How to Not Drown in Your Crappies

fall-1Samuel is napping while I fluff up our home with festive touches of fall and consider the season of Thanksgiving that’s approaching. I don’t know about you but I often fight gratitude with reasons. With cold hard facts and cruel reality. I have my reasons for being bitter and resentful and unhappy.. Don’t we all? Life can be a real beat down. But I’m learning that truly being grateful for my life isn’t just giving thanks that my “happies” outnumber my “crappies” – it’s often a fight for the right priorities. What things, of all the list of happies and crappies really matters? Long term. Big picture. Eternal perspective. That shift in focusing on priorities helps me so much when I’m struggling to be grateful. It also helps when I remember that I’m not supposed to endure crappies all by myself.

Listen to me – You will drown in your crappies if you’re trying to go it alone.

Here’s what you do to avoid drowning:

1. Get to know God. Study Jesus. – This sounds so “woo woo wacko” if you’re not someone who thinks about or cares much about who God is or isn’t. It also may sound like 2 steps but they’re one in the same. This is a crucial step. Why? Well, if for no other reason than you were made in His image. He put you together so if you have beef with Him or questions about stuff that’s true of you/been done to you/you’ve done to others – start the conversation by pursuing Him. *Spoiler alert – He’s already and always pursuing you. So, you’re about 15…20… FOREVER years behind. It’s OK though, totally worth jumping in and getting to it. I recommend picking up a Bible and reading the book of John – it’s in the New Testament, 4th book down if you’re looking at the Table of Contents.

The more you learn about God, the more you understand about yourself. I do this by reading the Bible on a regular basis, praying, and talking to other people about just about anything from God to parenting to careers to hobbies etc. Which leads me to my second tip to avoid drowning in your own crappies

2. Let yourself be known by other people. – Full disclosre: I’m bad at this. All of my closest friends (spouse included) will tell you I’m bad at this. I have a tendency to hide behind all of my happies, sweep the crappies under the rug until they explode and then it’s like a shitstorm. Pardon my french but it’s a quite accurate metaphor is it not? When you let other people know when you’re hurt, angry, lonely, scared, or confused you may be amazed to discover they still love you any way. EVEN ALL OF YOUR CRAPPIES. Use caution with who you let into your shitstorm though because it ain’t a pretty place and you need the real troopers who will wade in and pull you out without feeling the need to pinch their nose.

fall-2So if you’re like me and you’re so super excited about Fall and PSL and OMG CRUNCHY LEAVES but you’re kind of feeling a little (or a lot) like you’re drowning in crappies, it may behoove you to dive into the aforementioned steps and see what happens. Maybe by the time Thanksgiving rolls around you will be able to lift your glass at the obligatory “thankful toast” and experience in your heart – real and abiding gratitude for the life you’re living right now.
Advertisements

Be a Household that Remembers

I wrote a poem this morning while shoveling cheerios at my son and sipping my morning coffee because every year Memorial Day makes me stop – even when the world around me doesn’t. So much was given and so much was taken by the sacrifice of the men and women who died protecting the United States. Freedom and restoration was given, birthdays and anniversaries were taken. May you and yours be a household that remembers. And if you hold the ache of Memorial Day in your heart and home every day – Thank you. I am so sorry for your loss and cannot imagine your -pain. May you find in America a nation that cares about your sorrow.

——
Memorial Day Candles
Be a household that remembers
take some time, brief or long.
Consider the blood of sons and daughters
dripping from our freedom song.
Tell your children about sacrifice,
teach your students about respect.
Light a candle, say a prayer,
close your eyes and just reflect.
War is hell, there is no doubt,
it tears and burns and kills.
It seeps into a quiet home,
and leaves an aching chill.
Take a moment to enter into the pain,
and allow yourself to feel.
Every bullet fired, every IED,
every shock that made bodies reel.
From open fields of massacre,
to jungles, huts, and trenches.
Men and women entered in,
as our nation’s brave defenses.
Carried home in boxes, greeted by moans and wails,
hands caress the smooth wooden beams
and words have and will continue to fail.
We cannot bear the burden that so many families do today,
but let’s just set aside politics and divisions and humbly say,
“His sacrifice mattered. She will never be forgotten. And we will take care of you.”
Be a household that remembers
take some time, brief or long.

Thank you for Thanksgiving: A Tribute to the Hostess

The Kids Table, Circa 1994.

The Kids Table, Circa 1994.

