30 Years

Did you think I could let this milestone pass without writing a thing?! Yeah, no, me either. 🙂

We were babies. What did we have? $300 between us plus the money from the wedding cards. We had a truck. We had a waterbed and a bedroom suit for a guest room. We had presents from the bridal shower and wedding. You had a job. I had no clue. One thing we had was love.

Love. What is that Fred Rogers quote? “Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, here and now.”

Our love has covered a multitude of ills. Our love was not always patient or kind. It grew to be patient and kind, though sometimes we still have our moments. Our love was sometimes easily irritated and kept a record of wrongs. Our love has grown here, too. We’ve learned to trust so that we didn’t grow jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. Sometimes we have each wanted our own way, but we learned how to dance the dance so that one didn’t give too much and the other take too much. Our love didn’t rejoice at injustice, and we rejoice when truth wins out. For sure, our love has never given up, never lost faith, is always hopeful (thought sometimes it’s with a shaky breath we hope), and our love has endured through every circumstance. When it comes to faith, hope, and love, love is the greatest gift, and that’s what we’ve done for 30 years. We’ve given each other the gift of love.

We really were just babies, young and in love. It would have been scary for our kids to get married at the ages we were when we got married. We would have supported them and helped them along, just as our parents did.

We’ve changed so much about who we are, yet we haven’t changed a bit. I’ve learned it is time and life experience which brings out in us the things which were hidden, as treasure is hidden waiting to be discovered. Thank you for being being flexible, for standing firm. For changing yet staying true to yourself and to your principles. Thank you for stretching and growing as our family stretched and grew. Sometimes even the walls in our home stretched as we invited people in to be with us! I’m thankful we discovered our hidden qualities together.

Thank you for supporting me through the caregiving years when life was hard, when I lost myself, and worked to find myself again. Thank you for being a rock for me, for the family. Thank you for working hard, for chasing a dream neither of us were sure would work.

I don’t know what the next few years hold. We aren’t promised tomorrow, so for today, I rest knowing you love me, I love you, and we both love our family. That’s all we really need, and after 30 years, we still have that one thing — Love.

Happy anniversary, Hubster!

Moira’s New Life

See the new thing!

For many of my friends 2020 is the year they don’t want to relive. I agree. There was much loss. However, 2021 is my albatross.

I’ve been trying to refocus my focus in the last few weeks, and ultimately decided to take a break from all social media which allows for instant interaction with others. It’s being really hard. Facebook had started to fill all my moments when I had nothing else to do. I’m comfortable with nothing to do, to sit and stare into space, but I realize now how often I reached for my phone to entertain me or occupy the space when sitting with others who aren’t as comfortable with stillness and silence.

I have felt as though this year has been about loss and failure even more than last year. I gained 20 pounds sitting with my dad over the winter. Then he died, and I’m trying to understand how to go on in life as an orphan. I love flowers so I decided to get some seeds and start flowers and work towards a flower farm. I lost over half my plants. We’re remodeling the farmhouse; the timeline isn’t going to plan. It feels like such a mountain to climb. I am constantly wanting to nap so I find things to do to keep myself going. Out kids are facing life changing moments, and it’s easy to want to fix things. But we can’t; it’s their journey and their life.

This morning as I was making my rounds looking at all the plants, I came across Moira. Moira is the plant in the picture, and she was carefully picked by Maddy from a large selection of plants that needed to be taken home and loved. She was named after Moira from Schitt’s Creek. Moira was carefully repotted, ooh-ed and ah-ed over, watered, and admired daily. Moira chose to thrive. She had all the right conditions.

Moira has thrown lovely and dainty deep pink flowers and is thriving so well! As I gave her my own admiration today, I noticed the tiniest of new shoots forming off the main stem, and I was excited to see this new growth, and I thought how exciting that new growth can spring from an established stem!

