Who would have guessed even a month ago that our whole planet would jolt and be forever changed? Not me. COVID-19, the Coronavirus, is now a trending word worldwide. It feels like the whole world has changed overnight..
In one day, one hour, Maddie and Whitney lost their last semester of their junior and sophomore year at k-state. They both lost their jobs at the preschool they worked at together. They went from growing independence to dependence. Belle can’t go back to school either, the rest of her freshman year in high school over in a snap. I asked her this morning how her and her friends were feeling about it, and she said, “None of us knows what to do or how to feel”. All of their hang out places and spaces are gone. Parents don’t want groups of kids at their house, so that’s out too.
As a mom, it hurts my heart so much to see what the girls have worked so hard for be put out in a second, without much direction or comfort in knowing what lies ahead. These losses hurt.
I find myself thinking that despite all of it, our own losses are nothing. Absolutely nothing compared to what many are going through right now. We have a home. We have food. We are reasonably healthy. We have enough. We truly have so much to be grateful for. Gratitude lists are so important in times of crisis and chaos.
While yes, we do have all those things, along with the hope Jesus gives, there is still a whole lot of room for grief. We are not heroes if we don’t grieve or allow some sadness to surface. Putting on a happy face despite all that is churning beneath the surface is not always helpful.
In my own circles, I can see and feel a rage growing in people. Hoarding, complaining, menacing, arguing, etc. are all reactions to fear and sadness. It’s important for all of us to steward those feelings and recognize what is causing them. The Welcoming Prayer is something that I turn to when what is happening around me is confusing. I welcome all of it, knowing that everything that happens to me is something I can learn from, and grow because of.
The Welcoming Prayer is a method of consenting to God’s presence and action in our physical and emotional reactions to events around us. The purpose of the Welcoming Prayer is to deepen our relationship with God through consenting in everything that happens to us and around us.
Welcome, welcome, welcome. I welcome everything that comes to me today because I know it’s for my healing. I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions. I let go of my desire for power and control. I let go of my desire for affection, esteem, approval and pleasure. I let go of my desire for survival and security. I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person or myself. I open to the love and presence of God and God’s action within. Amen
Grief does not cancel out gratitude. Grief is a feeling; it is not regulated or to be dismissed by us or anyone. We all handle grief differently. For me, it’s going on a walk, solitude, sorting it out in my head before processing with anyone. In those times I can “Welcome” what it is that I am feeling and thinking, and begin to sort through my emotions, thoughts and feelings. For Belle, it’s singing at the top of her lungs while driving down a long road with some friends. For my older girls, it’s sitting in their newly established independence, just being with their people in their grief, comforting one another by just being.
What I think is most important right now is to remember that Jesus, our lord and savior, the king of the universe, was called “A man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.”(Isaiah 53:3)
Our Jesus knows what it is to hurt, to lose what is most important, to weep. He weeps with us as there is suddenly so much grief and loss in our world. Know that in your own losses you are not alone. Literally the world grieves with you. Jesus sees and cares. He has so much love to give.
When you leave a church and have been in that church’s active ministry, it’s hard. It’s hard, because so many people misunderstand. It’s hard because people tell people what they heard, leaving a long and confused string of thoughts and ideas about why the leavers left. It’s hard because it is a loss-both to the leaver and to the stay-er. The sense of loss on either end no doubt can be measured by the investment of time in the place, and the people of the church.
In my experience, we have only served at really large churches, and I am guessing the “large” mega-ness of these mega churches only amplify feelings, raw emotion, words, insinuation, etc., although I have also learned that People are People Wherever You Go. I am sure small churches have issues that are just as difficult to navigate. For myself and our family, we’ve lived large, and that can come with a lot of interesting factors when raw emotion and sincere beliefs are mixed without much direction for how to handle t hem in a healthy and productive way.
Rob was a pastor at Granger Community Church for 21 – 22 ish years. We moved to Kansas in 2014 so he could serve on the pastoral team at Westside family church. We’ve lived in Kansas almost five years now. It is difficult for me to believe Belle was in third grade when we moved here. Whitney was finishing up eighth grade, and Maddie finishing up her freshman year in high school. The girls are now 20, 18 and 15. Belle has her drivers permit. I still cannot wrap my head around that, considering such a short time ago we packed up her Polly Pockets, Barbies and Littlest Pet Shop toys.
