Dad’s First Easter in Heaven

For some reason, Dad has been on my mind a lot lately. I don’t know if it is Easter, the time of year or the approaching anniversary of his death. Whatever the reason, I’ve been thinking about him a lot.

I have heard so many descriptions of heaven. They are all somewhat similar. Heaven, it seems most everyone agrees, is a place of peace and everything wonderful. I’ve heard it described (I think it was in a book I read, but can’t remember the book) as a place of everything you love. A place where you feel whole, complete; a place of love and peace. I’ve heard heaven is different for everyone – which makes sense to me. The challenge is we won’t know while we are here on earth. We just have to find a theory or idea about what comes after death that we can live with. An idea that resonates with us. A way we can come to terms with after death.

I grew up in the church and believe in heaven, and to a lesser extent hell. I haven’t spent a great deal of time contemplating it other than to determine, for me, it means the place of contentment. A place where one is close to God, in the arms of Jesus. I’ve always believed heaven would be wonderful.

Since Dad died, I’ve struggled with heaven.

Not because I don’t believe that is where he is, but because I don’t know how it can be all I thought it to be.

First, why I believe that’s where he is. My dad was not a man who spoke of his faith. I don’t remember him ever leading a prayer. He would never have professed his faith to others. That wasn’t who he was. I believe he had tremendous faith. I believe he knew the many ways God was present in his life. I don’t believe he came from a background that would prepare him, or maybe even allow him, to speak of his faith. But I believe he lived it in the way he served his church, his friends, his family and his community. He wasn’t the spiritual leader of our family – that is very much my mom’s role. But I don’t believe that is a reflection on his personal faith. I have to believe the God I worship, knew Dad’s heart. That my God understood my dad. That my God welcomed my dad home when his body wore out. I believe my God greeted my dad with a father’s love that my dad never knew on earth. That he accepted Dad, just as he is and as he lived his life. I believe that Dad finally found the Father who loved him unconditionally and valued him.

Maybe that is the answer to the part I have struggled with.

I have been trying to reconcile how heaven can be that place for Dad when he is without Mom; the person he loved most in the world. I have thought of him each holiday, each birthday and significant day. How heaven can be all I imagined for him when he is separated from Mom. I couldn’t reconcile him not feeling lonely. Not feeling apart from his family. I imagine him feeling he had so much more he wanted to do. Things he hadn’t yet tried. Ideas still in his head. I have struggled with him being content.

We are often told those who have passed are watching over us. They are with us and know what we are going through. If that is true, Dad has to know the pain Mom is experiencing at losing him. How hard it is for her to “go on” with life without him. Knowing someone you love so much is going through such pain and not being able to “fix” it is troublesome not peaceful. It would be anguishing for Dad.

I suppose this is like so many God things I can’t wrap my head around. Somehow I have to put human limits on God and what He can do. I make assumptions that God is limited by the laws of our universe and the ability of humans. My God is so much more than I can really comprehend. Our pastor gave a sermon back in January about how literally we should read the Bible. There was a part that has stuck with me and maybe applies here. He was talking about the creation story and offered that maybe the creation story is about describing the indescribable. Maybe the concept of order from chaos is so indescribable, something our human minds could never comprehend? Maybe there are not words to describe this; that we could never get our minds around the concepts?

Maybe heaven is beyond my comprehension as well? Maybe there is just no way I am going to come to terms with it. Maybe I can’t comprehend what dad is experiencing and I just have to trust God. I have to trust that Dad is content.

My heart is faithful, but my mind struggles.

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Healthy – Part 2

December 29, 2014 is the day I decided to make changes. And just to clarify, that means it was not a New Year’s Resolution! Cause we all know how often those stick. That’s just the day the switch flipped. I don’t know why. Nothing traumatic happened, no revelations, no holy crap moments. I just decided I was ready. And fortunately, Hubby decided to join me on the journey.

We joined a gym and I started logging or journaling food. I’m burning more calories than I’m eating (nearly) every day. I workout about 5 times a week and I log everything I eat. No food is off-limits. I just have to work that much harder if I want something high calorie that day. It’s a balancing act.

