Searching For Answers I Cannot Find

photo courtesy of bing images and found on: http://iamtrustinggod.com/2014/02/10/words-to-live-by/

Dear God,

It’s me, Tracy. I’m writing to you today because there is just so much I don’t understand. So much I can’t grasp. So much grief, so much pain, so much I wish I could comprehend about your ways.

I know you love me. I know you care about all of your children. I know you have plans I cannot even begin to fathom. And while I really do trust you, if I’m honest, I have to tell you I still don’t get it.

I don’t understand why bad things happen to good people.

I don’t understand why my daughter’s close friend had to die in a senseless accident.

I don’t get how my friend, a friend who is such a good soul could discover that her cancer is back, for a third time.

I can’t make sense of that fact that another young friend who became a widow just weeks ago, who lost her father less than a year ago, is now laying her younger brother to rest.

I don’t understand.

And this is just the icing on the cake for what has already been a year of difficultly for me. A time surrounded by death and cancer and terminal illness and sadness.

A year where I honestly don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of people I know, including myself, who’ve had to face tragic circumstances. I am saddened. Hurt. Confused. Mystified. My faith is strong and, truly, even that doesn’t make sense to me.

But I believe in you. I believe in the plans you have for me. I believe your ways are better than my ways. But I do not understand. And most of all I don’t know what to do with all my emotions. Don’t know how to share with others just how much I care.

Somehow in my humanness, I have this thought that it should be a fair world. I want for those with a pure heart to experience only joy, and not pain. I want for those who were born into a difficult hand, those who’ve never known you, to find you.

I want for those who love and honor you in their lives to be dealt the best hand.

But that’s not how it works.  We do not earn our spot in heaven.  We do not earn on blessings on this earth.

So tell me. Not why, because I know you can’t. And I know if you did, my human brain which comprehends only logic, could not make sense of it anyway. I also know it is more than I need to know.

But tell me God. Tell me what to do, how to feel, what my heart is to learn from all I have seen in this year. I’m here God, and despite all the darkness around me, I’m not going anywhere.  And I’m ready to listen.

Love,

Tracy

Posted in Faith, Family Life, God, gratitude, inspiration, life lessons, miracles, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Directionally Challenged

Abby & Tracy canoeing 2014

We’d been in the water for all of 90 seconds.

“Wait,” I spit out, “you’re paddling the wrong way.” And then boom-before I knew it, before my muscle memory could recall how to navigate us out of the situation, my daughter and I found our canoe stuck in the reeds. Seconds later, two kayaks crashed into us.

Luckily, as soon as our canoe started to tip, it all came back to me. I quickly re-balanced our boat, used my oar to push us out, and paddled furiously until we reached a clear path in deeper waters.

With a three-hour ride ahead of us, I realized it was going to be an interesting afternoon.

And it was. Only not in the way I’d originally thought. This trip wasn’t just about teaching my daughter how to paddle a canoe; it was also about me remembering the best way to steer through life.

It all started back in May.  “Oh we’ll come with you,” I’d said with a laugh, “I mean if you’re looking for some company…” And with that I’d invited my daughter and I to accompany my neighbor on a canoe trip she’d won at our elementary school carnival. But at the time, it was just talk. I often talk about all the fun things I’d like to do, but let’s face it: I don’t always follow through.

Instead, I get busy with my days, work through my to-do list. I finish up writing assignments and shuffle my kids to the dentist, the doctor, the next social activity.  All plans for memory-making activities are forgotten, never make it onto my calendar.

But my neighbor didn’t forget. So when she called a week ago and asked if we were ready to go canoeing, I said yes without hesitation.  I said yes without even asking my daughter. Yet when the day arrived, I felt a bit…nervous.

Nervous? About canoeing? I know, I know, what is happening to me in my old age?  Somehow I find now that I’m in my forties, the old lady in me keeps coming out. She is ridiculously practical and boring.

She thinks about how tipped canoes and wet clothes and chasing coolers down a river are not really fun.

She loves music, but worries over how expensive concerts are. She also knows if she’s up late, then she’ll be too wound up to sleep afterwards.

