Sunday, November 29, 2015

Beating the Sunday Evening Melancholy

Since I had no classes last week for Thanksgiving, I spent the first half of the week working on a multitude of small projects around the house: hanging a shelf, organizing cabinets, purging unworn clothes from our closets, and upgrading a set of old kitchen canisters -- the perfect assortment of odd jobs to scratch my organizational and DIY itches.

Give me a spare hour and a cabinet or closet to organize, and I enter this remarkably happy place.  When your pantry is lined up just so, like a little spice rack miracle, you can't help but smile (and periodically open your cabinets, even when you don't need anything, to bask at the efficiency and order.)

The latter half of the week, understandably, was devoted to family and feasting, which was lovely and warm and welcome.

And now it's Sunday evening.  I've pulled out my work bag from underneath the corner chair in my dining room where I had been hiding it from my sight.  My alarm is set.  Later tonight I'll even consider tomorrow's outfit so I don't stand in my closet paralyzed in a Monday morning stupor, unable to decide what to wear.

The typical routine will start once again.

Over the years I've noticed that when this realization settles on a Sunday evening after a break, a twinge of melancholy settles, too.  The melancholy doesn't last long; quite frankly, there's just no time to nurse such a sentiment.  You simply pick up the mantle of routine yet again and move along.

But what's helped me the most is to remember that God walks every step with me, whether Sunday evening or Monday morning.  Sometimes I still fall into the trap of believing that if my life were perfectly organized and pleasant and controlled (much like my newly-arranged cabinets), then I'd have peace.  Then all would be well with my soul.

But this thinking isn't realistic; life rarely is perfectly organized and predictable.  Nor is this thinking healthy.  It puts me at the emotional mercy of my circumstances, leaving me happy when all is well, but frustrated or frazzled or depressed when it isn't.  What good is it to be at ease only when the situation around you is easy?

It's freeing to remember that regardless of my situation -- whether calmness reigns, chaos breaks out, or Sunday evening melancholy creeps in -- I can draw on Jesus' peace and presence. 

Circumstances don't need to dictate my feelings.  God's able to keep me in his perfect peace. 

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Why, I'd Never Have Stickers... (#TransparentTuesday)

A few months ago I noticed a car in a parking lot.  One of its back windows was covered with stickers, an inside job perpetrated by some child who clearly never wanted to have a direct view of any scenery.

In that moment, I silently congratulated myself on the status of my minivan.  I really did.  Our van certainly wasn't clean, but come on, it wasn't wallpapered from the inside with stickers.  Have some pride, people.  Stickers just don't go on car windows.  Not on my watch, at least.

I entirely forgot about that car in the parking lot until yesterday when I searched the back of my own van for a missing shoe and noticed something.  Ahem.


I was right.  Stickers don't go on van windows.  They're meant for the back of the passenger's seat.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

These Young Ones Can't Say the Same Thing

In the midst of my daily routine as I'm caring for my children, going to work, folding laundry, preparing meals, sweeping the kitchen floor, and planning for the upcoming holidays, I can't help but think about those who don't have any of this -- no knowledge of where their next meal will come from, no security, no small comforts, no semblance of a normal life.

We think of our precious and silly children, tucked in their beds, and we can't imagine them living a nightmare of terror and poverty, but we know that there are mothers and fathers and children who live that reality day in, day out.

With this bitter knowledge, we might admit that any contributions we could make, whether donations or prayers, feel empty and small and impotent.

But still, we pray.  They're not eloquent prayers, maybe not even specific.  Just, Lord, help and comfort and defend.  And we might donate blankets or clothes, hoping that in some small way, the fabric will warm a heart, not just a body.

I'm grateful -- so grateful -- for the safety, comfort, and provision that my family and community experience.  My heart is just heavy because I know that these young ones can't say the same thing.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Meal Planning (#TransparentTuesdsay)

Did I ever tell you about the time when my freezer door accidentally was left open?  It was a sad day, not only because my once frozen food had thawed and liquified into a putrid, vomitous puddle, but also because some of that food was in the form of actual meals that I had prepared in advance for days when my schedule would be too hectic to prepare a decent dinner.

In advance!  Advanced planning!  Ruined!

It was a painful loss.

You see, I'm not always the best meal planner.  There are days when 5:00 arrives and I'm surprised, yet again, that it's nearly dinner, that I have children, and that I'm somehow responsible for feeding dinner to those children.  WHY must this cycle keep happening?  Can't a meal just appear?

Well, quite fortunately, it can.


Thank you, Chinese take out.  Seriously, you saved me last week on a day when advanced meal planning -- or any cooking for that matter -- was simply not happening.

#TransparentTuesday.  Life is real, my dear friends.  Let's not believe otherwise.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Never Underestimate the Power of an Encouraging Word

I recently received an unexpected card in the mail from a friend with whom I had been talking the week before in our church lobby.  Instead of one of those rushed, "How-are-you?"-"I'm-fine-thanks" exchanges as we're swept in opposite directions, we had an actual minute to connect.

In a moment of real candor, I had wondered aloud if I'm too busy working to achieve my actual life purpose (which is a wallop of a statement, understandably), and she had nodded and listened.  Fast forward one week and picture me at my mailbox, pulling out an envelope addressed to me in her penmanship.

I opened the card in my kitchen, watching as two pictures that she had printed fell onto the counter.  In her message she reminded me how I support my husband, love my children, and reach out to my students.  She shared how my words have helped friends, neighbors, and strangers.  She reminded me of God's good plans and purposes for my life, right in this season, right where I am.


I'll always keep this card.

I think of key moments in my life when someone has encouraged me -- pouring courage back into my heart that, for whatever reason, had evaporated.  When I've left those moments, the situation hadn't changed, but my perspective had.  That's an immensely valuable shift.

Let's never understimate the power of an encouraging word.  It's no small thing.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

She Had Reached Her Last Straw


Title: She Had Reached Her Last Straw

Subtitle: Life Rarely Is This Literal

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Being Forgetful (#TransparentTuesday)

After watching me rummage through my purse and pockets on multiple occasions last week, my oldest daughter asked me why I so frequently forget where I put my keys.  I was tempted to answer, "Dear child, on some days, you're lucky that I remember your name, much less the location of my car keys."

Chalk it up to holding too many thoughts in my head at once: deadlines and emails, lecture plans and to-do-lists, groceries to buy and errands to run.  This doesn't even cover the vast amount of mental space devoted to the retention of Where Items Are Located, knowledge that's called upon daily with random requests like, "Mom, where are my socks?"  (Or my jacket, or homework folder, or overdue library book, or piece of mail, or small and obscure plastic item such as the blue Barbie shoe, a sand timer to a board game, or a "googly-eyed ring-thingy," which, impressively, I pinpointed in seconds flat.)

This all leads me to wonder: What am I forgetting because my brain is storing the fact that my middle daughter's toothbrush, for whatever reason, is currently sitting on the fourth step of our staircase?

Yes, I forget things.  This past Saturday, for example, I escaped to Barnes and Noble to grade essays (and drink an overpriced Pumpkin Spice Latte), but I neglected to bring my grading rubrics along.  Hence the scrawled notes on napkins, which I contemplated stapling to the essays, but eventually decided against.   (Might have given too much of a cocktail napkin "call me" vibe, I feared.)


#TransparentTuesday.  Life is real, my dear friends.  Let's not believe otherwise.

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Suspended Disbelief

We've been living the impossible in central Pennsylvania.  Normally, the month of November is a harbinger of winter's pending starkness as both temperatures and leaves drop, but this year it's been gorgeous in every possible way.

In fact, I'm declaring today -- November 5, 2015 -- a perfect weather day.

I walk across campus between classes in suspended disbelief.  It's painfully beautiful.  It's unseasonably temperate.  It's a gift.  I want to swallow the day whole, lay down on the leaf-riddled grass, and absorb every ounce of pleasure.  I want to store up the colors and warmth for the long months ahead.


Thank you, God, for this day.  This perfect, perfect day.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Dining Room Table (#TransparentTuesday)

I recently spoke with a woman who, upon visiting a friend unannounced, was delighted to find that her friend's house was messy.  "It made me feel better," she admitted.  "Sometimes I think I'm the only one who doesn't always have it together."

For the record, can I say that nobody always has it together?  It's impossible.

We can lean in, Sheryl-Sandberg-style, or stress out, or lose sleep, but inevitably, we all reach a point when life spirals beyond our capacity (however large that capacity is) and our environment reflects that chaos.

Given this, I want to push back on the lie that other people, whether real or hypothetical, are somehow doing life better -- whether more creatively, intelligently, efficiently, or neatly -- than we are.  The blunt truth is more to this effect: Periodically, we're all hot messes.  It's unwise to compare our deficiencies, which we know all too well, with other people's successes, which could be entirely and wonderfully real, but sometimes instead are simply imagined on our behalf or constructed on theirs.

This month, I plan to post a weekly picture that captures a real moment with the hashtag #TransparentTuesday.  The goal isn't to boast in my own shortcomings, but rather to acknowledge reality.  No filters, no editing, no censoring.

My inaugural picture is a throwback from last month when my dining room table was swallowed by Legos.  (Though I must say that the best part of the picture is that it captures two of my three children, quite literally, trying to climb up the wall.)


#TransparentTuesday.  Life is real, my dear friends.  Let's not believe otherwise.

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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Some Catching Up On Life

On Life.  Life!  I'm so glad to be living, dear reader, yet I fear that this particular season of life has led me to become a random once-a-week blogger.  It's not from a lack of things to say; I have more ideas jotted on slips of paper and swirling in my head than I can manage.  Nor is it from a lack of desire; I love the quiet moments when I sit at the computer and harness those ideas into words. 

Basically, it's that I have this job that requires me to assign work to my students that I, in turn, must grade (vicious cycle, really), and these three children who need daily guidance and food and homework help and love and refereeing.  Yes, that's basically it.

On Date Nights.  This weekend Joel and I went on an impromptu date, our first in months.  As we strolled though a store before our movie started, I thought it would be nice to spritz on a little perfume from a tester.  In case a similar thought crosses your mind while you're on an impromptu date with your husband, please do something that I neglected: namely, to sample actual perfume instead of accidentally applying men's cologne.

There's a first time for everything, and for me on this past Saturday night, it was going on a date while smelling like a man.  Granted, a really nice-smelling man, but a man nonetheless.

On Tom Hanks Movies.  Have you heard about Tom Hanks' latest move, Bridge of Spies?  You should, but if you haven't, it's about spies.  And a bridge.  With that essential information covered, let me tell you that I love how Tom Hanks so convincingly portrays seemingly average men who encounter extraordinary situations.

Plus, midway through this particular movie (which was excellent), I had an epiphany and leaned over to thank my husband for not choosing a career in the fields of espionage or hostage mediation.  It's just easier this way.

On Halloween Candy.  I knew that my oldest daughter had amassed an absurd amount of candy while trick-or-treating, but when she decided that she needed something a bit larger to contain it all... well... this is disturbing.


On a Random Tumbleweed.  While taking a walk around my neighborhood, I saw a tumbleweed blow across the sidewalk.  A tumbleweed!  Admittedly, it was the smallest, scruffiest tumbleweed you could imagine -- more hairball than robust -- but its existence made me smile.  This is how the tumbleweeds roll in central Pennsylvania.


On the Extra Hour of Sleep.  Ha.  That never really happens, does it?  Oh, Daylight Savings Time, you continue to mock us with your empty promises.

Next year, I'll be sensible and go to bed at my regular time.  There's always next year...

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