According To My Plan

Following is the testimony that I was asked to give at our church’s annual Women’s Ministry Summer Send-Off Dinner on June 4th. I, along with two wonderful women with testimonies much more inspiring than my own, had the privilege of speaking about what God has been doing in our lives. Below is my story.

When Nadene Franklin asked me to speak, my immediate response was to fumble over my words. She had called me right after our newest family member arrived, so I asked her for 24 hours to think about it and in true Nadene fashion said, “Okay, but don’t talk to Lisa Zannin because she’ll talk you out of it.” I’ve known Lisa since our daughters were in kindergarten together (20 years ago) and having worked with her for the last 10 years, we get along well, probably because she and I think a lot alike, so perhaps Nadene was wise to be concerned!

A little background about myself … I was born in Buffalo, the second born of 4 daughters to an engineer and a homemaker now married 52 years. We moved from the East Side of Buffalo to the then growing suburb of West Seneca when I was 5 and that’s where I grew up. I met my husband Tim, the last born of 3 sons to a Lutheran minister and a homemaker now married 61 years, through my future brother in-law when I was 18. Tim and I married in ‘89 when I was 21 and bought our very first house on the West Seneca/Lackawanna border 2 years later, just before Joshua arrived. Emily followed 17 months later. We moved to Lancaster in ’98 where we made our home for the next 16 years and had two more daughters, Sarah and Abigail. Six years ago we purchased a piece of property and 2 years after left Lancaster and moved to Marilla, a town none of our kids had ever heard of before then.

I’ve always thought I’ve had a pretty blessed life. Everything was going relatively well and more importantly, according to my plan. In the past 8 months, I have reached the 50 year old milestone, my daughter Emily and her husband Chase made Tim and I first-time grandparents, Josh just graduated from law school, Tim and I will be married 29 years this month, Sarah will graduate from high school in a few weeks, Josh will be married later this summer and start a new job, Sarah will start college and Abby, who will turn 16 toward summers end, will finally receive two things she is convinced she is the only one in her school without, the ability to wear make-up and her very first cell phone.

She wanted me to relay to all of the moms here that she did indeed survive until the age of 16 without either.

Things aren’t always what they appear to be … to the unsuspecting person, we may seem like a well-balanced family who has it all together. I however, like to say we have a relatively normal, but often-times dysfunctional family; it may look different than another family, but dysfunction peppered in just the same. Monday mornings are actually quite hideous in our house.

When I asked what the topic was and why on earth my name came up as a possible speaker, Nadene told me that I am a no-nonsense kind of person and to talk about what God has been doing in my life.

So what has God been doing in my life?

“Wreaking havoc” was what first came to mind. Wreaking havoc on my otherwise orderly, often time’s dull and uneventful, but according to MY plan life.

Apparently I have this reputation of someone who would say to someone struggling, “suck it up and get on with it,” and I think my family would agree. I have however, needed to follow my own advice recently.

So … according to my plan, Josh would have been be out on his own for the last three years, using his Applied Physics degree employed as a mechanical engineer. Josh however decided that he wanted to do something different three years ago and announced that he was leaving his year-old job as an engineer to go back to school. Tim and I were a little dumfounded at first, kind of like when he told us out of the blue that he joined the choir in college because up until that point we didn’t even know the boy could sing! So he went ahead and left his engineering job, enrolled in law school to study patent law and gave up his apartment to come live back home.

During his stay at home, to say the relationship between father and son was strained would be an understatement. Josh is a good kid with a good heart. AND he has the complete opposite personality of his father. You know the saying you could cut the tension with a knife? Well this tension was so thick one might have needed a chainsaw. There were many days I wanted to just leave the house. That being said, I believe that God means for us to be out from under our parents roof and authority at a certain age for a reason, and we just witnessed why.

What was God teaching me?

According to my plan, Emily would have delivered her first baby with minimal difficulty and been up on her feet the next day enjoying her new child with her husband.

Emily did deliver a healthy baby boy, Isaiah, but she herself encountered multiple trips to the doctor, a trip to the emergency room and surgery within the first week of giving birth. So with all that she was flat on her back in bed from childbirth complications for the first two weeks of Isaiah’s life. She said that she never thought she’d have so many people praying for her “lady parts” and wanted me to thank you all. After her surgery, the family of three came to stay with us for a week so Chase could go back to work and I could help Emily with the baby until she could care for him unassisted. To say this created a bit of angst in our house would be an understatement, after all there hadn’t been a baby crying in the middle of the night for quite some time, disrupting the much needed slumber of two teenagers down the hall, a college student who slept below temporary baby central and two displaced new grandparents taking turns swapping sleep on a portable mattress and couch in the family room.

