Thursday, January 31, 2013

Super Status

People that meet me for the first time have no idea what happened to me almost a year ago. I feel like I'm living part of my life out in the open and part of it is this terrible secret.

The most difficult question to answer -- and the most common, of course -- is, Do you have any kids yet? I pick and choose how I answer that. If I know I will never see that person again, I just say no. If I think that person may be a recurring character in my life, I'll tell them, Not anymore. My daughter passed away. Either way, that question HURTS.

Walking around in this world, I wonder if anyone else is carrying the sorrow that I carry. Sorrow is this constant weight on me. It blows my mind that no one else can feel it, because even a year later it still feels like it radiates from me. So I look at other people in their cars on the road, pushing their carts in the grocery store, sitting around the table in a study group, and I wonder if any of them are carrying the weight of deep sadness.

When people find out about my loss, for some reason it compels many of them to tell me their own sad stories. In detail. I'm sure they think they're commiserating. But sometimes it leaves me feeling like this world is just a terrible place that all this pain could exist. It's a physical effort to pull my mind out of that space and start seeing the light again. This is the reason I have refused to join any grief groups, though Jeremy and I did get grief counseling. This isn't to say I don't want to know what's going on with people -- but literally talking over me to tell me about their friend's son dying or whatever is not usually very helpful to me.

So I go through these little down times, where I feel like the world's pain is mingling with my own, and I just want to crawl under the covers. I don't want to go anywhere, I don't want to talk to anyone, I just want to hide. And I indulge in that every so often, letting my world revolve around watching movies with Jeremy and curling up in bed with my books.

I'm in the middle of that right now. I just feel sad. I don't have any place to go today -- no yoga classes, no study groups -- and I'm glad about that. I just want to do my job and then veg out with my husband.

I refuse to feel guilty about that. I have lived my entire life with this drive to be productive -- and now I am learning how to be forgiving. I forgive myself for these down days instead of beating myself up for not being able to push through.

I am Super Woman -- I don't need to keep proving it.

I'm planning on going to church at Flatirons on Saturday night, and I feel excited about it. So I know I'll be fine. This down period will be as short as the rest.

I am Super Woman, and I won't let sadness convince me otherwise.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Perfect As-Is

Sometimes other people's words reach into my soul and straighten things out.

It's only an hour into my day and I've already been hit with two rounds of wisdom words.

Steven Furtick said, "The death of contentment is comparison." I don't know how our culture got so focused on making one another jealous, but his sermon from last weekend about competition really made sense. He pointed out that we used to take pictures to capture family memories -- and now we post pictures to Instagram to show other people how cool we are or how much fun we're having.

His point is that we have nothing to prove to one another, because we are all perfectly made. I get that -- I really do. But I am often tempted to compare myself to others. Or compete with myself. I love to top myself. I always thought that drove me to succeed... but now I realize it only drove me to feel forever inadequate.

My job doesn't matter, nor does my hairstyle or how many books I read in a week. If I write or don't write, paint or don't paint, the world won't come to an end. If I can twist my body into a pretzel or have washboard abs, it won't make me any more or less perfect in who I am. And you want to know how I know this?

Because I read this from my poet/artist brother this morning:

Welcome, fate. Bring your trials by fire, your insults to injury, and I will overcome. For I am not weak. I am the son of resolve and stoicism. I am the brother of hope and realism. The father of strength, and the lost love of order. I may be chaotic, but I will leave my mark. I will never give up...

He called me "hope." I am hope to my brother.

How can I possibly read that and think I'm not perfect as I am?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Happiness Takes Work

It seems like everyone has had some bad news to share in the last week. Layoffs, pet death, military deployment, the list goes on.

I was sitting here thinking to myself this was a divine storm. And usually those have a purpose behind them. But then I realized I was taking on the pain of my friends as my own -- this is not my divine storm.

I don't have any great news to share, but I don't have any bad news to share either. Jeremy and I are alive and healthy. We have a roof over our head. We're able to pay our bills. Our marriage gets stronger every day. Our pets are healthy. Our cars are running.

With so much good in my life, why does my mind gravitate to the bad? Not even MY bad, but the bad of others!

Staying in a positive frame of mind is constant work, while letting my mind slip into negative space is almost natural.

People tell me all the time that I inspire them, that I'm so strong and they don't know how I've been able to get through the last year with such a positive outlook. Not to discount the great strength and fortitude God has given me, but none of the last year was easy.

You want to know how I stay positive and keep my hope and faith alive? I work on it. Every day. EVERY day.

I read my Bible every day. I cling to it because it gives me strength and renews my hope -- it's the most powerful antidepressant.

I appreciate Jeremy every day. The dirty socks on the living room floor means he's still here with me. I listen to his words of affirmation and let them sink into my heart instead of dismissing them. I tell him thank-you for every little thing he does.

I pray every night. Even when I have nothing to say, I tell God that. I tell Him when I'm angry at Him. I don't let feelings fester inside me -- I hand them over to God before I sleep every night.

I forgive myself. Constantly. For the lazy nights in front of the TV when I've got good books to read, for the outbursts at other drivers on the road, for judging some people harshly and being too easy on others, for ridiculous worries and unnecessary guilt. I forgive myself first, and then I forgive others.

I think people expect happiness to be a natural state. I wish that were true. But we live, as they say, in a fallen world. Our own egos get in the way of happiness -- and we let them. It's easier to console the ego than it is to put it in its place.

Happiness is there for the taking -- but you have to take it.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Bizzy

I know, I know. I didn't blog all weekend. But hear me out!

Jeremy and I left early Saturday morning to head to the Springs. We still don't understand why people have such a hard time driving between here and there. Driving to Colorado Springs is like playing a video game, dodging all the bad drivers.

I had my hairstylist change my hair back to blond. It took three chemical processes to get my hair to this honey color, and it's going to take months to get it close to the color it was a year ago. I think it looks funny. And I think it's funny that it looks funny because it's the closest to my natural dark blond color that I've been in like 12 years.


I had planned to go to the cemetery after my appointment, but I was at the salon much, much longer than I planned. So I didn't get to Scarlett's grave. I always feel guilty when I'm in Colorado Springs and I don't stop by her grave. I know she's not there, I know she doesn't know if I visit her grave or not, but it still feels wrong not to go.

