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STEP UP to YOUR TARGET

The other day I was walking into one of my favorite stores, Target, to get supplies for Mary’s homemade floral centerpieces for Easter. I have walked in that store thousands of times, but this time was different. As I looked at the huge bright red Target symbol I thought about my life, the conversations with Mary, a friend, Mary’s friends, and Sam.

When I was young I would say I was ON TARGET for the bulls-eye. I finished high school with a high GPA, went to college and got my Bachelors in Nursing before I got married (hit the bulls-eye), I got married to an incredible honorable, Godly man (hit the bulls-eye), and landed an amazing job as a floor nursing job in Oncology (hit the bulls-eye). HOWEVER, none of those BULLS-EYES happened without many hours of practice and time commitment, many broken arrows as road-blocks appeared, many sleepless nights, and definitely not without prayer after prayers (said for myself and said by others for me).    I also have not always landed on the BULLS-EYE because of a variety of reasons.

First, I think about the bulls-eye I set that we would have 6 children. However, after a miscarriage, years of infertility, and then very high-risk pregnancy, my target had to change. My bulls-eye became to love the children we were richly blessed with and not focus on the number.

I think about my bulls-eye that I took chances with including a job in Pittsburgh with an approximate 2.5 hour drive one-way with rush hour traffic. I didn’t calculate the hours away from my husband and daughter. Some targets cost more than we calculate they will. I didn’t consider all the consequences. God still blessed the job thru a bedrest for our son. However, after he arrived I had to pull out the arrows and start shooting for the next job to best meet our family.

However, here I am sitting again. Contemplating life’s decisions. Wondering where my next set of arrows should go.   Really, I am going to be 48 years old and I am contemplating where I should be next in my life.  I thought I would be further along in some areas of my life.  But life has happened and in some big ways!  I have hit the target sometimes, but many times feel like the arrows miss the target completely or were not shot with enough passion to land strongly so hit and bounce off. I had a friend, who is a little younger, recently who said the same thing to me – by now they thought they would have grown up and knew what they wanted. I have recently been challenged by hearing someone talk how they changed jobs based on God’s leading. I am learning to work on that God’s will. Some maybe surprised by that because I was raised in the church; however, it is easier to fax the motions. Honestly, I am guilty of taking the leap and praying for God’s blessing after the fact (thankfully He has!)

The interesting thing for me is when I listen to my daughter and her friends as they struggle over the quiver of arrows they have. They have career decisions, relationship decisions, school decisions, financial decisions, etc. The irony is they hear and feel so much pressure to shoot those arrows and hit the bulls-eye the very first time. Some pressure comes from society about picking the perfect career path, the perfect college, etc. A friend at work is detailing to me the pressure her daughter is feeling as a Junior to visit schools, the essays for applications, the SAT scores, and the need to hire a private college prep advisor (or some crazy title) to be sure to have the BEST. I said but she is a Junior and may change her mind. Her mom is total agreement, but the pressure from the school and the peers are driving her decision. So, her mom caves in too and keeps shooting the arrows, paying the money, and at the students young age, it is likely to be a long time before a bulls-eye is hit.  The other unfortunate thing is as a society, we often expect everyone to follow a certain sequence and fit in. If you don’t fit in, you will know it quickly with a social media post, as people will pass judgement. We plant just enough judgement to make people question their aim and their target.

Honestly, every day, I can tell you the targets I have missed as a mom, a wife, a friend, etc. I want to give them so much more than I do. I am not just talking material things, but miss the mark with quality time, encouragement, love languages, etc.   Every day, I shoot poisoned arrows at myself, unfortunately they often land on target of my heart and my head.

Sometimes my bulls-eye has not been within the will of God, not best for me, not best for our family. But I get so stubborn and determined to succeed in what I started that I wouldn’t stop trying. Sometimes I get so mad and cry and I break and stomp on the arrows. Although they seemed like wasted arrows and time it is all part of the learning process.

So here a little advice, inspired by Target, and good for me and anyone else who needs to hear this!

It is not a sign of weakness to have to remove the arrows and try to shoot again! I have done this time and again with jobs. If college is what you believe you wanted and realized it is not a good fit, remove and re-shoot. If the degree you choose is not what you expected, remove and re-shoot. If the guy you met on a dating app isn’t a good fit, remove and re-shoot. If the job isn’t the best fit, remove and re-shoot. HOWEVER, while you are in the outside of the target, learn all you can from the situation, because they may, in fact, lead you to the next target.

For the arrows not landing in the bulls-eye, step back and evaluate why they didn’t Is it truly God’s plan/will for your life or is it the plan you made and just hoped God would bless it.   Is it the best fit for you (and your family)? I truly believe for me I don’t always land on the eye because God is protecting me because I may not be ready for that yet. Protecting me because it is outside of His will for my life, and He definitely has a better view of my life than I do.

It is okay to not land on the bulls-eye, sometimes hitting within the big target is fine. I feel like this is where I am now. I am still in Nursing (my career target), but not sure I shouldn’t have a few arrows on the target. It may take me shooting a few more arrows and they may all stay within the big target, but never the bulls-eye.   I believe it is okay to settle. I know of someone who wanted to be a high-profile job, but wanted to be a mom more, so is settling for a different path.

You may not hit the bulls-eye the first time or every time I shoot. Life is a big practice field. I feel like the areas where I landed on the bulls-eye were times I was truly within the will of God. I think I often don’t hit the first time because I often don’t wait for God’s direction for my life. I gather all my arrows, mark the target with MY goal, and just start shooting. Often, those arrows fall to the ground defeated. Sometimes I pick back up and keep shooting at that stupid target determined to make it work, yet remain outside of where I am meant to be. God can still take the mess and bless it.

