Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Spark Light

Last week a friend of mine lost and buried a beloved daughter to her struggle with depression. There hasn't been a day since that they haven't been on my mind.

As a mother with a kid heading to high school in the fall, I am just now becoming acquainted with the idea that my little ones, they're growing up and away from me. Their struggles are no longer the sort that are played out in front of me, like when they were little and any heartache could be solved with a cuddle or nap. It can be tempting to think that "I'm fine" really means just that. But I know better.

I vividly remember my life as a teen. Despite being a happy kid in a wonderful family, I had my own bouts with anxiety and confusion. Emotions that seemed insurmountable at the time. I still have those moments today. It's natural and normal, but, like a toddler's tantrum, it requires a constructive response. A message that is consistent and true.

How many times have I walked through life assuming people in my life know how I feel about them without verbalizing it at all? How often have I, on the other side, just needed a simple reminder? Someone to notice. Someone to care.

As someone who is wired for affirmation, I've often felt embarrassed by my need for encouragement. As if requiring a reminder made me some monster egomaniac. I no longer believe that. People are made to be love and to receive love. And while there are a variety of ways that that plays out depending on temperament and personality, none is more virtuous than another. It all comes down to connection.

It's not enough to say I didn't know you needed that. We all need it. We all know it. We know that it isn't always enough to know intellectually that we are unconditionally loved. We need to hear it. To be reminded over and over and over again.

It seems overly simplistic. Stupidly so.

Be love. Spark light. Stop looking around for your mission field and remember that the people in your life right now, today? They are your purpose. Your challenge. Your responsibility. Be committed to that.

If you need help, find someone, anyone, tell them, ask for it. This struggle against darkness and pain is best fought with people on your side. We belong to each other.

Hey, you. You're a miracle, God breathed, made for love, unique and gifted, infused with purpose for glory and good. Your life matters. Your heart matters. Your struggles matter. Your quiet and desperate moments, your sparks of joy - they touch the world around you, even when you are so sure that no one sees.

You are too precious to be lost.

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Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Summer Family - 5 Daily Goals

Summer break is fast approaching. I'm already waking up to popsicle requests and the littles have taken to wearing bathing suits all day long. We can hardly contain our excitement at having the big kids home during the day again. There is new sand in the sandbox, a sprinkler set up. We're locked and loaded and ready to go for it.

Still, shifting seasons and learning new skills and lifestyle has me more than a little upside down. Just barely did we get into a groove with the school year and now it's nearly over. Facing down having 7 kids back in the house all day every day is always daunting, but adjusting back after time spent apart is sure to bring with it additional challenges. Despite our normal camps and weeks where this child or that is off on an adventure, we will have plenty of time here, altogether. With ages ranging from high school to toddler, thing are bound to be a bit chaotic. I need a plan.

I took some time to contemplate our family needs this season, pausing to evaluate personal goals, to craft an intentional vision. What do I need for my health - mental and physical - so I can be the best mom I can be? What do my children need, given their variety of stages?

I came up with five daily goals to give our days some shape and intention while also leaving lots of room for the breezy, lazy summer vacation we all need. Goals that are easily customizable and accessible for everyone to participate in, regardless of age. Some can be stacked, hitting the mark with more than one category - baking with mom, working with a friend, meditating during a workout - while others are more stand alone. The main idea is to keep moving forward, to make the most of our time together and to focus on the things that matter to us most.

Work. Help out at home. Volunteer. Find satisfaction through effort.

Rest. Unplug. Be bored. Close your eyes. Meditate. Nap. Pray.

Create. Build. Draw. Knit. Cook. Paint. Write.

Commune. Focus on relationships. Invite friends over. Prioritize one on one time. Family or solo devotions.

Move. Dance. Run, Stretch, Lift. Bike. Skate. Hike.

Grow. Learn something new. Read. Explore. Have conversations about faith, life, future.

There is bound to be plenty of time left over for fun at the pool, a metric ton of popsicles, staying up late to catch fireflies and more screen time than I would prefer. In short, a magical childhood summer. Which sounds just about right.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

On Writing

"So...have you been writing?"

The question catches me off guard. It's been months, a year nearly, since writing has been a normal, daily thing for me. It catches me off guard like a flash of light out of the corner of your eye, lightning when you weren't even expecting rain.

It has been so long. I open my laptop every now and then, log into this blog, read a few archived posts. Sit staring a blinking cursor for a few minutes. Write a paragraph or two, fighting frustration and fear.

The fear that I've run dry, run out of things to say, stories to tell, answers to give. Maybe that's the main thing? I thought I used to know what to say. Now I'm not so sure.

Still, the questions persist. At parties, at church, in my email inbox. "I just wanted to ask...are you still writing?" I brush them off. Life got busy, you know. Kids got big. I got overwhelmed. Something had to give. But is that truly the answer?

It's not til someone poses it to me as a challenge that I let my guard down, an admonishment of sorts. The reminder that this was never just for or about me. While I ponder the thought, I realize - when you do something just for yourself, hobbies come and go. I dabble in fitness or quilting. I invest in what is enjoyable to me and leave it behind when it no longer makes me happy.

This space was never just about that. The real, raw truth is that I got selfish. I set aside something that God was using because it got uncomfortable. I shied away from hard truths and I turned my back.

On the Tuesday after Memorial Day, I log into this blog and happen to glance at the stats for the first time in forever. Blog after blog after blog boasting thousands of screen views, after I've long since abandoned this space. My heart beats faster and I scroll and scroll and scroll - evidence that it mattered. That is still does.

I stopped writing, but God didn't stop using me. Not for one day.

So I make a commitment. Just a bit each day. Easing back into it, gently. Gingerly finding my way, finding myself - again.

Holding back anxiety, clicking "post."

Feels a bit like coming home.

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