Meet MJ. She was born three days ago. Here she is smiling at her Pap’s deep voice telling her how beautiful she is. I like to think she is in agreement as the world has yet to tell her otherwise.
Her grandmother, J, had to leave just before her granddaughter’s arrival to take chemo. J is in a lifetime battle with cancer. A few months ago, it didn’t look as though she would ever meet MJ. She was the first to hold MJ other than Mommy and Daddy and the first to hold her every chance she gets.
This is Ron, her only Uncle. He brought her a balloon to the hospital because it’s what Nana would have done. She can’t, so he did. A few years ago, it didn’t look as though MJ would have any uncles. The one she does have can’t stop smiling and talking about his ‘peanut’.
This is Caden and Ian, her only cousins…so far. MJ’s Aunt T is freezing her eggs so she can bring another cousin to MJ. Aunt T is tough and has kicked breast cancer…twice. An award-winning baker, Aunt T told MJ all about the cakes they will make together, when she can eat them, of course.
This is me telling MJ her first story. It was about her crazy Auntie who will tell too many stories and feed her too much sugar. I told her she has a future and a hope and that we are so thankful God lent her to us.
Her birth has filled us all with a sense of wonder (and not simply because her mother delivered in less than 12 hours like a rock star). We keep hugging and crying as if the Steelers have won another SuperBowl (the only other time I have seen her daddy cry).
MJ is inspiring me to write new stories as part of LessMoreAbundantly. Less heartache, more joy and abundant hope.
Circumstances of the past few years have broken us all. In our brokenness, cracks visible and invisible alike, we have learned we can still smile, still love and ultimately be still and know that our lives are not our own.
Our family is rising again. Not like a phoenix from the ashes, that is too complete a metaphor. Rather we are taking the ashes, mixing them with tears and time, and using it to fill the cracks. Discovering, as we put ourselves back together, that we cannot be broken in the same place, in the same way, ever again.
Some pieces we are leaving on the side of the road as we dare to take a step. We walk, alongside little feet, into a future only dreamed about and whispered into God’s ear.
I love you, little peanut. I pray you would have less heartache than we have seen, more love than you could ever imagine and an abundance of adventures. I pray you would know that together we can walk through anything.
Rolling Up the Quinoa, Rolling up My Sleeves
I’m awake, refreshed and coherent-BEFORE my alarm goes off. I quietly sneak downstairs, a plan has already formulated in my thoughts for Bible Study-which isn’t for another 3 hours. This blog is sitting on my shoulder and demanding to be written.
I can’t recall a time when I didn’t as much get out of bed but fall out of it, dragging myself to the nearest coffee pot. Planning through the morass of thoughts/insecurities/fears/pain was more like trying to run through a wall of cobwebs-sticky and binding. Writing was an abstract, a luxury, a passion I had to steal from my other ‘worthier’ causes to spend time creating.
Why the drastic 180 degree change? Did I suddenly find the will power my mother and others have always said was the only reason I was fat and unsuccessful? Did I suddenly discover a pill to take away all the stresses, strains, pains and peeves which kept me under their thumbs?
Nope. I simply started to eat real food.
Seriously, I’m a clean eater.
This blog is based on the premise of “Eat Less. Pray More. Love Abundantly.” A topic I rarely explore is eating. The reason? It’s hard to write about addressing your drug of choice and secret shame. It’s an invitation for judgement when you say you are eating well and then reach for a cookie at an event. It’s hard, disciplined work with moments of failure on display for all to see in your too-slowly changing sizes.
I wish I could say I had an epiphany towards health and eating. I would love to have one of those inspirational stories where I suddenly realized I was worth it (cue instrumental music and images of people running through ocean surf). I didn’t have one of those. Instead it was more mini-moments of clarity which strung themselves together into one of those rope bridges across a cavern. I simply chose to walk across the bridge and deal with the height, the wind blowing the ropes, and the churning waters beneath me.
I didn’t tell anybody except those I knew who were solidly in my corner. I just shopped differently one week. I cooked differently. I ate differently.
