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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DRAW YOUR CIRCLE.

I am often asked what I do with “all of my time” now that the kids are in school for seven hours of the day. And I have to admit— I’m shocked how quickly those hours pass by. I knew there would still be dishes to put away, clothes baskets full of dirty laundry needing my attention, and dinner would be expected each evening. But somehow I thought the quiet, down-time would be easily accessible. 

It’s not.

I am finding that this quiet, down-time I so desperately crave must be scheduled much like my workouts that have become a non-negotiable for me—they’re good for my physical well-being as well as my emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. And quiet, down-time is also good for all of those things, so I need to make it a priority.

A few weeks I found myself googling local seminaries and researching their Biblical Counseling degrees. I hosted a seven week Bible Study here at my home, which I loved doing and am glad I did for that stint of time. I have felt this overwhelming need to prove that I have a brain in my head that is useful for more than drycleaning pick-ups and toilet scrubbing. I am capable of more than carting kids to and fro and helping with homework on occassion. Maybe the ground got shaky under my feet as the “homeschool mom” rug got pulled out from under me. {A welcome pull, don’t misunderstand, but a pull nonetheless.}

One day as I drove down the road in silence (one of my favorite things, by the way), I was grappling with all of this in my mind, asking God to help me discern my next steps. And just as clearly as He could have, He reminded me of a yoke. I pictured the yoke we have hanging over our fireplace. And I heard in my heart, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your soul.” Matthew 11:28-29 

The yoke is a picture of a Leader and Learner. I am the Learner, obviously, and God is my Leader. To put the yoke on my neck, so to speak, I must lower my head in humility, admitting my need. The yoke puts me in close proximity to a loving Lord. The yoke keeps me walking in the direction He chooses and at His pace.

I sensed a peace at this moment. A big exhale and calmness. A freedom from needing to BE someone different or DO something different at this time. It was an invitation to rest and grow, to serve my family willingly, to sacrifice some more and mature in my walk with the Lord. What an opportunity He gives me in this season.

In a recent email from Jen Pollock Michel, she mentioned a circle and how once a circle is drawn, there is inevitably “inside the circle” and “outside the circle.”  There is no circle without the line, no shape to the whole without the definitive boundary of in and out,” she writes. Not everything can fit inside my circle. I can’t be everywhere and do everything at all times. I am human. No matter what message society likes to try and send, you cannot have it all. But you can have what matters. You can have what God intends for you. 

So I have asked myself, “What does God have in my circle?” And part of this process is recognizing the very good and fun and appealing things outside of the circle. 

Josh, Ruby, Molly and Mack—-their needs and lives are in my circle. Prayer for them as a priority in my day is in my circle. This is no small matter. Unseen, yes. Unimportant, no way.

Workouts are in my circle. House responsibilities are in my circle. Grief—processing it, working through it—is in my circle. Keeping margin in my days for writing is in my circle.Though I would much rather someone else train my twelve year old son in organizational skills, this is in my circle. It would be easier if dealing with two lost PE uniforms by the same twelve year old boy was someone else’s challenge, but it’s in my circle. Teaching Ruby how to drive a vehicle is in my circle, and ohmygoodnessgracious do I wish it wasn’t. Saying yes to what is in my circle is also saying no to all the things outside of my circle.  I have a responsibility to God as it relates to what He has entrusted to me in this season of life. I want to be found faithful. 

What’s in your circle? What is not in your circle? Both are worth considering.

These girls😍 I love hearing them play and sing together! I pray they always use their gifts to worship God. He alone is worthy of a lifetime of praise!

sabbath.

Raise your hand if you’re sick of me saying how different the pace is around here since we started traditional school. 

That’s what I thought. And I am sorry to belabor the point, but unless you’ve homeschooled and then jumped into traditional school, you probably just won’t get it. Suffice it to say, Mama is tired. I know, I know…you think, “But you have all day alone. Why are you tired?!?” Or maybe you, like Ruby, would say to me, “Just take a nap.” It’s not that easy. Well, yesterday it was that easy. I totally took a thirty minute nap and was better for it. But for the most part, I have plenty of things to do and places to be. 

But this morning Josh took the kids to school and that allowed me to sleep in a bit. It allowed for an unrushed morning with coffee and my Bible. Petting the dog and staring out the window. For washing my sheets. There was no glancing at the time to make sure I am staying on track and getting anywhere on time. Today is totally free (until pickup at 3:15). 

I finished a book by Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms. I highly recommend it. It’s a book you read in snippets and then think about for days. The chapter on Sabbath was deeply convicting. On page 137 she reminds us, “The point of the sabbath is to honor our need for a sane rhythm of work and rest. It is to honor the body’s need for rest, the spirit’s need for replenishment and the soul’s need to delight itself in God for God’s own sake.” YES to all of that!  On Sundays especially I remind myself and our family that this day is different. Let’s try to let go of all the to-do lists we have running through our brain, turn off the phone, turn away from ourselves, our schedule, our wants, our troubles and turn fully to God. Quit worshiping ourselves or any other thing and remind ourselves Who alone is worthy of worship and adoration.  We are not God. We are not in perfect control of anything. He is. 

Barton also says, “There is something deeply spiritual about honoring the limitations of our existence as human beings—physical bodies in a world of time and space.” We need rest physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. I personally love the verse in Psalm that says he is mindful that we are but dust. He knows full-well our limits and humaness. He created us! And relying on Him is how He knows this life works best. And we humans need reminding that we aren’t “all that.”

She quotes Muller’s book, Sabbath:

“Because we do not rest, we lose our way. We miss the compass points that would show us where to go, we bypass the nourishment that would give us succor. We miss the quiet that would give us wisdom. We miss the joy and love born of effortless delight. Poisoned by the hypnotic belief that good things come only through unceasing determination and tireless effort, we can never truly rest. And for want of rest, our lives are in danger.”

I loved these words from Barton also:

“What I do know is there have to be times in your life when you move slow…times when you walk rather than run, allowing your body to settle into each step…times when you sit and gaze admiringly at loved ones, rather than racing through an agenda…times when you receive food and drink with gratitude and humility rather than gulping it down on your way to something ‘more important.’ Times when hugs linger and kisses are real………when you let tears come rather than blinking them back because you don’t have time to cry.”

So, order this book. Then, take a nap. You will thank me later.

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We forgot the baby’s birthday!

Y’all. We made a big boo-boo. And it’s pretty clear Rolo isn’t planning to let us forget it anytime soon.

Today is Rolo’s 2nd birthday!!!! And we have just now–at 4:00pm–remembered!

I told her I was sorry and will get her extra treats and a new toy this week.

But she’s still pouting.

Poor puppy.