Monday, December 31, 2012

The Kleenex Means Tears

For most, their posts on their blogs today will focus on New Year's resolutions. Maybe reflections on the past year and their dreams and goals for the coming one.

Not me.

For me, I'm simply having a hard time focusing at all. You see, yesterday was a really hard day for our family.  We woke up to find our beloved cat "Popcorn" of 9 1/2 years suddenly couldn't move his back legs. At all.

I knew. I knew as soon as I saw my girls try to put him on his feet and his whole backside collapse that something was terribly wrong. And I knew the outcome probably wouldn't be a good one.

I was right.

We spent a total of 2 hours at the emergency vet clinic. One in which they didn't realize how serious his condition was until they found out how cold his body temp was and they suddenly flew into motion. I thought, "Why do they think we needed an emergency clinic on the weekend?"

The vet was very, very kind and gentle though. Our beloved "Popcorn" had a blood clot which was blocking flow of blood to his legs. Probably caused by a bad heart. His prognosis? "Guarded."

It's hard enough to face your own sorrow at a moment like that, but to watch your two daughters hurting and sobbing as well? Excruciating.

The vet hadn't even left the room after she gave us our options before the sobbs just gutted my whole being and poured out. My poor husband had three crying and sobbing girls all at once and his own eyes were struggling to be dry. Tough, tough moment in time.

Yes. We could have spent thousands of dollars to try and help our sweet feline. With no guarantee of a good outcome. And in the end - he was hurting. He was half paralyzed overnight. And we needed to show him mercy. So that's the decision we made.

My girls didn't want to be there for it. So they ran out to the car.  Me? I wanted to be there with him to the end. And I was. I held him as he went to sleep forever. And my heart cries even now at the thought and memory of it.  I told him I loved him and he had been a good cat. I thanked God for the joys of the last 9 1/2 years with him. And I asked for one more moment to hold him after he'd gone.

I will miss him sitting on our mud room counter every time we come home because he'd heard the garage door open and knew we were home.

I will miss him sitting at the bottom of our recliners, waiting for us to put a blanket out so he could hop up and lay by our legs.

I will miss him sitting outside the kitchen (because he wasn't allowed in) every time he heard me start dinner because he wanted to be fed.

I will even miss all the white hair on everything that he constantly shed.

I will miss how he always laid in the laundry basket on the dirty clothes while I worked on getting them washed.

I will miss how he always tried to get into my husband's office - even though he knew he wasn't allowed in there.

I will miss him sniffing all of our guests shoes, bags and beings - checking it all out.

I will miss him meowing at night or during the day - wanting to know where we are because he wanted to be in the same room.

And I will miss him trying to carry his bowl out of the mud room in his mouth because he wanted to eat his food in by us - not alone.

I will miss him terribly.

I've discovered what Kleenex boxes in doctors and vets offices are for. I'd always eyed them - thinking they were for runny noses. But no. They are for tears. For I used at least 10 that I could count yesterday and several more got passed to my family. Runny mascara was wiped and yes - noses. But mostly tears. Tears for an animal that brought us love, gave us love, and helped us give it in return.

Those kleenex boxes mean someone has to give bad news. And someone has to get it.

God placed animals here for us to care for. Ultimately, I know they have their place. I've never put their importance over people. Yet still, there is a bond. A love that is shared and a deep grief that is felt when they pass.

And I understand.

For those of you who aren't interested in hearing all about my cat - I apologize. But it's my blog, and I can do what I want to. :) And for today - I'm soaking in memories and moments.

For my heart is still very much hurting.

Animals are a gift. And I'm thankful for the one my family got in sweet 'ol "Popcorn."

He was cross eyed. He was slow. He shed A LOT. But from the moment my daughter at the sweet age of 6 saw him at the Humane Society, held him in her arms and said, "I love him with ALL my heart!" I knew he would be ours.

As he will always be ours in our hearts.

I wouldn't change one thing.

I know one day, we will speak of him with sweet smiles on our faces instead of tears in our hearts, eyes, and throats.

But for today....the kleenex still means tears.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Personal Identity, Spiritual Identity, Family Identity

I was talking to some young moms in the not-too-distant past. I was sharing with them the three things that I felt were most important in building a child.  They are their personal identity, spiritual identity, and family identity.

These 3 things are the anchors in every child’s life. They are the things that will give them roots when the rest of the world is uprooted. They will give a strong foundation to a person instead of allowing them to feel as if they are standing on sinking sand. These 3 things are VITAL.

Personal Identity.  How your child views themselves is critical. It’s the basis for a healthy self-esteem and it gives them confidence (or lack thereof.) Their personal identity fuels them to reach for their dreams, or allows them to feel they are undeserving and unworthy of anything.

