Geography

2020 was a booger.

I said booger instead of a string of curse words because I’ve been asking God to help me tame my tongue. There are days when I think the only way that will be accomplished is if He pulls it out. I have a flair for dirty words and I like to say them. So I’m working on that diligently.

So I chose the word booger, you can interject your word in if you think it’s more appropriate.

It was a booger way before October 17th, that date just put things in complete perspective. I wish now my biggest problem in life was wearing a mask and/or staying home. Perspective.

I keep saying, “I’ll be so glad when this year is over.” I’ll be glad when this year is a memory, an afterthought, dust.

This morning, as I was listening to a lesson on God’s word, the Holy Spirit smacked me around a little. He does that, you know. I liken it to that biff on the back of the head you got from an upper classman on the school bus. The unexpected flick that causes you to duck your head and brings tears to your eyes. Sometimes tears of pain, sometimes of humility.

When my kids were young, I would tell them to pick up their things. Socks, dishes, toys…whatever. And they would quickly pick it up, but instead of putting it where it went, they would just move it to another spot. I’d tell them, “That’s just geography.” All they did was make it travel from one location to the next but the mess was still there. Geography.

And then they had to do it right. Usually with an eye roll or a foot stomp, sometimes with mouthy words that brought out a Tracey Soden episode. But they still had to do it again, and sometimes again after that. Until it was right.

2020 has been a booger. And 2021 is so close now we can see the ball being raised.

But the challenges and the heartbreak will still be there on January 2. All the ‘fresh start’ I beg for is still going to be marred by the absence of my son.

So what do I do with that. That’s what woke me up this morning at 4:00. That’s what I’ve been chewing on. What now? Where from here?

I’ve picked up my sadness and depression and I just keep setting it down in different places. Moving it from obstacle to obstacle with no end in sight. It’s just geography.

God’s plan for me isn’t despair. I have suffered the greatest loss you can experience. I am not going to wonder around for 40 years looking for an answer. I have to pick my cross up and figure out what to do with it. Not because it’s a New Year. But because that’s what God expects me to do.

I know he will make a way for me. I know part of that is going to SUCK. It’s sucks right now. There are so many days I wake up and wish I hadn’t. Meals I cook that remind me of Kade, favorite foods that he would have asked for Ken to drop by on his way to work. Movies and tv series that I can’t bare to watch. The Stand series just dropped and I was so excited to talk to him and Kendall about it. He was in the middle of reading The Hobbit and I’ll never get to talk to him about it. I have an emptiness and I have all of this pain.

Like it or not, I’m going to drag that into this new year. The country is still in turmoil. Covid. Job loss and financial hardships. Fear and uncertainty. All of that is going to trudge right along behind us as 2020 becomes 2021.

But what are you going to do with it?

I know what I WANT to do with it. I have a plan. I have things I’ve resolved to do or not do. I do every year. I make a list…

Then tear it up about January 15th in defeat.

So this year my plans are to pray and listen. That’s it. Just those two things.

Then follow through with the help of the Holy Spirit. I don’t want to just keep picking all of this up and putting it down in a different spot. That’s just geography.

I don’t know if 2021 will be better in any of the areas we are struggling in. In fact, maybe it will get worse.

But in this chaos, there is opportunity. You can keep picking up the negative and laying them down where you must pick them up again.

Or

You can pick them up and listen to what God wants for you to do with them.

The hardship will still be there, but I have faith that peace will surround it. Hope will follow.

I have peace about Kade . I know where he is and that he is whole. My hope is that in my grief, something good comes of it.

And even though 2020 was full of so much heartbreak for so many, there was also incredible blessing.

May your 2021 be full of blessings. May your heartache turn to healing. May your peace and joy outshine your sadness. May your prayers be full of Thanksgiving.

But may your life be full of the Father and His Son and your companion, the Holy Spirit. No matter what year it is. Pick it up and put it where God directs you, then you won’t have to pick it up again.

That’s what new really is.

Christmas

We made the decision early on that Christmas would be super different this year because of the COVID situation. We decided to forgo the big, traditional gatherings we usually have.

We have several ‘Christmas’ days to accommodate everyone’s schedules. We chose a long time ago to be the ‘easy’ house when it came to when you could come and see us.

I had no idea how different this year would be. How difficult this year would be.

Even though we decided to keep our distance this year, we decided to go ahead and have our annual Pancakes and Pajamas party at Kyler’s house. This was the only time in the last few years that we were all able to be together at the same time. It was the last Christmas-time function that all except Kendall were there for.

I’ve been dreading this day. Just such a heaviness about us all being there without Kade. I woke up and there has just been a wet blanket on my whole morning.

Then someone said, “Things will just never be the same, this has broken your family”

And I got defensive.

It’s true. Things will never be the same. A hole has been torn in the fabric of our family. This has broken our family.

But we won’t stay broken. God promised me in His word. He has assured me that anything I’ve lost, anything that’s been taken, anything that has been unfair

He’s going to put that all back.

And maybe not here, but absolutely there.

I know he will give me things daily to be thankful about and joyful over.

But I have to expect them, then watch for them. Expectation is faith. I have the expectation of God’s work in my life, which shows Him I have faith in Him.

I’ve been working really hard on what I allow my mind to dwell on. I pray about that more than anything right now. What sets up a tent in my brain. Thoughts lead to emotion. There has to be a thought before there is an emotion. So I’m constantly careful about what’s happening up there.

So I’ve let dread take hold for a few days. Because of all the ‘hole’. And this morning was pretty rough.

Then I was doing my hair and God started talking to me. Or rather, I began listening. I got 28 Christmases with my son. They were filled with fun and joy and love and stress and orneriness and yelling and laughing and so much wonderful. We are all so close and we all have such a good time together.

I want that to all continue for the rest of us.

