Archive | Hope RSS feed for this section

Grieving Christmas Before Moving Into 2014

3 Jan
It's A Small World will go back to being normal, too.

It’s A Small World will go back to being normal, too.

I’ll admit it, I’m grieving the holiday season. It’s over. The tree is about to go to the recycling spot. The twinkling lights are in a ball on my living room floor because I just haven’t had the heart to put them away yet. The Christmas cards are still hanging next to my door, but those too will soon come down. Last remenants of Christmas candy and cookies are in our pantry either to be forgotten in leiu of healthier options.

It was a good Christmas. It was relaxing to be with family. It was nice to go to church again with my dad and to remember how much Jesus loves us. It was neat to see a whole gaggle of kids open presents again at my husband’s family Christmas party. It was good to take a flight again and then to drive through the desert home with Mark.

I like peppermint mochas, the smell of pine. I like looking at mall santas and seeing how closely they resemble the Santa Claus of collective memory. I like the traditions. Seeing the same Christmas ornaments come out and adorn the tree year after year. It gave me a sense of stability for another year full of lots of changes. I liked having permission to not look for a job. I liked knowing that I’ll have a few days of rest and my mom’s cooking. I enjoyed a Christmas party with college friends who have all come back together after marriages, babies, and job transitions.

And then came the rest of the holidays. New Year’s Eve wasn’t really on our calendar. I figure we would just get to it eventually. And we did. More with a wimper than a bang. Mark was sick with what I think is bronchitis and he threw out his back that day. While I’d hoped we’d be able to go for a bike ride, we were mostly inside for a few days. It wasn’t all bad. I roasted my first chicken! We had our first two Monopoly games together! And last night, we discussed God in a new way. We wondered if he was trying to tell us something considering we’ve both been so sick lately. We talked about churches and what we both hope to get out of one. It was good to talk. I’m glad we’ve been sick because it’s forced us to be together to talk and figure things out. We’re in new season and new is often hard at first until it becomes more familiar.

Grieving is like that. It’s looking back. Fondly remembering. Acknowledging the loss and being able to move on. 2013 was a good year. And the holidays that followed at the end were nice. Sweet times with family. Fun with kids. Lots of game playing, eating good food, and resting. Time to be thankful and remember the blessings I have.

Now it’s time to get to work. 2014 is going to be the year I pursue life and go after what God has for me in a new way!

When Will The Rhythm Come?

14 Nov

For weeks I’ve been trying to write something to completely capture my various emotions throughout this season, but I’ve come up short. Through engagement, moving, wedding planning, the wedding, honeymooning, and now returning to my new home, I’ve felt everything from extreme happiness to complete shock. I’m navigating through a fantastic, fun, but also lonely season that no one really talks about in marriage books. I’m in a haze. I don’t have a wedding to plan and I’m trying to get used to a man sleeping in my bed.

But here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

I’ve gained a husband and a new apartment. I’ve gained a great new city. I have a lot of great stuff for my kitchen. I go to the library again. I’ve learned to snorkel and zip line and ride unconventional buses in Mexico. I’ve watched more than one World Series game. I had the best wedding ever. I’ve mellowed out in a lot of ways because I’m not sitting on the 405. I get to start things over. I’m thankful. Truly.

But I’ve lost my rhythm.

These kind of look like the shoes I have

These kind of look like the shoes I have

When I was a kid, I had this dream of being a tap dancer. I actually still have new tap shoes that I keep to remind me of that dream that never materialized. In retrospect, I never was great with rhythm in terms of dancing. I was off beat, insecure, and always felt the other people in the classes I took were better than I was. But in other areas, I had great rhythm. I was an excellent student who thrived in the confines of school and rose to the occasion when teachers gave me assignments. I also thrived in ministries. I showed up, I figured out what to do and how to do it with gusto. Since 2008, I’ve known exactly where I was going to be on Wednesday nights. It’s kind of nice.

A few months ago, my friend, Sarah, who is one of the most creative people I know, mentioned the word “structure.” I shuddered a little bit. Because I like to be unconventional and rebellious in my own way, I have hated to think I need a routine or a structure. I’ve always thought that I was too creative for that. My mom keeps telling me I’m wrong…when Sarah told me structure is good, my jaw dropped open and I secretly wondered if she had been taken and replaced by someone else.

The more I thought about it and the more I’m still considering “structure,” I realizing that I feel like I’m tumbling head over feet in a wave of newness, looking for something familiar so that I can put my feet down on solid ground. Like Sarah, I need to find my structure, or rhythm. I was listening to an unfamiliar jazz station here on the radio when it hit me.

I wonder if I’m like a good jazz song.