So I went straight from the salon to my mother-in-law's house. She hosted a Thirty-One spring product premiere party. I didn't do a big presentation because everyone there had heard my spiel before, but the ladies were just as excited about the spring products as they were the fall products. I loooove seeing people get so excited!

After the party, I went to Montague's to meet up a woman who I have worked with and been friends with for almost 10 years. All of the non-chain coffee shops have shut down up here in our area, so it was a treat to go to a cute little independent coffee shop like that.

Jeremy had spent the whole day hanging out with Jacob. I wish he had more opportunities to do that. I love hearing about Jeremy's interests, and I will listen to him talk about comic books from sun-up to sun-down, but Jacob shares those interests with Jeremy in a way that I sometimes can't. That right there is why it's so important for people to have friends! As Jeremy's wife, I can give him a lot -- but there are some things he can only get from a good friendship.

Sunday I slept in and then went to the second service at Flatirons. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house. First they talked about the Shine event -- a full-on prom for severely disabled adults (to which I am donating every single fancy dress I own) -- and then they played the video from last year's event. I don't care how tough you are, you cannot watch that video without being moved to tears. And from there Pastor Jesse went on to talk about what marriage is supposed to be, and he told the story of the loss of his father. He showed a video interview of his mother talking about her experience with her husband's long decline from diagnosis to death. I walked out of there so overwhelmingly thankful for Jeremy, when I walked in the door at home and saw him get up to greet me, I bawled my eyes out and hugged him tight.

I got a couple hours of work done on Sunday before we headed to Denver to meet Jeremy's parents for dinner at The Palm. No Sabbath day for me this week. Boooooo. But we got dinner at The Palm! So no complaints.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Melty Brain

Sometimes I come to this blank page completely lost. Sometimes I find myself here, one word at a time. And sometimes it feels like I'm typing into space.

Today is definitely a typing into space day. I've had terrible insomnia all week, and I think the lack of sleep is finally catching up with me. Add to that some work craziness and I now have a melty brain.

Jeremy is in a good mood tonight. I thought it was because I made his favorite quiche for dinner. LOL. But he just said, "I've been thinking all day, life has been crap since February. It's GOT to get better now. There is no other way for it to go. We're going to get pregnant and I'm going to get a job, and it's going to happen soon." Love it. If I can keep my mind going in that direction too, maybe between the two of us we can create some miracles.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Career Gratitude

Being a writer (slash editor, slash web content manager) assumes a level of psychic ability. Did you know that? I have to anticipate clients', vendors' and partners' needs and desires. I have to get on the phone knowing very little about a project and just trust that answers (or at least the right questions) will pop into my head.

But this line of work has trained me for other things. It has given me faith in my God-given abilities, humility to not assume I know everything or will do everything perfectly, and confidence to bounce back quickly when I make a mistake. It has also taught me how to say two really important phrases: I'm sorry and No.

Being a writer has taught me that the second I take pride in the fact that a client had no edits/changes for me is the second that I will see my work printed and not recognize it because it has been changed so much. Being a writer has taught me not to take offense, to let a potential insult stop at my skin and not sink into my heart -- because for every person who doesn't like something I've done, there will be twenty people who do. Those twenty people are the only ones whose words I should let into my heart.

I can tell a new writer from a mile away. He is the one who argues when I send him edits, or apologizes (or worse, ignores) when he doesn't understand something instead of just asking questions. I have witnessed the growth of amazing writers from easily-offended newbies to confident professionals, and it is breathtaking to see. I have also witnessed the growth of long-time professionals as they enter the world of web content writing -- a world fraught with search engine optimization strategies, mobile browser requirements and a totally different audience than the writer was trained to address. There's nothing like seeing that spark in someone as their craft takes on a whole new dimension.

There are a lot of other careers in this world that would be easier. But I'm so thankful I was gifted with this one.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Expected Answers in Unexpected Ways

It's unusually still right now. I'm sitting in my office, looking out the window at the mountains in the distance, and the skeletal trees aren't moving. It seems like there is always wind here in Colorado, so when the air is still, it's noticeable. The neighbor dogs are quiet, too, which is another rare treat. In fact, it's so still and so quiet outside my window, it feels surreal. I can hear the rush of the highway miles away, like white noise.

I remember how quiet everything seemed when Scarlett napped. I wonder if silence will terrify me when I have another child.

I'm almost done with Spirit Junkie, and in my reading last night the author talked about releasing fear. Fear isn't real -- it is a projection, an illusion. And even when things don't go her way, she now realizes that it's just God setting her up for something better.

My battle starts right there. I know fear doesn't serve me, I know better days are on the horizon -- but I can't wrap my head around a life that is better than what I had. It doesn't feel right to even think that anything could be better than life with that little girl. So my desire to release fear meets with my resistance to letting go of that part of my past. I don't WANT her in the past. I cling to her still.

I pray a lot for help moving forward. And inch by inch, that constant prayer gets answered. Not always in the way I want, but still answered. Each day is still difficult. It's still hard to breathe. My heart still feels bruised inside my chest. But the motion is forward -- never back. And that is a huge blessing.

I've realized since I started praying regularly that every prayer is answered, but the answers aren't always what you expect.

I prayed for financial favor, and instead of my husband finally finding a job (the contract at the airport didn't work out, if you were wondering), I got more freelance projects.

I had been trying to decide if I should add a tab to my blog for my deeper spiritual posts -- but without moving my blog to another platform, there was no way to direct posts to a specific tab. So I gave up on the notion. But God was obviously still working on it, because I was recently asked to contribute to a local women's Bible study blog. Those posts will fit in there quite well.

I've got a lot of prayers on the wind right now that don't seem to be getting answers. In fact, sometimes it seems like the world is moving against certain things. I have been praying for friends trying to adopt out of the foster system -- and being blocked by new gun control laws, if you can believe it, because the government agency that processes fingerprints for adoptive parents also processes fingerprints for people registering for guns. The system is so backed up right now, adoptive parents aren't able to get through. But even typing all of that, I see the worldliness in it, and I know that this is the perfect space for Spirit to move in. I'm excited to see how something greater emerges from such a nasty situation.

