Monday, April 27, 2009

For Anna.

Sweet Annaliah:

I call you sweet, because I believe with all my heart that you are. I'm writing this to you, wishing so very much that I wasn't. It's not that I don't want to tell you these things... it's that I wish I could. But you see, you're not with daddy and me. You're with Jesus. And even though I know it's better for you there than anything I have ever known or even imagined... I wish you were here.

It's strange, really. We're coming up fast on the anniversary of that day. That day when I just couldn't shake the notion that something wasn't right. That you were not okay. That day when your daddy and I waited in that dingy room for the ultrasound technician to call us back. I remember looking down at my stomach... round, obviously the stomach of a mommy, and feeling so empty. As soon as the technician started, I saw it. I saw that there was no motion. No heartbeat. Just silence. She turned the screen away, finished up, and told us the doctor would see us back at the clinic. I knew, without a doubt, that you had gone home.

I remember riding home, clinging desperately to the doctor's words... maybe it was a mistake. Maybe you were really still okay. And knowing without any doubt at all that you weren't. I was so afraid of what it was going to do to your daddy.

There's something you need to know, sweet Anna. Now, you are surrounded by the ultimate love - the best love - the most perfect love. Here on earth, you wouldn't have known that same love. Because everything here is flawed. But I promise you, you would still have known love. Intense, thrilling, quiet, comforting love. Your daddy and I aren't perfect, but we loved you. We still love you. We're not the only ones... you have an advantage over some kids - you don't have four grandparents - you have FIVE. You've got your YiaYia, your Papa, your Pops, your Gramma Kelly, and your Gramma Sheri. You've got great-grandparents too. Your aunt Cari and uncle Joel would have loved to spoil you. But guess what? They're going to meet you one day. Won't that be great?

I can tell you right now, without any hint of doubt, that as long as I breathe, you will not be forgotten. Not long after we found out that you'd already gone Home, I prayed desperately for comfort. That same night, I had a dream. A wonderful dream, in which I held you. You were so beautiful. And I woke up. It's strange, sweetheart. I don't know if the dream was from God or not. But I do know that the comfort and peace that filled my heart afterwards could not have come from anyone else.

I've been seeking that comfort a lot lately. I've been trying very hard to be thankful, and I am thankful for all that God has done. But sometimes, my heart hurts so much. I miss you Anna. And I miss your Great-Gramma Eileen. And I know that love is not envious, but sometimes I am jealous that you two have eachother and I don't have either one of you. But then I remember...

I remember shaking as I watched that tiny pink line appear on the test. I remember my Gramma's face when I told her. I remember your YiaYia's tears and exhuberant (as always) rejoicing. Your Pops drove through town with the windows down, telling everyone he was going to be a Grampa. I have never seen your daddy so excited. None of them ever got to know you, but somehow you left your mark on this world. We are all glad to have known you.

And I remember reading my Gramma's words the night she died. She had written that she wondered if she would ever get to hold her great-grandchildren. Anna, I can't begin to imagine the joy she felt that day. Little did any of us know - she got to hold you first.

I'm going to go now. I just wanted to tell you that I'm thinking about you today. I think about you a lot of days - so does your daddy. We wish we could know you now. You'd be two and a half now. I picture you with silky brown hair - like your Aunt Cari. Lots of smiles, like your daddy. You'd be running around, talking, laughing.


Stumble Upon Toolbar

Something To Consider.

Today, I spent eight hours "on the clock" here at work. And then what? Four hours "off the clock" but unable to leave because my husband's shift is four hours off from mine. This means that we leave home at 8:00 AM and get home about 10:45 or 11:00 PM. Which, honestly, stinks. I don't like it. It's stressful, and I miss my kitties. Plus, the whole no time together in spite of working about 20 feet apart.


I've been considering it. And here's what I've come up with...

I have no right to complain. I have a house to go home to. I have four kitties at home who are healthy, well cared for, and always use the litter box. I've got a husband who loves me. And I love him. And, we both have jobs with a fairly stable company with excellent benefits and reasonable wages.

And that's just the surface. Because on top of that, and I do mean on top, I am saved. Redeemed. I will never pay the price for the things I've done. And that all by itself is something to be thankful for... soemthing that pretty much takes away my right to complain. At all.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, April 26, 2009

On Friendship.

Today, something is on my mind. It's been there since Thursday, actually. You see, Thursday I sat and talked with a friend of mine. I had recently appologized for being such a lousy friend. And in my own eyes, I've been exactly that. Going months without calling, writing, or even sending an e-mail. I guess that wouldn't be so bad... if it weren't for the fact that I think of this person, and pray for this person, almost every day. And still don't keep in touch.

But on Thursday, he asked me something... he wanted to know why that makes me a bad friend. My first thought was "because friends need to keep in touch all the time." Then I thought "because you deserve better." "Because friends can talk to eachother about anything." I said those things.

His reply?

If two people are truly friends, it's okay to go months without talking. Because when you do talk, it's like no time passed at all. You don't need words to know that when it comes down to it, you are there for one another. And your loyalty is not dependent on or in need of constant reinforcement.

I've thought about that often in the past days. I've also thought about something else he said once. "You know it's a good friendship when you can spend an hour walking side by side, and not say a word, and you feel as much companionship and comraderie as you've ever felt while talking with someone else."

And truthfully? Words aren't always needed. My very best friend growing up never spoke to me. Ever. Not "she was quiet" but "she did not speak." She was a selective mute. Until Derek (my husband), I have never known such a devoted, unwavering, loyal, amazing friend. She didn't need words to show it. She just... had it inside, and let it show with everything she did. Her actions, her demeanor, her eyes.

Shifting gears just a little... there are people I could talk with for hours and hours. Because we have so much that we could talk about. And in spite of that, I wouldn't call them "friend."

So who do I consider "friend?" Very few people. Very few indeed. A friend, to me, is one who sticks closer than a brother. One who is loyal. Someone I can trust. Someone I would unquestioningly support. A life to which I have an unyielding connection. Someone I can go six months or a year, or even more, without contact. And then, when we do find ourselves together, or talking, it isn't ackward. It's not uncomfortable or strange.

And for now, that's all. More later this week, perhaps.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Stances, Blocks, Kicks, and Life.


Fear is one of the things I struggle with... more than just about anything else, in fact. I think part of that is due to the fact that once you start to fear, you find yourself afraid to not fear. It's been more than once in the past few days that I've thought, "But if I don't expect this to happen, or at least acknowledge that it could, and it happens anyway... then what?"

Since I've struggled with this for most of my life, I've chosen to take a new approach. Okay... perhaps not entirely new, but... revised.

As a teenager, I started "doing Martial Arts." For a little while, it was a form of recreation as my back healed (I broke it playing in a tractor inner tube). The controlled movement coupled with the fact that the instructor also happened to be a physician lent an air of safety. After my first test, I realized that this was something at which I could excel. So I pushed. And pushed. And over time, I became a Martial Artist. As that was happening, fear crept in.

I'm not talking about the sort of fear that gives you butterflies and makes you cringe. I'm talking about the sort of fear that immobilizes. The sort that leaves you heaving in the bathroom. That kind of fear. But part of what happens as a person transforms into a "Martial Artist" is that you learn to conquer your fear. Not to not have fear... but how to keep it from paralyzing you.

A huge part of how I've dealt with fear for years now is to do what used to seem so unnatural. I'll give you an illustration, from Martial Arts. And then I promise to tie this all back together.

The first thing you learn in Martial Arts is how to stand. We call it a stance... and there are several. A front stance, which is a stable, easy to move in stance. There's a horse stance, which is deep, extremely stable, and is where the most effective kicks are thrown from. There's a side or back stance, where in most of your weight is on one leg. The other is still planted on the ground, so you can quickly shift, but because it isn't occupied holding you up, you can use it for kicking. This is also the stance from which jumping is easiest. Without these stances, no technique will be fully effective. The stance is the foundation from which everything else is built. It's purpose is to work with your body to provide stability, strength, and ease of movement.

The next thing you learn is how to block. I've seen a lot of rolling eyes and bored expressions as new students spend entire class periods doing just two or three techniques, over and over again. But without these block, you cannot win. You must have a way to deflect attacks.

Next, you learn to strike and kick. The purpose of this is obvious... you can block an attack as many times as you want, but eventually, you need to choose between fighting back or being defeated. These strikes and kicks, especially those used by lower ranks, are simple. They take effort to learn, but once learned, they are amazingly effective.

So now, you've got your foundation (stance). You've got your evasive (defensive) blocks. And you've got your counter attacks (strikes and kicks). With all of these on board, we start teaching you practical application.

We do this in a very controlled setting. One person presents a challenge, and then punches. Your job is to first deflect and evade, then counter. There are set techniques which must be used exclusively until you've proven yourself and obtained your yellow belt. The techniques (or series of techniques) are carefully chosen because they are simple and effective. Simplicity is important. A simple technique, repeated over and over, will be there even when you're under so much stress that you can't even think.

