Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Missing Mess

My girls are missing a piece of their heart and this week  I am struggling with how to help them heal.  The mother in me aches to be able to put it right.

I cannot.

We've done okay with the whole grieving process thing, due in part to the sheer amplitude of our schedule. I think, each in our own way, we have worked to layer over the pain with activity. That was working well.  Our ability to falsely cope and carry on with our lives was astonishing.


Back in September, when we lost our girl, we cried, we did the silent sobs, we knew in our hearts that it was for the best, and we trusted that God's hand was in and over the entire situation. We still believe all of those things. We do...with every part of us.

It's the empty without her that causes the pain. The way her face pops up on Facebook and Skype and the sweet tone of her voice coming from Little Bit's iPod on the nights when all she desires is to reach out and touch the computer screen and have her Aunt Sara firmly planted on the other side. In those moments, my heart breaks for these girls of mine who loved her like I did and who went to her to explain the messy and the beautiful in our world.

I think part of it is that we're closing in on six months. Every day brings something the chicks would  like to share with her, and all of those days keep adding up. I understand, my loves, I do...I miss her too. I think everyone who was touched by her feels this space she so vibrantly filled in life.

This afternoon, after scolding my little, I asked her what in the world was going on with her...that she didn't seem at all like herself. Her response, complete with tears all in a row sliding down those rosy cheeks, hit me like a ton of bricks. "I don't know, Mama, I don't know what's wrong with me. I just know that all of this missing has me a mess inside."

I stopped, right there on that pastel rag rug where we'd done a fancy conference with a piece of our heart who happened to reside in Iowa no more than six months before. How could I begin to make this right? Scooping her up, cradling her like I'd done years before, I whispered into her head promises of remembrance, joy, beauty...all things that my heart sister would've said.  Tears slowing, my rocking coming to a stop, we both took a deep breath and I realized that it's in the recollection that we are able to heal.

As a mother, I need to be intentional in the remembering. My girls need to hear the stories and see the photographs even if it tears me in two at times. They need to be reminded how deeply they were loved so that they, in turn, can share her love with those around them.

For someone who was a part of all of the details of our life, who went on every trip, car ride, and walk alongside us, she's been missed mightily in the moments of our days. The missing is normal. But I need to work on reminding  the girls that although loving means letting go, it doesn't mean that it comes to an end.

It may just look a tad bit different.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The (in)RL Conference and a Giveaway

My friends over at (in)Courage are putting together an amazing conference that we all can attend!


Imagine it, friends, a low cost, available to anyone who has internet connectivity conference....a place to come together and learn, grow, feel...all from the comfort of your own couch or perhaps along with a group of other women in your community.

A conference unlike any other done before, and created especially with you in mind.

I'm attending. As soon as I hit post, I'm heading over here to register on the (in)RL site; it's  only ten dollars!!! I'm so excited about it, I'm even planning on sponsoring a few others who might not be able to otherwise join us. Hint: Giveaway coming....stay tuned for details below.

Unlike other major conferences that some of us cannot afford to attend that occur around the country, (in)Courage and Dayspring are bringing this one right to us...a way to connect, to create community, to expand our world. I promise you that it will be incredible and heart changing.

Don't just take my word for it though, grab a tissue (this trailer gets me every single time), watch the video, think about it...then race over to the (in)RL registration page and sign up to join me!


I will sponsor three readers to attend this conference with me, as chosen in the the comments. Please watch the trailer and then give your thoughts on why you'd like to join me at  (in)RL.  If you've already registered, please comment and encourage others to attend alongside us! When the contest closes at midnight on March 1, 2012, I'll post our winners and ask them to contact me with info to get them registered.

***This contest is in no way sponsored by Dayspring or (in)Courage and I not receiving compensation of any kind for the promotion of (in)RL.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Grit

Today I'm joining my friend The Gypsy Mama for five minutes where I'll write without editing, backtracking, or second guessing.  Writing because it brings me joy.  Five minutes to share, to unite, to process our hearts. Just five minutes. 

Grit is the sand that smooths us, refines us, changes our hearts and our ways.

Uncomfortable? YES.  
Easy? One loud, emphatic NO. 

But necessary.  My God uses the grit in my life to shape me into the woman, the mother, the wife and friend he desires me to be. I don't enjoy the dirty, the pain, the scratch of being made into a new creation. I want to stay the same...but don't we all? It is oh-so-much easier to maintain than it is to change.

But if I never go through the fire, I cannot become the masterpiece He has chosen to make of me. 

I want to become the transparent, beautiful glass that is formed when heat and sand meet...I want to reflect Him well.

