Sunday, July 31, 2011

Finding Peace

Ryan shared with me today that he has a high school friend that has a loved one in the hospital fighting for his life.  It sounds like they are not exactly sure what happened to him.  His heart stopped beating and he is now in coma.  When Ryan told me this I felt a sickness in the pit of my stomach, and an immediate need to commence prayers.

It was only a few weeks ago that I was on my knees praying daily for my niece who was fighting for her life.  Then my thoughts fled to only a few short months ago, and how I was on my knees praying for God to grant mercy on me and my life. 

One thing I have learned in walking through the trials of my health issues is to trust that God is right there with me.  I can remember feeling emotions of fear running through my body when I was notified that something was severely wrong with my back.  Only natural when you get a phone call at work from a doctor who tells you to get to the Emergency Room immediately, and that I would probably have back surgery later that day.  I don't remember much of the car ride as I was on the phone notifying close family members and crying out loud to God for the strength to carry me through whatever I was about to learn.  (Thanks to Darla for driving me.)  I repeatedly took deep breaths and followed the doctor's orders and listened intently on his comments.  Surgery didn't happen that day.  More tests and appointments followed with surgery scheduled two weeks later.  This afforded plenty of opportunities to carry my worry, stress and fret to God.

I kept telling myself that whatever was in my back was there, surgery was inevitable, so this whole situation was completely out of my control.  If something is out of my control and I choose to focus on the "what if's", that is time wasted and exhaustion would set in.  I had established that no amount of my worry or stressing over this health issue would change anything.  The only thing I had control over was how I reacted to my daily living not knowing what the future would hold for me.  I made the decision to turn all of my worries and concerns over to God.  I had to trust that He had a plan for me.  I no longer felt the need to know the end result, and focused on living one day at a time.  I call this my daily footwork.  What is it that I needed to be doing today? 

I felt moments of fear the night before my surgery.  I remember quieting my mind by asking God to fill my mind, heart and body with His perfect love and peace for the night.   I focused on that very moment.  Where I was at, what my body felt like, and all the blessings in my life.  My relationship with God blossomed that night. I felt His presence and I slept peacefully.

I woke up calm and with an attitude of positive thinking.  I recall my mind wanting to think about my children and what would happen to them if something happened to me.  Also, concern for the fear they must be having about this day and the future.  Each time my mind would try and go there I felt a calmness, and a little voice that said, I am here with you.  Give me your worries.  Trust me! 

I tried worrying about the snow that was sputtering as we drove to Des Moines at 4AM, but that too was squashed in my mind with a voice saying, Yes, I know.  I have this worry of yours too. 

All of these things, and many more were completely out of my control.  I could have chose to worry, be angry and think negatively about everything that was happening.  However, I've found that by remaining positive, even when I don't feel like it, provides a more peaceful, happy me. 

Many of us find ourselves facing health issues, or other challenges in life that are completely out of our control. Is there something in your life that you are holding on to?  Are you allowing it to steal your serenity?  Here is a simple, but powerful prayer that I say daily:

God, I pray for your will in my life and the knowledge, courage and strength to carry that out.  Amen.

God Bless,

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Looking Straight Ahead

Something tugged on my heart to finally go through my emails from the early period of my back surgery recovery in January.  I hadn't even thought about it until last night. 

I owe an apology to those of you that had emailed me, and received no response.  The first three weeks of my recovery are quite the blur.  I have very limited memories from the two weeks in the hospital, and the first week of being home, and even after that for several weeks especially while my pain medications were jostled I have hazy memories.  It appears that I had started to communicate a bit on Facebook, but thank goodness my comments were short and sweet as from what I'm seeing they didn't make much sense most of the time.  As I sit here and write this, I question whether Ryan had made the status updates that made sense on my page on my behalf. LOL!  Well, the pain narcotics served their purpose (most of the time), and for that I'm incredibly grateful.  To those that had communicated with me with no response, I'm sorry. 

As I read through my emails last night the tears began to flow.  This journey is a daily reminder for me.  I still have moments of abnormalities.  Bending down, standing up from sitting, or sitting in uncomfortable chairs may cause random jolts of pain.  Hmm, however, as I write this I am thinking I don't remember the last time that I complained about potholes in the road.  Woo Hoo!  My can do list is by far greater than any can't do list!  Thank you Jesus!  One day at a time, and look where I'm at now. 

I will never forget the strong love and support that was provided by all of you.  Through my faith and trust in God, as well as, all of you "clogging the frequency" (taken from a friends post) to God with your prayer requests; I was granted peace, serenity, and a positive outcome of my surgery. 

I also read my devotional again for the morning of my surgery on the 7th of January.  I am continuously amazed at how God's timing is perfect in every way.  I remember reading this and thinking I can do this.  Take a look...

