A lesson in patience

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Recently I’ve been especially emotional. I’ve been stressed out. I’m tired. I’m still not completely better after being sick at the beginning of the week. And all of that makes me grouchy.

Do you know what else makes me grouchy? Having to go to the store with 3 kids (my 2 crazy little boys and their friend who I’m watching this summer) in tow when I’m not feeling 100% and it’s hot and humid outside. But we had to stop at Wal-Mart because they were some things I needed, girlie stuff, shoes to replace the ones I’ve worn out since I’ve been working, a couple of tank tops to replace the ones I have worn holes in, and some white t-shirts for my 3 to tie-dye this weekend.

We are walking through the store as fast as I can get these 3 monsters to move and they are bickering and dragging their feet. “We’re hungry!” “I’m tired!” “When can we go swimming?” If they’d just keep moving and shut their traps, we’d be done and then eat lunch.

Finally we are headed to the registers. I walk past the self scans that I love because I’m not doing that we these 3, not today. I walk past several check outs with very little waiting because I recognize the cashiers and I’m not doing that today either. We walk clear to the other end of the store because we are parked on that side. There is only one register open on that side. Of course it has a very long line, but I’m not walking back to the other side of the store. We will wait.

While we are waiting, I learned that the cart full of stuff in front of me did not belong to the lady in front of me. The lady in front of me moved the cart out of the line and we all stepped forward. Just as she was about to set her items up on the belt, the missing cart lady showed back up. She let the lady in front of me go ahead and she got back in line in front of me.

Let me tell you how annoyed I was with all this, but I am not one to say something. I just smiled and then rolled my eyes. Mystery cart lady started putting all her stuff on the belt and then disappeared again. I was about to lose my mind. Who does this? If you’re not ready to check out then don’t get in line.

She came back with several boxes of those water balloons that fill up all at once and tie themselves. The boys told me, as they do every time they see these water balloons, that they wanted them. Not today, guys.

Mystery cart lady then started talking. She told the 70-year-old cashier how lovely she looked with her hair done and her make up. She asked the kids if they’d been good. She commented on how much she loved my girl’s freckles and how when she was young she had prayed for freckles.

She told me about her husband, how she is 16 years older than him, how she tried to talk him out of waiting to marry her. She told how they met in church a long time ago. She talked to the kids and told them that sometimes, when you are good there are surprises. She whispered with the cashier.

She talked about being good and that she had made mistakes when she was young. She told that she had to spend some time in the “big house.” She told that she had learned from her mistakes. She told that she always wanted to have kids but was never able. She talked to the kids and then laughed and told them they shouldn’t talk to strangers. She told them if I guy ever asked them to help him look for a puppy they should scream and run.

It didn’t take long for me to go from annoyed to enjoying the situation. It was interesting to watch the whole scene unfold, and I wondered how the people in line behind me were viewing the situation. She finally got all of her items paid for and stepped just a couple of steps away. She stood there going over her receipt and continuing to talk to all of us.

My items all got rang up and then something extremely exciting happened. The cashier picked up a bag with 3 sets of the water balloons in it and handed it to my 3. She said it was from an anonymous person, but we all knew who it was from. And then the cashier handed another set of water balloons to the little girl who was in line behind us.

We all thanked the mystery cart lady. She said that she didn’t do anything, and then told the kids that they needed to be good and not throw the balloons at people’s faces and to be sure and pick up all the trash when they were done playing with them.

She walked with us over to the door to wait because she wanted to make sure none of us got stopped for the water balloons we didn’t have receipts for. She told me that there are good people left in the world and that was need to stick together. She told us to have a great day. She said, “God bless you.”

We all had a lesson in patience. It was a lesson in kindness. It was a random act of kindness unlike any my kids have experienced before. It was a reminder that there are good people in the world. To take the time to slow down and be kind. To let the person who left their cart and walked away back in line where they were. It cost us 15 minutes to wait in line longer and we all gained so much more.

I hope this experience stick with all 3 of mine for the rest of their lives. I know it will stick with me.

 

Facebook is slowly breaking me

I joined Facebook late. I can’t remember when I joined but it was a while after I joined before I became active. I’m pretty sure it was sometime during the 20 months between the birth of my boys that I joined. I know every year Facebook will let me know on the day I joined that it is our anniversary.

