where does your peace come from

hoping

I’ve been noticing something about our daughter Sara.

She will be six months next week. Not sure where the time has gone. Or why it has to go so fast.

She is at that age where she is very much aware of her surroundings.

She knows when she is not home.

She knows when she is going somewhere.

She observes every single detail around her.

At times it excites her. But then there are times where she is not quite sure how to feel and it’s in those times she immediately locks her eyes with mine.

The second fear and anxiousness start to stir up inside her; she knows all she has to do is look at me.

She knows that keeping her focus on her mama will silence all the noise trying to scare her.

And I hear God saying, “Watch and learn what it means to trust Me.”

. . . . . . . . . .

There’s this life coach- writer- doctor who has asked thousands of people these three questions to help them figure out their number one goal in life.

If a genie granted you one wish, what would it be?

What would it do for your life?

How would it make you feel?

And a woman jumps on stage at one of his live events and tells him she wishes to win a million dollars.

She explains how it would pay off her bills, give her some breathing room, take off the pressure and allow her to go on a much needed vacation.

She tells him she would feel peace and he asks her, “Is it possible that what you really want more than anything is peace but you think that money is the only way to get it?”

His words hit the nail on the head real hard.

She covers her face and starts weeping and I think about how it’s what everyone really, really wants.

We all want peace. We all want our fears, our pain, and our anxieties to cease.

Whatever it is that we are facing right now, even if we are smiling on the outside but are tormented on the inside, we want the storm gone, we want relief.

. . . . . . . . . .

At a follow up doctor’s appointment I sit beside my dad and we discuss what medications can be eliminated and what lab work needs to be redone.

It’s 55 degrees outside.

Frigid cold for a Floridian.

Dark clouds have rolled in.

And his body has become sensitive to temperature dips and rainy forecasts.

A tingling sensation rolls back and forth throughout his entire right side and there is a sense of pressure on his face.

I can see the weariness in him just by the way he looks down at his hands.

When this kind of discomfort comes with cooler weather, it steals his joy, steals all confidence.

And his doctor. She sees it too. She doesn’t say it but the expression in her eyes says it all.

Everything in her wants to take his pain away.

As he looks at her and tries to explain how the paralysis comes in waves, days where it seems like the feeling is slowly returning and days where it’s back to square one, he asks “is this normal?”

It’s a question with no definite answer. At least not the answer he’s looking for.

Deep down he wants a precise time frame of when this will all stop or a guaranteed game plan that will accelerate his progress.

He’s looking straight at her and his eyes are desperate and she can’t give him any solace.

She nor anyone else on this side of heaven can take away the emotional turmoil inside of him.

“You’re getting there,” she says, “it takes time.”

She’s fighting back tears herself and he looks down at his hands again and I see he’s feeling deflated and my insides are screaming for God to show up.

. . . . . . . . . . .

It’s a little funny how we rely on the external.

We may say that we don’t but we do.

We feel our best when there is plenty of money in the bank account, marriage is flourishing, health is top notch, friends are amazing, kids are thriving.

We inhale and exhale with such ease and think it is peace.

But it’s not. What we are feeling is not unconditional peace.

And there is something a lot of people do when the days suddenly become uncertain.

They hold their breath.

They don’t allow themselves to breathe with that easiness that was once there. They absolutely refuse to until their circumstances change.

It was hard for me to do that when my dad collapsed. It was hard for the whole family.

Everything inside of us wound up into tiny little knots.

It’s what fear does. It ties you up in tiny little knots.

Then the enemy pulls on them, tighter and tighter to make sure they don’t ever unravel, ever untangle, so that you suffocate in your own pain.

And that is the one thing I have prayed against more than ever!

Yes I have begged for healing, I have declared every morning that my daddy will run again and swim again and drive again and throw his grandkids high up in the air again.

However I have also been begging for a peace which surpasses all understanding.

I close my eyes and picture it for a moment.

That no matter what comes, there is no agony, no torment.

Instead there is this calmness.

I want it!

I want it for my dad. I want God to pour it into every nook and cranny of his being.