What are you looking at today? Not in the natural, but with your spiritual eyes. In other words, what is in the forefront of your mind and in your heart? Are you constantly dwelling on your problems or things that have happened in your past? In the natural, you will move in the direction that your eyes are looking. In the spiritual, it works the same way. Whatever you focus your mind and heart on, you will move toward. That’s why today’s verse tells us to look straight ahead. If you are constantly dwelling on your problems or things in your past, wondering “what if,” then you will stay right where you are.

I talked very little, prayed a lot, and listened to God on my way to the hospital.  I was "looking straight ahead" believing all good things for me and my recovery.  I didn't play any "what if" games with God.  Nope, not even focused on the problem in my back.  I shared with Him that I trusted that His will would be done in my life.  I felt at peace knowing that there is a reason for everything.  I also knew that I had no control over what was about to happen in my life for the next several days, so I wasn't about to expend my energy in that arena either.

Today, I am still focusing my mind and heart on all the positive things in my life. Yes, I do continue with pains from my back surgery, but I choose not to focus on them.  I allow my body to feel the pain, and then I move on.  I acknowledge the pain, but I never dwell on it.  That is how I live my life too.  I have a relationship in my life that is causing me pain, so I do what I can to be the best person I can be and then I let the results be in God's hands.  I never dwell on it.  I found an item in my inbox from this person last night, and it was a treasure to find.  I don't know if this is why I was lead to read through my emails, but this action sure has given me a gift. 

My hope is that by my writing this blog, you will "look straight ahead" and find the gifts in your life.  I challenge you to focus on what is in your mind and heart.  Ask God to direct your heart on the path of life that He has in store for you.

God Bless,

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Daily Gratitude

Today, there is a celebration in honor of my niece, Isabel, who has recently recovered from an incident of choking on a grape, a 34 day hospital stay, fighting for her life and coming out the other side with no long-term effects.  The doctors and nurses call her a miracle child.  Her story is amazing, and I am incredibily grateful for God's mercy and grace. 

This past year has forced me to stop and ponder the need to slow down and enjoy family and friends.  I can easily find myself very busy, and I tend to push aside the important things in my life.  I do this unconsciously as I go through the motions of life. 

I was afforded several blessings through Isabel's incident.  One of them was spending one on one time with my dad.  My dad had travelled back to Iowa from Texas and asked that I go with him to visit family in our hometown, Waterloo.  I initially said no, I have to work.  However, I believe that God places things heavy on my heart to get me to go where His will is for my life.  Needless to say, I woke up the next morning and told my dad that I would like to join him on his travels for the day, if the invite were still there.  Just my dad and I, and off we go. 

It had been years since I spent any time alone with my dad.  This trip allowed us time to enjoy each other's company and to catch up on life.  I miss my dad greatly, and to have this special time was very meaningful to me. I almost missed this opportunity because I almost thought work was more important.

We arrived in Waterloo at my Aunt Janice's home where we stopped for a bit while my dad and her caught up.  It was getting close to lunch, and Janice had made surprise plans with my great aunt Grace to have her birthday lunch.  The surprise being my dad and I attending this lunch.  We jumped into Janice's vehicle and off we were to pick up Grace.  We arrived at Grace's assisted living apartment.  Grace is legally blind, but can see outlines of people.  Janice walked in and said she had visitors. I spoke to her and gave her a clue as to who I was, and my dad spoke.  Yep, she was surprised and elated!  I hadn't seen Grace since my grandmother passed away three years ago.

We told her that we had arrived to celebrate her birthday with her.  She loves Culver's which is not that far from her home, so off we went.  I sat in the booth basking in the sun as I listened ever so carefully to the words Grace spoke.  She reminded me so much of my grandmother.  Since the day my grandma passed away I have been grieving the loss.  The opportunity to spend the afternoon with her sister was exactly what my heart needed to heal.  The joy of spending time with Grace, Janice and my dad was so much that I started to cry right there in Culver's.  These tears were of joy and sadness.  Joy that I didn't go to work and miss this opportunity.  Joy that Grace were still alive for me to sit in her presence and allow God to heal my heart that was grieving immensely as the anniversary of my grandmother's passing was ever so near.  Sad that my family is scattered and these types of gatherings don't happen more frequently.  I didn't focus too long on the sad as I knew that I was right where I was suppose to be, and that God wouldn't want me to waste any effort on the "what if's" in life, but rather enjoy the moment I was in.  I was truly in awe of how God had worked in my life for this moment to happen.

We later visited the location where a bench was placed in memory of my grandma and grandpa.  I didn't know this existed, and it was a beautiful day to sit and enjoy memories of grandma and grandpa.  My grandpa loved to fish, and there was a red bobber laying next to a lilly pad right in front of the bench where I was sitting. This day is a memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life!  A true blessing!  And to think, I almost went to work!

In my quest to slow down, I try to focus on all of the blessings around me.  These blessings may come in the form of a person, hummingbird, sunset, rainbow, rain, kind word, hug, card or flowers.  My list can go on, but it is the act of focusing on where I am at for that moment, and making a gratitude list. 

I challenge you to make a gratitude list.  If you are struggling with finding something to be grateful for do as I did years ago and start with the alphabet.  A was for Austin, B was for Breanna, C was for Clarissa, D was for Ding Dongs (No, not people. The hostess treat kind), E was for Elephant ears (the kind found at the Iowa State Fair), etc.  As you can see I've always been incredibly grateful for my children and food.  My list has evolved immensely over the years as my relationship with God has grown.  I encourage you to make a list that you can reflect upon in later years.  Go ahead, just open your heart and mind, and start writing.

I'm off to prepare for Isabel's celebration.  I wish you a beautiful day full of God's wonder and amazement!

God Bless,

Physical Therapy Graduation, Wahoo!

There I was planking on an exercise ball in the middle of physical therapy when I heard the question and then statement, “Do you think you are ready to graduate physical therapy?  Yeah, you’re graduating physical therapy!”  Yes!  Wait, What?  Graduating?  I have to keep speaking these words because I still can’t believe it.  This was my next major hurdle in my recovery and now I am on the other side of it.  WAHOO!  (Insert in your mind me dancing a little jig) 
I had been going to physical therapy once a week the past 5 weeks.  It may not seem like much, but it was a blessing to have Paul pounding in my head, “you’re not going to break anything, and you can do it”.  The massages on my back were also priceless.  I had been trying to push my recovery, and I over did it about a month ago when I lightly jogged two miles and walked two.  Since then I’ve had a bit of fear and frustration, so exercising has been cumbersome.  However, Paul continued to encourage me and I’m back.  I feel confident that I have what it takes to continue to move forward in my recovery.  I have been released to do weight training, and he showed me some aerobic moves that do not compromise my spinal column.  He suggested that I continue my core strength training.  The same training that I had been doing which was helpful in my ability to maintain my lifestyle prior to surgery. 

Now ready to graduate?  I recall my first session of physical therapy.  I literally was hunched over unable to stand upright. I shuffled myself into the building having to walk past the physical therapy office having feelings of frustration for having to walk an additional 20’ to the business office only to turn around and go back to the therapy room.  I started to sit down which was quite the chore when Paul arrived and introduced himself and said let’s go back to our meet and greet room.  I looked up and this room appeared to be a mile away.  Instantly, I’m thinking I can’t walk that far.  Meanwile, Paul had taken off for the room, Ryan had grabbed my hand and purse, and somehow I did manage the journey.  After we shared my story, measurements were taken.  I could NOT even touch my knees, and I was too afraid to bend from side to side so I only bent an inch or so. 
I’ve been climbing the road to recovery, and it feels great!  I’ve not had to take any pain medications for months, I’ve gone back to work full-time, I can get in and out of bed, I am able to touch the floor, and I’m even able to do all of my household chores (shh, don’t tell as I haven’t admitted to Ryan yet that I have been released to vacuum).  This is spectacular considering just a few months ago I questioned whether I would ever be capable of getting out of bed, showers and potty time were a nightmare, and my hair looked like a birds nest as the act of combing my hair was impossible!

There isn’t a ceremony to commemorate the graduation, but I will never forget this day!
I can see God’s grace, mercy and many blessings that have blossomed from this journey.  I have learned a lot along the way.  Trust, faith and communication with God were my everyday lifelines along with the wonderful support of my family and friends.

Thank you for your continued love and support!

God Bless,

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hurt people, hurt people.

Hurt causes people to become bitter, resentful, vengeful, angry.  This hurt may be formed by abuse, divorce, neglect, betrayal.  Hurt has no boundaries and can sneak in at anytime.  This hurt can begin in childhood and continue throughout your adult years if left untreated.  Hurt can cause behavior that is not healthy, and hurt those closest to us. We not only push people away who care, but we treat them very harsh, even to the point where we ruin relationships because of our behavior and attitude.  As long as we continue to hurt and not seek healthy actions to change the hurt we will have wounded relationships with family, friends, in our marriage, with neighbors, or co-workers.

I am responsible for my own well-being, and if I am hurting it is important to seek recovery and begin to make positive, healthy changes so that I do not continue to hurt others.

