Filling Hearts

This weekend was amazing. You are never quite aware of how a disease such as cancer can change a personor a family until you are the person or the family that it changes. We have breast cancer awareness month and there is a fundraiser or foundation for this and for that. Alzheimers, injured veterans, families of fallen police men and women, St. Judes. I mean the list for the places you can put your money to help fund organizations or to help find a cure could probably make it’s own book. If you are not affected by any of them you can never fully understand. You can have a heart to want to do something and believe me that is what we need. People with hearts to want to do something to help others in need and to reach out and give. I have a heart and a passion for several organizations that don’t personally affect me but now I have an understanding on a deeper level that I will never fully understand the gravity of their situation and that makes me want to be more compassionate, more giving, more caring and more precise in my prayer life.

When you are told that your father has been diagnosed with a Glioblastoma Multiforme, a rapidly growing brain tumor, your kind of left looking at the person telling you confused and saying, “I don’t understand?” That’s not something that actually happens to people I know. That happens in the movies or you hear people talk about someone they know that had a brain tumor but not my Dad. It’s just all so unreal. It still is. I’m not sure why. There is nothing about my Dad or my family that would make us immune from this type of thing. My parents are just going to grow old together and pass away on the front porch in their rocking chairs holding hands. Change of plans. Now I have to learn all these medical terms and statistics and be constantly disappointed. Every time I think we are going two steps forward we are actually falling three steps back. People are now coming out of the wood work telling you that they have a family member that passed from this cancer or someone they know that was close to them. I never really even heard much about this particular cancer but it’s everywhere. There is no cure. There are cases of individuals living with it for 15 years but they are much younger and very few and far between. Best case scenario is to slow down the rapid growth and give you more time. It’s heinous and wretched to watch someone go through as I can imagine all terminal illnesses are.

Let me get to this past weekend and why it was so amazing. As I’m sure many people are like me and they go through life and may donate to certain things or have causes that are close to their heart but then get clothes lined when these things affect those closest to us. Richmond held it’s 2nd annual RVA Brain Tumor 5K. I have never been apart of something like that. I have never participated in an anything K, marathon, walkathon or raising money for a cause like this. This was amazing. Our team – PawPaw’s Pride (we called my Dad PawPaw when he became a grandfather) set a goal to raise $1,000.00. We raised $1,995.00!! That is amazing and I want to thank all of you who made that possible. The National Brain Tumor Society set out to raise $175,000.00 and we collectively raised $272,221.55!! How awesome is that. Wouldn’t it be amazing to find a cure so when our children grow up they may not have to go through what we have. Their children may not have to watch them suffer with this disease and many others. I’m not saying all of these things so you all will jump on the bandwagon and be avid supporters of the National Brain Tumor Society. I certainly think that would be amazing and we would love to add to our team of walkers next year. The more the merrier. Let’s make PawPaw’s Pride the #1 Team in Richmond!!!! I say all this to tell you be passionate.

You don’t have to wait to be affected by something horrible. You don’t have to wait for someone to die or to be horribly injured or fighting for their lives or any number of issues we have going on in this world. This disease has changed me and I will never be the same and I will be a part of the National Brain Tumor Society and RVA 5K every year now. That’s just my world though. It’s easy to stop there and not venture outside of my world and what affects me. I have other things I am passionate about and want to help make a change in. Sometimes we either don’t know how, or we don’t want to step out of our comfort zone, we put it off and say “I’m going to donate to them, I need to set that up. Next month. I’ll get that done.” We can always turn that channel as well because those commercials make us sad, uncomfortable and we just don’t need to watch that. God calls us to do these things. To reach out. To step out of our comfort zones. How else will people see the love of God. – What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself , if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-17 – “Do not neglect to do good and to share wht you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Hebrews 13:16 – “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” 1John 3:17

What does your heart urge you to do? Where does your heart urge you to go? It’s not all about writing a check and sending money. Your time means so much. I have a heart for the homeless in our community. Well then I need to be spending time reaching out to our homeless. Serving, donating, plugging in where God wants me to be. I have other things on my heart that I feel I should be doing. No, you are right. We can’t do them all. We can’t save the world by ourselves but together everyone can make a difference. Ask God to show you where you are supposed to be. I promise he will show you.