Dear Grandma Barbara,

For as long as I can remember, sitting in the backseat of the family van or  in Dad’s “banana boat” grand marquis, we would take the windy roads back to “the Farm.” As the tires crunched the gravel and the dogs barked we all clamored out of the car to participate in a family greeting that would take at least 5 minutes. We would hug and exclaim, “Good to see you!”, we would scratch behind the dog’s ears, get lost in one of Pop-Pop’s bear hugs ’til we finally found our way up to the porch.

Sometimes you would be standing there at the screen door, eyes laughing, face lighting up and flour on your apron. Most times we would find you in the kitchen, bustling around from fridge to counter to stove to fridge to sink and back to counter.

You always opened your arms to us, inviting us into a warm hug spiced with turkey seasonings and pumpkin pie.

As we played away the afternoons on go-karts (which mysteriously seemed to get smaller with each passing year 😉 ), you would still be bustling and setting places, preparing and taste-testing. We wandered through the acres, exploring creeks and getting leaves stuck in our shoelaces, building up an appetite to end all appetites.

Eventually the words “Dinner’s ready!” would tickle our chilled ears and we’d race back inside to tables that were neatly arranged with lace tablecloths and shiny silverware. We always walked right past the pies as they were laid out neatly by the front door, taunting our tastebuds and daring us to skip the turkey.

As our large family scrunched into the dining room, a few stragglers in the foyer, dad would usually give thanks to God for family and life and health and all the other things we take for granted. I have to say though that when you read straight from the Book of Common Prayer a few years ago, tears filling your words and spilling onto your blouse, I had never felt the presence of God more clearly in that familiar and sacred dining room. Thank you for praying and for believing.

When we were all just a bunch of mop-headed rascals with no spouses or kids in tow, we sat in another room, making your fine crystal goblets sing as our fingers danced on the rims. There may have been a few times when food was tossed around and many a roll was fought over. Sorry for all of those messes.

Even after your grandkids’ shoulders broadened, and their legs lengthened and were eventually filling up your door frames, you rose to the challenge of filling teenage bellies, and finally setting a table for almost twice the number of people as we introduced significant others to “Thanksgiving on the Farm.”

This is the first year we won’t be tucking in a Thanksgiving feast around that familiar dining room together. So I wanted to tell you, thank you. Thank you for all of those feasts and for all of the preparation and for making a place that encouraged togetherness, conversation, and laughter. I don’t think I ever really thanked you enough. Not just for the turkey and pies and place settings, but for your spirit and your warmth that filled up your home.

Thank you for praying and taking care of us. All of us.

I know as the years pass that we will begin new Thanksgiving traditions with our families. We will set new tables with old recipes and invite loved ones into our homes. I just wanted to tell you that I am immeasurably grateful that you were the mastermind behind my childhood Thanksgivings. You have laid in me a foundation of warmth, cheer, hospitality and spunk. Grandma Barbara, you have played a special role in shaping me into the woman I am today and I should have told you this a long time ago.

I love you.

Thank you for everything.

Thank you for Thanksgiving.

Rachel

Putting gifts in their place.

Christmas Morning, 2013. <3

Christmas Morning, 2013. ❤

“And he said to them, ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” – Luke 12:15 (italics mine)

I came across this verse on the same week I began my Christmas shopping. Not exactly the angle that most advertisers are taking on the holiday season, but it’s one that’s been ringing in my ears as I browse through shelves of toys and dig around the Target dollar spot (because bargains make my world go ’round, y’all).

The ads and commercials and billboards are pulling out all the stops, per the usual: BUY MORE, SAVE MORE!  or SPEND MORE, WORRY LESS! <– What?! Can we just stop and think about that slogan for a minute?

Meanwhile, Jesus’ words bounce around my brain, calmly stating the obvious, per the usual: “Your stuff is not your life, Rachel.”

That includes the stuff I give to other people. You know, like, Christmas present stuff.

I’m spending Thanksgiving with my family this year and since I won’t be able to see my nieces around Christmas, I’m passing along their presents to my sister and bro-in-law for safekeeping. Who knows if the presents will make it back to their home unopened or not, but if I become known as the aunt who brings Christmas early, well. I’m OK with that. 😉

Every time I get to see my family I am completely undone in anticipation. I can’t wait to scoop up my nieces and nephews and blow bubbles on their bellies and sing Frozen with them to give their long-suffering parents a break. I’m excited to pester my brother about his beard and listen to my sisters talk about their writing endeavors and eat everything my mom makes (because her work is ALL MAGICAL) and share a cup of coffee with my dad. The list of all the things I’m most excited about have absolutely nothing to do with stuff. For the record, my mom’s cooking doesn’t count as “stuff”  because again, IT IS MAGIC.