I cannot do it alone. I need the grit. I will embrace His plan to smooth, mold, create me in His image.

Bring on the grit.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Knitting Together

It's a crazy week around here; I feel like all I do is pack, unpack, repack and then pack again.

Notice a theme?

So, with that said, I'd like to hear about your week and ask how I might be in prayer for you over the weekend.  What's going well and what is heavy on your heart?  How may I love you?

Let's come together and pray for each other...leave a request in the comments and know that it will be lifted up. Let's further knit this community together, one request at a time.

Love to you, friends.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Five Minute Friday:Delight

Today I'm joining my friend The Gypsy Mama for five minutes where I'll write without editing, backtracking, or second guessing.  Writing because it brings me joy. Peace...and delight, which just happens to be the topic. Smile.  I know I'm a few days late, but we traveled again all weekend and I wanted to make sure I was here today with all of you, so....

She's the feeling that bubbles from deep inside and wiggles and tickles until it bursts forth into a grin on your face or light in your eyes.

She arrives when I'm snuggling my little loves close, knowing that each moment is to be treasured and tucked away, because this time is fleeting.

She fills me when I watch my girls pursuing their passions. Slender fingers on white and black keys learning intricate fingering, or toes pointed and legs extended in leaps that are gravity defying.  My heart  grows bigger as their worlds expand.

I find her in the most unlikely of spots...in the cloud shapes as Little Bit and I lay on a blanket in the shade and gaze up to see what the heavens hold.  From a whale to a winged dog, delight is present in my babe's smile and her enthusiasm. I want her to stay with us forever.

In the small, quiet moments, she comes to me in sweet memories of laughter shared, prayer answered, fingers intertwined and time spent cheek to cheek with those I love. In refusing to take anything in this life for granted, delight is most present.

Delight. Known to cause beaming smiles and sparkling eyes. She's forever welcome in my world.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Determination Department

"A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work." -Colin Powell

We've always taught the chicks that anything worth going after takes effort. 



Hard Work

We spend hours a day schooling and just as many dancing. We believe that education comes second to faith and family, and the girls know that we expect the same effort in school that they put forth on the wooden floors. We're not the homeschoolers who do a little school and a whole lot of everything else. It's college prep curriculum in the nest. Both girls are incredibly high achievers who excel in their studies and work above grade level. We don't twirl until the equations are finished and the Latin is memorized. I loved to learn. I still do. I want them to hunger for it in the same way and work to instill it in those sweet little bodies.

Our Little Bit fully embraces this philosophy. She wakes early and eagerly attacks her studies. She's almost two years ahead of others her age in difficult curriculum. She is incredible. I know I'm a proud Mama, but honestly? She's the Mary Poppins of children; Cheerful, caring, intelligent, willing to pitch in and do more than her share. All that and a bag of chips. My sweet pea plays the piano close to ten hours a week because she loves it so much; she is almost more passionate about it than she is about dancing.

My Grace Girl...sigh. She has the sweetest heart. She also has the most fire-filled. That child burns from the soles of her feet to the tips of her hair. Ah, the Grace Girl. My babe who arrived in our lives ready to keep us on our toes. Her intelligence is equal to her that of her sister...they keep me on my toes. She's in the process of finishing up Algebra 1 and is reading The Histories for history curriculum. But...she works hard on what she wants to. I know that part of it is an age thing, and the rest is that she's so very her. I both love and cry over this part of what makes her so, well, her. In the determination department, the Grace Girl has a portion overflowing.  

Which brings us to the dream chasing...

Dance is as much a part of the chicks as freckles and blue eyes. I never anticipated the studio hours we'd put in or, more importantly, how much a part of them it would be. Dancing is akin to breathing at our place. Limbs go in odd positions as they stretch and move and lengthen muscles that stiffen on the car ride home. At our place, we dream a little bit everyday. It's as it should be.

Hard work and opportunity are frequent companions, as we've learned. Our eldest has decided to run full throttle after her passion. We've done quite a bit of travel to dance conventions and ballet auditions. Her humility and work ethic have made her shine. If she desired, she could dance away from home at a variety of locations for the entire summer. Ah, the fire of my Grace Girl...I'm reminded that she's not all grown up yet when she says, "But, Mumma, two weeks without you? How will I ever do it?" My heart lifts, I sigh. She's not ready to fly solo for too long. One big ballet intensive expects an answer by this weekend. Another sent an acceptance letter this afternoon. So many decisions in this dream chasing of hers. So much growing up that I'm not sure I'm ready for yet.  

Sweat. Hard Work. Determination.  Essential ingredients of filling up the heart.