And these days I mostly appreciate the updates. It’s how I stay in contact with people I don’t see on a regular basis (or peek into the lives of people I never see and wouldn’t even think of if Facebook didn’t remind me). And I would apologize for my use of Facebook, if I didn’t think all of you use it the same way. It’s a way to pretend we are closer to more people than we are. And I have less than 200 friends on Facebook (and WAY less than that in real life.).

One of the things that I have come to love about Facebook is their memories. “We think you might be interested in seeing what you posted on this day over the last 10 years…” And many of those times, Facebook is right. I’ve posted about the funny things my boys do or say or a super cute “how were they ever this small” picture. I very rarely share the memories, but Facebook was right. I love seeing them.

Welcome to this week. With everything happening with us plus I’ve been sick as a dog, I’m super emotional this week. And then Facebook wants to share with me. The first thing FB shared with me was an article that I shared. It was written by a mom whose baby died. I originally read the article and shared it because I know that it hurts and we don’t talk about miscarriage, stillborn, SIDS, infant and child death because it’s hard. Let me tell you, FB reminding me (Oh, and I reread the article) didn’t make it easier. Thanks for the memories.

That memory was one year ago today. Do you know what happened two years ago today? No? I didn’t know either until FB told me. I thought I had some more time. Two years ago today, my brother who is in the army (so he doesn’t live close) and his wife came home to see my grandpa. Two years ago today my family (minus my husband who wasn’t able to be there) gathered for pictures which I clearly remember telling my sister-in-law I wasn’t happy to be taking, and then remember telling her I was so thankful we took because these were our last family pictures.

I remember this week two years ago so clearly. It was my grandpa’s last good week. It was that “maybe the doctors were wrong” and “God works miracles” week. And, for the record, that week was a miracle because Grandpa was so good that week and had such a good visit with everyone. God gave us all that one super awesome good week.

But seriously, FB, I could have had a couple more days before the reminder. I have missed him so much these last few weeks with everything going on, I could have done without the reminder. I have heard his voice, that amazing, annoying, loving and terrible voice, “God’s only preparing you for something worse.” I’ve heard it, Facebook. I didn’t need the reminder this week.

I’m not sure if Facebook is trying to break us or help us. What I do know is when you are feeling fat and ugly and throw on the first shirt you can find and your sister-in-law wants to take pictures and tells you that you’ll appreciate it some day, trust her. Take the picture. Hug the ones you love. As hard as that summer was, what I would give to do it again.

being a mom

 

There are times that as a mom I believe I’ve got this. More often than not, I feel like I am the worst mom ever. Especially as a homeschooling mom, more often than not I feel like a failure. You’re 3-year-old is reading chapter books, and my 9-year-old is still struggling with his letters. Obviously, I’m the worst mom ever. The internet says so. Let’s not take into consideration that my 9-year-old is hard of hearing and dyslexic and we work hard every day. Obviously, I’m ruining his life.

And those are the thoughts I have on a daily basis minus the last sentence. I feel like I am failing my boys every day of the week. And it doesn’t even matter that my hard of hearing, dyslexic on his own last week knew a lower case b over a d, p, or q. (And if you know anything about dyslexia, you know what a mile stone this was!) I never feel good enough, that I’m doing enough, that they know enough. I always fall short in my head. It doesn’t matter that my 7-year-old can properly pronounce dinosaur names that my grandma didn’t even knew existed until he told her.  I feel like I am failing them on a regular basis, all day every day.

And maybe that feeling of failure is because I want so much for them (because I want SO MUCH FOR THEM!). Maybe it’s because every time someone asks me (or the boys) what grade they are in or who their teacher is or where they go to school, I cringe waiting for the negative comment. For the record, no one has ever said one bad thing to me about homeschooling. Most of them are super supportive and don’t even understand how it works. I know its me. I know that its me expecting them to think it’s the dumbest, worst thing they’ve ever heard and they are all so supportive. I’ve had people I thought were going to be negative tell me they wished they would have homeschooled.

And in case all that wasn’t enough, about a month ago I went from a stay at home mom to a working mom. I love my job. I am bartending at a beach bar where my kids are more than welcome. My boys know everyone there by name and their favorite thing is that they get to go swimming in the pond every day this summer. The hours that I work are super family friendly and where I work prides itself on being a family center so we don’t have to worry about drunk idiots stumbling around or fights breaking out. These are our people who buy my boys ice cream while I’m behind the bar. I would not have this job if it caused damage to my marriage or my children. I love my afternoon old men.

