Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Dealing with an "Invisible" Illness.

I have to say that the days have been hard these last few weeks. As much as I'd like to deny it, my body is struggling to keep up with life. Rheumatoid arthritis has a way of ruining my plans (and many times my attitude) for an entire day.

For example, yesterday was a beautiful 80 degree day in the middle of October. I managed to get out early in the morning (wearing my snazzy back brace around my middle of course) and walk around the backyard a dozen or so times. I even got in a jog for a few laps. The reality is though, not many people know it- but my body tells me....the weather is just about to change.

By lunchtime, I was just barely hanging on to stand and fix lunch for the kids and myself. Fast forward an hour or so and I had to sit down then lay down for what turned into the rest of the day/night. My attitude becomes extremely bitter and my patience so short with the kids. It's such a shame because we had such a wonderful productive morning.

Did I mention we are homeschooling? Actually it is virtual public school. So they have a few classes online everyday, but much of the work is still directed by me. There are many benefits to this lifestyle, because it is so flexible. The kids have more freedom to play and get out and do field trips often. The down side is that it puts a lot of extra work on me. I really enjoy most of the work, but I am facing a new reality. Maybe I am not fit to do this work right now.

Maybe I am truly sick. I feel it every day. I am in constant numbing pain in certain areas of my body. Then I will have days like yesterday that just put me out of commission for the whole day.

I am writing down these thoughts so that maybe there is someone else out there that struggles with a similar illness. Most people cannot see it, per say. But it is very much affecting my every hour of every day.

Along with this comes a whole range of emotions. Lately I have just been feeling completely overwhelmed with life. (That's another part of the story, maybe for later...) It is hard to be a good Mom to my three precious children when I am hurting so much. Then I feel guilt for getting short with them. I also feel a sense of denial that this is actually happening. On top of all of it is a blinding subtle rage. Why is this happening God? Why does this have to happen to me? I am only in my thirties...

I never dreamed this would be my life path. And yet, here I am faced with some big decisions. What sort of treatments do I take? I guess we are done having kids because of the dangers of the meds and being pregnant (a 2 year time-frame to get the meds out of your system before you can get pregnant again)

I came across this verse and it really spoke to me:

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
-Psalms 73:26

For now, I need divine strength to get through each day. To control my attitude even when I am not feeling well. I pray for the strength to make some of these big life decisions and make the right decision. And most of all for peace and patience with myself and my own changing body.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Golden Message

   Waiting is hard for me. I'll admit I am the first one to try and change my circumstances if I am given any amount of time to think too much. I make a plan, I take action.

I spent a lovely afternoon recently kids-free (gasp) hand-in-hand with my man, crunching along this beautiful gravel path in a nearby state park.

It was the kind of late summer day that would be considered sinful to stay indoors. The piercing sunlight so crisp and warm filtering down through the chartreuse canopy as we ambled along the winding path.

When out of the blue (or should I say green) canopy of leaves above, a single glittering golden sassafras leaf flutters down just in front of me. Catching and reflecting the warm light as it slowly floats downward, swaying back and forth and back and forth.

I promise you time slowed down for that one beauteous little leaf to make contact with the sacred ground it landed upon. And I was there to witness it.

So much so that I snapped this exact photo of this exact leaf.

Yes. God has a subtle way of speaking to us sometimes. In that moment, He was speaking right to me.

That leaf. It was everything I felt. Have been feeling for so long now. Change is coming.

There will still be several warm and green days, but the change is BEGINNING. 

I stood there for what was probably way too much time trying to get a good pic of this little leaf.

And because I married an infinitely patient and creative type of man. He got it. He knows when something speaks to me and he only smirked in his sarcastic way a little bit when I finally came out of it and looked up unknowingly to catch his eyes that were on me.

We moved on with our walk and our day, but that little leaf stuck with me.

The problem is that when time feels uncomfortable to me, when the days tick on, sun rises, sun sets with nothing changing, this is actually the sacred space when God teaches me.

I can feel him nudging me to lean on him, to seek him out when the quiet of life is too loud to go unnoticed.

The clinking of dishes in the sink, the creak of a porch swing or the coo of a morning dove outside my window on a summer morning. All sounds of a slower pace of life.

All the things I love, EXCEPT NOT when there is change looming in front of me with no real plan in sight. Like the calm before the storm.

"But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."
-James 1:4

The Greek word for perfect in that scripture is telios which has a few meanings. In a sacrificial animal, it meant it was fit to be offered to God.

For a scholar to possess it meant they were mature.

For a man, it meant he was of full-age.