Leaving Granger was by far the most difficult decision Rob and I have ever made, because it broke our hearts to leave a place, we poured so much life and love into. Nearing the end of our time there, I was feeling bewildered, un-needed, unnecessary. Rob was working harder and harder to fix everything that was wrong in that moment, I had my hands utterly full with three delightfully spirited girls, so much so that I forgot that my feelings lay somewhere below the surface of my busyness. I forgot Rob had feelings too.
When I allowed myself to slow down, I realized I was sad that Rob was never home on the weekends. I was sad that my friendships frequently went wonky because of his position in the church and community. My friends would disagree with something church related, which they absolutely had a right to do, and it was often too difficult to navigate issues too complex for me to figure, in order to save the relationship. There seemed to be more that was complicated in our lives than what made sense. It was hard.
Rob was given a sabbatical as a gift for a “Job well done” after serving 20 years at Granger. That summer we sat with friends and Soul Care professionals Steve and Gwen Smith at the Potter’s Inn. They peeled back those painful layers so we could see the raw emotion we were both stifling under the surface of our lives. It was incredibly painful to come to terms with the fact that the way we were living was not good or healthy for ourselves, our family, or for anyone. We decided together that it was time to change the scenery and save our marriage and family. We needed to make some drastic changes.
And so we did. As I have mentioned, there were ripples and waves of discussion and speculation. I wrote a post the day Rob resigned, published it two hours before the announcement came. I was instantly and permanently shamed from the inside circles, people I loved and adored, raised babies with, prayed with, vacationed with, etc. in one moment turned against me. I was devastated and confused. It knocked me down for a long, long time. I loved the people of Granger with all my heart. My post simply stated that we were tired, we needed to focus on our marriage and family, “mega” was not working for us any longer, and we needed to move on. I was hoping my post would help explain that. To many it did. To several it did not.
Along with the negative, there were hundreds of positive words and kind thoughts sent our way. Why is it that the few less than kind comments hurt the most? I’m not sure. I wish I were mature enough to dismiss them with grace, shielding my heart in the most appropriate way, while navigating the pain in a perfect way that never stepped on the toes of anyone ever. But I have found I am not that person. Not at all. I say what is. I cannot say more or less. I have lived a long forty five years, and have found that the most comfortable in my own skin I’ve ever been are the times I’ve shared my truth without the commentary of a hundred voices in my head. I listened to and tried to please everyone, and that was part of my demise. I can’t please everyone. I cant make everyone happy, or even like me.
Here we find ourselves, at the crossroads of another ending and a new beginning. Rob left Westside Family Church in November, and now…we are planting our own church, The KC Underground. We are loving it, serving together and living it together, as we love to do.
There are many differences in why we left both Granger and Westside, but I have changed, quite a lot. What did I learn from what really hurt?
A few things. I learned that:
1: My heart is worth guarding. I do whatever I need to do to keep my heart safe.
2: To trust the few, rather than the many. My close friends and confidants are the ones I lean and depend on. The public-ness of our lives does not mean that the public can have full access to my words, thoughts and feelings.
3: To make my closest allies people who are not affiliated with my husband’s workplace. These friends can offer fair perspective because the only skin they have in the game is their relationship with me, not with me, my husband, and whole church.
4: Not to take criticism too much to heart. I can let criticism crush me. I’m learning to take in what I need to and let the rest go. Words can hurt, but only if I let them.
5: Jesus is my best, best friend. Walking with Jesus down lonely roads has made me stronger than I have ever been. His love and grace and poured over me and in me, capturing my heart and imagination, setting my soul on fire.
If you are in full time ministry or church work, prepare yourself for the comings and goings before they happen. Keep your soul healthy as you know how. Trust Jesus and let your friends love you. Stay strong and remember your true north. Your soul is worth it.
“Look at your glass as half full, not half empty. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, When one door closes, another will open…”
You’ve heard these lame excuses for encouragement. We all have said them, hoped to believe them. Hoped they might help someone look on the brighter side of things. We were trying to help because we didn’t know what else to say or what hope there really was to offer a really dismal and bleak situation.
