Friday, August 31, 2012

Zimmerman Anniversary

Today my parents celebrate their 38th wedding anniversary. And it happens to be the last blue moon until 2015. I think that's pretty cool all around.

I realize how lucky I am that my parents are still married. And I'm doubly lucky because my husband's parents are still married too. We have some pretty strong examples to look to.

My parents met in a business class at the University of California at Berkeley. My dad asked my mom out, and other than the semester my mom spent backpacking around Europe, they were pretty much together from that point on. They got married right after graduation -- and five years and one masters degree later, they had me, their first child. My brothers followed two and four years later.

They stayed in the Bay Area in California for the first 18 years they were married. I was born in Santa Cruz, Drew was born in Gilroy, and Chad was born in Jackson. And there were a few more moves after that as well, as my dad's risk management career progressed. He got a job in Aurora, CO, and moved us all out to the Denver area when I was about 12. All five of us have been in and out of Colorado ever since -- but after years of all of us moving all over the western US, in the end, we have all five ended up back here in Colorado and decided this state is our home.

I realize a lot of people don't have families like mine. I know how blessed I am, and I don't take that for granted for a second. My parents taught me well as a child -- but as an adult, their examples teach me so much more.

So this post goes out to my mom and dad. I hope you have a fantastic weekend celebrating your 38th wedding anniversary. And I hope your special blue moon tonight shines bright.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Scary Stories and Disturbed Sleep

Ugh. I slept horribly last night. I should know better than to watch something scary before I go to bed.

Jeremy and I have been watching The Haunted Collector, followed by Paranormal Witness on Wednesday nights. I've always been fascinated by the spiritual world, including the idea of residual energy from major events. That's probably why I like Warehouse 13 so much, too.

Anyway, usually those two Weds night shows don't bother me. But last night's episode of Paranormal Witness scared the daylights out of me. It was about a box that had been used to trap a dybbuk (a Jewish term for demon), and the various witness testimonies terrified me. Probably because I completely believed what the people being interviewed were saying (and normally these "witnesses" seem less than credible to me).

As a kid and up through my early adult years, I studied a lot about the darker side of spirituality. I had this belief that if I understood things like demons and ghosts, I could protect myself from them. It scared the crap out of my dad that I was studying that stuff, actually, because he believed in the darker side of spirituality just based on his Bible reading. He always said, if you want a scary bedtime story, read Revelations. And he'd had enough experiences in his life to back up what the Bible told him, so I believed him. I always promised him I wasn't messing with it -- I just wanted to understand it so I could protect myself from it.

So the show I watched last night obviously hit a nerve. I completely believe the story of the Dybbuk Box (apparently it's the story the new movie The Possession is based on), and it disturbed my sleep quite a bit. I kept waking up throughout the night. And around 2am, I woke up specifically thinking about that story -- I couldn't get it out of my head. And then, in my sleep haze, I became paranoid that if I kept thinking about a dybbuk, my thoughts would draw one to me. So then I started repeating the Our Father prayer over and over and over. I fell back asleep with that prayer on repeat in my head (and it wouldn't surprise me if I was speaking it in my sleep -- I'll have to ask Jeremy).

The good news is, when I get my mind firmly on God, I sleep better. So for the rest of the night I slept soundly and had vivid and pleasant dreams. This is the reason I always do my Bible reading right before sleep. And I DID do that last night -- I read Psalm 119, to be precise -- but I remember struggling to focus on the reading because I had so many other things running through my mind. Obviously I need to not just read spiritual material before bed, but really get my head into it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Partners

I know I get preachy about marriage. And I know you know why that is -- that my experiences have shown me what life is like without my husband, and that life is so much better with him. That I don't think I would have survived the loss of my daughter without him.

Today is the anniversary of my friend's husband's death. I know her story, and I know her pain. She was a young wife and became a young widow. Suddenly she was left alone in this world. Yes, she had friends and family come in to support her -- but she lost her partner.

The loss of a loved one is a lonely time, no matter what. But to literally be left alone in your own home... I can't imagine. People tell me all the time that they can't imagine my pain, they can't imagine losing their child, especially in the way we did. In turn, I can't imagine losing Jeremy.

The day Scarlett died, I sat on the red wingback chair by the front window, staring at the road in front of our house. I hardly blinked as I waited for Jeremy to come home. I didn't know what he would be like when he walked through the door. I imagined fists through walls, I imagined doors torn off their hinges. But I didn't care. He was coming home.

When he walked in the door, he dropped his bags, led me to the couch and sat holding me for what seemed like forever. We just cried and cried together. There were no outbursts, there was no yelling, there was just the shared pain and the knowledge that it was just the two of us now.

Just the two of us.

We have gone through this together. Jeremy has heard me sob through recount after recount of the night our daughter died. It must kill him to hear the story again and again, but he just holds me and listens patiently. I, in turn, have listened to him confess how guilty he feels for being gone on a family-business trip that one single night, and how he doesn't know what to do now that he doesn't have a child to take care of during the day.

People ask me if he's going back to work now (he was a stay-at-home dad), and I tell them I don't know. And I don't care. I love having him home with me. And I could never pressure him to get a job outside the house if he's not ready for that. Besides, we plan on many more children, and we agreed long ago that he would be the at-home parent. Those of you who have ever seen Jeremy around children know why that decision was such an easy one for us to make -- he is amazing with kids. He is a better at-home parent than I could ever be.

My dream is actually for Jeremy and I to own a business together. Doing what, I don't know. He is my greatest supporter with Thirty-One, literally handing out stacks of my cards wherever he goes. So maybe that will be the business we work together. I could definitely see him taking orders over the phone and managing our accounting while I'm out there telling women about the newest purse in the Retro Metro line or the newest fabric for the organizing utility tote. But I digress -- I am a dreamer.

My friend who lost her husband seven years ago today has since been blessed with a second husband and two beautiful children. But today she mourns. Her sweet new husband gives her the space to cry and miss her lost love.

So today I pray for my friend. And today I will hold Jeremy tight.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Practicing for Divorce

I adore Craig Groeschel's sermons. He's hilarious, and he makes his points in ways you will remember forever.

For the last few weeks, he's been preaching on the topic of cultivating a healthy marriage. Everything he has talked about, I feel that I have learned the hard way. And the sermon I listened to this morning was no exception.

He talked about how, in our culture, we "do married things" when we're dating. We move in together, we physically get together, we verbally commit to each other. Then when we break up, and we wonder why it's so painful. It's painful because your relationship was like a marriage, and the breakup is like a divorce! And we do this over and over with multiple dating partners -- so when we actually do get married, we have practiced for divorce.

That hit me in the stomach. Modern dating is practicing for divorce.

Wow.

It's so true, though. What do we do when a dating partner isn't giving us what we think we need? We break up and find another one. We have no training in commitment, or faithfulness, or sticking it out -- but we have plenty of practice in walking away.

I'm no exception. My mom warned me a million times not to commit to a man I wasn't married to -- and I translated that, in my adolescent mind, to mean that I'd better plan to marry every guy I dated or not waste my time with him. So I would go all-in, thinking I was going to marry every guy I fell for -- and as soon as things got rough, and I decided that he wasn't marriage material, I'd break up with him and move right on to the next.

That trained me for marriage in all the wrong ways.

When I married Jeremy, I had a really hard time shifting mentality from single girl to married woman. In fact, I fought the identity shift. Jeremy did too, in his own way. But he was committed to me from day one -- his shift was less about commitment and more about role. A year into our marriage, when things got difficult, we did what we had trained ourselves to do -- we split up.

We are one of the lucky couples. We put the pieces back together. We recommitted. We started from scratch, leaving our previous lives and lessons behind, and re-learned everything together.

Obviously I have no regrets, because if I hadn't lived the life I had lived, I never would have met and married Jeremy. But oh boy did I have to learn the hard way.

So when a friend talked to me recently about wanting to stay pure as she began dating again, post-divorce, I cheered her on. A few years ago I would have called her crazy. But now I realize the meaning of what she's doing. And her next marriage is going to be happier and more successful because of it.

This is one of those things that I wish people could just learn from me, from this blog, without having to go through it themselves. Like the lessons I have learned from losing a child, I wish people would take the lessons I learned from losing a husband. I was lucky to get him back -- most people aren't so lucky.

