Saturday, March 22, 2014

Changing My Attitude Because My Attitude Changes Everything

3 o'clock on Saturday afternoon and I'm sitting at my kitchen table just breathing, enjoying the sunshine, and listening to music. After a long and emotional week, I enjoyed a lovely lunch with an amazing friend at a cute & yummy cafe, a drive through the Horicon Marsh, and grabbed a raspberry mocha and cinnamon roll from the local coffee shop on the way back home. 

winter is breaking into spring...in the Rock River and in my heart


This week has included multiple doctors appointments, a full cast being put on my wrist, lots and lots of tears, a phone that didn't work, and more pain than I care to think about. Last night my sister picked up my prescriptions for my mouth surgery scheduled for Monday morning, something that's been hanging over my head for four months.

keeping it real...funky pictures and all


Around the middle of the week, I realized (again) that I could not control my circumstances but I could change my attitude toward them. That decision changed the course of my entire week. Day by day, moment by moment, I did my best to choose to find the little things in life and be thankful. It's a conscious decision that literally has to be made moment by moment. 

I'll be honest. I had to force myself to switch from, "Arrrrgggghhhh, running to the Verizon store was NOT part of my Friday after work plans!" to "God, thank You I haven't had to take my iPhone in more than once in the past year in a half". I had to apologize to my brother for hanging up on him when I was frustrated and in tears. 

But then last night, when I was crying more tears than I've cried in a very long time, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for my sister and her sacrificial love and help in my time of need. I knew if I had to go the emergency room, I didn't have to go alone. The tears could flow uncontrollably and I could say anything and she would only love me. If that's not something to be thankful for, I don't know what is. It's these kind of things that I'm (slowly) learning to always focus on, not the smothering weights of the world and trials of life.

Dove has good advice


Life is not rainbows and unicorns but it is beautiful. 

Life is never easy but it's always worth it.

Life always has a hundred things to complain about but a thousand things for which to be thankful.

Learning to switch from complaining to living in a state of gratitude changes everything.

"...whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." 
Phil. 4:8

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Simple Sundays

There are (many) Sundays I don't make it to worship with my local church. It is one of the factors of living with chronic illness. (On that note, I'm so thankful God meets us wherever we are with His truths and we can sing praises to Him from the shower or the kitchen or the car: it doesn't have to be in a church building surrounded by dozens of other people.)

But there are the nearly perfect Sundays like today that include... 

...God waking me up in time for church

...worshiping surrounded by my grandma, brother, sister-in-law, and (cutest, sweetest, handsomest, awesomest) nephew


...playing with cute kids in the nursery

...having my brother, sister-in-law, and (cutest, sweetest, handsomest, awesomest) nephew over for a leisurely lunch

...lounging in the family room for hours just laughing and chatting and snuggling the (cutest, sweetest, handsomest, awesomest) little guy

It really doesn't get much better than this...

...sitting on the floor with my sweet golden retriever in my lap


...reading a good book, sipping tea, and listening to soft music


...sucking up my pride and going to Bible study in my yoga pants (sometimes it's all I can handle wearing against my belly...yay Crohn's)

...sitting in a circle of Jesus-loving women at all stages of life and learning God's truths and sharing from the heart and praying together

...getting a quick load of laundry done


...writing (a.k.a. therapy and creativity and healing and life-breathing typing for Naomi's soul)

After working a fifty-hour week, it's what I needed. 

I needed to be reminded of life's priorities...of the need for a break from work and media and just running around like a crazy woman.

This past week it has been hitting me hard that I need to slow down and focus on loving and intentionally listening to and caring for others. (Why is this so hard to do?) There are always a hundred things to do (and living with constant illness and pain is an additional part-time job) but I find myself always rushing to the next thing, focused on my schedule and to-do list, and not on taking those extra five minutes to chat with someone or write a quick note or make a phone call.

When my life is over, it won't matter if the bathroom got cleaned on Wednesday night; it won't matter if I was five minutes late for my self-imposed deadline to be somewhere; it won't matter if my bedroom got vacuumed; it won't even matter if I had to grab a pair of jeans out of the dirty laundry to go to work on Monday morning (I just heard all those gasps of horror, people, but I heard even more grunts of agreement).

