Celebrating Mom’s Birthday in Heaven Again

On Wednesday my Mom would have been 69. She was amazing and touched so many lives but never got to meet her grandchildren. Every year we have a birthday party for her and celebrate the fact that she lived!

When the girls got home from school that day, we picked out a cake and got some balloons. The girls get really excited about cake. (Wonder where they got that from?) They had made cards for her the day before.

After dinner we sang Happy Birthday and the girls blew out the candles for their Mimi.

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Once half of the cake was gone, we went outside to send the balloons to heaven. This year we did things a little different. We have always attached the cards the girls made to the balloons, but that involves cutting most of the card off so the balloons will go up. I didn’t want to cut them up this time, so I kept the cards and we just sent her the balloons. I think she will be OK with that.

Since they never even met her, the girls love to ask questions about Mimi. While I can answer most of them, I am sorry to say I don’t recall her favorite kind of potato chip. It is important that Mom is real to them, so we talk about her and look at some pictures.

Right now, I know there are people reading this thinking, “I can’t have a birthday party and smile. The pain is too heavy.” It took me 10 years to be able to be happy on Mom’s birthday, and I still have plenty of sad moments. Whatever part of grieving you are in is real and shouldn’t be ignored. You wouldn’t feel this way if you didn’t love them as much as you do. That love, and even the grief, is a gift. I know it is so hard to see it that way, but it is. You were given that person for a shorter amount of time than you wanted, but you still had that time. You will always have them in your heart and your memories. One day you will be able to share that with others.

When we can get to a place of celebrating someone’s life, it doesn’t take away all the sadness. It doesn’t make us not miss them. What it does is see the good. It helps us focus on the fact that we had them in our lives for as long as we did. Not everyone gets that. I know I wouldn’t trade the 23 years I had with Mom for longer with anyone else. I am so happy she lived!

If you are ready to celebrate a life, I suggest eating cake. Cake makes just about anything better.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Am I Really Living?

That is the question I have been wondering the last few days. If today was the last day of my life (or of the world), would I be happy with how I spent it? To answer it, I look to the people around me who I feel are getting it right.

Am I watching it rain and enjoying the storm? Better yet, am I dancing in the rain?

Am I fully present with my husband and children? Do they wonder if I love them or my electronic devices more?

Do I spend my money on the first thing I see that catches my eye or am I waiting until I am sure I want it?

Am I giving my time and money to help someone who needs me?

Are my words kind and helpful? Do they point others to Jesus?

Am I reading my Bible because I want to and not out of obligation?

Do I stay in the moment and really soak up what is going on?

Do I find the good in every situation or focus on the bad?

Do I thank the people around me for all they do for me and tell them how much they mean to me?

Am I listening for God’s voice in every decision? Am I putting God’s will for my life above my own?

The answer to these questions is some of the time. No, I won’t ever get it all right, but I need to stay aware. Life goes by in an instant and I can miss it. When I think of the people I know who are suffering, it drives home the point that none of us know what our future holds. But I know the One who holds the future. Do you?

 

Don’t Fall in the Trap

My baby girl just cried down my back. I had been trying to figure out why the girls were fighting and Kaitlyn’s truth spilled out. She feels left behind. I say her truth because it isn’t THE truth. The plain old truth is that she is special and can do things others can’t do. We are not all the same.

This all started last week when I signed Lauren up for a cheer and tumbling class. Since the beginning of summer, that child has been obsessed with hand stands and cartwheels. She now does a cartwheel whenever she has the chance and has gotten better. I signed her up for the class so she can learn from someone other than friends and Youtube.

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This picture was in May when Lauren was perfecting her hand stand. I love seeing how focused she is!

Kaitlyn did not want to do the class until we pulled up to the building on Monday. Suddenly she was all about tumbling. There was still an opening so I signed her up for the rest of the 6 week course. She wasn’t dressed for it then, so she missed the first class. Since then her sister had been trying to practice with her, and that is what they were doing when I heard the yelling.

When Baby K broke down and told me the other girls in the class can do cartwheels and she is behind, it broke my heart. I held her while she cried but told her she has to do what she can. She needs to practice what she can do and learn the rest in class.

After we talked, I told Lauren why Kaitlyn was struggling. She said, “No, only 2 or 3 of the girls can do cartwheels, and we mess up too.” Kaitlyn had chosen that her truth was that she was behind and all of the other girls were way ahead of her. The actual truth was the opposite. She was making herself miserable because of a lie.