Here are the keys of our now-healthy marriage (and Jeremy will back me up 100% on this):

1) Respect. Respect. Respect. RESPECT!
2) Communication
3) Partnership in all things
4) Date night once a week, EVERY week
5) Not comparing our spouse to others
6) Appreciating each other

These things are sacred. No matter how tempted we are to ignore one of those things, or put it aside for the sake of winning an argument or manipulating the other person into doing what we want, these are the things that we have committed to. BOTH of us. I can rely on Jeremy to do these things, and he can rely on me. Even in the heat of an argument, we focus on these things and they get us through safely and respectfully.

I think the biggest temptation is comparing our spouse to others. I call it "grass is greener" syndrome. And you know what you should do when you notice the grass is greener on the other side of the fence? WATER YOUR GRASS. When I am tempted to compare Jeremy to a friend's husband, I simply list all the things I love about Jeremy. His steadfastness, his incredibly quick wit, his beautiful blue eyes, his passion for comic books and his knowledge of the industry, his vocabulary, his physical strength, his independence, his unfailing support of everything I do, his thoughtfulness (especially in regards to gift-giving)... I could go on. And no one else's husband has those exact same traits.

When our daughter died, none of the stuff that irritates me about Jeremy mattered. His faithfulness mattered. His commitment to our marriage mattered. His strength mattered. And I am 100% sure he felt the same about me. Being together, supporting and loving each other were the only things that mattered. And those will always be the only things that matter.

So my plea to you, that you take my lessons and learn from them:
Start on the path to a healthy marriage right now. Don't wait. Imagine what Jeremy and I would have gone through if we hadn't built a healthy marriage before this tragedy struck. Start by BEING the partner you want your spouse to be. Think about it this way: If your spouse's worst nightmare came to pass, would you really be able to be there for them? Those nights where they would scream and cry, curse God, curse you, could you stand steady or would you run? If you expect your partner to be there for you, you have to know without a doubt you will be there for them first.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Brothers and Sisters in Arms

At church yesterday, the sermon was about overcoming problems through community. It's a topic I have never given too much consideration to until recently.

The overall idea was that we weren't meant to deal with problems by ourselves. We humans were meant to function in a community. Especially in regards to temptation, community support -- support from people who understand you and will stand by you -- means the difference between winning and losing the battle.

Until the last few years, I had never given much thought to community in general. I moved so much throughout my life, and I never thought I'd want to settle in one place. I figured you have to be in one place to build a community. But as I've gotten older, not only have I started craving community, but I've also felt better about remaining in place. I've chosen Colorado as my home, and the north Denver area has treated Jeremy and I so well.

So I've started cultivating that community. I've found churches I like. I've made new friends. But the biggest surprise to me was that getting involved in my local community was only part of what I was craving. I also wanted what the pastor last night was talking about -- brothers and sisters in arms. People willing to go into battle with me, and people I was willing to go into battle with.

Since February, my relationships have begun to solidify in interesting ways. I am what you call a "connector." I make friends wherever I go. To my detriment sometimes, as I struggle to maintain professional distance in certain situations because I just love building friendships. Some of those people have stepped forward, armor on and sword in hand, to enter my recent battle with me. And some people have retreated.

I don't blame people for retreating. This battle of mine is terrifying. To enter it with me, you risk losing your sense of trust in the world. You risk facing your worst fears. You risk saying the wrong thing and hurting me more.

But for those few who have stepped forward, we are forever bonded. And when their battle comes calling, I will in turn put on my armor and pick up my sword for them. I will, as Allison did for me, jump on a plane at a moment's notice. I will, as my brother did for me, drop everything and take care of what needs doing. I will, as Della did for me, not ever leave them to fend for themselves.

We humans weren't meant to deal with our problems alone. But we also weren't meant to deal with them with hundreds of other people. We were meant to be a part of a small group of brothers/sisters in arms, because fighting these battles is an intimate thing. That doesn't detract from my friendships. Or my other relationships. Or what I want to give to my community or my church.

In the last six months, certain people have emerged as rocks in the whitewater. People I didn't necessarily expect. And now I see why the New Testament encourages us to form small groups. You can't fight with all your might for a hundred people. Or even fifty. But you can fight with all your might for a handful of people whom you have truly bonded with.

Who are your brothers/sisters in arms?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Summer Fun and Possibly a Terrible Salesperson

What a last couple of days!

I went to my first Thirty-One meeting last night, and it blew my socks off. I was already excited about the products, and I already believed in the company -- but to witness firsthand how absolutely focused they are on celebrating and connecting women, just wow. I believe in their values so deeply.

This morning Jeremy and I headed to Colorado Springs. We wanted to get down there a couple of hours before the kids' birthday party to spend time with the family, and so I could show Janet my Thirty-One products, since she wanted to host a party. I actually felt kinda bad by the end of our time there, because we really did go for the kids' (Marissa, Anthony and David's) combined birthday party, and I really did bring the Thirty-One products just to show Janet -- but ALL the women wanted to see the stuff and flip through the catalog! Every time I had it all packed up, someone else would come over and say, "So-and-so just got here and you HAVE to show her the such-and-such!" I mean, that's great for business, and I love how everyone was just as excited as I am about the products -- but I really hope no one thought I just brought that stuff to try to sell to them.

That's pretty much how I'm approaching this business right now. I don't want to just sell products. I want to introduce women to a company that really means something to me, and then show them how the products that company produces can help them in their every day lives. I mean, these are things women buy all the time. I just want to give them the opportunity to buy these things from a company with strong values, that makes quality products, doesn't rip people off, and gives back to the world. That may make me a terrible salesperson. I don't know. I guess we'll find out in a few months, huh?

We did still have fun with the kiddos, though. Marissa loved the Monster High doll we got her, and the boys loved the Avengers action figures Jeremy picked out for them. And it was great to see so many of the Mehring/Schell family together in one place. Now that Jeremy and I live so far away, those big gatherings are more of a treat than ever.

We left about an hour into the party to head up to Thornton for a barbecue at the Lyons' residence. OH MY GOSH. We were blown away by the food. And the company. But mainly the food. LOL. Eric manned the grill and churned out ribs and chicken that made Jeremy swoon. Jessica created jellies, glazes, salads, caprese and even a bisque from the veggies from her garden. I had to pry Jeremy away from the habanero jelly. Jeremy and I ended up talking a lot with one particular couple and their 5-yr-old daughter while we ate our food in one of the many nooks of the Lyons' shaded oasis of a back yard. Jeremy and I very very very RARELY meet couples that we click with. We may click with one partner or the other, but almost never both people. It is such a treat when that happens! And with how much we like the Lyons family -- well, this evening's barbecue was one of the most fun social events we've been to this summer.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Making the Choice

My girlfriends and I got together for our bi-weekly Bible study last night, and our conversation got very interesting. We started talking about how negative some people can be, and how they dwell on everything that's going wrong in their lives. And yet some other people focus on the positive and get through hard times without dwelling on the negative.

We wondered why some people find it easier to focus on the positive, and some people find it easier to focus on the negative. You know me, my thoughts ran right to the way people's brains work. Some people's brains maybe produce more serotonin, or something like that.

But in reality, we even have control over the chemicals in our brains. We know, through science, that we can make our brains produce more of the chemicals that make us feel happy by doing things like exercising, spending time with positive people, eating healthy foods, and participating in creative activities. So, in the end, no matter how you slice it, it still boils down to making the decision to be happy.

I spent an hour sobbing my eyes out yesterday morning. I had to take a break from work because I just couldn't stop crying. It was one of those times when I just couldn't reconcile reality. The fact that my daughter isn't in the world anymore just didn't make sense. It wasn't right. I couldn't make my brain accept it as real. I went back to that place I was at in February, where I was trying to make myself wake up from what I thought was a really terrible dream.

I went into Scarlett's room, freshly painted and rearranged, and sat on the floor. I balled up and looked around me, and even with the white paint on the walls, I could still see the pink and yellow paint. Even with the dresser where the crib used to be, I could see her standing there, waiting for me to pick her up and get her ready for the day. Reality and the way things should be were warring in my brain.

Jeremy was still sleeping, and I was having no luck getting control of myself, so I curled up in bed with him. He immediately awoke and put his arms around me. He just listened to me as I told him what I was experiencing. I told him this world didn't make any sense to me anymore. I used to trust in how things worked. I used to trust that healthy people lived and sick people died, that once a child was over a year old they were no longer at risk for dying in their sleep, that healthy couples have a 20% chance of conceiving a child every month. But I don't trust any of that anymore. Science, medicine and statistics give us a way to try to explain the world around us -- but I now feel that they are not completely trustworthy.

