2 Years

So what were the questions…?

Basically, they all started with “how long before…?” Some of them were quite simple, but took longer than I’d have thought, like:

– we find family doctors?
– I can go from one end of the strand to the next without using Google Maps, and I don’t panic when someone asks me for directions?
– we don’t immediately turn to tourist traps as our recreational destinations?
– people ask me where to go to get their hair done?
– I have a regular-standing-girls-night-out again?
– I know other parents?
– I say we are going to a Pelicans baseball game or to get Mexican food without smirking?
– I learn that Walmart must be avoided on the weekends from April-August?
– we have a hang-out worthy patio, with party lights?
– we become south-side snobs (again!)?
– we have favorite beaches. Ranked. (for the record, MB State Park, followed by Huntington State Park, followed by Surfside Pier).
– we form opinions about bike week? (for the record, in favor)
– I have random run-ins with people I know? (for the record, that actually, suddenly, seems to be happening more here than it did in the Chicago south suburbs where I lived for 35 years!)

But then, my heart, there are the other questions, the ones I spoke only to myself or my husband… the ones to which I didn’t really want the answers… the ones that I still can’t verbalize, even though now…I know.

They involve moving on…relationships…instincts…feelings…home. They’re a little scary and a lot bittersweet. In some ways, acknowledging the answers to those brings me to the exact same tight rope feeling I had when we first moved.

The last question that shares the answer is: How long will I be the new girl?

Incidentally, the related question that is still unanswered is:
How long will I feel like the new girl?

I hope it’s 3 years…or maybe even 2 and a half.

~

ridearoundwithyouNothing on this ‘adventure’ – and I mean nothing, and I mean adventure – has gone how we thought, planned, hoped. We have lived through some of the hardest times of our life here…and we have celebrated some of the best. And that is what to hope for, it seems… balance, perspective, and faith to face whatever comes.

I can’t be thankful enough for not just the ride, but who shares it with me.

Happy Chicagolina-versary.

~

Wow…two years!

what childhood looks like

My girls are lunch-bringers, and for the last few months, I’ve been searching for a perfect array of containers for all their stuff. The unexpected hurdle was finding good, old-fashioned, metal lunchboxes of the right size to fit a thermos and not mildew, rot, or fall apart.

Enter lunchboxes.com, and the bonus: they have new lunchboxes that reflect something they like and don’t look just like everybody else’s. They were pretty excited.

lunchboxes
(They don’t wear their bathing suits to school, but the delivery happened to have come while we were on way to the beach…)
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The fact that they hurriedly marked them is proof positive of their 5-and6-year-old excitement.

May you have a simply happy day!

Remember, Mama

It is so easy to forget WHO you are!

burton kids 2013

Thirteen years ago on Mother’s Day, I was a first-time auntie, and quite inexplicably, had my feelings hurt because my brother – a twenty-something, bachelor cop, did not acknowledge his son’s aunt on Mother’s Day. Why in the world I expected that of him is now beyond me.

Today, I am the proud, proud aunt of two nephews and a niece who will be visiting me (along with their parents!) in one month. And may I just say…my brother has had a role in making very pretty children.

Ten years ago I was a newly married stepmom of two, pretty sheepish about my role, and my heart aching more than ever for a baby of my own.

Today, having ‘successfully navigated’ the ‘raising’ of two stepchildren, I am looking crazy-forward to a weekend with all my ‘kids,’ including my future-daughter-in-law. Iron Man 3, Mexican food, and the beach will be involved. I love our not-normal family.

Eight years ago – was it that long? Wow! – I was an infertile mom on Mother’s Day. The pain of that diagnosis and the emptiness of my womb felt overwhelming at times. Daily, it felt like my identity. How can you not have something (children) and still be something (mama)? My soul felt motherly. My arms ached. I stared at other women and children as though they had found the Holy Grail, one I had no hope of finding.

And then…

Seven years ago, I mama and kaitywas newly pregnant.
Six years ago, I was carrying around a six-month old who was my Holy Grail.
Five years ago, I was sitting on a tour bus, cuddling a toddler and a newborn, utterly bewildered by the whirlwind blessings, and utterly exhausted, too.mama and randa

I had a conversation with some pastors yesterday. (Insert my line about loving the fact that my co-workers are pastors, and friends, and brothers). We were talking about grace, and the job of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. We so often say it is the Holy Spirit’s role to convict us of our sin, but Pastor Tom proposed that in the life of a believer, who is already forgiven of sin, the Holy Spirit’s role is to convict us of our righteousness.

