Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Our Brand Is Crisis

First-A Disclaimer:
This is real. This is raw. This is transparent. 



Last night we met with a counselor. A trauma counselor.

In speaking with her, it is evident that for the past 3 years, our lives have been a series of crises strung together with fleeting moments of normalcy.

In late 2014, both Rick and I lost our jobs. As a result, we lost our home and one of our vehicles.

This seems to be the catalyst that sparked a series of events that have made the past 3 years incredibly traumatic.

After losing what I thought would be our "forever home", we moved to an old home in a "transitional" part of the city.  Rick had gotten a new job and I was starting to make more money working from home as an independent contractor.  We wanted to make sure we could easily afford the rent, so we (mostly me) chose a home that turned out to be, well.....a nightmare. The final straw was when a man overdosed on drugs in the driveway of the vacant house next door to ours.  We broke the lease and chose to move into a smaller, but significantly nicer and safer apartment in a neighboring town.

In 3 years we have moved 3 times. 

We are now in a home, albeit a rental, in our desired town and desired neighborhood.  A home that fits our needs perfectly.

In the spring of 2016, I had a hysterectomy after a year of ER visits, terrible pain and desperately trying to find a doctor that could help me.

A couple of months later, my husband had gastric surgery in July 2016.

I have to pause here and explain something.  I have a couple of chronic health problems that lead to chronic pain.  I have spent the past 8 years trying to manage this. It is hard. I mean really hard.  

Now that that's out of the way....

One month prior to my hysterectomy, our son attempted suicide.

That was harder than anything I had experienced. Ever.

A few months later, he injured his shoulder at summer camp. We spent the next 10 months trying to get his shoulder injury resolved, culminating in surgery to repair his torn labrum in April 2017.

In February 2017, we moved from our 1400 sq foot apartment (which was lovely, but rather small for a family of 5 plus a dog) to our current home.  

In July 2017, my husband had surgery to fuse 3 vertebrae in his neck.

On September 19, 2017, we received word that my father-in-law had passed away.  He had been sick for several years following 2 strokes.  While you can try to prepare for the loss of a parent, you are never ready. We are still trying to process this loss.

In early October 2017, our son attempted suicide. Again. I cannot tell you how those words break my heart.

So...why am I telling you all of this?  Why lay out the tragedies and trials of the past 3 years for you?

I have shame. I feel lost. I don't understand what has happened in our lives.  I am searching for answers and solutions. I desperately desire "normal".  But what is really my true desire?  I want one other mother-just one-who may be struggling with some of the same feeling, to know that she is not alone. To know that it is not her fault. To know that she does not have to carry the weight of her circumstances like an albatross around her neck, nor wear the trials of her family like a scarlet letter on her chest.




I have struggled with my faith in God.  That is the dark and ugly truth of this. I have questioned. I have raged. I have cried out.

God has not abandoned me, despite my anger and fear. I am just now starting to see my way back to Him, starting to feel like I can trust again.

I know that this is not what white-bread middle America Christians expect. I have even been told that the trials and tragedies we have experienced are a direct result of our sinfulness. As if God is handing out punishment for us not being "good enough"?

Sister-God does not dole out punishments based on how "good" or "bad" others perceive us to be. The entire premise of the Christian faith is that we cannot ever be "good enough" to earn our redemption, it is entirely through His grace, and that alone, that we are redeemed.

I don't know if we are going to see and end to these issues soon or ever.  We can only address them as they come.  And there are other issues that have gone on and continue to go on in the background of all of this.  But, we have faith-in God and each other. Faith that tomorrow is a new day.

Blessings,
Meri


Monday, October 9, 2017

Last Night.....

Last night my son slit his wrist.

Writing those words, seeing them in black and white, takes my breath away.

The cut was horizontal, not near an artery, superficial, and required no stitches. 

We have struggled for the past 2 years to help our teen-aged son manage his depression and anxiety.  These illnesses are as real as any physical ailment, they simply attack a part of our bodies that is still very much a mystery to modern medicine.

This event is the latest in what feels like an unending season of crisis in our lives.

Health problems, financial worries, the loss of my husband's father.  All of these things seem to pile on my heart and weigh it down until it feels like I am in a permanent state of emergency management.

