For Those Who Have Asked “How Can I Help?”

The past two weeks have been a blur of emotions, appointments, medication management, and side effects. Everything has felt very new and very hard, and our normal has been incredibly interrupted.

Had it not been for other people holding us, I think we might have just fallen apart.

So many people have asked, “What can I do to help?” and have genuinely meant it – which is so humbling and appreciated. It has taken us a few days to begin to figure out what we need. We still don’t completely know, but we’re beginning to get a sense of that now that we are learning our temporary new normal.

A dear friend set up a website that will allow us to share how we need help. This site will be a way for us to update our people about prayer needs, praises, and practical needs. Feel free to check it out once in awhile or subscribe for updates. Some wonderful friends have taken the lead in coordinating our care: Meals, House/Yard management, and Fun. Feel free to look around the site and contact them if you want to sign on.

I don’t know about your dreams, but in my nightmares, nothing is good. The only reason the last two weeks haven’t been a full-blown nightmare is because of people loving us, caring for us, and checking on us. Our sweet people have brought glimmers of light into the darkest days and nights we have known.

Thank you for the emails, facebook comments & messages, cards, texts, gluten-free cupcake deliveries, videos of your kiddos cheering Adam on, yard-mowing, lunch deliveries, messages, Scriptures, puns, house cleaning, weird gifs, care packages, handmade love, Gatorade, chocolate, and sour patch kids. (Adam’s glucose test came back a little high today, I wonder why?)

Your love is a tangible reminder of God’s love for us. And as the days get harder, we will continue to appreciate you, our sweet people. We’ve started a Grace Journal to document all the ways we have been shown grace in these days. It is such an encouragement to us.

There are few things more intimidating than this diagnosis, but making sure that we are not having to walk this alone means the world to us. If you want to check out the site, go here. We love you. Thanks for continuing to hold us together.

When Bravery Looks Like Healing

I haven’t felt fully myself for several months now.  I’m still me, just a slightly off-key version of me.

This summer, I experienced some trauma.  The physical recovery was grueling, and is still ongoing, but it’s clear that the emotional recovery is the harder of the two recoveries.  Since July, I’ve struggled with periods of debilitating anxiety and moments of sheer panic.  What used to be routine outings have become special ops missions: I have to emotionally prepare to go to friends’ homes, I have to read my courage-meter when committing to any outdoor events, and I have to be on high alert when I go for hikes or walks.

There are days when I feel brave and grounded, and others when I feel absolutely weak-kneed and cowardly.  A certain noise, an instagram, or a scene in a movie can either leave me feeling confident I’m healing or completely panicked.  There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or rhythm as to what can trigger the panic or lack of panic.

Maybe that’s what makes healing so hard.  It’s unpredictable.  And unrelenting.  And sometimes seemingly endless.

I’ve struggled to give myself permission to heal.  I’m typically more of a “suck it up” kind of girl, especially when it comes to personal standards. Some days I feel totally silly and weak and I want to tell myself to “just get over it”.  But thus far, that hasn’t been possible for me.

Over the last few months, I’ve found myself feeling more defeated than determined.  I’m quicker to give up or not even try things at all.  And that’s not me.  At least that’s not the old me.  And I hope it’s not the future me.

Over the last few months I’ve also felt more attuned to my own pain and issues than the greater pain and issues in my community and the world.  I’m not indifferent, I’m just tired from fighting my own battles that I don’t have as much energy for others’ battles. And that’s not me.  At least it’s not the old me.  And I hope it’s not the future me.

Because I haven’t felt completely myself lately, I haven’t had a lot of my own words to share, so I’ve been taking in others’ words.  Reading has been a nice reprieve from my inner dialogue.

I just finished the Divergent trilogy and one of the last paragraphs in the final book left me sobbing; not necessarily for the plot line, but for the truth that was contained in the words for me for this season:

“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else.  Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known , or everyone you have ever loved for the sake of something greater.  But sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.”

Bravery looks different for me this year than it has in years past.  And I have hope that bravery will look different for me in future years than it does now.

For now, bravery looks like admitting weakness and fear.  For now, it looks like knowing when to face fears and when to take breaks from fear-facing.  For now, bravery looks like not worrying about what others’ will think about my courage or lack thereof.  For now, it looks like being ok with not being ok.

