On the Altar of Feelings

Maybe you should put on your steel-toed boots for this one.  I am lacing mine up as I type these words.  Toes will be stepped on.  This may hurt.  It is a lesson that has crunched my own toes more times than I can say.  Ready?  Here goes:  Your feelings are liars.  I know there could not be a more counter-cultural statement.  Sorry.  Maybe you’ll like me again if I tell you a cute story.  Once Upon A Time….

When my oldest daughter was 3 years old she was at the height of the Disney Princess craze.  In true, first-born, type-A fashion, when she dressed up as a particular princess she needed ALL THE THINGS.  For example, if she was Ariel, she had to have a flower pinned in her hair, along withskye-cinderella the “bras” (I know!  She’ll die one day), and the tail.  She also positioned herself on a stump in our backyard and sang “Part Of Your World” for infinity.  And so it went with Jasmine, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, etc.  But Cinderella was her jam.  From the moment she put the first pair of “glass slippers” on her chubby toddler feet she never looked back.  When she was Cinderella, she not only had the gown and slippers, she also had her hair in a bun, a black velvet choker on, and white gloves up to her elbow.  EVERY. DAY.  This was a precious phase until one day I heard her say to her 2-year-old brother, “You have Jesus in your heart, but I have Cinderella in mine.”  Uh oh…. Maybe this whole thing had gone a little far.  Trying to discuss this theology with a 3-year-old princess dressed in a ball gown was pointless but my eyes and ears became more a tuned with the importance of our hearts.

Obviously I am not talking about the blood pumping organ that resides inside each of our chests.  I am talking about the center for our thoughts, beliefs, and emotions or feelings.  What do we hear over and over in our self-centered, narcissistic, selfie-driven society?  “Follow your heart.”   Mr. Hallmark has never clarified this statement to me exactly, but I am assuming it means follow your feelings, put your emotions in the driver seat, let your perceptions and affections be the deciding factors in your life.   It sounds warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it?  Like you want to put on a twirly peasant skirt and lay in a field of wildflowers?  I know, me too, for a hot second.  And then I think about all the tantrums my kids have thrown over the years.  I think about the things they have wanted that have been absolutely crazy, harmful, or impossible.  I remember the melt-downs over broccoli or hair-cuts or bedtimes.   If they had been allowed to “follow their hearts” none of them would know how to read, none of them would have ever had a bath, and none of them would have a tooth in their head.   My oldest would have run away a hundred times, number 2 would never leave the Ranchito, number 3 would have been killed by her pet tiger, and number 4 would have brain-damage from jumping off of every elevated surface he has encountered in the 5 years of his life.  But, they have not been allowed to follow their hearts at every turn.  Sure, we nurture who they are.  They get to choose their activities.  They get to voice an opinion sometimes.  During the #summerofsayingyes there is extra room for freedom and creativity.  But, ultimately there is a higher authority.  It’s called parents.  If I let my children follow their hearts all of the time they would be taken away from me and I would be in jail.

So, I guess my question is, at what point are they trustworthy?  Our hearts, our emotions, our feelings?  Is there a magical age where they should get their license and be allowed to drive our lives?  Is it 16?  Good grief I hope not!  18?  21?  40?  Because whatever age it is, I haven’t reached it yet.  I know that my perceptions are not always dependable.  I know that my emotions are not always stable.  I know that my feelings do not always reflect truth.   In direct contradiction to “follow your heart,”  the Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).  As much as that rubs against all things Disney Princess and Hallmark Channel, we know it is true.  You know your heart is deceitful.  You know it lies to you.  You know that no matter what age you are, you still have temper tantrums and say things in the heat of emotion that aren’t true.  You know that feeling when it feels like you are underwater, drowning in hurt feelings, or anger, or fear, or despair.  You know that you can swim, you know that a life-preserver of truth has been tossed your way, but your feelings pull you under.  Powerful they are, trustworthy they are not.

In these moments, what have you sacrificed on the altar of your feelings?

