My family

My family

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

When Pain Lingers On

In the past, I have mentioned how this blog doubles as a digital diary helping me to look back at how my faith has helped me and my family through some of life's challenges. I have tried to respect my family's privacy and been vague about what some of those challenges have been but today I would like to address a specific challenge our family has been facing and what I am learning through the experience in the hopes that maybe someone who reads this might be helped or encouraged as well (even if that person is just me in the future who needs a reminder of this time of my life)
Pain - we all face it from time to time. Pain is a part of life. I believe God gave our bodies the ability (some would say our bodies evolved) to feel pain to protect us. Pain is how our brain knows there is something wrong from mild pain like the stove is hot or we are getting a sunburn or we have a scrape or cut that needs cleaning to severe pain that might tell us something is wrong internally like an infection, a broken bone or other internal injury. Pain can tell us to rest and heal or to see a Dr or to prevent further injury.
As a mom, wife, sister, daughter and friend, I hate seeing those I love in pain. I hurt when those I love are hurting. Over the past few years, my family and I have faced pain of all sorts - injuries, illness, surgeries, heartbreak and so on and it has all has been challenging. There is one specific situation I want to address here. What happens when the pain doesn't go away? And in my next entry I want to write about  How do you find joy while you are hurting or someone you love is hurting ?
Millions of people deal with constant pain. Causes of the pain might vary from arthritis or fibromyalgia, pinched nerves, autoimmune disorders, cancer, an old injury and this list can go on and on. Pain that doesn't go away or that lasts a LONG time changes you. It not only changes what you can do physically but what you are capable of mentally and emotionally and spiritually as well. Pain changes the person effected and all those in their lives. Relationships change. Friends disappear. Feelings of isolation, loneliness, depression, anxiety, frustration, anger and so on can set in (for everyone involved). Until you experience this yourself or with someone you love, you can't fully understand the toll it takes - at least I didn't.
My daughter's chronic pain was caused by CRPS or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome which in layman's terms means her nervous system is malfunctioning sending pain signals when it shouldn't.
As I type my daughter is in treatments for chronic pain at one of the best children's hospitals in the country. We have been here for 3 weeks. We have about 2 more weeks to go. The professionals (doctors, nurses, psychologists, physical and occupational therapists) treating my daughter and other children like her tell us that her pain will probably get better - with time. How much time, they can't say and she might have to deal with her pain for years (or longer) OR it could get better in weeks or months. In the mean time they are helping her cope with the pain and regain normal function and activity.
The hospital is teaching me too. We are learning about the power of our thoughts, of discipline, exercise, coping and relaxation "tools" and types of motivations. We are learning how by changing our thoughts and actions we can actual cause changes to our biology (our heart rate can slow or calm, our nervous system responses can change, and so on). We are learning the importance of dealing with our feelings instead of burying them or just "pushing through" them. Scripture has taught these things as well, but somehow I lost sight of it. For example "As someone thinks within himself, so he is.-Proverbs 23:7" We are not victims of biology or circumstances. Science is proving what Scripture already says. Dr. Caroline Leaf in her book Switch on Your Brain states“When you think, you build thoughts, and these become physical substances in your brain.” (For other verses and info on the power of our brain and thoughts  or  and there are probably more) 
I am being reminded by this experience, by the medical professionals treating my daughter, through spending time reading devotions, praying and meditating (nothing fancy - just getting lost in my thoughts) just how powerful our thoughts and behaviors are. I see more than ever why God (in Scriptures) mentions frequently to be careful what we think and do. Life is always going to involve challenges, stresses, and even pain. What God and science are teaching me is that how we face the obstacles life throws at us through our thoughts, attitudes and actions WILL make a difference in the outcome of those challenges. Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Spring is Muddy

