faith · grace · life

about God…

It’s not easy believing in God. In fact…it’s easier to shirk the whole idea, bring all my dependency and possible outcomes back to myself and take things as they come. Keeping it all in house removes any dependency on an outside source and when things don’t go like I want…my fault. No one else to blame. I totally get why people are not into it…

I’ve had many versions of God in my one life. The God I first heard about talked in a deep, loud voice and would show up in burning bushes, a donkey and rumble the sky with his commands for earthlings. I took it all literally and never recall fearing this first version any more than I feared waking up on Christmas morning to find a fat, jolly, old bearded man standing in my living room trying to sneak a baby doll under the tree.

Then my amygdala engaged…that portion of my brain that activates fear was actively engaged in my conception of God #2. God #2 was even more mean, loud, fiercely disappointed and wanted nothing more than to catch me doing something wrong so he could smite me. I didn’t like him as much as I knew I didn’t have a choice but to love him…or else. He was all knowing AND all seeing. I imagined him looking down from the sky and watching through the roof of my glass ceiling house…he could see my every move and read my every thought. I was petrified. I watched movies about The End Times and lived a large percentage of my preteen years fearing the return of Christ. No matter how hard I tried or how many times I asked him to save me, I would be left behind to either get the mark of the beast or declare allegiance to the one who left me and stand in line for the guillotine. I’d enter Heaven’s Gates beheaded but at least I wouldn’t spend eternity in Hell.

It didn’t take long to set that God aside…trying to please him at the same time I was trying to please everyone else that claimed to follow him was every bit of exhausting. Conveniently, at this same moment in time the world seemed to nurture my lack of confidence and self-worth. I found my acceptance from individuals that questioned or denied God’s existence, so I made a home there…there in the world, with things that helped me stay out of my busy, questioning head and thoughts. I still went to church, prayed, asked for forgiveness and would contest the non-existence of a creator, but God #3 was there only if needed or called upon while collecting dust on a shelf. I was tired of his unobtainable demands. The last thing I wanted was to die and go to hell, but I concluded that I didn’t have a say so in the matter. I’d just have to hope for the best.

The best thing happened…

The God of Motherhood. After I had Paige, at the baby age of 21, I needed a different god. I needed a god that could once again see through my roof and stay up all night in case I fall asleep and fail to hear her cry. Say hello to God #4. He was welcome in my home. I didn’t want to do this parental gig alone. I would ask him to be my eyes when I could not see, and my ears when I could not hear. Help me be a good mom. Help me do what she needs me to do…be what she needs me to be. Give me supernatural energy because I am spent. I don’t want my baby to go to hell either. What will I teach her so she can stay out of the fire? I want her to know you God and I want to tell her about Jesus…Jesus. What if I begin by teaching her more about Your Son and less about your requirements…What if I gently lead her into an understanding of what it means to believe in an unseen God…what if at the same time I’m teaching her I open up the door for you to reteach me? Two more kids later and God #4 began to soften and I kinda liked him. We talked…a lot. Like I think I talked to God more than I talked to anyone. I had to pray about so many things once I had children. I could talk all day and not cover all the bases. I developed an understanding that God could hear me and I was not bothering him and that he actually wanted to participate in my life…even the messy parts.

God #4 was better than all the other Gods I’d known but I still had some issues with the program…I was still lumping him back into humanity as I tried to box up his existence within Christianity. As a single woman in her 40’s I needed God’s help on multiple levels, so I went to church. I spent my whole life looking for God in a church…I found God #5 far from a building with a steeple.

I took a break.

I was not living my best life even though it felt like it at the time. Things were going more my way than in the past…things I’d prayed for would receive the answers I wanted.

This time was shortly after my small town divorce…if I can leave you any good measure of advice to carry onto your children it is this…do not go to bed with gum in your mouth, treat half a tank like an empty tank and you’ll never run out of gas, AND don’t divorce in a small town. Just don’t do it.

A time of undeserved merit and favor from God #5. Like I said…he was kinder than all the ones before. So kind that he blessed me in spite of…Quick Story….I was driving around looking at houses and spotted one that I loved. It wasn’t for sale, but the one two doors down was so I went to take a look. It was $10,000 more than my approved loan amount and I’d need to lay sod…another $4,000. Not going to happen and honestly didn’t want it anyways…I prayed to God and asked him to help find me a house that I could make a home for Hannah and Laken. A day or two later, it was the end of one of my classes, and I had a student ask me to go to the attendance office with her. She was afraid she would get in trouble for one thing or another and so I agreed to ease her fears and walk with her…I was waiting on someone to help her when a substitute teacher was telling the office staff her and her husband were moving…I asked where she lived and if her house was for sale. The House. The house I loved…the one two doors down…the one I saw days earlier but was not for sale…that was her house. She said her husband was on his way to a real estate office and I said, Stop Him! Call Him! And that house became my house. That house was within my budget…with a beautiful landscaped lawn…and I made a home for my babies there. God heard. God answered…rather quickly. Was that all me? Was God in it? This God I wondered and still wonder about…was He in the details?