Because this peace soothes the soul and the mind and the heart.

It obliterates every lie and all fear of the unknown.

And I want it.

You know how David in Psalm 121 writes “where does my help come from, my help comes from the Lord!”

It makes me think of this question.

Where does our peace come from?

If it’s not coming from Jesus, then we are all in some serious trouble . . . . . . .

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when you are hurting, there is only enough energy for today

Painted in Waterlogue

You know what I’ve done a lot lately?

Crying.

I’m quite the crier in general.

Show me a commercial of a grocery store employee helping an elder and I’ll be all up in tears within a matter of seconds.

For me it just doesn’t take much.

But the tears that have been coming in the last few months are of a different sort.

I have no words for this ache.

When I try to tell others what it is I feel, I go blank.

How do I explain the sadness I have witnessed in my daddy’s eyes?

Where do I even begin in describing the physical, mental and emotional struggle?

The days, as usual, lend their distractions where I make sure the kids are fed and clothes are clean and homework is completed.

Not to mention having a baby in the house – she has a way of filling me with joy.

At bath time she coos and splashes with her hands and when she sees her sisters, she lets out these big belly laughs.

Then there is chit chat at church or a kids birthday party or a school function and I smile and get lost in conversation but even in those moments it feels like I’m holding on for dear life.

In the quietness the hurt rises to the surface and I tell my husband how broken I feel.

I feel so broken!

. . . . . . . . . .

When I was 39 weeks pregnant, I was at a deli waiting for my chicken tenders and potato wedges for what seemed like forever.

My body needed food. Pronto. And the guy behind the counter, in my foolish opinion, was taking way too long.

With the tongs in one hand and the paper tray in the other, he very, very slowly reached for each piece.

He appeared to be in his early 50’s.

Reddish hair. Flushed face. Tired eyes.

With shaky hands and beads of sweat on his forehead.

Trying to seal my meal in a plastic bag and almost dropping the whole thing down to the floor.

I was hungry and in a hurry and there was something about him that gave me a sour taste in my mouth.

The more I watched him, the more annoyed I felt. When he handed me the bag with grease all over it, I decided, like a little miss priss, that I no longer wanted it.

Without a second thought I left my meal there and walked away.

Then one night, 36 hours after my dad’s stroke, I was up at four in the morning nursing Sara and wiping tears off my face that just wouldn’t stop coming.

And that man at the deli came to mind.

Those ten minutes of annoyed waiting were now crystal clear. Every single detail.

The way he trembled.

The way it was hard for him to move his arms.

How he struggled to have control of the bag, how he focused to have exact aim when he reached for something.

There was apparent nerve damage.

Yet I didn’t care to see his story, to know his story. All I had cared about was timeliness and cleanliness and it got me sobbing a ton of I’m so sorry’s to God.

Major shame came flooding about what I did.

The thought of someone doing the same thing to my father, of someone looking past him instead of really looking into him just about killed me.

. . . . . . . . . .

There are days where hope lingers like a comforting aroma.

We sit around the kitchen table over cups of tea and I watch my parents laugh out loud and it’s such a beautiful sight that for a moment it feels like everything will be okay.

I stop by the house on a sunny Tuesday morning and guide my dad through some exercises.

I have him open drawers, pull back the fridge door, help him stretch his shoulder and show him how to control his elbow movements and with every single motion I’m thinking somewhere in the back of my head “we just gotta get through this, we will get through this, it will get better, it has to.”

And I know he’s thinking the same thing. The whole family is thinking it.

Day by day the finish line is on our minds and oh how hungry we are to see him get there.

In his home office I sit, baby on my lap, a phone to my ear, waiting for the social security office to give an update on disability benefits and my heart cracks a bit every time I hear the word, say the word or see the word.

Disability. I hate it. I hate it that for so many this is their normal.

Dad slowly walks in with his cane, his right arm weak, just kind of hanging there. He sits in a chair across from me and rubs his swollen fingers with his left hand and I tell him how much I love his desk.

“It’s got character, papa. Would look great refinished in a new stain.”

He nods and tells me he will do it.