10 pounds later (coincidentally the weight of spinach I’ve eaten AND the amount of weight the scale has gone down) I sit, in the early morning writing this blog.
When I hit publish, I’ll go and make special Sunday breakfast. I’ll roll up quinoa and sausage in a lower fat, higher nutrition version of breakfast. I’ll roll up my sleeves and package up a week’s worth of breakfast/lunches and dinners all made with mostly clean, whole ingredients. I’ll bake with the apple sauce I made yesterday in my crock pot (I felt like a modern day Pioneer Woman).
Another thing I’ll do? I’ll write.
Today, what will you do? What’s one minor or momentous thing you can do to take step towards health and wholeness? Share with me. Together we can take this journey to eat less. Maybe share a recipe or two.
Let It Go
“Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well, now they know!”
One can’t be within 5 feet of a girl under the age of thirteen and not hear this Princess power anthem. I’ve read feminist blogs heralding it as the next, “I am Woman Hear Me Roar”. I’ve also read blogs by men decrying the fact that young women are emotionally brittle and being ‘bad’ is now the new ‘good’.
I’ll admit, I’ve sung it at the top of my lungs. Once I startled the pharmacy tech. at Rite Aid who then joined me in a tinny verse through the microphone.
For a very long time I’ve identified with Elsa. Conceal. Don’t feel. Don’t let them know. Don’t let them know what? I’m a hot mess.
So, now ‘they’ know or are beginning to suspect. My kid’s school expects me to be the parent who races a check or a permission slip to the office, days late. My husband has given up on a clean house and learned to step over the unpacked suitcase from a trip three weeks ago. My kids consider protein bars or cereal perfectly acceptable dinners. I recently was futzing with pictures and discovered I’ve had these double chins for over a decade. Those are all facts. Facts which might be changed.
I’ve been in the fight/failure/free fall for so long, I don’t know how to do normal. Sounds weird but I don’t know how to do this life without some crisis looming over my head. No one is unemployed. Every debt is paid. No one is dying or divorcing. We can pay our bills. I have a couple friends who have my heart and my back. My kids are healthy and my brother is basking in the love of a great woman. Things are good. Frankly, things are better than they ever have been and that terrifies me.
Went to see the movie, “The Fault in Our Stars”. Had an ugly cry. Cancer. Death. Love. Courageous beautiful young people. Won’t spoil the ending for you, however, it’s all about letting go. They let go while holding on to the good stuff.
What will you let go of? I’ll start with letting go of a myth. Like Elsa, I believed I needed to conceal and not feel. It’s a myth because we all feel-all the time. Even if we choose to conceal, it’s there, bubbling under the surface. Anger, fear, insecurity all can fester under the surface until they swell and explode.
For me grief is what I have concealed, and it began to come out at the theatre during the “Fault in Our Stars”. Poor people sitting around me. I used all my napkins as I snorted and sighed and sobbed so much my t-shirt was wet.
I want to say that the same peace which carried me through watching my father die was with me. It wasn’t.
I want to say I wiped up, stood up and bravely faced the world. I didn’t. I ran out of there and sobbed and yelled at God the whole way home.
I want to say I feel better today. I don’t.
I feel, that’s a fact. A fact I need to deal with and then let it go.
I saw this on Pinterest and will close with it.
I need to let go and not allow the past to attach itself to my future. That begins when I stop concealing and start feeling.
What will you let go of? Share in the comments.
Finding a Tribe of My Own
I found a tribe. They are quirky, blue monkeys in a brown monkey world. This would be their chosen birthday cake.
So many are living my dream. A dream of writing and publishing a book. The most recent was LaDonna Cole. Tornados play a prominent role in her book, “Torn”. She sent me this.
Clutching the book to my heart as her heartfelt, handwritten dedication took root, I stood crying in my kitchen. I was so proud. So proud because I knew some of the tornadoes she braved to bring the book to life. My heart swelled too because I know her. I really know her. Though I have only met her twice, I’m in her tribe and she is in mine.
