When Times Are Tough – The Tough Pray

10678473_10152707446330952_7154448925630624208_nI won’t bore you with the gritty details of my life’s downs right now – You’ve had ’em too.  We’ve all been there.  When life seems to be throwing more lemons at you then you have the patience to turn into a pitcher of lemonade, what are you to do?  Well, pray.  But, I’m a type A person (or at least that’s what people have told me on occasion).  I think that means I like to solve my own problems – moving mountains to get to the finish line without stopping to take names.

Most of the time that works for me.  During several, memorable junctures of my life, however, I found myself amidst an ocean of unanswerables, sadly lacking a life-vest, or shark repellent, or sunscreen – one of those times we are knocked to our knees and reminded that the best thing to do in that position is to pray.  It is the refusal of prayer and the stubborn trust in “me” when the other guy wins.

I learned my lesson twelve years ago that prayer is sometimes the only thing that’s left and that I need to trust with abandon when there’s nothing else to cling to.  That’s why, when I don’t see an end to the tunnel, I am again reminded that I can’t solve everything by myself and the best thing to do is pray my Lord reaches His hand out in the storm and pulls me up, for He is truly our Shepherd and will protect us.

~My Shepherd~

Oh my Lord, he draws near again.

My Lord, my God I beseech Thee.

Through pain or prize he seeks to reign,

but Jesus Victor my King shall be.

 

When I was weak he conquered me.

Forgetting to kneel, proud I stood –

too bold, to blind to bend my knee,

neglecting Your sacrificial wood.

 

When all seemed lost, I was rescued –

for my poor heart Your grace ransomed,

by Your power my soul renewed,

to purest treasure my will succumbed.

 

He stands again at my threshold,

beckoning, beguiling Your frail child.

Capture me deep within Your fold.

Whisper my name as his howls grow wild.

 

Never more will my strength falter,

never again his seeds sow doubt.

I rest firmly at Your altar,

for through the Son lies my only route.

Chocolate – and other true loves

I vividly remember trying cocoa powder for the first time.  I saw the brown container – big, white letters proclaiming “Cocoa Powder”.  I thought I had discovered a secret my mom was keeping from me, a self-confessed chocoholic.  “Chocolate in powdered form?” I wondered excitedly to myself as I plied open the rectangular, plastic top.  I greedily snatched a spoon from the drawer and dug the fine powder out of the container.  ARRRGH!  Cough – cough – GAG!  “WHY?!?!?!?” my soul screamed to the heavens.  “Someone is playing a cruel joke on me.  ‘Cocoa powder’ – A LIE!”

Once I read the fine print – I say ‘fine’ because it should really be stated much larger on the container that the cocoa has not yet been sweetened so no other innocent bystander is tricked, but I digress – As I was saying, once I read the complete label, I realized that no edible chocolate comes that easily.

Isn’t that like everything we love?  As I grew older, I realized (and am still being reminded often) that love requires patience.  A good comparison, for instance, is that Europeans have different ways of expressing things they appreciate, honor, like, and love.  They do not, as Americans do, “love a piece of cake” and “love their mom, too”.  They like cake and love their mom.  Their speech is a reflection that we should honor where honor is due and just appreciate all the other small stuff.

Think of your best friend – Not the person you met the other day that you hit it off with and look forward to seeing again.  No, I’m talking about that friend you cried like a baby to when you were brought low by the grittiness of life, who you showed your crippled shell to when you thought all was lost.  It could be that that friend is your sister or brother, or your mom or dad, or your grade school bestie, but, no matter the case, that deep, secret-sharing friendship took years to foster.

Think of that possession you saved for months for and treasure over the token gift someone gave you.  Or, that assignment for your teacher, professor, or boss that you whittled away at, perfecting time and again before proudly handing it in versus the shoddy work you completed at midnight the night before, pulling references from … well, you can’t remember from where exactly, that you turned in with affected confidence.

Work for something, for anything of importance, is most often a multi-stepped mess that comes together after a long process of careful shaping, carving, crumpling up and starting again before we step back with a knowing smile tugging at our lips.  “It’s finished,” we whisper, “There may be some strings hanging there or a loose nail … my hands hurt and my back aches … my little project has to stand on its own now … I hope it never falls … but it will … and I’ll put the pieces back together … because we’re never done.”

You have to get your hands dirty, your knees will callous, and sometimes you’ll feel like you failed.  Work isn’t for the faint of heart; no one ever said cleaning was clean – But, even when it is hardest, try to love every minute of it.

Love is work.  Not the kind of work we hate … Love is all the work we hate to stop.