But of all of our struggles, this battle with depression that my son has fought valiantly, is what I want the world (or at least our corner of it) to see.

See, the feeling I have been fighting since last night is one of guilt.

What did I do wrong?  What, as his mother, did I do (or fail to do) to cause this?  I am too hard on him? Not hard enough? Do I hug him enough?  Do I give him enough freedom?  Or too much freedom?

But what some sweet friends, and God's word, and a well-time post by one of my favorite bloggers reminded me of today is that depression is a disease and I have as much to do with it's symptoms as I do if it were a cancer or broken bone.

They also reminded me that before he was my son, he was God's.  And God is already working on this. He is there in the hospital room with my son. He is here in our home, calming and comforting my family. He is watching over my sweet boy and protecting his life and soul, even as my son wants nothing more than to give up on the life God gave him.

I am not sharing this for the sake of garnering pity for our situation, although I do covet your prayers for our family. 

I am sharing this in the hope that perhaps one person will read this and know they are not alone in their fight against mental illness.

I am sharing this int he hope that one mama will read this and know, if only for a moment, that she is not to blame for her child's struggle with depression. 

I am sharing this in the hope that someone may know that there is another option.

Suicide is not a choice, it is not a commitment. Suicide is the result of a terminal disease. 




www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
1-800-273-8255

Blessings,
Meri

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Awareness

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month & Infant Loss and Miscarriage Awareness Month.

I am aware.

I am so very aware.

I am aware of both of these struggles every single day, not just the 31 days of the year that my FB and Instagram feeds turn pink and blue.

In November 2010, we lost our fourth baby to miscarriage.  I was never able to conceive again.

Every day I grieve for that child, for what could have been. So often I wonder what our lives would look like with 4 children and an active 6 year old in our lives.

A few years ago, my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. She has already lived longer than 80% of those that receive this diagnosis, but she will never be cured.

I try to prepare myself for life without her, but it is just beyond my ability to imagine it.

While this month brings awareness to these issues, some of us live with them every day.

Grief and loss is not something that happens to you and then stops.  It changes who you are at your very core.  It colors every thing you do, how you think, and how you process the world around you.

Next time you encounter someone who seems distant or cold, ill-tempered or irritable, or sad or angry-think about what burdens they may be carrying and be kind.

Blessings,
Meri

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Dear Papa

I lost my grandfather, my Papa, 20 years ago this year.  I wish I had been able to tell him everything I wanted to say, but I didn't.  So here is what I wish I had said...

Dear Papa,

I miss you so much. Every day.

Remember that boy with the wandering hands that you didn't like so much because you thought he was more likely to "buy beer than milk for the baby"?  He asked me to marry him. Next month we will celebrate 17 years of marriage (and he doesn't drink beer and is an amazing father).  I think you would like and approve of the man he has become.  He has taken good care of your girl.

God has blessed us with 3 beautiful children here and 1 that went straight to Heaven's nursery.  Do you know her? I don't know how the whole Heaven thing works, but I hope you know her.  I pray that you have a little piece of me there with you until I come home.

You would love all 3 of them, Papa.  Logan likes to hunt and loves guns and knives. He is your kind of boy, Papa.  And he bears your name...Logan Edward, a name he is proud of.  Emma looks just like me when I was a kid.  She is smart and funny and so sweet. Mackenzie reminds me so much of Gama.  She would have been another Puddin'-I always loved that nickname.  She loves horses and there is not a mean bone in her body.

Parenting is hard, Papa.  Some days I wish I could talk to you about it.  You always had such good advice, usually disguised as a story about one of the fascinating parts of your own life.  I just pray that they grow up to be good people. Kind people. People like you, Papa.

I guess you know...we lost Michelle and Cliff since you have been gone.  I guess Momma and I are the only ones left, Papa.  I am afraid to lose her, but I know that it is inevitable.  I don't want to be alone.  I feel like I can't live with one more hole in my heart where a loved one used to be.

It's hard, Papa. Knowing I will be last. Missing you. But I hold on to all of the beautiful, happy memories I have of you and I share them with my children.  So, in a way, you live on....

I love you, Papa. I'm sorry I didn't say all of the things that needed to be said before you left.  But I guess it really comes down to "I love you". That's what I want you to know. Always and forever.

With love and tears, your granddaughter-the Monster.