What was God teaching me?

According to my plan, Sarah would graduate from high school, get a swimming  or art scholarship to a college and we would have to pay virtually nothing and if we did have to pay, with two incomes we would be able to cover the shortfall for four years no problem just like we did with Josh and Emily.

Things didn’t work out to allow me to work from home while babysitting my new grandson, so I recently had to step away from my job. That being said, Sarah has chosen the alma mater of her two older siblings for college and our question, based on seeing the increase in tuition since said siblings attended was, “Any chance we can we buy two tuitions and get one free?”

What was God teaching me?

According to my plan, Abby would sail through her teen years as the well-adjusted, obedient last born child. She would get the same amount of attention that her older siblings received. Those same siblings will argue tooth and nail that Abby is the most spoiled because she is the “baby”. I myself am a middle child, so I don’t know what being spoiled means.

Abby is the one child I feel the most guilt about because by the time she was born, I was already on my way to being old for a mom of a fourth newborn. And being older means Abby doesn’t get the same amount of time and attention that her siblings received. Put on top of that the fact that, as most last born children are, she is a fun-loving sanguine who thrives on attention. I know she feels like she gets the least, especially with everything that has been going on in our family. She thinks her biggest concern about being the only sibling left at home is that will she’ll be stuck having to bring Daddy his Bayer aspirin for his aches and pains after a day spent doing what he loves to do, being outdoors and working on the property.

What was God teaching me?

I don’t think God was actually wreaking havoc. I believe He’s was, is and will continue to teach me GRACE. Grace has always been Tim’s advice to me whenever I was struggling with relational issues. I heard it so much from him when we were first married that I started tuning it out. I didn’t want to hear about grace. Grace to me back then just meant overlooking what, at the time, I saw as problems. I wanted him to agree with me and see things the way I saw them. I don’t know what that would have accomplished other than making me feel temporarily appeased.

I’ve said this before, but God had blessed me with a patient husband. Sometimes we are totally not on the same page, but this is not the first time God has used Tim’s wisdom and persistence in my life … when he thought I was tuning him out, something must have sunk in because just in this last year alone I have had to extend that same grace God extends to me every day of my life. The ironic part is that I’ve also had to remind Tim of that grace as he also struggles with our kids growing up, becoming adults and moving out and the relationship trials that are resulting from all of these rapid changes.

I’ve opened my mouth without thinking often enough in my younger years, that in these midlife years, I like to think I’ve gained some wisdom on when to speak and when not to speak. And if I choose to speak, it looks totally different than it would have looked in those early years. There is less pride (“I’m right and you’re wrong”) and more grace.

But … I believe we are all also called to speak the truth in love, as stated in Ephesians 4:15.

For me, being a wife and mother is not for the faint of heart and I need grace to abound. Sometimes we go into this stage of our lives with all of these hopes and dreams and expectations only to discover somewhere on the journey things never end up the way we thought they would, according to our plan. Being a wife and/or mother will let you know just what you’re made of and what you’re capable of, both good and bad.

However hard I thought raising kids was beginning almost 27 years ago, those same kids are now one by one leaving home and I have long forgotten those trials I thought were so relevant during those newborn, toddler, elementary and teen years.

It’s a privilege and blessing to have children; there are so many who cannot. No one ever told me being a parent was going to be easy, but we still chose to have children and raised them through a series of choices. Our children are products of those choices, so we shouldn’t be surprised if they behave a certain way as they grow up. I catch myself more than I like to when I see my kids react to situations and I immediately know they got that from me, and more often than not, it’s not the “good” stuff.

It’s okay that we’re not wonder-women … they don’t exist anyway. It’s okay that we don’t have our kids in multiple year-round extra-curricular programs … they will survive. It’s okay to be tired … it doesn’t mean we’re doing something wrong.

These days I’m putting things into perspective. We are a very spoiled and guilt-driven generation and I’m not arrogant enough to deny that. Maybe we need to look at ourselves and what we are doing and what we are not doing to create this “self-inflicted busyness” as a friend recently quoted, that seems so rampant today.

The culture may be making us think it’s harder now, but as Christians, Scripture tells us not to conform but to be transformed. So when we are inflicting that busyness on to our families, we should pause to reflect on what it’s going to cost us down the road, not financially, but relationally and spiritually.

