Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Finding Beauty in the Gray Hairs

I have been hesitant to share this post for a while now because it is such a personal decision.  But New Year's is about a fresh start and embracing change, and I couldn't think of a better day to share it.

This is me, gray hairs and no makeup.

I found my first gray hair when I was in high school.  My best friend would sit behind me during biology class and pull them out because, after all, what are friends for?

In my 20's, the few gray strands became more than a few and the people in my life started to notice.  I heard comments from both men and women.  Maybe they were just trying to be helpful, but pointing out my gray hairs is not the same as telling me I have spinach in my teeth, and their words left me feeling embarrassed and insecure.

I spent many years staring into the mirror, running my fingers through my hair and asking myself, "Should I dye it or not?"

For some reason, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. And why not? Everyone else was dyeing their hair...

I guess I felt that once I started, there would be no turning back.  I am all about keeping life simple, and I watched my friends struggle with keeping up with their roots.  I was a busy mother with a full house, the last thing I needed was another thing on my to-do list.

But now in my 30's, my reasons for embracing my silver highlights have become much deeper.  

I asked my husband for his honest opinion of my hair, and his response really surprised me.

He smiled, "We are growing old together."

I looked at his scruffy gray whiskers and the few white hairs starting to show at his temples, and I had to smile too.  There it is, the promise.  The promise to grow old together, to love in the good and in the bad, and to share this journey through every stage of our lives.

And we are in a new stage.  Our older children are inching their way towards being teenagers and our baby is now a toddler running around the house.  

I am feeling older and maybe a little wiser, and I'm learning to be more content.  I want to accept and embrace this stage of my life for all its worth.  The babies that left their marks on my body, the laugh lines that are forming from years of joy, the gray hairs that remind me of the promise, it's all a part of my story.

I want to inspire my girls that they are beautiful at every age.  They don't have to grow up too fast or fit into someone else's mold.  True beauty is a gentle and quiet spirit.  It is a joyful heart and living out all that you were created to this moment.

I wish I could say that I am completely confident in this, but it is still a struggle for me.  This year I am learning to embrace the beauty in every moment, every stretch mark, every gray hair.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Laundry Room is My Prayer Closet

It is early. I am up before the sun but I've given up on sleep.  I slip into the kitchen to brew a cup of coffee.  The gentle clinking of my spoon swirled through the mug rings loudly in this quiet house.

I warm my hands around this mug as I walk to the laundry room.  Setting my coffee down on the dryer I get right to work.

I fold laundry when I'm stressed.  Or angry.  Or when my heart is heavy with the things that hurt.

This place is where I hide when I need to cry and vent and learn to breathe again.  The laundry room has become my prayer closet.

My hands are busy sorting and folding and my heart feels free to be real with God.  I have cried to Him so many times over the battles I'm fighting, the pain, the worries, the fear.

As I chip away at this mountain, the gentle humming of the dryer creates rings in my coffee like stones skipped across a pond.  It's a peaceful place for me.  A place where my dirty chaos is brought into beautiful order.  It's a place where I let God take the mess of my life and wash it all away, giving me a fresh start.

The hamper is empty (for the moment) and I've poured out all that needed to be said.  The sun is filling the sky and my children are filling the house with their noisy energy.  My heart is no longer carrying this heavy load but full of peace.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Lessons in the Garden

We made some ambitious garden plans this year, more than doubling our existing garden plot.  I was a little nervous about how I was going to manage it all with a new baby and a toddler.

At first, I would wait until they were napping, grab the baby monitor and sneak outside while the big kids played in the yard.  But they didn't always sleep at the same time or I would soon hear them stirring in their beds and have to head inside.  They also took their naps during the hottest part of the day, which left me baking in the afternoon sun.

I decided that if I was going to tend a garden, the little ones would just have to join me and this soon became some of the sweetest moments of my summer.

I spent our days taking the little guys on a wagon ride while I walked around the yard watering plants.  It wasn't easy trying to pull a wagon full of kids and drag the garden hose along, but they loved being a part of my garden chores.

They helped me drop seeds into the dirt, and while all my rows grew crooked, I would never trade perfectly lined up plants for their beaming smiles.

The kids and I talked about everything.  We examined the shape of the seeds and they were amazed that something so small could grow into something so big.  They learned to identify plants by their leaves.  They practiced self-control to not pick every pretty flower because the flowers turn into fruits and vegetables.

My two year old learned his colors because "we don't pick green strawberries, only the red ones".  Green beans have purple blossoms and snap peas have pink ones.  Sunflowers are bright yellow. 

They sniffed my lavender and mint and felt the prickly leaves of the zucchini.

We talked about which garden bugs are good and which are bad. 

Potatoes and carrots grow underground and harvesting them is like digging for buried treasure.

We counted as we picked and took guesses as to how much we would harvest that season, keeping tally marks in my garden journal.

And now as my summer garden is fading, they are learning where the seeds are hiding and helping me save them for next year.

The garden is a family project, full of lessons and moments that we will never forget.  I am so thankful that I let go of my perfectionism and let the kids get their hands dirty.  This summer spent in the garden, surrounded by my children, was my favorite place to be. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Little Guys Can Do Big Things Too

This week our family was invited to visit Diggerland USA to help celebrate their partnership with Activation ReAct.  While our trip was complimentary, all opinions are my own.

Activation ReAct is a non-profit on a mission to provide ways for people of all ages to lend a helping hand during environmental disasters within the United States.  We have seen first hand the recent devastation of hurricanes Sandy and Irene in our home state. Activation ReAct encourages children and families to use their talents creatively to fundraise for the victims of tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and other natural disasters.

Activation ReAct's Founder and President Elizabeth Norton
My husband is an emergency medical technician.  During blizzards and hurricanes he is out braving the storms in an ambulance, while I am home cuddled up with our children.  They may be too young to help in the same way, but I love that Activation ReAct empowers them to use their talents to serve others any way they can. 

Activation ReAct has gained the support of Diggerland USA, a construction based theme park.  Our children were able to see the same types of heavy machinery used in clean up and restoration after the storms, being used for fun.

They rode on excavators and dumper trucks, drove mini-land rovers and tractors through an obstacle course and other fun and unique digger rides. 

The highlight for my older kids was the rock climbing wall and 4-story tall ropes course.  While I took my little ones on the playground, I watched my older children strap into their safety harnesses and start to climb.  They have never experienced anything like this before and I was so proud watching them challenge themselves in this way.

My petite 8-year old daughter beat her brothers to the top of the 32 foot high rock wall, and her face was shining with excitement, confidence and pride when she reached the top.

Our time at Diggerland created family memories that we will never forget and, I believe, gave my children a big boost of confidence.  They learned that little guys can do big things too, which is what Activation ReAct is all about.

For more information visit:

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Tale of Three Marriages

This past week I held my new nephew for the first time.  I looked over at my little brother, all grown up now, a father to his firstborn son.  I saw him looking at his wife with new eyes.  Her 38 hour labor made him respect and cherish her so deeply.  There was so much love in that room.

I remember that moment.  As a young couple being joyfully married and thinking you could never love each other more than you do right now, and then this little child comes into your life and your heart grows a million times larger.  You see each other as so much more.  You love in a whole new way.

The week before, my husband called me on his way to the emergency room.  I could hear the fear in his voice, though he tried to reassure me that he was fine.  He hasn't been feeling well for a while, but his symptoms had escalated, and he needed to know what was going on.

It was so hard to see him like that.  He has always been the strong one.  The one I leaned on when I was scared, and now I had to be that for him.

These days are hard.  Our full house keeps us so busy.  We find ourselves missing each other even though we are right there.  Sometimes I look across the crowded dinner table, past the baby food splatters and spilled milk, past the siblings arguing and the baby crying and our eyes meet and I think, "Oh, there you are.".

We still need each other, not just to help unload the groceries and bathe the children, but to be strong when the other feels weak.  To hold the pieces together when one feels broken.  I have been praying for him harder than I ever have.  He hangs onto these prayers to get him through the day.  We are learning to love in a whole new way.

The week before this, it was my father who was in the hospital bed.  We were sitting in the Cath lab when we heard the results.  He had suffered a small heart attack, but could have  been moments away from a massive one.

My stubborn daddy, who waited three days to even see a doctor, May not have survived if he had waited any longer.

I saw my parents, who are rarely emotional, break down as they held each other, overwhelmed at the thought of losing each other.

This couple, married over three decades has lost a baby, lost a son, lost their parents, lost their home to a fire, lost a job...and yet through it all their faith has held strong.  Maybe they are appreciating each other more now.  They are still holding hands and learning to love in a whole new way.
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