Monday, January 16, 2017

Grieving Someone I Don't Know

Is it odd to deeply grieve for someone you don't really know?  Is it odd to feel such a sadness for someone's family?  A family, that I've never formally met, is grieving the loss of their son.  He was 18, and he had been battling cancer....it was a hard and painful battle.  It was one he fought hard against, so hard in fact, that his nickname became Warrior.  From all I know of him, through others including 2 of my daughters, he was a true warrior with one of the gentlest and purest hearts around.  I read his mother's comments this morning "As I told him he could go, my heart was screaming come back.  After always making sure he was with someone...there is nothing that prepares you to walk away from your child and leave him with strangers".  This resonated so deeply in my heart and head, and although I honestly have no idea what that pain is like; I grieve deeply for this boy whom I never met.  Praying for his family as they search for peace and comfort.  It's comforting to know that they are believers and know that their boy is with His King.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Opinions

Do you ever feel judged by the way you parent?  Most of the time, I can say that I do not feel judgement regarding my parenting.  Of course this may be because I'm oblivious to it, or honestly just don't concern myself with it.  On the flip side, I truly hate to admit this....I really do, but I do care what people think about certain things.  I hate admitting that, and it's been a real struggle for me to learn to not overanalyze every little thing that people say, do, don't say, don't do.  Honestly most people could care less what I say or do unless it directly affects them.  I lived so much of my life wondering if I had offended that person, because they didn't wave to me in the hall.  Or what I did to upset that person, because they didn't reply to my email.  Or why that person never invites me to his/her get togethers.  I have gotten past so much of those feelings of insecurity and not being good enough, but it is something I have to work on constantly.  I think a lot of this progress in overcoming those feelings has come with age.   I have realized I am truly doing my best (most of the time), and if that's not good enough for people...then so be it.  I also know that the only opinion that matters is God's.  Although I know this, it is still difficult not to worry about others' opinions as well.  As I said, much of the change in me has come with age, experience and the lack of concern or obliviousness of people's opinions regarding my life and choices.  As long as I'm doing the best I can to live the way God is leading, then I have to just know that is good enough.  One area where I still get confused glances or an occasional snide comment is with my children and their extra curricular activities or lack thereof in most cases.  I am not a fan of busyness....yes you've heard this time and time again....and I will forever say it, because I'M NOT!  There are things that I strongly encourage force upon my kids, but only if I think it will benefit their body, mind, soul, spirit.  If they try it, and it truly is not a good fit; then that's that.  I don't believe in signing my kids up for every single available activity there is.  Honestly I would be in a horrible mood if all of our time was taken up with practices, rehearsals, performances, games, meetings, classes, etc.  It has been hard to find a balance in this area, because my people are so different.  I have a few, who would be happy in their rooms with a good book and good tunes, all day long.  I have one, who loves to go and go and go and go and go, and doesn't mind having something every single day.  I have a few, who are somewhere in between.  When I was a first time mommy, I remember thinking we needed to do all the "good" stuff; and there is a lot of "good" stuff.  My firstborn was one who easily acclimated to about anything and didn't mind going and going and going. It wasn't until the the 5th came along, and my 3rd child was about five; that she enlightened me that we didn't have to sign up for everything offered. When I asked my smack dab in the middle child what she wanted to sign up to do outside of school, she thought about it for a while and replied with...."I just wanna be a kid".  I remember the feeling of relief that came over me, because I was exhausted from being on the go. But also there was a tad bit of guilt, because most of her friends were involved in something outside of school.  She had no interest in doing anything "extra", because she wanted time to read, climb our tree, play outside, draw and rest.  Because she is exactly like I was as a child, I completely understood this desire; and we allowed her to "just be a kid".  However, I did find myself concerned with her not being involved in something that would help grow her passions.  Even still, I have done my best to be very intentional about what we sign up to do.  If they want to try it, and it's too expensive or too time consuming; we just explain this.  And you know what, they get it.  We made a decision a few years ago, that we would not sign up for anything that took up our entire weekends, so we could be spontaneous; and that has been a huge blessing.  We have been able to do road trips and adventuring and play games and just be together.  We have also been able to rest which is extremely important in our house.  We are a group that needs rest and most of us require quite a bit of downtime too.  Last year was the first time in a few years that we took something on on Saturdays.  We signed Cal up for baseball through the Miracle League.  Neil Payne read about the commitment involved, the opportunities, etc. beforehand.  Cal LOVES baseball, but he has never played due to his special needs.  This was an opportunity we could not pass up for him, so we let him try it.  His game is over by noon and lasts one hour max, and the whole family LOVES LOVES LOVES watching him.  It's one time, we don't have to battle the alarm for ourselves or the girls. We may slowly take on more activities on the weekends and weekdays, but for now; we are content.  The main thing I want to give my children and my husband is time devoted to just them. So when people ask me what my homeschooling child does for socialization, I say...she plays with her friends and spends time with her family; and that's good enough for us.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Live In The Moment