So, to tie this into life. The stance? We all have a foundation. Something on which we build everything else. It is up to us, really, to choose our foundation. We can choose so many... desire to achieve certain goals, being loved, having a family, having money, having a home. Really, we can base our life on anything at all. But there's only one foundation that will never fail. And that is a relationship with Christ. We must carefully choose to do it right. To walk with Him. With time and "practice," it starts coming easier. Eventually, when something threatens us, we'll fall back into it without even thinking.

Next comes blocking. As we do this thing called living, we find ways to deflect attack. We learn to put up our guard, protecting ourselves from things that would hurt or destroy us. There are techniques, often times deceptively simple, that will prevent the attacks coming our way from destroying us. Hopefully, the techniques we habitually use do not cause their own damage.

Once we've gotten our foundation, and learned a little about deflecting attack, we move forward and learn ways to counter. We learn techniques that are easy to apply and blend with what we already know. We learn how and when to use them, in order to neutralize our adversary (in Martial Arts, this is another human. In life, this is the devil himself).

But then what?

In Martial Arts, as you get better at those basic techniques and principals, you get promoted. Each new rank brings with it a lot of "fun" new things - fancier kicks, more complicated blocks, impressive forms (a set sequence of moves designed to simulate a fight situation and teach fluidity of movement). But along with those bonuses comes more responsibility. More effort required. Bigger consequences if you mess up, and a smaller margin for error. And while learning these fun, new techniques, the basics absolutely can not be neglected. If you can no longer pop out an excellent side thrusting kick, there is no way that you can do a spinning kick followed by a jumping crescent.

About the same time you start learning some of the more "exciting" things, you also start learning new ways of dealing with attack. You no longer simply deflect every time. You start moving toward the threat while you deflect, instead of away. You learn to grab the threat, pull it in close so that you can neutralize it. You learn not to flinch in the face of... well, getting your face punched.

I've applied this in my life so many times, in so many ways. This "season" of my life is a prime example. I have stepped so far out of my "comfort zone" that I can't even see it anymore. There is something private, personal, that I have feared intensely for years. And I have finally stepped back and taken a good look at this fear. And instead of merely pushing it aside to deal with later, I have grabbed it and pulled it in. And I am fighting with everything in me to neutralize it.

And to be honest, it's not easy. Because I'm afraid that I won't win. Afraid it will be too much. And yet, I know that the only option is to push forward anyway. It doesn't matter what I think could go wrong... what matters is that I know I am equipped to make it. Equipped to win. Because I do have the foundation. I've got the deflecting. I've got the counter attacks. And God has given me the courage to not back down in the face of it.

Finally, as you reach higher ranks, You learn how to take a hit. It's not that we Martial Artists actually enjoy pain. But if you've never taken a kick to the stomach, never tried to fight with the wind knocked out of you (as does happen when sparring), never actually found yourself trying to defeat an opponent you can't see for the sweat in your eyes... you'll be lost in a "real world situation."

Like with Martial Arts, in life, you take hits. The first ones are the worst - even if they are relatively "mild." You're terrified, because you don't know how you'll handle it - or if you even can handle it. But after you take a few little ones, you find that they don't even make you blink. Without even noticing that it's happening, one day you find yourself in the middle of a sparring match, having just taken a hit to the solar plexus, or the core of who you are. And while you may not be able to breathe and you feel like you probably won't make it... you do. You stay on your feet anyway. You don't back down. From somewhere deep inside you find the strength to push forward. And you win.

Right now, to be totally honest, I'm reeling from that hit to the solar plexus. I haven't fallen down - I know I can take it. But it still hurts. And it still takes most of my strength to stay up. But I know I can.

Now... when I started this post, I was talking about fear.

I've learned how to deal with fear in a lot of areas of my life. How to confront it, deflect it, defeat it. And when all else fails, how to keep going in spite of it. But there are some things that I haven't won over.

So lately, I've been asking one question when fear tries to take over.

"What if it does happen? What is the worst possible outcome? Can it touch my salvation?"

Let me give you an example. While my job is a blessing and I am thankful, I am not entirely sure that it's where I should be, or that I can even do the job. And a fear that keeps popping up is "What if you screw up and get fired?" I asked myself that yesterday. And here's what I realized.

If I did indeed get fired, we would still eat. We would still have a home. I would still have my husband. My cats would be fine. I would spend some time looking, and then get another job. If all else failed, I would work for a daycare. It wouldn't be the sort of money I want or may even need to make, but we would find a way. Because God provides for us. But even if losing that job meant I lost my home, my cats, my husband, my car, and even lost the option to eat... it can't touch my salvation. And in the light of my salvation, everything else pales in importance.

Because truly, nothing can touch my salvation. I can choose to put it down and walk away, but it absolutely, positively can not be taken away from me. Nothing has that kind of power.

For I am persuaded beyond doubt that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

No Words, and Yet So Many Words

Let me start by saying this: I am rarely this transparent, this open, this... vulnerable... on my blog. But today, I'm just really feeling compelled to stop hiding. To let the rest of the world in on a few of my "secrets."

First... things are not always as they appear. I love my husband, and he loves me. We love one another deeply, fully, and sincerely. And our marriage is stronger now than it was even just a few short months ago. I've been told by numerous people that they wish they could have the sort of relationship my husband and I have, the same picturesque life.

When someone, usually someone who is single or watching their marriage crumble, says that to me... I smile. But inside, I want to weep for them. For whatever it is that convinces them that they are the exception. That their life is so much worse. That mind is so much better. And I'm torn. There is a joy, a peace, that is unshakable. That peace comes from my God and my King.

In my life, I've been so very, very broken. It has literally only been within the last six months that I have let anybody see that brokenness. Yes, there have been plenty of times when life has knocked me to my knees in desperation, and others have seen that. But those darkest moments were mine, and mine alone.

And it was in those moments - those silent, aching, desperate moments - that He was there. That still, quiet voice whispering "I am with you." That gentle peace that settles almost unnoticed, and blocks out the noise of the world. In those moments, I have had the awesome privelage of knowing true comfort.

Going back to my marriage... before that day in August of 2005, my husband hadn't known that comfort. Not because he hadn't know God, but because he's been blessed to have not been that truly broken. I remember looking at him as we were driving one day. He was watching the road, and I was watching his face. I was overcome with sadness on his behalf. Sadness that while he'd been spared pain, he'd never truly known the ultimate comfort. I told him that while I didn't wish him pain, I did wish that just once, he could have the opportunity to have absolutely nothing left but God. So that he could know that kind of comfort. That peace. That protection.

Today, I look back, and I see that he's had opportunities to know it. Our marriage has been full of great and wonderful moments. It's also been tried by some very intense storms. We've been shaken to the core by the loss of children we were expecting. Several times. My grandmother was killed in a senseless accident - the woman who, as my husband puts it, "grew him up." Infertility. The violent, freak-accident death of a "brother" in the Lord. The prospect of homelessness, not once, but twice. Discovering something carefully hidden that has affected every single aspect of our marriage.

And those are just the "obvious" struggles. Add to that some volotile and unpleasant family dynamics, ongoing health concerns, job instability, and financial strain, and you get our daily lives.

So you see, our marriage isn't "perfect." Our life together has not been a story-book ending. It's been hard. But here's the thing... I can't imagine walking through all (or any) of this with anyone else.

I've been so blessed. My husband, while certainly not perfect or without error, is a good leader for our family. He has learned and grown into a real leader. He takes his God-given authority seriously. He approaches the decisions he makes so carefully. He is a gentle leader. A good leader. I can submit to him without fear, because I know how much he cares for me. There is great peace and safety in submission for me. Because it is how God ordained it. Our relationship isn't good because we're lucky, and it's not because our lives are picturesque and easy. It's because we put God first. And He works through us and in us, directing our steps, our actions, our attitudes. And ultimately, it is the efull and explicit trust we place in Him that enables us to trust, honor, cherish, and love one another.

Moving on...

We have been struggling a lot with the relationship, or lack thereof, between our two fathers. I love my dad, with all my might. I am uniquely blessed to have an easy, loving relationship with him in spite of a less-than-ideal childhood. There aren't many things that raise my hackles, so to speak... talking badly about my dad is one of them. I also love Derek's dad. Obviously, having known him for only about six years, the history isn't there. But I can see that he is a good man, an intelligent man. And I do love him. I love Derek's mom. She doesn't see it, and I doubt she believes it, but I do. Sure, she makes me want to scream sometimes... not because she's so bad (which she isn't), but because I just don't know how to deal with a "mother." Never mind a mother in law.

But right now, it seems that we're at odds with all of those we hold so dear. There is a lot of "Well, he messed this up" and "she needs to..." and "tell him to..." We are at the point where it seems no matter what we say, someone is getting hurt. Whatever we do, it's not "right" in someone's eyes. And it's exhausting.

