Saturday, September 20, 2014

On Slowing the Insanity and Taking Naps

I just woke up from a nap.

A nap.

On a Saturday afternoon.

I slept.

For more than an hour.

And it was beautiful.

Who am I?

On Thursday morning I had an appointment with my specialist down in Madison. We were discussing how I was doing and, as I listened the words coming out of my mouth, I realized just what an idiot I can be. I was sitting there telling him how in general I'm doing amazingly well but that I had crashed and burned on Sunday and felt like death warmed over.

The reason? Running absolutely nonstop for weeks. 

Something every evening.

Something big every weekend.

Late nights and early mornings.

Why do I do this to myself?

This past week I have started saying "no".

There is enough stress that I have no control over in my life. Why add the stress of saying "yes" to nearly everything?

(Possible Probable Definite Answers: I'm an admitted people pleaser, I love having fun, I love helping people, I have tons of family and friends, I have many interests.)


For the past seven days I have made the choice to fit quiet into my days and week.

coffee on a quiet Sunday morning

fall decorating

lunch in the park during work days

taking my elderly friend for a walk in the fall air

double batch of chocolate chip cookie dough balls in the freezer

feet kicked up after a long week...

...with wine and a new book
(which ironically is about learning to say no, so we can say yes to the best)

candles burning while I write


If you've been reading my blog for a while, you probably could have just skipped this post because it's not the first time I've written about this. I'm a slow learner. 

And also? Sometimes life is going to be crazy insanely horribly busy for a while. And that happens. But it can't be the norm. We weren't created to run nonstop. We weren't created to run on empty all the time.

And life is much more beautiful when you slow down enough to truly enjoy it.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

More Than Conquerors


It’s a muggy August Saturday evening after an exhausting fifty-hour workweek.  The air conditioning and ceiling fans are running, the internet is dead, Rend Collective is playing on my iTunes, and I’m sitting here pondering life and Jesus and spiritual bondage and fear and pride and love and grace and forgiveness and freedom and faith and the future and Facebook and insurance and my dog eating nineteen cupcakes and the piles of paper I need to take care of and how much I miss Colorado and how I should really get up early and go to the gym and how quickly my nephew is growing up and how many books I want to read and skills I want to learn and the fact that I should stand up right now and close my blinds.

Whoever said a woman’s mind is like a web browser with a hundred tabs open at once could hardly have stated it more perfectly.



But mostly I’m thinking about bondage, fear, pride, and failure and how Jesus can save from all of it. The past week I started (again) the Breaking Free study by Beth Moore. It is hitting me at the core of my being and applying so practically to my life. I love that she sends me digging into long passages of Scripture and that passages from the Chronicles and Isaiah can suddenly become so alive and relevant right here and now in 2014.


Throughout this week I’ve also been listening to Rend Collective on repeat. I don’t think it’s coincidental I’ve had a more uplifting week. There are so many truths and promises packed into their lyrics. The following song has impacted me an extra lot this week as I work through the Breaking Free study.



Through Christ, I am more than a conqueror over sin and life’s storms. So many days my hope and strength is gone. The weight of my own personal shortcomings and sin, the weight of bearing the burdens of those I love, the weights of the storms of life feel too heavy. Confusion, hopelessness, restlessness, defeat, and discontent so easily set in. Satan knows to hit us when we’re exhausted and lets be honest: life is exhausting. I love my life and all the people and activities that are a part of it. But it is draining and demanding and if I am not daily taking time to refill from the Well of life, I become weak and susceptible to living in daily bondage instead of the incredible daily freedom Christ offers.


“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.”
(Gal. 5:1)




“When we are suffering because of captivity (or for any other reason), we must learn to cry out! Yes, of course, God sees our sufferings and cares deeply for us, by acknowledging the slavery is a crucial starting place toward authentic freedom.”
 Beth Moore


When I shift my focus from myself to Christ, when I take my eyes off of the problems and lift them upward, and when I consciously choose to believe the truths in Scripture, then I can begin to discover the joy of living every moment in His incredible freedom.

Freedom from fear.

Freedom from pride.

Freedom from discontent.

Freedom from past pain.

Freedom from unbelief.

“Nothing needs the infiltration of God’s truth more than the heart. We will find freedom to the degree our hearts accept, rely, and respond to the truth of God’s Word.”
Beth Moore


I am excited and scared about what the remaining nine weeks of this study will do in my heart. Excited because there is nothing more exciting than living in the freedom of Christ. Scared because to live in that freedom I have to dig deep into my own heart, hurts, and past.

“Sometimes faith is the absence of fear. Other times faith may be choosing to believe God even when your heart is melting with fear. Perhaps, then, faith is tested by what we do with fear, not whether or not we have it.”
Beth Moore

Another thing I love about all of this, is that all those random things flying around in my head that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, are suddenly put into perspective and I can rest in Christ, do the next thing, live in the peace that passes all understanding, and smile & laugh because Christ has it all under control. In the nitty gritty of daily life, in the mundane moments, in the unexpected twists and turns, and in the big decisions, the deep heart issues, and major life changing events, I am more than a conqueror through Christ. What an incredible truth and privilege. 




More Than Conquerors
Rend Collective

When my hope and strength is gone
You're the one who calls me on
You are the life
You are the fight
That's in my soul

Oh, Your resurrection power
Burns like fire in my heart
When waters rise
I lift my eyes
Up to Your throne

We are more than conquerors, through Christ
You have overcome this world, this life
We will not bow to sin or to shame
We are defiant in Your name
You are the fire that cannot be tamed
You are the power in our veins
Our Lord, our God, our Conqueror

I will sing into the night
Christ is risen and on high
Greater is He
Living in me
Than in the world

No surrender, no retreat
We are free and we're redeemed
We will declare
Over despair
You are the hope

We are more than conquerors, through Christ
You have overcome this world, this life
We will not bow to sin or to shame
We are defiant in Your name
You are the fire that cannot be tamed
You are the power in our veins
Our Lord, our God, our Conqueror

Nothing is impossible
Every chain is breakable
With You, we are victorious
You are stronger than our hearts
You are greater than the dark
With You, we are victorious

We are more than conquerors, through Christ
You have overcome this world, this life
We will not bow to sin or to shame
We are defiant in Your name
You are the fire that cannot be tamed
You are the power in our veins
Our Lord, our God, our Conqueror

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)