We are all trying to find out way in life right now. Though certain things seem to be on hold, it doesn’t mean life stops. We keep doing the things which bring us growth. At the very basic level, we eat and drink and keep our physical life sustained. We listen to music and our friends and family discuss their lives, and if we have any bit of anything going on in our brain, we take the bits they share and apply them to our lives. These little habits of listening, plus adding reading and other methods of self care, help us to grow and find life outside of our circumstances.

Today I feel a little more hope than I have in awhile. Our family is growing and stretching in ways that will help us to grow and thrive together. The flower farming venture has a five year plan, and if it works, it works. At least an effort was made. The house will get finished. I’m figuring how to live without parents. I’ll be okay.

I am choosing to remember these little shoots on the plant Moira as a way to remind myself that not all growth is huge and amazing. Sometimes growth is simply little shoots and dainty flowers.

On the Routine of A Week and Life in General

Monday night and Tuesday daytime are my regular schedule of my “sitting with” dad. My involvement the other days of the week are determined by other factors. Generally speaking, another 2 nights and/or days are a necessity.

Today is a slightly better day than some have been, and I wanted to document that in light of my recent highly emotional post. Though I still carry strong negative feelings about caregiving (I will not be seeking a CNA position anytime in the near future), dad is appreciative and not highly demanding. Things could be much worse on that front.

Nighttime’s are difficult because he deals with sundowners. It’s that thing where a person becomes confused and restless more after dark than during the day. We have started to medicate him so that he sleeps at night so that we also may sleep. Sometimes it seems to work, sometimes it doesn’t seem to work. I deal with guilt about medicating him for sleep.

The thing about not sleeping well at night is that it takes a day to catch up. Even though dad isn’t demanding during his waking hours, there is a mental stress which naturally occurs. Caregiving is emotionally and mentally draining. When those two areas are lacking, it creates a spiritual drain as well…another topic I’ll write about in the future.

One main difference between my situation and that of my siblings is that I have adult children living at home. Not only do I have adult children living at home, our children live further away from home than my nieces and nephews live from their childhood homes. It gets a little more challenging to juggle what needs to be done to continue to have healthy relationships with our kids right now, yet my sisters experience that same challenge though in a different way. I am not complaining, simply stating facts.

The strain of the routine on caregivers is not generally mentioned. Someone caring for their parent or other loved one isn’t going to share the deeper emotions with which they grapple. The daily wear and tear on the heart, soul, and mind of the caregiver is only brought up with the safest of people…the ones who won’t try to problem solve or fix…or the ones who won’t go and chatter about our struggles with others outside our circle. We aren’t usually looking for answers even though we want a reprieve. We aren’t asking our safe persons to take over even though we wish they could so we could walk away for a week. We likely won’t walk away for a week because we know it won’t be any different than when we left. No, it’ll be different, because it’ll be worse. I do speak from experience.

Mid summer, before Dad needed so much care, I made plans to go and visit two of our kids. I confess I bought my plane tickets without a thought to what Dad needed because he was still fairly independent. By November when I took my last trip, I wished I hadn’t scheduled time away, even though it was to celebrate a birthday with our daughter, something which hadn’t been done in 7 years. The slightest things send us on a guilt trip…oh wait, guilt trips! Make that plural! I used to say my mom was the ticket agent for guilt trips, but I think I do pretty well on that front for myself.

This process of caregiving affects each of us sisters differently. I can only speak for myself and share my observations. My sisters, though we share a similar load and experience, have different viewpoints and perspectives. None of us are wrong. Each of us deserve to have our experience validated and acknowledged. Each of us have had to learn to give up our unwritten and unspoken perceived rights to most anything which once would have been considered necessary to our daily life.

Caregiving is temporary, though it may be a long-term temporary.

Daily Grace

Recently I was reading a book (can’t remember which one!) and came across the phrase ‘daily grace’. Even though grace is not a new concept for me, for whatever reason the added word ‘daily’ made this phrase literally jump out at me. Maybe it was because I was struggling with anxiety the last few weeks or because I was feeling at my wit’s end. I have struggled with overthinking, though it is an issue which is going away as I learn how to take control of my thoughts and feelings.

