Beautiful Things

The view the Inn at Sugar Hollow

What an amazing week.

First, there was the engagement party last week, and the subsequent conversations (WEDDING! WEDDING! WEDDING!); then Mother’s Day, with All The Kids Home, and then the birthday.

My birthday, yes. Amazing. Awesome. I have approached this day with anxiety, fear and trembling. Having to say, “I am fifty” sounded like the last words of a lost, lonely, desperate, old and unimportant woman (I know, I know – you want me to get over it. I am! Bear with me a minute more…)

I’m there, we pushed through it, I LIVED AN ENTIRE DAY AS A 50-YEAR OLD PERSON AND ALL IS WELL.

Got that? All is well.

I like it.

It’s kind of like riding a roller coaster; the fear is in the climb up the hill, the slow, rickety, shaky climb. And the moment at the top, the peak – that split-second before the wind picks up and the bottom falls out of your stomach and you realize that you love this feeling…

Yeah. It’s like that.

Anyway, we took a great trip for my birthday; a day off and a short drive through Charlottesville to The Inn at Sugar Hollow. It was, in short: beautiful, restful, friendly, relaxing, awesome, comfortable and delicious.

I was so fond of the over-sized deluxe whirlpool bath that I used it. Twice.

I took two baths in one day. Just because I could.

It’s a great getaway and we had a great time. My husband surprised me with a beautiful gift (jewelry; he gives me jewelry and, quite frankly, I never get over it) and I enjoyed him so much as we walked around downtown Charlottesville, window-shopping and contemplating where we’d like to eat.

I left the computer at home. I took pictures. We had a great time.

What a week.

Today, my eldest son went to his first prom. So handsome, so responsible, so grown-up….I am so proud of him, and happy to continue the tradition of being one of Those Parents who take a million pictures of their kids.

Looking good!

Tonight, we celebrated my dad’s birthday – it’s the day after mine. I marvel at my fifty years; he celebrated SEVENTY-FOUR years, and that’s more of a marvel, really. We gave him a bag full of goodies that every seventy-four year old man needs – stuff like Nutella and new socks and a shirt that says, “SWAG SWAG SWAG”. And a Billy Graham book. And nuts. And more.

And I came home to a clean house and a lovely 18-year old daughter and two junior high boys and a husband who is back in the real world after giving me an amazing transition into being who I am.

A happy woman.

Downtown historic Charlottesville

Beautiful things…

It’s My Birthday!

May 16 is my birthday. I was born in 1963.

That makes me 50 years old today.

How about that?

All my life, it seemed like being 50 was ancient. Old.

Irrelevant.

But here I am, and I feel anything but irrelevant. I feel good, in fact. If I tell you I’m 50, I’m not sure what you might think; but here’s the thing:

I really don’t care what you think.

That’s one of the perks of being 50; I’m okay with who and what and where I am, and earning your good favor doesn’t really matter much to me. Oh, certainly there are a few folks whose favor I value – even crave – but for the most part, I don’t really care about pleasing other people so much anymore.

That’s new and improved.

There are more new and improved things. I decided to make a list.

1. I don’t really care what you think anymore.
2. Okay, I do sort of care; but it doesn’t keep me up nights.
3. I understand my mom more than I ever have before. I really appreciate her.
4. I am grateful for every day I have with my dad.
5. The people I’d do anything for are clearly defined – and the circle is small.
6. There is another circle of people I really like; also small.
7. Everybody else; it doesn’t really matter. You get to live life as you wish.
8. At age 13, I had a crush on Johnny Carson. It made sense then.
9. I like to eat. Sometimes what I eat doesn’t like me. I get to choose to eat it and suffer, or not eat it.
10. God loves me. He’s always loved me. He offers grace. I get to embrace it.
11. Becoming a mother isn’t for everyone, but it absolutely defined me.
12. My greatest joy is Daniel-David-Sarah-Shannon-Sydni.
13. I appreciate my kids’ dad and respect him. I’m grateful for that.
14. My kids’ stepmom is one of the best things that ever happened to our family.
15. Most things that seem awful, eventually don’t.
16. I work with seven people that I trust completely.
17. I’m glad I learned to play the piano; it’s most meaningful when I play alone.
18. I’d rather see a movie in a theater.
19. One of the best days of my life was the Batman movie marathon with my husband and my boys last summer.
20. I’d like to have the body I had in 2003; but there’s nothing I have now that I’d trade for it.
21. Oreo’s really don’t taste that good.
22. Fresh vegetables taste better than anything manufactured by people.
23. I am more moved by words than music.
24. I like to grow things.
25. I am more like my mother than I ever thought I would be. That’s good.
26. I will always have a difficult relationship with money.
27. I’d rather drive a car with a big engine than a car that looks cool.
28. Chagrin Falls, Ohio, will always feel like home.
29. Making a list of fifty things is actually harder than I anticipated.
30. I enjoy pedicures; it’s a luxury.
31. I color my hair and am not inclined to stop.
32. Cooking food well delights me.
33. Serving my family food that I have cooked delights me even more.
34. I really like merengue music.
35. Savannah and Chicago are my two favorite cities, mostly because of the people I love who live(d) there.
36. My imagination cooks up crazy things that make me anxious.
37. I don’t think I am photogenic at all, and I think that’s a true thing.
38. But sometimes I look in the mirror and think, “Dang. You look good.”
39. I don’t like shoes. Really, I just don’t like wearing shoes.
40. God always speaks to me when I walk outside. Always.
41. I don’t walk outside nearly enough.
42. Living fifty years makes you start thinking about how little time you might have left.
43. Good therapeutic massages are not a luxury; they are medicinal. There’s a difference.
44. Pinot Grigio and chili do not mix well.
45. Having only one functioning eye would make life difficult; but not impossible.
46. True love is possible. I knew it when I finally found it. I thought it was something else for a long time.
47. True love changes everything.
48. I want to see the Grand Canyon.
49. There’s a difference between being lazy and moving slowly.
50. Life is an incredible gift.

Happy birthday to me, and to anyone else born in 1963. This is what 50 looks like. This is what 50 feels like.

It feels good.

Mother’s Day Words

Mother’s Day can be touchy in church work. Like other days our culture sets aside to commemorate something or someone special, people bring their own history and expectations into the room.

There is always the potential to fail.

There is always the danger to cause unintentional pain.

I have been in churches where the pastor cheered on the oldest mom; the mom with the most kids; the mom with the newest baby.

I have watched ushers separate women as they enter the sanctuary like sheep and goats; “Are you a mom? Here’s your carnation! Not a mom? Have a nice day…”

Most vividly, I recall a service that included strong, intense condemnation of abortion. I don’t recall what was said; I was out in the foyer with a fussy baby. It was there that I watched a woman leave, devastated. Grief-stricken. Broken.

Hurt.

Her abortion was not forgotten. Her healing wasn’t helped by the condemning words of a pastor who yelled above the people in the room, screaming at the issue. Her church dealt her a devastating, painful blow that day. I wonder if she ever went back.

Planning this year’s Mother’s Day service, I approached the day with care. I have kids. I have friends who do not. I have my mom still with me. I have friends who do not. One of the most special women in my history lost her son and daughter-in-law in a automobile accident just a two weeks ago.

How does Mother’s Day feel for her this year?

There is no “one-size-fits-all” way to have church on a day like this. Because we are worshiping with one another, and we are connected, and some of us are in great pain. We cannot ignore that in our efforts to pursue some sort of Hallmark-generated reality.

We found an incredible piece of writing, from a blogger named Amy who lives in Beijing and writes at The Messy Middle. Amy is not a mom. She shared her heart with a poignant essay that we felt spoke life into the reality of Mother’s Day for all women.

It made for a beautiful day. I’m grateful for Amy’s words.

Find Amy’s original piece here; read her blog here.
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To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you.


To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you.

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you.

To those who experienced loss this year through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you.

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you.

To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you.

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you.

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you.

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience.

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst.

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you.

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you.

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.
 – Amy, The Messy Middle

Secrets Revealed

Secrets bind anxiety.

Part of the awesome decorations

I have been oh-so-anxious lately. I’ve had a secret.

A few months ago, a fine young man came to visit me. I’ve always been impressed with this fellow, for a variety of reasons. Intelligent, resourceful, kind, smart, talented, funny, polite. From a terrific family. Loves Jesus.

Loves my daughter.

Came to see me a few months ago to tell me that he loved my daughter, which I knew; and that he wanted to marry her. Which I suspected.

And so it began; he went to a jeweler who happens to be part of our family. He drove four hours to buy a ring from Hearne’s because he thought it would matter.

It did.

He planned the day, and asked me to host a party for our families and for the friends from Richmond and Harrisonburg who have walked alongside them for the past several years. He said he knew that’s what she wanted.

She did.

We kept the secret, bringing the big sister in under cover of night and hiding her at my parents’ house. We did stealth shopping for food and party stuff. We were nonchalant about disappearances and slips of the tongue. (When my dad accidentally let it slip on the phone that Syd and Sarah were still asleep, Shannon wondered what was up…and if Grandpa was losing it. I told her – with deep sorrow – that, indeed, I was afraid that he was losing it; that he’d been acting strangely lately. Dad took one for the team; all afternoon, Shannon thought he was crazy.)

Travis shows his grandmother the cake

We gathered at the house, cleaning and setting up and prepping food. Her friends put up special photos and decorations. They made a slide show. Her dad and stepmom brought a gorgeous cake with their photos all over it.

He gave her a “spontaneous” day of fun that included lunch and a movie, and then he took her to Maymont, where her favorite photographer lurked in the bushes to capture the moment.

He told her he loved her.

He gave her the ring.

She said yes.

And then he blindfolded her and brought her home, to a group of people who were half-crazed with love and anticipation. The blindfold came off and her face cracked open with joy and love.

Surrounded by her housemates

I watched my daughter take the first step into a lifelong commitment that promises great joy. Her heart beat her to this moment; she has longed for this all her life. Devoted to people, to nurturing others, to living out her calling in the kingdom of God, she embraced her friends and all those who love her, one by one, and the world shifted ever-so-slightly.

My beautiful daughter Shannon, a wonderful red-headed bundle of joy, is engaged. Her fiance is a handsome young man who is well-loved and respected by all who know him and by everyone who loves Shannon.

There is grace enough for all of us in this moment, and for peace that courses through my heart and stills my anxious thoughts.

All is well, and all will be well. And I am thankful.

We wanted the story of the proposal; they obliged