When I was little, I was painfully shy.  It's been a process through the years, but I have overcome the shyness.  I'm still pretty quiet....one of those people that takes it all in.  Out of the 7 of us, I would say 5 are true introverts.  My youngest 2 girls are more outgoing than the rest of us...especially the 4th child.  Living with her for the last 13 years has definitely taught me a lot.  She pushes me outside my comfort zone often.  I've learned to embrace many things I would have not otherwise by her influence.
 I love music.  It is something I hope I never have to do without.  In my love for music, I've acknowledged the fact that I love to dance.  I guess deep down I've always known this, but I was too shy or reserved or whatever to dance much in private or in public.  However when my kids were very small, we started a tradition in our house called Saturday Night Disco.  We would put on disco music and dance until we couldn't dance anymore.  It might have been the first time I danced without inhibitions in my entire life, and I LOVED it.  NPayne is a fantastic dancer which I've learned through the years, however I would never initiate dancing with him in public when we were first married.  Living in my music loving house, with my music loving people; I've definitely taken a new stance on dancing.  I dance a lot and pretty much every day at some point.  I'm still not very good, but I've reached a point in my life when I just want to live in the moment and enjoy the moment as much as I can...without worrying if I'm good at it or not.  So....I do.  And what crazy person wouldn't dance with her good looking, good dancing husband any chance she got...certainly not me. ;)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

MOM, SANDY, MOO!

I'm at work today and finished up with everything early, so I decided to clean out my work and personal emails.  With 5 children and my own personal emails, I get bombarded with thousands of emails.  Currently I have tens of thousands of emails in my inbox.  Honestly I'm not sure how to tell how many exactly, and I don't delete them; because there is no way to delete them all at once....it's page by page by page by page, etc.  So why bother??  I do have folders for each child, along with many other things, that I need to keep organized.  I was glancing at all of those and contemplating which to start on when I came across the folder titled Mom, Sandy, Moo.  I haven't looked in that folder in a very long time, but today I did.  There were emails about flowers and headstones and lift chairs, and then I found the last one she sent us on 3/4/14.  It said what they always said....LOVE YOU ALL..MOM, SANDY, MOO!  It was exactly what I was hoping to find, because I miss her.  I did an email search and so many popped up.  I looked at them, and the tears started and would not stop.  If anyone had been in the office today, they would have surely thought I had lost my mind.  Thankfully I'm basically alone here today, so I just let the tears fall and ugly crying took over.  I felt better and worse, because although that pain does ease...it's never gone. 
 Every now and then, it even feels brand new.


I

Arthritis Hurts

The last few years I have had many health challenges, and thankfully most of those are being managed.  The one issue that I can't seem to get under control is pain.  I've tried many natural remedies, supplements, diet, etc...but nothing has really helped.  When I visited the arthritis doctor this past summer, she did a full work up (with a gazillion xrays and blood tests).  The result was....yes you have it, how about Cymbalta for pain management?  I thought about that for a while and decided against it.  I'm not a fan of taking medication (and I already take plenty), but especially not addictive medication; so I declined.  Lately the pain has gotten to unbearable stages, and I've wondered if I made a mistake.  Yes I could go back and say I wanted to try it, but I've lived with pain for so long already; so I'm just not ready to take something I'm not comfortable taking.  I am a pretty laid back gal, but I'm also easily overwhelmed and stressed out by busyness and chaos.  November and December proved to be both.  We've lived in a chaotic state for quite a while now, and although I'm grateful for home improvements; it takes its toll.  I crave organization and tidy, but that is not the current state of our living situation.  I tend to internalize stress which I believe makes it even worse.  It manifests itself in pain and sleeplessness for me.  First world problems I know.  If you happen to be reading this post and have any suggestions for pain management that don't involve medication, please reach out to me.  I would greatly appreciate it. :)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year!



