never had a friend like…

robinI have never met Robin Williams.

Or Johnny Cash.

Or Michael Jackson

Or Roger Ebert.

Or Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Brittany Murphy, Natasha Richardson, Whitney Houston…

And don’t even get me started on Patrick Swayze.

You probably haven’t met them either, and if you did, you weren’t friends. You didn’t see them regularly, know their quirks, their scent, their most-worn T-shirt, the things that we observe and mindlessly hold close about our own people.

But when it comes to people – our favorite far-off people – whose faces we see and voices we hear on the screen, we feel connected. And when we lose them, we mourn.

When Whitney Houston died in 2012, I remember having to tune out social media for a few days because of my anger at the reactions. As it happens with any celebrity death in our Facebook Age, we use these times as an opportunity to reminisce: our favorite song. our favorite movie. the thing that touched us, made us dance, made us cry. But some people use this as a time to point out how shallow we are for caring that an entertainer has died. Why don’t we post more pictures and thoughts of soldiers, of martyrs, of victims?

It’s a debate we can’t win. Death itself is too big for us to handle as one piece. We know that every day, people die senselessly, tragically, horribly. And if we acknowledged each one the way we do our own loved ones, our own heroes, or simply our own favorite entertainers, then all we would do is mourn.

Patrick Swayze - I mean!I remember, quite honestly, observing that I cried more tears over the star of Dirty Dancing and the singer of  “Walk the Line” than I did for some distant relatives. It made me feel guilty, and yet…? We cannot measure the depth of our human experience by isolated emotions. I loved that second cousin who died unexpectedly when I was 17, and I will always, always miss those older relatives that were gone before we got to hear all of their stories and learn all of their recipes. But I can’t help it that something in the emotive performances of Patrick Swayze and many things in the life and writings of Johnny Cash captivated me in a personal way.

And without their presence, the world is emptier. That is what happens when we lose artists, when we lose people who happen to make a more public mark than the rest of us.

It doesn’t make them bad for being celebrities, just like it doesn’t make them immune from cancer, old age, addiction, depression. It doesn’t make us shallow for loving them from afar and mourning them for real.

It’s just part of our human experience.

I am not going to spend Memorial Day acknowledging Robin Williams, nor will I tie a yellow ribbon, make a donation in his name, or think of him every day. Those are places we hold close for our soldiers, for our martyrs.

But this week, I will remember how he made me laugh in countless movies… how he was the teacher I wanted to have and wanted to be in Dead Poet’s Society… how Mrs. Doubtfire stands the test of time… the amazing way he made a cartoon genie come to life and made me rewind “You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me” over and over… how I didn’t ever see Good Morning Vietnam or get Jumanji or like Mork & Mindy, but how much my kids love that eccentric Hook.

I will also pray for his family. He was a real person… a husband, a dad, a friend.

I guess it’s a theme for me this week. Let’s edit less. Let’s feel. Let’s reach out. Let’s be the full-hearted, big-hearted, loving creatures God created us to be.

Let’s remember Robin Williams with a smile and a tear.

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If you’re happy and don’t post it…

So, two-ish weeks ago, I started the 100 days of happiness.

Last week was fu-u-ull: husband gone. Vacation bible school nightly. Insomnia. Summer-crazed children. Lots of work stuff. Super hot outside. And insomnia (because seriously… that is the worst).

But there were happy things every day.

But I got sick of posting on Facebook.

I have not posted a status since the wee hours of Friday… almost 4 days. And… and…

I don’t miss it.

Oh, I’m checking still. There are friends whose faces and observations I enjoy seeing. There are posts to make and moderate for both of my jobs. But… yikes. I just feel overloaded….

an abundance of digital communication,

an utter lack of real, substantive communication.

IMG_8341I acknowledge that I have gotten to the point in my life in which it’s easier to send a note than dial a phone, preferable to check a status than ask a question. And I feel convicted about it. Checking up on or in with each other is a poor substitute for doing life together, which is what I crave. Don’t you? When we post our pictures or thoughts we give the illusion of being part of each other’s lives, but sometimes, when we reach out to touch someone, we come up short.