Have you ever sacrificed a friendship on the altar of hurt feelings or misconceptions?  Have you sacrificed a calling on the altar of fear?  Have you sacrificed a marriage on the altar of apathy or bitterness?  Have you sacrificed your spiritual walk on the altar of boredom?  Have you sacrificed wisdom on the altar of rebellion?  Have you sacrificed your witness on the altar of anger, your legacy on the altar of pride, your children on the altar of selfishness?  Sorry.  I hope those boots are working for you.  I have had some near misses myself lately.  I have come dangerously close to lashing out from beneath the tide of pain.  I have been misunderstood and misjudged  and people I know I love and I know love me have been drug to the jagged altar and tied up.  The soundtrack to this dramatic scene is forever the same: the words, “Always,” “Never,” “Everyone,” and “No One.”  As in, “He always ____.”  “She never ____.”  “Everyone ______.”  “No one really ____.”  I know that when those lies are playing in my head, it’s time to put down the knife.  If I had followed my heart I would have done the deed.  But I know my feelings are liars and my heart is deceitful.  I have watched families come dangerously close to being sacrificed on the altar of misguided hearts and feelings.  Praise God for the beacon of His truth.  Just like there is a higher authority in our home and in my children’s lives, so there is in our lives and in the perilous sea of emotion.  It’s call the Bible, the Word of God, the Holy Spirit.  It’s our lighthouse when we are drowning in our feelings.


The Bible also says, in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  Just like we would put a fence around a pool for our children, or protect our toddlers at the edge of the ocean, we must put a guard around our heart before it jumps into the deep end.  Just like we should be eating heart-healthy food to protect the vital organ and rejecting the junk, we must seek the healthy and throw out the dangerous when it comes to the center of our emotions as well.  What are you letting in that is not safe?  Are romance novels  pushing you under the waters of discontentment with your spouse?  Is it HGTV that is throwing you into envy?  Is Pinterest leaving you sputtering beneath self-doubt?  Are movies or magazines or someone’s Instagram feed pulling you under insecurity?   While it is true that we cannot always choose or control how we feel, we can certainly take important, practical steps to guard our hearts.  Truly, the only way our heart is completely safe is with Jesus residing on the throne of it (not Cinderella).

Last summer I (say it with me) read a great book.  The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith is a treasure I go back to time after time.  I was a bit nervous about the title at first, a little scared that it would be shallow and superficial at best, heretical at worst.  Then I learned that my girl Hannah was a Quaker who penned this gem in 1875.  Legit.  She addresses this tension of truth versus emotion in a chapter entitled “Difficulties Concerning the Will.”  She says, “The truth is, that this life is not to be lived in the emotions at all, but in the will; and therefore, if only the will is kept steadfastly abiding in its center, God’s will, the varying states of emotion do not in the least disturb or affect the reality of the life.  If God is to take possession of us, it must be into this central will or personality that He enters.  If, then, He is reigning there by the power of His Spirit, all the rest of our nature must come under His sway; and as the will is, so is the man.  For the decisions of our will are often so directly opposed to the decisions of our emotions that, if we are in the habit of considering our emotions as the test, we shall be very apt to feel like hypocrites in declaring those things to be real which our will alone has decided.  But the moment we see that the will is king, we shall utterly disregard anything that clamors against it, and shall claim as real its decisions, let the emotions rebel as they may.”  I told you she was for real.   When our will is steadfastly holding to the Truth, we know we will not drown in emotions.   Though we cannot choose our emotions, we can choose our response, our actions, our will.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an emotional girl. I’m not sure there has ever been a day of my life that tears have not been shed. Anxious tears, sad tears, angry tears, happy tears. I feel big. I love hard. I speak my mind. My husband calls it “drama.” I call it feelings. I am like David in Psalms. One minute I am praising God with my whole heart and the next I am “in the depths of despair.” (Okay, that’s Anne Shirley my favorite. Enough said?)  But I have learned the hard way not to let them drive my life. I can cry the tears, feel the feels, say the thing, and then swim to the edge and shake it off. I will not sacrifice the truth on the altar of my ever-changing, super charged feelings. They cannot be ultimate. They are not trustworthy.

So,  remember that life-preserver, those swimming lessons, that lighthouse?  We must know the truth to be buoyed by it. It must be real to us to be the lifeline that we need.   We must spend more time soaking in the Word than drowning in our emotions.  That sounds obvious but I bet that if you actually clocked the moments spent in the Word today versus the moments you spend talking/thinking/posting about how you feel you would see the water rising.  I would too.  But we can reverse the tide.

I don’t know what is on the altar of your feelings right now… a relationship, an opportunity, your testimony, maybe just your day.  I can almost promise you that it is not worth it.  You’ve been lied to.  Put the knife down.  Walk away.  Grab on to the Truth.  Guard your heart. Kick Cinderella out and get Jesus back where He belongs.




