December 31, 2014

Saying Goodbye to 2014

On the very last day of any year, you can almost always find me in a quiet place, feeling both sentimental and somber. For as long as I can remember, the New Year's holiday is  a day combined with reflection, self-loathing, and pep-talks about getting all the things I got wrong, right in the next year.  As appealing as fireworks and champagne and sequined sweaters sound on such a night, I am usually feeling more sullen than celebratory. That's one of those things I wish weren't true about me.  I wish I were the fancy New Year's Eve party-thrower type, but instead I'm the "I don't even feel up to going to the party I was invited to" kind of person. 

True to form, the last few days I have been my usual, quiet end of year self thinking about the year behind me.  The highs, the lows, things accomplished and achieved.  Things, moments, people - some found, some lost.  An extraordinary journey with God.  Memories made, tears cried, laughter and so much goodness that I'm ashamed that I don't only feel grateful on this day.  Because there was so much goodness.

It's been a difficult, blue, gut-wrenching December and I am ready to pack up my decorations and breathe some of the new year air into my house and start over again.  I am also very aware though, that I'm not finishing my year as I had hoped I would.  And perhaps because I'm in this familiar place, it's why I never feel up to partying and celebrating at the end of any year.  It's like the ending of the year means I ran out of time for something or that I failed because it didn't get done or finished or fixed.  So I punish myself instead of celebrating progress or beauty or small moments that made up one incredible something.

Because my December has been full of enough self-contempt and sorrow, I am trying to pick myself up on this very last day and in these final moments of 2014 and celebrate some of what this year was - it's beauty, it's precious moments, it's places of progress and goals achieved and pieces of my story lived well.  Perhaps there will always be unmet goals, unfulfilled desires and failures in every year.  Maybe I need to be more accepting of that, accepting of myself as I am. 

Some visible reminders to me of a year full of all of those things....

Much to celebrate.  Much to smile about.  So, so much to be thankful for. 
Tonight, I will be ringing in the new year with my little family.  We'll make a yummy meal, play Twister and count down the seconds until midnight when we find ourselves in yet another new year. Another beginning and a continuing of where I am.
Wishing you a Happy New Year.  May you find many, many things to celebrate as you say farewell to what was and welcome in 2015.

December 28, 2014

December's Ending

It's already that time of year again.  The time when I do my usual end of year self-evaluation.  If you've ever had a job review for work, I can almost guarantee you that it's got nothing on how I tear myself apart and scrutinize, criticize and obsess over all I did or more importantly, didn't get right.  And each year, I promise myself I won't do this because I know it's this horrible thing.  I look for ways to beat up on myself or give myself this stern talking to.  All because I want to be better, to get better, to do something, everything better.

This is a familiar pattern for me.  One that goes back to high school, maybe even my pre-teen years.  It's as if I give myself this report card.  I'm graded on my appearance, my performance, my spiritual growth, the status of my relationships, my finances, my home, my job.  I could go on.  And up until November, I thought I would be finishing my year "on track" for once.  And then December happened and I was kicked down hard by grief and sorrow and anger even, and at the moment, I still feel trapped under the weight of it all.

I can literally feel this shift within myself as the end of one year approaches and the beginning of another is about to start.  I look forward to the feeling of a fresh start every single year.  But I realized it's because I'm looking for another chance to get something right.  I am never quite satisfied enough with my progress or where I am at on my journey because I feel like I'm still missing something.  Like I'm not where I belong or I'm running late in life.

Just today, I did a major toy-purge and deep cleaning of Tommy's room.  He received every Star Wars toy under the sun for Christmas and I went through his space trashing the junk, making room for the new, and giving him the choice on things he was ready to let go of.  The result was a well-organized, clean room.  A place for everything and everything in it's place.  I realized that his room was a reflection for how I want to both end my year and begin a new one.  I desperately want to create some order out of the chaos or to have something to show for myself for what I've done or achieved or gotten right this year.  Unfortunately though, a person's life and heart are much different than their bedroom.  Sorting through feelings, addictions, struggles and every day life isn't as easy as going to Walmart and buying a plastic bin and throwing those things in a box where they belong.  Oh, how I wish it was.

