Thursday, January 22, 2015

Needs



I can always count on my friends to keep me thinking. My beautiful, inspiring friend Jackie, whom I don't see even nearly enough, shared her insights with and asked a question of an online minimalist group we both frequent. It was about needs. Real needs. What we need from the world, from others, and from ourselves. 

I have to admit that my first thought was "coffee... that's what I need... coffee - from the world, from others ... for myself." Not so helpful. My second thought was, "enough." But what is that "enough?" 

After not nearly enough thought, but oh, well, that's life for me lately...


From the world: food, water, beauty.


Food to not only nourish my body, but my spirit; to nurture family and community; to bring people together; to sustain and revitalize. 


Water, not only to sustain me, but to sustain the Earth. Water in which to bathe; to swim; to kayak. Waves lapping or crashing into the shore or babbling in a forest stream. Fragranced water in which to soak my aching feet. 

Beauty to buoy my spirits and soothe my soul. Both the outward beauty of nature and the inward beauty of people. 

From myself: integrity, the ability to find my center in any situation and balance in my life as a whole, mindfulness.


Integrity so that I might live a life worthy of being called Mama and Christian; so that I might inspire, love, and serve. 

The ability to center myself and find balance so that I may be receptive to God's love and others' care throughout the storms of life; so that I may be a shoulder to cry on or a pillar of support while meeting my own needs so I can continue to be there for others. 

Mindfulness so that I may treat lightly on the Earth; be respectful of others; live in the moment; and make good decisions for myself and my family.


From people: kindness, connection, and love.


Kindness because I like to receive what I give; because it feeds my faith in humanity; and simply because the world needs more kindness.

Connection to others is essential to sustain life. Community, family, and friendships are all about connection. I don't know what I'd do with out the unique and inspiring connections in my life. 

Love, because it is what sustains me above anything else. Because I love people, I get up every morning and my life has meaning and purpose. Because people love me, I can live my life knowing I'm cared for, supported, and valued. 

And for me, I need God. 

From God: grace, love, guidance.

Grace because every day I stumble, every day I mess up, every day I can do better, but because of God's grace, I am forgiven. It is through this forgiveness that I frame my life, striving to be as grace-full with everyone in my life. 

Love, because love. 

Guidance through the crazy funhouse that is my life. Left to my own devices, who knows where I'd be. The Spirit's inspiration leads me to the best places.

Interesting that while thinking of all the things I need from life, things didn't make the cut. I want coffee. Sometimes I feel like I can't live without my computer. But when it comes down to it, all I need is nourishment of my body, mind, spirit, and soul. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Seeing God


Seeing God in it all: a recent topic at Tuesday Night Sunday School. This was my contribution... 

The reality of my life is this: I live every moment of every day in pain. My legs don't work properly. My arms don't work properly. In fact. most of my body doesn't work properly. I'm exhausted. I never get enough sleep. My house is falling apart and I don't have money to fix it. I'd love to get a job, but my health is so unpredictable, I can't. It's even difficult to put food on the table some months. It seems like all of the things I love to do are being taken away from me. My health is getting worse. I endure test after test with no answers. Taken off the medication that keeps my body from attacking itself, I can only look forward to losing the ability to move every part of my body little by little. I live in pain and worry and anxiety over my future.

OR...

The reality of my life is this: I have been given an extraordinary gift. I wake up each morning. I breathe. I eat. I love, I laugh. I'm alive. God has blessed me with five wonderful children, a husband who loves me, parents who are amazingly loving and supportive, friends who are there when I need them, and a God who forgives my doubt and anger when they sometimes overrule my faith. I can walk. Not well, but I appreciate every step. I have fabulously decorated crutches and a quirky yet awesome wheelchair that help me not just get places, but live life to the fullest. I can talk ... sometimes having a difficult time finding the right words, or remembering my own children's names, but that makes for some hilarious and memorable moments. I can lend my Spirit-given talents to church, to our homeschooling community, and to other endeavors. I have a team of doctors working to figure out my medical issues and get me the treatment I need.  I live in gratitude for the opportunity to slow down, for God opening my eyes to focus on what's really important in life, and to enjoy every single moment I can. 

It is only through life's trials that I've come to truly appreciate and love life. I know that God is with me every step of my journey and has blessed me beyond measure.