The Pain of Loss

My sweet dog is no longer with us 11010528_10155344154590577_4357071565521761111_nbecause of a tragic accident.

Tille (pronounced Till-y) was a dog we rescued from the shelter … I say ‘we’ but actually she was secreted into our possession by my husband while I was thousands of miles away visiting family.  She was a Swedish Vallhund mix, full of unbridled energy, and aptly dubbed Foxy by the rescue center.  Getting to rename her was my consolation prize.  I chose Tille because in Sweden that means heroine and while we rescued her, she’d be our hero, right?  The brave watch dog? Right??

From the start, she and I had … we’ll call them ‘issues’.  Her personality was a bit wild from being on the streets with her brother for (so the rescue center thought) almost a full year.  Whenever the door opened she would bolt through the smallest opening and be gone without a trace.  We’d call and scream hear name looking through the woods beside our house only to see her bounding through the tall brush like a deer.IMG_0516

I’ll admit, she drove me CRAZY at times.

Then something happened.  I saw the wildest dog I’d ever met become a family dog.  For being the   sweetest companion to my children, I thank her.  For guarding our house with determination, I thank her.  IMG_0484For picking up all the crumbs I’m discovering we drop, waiting to go to bed until the last of her masters are tucked in, for her abundance of affection, for her patience when small hands grabbed her fur a little too tight …. Thank you Tille.

Some might not understand how very much it hurts to lose a dog or another pet.  They must not have known the love of a pet.1544342_10154371994380577_1272489255577265553_n

We went on a family walk, she bolted, you can imagine what occurred, and our little Tille didn’t walk home.  She went quick and while doing what she did best: running – and 3 years exactly to the day of us rescuing her.

For all those who have lost a dear pet or a loved one, you know the pain in the immediate moment IMG_0805of loss is terrible but what hurts more is the chasm left to live with.

If you care to, bear with my meager attempt to capture the ache of what’s left after loss:

 

~Pain IS Nothing~

The loss is all too passing.

It’s the hole that’s left behind –

emptiness holds the real sting,

as lost sight is to the blind.

You were always there beside me,

like a shadow follows close

but now I no longer see

and that’s when I miss you most.

Death is gone, the mourning done,

yet pain still sears my being.

The void rises with each sun,

and sends memories reeling.

Why cannot I forget you?

Why must agony persist?

Because morn will come anew

And you’ll be forever missed.

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A Mother’s Prayer

As I put my little girl down for bed tonight, she asked me to stay and cuddle with her.  She doesn’t always ask and I don’t always take the time to offer.  Tonight was special.  I lay beside my first born who is now three years old and watched her profile in the quickly fleeting light.  Her soft brown hair spilled across the pillow tickling my nose as I pretended to sleep.  I peeked at her as she peeked at me.  Silent tears of joy coated my corner of her pillow.  She is growing faster than I could have ever imagined and I don’t want to miss an instant.  As I watched her rub her tired eyes, fighting sleep as she continuously grinned that I was still there, my heart felt full – full to the brim with love.  A prayer I once wrote flooded my thoughts and I wanted to share it with fellow moms.  There are so many lost opportunities in this brief life we live – Lord, help me know when to stop and catch those sweet opportunities to my heart and hold tight.

~A Mother’s Prayer~

By: Emily Henson

I can kiss a finger when it’s hurt

and when they fall brush off the dirt.

I’ll gladly bend to tie a shoe

and mend each and every tear brand new.

But may God grant me the graces

to look into their upturned faces

on frenzied days when I’ve lost control

and take the time to nurture a soul.

The wash my hands will roughen and chap

but I’ll tuck them in every nap.

I’ll clean the floors on which they play

and shoo the dust bunnies far away.

But may God help me do my part

to see to the needs of their heart

even when chores remain undone

for dust can wait till tomorrow’s sun.

That song they love with the silly rhyme

I’ll sing for them a hundredth time.

Nails will be clean with daily bath.

Rules of writing learned along with math.

But God help me to remember

that more in their minds than lessons stir.

While I stay busy with my hands

they may fly off to Neverlands.

While a cleanly house is noteworthy

and tasks await before I’m free,

I’ll blink my eyes and they’ll be grown

but sweet moments I want to have known.

“You can’t” – Very Powerful Words

Stool_MicI recently had the pleasure of speaking with an experienced vocal coach (not for myself mind you – my voice is strictly reserved for my non-judgmental, appreciative children).  The vocal coach said something that struck me then and has continued to haunt me since.  So, as a writer, I found myself wanting to express my thoughts via the written word.  I think a lot of people will be able to relate.

