Just Breathe

The sweet wild ride of summer is slowing down, grass crunching beneath my feet as I  stoop to pick the daily offerings from my tomato plants. The black-eyed susans have all but given up and it looks like the ground hog ate the last of my rose buds. My firstborn moved out a couple weeks ago, which means my middle child has his own room for the first time in forever, and my baby started high school.

Endings are all around me.

But it is okay. You gotta walk through the endings before you can get to the sweetness of the next stage. Like packing up the childhood memories of my son before he walks back into my house as a grown man with not only a place of his own, but his own beautiful identity and calling. You can’t get to the grown-up conversations with your kids until you’ve said good-bye to their sweet baby cheeks and crazy toddler antics and the wild emotions of the tween years.

One of my boys had an anxiety attack recently, surrounded by his new clothes and shoes for school. Suddenly all the unknowns were too much to bear.  I helped him breath through it, and tried to talk him through the fear that wrapped itself around his stomach (quite literally) for the rest of the evening. It was kind of an epiphany for me. Sometimes you just have to breath through all of it, be honest with yourself, take it in and let it go. The good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly. The exhaustion, the endless need, the nonstop questioning, the belly laughter, those moments when they think you are the best mom ever and the moments they seem to hate you.

Breathe in. Hold it for a moment. Let it out. You are going to be okay.

40 Days

Miller Family

What would you do if you had 40 days left to live?

I would gather my family and friends a little closer and let them know how much they have blessed my life. I would say “I love you” much more often. I would spend more time on Facebook so that I could know a little more about the lives of my friends. I would tell them, every chance I could, how amazing they are. I would savor rich, dark chocolate and give thanks for the farmers who can care for both the crop and their families because they are paid a fair wage.  And while I sip my morning cup of freshly roasted coffee I would wrap myself in a Kantha and pray with tear-filled eyes for the women whose stories are stitched into these colorful saris and for the many more women who are still waiting for hope to come to them. I would wear a piece of fair trade jewelry and laugh for the joy of the fact that a woman’s life has forever changed by this simple act of love and dignity. I would fill the table with love and spices and I would share and love and share some more. I would stop my day’s work a little sooner and stress less about the profit and loss report. I would stand in awe, in a world of snow and build a snowman with my son. In our imaginative fun, we would save the world from bad guys and maybe, just maybe, in real life he would realize he is a hero too. I would take in the joy and the fullness of the life I have. At the end of each day, I would gather my family around, turn off the lights, put away the electronics, light some candles and give thanks.

Savor. Remember. Enjoy. Love. Speak. Hug. Cry. Laugh.

And they would be the 40 best days of my life.

Lent. Celebration. Life.

“Loadshedding” and Lent

CandlelightLent is a bit foreign to me. It’s not something practiced in my home as a child. In fact, I was an adult before I really heard about it. The usual things I hear that people give up for Lent – coffee, chocolate, sweets, meat, Facebook, etc. don’t really jive for me. I’m glad if it works for them, but for me it has felt like a drudgery, reminiscent of periods of my life that brought more harm than good to my soul. I’ve tried, for a couple years now, to add something to my life during lent, instead of taking something away. This year caught me off guard and I realized that Lent had already started without my giving it a second thought. I don’t want to do something just to “do something”. It must have meaning or it won’t last more than a couple of days.

So the other day, during my morning coffee, I remembered a phase of our life in Bangladesh, when the power would go off every evening for about an hour.  At first it was source of great frustration, then we began to expect it and almost look forward to it. We would be forced to stop what we were doing, gather around in the dark and talk together as a family. No electronics. No work to distract. Just sit in the dark. Together. We would talk about what we missed from home and what we loved about our new host country. We would remember, laugh, share sadness and embrace hope.

I got to thinking about “load-shedding”, the term given to those periods of power outage. There was not enough electrical power for everyone, so section of the city would take turns doing without, so someone else could have power and the whole system would not become overtaxed. Why not practice load-shedding for lent? It might be a little quirky but I must say it is meaningful to me. Maybe it will last more than a couple of days. After all, if we give up anything at all, wouldn’t it be so much more meaningful if it actually helped someone else?

After dinner and dishes, we turn off the lights, set our electronic devices aside and light a few candles. The furnace is turned low so it won’t run and we sit in our quiet house and share stories. We remember the past. We go on rabbit trails in the present. We laugh. We tell more stories.

Then we shift our focus, because this whole “load-shedding” idea is not just about us having warm and happy memories. We talk about others who are carrying a load and need help to carry that load. Sitting in the quiet glow of a few candles, we pray for them. We carry their loads in our hearts. We love. We share. Stories from China, Korea, Bangladesh and Egypt surface. We remember that the world is big. We remember that God is good. We remember that human greed has corrupted the abundance that was meant to be. We remind ourselves that the story is not yet over, that there is still abundance to be had. And we set our hearts to live lives of generous hope.

-Marita Miller

Puppy Love

ShadowLife has been a bit of a blur since the holidays. Amidst a trip to Atlanta, GA for the gift show, an unusual number of snow days for the boys, the daunting task of taking inventory and rounds of the flu, a bouncy little puppy came into our lives. While the timing seems a bit crazy, we have no regrets. Shadow is a very loveable 6 month old Yorkiepoo and has fast become a treasured member of the family. While he was a birthday gift for our youngest son, he is adored by all of us.