Friday, August 4, 2017

Summering in MN 2017

"Summering" in Minnesota sounds fancy doesn't it? The beauty and deception of social media....

We got to celebrate the adoption of two new ones to our family!!! (please don't tell my beautiful "T" that I posted this pic bc she looks nothing like herself, but this was the only pic I had) ***fun challenge: find MaryAlice (story for another day)
A few days into our trip to MN I legitimately questioned my sanity. There were tears. The calmer, contented Abby got lost somewhere between Florence and The Atlanta-Hartsfield airport. I figured the travel would be at the worst "one really bad day." Somehow I didn't factor in all the details of the five hour trip to Atlanta, overnight with Nanny and Papa, early morning to the airport, flying Southwest needing crucial airport accommodations (which didn't happen), and finally 2 1/2 hours from Minneapolis to Duluth... and eventually back again.  OKAY, so it was two pretty rough days... maybe 4 (evidently, I'm still a bit in denial). 

It was my choice to make. No one pressured or forced me to tackle a three week trip myself. I think somewhere deep down, I needed to just go home. A girl needs her safe place to fall, process, connect and be surrounded by her people.

It may have been a bonus... 
  • To prove to myself (hopefully not as much others) I could take care of my own kids (pride always comes before a fall... I fell)
  • To see how much Abby remembered. She hadn't been "home" since her hospital stay which seemed to wipe out her recollections (Still unsure if she remembered and was happy or had no idea where she was and was frustrated).
  • For me and my girls to reconnect with old friends and family (SUCCESS!!! one out of three isn't bad)

How we do life isn't an accident that's happen to us... we have a choice. Relationships need time in order to grow. I want to live my life in "choose people" mode, so I must make the effort to invest in the people I care about. Sometimes this means setting aside simple things, but sometimes it's about the big gesture. A trip home is obviously not just a big selfless gesture, but enduring and remaining hopeful enough for the sake of time with people I care about is. (I was so caught up with trying to be sane that I took few pictures with all the friends I got to see... so sad).
at least we got some pics! Miss this gal!
Seriously spent most days with Danielle this may be the only pic we got :(
Having our kids reminded me to take some pics! Old friends are some of the best! Loved this gal since middle school!

New relationships are fun and fresh. I remember loving college because I could re-invent myself, but into my forties I don't really want to re-invent myself. I have worked hard to love those around me well, invest in people, and build a reputation worth keeping.  At this age, I would really just like to bask in the aftermath of those hard fought battles and do easy every now and then with those I have built a shared history. I know "hard" isn't over or a thing of the past, but being closer to these people in this place seemed like it could be a refill for my soul. 

I expected Abby to be tiring because her cares alone are just that, but I had hoped against all odds she'd be the calm sweeter variety we've been experiencing.
Not so much.

Pretty much a reflection of at least half our time in MN... on the deck while Abby played on the trampoline and the kids ran around the yard!!!

Safe places to fall

I recently realized I needed to take Advil before attending social gatherings. They are so taxing because I have to work hard at "friend-ing". There is so much history and people facts to remember, stories to share, and other's stuff to take in if I want to be a good friend. We all have so many layers of who we were that contribute to who we are. There is also the calculating what to share and how much is falling on safe and open ears? Not to mention my brain capacity must be declining or reaching capacity most days because I can easily forget stories or I cannot place the person it belongs to. Being in a good place without distraction is kind of a big deal when it comes to making friends, and it's not a life option right now.

These sweet buddies picked up where they left off without skipping a beat giving their mamas some soul sister time!
Finding "kindred spirits" (I'm back to Anne of Green Gables thanks to Netflix) means I weed through those who are nice and the ones who actually have time and space for new relationships. Then we start the process of finding those who are like-minded and we enjoy each other's brand of crazy. 

Home in Florence hasn't been a safe place to fall. I've learned to do more crying alone with my God and found HE is always enough. Being back in MN I found that those relationships weren't crucial to my survival like I had mourned early on, but the one with my Heavenly Father is. Those people I was holding on to with expectations were instead gifts of the most precious category to feed my soul.

Aubrey and Millie... love these two little friends!

The Lord has surrounded me in my new home with some amazing women, whom I've grown to love and deeply respect. They are treasures of encouragement and have extended their hands and hearts in true friendship, but it takes TIME. We fight for our time together by giving each other a lot of grace and often going to great lengths to invest in each other. 

Fragile masks

I'm not much for fake. I don't like shallow relationships, but the deep waters take infinite amounts of time and brain power to grow and maintain... I battle growing weary in the process. I lead with honesty and may err on the side of too open too often. I came to Florence at the lowest point in my life. I led with broken. The Lord has been putting the pieces back together in many beautiful, better ways, but easy hasn't been a part of that process. Grown, stretched, and refined are familiar terms in this season; but so are broken, worn, and weary. 

I've often told others who struggle that it's okay to cry as long as you stop. I stopped the tears, but it was before the cleansing was finished. I've somehow learned to hold it together (other than some rogue moments) in fear of total breakdown in front of strangers who don't know me well enough to come back. I don't want to frighten people, but the tears seems to creep up on me at the least opportune times.

Sweet Solomon wasn't ready for all the love... being #10 means a lot of extra squeezes!!!

Brothers and sisters

Brothers and sisters by blood and those chosen by God, have been bonded together through time and often extreme fires. There is no replacement for TIME. It is a commodity we cannot collect quicker. We cannot infuse life experiences into an afternoon, but only with the passage of days. 

I have never been more thankful for the homes I could walk into or the places I could go with the people who share my past, present and future. They remind me of God's faithfulness and His numerous blessings. I needed a safe place to fall during this trip and it was a gift to re-visit those whose love remained unchanged despite the miles of road between us.

The love here is like nothing I've ever seen from Abby!

There was something beautiful about all being in the same place at the same time. It didn't matter what we did or what went on around us. I took in the laughter along with the hard of less sleep and unsettled kids. We squeezed in many moments together. Most were amidst chaos but the few where Abby occupied herself in the car, bounced contentedly enclosed on the trampoline, or dancing to the breeze while walking were precious. There were indeed many walks, but I never walked alone.

Our Ethel... miss this lady!

Abby update

Abby was happy during the bulk of our trip. She wasn't mad or even upset most of the time, but she was significantly aggressive. She went back to the kind of pinching and pulling that produced blood, bruising and handfuls of hair. We had to hide everything that wasn't nailed down because it was dropped or tossed. I think she only ended up breaking a few things, but it wasn't from lack of effort. We spent a good part of every day taking her for walks or trouble shooting how to keep her in a defined space. Most cares often required two sets of hands but it wasn't an unfamiliar place. It just was not a place I would have brought her across the country by myself in. 

There were still many opportunities to visit and reconnect with friends. Visits may have been shorter or canceled altogether, but I immensely enjoy the ones who could accommodate my limited time and circumstances. Like most of my life requires, my friends understand.

Grandma is amazing for helping MaryAlice pull off a tea party for the girls!

We'll have time

A few months ago something profound settled over me in a life giving realization. I looked at my girls and the sixteen years I had been a mom. It seemed like an eternity and a day all at the same time. I felt the years passing by at lightning speed. The desire to be present in my life and not miss the moments pushed through the "busy" and settled onto my heart. 

These days pass by quickly. Some day I will be able to have coffee everyday with a friend, but I will miss the chaos of a full house. All the days I long for just a few moments of quiet will melt into days of longing for someone to step in and create noise. 

Today, I will learn to take the short moments of solace amidst the crazy. I'll be content to build relationships at a snail's pace. I will take the trips back home even when it's hard. I will be all the more grateful for the safe places of shared history and the new ones that give time and space to forge new ones. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Not Awesome

There are days I appreciate people who notice the struggle and encourage me,
but then there are days...


I'd like...
to go unnoticed
to hop in the car without restraints
browse around the flowers without struggling to maneuver a wheelchair
constantly distracting a resistant child, and
not be like google maps to "recalculate" a less populated path.

