Saturday, January 30, 2016

Connecting With Our Kids

One of the "benefits" of being sick and eternally exhausted is you get a lot of quiet time. And when the stars align just right, you can spend some of that quiet time connecting on a deeper level with your children.

Normally, our house full of five people and a dog rarely allows for private, intense conversations. However, over the past couple of days, I have invited my two oldest to come join me in rest and conversation in the cool quiet of our master bedroom.


In the environment of quiet tranquility, one on one, without the distractions of cell phones, tablets, television and the general chaos of life-I get a brief window into the souls of my oldest 2 children.

From Logan (my 13-year old) I learned that my struggle with chronic illness and recent health crises has contributed significantly to his anxiety. I learned that he feels the safest at his church youth group meetings and at work with his father. I did my best to ease his worries about my health while remaining honest about what lies ahead. We talked about what he wants to do with his life and how I can help him deal with his emotions here at home.

From Emma (my 10-year old) I learned that she is struggling-feeling stuck between growing up and wanting to be my little girl. I have always known she struggles with the "middle child syndrome" and I worked very hard to encourage her-reminding her of all of the wonderful, special things about her that I love so very much. We talked about her relationship with her little sister-a subject I have absolutely no experience in as I was an only child. I learned that, while she has her moments where she is ready to grow up and leave her sister behind, she loves her deeply and would never really be happy without her in her daily life. In fact, they are not even ready to split rooms yet (they have shared a room since Kenzie was about 18 months old).


What I have learned overall is that God creates good out of all things. And in this case, He gave me the opportunity to connect with my 2 oldest children in a way that I would not have otherwise had.

Put down your phone.

Turn off the TV.

Turn off the computer.

Take a few minutes to just talk to your children. And for those of you that have more than one child, the time you take to connect with each of them individually is so valuable to both you and them. It is something they cherish-even if they don't have the words to say that right now.

Blessings,
Meri

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Friendship

I know I have written about this topic before, but I have few more thoughts to share.

First, a little background....
I struggled to make and keep friends all through school, college, post-college, and even after. (I know-with my charming personality who WOULDN'T want to be my friend, I mean-seriously!?)

I remember in 5th grade each week one student had to select a famous "quote of the week".  Mine was almost always "A friend is a present you give yourself" (Robert Louis Stevenson).
Well, Mr. Stevenson, I call bullshit.

Believe me-I tried and tried and tried to "give myself" the gift of a friend for years, for decades. There was always something wrong with me, though-not pretty enough, not wealthy enough, not athletic enough, and my personal favorite-trying too hard. I just never seemed to fit in anywhere.

But in the past few years, God has blessed me beyond what I could ever hope with not the number of friends, but the quality of the relationships. He has placed people in my life who love me for me, just as I am.

I love the song by JJ Heller "Who Will Love Me For Me?"
I know that God loves me for me, but as an awkward, struggling, lonely teenager-I was looking for a more tangible love. I have spent almost my entire life trying to be someone or something I am not so that others would like/love me, but I have finally learned (clearly I am a bit slow) that I can only be what God created me to be and that is so much better than anything I could possibly mimic or copy.

So I want to say thank you to my friends. All of you that read this blog, that call or text to check on me, that pray for me and my family, who listen to me whine, who walk with me through the weary land and rejoice with me in the abundant times.

God's timing is always perfect. God is always good. God loves me for me.

Blessings,
Meri


Friday, January 22, 2016

Unbelieving Believer?

I think at some point I stopped believing. (I will pause here to let that statement sink in)

Through the financial struggles, health issues, and just plain daily life struggles, I stopped believing in a God that would never fail me. A God who will someday end all suffering and take us all home in sweeping glory. If that were to happen in the recent past...I feel like I would have been standing on the sidelines unsure of whether or not I belonged in the Kingdom.

This was not the overt sort of non-belief. I did not suddenly become agnostic, atheist, Buddhist or any other -ist. I continued to go to church (even singing heartily with honest tears streaming down my face), I read my Bible, I worked on my prayer team ministry, I prayed.  But I felt removed from the presence of my Savior. I felt far away.

My mother has a sampler that her mother stitched that hangs over her bed that says, "If you feel far from God, guess who moved?".

I had moved. Not Him.

Now, let me pause here to state, this is not about loss of salvation. That is a topic that is beyond my theological understanding and not something I have any authority to speak on.  What I am talking about is a period in my life where I grew cold. I still believed, with all of me-every single ounce (and there are a lot of them), but the fire had cooled to smoldering embers.

There is a song by Laura Daigle that describes exactly where I was-where I am slowly emerging from:
I am guilty
Ashamed of what I've done, what I've become
These hands are dirty
I dare not lift them up to the Holy one

You plead my cause, you right my wrongs
You break my chains, you overcome
You gave your life to give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be, how can it be?

I've been hiding
Afraid I've let you down, inside I doubt
That you still love me
But in your eyes there's only grace now
 
Like Adam and Eve in the Garden-I was hiding myself from God because I felt ashamed and guilty for my sins. I was afraid I had disappointed my Heavenly Father. I doubted His love for me. I couldn't grasp the idea that He knew all I had thought and done and still loved me unconditionally.
 
But there is a better end to my story than Adam and Eve's. Because of the gift our Heavenly Father gave of His son on the cross, I do not have to be ashamed. I do not have to hide. I can lift my hands and face to my Lord and gaze into the grace in His eyes.
 