The old lady gets so stuck in her daily routine. She is so busy getting through life, that she sometimes forgets how to live.

Wow, I can’t stand this lady. But here’s the good news: This woman has friends and family around her who push her out of her turtle-like shell. Thank God these people invite her along for their ride.  Because left to her own devices, she’d likely never get around to doing anything.

And then she’d forget how much fun it is to spend an afternoon on the water with friends.  How great it is to teach her daughter how to canoe and skip rocks in the river, observing turtles and blue herons all the way.

She’d never stay up late at a cookout with old friends, would miss out on recounting old stories, discussing life and impulsively deciding to purchase concert tickets. (Yes, we are going to Kiss/Def Leopard; I can’t believe it myself). 

Without prodding, she’d give in to her to-do list, and then miss the great conversation around the fire pit with her oldest child, the one so busy living that she’s rarely home.

The most important things in life are often the things I put off doing.

Canoeing 2014

In True at First Light Hemingway wrote,  “When you stop doing things for fun you might as well be dead.”  Granted Hemingway had a slew of problems in the end (leading him to commit suicide at age 61), but the man had this one right. Fun is always worth it, even when you risk tipping your canoe, being tired and getting behind on your to-do list.  The dishes can wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family Life, gratitude, humor, inspiration, kids, life lessons, marriage, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Fifteen Again

I was unsure of how the night would go, wondered who’d be there, questioned if I’d be capable of making small talk, after so many years.

So I did what I sometimes do when I am driving and thinking and wondering: I decided whatever song came on the radio next would be my metaphor for the evening. (I know this is weird but I just do it for sport, so stay with me).

Where was I headed? To my high school reunion.

What song came on the radio? Fifteen by Taylor Swift.

It made me laugh out loud.

Whether you like Swift or not, you have to admit that the lyrics to her song capture well the emotions of what it is like to be in high school. Just hearing it on the radio brought it all back.  I remember…

On good days, I thought: I am so awesome, I can do anything, the world loves me and I love it back.  

On bad days I thought: I am such a loser, no one likes me, no one ever will like me and I have way too much homework.

Add to this: school clubs, dances, romance, drama, homework, football games, yearbook, paper writing, friendships, and a whole lot of “I-like-you-but-you-like-her” scenarios and there you have it: High School. It’s a wonder anyone survives.

Ironically, before going to the event, I’d spent my afternoon researching for a creative essay I’m working on. The piece is set in the ‘80’s. To help me write, I pulled out old yearbooks, photos and journals from my high school years (I graduated in ’84).  I was hoping to bring my memories of this time to the forefront, and spent a good hour reading through my journals. Guess what I discovered?   I don’t know the girl who wrote them.

*The girl who wrote these journals had a neat, billowy script unlike me, whose writing no one can ever read.

*The girl who wrote these journals was wise beyond her years but so also naïve. She had no idea who she was then or who she would become later.

*The girl who wrote these journals had so many good qualities but she was so busy putting herself down that she could not see them. She was also very self-involved, could often not see beyond herself and her feelings. She took much for granted.

*The girl who wrote these journals could never imagine herself 30 years later. If she’d gotten even just a small glimpse of the future, maybe it all would have been easier. Or perhaps, she needed to go through all that just to get where she is today.

The reunion was fun. I saw old friends, caught up on what people are doing these days and laughed over a few stories I’d long forgotten about. On the surface I find most people, at their core anyway, are the same. It’s comforting. But it all makes me wonder; if I don’t know the girl who wrote these journals, did they?

 

Posted in Family Life, God, gratitude, humor, inspiration, kids, life lessons, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Advice for My Younger Friends…

photo courtesy of:  http://carmelharrington.com/2013/05/03/my-mind-says-im-in-my-20s-my-body-says-yeah-right/

How old are you again?

What year were you born?

Are you fifty yet?

That’s what happens when you get old!

Enough already.

For all the years I’ve been a mother to children who could speak, I’ve been hearing questions and comments about my age. My husband too likes to chime in, because yes, I am older than he (by a year!). Most of the time I can take the teasing with grace, but lately I find such comments are beginning to sting. I guess it’s because the numbers are really getting up there.

But there is one good thing about aging:  wisdom gained.  

So while my daughters, husband and younger friends (you know who you are!) may have youth on me, I have the experience that can only come with age. Below are a few important things I’ve learned over my nearly, but not quite, five decades of living.

1-If you lose something, don’t panic. This is life after forty: you lose things: your keys, theater tickets you ordered way back when, forms you need to fill out, your hidden cash stash. Don’t go right out and try to replace whatever you’ve lost. If you do, you’ll be guaranteed to find the original shortly after. Instead, just wait it out;  more often than not you’ll eventually find your debit card, house key, the extra battery to the dog’s electric fence collar. It’s kind of like Christmas when you do.

2-Not all your friends will be forever friends. It’s sad but true. Some friendships whither and die, some people move on, some people were never truly a friend in the first place. It’s hurtful, frustrating and not anything you can control. If you don’t know who your real friends are, just have yourself a life crisis. The people who hang in there with you? Those are your friends.  Just remember to be a friend back when it’s their turn to have a crisis.

3-Things Change: Everything is a stage. How many times have I lost hope when my job wasn’t going well, my kids were having hard times, the money for a new appliance or clothes for growing children or college just wasn’t there? So many I can’t count. I now know life is full of ups and downs, good times and bad. Everything is a stage or a phase. You may have rough times, but you won’t have them forever. Hang tough. Same thing for happier times, moments come and go, embrace the good.

4-Joy is ours for the taking (and it’s free). No matter your situation, joy is waiting for you, free of charge.. Sometimes it can be hard to find. Sometimes I stubbornly don’t want to search for it, prefer to give in to by misery.   But joy is always there, hidden behind my stress, my pain, my pile of dirty dishes in the sink. Some days it stares me in the face.  You know those days: the sun is shining, the peeps are agreeable and everything is going smoothly.  But I have plenty of days where I have to pause, redirect my heart and choose to be joyful.  On those days it is a harder choice, but when I manage to get there, it’s always worth my effort.

5-Most things aren’t about me. I once did volunteer work and found the committee head throwing me under the bus for the way I handled a situation. So not nice! I was pretty darn mad (it was volunteer work after all!) and didn’t think I’d done anything wrong.  So I stewed for a while, but then I realized her reaction was more a reflection of her than it was me.  I think this is often the case.  So while I don’t use it as an excuse for my own behavior, I do try hard not to take others actions so personally.  There are always two sides to a story, and holding on to anger is never good.

Posted in Faith, Family Life, God, gratitude, humor, inspiration, life lessons, parenting, trials, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Listening to Grace

When I called her back, I had no idea how the conversation would go. Because I thought she’d called to check-in, to suggest we get together soon, spend an hour over lunch catching up on life. I was wrong.

She’d called because her life was in shambles. She’d called because she needed to talk to someone. She’d called because she was mad at God and she was looking for answers.

I could tell from the tone of her voice, from the silent tears I knew were streaming down her face, that my words could make a difference. Could affect how she thinks and acts going forward. My words? In moments like these I really do wonder if God knows what he’s doing. But my doubt is momentary; I do believe He does, even when I don’t.

I certainly don’t understand the ways in which God works.  But I do sometimes feel a push in my gut, an alarm in my head if you will, stirring me to realize the need to act.  So I did what I often do when faced with such a situation. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and asked God to get me through it.

And then I went for it. Let go of my worries about saying the right thing or having all the answers or knowing what I was doing. I just tried my best to help her. I tried to listen, understand, and empathize. I shared what I do when I am lost, afraid, mad. I told her I’d pray for her.

It’s been a few months now and my friend is doing well. Her troubles have not left her but she is coping. I’ve prayed for her every day. And now looking back, I really don’t even remember what I said, or if we want to get technical, what God said to her through me. I also have no idea if my words helped or hindered or made any difference.  We’ve never discussed it. And really, it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that in this instance I followed God’s lead.

photo courtesy of: http://lfcbrf.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/god-has-a-plan-and-god-works-his-plan-even-in-our-plans/

What does matter, is that I

*Acted when I need to act.

*Listened when someone needed me to listen.

*Prayed when my friend needed prayer.

If only I could do this every time someone in need of a loving touch from God came to me.  If only we all did-what a world it could be.

Posted in Faith, Family Life, God, gratitude, inspiration, life lessons, miracles, trials, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Family: Stuck for Life

IMG_2853

“Ah, no worries,” he wrote in his text, “I’ll take care of it, it’s all good.”  It was the perfect response, what I needed to hear.

Because in this instance, like most instances, I was worrying about something which was definitely not worth my worry.  It is what I do, and my brother knows this.  

We are born from the same parents, come from the same gene pool, and grew up in the same house yet, my brother and I are very different people.  I am grateful.

My brother Kent is three years older than me. In my earliest memory, I see him, crooked grin upon his face, bangs in need of a trim. He has on a striped t-shirt, Toughskins jeans and Keds tennis shoes. He is whispering something in my ear, trying to make me laugh, and he is succeeding. We’re in a restaurant, eating fried chicken, and we’re about to get thumped on the head from our father, his quick and quiet way to discipline us when we acted up.   It is one scene, one memory in my bank, but it represents the essence of our entire childhood.

My brother always added a certain element of fun to our household. He was a tease, often cutting up and making everyone laugh. Growing up, we couldn’t have been more opposite. He was outgoing, popular, played in and excelled at sports. He was fun to be around (still is) and thus people gravitated toward him. I on the other hand, was quiet and shy and while I had friends, it took me a long time to grow into myself. I often stood in the shadows of his gregarious personality.

IMG_2857    IMG_2854

So while I spent my time doing exactly what I was supposed to, Kent was doing exactly what he wanted to do.  While I did homework and earned Girl Scout badges and kept my room clean, Kent took life for all it had to offer. He quit the Boy Scouts and got a paper route. He saved up enough money to buy a mini-bike (which he bought without consulting with my parents).

At age eleven, he cooked Thanksgiving dinner, even making Baked Alaska for dessert.  When he was a teen, he brought home a puppy, giving my parents some lame story about how he’d rescued him from being used in a research study for a drug company.  Nobody believed the story, but we ended up keeping Max; he was the best dog we ever had.

The thing about my brother is this:  he’s always walked to the beat of his own (somewhat rebellious) drum.  Growing up, if he was having fun, then our parents’ rules and curfew limits became optional. If he didn’t like his teachers, he simply wouldn’t do the homework.  If you were a bully picking on an innocent kid, well then he just might have beaten you up.  Half the time my parents didn’t know whether to be proud or appalled by my brother’s behavior. In the end, I believe they’ve always respected him for being true to his beliefs, no matter the consequences.

IMG_2856

As kids we had plenty of fun, but we weren’t exactly close. In fact, I’d say like most siblings, we spent the majority of our time fighting. But no matter, I always knew if I ever got into a real jam, my brother would be there for me. And now, some forty-years later, he still is.

In our adult years we’ve had many a memorable time together. We’ve had family camp outs where he makes up campfire stories to scare our kids, we’ve gone on vacations to the  beach each year (where he makes us all write down our favorite memories and then buries these notes in a jar for us to dig up the next year) and we also tailgate together before the Colts games (breakfast burritos, homemade soup, brats-the food is always fabulous!).

Picture 015            IMG_1274

My brother is funny, can make anyone laugh.  My kids affectionately refer to him as Crazy Uncle Kent.

But lately our time together and conversations have been more serious. It’s what happens when you lose a parent. There are decisions to be made, details to contend with, financial plans to be considered.  And so in this we are a team; we bounce things off on one another, talk through issues and determine next steps. We also talk through our grief. It is a new stage in our relationship.

I love that I have my brother to walk with me through these trials. But most of all, I just love my brother for who he is; a funny, caring person who doesn’t take himself or his life too seriously.

A while back he sent me a text, he was offended that I was unable to attend a cookout he hosted. I kept explaining why we couldn’t be there.  Turns out he was just teasing, trying to get a rise out of me (which he did).  The other day when I called, he answered the phone by saying, “Taco Tim’s, how can I help you?”  He repeatedly acts as if he cannot remember my youngest daughter’s name, calls her Karen.   Last week after reading my blog, he asked if I was ever going to write about him. He’s asked this last question for about a year now.

Well brother: Yes, I am and here it is. Thanks for always being there, teaching me to lighten up and enjoy life, and for always, always making me laugh.

 

 

 

Posted in Family Life, gratitude, humor, In the Beginning, inspiration, kids, life lessons, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Seven Things To Love About Summer

All you have to do is take one look around my house and you’ll see it’s true: summer has arrived.

IMG_2828

You can tell by the pool towels draped across my patio chairs, the novels lying about my family room, and the flip-flops scattered across the floor of my entry.  But despite the mess, I’m feeling a bit giddy. Because I love summer, and not just for the weather.

Nope, there’s more to this season than sunshine, lightening bugs and family reunions.

For me, summer is the season of promise. These 12 weeks hold within them what I long for all year round: possibility, hope, and best of all: fun.  I love to have fun. Below are the top seven things I love about summer.

1-Fewer Commitments + More Flexibility=More Time. Like most people, I have set volunteer and social obligations. But guess what? All my commitments cease during the summer months (except for work but I have a flexible schedule). This leaves me with free pockets of time. In addition, with the kids out of school, I’m free of school meetings and activities (and helping with homework!). Free, free, free; are you getting that I like my freedom? A break from commitments for these few precious weeks, it’s a blessing.

2-Longer days=more outdoor activities.
I think I’m like a bear that hibernates.  In the cold winter months all I want to do is sit by the fire and sleep or read (not that bears read).  But in the summer I come alive.  I’m more apt to get up early and walk the dog and get out in the evenings.  In my book, longer days warmer temps and sunshine make for better living.

3-Summer Concerts, Picnics, Fairs and Festivals, oh my! What can be better than a picnic in the park? I’ll tell you: one with family and friends while listening to a free concert and watching tiny ones dance around in the green grass.  Add a glass of wine and I’m even happier.  Another summer favorite pastime for me is berry-picking at Spencer’s Farm.  I’ll admit it: I can eat berries by the handful.  Picking strawberries, blackberries and blueberries off the vine: heaven on earth and time well spent on a warm summer morning.

4-Less TV=More Time to Read.   I’m not a huge TV person, but I do love the shows I love: Mad Men, Nashville, Parenthood, The Good Wife, Amazing Race and Shark Tank to name (quite) a few. But with a summer full of re-runs or less-than-appealing reality shows, I turn the TV off and indulge in my reading habit. Such a more satisfying way to spend time, I don’t know why I bother with TV at all.

5-More Time Spent with Family and Friends. There’s just something about a good old-fashioned cookout. And the grilled burgers and corn on the cob aren’t the half of it. For me it’s the laughter and lingering that I love. Whether it’s around the fire pit on cooler evenings or hanging out on the porch on the hotter ones, it’s all a good time.  Life often gets in the way of connecting with the people we care about. But with a relaxed schedule and longer days, summer finds me more eager to entertain.  And this always fills my bucket.

6-Travel, travel, travel!  I am one of those people who enjoys getting out and seeing the world.  Be it Paris or Southern Indiana, to me it’s always an adventure.  So I love nothing more than going on vacation or getting away for a weekend.  I find it exhilarating to explore new places. Summer is the perfect time to do so.

 7-Being Spontaneous.  I’ve got one kid in college, one in high school and one who will enter middle school in the fall.  Because of the differences in their ages, everyone comes and goes at different times.  But occasionally, in the summer, I’ll find a day when everyone is home at once.  This is when I decide to blow off my to-do list and sneak away for an adventure with my girls.  In the past we’ve hit Conner Prairie, biked the Monon Trail or snuck away to Brown County for the day. Somehow my soul knows this is important to do from time to time. I think it’s about choosing life over chores.

There are so many things to love about this season.  Everyone has their favorite summertime rituals, what are yours?

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family Life, gratitude, inspiration, kids, life lessons, travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments