Roots and Wings

Dear Son,

I knew this day would come…and it has…

Today you officially swear in to the United States Army and begin your first day on active duty.  You are pledging an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.  You’re making a big grown up decision…You’re headed out to do big man things.  No doubt having experiences you or I can’t even imagine as I sit here writing these words.  You’ll be learning what it means to be a man, what it means to fight for something you believe in, what it means to not quit, and what it means to walk with integrity alongside your brother.  You’re on the precipice of adulthood and on the first pages of a new chapter in the book of your life.  I am both thrilled and terrified.  All I can do is stand proudly in support of you and send up a prayer for your protection and strength…and know that I’ll be right here if you ever need me.

 

…but just last week you were 9 months old, finding your feet, testing the grip strength of your toes as you began to navigate the world on two feet instead of your hands and knees.

You were learning how to say “mama” and “dada” and “ba-eh-ball” (basketball).

Then you were 18 months old and jumping off the end of the coffee table with such gusto that I didn’t have the heart to tell you no.  All I could do is be there for you if you fell.

At 2 1/2 you decided training wheels were for babies and you convinced your Daddy to help you learn how to ride your bike without them.  He said you could do it…that you were ready. He had faith in you and I had faith in him.  Your confidence and self assured attitude had everyone amazed.  I knew all I could do was be there for you if you fell.


When we left Mississippi to move back home to the Triple R, as we pulled out of our driveway and onto the road you said “Mommy, can I be Tim now, not Timmy?”…and just like that, another milestone was made.  You were 3 1/2.

That summer at the Triple R, you had all the college guys amazed as you rode your skateboard with the best of them and dropped in on the 5 ft ramp like a boss.  I was more proud than scared, because, after all…you were my boy.  Adventurous, fearless, confident…And all I could do is remind you to wear your helmet…and be there for you if you fell.

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Then came your first day of school.  And green mohawks, and baseball, and soccer, and music.  We learned baseball wasn’t your thing.  The desire not to get wacked with the ball outweighed the desire to play that sport.  I get it…I’m with you on that one…no broken ribs or concussion is worth a home run.  Soccer was fun, but those Soccer people…they’re WAY more serious about that sport than they need to be!  Am I right?!  No, we’re not giving up our lives and every school night and weekend to chase a ball up and down a field with other kids who are never going to be Olympic Soccer stars…sorry…

I remember your 6th birthday.  That was the birthday of the drums!  Thanks to your Big Daddy, your love of music was fostered and our house became just a little bit more…noisy.  ūüėČ  That lead to guitars and many nights of hearing you up in your room plucking away at whatever song had decided to make it to your fingers.  You come by that music thing naturally…it’s a gift…keep a hold of that one.

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The years passed in a blur and before I could blink you were 16 and getting your license.  You had facial hair, and a man voice, and I now looked up to see your face instead of down.  How is that possible?  You were just 4 years old yesterday…literally…You bought your first truck and when you pulled out of the driveway and honked your horn…the sound of freedom for you…my heart drove away, too.  I couldn’t think about all the “what if’s” of that new freedom you now possessed…If I did, it would paralyze me with fear, and who wants to live like that?  All I could do is wave..and be there for you if you fell.

Today you step into the unknown.  You’re stepping up.  You’re saying “I’ll do it.  I’ll do the thing.  I’ll be brave.  I won’t quit.”  I’m not going to lie and tell you there’s not a part of me that’s not scared.  The future is uncertain.  The path unclear.  Life is full of pain and hurt.  But it’s also full of love and triumphs and goodness.  No matter where you are, or what your job, tomorrow is not a guarantee.  Just know that the One who guides your path also holds your future.  The One who has gone before you is beside you to comfort you and behind you to hold you up!

Your roots run deep, Son, and they began to take root the moment you were placed in my arms 18 years ago.  They are strong enough to hold you.  They will anchor you to home and family and faith.  There’ll be days when you feel like giving up…like this thing you’re doing is too hard…but DON’T give up!!  Don’t quit!  You ARE strong and your roots will ground you.  Most things worth fighting for in this life are hard.  Persevere.  Be brave.  Be kind.  Be humble.  Be strong…the kind of deep down strong that no one can break…you’ve got it in you…I know you do…

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Your wings will carry you on to new adventures.  To places and experiences yet unknown.  Those wings are tricky things…they take some getting used to.  You may trip on your face.  You may crash.  In fact, you can count on it. Dust yourself off, and get back to it.  If you make a mistake, own it.  If you mess up, fix it.  If you hurt someone, make it right.  Don’t ever be afraid to say “I messed up.” or “I’m sorry”.  Don’t take yourself too seriously.  It’s OK to laugh as you dust the mud off your pants and stand back up.  If you get off the path, get back on it.  Be the man we raised you to be.  Be the man your Dad and I know you are.  Be the man God intended you to be.


It may not be my job to correct, discipline, teach and “mother” you anymore.  Those days are done…but I will always be your Mama!  I will always love you unconditionally!  Your Dad’s and my home will always be a safe place for you.  And no matter what…I will always be here if you need me.  You’re one of the good guys, Son!  I could not be more proud of you!

All my love,

Mama

 

 

 

 

 

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Dealing With the Dust Bunnies

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Last week I did something I’ve been dreading…I walked up the stairs to my boys’ room and faced the space that is the 7 year old’s domain…a space¬†I’ve been avoiding for about 9 months.¬† I¬†put on my big girl pants and rolled up my sleeves to deal with the chaos and¬†funk¬†he’d been¬†living in for the better part of the year.¬† Ugh…it was¬†NOT something that I was looking forward to, but it was time…it absolutely HAD to be done.

Armed with a trash bag or two, the broom and dust pan and some motivational music I headed¬†up to deal with the dust bunnies…and who knows what else…that may have found it’s way under the bed and in the corners of that room.¬† It was painful at first. ¬†how had I let things get this far?¬† Clothing that is now too small, broken toys, and trash filled up the space.¬† As I lifted the bed skirt I steeled myself¬†and held my breath.¬† What would I find?¬† How bad would it be?¬† The further I got into the project, the better I started feeling, though. ¬†It really wasn’t THAT bad after all.¬† Get the junk out.¬† Sort through it.¬† Decide what’s trash and what’s not.¬† Get it cleaned up, throw away the trash, and put things back in their place.

While I was up there…alone in that space, I began to think.¬† How many times had I done this very thing in life?¬† Avoided that hard thing?¬† Pushed away those feelings that were easier NOT dealt with?¬† DIDN’T have that hard conversation that needed to happen?¬† Kept the peace instead of making time to deal with issues and in so doing create lasting peace?¬† I am NOT a confrontational person.¬† I don’t like conflict.¬† I’d rather put the bed skirt down and pretend those dust bunnies aren’t there…and sometimes in life…you have to do that…for a season.¬† But then¬†its just time¬†to handle your business.¬† Time to pull up the bed skirt and deal with the dust bunnies.

For 8 months during fire academy, academy life was my life…it¬†was quite literally all I did. ¬†I didn’t ignore other things, people or situations on purpose. ¬†There just wasn’t space in my life to deal with anything else. To say it was a hard season would be an understatement.¬† It WAS hard and challenging and life changing and amazing…

But…now…I had a few dust bunnies…

Dust bunnies called “reconnecting with my kids”.¬† Dust bunnies called “cleaning out the freezer and restocking the pantry”.¬† Dust bunnies called “paring socks and sorting the laundry”…and dust bunnies called “Tending my marriage”.

I find myself getting into a new rhythm. Shifting some things and checking in with my people. My sweet, long suffering husband is one of those people. ¬†I needed to check in with him. To ask him about his heart and see where I could love him well as we make this next transition. ¬†We¬†haven’t been married for 22 years because we don’t deal with our stuff. ¬†No matter how messy…and sometimes it is…Even though I’m not a fan of confrontation, I’m MORE not a fan of leaving those pesky dust bunnies in the one relationship that is most precious to me!¬† We’ve learned to communicate…I’ve learned to communicate…

I don’t always do it well, and lots of times it’s ugly and messy, but we fumble through the best we can knowing the alternative is far worse.

We’ve grown pretty aware of each other over the years, and now I think we both realize pretty quickly when there’s something on the table that needs handling.¬† We’ve been through some hard seasons…some brought¬†TO us by circumstances…some created¬†BY us out of our brokenness.¬† I’ve shared before about the sharp edges of my brokenness hurting those most close to me. ¬†He’s been cut by those edges and has still shown me grace.¬† There are no words to express my gratitude to him for that!

During academy, my need for him was evident.  He was my strength when I had none.

Now that season is past, and it’s time to deal with¬†any dust bunnies that may be hiding under the bed.¬† It’s time to take care of that relationship a bit.¬† Time to check in and make sure we’re both learning how to navigate these new waters well.¬† We find ourselves in uncharted¬†territory.¬† He has a firefighter wife now,¬†who leaves for 24 hours at a time.¬† Who¬†may seem¬†strong and confident, and like maybe she doesn’t need him as much anymore.¬† That couldn’t be further from the truth!

Being able to listen, and understand and love each other well is SO worth the time!¬† The divorce rate among fire fighters is pretty high and even worse when that fire fighter is¬†the wife.¬† I don’t take that lightly…I refuse to become a statistic.¬† And if you know me at all, you know once I set my mind to something…that’s it!¬† ūüėČ

There¬†are a couple of markers in our marriage that stand out to me.¬† The first one being the 9 year mark.¬† I remember early on thinking that if¬†we could just make it to 9 years then we’d be ok.¬† That was the year of marriage that my parents made it to before divorcing.¬† As that milestone came and went I exhaled a bit and relaxed…until I realized that I should NEVER “relax”…that each year, each day was a gift.¬† Then the 20 year mark came up.¬† Having made it to that marker feeling closer than ever, having been through a hard season, I was humbled and thankful to God for those 20 years, and the kind, caring man who walked those years with me.

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Life…and relationships…have seasons.¬† And sometimes you¬†just can’t deal with the dust bunnies.¬† Believe me.¬† I get¬†it!¬† Sometimes I can’t face them, either.¬†¬†It’s ok.¬†¬†But how¬†long is too long to let it go?¬† How many days, weeks, months or years are you willing to let¬†slip by¬†cluttered with the¬†dust of unkempt junk?

Years ago, in the beginning, we decided to “never go to bed angry”.¬† You’ve heard that one, right?¬† Haha!¬† Oh Lord help me…I thought that would be so simple…For the longest time, early on,¬†I thought that just meant, say your sorry, kiss and make up and move on.¬† Well…nope…sometimes that means¬†not¬†going¬†to bed.¬† Sometimes that means stumbling and struggling through hard emotions, hard things, snot and tears and all¬†so that you can¬†be stronger, healthier, and closer than you were before.

Sometimes it means pulling up the bed skirt and sweeping out all the dust bunnies so that it’s as kept on the inside as it appears to be on the outside…

As I processed through this, my thoughts have mainly been my¬†marriage,¬†simply because no other relationships in our home function if that one doesn’t.¬† No other relationship in my life is as vital to my well being or as important to me as my marriage.¬† In a culture that¬†has begun to disregard marriage and deemphasize that relationship it is becoming increasingly difficult to reflect the importance of that union.¬†¬†And in my life…I don’t work unless my marriage is working…

So, we take the time.  We ask the hard questions.

My marriage is FAR from perfect.¬† Sometimes we irritate the snot out of each other, but love covers that.¬† Love gives grace.¬† Love learns to put aside self and meet the other person where they are and love learns to show grace even if it’s messy and awkward and imperfect.

Love shows up in the quite moments when you take time to ask about their heart and still the¬†noise rattling around in you head long enough to really hear them.¬† Love means pulling up that bed skirt and dealing with the dust bunnies so the space is clean and functions the way it’s meant to function.

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Love never quits, so we don’t…even when it’s harder than you think you can handle.

Press on, friend!  Handle your dust bunnies!  There is joy in cleaning away the junk!

Peace & Love,

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I need Jesus

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If you know one thing about me it’s that I love music!! I mean, I really love music!! There are times when I hear a song and it’s like it was made for my heart.

This song by Matt Maher is like that…this heart cry that almost made me ache when I heard it.

“Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here, I find my rest
Without You, I fall apart
You’re the one that guides my heart”

“Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me.”

“Teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You
Jesus, You’re my hope and stay.”

“Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You.”

The words are so beautiful and honest. ¬†There is only one rest, only one place where grace is found, where I am free…and that is in Christ! ¬†He is truly my only defense! ¬†There are so many days when I fall short. ¬†When I am not the wife I should be, or know I want to be. ¬†When my brokenness paralyzes me and blinds me to the truth. ¬†As a mother, I am reminded daily that my only defense is Jesus! ¬†My heart cries to Him with my deep need for Him. ¬†When the ugly sharp edges of my brokenness show up and cut through those around me, all I can do is fall to my knees and pray for grace to show up…and it does!

I am not facing the kinds of hard things so many of you are facing.

Cancer has not invaded the spaces where it is not welcomed. ¬†Sickness or disease do not ravage my body. ¬†I have clean water. ¬†Food on the table and in the pantry. ¬†I am not being held captive nor am I hiding in fear for my life because of my beliefs. ¬†My family is intact. ¬†I have not known the kind of loss and struggle that are real in this world. ¬†I have, however, experienced pain and heartache…I have been reminded of grace in recent years, and know the power that it has to heal and restore a soul. ¬†I am a soul restored and being restored. ¬†Every hour…every moment…

There are many moments in many days when the mundane of life block the view. ¬†When the “business” of life closes in around me, and I forget. ¬†I forget to stop and be thankful for the simple joys of this life.

This song is a reminder to stop.  Stop and be thankful.  A reminder that my rest and my righteousness is in Jesus.

Holiness is Christ in me.  My hope is in Him and that brings me joy.  The number one joy that I seek hard after every day is the peace that comes in knowing I need Him, and He holds me.  He is gentle and kind and always with His rebukes grace shows us.

Where does your peace come from?  What simple joys do you find in this life?  In this business of living, where does your joy lie?

I hope you’ll watch this video and be encouraged. ¬†Feel loved and pursued by Jesus. ¬†Feel kept in Him.

Peace & Love,

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Don’t Quit

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A couple of years ago I decided to give voice to my swirling thoughts and throw that voice out into this space.¬† Time has marched on and sadly the old blog and it’s posts were lost…I’m not one to hold on to things, so…onward and upward…Thankfully I’ve saved the posts and may one day migrate them to this site, but for now…new lessons and fresh words are in the queue.

Jesus and I have been on a life changing journey over the past few years.¬† I’d like to share what I’ve learned in hopes that it will encourage you or give you a glimps into the Jesus that I follow.¬† Hopefully I can keep it to 1500 words or less!

…”Don’t quit”…

Seems like a simple enough directive to follow…right?¬†¬†Those two words have been woven into the¬†very¬†fabric of my¬†being over the past¬†3¬†years.¬† October of 2013 I was searching for a career.¬† Something that would be challenging and fulfilling.¬† Something¬†where I could use my life experiences to be a blessing to¬†people.¬† I have worn many hats in my life…wife for 22 years.¬† Mother for 20 years.¬†¬†Homemaker, stay at home mom, Boarding school house¬†parent, horse back riding instructor, office worker, bus driver…all have¬†helped shape ¬†who I am and taught me things about myself.¬† Each experience impacted my life in one form or another, and I am grateful for those seasons.

One October day I was sitting in what used to be the old Tabernacle Church worship center watching my husband’s cousin graduate from Norfolk Fire Academy.¬† He was headed to the streets to be a firefighter after many long years of a “don’t quit” journey of his own.¬† We were all so proud of him and the excitement in the room was palpable.¬† As I sat there watching the slide show of the academy and¬†hearing the words of the speakers as they addressed¬†his graduating class, like a lighting rod to my soul, I thought to myself “I could do that”…and at the very moment I was leaning over to tell hubby¬†of my revelation, he leaned in and said to me “you could totally do that, babe”.¬† Really…I’m not even¬†kidding…talk about a¬†divine appointment.

So, at 30 (ehh ehm) something I began a journey that would change me¬†and challenge me and teach me things about myself in such a way that would¬†honestly be one of the greatest events of my life¬†thus far.¬† I began to pursue employment as a Norfolk Fire Rescue firefighter!¬† I filled out the application.¬† I signed up for an EMT class at my local vocational school.¬† And I waited.¬† I volunteered for a local city as an EMT upon completion of that certification.¬† And I waited some more.¬† I trusted God.¬† I prayed.¬† I waited some more.¬† I had a milestone birthday…something about turning 40…then I got a call.¬† One November day after a long hiring process, after the current academy had been going on for 3 weeks, I got a call.¬† I had settled on the fact that I wouldn’t be in this academy, but maybe the next one was where God wanted me.¬† But no…not only was I going to be one of 5 women out of 27 recruits¬†(give or take) and¬†the second oldest in the class, but I would be starting 4 weeks behind the rest of the class…ok, Jesus…I’ll walk through that open door, even if it’s scary and it seems like the deck is stacked against me.¬† I’ve prayed about Your will in this, so here we go.

I walked through those doors and into a hard like I have never known in my life…yet I had joy.¬† I had peace.¬† I knew I was meant for this, and that Jesus had paved the way for me, and that He had me.

Over the next 8 months I would study, sweat, be pushed, work hard, ache, cry, loose sleep…and weight…and press on…I would have people yelling at me to run faster, work harder…I would be told to reevaluate.¬† To look in the mirror and be honest with myself about what I’m capable of and what, exactly, I wanted.¬† I’d be told to quit…to give up…that I wasn’t strong enough, fast enough, good enough.¬† I would quietly stand and receive it…and not believe it.¬† I would square my shoulders and hold my head high knowing I could take it.¬† I knew I could do this job…I wasn’t going to quit…no matter what.

My family was right there beside me.  Encouraging me, helping me, caring for me and loving me so well.  I could not have done this hard thing without them!  They fed me, ironed my clothes, rubbed my sore muscles, and cheered me on.  They spoke life giving truth into the sometimes dark days and kept the ember of strength fanned in me.

In those moments of hard…in the quiet of the night as I lay my head on my pillow to get those precious few hours of sleep, I would talk to my husband, and Jesus would speak through him to me.¬† As I wrestled through this hard, and struggled to find strength, He would say, “Charity, you can do this.¬† You are stronger than you think you are.¬† Stronger than you feel right now…and until you can carry yourself, I will carry you.

I believe that every experience, every struggle, every hard thing brought me to this place.  Every detail of my life helped shape me deep in my soul and gave me this strong sense of self and who I am in Him.  Jesus, being gracious and kind, was preparing me for this time, for this journey of mine.  I believed so strongly that this was a divine appointment and what I was meant for, that no matter what, I was not going to quit.  Aside from my decision to get married at 18 years old, and being a mother, this experience has been the most life changing.

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This verse has been on my lock screen on my phone for¬†probably 2 years.¬† It’s embedded deep in my heart.¬† Even when I struggled to believe it, I believed it.

I’m thankful for those instructors who pushed me…who held up the mirror for me to look into.¬† They were, unbeknownst to them, being used¬†by God to¬†cement in me who I am and what I’m made of.¬† When you’re body has reached physical exhaustion, when your mind is weary and your soul feels broken, and you are being told you are pathetic…and you can steel yourself and say out loud “I won’t quit”…there is victory there.

I¬†WAS forced to look in the mirror and ask myself hard¬†questions.¬† This career I’ve chosen holds¬†lives in the balance…mine, fellow firefighters,¬†fellow humans…It is serious business.¬† I have learned so much about who I am…and¬†the over arching theme…I AM NOT a quitter!

I will not quit.

I won’t quit when I’m scared.¬† I won’t quit when I’m beyond done.¬† I won’t¬†quit, even¬†when I don’t think I can keep going…I will keep going.¬† Because¬†Christ in me is stronger than the quit, and that’s the truth.¬† I won’t not quit because of any strength of my own, please hear that!¬† In Christ alone my strength is found.¬† That is what I learned about myself…

Whatever your hard, if God is within you, you will not fall!  Believe it, friend!  Be encouraged!  Be strong!  Rise up and fight another day!

Don’t quit!

Be brave enough to find joy in the hard and respond to life from the overflow of that joy!

Peace & Love,

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