Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel

My fingers smell like Frankincense. I doused the kids with oils before they headed out the door for school. The older two are home with me. Still schooling at home. We're all still part of this crazy journey called life. With mixed schooling. And mixed feelings.

Samuel's MRI showed three cysts in his brain. One seems to be something he got when he was born or in the NICU. One is on the pituitary and the other an arachnoid cyst. Side effects include headaches and nausea; cue the aha moment.

This kid is going to be going through it. He's supposed to start growth hormone injections this week. Which is why we're working with neurology and endocrinology to keep close tabs on those brain cysts. In addition to getting his hearing aid which had to be postponed because the Dr wasn't available the day of our original appointment, we will also be reviewing the MRI's... and getting braces (orthodontist). Fun, fun.

And it stirs up all these past traumas. The life inside the Children's Hospital. And it requires this allowing myself to feel these feelings and to give them to God. To be able to speak plainly the times where it just wasn't fair... and yet to see God's faithfulness.

My heart is suffering grief and brokenness but not as one without hope. My Savior was born and he lived and suffered and died on my behalf so that grief, death, disease, sorrow, and brokenness are not a permanent thing but a passing through thing. A reminder that they can not hold me down forever. Just a little while. And then I will be free of it. Sometimes in the waiting it feels like forever.

I bought myself one of those little electric sign message boards. And the first thing that came to mind was Come, Emmanuel! At Christmas we celebrate His coming. His journeying from the throne, from perfection and praise, to this muddy, dirty, disheveled world. Being laid in a feeding trough where the animals ate out of. Humble. A King born as a pauper. Born of an "unwed" Mom.

And I await again, with groaning, Come, Oh Come Emmanuel. Jesus, please return. Rescue us.

And as we wait He redeems. He renews. He restores. It feels like forever but it's not.

So I'm breathing. Trusting. Crying. Surrendering. And holding onto the hope of our Emmanuel, our God with us.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Broken Hallelujahs.

35 years ago today I became a big sister. My instant built in best friend, Libby Anne "Joy", was born. Her pale skin and rosy cheeks and blue eyes. She called me her "Gi-Gi" when she couldn't say the word "Jennifer".

A couple years later, Mom even gave us our own baby doll Christopher to play with. We could take turns rocking him in our little wooden rockers. So we had a third partner in crime. All boy. Blonde hair buddy with blue eyes.

As kids we had lemonade stands, played hopscotch and scraped up our knees getting our first "summer stamps" as our Mom called them.

In my teen years she stole my clothes and shoes. She would be indignant that I borrowed her sweater when she would be wearing a whole outfit from my closet.

Her dramatic eye roll and loud gasps of surprise.

Her strumming the guitar.

Her voice lifted up in sweet praise.

Her 21st birthday. She was married and pregnant. I gave her a jewelry box.

I didn't know it would be her last birthday.

I didn't know 3 short months later she and her unborn son Sam, would be in the arms of Jesus.

Missing her today.
Celebrating her life.
Thanking God that I was allowed to be her big sister.

Some times we all have our broken Hallelujahs. This is one of those days.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

On the Days You Can't.

I just can't.

You ever have one of those days?

You feel like you can barely breathe and the thought of doing one more thing leaves you beyond undone. You're paralyzed. And you've hit a wall.

That's today.

Life has caught up with me. All the busyness. The appointments and therapies and specialists. The memorial service. The broken relationships. Bathing the dog. Buying the cats food. The inability to keep up with the needs of my home. The car collision center for estimate. Renewing the library books. The wedding present purchase. The wrestling tournament. The husband out of town for a week and I still have another week to get through. The diagnosis for Mike's grandmother (acute leukemia). Facing the daily realities of dementia for my precious mother-in-law. The weight of all the things that accumulate and build.

So I'm stopping. Resting. Breathing. My legs feel like lead. I hope to get to the Y so I can release some of the pent up struggle but for now I stay under the covers. The kids are fed and fine and safe. And I'm in bed. Trying to hold back the tears but I think the dam may have sprung a leak.

Tears are healing and cleansing. But at this moment I can't even cry. The exhaustion is too oppressive. the lack of sleep. My adrenal fatigue has caught up with me. And so I breathe. Put on some essential oils and take long deep breaths. And cry out to God. For help. For healing. For deliverance. For hope in this broken, shattered world. For peace that surpasses my understanding. For renewal. For grace to be kind to myself and not beat myself up for my lack and inabilities.

I light a candle and still my soul. The smell of pine permeates. I tense my muscles and hold for 20 seconds and let them relax. I put on the sounds of the ocean. I let my mind rest. And let my spirit rest.

Jesus, come. We are weak and needy. But you are strong and able. You are the fulfiller and redeemer. You are the blessing. The hope. The light. We rest and trust in you even when we can't. Even when there is nothing left to give. Even when the hopelessness promises to capsize our small boats. You are enough. More than enough. And we rest in you our Harbor. Our Rock. Our sure Foundation.

And in the moment we are reminded we are not holding onto you... but you are holding onto us.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Out of Hiding. Phoenix Rising.

