Hey America, can we take a deep breath?

Hey America, can we take a deep breath?

Hey friends. Can we talk for a minute? I’ve debated for weeks about whether this topic is worth approaching because I am a peacemaker who hates confrontation…but I think it is time for a frank conversation. Can you keep an open mind and not burn down my house after you read it? Thanks. (If you cannot commit to this agreement, please ignore this post and go to Pinterest.com to look at fall decor and chocolate desserts.)

Ready? Ok. 

2020 is a year of heavy anxiety. We all feel it for fifty reasons. We are TENSE. WOUND-UP. STRESSED. EMOTIONAL. We are spring coils taut with tension, waiting to snap at any moment. This year we have experienced the range of feelings- shock, sadness, anger, despair, and desperation- down to the marrow of our bones. We are right to strongly feel these sentiments because America is confronting some VERY SERIOUS issues. Adding a presidential election to this year is like placing a huge rotten cherry on top of the worst sundae in the century. Sooo, it’s not a surprise that our political conversations are also emotional…but I worry that America is losing its mind over this election. I worry that we have lost all rational thought as we lay claim to the hills upon which we want to die and the issues we so avidly support.  

Indeed, there are many important issues that deserve adequate attention, debate, discussion and consideration. We need to think very seriously about the direction in which we prefer America to go in the next four years! However, I worry that our enthusiasm has dangerously evolved into sheer panic as election day looms and we are all boarding our emotional rollercoasters, careening towards a gigantic crash and upheaval on November 3rd. Is it too late to slow down? Is it too late to change course, firmly grip our emotions and retreat into a state of reason? It seems to me like we all need a timeout to regroup on the sidelines. Can we collectively take a long, deep breath and talk about this for a minute? 

I am worried that our emotions are overriding our good sense. I see people yelling at their own family members who they love. I see people sulking in anger and avoiding their closest friends because they are frustrated about being unable to secure them as political allies. I see friends judging people harshly for having varied opinions about issues and man oh man… that is very difficult to watch! Have we lost all civility in public discourse? Have we lost the ability to calmly and rationally debate issues and then agree to disagree? Can we thoughtfully debate issues then hug each other goodbye? Again, is it possible to take a step back and return to reason? If you love your family and your friends, don’t let politics get in the way of your relationships. It’s just not worth it!! 

Additionally, I am grieved to see many friends throwing away rational thought and broadcasting large stereotypes, especially into cyberspace. People are categorizing the other side as a small, uneducated band of misfits, or worse “racists” or “evil communists.” Have we forgotten 2016? Voters split the ballots 48% to 46%! When people say “those Trump voters do this” or “those liberals do that”, they are speaking of a huge percentage of our population! Such numbers cannot be confined to a small box; 60 million people cannot possibly be voting for one presidential candidate for the exact same reason. And they are definitely not all “haters” or “moochers”.

Have we forgotten the size and scope of the United States?? South Dakota is not the same as Washington DC.; California is not the same as Alabama. Our cultural variety immediately precludes agreement at the polls so let’s stop advertising generalizations and return to a sensible playing field. The plain, rational truth is that there are lovely, intelligent people voting Republican, and lovely, intelligent people voting Democrat for very legitimate, educated reasons. PERIOD. If you do not know a brilliant, articulate person on the other side, then your bubble is too small. Sorry to be blunt, but it’s true. 

I am also worried that our emotions are hindering us from thoughtful debate. Are you not curious why 60 million people voted differently than you in 2016? Or is anger and resentment standing in your way? Is it not interesting that your neighbor has completely different passions than you? Where did those passions originate? Have you ever sat down and calmly asked her about her experiences that led her to where she sits? Why not? The world is a big place full of fascinating people and if we only sit in our bubble, listening to the same voices promoting our same issues, we miss all the colors around us. Let’s escape from the black and white! It doesn’t mean we need to change our opinions, but maybe, just maybe, we can understand what it’s like to walk in another’s shoes. Maybe, just maybe, we can truly grasp that everyone has their own unique experiences that lead them to vote a certain way. Such thoughtful conversations have the power to diffuse the anger, build more understanding and remind us that we are all humans with valid opinions.

Finally (although not exhaustively), I am worried our emotion and fear are overshadowing our visions and hope for the future. All of us have been tempted and seduced by fear this year. Myself included. It’s hard not to fear for our health and the future and the state of our nation in 2020. In this political season, it’s also difficult not to feel emotional and afraid as we worry about our way of life being under attack, should the other candidate win. News flash: both sides are carrying this weight, this worry that the other side will take away their rights. Can we take a quiet moment to consider this equivalent anxiety? (Again, might this yield more understanding between us?) 

Maybe people will disagree with me, but I think our fear and worry over November 3rd is blinding and distracting us to the possibilities beyond that day. If our candidate loses, does it mean we can no longer fight for our causes? Do we throw in the towel, eat a gallon of ice cream and bury our hopes and dreams? NO! (Do we rant incessantly on social media, burn buildings downtown or start a neighborhood militia? Also NO.) 

What if we funnel our emotion into action? What if we start thinking of ways to fight for our causes, regardless of who wins the presidency? Could that plan alleviate some of the fear of election day and bring down our blood pressure? For example:

Are you pro-life? You can volunteer at a pregnancy center, become a foster parent or give to adoption organizations.

Are you concerned about climate change? You can donate to environmental organizations and seriously analyze your own carbon footprints. 

Are you advocating for immigrants, racial justice, gender rights, education? You can bring it down to your city, your community and your neighborhood. You can get involved. You can love your neighbor as yourself and extend kindness and influence to those on the sidelines. We don’t need a specific president or a specific party to do everything! Whether our side wins or loses, we always have hands and feet and wallets to fight for our causes. Our work goes far beyond November and that should shine a ray of hope into our future. Hope casts out fear and actions can help us override our weary emotions. Let’s commit to this. 

(On a sidenote, are you a follower of Christ? If so, let me gently remind you that we don’t need to live in a state of fear or anxiety! We can rest in the truth that the Almighty God is ever-present in our lives and in the midst of this chaos! He came to bring you PEACE, but are you claiming it??*) 

I truly believe we can still be a United States on November 4th, but only if we roll up our sleeves, grab the hands of our neighbor and continue the calling placed before us. Our nation is better than this divisiveness, this judgement, this bitterness and anger. We are better than our emotional rants and daggers thrown over the fence. We are a nation that can accomplish big tasks and live in freedom with different cultures, religions and opinions… but that only works if people continue trying to live in peace. It only works if you and I can overcome our differences, see the colors around us and continue marching forward. Can we do this? Can we set aside our raw emotion and sow peace in our circles of influence? Can we focus on understanding and compassion, rather than anger and resentment? Pretty please???? 

Election Day is coming. Let’s commit to acting like civil adults, regardless of the results. And, hey, if we can’t say anything nice in the end, Pinterest is always ready to welcome us back with more chocolate desserts and impossible crafts. Godspeed to us all!! 🇺🇸

* “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27

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Crying Over Spilled Champagne: the guilt and struggle of 2020

Crying Over Spilled Champagne: the guilt and struggle of 2020

Years ago, when my husband was on a long deployment and my kids were little, I recall a civilian friend comparing our seven month deployment to her husband’s short business trip. “I know how you feel”, she said. I politely smiled but in my head I said “Umm…my situation is MUCH WORSE.”

Later, when my husband changed jobs and never left town I grew accustomed to his presence and almost panicked when he told me he had to travel for seven days. IN A ROW. I remember eating my words a bit and realizing that both situations presented some anxiety for mothers of young children, even if one scenario was more intense. Noted.


Fast forward to 2020. Admittedly, my life during this pandemic has been pretty easy. Since March, my family has not worried about unemployment or paying the bills. We have not worried about groceries or healthcare or a safe place to quarantine. My husband’s job continued as always, I had time to help my kids with online school and our stay-at-home orders found us watching movies and completing puzzles within the safety of our house.


On paper I have zero reason to complain. I have a large backyard in which my children can play, I have a community of friends around me who offer support. Plus, I am an introverted person who prefers to be at home above all else. Isn’t this what I always wished for? More time with my kids, more time at home and less time in the carpool lane? Haven’t I always valued the slow life? Haven’t I wanted time to stop so I can savor this stage of parenthood? YES!! EXACTLY!! So… what is the problem? Why am I feeling… down? (Is that something I can even admit without sounding like a complete jerk?)


Things could be so much worse, I tell myself. People’s businesses are going under, people’s loved ones are dying, people’s homes are being foreclosed and you are feeling down? Your husband isn’t deployed, your family isn’t sick…pull up your positive pants and make the best of this year! STOP CRYING OVER SPILLED CHAMPAGNE!!

But…I can’t. And I am consumed with guilt over it. I feel sad and… (dare I say it out loud?)…a little depressed. I’ve spent the past few weeks trying to snap out of it and distract myself and focus on the positive… but I am still struggling to maintain status quo. And I haven’t wanted to tell anyone because it makes me sound shallow and ungrateful for the ease of my life.


But might this be similar to the example above? If another person has a more intense experience than me, does it void my own? Someone could say “I have it worse than you” and I would agree 100%. No argument. But does that make my struggle unworthy of addressing? (This is my own self-talk here.) What if I stopped ignoring my feelings and actually dealt with them?


See, I haven’t been sleeping or eating or feeling well. My stomach hurts. I have found myself uninterested in doing much besides eating chocolate cake. (Maybe this is why my stomach hurts.) My best analogy is that I am living in a never ending holding pattern with no landing strip in sight. We circle around and around every day, on the same route, watching the same scene below, hoping somehow we will return to Earth.

We will invite friends to our house when COVID ends.

We will return to school when COVID ends.

We will attend church again when COVID ends.

We will travel to see our families when COVID ends.

I won’t be teaching third grade math when COVID ends.

But when is the END?? We don’t know! And that in itself is mentally exhausting. As a military spouse I can say that anything is possible if you have an end date. The unknown is what wrecks the mental game. So here I sit, admitting that my mental game is a bit haggard and disheveled. (Is yours?) Our short term survival-mode has turned into weeks, months and seasons, taxing our adrenals with its nebulous timeline and making us mentally tired. (And I haven’t even mentioned the stress of racial justice, wildfires or our nation’s upcoming elections. God help us.)


For the very first time in my life, this vague timeline feels more like an absence of a timeline. Every year I have progressed from one step to another, into another phase, another journey, another season. But in 2020, I am doing the exact same thing today that I was doing six months ago (just in a different state) and I am unsure when my movement will again begin. My kids are still schooling at home, public venues are still closed, activities are still cancelled, we are social distancing with all of our friends, and still not seeing our families. Our mental states are not only weary, but perplexed. And therein lays the root of my “problem”.


So how do I continue managing my mental health in an era of time that doesn’t seem to move? In my rational moments I do know that our world will eventually get past COVID-19, just like we moved forward from the Spanish flu and other pathogens. (And if not, Jesus is coming back y’all, so start investing in His heart and yours!) But the question remains- what do we do in the meantime, the “down” time, the never ending home quarantine? I’ve been thinking about it.


— We need to honestly acknowledge our feelings and talk with a trusted person about them. Maybe even a counselor. Are you aware of the common signs of depression?

Hopelessness

Lack of interest

Anxiety

Sleep problems

Changes in appetite

Irritability

Fatigue

*BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF.*


—We need to try to focus on the here and now, rather than three months down the road. We only know what life is like this week. Or this day. Or this hour. (And hasn’t 2020 taught us that the future is unpredictable?) Make today count!


—We need to try to find small ways to boost joy and keep the time moving forward. Maybe it’s a new soda every Thursday night (true story), decorating your Christmas tree three months early (considering it), Zooming with your best friend every week, leaving your house/ isolation unit for a day in nature or finding ways to volunteer and help your community. Make it happen!

— We can continue to give ourselves the same Grace in Quarantine Land that we offered to our souls in March. Have we forgotten this already? Admittedly, I needed a refresher.

Although I have days where I feel stuck in a never ending spin cycle of kids yelling at me over Google Classroom, I am trying to continue moving forward. One foot in front of the other, one more breakfast prepared in the kitchen, one more morning logging into our computers, one more afternoon reading with my sweet kids, one more evening kissing those precious faces goodnight. I have successfully passed much, much harder challenges than this. Truly, I am grateful for all that I have been given.


But if I feel a little downcast some mornings, I’m learning to be okay with that, too. 2020 is an entirely new sport and the former rules don’t always apply here. Some days I may win and some days I may lose, but I will try my best to make my plays count. And if not…well…there’s always more chocolate cake, right?

