Seasons Change

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So we’ve had like five nice days here in Michigan this year.Yesterday it got up in the 80s and I couldn’t believe how many people I heard complaining about the heat. Does nobody remember the seemingly endless piles of snow we just got done shoveling? Maybe I’m the only one driving a car that gets stuck at the end of the driveway if there’s any mention of snow. All I know is that I’m thankful for the heat, grateful for this change of season.

Isn’t it just like us to wish away a season though?

Because in the midst of every season, there is some sorta something that makes us unhappy. It’s too hot, too cold, too humid, too snowy, too sticky, too rainy, too dry. We’re never happy.

It’s like this in life too. We’re never happy in our season. Some other season always looks better and we want to be there. If I could just be in that other season, THEN I’d be happy.

I’ve always wanted to be a mom. I got married young, started my family…and almost immediately started wishing away that season. Babies were a lot of work, they always needed something. I couldn’t take a shower or go to the bathroom alone. There was always someone knocking or fingers under the door or somebody crying on the other side. I remember trying to take a bath one night, I had a book to read and candles lit and was ready for this much deserved break from my two tiny boys. And I remember starting to cry when they wouldn’t stop pounding on the door and crying and screaming and fighting. I thought to myself  I just want them to leave me alone. I can’t wait until they’re older. Now they’re 18 and 20 and what I wouldn’t give to have them beg me to read them one more bedtime story. But they’re all grown up and moving on and I wish that I had enjoyed that season a little more. I wish I’d have seen what a blessing it was to have little ones that couldn’t stand to leave this mama’s side.

I’ve had lots of seasons that couldn’t have gone fast enough. I’ve wished and willed and prayed them out of existence like it was my only job. Because every season has it’s struggles and when we’re in the midst of it, sometimes that’s the only thing we can see is the struggle. But that doesn’t mean that’s the only thing that’s there. I promise you that there is also a blessing…even though sometimes it’s a little tough to find. But it’s there because God doesn’t allow pain without a purpose.

I’ve recently endured some pretty rough seasons. Seasons full of ice and snow and lots of cold. Seasons that I didn’t know how I’d survive. Seasons of caring for my own kids, and other people’s kids, and loved ones and friends that needed help. And there was a season of caring for my dad and if you’ve cared for a cancer patient, you know. And if you haven’t, I hope you never know.  It was a season full of struggle and trust me when I say that I almost always focused on that and almost always missed out on the blessings. But there were times – quiet times in the hospital watching my dad sleep peacefully; visits with my kids when he was feeling up to playing rummy; even when I couldn’t sleep because he’d have “Little House On The Prairie” up as loud as the T.V. would go, but it reminded me of the days we watched it together when I was a little girl. The blessings…they were there in the season too, I just had a hard time finding them in the midst of the struggle.

You may not see the blessing in this season, but you’ll see it in the next. You may not be the first person to see it, someone may have to point it out to you, but you’ll see it eventually. You may not ever want to relive that painful season, but you’ll be able to use your experience to help someone else live through a similar one. And when you do that, it’ll give your pain a purpose and that season won’t seem so bad after all.

I recently read a brilliant quote that said “The days are long, but the years are short”. Isn’t that true? Some of my days are so long they feel as if  they’ll never end. But then I think back on the years that have flown by and I wonder where has the time gone? Where are my toddling children? How can it be that they are taking jobs in other states and flying far away from me? Didn’t I just finish wiping the spaghettios off their little faces?

What’s your season right now? A difficult job? A wayward child? An ailing parent? A scary diagnosis?  I hope you know that it is just that – a season. It’ll pass, as they always do. And although you may have a hard time seeing through the struggle in your season, work hard to find the blessing. It’s there. I promise.

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Today I Am Alone

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One of the things I hate most is being alone.

Maybe it’s because I have never really been alone at all.  I have never, ever lived alone.  I got married young and had kids right away. Even now, I’m technically not alone although I often feel lonely.  I have a house full of kids running in and out at any given time.  There are times that I wish they’d leave me alone, but mostly just so I can get work done.  I never wish for them to leave me alone so that I can be alone.

When I hear people talk about needing time for themselves, I think it sounds dreadful.  I couldn’t begin to imagine what I’d do with myself for any amount of time.  I’d be terribly bored with nobody to talk to. I’d never dream of going out to eat alone and when I see others doing so, I want to rescue them from their solitude. I make up stories in my mind about why they’re alone. Sometimes it’s their fault, sometimes not.  But it’s never just because they want to be there by themselves.

You can see then, why when a friend invited me to use their place out of town to spend some time alone, I was hesitant.

What would I do by myself in a strange city where I knew nobody?  How would I survive without someone to talk to all day?  Where would I eat without feeling like everyone was watching me eat alone and making up stories about me in their own minds? Certainly I’d die being so alone.

So I said yes.

Not because I wanted to be alone but because in my mind this would be a test of my will to survive. It was to prove to myself that I can in fact be alone.  In my disillusioned head, it would be like Man Versus Wild.  I’d deliberately dump myself into a busy city, yet I’d spend my days completely alone foraging for food and fighting the odds to make it out alive at the end of four days.

Yesterday was day one. And it was lovely.  I wandered the streets not knowing a single soul.  I meandered in and out of shops at my leisure.  I ate lunch alone on a park bench while reading a book.  I sat on the edge of the river for at least an hour barely moving, just staring at nothing.  I watched couples walk hand in hand.  I watched business men rushing to meetings where they’d probably never be missed if they didn’t show up.  I watched moms drag their kids across streets yelling at them to hurry up, not realizing that the toddlers tiny legs just can’t keep stride with their own. I watched assumedly homeless people lie down on ragged blankets on the bank of the river and fall asleep with their belongings unprotected beside them.  I stared at the foam that billowed against the edge and marveled at the biggest freighters I’ve ever seen move at a snail’s pace down the mighty Mississippi.  I read every single sign that I passed with a bit of the city history engraved on it.  I didn’t take a picture, start a conversation or check the time at all.  For hours and hours, I was just alone.  And I loved it.

Today is day two and so far I have drank two cups of coffee.  I’ve taken a hot bath in a jetted tub while reading a book.  (It’s the first uninterrupted bath I can recall in 20 years.  There was no sound of children fighting on the other side of the door, no little hands knocking and asking if I was almost done yet, and no tiny fingers sliding underneath the door asking if I’m going potty.) I’m currently sitting on a little enclosed patio listening to the city bustle around me and Ella Fitzgerald sing to me on Spotify.  I might actually get dressed and ready for the day, but right now it’s only 11 a.m. and what’s the rush?  If I decide to go out, there’s a little vegan restaurant that I passed yesterday that I may get lunch at. By myself.  And I overheard some ladies talking about an antique shopping district a little ways away and I may check that out today too.  Or I may not.  I have no plans.  I have no plans.  I have nobody to look after, nobody to take care of, nobody else’s opinion to consider or take into account.

I can do whatever I want.  Because today I am alone.  And it’s not so bad after all.

It’s Been A Good Year

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I had the best conversation today.

It was with a young girl, 19 years old.  Beautiful as can be with one of the most radiant smiles I’ve ever seen.

As we chatted and shared stories, I knew I was going to love this girl. We talked about family, faith and friends.  We laughed about how we are both the only “normal” ones in our own families.  Her eyes looked sad when I talked about divorce and then mine returned that sadness as she shared about her own broken background.

It was a great reminder to me that we are all broken people.  I would have never guessed in a million years the things that this pretty little thing has been through in her short lifetime.  I’m embarrassed to admit that sometimes I get so caught up in my own circumstances that I forget that other people are hurting too.

Although we shared a lot of crazy, sad and terrible stories, it wasn’t like a pity party at all.  It was more like a celebration.  It was an “oh my gosh, your life sucks sometimes too!” party. It was fun and refreshing and I am thankful for this new friendship since I’ll be spending lots of time with her during her internship at Kensington.

During our talk, she made a comment about what a rough year this has been for me.  And without even thinking about it, I replied that this has been one of the best years of my life.

I COULD NOT BELIEVE THOSE WORDS CAME OUT OF MY MOUTH.

But in the silent seconds that followed, I realized that I meant it.  I mean it now.

