The Story of Henry . . .

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It was the week after Christmas in 2002 – we were living in our first little house and settling into a sweet little life in Nashville, TN with our dog Sadie.  Sadie had found us in May.  She was dumped in our neighborhood and we found her sitting on the side of the road wagging her tail and “smiling” at us.  She was the perfect, high-strung addition to our life.

But we worked a lot and felt sad that she spent her days alone.  We began talking about another dog.  Just talking.  No plans.

Until I took a trip to grab some treats for Sadie at the Petco down the street.  They were having ASPCA pet adoptions.

Henry was there.

I called Gerron and told him to bring Sadie because there was a puppy she needed to meet.  And magic happened.

Sadie walked up to Henry’s cage and that little furball didn’t bark or scramble around in the cage or act crazy.  He simply put his paw up against the cage as if to say, “I’ll be your friend.”

We haven’t looked back since.

Henry was a returned Christmas gift from a family who had given him to their kids for Christmas. But the kids weren’t ready, I guess. And the parents couldn’t deal with the whining (that puppies do).  So, they took him to the shelter because he was too “high maintenance”.

Those who have met Henry know he is the exact opposite of high maintenance.  He has spent the majority of his life lying on the couch – and can’t wait to come back in from just a quick trip to the back yard.  He is a big ol’ snugglebug and would happily jump into bed with us so we could spoon him.  

As a puppy, he would sleep on my chest and if he hadn’t been 75 pounds for most of his life, he’d probably still sleep there.  And his right ear would stand straight up while the left one flopped down.  Cutest thing ever.

He has spent countless hours in the backseat of the car as we moved him from Nashville to New York to North Carolina to Nashville to Texas.  He has escaped from the house with his partner in crime (Sadie) too many times, only to stop in his tracks because he. was. done.  He has loved our babies and would let them sit on him, pull his tail and be louder around him than he would like.  No matter what, he would take it without complaint.  Moving, babies, schedules changing, lives changing . . . he has taken it all in stride.

We found out this week that our sweet big boy has lymphoma – a fast spreading cancer of the lymph nodes.  We are treating him with prednisone, but we know his time with us is very limited so we’re doing whatever we can to spoil him.  Our 75 pound hunk of love has lost 20 pounds and just looks tired.  But sweet and snuggly as ever.

I wish every person in the world could have a dog like our Henry.  I feel so lucky that he’s been ours all these years.  

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Soul Food . . .

Right now I’m in Connecticut – on the campus of a boarding school the likes of Hogwarts – on top of a mountain (kind of).  It’s absolutely breathtaking.

But the most beautiful thing I’ve seen on this trip is my friend Tonia and her sweet family.

We joke that we are “soul mates” and have joked about it for years.  But with 5 years in between visits, it was very clear that when we are sitting across the table from each other, it’s just right.  Whatever else you want to call it is fine, but it’s simply right. She feeds my soul.

Sometimes we’re lucky enough to have situations in life that just feel right.  No other way to describe it. Whether it’s a person to love or a job or just a decision.  Sometimes it’s just right.  

Sometimes things are just . . . well . . . wrong.

But I think we tend to live most of our lives in between.  In the middle.  Sometimes stuck.  Many times waiting for clarity for the next step.  Perhaps so fearful of stepping into wrong that we don’t  step into the right.

I’m 38 years old and there is a LOT of right in my life.  Can’t think of anything that’s really wrong in my life.  But honestly there is a lot of in between.  

After sitting with my friend I realized something, though.  The more I feed my soul with people who encourage me, feed my soul with the things that I put into my heart and mind, and feed my soul with taking time to breathe, think, create, dream . . . well, more clarity comes.  Less deliberating, more direction.  Less limbo, more liberation.  

So, my question to you is . . . what is your soul food?

What speaks life into your mundane?  What gives you courage?  What unleashes your imagination?  What calls you to action, change, movement? 

Whatever it is, I hope you pay attention to it.  Feed your soul with it.  And find that you are “right” where you are supposed to be  . . . or at least on your way.

Good Grief . . .

I was told once that you experience grief in waves.  You never know when you will be overcome with emotion when you have experienced a death or horrible news.  It hits at the most inopportune times – in the grocery store, driving down the road, sitting at your computer at work.  

Let’s be honest, it sucks.

Having a reason to grieve absolutely sucks.

In May of 2005, I did not handle grief very well.  I shut down.  For several months I was stuck in the anger and sadness and couldn’t move past.  I didn’t want to move past – I felt like it would be an injustice to the child we lost.  

What I found during that time is that friends and family held me up with their presence.  (Granted, there might have been a few people during that process who said the most infuriating things that one should never hear when they are grieving – but that’s for another post.)  I found that the ones who simply let me cry and listened to me – even though it was probably difficult to understand my words through the sobs – modeled God’s presence for me. 

What I saw was the very best of people of faith.  Those who expressed their love for me in very practical ways – not cliches.  What I felt was the presence of God through them when I struggled to experience it for myself. These friends walked beside me and showed me that God was walking with me through my pain.

I was finally able to function again, though the grief still hit me hard at times.  In fact, even almost 8 years later it will come back.

Grief sucks.  But at some point in all our lives we will all experience it.  Some worse than others.

Sweet Jeremy Adkins lost his amazing wife last week.  A beautiful mother to 5 gorgeous girls.  The road they are walking is one of the most difficult imaginable – a road that simply hurts to even fathom.  

And yet . . .

What I’m seeing is the very best of people of faith.  A church that has come alongside this family to provide for them in very practical ways.  A community of friends and strangers who have contributed to a fund for the girls’ education.  People who are led by a compassion bigger than themselves to act.

But, what is most striking is how Jeremy is walking this path of intense grief.

Somehow he is able to encourage others through his grief.  He is able to give perspective and remind those who are following the story that none of us are guaranteed an extra day on this earth – that we should make the most of the time we have with those we love.  It is clear that he is heartbroken, and yet he is giving us all a lesson of the good of grief.

Compassion, empathy, authenticity, kindness, gentleness . . . these are the good things that, as I have experienced, can come from grief.  I believe, wholeheartedly, that it’s those qualities that can change the world.

Jeremy, in your grief you are changing the world.  You are showing people the character of God in the midst of your pain – and I’m grateful for you.   

 

 

 

On the market . . .

As of tonight, our house will officially be on the market.

I’m happy.  I’m sad.  Wait, I’m happy.  Wait, no, not so much.

Mixed emotions here, I suppose.

There are many things about this move that I am already grieving.  So many of my friends are here in Nashville – and I have loved that our kids have spent the last 4 years together.  I actually really like my job here – and though I’m hoping that I will not have to work full-time in Houston, I have really enjoyed doing the work I have done.  Family is not too far away from here.  And Disney World is 4 hours closer to Nashville than it is to Houston.  We love our church.  We love that we randomly run into people here that we haven’t seen in years – because, well, it’s Nashville.  It’s kind of like a big hometown.  I’m also sad that our girls will be leaving their best friends.  That’s the hardest part of all.

But, I’m excited for a new adventure.  I’m excited to be in a place where Gerron can serve full-time in the church.  I’m excited for the chance to live in Texas – we’ve always talked about living there.  I’m excited for milder winters.  I’m excited to take the kids to some really cool places.  I’m excited to live near some friends that we love dearly.

So many unknowns.

We’re just taking it a step at a time.

Now that the house is on the market, we thought that the only thing left to do was . . . go to DISNEY!  We just looked at each other the other day and said, “let’s just go.”  And so we booked the hotel and here we go!

Interestingly enough (not that it will happen this time) – the past two houses we have sold have sold while we were at Disney World.  Who knows . . . maybe it’ll be our good luck charm again.

Or, should we say, maybe we’ll experience some Disney magic.

 

Cleaning house . . .

Yesterday was cleaning day.  And boy, was that discouraging.

I am probably the most disorganized person on the planet, and cleaning my house yesterday helped solidify that fact.  I mean, you would think that with the number of times we’ve moved we would have purged some things at some point.

The closet.  Oh dear heavens.  The closet.

It seemed like every few inches of cleaning brought another box of stuff we had just thrown stuff in – postcards, theater programs (we saw Tom Cavanaugh from Ed in Urinetown when we lived in NY), cell phone chargers from many phones, mixed tapes from college, old checkbooks from before we were married (um, we’ve been married for 12 years), receipts from Starbucks – from 5 years ago, etc.  This is not because we are hoarders and feel like we NEED these things.  It’s because we are extraordinarily lazy.

The number of bags taken to either Goodwill or the trashcan out of just the closet – well, it’s just so hard to believe that we have anything left in there.

I will say, though, that the act of going through those things and throwing them away felt good.  Freeing.

It made me want to throw everything away.  And I just might because right now the upstairs of our home is so peaceful.  So much of the clutter is gone.

We have a lot to do still.  And I’ll post photos soon.  We’re praying that the right buyer will come along sooner than later and that we will all be able to be together in Houston soon.

Another journey begins . . .

Several months ago, my sweet husband was laid off.  After the initial disappointment and fear, we chose to see it as an opportunity.

Since we have been married, he has moved all over creation to help me pursue my dreams.  He has uprooted himself, even when he wasn’t terribly excited about it, and put his dreams on hold.  You see, he has always dreamed of being in full-time ministry.

Granted, we have been able to experience some of the BEST churches on the planet because we were willing to be bi-vocational.  Had he not been bi-vocational, we wouldn’t be able to currently be at Blakemore Nazarene – one of the most wonderful churches we’ve ever experienced.

But the dream of being able to do what he loves full-time has always been like a tag in the back of your shirt – not terribly annoying, but enough to make you itch.

I have to be honest – I’ve probably been the one holding him back from it in more ways than one.  You see, I am very protective of him.  And I know that many good-intentioned church people are some of the most opinionated and mean folks out there.  So I’ve hesitated and stalled and let fear get the better of me.

Well,  back to the present day.

Gerron was laid off.  And we just decided that if he was going to look for a job, he might as well pursue the dream.  We committed to pursuing ministry full-time.

No kidding, in the first couple of weeks after we made that decision, six churches called.  Maybe more.  After a while we just started laughing about it because nobody had been calling prior to that.

After a series of interviews and church visits – a lot of prayer and thinking – a lot of being completely overwhelmed – he accepted a position.

Um, yeah . . . in HOUSTON!

So, over the next few months we will be moving our family to a new city.  A LOT further away from family than we thought we’d ever move.  A LOT further away from Disney World than we ever thought we’d live (yes, this was a factor).  And into a position that my worship-pastor husband probably didn’t think he would ever take.

He’s going to be a Children’s Pastor.  And we’re very excited about it.

I am going to try to blog about our crazy experience over these months – so stay tuned.  We’re going to have to sell our house in the middle of the time when our oldest is starting Kindergarten.  He will move on ahead of us while we try to sell and get somewhat settled down there.  I’ll continue to work and keep the girls with me.  We have to FIND a place to live down there, possibly with me being here.  We’re going to have to say more goodbyes than we’d ever like to.  Ugh, and we’re going to have to smell cardboard boxes and packing tape again.

It’s going to be tough.

But it’s going to be worth it.

 

On perfectionism . . .

My daughter is 5.  And already I can see the elder child tendencies beginning.

She has very high expectations of herself.

The colors cannot go outside of the lines.  The paper cannot be wrinkled.  Heaven forbid if the markers bleed through to the next page.  In her frustration she tenses up and screams, “It’s not good!!”

And she’s incredibly sensitive.

So, when she gets in trouble, I hear her say to herself, “I can’t be good” or “I’m a bad girl”.  Which absolutely tears my heart out.

Because, let me tell you, she is a very, very good girl.  So good that I can’t believe she’s related to me.

Good.

I hear my sweet girl say that she can’t be good – and what she means is that she can’t be perfect.  She can’t help herself from doing those things she knows she shouldn’t do.  She is so hard on herself – just can’t give herself a break – can’t give herself a little bit of grace.

She’s 5, mind you.

As a mom, I beat myself up that I don’t feed my girls all the right things.  That I can’t stay on top of the laundry.  That I don’t know how to decorate my house like people do in magazines.  I fully expect to be able to work a full-time job, come home and spend hours on end playing and laughing with my children while cooking a meal that Martha would be proud of while folding underwear and scrubbing the toilets.  I’m not kidding, I expect myself to be able to do that.

When Emma colors outside of the lines and gets upset, I  tell her, “it’s okay to color outside of the lines, it doesn’t have to be perfect – in fact, I really love all the colors you chose.”

When she makes a bad choice and is angry with herself I tell her that she’s a very good girl.  And that she can learn and make better choices next time.

She doesn’t get it.  And apparently, neither do I.

Several months ago, I wrote a post called, “If you were my kid . . . ”

I guess I could call this one, “If I were my kid . . . ”

And I would say . . .

If I were my kid, I’d tell me that it’s okay to color outside of the lines.  That the laundry will pile up sometimes and make me feel like a crazy person – but that at the end of the day it’s better that I spent 30 minutes snuggling with my girls on the couch than sorting socks.  I would tell me that it’s okay that they ate chicken nuggets again.  Or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich again.  Or even hot dogs.  Or mac & cheese.  (Okay, so maybe that’s an area I need to work on a little harder.)

If I were my kid, I would tell me that I cannot do it all.  And I don’t have to.  And that no one is expecting me to do it all – no one except myself.  So, get over it.

Life won’t be perfect.

I won’t look like Heather Locklear when I’m 50.

My house won’t look like it just had a photo shoot from Southern Living.

And that’s okay.  Because I love my life.  I love my beautiful, smart, imperfect children.  And I love my talented, handsome, amazing, imperfect husband.

And today, I might just give myself permission to accept my imperfect self.  And hopefully that will rub off on my kids.