Morning Glories

My daughter wrote a story about someone who sinks into deep depression and then slowly, slowly, pulls out of it. And the story uses the Morning Glory flower as a symbol of hope. When I read the story I found myself sobbing, recognizing myself in the main character. Finally acknowledging the numbness that had taken over my life, which I had grimly tried to ignore as I pushed through each day, determined to not let my family down. And I was filled with a tiny spark of hope. Yes, you can pull yourself through. Depression does go away. Life returns. 

Since I’ve read that story I have been seeing Morning Glories everywhere. As I was driving down the road to take my kids to school, there, look, Morning Glories covering a fence. Hope. As I took a walk, there, look, Morning Glories in the neighbor’s yard. Hope. And yesterday when I found myself actually having the motivation to get out into my yard with my kids, play with them, plant some things, I found Morning Glories in the very back corner of the yard, a place I usually don’t go. And I laughed and took a picture and I knew that it was no longer a spark, but a full blown flame. Hope. 

I went on a retreat several weeks ago. During the retreat I dealt with some old wounds. Or at least, started dealing. And I found myself feeling emotions again. Sure, it was anger and pain, but I was feeling again. I read somewhere that in order to feel joy and happiness we have to allow ourselves to feel anger and pain. When we stuff the bad emotions we end up in a place where all our emotions are flat. We can’t have the good without letting ourselves feel the bad too. As I have allowed myself to process the hard emotions, I have found the lighter ones returning. 

After the retreat I felt myself going silent. I needed a break from words, from thoughts, from interacting with people. I needed to just sit and feel and mourn and heal. And that’s why there haven’t been any new blogs in a while. I didn’t let it bother me. I knew the words would come back when I was ready. And this morning I felt the familiar itch to put my thoughts down where I could see them. And it’s good to be writing again. 

We’ve had a lot going on in the family the last couple months. Made some big decisions about our kids’ schooling. My third child graduated high school. We got to have a mini family reunion as I had all my kids in one place for the graduation. And now summer is going full force as I try to keep track of everyone’s summer plans with kids going in all directions. I am living one day at a time. Welcoming joy back into my life. Keeping an eye out for Morning Glories. And, as always, resting in the fact that God is good. 

Happy Easter

Happy Easter everyone. I hope that you have had a wonderful day celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection. 

I woke up early this morning so I could lay out our traditional Easter Breakfast before the kids came downstairs. We don’t do Easter baskets, but I usually buy a little treat and some Easter candy and put it by everyone’s plates to find when they come down for breakfast. 

We had the normal whirlwind of making sure each child was dressed, had their shoes on, had brushed their hair. And then serving a special breakfast and getting everyone to the table at the same time. Finally everyone was sitting and I handed my husband the Bible so he could read the accounting of Jesus rising up from the dead. I make him read because I get all choked up every time and can’t finish. 

He is Risen. Just like he said. Death is conquered. We have been rescued. 

I looked around the table at my children while my husband read. Some of them were listening. The youngest were barely listening. If they were listening at all. Some were focused on what was being said and others looked like they were tuned out a bit. I wasn’t too worried about that. They are young. I am discovering that each year Easter means more to me than the year before. You stack that up over a lifetime and of course my kids aren’t going to react to this story the same way their 40s mom is going to react. But I find that encouraging. It makes me wonder how Easter will affect me even farther down the road. It is a wonderful thing to be in a relationship with Jesus that simply grows deeper and deeper every year. 

This past week was really rough. Children’s Services showed up on my doorstep because someone had called in a complaint about me. The social worker was apologetic. The claim was frivolous and did not merit any attention, but they had to do their job and investigate. They spoke to the child in question and found a happy child who had no complaints. They said I had done nothing wrong, apologized for having to bother me. This was all tied up with our foster child and was over and done with very quickly. Small hiccup. Except that the whole encounter left me shaking for several hours and emotionally numb for several days. Some emails and texts were exchanged with the person who initiated all this and we ended the week on peaceful terms once again. Though I’m still feeling bruised and battered by the whole thing. 

Life is hard. This feels like a cliche and I tell it to my kids all the time. And they shrug and ignore it. But it really is hard. Really Really Hard. And I don’t want to convey to them just how true that saying is because I don’t want to scare them or overwhelm them. I want them to feel hopeful and excited about the future. But it’s hard. 

And what I really need them to know is this life is downright impossible or maybe just pointless without Jesus. I cannot fathom trying to handle everything that has come my way without Jesus by my side giving me strength, peace, wisdom, safety, hope, joy. Without a future with him to look forward to, I would be bogged down with despair. He is a daily, constant presence in my life. My confidante. My best friend who understands everything I go through and knows how to correct and encourage as needed. 