This has been a year of struggle and discipline for me.  I have, at times, felt like I would drown.  But instead, I learned to be a better swimmer.  I’ve felt desperate and afraid.  But each time, God has revealed himself to me through things that are nothing short of miraculous.  Things that I may have missed if I’d have been able to do things on my own.  I’ve felt alone and abandoned, but God sent people to me.  Over and over again, phone calls, texts, offers of help, words of encouragement.  New friends and rekindled friendships.  I’ve been literally surrounded by people this year who have shown my family love and grace that could only have come from God.  The kids and I might have missed these things had it not been for our struggles…so they were worth it.  I mean that.

It has been worth every single struggle this year to see God at work in our lives.

Last year in July, I wrote this in my journal (disclaimer: yes, I tend to be a bit dramatic in my journal…but hey, it wasn’t intended to be shared, so give me a break:)

I don’t ever remember being so scared.  I’ve never been a worrier.  Now I can’t make myself stop. I feel constantly sick with worry and fear.  I dread what is to come.  I worry about money, my job, my kids, my sister, my nephew.  How will I ever be able to take care of things on my own?  How can I help my sister when my own life is falling apart?  I’m afraid that I am going to fail my kids and that I am going to lose everything. I have no control over anything.  God.  Where are you in this?  The Bible says that “The righteous cry out and the Lord delivers them from all their troubles.”  I am crying out. Am I not righteous enough?  Why am I not being delivered?

I have clung to that scripture all year. Psalm 34:17.  And then today, that very same verse was the scripture of the day in my Bible app.  Only this time, I read the entire thing:

17″The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  19 The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all”

It’s taken me some time to see it. A year to be exact.  But he has been true to his word.  He has heard me.  He has been close to me while my heart was breaking.  He saved me when my spirit was crushed.  And yeah, I have had many troubles, but I believe that He is delivering me from them all.

 

You’re Quiet…What’s Wrong?

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Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I’ve written lots in the down time, but nothing post worthy.  Mostly pretty down, depressing, not-upward-at-all kind of stuff.

I continue to be shocked at how many people read my blog.  And humbled.  Really, really humbled actually.  And I am encouraged by how many of you contact me to let me know that you’re reading and that you miss it when I’m not writing. That baffles my mind.  But hey, whatever, I’m glad for it even if you are a little crazy.

So, everybody’s asking me why I’m quiet lately.  No joke, not a single day goes by that I don’t hear something like “You’re so quiet, what’s wrong? It’s not like you.”  Which makes me laugh because it’s confirmation that I do indeed have a big mouth.  Turns out that every teacher I’ve ever had was right and I don’t know how to shut up.  Oh well.

This blog was started for a few reasons.  First, I love to write.  I have a dozen or so journals going at any given time and I thought it would be cool to have a new kind of space.  I wanted to document the last year of my 30’s in a really fun, lighthearted way.  Partly because I’m a little nervous about turning 40, partly because I think it’s hilarious that I’m going to be 40 (I seriously feel like I just finished high school yesterday), and mostly because I had just come through kind of a crappy time and had determined that this year was going to be amazing and I wanted to share it with some of my favorite people (I didn’t realize that people I’ve never met would be even remotely interested in my rambling).  I was hoping that it would be an encouragement to others and that it would even, on occasion, give folks a little laugh.

So, what happened?  That crappy time that I thought I’d come through…turns out it wasn’t really over. Yep. I jumped the gun and made the mistake of thinking “Well, at least it can’t get any worse.”  Yeah, that’s the wrong attitude to have…because it can.

I’ve got to say, I hate it when people are cryptic about their problems.  And I hate it when people share their woes for attention.  So, I’m kinda stuck in that I don’t really know how to share this without doing either. Forgive me if you’re like me and hate this kind of thing.

So just as I was settling in to being divorced and raising my kids on my own…and then taking in my two year old nephew…my dad got sick.  Like, really sick. Stage 4 cancer kind of sick.  And he doesn’t really have anybody since he and my mom got divorced a few years ago.  So, he has moved up from Columbus, OH to stay with me during the next couple of months while he goes through radiation/chemotherapy treatments.

Yuck.  I hate putting that out there.  But lots of you are asking, and so there…that’s what’s wrong.  That’s why I’ve been quiet.  I just don’t have much to say at this point.  At least not much positive which is really all that I’d love to share.  Because one thing I know is that we all have our own junk to deal with, and you don’t need mine too!  I’m also learning that no matter how bad I think I have it, it could always be worse.

This past week, my dad was in the hospital and while he slept most of the time, his roommate was always awake and willing to chat.  So I got to know Rob pretty well.  What a cool guy and a great story teller.  He just turned 53 and has a very aggressive bone cancer.  He was diagnosed in January, two weeks after his wife had returned home from the hospital after having a brain aneurysm.  But he had the best attitude and the most amazing outlook on life.  Here’s this guy that has no idea if he’ll survive this, and he’s in the hospital for four days to go through a brutal chemo regimen…and he spent his time encouraging me to stay positive?

Last year, the first time I had to go to the court house for my divorce, as I walked away from the metal detector area, an attorney that was walking in behind me stopped me, handed me a business card and said “Here sweetie, in case you need anything.” It had a Bible verse on the back of it.  I was surprised by the sentiment because it was the same verse I had just written out THAT DAY on a white board at my desk at work.  And then, before he was released on Sunday, Rob wrote this down on a napkin for me “Psalm 34:18 – The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”. The same verse. I don’t know why I’m always surprised by God’s reminders to me, but I am.

So, I’m going to try a little harder to continue to be positive. How could I not, when I get such clear reminders that I’m not alone in this. And honestly, aside from being quiet, I’m doing alright most of the time.  The kids and I are adjusting…again.  And I have no doubt that we’ll get through this.  We always do.

 

 

Broken Parts

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Several years ago I took up running for the first time.  I’ve given it up and taken it up again three times since then.  But my first attempt at running was thwarted by a pretty serious injury, a stress fracture of my knee.  And even though I’ve had surgery to repair it, it still gives me trouble to this day.

The other day, (that one day of spring that we had here in Michigan), when the sun came out,  I was so anxious to get outside and run.  I can’t even believe I’m saying that because most days I hate running.  But anyhow, I couldn’t wait to get out and so off I went.  Now, mind you, I haven’t really ran much at all since my marathon last October.   Six full months ago.  But being that the last time I ran I finished 26.2 miles, I was feeling pretty ambitious. So I got out my earbuds, put on my (now too tight) running clothes and took off.  I was feeling pretty good for a mile and even the second mile wasn’t awful.  But my knee started bugging me and I was smart enough to turn around then.  Mile three was tolerable but that fourth mile, well that one was no fun at all.  My knee was killing me.  That injury from almost twelve stupid years ago showed up to haunt me, and I hate it.

As I hobbled my way homeward, cursing my knee and the stupid reminder of something broken so long ago, I had this weird thought.  (Ok, it’s a stretch but just track with me for a minute, I think this might make sense in the end.)

I was wondering how an injury from practically ages ago, that I thought had been dealt with, could still show up in my life now and then.  Unwelcome, uninvited…but it shows up nonetheless.  And that led me to wonder if the same thing isn’t true about broken relationships.  Are all of the things that hurt me, all the broken parts, going to show up for my whole life?  Following me around and haunting me at inopportune moments?  Am I gonna be constantly limping my way through every relationship in my future?  Because I can’t even imagine how terrible that would be.

I sometimes use my old injury as an excuse to not run.  “Hey do you wanna meet up and do three miles?” “Oh, I’d love to, but ya know…my knee.  I just can’t.” And I can totally see myself using old injuries in my relationships to keep people away if I’m not careful. I’ve never really been one to be guarded. I’ve always been open about pretty much everything with just about everyone. But I’ve noticed changes in myself recently that I don’t like, I’ve been a little more reserved with people.  Giving short answers and not sharing things that I normally would.  I have not isolated myself at all, but I’ve certainly disengaged a little bit with some people that I love.  I don’t want to live my life like that. I’ll have to figure out how to fix that broken part.

One thing that I really hate is when people excuse away their own bad behavior.  “I can’t help it that I’m always accusing you of doing things…but you know I have trust issues from my last boyfriend.” Or “You know I get defensive easily, I can’t help it. My ex-husband was always pointing out my flaws.” Whatever.  If I become like that, somebody please punch me.  I don’t EVER want to use my past hurts to excuse my future bad behavior.  I’ll have to figure out how to fix that broken part too.

