Family

True Love – It’s Not What You Think!

The Anniversary That Wasn’t

This past week, it would have been my parents 54th anniversary. But instead of doing something fun with my dad this past Thursday, my mom spent her anniversary with me at Panera Bread.

With my dad’s death, my mom lost part of herself. How can you not when you’ve lived with someone for 54 years? When you’ve shared life in its ups and down, its joys and griefs, its beauty and ugliness?

 

An Example of a Good Marriage

When you are a kid, you don’t really think about your parents’ marriage, unless it is profoundly unhappy in some way. As a kid, I was oblivious. Sure, my parents fought at times, but I never wondered if they’d stay together.

There was never a doubt they were a couple – not just parents or partners – but two halves of a whole.

Heck, they went on dates before date nights were trendy.

They each had a role, but one was not more important than the other.

My dad led our home with a sweetness of spirit that never took advantage of his leadership role. He was never “the boss” of my mom. They worked together, and my dad listened to what my mom had to say. He recognized her uncanny accuracy and insight about people.

My mom always supported my dad as the family leader, but that didn’t mean that she silently sat in the background or just nodded yes to whatever my dad said. Instead, she pushed and challenged him in all the best ways. I think my dad would honestly say that he would not have been the man he was without my mom.

They served God together. I don’t remember a time when my parents weren’t serving together in some capacity at our church. My dad was a gifted teacher, and my mother is the most organized person you’ll ever meet. She can put an event together with one hand tied behind her back, blindfolded. (I did not inherit this gift, by the way).

They made friends and fellowshipped together. Throughout the years, our home was full of people coming for dinner or holidays or get togethers. My parents were never content to be spectators in life. They were full participants, and they participated not as individuals, but as a couple.

A New Season

So, when my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary rolled around, we celebrated with a big party. People came who hadn’t seen my parents in years. Friends came and shared what my parents meant to them. There was laughter and fun and even a few tears. It was one of those perfect days.

A week later, my dad got a call from the doctor, and just like that, their lives changed. 

Suddenly, their lives consisted of doctors’ appointments two hours away and drugs with long, unpronounceable names and lab results.

And while my parents had shown me what a good marriage looks like over their first 50 years, the last four years showed me what true love REALLY is – not the fizzy, false picture that Hollywood puts out there, but the deep, steady kind of love that says, “I’m always going to be here.” 

My mom never missed one of my dad’s doctor’s appointments – no matter how she felt or how tired she was – even when that meant 12 hour days multiple times a week.

My mom put her legendary organizational skills to work keeping track of the paperwork that goes along with cancer treatments, especially when the VA is involved.

My mom counted out pills and made sure my dad took them on schedule. When taking a pill meant my dad couldn’t eat for a certain amount of time, my mom didn’t eat either.

Three different times, my dad got sick enough that he needed to be in a wheelchair. My mom, who is petite and almost 80 years old, didn’t complain. She just found a lighter wheelchair so she could get it in and out of the trunk herself.

Love Through the Valley

During the last few months of my dad’s life, my mom’s role as caregiver became more challenging and certainly more exhausting.

Instead of just using a wheelchair when they were out and about, it became necessary for my dad to use the wheelchair in the house. My mom wheeled him wherever he wanted to go, whenever he wanted to go.

Everytime my dad got up, my mom had to help him. She would grip his hands. Usually it took about three tries, and on the third, my dad would get to his feet. Then my parents would kiss and smile at each other.

My dad didn’t sleep well, and got up multiple times every night, moving from recliner to bed and back again. My mom went with him. Every. Single. Time. 

By the end, she slept with one hand on his shoulder, afraid he’d wake disorientated and try to get up by himself and fall.

True Love in Real Time

True love is about loving someone more than yourself. Watching my mom care for my dad, I saw what true love was up close and personal.

As giddy, young couples, we say our wedding vows, “In sickness and in health, until death do us part,” but in the excitement and joy of starting a new life together, the idea of sickness and death seems far away. We don’t really think about what it means to walk that out.

What that means is walking through cancer with your husband, caring for him even when you are exhausted yourself.

It means dragging out the wheelchair and getting your very sick husband in the car to go get ice cream because that’s what makes him happy when you really would rather collapse on the couch.

It means walking through the valley of the shadow of death holding his hand, so he doesn’t have to make the journey alone.

It means staying by his side even when you’d rather not watch death coming closer and closer.

True love can be warm and fizzy and sweet, but it can also be hard and tiring and challenging. My parents taught me that whatever form it takes, it’s always beautiful.

Blessings, Rosanne

Review of Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman

Remembering the Early Days

It’s been a long time since I had a baby. My youngest will be 16 in a few weeks (and just got his driving permit today – yikes!). So why I decided to pick up a book my son Brock was reading to complete an assignment in one of his education classes is beyond me. But for some reason, Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing up Bebe: One American Woman Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, called to me

The bigger mystery  is why I proceeded to read the entire thing rather than just flip through it, but read it, I did.

 

My Guilty Secret

The funny thing is, as I read about the French way of parenting, I recognized a lot of my own parenting in it. Maybe that was why I read the whole thing – sort of confirmation that I didn’t completely stink as a mother.