Sometimes you land on the bulls-eye, but the win does not feel as good as I expected. Again, I think this is when I thought I knew what the target was but it wasn’t as glorious as I thought it would be. Sometimes, I believe I wound others with my flying arrows getting to the bulls-eye and realize the casualties I caused also was not worth hitting the eye

Are your arrows falling short from the whole target? Often that is when my strength is low. Lately, this has been my spiritual strength. I think of the Bible story of Moses who would get so tired holding up his arms that his friends came and lifted them for him. How many times do I not ask for my friends to lift my arms to position the arrows. Some goals/targets are not meant to be reached alone. Maybe it is saying come help or say a prayer for me. My Grandma Frazee would always quote her favorite Bible Verse Philippians 4:13 that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Strength from others is not going to happen unless I admit I need it and ask.

Are there too many distractions preventing you from hitting the target? Do I listen to the negative voices in my head talk to me while I shoot (the voices say – Sheri do you realize how often you miss, are you sure this is what you really want, you are not good enough, you are not pretty enough, you are too weak, etc…). I also get distracted by the criticism and expectations of others. Just because someone tells me what target I should hit, does not mean I have to listen to them? I need to sometime tell people to just whisper or be silent unless I ask for their guidance.

Are you letting a list of excuses stand in the way of hitting the target? This could be my target for my health is a healthy weight, but the excuses for not exercising and eating right is long! I love to read books but somehow never hit the target of reading all the books I want.   Project after project I have listed in my notebook and time after time I let something else get in the way. All the times I need to figure out just the next arrow to shoot – the next step to take – and I make an excuse or procrastinate. The infamous one is often I have too many things to do, my calendar is too full, etc. when in reality I just don’t spend my time wisely. I also miss shooting arrows because I keep procrastinating (UGH).

Is timing and/or distance the issue?  Maybe I need to not shoot to hit the bulls-eye so quickly and appreciate that landing within the target can give beautiful learning experience. Maybe I need to slow down and not make the decision on the target/bull’s eye without considering all the consequences and costs. Maybe by rushing to make the decision I am missing out on the best target for me.  Maybe I am too close the bulls-eye and not looking at the big picture. Maybe I am standing too far away to see it clearly. It may take a little more time to move closer or further away, but the time and distance can offer clarity when I just focus on shooting the arrows.

Am I too busy look at someone else’s target that I am missing mine? Or maybe too busy comparing my target to “her target” and what she has, etc… that I can’t see mine before me. I think we all have that perfect person, confirmed through social media. If you don’t have one person to compare yourself to, you can visit Pinterest and feel less of a mom, a wife, a homemaker, a professional, etc.. as pictures and pictures of perfection flood the pages. God has a plan, a target, for each of us! When we compare, we rob ourselves of an amazing blessing, and will never hit OUR bulls-eye!

Everyday we can learn from where our arrows have currently landed (jobs, education, friendships, etc.)  Every arrow we shoot is one step closer to the bulls-eye. I am learning, you are never too old to remove some arrows and re-shoot them.   I love watching my daughter and her friends shoot their arrows and I love praying for them to land exactly where they were meant to land. My only regret is in all my arrows is that I have not covered them in prayer before shooting them.  The beautiful thing is, God still turned them all into learning opportunities and blessings.

One thing I know for sure – every day God gives us a new set of mercies (Lamentations 3:23) – a new set of arrows to shoot and a new target.

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Choose your own STEPS and Don’t do as I do… please do as I say.

Every year, our beautiful daughter, asks for one thing from me on her birthday – this blog. She knows it is good for my soul to write, and good for her heart to hear. But where did 19 years go… I want to focus on all the thing I wish I could do over, but more importantly the things we can begin.

Mary and I often talk about how I always knew what I wanted when I was younger for a career. I did become the nurse I wanted to be and made the decision easily in high school. It likely started as I watched the care of my Grandfather when I was young, followed by caring for my mom, followed by caring for my Grandma, and just knowing that is my personality. I had it all figured out – graduate from college, get married, large family of 6 children, and stay home to raise them. However, God had other plans. I have often ignored His plans and allowed them to be drowned out with MY plans and the plans of others. I have made many (most) decisions without deep enough prayer to have peace. However, God has taken those messes and blessed them to lead me to where I am today.

So, when Mary struggles to figure it all out of where she wants to be down the road and she compares her life to mine it is hard to help her find her pieces to her life puzzle. I was blessed not to have a lot of opinions of my future, just support. At times, especially in school, instead of supporting her, I shoved her to do harder and be more. It was not intended to be meant that she wasn’t enough, although I realize now that is how it was interpreted. I just always knew she was/is capable of whatever her largest dream would be. I wanted her to reach those dreams despite all the voices that tore her down.  There are times when we talk about past years that I am so sad that I missed so many signs and opportunities to pour into her soul.   I missed so many chances of putting words and actions into her soul, that today, she doubts, worries, and questions who she is and who she wants to be.

Unfortunately, I can’t go back and have do-overs, but I do have today to change and that may have impact on her future. Helping her to know all the words and actions – good, bad, critical, uplifting – has created her to be the amazing woman she is today.

I wish I would have been more honest and transparent about my struggles, instead of always trying to protect and making things look easier than they were. I like to just “handle” thing and keep my feelings and concerns to myself. I hate to admit weakness and will rarely accept help.  Sadly, this has taught our daughter the same – that if you struggle you should hide it and do it alone. In reality, it has lead me to face many battles alone that could have been shorter battles and more successful with a little help by my side. It has left me lonely when all I wanted was to just call someone and say I just can’t do it anymore. I still struggle to this day with my walls and my carrying my own burden (that can be a whole separate blog).

I wish I would have made my physical health and self-care a priority. Though some of the adventures in the past could not have been avoided, like my recent unexpected surgery, I could be in a better physical health. We share some medical history, that I have unfortunately bestowed her. I cannot really preach her a sermon, when I need to have it played back to the person in the mirror. I put everyone, everything, every job, etc. in front of taking care of me. I have improved in stealing time for a hot bath, but lack anything beyond that. I look at my body and my health and most days wish I would have done something sooner, but this ultimate procrastinator always said tomorrow. Just to think I could be a strong healthy woman….