The amazing thing that happens is, in the process of giving of yourself you are blessed. You are fullfilled. You think you are the one serving, helping and making someones day brighter. You are, you certainly are, but you will walk away being more served by the ones you are serving, being more loved by the ones you are loving, making meaningful deep relationships, and being so filled with God’s love you feel like you just might bust.

So as I move forward through this process. From receiving my Dad’s diagnosis to functioning and working through the grief and understanding his death I continue to learn. Nothing happens good or bad that there isn’t a way to glorify God. I may not always do such a bang up job and make the right choices but he’s working with me and he’s holding my hand every day. I love my family so much and our bond has done nothing but gotten stronger since May 23rd. Walking in the 5K this weekend was exhilierating, a great way to remember my Dad, a wonderful way to strengthen my family, and an awesome way to bring awareness and raise money to find a cure for this disease. We walked it this year. Well, some of us are in better shape and ran. I walked it this year. Next year I’m going to run it. If you know me that will be quite an accomplishment. Don’t wait for tradgedy, start filling hearts with love.

Conversations With God

I have really been struggling since I wrote my last blog. I think I’ve said it before. I’m a planner. Usually I have some sort of an outline in my head as to what I’m going to write about. Now I will tell you, each time I’ve sat down to write with an outline or general idea in my head, God has taken me in a different direction. The difference is, I had an idea. I had an outline of some sort. I felt confident in sitting down because there was something there. Not lately. It’s like a black hole. It’s blank. I have nothing. I feel like a deer caught in the headlights.

I keep jotting down little thoughts and ideas in my notebook that pop into my brain. Lord knows if I don’t write it down, it’s gone in the next five minutes. Then I start to question myself. Maybe that’s all you have. Maybe you were just supposed to get on here write a handful of times and then move along. Well, maybe that’s true. How am I supposed to know? Where’s my burning bush? Can’t you just give me a word God? Well, that’s the thing. It was pointed out to me the other night in my recovery group that I just need to let it happen. I am listening to the voices of defeat and not even giving God a chance. This oh so wise person said, “You have got to stop trying to plan out everything. You can plan a lot of things but you are going to have to just let God move through you and stop trying to put him on a schedule.” Not planning is along the same lines as going to your job/school naked. Yeah, hermit status for the rest of my life. I want to feel confident before I step out and do anything. I want to feel like what I put forth is going to be met with acceptance and understanding and not get egg on my face or wow did I really say that.

It’s so funny because I used to think I was so confident back when I was drinking. I could talk to anyone, life of the party, dancing on the tables and sometimes the bar. What a false sense of confidence alcohol gives us and oh what it makes us step out and do. Talk about egg on your face or wow did I really say that or do that. We are more afraid of showing our true selves and being real with eachother than we are of being absolute idiots and making a fool of ourselves. That can just be chalked up to, oh, she just had to much to drink. Well that’s not the real me. I am more than that. Why are we so afraid for people to see us? We are afraid they just might not like what they see. It’s like the filters on Snapchat. Ya’ll better stop using those all the time and take some real pictures of yourself. Someone is going to see you in person and not know who you are. I needed to take that filter off. I needed to be me because it got to a point where I didn’t even know me. I had to start finding out who I was again and just where it was that I decided that I didn’t love myself enough.

So I took the advice and picked up my computer today. WITHOUT AN OUTLINE! WITHOUT A PLAN! She was right. That wise person in my recovery group. God knows what I need when I need it. Just like all the other times I have written. I may have felt confident but It was God laying on my heart what needed to be said. It is God writing this today. I just placed my fingers on the keys and started typing. The words just flow and you know what it’s like? It’s really like I’m letting you all in on a conversation that God is having with me. He likes to wait to reveal things to me until I’m typing here. Maybe he thinks someone else might need to hear something similar. My confidence needs to be in God. Not in how well I think I can write about a certain topic, or just how many ideas I have come up with.