The thing is that we don't just become patient by trying to be patient.

I wish it were so, but alas, God has chosen to develop that patience in us through trials.

It's his way. 

Peter referred to the trials as being more precious than gold. Most of the time, I manage to avoid them whenever possible. That, or complain about them.

Lord, use this waiting period to draw me closer to you, make me COMPLETE.

Refine me, make me mature. 

May I change the way I view this waiting period and the inevitable change coming. 

May I see it as more precious than a perfect golden leaf come as a messenger to me. 

I CAN wait.
I CAN move with grace from one season to the next. 

With Your help Lord, I will.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Prioritizing Beauty.

Corciano, Italy

When I was 21 years old, I lived in this outdated, but charming little apartment on the top floor of a home in this sleepy little medieval hill town in Corciano, Italy for about 4 months. It was a study abroad program for art. The old lady who owned the house (and lived downstairs) would come up early in the morning while we were still sleeping and curse at us under her breath in Italian, lazy art students, while she picked up our clothes off the floor.

She showed us how to cook pasta the right way, motioning to the two ceramic canisters on the counter, speaking with short slow italian phrases and lots of exaggerated hand motions. The sale gross (coarse salt) goes in the pot of boiling water and then the sale fino (fine salt) was for finishing the pasta after you have cooked it, is what I pieced together from the game of charades.

The other two girls and I would get super desperate for food during that time, because the grocery store was a good twenty-minute complicated bus ride.

Once we got to the store, we then had to figure out where the milk was and why on God's green earth was it in little boxes just sitting on a shelf (non-refridgerated!) I thumbed through the tattered edges of the worn translation phrase book I kept in my purse religiously. (This was just before the smart phone boom). I remember we ate a lot of strange food combinations in that humble apartment kitchen. When I walked in to my roommates eating hard boiled eggs dipped in mayonnaise for dinner, I knew we had reached an all-time low.

The view was breathtaking though. So there was that.

I remember sitting on the cool terra cotta tile balcony floor and staring out across the valley, mesmerized by the straight and narrow cedar trees lining the driveways like soldiers, getting smaller and smaller and disappearing into the pale blue fog of the distance. They brought to life all of the paintings we studied. I sat there several afternoons and painted the scene with watercolors and sent them as postcards in the mail back home.

We lived about half-way down a steep cobblestone street. It was a short walk straight uphill into town. I'll never forget that beautiful hillside. All along the left side of the street surrounding the homes was a mature olive tree grove. One day, after returning from printmaking class, I walked down the hill past neighbor after neighbor all standing on wooden ladders, their heads in the boughs. They were shaking the branches while showers of little green marble-sized fruits plummeted to the ground and landed on nets laid out, skirting the old twisted trunks.

Each neighbor would stop for a moment as I passed, peek down at me through the leaves and cheerily shout, "Buongiorno!". There was an excitement in the harvest. A real sense of pride and of plenty. A time to celebrate. We shared meals together at long tables that began in the kitchen and connected to other tables and even more tables, all hodgepodge until they made their way out into the garden area and we ate pasta and olives under the evening sky. It was our group of quirky artists from America and the locals who hosted us, such an interesting mix of people all enjoying life together.

I often think back on those rich experiences and wonder how to get back to that earthy, simple way of life. It wasn't perfect, but it was real. And it was beautiful.

What is it that makes being a Mom hard to live a lifestyle like that? Why do I sometimes feel bound to the American standards and the daily grind? Why do I feel like I may never have adventures again? How do I invite my children into that kind of lifestyle? Why do I feel so much pressure to join the rat race?

Maybe the heart of the question is more about how to be open. How do I open myself up to live a life that sees that kind of beauty again and cherishes it, prioritizes it?

To stop and chat with a neighbor and allow them to come into my kitchen and teach me how to cook pasta, even if they do swear at me under their breath. I can't help but think that God can move in those messy, sometimes unpleasant ways to teach us all more about the beauty of life.

Let's open our hearts and our lives to the ordinary things of life and in turn find the beauty.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Jovie loves her Daddy and cheese.

My little girl is the best. Like really, she is just the best.

She is only three years old, with two little chestnut brown pigtails that curl up into perfect ringlets and big root-beer brown eyes you could just swim in. 

She has the most precious soft and tiny voice and is always humming some tune while she plays. 

Yesterday, she laid her head back against her car seat as we rode along and with the most dramatic expression staring out the window softly started singing, "You....are.....so....beautiful.........to me......" and even went for the super high note at the end. 