It’s frustrating to think that a bad relationship can have such an effect on future relationships.  How can I expect to ever have a healthy relationship if I have all of these broken parts that are likely to start hurting if they get triggered by the slightest thing?

My hope is that this early self-diagnosis is going to be healthy for me.  My doctor gave me a bunch of exercises and stretches to do to help out with my knee.  He told me that it would never be 100% but that if I really work on it, it could be close.  I’m hoping that a knee and a heart aren’t really all that different.

 

 

 

39 years, one month…and a never ending winter.

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Well, I survived the first month of being 39.  It was sort of anticlimactic in that it felt pretty much the same as 38.  Not that I really expected it to feel any different, but I was hoping I’d feel wiser or something.  So far, the only thing that’s been different about this year is that we seem to be stuck in a never ending winter. But I’m pretty sure that has nothing to do with my creeping up on 40.

I am not a fan of cold weather.  However, I am not going to complain about the long winter…or the sub-arctic temperatures…or even the mountain of snow that once was my yard. I am committed to seeing the glass-half-full…but my heart is yearning for Spring to come.  I am craving sunshine and warm breezes.  Green grass and flowers.  I’ll even take the mosquitoes.  In all of my years, I don’t recall ever wanting a season to end so badly. I feel desperate for change.

This past week I was talking to a friend and we started lamenting about the weather. It’s sort of a shared misery here in the mitten, an easy topic to grieve over. And I thought about how I have this new ache in my heart for it to be Spring.  Then I heard a song on the radio that had a line “bad times make the good times better”.  And that’s what this is.  It’s a bad time that is going to make a good time so much better.

When If Spring arrives this year, I promise that I will not complain about chilly temperatures, or rain or even the bugs.  I will be grateful for the beauty of the grass and leaves and flowers. I will enjoy every single bud that I see.  I will appreciate the scent of the rain, even when it smells like worms. I will be thankful for every day that I can venture out without wearing a coat.

But I also want to remember this bad time, my “winter of 39”. Because when I forget the bad times, I start to take the good times for granted.  I wish I didn’t slip so easily back into that habit, but I know me, and that’s what I do.

I’m not talking so much about seasons of weather as I am about seasons of life. This winter has served as a reminder to me that my bad times will make my good times better. I don’t want to take a single good thing for granted in my life.  I want these bad times to make my good times better and sweeter than ever before.

So as these literal and figurative winters (hopefully) come to an end,  and as I continue on towards the big 4-0, I vow to remember the bad, and even to try to remember it fondly, so that I live a life full of gratitude for all of the good that is to come.

Everything’s Amazing

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I remember a couple of years ago watching comedian Louis C.K on Conan O’Brien. I had never seen him before and haven’t seen him since, but this guy was not only hilarious, he was brilliant. He joked about how “everything’s amazing, but nobody’s happy.”  I laughed at the ridiculousness and at the same time thought to myself how very unfunny that truth actually was.

Then I read an article today that had the same idea. It talked about how awesome technology is and how we still complain. Our televisions aren’t big enough, the pictures aren’t clear enough, our cameras don’t have enough pixels, our phones aren’t fast enough and our networks drop calls. For crying out loud, it seems like just a few years ago that nobody had even heard of HD, a television weighed a million pounds and you actually had to walk across the room to turn the channel.  Phones were only connected to the wall in your house and if you weren’t home, you simply missed the call.  Now, pretty much everyone walks around carrying a computer in their pocket and can connect to anywhere in the world…and we complain because it takes 2 seconds instead of 1. There is more technology in our cell phones than there was in the Apollo space craft and we are still not happy! What is wrong with us?  Why can’t we ever be satisfied?

Now, to be totally honest, I don’t really care all that much about technology. It’s cool and all, but I think I could do without it. But even if you put technology aside, everything is amazing. EVERYTHING IS SO AMAZING. 

If you know me at all, you know I have a deep-seated passion to see all people have access to clean water. Do you even realize how amazing it is that you and I can walk a few feet to one of probably several faucets in our house and turn it on and have clean water?  We live in a land where water gets brought from wherever water comes from, and it goes underground through massive amounts of tunnels and pipes to some magical place where it gets cleaned and purified for us and it comes out right in our homes and we could leave it running for hours and hours and it would just continue to come out! (PLEASE DON’T DO THIS…I’m just proving a point here!) But come on, that’s amazing.

Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that you could grow pretty much any food that you wanted right in your backyard? You can go to the store, pick up some seeds, throw them in the ground and in a few weeks, or however long it takes to grow stuff, food will spring right up out of the earth and you can pick it and eat it. That’s amazing, right?

Or, have you ever considered how awesome your body is? I know you might not feel like it’s all that great, but honestly, for a second just think about your body. I can’t even pretend to know anything about the detail and intricacies…but I know that it’s complex. I know that I can just eat pizza and I don’t ever have to think about how my body is going to process it, it just does it. And if I cut my finger, my body knows exactly what to do to fix itself and I think that’s amazing.

And just today, I saw a tiny bit of grass poking out from under the snow and I thought how absolutely, crazy, awesome it is that something could be SO DEAD and yet it will still come back to life.  It blows my mind, especially after this winter when we’ve had like ten feet of snow, that everything will come back to life in the spring. The flowers that have been dead and buried for months will bloom and the trees that have been bare all winter will grow branches full of brand new leaves. And as I thought about that this morning, for the first time in a long time, I was amazed. And it felt really good.

I want to be amazed. I want to be satisfied with what I have. I want to be happy with the life that I’ve been given. I don’t want to live with the mindset that the world owes me more and that the things right around me aren’t good enough.  Because they are…they are amazing.

I’ve spent a little time recently in my own winter.  We all do, right? Where things seem snow covered and dead. And to be honest, for me there was a minute or two when it felt like it might be winter for a really long time. But man oh man does it feel good to see some green.  It’s not super green yet and there are still a few patches of snow. But I believe that the more time we spend appreciating the things around us that are amazing, the faster our own springs will get here.

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This Is Not A Midlife Crisis

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I was thinking today about a conversation I had last summer with my teenage son. We were standing in the kitchen talking about me getting a tattoo and he said that I must be having a midlife crisis. He did what any 17 year old would do to prove a point.  He googled it. Then he proceeded to read to me these “symptoms” from some, probably illegitimate, website. I stood there denying and/or justifying each one while we laughed, and I laughed again today as I thought about it. And since this is quickly becoming the place for me to bare my soul to the world, or at least to my tiny little circle of friends, I thought that maybe you’d enjoy a look at my last year of NOT going through a midlife crisis.

  • Taking up a new hobby.

archery

Yep, archery.  Not sure why. Just wanted to try something different I guess. So, I bought this cheap little practice bow which I was terrible with.  I was sure it was just the bow and not me, master archer that I am, that was bad.  But then I got a pretty awesome bow as a gift for Christmas which didn’t really make me any better…aaaand so I took archery lessons last month.

Now, I have neither the desire nor the heart to EVER actually kill anything…although if the squirrels tear up my yard like they did last year, it’s not entirely out of the question.  So yeah, not a midlife crisis…just a new hobby.

  • Wanting a simpler life.

I had this realization that there are billions of people in the world that are happier with way less than what I have. And that changed things for me.  But certainly this desire for a simpler life means that I am just becoming wiser with age and realize that I don’t NEED as much. Right? No crisis, just wisdom.

  • Running a Marathon.

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Hmmmm. Ok.  Well, now that I have actually done that, I can tell you that this is NOT a rational response to a midlife crisis.  And besides, I only did it for charity, which leads me to…

  • Desire to make the world a better place.

Africa

Kind of goes along with the marathon. But this one really isn’t fair, because it’s kind of what my job is about, not the running, but the whole “making the world a better place” thing.  Not a midlife crisis, just a calling.

  • Losing weight.

Ok, sure, I did that and I can see how this might seem like a midlife crisis, but come on…it’s mostly just a direct result of the marathon.  Which, again, was not a midlife crisis! (I guess if I’m being honest here, it may have had a little to do with realizing that this body is getting a little older and I should probably start taking better care of it.)

  • Looking up high school friends, boyfriends or girlfriends on social media.

I am not guilty of this one…I mean, not exactly. I am still in contact with most of my old friends.  So I haven’t looked them up recently.  And I just had my 20 year reunion so I got to see them all.  At the reunion, someone did happen take this picture that I love of me with my high school best friend and boyfriend.  But since I didn’t technically “look them up”, I’m not counting this as a midlife crisis.

