Friday, July 22, 2011

Not Turning From What I Know

How did you spend your summers?  I grew up in a neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio.  Every part of Grandview Heights was walking distance.  It’s a quaint part of Columbus with older homes, big trees, sidewalks, streetlamps, and on-street parking.  There seemed to always be a kickball game in alleyways that would last until after the sunset.  Those evenings seemed to last forever.  We smelled of sweat and chlorine from the pool.  The hum of the alleyway street light buzzed above…but we didn’t go inside until someone’s mom called them in.  I imagine I climbed into bed exhausted, only to do it all again the next night.

Tonight my seven year-old is sleeping over with a neighborhood friend.  He was so excited about tonight that he woke up at 5:30 this morning to start his day.  He took his bike and his DSi game system.  I’m sure as I write this that those boys are still awake playing video games and having a great time.  I’m so grateful for summer and all the fun it brings into my kids’ lives. 

I spent so many nights of my summer with my best friend, Lindsay.  We spent countless days together at the neighborhood pool.  We rode our bikes there practically every day.  We left the pool to hang out in her room playing Bargain Hunter and Guess Who for hours.  Her mom made the best brownies, hands down.  We ate them with Doritos and drank too much soda (or as Ohioans call it “pop.”)  We French braided each others hair and complained about too many freckles on our faces.  It was a time in life when nothing else mattered except that moment. 

It feels strange though to be on the other side of this.  All those nights I spent just trying to get Elliot to sleep through the night and now he’s saying things like “dude, how late do you think we can stay up?  He asked his friend this yesterday as they made plans for the sleepover.  All I could think was “and so it begins.”

I wonder if Elliot is spending tonight making some of those same types of memories.  Times when friends matter more than who you have a crush on.  Times when you laugh until you finally fall asleep.  I think he is, and I’m thankful for that.

Time flies when raising kids.  When Elliot was a baby John would sit on the porch swing and hold him until he fell asleep.  Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, until he finally surrendered to sleep.  I would stand in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner and listen to the creaking of the porch swing chains.  I remember one night John came in with a sleeping Elliot in his arms and said “never in my life has time gone so quickly but stood still at the same time.”  What a statement!  Truer words were never spoken!

As parents we sometimes feel that a season of parenting will never end—much like those summers I spent with Lindsay.   Being 11 seemed to last forever and all of a sudden I’m 35 (wow, did I really just admit that?!).  But, truth be told, time marches on.  Now it’s Elliot’s turn to make those summer memories.  How amazing life is.

I think parts of my childhood started me off in just the right direction.  Had it not, I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this…remembering Lindsay, remembering laughing, remembering how great it was to have a best friend.  I’m sure there are friends from your past that spark these memories too.  I hope your summers were filled with friends, junk food, kickball, pool parties, and great memories. I wouldn't be who I am today without those memories.

Proverbs 22:6  Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Thank you for reading.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Too Much Over Focus

Negative thinking.  Just those two words are ones that I am all too familiar with.  Negative thinking is something I really struggle with.  I’ve been guilty at times of allowing one negative thought to seep in and steel my focus and energy.  It may be a negative thought I have about myself, or it may be a negative feeling I have about a situation.  In either case, it leaves me feeling drained.

I read a daily devotional by Rick Warren…you know him, he wrote The Purpose Driven Life.  In the reading for July 13 he talked about “The Battle of the Mind.”  Simply stated he said “if you are thinking depressed thoughts, you will feel depressed.  If you want to get out of that depression then simply ask God to give you better thoughts.”  This sounded too good to be true.  However, I know that a positive mindset isn’t something I am able to do on my own, so why not try this approach?