For now, bravery looks like healing .

To those who have experienced great trauma and repeated trauma, this post by no means compares my experience to yours.  I am so very sorry that you have experienced horror, fear, and injustice.  I hate that there are triggers that re-traumatize you.  My struggles to cope with my own experience cause me greater compassion for those who have experienced greater trauma. I cannot imagine the bravery it takes for you to face each day. I applaud you.

Zumba Rhythm

Have you ever gone to a zumba class?

They are pretty fun.  There’s zazzy music, a little sweat, and a whole lot of people watching.

I’ve gone to a few zumba classes in the last few years, and here’s what I’ve learned:

There are front-row-zumba-ladies (and the occasional dancy gentleman), and there are back-row-zumba-ladies (and ne’er the occasional man – if you’re a zumba-man you’re up front – that’s all there is to it).

The front-row-zumba-ladies and gentleman know all the moves.  They have clearly been to a few a million classes before and when they shake it, they shake it fast because, they have the routine down.  Or perhaps they are just naturally good at picking up new rhythms (cue envy).

The back-row-zumba-ladies, are a little awkward, a little off beat, and definitely not sure of the routine.  These are the ladies that don’t naturally pick up new rhythms and who look more confused than sweaty when they leave the class.

I’m sad to report that I’m a back-row-zumba-lady.  New rhythms aren’t easy for me.  I’m not one of these, I’ll just make up my own moves and have fun in the process, free and easy types.  Nope. I have to get a feel for the routine before I can launch in.  I have to know how to move within the rhythm before I can feel good about the routine.

I know that if I go to the same zumba class for several weeks in a row, I’ll hear the same songs and dance out the same routines, and that soon, I’ll edge closer to the middle of the room because I’ll feel more confident with the routine.  (For the record, I’ll never be a front row zumba-lady, because I don’t have moves like Jagger).

I handle new life routines like I do zumba routines.

For the last month, I feel like I’ve been in the back row, wide-eyed and trying to figure out how to move in a new life rhythm.  I’ve felt a little unsure and a little off beat.

In January, my job responsibilities ramped up to warp speed.  I chose to take on some new and exciting responsibilities at work, and it’s been awesome.  I have loved my job since I started there a little over two years ago and I continue to love my job.  In fact, though things are busy, I’m loving it more than ever.  And in the midst of loving it, it’s been an adjustment to a new schedule.

Also in January, Adam started a new job at a church.  It’s an unexpected gift and a total blessing.  We’re both oozing with joy about how the whole deal went down.  I’ll have to tell you more about it soon.  There has been an air of nearly electric excitement around our house. And in the midst of the joy, it’s been an adjustment to a new schedule.

The good news, is that we’re about a month and a half into all the newness, and I’m starting to get the hang if this new life routine.  I’m still a little awkward about it all, but I’m feeling less off and more on.  I think I just needed a little time.

How do you respond to new rhythms and routines in life?

 Are you good at rolling with a new beat or do you, like me, need time to observe, learn, and practice?

2014: A Year Of…

Happy New Year, friends!

Hope your new year is off to a brilliant start!  I’m still sitting in my pajamas drinking a delicious mug of coffee so I’d say 2014 is looking up!

Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions?  If not, my husband has made some for all of us so feel free to read what he’s resolved for the masses.  I’m all for resolutions.  I know that’s not a popular opinion, but I hold to it.  Resolutions can be a good thing.

Last year, I decided to take a new approach to the New Year Resolution and jump on the One Word 365 train.  If you haven’t heard of this, it’s a movement to choose one word that will define your year.  This word guides growth, reading, learning, and thinking.  2013’s word for me was generosity, and it was an awesome year of growth in gratitude and sharing.

Throughout last year, I thought a lot about generosity.  I prayed a lot about the selfish areas of my life.  I was intentional about giving.  I read about generosity.  It was a focused year.

I liked this concept of picking one word so much, that I’m doing it again.  I’m picking one word that will shape and grow me throughout the year.

2014 will be a year of REST.

