He Knows Your Name

I have the moments. Sometimes they’re long moments. Where I think I’m forgotten. By God, by people, by luck or fate or whatever other forces people think are at work in the universe. Because I’m often dealing with the dark things of a sometimes lonely life, and can’t imagine that I’m not alone.

And then, a message comes. Someone I don’t know very well, just an acquaintance really, told me that she’d been told by God to give me a message. She didn’t know why, she felt uncomfortable, but knew it had to be done. That message? These simple words, “you are not forgotten.”

She had no idea how much it was needed, or how it would be more meaningful coming from someone who really didn’t know what I was facing.

*****Now, fast forward… because I started writing this blog post in 2014, when I was feeling forgotten and lost. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but I remember the feeling. I just pulled it out and dusted it off to give it a quick finish. Because 3.5 years later, not much has changed– and that’s hard in some ways, but also beautiful in others. Because no matter what, that truth remains. He knows me, loves me, and hasn’t forgotten me. I find comfort in that, and comfort in friends and family who still let me know that.

Why am I sharing that with you? Because such a large portion of people I love are facing the hardest of days right now. From illness, to serious financial hardships, to loss of loved ones, or loss of what they thought their future looked like. And maybe you’re having dark days too, the kind that feel like the sun may never rise. I’m not sure what your beliefs are specifically, but I pray that you find the peace that comes from knowing that you are known. And loved. Oh my friends, so loved.

From the Heart of a 10 year old as we Search for His Missing Uncle

I don’t know what to add to that.

Except to please pray for him too.

Crazy Good

The bad news? I’ve been neglectful of my blog.

The good news? Life is pretty good right now in a lot of ways, and I’m truly enjoying some time away.

Life is crazy. But life is good.

I wanted to share a few things with you though.

1. This. Are you in the business of loving people? Especially if you’re a Christian, you should read this. And share this.

2. This. Are you ever in the business of being hurt? Of course you are. So read this. And share this.

3. This. This is my heart. Despite the little one demanding that we let him move to Tallahassee.

boys

Though I’m more quiet here for right now, I’d love to keep connecting with you on a daily basis. If you’re not already, come find me on Twitter. Don’t get Twitter? That’s okay, you’ll figure it out quickly. You can also connect with me daily on Facebook here. I share my craziness wit daily.

How’s life for you?

Christmas Gifts

The stockings are hung, the presents are wrapped, the goodies are baked.  We’ve rehearsed our Christmas Eve KidStuf show, decorated for the Christmas Eve candlelight service, watched the favorite Christmas classics, and even cleaned the house.  We’ve bought the last minute presents and should be sitting back relaxing and enjoying it.

But I’m on day two of migraines and getting enough relief to barely function but nothing more.  And Michael is on week three of an episode that hasn’t landed him in the hospital but has made me contemplate the need for it many times.  So just like usual, I’m feeling a bit sorry for us, and mostly for him.  He should be able to enjoy this season, but we’re here once again and he’s struggling with the emotional battlefield that creates.

But God keeps sending us these small surprises that help keep us going, and remind me that we’re not forgotten.

First, there was this gift.

As I dug through my wrapping paper supplies, which includes old Christmas cards that I use as tags, I saw handwriting that I hadn’t seen in years.  6 1/2 years actually.

Austin’s last Christmas with us we made quite a few sweet memories.  One of them was him helping me with Michael’s Christmas gift.  Austin was a computer whiz, and I asked him to set up and configure the new laptop that he’d helped me find.  He met me at Panera and we drank coffee while he worked on it, to make sure Michael didn’t see.  He then bought a warranty to go with it as Michael’s gift, and what I found was his handwritten note saying that he’d bought him a warranty.

It’s the kind of thing I’d normally throw away, and I’m not sure why I kept it.  I’m not sure how it sat in that box of supplies for so long without me seeing it either.  But as I sat wrapping presents this year, with Michael asleep near me, and me hoping for a miracle for him this year, I got a small one of my own.  A reminder of my brother and of the love he had for us.

Later that night, last night, another completely unexpected gift was given.

A small company, UnMarketing, who says to ‘Stop Marketing, Start Engaging’ did just that through granting items from wish lists for a fairly large group of people.  They asked you to send them Amazon wish lists, and they’d be selecting some people to pick an item off the list and send it.  No questions, no fuss, no contest.  They didn’t make you share it to win it, or like them on Facebook, or fill out an application.

