Making Room for What Is Coming

So it’s Lent.

A season which is confusing at best.

For me, anyway.

My first exposure to Lent and the longest lasting impression of the season for me is one of giving something up.

That was in college when I had a friend who was Catholic.  So we all gave up something. (Ummm, in most cases, I think it was chocolate.)  It was interesting too, because there was the debate of whether or not Sundays counted as part of Lent.

After college, I found my way back to the Episcopal church, where Lenten traditions were observed, and yes, we gave up something, and Sundays did not count.  I gave up sweet tea (clutch my pearls and gasp), which was VERY significant and a challenge for me.  Rather than keeping the tea in the house, on Saturday afternoons, I would ride to town and pick up an extra-large (read half-gallon or some ridiculous amount like that) of sweet tea from Dairy Queen (closed on Sundays) and tote it back home and keep it in the frigidaire until Sunday.  It lasted me all day.  Oh my land,, with all that sugar it should have lasted me a week.

Then there were years I gave up chewing gum.  Another nail biter.  But I made it.  Then there were years that I gave up eating meat during the daylight hours.  That was interesting, especially when I’d go to Mama’s and she made her “green pizza”–spinach quiche with bacon on top.  She would either make me one without the bacon or she’d pick the pieces off my slice.  Mama was like that.  Supporting whatever I had going on.

It was important that I did something each day to focus on the season.  In more recent years, I’ve struggled with healthy eating.  I found out during a book study where we limited what we ate that, while I do not have an eating disorder, it’s best not to mess too much with my eating habits.  It’s a rocky slope.

And so I don’t.  I enjoyed reading the thoughts of a friend about Lent (it’s a must read–you’re welcome), as in we need to create space for what is coming, much like a bird does with a nest.  That I can get on board with.  That is exactly what I need this year.  Creating space.  Quieting my spirit.  My mind and my heart open.  Yes.

A work  in progress, but I’m embracing it.

Some folks are taking the forty days of Lent to get rid of 40 bags of stuff.  That’s ambitious, and I’m impressed.  It terrifies my pack rat, semi-hoarding sentimental self, but for those of you attempting it, you go!  I’m proud for you.  A couple of weeks ago, I finished emptying out a storage unit of things from Mama’s, and then we cleaned up a LOT of stuff (read “we only had a path from the door of the garage to the door of the house” *ack!*) from our garage.  So Imma have to rest on my laurels from that one for a little while, realize I’m okay without all of that stuff, and then I’ll be ready to tackle another pile or closet.  But it  probably won’t happen during Lent.

And I’m okay with that.

The thing about cleaning out our homes and our souls is that a lot of it is trash, isn’t it?  So often it’s not really anything anyone else can use, even though we surely want to recycle it and pass it on.  Sometimes deliberately (with a sad, tired pair of shoes or that Chia pet we never opened) and sometimes not so much (passing on the ugliness and hurt we’ve been feeling).  But it’s still trash.

Nobody wants that Chia pet.

I’m just saying.

Or that hurt and pain either.

Let it go, folks.

Hugh Hollowell shared about some things that had been “donated” to Love Wins, “a ministry of presence and pastoral care for the homeless and at-risk population of Raleigh, NC.”  (Chia pet included.  I can’t even.)  His friends and folks who cared commented, sharing things that well-intentioned people had donated to their missions–expired food items, used bars of soap, used underwear, torn up furniture.

Y’all.  For the love.

So as we clean out our hearts and minds and spirits and closets, let’s remember to let the trash go.  All the brokenness and broken things we’ve tucked away and can do without, so can everyone else.  I’m all about sharing the joy and hugs and encouragement and items in gently-used condition (I love me some thrift shops, y’all know), but sometimes folks are better off if we just toss it in a bag and take it to the dump.  Literally and figuratively.

Others, especially those hurting from their own stories, shouldn’t have to deal with our rubbish.

May we all find something wonderful–joy, a smile, kind words, a pair of gloves, or a much-loved, still lovely blanket–to share with another today.  It’s all about building that nest.  To have room for what’s coming.

Love to all.

Letting go of the rubbish, to make room for something better.

Letting go of the rubbish, to make room for something better.

