[Nevertheless] Hope Begins in the Dark

Many nights, as I try to fall asleep, unpleasant thoughts assault my mind. Things I should have done, could have said, and things that might happen in the future interrupt my slumber, jolting me awake just as I'm drifting off. Some nights, panic rises as soon as my head hits the pillow. Guilt over the havoc my illnesses wreak on my family and exhaustion in every sense of the word fuse with physical pain to torture my entire being. As my husband effortlessly sleeps, I do my best just to breathe. 
And so I pray. I pray for guidance to do the right things, for forgiveness for what I've done wrong or neglected to do, for the ability to be enough for my family, for peace. I pray that my husband can release the guilt and pain he experiences to feel God's forgiveness and to fully forgive himself for mistakes he's made. I thank God for blessings upon blessings in my life. 
In leaving my guilt and my pain at the foot of the cross and pouring out gratitude for this wonderful life …

[Nevertheless] There is Music

On days when I'm feeling down, music soothes my soul.
When I feel like I'm not connecting with people, music is that connection.
On days when there is much to celebrate, music cheers with me.
When I'm on a roadtrip, my playlist is my soundtrack.
Music is a constant companion without whom life would lose luster. 

A funny thing happened on the way to Pennsylvania this past Thanksgiving week. As usual, we set out shortly after midnight, in hopes that children would sleep on the way and we'd miss daytime traffic. As usual, I made a playlist of calm music for the nighttime drive, and a  more energetic one for after the sun came up. Sleeping a good deal of the way, but still tired, my husband put on the more upbeat playlist for the last leg of our drive. He commented that the version of one of the songs I chose was faster than the original. He had difficulty believing that it was indeed the song from the original album. I suggested that maybe he was just tired, so it sounded fast…

[Nevertheless] We Celebrate

As we lay in bed sharing deep emotions and life-strangling fears,  love and care and hopes and dreams knit themselves into our conversation. Not wouldn't-it-be-nice dreams, but we-need-to-make-this-happen dreams. Simple dreams, like a weekend to ourselves in Vermont, and more elaborate dreams like mushroom hunting in the Pacific Northwest and growing a hobby into a livelihood. Dreams that seem so out-of-reach due to finances and physical constraints, while at the same time must be. 

Our twenty-third year has been one of distance and struggle to connect - both within ourselves and with each other. We've made joyful memories and sorrowful ones as well. This was the year of more bad times than good, more sickness than health, and during which we caught a glimpse of until death do us part.
Nevertheless, through it all, the constant was our love for each other. Even when we weren't showing it, or feeling it, it remained, ever-hopeful. 
My Honey... As we enter our twenty-fourth year…

[Nevertheless] It's a Blessing

Sometimes really bad things happen. 

Tragedies happen. People we love make mistakes. A life-altering diagnosis changes everything. Apathy, mental illness, addiction, or one of myriad things takes over our lives. We lose touch. We lose hope. We lose ourselves. 

Years ago when my health first took a major nosedive, I was scared. Scared for what it meant for me, but mostly what it meant for my children and my husband. I didn't want to burden them or be a burden to them. We all struggled together to learn what it was to live with chronic illness. We had to let go of activities we loved in order to slow down enough for me to cope with the daily tasks of raising five children. 

Nevertheless, it was also a blessing. We learned together what was really important to us as a family. We pared down to things that nourish our souls and our spirits. No longer running from here to there doing something nearly every minute of our day, we slowed down and became closer as a family. We gained a better …

[Nevertheless] There Are New Beginnings

We all have differences - we look differently, have different things, do things differently from one another, and look at things in different ways. Some people prefer waffles over pancakes; some insist on the toilet paper being underneath instead of on top; and others think cheesecake is pie, not cake. Think about the last one - you may come to some shocking conclusions.

At Tuesday Night Sunday School at our church, I taught a lesson entitled New Beginnings Are Greater Than the Past. We talked about how, despite our differences, we are in the same boat in our belief that Jesus died for everyone. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life - a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.

God gave us a new beginning - and he does so over and over - and he wants us to do the same. At the center of it all is forgiveness. Jesus died so that our sins would be forgiven. Often, we walk away from God - many times without eve…

[Nevertheless] I Create

I'm not feeling so hot today, so I'm curled up in bed with steaming hot shepherd's pie, blocks of wood, paint markers, and a wood burning tool, dreaming of being back in nature ... when the weather is a bit warmer. What else does one do on a freezing Winter's day? 

My husband makes things out of wood. Mostly out of reclaimed wood from broken pallets, some from gifts of wood from friends who find interesting pieces. He puts his heart into every piece he makes. Mostly he makes hearts necklaces. And guitar picks. But he is branching out into other things for an upcoming event, and he asked me to contribute as well. 

Cozy in bed, I see images in wood, or spaces where words could flow. I do my best with hands that don't cooperate and not quite the right tools to bring what's in my head to life on small wooden blocks. It feels good to contribute something, to create, to do something I enjoy in a constructive way.

Soon I will be urged from creative comfort by a ten year …

[Nevertheless] It's OK to Cry

My heart broke into a million pieces at two simple words spoken with frustration or perhaps a bit of anger to a child. "Don't cry." The hurt on the child's face increased exponentially as he struggled to hold back the tears. 

Crying is for sissies.

Stop crying. It's not that bad.

Don't cry. It's ok.

Big boys / girls don't cry.

Real men don't cry.

Be strong. Don't cry.

There's no need to cry.

What are you crying for?

What a load of ... to quote my high school band director ... horse hockey. It often takes more strength to express your true emotions than it does to stuff them.

We do a disservice to ourselves when we hold back our tears - and we do a disservice to our children, too. Sadness is a part of life, and we all need to know that being sad is ok. Expressing our grief is healthy. Crying is good, valuable, cathartic. It helps us release pent-up emotions and brings us to a calmer place where we are better able to process our emotions and our life.…