As I type this, I am fighting every urge to delete that word and fill it with something more awesome, more adventurous, or more productive.  I am an achiever and a do-er.  I am not a rester.  I love being busy.  And the longer I stare at my cursor dancing over that little 4-letter word, the more panicky I become.

I often fight rest.

Instead of rest, I pick checking off one more thing on my to-do list.  Instead of rest, I pack in one more coffee date with someone.  Instead of rest, I multi-task while watching movies.

For a long time, I have felt guilty about ignoring the Sabbath and making it rather unholy with all of the ways that I make it just another day to accomplish.  I know that I need rest, I just fight it.  I know I need Sabbath.  I get stressed out too much.  I get sick too much.  I crash too often.

So enough is enough.  This year, I want to learn how to create rhythms of rest that are lasting.  This year, I want to become a student of the Sabbath.  This year, I want to become healthier spiritually, emotionally, and physically because I am resting regularly.

So as I push publish, know that I am taking a huge gulp, because this means I’m letting you in on this… Which means you get to hold me accountable… Which means this is really happening.

What about you?  

Are you going to pick one word for the year?  

Do you have any resolutions?

Generosity in 2013

I love this thing that my friend, Alece started.  In place of New Year’s Resolutions, we pick one word that will define, grow, challenge, and inspire us for the new year.  Last year was my first year to pick my word, and I loved it.  Unlike resolutions of years passed, this word really was a prescription for growth, behavior, and learning for me.

My word for last year was generosity.

Let me tell you, it has been an amazing year!  I know, I know, I should have been blogging about this all year, sharing my journey of growth in generosity, but it’s tricky to blog about generosity.  How do you blog about sharing and sacrificing without bragging or over-sharing or taking the joy away from being generous in secret?  This year, I felt the tension of not letting my left hand know what my right hand was doing, so I didn’t talk a whole lot about this journey on the blog or outside the blog.  And I’m ok with that, I hope you are, too.

This year, I learned how to give with joy when I knew that there would be no reciprocity.

This year, I learned how to give when prompted by the Holy Spirit without doing budget calculations.

This year, I learned how to open up my home when it was dirty and messy and feel no shame.

This year, I saw God’s provision, that to be honest, was miraculous at times.  Apparently others were learning generosity this year, too, because we were the recipients of a whole lot of generosity.

This year, I became less entitled and more grateful through constant reminders that “my resources” aren’t really mine in the first place.

This year, I learned how to welcome generosity from others and feel grateful, not guilty.

Through generosity, I grew in openness, vulnerability, and joy.  I don’t think I can go back, either.  This year has been a beautiful journey. I’m excited to announce 2014’s word…  but not yet.  I’ll leave you hanging for a bit.  What about you, how was your year?  Have plans for your next year’s One Word?

A Follow-Up Post

I wrote a blog post last week about being married without children.  I thought perhaps my good friends and a few curious facebook friends would click the link, but instead, the post got shared and shared and shared some more.

I got countless emails, personal messages, texts, and comments and a lot of them were “me too’s”.  So many people said, “I have felt the same way but didn’t know how to articulate it” or “I thought I was the only one” or “Thank you for putting words to my feelings.”

There is power in knowing that we aren’t alone, isn’t there?  There is relief in knowing there have been, and are. and will be others in similar life seasons.

This week, the online community became a beautiful place of connection, of truth-telling, of encouragement, and of support for me.  When I hit submit on this post, I was bracing myself for some theological debates about having children.  I was nervous that I was opening myself up to the critics about a subject that is so personal but so important.

But instead I was met with love, love, love.

Thank you online community for being grace and love and support this week..

Let’s keep doing that with one another, eh?  Let’s keep celebrating one another as we live out our callings in seasons!

Married With[OUT] Children

I’ve stayed away from this topic on the blog completely – Not out of avoidance – I just haven’t had much to say about it.  But lately, I’ve been reading and hearing a lot of opinions on this subject and thought “hey, I guess I do have some things to say about it.”

Today, let’s talk about being married without children.

When I was a senior in high school, the most frequently asked question to me was “Where are you going to college?”  When I was a senior in college, the most frequently asked question to me was “What are you doing after graduation?”  And since my first or second wedding anniversary, the most frequently asked question to me is, “When are you having kids?”

