Posted in beautiful mess, Emotions, freedom, God, hope, sacred, thanks

I Needed Hope Today…TT (Season #01, Episode #05)

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”  (the book of Hebrews)

After almost a year of navigating the tumultuous polarization and division that is running rampant on social and regular media from every possible side, and then more recently following both the natural and man-made disasters, last night, I was done in emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  I felt as if I was living in a place and time where there is no hope.  No hope.  Not a good place for this Dolly Mama, the one whose fierce passion is to bring the message of hope and healing.  It’s what I normally shout from the mountaintops.  There’s always hope.  But last night, I was mired in a place believing I might be wrong.   There actually might not be any hope.

My thoughts swirled.  Who is going to fix this?  Why do people hate each other?  What’s with all the natural disasters?  Why do people keep vilifying those they are not in agreement with?  Where is the love?  Doesn’t anyone see that divisiveness will destroy each valuable person?  I was pretty much on a rampage to convince myself that I am wrong to think that there is redemption and hope and healing.  Hopeless might just be a more true place.  Right in the middle of my thoughts running amok, there was a song that kept running through my mind as I turned in for the night and rang loudly again in my head as I woke this morning.  It was one of those catchy tunes you wish you could get rid of but just keeps going around and around and around in your brain.  The words eventually caught hold of my heart as I was trying to tune them out.

There is hope for the helpless
Rest for the weary
Love for the broken heart
There is grace and forgiveness
Mercy and healing
He’ll meet you wherever you are
Cry out to Jesus.

(Click here for the full version but come back and read.)

Having nowhere else to turn and not really liking the place I was in, I made a bold move.  I actually took the song up on the challenge and cried out to God.   I asked Him to bring voices of HOPE, RESTORATION AND HEALING today to my heart instead of voices of fear, divisiveness and destruction.  I needed those voices today.  I needed that healing and restoration.  Many days, I am that voice.  But not today.  I was desperate for those voices from others, those that reflect the very heart of the God of unity, truth, healing, encouragement, kindness, love, hope, peace, joy, patience, all that is GOOD.  I promised Him I would keep track of them if He would just send them to me.

I quickly went right back to a “not-so-good” place and asked myself if I was just purposefully trying to avoid the bad stuff.  Shut it out.  Not deal with it.  Pretend it’s not there.  Go on in my “nice little world” and not have it be shaken up.   That thought deeply troubled me.   I am not sure that my answer was purely 100% “no.”  Life is hard.  Terrible things happen that shake me up.  I get caught up in the drama and the opinions and the tragedies.  The world is suffering and struggling.  I do want to avoid it.  However, a louder voice and a deeper, truer message broke through the darkness of my soul.  God sent those voices today.

On this,  my “Thankful Thursday,” I share them with you.

  • A beautiful sunrise on my walk and talk with wise daughter, Sarah.  She shared her heart for the poverty-stricken children she has in her second-grade classroom day after day.  She loves these kids with every cell in her body.  A voice of HOPE.
  • A text from my dear friend, Cindy, about her love and thankfulness for me and our friendship.  A voice of HOPE.
  • A quick word with my mom about my dad coming through his surgery with flying colors.  I think this man may outlive me.  A voice of HEALING.
  • A letter from my friend Kim in prison pouring out words of truth, grace, mercy, and wisdom far beyond anything I have personally known.  A voice of RESTORATION.
  • A blog post from my online friend Shelby.  A voice of HEALING.
  • A walk and talk with my pastor friend Tracy.  We shared our differences and our similarities with kindness, love and grace, with humility and reason.   A voice of RESTORATION.
  • A hard phone call with my patient husband working through a disagreement that we’ve been struggling with since Monday night.  A voice of HEALING.

I will end with an excerpt from Shelby’s blog post.  She speaks truth, the deeper truth of HOPE, HEALING AND RESTORATION!

“Wherever the Spirit of the Lord is present, He gives freedom. And the Spirit is EVERYWHERE.

God knows we long for freedom—freedom to live and love and laugh and experience the grandeur and beauty of this precious life He’s given us. Freedom from evil, discord, scarcity, oppression, shame.

If we would only look longer into the eyes of every person we meet, friends and foes, perhaps the God in them would have a better chance of connecting with the God in us. Together is the only way we press forward through these moments of suffering. Arm in arm, heart to heart, breath to breath.

Let’s make sure we love…with every fiber of our being.

Love binds, love sustains, love endures, love heals, LOVE WINS.”

