Thursday, March 28, 2013

a beautiful evening

After being inside at work all day, there was no way I was staying inside after work, no matter how tired I was.

With a quick call to my family, a quick reheated supper, and a quick change of clothes, I headed out to the country for a walk with my pooch and my siblings.

Right after I pulled in the driveway, three neighbor kids rode their bikes up the (long) driveway, calling out "hiiii!" as they came. They are ages five, eight, and nine ("well, almost"), I found out after a few introductions. 

My family and I haven't interacted with the neighbors a lot over the years. Christmas time and a handful of other times through the year and that's about it. Life is busy for all the families & couples on our road (just like everybody else, right?). I say that to preface what I'm about to type below... 

One of the first things that the eight-year-old girl said is this: "We're just riding down the road and saying hi to all the neighbors!"

And I was like, darn, girl. Us adults need to take some lessons from you!

When do I ever take the time to just "ride down the road and say hi to all the neighbors"? When do I take time to write my grandparents (like my to-do list has been reminding me to do for weeks)? When do I take the time to just call a random contact in my phone to say hi?

It's still hitting me (obviously). We can learn so much from the kids around us.

So after a few of my siblings came outside and a few hoops of basketball were shot and a few glasses of water were brought out to our thirsty bike riding neighbor kiddos, my younger siblings and I headed down the road for a walk of our own.

We had my dog with us, we snapped photos on my iPhone, we ran, we laughed, we bounced a basketball, we discussed "swearing" (and wondered if our neighbors overheard as we walked by...would have been quite interesting!), we laughed some more, and we just got lots of gorgeous fresh air.

During my time out there and on my drive back into town, I kept reminding myself to take "mental pictures". 

I don't want to get so caught up capturing the wonderful little moments on my iPhone that I forget to capture them in my heart.

The sun shining off my golden retriever's hair.

My baby sister puckering her lips and pretending to be crushed after I "mocked" her.

My tall little bro rehashing stories of how the tall-er little bro picked on him.

The laughter, oh the laughter!

The sun shining off the lakes of melting snow, with silhouettes of the goose couple standing in it.

The sun setting over the neighbor's barn.

The passionate discussions about life.

The trickling of the rivers of melting snow.

Our  five (six, including my pooch) shadows walking ahead of us as we headed home.

Climbing up a mountain of plowed snow along the driving and laughing hysterically at our slipping and sliding and the dog doing a belly slide down and then racing back up.

All these precious little moments that go so quickly and are gone forever.

But the memories and the love will last a lifetime.

I'm so very thankful for that.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lazy Saturday

It's 5:00pm and I'm still in my pajamas. 

I never got my contacts in, never got a brush through my hair. 

Up until this moment, my food for the day consisted of a piece of peanut butter toast, a mug of foamy chai, a granola bar, dark chocolate, and a chocolate chip cookie (or two).

Now I'm eating a cheddar cheese and pepperoni quesadilla. And dipping it in sour cream. 

It's like pizza and Mexican colliding in my mouth.

I've spent the whole entire day on my MacBook. Writing, reading, writing, reading, playing around with my new website that I'm attempting to create.

It has been wonderful. I've been dreaming and making a life list and writing and designing and reading random blogs that I didn't even know existed. 

After a horrible, awful, no good week, it's been just what I needed.

And I'm so thankful.

Lazy Saturdays are the bomb-diggity. 

I'm off to get another blob of sour cream.

And grab another chocolate chip cookie.

Happy weekend, y'all.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

When a Hospitalization Drains Me of Everything

It's 10:42pm and my head is pounding. My gut is still hurting. I have more needle pricks and medical tape residue on me than should be legal.

So very thankful that my hospital room was on the side facing the lake. 
Such a gift.

I'm so tired I can barely keep my eyes open.

And yet this need to write, to tap these keys on my MacBook into words, is so pressing that I hardly have a choice but to type them out.

This hospitalization has left me more drained mentally and emotionally than usual. I appreciate each and every single text, voicemail, card, or Facebook message/comment but I just do not have the energy to respond to nearly all of them. (And I mean truly appreciated every. single. one. You guys don't even know how much they help me make it through each day.) 

Usually I blog at least once during each hospitalization. This one left me empty, with nothing to scribble from my keyboard.

It wasn't until  I was being wheeled down the hallways after going through the discharge papers that the words started just flying around in my head. 

It's like moving into a different world when living in a hospital, whether it's twenty-four hours or twenty-four days. When being wheeled out of the wing I was staying in (in a wheelchair with no foot rests but that's another story), it was like being released from prison. 

And then we went down the elevator to the first floor and we strolled over the skywalk and past the waterfall and down the hall overlooking the garden, and I suddenly wanted to cry.

