Thursday, May 31, 2012

Answers and Opportunities

During my weekly Women's Bible Study class last night, we got into a discussion about life purpose. Specifically, how great you feel when you know you're doing what you were put on this earth to do -- and how frustrating and disheartening it can be when you know you're not.

I'm blessed to know I was born to be a writer -- it's a purpose I've never doubted. But as I mentioned in yesterday's post, I know there's more to it than that. I know I'm supposed to be writing something specific, and I'm not sure what that is right now. And when I prayed for guidance, I got a wicked case of writer's block.

Through talking to the other ladies in class last night, I realized my actual fear wasn't that I didn't know what to write. What I was really afraid of was that my blockage was caused by emotional slippage. I have worked so hard to stay in a positive frame of mind since Scarlett died, mainly because I was terrified I wouldn't survive the loss any other way. I was terrified of falling into a deep depression and never pulling myself back out again. So I would write positive things to stay in a positive frame of mind.

And when I stopped knowing what to say, I thought maybe I was slipping into that place I was so scared to go.

But I'm not. I'm not slipping.

I have down days, I have tough days, but I'm still me. I'm still positive and hopeful. I'm still not succumbing to depression. I'm still waking up every morning and leaping out of bed. There was no correlation between my writer's block and my state of mind.

After class last night, Rebecca Oryniak came to give us a little presentation. She is a kindergarten teacher, going on a mission trip to Mali to teach missionary children, and in her spare time there she will be trying to help the street orphans and abandoned women. Rebecca is AMAZING. She's vibrant, sweet, and oozes kindness. She talked a lot about how she felt 100% guided to do this, as if God were taking her by the hand and leading her there Himself. She told us about several moments of kismet that blew my mind -- absolute heavenly signs that she was going in the right direction. And I knew, THAT was the level of sureness I could look forward to when I got on the right path with my writing.

I haven't stopped praying for guidance. I haven't stopped asking God to tell me what I'm supposed to be writing right now. And today, I'm finally, FINALLY getting some answers. Three freelance opportunities presented themselves today -- and one is for a publication run by a woman I have a history with and a deep respect for. I can't say anything more than that until the project gets a "go" signal and papers are signed, but I am over-the-moon excited about that particular one.

To top it off, a book I ordered arrived in the mail yesterday. It's one that literally attempts to answer the question of why, individually, we are here. It's called The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren. My dear friend Maya recommended it to me, and after devouring the sample chapters on my Kindle app, I knew I had to order it.

It seems like I'm getting a lot of signs to keep going, that I'll find my path if I just stay open to it. So that's exactly what I'm doing.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lost Following Direction

Have you ever been lost, then asked for directions and gotten even MORE lost trying to follow them?

Yeah. That's about where I'm at.

I've been a writer since I could pick up a pen. I was 18 years old when I sold my first article. Writing is my calling, and it's something I've never doubted, never questioned.

But recently this calling has gone one step farther. I've realized my ability is a gift from God, and thus there is a purpose for it. When Scarlett died, I transformed this blog into a place to work through my grief and give others hope that they can survive catastrophe. And it felt right.

But recently I've started to struggle to keep this blog what it was. My words of wisdom are falling short of what I intended. I feel the pull of purpose, but I am being pulled in the dark -- I don't see where I'm supposed to be going. I know I'm supposed to be writing. I know I'm supposed to be sending a message of hope. But suddenly I knew there was more to it. This blog was a great start, but I have to take it farther.

So I stopped and asked for directions.

I have been praying for guidance, praying for direction, praying for some inkling as to where I'm supposed to go from here.

And the answer? Writer's block. I have writer's block!

I want to write. I feel compelled to write. But when I stare at this blank page, my mind goes empty and my fingers can't find the keys.

A lot is happening in the company that I work for for my day job. Maybe this lull is preparation for a change in my responsibilities there. Or maybe it's creative rest in preparation for a big project. I can only guess.

I hope to have big news for you soon, one way or another. As a friend of mine said in an email to me yesterday, "I feel God has something HUGE planned."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Santa Fe Trip Recap

We arrived in Santa Fe on Friday afternoon, after a 5-hour drive from Denver. Our hotel, the Inn on the Alameda, is a quaint little adobe abode just a couple of blocks off the Plaza.



We had a little time before the wine and cheese happy hour started at the inn, so we set out on foot to see the Loretto Chapel, famous for its gravity-defying spiral staircase. Legend says the stairway's carpenter was none other than Saint Joseph himself, sent by God to answer the prayers of the Sisters of the Chapel.





Saturday morning we headed out bright and early to El Santuario de Chimayo. It's a little bit of a walk from the parking lot to the chapel, and this equine gentleman was one of the sights that greeted you along the way. Doesn't it look like he's praying?




After stopping in the chapel and el pocito for a bit, we wandered the grounds. There was a Native American ritual going on in the courtyard. I didn't take a ton of pictures because it felt really disrespectful to do so.


Little reminders of faith are in every nook and cranny of El Santuario de Chimayo.







The rest of Saturday we spent walking around downtown Santa Fe and shopping. Sunday morning we went to the Artisan Market at the Railyard, where I met that intuitive jewelry artist.

Sunday afternoon we took a little hike up to the Cross of the Martyrs. The views from the top of that hill are just breathtaking.



After breakfast (the breakfast at the inn, btw, was incredibly good -- so filling, in fact, we didn't have to eat out more than once a day while we were there!), we checked out and hit the road.

We stopped at Pecos National Park on our way out of the Santa Fe area, and hiked the loop around the ruins. Up on a hilltop, looking over the Rio Grande valley, it's easy to see why the Pueblo Indians settled there, and why later the Spanish missionaries built a mission there.





Click on this to enlarge and see my little lizard friend!
Santa Fe was the perfect location for our girls' weekend. It had just the right blend of spiritual and artistic energy. And even though we have gone to the Santa Fe and Taos region probably a total of 5 times, there is STILL a ton of stuff we haven't done yet. So we'll be back!


The Time In Between

This trip to Santa Fe was the second trip I've been on since Scarlett passed. Returning home was difficult both times.

There is a readjustment that happens when I walk in the front door. A reorientation that occurs in my psyche and in my soul. A realization of what happened here.

Experiencing the grief helps. Crying, praying, letting it all out -- it's part of the process. But it's still painful beyond belief.

I trust that God will make things better -- He always has. He has always guided me in the right direction, and put things in my path at the right time. I KNOW things will get better, I KNOW good things are on the way. But I still struggle. And last night, I finally understood what this particular struggle truly was.

The struggle is the time in between.

Some moments I feel like I'm hanging on to this life by my teeth. I'm dangling off a cliff, and letting go would be so simple and so swift. But I continue to cling, knowing rescue is on the way. Knowing I just have to hang on.

The struggle is not letting go before rescue comes.

I trust God. I trust absolutely, unequivocally, that good things will happen to me again. I have been blessed in the past and I will be blessed in the future.

Right now I am just hanging on by my teeth, praying for the strength not to let go before rescue comes. And that is where my fear comes in -- I am TERRIFIED of letting go. Terrified that my grip will slip. And it's a struggle not to doubt myself. Am I capable of holding on?

Breaking my fear down into this, into the elements of what I'm actually afraid of, simplifies and clarifies the issue. And then I know what steps to take.

When this particular doubt starts to happen, I list all the things I still have. I still have Jeremy. I still have my family and my friends. I still have a home I love, a cat who needs me, a job that gives my days structure. Those are the things that get me through this in-between time.

As painful as this time is, it's temporary. This is just the time in between.

And I can hang on.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Home at Last

Well, I made it home. Barely. I tell you, once you cross the Colorado border, you immediately encounter Colorado drivers. Nasty bunch.