Good luck to us all,

To All The Toys We’ve Loved Before…

To All The Toys We’ve Loved Before…

When my kids were little, my daily challenge was to see how much I could accomplish during a single episode of “Doc McStuffins”. This lovely character fixed and mended toys with her magical stethoscope and became part of our family at just the right time. Like brushing teeth or eating lunch, watching that show was something we did EVERY SINGLE DAY. Doc held the attention of my kids for twenty-two glorious minutes while I frantically sprinted through the house trying to do ten loads of laundry and a week’s worth of chores.

But more than entertainment, Doc became part of our lives in other ways- she helped my kids be more comfortable at the doctor’s office, explaining “check-ups” and stethoscopes. She encouraged my kids to try new foods and brush their teeth and this Mama appreciated the backup! Two of my kids dressed like her for Halloween and our Doc doll (along with “Lambie”) became bedtime buddies.

Fast forward a couple years and my kid was cleaning out her room and threw Doc and Lambie in the donation pile. (You know what else was in the pile?? Winnie The Pooh!! But I can’t even talk about that one right now.)

“Why would you give these away??” I asked in horror.
“Well I don’t really play with them anymore…” was the response. I knew she was right but my heart sank. Of course my kids weren’t going to always love a character from Disney Junior. I knew that in theory but seeing the confirmation in our hallway filled me with sadness. Are those childhood days really gone? How did they pass so quickly? Weren’t my kids just in diapers, grabbing things out of our kitchen cabinets and crying incessantly for me to carry them around?

And then I thought- “WAIT. Didn’t I WANT those days to pass quickly?” When diapers leaked into my clothes and sleep was some sort of magic from my past, I confess that there were times I longed for my kids to be older. I longed for them to wear pants without arguing, stop playing “Skidamarink” on repeat and listen to me like angel children.

And then one day it actually happened (minus the angel children part). My kids grew taller and leaner and cannot easily be carried. Their interests expanded beyond cartoons and we arrived at a different stage of childhood/parenting/family life. So here I stand saying “What?? Already??” SOMEBODY STOP THE TIME!

It’s in hindsight that I am now able to view those baby/toddler years and see them for what they really were- a beautiful juxtaposition of good and bad days, enjoyable and difficult hours, pleasant and not-so-pleasant minutes. In one minute my kid would be vomiting all over my shirt… but in another one she would be asleep against my chest as we rocked quietly in our nursery chair. All those moments coexisted to make a beautiful life.

For so many of us, fictional characters or toys or “lovies” symbolize this yin and yang. They witness us running around, tired and frantic and needing a moment of solitude. They also witness us seated on our couches, blanketed in kids, savoring the stillness together. Stuffed or plastic or whatever material, these unremarkable objects lovingly hold our memories like treasure chests. When we see them on the toy aisle or in our storage bins or even in our donation piles, they transport us to those moments in time. And to the memories of those little hands we held so often.

For all the parents in the middle of the beautiful mess- if you scarcely have time to breathe (or shower), if you have had a few rough days (or weeks or months), say a prayer, follow Dory’s lead and keep on swimming. Pick yourself up, clean that vomit off your shirt and wait for the clouds to part. When the sun comes out and you glimpse a baby smile or a sweet act from your toddler, take in the scene and sear it into your memory like a thousand photos. (And if your child wants to play “The Elsa Game” for the 1000th time, know that it won’t last forever, dear sister.😉)

However tempting it may be, try not to wish the ages away. Your children won’t always be this little. I PROMISE that someday you will sleep again and your kids will wear pants. And when you hear people say “the days are long but the years are short” repeat it to yourself. Because the years are VERY SHORT.

At this point it shouldn’t surprise you that when it came time for me to take the donation box to a charity, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Doc and her friends. I, the 40-something mother, wasn’t ready to let them go. Someday I will be, but not yet. 🙂

So like a mature, adult hoarder, I removed those loveable stuffed toys from the box and placed them on display in my adult closet. I DO NOT LIE. Maybe one day they will be replaced with a soccer medal or graduation cap or some other special memento, but for now, it’s Doc McStuffins on display. And each morning I walk into that space and see her. “Why, yes, Doc, I did sleep very well last night. Thank you for asking.”

To all the toys we’ve loved before: thank you for the precious memories.

You thought I was joking.

Before and After: An Ode to Quarantine

Before and After: An Ode to Quarantine

Dear Quarantine- our nation has many different thoughts about you, as do I. You presented different types of challenges to different people and we will grapple with those facts for years. In the midst of your historical debut, you somehow managed to weave goodness into neighborhoods like mine. We had it better than most, but there were still lessons to learn. Here is our story and here’s to you…

*

BEFORE you came, my neighborhood was loud, Type-A and fast.

We waved hello and waved goodbye as people shuttled past.

Kids stayed quiet, off to school, then sports, Chinese and dance;

Something happened every night, do not neglect the chance

To fill the schedule to the brim with busy plans and games;

Weekdays, weekends, doesn’t matter, every day’s the same.

“Nanny she will pick you up, your mom and I are working.

Not sure when we’ll have the time for dinner, we are searching…

Life is busy, that’s the truth, but someday we’ll slow down!”

The hamster wheel spins faster still, around, around around.

*

BUT THEN…

Life went silent, all of us were slammed flat on our backs.

Staring wide-eyed at the world, we start to see our cracks.

Tunnels underground are where we lived within your rules,

There we worked and there we played and there we did the school.

Forced together, burrowed in, we held each other tight,

Mom and dad, they worked from home and teens were here each night.

*

Months they passed and days they flew then slowly we emerged,

Blinding light punctured our eyes and thoughts began to surge.

All the things that held us fast and tight within their grips

Let us go and pushed us back and took away our ships.

No more passing in the night, but stuck home altogether,

We found joy in simple things, like puzzles and the weather.

*

Families they went on their walks and played games in the street,

All at once six blocks of homes had found the time to breathe.

My neighborhood of fast and loud became a time of slow;

Kids found jump ropes, bicycles and other things to tow.

It’s like somehow we all returned to childhood in the 80s,

When kids played outside, families talked and girls made chains of daisies.

*

We also found that we had time to care for all our neighbors,

Checking-in and buying food and reaching-out with favors.

And we realized other friends were also very near!

A simple Zoom-call conversation gave us time to hear

And wonder why we didn’t contact all these friends before?

