all for love

It’s eight in the morning and I am sitting on the porch. I fell asleep last night thinking about my blog and woke up this morning thinking about my blog. I’m writing this on the verge of tears, but I must write. Something about the nakedness of it all is giving me anxiety…….I share my heart here, I always have. There are some things too painful to share, and that’s okay. I understand that, now.

I am healing. I am so in love with my life; being a mama, being a wife, being a friend, being a woman, but most of all I am learning to love simply being myself. We are allowed, and indeed it is necessary, to put ourselves first. Not in a selfish way, of course. However, I have learned that it is quite selfish to put others first to an extent that I am neglected and suffer because of it. For so long now I have done this. And wondered why I felt so “off”. Why I couldn’t quite feel my best while pouring all of myself into my people and work. Why it (life) felt a little “wrong”.

There are many reasons why a person can become mentally and emotionally unhealthy, it’s often a slow journey there, but finding oneself in an unhealthy state doesn’t matter as much as the subsequent desire to be well. Oh God, how I want to be well. This desire fuels me onward and only recently I have discovered that in my instance, and in most instances, it is possible to find mental wellbeing. In fact, this healing for me is happening now. The hurts and pain cannot be forgotten, but they can be processed, with help from friends. The brain is amazing, God made it that way, “and it was very good” (Genesis). And I realize that it’s not easy and sometimes not even possible to the extent that one might wish. Certainly, perfection is never possible, but improvement in any area of life is my highest goal.

Yes, I thought about blogging and then as I sat down with my computer just a moment ago, I found myself starting to cry. I was feeling fear about opening up. But what made me proceed, was the urge to lovingly give. I know my blog is a delight to others, because you told me (thank you, sweet precious friends). I know in this small blogging-way, I even find a bit of my true self whilst writing and posting photos. I know that the spirit in which I share is the spirit of “take this gift, it’s from me, to you.” I truly love each person who comes here to read and share a moment or two, with me and my words.

But be careful of words. The actions of a person are much more telling that the words they say. I pray that my work here (which seems more like play) never hurts, but only serves to love.

That being said, guess what?

photo by Tia Leigh Photography

Grace and Brogan got married!
on June 12

It was a beautiful, magical, wondrous day.

I’ll tell you all about it, as soon as I can.

Tomorrow we travel to Jekyll for the rest of the summer but I plan to be blogging throughout.

Thank you for mercifully listening and for being here. If you would like to email me at any time the address is goodtobehome76@gmail.com. I love your comments here, as well, please be advised that they go to “pending” until I approve them. Thank you my dears.

You are loved.

~Shanda

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. 1Cor13

a bridal shower, of sorts

Oh covid. Changes everything, doesn’t it?

I mentioned a few posts back that my daughter Grace is engaged to be married this coming June 12. We have been busy making plans and on Friday we were intending to drive five hours to her (she’s in Pennsylvania, a senior in college) so that we could do the following:

  1. and by we, I mean myself, my husband Rich, my sister Amanda, her daughter Naomi, my son’s fiancé Brittnee, and my daughter Sarah.
  2. check into the hotel, where we had reserved two entire suites so we had plenty of room.
  3. get Grace from college so she could be with us for the weekend.
  4. go to my brother David and his wife Ann’s house to visit
  5. go out to eat with them, adults only, while the girls watched a movie at their house
  6. go back to hotel to sleep
  7. go back to David and Ann’s for more visiting, and breakfast
  8. leave from there to drive 2 hours to a bridal salon that Grace’s fiancé’s grandmother used to own, which still contains some of the dresses she had stocked there herself.
  9. spend time supporting Grace as she tried on dresses and hopefully find one
  10. then go back to the hotel
  11. church with Grace and Brogan, and my best friend Joanna, on Sunday morning
  12. bridal shower for her on Sunday afternoon

I was a little anxious about these plans because of the sheer magnitude of them. These were plans upon plans and more plans. However, I went through the week trying not to think much about all that we wanted to do, and instead, just took things one day at a time, one event at a time, one chore, one afternoon, and sometimes one hour, at a time. Also, maintaining a sense of flexibility and humor is a great help.