Within 10 minutes, two items off of Michael’s Christmas list were ordered and a personal note sent about why the man behind this chose those- he didn’t just throw money (which was cool enough on it’s own) but he took time to connect.  They weren’t high ticket items, but they’re items that he’ll love.

And with those two gifts, I’m reminded….

We’re loved, we’re taken care of, we’re not forgotten.

I wish I didn’t have to write a post like this every year- that I didn’t struggle with balancing the great and true Joy of the God we’re celebrating and the kids who have my heart with the heartache of this illness and my brother being missing.  I often feel like I’ve said as much as I can say on these topics, and have nothing more to give.

But maybe, you’re like me and facing the same things year after year and needing the reminder that just because you are doesn’t mean you’re forgotten, or unloved.

He loves us more than we can know, which is after all why we have Christmas to celebrate.

Merry Christmas my friends.

 

Christmas 2009

Christmas 2009

 

Traditions

I’ve been gone.  I know you missed me. {despite your silence that would say otherwise.  no hard feelings.}

Every now and then I disappear because I can’t figure out how to write about what’s going on, but every now and then I just give myself permission to take care of what’s going on around me without worrying about sharing it, or enjoy some time without then writing.  That’s what this was- and I find that after I take a short break, I’m grateful to get back and have the chance to share.  Sometimes I write because I’m ‘supposed’ to, much like I do many things in life because I’m ‘supposed’ to.

Especially at Christmastime, when traditions are everything.

We have to decorate and shop and sing and watch movies and make cocoa and visit Santa and make lists and look at lights and make cookies and visit friends and send cards and host parties and volunteer and take photos and and and and…. Oh, and then there’s Ben’s birthday right in the middle and there’s a whole list of must do’s there too, to make sure his birthday isn’t overshadowed.

I LOVE all those things.  But when they become more about checking off a list and making sure we do all the things than about enjoying the things we do, we’ve put tradition over what we’re really meant to get from it.

And this year, once again, I started stressing about what I hadn’t yet checked off that list and when I would.  But then, one of my best friend’s brother died very unexpectedly and I only cared that week about what she was feeling.  And then I got knocked on my butt by a bad cold and days of migraine.  And then I realized that my husband was slowing down and that we were probably entering the pre-phase of a an episode of his chronic illness.  And when I asked friends about what they consider must do’s so I could alter my list, a good friend called bullsh!t and said that nothing was a must do.  She’s a genius.

So, I switched gears and am really trying to focus on simply enjoying what we are able to do.

It’s not as much as I’d like.  I’d always like to do more.

But yesterday, on my youngest son’s birthday as I worried that it hadn’t been magical enough a day, he reminded me again.

Me:  Ben, what do you want to do tonight for the last part of your birthday celebration?

Ben:  Watch Diego and play with my new toys. 

Me:  But I thought we’d go look at lights and get hot chocolate, or …. You really just want to stay home and play?

Ben:  Yep.

Me:  But did you have a happy birthday?

Ben:  Yes!

So we stayed home, ate ice cream and played.

Yes, in my ideal world my husband would be full of energy and able to fully participate, and every day would be full of lifetime worthy memories.

But maybe just enjoying what we do, whatever that is, and being together makes the best tradition.

Do you have a checklist and must do’s, or do you just enjoy what comes?  I’m not sure I’ll ever drop the list without being reminded, it’s my nature.  But I’m trying to learn.

 

minnie

one of the memories we did make- Ben kissing Minnie!

 

Not About the Turkey

A peek at social media during November and you’ll know immediately that it’s the season of thanks.  I don’t participate in the 30 days of thanks, just because to me it feels forced and something to worry about making sure you don’t forget anyone or hurt feelings.  But it’s also because I’m sometimes overwhelmed with gratitude to a point of not being able to express it.

We’re blessed.  Truly.  No other way to say it.

And as much as I want to say that Thanksgiving is just about being together and enjoying family and friends, we *may* have been stress balls trying to get our house ready for guests.  Michael’s sister and her family are spending a few days with us, and we are pretty excited about that.  Our time with his family is rare, and them traveling to us has been happening about once a year since long travel for us became too hard.  It’s hard for some of his family to understand his illness or the difficulties we face because of it, and that’s caused some issues.  Which makes it even more special when we have time with some of them.