 

Saying Their Names

Our Princess loves to check the mail.

I don’t blame her.  It was my thing once upon a time too.

Yesterday she brought in a stack of mail.  A bill, unsolicited advertisements, a catalog, a magazine, and a package.

An unexpected package, I should add, which sent tingles of delight and anticipation surging through us all.

Inside was a treasure.

Well, there were books, so yes, that was a treasure in and of itself, but there was also a letter.

But not just any letter.

This was from a dear soul who knew my Mama and my Daddy.  Daddy talked with her and listened and let her into his world, when everything seemed to be falling apart in his fight against Goliath.  She was such a comfort to us all in those days.  Especially for Mama.  I am convinced she is the reason Mama found her place after Daddy died.   Our friend invited Mama on an outing, and from that Mama found a place to be, a place to serve, and a place to love and be loved.

For all of the fifteen months she lived after losing her best friend.

And this dear soul was there when Mama took her last breath.  She was also there when our cousin, Miss B, took hers.  I don’t know what I would have done without her through all of those days.  A comfort to be sure.

This letter she took the time to write was no ordinary one.

It was a remembering, an honoring of the lives of the two people I love and miss so much.  I laughed and I cried as I read the two handwritten pages front and back.

What a gift.

Grief is an odd duck.  I’ve said it before, and this probably won’t be the last time.  The thing is I can go a day or a few without tears.  The missing them, the holes in my life, doesn’t go away, but I can cope.  I can function and I can go on.  (Which shocks me to be quite honest, I never thought I’d be able to.) Then a day will come and the thought of something I want to tell Mama about or a question I want to ask Daddy comes to mind, and I’m a weepy mess just as I was in the shower night after night those first few months.  The tidal wave washes over me, knocks me down, and I am LOST once again.

And in this, though there are so many others who loved them and miss them, wrong or not, I wonder if I am the only one still struggling like this.  It’s been two and three years since their passing on, and time heals, so they say, so maybe I’m the only one, so I don’t bring it up…..because I don’t want to upset anyone or because I figure I’m just crazy.  All depends on the day.

This letter was timely and purposefully so.  She remembered it was the anniversary of us saying goodbye to Mama.  And so she wrote.  And she called them. by. name.

I miss hearing their names.

Tonight I am thankful for the grief.

That sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

But the thing is, I fear a day will come and I won’t have the tears.  The memories might fade such that I don’t weep with the pain of missing them.  I never want their passing to be just a thing in my past.  I want to remember.

And I give thanks for the others who remember.  Who tell me they do, and who share their memories.

That right there.

That’s a gift.  I clung to the phone as an older friend shared the story of my Daddy driving home from work as a young man, making the turn onto his road on two wheels.  That was it.  Nothing else to the story, but my knuckles were white and my heart listened to every detail and etched it into my memory.  Because she told me about Bill.  From long ago.

And the letter.  The paper is a little warped from the tears, but I won’t let them go willingly.  On it are the names of those I love.  And memories I don’t have, but that were shared with me. About Bill and Barbara.  I cling to those.

So if you’re ever wondering what you can do for someone who is missing someone they love, call them up, sit down over a cup of coffee or a glass of sweet tea, and call those folks by name.  Share your stories and listen to theirs.  Even if it’s been a year.  Two.  Ten.  Talk about the person.

Say their name.

May we all have someone who walks alongside us to remember and share stories with as we traverse this path of grief and loss and this whole journey of life.

Love to all.

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Watching and Waiting

My little guy Cooter has been under the weather for a few days.  He started off complaining of a sore throat and then the sniffles hit.  It all came to a head (his head) yesterday with coughing and sneezing that had us all running to get out of the spray zone.

Ahem.

He is a little more willing to cuddle when he’s like this.  While this cold hasn’t knocked him out completely (thankful for that), he has wanted to sit right next to me as he worked on his math or read his book.  He and Miss Sophie have gotten quite territorial over who gets to sit curled up on my right side.  It’s been downright comical at times.

Yesterday evening the Fella was a little later getting home from work.  I was scrambling to get Miss Sophie’s evening constitutional walk in before someone had to take our Princess to swim practice.  It was cold, and my goal was that Cooter not have to get out in the weather or be left alone inside while I took Miss Sophie out.