I want to do better. And in the mean time, I want to clear up some of the clutter in my head… the posts that irk me, the ones whose authors I have to take a moment to even place, the posts that seem to seek to divide or incite. I don’t need all those words and all that tension added to the stuff of real life.

So, I am working on a Facebook break. No, I am not declaring I AM DONE or deactivating for a set time. I am just backing away, holding it at arm’s length, reading some books.

And in the mean time:

The #100HappyDays experiment continues. I am being mindful to observe those happy moments and happy things, even in the long, loud days. Things like:

IMG_8332- Randa’s utter enthusiasm in planning and preparing   a picnic for her friends on Friday.

- the way KK & Randa screamed and cheered and greeted their big sister Paige when she returned for a visit on Saturday.

- the way every mama in the room cried at the prayer of thanksgiving and life offered at a baby shower on Saturday.

- the way my husband appreciates my never-made-the-same-way-twice taco dip and my ever-growing baby bump.

- the stir fry I ate tonight.

- the fact that our childcare question for Sweet Baby has already been answered!

- a family dinner at Abuelo’s with all 7, er – almost 9! – of us.

- friends who dogsit

- friends who take our kids to the poolIMG_8333

- naps

- House of Cards

- metaphors

- signing Randa up for her 3rd year of dance (this year: ballet and hip-hop!)

- comfortable shoes

 

All those things were observed. Some of them were verbally shared with others. None of them were “posted” anywhere until now.

It still counts, though. In fact, as much as I love sharing and interacting with people I cannot see in real life, I want to make my words count more. I want to shake off the laziness of The Virtual and the precision of The Edited and focus on the beauty of being human, spontaneous, and able to talk.

The thought of it makes me happy :)

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the trouble with grace

As the days of summer “vacation” dwindle, I find myself looking for a moment to exhale.

The beginning of summer was pretty peaceful, quite possibly because our little darlings were spending three-ish weeks away and I was napping every afternoon in first-trimester lovely exhaustion.

But the weather got hotter and the kids got more restless and the workload of life has gotten crazier, and my second-trimester blissfulness has not yet kicked in. I’m a little crabby, and to be more specific, I am frustrated. Like, with everything.

I sat in a Bible study this morning in which the main topic is grace (this was part of my work day… one of the perks!) I thought about how grace first really captured me, for real, just moments before I found out Miranda was on her way. (full story here).

And tonight, as I dish out heated up pizza to the kids, on the fifth night Daddy is away and the edge of my sanity, I am telling myself in an inward chant that grace is for everyone.grace-by-nathan-furr-free-photo-12440

Grace. Is. For. EVERYONE.

Does that ever just frustrate the crap out of you?

Grace is for whatever neighbor called our out-of-state landlord to complain about our shrubs needing a TRIM.

Grace is for the people who ask questions and then talk over you when you try to answer.

Grace is for the child who asks you for her cup when it is closer to her than it is to you
- or the one who throws her (thankfully, plastic) plate from the living to the kitchen,
- or the one who complains about the spices on the pizza and then about the bread used for her dinner-substitution sandwich
- or the one who repeatedly gets you up at 1:30, 3:30, or 4:30 in the morning.
- or the one who whines for a playdate and then fights with her friend the whole time.
- or the one who is all of the above :)

Grace is for the one who asked you to do something and then doesn’t acknowledge it was done, much less say thanks.

Grace is for the well-meaning person who says all the wrong post-miscarriage things.

Grace is for the toxic personalities who only speak negatively.

Grace is for the ones who complain about what is wrong but refuse to be part of change.

Grace is for the people who forget you, ignore you, or never see you in the first place.

Grace is for the ignorant, the mean, the judgmental, and the selfish.

And you know what else?

Grace is for me – who made every form of bad relationship choices in her teen and young adult years.

Grace is for me – who lied for years to cover those tracks.

Grace is for me – who gets so easily defensive and has difficulty taking criticism.