Earlier this month, my best friend's mother died after a two year battle with cancer.  But she wasn't just the mom of my best friend.  She was a woman who impacted my life greatly, someone who loved and nurtured me when my teenage heart needed it most.  She made me a part of her family and my life was literally changed because of her care. 

With her death, I found that the usual cloud of sorrow that normally comes for me on Christmas day, came weeks early.  I didn't expect it and the very first weekend I found myself in this horrible place, Todd was gone on a hunting trip and being alone turned into a weekend of bad choices and attempting to cope with food even though I know it doesn't work anymore.  One weekend alone turned into two more because Todd has the crappiest work schedule ever and I sat alone and with food and with hard feelings.  I became angry and bitter and other life things stirred up more of the same. 

I tried writing about it, about her, the impact she had on my life and heart but all of my words felt stale and I decided that sometimes words simply can't do some of the things that happen or the people in our life, justice.  As carefully and thoughtfully as one can compose a sentence, there are some things that just can't be written until much later perhaps.

But it's the end of December and I'm sitting in this familiar place of self-grading and evaluation and looking at this year that is nearly behind me.  In so many ways, it was a great year, an epic one even.  And yet, all I can see are the failures and disappointments of my December, and how I am ending my year in the last place I wanted to be at.  Fat, angry at God, discontent, broken.  I'm finding it hard to rest and even harder to give myself a break.  I guess I don't think that I deserve one.

December 4, 2014

A Thrill of Hope

This December, I currently feel lost in a swirl of suffering.  Not of my own, but others around me hurting and dying and grieving.  Pain upon pain it keeps coming in waves for loved ones around me and I can't stop it or fix it or say anything or do anything to make it better.  I can't feel the hurts for them, and I can't take away cancer, and I can't put a baby inside of a womb, and I can't bring back loved ones from the dead.

I feel restless though.  Desperately wanting to do something, say something, be somewhere.  If I take a meal or clean a house or write a card or give them my face and my tears then maybe it will bring some comfort, some relief.  And though those acts are kind, I can't be what any of them are needing.  I can't be Who they are needing.

There were moments in my evening the other night that I stood over my stove making a meal for my family, all whole and healthy and present, and I found myself weeping into a pot of beef stew.  Maybe because I feel guilty for all I have when others seem to be having these same things ripped from them.

But it's more than guilt.  It's this unnameable feeling that comes when you feel what someone else is feeling.  When you are bearing one another's burdens and weeping with those who are weeping.

I wish I could somehow feel all of my Robin's pain so she could have some relief - even for a day.  She bears so much physical pain and an emotional heartache that I could never understand the depths of.  My best friend in the whole world....her mom is dying. I can hardly bear the thought of her knowing this kind of loss and I have found myself crying off and on for days, hurting not just for my friend and for my Robin - but hurting with them.

More news this week of death and hardship and break-ups and disappointments and broken relationships and deep, deep need.  Here, now in this beautiful season of Christmas and miracles and giving.  And hope.

I keep asking Him why now, why in this season, why during Christmas.  The timing seems off and all of this sorrow and suffering doesn't coincide with all of my Hallmark movies with cliche endings and cheesy story lines and how it always magically snows at the very end of the movie.

And as I finished bathing my boys and getting them tucked safely in bed, I walked past a cabinet in my living room. 
A reminder of Him.  A reminder of what God gave us.  Hope here on earth.  The answer to our suffering.  My Jesus.

A thrill of hope....the weary world rejoices.

December 1, 2014

Smiling Down

It was when he went up to her, asking to be in her arms.  She took him and nestled him under her chin and he relaxed there. She rocked that growing baby boy - the one who rarely settles and stills.  Yet, he stilled for her.  Maybe somewhere in his little person he knows what a treasure it is to be held by your great-grandmother.
My heart stirred and ached and warmed all at the same time.  It filled these places in my soul that only being with your grandmother can fill.  But it was more than that.  It's always more than that with my Gramma - the mother of my mother.  Sometimes I wonder how much longer I will have her.  This woman, her life, her love, her contagious joy - I can't ever imagine being without that.  Without her.  Ever since I lost my mom, I've always thought that as long as I have her, I will have a piece of mom with me.  I have always known that when the time comes for me to lose my Gramma, it will feel like losing mom all over again.