That, right there, is faith. I know something good will be on the heels of something bad. That's something I've never doubted in, because I've seen it work in my life since I was a child. So yes, I get down sometimes when my prayers aren't answered quickly, or in the way I want them to be answered. And I still struggle to move forward from a tragic event. But I won't let it take away from my faith -- or my hope. And I think that, more than anything, is what has kept me ticking this last year.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Coming Down From the 3-Day Weekend

Yikes. Hello Tuesday after a 3-day weekend. I was not expecting you.

Today was insane. I-N-S-A-N-E. What could go wrong, went wrong. What could pop up, popped up. I was pulled in ten different directions from the moment I awoke.

At my day job, one of our web content tools broke, so I ended up manually coding 16 landing pages to get one of our expired sales off the web. Another set of landing pages for my biggest customer broke somehow -- so I ended up doing those edits manually too, to save time (usually I'd send it to our agency in Buenos Aires). And I think those two "problems" were my saving grace. I love that type of work -- it's soothing to me.

I spent my lunch hour on the phone with a vendor for a freelance project I'm being pulled into. Again, it is work I really enjoy doing, so even though it added to the craziness of my day, it actually soothed my psyche a bit.

I'm managing Ambrosia Candy Company's website, too, these days. We work on a bartering system. She feeds my candy habit. LOL. And of course the web content tool was arguing with my HTML today, because it was one of those days -- but I did put up all of Chef Curry's new flavors early this morning. So y'all should go drool over them.

Jeremy can see stress in my face from a mile away. He walked into my office when he woke up this morning and stopped short. He looked at me for a second, cocked his head to the side and asked, "What can I do?" I told him I just needed him to take care of all the household crap today -- fresh sheets on the guest bed, grocery shopping, call Verizon, etc. If I just know that he's handling everything outside of my work world, I can get all of that out of my brain and focus on getting paycheck-producing things done. He did all that and even cleaned the litter box.

It's funny how we human beings operate sometimes. Take the household work off of me and I can be Wonder Woman at work.

What helps get you functional on the crazy days?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Let Love In

It all comes back to love.

That's what I'm learning right now. Through all of my reading and studies, love is the underlying current. The more you plug into it, the better life gets -- but it's easy to unplug from love and let worldly problems get you down.

I've found that the best time to bring yourself back to love is when you're angry at someone. Even thinking about love when you're feeling angry will start to soothe you.

For us women, when we're angry at someone we feel this need to get even, to make the other person pay. We want to make them hurt like we're hurting. I think the underlying assumption is that if they felt the way we felt, they would never hurt us like that again. We think forced empathy is the answer. That couldn't be further from the truth.

Making someone hurt when you are hurting doesn't give the other party a sense of empathy -- at best it just turns one hurting person into two hurting people. At worst, your attempts to get even fail completely and then you're both angry and frustrated.

When you're angry at someone -- especially a spouse -- that is the best time to tap into love, and show it. Especially if the hurt was unintentional. We know we shouldn't blame someone for something they didn't do on purpose, but let's face it, that accounts for 90% of our fights with people.

Expressing love when you're angry with someone goes against our grain, I know. But love is the most powerful tool we have.

This comes a little more easily to Jeremy than it does to me. I have to be much more purposeful about showing love when I'm angry. When we're in the middle of a fight and not speaking to each other, he still kisses me on the head and tells me he loves me before he leaves the house. Sometimes experiencing that love from him is enough to snap me out of my mood.

We were in a tiff yesterday over something stupid. I was up in our bedroom reading, but I got irritated at the neighbor dogs barking, so I decided to go to Starbucks to read for a while. I told Jeremy I'd be back, and I started driving. Halfway there, I heard a voice in my head say, "Turn around. Go home." Whether it was my own conscience or the Holy Spirit speaking, I don't know -- but I did know I should listen. So I went through the drive-through and picked up a coffee for myself and one for Jeremy, and I went back home.

When I returned home, I went downstairs to our family room where Jeremy was reading some old comic books, and I handed him his coffee, kissed him on the head and went back upstairs. I was still angry, and I still didn't want to talk to him. But his smile and "thank you" at the coffee softened me. I went back upstairs and looked up movie times so I could take him to see the Hobbit. I honestly wasn't interested in seeing it (I heard it was really long and drawn out), but I knew he wanted to see it. I texted him (yes, only one floor apart in the same house -- I told you, I didn't want to talk to him) the movie time and told him to get ready to go. He was thrilled.

We did talk through our problem last night before we went on our date. It was stupid -- we both knew it was stupid -- but our emotions got in the way. Showing love to each other when we were angry ensured that a stupid, meaningless little argument didn't turn into World War III.

A few years ago, a day like yesterday would have gone very differently. I never would have done such nice things for Jeremy when I was mad at him. I'd punish him for days, until I realized my "punishment" wasn't hurting him at all, but was hurting me immensely. But remember a few years ago our marriage fell apart, and we nearly couldn't put it back together.

So today we practice marriage differently. And I can tell you from experience that showing love to your spouse will save you a lot of trouble. It will make a better marriage in every single way. It's not an easy thing, when you're angry, but again and again and again it has proven its value.

Everything is better when you let love in.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Calling

I went to the women's ministry breakfast at Flatirons Church this morning. They've got some exciting stuff brewing. After that ended, I met with the founder of Brewed (women's Bible study at Flatirons) for coffee. And some things started to come together in my mind.

I've been called to help women. I know that. I don't know what that looks like yet, but I know that's what I'm called to do.

It's both scary and exhilarating feeling called to do something big but having no idea what steps are involved. Am I going to be leading study groups? Am I going to go on mission trips? Am I going to be a (*gulp*) speaker? All I know at this point is that I'm going to impact women in an important way.

I'm a writer. I'm book smart. I've got a never-ending thirst for knowledge. And I love God. What does that equal? I don't know, but I'm excited to find out.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Weird Dog

Our dog, Tyr, has been acting really weird for the last few days. He's a very mellow dog, overall (unless you try to take him for a walk -- and then every passing person, dog or squirrel is cause for yowling like he's being beaten). He knows the rules of the house, and he doesn't usually try to break them. So when he starts doing things he knows he's not allowed to do, we consider it very strange behavior.