So I quickly took our canine companion down the street while the Fella gathered up what he needed to head out the door a few minutes later.  And while I was walking her, he took this picture.

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Besides the boy himself, this is one of my most favorite things the Fella has given me.

This picture.

Oh those bare toes and the mismatched pajamas and the shirt on backwards and the toting of Wicket the Ewok everywhere he goes–that’s enough to love it with my whole heart right there.  This is Cooter’s childhood in one photograph.

And I love him so.

But what really fills my heart to bustin’ is what he’s doing.

Peering out from behind the curtain.  Watching.  Waiting.  On Me.

As my oldest would say: all the feels, y’all.

That precious little guy.  This little person who changed my world forever when he came into being–he was waiting on me.

I’m so not worthy.

Yesterday parts of our country saw some very harsh weather.  Hugh Hollowell, the Director of Love Wins Ministries in North Carolina, wrote yesterday morning that he was walking in the snow from his house to open up the Hospitality House at Love Wins.  He posted pictures, and this Georgia girl was impressed.  Snow like that here and we’d be battening down the hatches and going nowhere.  (Well, we’re doing that anyway based on temperatures alone, but still, SNOW.  It’s been a while, and I’m not a big fan.)

A  little while later he shared that he had been there twenty minutes and had already gotten a couple of phone calls.

Folks wanting to know if they were open.  All day.

Yep.

“Thank God.”

Hugh had folks waiting for him.  Watching for him.  Depending on him and his folks to be there.

To provide friendship, comfort, warmth, shelter, and food–for the body and soul.  And he didn’t want to let them down.

I wonder if he feels worthy.

(I happen to think he is, just for the record.)

The thing that touched my heart last night as I went in and covered up my sleeping, sniffly boy was how humbling it is to be the one he was waiting on.  And not just waiting, but actively watching and waiting for.  Seeking.

I want to be worthy of that.  I want to be the one he and his siblings can depend on like Hugh’s friends can depend on him.  I don’t want to get caught up in the world and its expectations and busy-ness and not be there when one of them is looking for me.  I don’t want to let any of them down.

I am honored to be the one.

For now.

I know it might not always be so.  Eventually they will head out on their own paths and have other people to whom they might turn first.  And that’s okay (I guess, thankful I have time to get adjusted to that thought), but for now, I’m working really hard to be worthy of those eyes and those toes and the mismatched pajamas–worthy of that heart looking to me to help guide the way.

Tonight I’m thankful for cuddles and for noses that are much better today.  I am thankful there are people like Hugh who are there for those in need who are waiting and watching, so that right now I can be that person for my children at home.  One day I want to be like him–helping where I can–but for now, this is where I belong.  Coming home.  To the ones who are waiting.

Love to all.

 

To support Hugh Hollowell and his staff helping those in need, please visit their website and find out what they need most this time of year.  Click here to check it out.  

Looking Up

This evening as I took Miss Sophie out for her evening constitutional, all was quiet except for the artisans finishing up the bricks on the new house.  (I am intrigued by their artwork and skills–I could stand and watch for hours, but I worry about being labeled a stalker in my own neighborhood, so I refrain.)

As I gazed up, breathing in the cold, crisp air, what I saw took my breath away.

The river of birds at sunset.  I tried to capture it, but this was a good as it got.  The birds are the tiny specks you might think are bits of dust on your screen.  I gave up trying to get a great shot and just watched, soaking it all in.

The river of birds at sunset. I tried to capture it, but this was a good as it got. The birds are the tiny specks you might think are bits of dust on your screen. I gave up trying to get a great shot and just watched, soaking it all in.

Oh bless it.

A river of birds.

Those blackbirds flying over in a pattern that was beautiful.  They waved and wound their way through the skies overhead, their darkness in striking contrast to the brilliance of the soft and lovely sunset.

And I remembered.

I remembered the first time I heard about the river of birds–the first time I’d heard it called that.  Pastor Bill talked about them as he shared stories with all of us at Miss B’s memorial service.

Miss B, our elderly cousin, who passed away two years ago today.  One week after Mama left this world.  Such a gentle soul, who is now dancing in a beautiful bright pink housecoat with no halt in her step and whose speech is now clearer than it’s ever been.  I know this with all my heart; I saw it all in a dream.  And I am thankful.

