Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A new year. Lots of changes.

I'm shocked I haven't written since 2015.  But I figured I needed to update my life a little and maybe someone will find this useful.

Since last we spoke I began homeschooling my 2 youngest children and returned to college myself. It's a hectic life for sure but I'm loving it mostly. There are days, but don't we all have days?

So let's begin with the big one. I'm a college student! I'm finally finishing my Bachelor's Degree (only about 27 years after I began it). I'm seeking a Bachelor's of Science degree in Plant Biology with a specialization in Horticultural Therapy. The goal is to become certified by the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) and eventually work with adolescents and young adults with special needs. Ideally I will work in or create a vocational program for people who have developmental disorders, down's syndrome, autism and the like.

I identified this passion in myself by becoming a volunteer Master Gardener. Master Gardener organizations exist in every state and most states have them at the county level. We exist to provide gardening knowledge that has been tested through scientific experimentation that is unique to the area we live in. We also provide programming in schools, nursing homes, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs and veterans hospitals to teach people the skills they need to grow a garden.

One of the teams I have worked with has been part of a class for high school students with special needs. I found my calling. I love going to the class each week and sharing the knowledge I have and giving the students skills that will help them become employable and independent. One of our first students graduated this past year and has been hired by a local gardening center. I was very happy to hear this report. I am beginning my 5th year with this team and I am very excited to see our students graduate and succeed.

Being a college student and parent is difficult. I'm never sure where I should push myself and go for something and where I should hang back and sort of skate along with little challenge. I hope as I chronicle this journey of finishing my undergrad degree and applying to and attending grad school while I have at least one child in college along side me, and maybe two depending on how long it takes, I am able to make the journey a little easier for someone else, even if it's just knowing you are not alone.

Welcome to 2018!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Storm

It’s my favorite painting ever. Partly because I lived it, I lived in the Low Country during Hurricane Hugo. I heard the winds tearing down the houses and uprooting acres of Carolina Pines. I remember how the air smelled like Christmas for days in September of 1989. I know the devastating damage of a Hurricane.

I also know how much gets unearthed in a Hurricane. Secret lives get exposed, caskets are exhumed by flooding and often child birth is brought on by the Barometric pressure changes. All potentially initiated by something as simple as a butterfly flapping it’s wings at a certain time and place.

I read somewhere a while ago that many of us compare the backstage of our rehearsals to everyone else’s final production. Mostly because most of us don’t share our dress rehearsals let alone the back stage.

We all wear a mask. I have met very few people in this world who are who they are all the time. And even the most genuine people I think I know are still adding at least a little window dressing from time to time.  And it takes a lot of time and a lot of trust to get to the relationships that are heartbreakingly real. I have had a few of those relationships in my life.

Let’s face it the world expects us to hide. We want to hide and we want the people we love to hide. I have a few Facebook friends who are younger, less worldly and every single thing that happens to them becomes this major drama episode on Facebook. We call it drama, and we avoid it. There are days I just wanna post “Honey, bless your sweet little heart, your crazy is showing.” Not because I think she is bothered by showing her crazy, but because I am. It’s uncomfortable when people are honest.

I was raised in a culture that doesn’t show their crazy. Ever. I grew up just outside of Charleston, SC in a little town called Goose Creek.  The weather was warm, the gossip was loud and the crazy was buried deep.

One of my favorite songs by Miranda Lambert, “Momma’s Broken Heart” sums it up nicely,
Go and fix your make up, girl, it’s just a break up
Run and hide your crazy and start actin’ like a lady
'Cause I raised you better, gotta keep it together
Even when you fall apart
But this ain’t my mama’s broken heart

And that’s how it was. I’m not saying everyone in Goose Creek is like that, and I sure hope they aren’t but it’s how I was raised. It’s like I grew up in Vegas, what happened in our house, stayed in our house.

But after I left that house and the South for Yankee land, I learned that secrets don’t go away just because you don’t discuss them. Quite the opposite happens, often times secrets take on a power all their own. And to the world the people who look the most perfect are actually wrecks on the inside.

Maybe we all can be a little more comfortable with the honest ones. And a little more comfortable sharing our faults. One of the most important things I’ve learned (from a real life Jersey Girl none the less) is that sometimes just the right question asked at just the right moment by just the right person can bring all those secrets up to the surface where they can be discussed and examined. And when that’s done, those secrets lose their power. They no longer hold the key to a prison of guilt and shame.

Often the labels we have for ourselves in our heads don’t hold up to the light of day. And a person asking “How many years is enough punishment for that mistake which honestly isn’t yours alone to bear?” Makes a person really think about what forgiveness really means.

Maybe that’s why I like The Storm so much. I’ve lived that picture literally and figuratively. The right person asking me the right question at the right time pulled my secrets out like the Hurricane throwing the ocean over the sea wall. And what we unearthed was forgiveness.  Forgiveness sought and forgiveness accepted.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Tale of Two Fridays

What an amazing difference a week makes.

Friday a week ago I was in a funk. Nothing was necessarily wrong as a matter of fact many things were right, however I was in a funk.

I was up at weight watchers. By over a pound.

My husband was in a funk about his job.

My dog was limping and whining.

I tried to return something to a store and did not have what I needed.  And since I DETEST returning things, having to do it and have it not be successful is doubly painful.

It’s winter. I hate winter.

So there I was in a funk. Such a funk that even though I had a million things on my mind and time to spare I didn’t really write a blog post.

Forward to this Friday. Actually let’s start with Thursday.

This past Thursday I woke up and we did not have heat. We were out of oil. It was cold. I was a little put out but what are you gonna do?  I built a fire set up the space heaters and was Thankful for a home. I was also thankful that so many friends of mine offered up their warm homes.  And then I was thankful Thursday night when the heat came back on.

I also realized something, my mother in law didn’t reach out and offer her home. Because she doesn’t have to –reach out, I mean. We know. We stayed there after our house fire in 2001 for three long weeks with two noisy little boys and another on the way. Then after hurricane Sandy we showered there only because Brian and I both had to be at work in NJ, otherwise we would have stayed then too. We know we can pack up our necessities, animals and children and show up at their door and be welcomed with open arms. She doesn’t have to call because we know we can always go home.

Then Friday came, and my husband got some really good news about a new job.

I was down at weight watchers.

My dog is healthy.

I was looking forward to company we were having for the weekend and to celebrating Lizzi’s birthday weekend!

The main difference between this week and last I believe is my attitude. Last week I was in a funk. I was feeling overwhelmed by life.

This week, waking up to no heat really makes you take stock of your life and what’s really important. Heat in New Jersey in January is really important. Friends who care enough to invite your family (that’s 6 people and 7 animals) into their home is really important.

Being reminded once again God is fighting the battle with you and sometimes in spite of you is really important. 

The other lesson I was reminded of this week is that God did not call us to do this on our own. He called us to be in Community with one another. We are called to come together and help each other. That is how we show God’s love and that is how we ease the suffering of this world.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Are you Pleased?

There's a song by Chris Sligh entitled, "Are You Pleased?" It's got a haunting melody, and it reminds me of some of the Psalms where the singer is begging God to give His Approval.

I can really relate to this song. Maybe I relate to this song a little too much. I've spent years praying these words (and many others just like them) to God. And I've spent decades feeling not worthy.

Are You pleased with me? 
Am I everything You want for me to be?
Am I drawing closer to You?
Is my heart deciding You are all I need?

Oh, are You pleased?

And then on Friday, a Bible verse popped up on my Facebook feed.
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." Mark 1: 9-11
And something clicked in me. I had an epiphany moment. So I pulled out my Bible, and I went through the Gospels and I checked. And I checked again. Surely, I was wrong. But nope.

So as Jesus came up from being baptized, God says, "I am pleased." 

But Jesus had not done anything yet. 

No miracles -- no disciples -- not even resisting temptation yet. 


He just existed.

God was pleased with Jesus before he did anything. And since Jesus came to show us how God feels about us, God is pleased with us BEFORE we do anything.

God is pleased with me just for existing. Just like I can't do anything to make God stop loving me, I don't have to do anything to make Him love me. 
God is pleased with me. No matter what I do. 
He loves me. 
He loves you. 
He loves your neighbor whose dog poops on your lawn. 
He loves the abused and broken woman. 
He loves the entire population of the local prison (and every prison, real or imagined).
He loves everyone.
Just like He loved the demon possessed man.
Just like He loved the Woman at the Well.
Just like He loved Mary and Martha 
Just like He loved the woman who grabbed His robe to get healing.
And the man lying by the side of the pool.
And the guy whose friends came on his behalf.
And Zaccheus sitting in the tree.
And all of his disciples.
And Mary Magdelene.
And Judas.
And to this day, He loves us all.
All the people in the world.
He created us ALL.
He has seen life happen to us.
He knows why we are who we are. He has a front row seat to all of our struggles. Every single one. He was there too. 
He knows us even better than we know ourselves.
And he still loves us.

So here's my new anthem:
Blessed are you, walking on waves
To find yourself sinking when you look away
Blessed are you, leper, standing alone
The fear on their faces is all that you've known 
Blessed are you, lonely widow who gave
Your last shiny coin to Yahweh
Blessed are you with your silver and lies
Kissing the One who's saving your life 

Tell Me your story,
show Me your wounds
And I'll show you what Love sees
when Love looks at you
Hand Me the pieces, broken and bruised
And I'll show you what Love sees
when Love sees you

I'll end with a quote I read somewhere.

Your picture is on God's refrigerator. Right next to mine.