Today there was an oddly shaped package in the pile of online purchased holiday surprises. Sent by Stephanie Pazicni Karfelt, author of WOA, Warrior of the Ages.
I clutched this package to my heart too. For it spoke to my deepest desire and made me giggle. The contents are a silly, awesome, quirky addition which will surprise and delight all my family. She sent it, priority mail, because I am in her tribe and she is in mine. We’ve only met twice.
Most of my life I have felt like an orphan. To be sure I was blessed with a mother and father, yet I remained rootless in my heart. Restlessness was a paper cut to my heart, shallow enough not to be lethal, deep enough to hurt.
Quietly, surprisingly, I have found a tribe of my own. They are authors, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. Not all are published, still many are writers. Some are older, wiser mensches whose pearls of wisdom are precious. Some are my age, old enough to know better and young enough to sometimes not care. I could be the mother of one, and she never reminds me. Not all are writing, they, like me, have worthy causes which pull them from their words. Yet they find moments to text or FB or to send silly surprises.
Tonight I am thankful for this wordy tribe who has found me. I can rest my tired heart on their shoulders and wrap my hopes around their successes. They make me feel less like an orphan and more like a whole person who can live abundantly.
I’m thankful you are in my virtual tribe by reading this blog. Who is in your tribe? I’d like to know.
This video struck me to the heart. Please click on link to see video: Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan
In this journey to eat less, pray more and love abundantly I have become more aware of relationships. I’ve been exploring and experiencing connections to people and God in new and sometimes painful ways.
Anne Sullivan connects to Helen in a way that is intimate. She places a hand on her teacher’s face, thus causing Anne’s identity, for the moment, to be inextricably linked with her student. Anne seems completely at ease with this and an even deeper connection still. Helen relies on Anne to connect to the broader world through language. Helen is Anne’s lifeline.
Is this not a symbol for the connections we all need in life? Between friends, lovers, parents, siblings do we not all long for at least one meaningful connection in life? Robert Putnam, in his groundbreaking work, “Bowling Alone”, places relationships as the most powerful force to move someone from one stage of sustainability to another.
Is this not what God calls us to do? Luke 10:26-28 in the amplified puts it this way.
“26 Jesus said to him, What is written in the Law? How do you read it?
27 And he replied, You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.
28 And Jesus said to him, You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live [enjoy active, blessed, endless life in the kingdom of God].”
From the Message Bible it puts verse 27 this way, “27 He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”
Anne Sullivan loved Helen Keller with all her passion, prayer, muscle and intelligence. How do I know? The connection shows us, as demonstrated in the video.
As I stumble, worn and weary, from one crisis to baseball game to laundry pile to work, I need that same connection. I need to connect with God in that same way. I need to love Him with all my passion more than I merely want to survive the moment. I must connect with Him so that He is my lifeline-so I can communicate with my challenging world the language of love, grace and strength.
We are managing to stumble our way to church this morning. I’ll be tired, because I always am these days. However, at some point, in some way, I will reach my hand. I will place it on the face of the One I love and I will connect.
Will you? If you do, please share.
Slaying the Martyr
This post contains some rough language. Reader discretion is advised.
My mother was a professional martyr. Her specialty? The drive-by. As we would be leaving, herding children into the car for the long trip home, she would say, “I can’t talk to you next Thursday as I’m having surgery. They don’t think it’s cancer. Have a great drive!”
What-the-what? I, of course, would feed into the emotional blackmail and demand to know what was going on. I would pour out all my daughterly devotion until I was utterly spent. To which she would simply reply. “Of course I’ll take care of myself, no one else will.”
This independence. This utter conviction of superior strength by virtue of surviving more shit than could fill the darkest Russian novel. This complete lack of humility all define the heart of the Martyr. I followed in my Mother’s footsteps and became the Mother of All Martyrs.
After all, death had claimed so many that I loved. Situational poverty consumed my savings. I was actually conned into thinking resigning was better than being fired because they would refuse my unemployment. And my children, oh my poor dear ones, couldn’t read perfectly by age four!