My mom and I stopped at Pecos National Park and took a hike around the Pecos pueblo ruins (pictures to follow in a future post after I get them off my camera). It was nice to see ruins of a culture NOT mercilessly driven out by conquering nations. The culture change brought on by the conquistadors certainly encouraged the dwindling of the pueblo way of life -- but there was no single massacre that ended it or drove the people out. Fights, yes -- massacre, no. So the ghosts there were peaceful, so to say.

Santa Fe was certainly the perfect place to go this weekend. The cathedrals and chapels alone were healing for me, but the art, food and beautiful walks were an added bonus.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Soul Seer

Have you ever come across a person who can see inside your soul?

I met one of these unique people today at the Artisan Market at the Santa Fe Railyard. I stopped to look at the handmade jewelry of Gabriela Silva, and she quickly came over and greeted me. She began telling me about her process, including the harvesting of the rose buds she makes into wrapped beads for many of her pieces -- when I found the most perfect bracelet. Beaded with large polished amethysts and tiny lapis cubes, miniature rosebuds wrapped in steel-blue wire drape from it. As you know, roses are very special to me because of my daughter, so I tried the bracelet on.

Gabriela spread the bracelet over the back of my hand and asked me, "Do you teach, or lecture at all?" Something struck me about that question. I almost answered yes, which is completely untrue -- but oddly, it felt right. She continued, "Many speakers take an amethyst piece like this and drape the heavier part over the palm of their hand while they speak."

The conversation was innocent, but the way she spoke to me -- it was as if she could see something inside me that even I didn't know was there.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Santa Fe Pics a la Carte II


I'm still in Santa Fe with my mom, but I thought I'd stop in and say hello. I am feeling spiritually refreshed after a trip to El Santuario de Chimayo this morning, so I pray my peaceful, happy energy reaches you all through this post.

Here are a few pics from my phone to tide you over until I return and get the photos off of my camera.


The little friar in the courtyard outside our hotel room.

Cool bronze statue in front of the Palace of the Governors.

Adobe, everywhere you look.

Arugula, pear, gorgonzola and candied pecan salad with tart balsamic dressing and a latte from Mangiamo Pronto! cafe on the Alameda.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Santa Fe Pics a la Carte

A windmill/sculpture garden we discovered on the Friday Art Walk on Canyon Road, and the Basilica of St. Francis just off the Plaza.

Writing and Respect

As a professional writer, things like grammar, punctuation and spelling matter to me. But I think, actually, that people assume my obsession with proper use of the English language is all because I'm a writer.

They would be wrong.

Sure, proper language use is my job -- but it's also a sign of respect. If I don't care about writing properly, it follows I don't care about my readers. And I do, dear readers, care about you.

I recently took an online course in analysis and critique writing, which was actually just a really great refresher course for me. One of the examples that struck me during the course was a letter from a teenage daughter to her mother, asking for a raise in allowance. The letter, besides being whiny and demanding, was riddled with errors. The professor pointed out that the number of errors reflected a lack of respect for her mother.

We all make mistakes. And while most professional writers have editors, the average person doesn't. Add in the trap of modern text message and social media short-hand, and you have a recipe for letting proper language slip. Heck, my emails to close friends are probably slang-heavy and full of too many ellipses and em-dashes. But when I am writing in this blog, I am reaching a wide audience that includes people that don't know me very well -- and language matters.

Jeremy calls me the grammar police. But to me, correcting myself when I misspell something in a blog or a Facebook post is a sign of respect. Not an act of perfectionism.

If you want to have a positive impact on someone, if you want to let someone know you respect them, and if you want to be respected in return, language matters. The teenage girl in my example above would have had a much greater chance at getting that extra allowance money had she shown her mother respect through her language.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Santa Fe Bound

Tomorrow morning, my mom and I embark on our annual girls' Memorial Day weekend trip. This year we have selected Santa Fe as our destination.

We have actually been there before, but it's been many years since. And we knew this year we had to pick a destination with strong healing and spiritual energy. We debated going to Sedona, or Bainbridge Island, or doing a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, or going back to Taos (Taos is our default destination) -- but in the end we picked Santa Fe. It's got just the right blend of art, spirit and healing energy.

I plan on blogging while I'm there, but I may not do it every day. So I apologize in advance if I miss a day or two. Hopefully I'll have lots to write about when I return, and will make up for the lack of posts.

We are planning on revisiting El Santuario de Chimayo on this trip as well. We first went there in 2010, when I was almost 9 months pregnant with Scarlett. The chapel is famous for its holy dirt, which is supposed to have miraculous healing powers. Crutches and wheelchairs litter the room with el pocito, a testament to the people who were healed there. The first time I went, I wasn't in any specific need, but I asked for health for myself and my unborn baby. This time I am in need of true healing -- for my broken heart. Though I know God is always with me, this little pilgrimage is my promise to Him that I am actively trying to move forward.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Date Night

Jeremy and I have had a date night tradition for almost three years. Every Tuesday night, regardless of our moods, our work days or Scarlett's sleep schedule, we have our date night.

When something comes up, or one or both of us is invited somewhere, we automatically know to decline. No checking the calendar, no talking to one another about it. Our Tuesday nights are off limits.

Occasionally something important comes up. Like childbirth. Scarlett was born on a Tuesday night, so obviously we didn't have our date night then. LOL. But other than that, on the rare occasion something really important comes up that interrupts our date night, we talk about it, agree and reschedule.

It's sacred.

We usually rent movies and make dinner together, eating while we watch our flick. Sometimes we'll go out to see a movie or go out to a restaurant, but mostly we stay home together. It's not that different than any other night, other than the intention of it. We both know that Tuesday night is date night.

Date night sounds like such a simple thing. But the effects of it have been far-reaching. It forces us to think about spending time with the other person once a week -- considering what to make for dinner that the other might enjoy, or what movie the other person recently said they wanted to see. It also makes space in our week for time dedicated to our marriage.

Dedicating regular time to anything focuses your energy there. Date night focuses both Jeremy's and my energy positively on our marriage.

Think about it. What could you dedicate time to once a week that would improve your life?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ambrosia Candy Company

Wow. Today is my day of shameless plugs. I promise I've got more substantial writing scheduled for tomorrow. But for now, let me introduce...


My super dear friend Della, writer of Householder's Guide to the Galaxy and all around AMAZING foodie, started a candy company that makes wild, lusciously-flavored lollipops. Think Mexican Cocoa, Organic Tangerine and Caramel Apple Martini. She sells these treats at the Superstition Farm Market in Mesa, AZ, but she also takes large custom orders for parties, weddings, showers, etc.

So if you're looking for a unique item for the snack table or goody bags at your big event, get a hold of this amazing lady using the link above and she'll hook you up with lollipop flavors that'll knock your socks off.

PS -- For those of you who attended my baby shower in 2010, Della is the one that put the whole thing together and made most of the food. Last year she made me a cheesecake that made me faint. Really. Jeremy had to catch me after my first bite. And Della's got limoncello steeping for me as my Christmas present this year. Everyone should have a foodie friend!

Shameless Plug of Online Learning Resources

I appreciate inspiration wherever I can find it. I especially appreciate sources of inspiration that also come with buckets of knowledge. I have shared one of these on my blog before, but I am going to share it again because it's FABULOUS. The other one is brand new and just as fantasic.

Fabjob.com --
These guys focus on dream careers. Not just careers -- DREAM careers. The bizarre and fun careers you never thought of but should have. They sell e-books with details for each career on their site, and the e-books are just amazing. They are fun to read, thorough, and worth every single penny. I own a few.

