Ten Blue Eyes

life as we see it


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My Father’s Face

It was dark. Our camping trip was well underway and I was snuggled in my sleeping bag with heavy eyes. Granted we’d only gone as far as the backyard, but sleeping in a tent all night was a pretty big deal to my little Kindergarten self.

I tried to stop my brain from having so many thoughts… and I tried to stop my wiggles as well. But I just couldn’t. Sleep wasn’t happening on this hard ground where I could feel the coldness of the earth and hear strange and scary noises.

And then suddenly I knew what do to. I knew what would help me fall asleep at last.

And so I stretched out my little hand.

Beside me lay my father in his sleeping bag. I couldn’t see him but I knew he was there. What I wanted to know was if he was facing me.

Was his face turned toward me?

I felt in the darkness and found his face. I felt his warm nose and forehead and patted his cheeks.

“What are doing?” his whispered voice cut through the darkness.

“Daddy, I just wanted to make sure your face was looking at me. Now I feel safe and I can go to sleep.”

I smiled and slid my arms back into the warmth of my sleeping bag.

I’d found my peace.

My Daddy was looking at me in the darkness. Even if I couldn’t see him, I knew he was there.

Now I rarely lay in a sleeping bag, but sometimes I still have trouble finding sleep. The darkness, the noises, and the unknowns of this earth can keep me awake.

Though I try to calm my anxious thoughts and restless body, I often fail.

But I know what to do.

I reach out again to my Father. The Father who is always beside me and who can provide me with a peace that passes all understanding.

His voice cuts through the darkness.

And I rest assured that He will turn His face toward me.

“The Lord bless you

and keep you;

the Lord make his face shine on you

and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn his face toward you

and give you peace.”

Number 6:24-26

 

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A Different Dare

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We walked down the tiled and cold hallway of the mall.  My little daughter’s warm and soft hand was in mine.

Her feet shuffled quickly as she worked to keep up with my stride and her sweet little eyes moved from side to side as she took in our surroundings.

The lights. The mannequins in the windows dressed in strange clothes. The signs. The smells. The noise.

It was all communicating loudly to us without saying a word. It dared us to join in. “These are the things that society says are important.” it was clearly stating.

Wear the trendy clothes. Be relevant. 

Spritz yourself daily with a scent created by someone you admire.

Be thin. No, be skinny.

Fit in with right crowd.

Spend. Spend. Spend.

To thine own self be true.

But, little daughters of mine, I dare you to be different. And I’ve found that being different is even more difficult than trying to be the same as everyone else. 

I hold your hand today, but someday soon you’ll grow up and be gone. And so I want you to hear these things and hold them in your heart.

Wear dignity. Be full of grace. 

Spritz yourself daily with gratitude, for you have been created by the One who admires you.

Be you. Be healthy.

Help those who don’t seem to fit anywhere.

Give. Give. Give.

Be humble and think of others’ needs above your own.

For these are the things that are truly important.

I dare you to be different.


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15 Things I Learned from the Christmas Season of 2015.

It has become a personal tradition. My own “end of the season” clearance. Much like my smartphone alerts me when its storage is almost full and I must delete some files to ease use, my own brain feels the need to move some information out of my head and onto the page. So I make a list of thoughts and moments I want to remember from that Christmas season, and I put them down here. I enjoy reading back over the memories in the years to come, and the additional space I gain in my brain for new storage is also much appreciated.

I’ve downloaded my thoughts and the rendering of the list for this year is complete. Enjoy!

15 Things I Learned from Christmas Season 2015

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15. Any day you can wear your slippers the entire day, even to a friend’s house and back, is a good day.

 

14. My son can make a clock out of potatoes and wires, control my computer mouse with some foil and wires, and make his mother feel stupid all in one afternoon.



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13. All chapstick is not created equal.

 

12. Pictionary is a challenging game, and even more so when someone (I won’t name any names) accidently buys you the Italian version of the game. My parents (I won’t name any names) claim it’s not what they ordered off the internet.