(Because our schedule always called for more and more and more.)

*

So thank you, Quarantine, for stopping time for just a spell.

Thanks for showing me what matters- love and time spent well.

But now we’re called to move on through, this year has more to say;

Important issues face us, maybe the biggest of our day.

But don’t forget what we just did, what we had time to feel!

Don’t forget what happened when we all jumped off the wheel!

*

I know that…

Sometimes life is full of choices, but sometimes it is not.

Sometimes fate hands us a card and that’s our given lot.

(But) if you have a choice to make ’bout where to go from here

Think about this Spring and what you’ve learned so far this year.

Do you long for busy? Or do you long for slow?

Two roads diverge in the woods- down which one will you go?

If we do not ponder it, the wheel will just spin faster.

And though some might prefer BEFORE.

I’ve decided… I choose the AFTER.

The Heartache of Moving and the pieces of us we leave behind

The Heartache of Moving and the pieces of us we leave behind

[Note: These thoughts were written prior to COVID-19 which makes the heartbreak of a move even worse. Many of us have been robbed of the chance to say proper goodbyes, to thank our teachers and coaches, to hug our friends and visit our favorite haunts. We are cutting the strings without having the chance to tie them in tidy bows before we depart. Moving without that kind of closure is a psychological and emotional challenge for adults and kids alike. My family is already reeling from the disappointment. Surely it will become part of our story as we reflect on 2020 and the ways COVID-19 disassembled our lives. Godspeed to all of us as we navigate this upcoming PCS season.]

• • • • • • • • • • • • • •

“I’ve put down a lot of little roots these two years,” Anne told the moon, “and when I’m pulled up they’re going to hurt a great deal.” – Anne of Green Gables/Avonlea

My husband and I have PCS-ed many times with the Navy. That’s military- speak for packing our Earthly belongings and moving to a new base. A Permanent Change of Station contrasts with Temporary Duty- TDY- a shorter separation from where you reside. Yet any military family can see the irony in the names. 🙂 We understand the need to differentiate the two statuses but truthfully we know we will never have a permanent station until we actually end our military service. And therein lies the challenge.

If I have learned anything in these moves, it is that we need to approach each PCS with expectation and not be afraid to pursue a new life. Our QUALITY of life depends on it, even if we know that ultimately our situation is not permanent.

When we drive into a new town, we try to jump into community as quick as possible for the sake of our kids and our family. We survey the ground, find our special spot, dig down deep and plant our roots. Military spouses like to say “Bloom where you are planted!” but the first step is CHOOSING to plant ourselves. Flowers cannot bloom without their roots attached… and people cannot thrive without community. So we take the plunge.

Like a plant finding life-giving minerals in the ground, we wrap ourselves around that which sustains us- people and places and experiences. We spread our thirsty vines across the city and create a new normal, knowing in the back of our minds that it will not last forever. Someday this tour will also end, but we need water immediately and extend our roots just a little further.

We introduce ourselves and meet new friends.

We find a church and community that feeds our soul.

We land jobs that we love.

We bond with our kids’ schools and community and sports teams. (We cheer for joy when we find cool kids with cool parents!)

We watch our children learn to walk in our “new” old house. We nurse them when they are sick and celebrate birthdays within those sturdy walls.

We learn the aisles of the grocery stores and the backroads around our neighborhood.

We spend hours strolling in the woods near our house.

If we are lucky, we have two years, maybe three years of the new normal. If we are unlucky it is less. But just when our lives seem full and settled, the government greets us with news shaped like an hourglass. What?? Already?? It’s time? Another PCS looms ahead, another impermanent change of station has been added to the calendar and in one sentence our world shifts…again.

Immediately half of our thoughts belong to another town. Do I know anyone who has lived there? Are the schools good? What about the rental market? Hand me my phone, I need to look at Zillow.

The sand begins to fall, the countdown begins and we act differently. Don’t fill the freezer with anything else! Don’t buy any candles, alcohol, Costco toilet paper or condiments! (For goodness’ sake, don’t buy any Worcestershire sauce because it takes two years to use that stuff.) We don’t subscribe to any new magazines. We ditch the summer camp flyers and school announcements for next year’s programs; none of that matters anymore. How on Earth do I transfer my kid’s school credits?? Hand me my phone again.

We clear away the superficial but eventually, the shift becomes more personal… and more difficult. We take a deep breath, stare down at the roots we so lovingly planted and nourished, and start to pull them up.

We pull ourselves out of the running for long-term projects. Maybe we could have earned a promotion at work but now we are leaving.

We pull ourselves back from new friends. We don’t have the time or emotional energy to invest in new people. It’s too late.

We pull ourselves back from our homes which we never finished decorating.

We pull ourselves away from the world, sometimes burrowing within our houses to cover our emotions and avoid the onslought of approaching goodbyes. Our hearts begin to ache.

The problem is that our hearts are now entangled in this new life and if you have ever tried to pull a plant out of the ground, you know there’s a certain ripping that occurs. We can handle the roots delicately and sweep away the surrounding, unattached dirt, but the tearing still happens when we aim to fully remove roots from their home.

We watch our kids hug their friends goodbye and shed their own tears and we think Are we ruining their lives??  We start saying goodbye to our own friends and silently think Will we ever see them again??  It hurts.

We sit in our empty house, listening to the echoes of footsteps. Is this really the end?  We close the door, hand the keys over to our landlord and start weeping in the driveway because Will we ever return to this house again??  Oh man, it hurts.

During the long walk to goodbye, we shed tears and feel broken-hearted because WE ARE. We are tearing away parts of our heart and leaving them with that person or place forever. It’s a painful process.

NOW STOP. Before we cry ourselves to sleep or eat a gallon of ice cream at the mere thought of relocating, let me tell you this: I’ve learned to see blessings in it all. Stepping back and seeing the bigger picture gives us a beautiful vantage point.

Even though the uprooting hurts, the pain is a blessing because it tells us that our heart and roots bonded with something or someone. Ripping ourselves away never feels good, but that doesn’t mean it is NOT good. We are meant for connection and the heartache is evidence of our success.

The heartache is also a blessing as it explodes into fragments our simple definition of “home”. If “home is where the heart is” then this nomadic lifestyle (and subsequent heartbreak) allows us to experience this idea in special ways.

