I remember you

I remember you
In worn out blue jeans and your old t-shirts – the kind with the pocket on the chest – working away on your latest project.
I remember you
Telling jokes so simple and obvious that they would make me laugh, and then you’d laugh, and soon enough we’d be in our own little fit, with others around the table smiling and wondering why it was so funny just to us.
I remember you
Taking calls in the office – alternating between Pennsylvania Dutch and English, calling everyone “Boova!”
I remember you
With your country Western music in the old truck, your special chair you sat in in the living room.
I remember you
Building us a life-size teepee in the backyard, a place of our own at your house so we could play,
Using your excavator to pile up all the snow you could manage into a hill that we could sled down in the driveway.
I remember you
Driving the mower around the backyard, us kids with our bare feet hanging off the edge of the wagon attached in the back.
Cutting watermelon in the summertime out by the barn, with juice running down all of our faces.
I remember you as Santa Claus
and how I argued with the kids in school that Santa was real – because I had seen him in the flesh, sneaking into my house to drop off presents.
I remember you in ‘The Shop’
A place where cheese and pretzels and ring bologna and beers and laughs never ran out.
All of the parties, the cookouts, the yard sales, the family reunions. I was so young, but I remember. You star in the fondest memories of so many. Especially mine.

When we’re young, we never know we will live a day without our grandparents. When we’re older, we know better, but we fight the thought with all we have because we can’t imagine the emptiness without them.

I will remember you with that smile. You’d look at me and shake your head and smile like you just couldn’t believe your eyes. You always made me feel so special.

I will remember you always this way, my grandpa: with your unruly white hair and your bright eyes and your big smile and your hugs. I will remember you always by the way you’d make me belly laugh and how I always felt safe in your presence. I will remember you with your strength and your zest and your talents and your endearing Dutch accent. I will always remember you with so much love.

27

Today is a birthday different from any other I’ve had before. 1 month ago today we found out I was pregnant. 1 week ago today I had a miscarriage.

Each year, I have planned dinners, cocktails, small get togethers… To celebrate the past 12 months and welcome in the next. I would use the day as a reason to get all of our friends together…I would buy a new dress. Eat a fancy dessert. Use the day as an excuse to be totally selfish.

I’ve been told that once you become a mother, it’s never all about you again. Your child will come first forever, and you’ll make sacrifices, and it won’t be comfortable at first, but you won’t trade it for anything tangible or not in the world. I won’t have a baby in my arms come May, but I can tell you I will be forever changed because of the 3 short weeks I grasped that I would become a mother.

When we found out, Corey wanted to share the news with everyone we knew. I didn’t think I could love him any deeper than I already did, but seeing the pride he had for our growing family made my heart explode. I knew it was hard for him to hold back the news. “If something happens though…” I would say. The thing is, “something” did happen, and I find myself wishing I would have told everyone with whom I crossed paths. What a gift we had been given. I celebrate the blessing of being able to become pregnant, and I mourn the loss at the same time.

This day isn’t the day I pictured, and I can’t help feeling like I’m missing someone as my 27th year begins, but I’m so thankful for God’s faithfulness and I pray that He works through me to connect with other women who have experienced this, and to talk about it…because sometimes the most comforting thing someone can say to you in a hard time is “me too.”

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18

an ode to my 2nd grade bully

Thank you to the girl in 2nd grade. The one who wore plaid skirts with knee-high socks and brand name clogs, sweaters with gems. The one who taught me early on how mean girls work. Thanks for that time you asked me what my favorite store was and I responded with “Kmart” because that was all my (single) mother could afford at the time. You cackled and told everyone… I learned that I should ask for a shirt from Limited Too that year for Christmas.
Thank you for continuing to pick on me for the next year, waiting to hear any less-than-cool statement come from my mouth so you could flourish in my embarrassment, for never letting me forget that you were richer, more popular, and prettier than me. You taught me very quickly how important it was to hide the less than ideal aspects of my life.
Our city is a small one. I regularly attend professional networking events with my co-workers and husband, and I happened to see you there… the first time in more than 15 years. Both seemingly happy. Both seemingly successful. I wonder if we’re equals now.
I’m not holding grudges for 15 years to a second-grade child, but the petty part of me would sure love to tell you how you shaped my opinion of myself as a child. I hope one day, if you have a daughter, she’ll never be tempted to find her own worth in minimizing others.

internal conflict vs. external confrontation

I am not a fan of confrontation. I freeze. I cry. I feel cornered. I run. But why? Is it because confrontation can lead to conflict? Well, I think conflict is something we should embrace. If respectfully approached, conflict can change someone’s opinion or day or work or relationship with you. It can help you grow.