It has been amazing and fun to watch this house take shape. From the mind of my father in law, the heart of my daddy, and the hands of many, a dream is being made real. This is a place where I want to raise babies. A location that is all I could want. And if it meant an end to the bickering, hurt feelings, and tension, I would gladly give it all up and go back to our smelly, less-than-safe apartment to live.

I think that, at least for now, I am done writing. I'll be back at some point in the next several days, most likely. Meanwhile, rest in this knowledge... your salvation has been bought and paid for. It's yours - all you need to do is take it. And there isn't anything or anyone that can take it away.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sometimes, It's Hard to Choose

The last few weeks have been... trying. Full of lots of very low points. Trials. Struggles. Pain. Sorrow. Spiritual warfare. Physical issues. I haven't written much during this time, and I'm not going to start going into details now. Instead, I'm going to do something else. I'm going to share with you the moments of joy I've had. The sweet times. The good ones. Because I'm making a choice, one that is not necessarily "easy" to carry out. I am choosing to set my mind on those good things, and even though I can't ignore the negatives, I am not going to give them any more thought or attention than is absolutely necessary.

So. Where to start?

First... sleep. I've been getting it. Enough of it. Most nights. I'm not sure if it's a change in attitude, a change in routine, or the medication I'm taking (which, incidently, is not a sleep aid). I suspect it's a combination of all three. And honestly, I don't actually care why. I'm just thankful.

What next? I've gotten assigned to a decent shift at work - 9:00 - 5:30. I wish Derek had gotten something similar, and I'm disappointed about trying to make our schedules work. But. I'm thankful that the commitments I have several evenings each week can now be met. And I'm thankful that this conflict of schedules is only temporary.

Moments of peace. Of joy. Of sweetness. Tonight, my husband and I were enoying some time just looking into eachother's eyes. He said the sweetest thing... he looked right at me and said, "You have Gramma's eyes." You see... I miss that woman more than I can put into words. And to hear someone else say that they can see even traces of her in me... well, it makes it somehow easier. It's not that I need to have a tangible reminder of her in order to remember... but in some ways, I guess maybe I do need that.

My husband's cat. She's tiny. She's intense. She's silly. Sweet. Absolutely gorgeous. And tonight, for whatever reason, she set herself up in a spot that made for some rather fun lighting on her.

On the topic of cats... All three girls, for reasons I may never know, decided they were going to sit in the window. One window. Together. It was way too cute to pass up:

Love. Relationships. Peace. Harmony. Unity. We spent last weekend with my dad and stepmom, Kelly. Watching them together is such a blessing... they are so in love. And not just the mushy warm fuzzy kind. The kind that is for keeps. This picture was taken in haste, with a telephoto lens while hiking. Even so... aren't they cute??

There's been so much. When I stop and try to think of everything good, everything I want to write about... words escape me. Some things, I could write for hours about. Some things, I can't seem to find anything at all to say. But this... this, I'm just not sure how or where to go with it.
This past week, someone who is older than me, wiser than me, and has walked with God longer, sat in a room with me for nearly an hour. This individual helped me to set some things straight in my own heart and mind, and helped me to pray and really seek God and let Him do His work in my heart. I left feeling so... uplifted. The next day, that feeling was still there. But by yesterday, I was starting to wonder if anything had changed at all. And then tonight comes. And I realize that yes... in ways I can't describe, I've changed. Not by my might, not by my own strength. But by the power of the One who is in me. And that, all by itself, is something that I am immeasurably thankful for.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Today, I had the opportunity to drive myself to a nearby city. On the way, I was listening to a recording of the Boston Pops Orchestra as they played a compilation of music from Riverdance.

As I listened, I was transported back to my time in high school band. I don't mean to sound arrogant or prideful, but we were good. For one of our concerts, we played music from Riverdance. When it was passed out, I took it home to learn both the flute and piccolo parts.

I remember grimacing and really not liking my part. It was boring and sounded disjointed even when I had mastered it. (Which took a while - it's full of uber-fast triplets and never-ending runs). But eventually, the concert happened. My part hadn't changed. But as I sat there playing my best, and everyone around me did the same, it was positively exhilerating.

It's a lot like being in the body of Christ. We each have a part. Alone, it may seem boring, disjointed, or unappealing. We may consider it and decide it's not worth mastering. But when it is combined with other parts, carefully blended both in volume and pitch, beautiful harmony is created. The end result is a sound so exquisite... Individual parts can only be discerned by a trained ear. They are all there, lending their unique quality, but the end effect is one solid wall of beauty. Being part of that final result while contributing a 'lesser' part is more fulfilling than playing the most amazing solo could ever be.

Stumble Upon Toolbar