Friday, September 9, 2016

The Golden Egg

golden-goose-egg.jpg (350×329)

Once in a while God plucks a memory from the lowest drawer, the one containing our earliest recollections.

Once in a while, God pulls out forgotten memories, employing a past experience to meet a present needed reminder.

Once in a while, the eyes of my near-sighted heart are open enough to capture the memory, study it and know it's been brought back out for a reason.

The Memory.

It was Easter some year in the very early 1980's. I recall standing with my parents, along with hundreds of other parent's and their anticipatory children, on the expansive grassy knoll at Long's Park in Lancaster. I probably had on my bleach-white knee-socks and Buster Browns. I know I had a pastel plastic woven basket in my hand. The announcement came from the ampitheater, seemingly a mile away.

"Welcome to the {whatever year} Long's Park Easter Egg Hunt! As you can see there are hundreds of plastic eggs filled with candy all over the grounds. There is, however, ONLY ONE GOLDEN EGG. Whoever finds that golden egg should deliver it to us up front and we will give you a gift certificate to a local toy store for {what I remember as being a million dollars}. When the whistle blows, you can start collecting your eggs! Are you ready!? {Hundreds of tiny, sugar-hungry squeals} On your MARK. Get SET. GO!!!!"

The whistle blew and hundreds of tiny  hands grabbed eggs of yellow, green, blue and pink. But not mine.
Nay, I darted like a rabbit on speed all over kingdom come, my big brown eyes roving the landscape for a fleck of gold bounced off the sun. I panted as I zipped in between trees, scanned the underbrush and zoomed in on spaces I thought no one had been.

I snapped out of my furious search when, several moments later, the announcer stepped back up to the mic to announce the golden egg had been found. And it wasn't me.

Walking back to my parents, dejected and forlorn, I remember my mom's astonished expression at my empty basket. There had been HUNDREDS of plastic eggs, enough for all of the children to have an overflowing basket. But mine had none. Not a one.

"All I wanted was the golden egg".

They belted me in the back of their car (no five-point harness to be had. Just a simple strip of sturdy cloth, and somehow I survived), and I cried me a river the whole way home.

The Present.

It's been two weeks that God's been pushing this file back to the forefront. I finally decided to earnestly reopen and linger on it.  When I did, I knew why it was brought back out for me.

I've been expending my mental energy racing around, searching for the golden egg that will bring me purpose, fulfill my dreams, use my gifts, earn me a living, applaud my (albeit limited) talents. Daily I'm surrounded by scenes of women who are racing past me, who have seemingly found their life's purpose and are thriving in the use of their obvious talents. I've been discounting the daily, stepping over the ordinary in pursuit of an empty, elusive grand prize. My human nature whispers one of two lies when I'm in the midst of the hunt for purpose. Either it's:

"She's/They've found the golden egg I wanted. Game over". 

OR (far more often)

"Just wait. You're not time isn't yet. Hold tight. Keep the home fires burning, do what is expected and just try enduring the challenges you're facing raising your strong willed child(ren). If you can just race pass all of that, THEN you'll probably find it. So don't waste your time looking around now. Let it come to you down the road."

As I considered these false conclusions, it became clear the reason this file was pulled: To remind me I've been down this road before and it yielded nothing but an empty basket and a bushel of tears.

Here's the thing:

Wherever I am at, there's an egg at my feet, waiting to be picked up and not stepped over. It might look like all the rest, but it's not. It is meant for me and it's meant to be opened.

No matter how random/thankless/mundane/temporary/inconsequential/AVERAGE/painful/
expected/simple/challenging it may appear to be, if I pry it open, God in His good time, will uncover a nugget of gold nestled deep within for me to add to my awareness of what He's made me for. As I keep walking, slowly but surely, I'll pick up other mostly unremarkable eggs along the way, each pertaining their own weight in gold...and eventually, when my time on this side of Heaven is complete, I'll have an imperfect, but solid golden egg.

