Let It Go…Again

Let It Go.

It’s not just an overplayed Disney song (my apologies if you’re singing it now), it should be a way of life.

I am guilty of obsessing over trying to fix things that I may not be able to fix. I spent my morning doing just that.

Ever since my husband’s employment status changed last year, our income took a hit. We were living comfortably until then. Not richly, but comfortably. Taking a vacation was not out of the equation. Paying for the unexpected car repair wasn’t a choice between eating steak or ground round. Fortunately he found work within two months, but at a significant pay cut. And we feel it.

I can easily fall into the trap of juggling numbers and stressing over bills, and trying to pay for the dentist bill, the cable bill, and our children’s college all at once. By the way, my oldest won’t start college for 4 more years, but that won’t stop me from pretending that Rush Week starts on Monday.

I could get two more jobs, reinvent myself, put the kids to work (not really), or I could keep on trucking. I mean, we aren’t poor by any measure. We get by just fine, it’s just that the budget is tight and we have to account for every penny. Mostly that’s because of my own fear. I’m the penny pincher. My husband is much more relaxed about our provisions than I am. But I think that’s the difference in our personalities.

That’s where Elsa’s song comes to mind. But before Elsa knew to sing about letting your fears go, Jesus knew it. In fact, he instructs us to do it. He wants us to come to Him and lay our burdens at His feet. So why does it take me so long to figure it out? Why do I let it go only to pick it right back up again?

I think it happens most often when I’m not walking beside Him. When I’m not seeking Him daily. When I don’t hear His voice in my ear, then I tend to fill it in with my own voice. And if there’s one thing I know, it’s that my voice can NEVER replace God’s. But isn’t that exactly what I’m doing while I’m obsessing and stressing? I just need to trust, to listen, to let go and let God.

I need to work on that. What things in your life do you keep picking up that you really should let go?

Letter to my teenage children

 

It’s a precarious tightrope that parents walk: wanting to keep you safe and needing to let you go.

I need to give you enough rope to wander away, but not lose sight of home, yet still enough to pull yourself back home without getting tangled up in the process.

I want to guide you and help you with the circumstances that cross your paths, but I want you to use the tools we’ve given you to try to solve your own problems.

I want to give you freedom to experience things in your young life that will help form your opinions, your relationships and your joy. I want them to be your opinions and not mine, even if they are different from mine.

I can’t be there all the time. The world is a big place. It’s a place of wonder, a place of amazing sights and sounds, and, unfortunately, a place of danger too.

So how do I protect you without smothering you? How do I wait patiently by while you may not make the choices I would choose for you? How do I let you go and hope that you remember everything we’ve taught you? How do I know that you will come home when you get in over your head? How do I know you’ll seek wise counsel, even if it isn’t mine? I have to have faith.

I know you’ll try things you shouldn’t because, like you, I was young and curious once too. I know you’ll make mistakes, because I have, and still do. I pray those mistake can be reversed.

I hope that you find love, but not at the expense of your self. I hope you find success, but not at the expense of love.

So here’s where I have to trust. Here’s where I have to let you make your own decisions, and hope that I’ve equipped you well.

Here’s where I begin to set you free into the world, and hope you remember that you can always come back home.

The door will ALWAYS be open, the table will ALWAYS be set, and I will ALWAYS have the time.

Love,

Mom

I Should Be at Church

It’s a Sunday morning, and I should have gotten everyone up on time (and against their protests) and gone to church. But I didn’t. I chose sleep for the second week in a row, in a long string of sporadic attendance, over worship.

When we lived in California, we never missed a Sunday unless someone was sick. We went to a church of about 350 members. I ran a women’s group on Mondays, my husband helped with Youth Sunday school (both High School and Elementary) and at one point was an Elder. My kids were involved in AWANA and I published the church’s newsletter, not to mention the countless times we volunteered for church events. I don’t tell you all of this to brag, I tell you all of this to show the difference between then and now. To show you I’m not just complaining, that I know things should be better, and that I know they CAN be better.

Fast forward 4 years, and we’re living on the opposite coast, and we should be well established with a new church family. But we’re not, and I know I’m not alone. At least, I don’t think I am.

We’ve been to something like five churches trying to find our fit, our new church family. The churches have varied in size from nearly nonexistent to mega-church all in attempt to find the fit…not God, but the fit. God has been in every one of the churches we’ve been to. But the difference is the people, and not God.

I mean no disrespect to the Church. I love the Church. I believe in the Church. I’m just a little frustrated. The churches we’ve encountered are just different than what we are used to, or it could be a symptom of the times. They are much more corporate, especially the mega churches, which my area seems to have a lot of. I don’t think they mean to be, and I know it’s probably a symptom of trying to serve so many different people. But classes and groups meet generally in 6 week spurts or from September to May, so you never really get a chance to share in one another’s lives. I WANT MORE. I WANT the dirty, nitty-gritty that our lives hold. I WANT to stand shoulder to shoulder with my Christian brother or sister and go through their trials and celebrate their victories. And an hour on Sunday or a few hours during a class won’t get me the intimacy of those friendships that I miss.

