Feels Like Home

Today, I have a sick child.  Ava isn’t feeling well, and we left church early, so my mom could take her to her house.  She put her in a bed, so I could run out in the car and get the things she needed.

When I returned to my mother’s, there is my child, snug as a bug in her grandmother’s bed.  She’s buried up to her eyeballs in a comfy blanket, and is lying still as can be on my mother’s heated mattress pad.  All in all, not a bad situation if you’re sick.  My mom is catering to her.  I am catering to her.  All is right with the world.  After all, isn’t all any of us really need in this world is to know that there’s someone out there who is going to take care of us?  This is a perfect segue for me to bring in the fact that our Heavenly Father, ultimately, is the One Who will always take care of us.  It is always He Who will meet our needs.  But for today, I’m talking about humans.  Those angels right here on Earth who are placed in our lives to cater to us when we have our own needs.

Once I knew that Ava was safe and secure in bed, had been given the fluids and meds that she needed, my entire body- mind and all- just wanted to shut down for a bit.  I made myself a place on a couch in my mother’s room (within eyeshot of Ava), found my own comfy blanket, and allowed myself to just turn everything off for a moment.  For this rare, fleeting instance I wasn’t going to be mom, or teacher, or friend, or sister, or any other hat that I wear.  I was simply going to be “Amanda”, and I was going to let myself get the rest I’ve needed.

It struck me, as I was attempting to tune my mind off of the everyday static, just how blessed I am to have a mother’s home to go to where I can let the stressors of the everyday world just wash off of me the moment I enter the threshold of her home.  Home.  That’s the key.  It is in this feeling (this sense) of “home” that I am most at peace.  An important aspect that I’ve learned over the years is that HOME doesn’t have anything to do with a location.  Home is not an address.  It doesn’t matter if my family is residing in Fort Smith, AR, or in Rogersville, TN, my home is truly where they are.

It is at this home that I would return from weekends at college- armloads of laundry to do, and parents who were eager to see us.  I could rest here like nothing I would ever experience at school.  Too many friends, dances, nights, and classes to really be able to let oneself completely relax.

It is at this home that I would bring newborn babies.  Tired, frazzled, and feeling exhaustion like I’ve never known, and I could hand over these little loves of my life to people who loved them (almost!) equally as much.  I could lie down, and close my eyes, and recharge my completely drained battery.

It is at this home that I would return during the darkest days of my divorce, and be able to just rest, cry, and know that someone in the other room had my best interest at heart.  Regardless of what was happening in my personal life, I never had to worry about being alone.  As long as my family is here, I’ll always have someone.  That’s a good thing to know.

It is at this home that I would spend the last few months/weeks/days/moments of my father’s life.  What should, on the surface, be a difficult space to enter into because of the insurmountable levels of loss experienced on that January day, is a complete place of peace for me.  Ironically, it is because of the insurmountable levels of loss experienced on that day, paired with the peace and love that burst into every corner of the home… filling the walls, and the air, and all spaces in between with the sweetest of memories any human could ever be fortunate enough to have.  Immeasurable love abides here.

It is at this home that even now, as I type this, my mother (without a word) sets down a cup of hot tea beside me and walks away.  I realize how blessed I am.  I am so thankful for this home which has been provided for me, my children, and all who enter into our world.

Giving Thanks

I realized just tonight that I began blogging on this site on practically this exact day in 2009. Let me just say that WOW, the landscape of my life looks so different now than it did back then! I’m astounded at the changes and challenges that have occurred, but also at the overwhelming peace and perfection of the place I’ve found myself settled into today.

Who can predict from day to day where life is going to take them? How many of us can look back to even this time last year and see the absences and additions in our lives? Jobs, people, life… it ripples up and down like a slow-moving wave deep out in the middle of a vast ocean. We are all trying to navigate our ships out there, the ups and the downs, and to not allow a rough time to bring so much water into our ship that we drown. 

I’m thankful that I have a personal relationship with the Captain of my vessel. He is the One ultimately responsible for getting us to shore safely. Our job is to listen and follow His instruction. How comforting it is to know that I, in my limited wisdom of handing the ship, am not the one in charge. I have definite responsibilities during the voyage, but He is the guiding force. 

My thankfulness this season begins here… right here.  It is from this point that all other blessings and lessons are determined. 

My wish for each of you reading this is that you have a wonderful day of celebration with people you love. Take a quiet moment to hug everyone a little tighter knowing that this landscape may not look exactly the same next year. We are given these precious moments. They must not be minimized, or taken for granted.  I wish each of you a personal relationship with your Captain. It is through Him that you will have more to give thanks for than you ever imagined possible.

Abundant blessings to you all! Happy voyage!

Love ’em if you got ’em

Tomorrow will mark the 2nd Father’s Day my family will experience without my dad.  If you’ve lost a parent you understand the pain.  If you’ve not this message is really for you.

I was fortunate in my household to have grown up with a very expressive family- perhaps too expressive at times.  There was never a shortage of discussion in the Elder household- whether it was about church, life, boys, God, school, friends just whatever.  Jess and I grew up having open lines of communication with our parents from the time we could speak.  We were always encouraged to express ourselves (a life lesson I often wonder if my mother regrets having trained me in SO well!).  I never had to wonder how my parents felt about me.  “I love you” was a common phrase used in our house.  I’m not trying to paint an unrealistic picture of a fairytale existence, but the truth is we all  liked each other and even though we had our squabbles at times they were usually short-lived.

This Sunday, just as it is most other days, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t give to have the opportunity to see  my father just one more time.  I would give all the earthly possessions that I have for even just 15 minutes of sitting in his presence, holding his hand, hugging his sweet neck, hearing his voice say “Mandy” or “Manda” to me, and getting to be with him.  I miss my dad like I never knew I was capable of missing someone.  It’s an ache that comes from a deep place inside and never truly goes away.  I’m not even sure it fades.  I think I just chose to tune it out during the times when it is too hard to take.  It’s an enduring absence that never lessens.

Most of you know, but some may not, that during his sickness my father was at home.  It was his wish and my mother fulfilled it perfectly, beautifully, unselfishly, and without complaint.  The importance of that for our family was two-fold.  First, my dad’s final wish was being honored.  How could any of us not honor this man who had shown such honor for us as husband and father?  Second, we were able to see him all the time.  The night he died we stood at his bedside, and whereas in the movies a family will gather around and have the opportunity to say final words and things they’d never had a chance to say before, for our family it was simply a restating of the words and love we had for him every day.  Mom, Jess, and I all got to thank him.  We all told him how proud we were of him and what an amazing job he had been as provider, leader, and spiritual covering he had been for all of us.  I will forever be thankful for those moments.  Hard as they were to go through they were as perfect as we could have ever hoped for.

I guess what I’d like to express in this blog is this one simple thought- while you still have your family, your parents, your siblings…. love them.  Tell them that you love them.  When we are able to step out of ourselves for a moment and really, really take a hard look at the big picture it’s amazing how the problems and quarrels that we felt were “so big” will simply fall away like ashes from a burning paper.  People fuss.  We disagree.  We hurt one another whether intentionally or accidentally, and we all could benefit from growing up and learning to be more forgiving and more thoughtful.  If you have your loved ones this holiday, or this Sunday, or any day this month please don’t take it for granted.  Things can change in an instant.  I promise you.  Hug your dad tomorrow.  Kiss his face and tell him you love him.  In doing that simple and important action you’ll have the opportunity to do something that I’ll never again be able to do in this lifetime.  Don’t miss the opportunity.

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