And then we come to tonight. I have been working this job for almost 5 weeks and we all love it (me, the boys, and my husband.). I noticed yesterday Connor, my youngest, had a stuffy nose. He didn’t have a fever. He played like he was a rock star. I gave him medicine for his nose.

And then we did it all over again tonight, only tonight I worked until 9 instead of 5. And then we got home and my baby was coughing and choking and I fell apart. A year and a half ago, Connor and I spent 4 hours at the ER because he was struggling to breathe. He went home with a nebulizer and medication. We are still using both today. We used them both tonight.

And as my baby is sitting snuggled up to me with a breathing mask on and medicines pumping into his lungs because every breath is a struggle, I again thing of what a bad mom I must be. A good mom would have stayed home with him and kept him home today. It doesn’t matter that he was fine earlier and had an amazing time playing in the water today.

And then I think about my mom. She had asthma so bad as practically a baby that she has to get shots for it. My mom has a dent in her arm from all the shots she had to get to keep her breathing. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been told that what my mom had skips a generation so my brothers and I need to watch for it. And tonight as my baby struggled and had tears rolling down his face as we cuddled while he had his breathing treatment, I again felt like a terrible mother.

Should I have been watching closer for this? Is this my fault (genetically)? Was it better when I stayed home with you (even though you go with me every day to work)?

I have so much doubt. And then I think and remember all God is doing with us. I’ve talked before about His plan and how I could never understand it. And today is a prime example, because I feel like a failure and I know this is His plan. I need to trust more. TRUST MORE!

There are so many more things going on in our lives right now than I have even wrote about tonight. And it’s so funny to me that me and my husband are on the same God page. This is a path. It hurts. It’s hard. It’s right. Happy Father’s Day this Sunday. My Father in Heaven has a plan and there is a reason we are right here, right now. I’m all in on faith, God. We are all, all in on faith, God.

Please pray for me and my family. If you have something, anything, you want my family to be praying for please leave a comment and know we will pray for you.

A season of second guessing

This is the back of our tree as the ornament side is leaning against the wall because it will not stay standing any longer. It's been that kind of week.

       It’s been this kind of week.

 

With Christmas just days away, we have definitely reached that time where I start rethinking everything I’ve done. Have I done enough? Did we do too little? Did we do too much? Should I have done this? Should I have done that? What about…? And the list goes on and on.

It has been especially rough this year with Hope 2.0. It’s worked differently that it has in the past. Instead of people helping others directly, all but one of the helps has sent me a donation and then I have decided how to use it to do the most good. This wasn’t the original idea, but it has worked out. I’ve really enjoyed it, and when I look towards next year, I’m going to think about this format and how to best make it work.

I’ve read the stories people told and I’ve looked at what we have to give and have tried to figure out the best way to help the most people. I feel such a responsibility to be a good steward especially with the money others have given. What would they want me to do with it? What would they see as the most good? And let me tell you, it has been hard.

I made a plan and sent out emails to families. I learned kids’ names and what kind of toys they like. I learned what stores were close to people and how we could do the most good. I learned about families needing food. I heard about people being desperate for help, not qualifying for government assistance or just being too late for most charities. For example, to be a part of the Salvation Army’s Christmas assistance, you have to register in the beginning of October.

And maybe that’s what so great about what we have done here. These are the people who fell between the cracks. Maybe in October, it looked like they wouldn’t need any assistance for Christmas but by the time December rolls around everything has changed. I know how fast life can change. I’ve heard about illness and hospital stays and deaths in families. I sent a package to a family living at a hotel because they have nowhere else to go.

I made decisions that were hard but felt right. I sent the emails and made promises that had to be kept. I spent the money I was sent and felt really good because we had helped everyone that asked for help. We sent gifts and stockings filled with surprises to 7 little kids with the sender’s name as Santa. And then I got a notification that there were new comments on the blog.

Three new families needing help. Okay, I might be able to do a little more. And then over the weekend two more requests came in. A single dad, a grandma, families who had taken in nieces and nephews who needed a safe place to live. People asking for winter coats and food.