Grace is for me – who sometimes chews on hurt feelings or righteous indignation like Hubba Bubba until the flavorless lump nearly chokes me.

Grace is for me – who wishes someone would help sometimes but refuses to ask for it.

Grace is for me – who could definitely stand to be a better listener, a better mama, a better soul.

Grace is for me – who sometimes indulges so deeply in loneliness that I am also refusing to see those around me.

Grace is for me – who feels inadequate over frozen pizza dinners, lost patience, and those stupid shrubs.

Grace is for me – who after so much learning and acceptance of grace, still falls into the trap of pursuing perfection so that I will please myself, the people around me, the strangers on the internet, and my Heavenly Father.

Grace is for me – because He is already pleased.

Grace is for you  – whether you identify with pieces of this list or have one of your own.

Grace is for us.

Grace is for everyone.

 

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dream jobs

I pull in the driveway, grab the heavy bag, the empty water bottle, the almost-dead phone, and my keys, and before I can swing my legs around the side of the van, they are running, smiling, saying my name (“Mommy,” the best name), and waiting for hugs and greetings and compliments. It’s one of the most precious moments of the day, and sometimes the most taxing one, too. Time to make the switch.

“Mama, you know something? When you’re at work, I look at the clock every hour to see how long before you come home.” – Miranda, age 7

Before I ever got pregnant, Rod and I talked through options because it was just a given that I would go back to teaching after we had a baby.

IMG_8253THE DAY I found out I was pregnant with Miranda, I ended up in tears saying to him, “There is NO way!”

My husband was gracious (and making a doable income) and I got my wish. However, I spent very little time as a “stay-at-home mom” or whatever we are calling it these days. I was still traveling for, marketing, organizing his southern gospel singing ministry… before long, I was teaching a one-day, two-hour class at the local hospital, and then, we were planning our annual gospel convention (which, to this day, is still some of the hardest work I’ve ever done), and then, for fun, I began editing a magazine.

But three years ago this summer, I returned to the more traditional work force. For 2 years (with a depressing gap in the middle), I worked in theatre management. THAT was crazy hard work too… but thankfully, the second part of it meant I could have the girls with me.

When that part morphed into being on a church staff, it didn’t take long for me to know that this was the perfect-fitting job for me as a mommy. While I don’t prefer to have my kids in the office with me, it’s an option when it’s needed. And all the “after-hours” parts of it… meetings, events, the madness that sometimes is synonymous with Sunday mornings: they are part of it.

This summer, like the last, I re-arranged my hours to be there three days a week instead of four. And because the girls were away with their grandparents for several weeks – and their Daddy is working from home when he isn’t traveling – there hasn’t been a Childcare Issue (thank the Lord!)

I tend to fit my other part-time job, as an editor for TRU Teen Magazine, around everything else. The girls have seen the magazine, admired the clothes and faces, and know that I work for their friends’ mom, Ms. Deanna.

IMG_8256Occasionally, they express their frustration with me and my “distractions.” Sometimes, they would rather not go to both church services every Sunday (which, we’d probably do a lot whether I was working there or not). Sometimes, when I am in the throes of a deadline or a streak of inspiration, they’d rather I just put my computer away and watch Jessie with them. I continue to try to show them the positive aspects of Mommy Working (money for eating out and going to the movies, people we get to meet and help), but I understand. My personality lends itself to focused work, and it’s hard for me to make the switch from “doing” to “Disney” sometimes.

They don’t always get it. *I* don’t always get it. All moms have “distractions” – some of them are working much longer hours and have constant Childcare Issues, some of them are taking care of other family members who need extra help, some of them have health problems, and some, too many, of them are doing it on their own.