As I said, I’m long past the days of diapers and sippy cups and toddler tantrums. But here’s my guilty little secret – when I look around at everything mothers do with and for their kids now I feel a tiny bit guilty. Like maybe I wasn’t engaged enough or intentional enough.

The truth is, I’m a whole lot more like the French mothers described in Bringing Up Bebe than many of the American moms I see and ready about today.

Mothering Has Changed In Recent Years

I hang out a lot in the blogosphere. I blog. I have friends that blog. I read blogs. And one thing I’ve noticed is that motherhood has become sort of a competing sport.

The pressure on moms is enormous and the guilt that goes along with it is also pretty huge. From throwing the perfectly, pinterest-worthy birthday party, to cooking organically from scratch, to bubble wrapping their child’s apparently fragile esteem, it’s no wonder exhaustion is rampant.

In fact, it’s become kind of a badge of honor to say how exhausted you are, how few hours you’ve slept and what a complete wreck your house is. Why? Because by not focusing on anything but your kids, you’re winning at this whole motherhood competition. 

The French Are Doing It Differently

It’s not like French parents aren’t into reading their kids books or giving them lessons or letting them play sports. But French parents have kids who eat normal foods, sleep through the night by 3 or 4 months and seem relatively well-behaved in public. French parents have actual lives. They sleep and have sex and do fun, adult activities without children tagging along. (On a sidenote – for YEARS I tried to have a New Year’s Eve party with just adults, and never once managed it in about a 10 year span. I finally gave up and just invited families instead).

While I can’t say either of my boys are foodies, I also have never been a short order cook. The other things, I can say WERE true about my kids (well, besides that unfortunate year when Brody decided to assert his desire to rule the world. He took a bit of convincing that he actually wasn’t the next Mussolini).

Bringing Up Bebe is about American Pamela Druckerman’s own experience having and a daughter and then twin boys in Paris where she lived with her British husband. It didn’t come easily, but the book is both informative and entertaining as she shares her fumbling attempts to figure out what the French were doing differently. And then her more fumbling attempts to imitate them. This is not a Christian book, but it is so full of commonsense wisdom, I had to review it!

My 5 Top Takeaways From the Book

  1. Babies aren’t just blobs. The French believe babies are sentient humans from birth. They believe babies are rational and can communicate (sort of) what they are thinking and feeling. Suggestion: Talk to your baby in a normal tone, and be polite. Let the baby know what you are doing and why. It will probably feel a bit silly. On a funny sidenote, the book describes the French’s penchant for giving a new baby a tour of their new to them home. I have an actual recording (on an ancient VHS tape) of me taking Brock around our tiny apartment and “showing” it to him. True story.
  2. Babies can sleep through the night at a relatively early age (or permanent sleep deprivation isn’t a badge of being a good parent). The French call it “doing his nights.” They believe that a baby has to learn how to connect his or her sleep cycles. So, when a baby wakes up and starts to fuss a bit, they pause for about 5 minutes to see if the baby will go back to sleep. Babies are notoriously restless sleepers, sometimes thrashing all over the crib, but often, they aren’t really awake. Sleeping like a baby is a very misleading cliche! If left to themselves, they will often transition into the next sleep cycle. The French also tell their babies why they need to sleep and how confident they are in the baby’s ability to do just that. (see above)
  3. Kids don’t actually need kid foods. Yes, the French use pureed foods, but they start with flavorful veggies, not bland cereal. They see it as their job to cultivate a wide palette in their children. They also do not allow their children to snack continually throughout the day. Go to any American playground, and baggies of puffs and yogurt dips and all manner of food is on display, but at French playgrounds, they are conspicuously absent. The French also get their baby on a eating schedule that closely mirrors the family’s eating schedule pretty quickly. This means 3 meals plus one snack each day.
  4. Children have the ability to be patient. The French believe coping with frustration and delaying gratification (see above on snacks) is something that every child has the ability to learn. Patience is expected and calm is desired. French parents teach their children accordingly. French parents have a philosophy of very firm boundaries but then giving their children a lot of freedom within those boundaries.
  5. Children are encouraged to be independent. In France, children often go on week-long overnight field trips away from home at young ages like 6 or 7. Parents also place their children in public daycares as  infants. They are called the creche and are staffed by highly trained professionals.
  6. In France, there isn’t a smorgasboard of parenting styles and philosophies. Everyone generally sticks to the same formula, including the daycares, preschools and schools. They do this because it works. Children know what is expected and usually live up to that expectation.

After reading Bringing Up Bebe, instead of guilty, now I feel a tiny bit like I was ahead of the trend. What is your favorite parenting book? I’d love to hear about it!

Praying God’s Word Over Our Kids

It’s Okay If You Haven’t Been Stellar At Praying

I’ll be honest. I have not always been consistent in my prayer life, particularly when my children were tiny. There were times when I would forget to pray for them for days at a time.

Often, I wasn’t sure exactly WHAT to pray for them either. So many of my natural inclinations of what to pray – to keep them safe, to prevent failure, to keep them from getting hurt – aren’t really in my kids’ best interests. While I hate to see my children fail or get hurt or be in danger, I also know that those things help them to forge character and grow and learn.

But, let’s be real here, who wants to pray that for their kids?

Prayer Isn’t a Warranty Against the Tough Stuff

Prayer is also not a guarantee against bad stuff happening or a child straying from their faith, either. We can pray faithfully from the day our child is born until we take our last breath, but that doesn’t mean our child won’t make wrong choices or endure difficult or unfair things in his or her life.

