Whispered in Your Ear

Recently, my parents celebrated a significant milestone…40 years of marriage. My siblings, our spouses, and all our collective children had the opportunity to help them celebrate, complete with dinner out, champagne toasts, and random guesses at 1974 trivia. It was a wonderful evening full of walks down memory lane, and misty-eyed moments (I’m looking at you, Dad).

At one point during dinner, over the mushroom arancini, I inquired of my parents one of my favorite questions to ask during life’s landmark moments.

“If someone would have whispered in your ear 40 years ago, that all this was on the road ahead for you, would you have believed them? Could you have even imagined it?”

I love this question because it takes you back, back to a place before you knew what you know. Back to a different version of yourself. The question doesn’t beg to be answered, it’s more about the feeling that comes with contemplating it. 

I’ve asked it of myself many times over the years. Sometimes, I’ve asked it when my husband and I are say, halfway thru a day-long road trip, we’re all stuck in the confined space of the car, and our children are acting   extra spicy. I’ll look at my husband, bat my eyelashes, and say, “Could you have imagined ALL THIS?!?”.

Other times, I’ve asked it while celebrating an anniversary, a child’s birthday, or any instant that makes me want to take a mental photo with my heart and remember forever. It’s in those moments of reflection, that I’ve seen the winding path of my life with new perspective.

For all it’s twists and turns, it’s been perfectly suited to make me, me. It’s part of my story, my history. So while I can’t squander my present moments with regrets of the past ones, I also can’t look so far ahead, that I forget where I’ve been. This perspective is what keeps me focused on today.

What if someone whispered in your ear all those years ago? Would you have believed them? Could you have even imagined it? My prayer for you, is that when you take the time to contemplate it, you’ll be amazed at the lessons you’ve learned, the tough moments that ultimately developed your character, and the outright blessings you’ve been given.

Yes, those walks down memory lane often make us misty-eyed, but in the best sort of way.

 

Looking ahead,

A

 

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Cold Water Moment

Have you heard about Pete Frates’ Ice Bucket Challenge? Well, if not, here’s the deal. Pete Frates is a former Boston College baseball player who is currently battling ALS. He’s in his late twenties, is a newlywed, and is soon to be a father. Recently, he issued a challenge, in order to raise awareness for ALS, for people to pour buckets of ice water over their heads, and then post the videos on social media platforms. Friends and family got in on the action, and then athletes, entire teams, celebrities, and perfect strangers lined up to do the same.

My husband and I watched a piece on ESPN, showing Frates’ inspirational story and then person after person dumping ice, cold water over their heads. I was so moved by the outpouring (literally) and show of support for Pete, and others like him, battling this currently incurable disease.

Looking at the range of expressions on each face as the cold water hit their heads, there was always a smile. Maybe not at first. Yes, at first, maybe it was a surprised look of shock, or a grimace at the icy sensation, but, in the end it was always replaced by a smile, a knowing, that life was bigger than themselves.

I thought about how appropriate that metaphor could be in each of our lives. Yes, there are moments in life we don’t see coming…good and bad. A promotion, an accident, a relationship, a diagnosis. In that moment when everything we thought we knew suddenly changes, it’s like the instant the ice water hits your warm head. It’s jarring, uncomfortable maybe. But, it can also be refreshing, invigorating, healing.

Don’t we each have “cold water” moments in our life? When our warm, comfortable lives get dumped on a little (or a lot)? What do we do with those moments of sudden change? Do we deny them, pretending the ice isn’t really that cold? Do we ignore our sopping wet heads, and keep on as if nothing’s different? Or do we acknowledge them, own them, and search for the joy that is sure to follow?

Let’s all just say, “Yes, my head is wet, and yes, I’m cold, but I’m okay with it. Even though this isn’t what I had planned, and feels very different from what I knew just a few moments ago, I’m determined to find the joy, the smile, the knowing, at the bottom of my bucket”.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”  James 1:2

 

Have you experienced a “cold water” moment? Did you eventually find joy at the bottom of your bucket?