(Read her entire post here)

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in anxiety, beautiful mess, Emotions, taboo

“I Just Had to Pee” and other Half-Truths (Fighting the Monster of Anxiety…A Day in the Life…Glimmer of Hope)

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”  (Desmond Tutu)

“Are you doing okay?” my husband asks at 3:30 am.  “It seems like you are having a hard time sleeping.”  “I just had to pee,” is my response.  Half-truth.  Statement that quiets the other’s worry.  Words designed to make everyone (including myself) believe that “I’m okay.”  This happens often with the struggle of anxiety.

I have fought with what’s best described as Generalized Anxiety Disorder since my late 30s.  More than 14 years.

If you knew me growing up, in my 20s and early 30s, you would have told others I was independent, strong, and care-free.  I was the teen who drove to Canada to see my boyfriend and slept in the back of my beat-up Ford Pinto without any thought to the dangers of a young woman alone at a rest stop.  I was the young adult who left home after college, delivering pizza while looking for work, and sleeping at friends’ houses with only about $20 in my pocket.  I was the young mom who allowed her preschool children to play in our cul-de-sac without supervision, never hesitating to think they might be snatched, hurt or fall into the river that was only 50 feet into the woods behind our house.  Not someone you would classify as anxious.  Far from it.

I will never forget that morning.   I woke up.  Just as I was getting out of bed, my left leg collapsed right out from under me.  I fell.  My heart raced and I panicked. I got up slowly and was able to walk normally, but called the doctor immediately. “What was happening? Did I have a brain tumor?” Not sure why that thought immediately came as I had never paid much attention to my health. I was crippled with fear almost in an instant. I was pretty sure I was going to die.

A battery of tests for brain tumors, lyme disease, and MS.  With each waiting period and diagnosis in the clear (my leg was probably just asleep when I fell), I thought I would have some peace.  I only got worse. The final diagnosis: a full-blown nervous breakdown. For three months, I lay in my bed, cried, couldn’t leave the house, and had what they call depersonalization, the feeling of being “out of body.”  I thought I was going crazy. It was the darkest time in my life.

Fourteen years of counseling, on-and-off medication, progressive muscle relaxation audios, my Headspace app, exercise, comforting Bible verses on sticky notes, deep breathing, prayer and begging God for relief, yoga, chamomile tea, close friends and a husband who shared my pain, changed diet, not watching the news or clicking on WebMD.  You get the picture.  Fighting it from every angle.  Seasons of relief and seasons of being back in the fight.  Fast forward 14 years to the past 24 hours.  I am back in the fight.

A day in the life of half-truths (the whole truth being said inside my head):

7 am “Good morning Allen.  I am glad Jared has work today.”   (“Will he get up on time?  Should I wake him?  He’s 23.  Don’t do that.  Bad boundaries.  But what if he doesn’t get up?  He will lose this job.  He won’t be able to pay his student loan.  He will get bad credit.  His future could be ruined.”)

8:45 am (knowing he is supposed to leave at 9) Send a text. “Want a smoothie before you leave?”  (“Hopefully he is awake and moving.  If he doesn’t respond, I can call him.  Don’t do that.  Bad boundaries again.  But what if….”)

9:45 am (“Sarah’s sonogram for the baby is right now.  They are rechecking some weird spot they found on his heart.  What if he has Down Syndrome?  It’s a soft marker for that.  Stop thinking that, Esther.  The doctor said it’s a super slim chance and all the other markers were fine.  You need to get over this.  Go to the grocery store.  And don’t text her.  Wait until she texts you.”)

10:45 am  Send a text.  “How did your appointment go?”  (“Is the baby alright?  Is Sarah going to have to quit her job to care for a special needs child?  Will she be able to handle this?  This would be horrible.  No, it wouldn’t.  Lots of people make it through and actually thrive.”  And on and on with the back-and-forth while I don’t hear anything for almost two hours.  Shaking at this point.)

12:37 pm Send another text.  “?”  Response:  “Everything is fine.”  (“Why do you keep doing this?  You are supposed to be over this.  See.  It was all fine and your worry was useless.  You have issues.  Maybe you should go back on medication.  Don’t want to do that.”)

12:45 pm (As you can see…relief was short-lived)  “Hey Rachel.  How are you feeling?” (said daughter had wisdom teeth out four days prior and had almost died of  a tooth infection as a young girl)  (“Does she have an infection?  Do we need to call the doctor immediately?  Please just say “better.”)

1:30 pm “Josh, did you hear from Uber yet?”  (“Why did we allow him not to get a real job this summer?  We should have been stronger with him.  Is that controlling?  He better start working.  I will feel so much better when he’s making money.”)

5:30 pm  From Allen:  “Any word about the truck selling?”  My response:  “Lots of people are looking at it and taking pictures.”  (“This truck is the death of me.  Why did we ever let Rachel buy it?  It will never sell.  We will be stuck with it.  I just need it gone.  This box needs to be checked off my list before she leaves for college.  Why isn’t it selling?  I will be okay when it sells.  What if it doesn’t?  I won’t be okay.”)

Dinner out with friends.  Distraction.  Bed time.

Fitful night’s sleep filled with dreams about above items.

3:30 am  Allen:  “Are you doing okay?  It seems like you are having a hard time sleeping.”  Esther:  “I just had to pee.”  (“If he only knew.  Don’t want to talk about it.  Maybe I should write a blog post to get this sorted out.  Would others read it?  Would they love it or stop reading all my future posts since I don’t have my act together?  Maybe it will bring this stuff to light.  Maybe someone will feel understood.  Is it worth the risk?”

As you can see, I believe it’s worth the risk.  I believe that I am not alone.  I believe that bad stuff thrives in the darkness, in the hiding.  So, here I am, bringing it into the light. A glimmer of hope arises in my heart that I have just taken another step towards healing.

You?  What do you need to bring into the light?  Where can you have hope?  Healing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in beautiful mess, Emotions, Family, grief, sacred, suicide, taboo

Grief – One Friend’s Journal Entry (For Steven)

“True love between two human beings puts you more in touch with your deepest self.  The pain you experience from the death of the person you love calls you to a deeper knowledge of God’s love.  The God who lives in you can speak to the God in the other.  This is deep speaking to deep, a mutuality in the heart of God, who embraces both of you.”  (Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love)

Grief.  Most of us try our very hardest to shy away, or even run away from it.  We question what to say when someone is grieving.  We are unsure how often or even if to “bring it up” once life supposedly goes “back to normal.”  We don’t know what to expect from ourselves or what the other might need from us.  Should we come close or give the other space?  It can be a very confusing time for everyone.  And truthfully, if I can speak candidly about myself,  I don’t like to be in pain or be with others in pain.  It’s just downright uncomfortable.

The past couple of years have been filled with family and friends who are grieving.   And like most things in my life, I am not an avoider.  I want to throw myself headlong into the process, engage in it, learn from it, deal with it.  After all, it’s fairly new to me and I’ve heard that it’s horrible, sacred, beautiful intimate, and gut-wrenching all at the same time.

I lost my own sister-in-law, Denise Maret, just under a year ago, after a year-and-a-half long battle with colon cancer.  My brother and 19-year-old niece are left to raise my nine- and ten-year-old nephew and niece, along with the help of their grandparents.

My friend lost her precious brother to suicide.  He has left behind a wife, three children and two grandchildren and her heart is broken.

Our friend and former babysitter lost both her dad and her husband to cancer during her two pregnancies and she is left to raise two young children alone.

I reconnected with someone on Facebook who lost her only son to teen suicide.  This was the second time she lost a child, the other, a daughter, in early infancy.

A friend from church battled kidney cancer for many years.  His wife faithfully cared for him, only to lose him.  He missed his step-daughter’s wedding by only three short months.

One of my best friends from high school lost both of her daughters, her only children, in a tragic car accident on Good Friday.  They were only 19 and 20 years old, absolutely stunning girls, one only 10 days away from her college graduation.

You have your own stories.  So much horror.  So much sadness.  Grief multiplied.

This is probably where you want to click off, log out, go find puppy videos on the internet.  Me too.  At times.  But not today.  Come with me.  Lean in.  Learn along side of me.  Today, we will catch just a glimpse inside the world of my friend, Annie, who lost her baby brother to suicide at just 51 years old.  I promise you that it’s not all horrible.

When she first shared this journal entry with me, my heart was filled with horror, joy, sorrow, connection, injustice and comfort.  Yes.  All of those things.   Loss feels raw and sad and terrible and wrong, but also sacred and beautiful and precious.  Entering in to the pain allows our hearts to be touched with a deeper knowing and beauty that we will miss if we click away.  I ask that you would read on.

Annie’s Journal Entry on 6/17/2017.  Four months later.