When life isn't going well, take a step back and look for God. He may just show up in some surprising ways. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I Love You On Purpose

Him: "I love you on purpose."    
 Me: "I love you completely by accident even though I tried really hard not to and it's all your fault."

I've loved him for over half my life, even though I tried not to in the beginning.

I didn't want a boyfriend. I didn't want to be in love. I just wanted to get through life.  Why did he have to screw all that up?  I tried with every fiber of my being to not like him, to not love him. But he gave me no choice. Why did he have to be so darn cute and loveable and compassionate and loving and awesome and care so much about me during a time I didn't care very much about myself? 

I tried so hard not to love him, but God had other plans. God knew much better than I whom I needed in my life. God put this man in my path and was patient with me as I tried everything to not love him. 

Words aren't enough to express what a blessing my husband has been to me as we've Walked Together these past twenty-one-ish years. Nineteen years old when we started dating, nineteen years married today. 

I had big plans for our nineteenth anniversary this year. I was going to make and put together some awesome stuff that would have made his day. But it just didn't happen. My health is not so good lately. I have zero energy for anything beyond was is essential to get through the day. I've tried to not be sick and be awesome instead, but it just hasn't worked. But that's ok. My husband understands. That's' one of the things that's amazing about him - what matters to him is the nineteen years, not the celebration. 

Since we can't celebrate with a bottle of Glen McKenna 30, one thing I can do is this:



Jim/Alex/my Honey,  
Thank you for loving me no matter what I throw (literally and figuratively) at you. Thank you for handling my alphabet soup of diagnoses with love, compassion, and grace. Thank you for loving our children and teaching them all sorts of useful and not so useful things. Thank you for working so hard at work and at home and for taking such good care of me. Happy 19th Anniversary! I love you so very much!
I'm so glad you're my labenslanger schicksalsschatz. 
Always Remember... 
Me
P.S. Next year is TWENTY years. We need to do something legen .... wait for it...

(Text above is Helvetica, except for the part at the top which is Helvetica Bold. This is Times New Roman. True story.)


Monday, January 12, 2015

Coming Out



This post has been a long time coming. I started it over a year ago and have been putting it off because, well, I'm not sure why. A recent post by a friend on facebook seems to have tipped the scales in my mind and I feel now is the time to just lay it all out. 

I've been like this all my life. I've always known. Up to this point, I didn't feel like I needed to share this with everyone, as to some it's always been obvious, and others just assumed. I've never been ashamed or really felt any different from anyone else, but think now might be the time to say something. 

But before I do, I just can't get this frustration, this heartbreak to loosen its grip. When my friend posted something like this, he was talking about the fact that he's gay. It was not news to me, even though he never directly said anything to me. His words, though, got me thinking. Why is it that people have to "come out" as gay and not "come out" as straight? Why do some people need to come out as male or female just because their outward appearance doesn't match who they are inside? Why does "different" need to be announced rather than "different" being just that - a difference. We are all different. 

I guess it all comes down to assumptions. We assume people are straight unless they tell us otherwise. We assume that if a person looks like a man, he's a man, or looks like a woman, she's a woman. We assume a lot of things that might not necessarily be true. Can't we just assume that each person is unique and get to know that person for who they are, not how they appear or how we think they should be?

As a parent, I hear what if questions a lot. "What if one of your kids is gay?" seems to be a popular one. What if one or more of my kids is gay? I won't love them any differently, any more, or any less. One of my children has expressed that their brain has yet to decide if he's a boy or she's a girl. My response? "Wonderful! It's great that you have all the time in the world to see what your brain decides." This child will still be the same child no matter what. 

So, back to what I was saying. I've been like this all my life. People I've recently met might not realize this about me. These days it's not really evident when you look at me. It is Winter, after all. You see, I have elbows. I thought you should know. They're not very evident under the layers of clothing I've been wearing to keep me warm, but they're there. Two of 'em. Thanks for understanding. 


As I commented to my friend: 
Praying for a time when being gay isn't something that needs to be announced or explained or grappled with any more than being straight or human or having elbows.

I'm also praying that being gay will someday soon be as acceptable to all people as having elbows is. And elbows are weird (have you ever looked really closely at an elbow?), so really, being gay is no big deal. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Daily Bread


I nearly laughed out loud right there in the middle of quiet Evening Prayer worship. As I was praying  ... give us this day our daily bread ... the thought popped into my mind: "God must want me to go on a diet!"  Where this thought came from, I have no idea, but it got me thinking.

