Sweeter Than Chocolate

I have a serious chocolate habit.  Milk, dark, extra dark, milky ways, and snickers galore.  Hershey bars and peanut butter cups, yes please.  When I am feeling sad, lonely, or even just bored I eagerly search for whatever chocolate I have on hand.  Entering God’s presence: is even better than the chocolate I so adore.  I grab my worship music, I press play, and I am transported to this “space” where time and reality do not mix.  I have 3 boys ((2 of whom still live at home)), 1 is a teenager and 1 thinks he’s grown so there is usually a lot of noise going on around me.  It is hard to find those 5 minutes of peace where I can just “be”.  Be in the presence of God, surrounded by His warmth and light, totally immersed.  Once I reach that “space” ((and I use “space” because I don’t know another way of putting it)) everything around me fades.  I hear no noises, smell no smells, see anything, nothing, except a tidal wave of emotion usually followed by a deep cathartic peace.  In the past, that peace seemed to come and go from me and I would have to go searching for it.  Since I got called to starting Faith Like Mary ministry, I find that peace easier ((although some days it is still a challenge for me)).  I get on the computer and the keys start flying and before I realize there’s a story there.  It’s sometimes sad, maybe funny, I never know.  Because I am in that “space” with my Lord, and that is much sweeter than any chocolate I could ever eat.

Almost There

My insides are torn apart,

There are shards inside my heart.

How much grief can I bear?

Just a little more, you’re almost there.

This agony cuts deep,

I feel as if my soul is asleep.

Is there more, I fear?

Just a little more, you’re almost there.

No, Lord, please let me rest awhile.

I cannot step another mile.

I must stop here.

Just a little more, you’re almost there.

Finding Your Song in the Rain

As we get ready to say good-bye to 2020, I am sitting here and reflecting on this past year.  The world as I knew it for 36 years changed with these words “it’s the Covid-19 pandemic”.  Businesses were closed ((some permanently)), gatherings were frowned on ((no matter the cause)), friends and loved ones were lost ((either to Covid-19 or for other reasons)).  Some of us found ourselves employed with a company where doors were shut but we remained hopeful that they would swing wide and we would be able to return to work.  Others had to go find work elsewhere or collect unemployment and pray for the rest.  Suddenly, going into a store without a mask on became pretty much illegal.  Curfews were put in place.  The life that we had known was now gone and we were faced with newer and scarier challenges.  At the beginning of 2020 for me, I went back to Friendly’s Restaurant.  I worked hard and was promoted to head server just before the shut-down.  Dad’s eyesight was steadily declining but overall was in okay health and Mommy was just being Mommy holding us altogether, loving us, supporting us, and whooping us if we got out of line.  Then, I found myself stuck at home with no idea of the coming weeks ahead.  At first, I relished the time off and spending time with my boys and Will.  Then it got to be “okay, this was fun, but I am bored and not contributing to the household income”.  The days rolled on, each one like the day before.

Then, the call came that would start a total shakedown of my life, heart, and soul.  Mommy had said Dad was not doing well and he kept falling.  We decided Eli would go sleep at Gram’s, just in case, and sure enough, Dad fell for the fourth time in twenty-four hours.  Off to the hospital he was taken where tests were run, and it was determined he had hit his head during one of these falls and it caused a minor brain bleed and mini strokes.  We watched, we waited, we prayed, we cried, and we pressed close to God and our family.  We signed the hospice paperwork and prepared to say goodbye.  Then, another phone call and glory be, Dad was just fine, and he should make a full recovery.  Of course, Mommy and I had our doubts, but I ran to the hospital…to find Dad just laying there in bed and I thought his doctor was nuts, insane, or both.  Then physical therapy came and sat him in a chair, and he seemed like Dad himself ((and he ate lunch)).  I was so happy; I ran from the hospital ((maybe about 3-4 miles)) dancing and singing while calling everyone I knew to praise and share the blessed news.  The next day, Dad was sent off to rehab and we started to make plans for when he came home.  Then another phone call ((I really hated my phone by this point)).  It was the rehab center telling us that Dad had a fever and was not eating or drinking so back to the hospital we went, and it was decided to put hospice care back into play.  My Dad came home to his house with my Mommy on a Saturday afternoon, and went home to be with Jesus on an early, bright, sunny, beautiful Sunday morning.  We had just barely gotten through Dad’s funeral when we received word that two of our cousin’s had gone.  Death was surely done with us as it had claimed three precious lives, right? Sadly, that was not the case. 

My two eldest boys ironically had the same teacher in elementary school ((at different schools)).  She taught Liam at Lincoln Street and Tobs at Grafton Street.  More than that, she became a friend of mine and her stepdaughter became best friends with Tobs.  We got the message mid-August that she had lost her fight with breast cancer.  At this point, I was searching in vain for answers to questions I had no words to form.  God knew my anguish ((He still does)).  I was sure that death was done claiming the people I loved ((at least for this year)).  This morning I woke to find that my beloved adopted mom “Ma” had joined the others and had gone onto Heaven.  My heart is so full of sadness, grief, and love right now.  She helped to raise me alongside my parents and her girls were pretty much my sisters growing up.  I owe her for my life, and I cannot repay all that she has done for me. 

The year has not been all sadness and gloom.  I made some very dear online friends who have been my lifeline while stuck at home.  We are a small, tightknit group from all over the country and they are beyond a blessing to me.  I landed a job with a tax office ((all those years at Salter finally paid off)) and I start next week.  Sometime after the death of my father, I started the Faith Like Mary Facebook page, blog, and store.  I am compiling the blog posts into a book that I pray to have finished by this time next year.  I have gotten to form memories with my boys and spend lots of time with them.  Will and I spend as much time together as we can when he is not at work but is always reachable by text if I need him. 

I have no idea what God is in store for me and my family in the coming year, but I know we are saying goodbye gratefully and hello thankfully.  We will continue praying, laughing, singing, crying, and making memories with our boys.  We will celebrate and we will mourn.  Mostly, I pray to draw closer to God and I pray that you find your song even in the rain

A Mother’s Warmth

When I was a little girl, I believed in magic.  I don’t mean a magician’s magic ((although that is awesome)).  I’m talking the mystical magic where things happen for unexplained reasons.  My mommy had this beautiful fur coat and to me that coat was magic.  She would wear it on those bitterly cold days to the bus stop then snuggle up me and Alex underneath close to her so all you saw was a woman with three pairs of legs…what a sight we must have made!  I can remember trying to sneak into her room and snuggle with it whenever I felt cold at home…and I get cold a LOT.  As time went on the coat seemed to drift further away but always lingered in my memory.  Then it was completely forgotten.  Was it really the coat that made Mommy’s hugs so full of love and warmth?

Then I was removed from my home for about a month ((thank you government)).  Upon seeing my mother’s face, I flew down the halls of the courthouse and into her waiting arms and together we cried and clung to each other, like someone tossed overboard clings to a life preserver, and it dawned on me that it was not the coat at all…it was the love and warmth of her and her alone.  My second favorite place in the world ((sorry Mom)) is in her arms ((Will’s come first now)).

I have not thought about that coat in years.  I have no idea what ever happened to that coat.  I like to think that I outgrew the “magic” of that coat and it passed itself along to another little girl who needed to believe in magic until she herself could understand that the greatest magic of all, is love.

Christmas Day

Tonight, is Christmas Eve and I am snuggled up in my favorite pajamas, watching the Nativity Story, peeking, at the clock, and waiting for bedtime, so I can send at least the youngest off to dreamland before I begin wrapping the gifts and stuffing the stockings.  Although there is not much this year, we have love, peace, and hope for tomorrow.  There is an ache in my heart as always because Alex is celebrating in heaven but this year the ache runs deeper as it is the first Christmas in 37 years without my Father.  I know we will be visiting family over the course of the next couple of days as it is also my brother Steve’s birthday ((2 days after Christmas)).  A lot of us are missing friends and loved ones this year and from years past that have gone on home.  My Godmother, bless her, made the best apple pie and I surely miss them this time of year.  Alex always had a trick or prank up his sleeve and Dad would have a camera plastered to his face pretty much the second we walked in the door.  This Christmas, as you celebrate with loved ones, please, remember the ones that have crossed through the pearly gates.  Speak their name, share the memories you have, feel the love they left behind and share that love with us, those left behind and grieving.  That is truly the best gift I could ask of anyone.

A Letter of Hope

Dearest Ma,
As I sit here the night before Christmas Eve, your girls, my sisters by heart, tell me that you are sick and not doing well. I send these words of love and peace and warmth to you on this December night. The memories of our lives together and what you have done for me have been flooding my soul since I heard the news. I am so deeply sorry we lost touch over the years, but knowing you, you are always nearby watching even when I don’t know it. I can remember as a small girl, you always dug out the truth, no matter the pain it caused because a little pain was better than a lifetime of regret. You have a heart of gold like no other and stood beside me and Mommy during some of our darkest days. You were our guiding light, especially in my teenage years. You have always been a firm hand, a safe place, and for that I am truly grateful. I really believe that had you and your girls not been a part of my life, I would not be the woman I am today. Thank you for standing beside me on my wedding day and helping my parents give me away. As their baby, I’m sure my Mommy was wreck ((even though she tried to hide it)). And oh, the funny times we had too. You were sitting on my couch snuggling sweet Toby in your arms ((he’s 14 and about 6 foot tall now)) and threatening to smuggle him home with you ((good luck trying it now)). Giving us money for the candy store then getting mad because we bought you two candy as well as us. Knowing exactly how much to tickle and when we needed a good belly laugh. Liam is 18 now and all grown-up. He’s a fine, young man who I am sure will do great things with his life soon. Then there is Eli. He is 9 and sassy and funny and silly and very stubborn and opinionated. He’s like me and Alex wrapped up in one amazing boy ((who drives me bonkers)). I used to think you and Mommy were so mean and so tough and you were just nutty with your rules of do’s and don’ts.
Then I had the boys and Lord help me if I didn’t hear you or my mother ((and sometimes both of you)) come out my mouth and I had to stop myself and think “dang it…they were right…again…” and I chuckle and shake my head at how foolish we were and yet you both still loved us unconditionally. I am so very blessed to have you in my life and I thank you for it, even when I don’t show it. Please, please keep fighting.
143 ♥

Dad

He was my whole world when I was small,
I became his whole world as I grew tall.
He held my hand for as long as he could have.
I let go long before I should have.
He was my knight and I, his princess.
He stood firm and strong,
To him, I could do no wrong.
He was my safe space,
And my warm embrace.
He held my heart until it was time,
For a man to say, “she is now mine”.
Now, he flies with the angels,
While I try to dangle.
My world seems colder
And I feel a bit older.
He is my north star
He is forever in my heart ♥

Dare to be Different

These past few weeks I have been locked away in my own world and just trying to figure out this Christmas.  I focused on my training for my new job, remote-schooled the boys for the 1001 day.  Begrudgingly cleaned and decorated for Christmas.  All the while storming about and dreading my first Christmas without my beloved Dad.

Last night, I shut away the world after a long day of shopping with Mommy and the tree and the mantle and the house is finally all ready for Christmas Day.  Then I snuggled down with Eli ((our 9-year-old)) and he and I watched some Christmas movies together.  We started with Jim Carrey’s, The Grinch, then segued into Rudolph.  After Rudolph I sent Eli off to dreamland and snuggled down with Will and we watched his favorite Christmas musical, Albert Finney’s, Scrooge then I drifted off watching Tim Allen’s, Santa Clause.  What a busy, blessed, Christmassy Saturday.

While watching Rudolph, as I have been doing for as long as I can remember, I started to remember a lot of Christmas’ past and it was beautiful and wonderful.  I do not remember the gifts; I remember the love and the peace and the magic of playing in the snow in the moon light.

I got to thinking about how much the world has changed since then and how just about everything is deemed offensive today and I remembered seeing articles about pulling Rudolph from the air since it “promotes bullying”.  But there is so much more to Rudolph than bullying.  There is Clarice, Rudolph’s doe.  When she first met him, she saw past what others considered a “deformity” and saw his spirit.  She saw his love, bravery, and strength.  She saw his compassion and his grace. 

Rudolph did not like being labeled a misfit and ran away from home.  Along his travels he met Yukon Cornelius and Herbie the Dentist Elf.  These three bonded and became friends.  Rudolph, with his red nose, Yukon with his obsession of finding silver and gold, and Herbie the Elf who wanted to be a dentist.  Three who had nothing in common except standing out from the crowd.  Together they wound up at the Island of Misfit Toys.  After that they eventually made their way back and saved the day then Santa flew off and stopped at the Island of Misfit Toys.  My favorite line during that scene is from Charlie in the Box who says that a toy is not properly loved until it is loved by a child.

This resonated deep in my soul and I got to thinking about The Island of Misfits we have in our own backyards.  Those would be the foster kids, of whom I was one for a brief period.  While I was provided for, I was not loved.  I was only there for about a month.  During my stay, I was not allowed to see my mother, but I could visit Dad and he dutifully picked me up and made sure I was in youth group every Wednesday night and Mom had the Holland’s in her corner fighting together to bring me home.  At the foster home, I was repeatedly dropped off at the local pool ((this happened mid-July to about mid-August the summer I was fourteen)).  I was left there with a foster sister from about 9 A.M. to about 6 P.M.  I was a very fair-skinned teen and wound up with first and second degree burns all over my body and fever blisters above my upper lip.  Dad said I was a brighter red than Santa’s suit and instead of youth group, he took me to the hospital and sat by my side anxiously awaiting what the doctors would say and the days that would follow.  Because I was in the foster home, there were set rules and because Dad took me to the hospital instead of church, our visits were now prohibited, and I was cut off from everyone except one social worker.  Finally, Mommy and I were reunited, and life began to right itself again.  Today, I have dry, flaky skin on my forehead that never goes away and is a constant reminder of my time on the Island of Misfits. 

I say that foster kids are an island of misfits not to be racist, but to shed light on the unwanted and unloved of the world.  I realize they are children and not toys, but I would like to paraphrase my buddy Charlie, “no little girl or boy is properly loved until he or she is loved by a Parent”.

Then, we get to Rudolph himself.  He eventually realized his “deformity” was, in fact, a blessing to others because he led Santa’s sleigh that night and rescued the toys and saved Christmas.  He took what he was given and used it to change the life of one little girl forever ((as I am sure he has done for millions of other children across the globe)).  He showed me that standing apart from the crowd is way cooler than being a part of the “in-crowd”.  I have a lifetime of precious memories because of Rudolph and now I get to make new memories with my boys from an old movie full of love, courage, strength, and uniqueness ♥

Finding My Peace in the Storm

Today started out exceptionally well.  And boy was I light-hearted.  I woke feeling totally refreshed.  Got the boys up without too much of a struggle for remote school ((again)).  Dad and I ran some errands then I had a work meeting ((virtually)) while he scooted out the door to work.  After my meeting was done, I dug out my flute.  And it dawned on me that today is the very first day I had picked up my flute since my father’s funeral five months ago.  Obviously, I started with the Christmas carols.  I started feeling the nudges I get when I am feeling the call to write.  But nothing came to mind.  Flute practice now done, I dutifully threw on Christmas carols and did a bit of housework and a teensy bit of decorating ((finally)).  While doing all that I was also doing laundry ((Momming for the win today)).  Once I decided to rest my bones I figured “okay, now the words will flow” and nope, once again, crickets.  So, I dug into my music because usually that helps.  Instead, it brought me to fat, ugly, cannot breathe, feeling like I am going to be sick, tears. After about an hour I signed onto a chit site that I used and connected with my “online tribe” of warriors and they rallied around me and finally the words started flowing like magic once more.

Today, it is more important than ever to have a support system ((even virtually)).  This small group has been with me since Dad got sick at the end of June.  And I love them dearly and we have never even met.  The Bible says wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am also.  I have one friend who I know shares my faith, April.  And when I get in “my ways” and I cannot get out, I know I can turn to her and together she pulls me out and up.  I am so beyond blessed to have her as a sister in the Lord.

Soon, it will be bedtime for this tired Mommy and I for one, am looking forward to my pillow and to not having to set an alarm for the morning ((hallelujah Saturdays)).  Draw close to believers, they will draw you closer to God.