The Great Courses --
These guys sell video classes on topics I remember seeing in the course catalog in college. Whether you went to college or wish you had, there is a course in here that will pique your interest. The teachers are the top of their field -- in fact, the Analysis and Critique writing course I just downloaded is taught by a professor at Purdue. From English literature to astronomy, you'll find something you want to learn more about. The prices for these very comprehensive classes are extremely low. In fact, some are so low you feel like you're ripping company off!

I have an endless thirst for knowledge, but like most people I have limited time and money. So I have these two sites bookmarked and check them regularly for new material.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Samson and Delilah

As I have mentioned before, I'm on a plan to read the Bible in a year. Friday night I got to the story of Samson in the Book of Judges, and I got stumped.

Reading the Bible for yourself is a completely different experience than hearing its stories told you to. I had heard the story of Samson and Delilah many times, but reading it for myself -- I didn't understand how he was seen as heroic.

Now, after reading it and speaking to Christians and other people who have read the Bible for themselves, I get the TRUE understanding of Samson is not that he's a hero, but that he's a big screw-up. The way I heard the story in my childhood and through various references was that he was a hero. So that's part of where my confusion came in.

But ultimately, Samson and Delilah lied to each other over and over. Delilah tried to kill Samson multiple times. And Samson STILL told her what his weakness was. Of course, everyone knows Delilah weakened him by cutting off his hair and the Philistines gauged out his eyes and imprisoned him.

But WHY would he keep trusting her?

I know there's a lesson in there. I understand the entire Book of Judges is about Israel's spiral into sin, so there's some deeper truth to the story other than some people are just dumb.

I put it to Facebook and several people answered back. One person commented on a hero's weakness for women. One person thought that it was about the trap of loving someone that didn't love you back. Yet another person thought it was about trusting God above people. But I think my friend Lisa really nailed it. She said, "I bet we have all put our trust in someone that we knew we shouldn't have."

Universal truth, there.

I wrote before about people's unique challenges, and that while I struggle with worry, I find forgiveness very easy. I also restore trust in people very easily. To the point that someone can make the same mistake over and over, and I can keep trusting that the NEXT time they'll get it right.

I have always thought this was a good trait to have, though I admit sometimes it bites me on the butt. Jeremy, however, gets frustrated by this trait. He doesn't understand why I keep certain people in my life when they continually let me down. But I have hope in people -- and it trumps my doubt more often than not.

So when I read the story of Samson, it SHOULD have sunk in. I should have seen him trusting again and again and realized that I share that trait!

Funny how we can see ourselves in other people and not even know it.

New "About" Page Added to Blog

Lying in bed last night, my mind wandered to my blog. I realized that while most of you readers know me (or at least know OF me), some of you don't. Some of you have been directed to this blog by a friend or a family member who thinks you may enjoy it or get some hope out of it. And for those of you who fall into that category, I want to welcome you graciously.

Since this was just a personal little journal at its inception, I never did create an official "About" page. That has now been remedied. So if you want to learn about the purpose of this blog, or specifically to understand the catalytic event that changed it from a personal journal to a reminder to the world that hope can survive anything, please check out the new About page.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Day of Inspiration


Today has been full of inspiration.

I have felt the sudden urge to learn a new language, to learn about what a mission trip would entail, to download some new music, and to write a magazine feature about El Santuario de Chimayo. In my dream last night, Jeremy and I were starting a new retail business. Even at church this morning, most of the worship music was songs I love from the radio and could sing along to.

It feels like God is knocking on my door right now. Pastor Kim talked this morning about the gifts we were all born with, and how we should be using them to better our lives and the lives of our loved ones and community -- and I have very unique gifts that are a pleasure to use. I'm gifted with an understanding of language and an ability to write well, and I'm gifted with the power of encouragement. I use these gifts every day for my own benefit, and the benefit of my family and friends -- but maybe it's time to think bigger.

I don't know what that means exactly. But there's a whole world out there that could use a dose of love and positive energy, and I would love to find a way to promote that. I have been wanting to write another book for a while now, this time non-fiction, but I don't have a premise figured out yet. If a book is how I'm going to reach the world, though, I'm sure a premise will come to mind soon.

PS -- I got a sympathy card the other day from an old colleague, and she said she hoped I didn't mind that she was reading my blog. Let me reassure everyone right here and now, I WANT you to be reading this blog. I WANT you to pass it along to everyone in your life that may benefit from it. If I wanted this blog to be private, I would have locked it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Nudge

I spent some time at Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs this afternoon. Visiting Scarlett's grave always makes me feel better. Grief is a bit like anger, in that it builds -- and when you release it in a healthy way, you feel much better afterward.

The cemetery is so beautiful right now, with massive, leafy oak trees and birds everywhere. I could stay there for hours under those trees, talking to the memory of my daughter.  So I usually have to set a time limit for myself.

I was kneeling at the foot of her grave, holding an umbrella over my head since it was raining, and something odd happened. It felt as though someone lifted up the back of the umbrella -- like someone had walked up behind me and was teasing me, playfully letting me know they were there.

If you know my husband at all, you'll understand why I thought it was him. For an instant I thought he had followed me there and was trying to startle me. But when I turned around, smile on my face, there was no one there. The wind wasn't blowing hard enough to have done that.

I wasn't scared at all. I didn't feel like I was being harassed by anything. It just shook me from my tears for a moment.

I don't think it was Scarlett. She is comfortably on Jesus' lap in heaven. But maybe it was God telling me He was there.

I've had to face a few fears this week, and I needed a reminder that I'm not alone in all of this. I don't feel alone when I pray -- but I'm not praying 24/7. So I think God was whispering to me today.

When you go through a situation that puts you face-to-face with your Maker, your perception shifts in every way possible. And with new perception of life and death comes an ability to see and feel God all around you. Scarlett wouldn't have nudged me like that, she would have thrown her arms around me and kissed me -- so I think it was God making his presence known today.

Friday, May 18, 2012

How Do You Handle Conflicting Values?

I'm having one of those days where I want to throw my laptop out the window.

Maybe because I've been a writer since I could pick up a pen, the term "deadline" holds a sense of urgency for me. It's the date and time in which something is DUE. One minute past the deadline and you're LATE. The deadline is not the time to start a project, not the time to give the client the small portion you've managed to get done. It is when the client should have the 100% complete project in their inbox.

So when I'm on the client/editor side, when I give someone a deadline and they agree to it, I expect to have the project completed and in my inbox on or before that date. Or, if the project is going to be late, I expect an email or a phone call to explain the situation well before the deadline.

But the longer I'm in the publishing/content and tech industries, the more I realize my way of thinking is not the norm. Unless there is a strong financial incentive to turn a project in by the deadline, many people treat that date as "soft".

I don't get it. I really don't. It all boils down to integrity for me. Do a good job and do it in the time you said you would do it. Simple. Crap happens, I get that, but I shouldn't have to be contacting people after a due date has passed to see where they are with a project. And late projects shouldn't be the norm.

Sure, there have been times I've stopped working with people that consistently give me poor or late work. But I don't always have that option. And to be honest, ceasing to work with someone on those grounds doesn't seem to change that person's work ethic in the slightest. I often hear through the grapevine that they're just pulling those stunts on someone else.

But maybe that's just my value system at work. Kindness and integrity are my two most important values. When I am feeling uncomfortable about a situation or a decision I have made, I hold it up to those two values and often find that's where the problem is.

Danielle LaPorte calls it "worldview", and encourages people to surround themselves with people who share theirs. That's all fine and dandy when it comes to friends, but it's a much bigger challenge in the world of work and career. Me, personally, I just avoid the conflict when I can and take a deep breath (and pray, and throw things) when I can't.

So how do you deal with people in the workplace with values or worldviews that conflict with yours?