Grace has been defined as unmerited favor or favor which is not deserved. I sometimes speak to others about giving grace to themselves (and myself), and I especially like to encourage caregivers and those beginning the grief journey after the loss of a loved one to give themselves grace. It’s far easier to give grace to others than to be gracious to ourselves.

What does giving grace to ourselves look like? For me, giving grace to myself means I stop the negative self-talk. It means I quit talking down about or to myself. Hubster and I never allowed our kids to speak unkindly to each other or about themselves so why would I permit myself to speak negatively about myself? As a parent and role model for others, I set the example. Giving grace to myself means I take a break when I am tired or exhausted. It means I pray for myself and the things on my heart and mind. Maybe it means I sit on the porch one evening instead of tending to the weeds or checking email. It means I pet the dog or hug a kid.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, I read in Scripture that the mercies of the Lord are new every morning. I like to think grace and mercy walk hand-in-hand. One concept really cannot survive without the other. Just as mercies are new every morning so also our grace and graciousness to ourselves and our fellow humans renews each day.

I have never been a parent who understood when parents in other homes have asked their children to leave for whatever reason. Hear me out, I get that sometimes there are things which cannot be resolved. I chose a very long time ago that this would be something I would never do to one of our children. Have I come close to changing my mind? Perhaps! I’ll not define that clearly since I don’t know if my kids will read this or not! 🙂 The reason I have chosen to avoid this step as a parent is because I don’t believe it is something God would do. God/Jesus are the epitome of grace. If I cannot extend grace to an erring child, how do I expect them to want to know Jesus?

Daily grace means I choose every day to pass along the kindness and goodness of God to my sinful soul to those around me who may appear undeserving of such love and kindness. How dare I keep this blessing to myself? Every day I receive grace, every day I give grace to myself, every day I pass the grace of God along to another.

Earlier this year I traveled to India, an event which changed my life. I still keep in contact with a few of the people there. When I ask them how they are doing, their answer is always, “By the grace of God we are well sister.” By the grace of God. It is an answer which never fails to make me stop and think a moment about how and why I am still alive on this earth.

Daily there is grace enough for me and to share with you.

How do you show grace to yourself so that you can pass it along to another?

To change….

This is my sister-in-law, Donna. Today we reminisced. Today we laughed and cried. Today we decided we needed to do some things differently than have been done not because they were wrong but to catalogue memories and change the future. Today we talked about the things we hope to do and have occur for our own families and for our dearly departed sister’s family. There are no pictures of the 2 of us and Deb. There are no pictures of Deb and I. A fact we mourn. Today we took a picture.

Here we are after our visit. It’s getting towards late afternoon. Our hair is messy. Our bodies are weary from emotions spent. Here we are as we are in all of our raw and real. Grieving yet full of the hope of the knowledge that one day we will see Deb again.

I am grateful for the relationship with both of my sisters-in-law. No regrets regarding our friendship. The only regret is the lack of pictures and not seeing each other more.

It’s been many months since we’ve all been together, and yet the only place I want to be is with all of the family.

This in between place…

As I sit here on yet another Sunday morning of quarantine/social distancing/soft lockdown, whatever you want to call it, I find myself in a place of confliction. (Okay. My spell check doesn’t like that word!) A place between rest, a heart full of overflowing affection for the hurting people around me, a heart filled with thanks and praise to a God who sees me in all my wretchedness and still chooses to dwell IN me and WITH me, and yet to the conflict of fighting off anxiety about when and where and how is all this virus upheaval going to pan out.

I’ve been reading “The Way of Abundance” by Ann Voskamp who writes in beautiful imagery to which my soul-being relates. This morning I read of a God who gives us new mercies each morning not because we deserve it but because it’s an affirmation of his plan, his working, the purpose he desires to fulfill in MY life. He looks at me, at you, and he looks at us with eyes full of love, not because of anything we have done-it’s his grace, which we than are able to look at others and share that same eye-love and so share the communion of Christ to a hurting world.

We love, not because of what we have done, but because he laid his life down so we could be redeemed. Our wretchedness becomes holy because he covers it with his love and mercy, his death and resurrection.

I have been struggling to be a heart at rest. I want to DO when all I need is to BE because HE will enable me to DO when the opportunity arises. I need to BE content to wait, to be faithful in this in between time.

Today I choose again to be content with what I have in my hand…with what I’ve been entrusted…an empathetic heart, love for those around me, a farm, a garden, my family…and I will make a conscious effort to be more still before God during this time of social distancing. I want to come out of this a better person, a more at rest person than when I came into it. I want to go deeper in understanding Christ. I don’t know what that will mean exactly, but I know my redeemer lives and will keep me and my heart and life secure til he calls me home.

How the light gets out…

Today I’ve been reading about brokenness and the abundant light it brings into our darkened world. Not many of us care to be broken by things. If you’ve ever experienced a broken bone, it is often characterized by a flash of nausea and lightheaded sensations followed by pain. Emotionally, when we are broken, we may suffer anxiety or depression. Spiritually, brokenness can feel as though we are alone without hope. It can feel like God is silent.

Often times we say we feel abandoned by God. For a long time I felt that was a terrible thing to say. God would never abandon us! He is always with us. We are taught all the wonderful things like God’s omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience in Sunday School. We are not taught how to handle life when we feel alone or abandoned or broken. When life hurts, then what?

In the hours leading up to the crucifixen, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He wept, not only normal tears, but drops of blood in his great distress and agony.

Before his death, he taught a great crowd of people some basic life principles. These can be found in Matthew 6. Among these principles, one stands out…Blessed are those mourn, are sad, who cry, who feel the loss for what they love—for they will be comforted and held by the One who loves them. Only if you have ever grieved and understand the loss of someone or something you hold dear, do you understand the peace and calm of being held.

When my mother died, a dear cousin flew in for the funeral. Just before our family was ushered in to the sanctuary to be seated, he came over to me and held me in his arms. All noise ceased, and I was simply held. It felt as though the arms of Christ himself held me. I have never forgotten that moment. On the airplane leaving India, I felt held as the tears ran down my face leaving the new friends and family behind. Now as COVID-19 ravages this world, I still feel held, in the middle of all the disappointments of life screeching to a halt.

Often when a friend or family member is hurting, I remember the verse that says, “he is near the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (The reference is Psalms somewhere.)

When we ask “where is God?” we are asking the wrong question. This is a question looking for a cause-effect, a blame to cast. Often the difficulties in life come so that the power of God can be seen through it, in spite of it. Not all brokenness needs blame…brokenness leaves cracks for the light inside us to get out. Brokenness is the window to the darkened world to show the love of Jesus.

In the middle of our brokenness it is difficult to see the redemption occurring. It is most often when we push through the pain and the hurt and begin to find healing that we will begin to see the light that shone in our darkness. It is not easy to feel broken, to feel the grief. It is in our brokenness that our light shines out to the world.

Love brings brokenness. Love brings light and LIFE(!) to ourselves and to others. Keep loving. The world knows we are Christians by our love…our love shines through our brokenness!

Love decides everything…

Often I’ve said I wish I didn’t care so much about people and situations. Often I’ve wished I didn’t feel deeply. Empathy, some call it. Often I’ve wished I could look at a situation and say, “Screw it!” To be honest, I truly don’t wish to be callused towards people and their situations.

Over the last year I have struggled and prayed about what I am to be doing with my life. I loved working with the people of our community, and that felt ripped from my life. It felt like because I cared too deeply, it cost me my job. Nothing seems to be working out except to stay home! And when I pray about direction, invariably I end up reading about love and it’s power to change people and lives.