The town that sheltered my broken soul as I recovered from a miscarriage and the death of a loved one, warranted giant tears when I departed. In a short time I had planted myself deeply. To this day, glancing over a map, my eyes will rest on that town because part of my heart never left. Although I will shall never reside there again, it will always feel like “home”.

Or the house on another continent that became our safehouse, our place of comfort and the scene of tremendous growth in our children. So much of my heart was left within those walls that I felt physically “homesick” for months after our PCS was complete. (I still do!) It will forever remain special.

Or the friends that we meet during a tour- the ones who become our confidants and kindred spirits… those goodbyes are painful, but as we share bits of our heart with those people we will be rewarded with great joy when our roads converge again. Even people can feel like “home”.

Whether we desire it or not, this nomadic lifestyle changes and moves us. We experience new things, new friendships and new cultures that cannot be unlearned. Even if we hate where we live, we are still changed! Our hearts are the parts that change the most- growing, expanding and reshaping after we leave bits of them behind. So while the molding and shaping can be painful sometimes, I’ve concluded that it is ultimately VERY GOOD.

At the end of the day I believe the pain is worth it. The friendships and experiences under my belt are priceless to me, even with the accompanying heartache. How lucky am I to feel homesick for so many people and so many places?

If you are moving soon and wondering if you have the energy to create another new normal, I say: don’t wait until you are withered and dry. Dig in and plant those roots as soon as possible, even if you must pull them up later. Give your heart to new friends, even if you know there will be a goodbye in your future. Feel free to spend a little time mourning over your last duty station, but don’t let the tears blind you to the riches of your new town. These miles of new soil will bring different opportunities and different experiences so go ahead and survey the ground until you find your special spot. Then plant yourself.

“[Anne] was leaving the home that was so dear to her, and something told her she was leaving it forever… things would never be the same again. And oh, how dear and beloved everything was… all the thousand and one spots where memories bided. Could she ever really be happy anywhere else?” – Anne of the Island

Yes… she could. And she was. And so will you and I. ❤️

Grace for Everyone in Quarantine Homeschool Stay At Home Land

Grace for Everyone in Quarantine Homeschool Stay At Home Land

So here we are, three weeks after my last blog post about COVID-19 and most of the country is staying at home and homeschooling in quarantine. Well this isn’t what I thought I would be doing when we rang in the New Year! Damn. Have we ever quarantined? When was the last time our entire country educated at home- when George Washington was President? This is crazy.

I don’t know about you, but in a matter of days I went from a quiet house to my husband working from home indefinitely and all my kids here 24/7. A week later, Virginia closed its schools for the remainder of the school year (hello five months of togetherness) and then the Governor declared stay-at-home measures though June 10th. So like a tornado in Tulsa, this virus just blew the roof off my house.

With all my own commitments blown away, I am now parked at my kitchen table every morning coaxing my children through hours of online school- helping one kid with Virginia Studies and the migration of Scottish-Irish immigrants while another continues acrostic poems and parallel segments (“Is it snack time yet?). I am searching our house for quadrilateral shapes (what’s a quadrilateral?) and listening to my teen talk about acids and bases. Again, not how I predicted 2020!

For my friends and family in the healthcare industry, who figuratively had their entire houses blown away, I know 2020 wasn’t what you predicted either. Please know how much we appreciate you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for your work and dedication and sacrifice. ❤

For the emergency responders and essential workers who are bearing the stress of providing our basic needs, I hope you know how much we appreciate you, too. By managing our cities and stocking our groceries you are stemming chaos and providing the heartbeat for our modern lives. My contribution of staying home feels petty in comparison but I will do my best to follow the rules and protect the health of our community.

While history unfolds in our laps we cannot know how this will ultimately affect us all- culturally, financially or psychologically. Unknowns loom before us. But I do know that we can choose our thoughts right now, or at least harness them in a mindful direction. And my own thoughts keep circling back to the concept of grace. How can we offer it to ourselves and others in this dark time?

While the word “grace” can be defined in different ways, I view it today as a temporary exemption, a reprieve, a kind of mercy or pardon. (Thank you Merriam-Webster.)

So to whoever needs to hear this:

You are temporarily exempted from your normal life and your normal self. This never-seen-in-our-lifetime event has crushed our normalcy. It’s okay to be winded. It’s okay to feel like the rug suddenly pulled out from underneath you. It’s okay if you don’t feel like your normal self. We are all struggling because THIS IS NOT NORMAL.

Give yourself an exemption, some grace, when your emotions get the best of you. Every day is a new day and another chance to adjust our attitudes and appropriately manage our stress. I was a manic-depressive monster during our first week of quarantine until my husband finally told me to get myself together. Roger. I knew I could do better than that.

Give yourself grace to process what could have been in 2020. Maybe missing sports seasons, graduation ceremonies, weddings and other life events are first-world problems, but their cancellations still bring real and legitimate feelings of grief. We had anticipated so much joy but instead sit crestfallen and utterly shocked. Or maybe you saw your career shifting into high gear but now find unemployment and mortgage payments looming before you. Even if we are fortunate to have our health, 2020 will be heavy with personal loss. It’s okay to release your waterfall of tears.

Give yourself grace when your quarantined friends on social media start to peck at your core. When everyone starts bragging about their self-improvement plans, their exercise regimens, their sudden interest in learning three languages or another instrument, or their homemade organic spelt tortillas that their four year old loves to make, know that you don’t need to compete. That is their life, not yours. Don’t let them steal your confidence.

Additionally, give yourself grace as you see the Online Joneses homeschooling (oh my, have mercy upon us.) As they infiltrate the internet with their glorious plans to produce Harvard graduates, let me say loud and clear that YOU DO NOT NEED TO DO ALL OF THAT. Your kid doesn’t need to be able to speak Mandarin Chinese when we emerge from our caves. Log out of Facebook and Instagram if you start feeling inadequate. Right now, life is stressful enough without the burden of comparison.

Take a deep breath.

We also need to extend grace to people around us, many of whom might be processing/experiencing this pandemic differently than you or me. Telling the mother of a graduating senior that she shouldn’t be sad because you grew up during a Lebanese civil war is not helpful (thanks but no thanks, Facebook lady.) We don’t need to play the “who has it worse” game. Likewise, telling someone to “praise God in all circumstances” when that person has a loved one in the ICU, minimizes people’s feelings and negates their emotions of the day. Join your friends where they are. (Emotionally, not physically, stay home!)

Give your kids grace, too, as they process all of this, especially teens. Remember, their friends are their tribe, even moreso than their families. Friendships are one of the MOST important aspects of their life so when that slice of the pie is suddenly stolen from them emotional chaos ensues. They need time to adjust and mourn in their own way. (And by the way, screens will happen now, more than ever. It’s just the way of the world in quarantine. Boundaries are still good but this isn’t normal life.)

It goes without saying, but give grace to your littles, too. They didn’t choose to cancel school and uproot our social systems. While we gaze upon our shredded calendar, they are simultaneously trying to make sense of this scary, ever-changing world. We can do our part by being a shield of peace and protection over them. (Meaning, turn off the damn news when they are awake!) With God’s mercy upon us we can get them snack #1,373,938, cuddle on the couch and help them find a new, temporary normal.

As we go about our days, let’s give mercy and grace to our whole society- to our government officials, teachers, co-workers, neighbors, spouses, and everyone else in this shocked world. Change has touched EVERYONE.

As the famous saying goes- “This, too, shall pass”… eventually. 🙂 Our Earth has seen hard times before and has managed to continue spinning. So to all the people in Quarantine Homeschool Stay At Home Land, keep calm and press onward. It’s all we can do. Grace will see us through.

Original photo by Leon Biss on Unsplash

**If life has become difficult to manage, please know that resources are available to help you. There’s no shame in seeking to be your best self.

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) 24/7, free and confidential

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255

Substance Abuse and Mental Health National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

MilitaryOneSource Free counseling 1-800-342-9647

The Greatest Opportunity: thinking beyond ourselves and COVID-19

The Greatest Opportunity: thinking beyond ourselves and COVID-19

The world will always remember the tragedy of September 11, 2001. We recall the heartbreak and fear but also the tremendous community spirit that blew across the United States. I’d like to think the true American spirit shined through in those months that followed. We opened our hearts to strangers, stood in line for hours to donate blood, and loved each other through the shock. We selflessly gave ourselves away.

The past few years have been strange for America. We have been divisive and angry and unable to find common ground on much at all. We say “Never Forget” September 11th but sometimes I think our memories have dimmed. Nowadays, it seems like many Americans are out for themselves- claiming “free speech” but using it recklessly and hypocritically, not really caring how their words hurt others. We claim our “rights” to do this or do that, not really caring how our individual decisions affect our neighbors. We have made it all about us. Or all about “ME”.

I’ve often thought of my grandparents’ generation, the Greatest Generation, who sacrificed life and luxury and individual liberty for the sake of our Nation. Are we capable of such a thing now? Are we capable of acting on behalf of the Greater Good, instead of our individual selves? We managed to use our inner-compass after September 11th. Can we find it again??

I believe we still have this human decency in us and COVID-19 might be our shining moment to prove it again. And for the people out there who weren’t yet adults when the World Trade Center fell, this is your chance to join the Nation in a larger quest. It might be our Greatest Opportunity to think beyond ourselves and act according to the Greater Good.

How can we do this? We can put our community above all else and work together to keep America healthy.

We can stop fretting over the television and take action of our own. The facts are clear- the virus is rapidly spreading- and we can take responsibility as mature adults. Is this whole thing over-hyped or under-hyped? Does it matter? Certain segments of our population are in danger and we can put a protective wall around them because it’s the RIGHT THING TO DO. Current evidence suggests that older individuals and those with suppressed immune systems have the highest risk of death. Love your older parents and grandparents. Love those who are suffering from diabetes or undergoing cancer treatments. They are depending on our shields so let’s sacrifice some of our luxuries and put up the armor. Is this too much to ask?

We can temporarily alter our activities, knowing that we could be germ-carriers. Even if the virus doesn’t typically cause harm to our own age groups, we can protect our vulnerable populations by not silently spreading COVID-19 all over town. That means canceling concerts, canceling unnecessary travel, respecting social-distancing and staying home as much as possible. Sure, flights to Mexico are probably cheap, but keep the big picture in mind. Compared to the sacrifices of the Greatest Generation, is this really too much to ask?

We can learn to be flexible. We can take orders from our companies and set up shop at home, even if it seems like a paranoid plan that makes our jobs a little more difficult. Even if there is no evidence of the virus in our workplaces or companies. Do it for the Greater Good. Is temporarily working from home in your pajamas really too much to ask?

We can have patience with our schools and find ways to help our kids. Believe me, I’m not interested in home-schooling, but if extracting my kids from the public will slow the spread of this virus through our town, SEND THEM HOME RIGHT NOW. And how can we help the other kids in our schools? If both of their parents are working, can we help with childcare? Are they dependent on school meals to combat their hunger? Can we deliver food? Work as a community? Is this too much to ask?

We can stop hoarding toilet paper and supplies for ourselves. This isn’t Armageddon, nor a call to live off the grid for six months. Why not buy your weekly supply and leave some on the shelf for your neighbors? (Diarrhea is not related to COVID-19 and families still need these items on a continuing basis.) Why not buy a giant pack of disinfectant wipes and distribute them to the other houses on your block, rather than stocking your own basement? Is that too much to ask?

This isn’t going to last forever, the pandemic will eventually end. How wonderful would it be to look back upon 2020 and remember that our inner-compass steered us in the right direction?! That, together, we Americans took care of our neighbors, friends and strangers and kept our local communities healthy and strong! WE CAN DO THIS!! It is the Greatest Opportunity!!

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

Quirky Military Homes and the Reasons I Love Them

Quirky Military Homes and the Reasons I Love Them

My family has moved many times in the last twenty years, in the country and out, from base to base to base. There is an unbeatable camaraderie among military families, for a plethora of reasons, but I find the laughter (and frustration) over our homes to be a special connection. Living transitory lives in different places yields a certain attitude about houses and a funny quirkiness in our spaces that entertains me. Our homes tell an eclectic, sometimes humorous story and represent so many aspects of the military life.

Here are TEN REASONS I LOVE MILITARY HOMES:

1) Lifestyle constraints make us low-maintenance. While normal families might spend months finding the perfect house, military families must be quick to find shelter and beggars can’t be choosers. We are moving in six weeks?? Alrighty… A house on base that looks exactly like every other house on the block? Okay. A rental house across the country that we must reserve, site-unseen, because the market moves so quickly? And it has a granny bathtub and a kitchen the size of a dollhouse? That’s fine. Or moving to a small town and finding only ten houses for sale within the school boundaries, none of which were the kind of house we had in mind? Okay, I guess this one will do. And since we might only be there for two years, we focus on the small things, ignore the big things (like the bright yellow hallway tile we want to jackhammer) and accept our imperfect houses until we fly away to our next nest.

2) Military homes keep us humble. In a world of dream homes, HGTV, and the need to keep up with the Jones’, many military families grab a bag of popcorn and watch from the sidelines. Our houses are often not worth bragging about (see above) but exist for practical purposes. They do the job, they give us shelter, they provide a temporary space for our family and we make them work. If your house has a toilet 12” from the front of the washing machine (a scenario which takes multi-tasking to an ENTIRELY new level) you can’t feel too haughty #truestory. If your downstairs doesn’t have any heating vents or your kitchen has only four cabinets or two microwaves installed next to each other, you aren’t calling “House Beautiful” and asking for a magazine spread. You are calling your friends and saying “My new house has lime green walls. It’s fine, my kid will sleep there.”

3) Furniture is often eclectic and tells a story. Those who have been stationed in Europe usually have large antiques, often filled with Polish Pottery. (I miss you, Trocs.) People who have been stationed in Japan often have Tansu Chests against their wall, showcasing their souvenirs from East Asia.

Sadly, many of these pieces have battle scars from the moving process- broken table legs forced back together with superglue or large scratches across the surface from when Joe the Mover decided to place the lawn mower on top. (Way to go, man.) Normal people might replace their flawed furniture but military families think of future moves and future damage, place a tablecloth over the top and tell their friends “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

4) Furniture often doesn’t fit right. While normal families choose the perfect sofa for the perfect living room, we shoot in the dark, hoping that what we buy will be transferrable in two years. It’s all a gamble! When we downsize from a 4,000 sq ft Texas mansion to a 1600 sq ft home in Washington DC, we will curse our large sectionals that now fill every inch of space in our tiny living room. But…we paid MONEY for that big sofa and we aren’t divorcing it quite yet. It will do.

Sometimes our furniture has to go suddenly, like when my friend moved to England and couldn’t get her King size mattress in the front door! Oops. New mattress please!

5) Furniture is often repurposed. When spaces change, so do the lives of our possessions. My friends’ nightstands, which are too wide for her new bedroom, now reside next to her front door as side tables. My other friend’s kitchen buffet table now sits in her living room. The file cabinet that matches the office desk sometimes doubles as a TV stand. The rug I purchased for my front entry now lives in my master bedroom because our new house doesn’t have space by the front door. (Does it match my bedroom linens? Nope. But someday I might have a foyer again so the rug stays.)

6) Home decor often goes through a lengthy consideration process. Normal families see an item they like and buy it. Done. Shopping is not that simple for us. We see something at a store and think Do I have a place for that? Is it likely that I would have a place for it in another house? What are the chances that it will survive our next move? Is it too fragile? How would movers actually load that onto a truck? If I buy a glass coffee table, will it be destroyed within two years? Wood it is. Sometimes we buy things we love (like the couches mentioned above) and deal with the spaces as they come. Sometimes we win and sometimes… well… we live tightly.

7) Sometimes we look like hoarders. That 4,000 sq ft mansion reduced to 1600 sq ft might mean a mountain of possessions inside our walls. When we move to a house that suddenly has zero closets and no garage, the bikes might live in the dining room. Or we may live in the desert but fill our closets with bins of snowgear in case our next duty station has cold winters (because that stuff is an INVESTMENT). We might have one room with three mismatched couches or European antiques shoved in the corner of our children’s bedrooms #truestoryagain. With unclear futures and unknown spaces ahead of us, hoarding can easily happen.

8) Unexpected souvenirs abound everywhere. We hail from all corners of America and have lived in a variety of places so our decorating style can be random but special. My Georgian friend lives in Virginia but has a Washington State highway sign on her wall. My Louisiana-born friend has a collection of Japanese souvenirs on her shelf. Another friend of mine has a couch full of British pillows. My living room displays a random black elephant from Hong Kong sitting next to a photo of the Pacific Northwest. That’s how we roll- converging our home states with our places of residence and our worldly souvenirs.

9) Military houses help design future dreams. Every house teaches us a lesson and adds mental bricks to our “forever homes”, those castles in the sky which military families so often reference. We dream of a future home of our choosing, in which we finally have control over our space and the location. Our forever houses will have this… we always say in conversation. One house taught us that white tile always looks dirty. Other houses have taught us that front porches prevent soggy packages, black countertops show crumbs, fewer bathrooms mean fewer spaces to clean, and again, let’s not put a toilet next to the washing machine. Essentially, military families have the opportunity to test-drive different shapes and sizes of houses and fine-tune our future abodes. It is an unexpected gift of this nomadic life!

And what I love MOST about military homes is…

10) They represent the essence of our military journey. We are a collection of memories and battle scars. We load ourselves into trucks and transport ourselves across the country (or the ocean) to serve where we are needed. We smash ourselves into corners, cover our wounds and look out the window at the new scenery. We reinvent ourselves every time, putting forth new energy into our new purpose. We might not look pretty, we might not fit exactly into our new space but we awkwardly try. With every move we look a little more worn (and maybe a little more quirky) but don’t let the outside fool you. We are STRONG, STURDY and ABLE to get the job done. 🙂

To all the military families who are moving this year: may the force be with you, may the movers be gentle with your furniture and may your new nest have neutral paint colors and normal toilets. Godspeed.

Has your military family lived in a quirky home? I would love to hear your stories! ❤️

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Words from a mom on the other side: your baby will be just fine.

Words from a mom on the other side: your baby will be just fine.

Having a baby is no joke. You can never fully prepare for the experience before it happens and then BAM. Hit by a truck. My military husband once said that having a newborn was akin to Navy Survival School where service members are thrown into the woods and told to survive for a week alone. They return disheveled, exhausted, sometimes a bit traumatized and mostly in need of a good, hot shower. See the similarities there??

I am happy to say I survived the baby stage (more than once) and graduated to the next chapter. Let me tell you- IT FEELS GOOD. Some days I miss those precious times but usually I am relieved to have that stage behind me- diapers, naps, screaming, no sleep, buh bye. And THE PRESSURE to do things “right”. Oh, the pressure.

It’s unfortunate that society lumps parents into sides and groups and then sprinkles judgment upon us all, but it happens: breastfeeding or formula, rocking to sleep or crying-it-out, on-demand feeding or scheduling, napping or no, organic food or no, spanking or time-outs, etc, etc. Looking back, I am content with some of the sides I chose but regret other decisions I made in those busy days. I did the best I could, people, and always hoped that it would be enough for my kids. And I know my friends were doing the same.

From a mother on the other side, with all her kids in school now, let me say this: IT DIDN’T MATTER. Not at all. Those sides did not define the success or health of my kids, moreso than any of my friends’ kids. You will find that once you exit that stage, no one cares anymore and no one asks.

No one asks if my kids were born in a hospital, at home or in a hot tub. No one asks if I had an epidural or used essential oils to hasten the delivery process. Honestly, the biggest question being asked in my circle is- why do kids want Tik Tok?? But I digress…

None of the second grade teachers have asked me how long I nursed my child. None of the middle school teachers have asked me if I let my kid cry-it-out or if we co-slept or if my kid was potty trained by age two. NONE. It seems a big deal at the time and I read the books and stressed over the various physical developments but in the end… my kids are doing just as well as any other kid.

From a mother on the other side, let me tell you that the kid who was breastfed for four years isn’t doing better than the neighbor kid who drank formula. They both do well in school and contract winter colds from time to time.

The kid who was up three times a night at age one is doing just as well as the kid who “slept through the night” at six weeks. (I put that phrase in quotations because I think most parents lie about this anyway. But that probably needs another blog post.)

From a mom on the other side, let me tell you that the kid who didn’t potty train until age four is doing just as well as the kid who rejected diapers at age two. (Neither of them wear diapers in Middle School so YAY.)

So if you are smack dab in the middle of that baby/toddler stage, please do what works for you and ignore the pressure. If scheduling your baby’s naps makes your life more manageable, then do it. If wearing your baby in a wrap all day adds joy to your life, then do it. I’m not saying to ignore science, reject advice or forego any parenting books… just know that many of the details we Baby Moms stress about won’t matter in the long run. My friends and I made different decisions and subscribed to different philosophies but all of our kids are now thriving.

Is there a larger lesson here? In a world filled with so much criticism and critiquing, can we refrain from judging the things that don’t matter? Can we support and encourage our friends who are uniquely navigating this road of parenthood, just like we are?

Looking back, I see the road as an exhaustive race. Some families hopped towards the finish, some ran, some rode their bikes, some were fast while others were slow but they all made it across the finish line. Our children received their hugs and medals, graduated to new stages of independence and together we journeyed to the next leg.

Whether you are sprinting, hopping or limping, YOU ARE DOING A FINE JOB. And an IMPORTANT job. Do your thing and accept the mothers around you who are doing their own thing. We are all in this together and I am cheering for each one of you.

Searching for a Nativity

Searching for a Nativity

I’ve spent the last five years searching for a Nativity scene to display at Christmas. I see them in catalogs and stores every December but none of them feel right.

Blond Mary and blue-eyed baby Jesus. Nope.

Joseph and Mary dressed like royalty. Nope.

Blank faces which scare me a little. Nope.

Darth Vader, who wasn’t invited to that party. Nope.

And so I keep searching. While I long to have a visible symbol of Christ in my Christmas decor, ultimately I am desiring a symbol of peace in the middle of this busy season. Tacky chihuahua ornaments glare at me from the tree, neighborhood lights blink on-and-off, music blares all day long and my shopping list never seems to disappear. Sensory overload! But Nativity scenes sit there quietly, oblivious to their surroundings, focused on one solitary thing: Jesus. They symbolize the space in which I desire to live- the space of peace and quiet and stillness, in the middle of chaos. I feel like having a Nativity would remind me to slow down and focus on that one thing, too!

BUT THE SEASON PULLS ME. I resist the Online Joneses as much as I can but my December days still seem overly busy and overly scheduled. School concerts, work parties, white elephant gifts… where can I find my peace??

One night last week my family was tucked in bed (while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads) and I was wandering around our home, turning off lights, locking doors and shutting down the house after a busy day. I felt like I hadn’t sat down since breakfast. 

I came to our living room where our Christmas tree glowed in the darkness and I stood transfixed, staring at it. Then I sat down and stared further, mesmerized at the lights, like flames in a fireplace. “Silent Night” started playing on my phone and I finally found it: the Spirit of Peace. The room felt holy because I was finally quiet and still enough to sense it. I wasn’t moving, I wasn’t running around or making more notes on my to-do list, I was just sitting. The stress of waiting on military orders dimmed, the dining room table covered in unfinished Christmas presents was forgotten and the Nativity was Real. Like Mary, I finally found I could focus on that One True Thing: a God who loves me. 

The obvious answer is that I didn’t need a Nativity Set to find peace; I didn’t need to cut out activities and lighten my holiday load to reach this goal (although that definitely helped). I needed to simply slow down for five minutes and sit in the presence of the REAL Nativity, the One who gives me hope and perspective. It’s here in this meeting place that my life feels peaceful.

Are you looking for peace in your life, too? A place of stillness in the middle of chaos?

Do you feel burdened and overwhelmed?

Jesus said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

James said: “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (James 4:8)

Did you notice the verb? When we take action and COME, He responds and gives us REST. Oh how I love that word and long for it in my life! Don’t you??

Is there something unsettled in the depths of your heart?

Is it possible that you have been searching for peace in the wrong place?

Then come closer to the Real Nativity. Take a deep breath, ignore the lights & distractions and approach this place of stillness. Maybe your peaceful meeting place isn’t a Christmas tree, like mine. Maybe yours is behind a closed door or inside of your car for a few extra, quiet minutes each day. Maybe it’s returning to church after a long absence (or visiting for the very first time). Maybe it’s a pause at the top of the stairs, to think about the point of Christmas. Whatever it may be in your life, commit to this habit and make it happen. I pray that you will sense God in your stillness. As the New Year beckons, I hope that all of us will take the time to search for and FIND the Nativity of Peace. There is hope for us yet. 

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, PRINCE OF PEACE.”  (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7)

Merry Christmas everyone,

p.s. If you don’t know where to start, sit silently in front of your tree and play this song. MAGIC.

We own this ornament. Thank you, children.