You can build your child’s personal identity by reinforcing who they are. Help shape them by showing them how unique and special they are. Comment and praise them often and be there to listen and pick them up when they are low. Don’t give them false compliments – but encourage, love, and support them. Accept them and love them while helping them flourish in the gifts and character qualities that God has especially set in their hearts.

Spiritual IdentityFaith in God is the most important legacy you can leave your children. It starts out as something they model from you. But as they get older, they discover if their faith is something personal and something they truly believe on their own.

You can do many things to nurture their faith in God. Pray with them, go to church with them, enjoy Christian music with them, read stories and talk about God’s Word. Let them ask questions and be honest when you don’t know the answer. Let them see that God is important to you. Not just a ritual or a tradition that you’re “supposed” to do – but something you truly believe.

Let your walk imitate your talk.

Family Identity – We all look back on our childhood years and see how we were influenced and shaped by the families we grew up in. Whether we deny it or not, all throughout life we are continually affected by how we identified with our family.   Sharing life together, loving each other, being involved in each other’s interests and activities, dreaming together, and passing down heirlooms are super important.

We can leave our children a great heritage and one that is carefully chosen by how we allow their siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins to integrate into their lives. How we speak of them and how we involve them shapes our child’s “family identity.”

You have it within your power to leave a positive legacy for your children and help build all three of these identities in their lives. Get creative. Find ways to encourage who they are and look for ways to show them that God is real. Help them bond with relatives and involve them in your child’s life. Even if you come from a dysfunctional family, there are ways that you can positively allow them to help shape your child’s identity. Sometimes it just has to come in smaller doses or within set boundaries. But it can be done.

If you want to raise a healthy, happy child who in turn becomes a confident, healthy, generous, respectful, and thankful adult  - focus intentionally on their personal, spiritual, and family identity.

It’s the cornerstone to everything.

Monday, December 24, 2012

I Had Such Big Plans

Our dreams and expectations for our lives can be so big. We were born to dream, weren’t we?

Life often rushes in to grab those dreams and it can feel at times as if we are being laughed at. 

It’s so easy to get our feelings hurt. To start doubting our vision and to wonder if “life” is in fact, right and we were wrong.

Are we special? Do we have what it takes? Are we worthy? Do dreams really come true?

I think the problem isn’t that we have big plans for ourselves but rather that our big plans fail to account for life’s realities along the way. Things that are unavoidable like important relationships, finances, and health.  We can’t simply abandon responsibilities and be completely selfish.

But we CAN still dream. We can dream lavishly.

Sometimes the execution of those dreams might have to be tempered a little (or a lot.) if we have children. If we are the sole supporter of our family. If.

We DO have what it takes if our big plans are God-given. And if they are God-given, it will be hard to set them aside or run away from them; for God’s agenda always wins.

Just keep in mind that in the process, YOUR plans may give way to HIS. And then the whole plan changes. At least the outcome. For it won’t be about you…but Him.

Friday, December 21, 2012

I Can't Breathe

The hunger. It’s unbearable sometimes. The hunger of wanting certain things to happen in life. Of wanting to see and feel God, first hand.

I am so hungry for some things in my life that at times it feels like I can’t breathe.

Have you ever felt that way?

Do you ever feel like the passion that lives inside of you just grows and grows? Your wants get bigger and bigger. Wants for change. For hope. For renewal. For a WORD from God.

It’s a hunger. A thirst that cannot be quenched.

It sits there and you feel like you will burst into tears from the drive of it all.

It hurts to breathe.

I get on my knees and I bare my soul before my Lord. I ask Him for clarity. Wisdom. Direction. Relief.

And then somehow I have to go on with the ordinary-ness of my day. As if I don’t desire more. Better.

My life is good. Very good. I have been blessed and loved. My needs have been met. Always. For my God is so faithful.

Yet here I stand. Waiting. For a very long time. For some deep and important questions and desires to be answered. To be realized.

I want to breathe in fresh air. Clean air. I want to breathe freely and openly of the joy that only God can bestow on a person. Feel the tenderness of His touch.

I hunger for more of Him. More of “better.” I don’t just want good. I want “best.”

I don’t want to have to fight to explain my dreams, my desires, my wishes. I just want to pursue. I want to be the ME that I know He has created me to be. The ME that can only be full when those prayers are answered.

I want to breathe in deeply. And have God be so close to me that I can smell Him. And know Him. KNOW that He reached down and touched me. Because He loves me.

