st. teresa sentiments

this was written in 1999. i was living at st. teresa in my family's old and falling apart beach cottage as we were looking for a house in tallahassee. i was in that house by myself with three children under the age of 5 for 4 days a week all by myself (adam would come down on the weekends. his new job at gto was just beginning and it was too much to add an hour commute each way on to his workday. so he stayed with my parents for the weeknights.) 

so just me, a computer, and a dial up connection to the internet. i had not learned to google search yet. didn't know about things like blogs. but i emailed things i wrote out to a small group of friends and family. and i wrote a lot during those days.

i thought i had lost all of the little email journal entries. but we just cleaned off an old computer and there they were in a file on that computer. and it was hilarious and heart wrenching to read them all again. hilarious cause i still crack myself up. heart wrenching because it was an entirely simpler season of life. stay at home/beachhouse mom with three young children and now i am mom with the empty nest about to drop on my head. i couldn't have imagined what the next two decades would hold for me... or maybe i did get a glimpse of it now.

mostly it is a glimpse of how good God has been to me. in every season. 

i am going to publish all of the essays on to this blog in the coming up months. mostly so they aren't lost again. and now my kids can read about these days (now that most of them can read.) abut mostly because reading them makes me remember those glorious days (that didn't feel so glorious most of the time.) 

let's start with one of my favorites. mostly because it shows my brilliance (well, my grandmother's brilliance if we are being entirely accurate.) and because it has come true. someone asked me last night, "so, you have always been a teacher?" and i said, "yes... well, except i took a little break for over a decade." and this essay clearly shows that i saw that entire conversation WAY before it took place (proving that i should have been the new dr. who.)

#10 A NEW COAT AND SINGING IN THE CHOIR

(written sometime in the winter of 1999)

The two most important lessons about marriage and motherhood were taught to me by my beloved grandmother. One piece of advice was given in direct response to a question that I asked her and one was just a random comment that struck me as funny and then as I thought more about it, I realized that it was the purest form of wisdom and sage advice that I had ever heard. And since you are my dear, dear friends (or better yet since I happen to have your e- mail address), I will share them now with you…


First, the effortless one to ease you in (since I know at this point you are dying to hear what my dear departed grandmother had to say on these life defining subjects). This is the marriage advice and I feel that my friend, Mike Sytsma, the fabulous marriage counselor, will have to pay me part of his extremely large salary because he is going to be using this in his practice every day from now on (he will probably write his entire Ph.D. dissertation on this singular event).


Long before I got married, I asked my grandmother this question (that all young girls must ponder in their head), “Grandmom, how will I know he is the one?” She didn't even have to think over this weighty matter. She just began telling me about a time that she and my mom shopped for a winter coat (at this point I thought that perhaps she had not heard the question and was going a bit senile), but she went on talking about they had looked in lots of stores and tried on lots of coats and then had found the perfect coat (I believe she said it was a blue wool coat with a large collar though that is an unnecessary detail but yet very interesting). They bought this coat and then they didn't look at any other winter coats, there was no need to look at any other coats after they had made their purchase.

I must have looked extremely bewildered at this tale of found fashion in response to a deep marriage question. So she summed this up for me by saying “Whether you are looking for a winter coat or a husband, try a few on and once you've got one that is perfect there is no need to look for another one, you just wear the nice one you got.” That is it, simple and true. I should really write a marriage book on this principle entitled "Coat or Old Coot: It's All the Same." I could sell millions of books, and then I can buy a new winter coat (just kidding- I have no need for one in Florida). I, however, did not go into the next question I had which was,”What if the coat becomes unfashionable or gets the collar torn off or becomes too worn?” The analogy doesn't go that far I guess.

After understanding the coat principle, this next one on motherhood was a little harder to ascertain. My grandmother (the crafty Southern woman)dropped this little truth jewel in an innocent statement that she made to me one day in church. It took me weeks to understand it and three children to realize what it meant in my life. And some days I'm not sure if I am getting it right.