 



2016 was a year of healing and growth, redemption and grace, a year of re-discovering passions and re-inventing some of those along with embracing ourselves and all of our quirks. It was a year of togetherness and simplicity, and a year of so much happiness. We had a lot to celebrate: an official Uncle Matt when he and Melinda tied the knot in October. Spending time with many of our extended family and meeting some of them for the first time. Bryna Mae becoming a teenager, and Elliot Ann making it to double digits. I made it to half of a hundred, and let me tell you how grateful I am to have lived 50 years!! Lots of adventures and exploring. 2016 did have negatives, but after a very hard 2015...singing, dancing and laughing have become the norm. 2017 brings much to look forward to: Addi Jo turning the big 20! What in the world? Drew Michelle turning 16 and eventually driving (although she's in no hurry...she is my daughter after all). Callahan Leigh becoming an adult when he turns 18 in May and walking the stage for graduation shortly after. Time flies people....I know most of you have realized this, but seriously I blinked; and here I am!! Neil and I celebrating 25 years of marriage in June...over half of our lives together! I will share my witness when I say God's plan is always better than mine...considering I "never wanted to get married". Life is precious and so short....live in the moment as often as you can...even the mundane and especially the hard; because that is oftentimes when you find and appreciate the little things. Those little things are where I find peace and clarity. Remember when you meet someone, that we are called to LOVE every single living being...we don't get to pick and choose. Sure there are people who we have to let go of for our own well being, but HATE is such a debilitating emotion. The world is so full of it, but the world is so full of kindness too...I am doing my best to focus on the good. I am not sure where I would be if I didn't have faith. I have fallen to my knees many times over the last few years in desperation and said..."God, you can take this from me and do what you will"...and you know what? HE DID! 
So hug your people and hug other people too. If you're not a hugger, then smile a lot. Say please and thank you, reply to emails and remember tone is often misunderstood if not face to face. If someone is unpleasant, give them some grace...maybe you don't know what they are living. Take care of yourself and your parents (I wish I had done that better). Listen to good music. Try something new. Don't dwell on things you need to let go. Find something you really enjoy and make time to do it often. Look people in the eye and be sincere. Put away your cell phones and engage with people (hang up and hang out is what we call it). Try not to complain (this is a hard one for me), not all days are good ones but there is something to be grateful for every day...think about that when you wake up and before you go to sleep. Spend time with people who bring out the best in you. Create beauty with your hands, heart and actions. When you're down, serve. When you're not down, serve.
Share your gifts. Remember that not everyone is your friend, but we really only need a few good ones. Once you find those people, hold on to them for dear life!! They will be the ones who love you when you're hard to love and walk with you through the really hard stuff.
I don't do resolutions, but I do hopes and a lot of dreams...
My hope for 2017 for us all is:
"Do Everything In Love 1 Corinthians." 16:14
"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the spirit." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19
My dream is peace on earth!!
My lovely, creative sister friend, Joy, captured these images for me for my 50th birthday. She is an amazing person and artist, and I am so thankful for these photos. Take more photos and be in more photos....one day your family will be grateful. To all my photog friends....you are my people, and I so love seeing your art!
Images credited to Wildflowers Photography!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Jesus Is The Reason For The Season...All Four Of Them!!