And I know I’ll not have my son back here, but I also know God will bless me so abundantly and He will send things to me to lessen this blow. He will treat me with gentleness and soothe my heart and soul.

So I’m changing the way I’m looking at today. We will all still get to spend the day together, and we have added touches to ensure Kade is with us in spirit. I thank God on my knees every day that I still have so much. Many don’t.

I will be looking for blessings today. Things that I know were sent to me to make me smile and have a moment of just pure joy.

Continue praying for all of us. Your intercession is something we simply must have.

Merry Christmas from the Soden Family. Thank you for all so many of you have done these last two months. It speaks so highly of everyone’s feelings about our sweet Nathan Kade Soden.

Repeat the sounding joy 🌲

and it doesn’t really feel like Christmas at all…..

Today has been a bad day. I have bad days a lot, but today has been a doozy. 😳

Yesterday I finally started Christmas shopping. I can’t buy for Kade this year, so we need to camp out there a minute.

I was sending out a group text and because I have so many kids and almost kids, I always do it by age. Kendall, Kade, Kennedy, Kyler, Belle. Then I add on Katelyn and Whitney and Ethan. I’ve just always done it like this.

I was making Christmas lists, because that’s what I do. Again, by age and with significant others and children.

I’m trying to make menus for our parties and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I list everyone’s favorites, they each have an “I want…..!!!” And they all get it.

This year, each step, each list, each present

There’s this HOLE

I can’t fill it in, it’s not finished being dug up yet, I don’t think

I don’t want to do it differently so it’ll be easier. It won’t be easier just because we scrambled things up differently this year.

I’m super angry today. I’ve been reading a lot and talking to a few close friends who have had to go through this hell and I know now that I’m allowed to be mad. Thank God, cos I am.

I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to not have him here. It makes me almost insane some times. I don’t know what to do with all of the emotions.

I started a new thing yesterday, journaling in an app about my “pain number” several times a day. It’s too soon for that I think, because I just want to throw my phone. Seems like a good indication I’m not there yet.

What I’m slowly feeling today, is that my focus is on the secular part of Christmas. I have felt a not-so-gentle nudge all afternoon to turn my focus to Jesus and what his birth meant for me.

So I’m taking a hot bath and I’m going to scramble some eggs and I’m going to settle back into reading the gospels. Kennedy, Belle and I had a plan to read Luke this month and I’ve been letting myself get so overwhelmed that we haven’t even started. I’m going to tonight.

Focus on what counts, the rest is just a distraction from your loved ones and the One who loves you.

I’m sure this is why I’ve lost my footing, I’m not seated next to “the reason for the season” (I absolutely hate when people say that 🙄😉)

Writing this has calmed me down and sometimes just saying the things you know, but have forgotten or ignored, will change what your heart can stand.

I have found out a heart can be so broken you don’t think you’ll survive it. I thought I knew heartache, I didn’t.

But.

“Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth again you will bring me up” Psalms 71:20

Pray for me. Pray for my other children. Pray for their father and step-father.

Reflect on your children. I wish my biggest problem was what I couldn’t get Kade for Christmas.

Search for what matters ❤️

Hope In Incredible Loss

When I found out about Kade, when they said the words, “This is not survivable”, I passed out. I don’t remember anything between those anguishing words and being on the hospital floor, a nurse putting a pillow under my head and someone, seemingly far off, asking me if I knew my name. I remember saying, “Well yes, it’s Tracey” then the anguish flooded back in and I remember wishing for unconsciousness again.

Then I started praying and touching my boy. I ran my hands all over him. I uncovered his feet so I could rub them. I finally, at my husband’s insistence, sat in a chair that had been pulled up next to his bed and I laid across his shoulder and stroked the part of his hair that had escaped the bandage engulfing his head.

At this point, I’m sure you’re imagining some sort of hysteria happening. There was none. I talked to God. I silently begged and bargained with God. However, I felt the presence of God so heavy on my heart and I knew in all certainty that Kade was going to leave us. I heard no thunderous voice from Heaven, but the Holy Spirit communicated very clearly with me on this matter. Once God told me that he was taking Kade, I had this supernatural peace that I cannot even hope to explain.

I kept that incredible sense of peace for about two weeks. I kept saying, “This is the craziest thing! I know where Kade is, I know he’s not hurting anymore. He’s whole and perfect.” And I was HAPPY for Kade. He was a tormented person, he had been his whole life. That was over for Kade. He wouldn’t ever suffer again. The peace from that was overwhelming. Kade was peaceful for the first time, probably ever. I have often said, that Kade came out scared and mad and stayed that way. I even said it facetiously at times. To HIM! 🙄😂 But it was a hard truth that we all had to deal with. Kade was always unsettled and he was now settled. And I had this warm blanket of well-being surrounding my heart and soul and I was good.

And then….. the enemy went to work.

It started Halloween night. We were taking the grandchildren around to the trunk-or-treats in town and we passed the graveyard.

Bill had bought a beautiful bench for us to sit on when we visited Kade. We took all of the flowers from the graveyard except those sent by his graduating class. They were school colors, red and white, and the bouquet was huge. It was standing where his headstone would eventually be.

And I looked over, and for the first time, I thought, “My son is dead and that’s where he is buried” 

It knocked the wind out of me. I was sitting in the car with the kids and I didn’t want to spoil the fun the littles were having so I just kept swallowing and breathing.

The following two weeks have been a living hell. The devil went to work in overdrive. I have been in a constant stream of prayer day and night.

I began to cry. I had cried at the beginning, of course. But not like most would imagine. The girls would say to me, “You’re being so calm, it’s scaring us.” I would talk to them about this peace I had and I was so amazed and thankful and quiet in my soul. That seemed to be gone. It left as quickly as it came. At least, that’s what I thought.