Well, then we got word that the bridal shower was now going to be a “drive through” shower because of Covid.

Then, we got word that the Bridal shower was being cancelled entirely because of Covid and the desire to keep people safe.

And THEN, on Thursday, the day before we were supposed to leave for this adventure, Grace called to tell us that there was Covid in her dorm, Covid elsewhere on campus, and she herself had a “sore throat but it wasn’t that bad and it already went away.” Her Dad and I talked about what to do. She wasn’t able to get a rapid covid test until the next day and if we waited until then we would lose our deposit on the hotel rooms. We DID want very badly to be there for our daughter, as it was an important weekend for her. We DID NOT want to drive all that way and then end up not being able to do anything. We also felt there was a slight but very real chance we ourselves could get the virus and then what would we do (manage, but still). We talked to mom and dad and they helped us with the hard but sensible decision to stay home.

Grace was on her own. But wait, noooooooooo………that’s not true, because she never was and never will be on her own. God in His love and kindness arranged the weekend for her ahead of time, and He knew that she would be just fine. She had her rapid-Covid test done (which was negative!!) and with relief, she was able to continue with her dress shopping. She’s tired today, yes, but on Saturday, with her mom and dad and (some) siblings watching and involved through a zoom meeting (!!!!!) she found the most beautiful wedding dress of her dreams. Brogan’s loving and capable Grandmother helped her each moment. And then today she was taken out to lunch at a pretty club by Brogan’s family and given some lovely gifts.

It was a great lesson for us, because yes as parents we have great responsibility for each of our children and no one can take our place in their lives, but at the same time, we are not so important that we can’t step back and let go when absolutely necessary, and watch them handle life on their own, with God’s help and with the help of friends and sometimes even strangers. Truly there is no need to be anxious, only expectant.

Grace is being showered with encouragement and love (a bridal shower, of sorts) in a variety of ways. As her mama I see it clearly, and I’m sure there are a lot more stories she could tell me. How could we keep from smiling?

We wish we could have been there in person, but really, it did work out beautifully.

We all have stories like this we could tell. Isn’t it encouraging?

This is the moment that Sarah was waiting for. The moment she found out that she was going to be asked by her big sister to be in her wedding as her “Junior Maid of Honor”.

“I will cause showers to come down
in their season;
they will be showers of blessing.”

very good

This morning Rich sent me out of the room. He had a call and told me to go. I was so shocked, that I went. I left the room and said “You guys, Dad just kicked me out of the room,” and they didn’t care. They said, “He has an important call.” Humph. More like, “He has an important call and doesn’t trust my mouth.” It’s always very tempting for me, and I have a very hard time staying quiet. I try so hard that when a sound DOES come out, it’s not good. So he is very smart to send me away………and thus, I am amusing myself here, in a different way; blogging.

I had my stuff with me, the stuff I carry from place to place; my book, my notebook, my pen, and my phone. I met up with Seth. He had a question to ask me; “Mom, is Grace getting married THIS year?” I took a deep breath and when I said, “Yes, Seth,” he quietly and slowly walked out of the back door to the screened in porch. He just stood there, looking at the sea. “What’s wrong with Seth?” asked Sarah. “He’s sad because he’s losing his sister.”

It’s been a very quiet morning, all because my energizer bunny is sad.

Ya know, I spend all this time (24 years) getting the family to bond in tight love, and moments like this are very rewarding. We love each other here. It’s all so clear to me this morning.

Now, David shows his love in another way; bitter sarcasm and pointed disapproval. He also doesn’t want Grace to get married (this year, or ever). No matter how many times I said, “She’s HAPPY, David, she’s VERY HAPPY.” and no matter how many times his father says, “You’ll never think ANYONE is good enough for our Grace, Davy” he still hasn’t come to grips. Of course, it’s only been a few days now…….