I went on to tell Jeremy that whatever God is using Scarlett for right now, it had better be good. She had better be solving the crisis in Sudan, or fixing the American economy. He wouldn't have called her to Him if He didn't have a really special use for an angel.

Then I pulled myself together, got my head back focused on positive things, and went back to work.

The choice to focus on the positive is an easy one for me, because I see instantaneous results from it every single day. It makes no sense to me to focus on the negative when it doesn't do anything good or helpful in my life. But it is still a choice I consciously make.

I try to have patience with people who can't pull their heads out of negative space. I wasn't always like that -- I used to refuse to be around negative people. But now, I feel as a child of God I should be trying to help people more. So I listen and nod, and do my best to bite my tongue -- but in the end I always tell them the same thing: Make a choice to focus on the positive.

Make the choice! Before your feet hit the floor in the morning, set your heart on joy. No, it's not always easy. But it's always worth it. Always. Without fail.

The fact that I am breathing today is living proof.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Chains

Yesterday was one of those days I felt pulled in ten different directions. But it was also one of those days where I accomplished a heck of a lot more than I thought I would.

Jeremy has been at jury duty for the last three days. He actually got selected for a jury for the first time in his life. Because I work from home and he's usually here all day, I'm so used to hearing him move about the house while I'm working, eating lunch with him, and talking to him throughout the day. I admit I feel really off on the days he's gone.

But nonetheless, I got everything done at my day job, made a few phone calls, wrote an article for GlobalWrites, finished up a client project, wrote this blog and added a thousand words to my novel-in-progress.

My brother came over last night to join Jeremy for a night of video games. So I sat there in the living room typing up this blog at 9:15 at night, listening to two very aggravated male voices yelling at the TV screen downstairs.

It reads as a singularly average day when I put it down on paper. But as always, there was the haunting and constant sense of something missing.

Talking to a friend who lost her husband seven years ago, I realized that this sense of something missing is never completely going to go away. As with the whole experience of grief, it is something you learn to live with.

That sounds sad, doesn't it? I agree it's sad right now. But living with a loss doesn't make you a sad person. Like learning to live without an arm, you adjust your life from the event that occurred, and you learn how to do things just a bit differently. You create a new normal.

So I'm learning how to do things a bit differently. I turn that sense of something missing into a fond memory of my daughter. I turn the tears into healing. When I start feeling overwhelmed by sadness, I remind myself that this is just a temporary separation.

I had a vision during a prayer about a week ago. It was a vision of a solid gold chain -- a heavy chain, like something you would tow a car with -- leading from me to heaven. I think it was a reminder from God that I will forever be connected to Scarlett. But in this vision, there were also two very delicate gold chains coming from heaven to me. These chains were more like what you would see on a woman's necklace. And I think that was a promise from God that Scarlett's siblings will be on their way to us soon.

As always, I ask you to keep me and my family in your prayers as we heal. But I am learning how to live with this. A day at a time.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Low Season Coming to an End

This year has been rough for everyone I know. Everyone. On the phone with my mom yesterday, I told her, "I know we're barely through the halfway mark of 2012, but I am ready for 2013 already!"

In that moment, it struck me that there was one other time in my life when I said the same thing.

In 2009, my young marriage was in shambles. My brother announced that his girlfriend of two months was pregnant, while Jeremy and I had been trying and failing month after month to conceive. Jeremy was struggling working for the company that had bought out his family business, and was diving head-first into depression. And I didn't know how to handle any of it, so I just kept myself so busy I wouldn't have to face any of these growing problems.

By the mid-point of 2009, Jeremy and I had separated. Then my brother's pregnant girlfriend left him. Then Jeremy was laid off from his job. By this time of that year, I remember saying those same words: "I'm ready for 2010 already!"

But if you'll remember from the dozen times I've told this story, in just one short month from that moment, Jeremy and I were back together and successfully working through our issues in marriage counseling. Just one short month from then, we were moved into a new house in a place I had always wanted to live, near Boulder, CO -- and I quickly found out I was pregnant.

Life got SO good.

So 2012 has just about killed me. And when I told my mom yesterday that I was ready to move on to 2013, I knew in my soul that this low season was almost over. Soon, very soon, things will be good again. I'm already seeing the signs -- I'm already receiving emails from friends and family that good things are happening for them. And I know Jeremy and I are next.

God has blessed me in the past, and he will continue to bless me in the future. I have found favor in the past, and I will continue to find favor in the future. Bad days were mightily outweighed by good ones in the past, and good will continue to overcome bad in the future.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Nature Versus Bulldozer

The house we own in Northglenn had many great selling points. The price, the size, the location, and the layout were all ideal for the way Jeremy and I live our daily lives. But the number one thing that sold me on this house was the view.

Picture taken last summer before one of the festivals (you can see the purple tent on the other side of our open space). The rec center is the big building in the distance, and the lake where the construction is happening is to the left.


Our house backs up to open space, and on the other side of the open space are the multipurpose fields and lakes belonging to the Thornton Rec Center. We have no obstruction to our view until 112th Street over a mile away. And since our house is on a hill and has a walk-out basement, our master bedroom is a full three stories up. The view outside my bedroom window is simply breathtaking.

But the city of Thornton has decided to re-design the park area by the rec center. Starting last fall, they shut down the lake trails and started construction. There is going to be a boat house, carousel, splash park, amphitheater, many new playgrounds, and additions to the trail system. It's been painful to watch the large equipment come in and raze the land that was once untouched. The once-green hills in the distance are now shaved to dirt.

But yesterday morning as I was making my coffee, I noticed they are starting to plant trees on the hill going from the lake to 112th Street. I'm sure the trees were carefully chosen to keep the hillside from eroding, but I am just thrilled to see greenery being put back. 

I know progress is unstoppable, and I know this new park is going to be heaven for my future children and the trails will be great for me -- but it has still been a painful change to witness. When we bought this house, I loved the idea of nature butting up against our fence. Even those few trees I saw being planted in the distance made me feel better, like nature isn't just being bulldozed.

I try to look at it as a positive thing for our home value, too. Someday we can sell this house to another family who will love all these amenities -- and we can buy a house with a dozen acres around it that no one can bulldoze.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Polyamorous

I have always been fascinated by science. When I was a kid, I loved getting those science experiment kits -- you know, the ones with a plastic microscope and slides, or bug jars with magnifying lids, or booklets with experiments you could do around the house with things like vinegar and baking soda. I loved to learn about how the world worked.

When I went to college, I combined my love of nature with my love of science and was accepted to the Environmental Studies program at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I lived in a dorm with other students in the same program, and was exposed to the more "hippie" side of environmental science. It was interesting, but I didn't quite fit in for some reason. I never could quite put my finger on what made me so different than them.

I got my first D in a class my freshman year. It was an entry-level biology class, I remember. A freaking biology class. I started to get the idea that maybe science wasn't the direction I should be taking my life -- but I persevered nonetheless.

Two semesters of Environmental Studies later, I took a summer job as a research assistant for a joint CU-NCAR project measuring the effects of carbon monoxide on the alpine forest. I lived in a tiny cabin with 5 other girls and no running water. You had to hike down the road to use the restroom -- so at night you were bringing bear spray and a flashlight if you had to pee. And every morning we would hike up the side of a mountain to get to our work site (side note: I had exercise-induced asthma until I was 26 -- so this was VERY difficult for me). The first month, the work site was still covered in 5 feet of snow.

I remember a conversation with one of my workmates as we were measuring out sections of spruce and fir trees for analysis. We were talking about spirituality, and she stopped in her tracks and asked me, "How can you be a science major and still be spiritual?" It had honestly never occurred to me. Science and God went hand-in-hand in my brain. Science, to me, was part of understanding a spirit-filled world.

I worked that job for 3 months -- and I snapped. This is the one and only time in my entire life that I have ever done anything like this -- but I literally packed my bags, threw them in the back of my truck and left a note on the counter with something along the lines of, "I can't do this anymore. I'm sorry. I quit."

