Sunday, February 10, 2019

Finding calm in the chaos of life

With the new year, Pat and committed to attending church more regularly. Our reasoning was our kids. We were both raised attending church and participating in Sunday School and we wanted that for our kids. We wanted them to have the same opportunity to build a strong faith foundation.

Obviously, taking our kids to Sunday School more regularly meant that we would also be attending church more regularly too. But attending church and being fully present are two different things. I had a choice to make: I could spend the hour daydreaming, making to-do lists, and not paying attention, or I could commit to using that hour to be fully present.

If you know me, you know which choice I made. I committed to being full present. Putting my Apple Watch and iPhone in Do Not Disturb mode and focusing on the songs, scriptures, messages, and sermons.

Since January 1, we have attended church almost every Sunday. And so far, I have left each service feeling like the message was something I needed to hear. Something that was relevant and applicable to me and my life. But none have hit me quite like the message today.

Before I can fully explain, I need to back up to last night.

Pat and I had gotten our kids to bed and were getting ready to "relax" and watch a movie. In preparation of this, I gathered my planner, computer, phone, and pens. Because this is what I do. I'm always multitasking. Even if I'm not physically multitasking, my brain always is.

*Full disclosure: one of the reasons I multitask during movies is to increase the likelihood that I will actually stay awake for the duration of the movie (which didn't work, by the way).

My brain never stops! It is constantly frazzled and spinning and thinking of all the things I need to get done. So during the movie, I was reviewing next week's calendar, including my work obligations, our kids' activities, planning for meals, etc. Then I did a complete "brain dump" where I wrote down every task and to-do item I had spinning around my head.

By the time I was finished, the list was a full page long! And yet, surprisingly, I didn't feel overwhelmed by it. I felt relieved to have it on paper and no longer cluttering my mind. (I highly recommend this practice, by the way). I thought through ways I could complete the tasks and started to put a plan together. Because when I have a "plan," I feel more calm. A "plan" gives me the illusion (albeit a false one) that I have some sort of a grip or even a moderate amount of control over my life. Because when I feel in control, I feel more calm and relaxed.

Now, back to today's message at church.

"Write your plans in pencil. It is okay to make plans, but write them in pencil and remember who holds the pen. No matter what happens, He is in control. Sometimes you can plan. And sometimes you just go."

Wow. Did I need to hear that or what? Could that not have been directed right at me? Having spent the prior evening "relaxing" by making all of my plans for the week and months ahead, not once did I think about the fact that God is the one really in control.

The ultimate challenge for me will be to learn to rely on God so that even amid unexpected chaos and disarray, I can still feel calm and relaxed. To learn to be comfortable when things don't go as planned (also known as every single day as a parent) and know that even though I am not in control, God is.

I will still use all of my pretty planner pens, because they make me happy. But I am going to try a little harder to give myself grace when I have to put a big X through the things that didn't happen or had to be rescheduled.

And when life throws me curve balls, I will remember Psalm 46.1: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble."

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Our sweet Mrs. R

Dear, Rose.

When I count my blessings, you are high on the list. When we moved into our house 10 ½ years ago, we were very excited. We loved our new house, the big yard, and the nice neighborhood. What we didn’t know yet, was that having you as our neighbor was the most valuable part of our new property.

It has felt like we had another set of parents next door. I called you for cooking advice and when I needed ingredients (even if I didn’t yet know the difference between salted and unsalted butter). You loaned me your favorite cooking appliances and helped me learn how to use them. Every time I tried to give them back to you, you told me to hold on to them.

You were there for me for some of my hardest days as a parent and have given me six years worth of great parenting wisdom and advice. When I was stressed about how I would get home in time to get Graham off the kindergarten bus, you agreed to be a backup for me.

I am so thankful for all that you have done for me, but it is what you have done for my children that I will be forever grateful for. From the moment I brought them home from the hospital, I have watched you love and spoil my children. Watching them love you right back has been one of the greatest joys of my parenting journey.

Every Christmas, birthday, Easter, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, any random holiday or special occasion, and every day in between, you have spoiled my kids rotten. Calling them your pseudo grandchildren, you showered them with gifts, cookies, and lots of love and support. I know they thought of you as a pseudo Grandma, too.

When you got sick, I saw their deep concern for you and sadness that you were no longer next door. It was clear how much they loved you and how much they missed you. Watching them color you pictures, make you videos to cheer you up, and pray for you, gave me so much pride.

Telling them that you weren’t going to get better and watching them say their final goodbyes to you were some of the absolute saddest of my parenting moments. I will never forget the image of a very sad Graham in my rear-view mirror, crying as we drove to visit you for the final time at Hospice, asking me if the doctors had tried everything to make you better. Every time I think about the way he sadly waved goodbye to you at the end of your bed as he walked out of the room, quietly saying, “Bye, Mrs. R, I’ll see you in heaven,” will make me cry for a very long time.

I will think of you every time I read my kids one of the many books you bought them. I will think of you when we watch the fireworks on the 4th of July or when a recipe calls for unsalted butter. I will think of you when we plan our first family Disney trip, something I had hoped we could do together. I will think of you when I try to make your famous meatballs and when I use any of the Wolfgang Puck appliances you “loaned” me. You got me that stained-glass butterfly that is hanging on my window so that I would look at it and think of my brother. Now I will look at it and think of you, too. Please give him a hug for me.

I will never let my kids forget how much you loved them. I hope that you know how much we all loved you, too.

As Graham says, I’m excited to go to Heaven so I can see you again.

Rest in peace, sweet (and feisty) Rose.

Bette Midler

Some say love, it is a river, that drowns the tender reed
Some say love, it is a razor, that leaves your soul to bleed
Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need
I say love, it is a flower, and you, its only seed
Its the heart afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance
Its the dream afraid of waking, that never takes the chance
Its the one who won't be taking, who cannot seem to give
And the soul afraid of dying, that never learns to live
When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed, that with the sun's love in the spring becomes the rose