Right now, it seems like there’s no reason and there’s a lot of instruments making different sounds. But as you listen, it starts to make sense. The familiar notes start to repeat but at different speeds and in little bits and tastes instead of the way it is in traditional music when you hear the same verse over and over. Maybe I’m like that. Finding different parts of myself in a new way. It just takes time for the undercurrent of the rhythm to take hold.

I started thinking of that song lyric, “I’ve got rhythm…I’ve got music, I’ve got my man who could ask for anything more?” Well, I’ve got the man but the other two are kind of hazy at the moment. I have more questions than answers at this point, but I’m glad I’m putting some of these thoughts down into writing.

Instead of being impatient, I’ll just keep asking questions and reminding myself that transition takes time and I decided to do three huge ones at once. What does my rhythm look like? I don’t know quite yet. So I’ll keep feeling the feelings, writing them out, and asking God to lead me, even in the mundane. Hopefully as I start to be more intentional about my days, the rhythm will come. And it will be a sweet sound when I begin to dance.

Quitting, Leaving, New Beginnings, And All Of That

22 Aug

Beach walkWell, I did it. I quit. Why did I quit my job, you ask? With less than two months before I get married, it’s time to make this transition and fully focus on the bittersweet process of leaving my old life and starting my new one. Some of you I’ve told in person, others may be finding out for the first time…I’m sorry if I haven’t had the chance with all of the craziness to talk to you all one on one, but at the end of September, I’m moving to San Diego County. I’m not going to say this has been the easiest thing for me. In fact, it’s been incredibly hard. But I think it will be good for many reasons. And it’s not like I’m moving to Djibouti.  It’s two hours away.

I’ll soon be entering into the unfamiliar territory called marriage and in order to do that well, I need to give myself time to process my life here in LA and all that this has meant for me. I need time to fulfill this bucket list of things that I’ve never done but have always wanted to do. Taping of Jeopardy anyone? A visit to Sprinkles? Touring some of those incredible looking churches on Wilshire I drive by sometimes? Also, most importantly to my soul at this point, I need to not sit on the 405 for three hours a day anymore. So, I’m leaving my job.

I’ve been in LA since 1998 and I’ve wanted to move to here since I was 10 years old and had the dream of becoming a “performing artist”, as I liked to call it. I even did a report on this when I was in 7th grade. My freshman year of college at USC, I made part of this dream a reality and I moved out here. Then I fulfilled another dream  of learning about film and television and got into USC’s film school. Not knowing what to expect, I fumbled my way through my freshman year as a Midwesterner public school kid in a California private school. I figured out how to write college papers, made some surface friends and then later some real friends, and learned a ton. I also became a Christian, which completely changed my priorities.

Upon graduation, I had several fun but crazy jobs in entertainment, I co-wrote a screenplay, wrote a play, worked on several TV shows, and realized that what I wanted most in this crazy city was a place of belonging. So I joined a women’s life group and a church and faced the world, relationships, breakups, unemployment and disappointments with others by my side.

I love LAI’ve grown to LOVE Los Angeles in many ways. I know it. It’s familiar. I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere. It’s eclectic, diverse, interesting, never boring, urban, suburban in parts, and it’s the city where my dreams turned from superficial ones where I would become the female Steven Spielberg to where I learned how to follow Christ with all my heart, love justice, be a friend, serve, love, be broken, and be rebuilt again. It’s where I learned that money wasn’t everything, friendships could be fought for, and sticking to my true values in romantic relationships was more important than the feeling of being loved that I was so desperately chasing. LA has shaped me. I have so many memories here. As my time comes to a close, I hope to write about some of them and share what I’ve learned. I hope to end this chapter well and on my own terms so that I can enter my new life with a healthy outlook, spiritually grounded.

When I joined ChristianMingle and “smiled” at Mark, I did not know where San Marcos was. I thought it was a lot closer until I looked it up on a map.  We’ve been doing the 100 mile drive almost every weekend since April 2012. That’s a lot of miles. We’re both ready for that to be over and can’t wait to actually come home at the end of the day and get to be together.  With that happy possibility looming, it’s making my departure from the LA life brighter. I have hopes for the future. I want to be able to drive to the beach in 15 minutes. That will be awesome. I’ll hopefully be able to go to Mission Bay frequently and meet Shamu, finally. I hope for new friends, a new dream, and to fully launch my writing career that has been birthed out of my time here in LA.

Lots to do. 58 days till my wedding. 10 more work days, 20 more commutes. I’m doing this!

Idealism On Pause: Musing About The Hardest News Week In Recent Memory Accompanied By Ray LaMontagne

19 Apr

 

Although not the Boston Marathon, this one was my first experience with the "heart" that runners have for excellence and perseverance

Although not the Boston Marathon, this one was my first experience with the “heart” that runners have for excellence and perseverance

It’s 9:17PM on Friday, April 19, 2013. It’s a Ray LaMontagne “Trouble” rather than a Taylor Swift “Trouble” kind of night. I don’t feel much like doing anything except for enjoying the creature comforts of my childhood — old episodes of “Growing Pains” and macaroni and cheese. I thought after this week I’d want to go out with friends but truth be told, I don’t have the energy. I barely made it home after sitting in LA traffic and having a mild panic attack because they finally caught “Suspect 2” from the Boston Marathon bombings.

 

I wonder if others felt what I felt this week. I don’t have a TV but I was glued to the news feed and radio, obsessed with learning everything I could about the Boston Marathon bombings, chase, pursuit, and key players. I stayed up late every night feasting on the latest “breaking news”, which, as one of my friends pointed out, seemed as if it were being directed by Michael Bay (think summer blockbuster movie with lots of explosions and his name is probably all over it). It’s strange to think that news can be “breaking” all week. The newness wears off at some point, but it didn’t really for me. For some reason, I just had to know what was going on.I felt like if I missed it, I’d be unable to help, even though there’s really nothing I can do aside from pray, which I could barely do.

 

I’m having what my friend calls “a dry spell” with God. I’m not really sure why but in times like this when I get totally overwhelmed with bad news and I sit in it for too long, I start to realize how much I really need God and how horrible a world without God would be. I think of those who don’t have his comfort because they don’t have a relationship with him and it saddens me to the point of tears.

 

I wonder what else I could be doing tonight. The anxiety surrounds me like a blanket. I know I’m safe. I know God is good but I can’t help but wonder what people in Boston thought as they quickly watched their town turn into a police state. Running free on Monday to locked in their houses as the police searched up and down for a 19-year-old accused of wreaking havoc on a city and the American psyche as a whole. I don’t know what to do with that. 19 years old. And the 26-year-old. I think about what I was doing at 26 and it definitely didn’t involve 200 rounds and robbing a 7-11.

 

“Sometimes it feels like worry is my only friend.” Ray sings. 

 

That was me today. Worry and anxiety seemed like constant companions.  Was it the stress of covering a busy CEO’s desk? Or did it really have to do with me experiencing what my life coach calls “the dark side” of my strengths individualization and empathy? Apparently when those two talents are paired in a person, it can mean that one has a blind spot and can overly experience situations and emotions of others all around them. If this is true, it explains why after this exhausting week both at work and news wise, I’m just spent. Over. Done. Cooked goose.

 

I thought about those people all stuck in their homes in fear today. What kind of a world do we live in right now when someone can set off a bomb affecting hundreds of lives and then set off a police chase affecting millions more just four days later? I’m having an increasingly tough time with that. And yet, I know that the police worked so diligently together. They caught the suspect. They made the streets safe. For that, I am grateful. The waving American flags. Bostonians with smiles on their faces for the first time since the marathon’s beginning. And now that the fear has subsided, the city of Boston cheers tonight because they can come out of their houses a little less fearful.

 

Hope in the desert

Hope in the desert

If you want the honest truth, some days I don’t know how to live in a world where weeks like this one are commonplace. I don’t know how we can just get “used to” school shootings, bombings, poisonous letters, 8 year olds dying, demented doctors getting away with murder, entire towns blowing up, and the like. I don’t know how to pray for that, because doing so would admit that this world is so very broken and I don’t often like seeing it that way even though it is true. As an idealist, I prefer the rose-colored glasses. Oceans. Sunsets. Nature. People loving one another well. Bubbles. Babies and puppies. Silly smiles. Meadows. Fresh laundry. Anything good you’d see on Pinterest. But right now, I don’t have the words to pray. My faith feels fragile tonight. It’s hard to see the good in this moment. Yes, the terror has subsided. But a small part of me wonders “What next? Will next week be worse?”

 

As Ray sings these lyrics from “Empty,” I pause.

 

Asking questions that don't have easy answers

Asking questions that don’t have easy answers

“There’s a lot of things I don’t understand/Why so many people lie/Well, it’s the hurt I hide that fuels the fires inside me/ Will I always feel this way/So empty, so estranged?” 

I let myself sit there while the words hang in the air for a moment.

And then, slowly, as if coming out of a fog, I remember the words of my pastor last Sunday. We’re currently in a series called “Sifted”, which is about how following Christ means we’ll go through trials. He said, “Hold on. Cling on tight. Don’t waste a sifting because we’re all going to be sifted.”

In my doubts, in my fears and anger and grief about this situation and others this week, I’ll do my best to cling. I’ll not waste it. I’ll do my best to see a bigger picture where people come out of their houses after a horrible week so that they can wave flags and smile because justice has been done. I will choose hope, once again.

Another song just came on…

 

“I will shelter you…I will shelter you…I will shelter you.”

I will do my best tonight, despite my uneasiness, to cling to that promise.

 

The Eulogy I Gave For My Grandma

14 Mar

I wrote this the night before her memorial service. Some of it I ad-libbed, so it actually went over really well in person. Reading it might leave a lot to be desired but some wanted me to share it with them! Here it is:

 

On behalf of the Mills family, I want to thank you all for being here today. My grandma, Loma Mills, has meant a lot to so many people, and your presence here signifies just how many lives she impacted during her 93 years here on earth.

 

Grandma pics Her roles were many. She was the eldest daughter of Frank and Alice Oesterle, German farmers living here in Marion. She was a sister to Ruth Staub and Doris Beaver. She was also a high school history teacher for 32 years, a wife to John, a mother to three sons, Judd, Craig, and Kim. A grandmother to 7 (Laurel, Stacy, Jenna, me, Belinda, Chris, and Josh) and great grandmother to Gretchen, Nick, Hannah, Jake, Josie, and Oliver.  She was a friend to so many different types of people, whether you knew her for a few minutes or for decades. Even last year, she wrote more than100 Christmas cards to people she loved.

 

Family. Firey. Fiercely Independent. Spunky. Kind. Giving, Woman of Great Faith, Generous, Charitable, Optimistic, Saw the Silver Lining, Avid reader, Loved children, celebrating holidays, and God. These are all words that people in Loma’s family used to describe her. My cousin, Belinda, always laughs because when I was younger I said of Grandma that she was a tough cookie. She’d been through a lot and just kept on going.

 

One word that keeps coming up for me that I think described my grandma the best is grit. My grandma had “grit.” I looked it up in the dictionary.  Grit is “the firmness of mind or spirit, unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.” Loma learned independence from an early age. Her father was a frugal man who made wise investments in other farms during her early years, which happened to be during the Great Depression.  Her mother used the money that she got from selling her chicken’s eggs to clothe my grandmother and her two sisters. Committed to educating his three daughters,  Frank insisted that Loma, Ruth, and Doris go to college, which they all did.

 

The values of faith, family, charity, and a hard work ethic were instilled in my Grandma from an early age and she passed them on to all of us. And we are so grateful for these.

Because we’re all knew my Grandma differently, I thought I’d share a few reflections on her life.

 

A glimpse into Loma’s inner life:

 

Grandma was a full time mother and full time teacher as well as a farm owner simultaneously, before it was cool to be all of those things at the same time. Grit.

 

Grandma and GrandpaShe raised her eldest son, Judd, alone for two and a half years while her husband, John, was off at war.

 

Her faith inspired me and others she knew to care about the less fortunate and beyond it all, trust in God. She would often say to me in a knowing voice, “Kid (because she called everyone “kid”), life is hard. But the Lord is with you. He is.” More than anything, she believed that we were to cling closely to God. Whether I was going through a breakup, a move, or another traumatic life event for a young adult, my Grandma would encourage me and all of us in her determined voice that God would and could help, if we let him into our lives.

 

 

-Grandma loved bonfires, Weenie roasts, and pig roasts. If someone were having a birthday, we’d all go out into the back yard and roast weenies in a bonfire.

 

-Grandma also loved lawncare- We couldn’t believe it when she actually hired people to do her lawn because well into her 70s, grandma would be seen tending to her flowers and mowing her acres of lawn by herself, waving to those passing by.

 

-Grandma had a keen fashion sense which she passed on to her granddaughters, great-granddaughters, and daughter-in-laws. To show our love and appreciate of that, we are all wearing hats from the Loma Mills collection.

 

-Vacation – Our family has been taking an annual vacation to Rehoboth Beach, Deleware since 1953. Boardwalk. Funland. Grotto’s Pizza. Rented beach umbrellas. Apartment over Lingo’s market. This was a family tradition that was etched into our lives, since we’ve been going there for so long. It was one of her favorite yearly traditions.

 

-YMCA – Grandma often used to wake up at 5AM to go swimming at the Y up until her 90s. In fact, I just met two of her Y friends before the service who reminded me of how much Grandma loved that daily ritual.

 

-She was also a dedicated sister to Doris and Ruth, with Doris even being across the street. She really looked up to and was grateful to be near her sisters both spiritually and physically. With the Beavers living across the street, their children had memories together. This meant that our family has an entire set of second and third cousins that are actually very close and share holidays and vacations together.

 

-She’d often have 70 person family reunions in her two bedroom cape cod making traditional Thanksgivings and other meals.

 

-An evidence of my Grandma’s grit is this: “Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because the testing of your faith, developed perseverance. Perseverance must finish it’s work, so you can be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4. Her steadfast strength in life and in God were her foundation and she took trials as they came, looking to God for help during troubled times.

 

-Baking cookies and pies. Always a pecan or apple pie waiting or on its way when I visited.

 

-She loved her sweets. My cousin, Belinda, reminded me that she would make people go to two or three different drug stores until she found her favorite, Russell Stover’s candies.

 

-She was a woman of habit, making her infamous Santa Cookies. It was an orchestrated event down to a science. It wasn’t just a dedication to tradition and the holidays IE holiday cookie making, you weren’t just signing up for cookie making, but more a full-fledged production, with 15 minutes spent decorating each cookie.

 

-Grandma wouldn’t want a big “to do” for her funeral. I think she’s glad that we’ve come together as family and friends to celebrate her life because togetherness is what she always wanted and loved best. She might say this if she were here, paraphrased a bit from a poem that Matt Burke, my grandma’s favorite grandson-in-law:

 

”Speak to me in the easy way which you always used to Put no difference in your tone, Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.”

 

In that spirit, let me tell you the ice cream story. We were driving in the car in the summer with the windows down. I was about 10 or 12 years old. Grandma had just treated Belinda and me to ice cream. The day before, I had gone to my first ever pig roast at the Lashey’s house and Belinda hadn’t been able to make it. Grandma was always a little bit absent minded so as she was describing how big the pig was, she took her ice cream like this (open arms wide) and it flew out the window, only leaving the cone left! This was a typical kind of story you’d hear about my grandma.

 

To finish, she had a solid 93 years. I think she’d be pleased to see how life came full swing. I don’t think there’s anything else she would have wanted to accomplish in her life. This is her legacy. We are her legacy.

 

And now I’d like to invite her grandchildren and great-grandchildren up to read a poem that was one of our Grandma’s favorites, “The House By The Side Of The Road”.

 

Grandma’s Favorite Poem

11 Mar

I’ve just returned from Ohio where we laid my grandma to rest. She’s leaving quite a hole in our family, but it was so good to be together. The next few posts will probably be about her, as she left a lasting impression.

As part of her funeral, my cousins read from a poem that my grandma recited when she was young, winning an oratory contest for her performance. The poem is called “The House By The Side Of The Road” and perfectly encapsulates what my Grandma believed in. She grew up in a house by the side of the road, just like this one. She was a friend to man, just as the person in the poem is. It’s strange how much this poem that she read when she was young ended up emulating what her life’s experience was.

This is my Grandma's house. It's on 80 acres of farm land.

This is my Grandma’s house. It’s on 80 acres of farm land.

The House by the Side of the Road

There are hermit souls that live withdrawn
In the place of their self-content;
There are souls like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze the paths
Where highways never ran-
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man. 
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat
Nor hurl the cynic’s ban-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man. 
I see from my house by the side of the road
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife,
But I turn not away from their smiles and tears,
Both parts of an infinite plan-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man. 
I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead,
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
And still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone. 
Let me live in my house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish – so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban?
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man. 
Sam Walter Foss

March Musings

5 Mar
Sunset at Santa Monica March 30, 2011

Sunset at Santa Monica March 30, 2011

I’m just writing something short to say “Welcome” to some of my new and old readers. My goal in 2013 is to really write more on my blog and hopefully focus it a bit more. I so appreciate you reading it and giving your input. I’m also doing some guest blogs this week and in coming weeks for my friends, Dave and Nan and for one of my favorite organizations, A Beautiful Mess. So glad to get to share my heart as I’m learning more about God, life, dating, and waiting.

As I think about life this week, I’m reminded once again to slow down. I cancelled all my plans for the week because on Thursday, I’m flying to Ohio to be with family to celebrate the life of my grandma, who died Sunday night. She was a pistol. Sometimes you never knew what she was going to say. So many crazy stories about her…I’m looking forward to sharing memories with our family this weekend and for her memory. She was a bold one! I only hope to be that audacious in my life!

All that to say, sometimes the silly things I worry about are trivial. This week, hug a friend or family member and express to them what they really mean to you. Say “I’m sorry” where you need to. Keep short accounts. Love well, trust more, and be open. Enjoy a sunset, be grateful for life.

%d bloggers like this: