kids

And Just Like That......

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All across our beautiful coast, pencils are being sharpened, papers are coming home to be signed, buses are chugging and lunchables are flying off the shelf.  It’s that time again. Schools are open and moms rejoice! Or do we?

More than ever, I realize that Father Time waits for no one! Hence, the conundrum. You see, as parents, especially moms, we love the fact that summer is over and there is routine again. We love that there is a bit of free time to run errands or read a book, get to work on time, clean and organize, maybe have lunch with a friend or go to the gym… I’ll stop there. You get the point.  But as this “light of day” begins to shine on mothers everywhere, there are others who, despite liking structure again, are facing big changes and are having a slightly different reaction or two. Maybe sadness and a sense of loss as she sends her baby off to the first day of kindergarten. Or anxiousness and uneasiness with clenched fists watching her tiny 6th grader go in to face the big kids of middle school. And of course the ace of all… the no-longer-senior that she just left behind on a college campus with one eye on the road and the other in the rear view mirror hoping for that last glance or two…that’s when it gets real! 

But despite this plethora of emotions floating around, the one constant is the heart of a mom. It doesn’t change. It may get less anxious when it’s the 2nd or 3rd but still, it doesn’t change. She’s the one who waits on the edge of the pool with one toe in the water ready to jump in, even after you have learned to swim.  She’s the one who is so happy you are dating someone who seems like a “good kid” but is slightly jealous they are taking so much of your time.  By the way, she will also be the one to help pick up the pieces of your broken heart. She’s the same one who is so thrilled you passed your driver’s test but every single morning as you leave, she hugs you and says “be careful”…like she would ever say, “Why don’t you just drive reckless today! Go wild and have fun!” Somehow there is a simple peace that comforts her to just say it. She’s the one who even though you are 17 years old and a senior and can make your own breakfast, still gets up at 5:30 to do it for you, just for a few special moments together. She’s the same one who fusses when you wear her favorite shirt but ends up giving it to you anyway. She is still the one who blows up balloons at the crack of dawn to float along your ceiling so that when you wake up, your birthday is as colorful and beautiful as you! 

The mom’s heart! And it occurred to me, having a senior this year as well as a tiny 6th grader, that there is a long, sad growing list of “no mores.” No more paper plate ornaments or painted CDs to add to the Christmas tree. No more Blue Corn Festivals or book fairs, no more musicals to watch, no more field days...  

Recently a friend of mine posted a first-day-of-school photo of her son who is now a senior. She had it side by side with a photo from his first day of kindergarten. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the oversized laminated car pinned to his shirt.  I remembered that of my own except we had the big bus. It made me sad also, because it made the “no more” list. I will no longer have another kindergartner to pin a bus on. My heart broke as I thought about the moms who know well how long that list will get, as she just became an empty nester or maybe just sent her firstborn off to college. Either way, it stings the heart.   She is not thinking about routine and structure right now but rather wishing she still had a little one to pick up at the bus stop or a teenager to argue with about what he believes are his personal rights now that he is a big senior.  She wishes her daughter were there to steal her favorite shirt. I heard one friend say about her oldest that she will miss hearing the sounds of his routine. From her bedroom below, she could hear his footsteps across the ceiling…the water running, the brushing of teeth, the toilet flushing…the sound that he is home.  The thought of her sadness and void that she feels is unmistakably a rite of passage for both, but regardless, even though he will be back, he is no longer simply upstairs nor will he be home for dinner on weeknights.  And then there are the moms who just sent off her last, the baby. Somehow, getting up at the crack of dawn to scramble an egg for your hubby doesn’t have the same sweet pleasure.  Quietness. Too quiet! Gone are the days of dirty clothes and shoes left on the floor and dishes in the sink…another “no more” addition. Oh, and the pantry stays full now.  She wishes it weren’t. The moms that still have a full house dream of those quiet moments… while others would give anything to have the noise back.  Yet another friend she said this: “It is painful but brings beautiful growth for them and for us. You will find yourself stepping into their empty room just to ‘feel’ them. But each stage brings its own joy.”

I write all of this to say, as much as we get frustrated with them, need time to ourselves, get tired of a dirty house with empty chip bags everywhere or even feel like we as moms have lost ourselves…it happens that fast! They are born and they are gone and on their own. For some reason, I can think back on holidays or events that were years ago and remember the smells, the conversations, what I wore, what they wore, what we ate…just like it was yesterday. But ask me what I had for breakfast this morning and I will struggle. I think it’s because we long to file away and desperately remember details that grip our heart because we know how fleeting these moments are and will soon be added to the ever-growing list of “no more.”  Our babies are here one day and they are gone the next. So…as much as I would love to say I have an answer or a point to all of this, I really don’t…other than be present, seize every moment, recognize in the rough patches that these ARE seasons that will be gone all too quickly and embrace each stage. I’ve already broken the news to my senior that I am riding shotgun with him this year and to hang on for the ride!  I only meant that I wanted to take in every minute of his last school year but I think he is worried that I might make him take me as his date to Homecoming. I’m going to let him sweat that one out for a bit. But I want to remember it all ...each of his eventful or even non-eventful moments as a senior because I know that even though it’s only the beginning of the school year, May will be here before you know it, a diploma will be handed to him, and off he’ll  go… just like that! 


Beauty in the Broken

By Crystal Tingle

Recently I went on a girls’ tennis weekend to a resort near Jacksonville, FL, and yes! It was fabulously fun as you probably could deduct from just three little words…GIRLS’- TENNIS- WEEKEND!! Enough said, right? But it was also located on a beach. Sadly I must admit that I have never been to any of the Atlantic beaches because why would I? We have the most fabulous white sand and emerald green water on our Gulf Coast that beats any other place in our country! But what I didn’t realize about this particular beach is how many shells blanketed the water’s edge! Despite the beauty, our shell searching doesn’t come that easily. This beach had thousands and thousands of small shells to the point that it was virtually impossible to walk along without stepping on one. I thought it magnificent simply because I hadn’t seen that before. So as I strolled and started picking up a few to take home, I noticed something else. Most of them were broken. Some with just a little chip here and there but others were really marred with sharp edges. Maybe they washed up that way, beaten down by the waves that carried them in, or maybe they didn’t arrive that way at all but were stepped on as people passed by.  But each of them had a uniqueness that I found so interestingly attractive. Each had its own shape, size, and color. No two seemed to be alike even among the ones that looked to be of similar type. The colors that draped each shell varied much like the different colors in our personalities we don. Some were more vibrant and rich in color, and some were shiny with a regal pearl patina, while still others were very subtle and soft and grey, blending in among the thousands of others. But regardless of the statement they made, they were broken yet beautiful. 

Much like these shells, this is life... this is us!  We live in an imperfect world and are imperfect people. I cannot think of one single person in my life who has it all together and figured out. Not one! We are all like these thousands of shells…a chip missing here or there…some more marred and jagged than others…some subtle and subdued because maybe they have lost their voice…others more vibrant in color because they have found theirs and have something to say about it all! Some are broken from disappointments or maybe lost dreams. Some chipped and cracked from the waves of life…maybe from sickness or loss. Still others might be more jagged from being stepped on by abuse or abandonment… or addiction or loneliness or just simply hardships that life can bring…little or big.  But regardless, broken. 

I love when God meets me in these moments in His creation and allows me to see these comparisons between nature and man, because it reminds me to “consider” these things in everyday life when I encounter or interact with others. It reminds me that everyone has a story. I have my own. It reminds me that their story is just as important as mine. It reminds me to value who they are and why they are. It reminds me to look beyond the hue they don and see the chips and cracks of life here and there. It reminds me that we blanket the water’s edge of life together…side by side. It reminds me that each one, and not one more than the other, is beautiful! It reminds me of the magnificence and splendor in this beauty and that there is truly beauty in the broken!


“We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.”  -Ernest Hemingway

 

Life Is Good...Even When it's Bad.

By Crystal Tingle

It seems like these days, I am in the grocery store at least once a day…and by the way, this has nothing to do with this article yet and it has EVERYTHING to do with it. It’s important for me to ramble a bit for background, so just hang with me on the rabbit trail.  I remember a time when I had a weekly grocery and meal plan and did once-a-week shopping. Once, I even did a monthly meal plan and bought items that I could in bulk and spent the entire day separating, storing, freezing, etc. Notice I said ONCE! That wore me slap out. And on top of that I still had to go back to the dreaded store to pick up perishables that I couldn’t buy for the month like vegetables and fruit. That never happened again. But even recently, I can’t even get a weekly plan wrapped around my brain. It seems that I am living day-by-day dousing the flames of the biggest fire of the hour which usually puts scrambling for dinner ideas for that night and school lunches for the next day in the afternoon flames.  I mean, as a mom, there is ALWAYS something when you have three kids, a husband, a dog, a household to run, work, laundry….LAUNDRY… Child #2 forgot something at home that he needs for school while Child #3 mentions last-minute school project needs…the list goes on and on. I need about four more daylight hours to get things done! It’s at times mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting!  Often, deep sighs resonate from my mouth that I’m often not even aware are happening until my husband asks, “What’s wrong?” 

Me: “What do you mean?” 

Him: “You just sighed really hard.” 

Me: “I did?” 

But on this particular day dragging my fire hose, I entered the line to check out before running home and throwing a meal together and ran into a friend that I haven’t seen in a long while. We exchanged cordials: 

Her: “How are you?” 

Me: “I’m great but just been super busy.”

Her: “I know, right?  Same here.” 

That’s not verbatim, but it went similar. Then we spoke of our kids briefly as the sweet checkout lady scanned my friend’s groceries. We continued to chat in terms of the kids’ schedules and keeping up with them and how overwhelming it is at times, and then we said our goodbyes and good seeing you. At that point, the checkout lady engaged in conversation with me and spoke of (all with a positive and sympathetic tone) how she raised her children as a single mom and understands how stressful it can be, as well as overwhelming, when you find yourself needing to be in two places at the same time, like being at work and needing to bring the kids to school activities, with no help. When she finished and I paid, she said to me with genuine sincerity and empathy, “Have a good day and I really hope things get better for you soon.” And… it hit me! Did I make my life sound that bad? Do I really feel that way? Are things that overwhelming? It stopped me dead in my tracks and I looked back at her and all I could say was, “Thank you. Life is good!” 

I am not sure why those are the words I choose to reply with. Quiet honestly, a barrage of thoughts and emotions flooded my mind and heart all at once, and I truly felt that I spoke what I should be feeling, but I realized in that moment they were not the same. Why had I projected such discontent and frustration? I found myself at a loss for words. I am married with a husband who helps out and works hard to provide for us, three healthy and beautiful children who need a mom to do what moms are supposed to do, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, great friends and the luxury to be a stay-at-home mom.  What in the world do I have to complain about and why should I feel so overwhelmed? Are my feelings unjustified? Here is this sweet lady working as a cashier in a grocery store, a single mom who has had her share of heartache and trials with no one to share the burden with, and yet offers me words of condolence and encouragement. I had never felt more ashamed. I actually cried when I got in my car. Because you know what …Life IS good! I am not saying this based on material comparisons to her. I don’t know really anything beyond what she said in that five-minute conversation. I just know that she was the richer one! The precious jewels that she had amassed were from her attitude and gratitude and in her humility, the trinity for joy!   She probably could have shut me down quick and said, “Oh, suck it up sister and quit complaining!”  But she didn’t. Full of compassion, she expressed her heartfelt sentiments.  

So am I just a spoiled brat and never satisfied? My circumstances are real.  My challenges are tangible. I have a child or two with special needs, and that requires a bit more at times which is why I actually do not work. I have a couple of newer health issues that hold me back occasionally from being as productive as I would like, BUT…. when I count the things I have to be grateful for…it FAR outweighs the overwhelming components. This is where the trail ends…

You see, my epiphany in that moment before walking out the door was that truly Life is good! No matter what! Life, breath and the freedom we have to allow circumstances or trials to define us OR NOT is still a choice we own. And I was reminded while I was sitting in my car afterward of what my pastor recently said… that often our circumstances DO warrant or justify a bad day or season…but more times than not it’s our attitude about it that changes us…even when it can’t change our circumstances. We can be the victim or be the victor over our attitude despite our circumstances! 

This lady on this day at that moment was walking in victory despite anything that was happening or had happened to her or around her. She chose that day to be grateful and to fly higher than her circumstances. She was the victor and truly because of her attitude she impacted me! That’s where and when you see the fruit, joy and victory you can walk in despite the craziness…when you can say, “Don’t look at all of this surrounding us, just look at me. Hear what I am saying. It’s going to be okay…LIFE IS GOOD!”

The Gift of Life

By Crystal Tingle

Do you know what I see when I look around my home? I see an amazingly gifted songwriter who, as Barry Manilow put it best, writes the songs that make the whole world sing! I see a famous video game designer who has developed the next generation game play that no one ever thought possible, so futuristic! I also see a brilliant engineer who will design a smart home that self-protects against flooding and fires and theft, unable to be penetrated or destroyed by natural disaster or home invasion! I see possibilities! I see potential! But mostly, I see value! Not monetary value but rather value in simply who they are and were created to be! Their individuality. What they love to do! Their unique DNA. Their wonderful contribution to the world, their friends and family by just being them. Their priceless and irreplaceable value to me.  Yes, they are my three sons. And each of them is so very different from the other. Their unique expression of life and dreams is what I love …much like a fingerprint, they each have their own soul print, that one thing that no one else but them can mark this world with and every person they encounter! I don’t know if they will ever eventually be a famous musician, game designer or engineer but regardless, their immeasurable value to me is not what they do, it is distinctly who they are and what they bring to my life!

I’ve shared this before but it is worth repeating because it is so important that we allow this to sink into our very core. A dear friend of mine who at the time was healing from being a two-time cancer survivor spoke these words to me in the midst of her affliction: “Honey, if you had never lived, would anyone be affected? Make a difference that you have lived.”  I will admit at first hearing that seemed like so much pressure. What a huge weight to know that I MUST impact people to the point that if I never was, their lives would be less because I was never in it. Holy moly! But as I have gotten older and think often on what she said, I understand it differently than I did almost 33 years ago. 

Why? Because I see differently now. I see now that it isn’t about performing or excelling. It isn’t about solving the world’s problems or finding the cure for a disease. It isn’t about going to the best college or having the highest paid job. Making a difference is about our soul print! Just as unique as our fingerprint is, our soul print is all the more valuable! You see, our fingerprint identifies who we are individually but our soul print…well, that magnifies all the lives that have been touched and are being touched BECAUSE of your fingerprint…because you ARE.  You are daily marking this earth with a part of you…your soul print is everywhere…left behind at every place you visit and person you encounter. YOU are making a difference in someone else’s life whether you see it or not.  

"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see." -- HENRY DAVID THOREAU

I believe Thoreau’s words are saying that the image we might describe based on what our eyes observe is not necessarily what is in front of us. It’s what lies within us. What we believe to be truth about ourselves and our value and significance to others will determine the soul print we leave. It will determine what we see and how we see it. What do you believe about yourself? What lens do you see things from? Does your lens hold tight an image of just how valuable you are? If so, you will handle with care because you believe and know that you are a precious gift!  And all that you are is wrapped up waiting for someone to open so you can leave your soul print on his or her life.  They are waiting with joyful expectancy! 

But what I also believe and see is this. I see how our world has changed because of technology. I see the pressure put on our teenagers these days to perform and one-up another. I see the private lessons and the travel teams stealing time from our Norman Rockwell sit-around-the- kitchen-table days of old. I see social media measuring our worth based on a thumbs-up.  I see the low value we unconsciously are tagged with when we compare ourselves to smoothing filters and edited images. I see this pressure trying to steal our worth and our significance and our soul print! I see it desensitizing our youth and adults as well in the art of communication and real life. I see the lie that we sometimes believe as truth!  

I read this the other day and I thought it was so good. It reminded me of the recent hurricane, Nate, that came in as a tropical storm.  Well, Nate didn’t scare me in the least, but I admit when I was awakened by Nate’s presence at about 5am and looked out to see the trees in my backyard a little more bent over than I anticipated, it rattled me for a moment. Oh, we were fine and fared well, but it has been a while since we have weathered a big storm in this area and I had forgotten what 50 mph gusts looked like, much less if it had been even a CAT 1 hurricane or worse. But as I watched the tops of the trees bend, I also watched the base at the roots. They stood strong. So when I read this, I was moved: 

“Consider a tree for a moment. As beautiful as trees are to look at, we don't see what goes on underground - as they grow roots. Trees must develop deep roots in order to grow strong and produce their beauty. But we don't see the roots. We just see and enjoy the beauty. In much the same way, what goes on inside of us is like the roots of a tree.” --Joyce Meyer

The value of that tree is in its roots! It’s what is on the inside regardless of what is happening on the outside. It doesn’t matter if it produces succulent fruit or a gumball. The value lies within and its ability to stand tall and recognize its significance and beauty. Nature depends on that tree.  Wildlife find safety and refuge and love in its boughs. And just like a tree, your roots, the valuable and unique things within you, leave a mark, an imprint that only you possess. Distinctly you! That is the fruit you bear. That is your soul print.  That is the amazing gift to the world of your life!  That is truth!

And in a world of thumbs-ups or smiling emojis or clicked hearts to “love,” you may not always see whom you make a difference to…. but they are there. Watching. Listening. Loving. Appreciating you! Embracing your soul print. It is just that simple. It is about being! Being you! All of you! Roots, fruit, gumballs … whatever! Just be you…the wonderful, unique, one-of-a-kind you! Billy Paul, who wrote many amazing songs, said this: “All my life, I wanted to sound like myself. I never wanted to sound like anybody else.” He didn’t say as much but he recognized his strong roots within, his unique soul print. And you have one too. You’re a precious gift and your value is priceless!  The point is …be you! Just be the remarkable unique beautiful one-of-a-kind you! Because we need the gift of your soul print in our lives!

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Art of the Heart

By Crystal Tingle

Have you ever been to a fine art gallery and appreciated the beauty and originality of what is before you? I have …but admittedly there are some pieces that I immediately loved and admired while there are others that I just didn’t get. But I can still say that I appreciated each simply because it is what was in the artists heart and inspiration to create whether I understood it completely or not.  It’s a one of a kind. A masterpiece that says something special…a message or language all it’s own. I have even stepped back a few feet to view from a different perspective or angle to see more, to understand…to know and hear what it is trying to convey so I could love it as much as the others. Sometimes it worked and sometimes not. But the beauty of the artwork and desire of the artist for it to be truly loved and appreciated is still there regardless of my perspective. 

“There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.” George Sand

Much like a painting, our hearts have a unique beauty and message…a language all it’s own. It’s telling a story to the beholder…a story of who I am and how to love me.  A story as unique and special as a fine piece of art…ready to be heard and truly loved by the one who holds it in their hand and is willing to listen.  I admit… I watched a lot of Hallmark channel at Christmas this year and as I as I watched I kept thinking about how fairytale these movies all seemed to be.  No couple lives this way. Can you imagine having the Hallmark life? I mean to be in love…AND to be truly loved in return or at least feeling that way?  And not just a little or kind of …but TRULY loved like the fine piece of art that is adored, appreciated, highly valued and understood.  But it just isn’t real beyond the honeymoon phase! Everyone knows it moves from bliss to blah, doesn’t it?  We blame it on lack of communication and understanding and then say, “that’s just how marriage is” right? Sure there are great moments and occasions but can anyone really be TRULY loved and understood?   I believe the answer is yes! Maybe not quite like Hallmark. Life does happen! But just like the art, each heart is speaking a love language that tells us a story …and it is up to us to figure out how to interpret.   

Have you ever heard the saying, “You are speaking my language”? There is much truth to that. I read a book several years ago that was so eye opening for me in my own marriage.  Yes, much to my families chagrin, I generally write from real life and tell stories on them and in an effort to always better my relationship with my husband and even my children, I read this book called The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It will forever stay on my list of highly recommended!  What really put everything into perspective for me was when he explained how we communicate best in our own native language.  Anyone who has traveled to another country understands how difficult it is to communicate when you don’t speak the native dialect.   It’s the same way with our hearts. He believes that there are 5 emotional languages that people speak and conversely how they receive and express love. 

 

  1. Words of Affirmation – You need to hear verbal words of encouragement, adoration or kindness and it’s just as important to you when your spouse to or in front of other people affirms you as well.

  2. Acts of Service – You heart is full when your honey takes care of things for you. It could be cooking, doing the lawn, paying the bills or running an errand. The list is endless and personal to you but the energy, time and planning required by your spouse to do these things speaks volumes of love.

  3. Receiving Gifts – You need visual symbols of love. You don’t always need purchased gifts. They can be found or made also and sometimes the gift of your spouse just being there is important as well.

  4. Quality Time – This is not simply being around your spouse. You desire focused undistracted attention from them whether you are on a date, doing an activity together or simply having a conversation.

  5. Physical Touch- More than words or gifts, you just need to literally feel your spouse is there. From a back rub to a hug to holding hands in public, you need their gentle touch to know that you are loved.

This is of course a very abbreviated explanation of each language and some people may speak more than one but each person has a distinct primary that we must not only interpret but also learn to speak for a successful shot at truly loving one another. But often, just like with our native language, we try to speak “our” primary love language to our spouse instead of theirs. Thus, communication breaks down …bliss seems like it’s turning to blah…when in fact, that isn’t the case at all. It’s simply a language barrier. It means stepping back a few feet, seeing this masterpiece from a different angle and trying to understand what this fine art is saying. 

Learning each other’s love language, learning how to speak it and recognizing when your spouse is inadvertently speaking to you in their own instead of yours and extending grace in the moment will be key to unlocking the potential masterpiece of experiencing truly loving one another the way each receives it best.  I am not saying to you “do this, learn that” and then promising you the Hallmark life… but I do believe that only when you give your best to something, can you expect to get the best out! Happy translating! 

“Love is when the other person's happiness is more important than your own”. H. Jackson Brown, Jr.