Choosing to Really See (An Empower Up Project Story)

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I was blessed to write a piece for The Empower Up Project yesterday. For those of you who don’t know, this amazing community/website “was created to provide ALL women with a platform where we can help each other grow, succeed and collaborate.” It was founded by the awesome Kim Albano, a leadership and development consultant doing the work of lifting women up and helping them go after their dreams. I am honored to play a little part in her vision of empowerment with a grace story that I wrote in view of my sister’s joy-filled perspective on life despite her daily struggle with the effects of breast cancer.

For those of you who are new to Grace for the Wasted Space and don’t know my sister’s story, check it out here. For those of you who need some light shed on your dark path right now, come on over to The Empower Up Project and see what I learned while watching my sister go through the greatest battle of her short life. Maybe you know someone that needs a little hope in this season. Maybe you need some?

I’ll leave you with this heartfelt quote from my piece and hope it resonates with you:

“We don’t have to say much to understand each other’s hearts. The seagulls squawking over a child’s sandy snack in the distance say what we’re both thinking: There’s just not enough to go around, is there? Or so it would seem. There are too many unfulfilled needs to be met. Too many broken hearts to be mended. Too many desperately lost to be saved. “

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Breast Cancer Stole My Sister

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Hey friends! It’s been a week or two since I’ve been on here. Life has been pretty busy! Fall is officially upon us- school activities are in full swing. As we celebrate the cooler temps and prettier colors, I have also been mindful of what October represents: Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Many of you know about my story of losing my sister to this awful disease. (Check it out here!)

While reflecting on this loss, I was compelled to write something in honor of her that brings awareness on the effects of breast cancer as well. Please hop over to Her View From Home and give it a read. It wasn’t easy for me to write but it was necessary for my healing journey. I encourage you to give it a try: writing brings healing in a very tangible way.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation says, “One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.” That’s like one gal in your mama tribe or one neighbor in your running club. One in eight means that every single one of us is already or will be eventually affected by this monster of a disease.

Do you know someone fighting this battle? Are you walking through it? Remember: you are never alone. Thanks for reading my personal story- there are so many other stories out there that deserve our attention as well. Go find one and read it today. Better yet, go write one. Your story matters.

Click here: Breast Cancer Stole My Sister

The Best Big Bro Ever

Romans 8:29 says, “For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that His Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”

Take a minute and really read the verse above. Let it sink in for a second.

Jesus is our big brother.

This is such a simple yet profound concept. It struck me right in the heart as I was reading my Bible plan today. You see, I am the oldest of three sisters. I have felt the sting of losing a sibling way too early in life.  And my baby sister just had her first child yet I couldn’t be there. We live many states apart and the distance makes it difficult to be actively involved in each other’s lives. Both the loss and the separation are extremely hard for me to deal with some days.

Can you imagine how hard these things are for our big brother, Jesus? He has to deal with loss and separation ALL THE TIME.

Those that turn away from Him because of the harshness of this world. 

Those that reject the free gift of family He offers and choose to do life on their own.

Loss. Separation. My whole perception of family changes when I think of it like that.

I have always cheered my sisters on. I have always tried to lead them down good paths. That’s what big sisters do. Don’t we all want someone rooting for us? Don’t we all need an example to follow?

But I have failed many times in my efforts to love them well. I have fought with them over hair dryers and clothes. I have chosen my own comfort over their well being. I have made bad choices that they saw and sometimes chose as well. I am, at most, a flawed big sister who has always wanted the best for my siblings but didn’t always get it right.

The amazing thing is: Jesus doesn’t mess up. He is the best big brother a kid could have. He fights for us not against us. He sacrificed physically, mentally, and spiritually so that we could live a life of freedom. He only chooses what’s in our best interest. He never leads us down a trail of mistakes or mishaps.

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He is all we could ever want in a big brother. And more.

For those of you who have felt loss and separation in your families- Jesus truly understands. He hurts with you.

For those of you who have never had an older sibling to watch out for you and lead you well- He can be that for you. Jesus is the most overprotective brother you could have.

For those of you who are the oldest in your tribe and have had to carry extra responsibility- Jesus wants to take that burden off your shoulders and carry it for you. He has super strength!

He’s holding up a big foam finger right now and screaming,  “You’re number 1! You’re number 1!” Can you see Him?

Ask Him to make the heartwarming truth of His brotherly love real to you today.

An Unexpected Lesson While on Vacation

I’m on vacation this week so my blog posts are going to be few and far between. That being said, I did want to share something that I have learned while enjoying this extra time with my family. Ready for it?

laughter really does make everything better.

It’s a simple principle but one that we overlook during the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. I’ve been desperately needing a time out from my responsibilities so that I could take some time to really enjoy the moment. I don’t know about you but, for me,  this is not an easy thing to do.

I know we can’t take a vacation every single month but we CAN make a point to set aside time just to be present.

Some easy ways to laugh this week are:

Really pay attention to your kids when they ask you to watch them while playing on the playground. (Cue “Look at me, Mommy!)