I mean, it is just melt your heart sweet three-year-old innocence. I can't get enough of it.

Don't get me wrong, we have had our moments. We have had the moments that turn into whole days and occasionally a whole grumpy-pants week. 

She knows what she wants (usually cheese) and she's not going to settle for anything less! 

At the same time, I admire a girl who knows what she wants. Miss Mae will not have a problem in life holding her own.

The other day, Dan came home from work and fumbled in the door arms full of books and things.

 Jovie ran right up to him and just stood in front of him while he unpacked. Bare toes prancing up and down and holding her fists under her chin, she kept whispering, "It's Daddy, It's Daddy...." with a dramatic breathy excitement. 

She 'pranced' in place like that for a solid 3-4 minutes. 

She inspires me with her enthusiasm for life..... And for cheese. 
I'm so thankful for this sweet spunky girl.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Wonder in the Small Things

I am writing by candlelight and watching the drizzly mist outside turning into snowflakes. Soft, small, flurries that fall slowly onto the sharp lime green blades of grass still holding onto life.

I love the way the candle moves gently and the shadows from the negative spaces of the outer candle holder shift back and forth ever so slightly.

I am grateful for this small moment, where I can truly be alone. Alone with you Lord.

Just now I catch a glimpse out the window again, in between sips of warm fragrant black tea and I am amazed to see the whole sky filled with big, fat flakes dropping quickly like heavy plops of vanilla frosting amidst a shower of slow fuzzy debris.

It's amazing how beautiful this one precious life is. How full of mystery and wonder. How a small candle and a view out my window can ground me. How You use the small, seemingly insignificant things to speak to my soul.

I see it in my children's eyes, the glassy reflection across their young fresh eyes, widening with wonder. 

They have so many questions, always craving to know more, experience more. And yet, at some point we grown-ups have lost that wild wonder. We plow through, our heads to ground, not to be bothered with such foolery. We need to be working to pay the bills, get food on the table, keep up with our schedules.

The steam is now rising up from my freshly poured tea cup and catching the light of the candle. This is my one glorious moment, when you break through to me. 

I lift my head from the plow and see the glowing steam rising to meet the shower of heavy plops of whipped cream falling behind it and I am moved. What a wonderful, sensationally quiet moment with You, Lord.

Rid me of hurry. Rid me of frenzied distraction. Rid me of fear and self-doubt. 

Help me to see the wonder reflecting across my eyes as if for the first time, over and over again. The first time. Help me to stay near to you.

May you lift your head and see the wonder all around you today.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Real Promise

A couple of months ago in July, there was the most perfect double rainbow out in the back field. It was the closest I've ever been to a full double rainbow, it went directly over the house.

The children were snug in their beds and the short reprieve from the storms happened just at the golden hour. That special half hour or so when the sky is perfectly golden and full of glinting fuzzies and glittering light peeking through tree branches.

Dan and I slowly pulled the slider door open in half disbelief, muscling the smudged glass pane aside from the real view, crisp and bursting with color. Can this be real? 

There are few moments in life that truly amaze me in my old age. I've become cold, distant and most of the time, over-stimulated and just plain tired. But this time...

My heart starts to race and sure enough that old familiar feeling floods into my body, a bit of adrenaline, breathing getting heavier and fighting back the inevitable smirk.

No matter how old I get, God never fails to amaze me with his creation. And for us, in that moment, his promise. The very next morning, Calvin and I had the big talk. He brought up how he wants to live forever with Jesus. He wants to ask Jesus into his heart.

Something about the way he said it, gazing out the back slider and contemplating his words, I knew it was real. He had time to think it all through.

Time to muscle back the smudged pane of glass he had been peering through. He had a real view this time. A crisp, bursting with color, view of the promise.  

A promise he wanted to hold onto and keep forever.

There is nothing that a mother who loves the Lord wants more for her children.

Lord, help me to give guidance and help me to talk about you and all the things you have done for me in our everyday conversations. Help me to tell the stories that have made me who I am in You, to our children. 

May you do the same, my sisters and brothers. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Season of Growth

Spring time is full of new beginnings, new growth becoming evident. Fresh seeds pushing up through the flat, otherwise idle soil. I love the way God orchestrates new life each and every season. Pink blossoms and green tentacles rising up out of the ground all around us.

 Like a season of our own lives, there are times when we thought all was idle and dormant within us, then suddenly, slowly one day we see that little green stem slowly push the dirt out of the way and rise up to its new potential.

What is new in you? How is God calling you out of your dormant season and into new growth? What have you learned, applied and are now seeing growth in you or others around you?