And just because He could.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Make Your Gift Thoughtful

I’ve been told I have a knack for gift giving.  It’s nice to hear that since I usually stress and strain over just the right thing to give.  You see, I always want the recipient of my gifts to be delighted when they open up their present. I want the gift to make them happy.

I don’t just buy any old thing. I was always told, “If you like it, the person you’re buying it for will like it!”  I can’t tell you how much I disagree with that statement! I think it leads us down the wrong path.

When I’m buying a gift for someone, I try to be thoughtful. I think about the person’s personality, their likes, dislikes, hobbies, and what they have mentioned. So many times I have run to write down a gift idea after being with a family member and hearing them mention something that they either don’t have or have always wanted!

I listen and I try to pay attention.

Of course it can be hard if you don’t know what someone already owns. And on these occasions you can only do your best. For instance, if someone has a certain love or hobby, you can’t always buy them any old thing because often, they will already own it. So a little sleuthing may be in order, or you can go for new products out on the market that offers a better chance of someone not already having it.

Just because I like something very girlie and sparkly doesn’t mean my daughter, sister, mom, or friend will like it. Some ladies love pink while others love bold colors. Some like feminine and girlie things while others are tomboys. It all depends on the person. And the same is true for guys. Not all guys love football. And some guys are very particular about what brand of clothing or colors they wear!

If you really want to give a gift of love to someone else – be thoughtful. Be really thoughtful. Think about the person and the times you have spent with them. Think about their personality and what they like in life. Then use those things to help you find the right gift for them. There have been many times where I’ve gotten a gift for someone that I did not like at all but I knew it fit in with who they were. And I was right. I was right because I paid attention to who they were instead of who I am.

Gift giving is really all about the love wrapped up in that ‘thing’ isn’t it? So make it count. Show them you care about what they care about. And watch the delight in their eyes as they unwrap the contents.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Writing Helps Me Process

I can’t speak for other writers. I don’t know what their daily disciplines are or how they get motivated to write what they write.  I think writers are about as individual as readers. People are unique in every way, shape, and form. Writers are no different.

I do know, that for me, writing helps me process life. It helps me process my faith, my feelings, and myself.  There is something inside of me that is fueled to get ‘it’ out on paper. To help others. To help myself.

It’s a driven thing. You can’t explain it to someone who doesn’t also know it. Feel it. It just is.

My fingers can fly across a keyboard as my heart does the talking. And in the process of it all, I can see things more clearly. Feel them more deeply. (Or less deeply as the case may be.) I can understand. And in the process of MY process, I hope to resonate with others. To let them see that they are not alone. That they are validated in their feelings and that there is hope.

A lot of times, I can’t speak about what I’m going to write about until I’ve written about it. Or the passion would fade. The process would get tainted in a way. It has to go from my heart straight to the written word. First. 

Other times, I can have something stirring in me for quite awhile. And it grows. And other thoughts join in with it and add to it. And then I can go to the paper as the once small thought or feeling has grown into a whole subject matter.

All in all – for me – my writing has to stay pure. I do my best writing when I have to run to the computer to get something out.

I believe it’s God.

For my thoughts in and of themselves are so basic. So raw. But He somehow uses it to become, at times, something beautiful. Something valuable.

No one may ever understand my love for writing. No one may ever find it valuable in terms of human cost or payment. But I believe the heart does. My heart and the hearts of those who resonate with my words. HIS words used through me.

And I will do it as long as He lets me. Being thankful for the processing He allows me to go through in the process.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Grieving With Connecticut

I couldn't seem to find the right words to put up today as a fresh post. I looked through my writing and nothing felt right. Nothing fit.

It's because of the tragedy yesterday at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. It's because of those precious, priceless children. No words quite get across what my heart is feeling.

So - I'm not going to try to put any more on here right now. Instead, I'm simply going to let those in Connecticut do the talking. I'm going to sit on "pause" here on the blog for the weekend so that we can grieve with those grieving and pray for each one of them.

My heart is with them - loving them, mourning with them, and thinking of them.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bringing Attentiveness Back To a Marriage

Those little details. They get lost over the years in a marriage.  I noticed that recently.

When you date and when you first get married, so much attention is paid to the details. It’s easy to be selfless. Generous.

You go out of your way to do things for the person you love.  You pick up for them without complaint. Bring them a cool drink when they are working hard on a project, make sure you have their favorite snack on hand in the house at all times. You watch what they like to watch on TV and you care for them in an extra special way when they are sick.

Then time ticks on.

Instead of being excited that they call you during the day, you are annoyed that it’s messing with your plans. You no longer pay attention to the tiny details of whether or not they are warm or if you do the things they enjoy. Comfort creeps in. Complacency. Boredom with going the extra mile.  Kids join in on the mix and you are tired.

In the process, a spouse can get very neglected. They long for just one day of a meal fixed in surprise, or takeout brought home on a whim as a treat. They would love the extra little touches that have long since been forgotten.

I love watching new couples in love. They are so tender with each other. So attentive.

I found that when I spend a little extra time in being attentive to my husband…I feel more caring towards him. More loving.  It’s amazing how you can forget the little details like wrapping a blanket around them while they are sleeping so they don’t get cold. Or buying their favorite candy bar and leaving them a note with it.

It’s the little things.

The little things are the easiest to do. And the easiest to forget. But they still matter. In fact, maybe they matter more after being married for 15, 20 years than they ever did at 3 years. Things aren’t new any more. They aren’t quite as exciting. They are familiar.

Look for ways to be attentive to your spouse this week. Pay attention to the details – the little ways that you can show you love them. I bet you anything, they will notice. And they will feel loved and start acting more loving towards you as well. More attentive to you too.

Marriage should be ever evolving. And it should be exciting and fun. Bring back the tenderness and the care that you had when you began.

Don’t let it slip away again. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Count Your Blessings One By One

Recently, I’ve been convicted about how little I thank God for what He does in my life.  We ask and ask and ask Him for things. Over and over.  But when He comes through for us, we usually say ‘thanks’ one time. Maybe a couple if it’s something really big.

Then we forget. And we move on.

So I’ve been going back over in my mind during prayer times; all the things I can recall that God has specifically answered for me. And I just have a time of counting my blessings, listing them, and going before the Lord with a heart of thanks.

I’ll even give you an example of a few.

I thank God for moving a sexual offender that lived near us.

I thank God for His physical protection of my life and my kids – on numerous occasions.

I thank God for Him removing a toxic person from my life.

I thank Him for healing a health ailment.

I thank God for some of the blessings He’s given me. A house. Friend. My children. Husband.

I thank God for specific things He’s done in my life. Some were yesterday. Some last week. Some a few months ago. Some years. Whatever I can recall.  Most if not all – were specifically requests I made to Him.  And He answered me. He was resounding and clear.

I don’t want to forget all the blessings I have in my life. All the times that God has been gracious, merciful, and just plain lavished His love on me. Because He could.

I don’t want to take anything for granted. Not my health. Not people. Not my finances. Or my comforts. Nothing.

I’m trying to make this a new routine in my life. I personally like it. It helps me find more contentment in my heart. And it shows me and reminds me just how much God walks with me daily. How He listens.

And how He loves.

Friday, December 7, 2012

I Don't Know What I Am Doing

I know a few things in life.

I know what I believe, what I value, and who I love. I know the kind of person I want to be and the character qualities and fruits of the spirit that I want my life to be about.

Everything else? Well, I kind of just feel my way.

I don’t really know what my next move in life will be. I don’t always know if I’m making the right decision.

Sometimes I tell my children no when I should say yes and I say yes when I should say no. And sometimes I feel guilty for things that I shouldn’t. And I don’t feel convicted over things my heart should be tendered towards.

But I submit before God daily. I analyze my heart constantly. I raise my children with the hope and intention that they too, will value integrity, honesty, love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self control.

All I do hinges on values, morals, and character. Who I am, who I invite to be a big part of my life, and where I spend my time. What I read, what I listen to and watch; my goals.

All the rest is quicksand for me. I just do my best at cooking. I try to eat healthier and healthier each year. I clean because I have to.

I don’t know the best way to do those things. I’m not gifted in many areas. And I can’t predict the future. 

I don’t know what I am doing. I’m just “doing” the best I can. Each day. Each moment.  And I’m hoping that as long as I have God’s character in me and I value the morals and traits that I know He has asked of me – that somehow everything will fall together as it should.

For the only things I truly know how to do – are to embrace those qualities in my heart and life.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

You Need Things To Look Forward To

Hope.  It’s something we all need in our hearts and lives.  It doesn’t take a life threatening situation to occur to have the need for a little hope in your life.  In fact, the longer you live life in a sort of “rhythm” or “pattern – the more needed hope can be.

And what is hope anyways? It’s the idea of something coming. Something on the horizon to get excited about.  And we all need that!

I’ve found that some of my favorite days are the days where I have something to look forward to or get excited about. Whether it’s a holiday, a vacation, lunch with a friend, or finally a day to sleep in after weeks of running late and hard…having that “something” to look forward to creates an energy in my day. It helps me feel more positive about myself and my life. Simply by having something to look forward to!

When we go day in and day out doing the same things, expecting the same outcomes – it can be a little draining.  There is nothing new that enters our world and so we can become “blue.” We don’t even always see it coming – it’s just there before we know it and our spirits are down in the dumps. Especially if you are a parent, or an aging grandparent where you are used to a certain amount of ritual in your days, it can be even more crucial to find something to look forward to to get you moving and energized.

Whether it’s the impending visit of a grandchild or a date night – something “different” can be such a mood lifter!  I know that I even feel more motivated to do projects around the house when I have something that I can hope for and look forward to. When I don’t? It’s very hard to motivate myself. It’s hard to get excited about my day. It just is.

Everyone needs hope. Everyone needs something to look forward to because it’s good for you emotionally and it’s good for you physically because it helps get you moving in a way nothing else will.

If you don’t currently have anything on the horizon, create something! Invest yourself in a cause, a get together, or extend your own invitation.

A change in scenery and a change in your day does a world of good. But most of all – it’s inspiring. And who doesn’t need a dose of that in their lives?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hold Onto Me, Lord

Sometimes I get concerned about myself. I see choices that others close to me make and I know they are against God’s morals and values. I see how easy it is to make those choices for yourself. How the pull of things can be so strong. So present.

I’m not under any illusions that I’m immune to falling. I don’t pretend that in a moment, I couldn’t easily make a decision that would screw up my life or everything I’ve worked so hard to build. 

I do the best I can to create boundaries in my life. To have safeguards and to stay in God’s will. But life happens. I think most people who have had someone close to them stray away from the Lord would say, “I never thought they would be the ones to do that.”

I have prayed for myself, as well as those I love. I’ve asked God to hold onto me. I’ve asked Him to “not let me go.” It’s one of the strongest ways I know how to ensure that when a day or moment comes and I think about doing something that I KNOW I don’t believe in – that God will answer my prayer and protect me – from myself.

I ask God to hold onto my children. To not let them out of His grip. To me, that is more powerful than asking for other things (which I do ask for, as well.) But the most important thing to me is that they are not lost to the world.

Are you concerned for yourself? For your loved ones? Have you tried asking God to hold onto you – at all costs? Jesus is the One who loves you more than anything and there may come a day when you are using less than the wisdom and discernment that He’s given you. Safeguard yourself and pray for yourself now. So that when that moment comes – God can answer your prayer and protect you…from your own foolish choices.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Ways To Embrace Your Femininity

I love being a woman. I love being a girl…being female.  Let’s face it, there are just some things in life that are inherently “feminine.” It’s within our right to enjoy them. To not feel weak or silly for liking what is in our nature.

I love engaging in girly things. I relish enjoying those things that make me feel like a lady.  In fact, as a mom, I depend on them. They remind me that it feels good to feel good and look good as a woman. As a girl.  And when I do, I feel stronger. More vibrant. I’m ready to take on life because I’m more in my “zone.”

Here are just a few ideas of things I do to help me embrace my feminity.

*Wear purfume. Whether it’s the scent of the beach in summertime, fruits, or flowers – purfume is a simple thing to add to help you feel like a woman. Everyone likes to smell good!

*Accessorize! So many women forget accessories. They are not only important in making an outfit look pulled together, but they are so fun to buy!  Earrings, belts, bracelets, necklaces, rings, watches, and scarves. Most can be purchased inexpensively and in many different styles to compliment your own. But it’s amazing how a few simple accessories can make you feel so much more stylish and pulled together. And feminine.

*Add a little color. If you aren’t into a lot of girly things – even a little lipgloss can add a feminine accent.

*Paint your nails and toes.  So many colors. So much fun! So easy and so inexpensive.

*Embrace the “girlie” things in life. Things like romantic movies (otherwise known as “chick flicks”), great smelling potpourri, fresh flowers, smelly lotions in all kinds of scents under the sun, and stylish purses.

*If at all possible, have fun decorating or embellishing something that is otherwise plain. Enjoy your passion for zebra patterns by getting a fun zebra cell phone cover. Or get a cute little Post-It note pack instead of the plain yellow.  The fun in being a girl is in knowing we can decorate or use a fun pattern or style in almost anything.

*Don’t forget what’s underneath.  Keep your “underthings” in good condition. Purchase new ones when the time comes.  Make sure you are getting the right sizes and have fun wearing pretty things. Just because it’s not seen by everyone doesn’t mean it can’t be cute! You are wearing it. Go for the cute!

Have fun doing all of these and then add in the things that inherently make you beautiful and you are good to go!

I think it’s fun being a girl. I love it. I hope you can really enjoy it as well. Go for the pink. Go for the turquoise. And love every moment of it.