The frazzle. The beauty. The sweet ecstasy. The terror. When I write. It comes to me. The real me. The real feelings. The depth. The reality. So I seek to avoid it. When I write I know myself… and that can be a very frightening thing.

my days are so full. Medical appointments. Tests and more tests. Therapy. Homeschooling. Follow through. Laundry. Dishes. Washing machine not working right. Garage door busted. The steps that need repair. The lawn that needs mowing. The math problems to assist. The reading a loud. The bathing of 5 kids to oversee and manage. And my best friend and beloved gone over 80% of the time with work.

So to sit and quiet my heart… Please let me do anything else. Let me scrub the floor. Wipe the poopy butt. Distract myself with FB or Instagram. Berate myself for not keeping up. For making a mistake.

To still myself brings confrontation. Damn it. I hate it. The silence that seeps in. Quietening my heart and catching my breath.

Do I really believe I’m enough? In my own of course not… but the deeper question… am I enough in Him? Do I believe that? Do I believe God is enough? 

Why do I strive so hard? To please others. To seek their acceptance. Their understanding. 

My heart bleeding all over these words. Please stop. Stop being so honest. So real. So uncomfortably vulnerable.

There is no going back. It’s coming out. It must. And with it the toxic poison can leave me and maybe true healing can be enough. Maybe I can heal. 

I’m not hiding anymore. Not hiding behind my children or their medical diagnoses. Not hiding behind the pain and struggle of my past.

Being open exposes you to criticism. It leaves me open to failure- the thing I fear most. 

I don’t have it all together. And though all the world knows this I’m so ashamed for it to be seen. To be exposed. The good, the bad, the ugly.

My story is my own. Losing my sister and nephew. My son having cancer. My other son cerebral palsy, a feeding tube for 5 years and now a new genetic diagnosis. The struggle of being a child of an alcoholic. My mental health issues of depression and anxiety. The PTSD. The hard financial struggles. Watching my son in his hearing loss. Endocrinologist. Geneticist. Pulmonologist. Cardiologist. Neurologist. Physical Medicine and Rehab. They are all apart of my story…. but they don’t define me. 

I am me. Jennifer Leigh Napier. Somedays I resemble the ashes more than the rising phoenix but I know my story isn’t finished. It’s not done. I’m being redeemed…. slowly changed more and more into His likeness. Until that sweet day when He calls me home and I see Him face to face. 

I groan. Longing for the world to change. The brokenness and pain to cease. The tears to stop being spilled. The mind numbing suffering and loss to end. We are not there yet. 

But we’re not alone. We don’t walk this path alone. 

God. Breathe Him in. Breathe in His beauty. His majesty. I see it in the mountains. The oceans. The forest. The plains. The wildflowers. The sunset. The sunrise. His reflections of His beauty are left for us to see in His creation. How much more spectacular the Creator.

I see it in the beauty of my children. The giving up of their favorite thing to share with a sibling. The desire to share Jesus with their friend at school who doesn’t know God. I see it in the thoughtfulness of my daughter. I see it in the self-sacrifice of my husband. This God at work. Who is powerful. Who is mighty to save. Who is bigger than I can imagine. 

Let us be consumed by Him. 

I’m not perfect. Not even close. But I’m consumed by His perfection.

I’m drawn to Him as He has drawn me to Himself. My hope is not in my kids health. It’s not in Mike’s job changing. It’s not in my current circumstances. it’s not in a perfectly organized home or a clean car. It’s in God and in Him alone. 

He is the satisfier of our hearts. The only true fulfillment of our deep needs and longings. The only One who can  quench our endless thirst and satisfy our eternal hunger.

Holding onto Him. And In faith, taking this step to embrace my writing. I’m not a perfect writer. But I am one. And it’s going to be okay, even when it doesn’t feel okay.

What do you need to embrace today? How do you need to let Him enter into the deep aches of your heart? He loves you. He’s crazy about you. He was singing over you just this morning and will watch over you as you sleep tonight. Let Him in. Let Him change you. He has good for you in the midst of your pain and struggles. He will restore you… slowly but surely- Our God is faithful!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Jesus in the Dark.

So what do you do when you have a setback?

Things are progressing in a certain way, onward and upward, and then you find yourself tumbling backwards with your pail, falling down the hill.

I find myself in this dark moment. Post concussion syndrome. Apparently when you have had PTSD and then you suffer a trauma (even a minor one), like my car accident it can re-trigger some pretty big issues like increased depression and anxiety and irritability, etc.

I found myself in Target having a panic attack about which spaghetti sauce to purchase. The one on sale? The cheapest one? The organic one? The one that has been more locally sourced? The one that will stretch the farthest? And that's just spaghetti sauce.

Making decisions feels very overwhelming. I feel thrown by the most minor things. I have over 600 emails in my inbox and oh about 20 voicemails... some of them from my lawyer. And I am paralyzed.

Physical pain is debilitating. pain in my legs. Numbness. Tingling. Pain in my shoulders. Neck. Back. Why am I not all the way better? I'm getting migraines behind my eyes and experiencing occasional ringing in my ears. I'm going to the chiropractor 3 days a week and it definitely helps.... but I still feel myself falling backwards.

