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Double Portion

Goodnight! Happy Mother’s Day Eve.

A smiling face wished me well at the very end of a particularly long day. It had been a particularly long week that led to a moment where I felt tired and not too fond of mothering. I received both the smile and the words in the spirit offered, though I struggle with Mother’s Day every year.

I’m never having kids! They’re brats, and they don’t listen to you!

My teenage self made this vow that obviously did not stick. Of course kids didn’t listen to their eldest sister, even when she is supposed to be in charge. Especially then. My adult self gave birth to eight children, four of whom have reached adulthood, and four who are still on their way.

I remember being 27, having just birthed my fourth child. It was a ten-pound, four-ounce boy who shocked and surprised us all. Where were you hiding him? asked the midwife. I was not unusually large and had not gained excess weight. I was in love once I regained consciousness and energy.

Baby number four rounded out the bunch, giving us two boys and two girls. I thought it was the perfect number of children and remember thinking I would be content to be finished. People wouldn’t ask if I was trying for a particular sex or if I was disappointed to not have a particular gender or any number of the rude things they feel entitled to chime in about when you have a family of a certain size.

There was one technical difficulty. I didn’t have a voice to express this, nor did my husband have the ears to hear me even if I could. So there was a bind that is still being processed and sorted. We are still finding words for the story of us.

In my 30’s more children came. Four more, to be exact. When all was said and done, eight children were grown in and birthed from my body, one at a time. People ask. That is a lot of pregnancy, birth, postpartum, breastfeeding, diapering, hormones, mothering. A lot.

Eight children is a lot and my hard thing.

Four children was my perfect family size, and I would tell you if you asked. I would even joke that it was so perfect that I did it twice, including baby bunching when I had four kids under the age of five. Twice. It brought goodness, and it brought grief.

I have struggled with my story of mothering. I have cringed at the assumptions made about me by people who have no idea. I have grieved my departure from the lives of my bigs when caring for the littles was all-consuming. I have wept over what I have tried to, but could ultimately not, control.

Then God, in incredible, generous kindness, brought healing to this place in my heart during the final weekend of my certificate training in Seattle.

Rachael Clinton was teaching from Isaiah 61. As she read the passage, I heard these words

Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; Instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy. Isaiah 61:7 (ESV)

My heart was touched in the deepest of places, as I felt a shift from duty to delight, from obligation to honor, from fear to freedom. In that moment I heard God say, I have given you a double portion.

What a terrifying gift! What truth.

Yes, I have a good inheritance. Psalm 16:6 (ESV)

I am blessed.

Playful Goodness

I sat in a window seat, solo in my row, listening to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for nostalgia’s sake. Having just eaten an in-flight snack, I was holding off on opening the small bottle of red wine and pouring it into the blue plastic cup.

Oh, the wine . . .

I really debated whether I should order a glass on this flight or not, and it wasn’t because of the cup. I have embraced that there are acceptable times to drink wine from plastic cups, which include, but are not limited to, outdoor weddings, poolside, anytime an excessive amount of money would need to be spent to rent glassware when plastic will do, and on airplanes.

My first airplane wine was purchased for me by a fellow group member who happened to be on the same flight back in November. Though she was in the front of the plane, and I was in the back, she came bounding to my row with the words, I want to buy you a glass of wine, but you have to tell me what kind you want.

I chose white, and she returned to her seat. The food and drink carts drew closer and closer to my row, and my anxiety level rose. How will this work? Do I ask or say, Hey, I’m the one who gets the wine!?

I found myself wishing that she had never said anything about buying me wine. Then I would not have ended up in this awkward space of having to speak up. Why does it have to be this hard? What do I do now? The cart is gone, and I have no wine, and I don’t want to call attention to myself or need.

The struggle was real. I finally rose from my seat to walk towards the front of the plane and ask how I was going to get the wine. I fought feelings of shame and contempt that threatened to engulf me for having questions about her gift and needing further attention to receive it.

What?! You didn’t get your wine? That is not acceptable!

She jumped up and walked to the back of the plane to ask the flight attendant about it. He had forgotten, and as a result, comped her the glass. It was free. She sat in the empty seat in my row with me for awhile and we talked. I processed what had happened and felt grateful for the practice of speaking up for myself.

Settling into my seat on the third flight, her words, Have a glass of wine for me! Were ringing in my ears or eyes via a text. I had never ordered a glass for myself on a plane, and decided to do so. I knew she would ask.

Red wine, please.

Taking my card, the flight attendant looked at it, then handed it back. No swipe. No cost.

