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Zero Tolerance Bullying Policy

I can be a bully sometimes.

It’s not something I’m proud to admit. I mean, who would be proud to admit that?

There are plenty of things to be proud of. Like receiving a good grade on a test you studied hard for, completing a home project, running a marathon (or half, or 5K…..or for some, simply running at all), earning a degree, baking a cake from scratch  – the list is long and varies from person to person.

Being a bully is not on that list.

I don’t want to be a bully. It’s not something I intentionally do. Sometimes, it just happens. It doesn’t show up in the form of physical abuse – it arrives in the form of words.

“You can’t do that. What’s the likelihood you will succeed? Slim at best.”

“Why did you say that? That didn’t make sense.”

“You look old.”

“Look at your legs. You should do something about those. You should workout more.”

“I know you want to follow your dreams and do something you’re passionate about, but honestly – you’re not that good. You should seriously consider finding a real job and give all of this up. Who wants to hear what you have to say, anyway?”

“You’re not a good mom. You’re not a good friend. You’re not good at this. You’re not good at that.”

Ouch. Those words hurt.

Who’s the victim?

Me. That’s who.

I would never in a million years think to say these words to another human being. So why in the world is it okay to think them about myself? These words tear down. They are good for nothing.

Yet, at times, this is my self talk.

Thankfully, these thoughts don’t take up residence in my mind as often as they used to. I usually can recognize when I’m going down this path and nip it in the bud pretty quickly. Not so much when I was younger. When I was younger, I regularly fed myself the lie that someone was mad at me, or didn’t like me. That I said, or did, something wrong. That if I could do more, if I were a little smarter, a little more funny, a little more whatever than……what? I really don’t know.

Because I didn’t need to be more of anything. I just needed to be me.

That’s all I’ve ever needed to be.

That’s all any of us need to be.

If you find yourself heading down the path of negative self talk, I hope you can stop yourself and realize how wonderful you are. You are a unique person with special gifts and talents. You bring your special something to the world every day, just by being you. Not by pretending to be someone else. Not by living up to someone else’s standards. Not by trying to fit into a mold that doesn’t belong to you.

Just be you. Embrace the wonderful you that God created. Embrace your flaws. Your weaknesses. Your strengths. Your talents.

Strive to be the best you that you can be. Not the best someone else you can be.

You have gifts to give and people will be blessed by them.

God can use you.

You.

I am determined to silence the bully within. She doesn’t show up much, but when she does it is very sneaky. A quiet little lie being whispered in my ear. A lie I can choose to believe, or to reject.

And I’m choosing to reject.

It is time to replace negative self talk with truth.

I no longer need to be concerned with what others think of me. I am not defined by other people’s definitions of success. Some people will like me and others won’t – and that’s okay. My weight and age are just numbers. The number of likes on my posts or number of followers I have on my page does not define my worth or my talent. The kind of car I drive or clothes I wear doesn’t make me – me.

I am defined by God. I am His child. His daughter. I am fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. He has created me to do good works that He has prepared in advance for me to do. He knows me. He has a plan for me. He loves me. Always.

It’s time to start living more for God, and less for the world. It’s times to start being less concerned with my own personal agenda, and more concerned with His.

Not only am I going to pay more attention to how I speak to myself, I am also going to pay attention to how I speak to others. I am going to try to use my words to build up, and not tear down. To encourage. To compliment. To love.

The more we use our words for good. The more we let people know how special and important and valued they are. The more we share the love of God. The more these things happen – the more I believe the internal bullies will be replaced by something beautiful and wonderful and good.

Words matter. To myself. To others.

I can be a bully sometimes, but you know what I decided? Not anymore.

I am developing a zero tolerance bullying policy.

Starting today. Starting now.

Who’s with me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Silencing the Joy-Stealing Monster Within

Last week, my baby started kindergarten. This means not only has my son started a new chapter in his life, but I have as well.

For the past 12 years, I have had someone at home with me the majority of the time. Suddenly, I find myself living in the land of freedom. In this new space I am experiencing things like: quiet, the ability to run errands with zero mommy-guilt, freedom to choose how I will spend my day and, amazingly, when I pick something up and put it away – it stays there.

It’s all very foreign to me.

At first, I was lamenting that time had flown by and my babies were no longer home with me. My internal dialogue was more my enemy than my friend. Did I play enough? Read enough? Explore enough? Teach enough? Take advantage of our time together enough?

I quickly silenced that joy-stealing monster. Going down that path leads to more questions and a heavy feeling of guilt. Doesn’t sound very beneficial to me.

And I hope if that joy-stealing monster is knocking on your door – that you refuse to answer, too.

For the past 12 years, I have tried. Honestly – that’s what matters. Right? It definitely wasn’t perfect – not even close. There was room for improvement – as there always is. And I’m sure anybody who is in the business of judging others would have found plenty to say about my parenting.

But, as I said, I tried. And I’m still trying. I will continue trying for as long as I am given the gift of breathing in and breathing out.

And above all – God is with me. I have Him. He knows my flaws and weaknesses and He loves me just the same.

And that is more than enough.