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11. The amount of retail emails containing coupons and shopping incentives I received during the month of December = approximately 1,094,469,395. The number of email coupons and shopping incentives I actually used during the month of December = 2.

 

10. When your daughters go by the “open it, wear it” gift motto, your Christmas morning may begin to resemble the swimming suit portion of the Miss America pageant when suddenly they are both donning only a bathing suit and heeled boots.

 

9. Even though a child runs his mittened hand over a moist railing in the flamingo habitat at a public zoo and then proceeds to suck the said moisture out of his mitten doesn’t necessarily mean this child while become ill. However, this same statement cannot be said of any mother who happens to witness this moment.

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8. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” is an extremely confusing song to a five-year-old.

 

7. The number of times my husband has said, “If no one is in the basement, then someone needs to run down there and turn the lights off” > The number of times I’ve heard “White Christmas” on the radio.

 

6. Shaking the strand of lights violently doesn’t necessarily help it to function properly. It does however make you feel better.

 

5. Gift giving is easy when it comes to fifth grade boys.

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4. The hand soap called “Winter Frost” by Dial smells exactly like my husband’s Speed Stick deodorant.

 

3. If you give first graders free reign of the icing and sprinkles while leading the “decorate a sugar cookie” station at a party, you will be taken seriously. Then you send the kids home to their parents.

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2. It is incredibly difficult to motivate yourself to do anything productive when it requires first kicking two children dressed in footie pajamas off of your lap.

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  1. Hearing your children sing in the Christmas Children’s Choir at church and watching them express the joy and hope of the season brings tears to your eyes and warmth to your heart.


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Jeremiah 29:11- The Rest of the Story

FullSizeRenderPerched on the top bunk of my third story dorm room I had a good view of my fellow college students on the sidewalk below. I watched them pass as if staring at the second hand of a clock, absentmindedly watching the rhythm of the afternoon. I adjusted the pillow behind my back and leaned against the painted cinder block wall. My legs were folded under me, and my Bible lay open on my lap to Jeremiah chapter 29.

I wanted to know more about the plans God had for me.

As a Sophomore on a Christian college campus, I had heard the words of Jeremiah 29:11 many times in reference to God’s will for my future.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Those words robotically came from the mouths of professors, chapel speakers, and friends as if someone had pulled a string on their backs that triggered a preloaded response whenever a question about the future arose.

I did not doubt that God loved me or had good plans for me, but as I struggled through worry about the unknowns of my future;

What degree should I work toward?

Who will hire me after graduation?

What type of job do I want?

Who will I marry?

Where will we live?

What type of job will my husband have?

I was looking for more than a pat answer. I was looking for peace in the midst of uncertainty. And Jeremiah 29:11 seemed to be the go-to verse.

I wanted to know more about this apparent feel-good promise, so I read the context of the verse in its chapter, Jeremiah 29.

I felt confused.

The good feelings associated with plans for prosperity and hope were put aside. The verses leading up to verse 11 were not filled with smiles and sunshine. Jeremiah was speaking to Israelites who had been carried off, essentially as prisoners of war, to the country of Babylon.

The first verse of the chapter reads,

This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.”

The fact that the word “surviving” is in this sentence tips me off that this was sent during a difficult time of war and death.

Jeremiah goes on to tell the people that they will one day be brought back to their homeland, Israel. God does have good things in store for them. He has plans to rescue them… in 70 years. He knows His plans to help them.

Jeremiah 29:10-11 says;

“This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I realized right then and there that verse 11 had been grossly taken out of context.

Not that God doesn’t have plans for us…. not that God isn’t a good God… but God doesn’t promise ME anything in this passage. He was talking to Israelite POWs in Babylon!

What does this mean for my future? Does God still have plans and hope for me?

I squirmed on my plaid comforter and readjusted both my physical and spiritual position.