Turn off the television, get outside, and go for a walk around the neighborhood with your hubby. (He might make ya smile like he did in the olden days! ) 🙂

Take the day off and go do something you haven’t done since you were a kid. (Like roller skating!)

Read a funny book just for the sake of entertainment. (I love the Gemma Halliday High Heels Mystery books!)

What I am saying is:

position yourself for happinessHappy people aren’t happy on accident. They go out looking for it. It’s not going to just come and knock on your door while you’re laying on the couch watching a Netflix marathon. You have to pursue it.

And if all else fails, DANCE!

I Need You and You Need Me

I have never known life without a safety net.

I was saved at the age of five and raised in a loving, Christian home. My parents were worship pastors so I lived in the front pews of our church. I honestly loved it. I never had a problem with being there early or staying late. In fact I liked it because I was the cool kid who had special access to the building. I knew the secret alarm codes to get me in the back door!

My parents’ friends were like a second set of parents to me. They would come to my school choral concerts and cheer me on. My best friends were from my youth group. They walked through adolescence with me and provided a safe place for me to grow in my faith. They were my people because they understood the tension between living like the world and living like Christ. To this day, I’m grateful for their positive impact on my life.

I say all of this to provide you with a backdrop for my story: I have never known life without a safety net. What is a safety net? Merriam Webster Dictionary says it’s something that provides security against misfortune or difficulty. This is a good thing.

The term actually conjures up a scene of an acrobat walking a tightrope. We’ve all seen this circus act play out whether in person or on television. Will he make it across? What if he falls? How does he do that anyways? The answer is simple: He knows that there is a net to catch him if he loses his balance.

Growing up with the knowledge that there was always someone I could go to when life became hard did not make me less able to handle my problems. It trained me to live from a place of dependency instead of self-sufficiency. We need each other. God made us this way. Some examples that come to mind: Abraham and Sarah. Mary and Martha. David and Jonathan.

The world in all of its self-promoted glory tries to tell those of us who grew up surrounded by love from our family, friends, and church that we need to be independent. The enemy lies to us and says that being cushioned from the blows of this world as a child actually leads to fearful adults. But I am a proud product of a sheltered (GASP!) childhood and I have never been more certain that this is exactly what prepared me for the bumpy road of adulthood. It equipped me for the uncertainty that this world offers.

It is completely un-biblical to believe that you don’t need others walking through life with you. The Bible even says, Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

Are you believing the lie that you have to do everything on your own? Do you have people in your life to help you up when you trip and fall? Are you depending on Christ or on yourself?

God wants us to live the abundant life! But we have to live in the context of community in order to do it.

Home Sweet Home

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Home. There’s nothing like it. It can be a feeling that certain memories conjure up. A picture from when you were 5 that takes you right back. Smells from the kitchen during Christmas-time. Whatever home is for you, you know it when you feel it.

My childhood house was sold a few years ago. I was a married adult with 4 kids when this happened. I had been away from the house for 12 years. Yet, it hurt to say goodbye. And everytime I go back to my hometown, I get sad when I pass by this place I called home for so long.

Is it because of the structure,  paint color, or swimming pool out back? Yes and No. I miss that house because of what it represents. 

You see, the structure provided stability to my ever-wandering teenage self. It gave me a foundation to hold on to when boys broke my heart. I may have been a restless soul but I never left without the possibility of return. It never even occurred to me to leave it for good. Yet I did drift away for many years, forgetting how amazing that strong house had been to me. That’s what a good framework does, though. It gives you a solid covering but never forces you to stay under it.

The paint color throughout the house, well, it changed almost as much as my whimsical personality. And I loved that. The more paint that went up, the more freedom I felt to be me. I was, after all, the carefree one with a variety of hairstyles/colors to show for it. Each layer of paint stood for a season in our lives, good or bad. My bedroom was a sunny yellow though, because that had always been my favorite color. The yellow stayed on my walls because, despite the different seasons, I never forgot what made me “me.”

Lastly, the swimming pool in the back yard stands for too much to put into words. Afternoons laying out on a float listening to country music on the radio. Night swims with my high school friends. Deep conversations barely heard above the chirping crickets. Laughing with my sister as we joked about past crushes and how our lives turned out so differently than we thought they would. Mom and dad holding hands on the porch. This pool was an escape, a welcomed time of rest and play, and a distraction from the haunting reality that life would inevitably throw our way a few years down the road.

Home. It’s more than just a word that evokes an emotional response. It’s a way of living that you get to keep in your heart long past the day you move out. A knowing deep down inside that those doors and fences were meant for you to continue to grab hold of even after you leave. They have erected themselves anew in my grown up soul. And no matter where I live, those walls are a part of me. Because those people are a part of me. And no amount of new paint can ever change that.

Some may call this nostalgia or say that I’m just homesick. But I say, forgetting where you come from means you don’t really know where you are going.

photo credit: Wooden door and wooden sleigh via photopin (license)

A Time to Reminisce

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Who doesn’t enjoy a trip down memory lane from time to time?

I have been in a very sentimental mood for the past 2 weeks for reasons that I talk about here and here.  And my ability to care about keeping up appearances has definitely gone in the trash with my mascara streaked tissues.