What will matter is how I loved and how I lived. I want to love well.

So here's to a Monday and week that is love focused and people focused.

G'night, peeps.

(Here is a post I read earlier this week that spoke straight the center of my heart... Why Slowing Down is Paramount if We're Ever to be the Body.)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

When Almost Four Months Go By...

It's crazy how quickly four months can fly by.

It's even crazier how much can be packed into four months.

There are at least a dozen or two blog posts that could be written. Actually, I'm determined to get them written.

If there's anything this thing called adulthood has taught me, it's that each day is a roller coaster and there really are very, very, very few days that are either good days or bad days, weeks that are good weeks or bad weeks. It's all just a messy combination of joy and pain, hurt and happiness.

There is finding out that you need braces and mouth surgery.


There is happy Thanksgiving family time (even though all you can eat is mashed potatoes and squash and pumpkin pie, thanks to said braces being put on a week earlier).


There is never-ending physical pain.

There are birthdays and chocolate.



There is the super fun and indecisive annual Christmas tree cutting.





There are twinkling lights and mugs of cocoa and sledding and Christmas cookies.





There is walking the streets of Chicago surrounded by wintry and Christmasy beauty.





There is huge financial uncertainty and stress.

There is the incredible joy of holding a new little nephew after over a half dozen years of waiting and praying.



There is family stress that just never goes away.

There is the sheer amazement of watching God provide miraculously so that you can experience the excitement of moving.


There is also the stress of moving.


There are countless medical appointments all. the. time.



There are chocolate chip pancakes on Saturday mornings.

There is the absolute stress and fear of facing the potential of being off work for months due to a hand/wrist injury that just will. not. heal.

There are baby snuggles and coos and smiles and tiny hands and feet.


There are the tears and hurt for your baby brother when you get the news that he broke his wrist again and his amazing active athletic self is laid up and unable to finish the basketball season.

There are the tears of gratitude when your family is there for you when your physical limitations cause you to need them so desperately.

There is the fun (and humiliation) of going downhill skiing for the first time.


There is the amusement of barely being able to walk for a couple days afterwards.

There are Bible studies and devotionals that just hit spot on for right where you are at and boost your faith and keep you going.


There is laughing until you cry over the stupidest things.


There is bawling your eyes out from hurt and frustration and pain and uncertainty.


There is throwing the tennis ball with your golden retriever in the snow.

There is laundry and cleaning and cooking and errands and shoveling and dog poop scooping.


There are hoodies and cups of coffee and Snoopy slippers.

But really, it's all comes down to this: there is life.

And it's beautiful and ugly and messy and fun and painful and exciting and crazy and scary and full and  really just a roller coaster of faith and trust and letting go and living in the moment.

Without the ugly, we wouldn't appreciate the beautiful.

Without the pain, we wouldn't know the depth of joy.

Without the scary, we wouldn't learn to trust.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Stress

It's a lovely grey fall Saturday morning and I'm logging into my blog for the first time in over a month. A Disney Pixar movie is playing in the background, laundry is whirling in the washer and dryer, my sweats and hoodie and fuzzy socks are unbelievably comfy, and this mint hot cocoa is delicious.

Life has been stressful lately. The kind of stress that you can't do anything to stop. Life happens and  often it's rather crappy.

Stress comes in so many forms and fashions.

There is the stress of fighting insurance companies.

There is the stress of huge bills that the insurance policy won't touch. 

There is the stress of living with chronic illness.

There is the stress of injuries that never heal.

There is stress of possible looming surgeries.

There is the stress of endless medical appointments.

There is the stress of balancing two jobs and paying the bills and still maintaining a life.

There is the stress of having nowhere that feels like your own home.

There is the stress of watching the grandpa you love disappear almost completely.

There is the stress of watching your dad and aunt and uncles deal with the deeply hurtful and complicated process of helping aging parents.

There is the stress of chronically sick siblings.

These stresses (and more) have been trying to suffocate me the past couple months. My response has been to drown myself in junk food and sitcoms and dramas.

These stresses, these things that threaten to overwhelm, they're not extra special or extra big or in any way more than what the average person deals with on a daily basis. 

This world is full of pain and injustice and unfairness; it's full of brokenness and stress.

It steals joy and peace and simplicity and balance and happiness if we let it.

It can steal creativity and the ability to pause and process and write.


It is now Saturday afternoon and a few more loads of laundry have gone through and a few more dishes have been washed and clean sheets put on the bed and How The Grinch Stole Christmas is playing in the background while I eat my late lunch.

And amidst these simple Saturday activities, I've been thinking and pondering and I'm determined to cut the crap and not let stress have such a hold on me.

Priorities need to be shifted and attitudes changed and old habits kicked and new habits formed. 

Again.

So here is a public declaration... 

...to spend less time stressing and more time talking to Jesus.

...to eat less junk food and comfort food and work out again

...to read more good books and watch less TV shows

...to spend more time journaling and blogging and less time freaking out in my head

...to stick with the budget but not hyperventilate and obsess about it 

...to get the medical attention I need and trust God for the finances

...to fight the insurance company with peace in my heart no matter what the outcome

Because who we are is not determined by our experiences or trials or stresses but by how we respond to each of those curveballs that life throws at us.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Water


A couple days ago I noticed a plant here where I'm house sitting that I seriously didn't even know was there (apparently, I'm blind).

And because I blindly didn't realize it was there, it hadn't been watered when the other plants were.

It was looking very, very sad and droopy and I was so upset with myself because I was convinced I had let this big potted plant die.

I dumped a couple pitchers of water on it (making up for lost time, ya know?) and hoped for the best.

Okay, I may have even said a prayer or two for this plant.

I looked at it around 11:00 that night before I got in bed and I could not believe it.

It's tall and green and huge and bright and happy again.

It doesn't even look like the same plant.

And then I thought about myself...

Obviously, if I don't drink enough water, I get really droopy and feel really awful.

Sometimes due to the Crohn's disease, even when I am drinking enough water, my body doesn't absorb it and I still get dehydrated. (Yay for IV's!)



It's the same way for my spiritual health.

If I'm not getting enough of the Living Water, I get droopy and awful.

If I'm not spiritually healthy enough to absorb the water, sometimes it takes being poked and prodded to be able to absorb the Living Water.

Sometimes it even involves a little pain and blood.

This week it's been hitting me that we can't drink a couple gallons of the Living Water one day and expect to be healthy for the rest of the week.

We need daily sustenance so we don't get dehydrated.

And that is really, really, really convicting to me.

Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall giv him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." 
John 4:13-14

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Slow

If I had to choose one word to describe the past week, it would be slow.


Slow, slow, slow.

This recovery is going so slowly and making for a very slow week and making me a very slow person.

(Yeah, yeah. I can hear you guys making smart comments and laughing at me. You know who you are.)

It's been one of those weeks where I either choose to laugh or cry.

Every plan or schedule or list I've made, has been changed or thrown out completely.

There have been a few tears but I'm so happy and thankful to say that I've mostly been able to  choose laughter.

I've had friends and family ask me if I'm okay because I laugh so freaking hard at such little things.

It's stress relief. And it's the best medicine.

But I digress.


Slow has not been part of my vocabulary for a long, long, long time.

But when I find myself canceling (very much looked forward to) plans left and right, I realize just how full and nonstop and crazy and fast my life has been.

The hours and days and weeks and months have been packed with good things: very good things.

There's been canoeing and running and coffee chats and fairs and ministry and cookouts and bonfires and shopping trips and dinner dates and weekend get aways and long hours at work and gun shooting and weddings and parties and and cupcakes and sports and family gatherings and staying up half the night to play a crazy game and trips to the beach and so many more things that I can't even remember because all the craziness runs together.

(For the record, I don't regret any of it. This summer was amazing.)

And then all of a sudden I was laying in a hospital bed and everything came to a screeching halt.


And life is slow.

Very, very slow.

I'm having to learn what to do with slow. 

Honestly, I don't think I even remembered what slow is.

And ya know what? Slow is good.

It's slow mornings with candles and books.

It's slow evenings with bubble baths and magazines.

It's slow days filled with writing and reading and studying scripture and watching shows.

It's writing my Compassion kids.

It's getting more sleep.

It's eating the right things.

It's relearning how to feel and truly breathe and actually process life.


I'll admit: I can't wait until "slowing down" isn't quite this slow. This kind of slow can't last forever in order for life to go on as it needs to go on (I need to work more than five hours a day, for instance).

I can't wait until I'm able to run a 5k again because right now doing ten squats leaves me winded.

I can't wait until I can go help a friend clean or paint or bring someone a meal.

I can't wait until I can arrive at work before 11:00am.

I can't wait until I can grab all my younger siblings and go do something crazy and active and fun.

I can't wait until I'm well enough that "slow" can include things like a lazy canoe trip down the Rock River or hiking in the Kettle Moraine or meeting a friend for coffee on a Saturday morning.

But really, I can wait.

I'll wait as long as I need to (because Lord knows, I realize that I have to listen to my body or it's not. good. at. all.)

If there's one thing I've learned the past week, it's that I have to let go of my schedules and plans and let God work according to His.

And all I have to say is this: His are very, very, very different from mine.

That's okay. 

That's good. 

It grows and stretches and strengthens my faith and trust.

It helps me appreciate the little things even more.


Life is full of different seasons and phases and I know that craziness will very much be a part of my life for the foreseeable future. 

But my goal is that amidst the craziness that life brings, I'll remember to slow down and truly live each moment.

Because they go so fast.

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, to spend a year there, buy and sell, and make profit; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is life? It is a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.
James 4:13-15



(Photos taken on my iPhone5)

Monday, September 2, 2013

candles and fire

This morning I'm thankful that it's a long weekend.

God's timing is always so great, even through the really hard things. I can't express how happy I am that it's a three-day weekend so I have more recovery time.

I love the slow and quiet mornings (even if they are filled with a lot of physical pain).


...the burning candles

...the music playing over the speakers in the kitchen

...the Isagenix protein shake on the back deck in the cool fall-ish air

...the time with my golden retriever

...the great devotional

...the stack of fun magazines


Below is an excerpt from what I read in Streams in the Desert this morning.

"The world's finest china is fired in ovens at least three times, and some many more. Dresden china is always fired three times. Why is it forced to endure such intense heat? Shouldn't once or twice be enough? No, it is necessary to fire the china three times so the gold, crimson, and other colors are brighter, more beautiful, and permanently attached.

"We are fashioned after the same principle. The human trials of life are burned into us numerous times, and through God's grace, beautiful colors are formed in us and made to shine forever.
Cortland Myers
(emphasis added)

These words really resonate with me today. This morning has held a lot of pain, nausea, and heat waves again. Quite honestly, it's been horrible. But I know that, if I allow it, these times are making me a stronger person. They're making me brighter and better.

And seriously...who doesn't want to be a stronger, brighter, better, shinier person? (smile)

Happy Labor Day!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Honesty and Shower Drains and Slowing Down

It's Sunday. 

The beginning of a new week.

This time it's the beginning of a new month.

The beginning of a new season.

After the week I just had, I like the thought of looking ahead to new things.

Laying in a hospital bed hooked up to an IV is not how I planned on spending my week.

It was so shocking, so unexpected. 

(See this blog post about my last hospitalization. I could write the same thing all over again.)

For the first half of my hospital stay, I lived in denial, numbing myself to truly feeling what was happening.

By Thursday, when I was getting worse again, I was losing my mind.

Lies upon lies about myself, about life, about God were swirling around in my head nonstop

I was terrified to stop and feel what was happening because I knew it would involve a lot of tears.

Being honest with God went hand in hand with being honest with myself. And because of the lies and anger I was facing, that was also on the list of "I don't want to do this".

But Thursday late afternoon, I got in the shower so the nurses and doctors and chaplains and surgeons and PA's and gift shop people and lab people and just everyone would leave me alone.

And I gave in to the tears.

There was swearing and praying and punching the shower wall and crumbling onto the shower floor.

Did I mention the tears?

But most importantly, there was honesty.

Honesty about way more than was going on in the hospital and in my body.

Honesty about things I didn't even know I needed to be honest about.

So much more than leg hairs and soap suds got washed down that shower drain in hospital room 4623.

Life gets so crazy and busy and insane and the important things like honesty and being still and prayer get shoved off the platter.

And that is so. not. right.

It's not healthy on so many levels.

Sometimes I'm so stupid that it takes being knocked flat on my back in a hospital bed in order to wake me up out of the funk of over-busyness.

And I am not proud of that.

I firmly believing in giving everything I have, serving with all my heart, working hard and to the best of my ability, playing really hard, and being completely sold out for Christ.

But I'm learning that I can't do that unless I take care of myself and take time to be still. It is just not possible.


Here is to taking time to make a menu, go grocery shopping, cook, and eat healthy (not just takeout and protein bars).

Here is to going running and taking time for circuit training and weights.

Here is to getting eight hours of sleep.

Here is to having a few weeknights and weekends with nothing on the calendar.

Here is to taking time to be quiet and still.

Here is to sitting down and reading or writing.

Here is to actually digging into the Bible and praying my way through it.

Here is to candles and bubble baths and a bit of wine.

This is not going to be easy. I don't suddenly have less to do. Heck, every weekend in September already has something on the calendar (all-weekend things, mind you).

But here is to making it happen anyway. 

Here is what I have seen: It is a good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. 
(Ecclesiastes 5:18)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Rainy Day Quiet

Life has been absolutely non-stop the past few months. There has hardly been a moment to stop and really think or refocus or organize or plan or dream or write. 


But on this glorious grey and rainy day, I am choosing quiet.

My soul needs it.

My heart needs it.

My mind needs it.

My body needs it.

Rainy day music is playing from the songza app on my iphone, the windows are wide open so the sound of falling rain can fill my ears and heart, a cozy blanket is keeping me warm, coffee is brewing, a candle is twinkling, and I am actually writing for the first time in months (while crunching down a bowl of Special K).

Aside from lack of sleep, this weekend has been almost perfect. 

State Fair on Friday night with a beautiful friend...

I finally ate gelato for the first time...and all I have to 
say is that it most certainly won't be the last.

We rode the sky glider...so relaxingly fun. And we ate chocolate 
dipped cheesecake on a stick...so delightfully delicious.


Friends <3

Fun on the rides

Saturday morning we got up and headed to inner city Milwaukee to do ministry outreach with a new church plant. For a small town girl who has never done anything like that, it was a hugely eye opening experience. My heart grew a few sizes and I can't wait to go back.






Saturday night we headed back into Milwaukee for live music at a coffee shop with more friends. We talked and laughed and danced and sipped coffee and split a huge peanut butter chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich.




And now here I sit in a beautiful, quiet, empty house. House/fish sitting for friends is actually just a wonderful and needed vacation. My sister is staying with me and she'll be back soon with a movie and has promised to make quesadillas. I'll take a soak in the jacuzzi later in the day. My Beth Moore Bible study that has sat untouched for way too long will be dug into. An early bedtime has already been set.

It's been a rough past few weeks and I am thankful for this much needed weekend of fun and ministry and quiet and rest. God is the Giver of all good gifts and this weekend is full of them. The rough weeks have been full of them too. He makes all thing work together for good and He is making that abundantly bright and clear lately.

This poem is included in today's Streams in the Desert reading. I find it so appropriate for this day.

Last night I heard a robin singing in the rain,
And the raindrop's patter made a sweet refrain,
Making all the sweeter the music of the strain.

So, I thought, when trouble comes, as trouble will,
Why should I stop singing? Just beyond the hill
It may be that sunshine floods the green world still.

He who faces the trouble with a heart of cheer
Makes the burden lighter. If there falls a tear,
Sweeter is the cadence in the song we hear.

I have learned your lesson, bird with spotted wing,
Listening to your music with it's tune of spring--
When the storm cloud darkens, it's the TIME to sing.

Eben Eugene Rexford