Saturday, December 27, 2014

On the Long "Season"

It has been a long month, considering we had such a "short" time between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. Amazing what just a few days can do right? No. It was long and somewhat painful.

Each year, since I was a teenager, there has been some mental struggle during Christmas. That reality of early Christians ignoring the blatantly obvious calendar of events of just a few hundred year prior and doing what was "cool." They bent to the will of what was popular or what would turn the most heads at the time. Ancient social media at work you might say. The choice to take a series of "pagan" holidays and twist them a bit to make them into the day chosen to celebrate Christ's birth. Did you know that I look for when the Jewish high holidays start and wish Him a Happy Birthday?

Anyways, what goes around comes around. For a time, it worked. Those holidays blended as word grew of Christianized versions of the trees and other beloved items. For hundreds and hundreds of years, Christmas was just that - the celebration of when Christ was supposedly born, and so so many just went along with it. But now look at what has happened? Santa Claus, his original history buried under a fairy tale arrives, and parents wince. We put ourselves in debt for months to come so the "giving season" can teach our children about getting. Me, me, me! Fights at the stores for items people want for themselves and not for others. Items for families who have so much, while those with nothing sit in the shadows and cry out. Out of guilt, some with throw a bone of a jacket or food, but rarely with their heart. They turn their backs until the next winter when the consumerism catches up to them again and one corner feels a little twinge once more.

Christ is left by the wayside until Christmas Eve when thousands pack into churches for their twice a year fix. It eases more of the guilt for all the things they bought, people they ignored, logic thrown by a case of the "wants."
Christmas has once again returned to its pagan roots.

We let it happen. We allowed ourselves to be dragged in by our wealth, for even us who are struggling financially still have more than over 90% of the world. We are free to choose a TV sale on Thanksgiving day over being truly thankful, and it drags on from there.
I heard a woman in Target say she was tired of Christmastime. Well, we allowed the stores to put up decorations in October and drag the "season" out. We go from Halloween to Christmas and ignore being thankful in the middle...

It bothers me, even as I fight being part of it, even as I look to what I can give to those in need and what I can make instead of buy. I have a long way to go, but each year brings progress in breaking free from the cycle.

This year I was in NJ before Christmas instead of after. While there, with a new Christmas CD in the player (a rare treat) I heard lyrics that smacked me upside my head and left me in tears every time I drove from one relatives house to the next. Christmas used to be so beautiful here. Mornings with my parents, afternoons with moms side of the family - all in one place- then evenings with dads side of the family - also all in one place. Fireplaces, hams, kids taking turns opening presents and all being thankful. I watched videos this year of everyone opening everything at once and thankfulness being lost in the hollering back and forth. In seconds it was over. I remember it taking us hours to get through it all. Slow, beautiful, nothing huge or super expensive, joy on faces, lots of hugs and laughter and sharing. We've lost it.... and many times this week I cried over it. Can we, as a family and as a country, get back what we've done? Can we undo this mess? Can we get back to the heart of Christmas - even if it really isn't anywhere close to the proper day. Can we see it once again as the day chosen to celebrate the ultimate gift coming down to be a infant born in squalor? Will we ever be a people who give to those who need it all the time, instead of just when a holiday hints that it is what we should do?
I don't know... but it weighs on my heart and I hope yours too. Come, make the change with me.
Candles in the window, 
Shadows painting the ceiling,
Gazing at the fire glow, 
Feeling that gingerbread feeling,
Precious moments, special people,
Happy faces, I can see
Somewhere in my memory, 
Christmas joys all around me,
Living in my memory, 
All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, here with me

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

On Forgiveness (Part 2)

There is something strange about my childhood. From around age six until age ten, I have practically no memories at all. From ten until twelve, they are scattered. My brain woke up three days shy of my twelfth birthday. The day my grandmother died.

He had been around for a couple of years by then, but there are only shadows of him sitting at a Thanksgiving table or at the Nintendo. But my mind vividly remembers the second night of my grandmoms viewing. He stayed behind at the house with me and we built with my new Lego set. We started to talk and connections were made.