I wish I would have made my spiritual health a priority and transparent. I have become very open recently with her in this area. I am not sure at the point where things changed, likely when I left no room to spend time with God or to hear his plans. I have great spiritual upbringing with Christian parents who raised me in church. I found I relied on my past spiritual base to keep me going, but without the continual filling of that it dried up. It is easy to go through the motions and then it becomes easy to just stop doing the motions. Sadly, when the motions stopped there was no example left.

It is easy to look back over 19 years (still can’t believe it has been 19 years) and see things I wish I would have done differently. It is time to change me today to be the example she needs in a mom. My Mom, Mary, left this world to go to heaven to send me our Mary. I still can close my eyes and know the example she lived out loud transparently – struggles, health, spirituality.   I want Mary to have that same example.

From this day forward, Mary, don’t do as I do, but please do as I say…..

Don’t look at choosing the wrong initial path as a failure, but that you were brave and took a step forward. Although, it doesn’t now feel to be the best path, experiences and education is never wasted and it is never too late to pick another road to travel. The important thing is to choose the road YOU want to be on and believe in enough to travel alone. However, you will not be alone because those that love you will join you, support you, and carry you. If you choose the path based on other’s expectations, you will reach the end but be sad you missed the turn.

Make finding your small community a priority. Be open, honest, and transparent with those select lucky people. Allow them in for the hard stuff as well as the fun stuff. Let them be the ones who pray for you, laugh with you, and cry with you. It is okay not to have it all together and okay to let people see that side of you. Reach out and let them know the load is too heavy and you need a hand. Don’t be your mom and handle life alone!

Make your health a priority.  You have watched your mom slowly fall apart, go without sleep, stuff her face with food to calm the sadness, etc.  Give yourself the sermon you give to your mom. Don’t be beating yourself up a few years down the road wishing your health would have changed. Your mom looks back now and realizes procrastination has hit the hardest in this area of life, and she can’t turn it back now. Chose one small step everyday to give you the brightest future of having the family you have always dreamed of.

Make your spiritual health the biggest priority. Your mama has learned the high cost of spiritual emptiness and cost of hiding the empty. God never moves, so if you feel He is far away, it is because of your position, and not because of His.   Seek Him in scripture, in songs, in sermons, and in prayer – just be sure to NEVER stop seeking Him. Never make the past motions be enough to sustain you. Be intentional though and don’t go through the motions. Many prayers have been said over your life, Mary, but they are never a substitute for your direct 1:1 with Him. Draw the circle around your prayers and never stop! (Know your mom never will stop praying for you too).

I truly believe in Leviticus 3:23 that God blesses us with a new serving of mercy every single day.   Don’t be your mom whose hands are so full of stuff, calendar too full of deadlines, a heart too full of doubts, a brain too full of worries that she doesn’t open her hands, her heart, her soul every morning to take them in. Look at my life, Mary… a series of successes and failures. Do not follow my footsteps as we have discussed the many times the path was wrong, and often alone.   Pick YOUR path to be the BEST YOU and know that you will be loved and supported. Never be so busy or burdened to select your new daily serving of mercy.

I pray for or beautiful Mary Faith that you open your hands wide open for all the amazing opportunities to grasp in front of you.

I pray that you open your eyes and look UP and know that God is the only opinion that matters on your life and that those that love you will walk right beside you.

I pray that you open your ears to hear Him and those that love you and that our collective voices will drown all the negative ones (including your own) you have carried for too long.

I pray you open your mind and unleash all your amazing dreams boldly knowing they will happen.

God sure knew what I needed when He sent us you! Happy Birthday Mary Faith!

 

Taking a STEP into 2018

Over the past several years I have loved the New Year, as I choose a word to guide my year. It is a fresh start. A chance to put the previous year behind me. As I mentioned in my last blog, it has been a hard year medically, emotionally, and spiritually.   Every year, however, I often find myself year after year with regrets of all the things… NOT accomplished, NOT finished, NOT tried, etc.   I started choosing a word to encompass it all, so I would not focus on the things not done, the weight not lost, the goals not met, my perceived failures, etc. A word that could steer me daily not on specific things but as a theme for my year. A word to keep me heading in the right direction.

Over the last month I have kept a list of words that have jumped out at me. At words that made me thing “that’s a great word”. Within the last couple of weeks, I have narrowed it down to a few words that I have heard or have stood out repeatedly. The past two days, I have done just enough to get my family by. I normally create a huge to do list to accomplish on days off, and generally leave most things unchecked. These past two days, I gave myself grace and no list.   I have watched movies with Mary undistracted, listened to Sam’s storied and admired Sam’s creations, snuggled with my husband, and watched Hallmark movies.   An honestly, I do have some things I would have done differently last year as I reflected on the previous year; however, I choose not to stay in that rut of regret. As in my last blog, I choose to be courageous and put down the mask and cape. (oh… choose and courage would have been other great words). That was the first STEP….

STEP is my word for 2018. At the end of 2017, I was facing a difficult choice, and practiced my typical coping mechanism of procrastination. It was then I decided I developed a mantra to either STEP UP or STEP OUT. The project perceived bigger than I wanted to face, so I stalled. I resolved to step up and take the next step, only to find it wasn’t as bad as I thought, and the avoidance was worse than the step. It was one small step in the right direction. The phrase kept coming up and it drew me. I am infamous for looking at a huge project and it overwhelms me, so I do nothing until I can no longer avoid it. This principal of overwhelm and procrastination applies to so many areas of my life.

There are areas I need to STEP BACK and evaluate. Areas I need to be brave and STEP UP. Areas that I need to STEP OUT to spend my time more wisely. Every day I just need to take a STEP, a movement, (and some days that step may be just a tip-toe). Lately, I have even stunk at what I use to do best – my calendar.   I could look at it and feel like I had some handle on my life. Lately though, I think it has been avoidance and overwhelm of the big pictures going on in my life. The desire to do it all, to be it all, and to solve it all created avoidance. If I didn’t open the calendar, I didn’t have anything to do. I cleaned out over 10,000 emails yesterday, which built up in a short time because if I didn’t open the email, it didn’t exist.   If I don’t get on the scale, then, I can pretend that my weight is okay. If I don’t take my finger sticks, then, I can pretend my diabetes is in check (which proved to be my downfall a few months ago).   Procrastination led to bigger problems, and some could have been solved with little steps.

