A Cheerful Heart

For the past few weeks I have been battling my fibromyalgia pain in a BIG way. Most of the time I can manage the pain and it stays around a 2-3 (1-10 scale). Lately, I have let anxiety and worry really take me over and I know that my rising pain levels are a direct result of that. For the past few days my pain has been a consistent 8 or 9. Those levels make it so very hard to function day to day with all that is on my daily to do list. I have let it get me down. I have cried a lot of tears and felt pretty hopeless. This has been the worse bout of my fibro pain since I was initially diagnosed. As the pain persists, my mental and emotional state has begun to deteriorate.

But there are positives to be found in all of it. First, I have a tribe of ladies who show up daily to encourage me and pray for me and keep me positive. That is truly amazing. I am so thankful for their sweet voices and thoughts. I feel them standing next to me in my fight. Secondly, I am praying a lot and feel myself drawing closer to God through my morning devotionals and quiet time. I am spending more time in the word, really studying and leaning into what God is saying to me.

This morning, I woke and my first feeling was pain. I had a hard time just getting out of bed and instantly my mood deflated. (Not the way I like to start my day). I stumbled out of bed and poured myself my morning coffee (my cup of ambition – typed in my best Dolly Parton voice) and headed to my office for my quiet time. My morning devotional could NOT have been more fitting! (Don’t you just love when God does small things like that – just when we need them!?). “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” That first line…gave me chills. God was saying the best way for me to feel better was to start with my heart. How? What does a cheerful heart look like? It’s a heart filled with gratitude and thankfulness. It’s a heart that counts blessings! My devotional went on to explain that a cheerful heart can improve one’s health – spiritually, emotionally, and even physically! (Just what I need!). And then this…the line that hit me hard…the words that I’m carrying with me all day…”Let these divine nutrients soak into the depths of your being. Let them strengthen and enhance your health.”  My heart condition (cheerfulness) will affect my health. Does this mean that I don’t need to take my medicine…..NO. It means I need to work on my perspective and focus on what is in my heart. My cheerful heart is medicine for ALL of my being.

Probably not anything earth shattering…not a giant revelation…but rather, the gentle nudge, the small a-ha moment that God knew I needed today. How’s your heart? Would you describe it as cheerful? Make it your goal today to fill your heart with gratitude and thankfulness, and let that be your medicine. Soak in all of that goodness. Have a blessed day. Much love!

“LEFT…LEFT”

Yesterday, Chris and I got up early and loaded up the bikes and our three youngest to hit the bike trail – before the thermometer registered 90+. Trying to keep all 5 of us together(ish) on the very congested bike trail we ride is always a challenge, but we had a lot of success last time and everyone had a great time. Kelsie’s little legs pedal hard the whole time, but at times she struggles to keep pace and stay in her lane. There are a lot of “serious” cyclists on this trail, but also many families and older couples – which is why we love it so much.

At one point in our ride traffic got very heavy. We had stopped and were attempting to get moving again (a feat in itself). Kelsie had swerved slightly to the right but was doing great. An older gentleman (and I use that term very loosely) approached and indicated he would be passing to the left. And then he yelled it again -even louder. And again a third time – even louder. He was obviously yelling AT our 7 year old who was doing her very best to just stay upright in all the traffic. I was in front of our little group and couldn’t see exactly what was happening, but I could sure hear it and I knew that Kelsie was struggling a bit. I was more worried about Chris at this point – because I was certain he would be livid.

The next voice I heard was Chris’s….he bellowed “WE HEARD YOU!” I immediately tensed up – not knowing at all how this would play out.

“WELL SHE DIDN’T MOVE,” shouted the mean old man!

“SHE’S SEVEN! GIVE ME A BREAK!” Chris retorted.