I spent the next few years under a covering of protection that was unmerited. My mouth could spew scripture and my playlist was heavy on Hillsong and Bethel Worship, but I was far from God. I kept those things around as security just in case things fell apart…

Things fell apart.

I am sitting here today with another God. This is the God of my 50’s. He’s super quiet…perhaps a little burnt out with all my wondering about him. I’m sitting here in my living room giving him full permission to show up…to speak…to rumble the clouds just for me…I’ve got nothing. I’m just as lost as I was 29 books on Purpose ago… I ask for direction. I ask for forgiveness…I ask for forgiveness for asking for forgiveness so much. I ask for a reason to still be here…a revelation. I wonder if it matters. It being prayer. I wonder if it’s all been planned out in advance and my participation is futile. And I wonder if He is real. Are you there God? It’s me, Gina. Am I just taking up space? Are we all just taking up space? What is it that you want for us? What are we missing? If you are real…and I say if, because none of us have seen you and yet we cling to the hope…then show me. Show me in a way only I will understand. I want to know you and when someone asks me why I believe in God I want to say something more than, “I just do.” I can think of dozens of times in my life that you were so real. Please be real again.

In doing so….I would like to request the omission of cancer and death and disease and drowning and fire and snakes and anything to do with heights and floods that destroy everything I have left, or tornadoes…and infidelity and missing children and nuclear war and mass shootings and poverty or a car crash. I might think of some other things after I finish writing this but I’ll just tell them to you.

faith · grace · kids · life · wisdom

Mom! Look!

Let me set the scene for you…

I was walking every evening around our high school track in the blessed town of Andrews, Texas. If you’ve never witnessed a West Texas sunset, shame on you. Get in your car now and go. It’s life giving. Those sunset views as I walked, along with a good playlist on my iPod helped…some. I was going through a less than wonderful time in my life…some diagnosed it a midlife crisis behind my back…when in all actuality the midlife crisis didn’t set in for a couple more years. That’s a whole ‘nother blog post. Life was coming in strong and the walks were an attempt to clear my mind and talk to God. I was confused and my mind was a tangled mess that I myself could not unravel. Trust me…I tried. I needed more than wine and a Pinterest Board of motivation and positive quotes. I needed The One who saw fit to plant me on earth in the first place.

I circled that track and circled that track asking God to speak to me. SAY SOMETHING! I DARE YOU! I would tell Him He could totally talk to me and I would keep it just between the two of us. I was politely offering God a safe place to be vocal. Surely He was tired of us making messes and all He could do was remain silent and hope for the best from the free will He bestowed upon us humans. I felt for Him. Probably hard to watch at times…so I was totally there for Him. I just knew He had some things to say to me but feared I would tell “the others” and then “the others” would feel like God loved me more. I would stay hush-hush. If not, it could easily be an all out Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors Revisited…jealousy would commence and neither of us had time for that. 

Go ahead…speak. It’s cool…

The skies did not rumble. There wasn’t so much as a whisper in the wind. Night after night of mile walking and He never opened his mouth. He obviously didn’t trust me not to blog about it, so I offered Him the next best thing. Something less “Wow, God spoke to you?” and more “I thought He did that for me too one time!”  I told God He could sky write my next move in the clouds. I would ask Him a question and while trying to beat the time on my next mile, I would look up and await His response. I steadily watched the clouds, but the clouds remained just clouds. 

Over time my circumstances became heightened seeds of frustration and although I kept walking, I stopped looking up…stopped praying…stopped hoping…gave up.

I knew you could see it on my face. The apathy. The disdain. Those around me began asking with disturbing frequency how I was doing.

Great. Doing great. Thanks. 

My pessimism had me convinced and certain they were asking so they would have something to talk about in this one horse town. If I told them how I really was…the battles I was facing…they would offer me some theology and bible verses…the lyrics to a song they heard on K-Love that moved them and was sure to move me.

Don’t want it. Keep it. Save it.

I was teaching journalism during this time and yearbook deadlines were looming. I didn’t want to get out of bed…how am I supposed to show up for these students and make sure we have ample coverage of this school year with photos and stories and captions?!  Everything was meaningless. They don’t even care about this dumb book. I was so done and fought a daily battle with marching down to the principals office and telling him I quit. 

Show Off.

