thanksgiving. solitude. compassion.

Well, I made it through Thanksgiving.

And while I enjoyed being with family, there was a constant heaviness of loss with my mom not being here.

Oh, I tried to just keep moving, stay busy, wash the dishes, stir the Mac-n-cheese, make sure I had all the food set out.

But there was a weirdness to the whole day that I couldn’t shake. Just a realization all over again of how different life is now.

I know holidays are going to be different–everyone says the “firsts” are the hardest. But you can’t cancel Thanksgiving and Christmas just because you’re not exactly feeling festive.

Life goes on. The sun sets and rises on its same schedule.

As I laid in bed Thanksgiving night wide awake, I kept thinking back over that horrible morning in May.  And I kept wondering over and over and over again, “WHAT HAPPENED?!” How in the world is this my reality? What the heck happened?

As I read Matthew 14 this past week, I noticed with new perspective Jesus’ response in his grief over John the Baptist’s death.

Verse 13 says “Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself…”

Jesus heard the horrible, traumatic news of John’s gruesome death and felt the weight of it. This time of year we dwell on the fact that Jesus came to earth in a body–and all of its frailty and limits.  He felt hunger. He felt physical pain. He felt joy. He felt the heaviness of grief and wanted to be alone.

It’s ok if I want to be alone and to have more moments of quiet instead of parties. God has allowed this season of life to be one where I have plenty of time for solitude, for prayer, for groans and big sighs. I am grateful for all of those times.

But, like Jesus, who once He went ashore after His time alone, “saw a large crowd and felt compassion for them,” I hope I will have more compassion for other people when I am out and about these next few weeks preparing for and celebrating Christmas–in the mall, in the grocery store, in my neighborhood and with my family.

Jesus repeatedly met major needs for people and then sent the crowds away. I think this is a beautiful invitation in this Christmas season (and every day!)– to draw near to Him for help and healing and comfort and peace and then go out and BE the light and hope of Christ. There is no better time of the year to shine! A weary world is waiting…

why I’m thankful.

Family. Friends. Food. Finances.

I imagine these are some of the top things that will be voiced as many people gather around Thanksgiving tables on Thursday.

Health, Jobs, House.

All very good things and all things worth being thankful for, no doubt.

When the kids were younger, I would cut out pretty leaf-shapes from orange, yellow and brown construction paper and each of us would daily write what we were thankful for on the leaves. By the time Thanksgiving got here, a door in our kitchen was covered in leaves, each word written representing a grateful heart. Toys. Church. Friends. Cousin names. Grandparent names.

And while I always appreciated a good leaf-covered door or going around the table telling each other what we were thankful for, there always seemed to be a bit of hollowness or immaturity that echoed in my heart. Sometimes it felt like “I am thankful that I get all the things that I want and like.”

And there was that time in South Georgia around the overflowing tables in the Dorminy home when the challenge was given to not name the same thing as someone else. Once “family” got taken, Uncle Tony bluntly said, “Oh sure. You take the easy one.” I am sure all of us waiting our turn were gonna say that!

But yesterday in church, Pastor Robert said it so perfectly as he preached Psalm 100. He gave you, me, and Uncle Tony our new answer for Thursday. Sure, you can fear sounding overly spiritual, but the truth is the truth.

And no matter how well you get along with your family, no matter how delicious grandma’s dressing tastes or Aunt Dixie’s cranberry relish, no matter the friendships you enjoy, the toys you have to play with, no matter the overflowing bank account, no matter how healthy you feel….nothing trumps the answer to “Why are you thankful?” better than Psalm 100:4-5

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; Bless His name!

For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.”

The Lord is good. His love for me never runs out. He will never forsake me.

I much prefer this answer over the list of things and people we are thankful for (though there is nothing wrong with listing the things or names of people!).

But some years families are separated by miles, some years grandma will no longer be here on earth with us to make her dressing. Some years we feel we don’t have a friend in the world, we can’t pay our mortgage, cancer invades our bodies. Some years marriages are strained.

But Psalm 100 stands true even if you are reluctantly gathering around the Thanksgiving table and dreading the question to come about why you are thankful. Like we would tell our kids when they didn’t want to say anything, “Everyone can think of one thing to be thankful for!”

And, indeed, we do all have the one answer. The answer that remains no matter what our circumstances….Say it with me:  “The Lord is good. His steadfast love endures forever and His faithfulness to all generations.”

Thanksgiving Prep, proceed with caution

Josh and I are so very different. I think our differences complement each other, and I am reminded of this chasm between our likes and dislikes as we prepare for Thanksgiving.  I won’t even be mentioning our preferences in dressing…it would surely lead to an argument.

Thanksgiving tops my holiday list, but not for the turkey and dressing (no matter which type we’re serving) or football games that follow, but rather, it tops my list because it is the most “be with your people” holiday. I can be found ordering a new game we can play as a family (the new enneagram game should be arriving today!) or rearranging my sitting room so we can set up a table for a puzzle. Puzzles are relaxing and bring people together to talk and work together.

Josh, on the other hand, can be found checking my grocery list and forbidding me from buying off- brand anything. “Buy what we like.” He can be found double checking my recipes to be sure they are the tried and true ones because “this isn’t the time to try something new out on our family and friends.” He can be found watching videos on the exact technique for smoking a turkey on his Yoder and ordering seasoning that you must have to ensure the best flavor of that smoking turkey. He is also sure to talk about the importance of a solid, sturdy paper plate. “This is not the time for flimsy plates. People are here to eat.”

Though we both enjoy family, food, and fun, it’s quite clear—he’s all about the food;  I’m more about the family. I’m happy because we have all been together. Josh is happy that we have all been together eating really good food. 

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! May your turkey be delicious and not one puzzle piece be lost. 

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Pray for your kids.

IMG_7922.jpegI bought three small spiral notebooks with the intention of writing out my prayers for each of my kids. It’s easier to pray for the kids as a set. RubyMollyMack. I can pray for all of them to walk in God’s purposes, pray for all of them to have good days at school, pray for all of them to want to read their Bible, pray for all of them to honor, respect and obey their parents. A-hem.

But there is something about drawing a distinct line between each of them and seeing them as they are— individuals that have specific needs and challenges, individual areas of struggles and strengths. Somehow those three little spiral notebooks have helped me to zero in on what God wants me to pray for 15 year old Ruby. For 14 year old Molly. For 12 year old Mack. 

I even left the notebooks open on the island last week and asked them to write out something they want me to pray for them about. What a gift. I won’t share those requests with you, but suffice it to say that it was revealing of where each of their hearts were. It was eye-opening and helpful for me as their Mama. My heart softened as I saw their own handwriting spelling out their cares and concerns. 

Mamas, I know your to-do list is long. I know the laundry will not quit. I know your family will be hungry at dinner time and likely will look to you for the food. I know you feel overlooked and undervalued lots of days. But if I could sit across from you, I would boldly grab your precious face in my hands and say YOU ARE SO VALUABLE AS THE MOM. {Ok, so maybe I wouldn’t grab your face because that could be weird, but I would want your full attention.} No one else does your job quite like you. God sees you. God cares for you. God also hears your prayers for your children. He knows what they need before you do. Entrust them to your faithful Creator who loves them perfectly. 

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He is my burden bearer…and yours, too.

Grief is a burden. Webster tells us a burden is “a load, typically a heavy one.” Some days the load feels heavier than other days. Yesterday was a day like that for me. 

I had time at home alone, so between some laundry switching I spent time in my office taking a short online course, reading, and writing. In the process, I looked over the books on my shelf and pulled out GRIEVING A SUICIDE by Al Hsu. I ravenously read his words upon my return from burying my mom this past May, so I knew opening the book to see what I had underlined and circled could be painful. I opened it anyway. The similarities are striking in his story and mine in that he, too, was going to visit his mom and dad and was just hours away from seeing him. He, too, wondered if his visit pressed his dad to make this decision. He, too, questioned why he couldn’t have gotten to see him one more time. He, too, doubted the people who would say, “Your mom loved you so much and if she had been in her right mind she would have never done this.” He, too, has to come to the end of wrestling with questions and realize there are no answers. He, too, is pained when he thinks about all the things his dad won’t be a part of in his life or his kids’ lives. He, too, carries a burden of grief and trauma for the rest of his days. Thankfully, he, too, knows Jesus Christ as His Lord and His Savior and can find a place of rest and comfort and healing and hope.
Psalm 68:19 says, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden. The God who is our salvation.  Selah.” (selah= pause and reflect on what has just been said.)
In The Message translation it reads like this: “Blessed be the Lord—day after day He carries us along.”
It feels like I am carrying a burden of grief day after day. But the reality is that God is carrying me. He bears the burden when I unload it on Him. And I have to do that over and over again as the weight can sometimes unknowingly build and build. He is carrying me up the mountain and carrying me through the valleys and along every trail in between. 
So last night as Ruby sang this song I was moved to tears. Partly because of gratitude to God for this season of life and the opportunities He affords my kids. And partly because there were a couple of grandmothers in front of me doting on their grandchild. Ruby and Molly didn’t have that last night and it made me sad. I tried to reason in my mind, “Well, Mama lived in Augusta and probably wouldn’t have been here anyway.” But the absence of her is felt deeper and heavier some times, no matter how I try to talk myself out of feeling horrible. So I pray. And I pray some more and find God to be right there with me. It’s my prayer for you today–no matter what you’re walking through, be reminded that God is with you, carrying you even. He’s worthy of our praise in the highlands and heartache all the same.
Oh, I will praise You on the mountain.
I will praise You when the mountain’s in my way.
You’re the summit where my feet are.
I will praise You in the valleys all the same.
No less God in the shadows.
No less faithful when the night leads me astray.
You’re the heaven where my heart is—
In the highlands and the heartache all the same.

This is what LOVE looks like (and a very tired mama)

It’s just a regular old Wednesday in November. I just finished walking my dog. I am now doing laundry and wondering what I should prepare for dinner and leaning more towards picking up Chick-fil-a. It’s not Valentine’s Day or our Anniversary, yet I am finding myself overcome with gratitude for Josh. He is such a great husband and fabulous Dad. I was thinking back about the different seasons we have been through. From newlywed carefree-ness to job changes and big moves. Kids and finances and hurtful words and forgiveness. Lots of ups and lots of downs and even more just mundance in-between days. 

In my mind, this photo popped up:

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Dear goodness me. This photo. It was taken by PawPaw Dorminy as he and Deb were leaving to go back home after staying one night with us after Mack got brought home from the hospital in late March 2007. So that means Mack was four days old. I was one day into my 30’s and obviously quite tired. Exhausted and overwhelmed would also describe me. And large. Swollen, maybe? Not sure. But wow. Look at me looking so rough. Ruby was 2. Molly was 1. And they both look like little boy orphans. Josh was also not seeing his greatest days. Even if we had filters, which we did not, there wouldn’t have been one that could cover up the hard truth. We rough.

Worn out might best describe this season of life. 

But we loved each other. Josh never made me feel anything except deeply loved and wanted. Never, meaning not one single second. Josh was working hard for our family. I was keeping three little people alive. We had hard days—it was challenging to make time for just each other, but we gave our all to this less-than-glamourous season.

Now the kids are 15, 14 and 12. Josh and I are comfortably in our 40’s and still giving our all to this current season. We took a family photo recently and —thank the good Lord above—we don’t appear to be quite as frazzled. Josh is still working incredibly hard. I am still doing my best to manage the home and our kids. And we still have to fight hard to make time for just each other. DorminyIMG_3987.jpg

We are still worn out a lot of days. Maybe more mentally and emotionally than physically, but worn out, nonetheless. It is still a less-than-glamourous season as we coordinate schedules, help with Algebra and fuss at the kids about feeding the dog or washing their clothes or taking shorter showers. 

Though some nights we fall in the bed exhausted and hardly able to finish a conversation, we are still here together. Still fighting for time together. Still desiring each other. Still supporting each other. Still listening. Still talking. Still interested in each other. Still hopeful for our future. Still giving it all we have because we know our marriage is worth it. Our marriage that represents Christ and the Church to our kids and anyone else that takes a look.  Our marriage that provides stability and comfort to our kids. Our marriage that gives us both a safe place to land on those rough days. It’s worth the effort. It’s worth the time. It’s worth the work. And I hope we never give up on God’s plan for marriage. It truly seems to get better and better.

Maybe today–this regular old Wednesday– you will take a look at your spouse and tell them what you love about them. Remind them that you’re in this thing for the long-haul. We can all use some encouragement and words that lift our spirit. Say those words today.

It’s always worth remembering.

October 26, 1997 was a sweet day for us. Josh and I met halfway between our dorms at Middle Georgia Junior College in the tiny town of Cochran to have a little talk about “officially becoming a couple.” Josh had asked on a Friday afternoon if I wanted to date exclusively. I took the weekend to pray about it. He says he wasn’t worried one bit about my decision. I made a list of pros and cons (analytical much??) and talked through my list with him on that Sunday night. My only con was that I was about to head back to Augusta to finish college. Josh was going to be at Middle one more semester and then would be transferring to University of Georgia in Athens to continue playing baseball. We ended that night with a side hug and walked back to our dorms, “officially a couple.”

So what did we do today, 22 years later? We had our coffee this morning together in the sitting room and just talked and caught up on a few things going on. Josh cooked a big breakfast, and we woke up our 15, 14 and 12 year olds to join us at the table. We all talked and caught up and then the kids went to a soccer game. Josh and I went to Home Depot for a few things and then picked up the dog from daycare.

When we got home, Josh asked me to help him put the dimmers on the light switches. I stood there holding a light for him so he could see what he was doing. I got this tool and that tape that he needed. I turned the main electricity off and then back on and then back off and then back on at his request. And I kept holding the light.

This little interaction reminds me of our relationship a lot. I feel very much like I have been the helper while he has been out and about doing so much. Whether he was playing baseball while I watched and cheered from the bleachers or when he has traveled to Turkey or Afghanistan or Iraq or Africa and India for mission trips while I held the fort down at home or when he meets important people at important places, and I have no idea who the people even are….and I stay home to make sure the kids are taken care of and that groceries are bought and clothes are clean. I am the helper. And I like my role. Just like installing the dimmer on the light switches today–he probably could have figured out a way to do it without me, but I know I helped make the process easier by simply holding the light and helping where needed.

We make a good team. I am thankful for the past 22 years of exclusively dating Josh. We celebrate 19 years of marriage in January, and we will celebrate then. But this special date, October 26th, is also worth remembering. A sweet, carefree time of learning each other. A season when side hugs were exciting. When dinner at Village Pizza was a good time. When we would travel to a little Dairy Queen halfway between Cochran and Augusta to sit and talk for a few hours and then head back to our separate cities. When we got lectured every month for having a long distance bill that our parents paid for. (Dating long distance before cell phones was expensive!) So grateful God saw fit to bring Josh and me together.

Sidenote: The girls had PSAT and PACT tests last week at school. They were worried and telling me how different friends said their parents are really on them about making a good score because it determines which college you would get admitted to. And I get that. I do. It is an important test, but God determines their steps. I told them that I had a terrible SAT score. My ACT score was good enough to be accepted to a Junior College–it didn’t take much. But I met Josh there! I am sure God held me back on the SAT score so that I would be at Middle and meet Josh (at least that helps me not feel dumb). Clearly, I missed out on nothing.

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