A few weeks later, school started back up again. And I knew I had to get out of the Environmental Studies program. So I looked through the new class catalog and I thought the history classes looked pretty interesting. I had not enjoyed history at all in high school, but these college classes had fascinating titles like, Study of the Tudor Dynasty in England, and The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. I didn't have any thing to lose, so I switched majors and dove right in.

My life changed with my first college history class. I remember it so well, it was the History of Western Civilization I. Through that class, the world started making sense to me in a new way.

I branched out from there and took classes in Medieval Manuscripts, Latin, Greek Philosophy, and Art History. I was seeing through new eyes. I was noticing patterns. Looking at humanity's past gave me a new understanding of the world I was living in and the people all around me.

So I abandoned science, in a way. Only in later years did I return to my love of science -- and that was through reading and TV programs, mainly. With my recent research into the human brain, it makes me a little sad that I didn't get more of a scientific education (alongside my history degree, not in place of it). I love to see how God put everything together. Especially the human body -- we are such intricate, beautiful designs, aren't we?

And I bet you all thought I had a degree in English or Journalism or some writing-based subject, huh? LOL. Well, writing was a talent I was born with. My education in it has been self-guided, and the talent encouraged by simply writing. Not just taking classes in it (though I do love a good writing class to get my creative juices flowing).

But think about it. My early obsession with science, my love affair with history, my perpetually cultivated relationship with God -- combined with my inborn writing talent, I am able to express a unique view of the world. This is a gift! Being fascinated by science doesn't mean I should be a neuroanatomist (though that would be interesting work). Being madly in love with history doesn't mean I should spend my life in a dusty library (though I would put up with all that sneezing to put my hands on an original illuminated medieval manuscript). And wanting a relationship with God doesn't mean I should be a minister. In fact, it all adds together, doesn't it? It adds up to ME.

I bet you have disparate interests that work together, too, don't you? I know a woman who was a born editor, in love with Roman history, who now owns a burgeoning candy company. I know another woman who is a trained Montessori teacher with a green thumb that would make a farmer jealous. And I know yet another woman who is a world traveler, yoga teacher AND writer.

Don't limit yourself. You were born with these interests and these talents because they work together in some way to benefit you.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Heart Light, Mystery Dinner and Angel Walk

I recently mentioned my new friend Jessica who lost her little girl to SIDS and then went on to have twin girls, and is now pregnant with another child. She has been such an inspiration to me. I got to meet her girls and her husband for the first time on Friday.

I went to Jessica's house, a mere two miles or so from here, during my lunch hour on Friday. Her twin girls reminded me so much of our twin nephews, personality-wise. It was actually startling. I enjoyed a lunch hour out in their back yard, listening to the 2 1/2-year-old girls tell stories, and admiring Jessica's bountiful garden and her husband's beautiful carpentry. It was just a lovely afternoon, and it lifted my spirits. It was like God was shining his light on my heart that day, reassuring me that Jeremy and I would have a family again soon.

Friday night Jeremy and I went to the Mystery Masquerade Dinner at Crossroads Church Thornton campus. It was an event for married couples only, and it was quite the turn out. The setting was a Venetian library, and the murder mystery included ancient conspiracies and tomb raiders. But the best part, to me, was getting to dress up! The food was excellent, and the mystery was fun -- it was the perfect date. Jeremy and I both hope they do more of those events.

Saturday was the most leisurely day Jeremy and I have had together in a while. It was really nice. I knew I wasn't going to be able to go to church on Sunday, so I went to the Saturday 5pm service at Flatirons (LOVED the worship team's cover of Linkin Park's Burn It Down). Then I came back home and made Jeremy a special pork chop dinner. This is the second recipe I've tried from a particular Oprah.com article, and this one ended up setting off our smoke detectors just like the first one did. Whoever created these recipes obviously didn't test them before publication. The good news is the pork chops turned out perfect -- it was the garlic cloves that burned.

Sunday was a big day. We attended the Angel Walk in honor of our dear Scarlett Rose. The Angel Eyes organization did a really great job with it. My parents and brothers made it to the event, and Jeremy's parents, all three of his sisters, and several of our nieces came as well. Jessica and her family, including her aunt Sharon, who I work with at my day job, were all there as well.

The tree dedication was really touching. They planted a tree in Clement Park, and then read off the names of each of the lost children. Then those of us who had lost a child had the chance to go up and pour dirt at the base of the tree. It was emotionally difficult, but Jeremy and I made it through and felt that our daughter was honored in a really special way.

The walk was about a mile and a half, around the lake at Clement Park. Along the side of the trail were signs with the name of each child. The weather was absolutely perfect and the sun shone on our daughter's name as our large group walked by.

After the walk, we stuck around for the silent auction. While we were hanging out, I noticed that some of the Mehring girls had drawn this with sidewalk chalk...



Both Jeremy's and my parents won some items at the silent auction. Then we said our goodbyes and some of us went on to have lunch at Lucile's. Great food -- but AMAZING pancakes.

Now that we know what to expect from the event, I think next year I'm going to actually create a team for the Angel Walk. I definitely see this as something we will do every year to honor our sweet girl.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

To Heaven and Back

A while back, a friend and colleague recommended the book, To Heaven and Back, by Mary C. Neal. To be completely honest, I wasn't up for reading someone's account of a near-death experience. I am still raw from my daughter's death and sometimes even positive messages take a wrong turn in my heart.

I don't know what made me ready to read the book, but a week ago I ordered a used copy from Amazon.com. I got the book on Wednesday, started it on Thursday and finished it this morning. I literally could not put it down. All of my other reading has been put aside for this book.

Not only was the book written well, and in a manner that made it a very easy read, but the stories of the multiple miracles this woman experienced throughout her life, including experiencing death by drowning, reassured me so much. Her account of leaving her body, and walking the path to heaven only to be turned back at the gate and told she was still needed on earth, it reassured me of something I already believed. I know Scarlett didn't feel any pain when she died. I know she wasn't scared. I know angels took her gently back home. But even with that knowledge, I need reassurance. I need the reminder that it's not just in my imagination. And this book did that for me.

The author also lost a child. Her son was 19 years old when he died, but her experience of his life and death was very similar to my own. It spoke to me in a way that didn't crush me. Reading the account of the death of a child -- well, you'd think I would have a hard time with that right now. I thought I wouldn't be able to read it. But not only did I read it, I devoured it. It filled my soul with a sense of peace as I read her account of her grief. It made me feel less alone, less crazy, and more hopeful. She points out, "Grieving a loss is a matter of learning to incorporate the pain into a new life and a new reality." Grief isn't something you get through, it's something you learn to live with. I accept that. And now I just have to learn how to move forward with it.

This post is dedicated to Mary Sarver, the woman who INSISTED I read this book. I have appreciated your attitude and ideas about life and children for years. Your advice didn't fail me when I gave birth to Scarlett, and it hasn't failed me as I heal from her death now. Much love from Colorado to Florida, my friend.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Leading and Thirty-One

I had a migraine all day yesterday. It got progressively worse as the day wore on. But I knew if I cancelled my plans for the evening, I would just sit at home thinking about how it felt like someone threw an ax at my skull.

So after I dropped Jeremy off at Michelle and Dan's house (he joined Dan at his beer brewing club), I picked up Erin and we went to Brewed Bible study in Louisville.

It ended up being just the two of us plus our sweet study pal Jennifer -- everyone else cancelled. But it was still a great night. I took on the role of facilitator (as I explained to the girls, I don't enjoy leading groups -- but I enjoy uncomfortable silence even less). And because I'm a nervous talker, I think I did most of the talking -- but we still got through all of the material and had some really great conversations.

The best part was that for those two hours, I didn't pay attention to the throbbing in my head.

Anyway, one thing came out of that study that I think I need to pay attention to. I'm constantly finding myself in leadership roles. Never by choice, but it happens nonetheless. It's becoming obvious that leading groups is something I am on this earth to do. I suppose I should just accept that and learn how to lead.

My friend Allison is a consultant for Thirty-One Gifts, and she asked me recently if I'd be interested in joining as a consultant. I do love the products, and I've always wanted to get involved with a direct-sales company -- I had just never found the right company. Well, that and the idea of leading a sales party TERRIFIES ME.

But Allison has found a network of amazing women in Thirty-One. And the more Facebook posts I saw from her talking about the fun new products, and chatting with her consultant pals, the more I thought, maybe this is it.

