Mama's at the Beach

stories from a mom's life by the beach

What’s one thing you want people to know about you?

“What’s one thing you want people to know about you?”  My heart raced as I read the post it note in the back of my orientation binder for a new committee I had joined.  I had just traveled 1 1/2 hours to go someplace I had never been to join a group of people I had never met to achieve shared goals. On the way in the car, I reflected on how blessed I was and how thankful for God’s plan and purpose even when I don’t see it. And up until I got to the hotel, I was fine. Then I wasn’t.  I was nervous to the point of nausea, heart racing, near tears, the works. All I could thing was “What are YOU doing here?”  And I had no answer.  I was able to pass the time with texting a friend and talking about unrelated subjects or I may have bolted.  I made my way to the room, put my smile on and met a few people and sat down with my orientation folder.

Everyone had a post it note that after they introduced themselves and their respective roles they had to answer the question on their post it.  “Where’s the best place you vacationed?”  “What’s the scariest movie you have ever seen?”  “What’s your favorite out door activity?”  Why couldn’t those be my questions? 

“What’s ONE THING you want people to know about you?”  My mind raced.  What do I say?  I’m a Christian.  That’s the best first answer, right?  I tried to run the past 3 mornings after several months of slacking.  No then they might ask me about it again and what if I give that notion up.  I mean the introduction is hard enough.  It feels more like a justification for my presence on this appointed committee.  I’m not in charge of anything. I don’t even work daily anymore in the field I am trying to represent.  I have a passion.  I have a heart.  I have a lot of experience. But do I say that?  Sounds kind of stupid. I don’t do have any “cool” hobbies.  I haven’t done anything unique like climbing Mt Everest.  I don’t have any cool talents. I can’t play a musical instrument.  I have some letters behind my name, but oh look, everyone has lots of letters-MD, PhD, MSN, ACEP.  I have a CV and it’s four, maybe five pages when I add this committee.  Their’s are probably 15 pages and include research?  Ok.

What’s one thing you want PEOPLE to know about you?  For so long after we moved I would have given my right arm to talk about me, talk about the weather, talk about politics, talk about anything.  It was such a period of loneliness. Today I have friends.  I have people I can call and say “Hey do you want to get coffee?” and we can talk.  I have friends that I celebrate with and friends who share their heart aches with me.  And I feel blessed.  But when you live in a state like Florida, where most are transplants and moves in and out are frequent, it’s hard to be known and really get to know people.  There’s not much shared history.  There’s not much sharing your story.  I believe everyone has a story and I love to hear people’s stories.  The story is why people are who they are.  And you learn a lot by taking the time to hear it.  On the flip side, I am rather slow to share my story.  It’s part of the reason I started this blog, to be known in a sort of I-don’t-have-to-make-eye-contact kind of way.  But then people mentioned they read it and I panic and worry about what I write and then I don’t. 

What’s one thing you want people to know about YOU?  Fortunately or unfortunately, I have some knowledge of self.  I have taken more strengths, gifts, personality assessments than I most.  And so on the way home when it was not helpful anymore I thought of a whole list of things about me.

  • I’m wife who still looks at her husband and sees the 25 year old she married.
  • I’m a mom who measures her successes and failures based on her kids’ successes and failures. 
  • I’m a Christian without an “official” church home.
  • I’m a pediatric nurse who works in an ER.
  •  I am an ENFP (Myers-Briggs.) 
  • I’m a orange.
  • I’m an otter.
  • I’m a squiggle
  • I am a 3 on the Ennegram which is “an achiever.” 
  •  My spiritual gifts include faith and teaching.
  •  I have adaptability, information seeking and communication strengths.
  • I’m a Leo.
  • I’m passionate.
  • I am want to help others succeed.
  • My heart fills up when a 2 year old gives me a high five.
  • There are worship songs that make tears roll down my face. 

So I know who I am, but at the moment I felt like A HOT MESS.  So I meekly answered, “I’m a wife, a mom of four kids and I had a small panic attack coming in here getting ready to meet with you guys.”  Pause to watch the facilitator’s chin drop. “But you all seem very nice so I its ok.  I also have a tendency to overshare.”  Sit down.  Sweet baby Jesus.  Replaying that over and over for half my drive home and tearfully telling my husband how stupid I am had me pretty beat down. 

And my mind went back to a question for God that comes to me often in crises of identity.  “Who am I?”  Jesus asked Peter “Who do you say I am?”    Jesus wasn’t having an identity crisis.  He was pulling out Peter’s faith.  And Peter made the great confession “You are the Christ, the Messiah.”  Here’s the deal.  Up until that point Peter was actually called Simon.  After he confessed Jesus as the Savior, Jesus responded by calling him Peter which means “the Rock” and going on to explain his plan and purpose for him.  He didn’t give him a nick name.  He gave him a purpose and identity that was certain.

So I asked Jesus again, “Who do you say I am? What’s one thing you say about me?”  And I remember He says I am loved.  I am chosen.  I am forgiven.  I am uniquely made by him as an orange, squiggly, otter achiever that’s extroverted, intuitive, feeling and perceiving, with gifts of adaptability, communication, information, seeking, faith and teaching.  He’s brought me through unique experiences and he’s allowed me to be a part of a lot of stories that have brought me to this place and that meeting.  And if that weren’t realization enough, at that moment, it was like Jesus hacked my friend’s facebook account and commented on my pathetic post “Your Still Great in my Book, Joy!!”  (Exactly how it was posted.)  And that was too cool not to rehash this whole thing and share it with you.

When I got back I met my husband at the beach and I was smiling.  He asked if I felt better and I said yes.  He asked what happened and I said he would need a barf bag if he wanted to live in my head.  🙂 

Thanks for listening friends.  All this holds true for you and if you want to talk about it, let me know.  Let’s have coffee.  🙂



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I remember…


Dear Brady, I sit here on the night before your sixteenth birthday writing a letter and feeling much like I did the night of your first birthday when I wrote you a letter.  I remember feeling that night “This year went so fast.  All the years will go fast” and I was right.  The years have flown by and this birthday for what ever reason has me so nostalgic.  This past week the arrival of your birthday has been heavy on my mind and memories have crept in where I least expected them.  I remember so much and those memories have reminded me of the kind of young man you have become.  I want to share a few with you.

I remember when you were maybe 6 months old and Aunt Rosa taught you to make a “Surprised!” face and when she said that you’d pull your face long and your mouth in a little O and we’d laugh.  I knew then you would give us so much laughter. 

I remember rocking you and reading to you when you were just a tiny baby and some books like Max Lucado’s “Just in Case you Ever Wonder” and “I”ll love you forever”  would make me cry.  I knew my heart couldn’t ever find the words to tell you enough how much I love you.

I remember when you went to through what seemed like an eternal “No” phase as a toddler and I got so tired of it I said “Say No thank you.” and so from then on you would hold out your little hand and say “No sank you.”  And I knew you would be polite.

I remember when Isaac was born and you called him “Ikey” and we had to remind you to be gentle and not to hit Isaac as he got bigger and all the rules that came along.  And you listened and you paid attention and if Isaac wasn’t following the rules, we all knew.   And I knew you needed justice and fairness.

I remember when our little dog Zoe got hit by that car and we all went out in the dark and knelt by a covered hole in the yard.  I said a short prayer then on your little knees with your eyes closed you prayed “Heavenwy Faver, take care of Zoe, she’s a good dog.” I knew Jesus had your heart. 

I remember all the sleepless, crazy, video game sleep overs with your friends and how I could hear you all yelling and giggling from a whole house and floor away.  I knew then you would make good friends and knew how to have fun.