I am also thankful for this day two years ago, because hope was born.  Again.  Bubba’s new baby was born.  The one so loved and anticipated by us all.  He was born and we all fell in love.  And fell to our knees in thanks.  He had a hard start, but he’s a strong little guy, and he is a delight in our world.

Two years ago today.  A day that began with saying goodbye brought a beautiful hello by the time the sun set.

That’s what life does.  It’s never a straight cut path.  It waves and winds through joy and sorrow, good times and sad.  The most important thing about the journey, just as it is for our feathered friends, are the ones who travel alongside us, helping us to navigate the path.  Staying beside us and moving to lead the way when we need them to.

Tonight I’m thankful for the life of Miss B, who shared her love of beautiful things with us all and didn’t let what she “should” be able to do stop her from trying to defy the odds.  And I give thanks for my nephew, our Deer one.  He’s a sport, and his love and those eyes and when he says, “Oh sure…..”

Good job, God.  Thank You.

And happy birthday, little one!

Love to all.

 

Fringe Hours

I am laughing as I recall my Joyful friend and I talking so many years ago about the books we had in stacks beside our beds.

“They read like the self-help shelves at the bookstore.”

Yeah.  They did.

You know those books where an author proclaims they can tell you how to become a better person in 5 days or how to lose 25 pounds in a month or how to parent the perfect child……by a week from Saturday, just in time for the family picnic?

Been there, started to read that, rarely finished a single one of them.

Until now.

Fringe Hours

The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You by Jessica N. Turner

I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the launch team for this book.  Which means I got a copy (ooohhhh, a new book–y’all know how much I love books!) of the book in advance back in January.  I was excited to read it and share my thoughts.

So here goes.

First of all, I haven’t been reading it alone.

This has been my reading companion.

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My reading companion–so many thoughts have resonated with me that I’ve been underlining and starring all over the place.

 

I have been underlining and starring all through this book.  (And toss in a few “Yes!” and “Amen”‘s for good measure.)  This is not your ordinary “expert tells all the have nots how to get it”  book.  This is like a conversation with your friend.  She laughs, she confesses, she shares, and she cares.  I don’t know how she does it, but in this book, as I’ve been reading, I had this sense that she really, truly cares about me and how I carve out time for me. To be. Me.

Much like a dear friend would.

She’s also not just sharing her own stories.  Ms. Turner surveyed over 2000 women from all 50 states and over 30 countries around the world.  She asked questions and she took time to hear their stories, many of which are shared in the book.

And that’s why this book won’t leave my shelves.  Because of the message I got as I read page after page about women, like me, who crave some time to express themselves but feel guilty taking away that time from the family.

The message that I am not alone.

As I read story after story, I kept thinking, “Me too.”  “I hear you.”  “Oh my land, I thought I was the only one.”

Have you ever wondered if you were the only one who felt the way you did and then found out you weren’t?  That feeling.  That grace.  This book is full of it.

In one chapter, she remembers reading under the covers with a flashlight as a child–oh the joy of that memory for me!  And when Ms. Turner admits to leaving supper dishes in the sink until the next morning, I laughed with gratitude.  When she talked about her fabric “stash,” I knew we could be sisterfriends for life.  I live that.  (well, okay, with yarn instead of fabric, but still)

Here are just a few of the quotes from the book that resonated with me:

“Just because something is a good thing doesn’t mean it is good for this moment in your life.”  Chapter on Pursuing Balance

relationships currency

“In the end, I just had to let it go and not worry about the state of my home.  She knew I was on a book deadline, and she wasn’t coming to see my house–she was coming to see me.  Relationships are the currency that matters, not the conditions of our homes.”  Chapter on Letting Go of Self-Imposed Pressures     (oh AMEN!)

“Self-care needs to be included in what you should be doing.  It is not a privilege.  It is a necessity…..Choosing yourself is not wrong.”  Chapter on Eliminating Guilt and Comparison

“…..I have learned that while I sometimes regret saying yes, I never regret saying no.”  Chapter on Prioritizing Your Activities

“Yes is so often the expected response that a no can be difficult to both give and receive.  We get emails asking for volunteers, and if the slots don’t fill up fast enough, more emails come pressuring us to respond because not enough people have signed up.   If we still don’t volunteer to help, we’re looked at as ‘uncommitted……’ Women need to be kinder to themselves and one another…..What I am telling you is that if someone says they cannot help, do not judge her.  Instead, ask if you can help her.  Ask if she needs anything.  Or just say, ‘It’s really great that you know your limits and said no. I respect that.’ And mean it.”  Chapter on Prioritizing Your Activities

“Maybe we don’t need so many apps.”  Chapter on Using Your Time Efficiently

“Asking for help can feel very vulnerable. I sometimes feel like if I ask for help, I am not being a good wife.  This is a lie.  Who I am as a wife is not defined by whether I can get all the laundry done.”  Chapter on Embracing Help

“Sometimes we have to let go of self-imposed have-tos and settle for good enough.” Chapter on Overcoming Obstacles

“You can feed your passions by running a hundred miles or sewing a dozen dresses, but if you don’t take time to be still and rest, you will eventually suffer.”  Chapter on Finding Rest

 

Something tells me she might need a nap sometimes too.

We all do really, just as we all need to read this book.  It is empowering and encouraging.  The list of gracious ways to say no presented in Chapter 7 makes it worth the time spent reading it all by itself.  I think one of my favorite “guides” for knowing when to say no to was also in that chapter.  Ms. Turner shared the story of Mandy, who said “she says no to things that will make her yell at her kids.”

That right there.  My new rule of thumb.  We’ll all be better off, really, to be rushing to the car and to the “next” thing on the agenda a little less often I think.

This book is one I will thumb back through a lot.  For the funny stories, for the wisdom, for that list in Chapter 7 when I get asked to do something.  🙂  I want all of the folks I care about to read this book.  And be encouraged.  And to chase their passions.  To find what feeds their souls.

While I can’t send everyone a copy of this book, I am going to share a copy with one of you.  The book is being released today, February 17.  You can enter by sharing a dream that you’d like to pursue or one that you are making happen in the comment thread here or on the post on the I Might Need a Nap Facebook page.  Be sure to like the page and sign up to follow the blog, so you won’t miss anything.  One winner will be randomly selected from all entries.  Entry deadline is 11:59 p.m. EST on February 18.

If you are eager to get your own copy or twelve, you can head over to http://www.fringehours.com or any of the major booksellers to order now.  You can read the first chapter free on the website.  There are other resources also available.

 

Tonight I am thankful for the opportunity to read this book.  I am thankful for the woman who wrote it and for the women who were brave enough to share their stories too.  Most of all, I am thankful for being reminded of the grace we can and should offer each other, encouraging and empowering each of us to be joyful and better at living and sharing the journey with peace-filled hearts.

 

Wishing you all the surprise of finding some Fringe Hours in your week.

Love to all.

Real

Every now and then a thought comes to mind, and something sitting beside it whispers, “Yeah, move this one to the head of the line.  This one needs sharing now.”

Today has been one of those times.  The thought that has been nudging me for a couple of days insists on being shared.

And heard.

So here goes.

What you see here is only a snapshot out of the thousands that are taken.  What you see here is only a sliver of all that is.

What you see here is not representative of all that I live.

This is accurate about my blog, about our Facebook posts, and about what we tweet or pin or post on instagram.

Each of them just a blip of what goes on, and then it is only what any one of us is comfortable showing.

There’s so much more that isn’t.

 

I’ve been thinking about this in the context of my Daddy telling me many times, “You compare, you lose.”

And you know why?

Because we don’t know.  We don’t know what all someone else is going through.  We don’t know what they don’t post about, what goes on in their home when they aren’t on Facebook or taking pictures to share later.  We.  Don’t.  Know.

My life is good.  I’m very, very fortunate to have what I need and so much more.

But what I don’t write about sometimes are the really messy times.  The times I ugly cry or worse, ugly yell.  The times I sit in traffic and mutter (mostly) under my breath about the crazy drivers around me.  The projects I start and then give up on.  The projects I never start.  Mount Washmore piled up on Cap’s couch waiting for my attention.  How high the sink of dirty dishes gets before it’s on my nerves enough for me to get in there to remedy the situation.  How sometimes my children have to call my name more than once to get my attention.  The OCD that makes even me a little crazy.  The tears I cry over things that happen because of decisions I made and the things that happen that I couldn’t prevent.  The arguments over clean rooms, messy rooms, not playing at the house around the corner, showing each other respect, what’s for supper, whose turn it is to do (fill in the blank here) first, lights not turned off, toilets not flushed, dirty clothes on the floor, and so much more that my head is spinning (and not from the vertigo, I don’t think, it seems a little better today).

Here’s the thing.

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I’m real.  I’m human.

We all are.

And while this isn’t an excuse for poor behavior, it does mean that I’m not perfect.  None of us are really.  Except for well, maybe, perfectly broken.  That one could work.

And it’s in that brokenness that I find myself.  The real-est me.  The one who has to dig deep and try harder.

And that’s when my soul grows.

Someone up in this brain of mine thought we might all need to hear that.

We’re all messy, broken, hurting, hurters, loving, loved, and beautiful.

So next time someone’s story or comment or picture or even their presence right in front of you causes you to question where you are, what you are worth, why you are even here, know that this is only a glimpse–a glimpse they are letting you see, and that’s it.

There’s so much more than what meets the eye, as we are standing on the outside looking in through the only open curtain.

Tonight I’m thankful for a story shared by a guest speaker at Evening Prayer tonight.  She has quite the presence–tall, lovely, excellent speaker, and she exudes a peace and tranquility that is a rare treat to find in a person.  She told the story of shopping and having to stand at a counter for twenty minutes before being addressed at all.  She was frustrated.  Well, of course, right?  In that moment I saw her as human and broken just like me.  I saw myself mirrored in her eyes, and I realized that the grace I offered her in the “well of course you were frustrated,” I could also offer myself, because we are not all that different.

I love how she finished her story.  She had a decision to make.  To be THAT person–complaining and letting the world know about her much-justified frustrations or to be THAT person who is patient and kind and handles it with grace.

We all have that choice, don’t we?  To be frustrated that we’re not having the kind of awesome day that Jocelyn just posted about, that Twila got a new car and we’re still driving our old one that breaks down every 52.5 miles.  That Junior got a promotion with a huge bonus and we can barely eke by on what we’re making now, no raise in sight.

We have a choice.  We can be frustrated and feel less than–

or we can know that these are just glimpses into the lives of folks whose whole stories we really don’t know.

And we can be okay with who and where we are.  And be THAT person.

The one who doesn’t compare, the one who wins, the one who is content with where she/he is and is all in.

Wishing you all a day full of learning everyone else is just as REAL as you are.

Love to all.

Vertigo

Vertigo.

Vertigo is not fun.

If you’ve never had it, here’s how my bouts with it usually start.

I wake up and turn my head and suddenly my bed, my whole room is spinning.  Even closing my eyes doesn’t stop the sensation.

Fortunately, it’s usually manageable.  I just take extra care not to turn my head suddenly or bend at the waist.

Like I forgot and did a few minutes ago.

Not.  Good.

When it hits me like that, I just sit down. Stop.

I am still.

And eventually the world rights itself again.

And I am thankful.

As I was sitting there, on the floor, next to the thing I bent over to pick up, waiting for the spinning to stop, it occurred to me that life is very much like that.

Something shifts and our world goes topsy-turvy.  Unfortunately, in the midst of that, it is rare that I find myself able to let things go, sit, and be still, but until I do, chaos ensues.  I only contribute to the spinning madness.

Once I can sit, listen to the quiet, and still my spirit, I usually find that things get set to right again.  Oh, I’m not saying it’s easy or that I don’t have to do something to right my world at some point.  What I have come to realize is that if I still my soul before taking action, things seem to go so much better.

And the vertigo doesn’t last nearly as long.

Tonight I’m thankful for the stillness.  And the quiet.  And the peace in my soul that comes from simply sitting.  And not trying to fight all that is out of order all at once.  And I am thankful for the grace that allows me to get back up and try again, once the spell is over.

Wishing you all a moment to sit and be and still your soul.  Love to all.