Blessings,
Meri
 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Truth About Teenagers

"10 Things Your Teenage Son Needs to Hear from You"

"5 Ways to a Happier Home"

"The One Thing You MUST Do to Have a Happier Family"

My Facebook feed is filled with articles like these. Mocking me. Reminding me that, on most days, I do one or more things that require me to fall on my face and beg forgiveness from the people who share my space....my family....my tribe.

There are days you could cut the tension in our house with a knife.

Oh-there are dozens of things I could attribute this to...homeschooling 3 children, working full time from home, health issues, having a teenager, having girls.  But, the real reason is that I am still learning how to parent. I have not even gotten to the "How to Parent Well" courses, I am still in "Parenting 201" (I did pass "Basic Training" by keeping all 3 children alive through infancy and toddler-hood). 

Here is what all of those "How To" articles will not tell you, though-
Teenagers are jerks.

There. I said it. Shocking, I know.

There are days (lately there have been A LOT of days) that I do not like my teenage son. I don't want to be in the same hemisphere with him, much less the same house.

Teenagers have the unique ability to reduce a normally well-balanced, educated, stable adult to a whiny, bitchy, angry adolescent. Upon engaging in battle with my 13 year old, I seem to lose all sense of rational thinking and turn into the 8th grade version of myself slinging insults and swearing I will never ever be his friend again ever.

Ridiculous.

I am fairly certain that I am either creating a psychopath, sociopath, or at least funding some future psychotherapist's country club membership.

I have no words of wisdom for dealing with teenagers. I am brand new at this twilight zone of parenting. But, if you are currently in the same season of parenthood, you should know that it's okay to dislike your teenager. They are jerks. They are not nice. They are a pain in the ass.

You are not alone. We should have a support group, we could call it POTs (Parents of Teenagers).....is that acronym a coincidence?  You decide.

POTs Unite!
-Meri

Monday, January 4, 2016

Courage in the Mundane

Today, I was blessed by a visit from a sweet friend who has been and continues to pray for me during this time of illness and uncertainty.  We have not known each other long, but we have quickly found that we are kindred spirits...separated for most of our lives by an entire ocean!

In this day of texts, e-mails, and social media it takes a certain amount of courage to reach out and connect with someone on a personal level...actually IN person.

As I write this, I am less than 4 hours from leaving to go to the hospital for a procedure to obtain a biopsy of my uterus. Just before Christmas, I received a call from my GYN at which time he told me they had found a "spot" on one of my scans.

From experiences through family and friends, I know it is never a good sign when the doctor calls you less than 24 hours after a test and especially when he calls you himself.

I struggled to file this information in the back of my mind during the Christmas holiday, but somehow this year the turkey and pies didn't taste quite the same and there was a cloud hanging over each and every moment of joy.  My heart was heavy and troubled.

Since returning home from our Christmas vacation, my body has given me clear signs that something is wrong...fatigue, nausea, pain and other symptoms have become daily routine for me.

I knew I needed support. I wasn't sure what that would look like, but I knew I needed it as much as the air I breathe.

So I took a chance. I stepped out in courage (trust me-for an introvert with anxiety disorder, it was a big step).  And God stepped up. He sent me a caring, sweet, kind friend who listened, prayed, and chatted about topics from the mundane to the spiritual.  She came to my home with no expectations, with a clear understanding that I was a hot mess.  She did not expect to be entertained. She did not expect me to be the consummate Southern hostess. She came for me. To comfort me. To care for me. To pour into me. She came to be the hands and feet, and heart, of Christ.

Friends, don't wait. Trust me that there is someone in your life right now that is suffering. They may not have the courage to speak up. They may not have the ability to ask you to show up. I urge you to do it anyways. Just show up. Be courageous. Go first. Reach out.

Blessings,
Meri

(Special thanks to my sweet friend Anneleis....love you more than Belgian chocolate!)

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Joy of Ordinary Days

It's a brand new year. Time for a fresh start, resolutions, and looking toward the future with unfettered enthusiasm.

But this year is different for me.

I remember 12 months ago saying I was ready to put 2014 to bed-it had been a tough year and I was ready to move on to the hope of 2015. But, in a conversation with a girlfriend at lunch over the holidays, I remarked that I felt the same way about 2015 to which she responded "Doesn't it seem like every year is like that as we get older?".

This remark caused me to think about the whole phenomenon of the new year.

Every year we gather together to ring in a new year. Resolutions are made, promises and hope for change in the upcoming 12 months. We determine to put away the mistakes of the past and take on new challenges.

This year I have decided to do none of that. After 2 years of hoping for better days in the coming months, I have decided that perhaps the changing of the date on the calendar is just that...another day in this journey of life.

I have been struggling with health issues for several years, but they seem to have come to a head in the past few months. Just before Christmas, I received a call from my doctor during which the dreaded "c-word" was mentioned. Truthfully, prior to this call it had never crossed my mind that I may be facing a cancer diagnosis at this stage in my life.

Before you jump into panic mode (as I did), please know that there is a very good possibility that the "spot" they found could be a benign polyp.  But it could also be pre-cancerous tissue or even uterine cancer.

So rather than setting lofty goals for what I want to accomplish in 2016, I am determined to take each day and find the joy in the little things. Snuggling on the couch with my youngest, helping my oldest daughter braid her hair, watching funny videos with my teenage son.

I want to choose joy each and every day. I want to love deeply. I want to be okay with the fact that every day may not be a great day, but every day can have great moments. I will give myself grace. I will give others grace.

I will wish you a Happy New Year, but I will also wish for you the joy of ordinary days.

Blessings,
Meri