I remember talking one night at supper about a kid at school and we all chuckled at a story you had told and it seemed silly.  But you got so upset because this kid was kind of an underdog and you hurt for him.  And I knew you were kind and compassionate.

I remember when we moved here and one of the first friends you made had two mom’s. And you had questions.  And we talked about it.  And I knew you didn’t judge what you didn’t understand.

I remember when we went to the parrot sanctuary and you got quiet and wouldn’t talk to or touch the birds.  When I asked what was wrong you said the birds who had their feathers plucked out made you “uncomfortable.”  And I knew you could identify your emotions and fears (no matter how strange they are). 🙂

I remember going with you to Disney last year and having a great time.  We talked and laughed and shared memories.  I knew you would make a great date for some girl some day.

I remember not so long ago when I was on one of my rants and you stopped me midway and said “You are just tired.  Please stop talking.”  And you were right.  And I knew you could read and handle tough situations.

I remember just two nights ago, I caught you raiding the kitchen cupboard in the dark when I came home from work a little early.  You wanted to tell me how you had talked to your English teacher about a bad grade.  I listened and I am proud of you for doing that but I just remember thinking “He’s grown 3 inches.”  And I knew my days and moments like that are limited. 

I am praying I don’t waste the coming years and moments.  I am praying that you know how very much you are loved and my memories are of the best of times, not the worst.  I am proud of you beyond words.  Thank you for being such a great young man.  Thank you for all your hugs and love for me.  I am thankful to be able to be called your mom.  God gave me such an incredible gift when he put you in my life.  Don’t ever forget that. 

And from the book I have read to you since you were so little…”I’ll always love you.  I’ll always hug you.  I’ll always be on your side.  And I want you to know that.  Just in case you ever wonder.”

Happy Birthday Brady.


The blessing I have always and will always pray over you:

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.-Ephesians 3:15-20 (The Message)

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Sand House on a Rock

I learned a song as a little girl in church from a parable Jesus told.  “The wise man builds his house upon a rock, the wise man builds his house upon a rock, the wise man builds his house upon the rock…” Well if you don’t know it I have included the song below.  I highly recommend this Psalty version. 

Anyway, this is why this sand “house” built on a rock intrigued me.  I love my beach analogies and this one seems to suit my life right now perfectly.Image

About 2 weeks ago, on April 1, my husband came to find me at work and told me he had lost his job that day.  And true to his spirit he right away said “But we are going to be ok.” I had no words but “ok” and I listened to him, told him I loved him and gave him the hug he needed. I was stunned but not surprised.  He and I had discussed the difficulties he was having working with the general manager at his golf course almost daily.  My husband struggled with wanting to do his job really well and finding a difficult personality arguing with him at every turn.  It’s a long story and in the end I know my husband did the best he could and this was what it was.  I went back to work and told no one.  I kept hoping he would call or text and say “April Fools” but he didn’t . 

Unemployment is not foreign to us.  When he worked in Iowa he was laid off every winter.  It was when those lay offs got longer and longer and my work hours got cut that we knew we had to go where he could work full time.  So we came to Florida.  And we have been here 3 years.  And I admit I was scared.  Unemployment is high here.  Jobs are competitive.  And I can tell myself every worse case scenario I can find.  And I am good at it.  And like a sand house I crumble.  Thankfully I am rebuildable and sometimes the rebuilt areas are better. And sometimes areas are washed away.  That can hurt but time often shows me I am being made into something better. 

Thankfully I have a strong foundation.  I have a base foundation that I know God loves me and my family and He has always provided and He holds my future.  I know those things to my core.  And I can stand on it. Another layer of my foundation is my marriage has been weathered and it’s a little like coquina rock in that it’s lots of little pieces of life experiences cemented together.  And it’s strong.  And it’s been tested greater than this.  Another layer of my foundation is the life and relationships we have made here in Florida.  This move has made our family stronger and in many ways my kids more secure.  We have made great friends who have had nothing but supportive and kind words as I have shared about the job loss.  I never know where we will be in three years.  I didn’t know we would be here a few short years ago but the experience and the friendships we have made have made us all stronger. 

