A Beautiful Life

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It’s a lot like giving birth, this book releasing thing, like holding a newborn out to the waiting world and whispering, “Please love it?” Makes me a little queasy, if I’m completely honest, and I admit moments of wondering what in the world I was thinking taking this on. But I did, and here it is, and I really do hope you love it.

I’ve been writing my whole life, and it’s no secret that I have a particular passion for using words to build into people–especially other women–and offer them courage and hope. I’ve had bits and pieces of books written and stored for a long time, but it wasn’t until Brian Williams’ book writing class that the motivation and accountability teamed up with my love for writing and resulted in a finished work.

My first book. As I consider how many women have received it since it went live yesterday, the thought of that many people holding a me-shaped piece of hope is both terrifying and exhilarating at once. Deep down I am awed by God’s grace that I get to be a part of something this lovely, this inviting of others to remember what it was like to dream.

I won a writing contest in fifth grade, and from the moment I read my story aloud and saw the wonder on my classmates’ faces, I was hooked. With a million butterflies dancing around in my tummy, I was overcome by an excitement I couldn’t word. I had a feeling that was just the beginning, and I was right. There is no feeling quite like having someone walk up to me and say, “I read your book, and I love it! Thank you for being real on the page and putting it out here for all of us.” That happened this morning, and I’m pretty sure it will never get old.

So here’s my baby, and I offer it out to you, my sweet friend. Because it’s you I pictured sitting across the table from me as I wrote. You, with your questions and your exhaustion and your wondering if you can keep going one more single minute. You can, and I’m going to be here cheering you on. You aren’t alone, and don’t you forget it. We’re in this together, and I can’t wait to meet you on the page.

My heart to yours, I wish you an ever-increasingly beautiful life.

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When we whisper thanks into the whirlwind

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She graduated from high school on Friday and turned 18 on Saturday, then on Sunday spirited me out for a surprise Mother’s Day lunch at Piccadilly because she knew it was where my mother and I always went. She’s my baby-girl-become-woman, my soul friend who knows what my heartbeat sounds like from the inside.

I said goodbye to 25 years of homeschooling and 32 years of parenting children and turned hopeful eyes toward the years ahead as a mother of five adults. I am sad, and I am excited, and I am wistful.

Mostly, I am grateful.

Milestones are like that, if we can briefly sidestep the chaos and cacophony to be thankful for the beauty and meaning of the moment.

Friday I rushed around picking up the last of the party goods and made a rare purchase: a new blouse for me to wear to her ceremony. I smiled, recalling how often she has said things like, “Mom, buy it already! You never get anything new!” So I bought it already, and wore it happily. By evening I was running on pure adrenaline, grinning, snapping pictures like a madwoman, and cheering for my baby.

She crossed the stage like a supermodel in her shiny white cap and gown and pale pink tassel, never missing a step. Happiness was painted all over her face, surrounded by adoring family and friends and her sweetheart by her side. I thought my heart would burst.

I spent Saturday cooking while she and friends celebrated at the beach. I had asked for a list of her favorite foods, and I was determined to make sure I didn’t miss anything. My feet protested the extra work as I bounced from kitchen island to stove to sink and back again, but my heart was busy pondering it all while my hands kneaded dough and braided Stromboli.

Events like these give us perfect opportunities to think deeply and breathe gratitude, even among the noise and hard work and achy limbs. I whispered thanks for a million little things I kept recalling as I worked, frequently gazing across to the “18” she’d formed in photos on the front door and marveling at the growth of our sweet little baby who is now a beautiful young woman. I couldn’t have felt prouder.

Mother’s Day dawned with church and then my surprise Mother-Daughter lunch followed up by a stop at Barnes and Noble to browse books and sip Frappuccinos—two of my favorite things. The grandparents and the boys and their families joined us in the evening for the wildest game of Apples to Apples in family history. More moments to ponder in my heart.

Today I spend reliving it all through photos and recalled memories. We will talk often of these things in the days to come, thanking God for such a wonderful whirlwind weekend. My body is sore but my heart is full, and I struggle to word this gratitude I feel.

I pray this same grateful, hopeful joy for you.

 

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A Write Where It Hurts Column Post

Teacher Appreciation for the “Other” Teachers

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I see you, Mama. I see you with your kids all around you, each with a different learning style, each with an only-for-mama smile and needs no one can fill like you can.

I see your baggy eyes and droopy shirt, hair you haven’t had time to wash this week because, well, you just haven’t had a moment to yourself.

But I also see the fierce determination in your eyes, that resolve to teach your own because you know nobody else could fill that spot quite the way you do. You know you were called to this, and it’s sacred ground that holds you and all those little ears hearing you read.

You probably won’t get a certificate today, or flowers, or a sappy greeting card. If you’re going to get an apple, you’ll probably have to wrestle it from the toddler climbing into the crisper. You probably won’t even get a “Happy Teacher Appreciation Day!” on your Facebook wall.

Because Teacher Appreciation Day is for “real” teachers.

But Mama, I’m here to tell you that they don’t come any more real than you.

You don’t get to change hats from Mama to Teacher to Nurse to Coach to Chauffeur and back again. No, you are all those things at once.

In fact, in my book you’re pretty much a rock star.

So you keep reading, and helping little fingers form letters, and checking math problems. And you keep doing all that while nursing a baby and cooking supper and wiping out fridge shelves for the eighth time in a single day. You keep doing what you do, and you keep rocking at it.

There’s something I want to tell you from the 25-year side of homeschooling. You probably aren’t going to be patted on the back very often for doing what you do. But believe me when I say there will be rewards you can’t possibly fathom on the other side of licking jelly off the white board. More than you can imagine.

There aren’t awards made for what you do. Because there can’t be.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day, homeschooling mama. May your children, and everyone else, rise up and call you blessed.

When they tell you to “just wait” and you are still just waiting

I was inspired by a post at Busy Homeschool Mom to write about things we were told about our children–prophesies of sorts spoken over them by probably-well-intentioned people who perhaps just wanted to sound wise. Or maybe that is what they knew and couldn’t imagine outside it. I’d like to think they were trying to be helpful, although I am an optimist by nature and tend to believe people have good motives.

Sadly, I’m sure there were a few who really did just want to tear us down.

“You are too strict with the boys. They listen to you now, but just wait till they are older. Once they are out of your house they will go crazy.”

They are now 32, 27, 22 (next month) and 20 (next week), and I’m still waiting for the immature, erratic behavior. The I-hate-you-for-over-restricting-me wildness they predicted. They adore one another and us, and are mature and responsible. Three are married and two are dads, and one is engaged (as of two days ago!). I’m happy to continue to wait for the madness.

“Just wait. She’ll rebel, all right. You lucked out with the boys. Girls are different.”

She’ll be 18 in May, and she is one of the most level-headed, sensible, wise, drama-free girls I have ever known. She is my heartbeat and my best girlfriend. She’s making me wait a very long time for her to become a wild child. I’m okay with that.

The truth is, nobody knew what they were talking about. We weren’t there yet so we couldn’t say with assurance that they would be all right. In my weaker moments I let myself wonder if I could just be that naive and if I could just be deluding myself. My heart knew the truth. Our children were not rebels waiting to happen.

As the years passed and these milestones of mayhem failed to happen as predicted, I began to relax more and more. I even developed humorous answers to such predictions. Eventually they stopped coming at all–especially as they kept growing up, one by one, to be wonderful.

Today, what I tell parents is to expect the very best of their children. Raise them like you expect them to be amazing people. Odds are, that is exactly what they will do.

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