There have been some weird and random side effects to this approach.

  • I actually enjoy going to the gym. I feel strong. I feel powerful and in control.
  • The trainer actually suggested I take a day off. Words I never thought I’d hear anyone have to say to me. When we started I was going to the gym 6-7 days a week. Now I go 4-5.
  • I feel strange and out of sorts if I don’t get in a good workout. Like I’m missing something.
  • I’m craving healthier foods. (Except Bates french fries. I will always love Bates fries! They are my kryptonite.)

I have stuck with this simple plan for 3 months. And I haven’t felt the frustration I have in past attempts. That point where you want to say, “Screw it, I’m going to Krispy Kreme!” Maybe because Krispy Kreme isn’t off-limits, it just means I have to spend 13 minutes on the elliptical per donut.

Balance. I think I’m finding balance.

I feel healthy. Am I at my destination? Not by a long shot. But I feel good about my body. I feel strong.

When it comes to my weight, I still have a really long ways to go. Really long. But I’m choosing (most days) to focus on the good steps I’ve taken and the changes I’ve made. A good friend pointed out, I’ve really changed my habits. Hopefully a change that will last. It’s about baby steps, incremental changes, moderation, intention and balance.

I’ve only lost 21 pounds in 3 months. It should be more (I know, I know, muscle weighs more than fat!) and that part it frustrating.It’s not glamorous having sexy arteries!

But there are some fun numbers too!

I’ve lost 8.8% of my body weight. It’s not a Biggest Loser sized number, but I’ll take it!

I’ve dropped my BMI by 3.53. For whatever that’s worth. I’m not even sure what it means other than I’m obese, but it’s going down and I know that is supposed to be a good thing.

I’ve lost 4 1/2 inches off my hips and 5 1/2 off my waist. Plus 1 1/2 off my neck and 2 1/2 off each quad.

And I’ve rewarded myself with some new clothes. Not a lot, since I have a really long way to go, but a girl needs a reward! And I don’t mean food! I’m seeing some new sizes and clothes are fitting differently. That’s all good.

I know people like to see before and after (or during) photos when people blog about weight loss, I do anyway. But I don’t think the changes are that noticeable. I hesitate to include them because my focus is really on changing my lifestyle and feeling good. Essentially, doing the right things. It’s for me, not for the drama. (However, I can’t tell you how excited I was to buy a top this week that was just a plain old XL, not a plus size 1X. There’s a difference, believe me. I look forward to shopping in a department other than plus size. It’s just limiting.) And, I didn’t really take before pictures. I have very few full length pictures of myself. I’m usually hiding behind something. That’s what I do. Don’t put me in front. I used to hold my kids in front of me. That doesn’t work so well when they are all taller than you:(. Oh well, here’s what I could come up with. Be gentle.

Temp

So what’s my point? I’m not sure. I don’t know why I felt the need to put this in words. Maybe it’s seeking affirmation, maybe it’s going “public” for accountability, maybe it will motivate someone else who is waiting for the switch to flip. I don’t really know, just felt the need to write.

Thanks for listening.

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Healthy – Part 1

I feel healthy.

Really.

And I don’t think I’ve ever said that before. Part of me wants to go back and change that to I’m feeling better than I used to. It’s a little less bold. A little safer and maybe not putting myself out there quite so much.

But here’s the back story.

I have never been thin. Or even average. I’ve typically been the heaviest among my friends. On the BMI scale, well I am beyond the obese threshold. I’m not at a loss to explain it, I know why. There are myriad reasons; I love (some) food, I come from hearty stock, I hate running, I have a super busy life, I’ve had my share of stress. You see, there are reasons.

Honestly, I’ve known I needed to make changes for a long time. It was obvious. I also know me pretty well. After all I’ve lived with me for a lot of years! I knew my heart just wasn’t in it. I just couldn’t commit to any plan. It wasn’t about knowing how to do it. It was about being committed to doing it. I lost a significant amount of weight 10+ years ago. And gradually, I gained it all back…and more. I refuse to do that again. It’s disheartening. Devaluing. It’s failure you wear for all the world to see. And to judge. Weight is one of those things we all have an opinion about. We all know how to lose weight; burn more calories than you eat. Simple.