I am not a big fan of the Christmas season.  If you have read my blog for a while or know me personally, you probably already know this.  I love Jesus, and I love birthdays; so Jesus' birthday is simply the brightest day of the year for me.  However for years, I've struggled with the true reason for Christmas being lost somewhere in all the hustle and bustle. I am self admittedly overwhelmed by busyness. There are so many wonderfully good things to do this time of year, and it can be so hard to say no....especially when you live smack dab in the middle of "The Christmas Capital of Texas".  But over the years, saying no has been the best thing we've done, in many aspects of life, but especially during Advent.  If I'm completely honest, I must admit that I've never been that into Christmas...even as a child. I was terrified of Santa, and the thought of him coming into the house was more terrifying than exciting. I never jumped up on Christmas morning to rush in and see what Santa left under the tree.  I always waited cautiously for my parents to come lead me into the living room, because I didn't want to accidentally run into SC.  The overall expectations during the holiday season were always stressful for me, and the focus was always on doing and going. In my childhood home, we really didn't talk about Jesus being the reason for the season. My parents were CEO church goers aka Christmas and Easter only, but we rarely did we ever go on Christmas.  I guess that makes them EO church goers.  In total contrast to my lack luster feelings surrounding Christmas, my mama loved Christmas.  She loved everything about it: the gift giving, the decorating, the tree was probably her favorite (it always had to be flocked); and of course Santa.  We went to visit Santa every year as long as I can remember, although I really didn't have any desire to do so.  I actually stopped believing in Santa in about 2nd grade, and I was honestly relieved.  When I was a teen, my dad, who was not as into Christmas as my mama, but was sort of a long for the ride; told me a story about a childhood memory of his at Christmas.  He was the second youngest of 8 in a very poor family, and his mama had died when he was 23; and I was one.  I never knew her. One Christmas when he was a little boy and anxiously awaiting the arrival of Santa, his parents gathered their children on Christmas morning to tell them that Santa wasn't able to come; because he just couldn't see their little tiny house.  It was just too dark, and he just flew right over it.  My dad was very matter of fact when he told me that story, but I could see the impact that particular Christmas had had on him.  He never told me any other stories about Christmas from his childhood. Although the disappointment of not having a gift from Santa may have passed, I think it was eventually replaced with the realization that his parents just didn't have the money to buy their children anything for Christmas. That story has always resonated deeply within my heart and soul, and I'll never forget the look in his eyes when he told it.  Years later when I was a new young mother with a few small children, I vividly remember a conversation I had with my mama.  We were discussing the holidays and the things we were committed to, things she and my dad were committed to, and things we were planning to do together.  I had been very intentional on trying to keep things minimal as I was already self admittedly overwhelmed by busyness and now had added children to the mix. Honestly my kids didn't need another thing to do or play with either.  As I was listing the few things we were planning to enjoy as a family, one of them was church on Christmas Eve.  I remember her saying, "You spend too much time at church. When are we going to open gifts? Have you taken the kids to see Santa?"  After a few attempts in years prior, which resulted in terrified children in tears, I really didn't have a visit to Santa in my plans.  I had sort of figured if we were out and about and saw Santa somewhere, maybe we would attempt to sit in his lap again. If it worked out great, if it didn't; oh well.   But when she asked me about Santa, I remember thinking...hmmmm...I guess I should ask them if they want to go see Santa instead of assuming they don't.  I simply replied with, "No we haven't made it to see Santa.  I'm not sure if we will try it this year or not".  As we hung up the phone, her words lingered in my mind for days.  Did we spend too much time at church?  Is there such a thing as too much time at church?  I was working in the nursery then and also at the preschool, so we did spend a lot of time at church.  For the next week or so, I watched my children every time we went to church to see if they seemed like they had "too much church".  Lo and behold, they didn't.  They actually seemed very happy at church.  I asked them if they wanted to go see Santa, lo and behold they didn't....not even a little bit.
 I have thought back on my childhood a lot in recent years, and oddly I did love many things about Christmas.  As a child, my favorite part of Christmas was the time we spent at my grandparents' farm in west Texas.  We didn't go every year, but we did go often.  I was an only child and both of my parents' families lived in the same small town in west Texas.  My mamaw was the one who taught me about Jesus and about why we celebrate Christmas.  Maybe it was her simple and gentle demeanor, or maybe it was her lovingly confident way she always spoke; but I loved listening to her talk about her faith.  It was something that I longed for as a little girl....that joy, that confidence, that kind of relationship.  My mamaw and papaw had a tiny table top Christmas tree every year.  It was silver with a few decorations on it, and it was one of my favorite things in the whole world. It was simple and gentle like she was.  Doing Christmas up big is amazing, and I have done it up big many times.  I admire those who decorate to the max.  I think it's beautiful, and my eyes thank you for it.  But for me at this stage in life, it's something I said no to a long time ago.  Someday we may deck the halls to the max once again, but for now; this is how we roll.  I donated most of my decorations a few years ago, and I let my children utilize what we have left if they choose to. We have a simply decorated tree, our stockings; and we hang up our Christmas cards. Anything extra is up to them.
As for my mama, she was raised a christian; and she believed in the birth of Jesus.  Due to some other circumstances in her life, she didn't regularly attend church for most of her adultlife; but she was always a believer.  My mama was a wonderfully generous soul.  She loved giving and serving and did so with such joy, and she loved her family.  Deep down inside she knew faith and works go hand in hand. As my family grew, and my children grew; she saw how important our church family was to us and them.  As a result, she grew deeply in her faith and restored her relationship with Jesus.  Later in life, she always looked forward to attending Christmas Eve church service with us when her health allowed.
My grandmother's faith was instrumental in influencing my own faith.  Her utmost love for Jesus and the joy that lived inside her because of Him was definitely one of the reasons I wanted my children to love going to church.  I know many christians who don't attend church, who are strong in their relationship with the Lord; and I know that attending church doesn't define someone as a person of faith.  For me, it was the best place to start to learn and grow in my own relationship. Isn't it wonderful how God works...my mother's mother was my biggest spiritual influence as a child, which in turn guided me to want my children to grow spiritually, and all circled around when my children's spiritual growth had such an impact on my own mother. God is always working.  He is always bringing something good out of every circumstance.  We still spend a lot of time at church during Advent, and there are so many things I love about Advent.  We also spend a lot of time at church throughout the rest of the year, because really, when you think about it....Jesus is the reason for the season....all 4 of them!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