Spring and I have a love hate relationship. I LOVE that there is more sunlight, that temperatures start to rise and that there are signs of new life everywhere. I love the hope spring brings. However, I also hate spring. I often tell people it is my least favorite season. It is SO muddy and dirty. The snow melts and EVERYTHING where I live is covered in the salt and sand and dirt from the roads. A winter's worth of blown or plowed trash, dead leaves and animal droppings are everywhere. Everything is grey and brown. Oh, and bugs and critters come back. I live near a park where spring means ants, beetles, mosquitoes, stinkbugs and more. It means mice and skunks and squirrels who are hungry getting into trash cans and gardens and so on. It means my cat brings me "gifts" of these critters and my dog is always in need of a bath (even right after a bath). So spring and I don't always get along.
I do have a favorite spring image though. This photo of pansies I think growing under the snow, poking out through the dirt and dead leaves is a favorite photo of mine. It's not beautiful or artistic but it speaks to me. Pansies are an annual flower. They are supposed to last only one season. Still, here are 2 or 3 small pansies who not only survived the cold winter but are growing and soon will be blossoming. This picture reminds me that through the cold dark seasons of life God is growing us, strengthening us. It reminds me that change isn't pretty. Change, even good change, is muddy and messy and sometimes even ugly but in the end we blossom.
Things are changing at our house. It seems our season of waiting might be coming to an end. We are starting to "see the light at the end of the tunnel" as the saying goes. The season coming is going to be hard and messy and complicated and hopefully beautiful! We are starting to get answers for our girls health struggles. There are answers for treatments and healing. I know that nothing about the next few months will be easy, but I have hope. I have faith that God is working out all the details and creating something beautiful under all this mess. And I have peace, a peace I can't explain. Our world is about to get even crazier and I have a peace about it. Seems odd to me. But then I remember these 2 pictures and I remember (OK full disclosure - I remember the Bible says something about peace beyond understanding and I google it and find it) Philippians 4:7 says "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." I have peace about the muddiness that is to come and faith that spring will bring something wonderful!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Waiting Game

In our house we are waiting. Waiting for answers. I will be honest. I am NOT good at waiting. If I am honest, I don't know many people who are. Waiting is hard. The unknown is uncomfortable and triggers fear and worry. Add that to the fact that the thing you are waiting for is a solution to something that is causing you or a loved one pain and waiting gets even harder for this mama.
So I find myself counting down. I am counting down until the next doctors appointment. I am counting down to when the next test result comes in. I find myself searching for the end of the tunnel and rushing to get through it.
What am I doing rushing things? Hoping time flies faster? But just yesterday I was saying I wanted a pause button or for life to slow down. Looking at FB memories I wondered "how did they grow up so fast?" Why am I trying to rush things away? Why spend so much time worrying and fearing tomorrow, next month, or next year and also hoping for them to get here?
I am SLOWLY learning that even the bad moments, the painful moments, the waiting moments are moments to make the most out of. Years ago, a woman came to talk to a mom's group I was in. The theme of her talk was "This too shall pass". She spoke of how as babies we can't wait for our child's NEXT phase. We can't wait until s/he sleeps through the night, talks, walks, is potty trained and so on. But we forget once they sleep though the night there will be no more late night snuggling and bonding. Walking means new exploration and less being held. We can rush to the next big milestone and take for granted the moment(s) right now. I try to remember her words and while I wait for what comes next (and I don't wait well - I know that) I don't want to take today for granted either.
Many people know Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 as a song sung by the Byrds. click here for video  Today, it is a season of waiting. I need to stop and focus on today and let tomorrow be it's own day and not rush it to get here. There are blessings to be found in every season. Sometimes we just have to look harder to find them. My goal today is to remember to look at today and not focus on whatever it is I am waiting for.

first loves and first heart breaks written 2016

Having a daughter (3 actually) has given me a lot more respect and understanding of what my sisters and I put my mother (and father) through. Today I want to tackle the topic of boys - specifically that first love and first heart break. My daughter and I share a lot of common experiences with our first loves and our first heart breaks. The hardest part of it all is seeing now, just how much our first real relationships had in common.
Our first loves made us feel needed, wanted, special, desirable and even worshipped. Our first loves were our best friends who we told everything. Everyone told us "you're the best thing that ever happened to him" or "you're so good for him". But our first loves had problems. Problems that they didn't want to face and deal with. Problems that we couldn't fix - not matter how hard we tried. Problems like depression, anger, jealousy, control issues, troubled pasts and so on. Problems they poured on us and expected us to help them through or with or fix. Problems they didn't want to take ownership of and they should be seeking help for with a counselor, doctor, parent and or God (not a girlfriend).
The result - some might say the relationships became emotionally abusive. I think at the very least our first loves were very emotionally manipulative. And here's the kicker - at 16, 18, 20 we (and most young people) are NOT prepared to handle these emotions and issues. Our boyfriends weren't prepared to handle their thoughts and feelings and problems and neither were we. Emotional manipulation, which can slip easily into emotional abuse, became a defense, an attempt to hang onto what they desperately wanted.
I don't know how exactly my mother handled my emotionally manipulative first love. I do know she was patient and had faith I would one day see what she saw. She was there to help me pick up the pieces when my first love tore me down and tried to hurt me and blame me for his problems. She was there to tell me that while I might have been the best thing that ever happened to him, he wasn't the best thing that ever happened to me.
Today, my daughter is in tears. Crying because her first love is still (months after their breakup) trying to hurt her, to manipulate her feelings and her family and friends. He has "forgiven" her for things she never did but that were his problem that he blames her for. (The thing about forgiveness is it means letting go and he hasn't done that). He has twisted and manipulated the truth with his anger into lies that he believes and tells to everyone.  She is crying in frustration, anger and in PAIN. And it's all I can do as a mom to not call this boy and say "what the bleep are you doing!?" But I won't. It is her call to make if she wants to call him out on his emotional blackmail and half truths and lies.
So what's a mom to do when her baby is hurting, and walking down a road that seems so familiar? I am going to take some notes from my mom. I am going to try and be patient and have faith that things will be OK and be there to help pick up the pieces if they are not OK. I am going to listen. I am going to help her see what choices she has but let her make the decisions. And I don't know if my mom did this but I am going to PRAY. I am going to pray for her heart, her thoughts, her future. I am going to pray God take her pain and use it to teach her something. Maybe she will take this and use it in her future working with "at risk" youth because she'll understand the power emotional manipulation has. Maybe God will use it in another way. I am going to PRAY for her ex. I am going to pray he owns his anger instead of blaming her for it. I am going to pray he gets help he needs with his pain and problems. I am going to pray for his heart and his future.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Storm of 2018

This blog has become a place where I can journal and sort out my thoughts as my family and I journey through life. I have noticed looking back that this blog has been were I seem share some of my family's darker hours and the light that helps us through them. Some might think we don't have good times or that we are always struggling with something and I can see how it might appear that way. However when times are good or "easy", when we aren't facing a challenge of some sort, I find I have less to say. I could post "Things are really good. Praise the Lord!" and it would be very true, but I think it would be boring to read. Plus when things are good, I have less on my mind, less to sort through and process and less to offer someone else, therefore I have less to write. So I will continue writing this blog as a tool to help me and maybe someone else through the twists and turns and bumps along the journey of life.
As you might have guessed (because I am writing again), our family's journey has taken some unexpected turns as of late. In fact, sometimes it feels like we have started a new journey all together. For about 6 months now our youngest 2 daughters have been facing some painful and unexplainable (unrelated to each other) health conditions. We have been spend a lot of time at different doctors offices and hospitals, urgent cares and ER's, physical therapists, acupuncturists, testing facilities, counselors and so on. Questions are many and so far, answers have been few.
It is so hard watching someone you love hurting. I think it's even harder when that someone is your child. As a mom, I feel like part of my job is to protect my child(ren) and prevent them from getting hurt. Another part of my job is to help them when they do get hurt or are hurting. When I am helpless to do either, I don't have words to describe what that is like.
I will be honest. At times over the past few months things have felt dark. My whole family has struggled with feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, pain, being discouraged and overwhelmed just to put names on a few of our emotions. I have found myself feeling lost, confused and like I didn't have the strength to face the trials we were going through.
That's where the triumph part of my title comes in. In my darkest moments, the times when I have sometimes literally cried out "I can't do this", I hear a voice inside me reminding me "I am here. You can do this. Lean into me". Words fill my head and heart like "Trust me" "I have a plan for her. I love her".  I feel my emotions calm. My tears stop. My thoughts stop racing. God gives me little things to help my family through today while reassuring me to trust Him for tomorrow. I can't really explain it.
On the wall of my living room is a quote. You can see it in the picture of my family on the blog page. "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain". Lately I have also been reminded of the title of this blog and the Bible verse it refers to. Matthew 7:24-27 New Living Translation (NLT) 24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
And right now my family is in one heck of a storm. But God is helping me (and us) dance in the rain and because we have built our house on a strong foundation, this storm will not break us or defeat us. We will stand firm.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Can't stay silent

My church's head pastor shared this reminder recently (for his whole message please read "“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8,9 NIV) We are told to speak up and not remain silent when it comes to those who are hurting, needy, marginalized or disenfranchised in some way. James 2:18 states, “I will show you my faith by what I do.” Speaking up is doing what is right. It is an action of our faith. Nothing is more compelling or authentic as a witness for the Christian faith than speaking up for those in need and calling for justice."
So I am going to speak up.... There is NO race, religion, class, gender, or person who is SUPERIOR. We are all equal. Equally created, equally valuable and even equally flawed. There is no perfect person, no perfect family, no perfect culture, no perfect race. For people to think they are in some way "better than" anyone else is crazy. And when this belief that "I am better than or worth more than someone else" then is used to justify treating someone else badly (or worse) it is WRONG - from the school yard bully to the terrorist with a gun or bomb or driving a vehicle into a crowd to the individual buying or selling others people in modern slavery and human trafficking - it is WRONG. EVERY life is unique and valuable. NO person is better than any other person.
The sad thing is the idea of being superior or having a superior ideology grows. These are the lies Satan uses to make hate and prejudice grow. It can grow until it becomes extremism and even terrorism. I have NEVER understood extremists and fanatics and I understand even less when people with extreme views use aggression, violence, vandalism and even murder to "prove" their point. It just is heartbreaking to me. And yet, it all goes back to the idea that somehow some lives are worth more than others.
I pray that someday EVERYONE will honor, respect and value all human life. I don't know what I can do alone but I will keep being as loving, patient and kind as I can. I will do my best to love more and judge less. I will keep praying. I will teach my children (and anyone else I can) that while they are special, unique and wonderful, they are not worth more than anyone else and that we are all equal in the eyes of our Creator. I will teach my children to stand up for what is right - to speak out against injustice and to speak up for those being mistreated. I might be just one small person in the face of a big problem but I have faith that if enough small people like me keep speaking up, keep praying, and keep loving and trying to live out their faith, then there will be change. I pray you join me and together God will use us to make this world better for everyone.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Confessions of a contagious crier

Those who know me and even those that don't know me well know that I am a crier. I call myself a contagious crier. Maybe it's because when I take those tests that measure your gifts and strengths, I score pretty high in empathy. Maybe it's something else. Who knows? But when I see someone crying, I almost feel their hurt or their joy and I cry too. And it's not just seeing people in real life. Stories on TV or in books, commercials, songs on the radio, and posts shared on FB, my family just hands me the box of tissues.
Maybe that's why when someone I care about is going through a rough chapter in life - illness or injury, financial trouble, relationships, internal struggles or whatever - I feel so overwhelmed. I can deal with my own challenges, pain, struggles and I feel fine. The stress of things happening in my life doesn't seem to bother me really. I can handle it most of the time. But when someone I care about has stress in their life and it eats me up. Maybe it's the empathy and contagious crier part of me or maybe it is because I want to be able to help and can't, but watching others hurting is harder for me than going through the pain myself.
It seems to come in waves too. Everything will be going along honky dory when one loved one after another shares some big (bad) news or a prayer request or I just see them struggling. Why is that? Suddenly my head and heart are full of thoughts and feelings about those close to me. My heart hurts and I feel on the verge of tears even when no one is around.
So what do I do? I am still trying to figure that out. I have learned this year that I had been bottling a lot of this in. Then when the "crisis" (even when it's not my "crisis") is over my body literally starts reacting with racing heart rates, headaches, and so on. Doctors are helping me with the physical effects. Still, I need to find find way to help myself deal with the racing thoughts, feelings of worry or fear, (and empathy), the desire to help and feeling of helplessness when I can't. So this is what I am doing. First, I am being real about it. This blog is part of that. What is the saying - you can't fix what you don't acknowledge? My hope is that I will look back on this blog (and maybe others will too) and remind myself to not bury my feelings. Secondly, I am talking to God a lot more. I am realizing more and more He is the friend who I can always vent to AND not only will he listen, but he has the power to help too! The more I talk to God and spend time with Him, the more I sense Him and trust that even when I don't understand why bad or difficult things are happening, He will work it out and has a plan for it. Which brings me to the last thing I am trying to do more. It is so easy to stay focused on the "why is this happening?", the "what ifs" and the "I should haves"in times of challenges even though I have always been a glass half full kind of person. We (or at least I) can get caught up in the sadness, frustration, anger or guilt of the moment. So in times of difficulties or growth & challenges (my own or those of people I love) I am focusing on finding something to be thankful for. This isn't always easy but it is easier when I stay focused on counting my blessings, on promises I have seen God keep and prayers I have seen God answer.
I can't always help those I love. I can't ease their pain, or take away their struggles no matter how much I want to. I can listen. I can pray. I can offer help or advice. And when their hurting hearts make mine ache too, I can talk trust God to take care of us both.