I remind myself when statements like Miranda’s pour on the Mom Guilt that my little ladies have a pretty awesome life. When we were traveling all the time, they got to see many places, ride planes, trains, and a bus, and were doted on and fed by people from all over the country. When we were working the theatre, they got to see shows they loved, meet people they adored, eat endless popcorn, and learn about the backstage workings of live shows. And now, again, they get to be part of whatever I do in some capacity – something that would not be true if I worked in a doctor’s office, a school, a bank…

What I must also remind myself of, though, when that newsletter just needs to be tweaked and sent, when we get out of the 90 minute movie and there are 4 voice mails waiting for me, when it’s been a manic Sunday and all I want is a nap, is that at this stage of their lives, when they innocently and sweetly live in a world of where they can be anything and want such simple things, the best thing I can give them is ME.

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conference this

God is preparing youI admit, I am a bit of an eye-roller about the conference circuit. After running around the southern gospel convention circuit for 5 years like it was my job (oh wait! it was! we even had our own for three of those years…), I was over it. The crazy schedules. The inevitable disappointment. The exhaustion. The drama. The competition. The inspiration that would burn like a candle until… 3 days later… when you’re home and real life squelches it all.

So when two friends from Chicago included me on an invitation to a WRITERS conference… for WOMEN… CHRISTIAN women, I sort of rolled my eyes. It was expensive. It looked very pretty and perfect, so I figured I would not fit in. And after all this time – 3 decades, y’all! – writing, getting published here and there, I wasn’t sure what I had to gain.

But it would be with girlfriends, who get that ambitious and artistic side of me, who I rarely get to see, and once we decided to get there the day before and have our own “pre-conference,” I was in.

I’m not going to list all the details of the Proverbs 31 She Speaks conference. If you know anything about this 22-year-old ministry (that started as a newsletter! Just sayin’!), you know it was first class… thoughtful, thorough, lovely. If you don’t know about it, you should definitely check it out.

What I want to reflect on for just a moment is that right there on the first day, when I went to a myriad of informational workshops and one fairly successful meeting, the bookend general sessions grabbed my heart, my thoughts, and my spirit and would not let go.

It was the story Proverbs 31 President Lysa Terkeurst shared about having Monday night dinners at their house, and in particular, instead of turning to Facebook to discuss and judge issues that affect people’s lives, having those people into their home and loving them.

It was every single thing that came out of the mouth of Christine Caine, founder of A21, who called all of us to take time in the dark room, being developed, before we lunge for the spotlight. In particular, it was when she said:

Looking at all the things we’re not invited to only fuels our selfish ambition. If GOD has assigned you, HE will FIND you!

I’ve spent so much of the past three years wringing my hands and wiping my tears, trying to figure out where I fit in, what is next, why this or that fell apart, why I’m not a part of this group or that gathering. So Christine’s words struck me straight to my core. I was listening to her fervently but also speed-texting my husband her words and my thoughts on them, because…

WHAT? What am I waiting for? What are we doing? God has assigned us. We’re not hamsters on a wheel nor are we sitting ducks. Maybe we aren’t doing what we used to do, and maybe we aren’t doing what we WILL be doing, but, the next piece of Christine’s statement was:

God is preparing you for the things He has prepared FOR you.

We have a promise of an assignment, a purpose, an opportunity to make a difference. Apparently, it isn’t in music industry, in family friendly entertainment, in a theatre, or on a bus. OK. Cool. Done. It might not be on any stage or published page or viral blog or huge platform. OK. Cool. Whatever.

But it will be loving people and serving people. It already is.

pre-conference with Deanna & Lisa: sushi dinner!

This past weekend included time with one of my besties and a dear friend I didn’t get to know so well before moving away. It included a bonus visit with my bonus daughter Paige. It included precious moments with ladies who shared their visions, hearts, stories, smiles, prayers, and hugs. It included valuable learning from women who have paved a way in writing and publishing words of life.

But as with all the messages I have heard in the past few years that resound strongly in my spirit, the idea of simplifying, working with what is in my hand, seeing, loving and serving the people around us – including our family first – was what struck. There is nothing to wait for, no spinning wheel, no box to wait in.

It’s time to simply be who I am called to be. What greater adventure?
To learn more:
Proverbs 31
She Speaks
Lisa Terkeurst
Christine Caine

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