With pure confidence in his eyes, he says He. Will. Get. It. Done.

I feel the words ignite life. It makes us both smile.

It’s those other days that are hard to push through. The days where he wonders if he’ll ever completely recover.

Where I catch him pressing his lips together to keep them from trembling, to keep a floodgate of tears from coming and I put my arm around him and ask him what he’s thinking about and he tells me he is a vegetable.

I shake my head no. Whisper to him how it’s not true. Then together we lose all control of our emotions.

Because a sense of hopelessness weighs on the soul like boulders.

And I find myself unable to speak at that point. It would all fall flat anyway.

Instead we sit side by side and let all that heaviness pour out.

. . . . . . . . . .

The what ifs take the breath out of me. They push me over the edge.

I get terrified.

What if my dad will never be the same?

Stroke recovery is unpredictable. With no guarantees. It’s what everyone says.

Yet something in me tunes them all out.

I’ve been researching and studying and digging deeper.

Poring over medical studies, dissecting numerous images of the brain and navigating through all the scientific jargon.

It was always believed that whatever mobility you got back within the first six months was all you were ever going to get back.

Such a depressing so called fact that has angered me far more than discouraged.

Because the reality is this: most stroke survivors can be retaught what they lost.

But it does take a long time. Years. A lot of monotonous repetition which in the trenches looks miniscule yet is absolute gold for the brain.

Prior to September I knew nothing.

My only knowledge of a stroke were the billboards on the freeways describing the symptoms.

I would drive and glance and carry on without much consideration to the information.

It’s what we, human beings, do. We don’t give much thought to anything that does not affect us.

And now I’m here. Watching my dad go through frustration and determination and exhaustion.

I go to physical and occupational therapy appointments and watch the therapists challenge him and then I go home and study some more.

The woman at the front desk asks me how I do it, handling all of his matters with a baby on my hip, encouraging him, reminding him it’s all about practice, practice, practice, making phone calls and asking questions, and just being present.

I tell her he is my dad, his pain is my pain and all I want is for him to get better.

. . . . . . . . . .

I’m not sure how it is for all of you, my dear readers, but I haven’t been able to feel much of anything for 2015.

It’s already 35 days into the new year.

Many have chosen their “word”.

That one word which represents everything they are believing in for the days ahead.

Even my husband tells me “Let’s believe. Let’s reset our focus.”

And I fill a big pot with water for the spaghetti and sigh.

Been doing a lot of that as well. Lots of sighing.

Because here is where I am at right now: when you’re hurting, there is only enough energy for today.

When you open an email and read about the 50 children, who are in hiding from persecution, dying in the blistering cold because there are no blankets to stay warm – it’s really hard to look beyond the hours let alone months.

How do you even try?

The concept of looking forward and having this long list of goals, it’s all just too foreign for me right now . . . . .

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how life shows you that time was never on your side

be brave

The one thing currently standing out to me like nothing else is how the world goes on.

It does not stop moving.

While you are trying to put one foot in front of the other, feeling broken, days keep rolling in and rolling out.

People working.

Baking.

Laughing.

Traveling.

Socializing.

Brunching.

Shopping.

Then there is me at the grocery store walking through the cleaning aisle to get some toilet paper and an employee flashes me his biggest smile and asks how I’m doing.

How on earth do I answer that question?

Yeah, I smile and say “good” and “thank you”.

But on the inside I am screaming.

There is a heaviness deep in my chest that makes it hard to keep moving, to keep breathing, to keep doing anything at all.

. . . . . . . .

I don’t think anyone expects to receive bad news when they are having a moment with God.

I was holding our brand new little lady in the morning sun.

Smitten by her wonder. Lost in worship. Sputtering words of gratitude.

Then my phone rings.

“I think your dad just had a heart attack,” says my husband and for a second it doesn’t register.

I call mom and somewhere in me I am convinced it’s nothing serious, that it’s all a false alarm.

But with each call it keeps going to voicemail and my hands begin to tremble.

Minutes turn into agonizing hours as I receive updates bit by bit.

Mom tells me it’s a stroke.