Steven is gone.  He is gone.  He is gone from me.  How can this be?  How can he be gone, just gone?  I don’t feel disconnected from him . . . but definitely disengaged.  He is not here to hope, or dream, or plan for a future together.  All those things are gone.

My connection to a future here that includes him is gone, and nothing will take its place.  It is an empty space…and it will stay empty.  It is a space that holds his absence and my missing him.  My own future will always hold this empty space.  I am suffering.  I will suffer, but I will not be destroyed or left desolate by an empty space.

This empty space where Steven is missing is a sacred place.  I would rather have this sacred, empty space than no space at all.  Our love and connection to each other created a space for our future together.  If there had been no love and connection, there would be no space – – and I am thankful for it, for our empty space . . . for my empty space.

I am thankful for all the other spaces, the other spaces that are full – – beautiful, cherished spaces filled to bursting with love and life and memories.  Memories of the two of us.  All the precious moments we had together and apart-but-connected.  All the treasured memories we had together with others.  Those spaces are filled up and will stay full . . .
nothing will change that.

I don’t have you with me now my Steve, my beloved Steven, but I am forever grateful for you – my one time little brother, my forever friend.

Posted in beautiful mess, thanks

TT (Season #01, Episode #01)

“It’s not happy people who are thankful.  It is thankful people who are happy.”  (Unknown)

Several years ago, our women’s group (we call ourselves the Beautiful Mess, which couldn’t describe us any better) read and walked through one of my all-time favorite books, One Thousand Giftsby Ann Voskamp.  The author had gone on a mission to find three things a day for one year for which she could find grace and beauty, gifts as she came to call them, and give thanks for them.  By the end of the year, she had accumulated over 1,000 of these gifts (for you non-math people, that’s 365 x 3 = 1,095), hence the name of the book.

This began my journey of thanks.  Since I am thankful-challenged, I downloaded an app simply called “thankful”, a private gratitude journal.  I began to keep track of one thing a day because my phone buzzed every night at 7 pm to remind me and I received one of those red notification circles that forced me to get rid of it. (How many are on your phone as you read this? I have to get rid of them at all costs.  It’s my mission in life.)  As of today, I am at 385 (and to confess, it’s been about 3 1/2 years, and now it’s your turn to do the math).

This prodded me to take another small step, this time posting one “someone” each day this past November on social media for which I was grateful.  It brought me great joy and kept me grounded during the holiday rush and gently reminded me of the people in my life that are true gifts (I can see you right now checking my Timeline to see if you might have been one of them).

My thanksgiving ritual extended beyond November as I started to share a “something” or “someone” each #thankfulthursday on social media.  Still not having overcome my thankful-challenged ways, I set a reminder each Thursday at 12 pm to receive another one of those very annoying red circles (yes, I deem them the bane of my existence).

And now here comes the “giant leap for mankind” in my gratitude journey.  After all, I do believe the quote above and certainly could use a little more happiness in my life.  I hope to send some your way as well.

Now, with no further ado, and what you actually came on the site to read, my week of thanks:

  • Headspace App (For those who have the same delightful disorder of anxiety that I do, this has been worth the cost.  In fact, last night when I was awake at 3 am, this was a life-saver and a sleep-giver.  Whoever you are, you British man with a soothing buttery voice, I could listen to you all day.)
  • Clematis in full bloom (This beauty welcomes me every time I open my garage door for three blissful weeks in late May, early June.)

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  • Our Penguins winning the Stanley Cup (When we were getting married, my father-in-law was our best man.  His toast was the following:  “The three most important words in any marriage are the following:  Pirates, Penguins, Steelers.”  This has, I hate to admit, proven to be true.  Congrats to Syd the Kid and all the rest.  And to my adopted home city of Pittsburgh, PA.)
  • Some of the sweetest words ever spoken in our home on Wednesday by my son Josh:  “Sure Mom, I can make dinner.”  Enough said.
  • One of my “fifth children’s” bridal shower and having the privilege of mentoring her and her fiancee on their marriage journey.  #marriedtothemax
  • Hanging out at Lincoln Center watching my niece make our family look smart by becoming a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.  You go Court!
  • Lastly, all of you, my readers, my life-giving and hope-sharing readers (you just might be on this list every week).

You know the question I am going to ask today (and every Thursday for the future as we know it).  What are you thankful for this week?  Can’t wait to read all your comments below.  After all, I long for this to be journey we are sharing and the gifts you have received in the past few days matter to me!  I would be thrilled to hear them!