Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas At WalMart.

*Disclaimer*  Forgive me if this blog is all over the place. But I have a little boy wrestling in the living room in front of me with his father. I have a little girl beside me begging me to play Barbies with her for the fifth time this weekend. And a dog who keeps ringing his bell hoping to be let outside to enjoy all of the melting snow puddles in the yard. Suffice to say, I am a lot a little distracted right now. Distraction is my life. But I think you'll love this post. Because it's written mostly by a friend of mine. So forgive all the distractions:) And overlook my brokenness. You are a saint reader. Blessings. *

It was the first time I had ever said it out loud.

"The truth is, Christmas just hasn't been the same since my sister died."

I texted that to my best friend as I complained about having a case of the Christmas Ho Hums.
Too much to do. No time to do it.
Stretching & pushing myself in the ways that only a working mother will understand.
Most days if I pause for even a moment to think about how tired I am, I start to sob.
Is it possible to be this tired?!
I'm not even sure I knew what this tired looked like.
Until I started working full time again.
Until I was a Mom & responsible for the upbringing of 2 precious little people.
I've been running on fumes for so long, I don't remember what it's like to feel full.

So I keep going. Refusing to pause.
Because pausing leads to break downs.
And I'll be damned if I'm going to break now.
My family is counting on me.
It's up to me.
And truthfully, how completely terrifying that can be.
Mostly because this means failure is not an option.
 And when you cannot fail, it almost feels like you cannot be human.
And this I am finding out, this resistance to all things human, is the most wearing of all.

It's no wonder I had the Christmas Ho Hums.
"Peace on Earth - Goodwill Towards Men."
Sounds more like a Disney movie than real life these days......
I just miss the way that Christmas used to be.
And I miss my family. And my best friends.
Strangely Christmas this year felt lonely & awkward.

I wondered if everyone I know was really feeling all "Joy To The World!"
Or if maybe they were just faking it like I was?
What if Christmas was still alive somewhere?
Whether I was choosing to be an active participant or not?
What if there were actually things like Christmas miracles?
And people giving of themselves towards the betterment of others?
What if I was missing it?

Enter Heather.

I met Heather at my job.
She works along side me in the trenches of finance:)
And I'm pretty sure she was made to be manna from heaven.
I could say a million good things about Heather.
Most of all how she cares for others.
And how she is able to have fun in ways that completely terrify me.

I decided I needed to share a little story she shared with me here on my blog.
Because since Heather wrote this, I've lost my ho hums.
And really truly, in the least corny way I know how to say - Hope has broken through.
I've been seeing Christmas in different ways & different places.
It doesn't ever look like the stereotypical Christmas.
It doesn't look like how Christmas looked when my sister was alive.
It doesn't look how Christmas looked before I was a mother...... where I had time to dress my dog in cute Christmas sweaters, make sure my tree was perfectly asymmetrical, and donate my time towards worthy causes like shoebox presents for poor children in poverty nations.
It's not wrapped up very pretty & there are no angels singing over managers.
But when I look at it, it looks a lot like Hope & Love.
And to me - that's always been the very point of Christmas.

May this story bless you, the way it did me.
Take it away Heather.....

"Josh [my husband] and Ellis [my daughter] met me at Walmart this evening.
We rang up our items using the self check out kiosks.
As you know, there's typically an attendant there to assist the customers as needed.
All the computers were full.
The area was crowded as people made their way through.
 As my husband was bagging up items, he accidentally backed into the attendant - Caleb was his name.

"Oh, excuse me sir." He said.

I can't say why it was in that moment my heart grew tender for Caleb.
He is a tall boy. Very skinny. Glasses, braces...a little awkward, maybe quirky.
But very polite and sweet.
Maybe that's what struck me about Caleb.
Something as simple as encountering a young man with manners.
A rarity these days.

The Holy Spirit spoke to me and said to give him a tip.
 I reached into my wallet and grabbed a measly $5 bill and as we finished, I sent Josh ahead with the baby and I waited for Caleb to come back to his post.

"I want to give this little tip to you. I see what a great job you're doing and how hard you're working and Jesus sees, here..I'd really like you to have this."

In a very proper and professional military-like disposition he replied "Ma'am, I cannot accept your tip. I can donate it, but I cannot take it. It's very much against company policy and is a very sure and quick way to get myself fired."

"Aw, really? What if I ran into you when you weren't working and gave it to you?"
(I hate stupid rules like this and wanted to make demands to his manager that he be allowed to keep it! Besides...I'm trying to obey God here and no dumb company policy was about to get in my way!)

"I suppose that would be fine." He replied after thoughtful consideration.

I calmed down a bit and realized it was best that this momma didn't make a scene with management and took it for what it was.

"Well, I'm going to give this to you. You can do with it as you wish so if that means you have to donate it, that's ok."

I patted his thin, lanky arm, gave him a smile, got behind my cart and headed to the doors on the other side of the store.

The thought passed my mind...that hadn't went as planned.
I really felt God wanted to bless this kid and he couldn't even keep the money.
I was a little bummed, but I still knew I was in obedience. I kept walking.

"Excuse me...miss? Can I talk to you for a moment?"

A very handsome mid 40s man had kept pace beside me as he got my attention.
(He looked soo much like Steven Curtis Chapman!)
I had noticed him briefly back where we were checking out.
He stood facing the kiosks as if he was waiting for his party to finish checking out to leave...

"Yes" I replied as I slowed down to engage in what he had to say.
Then, this man began to pour out the very depths of his heart.

"Miss...that boy back there? That's my son.
This is his first job...he's only 16...he's been struggling. ..I'm not sure...he's only been here about a month. The woman before you, I don't know if you noticed but...she gave him a real hard time. It's nothing he did, you know, it's these computers.
I've been here watching and observing him in the background.
I've been in retail a long time...I came to watch him...just to see if I could help...give him a few pointers. But what you did back there for my son?"
(tears began to fill his eyes)
"What you just did just made the biggest impact on my boy's life. You can't even imagine how much he needed this. This is....I just don't know what you did to that boy tonight with that small gesture.
I want to thank you.
I can't wait to go home and tell my wife.

Miss...what you just did there... (holds his heart).....made my Christmas.
(His voice trembles) You made my Christmas."

I saw the heart of a father.
I saw a father who was tired and weary.
I saw a father who was heartbroken.
I saw a daddy who maybe just needed to see his boy be encouraged.
I had seen the immediate blessing of obeying that still small voice of the Holy Spirit..."tip him".

We exchanged a few more words and a hug.
And if anyone's heart was the most encouraged, it was mine.
I won't soon forget Caleb and his precious dad.
This, my friends, made MY Christmas.
In all things, thank you, Jesus. ♡"

 [I knew these Heather selfies on my phone would be good to keep for something one day....]

However you wrap it, I hope these next few weeks meet you with all the love & hope of Jesus.

And if you're feeling a bit Ho Hum mixed with a small streak of rebellious, tip your Wal-Mart cashier. Tell a young person you are proud of them. Thank a bell ringer at a red kettle. Buy a candy bar for the person behind you in the long line of Christmas shopping. Or stop & pause for a minute, and allow yourself to be human.
This is Christmas. Emmanuel - With us.

Much Love Reader.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Things I Need Right Now.

I woke up this morning to a winter wonderland.
Yesterday was fall.
Today is winter.
I should be happy that we kept away the snow for this long in Minnesota.
I should be thankful that the holidays are finally happening & this snow almost rings in to a white Thanksgiving.
I should be a lot of things.
But today I'm just cold. And wet.
And my skin is dry & itchy.
And I'm wondering if was I secretly was adopted, and if my real parents live in warmer climates.
Mom & Dad - it's time to tell me the tropical truth.

I've also been feeling super impulsive lately.
2 weeks ago I wanted to sell everything we own & move to a brand new place.
This week I had an impulse to chop my hair off & dye it some strange color - like orange or pink.
Today I want to buy cowboy boots, drink beer, & go country line dancing.
I think this might be my inner soul's way of telling me I am ready for some changes in my life.
Either that, or I should have not watched the CMA Awards last night.

Because of my work schedule this week, I've gotten to take Parker to both days of preschool this week. So Addison & I have had some major Mommy & Me time while Parker is in school.
I suppose this came at just the right time.
Because Addison seems to be clinging to my leg every night when I get home from work, wanting my undivided attention lately.
No matter how much time or love I give her, it never seems like enough.
So every morning after we drop Parker off at preschool, we go to the bakery, eat a doughnut & sip orange juice.
She tells me about school, her friends, why she loves the color pink.
How she wants a Hello Kitty sticker book for Christmas.
I put my phone down.
And I just sit there & talk to my beautiful, intelligent 4 year old.
Together we solve the world's problems. [More naps. Less fighting.]
And make our afternoon plans. [Build a snowman who looks like Olaf.]
And even though my world seems small & simple these days - I realized how peacefully quiet this chapter right here is.

Quiet can be a lot of things.
It can be sweet. And humble.
Or painfully cold.
Quiet can be isolating. Boring or uneventful.
Marked by waiting & growth.
Grieving or burying.
Quiet can be a loud reminder of what no longer is.
Or it can be peaceful & comforting.
It can be......well. A lot of things.
Maybe all of these at different times for different reasons.

It's so tempting to rush through quiet.
Quiet is awkward. And uncomfortable.
Probably because of how slow minutes tick by when you are quietly waiting.
Especially when you aren't even sure what you are waiting for.
Our culture breeds us for loud, exciting, and carefully marked plans.
No one prepares you for quiet, awkward, and living solely by God's grace.

In my need to fill this quiet time with good, helpful, & beautiful things, I've found some surprising methods to make the waiting just a bit more bearable.

The first thing I've fallen in love with is of course good books.
Before this year, I had maybe finished 3 books in the past 5 years. BARELY FINISHED.
Like I could barely tell you what these books were about.
I could tell you this was because I had 2 babies in such a short period of time.
I was too tired to bathe most days, let alone pick up a good book.

This year alone I have devoured close to a dozen books.
And each one of them have been purposeful books that I have needed in one way or another.
I don't find books.
They find me.
Someone buys it for me. Or borrows it to me.
One book I literally found in THE PARKING LOT of a coffee shop.
This my friend is a season marked living solely by God's grace.
Could you really expect anything different?!

The second part of healing has involved a strange new draw to country music.
Country just gets me.
Not just because of big hair, gun toting Republicans, & cute cowboy boots.
Although a little bit of leather & fringe might possibly make you into a better person.
I'm just sayin'.
I think country music just understands heartbreak & the need to forget better than anyone.
I blame my husband & my siblings entirely for this strange new change in my iTunes playlists.

The third is falling back in love with your roots - the things you've always loved, but got too busy, too important, or too tired to do anymore.
For me, that's taking long walks with my dog. Reading my bible. Writing in my journal. Watching Dawson's Creek. And eating a lot of bowls of potato soup.
It's wearing the cute shoes. Even when you have no place to go.
And paying attention when the woman in front of you at the grocery is a few dollars too short for her groceries. Blessing her. And being aware that your children are watching how you give unto others.
It's putting together photo albums & finally finishing baby books.
Buying the mustard coat from Zulily. Just because it's your favorite color.
Holding hands with your husband while you sleep.
And listening to your old Sheryl Crow CD.
These things that you enjoy categorically make you YOU.
Losing these things means losing yourself.
Embracing them makes life sweeter. Happier.
And makes the quiet more seemless.

I've done a lot of the loud, exciting, carefully marked plans.
Years that I lost because I was living too fast.
Rushing. Always rushing.
And doing too much.
But this quiet....... it's something else.
Someday I'm sure I'll have a thousand things to say about this season.
And why it had to be exactly the way it was.
I'm sure there will be lessons learned & new life waiting on the other side.

But for now.
The children nap.
And it's so quiet, I can hear the snow melt off the trees.
I write. To remember what this season was like.
And why I am enjoying it - even though I can hardly understand it.
Why doughnuts & snowmen are enough.
And that waiting is much more bearable with mustard coats, cowboy boots, & Joey Potter to get you through.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Love Rocks. Time Off. And Orange Legwarmers.

Holy Cow.
It's November.
Which means that the sun is setting at 4 p.m. in Northern Minnesota.
And Christmas displays are already up in stores.
Because who has time to spend on Thanksgiving & being thankful when there is so much crap to buy for Christmas?!

This past month was busy with things like Halloween festivals. Concerts. Traveling. Hosting. Magical warm fall days. Expensive dental appointments. Volunteer Days. Beautiful leaves changing their colors. Saying goodbye to a good friend. Candy Hangovers. The stomach flu. An Indian Summer. And lots [and lots] of hard fought miles on the treadmill.

I couldn't wait to go visit my Cousin Hannah.
She goes to college up in Duluth, Minnesota.
And my kids were BEGGING for a "Hiya" visit.
I was all but too happy to oblige them.
We planned for our usual fall visit.

I of course am always so proud of Hannah when we arrive.
How well she seems to be doing in her new city.
When all the odds were seemingly stacked against her.
How much she loves school.
How much we love all her boyfriend Justin.
He is as much family to me now as anyone else blood related.
How adorable her little house is that sits on top of a high Duluth hill.
I love every minute that we spent in that city with our Hiya.

I had what can only be described as the most magical drive I've ever had driving through the hills to get towards Duluth. The trees were still holding tightly to their colors. And I had several moments where my breath was literally taken away from me with how incredible fall in Minnesota can be.

We sat by Lake Superior in an unusual windless day.
Throwing rocks into the lake. And watching the large waves crash into the smooth stones surrounding the bay.
I picked up one of the smooth stones that was in the shape of a heart.
I call it my "Love Rock."
I threw it in my purse.
And I'm quite sure one day I will give it to Parker as a reminder of all the beautiful days we have spent together throwing rocks into the lakes of Minnesota.

After a trip to the local Children's Museum where we dug up dinosaur bones & lost waaaay too much money in the stock market exhibit [Insider trading tip: do not invest in toy companies.] Trevor & I headed out for a much needed Mommy & Daddy night out.

My secret best friend Jenny Simmons was in town. And a night at one of her concerts reminded me why it's okay to grieve broken dreams. Why it's important to bury what was lost. And the freedom that comes in finding yourself lost for a season.

The concert had the best view in the city.

Where I learned what life is like working the merchandise table & working as a roadie.
Also. I learned the difference between a groupie & a roadie.
Suffice to say - roadie is much more appropriate in this sense.

Jenny & I went out to dinner later that night after her concert. Where we ate Minnesota fish & sipped soup. Cursing the sadness of burying the people we've loved & the people we loved who never came to be. And where Jenny helped me feel much less alone in the isolated places we've experienced this past year. To say I'm grateful for this precious, sweet time together is like saying Lake Superior is large. It simply does not do it justice.

I spent the next week curled up with Jenny's new book. Which I may or may not be giving out to everyone I know as a Christmas gift. It's that good. You're welcome.

I finished a few healing, life giving books this month. Then I used an afternoon that I took off work & went to see the newest chick flick "The Best Of Me" in the theater all by myself. I have been so busy lately, it felt good to take in a quiet afternoon for myself.

I spent a precious morning with my nephew. Who by the way, is no longer scared of me.
Huge Auntie win.

My husband is learning the joys of hosting poker nights with his friends. And I learned that the proper way to say goodbye to a good friend & coworker is to share laughs & memories with everyone at work over strawberry margaritas and chips & queso.

Halloween saw the return of our family theme. Where I must confess, no one got my costume without my "Mystery Machine" gang alongside me.

Man that last picture is horrible. This is what happens when you don't have your camera & your iPhone takes crappy sunset pictures...... booooo.

It was a life giving October. Which took me by surprise.
Considering most Octobers seem more tragic than sweet.
I learned a lot. I cried some. And I gave myself permission to be just where I am.
To be just me.

I'm heading into November knowing that there will soon be more changes and a ton of mandatory overtime at work soon.
So if you don't hear from me at all, just know I'm buried in paperwork, enjoying the fruits of overtime pay just before Christmas:)

Here's hoping your pumpkins were carved, your candy was sweet, and your memories of this fall were filled with many happy, drinks of warm apple cider.

Much Love To You Reader.