Blessings y'all.
-Meri

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Tears

"Tears are the best evidence of our love." -Kara Tippetts

I am a crier.

I cry when I am happy.  I cry when I am angry.  I cry when I am sad.  Sometimes I cry at television commercials.

Until I had children, I don't think I had experienced true, deep-soul, weeping except for a few times (the loss of my beloved grandparents, my mother's cancer diagnosis).  Since then the words from John 11:35, "Jesus wept", have been written on my heart in an entirely new way.



Lately, it seems, we have been in a season of weeping.  Our family has been walking through the proverbial "valley of the shadow of death". My heart is shattered for the suffering I see in the faces and eyes of all of my children and my husband.

I used to believe that tears were a sign of weakness.  A character flaw that indicated an inability to manage difficult situations. But life has changed me.  I have been asked to face difficulties I never imagined were possible.

And I have wept.

And I know that Jesus has wept with me.

I know this because when my children hurt, I hurt. When my children weep, I weep. I may not do it right then, but later, when I am alone, in the quiet, I weep.

I have learned that tears are not evidence of a character flaw. They are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign of love.  They are a evidence that someone has been allowed into the most private, most vulnerable parts of our souls and we have been changed by that.

Tears can heal. Tears can help others heal. Tears connect us to those we love, they connect us to those that hurt.  Sometimes they connect to those who have hurt us, so that we can forgive and heal.  Sometimes the healing doesn't come in this life.

But this I know, healing will come and tears are almost always part of it.

Blessings,
Meri

Monday, August 7, 2017

Invisible

I do not have cancer (although my mother does and I struggle enough with what that means for her future and the future of our family).  I do not have a terminal illness, at least not one that is going to kill me in the next few months or even years. I am not recovering from a major surgery or terrible accident.



But I am sick. I have what is classified as an "invisible illness".

Every day I struggle to get out of bed, some days it does not happen.  I have to rest after doings "strenuous activities" like taking a shower, working from my laptop, or cooking a small meal.  Every day I struggle with pain and exhaustion, nausea and headaches that just won't let up. Regardless of these struggles and many other symptoms, I don't "look sick" and there is no end in sight...hence the term "chronic".

I think people get tired of hearing about how sick I really am. I usually avoid the rolling eyes and comments like "oh, that again?" or "still?"  by saying "I'm fine". I hide my illness from most casual acquaintances completely. Only a few close friends, family and the 4 people who read this blog know how serious my illness is.

I am not looking for pity. Please don't mistake this for a pity party.

I want to bring awareness to a whole section of society that is generally overlooked. Those of us with invisible illnesses.  Those of us that spend hours every day trying to hide behind masks of smiles and make up.

People tend to step up when help is needed for temporary problems-an acute illness, a hospital stay, a death in the family, etc.  But, rarely do people want to sign up for the long haul, to support those of us who will never get well, who may very well get worse over time. 



Those of us with invisible chronic illnesses need support from friends and family, and so do our caregivers. I know everyone is busy with life and kids and everything that goes along with that, but just keep in mind that every now and then a visit with words of encouragement, a hot meal, or some help with everyday chores means so much to those of us that struggle to get through each day.

Blessings,
Meri

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Loving My Husband

I love my husband.

I know this may seem to be a silly statement considering we have been married almost 17 years, but in this day and age, I feel that it is important to say.

I love my husband.

But recently, I have wondered if he knows how much I love him.  Of course, I say the words (frequently), we certainly do not shy away from intimacy and affection, but what other ways do I show him that I love him.

It's easy, 17 years in, to get bogged down in the mundane of daily life-disciplining children, helping with homework, housework, cooking, grocery store runs, etc.  On top of that, we have had our fair share of medical issues going on in our lives for the past 2 years which can be very isolating and add additional stress to marriage.

So I picked up the book "100 Ways to Love Your Husband" by Lisa Jacobson.  As any other study I own, it is sporadic as to when I read and pray over each method, but here is what I have found so far.



Always choose love-I fail at this more than I would like to admit. I tend to be sensitive when it comes to criticism, especially when it comes from my husband, so in those moments I am not always successful of choosing love.  But the bigger picture is not always in the minute details of day-to-day life.  When the chips are down, he has my back and I have his. We are a team and I will ALWAYS choose love.