So we had the conversation last night. I picked her brain. And I realized this company isn't about selling purses and organizational supplies. It's about bringing bright, passionate women together in a supportive community. Well, I'm totally on board with that.

So after a very brief conversation with Jeremy, which ended with him saying, "Shush, honey, and go tell Allison you're in," I signed up under her as a consultant. I should be getting my sales supplies in about a week.

I'm both excited and nervous about this endeavor. The great thing is, the products sell themselves. These are things women buy regularly -- and with Thirty-One you can personalize them with embroidered words. That pink tote bag Allison sent me a few months ago? That's a Thirty-One bag -- and even though it's actually a thermal tote, I use it to carry my Bible and books for my Bible studies.


Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting involved with this great company. Here is a link to my personal website: http://www.mythirtyone.com/jessicamehring. The fall catalog should be on there soon -- but you can see the summer catalog there right now, and that's valid until 8/31/12. For those of you who live in Colorado, I'll be having a viewing party at my house once my first order arrives, and then I'll start making myself available to any of you who want to host a party at your house.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Why I Converted

I know my conversion to Christianity has shocked many of you, my close friends, family and long-time readers. To some of you it makes a bit of sense given the tragedy that recently befell me.

The truth of it is this wasn't an easy choice for me. I didn't just wake up one morning face-to-face with the God of the Bible. He's been hovering for years, and I've been pointedly ignoring him -- knowing he was there, but refusing to open myself to him.

I went to church one time before Scarlett died. And my whole purpose in that was to find a safe place where she could play with other children -- but if I'm really being honest, the secondary reason was for me to find a spiritual home. I knew I needed to find God, but I wasn't ready to open myself to THAT God easily. So I started by seeking a community.

After Scarlett died, I wanted to go back to church, but I hesitated. I was worried about falling apart in public, I guess. With the help of friends and family, I did go back. And I did fall apart -- but it wasn't the end of the world to cry in public.

I went back several times, and I felt myself opening up a bit more every time. But I was still hesitant. I had so many questions, so many concerns. And I felt somewhat hypocritical for seeking God when part of me felt like he had taken my daughter.

It wasn't until my first time at Flatirons Church, for a Saturday night service, that it all came together.  You may remember, I was baptized that night. It was a rash decision, led solely by my spirit -- and one of the best decisions I've ever made. After that, my resistance was gone. And understanding everything took a back seat to surrendering to the peace God was offering.

If you've read the Bible, you know that it recognizes that there are other gods. In the ancient world these gods had names like Diana and Odin. Today they are more commonly known as "money", "career", or whatever else you potentially worship. The Bible also makes it very clear that you can worship these other gods until you are blue in the face, but only the Great Creator, the God above everything, the God of the Bible, has the power to reach into your life and change anything. After all, he created everything in the first place.

THIS is what led to my final surrender. Not only understanding that God has the power to help, but actually experiencing his help. Regularly.

So I wanted to share with you two of the qualities of God that have changed my life.

1) God is immutable. He never changes. When I yell at him, he is still who he is, and he is still there. When I make a mistake, the same God is still there. When I need someone to talk to, or someone to comfort me, that same God is there. When Jeremy is traveling, the same God is here. When I'm in a crowd of people and feeling anxious, the same God is there. God is the one thing I can always, undoubtedly count on to never change and always remain.

2) The God of the Bible is both infinite and personal, and the only one who can actually reach into your life and change it. I talked about this a bit earlier in this post, but I wanted to clarify here that throughout my life I have tried other religions. I have dabbled in Wicca and Buddhism, and researched just about every faith on the planet. And you know what? None of those gods ever answered a single prayer, and none of that meditation changed my life in any way other than to teach me to control my thoughts better. The one who reached into my life and made changes was the Holy Father. When I was in a heap on the floor of my deceased daughter's room, screaming at the ceiling, God comforted me. He helped my daughter's spirit get through to me. When I was ready to donate all of her toys to charity because I couldn't stand the thought of seeing another child playing with them, it was the Lord that wrapped his arms around me and made me listen for Scarlett's voice. The voice that clearly told me, "Mama, I want to share my toys with my brothers and sisters."

I may have driven some of you away with all of my talk about God in this blog since February. And that's too bad -- but the fact is, if you can't see what a miracle this experience is, then there is nothing I can write that will reconnect us. I would like to say it's sad -- but let's get real. I know what sad is. Intimately. And this isn't a blip on the radar of sad.

My own husband has been shocked at my change. Jeremy doesn't agree with a lot of my spiritual beliefs, but he very actively supports me in it because he has seen the dramatic improvement in me. For that I am so incredibly grateful. Every time I tell him about something I learned at church, or something interesting I read in the Bible, and he not only listens to me but he looks me in the eye so I know he's really paying attention, I love him just a little bit more. He doesn't need to go to church with me to be a great spiritual partner.

This spiritual change in me has had another effect. It has drawn some of you closer to me. When I began this journey, some of you who have been in the background of my life leaped forward and shouted, "YES! You go girl!" And we have connected in a way I never thought possible. Yet another miracle of my walk with God.

Thank you for letting me share my journey with you all. Whether I'm writing about God or healing or life purpose or brain science, I appreciate you reading my words and considering my point. Sometimes these messages come through me as if I'm just a funnel -- and sometimes they are my interpretation of experiences. But you readers are part of my journey as much as anything. You have helped me tape together the shreds of my heart. You have kept me hopeful and focused because you have kept me writing. YOU are a gift from God.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mental Hygiene

Jeremy got back from Arizona yesterday. I'm so happy to have him home. I'm getting better at being alone at home since the trauma -- but I still would rather have him here.

One of the biggest downfalls of working from home, for me, is sometimes having to sit here alone for 8 hours straight. Now, I like my alone time. And I'm used to sitting in front of a computer for long periods of time. But a long stretch of forced time alone will put me into a funk like nothing else.

That is something I got to know about myself many, many years ago. I need the stimulation of a little bit of human interaction in order to keep my mind on an even keel.  Note the little bit, there. Too much of it and I get overwhelmed.

Oddly enough I'm a bit of an introvert -- but I need the energy of other people to maintain my mental health.

It's all brain chemistry. And my knowledge of how my own brain works, and what influences its function, has kept me out of depression quite well. There were plenty of times when depression threatened, and February's tragedy was just one instance where I had to really focus on my mental hygiene to keep depression at bay.

Yes, I said mental hygiene. I believe very strongly that we must take care of our minds like we take care of our teeth or our skin -- with a system of care-taking measures.

Yes, antidepressants have their use. Sometimes brain chemistry goes haywire and you can't get control of it. But I think they should be used in addition to good mental health care practices.

Those practices are different for everyone. But they're pretty easy to figure out. If you are doing something or you are in a situation and you start to feel depressed or out-of-whack, that's a pretty good sign that you should NOT do that thing anymore or you should get OUT of that situation. Or at least put limits on those things. Pay attention to how your mind reacts to things.

For me, I know I need to get out of the house once a day. Even just to go for a long walk, or take a trip to the bookstore. Being cooped up all day will lead to a down mood. I also know I need to be around other people for short periods of time every day. Too much or too little human interaction, and my brain chemistry will start to get out of whack. Also, I need to: get 8 hours of sleep, avoid naps if at all possible, intake caffeine and iron daily in some form, stay away from heavy/greasy foods, avoid loud music, get into a spiritual mindset regularly, exercise regularly, and express myself through writing or art regularly.

These are all integral parts of my mental hygiene routine. If I start to feel "off", feel depression looming, or feel anxiety rising, it's pretty easy for me to identify why, simply because I know my brain and its triggers. I honestly think everyone can get to know their minds like this.

So think about it. What makes you feel mentally healthy? And what puts you in a funk or makes you on edge? I'd love to hear what keeps you sane.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Donations from the Art Show

Many people have been asking me who we donated the money raised at the art show to. So I wanted to share that we have chosen The Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood Program.

They are actively working to try to find answers to sudden unexplained deaths in young children. In fact, the genetics clinic we spoke to in Denver works with them a lot. I believe answers mean prevention, so I support what they are doing whole-heartedly.

The second question we get is why we aren't donating to Angel Eyes. They are the biggest organization supporting grieving parents, and they offer counseling and support to people like us. Short answer is they make me furious. Long answer:

1) They are super-focused on SIDS. Scarlett did not die of SIDS. She was well out of the age range and had no risk factors.