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This is them doing a candlestick. Excuse the mess that is Lauren’s room. (Yes, that is a tent in the corner of the room from 2 months ago.)

Isn’t it funny how we see what we want to see? “Everybody else has it all together.” “No one else struggles with cleaning their house.” “My friends wouldn’t understand how I feel and they would think I am weird if I shared this.” (I am glad I have wonderfully flawed friends and never feel judged by them. They are priceless!)

All we can do is do what we can. No pretense. No posturing. No faking. You be you and I will be me. Doesn’t that sound so much better than each of us feeling sorry for ourselves for what we cannot do? We should never assume that we are the only ones because we aren’t. When we believe that lie, we are only holding ourselves back.

Let’s avoid that pit and do the best forward roll we can!

Linking with Holley Gerth

Be Bold. Be Specific.

“Be specific in what you are asking for from God. Most people don’t know when God answers a prayer because they are praying very general prayers.”

“If prayer is not specific, we won’t know if it just happened or was because we prayed.”

“The more specific your prayers are, the more glory God receives.”

“The more faith you have, the more specific your prayers will be.”

Do you notice a theme here? These quotes are all from Mark Batterson and inspire me years after I read his books. Do you pray for specific things or just make blanket requests? Do you lay it all out to God or hold back? I believe He wants our honest requests.

I remember a time in my life, before I discovered the importance of being specific with God. Before I met my best friend, my family and I were praying for me to find a friend. I prayed for a Christian friend who lived near me. At times I prayed that she would be in my neighborhood, but I felt like that was telling God what to do. I shouldn’t go that far but should be more vague, right?

Wrong.

God wants to give us the desires of our hearts! After months of mostly vague and a few specific prayers, she and I finally met at our neighborhood pool! If I hadn’t added the neighbor part, we still would have met, but I wouldn’t have known if it was an answer to prayer and God giving me what I wanted.

Does God always give us specifically what we ask for? Of course not. Sometimes what we ask for is not best for us. I think we know that and decide not to even ask for what we really want. We turn our desire into a lump of generic prayer. “Please bless my family.”

When my girls ask for something, I want to give it to them. They know not to ask for Legos, but instead, ask for which set they want. They ask boldly. Obviously, if what they were asking for would hurt them, I would say no. Saying yes to Legos makes me very happy! (I am especially happy since they stay in the play room, aka the Lego room.)

Lately I have been wanting something to happen and have become more patient waiting for it. But I have decided I was not specifically asking for what I want. I have been too general and that really doesn’t honor God. Bold prayers honor Him. My faith is growing, and I want my prayer life to have more weight and show my faith. Of course, the more specific prayer may not be answered, but how do I know unless I ask? God may have chosen to bless me with it even if I didn’t ask for it, but then I wouldn’t know it was a result of my prayers.

God can do anything, and for some reason He wants to hear our hearts’ desires! He wants to give us what we ask for, but we must ask. I challenge you to look at what you are praying for and start being more specific. God will honor you.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Like Water Spilled

When I look at King David’s life, it is a fascinating one. He is a shephard boy, giant slayer, would-be king and goes from there. There are may twists and turns on his path, as we can all relate. We can also relate to his unpredictable decision making skills.

In 2 Samuel 13, David’s son Absolom has killed his other son, Amnon, for raping Absolom’s sister Tamar (who was Amnon’s half sister.) After Amnon’s murder, Absolom went into hiding. I knew this story, but I didn’t know what made David bring him back.

See, it took David’s friend bringing in a wise woman to get David to see how much he missed Absolom. (Is anyone surprise it took a woman? Not me. Ahem.) This woman made up a story about her own family and then turned the tables on him to shine a light into his own soul. He missed his son and wanted him to come home, but he also felt that, as king, he needed to punish Absolom for murdering his brother.

Verse 14 of chapter 14 leaped off the page at me, “All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.” Let that soak in. I wish I could have met this woman!

We have all made mistakes that can’t be undone. Like spilled water, they take on a new form. They may be able to be mopped up, which we call damage control, but the water is out. It is spilled for all to see and mock. Our hands can’t move fast enough to clean it up.

The beauty of this verse to me is the second half. God doesn’t try to pretty us up-He knows that ship sailed in the Garden of Eden. We can’t make ourselves unsinful. So instead, He makes it all work. He lets our broken parts stand out and serve to help others.

The last thing God wants is to be separated from us, His creation. We mean everything to Him. No matter how much we push away from God, or plain old justify our sins, HE MAKES US WHOLE AGAIN. He makes us worthy, because HE is worthy. David couldn’t have Absolom unkill his brother, but he desperately wanted him in his life. He had to learn to forgive Absolom.