Don't get me wrong, most days I fully appreciate those who...

ask questions and wait for an answer
allow me to arrive late or leave early without offense
come back after being on the receiving end of an emotional vomit
are present with a hug and a prayer because sometimes there are no answers

After sixteen years most days I don't mind being the ambassador for special needs. I can paste on a grin when I'm stared at from afar and be content to be present. But on other days, I beat myself up over the desperate longing to fade into the crowd, or even just stroll around without so many eyes.

Most days I don't even notice the incessant music from the same toys that have been playing for over a decade, yet others I'm cringing at the simple screeching and clicking noises wishing they'd go unnoticed. Those are the days where the pinching, hair pulling and digging get under my skin and I need to walk away.

Maybe its the anxiousness in my soul that needs to settle before I can engage on those days? Maybe the emotions of the moment need to be worked out in my own head before they can be released in an intelligible string of words? Maybe those are the days where there are too many words and they're all too clouded in the struggle? Or maybe I'm just human and some days I'm just weary. Maybe it's okay to not be awesome.

I know I'm not afraid of communicating the hard, but I think I need to work through to the hope before I can be honest with the pain.

I've been battling the reality of walking out hard places lately. I decided to take a trip to MN with all four girls by myself. I felt confident when I purchased the tickets, but packing bags and the reality of the five hour car ride before the plane ride was making me sick to my stomach. All the "what ifs" of caring for Abby without Andy or a caregiver started to seem more crazy than challenging the night before.

Abby hasn't exactly been herself after the hospital stay over a year ago. I had to get over the fact she didn't seem to recognized me when she woke up. Those weeks in the hospital had taken away our relationship in some form or fashion. I had to become her mom again and I think I've done that. I was oddly looking forward to solidifying "us" during this time. It was a really nice thought, but the reality of her care giving needs is definitely overwhelming.

Knowing I need the Lord desperately every single day doesn't mean I've figured out how to practically do it without angst. There seems to be a gap between the knowing and the doing. Being aware of my need just isn't enough. How can I keep moving forward when the blanket of fear starts to suffocate my courage? What does walking in faith look like? I think it should feel less frightening. I didn't think the pit in my stomach would be there if I fully trusted. Being a work in progress is often more humbling than I'd like. I want to measure success in concrete terms with definable edges, but that's not exactly how it goes.

I want a magic revelation of some undiscovered biblical truth to hit me over the head and take away the anxiousness creeping in my stomach, but ironically in the midst of a walk last week the truth settled in with a lot less fanfare then I had hoped for. Life is far more simple than I make it out to be.

Keep walking...

The choice is laid before us each day... hide in the closet or keep walking. I've tried the closet gig... not so great. Choosing to move forward can be hard but its definitely empowering when our faithful God carries us across the raging rivers unharmed to remind us who HE is.  Refusing to be stalled because we trust the hand leading us gives us the courage to get out and do hard things again each day.

We keep living and answering the call on our lives makes the faith we read about come off the pages and live in the space between theory and reality. Trusting "He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6)."

I make the choose to keep walking. Today it isn't easy. Tomorrow will be a new day...

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3     he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Monday, May 1, 2017

Doing one thing will radically change your life

Arriving in a new place with four kids, two with significant special needs (at that time) was like having the floor come out beneath me. It didn't take long to realize I couldn't physically, mentally or emotionally handle all I needed to do each day. I had two kids that required one-on-one care, two others who were mourning the loss of everything they've ever known (Belle was 6mo old when we moved to MN) and trying to figure out their place in this new world.

It was just too much.

I started by creeping in and out of despair. I fought it in the beginning with hope God's plan would magically appear and turn this impossible life into something possible. It didn't. I spent most days just surviving, going from one emergency task to another. There are some things that can be shelved for later, but eating, hygiene, clothing, clean-up and sleep ruled my days.

Soon those first few weeks turned into months and months into years, and despair set in. All I could say to the Lord each day was, "This is too much." The worst part of that constant plea for help was the answer I kept getting. I assumed it was satan tormenting me or just the craziness in my head. The response was, "I know".

What the crap did He want me to do with that? I was drowning! It took me some time to realized it was HIS voice reassuring me I was being heard and HE was near.