Yes, our dear Grace, at the young and tender age of 21, is now engaged to be married to a Most Wonderful young man, who already fits right into this family (and from what I hear, Grace fits into his, as well). I remember years ago, when Grace was small (er), she sighed and said “I just wish I had someone I could talk to as much as I want”.

Brogan.

He’s the someone.

I have observed and seen and noted; they have NO trouble talking to each other….. and talking…. and talking.

She found him.

But, that’s just one of the reasons why.

Because if they both lost their voices, there are always books, and writing, and hiking, and cooking, and playing music and gazing into each others eyes and kissing……….and so on, and so forth.

Grace is so happy she glows, her eyes twinkle, she is exceedingly bright and chipper, everlastingly smiling, and “it is very good”. (Genesis 1:31)

Thank you, Jesus. You did it again.

“Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father who created all the lights in the heavens. He is always the same and never makes dark shadows by changing.” James 1:17

it’s a love without end

Dearest Grace of mine,

We miss you. The house is not the same with everyone here and you so far away at college. I’ve often said that I am so blessed and satisfied with you children, that even if God just gave me YOU, I would have a heart overflowing with gratitude. I say this so that you know I deeply cherish YOU specifically, individually, you aren’t just the “third of seven”, you are my one and only Grace Lillian. My daughter, my friend. It’s my joy to love and care for you, and the rewards you give in return, just by being your own wonderful self, are uncountable.

When I think back, I remember a small pregnancy (my tummy always measured small with you & a lady at church never even realized I was going to have another baby until she saw the birth announcement in the bulletin, she wrote me a note saying “where were you hiding baby Grace?”), a small newborn (only 5 lbs, 13 oz), and a tiny girl (so petite, Grandma gently wondered in every conversation if I was “feeding you enough”—-I was!! of course I was)!

It’s no wonder the quote, “And though she be but little, she is fierce.” reminds me of you. You have a zest for life and seem to be tireless with all the things you take responsibility for, and you never give up on the things you know need to be done. (this is sometimes annoying).

You have made a difference in numerous lives, and I am thankful to God that you’ve made a difference in mine. I learn just as much from you as you do from me. I am honored to take the things I see in you and “keep them in my heart” and I thoroughly believe that God gave me you and your siblings because He knew I could learn no other way what the realities of life with Him can truly be. I was born to be your mother.

I always have my birthday child in mind, when their special day comes around. My heart is bursting with thankfulness as I think about that priceless life I have been able to keep for just a little while. I take out the baby books and read the journals and the blogs about that special someone. I have been doing this lately in your honor, my November baby, here at home, studying your photos, your smile, thinking about the ways you have made your way through life so far, seeing the little signs of you all around the house. I took out the journal I kept from when I was a very young mom, pregnant for you, while caring for a 2 year old Jacob, and a one year old Ethan and read it, relished it, feeling like it was yesterday, amazed.

Later that day, your Dad sat on the couch next to me. The diary was still on the coffee table and I considered…….He’s never read my private journals, he knows they are mine and he respects that, I never thought to offer them to him. They are my own ramblings and scratchings of daily life, but I thought “maybe he would enjoy a glimpse back in time” so I handed him the book………

He sat and read with an amusement and interest I have never seen him have over the written word. “This is more interesting than a History book,” he said. He laughed at the antics of the boys, and my funny remarks about their mischief. He was truly disappointed in the times he would turn the page and find that “four years have passed”.

He read a lot of it out loud to us, laughing to tears, but the tears that came when he got to this part showed how much his little girl means to him:

“Grace is four years, five months. She’s starting Kindergarten this fall. Her hair is down her back, she wants to grow it out. She’s very sweet and I enjoy watching her and her Daddy interact. She has her own room, collects Minnie Mouse, (sometimes we call her ‘Minnie’), she likes to play with her dolls, and adores her baby brother David.”

April 15 2004, shanda’s diary

His voice broke and tears rolled down his face. Sarah asked in wonder, “are you crying Dad?” and he (flat out lied) said, “no”. But he was, and for the rest of the journal he was sober and serious.

Life truly passes by quickly, and it’s okay. It’s the way God made life. It’s a blessing and a good thing that our days are numbered. “….so that we may grow in wisdom…”

Love is beautiful and what makes life worthwhile. (God IS love) We love you Grace, and want you to know we are here cheering you on in every messy-beautiful thing you do, good or bad, safe or unsafe. (preferably unsafe) *wink*

Happy birthday dearest girl.

friendship

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After a week, it was time to take dear Gracie back to college.  We didn’t have the adventures we thought we would have, but she was a comfort and a companion to me when her Dad was away and I was sick for days.  We headed back to Pennsylvania on Saturday afternoon.

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Always with a stop at Starbucks.  It’s a must for a road trip.

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On Sunday morning I got dressed up and went to church.  I had forgotten a Bible so I took the Gideon one out of the hotel room and I will cherish it forever as I had already read it the night before, and that morning as I ate breakfast in my room by myself.

“No good tree bears bad fruit.”  (that’s me!)

“The good person out of the good treasure of her heart produces good.” (that’s me by the grace of God!)

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“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be the daughter of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”

We hear a lot about the wrath of God, it was a “brought me to my knees” reminder that He is also good to the ungrateful and evil……….HE IS GOOD……

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My dear daughter.  So proud of her.

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Gracie between Mom 2 and Mom 1.  With moms like these she’s in a good place.  Always.

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Joanna and I left church together and went to lunch at a new place.  It was busy, exciting, alive, and bright, AND THEY SERVED ON FIESTAWARE!

We had to wait for a table but that was okay….we just walked back to the car and sat for a while talking like two soul-sisters do.

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My beautiful friend.  I love her so.

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she had chai, I had matcha

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The food was amazing!  Just the best.  And to sit and spend time together alone just the two of us was a gift from God.  I felt so very blessed.  And while we ate, I had a text from my dear mom wanting me to stop there on my way home….I felt even more wanted and loved….and texted Michael who said a quick and cheerful *YES* to helping me get the kids on the bus the next morning so I could stay a night at home*sweet*home with my parents.

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She pointed out the church she went to as a child.

Back at her house, she gave me a kitchen-tour and showed me her amazing new pantry.

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I got to linger over the pages of her Dawn-Journal.  Always inspired.

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And then, we went to a favorite antique store where I found a dear Periwinkle disc pitcher to take home with me!

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We were in the land of “The Office” and loved this quote which was up on the wall for our amusement.

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So thankful for a Jo in my life.

It’s one of the blessings that I will be forever humbled and grateful for.

Friendship.

 

when we’re together

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We watched a movie and matched socks.  Which, as you know, is a two-person-hour-long chore around here.

When the movie was half over she wanted to talk instead, so I pushed pause (and eventually turned it off); we can finish the movie another day.

We went upstairs and cleaned her bedroom.

“Cleaning is a good activity to do while you’re talking to someone else because you don’t even realize that you’re cleaning.” she said.  Take note.

Then we got dressed and went downtown to the thrift store.

She scored a July 21, 1969 edition of the Hartford Courant which had the headline “Man Walks on Moon” in bright blue on the front, plus a short stack of several more newspapers underneath.

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I was leaning against the kitchen island, on the computer searching for a photo of Sarah and her brother Ethan, when I glanced to my left and saw a most charming sight, of Grace in my red plaid jacket, reading her new very old newspaper.

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I got closer and bent my nose down to smell it, and then she did, too.

We’re two of a kind.

 

i just love a good story (but not this one)

The strangest thing happened yesterday.

One of my perfect children came home from school with a funny story to tell me.  It began this way:  “Mom.  Do you remember a while ago when I had you sign that form for Science?”  

Okay, so……I sign A LOT of forms.  And when I sign them I promptly forget about them.  Unless of course there is something I have to remember like a field trip, which in that case I run to my calendar right away and write it down because if I don’t I WILL forget about it promptly.

So I said to this child, “I think so?”  And he continued on with this amazing story about how he had the form in his backpack for a while and then when the day came that it was due to be handed in he couldn’t find it.  So the teacher said, “You’ll have to stay after school with me today.”  (in another word:  detention).

So then my perfect child went off to his next class and (he told me this) when he took out his folder for that class, out fell the missing form!  As soon as he could, he ran back to his teacher to hand it in.  Wow, that was close!  He almost got a detention!

I just love a great story, I laughed through the whole thing, believing every single word with my whole heart!

Later on, the perfect child told his dad the same story in the kitchen but my mean husband didn’t believe the story like I had!!  He was suspicious!  I jumped to my perfect child’s defense!  This child would NEVERRRRRRRRRR lie like this!  He wouldn’t even THINK of forging my signature!  Never!

Then, true to my nature, I promptly forgot the whole thing until this morning when I got the following email from his teacher:

Good Afternoon,

Last Monday students were given a form explaining some exciting STEAM work we have the opportunity to partake in over the next 2 months. Parents/students were asked to read and sign the form that they were informed of what this opportunity was all about, it was not a permission slip.  Students were asked to return the form on Friday, Dec 7.  ***** didn’t have his in on Friday.  ***** also didn’t have his form Monday or today.  He mentioned you had signed it but he couldn’t find it.  He came to me after 6th period with the form signed.  There is a copy attached.  It doesn’t appear to be your signature, but I thought I’d check with you.
I dearly wish I could show you the photo of the form with “my” signature written on it but the perfect child had the wherewithal to include our last name, so I cannot.  Suffice it to say it looked NOTHING like my beautiful signature!  It looked sort of the way I would have written it…….. when I was a little kid!
I could NOT believe it!  This child told me a story and I believed every word!  My mom instincts failed dreadfully.  I can usually determine truth from fiction just from a child’s face!  Honestly, there is still part of me deep in my heart that still believes him, so stay tuned!!
I contacted the teacher and my husband, both of whom have consequences to deliver.
Rich didn’t think any of it was funny, which is very ironic because he forged his Father’s signature all the time when he was growing up.  ALL the time.  Which actually gives me hope because if that little signature forger can grow up to be such a good man, I guess his son can, too.
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This past weekend Grace and Brittnee had their holiday concerts at college and Rich and I were not able to attend.  So I was delighted to receive some music clips, videos, and photos from Joanna AND my brother David!
Happy is the heart that can rely on family and friends to stand in the gap!

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I love this one of Joanna’s husband Steve with my brother, both with their amazing beards!!!!!

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My daughter Grace,  Brittnee (my son’s beautiful girlfriend & Grace’s BFF) and my BFF Joanna (who is also Grace’s second mother while she’s away at college!)  God is SO good.
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My beloved brother Dave, with dear sweet Grace.
One more thing before I go:
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Happy Birthday (yesterday) to Brittnee!
I’m so glad you’re in our lives.  You are a blessing.

it was a month ago…..

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Ask her what she craved and
she’d get a little frantic
about things like books,
the woods, music.
Plants and the seasons.
Also freedom.
~Charles Frazier

Grace turned nineteen on November 4.

When she was home from college for Thanksgiving break she said, “You didn’t blog about me on my birthday”.   So here I am, better late than never, with my sincerest apologies to you, dear Grace!

Grace was born in the very early hours of the morning all those years ago, our first daughter after two sons.  Born at 38 weeks, but so tiny that everyone stopped to admire her and call her “Peanut”, I delighted in being her mother.  I found a white bib that had a small peanut embroidered on it and of course I had to buy it for her and I bet it that bib is still here in a box somewhere along with many other keepsakes from that precious time.

She’s all grown up now and in the middle of her second year of college and doing very well.  She has her own dorm room this year which has been nice for her, but she keeps so busy she’s rarely in it except to do homework and sleep.

She’s healthy and strong, with lots of dear and close friends.

She loves to read and write, sing and play piano.  She loves to be useful.