As I begin this new chapter in mamahood, I thank God for the blessing of life’s seasons. I thank God for the time I had with my babies and I thank God I am able to now experience this new space.

One of my hopes and dreams for this time in my life is to be more consistent with my writing. I hope this blog becomes a daily source of inspiration, creativity, affirmation and a reminder that we are all humans – destined to make mistakes, dust off and keep trying. I pray God is glorified through my writing and that my readers leave my page feeling like they sat down for a cup of coffee with a friend and left receiving a little hug.

Thanks for supporting me in this journey.

It really means a great deal more than you will know.

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If you enjoy my ramblings or know of someone else who may – please feel free to share this blog. You can also find me on Facebook @Truly Yours, Jen – Jennifer Thompson, writer  and on Instagram @TrulyYoursJen

 

 

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When the Morning Turns F-Bomb – Disney Style

Have you ever had a moment when you are slightly (or fully) ashamed of how you reacted to something? A moment when you look back at the wellspring of reactions you could have chosen from and think, “Really? That was my choice response?”

I have had that happen. More times than I care to admit. In fact, it’s happening right now.

Something really got to me this morning and instead of deep breathing and putting things in perspective, I was slamming my hands on the counter and throwing F-bombs at my computer.

Yep. I totally was. Thank goodness everyone in the house was still asleep and didn’t have to witness mama going completely off the rails.

Anyone who knows me well, knows profanity doesn’t flow from these lips. Not that I am vehemently opposed to it. In fact, it seems cool to throw a little spice in my vocabulary every now and again (you know, for emotional emphasis), but it just doesn’t come naturally.  It’s not my thing.

Except for this morning. This morning, it was totally my thing.

So, what happened? What went so awry that I felt the need to slam hands and throw F-bombs? Must have been pretty bad, right?

Right? No. It wasn’t bad. Not at all. And that’s where the “Seriously?!” comes into play.

You see, I woke up this morning bright and early with a plan – and when things didn’t go my way, I reacted like a tantrum-throwing toddler. Except, hopefully, most toddlers aren’t throwing F-bombs. Unless that “F” happens to stand for “Fart” – then I could totally see that happening. At least with my kids.

So, what was this plan that went awry?

Well, it started with a spreadsheet. A beautiful spreadsheet carefully laying out all of our vacation plans for a week at the most magical, happiest place on earth. Where? You guessed it. Disney World.

Now here is where I may gain some supporters for my mama meltdown. Any of you who have planned a full-blown Disney vacation with meal plans and Fast Passes know this is no joke. It’s serious business.

And for those of you like myself, this is a far stretch from the typical vacation. Disney is in a league of it’s own.

When I travel with my family, we prefer to wing it. We arrive at our destination with a few ideas of where we may eat and some attractions to check out, but very little other than arrival and departure are solidified. We like to go with the flow. Planning out every detail of a vacation is absolutely NOT our style.

Unless that is – we are traveling to Disney.

Sure, it is possible to go to the most magical place on earth and fly by the seat of your pants, but I just can’t do it. For the amount of money we’re spending, I want to be sure we squeeze out every last bit of magic.

And that was my goal when I woke up this morning – coffee in hand, computer open, phone on the counter ticking off the seconds until the Fast Passes would be mine. I was eager and ready. Come on Disney – Do your magic.

I chose the first date. The little circle spun around and around. YES. This was happening.

Or was it?

Nope. It sure wasn’t.

In the place where my park selections were supposed to be was a single sentence notifying me that there were no available passes at any of the parks for that day. What the?!

I tried again. And again. Each time with the same results.

I will spare you the details, but for the next couple hours I spent a lot of time hitting refresh, trying to get my app to work (to no avail) and an hour listening to Disney park advertisements while I sat on hold waiting to talk to someone – only to find out when they finally did answer that they are not able to help with Fast Pass selections. Who knew?

Finally, it worked. I was able to get my reservations, but it wasn’t without a lot of under the breath muttering, rubbing hands through my hair and various other indicators that I was less than happy with my current circumstance.

What was that circumstance again?

Oh yeah. I wasn’t able to get my Fast Passes when I wanted them. And there, my friend, is where the reality check comes into play. After the Fast Passes were secure and all was again right with the world, I was left with the sad reality of my attitude and behavior. And sad it was.

I mean, come on. Seriously?

This is the definition of a First World problem. And for a couple of hours this morning, this First World problem of the Walt Disney network being down consumed me.

The aftermath? I have my Fast Passes, and if I said I wasn’t happy about that – I would be telling a full blown lie. I’m super stoked about that.  What I’m not happy about is the sorry attitude I had when things didn’t go as planned. Instead of putting things in perspective, I became engulfed in my personal desire to secure these passes for our vacation. Instead of having a heart of gratitude for all that I have, including the ability to go on this incredible vacation, my sole focus was on what I didn’t have.

And this is not how I want to live. This is not where I want my heart to go in those moments. It’s okay to feel frustrated. It was a frustrating situation. But I got lost in my frustration.