Dealing with hurt can be painful and scary.  The hurt didn't begin overnight, so it will not disappear in one day.  However, taking positive actions one step at a time instead of continuing the negative actions will eventually result in less hurt.  Dealing with hurt can be difficult, but you don't have to do it alone.  This quest requires seeking help.  God already knows that you are suffering, and is waiting for you to ask for help to overcome this hurt.  Be faithful, and trust that as you open your heart and mind to him, you will begin to see change.  Little by little you will stop spreading your pain as you begin to be filled with peace and serenity.  You begin to let these hurts no longer control your thoughts and attitude.

I have hurt others in the past intentionally, and not intentionally.  Today, I never hurt people intentionally.  Even though it is not intentional I am sure that I have hurt people.  I find that when I am focused on what others are doing or not doing this is when I am most vulnerable to hurt.  Today, I know that I can choose to focus on me and what I am doing.  I try to keep my thoughts and actions positive, and I have set healthy boundaries to help me not continue to get hurt.  Notice I said "healthy" boundaries?  Early in my recovery I recall setting a boundary, but I later discovered that this boundary was established only to be hurtful.  I have to constantly look at my actions and behaviors and truthfully seek my motivations.  Am I being kind, loving and respectful to everyone around me?  If that answer is yes, I find less hurt and I can peacefully lay my head down at night.

If you are dealing with hurt I want to encourage you to take healthy actions to begin your healing process.  If you take positive actions, you will have positive results.  It will not be easy especially for those of you that have been dealing with hurts from your childhood, or for long periods of time.  However, you don't have to do this alone and I guarantee you that it will be worth the journey.  You will begin to experience healed relationships, and you can go to bed at night thanking God for the peace and serenity in your head and in your life.

There is so much hurt in this world.  Are my actions going to be kind, loving and respectful today, or do I choose to continue to be hurtful?

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change (other people),
courage to change the things I can (me),
and the wisdom to know the difference (seeking God).

God Bless,

Friday, July 1, 2011

Laughter... It does a body good. Pass it on!

It's Summer and all three of our kids had friends over last week.  I am enjoying my evening watching the kids interact with each other.  The kids are outdoor children, so I grab a chair and a smile as I sit on the driveway and watch several of them play basketball, Clarissa pitching her softball, and there is sidewalk chalk being colored on the drive.  There is a lot of activity tonight.  I decide that we should all load up in the car and get some ice cream.  It took one mention and we had Ryan's car packed with Clarissa and her friends, Austin took Bre and their friends and off we went.  The laughter continued at Dairy Queen as we sat on the bench, and watched Austin in full action with his comedy tonight.  He is such a hoot!  There are loud laughs, silly laughs, snorts... well, let's say there was a lot of noise.  We finish our ice cream and head for home.  We have a vehicle full of 9 year olds, so the whole way home the loud noises continue from the back seats.  We pull into the driveway and I ask Ryan to stop.  He looks at me, and I say ok, girls you can get out.  They jump out and off they are running around again.  I turn to Ryan and say, Do you hear that?  He says, No.  I say, exactly it's called silence.  We both chuckle.  I say, I know there will come a day when I long for the sound of our children and their friends, but for now just give me a moment.  We both smile.  I jump out as I see Austin and Breanna arrive home with their friends.  Ryan begins playing basketball with the kids, and I am on the sidelines watching and feeling my heart swell with another cherished moment.

It's Wednesday night, and I hear the sound of children talking, laughing and giggling.  For a split second I think about shutting it down as it is late, and I am in bed.  However, after my recent exposure to incidents involving children I decide that I will lay back and enjoy the sounds.  I am incredibly grateful that I can hear my children, and soon the muffled noises become soothing.  One child arrives in another child's room.  They are creating new hairstyles, drawing beautiful pictures, organizing their space and laying back on the bed talking of their hopes and dreams for tomorrow.  Soon, I fall asleep when I get a gentle tap on my shoulder and a little voice that whispers, will you please tuck me in.  I peek one eye, smile and say, of course I will.  I get up to tuck Clarissa into bed.  On my way back to my room I see that Austin has already fizzled out, and Bre's lights are now out too.  I am aware that my heart is full of joy!

I've always considered myself fortunate to be a mother of three beautiful and healthy children. I know I'm not a perfect parent, and I know I've made mistakes, but I do the best that I can at the time.  My eyes have truly been opened to see the precious gifts around me each and every day.  My children are a gift to me from God.  As my children grow older I sometimes question my qualifications at being their Mother, but I find that if I turn toward God and ask for His guidance He is always there.

I know the reality that any of us could be called to Heaven at any given moment, but I think prior to this past year I've always felt the odds of this happening before the age of 90 were slim. (Insert wink.) As I walked through my journey and watched others walk through their journeys this past year, I acknowledge that none of us know when our time here on earth will expire and the blessing of Heaven will begin.  With this in mind, I want to be sure to make wonderful family memories, tell those close to me that I love them, share plenty of hugs and smiles and laugh along the way.

Much gratitude,