2) I went to their website a few weeks after Scarlett passed away, and it was ALL about preventing SIDS. It made me sick. My 19-month-old daughter f-ing died -- why would they spend so much website real estate telling me all the things we should have done to prevent it (which, btw, I did religiously when she was in SIDS range)? At that point I needed support, not wagging fingers.

3) They called me INCESSANTLY. On our drive down to Colorado Springs to pick out Scarlett's headstone, they called me. During my work days, they called me. When I told them to take me off their call list, they called me. I had to get rude with the last woman who called me -- and I swear if they call me again I'm reporting them for harassment.

However, we are participating in their Angel Walk this weekend. Not because I think Angel Eyes is a great organization, but because I do think that their counseling support system is a good thing -- and really this walk isn't about them anyway. It's about Scarlett. And Maddy. And baby Jacob. And all the other kids who have died unexpectedly, and their parents who were left grieving with no answers. It's a time for everyone to get together and honor the lost children.

Obviously I've still got some anger to work through. And obviously my anger is currently directed at Angel Eyes. I admit that's not good, and I'm working on it. They have a purpose in what they do -- they just plucked at the thorn in my foot rather than removing it. I honestly think time is the only thing that will remove that thorn, though.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Highlander and Little Things

When I was a kid, I loved the Highlander TV show. I loved the movies, too, but I REALLY loved the TV show. I always thought Connor and Duncan MacLeod were so lucky, to be given the gift of living forever. The history nut that I am, I thought of how amazing it must be to witness history for yourself.

I even named my first dog after the Highlander. LOL. Some of you who have known me that long may remember my old Dalmatian, Mac -- that was short for MacLeod.

Flipping through the TV this weekend, I came across the first Highlander movie. I watched it for a few minutes, remembering how much I loved it. It was the scene where Connor's first wife is dying -- she's old, looking at her still-young husband and asking him why he stayed. I shattered into a million pieces.

All of a sudden the idea of living forever is horrifying to me. To watch your loved ones die, one by one, and know you won't be going to meet them in heaven any time soon. Knowing you are stuck here on earth with only their memories. That is the ultimate curse.

Suddenly the sadness that the MacLeods imparted through the TV screen made sense to me. I never understood it before. I thought, how could you be angry or sad when you knew old age and death wouldn't find you? Now, I think old age will be a blessing, and death a final gift.

This experience of life is a gift from God. Without death, we wouldn't understand that. As Michael Singer puts it, death is the greatest teacher.

Equipped with that thought train, I responded to an email from a struggling friend this weekend, trying to explain some of how Jeremy and I are functioning as a married couple. You see, we have never stopped having bad days, we have never stopped arguing over stupid things -- we still experience the ups and downs of every married couple. In that we are not unique. But we have had two great lessons in our marriage. The first lesson was witnessing firsthand what it would be like to break up. And the second lesson was losing our daughter suddenly. Both lessons taught the same thing -- that we could lose each other in the blink of an eye.

When you are armed with that knowledge, you get a different perspective. Permanently.

Jeremy was in a bad mood when he left Friday morning for a weekend in Phoenix spent helping his cousin move. A few years ago, that would have left me angry and rebellious for the whole weekend, resenting that he didn't lavish me with attention before he left. I would have plotted how to get even with him, how to make him feel as bad as I was feeling. But now, armed with this hard-earned perspective, I let it go. I know he's struggling right now, and it has nothing to do with me. So this weekend I focused on shifting my mood and spending time with God. I know Jeremy can be taken away from me in the blink of an eye. And then what would his fleeting bad mood matter? I probably wouldn't even remember it. I still don't remember a single bad day with Scarlett. I appreciate that I have Jeremy, bad moods, strewn socks, energy drink addiction and all.

That doesn't mean I would let him walk all over me. Let me make that distinction. But appreciating that I have him makes it easy to let go of the little things. And most of it is little things, isn't it?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Olympic Anthem

I went to Flatirons last night for the 5pm service. The third song the worship team did was the 2012 Olympic anthem by Muse. The three giant screens behind them played a montage of moments from the Olympic games in London.

I was crying like a baby at the end. The song itself was moving, but watching human beings push themselves to the edge of their ability -- some triumphant, some injured or falling behind -- my heart burst inside my chest.

There is something so magical about human beings. Our intricately woven bodies, our boundless minds, our enduring hearts -- magical. And the Olympic games shines that magic on the world.

One of the scenes in the montage that really got me was of an Islamic woman runner, bounding around the track with an aerodynamically-designed headscarf (hijab) wrapping her head and neck. I thought of not only how amazing it was that she had trained her body to compete in that sport, but the risk she took in doing so. Though I don't know of any specific religious law that says a woman shouldn't participate in that sport, a Muslim woman stepping out into a worldwide competition is surely controversial among some of her peers. In fact, as I looked up the proper term for the headscarf for my post here, I came across articles that talked about how women like her suffered harassment from men.

Pushing past the edge of comfort. Working their bodies like the beautiful machines they are. Keeping a focused mind. Risking a broken heart. Traveling across the globe to compete with the world's best, coming together with cultures that are absolutely alien. Olympic athletes embody humanity like nothing else.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Keeping Myself Busy

My friend and the owner of GlobalWrites, JoAnn, came into town this week and stayed with us for a couple of days. Thursday night we had a dinner at The Mediterranean restaurant in Boulder with fellow GlobalWriter Michelle, her husband Dan, our pal Kirby and JoAnn's friend Shannon. The Med is always a great place to get small groups together. I don't know if it's the atmosphere, the great food, the amazing drink menu or the friendly staff that makes the vibe so cozy-- but I've never had a bad time there. Thursday was no exception.

After dinner, we walked down Pearl Street and got dessert at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. I got my favorite, a chocolate-dipped apricot. Then we sat out on a bench and gabbed until 9pm. It was a late night, and totally awesome.

Right now Jeremy is down in Phoenix helping Jacob and Maya pack up their household. So I'm trying to keep myself busy this weekend.

I met Kirby at the YMCA in Lafayette last night after work and attended a NIA class with her. I've taken a few different NIA classes over the last two years, but this one is by far my favorite. I'm really glad Kirby is a member at that YMCA so I can go as her guest. The teacher, Tracy, has a very spiritual vibe to her. You can just picture her meditating on a mountaintop. Her music choice is very tribal -- a lot of deep drum beats and flowing rhythms. She teaches steps for about 90% of the class, and the other 10% you free-dance. The first time I ever took this class, I was really intimidated by the free-form dancing. I am somewhat gumby-ish, in that I can't always get my limbs and torso to coordinate gracefully. But I got over that fear pretty quick after the first class, because free-form dancing is also very liberating.

As with every other time I've taken that class, I came out feeling happy and inspired. I made myself some dinner and rented Wanderlust on On Demand. It was a funny and somewhat sweet movie. The end of it really spoke to me. Without giving anything away, it's a hope I have for Jeremy and I someday to own a business together. No idea what that business will be, but I do know we'd make great partners.

I'm not going to lie, it's still very difficult for me to be by myself for wide swaths of time. But it's something I have to learn how to do again. I won't let fear stop me from living my life, and I certainly won't let it turn my husband into my lifeline. I am responsible for my happiness -- not Jeremy. I think a lot of relationships struggle because of that. Ours certainly did, in the beginning before I pulled my head out of my rear. If you get into a relationship with someone expecting them to always make you happy, you're going to be disappointed. A lot. Because your partner is human, and thus imperfect.

So I'm balancing my time between activities and sitting here on the couch reading books and working on my novel. Last night I went to NIA, tonight I will probably go to a service at Flatirons, and tomorrow I will be going to a service at Calvary in Aurora with my brother.

I wish I was at the point where I was just happy being alone here in the house, perhaps getting housework done. But I'm not there yet. And that's okay. One step at a time.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Especially Created

I'm up to running a little over half a mile on the treadmill without walking. I even beat the 12-minute-mile mark today. I am constantly amazed at what my body is capable of when I put the power of my mind behind it.

I had a conversation with JoAnn yesterday morning about self-esteem, and how easy it is to beat yourself up when you don't look like a Victoria's Secret model. But happily that is something I have overcome since having a child. Sure, I've got an extra 10lbs of baby weight on me. But I'm the same weight I was in college, for goodness sake. I look good and I'm healthy. Jeremy has no complaints about the way I look, so why should I?