And we like them.  You know how you love family but have some you just don’t like?  These are not them.  We like them and love them.  Awesome.
So it should be easier to just relax, let the house be what it is and enjoy them.  But instead, Michael is trying to get 82 last minute things done, I’m shopping and meal prepping and organizing and cleaning.  And working.

What about you- have you mastered “relax and enjoy it” or are you so busy cooking and baking and planning that you’re feeling more stressed than grateful?  If you’re like me and haven’t, these are the things I’m reminding myself, and you may want to also:

It’s not about the Turkey.

pieOr the dressing, pies, cranberry or potatoes.

It’s not about the perfect table setting.

Or photo worthy outfits.

It’s not about the Black Friday shopping.

Or Thanksgiving evening shopping.

It’s about being together, being thankful for memories with those not with you, and having one whole day to reflect on all we have and all those who helped us get here.

From my family to yours- Happy Thanksgiving.

p.s.  The easy delicious caramel pie I’m making in the photo is courtesy of my friend Jill at Made with Moxie.  You can find her recipe here.

The Season Of Joy- And Hurt

I rarely have the right words to say.  So I make jokes, or say inappropriate things, or say nothing.  I can come across as crass or unfeeling quite often.  Not proud of that, just fact.

But it also makes me pretty forgiving of others who don’t get the right words out.  I care way more about intent and heart than about the right words, and there are so many times that words are inadequate anyway.

So for those who are sometimes at a loss in the most difficult of times, I thought I’d give some tips.  Why now?

Because it’s the start of the season of Joy.  But also the season of great loss and sorrow.

Even those celebrating with family and finding joy throughout this season may be missing someone.  Or may be facing financial troubles that overshadow all else.  Or may be healing from heartbreak.  There’s a lot of darkness in homes this time of year.

My 10 tips for helping a hurting friend :

1.  Assume everyone is facing something and give them the benefit of the doubt when their words aren’t quite right.

2.  When you know they’re missing someone who has passed away or missing, let them talk about their loved one.  You don’t have to have the right words, you just have to ask about their traditions or past holidays and listen.  Pretending they aren’t gone won’t make it easier for them.

3.  Don’t ask if someone needs help.  If there’s a reason for you to ask, you probably already know there is a need.  They’re probably not going to tell you specifically or even say so.  Look around- maybe they need a meal, their yard taken care of, or just a coffee brought to them.  Don’t ask, just do.

4.  Give something personal and meaningful.  Small meaningful gifts that remind them they’re loved mean the most.

5.  Don’t offer religious catch phrases.  Did you know that it is not biblical that God won’t give you more than you can handle?  (Great article about that here).

6.  Invite them but don’t push them.  Depending on the situation or their place in the cycle of grief, they may not be ready.  But they also may just need to be asked and loved.

7.  Enjoy your family.  No one hurting truly wants those around them to feel the way the do.

8.  Don’t remind them that it will get better.  It doesn’t help and they probably already know that.  But imagining the time when they’ll miss their loved one less only means imagining even more time passing.

9.  Encourage.  Cards, text, voice mails, all to let them know they’re on your mind.

10.  Pray.  It works.

With two young kids and the most amazing friends, the holidays are full of joy.  But even then there are moments of sadness missing Austin and others.  And I know many for whom the grief overshadows the joy.

I hope this starts you thinking about how you can help a friend experiencing that this season.

 

hurting_friend

 

 

Aunt Cathy’s Dressing

After 12 years of marriage, something is happening for the first time that makes me sweat.  I’m hosting a meal for part of my husband’s family.  His sister and her family are coming to visit, and we’re really looking forward to it.  We don’t get much time with his family- with them several states away and the great difficulty we have with traveling, it’s very rare.  So spending time with them at all is special, but getting to share our home with them makes it even more so.  And did I mention it’s for Thanksgiving?  So feeling auntcathy_dressingsome pressure.

My first stop for help was my Aunt Cathy.  She’s a great cook, but in particular does the.best.dressing. every year- I asked her to send the recipe, and instead of emailing or sending a message, she took the time to hand write it and stick it in the mail, along with a recipe for gravy.  It’s in her handwriting, and something I’ll pull out and use year after year for as long as I cook.  It’s more than a recipe, more than instructions- it’s our family history.

About ten years ago, before I even realized how much our family history meant, or knew that I’d soon be missing loved ones every holiday, my Aunts and Mom knew.  We spent hours writing in recipe books, sharing our favorites with each other in our own handwriting.  I didn’t cook a lot- and still don’t honestly.  But now I pull that book out and find extended family favorites that have become our favorites too, and feel the connection.

