A Gift Indeed

Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote Gift from the Sea back in 1955. Here’s what astounds me about good books written by good authors: they are timeless. The principles hold despite the changing tides of culture.

And it’s certainly true of Gift from the Sea.

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The fact that she names chapters after shells she finds during her weeklong vacation, alone, immediately drew me in.

Getting alone and digging in to the deep places that hurt or peeling back the layers of doubt is the only way I have ever found to alleviate the angst that doubt brings. Or maybe more importantly, to begin the healing of hurts.

“It is only in solitude that I ever find my own core.”

It surely is. Is that true for you, too?

I remember reading this book the summer I was to be married. It was the month before our wedding and I had a treasured handful of blissful days reading on the beach in my hometown before becoming Mrs. P.  I soaked in each sentence, with the sun, as the ocean waves lapped at my feet.

The day is burned in my memory. Literally. As I neglected to slather sunscreen on the tops of my feet that morning. I hobbled around for days full of the stirring words Lindbergh littered each chapter with.

One sentence in particular held deep significance to me. As a soon-to-be bride, I was buoyed by my relationship to this soon-to-be husband. He kept me afloat on many levels. His logic to my feeling. My adventure to his stability. His calm to my storm. When I read the following, I exhaled with a truthful knowing:

“The light shed by any good relationship illuminates all relationships.”

Jesus did this for me. My husband, as well.

Those good, healthy and loving relationships that provide a guidebook are vital. Lindbergh highlights the importance of taking care of self by replenishing, forgiving, and loving. And then, she provides beautiful imagery to spur on the pouring out of all of the filling up.

Love, once again. And I took it in and tucked it into my heart as I headed out on the grand adventure of marriage.

This book was a gift indeed.

 To read other posts in my Write 31 Days Challenge series of the Best Books Ever, click the button below.

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The Beautiful Boom

If the letters ENFP mean anything to you, then you are my people.

If the letters ISTJ mean anything to you, then you are Sweetman’s people.

Put an ENFP and an ISTJ together, and it can be the perfect combination of BOOM!

You might be tempted to feel jealous of all the boom, but don’t.  Those explosions make for some amazing fireworks, yes. But they also make for some doozies during the clean-up. Think, “lots of time” and “lots of effort” to pick up the pieces, and you’ll get the idea.

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If you really knew me, you would know that I love me a grand idea and detest me some details. I also get easily bogged down in those little “d” words.

Tell me to come up with a fun way to rope someone in to volunteering for that fundraising event coming up and I’m on it.  Remind me the following week that it was due on Tuesday and you needed it typed up, double-spaced, in bold font, and I’m liable to look at you cross-eyed. And, forget what you asked of me in the first place. I’m going to start running with the idea before you ever get to finish telling me the rest of the pertinent information.

Okay, so add impulsive.

You know, that might explain why I get side-tracked by squirrels.

Often.

Especially if they fly.

Anyhoo, a couple of decades ago, I took that Myers-Briggs Personality Test.  I’ve included a fantastic Myers-Briggs graphic link showing you the most famous of each type. It’s fun to note that I’m almost equal parts Oscar Wilde and Martin Luther King Jr.

Sweetman is not.

As I mentioned before, it makes for some lively conversations.

What all of this personality test stuff has shown me over the years, though, is that labels do not truly define a person.  Ever.  Labels can help me draw conclusions about how best to approach working with someone who is, ahem, a much more methodical thinker than myself.  But, it can’t tell me who that person really is deep down in their soul. Or what makes their heart beat faster. Or, even, what they’ll ultimately place the most value on, in their decision-making.

This is true of my marriage relationship, too.  Knowing that Sweetman is practical and logical and takes every detail into careful consideration does not help me in Those Moments. You know the ones… I give him a grocery list of six items and state, definitively, that The Most Important Item on that list is bread.  He’ll come back with every single thing on that list.

Except bread.

It’s the practical application of how his strengths dovetail my weaknesses and make us a stronger unit.  It’s about using the gifts I’ve been given to serve Sweetman when he needs time to zero in on flies that keep getting in the ointment.  It’s about him coming alongside me when my weaknesses are shining through, and turning the spotlight more toward my strengths.

Knowing that my husband is a practical problem-solver does me no good if I don’t allow him to sometimes helps me solve my problems.

Knowing that I like to see things through to completion does him no good if he doesn’t provide the time and space to allow that to happen.

I recently had the opportunity to retake that Myers-Briggs test.  And guess what?

Same diagnosis.

Loves people. Enthusiastic. Idea creator. Doer.

Married to thinker.  Tolerates people. Less enthusiastic. Loves logic.

But that only tells part of our story.

The other part is that HE makes my heart beat faster.  I hear tell that I make his do the same.

Whatever serves to unify us is what gets the heaviest weight in his decision-making.  It’s the same right here, too!

And, honestly, I wouldn’t trade his ISTJ for any other letters.

Because, It’s a beautiful boom after all.

Yes indeedy.

Do you know what kind of alphabet soup you are?  I’m guessing it makes for some mighty beautiful booms in your neck of the woods, too, doesn’t it?

Happy Mother’s Day

Struggling to make sense of your relationship with your mother is a tale almost as old as time itself, isn’t it?

I have good news for those of you who are still in the midst of the struggle: there may come a time when you don’t.

I know it’s possible.

My mother and I have a mutual respect and a deeper love for each other, now, than I ever thought possible.

She means more to me than I could ever have imagined she would.  Much more.

That, in and of itself, is a gift of epic proportions.

So, to my mama…

Mama, I know that Ahab often gets the credit for instilling a love of The Ocean in us kids. But, I give a lot of that credit to you, too. It was you who packed us up, religiously, each and every Saturday, to head to the beach for the day. You, along with the three other mothers in our Beach Family, and enough cold tuna noodle casserole, Cheezits, and Crystal Light Iced Tea to feed an entire classroom full of children, would herd us 8 children into vans and onto the hot sand with promises of hours of unfettered free time.

I felt the most free when we were at the beach each Saturday.  You allowed me to run and swim and play and eat Cheezits until you thought I’d turn into one. And, although I now understand (OH, how I understand!) that in doing so, you also were getting some much needed breathing room yourself, I never felt more loved on than when you would allow me to just be me at the beach.  There were no comments of being ladylike, eating less, or being more like so-and-so. No. None of that. You packed us up and took us to the place where we could all get out and blow the stink off.  And you showed your love in that one act.

I am so grateful for your willingness to take us out there for fresh air and sunshine.

Grilled cheese sandwiches, with the cheese blackened on the top, are still a favorite of mine to this day.  Those and the chicken noodle soup that always accompanied it, were the only things I really remember about the times I was sick. And, I remember you lovingly (and maybe with more than a hint of frustration on the tenth and twentieth times) putting the socks back on my hands, to keep me from scratching at the chicken pox that covered my body when I was six.

I am so grateful for your tender loving care.

And I also look back on all of your attempts to take us on mother-daughter trips with a softer perspective. You desperately wanted me to want to go – shopping, out to lunch, to a movie. I can see, now, that you really just wanted us to have opportunities to do things together.

And, I’m so grateful that you tried.

I love you mama.  It took me an awful long time to realize that I am, indeed, blessed to call you “Mom”. And I want you to know how much I look forward to every new memory we carve out together in the future.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Some Things Never Get Old

Sweetboy has taken to reading my texts whenever he hears the ding. I’m gonna have to get that ding to go all silent and stealthy from now on.

He has also taken to noticing, lately, when Sweetman and I are standing too close to each other (or hugging, or GASP, kissing!). He’ll laugh a nervous little laugh and turn away.  It makes us happy that he has gotten to the point where he is able to see how others relate and feel an emotion beyond whatever is going on in his own world.  Huge step for this Sweetboy of ours.  Thank you God!

Anyhoo, back to the huggin’ and the kissin’.  Sweetgirl has also taken notice of our proximity, lately.  In fact, after telling the kids we’d take a family walk around the neighborhood (that’s code for letting that child ride her bike like she’s Evel Knievel while I sweat. it. out!) she got a little impatient waiting for us to come outside.  She poked her head in the garage door and asked if we were done “Standing  Really Close Next To Each Other Now?!?”. I suppose that’s a five-year old’s way of explaining all of the hugging?

We think it’s a hoot how the kids each react to any show of intimacy on the part of us parents, toward each other.

And in fact, we do it more often, now,  whenever we think they may be paying attention. Just to, you know… stir the pot a little.  I do believe that is part of The Parental Contract, yes?

And so, I suspect that had Sweetboy come across this text message conversation that Sweetman and I had on Friday, he’d have been a little wigged out.

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Some things in a marriage just never. get. old.

Indeed!

Have You Called Your Mother?

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The Nana and I have fought, and hard, for our relationship over these last 40 some-odd years.  It’s been worth it.

Where we are now?  It’s a good place.

There was a period of time, an altogether-too-long period of years, where my mama would be the last person I’d call for advice, comfort, or inspiration to carry on.   Is that a harsh thing for some of you mothers to read?  I’m sorry.  It is a true story.  One that, I hope, makes what I write next, about my mom, all the sweeter.

Ours is a relationship redemption story, if there ever was one.

Walking down that road of pending motherhood, I realized that all of these hopes and dreams that I had for my own sweet children, were tied up tightly with every fiber of my being. And that was a frightening revelation, a scary prospect, and a depressing way to behold the future of my children. Does that make sense to some of you? The thought overpowered me that, “I was only going to be able to do the best that I could with what I had.”

Sadness permeated my heart at that thought, followed by no small amount of resentment.  I didn’t feel like my mother had prepared me for this mighty job that I now had.

And, at that point in our relationship, I didn’t feel that I could or would ask her for her help. Nor did I think, for a moment, that she would have any constructive or encouraging words of wisdom to share.

Redemption sometimes comes unexpectedly. As I lay with my firstborn nursing him in the wee hours one morning, it dawned on me that my mama truly did do the very best that she could with what she had.

That brought a softening to my heart.  And, ultimately, opened the door to some Grand Scale Healing in our relationship.

Is it sunshine and unicorns now?

Nope.

It is progress.  And Love.  It’s a blooming friendship built on the hope of continued trust and a committment to slather on the grace whenever and wherever.  It’s all of these things, and so many more, wrapped up together to strengthen the fibers of my being.

And, hopefully, hers too.

Now?  I do ask her. All the time, it seems, I ask her what she thinks I should do, could I have handled this better, which outfit should I wear to this event. It’s almost like these last 8 years or so, we’ve been making up for lost time, cramming each interaction with as much mother-daughter love as it can possibly hold.

And I am deeply grateful.

My mother, The Nana, my mama?  She is a gift to me; a precious gift that truly does keep on giving, with each new day that we spend knowing that we are mother and her daughter.  This redeemed relationship is a gift from the God who sees; and isn’t afraid to reach right in and continue to draw us closer to one another, and to Him.

Dear Mama,

I love you.  I’m so glad you’re MY mom. 

Now, turn on your phone, you’re about to receive a call.

Love,

Pooh

3 Ways to Love (or Annoy) Your Sibling

You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them. – Desmond Tutu

This I know to be true. Sweetgirl may certainly beg to differ many days of the week, but she’ll get over it.  In about 20 years.  Trust me.  I know from experience.

2 Fruity kids from the same tree...

2 Fruity kids from the same tree…

Brothers can love the tar out of their little sisters, just as sisters can love the tar out of their big brothers (and little! Hey,Capt. Ahab’s son, I’m talkin’ to you!).  I know this for fact because, our Sweetboy most certainly does love his.  To smithereens.  Much to her chagrin some days (but, not ours).

1) You can write notes, like this one, for your little sister, who is four and refuses to acknowledge that there are things called letters that make up the alphabet.  Or, in other news, she can’t yet read.  But that shouldn’t stop you from writing to her to tell her what you’ve been learning.  “She might find it interesting, Mama.”

Surely, she was dying to know all about this, no?

Surely, she was dying to know all about this, no?

2) You can touch the silky strands of your little sister’s hair and breathe in the smell as often as humanly possible, because… well, “it’s so soft and smells so  good that I just can’t stand it!”.

3) Then, there are the sweeter moments of sibling love that are best described, not in words, but in pictures.  And so, here you go…

Ain't Love Grand?

Ain’t Love Grand?

And when Sweetboy questions where God is and how we can be sure He exists?  I pull this verse out to share with him:

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

1 John 4:12

I ask him who he thinks put that sweet love for his sister inside of his heart?  As much as I’d like to claim credit for that, I can’t.  I remind him that he is doing a great job of living that very verse out each time he opts to give her the last chocolate chip pancake or ask her, “What’s wrong, Sissy?”, when she’s crying (which is a lot, as she is the ultimate drama queen); or, each time he tells Sweetman and I that he doesn’t want to do this or that activity without “the whole family” or races downstairs in the morning and hops on the couch to share a blanket and snuggle in with her (despite their almost 5 year age difference).  In each of these acts, he shows us how we are to love one another.

With sweet abandon..  Oh yes, indeedy.