I'm not myself. Going out to the store wipes me out. 10 minutes washing dishes brings tears to my eyes. It feels impossible to clean my side of the bed right now. Things that I did daily and regularly feel like hurdles I can't possibly jump over.

I have 5 wonderful children that are capable of helping me with laundry and dishes but I realize that there's a lot I haven't taught them to do and I'm too tired and overwhelmed to direct them at times.

Last night I was up til 5 a.m. and I will feel positively grateful if I'm able to take a shower today.

I have felt such shame at my inability to perform. Inability to bounce back. Inability to control my weak body.

But there is Jesus. He's there with me in the dark. In the dark moments of the soul. And in the hours in the middle of the night when I can't sleep. He helps me when I wrestle with my anxious thoughts.

God is gently and beautifully breaking my idolatry of perfection. He is lovingly showing me that my desire to do everything "rightly" and "perfectly" has superceded my desire to love Him.  I would rather be productive, efficient, and as perfect as possible without Him then be weak, broken and prostrate with Him.

What love is this?! That He loves me enough to show me that my striving won't satisfy! His perfection is what I really need!

He loves me in my human-ness. He is not looking down his nose at me and shaking his head in disapproval. He is loving me. Eager to be with me.

The days have felt dark and I have been afraid to share to openly. Ashamed of needing help. Horrified by my inability to pull it together.

I'm trying to take deep breaths.

My Dr. told me I need to slow down and take as much as I can off my plate. That I really need to let myself heal. So step by step. Day by day. Breath by breath.

I am acknowledging my pain. My weakness. My numbness. My ringing in my ears. Pain behind my eyes. But I also acknowledge that it's not too big for God. He's got this. He's aware. He's more than enough.

So as I sit in darkness I pause and give thanks, that I am not alone, Jesus sits here with me, in the dark.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Knee Surgery, Car Accidents, Book Club and God's Goodness in the Midst.

Life doesn't happen the way we plan. I had laid out great plans for this summer. Excited to be getting PT to strengthen my knee after I had knee surgery. Hoping to join the Y so I could start stationary biking, swimming, and elliptical. Was hoping to take some pilates or yoga classes.

In 10 days I have a book club at my home that I'm leading on suffering. "A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament" by Christina Fox. I have some experience with suffering. Loss of my sister and nephew. Loss of jobs for my husband. Struggling helping him through his undergraduate and then graduate degree while having small children. Having 5 kids in 6 years. A child on a feeding tube for 5 years. A child with cerebral palsy. A child with cancer. You know those things... those things in the past. And some things in the present. Still working through grief, 6 hours of physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy a week for my kids. My husband traveling for work a lot. ETC.

But I hadn't intended to be taken deeper into suffering...

And here I am recovering from my knee surgery when I get in a car accident Monday night. My body was fully twisted when I was hit causing the seriousness of the injury. Minimum of 6-8 weeks of intensive therapy to recover.

oh the irony.

Oh the blessing. The blessing that God works in the midst of my pain. That my friends jump up to the bat for me again. helping with my kids. bringing meals. My Mom sat with me 6 hours in the ER and CT scans. She cleaned my home. Took me to my doctors appointments. My inlaws kept the boys for 2 nights!

The pain is very real. The suffering is very real. And in the midst of this... with my husband gone, in my very weakened, very dependent state, with pain so intense it leaves me in tears and crying out I am resting in Jesus. Resting in His love and provision. The struggle is real. I'm not perfect. I hate being alone. Struggle with being scared. Scared the pain won't end. But I'm also surrendering myself to my loving Father who is going to work this out for my good. His plans are better than my own.

I'm on a journey. On a road of pain ahead but I don't walk it alone. I walk this with God holding me.

I am comforted that things are as they should be.

I'm doing everything I can to follow directions and heal faster. No lifting, stretching, bending, pushing, pulling, carrying. I'm lying on my back. Icing. Heating pads. Drinking water. Taking the medication with alarm reminders set on my phone. Going to the chiropractor. On prednisone for my seriously swollen discs. Using deep blue and other essential oils for my very injured muscles.

But I know God is my healer. He has given me tools and resources but He is my ultimate physician. So I rest. Rest in Him being enough. Rest in Him being my husband while my husband is away. Rest in Him caring for my children when I can't care for them.

And as I read A Heart Set Free I ask Him to set my heart free so I can minister to those who have suffered, to those who are suffering and to those who will suffer.

Please join us for dinner and discussion Sunday, June 25th at my home. I'd love to hear what you think of the book and how God has met and is meeting you in the midst of your suffering... you can sign up here.

You also can use the link to sign up and join us in August for how to love and minister to those who are hurting and suffering. I will be leading a book discussion by Dave Furman, "Being There: How to Love those Who Are Hurting".

God knew this would happen. That I'd be in a place of suffering while tackling a book about suffering. That I'd be in a place of needing help while talking about how to help those who are in need. Thankful that I'm always in the right place at the right time- with God as my anchor and sustainer and Redeemer!

Friday, June 02, 2017

Flipped Out By Faithfulness

I love how in those moments... those deep dark moments. The moments that you are afraid will last forever. Those moments that suck you down into the depths of despair. In those moments God breaks in.

His faithfulness is amazing.

I don't always feel amazing... but I'm always amazed by His faithfulness. I'm not always sunshine and roses. Often there is pain, adversity and struggle... but I'm thankful that He has not left me to my own devices. He points me upwards and outwards.

I reach up to Him and reach out to friends and share my emotions and ask for prayer and for help and for love... and I receive it. Friends directing me back to Jesus. My husband reading the Psalms out loud to me while he was in Florida and I was in VA. A friend sending pizza to us for dinner.

Recently I was confronted by my desire to control my image. I was angry that I couldn't exercise because I was not able to make the progress that I had been making and I found my body softening up. Found myself making not healthy choices as I dealt with stress and a husband out of town for almost a month.

I was confronted by God who lovingly said to me, "Is your love for me based on your appearance? Your weight? What if you never lose another pound?"

It hit me upside the head. It hurt. How much of my love for God had been recently... "Well, I will love you if you help me lose these 100 pounds!" Ouch. My love is so conditional. I'm not saying that I don't need to be healthy. I do need to lose weight. I do want to exercise and make good choices... but my desire wasn't out of love for God. Wasn't out of thanksgiving for this instrument he's given me, called my body. It was out of a desire to impress others. To have it together.

And something in me unhinged this week and I was able to realize, I'm beautiful. It's not something I can control. It's the way God made me. And I can rejoice and thank Him and be kind to my body. Be a friend to myself. Or I can berate myself and be angry and disgusted. I'm choosing to rejoice.

I felt set free. I know I won't always intensely feel this relief but I want to remind myself of it. That God is working in me. Setting me free of my own expectations. It sets me free to love others more freely. To put the judgment and criticism away for myself allows me to do the same towards others.

Basking in His faithfulness to me. Thankful for my surgery yesterday. For the repairs made. To realize the damage done to my knee
that was way worse than originally thought. Thankful that I can begin the journey of healing... my body, mind, and thoughts. That God's faithfulness always wins no matter how I feel.

How are you experiencing His faithfulness today?

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Putting perfection on the shelf.

I've been awake for almost 22 hours. I stepped on a vacuum cord plug with my bare foot. It hurt. I made myself a protein shake and left it in the kitchen only to come to the bedroom and wonder where I put my drink.

Sleep deprivation is a crazy thing... it literally makes you crazy. Your brain starts misfiring. I completely expect myself at this point to right something ridiculous, perposterous or horribly misspelled. Case in point... how does one spell proposterous? perposterous? You get the point.

Thankful my worth doesn't come from my ability to be eloquent or poignant. To have the right thing to say... my worth comes from Jesus. I'm so glad I can rest, truly rest. I don't have to have it together. I don't need to be perfect. I can come messy, broken and needy, desperate for grace. desperate for an encounter with Him and He's faithful to meet me.

It's been a month now that I've had to bow out of Crossfit. My knee injury has put my ability to exercise strenuously on the back burner. Today I finally went to my Doctors. I did x-rays and all was fine with my bones. Next step is MRI. Concern is that I've torn something. My knee is swollen and inflamed and the pain wakes me in the middle of the night.... hence being up for 22 hours. And it hasn't gotten better... it's gotten worse.

So I'm letting go of these perfect expectations I have for myself. My trust in my own ability to make me successful or svelte or super.... and instead I will look to His perfection and say that it's more than enough for me. I can't control these things. I can acknowledge my limits and embrace what I'm given. So deep breaths.

And now off to dreamland.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Surgery, Seals and more surrender.

Michael's Seal
Tomorrow morning I intend to wake up early...To pack my bag for the hospital, finish the last minute odds and ends and double-check Michael packed the necessities in addition to his birthday cards, a fortune cookie, and a 5 pack puzzle of Paw Patrol. I'm up late switching laundry. I just put the larger than life overstuffed seal into the dryer along with puppy (also a stuffed animal). They have been thoroughly washed and hopefully will be sufficiently dry for the morning.

Michael is going into CHKD for cleft palate repair. He hasn't had a surgery on his cleft palate for almost 8 years... so it's been a while. A little nervous but I know he's going to do great. I wish I could say the same for myself. I mean, I will be fine. It's just this continual process of letting go of my fear and worry and anxiety and trusting God... you know, that's all.

We've been pushing for this procedure for over a year. With the help and advocacy of Michael's speech therapist we are finally moving forward.

So in addition to it being May the 4th be with you... it's also a day to wait in the hospital and hang out overnight.

How you can pray:

- Pray for a smooth procedure. It's scheduled to take over 3.5 hours. We are hoping the fissure in his cleft will be full and completely blocked so that Michael's hypernasality will be reduced and so he can speak in sentences without running out of breath.