His whole right side is paralyzed.

He can’t talk.

And the whole thing feels like a nightmare.

Sick to my stomach, I start to wail.

Face to the floor, I literally wail!

“I want to wake up, God! Please! Please have me wake up!”

. . . . . . . .

Dad was a truck driver.

But that was only one of the many titles he held.

He was strong, self sufficient, who could do just about anything. A proud, confident, charismatic man whose stress level was lately getting a little out of control.

And on this particular trip with mom, the itinerary included a few days in the Northwest.

Some quality time with my sister, attend a friend’s wedding, see extended family, etc.

It was the kind of rest he was looking forward to.

There was one last drop off in Tacoma. Mom was already staying with family in Oregon. The plan was to be back by early evening and have the weekend festivities begin.

Then at 5:45 in the morning, inside his truck, feeling a little off, he decides to call mom and his speech starts slurring.

He collapses to the floor and the entire family is a frantic mess, trying to figure out where he is and how to get him help immediately.

And life, with all of its plans, comes to a screeching halt and shows you that time was never on your side, that you don’t hold the days, that regardless of your status, regardless of how important you may feel, regardless of how busy you are, God can bring you to your knees with a blink of an eye.

Suddenly there is so much uncertainty.

. . . . . . . .

My sister sends me a photo of dad with wires and tubes.

She tells me that she’s really scared.

And I’m scared too. I’m terrified!

I stare at the photo and sob in ways I never thought were possible.

Questions and fears flood my mind.

How much damage did the brain incur?

Will he ever walk?

Will he ever be the same again?

In the midst of trying to make dinner and nursing the baby and getting the girls ready for bed, I cling to my phone for any kind of update and do research upon research and feel like vomiting at the idea of my dad having permanent disability.

Hours turn into days and it’s a struggle to function.

All I can think about is him.

My phone constantly beeps with text messages of photos and videos.

He can talk much better now.

He is eating and drinking.

He can wiggle his toes.

He can move his foot.

It’s a roller coaster of emotions.

We rejoice over every little progress he makes yet weep over the uncertainty of the days ahead.

There is no guarantee of a full recovery. It’s a step by step process. It’s the possibility of accepting a new normal.

And I hate it.

The thought of it all.

I hate it!

The whole family hates it.

Yet no one is more shocked or more affected by this than dad himself.

As a physical therapist slowly helps him into his wheelchair, he completely loses it.

He sits there and sobs loudly.

Because none of this feels real yet it’s so very real and it hurts to feel helpless and dependent and so small.

. . . . . . . .

What has been hard for me is managing who I am.

I am a wife.

I am a mother.

Yet . . . . I am also a daughter.

When my husband sees that I am a wreck, that I haven’t showered in days, that I am constantly on the phone, that I am spacing out on and off and not really listening to our 5 year old telling me about her day at school, he begs me to be strong, to focus on our family.

So I try.

I get in the shower.

I blow dry my hair.

I turn on the curling iron.

I tell myself to put on some mascara.

I do the laundry and step into the kitchen and force myself to bake a loaf of banana nut bread.

But who am I kidding!

Each step in trying to keep moving hurts like hell!

It hurts!

A friend stops by with salad and a hot pot of soup and I tell her how I don’t know what to do.

How do I take care of my own family when I, myself, feel like a little girl who desperately wants to be with her daddy?

How?!

And she can’t give me an answer.

There isn’t one that would take away the pain or make it any easier.

. . . . . . . .

Somewhere in the back of your mind you think your parents will always be around.

Even though time is moving pretty quickly and my own children are getting bigger, it never really dawned on me that I am getting older, that my mom and dad are getting older.

I sit on the corner of our living room couch and breastfeed and think and think about so many memories.

How dad was always a man of his word, a man who never broke a promise to his children.

It would be a scorching summer day and we’d count the seconds and minutes for him to get home from work because he said he’d take us to the lake as soon as he got back and sure enough he always did.

He’d pull into the driveway with exhaustion in his eyes from a laborious job yet never said “not today.”

Instead he’d make us laugh, have mom pack a cooler with food and drinks and off we’d go.