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  • Longingly looking at old photos of yourself (yes, this was really on the list!)

I DID NOT and DO NOT look longingly at old photos of myself.  Ever.  However…I admit that I did use my senior picture as my Facebook profile for a day or so.  Embarrassing, yes.  But in my defense, it was my high school reunion and someone else suggested that we all do it.  So there.  It was clearly peer pressure, not a midlife crisis. (Due to the embarrassment that I feel about this one, I am not including said picture in this blog:)

  • Joining Twitter

Yeah…I did that.  But I have not been able to figure out how to use it and therefore it doesn’t count.

There were lots of other “symptoms” that I didn’t have and several more things that I was definitely guilty of. There were things like going to reunion concerts of favorite bands (I couldn’t get tickets to NKOTB), revisiting holiday destinations you remember from childhood (my holiday destination was Michigan and now I live here),  changing your hair color (who doesn’t do this?), no longer telling people your age (not guilty…in fact, my first blog was titled My 39), dreaming about quitting work (I actually love my job), taking vitamins (this just seems smart), looking up your medical symptoms on the internet (webMD may or may not be in my browser history), thinking about going to church but never acting on it (pssshhh. not guilty of this at all).

So, midlife crisis?  Eh, maybe.

But as I spent time thinking about it and composing this little recap of my past year, I’m realizing that maybe a crisis isn’t such a bad thing after all.  I mean, if the crisis of being mid-life has led me to simplify, help others, get healthy, reconnect with old friends and try new things…how bad is it really?

Maybe everyone should have a crisis of mid-life, a realization that you won’t be here forever.  That you only have a short time here to make a difference.  And that if you get to the end of your life, but you haven’t done something that matters after you’re gone, then your life will have been wasted. If I could change anything about my crisis, I just would have had it years ago. And I think that if everyone could just have a midlife crisis the world would be a much better place.

Oh…and, yes, I did get that tattoo after all.

tattoo

Micah 6:8 “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

A Letter To My Friend In The Valley

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A dear friend asked me today why life has to be so hard.  I think that people typically expect some sort of profound spiritual wisdom from me, although I’m not really sure why.  But I had nothing.  So I gave a quick “well, without the hard times, you probably wouldn’t appreciate the easy times as much” response and we moved on.  But all day that question has lingered in my head.

My heart aches to see my friend hurting, and I want to have an answer that will take the pain away. I want to know as much for myself as for my friend. But the day is getting away from me and still I have no answer.  What I have are my words, which are a meager offering at best, but it’s all that I have:

My Beloved Friend,

Life is hard and I don’t really know why.

I think it’s hard because we’re human…and we’re in relationships with other humans… and all humans make mistakes.

Sometimes we make our own mistakes that leave us hurting.  And unfortunately, sometimes we are hurt by mistakes that other people make.  And those ones are really bad because it’s not our fault and it hurts a million times worse to be hurt by someone that you trust.

As humans, we all have a tendency to do things that feel good in the moment instead of doing things that are good for us in the long run.  We make decisions that are selfish with little regard for how it will affect others.  We want instant gratification which often satisfies us for a short time, but leaves us longing for something more. We choose to fill our lives with things that can only fill us temporarily instead of choosing things that will fulfill us for a lifetime.  We get caught up with keeping up – which leaves us discontent with what we have because someone else has something better. It’s because we have these tendencies and behaviors, or because someone else does, that life is hard.

And life is hard because we are human…and we love other humans…and that makes us vulnerable.

It makes us vulnerable because when we love someone else, we expect for that love to be returned to us in full.  And when our expectation isn’t met because there is only a partial return or sometimes no return at all, that hurts.  It leaves us feeling exposed and broken and sometimes we get stuck there for a minute.  And when we’re stuck there in that valley of brokenness and despair, life is hard.

But there is hope, my sweet friend.  It says in Psalm 23:4 that even though you walk through the darkest valley, there is still hope for a day that you will not be in despair.  There is hope for happy days spent in fields of green grass, taking restful walks beside quiet streams.  And hope for days that your soul and your life will be refreshed and you will feel safe again.

So, yes. Life is hard.  It’s hard right now because you’re in a valley.  But the good news is that you won’t be in the valley forever.  Some day soon you will be out and heading to a hilltop, or a beach or the woods or wherever it is that your heart will be happy again.

I know this to be true because I’ve spent time in the valley myself.  It’s a lot of work to get out since it’s all uphill…but the journey upwards is the most rewarding journey there is.

I love you, my friend.

Michelle

My 39

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I just had a birthday which officially launched me into the last year of my 30’s.  It’s only been a week, so I think I’m still adjusting to this reality.  I’m not happy about it, but not quite sad either…just can’t decide if I should celebrate or mourn the impending death of my third decade in this crazy world.

To be perfectly honest the 30’s didn’t treat me all that well, with the last year being especially unkind.  I don’t intend to take up space here in my new cyber home with negative junk, but a brief synopsis of the last six months may be in order.  Let’s see, my marriage hit a big ol’ Michigan pothole that tore the tires right off of it and sent my husband and I in opposite directions.  A few weeks after he left, I got a late night call telling me that my sister had been arrested and I was asked  “do you want to come pick up her baby or should we give him to the state?”  Off I headed for my first ever encounter with the police to pick up my one year old nephew.  As I drove home with a scared little B in my backseat, I laughed and cried at the irony of that day.  It was my oldest son’s 19th birthday and I had just been thinking about how my days of child rearing were nearing an end.  God sure has a funny sense of humor.

So, here I am.  39.  Divorced.  Now working full-time.  Mother of 6 (including 3 teens, 2 still fairly well-behaved younger kids and my newly acquired 1  year old.)

I don’t like the feeling of my life spiraling out of control.  Not one bit.  So after about a week of feeling sorry for myself and my crappy situation,  I decided that if my life was going to spiral, it was not going to go downwards.  Nope.  I will not become the bitter-middle-aged woman that hates men and life and everything in general.    I just don’t have the time or energy for that.

Some might argue that it’s harder to spiral upward, and with that I would agree.  My life is not about to get easier any time soon.  I have kids in elementary, middle and high school and now I drop a toddler off at day care before heading in to my own full day of work.  My days start earlier now and end later and I have more laundry to do than probably all of my neighbors combined.  I have the upcoming expenses of a high school graduation, a party and senior pictures and the cost of child care on my sole income (which is not nearly enough to cover those).  These things are my new reality.  So, I can either lay down and cry about it or stand up and persevere.  I’ve decided to do the latter.

The first thing that I had to do was simple.  I had to stop thinking about those things.  I am not trying to make it sound simplistic.  I know that it’s hard not to think about crap when you’re in the midst of chaos.  But I’m finding that the more time I spend not thinking about that stuff, the more time I have to think about things that are not those things.  Duh.

I spend a lot of time now thinking about how fortunate I am.  I have great kids…I mean, like REALLY GREAT kids.  They are funny and thoughtful, smart and helpful, kind and compassionate and a hundred other really awesome adjectives.  And I have not one or two, but SIX of these incredible people in my house! (Yes, I’m counting little B, who I’m sure will become these things too:)  How blessed am I?!

I have a job that I LOVE.  Seriously, it might be the best job in the world…and it’s mine!  I don’t wake up thinking “ugh, I have to go to work today”.  Sure, sometimes I’m tired in the morning, but it is an honor for me to get to do what I do and get paid for it.  And when I really spend time thinking about my job, sometimes I am honestly moved to tears because I love it so much.

My friends.  The best group of people you can imagine…yep, they’re in my life, up close and personal.  I can call them anytime and they are willing to listen, to talk, to set me straight and call me out when I’m being stupid.  Everyone needs some friends like mine.

So, yeah it’s been a rough few months.  But in the big scheme of things, it’s just that: a rough few months.  I have so much to be thankful for and I am certain that the future holds much more for me than my human mind could even begin to imagine.  In the mean time, I am going to stay focused on this reminder from Romans 5:2-5  “Christ has also introduced us to God’s undeserved kindness on which we take our stand. So we are happy, as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God.  But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure.  And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.”

So as I move forward towards 40, I’m sure that I will mourn the loss of some things that I once held dear.  But more often this year, I will celebrate the things that I still have, the things that I have yet to receive and the promise that in the end I will have developed character by enduring through my sufferings.  And I will spend my 39 in an upward spiral.