Friday, May 18, 2018

Bitter or Better, Our Choice

I rounded the corner at the end of the hallway and realized I knew where I was. This was a familiar place. When it dawned on me, I looked to my boys, now 13, and with a smile, pointed to these two chairs and said, “Boys, I nursed you in those chairs and on the floor of one of the exam rooms in the back. Initially, I recounted this to them as a fond memory, filling them in on a time they were very much a part of but would have no remembrance because they were just babies, days old as a matter of fact. 

But then, as I took a seat to wait once again for an ultrasound to be taken of my oldest’s (by two minutes) eyes, the tears welled up in my own eyes. Surprised by this rush of emotion, I tried to quell the sobs that were building, to no avail. There in the pediatric division of Wilmer Institute at Johns Hopkins, I sat and sobbed. My sons inquired; a nurse walked by observing and offered us dum dums, the quintessential, “This will make everything better” offering to all children in every hospital or medical clinic worldwide, I am convinced. The external stimuli jolted me out of that traumatic place the sight of those two chairs took me, and I was able to compose myself enough to decline the sweet nurse’s offer of comfort in lollipop form. 

It’s been 13 years walking a road I never could have anticipated traveling. When we were first told about our son’s diagnosis of Sturge Weber Syndrome and all the potential havoc it could wreak on his, and subsequently our lives, we were shell shocked. Entering Hopkins’ clinics just days after my twins were born introduced us to a world of specialists, medical jargon, tests, procedures and surgeries we would not know anything about should God have spared us from this lot. But 13 years later, I can see how much we have all grown through what God chose for us. I can see we have learned so much; we have grown in empathy and informed compassion for a whole segment of this world that we may have otherwise overlooked or even ignored. I can see our endurance for life’s challenges, curve balls, unexpecteds and unknowns has been strengthened. 

 I want to take this opportunity to encourage anyone who’s been thrust upon a life path you never would have chosen and can’t get off of. Or maybe you did run after & welcome a certain life trajectory, but it’s all new and proving to be harder than you thought it would be, with costs you aren’t sure you’re prepared to pay. Time really is an important player that you will either thank or regret depending on what you cultivate with that time. 

It may be cliche, but the truth nevertheless remains. Circumstances can make you bitter or better, and it’s time that will deepen what you chose to cultivate. Let me be a voice in your life today urging you to fight to be shaped for the better by whatever it is that is pressing down hard on you right now. Be vigilant about uprooting those bitter seeds that want to grow deep in your soul. They often sound like, “This isn’t fair. I deserve better than this. I hate my life. Why do things go well for everyone else but me? What have I done to deserve this? How will anything good come from this?” 

I’m not saying that there won’t be struggle or that I never thought these things or still don’t sometimes think these things. But, let’s together remember we have a choice in what we’re going to do when these thoughts come. We can choose to nurture these embittering thoughts or reject them and replace them with God’s truth. He has promised to work all things together for the good of those who love Him. He has promised to fulfill His purposes for our lives, and as those who love Jesus and have given our lives to Him, we can trust His purpose is to prosper us and not to harm us. It might look oh so different than we could ever have imagined, but He is wise. He is good. And He will sustain us even through the darkest of times. 

We received another diagnosis yesterday for my son, one that likely has been there since he was born. And despite the numerous eye specialists who have spent hours, that could likely amount to days if added up, looking into the depths of my son’s eyes, this anomaly was not discovered until yesterday. It’s likely the cause of his extremely poor vision in his one eye, at least according to the doctor we saw yesterday. Honestly, who really knows? 

I could be tempted to anger over this, but for 13 years, I have sought to cultivate a firm belief that God is my son’s Creator, Sustainer and his ultimate Physician. And He reveals what He wants and keeps hidden what He wants hidden even to the “Best of the Best.” And because I’ve cultivated that truth over a long period of time, I do not have to get angry about this potentially missed diagnosis. I do not have to wonder if we could have preserved better vision in that eye had this been discovered earlier in his journey. I can fully trust that we have sought God throughout my son’s whole life for help with his needs. We have followed through on what God led us to do, the doctors to whom He led us. And we can have confidence that though we undoubtedly have not walked this out perfectly, we have a God who is perfect in all His ways even when His ways seem to run counter to our finite wisdom. For 13 years, I have imperfectly but genuinely cultivated trust in God, and I’m not going to stop trusting Him now. 

Today, I’m beckoning you to do the same.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Thoughts from the funeral home. In memory of my Uncle Dick

Brokenness and beauty
Pride and humility
Confusion and clarity
Grief and celebration
Despair and hope
Doubt and confidence
Turmoil and peace
Merit and mercy
Shadow and sunlight
Toil and rest
Fear and courage
In these we live and die.
All is grace.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Summer Break from Social Media

On June 12, I went quiet. What some might call a radical decision, I decided to go off social media for the summer. For me, this meant instagram and facebook.