I began to have awful thoughts. I began to question if Kade indeed, went to Heaven. I was concentrating wholly on his absence. How horrible the ache of missing him was. Kade and I were very close, as I am with all of my children. But of the three boys, Kade was the one who I talked to every day, several times a day. We talked each morning while he was getting his workday started. We talked about what he was cooking and we FaceTimed in the grocery store so he could plan meals and ask advice on what to get. We FaceTimed when he was cooking, or when his dog, Barlow was being cute. He called me to tell me what he and Elizabeth were planning for the weekend. We talked when he was sick, or happy, or mad, or sad. Our days were intertwined. It has always been like that with us. And what a blessing for me to have now. Except I couldn’t see the blessing, just the inconceivable void that was there now. A black hole of despair had taken over and I was drowning it.

Then guilt set in. I felt guilty that I was having such a horrible time. My peace was gone. The enemy told me if I had more faith, I wouldn’t be this inconsolable. I felt my peace was gone because I didn’t believe enough. I was ashamed of myself for crying all the time, for not wanting to do anything but sleep. Shame or no shame, that’s what I started doing. Napping became an escape from the horrors that faced me when I was awake.

I couldn’t watch tv, or listen to music, or read. I didn’t want to cook or clean. And all of this sounds normal, considering the circumstances and the depression surrounding the loss of a loved one. But I couldn’t see that. I saw failure. My faith had left me, that’s where my hangnail was. I was doing something wrong or I’d still feel that peace-honey that I’d been bathing in.

I finally broke down a few nights ago and trusted Ken with my secrets. The guilty thoughts I’d been shamefully hiding. I sobbed and broke all apart inside. I cried for my horrid thoughts and for the absence of a human whom God had formed inside of me.

Ken lovingly scolded me. He talked to me for probably an hour and I set quietly, except for tearful hiccups that snuck out, and listened.

You see, Ken is in a grossly unique position that, he’s been here before. His brother’s son died in much the same way as Kade, then five months later his other son was taken too. Both of their children, in five months. And Ken spent years putting their pieces back together. It’s this strange mixture of blessing and breaking. Good from bad. He knew what to say and how to say it because he’d been through this horror show before. I have this weird mixture of hating so much that these people I love so much had to endure this kind of agony and a thankfulness that Ken knew how to handle it because he’d had to endure it. I mean, how can you be thankful for something so awful, and maybe that’s not even the word I mean to use. But God knew. It’s just another orchestrated move in the life of Ken and Tracey. The masterful way our Savior works to save us is inconceivable, at best.

It took a few days, but I started questioning the feelings I had been having. I asked myself over and over, does this align with what God says, or is this a lie from the enemy.

I’ve pushed myself to do things I do not want to do. I have watched lessons, daily, from one of several spiritual teachers that I follow. I read their books and worked in their study materials. I had stopped all of that. So I got on my phone yesterday and searched for something to watch. More often than not, God drops something in my lap. If I’m watching it, no matter how recent or not it is, it’s something I need. So, of course, yesterday, God lovingly chose something just for me. It was about grieving and loneliness.

It was such a spiritual eye-opening on grief. The crust on the biscuit is, I’m going to grieve, I am going to feel bone crushing loss and that’s so okay. God designed us to love, and losing love is sad. “Jesus wept”, the shortest verse in the Bible. I’ve heard that my whole life, we learned that as kids in Bible class. Imagine that, though. Fully God. Fully human. He felt the sadness of losing Lazarus all while assuredly knowing He was getting ready to raise Lazarus from the dead. He wept. The key in this story is, He had hope.

That’s what I lost. I didn’t lose my peace, or my faith or the knowing. I lost hope. I stopped focusing on God and started believing Satan’s lies and got swallowed up in doubt and hopelessness.

My grief isn’t lack of faith, it’s loss. My doubts are lies from an enemy who wants to steal my joy. My loss was lost in hopelessness.

Yesterday I took my hope back. Now look, I still cried a lot yesterday. A lot. But it was grief of Kade being gone. Then I started purposefully thinking about what it will be like when I see him again. I started purposefully thinking about who he is with. I started purposefully focusing on the truth of his healed spirit. Of his whole soul. I am trying to change my focus to one of hope rather than hopelessness.

I feel better. I’m still so sad, unless you’ve gone through something like this, you won’t understand the depths of my sadness. But I’m praying constantly that my sadness doesn’t get rooted in despair. That’s where we get stuck.

I’ve said before, God was preparing me for this. He anointed my soul with the peace that passes all understanding for a while, and I didn’t have to do anything but receive it.

Now it’s time for me to pick up my end again. To build my strength with Him. It’s time to work at it again. It just took a bit of time to get my focus back and get rid of my shame. Thank God, I mean, Thank God, He has prepared me for hearing Him. I’m thankful for all the lessons I’ve had to learn to be able to go through something like this and not want to die too. Because I think all parents have that fleeting thought, some camp there. I’m not going to. I’m going to work as hard on that as I have anything in my life.

God has a purpose for me. He chose to allow this, He chose to take Kade instead of leaving Him. He is a sovereign God, so my faith tells me, He knows what He’s doing. And if I’m faithful, good will come from this. That won’t take away all of my pain, but it will dull it. Amen.

Kadey

I’ve never been a parent with my head in the sand. I was never a parent that blamed others for my children’s shortcomings and stuck-on-stupid moments. In fact, if you will ask my children, they will tell you that any time they were in trouble over something, I considered it ALL of their responsibility, not anyone else’s. I would tell them a thousand times over the years, “I’m not raising them, I’m raising you.” I was never one to tell my kids they couldn’t hang out with someone because they would “get them into trouble”. To me, that was just an excuse for bad behavior waiting to happen.

