Friday, November 11, 2016

Heavy-hearted . . . but hopeful

I feel like 2016 has been a rough year. It has been a rough year for me, personally. It has been a rough year for my family. It has been a rough year for my immediate community. It has been a rough year for our state. It has been a rough year for our nation. And, it has been a rough year for the world. Hurts. Struggles. Violence. Protests. Elections. Refugees. Wars. There is lots of bad stuff going on out there.

This week, especially, there are many hurting people around me. And, I would guess, around you as well. No matter what your political leanings or what candidate you voted for, I would hope that each of us in this nation (and many people around the world as well) have dealt with the goings on of the world with sobriety this week (figuratively, if not literally!). I would hope that, no matter what side of the line you find yourself on, you would be a bit heavy-hearted with me this week. There are many people in our nation who are hurting. People who are scared. People who are in mourning and are deeply wounded. Many of them are people that I love and care about deeply. And that fact hurts my heart!

There are many things that have made this year memorably rough a variety of levels. A major one that comes to mind for me, as far as my immediate community goes, is the shooting of Philando Castile. On July 6th of this year, Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer less than 2 miles from our home. This happened in my immediate neighborhood. Our community was thrust into the national spotlight overnight. Many people, even Twin Cities residents, had no idea where Falcon Heights was before this summer. Now people all over the country recognize the name of my community. My dad, one of our daughters and I took a bike ride the day after the shooting to join the gathering of people who were mourning, protesting, remembering and holding vigil at the location where Philando (Mr. Phil as he was known at the elementary school where he worked) was killed. It was an emotional and meaningful thing to be a part of. Many tears. Hugs between strangers. A heartfelt word to my young daughter from a black woman thanking her for coming to share in the "hard" of the moment. There was less anger than I expected; more deep sorrow.

The following week, the elementary school that our kids attend organized a gathering and peaceful walk to the memorial to show our concern over the violence happening in so many different communities in our nation, but specifically the violence that happened right outside our doors. It was a beautiful gathering of caring, concerned community members and I'm so thankful that we were able to be a part of it. It fells good and right to do something when you feel so overwhelmed and helpless. The three teachers from our school who organized the gathering are amazing people. Amazing leaders. Amazing teachers. I am very thankful to know them and have them influencing my kids! My talented friend Shaina (who has a fabulous name . . . even though it is spelled "wrong") took some very moving pictures of the event, which you can see here (see if you can spot any of our family members in the photos).

Although I live very close close to the location where the shooting took place, it is not a part of my normal, daily driving route. Because of that, it becomes easier to forget with time. More than 4 months have passed now and many people have moved on and forgotten at this point. However, one of our kids has a weekly appointment that brings us down the road where the memorial is, and so, on our drive home from our appointment every Thursday we drive by that spot. We remember. There is still a very large memorial on the side of the road. There still are people who remember and have not forgotten. People who are still hurting.

This week there are many people that I know personally and care about deeply who are very sad and hurt and disappointed in our nation. They are mourning and they are scared. Scared for themselves. Scared for their children. Scared for people that they love. This makes my heart feel heavy! I am a highly sensitive, deeply feeling person, so I realize I am in tune to the pain of others in a different way than people of a different personality type are, but I would hope that the deep sorrow of many in our nation would bring sorrow, in some degree, to each of us. Regardless of who I voted for, regardless of who you voted for, there are people around you who are hurting and I would hope that that fact would make your heart heavy too. I also realized that there are many people who are very happy about the outcome of the election (obviously, since Trump won), but I would hope that even those who are celebrating the victory of their candidate could be sympathetic and, hopefully even, empathetic to those around them who aren't feeling celebratory right now. It is a hard time for our nation. I realize I haven't been alive for all that many presidential elections relative to people that I know with many more years of life and wisdom, but I feel like this one is unprecedented in the level of angst and division that the outcome of the election has brought to the people of America. It feels different to me this time around. More divisive. Heavier. I, for one, hope to act in ways that bring peace and healing and a feeling of being loved to those who are hurting. Smile at a stranger. Be civil to those who you come in contact with who hold political views that differ from yours. Love your kids. Hug your friends. Make strides for peace in ways that you are able.

I want to be a safe place for both those who are happy with the state of our country as well as those who are hurting. I am very aware that I have friends and family members in both camps. People that I love and respect fall on both sides of this struggle and that makes things tricky, but not impossible.

But through all of the hard and the sad and the horrible, there are also many, many glimmers of good in the world. The world holds much hope! On Wednesday morning, after the election results were tallied and in, I went to school with my elementary kids to volunteer, as I do each Wednesday. The chatter of elementary school kids this particular morning was more interesting and insightful than it is most "normal" Wednesday mornings. The toast with cookie butter (yum!) and coffee and the amazingly beautiful sunrise that I witnessed that morning paired with the laughter of kids and seeing a student that was pretty discouraged a couple weeks ago flash me a smile (rare for this particular kid -- at least in my experience) and volunteering in a kindergarten classroom (gotta love kindergarteners!) were all good for my heavy heart! So while there is hard in the world and sad in the world and sorrow in the hearts of many of us, there is also so very much wonderful! The warmth of the sun on your back in November, the crunch of leaves underfoot, snuggling, health, newborn babies, meaningful work, laughter with friends, coffee, hugs, a beautiful sunset, people who love you through your yuck, naps, catching up on laundry, online shopping, a good book, music that moves you . . . be on the lookout for the good things in life. There are so very many. The seemingly little, insignificant ones are my favorite! Enjoy them. It's ok to be sad and it's ok to mourn and it's ok to hurt, but try not to forget about all the good that is still in the world. As Glennon Doyle Melton likes to say, "Life is brutiful!" Simultaneously brutal and beautiful. Intertwined. That's how it has always been and I imagine that is how it always will be! I'm going to try my hardest to focus on the beautiful and the good. It's easier sometimes than others, but it's always a good goal.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Blessings abound

Here are some of the many blessings I have made note of in my gratitude journal lately. A gratitude journal is something that I had heard of for years and years, but finally started doing after reading Ann Voskamp's powerful, amazing book One Thousand Gifts. If you haven't read it, you should! And also, she has a new book out called The Broken Way. I have a copy of it on my nightstand, but life has been crazy and I haven't had a chance to read it yet. I am looking forward to it though, and know it will be wonderful. So, here go a few of my recent blessings (complete with photographic evidence of some of them). Enjoy!

5912. baby snuggles with Clay
5915. our pediatrician -- I love her!
5918. family trip to the apple orchard
5920. a complete God thing. an answer to a prayer we hadn't even thought to pray :: a tutor for one of our kids who is struggling in school
5922. glorious weather
5925. clothes on the line
5933. volunteering at school
5937. bonfire and dessert with friends
5944. friends who are like family
5950. a supportive, encouraging husband
5951. a girls weekend
5955. sunrise over the lake
5956. loon calls on the lake in the morning
5959. singing words of truth ::
Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.
On and on and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
I never ever have to be afraid
This one thing remains!
5960. deep, hard laughter with friends (I nearly needed my inhaler!)
5961. yard work done and ready for winter
5963. knowing friends are praying for me
5964. a bright moon in a dark sky
5965. family walk to the park in the dark -- looking at the moon and the stars and swinging and playing catch and climbing and enjoying time together
5972. walking the kids to school each morning
5975. an eagle overhead -- the majesty!

amazing for a November in MN

walking to school with these 3 is my favorite

sunrises are my favorite

amazing friends on an amazing fall day

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

In case there wasn't already enough going on

Life has been a bit of a whirlwind the past month or so. Lots of things (very good things!) coming at us that weren't exactly in the immediate plan, but nonetheless we have found ourself in the middle of them. Major life things. Time consuming things. Thought consuming things. Good things, but things that demand a lot out of you!

We are on the brink of a MAJOR house project around here. An addition and remodel. Big stuff! We have lived in our 1920's house for nearly 20 years now and we LOVE it, but there are lots of things that could stand to have a bit of money thrown at them (and that's an understatement), if you know what I mean. So, we are diving in! All the years we've lived here, we have dreamed of a bigger kitchen. Our kitchen is small and the space is also the main entry into our house. And since 8 people live here (five of whom are full-sized people), the space is pretty tight, to say the least. And when you add in the fact that all the shoes/coats/sweatshirts/backpacks/etc for 8 people get tossed on the floor in the kitchen, it's nearly enough to make you lose your everloving mind! So, our yard will soon be sporting a big hole and life will get messy for a while . . . well, life is always messy, but it's about to get a lot more messy, in the literal sense, for the foreseeable future.

Also, I will be going on a MAJOR, life-changing trip with our two older girls in just over a month. Passports have been applied for. Plane tickets have been purchased. Planning is well underway! My mom, my dearest girlfriend since childhood (my "sister"), my two older girls and my brother's wife will all be traveling to Cebu, Philippines to work at a shelter for orphaned and abandoned children. We will have the opportunity to serve them by helping the staff there prepare for Christmas. How fun is that? Shopping, wrapping, baking, planning, prepping . . . doing what we can to help make Christmas special for the 80+ kids who call CSC home.

I'm quite sure there will be plenty to share on both of these fronts in the near future, so stay tuned.

Life is quite a ride these days. (And always!) I'm hanging on tight.