The coach told me that she had personally conducted research through the years of those she has worked with.  There are those people, she explained to me, who say they “can’t sing”.  They state the opinion with complete conviction – as if it was a fact handed to them at birth.

Doctor: Baby ‘A’, I need to let you know that you cannot sing.

Baby ‘A’: Good to know, thanks.

Doctor: No problem.  Whatever the circumstances, just remember that very important fact – You can’t sing.

Baby ‘A’: Got it.

The coach found, however, when she asked that person the question, “Who told you that you couldn’t sing?” the response was always similar.  “A teacher.”  “My mom.”  “My dad.”  There was always someone who had left the impression on the person’s mind that they could not, should not sing.

Wow.  What if someone had told Maria Carey, B.B. King, George Jones, or Bob Dylan they couldn’t sing!?!

Young minds are impressionable.  Words can really scar.

What were you told you couldn’t do?  Did you throw the words back in their face and do it anyway?  Or, like many hopefuls, did you give up X, Y, or Z talent because, well, you “couldn’t do it”?

Some might say, “If you’re meant to do something, you’ll do it despite what people say.  Toughen up.”

And maybe Carey or King or Dylan were told, at some point, that they couldn’t sing and they let the words fall at their feet.  But, the vast majority of people will remember the words and those words will eat away at their confidence.  When I was a classroom teacher, I remembered my past teachers who built me up and those that tore me down.  I vowed to never be the kind of teacher that convinced a child that they could not do whatever they put their mind to.

Put your mind to it.” – That’s a funny expression.  When you put your mind to something, that doesn’t mean you sit on your duff and think you are a great writer, singer, mathematician.  It means you get your hands dirty – You make, mold, practice, struggle into a great talent.

May I never crush a budding talent.  May we all build fellow hopefuls up and never let someone tear us down.

To Celebrate or Not To Celebrate?? – Memorial Day

So, not to preach …. Well, okay, we can call it that.  But, let’s start with a guessing game because that’s always fun!!  National Hot Dog day? … Nope.  National BBQ day? … Nope, guess again.  National Celebrate Summer By Going Out of Town and Getting Stuck In Traffic for Three Hours day? … NO!

Today is Memorial Day.  Many don’t know exactly how to approach the day.  It has become a day of celebration and in a way that’s okay, but only in ‘A’ way and I’ll get to that.  Countless men and women have died to ensure that when you wake up each day in our glorious country you can freely enjoy many blessings, some you may not even realize you have.  We set aside one day out of the year to honor the soldiers who have fought and died for us and today is that day.  Celebration in their honor is appropriate.  So, have a BBQ, enjoy the poolside, but as you are taking in the day off of work or school, please take time to reflect on the many that laid down their lives so that you could do that.  They would want us to enjoy the day!

I wrote the poem below in memory of those who fought and died so bravely – the fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters who lost their most precious right – their right to life – for you and for me.  May their souls rest in peace and their memory live on forever.  HOOAH!

headstones

Photo credit: nickomargolies.com

~ Lines of Many ~

In lines of green and brown, grays and blues
all colors of honor, concealing hues,
have stood the many facing expectant dawn,
for freedom, family, or values, ready weapons drawn.

Into chaos, into hell, those lines of shades have gone,
before so ready, then so weary before the worst is done.
Yet, driving on, pressing on until the lines are broken,
till colors are muted, lines red and a hush o’r takes the din.

In lines of bright and cold, stark white
lie the honored colors, concealed from sight,
stand the many and face each rising sun,
reminding that for all, have fallen daughter and son.

Into valor, into glory the lines of souls have gone,
before so weary, now in peace for the worst is done.
Sod is driven, stone impressed, forming the lines of white.
Bold colors fly, lines of red, hailing those lines of white.

 ~By E.A. Henson

And the winners are! – Loco Colloquialisms

what_you_talking_about_willisThere were tons of really clever local sayings/phrases to choose from!  The challenge began with this post where I asked everyone to send me phrases they find odd, fascinating, or, well, disturbing.  My followers from ‘across the pond’ sent in some of the best but my American neighbors didn’t disappoint either.

In the end, I had to choose only a handful and here they are.  Enjoy!

@stuartkenyon81 :  In Manchester, UK: Mint = good, Bobbins = bad, Cock = term of endearment, Minging = horrible

@JennaKernan : “How you fixed for spit?” My father’s favorite used after a person has asked repeatedly for things that they themselves should provide. For example: “Can I borrow a saw?” “Do you have a piece of wood?” “Can I use that pencil?”  “How you fixed for spit?” would be the appropriate reply.

@duanenicol : There are a few idiomatic expressions that always leave me wondering (not to mention uncomfortable):
1. There’s more than one way to skin a cat…(why is there even ONE way?)
2. Kill two birds with one stone…
3. You could swing a dead cat (rat) in here without hitting…..
4. I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but… (then don’t!!)
And there are so many more like this. I’m sure there are other ways to express these ideas without this morbid obsession with dead animals.

Okay, this was my favorite.  It sounds so wrong but is totally innocent.  I really think I might start using the phrase. 😉

mjwrightnz.wordpress.com : Some of my favourite idiomatic phrases, here in New Zealand, reflect local subculture – and ‘sucked the big kumara’ has to be one of the best. It has nothing to do with sweet potatoes and actually means ‘that rather complex thing you tried to do just failed’.

Thank you to all my awesome followers who participated.  Your submissions were truly entertaining!

Unique phrases rock!  Share any you thought of in the comments below.

Loco Colloquialisms – Time to share!!

People have shared some hilarious, awkward, and strikingly accurate phrases on my Strange Phrases post. I am compiling a list of the the best colloquialisms! Let’s share more!

Think of your favorite phrase (or one you love to hate), post it in the comments, and don’t forget to explain it’s meaning.  The best are always the ones local to you, e.g.-Southern, Eastern, Irish, etc. Feel free to invite others to participate too!

After I have compiled the best of the best, I will share them in an awesome post for all to see.

Thanks for participating!

(A colloquialism is a word or phrase that is not formal or literary, typically one used in ordinary or familiar conversation)

Who is your Peter Pan? – Happy Mother’s Day

I’m reposting this in honor of all the mothers who poured (and are pouring) out the fairy dust that color childhood memories.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Neverland Map

Who is your Peter Pan?

Now that I’m grown, I have been banished

or perhaps my way in just vanished

to a land of dreams, a kingdom of play

where freedom ever rules the day.

When I was young I too played there

with hardly a worry and never a care.

Don’t mind me while I pen your Neverland,

but dare I ask, who is your Peter Pan?

Play on my little lost boy,

flutter free my tiny Tink

never asking how your fairytale

received its magical ink.

The mermaid’s hair is braided with a practiced hand,

and aborigines need sheets, teepees for their band.

That war paint and your buried treasure

look awfully familiar….

May I ask who it was that filled your bubbly lagoon,

and outfitted the pirates beneath the many moons?

Don’t mind me listening as you promise faith and trust.

I’m just here pouring out a bit more pixie dust.

Play on my little lost boy,

flutter free my tiny Tink

never asking how your fairytale

received its magical ink.

When you were hurt in battle

was there not a quick kiss and a cuddle?

Did you not find sanctuary from Hook in the tower of a lap,

and is that not a list on the other side of your treasure map?

How did that pillow catch you after your daring flight,

and who was it that held you after the tic-tock croc did bite?

Don’t mind me spreading jam to the sound of busy feet,

for I well know, even Neverlanders need to eat.

Play on my little lost boy,

flutter free my tiny Tink

never asking how your fairytale

received its magical ink.

By: E.A. Henson

IMG_0807

Destroyer of princess castles.

IMG_0784

Freedom.

Strange Phrases – Say what?!?

Quotation MarksThere are three sayings off the top of my head (oops, that’s another one) that seem strange or highly false to me.  Here goes:

1. “Ahh, I slept like a baby last night!” – So, you awoke every few hours because you were hungry and then, having realized your discomfort, decided you needed to awaken the rest of humanity?  Hm, I’m sorry you slept so badly … and I’m sorry for anyone who lives with you.

2. “Can I pick your brain?” – No, Hannibal!  Get away from me!  I mean, where did that phrase even come from!?!  Gross – just gross.

3. Sorry for this one but it must be said: All the phrases having to do with … well, throwing up.  I refuse to go into them here.  REFUSE!  I mean, we’ve all been there and it ain’t pretty.  No matter who you are, how sophisticated, good looking, intelligent, etc., you’ve lost the contents of your stomach through the opposite route they were meant to take.  Why don’t we have a nicer way of referring to this deplorable state instead of descriptions that make the hearer that much more likely to loose it themselves?

Phrases usually have interesting origins and are often regional.  They sure make our language unique.  While some phrases are downright mind boggling, others are perfectly apt to the situation.

What are sayings that strike you as odd, false, or just plain wrong?  Please share in the fun in the comments.