Sunday, October 19, 2014

Enjoy Life

Sometimes, when all you can think about is how messy your house looks, and how much you're messing up everything, and all that you've been procrastinating, and the pile of stuff on your dresser, and Christmas right around the corner, and ISIS, and deadly viruses on the loose... you just need to get away.

Get in your car and drive away from the house that's suffocating your family and forget what all the yelling was about, enjoy the drive, and soon you'll be enjoying each other. Get away from people, and the noise of the world telling you what you should be doing to enjoy life and just enjoy life.


They are much to pitied who 
have not been given a taste
for nature early in life.
~ Jane Austen ~ 



When through the woods
and forest glades I wander
and hear the birds sing
sweetly in the trees,
When I look down 
from lofty mountain 
grandeur and hear the 
brook and feel the gentle

Then sings my soul,
my Savior, God to thee.
How great thou art!
How great thou art!


 Sometimes you need to remember how to smile.

Friday, October 10, 2014

In My Mind

You know what  I need?  I need a little projector built into my head, so that the lens comes out of my forehead.  I need a projector in my mind to show people what I really mean, because clearly something gets lost between my my mind, my mouth, and their mind.

The other day a friend was telling me about her go-to dish for parties. She loves making antipasto.  Salami, pastrami, olives, cheeses, some veggies like tomatoes and cucumbers. I listened raptly as she described the platter.  Yes, I thought, I need to do this!

I got it in my head to take the kids on a hike. We needed to get out of the house and the fresh air would do us all good.  I also wanted to have a surprise picnic.  A picnic of antipasto! Yes! Yes!  What a fabulous surprise for them.  I had it all arranged in my head. I would wake them in the morning and spring the hike idea on them. The older ones would be grumpy, the younger ones less so. We would drive to a beautiful area, get out of the van, have the fresh air hit us and suddenly be in perfect harmony with one another.  We'd probably even see a bald eagle.  It would be amazing.  At the end of our hike we would be tired and hungry and then I would spring the real surprise on them!  Antipasto platter hidden in the cooler.  Oh, yes. I would be adored.  They would remember this as one of the most special moments of their lives.

I was just thinking of how tired I was, and how little I actually wanted to go to Wal-Mart to fetch my fabulous supplies when my husband mentioned going to the store.

"Do you need anything?" he asked.

"Actually,"  I replied, " I do."

I filled him in on my Fabulous Plan. He seemed keen.  Well, he nodded his head.  I asked for salami, fabulous cheese, olives, and some fancy crackers.

"You know, so I can put together something fabulous like the Barefoot Contessa. Okay?  Get some good stuff."  I re-iterated my Fabulous Plan.  He again nodded his head in what I took as comprehension.

I went to bed.

In the middle of the night I awoke thinking of my Fabulous Plan.  I poked my husband, "Hey, did you get the stuff I asked for?"

"Yes. I did. Don't talk to me anymore,"  he mumbled back.

The next morning I pulled the cooler into the kitchen, giddy with excitement.  A hike!  An antipasto platter!  My joy would be complete!

I could find none of the objects of my desire.  I went deeper.  I moved the eggs. Finally, underneath a bottle of dressing, still in the plastic sack, I found what I was looking for.

Well, not really what I was looking for.

I found some Oscar Meyer salami, a package of American cheese, and a jar of baby dills.  There was also a box of saltines on the kitchen table.

I went to the window to put some distance between me and the demise of my antipasto platter.  I noticed it looked like rain.  I felt a funk coming on. On my second cup of coffee, though, I felt like I had a handle on the situation.

I had a moment of clarity after the coffee had taken effect. Each and every time I had ever asked my husband for something and ended up with a something completely different from my original vision  flashed before my eyes. The time I wanted a lavender bedroom and he surprised me with Barney-purple walls. The time I asked him if he could trim the boys' hair for me and he shaved them practically bald. The time I had the flu and asked him to get me a great movie and he brought home Riddick. The time I told him we really needed new curtains for our bedroom and he brought home black sheets to hang over the window.  (Those black sheets still are my curtains. HELP.)

You get the idea.

The coffee combined with the stark difference between my dream and reality shed some light on the situation.  Men and women obviously come with different pictures in their heads. All of my pictures come from Better Homes and Garden, HGTV, and the Food Network.  All of Lee's pictures come from the Dollar General ad. He can't help it if he doesn't have the right pictures in his head.

I can help him with that though. I just need to put the right pictures in his head.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Oh, Mother

The year I was in fourth grade I had an obsession: guarding my mother's bra strap.

I would notice it slinking down her arm and stage whisper, "Mother! Your bra strap!" out of the corner of my mouth.  Utterly ridiculous, but I had just begun to wear a 'trainer' bra  and I wanted no one to know I had one underneath my t-shirt, because I was a DECENT person. (What is a trainer bra anyway, and what are we training our poor prepubescent bodies for?)

At ten I just found it completely humiliating that my mother's bra strap could be seen in public by friends and total strangers alike. For Pete's sake, no DECENT lady would ever let another soul know they wore a bra.  If people knew that my Mother wore a bra then they would know that she also had breasts.  If they knew she had breasts, they would also be able to figure out that she wore underwear, and that was an unwelcome can of worms I did not want opened.

1983 was the momentous year; the year I considered myself to be keeper of the secret of Mama's lingerie - a knight of sorts.

I stood watch at all times. If I caught a glimmer of of strap beginning the wayward descent I would push it back under her shirt and do my excellent stage whisper. In my ten year old mind I was practicing the art of subtlety; to my mother I must have seemed an obnoxious fool.

Now that I have lived through two ten year olds - I'm on my third and have one more to go - I kind of get it. Kids are completely enamored of their mothers until about age 10. My kids still think I'm beautiful and wonderful and all of that, when we're at home.  However, once we step out into public I am capable of inflicting humiliation on them simply by existing. It's awesome.

I think noticing Mom's bra strap also caused me notice the fact that she was a person who lived her own life. I could not fathom that she did anything while my brothers and I were away from her.  I imagined her sitting idly at the kitchen table, bored out of her head, until we came home from school or wherever we had been.

Ten is about the age I started to fight with my mom in earnest - and that is about the age each my children have chosen to exert their individuality. (Read:  be completely rude and irrational at any given moment.)  I wanted to become my own person and I decided that should be the exact opposite of the person I was finding my mother to be.  I think this must be encoded in our DNA because it is such a painful, tedious, bizarre process no one would willingly participate in this ritual dance of independence.  

I can honestly say that I have, thus far, enjoyed every stage of parenting. This is not to say that I do not find it difficult.  I do; gut wrenchingly so, and I have the gray hair to prove it. :)  There are two things that keep me going on the days when I feel that I am being crushed beneath all the mental and physical exertion of parenting:  1. Baby pictures of my darling children  2. The relationship I have with my mother now.  Those two things remind of me of how much I love those human beings that can cause me sleepless nights, and give me hope for a future with them.

My relationship with Mom began blossoming when I married, but was solidified when I had my first child. The interesting thing about birth is that also brings the birth of a mother, and in turn the birth of a grandmother. Mom's emergence into being a grandparent allowed me to glimpse another facet of herself, and was a gift to watch. This continuation of lineage put us somewhere we had never been: equals. We were both beginning a new stage of life and even though I still look to her for security in small ways, Mom and I learned to do this new part of life together.

There were days, early days, when the baby was so new it was scary.  Lee had to leave for work at the crack of dawn so Mom came over to fix me breakfast for the first few days home. We would lie in bed together, our daughter/granddaughter between us, watching her wiggle and squeak and stretch. I had postpartum depression that made me feel it would swallow me whole, and mother just took my hand and led me through that dark forest. Those days cemented our friendship.  Each child that has come along has added more layers to our amity.   When I rolled over in the night to nurse a baby to find a thermos of cold milk and peanut butter crackers sitting on my nightstand, I learned that I would never stop mothering from my Mom . That was a hug from my mother, her way of still nurturing one of her babies.

I had forgotten about the bra strap thing until we were all together this summer. One of my kids elbowed me and muttered 'Your strap is showing'. Mom cracked up and told me it was just punishment for the year she endured with me pushing her strap up. She said she sometimes pushed it down into view just to get me going. I'm so glad she thinks it's so funny.

Later, when we were leaving a restaurant I noticed her bra strap hanging down.  I pointed it out to her.  She just wiggled her eyebrows at me.

Oh, Mother.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Paint Your Hair

So, it finally happened, the thing I have been waiting on for 10 months. It went way better than I thought it would.

Sweet little girl, big blue eyes, button nose, long blonde hair verbally sucker punched me last night at work.

I work at a library and I was checking out her books for her when she said, "You should paint your hair."  She said it with wide eyes, all truthful like.  There was no malice behind her words - she was just passing along some information.

I knew immediately what she meant.  I quit coloring my hair last November, and in June I finally was able to cut the last of my permanently dyed hair away, revealing a pixie cut full of silver.

(FYI, it IS silver, NOT gray.  Ever.  Always Silver. As in 'Silver Fox', thank you very much.)

"Nope, no paint for me,"  I answered with a smile, "I like it just like this."

I didn't know that I did like it.  Go figure.  Out of the mouth of babes and all that jazz.

I started going gray at 27.  When I had our third child at 30 my sprinkling of gray had grown to full blown waterfall.  I started coloring it it a couple of years later when a family member pointed out that they could officially count more silver hair than brown.  Over the last 5 years, in between coloring, I noticed that my skunk stripe had widened quite a bit.  Last year I decided that when I turned 40 I would quit coloring my mop and see what was really going on under there.

Over the last 10 months I have taken more selfies that any woman my age should.  I was just so curious! In the beginning I was curious about what I would look like once it had grown out - would my skin look more sallow?  Would it age me?  Would people now think that I was older than 40?  What would my husband think?  What would my friends think?

I read blog upon blog about going gray.  Yes!  There are blogs devoted to this phenomenon. I pinned pictures of silver-haired ladies like a fiend. I talked about it incessantly. I even talked to other people about it incessantly.

As the months grew on, and the gray kept coming I was befuddled. I did not feel like a Silver Fox.  I felt like a woman who was on her way to an unknown destination and no one had bothered to fill her in on what she needed to pack.  Honestly, this whole '40' thing wasn't as great as I imagined it as kid. I grew up watching Oprah and she said 40 was amazing, and that 50 was even better. Ha! Watching the color grow out of my hair made me feel like all of the vibrancy was leaving, as well.

I was committed to growing out my gray partly because I had made a big deal about it to myself.  I also just didn't want to spend the time and money on the upkeep it was taking. I also liked how silver hair looked on other women.  Apparently that was key: I liked the idea of gray hair on other women who weren't me.

 I felt betrayed by my hair that I had always been so good to.  I always deep conditioned once a month or so, brushed and treated it kindly. I never said things like, "I hate my hair!", because I did not hate my hair. I loved it. It was thick, and healthy and a nice chestnut color.  People always complimented me on hair.

So, there it was. I was a little vain.  Nobody was saying anything about my hair because they didn't care.  Friends, family, and total strangers were just living their lives not actually thinking about my hair color.

Imagine that.

Turns out I don't think much about my hair anymore, either. It's just there, up on top of my head being silver. But only in the front. If I look real closely I can still see some of the beautiful chestnut color coming through. The back is still (mostly) brown, but what can I do?   It's just hair, right?

That sweet little girl who suggested I 'paint' my hair enlightened me. I had no idea that I liked it until I answered her so readily.  By the way, her mother was nearly speechless saying, "I'm sorry - I'm a hair dresser."  I quickly let her know that I knew her little girl was just being honest.

Turns out, so was I.


Only two of my 749 selfies. You're welcome.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The New Jonah

In my life, I have found myself drawn to the book of Jonah over and over.  In times of difficult ministries I found myself encouraged, in times of deep despair his prayer has had real meaning.  His is a story that I totally relate to, and totally loathe all at once. I find myself wondering at Jonah simply not doing what God told him to, when he told him to go. Lately, though, I have been questioning my ability to procrastinate, and whether it is really just me running from God's will.

The longer I think on it the more I come to see that the answer is a resounding 'YES'.

I'm thankful that he doesn't send a big fish after me, because that would scare the crud out of me. I have to say, though, that I have been in some big ole stinky situations because of my lack of action.  I have always felt that since Jonah was being more deliberate in his disobedience that it was a worse transgression than my pretending that days aren't passing, that there is always a chance to do it right. I can't see that there is any difference.  I mean, the result is always the same: I end up in the opposite place of where God wants me. Period.

I always act like procrastination happens by accident, too, as if I were not consistently choosing other things over what I should be doing.  Even worse, I act like I am forced to keep choosing to do what I want to do rather than what I feel God is urging me to do. I use my husband and my family as reasons for  why I am not doing what I know I should be doing.

Many times I find myself choosing to do the easy stuff of Christianity. Leading bible studies for Christians, spending time with fellow Christians, and praying for other Christians. Those are good things, necessary things, but they are not the only things I should be doing.

The fact is I have become comfortable with complacency when it comes to my faith. I have lost my sense of urgency, placed my mind on other things, and forgotten how it felt when I first felt God's Spirit stirring within me.

That Jonah of the Old Testament, he ran from the Lord and then took a nap in the bottom of his ship. I was being super judgy, ripping Jonah for not even losing sleep over his decision to do the complete opposite of what his God asked of him, when a friend said, "What if he was just depressed?  I see that sometimes, in people who just can't care anymore. They're really just depressed."

Huh. I had never thought of it that way because I was too busy judging him and thinking that I was nothing like him. I wonder if my friend was on to something. I do not believe it is our natural human state to simply not care. I believe we have to talk ourselves into that state, or dull our minds through t.v. watching and internet scrolling, or in simply keeping ourselves extremely-busy-doing-very-important-things in order to be able to not fully feel the effects of caring.  Once our minds have been thoroughly dulled it becomes easier to be inactive.  A saying that always makes me uncomfortable  is 'if the devil can't win you over he'll keep you busy'.

I look busy, doing all of the right things, reading all of the right books, but in my heart I know that I am inactive when it comes to what God wants me to do.  Jonah got on a boat and went in the opposite direction, but I stay right where I am and allow myself to believe the lie that because I am in constant motion I'm not going in the wrong direction.

My heart does not lie, though. I am as asleep as Jonah was in the bottom of the ship.

I am the new Jonah, and I fear it is the disease of the Church.

I may be rambling, but I feel like something is about to explode inside of me. I've been reading all manner of books about people who sacrifice for God, for His people to know Him better.  Books* that make me say to myself, "Well that's good for them, but it won't work for me. I can't go to Africa (or fill in the blank with any country). People here don't know that kind of hunger so they'll never need Jesus like they do in other countries." or the worst "My family is my ministry."

I only say those things to myself to tamp down the fire that starts in my soul and makes me want to feed thousands with two loaves and a couple of fish. I only say those things to myself so that I can sleep at night as I sail further and further away from the young woman who fell in love with Jesus. I only say those things so that I can look my children in the eye when I walk away from someone without telling them about the Living Water that will quench their thirst forever.

In all of this, I am not fishing for compliments or pats on the back. Those of you who know me in real life know that there have been sacrifices made, that there have been times I have put myself out there in order for another human being to get to know my God.  I just feel like I checked it off the list.  Somehow sharing Christ became a goal I had fulfilled and not a way of life and I am tired of it. I am tired of sitting in church and missing what it felt like to feel God's fire rise up in me, making me feel like I could do anything for Him because He had done everything for me.

I have had it with believing that I do enough, or that I deserve a rest, or that because I was born into an easier life than some that I have earned it.  It's just not that easy any more. I don't know what it means, these feelings I have rumbling around in me, but I know that I cannot keep moving about in the world this way. I am thankful that I remember what it felt like to be truly alive, to know that while I might not change someone's life, I could certainly introduce them to the One who can make all things new.

I am praying that following God's Spirit is like discovering a pair of forgotten gloves. At first they feel tight and restrictive, then with use and stretching they feel right and good.

This evening, as I type, there is a thunderstorm right outside of my window.

I am not sleeping.

 Awake, O sleeper
rise up from the dead,
and Christ will give you light.
Ephesians 4:19

*Books like Kisses for Katie, Crazy Love, Whatever Happened to Worship, and Christian Atheist, The Hiding Place.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hand Towels

For reasons beyond my control, I have always desired to have beautiful hand towels.  I feel that hand towels are a symbol of a home well put together, a home where visitors may wash their hands and be assured that they are drying them on a clean, germ-free surface.

As it is, hand towels are a rare find in the Shepherd home. Well, it's rare to find one in the bathroom.

You may find one in the backyard covered in mud and grass because it was used to clean the sidewalk. 

You may find two or three under the couch, in an attempt to hide a spill that was hastily cleaned.

You may find one in the kitchen sink, having been used to wash rocks in a soup pot.

You will not, however, find one hanging on the towel rack next to the sink.

I have had so many conversations with my family concerning hand towels and my deep need for them to be available. They listen and nod their heads at the appropriate moment, but true knowledge does not appear to be imparted. Sometimes, in an effort to appease me, they leave a wash cloth where the towel should be. Usually it's a dirty washcloth.

Once, someone left a paper towel. Not the roll, mind you, just a single paper towel.  A few weeks ago I entered the children's bathroom to find a glob of wet toilet paper waiting for me in the sink.

"What the heck?"  I asked the kids.

"I was trying to dry my hands,"  a child answered, and pointed to the roll of soggy toilet paper resting on top of the towel rack where the hand towel should be.

" Gah!!"  I moaned in exasperation.

"We're sorry mom,"  my four children said in unison. "We'll do better."

There were so many excuses.  They don't know where the hand towels are, or which ones they should use, or if I prefer matching ones. As if we have matching hand towels.

The last three times I've gone into their bathroom there's been a t-shirt limply hanging on the rack.

I figure at least it's effort on their part.

The other day I was showering when I remembered what I had forgotten: my towel.

I hollered for one of the kids to bring me a towel.

Guess what one of them threw me?

Yep, a hand towel.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Week in Pictures

 This has been one of those weeks where ALL my plans were taken over by life.

We had a soccer tournament on Saturday. Can I admit that I was relieved when my son's team lost because it meant I could get home?

I wanted to get home because I needed a serious nap. Our four year old, Liam, was down with a virus and the middle of the night medicine doses were killing me. Also, worrying about my guy was wearing me out - then there was the worry that it was going to go through our whole family like the plague. The boy had an ear infection, throat infection, and probably a couple of viruses going on. Twice a day I get to make him scream like a maniac while forcing this stuff down. Good times.


I also got to go tot he doctor this week. It was kind of a day out for me after a week of taking care of a sick kiddo.  I mean I was by myself!  It was pretty exciting until the nurse asked me to get on the  scale.  Then it got exciting again when they left me in the exam room all alone.  I read my book for a bit but then succumbed to the two month old People magazine. I guilty threw it under the chair when my doc came in the room.
I had a piece of Bubble Yum, original flavor and could not help channeling my inner 13 year old. I even felt a little sassy so I spit my gum out before the doctor came in.

My Mother's Day flowers.

 Me after a long night with Liam.

One of our knock out roses.

So, all the sick and ick got me feeling down because our house has been pretty crazy for the last month year. I feel like we've not quite gotten settled since we moved almost a year ago. There are STILL boxes in a closet and my homeschool stuff is in complete chaos. I was planted on the couch with Liam for so many days that things like the fact that our t.v. has a huge orange extension cord running to it started to make me crazy. So Monday the kids and I started working on decluttering, deep cleaning, and decorating - all while the big kids were starting to come down with Liam's super virus. THEY ARE AMAZING KIDS!
How is my girl able to drive? What the heck?

Sad but cute.

There is just something sad about a sick kid. Can I confess something, though? Sometimes, when my most active children are sick, I experience a moment of glee. Maybe even a couple moments of glee. I can put them on the couch with a movie one, without guilt, while I cook and clean and organize, actually completing a whole task at a time.

This time wasn't really like that though, because little man was so sick he didn't want to be alone. Very sad.

We live a few blocks from the Ohio River, so going down and seeing what great things the boys can scavenge is a favorite activity. These pictures were taking just a day or two before the virus took my people down.


Liam will NEVER walk on the pavement here - only on these rocks.  He says it's our tradition. I'm not about to argue with a kid who wants to blaze his own path.

It's good for me to remember the good. I can get a little overly focused on the  bad, like the orange extension cord.  I need to remember that the  sun is always there, even if I cannot see it.