I have to say, I’ve been testing it, and I have experienced a lighter heart.  Some could argue that it’s because I’m focusing on it more.  I’ve also read that when we focus on the positive, we feel more positive.  I’m not giving myself that much credit.  My negative thinking was learned and sometimes encouraged growing up.  Have you ever acted as a “Debbie Downer” only to be joined by others?  Then you get to wallow in the thoughts with company.  However comforting that can be, it’s not a good habit to get into.  So, for me, I admit; it’s going to take something bigger than my own mindset to break that cycle. 

I’m not suggesting that I will always be sunshiney and cheery.  I’m human.  My struggle is becoming over focused on the negative.  Much like the way a magnifying glass can be used to pinpoint the sun’s energy.  Focus that heat long enough and leaves and grass (or a small ant) can burn up.  I don’t want to burn up. 

I’ll take tactics rooted in something more than myself.  It’s important to do that because in the grand scheme my little mess is so outweighed by how big I’m blessed (thanks to Francesca Battistelli for her song on that!). 

So, I continue to ask for positive thoughts.  I ask for strength to diffuse that heat when it does come in.  A sense of peace in my life comes from something greater than negative thought, something much greater than myself. 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  John 14:27 (NLT)

Thanks for reading

Monday, July 11, 2011

Do You Know a REAL Housewife?

Are you surrounded by people that build you up?  I read a blog last week that asked that question.  The timing was great too because I had been thinking of how thankful I am for people that have been placed into my life.  This also has had me reflecting on those “Real Housewives” shows.  I’m not a big fan of those shows and here’s why.  I don’t see the women on those shows building each other up.  It’s like they are calculating their next callous move toward another.  That isn’t healthy.

Mastin Kipp is the founder of this blog called The Daily Love.  Mr. Kipp was the one who wrote the blog I mentioned previously.  Here’s a quote from the blog, “Let us hang with people who uplift us, who encourage us towards our dreams and who challenge our thought patterns. Let us not surround ourselves with people who always agree with us, but rather people who support our growth by challenging our beliefs and helping us break through to new mental and spiritual ground so that our lives may be enriched as a by-product.”  

I am fortunate to have some really great women in my life that do the very things that Mr. Kipp mentions.  After I spend time with the women that God has placed in my life I feel full, a sense of growth, and definitely encouraged.  These are the kind of friends that we all desperately need, but don’t always have. 

Not all the friends I have are connected to each other, but they are all connected to my heart.  I love how that works.  It’s like the most wonderful bouquet.  Each brings uniqueness, wonderful beauty.  In the best bouquet there are many colors, scents and textures.  Every woman loves a bouquet of flowers.  Receiving flowers brings us joy.  The encouraging women in my life do the same thing for me.  And, beyond that, they bring out the best parts of me by encouraging me, challenging me, praying for me, and holding me accountable.  It’s a true friend that helps make you a better person, all while accepting you right where you are.

My sister, my two childhood best friends, and my best friend from Virginia

Friends become enmeshed in each others lives and that can be good or bad.  After all, you are the company you keep.  Maybe it’s time to create your own Real, Real Housewives group.  Maybe you need to become part of a women’s study group.  Maybe it’s a book club, or a running club.  Whatever your life is calling for, but don’t give up until you find those friends that leave you with your sides aching from laughter or your thinking traveling in a whole new (and wonderful) direction.  Maybe you are fortunate and you have those friends that surround you.  If so, maybe it’s time you let them know how thankful you are that God placed them beside you.  

So, here's to you girls...I love each of you and the "flower" you are in my life's bouquet.

1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”

If you want to read the entire entry from The Daily Love, find it here:

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Don't Worry About Tomorrow

This past week I met with my woman’s group and took a spiritual assessments test.  The test asked a series of questions that we were to rate 1-5 on how well the written statement described our current place in faith.  Upon calculation, the greatest a person could earn would be a sum of 50 in one area.  I earned 50 in two areas…music and (you guessed it) writing.  So, I think I will keep on writing the blog, and I will look into becoming part of our church’s band as soon as they have auditions.  I’m excited and humbled by both of these “perfect” scores.  I just think God knows right where to use me.

I’ve reflected on this further though and it’s lead me to consider other people’s gifts in my life.  I immediately thought of my son, Elliot.  Elliot is 7 and even though there isn’t a category for “swimming” on the assessment; I’m thinking about how it fits in to his life (and my own).  When I wrote the post about “She Met a Princess,” Elliot was looking over my shoulder as I hit the final “post” button.  He asked, “are you going to write a blog about me, Mommy?”  “Yes, Elliot.  I will,” was my reply.  I’m not writing this out of obligation, but because this is weighing on my heart.

When Elliot was 2 he needed to have his tonsils and adenoids removed.  We took him for a routine CT scan pre-op for the procedure.  The CT scan showed that he had a sizeable mass on his brain behind his right eye (about the size of a plum).  Not the information you expect your ENT to deliver.  The ENT put off surgery until a MRI could be done.  Two agonizing weeks followed before we heard, with certainty, that it was not a brain tumor. 

Elliot has an arachnoid cyst on his brain.  This cyst cannot develop into a tumor (thank God) but can pose serious health risks.  These health risks may not ever develop, or they may develop over a few years time, tomorrow, anytime….He has limitations.  He cannot play any contact sports because the cyst has its own blood supply.  A blow to the head could result in a fatal injury.  I felt like the worst mom on the planet the day I delivered the news, “you cannot play football.”  Maybe soccer.  Maybe baseball.  Maybe basketball.  Maybe.

Maybe.  That is a word that God has added to my vocabulary (among others) that I didn’t really think much of before.  Maybe these symptoms will develop; maybe they won’t.  Maybe he will be just fine; maybe he won’t.  It sounds volatile.

We’ve been to many specialists.  John, in his amazing medical understanding, has been able to dissect medical articles that have given us knowledge.  But, above it all I have learned to lean into my faith.  My faith was tested greatly during those 2 weeks of uncertainty.  I would sit on the side of Elliot’s bed, as he slept, holding his hand and asking, Why?  Why this?  Why now?  What does this mean? 

And, I came to this conclusion…sometimes God brings us to our knees so we can learn how much we need Him.  And, oh how I need Him.

I couldn’t get through today without my faith.  I won’t be able to face the uncertainties of tomorrow without it either.  I wouldn’t be able to let Elliot out of my sight without it.  I have faith that God will strengthen me through mothering Elliot; through watching him walk through the doors of the elementary school without me; and through getting through another day without any symptoms.

Elliot is amazing.  There is evidence from above that we are being looked after.  I mentioned the swimming.  One sport Elliot can participate in, without worry, is swimming.  For some unexplainable reason, Elliot is an excellent swimmer.  At his first meet of this season, he earned third place in freestyle, fourth in butterfly and first in breast stroke.  When he came in the door with that “heat ribbon” for breast stroke I overflowed with thankfulness.  Elliot beamed with pride.  All I could do as I hugged him was silently in my head say “thank you God for providing achievement in the area that he is able to participate.” 

Even though I was standing in my kitchen, I was “on my knees” in thankfulness for that moment.  I’m thankful that his cyst has not grown in size.  I’m thankful for every day that we have without a symptom.  I’m thankful that I don’t worry most days about him or the “maybes.”  He’s a normal kid…sometimes too smart for his own good. 
God has used this part of Elliot to grow me, to grow our family, to grow Elliot, and to grow our faith. 

I find comfort in Matthew 6:34 So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

It this difficult?  Absolutely.  Does this test my faith?  Absolutely.  But, I find that I am able to offer things of myself that wouldn’t be there unless I had gone through this.  And, in time perhaps so will Elliot.

So, be thankful for the trials that God has placed in your path.  Perhaps you can be a positive light to another parent, another child, or to yourself.  And, remember…only worry about today because it’s all we have.  Tomorrow will give us a whole new set of worries in its own time.

Thank you for reading.