My reaction this morning reminds me of the importance of starting my day in prayer and meditation. When I do this, the focus shifts from myself and all of my wants and desires to God and what He may want for my day. When I do this, I am much more apt to say, “Thy will be done.” If I start my day with quiet time, instead of jumping right into my plans –  I am much more apt to roll with the punches.

My reaction this morning reminds me of the importance of keeping a heart of gratitude – regardless of my circumstances. It reminds me  to be grateful for my many blessings and not get so lost in my wants and desires that I lose perspective.

I lost perspective a little bit this morning when things didn’t go my way.

Thankfully, I have it back.

And I hope not to lose it again. Especially not in the “My Disney plans aren’t working out so I’m going to drop F-bombs and throw my hands in the air repeatedly” kind of way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Saying Goodbye

When someone you love is preparing to leave this world, life feels a little funny. Actually, a lot funny.

I’ve been in that funny place for a couple of weeks now and it has made me more acutely aware of what really matters and, on the flip side, what doesn’t really matter. It has also made me realize how precious life is.

It seems so painfully obvious, but incredibly easy to take for granted. The sun rises and sets each day. Every day we wake up and take our breaths. Our hearts beat. We move forward doing the things we do. It can all seem so monotonous at times, but it isn’t really.

It’s a gift. A beautiful gift.

And when you are saying goodbye to someone you love, the reality of the miracle of life and the fragility of life becomes intertwined in a way that is uniquely designated to those moments of loss and grief.

A couple of weeks ago, I drove to Indiana to say goodbye to my mom’s best friend, my godmother, my Aunt Lisa. Although not an Aunt by blood, she has still been family.

When the reel of my life plays back through my mind like a silent motion picture, I see her. When I was roughly four or five years young, I remember my dad leaving us for a period of time and the pain I felt from his absence. This is one of my earliest memories. I also remember my Aunt Lisa walking into the living room with the most magnificent colored pencil set I had ever seen. She knew how much I loved to color and she knew how much I needed those multicolored pencils in that moment. I remember her handing them to me and the joy I felt when I opened the case. What she brought me in that moment wasn’t just colored pencils – it was so, so much more.

From one of my earliest memories to now, this is who Aunt Lisa has always been in my life. She has been a quiet, reassuring presence – bringing my family what we needed, when we needed it most.

I didn’t see her often, but that didn’t matter. Every Christmas and Birthday I would receive a card with money tucked inside and a hand-written message telling me to be sure I used the money to “treat myself” to something fun. She has five children, grandchildren, a large extended family, worked as a nurse and yet she still remembered. And the cards always arrived early. Never late.

I tried for a couple of years to send cards to my nieces and nephews on their Birthdays. After sending multiple cards a few months (not days – months) late, I realized this may not be my strength.

But it is definitely hers. One of her many.

Seeing Aunt Lisa and my mom’s friendship over the years has taught me what true friendship looks like. It shows up whenever needed and stays as long as necessary. It doesn’t ask what needs done – it just does. Friendship of this depth and magnitude arrives with meals and hugs and words and silence. It is a strong presence bringing comfort and joy to anyone around who is fortunate enough to witness it.

Aunt Lisa has been there for the momentous milestones worthy of celebration and for the moments when you realize how precious and fleeting life really is. Birthdays, graduation, showers, weddings. She sat with us in the hospital for hours on end when grandpa was in a coma, after my stepdad had his heart attack, and when mom had her hysterectomy to remove the cancer. And when grandma was at home receiving Hospice care – preparing to, and eventually taking her final breath – Aunt Lisa was there.

And she has been there for the in-between. Playdates with her children when we were young. Meals at Halls restaurant. Parties thrown to celebrate holidays and other special occasions and parties thrown for no reason other than life being worthy of celebrating. Aunt Lisa was there.

And now, Aunt Lisa is in her home, surrounded by her family – preparing to take her final breath. Every day, I wake up and go immediately to my phone to see if I may have missed a call in the night. When the phone rings, my heart skips a beat.

Is this going to be the call letting me know she is gone?

Life feels a little funny right now – but I guess that’s how it is when someone you love is preparing to go home. I am not sad for her. I rejoice for her. She is going to be with Jesus. She is going to a place with no pain or suffering. For her, I rejoice.

But as it is with death, it is for us that are left missing her that I cry. It is for her husband, her children, her grandchildren, her family, her friends – for my mom. For all of us who have been impacted by her loving, kind, funny, generous and steadfast spirit – I cry.

Thank you God for using Aunt Lisa as a conduit of your love. She is my godmother and has done her job well – with her loving, servant heart – she has helped to lift my eyes to you.

When she does go home to You, I imagine she will have quite the homecoming. When I said my goodbyes to her, I thanked her for showing me the love of God. I thanked her for being there for me. She looked into my eyes and said, “I will see you again” and as the tears streamed down my face, I told her I knew that to be true.

I will miss her presence on earth, but someday – I will see her again.

When my time comes, she will be there for my homecoming.

And as she prepares for her homecoming – I pray for those by her bedside. I pray for her husband, children and grandchildren. I pray God gives them the strength they need and that they feel His loving presence surrounding them. And I pray for Aunt Lisa as she prepares to leave her body and make her trip home.

I love you, Aunt Lisa.