WISE WORDS

One of the best pieces of wisdom I've heard is this:  If you're feeling down, go find someone to serve.  I cannot tell you how true this wisdom has been for me.  I have shared this wisdom with my family, my friends and anyone who will listen.  I understand that there are very legitimate reasons to feel down, believe me, I understand...especially during the holiday season.  However I also understand, from putting this advice into practice, that it is some of the truest wisdom I've ever heard.  Serving can manifest itself in many different ways.  Sometimes it can be intentionally praying for someone who needs prayer.  Sometimes it can be inviting someone into your home for a meal.  Sometimes it can be mowing your neighbor's grass just to help her out.  Sometimes it can be providing food donations at a food bank. Sometimes it can be gathering a group of volunteers to do repairs in someone's home. Sometimes it can be teaching children how to play the drums at VAST.  Sometimes it can be doing the dishes when it's not your dish night. Sometimes it can be sending that hand written card you've been meaning to send. Sometimes it can be looking someone in the eye, taking their hand in yours and truly listening when they need someone to listen.   Jesus calls us to serve humbly in His name, every day, not just when we feel like it or it's easy.  In all honesty, sometimes the last thing I want to do when I'm struggling is serve. When I first heard these wise words and started to put this advice into practice, it definitely helped put things in perspective.  It didn't erase my sorrows but did help me focus more on gratitude. Although there is a time for sadness and despair, there is also a time for joy and rejoicing. I pray that this nugget of knowledge will help us remember to praise God in our storms....especially during the holiday season.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  Mark 10:45

There’s a season for everything
    and a time for every matter under the heavens:     
 a time for giving birth and a time for dying,
    a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted,    
 a time for killing and a time for healing,
    a time for tearing down and a time for building up,    
 a time for crying and a time for laughing,
    a time for mourning and a time for dancing,     
 a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,
    a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces,   
  a time for searching and a time for losing,
    a time for keeping and a time for throwing away,    
 a time for tearing and a time for repairing,
    a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking,   
  a time for loving and a time for hating,
    a time for war and a time for peace.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. James 2:26

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

ELECTION 2016

I'm not a political person....I'm not even sure what that means except that I am just not that into politics.  I'm just not.  I have a lot of faults and one of them is not being in the "know" about many things government related.  Now I could try to explain this, and I have spent some time recently trying to explain this to myself.  I've come to this conclusion....I stopped watching the news and reading the paper many many years ago.  It was right after the Oklahoma City Bombing, because I found myself consumed with sadness and fear and falling into a deep state of depression.  This has kept me out of the "know" for a long time.  However now there's social media, and I could be in the "know" about government related things if I chose to.  How accurate and truthful the information is...well that could be argued both ways.  However I am still not in the "know", and admittedly this is mainly by choice.  As I've thought about this over the last few months, I have thought a lot about my family.  My papaw and mamaw were die hard democrats.  In fact, my papaw was an elected official for as long as I can remember.  He served as county clerk and then county judge in his community.  My mama, their daughter, was a very much a republican; although she may have voted democrat at some point in her life....but I would be surprised.  They were all 3 some of the most influential people in my life for many reasons, but politics wasn't one of them; or maybe it was??  Growing up, I didn't understand the differences between democrats and republicans.  All I knew was there was a donkey and an elephant involved, and every time my papaw won an election; my mama would take him another donkey.  This wasn't for lack of my mom trying....believe me, she told me all about what it meant to be a democrat and a republican. I remember many intense discussions between my mama and her parents over this topic, and I remember feeling uncomfortable; because I am NOT A FAN OF CONFRONTATION...even a little bit.  My mama....oh she was a big fan of confrontation....and was not one to let her views lie unheard.  However I never remember their conversations being hateful or rude or egotistical.  They were matter of fact, respectful, and always ended with agreeing to disagree.   As I grew older and approached voting age, I started paying attention a little bit more to politics; so I could make informed decisions.  Honestly I don't really pay that much attention to who is running for office until it gets right down to it, and then....I will start doing my research.  Like many, I have certain things that I really want to go a certain way.  These are the things I look at first...which way does each candidate lean?  How do they plan on approaching these things?  How will it benefit or not benefit our nation and our world?  Then I try to listen to the rest.  However this election....it took it out of me.  I could barely start to research Clinton or Trump without all sorts of information spewing out.  I'll admit that I might have voted for someone in the past to try to keep someone else out of office, but usually I felt very confident in my choice.  This time....I did not.  Right up until I went to the polls and had the voting sheet in front of me, I wasn't sure what to do; but I cast my vote. It wasn't democrat or republican, but I was confident in my candidate.  Honestly if the line had been long, and I didn't have my adult daughter with me who wanted to vote in her first election; I would have turned around and come home.
As a Christian, I 100% believe that God is in control; and that He will bring good.  It is up to us to find the good, share the good,  love and serve Him by loving and serving others. I do find myself losing a little faith in mankind, from time to time, but I never lose faith in JESUS!   So no matter if you woke up with a big smile on your face or swollen eyes, remember who has our back!  Love like He loves us, and everything will be okay!

Monday, November 7, 2016

All Saints Day...Russ!

I've had a lot on my heart, my mind, my hands.  I know that if I don't write it down right that minute, it will never get written; so much of it will never get written.  This time of year takes me back to the death of my dad.  Today is the anniversary of his death 11 years ago.  So much of that time is a blur, but the things I remember were meant to be remembered and to bring me encouragement and peace. Yesterday in church we honored our saints for All Saints Day.  The first song played was "I'll Fly Away".  I immediately smiled and looked at my husband, and he knew what I was thinking.  We played that song at my dad's funeral on Nov. 11, 2005.  My dad was the greatest.  He was funny and kind and tender.  He had his faults and was not perfect, but really he was just the best I could have ever hoped for in a father.   I miss him like crazy, and I really miss him like crazy for his grandkids.  He was such a great Papa.  When he was diagnosed with lung cancer that summer, it had already spread to his brain and bones.  It was only a few short months later that he passed.  It's such an odd feeling trying to prepare yourself to say goodbye to someone, who is one of the biggest pieces of your life,  all the while trying to hold on to some hope that things will change all in a few short months.  The first time I saw him seize and then scream out in pain, I knew time remaining with him was short.  As hard as it was, I was so very thankful that I was there when he died.  I have found myself getting in a funk sometimes when I think about my kids without grandparents and Neil and I without parents, but God continues to give me peace and show me the blessings we have in our lives because of our saints.  Thanks Be To God!