Give us this day our daily bread - a request for Enough. A request for just enough of what we need to make it through the day every day, like manna in the wilderness. No more, no less - a blessing of the essential. 

It dawned on me that lately I've been feeling like I don't have enough - not enough money to pay bills, not enough medication to take care of the pain, not enough energy to make it through the day, not enough answers to my health questions, not enough left after taking care of my family to nurture friendships. I feel like I'm lacking so much, and losing more by the minute. Perhaps God wants me to go on a diet - to live with less than what I expect, less than what I think I need. 

Or it could be that God does provide enough in my life: joy despite the pain; a medical team that's doing its best to get me the testing and care I need; a loving and supportive family; food in our pantry ... if only I focus on that instead of the overabundance of potential stress.

Then again, maybe God does want me to go on a diet - to give up worry and stress; to simplify life further; to weed out negativity and doubt; to realize that no matter what happens, I have Enough, I am Enough. 

In 2015 I will focus on living blessed with Enough. I will spend Enough time with each of my children to help them feel loved and valued and appreciated. I will manage my time, money, and other resources more wisely to make sure we rarely feel lacking in any way. I will live abundantly in God's love and care. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Unforced Rhythms of Grace


Am I supposed to be having a nervous breakdown midlife crisis right about now? It is my fortieth birthday, after all. What's supposed to happen in a midlife crisis anyway - are you supposed to try to recapture your youth or something? I don't need to do that. I have a sixteen year old whose mere age takes me back there often enough, and a fourteen year old who is too much like me and reminds me that I do not need to go back to those angst-ridden years. My early twenties were spent planning a wedding, getting married, and figuring out what true commitment and responsibility meant.  I relive my mid-to-late twenties, which were mainly spent mothering very small children, often enough when wrangling friends' little ones. I don't see a need to relive any of that - I'm good, thanks.

I don't know how it's supposed to feel to be forty. I'm guessing it's not my current state of wondering if this Sunday will be the day I surpass the mobility issues of my eighty-year-old comrades in mobility devices, although the thought somehow amuses me. 

For me, it's living in gratitude for the gift of forty years of life. Several years ago, receiving diagnosis upon diagnosis, the prognosis of liver failure looming, I wasn't sure if forty was a year I'd see. This year, discussion of the possibility of brain tumor or multiple sclerosis with doctors put into sharp relief the blessing of every painful step, every breath, every hug. 

Forty, for me, is feeling tired, worn out, and having a body that doesn't match the not-so-worn out spirit that's inside it. It's needing to get my life and my house in order to clear the way for the time and space and energy to spread love and joy to all around me. It's a year of celebrating small victories and enjoying the moments and music of life. It's time to learn the unforced rhythms of grace. 


Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Eve on Hoover Avenue


I sit in a silent house.

This is the first miracle of this Christmas.

It's 7:45AM on Christmas Eve morning. I've made biscuits, sorted laundry, done a load of laundry, prepped some food for later, folded laundry, and done a dozen miscellaneous tasks. A turkey breast is cooking slowly in the corckpot and there's homemade cranberry sauce in the fridge. 

The children are ALL still asleep. All of them. Even the ones who usually get up at 6:30am. 

I put five little gifts next to the tree. Gifts for my children, who will be incredibly surprised when they open them. Perhaps not pleasantly surprised, as they are the gifts that we have been promising since Thanksgiving: a nosewarmer for Alexander, new dart for Zachary (HIMYM reference), holes for Haley (she said she had a (w)hole list of stuff she wanted, so we told her we'd give her holes), coal for Coren (although he may have wanted the Ninjago minifigure, Cole) and a ski mask for Alia. I do have to admit that Alia will most likely fully accept her gift as her one and only Christmas gift and be overjoyed with it. For over a month, when asked what she wants for Christmas, she's said a ski mask. She may not want to use it on our 60 degree Farenheit Christmas Day, though. Their "real" gifts are waiting in the basement, but we don't need to tell them that. 

My husband was off to work at 5am. I'm feeling lonely here without him on what should be a family day. He will get to join us for worship this evening, which will be wonderful. 

