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Fast Favorites

It has been awhile since I have shared some of my favorite things, so this Fall Friday seemed Fit to do a Favorites post!

This is my favorite lippy ever! Not only does it do an excellent job preventing chapped lips, but it also has a little bit of a pretty shine to it when it is applied, which always feels fancy to me. I have only ever found it at the Big R farm stores in Colorado of all places, so I make sure to buy them out whenever I visit. I just did a search and found they are available to order at https://cvc4health.com/products/superior-source-lip-healer-lip-balm-3-pack.

These little caramel cremes or “bullseyes” pack so much decadence into one bite. I never have the self control to only eat one. Don’t go through life missing out on these!

My new favorite shoes. This may mean I officially dress my age, but I don’t even care because these babies make me happy every time I wear them. Amazon sells this for $50-&60, but I found mine on sale at Kohl’s for $35!

At first I thought these were just an Ohio thing, but I have now traveled and seen these in other states, so run, don’t walk to get yourself a bag of these. Hands down the best pretzel I have ever tasted! Their other flavors, not so much, but I do like their version of Cheetos as well.

I rented this book from the library thinking to read it to my youngest, but it turned out I was the one caught flipping through it for the second and third times. Funny title, but the words and pictures scratched across the pages are so tender and real and encouraging they speak right to the heart. Easily one of my favorites.

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Sink or Swim

This week was the end of me. I felt like the last drops in my cup were sucked dry and I had nothing left to give. Frustration over my exhaustion and inability to keep up in the midst of daily hardballs left me convinced the best thing for me was to quit fighting for well, anything. Least of all myself.

As my body does, it decided another shut down was in order, and my digestion came to a screeching halt. This led to constant discomfort, and frequent vomiting even though I wasn’t eating anything. For three days I was in bed burning through barf bags or clutching a big metal bowl while at the same time trying to single parent my little people and see that their needs were met. I was not able to get up and feed them one meal, so they did without or got by on bowls of cereal and Halloween candy. It is heartbreaking to not be able to do the things I want and need to as their mom, and the volume gets turned loud on all the voices telling me I’m failing at motherhood… and everything else.

This is a lonely season of trying to build community without always having the strength to do it. This means long hard days scraping by and simply doing the best I can usually at the minimum amount. I long to be in a place again of having community to surround us and pick us up and meet us in the messes, because doing it alone is awful.

Despite my grumpy attitude and dismal outlook God showed up in the flesh of a friend who saw my frantic social media post asking for help and dropped everything to pick me up and not only see that I got back and forth to a small surgery, but while I was under she shopped for meals for my kids and stocked my freezer with things they could make in my absence. The “Just Show Up” mantra that I’ve tried to make part of my life song was so beautifully expressed in the serving kindness of my friend that day.

It is embarrassing now, but I felt so helpless I texted another friend and told her I had nothing left to give and she deserved better than me. I basically told her she needed to drop me like a sack of rocks because I did not have what it takes to be a good friend. Instead of stepping back she pushed in. She responded, “I’m not letting you break up with me. You can’t get rid of me.” I don’t know what I was expecting, but her response cracked a small grin across the weary furrows in my face, and the brick wall I was trying to build started to crumble.

Thumbing through the pages of my Bible I was brought to 2 Corinthians 10:5, which reminded me I am to take each thought captive in obedience to Christ. I heaved a sigh heavy with burden, gathered all my thoughts of overwhelm, anxiety, and defeat, and imagined placing them at the feet of my Heavenly Father. Peace washed over me; relief that these heavy weights are not mine alone to carry.

I was reminded me that I cannot control everything that comes my way, but that I can decide if my life will be marked by defeat, or by a patient trust in a Heavenly Father who loves me and knows where I am at every moment.

I cannot help but wonder who else is finding themself at the end of their rope this week. I wish we could all gather in solidarity and speak truth to bolster each other in our capacity to carry on. It always seems easier to encourage others than to encourage yourself sometimes. If you are in that spot this week raise your eyes up; remember that the hairs on your head are numbered and the birds outside the window are under the Lord’s watchful care. As we reflect on Him it is easier to be assured of His strength and less intimidated by the size of our problems.

God has promised us abundant life. I don’t want to miss that because I am tangled up in worry and frustration over circumstances that are not mine to control.

