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I sat in the grass with Olivia’s dog,

waiting for her soccer scrimmage to begin.

Tiny sweat bees danced around my legs and a warm breeze blew through my hair.

It was quiet here, just below the sport’s fields on OCU’s campus,

and I was thankful for a few minutes to simply soak in the moment.

That’s when I noticed the softball, like a forgotten Easter egg, hiding in the grass nearby.

I wondered how long it had been here,

tucked away from sight,

and I wondered how it had arrived.

A foul ball?

A home run?

A missed catch?

Whatever the reason,

this bright yellow softball caught my eye;

and as I placed my phone deep into the blades of grass to snap a picture,

I realized that from the right angle this once-hidden piece of sports equipment quickly became a large and daunting part of the landscape in front of me.

Perspective really does change everything.

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If you’ve ever battled depression or deep sadness,

you understand the struggle to keep a healthy perspective.

Little things seem so big when you’re straining to see through blades of grass strategically blocking your view of the open sky.

Depression feels a lot like looking at life from a laying – down position.

I’ve walked through life with this enemy holding my hand for many years.

It’s hard to let go of something that clings so tightly.

It’s also easy to feel less than godly when you know you should be filled with joy because of all that God has done for you,

yet there seems to be a dark cloud looming right on top of your heart many days.

My husband compares me to Jeremiah, the prophet that seemed to be called to a life of weeping;

and I’m learning to embrace this calling as I work with women who have so many reasons to feel incredibly broken and sad.

Life is tough,

and I never want anyone to feel as if their tears are unnoticed, insignificant, or unnecessary.

God created each one of them, after all, and He cares enough to store them in a bottle.

You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.

Psalm 56:8

When I’m especially sad, I love to remember that the Bible promises,

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18

I don’t know what you’re facing in your life today,

but I do know this:

If you’re feeling sad or overwhelmed or confused or at the end of your rope,

you are not alone.

If all you can see in front of you is one huge yellow softball that to the rest of the world seems small and hidden,

you are not alone.

If your view of the beautiful blue sky is blurred by waving blades of grass,

you are not alone.

I believe that in our seasons of face-to-the-ground sadness,

God is working in ways He coulg never work while we’re enjoying a mountaintop experience.

The valleys in life have a very special purpose,

and I love how the Israelites chose to walk through them…………………………….

As they pass through the Valley of Baka (or Valley of Weeping),

they make it a place of springs;

the autumn rains also cover it with pools.

Psalm 84:6

Today, if you find yourself feeling blue,

consider making your tears into a place of springs.

Find reasons to embrace your sadness,

and ask God what He’s teaching you as you faithfully walk through the valley.

Allow Him to lift you above the things that seem so overwhelming;

but until He does,

learn what you can from the yellow softball right in front of you.

Why is it there?

What is it saying to you?

Allow the thing that overwhelms you to become your teacher rather than your master.

Enjoy the view no matter the angle.

Perspective really does change everything.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above,

where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Colossians 3:1-2

trophy pile two

 

trophy pile two

The attic seemed to be calling their names.

Covered in dust and rarely discussed,

these symbols of victory (or at least participation)

seemed to have served their purpose in our family’s story.

___________________

But when my husband heard my plan,

he vetoed it with two sweet and heartfelt sentences,

“You can’t do that. I look at those trophies every time I walk by.”

I could see the sentiment in his eyes as he looked toward the dusty shelf,

and as I sat down to tackle the project in front of me,

I began to feel the sentiment myself.

Lifting the awards and plaques one by one,

I saw so much more than gold-covered plastic and rusty brass nameplates.

I saw years ranging from 1991 to 2016 —-

years filled with

uniform-washing

car-pooling

lawn-chair sitting

sideline coaching

concession-stand working

sweat

mud

laughter

tears

umbrellas

coats, gloves, and hats

snacks for the whole team

baby blankets spread with cheerios and toys to keep younger siblings entertained

used cleats but very rarely new ones

baseball bats

soccer balls

tennis rackets

golf clubs

softball gloves

basketball jerseys

football helmets………………..

I saw faces of teammates that have grown into our children’s adult friends.

And faces of parents who shared the sidelines with us………….

some of whom have gone Home now………and oh, how I miss them.

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I wiped the dust from each trophy.

Feeling the grooves of the bent elbows and knees of these figurines,

I smiled as I thought of the moment when they were held proudly in the hands of one of our kids,

celebrating the joy of pushing through the season of a sport they either passionately loved or patiently endured.

After I placed them all back on the shelf, I stepped back and took a good look.

These trophies belonged right where they were.

This mass of once-dusty plastic and metal meant more to me than words could ever say.

because when I picked them up one by one they told such powerful stories.

_________________________________

I held one trophy and felt the memory of Tim coaching t-ball with another father who quickly became a close friend.

I grasped another and reflected on a grief-filled season of baseball where all I could do was show up and hold my place in the bleachers.

I reached for another and almost laughed as I pictured me and Tim taking on the roles of soccer coaches when neither of us had ever played the first soccer game of our own.

I clung to a gold-coated football player and relived the memory of Nick’s first touchdown in an elementary football game.  How my heart melted in that moment thinking of all he had endured and yet knowing all he still had to face.

I picked up another and smiled as I saw Todd growing to love tennis not just as a high school sport but also as a lifetime hobby.

Trophy after trophy, I saw beautiful stories from the lives of Erich, Evan, Todd, Nick, and Olivia……………….

too many stories to tell but not enough to believe they had somehow come to an end.

trophy case

As I placed the last dust-free trophy back on the shelf,

I knew they were there to stay.

You can’t pack memories away when they’re buried so deeply in your heart.

______________________________

Life is different at our house this year.

School nights feel like every other night.

There’s no rushing around in the morning packing lunch boxes or looking for keys.

No, it’s quiet here.

The voices I hear most clearly are the ones, like those of our trophies, that seem to speak the loudest in the silence.

______________________________________

So, tonight as I write this post, I want to say something to parents with school-aged children.

Something my mom said to me when Erich started kindergarten twenty-four years ago…………………………

enjoy every minute because these years will fly by.

You will blink and all the hectic moments of helping with science fair projects and leaf collections and research papers will be gone.

You’ll walk into your children’s bedrooms and everything will be exactly where YOU left it……………

the last time YOU dusted.

The phone will ring and one of your kids’ names will show up and your heart will leap,

because they thought of YOU!

Or you’ll wish so much the phone could ring and hold the voice of your child when only Heaven will allow that gift.

So parents of young children, I’m begging you………………..

hold your kids tight.

Love them passionately.

Teach them to dream big dreams but brace yourself for the day when they take off in pursuit of them.

You’ll be so proud and so sad at the very same time,

so cherish today.

Make this year the best one ever.

Do everything within your power to be the best mom or dad you can be.

You’ll often feel tired and inadequate,

but as your journey of child raising comes to a close and you watch your boys and girls transform into men and women,

I promise you’ll long for one more tired night or one more inadequate day.

Parenthood or sharing in the lives of children in any fashion is such an honor.

Don’t ever take it for granted.

_________________________________

I bought a wall-hanging years ago to hang above our shelf of trophies.

I remember walking through Homespun Sisters with my sweet friend, Janie,

looking for the perfect message.

My heart nearly stopped when I read these words,

joy sign

“Don’t Postpone Joy”

To me, those three simple words said it all.

That’s what trophies and life are all about.

Celebrating both the big moments and the little ones.

Honoring both the winners and the ones who gave their very best.

Cheering on the faint of heart and giving a high-five to everyone who simply showed up.

Life isn’t easy.

Parenting isn’t either.

But no matter how hard it gets,

remember it’s fragile and fleeting.

So do this empty-nest mom a favor and please…………….

Cherish every single day with your children and no matter what……………………….

Don’t Postpone Joy!

I have to preface this post with a keen awareness of all the beautiful women who are not on this road of motherhood either by choice or by reasons far from your control.

I love you.

I want you to know your role in this world is just as significant and treasured.

My dear friend Salina at www.heartreflected.com has some powerful words for you if you’re struggling with infertility or the longing to become a mom, but today my words are for my daughter-in-law and other soon-to-be moms………………

so I write these words knowing that with every key I strike there are many women who need different words.

And I’m praying God will lead you to words that will speak specifically into your life today.

__________________________

Dear Mallory and Every Soon-To-Be Mommy,

I know you’re nervous.

I hear it in your voice.

I see it in your eyes.

You’re fully aware your world is about to be turned upside down, yet the mystery of just how different everything will be is overwhelming.

As a woman who has walked this mysterious road of motherhood for a while now, I have to speak.

I have to tell you what I wish I would have really thought about twenty-nine years ago when my firstborn son was placed in my arms.

First, you’re going to be okay.

All the things you do not know or understand about motherhood will somehow come to you…………….

slowly at times and immediately at others…………….

No matter how the knowledge of parenting arrives in your life,

I promise you’ll get the hang of this new title.

It may take some embarrassing moments like the time my own mom gently leaned my firstborn son’s head back while giving him a bath only to discover tiny little rolls of dirty sweat in every crease of his six-week old skin………….how was I supposed to know there were teeny crevices there?

Something as simple as a bath became a life lesson.

We won’t always know until we see……………..so live with your eyes wide open and be a willing student.

Second, you’re not alone.

There’ll be times when you find yourself awake in the middle of the night, wondering if anyone else feels quite like you.  Darkness has a way of casting shadows that can seem bigger than life itself.

If I could sit with you in that darkness, I would say,

Soak up every memory with this tiny little human who has been entrusted to you.  

The curve of her toes.  

The length of his fingers.  

Every little detail.

The minute they begin walking, they’ll be leading you toward a busy world so just be still for now and embrace the darkness with a sense of joy and wonder.

Let the shadows cast by the dim lights of nighttime become your very best friends for a season.

Solitude has a voice of its own.

Listen closely to the quietness.

Allow the darkness to whisper beautiful words.

Third, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Nearly every new job has a season of training except motherhood.

One day you’re carrying a purse on your shoulder and the next day you’re juggling a purse and a diaper bag and a car seat and a little person.

There’s no way to make this transition smoothly without help.

Call friends.

Call family.

Call hotlines if you have to.

Just don’t ever think the world expects you to figure this new job out all by yourself.

I remember showing up with our firstborn son at the little country church in northern Kentucky where Tim preached at the time.

I was a young, insecure mom; and I specifically remember feeling as if I were just “playing house”.

The seasoned mothers all around me seemed like experts in a field I had never planned to enter quite so quickly.

Immediately, I had a choice to make.

I could pretend I knew what I was doing or I could just admit I was in over my head at the age of 21.

I learned very quickly that there’s something incredibly freeing about admitting all the things you do not know.

So I learned how to be a new mommy from some of the most precious women on this planet.

Janet, Catherine, Rosaline, Myrt, Mildred, ………………….

these were just a few of the women who taught me what motherhood looks like, and I’m forever thankful.

Fourth, make time for yourself every single day.

Motherhood can easily cause every other part of your life to seem insignificant……………

but you’ll be doing your baby the biggest favor if you learn to balance motherhood with all your other passions.

If you love to write, keep writing.

If you love to paint, keep painting.

If you love to read, keep reading.

Your baby will get the best part of you when all other parts of your life are being used to their fullest.

Fifth, make peace with your shortcomings.

I wish I could say you won’t make any mistakes along the way.

I wish I could tell you that you have the ability to do everything right the first time.

But I’ve been on this planet long enough to know that even when we do the very best we possibly can we will still come up short.

So, make peace now with all the times you’ll get flustered or feel inadequate or forget to buy diapers or run late for a doctor’s appointment or wish you would have had a more gentle tone of voice……………………

Make peace with the fact that you are human and humans mess up.

Don’t ever let the glance of a stranger cause you to feel anything less than perfect in God’s eyes.

Don’t ever let the words of a friend or family member cause you to second-guess your ability to fulfill this new role in life.

I could keep writing for days, but I’ll end with this:

Treat each new day as a gift.

Unwrap it with excitement and wonder.

Treasure it.

Hold it tight and know that even if it somehow gets marred by this world or by your own flawed hands,

tomorrow is coming………………….

once again it will be covered in shiny new paper, tied with a big beautiful bow.

I’ve decided God made each day just long enough to fill with wonderful memories but short enough to allow us a fresh start when we need one.

And believe me, you’ll need a fresh start time and time again……………

so just relax and enjoy today.

His mercies are new every morning,

so be thankful for the mercy of this day and this day alone.

I love you so much, Mallory.

Thank you for carrying my granddaughter so beautifully.

I couldn’t be more thankful for the woman she gets to call “mommy”.

I’m as near as you need me but as far away as you need me to be too.

I’ll dance on the edge of your journey just close enough to help but just far enough away to allow you to blossom into the beautiful mom I know you’ll be.

My prayer for you and for all new mommies is a prayer of peace, joy, grace, and love.

You are so loved.

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