Leaving the card in a conspicuous location on my tray in case he was returning later to swipe it, I turned and continued the conversation I was having with the young woman in the window seat who was heading home to Seattle. The attendant did not return.

I fully believe Jesus bought me that glass of wine and met me in that space.

Which brings me back to the window seat of this, my final flight to Seattle. I thought back to waiting at the gate. I had texted Tina, the friend I am staying with, to tell her I was getting ready to board the plane. She teased me about getting my free wine again. I felt pressure and ambivalence about ordering one.

If I did not order a glass at all, I would not have to explain it away when it was not free. Besides, this time I had an entire row to myself. That’s something, right? Certainly Jesus was in the row, in the space, with me.

And yet, this was the celebration flight. The final trip. As the beverage cart drew closer, I decided to toast my hard work by buying a glass of red wine. The flight attendant took my card, her wristful of Alex and Ani bracelets jingling. I smiled. She swiped.

1. . . 2. . . 3 times.

The card reader isn’t reading this card. Do you have another?

Shaking my head, resigned to saving the money, confident that at least I tried, I began to hand back the plastic cup containing the small closed bottle.

Oh no, it’s okay, you can keep it.

Three flights, three glasses, three times met in a miraculous space where my water was turned to wine. I was seen by the lover of my soul who knew just what I needed  , and also what I desired, and met me in that space.

Thank you, Jesus.

Arrival

Christmas came. It brought beauty, comfort, joy. It brought love. The hope I held in the waiting grew, and light broke through my darkness.

From early morning presents while live-video streaming with a man-child on the other side of the world, to sitting down for our traditional breakfast at a beautifully bedecked table, to napping and waking to the sound of laughter around the table, Christmas brought comfort and joy to my weary heart.

It brought tears.

There’s something about listening to adult children share life plans and goals around the breakfast table that touched a chord deep in my heart. How redemptive to have dreamers who can voice their dreams freely. What a gift!

My parents joined us for dinner at 4:00.

They played a game with the grand kids while Steve and I cleaned the kitchen. Redemptive grace.

More laughter.

Christmas is hard for me. I am learning to understand and find more words as to why that is. I am learning to be kind to the places that hurt. I am growing.

I took two naps.

I showered using my adult daughter’s Lush bath products, massaging a seasonal body wash over my skin, turning it a grinchy shade of green. I breathed deeply and grinned a grinchy grin. I am the grinch, and it is okay.

I laughed twice today. Real laughter. Deep laughter.

My son who was video streaming from Bali, Indonesia, as we opened gifts, later commented on my first laugh. It was fun hearing you laugh so much when you were opening your present.

Eleven-year old daughter had wrapped thirteen-year old son’s gift to me for him. A bag of peppermint-cookie Lindor truffles was wrapped in layer upon layer of paper. Each layer that I tore off revealed another. It was so funny to me, peeling back paper only to find more. Real laughter erupted from my innermost being.

I really do love my kids and their sense of humor. Mostly. Usually. When I slow down and have time to appreciate it.

The second laugh was as Steve and I were walking the grand-furs. I held Wren’s leash. He had Dewey. Steve and Dewey were ahead of us. I wondered what would happen if Wren and I passed them, so we ran ahead.

Dewey was not happy with this, and his short legs moved double-time to pull Steve along. I hadn’t told Steve my thoughts or motive for running ahead. He commented, Dewey doesn’t like having Wren ahead of him.

I started laughing. I laughed more. Wren and I let them pass us and then ran ahead again, laughter bubbling up from inside of me over how funny Dewey looked trying to catch up to and pass us. Laughter felt so good. So freeing.

It has been a good Christmas. It has been a hard Christmas. It has been a good, hard Christmas.

Hashtag blessed.

Blessing the Teacher

Several months ago, I read words by Tracy Johnson on Red Tent Living. She wrote about blessing the manager in her, and I immediately thought of the teacher in me and how difficult it is to bless her.

As a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. One brother, eight years younger than me, called me teacher before he called me by my name. I vividly remember playing school using a chalkboard set up in the smallest room of our duplex, my classroom for a season. That chalkboard was the best toy, and I was always the teacher.

Having six younger siblings, five of whom were alive by the time I was ten, offered plenty of opportunities to hone my craft. Having a father who was a Christian school teacher, offered plenty of opportunities to troll around to various classrooms at the end of each school year hoarding papers and teaching supplies that were going to be thrown in the trash.