I am not a natural edifier, but wanted to conclude with some words of encouragement, things I have, am and I know that I will struggle with:

30 years ago I thought life couldn’t get any better than when I was first starting out, graduating from high school, getting my first real job, falling in love, getting married, starting a family. I thought we would have some struggles early on, but I was going to do things differently than my parents did (that is until one day I heard my mother come out of my mouth). My life would have minimal and manageable problems and our future kids would most certainly behave.

So to the young women my encouragement is to enjoy this new, fun and exciting time in your lives, but don’t dismiss the teaching and wisdom of those who have gone before you. Because you will find out someday (if you haven’t already) how much you still don’t know. No longer young and now a grandmother, I myself still find that to be a truly humbling experience.

Proverbs 19:20 tells us to “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”

To the middle-aged women, as we go through what seems the everyday monotony of life, we tend to get complacent and comfortable. If we lose sight of purpose, this monotony can lead to discontentment. I find myself in this category and have felt like I’ve needed to go back to reading the Word to get my own attitude straightened out and get out of the “woe is me” funk. It’s slow going, but I’m working on it.

As Christians we are called to higher standard, especially in this “me first” culture. This encouragement is for both the young and the midlife women because we tend to make excuses in these two phases. If we believe that Jesus came not to be served but to serve, it should be a goal for our families to witness us serving … not just them, but serving others. Why do we let the excuse of raising a family keep us from stepping out and serving? What better way to raise a less selfish generation?

Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

To the “seasoned” women, my encouragement is to please stay connected to us. You have no idea how valuable you are to a generation of women growing up in a world that seems to be getting crazier by the day, raising families and going through empty nest issues. You are a wealth of knowledge and experience and younger generations will never know your stories should you disconnect and we don’t we don’t take the time to listen.

Psalm 71:18 says, Now that I am old and my hair is gray, don’t leave me, God. I must tell the next generation about your power and greatness. 

I am the mother of four children, two grown, one about to leave for college and one still at home. I’m a grandmother at the same time that I still have kids at home. I struggle with feelings of disconnect with some of my family members and at the same time watch as my parents and in-laws enter into their twilight years. I’m at all different stages and trying to keep up with the ever-changing dynamics of family just like everyone else. No matter how much I may come across as being this “suck-it” up and get on with it type of person, I realized a long time ago that I can’t do this alone.

So in my own struggles I have needed the reminder of II Corinthians 12:9:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Thank you for allowing me to share some of those weaknesses.

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By Sarah Mertzlufft

My mom and I were watching a series about the President of the United States on Netflix, and there were many different opinions expressed about him, some bad and some good. I’ve also been reading “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand, and much of what I’ve taken from both the book and the attitudes toward the President is that there is a great deal of mindless following in today’s culture, not many people truly thinking for themselves, and out of that has come a mass of judgement and hate directed towards anyone or anything that disrupts the comfortable and ignorant flow of things.

Who are we to judge this man? Sure. He’s not the most politically correct person on earth, but is that really a reason for all of this unwavering hate?

I don’t think many realize just how human he is. He is probably one of the most honest Presidents in recent times. He doesn’t hide behind vague, long winded statements that most politicians use today. It astonishes me how people so willingly support a person because they sound intelligent, yet most likely don’t understand half of what they are hearing.

It drives me crazy that everyone is bashing him because he bashes other people. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t spoken poorly about someone behind their back.  And I believe that is worse. At least he has the liberty not to hide his opinions.

What has this world come to when we relentlessly judge and ridicule others for even the smallest of infractions, and worst of all we don’t even confront them about it? We just go on passively whispering hate along the grape vine, and now we have become just that.

Passive.

We are a passive society, believing at times that we’re being assertive by getting involved in movements, when in reality, we’re just following the crowd, believing in something because the world says we should.

There are few people in today’s society that are truly confrontational. Perhaps the President is one of them, perhaps he’s not. But what right do we have to ridicule him for it? He has more guts than most people. So what if he has a mouth on him? The majority of people today could leave him in the dust on that one. We would rather have a leader that gives speeches about nonsense? About changes that need to be made but never are? They speak well so they must be qualified.

The President’s strength is not in his words, but neither are most people’s. He does know how to take initiative. And isn’t that what really matters? Perhaps he doesn’t focus on social issues, but this country has spent a good amount of time focusing on that. We’re all pretty equal now. The only thing that’s left is for the close mindedness that is still lingering to open up, and there’s not much he can do about that.

He focuses on the economy, and it’s been pretty beneficial, but no one cares because he doesn’t give you speeches about how the sky is blue and the grass is green and the future is looking bright. We don’t pay attention to a person’s deeds as much as what they say. Because when a leader speaks, we want to believe in them, and speaking eloquently makes it so much easier. Their words could move you to tears because they were so beautiful, but they were likely just beautiful, empty words about how there will be change. We’re not sure what that change is, but something will happen. We’re sure of it, because they sounded like they knew what they were talking about.

Maybe before we jump to judge this man’s every move, we should step back and look at our own lives, and see if we are really any better. Maybe we should ask ourselves how we can make changes to be better. And we shouldn’t make those changes based on the ideals that society throws at us, but rather on the opinions that we form based on our pure and authentic selves.

 

Will You Please Pay Attention?

After a 10-month absence, I’m not quite sure yet if I made a mistake getting back on Facebook. There is a generation who were youngsters during the birth pains of social media, who are now adults reaping the consequences of being able to share everything and anything in what my daughter Sarah says, is a “socially aggressive” environment.

A few months back I came across multiple articles that found their way on to major news sites because apparently they were floating around the internet and went “viral”. They were young-er moms posting pictures of themselves during and post pregnancy. I guess they wanted us all to know they were expecting and consequently delivered a bundle of joy. The topic of these articles however was not the babies, but rather what the babies caused … stretch marks and scars. Reading the posts, it appears that they just wanted to let other moms out there know that their bodies were A-Okay.

My immediate thought, “Duh?”

Us pre-social media moms know this and understand that biologically, it’s just part of growing a baby. During pregnancy our bodies are put through the ringer, and depending on the size of the baby we deliver, it’s either a modern gentle cycle or a good old-fashioned Speed Queen with hand crank like my grandmother used. In the instances of these moms though, it wasn’t enough to post some modest photos. These women went full throttle and showed their exposed pre and post-natal bellies; I’m sure for dramatic effect and to create some “chatter”. I would also venture to guess by the “fabletic”-type apparel sported in the photos, they were no strangers to posting selfies well before the stork paid them a visit.

Needless to say, I was a bit perplexed as to the newsworthiness of these photos. These seemed to simply be women consumed with their appearance and the need to post pictures of themselves under the guise that they are supporting other moms who may be struggling with post-partum self-images.

Women have been growing and delivering babies for millennia without the need to make public what they looked like before, during or after pregnancy. Obviously our bodies take a beating during and after pregnancy, but we deal with it because in the end, the gift of life is more important that our self-image. Twenty-six years after the first of four kids arrived in our family, I’ve never felt compelled to share my Speed Queen marks with anyone. Quite frankly they’re ugly; but they’re my very own ugly, yet wonderful reminders of God’s reward (Psalm 127-3-5). I also know that there are women who endure much more than some ugly stretch marks or cesarean scars who are not begging for the attention that this generation seems to crave.

I myself actually enjoyed being pregnant, well, with the exception of morning sickness in the first trimester and heartburn in the last. People think I’m weird when I tell them that, but it was probably because, next to my wedding, it was really the only time in my life when I got a lot of attention; and who doesn’t like a little attention? But when the babies arrived, I promptly took my place in the background again. The problem is, in this age of social media, we don’t have to gracefully and humbly go into the background. Everyone is fair game. We no longer have to be outshone by our kids. We can share the spotlight, even if it’s in the form of photos of stretch marks and scars. Any publicity is good publicity, right? Actors know this, which is why you see so many former child stars show up in questionable movies, photos and tabloids as adults. It’s a way to stay relevant.

Unfortunately in the process, we are losing our identities because we’re too busy trying to keep up with … and one up each other. We are teaching our kids by example that their identities are wrapped up in campaigning on a medium that will never come close to everyday relationships.  

I used to look forward to the Christmas cards that included family pictures because it was fun to see how the families have grown up year to year. But now you see their days played out on social media so there isn’t anything to look forward to. No picture is any more special than another because none of them are unique. We all long for acceptance in our lives, but who or what are we trying to gain it from?

So to all the first-time-moms-to-be (including my daughter Emily), enjoy the miracle and  remember that the best memories and experiences are not made or recalled from behind the camera, they’re made face-to- face.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. – Psalm 139:14

The Age of Irrelevance

I knew I was in trouble when I recently needed to move my mother’s new car to a different parking spot in our driveway. She handed me something that resembled a key and then promptly told me I didn’t really need it. “Just push the button. The key only has to be near the car to start it,” she said. I am certain I had a look on my face that resembled, minus the crying, the times when my engineer and math-wiz father tried to explain to me how to solve an algebra or geometry problem as a teenager. So I get into her car, unnaturally lay the key on the passenger seat and push the giant “start” button that I located on the front of the dashboard. Nothing. I move the key to the top of the dash reasoning that it needs to be closer, all the while thinking I’m in an episode of the Jetsons. Nothing again. I try one more time with no success before getting out of the car, going in the house and telling her it’s not starting.