The one thread I’ve found running through ALL of the churches, no matter what size, is the feeling of ISOLATION. It doesn’t matter how long we attend a church, we just never seem to connect. And we’ve tried. At the large churches, we never see the same people twice. From the time we walk in the doors and are greeted with a “hello” and a smile to the time we leave with a “goodbye, have a nice day,” sometimes those are the only words that will be spoken to us. Fortunately, my kids have managed to make friends in Sunday school, but those friendships seem to end as we leave the church doors. They seem to be reserved for “while in church only.” No one seems to linger after church is over. Most people race for the parking lot to get on with their Sunday.

As Christians we’re called to be part of the “Body of Christ” but that body has to RELY on one another and LEAN on one another to function. And it seems like a bunch of body parts not communicating, but rather working separately from one another.

I know there are other people within the church walls feeling the same as me. I know it’s up to us to get involved and reach out. But the times that I’ve tried, I’m either too late because a class has already started, or a group is already established. Not to mention that, for me, not being able to drive makes it really hard (if not impossible) to get there sometimes. And the church is just too big to make a friend that would be willing to give a girl a ride now and then.

So if you’re in a large church this Sunday or next, do me a favor and turn around and greet the person seated behind you. It may make the difference in them ever coming back again. And if you’re brave enough, go one step further and invite them to an upcoming church function, AND OFFER TO MEET THEM THERE so they won’t feel so alone. I promise you that you’re effort won’t be wasted. They may think you’re weird, but it’s a chance you should take. You may even make a friend for life.

Have you had similar experiences with church? How did you get past it?

Taking care of an aging parent

 

It’s been simmering for quite some time…the idea that my mom should not be living alone. There are a myriad of reasons to reconsider her current living situation.

The first and foremost being that her quality of life is diminished because she just can’t afford it anymore, and my brothers and I can’t afford to keep sending money to the money pit. There are also, of course health reasons that come with many septuagenarians that need to be addressed and watched over.

It’s a hard line to take: when the child becomes the caregiver of the parent. No one likes the ramifications of what that entails. There will be power struggles, the first of which is actually convincing her that her quality of life would be better living with one of her adult children. No parent wants to give up their independence, and having to rely on an adult child is not part of their plan usually. You don’t raise your children thinking “I can’t wait until I can get under their roof.” But there’s a whole generation of parents right now, who didn’t save enough for retirement because they didn’t have to. I know it sounds foolish to our generation, but for my parent’s generation, there was always going to be a pension that you’d rely on. It’s what their parents did, so why think to plan for anything different. But those pensions disappeared and here we are.

To my detriment, I’m a planner, and I woke up this morning around 6am and my brain started “planning.” My mom hasn’t even agreed to the new arrangement yet, and already I’m going through all the possible scenarios, the logistics, the financial and legal details in my head. I’ve made lists, and researched the possibilities, both good and bad, of taking in an aging parent.

But here’s what it boils down to: it’s my turn to return the favor. All the nights she spent pacing the floor, all the financial sacrifices she and my father made, all the emotional collateral they spent raising me has brought me to this moment. It’s time to give back.

I have a fabulous husband, by the way, who happens to share the same responsibility to family that I do. We decided long ago that whether it was his mom or mine (both of our fathers passed away years ago) that we would open our home if we needed to. It’s just what you do.

But convincing my mom to sell her home (that’s falling apart around her), move across the country, and move her entire life into one bedroom (basically) is going to be a hard sell. I get it. Would you do it? Things would have to be pretty bad for me to convince me to do something like that. The opportunity at the end of that bridge would have to be pretty encouraging. And my mom is not one that likes adventure – she’s a planner too.

Fortunately, my brothers and I agree on a plan for Mom. We support each other and her. We just want her to be better off. Her “Golden Years” haven’t been very golden so far, and now we have the chance to help her make them better.

I only hope I remember this when I’m aging and my kids step in to take charge. I hope I remember it’s because of love that they want to see me in a better situation.

Have you taken a parent into your home? I’d love to hear some of your experiences or advice as I go into these uncharted waters.

Keeping My Head Above Water

Some days it’s all I can do to keep my head above water.

Being “Mom” and “Wife” is a varied job description for women. No one woman does the same job as her counterpart, yet we share a sisterhood that, on many days, all we need to do is look one another in the eye and nod. That nod says it all. I understand. I’m right there with you.

Some days I get too far ahead of myself. When things seem to be not going as planned, I’m the first one to want to jump in and fix them. But unfortunately, sometimes there are no quick fixes, no immediate solutions, and that drives me crazy!

The hamster wheel just doesn’t go fast enough for me and it still only goes round and round in circles. No end, no fix, just a whole lot of wasted energy.

Whether it’s the mounting price of groceries, or the stress of doing taxes, or keeping the kids in clothes or  worrying over their grades, I just can’t do it.

And then I remember what’s missing: God.