The difference in the story of David and Absolom and God and us is that God is not human. He forgives us when we ask for it and pulls us back to Him! I am so thankful that God is not ashamed of my past or future sins, but He finds a way to keep me with Him. There is nothing you or I can do to make God love us any less than completely. Let’s rest in that knowledge this weekend.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Why Fair Trade Matters

Friday night we took our girls to the local high school football game. It is so hard to believe they will be there in 4 and 6 years! (Although that feels like a lifetime to them.)  We had a great time, but I took something important away from that night.

On the way out, we stopped to look at the shirts for sale. Lauren wanted something long sleeved, and they showed her a hoodie. The smile that lit up her face was so sweet. The total was a reasonable $20 and we ended up paying for half while she paid for the other half. The thing is an adult Small and swallowed that child up whole. The entire trip home, she kept giggling about how big it was and going on about how soft it is inside. Making her happy didn’t take much.

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But some people can’t give their children gifts like this. My husband and I get to see the joy on our kids’ faces when we surpirse them or give them what they want. We shouldn’t be the only ones who get to have that experience.

I have been a part of Fair Trade Friday and purchased from fair trade companies for over a year. Moments like these solidify why I do. I believe moms and dads should be able to provide for their kids. I believe there is nothing more that parents want than to make their kids safe and happy. If I can, I want to help them do just that.

Fair Trade Friday has 3 different options. The main club costs $31.99 a month and you receive a box every month that contains 3-4 high quality items like jewelry, bags, and household items. It is like Christmas every month! (Speaking of Christmas, if this sounds expensive to you, think of it as Christmas shopping all year long. Everything in the box would make wonderful gifts-if you can manage to give it away.) There is also a Bracelet of the Month club for $13.99 per month and Earring of the Month for $11.99 per month. All three options provide jobs for women around the world. Each item includes a card with either the name of the woman who created the item or the country it was made in.  When you hold each item, you can feel the woman’s joy and satisfaction.

If you are interested in joning these clubs or want to shop their fair trade site, check out their website. I urge you to think about the last time you made your child (or one close to you) smile, and decide that every parent deserves that honor. It truly doesn’t take much but a willingness to shop differently.

Linking with Holley Gerth.

Thoughts on Grief

Grief will touch all of us at least once in our lives. None of us handle it the same way and it can last for years. We feel deep loss for several reasons, but the main one is losing a loved one. I don’t know everything about grief, but I know a few things.

The book of Psalms says Jesus is close to the brokenhearted and that He heals them and binds their wounds. In my mind, I see Him nursing us back to health. He cries with us and gives us what we need. His own heart breaks for us, as all of us parents feel when our kids hurt. And like a parent, He knows He can’t go through this pain for us. Thinking of it this way reminds me that He sees me and doesn’t abandon me when I need Him.

When I think about the sadness over lost loved ones, so many emotions come to mind. Sometimes I feel guilt for not being with them enough or not showing outward grief as much as others do. I think I should show it more or hide it more, depending on the day. I feel anger that they are gone when they meant so much to me.

You know what? None of these feelings are wrong. Until I acknowledge them and sift through them to see what is right and what is productive, I can’t move forward. There are periods where I need anger. There really are stages of grief and denying them does me no good. Stuffing them down only makes things worse and makes me bitter.

I have had aha! moments where I literally had to say my feelings out loud to hear how ridiculous they sounded. My brain had accepted them as truth and was in the process of reconciling them and making them fit in with the rest of my thoughts. Once that starts, I have work to do to retrain my brain and convince it of the truth. The truth is that I loved someone and they are no longer here. It is not my fault or God’s fault. I don’t have to feel shame that others handle their sadness different than me. My job now is to find a new normal as I keep their memory alive.

One thing I know that happens after a period of grief is gratitude. Once we are reminded of the fragility of life, we appreciate the days we are given going forward as well as the times we had with someone we lost. We may not feel we had enough time with them, but it has to be enough.

One final fact is that God never meant for us to never stop grieving. If you are in the middle and feel it will never end, keep going. Each day brings something new and brings you closer to a whole heart. While it is true that we will always miss them, we will find joy again. Some days it will feel like we are finally better and other days we will want to curl up on the floor and never leave. We must push through those days and know there is some good ahead. God will never leave us and He will heal us in time.

We can count on it.

Linking with Holley Gerth