Then there was us asking him for a sleepover.

He’d stay up with me in my room into the wee hours of the night.

We’d lay side by side on the bed and talk about all sorts of things. Like where do clouds come from? How does an earthquake happen? Do you think heaven will have lots of food? And could you please make French toast in the morning?

And now I am here, out on my balcony, rocking a baby in my arms and seeing so very clearly how everything is temporary and it fills me with intense sadness.

I watch a group of people run by, a lady stretch her arms, someone walk their dog, and it slays me.

Because daddy loved to jog. He always jogged.

. . . . . . . .

I know everything happens for a reason.

Oh yes, I know it is such a cliche saying and frankly, I want to burn it. Torch it!

However, no matter how I feel about it, it’s the truth.

It has been six weeks since dad collapsed.

Six weeks of taking it day by day. Of sitting in silence and pressing into God repeatedly and trying to process all that has taken place.

A total blur.

We have not questioned why.

We know that God has not forsaken us. We have felt Him hold us.

Of course it doesn’t change the fact that it’s been painful to breathe in and out. It’s been especially painful for both mom and dad.

And I have cried out for supernatural strength, supernatural peace.

When I read Voskamp write about how we should be brave, how we shouldn’t pray for the hard thing to go away but to pray for a bravery that is bigger than the hard thing, it is a truth that gets me on my knees, pushes me to keep holding on.

Because we all know that growth requires pain and as much as we don’t like it, it is necessary and worth it.

But then there are moments where the worry and the anxiety suffocate, where my sister tells me dad is weeping and mom is not eating, where I think about those simple days of hanging out at the music store with him, looking through aisles of cd’s for new and old gems to listen to, where my 5 year old tells me that she misses him, and my oldest wants him to come back so that they can have a sleepover and he can make that special breakfast – it is then that I get really scared and beg for the hard stuff to stop.

. . . . . . . .

At a Trader Joe’s parking lot, my emotions are all over the place.

It is pouring buckets.

The kind of rain that isn’t planning to pass by any time soon.

It’s strong and flooding the streets and I’m sitting there in the car with three children wondering what to do.

My husband tells me to go home, to text him the grocery list, that he will take care of it all for me after work.

Yet I want to get it done myself and I feel like I’m going to breakdown then and there and I really don’t know why.

There is frustration and anger and a whole lot of discouragement.

Then my grandma calls me.

She asks me how I am feeling.

And before I can even respond, we both start to cry.

He is my daddy and he is her son.

“It hurts,” are the only words I can muster up and they come out like a whimper.

I hear her blow her nose and the rain beats even harder and everything in me is desperate for things to be easy.

Oh God, how I want it all to be easy!

“I know. I know it hurts. But praise God,” she says, “Praise Him!”

As I listen to her say it again with more emphasis, more tenacity, I stare at the trees being terrorized by the wind and silently nod.

Despite this valley my family is in, there isn’t an ounce of doubt in me about His goodness.

I know God is good.

And this act of praising Him, the power that lies in lifting His name with a joyful sound, is something He has been slowly revealing to me for the past six months.

But now it is speaking in greater volumes, it is clearer and louder than ever before  . . . . . .

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the world calls it bittersweet

 kindergarten

My alarm clock has been going off at 6 am every morning now.

A new schedule has taken over our home.

Rising early, packing lunches, making breakfast and pulling the girls out of bed.

And I’m not sure how I feel about it.

This whole idea of driving them to school, walking them to their classrooms, leaving them for seven hours – I know it’s good for them, it’s good for me yet it’s hard.

Week two is coming to a close and there is still that anxiety and that fear and a lot of “I don’t want to go” and “I don’t want to be here.”

Both are struggling with this new change and I’m struggling too.

My oldest cries into her hands as we get into the car because she is terrified of learning math.

My youngest clings to me as I try to leave, begging to be four years old again because being little feels safer.

And I wipe their tears away and tell them it’s going to be okay and that learning is necessary and growing up is a part of life and Jesus is always with them.

But what I really want to do is throw out their backpacks, grab them by the hand and run.

I want to run to the beach, I want to forget about all this stuff, I want to freeze time and just build castles in the sand and have them stay small forever and ever.

. . . . . . . .

A little while ago my husband came home and told me how a long hug every single day not only does wonders for the soul but is also really good for your health.

It relieves stress, restores the mind, encourages the heart and soothes the nerves.

“I heard it on the radio,” he says and pulls me in a for a solid, thirty second squeeze and I laugh, inhale his soft cotton shirt and feel the weight of that day fall right off me.

Then during my drive to a prenatal appointment, a Christian station starts a discussion by asking parents how they wake up their children for school.

“What is your routine? How do you start that very first part of the morning?”

And I immediately think about the mistake I don’t want to make.

The mistake of hurrying, rushing – the whole go-go-go, we gotta go, we are running late.

It’s vicious and it’s ugly and it wounds the spirit and I’ve been guilty of it more times than I can count.

So when the sun begins to filter in through the blinds, I zip up the lunch boxes, shuffle my feet to the girls’ room and tell myself to start this most fragile nugget of the day with a lot of snuggling.

It’s so quiet and they look so lovely and I don’t want to wake them up.

But I know I have to.

I gently nudge and pull on the covers.

I lift each one right into my arms.

I hold them real tight for a few minutes.

I whisper good morning, I rub their back and kiss their sweet face.

And I see how it sets the tone, how a sliver of affection enables them to get out of bed.

. . . . . . . .

The due date is looming around the corner and even though I thought I’d have this baby by now, I’m still pregnant and very much relieved.

It has given me a chance to be there for my daughters, to help them ease into all this newness.

Especially for my kindergartner.

I’ve been able to watch her day in and day out step into her classroom, sign her name on a clipboard, and put her bag in a cubby.

Together we sit down at her table and do the morning activity.

Coloring the school bus.

Or making a spider out of play dough.

Or drawing her favorite meal.

Thirty precious minutes with her which I know I won’t have once baby comes and daddy starts taking her to school.

So I’ve been soaking it in and then crying in the car because I cannot get a grip on this reality that the kids are growing up.

People tell me over and over how it’s okay, how I will get to have another little one soon and I know they mean well.

But having another one doesn’t change the fact that my other two aren’t babies anymore.

Having another one doesn’t fill the void or take away the pain.

Because what I would really like is the ability to go back and smother them more, hold them tighter, have more fun and relive every single one of their firsts.

. . . . . . . .

I’ve heard it often, how fast it goes and in a way I never really believed it.

Now I’m here, envying all the mommas who have toddlers under their wings.

I see them at bookstores, at grocery stores, at the park, on social sites.

And it takes me back to when my oldest was two years old.

How we would wake up and treat each day like an adventure.

Yeah, I know that age, the toddler years; it can be stressful and exhausting and your heart skips a beat when bedtime comes around.

But she was my little pal and I loved seeing the world through her eyes.

Absolutely loved it.

Everything was exciting, everything was fascinating, everything had a new meaning.

And I’m standing in the kitchen, drinking my tea, spacing out and reminiscing and it dawns on me that I am grieving.

Actually grieving and I finally get why all of this has been so hard for me.

Having both of my kids in school full time.

Feeling like my hands, finger by finger have been slowly unclasped without my asking.

Wondering if I did anything right.

Hating on all the moments I let my mouth run.

Knowing mistakes were made and wishing I could have a redo.

The world calls it bittersweet and I don’t really know if it’s even the word for what I am feeling.

I simply never expected it to hurt so much.

The letting go part.

Right now, my youngest has one top tooth missing and the other one hanging by a thread.

She’s feisty and talkative and speaks her mind with this innocent little lisp.

She makes sure to tell me as often as possible how much she dislikes the school uniform.

She asks me why she has to be like everyone else.

She throws a fit here and there about the whole thing and informs me that she will only wear the ruffled laced socks.

And I’m savoring it.

I stand in the hallway at 3 p.m. sharp and watch her run to me with that big smile on her face and holy cow, it ties me up in knots . . . . . .

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