I recently was approached by someone about an issue that had to do with someone else. While I believe the person who initiated the message meant well, I immediately felt angry that they had not come straight to me. I stewed. I judged. I felt defensive.
Then I realized that maybe this person feels uncomfortable with confrontation and conflict too. I approached them. I expressed myself respectfully, and the response was matched. Problem (that I created in my head). Solved.
Had I let myself continue to overthink, I would have held a grudge the entire day. Instead, the issue (that I had honestly blown up into something more than what it was) was resolved within a matter of minutes.
This experience was just a reminder that conflict and confrontation do not always hold true to their negative connotations. We try to avoid conflict with someone face-to-face, but letting an issue resonate inside of us usually drives internal conflict (that is sooner or later) reflected outwardly.
Instead of holding it all in, why don’t we challenge ourselves to be a little bit uncomfortable for the greater good?

selfish to be selfless

Early this week, I really woke up on the wrong side of the bed. This low point reminded me of how crucial it is to maintain balance. Monday went something like this:

5:30am: Gym alarm goes off. Nope, not happening today.
5:40am: Husband gets out of bed. Is he seriously going to the gym right now?
5:41am-6:00am: Husband runs up and down stairs, opening and closing doors. Making noise. And he left the door open. Doesn’t he know how tired I am? Doesn’t he know I won’t be able to get back to sleep? Today is such a long day. Why is he doing this to me?
6:00am: Husband leaves. Sends Husband rude text message complaining about how busy the day is going to be and how I don’t own any of my own time and did he stop to think that I need an extra hour due to the fact I have his softball game I said I’d go to and then the grocery store and then cook dinner.

As I laid in bed, I began on my internal, defensive rant: On Sunday, every hour of my day was with family. I had 30 minutes of the day free. I got no cooking done for the week. No cleaning, no work, no laundry, nada. I set myself up to be behind before the week even started. The misery. And Monday? Well, I was expected to go to the softball game directly from work, get home at 8pm, and make dinner (with what groceries? No time to get those either). There aren’t enough hours in the day, which is why I convinced myself that I needed this additional hour to sleep. So by this time my mind is racing and I am completely worn out before I step foot out of bed.

6:04am: Husband responds, a bit less than thrilled. I suck at being a wife sometimes.
6:30am: Rolls out of bed. Foregoes the shower. Meh. Maybe no one will notice.
7:00am: Missed call from client. ALREADY!?! See, I don’t own any of my own time.
7:20am: Husband gets home from the gym, puts his hands around my face, and says, “I appreciate you. Do you have a grocery list? I’ll go to the store. I don’t mind, I want to.” I really suck at being a wife sometimes.
7:30am: Leaves for work a half hour early. Goes to Starbucks. Sits outside. Soaks up sun. Reflects:

“An overwhelmed schedule often results in an underwhelmed soul.” These words by Lysa TerKeurst resound often in my head after I have these moments meltdowns. When schedules are jam-packed with obligations, we often lose sight of the big picture. When we put everything else before ourselves, we LOSE ourselves. Okay, I’m stressed because I’m busy, but in reality, I’m busy because I’m blessed with the opportunity. When I don’t take that “me” time, I end up resenting the plans I’ve made rather than enjoying them. While it’s not selfish to take time to do what you want to do, it is selfish to use stress as an excuse to be mean. Sometimes, we must be selfish and carve out our own time – time that belongs to us – in order to have the room to be selfless for others later.

for the times I fall short

Let me begin by saying I love traveling, but I am not a fan of the whole… getting there part. About a month ago, I flew to Florida for work. As I sat waiting to board with my boss, I tried to think happy thoughts. I tried to seem like I had it together, that I wasn’t freaking out just a little bit about the fact this was my first time not sitting with someone I knew on a flight (because usually, I claw my nails into my husband’s arm when I get scared). I was sitting in the airport praying when I heard screams. Interrupted, I opened my eyes. A family entered our area: a mom, a dad, twin boys, a little girl, and grandparents. This little boy was not happy. A distraction from my own anxious thoughts, I said to my boss, “Oh, you know I will end up sitting next to him. It’s my luck.” We shared a laugh.

I boarded the plane and found my aisle seat. Soon after I sat down, a middle-aged woman made her way to the window seat next to me. We immediately started chatting. A few minutes later, the family from the boarding area made their way toward me. The family sat down in the row in front of me, across the aisle, and the grandfather sat down next to me. The mother immediately turned to me and said, “I apologize for your flight.” This seemed promising… The grandfather introduced himself to me and told me he expected them to sleep once the plane took off. Neither of the boys fell asleep – the louder of the two screamed continuously and shouted the same words over and over again. It soon became clear to me that he had behavioral issues.

The grandfather and I continued talking throughout the flight. I learned that the twins were 3 and he and his wife watched them during the week. He said his daughter and her husband had trouble paying their mortgage, so they switched houses to cover it for them, but he didn’t complain. He told me stories of his travels while in the Navy. He told me his daughter played collegiate level soccer and said they used to go to games all of the time. I looked at his son-in-law. He seemed disconnected – absent from the situation. I wondered if he had met this man’s daughter back in college. The grandfather said they were going to DisneyWorld and he hoped the kids would have fun. He sat his grandson on his lap and read to him during the flight – never wavering once with impatience, as the little boy kicked and flailed his arms and legs, almost spilling my water as he yelled for more apple juice. The grandfather asked me about my life – Where do you live? When did you get married? I knew someone from there once. What do you do for work? Are you vacationing? Will you have children someday? He said he hoped his grandson didn’t change my mind. I politely smiled and said, “Not at all.”