I assembled leftover classroom worksheets into booklets, stapling them together. These were used to teach and entertain siblings on long summer car rides to Michigan. Old lesson plan or grade books with used pages torn out were treasured finds. If there was still a seating chart template in the back, I would spend hours arranging and rearranging imaginary students into rows.

I drew pictures of classrooms. The items on the teacher’s desk, the assignments written on the chalkboard, the wall decorations, all were fastidiously detailed. Sometimes I wish I still had one or two of them. Then I wonder if it is better to have them in my memory. I am curious if that is why I am intent on saving samples of my children’s work.

The dream of growing up and becoming a teacher was rooted deep inside of me. There was a time when it felt hopeful and sweet. I taught a little girl to read when I was sixteen and loved planning enrichment activities for the small group of day camp students that I worked with that summer. Then something changed.

The dream and desire became a demand. I remember when the joy of teaching was replaced by duty and the expectation to teach. I remember feeling choices slip away and panic set in. I remember trying my best to push the window of other opportunities open, only to have it slam shut and lock.

I remember feeling betrayed by the teacher in me. Why did she have to be so good at what she did? Why did she always say this is what she wanted to be? What if there were other things, too?

The teacher, ever efficient, stepped up and took over, pushing the other parts aside. She took care of business and rose to the occasion. She went to school, studied, and worked hard. She loved each student that came through her room and saw to it that she cared for them in the best possible way.

I appreciate her for that. I appreciate her ability to connect with students, to care for them, and to make learning fun. I appreciate her stepping up and doing what needed to be done. Most of all, I am grateful to have grown into a place where I can truly bless her and her gifts.

The teacher is a part of me, but she is not all of me. Still, she is pretty amazing, and I have grown to love and appreciate her. Her presence is a gift of grace in my life.

Shannon’s Mom

Would Shannon’s mom report to the mall office, please? Shannon’s mom to the mall office.

My heart is in my throat as I step from the carpeted floor of Centerpointe, the Christian bookstore in the mall next to JC Penney, to the sleek tiled floor of the mall’s common ground. Already, time has passed too slowly and too quickly in my search for a preschooler entrusted to my care, not for a few hours a day, but for LIFE.

I am failing at it. I can’t even keep track of ONE small child. How can parents continue to trust me to care for their children day after day? In that moment, all I feel in my brain is the relief that Shannon is found and only gave her first name. What if someone heard that Mrs. McClay had lost a child? I would never be trusted again.

How did this happen?

It was supposed to be a quick, after-work trip to the mall, bringing my youngest child along for some quality time together. We entered through the Walmart anchor end, making the long trek past all of the stores towards our destination at polar opposite.

She noticed the coin-operated merry-go-round and asked to ride it. Not now was my response, because I had no change, and we had places to go. Let’s be honest, my response was usually not now, because, well, just because.

Today we are pressed for time, because I have just gotten off of work, and there are things that I need to look for before heading home to fix supper and get on with the evening. There are always things to get to. Always that next thing.

We enter Centerpointe, precursor to Family Christian Store, and I begin to look in earnest for whatever it is that I need. I enjoy it here, because there is a play area for kids in the back where VeggieTales videos loop and books and toys are accessible, while moms like me peruse the latest CDs and Christian books and tchotchkes.

Shannon is into VeggieTales, these days, so much so that her birthday party was a VeggieTale theme, so I am more than happy to oblige when she asks if she can go to play with the toys.

I scan the CD display, searching for something new, that I know will lift my spirits, though I won’t be able to buy it. I remain lost in thought for a few minutes before returning to reality and heading to the back of the store for my girl.

I find emptiness.

The play area is empty.

Bob and Larry sing silly songs to an empty chair. There is no little girl in sight.

Panic rises in my chest as I run to the front of the store where a cheerful, curly-haired cashier is ringing up a purchase.

Did you see a little girl walk out of the store?

Looking at me with concerned eyes, she shakes her head. She has not seen a child, but she has been busy ringing up purchases. I feel her care and concern as shame washes over me. She is doing her job. I am clearly not doing mine.

It is at that moment, in the front of the store, that I hear the mall loudspeaker calling for me, and I rush out to the mall office.

Scooping Shannon into my arms, I have never been so happy to see a little face.

What happened?

Well, you SAID I could play with the toys, so I went out to try to find them, but I went the wrong way.

The toys. The TOYS. The merry-go-round. She was asking to go play on the merry-go-round.

We talk it over and realize where she made a wrong turn, and where I made a wrong assumption, and I tell her I am glad that she was able to say her name so that I could come and find her. We leave the mall together with a memory and the huge relief of being reunited.

I have been Shannon’s mom for 21 years, now. I love her and how she has helped me to grow and become a better mother and person. I am realizing that there will always be wrong turns and wrong assumptions, but if we remember our name and ask for help, the reuniting is sweet and the memories are rich.

Shani first birthday

This is from Shani’s first birthday. Her face captures her essence even at a year old. Those big eyes and that furrowed brow speak volumes. I just want to scoop her up and hold her close again. Love those babies, Mamas!!! Time really does fly. Happy 21st, Little Angel!

My Mama Final Exam

Another one has come and gone. Graduation of child 4 from high school took place last weekend. It was a full, emotional time and the chance to be filled with nostalgia, as my thirteen-year-old son was sure to articulate at every opportunity.

There were many finals.

Final concerts, final performances, final gatherings, final awards ceremonies.

There was also a Mama Final.

This is what I call the gathering and assembling of a memory board to display at the graduation party. I fantasize that some more organized mamas have it all together and have been working on the project gradually over the years, having only to add finishing touches here and there for the final display.

Remember those science fair projects and research reports that started with the best of intentions and ended with holding a blow dryer over a paper-mache dinosaur to get it to dry faster the night before it was due? Is it just me?

My process has been trial and error, fueled by pragmatic inspiration. Sadly, my firstborn was not the recipient of a properly-executed final exam. Her display took over most of the dining room, as school pictures of her were hung, illustrating her various awkward stages of growing up. I am grateful that she graded me on a curve for that.

I didn’t discover my method and groove until child number two graduated from high school. Because he was a pianist and giving a senior piano recital, I planned out a memory board to be displayed at the reception that followed.

Not wanting to waste my efforts, the thought struck that if I used a display board and attached decorated scrapbook pages to it, I could later remove the pages and insert them into an album. Armed with this inspiration, I chose to use green and gold, his chosen college’s colors as the backdrop colors and set to work planning out pages.

I did the same for the next graduate, a girl who planned to take a gap year. Her album was recently pulled out to remember and reminisce.

Enter the month of May. Busy and full, I felt grateful that my last day of work left me with two full weeks before everyone else was out of school. I began to focus on the task at hand.

Here is how it played out.

  • I pulled out the display board stored in my closet from the last graduate.
I started with a blank display board like the one used for school projects.

I started with a blank display board like the one used for school projects.

  • I collected the boxes of memories that I had saved over the years and began sorting, patchwork quilt style on my bed.
Choosing red and white as school colors and purple as an accent, I tied them together with tie-dye and rainbow pixel paper as a background.

Choosing red, blue, and white as school colors and purple as an accent, I pulled them together with tie-dye and rainbow pixel paper as a background.

  • I began committing by cutting and gluing pictures to the scrapbook paper as page themes emerged.
Here is an up-close look at the marching band page.

Here is an up-close look at the marching band page.

  • I set aside my perfectionistic tendencies and not good enough voices in my head and just did it. I made something.
After attaching the individual pages to the backboard, I stood the finished project on the table to view a new perspective.

After attaching the individual pages to the backboard, I stood the finished project on the table to view a new perspective.

  • The morning of the graduation brunch, it was fun to have this for people to enjoy.
We celebrated at a park under a shelter. I propped the display on a picnic table bench for all to see, using a potted succulent to hold it in place.

We celebrated at a park under a shelter. I propped the display on a picnic table bench for all to see, using a potted succulent to hold it in place. One of the other moms provided a journal for friends to write in, which was a wonderful touch!

  • Afterwards, I organized the pages into a photo album, scrapbook-style.
Afterwards, I removed all pages from the display and slid them into a scrapbook. Here is a sample page from that.

This is where I removed all pages from the display and slid them into a scrapbook. Here is a sample page from that.

There you have the process for a successful mama final exam. If this mother of eight can do it, you can, too! One of the biggest tips I have is to designate a bin for each child to collect their memories. I plan to write more on this topic soon, but that is a good place to start.

My Children’s Father

He fastens his helmet, hops on his bike, and takes off with our nine-year-old girl who has just discovered her love of bike riding. This, after spending an afternoon at the pool with the eleven and nine-year-old girls at a school’s out pool party hosted by a local radio station.

Of course, it’s not all bike rides and pool parties. Earlier in the day, accusations of being a tyrant and exercising a reign of terror were hurled by a different child as the apps on an iPod were deactivated for a few hours to give space for other activities.

He is a good dad.

He takes time to connect with and guide adult children while being in the moment with the younger ones. He works hard every day to care for those in this house, risking imperfect fathering with just doing.

His turn-around time is slow. He admits that.

Household projects, while in progress, often lie dormant so that a heart can be cared for, a cuddle read, a bike ride taken, a phone-call made. He puts his people before projects, which means that there are always works in progress. Always projects calling.

The upstairs room, the porch, the bathroom, the basement, the boxes, all of these and more clamor for his attention.

He hears the children first.

Yes, imperfectly. No, not always well.

With a heart that is humble and open, he seeks to better his fathering skills and grieves where they have been lacking. I have sat with him in that grief. We have grieved together.

I am thankful for my children’s father and for how he has taken on the task of fathering eight plus one. I am grateful that he chooses to show up fully, even when fully means messily and wrong. Because then he apologizes and models humility and helps us to learn forgiveness.

Once upon a time, there was a young man who wanted a big family. I think he thought he would be getting a fan club. It didn’t quite work out that way.

The way it did work is that eight children have taught him a thing or two about himself and have helped him to grow into the amazing man that he is. The one that I am blessed to call the father of my children.

Happy Father’s Day, Steve!

Friendship Friday ~ Misty and Davene

I can’t have a Friendship Friday post on April Fool’s Day without thinking of my dear friends Misty and Davene and the wonderful season we shared together from 2006 ~ 2011 or 12ish. April 1 is Davene’s birthday. It also reminds me of the fun play date that Misty hosted one early April afternoon.

The picture above was taken on Misty’s bricked back porch the day she threw an April Fools lunch/party for us and all of our children back in 2011. She is on the left, Davene is in the middle, I am on the right. There were a lot of kids. Doing the math makes my head tired, but I had three or four littles with me, and she had four, and Davene had at least three or four, so there were a lot.

Misty prepared fun things like jello that looked like juice in cups with straws and mashed potato cupcakes and other incredibly creative snacks for the kids to enjoy. We served and shared and laughed together. The kids played. It was a sweet time.

I met Misty and Davene in the season of my second baby bunch. It was through Davene, or should I say her husband, Jeff, who connected us through our husbands whose hair he cut that we all met.

Roo was born in 2006 and was a newborn the first  time we were introduced at a potluck at the Fisher household. Kirk was 3, Coco was 1, there was no Little Mae, yet. In 2006 all of my kids still lived at home. Their ages were 14, 13, 12, 8, 3, 1, newborn. We had a full house and looked like things were under control.

My eyes tear up just typing this. There was a lot going on during that season. I was, and still am, the older mom with the older kids. Misty and Davene were my breaths of fresh air. They were the younger moms with the energy to do fun things. I wanted to bottle and inhale their mothering energy and enthusiasm, and they graciously shared their time and space and hearts with me during a time when it was so needed.

Originally, Misty and her husband weren’t planning to be in the area for long. He was in the military and finishing school. One of the best risks I took was to just be friends without worrying about how long she would be here and if it would hurt too much if she wasn’t. We started spending time together with our kids. Then sometimes without.

For a time she lived in an apartment downtown across from the old hospital. We would meet at the children’s museum with our strollers or at the park or at eachother’s houses. We would see who had what food in the house to make the sandwiches or bring the juice or goldfish or fruit. We made quite a scene parading downtown with our gaggle of children.

The best memory I have is just doing it and road-tripping with my thirdborn child and three little girls to Ocean City, NJ to spend a few days at the beach with her and her children. Wow. It shows how selective memory is, because there were moments.

There were also MOMENTS like walking on the boardwalk together after the kids were tucked safely into bed, talking and eating sweet potato fries and Kohrs peanut butter ice cream. There was the announcement as we finally arrived at the boardwalk rides one afternoon with all of the kids and our ride tickets in hand that two-ticket Tuesday is now OVER. We dissolved into laughter. Of COURSE it is!

Life has moved the three of us on to different places.  Misty and her family eventually moved out of state, leaving Facebook to keep us connected along with an occasional blast through the area and quick hug or lunch. Davene had one or two more babies and continued her path of diligent homeschooling and fervent mothering and blogging as noted here. On a rare occasion the two of us grab a coupon and an evening out to catch up over dinner or dessert.

We really should do that again, soon.

Their kids are growing. Mine are, too. While our time together will never again look just like it was, Misty and Davene’s presence in my life was and continues to be a precious gift. Entering into friendship with them is one of the best risks I ever took.

That’s no fooling!

Christmas Wrap-up

The tree is down. Decorations are boxed. The stockings were found ~ two days late. Thankfully, Dollar Tree had some in stock on Christmas Eve.

But I like my sparkly NEW stocking! said a certain mini-me when I announced my basement find on December 27.

Fixed the newel post! Found the stockings!

Wrapping up Christmas at our house this year feels scattered. Steve and I sat down with coffee and his trusty notebook recently to reflect on the season and discuss what went well and what was rough.

Christmas Eve

Went well ~ Christmas budget
Rough ~ actually taking time to purchase/ order gifts

Went well ~ Christmas cards ordered on November 2 WITH a coupon AND stamps purchased
Rough ~ actually addressing and sending the cards

Went well ~ Planned romantic weekend getaway
Rough ~ Wrong weekend, last~minute scrambling with plans B and C, sickness
We DID go away. Maybe it will be an anniversary post. Maybe not. Still processing it.

Went well ~ Many concerts, programs, recitals to attend featuring our talented children
Rough ~ actually writing dates of events on the calendar, outfitting the performers
Here is where I also apologize to grandparents for failing to keep them informed of these last-minute dates, as well. They are wonderfully supportive when they actually know about their grandkids’ concerts and events!

Went well ~ Watching the Grinch as a family and laughing hysterically together
Rough ~ Keeping up with Advent readings and felt tree
Maybe NOBODY has actually put up the manger on Christmas morning. Have we ever made it there?

Advent tree

Went well ~ Attending the Christmas Eve candle-light service at our church with Steve
Rough ~ Silencing the voices in my head that were judging us for leaving our children at the grandparents’ house playing with the cousins so that we could enjoy a worshipful date.
Look at all of those other families in matching outfits with their children in a row on Christmas Eve celebrating the true meaning of Christmas together.

Christmas puzzle

Went well ~ the Christmas puzzle
Rough ~ I didn’t put in a single piece.
Wait! Maybe that is a score! Mission accomplished!

Christmas Puzzle

There is much more, but I will spare you, Kind Reader, further boring details. Suffice to say, there was much to do and not much time in which to do it. Often a friend would come up to me and ask, How ARE you? followed by an apologetic I’m sorry I haven’t had time to keep up with the blog. 

That makes two of us!

Please, never apologize for not keeping up with the blog.

I am grateful for all who loved and prayed for us this Advent season. There were cards sent, checks written, Amazon gift boxes delivered, notes and texts received. There were shoulders cried on. There was grace extended. There was truth reminded.

After all was unwrapped, we wrapped up a lovely Christmas season!

Thanksgiving Wrap-up

Thanksgiving weekend has come to an end. November, with its month of thankfulness, is almost over.

I won’t pretend it was an easy month, an easy holiday, because it wasn’t. There were moments of goodness and thankfulness that I was grateful to feel before moments of darkness and pain settled around me more strongly.

There was a struggle to stay present and thankful through some incredibly hard moments that can’t be detailed here. Because privacy.

I battle depression and would be lying if I said that it isn’t threatening to take me down these days, this season. The first step is recognizing the danger zone and admitting that I am in a vulnerable place. The second is reaching out and speaking up. The third is taking action and making a plan.

All three have happened, are happening, will happen.

I don’t know why life is so hard and the struggle is so real, but it is. I am grateful for those on my team who walk with me through the darkness and point me to the light.

One place of light was this tree of life moment Thanksgiving morning.

My husband woke me with a cup of coffee and the words, Do you want to come out and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

He had gone to the store in the early morning hours and purchased an antenna to hook up to the TV to capture the signal for NBC. Each year since our move to this house, Thanksgiving has been the one day I have longed for network TV to watch the parade. Each year we miss the opportunity, and I move on in hopefulness to the next.

Thanksgivings past have found my parents recording the parade for me to watch later or me heading over to their house to watch it. I have ignored it completely or deferred hope to another time down the road. This year it happened as I snuggled up on the couch with coffee and my kids, and we watched the parade together.

Then they watched the dog show.

It was a tree of life moment for us all around, and though it would soon pass and challenges present, for a few hours Thanksgiving morning, we escaped into musicals and marching bands and musicians and dancers and balloons and floats and dogs.

IMG_4176

Toothless watching himself in the parade is just one of many sweet moments shared together Thanksgiving morning.

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Don’t get too envious of the technology you see here. 2/5 of the electronic devices resting on the entertainment console are not ours. They are also the most modern of the devices. But whose counting? We are grateful for generous family and friends who share the fun with us.