Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lost Girl....Found

It seems like a lifetime ago & I guess, in a sense, it was.
I was only 18 years old.
In some respects I can’t even remember my life back then.
Different priorities.
Different values.
Completely different views of loyalty, friendship, compassion, love, kindness.

Oh, and.

I’m not actually talking about me.

My priorities have never really shifted.
My view on loyalty & true friendship still as intact today, 20 years later.

It’s the people that were in my life that grasped on to the opposite.

I was in a low-point in my college life.
It looked good on the outside.
I had lots of friends.  A fun job.  A rockin’ social life.  I was in a sorority.

And then.

I wasn’t.

The friends that I had made up to that point where some of my very best.
We did everything together.  Talked for hours on the phone.  Hung out every weekend.  Ate together.  Studied together.  Partied together.  Shared really bad days together.  And had really great days together.

And then.we WEREN’T together.

I felt like I had lost everything the day that I was told that my GPA wasn’t high enough to remain.

I’m not even sure that ‘devastated’ is the best word I could use. 

That day.shaped my heart like only a few others have.

In the days to follow, I felt like I was drowning. Trying so hard to hold on to those friendships like they were a life preserver.  I just couldn’t hold on anymore & they all slipped away little by little.

A new year came.  They moved on.  So many attempts were made to act like I was okay.  And I really wasn’t. 

Spring break arrived & I was invited to go along.  SoI went.

And, another day came that shaped my heart into what it is today.

I wanted so badly to feel a part of this group like I had BEFORE.  Moments were still awkward.  And I completely felt like an outsider tagging along on someone else’s vacation.

I think back to that life-changing night & I really can’t recall what started the argument between the girls but it ended up with my packing most of my things & leaving.

And thereIwas.

In the middle of a lake. 
On a beach. 
On a pay phone making a collect call home. 
Tears streaming down my face. 
I couldn’t catch my breath. 
Not even really aware of what just occurred.
Not ONE friend came to see if I was ok. 
Not ONE.

By the grace of God (& I truly mean that), I met the guy who managed the motel on the lake & he let me stay in one of the only rooms left.

There were thousands of college kids on this lake & friends that I thought I would have for a lifetime & I felt completely & totally alone.

A lot of growing up happened in that 24-hours.

I had to take a cab to find a Western Union.  Another cab to the bus stop.  Take a bus 3 hours to the airport.  Take a middle of the night flight home & in between that, return to get the rest of my things, wait in the motel room for 7 hours while everyone was having a GREAT spring break & I just felt like I WAS breaking!

Even in the writing of the words, my heart still breaks for that girl. 

So what happened when life resumed to ‘normal’? 

WellI finally found myself.

I realized that THEY were not what made me.  That money really can’t buy you friends. That I was so much more than they saw.

It took another year of making new friends.  Finding a new life socially.  Opening up my heart to love again. 

It has taken a very long time to forgive.  The scar that they left is not easy to cover up.  And that’s why I don’t.  That’s why I’m sharing it.

Not to make anyone feel sorry for that lost girl.  But to make another lost girl know that it’s going to be totally fine.  That life will move forward.  Her heart will mend.  And that God says ‘no’ to things at times because He has a greater ‘YES’. 

There is a reason you’re standing on that ‘beach’ right now or in that apartment or school or cubicle or marriage or hospital room.  Don’t let that gaping hole in your heart at this moment, be for nothing!  Fill it up with something MORE!!

That moment in time made me grow up.  It was not easy & I’m not sure I would walk that path again.  But I know what I look for in friendships now.  I know what I search for in this life.  And I am so much stronger. 

Many things have attributed to that strength but that moment was a BIGGIE!

I’m not sure why we all try to be something that we think others would like better.  Cuz I tried that & I ended up on a beach in the middle of nowhere.

My real self would have been just fine.  And even if it wasn’t fine, with THEM anyway, I would have been.

Insecurity can be a wrecking ball on your life if you allow it.  And I did.  For a moment.  Then I picked up the pieces.  Brushed the sand off my toes & got back to life.