One of the areas I need to work on is my spiritual life. As I was seeking my “gut” to confirm my word, I re-listened to a sermon I remembered listening to by Kevin Queen during a series of Movement. He talked about how “Peter had no idea what would happen when he took that first step”. “Movement begins when you take a step.”   And then a quote on Facebook from CrossPoint church that states “Sometimes God wants us to take a step before He parts the water.” I will never know what problem God will part, if I don’t take the step. He wants me being active partner in my own life, and not just waiting for the answer. Even more, He wants to direct my steps for all the crazy little plans I make. He would love even more input into my plans. I make plan after plan without consulting God, who has a much better view of my big life. I need to take the STEP of faith out of the boat I keep rowing alone. I can make my plans, but I need to let the Lord determine my steps. (Proverbs 16:9).

My gracefulness in real life has always been in question – I have fallen down steps, fallen while taking steps on level ground, fallen taking steps uphill, and fallen taking steps downhill. I am sure as I take each step I risk the chance of falling. When I fall, as I have so many times before, I will get back up and take another STEP.

Here is to 2018… happening one baby step at a time….

Deliberate taking off the cape and mask

I have started this blog and held back because of many reasons. However, Christmas became the point when I realized pretending is no longer an option. It is not for sympathy or worry, but to let someone else know they are not alone.

I have a friend at work that I have never physically met and honestly do not even know what she looks like, but I can be 100% honest with her.   We have had many conversations lately and she asked how I was and I told her “My cape is worn and dirty and the mask is quickly melting!”, that is how I would describe my current state. The cape is the super woman I pull out every day to be all things to all people. The mask is the one that covers my bags under my eyes yet shows my mouth as I always say I am fine and smile.

It has been a hard year medically. Jim had 2 hospitalizations for cardiac issues, Mary had a month-long stomach illness (part of which was on our vacation), and then I had a spiral downfall of my diabetes landing me in the hospital. They have taken a toll. I could do Jim’s and Mary’s illness because I am a nurse and I can remove myself as their “family” to be a nurse. I held it together and was strong.   I advocate for them, get in a battle when necessary, and tighten the cape and keep on going.

This year has been a closure of a season. My dad sold the house where I grew up in. While I am so happy he remains somewhat close in distance and I can call on the phone. He is close to so much and can enjoy no projects and maintenance. I stayed strong and cried behind closed doors. It was yet another season of my life that closed forever.

Mary graduated from High School. We have never gone the “normal” path in her life, yet criticism has often followed because of choosing what was best for HER and not being like everyone else. Her Senior year and even worse after graduation, she was pressured to have all these answers in life.  When there wasn’t an answer to the questions (job, college, license), or when the answer didn’t “fit” the expectation, people (even friends and family and strangers) had things to say and it gnawed away on her. We listened as family and friends give their wisdom about how she needed to socialize with people, go to a University with “real” people, how “homeschool” made her odd and unsociable, etc. I listened as they disapproved and withdrew support. All the while, I put on the cape – stayed strong in front of her – tried to protect her from the hurtful words. I assured her and rebuilt her confidence as it was questioned and tore it down. I cursed people in my head, cried behind closed doors, but wore the “I’m fine” mask.  Despite the criticism, she pressed forward and is headed in a great direction without their support. She has an amazing full-time job (where she socializes with people all day for those who worry), starts a college of her choice, etc.

Sam has hit a growth spurt and is growing emotionally, socially, and mentally.  I knew he was growing as I slowly watched his height creep above mine. We went to the shoe store for Mary and came out with also a Men’s Size 11 shoe for Sam! When did that happen!?!? He is in 8th grade, and rarely does a day go by that I don’t wonder if things will ever be okay for him.  I watch shows like The Good Doctor and only made it through one episode. It scares me to think that even as an adult, he will have to prove himself more than others because of a diagnosis. His body is surpassing his playful heart, and people just don’t understand because believe he should be past playing. He has no concept of age when friendship is involved. I watch him come to life when people submerge themselves in his life and sword fight, play with him, or talk with him about his favorite toys or movies. However, I watch as people criticize the very things that make him come to like, but never try to understand why they do. I always wear my cape ready to protect him (and so does Mary), but grateful when it can get a little break when we are in safe environments.

When I got the diagnosis of the decline of my diabetes, it saddened and honestly angered me. How could it be happening!?!? Honestly even had me angry at God. Didn’t He see how much I was doing, how I was serving my family and friends, etc. I started a new medication to put a bandage on the bigger issue. A band-aid which is always my solution. The new medication (the bandage) didn’t work. I became so sick that I lost all control. But for days, I kept downplaying the illness. I had so much to get done, or so I thought. I hung up my cape and took off the mask – I was not fine! However, I sadly didn’t even disclose the severity to those “closest” to me. It was easier… I didn’t want the attention… but honestly, I didn’t want to show my weakness.

Every day, as a wife, a mom, a nurse, a friend…. I wear the cape… I put on the mask. As I have had conversation with a co-worker, I realize I am not alone. Her life mirrors mine in many ways. I can have open conversations with her because I don’t feel like I will disappoint her. I am also a participant in an online Bible Study that began as a study on improving ourselves as wives. Over the weeks, we talked about so many personal things, and took off our capes and masks. We then resolved to continue to meet because the bond was so strong. They too had similar stories. Why can I be honest with people I have never physically met, but not the ones I can reach out and touch?

The irony is that I don’t always feel safe enough and/or brave enough and/or strong enough to be the woman not wearing my cape and/or my mask. It is so much easier to pretend in person that I am fine. I find that women/friends are so busy putting on their own capes and masks and running through life there is only time for a quick text to check in. When people ask, “how are you” the expected answer is “fine or okay or good or great”.   All the while, I hide in the comfort of our home and cry after the day’s tasks are done and all the family is tucked away (or maybe that is just me). I have set some unrealistic expectations for life. Believing I can do it all.