Easter is the best day of the year. The day we celebrate not only Jesus coming back to life, but opening the door to bring us back to life as well. 

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved! Ephesians 2:4-5

Jesus took the punishment for all our sins and made a way for us to be with him forever. And today we celebrate that. 

My prayer is that each year this day will mean a little bit more to my children as they go farther and farther on this journey called life with Jesus by their side. And they learn for themselves about his faithfulness and great love for them. 

Happy Easter everybody! 

Grief, Joy, Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve and I find myself wavering back and forth between joy and happiness and guilt and worry. 

In other words, I am fully human. Even though I somehow think I will get superpowers when holidays come around and I will cease to have stress and grief and daily troubles. After all, it’s Christmas! Right? 

This Christmas I have all my children home, the first time in three years. My heart is full. Our house is cheerful, we were able to get presents for everyone, we have everything we need and a little extra. We’ve had a great advent season of daily bible readings with the kids. We’ve had great church services helping us bring our focus on Jesus. It has been a good Christmas season. 

And then, at the same time, a friend of mine unexpectedly died a couple days ago. Another friend of mine is in the process of losing her mom to cancer. Another friend just lost a famly member unexpectedly. So much grief. So much heaviness. 

Kind of like the first Christmas. 

Mary, pregnant and unmarried, having to deal with all the presumptions people are making of her. Joseph with a new wife, but in name only, watching her carry someone else’s child, not the way he was planning on starting his marriage. A trip to Bethlehem because of the whims of a conquering nation. Bad timing, Mary is about to give birth. Then, they get to Bethlehem, the baby is definitely coming, right now. No place to stay. No warm welcome. No comfortable place to settle in. Birth. Mary’s first. First labor, not knowing what to expect. Not knowing if you will survive the process. And then the baby is here. But no proud grandparents to announce the news to friends and family. No friends and family. 

But then a bunch of shepherds come running in. Telling stories about angels and heavenly hosts. And I’m sure Mary and Joseph remembered vividly their own encounters with angels. And there is of course this brand new baby filling their hearts with joy as only a new baby can. 

Grief and Joy. Suffering and Hope. Christmas.

We are in good company. 

This season I pray that we can have peace. That we can accept our grief but give ourselves permission to have joy as well. That we can have happiness and not feel guilty for feeling sad at the same time. 

In the end, we cling to the hope that All is Well. 

“All is well all is well

Lift up your voices and sing

Born is now Emmanuel

Born is our Lord and Savior”

Michael W. Smith

Emmanuel, God is with Us. We go through our trials here on earth, but we are no longer alone. We have hope for a future with Jesus where every tear will be wiped away. No more sorrow. No more grief. 

Until that time comes, we move forward. Tears in our eyes. A smile on our face. Grief, Joy. Christmas. 

May you all have a Merry Christmas filled with joy and may you have peace to feel all the emotions that face you this season.

A Family Christmas Evening

Today is our first day of Christmas break. It started early for me as I had to run my teens on an errand at 8am and then that was followed by grocery shopping with one of my daughters as my helper. Then off to two more stores to finish up my Christmas shopping. 

This afternoon we did “The Great Name Exchange” where all the kids who don’t have their own funds draw one of their siblings names out of hat and I give them $5 to go thrift store shopping and pick a small present. Every year it’s a puzzle to figure out how to get each one into the store and buy a present without the other siblings seeing what they got. But it actually went really smoothly this year. Then home to wrap the presents and make supper. 

After supper we stayed at the table and read our devotions and did our nightly advent reading. The kids wanted to watch a movie, but I vetoed and I suggested that we sing Christmas Carols instead. 

And we had a wonderful Caroling time. 

Now, you are probably imagining all my children lined up neatly around the piano, focused on singing, harmonizing, everything beautiful. 

No. 

I had one daughter who sat on the piano bench with me and sang all the verses of each song with great gusto. My teen boys started a chess game on the chess board which happens to be located on the back of my baby grand piano. They sang along on the chorus most of the time while they played their chess game. The four year old got our glockenspiel out and sat in a corner cheerfully banging away his own accompaniment. The two seven year olds would occasionally join in when they knew the song, but they were also busy throwing a marble back and forth at each other. A couple other people had hot drinks sitting on the couches and I heard their voices occasionally. Then a couple kids pulled out a puzzle on the coffee table and sang along while they pieced together the puzzle. The marble-chasing kids were running around, making noise. My oldest son popped in for a couple minutes. A couple arguments broke out. And then got resolved. My voice finally gave out and we turned on some Christmas music, including Straight No Chaser’s “The 12 Day of Christmas” which is just hilarious. (I just have to add that the fire is going in the fireplace and the tree is sparkling in the corner!)