For the last few days, at every opportunity he has been sneaking upstairs. He's not allowed upstairs. We keep catching him in the master bedroom, or just outside the door. We can't figure out what the heck is going on with him, or why he would want to be there when we are elsewhere (he generally stays wherever Jeremy is, and when Jeremy is gone Tyr will stay next to me). He's not causing any trouble, he's just going where he darn well knows he's not supposed to go.

If it were any other dog, I'd say he was sensing something. Energetic activity, maybe, or a critter in the attic. But this dog is -- how do I say this nicely -- not that intuitive.

We think maybe he's getting upset about the neighbor dogs barking at the work crew on the trail behind our house. But by now he should be VERY used to the neighbor dogs barking at nothing. So I'm not completely sold on that theory.

I always used to rely on my pets to let me know when something weird was happening. But after a few experiences over the years where they did not warn me about something that they should have, let's just say I trust my pets' intuition as much as I trust a dowsing rod.

So we're keeping alert, trying to figure out what the heck is going on with this mutt.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book Talk

I got an Amazon.com gift card for Christmas, which I spent on two books I've been jonesing for. The thing about the type of books I've been reading a lot lately is that they are rare -- and thus expensive. Even used, they aren't discounted. I have a hard time paying $30 for a book. I guess that stems from being a history major in college -- the books for each class were outrageously priced and I always had to buy a dozen of them. Authors don't get royalties on used books, so I do try to buy new books when I can -- but I'm on a budget these days.

That said, I was thrilled when my CS Lewis nonfiction collection arrived yesterday. It was well worth the money. It's huge and gorgeous, and even has one of those built-in ribbon bookmarks. I devoured the first chapter during commercials last night while Jeremy and I were spending some quality couch time together.

Lewis' writing fits right into the slant of my studies right now. He's a philosopher at heart, and his arguments are quite beautiful. I had the same feeling reading his work as I had listening to that speaker in my Apologetics class last week -- I wish I could be that eloquent. I understand these arguments about truth and human nature -- conceptually. My brain can chew on them easily. But when I try to verbalize what I understand in my brain, something short-circuits.

Quoting people who said it more eloquently than I can is the best way for me to explain what I'm understanding. Thankfully I have a husband who is willing to listen when I read a passage that strikes me. It's a fair trade, though, because while Jeremy might not read passages from his comic books to me, he'll tell me the entire plot of a series.

He's actually a great storyteller. I wish he would blog more. He has a blog that reviews comic books, but he writes in big chunks. My husband is actually quite brilliant, and it comes through clearly in his passion for comic books. I pray that someday we'll be able to open a comic shop so he can more easily share that passion with others. Actually, to be more accurate, I pray we can open a book-store-slash-comic-shop that will feed both of our passions.

A lot of the things I read challenge you to face your fears. What are you afraid of? What have you been called to do that you are scared to try? Opening a bookstore is the answer for me. I wish I was brave enough to try it at the risk of failing financially. I've done a lot of brave things in my life, but for some reason this is the one that really scares me.

Funny, isn't it? People are going into war zones to bring food and water to dying women and children, and I'm scared to open a bookstore. Sigh.

Anyway, the second book I bought with my gift card is due to arrive on Tuesday. It's a translation of Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae. And no, I don't expect that to be an easy read. But it'll give my brain something to chew on -- and these days that's just what the doctor ordered. When my brain is working on something, it has no time to let my mind wander to sad and negative topics.

I also bought the Kindle version of Gabrielle Bernstein's Spirit Junkie. I finished Soul Detox, and I've always got to have something going on my Kindle. This one seemed fitting because it's her journey through A Course in Miracles -- which is a book I am going to spend the next year reading (it's big and confounding).

In a few weeks, I'll be completely done with reading the Bible from cover to cover. It's hard to believe I'm almost done. It's been such a journey. I'm a little overwhelmed at the idea of not having that reading plan to go to every night. But I do plan on studying some of the books more in-depth. Studying isn't the best thing for me to do right before I sleep, though... so maybe I'll just start a reading plan with A Course in Miracles. I dunno. Maybe I'll just re-read the New Testament. In the end, I read whatever helps me sleep at night -- whatever keeps the negative-thought-train demons at bay.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Time is a Learning Tool

In my lifetime, I have made a lot of bad decisions purely out of a sense of loneliness. I say "a sense of," because my loneliness wasn't real -- I was never truly alone.

I didn't realize the root of my bad decisions at the time, and I have no regrets because it all led me to Jeremy and Scarlett. But through the last year I have learned that I will never have that problem again. I will never be lonely again, no matter what happens. I know God, family and friends will always be there for me. That is profound, powerful, amazing and so, so sweet.

Loneliness was the root of my bad decisions, but yours may be different. It may be anger, jealousy, insecurity, or even pride. Think back to your own roots. What opened your eyes to the truth? What made you realize where you were going wrong? Even if you had to come to that realization the hard way, it's still a gift.

There is no point in regretting your past if it led you to a good place or if it helped you become a better person. Time is simply a learning tool to help teach us the lessons we need to learn here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Truth and Immortality

A Course in Miracles defines a miracle as a shift in perception. Specifically, seeing the truth. And the truth is that we are all perfect beings, lacking nothing.

A speaker I was listening to last week in the Apologetics class I'm taking defined truth as what occurs when your perception lines up with reality.

I always thought truth was a relative thing. What is true for me may not be true for you. But through study, I'm realizing now that truth resides at a spiritual level. We are not bodies with spirits -- we are spirits with bodies.

Nicholas Wolterstorff said, "If I believe of something that it is a duck, that is true of it if and only if it is a duck. And if that is indeed true of it, it is not true of it relative to some conceptual scheme. It is just true, period. Thoughts are true or false of things, period — not relative to something other.”

The speaker last week also talked about how we have this misconception that the further you get from the earthly plane, the thinner reality gets. In other words, we think heaven is a reflection of earth. And this couldn't be farther from the truth. Rather, earth is what is thinned out -- on the heavenly plane, everything is so much more real, so much more solid.

This lines up with what I've learned through studying many spiritual disciplines in my life. As above, so below. On earth as it is in heaven. Events take place there before they take place here. People exist there before they exist here.

That's comforting to me. I picture my daughter's spirit safely in heaven, simply waiting for my spirit to join hers. I picture my future children existing there with her, simply waiting to start their earthly lives.

I see Scarlett in so many things. I see her in the laughter of my nephews, in the hand-prints on the mirror in my bedroom, in my husband's blue eyes.

I see my grandfather in my dislike for vegetables. I see my aunt Peg in the woman sitting next to me at Bible study with the purple wrap around her shoulders, and soft eyes that project grace and confidence.

They are all reflections now. But the truth of them still lives -- they are, in fact, immortal.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Lessons in Humility

It's no wonder that we women are so fond of talking. Verbalizing things can make solutions emerge, identify problems more specifically, and cause epiphanies. Sometimes we keep things tucked away in our minds, and it's not until we start talking that those notions grow into solid forms -- and once they are solid forms they are conquerable.

The walk of humility is a gentle one. Rush it and you become insecure, refusing well-earned compliments. Resist it and you become prideful, taking credit for things that were God's doing. I'm learning how to walk gently right now -- and I had no idea that I needed that lesson until recently, until conversations made it obvious.

I have dived head-first into Scripture for reasons that are obvious to you readers, such as healing and hope. But also for reasons that might not be so obvious, such as finding peace and wielding a sharp weapon against the negative thoughts that constantly pound at the doors to my consciousness. In Christian circles, there are talks of "the evil one," and it can sound hokey -- but when you have faced down fear, negativity, depression, insecurity, and won some battles against them, it is easier to see how these things are life-forms of their own. Scripture helps me weld my doors shut against them, and gives me a sharp sword to defend myself against the ones who break through. They're not just words -- they are universal energy.

A couple of girlfriends and I meet at a coffee shop one evening every other week to study. Last week we were talking about how powerful the Bible is, no matter what spiritual discipline you are. If you are spiritual in any way, you can understand the power of this book. The historical relevance alone is powerful, but there is a universal/spiritual energy to it as well. Unlike anything I've ever encountered -- and I've encountered a lot in my lifetime of spiritual seeking. If you consider yourself spiritually open, pick a Bible up and see what I mean. It hums.

Both of my girlfriends at last week's meet-up joked about me being an "overachiever" because I've stuck to my reading plan, I generally do the homework for Bible studies, and I'm also doing a Scripture memory challenge this year. And I thanked them, but assured them it wasn't a choice anymore -- this "stuff" has saved my life time and time again in the last year, it has improved my life beyond anything I could have imagined, and it would be crazy if I stopped. And as I spoke I felt humility knocking me on the head, begging for entry.

Josey and I were also talking about my daily reading as we were shopping at Park Meadows Mall this weekend. She has started reading the Bible, too, and she was telling me how difficult it had been to get into the habit because her life was so chaotic. I told her how going a day without reading, for me, was like going a day without brushing my teeth. It just feels icky. Icky enough I just can't skip it, no matter how busy or tired I am. Reading sets me right. Again, humility knocked on my door and I didn't answer.

I went to Crossroads Church on Sunday morning, and guess what Pastor Kim was preaching about? The sin of pride.

I watched a Joyce Meyer video this morning before work. Guess what topic came up? Pride and humility.

Humility wasn't knocking anymore. It was pounding and screaming.

I don't consider myself a prideful person. Nor do I consider myself a timid or insecure person. But I work hard at life in general and I do take credit for the results sometimes when I shouldn't. God works in my life. Every single day, He works in my life. My healing, my spiritual progress, even the good habits I keep are all by His grace. I wouldn't have this book-smart brain, this photographic memory or this writing talent without Him. They are all gifts.

Lesson learned. Humility, you can go bother someone else now.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Right Side Up

We're watching our twin nephews this weekend. It has been a wonderful time full of snuggles and superhero games.

It feels good to have noise and activity in our house. It feels good to wake up early on the weekend to feed a hungry and delirious kid.

I had plans this morning to meet Josey at Park Meadows for shopping, lunch and girl time. Jeremy stayed with the twins so I could go. Somehow during our shopping conversation it came up about how having kids means years of early mornings, early bedtimes, noise and mess. And I told her that I miss all of it. Having nothing but time on my hands now, it doesn't feel good, like I'm free, like it did before I had a child. It just feels like something is perpetually missing from my life. Having a child changes you forever.

I'm typing this on my phone Saturday afternoon while the twins are napping on the couch next to me. And life feels a little more right than it has in a long time.





Friday, January 11, 2013

Telling Habits

You can see where your focus is when you notice what habits you keep. What habits come easily to you, and which ones do you struggle with? Here is my own list...

Habits I currently keep without struggle:
  • Read the Bible before bed every night (it keeps nightmares at bay)
  • One cup of fully-caffeinated coffee every morning, or two cups half-caf
  • Yoga class three times a week
  • Write a blog post six days a week (admittedly sometimes a day squeaks by)
  • Input something spiritual into my brain before work every day
  • Pray every night
  • Date night with Jeremy every Tuesday
  • Read something for fun, not study, before bed
  • Kiss Jeremy and tell him I love him before we part ways -- going to bed, leaving the house, etc.
  • Get out of the house and around other people in a social setting at least once a week (thus also giving Jeremy the house to himself)
  • Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day
  • Take a multivitamin twice a day
  • Put everything -- EVERY LITTLE THING -- on my Google calendar

Habits I'm working on -- and mostly succeeding at:
  • Drink a cup of green tea every afternoon
  • One Sabbath/rest day every week

Habits I'm sucking at:
  • Journaling outside my blog


Obviously my physical, mental, relational and spiritual health are all at the top of my priority list. And my writing is at the bottom. It's not good or bad -- but it's interesting.

I'm a professional writer, so I write every day for work as well as this blog. So I'm not concerned about keeping my skills fresh. But writing used to be a priority outside of work. I tried to always be working on some piece of fiction, or some new nonfiction book idea. Anymore it doesn't seem as important.

A simple shift in some habits would get me off of the path I'm currently on, and onto another where writing was important again. But right now I'm perfectly happy on this path. I have no plans to shift focus any time soon. I realize that who I was five years ago is not who I am today -- and that's okay. I'm better today than I was then. Just ask my husband. I put up with him so much better now. LOL

Isn't it interesting, though, how telling your habits are? And how a few simple shifts in habit will drastically alter your priorities? List out your own and see what I mean.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Send Fear Packing

There is a disconnect between my brain and my mouth. I can have these profound ideas, but once I try to verbalize them, they get all jumbled up and messy. I can write them out much easier than I can verbalize them.

