I Wonder If She Knows…

I watch Cameron intently as he plays. He is serious, studious, loving, funny in a sarcastic way, and I can’t help but see my son in him. His profile, the way he assesses the environment before he either engages or not. The way he moves closer to us as a stranger walks into the room. His total refusal to call my mom Nana because as he pointed out, “No, you my Nana.” It points to his loyalty. The way he sees himself as protector.

I point all of this out to my daughter-in-love and while she smiles and laughs with me I recognize she has no point of reference to her husband as a toddler. Nor should she.

I wonder if she knows that as she mothers him the time flies quickly by? I wonder if she knows that the reason why he will pick a great wife is that she will raise a great man and have faith in herself that she can? I wonder if she knows the love she feels for her son will multiply a thousand times when she looks at his child?

No, she doesn’t know yet because none of us do before it happens. Instead good moms stress kindness, love, manners, respect, honor, humility, and education all while juggling a huge to-do list and worrying that we aren’t doing enough or that we are doing too much. In the meantime our children wrap themselves around our heart and we know that we will never be the same and we don’t want to be. No, no one can prepare you for those feelings that will come until they do.

I look at my grandson and my heart swells with joy. When we sing together or when he says, “Nana I will sing you a song” and breaks out in a toddler version of Amazing Grace it is as if angels are singing. Yes, yes, off key and pitch but nevertheless beautiful and a sound you wouldn’t trade for the world.

In those moments we do not have the profound revelation that all that we have lived through, all the hurts, pains, dysfunction that we all face will be worth it for the results that await us in the near future.

My daughter-in-love is beautiful. She is real, honest, loving, filled with integrity and character and the most amazing mom on the planet. She along with her husband are teaching Cameron the value of family, creating a strong and stable home where violence and love are opposed to one another. I heard Anthony say to Cameron in the middle of a toddler tantrum, “No, I don’t hit you and you don’t hit me. You can be angry but you can’t hit.” Above all their home is Christ-centered and they are laying solid foundation in our faith as Christians.

I am grateful she continues to humor me as I tell her stories of my son as a toddler, listens to recordings of his bath time, and has taken time to read through every single piece of art he made in pre-school. She is preparing Cameron to be a good big brother, a worthwhile friend, a man of character who will one day lead his family well. And although she doesn’t know it yet, she is preparing her heart to guide a daughter-in-love, to love her well, and to laugh and hold her grand babies one day.

I wonder if she knows that I hold her close in my heart because of who she is all by herself? My son’s wife, my grandson’s mom is all secondary to who she is. Her name is Frances Martinez and you are blessed if you know her.

Tribalism Continued

While sorting through my feelings of tribalism and it’s non-ending cycle of inclusion and exclusion I found Joaquin Phoenix and his acceptance speech something to be thought out. Take a listen:

Words like championing causes vs commonality of passion towards any issue doesn’t necessarily include or exclude unless we have no room for opinion. He talked of an egocentric world view and while his point was a natural world view, it wasn’t lost on me that even in discussion of causes we leave no room for difference. As he so eloquently put it we are best when we support each other instead of canceling each other out. There was another layer laid on my heart as I continue to work out my thought process on this issue.

I Didn’t Post It

Social Media is becoming the bane of my existence and yes it is not lost on me that I am typing on a blog.

It all started December 2. My husband’s birthday. Well, maybe it started before then, but this is when it clicked for me. We each have social media accounts but due to metrics which I don’t care to understand, nor research, nor change, my posts rarely, if ever, show up on his feed nor do his show up on mine. We comment to each other about it even.

I decided that for his birthday I was taking him out of town. I also made a self discovery that the long flowery post for his birthday on how great he is wasn’t for him since he may not see it. So why write it? I mean, do I need to tell the world how much he means or was I simply posting to be seen? No, instead I decided I would tell him everything I thought face to face. We arrived at our hotel and we stood out on the balcony watching the waves and I told him everything I would have written on Facebook. Eye to eye watching his smile reach his eyes cause he’s a words of affirmation guy.

Only I found myself answering questions. People noticed I didn’t wax poetic on social media they wanted to know was everything alright? Perhaps because we’ve all been sucked into believing it was the thing to do in the past. Were we in trouble? No, but at some point you have to get real, real about who you are and what you are doing. Maybe I’m changing because honestly prior to this I thought how special it was to post what I felt for my husband on social media, but really? How I feel about him shows. It shows when we sit together. It shows when we look for each other in a crowded room. It shows when we have dinner together and talk about everything and nothing. I don’t have to prove a point.

We are both pastors. Between us we host four small groups a week. We each host one alone and two together. Those two together we host in our home and so our friends are over twice a week which means we share our home with about 20 people a week. We love it. We love our friends and we love our life but there are some things we determined some time ago we would not share. So our bedroom is off limits. That is a sacred space that belongs to the two of us. There isn’t anything special about our room except it’s a room for us in our home that only the two of us share.

Can we get back to a place where something doesn’t need to be wrong to not make an over the top public declaration that the person who it was meant for wasn’t going to see? I post vacations after they happen. I don’t always post when our grandson is over. Sometimes things are in the moment and I don’t need an audience. Yes, I want to share my life. Yes I want to keep in contact with people in my life, but I want the sacred as well. I’m not a fishbowl person and I recognize that I live a fishbowl life in many ways but still there remains private, not secret, places in which I can choose not to share.

So I took a piece of my life back. I honestly don’t think anyone cares what I do all day. I don’t think you care or have time for what I ate today, unless it’s some fabulous recipe that I may want to let you know about. Beyond that, my makeup routine, coffee routine, workout routine, it’s all mundane we all have them.

I am grateful to those who reached out to see if my marriage is intact, if it’s good. It shows my friends noticed and they care. I loved that but it’s time to get real with myself and with you. I want to look into those blue eyes and tell him what he means to me and I don’t need an audience.

Intimacy can’t be found in media. When it is attempted it’s called pornography.

Intimacy is found in tangible expression.

Intimacy is real, sacred, private.

The Custody Dispute

Lulu the Wonder Dog came to me in 2007. She stole my heart and set me right. She taught me so many lessons. Only some of which I have shared on this blog over the years.

Then just before Christmas she went down. And just like that I found myself in the middle of a custody dispute. She spent a day where she didn’t want to eat and she didn’t want to play. I called the vet and got in that very day, and bloodwork and an exam yielded no explanation. A geriatric dog they said. Lulu and I rebuked the diagnosis as she was sharp and athletic and besides who calls an old gal geriatric to her face? Oh she had a few fatty tumors that dogs of a certain age get but we dealt with it like we deal with that occasional chin hair.

I put my forehead to her forehead and we prayed. I asked God to prolong her life. I asked for wisdom and to send us the right vet who wouldn’t just call her old to her face.

We muddled through Christmas and she would rally and then set back. New Years Eve she kept getting up to clear her throat and I woke up with her several times. So New Years day we were back at the vet. Another vet saw her and diagnosed her. cancer. I refuse to capitalize it. Lymph nodes swollen, thyroid enlarged all indications of cancer. He told me she was still in decent shape. It wasn’t time to make decisions yet but to take her home and make her comfortable. He also warned me that her death would probably not be pretty. Somehow I got us both out to the car before I broke down sobbing so hard I could not catch my breath. Again, I asked the Lord for more time. The custody dispute was in full swing.

The following day she was semi-back to normal. Eating, running around and bossing our two year old golden retriever, Baron around.

Day 2 of the diagnosis, she eats her breakfast and just for fun, goes and eats a part of Baron’s food. And I thank God and think things are good. I go off to run errands and when I come back things are not good at all. I call the vet and we head for an emergency visit. I get the same vet from two days before and he says, “Aw man, I thought for sure we had more time with this sweet girl.”

And just like that it’s over. I lost my custody dispute. I called unfair advantage and at the same time I thanked God for the gift of Lulu The Wonder Dog and told him I guess he needed her more. For those of you who don’t believe there are dogs in heaven don’t bother with rude replies. I read about lions, and lambs, and horses and if heaven is all it is cracked up to be, and I believe that it is, then of course Lulu is there because well, heaven wouldn’t be heaven without her.

So alright Lord, you win this custody dispute but I know your promises are true and I know that I am saved and heaven bound so it’s just a matter of time.

And I know what you are asking. What about Baron? Baron is a complete love. He’s smart in a dog way, he loves to snuggle, he is thief of just about anything, and he has been known to snatch and grab off of the counter when he thinks no one is looking. He’s your typical dog though, but we have bonded more so over the last couple of days of grief. He is moping around the house. He woke me up at least three times the night Lulu didn’t come home. Now each time I walk in the door he comes up and sniffs me to see if I know of her whereabouts and walks away and plops down and sighs. I get it. I miss her too.

My husband said in his loving way to get a grip when I told him I was done with dogs and never wanted another one again. “Listen, you’ll never have another dog like Lulu because there just has never been a dog like Lulu and there can’t be. She’s one of a kind. But you’ll have to think about getting a bonehead dog for Baron because he truly is grieving.”

It’s too soon for me to think about it. Ok he answered. Maybe in five years. Maybe never.

Love hurts.

Love hurts.

Love hurts.

But I never could imagine my life without her and if I was offered the chance to do it all again with her I would say a million times yes.

Oh and the custody dispute? I resolve to deal with it because ultimately Lulu The Wonder Dog was always his and merely entrusted to me for a season. I took ownership because it”s like having kids, we think they’re possessions but they aren’t at all. I feel pretty blessed though that the Lord trusted me with her. I have to be on the top of his list to get that assignment. Or maybe she was at the top and God knew I needed help. After all, I said all the time I didn’t know who rescued who.

In the meantime, it is pretty still and quiet at the Young’s house as we begin to try to adjust. So say a little prayer for us and hug your dogs a little tighter. And if you think about it, give them a little treat in honor of Lulu. Not a dog treat as that is common and she would turn her nose up for sure and would expect your dog, if they had dignity at all, to do the same. Instead give them a big scoop of whipped cream, that would please her to no end. She loved everyone and it would make her happy to know she made someone’s day a little brighter.

Intentional Planning

I was listening to a call from Dr. Laura that has me mulling some things over. Have you ever heard the desperation in someone’s voice and related to those thoughts? The conversation I heard has made a significant self discovery. 

The call was from a mom who had her last daughter leave for college. She was having a hard time adjusting to an empty nest. She had poured herself into her life as a mom and she felt she no longer had purpose beyond that. Dr. Laura carefully navigated her back to herself. She asked her what she had dreamed of being as a young woman and took her on a journey of rediscovering her life before motherhood and moving her toward her life after motherhood. 

None of this to say that motherhood is bad It is a wonderful season. She immersed herself in the role that was offered in that time and space of her life. I am happy she was able to see and set her priority as a mom. This isn’t easy to do.  I was driving during the call and actually said out loud to the radio, “Awww, you’re a mom with a good heart.” 

Then it got real. Dr. Laura told her she was to be commended for her thoughtful way of navigating this time of her life. She said that sometimes women have more babies so as to not let go of that feeling of being needed. As soon as their child gets to a certain age, they’ll have another baby and begin a cycle. Dr. Laura didn’t say it as a bad thing rather just a fact of life for some. 

It was then that it hit me. I was that woman. When my daughter Casey was heading off to college and the thought of being alone hit me, I immersed myself in a new marriage, small stepchildren. When things got especially hard, I immersed myself in one week old rescue dog I named Lulu which was an ode to Toddler Casey who one day proclaimed that her name was CaseyLulu and no one could address her as Casey anymore. When nothing seemed to be going right and I felt as if I were drowning in grief and displacement, I went harder at this process never allowing myself to settle in a new role. So while I didn’t have another child physically, I began again in essence. Perhaps the reason I didn’t think about what happens next was because I was a young mom and I had never been an adult without children. If I learned a lesson, can I put it down in words for myself and others who are going through these same points in life? 

Our season as our kid’s parents is short in the relative scheme of life. We are entrusted with these little beings to raise and it is our job to entrust them with the future and the knowledge of God and healthy relationships with others. After that, we become colleagues to these familiar adults and offer advice when asked. It is before we get to this time that we have to look for the next thing we are going to do with our lives. 

Life is forever changing. 

My hope is that you are aware and looking forward to the next part of your life. My time for mothering is complete. My children are all up and out. Each of them are productive members of society and for that I am grateful beyond measure to God. 

This new season that I am in brings on challenges of its own in new thought processes. I have a new purpose as a Nana to Cameron Joshua who is 2. Lulu the Wonder Dog turns 13 in about a month and our eyes fix on what is next. We are weighing options of retirement, where and when are the questions as we look to the next opportunity. As I type I realize much of life’s answers and good choices are made with lots of prayer and self reflection before we impulsively plunge into something that looks like a solution to frankly a problem that doesn’t have to be one. Life isn’t lived out fully if we are putting out fires of what-if thinking but instead it is lived out with assessment and consideration and looking at the bigger picture and the future that awaits.  

Because You Said Yes

I don’t typically write about you. It’s personal. My private world. Today I took a step out of myself and the day to day I get caught up in to catch a glimpse of you.

You asked, “Do you need anything?”

“No, honestly, I have every single thing I need.”

“That’s a blessed life.”

“It is.”

Then I noticed us. We laugh a lot. We laughed so much today that at one point, I couldn’t breathe or walk.

We have easy conversations. I don’t have to work to have things to say. We flow. 

We also hold hands. A lot. And smile at each other. A lot. Exchange glances a lot. 

I shouted, “WHAT IN THE WORLD DID I DO TO DESERVE YOU?”

“You were born on this planet. Then you were smart enough to say ‘yes, I will’. Because you said yes, the rest is just us.”

Sometimes you say things I’ll remember forever. 

The kicker? You made my day when you said, “I love these days.”

Me too. More than you know.

 

Leadership Lessons From Lulu The Wonder Dog

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When Baron arrived as a puppy to our home he happily bounded throughout the house. We began the daunting task of training him to sit, to stay, to walk on a leash, to use the doggy door and not the floor, to chew on his toys and not on the furniture.

Lulu The Wonder Dog was 10 years old at the time and she began the task of training him to be her assistant in the house. She corrected him when he came near her bowl. She corrected him when he pounced on her when she was taking a nap. She corrected him when he crawled on her bed without her permission. He learned quickly the boundaries of what would be acceptable and what wouldn’t.

The difference in these two breeds was noticeable. Lulu is a Cattle Dog, she herds for a living. She likes her humans in the same room, she walks ahead of us, then circles back behind us to make sure we are rounded up and sticking together. I am the alpha of the herd so she follows me and knows exactly where I am at all times. She is serious about her job and if you want to play fetch she won’t stop you, she just insists you go and get the object.

Baron is a Golden Retriever. He fetches things, socks, underwear, water bottles, doves, ducks, and tennis balls. He isn’t as sophisticated as Lulu so he chases cats. He isn’t concerned with herding, instead he looks for puddles, pools, lakes, mud, all while carrying two to four balls in his mouth at once. He hunts, he runs, and he is happy go lucky. If Lulu is the administrator, Baron is the frat boy.

Day two of his being home he was herded into the bathroom where I was getting ready. Not his scene he decided to turn around and proceed out of the bedroom. Lulu ran ahead of him, stopped him at the bedroom door and once again she herded him into the bathroom. She then laid across the bathroom entrance so that Baron could see what the mission was. She followed this pattern for days as if to let him know that their job was to guard me.

John 7:16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.

She wasn’t concerned whether his breed herds or not. She had a mission and it was his job to help her complete that mission. She wasn’t concerned that his breed is smarter than hers, there was a mission and a way to complete that mission. She wasn’t concerned that he was younger and bigger than she was. You see, she understood delegation and empowering leaders.

She knew the mission was to empower leaders to implement the vision that she had been given for her family.

Baron would much rather do his own thing. He brings me a ball as I get out of the shower. I toss the ball but if it goes past the bathroom door, he stops and waits for me to leave the bathroom. Where is Lulu? Lulu who is now 12 years old, lays on her bed, inspecting what she expects, keeping on eye on her charge.

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Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

I think of Lulu often when I’m at work. I don’t always like doing the jobs I have been tasked with but I have been empowered to implement the mission and I do so to the best of my ability, faithfully, no complaints, well some complaints, because it was what I was given to do.

How do you empower leaders in your line of work? How do you use your skills and talents to implement the vision of what you are putting your hands to do? I hope it’s with character and integrity.