As stated in my instagram post from that day, I sensed some things were coming to a head in my life, and I needed the space to process it all.

The break did indeed offer that space, and I'm jumping on my blog to journal some of the observations I made during the last two months I have *mostly* been off of social media.

I say "mostly" because I did hop onto facebook and instagram to check my notifications.  Like it or not, if one has had, in particular, a facebook account for any length of time, it can actually be logistically challenging to pull the plug entirely.  For some people, facebook and/or instagram is their only point of contact for me.  I receive a number of invitations via facebook and learn quite a lot of community happenings via this medium as well.  It makes a complete removal from fb not impossible but unattractive for sure.

Also, about a month into my break, I started to go onto instagram just to look up specific people and "catch up" on their life...well, their instagram life anyway.  :)   So, a cheater I am for sure. But, this actually worked well in helping me make some observations about myself which will in turn help me to set individual boundaries that will serve me in the long run in my social media use.

So, here are a few things I observed during my break.

1. Less cluttered mind
The first two weeks I was off social media, I found my mind less cluttered with both the joyful and mournful events of others' lives and more fully engaged in my reality.  Sometimes, this actually felt selfish and self absorbed. I am an incredibly relationally-oriented person, and oddly enough it felt self centered at times to not be in touch with others' lives.

Nevertheless, the break was absolutely needful because this summer has not been the relaxed, carefree season that most associate with summer.  It's been hectic and full of unexpected emergencies, mild disasters and ongoing health issues.  I really needed to be fully engaged--mind, body and spirit--with my small, little life here on Montford.

I was more attentive to the needs of my home and family because I wasn't also simultaneously cataloging the needs of others. If you're not an empath, you may not understand this. If you are an empath, you are totally nodding your head, and may want to consider a social media break yourself.


2. Timing of checking others' accounts is crucial
My "cheating" ended up revealing to me how important it is for me to be intentional about when I check social media. Do I have the emotional capacity and the physical time to process through and respond to something I may see or read in a way that is honoring to God and to those I follow on these accounts?

If I'm at the end of a stressful day with my children or in the middle of a conflict with my husband, it may not be the best time to check instagram where I may stumble upon someone else's well dressed, smiling children being rewarded for their hard work at school that day or a couple's anniversary smooch shared in front of the Grand Floridian hotel.

If I am waiting on hold with a doctor's office, is that really a good time to scroll facebook where I could learn that someone's loved one has suddenly passed away?  Do I really have the time to respond well to that information at that time?

For me, this is important.  There are real people on the other end of our social media feeds. Many of them are people I know in real life and who I have a deep affection for or at least respect. To quickly "like" someone's post or write, "praying" on a post where someone has just shared heavy news does not set well for me.


3. I benefit from those I follow on social media, and I missed that.
Over the several years I have been on social media, instagram especially,  I have curated a specific group of mostly women who really do minister hope and inspiration to my soul through their feeds. While away, I missed their input.

4. I love to communicate via this medium.
In addition to being a highly relational person, I am also a highly communicative one.  I missed the outlet social media provides for me to communicate not only the events of my life but moreso my thoughts and feelings.

Stepping away allowed me to evaluate my own feed. Of all the noise in this sphere, I want to set myself apart by providing a feed that will be encouraging, uplifting, soaked in solidarity for those in similar seasons or stages of life and always, always pointing people to Jesus.

With all this in mind, I am ending my break from social media.  But, I'm doing it with some clearer and more helpful boundaries in place to make it beneficial rather than the bane of my online presence.



Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Still Waiting

I'm 40 years old and still waiting.
Waiting for my children to apprehend all I am trying to teach them, all the ways I have laid out before them how it is to live a godly life, full of meaning, purpose and joy.

I'm 40 years old and still waiting.
Waiting for my time to come, my time to shine in the fullness of what I believe God has put so clearly and passionately on my heart to do.

I'm 40 years old and still waiting.
Waiting for a complete healing of chronic health issues for which I have tried many remedies and interventions, all of which have brought some relief, some comfort but not full healing.

I'm 40 years old and still waiting.
Waiting for prayers I have prayed for many years to be answered.
Waiting for dreams I have dreamed for many years to see their fulfillment.
Waiting. Sometimes I don't even know all I am waiting for; I just know I'm still waiting.

In her book, "Still Waiting," Ann Swindell talks a lot about waiting, and shares a message of hope for all of us who are in the waiting room of life.
And, frankly, I don't know anyone who isn't waiting for something.

Ann beautifully weaves her personal story of waiting with the biblical account of the Bleeding Woman (Matthew 9:20-22), both women knowing the ache of waiting on God for healing.

What I appreciate most about Ann's book is that she did not wait to write it until she experienced full healing, until her wait came to an end.  No. You see, Ann is still waiting.  And, there is something so incredibly God-glorifying, hope-giving, and satisfying to my own heart to read words of hope and to be pointed rightly to the Source and Giver of both hope and healing from one who is still waiting herself.

This lends such credibility to the strong, sure message Ann conveys in "Still Waiting."

In her book's chapters, Ann breaks down the effects waiting has on one's soul, mind, body, and relationships with others and with God. She discusses how waiting makes one weak, broken, is costly, claims one's identity, feels offensive, brings shame, feels like suffering, and is risky.  She concludes her book with a chapter entitled, "Hope for the Waiting Ones," but Ann does an effective job at sprinkling hope ALL throughout the book.  You don't have to wait until the end for a strong dose of hope.

If you are waiting for anything or anyone and want to wait with hope, I strongly urge you to get your hands on Ann Swindell's, "Still Waiting."

*I wrote this endorsement to help spread the word about Ann's book, not solely or even primarily because I was chosen to be a part of her book launch team, but because I have been encouraged deeply by her words, believe strongly in the message of hope about which she writes, and appreciate greatly the skillful, artful way in which she presents that message. I did receive a copy of "Still Waiting" at no charge in order to read it before its official launch.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

To honor Rare Disease Day, 2017

Initially, the OB said he was bruised from the birthing process which I found odd because he was pulled out along with his twin, via emergency C-section.

The next day, however, we met our pediatrician who proceeded to clarify for us that our son, Judah, was not bruised but born with a permanent birthmark called a Port Wine Stain (PWS) covering 40% of his body, most of his face and skull, and carried with it the possibility of an accompanying rare syndrome known as Sturge-Weber Syndrome (SWS).

Five days after Judah was born, we drove to Johns Hopkins where skin, eye, and neurological evaluations confirmed Judah had two of the three markers for SWS: skin and eye. Neurological involvement was then unknown and since has been ruled out as much as medical knowledge can provide that assurance.

It is still essentially unknown if Judah will remain free of neurological involvement, but to date we are grateful God has not asked us to walk through those particular hardships.

Nevertheless, the challenges we have faced these past twelve and a half years have all drawn us closer to God, to each other, to our community of friends and fellow Christians who have more than done their part in shouldering this burden with us.

And by burden, I mean the surgeries, the procedures, the endless quest for a cure, the countless crossroads we have come to where decisions have had to be made on Judah's behalf--something that has at times evoked significant anxiety, self doubt and near paralysis as a mother.

But, never, never do I or have I seen or felt Judah a burden. He is such a delight to our family and all who know him.

He is a joyful, outgoing, intelligent, creative, opinionated, strong, compassionate little man who feels deeply, loves sincerely, sings sweetly, perseveres, has so many dreams for his future, is ambitious, and a conqueror.

I love this kid whose rarity exceeds his diagnosis of SWS and extends into his person-hood, his infectious smile and warm hugs.

I look at his red face everyday, left side more full with hypertrophy from the genetically mutated proliferation of blood vessels, and see nothing but a handsome gift from God.

Friday, January 27, 2017

I am not an evergreen

All throughout my yard, evergreens are planted next to flowering shrubs or trees that lose their leaves and stand bare through the winter months.   While the evergreens have the same, stately fullness of needle or leaf, same depth of the color green, the flowering bushes and trees look naked, fruitless.

I love peering out to my yard in the dead of winter, amidst its cold, sometimes gray, low cloud hanging days to see streaks of green, round orbs of color.
Something lives!
Something thrives when all else appears lifeless.
I love these evergreens because they are ever green.

I am not an evergreen.

Like my flowering bushes and trees, I languish during the winter. The cold, the lack of sunshine, illnesses that relentlessly creep all converges at once. It wears me down physically and wears on me spiritually.

I have long despised my frailty. I have wondered why I am so easily undone. I've analyzed and evaluated how to grow more stout,  more steady, more stately – poised – like some of my evergreen friends.

Without fail, I fail. I fall prey to external circumstances that weaken my resolve, steal my smile, and drain my liveliness.

I am learning to wait. I am learning to live fruitless and bare. I'm learning to not feel shame in my nakedness and nothing-to-offer seasons. These are the seasons of simply standing still, staying rooted, bearing the cold wind.

Fruitfulness and color will come.
For me, it's not the season.
It's my winter, and I'm not an evergreen



Saturday, January 21, 2017

January

gloomy, gray days
when will the fog lift?
for an ice storm?
into a bank one drifts

illness after illness
squeeze life and laundry
into the cracks
between runs for antibiotics

fill the diffusers
pump the fluids
wash hands
daily probiotics

make bone broth
take immune boosters
lots of vitamin C
and hand sanitizer

cover your mouth
don't share food
wonder why one well sibling
is in school

wafts of lysol
drinks of ACV or hard liqor
to tighten up
a loose stomach

postponed plans with friends
finally cancelled 'til spring
sickness circulates
keeping track of meds

rest
hot tea
blankets
lots of TV

This is January.