The “Last” First Day​

Psalm 121:7-8 New International Version (NIV)

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Well, it’s arrived. The moment I’ve dreaded since sending my oldest to Kindergarten. Today was Connor’s last first day of school. He has started his senior year of high school. I’ve said many times that Connor gets a lot of the fearful parts of my parenting. As my oldest, everything is new and terrifying for me. I have prayed so many times for a “Parenting in the Age of Social Media” manual but one has yet to appear. I hate the cliche “the days are long but the years are short…” and I hate that cliche for being so darn true! I blinked and now this man/boy is staring back at me. He has his own thoughts, opinions and feelings and several times I’ve found myself staring at him and asking “Who is this person?” As I reflect on this life that I birthed and poured into I feel scared and proud and happy and anxious….but mostly I feel not ready. Read that carefully I AM NOT READY. But as I have found this to be true with almost all of my parenting life, this isn’t about me. Connor IS ready. Connor is confident, smart, funny, a dreamer, a leader, a great son, friend, brother, and follower of Christ. There are times he drives me crazy but mostly I am so proud of him. I like him. I would choose him as a friend. He is prepared.

A few thoughts I want to get down as I know this year is going to fly by much faster than I want it to. It’s my first last day too and I want all my sons to know…

  1. Know your worth! It’s NOT what anyone at Carmel High School says it is. Your identity is in Christ! Place your trust in Him!
  2. Look for the joy in little things!
  3. Be grateful.
  4. Be humble.
  5. Be kind (I’ll say it again because it’s so important, be kind).
  6. You can do anything you set your mind to.
  7. Take care of your body. Don’t do stupid stuff with it!
  8. Look for opportunities to grow spiritually.
  9. Your family loves you know matter what.
  10. I am so proud of you. You are ready! Follow your dreams and fly!

“Lord, I pray a hedge of protection over my sons. I ask that you are a constant presence in their lives and that you make that presence known. I pray they are uncomfortable with sin and I pray they always get caught. Shine your light through them and use them to advance your kingdom. Your will be done.” Amen

 

Summer Schedule

“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. Jeremiah 29:1

Since 2012 summer has represented a very bittersweet season to me. I love when, to quote Alice Cooper, “school’s out for summer.” I long for those lazy days and sleeping in and swimming and all the carefree fun associated with vacation time. I have never been the mom counting down until the first day of school, end of Christmas break or wondering when the kids were going to be out of my house. I LOVE having a loud house with my three teenage boys running around, pushing, fighting and laughing. They are such typical “boys” and I wouldn’t have my house any other way. As I sit here, I’m entirely sure that collectively they are responsible for each gray hair I have colored on my head every five weeks. 🙂 It hasn’t all been roses and unicorns, but I love being a mom and I love being their mom. I daily navigate a world of testosterone that rivals that of a fraternity house but again, I am so grateful that God gave me these three children. I know it’s not very PC in today’s day and age but what I really wanted to always be (yes, my answer is still the same at 44 years old) is a mom.

I refer to myself as divorced, not by choice. For the sake of my children, the details pertaining to this circumstance will not be on the internet. We got divorced in 2012 and that’s when my thoughts of carefree summers changed. According to the law, we now had the “summer schedule” which is a 50/50 split in parenting time. In the absolute most plain English I can use…I hate it. The boys are with me most of the time during the school year so this 50/50 split in the summer is drastic, awful and again, I hate it. I miss them terribly. To my ex-husband’s credit, when the boys were younger, I would only go about four days max without seeing them. I think he knew it was very hard on me and tried to accommodate my broken heart. I really appreciate that about him. Last summer, we started a week on/week off schedule. And while I think this is easier for the boys, I still hate it…every single stinking second of it. Have I mentioned that I hate it? As June approaches and people are renewing their pool memberships and updating their summer wardrobe…I’m dreading the “Summer Schedule.” I realize that many divorced people have a 50/50 split all the time. I get it. You may think I’m lucky that I only split the summer… but, for me this is very difficult. It represents scars from surviving divorce and I know that it’s not supposed to be this way. I’m supposed to be there. All the time. I didn’t give birth to these three precious children to be reduced to a “summer schedule.”

Seven summers later, where is God in all of this? Where can I find hope and faith when there are parts of my heart that still break when I know what’s coming for three months? How does God use this pain to help others? I can honestly say this was the first summer I didn’t spend the month of May riddled with anxiety and sleepless nights imagining worse-case scenarios while the boys are with their dad. I spent more time mentally preparing for how I was going to use my free time to meaningfully engage with my sweet husband (celebrating FIVE years of marriage next month) and incredible friends. I spent more time at the pool this summer reading and floating and being in the moment. I spent LESS time feeling guilty….why is mom guilt the worst? I choose to be happy and content this summer. I read the bible more and studied God’s word more and truly thought about what it meant to live that out. I let my kids figure some things out on their own and manage their own feelings and expectations. I guess we are all growing up. In the end, I know that it all works out. I know that God is always victorious and to those who love him, all things work for good. I also that he has a plan and it’s for me because God is always for ME and God is good! I have chosen to believe in his truth and that is how I have managed the stinking summer schedule.