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Genetics Counseling Appointment

We met with a genetics counselor and metabolic physician this morning at Children's Hospital. Though the doctor is still trying to get a hold of Scarlett's newborn records to see if there was any sign of a fat metabolism disorder when she was born, the next steps beyond that involve actual genetic testing.

The doctor is going to try to narrow down which genes should be tested, and find out the cost for us. But at this point we have pretty much decided we are not going to go through with it. The doctor told us that the chances of getting any answers through further testing are incredibly slim.

And the cost is outrageous. The test for each gene costs around $2,000 -- and there will probably be about 12 genes to run tests for. All of that is out-of-pocket for us.

Even if we were rich, that's an insane amount of money for tests that probably won't give us any more information.

We want more children. And we are TERRIFIED that this will happen again. But the reality is that what happened to Scarlett is so incredibly rare, and the chances of it happening again are even more rare.

So I feel like this fear is going to have to be something I learn to live with and breathe through.

After having my next child, I may not have another full night's sleep until my youngest child is an adult. I will probably be the mom that checks on her child two or three times a night, every night. But having more children is worth the loss of sleep, worth the stress. I will work very hard not to negatively impact my family with my fear, but this fear will always be a part of me.

That doesn't make me a worse mother than I was before. All it means is that I have an understanding that life is delicate. More delicate than most people know. More delicate than I ever imagined.

Partner

My fertility planning rant has caused quite the stir. To me, it highlights the difference between the men and women of our generation. Women are more independent and have less limitations, and men have less responsibility.

And if you look at it, really look at it, it makes sense. Women have become empowered, which is a fantastic thing. But men have been left in the lurch. They are taught that they have to respect a woman's independence -- which somehow clashes with the notion that a man should be an equal partner. I think society has forgotten to include the caveat, just because a woman CAN take care of everything herself doesn't mean she SHOULD.

Planning and caring for a family is a man's responsibility as much as a woman's. This is not an outrageous idea. I think the decent guys understand it, but feel helpless to change it.

So I guess all I can do is, when I have a son of my own, teach him not just to respect a woman, but to be an equal partner to her. Our generation may be lost, but we can teach the next generation better.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fertility Planning Rant

I haven't posted a rant in a while. Well today you're in for a treat, cuz I'm WORKED UP!

I watched a segment on the Today Show yesterday about infertility. And the doctor they interviewed really tries to encourage women to think about their reproductive health and plan their childbearing in their twenties. Not to have kids in their twenties, but plan for it.You know, make health a priority, plan your career path, find a partner, etc.

I've been married to Jeremy since I was 28, and I'm 32 now, but I remember being in my twenties and dating and having to think about having children later on -- and I remember knowing I couldn't talk about children with the men I was dating. Even with Jeremy, for the first few years I was with him, I tried to act nonchalant about having kids so he wouldn't feel pressured.

So here we women are, having to do all the thinking and planning for having kids, and HEAVEN FORBID we try to talk to our partners about it. Men are programmed to run for the hills when a woman brings up the topic of having kids.

Let's get serious. That is completely screwing our entire society.

Women who know they want kids spend their twenties secretly planning for children, trying to find a compatible partner while not scaring men off, and being told not to have kids too young or too old. So barring any accidental pregnancies, we get to the "acceptable" window of having children, which is around age 30, and those of us who are lucky enough to be married or stable enough to have kids start trying to get pregnant -- and we find we have trouble because our fertility has declined. This causes stress, which decreases fertility even more, and pushes the age even later.

Meanwhile, men are just reaching the age where they're verbalizing their desire for children. Then they see how freaking hard it is for their partner to get pregnant, and they try to play it cool, like, Honey, we're still young. We still have plenty of time. And the woman is like, ARE YOU NUTS? My fertility is decreasing by the day, you monkey!

Essentially that puts women into the stressed out/insane category for the bulk of their childbearing years. Meanwhile, men are like, It'll happen when it happens, baby, leaving us feeling all alone in our planning and worry.

I got lucky that I found a man who was certain from day one he wanted children. But I STILL went through this.

If I could do anything right now, right at this moment, it would be to convince men how important it is for them to think about and plan for children TOO. It's not fair that we women have to carry the brunt of the stress of having children, and men are relegated to sperm donors.

Come on, guys. Your partner's health and planning for children is as much your concern as hers.

Evidence

When Scarlett died, the police took all of the items from her crib. No, I wasn't upset about it. I knew they were doing their job. And if there was something in those items that could explain what happened, I was more than willing to give them up.

Scarlett chose toys to take to bed with her each night. Usually it was a stuffed animal and a doll, but sometimes it was multiple stuffed animals and multiple dolls. I remember when I would bring her downstairs in the morning, sometimes my arms would be full of all the toys she had brought to bed with her.

Though I knew why the police took her belongings, the empty crib was a kick to the stomach when I was down. When I put Scarlett to bed that night, my warm, very alive little girl was nestled in with her Pooh Bear, baby doll, "Boy" doll, and two blankets -- and the next morning, the crib was empty, stripped down to the mattress.

Now, I'm sure many of you have had bad experiences with police officers. I know I have. But let me tell you, the Northglenn Police Department has been awesome. When I called 911, I heard sirens within 30 seconds. One of the police officers kindly and patiently took my elbow and guided me out of Scarlett's room so I could answer questions and the EMTs could do their job. And the police sent a victim's advocate to be with me that morning until my family could arrive -- she held my hand as I dealt with everything, let me talk and cry, got me a glass of water, and told me (and then my parents, when they arrived) step-by-step what was going to happen and what I needed to do. For the next several weeks, the victim's advocate and the coroner called me regularly to check on me and keep me updated.

Yet when Jeremy went to pick up the items from Scarlett's crib yesterday, I still expected them to make it difficult.

I'm so happy I was wrong. When Jeremy arrived, he was directed to the evidence room right away and met by a girl who was fully aware of our situation and what we needed. She handed him several paper bags marked with red evidence tape, and asked him if he would like to take Scarlett's PJs as well.

When Jeremy came home, we put those bags in Scarlett's room until after I got off work, knowing it was going to be an emotional experience to open them.

After work, we sat on the floor and opened each bag in turn. Each item had a story to it, and we talked about each memory, shedding tears for each bag.

The tears we cry when we're remembering happy times with our daughter are different than the tears we shed when we're thinking about how unfair this all is. Tears of remembrance come with smiles and sweet stories.

I know we're going to live the rest of our eyes crying tears of remembrance -- and that's okay. In 19 months we were given a lifetime of memories to cherish. What a gift that little girl was. I can't wait to hug her in heaven and thank her for what she's given us.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Good Stuff

My friend Deb introduced me to this awesome speaker, Greg Groeschel. His current series, Soul Detox, is so fun to listen to, I have been looking forward to each of the new sermons every week.

This week's sermon is about idolatry, and how we are so prone to putting things before God. It's not something I have ever thought about a whole lot, but Greg's got a good point. I think for a large part of my life, I was worshiping sleep. Since I've resolved that issue, my life has changed for the better. Especially with the sadness I carry right now, waking up early and spending time with God gets my head in the right place for the day. And again spending time with God before I sleep, I get to sleep quicker (and without pharmaceutical help) and sleep more soundly.

Now I get excited to get out of bed in the morning. I was so worried that this habit would be a difficult one to create and maintain, but it hasn't been. I can't even sleep in on the weekends anymore -- and that's fine! I get up, go downstairs and listen to an uplifting sermon, or read my Bible, and let God into my day. And even grieving, I can see my blessings laid out before me. I can smile at the sound of my husband shifting in bed upstairs. I can revel in the scent of the dewy field behind our house as I let the dog out. I can drink my coffee in my sunny living room and know that everything is going to be okay.