Life is not all good.  It’s not laughter all of the time.  Friends will hurt you.  Your heart will get broken.  You will be disappointed by a LOT of different people. 

It’s my prayer that the same friends that hurt me in that season, never experience that same feeling.  Forgiveness is a difficult thing!  It’s taken a long time.  But that slate, for me, has been wiped clean.  And so has my heart!  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gotta love a good book

I totally get what ‘they’ say.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.

I really wasn’t ever a lover of books.
I wanted to be.
I fact, I remember I checked out All Things Great and Small from the school library when I was in the 3rd grade.
Only to turn it back in a week later with about 2 chapters read.
I bought it again a few years ago & still didn’t get through it.

When Hailey was born, she screamed from the moment she appeared in our world.  Seriously.
I thought I was doing everything wrong.  That I was a terrible mom. 
There was never peace in our home from 3 p.m. until about 11 every night for 5 months.
And without going into too much detail on that, I learned to find peace in reading.

It was the one thing that I could do at night when she finally stopped crying that would allow my mind to settle.  My soul to calm.  And I started loving words. 

TV would just bring more noise.
Surfing the internet just brought story after story of things gone wrong in society and quite frankly I didn’t want to hear about other’s problems when I was just trying to get through mine!
And I had already done my fair share of praying in those 7 plus hours.

So reading it was!

I never thought I would love it so much. 

I buy more books before I even finish the others which is why I have so many sitting on my nightstand tonight.

Here’s my list currently:

Bridge to Terabithia (It’s children’s literature & it seems like a good read)
The Clockwork Three (again….really seems like a fascinating book!)
Three Cups of Tea (A man’s mission for peace building one school at a time)
Real Moms….Real Jesus (cuz well…I just need to fill myself up as a mom)
Solomon’s Oak (this was just on sale when Borders went out of business)
Rescue (again, on sale but just looked good)
One Fifth Avenue (I loved Lipstick Jungle so thought this would be a good follow-up)
Mini Shopaholic (this just says it all right in the title)
Holy Bible (no words really needed here!!!!!)…and will FOREVER be on my nightstand.
Fly Away Home (I love Jennifer Weiner as an author)


TEN books!

I read every night before I go to bed but seriously?

And there are probably another 10 books IN my nightstand that I just don’t have room for at the moment.

I just finished The Hunger Games series & that was just amazing!  I have never been into a book that generates a following.  But this was a serious addiction for about 7 weeks.  Couldn’t put them down! 

There was a lot of good that came out of those colicky months.  And I can ONLY say that now because I’m sitting in silence & those days are long gone, never to return again!

My love for written words has become so much more abundant than I ever thought it could be!

So now, I’m off to rest…with a good book in hand!

What are YOU reading? 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Learning CAN be fun!!

I think I’ve mentioned before how much I DON’T like cold weather.  The only positive that I can come up with is that I get to wear really cute Uggs on any given day.

I don’t take to the slopes.  I don’t like being cold.  And even though we live in Colorado, people still don’t know how to drive here so going out when it snows is just not worth it.

I am much happier putting on a tank top & flip flops & feeling summer sun on my skin.

But…since that ain’t hap’nin anytime soon around here, we need to come up with some things to do with the kids.

And I thought I’d pass a few a long.

I’m not a home school mom.  I’m just a mom.  That stays at home.  And likes to educate her kids.  And really….it doesn’t take much money to do it sometimes.

For instance….check this cute activity out!! 

All I did was take a few pieces of scrapbook paper & cute out ice cream cones & scoops.  I also printed out UPPERCASE & lowercase letters.  Put them on with double sided tape…..DONE!!!

Then all the kids do is match up the letters!  So cute, right?  And…if they are just starting to learn their alphabet, they can just line up UPPERCASE or lowercase separately so it’s easier for them.  Then you can challenge them more as they grow.

And then there is this one… easy & costs about $3.00

You can get a packet of calendar #’s at any school supply store or on Amazon if you don’t know where the closest supply store is. They have so many different themes too if you want to be even more creative & go seasonal.

For younger kiddos, just have them tell you what the #’s are.  OR….you can also have them just order them 1-10.  When they master that, add more #’s.