Yay for me!

p.s. I only have one more week to go until we back on our regular schedule….Yippee!!!

 

 

 

Words don’t have Power…Say what?

“Wise words are like deep waters; wisdom flows from the wise like a bubbling brook.” Proverbs 18:4

I am not a cool parent. My kids have curfews, chores, rules, and responsibilities. I offer an abundance of love, grace, mercy, choices, and autonomy. The autonomy part is what’s currently coming back to haunt me. I’ve done my best to not only talk about Jesus but to show Jesus to my children. They have grown up going to church, youth group, camp, VBS, we pray, we openly talk about salvation and Christianity, we discuss other religions and what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Now reader, with all that going on you might assume my home is the epitome of good Christian values and morals and my darling obedient children fall in line with a simple glance from me. Sigh…deep deep sigh. If only that were true. I am raising teenage boys (3 of them) and they are forming values and opinions that are of their own volition. One such belief recently came from my oldest son, Connor. He’s 17, smart, funny, handsome, loves Jesus and Kayne, and is quite a good rapper and can drop a sick (or is it psik or sic) beat (see…NOT cool).

Connor has a sound cloud account where he makes and mixes music to share with the world. He doesn’t want me listening to unless he sends me a song. I have tried to respect his art/music while also talking about an electronic footprint and things that colleges and future employers will have access too. AND let’s not forget WWJD. This weekend he has been asked to perform live and I told him I would love to go and support him! That’s what moms do…we support!! He said that I was absolutely NOT allowed to go because wouldn’t be sharing lyrics that would make me proud. As my feathers start to ruffle and my blood begins to boil (because I’ve been working for 17 years to ensure that he is the very essence of Christian virtue) he follows up with that it’s no big deal because “words don’t have power.”

This thinking could not be further from the truth! Words are the ultimate use of power. They can build people up…spread kind words like confetti! Go ahead and make someone’s day! Cute outfit? Share it! Love someone’s haircut or smile or shoes? Shout it from the rooftop! Words that build people up are the ultimate FREE gift. It costs you nothing to be kind and say something to lift someone up!

They can also be used as the ultimate destroyer and a source of deep pain that can never be taken back. Words are precious and should be used with prayerful consideration and strong conscious thought as to what is being put into this world.

So, my sweet boy, my son, my light…words DO have power. I pray that you will use them wisely and you will be the bubbling brook that God wants you to be. You have so much talent and God has truly blessed you. You make me proud every day! Use your words for good because you have so much good in you…share it! I love you!! XOXO Mom

 

 

Discovering Cooper

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6

Nature versus Nurture, the long-debated topic as it relates to child rearing. Which is the stronger entity? How do children in the same home with the same rules and same upbringing turn out so different? These are the questions that ran through my mind before I became a mom…

Then I became a parent to three sons and I can tell you exactly how children in the same home turn out very different. I am not the same parent to each of my children. When my children were little I fully expected to raise them exactly the same way. As they grew and formed into these amazing human beings with thoughts and feelings that were independent of one another, I realized what worked for one may not work for the other two.

I believe I parent my oldest son, Connor, from fear and/or trepidation sometimes. Everything with him is a new adventure (some great adventures and some rides I would prefer hadn’t been taken). I don’t know what the outcome will be. I’m Jasmine from Aladdin singing “A Whole New World.” I’m literally winging it (just like my eyeliner). I pause, I second-guess, I make mistakes, I take some wins and praise God when things turn out ok and cry out to God when they don’t. I lay awake at night the most… worrying about Connor.

My second son, Carter, is parented from a place of pure joy! I have learned from Connor that most things in life won’t kill my children. Situations turn out ok, the worry is mostly unwarranted. Carter is this amazing human being. He’s funny, super talented in the performing arts, smart and I stress less about things with Carter because Connor has blazed the trail and things are much less scary the 2nd time around.

Meet my third son, Cooper. In full and complete honesty, sometimes  I feel that I’m a lazy parent with Cooper. I know for SURE that he will still get into college someday even if he gets a “C” on a test. Issues will friends will work out, issues with teachers will work out. It’s no biggie. I monitor screen-time less, grades less and worry less about Cooper. He’s got it! I could tell you he is the biggest sports freak I know. He requested ESPN+ for Christmas so that he could watch all the back episodes of 30 for 30. Cooper is also so funny and smart and charming. He is someone that will impact change in this world for good! Cooper tends to stay more to himself than the other two. He won’t tell me who he likes, share his hopes and dreams, or watch the 30 for 30 episodes with me (yes, this rips my heart out with a dull spoon).

Yesterday, I was speaking at Cooper’s school for Career Day! I had a BLAST! Boy was it fun getting to talk with students about being an author and sharing something I am so passionate about. When it was over, Cooper’s sweet English teacher asked if I had read any of Cooper’s work. Sheepishly, I admitted that I hadn’t. He doesn’t like to show me his work, and being the 3rd child, this isn’t a battle I need to be in. Well, she proceeded to share with me that he was a talented writer and a very bright student that shines through his writing. She kindly showed me a few samples and I was blown away. My incredible kid who only wants to ever talk about sports, breath sports, live sports, is a very gifted writer. I told him I saw his work and he was embarrassed and didn’t want to make a big deal. But on the inside, I’m so incredibly proud of him and so ashamed of myself that I didn’t know this about him.

Then, last night was Cooper’s end of the year choir concert. I was shocked as he got on stage and had the voice of an angel. Strong. Confident. Self-assured. This was his last choir performance as he told me in no uncertain terms that he was not continuing in the choral program (yes reader this pains me deeply). What a way to end though…he was amazing. Again, I’m so proud of him and the young man he is becoming.

Cooper-I love you. I am sorry if you’ve ever felt like you got my parenting left-overs. You are an amazing gift from God and you have been given so many talents. You shine in everything you do. I am so proud to be your mom and every day you bring me joy. Your role in our family is so important. You are special. You are a star. You are so very much loved. I see your future and know that you can do anything you set your mind to. My prayer is that you always love God and are in a relationship with Him. Follow him and he will make your path straight.

 

 

The Gospel according to Lipstick

“May the God of hope fill you with all Joy and Peace as you trust in him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy  Spirit.” Romans 15:13

One of my favorite things is hanging out with my mom! In a post Mother’s Day Celebration we met up yesterday for a “treat yo’ self” day. We hit up Jo Malone, Anthropologie, Free People and worked our way over to Nordstrom to have lunch in their cafe. Even though the Nordstrom Cafe has done away with our favorite sandwich (gruyere and prosciutto) we were determined to find a new favorite (goat cheese and turkey….YUM) and their famous fries with olive kalamata aioli. Don’t we sound fancy?!? After our delicious lunch, we headed to our favorite place, the Nordstrom shoe department. We were NOT disappointed! As you can imagine our “treat yo’ self” wore us out and we decided to head home. On our way out we took a spin through the cosmetics area. We are both absolute, without a doubt, unashamed makeup junkies!!! I’m always on the lookout for the world’s best lipstick and have tried every lipstick on the market (drugstore to high end). Ever since taking medication for autoimmune disease nothing stays on my lips anymore (I am also no longer attractive to mosquitoes…weird right?) After looking for my tried and true La Prairie lipstick and finding the counter no longer at Nordstrom in Indy, we sadly left without a single makeup or skin care product between us and started the walk back through the mall. We had parked on the other side at Saks (trying to burn the maximum number of calories while we shopped and had our day of fun). Again, we made our way through the cosmetics area and I found a microscopic area of La Prairie…yay! I would get the only lipstick that stays on my lips! The choices and joy!!! BUT I was then sadly informed that La Prairie was no longer making makeup and was focusing on super expensive skin care. My dry unpainted lips and I slowly started making our way out of the store when the kind associate asked if she could show us anything in another brand. I told her that I was on the hunt for my “white whale” a lipstick that didn’t come off until I was good and ready!

My mom and I were introduced to Chloe, she was the manager at the Saks Nars counter. I have never seen so many lipstick options. Matte, gloss, stain, you name it and they had it. I was a skeptic because I have been lured down this path before only to be completely disappointed as I watched my lipstick attach itself to my coffee cup, napkin, mug, husband…etc. Anywhere except my lips as the day wore on. Chloe, mom and I began talking about lipstick and it’s staying power. The challenges are talking, drinking, chewing your lips and food. Chloe had something that would take care of all of that. She began pulling out colors and testers and soon there was a rainbow of long-lasting color swatches up her arm that would have impressed the most serious lipstick connoisseur. I eagerly found a color and prayed to the Lipstick God’s that this would be my holy grail of lipstick. Despite my skepticism, I was still hopeful that something could be done to give me the color and staying power I so desperately wanted.

Last night as I was thinking about my new Nars lipstick and the hope and promise contained in that new tube, I felt that it was very similar to want I want and hope from God. I face challenges in life as we all do. AND what I really pray for is that God is there through it all! The good, the bad and the ugly, God will remain budge-proof and offer shine and longevity that gets me through my day!

I recently had the privilege of serving on a great Banquet team. This is a three-day spiritual retreat and it’s awesome!! 15 talks by amazing women, the never-ending, unfailing love of God…it’s the best way I can think of to spend 72 hours! I love everything about the Banquet. I often reflect on the time spent there and was recently thinking about one of the talks called “Staying Power.” It’s about the struggle that one may encounter after leaving the Banquet and being out in the real world again and how to stay connected to God in our day to day living. As I apply my new lipstick today and hope that is has the staying power I’m looking for I am reminded of the sweet women I had the opportunity to serve with and the women who attended their Great Banquet for the first time. I’m praying that they feel a connection to God that has a greater staying power than any lipstick formula in the history of the world! I love my sisters in Christ and know that the staying power we are searching for is more than skin deep…it’s eternal.

Searching for Joy​

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. Psalm 94:19

There is a wonderful children’s picture book called Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Today…I am Alexander. I have had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Parenting has been a DRAG today (Teenagers…can I get a witness?) and when it rains it pours. I’m sitting here marinating in my pity party for one and have decided to force joy and gratitude into my day. I repeat that I am NOT feeling it but I am going to choose joy and be grateful anyway.

My Top Ten things that I am joyful about today:

  1. God is CRAZY about me! I rest comfortably in this knowledge.
  2. My sister is moving home after being in Oklahoma for 18 years! She is here this week looking for a house and a job. Pray she gets both! I am grateful for family.
  3. My husband is the best ride or die ever and I am so grateful for him and our marriage!
  4. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my job! I am grateful for the opportunity to do something that brings me absolute joy and challenges me to be my very best!
  5. One Smooth Stone, Book 1 in my 12 Book series, will be out in June!!! I love my Literary Agent and my Publishing company. I am so grateful to them!
  6. My infusions are working and I feel pretty good health wise! AND 3 cheers to the nurses who administer my Rituxin. They are kind, competent, and caring. I am grateful for them. #Autoimmuneawareness
  7. I have the very best friends a girl could ever ask for! Grateful isn’t a big enough word to describe my tribe.
  8. I have time to pursue my passion and hobbies. I am grateful that God has given me these gifts.
  9. I got a massage today! I am grateful that I was able to practice self-care and reduce my stress level.
  10. My new glasses are pink and have a hint of glitter in them (sometimes it is the small things and I am grateful for them).

Ok, that was easier than I thought it would be. I still think today was a difficult day to be a parent. As I think about the list and especially the wonderful relationships God has placed in my life in the last few months with my agent, publisher, editor, etc. I am excited about this next chapter (book pun intended). I am choosing joy because when I look around there is so much of it! I am grateful!

I feel better and maybe I won’t move to Australia.

 

No Smoking in the Bathroom

If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:3

Last week was Spring Break in Indiana and my oldest son Connor and I set off for the deep south on a road trip with my parents. Road trips have long been a part of my family. Growing up in Indiana, with my whole family still in Chicago, meant frequent trips back to the Windy City for visits. I am the oldest of three siblings. My brother and sister fought, so that meant that I had to sit in the middle, on the hump (you remember the hump, don’t you?), for three long hours back to Chicago every time we visited my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. My sister sat behind my dad who was at the wheel and would systematically kick under his seat until he “had enough” and would reach back to give her a pinch. She was agile and with cat-like reflexes would dart out-of-the-way and I would get the pinch. Ouch!

As we got older and the five-passenger car wasn’t big enough, we would rent minivans for trips that we would take. We called these “Happy Van trips.” As an avid reader, I always got to sit in the way back so I could have my nose in a book and no need to converse with anyone else in the car. I missed a lot of scenery including all of the Pacific Coast Highway, the Smoky Mountains and various other landmarks in America’s heartland.

I adore my parents and I missed out on growing up with grandparents in the same state (remember the trips to Chicago?) and I wished so desperately to have grandparents that were close to home. As an adult, I had a say in that with my own children. My neighborhood connects to my parents neighborhood so that my kids would be able to interact with them as part of their daily lives. I consider us extremely fortunate that proximity allows us to plan lunches, dinners, school plays, random coffee dates, and vacations together. Last week, with my husband working and my other two boys with their dad, my parents and I got Connor to ourselves for a week of fun-ish. I remember the first road trip my parents took with Connor and me when he was very young. Connor and my dad came out of a rest stop area and had decided that there were “rules” to road trips. Rule #1 was “No smoking in the bathrooms.” None of us smoke, I don’t know why this is Rule #1…but it is. Any of my children could tell you Rule #1. As we set off on our journey last week, my dad got in the car and asked Connor what the first rule of a road trip was…and sure enough, Connor told my dad “No smoking in the bathroom.” Despite a rocky trip (see Being Bratty post) there were several highlights and lots of laughing and memory making. As we all get older and time marches on, I’m so grateful for an opportunity for us to all get-together. I realize that it’s a precious gift and I am thankful.