I’ve been trying to do it on my own: trying to solve problems that haven’t even happened yet, and may not ever happen, all on my own. The people around me feel my stress. I’m one of those who can’t hide my feelings…my face shows my every emotion. It’s a curse, really.

There’s a definition of “Anxiety” that I really like: trying to figure it all out at once.

That about sums it up.

The nights when I can’t sleep because I’m running numbers in my head, and no matter how I rearrange them, they just don’t add up. The nights when I wake myself up because my jaw hurts from clenching it so tightly that I might break a tooth.

All those nights could be better spent in rest and sleep if only I would let things go, and let God work it out. I know it may sound silly, but it really does help. God wants us to bring our worries to him, not so that He can fix them (though he certainly can), but so that we will rely on Him and not ourselves.

He’s already got it figured out. He really doesn’t need our help. In fact, for a lot of us, He just needs us to get out of our own way.

So I’m going to remember to breathe when things get hectic. If only I could remember to do that BEFORE the craziness starts.

Here’s to a better night’s sleep.

Organizing Fail

Nothing drives me more insane than being unorganized. Sometimes it can’t be avoided: like that pile of school papers sitting on the kitchen counter of upcoming events (there’s only so much that will fit on the refrigerator), or the pile of bills waiting to be paid. I’ve learned to accept that some things just don’t have a place every moment.

But then there are the things like chargers and ear buds that are strewn across table tops and desks. THOSE things drive me nuts!

At first I sewed this clever organizer that had a little strap for each item, then the entire thing could be rolled up and tucked into a drawer nicely. Thank you, pinterest. I thought I’d solved the problem. Every cord and charger would have a neat little home. Boy was I wrong! I think my family used it maybe once or twice. And I was STILL the one picking up the cords and putting them away, only to have them strewn across the table hours later.

Big Fail!

Next, I saw another pinterest post where they had used empty mint containers for the earbuds, and a clever box with a section for each charger – each section was even labeled. Genius, right?

Again…FAIL!

See, there’s one thing that all the organizers don’t tell you about those ingenious organizing ways…EVERYONE HAS TO ACTUALLY USE THEM for it to be effective.

Everyone has to be on board and feel as passionately about organizing as the one who made the fancy organizer.

My family, the ones who use the earbuds and chargers, do NOT share in my passion. It doesn’t bother them to have to hunt for their chargers and earbuds, and then untangle them to use them. Of course, these are the same people who consider the floor as a very low shelf!

So after many different trial and error options, my ingenious organizing solutions? A BOX! That’s right…a plain old box. Actually it’s one of those photo boxes from the craft store that was on sale for $2.50. And I didn’t have to put in ANY effort to make it!

So far it’s working out great. They just have to roll up the cords, and toss it into the box – no effort whatsoever! And I even threw in a few empty mint containers for earbuds. They can choose to use them or not. But the best part is I DON’T HAVE TO LOOK AT THE MESS ANYMORE!

The 1980s are back…for ONE NIGHT ONLY!

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This weekend was the “Spring Fling Dance” at my daughter’s high school and their theme this year? The 80s!

Yeah…I’m feeling my age. The school brought in a portable roller rink and the kids rented skates. Wow, does that take me back!

All week my daughter and I bonded over old music videos from the 80s as she tried to find her 80s look for the dance. It was a nice change from having to watch (and listen to) the thousands of YouTube stars that my kids find so funny. Talk about a generation gap. I’ve tried, I really have, but I just don’t find most of them funny or entertaining. And every time I have to watch one, I tell my husband that we are working way too hard to make a living if these guys are making money doing what they’re doing. But that’s a different post unto itself.

Back to the 80s. It’s been fun reliving the days of big hair, dayglo, cut off sweatshirts, crop tops, rubber bracelets, and synthesized music.

We listened to Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, Dead or Alive (her favorite), Adam Ant, and countless others to try to come up with inspiration for my daughter’s wardrobe for the dance.

She decided to go with a Madonna look. Not the Madonna with the pointy bra, or the Madonna in her Justify My Love phase. We agreed that Madonna in her more innocent (and I use that term loosely) “Lucky Star” days was appropriate.

We cut up an old black t-shirt, found some black lace fingerless gloves, made a gigantic hair bow, found as many costume bracelets as we could, dug out my old black bike shorts (sadly, I still have them – but I don’t wear them, I promise), and of course bought a can of Aqua Net for the extra big hair. I was surprised that we could still buy it. We couldn’t find the pink can, but settled for the purple extra hold can. I was also surprised that they haven’t decided that it’s solely responsible for global warming. LOL And I forgot how much residue it leaves on the bathroom floor. Yuck! Time to mop!

She had a fabulous time and I’m almost sorry that I didn’t volunteer to chaperone this dance…almost.

It would have been fun to relive those days, but I probably would have embarrassed my daughter with my dance moves. Bust a move!

I know my days of hanging out with my daughter are numbered. She’s already started to pull away (as she should) to find her own independence. But it was nice to talk to her about what my teenage years were like, and for her to realize (hopefully) that I was once young too.