Somewhere Between Pizza Hut and Pinterest

Have you ever filled a virtual shopping cart (or 7) and come back to it day after day to stalk the items?  Like to see if they have gone on sale, or if the color is still dreamy, or just to say hi?  Kid’s clothes, rocking chairs, boots?  Me neither.  That is super weird!   Well, except maybe this one time….  We moved to the Ranchito about the time that the first season of Fixer Upper premiered.  I, like everyone in the country, tuned in every week to watch Chip and Jo transform houses and be stinking adorable at every turn.  But, I did not become obsessed with shiplap, or subway tile, or demoing walls.  Nope.  All I wanted was that 10ft. long, white, distressed, outdoor table.  You know the one, under the cool rusted candelabra, with the cute tray of lemonade and freshly baked cookies on it?  I am not proud to admit how much of my brain and heart that table consumed.  You see, for the first time in our lives, I had the perfect space for exactly such a table.  I dreamed of dinner parties out by the pool, hosting a dozen friends at the mile-long table in all of its perfect distressedness.


So, I did what any seasoned online shopper would do. I Googled  “Harp Designs.”  If Clint Harp could build one for the “farmhouse,” he could build one for the “Ranchito,”  I virtually designed the monstrous masterpiece, and put it in that cart.  And….there it sat.  There it sat for weeks.  The shipping alone on the thing was almost as much at the table itself (and I live in Texas!).  Oh, and the benches… those weren’t cheap either.  When I suggested to the hubs that we rent a trailer and make a little road trip to Waco NOT DURING FOOTBALL SEASON you would have thought I had lost my mind!  He then checked out the specs more carefully on the saved table and announced that he and his buddy could build that for me with a casual wave of the hand.  Now, while I know these guys absolutely had the skills to produce the coveted table, they also had 7 children, 2 full-time jobs, 2 wives, and approximately 793 “honey do’s” between them.  I wanted the table before we had to leave the Ranchito for the nursing home, you know?   Finally, I let it go and explored the crazy option of having a local craftsman create one for me.  Short story loooong, I ended up with a 12 foot table,  four 6 ft. benches, and 2 chairs on the end.  It’s every bit as distressed and dreamy and it was about 1/2 the price.  Sorry Clint!  (and THANK YOU White House Table Co. of Midland!!!!).

One of my goals during this #summerofsayingyes is to fill that table up every chance we get!

I believe in previous generations this was called “hospitality.”  Doesn’t the word just make you feel warm and cozy inside?  Like Thanksgiving or Christmas?  Or maybe it doesn’t… maybe it causes a slight panic attack, or calls out one more thing you’re not good at.  I don’t know what your relationship is like,  hospitality and you, but can we talk about it a bit?   The same summer that was spent stalking the table, I read Jennie Allen’s book Restless.  For years I had avoided any and all books of this nature.  I mean who had time to dream, to think about anything but the dinner and the laundry?  Restless?  As in I haven’t rested, slept, or sat down in a decade?  You bet I’m rest-less!  But, then the smoke cleared a bit and I found my way out to a magical little courtyard at sunrise every morning with this challenging book and some puzzle pieces God was putting together for me.  What I discovered about me in that season was that I need deep relationship.  I read this anonymous quote that resonated so with me during this time:

I have the deepest affection for intellectual conversations.  The ability to just sit and talk.  About love, about life, about anything, about everything.  To sit under the moon with all the time in the world and the full-speed train that is our lives slowing to a crawl.  Bound by no obligations, barred by no human limitations.  To speak without regret or fear of consequences.  To talk for hours and about what’s really important in life.”

Do you know what is hard with four small children around your knees for infinity?  Deep relationships.  Do you know what is impossible?  A complete conversation, much less these hours of uninterrupted sharing in the moonlight.  But that is where God began to articulate this call to hospitality for me.  He had blessed us with this physical space and He was making it beyond obvious of the reason.  It was to create a place for deep relationship, gathering, and blessing others.  Period.  No excuses.  I mean I even had my table…


Hospitality.  It’s not just a  Pinterest board, you know?  Martha Stewart cannot be credited with the idea.  That would be God.  He created hospitality to show us a picture of His character like He created every other good and perfect gift.

Hebrews 13:2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware.”

1 Peter 4:9 “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

Romans 12:13 “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

Titus 1:8 “Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.”

Hebrews 13:16 “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

Galatians 6:10 “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

AFTER ALL….Jesus says,

John 14:2-3 “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

God’s heart is one of hospitality.  And here is the thing, it looks like these are imperative statements.  Remember the 4 types of sentences from 3rd grade?  Declarative (…),  Exclamatory (!!!!!), Interrogative (?????), and Imperative.  Like, it’s a command… hospitality. Don’t take my word for it, go back up and read those Scriptures again.  So, I guess whether it’s natural for us or not, whether we saw it modeled well for us growing up or not, whether we are great cooks or not, whether we have the 12 ft. table or not, whether we have a bunch of kids around or not, whether it’s our gifting or not, we are all called to hospitality.

Obviously, I’m reading a great book right now.  (You knew it was coming).  Sally Clarkson and her daughter Sarah have crafted a lovely work called “The Life Giving Home – Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming.”  Sally’s heart for creative homemaking, parenting, and educating her children have been an inspiration in my life since “The Mission of Motherhood.”  (READ IT!!!)  In “The Life Giving Home” they discuss the idea that we are living in a homeless generation.  The isolating combination of corporate moves that separate us from our family of origin and the impact of technology that elevates virtual relationships above real ones has left us homeless in a sense.  Clarkson says, “I’m referring to a different kind of homelessness, one that is spiritual and emotional.  It’s the homelessness of those who have their basic needs for housing, food and clothing met but do not have a sanctuary designed to preserve all that is precious in life.”  Later,  Sarah Clarkson writes, “One of the first obstacles I find in presenting a vision for the  importance of home is the almost unconscious assumption on the part of many modern people that home is inherently a sentimental notion and that beauty is peripheral to spiritual formation.  Action, mission, productivity, study-these are considered essentials.  But beauty?  Good meals?  Gardens?  Art?  Gracious atmosphere?  A safe haven for the spirit?”  Evidently not.

I am one of the lucky ones that saw hospitality done well lesleygrowing up.  My Nannie was the consummate hostess.  My grandparents had fancy, catered Christmas parties where valets would park your car and waiters walked around with drinks and hor d’Oeuvres.  She would have luncheons for her “Bridge” girls all the time.  When there was a family holiday meal, she would have the tables set days in advance complete with name cards and labels for what food would go in what dish.  She always used to say that it was a gift you could give to family and friends… a lovely home to walk in to, a space to feel loved and served, a meal to enjoy, a conversation to fill your soul.  And so it was, a gift to all of us blessed enough to be welcome into their home and into her generous spirit of hospitality.  I carry that call, that gift, that example very close to my heart.

What does that look like- IN MY REAL LIFE?  This has been my quest over the last couple of years.  There is so much freedom within the command of hospitality that it can be quite the adventure to press into.  Basically, there is no right or wrong way to do it, but there are endless possibilities.  For my family we have begun the tradition of an annual Family Fall Festival.  It’s a good, ‘ole fashioned night filled with hay-rides, face painting, apple bobbing, jumpers, and treats.  We hire the “hot dog man” and we invite the whole town.


It has been baby showers and birthday lunches for my tribe that I love so.  In the summer, we have a standing Wednesday Ranchito swim party.  Now, if that is just my immediate group of friends, we have about 40 children between us.  This little weekly shin-dig would literally give my husband a heart attack if he ever walked into it.


Obviously, this means birthday parties for my kids and holidays with family and friends who are family.  Sometimes we have a huge Easter pot-luck and egg hunt, sometimes it is an intimate brunch.  There is the annual wine/cheese/and prayer night before the school year starts.  During the summer months, when the demands on our schedules are much less, I am taking a cue from my “really good at reaching out to people” friend and trying to be intentional about inviting a different family over once a week for a meal.  And then there are the spontaneous texts of, “Wanna grill burgers tonight?  Bring baked beans and chips.”  And yes, there have been long, lovely dinner parties with pin-worthy food and table settings. There is room for it all, an appropriate hospitality for every occasion.


Doesn’t all of that sound like fun?  It is.  It really is.  But do you know what else it is?  A lot of work.  Costly.  Time-consuming.  40 dripping wet children do not leave your home unscathed.  Feeding 300 people hot dogs is not cheap.  Planning 4-course dinner parties takes a bit of concentration.  Reaching out to new people and welcoming them into your sanctuary can leave you feeling vulnerable and insecure.  Sometimes my kids don’t want to share their stuff.  Sometimes my hubby doesn’t want to stop what he’s doing to host.  Sometimes I want to be served (which I am, all the time.  I have hospitable friends)  Anything worth having, doing, being comes at a cost.  Hospitality is no different.  Like I said, I was lucky and saw it done really well growing up.  I don’t want that legacy to die with me.  I want my children to see Mommy and Daddy putting intentional effort into building a space where others are cherished and fed-both physically and spiritually.  I want them to always know that we are only blessed to bless others, whether that be with our home, our food, our time, our friendship (our toys, our mermaid tails, our bikes)…

So, sometimes it’s Pizza Hut.  And sometimes it’s Pinterest.  My Nannie’s generation would probably turn their noses up over the casualness that hospitality is offered today.  No place cards?  No plan?  Paper plates?  Those can be sweet, sweet times of building home into a homeless generation.  I do it.  I love it.  I get that there is power and a realness in inviting friends into your messy house and ordering a pizza and sitting on the floor and going for it.  Yes to Pizza Hut.  But, can I appeal to the harkening back of a time when hospitality really was a gift given to those welcomed in?   When it was special? When it took effort? I want my children to see what it looks like to set a full table and get dressed up and maybe even rifle through the drawers to find some antique place card holders. What if it could be real and beautiful?  


Not perfect, never perfect, but a gift.  An out-of-the-ordinary night.  An act of sacrificial love.  If you are stuck pinning beautiful meals but haven’t issued an invitation yet, maybe it’s just time to call Pizza Hut and a neighbor.  If the delivery guy is on your speed dial, maybe it’s time to dial it up a notch.  Can I challenge you too in this #summerofsayingyes to try out a new hospitality?  Invite some acquaintances and see if they might become friends.  Press deeply into friendships and see if they might really be family in the end.  Find your own way somewhere Pizza Hut and Pinterest.

A little bonus today… A RECIPE!  This little gem is great with pizza or beef tenderloin.  Around my tribe, we just call it THE salad.


It takes no time to whip up and is a perfect place to start this little beckoning to hospitality.  Here you go:

THE Salad

1 bag of baby spinach


goat cheese

toasted pine nuts

mason jar of poppy seed dressing

Slice strawberries and toast pine nuts and put them in the bowl of spinach.  Kind of take forkfuls of softened goat cheese and dollop all around.  Top with YUMMY poppy seed dressing.


3 TBS mayo

3 TBS sugar

2 TBS milk

1 TBS vinegar (apple cider or some other white, fruity type)

1 TSP poppy seeds

Combine all ingredients in a mason jar and shake it up, enjoy and impress!

So back to that table…. Wine has been poured around it, lemonade has been spilled on it, coffee has been sipped at it.  Pool bags have been thrown around it, diapers have been changed on it.  Prayers have been prayed,  Scripture discussed, and couples have danced around it.  Family picnics have been served on it.  Pizza, hot dogs, cheeseburgers, steak, tenderloin, homemade chips and salsa, berry cobbler, endless popsicles, and obviously THE salad have been enjoyed.  Outsiders have been welcomed and friends really have become family.  Hospitality is not dead-it’s not complicated either though not always easy.  It’s also a command.  Magic can happen somewhere between Pizza Hut and Pinterest.  Let’s not let a homeless generation happen on our watch!


It’s Always a Beautiful Season

The school year has ended and we have officially closed the book on 5th, 4th, 1st grades respectively as well as pre-school all together.  We waited out the ballet recital and the baseball tournament, the class parties and teacher gift emails ( x’s 4), and have finally stepped into Summer.  I am pecking out these words to the seagulls’ call, from my favorite space on the planet… my favorite town, my favorite building, my favorite balcony, my beach.  Exhale.  Now, certainly any stranger would appreciate the white sand, the warm Atlantic, the quaint beach town appeal.  No one could deny the charm of the old surf shops, seafood shacks, shops full of trinkets, and the mystery of the intercostal waterway that extends this length of the Sunshine State.

It is picturesque.  It is a destination for many.  But for me, it is also home.


My grandparents bought this very condo almost 45 years ago.  I suppose I learned to swim in this pool.  My childhood is so connected to this physical space I can’t untangle me from these walls, this sand, those waves.  I grew up only an hour from here so, “going to the beach” was always within reach and a great possibility.  In high school, my little convertible could drive itself the stretch between.  All of my greatest friends have slept within these walls.  My husband and I were teenagers falling in love on this patch of sand.  The sounds of this building are etched in my memory so strongly that if you dropped me blindfolded into it in the middle of the night, I would know exactly where I was.

Now, I do not live an hour away from this little condo on the shore.  Now, we are raising our children 2 flights away from this place.  So, once a year, after the exhausting rush that is the school year, I pack my four kiddos up, brave traveling alone, and we land to the squeals of grandparents and grandchildren being reunited. I love that my mom has taught all of my children to swim in this very same pool.  I love that they know this stretch as well as I do. They can catch a crab as fast as any native, have no fear to paddle out to a school of dolphin, and can man a kayak up the river to the manatees at the age of 10, They know every burger joint and ice cream shop in town. They will have a bug house full of lizards before you can blink.  They love it too and it has become entangled in their childhoods as well.

These weeks though, because they only come around once a year, have become a bit of a measuring stick for me, for them.  As we get out the toys and floats and boogie boards from year to year, we can’t help to see how they have grown.  Some things never change.  I mean, it always comes down to a bucket and a net, doesn’t it?  But some things do.  The ducky baby bath that we used, the float they used to sit in, the swimmies, the mickey mouse shovel…  Now it’s surf shops and legit boogie boards. Now it’s skim boards and cool sunglasses… and a bucket and a net.  My heart squeezes with nostalgia, especially as I see toddlers exploring the waves for the first time, as I watch my baby niece with her baby toes in the sand.  How are these big, independent, opinionated, beautiful children mine?    It’s a weird feeling, not to have any babies.  I had them for so long.  But, at the same time, the immediacy of what IS makes you forget what was so quickly.

Mammas, remember before you ever got pregnant you wondered how it would feel?  Okay, now remember 8 months in how you couldn’t imagine being able to curl up on your stomach to sleep, or how it would feel to be able to hop up from a chair without the clumsiness of a belly?  And now, for me, I think it’s so strange I spent 4 years in the “with child” state.  Or even a season… 3 weeks into summer, in these glorious days that melt into the ocean, I have no idea what day of the week it is.  But a month ago, every moment of my life was ruled by managing the schedules of my family.   The shift is so quick and our memory is short.  My husband must say once a month, “don’t you wish it were Christmas?”  He loves all thing cold, and cozy, and holiday.  I think he really just loves to build a fire.  (I always say, “No, I do not.  Do you know how much work Christmas is?”  Which of course he does not.)   My kids will say to each other almost everyday of the school year, “Let’s talk about Florida” in their yearning for the freedom of these very days.  Seasons….

Here is the thing about seasons… They change.  Winter to Spring.  Summer to Fall.  Babies to toddlers.   Kids to teenagers.  In my life as well, young married to young mommy.  Young mommy to whatever this is right now…. Almost 40 with big(ish) kids.  It changes.  I guess it just strikes me hardest here… when I think about all the people I have been here. Right here on this balcony, in these rooms, in this sleepy beach town. All the people my parents have been, my grandparents even, my own kids.  This is also the second summer I have come home since losing my precious grandmother.  It is such an “in your face” reminder that some things really change.  Sometimes they are never the same.  Sometimes, when you slow down enough to really feel the weight of it makes you catch your breath.  It can rock you when you realize that your 11-year-old  daughter wears the same size flip-flops that you do, when your 10-year-old son needs 2 cheeseburgers at dinner to fill him up, when your baby assumes he can do everything his big brother can, and he’s right, when no one is there to drink the sherry in the fridge….

So what do we do with the constant reality that time, seasons, moments are pouring through our fingers like the white sand I am looking at today?  After all, it’s no surprise.  The Bible says:

“What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”   James 4:14

“Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.”  Psalms 144:4

“For all flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.   The grass withers, and the flower falls.”  1 Peter 1:24

“My days are like an evening shadow, I wither away like grass.”  2 Samuel 14:14

“For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were.  Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding.”  1 Chronicles 29:15

And of course, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1

Depressed yet?  If our very lives are but a blade of grass, a shadow, a mist, then what is a year, a stage, a season, a childhood?  I probably run from it most of the time.  The current of life, of today, is so strong I don’t have time to look back.  But then there are days like today… this space, this balcony, that bucket and net, and I have to come face to face with it.  Are we friends or enemies, time and I?  Are you at peace or at odds with her?  She is a permanent character in all of our stories.  She sits with us at every dinner table, attends every school performance, is a fixture at every game, sleeps beside each of us every night.  So what is it?  Friend or foe?

This is the question I am wrestling with this morning.  Here is what I do know…. I can’t change any of it.  There is nothing I can do to stop it, this passage of time, this rush of seasons.  I could pretend I was still 20 and dress like it.  Tragic for us all.  I could treat my kids like they are still babies when they are clearly not, and create an unhealthy, prolonged dependence, or worse, some unnecessary rebellion and bitterness.  I could keep having babies and default to the simplicity (and exhaustion) of what I know, what feels safe, but sooner or later everyone but Peter Pan grows up.  I could always mourn what was… a flatter tummy and freer days, the biggest parenting decision being whether to let the baby cry it out or not,  the security of being every influence in our kids’ lives,  another night with my Nannie.  I guess it’s okay.  We can have a bit of a cry when we pack up the baby bikinis and need reading glasses to order at a restaurant.  But then…?  Are we just counting the losses instead of the wins?  You know, focusing on what we miss rather than what we gain?  Are we just looking back instead of forward?

I think we have a bit of a disease in our culture of needing to own things, needing to master and control them.  My children currently cannot see a lizard climbing a palm tree without the overwhelming compulsion to catch it.  It doesn’t matter if that lizard is across a busy street, outside of the window at a restaurant, or 30 feet in the air.  They have to get it.  They want to hold it and keep it (and name it).  After several years and even more tears they have wisely realized that the lizard (or crab, or caterpillar, and so on….FOREVER) will not survive for more than a day in whatever contraption they have placed it in.  Even when we provide it with food (“What does this kind of lizard eat, Mom?”), and water, and safety, it will die.  Do you feel it too?  Maybe you go to a new place and begin to dream about owning a home there?  Maybe you see a pretty dress and have to know where it came from?  Maybe you go to a friend’s house and feel pangs of wanting to possess it yourself?  We haven’t learned the beauty of being able to appreciate the beauty of things without the need to own it, to possess it, to control it, to call it ours…  Time cannot be owned.  We have to enjoy these seasons with open hands or we will learn with many tears as well that we can kill the magic by holding them too tight.

Let me tell you what I did not pack on this trip home… one stinking bit of baby gear!!!  I mean, can I get an AMEN, Mammas?  Not a stroller, or a pack and play, or a diaper, or a bib in sight around here.  FREEDOM, y’all!!!  Do you know what else?  Sometimes the hubs and I go to dinner alone and the only sitter we call is Netflix!  Everyone can go to the potty alone, and feed themselves, and “bathtime” now is pretty much, “go take a shower.”  Those are wins!  And my kids SLEEP!  They sleep like champs!  They sleep IN!  WIN!!  They can all swim too.  No more nervous “baby chase” around the pool.  I CAN SIT IN AN ACTUAL CHAIR!!! WIN!  My kids are people, you know?  They are humans now, not just needy, cute, (life-sucking) creatures.  We can talk.  They have ideas and input and experiences that are distinctive to mine.  That’s the point, right?   That’s a win. My parents are people now too, not just parents, you know?  They have a perspective that is valuable, not just tolerated.  They are wise, and right, and some of my very best friends.  That’s a win.  My husband and I may have a few grey hairs starting to show, a few more pounds than our younger selves, less conversations about our dreams and more about kidss’ schedules, but we have a trust and a security together that comes from putting in the hard years and staying.  That is what real love looks like and I wouldn’t go back for all the size 2 clothes in the world.  It’s a win.

Just like every physical season in nature holds its own beauty, every season in life does as well.  Winter’s fires, spring’s beginnings, summer’s lazy days, fall’s anticipation… It’s there if we look.  It really is always a beautiful season.  I know one day I will sit on this very balcony and think how little they were now.  I know I will look back on pictures of myself, my husband, my folks this summer and think how young we all looked.  Time will keep on passing and I will have to keep letting go of who I am today, who they all are today, and welcome who we will be tomorrow.  I have to trust that it will be beautiful in its own way and with every loss there is a win.  We really don’t have a choice?  And maybe, we do.  It’s all in our attitude, in our focus.  It always is.  So, in this #summerofsayingyes, if you have a day like I am having today, and all of a sudden it hits you hard and you miss your babies, or your Nannie, or your younger (cuter, skinnier) self, sit with it for a second.  Feel it.  Cry if you need to.  And then concentrate on the “win column.”  Look for the beauty of THIS season and then grab a bucket and a net and enjoy.