Life Happens

I confess. 

When I used to drive by an unkempt yard, a run down house or ran into an untidy person, I would think, “Goodness!  Don’t they care about their yard, home or appearance?  They need to do better!  I would NEVER let my (fill in the blank) look like that.”

I don’t do that anymore.  

Because I’ve learned that there are all kinds of reasons a body may not be busy mowing a lawn,  painting a porch or even putting on matching socks.

Life happens.  

And when it does, it demands all my energy, effort and attention.  I don’t have the time or luxury of worrying about things that aren’t absolutely necessary for survival.

When Dominic left for Heaven, my priorities were immediately shaken out, sifted and re-ordered.  Not only the big ones-like spending more time with the people I loved-but also the smaller ones-like whether or not I swept the front porch before someone visited. 

More than four years later and I look around sometimes wishing I was better at keeping up with things, better able to tidy up,  decorate for the seasons, mend the fences, stay on top of clutter, or put together decent outfits.

But then I pause, breathe and realize that while the outside looks messy and unorganized and not at all like I’d prefer, my inside is focused on the things that really matter.

I am spending most of my time caring (one way or another) for other hearts. 

Now when I see someone’s home that needs attention or someone who isn’t put together,  I think, “What battle are they facing?  What life circumstance has swallowed up their time, energy,  and emotional reserves?” 

Because life happens. 

Whether we are ready for it or not. 

everyone is fighting a battle

 

Discombobulated

Yep.  It’s a real word.  

And it sounds just like what it is-mixed up, disoriented and confused.  Like a kid spun around with a blindfold playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey at his five-year-old birthday party. 

That’s me.

I depend on routine, habit, regular workflow patterns to help me remember what I need to do and when.  So if something (or a bunch of somethings!) interrupt my tired old footpath through the day, it confuses me.

not to brag but i can forget what im doing

I’m confused.  

This summer has been full of random life events that guaranteed I couldn’t lean into my dependable routines for support and comfort.

So I’m winging it-more or less.  

Actually more of the time it IS less but who’s checking?

stressed is desserts spelled backwards

Anyway, it’s been a good reminder that I’m not in control and that what absolutely MUST be done always manages to get done.  And if the other stuff falls by the wayside, then it wasn’t nearly as important as I once thought it was.

I need to be reminded. 

Because it’s easy to be frustrated over things that aren’t worth the effort, to get my priorities mixed up and let myself fall prey to the tyranny of the urgent and ignore the supremacy of the important.  

tyranny of urgent sticky notes

Speaking of which, I think I’ll take a break, go outside and get some fresh air.  

The vacuuming can wait.

And the laundry,

and the dusting,

and the….

goat i must go my people need me

Today Matters More Than You Think

As far as I know there’s no national holiday, no major event, no red-letter notation under today’s date. 

But it matters.

It matters because life is made up more of ordinary days, ordinary moments and mundane choices than things that take weeks to plan.

I’ve had four years to consider what really matters when there’s no opportunity to make more memories.

be-thankful-for-today-change-in-one-moment

These are the things I find most precious… 

Laughter at the dinner table:  One more inside joke, one more funny story from the day, one more unexpected burp or missing your mouth with a fork or cup-happy noise filling the room and echoing off the walls.

Random acts of kindness in my own home:  I remember one day Dominic was working on his Trans Am under a shed in the yard.  A storm blew up and rain was slanting in on top of him and his parts.  Julian and I remembered an old tarp shed side lying around, ran and got it and had it up before Dominic was barely wet.  I pass that shed every day and think about how we all just jumped in and made things work.  Over and over and over.  A legacy of compassion and love that warms my heart.

Phone calls and texts and messages about absolutely nothing:  “Just checking in, Mom.”  “I finished that paper.”  “It’s supposed to rain today, need help out there?”  The stuff of daily life, the grace oil that greases the wheels of human interaction.  I can hear Dom’s deep voice booming in my head when I read them.

Goofy habits and pet peeves: Each one of my kids came down the steps in a distinctive fashion.  I didn’t have to look up to know who was joining me in the living room each morning.  Dominic was always marking rhythm by tapping his hand or snapping his fingers.  Julian lumbered down because morning is not his friend.  James Michael practically ran down (which actually resulted in a broken wrist once when he slipped!) and Fiona called out a cheery, “Morning, Mom!” when she neared the bottom.  If I listen hard in the dark hours of early morning, I can almost hear each one once again.

Few of these things are caught on film-they only exist in my mama’s heart because when I was living them, they hardly seemed worth the effort to record them.  

But these-THESE-are the “videos” I play as I drift off to sleep.

I’m thankful I wasn’t so absorbed in virtual reality that I missed storing them in my heart.

Everyday moments are the real keepers.  

Pay attention.

You might not get a second chance. 

wherever you are be all there

When It Rains, It Pours: Priorities

I woke up this morning to a downpour.

That’s not unusual for this time of year where I live.  I had even anticipated it by (unusual for me!) checking weather last night and securing all needful items under cover.

But as I was sitting in the dark, working on blog posts, I heard my beagles begin barking.

beagle face

Again, not unusual-sometimes they smell or see something hidden from my senses in the dark cloak of early morning.

But then I began to hear random clinking and bumping and finally, scratching on the front door.

So I got up to investigate.

Two of the beagles had escaped their pen and were having a blast in the rain and mud.  They ran to greet me, making sure their wet, nasty tails and bodies hit every part of my lower leg so I could carry the aroma of wet dog back inside with me.

Years ago I would have fussed and fumed, gotten dressed and waded through the wet to put them back in their pen-staying outside (even with thunder and lightning!) until I had patched whatever breach they had managed to create in order to escape.

But this morning I just turned on the porch light (to let them know I was here and aware) and went back inside to my coffee and computer. *  I’ll venture out when the sun’s up and I can see what I’m doing.  It’s just not worth getting worked up over.

I have changed since sending a child ahead to heaven.

Things that used to make me apoplectic don’t even raise my eyebrows anymore.

I’ve developed a whole new set of priorities. They serve as filters and make it easy to decide in an instant if something’s worth my emotional, physical or mental energy.

It’s actually a really short list.

People.

  • People I love and care about.
  • People I can possibly help in some way.
  • People who don’t yet follow Jesus.

always leave people better than you found them

Do I love and care for my many critters?  Absolutely! 

I am a shepherd by heart and by trade.

cropped-img_3258.jpg

But things?  Nope.

They are meant to be used-meant to be an aid to living not a master of my life.

I made a lovely (insert sarcastic tone here) “pinstripe” down my nearly new truck last September while at my parents’ home.  After a brief moment of disbelief and a few expletives, I moved on.  It absolutely does not bother me.

Panties in a wad over inconvenient circumstances? Not so much.

Maybe I have to rearrange my plans but that’s so much easier than never being able to make plans with that person again.

I’m finding this new way liberating.

Simple.

Free.

Authentic-Self-752x490

* Full disclosure:  After I wrote this, just as the sun was rising I HAD to go out and get those mischievous little buggers.  Tail-wagging but carnivorous, they were chasing my poor rooster.  So I spent almost an hour trying to wrangle their wet, muddy, stinky fannies back into their pen, block the escape route and pray that they didn’t repeat the maneuver.

BUT I was still smiling.

Laughing, actually.

On a scale of 1-10 it didn’t even register.  🙂

And a fellow farmer friend sent me THIS, which made it even funnier:

goat i must go my people need me

 

Grace Gifts of Grief

It was a long time before I wanted to believe that I received any gifts worth keeping from this life I didn’t choose.

I knew I had tears, pain, agonizing sorrow, loss, heartache, dashed hopes, empty arms.

If I could give those back and regain my son, I would do it in less than a heartbeat.

I can’t, so I’m left here to ponder what else I’ve received from burying a child.

And I am learning that I have been given some gifts I truly cherish, although the price was higher than I would have willingly paid.

I call them grace gifts: heart-expanding, hope-enlarging.

I am learning compassion, which is something quite different than sympathy or pity which are just compassion’s paper stand-ins.

My heart is tuned to the suffering of others in a way I never knew before, even if their suffering is very different than my own.  

I have been given new eyes for the people around me.  I’m not as quick to decide I know someone’s story based on the clothes they wear or the car they drive.

I’m more patient with strugglers and stragglers although I am less patient with braggarts and bullies.

I’m more inclined to listen than I used to be.

My heart writes my “to do” list instead of my head-people over projects. 

Every. Time.

I love harder but more loosely than I did before.  I’ve learned you can only hold on to this moment, this smile, this hug,  and the rest is in God’s hands.

I am quicker to forgive-myself and others-because we are all failures in one sense or another.  

I speak blessings aloud instead of simply in my head, too embarrassed lest anyone should laugh at such an archaic tradition.

I am learning to let go of my own and others’ expectations.

I shed tears when I need to, smile when I want to, belly laugh when I can.

I’m very much NOT the person I was before Dominic ran ahead to heaven-in many ways a sadder person.  

But in many ways a wiser one as well.

Be Present

I remember the first year cell phones became common among my children’s friends.

We hosted an event at our home and I watched, amused, as the guests realized, one by one, that there was NO cell service out here in the country.

get smart hear me now

Cut off from their electronic connection to everyone not in attendance, they were forced to be fully present with those that were.

Some of them embraced the opportunity while others bemoaned the fact they had to carry on face-to-face conversations.

And when they found out we didn’t have cable TV, well, THAT was a whole other disappointment!

What seemed natural to me and my family was unusual and uncomfortable for most of them.

Being present takes effort.

It’s so much easier to listen with one ear while pointing the other toward Facebook, YouTube, music or some other distraction.

It’s a lot harder to sit quietly through the same story you’ve heard every Christmas.  It requires self-discipline to lean in and love on that difficult aunt or uncle who can be so critical but is really so desperate for compassionate companionship. It is unnatural to lay aside our own desire to be the center of attention and make room for someone else instead.

But being present is the present only YOU can give.

wherever you are be all there

And it is the present that others will remember long after the trinket you bought them has been lost or broken.

So put down the phone. Turn off the TV.  Hide the remote and close the apps.

BE with your people.  They, and you, are a gift.

Today is a treasure that will never be repeated.  

Treat it that way.  

 

 

 

The Irresistable Power of Love

As you gather with loved ones today, can I tell you something oh, so important?  

Don’t wait for that phone call or red-letter calendar day to reach out.  Don’t let busy-ness overrun your life so that it squeezes out what and who is really important.  Don’t let twelve months separate this time and the next time you talk to the people you care about.  

love the ones god gave you

When you think about someone-call them or get in touch in some way.  We have the potential for connectivity as never before.  There is really no excuse for not sending a text or an email or a Facebook message.  Don’t just think about it, DO it!

Love is irresistable when it’s not just a feeling.  

love is not what you say it is what you do pooh

Love in action can break down walls, build bridges, overcome evil and speak courage to broken hearts.

There is so much we cannot control in this world-so many hard things we cannot stop from happening. 

But when we choose to love-really, really love-we can create pockets of peace and places of safety. 

Never underestimate the power of love.

the answer is still and again love