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2016

54bf2b5f2f44bbed22366929f6bdc608Never in my life have I been so ready for a year to end. 2015 has been incredibly trying.. This year has truly been my rock bottom, and has tested not only my health but my spirit as well. I have learned valuable life lessons this year, and I hope that I have grown stronger as a person. I am ready for 2016, and what it has to offer. As we transition in to a new year I pray it finds you all doing well and appreciating your blessings.

Happy New Year,

With love

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Never Stop Chasing

11058615_473751662803406_6857677357544279863_nMy grandfather, a man wise beyond his years, was also a great storyteller. A modest man from humble upbringing, he had, at the time that I truly began to listen to him, lived for 70 years, during which he enlisted in the military, met and married my grandmother, and raised 5 children. His hair, still jet black and never dyed, deceived his eyes, warm and brown, crinkled with age and knowledge.

My mother and I would visit my grandparents weekly, as they aged, aware that time, the greatest of teachers, was also fleeting. I would sit at my grandfather’s feet, and later, as I too got older, at a chair next to him, sharing our love of lemon cookies as he spoke. I thirsted for these nuggets of wisdom, of tales of his life.

On one such visit, I can recall him talking to my mother, who had recently separated from my father, offering her advice as to how to move forward, and also offering insight from his own marriage.

“Familiarity breeds contempt.” This was the phrase he had shared with my mother as she questioned how her marriage, from the outside a joyful one spanning 15 years, had suddenly lead to this point, a divorce impending.

I didn’t understand what he meant at the time. After all, I was only 12, yet to have a romantic relationship or even to truly understand the complexities of a basic relationship that didn’t involve my family. I didn’t understand then.

But now I do.

Too often, in any relationship, but more importantly, in a marriage, we as partners allow ourselves to become too comfortable.

We simply stop chasing.

At the beginning of a relationship, before last names and rings are shared, we are brought together by common interests or common friends. We put our best foot forward. We engage ourselves in conversations. We woo each other.

But after the relationship has been established, and the rings have been exchanged, all too often, we find that we may stop trying. Certainly, we don’t love our partner less than our pre-marriage days. We become comfortable in the knowledge that we have a partner who accepts our bad habits, who understands us and has seen us at our worst, and while these are all traits which are crucial to our marriage, we stop trying. We don’t date each other anymore.

Familiarity breeds contempt.

Too often, our partner becomes the person  with who we share our complaints, rather than our compliments. As we each independently face the struggles that life can bring, rather than leaning on each other for support, we can become angry with the other person for not understanding what we feel. We can resent each other.

My grandparents have passed, but if I had the ability to speak to my grandfather one more time,  I would let him know that I am taking his words to heart. He was never able to see me walk down the aisle. He never got to meet my husband. But I am applying his words to my marriage now.

I am trying, as often as possible, to date my husband. Scheduling demands can keep us from going on actual dates, but I still try to show my appreciation for him on a regular basis. Dating doesn’t mean gift giving either. To me, dating involves being fully present, being engaged not only in the moment but in the relationship as well.

I would offer the same advice that my grandfather had for my mother to anyone, newly married, or like myself, nearing our fourth wedding anniversary this year.

Husbands, never stop dating your wives. Remind her of the reasons that you married her on the days when she is questioning her beauty and herself. Remind her of why you fell in love with her, why she is the one you want to share your forever with.

Wives, date your husbands. Remind him of why you love him. Let him know that you appreciate him, even if it is a simple text.

Even when the demands of life command our attention, as they often do, even when work and children become our main focus, don’t let your partner become secondary. Never stop chasing each other.

Never stop dating.

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Inspiration

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The new year is nearly upon us, and as the last few days of this year draw to a close, it is a time not only for reflection, but also for resolution. This year, I took a drastic leap of faith, delving in to a passion that I have placed aside for many years, and I am finding a great amount of joy and fulfillment in being able to share my words with others. I recommend that whatever your passion may be, whatever you wish to pursue but have not yet done, that you explore in the coming year.

It could change your life.

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Choices

donutLife is a matter of choice. Each day we wake up, a clean slate before us, a new canvas upon which we can paint the picture of our day. We can choose our outfit, our mood, our breakfast. Doughnut vs. diet, salad vs. salty potato chips. The choices are ours alone, and it can be exhilarating and at the same time overwhelming. As we navigate through the paths of our lives, events unfolding before us, we have a choice as to how we react, what we pick.

I’m sure that we have all, at some point, questioned how our lives may have been different. What if we had selected a different career path or a different romantic partner? What if we had been born to different parents? Would we be living a better life now, than the one we are living with the choices we have made?

It’s so easy to get caught in this thought process, and friends, it can be destructive. While it is definitely natural to wonder what may have been if our lives had taken a direction other than the one that it did in fact take, it is destructive because we allow ourselves not to focus on all that we have been blessed with, but instead, to focus on everything that we are missing.

Friends, I challenge you to live life with a grateful heart. I will be the first to admit that life’s circumstances can definitely bring in to question our ability to focus on all of the positives in our lives when negativity seems to be all that surrounds us; when painful situations dominate our lives and harden us. But I can state, from personal experience, that even the most painful of situations, even the darkest of times, can be temporary.

Friends, I urge you to choose joy.

Happiness is a choice. Anger, and a bitter heart and bitter mind are choices as well.

Even though the path may not seem clear at the moment, even if we are forced to question if the outcome may have been better had we reacted in another way, the reasons behind the circumstances we face will eventually come to light. I personally would like to arrive at these destinations with a joyful heart.

I hope that you will choose to do the same.

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Must Haves for the Modern Mom(and Dad)

dr.jpgCaffeine: In any form, caffeine is essential to life as a parent. I personally dislike coffee, so for me, it’s Dr. Pepper. Lots, and lots of Dr. Pepper is necessary for me to function as a decent human being.

Comfortable pants: Preferably of the yoga variety, though any pants that don’t have the word jeans in them are acceptable. You will be running, jumping and doing a number of physical activities involving bending and other such motions for a good portion of your day..you must have good pants. Unless you prefer being squished in to confining pants all day (can you tell how much I hate jeans? ), in which case I applaud you.

A sense of humor: Two words here. Bodily fluids. The first few years of your child’s life will involve so many bodily fluids that will end up on you. If you have more than one child, this particular part of parenthood will become second nature, but if you don’t have a sense of humor, you will be one vomit covered grump.

Netflix: Netflix is not only crucial for those few moments of quiet times we get in between changing diapers, preparing lunches and playing hide and go seek..it’s essential to making sure we get that quiet time. Our kids get a few moments to watch their favorite cartoon, and we get a few moments to sit. It’s a win win situation.

Love: Above all, love is the greatest “must have.” You will never experience a love greater than the love a parent has for their child. It is a truly rewarding experience, and the ability to raise tiny human beings in to adults that will shape the future is an amazing responsibility.  While the others listed above are definitely helpful, love is the greatest requirement.

 

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Saved by Grace

There is a mark on my ankle, forever etched in to my skin, a permanent reminder of my ability to overcome adversity, a testament to my relationship with my creator.

Grace.

It was humid on the day I walked in to the tattoo parlor, the moisture of the Hawaiian air pressing down upon us and causing us to perspire. We sought solace in the air conditioned shop, browsing through laminated catalogs to view images of the various artists work, yet I had already selected what I was going to have embedded in to my ankle, my determination apparent. I’m not certain what caused me to be so insistent that day to have the tattoo done. We were on our honeymoon in Hawaii, and unfamiliar with the town as well as any tattoo shop. This was certainly a choice that could wait until we returned home, and not a pressing need. Yet I felt compelled to move forward, to get a tattoo at that very moment.

The receptionist led me back to an available artist, a Hawaiian man who towered over me in height but was gentle in his manner of speaking, in the way of which he spoke of his family, whose pictures adorned his work station. As he prepared his tools, pulling out the small color tubes that would eventually become the highlighting colors for the word I had selected, he began to engage me in conversation, surely sensing my hesitation.

“Why did you pick that word?,” he asked, his tone nonjudgmental. I looked in to his warm brown eyes, sorrow of past tragedies weighing heavily upon his heart and causing him to appear permanently sad, and opened my own heart, to a stranger.

Why had I selected the word? Compared to others, the life I have led has been an easy one. There has never been a night that I have not had a roof over my head or food in my belly. I have been fortunate in that I have been provided for, thankful for a mother who has always treated me as her first priority, and a stepfather who has treated me as a daughter of his own.

We don’t have to experience harsh conditions to experience sorrow, to feel sadness. Prior to this very afternoon, to my exposed leg resting on a table as a needle drummed along the grooves of my skin, buzzing with each line newly created, I nearly died.

Twice. I nearly died twice.

The first was after the birth of my son, following a complicated pregnancy and an equally traumatic delivery. After my son, who arrived five weeks early, entered the world, I began to lose a significant amount of blood, rapidly. I was suffering from a condition referred to as pre-eclampsia, which involves an increase of the mother’s blood pressure. I had never experienced blood pressure issues, and the pregnancy took a toll on my body. A less common side effect of pre-eclampsia is a condition known as HELLP syndrome. In addition to increased blood pressure, HELLP causes the mother to experience difficulty clotting. Combined together, I was bleeding, with the inability to clot…I was bleeding out.

By the true grace of God, I was able to be stabilized. Nurses flitted near my bed side, measuring my vitals hourly, readjusting and re-fluffing pillows, until I was steady enough to sit, then finally, to load myself in to a wheelchair so that I was able to visit my son in the NICU, who due to his prematurity, was being monitored to ensure that his breathing remained steady and that he was properly intaking nutrition.

Together we fought. My son and I remained in the hospital for a combined total of four weeks, myself discharged after one, and he, three weeks later, both strong enough to thrive in the world outside hospital walls. We did thrive, and my gorgeous son grew in to a toddler, the years quickly passing until he was an outgoing and vibrant three year old.

At three years old, my son almost lost his mother.

My husband, who at that time was still my boyfriend, had recently purchased a vehicle from a friend who lived in a forested area, detached from the suburban environment of the surrounding city. In order to bring the new purchase to his parents home, he was going to need assistance in bringing his current vehicle, the vehicle that would be driven to his friend ‘s house, back. I offered to help him, eagerly climbing in to his car and enjoying the short trip from his parents to his friend’s home, watching as the sky above us transitioned from a serene blue to a tormented gray. We waited for a final inspection of the car, and then we parted, I in his current car and he in his new car. At this point, small drops that were falling from the sky had turned in to a sheet of rain, obscuring my vision. I watched as my boyfriend scanned the surrounding road, viewed that conditions were clear, and made the turn on to the next road. I followed suite, scanning the  roads, which remained clear. To this day, I recall pulling out, in to the intersection..and my next memory involves a firefighter peering in at me through broken glass, asking for details I was struggling to remember. How old was I? Was anything broken? I honestly couldn’t remember, and panic set in quickly as I realized my boyfriend was not with me. I  didn’t remember the drive to his friend’s house or any events following, details which would have to be pieced together for me later. I was carefully extracted from the vehicle and loaded on to a stretcher as rain pelted my skin, staining my forearms and legs with chilled drops. I spoke briefly to the EMT assessing my vitals in the ambulance, before I drifted into a restless slumber, awaking again at the hospital, my head confined to the bed by a brace.

A sheriff stood at the foot of my bedside, and we spoke, he informing me that if the angle of the vehicle had been adjusted even slightly, even with the assistance of a seatbelt, I could have died. It would have been considered a head on collision that could have killed me instantly. Yet, it wasn’t. I was able to walk away from the crash, albeit sore, with cuts and bruises.

I was told, after my first son was delivered, that due to the trauma I had suffered during delivery, the likelihood of carrying another child successfully to term was slim, if not impossible. After the car accident and the additional injuries I had suffered, that likelihood increased.

Several months after the day I sat in the tattoo parlor, sharing my story and my heart with my tattoo artist, I discovered I was expecting our second child.

I truly believe that we are all born with a purpose, and though we may not know what that purpose is initially, our lives are spent in the discovery of fulfilling it.

This year, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, after enduring months of illness with no clear answers provided. This is an illness which will likely affect me for the remainder of my life, and something I will have to manage daily. Yet, it is not life threatening. It will affect me, certainly, but I am able to live with it.

LIVE.

I have been saved, in the grace of God, numerous times. I’m not certain why, but I do not question it, nor my faith in Him. I know he is keeping me on this planet for a reason, and that my mission to complete is not yet done.

Friends, if you ever find yourself questioning your purpose, feeling as if you are merely going through the motions of your life, I challenge you to ask yourself this..what is your purpose? And rather than get discouraged if you do not have the answers, I challenge you to spend the rest of your life searching for them. 10616357_332320676946506_1583452595804749029_n

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The Reason for the Season

tree.jpgWe race through stores with our gazes cast downward, our focus on the moment on hand. Frantically we pace through aisles, questioning the options before us in our attempt to select the perfect gift. We become distracted in our searches, our tempers short, our hearts hardened by long hours of shopping, our frustration mounting.

At a time in which we should celebrating, grateful for another year that we were able to overcome the circumstances that have defined the previous ten months, we allow ourselves to become engrossed in the urge to shop, to purchase the latest item.

We forget the reason for the season.

The spirit of the holidays should be focused upon the loved ones we have the ability to spend time with. For so many, this is not a possibility, as loved ones are either no longer living, or they are unable to be physically with them.  For these individuals, another moment with their loved one, a final holiday to be shared, would be treasured and appreciated.

Friends, we need to appreciate and treasure our loved ones, our lives, not just at this time of year, but every day.

We need to remind ourselves that life isn’t about presents. It’s about presence. Being fully engaged in our lives, our relationships, and in our time, is what is honestly the most rewarding. Certainly packages under the tree are delightful to see, and enjoyable to open, but after the momentary joy subsides and the presents are stored away, if our hearts are still unhappy, have we really received any gift?

For me, this, the first Christmas after such a tumultuous year, will be a difficult one.  I have allowed for my heart to be hardened, my joy to be stripped by the negativity of life events outside of my control. I know that many others are in the same position as I, their happiness stolen, jaded and uncertain, carrying through the motions of the holidays, including shopping and the stress that often comes with it.

I ask of you, on this, the eve before Christmas, to recall your reason for the season. Whether it be your family, your spirit and strength in the face of adversity, or joy at the promise of a new year rapidly approaching, a chance to start over, I encourage you to lay your focus there. Don’t allow yourself to become so focused on the material that you forget to appreciate the very gifts before you.

Merry Christmas Eve.

With Love,

Me