My children always had a house full of people. I knew things about your children that would have gotten them beat, but I beat them myself and sent them home and welcomed them back the next time. If you doubt any of this, you can ask Dillon Winemiller Allyson Laine Barnes Cody Gates or Max Hibbs. They have all been on the other end of my stick at one time or another. I didn’t ever let my children place blame for anything ignorant they did on anyone else. I made sure they knew, there was only one person they could control, and that was themselves. You are responsible for your own actions.

I also have been a suspicious parent. Much to my children’s consternation. Something would go terrible awry and they would try to blame someone else or get out of it by lying. What they didn’t understand then was, Billy Don Soden and I wrote a book of lies, so they couldn’t fool us very much. Sometimes they got in trouble even when it wasn’t them, my philosophy was, better a safe beating then no beating.


I have always kept a close eye on my children. I still do. If you know me at all, I don’t have to explain this.


I am saying all of this because I want to address a few things about Kade. There is a lot of talk, there always is. But I want him honored not pittied.


Kade was a happy person. I don’t know how many people said, “He always put a smile on my face”

Kade was also volatile. He went from pretty-stinkin-happy to I’m-gonna-kick-your-ass in about two seconds. He had some demons. It’s so hard to fathom, even as I write this, I find it hard to say, but Kade didn’t feel a lot of love. He was always like that, We all loved him so fiercely, he didn’t see it. He was always worried someone one was mad at him. He covered this part of him up with gruff. His heart was too big and he just felt so much all at one time. He didn’t know what to do with it.

Kade also drank too much. This was an issue in our family for a long time. He didn’t drink every day. He didn’t stay drunk from day til dark. But sometimes, he would start drinking and Hyde would take over. It was such an irrational thing, There was no reasoning with him about anything when he reached that point. He was just manic. He rarely got to this point, but it was a ride he couldn’t get off of. When he reached this point, he felt everything the hardest. Sad, mad, sorrow, guilt, shame. It was all so overwhelming to him. This is what kept me up at night. This is what I prayed hardest about. I prayed every day for God to take this demon from him. Kade prayed too. Then he would be ok. He would go on with his life and I kind of waited for the next time to not come.

Kade committed suicide. He did it. There is no getting around that fact at all. No matter how you want to dress it up, Kade killed himself. But Kade would have never done this in his right mind. He was drunk. Blind drunk. The one where there is no reasoning and he is madder than most of you can even hope to comprehend. The kind of drunk where he would feel so much anger that he didn’t know what to do with it. And now he can’t take it back.

Kade wouldn’t have done this to us. He wouldn’t have done it to his brothers, his sisters, his friends. He wouldn’t have put Elizabeth through this for anything. And he NEVER would have done this to me or to Bill. He was worried about me every day of his life. Not a day, not a few hours, went by that Kade didn’t check in and see that I was ok. He never would have done this sober.

But he wasn’t sober.

And here I am, writing this horror show down for the world to see.

Kade wasn’t an unhappy person. I don’t believe for a minute that he was contemplating suicide on any level at any time. He was drunk, irrational, scared of something that wasn’t even happening and decided to be dramatic to provoke a reaction. This is not the reaction he envisioned.

I know my children. I know when they are full of crap. Ask them or one of their friends, they will tell you story after story of crazy Momma T when they did something ignorant. This isn’t something a mental intervention could have stopped. Everyone keeps saying “I wish he would have talked to me”, the thing is, he did talk to you. He told you a big ol’ windy story and laughed and moved on. I don’t think this was preventable on an emotional level. This was an alcohol induced disaster. Kade needed help with drinking. He was an alcoholic. But Kade never would have done this intentionally.

And the thing is, if he had done this intentionally, I almost think I could cope better. If I thought that he was so depressed that he thought being dead was better, I could handle this better. I would know that he wanted this. And that would be so terrible. But this is worse. Because I don’t think in any recess of my heart and soul that this was the outcome he wanted. He would take it back in a minute. An ‘accident’. That word diminish the incredible weight of this. I can’t hardly take that he would be so mad at himself. There is where my struggle is. This is the nightmare for me. This is where the enemy steals all of my peace. Because I know Kade didn’t mean it.

Where there is peace, is in my faith. My kids are so worried about me. My health, my sanity.

When I was at the hospital with Kade, while we were waiting on Mid America to get there, I prayed….. God has been preparing me for this. I knew he was preparing me for something. My relationship has changed with him on such an incredible level in the last five years, I thought he wanted me to write a book. I mean, that’s what I thought my testimony was going to be. Imagine my surprise as I sit here today. I’m kinda pissed actually. I just wanted the book adventure, and I got this instead. But what that tells me is, His grace is sufficient for me. I talked to Kade, I held his hand and laid my head on his chest and listened to his heart. I got to hold him and love him and talk to him until I had said all the things. I told him I wasn’t mad. I told him I would be happy and I wouldn’t let this destroy me. I told him it was okay. So I will be okay. Because that’s how I will honor him. And I have been thanking God so much for letting me have that opportunity. So many don’t. What a gift that was.

Jesus loves me, this I know.

I know Kade is at peace. I know that he isn’t hurting. I know that he is sitting somewhere on a river bank that looks a whole lot like the bottoms. He is sitting there with Sam and Tyler, Hunter and Austin. They are all trying to get him to nail his lip to that board and he’s telling them that he’s pretty sure that’s not allowed in Heaven, then he grins and says, “Man, you’re so burnt, go find a freaking nail”

He’s okay now. I don’t have to worry anymore, I can’t tell you how calm my soul is. I think the kids think I’m all quiet and scary and I might be planning something crazy like stealing his body and putting it on a skateboard to drag around behind me. I mean, I am still Tracey. But I’m not in denial. I’m not repressing or compressing. He’s whole and I will see him again. And I can’t wait. I will miss him with every breath I take. My quietness is peace, not plotting.

I know I worship a sovereign God and he has allowed this for a purpose. I am just continually looking for a purpose. So far, his purpose has been to save lives through organ donation. Someone got the call this weekend that changed their world. They get to live. They were able to use all of his organs, his eyes and tissue and his long bones. Wendi, the most amazing woman who has been taking care of Kade and I at Mid America, has been keeping me posted about who he’s helping. I cannot tell you how incredible that feels. I have such happy moments. Good out of bad.

If you or your loved ones have a substance abuse problem, reach out to them. No, wait, that’s not enough. Smack them. With something really hard. Don’t hold back. Don’t make excuses for them or let them make excuses to you. Address it head on. And trust me, we all did. If it ends as badly for you as it did for us, get on your knees. Mine are worn out. But you’ll be ok, So will they. Kade is ok.

And if you aren’t an organ donor, become one. God has allowed helping others to be such a balm to my soul. I just wish I could explain this peace to you. You always hear, “Peace that passes understanding”…I sang it all my life, now I’m wading in it. Thank God. Thank you God.

I thank God for every minute I got to spend with him and I pray it’s not too long before I see him again. I love my son. Everyone else did too. He was okay most of the time. I would give anything to hear him explain this one. I’d get my paint stick out and paddle his ass.

I love you Kadey.

Sydney’s Shoes

………for the girls

Once upon a time there was a little girl, her name was Sydney Claire. She had hair the color of corn silk and eyes the color of a chocolate bar. Her smile was quick and bright and everyone was drawn to her. She loved her family, she loved playing on her farm, she loved big dogs…….and she loved shoes. Especially pink ones.

Every time Sydney went to the store with her Momma, if she was really good, she would get a surprise. She always chose shoes. Her Momma would say, “Sydney Claire! You can have anything in this store you want! Why do you want another pair of shoes?!” Sydney would pout, the only time she ever pouted, until Momma would say okay, and they would go to the isle in the store where they kept her favorite thing.

Sydney loved shoes with little heels the best. She loved the sound they made. She would run through the house and they would make a clamor that drove her two big brothers crazy! She called them her ‘clackin’ shoes because that’s what they said when she walked around!

“Clack! Clack! Clack!” and she would giggle

“Momma! When I grow up, I’m gonna have a hundred, million shoes”

Her Daddy laughed, “Sydney Clair, you have a hundred million shoes right now!”

Sydney loved going to school. She loved her teachers and her classroom and her friends. She loved doing her schoolwork, it made her feel like such a big girl to get all of her answers right. If she got all of her answers right, she got a surprise! Do you know what that surprise usually was?! Shoes! Today was Friday! Friday is the day she got her paper from her teacher telling her scores for the week. Sydney happened to know she had all A’s this week. A trip to the store and a new pair of shoes would definitely be happening today!

Momma picked her up and Sydney pulled her special paper out of her pink backpack and handed it to Momma.

“I got all A’s! Can we go to the shoe store?!”

Momma smiled extra big and said, “If you are sure it’s shoes you want.” Sydney grinned back and held her hand up high. Momma high-fived her and off they went.

They went to every shoe store in the mall. They went to every shoe store in town, They went to every shoe store in the next town. Sydney Clair couldn’t find ONE PAIR of shoes she didn’t already have. They looked for a size bigger, even a size smaller. NO SHOES!

Sydney Clair was the saddest she had ever been.

Momma told her she would get her anything else in the whole store she wanted. She showed her dolls and blocks and books. Sydney just shook her head and the left the store, her little corn silk ponytail waving goodbye as they walked to the car.

As she was buckling up her seat belt, something caught Sydney Claire’s attention! It was a new store!! Right there in front of them! And it had SHOES in the window!

“Oh please Momma! They will have a pair of shoes I don’t have, I just know it!” Sighing, Momma unbuckled her seat belt, picked up her purse “Come on and let’s have a see.” and they got back out of the car.

With a sunny smile on her face, Sydney grabbed hold of Momma’s hand and pulled her into the new store. Sydney couldn’t believe it! There were so many SHOES. This was a new store full of just shoes!! Sydney giggled and squealed and told Momma to “Hurry UP!!”

Up and down the isles they went, Sydney picking shoes up and putting them back down. She just couldn’t decide. There were so many!

And then….

Sydney Claire turned the corner onto the next isle and stopped really quickly. Her eyes got really big and her grin got really bigger!

She pointed her finger and looked up at Momma and said, “Can I please have these shoes Momma?”

Momma looked up and saw what Sydney was pointing at.

On a little glittery display stand, sat a pair of pink shoes. Pink running shoes. They had pink sparkles on the soles and butterflies on the sides and pink shoelaces with white polka dots. But that’s not all they had. They had a tiny, shiny, pair of wings on the back.

Sydney stood still and quiet, waiting on Momma to find her size. She held her breath until Momma plucked the box, with her size inside, off the shelf and handed it to Sydney. She sat down on the little bench, with a lavender cushion, made for trying on special shoes and slipped the running shoes onto her sweet toes. They were perfect. They were different. And Sydney knew they were the most special shoes she had ever seen.

“Sydney, are you sure you want THESE shoes? They aren’t like any shoes you have. They don’t show your pretty pink toe polish and they won’t clack when you walk down the hall. They don’t have a little heel to make you a little taller and you have to tie these shoes, and you don’t know how to do that yet.”

Sydney Claire looked up at her Momma with her big chocolate brown eyes and said,

“But Momma, they have wings.”

So from then on, instead of clacking everywhere , Sydney began to run everywhere. She ran up and down the hall and instead of her two brothers fussing about the noise her clacking shoes made, they fussed about her going so fast that it blew their homework papers off the desks in their rooms.