-Pray for Michael to find another self-comfort other than putting his hands in his mouth. He has sucked his hand since he was in the womb. We've been trying to break him of this habit but have had no success. We have  an arm restraint that he will be wearing. It is his greatest comfort to suck his hand and we have to keep things out of his mouth. Hoping to find another replacement to engage his hands.

-Pray that we have a smooth adjustment coming back home and settling in. Mike will be leaving to go out of town for work and this is hard for all of us but especially for Michael.

-Pray for full healing and recovery

And so I surrender again. I lay down my hopes and expectations and ask God the creator and sustainer of Michael to come and bring peace through His Holy Spirit. To cast out all fear with His perfect love and to remind me continually that God loves Michael infinitely more than I possibly could.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

When The Fog Won't Lift

I would like to just karate chop depression in the gut right now.

I won't lie. I'm quite the mess. But I'm going to keep it real. I'm not a faker. At the checkout line today the cashier asked me how I am. I told her, "I'm just plain crazy." I then laughed and said, "How are you?" It doesn't mean I tell every single person I meet my struggles... but it also doesn't mean I fake it with my friends.

I know it started with back pain that led to not being able to work out.... and was coupled with the weird knee pain that had me down for almost 3 weeks and still won't go away. The no exercise thing stunk... because I couldn't release my emotions. No endorphins.

Couple that with a little anxiety about Michael's upcoming cleft palate repair surgery and my husband being out of town for a while and you get a whole new special mess. Pour on a little bit of hurts and disappointments. Confusion. Rejection. Criticism. Missing my sister. Dang you National Sibling Day!!! And oh, how bought we throw in some new diagnoses for my already diagnosed child... and we just get it about right.

Dang you depression. You may not lay claim on me. You might beat me up, drag me down a hole, kick me in stomach, but you do not have me. You don't have my soul. And I'm not letting you take my mind either.

So I'm coloring. I'm letting myself get more than enough sleep. I'm trying to eat healthfully and at regular intervals. I dab on a little lavender oil and breathe. I double up on my Juice Plus. I stop making unrealistic to-do lists. I do try and see friends. I do let myself have a treat. I look at flowers and buy a few more plants.

But here's the last kicker that can be helpful but very hard.... I try and stay connected. I don't want to isolate... because isolation leads me down a dangerous path. I try and as Paw Patrol puts it, "Yelp for Help".

Help! I need help. I need your prayers. I need to be reminded that I'm worth keeping around even though I'm not perfect. I need you to give me a hug. I need you to tell me that you love me.

What helps?

~ Reading funny books (Hyperbole & a Half by Allie Brosh, Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson, All my friends are Dead by Avery Monsen and Jory John, T-Rex Trying by Hugh Murphy,  Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions, David Sedaris, Nora Ephron, P.G. Wodehouse). Watching funny movies/shows (Hot Rod, SNL, 30Rock).  Listening to my favorite comedians... Maria Bamford, Jim Gaffigan, Mike Birbiglia. Emphasis on laughing!

~ Months ago when I was losing it a friend (IH) bought pizza for my family and had it sent to my house... dinner was done. Mike was out of town. I just breathed. It helped me make it through.

~ A card from a friend. (Thanks VZ) and a hike in the woods.

~ A pedicure with a friend. (HY)

~ My friend made dinner for me and all the kids at her house. We ate tacos and watched Sing and snuggled. So healing. Thanks HL

~ Having friends help me clean and organize. A huge thanks to my friend who scrubbed my bathroom and helped me with the kitchen a few weeks ago... you know who you are (AB).

~ Knowing I'm going to see my Grandma tomorrow and sit on the beach with her. That I'm going to be with my cousins on Saturday morning. I love having good things to look forward to.

~ Flowers from my honey. An orchid from my Mom as well as a huge package of strawberries and blueberries.

~Nature is healing. I love the beach. I love being outside in the sunshine.

~Singing at the top of my lungs in the car (without kids).

~Dancing in the kitchen when doing the dishes.

~ Bubble baths with really good scrubs and shower gels... think Lush.

~ A great cup of English Breakfast

~ Coffee date.

Acts of service and gifts are my top 2 love languages. It means so much to be thought of.

And I love when I get to give. It makes my heart to give to someone else. It helps me get out of my funk.

So yeah, that's where I'm at. I know I'm going to get through this. I know I will be stronger. I am an overcomer. But it's okay that I'm hurting. It's okay that I'm sad. I hate the brokenness of this world. I hate racism and my ignorance as I learn about injustices because of someone's color or their poverty. I hate cancer and sexual trafficking. I hate seeing people suffer. There are so many Hurting people. I hate that I can't fix it.

But there is One who can. One who is. One who will make all things new.


The beauty and the power and majesty in that name. The name that stills my anxious soul and whispers to me tenderly that I will be okay.

I've had peaks and valleys. I have struggled with self-harm and suicidal thoughts before.

Do you wrestle with anxiety and or depression? How do you cope? What do you do? How do you love yourself through it? What helps?

I hope that you know if you do suffer from depression and anxiety that you are not alone. Friends, spouses, family, co-workers will fail and disappoint us, betray us, or hurt us... but Jesus loves you perfectly. He knows you intimately and promises to never leave or forsake us. Even if you can't hold on... you can rest in the fact that He is holding onto you... and He will never let you go.

And if you are struggling.... get help. You are important and valuable. You are needed. Important. You are loved. You are not alone. You are not crazy. You are not a failure. Reach out. Be good to yourself. Be kind to yourself. You are made in the image of God.

Sending hugs. Trusting that all will well in the end. And if it's not all well, then it's not the end.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Peace in the Waiting...

I pull the covers almost completely over my head. Can’t I just stay in bed? When will all the hurt and pain just go away? I'm so frustrated... by my limitations, my inabilities, my lack of control. 

I’m discouraged. I hurt my back last week and am still recovering. I’m doing all the right things. Been to the chiropractor 3 times. I’ve been icing, and stretching and using biofreeze and arnica gel and essential oils for sore muscles. 

And I still can’t safely work out yet… So I must wait. 

Waiting is never a fun thing for me. I hate being still. I’d much rather get something accomplished because I feel worthy if I’m productive. Scary, right? So when I’m unable to be productive and get things done then I feel worthless. Yikes. 

What if my value isn’t from a clean house and a perfectly made meal? What if who I am isn’t based on the car I drive or how well behaved my children are?

So what if our worth doesn’t come from what we’ve done. What if it comes from something greater and deeper. What if it comes from God. What if it comes from what He’s done on my behalf. What if all that is needed is for me to trust in His finished and perfect work. What if He took my place and bore my sin and shame so that I could become righteous. I have to trust and believe that He is who He says He is. What if being in Him is enough? 

So, I’m not magically fixed. My back still hurts. My muscles are tender. But I can rest knowing that I am a child who is dearly loved and being made more and more into the likeness of my Savior Jesus Christ. And that is my hope for today. 

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Self Hatred vs. The Art of Loving Me Now

I have stretch marks. I have rolls. My body has been stretched from giving birth to 5 children in 6 years. It has carried and sustained me in the tragic loss of my sister and nephew. Has born the grief, stress and challenges of having a child with a feeding tube for 5 years and a child who has walked through cancer treatment. Cerebral palsy. Cleft Palate. Orthotics. Audiologist. Cardiologist. Oncologist. ENT. Cranial-facial. Radiologist. Pulmonology. Developmental Peds. NICU. PICU. blah,blah,blah the list never seems to ends...

The list goes on. But that's not the point.

The point is my body is damaged and broken. And I hated it. I hated my imperfections. My inabilities.

My self-worth was never great. I never looked at myself as a teenager and thought I was beautiful. The scars of sexual abuse made me see, "ugly" "worthless" "fat" even when I was outwardly gorgeous. I never saw it.

And now when I look at myself something wonderful has changed. I look at myself with compassion. I look at myself not merely as a survivor but someone who is overcoming. I'm beautiful. Flawed- absolutely, but beautiful. I'm strong. I have suffered severe depression, anxiety and at times have been very suicidal and I didn't give up. I didn't pull the trigger. I didn't die. I see arms that have comforted my son as he threw up for the 30th time that day. I see legs that kept moving forward in the face of uncertainty and darkness. I see lips that keep smiling even through the tears. I see the eyes that are searching for others... who I can love and encourage and wrap my arms around.

The truth is I have yet to arrive. I'm still in transformation but I refuse to wait to love myself until then...

I'm going to love me now.

Now, when I'm broken, scarred, overweight, vulnerable. When I'm the last one to finish the workout at Crossfit and the one huffing and puffing. I love me when I'm not fitting into the size I want. I will buy those fun leggings from Lula Roe because they make me happy and dance on the inside as well as letting me feel the buttercream softness. I will put on make-up when I want to because I want to not because I have to but I enjoy it. I will use lotion and perfume and feel alive and free and myself.

I shed the hatred. I have outgrown it. I will not look at myself in disgust but smile instead and say, "Baby, you've been through it.... but you're story isn't done."

And when I see you... walking down the street, in the check out line of the grocery store, in the aisle in front of me and behind me at church, in Starbucks waiting for your coffee... I love you too. I wonder what you've been through. I wonder if you know that you are beautiful and amazing and strong.

I want you to know that you are made in the image of God. You are wholly and dearly loved. You are unique and precious and there is no other YOU in this world.

I know it might be hard to believe. Or maybe you've known this all along... but in case you haven't I want to tell you... LOVE YOURSELF NOW.

Don't wait til you lose that last 10 or 100+ pounds.
Don't wait til you feel worthy.
Don't wait until you get that new promotion, or get married, or get divorced, or have a baby, or the children are grown or you finally get the house of your dreams or your body is finally the way you want it.

Love yourself now.

When you love yourself then you are free to love others. You can look at them without judgement and shame and disregard. You don't compare yourself. You don't put them down. You're not jealous and envious and discontent.... because you are satisfied with yourself.

So beautiful, what are you going to do today? How are you going to change this world? How are you going to impact those around you?

You are loved... so go live it!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

When all you see is failure...

When all I could see was my failure.

The panic sets in. The crushing waves pour over me. Failure. Failure. Failure. This vague condemnation drowning me.

This morning I see so many shortcomings. I should have worked more on this. I am failing my kids in that. The laundry hasn't been done. Which means the kids are wearing dirty clothes to therapy.  I didn't help one of them do the homework this week for therapy and so was given  the disapproving look. I forgot the thing I was supposed to return. And my list of to-dos exceed the confines of time. And I feel paralyzed.

And the fear that haunts me most whispers in my ear... "I'm not enough"

And I'm not.
In and of myself I'm not enough.

My hope must come from something better, something bigger and something greater than me.

I need Jesus.

I need someone who is perfect and sinless to rescue me. Jesus who knows what it is to be human. Jesus who knows what it is to be broken, exhausted and overextended. Jesus who holds me close and never lets me go.

I do fail. But He never fails.
I am not enough. But He is more than enough.
I am imperfect and flawed... but He robes me in His perfection.

And so I breathe. I cry out to the Lord, "HELP!"

Help me believe you are who you say you are. Help me to trust you. Help me lean on you. In my weakness let me know your strength. In my anxiety let me feel your peace. Thank you that you are more than enough!

I move forward. Not because my circumstances are fixed but because my heart is re-centered. He will get me through this moment, this hour, this day.

Do you feel like a failure? Are you drowning in your not enough-ness? 

Cry out to Jesus. He alone can meet you. He knows you and understands you perfectly and He loves you! In Him you are more than enough. I know it's not easy. It's not easy bearing with ourselves, bearing with the brokenness of others and the brokenness of this world.

I can promise this He won't leave or forsake you. And like Paul*, we can boast in our weakness. His (Jesus Christ's) grace is sufficient for us and his power is made perfect in our weakness.

So let's press forward, forward in hope. forward in the knowledge that in our failings, in our weaknesses He is strong. And as we abide in Him we are being made to me more and more like Him.

Let's find joy in that we are accepted by Him who knows us full well and loves us and calls us His beloved. You are not alone. You are loved. You are known. You are more than enough.

*2 Corinthians 12:9

Thursday, March 02, 2017

The Mysterious Gift of Special Needs.

I was always afraid of having a child with special needs. 

I might have been 11 or 12.  I remember looking into the eyes of a little boy I watched at a summer camp called Helping Hands. He was beautiful- Sweet boy. Wonderful smile. And completely blind.

I looked around the camp and saw children with all sorts of disabilities around me. Wheelchairs. Orthotics. Unable to talk. Unable to hold their bodies upright.

And fear gripped my heart.

I remember being afraid of what I couldn't understand.

My Mom taught preschool children with special needs for a while and later taught children with Autism. I was always in awe of her tenderness and gentleness with her students. Sometimes students would scratch her, kick her, bite her, lash out at her. My Mom was a saint. Kind, compassionate, patient. I could never be like that.

I knew I didn't have what it took to take care of a kid with special needs. 

I was pregnant with my second baby. We didn't know if it was going to be a boy or a girl. I was so excited. My Libby girl was only 14 months old... and she was going to be a big sister!

But then it all went wrong. Pre-term labor began at 26 weeks. Far too early. They kept stopping my labor. Holding me off. Injecting me with steroids to help develop the baby's lungs. And yet the contractions never went away completely. I was having on average between 3-4 contractions every hour. And then my baby finally arrived. Samuel came at 30 weeks. He needed to be intubated. And I was terrified. I was terrified of losing him. I wasn't afraid of the machines. I was scared of not having him.

Samuel had to have oxygen for the first 6 months of life. He nearly died at 7 months. Code blue. Emergency intubation. Helivaced from PA to Dupont Children's Hospital in Delaware. Pins and needles as we wondered if our son would make it. Cardiac surgery and tracheotomy was in question. Thankfully after 2 weeks in the ICU he was able to successfully be extubated. Pneumonia. Bronchitis. Asthma. Reactive Airway Disease. Chronic Lung Disease. Samuel's 10th hospitalization occurred on his second birthday.

Samuel needed inhalers, nebulizers, allergy medications, oxygen. He would need oral steroids and have to go to the ER for oxygen and breathing treatments. He would get pneumonia and ear infections and RSV and bronchitis. Tracheomalacia and laryngomalacia. He was always sick. Always coughing. Always working to breathe. I still remember the sound of his perpetual wheeze.

Libby was only 3 and Samuel just 2, when I experienced the traumatic birth of my twins. My c-section went horribly wrong when I could lift my legs off the table and they weren't finished with my surgery.

It was such an intense labor and delivery. I had been laboring  for a long time waiting for my husband, Mike, to get to me. He was a graduate student at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and I had recently relocated with Libby and Samuel to VA to have the support of family while I was on bedrest. He was racing to get to me as quickly as possible. As soon as Mike arrived he donned scrubs and prepped for the arrival of our twin boys.

Unfortunately our anesthesiologist was not the best. The spinal block ended up wearing off mid-surgery. She had not given me enough. And I could feel them pushing my intestines around. It was torturous and traumatic. I screamed... out loud...for a long time.

I believe I scarred my husband for life.

I vaguely remember the boys being whisked away... and being left alone. Later the doctor coming in and telling me that I had a very sick baby. The baby didn't get oxygen to the brain.... only time will tell. Our son also had a cleft palate and there were other issues they were concerned with. I felt crushed. Like the world was caving in on me.

I remember my overly exhausted husband lay asleep on the pathetic make-shift bed in the hospital room as I lay awake crying, fearing what would happen to my precious son. It was only when Mike awoke that he was able to comfort me that our son wasn't necessarily dying. I thought we had received a death sentence. Hormones. Exhaustion. And a surgery gone wrong causing horrific pain. Bad and unclear explanation thrown on top of having my first c-section and of course I had assumed the worst... that he would die. Thankful to understand our son would likely live but have special needs.

Within the year after his birth it was confirmed Michael had cerebral palsy.*

So here I am... not just one... but two children with special needs. 

Early intervention. Speech therapy. Occupation therapy. Physical therapy. Oxygen tanks and apnea monitors. Feeding tubes. Wheel chairs. Cranial shaping helmets. Orthotics. Doctors offices. Specialists. Cardiologists. Neurologists. ENT. Plastic Surgery. Geneticists. Pulmonologists. 

I remember though, as I went to specialist after specialist appointment, passing the Oncology Clinic and thinking to myself.... "Well, at least we don't have a child with cancer...."

Oh the irony.

And then Samuel, at age 4, having cancer. And in came the oncologist. Radiologist. And living in the children's hospital. 15 months of chemo. 6 weeks of radiation. Another child on a feeding tube. Daily injections. Inability to walk. Bowed legs. Screaming pain. CVL lines. Biopsy. Draining lungs. Suprapubic tube.

I say all this not to put fear in your heart... but to testify that God can take you through things in your life... things that you are afraid of... and bring you to the other side. He provides grace, peace and strength for each moment. 

Was it hell at times? Absolutely. 

Did I want to give up in some moments? Of course.

But God has sustained and carried us through. 

Moment by Moment. Minute by Minute. Hour after Hour. Day after Day. Week after week. Month after Month. Year after Year.

God is faithful. He always has been. He always will be. 
He's given me a hope deeper than I've ever known. 
He's given me joy that I can trust Him in my pain and with my pain. 
He's given me peace that never once have I ever walked alone.

All my children are gifts from God. I'm blessed beyond what I could imagine. I'm the luckiest Mama in the whole world.

Some days are easier than others.

We've come so far and I've been blessed with a friend who showed me how the power of nutrition could change the health of my family. My kids are now off all medications. No more asthma or allergy medications. No more oral steroids or hospitalizations or ER visits for oxygen.

 I'm incredibly thankful to say that all in all my kids are healthy. They've come farther than expected, even exceeding doctors expectations.

But the true miracle for me is what God did in my heart. He gave me something I was afraid of... and He used it for my good!

*The cause of Cerebral Palsy is a brain injury or brain malformation that occurs while the brain is developing — before, during, or after birth. As a result of the brain damage during brain development a child’s muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance can be affected. It can also impact a child’s fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and oral motor functioning.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Broken hearted.

Today, I'm feeling broken hearted.  My husband uses the German word to sum it up well, Weltschmerz. It literally means world weariness. I'm weary of this world. Broken hearted how my idle thoughtless tongue has hurt someone I love. Tired of seeing people I love face cancer and difficult diseases. Looking at the political upheaval and turmoil that has brought father against son, families torn apart. People misunderstood. People used. I see the longing in people's eyes. A hunger to connect, to be accepted, to be known and to still be loved.

The temptation to run to food to fill up my empty spaces or to tune out to a Netflix show or buy something to fill up the longing is strong. To learn the importance of resting when needed but not to slip into depression like an old comfortable nightgown. Ratty, but familiar and worn.

I hurt for those hurting today. Those who feel alone, less than, not enough, abandoned or discouraged.   Those feelings can be so real... but they are not always the best indicators of our actual condition. We are loved more than we can imagine. Perfectly. Without flaw. And that love can only be something bigger and better and beyond us.... Something infallible. And it's real.

So even as I hurt I don't lose heart. Even as I cry I don't lose hope. This feeling is not forever. It too shall pass. The sun shall come out again. Trusting in the Lord to be my strength. Trusting in His joy to sustain me.

We're creeping up on March and with it that ever fixed reminder of losing my sister and nephew. It has been so many years and yet the hurt is still there. My heart squeezes in on itself and brings fresh pain.

* I can get lost if I look at the losing.*

Instead I choose to fix my eyes outward. To see those who are in need of a friend, of a hug, of a smile. I look towards God and ask Him to hold me close to Him. He is close to the broken hearted and near to those who are crushed in spirit. And I choose life. I choose cleansing. I choose renewal. I choose redemption.

I bring my world weariness to His feet and I surrender. I can't carry the pain, the heart ache, the failure and disappointment. But He can. And He can carry me. And that's more than enough...