Except it’s not. Food is such a huge part of our culture. We use food as rewards for everything. We celebrate every milestone…with food. We mark every right of passage with a “special” meal. We gather for a relaxing evening with friends…over dinner. And let’s face it, you can’t live without it. I’m not “addicted to food”, I personally don’t subscribe to that thinking. I don’t think it’s an addiction. It’s a choice. But either way you look at it, that vice is something every one of us has to face every day to stay alive.

And exercise takes time. I’m like millions of Americans in that I sit at a desk all day. I borrowed a fitbit from a friend for a few weeks. It was discouraging. On a typical day, without changing my habits, I think the max I ever reached was 6,000 steps. The average was probably closer to 3500-4000. I don’t move at work. 8 hours of every day I’m sitting. And another hour in my car commuting. Getting 30+ minutes a day of exercise takes effort. It takes making a plan and following it. Every day. For forever. That’s a commitment. And to a couch potato…daunting.

Most of you can probably relate on some level. Living healthy takes desire, commitment, follow through and time. I don’t think you can be successful without all four. At least I know I can’t.

I’d like to say I prayed about this for a long time. But by “prayed about it” I mean thought about it often, wished it so and hoped God knew my heart. It was just on my mind a lot. I remember even telling a friend, “I’m waiting for the switch to flip.” That’s really what I needed. That tipping point where your desire overshadows the inconvenience and fear.

My tipping point came on December 29, 2014.

But this post is already very long, so I’ll share the first 3 months of my journey tomorrow.

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New

Happy New Year! It is 2015 – a brand spanking new year!

All clean and crisp with no dings or scratches.

Yet.

Like a new notebook, I love a new year. And this year, I am especially excited to turn the virtual calendar page. 2014 will be remembered as one of the toughest yet. It was a year full of emotions; excitement, pride, fear, apprehension, relief, and extreme sadness. I felt emotions at a depth I don’t think I have before. And many in such a short span of time. I never envisioned my strongest grief coming in the midst of huge milestones for my children. But the world did not stop for us. It never does when someone is deep in grief. It kept spinning seemingly faster and faster. It is ironic, the way really significant moments can be eclipsed by the momentous things.

The end of 2013 we said goodbye to our family pet Gracie after 10 years and I said goodbye to a very comfortable job of nearly 7 years.  At the same time Hubby changed positions at his company and move to a much less stressful position, I took the helm at a new organization going through huge transition. We were prepared for changes in the year ahead.

We had no idea.

Change is hard. Good or bad causes, wanted or unwanted, it’s always challenging.

Losing my dad, sending our Middle Son off to a summer internship and then college, it was all hard. It was a season of loss.

But I would be remiss if I didn’t also highlight the beautiful, gracious and inspired things that happened as well.

I gained understanding I didn’t know I was missing. I developed a much more personal understanding of loss and have found myself in a position to support others in their grief. I would not have had that understanding had I not experienced that loss.

I stumbled onto a class that provided me a network of colleagues to learn and grow from, and where I am encouraged in my professional endeavors.

I have seen my boys each grow up, becoming more compassionate and more responsible for themselves. They have stepped in to fill gaps left by my grief, they have taken charge of their own futures in made plans and decisions to move forward. It is so encouraging to see the plans they are making.

I have developed deep friendships. Women with whom I can share the ugly parts of me and not be judged. Priceless.

Life is scary, but I am stronger than I thought. I can survive. And yet, I am fragile. I am deserving of the tenderest of care and compassion.

I have learned that life is fragile. That nothing is forever. It is up to me to make right with people and with myself. I can’t control when my time comes, but I can know that I have no regrets. Nothing left unsaid.

And I still know how to write. Thought maybe I forgot that:).

Cheers to a new year! Full of new opportunities, adventures, challenges and I’m sure sadness and disappointment.

Regardless, I’m looking forward to New!

 

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Not a Dreamer After All

I used to fancy myself a dreamer. A possibility thinker. I remember the ambitions I had as a teen. I was going to move away, to bigger and better things. Blaze my own trail and leave a lasting mark on the world. Maybe international business? Live abroad? The skies were wide open and the possibilities were endless.
Somewhere along the way, my world shrunk. The ideal became a little less lofty and I started to think more about what is attainable. I began thinking in terms of what was reasonable and realistic. Sort of the “Let’s face it you’re never going to…” mentality.
Somewhere along the way between the world-is-your-oyster high school years and the middle-aged, near-empty-nester year, I became a realist.
Maybe it was becoming a parent, or buying a house or some other step of adulthood that changed me. But it’s ok. For me. It’s ok to think practically, to be realistic about the future.
However, I think it does my kids a disservice when I can’t embrace their dreams. When I burst their bubbles with my “realistic” views on life. It limits them. It squelches their creativity and instills doubt.
In my effort to paint an honest picture of life, to give them a realistic perspective on what the grown up world is like, I take away the option to dream. The freedom to dream the big, hairy, audacious dreams. The ones that scare the bejeebers out of you and excite you at the same time.
I have only recently come to realize this about myself. I have a dear friend who lets her kids dream. In fact she supports their dreams. And prays for their dreams. Even the big, unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky dreams! I admire that. And yet I don’t do it.
It’s hard to shut off the logical, ordered, down-to-earth, focus-on-what-is-realistic part of my brain and engage the dreamer again.
We all need to dream! Especially young people. There is a great, big, world out there and the ability to envision yourself changing it is priceless. Without the belief that you can make your dreams come true, what do you have? What pushes you, drives you and makes you revise that idea/paper/design one more time? What makes you reach a tiny bit farther, try that move one more time, reach out to one more person?
We must be able to dream.
We must be able to create and nurture our own dreams without doubt standing behind us whispering in our ear.
I don’t want to be the doubt for my kids. I want to be the voice in their head that says, “If this is what I really want, I’m going to make it happen!”
So go, my sons, dream really big dreams! Imagine, what if…! Put your heart into your dreams, work your 10,000 hours! Become the expert you want to be!
I believe in you!

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For What it’s Worth

A coworker had to leave work early today because her 4 year old was sick. Not sick-sick, but the “school” insisted she be picked up since she had been to the bathroom 4 times with diarrhea. Understandable. The mom was frustrated. Leaving work meant no pay. That means less rent money. She was a bit exasperated. Understandable.
But I so wanted to say, “embrace this moment!”
Go home and hold that little one in your arms. Cuddle her and tell her stories and listen to her breathe. Be present in this moment. Shut out the world; the rent, the job, the fact that she wasn’t running a fever and just hold her. Put your jammies on and pop in a silly movie or better yet, grab her favorite books and read.
And soak up every detail of that little one. Soak in her smell and the way her hair gets in her eyes and the quirky way she describes things. Be present in this moment and commit the memory to your heart.
For one day, one day that seems so far away, she will be too big to sit on your lap. She will be too busy to take time to read with you. Her life will grow bigger and bigger. She will become the confident person you raise her to be. And one day that confident young adult will spread her wings and go her own way.
And though you are so proud of who she has become, every now and then, you will wish you could have a “sick day” with her again. A day to shut out the world and just be.
Life with young ones is hard. And it is so easy to get distracted by the demands of life. But remember, those little ones are only little for a very short time. The blink of an eye.
I know you are exhausted, worried and a little overwhelmed. I have the luxury of speaking from somewhere near the other end. Many things seem clearer when you are looking through the lens of time.

Mason 22
For what it’s worth, I don’t regret one single moment spent cuddling my sons. Not one.
I don’t regret the days we spent in our pajamas or the lunches on the living room floor.
I don’t regret the silly stories they told again and again. In fact, I wish I had listened more carefully.
I don’t regret all the sick days or even all the puke I cleaned up!
Just a little perspective from a mom who’s been there.

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Vacation Musings

I just returned from a relaxing vacation with family. I had plenty of time to let my mind wander. I miss being able to do that regularly. Life has been so busy, so full of tasks that thinking has been squashed out. It was refreshing to pause. I debated about going media-free for the week, but decided better of it. I just dabbled instead.
Here are a few thoughts and realizations from the week.
• When I don’t trust my gut, that inner voice that tells me what to do, I don’t feel in sync with my own life.
• I won’ t look back in 20 years, or even 20 days for that matter, and wish I had spent more time cleaning, working, planning.
• I am a happier person when I can take a moment and make some order of my life.
• I don’t have to be in control of my life, but I do have to be in control of my responses to my circumstances. I need to make deliberate, intentional choices about how to move forward at any given moment.
• When I look backward, I realize I am much stronger than I believe myself to be.
• Faith is a journey, sometimes a hard one, sometimes a boring one, sometimes an exciting one. It’s hard to stay focused when you are in the boring parts.
• If you can stay focused in the boring parts of faith, you may find great reward in the exciting parts and comfort in the hard parts. It can be like eating your veggies to get to dessert. You don’t see the immediate impact of eating the veggies, but in the long-term, you can’t survive on just dessert.
• Life is a balance between seeing things in the micro and the macro. It is challenging to both look at what is best for an individual and what is best for the group – community, family, world – that individual lives within. Especially when what is “best” for the individual and the group is not the same.
• Loss is inevitable. It will happen. It will be painful. And I will survive. And each loss, be it a parent dying or a son moving off to college, hurts tremendously. And each will make me a more compassionate, understanding person if I let it.
• Creating experiences is one of the best things I can do as a parent. It is the thing that will bind us together when life takes us in different directions. It is the thing that will keep each of us grounded when the world seems to be beating us up. It is the soft spot we can land in our mind when we don’t feel like we have a friend in the world.
• Helping my kids develop their faith and nurturing that faith is hard. I see other parents who do an amazing job of this and feel I fall short. I miss opportunities to nudge my sons in the right direction. I miss the mark myself so often it’s hard to imagine they can see how it should be. Faith is hard.
• Personal wellness is a journey, just like faith, it can be hard to see the impact of your actions for a long time. You have to trust that the tiny steps you are taking are making a difference. You have to keep piling good habits on top of each other until they make big steps and big impact. And still it is work. Always will be.
• Letting people go is hard. Watching your life change is hard. Even when you know the changes are good. When you believe things are heading in a good direction, it is still hard to let go.
• I feel a constant tug between feeling appropriately blessed, fortunate or grateful for all that I have, for all the conveniences, wealth, health and acknowledging that sometimes life is tough. The reality that even if my life seems “good” there are still bad days. There are still times I struggle, still things that get me down. This doesn’t make me ungrateful or complacent, it makes me honest. Event the luckiest people have bad days.
• Sometimes I feel like there are no words left I can say. I live in a world that is so obsessed with analyzing every word we speak, every phrase we utter that no one listens to anyone’s heart. I can’t say I feel blessed – that implies God has bestowed something special on me and skipped someone else. I can’t say I have struggled with anything- after all I am one of those who experience “white privilege” so I’ve had no struggles. So much energy is expended making sure our words are not misinterpreted by someone else. And yet, they will be. Regardless of intent.
• My world is obsessed with categorizing and labeling people. You must fit into a box for me to know how to respond to you. We are not people, individuals; we are the categories we fit into. I want to relate to others as individuals, finding the things we have in common, and learning about the things we see differently. Trying to understand each other. There is good and right in all of us if we just get past the labels and categories we could see that. This feels like too big of a problem to tackle fresh off a relaxing vacation.
• I haven’t written much since I took a new job. This job has monopolized my creative energies, taken over my problem solving space, and challenged me in new ways. I miss writing and have to find a way to get my fix. A way to make writing a priority. Maybe all that extra time I’ll have when two kids are gone off to college….

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