About the time my kids were starting school, I came across a book by Beth Moore about praying the Scriptures. I decided to pick out some key Scriptures to pray over my boys on a regular basis.

Pick Out a Few Key Verses To Pray Over Your Children

I knew I wanted my kids to love Jesus, and that their relationship with Him was foundational for everything else in their life. So, one of the first verses I started praying for my kids was found in Luke 10:27.

The second verse I picked out to pray over my kids was about God’s love for us. For me, truly believing that God loved me was life transforming. When you grow up in church, it’s so easy to take God’s love for granted and not really think about what it truly means that God loves us.

It’s also easy when you grow up in church to start equating God’s love with our performance. I don’t know that anyone ever comes out and says that. However, when you hear Bible lessons about obedience and all the things you aren’t supposed to do, that message can inadvertently come across. So, the next verses I prayed for my kids came from Ephesians.

 

Finally, I really wanted my kids to understand what it meant to be in Christ. I wanted them to grow in their own relationship with God. Instead of relying on my faith and their dad’s faith, I wanted them to stand independently and firmly on the foundation of who they were in Christ.

Coming from a Christian home and being raised in church can be a huge blessing. But it can also sometimes make the sheer grace of the gospel seem a bit muffled.

The other verse I prayed regularly for my boys also is found in Ephesians. Paul is praying for the Ephesian Christians to fully understand just who they are in Christ. I decided to steal a page from Paul’s book.

Of course, over the years, these are not the only verses I’ve prayed over my kids, but they have been the constant ones. They were the verses that formed the backbone of contending for my children in the spiritual realm.

Because, let’s be honest, we are in a daily fight for our kids aren’t we? The enemy, the world and their own flesh natures continually want to get them off track.

Do you have some favorite verses you pray over your kids? If so, I’d love to hear about them!

 

The Book That Terrified Me!

  Parents Need to Be Informed

As a parent, my goal has always been to work myself out of a job.

As parents, we spend 18 or 19 years preparing our kids to step out into the world, to live out the beliefs we’ve instilled and to make good decisions.

However, a lot of the statistics surrounding millennials don’t leave Christian parents feeling very confident. Not only are millennials dropping out of organized church in droves, but they are also espousing beliefs very different than their parents.

On a recent trip to the library, I saw a book entitled, American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus. Having one son who is a freshman in college and another who only has two more years of high school, I felt like I should probably read it.

I will warn you, this book is NOT written by a Christian. The author, Lisa Wade, is a professor of sociology at Occidental College with a string of degrees behind her name. The text contains not only swear words, but also a pretty blunt discussion about the sexual activities of college students.

Despite the rather raw contents of this book, I highly recommend Christian parents get over their squeamishness and read it!

A Look At American Hookup

Wade used a group of her first-year students as case studies. The students had to collect data about sex and romance on campus, writing as much or as little as they wanted about their own experiences. The students then recorded it in a journal that was submitted every Tuesday. The project lasted through the semester. Wade hoped that the students would consent to allow her to share their facts and quotes in her research.  Out of 110 students, all but nine consented to have their information included. While Wade keeps the students’ names confidential, their stories make up the backbone of the book.

The two things that stood out to me the most were the widespread and accepted view on drinking (even under age) and casual sex. According to Wade, the prevailing attitude that you haven’t done college until you’ve drank until almost blacking out and had sex with as many people as possible is present on all college campuses. This includes even denominational campuses, with the exception of those that are evangelical and Mormon. It didn’t seem to matter if it was an Ivy League school or a state college, partying and hooking up were not only accepted but expected.

While hard partying is not actively sponsored on campus, I think it could be safe to say that most colleges appear to turn a blind eye to the amount of drinking and drug use that goes on at campuses across the United States. One researcher coined the word Drunkworld to describe the corporate state of drunkenness encountered at most parties and events. One girl said that she went to a concert sober and described the experience as, “horrible and awful and no fun.”

How Hooking Up Works

The drinking on campus is one way the students facilitate hookups. Hookups don’t necessarily include actual sex, and can be anything from kissing to intercourse – and often anything in-between. The rules for hooking up include six steps that Wade outlines in detail. I’ll just give you the highlights.

  1. Pregame – basically this is when students get ready for a party and get a bit drunk so they are in the “right frame of mind” to party. This is also the time when girls dress in outfits that are designed to show they are up for anything sexually.
  2. Grind – grinding is dirty dancing. Basically, the women get in the center and the men circle around the outside. The men come up behind a woman they are interested in and grind their pelvises against the girl’s backside. The women usually have no idea who is behind them.
  3. Initiate the hookup – they will ask their friends if the guy is “hot.” If he is, the girl will turn around and look at him. Looking at the person grinding against you basically “seals the deal,” according to a girl named Miranda.
  4. Do…something – as I stated before, a hookup can be anything from kissing to actual intercourse and anything in-between.
  5. Establish meaninglessness – According to a student named Ruby, the goal in a hookup is “fast, random, no-strings attached sex.” Unfortunately, this idea of meaningless often translates to partners being cold and callous toward each other. Kindness to the person you are having sex with is seen as a form of weakness. To facilitate that the encounter was indeed meaningless, students engage in several steps. First, it’s important to establish that you were completely drunk when this hookup occurred. According to Wade, “When students talk about meaningless sex on college campuses, they are almost referring to drunk sex.” It’s also important that two people don’t hook up too many times. Otherwise, it might mean something.  Another way students enforce the idea that the hookup was meaningless is to create emotional distance afterwards. Wrote Wade, “After it’s all over, students confirm that a hookup meant nothing by giving their relationship – whatever it was – a demotion. The rule is to be less close after a hookup than before, at least for a time.” Interestingly, being nice to someone you hooked up with immediately afterwards is considered rude since it might give that other person the wrong idea.