It is a process to get to know myself. I have hidden away for quite a few years. I am learning through my conversations with God. I didn’t even realize until tonight that he was showing up in real time and having class with me each time I wrote.The more I remove the filters and remember and find that girl inside, the more I like her. The more I’m not ashamed. I may have done some shameful things but that does not define me. I am more than that. If I could just see myself as God sees me. Whoa!!!! Watch her go. Now that’s a Wonder Woman.

Thank God

Wow! I can’t believe I haven’t written in over a month. When I started this in May my goal was to atleast write once a week if not more and it was going to be about my walk. The struggles I have had with sobriety, with relationships, being a Mom, with God, just generally being me and living. If I could encourage just one person out there and open up about my failures, my struggles, my victories all the wonderings that race through this head of mine it would be worth it. Little did I know that when I started writing it would be so healing for me. So God has blessed me just by writing and sharing. I really hope it helps someone out there and I hope most of all you know you are not alone in how you feel or what you go through. If nothing else though I heal a little more each time I sit here and the letters flow through my fingers to make the words on the page.

I did not intend to take this much of a break but life has a way of sticking it’s foot out as you are running by and making you really ugly fall. When my Dad was diagnosed with an Anaplastic Astrocytoma Brain tumor on May 23rd life really did stick it’s foot out. Actually it threw a ridiculous amount of marbles out onto the road and I, well my whole family, have been trying to navigate that road ever since. We’ve been sliding and rolling and doing a balancing act to stay upright and move forward at the same time. We have all been trying to find our place in this and be where we need to be. What I have seen over these last months is nothing short of amazing. I have also learned God has given every one of us a different gift that we have the potential to use during a time like this. People have reached out in so many different ways and the love and support have often come from places that we did not expect. I also am learning to accept help from people and not to judge someones motives. Where I was expecting certain things from one direction they were coming from another. Not everyone can deal with illness, caregiving and dying the same way. You have to learn to meet people where they are and be thankful for the gifts that God has given them and how they are using them. Some are great encouragers, some send wonderful cards, some just check in time to time to see how you are doing. Others are hospital visitors, meal providers, shoulders to cry on and people to vent to. Some work with their hands and have contacts in the right places, loaning and putting together a wheelchair ramp that saved us a lot of money. Some send people to clean your house when you just don’t have it in you or to put in a handicap toilet because your Dad is coming to live with you. Others drive 5 hours here and back almost every weekend to give you a break and because they want to be here to take care of their Father, Grandfather, Grandfather in law. If they could be here 24/7 they would. Still others drive that far just to visit or have given money either to help with expenses or they have donated to the National Brain Tumor Society. I say all that to say I am learning to let people use the gifts they have and not require things and judge people for their actions as to why they did or didn’t do something. That is not a complete list of all the amazing people who are around us daily or who have been there for us and helped us through this. It’s just a little glimpse of how blessed we are.

I have also learned how I must pay it forward. I know the next time I run accross someone who is going through something. An illness, a crisis, a marble balancing act, instead of just saying how sorry I am and let me know if there is anything I can do I need to show up. That doesn’t have to mean to their house every day or maybe it does if that’s what God wants from me. A card, a meal, a phone call, some flowers, whatever the circumstance try to meet the need. That person is never going to let you know if they need anything so I know I just need to do.

This is a hard journey. For my Dad, for my family, for all those its affecting around us but I do know one thing. I have seen God show up a lot through out this and I need to remember that. I have seen my family become closer because of this and I need to be thankful. I have seen the giving heart of people that I never even thought cared and I need to rejoice. I have gained a lot of wisdom through this and I need to give it away. I have had my own personal hardships but I have also had my own personal victories and I need to Thank God.