When the plane began to descend, he saw me close my eyes and breathe deeply and said, “You’re okay, you’re okay. You can hold onto my arm if you need to.” In the 2 hour flight, I felt like I had gained a new grandfather myself. As we landed, he said, “I’m really glad I got to talk with you today. I’m glad I sat next to someone who is friendly.”

I got off of the plane feeling pleased with myself and thankful for the conversation I had had with this stranger. I was enlightened and even proud of myself. I thought of how that conversation was a blessing, a lesson, and how wonderful sitting with that family had actually been. It’s not everyday you have a connection with a stranger you meet on a plane… especially when said stranger is holding onto a very loud and misbehaving child.

Fast forward to 6 days later. My boss and I are sitting in the boarding area, about to return home. After 5 days of stress, chaos, hard work, little sleep, a lot of walking, and non-stop human activity and being ‘on,’ I just wanted to sink into my window seat, sleep, not speak to anyone, and get home. I was too tired to think about the plane. Too emotionally spent to be wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. Too physically stiff to even move. There was nothing I was looking forward to more than sleeping on the plane. Enter: Family on outbound flight.

I couldn’t believe it. I was ready for the trip on the way out. But now? I could never hold up a conversation, and I certainly was not in the mood to have heart-to-heart talks with strangers. I wished as hard as I could that they would not be seated near me. I was so desperate. What are the odds? Again, this family sat in the row in front of me on the plane. The father was on the aisle seat in my row. As I said a slew of frustrated and selfish thoughts in my mind, my attention turned to the flight attendant who approached the mother.

He insisted the son could not be on her lap due to his size, for takeoff. I could hear the worry in her stern response – “But 6 months ago, he could sit on my lap. Now he can’t? He will scream if he is in his own seat buckled. Can’t he just stay here?” She argued, but not in a rude way. Her tone spoke to me more than her words. It was as if it said, “Please, for my sake, just please let me hold him. I can’t take much more.” The two argued back and forth for a few minutes. As she forced her son into the seat across the aisle from her, the entire family tried whatever they could think of to calm him. He screamed as loud as he possibly could. He shrieked. The man behind me muttered curse words under his breath. The boy’s father, who I hadn’t heard speak during either flight, tapped his wife on the shoulder and said, “Never again.” After, he slouched down in his seat with embarrassment and lowered his baseball cap over his eyes. I looked at his wife, who looked as if she had lost a battle. As I watched this scene unfold, I realized this could be everyday life for them. My eyes welled up with shame. Suddenly I recalled the conversation I had with the woman’s soft-spoken father just a week before – his daughter used to love soccer, she and her husband bought a house but couldn’t make the mortgage payment, he watches the children during the week. I wondered who they were before life’s little (and big) stresses. I wondered about their life now.

I wish I could say I was changed in that moment, but I continued to complain to anyone who listened about how awful my flight had been. For 2 hours, I listened to the boy scream, but when I got home, I had the luxury of going into my bedroom and sleeping soundly for hours in peace.

As a month has passed since the trip, I’ve thought about this family dozens of time. I realized that I had an opportunity to have a loving, patient heart, to pray for them, to comfort them, even. I’ve reflected: How much of my life was seriously inconvenienced by this young boy with behavioral problems?

The real lesson was not on the trip out, when I opened my heart to a stranger when it was easy to do. No – the true opportunity for grace was presented on the way home, when I had little of myself to giveHow can I be a blessing to anyone else in this world if I only give when it is convenient? I pray almost daily for a loving, patient heart and for opportunities to glorify God and be a blessing to His people. More often, I pray for forgiveness for the times I fall short. I know the members of this family by their first names, the city they live in, and minuscule details of their past and their present. I may never see them again, but the eye-opening lesson I learned from them will stay with me for many days to come.

hide your craziness behind a beautiful smile

You know, it’s okay to not have it all together.

Whether you’re single or married or dating,and have an apartment or live at home or own a house or are crashing at a friend’s place, and if you’re pregnant or with kids or without kids or don’t want kids or can’t have kids. If you have your dream job or you’re in school or are still trying to get there or are content with where you are or want to leave where you are for something different. If you’re 20 or 25 or 30 or 35 and you aren’t where you thought you’d be or aren’t who you thought you’d be.

It’s okay. No one has it all together. No one has it all figured out, regardless of how much we all try to act like we do. Looks can be deceiving. We are all in the same little boat, really. Don’t let the pressures of society dictate where you are in life or convince you of where you “should” be. Resist the urge to ask, “What’s next?” Enjoy the sweet messes of your life today.

Embrace the perfectly flawed.