“Did you put your foot on the brake before you pushed the button?” My 26-year-old son chimes in from behind his Macbook. Obviously I hadn’t, probably because I was pushing a button to start a car! Foot on brake, turn key in ignition, car starts. Everyone knows that’s how you start a car, right?

“Oh yeah,” my 70-year-old mother says, “I forgot to tell you that.” I don’t feel so bad now, she forgot something.

Are we really living in the age where we use buttons to starts cars? Shouldn’t I be thinking that this new technology is pretty darn cool? For pete’s sake, I grew up in the generation of the first desktop computer; the generation that came of age with Pong and the first Atari game system.  We were the first pre-teens on our block to spend our weekends entering lines and lines of code in DOS that would allow us to play a new game on our family computer; the first video geeks of Phyllis Drive. Our generation was on the cutting edge of technology when monochrome monitors went to VGA. I turned 18 the same month Microsoft Windows came out. In my first years in the workforce, I went from using an IBM Selectric typewriter and 10-key calculator to WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3.

When did I become overwhelmed by a start button on a car?  When did I become old?

My co-worker and friend Lisa and I were having one of our Monday morning update-on-the-weekend chats and the topic was feeling irrelevant, specifically with our kids. This feeling was confirmed a few days later when we asked a church board member if he ever felt irrelevant and he said, “Oh, I felt like that about 10-11 years ago.” Good, then it wasn’t just us and, guessing his age, we fell exactly where we should on the timeline of irrelevancy.

The days approaching my creaky bone status, I  am thinking a lot about how things are changing in our family, and how I’m feeling left back somewhere in that time between their birth and the teen years or what I like to call those “all-knowing” years.  You know, the age where you as their parent don’t know squat and they’ve suddenly likened themselves to King Solomon.

In the very near future, Josh will graduate from law school and become a patent attorney. Emily and her husband Chase will make Tim and I grandparents for the first time. Sarah will graduate high school and be off to college. Abby will turn 16 and enter her junior year of high school. As you can see, all different stages within the same generation to try and keep up with. So you can understand how I would be confused about suddenly having to use a button to start an automobile.

Fortunately, I have found through the years of trying to control many things in their lives and mine that I’ve mellowed, because frankly I can’t keep up anymore. All normal I tell myself, but just the same, letting go is difficult. I figure, if we’ve done a decent enough job raising our kids, they will someday come to realize that we do have some scraps of wisdom to share. So I learn to wait, because I know they’ll eventually be back seeking it.

I recently turned a half-century old, the big 5-0, over-the-hill, another person heading into the autumn of their life. Well, at least I hope it’s the autumn. I hope God is just having me rake leaves for a bit instead of shoveling snow.

Perhaps the fruit from our spring will now come in the form of watching our kids make the leap to adulthood, new sons and a daughter we have, and someday will have, to grow our family tree, future grandchildren and great-grandchildren to love and the friends and family who will be alongside us on the journey.

Although I have both benefited and cursed it at times, technology doesn’t seem all that important when looking at the big picture of my life, because “life is too short.” My new phrase these days seems befitting to my current place on the timeline. As the leaves turn their brilliant colors, I heard recently that those colors are always there in the trees.  It’s the chlorophyll that makes them green in spring and summer but in the fall or autumn, that chlorophyll drains from the leaves, revealing the colors that were always there.

For those our age, feeling irrelevant and trying to stall the seasons, I’ve noticed that while intellectually we may gain wisdom, physically, the neck and the hands don’t hide anything. Our attempts are in vain. So unless we want to go through our autumn wearing gloves and turtlenecks, enjoy raking the leaves, the colors really are quite beautiful.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. – -Isaiah 46:4

 

Step Up and Take Your Mark

Having had an aversion to areas of water larger than say a clogged sink after a near drowning experience on a family vacation when I was a young child, it was a goal of mine that each of my kids learn to swim. It helped tremendously that I married a swimmer who would teach them, because those swim lessons that my mother signed my sister Jenny and I up for in elementary school didn’t help. I could not float to save my life and my failed jelly fish attempt made total sense when I discovered it was just another name for the “dead man’s float”.

Our two oldest kids learned to swim in the backyard pool at our first house in West Seneca. Moving to Lancaster in 1998, Josh would swim modified for a short while, but track eventually became his sport of choice. Emily would swim modified right up through varsity.