Let’s be real honest. Saturday night I sat and cried. I felt guilty for the people I hadn’t been able to help. I felt guilty that maybe I had done too much for the first group we helped. I felt guilty that I wasn’t able to do enough for anyone. And then my husband reminded me that I had done enough, that I can’t save everyone. I can’t help everyone. And it sucks but it’s true. And considering this is all done on faith with hope, I was feeling pretty low and hopeless Saturday night.

God works in mysterious and wondrous ways. Sometimes I can picture him looking at us, at me, shaking his head with a little smile the way a parent would and saying, “Oh, ye of little faith.” Sunday night I got a message on Facebook from someone who couldn’t have known how I was second guessing all my decisions. They told me they wanted to help. And their help is enough to do something for everyone who hasn’t received help yet. It’s enough to fill the gap that I couldn’t fill.

And while I still wish I could do more, I also know that God provides. The week between the first needs and the first helps was so hard for me. Everyday I had to say to myself that it was still early. That people would help. People would give. It would be okay. And people have given and it is going to be okay.

With 4 days until Christmas, I’m going to try to stop second guessing every decision I’ve made. I am going to slow down and relax and enjoy the time I have with my family. I’m going to be grateful for everyone who helped me make this Christmas a little easier for some families. I’m going to be thankful for what we have and what we have done. I’m going to stop wondering if I did enough. I’m going to be joyful when I get messages from people we have helped and stop worrying if it was enough when they tell me it was so much and how excited they are when packages arrive. I’m going to take great joy in the message from the mom who tells me how much her daughter is going to love what we sent and how excited she will be Christmas morning.

Stop second guessing yourself.

Thank you to everyone who has supported Hope 2.0 and me this year.

Merry Christmas!

A Cheerful Giver

*Originally printed in The Hometown Treasure 2016 Countdown to Christmas*

As we move closer and closer to Christmas, people become more generous. Or maybe it’s just that there are more opportunities to give. There are food drives and donation boxes and red buckets everywhere you look.  There are opportunities like Shop with a Cop and Operation Christmas Child Shoebox.

My husband and I are raising two little boys. Living in a world filled with entitlement, we are trying to raise them to be givers, to earn what they have and give when they can. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” We are trying to raise cheerful givers.

One of the ways they love to give is by putting money in the red buckets. They love the ringing bells, and I know this time of year, I had better have money ready for them if we are heading to the store. The boys want to give on the way in the store and on the way out. They want to stop and talk to the bell ringers. They want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. If we head into a store and the red bucket isn’t on the stand, it makes them mad. How can they give if the bucket isn’t there?

Another way we are teaching them to give is going through their toys and donating some of them. They boys have an abundance of toys and at least once a year we go through them. Some of the toys get put up for a later time, some get thrown away, and some go into our donation pile. The first time I let the boys help sort through the toys to get rid of some, they were 5 and 3 years old. I will never forget that day. They asked who the toys were for that we were giving away. When I told them that there were kids out there who don’t have a lot of toys to play with or may not get presents for Christmas, they were shocked. My oldest picked up one of his favorite trucks and told me it was for the little boy who wouldn’t have any presents for Christmas.

That same year, we were asked to ring the bells for the Salvation Army red buckets. We were on our way to Wal-Mart for our turn when I decided I should explain to the boys once again what we were doing and why. I told them how they needed to remember to say “thank you” and “Merry Christmas” to the people who put money in the bucket. I told the boys that the money was not for us to keep. We were just helping. They wanted to know what the money was for so I told them it was to help buy food and presents for people who needed help.

It was one thing for the boys to hear that some kids don’t get presents for Christmas, but it was completely different for them to hear that some kids don’t have food. They didn’t understand that there are people out there who are hungry and don’t have food. They asked if we could stop and buy pizza for the hungry people. It was such an obvious thing to them. If people are hungry, we should feed them.

I think about my boys and the way they love to give and then I think about the way we adults look at giving. How many times have we looked at those red buckets and groaned? We pull the couple of coins out of our pocket and toss it in. Or we look away and walk as fast as we can past the bell ringers. Or we go through our closers and pull out the clothes that are about to fall apart or are so outdated that no one would ever want them and put those into our donation bag, but hang on to the nicest stuff even if it is 2 sizes too small and we’re never going to wear it again. How many times do we give not with a cheerful heart but with a sign or a groan or a roll of our eyes?