Soon after my youngest brother went to college, I went home for a weekend and attended church with my family. I had just stopped teaching school that year and had only one baby at home. Grandmom attended church with us that Sunday and sat with us in the balcony. The biggest surprise of all was that my mother was not sitting with us as she had done every Sunday throughout all of my life. In fact to digress a minute, one Sunday I had asked my mother if we would be going to church that Sunday and shocked as she was at that question she queried in a relatively calm voice, “Will you be brushing your teeth today like you do every day”? When I answered in the affirmative, she said in a matter of fact manner, “Then we will be going to church today like we do every Sunday.” And that was the end of that. 

But this Sunday my faithful mom was nowhere to be found in our Baptist-balcony-this- is-our-pew-until-heaven-and-earth-pass-away seats. Today she was singing in the choir. Now I had never seen her singing in the choir (though she does have a lovely voice which must run in the family since I too can croon a tune with the beast of them- oops I meant the best of them) and so this choir- singing thing was news to me. I leaned over and asked Grandmom, “When did Momma start singing in the choir?” Grandmom looked at me and said, “She's always sung in the choir.” My grandmother had a tone in her voice as if to insinuate that I was the most out of touch daughter ever, not to know this simple fact about my mother. Then she added, “She just took a little break after Max was born.” She was referring to my older brother Max who at this point in the story was over 30 years old (sorry to publish that fact Max, but it was integral to the story). A little break, I thought, a 30-year break is not what you refer to as a "little" break, it is a complete lifetime. But it dawned on me later what this all meant (and since you may all be as clueless as I was I will spell it out for you since it is a published fact that too much Barney can frizzle your brain into mush.)

This was all about the sacrifices that a mother makes. The myriad of awesome things we give up for the time being because we are involved in the dailiness of dirty hands and peanut butter lunches and ABCs and "he hit me" and "she did it first." All kinds of exciting "stimulating" events that seem to crowd out all other forms of human pleasure that we used to know in a former life. And those other things (like singing in the choir, painting a masterpiece, reading books that aren't published by the Little Golden Book Company, traveling blissfully to Europe with only a backpack and a map, being a gourmet chef, eating at a restaurant that doesn't have a slide and ball pit somewhere on the premises, saving the world, wearing the latest fashion, wearing something clean for more than 10 minutes, or even correctly balancing your checkbook to the exact penny) take a back seat for a season. 

But if we wait long enough a season will come around where we have time to do those things again. And to my grandmother, it was as if my mom had just taken a short break (age can give you that perspective, I guess) and was back to her normal routine. I think about that a lot in this season of tattle telling, just one more story, finding that lost shoe, and make my cereal without milk just after I have poured milk on it already days. 

Someday the books will get written, someday I can see all those plays, someday I can wear something that didn't get bleach spilled on it, someday I can appear on Broadway (well, I can dream, can't I). Maybe my children will ask my mother, “When did Mom start directing award winning Shakespeare productions, traveling to exotic countries without carrying a pack and play, dressing so nicely in matching outfits that are nicely pressed, winning Oscar awards with dazzling acceptance speeches that wind up as soundbites on the Today show, or yet even speaking in full sentences?” And my mother (God bless her choir singing heart) will say, “Your mother has always done that kind of stuff- she just took a little break after you were born.” 

another one bites the dust...

oh, 80's songs. thank you for being so perfect. to describe my life...

this is our middle child. waving goodbye to us. after we left him at belmont university a week ago. 

i didn't take many photos. i didn't really want to. some things can't be photographed in a way that truly shows their weight. and i think taking photographs would have made the transition feel heavier than it already felt. so i snapped a few moments on my phone. and those will have to stand for perpetuity. 

it was a beautiful weekend in nashville. a hint of fall. a promise of a new season. 

belmont was just as efficient (if not more so) than when we brought millie for her freshman year. hordes of belmont tshirted co-eds lined the roadways CHEERING as we arrived. even CHANTING maxx's name (once they learned it.) they descended upon our truck and picked it cleaner than a group of hungry piranhas... then quickly climbed three flights of stairs with even the heaviest of boxes and the truck was emptied in 5 minutes flat. i have no doubts that the belmont women's volleyball team will be undefeated this year, as i saw one volleyball player carry maxx's box o' books up the three flights in some kind of stair sprint worthy of olympic glory. 

THANK GOODNESS MAXX PACKED TWO VERSIONS OF THE AENEID. you never know when you'll need to cross reference...

THANK GOODNESS MAXX PACKED TWO VERSIONS OF THE AENEID. you never know when you'll need to cross reference...

everything happened so fast that it is a blur. adam build shelves. and more shelves. and a little bench over some piping (maxx is in the oldest dorm at belmont. and a corner room. which is awesomely HUGE.) i made a target run with maxx and checked off items on our handy dandy college packing list app (oh yeah, there's an app for that.)

it was so comforting to see a devotional book on each student's desk to welcome them to belmont. and how about that university ministries motto...

LOVE GOD & LOVE PEOPLE

IS THIS A GREAT SCHOOL, OR WHAT?!?!?!?!?

maxx and all his boxes (brought up in less than 5 minutes flat) and his RA going over some instructions. i hope his RA (whose room is next door) isn't too jealous of maxx's hair game. this could be bad...

in the end, it all fit into 6 boxes (2 large trunks and 4 plastic bins). plus an accordion. a guitar. and a keyboard. that was it. boys are so much easier to pack for college than girls. and middle children. well, we all know how resilient and easy going we are...

we went to a professional bull riding event with nashville friends. of. course. cause our life = hilariousness. and in some ways it was a perfect metaphor for our life right now. crazy and trying to just hold on to sanity for 8 seconds and score some points.

we matriculated at the matriculation service on sunday morning. i cried when they cited these lines from amazing grace for the students...

Tis Grace hath led me safe thus far.

And Grace will lead me home. 

one more lunch out with our nashville dwellers and then it was time for us to hit the road. and leave them to the mercies of the music city.

all throughout the campus are these belmont flags that state "BELIEF IN SOMETHING GREATER." which is their motto for their 125th year. and it is what drives everything they do as a university. i truly believe that it is this Something Greater that has brought 2 of our children to belmont. we have felt this Something Greater every time we walk on campus, talk to another belmont family, or share with prospective belmont families our belmont stories. i am so grateful for belmont and the opportunities my children are having there and most importantly the Something Greater that is a part of every decision that is made for this university...

on the back of each WELCOME TO BELMONT tshirt worn by the multitude of welcome week co-eds, there was this reference ROMANS 12. so you know i had to spend a little time looking over those verses...

Romans 12 (the message)

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

another mom who was dropping her son at vanderbilt that same weekend sent me a photo of her and her boy... and these words "it is well with my soul."

and that was exactly how i felt. it was poignant. it was difficult. but it is well with my soul. 

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” {c.s. lewis}

i declare...

someone (that i love dearly) posted this on facebook a while ago. and it kind of made me throw up in my mouth a little bit... & so i snapped a photo of it & let it sit in my photos to see if it was just that day that made me so weirded out by this "declaration" or if it truly was as nauseating over time as it was on that first sighting... & the answer was that it really made me feel a little bit sick every time i kept seeing it. so here is the "declaration"...

We would never imagine that getting our heart's deepest desires might be the worst thing that can ever happen to us. {tim keller}

so i tweaked the declaration a bit... 

I DECLARE that God will take His own perfect timing in accomplishing His plan for my life as I put my trust in Him. And maybe the waiting IS the most important part of learning to trust in Him. I will accomplish my dreams ONLY if they are His higher and better dreams for my life. And they will be accomplished in the perfect timing that He ordained from the beginning of time. Because the goal isn't the accomplishment of the dream, it is the faith that each step takes me further away from my own self, and closer to the REAL lea that He has known and fashioned from the beginning of time.  It may take years to overcome an obstacle, and maybe that very obstacle is the thorn in my flesh that is His strength perfected in my weakness and dependance on Him. And maybe that obstacle is the BEST DAMN THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME but i live in an upside down kingdom and can't tell north from south. and i will never get out of my ultimate debt that was totally paid by His Work on the cross which means that ALL things (even the things that look like horrible things) can work for my good and His glory. God is doing things faster and slower than i could ask or imagine. And His clock is eternal and actually exists outside of time itself. He will give me victory in the strangest of ways and some of the GREATEST victories will most likely look like abject defeats. He has blessings that will last through eternity and may not show up until then. and i will be grateful for it all. this is MY declaration.

i wish i could DECLARE things and they would happen. but usually it is the LORD who declares things... and i am learning to trust His declarations over mine.

Isaiah 30:1-3  “Ah, stubborn children,” declares the Lord,
“who carry out a plan, but not mine...
Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.