Sarah came along 7 years after Emily, and Abby followed 2 years after that, both learning to swim in the backyard pool in Lancaster. Panic would be an understatement in describing the first time I saw Tim holding baby Sarah in that pool, blowing into her face to get her to hold her breath and dipping her under the water. Seeing her come up laughing should have been an indicator that she would someday come to love the water.

Of the two younger kids, Sarah would be the one to take over where Emily left off. For this I was thankful, because after Emily graduated, I felt a little lost, not knowing what I would do on those fall afternoons if there were no meets to attend.

It’s ironic that someone who is not particularly fond of water would spend about 14 consecutive years watching a sport that takes place in the very environment she herself tried to avoid throughout middle and high school. I still cringe at the thought of an upcoming swim unit in gym, wondering how many notes I could convince my mother to write to get me out it.

As I write this, Sarah is in her last post season of competitive swimming. She does not plan to swim in college so for our family, this is the last time we will be sitting as spectators in those humid natatoriums with the jimmy hands trying to video record races and heart-pounding finishes. At least that is until the grandchildren come along, who knows … the love of swimming may just return through one of them.

There are so many people throughout the years who made swimming such a great experience for Sarah.

To all of her swim coaches, Brandi Bashor (Star-Lancaster), Karen Majeski (Lancaster Middle), Kristin Eberhart (Lancaster High), and especially Mike O’Connor and Delee VanMaaren (Iroquois High), thank you. Thank you for not coddling, but for giving Sarah opportunities to build not only her abilities as a swimmer, but also for those opportunities to build her character and leadership skills through her love of the sport.

To all of her teammates these past four years, thank you. Thank you for welcoming a newcomer into a tight-knit district half the size of the one she left, but more so for welcoming her into an even smaller group, the Lady Chiefs Swim Team. You were all such a joy to watch.

To the Iroquois swim moms who made all of the fundraisers, scheduling, organizing, dinners, sleepovers, transportation and apparel orders possible, thank you. Thank you for giving of your time and for your hospitality. It was truly a blessing to our family.

To my husband Tim, thank you for being the encourager of our pair. When you team up with the two of our kids who are sanguines (Emily and Abby) like yourself, you guys make awesome cheerleaders; although I don’t think I’ll miss that whistle!

To big brother Josh, thank you. Even though you only swam for a couple years, you continued throughout the years to have a genuine interest in the sport that was such a big part of our family.

To big sister Emily, thank you for carrying on the love of swimming from your Dad to your little sister and exemplifying that while swimming is a great test of endurance and exciting races, the relationships developed over those years are what really matters.

To my favorite son-in-law Chase, thank you for your contagious excitement of everything sports. You jumped with both feet in to a family where swimming was the dominant sport and showed no partiality even with your background in basketball and tennis.

A special thank you to Abby, our youngest and the child who sat through the most meets of a sport she has absolutely no interest in. You became a fairly vocal cheerleader and videographer as the years and meets went by. Thanks for hanging out with me and keeping me company until those all of those seats we had to save were occupied by Sarah’s cheering section.

So, what will I miss?

I will miss watching Sarah, who was humbled to be named co-captain her senior year of high school (an honor also given to her father (swim), Josh (track) and Emily (swim)), cheering on and encouraging her teammates through their own races.

I will miss her looking at us before stepping up on the blocks and after swimming a race, looking for her father’s special signal, her shared excitement of a potential or new best-time or her shared disappointment of not-so-great time.

I will miss the countless hours spent after each meet at home as a family (sometimes over the course of week), replaying the videos and talking about each meet.

I will miss the anticipation that came with the official’s words, “Swimmers, step up. Take your mark.” We will instead say to our Sarah Adeline as she prepares to graduate this coming Spring, “Step out and make your mark.” 

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.  – Proverbs 16:3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

A few weeks ago, my cousin Kelly contacted my sister Jody and wanted to know if everything was okay with me.  Kelly was concerned that I “unfriended” her on Facebook.  I did indeed “unfriend” her, but I did that with all 60 of my Facebook “friends.” I didn’t unfriend everyone for the purpose of an experiment, but now that I think about it, Kelly was the only who asked. Perhaps I wasn’t  as interesting a person as I portrayed myself to be in the eyes of my social media “friends”.

I did let Kelly know that I unfriended all of my Facebook “friends”, not just her. I would never unfriend her in the true sense of friendship. After all, she was my first babysitting customer and flower girl in my wedding. My daughters Emily and Sarah were the junior bridesmaid and flower girl in her wedding. And her mom, our Aunt Carol, is like our older sister. My sister Jenny and I were her first babysitting customers and flower girls in her wedding. So you can see the connection we have and why Kelly might be concerned.