God gifted me with a healthy body, and I am SO blessed for that. When I think about my nephew, and how he will never even be able to sit up on his own -- well, looking like a model seems like a ridiculous thing for me to focus on. I am physically able. And I'm going to express my thanks for that by taking good care of myself, and I'm going to praise God for designing me this way by continuing to work on running a mile.

I am designed this way for a reason. I have this body style and shape for a purpose. I have a writing talent to fulfill a mission. I have an analytic mind to reach a predetermined goal. I have a people-pleasing nature because it's part of a plan.

I am designed. Carefully, intricately designed. Isn't that absolutely amazing to think about?

This quote from George MacDonald says it all: I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God's thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest, and most precious thing in all thinking.

You were especially, purposefully created. You were designed with a very specific purpose in mind. What are your most unique traits?

Thursday, August 09, 2012

What If, That Would, I'm Still Here

I listened to a pastor recently who talked about fear, and how we can get so hung up on it that we become panicked and immobile. It relates to any fear, really -- fear of stepping out to start your own business, fear of wasting your life in a marriage that isn't working, fear of something bad happening to your children, etc.

We get so hung up on the what ifs, that we make bad decisions or refuse to make decisions at all. We are kept up at night by the possibility of something bad happening. The possibility of failure or pain.

This speaker went on to talk about how we need to take the next step beyond what if and go to that would. That would be difficult -- but would it kill you? That would be painful -- but would life still continue on? That would be scary -- but would you live through it?

And then he looked around the room and said something I'll never forget.  He said (paraphrasing, here), "If any of you in here have been through something, you can verify to the person next to you what I'm saying. That you can go to the bottom of that pit and find that God is still there, and you're not going to drown down there."

So this is me turning to you, telling you my worst fear actually happened -- and I am making it through. God hasn't abandoned me. I'm still breathing. I went to the bottom of the pit and I didn't drown there. So what, dear readers, are you so afraid of?


Wednesday, August 08, 2012

True Self Leads to True Love

I'm having a hard time coming up with a cohesive post this morning. Usually I have some kind of point I'm trying to make, but this morning I just feel... swept away.

Good news has been pouring in all morning from friends and family. Promotions, positive legal judgments, inspirations -- my inbox is flooded. And I just want to do a happy dance for each and every one of those dear people. Each and every one of them holds a piece of my heart.

In my younger years, I was so desperate to make sure everyone liked me. I became an expert at ducking conflict, and I put up with a lot of bad behavior I should have turned my back on. And really, I can't say I regret any of it. Because at minimum, I learned a lot about myself and about the world. I also learned how to see all sides. This is why I would make a terrible politician -- in most hot-button issues, I can clearly see both sides of the argument. Not that I don't pick a side sometimes, but I can always see both sides.

But I turn 33 next month, and I am a different animal than I was ten years ago. I have weeded out the troublesome friendships. I have cultivated the meaningful ones. I have aligned myself with people whose values jive with mine. And I have turned my focus to family.

And you know what? That has made life so sweet.

In February, I had one friend drive up from Phoenix to be with me for the funeral. Another friend left her husband and two young kids at home in Austin and hopped a plane here to Colorado to be with me in my worst days. My brothers stood by Jeremy when I couldn't stand, my mom took care of all of the funeral planning, and my dad sat with me as we cried together. Jeremy's parents' generous financial help allowed us to honor Scarlett in a way we might not have been able to otherwise. Family and friends from all over the state flooded into the Mehring family home in Colorado Springs the day of the funeral. And our doorstep here in Northglenn was covered in flowers, frozen lasagnas and buckets of sympathy cards. Shortly after, a new friend from Bible study encouraged me along a spiritual path that would save my life.

THAT is love. THAT is friendship and true family. And THAT comes not from trying to get people to like me, but from being true to myself and saying This is who I am, and these are the people that align with my true self. 

Sure, I still want people to like me. Who doesn't? But if I have to be disliked by some in order to keep these amazing people close to my heart, so be it.

I love you guys.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Finding Joy Inside the Pain

I am a really slow reader, for the most part. Now, there are times when I get really sucked into the world of a novel and I've been known to finish a 700-page book in three days (ahem Twilight series), but that's not typical. What is typical for me is reading three or four books at a time (plus a magazine or two) and averaging 5-7 pages of reading a night. Not including my year-long Bible reading plan. Add to that the fact that easily 85% of my reading is non-fiction, and I will read the same passage ten times to make sure I've really understood something -- and, well, therefore I read slow.

The point of that was to buffer my next statement. I'm still reading The Purpose Driven Life. Yes, it's built around a 40-day reading plan. And I'm on day, um, 60 or so. But I'm still reading it and still really enjoying it!

So I was reading The Purpose Driven Life yesterday after work, and I got to a section talking about difficult times. Specifically it talked about how God uses difficult times for our benefit. And that has been something I have struggled with since Scarlett died. And don't even bother bringing this up to Jeremy because he goes straight up atheist on you if you try to say something along the lines of, It happened for a reason.

Neither of us believe Scarlett died for a reason. My personal belief is she had a shorter path to heaven than we do, and that God needs her for something she couldn't accomplish here on earth. She was an angel since conception -- we just didn't know it.

But I also believe that God uses these terrible circumstances to change us, and to change our lives. So when the author of this book talked about rejoicing in pain, not rejoicing for pain, it hit home.

It's masochistic to be thankful for pain. And I'm no masochist. But I can be thankful while experiencing pain, because I know the experience will be used for my benefit -- if not now, in the future. And this is where my "choose joy" mentality kicks in. No, I'm not thankful my 19-month-old daughter died -- but I'm thankful for my strong husband, for my supportive family, for my thoughtful friends, for this big house we will fill with children someday, and for work that I enjoy. I am thankful for the cup of coffee sitting next to this keyboard, for the rustling of Tyr's dog collar while he shifts in his sleep, and for this cool, still morning.

Contentment isn't based on circumstances. It happens when you have eternal perspective -- when you rely on God in the tough times and thank him in the good times. And always remember, heaven is just a breath away. No matter how bad things are right now, the pain won't last forever. No matter how much I miss her, I won't be separated from her forever.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Choosing Joy

I fully believe happiness is a conscious choice. And it's one we have to make every single day.

When I wake up every morning, I am faced with the reality of having lost my daughter. She is always the first thing on my mind when I open my eyes. And as I lie there waiting for the alarm clock to beep, I make a choice.

Every morning, I choose joy. Every. Single. Morning.

For a while I simply surrendered. For the first few months, my mornings were filled with heartache and tears -- even as I began my new routine of imbibing spiritual material before I do anything else during the day. Sermons, spiritual reading and prayer got me over the hump and into the day.

But I knew I couldn't keep going like that. I couldn't live my life simply surrendering to this temporary separation from my daughter. I had to shift my mentality from getting through the days until I could see her again to appreciating the days I have been given.

So now, when I open my eyes in the morning and that pain starts to writhe from my heart, threatening to overtake me yet again, I take a deep breath. I purposefully put in my mind the thought that I am here for a reason, that life goes by in the blink of an eye, and that I had better appreciate every hug from Jeremy, every beam of sunshine on my blooming gardenias, every moment with my 18-lb cat curled up in my lap.

Getting through the days isn't enough. It doesn't do me or anyone else any good. I want Scarlett to be proud of me when she sees me again -- I don't ever want her to think she ruined my life. She made my life better from the moment she was conceived, and I want to prove that to her every single day. Even when it is hard.

So I choose happiness. Every single morning. I choose happiness.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Busy But Selfless

Exhausted. That's my general state right now. I started writing this post this morning, and it's taken me all day, in bits and pieces, to finish it.

I went with my parents to The Rock Church in Castle Rock last night. They're trying to find a church to call their own, and this place seems like it is going to be a great fit. Pastor JR is passionate, interesting, and very accessible. He spoke on the topic of "Who am I?", and talked about our purpose in being here on earth. It really hit home. I spent so much time in my 32 years trying to figure out what my purpose is -- but in the end, only God really knows what my purpose is. He's got it in hand, so I really don't have to worry about it. I can just keep using the gifts he gave me to help others and know that he is using me for the very purpose he designed me for in the first place.

This morning was my last Base Camp class at Crossroads. I actually got to spend some time talking to the Crossroads pastors, which was awesome. I'm feeling very at home there now. Eileen stayed after class to share with me her thoughts on the Book of Job, which was very enlightening, since I struggle with that book so much. She pointed out that in the end of the book, God doubles all of Job's blessings -- money, land, animals, but most specifically family. He was blessed with ten more kids after his first ten perished in the beginning of the book. Eileen noted that all his blessings were doubled, but he was given ten more kids -- which means his original ten kids were waiting for him in heaven. Of course that sunk deep into my heart.

I feel that Crossroads is a good place for me to serve my community -- but Flatirons is where I find people that are closer to my age and life state. So I do plan on continuing to duly align myself. I start as a greeter at Flatirons in September, and I will be meeting with women who are struggling after miscarriages at Crossroads in a few weeks. I'm not sure how the miscarriage support is going to go... I promised Eileen I'd give it a try, but I may still be too raw to do any good.

There has been a big shift in my mentality since I started regularly attending church and Bible study. I no longer just look for what I can get out of these things, but for what I can contribute. I'm no stranger to volunteer work, but I feel differently about it all right now. I want to give more and more. And not just to church and my fellow Christians, but to everyone. I want to give to everyone. I guess that means I'm on the right track, huh? My selfish nature is starting to be replaced by a more selfless one.

Anyway, I digress.

Jacob was here at our house this afternoon when I got home. He had spent all morning helping Jeremy repair our sprinkler system, replace the guts in one of our toilets, and replace the back yard faucet. We owe him big-time. So Jeremy is heading to AZ to help Jacob move next weekend. I'm glad Jeremy can repay Jacob's kindness that way, but I wish I could do something to say thank you too. So Jacob, if you're reading this, email me with your favorite type of cookies -- because I might not be able to go to AZ and lift heavy boxes for you, but I can bake!

I spent the rest of my Sunday working on freelance projects. I'm pretty darn busy with that right now, but it feels good to be bringing in some extra money. One of the fun things about freelance writing is I get to learn about new subjects all the time. And as a perpetual student, sometimes the research is the most fun for me.

I've got two more days of pulling double job duty to get these projects wrapped up, and then JoAnn, my old pal and the owner of GlobalWrites (who provides me with the bulk of my freelance jobs these days) will be coming to stay with us for a few days. Yay! I haven't seen her since last November.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Breathing Room

I'm writing this post from a Starbucks. I just got my hair colored a brighter shade of red at the salon and I'm waiting on my friend to be done with her errands so I can stop by for a visit before heading back north. Jeremy is at home, getting housework done and playing video games.

I worked all night last night and I'll work again after church tomorrow. And you'd think I'd be too exhausted to be running around all day today -- but it feels so good to be on the road alone.

Jeremy and I love spending time together. We do it as much as possible -- but we're human. We need breathing room from time to time. And since I work from home, breathing room has to be taken with conscious effort. I feel bad leaving him home alone today and he feels bad not coming with me, but the truth is we need days like this.

Epiphanies happen when you have space to think. Miracles occur in the alone time. We're healing while together and licking our wounds while apart, but it's all necessary for our individual lives and our combined one.

I'm blessed to have a partner who is on my same page with these things. Though it took effort to read each other's pages and realize they were really from the same book.

These deep understandings don't happen without effort -- specifically in the form of regular communication. We humans are a selfish lot.

So this is a shout out to the man who has held my hand through it all. Love you, baby.



Friday, August 03, 2012

The Power of Routine

I went to a new Bible study group last night. My usual church-led group is on hiatus for the summer, and my little individual study group with my girlfriends meets only every other week -- so I was feeling a strong need to find a new group I could attend regularly.

I write a lot about goal-setting and habit-making/breaking, so you guys know my general thoughts about all that. Making a conscious choice is always the first step. Making something non-negotiable is always the second step. Creating accountability makes anything easier to stick to. And then the final step is making it a part of your regular routine. A weekly Bible study does all of that for me.

Meeting with a group of women weekly to discuss a theological book helps me stay in a spiritual mindset -- which in turn helps me keep a positive outlook. It also gives me a safe space to talk about my experiences, because sometimes only other women will really understand where I'm coming from. And talking through my experiences (or writing through them) is a big part of my healing process.

Healing from grief this fierce is going to be a lifelong process. It is something I have to focus on and never put at risk. If something will derail my healing, I don't do it. This is why I turn down invitations to events with children when I am not feeling strong.

So above and beyond my desire to continue my walk with God, Bible study helps me stay positive, facilitates my healing, and gives me a safe space with like-minded people. It's a no-brainer that I will continue to make this part of my weekly routine.

So, readers, what do you do regularly that keeps you on the right path?

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Perspective

My brain was totally fried when we left the house last night to go to my brother's barbecue. I was having a hard time stringing two words together. But as soon as I saw my little nephew, the cobwebs cleared.

No matter what you are going through in your life, no matter how bad your workday was, no matter what you're fighting with your spouse about, all you need to get some perspective is to spend time with a sick kid.

Nicky's physical limitations are extreme. He will never be able to sit up, much less walk. His ability to communicate is limited to a few simple words like mama, dada and no, and even those words are a strain for him. But his cognitive development is much more advanced than you would believe just looking at him. He understands more than you think.

Nicky's mother's life revolves around him. She's never had a full night of sleep since the day he was born. Ambulance rides are old hat. If you make plans with her, be prepared for her to cancel at the last minute because Nicky has caught a cold and it's turned into pneumonia. And sure, in any situation where a child is ill or disabled, you expect a mom to drop everything to be there. But Nicky's mom goes above and beyond. She tells you in detail what each of the machines hooked to her child is there for, how his medications work, what the surgeons are doing and why. She can calculate his caloric needs based on his weight in kilograms. She has become a walking medical reference -- not because she had to (they have in-home nurses there every day), but because her knowledge of medicine and health helps her care for her child better.

My brother and Nicky's mom have a rocky past that I won't get into here. They have a lot of things to work through. We all do. But it's hard for me, personally, to hold onto any resentments when I see Nicky laughing at Lilo and Stitch, and when I see his mom's face absolutely light up at that laughter.

So many of you have told me you feel bad talking to me about your troubles, because what I'm going through after losing my child is so much worse than what you're going through. And though I still encourage my friends and family to share their troubles with me, I understand my grief has given you perspective. Well, Nicky and his mom have given ME perspective. It doesn't diminish my loss at all -- but it frames my days differently. It frames those 19 months with a healthy, happy child differently. And honestly, it frames my future differently.

I have extreme fears about having another child. And as I mentioned last week, talking to another mother who had gone through the loss of a child and had gone on to have more children really helped me put my fear in check. But talking to Nicky's mom and learning about everything she does to constantly monitor her child's health put my fear even more in check. No matter how scared I am, I know I'll be okay.

I'll be okay.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Middle Step

Well, I only have time for a short post today. My day job is nuts, so no breaks except for a short lunch. I've got a freelance project due on Tuesday, so my evening will be spent in front of this computer screen. And my brother is having me and Jeremy over for a barbecue after that.

This also means no workout today. Boooo. My Wednesday noon yoga class is my favorite class of the week.

But hey. I've got work. Which means I can pay the bills. And there are a ton of people in our country right now who can't say that. So this is NOT me complaining.

This is me saying I don't have the brain cells left to write anything life-changing here today.

So I ask for your forgiveness.

That reminds me, I listened to a sermon on forgiveness recently. The pastor talked about how forgiveness is different than trust. Forgiving someone doesn't mean you agree with what the other person did, nor does it mean you will trust that person again any time soon. Trust has to be earned over time -- forgiveness should be granted as soon as possible to release yourself from that cycle of anguish.

I think the pastor could have gone farther with the point on trust, though. Because I think there is a middle step -- expectation. When I forgive someone, I expect them not to do it again, but I don't necessarily trust that they won't. The hurdle I have faced wasn't forgiveness or trust -- it was expectation.  Because I get disappointed when people make the same mistake again, and that disappointment isn't healthy for me or them.

My mental trick to handle this? Realizing we are all human. I make mistakes sometimes too. Though I try really hard never to make the same mistake twice, it does happen. Just ask Jeremy about me opening the soda box the "wrong" way so the sodas spill out when he tries to grab a can, or ask him about leaving the garage light on. LOL. We are all guilty of repeating mistakes -- it doesn't mean we aren't trying.