This quote I proudly displayed on my FB page. I even printed it and shared with work colleagues. I stood tall, chest puffed out-convinced of my own, unique Martyr status. After all, I had been through so much and was facing so much, surely, God would think I am one of the baddest of the asses.
My fiend who speaks with a prophetic edge which quite simply cuts through the bull quicker than a laser, shared something with me. Like a dagger to the cold, cold, Martyrs heart, she reminded me of something. Jesus wants to be the bad-ass FOR ME.
If He didn’t, then what was the point of the cross? What was the point of having His flesh torn? What was the point of dying to live again? He did, so I don’t have to…as much.
I once believed Jesus was magic. I believed if I just prayed hard enough or loud enough or often enough or decreed enough that I could appropriate my rights as a child of God. Yep I did. In looking back to that time, I wonder if Jesus was standing outside the prayer circle trying to get a word in edgewise.
Now I don’t believe in magic. To be honest I don’t believe in much of anything except my own ability to handle tragedy and misfortune-to be a Martyr.
What if, in the midst of the pain so real it’s a glass sliver piercing my heart, God wants to take some of it from me? His own Son asked the same questions I have. “If it is possible for this cup to pass from me, please do. Nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done.”
The Martyr would say “It’s God’s will” with a sigh and a tired look followed by, “but I will get through it, as I always have.”
If Jesus is to be my bad-ass, then I have to say, with all honesty. “If this cup-this cancer, this pain, this loss, this brokenness as familiar as my fingerprint- will not leave then what is Your will in this situation? Not my will but Yours be done.”
This cup hasn’t passed from me. Cancer still eats away the future I have with my father. Debt eats away at my bank account. My new job will either catapult me higher or stifle me into submission. My five year old can’t read.
I won’t even pretend the Martyr has gone off into that good night easily. Like a zombie with good intentions she refuses to stay dead. However, she has a new motto.
P.S. Major points to anyone who can point out which movie inspired the above mentioned motto.
Loving Abundantly: For No Particular Reason
For years, I have asked my husband why he loves me. His answer has always been, “I don’t have a particular reason. I just do.” And for years my feelings would be hurt. I wanted a reason.
I wanted more than a reason. I wanted the words, the flowery testimony of how wonderful, beautiful, transcendent and ethereal we are together. My love language is words of affirmation. I crave the words.
Last night I figured out a powerful truth which fits with the part of this project in loving abundantly. HE DOESN’T NEED A REASON. He simply chooses to love me.
Reasons such as size or age, the money I make or spend, what I do for him in or out of the bedroom. All these are reasons which, over time or through neglect, can change everything.
He doesn’t need a reason because a long time ago, in the face of a tearful, overly-dramatic English and theatre major, he made a decision. He chose to love me. And he hasn’t stopped choosing every day of our lives.
Do we always like each other? Nope. Plenty of reasons to fight, feud and stew. Do we always act like we love each other? Nope, I’m pretty sure my affection for sarcasm, sweatpants and his addiction to sports and sasquatch shows prevents many lovey-dovey moments.
Through depression, debt and disappointment he still chooses. And for no particular reason, I do too.
Who do you love abundantly and for no particular reason, just because you choose to?
Loving Abundantly: Motherhood Edition
Shanna Groves has an insightful blog up asking, essentially, how to love abundantly as a Mother. Read it here: Great Blog on “What Kind of Mother Should I Be.
Recently, in an effort to commit fully to a less-more-abundant life, I have stepped back from working a ‘real’ job. I am concentrating, for the first time ever, on really building a consulting and writing career. It means, for the first time, I am home with my children for the entire summer. No camps. No day care. Just me.
I, like Shanna, wondered what I was really doing to show my kids I loved them. Were the slurpy noodles and brown soup served on trays enough? Was the one on one time learning how to write, cheering every hard-won inch of growth, important? The Wii tournaments where I would get slaughtered by my 5-year-old, did that show him love abundantly? Was the purchase of the utterly ridiculous t-shirt a way to touch his 9-year-old heart?
Or was it the whispered conversations long after bedtime with my 9-year-old? Topics ranging from Lego building conundrums to worrying about the new school year. Or was it the run/jump/launch/hug of my 5-year-old (my back protesting) which filled his heart?
I did ask them to watch toons so I could work. I did leave them in the more than capable care of Pap to get shopping and writing done. I did lose it more than once. My 9-year-old once answered the question, “How was your day so far?” with this, “Well, it was good until my Mom cussed me out this morning!” Not my most abundant day to be sure.
Today we cheered when my oldest conquered a level in his Star Wars Wii game he’s been working on for two whole years! Is that love abundant?
There are the ad nauseam arguments of quality versus quantity. There are the ‘helicopter’ moms hovering over their children every minute of every day. There are the ‘sidelines’ moms who prefer to watch and get on the field only when they need to. I’m still figuring it all out.
Perhaps it isn’t the answer which is important. Maybe it’s the question which will keep me loving abundantly.
Tough Questions Part Two
In a previous post I shared loving abundantly means asking the hard questions. I related it to friendship.
As is often the case, as soon as a revelation hits, an opportunity to put it into practice comes around.
It was 1 a.m.. Weary and near blind from staring at Olympics all night we finally settled in for sleep. The fan humming and the dog snoring, I should have drifted away immediately. Instead I was itchy on the inside. I needed-something. Taking a deep breath I popped out of bed and went for it. I asked him the hard questions.
Without rancor, without angst, I laid it all on the table. After sniffling and snorting my way to a conclusion, I waited. He is the epitome of still waters running deep-I knew he is worth the wait.
He then laid it on the table. All of it.
Most was hard to hear as I can really do nothing about it. However, things needed to be said and not only heard, but acknowledged.
We are arriving at the answers because we both were able to ask the hard questions. This time we will cross the finish line together.
There’s always been a connection between food and love. In my life that connection has resulted in food being my drug of choice to numb the places where love was not so sweet. However, in this less/more/abundantly journey I’ve been thinking about food as a way of expressing.
Take this cake. It’s a GOLDEN cake with RED, WHITE and BLUE colors.
It’s something I made to celebrate the Olympics. We are Olympic nerds and watch every moment we can. In fact, we taped the men’s tennis finals so we could cheer our fellow Scotsman Andy Murray’s victory after church.
The cake was more than just a way to cool the Olympic fever in my house. It was a touchpoint for my remembering and celebrating my Mother.
Growing up we almost always had dessert. There was always a treat of some kind to wind down the day. I remember some dubious concoction called ‘fruit float’ which resembled the offspring of yogurt and jello with some very smushy berries. Then there were the homemade birthday cakes. Always 9 x 13 and always vanilla. They were served in their silver pans with a flourish.
I miss my Mom. The waves of grief crash far less frequently since it’s been over two years since her sudden passing. However, every now and then the tide sweeps in and I am again overwhelmed with missing her. I make myself remember her high pitched laugh, a rare occurrence for only the silliest of moments. Her quick wit and her no-nonsense, take no prisoners attitude. And I make myself remember her hands, always busy, always with perfect nails. I remember her hands patting my back for our last embrace just weeks before she was embraced in Heaven.
To connect with her, I sometimes take down her ancient box of recipes. Written in her perfect script (she had the most beautiful handwriting of any person I have ever known) were the tastes and memories of my childhood. I read each one and, as the waves take me out on a sea of melancholy, I kiss a card or two.
I couldn’t find the ‘Jello Cake’ recipe in the box. So I made it up from memory. She probably did too, all those years ago. Hers was better.
I’ll have another piece of that jello cake. It violates the ‘eat less’ part of this journey. However, the sweetness of sharing one of MeeMaw’s recipes with my family will make it a little easier to swallow the grief. It will also allow me to do something I failed to do enough of when she was here-love my Mother abundantly. All this in a yellow cake, baked in a silver pan and sweetened with memories.