I see my grandmother’s handwriting- sharing her potato soup, vanilla nut cookies, and surprise lemon cake.  Recipes she used with her family of 6, that she then passed on.

She’s gone now.  But the written words and legacy are an ongoing gift.

I see my mom’s recipes for things that Austin and I grew up with as favorites, and remember.  And I make them for our family now.

I’ve tucked my Aunt’s recgrandma_cakeipes into that book, and have decided to start building it again.  This year, my brother-in-law will be preparing some of their favorite things too.  And I’ll add those into our book.

I’m realizing that our traditions can continue to grow, and despite missing people at our table this year, we can celebrate those gathering at our table for the first time.

I’m thankful that there are plenty of empty pages left in the book to be filled in.  I’ll always look back to the special recipes written in my grandmother, aunts and mom’s handwriting.

But I’ll keep building new memories too, that can become my kids family history.

What are the traditions that you’ll honor this year?  What will you do new?  I can’t wait to hear!

The Help Experiment

A few weeks ago I learned about a leadership team being formed to start something BIG.  I wanted in.

The Help Experiment: We are a collective of individuals joining together to help others. We do it because we can, we do it because we should, and we do it because we think… you would too.  That was the vision of the man behind the project, Jon Levesque.  He is passionate about this, and assembled a team who is as well.

It’s the early days, but what has already happened?

People are offering help.  People are being helped.

In small ways and big.  People who thought they had nothing to offer have realized that their skills and talents are valuable and needed.  There have been offers of logo design, health and fitness coaching, baked goods, meals delivered, Christmas cards designed, Christmas gifts for kids in need, and many more.  We have seen people who needed encouragement and to believe that people care find that.  We’ve seen people who needed to realize that they have an important gift to give find those who are so grateful.

I truly believe we’ll start to see lives changed.

If you’ve read much of mine, you already know I can get on a soapbox about ‘DO SOMETHING!’ when there is a need, vs. something that makes you feel good but truly helps no one.  This is my chance to be more action than words, to not just fill a need, but to help give you, my friends, the opportunity to do something meaningful, however big or small.

Check it out- the website including stories of lives impacted will be launching soon- but amazing things are already happening on the Facebook page.  Click over, join, and look for yourself.  There’s no risk, no commitment, just come see…. I think you’ll stick around.

This month we’re reminded of how much we have to be thankful for and how much we have.  Now, it’s time to give.

help

Charlie & The Least of These

Earlier I was reading a blog post that was really powerful, but I had such a strong response to that I had to stop and wonder why.  You’ll have to go read it to fully understand, but in essence, Josh Collins reached out to truly see someone that most of us would overlook, a guy named Charlie.

I’ve never been that guy- the one who has so little, is unseen in society, or could disappear with no one noticing.  So why did I connect?  Because, if Austin is alive, he is no doubt one of “the least of these.”  And I realize that Charlie is loved by someone and maybe even missed by someone.

He may be someone’s Austin.

My brother didn’t disappear because he wanted a different life or because he was on the run from criminal activity or afraid for his life.  He didn’t take money and isn’t living the dream on an island in the Caribbean.  Austin disappeared because he was ill, because depression had taken over, and because he’d stopped seeing that it could change.  We believe that.  The only missing piece is what happened after those last moments we know about.  Did he become a Charlie?  Or are we right in focusing our search on a search for remains?  It’s unlikely, very unlikely, that he’s alive today.  But if he is, he’s almost certainly living a life like Charlie.

And maybe someone like Josh Collins is showing him some compassion and seeing him just for a few moments as God does.

Josh wrote that he thought about Charlie’s family, and about where Charlie had been and was going.  I pray that if Austin is out there somewhere today, that he encounters someone like Josh.  Someone who can see him worthy of being acknowledged and spoken to, and even helped.

Sometimes it’s harder to picture Austin out there facing a hard life alone than it is to picture him in the arms of God.  Sometimes for me, hope looks like the opposite of what people expect because of that and I shut out the possibility.

But I thank God that there are people willing to stop and see the Charlie’s of our world.  Not just because that’s what God wants from us, but because in someone else’s story, Charlie may just be named Austin.

 

** Josh, you impacted more than just Charlie.  Thank you.

 

Austin in happier days

Austin in happier days