When Sydney got a little bigger, she started running outside in the yard, she would run with her dogs and the cows and the chickens. Then she started running with the horses, and she BEAT them!!

The funny thing was, the shoes never got too small. They grew right with Sydney’s pretty little feet. And as she grew and the pink shoes grew….

so did the wings.

Sydney wore those shoes everywhere she went. Momma would ask her all the time if she wanted new shoes! Sydney would shake her head and say, “No Momma, these shoes are special, God told me they were.” and off she would go running again, grinning and smiling and waiting. She didn’t know on what exactly, but Sydney knew that one day something amazing was going to happen to her and her pink shoes with wings.

One summer day, when school was done for the year, Sydney was outside running with her dogs and horses and cows and chickens. Suddenly she could hear her Momma calling, “Here kitty kitty kitty! Oh please come down, you’re much too high!”

Sydney ran over to where Momma was standing under their mimosa tree. She was talking to a little red kitten. She had an open can of tuna, holding it up into the air, hoping the kitten would come down when it smelled the stinky fish!

“Oh Sydney Claire! This poor kitty is up in the tree and can’t get down! She will fall and hurt herself and I am so afraid!”

As Sydney stood there next to her Momma, looking up at that poor little kitten…

wondering….

pondering….

suddenly…….

Sydney’s feet tingled.

She wiggled her toes and her feet tingled again.

Startled, she looked down at her pretty pink shoes and her wings were FLUTTERING!! Sydney could feel the hum of the little wings in her pretty pink toes and she knew right then that she was going to get that kitty and how she was going to do it!

She scooted over under the tree, right under the little red kitty who was looking down at her and just crying “Meow, meow, meow”. Sydney patted Momma on the arm and said, “I’ll get her Momma!” and just like that up Sydney Claire went!

Momma dropped the can of tuna and opened her mouth to say something but she didn’t know what to say! She couldn’t believe it! Sydney was FLYING! Momma could see the little wings on Sydney’s shoes fluttering so fast! She could hardly keep from shouting! Instead, she sat down hard on her bottom and shut her mouth with a clap.

Sydney and her winged shoes floated straight up into the tree and Sydney reached out and pulled the tiny red kitty out of the branch of the mimosa tree and down they went.

Smiling, she handed the kitty to her Momma and laughed, “There!! All safe! I’ll bet she wanted to smell the pink mimosa flowers and got stuck”

Momma just sat there staring at Sydney, she didn’t even know what to say! Suddenly her two brothers came running out of the house! They had seen Sydney fly up into the tree to get the kitten and they were jumping up and down and hollering! Sydney and Momma joined them! No one could believe what had just happened. No one except Sydney Claire. She always knew those pretty pink shoes, with the sparkles and the butterflies and the polka dot laces and the shiny wings were going to help her do amazing things.

And they did. Sydney Claire saved animals in trees and a little boy stuck on a roof and she helped her daddy get the hay in the very top of the barn where the ladder wouldn’t reach. Pretty soon, people from all over were calling Sydney on her sparkly pink phone and asking her and her shoes for help.

One day, a woman called from far away. She needed Sydney’s help in the most awful way. It had rained and rained and rained some more. The woman’s house was floating along in the water and no one could get to it! All her things were in it! No one could help her get any of it out! Only Sydney and her shoes with wings could help her. Sydney ran and found her Momma and Daddy and told them about the woman’s phone call.

“But Sydney, you’ll have to go so far to help! How long will you be gone?”

Sydney smiled and said, “Maybe a while Momma, but I will be okay. People need my help and God made these shoes just for me. If I didn’t use them to help the people God sent to me, what would happen to them?”

Momma and Daddy knew Sydney was right. People needed her. God put her here to help, so that’s what she had to do.

Sydney’s momma filled her pink backpack with snacks and drinks. She added her shaggy stuffed doggy and her blankie with the silky edges so Sydney would feel like home no matter where she traveled. Sydney slipped her arms in the straps and shrugged it on. She hugged her Momma and Daddy and her two brothers and bent down to make sure her polka dot laces were just tight enough.

“You be careful Sydney Claire, we are so proud of you!” Her Momma was a little sad but she knew Sydney was going on such a big adventure! Momma knew that God would keep Sydney tucked right up close to Him.

Sydney Claire ran down the driveway and down the road, the dust from the gravel kicking up behind her and she went faster and faster. The horses in the pasture ran along beside her, trying to keep up with her until started to rise. Up and up she went, higher and higher! Higher than anyone had ever seen her go. She turned her head around and waved to her family and to her animals and to her farm. She was so excited about all the things she was going to see and do. She was on her way to something wonderful!

If you ever see someone up in the sky, someone with a corn silk ponytail, chocolate eyes and sparkly pink shoes, don’t be alarmed, it’s Sydney Claire, and she’s off to help someone. Maybe you.

Molly

Belle is 18 now. Newly eighteen. When she was 6, her father and I separated. After twenty four years, our family was irrevocably broken. I didn’t pray with much faith back then. However, Belle was inconsolable most of the time and I needed a miracle, so I asked for a Shih tzu.

Often when adults play out a drama in their lives, we forget how hard it is on our littles. My older children were relieved, if not outright happy, that I had finally decided that we had had enough. The four older kids were all in their teens and twenties and they just wanted the madness to stop.


Not sweet Bellicious. She just wanted her daddy to come home. She didn’t understand and how do you explain that? Without saying, telling, dredging up all the things that will hurt her even more?

I was trying to balance my pain and her hurt. My anger. The older kids anger and hurt.

My guilt. I had made him leave, after all.

I was trying to balance careful words against rooted bitterness. Sometimes words failed and we just cried together. Our lives has crumbled apart and while the rest of us were trying to find our footing, it seemed our baby couldn’t find purchase at all.


So I prayed for a Shih tzu.

Mother came for the I weekend and I told her I thought a puppy was in order. Something Belly could mother. Something to cuddle with at night, when she missed her daddy the most. Something she was responsible for and something to demand her time. Something to occupy her heart as it was so terribly broken.


When I was young, we had the sweetest little dogs. Over the years, three in all. A lap dog, in the truest sense. That’s what they were bred for. Chinese royalty chose this sweeping mop of a dog to be their most loyal companion. And that’s what I wanted for Belle. A baby for the baby.

I didn’t have to search very long, God was already on it. A microwave prayer this time! It was cooking up quickly.


I was friends with a girl on Facebook that was a dog groomer. I really didn’t even know her that well, a friend of a friend I had met a couple of times. She put a post on her page about a little black and white puppy that needed a new home. She posted a picture with a description. A Shit tzu. Two years old and potty trained. She had the cutest little face. I grabbed my phone and sent a message and held my breath while I waited for her response. I let out a big ‘ol whoop when I got her answer.


And that’s how we got Molly. We made arrangements to meet her family in the parking lot of the convenience store to pick her up. She had been newly groomed and she was wearing a pink collar and leash. There were children with her. A boy and a girl. The girl, older, never got out of the car. The boy, probably about four, was crying and asking his mom to please not give his dog away. It was awful.

A mournful little boy watching a smiling little girl.

Sacrifice and blessing.


That little black and white puff of hair changed our whole outlook. She was a bit ornery and loved nothing more than to just lay on Belle’s lap. She slept with Belle. She ate what Belle ate. When Belle took her bath a night, Molly laid on the pink rug next to the tub. They watched Fancy Nancy and Old Yeller and ate popcorn. Belle pushed her in the stroller and on the swing set in the back yard. Molly rode with us to take Belle to school and to pick her up. They shared Happy Meals and blue ice cream from the drug store. They became best friends and it soothed Belle’s soul. Molly became a part of our family.

That was twelve years ago. Molly has been in Belle’s lap for all the heartbreaks over the years. Boys who broke her heart, girls who broke her spirit, the horror of losing a best friend in a house fire…. Molly was there to soak up the tears for it all. She has been our constant in all the changes for all these years.


Molly started getting sick about a year ago. She developed a mass. Because of her advanced age, we decided to let nature take its course. We had no idea she would hang on as long as she did. God was giving me time to adjust. She’s become more my dog in the last couple of years. The older kids have moved out and on. Belle, wrapped up in being a teenager, doesn’t spend time with her like she used to. So Molly attached herself to me. She still demands to be cuddled and hugged and loved. She’s been good company for me. If you know me at all, you know how I feel about all of my dogs, but Molly holds a place very dear. God sent her when he knew she would heal.


I left Molly in the living room on the recliner asleep when I went to bed last night. I’ve been out of town and I couldn’t believe how much worse she had gotten in the four days I’d been gone. I got home and called the vet. I made the appointment to put her out of the misery she was obviously in. I gave her a bath, fed her a hot dog and laid her in my lap while Mother and I watched Hamilton. When it was over and time for bed, she was comfortable and calm so I went to bed and left her to sleep.


We have a couple of oddball dogs that we call ‘special’. They are peculiar in so many ways. One of them is a bluetick coonhound mix named Tallulah. She put the weird in weirdo. We baby these two clowns to the point of therapy. Everything freaks them out so we deal with them a lot. Tallulah woke me up at 2:30 this morning. She is perfectly capable of jumping up on the bed but she was standing up at my side, scratching at me. I scolded her and told her to get up on the bed and knock it off. She wouldn’t. She continued to have a breakdown for a few minutes while I woke the rest of the way up. Coming out of my fog, I realized she was pretty agitated. I flipped the light on and swung my legs over the side of the bed. She pawed at me again and I got up and followed. She led me into the living room, periodically turning to see if I was still coming. She stopped when she got to Molly, who was no longer asleep. I could tell she was having a difficult time, so I took her to the enclosed porch, which is her favorite place in the house. We sat down and watched the lights reflecting on the lake. I’m not sure who was comforting who.

Molly left us this morning. She was here during some of the most difficult times in our lives. She has left a big hole. I prayed for her without an understanding of how important to us she would become. But God knew. He knew what we needed even when we didn’t. Isn’t that the way it always is? I believe all dogs go to Heaven. She’s up there with Scout this morning,, filling him in on what the kids and I have been up to. She was a blessing. Our home won’t ever be the same.

RIP Molly Grace Soden, you were a good dog.

Least Mentality

“At least I’m not……”

How many of your children have said that?
How many husbands or wives?
How many students?

“At least I’m not acting like Karen”
“At least I’m not doing drugs”
“At least I’m not pregnant”
“At least I’m not …….”

Or

“At least I’m passing”
“At least I’m trying”
“At least I showed up for work”
“At least i don’t …..”

Why is our bar set at “least”

Whenever I confront my children with less than ideal behavior, I get an answer like this.

An example,

Me: Don’t talk to me in that disrespectful manner!
Kid: At least I didn’t run over you with a car!

🙄

It’s always the absolute worse case scenario.

Why does a compare and contrast between your bad behavior and someone with horrible behavior make your behavior acceptable?

Even worse….

A parent saying in connection to a child’s decisions, choices or attitudes,

“At least they aren’t doing something worse”
“At least she/he isn’t with someone worse”
“At least they aren’t flunking out”
“At least they didn’t….”

I don’t want “least” behavior. I want “most” behavior.

I want you to be the most you can be, not the least to get by.

I want the most for you not just what we can throw together.

I want excellence from you and for you.

The “least” mentality is an excuse for bad behavior, poor choices and disrespect.

There’s no nobility, no integrity, no pride, no peace, no comfort in “least” mentality.

“At least they aren’t cheating on me”
“At least they aren’t hitting me”
“At least I have a job”
“At least I’m not THAT mean”
“At least I’m doing it now”
“At least….”

At best, you stay where you are
At worst, you plunge downward
There is no upward thinking with “at least” thinking

Every decision has a consequence
What’s the consequence for “least”

God didn’t put me here, in my circumstances, to be the “least” for Him

His plans for me are far beyond what I’ll ever comprehend

The devil lies. He is the least. That’s what the enemy wants for me.

I want my bar to be “most”

Pray for “most” mentality

I want to shine

Until about a year and a half ago, I’d never felt true peace.

I’d never felt true joy

I’d had joyful moments in my life. I’d been happy.

But that’s not what I mean. I mean, just the calmest, settled feeling that things are okay.

It’s work feeling like that. It’s something I have to choose every day. Every morning.

I have an alarm set for each morning that says “Wake up! Something wonderful is going to happen today!”

It’s a daily reminder to choose to anticipate good things.

And the devil tries to steal it every day.

Waking up and thinking about everything you’ve done wrong. Like in my whole life! A flash drive of screw ups.

But….God

If you can’t wake up in the next morning and know that the mistakes you made the day before are forgiven and erased, you can’t have true joy.

You can’t do that alone

You think you can….because the enemy lies

1 Peter 5:8
Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour

He whispers of your faults and failures constantly.

We were made to seek our creator. That’s why there is an emptiness and longing. We need Him to be whole. We need Him to know we are completely forgiven, washed clean, the blemishes gone. We can start fresh.

All that shame and regret are from the enemy.

John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy

The second part of that verse is

I have come so that you may live your life to the fullest

Newness comes from God. He’s the only way you can feel that true joy in your life. The peace that passes all understanding. I heard that my whole life and had no idea how to attain that. It was lyrics in a song that I mindlessly sang in church.

Then I started having a relationship with God. I wanted to feel differently. At first that was my only objective. To feel better. Emotionally, physically, mentally. I was drowning.

It took almost two years of studying, listening, reading, talking….

And all of that over and over again.

For the rest of my life.

But…..It’s not a to-do list now. It’s a hunger that can’t be satisfied now. It’s a thirst for more and more and more.

I’m not there completely. No one ever is.

But I’m so much better. So much stronger. I’m able to tell my children now all the things. All the things that matter. The only things.

I still wake up beating myself up occasionally. I still cuss and fuss occasionally. I’m working on it.

With Him.

That’s the difference you see. That’s the only way being okay works. You have to sit next to Him no matter what. Knowing. Knowing that if His answer is what you want or what you don’t want, it has to be ok. Because in the end, Him.

You’ve tried it on your own for so long. Trying. But with no help. And the help is strength. You pray for strength in your battle. The battle doesn’t go away but you now have the strength to get through it. And after you’re through with that battle, you gather up what’s left and help someone else.

I was on a merry go round of garbage. I stepped off. I step back on once in a while but I can step back off and regain my footing much quicker now.

You can step off too. No more going around the same mountain over and over again.

Healing. Joy. Peace. That’s what I’m after.

And to shine. So bright that you can’t help but ask why.

That’s my New Year’s Resolution this year

To Shine

Being a family

I have seen so many posts this Christmas where families are at odds over children and Christmas visits. Mothers and fathers spending Christmas alone because it wasn’t ‘their year’.

Ex -husbands and ex- wives being ugly and selfish, for whatever reason. No one is to blame and everyone is to blame, depending on what side you’re on. Parents talking about the other parent in horrible, inflammatory ways in front of the children. Saying things your kids will never forget you said.

Children in the middle. Missing the absent parent, kids torn when they see their parent upset because they are left behind on what’s supposed to be a holiday centered around peace and love.

I know that there are situations that things like this can’t be helped. I also know people are small. I’ve seen it so much this Christmas. Post after post about it.

I’ve been divorced since 2009. I was married 25 years and share five generous, loving children with this man. I loved him a long time. I loved him when we divorced. I’ve been hurt, mad, sad, fed up, ticked off and so aggravated I could smack my head into the wall over this man. And that was AFTER the divorce.

And I happen to know he has felt the same way about me.

We have continued to have our quarrels. We have said dreadful things to each other out of anger. And on my part, I’ve regretted every single one.

In all those years, all those holidays, graduations, the birth of our grandchildren, we have held it together for our children. I’ve sat at birthday parties struggling to hold back tears because of a friction between us and no one ever knew anything was wrong.

There have been times in our divorce-relationship that I have been incredibly hurt by something and still demanded my children respect their father. And I happen to know he has done the same.

We aren’t perfect, not anywhere near. Our marriage and divorce were full of hurt and chaos for us and our children. But we managed to be good to each other when the times called for it.

There hasn’t been a time where either of us have excluded one another from any significant, or insignificant, occasion in our children’s lives. We’ve sat together at ballgames, taken pictures together at graduations and cried and hugged when our grandkids were born.

Because the truth is, we have to do this together for them. They didn’t make the decision to break up our family, we did. So we have to stand by each other in the hard times and the easy times. For them.

I thank God all the time for being able to handle this. I thank God Bill can handle this. And I thank God that I have a husband who embraces my open heart towards someone who will always be a part of my life.

It’s not easy. That doesn’t matter. What matters is, at Karter’s birthday party in February, Bill and I will be there together. We will laugh about the ornery kid Kyler was and how Karter is so much like him. We can tell stories about the kids and reminisce and be thankful for the family we have together.

Be bigger than you have to be. Be forgiving, even if your situation is horrible. Being angry only hurts you and your children. And if you’re one of the unlucky ones who tries all the time and gets knocked down every time, God’s grace is sufficient. God is also a just God. So if He’s allowing it, He will bring good from it.