It’s in our nature to ask questions.  And we have societal norms, so we ask questions that are appropriate based on our perception of normal.  The traditional middle class American life order goes: college –> marriage –> kids… and so on.

I broke the order by getting married while in college, which was taboo enough, and I’ve been married 9.5 years and still don’t have children, so I’m just blowing stereotypes and norms all over the place.  I think my husband and I are bit of a mystery to some – and that’s ok.  After this many years, I’m used to getting asked rather personal questions like, “Can you not get pregnant?”  or “How’s your marriage?  Are you struggling?  Is that the delay in having children?”

Honestly, I don’t get mad about those questions, I know that the motivation behind the asking is making sure that I’m ok and that we’re ok.  I appreciate that people love me and love my husband and want us to be healthy and happy.  For the record, our marriage remains a beautiful partnership, and thanks for asking.  Also on the record, I feel so deeply sad for my friends who want to have children and cannot.  I can’t imagine being questioned when waiting, longing, and sadness are present – you are brave.

The reason that we don’t have children is that we simply haven’t felt called to have children.  It’s as simple as that.  My husband and I believe that parenting is an extremely high calling.  We celebrate and affirm that calling in our friends and family.  At this time, we feel confident that parenting is not our calling.  We believe that some callings are for a lifetime and others for seasons.  We have yet to determine whether this lack of calling is for our lifetime or for this season, but we will be faithful to our calling.

We don’t want to have children because it’s normal or expected, or to fit in with our other married friends, or to give our parents grandkids (sorry guys), or so we have someone to take care of us when we’re old.  We believe children are a gift not an expectation.  We believe that parenting is a calling, not an obligation.

We don’t not have children because we’re being selfish, as many seem to surmise.  We don’t have children because we haven’t felt called to raise them.  There have been a number of articles posted lately from couples who have chosen to not have children, and to be honest, some of the reasons for not having children sound rather selfish.  I would argue, though, that some reasons for having children are rather selfish, too.  We are humans and we are selfish.  Parental status doesn’t inherently negate or encourage selfishness.  Please don’t assume that all DINKS (Double Income No Kids) are inherently selfish.  Please don’t assume that all parents are inherently unselfish.

I have a lot of parent friends who assume my kid-free life is sort of easy and breezy.  I know they imagine me sleeping in wildly late on weekends, going to grown up concerts and movies at my leisure, eating gourmet candlelit dinners, going on extravagant international vacations, and getting to drink an entire cup of coffee while it’s still piping hot without interruption.

I giggle as I type this.

This doesn’t describe my life at all.

I have a lot of friends who assume that I don’t like children because I don’t have children and that I don’t respect the hardness of the job of parenting because I haven’t applied for that job.  They imagine that I don’t want to hang out with them + kids, or that I don’t want to hold their child, don’t know how to change a diaper correctly, or don’t want to hear about their battles over veggies.

I’m raising my eyebrows at this.

This doesn’t describe my life at all.

I have a lot of parent friends who assume that I am missing out on the deepest joy or that my life is sort of empty.  They imagine that I don’t know about selflessness, sacrifice, and mothering.  They can’t fathom me understanding the depths of the Father’s Love sans children.

I shake my head as I type this.

This doesn’t describe my life at all.

My life is rooted in contentment in this season.  I know what I am called to, and I find deep joy in living out my calling.  My life is brimming with relationships.  I am mentored and I mentor others.  I have sweet friendships.  My home is full more than it is empty and often the decibel level is over the top with laughter.  I know well how to cook for masses, sweep crumb-filled floors without complaining, soothe a crying soul, and give when I’m on empty.  I view this season of life without children as an opportunity that I am choosing to seize with intention.

I love this season of my life because I am living out my calling.  I celebrate with my friends who are in similar seasons and different seasons who are living out their callings with joy.  Together, let’s celebrate that we all have gifts and callings that we are sharing with others.  And let’s stop the assuming.  Let’s stop the fantasizing about the life we don’t have.  Let’s stop imagining our season to be the hardest or most noble or most fulfilling.  Let’s stop projecting our desires and dreams onto others.  Let’s instead celebrate our friends who are living out their callings in seasons.