Zachary is the first downstairs, muttering unintelligible words to my "Blessed Christmas Eve" greeting. Coren is close behind, mumbling some form of greeting. Alia bounds down the stairs in her usual energetic way and gets to work making eggs for whomever wants them. I don't expect to see Alex for a while. I predict Haley will emerge within a half hour. 

What a peaceful start to what I hope will prove to be a wonderful Christmas.


Christmas Eve. The children are finally in bed after a long but wonderful day. 

While I continued down my OCD Christmas preparation path, the children played and stayed out of my way, lest they be asked to help. They did make an epic Christmas Eve dessert: a tree made out of marshmallows, chocolate, and gummy worm pieces. We waited, and waited, and waited for it to be time to head to church. 


How I loved singing Christmas hymns with the choir before worship and witnessing my children help with worship, two as acolytes, Alia as an usher alongside her Papa. Haley's beautiful voice singing the Chirstmas Rose brought tears to my eyes as I struggled to contain my emotions while singing. Once home, we had a wonderful turkey dinner, followed by the great Opening of the Gifts. 



The children were amused by and happy with their gifts. The "gag" gifts, that is. Well, maybe not Coren, the recipient of a lump of coal...


Genuinely surprised when Daddy went to get the "real" gifts, their excitement grew even bigger. After they opened their gifts: a microscope and anatomy/physiology flash cards for Alia; a Ninjago set and Egyptian digging kit for Coren; a Wii Fit board and Wii Fit Plus game for Haley; and snowball makers/launchers and Magic the Gathering Cards for Zachary and Alex, I marveled that we spent a grand total of $36 on all the gifts combined, thanks to thrift stores and sales. Who says Christmas needs to break the bank? 

Christmas Eve FAITH5 brings highs of spending time with family, singing, helping, and being together. 

Not yet ready to nestle all snug in their beds, the children have retreated upstairs to watch a movie while Jim and I try best not to fall asleep. 

Love pours over me as I reflect on our Christmas Eve. That my kids gave their time and talents to help make worship special for all; that they were content with silly gifts and overjoyed with the "extras," gives testament to their kind hearts and generous spirits.

I can barely wait for tomorrow to begin. But first, sleep. 


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

But I Get Up Again

Disclaimer: This is the strangest Christmas Eve Eve post I've ever written. The songs are not Christmasy, but I do use the word Christmas several times and have a Christmas wish at the end. Please bear with me...



Sometimes you just need to have a good cry and a small nervous breakdown in order to turn things around. Last night, I did just that. 

This morning, I still felt like I was losing my mind. Not a good feeling to have on the day before the day before Christmas. I put on Christmas music. I made gluten-free/dairy-free Rice Krispie treats with my twelve year old daughter. This, by the way, is something that I shall never ever ever ever do again, as the process is to make glue and then try to mix dry cereal into the glue and then attempt to smear this gluey cereal onto a baking sheet and making it stick there instead of everywhere else. I'm still picking Krispies off of myself nine hours later. Come to think about it, somewhere in that mindboggling complex process I started having fun. Laughing even. I cleaned up around the house a little. Amazed that I was feeling sort of ok, we were off to choir practice. We were on our way with One Day by Matisyahu, the girls singing along. 

The words hit hard: 

Keep on moving though the waters stay raging   In this maze you can lose your way   It might drive you crazy   But don't let it faze you no way
Gotta hold on   Livin life day by day   Gotta hold on   Put your focus on that one day

Sometimes in my tears I drown  But I never let it get me down   So when negativity surrounds   I know some day it'll all turn around...


At choir we sang, and sang, and sang some more. Christmas hymns, mostly. The beauty of the words and music, the touch of the Spirit, the meaning of the season, all perched gently on my heart, waiting for it to open enough to let them in. Calmness washed over me as I raised my voice in praise. 

My spirit very much lifted, we headed home. On the way home, we cranked up the music at the first notes ... 


I get knocked down
But I get up again   You're never gonna keep me down    I get knocked down   But I get up again   You're never gonna keep me down
And I meant it. 

Yes. Tubthumping by Chumbawumba was my song of victory(ish) over darkness today.

As I sat down to a dinner of pancakes and eggs, prepared by my children, I held gratitude in my heart. Gratitude opened my heart to receive all that worry and stress and sadness had locked out. 

Tonight, I intend, to move through the next few days holding gratitude close; to recognize God in all things; to sing songs that remind me of the good times, and to sing songs that remind me of the better times. (Even if I'm still sad some of the time.)