By this time, the man was coming up to my left and I was beyond furious. Who yells at a little girl trying to ride her bike!?! If I knew that I could have pulled it off, I so badly wanted to swerve at him, just to make him fall off but not injure myself (pray for me)…but I’m not that skilled on two wheels. I did enjoy all the jeers and insults that were hurled his way by everyone who witnessed his behavior though. I wish I could say that when he passed me I had some kind, encouraging words for him. I wish I could say I asked him if he was having a bad day and that’s why he yelled. I can’t say I did either of those things. I will not share the parting words I had for him (keep praying) but I was so very glad to see him pedal on by.

My observations about this whole day…there are some mean, nasty people in the world. Who knows why? Maybe he’s a really good person who had a momentary lapse in judgment?! Maybe his dog just died and he was decompressing on the bike trail. Or maybe he’s a jerk all of the time. Here’s the deal…I have no idea how many people we encountered on the bike trail that day – but it was in the hundreds. ONE person was nasty for one minute. We did not let that tiny exchange define our entire time. We can’t say that because one biker was mean, that every biker on the trail was mean. Other people we encountered were kind and friendly. They encouraged the girls to keep going. They greeted us with good mornings. That one man does not define all bikers! Maybe…just maybe we could all learn a little something from this little incident.

Side note – Kelsie was “over” it within a few minutes. Chris calmed down after 30 minutes or so. I was still scanning the trail on our return trip – hoping to get another shot at this guy! We should all be more like Kelsie!

Repurposing

Hey y’all! So since we have been living through a pandemic, I have been spending a lot of time finding and doing things that make me happy! One of those things that I have rediscovered a love and a passion for is crafting! Initially, I started making wooden signs using my Cricut – and I still love doing that. Recently, though I have discovered a love for taking something old (and maybe not so cute) and giving it new life. I know that this is nothing earth-shattering, and that people do this all the time – but for me, it’s a new fun hobby that I would like to share with you!

So today, I masked up and headed out to Goodwill to find some new (old) items to repurpose. I already have a few ideas about what I am going to do with some of these items – so you will have to stay tuned to see them repurposed. For now, here are all the goodies I picked up – for under $30. Continue reading “Repurposing”

He has shown us what is good!

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?  ~Micah 6:8

Sitting here with the news on in the background and coming across this verse in my devotional this morning stopped me in my tracks. The weight of the news story of George Floyd has been at the forefront of my thoughts for the past 24 hours. I have cried so many tears over this whole situation. I have cried for a life lost in such a brutal, senseless, evil, public way. I have cried for Mr. Floyd’s family who has lost a brother and has to re-live it over and over each time that deplorable video is played. I have cried for the fact that men who were sworn to keep the public safe chose to abuse their power with such heartless, hate-filled actions. I have cried because there is so much hate in the world and our children are exposed to so much ugliness. We need God. We need Him in every area of our world, and in every moment.

This verse jumped off the page of my Bible this morning. What does God require….? To do justly – to treat others in a fair, non-oppressive way. Treat people with respect and fairness; To love mercy – not just show mercy…to love it, and to act in the way that God would want us to in every way that we treat others; To walk humblynot in a spirit of arrogance or of special privilege, but rather in the spirit of humility, in service to others.

I don’t believe for one second that I “accidentally” happened upon this verse today in light of yesterday’s news. I know that this was God’s way of helping me process the world and to help my broken heart find some peace. This verse will be in my prayers and on my heart for days and weeks to come. May we as human beings plant these words in our hearts and put them into action in our everyday lives. micah

Trust enough

“God is not at all concerned with me being good enough, but completely concerned with my being TRUSTING enough.”

I came across this quote this week while looking through an old journal of mine. I think it is so enlightening to dig back through old writings to help me see where I’ve been and how far I’ve come, and even how so many emotions have repeated themselves in the years of my life. This quote came from a sermon. One of those sermons that wrecks your heart. One of those sermons where you wonder how in the world the pastor knew exactly what you needed to hear. One of those “He is talking directly to me” sermons. Looking back, I do not honestly remember what I was going through at the time that made these words hit me so hard. But I do know that the quote resonates with me in a big way today.

Throughout this pandemic/stay at home/lockdown crisis, I have struggled. My emotions have controlled me. I have tried to face this out of control situation and control it. Worry has wrecked my sleep. Anxiety has overtaken my thoughts. Fear has captured my focus. I have been short-tempered with my family. I have spent days crippled by sadness – and then beat myself up for not accomplishing anything. All of this has left me wallowing in that old, lingering feeling that I’m just not good enough. I have allowed the small, powerful “IF” drive me crazy. If I was a better mom….If I was smarter….If I could manage my time better. ..If I could just be better…If I was good enough!

I do not believe that I came across this quote by accident this week. God knew I needed to hear it now. Because God truly does not need my goodness. He doesn’t need to me fight and claw to be good enough…because guess what, I never will be. I will never be “good enough” to earn His love. And that’s a good thing, because His love is offered free. What God does want from me is my trust. He desires that I would let go of the control I crave, and to trust Him with all that I am. He wants me to trust that He is in control. Trust should trump fear, anxiety, worry, and all of the other emotions that do not come from Him.

So, my prayer for today, and for every day going forward is to just trust. I pray to be wholly surrendered to Him and to trust Him enough!

 

The fruit we bear

What kind of tree are you? I heard this analogy on the radio just the other day and it has stuck with me. The question has been lingering in my mind for days. I think that there is a reason that certain things stay with us and others don’t. I believe that God places things on us to create teachable moments for us. He. knows what I need and where my heart is, and it is no accident this metaphor is still with me. What kind of tree are you? When someone bumps into you (tree), what kind of fruit falls? I’ll wait while that sinks in…..

When the weight of life becomes crushing. When heartache breaks you. When anxiety paralyzes you. When isolation cripples your soul. How do you respond?

Honestly, let me make it a little less “heavy”…. When someone cuts you off in traffic (do I even remember how to drive?) When your text goes unread. When you are left out of a group gathering. When you get your feelings hurt. How do you respond?

Yep, I got my toes stepped on by this one. I had to do a serious heart check as I pondered this question. What kind of fruit do I bear? When times get hard, I do not always respond the way that I would like to. Anxiety and fear cause emotions and reactions to come out sideways. The fruit that falls from my tree when I’m shaken is not always good fruit. Initially, my reaction to all of this was to beat myself up and wish that I could just “be better.” I did the whole self-loathing thing for a minute, held a pity party for one, and then I quit. I left the party. I will never be perfect. Not. Even. Close. But I can strive each day to become more Christ-like. I can pray and ask and allow the Holy Spirit to produce those fruits in me. I can seek Him first in all that I do. I can fall down and get back up again, knowing that He still loves me and that no matter how many times I stumble, He STILL loves me.

I will always remember this tree metaphor. And when I am “bumped” I will think about what kind of fruit falls.

Zach

77251012_1068918693440446_4906038921999155200_nThe oldest of my five kids is Zach. He is finishing out his senior year at Otterbein University in Columbus, Ohio. I am quite certain this is not how he envisioned his final chapter of school going. Zach played football for the Cardinals, so during the fall I got to see him every single weekend – and it made my momma heart happy. Since we have all been under a stay at home order, I have not been able to see him. Many days I wished more than anything that he was here with the rest of us – to share in all of our family time. I know that he is with his own little family – his amazing girlfriend, Katie (superhero nurse), and their dog (my granddog) Archie. I know they are safe and happy – but I sure wish they were all here with us!

I wrote a poem about Zach when he was 12 years old. While so much has changed about my “little man” in the last decade, so much still remains the same. Here are those words from his childhood.

Zach

They call him
Mr. Intensity
On the field

But it fits
Him
In every way

He is passionate
And intense
Emotional and loyal

The kind of personality
That draws a crowd
And then entertains them

He is tender
And caring when
No one is looking

He will have his
Heart broken
Many times

But it will not
Change his intense
Caring nature

He is my
Little man
Zach

Zach is now a grown man who has not lost his intense, caring nature. He has survived a few heart breaks, and has found his forever love. He set goals and accomplished them. I know in the big picture, everything will be okay. But it’s hard to know he’s missing out on the end of college the way he had it pictured – saying goodbye to friends, parties, graduation, etc. But I also know that he is going to continue to do amazing things with the life he is building. And through it all, he will always be my Zach!