Greet him with a loving smile-I work from home and I am terrible about still being on my laptop, working away, when he walks in the door.  Sometimes it is a few minutes and other times a few hours before we finally greet each other with smiles and affection. I clearly have my work cut out for me in improving on this one!

Let the little things go-I read somewhere that most arguments between couples are 10 percent disagreement and 90 percent tone of voice. I need deliverance in both areas!  But there is so much truth in this statement. Most arguments could easily be avoided if we just slowed down (or stopped completely) and tried to see the issue from the other spouse's point of view.

 Work through the big things-I am a talker. I like to hash out problems (and then sometimes rehash them until I get on my own nerves).  My husband is a processor.  He sees a problem, big or small, and he internally works through the possible actions and outcomes, risk assessment, and implementation of a plan.  He is silent and strong.  On this subject, we both seem to need to find a middle ground where I don't feel ignored and he doesn't feel alone in being responsible for fixing every issue that comes our way.

Don't try to change him-This one is easy. I learned this lesson early and feel like this one I have mastered to some extent.  What I have enjoyed is watching us change together over the years.

Pray for him-Not much more to add here. Pray for your husband daily, hourly, even more if you feel he needs it.  There is no tool more powerful for wives that the power of prayer.

Remember he's not your girlfriend-Okay, now we are back in territory I sometimes struggle with. I am not a very trusting person, at least not with my truest emotions. My husband has always been my rock when I needed to visit those raw and painful places.  But, it's not fair to him to be my only source from which I seek advice.  Over the past few years, I have found a wonderful, small group of godly ladies from whom I can seek advice.  I still put too much on my husband sometimes, but it is a work in progress.

But be sure he's your best friend-My mom gave me a great piece of advice when I was first married.  She told me that I should never speak ill about my husband to my girlfriends, it is my job to paint the most positive picture of him at all times. While girlfriends that you trust are vitally important to your marriage and spiritual life, make sure your husband is at the top of the list of friends.  (As a side note, I personally do not think it is a good idea for married women to have male friends that just their own (with some exceptions), it simply gives a foothold for adultery to step in).

Decide in the beginning that you are going to stick together until the very end-This one was pretty easy for me, when I took my vows all those years ago, I viewed them as not just a covenant between my husband and I, but between my Heavenly Father and I.  That being said, it has not been easy every step of the way.  There have been times I have wanted to give up, but we always seem to make it work out through prayer and forgiveness.  Another important note about sticking together as it relates to raising children-it is vitally important that your children understand that the two of you are always on the same page and always present a united front.

Be a wise woman-This was tough for me. I feel like I am anything but wise. I make mistakes-big ones. I can be ruled by my emotions. But the more I thought about this and read about this in my Bible, I realized that I do not have the strength of character to have the wisdom my husband needs, only God has that.  But, I can seek His wisdom at any time and appeal to him in prayer to guide me and my words so that they guide my husband in a manner that glorifies God.

Those are the 10 I have gotten through.  Stay tuned for more and wives, love your husbands!

Blessings,
Meri

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Rest

rest1
rest/
verb
verb: rest; 3rd person present: rests; past tense: rested; past participle: rested; gerund or present participle: resting
1.
cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.

"he needed to rest after the feverish activity"
Sometimes it feels like I am drowning.  I remember this time last year we were in much the same place we are now-surgeries, hospital stays, doctor visits, ER visits-it just never seems to stop.  This year has been a mix of all of us have medical issues.  I think everyone other than our youngest has spent time in the hospital or the ER or had surgery this year.
The one thing we have not done is rest.
With a family of 5 and parents who both hold full-time jobs (albeit mine is a telecommute position, which is sometimes a gift and sometimes a burden), we seem to always be in motion. The girls both ride horses (at different barns, of course) and our teenage son (who does not drive yet) always has friends he wants to see or places he wants to go.
Sometimes we have to rest. And if we don't do it on our own, sometimes our bodies will force us to do so through injury or illness.
It's hard to rest sometimes.  I have learned to do so, not by choice, but because my body (or the chronic illness and pain it bears),  requires me to do so.  My teenager is good at resting, as long as it doesn't interfere with his other plans.  My girls have not yet conquered the process of resting, they seem to need entertainment or distraction A LOT (I read somewhere that it is good for kids to be bored during summer break...clearly this person was not a parent).

That brings me to my husband.

I have posted before about how he is the pillar of strength that holds me and our children up.  He is, by a large margin, the strongest of the two of us.  But he needs to rest.  He is not good at rest.  He is good at work and cooking, cleaning and parenting.  He is an amazing father and husband. But, he sucks at resting.

His need for rest has meant that I have had to step up and boy has that been challenging.  Since he had neck fusion surgery 3 weeks ago we have had a pile of dramatic events. 3 ER visits, 1 hospital stay, and other (more stressful-if you can imagine) events.  

Don't get me wrong, I still don't feel strong and he still is very active in all aspects of raising our children and running our household (often too active for his recovery period). But, despite my lack of confidence, I have picked up and done the best I could so he can get some much need rest and relaxation (okay, rest maybe, but I don't see him relax much still).

In this season of our lives, it is my turn to step up to the plate and care for my husband the way he has always cared for me.  I doubt I will do as good a job as he does, but I will give it everything I have, so he can rest.

Blessings,

Meri

Saturday, July 29, 2017

I'm Fine

I lied to my daughter today.

She asked me about a bruise on my forearm and I lied about how it had gotten there.

Now-before anyone starts dialing the Domestic Violence Hotline, the bruise was from a blown vein where a nurse had tried to insert an IV to give me fluids during yet another ER visit.

My youngest daughter has been shielded, for the most part, during the events of the past 2 weeks (details are too personal to share yet) that have rocked our family to the core.  She has blissfully spent most of this time hanging out with and camping at the beach with her friend (whose parents I cannot thank enough for taking such good care of my girl). 

I spend so much time in pain, being sick, at the doctor's office, and in hospitals and I just didn't want to burden her with the fact that I had gone to the ER yet again during this time.

Chronic illness is an ever-changing beast.  There are new symptoms every few months (or more often) that we have to determine if they are related to my illness or if they are something entirely separate. It takes a toll on my family as much as it takes a toll on me.  Mentally and physically, this illness wears me down until there is almost nothing left and the worst part is that it does the same to my family.



As a mother, it is my natural instinct is to protect my children.  But, I cannot protect them from the reality that is chronic illness. My heart breaks each time I see the disappointment in their faces when I say I can't do something with them.

So many times I say "I'm fine" when I am anything but.  I simply get tired of talking about what hurts.  "I'm fine" is almost always a lie when I say it, but I say it anyways because I don't want to force the burden of this illness on those I love any more than I have to.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Miracles in the Midst of Pain

Two years ago this week, we said goodbye to what we thought would be our forever home. We had built our home outside of a small town in central North Carolina on 2 acres of land.  It was all of the things we wanted in a home and I could see Rick and I rocking on the front porch growing old together.  I could envision years of Christmas mornings with excited children and groggy adults opening gifts.

And then it was gone.  We both lost our jobs withing 6 weeks of each other.  No matter how hard we tried, we just could not keep up with the payments.  I was heartbroken. I was lost. I was powerless to stop the wheels that had already been set in motion.




Something that you should know about me is that I am a girl who likes to put down roots.  I grew up in the same home for 20 years and it felt almost like losing a family member when that house was sold and my parents moved to a smaller and more manageable condo.

Since moving to North Carolina in 2009, we have moved 5 times.  It has been hard uprooting our lives each time and trying to adjust to a new and unfamiliar environment.

But God had a plan (as He always does).

This year, we moved from our cramped, 3-bedroom apartment into a spacious, comfortable home.  For the first time EVER, the girls do not have to share a room.  The kids have their own living space where they can watch TV, play the Xbox, and hang out with friends without having to be around us (in case you don't have teenagers, they would rather die than hang out with their parents!).

But the most beautiful part of our move is the location  We are in a great neighborhood where the neighbors actually talk to each other.  There are about 200 kids (okay, more 10, but most days it feels like more) on our street.  We are literally across the street from one of my best friends, whose oldest daughter who is my daughter's best friend.

I have learned an important lesson.  Even through the devastation and hardship of losing out dream home and moving so many times, He had a plan.  He had a perfect plan.  Even when I doubted Him, He was there working in our lives and orchestrating a beautiful result.





Blessings,
Meri