So I'm taking a class in apologetics to both learn how to speak more clearly about my faith, but also to expose myself to people who debate/discuss spiritual topics on a regular basis. The entire notion of apologetics, from the writings of Paul in the Bible, is to be prepared to answer questions about your faith. I had my first class last Friday and I didn't say a single word the entire hour and a half. If you've ever been in a group setting with me, you'll know how unusual that is. I have no problem speaking up.

I was thinking this morning about the idea of exposing yourself to things that make you uncomfortable, as I watched our dog do just that. Both of the neighbors on either side of our house have dogs that bark incessantly. The neighbors to the west have big dogs, and the neighbors to the east have little yippie dogs. I opened the sliding door and let Tyr out to go to the bathroom this morning, and I watched him for a few minutes from the window. He went onto the lawn and peed, then he walked over to the fence he shares with the big dogs. Lining himself up parallel with the fence, he just stood there. The neighbor dogs went crazy, barking and pounding at the fence (because apparently the dogs' owners are deaf and/or enjoy having out-of-control pets) -- and Tyr just stood there. In fact, he looked a little bored.

At first I thought he was just torturing the neighbor dogs. Which of course I thought was hilarious. But then I realized maybe he was just getting the ordeal over with. Like, I'm out in my yard, guys, get your barking over with so I can have a peaceful morning. He was exposing himself to that nuisance just to get it over with.

I used to do that in school, too. When it came time to give presentations in class, I would always volunteer to go first. Not because I like presenting -- in fact I'm TERRIFIED of public speaking. But to get it over with. The quicker I exposed myself to the dreaded situation, the quicker it would be done and my anxiety would be over.

Fear exposes what we care about. We have fear for that reason. It is not something you should live your life by -- but fear serves a purpose.

My experience last year erased a lot of fears in me, and created new ones. It was a life-altering event in so many ways. It's hard to be afraid of anything with the worst thing possible actually happens to you. After that, the idea of losing your job, or getting a divorce, or being hurt in an accident, or whatever else used to keep you up at night, gets erased for good. Nothing will ever be that bad in comparison.

But new fears also arose. Fear of not having any more children. Fear of having more children and losing them the way we lost our first. Fear that there's something in our genetics that caused this to happen, so every child of ours is susceptible. And I've had to expose myself to each of those fears, one by one, and then let that fear expose the essence of me.

I had a breakthrough last night. I was reading the chapter on fear in Soul Detox, and though nothing in there prompted me to do this, I still got this overwhelming urge to stop and address what I was really afraid of in that moment. I realized that I have no doubts that I'll have more children, that I'll get pregnant again. Every bone in my body knows this will happen -- my faith in it is unswerving. My fear is that I won't be able to have more than one. Really, at its base, that is my current fear. So I accepted it. The notion that I would have only one more child -- I accepted it. It was a possibility that I knew I could live with. And you know what happened? Release.

This weight disappeared off my chest. The fear dissipated. I stared my fear in the face, gave it a name, and it ran away with its tail between its legs.

Yes, fear was given to us for a reason. But I think it's possible to give it so much power that it actually takes on a life of its own. A little demon in its own right.

What's your demon's name? Call it out, identify it clearly, look it in the eyes. It can't stand up to you.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Foundation Habit

Craig Groeschel was recently talking about his "foundation habit" of flossing his teeth. As long as he flosses his teeth every day, he feels disciplined -- and when he feels disciplined, everything in his life follows suit. He feels like he's taking good care of himself, so he's motivated to go to the gym. Going to the gym motivates him to eat better. Eating better motivates him to keep a good sleep schedule. Keeping a good sleep schedule makes him wake up refreshed in the morning. Waking up refreshed in the morning makes him motivated to do his daily Bible readings. Doing his daily readings gets him in a good state of mind when he goes to work. And so on.

It all comes from one small foundation habit.

I've got a lot of habits that I keep because they are good for me. But I have to say the one that really ties everything together is having a regular yoga routine. As long as I have a regular yoga routine (2-3 times a week, going to a class and just not doing a video), I feel disciplined. It's not that I drop all my other good habits when I'm not going to yoga, but yoga is the one habit that makes all the others fall into place because I feel disciplined.

My dad walks at least a few miles a day -- a combination of walking outside and on his treadmill. He will schedule his life around those walks to make sure he gets them in.

Jeremy reads his new comic books every Saturday, no matter how busy we are. After he reads them, he marks each one on a spreadsheet to keep track of his collection -- and then each comic book gets bagged, boarded and filed in a box when he's done with the spreadsheet. You'll never find a stack of comic books sitting round our house -- once they are read, Jeremy carefully adds them to his collection. You should see him when we've been gone all day and he hasn't read his comics yet -- he's so distracted. He just needs some time to read and then life falls back in line again. I learned a long time ago to give him that reading time.

One friend of mine reads a devotional every morning upon waking. I know people who run every morning, or drink a smoothie before work, or do a daily sketch. And when they don't do these things, you notice how off they are. I think we all have a habit that is the cornerstone of our discipline.

What is your foundation habit?

By the way, I found some local yoga classes that I love, so I am officially in a routine now. Wahoo! First time in a year.

But I have a complaint. I went to an Iyengar class yesterday, and the room was packed. Workout classes are always packed in January, though, so I got there early enough to get a spot -- that's not my complaint. My complaint is the 70-year-old man who came in 5 minutes late, during our opening meditation, and while I was cross-legged on my mat with my eyes closed, he shoved his mat in the half-mat space between me and the lady next to me. So I came out of the meditation and squeezed my mat over as much as I could so at least his mat wasn't on top of mine. That was bad enough. But it gets worse. He grunted and groaned through the WHOLE CLASS. And it wasn't a difficult class by anyone's standards -- mainly stretching, not a lot of strength work. I thought the worst was over when we settled in to savasana (final meditation where you lie down on your mat) -- but no. He groaned through the 3-minute meditation too. Ugh! I just had to get that off my chest, I guess. LOL. Good for him that he's doing yoga -- but for goodness sake, get there on time and quit groaning!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Hopeful Expectation

Sometimes I forget that I'm not the only one with major life problems. Isn't that a sad statement? But it's true. Sometimes I assume everyone else is getting along just fine and I'm the only one experiencing any kind of grief.