The Dangers of Hookup Culture

I don’t know if this information is new to you, but it was certainly eye opening to me! I mean, I was aware that partying took place on campuses, but the prevalence and expectation has changed. Despite Wade’s progressive views on casual sex, even she points out the inherent hazards and pitfalls of this hook up culture.

Even students that “opt out” for whatever reason, have the hookup culture shoved into their faces. One student, Jimena, opted out due to her faith (yeah, Jimena!). However, her roommate was often visibly drunk when she left for parties. Her roommate also brought guys back to the room and had sex – even when Jimena was in the room. The result was that Jimena felt like an outcast in her own dorm room. She often had to go elsewhere to avoid the culture that had invaded her personal space.

Sadly, even students who started by opting out to the hookup culture, ended up capitulating in the end. Wade did say that those students who regularly attended church services were less likely to end up opting in. For parents, we need to really encourage and helping your college student to find a good church nearby!

Knowledge Is Power

As a parent of one college-aged son and one in high school, I found this book not just terrifying. I also found it important.

As parents, we can’t stick our heads in the sand. For many students, especially those who have grown up in a church culture, campus life will come as a shock. We need to prepare our kids for that.  Acting like somehow partying and casual sex won’t effect our child doesn’t just isn’t an option.

How are you preparing your child for the culture shock of college life?  I’d love to hear about it!

When Everything Changes And You Can’t Catch Up

If you’ve noticed, I haven’t written much in this space over the last few months. In fact, I’ve been pretty quiet, even though I used to post about two to three times a week. Maybe that didn’t even register for you, or maybe you’ve wondered, in passing, why you weren’t getting that many emails from Divine Ordinary anymore.

Today, I am over at Grace & Truth Linkup on Arabah Joy’s blog. It seemed like a good time to jump back in to blogging. I hope you’ll join us over there!

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My lack of posts started when my dad was in the hospital for a month both locally and in Columbus (which is about a hour and a half drive from me). He was hospitalized on July 28th and didn’t come home until about a week before school started.

Which brings me to the reason my life has changed drastically in the past few months. After years of working from home, I started teaching again – middle school English to be exact. And even though I only teach half a day, it’s still a lot of work. A lot. More than I remembered or expected. Turns out, things have changed a lot since I taught six years ago!

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Not only that, but my oldest son started college this fall. Even though he is going to school locally and is still living at home, it is very different. It’s not really High School 2.0. We share a car, so that is also different – and sometimes challenging. I used to have the day to myself from about 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Now, that isn’t the case. He has two jobs, so he is rarely home in the evenings, either. When he is home, his time is spent surrounded by books and papers at the kitchen table.

When my husband approached me about teaching again (he’s the superintendent/principal at a Christian school), I thought it over and said yes. I had enjoyed teaching before, and I thought a change would be nice. Sometimes, working at home can get lonely. Not to mention, sometimes it’s hard to get people to understand that while yes, you are home, you are also WORKING, not eating bon bons and watching daytime television.

I’m going to be really honest. While I thought I was ready for some change, I haven’t been doing so well with it. First, I had forgotten how much work the first year of teaching new classes could be. There is so much prep work and now, with all the testing, there is an added layer of urgency and pressure to get everything in. You can’t really meander down any old learning trail anymore. You have to stay on the path and get it done.

At least the whole teaching English thing was somewhat familiar to me. The one thing that took me by complete surprise, though, was how much I have mourned my lost identity. For six years, I was a working writer. No, I didn’t make very much money, and yes, working for the newspaper came with hassles of its own. I thought I was more than ready to ditch the weekly deadlines. But I was an “official” writer. I made an income doing it. I worked for myself. I made a difference in my community with the words I wrote.

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Becoming an employee felt, in many ways, like going backwards. When I let go of writing as a job, it felt like I had let go of an anchor. Since then, I have felt a bit lost and adrift because my identity as a writer was tied up way more than I thought in where I worked.

I don’t know if you can relate to this idea of what you do equals what you are, but it was tangled much deeper into the roots of my soul than I realized.

The truth is, I’m still a writer. I’m working on several writing projects, and I do a newsletter for a local teen ministry. So, it’s not that I am not writing. It’s more that my title has changed.

In July, I went to my 25th year high school reunion. Yes, that makes me feel pretty ancient. We played this game and one of the questions was what we wanted to do in high school and what we were doing now. I was doing BOTH the things I wanted to do – not quite in the ways I had envisioned (my visions including something much bigger and grander, to be honest).

I was living my dream.

And then I wasn’t.

And it was hard.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my students. I have always enjoyed teaching, and I still enjoy it. But things have changed and I find myself in a very different season of life and mindset than the last time I taught.

The last time I taught, writing was just a dream – out there. Sure, I had a little blog (if you’ve been with me long enough, you might remember my blog Free Indeed over at blogspot).

The thing is, I felt like I was supposed to take the teaching job, that God needed me to invest in the lives of the students He would bring through my classroom door.

It’s hard when you do what you think God wants you to do, and then feel like it is a mistake for so many reasons. It’s hard because then you start to second guess what you thought you knew. After all, God doesn’t send emails or write in the sky.

Instead, He holds out His hand and asks us to take the next step in faith. He asks us to trust Him, even when He leads us to what surely looks like a mistake.

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Remember the Israelites, having just gained their freedom from slavery from Egypt? They found themselves at the edge of the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army approaching in the distance. They stood on the banks of the Red Sea, probably terrified as they felt the rumble beneath their feet that telegraphed the encroaching army and certain doom. They had no way to defend themselves. They couldn’t run – there were thousands of them with women, children and babies. They had livestock and supplies. Not exactly a group that could make a quick get away.

I heard that story growing up in church, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that the Isrealites didn’t end up on the banks of the Red Sea because they took a wrong turn or because their version of a GPS failed them.

God led them between the proverbial rock and a hard place – or in this case, between the sea and the army.

And it was there – in that seemingly impossible place and situation – that God delivered them in a big and miraculous way.

It doesn’t say, but I think God did that because He could see the future. He knew they would need a miracle that was so big and so spectacular to hang on to as they made their long way to the Promised Land.

God has led me to a seemingly impossible place – teaching and all the hours that entails and writing and all the work and focus and time that entails. I’ve spent a lot of time telling God I can’t see how it will all work. He’s continued to say, “Trust me.”

How about you? What is your Red Sea moment of faith? Do you trust God enough to hang with Him long enough to see the miracle?

Blessings, Rosanne

 

 

The 5 Things Death Taught Me

Just a forewarning – this is going to be a pretty raw post. If you want pretty ideas tied up in pleasing bows, you might want to stop reading now.

Okay, now that you know that, I also want you to know that this is a hard post for me to write because I’m sort of hanging out a lot of my own shortcomings and mistakes. What I hope, though, is that by sharing my mistakes, you can avoid them. Regret can leave a pretty nasty taste in your mouth. Take it from someone who knows.

It’s interesting how death has a way of exposing what you really believe – not just in your head, but deep down at the daily difference level. When my brother died last summer, God used his death to expose those things I talked about and said I believed, yet I didn’t really do. He showed me, in the loving, yet exquisitely painful way that only God can, that I was a hypocrite.

Here are the five things God taught me since my brother’s death. My hope is that you won’t just read this, but that you’ll take action in the areas that call to you.

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  • Don’t put things off. About a month before my brother’s death, I had this prompting that I should go see him -not just try to call him – but actually get in my car and drive over to visit him face to face. It was just after school ended, and I was kind of busy. So, I kept putting it off. I thought, “Oh, I’ll do that tomorrow or next week.” To be completely honest, I was really just putting off being uncomfortable. There were times when my brother would get upset for one reason or another and would pull away from our entire family. This was one of those times, and I hadn’t talked to him in a while. I had tried calling, but he never returned my calls. I wasn’t 100% sure how happy he’d be to see me, and even if he was, I knew the initial conversation might be awkward. And awkward makes me so uncomfortable. So, it was easy to make excuses to put it off for another day.Until, of course, there were no more days. During the first days after my brother’s death, that regret of not going to see him was like a knife twisting in my heart. “If only” played over and over in my head. So, if you get that feeling you should call someone or stop by, please just do it. Most regret isn’t over something you did, but over what you didn’t do.

 

  • Don’t let busyness keep you from important relationships. As a wife and a mom with two sons who were always in sports, my evenings were (and are) often busy. While I made the effort to give my brother my kids’ game schedules, after he died, I found myself wishing I had invited him over more often. I found myself wishing back evenings he could have joined us for a quick dinner, afternoons watching football on television. It is so easy to get caught up in our never ending daily to dos, but when we let our tasks trump the people in our lives, we waste the time we have with them. While I’ve always known in my head that we are not guaranteed tomorrow, I certainly did not live that way.  Your to do list will always be there, but that person won’t, necessarily. Take time for the people in your life and you won’t regret it.

 

  • Say the important things. When my brother died, I spent a lot of time wondering if he knew. Did he know how much I enjoyed the fact that he worked so hard to find the perfect gift even during the times when he didn’t have a lot of money to spend? Did he know what a kick I got out how he tried to match the  wrapping paper and tissue paper to that person’s gift? Did he know that I admired the way he volunteered to help other people even when he was struggling himself? Did he know that I would always be there for him and he could call me anytime for help or support? I knew I felt that way, but did he know I felt that way? I hope he did, but I don’t know for sure. That’s a tough pill to swallow now. Take the time to tell the people in your life you love them and what you love about them. Your words will never be wasted.

 

  • Don’t give up on people. When someone you love has a mental illness, it can be hard sometimes. Relationships aren’t always all sunshine and kittens. My brother was a great guy in so many ways, but he did have his issues. There were times over the years, when I felt like nothing would change. There were times when I stopped praying for him because it felt hopeless. Here’s the thing – nobody is ever a lost cause with Jesus. If He can offer salvation to a thief dying on a cross next to Him, He has a hope and a future and a plan for whoever that person is in your life who it seems will never change or get back on the path. You will never regret praying more for someone or continuing to believe God has a plan for their life.

