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Jan 12 2014

THRIVE.

THRIVE

“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

January 28th.

Learn more about what it means to Thrive at 

https://www.facebook.com/castingcrowns

 

Balloons

 


Oct 2 2013

One Step

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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.

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The days have been interesting since I took that misstep, for sure.

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 There have been days I have felt like this:

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20131002-084942.jpg 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.


Sep 10 2012

Super Mommies Who Live In Pain

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.

 

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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.

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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.

Leah Hudson

 

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.

Michelle Brown

 

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.


Jun 25 2012

My Beloved

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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.


Oct 13 2011

R.I.P. Good Buddy

Our buddy got tired. This isn’t a really great picture, but I took it last Friday night when we were having our regular Friday pizza/movie night.  I thought Winston looked so cute, but so worn out.  He would have turned 14 on November 6.

Yesterday while we were sleeping, he kept on coming into our room, trying to get my attention. I finally got up to let him outside and realized he had gotten sick pretty much all over the house. By morning, he was not responding to me and just wanted to be left alone. I took him to the vet and they said, “It’s time”.  I’ve known for awhile that he was in the end of his days, and didn’t want him to linger in pain every day from sore knees and other dog old age problems.  But it was hard, very hard.

Winston was our first kid. Rob and I got him a year before we had Maddie, so he lived long enough as our only kid for a long time, fully boding with us, learning to trust us and love us. He was just a little white fur ball when we got him. He rode under the front seat of the car when we brought him home, quivering in fright.  I remember the first day we had him home, he layed on Rob’s chest and fell asleep for a long, long time.

He was very docile and compliant….until we had Maddie.  He was afraid of her little baby cries at first, but a switch flipped in him once he realized this was a “Puppy” the three of us were supposed to protect with our ferocious barks. From that day on, any time anyone would come to our door or walk into our yard, he would bark and bark, terrifying the on-commer with his less than one foot tall ferocity.

As soon as the stranger walked through our door, knowing they must be one of the good guys,  he would nuzzle against them waiting to be petted and loved.  One of the things we will always laugh about when we remember Winston is how he would love to take care of the girls when they were babies. If I laid them on the carpet for just a minute and left the room, I would come back to the room to find Winston hurridley licking their faces and hands to get that icky soap smell off them so they would smell “clean” like his dog breath.

He did have the worst breath of any dog ever in the history of the world.

When Maddie was about 18 months old, we used to take her, Winston and baby Whitney over to a field by our house we nicknamed “The Running Field”. He’d run and run in circles, getting his puppy energy out. Maddie would yell at the top of her lungs, “WEESAAWW!” because she couldn’t say Winston. I still refered to him as Weesaw till the day he died.

He was such a good buddy to our girls.

In one year, he got mauled by a neighbors dog, had two surgeries, got hit by a truck, but miraculously he survived it all.  When we brought Ellie our Golden Retriever with a cleft pallet that drools, coughs, hacks and sputters, Winston thought we were the most evil dog parents ever. He hated her. She would nip at his tail playfully. He would growl at her. She’d nip playfully again, bowing her head down in front of him. He’d growl, she’d nip, until he finally gave in and they became best friends.

When I came home from the vet yesterday, Ellie sniffed me and gave me the saddest eyes ever. She looked at the van, hoping her little buddy would hop right out and give her her daily “dog lick bath” from Winston, but he didn’t come out. She’s been walking to the laundry room, looking for him, circling around the house, then laying on the floor pouting. It. Breaks. My Heart. She knew her buddy was sick yesterday. I could tell she was very worried about him.  She’s never been an only dog child, so it will be interesting to see how she responds in the next few days.  The girls are already clamoring for another puppy, but I won’t be ready for that for a long, long time.

The girls are all handling their grief in different ways. Belle went right to her room when she found out, wrote and illustrated an entire book dedicated to her best buddy. She took it pretty well.  Maddie and Whit took it very hard. He’s been their one connection to their early childhood days that bring them so many fun memories. They have each other, but Winston was their other best buddy.

I could not watch the movie Marly and Me because I knew Winston’s day was coming.  I finally got tricked into watching it a few months back and sobbed through the whole thing. I’ll never watch it again because it will just make me too sad. I’ll miss our little buddy.


Mar 31 2011

He Watches You

He Watches You

 

The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;

the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

psalm 121 3-8