I was blessed to meet a couple of girlfriends for coffee after church on Sunday. What was supposed to be a quick meet-up turned into a 3-hour gab session. Those are just the best coffee dates, aren't they? 

We talked about how each of us, in our own way, feels like we're holding our breath for something. It is difficult for all three of us to accept life the way it is right now, without keeping our eyes on the horizon for our expected event -- but we all know how important it is to accept and be grateful for the present. In fact, we all believe that without that awareness and gratitude of the present, God will never grant us what we're wanting. What a conundrum!

How do you live in the now, how do you become grateful for your current circumstances, and get your mind off of your desired situation? I don't think there's an easy answer for that. Because I've been trying to find that for almost a year.

I do think that there are steps you can take, though. I think there's a path you can walk that keeps your eyes on the rosebushes next to you and not the setting sun ahead. For me, those steps include getting back into a regular workout routine, continuing on and advancing in my spiritual studies, and keeping a gratitude journal. The steps might look different for you, but these are things that are keeping me on the right path. 

It's not that I've stopped aching for my desired future. It's that I'm consciously working on turning that into hopeful expectation. There's a difference. Aching implies pain in the gap between now and the expected event -- hopeful expectation keeps your desire alive in your heart while still allowing you to appreciate the present.

All of you are probably obsessing over something you want -- a situation, a job, a relationship. What can you do to turn that ache into hopeful expectation?


Monday, January 07, 2013

Rose Jewelry

I had to post a second blog today because I just got this in the mail:


My sweet friend in New Braunfels, TX, mailed me these gorgeous pieces of jewelry. As you may know, my late daughter's middle name is Rose, so the flower holds an incredibly special place in my heart. I wear a piece of rose jewelry every single day.

It warms my heart that people are still thinking of us almost a year after our tragedy. When everyone else's lives have gone back to normal, and Jeremy and I are still trying to figure out how to live with a gaping void in our lives, to get things like this in the mail makes me feel so much less alone. It reassures me that Scarlett and Jeremy and myself are not forgotten -- all three of us still hold a precious place in our friends' and families' hearts.

In my worst moments, I asked God why I was still here. I asked Him what the point was of staying here when my heart was in heaven. He answers those questions with things like this gift in my mailbox, or a kind note in my inbox first thing in the morning, or the smile of someone who remembers my daughter fondly. He answers those questions with people. YOU are why I am still here. Do you know that?

The next time you're thinking your efforts don't matter, the next time you feel like your presence isn't enough to comfort someone, remember this blog post. Remember me. Remember that I kept every card that was sent, smiled over every gift, and was grateful for every text message, voicemail and email. You make a difference every day.

Leaning

My friend Allison and I were talking this morning about how to support a friend in need when you can't fight the battle for them. She had forwarded me this devotional-style email that talked about how Aaron and Hur helped Moses hold his hands up when his arms were tiring from holding his staff aloft (Exodus 17:12). And sometimes that's exactly the help we need when things get tough -- someone to just be there to lean on, to prop yourself up when the fight exhausts you.

Many people helped me in so many ways during my own tragedy -- meals left on our doorstep, cards and gifts in the mail, phone calls and emails made and sent on our behalf, arrangements made, things paid for. And they all meant the world. I haven't forgotten a single gesture. And others just showed up. Some flew in from all over the country, some came from across town, others just called or emailed and asked What can I do to help you? 

That is an impossible question for someone in a dire circumstance to answer. And many of the posts, articles and books I've read on helping others cope with grief say not to ask that question. But asking that question is our natural instinct, isn't it? And when you're faced with a heartbroken friend, you're not thinking, Now what did that article say about how to handle this? -- you're just responding to your friend.

In 6 weeks we will have been without Scarlett for a year. That is an anniversary I am terrified of. But it's given me almost a year to heal and learn how to cope, and that year has given me some clarity. So to all of you who didn't know what to do last February, but called, emailed or texted asking if they could help -- thank you. You might not feel like you were there for me, for us, but you were. You showed up.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Lazy Saturday Morning

I love lazy Saturday mornings. I actually plan my schedule around them when at all possible. There's nothing like sleeping an extra hour, then spending the entire morning curled up on the couch reading (with instrumental music on to drown out the neighbors' dogs).

I take advantage of mornings like this one because I don't have them often now -- and when we have another child I will not have them at all. A small pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless.

I finished reading the last gospel Thursday night and started Acts in my read-the-Bible-in-a-year reading plan. Acts has been so fascinating, I haven't been able to stop. This morning I read four days worth of material before I forced myself to put it down and read something else.

I'm also working on finishing a book about how to interpret the Bible. It's more scholarly than practical, so of course my brain is soaking it up. And it's really helping me in my reading.

Another book I'm reading is The Historian. It's fascinating, but the writing is heavy (a very literary style), so I have to be in a certain mood to read it. It is getting me really excited about history and travel -- so it's probably good that I am reading it slowly. I'm too broke to travel!

And finally, Craig Groeschel's book, Soul Detox, was on sale in the Kindle store this week, so I'm chipping away at that one too.

Yes, I'm a little ADHD about reading. I like to think of myself more as an emotional reader. I read whatever strikes my mood. But that also means it takes me forever to finish a book.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Commitment-phobe

I went to a new yoga class at lunch today -- and it kicked my butt. I am so out of shape! I haven't lost much flexibility, but I've lost SO MUCH strength.

I'm trying to get back into a regular workout routine. It's harder than it used to be. I don't know if I've just gotten lazier as I've gotten older or what. But I know this is good for me and I have to make myself do it.

I've noticed lately I've developed a phobia of committing to things outside of work. I'm terrified of setting expectations in people because life sometimes gets in the way and I suck at bowing out gracefully. I can bow out clumsily, I can lie (God forgive me) to spare feelings -- but being honest and just saying, "I didn't come to class last night because I was too tired," or "This group just isn't right for me," is soooo difficult. Being gracefully honest is something I'm working very hard on. And when I succeed, I give myself a big pat on the back.

I think this stems from childhood. We moved a lot, and I never knew how to tell people I was leaving. So I just didn't tell anyone. A friend from my elementary school days tracked me down on social media a few years ago and told me how upset she had been when she called my house and I was gone. I was like 8 or 9 years old when it happened, so I forgive myself for it -- but still, it was a wake-up call for how much I suck at any kind of emotional confrontation.

I had this same trouble saying "no" all my life. It's only been in recent years that I've figured out how to say no to invitations and requests without being wishy-washy about it. And I still end up being wishy-washy half the time.

Does that make me a people pleaser? Or a commitment-phobe? I don't know. But I do know I have a couple of friends who are really good at being honest about what they want and don't want, and when they say no (to me or anyone else), I admire the heck out of how they do it. They radiate confidence -- they know who they are and what they can comfortably commit to, and to heck with anyone else's expectations. I take a lot of notes from these ladies.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Life a Little Different Than Planned

I feel like I got hit by a truck.

I woke up in the middle of the night last night with a head-splitting migraine, and it only started to subside this afternoon.

Usually I can feel migraines coming -- but this one struck me out of the blue, and at a really odd time. Not sure what's up with that.

Jeremy took good care of me, though. He got me coffee this morning, checked in on me every so often, and he's ordering us some Chinese food for dinner (which automatically puts me in a better mood). You'd think he'd be sick of taking care of me now, since I've been getting migraines every 3-4 weeks on average during the last six months. But no, he just patiently asks what I need and gives it to me without a fuss.

We've been home together for years, and I think that helped our relationship dynamic more than anything. I have worked from home for over 6 years, and he put his business to rest over 2 years ago to stay home with Scarlett. It wasn't an easy adjustment for either of us. He likes to have the TV on all day (for the noise, he says), whereas I was used to a quiet house during the day. I had my lunchtime gym routine, but he liked to eat lunch together. I got irritated that his sleep schedule differed from mine (I go to bed and rise earlier than he does by a good hour or two). And heaven forbid I had to work late -- if it was one minute past 5pm, he was in my office asking me when I was going to be done. But over time, we got used to it. Over time, the things that once irritated us became comforting routine.

Having Jeremy home with me is normal. It's comfortable. We know each other's habits and needs, and they are part of each other's days now. Taking care of me when I have a migraine doesn't take anything away from his day, and he gives me a good excuse not to work late. Instead of planning time together, we actually plan time apart. Jeremy looks forward to the nights I go to my study groups or the lunches I spend at coffee shops with girlfriends -- it gives him time to catch up on his comic reading and watch b-rated horror flicks on the big screen downstairs.

Sure, we still butt heads. Just ask him about the trash can in the back yard sometime. But we learned a long time ago that when you're home together, there's nowhere to run. You have to face your problems head-on. So the second our tempers cool, apologies and hugs commence. There's an unconditional nature to our love now that wasn't there until we were home together.

This wasn't planned when we got married. In fact, I always thought I'd be the stay-at-home parent while he was the breadwinner outside the house. But God had a different plan for us. It was super unexpected, but I am so thankful for it.

Now Jeremy is interviewing for full-time jobs, and it's got me in a twist. It's going to take some getting used to, not having him around all the time anymore. So I'm extremely thankful that we have had this time together to create this relationship of ours. I don't think we're unshakable, but I think we're strong, and we can weather anything now.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Looking Forward

I have two friends who are in the process of adopting. One is adopting an older child, and she and her husband are starting the state-required parenting classes this weekend. The other has been on a waiting list to adopt a baby for almost two years -- and she and her husband just moved down to number 19 on the list (they started at 50). I am OVER THE MOON for my friends!!!

I also have a few friends who are pregnant. For some this is their first, others their second or third. I love reading their Facebook posts about baby kicks and even morning sickness, because it reminds me of my own pregnancy. I loved being pregnant, and I look forward to going through it again and again.

And finally, I have friends who have decided to stop having children. They've had their kids, their bodies can't take any more, and their baby days are behind them. I am excited to see them blossom in this new phase of life, diapers and midnight feedings behind them, watching their kids come into their own.

This all means something important. It means I have taken the next step in my own healing. I am overwhelmingly happy for my friends -- and there is no stab of jealousy or sorrow in my heart. I look forward to joining them once again for baby showers and playdates, but that's all. I look forward. I don't feel sorry for myself. That is HUGE progress!

I am doing the Living Proof Ministries' year-long scripture memory challenge. It started yesterday, and every two weeks I will be memorizing a new verse. My first verse is Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV): "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." I think that is a very apt verse to start 2013 with.

It's going to be a good year.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New Year's Resolution

Happy new year! I tell you, 2013 is going to be a GOOD year. It has to be.

Jeremy and I had a movie marathon at home last night. We're just not big party people anymore. And neither of us likes traffic and crowds. Holy cow we're too young to be this old.

Anyway, we watched The Watch (WTH?), Looper (not a good one for my state of mind, but interesting movie nonetheless) and Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (it tried -- it really tried). And then we watched the ball drop.

I watched a talk from Ken Blanchard, the leadership guru, this morning online. He was so passionate about his topic, it really inspired me. Watching this old gentleman get so pumped up reaffirmed something I have known for a while, something Jeremy and I have talked about quite a lot in recent weeks -- I've got to get involved in something that incites my passion and gets me out of the house. Yes, I go to a couple of Bible studies each week, and I go to church on Sundays. I go for walks when the weather is nice and the trails aren't muddy. I have coffee with a girlfriend usually once a week, and I have my Thirty-One parties. Those all get me out of the house -- but when I return home, I sink back into the place where I was when I left. The place where I miss my daughter, the place where this house is too big for just the two of us, the place where I can't get my mind off of my situation. I need to get (and keep) my mind off of my situation.

I know. The simple answer is to get a new hobby. The problem? I was a hobby enthusiast for years. I've tried every hobby that ever interested me. So they all have memories attached to them now. I need something new -- something I've never tried before, something with no memories attached, something that will take my mind elsewhere.

I have no idea what that is yet. But I guess since it's January 1, that's my New Year's Resolution.