I hadn’t taken many photos of her lately so when she was home for Thanksgiving we got the camera out for a couple of “Now You’re Nineteen” photos.  We were downtown that day for “small town shopping”.

The quotes are from Grace’s own personal collection of favorites.  (she has hundreds) ❤

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“Come, let us have some tea,
and continue to talk about happy things.”

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Don’t be so cool you can’t cry.
Don’t be so smart you can’t wonder.
Don’t be so set on your sunny days
That you can’t love the roll of the thunder.

He has made everything beautiful
in its time.   Ecclesiastes 3:11

 

 

“no days off”

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We all woke up this morning at 6 and couldn’t sleep anymore!  We don’t know why!

To break up the day we decided to go out together to first and foremost get chicken feed, and then do a little shopping, and have lunch.  I bought Sarah a cute dress, Seth some stylish sweatpants, myself some earrings, a vase, a liquid measuring cup for baking, and a couple of shirts, and Grace a brown bandana for her hair.  The tacos at Moe’s have gotten smaller but lunch was filling and delicious.  We listened to happy music on the way home.

David and Caleb are away at camp this week and Rich is on a business trip until Wednesday.

Grace went out for tea with a friend when we got home and we are having quiet time now because this evening is Seth’s first football practice for the season AND Sarah is doing cheerleading for the first time!  She’s nervously excited.

I am watching the Waltons and filling out their sports forms.  Mondays are always a “catch up on laundry” day and we’ll have chicken patties and veggies for dinner before we leave for practice later.

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My shirt says “no days off” and I wear it when I’m in a humorous mood because I didn’t buy it because I work out daily in the gym, I bought it because I’m a mom. And while it’s true that my current stage in life (“motherhood”) allows for almost no days off, I cannot complain as I constantly count my blessings, the first of which is that I get to be mom of these seven children of ours.  There are many busy and even chaotic moments in each day, but there are also many peaceful and quiet ones to recharge, like right now, while I’m blogging and watching TV……….or reading, petting the cats, scrapbooking, baking, walking, or taking off for a morning of shopping with the kids.

life is good and I’m glad I can flop on the couch in between laundry, cleaning, and dishes!

Happy Monday!

 

this is the sweet face of great relief

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“I feel like a huge burden that I’ve had since I was a child was just lifted off of me.”  

 

Here are the memories she doesn’t want to forget about learning to drive:

That time when her Dad had her drive around and around and around an empty parking lot at school backwards, this way and that way until she cried, and then he had her do it more.

The time she and I were going to the plant store and I didn’t tell her how long it was going to take to get there and she drove for an hour.

When she first really drove it was with her older brother Jacob and it was raining but she didn’t know how to turn on the wipers and when she did turn them on they went so fast she got nervous and asked Jacob for help.

She went to the H.S. to practice backing into parking spots and no one was there so her Dad got out of the car and walked laps while she practiced parking which was exactly what she needed…to figure it out on her own.

She had two college friends (April and Ryan) and Caleb and Kylee praying for her before her test this morning.

She and Caleb talked on the phone and went over traffic rules the morning of her test.  And he reminded her to turn on her lights and put on the emergency brake which were the two things she did wrong on her practice test last weekend.

To help them with their nerves, they had a movie going in the waiting room for the students about to test, and a box of munchkins for them to snack on, but she didn’t want to eat anything or watch anything …. but she did eat a munchkin because she felt she would be rude if she didn’t.  The movie playing was “Sing” and she was annoyed because she wanted to concentrate on her test but with the movie playing she started getting interested and watched it.

The songs she sang to herself while she waited for her test driver were, “Give me Oil in my Lamp” and “I love You, Lord”.

The man riding along to test was very nice; an elderly grandfather type.

She didn’t think she would do well, she didn’t think she would pass.

She and her dear friend Kylee both took their test on the same day and passed.  And when she walked in to the office to hand her paper sheet to the lady for her paper license the lady said, “Look at you, you little show off,”  because she got nothing marked wrong.

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She walked over to the garden center after her test to find me.

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