It’s the tiniest little luxury that I allow myself on a daily basis: the crunch of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate sea salt almonds. Healthy? I’m sure. It sits on the back corner of my kitchen counter, easily accessible whenever I need a little respite from the preschooler fights I constantly referee or the house chaos I seem to be always fighting a (losing) battle against.
But this small bite of chocolate-sea salt can transport me away from all of that to a brief moment of pure food delight. It sounds pitiable, and sometimes I see that myself and think – “is this an unhealthy escape right now? what if I prayed as much as I reached for chocolate almonds? would there be more peace in my home, in my heart?” That’s what can be so darn troubling about being a woman who over-analyzes everything. I can’t even enjoy my bite of chocolate in peace.
Then again, I remind myself that I belong to a God who has given every good thing for us to enjoy. And so I reach over for the chocolate-sea salt almond, take a small handful (or a half dozen), and eat with joy and gratitude for a God who’s even more present than my box of chocolates.
Part of the October writing challenge to write 31 days of 5-minute prompts. See more here.
I would be rich if I had a dollar for each time someone (a stranger in Target usually) tells me while my kids are in the midst of a tantrum, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Yes, yes, they are, I want to reply – “IF YOU’RE LOOKING BACK ON THEM IN HINDSIGHT.” I want to add. And probably in an all-caps tone of voice too.
Yet it’s true, isn’t it, the way that what’s long in the midst of it seems short looking back on it. In my own stories of suffering, the moments feel impossibly long when you’re waiting to see if your mom’s chemo treatment will successfully eradicate her cancer, or when you’re unsure of the length of bedrest before your twins will arrive, or when you cannot remember the last time you slept more than 2 hours at a time, or while awaiting news of acceptance to your top college, or simply the last time you were sick in bed with the flu.
I think patience is called “longsuffering” for a reason. Patience is to suffer long. But to keep suffering … waiting … hoping for relief, believing it will come one day and that “long” will turn to “short” from the perspective of eternity. So whatever it is for you that feels long today, know this: first, it IS long. But also secondly, it WILL pass and there is grace for the “long” to become the patience of “longsuffering.”
Part of the October writing challenge, extending my favorite Friday writing exercise into 31 days of five minute free-writes. Read more here.
It turns out that Virginia has been the best place for Seth and me to live. With its position halfway between New Jersey and South Carolina, it’s been equidistant to both sets of families, and the culture has reflected this blend of both Northern and Southern enough to make us both feel partially at home. One is tempered by the other. The driving isn’t too aggressive for me; the tea isn’t too sweet for Seth.
And it’s the birthplace of our daughters, and the home of the church where we both work and the people we have come to love. Plus here is where we’ve bought our first home, amidst a neighborhood of other young families we feel like we are growing up with together.
Virginia has everything – the metropolitan DC area in the Northeast of the state, breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains to the west, and the coast in the Southeast. For us beach lovers, it’s been the best place to put down roots. Plus Virginia has a stateliness inherent in its distinct status as a “Commonwealth” that is compelling. As much as my husband is a Jersey boy and always will be, and I am a Carolina girl forever, we are both proud to raise our daughters as Virginians.
Part of a 31-day writing challenge. Read the rest here.
Blue mountains set the background of the horizon as green hills stretch out into my hometown. Born a Georgia girl, I was raised a (South) Carolina girl. It is home. It will always welcome me as no other place can each time I drive down I-85 into that comfortable not-too-big-nor-too-small city of Greenville, SC.
South Carolina cradles all my memories of childhood. Playing in the backyard of our Sugar Creek house with my younger brothers; exploring downtown as it gradually became less sketchy during high school years and beyond; discovering the first and best coffeeshop entitled appropriately, “Coffee Underground.” First dates. First job. First friends. First faith. All happened in South Carolina.
Family still dwells there, and they welcome me back with open arms, a glass of mint sweet-iced tea, and a good ole “y’all” thrown in with a few “Dang it!”‘s for good measure. And I know I’m home. These are my people, this is my land. It doesn’t have to explain itself to me or I to it. I’ve changed in my travels, and so has my fair city. We’ve both grown up. And I couldn’t be more proud to be a Carolina girl.