Being A Lori

Sticking to a schedule can be hard to do.   Especially when you feel like you just can’t get ahead.  As hard as you try you are moving in slow motion.  That’s what I’m struggling with.  I feel like I am the proverbial chicken with it’s head cut off.  I have been trying to clean my house for over a week.  Each night I sit down with my planner and schedule for the next day and have everything all set as to what I’m going to get done tomorrow and here lately it’s just not happening.  It seems there is always something that is coming up that is more important than mopping my kitchen floor and cleaning the hardwoods on the first floor.

I am starting this week out again with a purpose and schedule as to when I am fitting in cleaning my bathroom and my kitchen and everything else around here.  I think my cats are brushing themselves and just throwing up the cat hair  in the living room to see how long it will take to cover the couch.  Cat couch motif the newest rage.

There’s one thing that came to my mind this morning.  My Aunt Lori.  She passed away and battled cancer for I think as long as I’ve known her.  She’s seen the inside of more hospitals than even seems humanly possible.  One thing she said to me while she was here.  She said “God didn’t put me here to clean.”  I always thought no he didn’t but keeping everything tidy and clean is just something you need to make sure that gets done.  I didn’t understand what she was saying until here recently when my Dad got sick.  God didn’t put her here to clean.  She was in and out of so many hospitals that when she was home and feeling good that woman was on the go.  She was selling things at festivals, she was cooking for other people, she was always helping at church.  She was just always doing when she could be doing.  She loved to fish and I think she was the first person who took JT fishing.  She lived across the field from me( we live in the middle of a farm) and when JT was maybe in kindergarten he got mad packed a suitcase and ran away from home.  To her house.  He came back after dinner.  When he got older and needed to talk to someone that wasn’t me he would go over and talk her ear off.   She would do anything for you.  I can’t tell you how many times I called her at 7am and told her I couldn’t drive because I had a migraine.  Would she please take JT to school for me.  She never once made me feel like it was an imposition or I was a bother or for Lord’s sakes it’s 7am can’t you find someone else.  She would simply say I got it.  What time do I need to be there.  She was always helping anytime she could.  She would also tell you just what she thought and how things ought to be done.  She didn’t have time to mince words.  I think she was so outspoken because she never knew when she was going to be sick again and wanted everyone to be clear on who she was, what she said and how she felt.    If she had an opinion you were going to know it.  Whether you liked it or not.   That is why she was so loved.  That is why I miss her so much.

So I’m thinking she heard it directly from God.  He didn’t put her here to clean.  He put her here to serve.  What do you want people to think about when you come to mind? Oh, she has an immaculate house.  Her yard is to die for.  Yes, all those things are great and I’m not saying you should live in squaller.  What I am saying is who cares if my kitchen floor needs to be mopped.  My bathroom needs a good wipe down.  I haven’t been deadheading my Petunias and they are looking pretty rough on the front porch.  I would rather be a Lori than making sure my house was sparkling when people came in the front door.  Those things aren’t going to matter in the end.  Your relationships will matter.

My family, my whole family, is coming in town this weekend and a good majority of them are staying at my house.  I hope I get to clean before they come but if I don’t get things looking great and have meals for them this weekend everyone is just going to have to understand.  My sister is getting married this weekend.  That’s what’s important.  Spending time celebrating her marriage.  Getting my Dad to his appointments this week.  That’s what’s important.  JT is having his tonsils removed on Thursday.  I’m going to need to take care of him and make sure he is comfortable and healing.

So as I look at my planner this week I have everything scheduled out.  I got on the treadmill this morning and spent time with God.  Taking care of myself and spending time with God are a must.  I can’t help anyone else if I’m not taking care of myself physically and spiritually.  I wrote down clean the bathroom then I have to take a shower and get out of here on time to get to my Dad’s for his first Dr. appt. today.  So if the only thing that doesn’t get done is I have to put off cleaning the bathroom till tomorrow it will be a succesful day.   I don’t think God put me here to clean either.  He put me here to serve.  I pray he gives me a serving heart like Lori.