Driving home from the gym last night, several songs came on the radio that made me think of Jeremy and my marriage. Each one lifted my soul up a little, reminding me of the path we've walked down and the blessed partnership we now have. We didn't have an easy time getting here, and I hope when you read my gushing accounts of my husband, you realize this took work. But all the work was worth it. Seven years after moving in with him, I am more in love with him than ever. 

One particular song made me tear up a little -- Jason Mraz's song, I Won't Give Up. I was feeling all gushy toward Jeremy when I walked in the door, and as I walked into the kitchen, he handed me a plate with a quesadilla he had made me for dinner. Taking the plate from him and thanking him, I just wanted to cover him in kisses. A simple thing, making me a quesadilla, but do you know what that means? That means he was thinking about me when I was gone. Not even just thinking about me, considering me.

All those years ago, when our marriage was falling apart and we were horrible to each other, only a few elements of our true selves remained. And I remember with crystal clarity, as deep a depression as Jeremy was in, he still considered me from time to time. He'd bring home my favorite candy from the gas station. He'd memorize my current favorite Starbucks drink and order it without me asking. He'd walk in the door from work and before even changing clothes, he'd come ask me about my day. Such a small thing, consideration, but it was there. It glowed. And now, when we've worked out the kinks and we have a great marriage, I see that consideration in my husband and I feel so insanely blessed.

It's not that we don't fight anymore. We have our arguments (though admittedly they're more civil). The difference is we see each other's souls now. His soul shines through in his never-ending thoughtfulness. And no matter how much he is driving me crazy, I have a million references to that thoughtfulness to hold onto and remember.

I guess the point to this post is that life gets better when we focus on the good stuff. I no longer want to sleep all the time because I love spending that time with God. I no longer want to throttle my husband all the time because I see his beautiful soul every time I look at him.

Yes, there are horrible things we have to endure in this life. Death, strife, trouble, pain -- they don't go away just because we focus on the good. But they are easier to endure. And it's so much easier to return to a place of happiness when you are actively looking for the positive.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Still a Mom

I was wrong. So very very wrong.

The thing about our life circumstance right now is that we don't know what we're going to need day-to-day. I had no idea how I was going to feel on Mother's Day.

So in typical fashion, when I didn't know how something was going to go, I tried to take control of it.

I planned a weekend away in Winter Park (I got a deal on a hotel there on LivingSocial.com). The idea was to hole up in a hotel room on Sunday and try to pretend like Mother's Day wasn't happening.

We arrived in Winter Park on Saturday, checked in to the hotel and quickly realized we were staying in a ghost town. Winter Park is a ski town, and EVERYTHING was shut down until the summer festivities commenced. Trying to find a place to eat dinner that night was an exercise in futility. We finally found a little Mexican restaurant -- and there were only two other couples in the place.

Other than that, we stayed in our hotel room reading and watching movies. But by Saturday night I was a sobbing mess. I knew I was upset about Mother's Day, but it wasn't until I tried to verbalize it to Jeremy that I realized specifically why.

I'm still a mom. My child may have gone to heaven ahead of me, but I'm still a mom. And on Sunday all the moms I knew would be waking up to breakfast in bed, roses, and days filled with family fun and I would be hiding in a hotel room in Winter Park.

I didn't want to hide. I wanted to be honored as a mother. I carried Scarlett for 40 weeks, I gave birth to her, I raised her -- and I deeply, truly wanted to be recognized for that.

I told Jeremy I was sorry for hijacking the weekend, and I should know better by now. After being together for 7 years, married for 4 of it, I should know that when I get upset and try to control things to make it better, it's always best just to tell Jeremy how I'm feeling and let him take the reins. He's the stable one. And he knows me. Even not knowing how Mother's Day was going to feel to me, he would have given me a better weekend than I tried to give myself.

So I put the situation in his hands. And indeed, the weekend got infinitely better.

I started getting text messages and Facebook messages from friends and family, saying "Happy Mother's Day". And they made me smile. It felt so GOOD to have people recognize that I'm still a mom!

At Jeremy's prompting, we checked out of the hotel early and headed home Sunday night. He dropped me off at home and went to pick up dinner -- and came home with some of my favorite foods, a dozen roses and chocolates.

Once I acknowledged my need for recognition as a mother, and let Jeremy be free to celebrate Mother's Day with me, the day didn't hurt as much anymore.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV)


An incredibly thoughtful gift from my mother-in-law, that I will treasure forever.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Soul Exposure

When you go through a period of grieving, your soul becomes exposed.

Obligations, old beliefs, half-hearted hobbies and habits are shed like snakeskin. You get scrubbed down to raw skin and the light of your spirit becomes visible through it. Suddenly people see you as you are. They see the broken heart and the strength it takes to get out of bed every morning. They see how hope glitters in your eyes and runs down your cheeks.

When your soul is present for all to see, people suddenly GET you. They send cards and gifts that make you think, How did they know how much this would mean to me? They don't pry into your life anymore, but sit with you in comfortable silence, or blabber on about their own troubles, and their mere presence becomes a balm.

When your soul becomes exposed, only the most important things remain in your awareness. Love. Faith. Family. Friends. God. Your next breath.

Everything else just fades away.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Thanks for My Husband

I wish I could bottle Jeremy's presence. It's worth more than gold, more than diamonds -- more than almost anything.

There was a windstorm last night. Wind has always made me anxious, but now it's bordering on phobia. The night Scarlett died, it was one of the worst windstorms I'd experienced. So now windstorms not only bring on anxiety, they also bring on terrible memories.

Jeremy typically comes to bed an hour or two after me. For a while after Scarlett died, I couldn't handle going to bed by myself and he would come in and watch TV in bed while I went to sleep. I just needed him near me.

Last night, I tried to go to sleep alone. I turned up the floor fan, turned on my white noise machine, and buried my head under my pillow. But I could still hear the wind. I could feel it slamming the walls. Within ten minutes, I was sitting upright, bawling my eyes out while I clutched BunBun (Scarlett's pink bunny that I sleep with every night).

I went downstairs and asked Jeremy to come watch TV in bed. He pulled me into his arms and held me and I immediately felt a sense of calm wash over me. In minutes, I was almost asleep with my head on his chest.

He came to bed with me and I fell asleep with him watching TV, his arm draped over me.

I honestly don't know how I would survive this without him. He's the eye of this storm, the calm center that I gravitate to when the wind lashes at my heart.

My husband is stubborn, always "right", absolutely immovable and God help the person who tries to make him do something. Those traits can be MADDENING -- but those traits are also what make him my rock. Those traits make him a mountain in a hurricane.

Thank you, God, for my husband.

Mother's Day Isn't Really About Mothers

Mother's Day is this Sunday. I have felt dread building up in me all week.

I only got to celebrate one Mother's Day with Scarlett. I can't describe the ache in my heart as I even type this.

I know I'll get through. Jeremy and I are planning on distracting ourselves in the mountains this weekend, letting the world disappear for a bit. But even with my conscious effort to deal with this holiday, each morning this week I am waking up a little sadder.

A dear friend wrote in her blog yesterday about her first few Mother's Days after she lost her daughter. And it gave me hope. I know this day will be hard for a few years, but not forever. Not forever.

Mother's Day isn't about mothers, after all. It's about children. And I will have more children. Until then, this day will be about a great, shining love that I had for 19 months.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Delicate and Strong

I've been getting a lot of people asking if I bought my Bible.  Indeed, I did!  I got a beautiful, personalized ESV Bible.


Ain't she a beaut?

It's reassuring just to hold it in my hands.