 

Looking ahead,

A

Trust the Process

For those of you who know me well, it will come as no surprise that I love decorating projects. My mom once told me that I’m the only person she knows who would immediately start redecorating a brand new house. True. I will repaint, recover, repurpose, or rearrange anything that’s not nailed down.

I love a project. My dear hubby might be known to lovingly suggest from time to time that I have too many projects hanging out in the garage. At any rate, it’s a fun hobby of mine.

In my decorating style, I strive for a “collected over time” vibe. I love it when a room comes together gradully, and by gradually I mean after gathering project pieces from various garage sales and thrift stores vs. gradually bringing pieces home from exotic, international travel destinations.

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I prefer shabby chic, farmhouse, and french country finishes to anything too smooth, modern, or pristine. I feel at home surrounded by pieces that have an aged, distressed look to them. A history. Even if that “history” only involved the past week, moving them from a random garage sale, into my garage, and then into my home after being made over into something else entirely.

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To me, my style feels comfortable, casual, and forgiving, and is perfect for a recovering perfectionist like me…see what I did there? (That, my friend, is another post entirely.)

When I start a project I always have the end result in mind, what I’d like the finished project to do, look like, or be. There are usually several steps to be taken to get to that end result (clean, sand, paint, distress, stain, reupholster, etc.), and if I would stop and declare it done on step 3 of 7, it would look, and feel, all wrong. Like that old saying goes, “it gets worse before it gets better”, right?

It’s at that midway point in a project (when it looks worse than before I started), that I have be known to have a moment of doubt. Maybe this project will tank. Maybe this plan is flawed. Maybe this will end up in the junk pile.

Fortunately, given a little time, a step back for perspective,  and a return with fresh eyes, I can typically see my end goal and remember to trust the process. That’s my mantra in the midst of uncertain creativity…trust the process. Trust that the plan that’s been put in place will work. Trust that the end result will be worth every step it took to get there.

Hmm…I don’t think we’re talking about decorating projects anymore, are we?

I think this philosophy could apply to so much more than painting, distressing, and staining a side table, don’t you?

Life is beautiful and life is fulfilling, but life can feel like plain hard work. Sometimes you have to squint pretty hard to see the progress in the “project” that is your life. Sometimes the steps required to get where you want to go, seem like too much trouble, or appear too hard in comparison to where you’ve been. Sometimes it’s really difficult to see how it’s all going to work out when you’re at that frustrating midway point. Sometimes it just looks and feels ugly. Sometimes the recovering perfectionist in you would rather stop before you get started, just in case it’s not going to pan out.

God continues to remind me that each step of my life is part of a great big project. Although, in this great big project, I’m not the designer, the planner, or the one with the vision. He is.

There’s no doubt, I’m still in progress. I could use a bit more cleaning in the dusty corners of my soul, a sanding down of my rough edges. But, I can be certain that His plan is not flawed. It is beautifully designed, and it is for me.

My job for today, and every other one following that? To trust the process. To trust His process. To wake up every day trusting Him for the next step, knowing that each one gets me a tiny bit closer to completion.

 

How do you “trust the process” in the project of your life?

 

Looking ahead,

A

Feeling all the Feelings

The following story is based on true events. While the events are real, names have been changed to protect the innocent. The story is told in bedtime story form, because the author is, well, sleepy.

 

Once upon a time, there was a lively family with a Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and three Little Bears. Papa Bear decided to heroically give Mama Bear a break one warm, summer afternoon, and offered to take all the Little Bears out for an adventure. Mama Bear was so thankful, and enjoyed her quiet hours sipping hot tea, and reading her favorite book, in her favorite chair.

Unbeknownst to Mama Bear, when Papa Bear and their Little Bears left the woods, they decided to innocently visit a pet store. This pet store was home to adorable puppies, with their pleading eyes and warm, licking kisses. It was also the beginning of something no one could have predicted.

Papa Bear was careful to explain to his Little Bears that they were only visiting the puppies, they would most certainly not be getting a puppy.

Papa Bear was deluding himself, and had no earthly idea what he was getting himself into. The pleading puppy eyes had gotten to him too.

When they returned home, Mama Bear now had three Little Bears and one Papa Bear all in love with a special puppy. There were rapturous stories of this puppy’s sweetness and perfection. There were tears of joy, then tears of disbelief if this puppy could not be theirs. This puppy had to be theirs!

All wishes came true the very next day, and there was joy! Oh, the joy! Love was in the air! The sky was the limit! Life was full of green lights and giggles! There were glorious rainbows and prancing unicorns around every corner!

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Four…hours…later…

The Little Bears were safely tucked in their beds with visions of their new puppy dancing in their heads, and Papa and Mama Bear began to quietly wonder if, in fact, Papa Bear was allergic to this new addition to the family. Womp, womp.

His eyes were red, his throat was itchy, his nose was running, and he couldn’t stop coughing. Hypoallergenic this new little addition was not. It was excruciating, and took all night, but Mama and Papa bear made a difficult decision.

They ultimately broke the news, along with their Little Bears’ hearts, the following morning. It was appropriately dark and rainy as the Little Bears were told their puppy could not stay forever. While everyone loved their new puppy, they ultimately loved Papa Bear much more.

The lucky puppy found a new home farther across the forest with the thrilled Otter family. Meanwhile, the Little Bears spent the day feeling all the feelings that go along with heartbreak, disappointment, and fleeting understanding.

So what lessons did the Little Bears learn during their day with their beloved puppy?

They learned that life, in fact, is not always green lights and giggles. They learned that sometimes what we want is not what we need. They learned that it’s okay to be sad. They learned that sometimes what we plan, and what actually happens can be very different things. They learned that their hearts had room for a puppy they could only keep for a day, but would love forever.

Surely, they will live happily ever after. There’s no question they will. But, for today, they are feeling their feelings, and trusting that tomorrow they will wake to brighter skies.

 

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned through unexpected disappointments?

Looking ahead,

A

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early Retirement?

Almost from the moment I woke up yesterday morning, I knew something was off. Not off in some serious physical way, but mentally off. As I thought about this new baby blog of mine, I could not summon one coherent thought regarding what to write about next.

I was blank. Empty. Nothing came to mind worth writing, let alone having you read. I was suddenly quite sure I had been a two-post wonder. “Well”, I thought, “It’s been a nice run, folks. Thanks to all my tens of followers for your undying devotion. I really wish I could have continued, but, unfortunately, any and all thoughts appear to have permanently left my mind. Have a good one.”

I let myself have a moment of internal panic.

Then…I decided to let all the craziness marinate in my mind for a while, and slowly, slowly I began to once again realize why I started all this in the first place. Why did I start this blog in the first place, you ask? Well, friend, I’m so glad you asked, let me tell you. 

I started this project because I felt I could no longer ignore an idea that God had put on my heart months ago. The fact that this journey scares the pants off me is no doubt just icing on the cake in His master plan for my life. By nature, I tend to become way too focused on my self-sufficiency, or when facing a hurdle, think, “How am I going to get through, over, or around this on my own?”.

I’m clearly asking the wrong question. It’s obvious to me in hindsight…but in the moment??Oftentimes, it’s a different story.

God continues to very gently and patiently remind me that I’m not doing anything in this life on my own. His strength is there for the taking, to lean on, to get me through, over, and around this thing called life. It’s so freeing to remember (once again) that I was never designed or created to be self-sufficient. He created me (and you, by the way!) with a plan in mind, and that plan has always involved Him being at the very center. Just where He belongs.

If this were easy for me, I don’t think I would have felt compelled to do it. The mere fact that it is a step, or five, out of my comfort zone secures for me that this is exactly what I should be doing.

Now I just need to figure out a way to make that lesson stick…hmm…let’s see…I know, how about committing to write a blog, with no plan, no backup, no assurance of success, and a hefty dose of vulnerability?

That’ll work.

What truths does God gently and patiently remind you of?

Looking ahead,

A

Spreading Wings

As I type, my eldest offspring is approximately three hours into his first church camp experience. Last night as we prepared, I wasn’t sure we’d even get to this point today. As we were packing, he kept looking up at me with his huge, dreamy, brown eyes, and sympathetically saying things like, “I’m just growing up so fast, huh, Mom?”. (He said it with a slight smirk on his face, so there’s a chance he would have liked to elicit a few tears, you know, just to know he’s still got it). He’s still got it.

Since he’s our first born, all of our “firsts” have been with him. We muddle our way through all these milestones together like war buddies, the three of us, me, him, and his dad. This was no exception. Here’s a little peek into last night’s 10pm conversation with said dad….

Hubby: “He seems way too excited, I hope he can sleep tonight.”

Me: “Yeah, I’m 99% sure I could be that mom tomorrow at drop off. You know, the one who’s crying uncontrollably, and muttering things about my baby and how he really has grown up so fast.”

Hubby: “You’ll be fine, he’ll be fine. He has to spread his wings.”

Me: “I know, I know. I just don’t know if I’m ready for him and those wings of his.”

(Spoiler: I handled drop off like a boss, not even a quivering chin was involved.)

(Full disclosure: Camp is less than 48 hours. Two days, one night. Just didn’t want visions of a month-long absence across the country to bring on unmerited sympathy.)

But here’s the thing…I could hold on really tight, and keep my little bird son so close to the nest that he never even learns use his wings. In the short term that may keep me very comfortable and very in control. I would always know where he was, and I could account for every moment of safety and protection. But in the end, I would be rendering his wings useless.

Comfort and control are my issues, not his. So every day I will intentionally choose to trust God with my son. I will choose to let go, when I want to squeeze too tight. Ten years from now, I’d rather my son know how to fully rely on his Heavenly Father than on an earthly mama who just couldn’t bear to let him go.

I know that when I look back years from now, I will be so glad I got over myself and let him fly. Sure, he’s going to stumble, maybe even crash-land a time or two. We all do. But, I never want to stand in the way of his big adventure. That’s what I told him today as I kissed him goodbye. Have a great, big adventure, hon. We’ll be waiting here for you when you get back.

What big adventure are you thankful no one held you back from?

 

If only I knew what I knew, you know?

Here we go! 

Welcome to In Hindsight, I’m glad you’re here!

Let’s just pretend for a moment that you and I are besties, and we’re hanging out in my kitchen over hot mochas, or lounging on my deck sipping pinot. (If you’re reading this, and you actually are a bestie of mine, then no pretending required). So, let’s say we stumble upon this whole topic of “what would we go back and tell our younger, naive selves” if given the chance? What would we think important enough to impart on our underdeveloped, teenaged brains, in hindsight?

Here’s mine…hey little Ang, listen carefully dear, I’ll speak slowly.

  • Wear sunscreen for the love of Pete (love you, hon). No one needs a “base” tan. Sunscreen is cheaper now in 1994 than anti-aging creams, serums, masks, and balms will be 20 years from now.
  • Wear that two-piece to the pool, heck, wear it to the mall. Modesty, schmodesty. Your stomach will never be so flat again. All that skin and muscle doesn’t end up exactly in it’s original position after three pregnancies.
  • That boy is not the love of your life. You have a whole future ahead of yourself with a hunky hubby, and gorgeous kiddos to look forward to. Hint: It doesn’t involve this guy. Move on.
  • Your parents love you. They are right. Period. They have this lovely little thing called hindsight, give them a listen.
  • Take yourself a little less seriously, and please don’t get caught up in drama with your friends. If you can’t even remember what you’re fighting about, then beg them for forgiveness, and go make some happy, drama-free memories.
  • Please don’t be in such a hurry to grow up. There will be a day (just.one.day.) when you’d give anything for 24 hours with little to no responsibilities. There will also be grown up days when you still just need your mommy.
  • God’s got this. He truly does work everything together for good. He makes everything beautiful (Eccl. 3:11), and that includes you.

What would you go back and tell your younger self? I’d love to hear.

Oh, by the way, you may have noticed there’s no place to “like” me. It’s simple really, I’m a bit counter-culture and old-school. So, while I’d love it if you liked me, really liked me, you’ll have to let me know the old-fashioned way…email, postcard, singing telegram, interpretive dance, etc. 

Looking ahead,

A