I hope this Christmas brings peace to your heart, your home, and your life. 
Blessed Christmas. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Bleak Midwinter


In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, in the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Some days darkness wins.

Some days, it doesn't matter how hard you try, how much you pray, how much you logically know that somehow, someway, things will work out, depression wins. The weight of life's circumstances becomes too much to bear. Every single task becomes an insurmountable mess.

It's almost Christmas and I'm supposed to be enjoying time with family, anticipating the birth of the Christ Child, and all that happy .... stuff. But I can't. Not at this moment. In this moment, the darkness is closing in and the weight of my illnesses is upon me and the fact that it's ripped my family's finances to shreds for reasons too many to count fills me with guilt. If it weren't for me, for my illnesses, we could pay bills. We could go places, do things, fix our house, and the list goes on. 

It's one big pity party in my brain and I want nothing to do with it. I want to get out of my head and into the moment and concentrate on the little things, the good things, the holy things I can do with my family. I want my mind to rest in assurance that when the end of the month comes and bills are still needing to be paid, there are people who love me who will help out until we get back on our feet.

The darkness doesn't allow for such positive thinking. Depression dwells on the lack, encourages the guilt, changes a loving family home into a desolate wasteland of things needing to be fixed and replaced, full of obstacles for my malfunctioning body. Guilt hinders my ability to ask for the help we need. Again. Every time I try, I burst into tears. 

So I do the only thing I can do - I put on Christmas music and take lots of deep breaths and clean things and make crockpot cranberry sauce. I stick a candle in a can of jellied cranberry sauce for my newly minted sixteen year old, light it, and lead a rousing if off-key round of Happy Birthday for the young man. I say yes to kids staying up late. I say yes when the 14 year old requests staying up just a bit longer to watch Slapsgiving 2: Revenge of the Slap (*waves to HIMYM fans*). I cry. I write. I love and love and love because it's the only thing I have left to give.

And I feel deeply sad the entire time. There are good moments, even magical moments here and there, but the underlying gloom is unyielding. Tonight I pray for sleep - for good, restful, nourishing sleep and a better outlook in the morning. 

Whether or not it comes, I know things will get better. The Light is coming. Whether I'm happy or sad or rich or poor. And that's all that matters, especially now. I hold on to the coming of the Light. 

What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; yet what I can I give him: give my heart. (In the Bleak Midwinter, C. Rosetti/G. Holst)

Sixteen

 It's just plain scary.

No, not that creature ... the fact that the young man inside that costume is sixteen. Sixteen. 16. He can't possibly be, but somehow he is.

Good thing I told him he's not allowed to drive until he's 35. I'm not sure I could handle one of my children driving. Driving. Being old enough to drive. Sixteen.

I've been preparing myself for this number for a year and it hasn't helped. It's still shocking when I think about it.

He's not your typical sixteen. He's himself. He's not embarrassed to watch VeggieTales with his siblings, while at the same time enjoys being treated as an adult member of the household. He's an encyclopedia of knowledge when it comes to Magic the Gathering and other things that hold his interest. He revels in being taller than his mother. He has an awesome sense of humor and every once in a while allows his mother to sneak in a hug-like show of affection. 

He's sixteen.



That means I get to kick him out of the house in two years. 

He tells me that I can't do that, because if I don't let him drive until he's 35 he'll have to live with me that long. I tell him he can walk. Or ride a bike. Then I remember that that would take actual effort and require going and being outside for extended periods of time and realize that, except for the magical Camp Calumet, the young man is seemingly allergic to being outdoors. Perhaps I'll have to shave a few years off the driver's license thing. 

I'm not sure when I'll get over the shock. Perhaps in eight days when the number forty becomes unusually significant in my life. Maybe not. 


How is it that sixteen years have passed since this quiet, funny, intelligent, kind, remarkable young man came silently into the world? Sixteen years since my heart started to exist outside my body. This child has taught me so much in those years - how to be a Mama, how to be a Mama to children with Aspergers, about the joys of breastfeeding and babywearing and unschooling and knocking on your teenager's door and then whacking him over the head with a cardboard tube. 

I love you, Alexander. Even if you are taller than me. We'll talk about the driver's license thing, but really, if you can't steer a wheelchair without threatening to jettison your own mother ...