The last few days, Jeremy and I have both felt extra sad.  No particular reason -- having down days is just part of the grieving process, and we've learned to accept it.  But when I am having a day like that, knowing I can grab this beautiful book and it will help heal me makes me confident that the sad days won't kill me.

It's still hard to wrap my head around the fact that Scarlett is gone.  Her echo is everywhere.  In the corner by the window, where she used to watch the birds in the tree outside.  In her bedroom, behind the closed door.  At the kitchen table where her high chair used to be.  I cry every day from missing her SO much, and I know I will probably continue to cry every day for years to come.  The echo of her is painful, but it's becoming a part of my everyday existence.  My "new normal".

People go through hard times every day.  I know I'm not alone in my pain.  And I know I'm not going to move past it overnight.  What I didn't know, though, is that it is possible to live with soul-crushing pain.  It is possible to get up in the morning, eat breakfast, go to work, and even smile, with a pain so deep it should bury you.

How amazing is it that God made us so delicate, yet so strong?

We are masterpieces.  Even when we're on the floor, even when we're sobbing messes, we are works of art.  God gave us the capacity for great love, and with it great pain.  But He gave us the strength to keep breathing.  And I can tell you from experience that there are things you think should stop your heart -- but your heart keeps beating.

And I, for one, am not going to take that for granted.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Submitting to Help

We had our last grief counseling appointment this week.  We're not free of our issues, but we feel like we're on solid enough ground that we can attempt to move forward on our own now.  With, of course, the knowledge that we can dive right back into counseling the second we need to.

We've gone through rounds of counseling several times during our marriage.  I'm not ashamed to tell you that, because I think everyone needs an unbiased ear sometimes.  And sometimes all you have to do is verbalize your thoughts and feelings and they start to sort themselves out.  That doesn't mean there is something wrong with you, that means you're human.

For us, part of going to counseling was also an act of submission.  Recognizing that we're not perfect and we do occasionally need help.  Getting ego-based pride out of our marriage was a BIG step for us.

Grief counseling was no exception.  We knew we weren't prepared to deal with the deep grief we were experiencing, and we knew there was someone out there who could give us experienced, unbiased, professional advice that might just keep us alive.

All it will take is one of us saying, "I think we need to go back to counseling," for us to go right back -- to deal with ANYTHING -- grief, our marriage, whatever.  One of the things we have learned over the years is that when one of us says they need counseling, you don't hesitate.

I think submitting to counseling benefited me in another way, as well.  Knowing I can't always deal with issues on my own, it was much easier to understand and accept the lesson of submitting to God as well.  I read all the time in these spiritual books and articles about how we need to recognize that we can't do everything ourselves, and that not only can God help us, we need Him to help us.

Handing my pain and fear over to God and praying, Please help me, was not a stretch for me.  I'm human.  I'm imperfect.  I need help.  That doesn't mean I'm weak.  That doesn't mean I'm falling apart.  That means I will heal.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Things I Love Right Now

Things I love right now:

The scent of wild sage after a rainstorm

My behemoth cat purring in my lap

A big cup of coffee steaming beside me as I write

Beautiful art on my walls

The feeling of hope I get from listening to a great sermon first thing in the morning

The anticipation of a mountain escape with Jeremy this weekend

No meetings on my calendar AT ALL today

A pile of good books waiting to be read when I get off work

The meadowlark that sets up camp right outside the kitchen window every morning

Bliss Is a State of Mind

Bliss is a state of consciousness.

I learned that through almost losing my marriage before our first anniversary.

We didn't start out on the right foot.  At all.  We were both selfish with our time and energy.  Then Jeremy fell into a deep depression and I ran for the hills because I felt like it was directed at me.  It was a rocky start, to say the least.

Long story short, counseling saved us.  It made us focus on each other and develop the skill set necessary to be successful partners.

But I got more out of the experience than a love story to tell my grandkids.  I got a common goal with my husband -- that is, to save and permanently solidify our marriage.  I got an appreciation for his true strength -- that is, commitment and unswerving loyalty. And I got a change in my way of thinking -- that is, bliss.

Here is the difference between my state of mind when I first got married versus now, years later:

Then: Jeremy is eating pancakes for dinner.  He doesn't care about his health.  He doesn't care if he gets obese and has a heart attack.  Therefore he doesn't care about ME.


Now: Jeremy is eating pancakes for dinner.  He's like a big kid, with that adorable smile as he eats every bite!  Eating pancakes makes him happy, and he doesn't do it very often, so it makes ME happy.


Then: Jeremy left dirty dishes in the sink again.  He doesn't care about our home.  Or maybe he just thinks I'll do it for him, like I'm his mother instead of his wife.  Why does he make me act like his mother?


Now: Jeremy left dirty dishes in the sink.  It's been a while since he's done that.  He must have gotten distracted before he came to bed last night.  Yesterday he scrubbed the bathtubs sparkling clean, so I know he is taking pride in our home.  I'm sure he'll take care of it when he comes into the kitchen next.


Then: Jeremy never goes out and does anything.  He spends his evenings reading comic books and watching movies.  He's so anti-social.


Now: I love that Jeremy is always here when I come home.  Yesterday when I came home from church, he had even scrubbed the kitchen clean for me!  I look forward to coming home to him whenever I am out.

My husband hasn't drastically changed.  My state of mind has.  I learned how to appreciate him for who he is.  I learned to see his happiness and magnify it.  And he bloomed.

I'm not going to lie to you and say it was easy.  I had to give up an entire lifetime of thinking a certain way.  I had to give up some of my pride.  And I had to learn to live my life in a state of dual consciousness -- it wasn't just me and my life anymore, it was us and our life.  Not easy.  Especially going from an incredibly independent, free-spirited lifestyle to being married to someone with a personality completely opposite of my own.

But that's why I say I cultivated bliss.  Counseling planted the seed, Jeremy and I tended it together, and now I water that beautiful flowering plant daily.

I have to put this into practice every minute of every day.  Especially now, when a commercial on TV of a woman singing to her daughter can sucker-punch me and send me spiraling into deep sadness.  It's effort.  But it's how I survive.  It's how Jeremy and I survived.  And I'm not about to give up now.


Monday, May 07, 2012

Examples of Survival

This year, 2012, has been really hard on everyone.  You all know what happened to Jeremy and I in February, but we are just the tip of the iceberg.

Divorces and separations, drugs and alcohol, emotional and physical health issues, job loss and financial pain -- it seems that everyone we know is going through something terrible.  It makes me wonder if there's a larger purpose to it, like maybe God is setting everyone up to be stronger and healthier after the fact.  Or maybe the world really is ending on December 21 and we'll all just be happy about it.  Wow -- morbid thought there.

But it also makes me think that Jeremy and I are examples.  We are an example of a marriage surviving and thriving after a separation and near divorce.  We are an example that you can live and move forward after a devastating personal loss.

I'm not saying everyone should be like us.  I'm not saying we've got the magic key to fixing your particular problem.  But I am saying that we are alive and kicking after situations that may have killed us -- and because of that, I have hope that everyone can find their way out of these terrible situations and into the light again.

If you doubt you're going to survive what you're going through, just think of us.  If we can survive, anyone can.

Human Trafficking Awareness

AWARENESS is such a powerful thing.  Technology has made it so easy to disseminate information of all sorts, and this blog is no exception.  So every once in a while, you are going to get a post from me that is focused on awareness.  I'm not going to preach about what you should and shouldn't do -- it's not my job or right to judge -- but just make you aware of some of the things I'm learning.

I watched a documentary this morning on human trafficking. I've heard time and time again how it's a global problem, and it's very real right here in our own country, in our own city. And I get that -- I know it's rampant. I even have a dear friend who is involved with an organization that fights it in Colorado Springs.  But I never made the connection to the Internet until this morning.

Besides Internet p**nography desensitizing people, it actually promotes and funds slavery. A large percentage of the p**nographic images and videos found on the Internet are of human trafficking victims. So a middle class American guy coming home from work and unwinding at the computer with some p**n is actually promoting the sexual slavery of women and children.

We think we're so above it all, sometimes. We think because we don't actively participate in some global horror, we are innocent of it. But let's get real about where we're putting our time and our money.

I'm not innocent and I can't throw stones. I might not look at p**nography online, but I contribute to global issues in my own way.  When I'm not paying attention I probably buy goods made with child labor, and when money gets tight, I buy non-shade-grown coffee grounds. These may seem like little things, but it's still contributing to major global issues of child slavery and environmental destruction.  Awareness makes me make better decisions, though, and I can honestly say I avoid contributing to problems when I can.

My point here is that awareness leads to changes in habit.  I am aware, now, that Internet p**nography contributes to a real global horror.  And where I may have previously dismissed the viewing of it as the morally iffy habit of some bored and/or lonely men, I can no longer see it as that.  My eyes have been opened.  That habit is now irrevocably connected in my mind to women and children in sexual slavery.

I might not be able to make a difference in this issue by purchasing a different brand of coffee, or using a purse made in America -- but my awareness of it will make a difference.  Even if it's just because you guys are reading this and making the connection for yourselves.

PS -- I'm using the asterisks to deter spambots and reassure Google that this IS a family-friendly blog, NOT to make a big deal out of the word.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

The Power of Presence

This weekend was all about presence for me.

My plans fell through at the last minute on Saturday, so I accompanied Jeremy and Jacob to Free Comic Book Day.  The three of us hit four comic shops in Colorado Springs.  It was the first time Jacob and I had ever been to the event, so Jeremy led the charge.  Every shop had something unique happening, and it was so fun.  We got our free comic books, and Jeremy even found some killer deals.

Spending the day in the presence of two guys who were so excited about comics was such a blessing.  I couldn't help but share in their joy.  And of course, I love comics myself.

After the last shop, we met up with Jeremy's family and saw The Avengers at the theater.  This was the second time for me, Jeremy and Jacob -- the three of us and my brother, Drew, went and saw it on opening night.  The movie was just as amazing, if not moreso, the second time around.  Jeremy and I are SO HAPPY that Joss Whedon (the writer) finally had a successful movie.  We adore his work, always have.  Every time he would write something that wasn't a smashing success, it broke our hearts a little.  Joss has a cult following for a reason, though -- he's absolutely brilliant.  It was only a matter of time before the general public acknowledged him.

But I digress.

After the movie, Jeremy, Jacob and I went to visit Scarlett's grave.  That is always such a mixed emotional experience.  It feels so good to visit her, but at the same time it is so intensely sad.

Dinner at an Indian restaurant followed.  I was holding our little nephew David in my lap and he was playing with my necklace.  It is the necklace I wear almost every day, the one Allison sent me with Scarlett's name engraved on it.  And as he fingered the pendant with his chubby little toddler hand, he whispered, "It's treasure!"  Indeed, little man.

This morning I was watching Super Soul Sunday on the OWN channel, and Oprah was interviewing Thich Nhat Hanh.  He was talking about his four mantras, and the first two were all about being present for your loved one.  The first, I am here for you, meaning you are giving your full and undivided presence to your loved one.  The second, I know you are there, meaning you recognize and appreciate the presence of your loved one.  When you love someone, the best you can offer them is your presence.

Jeremy and I learned this lesson the hard way.  We got into trouble early on in our marriage because we weren't present for each other.  Once we learned how to be truly present, we fixed our marriage and created an amazing and lasting partnership.

I went to Flatirons Community Church this morning, and the message there reflected the importance of presence, too.  They started a series called "Unsinkable", and they are relating biblical truths to the story of the Titanic.  One of the points made by Pastor Jim today really hit home.  He talked about when you ignore warning signs, when you continue forward arrogantly, full-steam in the wrong direction, and you sink -- you take those closest to you down with you.  Living a good life, making good decisions, doesn't just affect you, it affects everyone around you.

After church today, I picked up a treat to surprise Jeremy for lunch and headed home.  We sat in each other's presence, eating our lunch, and listened to each other talk about our current inspirations.  Jeremy filled me in on Walking Dead #100 and I filled him in on what I learned this morning.  And you know what?  Just being present for each other might not be the most exciting thing in the world -- but Thich Nhat Hanh sure was right that it increases our happiness.  And isn't happiness the most important thing?

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Timing

I need to quit being anxious about having kids.  I worry SO MUCH about this, because it took so long to conceive Scarlett, and our second child is not coming along any faster.

I have days where I obsess over this.  I think, What if it takes me years to have another child?  Or, What if I can't have any more kids?

Ultimately I know I have no control over it.  I know God will give me more children when and if the time is right.  This is probably my biggest personal struggle.  I know better, but I still worry.

So I'm meditating on this.  I'm finding supporting Bible passages and really working on getting it INGRAINED in my head that I WILL have more children and God WILL provide them at the right time.

I'm working on even writing about it differently.  No more "ifs", only "whens".  WHEN I have more kids I will laugh about this.

God is even doing a pretty good job of trying to get me to relax about it too.  The last time I took a pregnancy test, it was before I even should have been concerned about it, but I was so anxious I just couldn't wait another day -- and it came up with an error.  I kid you not.  Stupid little digital screen said ERROR.  I looked up at the ceiling and said, "Okay, God.  I get it.  I need to chill out."

So here is my quote of the day, by Joel Osteen: When you understand God's timing, you won't live stressed out. You can relax knowing that God is in control, and at the perfect time He is going to make it happen.


I am trying to live by that.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Another Example of God's Listening Skills

At Bible Study on Wednesday night, both Erin and Lisa had study Bibles that I was drooling over.  I have wanted a nice Bible for a while now, but we're pretty tight on money and I want to buy a high-quality one that will last me a lifetime.  I admired their Bibles so much, I knew then the exact type I wanted to buy when I had money.

Months ago, I had some birthday money and I used some of it to sign up for this Botanical Illustration class at a local community college.  I have really been looking forward to it.  But while I was out for my walk yesterday, I got a call from the school telling me it was canceled.  They are refunding me my money.

Guess what I'm going to do with it.

Feet on the Ground

We received Scarlett's death certificate on Wednesday.

Right when I feel like I'm getting my feet under me, they are swept out again.  For any of you who haven't experienced the death of a close loved one, I will tell you from experience that it is a long, drawn-out process with many small, yet crushing, events.

That is why constant effort to work through the pain is so important.  It would be so easy to just give in.  It would be so easy just to go to bed and refuse to get up again.  But if I did that, these blows would kill me.

Sure, it can be devastating to regularly have my feet swept out from under me.  But if my feet weren't on solid ground to begin with, I'd just be swept away.


Thursday, May 03, 2012

Literary Conversations

Lots of interesting conversations going on today.

When I got home from my walk, Jeremy said to me, "So you're, uh, getting pretty in to this Christian thing, huh?"

I responded, "Actually, I'm getting pretty in to this Bible thing.  It's less about religion and more about a relationship with God."  And I went on to explain how I like having a book with all the answers in it.  I'm a Virgo to the core -- I feel less anxious and stressed when I have a reference.  God's Word helps me get my feet under me.

That opened up quite a bit of conversation about living by the Bible.  And how there are a lot of people throughout history and in our current culture who call themselves Christian but don't actually read the Bible or follow the most basic tenets, like Love your neighbor as yourself.  I whine about lack of common courtesy, kindness and integrity in modern society so much -- and this issue is at the crux of that complaint.  My worldview centers on kindness and integrity, and the New Testament supports that -- so living by the Bible isn't a big stretch for me, but calling myself Christian is.  Funny.

There were even more conversations about books in my day today.  One friend decided I needed to read 50 Shades of Gray (yes, I do know what it's about) after she was done, and told me she'd be mailing it to me.

And I picked up another book recently that Lisa recommended, The Uncommon Woman.  She said she keeps giving away all her copies because it's such a life-changing book.  I feel that way about The Artist's Way -- I have given away about a dozen copies over the years, and I keep having to re-buy it.  So I figure if Lisa finds The Uncommon Woman powerful enough to continually give away, I should check it out.

I also picked up Danielle LaPorte's The Fire Starter Sessions.  I've gotten so much out of her blog posts and HuffPost videos, I wanted to read her latest book and support her work.

I'm curious, readers.  What book do you keep giving away and re-buying?

And btw, a big shout out to Allison Clark, whose generous gift of a Barnes and Noble gift card was the reason I was able to afford these tomes.  Do I have awesome friends, or what?

Individual Study and Understanding Heaven and Hell

Last night our regular Bible Study class didn't meet.  So Erin, Lisa and I met at Atlanta Bread for our own little study.

Lisa listens to Pastor Ed of Calvary Church in Aurora on the radio in the mornings, and she found some great study resources on the Calvary website.  So we started with one of their new believer worksheets.  We read the Bible passages together and then discussed them, and it was so fun!  I love seeing how these truths apply to each person differently, and in such personal ways.

In one of the passages, Jesus talked about focusing on the spirit instead of the flesh, and said, "Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life."  (John 12:25, ESV)

I really needed that.  I try to keep a positive mindset -- but I have an investment in heaven and sometimes it's hard for me to focus on this life and not the next.  I have to remember that this life is a gift, an opportunity to grow and learn and make a difference to others.

Crossroads is having a series on heaven and hell right now, so I have a different understanding of the two than I ever have before.  Pastor Kim talked about how hell isn't a fiery pit, it's us telling God we don't need Him and to leave us alone, and God telling us, "Okay."  All I want to do is get closer to Him, because the closer I get, the happier and stronger I become.  And the closer I get, the more I feel Scarlett's spirit.

I'm sure everyone who studies any spiritual text will tell you they find passages that speak to them.  I'm no exception.  But I can tell you, this spiritual text is saving my life.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Peaks and Valleys

My dad has a cold, and my mom is out of town for a few days, so I drove down to Castle Rock last night with some chicken noodle soup and Sudafed.  I'm happy to say it did the trick and my dad is feeling much better.

I stayed with him for about an hour, just catching up.  We had a fantastic conversation about blessings that I wanted to share here.

My dad shares my beliefs about God and His constant grace and mercy.  He believes that big blessings are right around the corner for all of us, because with great sacrifice comes great reward.  And let's face it -- accepting that Scarlett was needed in heaven before all of us is a great sacrifice of control.

I believe a big blessing is coming, too.  But I will drive myself crazy anticipating it, and blessings don't come as easily when you are looking for them.  I really believe the more we focus on what's possibly coming, the more difficult it is to receive it.  It's like our anxiety creates an energy wall around us, and God has to break that wall down to give us His blessings.  Staying open and hopeful, but not anxious, is a worthy challenge because it allows God an open path to you.

God is CONSTANTLY blessing us.  Constantly.  Think back in your past to all the good things that happened to you, all the times where you had good luck, or an unexpected windfall of some kind.  You can probably think of a dozen things right off the top of your head, right?  So why do we find it so hard to trust that blessings are coming our way once again?

I believe it comes down to focus.  Little blessings are all around us at all times, but big blessings are fewer and farther between.  And we let ourselves focus on the gaps instead of the gifts -- the valleys instead of the peaks, if you will.

I have said this before and I will say it a million times more in this blog: God has blessed you in the past, and He will bless you in the future.

He's a lot more faithful than we are, isn't He?

I catch myself focusing on the gaps from time to time.  But with awareness comes capacity for change.  And I am changing that.  When I catch myself, I start by looking around me and start counting my little blessings.  I work from home.  I love what I do.  I have a strong, supportive husband with blue eyes that can stop traffic.  And then I start thinking back to the big blessings.  Landing my day job.  Getting involved with GlobalWrites.  Finding this house.  Having Scarlett.  Going to Ireland for our honeymoon.

After that, it's pretty easy to start thinking, Yeah, God has blessed me SO much and He will do it again and I don't have to worry about it or even look for it -- because He knows the perfect time to bless me.

I don't want to focus on the gaps anymore.  I will keep the path open for God and not get in His way.

Sugar

I have recently made some changes to my life to improve my health and get back into shape.

The last time I was really in shape was when I got pregnant with Scarlett, at the end of 2009.  I can't even blame it on having a baby -- I stopped eating right and let my exercise routine get really lax.  I was in better shape right after I gave birth than I am right now!

To kick-start the process of getting back in shape, I am eating a low-carb, high-fat diet.  This meant cutting out sugar almost completely.

For an admitted sugar addict, this was a big deal.

Luckily, when I make an important decision, I get this stubborn tunnel-vision that allows me to keep going with it.  I keep going with it when it's hard, I keep going with it when people nay-say it, I keep going with it because darnit I made a decision!

There's something to be said for a bit of pigheadedness.

Within a week of stopping eating sugary foods, my cravings went away.  It's not that I couldn't eat a cookie -- I just no longer have to eat a cookie.  This 60 Minutes report made the addictive and destructive qualities of sugar even more clear to me.  It lights up the same areas of your brain that cocaine does!  Holy crap!

You're going to laugh when you read this, I know, but I'M FREEEEEE!  I didn't realize how much sugar I was eating, or how much I felt the need to eat it until I stopped.

I never want to go back to being a sugar addict.  I feel as strongly about that as when I stopped eating meat.  My life changed because my physical health improved and I was no longer ruled by my cravings.

I'm looking forward to being back in shape and choosing when to eat sugar as a treat.  (Meat is another story -- it's been 6 years now and I'm never going back to eating that.  Sorry Jeremy.  Keep your steaks!)


Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Story Exchange

I have gotten into the habit of praying each night before sleep.  Last night I had an unbelievably long list of people to pray for.

Everyone seems to be going through a tough time right now.  Health problems, relationship problems, death in the family, the list goes on.  And I am SO THANKFUL that most of these people don't hesitate to call or write me when they need to talk about it.

It's only been a little over two months since Scarlett died.  My life is nowhere near normal, and I can't imagine I will feel "normal" for years to come.  But it tells me what positive energy I am sending into the world when my friends and family feel they can come to me when they are in need.

I have no interest in wallowing.  In fact, I really feel if I ever completely gave in to my grief, if I didn't hold on to my friends and family like they were lifelines, I would drown.  Not to say I don't let my tears flow -- I know the value of experiencing grief.  But I won't wallow in it.  So I encourage my loved ones to share their lives and experiences with me.  This exchange -- they listen to me and I listen to them -- is so important to me.

Because it means I'm healing.

For the first few weeks after Scarlett died, people would just let me talk.  I needed so much to talk about my daughter.  But the moment in which I wanted to hear someone else's problems, the moment I was able to look up from the floor and into the faces of my loved ones, the healing really began.

Through this experience, I have begun to understand the healing power of exchanging stories.  I want to do something with this -- I feel called to do something with this.  I'm just waiting to understand specifically what that is.  Grad school for counseling?  Seminary for ministry?  Or maybe I'm just supposed to pitch articles to more spiritual and self-help publications.  I don't know -- but I know I will be directed to the right path.  I have happy little butterflies in my stomach even writing this!  My new path, the path to helping others, is so close I can almost touch it.