I wanted to finish 2017 Strong… and now I feel like I am just going to barely cross the finish line. The biggest wake up for me is that my daughter now often puts on the same cape and mask to face the world. She has learned from me to be silent and push forward, because that is what is “appropriate” and respectful. We don’t confront people when they back on promises or say things to hurt us, but cower under the cape and tighten the mask. Though 2017 didn’t go entirely as planned, I have learned that some things must change. Time to rely on my Grandma’s favorite verse Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, and stop relying on my own strength and the wearing of a cape and a mask.

 

I have started this blog and held back because of many reasons. However, Christmas became the point when I realized pretending is no longer an option. It is not for sympathy or worry, but to let someone else know they are not alone.

I have a friend at work that I have never physically met and honestly do not even know what she looks like, but I can be 100% honest with her.   We have had many conversations lately and she asked how I was and I told her “My cape is worn and dirty and the mask is quickly melting!”, that is how I would describe my current state. The cape is the super woman I pull out every day to be all things to all people. The mask is the one that covers my bags under my eyes yet shows my mouth as I always say I am fine and smile.

It has been a hard year medically. Jim had 2 hospitalizations for cardiac issues, Mary had a month-long stomach illness (part of which was on our vacation), and then I had a spiral downfall of my diabetes landing me in the hospital. They have taken a toll. I could do Jim’s and Mary’s illness because I am a nurse and I can remove myself as their “family” to be a nurse. I held it together and was strong.   I advocate for them, get in a battle when necessary, and tighten the cape and keep on going.

This year has been a closure of a season. My dad sold the house where I grew up in. While I am so happy he remains somewhat close in distance and I can call on the phone. He is close to so much and can enjoy no projects and maintenance. I stayed strong and cried behind closed doors. It was yet another season of my life that closed forever.

Mary graduated from High School. We have never gone the “normal” path in her life, yet criticism has often followed because of choosing what was best for HER and not being like everyone else. Her Senior year and even worse after graduation, she was pressured to have all these answers in life.  When there wasn’t an answer to the questions (job, college, license), or when the answer didn’t “fit” the expectation, people (even friends and family and strangers) had things to say and it gnawed away on her. We listened as family and friends give their wisdom about how she needed to socialize with people, go to a University with “real” people, how “homeschool” made her odd and unsociable, etc. I listened as they disapproved and withdrew support. All the while, I put on the cape – stayed strong in front of her – tried to protect her from the hurtful words. I assured her and rebuilt her confidence as it was questioned and tore it down. I cursed people in my head, cried behind closed doors, but wore the “I’m fine” mask.  Despite the criticism, she pressed forward and is headed in a great direction without their support. She has an amazing full-time job (where she socializes with people all day for those who worry), starts a college of her choice, etc.

Sam has hit a growth spurt and is growing emotionally, socially, and mentally.  I knew he was growing as I slowly watched his height creep above mine. We went to the shoe store for Mary and came out with also a Men’s Size 11 shoe for Sam! When did that happen!?!? He is in 8th grade, and rarely does a day go by that I don’t wonder if things will ever be okay for him.  I watch shows like The Good Doctor and only made it through one episode. It scares me to think that even as an adult, he will have to prove himself more than others because of a diagnosis. His body is surpassing his playful heart, and people just don’t understand because believe he should be past playing. He has no concept of age when friendship is involved. I watch him come to life when people submerge themselves in his life and sword fight, play with him, or talk with him about his favorite toys or movies. However, I watch as people criticize the very things that make him come to like, but never try to understand why they do. I always wear my cape ready to protect him (and so does Mary), but grateful when it can get a little break when we are in safe environments.

When I got the diagnosis of the decline of my diabetes, it saddened and honestly angered me. How could it be happening!?!? Honestly even had me angry at God. Didn’t He see how much I was doing, how I was serving my family and friends, etc. I started a new medication to put a bandage on the bigger issue. A Band-Aid which is always my solution. The new medication (the bandage) didn’t work. I became so sick that I lost all control. But for days, I kept downplaying the illness. I had so much to get done, or so I thought. I hung up my cape and took off the mask – I was not fine! However, I sadly didn’t even disclose the severity to those “closest” to me. It was easier… I didn’t want the attention… but honestly, I didn’t want to show my weakness.

Every day, as a wife, a mom, a nurse, a friend…. I wear the cape… I put on the mask. As I have had conversation with a co-worker, I realize I am not alone. Her life mirrors mine in many ways. I can have open conversations with her because I don’t feel like I will disappoint her. I am also a participant in an online Bible Study that began as a study on improving ourselves as wives. Over the weeks, we talked about so many personal things, and took off our capes and masks. We then resolved to continue to meet because the bond was so strong. They too had similar stories. Why can I be honest with people I have never physically met, but not the ones I can reach out and touch?

The irony is that I don’t always feel safe enough and/or brave enough and/or strong enough to be the woman not wearing my cape and/or my mask. It is so much easier to pretend in person that I am fine. I find that women/friends are so busy putting on their own capes and masks and running through life there is only time for a quick text to check in. When people ask, “how are you” the expected answer is “fine or okay or good or great”.   All the while, I hide in the comfort of our home and cry after the day’s tasks are done and all the family is tucked away (or maybe that is just me). I have set some unrealistic expectations for life. Believing I can do it all.

I wanted to finish 2017 strong… and now I feel like I am just going to barely cross the finish line.  I have unfortunately relied on my own strength (and hiding behind a cape and mask).  The biggest wake up for me is that my daughter now often puts on the same cape and mask to face the world. She has learned from me to be silent and push forward, because that is what is “appropriate” and respectful.  We are not honest when people ask how we are, when people back out on promises,  or when people say things that hurt us, but cower under the cape and tighten the mask.   Though 2017 didn’t go entirely as planned, I have learned that some things must change. Time to rely on my Grandma’s favorite verse Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, and stop relying on my own strength and the wearing of a cape and a mask.

p.s. as I think on Words for 2018 Brave may have to go in the running.

DELIBERATE NEW SONG

I am sure I am not alone in carrying the baggage of bad habits, bad choices, bad attitude from one day to the next. I let the same defeating voices of the outside world and the criticism of my own internal voice. The “I can’t believe you stlll procrastinate!”… “I can’t believe your choices!”… I HATE carrying all of that “stuff” around day after day. I also really tire of seeing it on social media… it seems like it is easier to roll around in the continual defeat than to change the voices I hear.

I work from home and have started to listen to several podcasts often to fill my mind with new voices. I love to listen to Christian authors and Leadership gurus. I have become better with controlling the external voices of public opinion. I also had to block most articles on Facebook about politics, controversial topics, and negative news stories, etc. and chose when I am “ready” to hear what is going on in the world at the sights I choose. I have lost respect for people not for their differences in opinion but in the presentation and resolved if I cannot separate them as a person from their comments and stances, that I need to hide them because I am called to love regardless.   If the podcasts are even controversial, I turn them off. Some will say I am irresponsible for not watching the news and knowing what is going on, and I have let those voices / opinions rule me long enough.   Honestly, there are days that just my four-walls with my family is bigger than I feel I can even handle, let alone taking in the worries of the world. I often don’t have the energy or wisdom to fight my own battles and sort them out with God, let alone get in a debate or get sucked into the latest agendas on the news.

I can always tell when I get in a stagnant area of life, laying in the self-pity pit for too long, or feeling buried alive with others and/or life circumstances throwing in the dirt on me.  A few conversations I have had in the last few weeks, some professional stagnation, and being without my mom another year when I could use her opinion and support have all contributed ad deepened the pit.   As a result of laying and staying in the pit I have buried things that keep me going. I have missed some scheduled appointments because I have even avoided looking at my calendar (so not me!). I have not done encouragement that I love to do. I have missed important signs with my own family because I was too deep in my own pit. The surface things are always a signal of a deeper issue for me.

As a people pleaser, the voices can often be very loud! I replay conversations with others over and over in my head. Even when I was confident in what I said or decided at the time, I feel like I need to replay it. Eventually, the conversations become distorted from the replay. I become less confident and start believing them and allowing their voice to become louder in my head than the whisper of God’s voice. The one calling me to BE STILL. God telling me HE HAS A PLAN FOR MY LIFE… The world has many thoughts and solutions for my life… but they need replaced with the Author of my Life. His words should speak louder to me than those around me..

I knew last Sunday I was feeling this pit and was looking for a scripture to cling to after church. It is always a good place to go to for wisdom and comfort, unfortunately I often wait till I have stayed down too long to seek His help. This week three things happened, unrelated to my life, but symbolic for my life. I felt like they were God’s way of reminding me of the scripture I read last Sunday and that I needed to put it in place…

  • The kitchen breaker was over loaded and it tripped the breaker…. I feel like that is what has happened to me. Too many things, voices, expectations, disappointment have tripped the breaker on my mind and heart.  It was a simple fix in the kitchen.. turn off some of the demands of the energy source. I need to turn off more of the outside voices and demands to keep my breaker from tripping.
  • Then the car has it’s “Maintenance Required” light on permanently (until I get the oil changed).   I too need some maintenance — physical, mental, spiritual. I am bad about looking at the big picture and feeling like I need to do everything all at one time. I am like my car… I know the maintenance required is just an oil change light and a simple fix with a little time at an appointment. The problem is I often neglect the simple fix with my life and it becomes a whole engine that needs repaired. One simple fix I try to do daily is my Grateful list… a small thing to focus on every day that no matter what the world is saying I can say this is what God is doing. When my gratitude lists stop happening or if they are hard to develop, I know maintenance is required.
  • My low fuel light came on the car because I wanted to go just a few more miles before stopping. Well, the low fuel light has been on in my life for a while. I have left my cup go empty spiritually and mentally. I try to juggle that one more thing… ignore the gas gauge on my life for just a little longer as I am sure I can make it… But I don’t stop often enough to even keep me ½ full of all the things I know I need in my heart, brain, and soul.   Lately feeling like I am always on the warning light, and filling just enough to get to the next spot.

I know that God knows my heart, my tripped breaker, my maintenance required, and my low fuel light as he allowed the voices I needed to hear this week come across my path. He gave me some scriptures last Sunday, and despite my attempts at just tucking them away, He has been playing it over and over (now a God-given Scripture is one thing that should be on auto-play in my head)

He even gave me a scripture last Sunday that I sort of tucked away and didn’t use it…

Psalms 40:1-3:   vs1 I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. Vs 2. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Vs 3. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

Wait patiently (not so good at waiting)…. He will hear my cry (but I have to call out to Him and not the world)…. He will lift me out of the pit (not my family, my friends, chocolate)…

But the verse that got me most was HE PUT A NEW SONG in my mouth! He puts a NEW song in my mouth… not the same old complaining song… not the I am not enough song… not the I should not have procrastinated song…. not the that person wronged me song… not the I can do it on my own song… but a A NEW SONG – a Hymn of Praise (not complaining, or worry, or defeat).   He gives me new mercies every day (Lamentations 3:23) and wants my mouth to proclaim a NEW SONG every day. I am going to drown out the voices in my head and those of the world and be DELIBERATE in singing the NEW SONG HE gives me.  Want to sing with me?

DELIBERATE Lessons for Mary

DELIBERATE

So, 18 years ago… a little girl made me a mom. That day, everything changed. Every year she asks for a blog, and now more than ever it is important to feed into her life (while she wants to listen).

She has always had a mind of her own. She defeated the odds. She has always somewhat been the boss. Just a little history… she is a miracle. Some may be tired of the story, but it is important to me.. to remember what God can do… how strong she is… to remind her that God had great plans.. The doctors said we would never have children. But GOD had bigger plans to bless this world.

Hearing we were pregnant was indescribable. When I signed up for a research study, it was because God knew He had big plans for our baby. During a study at 13 weeks pregnant, we were told that I needed emergency surgery to have any chance at saving our baby’s life. I laid on flat bedrest from that point forward. I became diabetic requiring insulin. I did injections of steroid to prepare our baby’s lungs for an early delivery. Our goal was to get to 25 weeks, but God had other plans.   At 36 weeks, our baby stopped moving and there was much concern, but God had great plans.  We did not find out what we were having as we wanted to be surprised. When we heard it’s a girl… we knew there was something about Mary (named her after my beautiful mom).

Over the years, we have watched our Mary grow more beautiful from the inside out. And now that I reminded her and myself of what a miracle she is… what a special gift from God she is… Over the years, she has started to follow in some my steps that need to be reviewed and learned from in hopes she doesn’t repeat them without regard to the cost…

First, pouring yourself into other people is an admirable trait, but there can be a cost. Sometimes, I find myself scraping the bottom of all I have available to give. After all, scripture says it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). We have talked about this before. The problem is I often then do not have the reserve, the stamina, the energy for when I need it. I am empty for myself, and unfortunately at times for those I love most (like my daughter, my husband, my son, etc…).

In life, I have become quite a people pleaser. I make decisions based on what will make other’s happy and hate to disappoint people. It happens at work, with friends, with family, etc. I don’t want to make anyone unhappy so I say yes to everything. I choose different paths to make everyone happy. I do what is best for others, without regards often for what is best for me. I have aimed to please people, and have learned some only wanted to use me for a season in their life. I poured into them and forgot to pour back into myself.

If I were ever a circus performer it would be a juggler. I juggle jobs, family, friends, etc. Unfortunately, all this juggling practice has come at a cost. There is a limit to how many things you can juggle. How many things you can hold onto. How many things can be in the air. Sometimes, things fall when the juggling does not work. I read once about how important it is to know which things can be dropped in the juggling. I have sadly chosen the wrong things in life to juggle and drop.

I look back and think about what I could have done differently. I know we have talked about when you have felt I have dropped the family plate and the “Mary plate”. At times, it felt like it was broken into pieces. However, we are resilient. Anything can be put together with love and attention. We have had open (and some hard) discussions of why the juggling happened and how it failed. At the moment, the decision was what I needed to do. Though I would say I wish I could go back and change things that means that one I would be living in the past, especially past regrets. Also, if I changed my then decisions, it would mean who we are as a family would be different, and I believe we have grown as a family. More importantly, my good and bad decisions have helped shaped you into the amazing daughter you are.

There are so many things I have learned in this journey of being your mom. Lessons from my mistakes that it is not too late for you to learn.

Lessons for us both:

Replenish – Make time for things you love that replenish you. The body, soul, spirit, mind, etc. are like a car. They will stop running when you run out of gas. I admire the time you put into yourself, to look flawless because it makes you feel good on the outside (which still cannot compare to your inward beauty). I love how you know when you need some alone time to regroup. Make time for the people who pour into you with their friendships, their laughter, their honesty, and their love for you.

Serving other and pleasing others are two separate things, but are often blended. In our home, we believe in giving back to people and causes we believe in. We believe in doing what is right, even if it doesn’t fit in with what everyone else does. I love to watch you serve with your dad at the Fireman’s Fair. I love watching you serve families by your love for their children. Mostly I love how you serve and love your brother like no other can! Don’t serve because it is expected… or to please someone… serve because it is what you are called to do and do beautifully.

Stand out.  For so much of my life, I worried how I didn’t look like others, how our home didn’t measure up, etc… that I missed out on living my life. I kept people at a safe distance and only let them see the “acceptable me”. This past year the pool changed everything. I became brave and let people into our life. Guess what? They didn’t judge our craziness! They felt loved, fed, and welcomed. If those you let in judge you… allow them to leave your life. Love them for the lessons you learned from their presence. By letting those go who want you to fit in, you make room for those who will not judge, but love unconditionally. You will make room for those who want to be in your craziness.

Juggling – Be careful which plates you choose to juggle. Juggling is inevitable. It is important to know that no matter even if you drop one, they can be glued back together often with talking, time, and love. Some plates are stronger as a result of the bond to repair them.

Face the world and your fears. – Don’t look back with regret. In life, we all make mistakes. I could give you a good long list. However, the good and bad decisions will help form who you are. It is equally important that you are BRAVE and take chances from big to small things. Overcome your fears, big and small, so you don’t have regrets that you didn’t try. Start small and then move bigger. Worrying how things will turn out are often worse than the actual thing you fear. The worst thing you will say is you won’t do it again.

Christ was the perfect example. He surrounded Himself with his chosen select friends. Although, even some of them turned on Him, but He loved them unconditionally. However, He let them go their own paths. He replenished His spirit, soul, etc. by spending time in quiet away from all distractions. He served unconditionally without expectation for return.   He didn’t change who He was to “fit in”, but did things true to who He was, not the environment He was serving. He welcomed people in, and some still rejected Him. He likely looked back thinking how He may have done things differently, but that would have changed everything we know and believe. He was afraid I am sure of His destination, but He persevered knowing it was the plan for His life. His Heavenly Father was watching Him.

Lastly…

I know life seems uncertain. The people pleasing part of you is drawing you to different paths in life than maybe even your heart is telling you to go. I can’t wait to watch you and support you as you travel in YOUR OWN LANE!   Be the person you want to be – the person God created YOU to be!

            Mary, I created your inmost being, I knit you together in you mom’s womb – Psalms 139:13

At the end of the day you only must answer to Christ. Lay your head in peace knowing you followed YOUR path – not my path for you, your dad’s path, your friend’s path, you aunt/uncle’s path, your grandparent’s path, etc…  That YOU followed YOUR path. It may cause some people to be unpleased and judgmental. However, they are responsible for THEIR path and not yours.   There is only ONE’s approval that matters – Christ.  He knows the plans for you. Go to Him for answers and not the world. Seek HIS word for the truth not the standards of society. When you follow His path, your path with be blessed. It does NOT mean it will not be hard However, when you are going in the RIGHT direction, you will reach the destination you were meant to be despite the detours and road blocks.

