped pass that belief on to me.

Oh, how I pray to leave a legacy of faith.

May Ella see my joy in rejoicing that her G.G. has gone to Jesus and know that HEAVEN IS THE HEALING.

I am a lover of songs.  I love music in general, but I love a good song – with lyrics that set my soul on fire.  Song like:

I Can Only Imagine (never gets old! CAN YOU IMAGINE???)

Find Us Faithful (an oldie, but a goodie – May all who come behind us find us faithful)

Desert Song (ALL of my life; In EVERY season; YOU ARE STILL GOD; I have a reason to sing)

Clear the Stage (thank you Dustin and Courtney for introducing me to this song!)

Your Grace Finds Me (first heard at Northside – POWERFUL song!)

Holy Spirit (Kim Walker Smith – look it up!)

Holy Spirit was one I was introduced to this summer at Fairmount.  There are times in my walk with Christ and I question if He’s there.  If I’m allowing him to be close to me.

Friends – over the past 12 days, since my grandmother’s fall, I HAVE FELT THE PRESENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN A MIGHTY WAY.

I have been caught by Jesus.

I know that I will be sad in my and my family’s loss.  I will see my mama, and my aunt, and my great-aunt cry and I will cry when they do.  I will sit with cousins and extended family and remember past times and childhood games.  I will sit with my brother and remember vacations at Granny & Dad’s and know that those days are long gone.  I will sit with Ella and try to explain over and over that it is okay to be sad and no, GG isn’t going to come back.  I will look at my husband who loves my family ferociously and know that his heart is breaking along with ours.

But over all, I will feel JOY because

MY. GRANNY. IS. WITH. JESUS.