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? The earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” – Psalm 73:23-26

Until we meet again……

 

 

 

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Someone Wants to Know Why My Child Goes to Preschool – Here’s Why

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about the mixed emotions I’m feeling as my baby – the youngest of four – is finishing his final days of preschool.

In response to this post, someone commented:

“Why is your child in pre-school and not at home being raised, nurtured, and loved by you, the mother?”

Okay. Wow. Deep breaths. Don’t reply. Wait. Wait.

I knew responding right away would not do any good. This person obviously had their opinion on mothering and I have learned getting into an all-out Facebook comment war is like trying to walk up an escalator that’s headed down – it’s exhausting and doesn’t really get you anywhere.

I decided my best course of action was to  let it go.

The next day, I came back to the comments and saw some ladies had come to my defense (Thank you kind mama bears for showing your claws.) There was some back and forth between them, ending with him saying:

“Again….it is a simple question….would love someone to answer it.”

Okay. You asked for it. Twice. So now I feel I must reply. And being a writer, I cannot reply with a  mere sentence or two. Oh no. I am much more wordy than that.

You want to know why my child is in preschool and not at home being raised, nurtured, and loved by me – the mother?

Ironically, I read your question after I had spent the day with my son. We went to lunch and shared some sushi. We talked. We laughed. And after a brief period of time, he decided our proximity wasn’t close enough and came over to my side of the booth so we could be extra snuggly while we ate.

After lunch, we went shopping for a Birthday present. We browsed for awhile – picking up items and placing them back on the shelves and eventually ended up with a gift he helped me choose. Should I go on?

Okay. I will.

After successfully purchasing the gift, we ventured to the zoo. We walked, talked, pointed enthusiastically, made animal sounds and managed to keep the geese from eating our Dippin’ Dots.

And then I read your comment. In the car (but not while driving, I will still in the parking lot – we don’t need any more judgment here.)

I am pretty sure he felt nurtured and loved by me, the mother, all day long.

I could stop now, but I know that won’t suffice – so I will go on.

The next day, we woke up and I packed his lunch, dressed him and sent him on his way – to preschool.

Why?

Because I know myself and I know him and I honestly believe this is what is best for him.

Gasp. The nerve. How dare I?

There was a short period of time when I thought about homeschooling. It didn’t take long to realize it wasn’t for me or my children.

I have many friends who homeschool and they are amazing. They are dedicated, disciplined and do an exceptional job teaching. They have been called and they have  answered. Do I believe God calls us all to the exact same things in life?  No. Not at all.

Some moms work full-time. Some part-time. Some from home. Some from the office. Others while on the road. Some stay-at-home. Some send their kids to daycare. Others to school – some private and some public. Some homeschool.

Isn’t that awesome?

I love that we are able, with our spouse or significant other, to make choices we believe are best for our families.

Personal choices.

When my son is at preschool, he is learning. He has friends he enjoys and teachers he loves. He comes home excited to tell me about his day. They take him to chapel and teach him about God. They go over their letters and learn silly songs.

I can hear you now, “Why don’t you do that at home?”

Who says I don’t?

I do teach him at home, but it’s more of a teaching through life lessons than actual schooling. I have tried to do worksheets and other fun educational activities and, honestly, it’s not something that comes naturally to me. In fact, it’s hard for me.

I am the mom who suffers from constant distraction. Do you know the book  If You Give A Mouse a Cookie? Totally me. I am distracted by laundry, beds that need made, a house that needs cleaning, dishes that need washed, appointments that need made.

I know myself well enough to know if I homeschooled him, he would not learn as much as he learns at school. To some that may sound like rubbish or hogwash or whatever you want to call it.

For me, it sounds completely accurate.

I know myself well enough to know I would not plan properly, I would not give the time or attention it needs. I would get distracted and ultimately would grow frustrated and resentful.

Yikes. I know.

I’m sorry, but it’s true.

Call me lazy. Call me undisciplined. Call me uncaring. Call me what you will.

I’m telling you – it’s true.

I send my son to preschool two days a week because I believe this is the most loving, nurturing thing that I can do for him knowing his personality and knowing my deficiencies.

I love my children with a fierce love. I tell them daily how much I love them. I hug them. I am available for them. I am trying my best. Some days are better than others – the zoo day was a pretty good one. Not all days are that great, but I am trying.

And do you know what else?  I send my kids to school. I get stuff done. I take a deep breaths. I check some things off my list. I meet with friends. I go for a run. And then I pick them up.

And I am refreshed. And they are smiling. And they are learning. And they are happy.

We all are happy.

This is what works for us.

This isn’t what works for everyone, but it works for us. 

I have four children and not one of them is the same as the other. They are unique little people with their own personalities. Just like my husband and I are unique people. Under our roof, we have six different people who think, feel and respond in their own way to different situations.

Knowing this – it’s up to my husband and I, with prayer and careful consideration, to decide what is best for each member of our family.

And do you know what? It’s okay to start in one direction and end up in another. I have friends who have sent their kids to school and ended up homeschooling. Vice a versa – I have friends who homeschooled and then decided to send their kids to school.