As I type he has a job interview.  We are both very hopeful but we are trusting God to put him in the right job at the right place.  We are praying for wisdom and discernment in all this.  I would covet all your support and prayers right now.  It’s taken me 2 weeks to write about this. And “write about this” means feel ready to share this with you.  I’m not one who likes to tell people the tough parts of my life.  Mostly I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me and I’m afraid other people’s faces will show the fear my heart has felt. On the contrary, everyone I have told has been loving, kind, positive and supportive.  I am so very thankful. 

So that is all for today.  Two blogs in three days after such a long absence.  I think I have some things to say.  🙂

Much love and peace,


PS  Here’s the video I promised 🙂



April 15th-“The only thing you have to do in life is die and pay taxes”

flash drive 029

That’s what my dad said whenever I fussed about something I “HAD” to do.  Standard response.  It is strange and ironic that it was on April 15 that he died.  And I have been thinking about him today and what do I say to honor this man.  How do I honor his memory and convey how very much he is missed and why after 11 years?  So I dug deep, blew off some dust and pulled out what I wrote and shared at his memorial service.  And the best way to share that was to dig deep and dust off this old blog.  (Thanks for coming back here to visit by they way.)  So here it is:

“Dear family and friends of my father, Norman Van Wyk, when Roger asked us girls to say something at his service, I considered it an opportunity to let people know about my dad and how dear you were to him.

Bonnie, Norma, Karen, Rosa, Diane, my sisters, his daughters, always remember each and every one of use was “Daddy’s Girl.”  Hold dear to the memories of his laugh, his big hard working hands and his eyes that could almost twinkle when surrounded by his family.  Don’t forget his love and quiet encouragement.  Carry forward his testimony to God’s love and goodness.

John, David, Ed, Bernie, Bob, Steve, the sons, Dad always loved you and felt blessed by your presence in our family.  Continue to carry on his example of love and devotion for your wives and family.

Armour, Elvin, Anna Mae, Gerdena, you were not just his brothers and sisters, you were his friends.  You had so many wonderful times growing up and in the past years.  But when times were not so wonderful, you were close too with your love, prayers, encouragement and a hand to hold.   Dad cherished all those times with you. 

Abby and Mark, Kim and Dan, Steph, Mari, Becky, Randy, Angie, Rianne, Jenny, Teresa, Brandon, Matt, Kris, Katey, Brady, Isaac, Lauren, when we asked Grandpa what legacy did he want to leave for you grandkids and now great grand kids, he said he wanted you to know how important it was to him and to Grandma to know that all of you loved the Lord.  He prayed with you and for you often.  Hang on to those special memories of going out to eat with Grandpa and Grandma for your birthday dinners.  He so enjoyed spending time with each of you one on one.

This services is being taped per Dad’s request for his prison ministry group so I’d like to take this moment to address them.  Gentlemen, the time my dad spent with you in prison benefitted him as much as it did you spiritually.  He came away feeling blessed for his life and thankful that he could share God’s love and message of salvation with you.  He believed in all of you.  Remember my dad and his testimony.

And to my mom, thank you.  Thank you for you and Dad’s example of love, caring and patience not just the past 2 years but for the past 47 years.  Dad’s first concern was always you.  We promise to continue to be there for you.

And finally to the rest of you who came here to support our family, whether you knew my dad or just heard about him from us girls.  I want you to know that just because my dad’s cancer came back and he died, his life was no less the miracle we often talked about.  His body was weakened but his heart and spirit remained strong through God’s grace and your prayers.  Never forget the man he was, not a cancer patient but a servant of the Lord, a loving and faithful husband, a caring and supportive dad, a special brother, a loved and loving Grandpa and dear trusted friend.  When you ask how we are we will probably tell you we are “fine” or “ok” but the truth is our hearts are broken and a hole is left and we feel alone surrounded by all of you.  But your love, prayers, presence, support and encouragement, have gotten us through this far and will continue to carry us through.

Thank you.”

So that’s what I wrote early on the morning of his funeral as I struggled to honor him and show my love.  It’s all as true today as I was 11 years ago.

I love you Dad and while I know Heaven is where you are my heart still wishes you were here.  Thank you for always saying you were proud of me.

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A whole decade is not very long at all…

A little over 10 years ago I lay on an ultrasound table with my husband by my side and for the first time in three of my pregnancies I waited for the tech to tell me the gender of the baby growing inside of me.  I will never forget the word “Girl” and the tears that quietly fell down my cheeks.  Tears from my heart expanding so full I thought it would burst.  Tears for a grandpa and “Gim” who wouldn’t see this girl on this earth since they left the world too soon just weeks prior.  Tears of “I don’t have any little girl things” which means I don’t know what do with a little girl.  Tears of pure joy.  

I knew her name.  I met a nurse once on a travel assignment and I don’t remember much about her except her name, Libby.  Her given name was Elizabeth but she was called Libby and I loved it.  I told my husband about it and he loved it too.  Elizabeth was important because if she wants to run for public office she needs a “big” name too.

I was worried she would be born sad because of all the grief I had experienced in that pregnancy.  I was worried I would go to that dark place I went with my last pregnancy.  I was worried she would be born on my Dad’s birthday, September 17, and I thought I wouldn’t know what to do with all the joy of her in the sadness of that day.  It seemed silly to worry since she wasn’t due until October 3.  I got through September 17, told my husband I was going to listen to my hypnobirthing CDs, went to bed and woke up at 2am to go to the bathroom and feel a big gush before I got to the bathroom.  This was new to me and I said to myself “What was THAT.” then my brain kicked in. I went and told my husband who had fallen asleep on the couch, I guess he didn’t want to listen to “Rainbow Relaxation.”  I will never forget the deer in headlights look on his face.  I guess men would understand the feeling of getting woke up to “My water broke.” So I took a shower, got the tote with the onesies in it and started a load of laundry.  Don’t judge, I thought I had 3 more weeks. 🙂

By the time I called my sister to come over at 6am she was freaking out when she found out my water 4 hours earlier.  We stopped at the gas station to by camera batteries and film (Sis, if you ever read this, film was something you used to put in a separate piece of equipment to take pictures, weird, I know.)  And I walked into the hospital laughing because my shoes were so squishy and my husband kept quoting Larry the Cable guy going “She’s leakin, she’s leakin.” (I guess you had to be there.) But let me say that again, I went in laughing. I was so afraid of being sad, God knew what stupid thing would make me laugh. And at 11:26am, she was born.  And I had peace.  Through that little girl, God showed me I would laugh, love and feel unencumbered happiness again.


And 10 years later she still makes me laugh…


And my husband and I treat her like a princess, much to her brother’s dismay, because we want her to know how to be loved well. I want her to know that this is how Jesus loves her and this is how  the man who will love her enough to marry her someday will love her. I want her to know she deserves it.  Not for what she does but just because she is who she is is.  And he should buy her pretty jewelry too because that’s what a good man does.


And she teaches me how to live fully and let go of the small stuff because it just doesn’t matter. And the time we spend together is more valuable than the money we spend (even though shopping for little girl clothes is a blast). And because of that I went to my son’s school with pink and purple streaks in my hair this morning.  And that’s ok because I look “so cute” with pink streaks in my hair in her eyes.  🙂Image

So, Sis, thank you again for the light brought to and continue to bring to my world.  Momma loves you so much.

And thanks Martina McBride for saying it best for me….

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Take a mental vacation with me…

I am taking a much needed, brief mental vacation. Its Friday and for most people it’s TGIF.  For a nurse, every other (or every third if you are so blessed) weekend is the beginning of your week.  So as I try to improve my attitude toward providing emergency care to the ill and injured of my community I turn to my I-tunes.

I usually tend to relax best with a song and I have a new favorite.  A friend from work gave me some beach music CD’s to download for my birthday party.  That reminds me I never put up pictures or a post about the big event.  I’ll put that on my ever growing to do list.  Which reminds me, I need a mental break. (Welcome to my ADD.)

Anyway, I LOVE music that puts me mentally on the soft sand, under the warm sun, with a gentle breeze, listening to the relaxing sounds of the ocean and gulls with a fruity drink by my side.  This song is my current “take me away” tune.  Not lying when I say I can put it on repeat and do an occasional little hula dance as I go to my happy place.  

Enjoy…. Menehune Beach Bum Boogie by Imua




Operation Go to Church=Fail…again

I read a Donald Miller quote recently that sums me up. ”The more I try to impress people, the more I separate myself from them. Vulnerability attracts love.” Well based on the last post and the way I am feeling this morning I might be attracting a lot of love.
I write all this because I think, there’s gotta be someone else who feels this way. I can’t be the only one right?
I told the kids last night that today we are going to church. Its the beginning of the school year and a good time to get involved in the youth group, Sunday school etc. I was raised in the church. Our church that we went to for the first 15 years of our married life in Iowa provided me with a lot of spiritual growth and relationships. I really wanted that here but I have honestly about given up on that for me. However I still very much want my kids to be involved. I want them to be in a group of like minded believers who will support them and hold them accountable, especially my boys as they navigate their teen years. Because the choices are church group or drug addiction, right? Sigh…
Anyway, getting ready on Sunday morning is a battle. There is the external battle of “Are you really wearing that?” ”Where are your shoes?” “I have asked you three times to come your hair, get off the couch!” ”Get in the car, what do you mean you don’t have your shoes one, your hair is not combed, haven’t had your breakfast and what’s that on your face? What have you been doing?!?” Do you see the picture?
But here’s the deal, the battle starts long before that in my head. ”What are you going to wear? You don’t have anything. That looks frumpy. That doesn’t fit. You are fat.  That shows your tattoo. Your hair is frizzy. Your make up is horrible.”  then when you think my self esteem isn’t anymore pathetic “Why are you going? You don’t belong there. No body is as happy as they seem. Either they are not being real or they are on drugs and given what you’ve seen at work everyone is on drugs. Hey, by the way, you don’t belong anywhere. You don’t fit with them. They are younger and don’t have kids. You don’t like the lady across the street with the kid because her kid drives you nuts. Their kids are older and they don’t seem to really want to hang with you any way. You are weird. Why don’t you belong. You want to be a churchy person who doesn’t want to go to church. You want to be a fun, life of the party girl who doesn’t want to party. What the hell is wrong with you?” This is where my head is about to spontaneously combust. All the random thoughts of the week are compressed and magnified as I look in that mirror on Sunday morning.
Then in the middle of the war in my brain, a child or more accurately children interrupt or fight or loses their shoes as I am trying to get out the door so we are not late yet again. This morning all the battles were fierce and the mommy monster came out of my head and spewed all over the house and we didn’t go to church again because how could a person who acts like that bring them to church to learn how to act right.
My heart knows Jesus came for the messes like me. I know He loves me. I know His heart is breaking this morning for our family. So the answer isn’t give up on Jesus. I believe in the Church universal, the body of Christ. I just don’t feel like I am able to find Him in a church building right now. I have just seen too much unrecognized ugliness in churches. I have felt hurt from the people, leaders in churches. And I don’t feel it’s possible to go to church with out dealing with that stuff because churches are made of humans and hurt is inevitable, right?
I eventually today I will work out my spewing from this morning in the word, prayer, journaling and seeking forgiveness from Him and my kids. But another Sunday morning will roll and I have no idea what I will do.
So that’s it. I don’t know why I need to post this. Maybe so the few of you who might like me will see reality and it’s better to know someone is completely off their nut sooner rather than later. Maybe someone has been through this and is on the other side. Please help me. Please tell me I am not completely alone or crazy or if I am please call someone and have me checked in somewhere because I am pretty useless right now.
Thanks again for your grace….



True Confessions of a Mom-read with grace


My mind drifts and my heart hurts as I see this face and I remember the morning it was taken.

It was August 2002. My oldest son’s first day of Pre-K. I mention that he was my oldest because I hope you know that implies “I had no idea what I was doing. Everything that was new to him was new to me too.” He was 5 years old. From the time he was about 1 year old and I learned I was expecting our 2nd I tried desperately to make him bigger than he really was. No one told me “It’s ok, Joy. You have 2 BABIES” And I fought and fought and fought him and his normal growth and development. I tried to push him on to every next developmental milestone and task. I know I really believed that this was to make life easier for him and I. If he was more independent it wouldn’t be so much work. If he did it himself he would be proud and I wouldn’t have the guilt from feeling I so busy, so tired, so stressed out that I was unable to give him what he needs.

That morning sucked. He was moving at his typical disorganized, snail pace. The bus was coming and he NEEDED to get on it. I look back and stop right there and ask myself, “Why didn’t you bring that little guy to his first day of school? What the heck is wrong with you?” Simple answer. I didn’t know. I thought he needed to get on that bus. It’s what you do when you go to school and besides do you know what a pain in the butt it is to pack up him and his brother to go anywhere? And as per usual in that time when he wasn’t moving at my pace, I yelled. I yelled and I yelled and I yelled. I don’t remember, thankfully, exactly what I said but I can tell you it wasn’t constructive and it wasn’t kind.

I am a yeller. It’s gotten a lot less over the years. I have learned that most if not all of my yelling comes from my fears. I become afraid of the “what if’s” and I didn’t really know how to get control of the situation so I’d yell. It happens when I am thinking only about me and my needs. My pride and need to be right rears up it’s head. It seems like the “strongest and swiftest” tactic. So wrong. So very wrong. If I am going to be completely honest, I still default to my yelling when I am stressing, PMSing, and over tired. Not proud of it. Still working on it.

I see that face getting on that bus and I know he was not sent off with his love bucket full and feeling ready for what that unknown world had in store for him. He left feeling defeated. And I regret. I regret I didn’t stop, breathe, walk away for a few minutes, take him to school, try the bus again the next day. It wouldn’t have been the end of the world. He would have still learned responsibility. He would have learned the routine. He just needed time. He needed grace. Maybe he needed to talk. Maybe he needed a hug or some time on his mom’s lap. Maybe he just needed me. That was a hard year for him. His grandpa and “gim” died in the spring. His mom was about to have another baby soon. So many changes and starting school is a big one when you are five years old.

I see that face over and over in my minds eye especially this time of year and this year. And my heart breaks. I only admit all this in the hopes it will help another mom.

If you are a mom who yells, I know, I know. But most of the time there are other ways. You do have other choices. You may need to take 2 or 3 or more minutes to calm your brain but you can do it. First ask yourself, what am I afraid of? Then ask yourself, is that really realistic? Try and see the day through your child’s eyes. Trust the God who says

“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end— Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you…That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you.” Isaiah 43:1-4

The God who loves you that much loves your kids that much too. You don’t have to control everything when he has it firmly in His hand.

If I could go back to that day, I would take that little guy off those bus steps, wrap him in my arms and love him, encourage him and hear what it was HE needed. I pray that if you are looking a similar face on these crazy days of back to school, you will.

Thank you for your grace.


My almost midlife crisis

Ok, so next month I am turning a significant decade older.  The number doesn’t bother me in terms of feeling “old.”  I’ll let you know when I feel old.  What it does mean to me is how fast time moves.  There were so many things I wanted to do before I entered the next decade.  A few years ago that seemed so far away and time was all I had.  One of the things I said I was going to do before my last milestone birthday was get a tattoo.  I didn’t get it done at that time for various reasons but I did really want one but I was waiting until I knew I had an idea that really meant something to me.  So today, in the middle of a normal week, I went to a tattoo shop and got one.  


It is a starfish. Why a starfish you may ask? The simple answer is “Duh, the ocean.” But that’s only a tiny, small part of it.  I have loved the ocean from the first time I saw the Pacific when I was in 3rd grade.  To have something from the ocean would be appropriate for me.  But my actual idea for this tattoo came from a most unexpected/Divine place.

I was sitting in church on Sunday morning.  The pastor is doing a series on Nehemiah.  I forgot how much I love that random, little book in the Old Testament.  Nehemiah was a man with a plan to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.  He had a holy passion and he brought all sorts of people on board his plan.  The pastor’s point was about having a holy discontentment.  About knowing something should be done and wondering why no one is doing anything.  It’s because God has placed whatever it is on your heart and you are the best one even when the task seems too big. 

I sat there and related to what he was saying.  I am a passionate person.  When I get a fire under me I have no brakes.  When I see a need I want to help,  I want to do SOMETHING.  But I get overwhelmed and I think I can’t save the world, I can’t do it all.   And I was reminded of a story.  Maybe you’ve heard it but hear it is:

The Starfish Story

A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”
The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,
“Well, I made a difference to that one!”
The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved. – adapted from the Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley
So being reminded of that story alone was enough for me to say to my husband when we got home, “I know what I want for a tattoo.”  
The other cool thing about starfish is when one of their legs break off they are made with the ability to regenerate a new one.  They don’t go through their life saying “Something horrible happened to me.  See I am missing a leg.”  No they end up whole again.  I think that’s cool.  I have been through stuff in my life and I thank God that he is a God of Restoration and He makes me whole again.
So that’s my tattoo story.  Do you have a tattoo?  What does it mean to you?  

It’s your birthday!!!

ImageAs a mom, I rarely feel like I do things “right”  especially in the celebration, person honoring, gift giving way.  I do a horrible job of planning for a birthday party because they sneak up on me even when I have a child who literally counts down the days for 4 weeks.

I just sat today feeling sorry for how horrible I was for not recognizing “properly” my older boys 6th or 8th grade “graduations”  or their 13th birthdays or whenever they say you should tell a boy he’s a man.  I don’t know how to do that and my husband says “It will be alright” like he always does.  I’m sure he’s right but I still have guilt.  If any one has any suggestions I am open to them.  I hope it’s not too late for my little boy-men.

Anyway, one thing I think I do right and I cling to it with everything because like I said, it’s rare, are a couple of birthday traditions.  The first you can see on the left and that is the decorating of the door the night before.  Its one of those things that the kids don’t make a big deal out of “Hey look at my door!  It’s so cool!” but if I didn’t they would notice.  It’s not the most creative but it’s fun and I have done it for as long as I can remember.  I have no idea why I started.  Probably read it on a blog once.  🙂

The other tradition is the birthday plate.  This one the kids cling too even though I tend to forget.  Sometime between their actual birthday and before the next child’s birthday, I am reminded to get it out because it’s their  turn.  When they have the birthday plate everyone in the family has to say something they like/love about the plate person of honor.  And trust me these aren’t always heartfelt sentiments.  I have 3 boys and only 1 girl.  Emotions and sweet words are not flowing in abundance.  They always hope I will cry when it’s my turn as I have done it once or twice.  I am an emotional being.  What can I say?

OK so these aren’t big things but they are consistent traditions and that’s what kids look forward too. These are the things that make each family unique.   How about you?   Do you have any birthday traditions??

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