Quite frankly I’d like to ditch Facebook all together, but I post news and events on my church’s page. So now my feed contains only “memories” and whatever I post for work, sad, right? For a short while, I even thought I would try my hand at Instagram and Twitter, both of which were short lived. My life just isn’t that fascinating as to post a photo or thought that I felt compelled to share with my 20 Instagram followers, which apparently in the world of social media, wasn’t many. I actually found it to be meaningless, and I love looking at pictures. Hand me a photo album and I could spend some serious time perusing days gone by. However, for someone who can’t recall what they did yesterday, I didn’t need to add trying to figure out what comment-worthy photo I could take and manipulate to look better with a filter or what words of wisdom I could share that would inspire someone to “love” or “retweet”, to my list of things to do.

Both as a child and an adult, I never felt the need to have a huge number of friends to prove that I was well-liked. I decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to change what makes me … me, to fit in to what culture says makes a friend a friend. God made me this way and I understand that He doesn’t make mistakes. If you don’t like me, that’s okay too; that doesn’t offend me. Those I consider my close friends know the good, the bad and the ugly side of Janice. And for some strange reason, they still choose to stick around. Maybe there is still hope for this melancholy!

The primary reason I decided to disengage from social media, was the wasted time and narcissism I was seeing from myself and others. What is this preoccupation with self? Why did I feel the need to get my self-worth from social media?  What am I trying to make myself into behind a screen that I’m not like in real life? I began seeing posts on Facebook (my go-to source for awesome families, thought-provoking snippets of Scripture and “stick-it-to-em” political memes), and then seeing the same exact posts on Instagram. Are we so insecure with ourselves that we need to utilize whatever venue available to us to vie for likes, smiley faces, thumbs up and shares? Do we think our Facebook audience is different from our Instagram audience? I got off Instagram almost as quickly as I got on.

I also felt like I was living vicariously through my kids accomplishments, because honestly, I’m kind of a boring person. And I’m okay with that because the rest of my family makes up where I fall short on the excitement scale. Through social media, I could control what the world saw about me, choosing only the best.

As a Christian, I try to be good, but sometimes it seems my failures outweigh the good. But that’s real to me and I would much rather be face-to-face with a few friends and share real life with them, than have hundreds of screen friends and cherry-pick those areas where I come out looking like something I just can’t live up to all for the sake of a thumbs up.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. – Galatians 1:10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Everything There is a Season

There is a lot of reflecting going on for me. Some days I think it’s too soon for this to be happening, but then I remember that I was younger by two years when her dad and I tied the knot over 27 years ago. Having recently located our misplaced-during-the-move home movies and watching our amateur wedding footage and how serious I was, I said to my daughter, “Whatever you do, enjoy the day. The day may not go as planned, but you’ve done your best.”

Following are just some of my experiences and thoughts as a MOB (mother-of-the-bride).

Soon after the engagement the planning started because the happy couple didn’t want a long engagement and picked a date 7 months out. My daughter, being Dave Ramsey conscious of funds (Yes! She was listening when we saw her eyes were rolling!) planned to have the reception under the big tent on our church grounds. So I started calling around for caterers only to discover that there weren’t many that even had that day open because of said 7-month timeline. So out of curiosity, I ended up calling a couple venues that had Sunday dates open, which prompted me to ask if folks really got married on Sundays to which I was told, “all the time.” One of the places I looked at was one that Emily had previously considered but crossed it off her list because of the cost. “Dad will never okay this,” she said when I brought it up. So one day, her father comes home from work and I ask him to have a seat so I can show him something. I ask that he not comment until I get done explaining. Naturally he hesitates because he’s not sure what’s about to happen, but humors me nonetheless as I go through everything. His only question when I finish, “What’s it gonna cost?” I tell him. He pauses, takes a deep breath, sighs and responds with an “okay.” I give him a kiss and a hug, “You’re a good daddy.” Personally, I think he was relieved because the burden would be taken off of us. All we had to do was bring in centerpieces.

Therefore, we needed a florist. Emily did not want real flowers because of the cost, however was a non-negotiable for the MOB and something I told her I would take care of back in her teen years. Calling a couple florists, some were booked, some just never returned my calls, I started to panic. I am not creative and can experience what I call “searing abdominal pains” when I have to be. My good friend tells me to call the florist they used for her daughter’s wedding. I was insistent that they are closed on Sundays. She ignored me and said, “Call her!” So I did and of course the florist would definitely do this on a Sunday. So Emily and I met with her. Nice lady … she went through everything with us and came back with a quote thinking we would take it home with us to think about. However, having heard stories of prices that folks were getting on wedding flowers, I didn’t hesitate and whipped out the checkbook. “How much of a deposit do you need?” In the course of our conversation, I mentioned where I had gotten my wedding flowers 27 years earlier. “That was my dad’s store,” she said. I so love when God gives me confirmation.

The happy couple made the decision, based on their personalities, that they were going to get cupcakes instead of cake. So the search for bakeries ensued. The soon-to-be groom was still in school so I had the privilege of going to taste-test some cupcakes with the bride-to-be.  It was rough, I know. We find a small reasonably priced bakery on the outskirts of the city that does all kinds of fun summer cupcakes. The problem was, choosing which ones. So there will be 5 flavors, one of which will be a groom required fun-fetti. I don’t ask … as long as there is something chocolate, MOB will be happy.

Happiness is shopping to find a MOB dress … NOT!  After countless hours searching online, I dragged myself to the mall. I knew what I didn’t want and that was to not look like me. I am a plain, non-blingy, non-flashy person, the opposite of what is out there for MOB apparel. This was definitely the most painful task to do, the one I prolonged but wanted to get over with at the same time. So I visit some high end stores, try some fancy dresses on and am certain the sales associates can hear my disparaging comments to myself in the dressing room because they came in to ask if everything was okay. “Uh no, I look like a sausage!” I wanted to yell. I am on my third or fourth store, about to give up when I see a dress that I had seen online. It fit … done! I go check out and the sales associate comments on what a nice dress it is. Quite frankly I don’t think it’s any great shakes, but told her I was looking for something for my daughter’s wedding that would hide my midlife midsection. She did a once over on me and saying behind her hand, “You’re shameless girl. Do you see the people walking around this store?” Oh goodness … I am hoping that the next person in line didn’t hear that, but ummmmm “thank you,” I think?

The bridal shower was another task for the MOB. I wanted to have the shower at a venue but the bride insisted it be at the house. She wanted it laid back and casual. So I had to call in reinforcements and her name is “Grandma”. Now my mother and I do not see eye-to-eye on many things like cleaning, frequency of laundry, ironing anything, freezing leftovers, etc. but if you ask her to help … it’s off to the races. Sometimes you have to reign her in so she doesn’t go overboard, like the dessert table at the shower. One of the items that Emily wanted at her shower was a mimosa bar. Those who know me know that I don’t imbibe (not because I don’t believe in it, I just never acquired the taste for the beverage) so the fact that I found myself in a liquor store was quite humorous. I did my research online ahead of time to find out what the best champagne/sparkling wines were to mix with juices so that I wouldn’t sound totally stupid at the store. I enter and immediately panic when I see all of the bottles. My eyes scan the room quickly and I calm down when I locate the section labeled sparkling wines. So a nice lady helped me pick out six sparkling wines and there I went out of the store with a box of bottles hoping no one from church would see me.

After the shower came the invitation mailings. This task was generally uneventful because we had made up the invitation months ago and all we had to do was proof and print them. The bride and groom took care of addressing, stuffing and stamping them, but when the MOB mailed them, that’s when it hit me.

Things became surreal at this point for me.  I’m thinking … “Wait, what’s happening?”  Isn’t she still 5 and watching and singing along to “Pocahontas” or playing with her Polly Pockets?  Isn’t she still 12 trying so hard to be grown up but still being silly? Isn’t she still 16 and causing my gray hairs to appear? She must just be starting college then, right? What do you mean she’s graduated and is now working?

She met a really nice young man at college. The young man asks her father for permission to date her. She falls in love with the young man. The young man asks her father for permission to propose marriage to her. The young man proposes and she says yes.

The nest is getting prickly as the big day draws near and I have learned through my role as a MOB that my need-to-know everything self is often nowhere to be found. In her place is a stand-back and let the chick do what she needs to do to fly. I am still there off in the distance, watching, ready to jump in if needed, but trying so very hard not to interfere.

We are told that as part of wedding ceremony tradition, there is a reason the parents enter and leave the ceremony when they do. They enter ahead in the place of authority, but leave behind the couple in their new role of counsel. Looking back, I think God prepares us for this new role in those tumultuous teenage years, where our kids test us and exhibit signs of independence and we struggle with learning to let go.

Have the last seven months flown by? Yes and now we are a few days away and time keeps marching forward. She tells me earlier this week, that these days are going to go by slowly. I smile and try to keep my composure because for me it’s moving too fast. She won’t know what I’m feeling as her mom until she raises her own children some day and prepares them to begin a new season in their life. Yes, this MOB is crying again.

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven”

– Ecclesiastes 3:1