Not yet ready to go solo for extended periods? Good for my heart.
.  .   .   .   .   .  .

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Three Words

I love you.

I grew up ending most communications with an I love you. It was never route. Always intentional. Mom taught me that when you care about someone you should tell them. So, every phone conversation with my travelling dad ended in those three little words. Mom said we should never miss an opportunity. To this day, I end calls and text conversations with those I care about in exactly the same way. I love you.

When we first began dating, the professor always shook his head in wonderment as I called home to check in and then closed the conversation with a quick, "I'll be home on time, I promise. I love you!" After a few months of looking at me like I was an alien, I asked him what was so weird about those words I uttered.  "Nothing," he said, "I just don't get why you tell each other." I was incredibly puzzled and then broached a question that would teach me much about the man I would someday marry..."Don't you tell your family that you love them?" His response astounded me. "No, we rarely express how we feel about each other. You're just supposed to know." I was floored.  Eventually, my man learned that stating feelings of affection was as natural to me as breathing. He stopped gazing at me as if I was a weirdo and began to grin when I said it. Eventually, we started saying it to each other. 

We've chosen not to stop.

We're no longer youths in love. We have walked the hard, the dark, the scary. We've done it side-by-side. My friend turned boyfriend turned fiance turned husband is, almost two decades later, still my best friend

We keep choosing to do life together.

It's not easy. Anything worth having and loving rarely is. Our marriage hasn't been without angry outbursts or clicks of the receiver. We've spent months apart as we've started new jobs and finished out chapters of our lives. It hasn't always been ideal. But we've always maintained our friendship. Above everything else, my husband is my friend and I am his. When it is dark and lonely and uncertain, we've got each other. We don't always like, but we always love. 

We love because He first loved us.

A statement which holds such power and fills me with awe.  We love because He loved us. First.  Always. Forever. No matter what.

Love is...





It can also be BEAUTIFUL.

In accepting my man's imperfections, I can love him as he is. He does the same for me. In choosing to do this life together, we show the chicks that love is ...





A bit like grace, it is undeserved and then heaped upon us at the most unlikely of moments. Love which comes from a God who loved us so much He chose to die for us, for all of the mess that makes us ugly.  

Our ugly was beautiful to Him. He chose to love us. He chose to make our messy a glorious canvas on which He might be reflected. 

We love because He first loved us...
He died because He loved us.

Love is powerful. Not to be taken lightly. It's also to be given with open and outstretched arms. 

Eighteen years ago we shared those three little words with each other. 

I love you.

Today, I love him more than I did when I was looking though the rose colored lenses of our youth. I love him because as a wife and mother, I better understand what this word love means. From dying to self and putting his interests in front of my own, to accepting his help when "I want to do it all myself"  as he often jokingly chides me, my affection for this man I do life with grows daily.

TodayI'm thankful for...

...being loved first.

... my God who loved me enough to give His life for me.

...a mom who taught me that expressing love isn't something you should do lightly or withhold.

...my husband who loves me, wholly, not because of who I am, but in spite of who I am. 

And...I'm grateful that after all of these years, I still get to kiss him any time I choose

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Letter to my Twelve Year Old

Dear Grace Girl,

Twelve years ago we welcomed you into our world.

Twelve years....

Days of laughter, frustration, watching you grow and growing alongside you as a woman and a mother. Learning your cries and glances and smiles. Getting to know you.

Beautiful YOU

With a spirit of determination that develops seemingly daily. Your strength astonishes me....You're unique. You move to the beat of your own drummer and have learned this year that the crowd isn't so interesting. I'm in awe of the depth of your passions and of the ways you work to make dreams become reality. It has been my privilege to watch you face opposition and show Christ to others, in your word and response and deed. Your heart is lovely. Truly lovely. Never let anyone or thing change it...except to make it bigger. Never fear being stretched. It's what makes you grow.

You've lived more in this year than I did in decades. I was awkward and duckling-like at your age, and you? YOU  are flying. When you took that very first ballet class a few years ago I would've never imagined what our God would do in and though you with your athleticism, aptitude and grace. I didn't dream of you dancing twenty plus hours a week as you approached twelve. I didn't see us travelling around the country on scholarships as you worked at dance with all of you. How could I  know that this would become your passion? Some people never find it, the fire that makes them sparkle. I'm so thankful you have. You shine so brightly and reflect Him so well. Praying before you preform, asking the One who created you to shine though you. He does. I'm so thankful.

There have been so many firsts and changes this year, that in some ways it reminds me of our primary twelve months together. We are learning to navigate the waters of as you continue to develop into the young woman that you were created to be. You've been asked to accept more than a child should this year...A year where you lost one of your biggest voices of support and a piece of your heart. I know that the ache you've experienced is not one that will fade easily, nor will that hole ever be filled. I am so very proud of the manner in which you've felt your way through this and the ways in which you continue to honor all that she is to you and taught you about living and loving well. Our girl loved you so much. So, so much. She'd be so proud of you, just like I am.

I love the way you are always looking ahead and planning for the next moment. So much is ahead of you...New York for nationals, Joffrey acceptance...in the year ahead your life will just keep getting bigger.  Please be careful to not miss all of the moments going on right now; take the time to be a kiddo for a little bit longer...although you've never really been "kidlike" in how you view our world. I can't wait to experience this next year of life alongside you, my Grace Girl. Thank you for teaching me to see things through your eyes, a viewpoint which is colorful and exciting and full of movement.

I look forward to watching you grow and soar ,sweet one. Spread those unmatched wings of yours and fly.

All of my love forever and ever,


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Heart Full

Sometimes having a heart full isn't easy.

Carrying and learning and stretching...

It causes an ache

Today my heart is full.

Full for my friend that will sit and lie and undergo tests that will measure progression of something she has little control over. She remains fully in the light and shines so brightly. But my heart? It's full of her, those sweet boys that remind me of my girls, and her husband who captures beauty. Her voice and spirit are strong...I'm the one coming all apart reading her script and seeing more in photographs than is there.

Eyes overflow as I read another friend's words, her beautiful acceptance of the way things are and the wistfulness of what has been. Sitting in a wooden chair in the hallway at one of our three dance studios while my Little Bit takes class, tears slide down my cheeks. Knowing a pain like hers, seeing my girls in hers. The sweetness of their hearts...knowing that her thoughts will slide to them, to the future, to the what-may-bes . I've been there.

All the way to the top is what I am today...


It's a good place to be. A spot where I see more clearly, hear more acutely, feel all the way down to my toes. I know that my tired and heavy heart exacerbate the waterfall that is becoming my eyes, but it's okay. The hallway is dark and quiet, only lit by the screen as I type. I will be the put back together Mama that my Little Joy is expecting when her class door opens in an hour. In these moments of alone, I'll let myself feel and not be strong.

My ear buds in, gratitude music pouring straight to my soul. Reminders of why a full heart is one that always has room for a little more...because that is what friendship is...feeling, supporting, praying, lifting up and under and holding when times are tough because He first loved us.

"Gracious, compassionate, merciful God, radiant holy delight, beautiful Father 
victorious Son, source of unchangeable light, great is the Lord and thus worthy of praise, 
refuge of strength to the end, righteous redeemer and mighty to save
He's the anchor of hope for the souls of men."

-Ellie Holcomb

...so very thankful for a heart that can fill

Monday, February 6, 2012

Hues of a Winter Sunset

The view from the school room this evening

O contemplate the heavens! When as the vein-drawn day dies pale, 
In every season, every place, gaze through their every veil? 
With love that has not speech for need! 
Beneath their solemn beauty is a mystery infinite: 
If winter hue them like a pall, or if the summer night 
Fantasy them starre brede.

-Victor Hugo 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Five Minute Friday:Real

Five minute Friday is here...I'm joining my friend The Gypsy Mama for five minutes where I'll write without editing, backtracking, or second guessing.  
Today's topic?  Real.


Real is what I am at home, when the doors close and the world cannot see me. It's the wince as I get in and out of the car parked in a spot reserved with a blue background and white symbol.  It is in the sigh of frustration of not being able to open a bottle without leaning over and holding it between my feet so I can twist a cap. Real is in the little moments of my life that I am often capable of shielding from the world.

Most people don't like it, the real. They pretend it doesn't exist. They don't want it to. Real is messy and painful and oh-so-honest. I prefer truth. The more years I'm given the easier it is to accept myself where I'm at and be okay with who I'm being made into every day. I'm just not sure that someone else will. Real.

I yearn for friendships, for other women, who value what I do. Who love where someone is at, right in a moment. I strive to find others who are not necessarily like me but share a story line that unites us. Being a woman is enough, for don't we share in that? The tired, the expectations, the struggles, the hopes and fears and joys?  

Real is the stuff that we're made of. Perfectly and uniquely formed from. Not ideal. REAL.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

...In A Breeze

Today is glorious.

Blue skies with no hint of clouds.

The rain of yesterday shows no trace, no puddles remain.

Sun kisses my head and my just-toweled hair blows in the breeze created when windows of the vehicle are open wide.