The not-so-secret is these nuggets are rarely laid out in the open or nestled among popular opinion, bestselling pages or staged platforms. They aren't prizes to be won, they are gradual rewards for seeking and finding, especially when it's just God watching. They are nestled deep down in daily relationships and personal encounters...both those between God and I and the people He's placed in my life to love, whether as a mother or a stranger, a neighbor or a customer, a friend or a foe.

The truth is, no matter where we are at or how hopeless or haphazard it feels, there is a little piece of a golden egg at our feet, a nugget of great value waiting to be added to our understanding who we are, not what we do or have to prove.

All that's required is simply picking it up and trusting it is more than enough for now.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Mainely Real Life

My hand gripped the arm rest, legs stiffened themselves against the floor and the force of gravity pushed my head against my head rest as our aging minivan came to a screeching halt along the shoulder of yet another stretch of road. As our brakes smoked, the stand-still sent a shock of silence over the occupants. My husband's seat belt clicked, he left his post behind the steering wheel and slid open the side door.


Five small noggins nod without a word. Van door slams. Husband resumes his position in the driver's seat. I massage my neck and sigh deeply as we merge back into traffic. I handed him his ear protection and we continued.

And this was only five hours into a twelve hour trip (which we broke up into an overnight) to our now-annual trip to majestic Maine, Vacationland.  Along with all the suitcases, water shoes and bug repellent, I had also packed my expectations that the simplified, lake-side change of pace in the great out-of-doors would be tonic for what ailed our children, a case of chronic conflict. I had high hopes the state would live up to it's motto in a very personal way..."The Way Life Should Be".

We all have our battles that we're fighting from one time to another and I have come to surmise that the Summer of 2016 will go down in the Miller annals as "The Summer of Sibling Unrest".

I mean, it's not NON-STOP. They do pause to sleep. And when they're not together. Sometimes, during a blue moon, if they all want to go the same place, do the same thing, they harmoniously work together to attempt a successful outcome, proving to their parents that they are capable. I keep telling them that they love each other and will always be there for each other, knowing that deep, deep, deep, deep down they do and they will.

A week into our time in the most glorious state in all the land, Maine had still not worked it magic. We were still pulling over on day trips still hearing bickering from sun up 'til sun down over THE DUMBEST STUFF ("I called dibs to hold the watermelon and he took it from me!")  and I honestly didn't know if I wanted to stay the extra few days we were slated to stay. On top of Cadillac Mountain, I forced them to hold hands so I could take a picture of our opposite realty. They were so pleased as is obvious:

We woke up on Day 8 and decided to take the children on a redemptive hike to a remote Indian reservation leading to a spectacular lake, a relatively simple hike that we had turned into a three hour ordeal of bug-biting misery last year when we took a wrong turn. We unloaded, asking everyone to be very quiet, as it was likely we could see a moose along the trail and we wanted to enjoy hearing all the sounds of the forest. Two minutes into the hike, there was already discord over mosquito nets and whose walking stick was better. Five minutes into it, as we reached the fork on the trail the sounds bickering were rising and I was done. Turning around, I put up my hand and commanded everyone to halt. I'll spare you the entire lecture, except for this last part.....

".....If I hear ONE MORE NEGATIVE WORD from ANY of you, ALL of you will automatically be enrolled in an hour-long lecture taught by yours truly here. Instead of roasting marshmallows around the campfire or watching a movie, you will enjoy 60 minutes of hearing your mother's voice lecturing you about peace and love and kindness and charity. You will have to take notes. There will be no snacks and no bathroom breaks. YOU DECIDE."

Now, I am going to give you a visual of what I looked like as I barked out these words and you can see that I have two, maybe three years until they would laugh me up and down the mountain. (Lest you are staring in envy at my head-gear, my husband so generously lent it to me to repel the mosquitoes. It's safe to say no living creature was tempted to nibble at my neck, including the owner of neck-flap wonder.)

Even now, I am pretty sure there were a few eye rolls coming from the middle of the pack, but I let them go. Needless to say, the threat of hearing my voice droning on during prime evening hours afforded us an enjoyable family hike that ended at Endless Lake, which is where Heaven and Earth touch.

After that hike, things seems to take a turn for the better, as they often have in the past in this setting. There was still the bickering, but it came in smaller batches. Maine had worked it's magic yet again. The glimpses of sibling harmony gave us hope for the future. At one point, they all started singing Don William's "You're My Best Friend" in unison, and we thought we had been transported into another realm. Curt and I overly praised them for the sound of music, which we much preferred to the usual. I stopped short of sewing the cabin curtains into play frocks. 

And then we came back home.

Reality was waiting for us at the doorstep (hello ant infestation!) and we all picked up right where we left off. And that's ok because I have come to accept this as a season, as part and parcel of having five strong-willed children in close age proximity and also because school starts up again in nineteen days and twelve hours (not that I'm counting).

I have no, none, zilch, nada Pinterest/Family Magazine/Parenting Forum-worthy list of suggestions in how to deal with this...and quite frankly, I'm too tired to care to find new and creative ways to help them work through their sibling stress. It's just the stuff of LIFE as an imperfect human living with other imperfect humans. I'm just going to hold onto and highlight the beautiful moments and memories as we keep moving forward, sometimes hitting the rumble strips, sometimes stopping to regroup and always remembering we've got a (really) good thing going overall. We're never going to reach a plateau of perfection, so we might as well lean into the grace and goodness of God that covers our multitude of sins. Each and every (long or lovely) day.

If you're interested, here are a few of my favorite pictures from our time in Maine. Thanks for taking time to stop by!

Creeks always bring out the best in our crew. Team CAN happen!

Me and my girls at Moosehead Lake

A little blueberry something to cheer on the mama.

My favorite form of escape. 

The awkward, half-hearted "hug"

Lobstah lovers.

My dream family vehicle. Have already looked on Ebay. No luck.

"Sleeping Queens"...a new family favorite. Best 8.99 spent on Amazon.

Eastport. My favorite little coastal town in Maine. Teddy and Eleanor used to frequent the town, and I
am trying to convince my husband I could withstand the winters here. 

Always fishing. Always setting new records.

My good man. Overseer. Leader. Van Puller-Over.

Diva Hikers. "We can't go on". 

The Millers

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Serenity How.

Setting the Scene.
(How Things Appear)

I submit to you the two pictures I posted on Instagram today,
this the first half day of Summer Break 2016:

As it appears, and as it is, we are two long-time friends in our late thirties, christening the good 'ole summertime with icy Starbucks coffee drinks, bright smiles and a neck-up selfie taken from on high (on purpose and thanks to my extraordinarily long appendages). The second picture involves our two cuties who share the same first name and who played so sweetly together.

All in all, these pictures, while genuinely happy, show nothing of what really went down the first four hours of Summer Break 2016.

Behind The Scenes. 
(what really went down)

Janelle and I share a long history and I love her so much. Since we've had children, I've always had a convincing suspicion she's done a much better job at producing well-mannered, quiet and peace loving children, even though are families aren't around each other enough to either confirm or deny it. We now reside in the same school district, and although our children are in different elementary schools within that district, our children all had half-day last days. Being quite comfortable in our friendship, I had suggested celebrating the last day of school at their perfectly adorable backyard pool. She graciously welcomed the idea and we exchanged texts declaring our anticipation for this time together. I wrote her "my children will be over the moon about this!".

After savoring every blessed second of school-time peace today, the children burst through my reverie at approximately 1:30pm EST and I welcomed them with open arms, exclaiming the great news that we would be celebrating the completion of another school year at the pool of our dear friends. Cheers erupted and everyone eagerly ditched their backpacks in exchange for their swim gear. They were, indeed, over the moon.

Barely ten minutes into the drive, I realized it was a full moon they were jumping over after suggesting a stop at Target for a few new beach towels and flip flops, since I could only find a few thread-bare towels and an odd number of sandals.