I have friends who have stayed home and decided to go back to work. Vice a versa – I have friends who have quit their jobs to stay home.

And it’s okay to go different directions with different children. One of my children went to preschool for one year and another for three. Why? Because they are different people with different needs.

We are constantly growing and changing and just because we set out on one course, that doesn’t mean we aren’t able to change direction.

And the same goes for me. If at some point I feel called to go back to work full-time, or part-time, or even pull my kids out of school and start homeschooling them – that’s up to my husband and I.

If all parents, children and family units were the same – then they would be handing us a Parenting Handbook for All People and Situations that is Sure to Produce the Same Incredible Results when we leave the hospital, but that is impossible because we are all uniquely created and no two people are the same. No two children are the same.

No two families are the same.

And parenting is hard enough without the judgement of others.

Kudos to the moms who work part-time.

Kudos to the moms who work full-time.

Kudos to the moms who stay home.

Kudos to the moms who teach their children at home.

Kudos to the moms who send their kids to school.

Keep on keepin’ on mamas. You are doing a fantastic job. It isn’t always easy. It isn’t always pretty. It looks different for everyone. Don’t compare yourselves to other mamas. Trust that God will give you the tools and the wisdom you need and remember, if you start on one course and it isn’t working for you – it’s okay to course correct. Sometimes that’s necessary.

And to anyone who wants to know why my child isn’t being raised, nurtured or loved by me- the mother – I would say that is an unfair question. You don’t know me. You don’t know my children. You don’t know my heart. If you did, I believe you would say they are being raised, nurtured and loved by both me and their father. I don’t doubt for one second my children know how much we love them. I don’t doubt they feel nurtured and cared for. I clean their boo-boos. I snuggle with them. I listen to them. I answer their questions. I attempt to guide them. And more importantly – they know the ultimate love that never fails comes from their Heavenly Father. My husband and I are guaranteed to mess up in this lifetime, but He is not. So we will just keep pointing them to Him.

And in the future, to those who feel compelled to ask the question I was asked, I would be careful. You never know where someone has come from or what they may be struggling with. I know moms who have lost their spouse. I know moms whose husbands have lost their jobs. I know moms whose marriages have fallen apart. I know moms who would like to stay home, but are not able to and that question may be like a dagger to the heart.

To all of you mamas out there, as I said before – keep on keepin’ on. Keep doing your mom thing. Do what is best for you and your family and don’t let the judgement of others weigh you down.

I know I’m not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If Home is Where Your Heart Is…….

Moving is hard.

Don’t get me wrong – I fully trust we are where we are meant to be.

I love our new home and our new town. I also miss our old home and our old town.

I have met some amazing people and am beginning to form friendships. I see a lot of potential, but developing close friendships takes time and we haven’t put in the time yet.

I miss the ease. I miss the comfort. I miss looking into someone’s eyes and really knowing who they are. Knowing their back story. Knowing their heart. Knowing their dreams. Knowing their struggles.

I miss the knowing.

I still think of Westfield as home, but I also think of Nolensville as home. Weird. Right?

Sometimes, it feels like I am living with one foot in Indiana and one in Tennessee. Go, Go Gadget Legs. That’s a pretty far way to stretch.

Where we live now is absolutely beautiful. It’s hilly and lush with long winding roads and pastures filled with cows grazing and chickens clucking. It’s warm. It has great culture, amazing food, a sweet downtown and music to keep me dancing for days. It’s close to mountains and less than seven hours from the ocean.

Where we live now is pretty incredible.

Where we live now is also unfamiliar. I still rarely know where I am or where I’m going. I am directionally challenged and trust my internal compass as much as I would trust the Hamburglar next to a platter of burgers fresh off the grill. Consequently, I rely on Google way too much and am not really learning how to get anywhere.

Where we came from is familiar. When we go back to Indiana, I am comforted by this feeling of familiarity. I don’t really realize how much I miss that feeling, until I am feeling it again. I can tell you where I am. I can tell you how to get somewhere. I can envision a map in my head and I can see where the people I love live on that map. If I were to draw out the map, it would show a ton of little hearts marking the houses of the ones we love.

Like I said before, I don’t doubt for one minute we are where we are meant to be. I trust fully in God’s plan. I can see how He is working in my heart. I can see how He is using this. In my life. In my husband’s life. In my children’s lives.

I am grateful for this experience. I am grateful for this change. It’s been good – but is still hard.

We made a quick trip back to Indiana this weekend for our niece’s graduation. It wasn’t well planned and was filled with spontaneity.  The opposite of how this Type-A personality usually rolls.

It made my heart happy. And it made my heart sad. Whenever we go back home, I wish we had more time. There are so many people I want to see. There is so much I want to do.

And I can’t. We can’t.

There just isn’t enough time to squeeze it all in.

And this is hard for me. I leave with the weight of the feeling that I have let people down. That I have disappointed people in some way.

I am in a space where my main focus is the kids. What do they need? What is best for their little hearts?  And that usually leads us back to Westfield – back to the familiarity. Back to the comfort and joy that we felt in our old town – in our old neighborhood. We can sit in the backyards of loved ones and feel for a minute like we are still there. The kids run from house to house, ringing on doorbells and gathering friends for an outdoor game or two.

It feels like we’ve never left.

And it feels like we’ve been gone for a long time.

Kids are bigger. Changes have been made to homes. Someone has a new haircut. Or a new car. Restaurants are gone. New ones stand in their place.

It’s the same.

But it’s different.

For those of you we weren’t able to see when we were home, please know it isn’t because we don’t love you. Please know it isn’t because we don’t care. Because we do care – a lot. We are just still in a weird place. We are still figuring this out.

And it’s hard. My heart feels pulled in so many directions.

As we are driving back now and the terrain is changing from flat to hilly – I am ready to get back home. And, at the same time, I feel like I just left home.

If home is where your heart is – then in this moment it feels like I have two homes. Because my heart is definitely in both places. I guess it’s like when you have children. When a new child is born, you don’t love your other children less –

your heart just stretches and expands in ways you never knew possible.

You don’t love less – your capacity to love just grows.

 

 

 

 

 

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When Lockdown Happens

Last Thursday, I pulled into the pick-up line at the end of the school day – as I always do. And my daughter walked to the car – as she always does. But something was different.

Something was wrong.

She opened the car door as the words came pouring out of her mouth.

“Did you hear what happened? Did they tell you?”

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

“No. I haven’t heard anything. What happened? Are you okay?”

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

“The school went on lockdown.”

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

“Why? Is everyone okay?”

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

The words poured from her mouth as she explained what happened in full detail. It began with an announcement over the PA system. The words spoken over the PA were few, but the reactions the words caused were swift.

“We are on lockdown. This is not a drill. We are on lockdown. This is not a drill.”

Silence. Movement. Waiting. Silence. Tears.

My daughter went on to describe how the teacher locked the door, turned off the lights and ushered everyone to the corner of the room.

He stood in front of them.

They had been through this before. They knew what to do. Only this time was different. This time it was not a drill.

Kids were crying.

She knew her teacher was scared by the look in his eyes, but he remained calm – as heroes do. Reminding them of the importance of their silence.

My daughter said she knew she had to be quiet, so she let the tears fall from her eyes, down her cheeks, but did not make a peep for fear that someone outside of the room may hear.

Someone accidentally dropped his crutch. More crying. Would this bring someone to their room?

In the middle of her telling me this story, she looked up at me with her big blue eyes and said, “Mom. I have never been so afraid in all of my life.”

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

What do I say? How do I respond?

“I’m so sorry, honey. I can’t imagine how scary that had to have been. Then, what happened?”

After the lockdown was over, she was told there had been a fight close to the school and someone had a gun. As a precaution, the police told the schools in the surrounding areas they had to go on lockdown. She was told the altercation took place in a small, new neighborhood.

She said she spent the rest of the day wondering if that was our neighborhood. Wondering if her brother and I were okay. Wondering if I would be there to pick her up.

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

My daughter and I spent the remainder of the car ride home talking about what happened. She vented. I listened.

For a few minutes that day – my daughter, her classmates, the teachers and staff believed there was a chance their lives, and the lives of their loved ones, may be taken from them.

This is the reality that teachers, administrators, students and countless others who work in the school system face.

These people are heroes.

My daughter’s teacher had no idea what was happening. He didn’t know who was out there. He pushed the kids into the corner and stood in front of them. Ready to give his life for theirs.

These people are heroes.

When I picked up the girls from the elementary school, I found out the same thing had happened there.

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

Another one of my daughters described how they went into the cubby room and she held the hand of the friend across from her while two friends on each side of her snuggled in. They all grabbed coats and covered their bodies for extra protection.

As she recounted her experience, it took everything for me to not break down.

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

For a few minutes that day – my daughters, their classmates, the teachers and the staff believed there was a chance their lives, and the lives of their loved ones, may be taken from them.

And then, on Sunday, I awoke to the news that not far from our house – four innocent people’s lives were taken at a Waffle House.

The killer was still on the loose.

I contemplated not going to church. Not sending my kids to school. What if that drill becomes a reality? What if?

And then I was reminded of what I am reminded of so often, I cannot live my life in fear. I cannot teach my children to live their lives in fear.

I have to be brave. We have to be brave.

We have to remain positive.

There are so many more good people than bad in the world.

I need to remember that. We need to remember that.

Thank you to all of you heroes out there.

Thank you to the school workers who go through these drills with the knowledge that someday it may not be a drill.

Thank you to the police officers who rush into these situations, ready to save lives – and possibly give their own.

These people are heroes.

Thankfully, there are so many more heroes out there than bad guys. This is what I hope to teach my children. This very possibly may not be the only time they hear the words, “We are on lockdown. This is not a drill.”

I hope it is, but it may not be.

Deep breaths. One. Two. Three.

Thank you, God, for these drills so that if the moment comes, these heroes know what to do. Thank you, God, for surrounding us with so many people who are willing to take action. Thank you, God, for those who are willing to surrender their lives to save the lives of others.

Thank you, God, for surrounding us with so many heroes.

Thank you to the heroes in both of my children’s schools last Thursday. You did not know what was outside of your doors and you were ready to protect. To possibly give your lives – for my children.

Thank you. From the very bottom of my heart and with all of my being – Thank you.

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When Fear Takes Hold

Some people are afraid of bees. Others, of sharks. Some, of flying.

Abandonment. Rejection. Loneliness.

Growing old.

Failure. Change. Heights.

Losing a loved one.

Sickness.

Death.

The list is long, exhausting – and varies from person to person.

For some, the fear is like a siren that stops them in their tracks. It’s debilitating. It’s life-altering. It demands their course be corrected before they reach impending doom.  It keeps them locked in their home, afraid to step outside. It keeps them from getting on an airplane. It keeps them from trying something new.

For others, it’s a small whisper in their ear, warning them of potential danger. It comes and then it goes, like a gust of wind on a blustery day.

“Don’t swim too far out in the ocean. You’ve seen Jaws. You know what’s out there.”

“Don’t attempt that. You’ll never succeed.”

“Why would you want to change? Stay nice and comfortable where you are. You don’t know what exists on the other side.”

And for some, it is like a thorn in the side. A constant, gnawing feeling that some type of danger is lurking around the corner – waiting patiently for the right moment to strike. It’s a feeling in the pit that is carried around from day to day and just won’t go away.

There are many ways to describe it and many people who struggle with it.

Anxiety.And I am one of those people.

Photo credit: PracticalCures.co

I have always been a slightly anxious person. I have learned over the years how to deal with my anxiety. Usually, I realize I am being irrational and am able to work it out until the fear is gone. I have learned how to take many of my anxious thoughts captive and replace them with something fruitful.

Usually.

But not so much lately.

Since moving, I have found my anxiety bubbling to the surface more often usual.

In fact, in October, I had my second-ever panic attack.

I was at a lovely restaurant enjoying a delectable meal with family before heading to a concert. We had a sitter for the evening. My dad was in town. I had been looking forward to this night for a long time.

My food arrived. I began to eat. And as I was eating, an uncomfortable feeling started to well up inside of me. I found it more and more difficult to concentrate on the conversation (and it was a good one.) I felt sick to my stomach and itchy and was certain I must be allergic to something I was eating. In my mind, it was only a matter of minutes before my throat would close. I told everyone I thought I was having an allergic reaction (and I was convinced that I was.) The food was rushed away and off people went in search of some Benadryl.

I felt awful. And embarrassed.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized what had happened was not an allergic reaction at all, but was indeed a panic attack.

I am still not sure what brought it on, but I do know it was awful.

I know God gave us fear for a reason and that the fight-or-flight response in the proper situation is actually a good thing. Recognizing and avoiding potential harm is what keeps us and those we care for alive. If I see my toddler who can’t swim walking toward a pool without a life jacket on, I should be scared. This fear motivates me to jump out of my seat and save my child from jumping in. This fear saves my child from death. This is proper fear.

But sometimes, this fear – this anxiety – shows up at inappropriate times (like when you are at dinner with your family.) Sometimes, it revs up and gets stuck in overdrive. Sometimes, the fight-or-flight response has been turned on and just won’t turn off. And this can lead to all sorts of problems. Cortisol levels skyrocket. Sleep diminishes. Weight gain. Heart disease. Diabetes. Thyroid problems. Depression. Digestive problems. The list goes on…..

But that list isn’t what I have been worried about. Nope.

I’m not afraid of bees or sharks or flying or the effects of anxiety on my body.

What I am afraid of is a pandemic.

This is why I don’t like anything that has to do with zombies. It’s not so much that they are creepy dead guys who make horrible sounds and try to eat people (although I don’t like that either) – it’s the virus component of the fictional walking dead that scares me most and keeps me from tuning in to the movies, shows and books that so many love.

This is why I have never watched the movie ‘Contagion’, nor do I have any desire to. That plot line terrifies me.

And this fear of mine is what has been plaguing me for the past few weeks. The move increased my anxiety and the flu has kicked it into overdrive. This widespread influenza virus has awoken the anxiety-beast within.

It is a constant battle in my brain. With three out of our four children suffering from asthma and other lung issues, influenza is normally a rival of mine – but this year, it’s my arch enemy.

I keep attempting to turn it over to God. To let it go. I don’t want to be afraid. I want to trust. I need to trust.

But it just keeps popping up.

The only thing that seems to give me peace in these moments of fear and anxiety is if I remind myself that this is not our home. That in this world we are promised pain and suffering, but not in heaven. If I change my perspective from the here and now to the eternal, my anxiety diminishes. If I remember that we all have a time when we will die (this is inevitable) and if I remember that I do not know this time, but God does. If I remember that my children are actually HIS children and that He loves them so much more than even I do. If I remember that same thing about my husband – then my anxiety diminishes.

 

I don’t want to be afraid. I don’t want to worry about influenza.

I don’t want to be anxious.

I am trying not to watch the news, or read articles as much as possible. We are taking our elderberry extract and Oscillococcinum and a cocktail of other vitamins. When the kids come home from school, they change their clothes and hand washing is our new favorite past-time.

I am praying. Lots.

This is all I can do. The rest is out of my hands.

I trust in the goodness of God. I know He does not want me to be anxious. And I don’t want to be either.

And the crazy thing is that one of our daughters already tested positive for influenza this year. We all were put on Tamiflu  prophylactically and nobody else caught it. If someone else gets the flu, we would do the same thing again. God answered our prayers and Amelia was fine. My rational mind goes back to that and remembers there is nothing to be afraid of. And then I see something scroll across my newsfeed, or hear someone cough and the anxiety creeps back in.

If you get a chance, will you say a little prayer that my anxiety will dissipate? And if this year’s influenza virus has you all topsy-turvy and what-iffy, let me know and I will say a little prayer for you and your family, too.

I’m not afraid of bees or sharks or flying. And I’m hoping to add influenza to that list too.

 

 

 

 

 

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Imperfection and Half-Eaten Birthday Cake

Sometimes it feels like too much.

There is a constant list of to-dos running through my head. Items that need checked off.

One. By. One.

For example:

The girls need new eyeglasses. That prescription has been in my wallet for a couple of months. I hope it’s still there. I’m sure it’s still good. Those things have a year before they expire, right?

My daughter needs to visit the orthodontist. I’ve had to call and cancel three times already because of sickness. Why do people always seem to get sick when someone needs to be at the orthodontist? Now I’m embarrassed to call again. Do I pick a new one? Or make the call of shame? Is it three strikes and you’re out?

I think we’re almost out of milk. I hope they have organic. The last time they were running low. And they need to drink organic, right? Aren’t the hormones causing all of this early-puberty nightmare? We have three girls and a boy. Three girls. We don’t need anybody entering puberty early. Not if we can help it.

 

My daughter’s Birthday party is tomorrow. At our house. And I haven’t cleaned a thing. Or set up anything. In fact, I am serving half a frozen Birthday cake that is leftover from when we celebrated her Birthday a few days ago. How embarrassing. What mom serves half a cake? And it doesn’t even say her full name anymore. It just says “lah.”

I hope everyone drops off so nobody has to witness this, but honestly why would I let all of that cake go to waste? It’s good cake. And it was expensive. I’m not throwing it away and I’m not taking the time to make a new one. That’s just crazy. Definitely not a Pinterest party AT ALL. The shame.

My daughter needs new basketball shorts. I’m so glad she made the team. Oh yea – I need to write down that schedule. We have to be at all of the games. Have to. All of them. And sometimes we should bring signs. But maybe that will embarrass her….we’ll see about the signs.

Thanksgiving is next week. Time to think about what to prepare. Remember what happened to the last turkey? Total National Lampoons Christmas vacation. Can’t do that again. Must. Not. Overcook. I should YouTube how to make a turkey. Or Pinterest. Or something.

I haven’t purchased any Christmas gifts yet. Oh no.

When I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw how my friend reads lengthy wonderful enriching classic novels to her daughter at night. I’ve always wanted to do that. But I am so tired at bedtime. I fall asleep during the snuggles. But it would be so good for them if we read together more. I will work on that next week. It needs to be a priority.

 

And it’s time to have “the talk” with my daughter. Ugh. What if someone else beat me to it already? What if she learned about it on the bus? The horror. Need to Google some good books and come up with a plan. Definitely a priority. As long as the plan isn’t for me to read with her at night – because then I will fall asleep. Better come up with a different plan.

But what about the laundry and the cleaning and the doctors appointments and when someone is sick and just needs snuggles? What about making meals? What about the errands that need run? And helping at the school? And working out? I can’t forget to take care of myself.

What about?

What about?

Time for deep breaths.

Breathe.

 

Let’s try again.

What about just trying my best?

What about knowing that I will not get everything done today that needs done?

What about understanding, expecting and coming to peace with the fact that the list will always be there?

It’s part of living.

It’s part of raising a family.

It’s about priorities.

It’s about balance.

It’s about knowing when to work your tail off – and knowing when you need to spend time playing a board game or snuggling on the couch with your little one.

It’s not about perfection.

Nobody is perfect. As parents, we WILL mess up. It’s inevitable. It’s okay.

To all of you parents who could relate to this post in one way or another – keep up the tremendous work. Some days may be harder than others. Some days are Pinterest days and others are serve half-eaten Birthday cake kind of days – and that’s okay.

The more half-eaten Birthday cakes that are served, the more it takes the pressure off the other parents.

I will look at this cake I am serving as a contribution to other parents. Now they can say, “Well at least my cake was a whole cake.”

And do you know what? In the long run, our kids aren’t going to remember every small detail anyways.

What our kids will remember is we were there. We tried. And we weren’t perfect.

It’s time to embrace imperfection.

We all have our strengths and things that come naturally to us and we all have our weaknesses.

And when the time comes for our children to raise their own families – they will hopefully find peace in knowing we messed up. We weren’t perfect and they aren’t perfect either.

And they don’t have to be.

Nobody is.

And that’s okay.

In fact it’s more than okay – it’s liberating.

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I would love to hear from you. Tell me about your half-eaten cake moment. Post pictures. Let’s encourage one another to embrace our beautiful imperfection.

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