That waterfall, that garden, those halls, they hold so many memories from last summer. 

Walks through the garden with my siblings and parents.

Watching the water tumble down the waterfall next to the workout room.

My brother lifting my IV pole up and down the stairs in the back part of the garden.

That one bench in that one lounge that got washed in my tears of frustration and hurt after a difficult phone call last June.

It honestly is a bit of a second home. A home I'd prefer to not have to return to for a very long time but that's beside the point. While I don't like why I've had to spend so much time there, I am thankful for the lessons learned and the growth in relationship during those times.

At the same time, being chained to an IV pole, sleeping in a plastic covered bed that makes me all sweaty, being woken up at 5:45 each morning for blood draws, being told what I can and cannot eat or drink, having my freaking pee measured? Yeah, all that stuff isn't my favorite.

I'm glad I'm out of there. 

But I'm also grateful for the care when I need it. Although my prayer is that I won't need it for a long time. 

This whole flare and hospitalization was so random; so unexpected; just so hard to accept.

I thought I was doing better.

I thought the medications and nutritional supplements were working.

Darnit, I thought that I was past this.

At least for a long while.

The discouragement, the depression, the frustration, I cannot pretend it's not here.

I cannot be less than honest.

I must be real.

But part of being real is also writing how thankful I am.

So thankful that I made it over six months since my last hospitalization.

Thankful that I celebrated the six month mark, since it turns out that I didn't make it much further.

Thankful for the love of my family and friends.

Thankful for all the prayers (more than I'll ever know and that is so humbling).

Thankful for hospitals in my time of unbearable pain.

Thankful for awesome EMT's and ambulances.

Thankful for IV's and medications.

Thankful for fuzzy socks and blankets.

Thankful for flowers and other gifts of loveliness.

Thankful that God stays the same even when life is so freaking unpredictable.

Thankful for my gorgeous golden retriever who covered my face in kisses after I was released.

Thankful for understanding employers.

Thankful for the knowledge that my God will provide financially.

Thankful to know that I don't have to rely on my own strength to get back on my feet.

Thankful for life.

Even when it hurts.

A lot.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Early to Rise Challenge - The Midnight Edition on Adjusting Expectations

After a very rough couple of weeks dealing with health challenges and an oral surgery, I've spent this week working towards getting back to my goals for the Early to Rise Challenge. I missed three mornings over the weekend immediately following the surgery.

I honestly think it was partially God reminding me that ultimately He is sovereign over every little thing: even my ability to get out of bed. I have been so determined this month to do every. single. day. for the full thirty days. Surgery forced me to let go of that idealistic goal.

And now for the "Early to Rise Challenge - The Midnight Edition on Adjusting Expectations" post. (And possibly the longest blog post title in history; or at least the longest in this blog's history.)

I got in bed at 8:45, watched NCIS until 10:00 and then settled in to go to asleep. My handy new alarm clock app was set for 6:00am.

Everything was perfect.

Well, until the pain in my mouth increased to the most it's been in days. Actually, this new kind of pain is the first time it has really kept me from sleeping. The other pain was awful too but was easier to sleep with.

So here I am at midnight. I finally got up and ate a string cheese so that I can take Vicodin. I have my "sleepy playlist" playing on my alarm app. It's doing its job but I have to say it's failing miserably at putting me to sleep.

The alarm clock is about to be switched to 7:30. I'm still fighting infection and can't deny my body of too much sleep or the hospital may just be my new home for a night. And seriously, I'd like to avoid that if at all possible.

Adjusting expectations and goals is not my favorite thing to do; especially when those expectations and goals are good things. Rising early has so many benefits and has been a real growing experience for me. Letting go of my ideal plan for being up by 6:30 every morning has honestly been hard for me. I'm an all or nothing person (almost to a fault). 

The best way to look at this right now (at least the best way my foggy, exhausted, drugged brain can come up with) is this: I'm learning more lessons by having my plans thrown off, by having my expectations adjusted, than I would have if these thirty days had gone "perfectly". 

There are more lessons. 

There is more growth.

There is more  character being built.

Jesus is becoming even more of my daily and hourly thoughts.

He's becoming more of my continual strength.

And that makes each painful, sleepless, tear-filled moment worthwhile.

(And makes it easier to switch that alarm clock to an hour and a half later.)

Because what I want is more of Him.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? 
Psalm 27:1

Saturday, March 9, 2013

One Desire

Tonight my heart is empty. 



Craving something.

Actually, I'm pretty sure it's craving Someone.

I listened to the song above. The title, "One Desire" convicts me before I even click play.

While I listened, I read the first part of Romans 8. Love that passage; it is full of comfort but also very convicting.

Lately my heart is divided. I think I need God and such-and-such to be happy.

God and a good job.

God and financial stability.

God and cute clothes.

God and a healthier body.

God and that shiny nail polish.

God and a place of my own.

I desire temporal things because I think they will make me happy.

Is this a conscious desire? Not always. In fact, it didn't fully hit me until today. Having lots of down time while waiting for my body to recover gives me lots of time to think and reflect.

(And time to make stupid purchases online. Can I blame the Vicodin for clouding my judgment?) 

This restlessness, this emptiness, it can't be filled by a move. It can't be filled by achieving my health and fitness goals. It can't be filled by "figuring out" all the hard issues in my life. It can't be filled by trying to be the best Christian I know how to be.

It can only be filled by the very presence of Christ. 

It can only be filled by allowing His love to live in my heart.

It can only be filled by accepting His amazing grace and His mercies that are new every morning.

He gives the Body of Christ to help nurture and grow that relationship with Him; to support me when life is tough. Only Jesus can make the hole in my heart whole. But He never expects me to walk this life solo without fellow Jesus-followers.

And I am so thankful for that.

Tonight as I lay in a bed that is not my own, as I hold an ice pack to my swollen post-surgery jaw, as my future is so uncertain and important relationships are rocky, my heart cry is this: Jesus, You are my desire. Only You can satisfy. You hold my future in Your hands and Your plans are good. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

And that is enough for tonight. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

Friday, March 8, 2013

I Hate the Dentist

I Hate the Dentist. 

I Hate Tooth Pain. 

I Hate Tooth Surgery. 

I Hate Stitches in My Mouth.

Any of these titles would work (amongst others).

But before I go any farther, here's a disclaimer. I am grateful for caring, skilled endodontists and oral surgeons; for kind and fun hygienists. I don't hate the people (usually). I hate the dentist as a place, a process, a procedure.

(I hate the torture.)

And here's another disclaimer. This is very long-winded. My apologies.

Culvers shake and a great movie with my mom after
 arriving home from the oral surgeon's office.

Okay. After two weeks of horrible tooth pain and an absolute roller coaster ride emotionally, I am so sick of my mouth, the pain, and bouncing between dental health care providers.

It actually started a few years ago. I noticed pain and sensitivity in one of my back right molars and asked my (then) dentist about it. He said he couldn't see anything so there wasn't a problem. All I have to say to that is this: BULL.

Anyway, being the kind of person who sucks it up and lives with it, that's exactly what I've done for the past few years.

Until two weeks ago.

I was eating a muffin of all things at my favorite Christian coffee shop. (Hello, Reachout friends!) As I sipped the best latte I've ever had (thanks, Hannah E!) and munched on the blueberry muffin, I chewed down just wrong. Holy crow did it hurt.

After a few days of chewing carefully and sipping on tea, I finally had to call a dentist because the pain and infection was spreading. 

He gave me a prescription for antibiotic and pain reliever and told me that I needed a root canal. Tough news to swallow when I heard the price tag attached to it. So I started praying for clear direction.

God clearly directed me to make an appointment with the endodontist. Clearly. Rarely have I ever prayed for direction and received such a clear answer.

Even with that direction, I still didn't know how exactly I was supposed to pay for it. So I started praying specifically for His provision. And He came through and met that need through some amazingly generous friends in Christ.

So. I went to the appointment for the root canal on Monday afternoon. However, after further testing and x-rays, it was determined that my tooth was cracked so severely it wasn't worth the money to try to save it.

That really threw me for a loop and was very hard to accept. God had clearly directed and provided the funds, plus I just hated the thought of losing my tooth and the process of having it removed. 

But I moved forward and made an appointment for the next morning to have it removed. The "normal" dentist here in town thought he could get it out. That turned out to be a nightmare. After many very painful attempts to make my tooth numb, all I had was very painful bruising in the back of my mouth and no progress towards getting the tooth out.

So it was off to an oral surgeon for a consult that afternoon. Between those appointments, I spent a while crying my eyes out. The emotional and physical trauma was more than I could take without letting out some of the built-up emotion. I don't think I've cried like that since my last hospitalization (or experienced that much physical pain).

The surgical extraction was scheduled for Thursday morning and on Wednesday I worked a full day. That was exhausting but a good way to keep my mind off the next morning. Thankful for those who prayed strength for me throughout the day!

Throughout these days, all of the antibiotics and pain medications were taking their toll on my gut with my Crohn's disease. So hard to balance caring for different issues. As my oral surgeon said to me, I'm stuck between a rock and hard place with this one: trying to  rid my body of infection (which is very dangerous with the meds I'm on for the Crohn's) but at the same time not destroy my gut (which is also dangerous with  my Crohn's). God is taking care of me!

And then Thursday morning arrived. I put on my sweatpants and slipper boots and tried to feel just as relaxed mentally and emotionally. (Tried.) My mom went with me since I (obviously) wouldn't be able to drive myself home.

I have to say that with the exception of one (horrible) receptionist, the care I received the day of the surgical extraction was phenomenal. I am very grateful for the care I was given...from going over paperwork, to getting the IV in, to putting on the oxygen mask, to turning on the music from my iPhone (yay for Josh Groban!), to giving me more sedation when I woke up crying (that was not fun).

The surgery was much harder, longer, and complicated than anyone was anticipating. The tooth was fused to my jaw bone. Apparently that made things very interesting.

Recovery has been interesting. It's been painful and humbling and I'm so thankful for the care I've been surrounded with. If you made me instant mashed potatoes or brought me a milkshake, you were my instant hero.

Tonight I'm thankful for pudding, ice cream, Ensure, TV shows, ice packs, Vicodin, Tylenol, water, chocolate milk, nail polish, chats with friends via Skype, iMessage, and text (so I didn't have to use my mouth to talk!), and the prayers of my family & friends.

I'm thankful for employers and co-workers who understand.

I'm thankful for a God who somehow has a good plan in all this.

I'm thankful to be alive.

And I'm thankful that it is not I who live, but  Christ who lives in me.

That is the reason to keep getting up each morning.

Even during the awful weeks.

I asked my brother to snatch this photo on my iPhone while we were driving 
back from Appleton last weekend. Gorgeous!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Musings on March Monday Madness

I was sitting in the chair at the endodontists' office today. The office is on the third floor of a this big bank building and has big windows. From my chair I could look over busy streets and parking lots.

(The reason for being there is a whole (years) long ordeal and very, very frustrating but that's another story.) 

As I watched the traffic flow down the streets, through the round-abouts, and across the parking lots, I just felt so small.

This Monday was just horrible (and I'm not really that pessimistic about Mondays). A brother admitted into the hospital, I'm dealing with a lot of pain and infection and Crohn's crap, very disappointing news about my tooth problem, discouraging work day at one of my jobs.

I've been an emotional mess since yesterday so that didn't help anything.

And as I watched life go on, so many people coming and going, and each one with their own story, their own struggles, their own pain, their own losses, I just felt so small and insignificant.

I can't even say why exactly it hit me like that. But it was weird and depressing.

Bible study last night was about how precious we are to God. We are His children. We are special. We matter to Him. We are not insignificant.

Life can be depressing. It can seem hopeless. It can seem pointless.

It can be so. darn. draining.

But with Jesus there is purpose. There is life. There is peace. There is joy. There is contentment. There is strength in our weakness.

And that is Who I put my hope in. Especially on the harder days.

Early to Rise Challenge - Day Four

This was the easiest morning so far. I'm so thankful! After the torture of getting out of bed yesterday morning, I was getting a little scared about this early to rise thing. It may have helped that I went to bed two and half hours earlier last night than Saturday night. *wink*

God is helping me do something that I often felt like I could never do. Rising early has never been something I was good at and my health challenges have only made getting out of bed harder. 

But when I invite God in to do help me, it's incredible what He can enable me to do. Four days in a row of getting up between 5:20 and 6:30? This may make some of you life-long-early-risers laugh a little, but that's an amazing testimony to God's work in and through me.

I have had so many blog posts swirling through my head for the past couple months. So much has changed in my life and I haven't taken time to write any of it on here. God's showing up and coming through in "impossible" and very difficult situations. Maybe one of these days I'll be able to scribble a few more posts. After all, my mornings are getting longer. *smile*

Here's to all of you fellow Early to Rise Challenge folks! We're more than halfway through the first week! Wahoo!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Early Morning Musings

Sunrise over the ocean in the Outer Banks on our vacation last fall.

When I saw Crystal at Money Saving Mom post about the 30-Day Early to Rise Challenge, I thought I should maybe be a part of it. I officially decided before bed last night to do it.

If you know me, you know mornings and getting out of bed are not my favorite things in the world. So last night before I fell asleep (and when I would wake up during the night) I was specifically asking God to get me out of bed at 6:30.

Well, He had me up before 5:30. *smile* 

I'm excited to see how this month long challenge changes my daily life. It's going to be a "prayed-through" month. This whole early rising thing does not come naturally to me.

When I looked in the mirror at 5:25, I think I woke up a whole lot more. Shocking, folks. Shocking.

Hair standing everywhere. Yesterdays mascara smeared. Droopy eyes.

Super sexy, y'all.

I did do a lot of tossing and turning last night. I don't normally wake up looking quite that bad. Maybe it was part of God's plan to wake me up quickly. *wink*

Here's to the next twenty-nine mornings! May they be productive, peaceful, challenging, and life-changing.

And a little less scary looking when I see my reflection in the mirror.