Small moments of light broke through with the words I heard in CBS (Community Bible Study) and church. I needed someone  to lift the spoon and put them in my heart because I lacked the strength to do it alone. Being on empty each day and living in despair zapped my ability to take in what I needed. The tyranny of the urgent screamed at me constantly and blindly functioning became my new normal.

"Trust the process," She said (lecture from Stewart our CBS leader). God has a plan. It may be dark today but He hasn't forgotten you.

This truth worked in me to keep me moving forward to hear God's word and choose to believe the best was yet to come. Nothing practically really changed in my life. Some days were less hard, but I continued to remain behind in everything I needed to do.

  • My house was never completely scrubbed or straightened, 
  • The doctor's appointments were never caught up. 
  • There was always school projects we worked on from behind. 
  • Time spent with my kids was lacking. 
  • Our marriage was taking a backseat because for the first time in our lives we couldn't physically go out.
  • I had few budding friendships in the fragile (needs tending) stage, but the best I had to offer was some moments of prayer and a short text every now and again. 
  • I wasn't keeping up or doing anything in my life well. Mediocre or bad was the best I was giving my priorities. etc... etc... etc.
My attitude was unstable and volatile. I was unhappy most of the time, and doing my best to fake it around my kids so they didn't feel responsible for my grief.

One day that small voice turned from "I know" to "Get Healthy".

I initially thought that assignment was more ridiculous than the first.  But after I chewed on it for a few months, I realized no one was going to rescue me. Feeling sorry for myself hand't gotten me anywhere. Despair was not my friend. Getting healthy actually started to make more sense because I needed to make some changes to my life. I needed to figure out what kind of life I wanted to live and go after it.

The next three words changed my life and I promise will change yours dramatically and permanently if you start to do it as well. They are a game changer...


I needed to ask the Lord what needed to be on the top of my list each day instead of a "willy-nilly" or "tyranny of the urgent" approach. It may seem insignificant because it's simple, but it actually has taken some time to figure out how to do it right. It's not physically hard or necessarily taxing, but there are three main components to do it right.
  1. First, I have to quiet my soul. This quest always starts with my head. I have to carve out the minutes at the start of my day and learn to hear the voice of the Lord. I set my timer to concentrate that period of time just on listening. I hate to admit I initially spent most of that time clearing my mind of all I need to do in order to make space to hear. I then put all the "necessaries" on the back burner and place quieting my soul front and center. I know for me it will always be a challenge to set aside the chaos that screams for my attention and choose to  listen, but the benefits outweigh the struggle. 
  2. Secondly, I have to listen to the right voices. The voice of being overwhelmed and living in despair  is never of God. Hope, love and encouragement is. This includes an increase in quiet listening before I ever open my devotions or make requests. The "Martha" in me finds "doing" much easier than listening, but taking in the word of God and doing nothing with it does not reflect God's intention for HIS word. His application in my life happens in the quiet when the words come alive to produce the fruit HE intends and I so desire. 
  3. Thirdly, being content doing the small things. I have the choice each day to act on what I hear or not. I have to choose not to worry about all that goes beyond my call for that day. Some days I'm called to do laundry. Other days I'm called to enjoy coffee with a friend. I not only need to hear the right voice, but act and live contentedly with it. It frees me up to be present for the tasks I have that day, and not to worry about the laundry list of those that must wait. I think I know what is best for me, but I'm often wrong (Proverbs 16:25). I may opt for "good" if left to my own priorities, but why not trade up for "His best"?
The only non-negotiable of my day is spending time with the Lord

My days are not less full than they were a year ago, but my contentment in where I am is growing. He has refocused my eyes on what I am called to. My priorities are clearer. I'm okay with some days being called to tackle the fourteen loads of laundry; whereas, it would've seemed like a waste of a day before. I can be fully present while sitting on the couch and reading books to Millie, coloring with MaryAlice, watching a show with Belle, or letting Abby cuddle on my lap until I can't feel my legs. Because I have kids, I am called to be a mom. I can freely be who I am called to be in each moment without any guilt because I am hearing and answering HIS call on my life.

I can wholeheartedly promise the simple step of seeking the Lord to order your day will change your life because it is HIS promise, not mine...

Jeremiah 29:13
"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."(NIV)

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