"MOM! Come on! That's no way to start summer break by dragging us into a store!"

"Yea! He's right! Go when it's just you!"

Oh. I see. {Grips steering wheel tightly}

PARDON ME for infringing on this school ending-celebration I thought up and am driving you too! How very RUDE of me.

I should have known this would be the last time they agreed on anything. These complaints ushered in a downhill slope of intense fighting between all peoples located in the middle and back sections of the 2007 Toyota Sienna. At one point, I dramatically pulled my phone from it's purse and loudly called upon Siri for assistance:

The request provided a lull in the arguing and I took the opportunity to launch into the now-yearly "I Want To Have A Great Summer As A Family But It's Up To You" speech (from which no one has ever had a come-to-Jesus moment).

As our sexy van turned onto the road of our destination, I told them this (because I somehow believed this to be true):

"These children whom we are visiting are VERY NICE, PEACE-LOVING PEOPLE. They are not used to fighting and if they see five hooligans spilling out into their pool who are fighting and full of unkindness, they will be VERY SCARED. SO BE NICE AND BE CALM!!! OR WE WILL NOT BE INVITED BACK AND WILL BE NAPPING THE REST OF THE SUMMER AFTERNOONS!!!!!"


I walked up to my beautiful friend whose voice is as welcoming as her hug. I tried to appear more up-beat about the the new summer freedom (read: lack of peace & quiet) than I felt and without skipping a beat she clipped, "Come on in...don't mind the child in the gazebo. One hour in, and we're already on our first time-out."

Immediately, I loved her even more and felt my body relax (including the belly under my tankini I was trying to suck in).

Within minutes, our children were splishing and a'splashing. It felt like the good old summertime we wanted for our children whom we love. We snapped the above shot of ourselves, with me  invisibly blocking out the sound of my son repeatedly whining about having to share a large inner-tube with his twin brother (life is SO HARD, Johnny, I KNOW!). We commented on our daughters playing so sweetly together, one older Annie  pretending with the younger Annie.

And then, the sound of a child panicked, choking on pool water ceasing all frivolity...and when he could finally talk, accusing his little brother of trying to "drown" him.  It was one of THEM. Not us. I was shocked (and I won't lie: relieved). My children stood around the pool with dripping crotches and confused expressions on their faces as they surveyed the scene. They had just been told these were a peace-loving, harmony-abiding people group they were visiting, but all evidence was currently to the contrary. The turf we were on felt very familiar. Like...ours.

It appeared we were all indigenous creatures from the same land, all belonging to an imperfect sect called HUMAN BEINGS.


We had moments of fun and moments of frustration. Life is a messy imbalance of "and's" and we're wise to allow both sides to co-exist. We have all of eternity to experience perfect. Here on Earth, it's a whole lot of balancing two uneven sides.

Janelle and I, even with our different family dynamics, were able to share the knowing of what it's like to be an imperfect human raising and loving and learning to discipline (smaller) imperfect humans. Against the beauty of a carefree summer day, we felt the heaviness of our human condition. And under a pool-side umbrella, we came up with no answers and plenty of empathy. We sliced up a big watermelon and went on with the afternoon because what else could we do? We're only human and sometimes consequences must wait while we figure out the next step.

Whether you're a person weighing in on a gorilla controversy or one looking over your neighbor's fence and hoping she's not judging you as she peers over on your side, or driving to the pool belong to a family you perceive as much more peace-loving than your own warring tribe,  KNOW THIS:

We are all human. We all have our battles.

Our perceptions are just that: perceptions, assumptions...not reality.

The truth remains:

whether we're good at covering it up or assuming incorrectly (my default!).

This is why when we are looking for serenity-in summer, or any other season, the only way we'll begin to find it, is when we acknowledge and embrace the truth we are not alone in the struggle to live and love well.

This is how serenity starts.

We're all in this together. 

Summer-on, my friend.


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