I know that Jesus is not anti-stuff or anti-gift-giving because as He was walking the earth He appreciated when people gave Him gifts (Mark 14:6) and He encourages those who follow Him to give freely to one another out of love. I also know I worship a God who is generous and delights to give to His children (James 1:17).

So, when Jesus tells me my life is not about my stuff, He isn’t telling me to never buy gifts for my loved ones, He’s warning me of the slippery mindset that tells me I have to prove something through those gifts. 

If I’m not careful, I start to use gifts as a means to make up for all the insecurities I carry around about how not-perfect I am.

“I don’t call home enough during the year so I better buy mom and dad something awesome for Christmas.” “I hardly ever see my nieces and nephews so buying them incredible gifts is the only chance I have to be known as a cool aunt.”

I get tangled up inside about how inadequate and not good enough my gifts are, how they fall short of really communicating how I feel. When really, I’m focusing on all the wrong things.

The truth is, you won’t find great conversations or heartfelt apologies wrapped up and sitting under the Christmas tree this year. No one is going to bottle your children’s laughter and slip it into your stocking or present you with a DVD of all the uneventful Wednesday afternoons you spent cleaning or working or emailing. Yet that’s what your life consists of — unpredictable moments of happiness, seasons of deep pain, and ordinary days made possible by the grace of an extraordinary God. 

By all means, buy some fun gifts for your loved ones, wrap them up in neat little packages and place them under the tree. But let’s leave them to be the happy icing on the cake of the really good “stuff” in our lives. Let’s bring all of our insecurities and not-good-enoughness to the table and simply enjoy the company of people who are (praise be to God) just as insecure and not-good-enough.

If we can’t find time to just love and be loved this Holiday season, we’ve completely missed the point of Christmas:

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

 

 

Somewhere, today.

Somewhere in this nation, on the dawn of Memorial Day there is a dad sitting on a porch with two beers next to him. One beer will remain untouched as he reminisces about the young man who used to tease him about his balding head and toast to the damn Yankees.

Somewhere a young woman wakes up to a babbling toddler and whining infant. Tucking them into patriotic garb with star-spangled bows and ruffle-bottomed onesies, she pauses just long enough for a single tear to trace her cheek. He would have loved seeing them like this- unruly and covered in sticky Cheerios and uninhibited by the world. But he’s not here. And he never will be. He won’t dance with them on their wedding day or promise to protect them from the boogie man. He’s gone. And she desperately misses him.

Somewhere there is a mom staring out her kitchen window as she makes her morning coffee. She was so proud of her, IS so proud of her. She remembered the moment her sweet girl sat down next to her, only 3 short years ago and said, “Mom. I’ve decided to join the Marines.” She remembered the fear and the “What If’s” that flooded her heart that were equally matched by pride and amazement at the young woman she had become. So she bought the bumper stickers and stuck out her American flag and cheered her through boot camp. She sent her off with oven-baked cookies and extra pairs of underwear and she prayed. And she prayed and she prayed. This morning she sits down with a sigh and trembles with grief. Her husband puts his hand on her shoulder and together they quietly cry out in pain. 

Every year this day rolls around and we as a nation have the opportunity to say “Thank you.” To toast with the father, to be an extra pair of hands for the young mom and share some home-baked cookies with the older couple. We don’t just show gratitude but deep and abiding respect for these families. We acknowledge that the burden we talk about today, is a reality that they carry with them in every waking moment. Remembrance, for us, is a long weekend. For them, it’s a long road of sleepless nights and painfully slow healing. 

There’s nothing wrong with grilling out and enjoying the weather and taking some lakeside selfies today. Long weekends are a blessing in a lot of ways and provide great opportunities to connect with those we love. 

There’s also nothing wrong with taking a moment of silence to remember the fallen. The flag-draped coffins, and the ones who followed them to the cemetery. 

Yet however you choose to spend this day, don’t let it be marked by apathy or guilt. The men and women who never came home knew that they may never come home. It’s up to us to meet that bravery by living lives of intentionality. By treating our freedom as a blessing, not an entitlement. May we be privileged with the task of caring for our military families and telling them today, and every day, that we are with them and for them. 

Happy Memorial Day, America!

Land of the free because of the brave.

Grace Makes Room

Forgive my fickle faith, Lord.

How it ebbs and flows with the tides of this world.

Forgive my cries of “Hosanna!” that melted into “Crucify Him!’

Forgive the blackness of my heart, shrouded in suffocating robes of sin.

Forgive my spit upon your face, my doubt that sheaths your grace.

Forgive my bitter spirit for producing such toxic words of hate.

Forgive my finger-pointing, and my pouting when you ask me to wait.

Forgive those thoughts that I entertain, that belong in the depths of hell.

Forgive those sins I love to hold. The ones you know so well.

Forgive my small attempts at reconciliation as I silently plot revenge.

Forgive my limping heart as it struggles to make amends.

Forgive the twisted humor that delights my depraved mind.

Forgive the state of my weakened resolve, forgive the mess within me that you find.

Oh God! How you forgave me this, and things I won’t even say out loud.

How you forgave this girl, this hypocrite, cheering in the crowd.

Oh how deep the grace that poured from the veins of your own Son.

Oh how blind, and mute, and deaf to your suffering I was.

Yet no rivers made from tears of my regret, will overwhelm this flood of grace.

For though I mourn on Friday, yet on Sunday I’ll see your face!

Sweet Lord whose blood was spilled on wood to set this captive free,

Thank you for not turning from the road to Calvary.

If it was I in your shoes, I know I would have changed my course.

But only you know the pain and joy of perfect love, for  you alone are its source.

Teach me Spirit, day by day, to turn away from lies.

Teach me how to see the world through my kind Savior’s eyes.

Teach me how to die to self, with Christ as my example.

Bring me to repentance when my sin, on Him, does trample.

Bring me to the foot of the cross, but don’t let me forget the empty tomb.

Remind me to rise up again, for every sinner, grace makes room.

 

 

Resolved: Step Outside

If ever there is a good time to seriously consider your life and how you might live it more purposefully, it’s the New Year. But sometimes I feel anxious around this time of year, especially this year. The last few months of 2013 have kicked me in the gut and while I’m ready for a new year.. I’m also completely unprepared for a new year.

The reality is, whether 2014 is marked by high-fives or facepalms, belly laughs or choking sobs, all of it will be lived out under the umbrella of amazing grace. I will laugh, think, swear, apologize, entertain, cry, sleep, whine, worship, fail, succeed, accomplish, dream, doubt, inspire, and love this year. It won’t be perfect but if all the preceding years tell us anything, it will be life-changing.

Yet lasting life change doesn’t usually manifest itself in the sparkly and bright wishes for a prosperous, healthy, and comfortable new year. In my experience, change is usually difficult and almost always uncomfortable. Even when it’s good! Like getting married, for example. The wedding planning can be a bear but the day-in day-out of being married and slogging through hard times together etc.. that’s really really hard sometimes. John and I have experienced many uncomfortable growing pains in our relationship this year, but those growing pains have served to carve out more room for a deeper love and a sweeter friendship.

At times, this year will likely be a mess. If at some point during 2014 you don’t feel a little bit uncomfortable I would propose that you aren’t exhausting the year of it’s potential, because you aren’t discovering your own! There’s always more to a person and it exists just beyond their comfort zone. I know that few people will start this New Year and think, “I’m resolved to be uncomfortable!”

But what if we were?

Being unemployed is uncomfortable (don’t misunderstand me, I’m not resolving to remain unemployed!). Social situations and small talk  make my palms sweat because people want to know “What you do” and I’d just rather not talk about it. It’s uncomfortable. But it’s also been really humbling and eye-opening for me. Sure, I get a front row seat to my insecurities (Yes! Best seat EVER) but I also get a front row seat to the grace of God, the kindness of friends, and the power of prayer.

I’ve also noticed that being uncomfortable in a circumstance for long enough eventually leads to an expanded comfort zone. Sooner or later, we’ll stop being uncomfortable in that situation and another opportunity will arise to take us one step further. And another. And another. Until we look around and think, “WOW. My world has gotten so much bigger and fuller and harder and sweeter… because I chose to step outside of it.”

This year, if you make resolutions, why not throw in an uncomfortable one? Maybe there’s a relationship that needs reconciling, a career change that’s long overdue, or one dream that you’ve thought about a million times but are too scared to even begin moving towards.

I have a handful of resolutions this year and some of them start right outside my comfort zone.

This one, for example:

I resolve to perform again. Somewhere, somehow. Be it theater, dance, or music — it’s time to enjoy the stage again.

Gulp.

I am an entertainer at heart but I am scared out of mind to put myself out there, guys. I don’t know if it means walking into a dance studio and letting other people see my shaky arabesques and wobbly pique turns, or if it’s auditioning for a local theater production and just doing it because I love it, whether I get a part or not.

2014’s gonna be uncomfortable and I’m just gonna embrace it.

Will you join me? Let’s make our comfort zones just a little wider this year. It’ll be more fun if we can laugh at ourselves together. 😉

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”