 

Being Nudged

Drinking does not mix well with depression. Alcohol is a depressant to start with so your not doing yourself any favors by downing a few or six to make yourself feel better because your depressed. Add in the fact that you’re taking antidepressants on top of that and drinking can make your antidepressants less effective. So your just popping pills that aren’t working and drinking to feel better which is really making you feel worse. Then to top it all off it starts to interrupt your sleep. Drinking was great for my sleep in the beginning. I could pass out sleep all night and not wake up one time. After a while it took a lot to pass out and then I was waking up all the time. I couldn’t sleep through the night and would maybe get a solid 1 1/2 hours of uninterupted sleep. So I’m popping pills that don’t work, drinking and becoming more depressed and now I’m not sleeping. This plan is really working for me. So what do I do? I put this party into high gear and drink more.

So I’m in this viscious cycle. The picture that came to mind was a whirlpool in the ocean. We’ve probably all seen one at some point in time in our lives on TV or at the very least in the bathtub. I looked one up and that was definitely me spinning around and around in the center unable to swim out. Everytime I thought I was going to make it and I could see the sky above me, I had this talent for throwing myself backwards into the center and whipping around like one of those inflatable air dancers outside of the car dealerships. I would start drinking again and having a good time, get depressed, drink some more, get depressed, you get the picture. Then there would be the Chernobyl like fall out when my marriage would take a hit or I embarrassed myself. Maybe I could make the neighbors mad. Hey this time I could also hurt myself and fall down the stairs. Then came the extreme depression because I could beat myself up about being a terrible mother, wife, daughter and all around human being. It just got worse every time I took another spin. Yet I kept finding that whirlpool irresistible. The waters up above just looked to calm.


Everyone always says you have to hit your rock bottom. That is true and it is different for everyone. For some it could be jail. For some you may not hit the bottom until you are no longer here. For others it’s a DUI and yet sometimes it seems some people don’t even have a rock bottom. I hit my rock bottom finally. Of course this was after putting my family and especially my husband through a lot of things that he did not deserve to go through. My rock bottom was obviously being drunk but then I decided to take it one step further. I decided that it would be ok if I did some cocaine. I didn’t even think twice about it. I never even paused. I woke up the next day and knew this train had come off the tracks. I knew I had no choice. I had to sit down and tell my husband I had a problem. I was an alcoholic and I was out of control. I knew at that moment if I didn’t and I kept on going down the path I was on I was going over a cliff. I was going to lose my husband, my child, my home. I was going to lose everything I loved and it was going to be me and alcohol all on our own. I didn’t have a drug problem. I could have. I’m glad I didn’t wait much longer to find that out. I was an alcoholic. Now don’t get me wrong. I did take a moment to sort through my feelings and come up with the right words and the right time to talk to him. This involved several soul searching days into the bottom of a vodka bottle. After my deep soul searching (if you not good at detecting sarcasm you need to brush up because my sense of humor is completely sarcastic) I sat down with my husband (Wyatt, tired of calling him my husband) and told him I was stuck down in this whirlpool and I needed his help to pull me out.

It’s amazing how freeing the truth can be. Yes it is true. The truth can set you free. I was hiding behind so many lies and it was taking so much energy to keep everything straight and hide this secret from the ones that were so close to me. On one hand I felt like I could breathe and then on the other hand I was having a panic attack feeling the hurt, pain, guilt and fear and there was nothing to drink to make it go away. This feeling business and dealing with your problems is for the birds. From the word go Wyatt stood by my side. As long as I was willing to get help he was willing to walk with me every step of the way. You know who else stood by my side. Jesus. I had walked away from him a while back and was pretty good at ignoring his gentle nudge. You see he had been asking me to stop drinking as far back as July 14, 2004. That’s pretty precise isn’t it. I found a journal entry on that day. “For some reason I am having a difficult time doing what God is asking me to do. Stop drinking. ” That’s what I wrote on that day. God has been giving me a gentle nudge asking me to be obedient and I keep pretending I don’t hear him. The gentle nudges have gotten rougher over the years and there is one thing about God. If you’re not going to listen it’s going to be painful when God is done nudging and his arm comes out of nowhere and he clotheslines you. Slamming to the ground is never fun and you’re going to get a lot of cuts and bruises along the way. It’s never just you either. You will manage to trip over the ones you love and scrape them up in the process. Don’t miss the blessing in being clotheslined. He loves you enough to knock you off your feet. He could have just said he was tired of dealing with you. I’m sure I made him want to beat his head against a brick wall a time or two or three. He’s greater than us and his love is perfect. So even though he may knock you off your feet and you may land in the mud he is right there loving you as he always has. No less, he’s just waiting for you to look up and grab his hand. Nehemiah 8:10 – “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” How is the Lord’s joy our strength? The Lord’s joy is in forgiving and saving us. He delights in showing love to all that believe in him. Whenever we feel weak or defenseless he loves to step in and deliver us. In that his joy really will be our strength.