Liberty Bridge in Falls Park, Downtown Greenville
Part of my October writing challenge/movement: 31 days of five minute free writes. Read more here.
It’s called the “Garden State,” but I grew up thinking of New Jersey as the epitome of everything “Northern.” And I hate to admit it, but as a Southern girl, that was not a flattering adjective.
Then I met a real-live person from New Jersey, and I found myself inexplicably drawn to his candor and – when he took me home for the first time – to the unexpected beauty of his state. Yes, New Jersey is more than turnpikes and industrial zones (what most see as they drive through on their way to NYC). There is beauty there. Wildlife, greenery, and people who are truly and deeply kind. My parents-in-law and all of their friends, for example.
There is a loyalty with someone you become friends with from New Jersey. They will be your friend for life, through thick and thin. Now, of course I’m biased since I’m married to a New Jersey man. And I do think God must have chuckled when he saw the younger version of myself making fun of New Jersey accents/etc. He must have been saying – “Just wait … just wait!”
So New Jersey? It’s home of the best tomatoes and blueberries and it holds some of the kindest, most candid, and most loyal people I’ve ever met. Plus it really is beautiful. Don’t believe me yet? I’ll include a few photos as proof. If you dare, take an exit off the turnpike and visit one of the many charming towns – and you might think you’re in small-town America, not the big industrial New Jersey you’ve always imagined it to be.
This is part of the 31 days of five minute writing series I’m participating in for the month of October. Find more here.
To the waitress tirelessly cleaning up after my messy kids
to the trash collectors lumbering through our neighborhood on Thursdays
for the plumber keeping our old pipes running
and the mechanic spending your days under cars’ hoods –
To all of you, I want to ask your forgiveness. I have labeled your work as “beneath me;” I have overlooked you and your value and dignity. I have proudly ignored you as I went about “my” busy, important work. I have not valued you or your work, yet without you – where would I be? Where would any of us be?
I can’t grow my own food or run a trash collection service or do anything besides complicate our home and auto repair projects. Yet because I have two diplomas on my wall, I can feel like I have the right to scorn you or dismiss you. Forgive me. Forgive us. White collar work is no better than blue collar work. It’s different, but you are just as called to your work as I am to mine. And none of us get to choose what we do anyway. None of us are God, and each of us have different gifts as he’s assigned it.
I fear I might be speaking a bit too honestly. I hope you are not offended by what I’m saying, but I think you’ve probably sensed it a thousand times over from me and those like me. Forgive us. And thank you. Thank you for doing the work that is too often undervalued and keeping our days and neighborhoods and cars and pipes running.
Part of the 31 days of five minute writing series. Read all of them here.
photo credit: en.wikipedia.org
Rest restores the soul and refreshes the body. How good of our Creator to build a rhythm for rest into our days! Six days of work; one Sabbath rest. Without it, we suffer. Burnout is epidemic in our culture – some of it obviously so, much more silently suffered. We are all tired. Crazy busy. Unfulfilled. Stressed out.
Rest requires that we step off the throne of our universe and admit that we are not in control, indispensable, or unlimited in our resources and strength.
When was the last time you rested?
What’s keeping you from it now – today – the next five minutes?
Rest as a holy pause makes work more fruitful and reminds me that when I am still, God is still God. Fruitful work leads to rest, and rest leads to fruitful work.
Rest is communion with the holy. What’s holy in your life? It’s your people and God’s Word and His world. Sabbath is a time to reconnect with each. To get outside and soak up creation’s beauty; to stop the busy-ness and talk to the people with whom you share a dwelling; to say no to all the other constant demands and say yes to drinking deep of the fountain of life.
You’ll find invitations like this one with your name on it:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Day 12 of the 31-day writing challenge. Find more here.
photo credit: coffeeandesign.wordpress.com
She was kind and patient, nurturing me through my first school experience in kindergarten and then moving up with our class to first grade. I was not sure what to do without Mrs. Casey in second grade – I assumed she would always teach me. But then I had Mrs. Dunning, and Mrs. Mann, Mrs. Kirkland who went on maternity leave so then Mrs. Davis took the helm, and Miss Flowers. I still remember each of these women, and the many men and women who followed in their footsteps as I moved into middle and high school, then college, and graduate school. Where would I be without my teachers?
Not writing and not reading, for one. I owe them each of these words. They nurtured my creativity, imagination, and taught me the building blocks for lifelong learning. Most importantly, they taught me how to learn and through their example, how to teach.
I was so inspired by them that I pursued elementary education for my undergrad. I loved delving into the hows and whys of learning and teaching, and I thoroughly enjoyed the degree that was complete with creative projects on rainforest themes and a math class where we got to use blocks. Teaching for me wasn’t the end career goal, as God would have it. After three years in the same school where I myself attended in elementary/middle school, I was moved to something different.
But have I stopped teaching or learning? No and never. I do both each day with my own children, my clients, my family, my friends. For we are all in the business of teaching – it’s really simply a matter of what and whom we teach in any given season.
Want to read more of my 31 days of five minute free writes? Click here.
Ten days into the 31 day writing challenge, and I’ve got to admit I’m feeling a bit weary of it. But it’s like training for anything worthwhile, writing takes effort and it’s right when you most want to give up that you’ve got to keep on going – because now you’re growing. (That’s also what my barre instructor says and often I ignore her advice and put the weights down, for goodness’ sake because I can’t do it any longer.)
So I pause today, on this Friday, even for five minutes to write my heart out. Thank you, kind readers, for reading along and encouraging me that this pursuit is worthwhile.
Care – I should know a lot about “caring” for I am in a profession called categorized as a “caring profession.” During the other 75% of my week, caring is what I do full-time for my twin 4-year-old daughters. But just exactly what is meant by “care”?
Care is a burden and a relief lifted. A burden of mine and a relief given when you care about my cares. Just to get a little more complex, let’s think about all the various forms care can take. It’s not only what is cared for (noun), it’s what you do in reaching out to someone else with cares (verb), and it is the way a person, profession, or organization is described when it’s characterized by those who excel at interest attuned to the needs of others (adjective). And I haven’t even started thinking about all the ways we use care casually and flippantly about topics or people we are only mildly interested in or invested in but feel pressured to care about because, well, it’s part of being human to care about global warming and poverty and going green and saving the environment and performing random acts of kindness for strangers. (But care divorced from action – is it visible? I guess at least it’s a start.)
No discussion about care can be complete without speaking of the one from which all caring derives its source, whether aware or unaware. The one who says, “Cast all your cares on me, for I care for you.” (my very rough paraphrase of 1 Peter 5:7) To know that HE cares for me – the one who carries the entire world – I visibly relax and exhale. And I am released to go and do the same for you. To really care for you in a way that carries the burdens you’re carrying to make them lighter and to remind you of this One who Cares for you always.
photo by paintermommy.com
I lived 23 years before visiting “the Big Apple,” and my first steps off the subway in fall of 2004 were literally breathtaking. And not just because of the stale air stench of the inimitable underground, but I had never seen so many people before and felt the energy of this place so tangibly. I told my college roommate who’d brought me there to go to the US Open with her, “I feel like I’m in a movie!”
New York City still holds that same kind of awe for me, made all the more poignant because its famous Bow Bridge became the scene of our engagement and we celebrated in a rotating restaurant on the top floor of one of its massive skyscrapers. There is an energy that can’t be described but only captured. I always feel exhilarated and exhausted after a day in NYC. (And I’ve never visited for more than a day at a time.) In the 10+ years since my first visit, I’ve returned dozens of times to soak up this city – taking in Broadway, the Rockettes, Christmas (!!! no place like it !!!), summer in Central Park, ice skating, Ground Zero, cafes, and of course our favorite family-style Italian restaurant, Carmine’s.
[disclamor: I’m now past my 5 minutes but I must go on] My favorite trip by far was introducing our then three-year-old daughters to the magic that is NYC at Christmastime. They were appropriately wide-eyed with wonder at the charms of this city – the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular, the horse and carriage ride through Central Park, Rockefeller Center’s gigantic Christmas tree, and “allllll of the people, Mommy!” They have a 20-year jump start on me on exploring this city, one I hope that they will take great advantage of with their parents as their tour guides.