And I am always grasping for pieces of her, trying to hold on to something that I never held on to when she was here.

Sometimes I have these silly notions of heaven that bring me comfort.  Though theology might tell me differently, I often like to think of my mom watching me from heave, looking down and peering into my every day life.  I can always picture her cheering me on or offering me encouragement.  I can see her smile for me, proud of who I am and how much I am like her.  And I have to admit, that during these short moments as I watched Jacob surrender into my Grandmother's arms, I imagined that she was somehow there with us and with him and somehow he knows her because he has known my embrace and my Gramma's. 

It's Christmas season now.  My house is twinkling and my home is decked out with garlands and berries and ribbon and full of the kind of cozy beauty that comes with December.  I like to think that she sees.  And she is smiling.

November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Day 2014 (Recap style)

There was family and cousins and beautiful sunshine. 
 There was my hot husband and his turkey fryer.
 There was a laptop and my sister's face over Skype who reported that she ruined a pumpkin pie and I missed her a lot.
 There was a pretty table that somehow I still haven't graduated to sitting at.  
 And a glorious fried turkey and frying turkey is really the only way to do turkey anymore.
  There was family and laughter and words of gratitude.
 And my greatest gifts.  The man who loves and cares for my heart, the one I do life with and come home to and can't sleep if he isn't beside me.
 My big boy.  
The smart, kind, tender-hearted one who said he was most thankful for Jesus and that he died on the cross so he didn't have to.  And when he said that, my heart swelled with pride and joy because he gets something about Jesus even though he's just five and I so want him to know Jesus like I do.
And the little one.  
The passionate, emotion-full, silly boy who brings so much life and light to our home and our hearts.
He humbles me, and teaches me and my life wouldn't be the same without him.
And maybe it sounds all Christanee and churchyish to say this, but honestly, this year I was most thankful for Jesus.  This year has been big and special somehow. I have followed Him more close and more deep and I am changed and different because of it all.  I have been taken and captivated and my heart has been stolen by the places we have walked together this year, and I want more of it, more of Him.

So much to be thankful for.  So many blessings, so many things, so many much.

November 1, 2014

Vader, Linus & Wildstyle

What people often find surprising about me is that I'm not one of those moms that wants to coordinate Halloween costumes into a big family thing.  Like a s'mores family or have all of us be Star Wars characters.  Don't get me wrong - those are adorable ideas and maybe someday there will be a family theme in the Halloween costume department for the four of us.  I must say though, that I agree with that being a surprising thing to know considering I'm the queen of matchy-matchy and all things coordinated and my desires for color schemed Christmas card photos.  

I suppose I've realized in the few short years that I've been a mother, that my kids are going to be different and have different personalities.  And I want them to feel free to choose their costume every year. Plus, I'm getting to relive my childhood as my kids grow up and I have just as much fun dressing up as they do and at the end of the day, I want to pick my own thing too.

For Halloween this year, Tommy chose to be Darth Vader.  Being the Star Wars fanatic he is, I was not surprised with his choice.  Also, since he had a Star Wars party for his birthday this year, I actually had to spend zero dollars on his costume since he already had everything, which was a major bonus.

Jacob and his little blue blanket that he affectionately calls "ni-night" are inseparable.  The natural choice was to select Linus for him.  Red shirt, black stripes, blue blanket - done.  And poor baby, he has been teething off and on working on those pesky molars so he wasn't completely thrilled with Halloween in general this year.
My costume choice came from my new favorite animated masterpiece - The Lego Movie.  If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend you purchase it immediately.  I seriously love it and laugh every single time.  I dressed up as Wildstyle and was mostly excited about spraying color into my hair.
And all mismatched and totally un-coordinated - here we are.  Ready for trick-or-treating - a tradition that still seems very strange to me.  Maybe because I didn't grow up doing it, I will never understand why you just show up at people's houses and ask for candy.  And then they give it to you.  It's totally weird.
By the end of the night I was begging Todd if I could keep the hot pink hair.  Because it's totally me and I've wanted pink hair for as long as I can remember.  He didn't go for it.
After our candy collecting adventures, Tommy sat down with his bucket and went to town.  I finally cut him off after his fourth bag of skittles.  But he had a blast.
Hope ya'll had a fun, safe and candy-filled Halloween!