If Jeremiah 29:11 wasn’t written to me, then why do we have it in our Bibles? Why read it at all? How can I know what is true for me and not just a message to its original audience?

To answer my complicated questions I go back to the simplest basics.

I believe God is who He says He is. I believe He is all-knowing and sovereign over all. I believe He never changes. Therefore, I can trust that any principle that I can glean about God from any passage of Scripture is still true today.

The specific promise of Jeremiah 29:11 wasn’t written for me, but the principle that God was teaching the Israelites in that passage has not changed.

So what was the principle God was teaching His people?

I assumed from the way Christians had been quoting Jeremiah 29:11 that God was telling His people He was ready to swoop in and drop good things on those who loved and obeyed Him. That He was basically our Santa Claus with prosperity and hope in his sleigh. But the truth was, God wasn’t going to deliver good things to His people the day that Jeremiah’s letter was read to them, or even once a year under the tree, for that matter.

He was not planning to rescue them for 70 years.

And what really struck me were God’s instructions for His people during those seven decades of waiting.

God told them to get on with life.

Jeremiah 29:4-8 reads:

“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

The principle I learn here is that God DOES know the plans He has for us. He DOES have good things in store for our future. But while we are waiting, we are to live life and seek peace and prosperity, even if we’re in enemy territory.

Wow.

The principles of Jeremiah 29 are jumping off the page. I now see how I can relate and what I can learn from God’s Word to His people. I’m not so different from the exiled Israelites after all.

I live in enemy territory because I live in this world. One day I know God will rescue me and will take me back to my homeland to dwell with Him. But the principle I learn from Jeremiah 29 is that while I’m here, I need to live. I need to seek the peace and prosperity of this place I call home for now.

I need to get to work because if the work of my hands prospers, God will prosper me too.

It sounds like this principle in Jeremiah 29 isn’t all about what God has in store for me, but also how I can live for Him.

Jeremiah 29:11 is still a great verse to read for encouragement and hope. God hasn’t changed since the days of Jeremiah. He knows the plans He has for me, and when they include bringing me home to be with Him, I know for a fact they are good.

But there’s more to the story. God asks me to seek prosperity and peace in this territory while I wait for His rescue.

It looks like I had better get to work.


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My Summer (Guilt) Trip

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The lobby of the dorm where we’d been staying as a family during the summer camp my husband was directing was loud and crowded.

Teenagers laughed and chatted in little groups as they played cards, took selfies, and ate the ice cream sandwiches provided as the official late night snack before the mandatory “lights out” in a few minutes.

My own children, too young to be campers themselves, we’re having a hay day staying up past their bedtimes and playing with the “cool kids.” My ten-year-old son was being trained in how to make the best paper airplane. My six-year-old daughter was following a group of teen girls around like a baby duckling following its mama, and my youngest child, five-year-old Kenzie, was sitting across the room from me.

I focused in on Kenzie.

She sat on a little bench next to a woman she’d just met two days before, the camp nurse. I had just met this woman as well and had enjoyed the few conversations we’d had. Now as I watched Kenzie from across the noisy lobby I was intrigued. Kenzie, who is normally quiet around people she doesn’t know well, looked as if she had launched into an animated dialogue. Her little mouth and hands were both moving rapidly, though I couldn’t hear anything she was saying. I was curious to know what she was sharing with such gusto.

I had some guesses.

She was probably telling her new friend all about our fun summer as a family. How we’d been to the lake for vacation, traveled to a State Park, and had gone to Pennsylvania to visit family on what she thought was an adventure in the mountains. We had enjoyed so much time together this summer, the five of us, playing cards and swimming and laughing. I couldn’t wait to hear what highlights Kenzie had shared.

I threw away the empty ice cream sandwich boxes and made my way through the adolescent mob to Kenzie and the nurse.

“I don’t know what all Kenzie has been telling you, but it sure looked like you’ve been having quite the conversation over here!”