Here’s to the ending of a hard week and the beginning of a fresh one, Saturday sports games, Sunday morning donuts, and knowing that we do not have to be strong enough to carry our own burdens. Jesus has us on the hard days just as much as the easy days and beckons us to take up His yoke which is easy and His burden which is light, and he will give us rest for our souls.

“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The sovereign Lord is my strength! He will make me as sure footed as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.” Habakkuk 3:17-19

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Instead

I am so sad.

With summer break upon us I’ve been feeling terrible for all the things I cannot do with my kids. I want to go hiking with them. Instead they get stuck at home all the time watching too many screens. I want to take them to the pool almost every day, and explore the national parks around us. Instead I’m puffing walking up the stairs to tell one of them goodnight. I want to have all their friends over for late night fires and s’mores on the deck. Instead I’m exhausted by dinner time and asleep hours before the rest of my crew. I want to plan an exciting vacation getaway and surprise them. Instead I’m having major surgery that will take all summer to recover from.

I want to scream. And a little teeny part of me wants to quit; wants to give my family the freedom to live unchained. This mess is not living up to my well planned out expectations, and I’d like a redo please.

My friends, I know so many of you live joyful and exuberant lives in spite of much pain. You live the story that you did not sign up for, and yet you receive that cup so graciously, with kindness and contentment that I long for. Please share your wisdom… what is it you do when you want to throw in the towel on your own race and trade for a different one?

Jesus, please help me live for /your/ expectations. Help me to be thankful for what I have instead of mourning what I do not. Help me to make the most out of my time awake, and not have guilt for the times I need rest. Help me to have meaningful time with my children, regardless of what we are doing. And Jesus? Help them understand. Let their hearts become soft instead of resentful. Let their disappointment develop deep character. Help all of us to trust you with our story and to use it to bring you glory.

Amen.

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Losing Focus

Gifted an incredible gift to slip away just the two of us, my man and I took every opportunity to soak in the great joy held abundantly in the salty waters. Each afternoon he would tenderly inflate the vest to keep me afloat, and don his long fins to do the kicking for the both of us. As he gently pulled me along I marveled and squeaked with delight at the stunning colors and entrancing shapes of the sea creatures below.

One hot afternoon the winds had been stronger all day, and the choppier waves had churned up a hazy silt from the ocean floor. Just as we had done before, he held tight to my hand and pulled me along the surface of the water, snorkels upright amid the salty spray. This time I felt different. Even though my hand was in his, the murky water clouded everything from view, and when I looked straight ahead the sides of my mask obscured the rest of my view of my helpmate alongside me. As soon as this happened my heartbeat thumped frantically faster and I felt lost and panicked in the disorienting haze of the sandy water. Then I turned my face to the right, and clear as day I could see him right next to me guiding me along, and in an instant the throb in my chest slowed and a peace settled over me, knowing I was not lost or alone. Slowly though I would turn my gaze forward again only to be paralyzed repeatedly as his comforting presence disappeared from my view, and then look up again to see the comfort of his company right next to me.

This week I took calculated breaths as I tried to distract myself from the pain of a necessary procedure. With each new bolt of agony my mind would race through the what ifs, panicking myself into wondering if this would last forever. Then I would look up, and there squished in the corner where he could reach to hold my hand was my heartthrob, eyes locked, waiting to meet mine. Again that wash of peace and okayness would melt over me and quiet the pounding of my thoughts. As long as I held his gaze with mine I could do this.

There was where I realized… what a pertinent reminder; that when my focus is on other things I get lost, scared, and unsure of my direction. But when I lift my eyes back to the face that has never turned away from me, I find peace, safety, and belonging. I draw from that strength and it gives me the courage to keep moving forward, however foggy the future may be. Even though my Heavenly Father is right there holding my hand, it is I that has to raise my panicked stare and remember that with Him as my focus I have the courage to face whatever hard comes my way.

What about you; do you forget to look up when you’re in the panic of the moment? Do you find yourself looking for someone to steady in you? He’s always there waiting, just turn your eyes up.

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Grasping Easy

Tonight is opening night for my talented Junior girl’s next musical. She’s starring in the opening number, as well as solos throughout the show. I should be calculating what time to get there for the best seats, and picking out what kind of flowers to surprise her with. Instead I’m struggling to get myself upright, and fighting for breath, and today it has the better of me. Today I’m angry that I can’t just focus on my daughter. I’m frustrated that my presence at her show is threatened by my ability to get myself ready and drive there. I am mad that the feeling of suffocating is going to distract me from the beauty of her blooming there on the stage. Today I want to just be like the other moms. I want it to be easy.

