Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Be The Gold in this Broken Time

The past few months have brought devastation to close family, friends, strangers, cities, and countries. We have watched day after day as natural disasters, cancer, sickness, and evil wreak havoc on the world we know and love. And, as I have been desperately trying to process my own feelings, I am left feeling so unbelievably heart broken. Our world around us is crumbling, literally and figuratively. Evil is finding news ways to rear it's ugly head, and we are left to pick up the pieces. And sometimes, we're left in a place where the pieces may never be truly picked up.

I am deeply saddened by all the deaths and devastation that have occurred. I am angry and frustrated over humans killing humans. I am moved to tears by those living in unlivable places. But, I am even more so heart broken and am in disbelief by the response to all of this devastation.

With the hurricanes that ripped through entire islands and cities, what I see most on Facebook is what the President isn't doing. Or name calling. Or political mumbo jumbo that ultimately means nothing in the face of the devastation for the people who have lost everything. YES, I see great people stepping in and providing help. YES, I know there are amazing things being pulled together to make things better for these people. BUT, what the news covers, what Facebook shows, what I hear people talking about most are the failures of such and such or so and so.

When Las Vegas faced a mass shooting of evil proportions just two days ago, what I heard most was how guns need to be banned and how the NRA is bad. And of course, there was a lot of speculation about the shooter and his evil ways. I am sure over the next several days we will hear differing theories on why this man (a human like you and me) snapped and how we can blame the NRA, satan, aliens and the President (current and past) for this one man's decision to massacre innocent people.

I believe there should be anger. I believe there should be frustration. I believe the pain we are feeling needs to be processed. But, I also believe the anger, frustration, and pain should not be turned into political warfare. I believe blaming, name calling, shaming, disrespect have no place in our homes and in our country right now. We all are too raw from our pain and heart brokenness to effectively make the changes we so desperately want to make. The devastation is too big to make such BIG decisions on topics such as law and policy changes. And an expectation for the political realm to make such changes immediately only leads to more frustration and anger. (Because we all know that any big change moves slower than molasses!)

We all need to take a moment and do some triage... Take stock in what needs to happen immediately. Figure out what we can do to HELP right now. Will my actions help? Or will they only feed the flames? Then, we can start to think and pray about ways we can help lead with positive change. Whether it's signing a petition or writing our Representative or setting up a long term relief program for those affected by the hurricanes. Whatever it is, lead with integrity and maturity and respect.

Japan has an amazing tradition that has fascinated me over the past few months. When a bowl or dish or cup breaks, rather than picking up the pieces and throwing them away, they glue the pieces back together. But, they don't use ugly super glue. Rather, they use gold to carefully hold things together. When everything is dry, you see a beautiful piece of art work. The broken pieces together with the gold share a story of not only brokenness but shares a much bigger story of healing.

Yes, they could absolutely use super glue to hold it all together. Super glue would certainly serve it's function. BUT, it's ugly and bumpy and when all is said and done, not many people would really see beauty in the final healing. Rather, the gold not only serves the function of putting it back together, it provides a beauty that ADDS to the dish. It takes something broken and gives it's cracks beauty.

Let's be the gold during this time of extreme brokenness. Let's help put the pieces back in such a way that people see the beauty in healing (and in the process of healing). Let's put aside differences and opinions and come together to show how rich, deep beauty can shine even in the most broken of worlds. Push aside your desire to blame, shame, name call, etc, and be the beauty. God has given us so many amazing qualities as humans, let's use them to shine.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Journey

The boys are well into their new school year and I am learning to embrace the quiet that comes with them being in school. The silence is no longer deafening, however it can be a little uncomfortable. It's been rather eye-opening for me these past couple weeks, as I am discovering things about myself and about my journey that I never noticed before. So, today I thought I would share some of those things with you...

A couple days ago, I was talking with some people about life and how fast the boys have grown and all of the typical surface type conversational topics. At some point in the conversation, one person was talking about the hardships of raising a child who has been affected by Special Needs. She was sharing about the emotional roller coaster she's been on and how tired she is. I gave an empathetic response, and she said to me, "You don't really understand. Your boys are great."

That comment felt like a sucker punch to the stomach. I didn't know how to respond. I didn't know what to say to her. I don't understand?!? She is right, I don't understand her exact situation. But, boy do I understand the emotional roller coaster. I understand the sleepless nights, the fear, the confusion. I know first hand the grief that comes with facing a diagnosis, with knowing that my child will never be like the other kids. I couldn't quite pull my internal thoughts and feelings together in time to respond to her, but it stuck with me...

In my almost 37 years of existence, I have experienced a lot. And, although I tend to put up a fa├žade in public (because not everybody needs to know my struggles), it's been a wild, crazy and tough journey. I wake up every day in pain from a stupid thing called Fibromyalgia. I have been waking up that way for over 20 years now. The struggle to get to the shower is real EVERY DAY. No one sees it because by the time I am dressed and ready for my day I have done what I need to do to pull it together. But that doesn't mean I don't understand what it's like to struggle daily in pain and exhaustion.

I have experienced grief in a multitude of ways. I have lost three grandparents. I have lost a daughter. I have mourned the loss of the life I thought Tyler would have because of Autism. My life has been torn apart by the unexpected actions of a friend. These are all things that my journey has brought.

There have been surgeries, sickness, and other health issues. There has been counseling and spiritual direction. There's been doubts in my faith, doubts in my marriage, and certainly doubts in myself. To this day I struggle with the doubts in myself.

And when it comes to parenting, the journey is NEVER easy. Just this morning, I snapped at my seven year old over something really insignificant. I made him cry. And as I hugged him and apologized, I felt like the worst parent ever. I don't fully know what other parents are going through. But, I know their journey is tough in their own way.

I guess in all the rambling I am trying to get to the point... In a way, the woman was right. I don't really "understand" her exact situation. But what I do understand is that this journey is hard. And my hard, although different from yours, is HARD. To me. And your hard is hard to you.

Rather than spending our time finding the differences in our hardships, I think life would be easier if we could find the commonalities. Grief is grief. Betrayal is betrayal. Pain is pain. Although the situations differ, the gut wrenching, heart breaking, defeating feelings feel the same.

The old saying about walking a mile in someone else's shoes might not be possible, but it certainly is possible to take a step back and try to hear someone's heart and their story. For me, listening to moms talk of the struggle to get their one or two children out the door on time tends to lead me to thoughts of "you should try having four!" That's NOT what I should be thinking. Rather, I should be thinking of ways to encourage them. Because in that moment, their journey is hard.

My journey has been hard, and it continues to be hard. The hardship leads to empathy and a true understanding of how others feel. YOUR journey, being full of hardship, leads you to a place of understanding as well. We can take what we have experienced, what we have felt, and use it to support others. We can use it to build people up, rather than to compare and make others feel like their journey isn't as hard as others (when to them it is the hardest thing they've ever experienced).

Listen to people... Listen to them share about their journey. Share in the emotions, the feelings, the pain and grief, and joy and excitement. EVERYBODY is on a journey. Let's spend less time comparing and more time supporting. Let's care less about who has had a tougher life and more time focused on how to make other lives better.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Feeling Temporarily Out of Order

The school year has begun, and the boys are off on a wild adventure of learning, growing and discovering more about themselves. Kevin has begun his fourth year of teaching, embracing his dream career and all the amazing things that has come from it. And, I am sitting here in a silent house feeling something I wasn't expecting: loneliness. I was excited to have quiet, something I didn't experience much at all during the summer. But, now, the reality is this quiet is deafening to me...

Over the past few months, there has been a lot of change for me. Most of the change is good stuff, and yet my adjustment to the change has not been exactly smooth. Back in June, I officially stepped down from one of the two positions I held at the church. I no longer work as the childcare director, which allows me more time to focus on our Special Needs ministry, as well as participate in church classes and events. It was a much needed change for me, but the lack of juggling and the calmness of my work schedule surprisingly left me feeling out of sorts. I had been accustomed to chaos and craziness since I first started working for the church, as I had always held multiple roles. Now, I have one role. And I feel lost...

This school year brought change as well. For the very first time in my career as Mama, all four boys are in school ALL DAY. My little shopping buddy, Ben, has made his way to 1st grade, and I must do the grocery shopping and errands all by myself. I was SO looking forward to having the house to myself so I could truly get stuff done. I was SO looking forward to having quiet time and nap when I needed to. And design my schedule around how I want it, not around a mid-day bus schedule. All of these things are awesome, but the adjustment to it is apparently going to take some time. My role is changing at home. And I feel lost...

Our business is taking off. Who would've thought that we'd be running our own sign business? It has been fun, scary, and crazy all wrapped up into one! The chaos of starting a business has subsided, and we are in a good groove. We've worked out many of the kinks, and are now settled into a routine. Now it's time for future planning, dreaming, growth... And I feel lost...

I have struggled with physical exhaustion and weight gain and over all feeling crummy for the last 4-5 months. I have worked at eating better and working out, and I continued to gain. Lo and behold, all the effort was almost pointless because my thyroid meds were out of wack! It left me feeling defeated and frustrated. With the doctor's help, we've fixed the meds issue, and I can hopefully get back into a healthy swing of things. But at the moment, I feel lost...

The last several months have also brought sadness and heartache and immense pain to those I love. I have been unable to fix any of it. I have only been able to sit on the sidelines and support my friends, my family. My heart breaks. I am disappointed in humanity. I am angry over sickness. And I feel lost...

Sitting in my silent house is giving me a wonderful gift... the gift of connectedness with God. Which I NEED badly! It's giving me time to dig down deep and find myself again. To redefine what I want this stage of life to look like. To reimagine how to do day to day life again. It's giving me an opportunity to dream and to realign myself with God's plan for me.

BUT, in THIS moment, I feel temporarily out of order.

The good news is that "temporarily" means it will end. And "out of order" certainly is better than broken forever! I know that the place I am in currently will pass with time and effort. It can't be fixed without work and a repairman. Thankfully, God is pretty darn good repairman! I have a long way to go to be functioning the way I know I am designed to function and to find a place of flourishing.

This daily gift of quiet will lead me to finding myself again. To be less lost, more focused. Until then, my lost self will continue to take one step at a time and find the blessings in the midst of change.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Even if...

If you can believe, summer is slowly coming to an end, and a new school year is just about upon us. Our summer has been filled with adventures of many kinds, none as exciting as our week away in Ocean City, NJ! We all had a blast playing in the ocean, building sand castles, fishing, site seeing, and let's not forget the most important thing: eating ice cream!! Somehow, ice cream tastes so much better when the air smells like the ocean!

This summer has also been filled with a lot of personal deep thinking, seeking and alone time with God... I've wanted to write about things before, but never felt it was the right time. I didn't have the right words to express what I was thinking and feeling. Everything felt jumbled and confusing. But today is different. Today, I'd like to share with you all some of what's been going on. (I will tell you this will be one of those "open and honest" posts...)

There are times when I really wonder what God is doing... What He's thinking. It comes in forms of how He could ever trust someone like me with four beautiful amazing boys. Sometimes it's more wondering what His plan is for me and my family and those I love. Lately, it's been more serious, like how some people can be healed from cancer, while other's (no matter how hard they fight) cannot. Or how families like mine can have a child with significant Spectrum issues progress in such a way that it is barely noticeable to strangers, while other families never get to hear their child mutter a single word or receive a single hug. I find myself struggling with the idea of fairness. It's not fair that people get sick, and others don't. It's not fair that some families struggle with Special Needs, while other families are never impacted by it. It's not fair that some people struggle every day to get out of bed, while others are living the dream.

But, is my struggle really about fairness, or lack there of? I have come to the realization that although I hate how unfair things can be, that's not ultimately what keeps me up at night. Sure, it might not be fair, but life in general is never fair. No matter what's happening, who's fighting for certain rights, LIFE IS NOT FAIR. It's just not. And as a realist, I accept that (for the most part).

For me, it's more about the heart wrenching truth that there is absolutely nothing I can do to fix life's unfairness. When I watch the families who are a part of our Special Needs ministry struggle, besides listening and lending a shoulder to cry on, there is nothing I can do to help them. I can't change what is. When I connect with families who have lost someone way too soon or who are facing insurmountable obstacles, I feel their pain, I hear their cries but am left with nothing that can change the radical unfairness in their lives.

None rings more true for me than right now as I watch my sister and her husband face the cruel and brutal reality of cancer. He was diagnosed years ago, went through treatment, thought he was on the mend, only to learn it was back with a vengeance. A few months ago they were faced with the decision of either pursuing more grueling treatment that could cause even more issues, or to pretty much surrender to cancer. And with all the love they had in them, they made the mutual decision to surrender so that he could spend his time on earth enjoying the time he had. This morning I learned that the cancer is spreading rather quickly, and is now in his lungs and in his liver. The doctor said he has maybe six months... THIS is UNFAIR. It's unfair to my sister to witness her husband getting sicker. It's unfair to her husband that he ever got cancer in the first place.

All of it is unfair. And yet, here I am struggling more with the fact that there is NOTHING I CAN DO. The only ONE who has the ability to change any of this is God, and although there is still the possibility of a miracle, I am thinking He has a different plan. And He promises it's a good one in the end.

As I struggle with the sense of helplessness for my sister and her husband and the many families I connect with and work with, I am left with the realization that all I can give is my faith in a God who loves them dearly. No matter what the situation, no matter what the pain, God deeply loves them and call them His own. I can pray for them. I can remind them of the goodness and blessings amidst the pain and ugliness. It's not always enough, but it's something. There is HOPE beyond the pain and tears and loss and struggles. More accurately, there is hope DURING the pain and tears and loss and struggles. And, I guess, despite my desire to make things better (or to make it less "unfair"), I am here to share His hope and His love.

There's been a new song playing on the radio (and now on repeat on my cellphone) by MercyMe called "Even If". It's left me feeling a lot of things that I can't quite put my finger on. But I so definitely feel it is pertinent for this time and place... It talks of pretty much the unfairness and junk in life, but how even if God doesn't change anything going on, He is still good and faithful and is our Hope. The chorus goes:
I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't 
My hope is You alone.

Even if God doesn't step in with a miracle for my brother in law... Even if those I serve in our Special Needs ministry never receive healing... Even if life continues to be unfair forever... My hope is in a deeply loving God. Even if it's hard to see how much He loves us.

Even If by Mercy Me

Thursday, June 29, 2017

"Where do you see God in all of this?"

Summer is here! In our house, it's a very mixed emotional event. The boys love the adventures we go on, but oh boy do they miss their friends and teachers. And, they miss the structure and the learning. There were lots of tears the first week home from school (some were from me!). The adventures have helped missing school less awful! A trip to Hershey Park (thanks to amazing friends who gave us tickets), play dates, and the anticipation of our week long trip to the Shore definitely make the summer fly by! And let me tell you, I am ready for our vacation to the Shore! 

I have not been in a very good place these past few weeks. The transition from school year to summer hasn't been so easy... It didn't help that the first two weeks of summer break, Kevin was gone on a business trip to Tennessee. Busyness filled my days, and I was left feeling like a chicken with it's head cut off. There was no time for me... If I wasn't doing things with the boys, for the boys, I was working. And, when I wasn't working, I was making signs for our business. Somehow weeks went by, and I hadn't spent ANY quiet time with God. THIS MOMENT is the first moment I have had to myself to write since the summer started. And the lack of time alone with God has left me feeling overwhelmed, confused and utterly exhausted!

To be perfectly honest, in the past several weeks, I have totally missed the blessings that God pours out everyday. In my busyness, I didn't see what God was doing and how He was working. The conversation I had with my husband earlier this evening jolted me into realizing how far away I have been from being present. I was expressing to him how frustrated I am about some financial things, and how upset I am over not selling much at our last craft show (that I had spent weeks preparing for), and how tired I am from constantly meeting everyone's needs. I had shared how I feel like all of my hard work is pointless because nothing good comes from it. I shared how much I WANT to do for the boys, and him, and friends, and the families within the ministry I work in, but that I can't seem to do anything right. Which makes me feel like a failure... In pretty much everything!

My husband's response, "Where do you see God in all of this?" His question hit me like a 2x4... In all of the struggles and busyness and tiredness, I hadn't looked for God. I plowed through each day on my own strength. I didn't slow down to feel Him, to see Him, to experience the everyday blessings. I honestly couldn't answer my husband. The lack of an answer made me realize how much I have missed... And how something had to change immediately (which brings me to this moment and my computer).

Here's the thing: the feelings of being overwhelmed won't go away immediately. My life is a bit chaotic right now. My feelings of failure in different areas of my life will not disappear when I click "Publish". And, frankly, I have been failing. And I need to focus on those areas so I can fix them. More change is going to happen, financial issues will still be there, alone time will be at a minimum, and well, I will still be exhausted. BUT, my focus cannot be solely on those things. Rather, I need to pay attention to all of the really cool things God is doing. 

Amidst chaos, and stress, and change, God shows us all how amazing He is... through gorgeous flowers, children laughing, the beautiful sunrises and sunsets... His hand is in everything if we just take a second to look. And, through stress and change, God could be teaching us something. A little life lesson, perhaps. 

I'm sad that I have missed out these past several weeks on connecting with Him, but am so very thankful that I can pick up right where we left off. I am looking forward to seeing Him more in the busyness and the chaos. How about you?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Being Mama

Almost 11 years ago I became "Mama" to our first son, Patrick! It was an exciting time for my husband and me. Little did we know how much that tiny human, and the three additional tiny humans, would change our lives forever!

Being a mom is something I have always wanted to be. I had very little aspirations when it came to schooling or a career. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer was almost always "to be a wife and a mom". I went to college (because that was what I was told would be good to do), I found myself in a great job after college, but all I really wanted was to be married and have children. Two years after graduating college, I married Kevin, and a little over a year after that we welcomed Patrick into our lives. 

I had everything I had ever wanted. I was a wife and Mama. But nothing prepared me for the journey I was embarking on as Mama. No books could ever really prepare a person for the ups and downs of parenting... The emotions that run through you, the sleepless nights, the gross messes, the opinions of others. But mostly, the books never prepared me for the overwhelming feelings of inadequacy and doubt that I have struggled with almost daily since Patrick was born.

There are times when I sit just wondering what God was thinking when He gave me these four beautiful boys. How could He believe that I could raise them the way He would want them to be raised? How, in all of my failures, teach these boys how to live a Godly life, one where respect, decency, and compassion ooze from them? I find myself in tears, pleading with God to give me the strength and wisdom to just make it through the day... Four growing boys who depend on me need a strong and wise Mama, and most days I don't quite feel that I provide them that.

I used to spend a lot of time on Pinterest and Facebook, but I learned over the last year that that is a very dangerous thing for me to do. I found myself spending more time comparing myself to what other moms were doing. I would see one mom who created an obstacle course throughout their house and think to myself "Why can't you do that? Are the boys missing out because I don't do cool things like that?"

Then there's the food thing... I would see moms who prepare wonderfully healthy, well rounded meals, while I am over here feeding my boys hot dogs and macaroni and cheese, with raw carrots thrown on the plate to make it look healthier! I wished I could do better... I wished I could make them healthier, prettier meals, but frankly, I just wanted them to eat without a battle.

The comparison game fed into my already fragile view of myself as a mom. So, I had to stop it. I don't really know what moms are doing now with their kids. I barely know what I am doing with my own kids! I no longer spend too much time on Facebook wishing I did things the way other people did them. I try hard to focus on what I am doing.

As the boys are now all in Elementary/Middle school, mothering seems to have gotten harder. Back in the day, the hardest things were functioning with no sleep and not losing anybody in the store. Now, we're faced with tough deep questions, bullying, school work, and four boys trying to find themselves in a society that doesn't always line up with our values. Before, I could solve many of their problems, fix the issues with peers, practically tell them what to think. But now they are becoming independent, and they need freedom to practice their independence. 

I have more doubt in my mothering now than I did before. The balance of firmness and nurturing is getting tougher. The boys are getting "smarter" than me. What do I really have to offer them, when I am certainly NOT a boy? Am I enough for them? Am I making the right decisions? Am I supporting them enough? Do I really SEE them and their needs and their heart? Not a day goes by that I don't question my abilities as their Mama. I want so much more for them than I can give them...

But, here's what I know: I KNOW that God chose me to be their Mama. God placed these four amazingly kind, respectful, intelligent boys in my arms because He felt I was the right person for the job. My opinions and disagreement with His feelings are irrelevant. I am unequipped for all that comes our way, but God covers the inadequacies with HIS love and grace and wisdom. I DO NOT need to have it all together, because God has it all. And, IF I cling to Him each day, He will shine through and those four boys will have everything they need. I am NOT enough for them on my own, but God already knew that before He gave me them. 

I would not trade my life as Mama for anything. It is the HARDEST thing I will ever do, but it is the most rewarding and amazing thing I will ever do. To watch my boys grow into young men, exploring who God made them to be is worth the doubt, the pain, and the frustrations that come with it. Nothing excites me more than to hear people share with me about how kind and loving the boys are to their peers and teachers. And at the end of the day, nothing feels better than to feel four sets of arms wrapped around me as not so little voices whisper "I love you, Mama"! Being Mama is THE BEST thing that could have happened to me, and I am so very blessed!


Monday, March 27, 2017

Surviving Until Tomorrow

March 27th... It used to be just any other day for me. Just the same as March 26th or March 28th. But, 10 years ago, March 27th took on a whole new meaning. 10 years ago today, as I laid waiting for the technician to find our baby's heartbeat, March 27th changed forever.

We weren't planning on having her so close to Patrick being born. But, God had a plan. And His plan included a new baby. As we moved from shock and fear to joy and excitement, we felt ready for a new addition. We had only a few months to enjoy the naming process and the room planning and all the other joyous stuff that happens when expecting a baby.

And then, just like that, March 27th came and she was gone. I can clearly remember driving back to my workplace from the doctors office not sure how I was going to get through the rest of the day. Kevin was meeting me at work so we could pick up Patrick. There was very little talking. Just planning. I was scheduled for surgery that evening. My parents were on their way from NJ. People needed to be notified.

As they prepped me for surgery, Kevin and sat joking with the nurses. I couldn't let myself feel the loss. I couldn't let myself believe what was happening. It wasn't until I got in the car after surgery that the reality hit... There was no more baby. I sobbed all the way home, saying, "they took my baby." And, as I crawled into bed, I was convinced there would be no more tomorrow. There was no hope, no joy. Just a very broken, shattered, hurting Mama.

But, March 28th came. A new day had begun, and as I stepped out of bed, I knew tomorrow was here. And, there have been years of tomorrows... Years of March 27ths. The hurting is less, but the longing for her is the same. Time certainly hasn't completely healed this wound. But in this time, I have moved from the hurt and the anger to a place of peace and sometimes sadness.

I miss Sammy everyday. I find myself wondering about what she would have looked like or who she would have been like. I see little girls at work and think about how I would dress my daughter. When I am holding a baby girl and people comment on the strangeness of ME, a mother of four boys, holding a girl, I find myself wishing that I had held my baby girl.

There were days throughout these 10 years that I didn't think tomorrow would come. My heart was too broken to make it to the next day. BUT, the God who loves me, the God who brings peace that passes understanding, brought me through those days. I had the song "It Is Well" on repeat in my head when I had no words of my own to speak. Some days, this was all I could pray because I had gone so deep inside that I couldn't feel anything.

God got me through these last 10 years. He brought me to a place where I can remember my Sammy and the joy she brought us. He brought me to a place where I can feel sad, where I can miss her so terribly and yet find peace in knowing I will someday hold her in my arms. Although I still find myself grieving her loss, He has led me to a place where I am no longer shattered like I was for so many nights. In the darkest, longest nights that I thought I would never survive, He brought tomorrow.

I am grateful for the last 10 years of tomorrows. I am grateful for every March 27th... Because it is now a day not to dread, but a day to remember. Not so much to remember Sammy, as I remember her everyday. But to remember that in my deepest, most ugliest time, God still brought tomorrow.

It Is Well with My Soul

"When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin - oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight.
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul."

Horatio G. Spafford