The kind woman shook her head. I waited with a smile on my face to hear which wonderful family memory Kenzie had let her in on.

“Kenzie was just telling me that you have so much work to do, that you sometimes can’t even play Barbies with her.”

The smile on my face slowly allowed gravity to pull it downward.

It took me a moment to grab onto this new train of thought and pull myself up into the rattling freight car that was whizzing down a completely different track than I was expecting.

And though I hadn’t expected to be on this train, I certainly recognized it. I knew where it was headed.

All Aboard, folks, we’re on the fast track to Guilt Town. Mayor Mommy Guilt presiding.

I fumbled around with a few sentences saying something about the things kids say and then I sat down on the bench and changed the subject. Suddenly I felt the need to intensely watch the paper airplane seminar happening a few feet away from us.

I wanted the planes to distract me from the crazy train of thought I was trying to disembark.

I have so much work to do?

 I sometimes don’t play Barbies with her?

 Did she even tell her that sometimes I DO play Barbies with her?

 Did she happen to mention that I’m a stay-at-home Mom and I don’t even GO to work?

Apparently my ticket to Guilt Town had indeed been punched.

I felt guilty.

I didn’t know if I WAS guilty, but I FELT it alright.

And believe me, with the title of “parent” a new skill set arrived. I can feel emotions at a whole new level. The rheostat has been cranked to the max and my emotions are blaring. Each noisy one seems to bring its ugly, uninvited opposite second-cousin once removed.

For example, Elation shows up over chubby feet taking first steps and no sooner does it make itself comfortable, than Worry pushes through the door.

Joy seizes me as I watch a sweet face blow out birthday candles, but I suddenly find myself in the grip of Sadness as I realize that time is moving too quickly for me to savor.

Anticipation fills my mind as I send my child off to school, but soon Doubt waves its arms above its head trying to distract me from enjoying the moment.

Yes, I’ve had a lot of feelings as a Mom. I’ve been all over the map. But I have to say that after frequenting many stops, I think I despise Guilt Town and its Mayor, “Mommy Guilt,” the most.

I’d like to take that Mommy Guilt and ram my knee into her gut and then strangle her with my bare hands and roll her out to the curb.

And I’m not even a violent person.

She’s a scoundrel. She’s selfish and arrogant and let’s face it, she’s fat. She’s a big fat liar.

Mommy Guilt likes to sneak up behind me and whisper things in my ear that cause me to doubt myself and what I know to be true. She can only focus on the negative. The lies. The doubts. The loss.

And I’m sick of her.

The paper airplane sailed in front of me derailing my train of thought.

I’ve got to get off this train. And not just now, but for good.

And it seems to me that the best way to avoid a ride to Guilt Town is to intentionally go in another direction. Toward the truth.

I need to focus on what I know to be true.

Sometimes I don’t play Barbies with my five-year-old.

Sometimes I do.

I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. I fail. I wish for do-overs.

But I’m a mom. I know I don’t do everything right, but I also know I take care of my children. I hug them, snuggle them, discipline them, clothe them, feed them, play with them, teach them, laugh with them and most of all, I love them fiercely.

That’s what I know to be true.

So I think Mayor Mommy Guilt best be working on her resume, because as far as I’m concerned, her term as Mayor of Guilt Town is up.

 


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Poolside Catch and Release

IMG_6214My torso. That’s the indicator for me. When I’m deep enough in cold pool water for it to hit my torso, that’s when it really takes my breath away. At this particular moment, I actually was that deep in the community pool as my daughters splashed and giggled around me. They were seemingly unaware of the water’s temperature, and also of my sudden mental departure.

I had just regained feeling in my extremities as my body adjusted to the cold water, but now my breath was once again stuck in my throat as I watched what was unfolding in front of me.

Two girls from my son’s school had arrived at the pool, and though I saw them, they did not see me. Their eyes were focused elsewhere.

On my son.

Karson was in a different area of the pool playing basketball in the water with a group of boys. They were yelling and lunging and smacking the water as boys do. They were loud and completely focused on the game.

I watched as the girls smiled and repeated Karson’s name to each other with raised shoulders and eyes that twinkled.

My eyes surely were playing tricks on me because by all indications, it looked as if these girls were going into flirt mode with their designated target being my ten-year-old baby boy.

Perhaps I’m being dramatic.

Perhaps I’m being a mom.

Either way, I’m being honest when I tell you I hadn’t really considered the idea that my son was entering the age of “girl notices boy.”

I am getting deeper into this parenting thing all the time. My torso is getting tense.

The flirting girls should not have taken me by surprise. I was a fifth grade girl once.

I remember the whispering mobs that surrounded me on the playground alerting me that one of the boys may want to “go out” with me. I never actually went anywhere with any of them, but the scouting reports were real and the drama level was high. So were my bangs (but that’s another issue all together).

As a mom of two daughters, I’m accustomed to drama in my house as well.

My five and six-year-old girls have dramatic moments more than daily. They react with high emotion to various subjects ranging from a twisted seat belt strap, to pant legs that feel too “lumpy bumpy.”

My Kindergarten daughter rejected three marriage proposals from boys in her class this year as well as felt the sting of rejection herself as little friends chose to play with someone else at recess. Tears and hugging were involved.

My youngest daughter was given a pair of shoes for her third birthday. The shoes were cute, but too small for Kenzie who squeezed them onto her foot like Cinderella’s step-sisters and then said, “It hurts, but it’s a GOOD hurt!” I repeat, she was three.

Drama is no stranger of mine.

But it is unknown to Karson.

Karson’s drama level ranks somewhere between, “What’s drama?” and “Oh, were you talking to me?” He’s all boy with a kind and gentle spirit mixed with a love for competition and fun.

So when the girls stood poolside and repeatedly yelled Karson’s name as they stood up tall and pretty hoping for his attention, he wasn’t ignoring them. That would never even cross his mind. He was simply too involved in his basketball game to notice.

Until the basketball bounced off the water and rolled up onto the warm concrete right to the girls’ feet.

Their smiles grew as one of them picked up the loose ball and tossed it back to Karson who stood with outstretched arms in the water.

He caught the ball and gave them an ever so slight nod of his head to thank them. Then he turned around and made a bank shot.

My eyes darted back to the girls to see them slouch and sigh in disappointment. They had been hoping for a little more interaction. They walked away shaking their heads.

I found myself tilting my own head back in quiet laughter. Apparently my son has reached the realm of “girl notices boy”, but he’s still on the outskirts of “boy notices girl.”

I have to admit that I’m perfectly fine with that.

I’m not kidding myself. I know that one of these days I’ll turn around and will no longer be the only woman in my son’s life. And I’m okay with that. I look forward to knowing her.

I just hope she can rebound.


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Survivor Guilt: Turning Guilt Into Hope

Today, February 9th, 2015, marks the 8th anniversary of our son Karson’s diagnosis with leukemia. Eight years. This date is always a mixed bag of emotions for us. We feel pure elation for where we are today, and yet the moments of shock and sorrow we felt 8 years ago are still very raw and tangible. We celebrate how far we’ve come, and we remember because it’s important to never forget where we’ve been. 

I wrote a blog article about the “survivor guilt” that I sometimes feel and how I’ve been challenged to turn that guilt into hope for others. The Riley Children’s Foundation was kind enough to share it on their blog today in honor of Karson’s diagnosis anniversary. You can find it on the RCF page here. Or, you can read it on my personal blog below. 

Here’s to hope! 

 

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I tilted my head back until I felt my neck muscles had reached their limit. I was getting the best view possible as I watched my son attempt to scale an almost 30 foot climbing wall at our local YMCA.

I know nothing about climbing, so I was not there to offer advice, but to cheer Karson on and to take pictures. So, when Karson stopped about three quarters of the way up and let go of his grip, with both his hands and his feet, I wasn’t sure what to do or say.

He hung there, suspended in the air, by the rope and harness that was being carefully anchored on the ground by a trained staff member. Karson’s body drifted slowly from side to side as he shook out his hands and repeatedly said, “I’m done. I can’t go any further. I’m too tired.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond. Should I let him quit? Had he pushed himself to his limit? I really didn’t know what to tell him because I’d never been in his position and I didn’t know how he really felt.

But, the trained climbing expert who was calmly holding onto Karson’s rope and steadying him in mid-air spoke up. “You can do it!” he said. “Don’t quit. Come on man, you have strong legs, you’re tall, you can do this. It’s not much further. “

At first Karson shook his head and looked at me for permission to give up. I deferred by looking at the climbing expert who was still yelling out words of encouragement.

After a few moments, Karson turned back toward the wall and grabbed on with his right hand, and then his left, and then he found places to anchor his feet.

The climbing expert started to shout out specific commands.

 “Right hand blue.”

“Left foot yellow. That’s it.”

“Now left hand green. You can reach it.”

And though it may have sounded like a game of Twister, this man was telling my son how to get to the top of the wall, one colored fake rock at a time.

And Karson did.

I liken this experience with Karson to another we’ve faced in his lifetime. Cancer.

His diagnosis with leukemia at the age of two was a wall that stood in front of us and stretched higher than we could even see.

The climb took years of maneuvering through chemotherapy treatments, steroids, hair loss, weight gain, isolation and spinal taps.

There were times in the midst of it all when we let go of the wall and swung helplessly in mid-air without an ounce of energy left to go forward.

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And it was during those times that I heard the voices of others who had already climbed this wall and who had successfully made it to the top. Families of other children who had fought leukemia and other cancers encouraged us by saying,

“You can do this. You are strong. Karson is strong. God is good. Keep climbing.”

Then, as we’d turn our faces toward the next trial their words would become even more specific.

 “We remember the loneliness of isolation. We’re here for you via phone of email whenever you need to talk.”

“Oh, that drug was the worst! Are you experiencing that side effect too? We can relate. Here’s an idea we found that brought some relief.”

“Our daughter had the same issue with the spinal taps. You’re not alone. We’re praying for you.”

Do you see what these survivors, these “experts” in the steep climb against cancer, were doing?

They were helping us get to the top, one excruciating moment at a time.

And we did.

Karson finished his three years of chemotherapy in 2010 and he remains cancer-free to this day. He’s a healthy, strong, ten-year-old who can now go the YMCA and climb a wall like any other 4th grader.

But the problem is, sometimes I feel guilty about our success.

It may sound crazy, but as the years have ticked by and Karson has continued to thrive, I sometimes feel the “survivors guilt” trickle in. It’s second-hand survivor’s guilt, really. But it stings just the same.

And at first, I wasn’t sure what to do about it.

The feelings of guilt caused me to be silent and not share about our success fearing I may cause pain to others who were struggling and who weren’t as fortunate.

But my silence was detrimental instead of helpful.

Lately I’ve been reminded of the gift that I can now offer to others who are facing a difficult climb.

The gift of hope.

I may never have climbed an actual climbing wall, but I have maneuvered through mothering a child with a life-threatening illness.

I’ve been there.

I know what it feels like.

I can help guide others toward the next goal and over the next hurdle.

And so instead of allowing my survivor’s guilt to render me speechless and idle, I’ve been reminded to shout to those who are on the wall in the midst of their battles.

I need to turn my guilt into hope for someone else.

It’s what others did for us, and their encouragement helped us finish the fight.

Now it’s my turn.

I won’t allow my survivors guilt to silence me. Instead, I will turn that guilt into the gift of hope for someone else.

And together, we can keep climbing.

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