I think about that first Christmas. God gave us His best. He gave us His Son. And it wasn’t with a shrug or a groan. God didn’t think He was too busy to give to us that year that maybe next year He’d have the time. God didn’t look at us and say, “I’m just going to hang on to this because I know what those people will do with My Gift.” God didn’t look at the earth and shake His head and walk away. God looked at the world and loved us so much that He gave us the best that He had, the most He could give.

As we head through this Christmas season, as you hear the ringing bells and see the donation boxes, remember the way God gave to us on the first Christmas. Even if the only thing you have to give is a smile, give with a cheerful heart.

 

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Another great way to give is with our Hope 2.0. We have helped many people but new needs are still coming in. Please help me bring some hope and Christmas cheer to people who really need it.

Hope 2.0 Update

I thought I would give everyone an update on what’s going on with Hope for the Holidays 2.0. Things are moving very slowly, and I find myself needing a big dose of hope. The first time I did this, it got shared a lot. People saw the post and helped. This year feels different. People aren’t seeing the post even if they wanted to help.

I have shared and shared and shared the Hope post until I think my friends and family must be getting super annoyed with how many times it is showing up on their news feeds. And then I learn things like I had shared it 4 times before my best friend saw it. There are several people who I know I can count on to read and share no matter what I write, and they never saw it (or have just stopped sharing and liking my words.) I’ve shared in a couple of groups with very little response even when I’ve just been asking for prayer and nothing else.

It all makes me very nervous and scared and leavings me needing my own hope. I have to take a moment and remember that everything I do here is a giant leap of faith. I remember that I said we were going to move, help and be brave. I need to remember the brave part. I remember that God has a plan and I truly believe that the needs posted here will be filled.

And then I climb in bed at night, and it’s dark out, and I lay awake thinking about all this. I think about all the people who have posted about having a need. I think about how it seems Facebook is hiding my posts from people. I think about how I’m failing these people who need someone to care about them and to help them. I think about how I am not in a position where I can help everyone who comments with a need. I can help, and I will help, but I cannot do it all by myself.

So far we have 7 families in need. And no families that are giving. And in the daylight, I remember that God does not set us up to fail. I believe that there will be givers, and we all need to have patience while this works out.

I would ask that if you are reading these words you would share them on Facebook or Twitter or anywhere else you would like. This only works if people know about it. Also, if you haven’t liked my Facebook page, you can find it here. I am doing 25 days of Christmas songs there right now and will also post updates as they come.

To end this post on a slightly happier note, we took the boys to see Santa. Thanks to Misti Yoder Photography, LLC for the awesome photos.

They were both very excited to get to see Santa.

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Cameron whispered into Santa’s ear what he wanted for Christmas so no one else could here. I’m hoping he asked for a little Christmas magic because we could use some over here right now.

 

Move. Help. Be Brave: Hope for the Holidays 2.0

It’s that time of year again. The Christmas season has officially started, and even though this year we have a couple extra days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it gets here so fast the older I get.

In my last post I talked about doing Hope for the Holidays again this year, and here is it. THE OFFICIAL POST.

Some back story on what we are doing here. I have been part of a community project of strangers helping strangers this time of year since 2011. It was amazing that first year when there was no planning or thinking about it. A stranger said something to another stranger about how hard Christmas was going to be and spontaneous giving began and exploded.

It was a little strange the way it all got started. People started telling their stories about empty bank accounts, losing jobs, parents and children who were sick. There were stories about kids old enough to understand that there just wasn’t any money for presents under the tree. There were stories about kids young enough that they wouldn’t know that there should be presents under the tree. There were stories about the empty corner where the tree should be, but that year there wasn’t going to even be a tree. People told how they struggle every week just to put food on their tables. People told how they have a job that covers the bills, but just the bills, and they weren’t even sure how they would put gas in the car to get to the job. As hard as it was to spill their guts, people shared their honest and hard truths to strangers.

And then there was the amazing people who could help. People with a little extra they could give. People who didn’t have children to buy for that wanted to help others be able to shop for their children. People who had never worried about how they were going to put food on the table and wanted to take that burden away from someone else. People who didn’t have money for gift cards but did have winter coats their children had grown out of and sent them to the mom struggling to buy her child a coat. There were people who the only extra they had was yarn and knitting needles, but they created hats, and scarves and mittens for kids that needed them. People gave with the faith that the stories were true and the hope that they could ease someone else’s burden just a little.