 

  • Be present. Want to completely ruin the vibe in any gathering? Tell them your brother killed himself. An immediate pall will fall over the group. Nobody will look you in the eye, and nobody will know what to say. I get it. Standing in the face of someone else’s grief is hard and awkward and painful. We don’t know what to say and we can’t fix it, so we just don’t show up. Well, sure we go to the funeral. We walk through the line and shake their hand or hug them, maybe murmur, “Sorry for your loss.” But then we disappear, and we tell ourselves the comforting lie that the person looks and acts like they are okay, so they must be just fine. That if they needed something, they would ask. I’m not pointing fingers because I’ve done it too. But let’s at least stop lying to ourselves. The person is NOT okay. They don’t have the emotional or mental capacity to ask for what they need. Heck, they probably don’t even know what they need. I know I certainly didn’t. They are grieving and grieving is hard, but it’s infinitely harder when you feel like you are doing it alone. All that person really needs is your presence. No fancy words or miraculous solutions. Just you sitting with them in their grief. I learned how powerful presence – even if the presence comes in the form of a card or phone call – can be when you are hurting, and I’ll never think of it as doing nothing again. Don’t let awkwardness keep you from offering your presence to someone who is hurting.

It isn’t really feasible to live our lives like it is our last day on earth. If I did that my house would be declared a disaster area, and I’d probably weigh about 300 pounds. But we can live our lives so we don’t have regrets.

What do you need to change so you can live a life of no regrets? I’d love to hear about it!

Blessings, Rosanne

 

Moving Forward in Grief

As the one year anniversary of my brother’s death approaches, I’ve found myself getting hit by waves of grief again. Like after a storm that had passed, those initial waves of grief had been much smaller and manageable over the past few months. So, I was kind of surprised when  bigger waves suddenly knocked me off my feet.

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It shouldn’t be a surprise really, but it was. See, grief is cyclical. We talk about the stages of grief like they are bus stops and once you are past them, you are done with that stage, but the truth is grief tends to cycle around. Sometimes, as you cycle through, you even hit a stage you missed the last time around.

It’s also not surprising really because our family is going through a major milestone. My oldest, Brock, graduated from high school. Things are changing, yet my brother is forever in the past. He is not part of this new present.

Another reason – at least I think this is a reason – is that over the past few months I’ve been crazy busy. (You can read about 6 Tips When Your Everyday Is Crazy HERE) And now that I’ve had a moment to slow down and to take a deep breath from all the happy busy of birthday parties and graduation and graduation parties, the reality of the permanence of brother’s death has hit me hard.

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The thing is, grief is not one big good-bye but a series of small ones. Each new milestone that your loved one isn’t present for is a small grief. The more milestones that pile up, the more final their death feels. You might wonder, well of course death is final – what in the world?

Well, after that first year, I can no longer say, “This time last year….”  I am making new memories of which my brother has no part. That’s how life is, of course, the living constantly move forward. But I am finding it hard to move forward because that means I leave my brother forever behind.

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In my mind’s eye, I picture it like we’ve all been in this meadow, and now my family and I are walking down the path, continuing our little hike.  But my brother stays in that meadow. I keep looking back over my shoulder, lingering, walking slowly, but my family, my friends, my life keeps moving forward on our path. I’m getting to that bend in the road, and I have to decide if I’m going to continue to move forward and lose sight of my brother. He’s still in the meadow, where he will forever stay.  Or am I going to stop, forever stuck between what was and what will be.

I think the healthy decision is to keep moving forward, but understanding the finality of death hurts. It doesn’t mean I can never visit the meadow, but I can’t stay there. I have to move forward. And that’s another form of good-bye.

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Have you dealt with grief? What are some things that have surprised you as you’ve worked through it? I’d love to hear about it!

Blessings, Rosanne

 

When Your Kids Are ALMOST Out of the Nest

Today, I am over at Arabah Joy for her link-up, Grace & Truth. Hop on over and check it out HERE!

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Maybe it’s my season of life, but this year when the robin couple built their nest in our down spouting, I paid closer attention than I normally do. What hit me was how very quickly those baby birds went from pretty blue eggs to perched on the edge of the nest, ready to fly. There are so many lessons to learn from that.

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However, what I also found interesting was how the baby birds had a period of time where they flew back and forth to the nest. They would fly to our porch railing or to the nearby tree, but they always returned to the nest -for shelter, for food, maybe for flying advice. I guess I always kind of thought baby birds learned to fly and they were gone – off on their own little avian adventures. However, these half grown birds, while they did fly away from the nest, came back regularly. In fact, that nest was looking a bit crowded and the Mama Bird was looking a bit harried as she tried to hang onto her perilous perch and feed her overgrown babies, now all squashed in the once roomy space.

And I realized there are a lot of lessons to be learned from half grown birds too.

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See, it wasn’t a clear cut moment in time where the baby bird took flight and then was gone. Instead, those half grown birds tested their wings. They flew a little ways away, but then came back to the nest – for shelter, for sustenance, maybe for more flying lessons. There was still more to teach even though those birds could technically fly.

Right now, we are entering a new season with our oldest son. On May 27, I watched as my son marched with his classmates down to the front of our auditorium. I watched as he stood up and calmly gave his valedictorian speech without so much as a tremor. I watched at his grad party as my normally quiet and reserved son mingled and greeted guests with the aplomb of a seasoned diplomat.

It would seem like he doesn’t need me or his dad anymore, like he is ready to fly the nest. But, that isn’t really true. As I watched the saga of the birds, I realized that those birds are like my son – just because he can now fly doesn’t mean he is supposed to fly away from the nest for good just yet. There are still things he needs to learn before he is totally independent.

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He still needs the shelter of the nest – not constantly like when he was young. Like those young birds, he can take longer and wider forays out into the world, knowing he has a safe place to land still.

He still needs the sustenance of the nest – not constantly like when he was young, but he has the ability to provide and find some of that sustenance himself. While that mama bird still brought worms to her young, she also allowed them to forage for themselves. Sometimes, they were successful and sometimes they were not, but failure was part of a learning process. The nest provided a bit of a safety net, but not completely anymore.

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He still needs a bit of flying advice – not the constant, daily instruction like when he was young, but he now has the freedom to try his wings and fly, too. One of the little birds liked to fly and hang out on our porch railing. Amateur photographer that I am, I kept trying to get pictures of the birds and the nest, but I couldn’t get close to the mama bird at all. The least little movement sent her winging away, scolding me as she went (and sometimes dive bombing my head). The little guy though – I could get very close to him on the railing. He wasn’t nearly as cautious as the mama bird which was both a good thing (for my photography purposes) and a bad thing (lots of stray cats around here). He was more willing to take chances, but he still had a lot to learn about the dangers of this world.

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I’ve heard it said that parenting a college-age student is one of the most challenging seasons because your child is no longer a child, but they also aren’t a full-fledged, independent adult either. It’s a time when they fly to and from the nest – sometimes leaving you to wonder if they are coming back at all and at other times making the nest feel a bit overcrowded.

 

What I noticed is that the little birds flew further and further away, coming less and less frequently to the nest. The mama bird provided less and less food, until one day, I noticed the nest was standing empty. Everyone had moved on, including the parents.

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I suppose that is what will happen with Brock too – eventually, he’ll spread his wings on the side of our nest for the last time, and when he returns, it won’t be for shelter or sustenance or guidance but for the relationship built during all the years spent in the nest.

I just hope we can navigate this in-between season as gracefully as the robins did.

Blessings, Rosanne

Weariness – A Symptom of Not Abiding

As I mentioned in my post the other day (you can find it HERE), life has been very busy lately. It’s kind of ironic since this year I really wanted to slow down and get off the whole busy train, but other people’s schedules and events have kind of taken over my life. That happens when your son is about ready to graduate and your husband is turning 50, all within a few weeks of each other. In fact, the things that have made life busy are good things and they are things that really can’t be taken off my list.

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But,  lately, I’ve been dragging through my days. My joy and energy has felt kind of sucked away, and I have found myself putting off lunches and get togethers with friends because I have one more thing to do, and the idea of stopping or slowing down makes my chest feel tight with anxiety – because how will I get ALL THE THINGS DONE?

As a result, my soul has felt a bit shriveled. As Anne Shirley would say, “I feel rather rumpled in spirit.” In fact, writing on here has been a struggle because usually I just write about what God is showing me and things have been a bit quiet. Ironically, the reason things have been quiet on God’s end is because I am having trouble being still and quiet to listen.

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Or – true confessions here – when I get quiet, I fall asleep. I can’t tell you how many times lately I’ve closed my eyes to pray and woken with a start 30 minutes later, the time I’ve allotted for prayer completely gone and edging into my work hours.

Mostly, though, I find my mind refusing to focus when I pray or even when I’m reading my Bible. Instead, it races through all the things I need to get done and how I am going to fit them in and oh, I should write that down so I don’t forget and…. suddenly it’s past time I need to get to work.

So, yes, while I’m busy with good things, they have sort of invaded and taken over my spirit pushing aside the Spirit. The noise of my to dos drowning out God’s still small voice.

The result is that I feel empty. Without the fullness of God, that’s really not a surprise, but it’s so easy to get on the merry-go-round of busy and in the dizziness of doing forget how to get off once in a while. 

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Despite my lack of focus, God always has a way of getting my attention and it usually involves something I read. That was true in this case too.

In her post,  “The One Thing,”  on her blog Together for Good, Erin Kilmer wrote about how busy can become the focus rather than Jesus. I honestly felt like she was living my life. She’s busy too and with things she feels like she is called to do, but she writes that when her focus slips to the doing and off of Jesus, things kind of fall apart.

I asked God what is the one thing I am supposed to pursue? And He answered. One thing: I press on toward the goal. What is the goal? I think the answer is found in Hebrews 12. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith . . .

The goal is Jesus. We look at Him; we press on toward Him. He is the source of our endurance and our inspiration to keep on running.

And as I looked up the verses that Wiersbe quoted in his chapter, I found that really, this was the counsel of Scripture– that Jesus Himself is the One Thing I am supposed to pursue. ~ Erin Kilmer

And the truth is, I can’t do any of this without Jesus. I AM weak and it is only through HIS strength that I an accomplish anything at all. I’ve been trying to be the little engine that could only to find out I really can’t.

The second post was found over at Arabah Joy where guest poster, Meredith talked about this very subject – Intimacy with God in Seasons of Busyness.

But intimacy with God is different from surface actions. Intimacy with God comes from a relationship that is life defining and moment changing. It comes from what Jesus called in John 15, “abiding,” and with it comes a joy that He calls “full.” ~ Meredith from the Wicket Gate

It’s funny because for the last week or so, as I sling my legs over the side of my bed in the morning and my body and spirit resists the start of another day, my weariness has made me want to curl back up under the covers. I’ve spent more time in prayer saying, “I’m sorry, Lord; I don’t know what my problem is, but I’m just so tired,” all while my mind races to this, that and the other.

As usual, God has been faithful to meet me where I am at and to point me, gently, to an answer. “Come to me and abide.”

I currently have a number of plants hanging out on a table on my porch (no time to plant them, alas). While I am keeping them alive, these plants are not in anyway thriving. Why? Because they are not abiding in the soil. They can stay alive, but staying alive is far different than growing and blooming. Without the soil and the sun and the nutrients, those plants will be stunted and eventually wither no matter how much water I put on their roots.

Like those plants, I can survive but I can’t thrive unless I am planted in the presence of my Father. Unless I choose to abide there, I am merely surviving.

tree-1180517But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.

~ Psalms 1:2-3

 

Blessings, Rosanne

6 Things to Do When Crazy is Your Everday

My life, at the moment, is crazy. I’m not sure how it happened, but I am in the process of planning two fairly large events within a couple weeks of each other – and event planning is really NOT my thing. I feel like I’ve been spinning on a merry-go-round for months now.

6 Things To Do When Crazy is Your Everyday

It started back in February and it seems like very single month has something big in it – from a good friend’s large baby shower to speaking at a teen conference to planning a surprise birthday party to planning a graduation party.

And I’m so tired.

But I still have three weeks before I can cross the last event off my list and sigh with relief. I’d love to say I’m handling this well, but I’m not. It’s made me a bit panicky and, well, grumpy. It’s hard to relax and I had a small panic attack and started hyperventilating in my car last week when I started to realize everything that has to get done between now and June 4th (which is my oldest son’s graduation party).

That’s when I knew that I needed to stop and take a deep breath because even though my schedule is a bit crazy right now, that doesn’t mean I have to be.

Here are four things I did to keep the crazy of my schedule from becoming crazy myself.

  1. Get some perspective. While my son’s graduation party is important, all the details probably mean far more to me than they do to him. Besides requesting that we have fried chicken at the party, I don’t think Brock really cares much about anything else. In our crazy Pinterest-obsessed world, it’s easy to get caught up in all the shoulds and coulds, but that sort of misses the point. The point is to gather together to celebrate a milestone -not to have the best decorations or even the best food. If things aren’t perfect, nobody will probably even notice or care.
  2. Make a plan. I don’t know about you but when I have a lot on my plate, my brain can drive me crazy with all the stuff buzzing around up there. So, I did a brain dump and wrote down everything that I felt I needed to do on a piece of paper. Then, I looked at all that stuff and made a conscious decision to let go of the thing that didn’t really matter. Then I prioritized things – what things needed to happen first? After that, I tried to put the things I still needed to do in bite-sized chunks in the remaining weeks. By breaking things down into weekly, doable tasks, things don’t seem quite so overwhelming.
  3. Ask for help. I am planning a surprise birthday party that will be this week. I had several people offer to help, and I decided to take those people up on their offer. Sometimes, when I get really busy, it seems easier to just do it myself, but many hands make light work is a saying for a reason. If you have a lot on your plate and someone offers to help you, accept that help. It doesn’t make you weak or somehow less. Not to mention, you are giving those people the gift of being a blessing. It makes people feel good to help, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most people will be happy to lend a hand, and if they aren’t, they can always say no.
  4. Let some things go. If you are in a season where you are extremely busy (like I am), it’s okay to let a few things go. Maybe the house won’t look perfect. So what? Maybe you won’t be able to make all your dinners from scratch? That’s okay, too. Look at what you can let go in the short term until things calm down, so you can breathe a little. Don’t start anything new, either. For instance, at this moment in my life now isn’t really the time to start a new fiction project. That can wait until after the next few weeks are over.
  5. Take care of your physical self. When I am super stressed out, the first thing to go is exercise and eating well. the problem though, is then I feel worse and have way less energy. In fact, when your plate is piled high and you are stressed, it’s even MORE important to get enough rest, get some exercise and fuel your body well. You aren’t doing anyone any favors if you collapse from stress overload.
  6. Take care of your spiritual self. It might be tempting to hit the snooze and skip your prayer time, or to push Bible reading to later and later ends up never rolling around. But for me, the only way I can handle stress and lots of demands is if my spirit is filled up. And it needs to be filled up with God. In my own strength, I would get mean and snappy and whiny. I would lose sight of the big picture and small stresses would fill my field of vision. It’s only God that keeps me sane in the middle of crazy. When I skip my time with God, I find myself running on empty.

What things do you do when your life is in crazy mode? I’d love to hear about it!

Blessings, Rosanne

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