It has been a wonderful family evening. 

People always say “Enjoy it now! They’ll grow up fast!” And it’s true. I’ve got a twenty-one year old off living her own life, my twelve and fourteen year old boys are taller than both their parents now. My youngest is about to turn five. And so, I write this down so I can enjoy this evening for years to come. A peaceful Heneise Family Christmas evening. 

I am feeling especially thankful. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s Thanksgiving morning and my heart is bubbling over with contentment and wonder. The last several days my mind has been taking a walk down memory lane and I’ve been really focused on God’s protection over me over the years, and how he used specific people in every phase of my life to offer me that protection and care. 

I think about past teachers who offered me friendship and encouragement…a certain Ms Iutzi comes to mind, my English teacher in Bethel, Alaska. She genuinely loved her students, opened her classroom as a hangout place, was always handing me new books to read, laughed at my jokes, and has continued to be an encouraging person in my life, even now, twenty-five years later. 

I think about my dear friend Louima who became my big brother in college and still is someone I count as family and someone I continue to learn from as he shares his wisdom in his writing. 

I think about my dear friend Telena who became my friend and mentor when I first moved to Tennessee. We’ve shared a lot of life together and her wisdom and common sense helped me a lot as I first started on the path of marriage and motherhood. 

I think about my dear friends Francie and Rob whose ministry has led me to a place of wholeness and healing in my life. 

I think about my pastors at our church who have offered counsel, prayer, and a helping hand over the years. 

My parents and my husband’s parents who have continued to be there for us through thick and thin. 

My friends on Facebook who take the time to write encouraging notes that brighten up my day. 

Strange as it might sound, those friendships represent to me God’s care for me. His protection. His sovereignty that knew I needed those people at those times to help carry me through. 

This is only the tiniest sample of people that have blessed me. I’m thankful for all of you. I’m thankful for God’s care for me. I’m thankful that we have this day to stop and name what has brought joy to our lives. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! May you have a blessed day!

Fat Fridays: Cheerleaders

Today my exercise assignment from my trainer was to do some core exercises (crunches, planks etc) and then go and run/jog two miles. Already this week I have jog/walked twice, thirty minutes each time, but it was more walking than jogging and I didn’t have a distance I was aiming for, just a time frame. 

So, I did my core stuff and then headed for a nearby park that has a walking track loop. I have presumed that this loop is .25 miles. There aren’t any official signs that give you the exact distance, but it looks about the same size as other parks’ .25 mile walking tracks. 

Well, today I downloaded the “Map my Run” app and discovered that this loop is .27 miles. Not .25. And I just have to wonder…Why? Why would you do that? It would have been very simple to adjust the circle so it was only .25 miles! So, 8 laps around gave me a grand total of 2.1 miles, instead of 2. And when you are gasping for breath and flooding your brain with inspirational comments so that you will keep going, that .1 miles is a big deal! But I digress, back to my story…

So, I decided that I would run one lap, and then walk half a lap, then run a full lap, then walk half, etc, etc. This worked out pretty well for me as that half lap was just long enough to restore my breath and walk out some of the cramps in my legs. 

As I was gasping my way around the track, there was another woman walking in the opposite direction to me. She was an older black lady with brown circular glasses and a warm twinkle in her eye. The first time we passed, I nodded hello and smiled, she nodded back. The next time we passed, we made eye contact, but nothing else. Then the next time we passed we smiled again. (I live in the South. We interact with strangers. It’s kind of the expected thing to do.) We kept passing each other, and it didn’t take too long, I’m sure, for her to realize what a giant task this was for me to be jogging. The last time I passed her she grinned and said, “You’re doing great! Keep going!” I grinned and I felt my shoulders go back a bit and my legs got a bit stronger. It’s amazing what encouragement can do for a person. 

I was also encouraging myself the entire time. I had a little mantra going on in my head, in rhythm with my pounding feet and gasping breath, You can do it! You can do it! You can do it! Having a random stranger cheer me on was icing on the cake. 

I can’t imagine trying to do this weight loss journey without my cheering team. My family is my number one cheerleader. Of course, I kind of force them into it. Guess what! I lost 2 pounds!! Great mom! Good for you! I text my husband, Guess what! I just ran 2 miles! And then I expect him to say something positive and encouraging. I am shameless when it comes to eliciting positive comments from my family. But I need it, and they are willing to oblige. 