Fast forward a couple of years and there are memories of sitting on a desk or bed and hours upon hours of talking and listening. I did a lot of the listening side. It lead to a lot of learning too. Music was shared, lyrics learned, logic skills tested to the brink, all of those memories were there. A lot were good and I yearned for more time talking to him. There were bad ones too. He had a temper and I sometimes got in the way. However, over time I learned how to diffuse the emotional bomb... I learned diplomacy between him and his grandparents.

A couple of years after that and there are a trio of upper teenagers sitting at a table playing blackjack and a middle teenage girl learning really quickly how to keep a straight face when crude jokes fly. There were walks outside and hours talking at the side of a old pickup truck. There were secrets, sometimes trouble with the other cousins, more music and a lot of hugs. I mediated between him and other family members sometimes. But we always had laughter.

Then he asked the biggest favor of my life. Would I stand in the middle for his daughter. Would I promise to be there for her. She hadn't even been born yet and it was the night before his wedding. We were on the couch and tears had just been shed. I was only fifteen, but I knew exactly what he was asking. And I have spent the last 20 years doing just that. But it tore us apart...

Far apart.

I advocated for her and what was right for her, spoiled her, listened to her, and disagreed with just about every member of the family over her at one point or another. He and I argued. He acted in ways I despised. One day the line was crossed one too many times and I severed contact. For the first time since memory, I wanted nothing at all to do with him. And it lasted... for four years. It was a burden too, because of his daughter, mother and grandmother. However, it kept going.

But time scabs over wounds, and if you don't pick at it, those wounds heal. It was December, and I just crossed the bridge into NJ and stopped to call his grandmother to say I was an hour out. He picked up the phone. A few words were exchanged and I hung up. He called back a few minutes later, saying we needed to talk. So, I pulled the car over and we did. And the next day I went to where he was living and visited again. But communication didn't continue past that. Then, just a few weeks ago, I was in NJ again. He was at his grandmothers doorstep minutes after I arrived and we visited three different times. Forgiveness, on both sides, really happened. I was there, on the bed again, talking and listening - just like old times. It felt good, real good. The weight was lifted. No, it won't ever be the same... but for now, it is a start in the right direction.

Forgiveness. One word with such power.

Friday, July 4, 2014

On Finding Freedom in Our Stories - an (in)courage post

It has been a crazy two months and more has happened than a simple blog post can express. I am sorely behind on putting my thoughts into words, but here is an attempt...

May arrived and, along with it, more pain. There was physical pain from an elbow which refused to respond to therapy and bracing. It ended up needing surgery, which happened at the end of the month.There was also pain from a shoulder torn up over years of sublocations and the warning of needing another procedure. There was emotional pain over seeing a husband struggle through depression caused by brain damage. Yearnings and trials with helping him recover and barely seeing any progress. Mental pain from the above and knowing there are people longing for me to finish my second novel, but the words just refuse to come. Becoming a co-leader of a (in)Courage group wasn't going so well. The women were not responding much to posts and the other leader was in her own struggles and couldn't help as much. I felt like a failure. It all was overwhelming.

In the midst of the pain, though, there was a hint of light. I had met a woman named Shirley. She believes in the Lord, prays to Him, reads His word and knows much of it. But there is a sad twist in that belief, that "religion" which pulls away from faith. However, we decided to learn each others common ground. We took a Bible study from her religion and used my Bible to go through the scriptures related to it. Each Wednesday afternoon we dug into our hearts and started to tell our stories. She loves my garden and is fascinated with how I try to manage my genetic condition. She has an autoimmune issue and her new doctor was having her try some of the things I've done for years. Me? I was loving having someone next to me that I could talk to and share with. She is so compassionate and I can see she has a heart for people a mile wide. She brought friends over sometimes and Community was starting to be built here at the house. The same place I sometimes feel trapped. I know we will soon get to a point where we collide. Some things her religion follows is far fetched and those I grew up around, the conservative Christian community, call it a cult. Until then, I rejoice in our similarities and will forever love that bit of freedom we have in telling our stories every Wednesday.

Another light was much bigger and it came with my surgery. I had asked the other (in)courage leaders to pray for my surgery and recovery. The post mentioned my Ehlers-Danlos and a woman stepped forward the next day. Jenni was in the midst of getting her daughter diagnosed with the same condition and it was also believed that she herself has vascular EDS. We bonded instantly and she was quick to show me a online support group for those with EDS and related conditions. Through her and the new group, I learned more about my condition in a week than in the past four years! Through our stories I heard of easy home therapies which I started immediately and found great success. Recovery from surgery was easier and the wound healed properly, because I learned from that groups leaders how to properly care for it. Jenni and I found freedom in our stories. We now have our own little group with her, I and another wonderful woman whose son seems to have EDS too.

Freedom happens when we step out. This is what I have learned in the last two months. I pushed myself to try community again. Prayed for doors to open so God could push me into what I had been digging my heals on. Now, I am feeling the urge to take the next step... to try to find a church again. This scares me more than anything. Since the start of adulthood, my experiences in a church setting have been mainly negatives ones. There will be a lot I will need to look past so that a bit more light and a bit more community can be found. Perhaps more freedom while sharing our stories will be the end result. We shall see.

#(in)courage, #community #freedominstory, #Ehlers-Danlos, #EDS,

Monday, May 19, 2014

On Encouragement... an (in)courage post

It was a handful of years ago when I stumbled upon a blog of a woman who had just gone through burying her newborn. I was in the grieving process, as we had been finding out that having a child was improbable. It wasn't just my husbands genetically linked metabolic disorder we were now factoring in. I had been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos and an autoimmune condition. I read as she went through the process, learned from the comments of others, and had a better understanding of what I was feeling.

It was around that same time that the woman, Angie Smith, started to talk about (in)courage. I was curious. My own blog was just getting started and I quickly became fascinated by these other women bloggers. I signed up for the weekly email, but quickly found a set of “favorites” which I checked up on near daily. Their willingness to open their lives to the rest of us was a salve in my own broken world: the good, bad, ugly, beautiful, amazing, mundane, hurt and healing. It seemed that nothing was held back. Through those posts I learned more about the heart, the community, and the little things which makes this world so wonderful. This place for women, a place where we can be safe and learn from each other – cling to each other, was needed.

However, I shied away when the first Facebook group sessions started. Community has burned me time and time again. The thought of stepping out when I had just been rejected by former co-workers was too much. Being a hermit was good, wasn't it? Besides, I had a growing group of online gamers to relate to... But they didn't understand the hurt. They couldn't know my husband was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and I was on the verge of disability. They were not women who could open up and spill out the pain without being rejected. So I thought it over as a couple of sessions went by.

It was my first novel being published which drew me into these Facebook groups, a writing one. On a whim, I joined the chronic illness one too. The writing one had me bookmarking, printing, trying for contests and learning so much! A few went from being just in the group to being on my friends list and, even though the group did not continue with (in)courage, we still keep in touch. Oh look... a bit of that scary community.
And then this past session started, and I saw a group called “Wives without Children.” By now I was in the end of that mourning process and joined because I was curious about where others were and how they perceived the loss. Quickly, it became “home.” I was encouraged, just as I was helping those younger than myself to understand what they were feeling. At the same time, I joined “Refuge in the Storm” and it turned to my safehouse. We were a small group, but we understood each other very well. Gods grace surrounded us and I knew this is where I would stay.

So, what is the point of all of this? We all are hurting, we all need encouragement, we all need a place to shelter, to learn but feel safe at the same time. We all need community, to be wrapped in a hug (or in this case a virtual hug). (in)courage is the most amazing online community for women. The Facebook groups do not require a lot of time, but are a wonderful place to belong. That word right there, just jabbed at me... belong. Yes, finally, a community where I belong. You really should pull up a chair and come on in too. Registration for the summer sessions start today and there are 70 different groups now! From military wives to parenting with special needs children, to empty nesters to single moms, to those waiting for marriage to writers and to those chronically ill and so much more!
Come on over at: or just hang with the crew at 

#incourager #incourage #onlinecommunity #forwomenonly

Monday, May 5, 2014

On Peace

Peace is:
Sitting on the porch
Fingers running through fur
Warm dog by my side

Peace is:
Laying on the grass
Blue sky above me
Green surrounding me

Peace is:
Dirt under my fingernails
Seeds full of hope
Promise in a small sprout

Peace is:
Music full of inspiration playing
Songs of the wild birds as they watch
Sounds of the hidden insects

Peace is:
Knowing in my heart
Standing there in nature
We were not an accident

Peace is:
Arms stretched out
Voice singing
Heart lifted

(from a lover of all nature)

Monday, April 28, 2014

On Community and Stories

It wasn't what we had planned, but that seems to be how life works. The coffee shop was busy, as it was the start of Apple Blossom Festival, but for three hours on Saturday it was home for us. Within minutes of arrival, the first sips of lattes started and we found a table in the back of the shop. I looked across to her, so many questions in my eyes. It had been months since I'd last seen her, and those months had been hard on both of us. Some things the other knew about, but so so much we hadn't shared - or couldn't bring ourselves to. However, we were together for the afternoon.

She didn't get the chance to see Fridays keynote, so I pulled up some of the women whose stories would impact her the most. Sipping on the oh so good lattes, we watched and started to talk over the phrases which meant the most.

In learning others story, we learn perspective...
Let your pain have a purpose...
We present what others want us to see and not the burns. The "new pretty" is showing the scars too...
Friendship begins when we can say "me too"...
In telling my story, it gave a change to look at other people and realize everyone is longing to belong...
Sometimes we buy into the lie that our story is not important, not interesting..
God uses all of our experiences, nothing is wasted...
Your words can bring healing. Your words can bring life. Let your pain have a purpose. Don't hide your story...

We talked about the new church in old town Winchester. She helped with worship team and her husband ran the sound. The church met in a bar and every Sunday had been filled with those who need God so desperately... homeless, those in recovery, those who are on their knees. Her story is there right now, ministering. Before that point, it was working with children at church and as a foster mom. But right now, it is in the church which meets in a bar (I do love that!) She seems to be surrounded by people and has a flesh and blood community

Silence reigned for a bit as we listened to the keynote for Saturday. I had put out the materials for our jars and between listening, working on that, and taking notes, we were quite occupied. At one point, I shared about the online community I was part of with (in)courage, the Wives Without Children group I had grown so attached to. We talked on my job at Bridgeway Homeschool Academy and the family of employees who connect via Skype every day with each other and through phone, email and Facebook with our precious families. It deviated into the close knit group of online gamers I hang out with in a virtual world every evening. I've met so many of them face to face. I am the diplomat there, the one who smooths rough edges, engages them in conversation, gets stories going. And yet... I have no community of those around me. Flesh and blood close by to visit with. They are not there. After years of rejection, I've given up. Even with so many online, just a couple of clicks away, I feel alone. So different, she and I.

And the doubts started up.
We need a heart broken for community and not by community (does it have to be in the flesh? Because I have such an amazing group online. I make sure to talk to strangers, to smile at them when I am out in our town... but does it matter?)
You are not alone, we need to hear your story (I blog, I talk to others. Some hear the story of living with EDS while homesteading and seem amazed - yet they seem so far away and so few)
There is beauty living in your now (and fear, and failure and all those things which hold us back)
The value of loving is the value of being the body of Christ. (see previous post on how that conversation has gone in the past. At least it was a positive one).

We talked through those. She had her side of the coin as well, the needing to share and yet holding back. Then it happened, two phrases which grabbed me and held me the rest of the time. I don't remember much, other than fighting tears. Her husband had arrived at that point and it was a bit chaotic. They were talking privately and my jaw was clamped tight.

If we are struggling and not saying anything, that is when sin can fester... Oh, yes it can and it has. I'm posting about the physical disability at times, but holding back the mental aspects. I live where my spouse suffers from a mental illness and metabolic disorder. There is so much struggle which isn't said. I'm not the strong one so many think I am. There is sin festering and I have to face it daily.

Freedom comes when we care more about pleasing God versus pleasing others... Yes, it does. I need to go back to this point. There is a line between being the "diplomat" in the group and doing or saying what is pleasing to God and not them.

So, as we parted for the day with lots of hugs, I kept thinking over and over.
Do I risk fracturing my lifeline, my online community, by showing that struggle and doing more of what is pleasing to God? Am I strong enough to step into the local flesh and blood world and risk being stomped on again? Is this story one which can influence others? We shall see...

#InRL #(in)courage #EDS #community #onlinecommunity

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

To Stop and Think (cross post from Good Friday)

 Sitting here, thinking about the price which was paid on this day. Thinking about the conversation I had with my "brother" down in Norfolk at 2am just this Monday. He was asking about why I have this heart that lets me get stomped on and how I keep going. He was asking why I let others lie to me and I still love them anyway. He kept pointing out all of the reasons why we were sitting there on the headsets and voice chat, settling me down from a moment of weakness when I did lash out. 
I told him it was who I was. From my earliest memories I wanted to help people and it is the core of my being. Alex then asked "Sis, does it have anything to do with your faith?" I told him that faith has made it possible for me to keep wanting to be the diplomat amongst our friends, to keep wanting to help others when I can barely help myself, that my belief in Christ makes it so I can look at others and my heart breaks with desire to help them however I can. It makes it so I don't care about specific "sins" or point out verses constantly used out of context... because it isn't needed. They know I am different because of that Love which is in me and how it enhances what was already in my core... that desire to help. No need to "preach" because love says it all.
Alex was quiet for a long time. He had just started to have the desire to be inside of a church a couple weeks before. He admitted then that he didn't understand how I could keep taking such a beating, and if it was my faith which kept that desire going, then he was here for me when those weaker moments happened. 
So, now I sit here and think about Him hanging and bleeding. I think about Alex and my other dearest online friends. And I stop my activities for the day, and say thank you.

Monday, January 27, 2014

On Forgiveness (part 1)

It was the strangest sensation, sitting across from her in Applebees once more. Could it really have been that over three years had passed? Oh how I had missed her! I looked to my left and another dear friend had joined us. Flashbacks of Fridays here, of caramel and shared appetizer platters, of laughter and tears. It was just like old times, right?

Not quite. See, three years ago something went wrong. I had been ill and there had been two years of conflict with an administrator who had been caught in a series of lies. I was also getting ready to move and the drive to "our building" would turn tedious. Though there were tears of sorrow and anger, I resigned as a full-time teacher. At the same time,my friend was elected PTO president and would be working right alongside that same administrator, as well as her own teaching position. There wasn't tension at first. I helped her mom move and then she helped me move. My goddaughter came to stay for another summer. Even though finances were tight, and I knew they were going to get a lot tighter, the goal had been for the teenager to have a great summer. But then, I messed up. It didn't seem like a catastrophic event at the time, but I guess it was. One comment, the day after a trip which did not go as planned due to miscommunications, and that was it. The silence was confusing, but once I found out why, I thought the issue was resolved. It wasn't. A harsh reply to a question I asked and my words from there made the break.

And I missed her. And the reception when I visited the building was cold on that side of the school. Hugs came from all the rest and questions about the now broken trio came from some. My sadness had to have shown in those moments.

But time heals. Slowly, conversations started back up. At first, they were supervised by the third person in our triangle of friendship. Then, she cornered me in a hallway in November of 2012. We talked for over an hour, though my guard was up the entire time. Some emails and texts were exchanged. I saw her again during a spring visit and more conversation happened. A bit of the break healed.

It was this August when real healing began. I was again visiting the building -handing out hugs and catching up. Hers was the last room in my circuit. I was greeted very warmly, told of her great news and we celebrated with a little dance. She surprised me by inviting me to the wedding right there on the spot. People were coming in and out of the room, but the moment it was quiet she turned to me. She always could read me so well. She demanded to know why I was pale, why my eyes looked like I was dying. I told her of the struggle at home, told her of the diagnosis Owen and I were facing.

And she took me in her arms, she rocked me back and forth...and we cried. Cried for lost years, lost support for each other, lost laughter and more. We apologized to each other and said it was time to heal.

Four weeks (and one beautiful wedding) later, the three of us were back in our stomping grounds.

Forgiveness. It is such a powerful word. It is one that, when present, can heal and build and grow and be shared. When absent, the dark abyss it causes can grow like a cancer. Bitterness, confusion, sadness and more will suck a person farther down. Please, no matter how hard, make forgiveness your ultimate goal. Maybe it won't work out like you planned and the person won't accept the apology. Maybe it is someone you need to forgive but can't say the words. Let actions lead the way then. Don't let it sink you. Another post will follow this one...and it is about 2 people who were in that hole. It will be about two people who, on one very unexpected afternoon, found forgiveness...