One evening Hannah and I made a trip to Dollar General…the shopping mecca of our small town…as we were leaving I could not help but notice the looming cloud above us. Wow. It was shaped like a big footprint. There were small clouds around it that looked as if they were participating in the sky painting, but happily played their smaller roles and allowed the much larger cloud to be the star.

There was no ignoring it’s grandeur, but like I said, I was not up for anything…I gave God plenty of opportunities to show up and He was silent…I was done.

Hannah was not done. 

MOM! LOOK! LOOK AT THE FOOTPRINT!

Geez. She saw it, too?! She’s 10. I have to be excited…

Yes, Hannah! I see it!

LOOK AT ALL THE LITTLE FEET AROUND IT!

She picked up on that…

I see that Hannah. What does that say to you?

The big foot is God’s and all the little ones are our footprints!

Ummm….yes. I can see that. Perhaps it means God goes before us and won’t take us anywhere He hasn’t already been.

Did I just say that? 

October 22, 2007. The Next Morning.

I get to work and turn on my computer. First thing before the students arrive I check emails. I have a message from a friend and fellow photographer that stood down on the field with me during football games to get shots of the game. 

Good Morning Gina. I hope you are doing well.

He signed his name and typed, Deuteronomy 31:8

Nothing else.

That was odd but okay…

I go home for lunch and as I’m sitting on the couch my bible…the bible that I had not opened in months…was all but screaming at me to open it. I wonder why he emailed me and I wonder what that verse says. It’s Old Testament. Probably something about God’s anger and how I’m doing everything to disappoint Him and vengeance is rising. I was well aware my life must be a poor reflection of what would honor God and I didn’t appreciate this guy sending me a reminder.  After arguing with myself, and unable to eat until I solve the mystery of the day,  I turn to the verse.

Amazing how life springs from the pages of this book. I recall the evening before and my words to Hannah, God goes before us and won’t take us anywhere He hasn’t already been. Hashtag affirmation. Hashtag heartsoftening.

Hello tears. There you are…

I had to gather myself to go back to work. Why did he send me that email? He never emailed me before? It made no sense? So random. And that verse?

I message him to ask why…

He tells me he was getting ready to leave town and didn’t have a minute to spare but sending that to me would not leave him alone…He said he wasn’t sure where the words were in the bible and had to take time to look it up, and then sent it rather quickly so he could scoot.

I am with you.

I will be with you.

I go before you.

I will not take you anywhere I have not already been.

Do not fear.

Stop being discouraged.

I’m not going anywhere…even when you ignore me…I’m here.

I’ve got you.

Y’all. This was 11 years ago! The life I’ve experienced since that day on that couch to now…NOT EASY. He knew. He saw it before I got there. He was already there. He has gone before me. He totally hears me. He is not silent. 

His voice is as loud and close as the nearest open page of His Word.

And He knows He totally has permission to get audible with me and sky write me all the things….

And He totally knows I won’t be quiet about it…

Hey. You. Yes, You. Life can feel like too much sometimes. Relationships are hard. Our children can break our hearts. We can break our children’s hearts. It seems like nothing will be the same…and nothing will change. I understand. 

He goes before you, too…

faith · family · grace · kids · motherhood · wisdom

sent off with a sandwich and a prayer.

Back to School.

I’m reading all the Facebook posts and seeing all your pictures on Instagram of your baby loves heading back to school in their new uniforms and tennis shoes that have just enough wiggle room…the summer sunshine mixed with pool chlorine no doubt serves as a juvenile cocktail for growth spurts.

“Child. How can the pants you wore 12 weeks ago be three inches too short?!”

Am I lying? No. You know it’s true. Kids sprout in the summer.

A photo is a must. I’m loving all the new ways to document the year…the letter boards declaring their age, grade and a quote…

Annabelle 6, 1st grade. “I like Dora the Explorer and bacon.”

We didn’t have letter boards or Instagram when my girls were little..Let me think what I would have shared for this first day  back picture…

back to school

Paige 8, 3rd grade. I like tweety bird and having my own room.

Laken 5, Kindergarten. I like to pick out my own clothes and this dress is stupid.

Ask my girls about the year I was burning up with a fever on their first day back…I stumble out of my bedroom just as they are preparing to exit the infirmary and insist on a picture. “Wait, girls! Lemme get your picture.” Hunched over in a wrinkled oversized t-shirt and my underwear I capture another “first”. I didn’t want to miss it. I won’t miss it.

That’s what we  do…we snap one photo after another…trying to stop time and freeze moments in squares.

You will blink and it’s Christmas Break.

You will blink again and need to blink real fast to hold back tears as they walk across the stage and close this chapter.

You feed and clothe and teach and nurture your birdies for 18 years then in what seems like a minute they leave home and you have boring couches where the pillows stay in the same place for weeks… The same five loads of repetitive laundry with socks that stick with their partners…Their rooms feel stark and hollow without their personalities and your refrigerator is left with mayonnaise and ketchup that will be tossed before consumed. Where is everyone?! It’s a ghost town up in here.

Empty Nest Syndrome is not something that lasts a scientifically researched set amount of time and then dissipates…no, ENS comes and goes in waves…waves of nostalgia dipped and battered in crocodile tears. Odds are it was brought on by a song, or commercial or seeing another mom loving on her baby. The onset and symptoms may vary but the cure is universal: Hearing that they still need you and watching them build their own nests with some of the love, comfort and care that you desperately tried to teach.

Mama. Daddy.

It goes by fast. It goes by more. than. fast.

Back When It Didn’t Feel So Fast…

School days were hard. Getting them all out the door happy was my personal mission impossible. If all three of them were chipper and satisfied with what they were wearing and how their hair looked, I knew to get right with Jesus…He was on His way. Get right with the Lord! I’m dropping them happy girls off and going back home to curl up in my designated “quiet time” chair with my half-attempted Beth Moore bible study so when He finds me He shall find me faithful.

Can I stop and chase a rabbit for a minute?…Those bible studies. Y’all. I tried so hard to emulate some of the precious women in my church that spoke spiritual discipline into my life. They were all about having a quiet time.  They had comfy chairs in carefully selected corners next to a small table bedecked with a lamp giving off a perfect 60 watt glow. Along with the lamp was a bible, a stack of current books from Lifeway Christian Book Store and a fill in the blank bible study. The chair was accented with a throw in complimentary colors to place in their lap while they sipped coffee, prayed and dug into The Word at 5 am. Girls. I tried. I did. Except I was tired as hell. I blamed my borderline anemia and the dry West Texas winds for my eternal fatigue but the truth was I was tired from all the pressure to be perfect. Jesus and I had an ongoing conversation…like I started praying from the time my feet hit the ground and never said Amen.  I prayed they loved their teachers, made good friends with good values, felt and held onto their worth, felt safe and WERE safe. Like, I would start out strong then find myself saying, hold on…I’ll be back…don’t leave…I’ve just got to see if I can find her other shoe and get them to school on time but I still have some things to say…and ask of You.  I never wanted to raise my kids without Him. It just seemed like I couldn’t measure up. I mixed what was meant to be grace and mercy and my greatest love story with shades of shame, self- defeating talk and a focus on inadequacy. Just as the enemy would have wanted.  I wish I could go back and release Young Mama Gina from the standards I thought I needed to meet.

Now back to the Back to School Blogging…

I cannot recall a time when all three of my girls liked the same thing in their lunches. It was mayonnaise for one, mustard for another and PB&J for the third. Which one hates turkey? Which one wants vanilla pudding?  Crisis Alert: I only have two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos left…someone is getting regular Lay’s…please forgive me.  Dear Lord Jesus…please don’t let her starve today and please help her pass her spelling test on an empty stomach if I fail to pack the provisions necessary in order for her to do so.

But this… THIS tops all of that…

‘Twas the night before a new school year and I called for the customary family meeting. We gathered in the lamplit living room and I began my rhetoric.

“This year will be different. My expectations are higher. Paige you will be in middle school, Laken at Devonian, and Hannah starts kindergarten…This will mean I’ll have 3 kids at 3 different schools. The ONLY way I can pull this off is if we ALL cooperate.”

I then began my well comprised list of To Do’s…

Eat breakfast and brush your teeth before you get dressed. I don’t want toaster strudel icing or toothpaste on your clothes. Eat naked if you have to but DO NOT eat or brush your teeth after you’ve dressed. And you better brush your teeth.

I will not sign ANY papers or check homework in the mornings. I won’t. I mean it. All of this needs to be taken care of the night before or it doesn’t get taken care of…

Speaking of homework…get your homework done before you do anything…like right when you get home. Before you watch Lizzie McGuire…before you jump on the trampoline…They nod in agreement and I carry on…I made sure we would be on our toes this year…like professional ballerinas on pointe. No more lazy up in this house.

I finish my New School Year Dissertation when Paige raises her hand.

Yes Paige?

“Can I say something.”

Of course.

“Can you stop saying crap so much?”

Hello?

The room got oddly quiet and I got uncomfortable…

Yes. Yes, Paige. I…I will stop saying crap.

There I was dropping the law and cultivating a plan for a smooth as butter school year and all my daughter wanted was for me to not say crap?

You could feel the struggle to hold in laughter. It didn’t take long for this stuffy meeting to make some great memories. I love it.

Attempts at perfection are nothing more than catalysts for profanity.

Perfection still makes me say crap.

Good Lawsy…I WISH I could tell you the worst thing I ever did as a mom was illicit a synonym for cow pies upon moments of frustration.

Nope.

My rap sheet is longer than that.

Now Listen.

With all my babies out of school…officially as of last Saturday…Go Hannah and Praise Jesus…I come at you from The Other Side as an encourager of peace and gently ask you to slow down and take it easy. It’s messy sometimes. It’s messy MOST of the times…

Beds won’t get made. Papers won’t get signed. The breakfast of your champions might some days include Teddy Grahams and a Diet Dr. Pepper. Dirty gym clothes found in a backpack on the way to school will fly under the stink radar thanks to a quick spritz of Victoria’s Secret body spray…and brace yourself for this one…retainers will be accidentally thrown in the lunchroom trash can…more than once.

It’s. Okay.

You will one day long for these moments. Moments you will treasure more once they pass, but learning to treasure them now will serve your heart well later.

And when nostalgia comes knocking and you long for the noise and the busy and the days you can’t get back…the days that sometimes made you say doggy doo but also the days that gave you meaning and purpose and crazy beautiful joy…

Something as simple as one of your babies calling to ask for something that they remember as part of the place they called home will remind you that a part of you will forever be with them…

Mom…Can I get your taco soup recipe?

You know you can…

back to school 2
Stripes must have been the theme this year. Hannah 5, Kindergarten. Gymnastics, Blue’s Clues and honey mustard on everything.  Paige 12, 7th. Volleyball, Choir and Friends.  Laken 9, 4th. Dancing, Even Stevens and American Girl Dolls.

 

 

faith · friendship · grace · kids · life · motherhood · parenting

hello little girl…

Our family grew by 7 pounds and 15 ounces on September 9th when we said hello to Miss Tatum Elizabeth. A bundle of pink and perfection. Here. Just see for yourself…

tatum 3

Is she not The Most? The most of ALL THINGS worth stopping EVERYTHING…just to stare and lean into her every movement and sound. The baby smacks and tiny coos…and even the cries. The cries that startle the night with announcements of healthy lungs. Praise for healthy lungs. A newborn baby can direct my eyes to God as Creator faster than anything. The wonder of it all. This life that was just yesterday tucked away in Tummyville…safe and sound…yet running out of space to grow.

It got me to thinking how many times in my own life I was comfortably and quietly living a safe life without a lot of noise or fuss…a womb of sorts that I’d created for myself. When suddenly…without warning…God parlays me into an unknown and unexpected world that is in direct opposition to the one that gave me the most peace.  I cry….kick…scream….WAAAAAAHHHHHHHH. This is weird! Who are you people?! It’s cold out here. You’re loud and busy and I miss my refuge away from it all! I just want to stay home where it’s quiet and listen to my music and read my books and continue to grow. Looking back I know that it’s been the times outside my comfort zone that have enriched me the most and provided room for stretching…stretching my mind and heart to make room for holding more love.

More Love.

I was blessed to stay with Paige and Jag for a few days after Tatum was born and their new home is saturated in a new love. What a treasure to behold the connection of Mom and Child…Dad and Tiny Baby Daughter…Little Two Year Old Son and His New Role as The Big.

 

 

I saw all hands on deck to care for the innocence and needs of fresh life…calling out in the night wondering where her cozy amnion world went! Then like magic, all fussing goes idle with the closeness of neck and cheek and breath and touch of the skin she first lived in before she lived in this skin.

tatum 4

Oh Sweet Tatum. I remember when your mom was born…and it is unoriginal without apologetics when I say, it seems like yesterday. It does. I remember the fragility of tiny limbs and helplessness that depended on me for EVERYTHING. I was young and clueless and scared… I went from a college girl with hair too big and dreams too small, to lead actress in a dramatic series. There was no script. There was only showing up for the part with a determination to play the part well. It felt like losing my wandering life and finding direction at the same time… I love being your mom’s mom.

And now look at her…being Luke’s mom…and now your mom…and being amazing…and God fearing…and wise and gentle and motherly….*this is the part where I have to go cry a little and wonder where life goes and wish I could hit the brakes but realize I can’t so I dry my tears and come back to type some more.

paige and tatum

You were born into a sphere of women who will love you and teach you and show up for you. You could not ask for a better tribe. 

tatum 1

10 Things Your Mom Will Teach You Because This Is Your Mom:

  1. To love and trust Jesus.
  2. To put family first.
  3. To respect others even when they don’t respect you.
  4. To speak truth in love.
  5. Taco Soup is synonymous with fall weather and football.
  6. Decorating for holidays is not an option.
  7. Having more “stuff” does not matter.
  8. Community Matters.
  9. You matter.
  10. Having carefully chosen, silly girlfriends who love you…pray for you…encourage you…and let you be YOU, will be a gift you give yourself.

Welcome to your world sweet Tatum…Your mom is the one in camo with a gun. I couldn’t be more proud.

May the silly live on in all of us,

love gina

otherwise known as Bunny.

 

 

blogging · faith · friendship · grace · life

find your happy place.

I was having a conversation with my mother-in-law, aka Hunney…aka Judith…about life and health and responsibility and such…she has a mass amount of land that requires her attention and during the course of our chat I told her Kurt mentioned us growing a garden. Funny.  As keen as the idea seems, I am the last person I know that needs to try and keep a plant alive…much less a garden.

I apologize to plants as I tote them home…thinking maybe…just maybe…THIS time I’ll do something right and they will hang around and make like John Travolta and stay alive. I rarely leave Trader Joe’s without herbs. I know our relationship will be shorter than a southern cold spell but I buy them anyway.  After putting the groceries away and planning meals around my zesty new friends, I gingerly place them in a mason jar and rub the leaves between my thumb and index finger… emitting the sweet aroma of mint, basil, cilantro and lemon balm….ahhhhh….I’m so Ree Drummond sometimes. Pioneerish and capable of surviving off the land.  It’s just another day at the county fair for me as I rustle up some biscuits from scratch and spatchcock our former pet chicken for deep frying. I’m so born for this….

Not.

As I type these words I have zero sign of fresh herbs in my house and a dead pot of what was once geraniums on my front porch. Crusty leaves of brown and beige atop cracked soil next to a watering can that symbolized hope. I have super good intentions. I really do.  After painting our front door a welcoming shade of buttery yellow I bought the bright red blossoms as an accent piece that would welcome guests across the threshold of our house.  For a good week or two I watered this plant with care and consideration of its dependency on me for life…I hoped my neighbors saw me out there tending my container garden and found inspiration in their own souls to nurture the land we’ve been given.

Then this happened.

We went out of town.  The morning sun blazes just enough light that overtime, without enough moisture, will apparently suck the life out of a pot of geraniums. As we drove out of town I gave my front porch one last prideful glance knowing I’d seen the last of those perky red blossoms.  I didn’t ask a neighbor to care for it or remove it from the sunny spot to a safer refuge…nope…that would have taken 2 minutes. Nope. I left it there parched and dry in a weary land of abandonment.

dead plant

As I’m telling her that a garden grown by me is a nice thought but a long shot due to my plant murdering rap sheet, she stops me to say the solution is simple…

“It’s not that you are a plant killer…you’re just putting the plants in a place where they cannot survive. You have to find their happy place.”

She went on to explain that when a plant grown up north calls for 4-6 hours of sunlight that amount of southern sun will kill it. She said for me to watch how a plant reacts in certain locations and if it fails to thrive, move it someplace else. Makes sense. And reminds me of this…how many times have I’ve been in a job…relationship…environment…where if I didn’t move myself I’d wither up and die?

Years ago, like I’m talking 1990 something…I was going through a difficult season and feeling frustrated about a lot of things…I confided in a good friend and she sent me a card in the mail with the words Bloom Where You’re Planted printed on the front. A colorful Mary Engelbreit card that should have made me smile…instead I remember thinking to myself, I don’t want to bloom here! I can’t bloom here! Don’t tell me where to bloom! Bloom this. Just because you’re planted and ABLE to bloom doesn’t guarantee you CAN or WILL…just saying.

Succulents are all the rage…wanna know why? They aren’t needy.  You can bring as many home as you like and sit them on a shelf and get on with your life. You only need to acknowledge their presence once a week….it’s a low maintenance relationship and even the weakest of green thumbs can foster a cactus.

Sometimes you feel like a succulent…sometimes you don’t. When your environment is harsh on top of your heart and soul feeling vulnerable and delicate…you are more geranium than aloe vera and that’s okay! Own your neediness and weaknesses and keep moving until you find a place that feeds you and allows you to thrive.  God understands seasons of change. Go read Ecclesiastes 3. There is a time for everything…

Kurt and I are in this season.  We’ve lots to pray about and we love our friends that encourage and feed into us while we consider what’s next.  I encourage you to do the same if you are at that place of knowing it’s time for a change.

Thanks for being here. Thanks for reading my ramblings…it’s my love language. I write and hope you find encouragement.

And you never know, Judith…Perhaps I will one day own and maintain a garden and smile as we crunch a cucumber grown by yours truly. Until that day….

love gina

 

 

faith · friendship · grace · grief · life

let it do what it came to do.

If no one has told you yet I’m breaking the news…consider this information a gift…

Life will bring you pain.

Isn’t it fantastic! You don’t have to wonder anymore! You don’t have to wonder if you’re going to escape life’s blows!!! You’re NOT! You ARE going to get hit…square between the eyes…at some point…with heartache and loss and pain and all that jazz…

There will be things that happen that you can’t Zig Ziglar your way out of…there will not be a reserve of positive thoughts or fluffy quotes to make the hurt go away or speed the recovery.

It will hurt until it doesn’t hurt anymore and you have to let it do what it came to do…

Let the pain work itself out to completion and not a minute sooner. No premature problem solving will work. If you embrace it, pain will grow you in ways that nothing else can…it will press and squish and sift you into the most raw version of yourself, and while doing so take you back to who you were before you thought you could only survive the pretty.

Now…Let’s talk about the ones who stick around when it’s ugly.

If you’ve ever wondered who your true friends are…the through thick and thin comrades who are not just here for the good news and the promotions and the new house and the nice vacations and the wine and cheese parties…well…now you’ll know.  When you have nothing to offer but you and all your mess and they still show up…

Say hello to your people. 

I drive a 2010 Kia Forte.  I am a stay at home grandma with remaining debt from my business collapse of 2013 and on top of it…I am still grieving! Who wants to be friends with THAT?

She does. And he does. And they do…

My people. My tribe. The ones who walk through the ugly and the valley and ask for nothing…the ones who stick around when some days I have nothing more to offer than the breath in my lungs.

 

friends don't let friends

It is okay to suck at life.

It is okay to suck in spite of your belief in God…and it’s okay to struggle with hope in spite of your hope that Jesus will show up.  So what if your shelves and bedside tables are dripping with best selling books on mental and emotional well being?! It’s still sucking over here… Oh, let us not forget how you’ve listened and re-listened to and practically memorized THAT podcast from THAT pastor that told you everything will be alright and we just need to speak life and joy because life and death are in the tongue…{Sticks out tongue and flips off a puppy} Hey Google…play Hillsong United. Hey Google…turn it up! Love this song…but life still sucks.

Pain is your companion until it’s not…and your companions through the pain are your people.

 

Things to know when your friends are in the valley:

  1. Pain is not contagious.
  2. You don’t have to say anything.
  3. Don’t ask a lot of questions. They honestly don’t know the answers. And even if, the answers are not needed in order for you to just be there.
  4. Don’t be a nosey, busy body friend…Don’t text for the details of a situation then disappear until you’re bored or just curious again.
  5. Don’t ask intimate concerning questions via social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram…for the love.
  6. Let them say F*&@$. Let them scream it at the top of their lungs if it helps.
  7. Let them be in a good mood without wondering HOW they can be in a good mood “considering everything that’s happened”.
  8. Don’t be offended by their need for solitude and time.
  9. Don’t let them remain in solitude.
  10. Call and say, “I’m going to pray with you now…you don’t have to say anything and your tears can’t run me off. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. I love you.”

I love my Claire. Claire is not immune to unexpected sorrow and she does not let her people walk alone. She will bother you until you give in and let her in. She will call you out of solitude and woo you with some soup and wine. She has been a shining example of what to be when our loved ones hurt. And she knows this is it…this is all I’ve got right now…an old car, a grandbaby on my hip and some sadness that is not going anywhere anytime soon…HOWEVER, she wants me around and what that says to me is it’s nothing more than ME she wants in her life. Readers…this is how we must love our friends.

friends don't let friends 2

You’ve heard me say time and time again that MY MESS IS MY MUSE …but I want you to know this one too…MY PAIN HAS BEEN MY PROFESSOR. A professor of life experience that sneaks in the room and says very little…He sits in his chair looking borderline arrogant…as if he knows something I don’t.  He does. He hands me something and watches me cuss and cry and act like I’m above this lesson. Remember those professors? The ones who ticked you off because of their abysmal requirements and immediately you were NOT a fan. And you were not alone. Some even dropped the course and found something easier. But you remained, though not without contempt…and over the course of the school year you start to get it…and the things they were teaching you tend to merge and mesh with other classes you’re taking and oddly enough…all your grades go up?!

Praise God…all my grades are going up.

love gina

 

 

 

blogging · faith · grace · life

r e l e v a n c e.

gilda radner

I have to think we all wonder at times if what we’re doing matters? If the effort we put into something serves a purpose or if it’s wasting our time when we should be doing something else.

When I first began blogging I didn’t wonder if it “mattered”. I never questioned its relevance. I just wrote. It was my greatest joy and my greatest frustration but I loved the process. I loved the composition rule breaking and ellipsis abusing way I could put my brain on paper. The dot dot dot speaks louder than words sometimes. Life is story. People are amazing. People are emotional. There will be drama. My drama is my next blog post. Your drama is my next blog post. I was waking early and writing…staying up late and writing…Then guess what happened?  I tried to get better at it. Funny how betterment will bite you!  I need to be more like “her” and “her”…I began comparing. Ugh. Stupid comparison.  Comparison is a bully!  I began counting…counting views and counting ON views.   I felt inadequate and decided this was one more thing I’d attempted that was going to end without adding to the world or my bank account so why bother!?  I decided everything I was saying had already been said, AND said to a larger audience. I belittled myself by calling myself little.

So I quit.

I deactivated my blog.

A good three weeks passed and I was actually okay with not writing.  I began reading more. I love books. If you’re writing you don’t have as much time for reading. I caught up on Call The Midwife…and watched some Real Housewives of New York. ..you know important stuff…

I shrunk back. I settled.

Was I settling for less because I saw everyone else’s more?

Then the texts begin to come in…“Where’d you go?” “What’s up with your blog?” And then this…I hear that a marriage was saved thanks to my willingness to put it all out there with the horrible effects of an affair. Oh my. That’s all I asked for…just one.

That was when I knew I could not quit.

Whatever you are doing…if it’s in your heart and wakes you and shakes you and you can’t NOT do it, KEEP DOING IT. This is not about YOU or ME. This is about LOVE and GOD and the world needs more of both. You are not the size of your audience…the number of followers or likes…you don’t know how your message travels and how many it reaches when you obey and put it out there. It’s none of our business what God does with our obedience. It’s simply our business to obey.

Forget the quantity and remember the quality of your influence. 

When teaching yearbook design and layout I emphasized the importance of whitespace. “Do not be afraid to leave some white space” said every year for eight years like a broken record. My students would try and cram too much on a page and it would get busy and fussy, and honestly it just looked messy.

I think we need to do the same with our lives. Leave some white space. Some room to breathe. My stepping away for a minute was my metaphorical white space. I was making it busier than it needed to be and it was getting messy.

You know…I came super close to deleting that post about my affair…but look how God works. He takes all our ugly and makes something beautiful. You were my audience of one. And I have to believe you are not alone. I know in my heart there are others…others who said,  this is NOT what I want my story to be and picked up their pencils and wrote a new one.

Let’s Keep Writing.

love gina

 

faith · grace · kids · life · motherhood · parenting

high calling.

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Dear Ella,

Today was Mother’s Day and while I was counting my motherhood blessings I was counting you.

One year ago this month your Poppy called to say you’d be joining us for dinner.  I left to meet you both at the house and we’ve been together ever since. 

Together we’ve learned and done so much…

We learned to pull up and crawl and walk.  We learned to dance…and NOBODY dances in the kitchen to Up & Up by Coldplay like we do!  We graduated from nasty powdery cereal and squeezy packets of mush to roasted sweet potatoes and cheese grits and sunflower butter sandwiches. While doing so we learned to feed ourselves… and I have to wonder if the messes you make are intentional seeing as you are indeed a mermaid… and you know a good mess will get you to the bathtub and into the water. We’ve pushed a stroller 20,000 miles and we’ve read 30,000 books. We watched Finding Dory and Frozen and we decided NOT to watch Elmo ever again. We are travel buddies and I’m sure all of the intellectual podcasts we listen to will one day come in handy. We are both well fed, starving artists waiting for a break. I will one day publish a book and your creative food art will be hanging in the Met…It’s just a matter of time before we both make it big.

You know, Ella…I tried really hard not to fall so in love with you…I would tell myself things like, “Gina…just take really good care of this innocent, helpless child and keep your heart out of it…you can love her…like hold her and rock her and dance with her but just do what God has called you to do and don’t let silly emotions come into play.” 

Oops.

I’m madly in love with you.

I am. 

But I wasn’t always…

I was just mad. I mean…I didn’t ask for this. Why can’t someone just raise the child they birthed and stop being so selfish?! In the beginning it was almost easy to keep my heart out of it. You show up on the scene and demand ALL MY ATTENTION. Like who do you think you are? You little diaper-pooping, non-stop crying, are you seriously hungry again nine month old little person?!?!? I’m trying to plan a wedding and get on with my life. I’ve raised my children! I’ve already done this! Seriously, God? This is NOT what you want ME to do? Is it?! I’ll be a good grandma but fix her mom so she can go home. I’m tired…as hell. Are you punishing me? Is that what this is? 

I called my mom and had a complete meltdown. She listened and encouraged and more than anyone else understood what it was like to bring a child into your home that you had not birthed but were being called to nurture and love with the essence of motherhood. 

That’s what mothering is. It’s a calling. 

Thank you God for calling me. 

ebugs

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I love you silly bugs…

love gina