Any time we take on a hard task, it is significantly easier when there is a support team in the background, ready to cheer you and celebrate all your victories. I am thankful for all the encouragement that has come my way, and I hope that I can be an encouragement to others as they go on a weight loss journey too. So, just keep this in mind…You can do it! You’re doing great! I’m proud of you! 

I am Unsinkable

The other day someone asked me how I was doing and an image came into my mind. Me as a rubber ducky out on the big ocean in the middle of a storm. Waves crashed over me and I bobbed in and out of the water, raced up and down monstrous waves, tossed every which direction. But I was still floating. I couldn’t sink. I was made to float and while I got dunked a lot, I always came back to the surface.  We recently watched the movie EndGame again. Thanos, the villain, has a line where he says, “I’m Inevitable”. And I find myself saying, with the same confidence, “I’m Unsinkable”. 

I can also tell you with certainty, that my confidence does not come from myself. It comes from a lifetime of following Jesus, and seeing time and time again, that he never fails me. It is being faced with crisis after crisis, hardship after hardship, and having the Holy Spirit fill me with His power so that I can press through. Survive. Thrive. It is standing up at Testimony time and saying, my testimony is that I don’t have any dramatic stories of how I fell to the depths and then God lifted me up. My testimony is that he kept me. Kept me from looking for love in the wrong places. Kept me from dangerous addictions. Kept me from being on the wrong side of the law. My testimony is saying, Look what God can do when you give him your life from a very young age. 

We were talking at our housechurch this past Sunday about hindrances people have that keep them from wanting to follow Jesus. I personally know people who feel like becoming a Christian is too big a sacrifice. There are too many things to give up. I would say the problem with this mindset is that they aren’t seeing the big picture. The following is an often-quoted excerpt from C.S. Lewis.

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses

I think about the richness of my life. I am not wealthy in worldly riches, but my treasures are uncountable. Eleven beautiful, amazing children who add worth to our world. Extended family and friends who love me. A husband who is 100% committed to our marriage and our family. A warm, peaceful home. A meaningful life that is full of purpose. A job that is so varied and complex that I can never grow bored and only rarely feels like drudgery. A church family that comforts, encourages, and constantly pushes me to grow. I am blessed beyond measure. 

There is no sacrifice in following Jesus. I have given up nothing of worth to walk this path. I have in fact gained unimaginable riches. My prayer, my hope, my longing, is that those who don’t have this confidence would be able to take hold of this truth. Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life. 

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.

Ephesians1:18-19b

Come join me. You too can be Unsinkable. 

For more information, here is a great article you can click on. https://www.faithward.org/how-do-you-become-a-christian/

Merry Christmas!!

It’s Christmas Eve. It is rainy and now, finally, snowy here in East Tennessee. Kind of like wet rain-snow. Looks promising, but the ground is nowhere close to being frozen. But, it’s enough for the kids to proclaim that we’ve had a White Christmas. 

My husband isn’t working today so we had the rare privilege of sleeping in till 9am. Of course, we had kids running in and out of our room starting at 7am, but we had no pressing reason to jump out of bed and it was nice to Loll Around. 

I went and got my Christmas Dinner shopping done and my husband went and picked up my Christmas present which was a  brand new mattress and box springs. Our old ancient mattress and box springs were extremely well-used, broken from children jumping on it and the mattress had permanent dents which automatically rolled everyone into the middle. I am SO HAPPY to have a new mattress!!!!

We’ve made Christmas cookies, which this year were no-bake cookies and then melted chocolate which we dipped pretzels and store-bought cookies into and then covered them with sprinkles. Not fancy. Very easy. A little messy. Pretty much the level of fuss that I was up for this year. 

My older daughters are hanging out together in my living room, giggling and arguing over books and stories and who knows what else. Another group of kids are putting together a Charlie Brown Christmas Puzzle. Other kids are reading or running around. I’ve got the Carpenter’s Christmas Songs Album playing on our tv and there is a fire in the woodstove.  Not sure if it can get better than this. 

Of course, the day has had it’s sour moments. Me freaking out when all my kids descended on the melted chocolate and tried to dip pretzels all at the exact same moment and then someone knocked over a cup of water right into the middle of the chaos. Breaking up some fights between kids. The crazy puppy went and peed on my brand new rug. We’ve loaded the dishwasher twice and there are still dirty dishes. I mailed Christmas boxes to my son in Pennsylvania, paid extra money to get them there in plenty of time, and he still hasn’t received them. He said there’s a possibility someone stole them after they had been delivered. That has me bummed out. Earlier this week I cleaned out my purse and threw away all the extra papers, including the receipts with the tracking info for the boxes. Argh. I got news today that friends of ours have their whole family sick with Covid. We have another friend who is still in the ICU fighting Covid. 

The future still feels very shaky. This past year will probably take me years to fully process and recover from. I have been struggling to let go of the stress. But, in the last days, as I’ve managed to conquer my overwhelming TO DO lists and things have been checked off one by one, I have been able to relax. 

And now, I can take a little time to be thankful. Thankful that Jesus came to earth. That Mary and Joseph were willing to play their parts. Thankful that God decided to first tell the Shepherds about the birth. Those insignificant, lower class Shepherds who had no political power, no social position. Thankful that wise men from the East were adventurous enough and had faith enough to follow the star to Jesus. Thankful that this was only the beginning, that Jesus would grow to a man who loved everyone, who treated women with dignity, who touched the unclean, who healed the lowest in society. Someone who said, You are Seen, You are Valued, You are Loved, and finally, You have been Saved. 

May the God of all Comforts, comfort those who are mourning. May the God of Peace give you rest from worry. May Emmanuel, God with us, surround you with his presence.

Merry Christmas! 

Happy Thanksgiving!

On this beautiful fall day in East Tennessee, I sit on the porch with a full stomach after feasting with my family, watching my children run around in the outdoors. And I am thankful. Thankful for family, home, God’s provision for all our needs. I’m thankful for friends and church family. I’m thankful for my online community and all my readers that make this blog fun.

May you be blessed today and full of the joy and peace that comes when you take time to be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!

Birthday Memories

Today is my birthday. Yay me! I am feeling happy and relatively peaceful and relaxed. My day has been pretty ordinary, but I don’t have any errands to run. No appointments to go to. Lots of projects to work on, but no urgent deadlines. My husband is cooking supper tonight and I will probably guilt trip my kids into cleaning the house as a birthday present for me. It’s been a chilly morning and I am so happy that Fall is progressing as it should, unlike last year when summer went over several months more than we wanted it. I even lit a fire in our woodstove. 

This morning I had a sudden memory of my fourteenth birthday, and it was a fun memory to re-live. 

We were living in the North of Haiti. I was attending a little mission school at a nearby Baptist Hospital Compound. There were five of us in high school that year. We all came to school every day, sat at our little cubicle/desks and worked on our own correspondence courses. We had a grown up in the room to help us if we needed it, but we were all pretty much working independently. There was one other girl besides me, Olynda, who was a senior while I was a lowly freshman. Except, in that school, it really didn’t matter. We were all friends. 

As my birthday was approaching, Olynda and I started talking about birthday wishes. What would be the best birthday ever? I said something along the lines of being kidnapped by my friends, and then we’d all skip school and go to a nearby waterfall to play for the day. We laughed and giggled as we elaborated on the guest list and all the things we would do. 

I didn’t think too much more about it after that.

The morning of my birthday came and our family did the normal birthday tradition of getting up early to open presents. Afterwards I was getting dressed, getting ready for breakfast. My brother surprised me by asking if I had brushed my teeth yet. What? Why are you telling me to brush my teeth? That’s weird. I’ll brush them after breakfast. He was very urgent, telling me to go brush my teeth now. Good grief. Irritating older brother. 

I was standing in the living room talking to my mom when I saw her eyes flicker over my shoulder. I glanced around and there was one of the volunteers from the Baptist Hospital, an American nurse named Kristy who offered tutoring help to the highschoolers on occasion. I started to turn around. What is she doing here? It’s early morning. What on earth? Then she rushed up to me and stuck a pillowcase over my head.  I think I went into a bit of shock cause the next couple minutes were a blur. I heard Olynda’s voice and a lot of giggling and I was pushed through the house and into a car. I can’t remember exactly, but I was probably saying something along the lines of, I can’t believe you actually did this!! 

The really funny part was that this all happened during a time of political unrest, and we had to drive through a police checkpoint on our way to the Baptist Compound. Before we got there, Olynda yanked the pillow case off my head. Sorry, we can’t drive through the checkpoint with a pillow case on your head. We all smiled and looked as normal as possible as we drove through, then Olynda stuck the pillowcase back on my head.

When we got to the Compound I discovered that Olynda had arranged and prepared a birthday breakfast with our friends. And while it wasn’t hooky from school or splashing in a waterfall, it was definitely one of the best surprises I have ever had on my birthday. 

Thank you Olynda (and Kristy!) for the great memories!