The next couple of years in happened again, with thought and planning, and it was good, too. Two years ago, the blogger who started it all had taken a break from blogging and couldn’t host it, so I took her idea, softened up the language a little, and brought it over here.

Two years ago, Hope for the Holiday’s didn’t help as many people as WANA ever did, but it was so awesome. From my small town in middle America, I was able get help to families as far away as Alaska. It was strangers helping strangers, giving a little bit of hope to those who may be feeling hopeless. I hope it moved everyone involved as much as it did me. You can read the post for the original Hope for the Holidays here.

Last year, WANA was back for its final year and I was struggling emotionally so I stepped back and just let it run over there. This past summer MODG shut her blog down completely. She was done and ready to walk away from her corner of the internet. And while I am sad that she isn’t writing anymore, I’m happy to be hosting Hope again this year.

I think especially after the extremely rough political season we just went through we all could use a little hope this year. Hope that not everyone is selfish or greedy or mean. Hope that there are people out there who care about other people. Hope that people are genuinely good and kind. Hope that people do want to reach out and help others when they can. So over here we are going to MOVE. HELP. and BE BRAVE.

So how is this all going to work?

The only way this works is if those who need some help, tell their stories, and those who can help, give. To ask for help please leave a comment below. Tell your story as much as you can. Be honest. Share what is going on and the specific help you are needing. At the top of your comment put *IN NEED* so it is easily spotted as a need. Tell your story and include your email address so people can contact you to help.

Here is an example of what a need should look like:

*IN NEED*

I’m stay at home mom and my husband has been out of work for several months. He just got a new job, but we are still trying to catch up from the time we were without income. We have two small boys, ages 8 and 6. They love trucks and dinosaurs and are so excited about Christmas, but I just don’t know if there will be anything under the tree. We are stretched so thin right now, sometimes I’m not sure after bills how we are going to put food on the table. We have family that would help, but they can’t afford to take care of us and we feel so guilty having to ask. If someone could just help a little bit it would mean so much to all of us. My email address is myname AT Hotmail DOT com.

That should give you an idea of the information to give. Feel free to give as much information as you are comfortable giving. Be sure to include your email address so people who want to help can contact you. If you leave it the way I did in the example, it is less likely spammers will find you. Once you have posted a need, please be patient.

For those who are wanting to GIVE, please reply to the comment on here so I can see that someone is helping. I will watch for those needs that get missed as more comments come in, but I won’t know who had received help, if you don’t leave a comment below.

Some important additional information. When leaving a comment, you do not have to use your real name. If you would like to be anonymous on this blog, you can be. Please include your real email address in the box for it because only I can see that and it gives me a way to contact you if I need to. Also, please check the box to be noticed of additional comments so you will know when someone has replied to you.

So here we go. This whole thing runs on faith and love.

MOVE. HELP. BE BRAVE.

A crazy year

This has been a crazy year. It has felt that we have gone nonstop and the only times we’ve had to slow down is when we’ve been sick. Trust me, it’s not restful when we are sick. And the craziest part of all of it is if you ask what we’ve been doing I’m not sure what all we have been doing.

One of the more exciting things that has happened is I was asked to write an article for a local publication. I can’t even begin to explain how amazing it is to be asked to write something for print. It’s the first time my words will be in print. I am so amazed that someone believes my words are good enough for print, and at the same it makes me want to throw up if I think about it too much.

The article I wrote was for a countdown to Christmas special. I was given 5 days to write it and told it could be about anything Christmas related. I thought about it. I brainstormed. I wrote paragraph after paragraph and then deleted it all to start over again. I finally put together what felt like an okay group of words the day it was due.

I ended up writing about giving. I took some of the ideas and thoughts I’ve shared here before about raising boys with giving hearts. I talked about how sometimes we giving grudgingly and how thankful I am that God doesn’t give to us that way. I talked about how easy it would have been for God to look at us, roll His eyes, and keep His Son with Him rather than sending Jesus to Earth.

While I was writing, I thought about the giving we do personally and the giving we did here 2 years ago with Hope for the Holidays. It was a great experience for me and hopefully everyone else involved. People came to the blog and told their stories about needing some hope and others, strangers, gave from their hearts and gave hope where they could. The idea of strangers helping strangers came from another blogger who I loved. I followed her journey from martinis to diaper genies and was a part of the first 3 years she helped hook people with needs together. What would have been the fourth year, MODG, the blogger, had stopped blogging for personal reasons. I saw a need and did my best to fill it.

Last year MODG was back, and I had a hard year. With Grandpa dying, I just didn’t have it in me to do Hope for the Holidays. And that has carried through with how I have neglected the blog this year. I’m better, I think. I’m hoping enough time has passed that I can start writing again. I have thoughts and ideas I want to share again.

So while I was writing the article, I was thinking about this space and writing again, of how I have all these words inside me that I need to get out. I thought about Hope for the Holidays and how this summer MODG blogged once last time and told us she was done. I thought about the people we helped 2 years ago. I thought about hosting Hope for the Holidays again this year.

I went back and forth on it. I havent been blogging like I should. How do I come back and immediately ask those readers I still have to help me help strangers? Yes, I’m going to do it. No, it’s too much. I can’t do it. Yes. No. I went back and forth. I know I have people who will share my words, but will people still give? I struggled thinking about it.

While I was having an internal debate, God spoke in an amazing way. I got an email from the contact page here. Someone who followed MODG, who needs help, who saw 2 years ago I helped, emailed me. And then because she wasnt sure the email went through, she posted a comment on the original Hope for the Holidays post. If that wasnt enough for me to decide to go for it again this year, there was a second comment from another person. She also needs help this year and wondered if I was going to help.

I was on the fence and God said, “MOVE.” I wasnt sure and God said, “HELP.” I was scared and God said, “BE BRAVE.” So I’m going to move. I’m going to help. I’m going to be brave. And im going to count on you guys, my super awesome readers, for help. Between Thanksgiving and December 1st, Hope for the Holidays 2 is starting. And it can only be successful if I can count on you. Move, help, be brave with me. And thank you for hanging on with me while I have been unable to write.

I didn’t know we were family

It’s been a rough year around here. And those of you who follow me (thank you so much!), I’m sure you’ve noticed I haven’t been posting nearly as often as I used to. This last year my emotions have been so raw it’s hard to write and on top of that I am extremely empathetic. If you hurt, I hurt. Even if I don’t know you and I see you cry, it’s a safe bet I’ll be crying, too.

A few weeks ago, Facebook came out with a new feature. It wasn’t the thumbs down button we have all been asking for, but it was five (I think) different choices on top of the “like” button. And I am a child of the 90s, I am (on the upper edge) in the generation that was just young enough to get Facebook and MySpace and live journal (if you know how I can get my hands on my live journal these days I’d love to have those words!), but old enough to not ruin my life on social media.

All of these extra options on Facebook seemed so silly to me when they came out. All we asked for was a thumbs down. And I’m old enough, I don’t even know what all those faces stand for. I know that there is a heart for love (over like?) and a laughing out loud one and a sad one. I’m not sure what the other faces are for.

That sad face. The one with the tears and when you press on it, it says sad. That is the face I have used the most these last few days. Well, let’s be honest. These last 24 hours have been the saddest. I can’t even count the times I’ve pressed that sad face today.

We all love in groups. You have those closest to you and then like a ripple when you through a stone in the water your love expands. And you love every ripple, but maybe you love that first ripple more than the fifth or maybe you love all those ripples and can’t even tell the difference between them. I have always known who is in my first ripple. My first ripple is full of all the people who cried with me when Grandpa John died. It is family and friends who should be family.

That first ripple is all I did (could) focus on when Grandpa died. Those were the people who hurt with me. Those were the people who understood what he meant to me. Those were the ones that clung to me as I grieved.

Today I learned about the other rings. Those people who joked around with me. Those people who bought me a drink when we were hanging out. Those people who served me a drink or two too many and then walked me home because they love me and need me to be safe, and I’m safe with them.  Those people who get a kick out of me when I’m not at my best. Those people who aren’t blood but are better and closer to me than some that are blood.

Today we lost a mother. And while I am so close with her husband and son (they are some of my favorite people), I am not blood. And maybe it sounds bad to say, but before today I didn’t know we were family. I didn’t know how much I loved them. I didn’t know how much they meant to me and how much their pain would hurt me.