It’s okay

IMG_2517When I decided to create a blog to share my writing, I promised myself that I would always do my best to be genuine with my words. Authenticity is a non-negotiable for this whole process for me. I don’t think it’s real to share just the happy highlights and keep the ugliness all to myself. Sharing a skewed view of my world seems like such a fraud and that’s not at all who or what I want to be. So…here we go. Yesterday morning I wrote about joy and how its not based on circumstances but rather it comes from God and its constant and a whole bunch of other thoughts that I do believe to be truth!

Last night by dinner time, I was on the verge of a breakdown. I am not using that phrase flippantly either. I was panicked, tight-chested, breathing heavy, sobbing, and shaking.  Swollen, puffy eyed, snot slinging, ugly crying. I had spent the entire evening worrying about anything and everything and had come up with the absolute worst-case scenario for each member of my family and myself. Yes, I was extreme catastrophizing. Where was my joy? Who was I to even create a post about being joyful in all of life? These questions led me to feeling even worse about myself…which led to more tears and feeling awful about myself. Why is this whole situation so hard for me? Why can’t I just do better, be better, live better? And the cycle continued….questions, self-loathing, tears.

This morning my perspective is a little brighter. Actually, my perspective is a little more rational. This morning, after a decent night’s sleep, two cups of strong coffee, and some allergy medicine, my thoughts are a little more clear, my emotions are a little more calm (it’s all relative), and heart is not quite so heavy. I thought back to the words my therapist spoke to me this week in our “virtual” session when I told him that I just don’t feel like I’m doing a very good job balancing everything. He asked me this question; “Have you ever done this before? Have you ever been quarantined indefinitely for a worldwide pandemic where you had to teach remotely and help your school aged kids with their schoolwork and help all five of your children navigate the fears and worries of this new normal?”  

*crickets

When I say that I hate when he goes all Jedi-mind tricks on me, I really don’t hate it because it forces me to answer the question that he and I both already know the answer to. Point made.

No, I have never done this before. No, I should not have it all together effortlessly. Yes, I should slow down, take a deep breath and allow myself some grace. Yes, we will all be okay if the school work is late, the dishes are dirty and we are wearing three-day old jammies. Today, in this moment, I am a MESS.  I do not “feel” joyful. I am bitter and angry that life is so hard right now. I am wallowing in self-pity in my unwashed, messy bunned hair. I will not stay here. I will seek my center, begin to balance and claim my calm. But for now, it’s okay.

It’s okay.

Strength from Joy

joy strengthThis sounds good, right?! This is a great “go to” verse when times are hard. These words make for a great, inspirational social media post for those of us who are feeling run down and weak. But do I really believe it? Am I living everyday (in lockdown mode) with this joy? Is my behavior truly reflected in this quote?

As I sit and soak in the word this morning, I found myself dwelling here, in this verse. Lingering on these words in Nehemiah forced me to earnestly check my heart, and not only to ask the tough questions, but also to answer them.

So, I go back to the way I was taught to read and understand the Bible – one word or phrase at a time. Break it down and listen for meaning. Joy – different from happiness. Happiness is based on circumstances or events, and is primarily about MY feelings. It centers around ME. However, joy is a constant. Joy is a contentment of the heart, regardless of happenings and surroundings. Joy is a purposeful choice. This joy is found in the Lord – it is  the Lord. And this very joy  – is mine! It is my strength. It is what stands in the gap when I am overwhelmed by life. It is there to satisfy my needs when I can’t find my own way. This strength from joy calms my fears, dries my tears, and soothes my spirit – even in the ugliest of circumstances.

It is a promise from the word of God. And I believe with all of my heart that God’s promises are real and true and everlasting. So…..do I believe this “go-to” verse? Am I deeply, truly, strongly “bought in”? YES! I am and I am carrying it with me today and going forward. In this scary, unpredictable world, I will find my strength in the joy of the Lord!