The best part about BOTH of these activities is that they are CHEAP, CHEAP & you can throw them in Ziplocs and take them with you to restaurants or doctor’s appointments. 

I ALWAYS have something in my purse that I can occupy them with.  I love some of the iPhone Apps for kids that are out there but I want them to see that as a privilege not a necessity to having FUN while learning!!

With cold weather approaching…well….what am I saying?  It’s already here!!  With those cooped-up days on the way….why not make up a few things that are going to keep them entertained & you from wanting to pull your hair out?! 

Happy Winter!!!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Random Acts Of Christmas Kindness....COMING SOON!!

Remember the chicken nugget incident?  Well….it got me thinking.  Why stop there?  I mean, if paying for someone’s lunch can’t change the world then I need to think bigger.

And some of you may be thinking I’m jumping the gun here BUT….it’s SUCH a good idea & I KNOW that I will hear from some of you saying ‘I wish I would have thought of that!!!’  Cuz it really is a great idea!!  So enough of the idle chit chat…here’s my plan.

I have waited 6 very long Christmas seasons to do an Advent.  There are so many adorable ideas out there on ways to them.  And I was getting everything prepared.  Making my list of things to put in the kids little advent boxes….and then something happened to my heart.

The kids have SO….SO…SO much already.  And I am honestly tired of picking up all the little toys that lay strewn across the entire house.  (although I wouldn’t trade the blessing of WHY they are littering up my floor)….nonetheless…they don’t need any more candy or toys.

This is where the DRUM ROLL comes in……

We are going to do a Random Act of Christmas Kindness advent project!! 
I KNOW, right???
Totally awesome idea.  (I didn’t really come up with it on my own)

We will have 25 Random Acts planned for the month of December to celebrate love & giving & blessing! 

Here’s a few just in case you feel inspired to join in on this totally fun & life changing project!!

-tape quarters to gumball/toy machines in random stores
-pick out 2-3 random strangers from the phone book & send a card to them
-pay for someone’s gas
-tape $1 on a Redbox kiosk with a note that their movie is FREE
-tape candy canes to ATM’s
-put a $5 Starbucks card in the bank tellers cute little container that sucks your money up WAY too fast
-put a treat in your mailbox for your mail carrier
-go to the grocery store ONLY to shop for the FOOD BANK boxes at the front of the store
-bring coffee & a muffin to a teacher
-make 10 homeless kits (toothpaste, toothbrush (free if you ask your dentist), gloves ($1/Michael’s), deoderant, granola bar, bottle of water, wipes, hand sanitizer, towel, socks, etc.) & drive around town to hand them out
-visit nursing home (after having my husbands sweet grandpa in one last year, I can tell you….THIS will be the BEST most appreciated gift of all!!!)
-buy flowers for someone
-help an elderly person load groceries in their car
-buy a family dinner
-pick up trash on your next family walk or park day (don’t forget those little clear plastic gloves so you don’t have to touch anything yucky)
-leave a GENEROUS tip
-make treats and deliver to a fire station
-leave quarters on a vending machine
-deliver food to the Ronald MacDonald House (these families are so so so very appreciative of your kindness!!)
-pay someone’s meter
-put stickers/small toys in easter eggs & place them around a playground for other kids to find

Oh my gosh the list could go on and on and on!!!!

We will attach a note to all of them so everyone will know they are the recipient of something really cool!!

I am so totally excited to do this with the kids.  The boys may not quite get it yet but they are still in their 4-year-old self-serving mode.  And I get that.  But I can’t wait to involve our family in something that actually will probably lift us up more than the people getting these random gifts!!!

I will keep you updated as the days go by but I just wanted to pass on this super fantastic idea before the season passed.  I would LOVE to hear what you do!!  And it doesn’t even have to be 25 days.  Do it ONCE!  Even putting 4 quarters on a vending machine will make your heart happier.  I promise!!!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Random Act of Kindness

I get so wrapped up in myself sometimes.  Well, I think we all do.  We run around crazy with so many things on our plates & it takes an act of God, literally sometimes, to make us look up & see that there is an entire world out there that we can set our eyes on too.

I took the kids to Chick-Fil-A today.  It’s really the only fast food place I will go.  Not because the kids can self-entertain for a half hour (although I do love that) but really because it’s just plain YUMMY!!!

As I was ordering I told the cashier that I wanted to pay for the next person coming through the drive thru.  Can I just tell you…..

I was so excited to participate in such a trivial act!!  And the funnier thing was, not only did it affect the guy getting a FREE lunch, it tugged at the hearts of 2 other people! 

I can’t run around paying for someone’s meal every day.  And I was sorta thankful that it wasn’t a bus full of high school band students on their way to state conferences.  It was just one guy! 

But if I move one heart or one hundred, have I done less with the one?  Not necessarily! 

It’s good to go beyond ourselve’s sometimes.  To check our hearts & reevaluate the priorities of which we THINK are important.  It made me realize what small things I can do to make big differences.

Will my paying for some guy’s lunch change the world?  No.
But we have to start somewhere!
So some free chicken nuggets may have just started a Random Acts of Kindness Revolution for all I know!!  I’ll have to wait & see on that one.

You never know how kindness will spread.  How far generosity given will stretch.  How even the simplest, smallest bit of love, and that IS what it is!!....LOVE….how even the smallest bit of love may overwhelmingly bless another.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Searching (for alphabet letters and GRACE)

I’m always looking for things to do with the kids that are fun AND educational.  This activity was so much fun for all 3 of them!

We had an alphabet puzzle that worked great.  You could also just use refrigerator letters too if you have those.  Anything will do.

I had colored rice that we made a few months ago so I just threw it in a bucket, along with the letters, and the kids took turns finding them.  They named the letters & then put them in the puzzle.

I’m tellin’ ya, this kept them occupied for an hour.  Hailey can absolutely do this herself.  We’re still working on letter recognition with the boys so I played with them. 

They loved just digging in the rice too. 

I would love to take credit for coming up with this idea but I actually found it online.  Can’t remember where though or I would tell you. 

You could use plain rice too if you didn’t feel like taking the time to color your rice.  Or beans would work too.  Anything really.  Just go have fun with your kids. 

Now they are off in different directions playing.  I love incorporating little things into our day like this.  I always find it funny how ‘bored’ they seem to get even though we have hundreds of toys & games & books & other things to do around our house. 

I was thinking , the other day, how it’s so easy for us to compare our parenting to others.  To compare the educational abilities of our own children to others.  To look at other kids that are doing better, achieving more, learning faster, potty training sooner and the…list…goes…on.

And as I was feeling stressed out because Ethan doesn’t know his letters as well as Noah, I felt grace.  He WILL learn them.  He is SO smart.  And he knows other things that Noah doesn’t know. 

We all need to remember that it will all happen in it’s own time.  Value the time that you spend with your kids.  Teach them.  Appreciate their specific gifts.  They will go potty when they are ready.  They will learn their letters.  They will count to 100.  They will learn to ride their bike, tie their shoes, cut with scissors, feed themselves & eventually not rely on us much for a whole lot of anything.

GRACE!  I have to give myself a little bit more of it.  We all probably do.  One letter of the alphabet at a time!!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I've Got A Yummy Little Secret

So usually we’re pretty good about providing nutritious meals & snacks around here.  Ok, sometimes I give in to the RED #40 & offer them a Bomb Pop because well…they are just so yummy & every once in a really great while it’s not so bad to indulge.

But this right here is one of our FAVORITE snacks EVER!  Doesn’t it look SO good?

It’s not hard to make at all.  So here it is if you want to make it too. 
Peanut Butter (about a ½ to ¾ c. or so)
Cream Cheese  (same as peanut butter)
Banana (just one….a little riper is better)
Honey (a Tbsp or so…)

Then we just put out apples, graham crackers, pretzels or whatever is worthy of dipping in this fantastic concoction of goodness! 

And today, cuz I was feeling like they needed to feel a little more love….I put out a little Nutella in a bowl too.

It’s just about as close to Heaven as a snack could get really!!  I mean, what else can provide 20 minutes of complete silence?  (seriously, haven’t heard a word cuz their mouths are full)  Come to think of it, maybe I should charge for this recipe! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

10 Things I Love About Summer

I love, love, love summer.  I know it’s hot but I’ll take it any day over cold & rainy.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good summer rain too but….hands down, summer is my season. 

Here are my TOP 10 things I love about it….

1)    The sound of lawnmowers & the smell of fresh cut grass (ok, maybe that’s 2 but they sorta go together so I’m gonna count them as one)
2)   Corn on the cob  (I probably eat it 3 times a week during the   summer)
3)   Flip Flops (need I say more??)
4)   Going for a walk at 7:30 at night & seeing families out on bike rides & people walking their dogs  (I guess it’s just that sense of community I feel that you just don’t get in the wintertime)
5)   Going to a Rockies game on a Saturday night & having the best hotdog ever, a Tornado & a cold beer
6)   Opening all the windows in the house (even when my husband wants the air conditioning on cuz it’s 102 degrees) 
7)   The smell of BBQ
8)   Hanging out with friends on the back porch & enjoying a great summer night
9)   Outdoor movies in our cul de sac with all the neighbors

10)  Getting the blow-up pool/slide out & watching the kids play for hours

I could some up with so many things.  Wearing tank tops every day.  Visiting different parks.  Going for hikes.  Driving up to Breckenridge for a long weekend (favorite place in the world)….well, in Colorado, anyway.  Taking our annual trip to Beaver Creek.  Making Smores.  The smell of a campfire.  (although camping really isn’t up my alley)  The thought of it THRILLS me (seriously!!)  But when it comes down to actually putting up a tent, sleeping in a sleeping bag, peeing outside & not showering for 3 nights…well….that’s where ya lose me.  (I think I would make a great SURVIVOR contestant actually…..I’d get big ratings!!)  J

I love the sunshine. Going to the Paris Street Market & picking up some really unique things for our home.  The taste of watermelon.  And those 6 weeks that cherries are all you want to eat because they are so sweet & yummy & temporarily precious!

I love the drive I take every single day where I look West & see the most MAGNIFICENT mountains, covered with snow, touching blue sky.  Honestly, I could make that drive every day for the rest of my life.  And I always wonder how many people drive that same way & miss the whole thing.  Destitute of the appreciation of what beauty really is. 

Theoretically or maybe just cosmically speaking, it’s not even really summer yet.  But it sure feels like it.  And I’m happy!  And that’s all I really have to say about that.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Too much time away

I’ve taken a break from writing for a while.  Words weren’t flowing as they usually do & I wasn’t feeling like doing it quite frankly. 
And then I realized that I’m not doing it for anyone else.  Sure, my words have reached China & Australia & that is just so stinkin’ cool really. 
But it’s more about doing it for my kids.  Writing about what is on my heart, in my head, on the tip of my tongue at any given moment. 

With all that the internet possesses that is negative, leaving words….stories…memories…for my kids, is something I can do HERE that I couldn’t have done 10 years ago. 

Maybe I’ve had a hard time with it because I don’t know the focus.  Should it be a testimony?  Should I focus on crafts?  Decorating?  Past mistakes that have been reconciled? 
Maybe my focus should be just not to have one.  Cuz sometimes, it’s hard to focus when you’re a mom of 3.   If these words just reach 3 hearts, then I’ve done my job well. 

If my words touch 3000 hearts than I will be even more grateful.

So instead of writing nothing, I’m going to write ABOUT nothing…for awhile. 

Some days, I may write about something earth shattering & awe-inspiring.  Some days, maybe I’ll just stick to the basics & write about baking cookies with the kids. 

I’ve always put too much pressure on myself.  Wanting to do everything.  And do it ALL well.  And then when I do that….chances are, I only do some of it with half a heart & that gets me nowhere.

So for today, I am going to appreciate my favorite tree in the world.  The one right outside our front door.  The one that has seen many more years than I have.  It’s branches dance with the breeze on these summer afternoons & bring us so much beauty even in the changing of a season as the leaves fall away.  I just love that tree.  Birds have made nests there.  Kids have climbed it.  Rest has been had underneath its full branches.

We pruned it a few weeks ago & it almost physically hurt to watch as the dead branches were cut away.  I knew it was for the good, that it would be even more beautiful in the coming years, but I didn’t like it at the time.

(Kinda like some parts of my life)

I have another story about this tree that I will share some other time.  For now, I’m just going to listen to the leaves rustle together as the breeze settles in for the afternoon & my kids are taking a much needed nap.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Scattered Joy

A deafening silence blankets our house this morning. 
Giggles & high-pitched happiness have escaped for a moment.
Off with friends.  They wander different halls.  Sing songs with sweet voices.
Learn new shapes & animal sounds.  Important things.  How to mix yellow & red to make orange.  That zebras have stripes & cheetahs, spots. 

Even in the temporary stillness, I still have scattered joy.  Remnants of lives very present.  Books that we will read for the 100th time before they drift off to dream tonight. 

In the mundane chore of laundry, joy still evident.  Toys that welcome me as I pull the wet clothes from the washer.  Tucked in pockets with little hands.  Dinosaurs & Potato Head feet.   Buzz Light Year patiently waiting to be reunited with the little boy that delights in him every minute. 

Untucked beds.  Sheets that need washed.  Bears that have been hugged so much that their fur is beginning to thin.  They lie scattered on the floor.  Tucked in secret hideaways.

To my organized eyes, I see a mess.  Clutter that needs to find a specific place.  To my mommy heart, I feel joy.  Even in the silence.  In the moments that I can’t just reach out & feel arms wrapped around my neck as I get the biggest hug ever.  I feel love.  And I feel LOVED!  
In every room.  Every nook of a room.  There is a reminder.  Of a life that is lived in abundance.  And I am thankful.  For my scattered life.  And for the joy that fills these walls.  Even on the days when it really is hard to find…..I am still reminded.  Sometimes I have to make myself remember.  In those harder moments.  That joy does reside here.  But I am ALWAYS thankful!!  

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

He Never Turns Away

As a friend’s mom lies in a hospital bed, only alive at this point because a machine is keeping her that way, I wonder what to say to her. 

My young friend.   Who has seen more in her own life already than most. 
My young friend who relies on her own strength. 
Who can’t see Light right now because she hasn’t ever experienced It for herself.

Me, never really at a loss for words, not ashamed of my faith one bit, is finding it hard to come up with anything.  Anything that will make a difference to her heart. 

The mom, her mom, never really was a mom to her at allRather more of a lesson in self-preservation.  Having to live hard life way to early.  Growing up in a home that wasn’t normal.  Filled with drug addiction & heartache.  With words that cut through a soul & abuse that is much easier suppressed in a place deep in the chasm of that self preservation.

How do I tell her in her questioning….that He never looks away.  Not EVER! 
He has always loved her mom.  He has felt her heartbreak.  He is watched with His own sadness, as choices have placed her in circumstances He never would have wished for this sweet daughter of His
He has waited for her. 
Called for her. 
Protected her. 
Loved her. 

Even as the machines breathe for her.  Even as brain function slows.  Even in the final moments until family makes the decision to let her go, He is there

I can’t answer so many questions she may have.  And she may not want me to.  We stand on different sides of the fence when it comes to Love.  With Soul-Matters.

The only thing I do know is that He never looks away.  He sees the drug addict searching for anything but Him to ease their pain.  He hears the prisoner crying out to Him, repenting of decisions, poor judgment, misuse of the life they were given.  Wanting so badly to change their fate.  He hears the call of the hungry & the oppressed.  He sees the children that are malnourished.  He watches as the child trafficking becomes a cultural epidemic in some parts of our world. 

We can look away.
 We can turn our eyes from the prostitute on the corner.  We can shield our eyes from the suffering.  We can walk away from life that doesn’t line up with our neatly wrapped package of suburban living. 
He doesn’t.  He sees.  He hears.  His eyes do not move away from anyone or anything.  From any circumstance.  His eyes are on the slums & the saintly.  He never leaves us. 

She struggles to find peace.  I struggle to find words.  I know my God!  The One that loves me.  The One that loves her.  The One that loves her mom.  He loves us in our sin.  And He loves us through it.  He loves us in spite of it.  Because He….Is….LOVE!  And ‘love never fails’!!  That’s His promise.  If He is Love & ‘love never fails’ then He can’t fail us!   He finds us where we are.  In our own failing. 

I don’t know how to make her see.  I want for her to feel peace & forgiveness.  For someone that prides herself on words, I’m sure not finding any that will provide for her right now.  None that would make sense to her anyway. 

I will pray.  Maybe those are really the only words I need to utter at this point. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

We Don't Get To Choose

I didn’t get to choose which parent I would live with when my parents divorced when I was still a toddler.  Although, had I been given that choice, it would have been a no-brainer.  I would have picked the one that adored me.  The one that would have laid down their life for me.  The only one that would be there for me no matter what…unconditionally…no matter how bratty I was or un-lovable I made myself at times.

I didn’t get to choose when it came to giving my dog away when I was 6.  I was just told that he wouldn’t be there anymore when we got to my dad’s house. 
I cried hot tears. 
Not wanting him to see them, I looked out the window of our light blue Toyota Corolla. 

If I really understood what it was like to hate someone at that young age, that would have been the day. 

How is it possible to be within reach of someone but so incredibly far apart?  To be a world away although close enough to smell his cologne?

I didn’t get to choose the now ten-year-old fate when I became a widow.  That heart-crushing, gut-wrenching decision was planned long before I even took my first breath. 
I definitely chose the husband & I made that choice well.  But the days that I spent with him on this earth were much shorter than I would have liked.  The time spent in & out of hospitals.  Tending to him following chemotherapy & radiation.  Watching him lose his hair & his physical strength but never his dignity or faith.  Circumstances beyond our control couldn’t be changed. 

Life is full of choices not made by us. 
Some of us are born into circumstances.  Not allowing us to live within the boundaries of our full potential.  Some are crippled with illness & pain.  By depression & addiction.  A phone call that brings us to our knees telling us that someone we love, dearly, will not be coming home tonight.  We are told that our position is no longer needed or being outsourced.  Doctors tell us there isn’t anything more they can do. 

Choices are made for us.

We will drive to the polls & check the box beside the name of the candidate we like. 
We look at a long menu of choices.  Deciding whether to eat light & order a salad or give in and just order that juicy cheeseburger that is calling our name. 
We choose the neighborhood we live in. 
The college we go to.
The car we drive. 
The schools our children will attend. 
We choose our friends. 
We live in a world of choices.

We make more choices at Starbucks on our way to work than some will make all day.
Give.  Take.
Mayo or mustard
Straight or curly
Whole Wheat or White
Fast lane or scenic route

We choose.

We give up & blame others.
Or, seek grace & thank God.
We live out loud or die within ourselves.
We become a product of redemption or of self-pity.

We choose.
I choose.

Some choices may be made for us.  We choose how to handle them.  Will you become a better person because of them?  Will you learn through your experiences?  Are you seeking grace even when you’re finding it hard to find solid ground to stand on? 

Instead of wallowing in oppression, choose hallowing in gratefulness.  Express gratitude for the things in life that are allowing your heart to move, to change, to resurrect itself.

I could have made my experiences different.  Maybe not the 6-year-old me.  But the 40-year-old me can.  The here-and-now me that looks back & speaks of them can make them what I want.  I could choose to hate the dad.  To curse the cancer.  To hold my fists tight, shaking them in anger at God who holds every tear.

But I THANK!  
I may not understand.
I may question.
But I am still thankful.
Thankful because my choice, my decision, is to not let my past pain be my definitive future.
Blessed to have had that portion of the story but to not allow it to be the only.
Thousands are not loved by parents.  Widowed too young.  Laid off in a tough economy.  Born into an abusive environment.  And…..we…..choose.

We choose how to live outside of the boundaries of our labels.  To not let them define who we are.  How we are.  Why we are. 

Choose Wisely!