I saw this picture on my Facebook feed yesterday evening in a tshirt ad, and it inspired me to share here what has been weighing on my heart lately. (The quote is a line spoken by Dumbledore in the Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban film.)
We all go through seasons in our life where parts can feel easy and others feel excruciatingly hard. Lately, I have been in one of my harder seasons. Trying to juggle tasks and circumstances that are not only out of my control, but ones that I cannot remove from my plate, either. It steadily drained my energy and my spirits that eventually reached an overwhelming point. I am not proud but also not afraid to admit that I have had days lately where my anxiety level reached the point where I didn't even want to get out of bed to deal yet again with things I wanted desperately to be taken off my plate, and circumstances out of my control to just be handled by those who could.
That is where the above quote comes in. During that time, I had also neglected to take care of myself spiritually. I felt it and knew it deep inside. But even with my failure to be digilent, my heavenly Father didn't. He heard my prayers for help, even the ones my heart couldn't put into words. Had I given in to my anxieties and not gotten out of bed, I would have missed signs like this:
Reminders that spoke into my heart, saying I was not alone, nothing is impossible for Him, He loves me, and He's got my back. Visual signs.
In recent Sundays, I've gone to church & although our worship pastor knew nothing of what I've got on my plate, he somehow selected just the right songs to play during our praise/worship time in service, and the words poured right into my heart. The perfect ones. Ones that I needed to hear, ones that I added to my playlist on my ipod, ones that I've obsessively listened to, like relieving a thirst that my soul needed. Audible signs.
Spending time with treasured friends who lift me up in prayer, seeking godly advice & wisdom. It is hardly the first the time God has spoken through other people, and it has all added up to provide me with exactly what Matthew 11:28-30 means when Jesus says 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
So yeah, that snoopy shirt design & quote works perfectly for me. Jesus said in John 12:46 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
That is the light that is sustaining me, encouraging me, comforting me, and blessing me. It is helping me tone down the crazy and I am grateful. We are just not meant to do this thing called life alone.
This week has been unlike any other that I can recall in a long, long time. We've experienced a very difficult presidential election 2 days ago, and tomorrow we honor our soldiers on Veteran's Day. Right now, my heart is heavy and my mind is swirling. Yup, I have not written here in a really long time, but I cannot but feel compelled to do so today. I am not at all sure I will be able to adequately express everything that I'm thinking about, but I will do my best.
Like so many others, I stayed up way past my bedtime to watch and track the election results. I do not know what I was really expecting to see, but I know for certain that the results as they played out, greatly surprised me, as they did for so many. I really don't need to know how you voted, and I am not sharing how I voted. It is no secret that the sandbox that is Washington, has been a litter box for a very long time, and no one has been willing to clean it out. The constant fighting and finger pointing and lack of any sort of compromising, no one taking responsibility for their decisions, the never ending blame game. As a result, our country is paying a tremendous price. Our citizens are hurting. No one trusts anyone anymore, including our government to well, govern. There is so much going on where people from other parts of the world want to destroy us, but the truth is, they almost don't even have to. We are doing it to ourselves.
I am a Christian. I do not smack people upside the head with a Bible, but I believe with all my heart that it is Truth. Truth that I try to live by as best as I can as a deeply flawed individual. Whether you have a faith or not, I am not interested in debating or bashing. Everyone chooses for themselves. But since I am a Christian, I did find myself praying before, during and after the election. I am also praying for our nation, which includes newly elected Mr. Trump. Becoming president is a bohemoth responsibility, It is a job that I am 100% sure I would not have the stamina to handle. But yes, I am praying for Mr. Trump to seek wise counsel and be brave enough to do what is right and good for our nation. Had Mrs. Clinton won the election, I would be praying the same for her, too. If our government can somehow find the courage to do what is right and good for our citizens, everyone wins.
But to see all the hate and anger and protests going on since the election took place, and quite frankly also during the campaigning period, is heartbreaking to me. It is a privilege to live in a country where we get to vote. Everyone chose their vote for their own reasons, and whether you like the results or not, someone was going to be elected, and the other one not. We are practically sinking ourselves into another civil war with how we are treating each other, and all I can say is WHY? How is sinking ourselves into a quagmire of hate, anger and even violence going to make our nation better? It is not going to help put food on the table for our hungry or help make ends meet. It will not provide our homeless with a place to live. It is not going to care for our children or our elderly. Behaving like that is not going to heal our nation. Tomorrow we have Veteran's Day set aside to honor our soldiers who fought and sacrificed to make our country a free nation. As far as I'm concerned, everything that is happening among us right now is a slap in their faces. Just because we live where we have the freedom to behave like this, does not mean we should. Whether you find it naive or not, I hold the belief that everyone has good in them.
I cannot fix what is wrong with our government or our country, but I can do is refuse to choose hate and anger and violence. Every one of us really only has control of one thing. Our own actions and decisions. We have to own them, good or bad, and accept the results of them. So I am going to choose love to the best of my ability. Scripture commands us to love each other. John 15:17 states "This is my command; Love each other." Love is one of the most powerful weapons we can use.
I am incredibly blessed to be able to work in a preschool, spending the best hours of my week with 2, 3, & 4 year olds. We don't just get to teach them letters, numbers, colors, shapes, patterns, etc, we get to teach them to love, to share, speak & act with kindness, be respectful, take turns, be responsible for their choices, to use manners, and to seek forgiveness when they aren't kind toward each other. Quite honestly, I learn just as much from those precious kids as they learn from me. They aren't born with hate and anger. Those are learned traits.
Perhaps Washington has forgotten these basic "beginner rules," if you will, from fighting for so long. So, maybe it is up to us to lead our leaders, not the other way around. To show them something better. I think all of us have so much more in common than not, and we all want to know that someone cares, that we matter. It is a beautiful thing that we are all different at the same time that we are all the same. We encounter so many different people in so many places in our everyday life, and we never know who just needs someone to show or tell them they matter. We never know who needs that smile or a sincere thank you, or a door held open for them because we don't know what trials they are facing in their lives. I can tell you from being on the receiving end, that being shown any sort of random kindness can completely revive a bad day or lift my spirits, or give me the courage to face the rest of a difficult day. Or, for some, to even choose to face another day.
So, my challenge to all of you is the same as to myself. Choose love. Choose to be nice. Choose compassion. Choose to speak with kindness. Choose grace. Choose forgiveness. In whatever form you can think of. Smile when you see or talk to others. Wish someone a wonderful day. Thank that person who bagged your groceries or collected your trash or replaced the toilet paper roll. If you learn of someone in need, help them. Pick someone on your social media newsfeed and just say hello. Pay someone a compliment. Hug your loved ones. If you flood your heart with what is good and right, it won't leave room for anger and hate. That is how we the people can heal our country, one act of love at a time. Be the reason someone smiles today.
That pretty much describes the start to my week, but unlike Eve, my fall didn't affect my eternity. I woke up to a beautiful, sunny Monday morning, and I didn't have to into preschool, so I plotted out my morning. I would get some fresh air and a little exercise by walking to the local Whole Foods to get more pink lady apples. The ones I bought the week prior were tasty and I love apples. Then I'd go meet my big brother Grant for coffee. a nice 2 mile round trip walk, then coffee. How can the day start any better?
Except...about 90% of the way there, I somehow tripped over the leg of a construction sign perched to the side of the sidewalk. I was not on my phone or looking off to the side, not distracted by anything really until WHAM! I hit the concrete. I really have no idea how I tripped, how I fell, nothing. Just one split second of time and I now possessed bloody, scraped palms & knees. I jumped up, hopping mad, spied the sign, and oh how I wanted to kick the sign and punish it. Then a couple thoughts entered my mind. One, maybe the sign being orange meant it was a despondent Flyers fan & it tripped me because the Penguins were moving on in playoffs & Philly went home. Then I thought of one of my best friends, Kirsten, and remembered that breaking toes is kind of HER thing, and I couldn't just do Her thing.
So I continued on, because after all that, there was no way I was returning home without those dang apples! My knees and hands stung some but it didn't really bother me, but I also had a sore arm that I couldn't bend much. Just sore from me falling, I figured. So I jogged home, slapped some bandaids on myself and hopped in my car to have coffee. It was not super fun using my stickshift. I had no idea I was walking around with a broken elbow. It kind of makes me sound more badass than I really am!
Forward to yesterday at preschool and I finally decided that maybe it would be a good idea after all to have my arm looked at when Kirsten noticed a bump on the back of my elbow, and some swelling. Even then, I thought I'll just go at the end of preschool. You see, I am Irish, Italian, German & English, which means I am a mixture of temper, attitude, stubbornness & manners. There are times when I put those qualities to good use, and times I don't. It was only when my fingers went tingly numb that I gave in, and one of my pastors gave me a ride to urgent care for an xray. Yup, an elbow fracture. A hard splint. A sling. And an appointment with an orthopedic doctor this afternoon.
If you're still with me here, thank you! So how do I feel about this? I managed to reach nearly 48 years old without so much as a sprained, torn or broken anything before this week. I can't drive for a while. I can't wear anything with snaps or buttons. I need help unfastening undergarments. Everything I can do right now is using only one hand. Right now, I am typing with one hand and it is taking me eons to write. I have become dependent on others for daily, basic mundane details of living, for the first time since I was a small child. What I am feeling right now can be summed up in one word.
GRATITUDE. That's right. You read that correctly. Gratitude. I am so thankful for so many things. Thankful I didn't hit my head when I tripped. Thankful that all the workouts I have done since the world of Beachbody entered my life last year, allowed me to jump right up off the ground. It takes more than a construction sign to get me down. Thankful that my legs feel just fine. I still intend to do my 5K on May 14th, even with a sling and probable cast. Thankful that I work with the most amazing group of ladies at preschool. Thankful that our preschool teaches love to the kids as much as letters & numbers because this world can't get enough love. I'm thankful to belong to a wonderful church family where I am surrounded by people loving and encouraging and lifting up each other. Thankful that we have a wonderful group of pastors who focus on God's word. Thankful for my friends who lined up to bring us dinner for 3 nights this week to ease our week at home. Thankful to worship an all powerful God who loves me for the hot mess that I am. Every day.
I am so very thankful for how loved and blessed I feel. Thankful for my hubby who has to get up earlier now so he can drop off Alice at school in the mornings before his long work commute, and for everything he already does to help me around the house at home. I am so thankful he & I worked through the past few years instead of divorcing. Thankful for my girls who are old enough that they can drive me to the store and help me. I have always been so fiercely self sufficient, and asking for help is not one of my strengths. But God forced my hand this week, so I am learning how to let others help me, and I am thankful for the lesson. I have renewed respect and empathy for those who cannot do everything for themselves anymore. It is clear to me that we are not meant to go through this thing called life alone.
So be thankful. For things big and small. Help someone who needs it. And be the reason someone else smiles today. God bless!
My orthopedic dr appt confirmed the elbow fracture with new xrays. He opted to make me a removable long arm splint so I could shower (and not be tormented with "in-cast" itching!) Plus, I have a wonderfully plushy new sling that is moreuser friendly! The bonus is this splint doesn't restrict my fingers & thumb!! I will have this 4-6 weeks, and PT at some point. And no surgery needed!!! I go back next week for more xrays to check my healing. God is so good to me!! ❤
Yesterday I sat in church service and got to hear 8 people come up front before our sermon and share grace...words and stories of the ways God's grace sustained them through difficult circumstances and painful times in their lives. A common thread in their stories spoke of finding and walking with God for most of their lives to date, and it made me ponder if I had been asked to share some of my own story, what would I have told our church family? Unlike the 8 individuals who shared yesterday, I have not walked with God most of my life. Honestly, it consumed my thoughts the rest of the day yesterday, and it was still in my mind when I woke up today.
But I realized that I do have a story; I do have a story of grace among difficult and painful circumstances, even if my timeline greatly differs from theirs....and it is worth sharing. I have only been walking with God nearly 5 years now, which, considering I am almost 48, is not anywhere near most of my lifespan so far.
Those who have known me long will know I grew up in a Catholic church. Mom made sure I attended its religious education and received all the sacraments, and I did take in a head knowledge of God. However, knowing God in your head is not the same as knowing Him in your heart, so I really did not have any sort of meaningful relationship with God. Something that was evident in my utilizing the confessional booth during my high school years, not to confess my sins, but to listen to Yankees baseball on AM radio with headphones. (sorry Mom) Clearly, at that time, I was more interested in hearing Phil Rizzuto call games than the priest preach a sermon.
Fast forward a number of years, and I was married with 3 children, the eldest of whom has special needs, specifically aspergers syndrome. The older he got, the home environment became more and more chaotic, stressful and overwhelming, which emptied me out with each passing day, but instead of turning to the one thing that would restore me, I turned inward, turned to drinking heavily, and dreaming of disappearing. The panic attacks came, the lack of sleeping, lack of eating, the despair and loneliness. Where was God? Did He even care or notice me? Who was I? Did I matter?
That was what living in painful, difficult circumstances without God was like for me. I realize now that I can look back over the last 5 years, last 6 years actually, that God was there all along. There are so many times that I can now recognize as Him working behind the scenes to preserve me because He was really just waiting for me to turn to Him. He had, and has a plan for my life, but I had to reach a point where I had nothing left, nowhere else to turn. He sent someone into my life to help me find the path I needed to be on, and I am so grateful. It's been nearly 5 years since I was baptized in the lake as an outward sign of who I belong to, who owns my heart.
There is a night & day difference between the difficult stuff in my life then, and the difficult stuff in my life now. Now that I belong to God, I have overcome decades of depression & despair, no longer lonely, no longer empty, no longer overwhelmed. I have learned how to find joy in the small things, and be grateful every day. I learned how to be happy, how to accept myself. The biggest and hardest hit in my life since I let God into my heart has been the loss of my mom. I still struggle to process it, and I feel her absence every day. Some days that horrible phone call feels like an hour ago. But my life is filled with blessings. My son is now 21, and living on his own in another state. My daughters are doing well in school, one in high school & the other in college. Our home environment is no longer chaotic; it is actually peaceful. I admit that it has taken some time to get used to it. But I am thankful, so thankful for it. I am actually happy. I work in a preschool where I am free to love on our kids, and every year I fall in love with the amazing children who come to us. I am on a sustaining fitness journey that allows me to love & encourage other women to do the same, as a Beachbody coach. If I had just one regret, it would be that I can't share this with my mom. So many blessings have come into my life since she went home to the Lord. But I have to believe that somehow she knows. That from up in heaven, she can see, and hopefully she's proud of me and how far I have come.
If I could go back in time, I would choose to walk with God much, much sooner. However, I am not sure if I would have as deep a level of gratitude, had I not suffered through the hard stuff without Him. How can someone fully appreciate the sunshine if they don't go through the rain? Sometimes, that rain was a light sprinkle and the other times it was a monsoon. I may not have walked with God most of my life, but He loved me enough to wait for me, and it is my fiercest prayer that He waits for my children, too. He is the light that saved my life, saved my marriage, and He is the light that turns all the rain in my life into rainbows. I am blessed beyond measure, and very, very grateful. If He can save a wretch like me, He can save anyone.
Today we received an extra day on our calendar, February 29th. It's a leap year again. I have seen some amusing memes on my facebook feed today that ponder why we had to have our extra day be on Monday. As if that meant we have 2 Mondays this week. Given Monday's usual reputation, hopefully not!
I thought I would use some of today to talk about guilt. Guilt can take many forms. Those partaking in the criminal arts field are guilty of lawbreaking. Judges and juries decide the guilt of a defendant in the courtroom. Delinquent students are guilty of skipping out on school or assignments. But I want to talk about a different kind of guilt, a kind that I have struggled for many years to tame. That is the internal guilt that comes from feeling inadequate, the feeling of not being enough, the feeling of not being good enough. For me, those feelings firmly entrenched themselves most frequently in the areas of being a mom and a spouse, and they waged a fierce battle in my head for many years.
It was an internal dialogue that took a toll. It has been said that if you hear something often enough and long enough, it becomes true for you, even if it's not at all the real thing. Perhaps you know the lines. "It's my fault my kid did or didn't do XYZ. If I had been a better mother, it wouldn't be so hard at home. Why can't I be like other parents whose kids do as they should? Why can't I get my kids to behave? Why can't we ever do things like other families? Why can't we be like normal families?" It was a never ending loop in my head, and it played over and over and over. I heard and believed this dialogue in my head for so many years that it was hard (nearly impossible) for me to believe anyone who said I did the best I could, and yes, I was a good parent, when I felt like a complete failure. Comparing oneself to others is not only destructive, it ignores the fact that everyone has patches of brown grass mixed in with the green. That's when the guilt kicks in, and it not only feels like a millstone around the neck, it robs you of the joy that does exist with your kids. Unless you have a nightmarish existence, your kids do bring you joy among all the stress.
So, why am I talking about this? Well, for me, it ties with the other kind of guilt that I have struggled with over the years. Spousal guilt. Yesterday, Chris started cleaning up in the kitchen and doing the dishes while I was having something to eat, and I felt guilty. Guilty that I hadn't done them sooner, guilty that I let them pile up during the week, and guilty that I was sitting down while he was busy working. Guilty that I let him down yet again. I told him I was about to get those done, repeating myself a couple more times (almost raising my voice) when he didn't stop and leave it for me. It started to really upset me. I thought it was a Mars-Venus kind of thing, and maybe he didn't understand me that I really needed him to stop doing them, but then I had a completely different feeling overpower me. One that convicted and challenged me. The guilt came from the fact that he's the main breadwinner, he has a long commute to and from work, and with the workday, mentally taxing hours. I confess that I am guilty of comparing myself to him, which is unfair to him and to myself. I have struggled for a long time with feelings that he is the overachiever and I'm the underachiever in the house, even when it's not true.
What hit me, though, is the fact that when I let guilt take over my head, I am focusing on the absolute wrong thing. Instead of getting upset that he's helping me with dishes (and "making me look bad,") I should instead be thankful. Thankful that I have a spouse who is willing to pitch in with housework, even when he's bone tired, just because he knows I'm tired out (and stressed or worn out at times.) Not everyone has a spouse who is willing to do the "women's work." I realize that this is not the 1950's anymore, so it's really not women's work vs men's work, anyway.
In that moment, I chose to let go of my upset feelings and simply let him help me. Chris washed, and I dried & put everything away, and the kitchen got cleaned up quickly. It was amazing how calming it was to carry gratitude in my heart instead of guilt. Freeing, actually.
So, my advice to y'all is to replace all those feelings of guilt, hurt, cranky, whatever, with thankfulness. Focus on the positive. It is much harder to be harsh with yourself when you're feeling thankful about things and people in your life.
I am thankful for Chris. He's put up with me for a long time now, and he's still here. He's seen the good, bad & ugly in me, and it hasn't scared him away. He does his best not to take my hormone related mood swings personally, although I know I owe him apologies at times. Is he a better housekeeper than I am? Sometimes he is, and that is not guilt talking, it is the honest truth here. He helps me with household chores, makes breakfast on the weekend, keeps me company on errands (even though that results with sweet tooth related contraband coming home with us.) I am especially thankful that Chris takes care of bugs/critters, yuck! I love that he's handy around the house and can figure out how to troubleshoot/fix things. I'm thankful that he can help the girls with left brain themed homework (like math & science) while I handle the right brain stuff. He and I have been to hell and back, and we're finally in a good place. I guess God knew what He was doing when He gave me this man, even when we had not a clue.
Choose gratitude over guilt.
You are enough.
It is okay if some of your own grass is brown.
Without the trials & hard stuff, it is impossible to appreciate the good stuff. I am finally learning that some of it is pretty damn good, too.
How did we get to 2016 already? I spent the second half of 2015 immersed in a new adventure...a quest to become fitter and healthier, and it was life changing for me in a good way! It inspired and motivated me to aim high for this new year and take on new challenges. So, not only do I want to grow my Beachbody coaching business & inspire others to become happier & healthier, I have aimed high with my fitness goals. No resolutions allowed because they are too easy to break. It's goal setting, baby. I took up running because I had been neglecting my cardio (avoiding it would be more accurate) and surprised myself when I learned I actually like it! I have been using this really great app called Couch 2 5K (C25K) and am about halfway through it. My sister Sara is my running inspiration and I plan one day to do a race with her. My goal is not only a 5K but a 10K before the end of this year. Already signed up for a 5K in May!
The more immediate challenge that is more rigorous than running? I signed on to do Beachbody's newest workout, the Master's Hammer & Chisel. I love strength training and I knew this would challenge me more than anything else I've done so far. So with the new year is motivation and confidence. Bring it on, I said!
Well, yesterday was day 1 and Autumn's workout was weights and balance. Let me just say that the pistol squats were crazy. Deceptively crazy. Do a few and hmm, I can do these. Not so bad, right? Yeah, sure. By the 10th one on each side, my legs had crying hot flashes. Not quite like jelly when I went downstairs after my shower, but boy did I feel those for a while! But I was stoked and excited anyway.
Now let's talk about today, day 2. This time it's Sagi's turn. I had noticed on the workout calendar that there were actually 2 choices listed, one being if you are "short on time." So like a good Girl Scout, I decided last night to watch both of them to see what I'd be in for. I bet you're thinking, what a good idea! Being prepared is half the battle. Uh huh. What it really meant was I got to choose between whether Sagi tried to bury me in 25 minutes, or by enlisting Autumn's help, he could get the job done in only 18. Everyone knows that teamwork makes things happen faster, even workout manslaughter. And with Sagi's muscles, burying the bodies must be an efficient process. As you can see, I wanted to slap an Out of Order sign on my forehead when I finished. But no white flag, no surrender from me because the stubborn Italian girl in me will not allow it.
I am happy to say that I have been spot on with my nutrition since this 60 day challenge began yesterday. I can feel a difference already in just the 2 days, so I know at the end of these 60 days, I am going to be fierce and strong. Eating clean, healthy foods is the biggest piece of feeling & looking fabulous. God only gave me 1 body to live in while I'm here on the earth, so taking care of it is the best way to honor His gift to me. He's blessed me in more ways than I can count.
Tomorrow will bring Autumn and her Iso Strength Chisel workout. I am looking forward to whatever she has in store for me. Bring it, Autumn! I'm ready.
I was down in my kitchen earlier this evening, heating up some leftovers for my dinner, when the movie Grumpy Old Men popped into my head, (Burgess Meredith's character in particular.) He was discussing the new neighbor (played by Ann-Margret) with Jack Lemmon's character, who played his son in the movie. It is a cheeky scene, to be sure, as Burgess' line was to ask "Did you mount her?" then the followup line to Jack's reply was "well does she have big thighs?" This movie and its sequel are two of my all time favorite movies. Anyway, when this popped in my head, I happened to glance down at my own thighs and I pondered "well, do I have big thighs?" The answer to that, of course, is no. They do seem a little bigger to me, though, but what I am really seeing is strength. My muscles are bigger since I started working out. This got me to thinking about where I was last year, and where I am now.
Muscles only grow when you work them, and this is not only for physical endeavors. This year has seen quite a bit of change. I have a new niece born this year. My son turned 21 and moved out of state this year. I also began a health & fitness journey this year. All big changes, all good changes. My body has seen some great changes as I have worked to become stronger & healthier, which has prompted my mental outlook to become healthier and more positive & stronger. Best of all, this has been accompanied by healthy strides in my spiritual health. My faith has grown in leaps & bounds this year; something I realized most of all when my son moved out. I know God has a plan for me because he tells me so in Jeremiah 29:11-13. He has a plan for my son, too, and I have left him in His constant, capable hands. Yes, I bawled my eyes out the day my son got on that airplane to move a 15 hour car ride away, and he's not going to be home for Christmas this year. But the weeks before that day, and the weeks since that day, I have known a peace and security that he's going to be okay. A peace that I only know because I have left him in God's hands and I trust that He will take care of my boy. It was a huge, brave step for Matthew, and I am enormously proud of him. So far, he is happy up north and starting to figure out this whole adult thing.
As far as the rest goes, my perennial holiday anxiety was something that I struggled for many years to get under control. Something that mostly due to the strains of raising a special needs child, but when my mom died, it became even harder. I had reached a point where I wanted to simply boycott the last 2 months of the year. But this year, I dug inside myself and leaned on the strength that has settled inside me, and I have chosen something else. I am choosing to embrace the last 2 months of the year. Yes, things are very different. My mom is still gone, which is still excruciatingly hard on me, and now my son is not living with me for the first time since he was born. But I can find the good in the different. I am working to overcome my cynical tendencies and focus on what's good and positive in every situation. Even in the bad stuff, there can be something to be thankful for. Even if that is simply the recognition of being able to appreciate the good because I have persevered through the bad.
So, this year, I choose to be positive. I choose to find joy. I choose to be grateful for the abundance of blessings in my life, for they are too many to count. I choose to see my glass as half full, even in the bad stuff, because when I leave that glass out in the rain, out in the storm, God will fill it up for me when I lean on Him. He has been so good and faithful to me! I choose love, and I choose peace, which comes from His strength. And from His strength, I can find my own.
What do you choose?
Have you ever noticed how we tend to be creatures of habit for many areas of our lives? We do it with what we eat, what we wear, what we do with our time....sometimes it is so comfortable that we slip into autopilot. For some areas of our lives, though, there can be things that produce anxiety, and lots of it.
For me, this time of year is one of those areas. Those of you who have been reading my posts here, or who know me in person (and what kind of roller coaster ride my life has been the past 20 years), know that this time of year has perennially overwhelmed me. Part of it is from the incessant commercialization of our Christmas season, which detracts and distracts from celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus. The other part of it stems from the dysfunctional feel of my family dynamics. Participating in extended family gatherings became increasingly stressful over the years as my children grew older, to the point where I just wanted out of it all. I didn't want my family's internal problems to be the reason everyone else's fun took a nose dive. I longed to be like so many other families who enjoyed being with their relatives who also enjoyed being with them, celebrating with food and fun and time together. I longed to be the house where everyone would want to come gather, where I could do my Italian girl thing in the kitchen and love on everyone with home cooked food, etc.
But this year, when the annual email circulated among my sisters & I, regarding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and gift giving parameters, one of my sisters challenged my knee-jerk reaction of dreading the topic. I'm glad she did, too, because for me, this year of 2015 has been one of many changes. My journey with Jesus isn't restricted to just this year, but my faith has certainly grown. I changed up my health & fitness habits in June. It would be more accurate to say that I created health & fitness habits when I purchased my first challenge pack & began a Beachbody workout program. That change transformed me in multiple ways, and it motivated me to become an entrepreneur & join their coaching community. More change. It's scary and exciting at the same time.
Fast forward to early fall, and my special needs son moved out. He didn't just move out, he moved away to begin his life outside our roof. A 15 hour car drive away. A huge change in the family dynamics. A tremendous leap of faith in a number of ways.
Now here we are at the end of November, and I just cooked Thanksgiving dinner where only 1 of my children was home for the holiday. More change. My son will not be here for Christmas, either. So many things have changed, so why not my knee-jerk reaction? Why not choose a different path that replaces anxiety with peace and joy?
So, that is what I am choosing to do this year. I am choosing not to let this time of year overwhelm me anymore. I am choosing peace and joy. I am acknowledging and accepting that change can be a good thing. It's not always bad. I am going to focus on why we celebrate Christmas and not worry about the commercialization, because I can choose my participation level in that. I am not going to stress anymore about not being able to host a big family gathering. Perhaps one day I will be able to, or maybe I won't. But why not choose peace and joy in the here & now? That is the whole point Christmas is the celebration of the birth of peace and joy!
When I was growing up, I used to feel like an outsider. That I didn't really belong, and I didn't know where I fit in. It was like I needed to live on the Island of Misfit Toys from that classic Christmas special that used to come on t.v. every year when I was a child.
Thankfully, I grew up, and although it still took me a long time after that to become comfortable in my own skin, I was still sort of an outsider in that I was not sure who I really was, not sure what I dreamed about, not sure what kind of goals I had in life.
But now, I know that being a "misfit" is part of who I am. It means that I am unique & quirky. If you were to ask my daughter Alice, she'd tell you that she often informs me "Mommm! You're so weird!" or, "Mom, you're such a dork!" But that doesn't get my feathers ruffled; it makes me laugh! Because I have embraced the misfit in me, I can embrace those remarks. My usual response to my darling daughter is something along the lines of "yeah, but I am comfortable in my weirdness!" or "yeah, but I'm YOUR dork!" Then I think of something else to say or do that is even weirder, just for fun and giggles. I am super blessed to have a strong bond with Alice that has allowed us to have a lot of fun together at an age where it is not so common to have that with your teen. Believe me when I say I know what a gift I have in that!
Misfits have freedom, too. Misfits don't feel pressured to conform to fit in. They don't look for outside opinion to validate who they are as people. That is something I was overly concerned with when I was growing up. Now? Not so much. The only opinion that truly matters to me now is what the Lord thinks of me. I am far from perfect but try hard to live in a way that honors Him. I also know that my mom is watching over me from heaven, so I try to honor her in everything I do as well. Misfits are free to be themselves, and unless that means being a serial killer, terrorist, or demon, it is a good thing. People who are worth having in your life will love you and accept you no matter how low or high your "misfit" percentage is. I confess that I rather enjoy when my goofiness compels my daughter to call me weird.
So, never be afraid to be you. Be unique, quirky, weird, goofy and silly. That is what makes you a misfit and makes you special. It makes you real, and it makes you worth knowing. We have more fun, too!! This world needs more quirky, weird, goofy and silly if you ask me. If you need me, I'll be on the island playing with my toys!
I used to wonder how and why other moms with kids would cry when their child went off to preschool, went off to kindergarten, off to middle school, high school, graduate, etc. I never understood it because my reality was so different with a special needs child. By the time kindergarten arrived, my son was more reluctant to get on his first school bus than I was to let him get on it. No tears, just a "see you this afternoon!" He was the one with the tears.
Oh, my tears came, and often, but they were tears from stress, from being overwhelmed with not knowing what to do with my circumstances, the strains of his needs, especially when they were undiagnosed. Tears from hearing a doctor tell me she thought he needed to be locked up like a criminal at age 5, when all he really had was a substantial fear of doctors offices ,dentist offices, shots, etc. Tears from a preschool who didn't know how to handle his emerging needs. Tears when it took a 2 week mental hospital stay at the age of 7, to get a diagnosis. Tears from seeing countless times the phone would ring and it was school, and I just knew I wasn't going to want to hear what they were about to tell me about his conduct. Tears from seeing the stress rippling through my family in a destructive way. Tears from home visits from the police department, the crisis intervention officers. Tears when I thought there was nothing left. Nothing good.
But today, I watched my 21 year old son leave for the airport to move back to the only place we've lived where he felt happy. He made this decision on his own, decided where he was going to put his life together, and I let him go. It is all up to him to make it work. I am too far away now to pick him up if he falls down. He gets to do that for himself now. I am proud of him. He's made a bold, brash, brave decision and I have put on a brave front. It is only partially a front, which I was forced to acknowledge today when I had to let my declarations of peace with his move and declarations of "I'm fine" find substance. Seeing him leave this morning, knowing he was not going to be home for Thanksgiving or Christmas for the first time, was harder than I ever imagined. So, more tears. And the powerful, unexpected tears of my husband, whom I nearly never see cry.
So in this month for giving thanks, I say to God, Thank You. Thank You for sending me my son, even with the storms that came with his needs. Thank You for sending the tears 16 years later than I imagined. Thank You for letting me be his mother, even with the countless times I questioned Your WHY. I am thankful for Matthew and I leave him in Your hands, Lord. Please keep him safe and draw him back to You. Thank You for loving him more than I can.