Today I read from Ann Voskamp’s book, The Way of Abundance. The first chapter came at me. This is what she writes:

Love decides everything…go fall in love with grace and mercy and the only One who has ever loved you to death—and back to the realest, abundant life. The world is begging us all to get out of bed…to hold the hand of someone who doesn’t like us, to lean in and listen to someone angry and grieving and doubting the likes of us, to give a bit of ourselves to those who feel like they aren’t given much real space at the table. Read the headlines, read your news feed, and then defy the dark and go fall in love with kids raised in different neighborhoods than yours. Fall in love with God in the faces that tell different stories than yours; fall in love with people who think and live and walk in circles far different than yours. Sacrifice for someone…

Each day we have choices about who or what we will spend our time doing. It’s been a hard adjustment coming home to a culture where there is abundance and entitlement and hoarding and so little gratitude . It doesn’t help that my arrival home was tied closely to the onslaught of coronavirus. I had just witnessed and lived among precious people who exuded genuine joy and gratitude in the middle of their poverty. I witnessed sharing and caring and looking out for each other. I witnessed what the abundant life is truly about: love.

The giving of unconditional love brings a harvest of love back into ones life. When we share our love we are given more in return, and we experience abounding joy. The more love we give away, the more we receive. Yes, I’ve said that three different ways because it’s the point. Love decides everything.

Loving hurts. Loving is painful. Loving brings fulfillment. Loving is joy and peace. Loving is freeing to yourself and others. It is the most excellent way. Enjoy this song…

When life causes an adjustment…

I opened the email for the weekly writing prompt and saw the word is “adjust”. I gave a dry chuckle under my breath. Adjust, eh? I thought. Is this not what we all are doing right now?

I arrived home from India on March 11…or was it 12? It is all running together. We knew from the bits of news we’d hear that coronavirus was spreading and it was time to get home. Get home we did and just in time. I had no idea how much of an adjustment this would be.

We arrived home to toilet paper and other weird things flying off grocery store shelves. I was battling fatigue and the emotions of leaving people behind whom I had come to love knowing that when the coronavirus hit there, life would get really hard for a lot of people. They would have a lot of adjustment.

The news reports quickly turned to advisements of staying home, quarantine. I checked the CDC, India wasn’t even on the list of countries under watch. I had to dig deep to find the instructions that anyone arriving from India to the USA should self-quarantine for 14 days. So, even though I’d already been checked by an alternative medicine therapy and knew I was clear of the virus, I “self-quarantined”. I continued to struggle with my health a bit though never symptoms of the coronavirus. Self-quarantine? That’s an adjustment.

Life continued to be filled with adjustments…canceling travel plans to visit our granddaughter, the canceling of events we had plans to attend, making contingency plans for serving clients at the food pantry, trying to determine what was wrong with my sewing machine as I was trying to sew masks for healthcare workers, talking to ones we love in all their far away places knowing some were dealing better than others, getting word that kids won’t be able to come home for who knows how long…a week filled with adjustments, mostly bittersweet.

Though I sometimes, honestly, am weary of those who constantly spiritualize everything, the fact is that we are created spiritual beings, and as such, every experience is a spiritual experience of some sort. Though there was an ebb and flow of emotions and events, one thing has remained steadfast: trust.

My trust in God has remained. As I have prayed so many times over the past 2.5 weeks since arriving home, one thing I have tried to do is always be thankful. I have found these verses to be my stability in all the adjusting: Philippians 4:6,7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God. And the PEACE of God, which transcends ALL understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Emphasis mine.)

Many people talk about having an attitude of gratitude; one doesn’t need to be a believer of God to be thankful for the goodnesses of life. We can also be thankful for the hard times of life. I’m thankful, in the middle of this virus, for people who are being healed, for a renewed sense of the blessings of get togethers, for the ability to share my talents with others (even though my sewing machine isn’t cooperating), and that technology allows us to converse with our family and friends. I am thankful that the God who sees us here in America also sees the souls in India who need hope, too. We have so many things for which to be thankful. Start a list! This is the secret I’ve found to surviving hard times!

Adjustments are not always easy, and one thing I have learned, my attitude of gratitude can help turn a terrible thing into a better thing. I’d love to hear some of the things for which you are grateful!