But deep down, we all know that sometimes the dumb glass is just half empty. We hate lemonade, have no time to make it anyway, and the door was just slammed in our face. Sometimes life is just painful and hard and we just want everyone and their trite sayings to go away and let us sulk the day away.
In times like these, I am encouraged by those who encourage me to move beyond what is trite, and on to what is holy. I’m encouraged by those who encourage me to THRIVE despite my circumstances. In the matter of a few months time, our whole lives have been shaken and stirred. Just to name a few of the more obvious tough circumstances:
Rob resigned his job with Granger Community Church, after serving with them for 21 years.
Two days later, I fell down one step, yes. ONE step. I tore my calf muscle, sprained my knee and ankle, and tore my ankle tendon 90%. I had surgery, a cast, have been almost completely immobile for 4 months.
A few weeks after I fell, Rob’s dad passed away. His death devastated our family. Our girls have never known real grief. Walking them through this new grief was one of the most difficult things we’ve ever done as parents.
In the middle of all these life-changes, I have discovered a few things to be true:
We are family. And that is enough. Who we are when no one is looking has turned out to be my favorite “us” there is. I’m a housebound wife. A shut-in, a person who can’t walk in the park to rejuvenate my soul. My husband, a temporarily unemployed pastor. We are just us. Just Rob and Michelle and Madeline and Whitney and Isabelle. They are not pastorskids and I am not a pastorswife.
Who we are when no one else is around is what counts. We are discovering our inner uniqueness, apart from the blaring lights and noise, the applause of men and women–Good, kind, true men and women. There’s nothing wrong with being a pastor or a pastor’s wife or a pastors kid, but these things do not bring us value or worth or importance. Who we are is who we are being made to be, day by day.
I can make my life better just by sitting here. I started practicing Zentangle doodles and have found myself and my soul a new creative outlet. I spent several of the hours laying in my bed recovering from my surgery praying for every tween and teen girl that had been to our house to visit our girls that signed my cast. Their names blared up at me in bold neon letters, praying for them by name was a gift.
I’ve realized more than ever that every minute I have with my family counts. Losing a family member so dear has caused us all to hold each other closer–Every day. Every minute is special. In the chaos of our day to day, I have found myself hugging my husband more, speaking words of light and light into each of my girls, making our time together matter by taking the time to notice them, really, really notice.
Many times during these past few months, I have asked Jesus to end this what feels like to be never-ending series of trials. I’ve asked Him To make everything better, to take away the pain, both the physical aspect and the heartache.
However, I am starting to see the deeper lessons of deeper living, of what it means to THRIVE through trials and hard times.…I think it’s been worth it for all of us–Actually, I know it has been.
We are as a family learning to linger over love longer, to talk deeper, to live fuller…
They way God has orchestrated our circumstances is certainly not how I would have, but He has taught me to THRIVE despite anything that comes my way:
That in anything,
He has the power to give me strength.
That HE is all about me living life abundantly. He said that’s what He came for.
Jesus is teaching me how to live– In anything, for anything, through anything.
Wherever you are, whatever your mess is, your sadness, your grief, or just your ordinary day to day living. Thrive from where you are. Ask God. Ask yourself. “How can I live better? How can my life be richer? How can I feel stronger?”
I can promise you He will show you. He promised us in the Bible, John 10:10 to be exact: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. “
Trust Him. Ask Him. Wait and see and THRIVE.
“This post was inspired by Casting Crowns new album “Thrive” available
If you are ever wondering how many steps you have to miss to tear a calf muscle and sprain your knee and ankle, the answer is: Just one.
It’s been a long and painful month of recovery. But I’ve learned a lot about being humble, letting others help me, and forcing myself to sit still.
Being hurt has forced me to focus on what’s right in front of me. It’s calmed my heart and soul to sit down longer than usual, read longer than usual, engage in conversation without busying myself with a million tasks that are always in the back of my mind.
The longer than I hoped for recovery process has not been fun, but I can say for certain, I’m learning a lot about humility most of all. Repeating the “I just missed one step” story over and over is pretty humbling. Traveling through airports via wheelchair-humbling. I’m more strong willed and independent than I thought. I don’t like to need help. I’m learning that receiving help graciously is almost as important as giving it.
My darling husband, who is so giving and gracious, looked at me when I refused his help the other day and said, “Are you sure this isn’t about your pride? Because you really need my help right now.” I hit him with my crutch and conceded. That was painful. He was right.
The days have been interesting since I took that misstep, for sure.
There have been days I have felt like this:
and other days I feel like this:
I’m trying to find a healthy balance between both.
Taking one misstep can cause more damage than I ever thought possible. This isn’t some metaphoric lesson, but you can take it that way if you need to. Just be careful walking down your stairs at 6am before you’ve had coffee.
I live with a monster. He is always following me around, sneaking up from behind walls and closets. He follows me all day long, until I can kickbox him to the curb, only to find the next morning he’s been jumping on my back all night long, sticking pins and needles in my feet and fingers, and keeping me in a headlock until I wake up and find him standing there. The monster’s name is Pain, and I hate him.
About five years ago, Rob and I took a weekend trip to Chicago for our fifteen year anniversary. We love the city. We were both born and raised in Chicago, and it always feels like home to us. We were like kids again-so excited. Every picture from that weekend has one of us caught with Gino’s East Pizza, Garrett’s Popcorn, or a Chicago hot dog stuffed in our mouths in-between big smiles.
In between our many food stops, my feet started hurting. Not just heavy feet from walking around too much. Aching. The feeling of walking on glass, along with a huge bout of nausea and a weird feverish feeling. The next day I noticed my fingers and wrists were really sore, so I decided I should probably have my normally healthy self checked out once we got home. Long story short, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and referred to, who I now refer to as the best doctor ever in the world, Dr. Natali Balog at the South Bend Clinic.
Dr. Balog taught me a lot about the disease, mostly It is not a very nice disease. It doesn’t play well with others, and it often doesn’t cooperate with doctors. Every paitent who suffers from RA is different, because the disease attacks individuals in unique ways. It started out very progressively for me, leaving me feeling tied in knots while trying to juggle the normal routine of three girls, a husband, a few dogs, and trying to save the world all at once.
With all that said, it’s been a few years now of adjusting my lifestyle, medications, expectations on myself or others expectations of me. The biggest shift I have had to make in myself has been in my own perception of myself as a Super-Mommy. I have realized that I can’t do it all. I cannot get it all done. I have to ask for help from others around me that are already worn out and that is not easy for me. On most days, I’d rather not ask for help, so I end up exhausted by the end of the day and have nothing to offer my family except a grouchy face and a messy house.
So I felt sorry for myself. And I pouted. And I got mad. But none of that really helped. I started reading some books about people who live with pain. I also discovered that there are a lot of Mom’s like me, trying to keep their Super Mommy game face on while trying to deal with chronic depression, back pain, extreme fatigue, cancer, etc. Once I started talking about it, I realized that many people hide behind their pain and suffer in their own homes because it seems easier that way. Our culture often views people struggling with pain as “weak”. I think quite the opposite is true. Super Mommy’s kicking Pain to the curb takes a lot of strength. Some of my friends who have dealt with way more pain than I ever have are some of the strongest people I know.
As I am ever trying to be a student of life and taking every opportunity to learn,
I was able to ask Dr. Balog, my very own rheumetologist, and a doctor who sees lots of patients who deal with chronic pain at severe levels, a few questions about Super Mommy’s dealing with chronic pain:
For a Mom living with a chronic pain condition such as RA or other pain causing illnesses, what are a few things you would offer as helpful information to: Their spouse or partner, children, and other family members or close friends
As with any chronic disease, it is most important for patients and families to understand the disease process. When a spouse has been diagnosed with diabetes, the family unit typically, or should change eating habits of family meals to support the family member, the same with arthritic conditions. The family is a team and works together. When we are doing something with my daughter and she is not particularly happy with the situation, example a meeting or an extra day of work, working late, etc, I let her know that she is part of our family team and being a willing participant improves everyone’s situation. Same with the home front, family needs to be willing, helpful participants in home chores/ duties when a member of the family suffers a chronic disease like an arthritic condition. There also has to be some understanding, like a bad day at the office, there can be bad emotional days with folks with chronic arthritic conditions, not just from the pain but also from the inability to perform up to that individual’s standards with certain tasks.
What ways can a Super Mommy (a mom who is trying to “get it all done” and still be a nice person to her spouse and children) take care of herself, to live in a way that the pain does not get in the way of everything else?
When suffering from chronic conditions be it arthritic of any other, we have to accept our limitations. Not let our disease define us or keep us from doing things, but do it in moderation with reasonable expectations. “Super Mommy” is a newer phenomenon with women putting pressure on themselves to have the perfect home, family, body, etc. We collectively as a society allow ourselves to be to busy to take care of ourselves. Sunday was created as a day of rest, but rarely do we rest. Life is too short to, be it in perfect health or with disease. Time with our children is short. The best “Super Mom” is the one that sets a good example for her family. We put our family first by nature, but also taking care of ourselves with good eating and exercise habits. Know your own limitations and do not over extend with activities. Families need to be together in quality time so put limitations on so many activities of the family to be together- play together, rest together, know each other and needs of the time. Children learn from our example…they will learn how to eat and exercise from us, sleeping habits, pushing ourselves to we are frazzled.
There is a fine line somewhere between “Really hurting and just frustrated” and Feeling sorry for myself”. What ways can a Super Mommy keep herself from going over that edge into a gloominess that brings everyone around her down?
I have learned from some of my sickest patients, one whom have lost her eyesight from a rheumatologic disease or are severally deformed. The quotes that I keep in my mind from my patients, “Life is Beautiful!” and the other is “Make it a great day!” It is easy for all of us to dwell in the negative. Negative energy usually makes us feel worse. Many of my patients with the worst disease, that I think, how do they do it, count their blessings everyday. They don’t focus on what they have lost, they focus on what they have.
Although I hate living with Pain, I love a lot of what it has taught me, and the things I have learned about It from wonderful doctors like Dr. Balog. I know I can’t be a Super Mom without the help of others. I know my family needs me. I need to be a team player, but I need to expect that from them as well. Most importantly, I kick Pain and all his dumb side kicks to the curb by taking the time to make myself strong so I can help others who are weak.
Facebook Friends Respond:
I have learned that people actually want to be wanted. It’s totally okay (and even desired) to ask for help. I love it when friends need me. Turns out they feel the same way.
Fourteen of the years I raised my kids, I had psoiratic arthritis, and learned that I had to take time to take care of myself as well as my kids. My son was with me one time at the rheumatologist and the Dr. told him to help me around the house.
From what I have learned dealing with chronic pain, I would say: Learn to live with a less than spotless home, or figure out how to budget for cleaning help. Make time for exercise that increases your function. Don’t feel guilty if some nights you serve the kids frozen chicken nuggets, pizza, or boxed mac and cheese because you don’t feel up to standing in the kitchen making a made from scratch meal.
Ellen Painter Dollar
This article is published in the September 2012 edition of The Family Magazine of Michiana.
Living outside the normal edges of pain. I look in greedily, hungry for life. I wallow around the sides, kick a stone, pick it up and throw it in, landing with a hallow thud. I wait, hoping someone will see, but no one does.
I pout. I scowl. I kick and even bigger stone and hurt my foot. Then I sit down and cry. Weeping overtakes me because I haven’t let it out for so long. I pour out tears I never knew I had and sorrow throws me off balance.
In the dirt now, tear stained and ruined, I feel a glow radiating on my back. I am afraid to look up. The heat is intense, the warming gaze probing. Covering my head, I turn a tear stained cheek upward, and out of the corner of my eye, I see His essence. His gaze is the sun and his smile swallows the air around me.
I close my eyes and a gentle hand warms my back. His presence soothes and His gaze like fire ignites the cold inside of me. I know He’s real. I know He sees. I know He feels the dug out hole inside of me made by myself and others. He looks me eye to eye, puts His forehead on mine. His air soothing my breath and calming my heart.
He wraps His arms around my waist, lifts me out of the dirt.
My Beloved, He says.
My Jesus. This is my Jesus. My comfort. My help. My love. My friend.