Righteousness? you say, that sounds so churchy and holier-than-thou. But there is no man righteous, no not one. (Romans 3:10). Though “righteous “is one of those Christany-terms that scare people, PT was not saying it “that way…”

So I put my Kelly Standard Version spin on things, proposing that the Holy Spirit is like Mufasa in the sky, reminding Simba to: Remember who you are.mama remember

How easy is it to forget who we are… as Christians? As humans? As mothers? I mean, if someone asks me about motherhood these days, I usually laugh it off with an anecdote about my “precocious” youngest child, or about the fact that as a stepmom to older children, I will likely be a gramma in my 30s. But this week, oh this week…

It is always a time to be reminded about the sanctity of motherhood, not because of who it makes us, but because of who and what it entrusts to us. Becoming a mother, having the chance to love my children with all my heart, to be loved by them, frustrated by them, proud of them, is the singular greatest joy in my life. While that might be easy to forget when they are spilling Fruity Pebbles all over the floor when we are already late for church, or having a silent, scowl-at-all-the-other-parents hissy fit at the bus stop, or beating the tarnation out of each other over which episode of Jessie they are going to watch, it is, nevertheless, always true. Always.

To top that off, just this week, I have been touched by the depth of emotions that comes with motherhood, as I have encountered in My Real Life ~

– a mom who placed her third-born into the arms of an infertile mom, thus becoming a ‘birth mom,’ a subculture that I will forever be more deeply in awe of from this moment. THANK YOU for choosing life, for your beyond-generous heart, for your strength, for your trust in God, for changing the life of this woman whose arms are no longer empty.

– a mom whose only child, thus far, was lost through miscarriage. The fact that her arms have yet to hold a baby of her own does not take from her heart’s status of “Mom.” May God bless and keep every mama who has lost in this way.

– the prospective adoptive mom. I. Cannot. Wait…to share the joy of your babies coming home to you.

– the single mom. I know more of them now than I used to, and my admiration only grows. Know, single moms, that you are superheroes to me…for all the nights I don’t get enough sleep, all the days I don’t give enough time/patience/homemade dinners, all the wee hours spent folding laundry and wishing there was more money/help/company/time/energy: I hope you get double what I wish for.

– the mom of the special needs child. This one? Too precious for words. You are loved. You are prayed for. You are SEEN.

– the mom in emotional crisis….she is overworked, she is heartbroken, she is grieving, she is straying, she is searching, she is ill, she is abandoned, she is lonely…and whatever the case, she is trying to deal with this and shelter her children from it, and that is so difficult, if not impossible. Lord, have mercy on this mom. Give her a day free of fear, guilt, shame, sadness, and anxiety. Give her more of YOU.

~

My prayer for all moms is that we remember who we are, what we were made into the moment that role of “Mama” was bestowed upon, gifted to us. When in the trenches (or the park, the grocery store, the kitchen, the car) surrounded by chaos… when in the bathroom, surrounded by little fists knocking and big voices calling… when looking in the mirror, envisioning everything we are not… when in the rare moment of silence, wondering what and how we can do it better… may we remember that regardless of our circumstances, we are not alone. May we remember that the one thing our children need most from us is our love. May we remember that every moment with them is a treasure.

 

 

May First

14 years ago
I moved out of my parents’ house permanently (third time total) and into my own apartment. I had a new ‘career’ job and a new car. It was a scary, somewhat dark time in life. I was 22…able to care for my own financial needs, a little cuckoo when it came to everything else. Thank God for His protection.

12 years ago
I moved out of that apartment into my own condo. I signed a mortgage contract that legally recognized me as a “single woman,” and though that was not where I wanted to be, I was like, “Booya! I am 24 and buying my own home!” I also adopted my first cat…sweet, beautiful, 5 year-old Raymie. Neither of us slept that night. It might have been the moving food (aka, White Castles).

3 years ago
We put our house up for sale on a sunny Saturday morning in Homewood, Illinois.
In Nashville, Tennessee, where we were planning to move, there was a horrible flood that wiped out historic places and many homes and businesses.
We celebrated my Dad’s 65th birthday with a fab party.

2 years ago
After 2 days of emptying our house, Rod and I dropped our babies with Mom & Dad and drove our moving truck with trailer to our new home in Conway, SC. Rod’s back was out. We knew no one. Our brother-friend from 2 hours away came with a friend of his and emptied our entire household into our garage.

1 year ago
After our initial ‘dreams’ in South Carolina were all shattered, Rod and I were in the middle of starting a new theatre, moving our church, planning to move our home (about 45 minutes away to Murrells Inlet), and both starting new jobs. In that madness, I took the girls for a visit to Chicago. Good for the soul.

Today
Yesterday, we helped some friends move who were in kind of a desperate situation. It seemed fitting to ‘pay it forward’ in this way. I have no idea why I moved on May 1st so many times :) We currently are renewing our lease for a year, and we’ll see what happens from there. I won’t see Chicago again until almost August, but I will see my Dad, the birthday boy, and the rest of my family (yaaaaaaay!) in 37 days when they come for a beach vacation/family reunion.

Life rarely ever goes as planned. It used to bother me and worry me and make me second guess. I’m learning that it is simply…life. We will keep moving along, rolling with the punches, and all those other cliche but true things.

Happy May.

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Hey! I’m proud to return to one of my favorite stomping grounds as a monthly columnist! Check out a few more words on the subject of change over at Absolutely Gospel!

friendship: it’s what I give.

Women don’t need to learn how to build a shelf or organize a closet. They need friendship.

my new friend Tishala

It is amazing to me sitting here tonight how puzzle pieces come together.

My personal and professional and ministerial (what a word) yearnings seem to be finally lining up, and they go something like this:

Love people. Reach out to people. Serve people. Let people fill you up. And then do it again.

yourfriendFor the last week, I have been visited by friends, you know the kind – the ones who are really family- who know me so well that they can fill me up with a few words, a look, a anecdote, a hug for my babies, a bag of Doritos, a 30 minute walk. I spent the last week getting my “love tank” filled, almost effortlessly. There were simple group dinners and leisurely talks oceanside and one night that will live in infamy when my girls were allowed to get in the hottub, past bedtime, in their clothes, because they wanted some extra minutes of fun with Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Liz. I live off those moments. I savor them.

Because you know, we spend so much of the rest of our lives in the trenches. We spend so much time trying to Figure It Out, Do The Right Things, Be The Best –

“The more I try to be the best, the more I get the worst.” – Amy Grant

– that sometimes, we wear ourselves out trying and never accomplish anything.

Well, you might say – I know I say it – God didn’t give me this skill/talent/gift/motivation to just sit here. I’m supposed to be doing something. How can I change the world if I am just sitting here, folding laundry? How can my voice be heard if I’m just singing in the shower? How can God speak through me if the only thing I ever say is “JUST A MINUTE! Mommy’s hands are FULL!” ?

So we try harder. We pack our schedules. We Pin good ideas and implement a few. We research. (aka “Google stuff”). We discuss. We blog. We comment on other blogs. And we try.

I am not here to tell you to stop trying. I won’t. But what I am saying is, just for a minute: pause.

Do you see it?

Do you hear it?

“It” is what God has for you right now.

For me, today, it was a few very specific women… a few praying in the altar, a few scattered around the sanctuary, a few in seats just feet away. I had nothing profound to offer them. I am not a prophetess, a deaconess, a pastor, or any other Title of Distinction. I don’t pray like a good old saint, and as good as I can be with words some times, emotions often render me tongue-tied.

I am a mom, a wife, a battle-scared girl with a somewhat colorful past. I am an idealist but also a cynic. I do not trust anyone, but I love everyone. I am braver than I’ve ever been, but still afraid of a lot of things. I am a wordsmith… I observe, I read, I write… but none of that is what I have to offer any of the hurting people around me.

I have love. Arms. Tears. Smiles. Friendship. A desire to connect. A desire to know, and to be known. A desire to see, and to be seen. A desire to share what God has done for me, and also to share my latest pop culture obsession (ABC’s Scandal) and gluten-free bread recipe. A kitchen that will always at least have coffee and tea and chairs and a welcome mat. That is what I have to give. That is what I will not run out of. That will not make me tired. That does not involve a formal description, a meeting, a committee, a project plan, a Facebook page, a marketing plan, a weekly report, a group of investors, a hashtag, a logo, or any angst, fear of rejection, suffering by comparison, or even possible failure.

nofearinloveIf I give friendship and get nothing in return, so what? The gift is already mine to give.

Lord, forgive me for spinning my wheels trying to come up with a plan. Forgive me for putting my offering in a box or letting anyone else tell me what it should be. Thank You for opening my eyes to what already is and not just what “could have” been or what “might be.” Help me to love as You do:

the potential-friend sitting alone
the potential-friend whose husband is mean
the potential-friend who lost a child
the potential-friend paralyzed by fear of losing her child
the potential-friend who never feels good enough
the potential-friend who will never love me back
the potential-friend I will never see again
the potential-friend who is way prettier, skinnier, and seemingly better than I am
the potential-friend my other friends won’t like
the potential-friend who won’t accept it
the potential-friend who will abuse it
the potential-friend who will change my life, for better or worse.

I have been blessed with friendship – ones near and far, some who fill me, some who challenge me, some who seem to forget about me but then come back around. I am blessed. I have nothing to lose by loving big. It is what God called me to do from the very beginning.

Ask, “Is the juice worth the squeeze here?” and sometimes it is. – Jen Hatmaker

When the juice involves loving another human being in her need, it will always, always be worth it.

~
for levity’s sake: