Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘thinking things through’ Category

My newsfeed this week was filled with stories about Mother’s Day being painful for some people (I know) and how we should temper our celebration of this holiday by honoring all women instead of just mothers. I read an article by a well-known pastor who said his church will not be focusing on mothers with their service today. Fair enough. I wonder if he’ll do the same on Father’s Day. Should we not single anyone out to thank them for their service lest it offend someone else?

When did saying thank you to one person mean you were leaving another person out? Is this a political correctness thing? Do they really mean by honoring mothers today we’re being exclusive instead of inclusive? What a load of crap! I don’t know how or where this new trend began, but it sucks!

Before you think me cold and indifferent to the pain floating around in the world, let me share a bit of my own story.

I struggled with infertility for seven years before I had my first child. I spent many Mother’s Days dying on the inside as I cooed at the baby sitting in front of me at church, and played with my friend’s kids. I know the pain of hope and wishing I was a mother.

I lost a baby in 2008. It’s the single most shocking and horrifying moment of my life, and I blogged about it here and here. My heart aches for all of the other women who’ve experienced such tragedy. I know the pain of all of those missed birthdays, hugs and kisses, and the little girl I’ll never know.

I grew up the daughter of a single mother with multiple mental illnesses. She’s no longer in my life, not because she died but because we cannot be in relationship anymore. I know the pain of not having a mother who could mother me. I meet women all the time who deal with that same pain, and I love several women who are missing their moms today because they’ve already entered eternity.

I get it. We are surrounded by wounded women. Many of us ARE wounded women. We should be sensitive to the experiences of others, but lessening how we honor mothers today doesn’t erase those wounds OR rub salt in them.

When we celebrate Father’s Day, we’re honoring the dads in our lives. Some biological and some not. We honor men who have fathered us and also the men who we admire how they father others. There are father wounds around us too, but celebrating fathers does not make men who are not fathers lesser in any way. It’s just not about them on that day, and that’s okay.

When we celebrate Veteran’s Day, we’re honoring the brave men and women who have served as military veterans in our armed forces. I’m not a veteran, so Veteran’s Day isn’t about me, but it doesn’t take anything away from me or cheapen my role in this world in any way to spend that day thinking about and honoring the veterans in my life.

Why can’t we look at all honoring holidays this way? Why do we have to perpetuate a self-centered, victim mindset? Sometimes it’s just not about you!

I am a mother. I’ve mothered hundreds of people in my lifetime and it hasn’t subtracted anything from the three children who live in my house.That’s the beautiful thing about love – it expands to fill the need.

Today is about celebrating who I am as a mother. It’s about honoring the sacrificial lifestyle I’ve chosen as a mom. It’s a time for my children, husband, friends, and family to acknowledge who I am and what I do.

Mother's Day card

Today is a thank you for the thousands of meals I’ve cooked and the mountains of laundry I’ve washed, dried, and put away for them. It’s a thank you for cleaning up vomit in the middle of the night, and my amazing splinter-removing skills. It’s a thank you for spending weeks reading the Harry Potter series aloud, and months teaching them phonics so they would someday be able to read Harry Potter on their own. It’s a thank you for the late night talks about navigating friendships with people who hurt your feelings, and puberty, and frustrations with school. It’s a thank you for the many miles I drive every day to get them to work and back home or connect them with their friends.

While I am grateful for the ways my tribe honors me on other days of the year, today is special. I get two days a year that are all about me, Mother’s Day and July 29th – my birthday. Let me have them! Let me be celebrated by my loved ones how they see fit and don’t tell them their actions are insensitive to the wounded women around them. That’s not fair. To those who think by honoring moms you’re being insensitive to other women, I ask you to rethink your position.

If you are a mother, I honor you today no matter what your circumstances are:

Those who have birthed a child, I honor you.

Those who have given a child a better home through adoption (both the giving up and the taking in), I honor you.

Those who chose not to keep their child and hope to be reunited with them in eternity, I honor you.

Those who have no children of their own but choose to love other children in their lives, I honor you.

Those who have lost a child, I honor you.

Those who wish they had a mom who cherished them, I honor you.

Those who are navigating difficult mother/child relationships, I honor you.

Single mothers, I honor you.

Married mothers, I honor you.

Widowed mothers, I honor you.

Happy Mother’s Day, Moms!

You are seen. You are loved. Thank you for who you are!

For everyone else: Choose to honor a mom in your life today! Kind words, a text, a phone call, a card or letter, flowers, chocolate, or time spent with them and for them. They deserve it.

kiddos

These three each gave me a dozen roses, a box of chocolates, and the rest of the day to do whatever I want…by myself. Happy Mother’s Day to me! 😉

 

Read Full Post »

Here it is, the last post of the challenge. As I have not yet gone to sleep for the night, I consider this a completion of the challenge on time. Hooray! I chose this challenge because I love writing and I wanted it to aid me in my quest for discipline in that area. I’m a work in progress for sure, and I’m today’s topic.

You can read about me up at the top of my blog under the “About” page and the “I Love” page. If I weren’t me and had to describe me to someone who doesn’t know me, here’s what I’d say:

“I like her. She nice, brave, fierce, sassy and a great friend. She loves people and does all she can to help others. She’s a good wife and mom. She’s a reader, a healer, and she never gives up.”

My tagline for everything is this: Freedom fighter, people lover, word artist, Chai fanatic, and so much more! My hope is that people will take the time to get to know the “so much more.”

And here we are at the end. I’m proud of my fellow challengers for sticking this out with me. It’s called a challenge for a reason, and we did it! Thanks for reading along with us!

Don at https://donhillson.wordpress.com/

Beckie at http://free2b2much.blogspot.com/

Tracy at https://countyroadchronicles.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Sometimes life happens and I don’t make the time to write – even during a challenge. The next several posts are me catching up on the writing challenge with my friends who are linked at the bottom of the page. I’m not giving up and I’m glad you didn’t either. 🙂

At least one of my fellow challengers will roll their eyes at who I chose to write about for this one. We joke about being Jesus-juked, but I promise that’s not what this is. This has been a month of reminding myself who I am and why I am the person I am – the person I choose to be, and no one challenges me to be who I am more than Jesus and those who choose to follow Him. Please don’t stop reading this if you don’t identify with being a Christian or if the only Christians you know are jerks. This is not a ploy to shame you, guilt you, or convert you. It’s a short explanation of why I am who I am.

There’s a lot of discussion going on right now regarding how to handle the refugee crisis, who Americans will choose as our next president, what to do about gay marriage and transgender issues, and a whole slew of other hot topics. In every discussion, there are Jesus followers who are planted firmly on opposite sides of the issue. They hold their convictions in both fists, ready to use the power of the Lord to slay their perceived giants across from them…their brothers and sisters whom they’ve chosen to break fellowship with over differences of opinion and lack of decorum. It’s not safe to be close to people who don’t believe the same things you do…“Bad company corrupts good character” and all that. (Some would know that is a quote from Corinthians in the Bible, but it was actually the apostle Paul quoting a Greek playwright, not Jesus.)

“Don’t let anyone into our country from the Middle East because they might be terrorists. Fight Islam because they want to kill all of us ‘infidels’.” “Vote for ____ because we need to return to being a Christian nation.” “Shut out the gays and shun those who consider themselves transgender because the Bible contains verses regarding such filth and we need to stand on the Truth.” I have heard and read these asinine statements all over the internet in recent days. But that’s not me. That’s not Jesus.

love-one-another-john

Jesus challenges me to love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me. Jesus doesn’t endorse a certain candidate for the presidency. Jesus calls me to love everyone regardless of who they are, how they choose to live, what gender they identify with, who they are attracted to and love, what shameful things they’ve done in their past, or how harsh of a person they are now even though they wear the name of the most revolutionary pacifist in history. He calls me to feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked, and take in those in need of shelter. I do all of those things not because of some future reward, but because of the reward I get now – the deep satisfaction of knowing that the space I occupy on this planet is better because I’m in it. I make a difference in THIS world. Who, where, what, why, and how I love makes a difference. And I am who I am because I follow Jesus.

love2

My fellow Christians challenge me to be who I am because I deeply love people on both sides – the ones who are ruthless in their “truth-telling” and the ones whose every move is motivated by a gentle love. I have been both. If I’m honest about it, I am both. I tend to save my ruthlessness for the J-holes who are the squeaky wheels in all the worst ways. It’s so much harder to love them when I want to slap them, but I’m learning to temper my fury as I remember they are not my enemy. Most of the time I am motivated by the gentle, forgiving, love-people-right-where-they-are kind of love I see Jesus expressing. This is the quote at the top of my Twitter page:

love people

I love people. It’s who I am. It’s what I do. I am a warrior and a child. I am fierce and a force to be reckoned with when the need arises – I fight for others, but I am also like a kid in a sandbox – that person you meet and become instant friends with after a brief chat.

I am challenged to be who I am by Jesus and how He loves me…how He loves everyone, including Christians who are so unlike me and people who don’t identify with Him at all. I want to love like that. Jesus said that’s how people will know I follow Him…by my love…and that is who I am.

Check out my fellow challengers:

Don at https://donhillson.wordpress.com/

Beckie at http://free2b2much.blogspot.com/

Tracy at https://countyroadchronicles.wordpress.com/

 

Read Full Post »

It feels good to be writing again after all the tragedy of the past few months. Today I’m honored to be featured over at themitchroush.com. His monthly series, “Music Changed Me” showcases people he knows and loves sharing the music that has impacted their lives. My piece focuses on disliking the word “secular” being used to label songs that are sacred to me, and the love song I have on repeat during this season of healing.

I’ve known Mitch for over 20 years, and oh the stories I could share about him. Ha! He’s an incredible man. Take some time to get to know him through his writing. He does an excellent job weaving faith and creativity throughout all he does.

It brings joy to my soul to hear him describe me this way: “Niki is one of the most eloquent feather-rufflers I know. An edgy soul, not out of attention, but out of a fierce love that has no other way of being expressed. She’s passionate and wants nothing more than for everyone to have a place at the table.”

Thank you, Mitch. That means a lot to me!

Here’s a teaser:

Music is one of my love languages.

If my inner 80’s child were to make you a mix tape and share with you the soundtrack of my life, you’d grin and possibly groan at the quirky variety of my musical tastes.  I bet you’d find something that suits your tastes too. Now and then, I get stuck on a song to help me through a particular season, repeating it until the music cleanses me or the season passes.

– See more at: http://www.themitchroush.com/music-changed-me-13-love-on-repeat

Read Full Post »

angi

Angi Sanders Painter

Passed away. Left this earth. Went home to be with Jesus. Died.

Cancer sucks. That’s not news to anyone. All of those phrases fail me. There’s no sufficient way to convey the rending I’m experiencing losing my friend Angi so unexpectedly, but let me try.

There’s hemorrhaging in my heart and I can’t staunch the aching flow. My stomach is twisted and I yearn to curl up in my bed and cry myself out. My throat is clogged with unspoken words and questions…so many questions. I have phantom limbs burning to hug her once again. The pounding rhythm in my head cries out that life is not fair. It never was. It never will be.

Everything aches.

Outwardly, I’m placing one foot in front of the other, keeping my chin up, and plowing through my to-do list. I have a family to take care of, a conference to prepare for, and a life needing to be lived. I cannot change my circumstances this week and won’t be gathering with the rest of her loved ones (Oh, how she loved me, and I her) as they honor her life, so I’ll do that here, with my words.

She loved my words and never stopped telling me so, especially when I couldn’t seem to string them together in a coherent thought without chasing them down rabbit trails. My words are wild things I’m still learning to capture and contain, but she never stopped telling me I could do it. She always believed in me. I’m sure she still does.

We met fourteen years ago at my son’s first birthday party. We became great friends, though she told me later that I scared the crap out of her. She was on the quiet side while I only visit there occasionally. 😉 She embraced me and my family and loved us well. We spent hours shopping, creating, sipping, laughing, and lounging. We helped each other pack and move, got lost in long theological arguments discussions, held each other during the painful parts of life, and when we no longer shared a city, made sure the phone lines between us worked properly.

Kyle and Angi

I can still see her blush as she told me about meeting Kyle and hoping he was “the one.” I can hear the laughter and conversation around our dinner tables as we spent time in each others homes after they were married. My mommy heart remembers the love I felt towards him as he hoisted my little Max into his fishing boat and handed him a wrench, setting him to “work” with him and calling him “little buddy”.

It was a Sunday morning when my friend Angela called to tell me Angi and Kyle were in a terrible car accident and Kyle was killed. I flew back to Indy as fast as I could to trudge through that nightmare with her. We slept a little and talked and cried a lot. We found ways to celebrate our togetherness while grieving such a terrible separation from him. It was horrible and beautiful. I remember lying next to her on their bed while she dialed his number over and over again just to listen to his voice mail message, tears streaming down both of our faces.

She held me through some terrible losses of my own, making sure my family was fed when I could barely function, gifting me with things I couldn’t buy for myself, speaking encouragement to me even when I didn’t want to hear it. Always loving me and thanking me for our friendship.

She was a teacher and amazing with children. She changed the lives of lots of little people and their families. When I decided to homeschool, she not only supported me but told me, “If anyone can do it, it’s you.” She helped me figure out my kid’s learning styles and gave me lots of recommendations. She called me to lament over some of her student’s home lives and wanting to take them all home with her. She had a big heart and a certain grace for parents even when she wanted to wring their necks for not seeing the treasure they had in their children. I loved that about her.

I’m good at a lot of things, but my kitchen skills? Not so fabulous. I’m a follow-the-recipe kind of girl, but Angi was one of those annoying people who throw things together and voila! It’s a gourmet meal. Angi taught me a few things about southern cooking and we had lots of crazy discussions about the way to a man’s heart. I teased her and made her blush when I told her us Yankee girls had our own suggestions on how to get that done. Ha! She patiently showed me how to make her Chicken and Dumplings, and it’s her mama’s sweet potato pie recipe that I’ll bake (with pumpkin) next week for Thanksgiving, as I do every year. I taught her how to make Beer Brats, so I think we’re even. Wait, that wasn’t me, that was my husband. Never mind.

Angi and Niki

Angi drove all the way to Oklahoma City to surprise me at a Ladies Retreat I was speaking at. On one of her trips to visit me in Colorado, she held my hand while I got my first tattoo, though no amount of cajoling could make her join me. She took me to a traveling Lord of the Rings exhibit and bought me a Galadriel ring, only making fun of my nerdery a little bit. She taught me how to make jewelry and I taught her how to get organized, something she told me she’d get around to someday. We started and failed in a business together. I shared my beloved mountains with her. She went to summer camp with me for several years as my nanny – the best one my kids ever had. She loved all of my children, but had a special bond with my Zoe. Maybe it was a girl thing. Maybe it was a Zoe/Angi thing. I loved watching them together.

When I started blogging back in 2004, Angi called me and said, “I just found you on the internet! Well, it’s not you, but this lady could be you, you’re so similar.” And that’s how I met my friend Pam, a kindred spirit on the other side of the country. Angi brought us together. She was good at that.

Angi and Toby

A few years ago, she called me and said, “Let me tell you about Toby!” I giggled as she gushed about this man she had met and how sweet he was. She felt so lucky to have found love again, something she had always doubted she would find in the first place. She was so happy to have such a great love and sang his praises about his care for her. Because life is complicated, I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him face to face, but I love that man for loving my friend! I wish they had been able to make the trip out to Colorado like they had repeatedly tried to plan.

Angi and Holden

Then there is Holden. What a beautiful little blessing he is! Angi was heartbroken over not being able to have children, but she and Toby began preparations for adopting that sweet little guy before he was even born. He changed everything. A lot of my current agony is for him. He’s got an amazing daddy and I trust that he’ll grow up hearing stories about his sweet mama and how much she loved him.

Painter Christmas

Back to the “C” word. The first time Angi told me she had ovarian cancer, it took me about 5 minutes to go through all the stages of grief. Then I became Warrior Niki. I prayed with her and for her. I told others to pray for her. I took on whatever role she needed me to take on while we talked. I became loving mother, encouraging friend, ass-kicker, and grieving sister. Many of our phone conversations took place while she was lying on a hospital bed with a tube in her arm, or in the middle of the night when she knew I’d be awake to talk with her through the nausea and insomnia. I tried to be there in spirit during the good days and bad. I didn’t get the chance to be there in person, but she never held that against me.

A few weeks ago she texted me:

Angi Text

I’m a writer. I can’t believe my last words to this woman I love were, “Awesome!!! 🙂 I’m so glad!” I have so many other words I could have chosen, but I didn’t know. I thought we’d have several thousand more exchanges. I wish we had. By the time I found out she had been given two weeks to live, she was already gone. It was another shocking Sunday morning. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I’m terrible at goodbyes, but I would have found a way.

I am awed by her life and so very grateful she shared it with me. She was strong and weak and real and bursting with love and faced everything even when she wanted to run and hide. I am devastated by her death and healing will be slow, coming in waves, because that’s how I do things.

A well-meaning friend posted something on my Facebook page about not grieving because I know I’ll see her again. Yes, Angi and I shared our faith too. But friends, while I am confident that we will meet again someday, that sentiment doesn’t do me a bit of good today. It’s not comforting at all. My deep sorrow is not indicative of my level of faith, it’s a testimony of my overwhelming love and compassion, something gifted to me by my heavenly Father. This sucks, and I think God thinks so too.

Ang1

For those of you reading this that knew her too, I say grieve how you must, without guilt or platitudes or rushing through it. Now is the proper time for that, so do what you have to do. No matter where you are, be thankful for the ways Angi impacted your life. Speak or write the words you’re choking back as you relive the memories you made together. Honor her.

For those who didn’t know her, I hope I’ve given you a glimpse of who she was. She was a beautiful soul and she will be greatly missed.

Read Full Post »

It’s been a hard week, and it’s only Tuesday! My friend Heather called late last night and I shared a bit of my funk with her, but I still went to bed unable to escape the feeling of being crushed. People have failed me this week. I’ve failed myself. I’ve failed others, and it sucks. Like lava flowing through my veins, my anger has been an internal companion lately. I find myself getting irritated by things that wouldn’t bother me if I was feeling like myself, which I’m not.

Is this an identity crisis? Do I need to just pull up my big girl pants and get over myself?

I’m reading Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. I think she’d tell me I’m not being kind to myself. I wonder if I’m experiencing my mid-life unraveling? She describes it as a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re “supposed” to live. I’m doing heart and soul work and like Brene describing her own journey, it’s a bit like slogging through mud on my journey to living wholehearted.

I’ve been focusing on all the times I HAVEN’T kept my word, said or done the kind thing, loved someone well, served with compassion, finished what I started, and lived like I wanted to. I’m caught in the sinkhole of wanting what I won’t ever have and feeling sorry for myself. But it’s not just a pity party; it’s a deep grieving for an impossible relationship. Most of the time it’s emotionally manageable, but in my current state, it cements me in the bottom of the sinkhole. I need a rope.

I woke up this morning to a text from my friend Cherie. As we messaged back and forth, she made me laugh and I felt a little sun. I shared a bit more of my funk with her, and she spoke my name back to me, reminding me who I am. I lay in bed for a while, crying to God about my life and the uncertainty I’m feeling. Pete must have crawled in our bed after Benny left for school this morning because he was curled up asleep on Benny’s side. As I was wiping my eyes, his little voice said, “What’s wrong mommy?”

“I’m just sad right now and I’m talking to God about it.”

A minute later, my phone beeped. It was a Facebook message from an old high school friend. Stephen shared a video of his lesson from last Sunday, telling me that somewhere in the middle of his talk about Grace, he told the story of a time in high school when I called him out. It’s a story he has shared several times because for him it was a rooster’s crow…a call for a new beginning. A call to remember the grace we live in. He thanked me again for allowing God to use me to get through to him. I cried some more. The year I met and knew Stephen, my senior year, is one I’ve always referred to as my year from hell. But God used me in that hell and He gave me a few good friends. Stephen reminded me of that today of all days.

I guess that’s three rooster crows. Heather. Cherie. Stephen.

I’m still in my pajamas, and I may stay that way today. That’s okay. In my core, I know who I am. On the outside, sometimes I forget. My face is dry now, but my heart still hurts and I’m crying out to God. He’s the only one who hears the things I don’t feel safe enough to share with other people. He doesn’t hand me my big girl pants and tell me to snap out of it. He’s the one who sends three friends to speak life to me and remind me who I am, and then He holds me while I cry.

Watch the whole thing, but minutes 16-20 are about the rooster crowing. Good stuff! Here’s the link:

Undeniable Grace

P.S. My memory surrounding the letter I gave to Stephen is a bit hazy. I’m a wordy girl, so I’m sure the song lyrics weren’t the only thing I wrote, but I can’t remember what else I said. I only remember how nervous I was giving it to him, prepared for the possibility of it being the end of any friendship we did have. Lucky for both of us, we weren’t close enough friends for me to make him a whole guilt-inducing mix tape. Imagine slogging through that! 😉

And Stephen, if you read this, I’m humbled I’m part of your story. My heart is the same, but my methods have changed, and like you, I’m all about God’s grace! Thank you for messaging me today. Your timing was perfect.

I shared some thoughts a few months ago on Peter and the rooster crowing:  Jesus, Peter, Me, and the Number Three.

Read Full Post »

Most of my blog posts could start with, “I have this friend…”

I have this friend who buys me Chai…a lot, and another friend who tells me I’m amazing on the days I feel like a big fat failure, and yet another one who tells me when I’m full of crap. These ladies have shaped me, but many times my growth has come through loss instead of love. Or maybe it was love in the midst of loss. Tonight I’m thinking about a friend who said goodbye, and the incredible impact he made on me.

This friend and I spent quite a bit of time together during a pivotal season of my life. His parting words to me were beautifully sweet and I should have known they were a goodbye. I can be naive like that, thinking friendships last forever. Some don’t. There was pain for me in the parting, but he left me with an amazing gift – words to dive into and explore. Words that moved me into a place of introspection and quality time with God. I’m sure he has no idea the impact his letter made on me. Here’s a brief glimpse of what he said:

“Do not let yourself be bound by the labels that others write out for you or that you unjustly write out for yourself.  Only judge yourself by who you come to know you are through your relationship with Christ and time spent getting to know yourself…You are so much more than… (He inserted a list of activities and titles I mistakenly thought defined me.) Understand the places where flowers grow after you have been there. Understand that part of you that possesses greatness while still being totally separate from what other people think or know of you. Understand why and how God loves you in particular.”

I have that paragraph memorized. Why? Because that friend was one of many God has used to speak this message to me. That bold part? I’ve created several pieces of art with that as the centerpiece. That phrase was pre-tattoo sleeve, and probably influenced my idea for the design.

I’ve been pondering identity this week and I’m stuck on the phrase, “So much more.” My friend Nick used that phrase on Sunday and I cried. It’s definitely one of my heart messages, and I need to share it with you. Ready?

YOU are so much more than the labels you and others write out for you. YOU are so much more than __________ (fill in the blank for me) and YOU need to understand the places where flowers grow after YOU have been there and why and how God loves YOU in particular…because He does. He loves YOU like crazy. No matter who you are, what you’ve done, or whether or not you believe in Him.

My friend’s words have become a mantra for my life – to leave people better than I found them. I want flowers to grow in their lives after I’ve been there. I am finally walking daily in the knowing that I am so much more than, and so are you.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: