Real Life

I love inspirational quotes, blog posts that uplift and empower, special moments with my kids, family vacations, and backyard camping. I love Hallmark moments.

I like to look back at photos from happy days, with my smiling boys and fun yet educational outings. I love to plan those rare days, where I leave the hated blackberry at home and focus on what matters. On those days I dream of my future with a flexible work schedule on my terms where I have more days like this.

But sometimes I put so much pressure on myself and our family to have all days be like that. I’m on vacation this week, and despite lack of finances to go away, I wanted to plan a fun and memorable stay-cation. I made a Pinterest board, I posted on Facebook, I made notes and did research. I emailed the schedule out, and told everyone it would be like vacation except we’d sleep at home. But it didn’t really turn out that way.

My husband got sick, which happens way too often, which ended much of our plans. So I sat home and sulked while letting the boys watch all the TV they wanted. I’m sulking over vacation days wasted and plans ruined and what I think I deserve on my rare free days.

Reality check. Life doesn’t always go to plan, people get sick, things happen. And today I’m not even going to remind myself of all I know, that these days can be just as good (or better) than the planned days, that I have much to be thankful for.

Today, I’m sharing a photo of reality. Not the pretty happy photos we all usually post, but the gritty real life we share with those we love.

We too often put up a front that all is well and life is grand. Then others wish their life was like that. We all do it sometimes, either faking it or wishing for a life we don’t even realize is faked. But we all have these days, not every moment is Hallmark.

Sharing life is sharing it all.

And I’ll start saving money to plan a real vacation soon!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Getting Messy and Birthday Cakes

I’m attending an amazing conference that kicked off tonight- but has already rocked my world in a way I wasn’t quite prepared for.  The speaker, Reggie Joiner, talked about how we can’t reach people without it getting messy.  It gets messy for us to be involved and share ourselves, and it gets messy for them.

I don’t like messy.  What I mean is emotionally messy- lives intertwined, issues faced together, sharing hurts and feelings.  Surface is easier.  Surface is safer.  So in order to keep a bit more control in this crazy life where very little is under my control, I control that.  I let few people in very deep, and I don’t get very deep with others.

But I’ve wanted to be a bit more messy, I’ve wanted to share, thus this blog.  But you notice it’s been a while since I posted.  It’s been too hard lately, anything I would have said would have required me to share more than I really wanted to.  But yet I keep asking God to use me.  But you know, without the mess.

It doesn’t work that way.  I’ve let few things get messy in almost five years, and truthfully avoided it usually even before then.  For almost five years I’ve stayed out of ministry areas of the church that required me to get messy with people with few exceptions, and I’ve been involved in missing persons work but in the least messy way possible.  Tonight was like God was speaking directly to me though- letting me know that I can’t do the work I’m called to do without being willing to be messy and uncomfortable.

It might be baby steps, but here is my first go at it.  Writing a post when I’d rather keep it private.  And sharing this:  Yesterday was Austin’s 31st birthday and in my no mess style, I made one post on Facebook and didn’t think about it much again- because you know, I’m fine.  But I wanted to take a cake home to eat with my mom and the boys and recognize the day, so I stopped at the grocery store.  I thought I’d get something he’d like.  And that’s when the minor meltdown happened, when I realized that I don’t remember what he liked.  I walked in a circle around the bakery for 10 minutes, long enough for four employees to ask me if they could help find something.  I left empty handed and brokenhearted.   

I don’t know what good may come of sharing that simple honest look at a tough day, but I know that like 2 Corinthians 3:3 says, our lives are a letter from God, meant to show Him to others.  I hope that someone can see that in my letter there is pain and trouble but there is an ever present hand of God.

Getting messy isn’t going to be easy, but I’m going to be trying more.  Feel free to ask me how it’s going and keep me in check- because I know Reggie was right.  Ministering to people is messy.

The Sisters

All my life I’ve seen my mom and her sisters as a strong trio of women, who would stand by each other no matter what.  Through the years they’ve had their disagreements, their differences, and times of wishing other things for each other.  They’ve put many miles between them, and sometimes gone long periods without being face to face.  But they’ve always shown unconditional love, and truly tried to support each other through all the good and bad of life.

When Austin went missing, they were both here right away.  When we celebrated his birthday and launch of Finder’s Hope the next year, they were there.  They’ve shown me the same love and support that they show each other.

On one particular occasion, I was actually upset by their display of love and support.  All I could think was that I no longer had my brother to share life with, wouldn’t have his support and love many years from now.  It didn’t seem fair as I looked at them thinking that together they could conquer anything.  But on that same occasion, they shared with the group about their 4th sister, the one no longer there.  JoAnn was the youngest of the four, and the next to youngest of the six kids (did I not mention they also have two brothers?) and was lost tragically in an accident as a teenager.

I realized, that though she’s not with them conquering the world, she’s always in their heart and on their mind.  They never forget that they aren’t three but four.  All they’ve been through, including losing her, combined with their faith, is so much of what makes them strong.

I may not have a sister, or any sibling to support me the way they do for each other.  But I do have them and I do have Austin with me in heart and memory, even if not here himself.  Like they have grown in strength from all their losses, here’s praying that so may I.  That I may one day be able to conquer the world too.

If There Were No Valleys

I’d like to write a post about how much better today was than yesterday, some lesson about how a new day brought a new perspective.  In a way that was true, as Michael actually went 12 hours in a deep sleep with no shower or vomiting (shower= even better than meds when he’s sick).  We thought he was turning the corner on this episode.  I even got a few hours sleep, even if it was in a chair.  But that’s a lot better than the night before.

Instead, a new day brought news of my grandmother suffering two strokes in the night.  And my mom, who has been watching the boys while I focus on Michael, needed to go be with her.  But to add to the struggle, her car needed work that she can’t really afford, leaving means taking yet another unpaid day (or more) off work, and of course there was the matter of figuring out how to get my boys taken care of.  I reached out to friends to help solve the matter of the boys, and as I knew they would, faithful friends took that burden away.  There was still the puzzle to figure out of who would take them when, and what they needed, and where they needed to be, but there’s no question of them being taken care of and loved on.  My mom’s car/financial situation didn’t magically resolve itself, and as I write the work still isn’t done and she hasn’t been able to leave yet.  But God will provide, I do believe that.  

Reaching out and asking for help isn’t in my comfort zone.  It’s a phobia to tell the truth.  But I know that I can’t do it alone, and I miss out on so much when I don’t get pushed out of what’s easy.  With our search for Austin and our battle with Michael’s illness, I spend more time asking for help than I’d ever choose to.

But I can tell you this… if I didn’t face these valleys I’d never know the full gratitude of love and friendship.  I would miss the chance to be encouraged by a text, phone call or email that just checks in.  I’d miss a cup of coffee being delivered that wasn’t even asked for but much needed, that warmed more than just my hands.  My kids would miss the chance to know that they can count on others too, that this life is meant to be lived together.  They might grow up thinking church is a place we go, instead of the people who live it.

I’m not crazy, if given the chance I’d skip the valleys.  But since we’re here, might as well look around and enjoy the view.  I couldn’t ask for more.