It’s healing, this looking back and remembering what used to be. It really is. I’ve gone through so many pictures of my childhood and teenage years that my bed has become an enormous scrapbook of cluttered memories.  I cry and cry at the fact that those remembered times will never be the same again because my view is now distorted by major loss.

But after I cry, after I grieve the “never will be the same agains” of my past, I feel like I can breathe just a little bit easier than I could before the tears fell.

Like I can finally take a full breath without falling down from lightheaded-ness. And then I try to be productive for a few hours before the next wave of “what used to be” crashes in on me.

Ya know what I’m learning about the mourning process? It’s okay to be a fragile mess for a while and I don’t have to apologize for it. 

When I give myself permission to be a basket-case and watch sappy chick flicks that I used to watch with my sister and drink hot tea because it was her favorite pastime and listen to our favorite beach trip songs and read old letters just to see her handwriting and relive years past through Homecoming pictures, then I can begin to heal.

I’m not living in denial of the devastating facts involved in my present reality. I’m just choosing to enjoy the heartwarming truths represented in my past reality a little bit longer.

And as I long for what once was, I become more and more grateful for the lifelong affects my sweet childhood memories will have on me. I am eternally grateful for the tangible things that point to happy times.

So I reminisce with purpose, one could say. Tomorrow will come soon enough and I am even better prepared for what may come as I reflect on the joys of yesterday.

“Memory is a way of holding onto

the things you love,

the things you are,

the things you never want to lose.”

The Wonder Years

 

photo credit: SISTERLY. via photopin (license)

10 Creative Quirks About Me

 

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/91345457@N07/9496376163">Plants Stand</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">(license)</a>

  1. I sing all songs. Pop, rock, disco, country, christian, alternative, funk, folk, and the list goes on and on… It doesn’t matter what’s playing. If it’s playing, I’m singing along with it.
  2. I love to color. I even have a system where I outline the image or drawing first with a darker shade of crayon before filling it in with a lighter color.
  3. I can’t draw from just an image or idea in my head but I can look at a picture and duplicate it by hand almost exactly. I think it’s the details of shapes and angles that I have a hard time remembering.
  4. I bop my head to music and don’t even know I’m doing it. If I’m not bopping then I’m tapping my foot or patting my hand on my knee. It’s seriously a subconscious reaction to any funky beat. I don’t think I could stop even if I wanted to.
  5. Every movie has the potential to be quoted and inserted into my life at the appropriate time. I have entire conversations in movie quotes with my sisters, mom, and husband.
  6. Every cliche, bible verse, commercial slogan, math fact, to-do list, etc…can be sung. And my kids crack up at me for putting music to literally anything in order to remember it.
  7. I have so many thoughts and ideas in my head that if I don’t get them out on paper in the form of a blog post, a poem, a letter, or a song, I think I just might explode.
  8. I am a speed reader. I have been since I was in the 2nd grade. Spelling and grammar are two of my best friends. I have always loved the way words fit together on a page and can transport the reader to a brand new place or time.
  9. I love movies, songs, and books that highlight women as the heroine or leader. Jane Austen, Harriet Tubman, Ella Fitzgerald, Katherine Hepburn, Anne Frank. These are women who stood for something and gave the rest of us an example to follow as we live out lives of strong and graceful womanhood.
  10. Music is timeless.  I can listen to songs from the 70’s and feel such a love for the wordsmiths that crafted the lyrics as well as listen to Mozart and get carried away on the wings of the melody. A true musician appreciates the past, honors the integrity of the present sound, and embraces a hope for what the music of the future might be.

Comfort Food

photo credit: Kraft Dinner. Canada's national food. via photopin (license)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the most nostalgic meals of my childhood would have to be macaroni and cheese…with hot dogs in it. My dad even had a song he would sing when he was making it to get us excited about the very simple and inexpensive dinner.

“Macaroni and cheese (macaroni and cheese),

that’s what I like (that’s what I like)!”

He would sing each phrase and my sister and I would echo them back in similar fashion. Over and over and over again… My dad could make a song out of anything. In fact, I’ve been told I do the same thing.

What’s funny is that he was trying to get us excited over this dish because it was all we could afford at that time in my young life. We weren’t rolling in the dough by any means. Did my sister and I even notice the slim pickings, though? Nope. We never cared that it was a cheap, quick fix meal. In fact, we loved eating it (even if it was 2 or 3 times in one week!)

I have such great memories of my dad singing cheerily in the kitchen. I remember helping him stir the pot with the noodles and gooey cheese. All I can do is smile when I think about those times.

And, isn’t that really what life is supposed to be about anyways? Being positive in the midst of the not-so-positive situations? Turning little into much by serving it with LOVE?  My parents may not have had a lot of money at that time but they were happy. We were happy. 

So, I gladly make this warm and comforting dish for my children in an effort to somehow, someway, show them that life is in the living, not in the having. And I can only pray that they will look back on these days of frugal living with their own little ones and pass on the gift of macaroni and cheese with hot dogs in it.