Heart filling sunshine.

In working on an attitude adjustment as I flew out of the house to take the girls to piano so I could elliptical at the same time and then on to six dance classes which don't end until 9 tonight, my outlook was stormy.  So was my attitude. I didn't like me. I'm sure the chicks we're being kind in their tolerance.

Then, the warmth of the car urged me to open the windows. The open windows created a breeze. The wind made my eyes turn heavenward.  In that moment?

So did my heart.

In the moments of silence which is how I ride in the those brief moments the girls aren't accompanying me a song filled my ears. Old, treasured, sung note-for-note as I would've decades ago in choir...

For the Beauty of the Earth

"For each perfect gift of thine,
 To our race so freely given.
 Graces human and divine
 Flow'rs of earth and buds of heav'n"

So very thankful for a God that makes the ordinary beautiful, and whose gifts are perfect and given just when we need them.

Thankful for the reflection that comes with light.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

On Moving and Hospitality...

I grew up in a large metro area in the mitten.  We then moved toward the beach with all of it's ah glorious sand and sky moments. Four years later? Back to the mitten.

Then we flew south.

We'd lived under the dividing line when we'd done the Charleston years. I was a believer in warmth and hospitality. I even owned a frame that had a pineapple on it. I decided this time I'd become a rebel and forego the accent and sweet-tea.  I was not prepared for the culture shock that would assault our family. I thought we'd done this before, it would be easy and we'd be accepted because our new area was practically a transplant/retirement zone anyway.  I thought it would be a piece of cake.

I was mistaken.

We moved in, got the big kiddo registered in the local public school Little Bit wasn't school aged yet, found a pediatrician, a dance studio, and began looking for a church. We attended every neighborhood and work related get-together and went to the subdivision pool at least four times a week. Making friends was a piece of cake, right? Wrong.

In a perfect world, humans are accepting, welcoming, warm individuals. At least you hope they are....

In real life, we are complicated, preoccupied with our own schedules and agendas, and judgmental. I'm not saying EVERYONE is like this, just most of us.  We forget to see the big picture because we're in our own comfort zone. We don't like travelling outside the lines. We fumble with being gracious.

I'm not on a soapbox here. I stink at hospitality. It's not my gift or my love language. I'm good at loving people and meeting needs. I have a heart for it. But, in my own home I am not great at hosting others. It is a trait I realize in myself and I work to change. Part of the issue is that I work so hard at making others feel welcome that I tucker myself out. Entirely and completely. At this point I am no longer any fun and I ruin what I've tried to do in the hospitality department. I live daily with my autoimmune issues. I know exactly what they are. Most people never know that there's anything at all wrong with me. I like it that way. I like being normal. Wink....I'm great at it in public. Which brings me back to: When you don't feel 100% most of the time, you can only hide it from others if they leave your home. Hence, my issues with hospitality. I know and acknowledge my weakness.

All of that said, moving was not easy-peasy. It takes work, time, and energy to form strong, lasting relationships. It means letting people in. I'm saying the following for all of us who have moved, who are moving, or who have been in the same community for a lifetime.


The accent might grow on you. The culinary delights may or may not impress. Worship and education will probably be vastly different. ACCEPT.


Take treats. Invite newbies to movies or offer to show them around the local grocery store. Stop the man at the register from calling them "darling" and "sweet-cheeks" (Yes, I was called both and a variety of other things. No, he wasn't referring to my face)


When you're new, accept the help when it's offered. Reciprocate on the invitations even when you feel whelmed. Open your heart  and your doors to the unexpected friends. They are out there, just waiting to find you if you're willing.  It may take time, but relationships are worth it.


It's okay to be who you are, who you were created to be...YOU are amazing. Our God created you. Go ahead and show that unique, lovely, heart-catching person to the world. Be a friend who is real. Who has time. Who is messy. I'm not perfect...and neither is my entire community. We all fit in someplace, it's just in taking the time to figure out where that place is.


You'll probably be disappointed. You're used to friends who sound like you and come from your background. Open yourself up to others. Love them like they are...you'll probably stop checking  the list of different and change the title to friend. Look for beauty.


This may be met with an UGH from some of you. Churches can be the worst place to make friends. In my experience, they are the hardest place to connect. It shouldn't be like this, but it is, more often than not. But...Worship is good for your heart. Period. People will open up. You'll find a niche. If not at that first place then at the fifth. Keep trying. It sounds cliche, but our God is always with you. Always. Even in the new, you are never alone.

Moving is...Exciting. Confusing. Adventurous. It's full of the unexpected. 

So are we.


Be the hospitality you wish see in your world.