Maybe easy would make me less the person I am. Maybe if I did not have to fight so hard, the victory would be lost on me. Maybe if it was not such a gift to be there it would seem mundane. So I’ll fight. I’ll show up, flowers in hand and I will soak in the miracle of getting to be there to see her. I will fight back tears of gratitude and I’ll cheer the loudest because I will know the absolute gift it is to be there. Heaven help me.

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Open Hands

I am facing a hard new corner of my story. If it is analyzed too much it quickly becomes scary, unmanageable, a mountain too big to climb. I am choosing to face this one differently though; with open hands. Hands open to whatever God has for me and /knowing/ He will make good come of it.

In a beautiful song, Open My Hands, Sara Groves sings the words that ring true in the depths of me right now.

“I believe in a blessing I don’t understand. I’ve seen rain fall on the wicked and the just. Rain is no measure of His Faithfulness. He withholds no good thing from us.”

-Sara Groves

I covet your prayers this week for peace and comfort over my family as we have hard talks and make tough decisions that I don’t feel ready for. Jesus will meet us there.

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Taking the Leap

Sometimes it is easy to let myself get dragged down and have a pity party about the things I cannot physically do anymore. I am constantly working to change this posture of my heart by replacing the “can’ts” with gratitude for the things that I still can do. Yesterday provided the most epic opportunity to make a can out of a cannot.

I have been enjoying a few days with some girlfriends at my friend’s lakehouse. They have lovingly cared for me to make things as easy as possible; driving me, cooking for me, carrying my bags, and bringing me whatever my heart desires. I am so spoiled.

Yesterday was boat day. Because of a hitch with my medical care and insurance, I have been without portable oxygen when I leave the house for some time now. Instead of letting me be without oxygen for a few hours while we were out boating, these girls packed up my boulder of an oxygen concentrator and lugged it down hills and over docks to get it into the boat so I would not be without it.

We had an amazing day buzzing around the lake soaking in the warmth of the sun and cooling off in the refreshing waters. We laughed, we relaxed, and we stopped at the big pier for some of the best soft serve ice cream.

It was near the end of our time on the water that we happened upon the “jumping bridge.” I had seen it before as we had driven over it. An overpass covered in colorful graffiti, it beckons the bravest of swimmers to climb the steep, rocky bank beside it and plunge into the deep water below. I had commented on how much my oldest son would love to do that because he is thrilled by finding tall things he can jump off of into water. And then my mind went on a lot of little bunny trails, but I’ll skip that part and get to what you want to know. I decided, “I’m doing it.”

My friends watched anxiously from the boat as I ditched my oxygen tubing and awkwardly swam-paddled my way to the shore. It was then that I realized my chest port was still accessed; a big risk for infection. I found a place where I could stand firm between the jagged rocks, and I began pulling off the medical tape and dressing, finally able to pop the needle out of my chest. With no sharps container in sight, I tied the tubing and needle around the belt of my life jacket so I would be sure not to leave it lying around.

It took me a few minutes to pick my way barefoot up the rocky incline, but I finally made it to the top and limped my way to the middle of the bridge.

There was a young boy standing nearby, trying to gather the nerve to jump off into the water below. I asked if he wanted to go together, but he wasn’t ready yet. If I had stood there very long and thought about it, I probably would have talked myself out of it, so I took a few breaths, gave my friends the “ok this is about to happen” sign, and I stepped off the ledge into the nothingness.

To an able-bodied person it may seem small and insignificant for me to have made that jump, but the joy and power I received from that free fall into the cool, summery water put a confidence and satisfaction in my soul that will last long after swim suit season is over. I did something the world tells me I’m incapable of. I did something my body sends off all the warning signals against. I did something that says no, I refuse these limitations and I believe in more.

It was not until I looked back through the pictures that I realized that right where I had chosen to stand the word “Hope” was spray-painted on the concrete behind me. How perfectly perfect.

Sometimes we have to accept “no,” but I hope that you never stop pushing for the “yes,” because the reward is most definitely worth the pain, even if all you can do is try. That is already a win.

Click play below to see my epic jump!!

******Update******

I spent the whole next day curled up in a chair and hobbling to the bathroom, but I would absolutely do it again. I made my family FaceTime me while they watched the video, not knowing what they were about to see, and it was priceless!!!!! Pretty sure I scored some cool mom points too 😉