Oh my goodness. That’s not what I meant. Or maybe it is. I have this group of people, and I have known for a long time that I love them. What I didn’t know before today was how much I loved them. I always thought it was like anyone loves their friends, (although I have little experience with this as well. I have one forever friend (I’m looking at you, Cassidy!). And then today, my friends lost their mother, I thought they were fifth ripple friends, and then I learned they really are first or second ripple friends.

Now, biologically she was only the mother to one of my friends. However, by love she was the mother to most of the people who I am friends with today. I think of that group of kids that were around when I was young. They called my mom Ratmom because there were so many that loved her. Shirley was the Ratmom of my new group of friends.

There are people who lost their mom young, there are people who never knew their mom, there are people whose mom just gave up on them. And Shirley was there for all of them. It didn’t matter if you needed a mom as a child or as an adult, Shirley would be your mom. It didn’t even matter if you thought you didn’t need a mom. If Shirley thought you needed a mom, you got one in her.  And tonight, so many more than she birthed are mourning the loss of their mom.

Tonight I had the chance to look at all these “kids” in a different light. This is my family. I didn’t know before tonight how much I loved every single one of these people. We all come from different places and backgrounds, but when you put us all in the same room, you can’t tell a difference. This is family.

Maybe in this family, I am the third cousin twice removed. But I’m still family. And they are still family. And I would do anything to keep them from the pain they are feeling tonight. But what I can do is laugh with them, and cry with them. We can tell stories and talk nonsense. We will come up with a plan to take care of Dad (this is so familiar and again I am so grateful Grandma has us to ground her).

It seems so silly, but I didn’t know this was family until today. I had no idea how much I loved these people until the pain was knocking on our door. When we (because I know my husband feels it more than I do) say, “is there anything we can do?” What we mean is, cry on our shoulder. Let us buy you a beer. Just know we hurt so much and aren’t blood but wish there was anything we could do. And then remember that the one thing I knew about Shirley was that blood didn’t matter at all.

Those that are family, those that love us, those that we love, remember that every tear you cry, we cry with you. We feel every pain. And maybe it doesn’t make your pain less, but where she is now, there is no pain.

Jesus didn’t need the stone rolled away.

There is something that bothers me a lot when we talk about Easter or when I hear songs about the resurrection. It’s a little thing, a small detail that most people probably don’t even hear. But when we talk about Easter and use this certain phrasing it changes the story.

One of my favorite Christian songs is Glorious Day by Counting Crowns.  They use this phrasing in their song. “One day the grave could conceal Him no longer, one day the stone rolled away from the door. Then He arose over death He had conquered.” Did you hear it? Honestly its just one little word. THEN He arose.

Nope. That’s not how it works. Jesus did not need the stone rolled away so He could leave the tomb. When you use the word then it sounds like Jesus couldn’t leave the tomb unless someone opened the door. We believe He was born to a virgin, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose from the dead three days later, but He needed the stone moved so He could get out of the tomb?

Maybe it’s silly how much this one word affects me, but, to me, this changes the story. It opens up room for so much doubt. How could Jesus be the Son of God if He needed the stone moved? He performed miracles but was trapped in the tomb until the stone was moved? Was He trapped in there until an angel of the Lord came down from Heaven and rolled the stone away? (Matthew 28:2)

No. Jesus wasn’t in the tomb when the angel moved the stone. Matthew 28:5-8 says, “But the angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.'”

The stone was not rolled away so Jesus could come out. Jesus was long gone from the tomb when the stone was rolled away. He was already on His way. He is alive. The stone was rolled away so that we may go in. It was moved so we  could see that the tomb was empty, so we could see the folded cloth and know that Jesus is not there. The stone was moved for us.

The stone was rolled away and we found an empty tomb, not Jesus waiting to get out.

Do you hear the difference that one word makes in the story? Death was already conquered. Jesus had already arose. God had already won, long before the stone was moved. The stone was moved so those who needed to see the empty grave could see it.

I’m not sure why the story gets told as if the stone was rolled away first. Maybe in the songs it just flows nicer that way. Maybe people don’t even realize the way they are phrasing it. Maybe I’m the only one in the whole world who hears it that way. (Although I’m guessing you’ll hear it now even if you never have in the past.) Maybe it shouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but it does bother me.

Jesus rose from the dead and THEN the stone was rolled away from the tomb. Not the other way around.