So I haven’t missed the blessing in God clotheslining me but listen up. If you aren’t there yet and you still have time I suggest you listen to the gentle nudges. He’s going to get your attention one way or another. It all just depends on how you want to be nudged.


What Part Did You Not Understand?

It takes me a while to get where I’m going. Not in the car or going some place. I’m actually pretty good with directions if I say so myself. I mean it takes me a while to get to where I’m supposed to be in life. Where I should be. Where God has been trying to help me move to in a comfortable way. Showing me and guiding me and loving me along the way. Putting people in my life to speak to me and speak God’s word and reaffirm what I think I’m hearing. So a lot of times I have to be shoved. Instead of listening, he is done waiting and he has a plan. A plan for each and every one of us. We can’t stand in his way. He’s going to get done what he needs to be done. If we can’t hear the gentle call then sometimes it takes an uncomfortable shove. That’s me. I get scared on certain things especially when it involves opening myself up for criticism and letting people in past the walls I have constructed.

This right here, typing my thoughts out is pretty frightening. You see I have certain faces I let people see and certain things I let people know. I think we all do. We keep the ugliest, most savage ones for the ones we live with and then there are some we don’t even let them see. We save those for when we are by ourselves. I have a story and I feel like I am supposed to share it with people. At least that’s what I’m hearing. I am running from this because it scares me yet it excites me at the same time. Hebrews 12:1 says “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” Which means we need to pinpoint those things that are holding us back as well as any sins God brings to our attention.

I feel like God is saying “What part did you not understand!?” Just like we say to our children or someone who is just plain not getting it when you have said something very plain and very clear. Like, unload the dishwasher. I didn’t speak in Swahili, what part did you not understand? My 18 year old sometimes gets the english language confused. I think they grow out of it when they have children. Really though, I think that’s what God wants to say to us sometimes. “Are you deaf, what part did you not understand about what I so clearly told you to do?”

August 1st I will be 2 years sober. I thought when I stopped drinking I would get through all of the hard physical, mental and just the downright drag of being one of those people who don’t drink anymore, and I would be rewarded. I did it. I took this horrible ugly sin that was ruining me, my marriage, my relationship with my child, with God everything around me and I gave it up. I went from being life of the party, social butterfly, great figure, great clothes yada yada yada to an over weight, depressed, shut in that had no voice. That’s my reward? That’s what I get? I should feel better, I should be healthier, I should be kicking my heels together. You know what no one tells you? The hardest part about not drinking, is feeling. Not the feeling of wanting a drink but the feeling of being in your own skin. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last 2 years and it sucks. That’s the best way I know how to put it. I’m tired of running, I’m tired of just being here, I’ve traded one addiction for another, food (sugar). Which is very common. I’m going to throw off everything that is hindering me and it will be hard. I’m asking God to show me the sins I don’t even realize are there. I’m going to fall but I’m going to get back up. I’m going to open my eyes and ears up to what he’s been saying very plainly and clearly for the past 2 years and finally say “I understand, maybe not all, but this little piece right here that you want me to do. I got that Lord, hold my hand because I’m a little nervous.” Like I said it takes me a minute to get to where I need to be on some things but when I decide I’m going to do something and purpose to do it, I’m all in.