Always know that no matter your decision or your path… I am there to help you face your fears. I am there to help you glue back the plates you may drop when you juggle them. I am there for deep conversation or silence when you need it. I am there to support your decisions and free advice (opinions). I am there for a pizza at the Brewery or a bowl of homemade soup. Most importantly, I am there to pray for you!

You are nothing but amazing… in this life, I want nothing more to know what a miracle you are. You were never supposed to be here by medical opinion, but you defied all odds against you! God has you on this earth for a very special purpose. Do not let the opinions and words of others squelch God’s BIG plans for you!

My prayer for you is wisdom as you face life’s decisions and peace for the decisions you make.

Jeremiah 29:11 “ Mary, I know the plans I have for you! Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future!’

p.s. I would love to learn to improve these lessons with you – if we survived exercise class, we can surely do this together! Happy Birthday, our beautiful daughter!

DELIBERATE in Coming As I Am (broken and empty)

So, when I am doing dishes and trying to get through my “to do list” for the day and I start randomly crying I have to stop and write. Maybe just to empty my soul of all the broken pieces. I was listening to an interview of Suzanne Eller and her book Come With Me. She talked about remembering how we felt when we first fell in love with Jesus. (I have not read this book, but have it on my Kindle).

I was raised in an amazing Christian home. We went to church every Sunday even if it was on snowmobile in the winter. My dad was a Sunday School teacher. My mom was the pianist. I sang in the kids choir of how Jesus loved me as a little child. We sang Hymns of it being well with my soul. My Grandma Frazee loved Jesus and always found strength in Him (Philippians 4:13). My mom lived out her faith as she fought Multiple Sclerosis. I have generations of Christ’s love being lived out loud.

Everyday, I try to walk that same walk, but find it easy to pretend. Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful and live a daily life of gratitude. I try to always have the cup half full mentality and choose to close almost every day with my gratitude post on Facebook. It helps me to go to sleep knowing that no matter what the day unfolded that I am blessed. I think now that those lists have been “patches” on my brokenness. They help me remember in the middle of hard pieces of life that God has been faithful. There are days it is a struggle to think of the list, but every day I choose to focus on gratitude.

Yes, I am grateful, but I am not okay.

My life is NOT what I want it to look like. I want more, and I am not talking things. I want a “FULL” life, not a “go through the motions” life.   I want a thriving life not a just surviving life.  I want to live an HONEST life not a pretend life.

Yes, my life is full…. So much to do and many areas overflowing (or maybe a better word is overwhelmed). The external areas of my life I make look like I have it completely together (except for my body – that is a separate blog). It’s like a house, from the outside it can look all good, until someone is brave enough to let you in to see the chaos. Sometimes even the inside of the house generally looks good, clean, well decorated, but there is probably a closet somewhere hiding…. Well I am a mess externally to internally (and it is very hard to admit that!)

I am a Christian… I know where my strength SHOULD come from (and can come from)! If my Grandma Frazee ever had a tattoo it would be “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philipians 4:13” (the image of my Grandma with a tattoo made me smile as I proof this blog). She didn’t go to some secret closet and pull out a cape (although she had some amazing aprons with pockets full of candy and she was a super hero to me!). Her hands were worn. I remember watching her cry and be “weak”. Why do I feel I need to put on “my cape”, hide my tears, hide my fears, hide my hurt? Why do I feel like I need to carry my own weakness and walk around broken and speak to others of his unfailing love and strength and yet don’t let Him be the same for me? (sobbing hard).

Honestly, I think I am like the woman at the well… seeking… but too afraid to hold out MY cup. My broken empty cup. That is exactly who I am. Broken and feeling kinda empty and broken (actually very empty and broken). I think I am afraid of what He will pour into it. What if it is different than I want Him to? I have my list of things I need in the “cup” of my life. I know what I want my life to look like (p.s. it doesn’t look like what I want). He knows that list because He knows my heart. But the list is what I think I need to be “FULL”. The scary thing is He knows the list of MY REAL NEEDS. He knows my brokenness. Is it I don’t want Him to fix my brokenness? Is it easier to stay broken than invest in the healing? Is it I don’t want to let go of control? (In reality, I lost control a while ago). Do I not want to admit that I don’t have it all together? Because that involves being honest… being weak… being vulnerable. It means that my “cape” of being a superwoman is just a disguise.

Back to Suzanne Eller in remembering when I fell in love with Jesus…. I think that was such a miraculous feeling because when I went to the altar, He expected the broken pieces. I believed He could take the empty broken cup of my sins and weaknesses and change me. The beautiful thing He is the same God now as He was then. However, I am not the same me. I stopped pursuing Him. I stopped taking the broken pieces to Him.

I kept gathering them up and putting “patches” on them to keep it together. From a distance, even a cup with superglue and patches looks like it is strong and will hold the contents poured into it. But when you look close (if you let people get close enough to see) the brokenness is evident. Sometimes/always, I either keep people at a distance so they don’t see. Or, I keep that broken/patch cup hidden and only put out the “perfect” cup for others to see.

Do I not go to God because… I don’t think He can put them back together? NO because I know He can. I am afraid what it will take to fix them? PROBABLY because I want them fixed how I envision it. I am too busy to take them to Him? PROBABLY because it is easier to pretend sometimes than invest. I am afraid to admit I am broken to Him (and friends/family)? YES because I like to have it “all together” and be the strong one.

I have been doing just enough by going to church, listening to podcasts, listening to Christian radio to keep a little in my cup.  I have been going through the motions. I have been putting daily “patches” with my grateful list.

But… when my family questions my facial expressions…. I start crying in the middle of my morning list… I know it is time to be honest and weak and vulnerable and needy… Crowder wrote a song “Come As You Are” and so often we go to the table with our best clothes on and pretend we have it all together. Time to be DELIBERATE in coming as I am to laying it all down….

 

p.s for those who read this and are worried… I will be okay. I can’t really explain why I am feeling this way because I am truly rich in many blessings. I believe it is because of some areas (people, situations, etc..) that have left me vulnerable (future blogs) in life recently. I also know that I need to be DELIBERATE in having a deeper spiritual life, stop pretending, going through the motions, and truly live the life He meant for me (not the one I have created for me).