Conferences, Canes, and Chronic Pain

The Winshape Retreat, Location of the Pursuit Conference

It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks, but I’ll do my best to condense my overflowing brain in to something resembling a blog post.

Recently I was in Georgia for the 5th annual conference for the Pursuit Community (an amazing nationwide ministry you can read more about by clicking the link in the top of the “Friends & Sponsors” section in my sidebar.) As has held true year after year at this event, God showed up in incredible ways. This year’s verse ruminated on the theme of “a new thing.” I came to Georgia with open hands, ready for God to show me something incredible without my own constraints and expectations getting in the way, and yet I was still utterly blown away by what He revealed through speakers and attendees alike, all speaking the same messages to me over and over.

Mary Marantz at Pursuit Conference

I felt consistent confirmation that God has laid a path before me that is uniquely my own. Sure, this industry is full of experts and mentors and plenty of well intentioned advice, but over and over He spoke plainly to my heart that His plan for me is a NEW thing: not a repeat of anyone else’s story. He hasn’t called me to be the next “so and so,” but rather to embrace the story He has written specifically for me. More than that though, He’s given me a calling that He created me perfectly equipped and suitable for in every way – not in spite of my weaknesses and struggles, but BECAUSE of them. His strength is perfectly displayed in my weaknesses, His story beautiful showcased in His faithfulness and grace to me each day. I felt confident that I don’t need to #hustle or knock down doors to make all my own opportunities, I need only to be ready to obey whenever He says to go, and be patient on His perfect timing. The Joy Parade is going to be exactly what He wants it to be exactly when He wants it to be it, even if I don’t always have an exact vision for what that is. Sometimes admitting we don’t have all the answers is the first step to something so much bigger and better than we could have imagined for ourselves.

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Im Not Ready to Quit Yet

photo-1438480478735-3234e63615bbThere comes a point with most all chronic and incurable illnesses where you reach the stage of acceptance. You learn to let go of your unrealistic expectations and find ways to make life with your particular handicaps livable. You surround yourself with excellent supporters, you give yourself an extra serving of grace, and you make your own definitions for success.

And then sometimes there are days like today; days when you throw all that aside for a minute and take the bravest step of all: you let hope sneak in again.

Today I went to a new doctor. We looked over the history of everything thats been tried already, and then promptly threw it all in the trash. We went back to square one and allowed the hope of new options and answers to come alive. We made the choice to go back to the starting line with a new set of eyes and open ourselves up to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, we’ve missed something, or that medicine may have new answers to offer this time around.

And nothing could possibly be scarier right now than hope.

Acceptance is such a healthy phase when you finally reach it. So being willing to let it go, without any assurances that anything will come from it? Thats terrifying. Right now it feels like a huge step backwards – back to a time when my imagination ran wild with possible outcomes and worse case scenarios, when I was bounced from misdiagnoses to failed treatments and back again, and I had no way of knowing what the future might hold. Being willing to let hope in also means letting go of the comfort of having everything all figured out. It means giving up being settled in order to set out on a long and arduous journey – knowing full well that it may come full circle right back to where you started.

Yet that’s exactly what I’m doing. Letting go of it all because maybe, just maybe, there is something better out there for me. Maybe Im clinging to something so much less than I could have if I’m willing to try. And yes, Im fully aware that I might get the same answers, the same lack of solutions, the same diagnoses that will bring the same cycle of grief – all to end up back at acceptance once again. But that’s a risk I’ve decided to take.

So I dropped off most of my blood at the lab (ok not really most of my blood, but it sure felt like it,) and made the difficult commitment to begin the process of weaning off a medication that has been a huge part of my routine for a long time now, so we can start trying new options and see if theres a better outcome somewhere else. In typical fashion, this is an “it’s gotta get a bit worse before it can better” sort of thing. Coming off this particular med is a bit of an ordeal, with a complicated step down regimen and cross weaning process onto the other medication. The side effects of this process alone made me reconsider.

But ultimately, hope is never the wrong choice. I never want to get so comfortable in my acceptance of my condition that I stop being willing to consider Im wrong. Risk is scary, but apathy should always be scarier. It’s simply never time to completely give up; there’s always got to be room for the possibility of hope. And sometimes, on days like today, its time to let that hope out of its hidden corner and let it take the wheel. I have no idea where it’s going to take me, but I know I’m committed to finding out just how far this road goes and where it ultimately ends up, even if thats right back here at the beginning again.

Either way, I’ll know I saw this thing through. And thats worth it.

risk quote

I’ve Been in Pain

946770_10153542624579818_1936731990056128860_nIt’s been a long time since sharing my words in this setting. Too long. Its been an awkward enough pause to address it, but doing so is easier said than done. Some bloggers would suggest I call it a “sabbatical.” That’s really just a cop out at this point. Still others would counsel to have me point to my behind the scenes projects to show that I’ve been “in demand” and the brand is still thriving. And yes, I’ve been working furiously on the book and lining up my 2016 speaking engagements, but it’s certainly not what’s kept me away.

Here’s the unglamorous and totally truthful reality:

I’ve been in pain.

Some of it is physical pain. Many of you know I suffer from a debilitating pair of chronic health conditions called Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS) and Fibromyalgia. Winter is the hardest time of year for both these conditions, as cold and flu season hit with a vengeance and cold weather is a known trigger for additional fibromyalgia pain – especially now that we’ve left mild CA for a state with an actual winter. We even had our first ever snow this year. The pain has been harder to tolerate than I’ve been used to, and our medical insurance situation last year left me unable to pursue any real forms of help. I’ve been fairly open about these issues on my social media accounts, and have appreciated the wonderful support Ive received from both my readers and and from fellow members of the spoonie community. And it would have been easy to enough to leave it there and accept all the good wishes and understanding emails of encouragement. But that’s not the whole truth…

I’ve been in pain.

I’ve been neck deep in pain that was difficult to admit to myself, let alone to anyone else. It’s a pain I’ve tried to rationalize myself out of, explain away, and stifle down it hopes it would disappear on its own. But as with most pain, it really doesn’t work that way. It’s continued on as this persistent ache, popping up at the most inopportune moments and gnawing away at my ability to ignore it. It’s not going anywhere, and the more I attempt to ignore it the more aggravated it becomes.

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I’ve been in pain.

At the beginning of 2015, in the midst of our multiple months of unemployment, my husband and I discovered we were very unexpectedly pregnant. It was quite the shock, and I would lying if I said it didn’t take some time to used to the idea. It was literally the worst possible timing, but it was far from unwelcome. We felt blessed to be experiencing the possibility of another miracle baby, one we had been discussing for some time but weren’t quite ready to take the leap to try for yet. That baby was a shining light in the middle of a dark season, a much needed anchor of hope to ballast us in the midst of so much uncertainty.

And then, after a longer than usual ultrasound with the nurse, the doctor said those horrible two words.

Not. Viable.

This marked the 7th child that we wont meet until eternity. A 7th precious little one with no birthday to celebrate, no future to plan.

I’ve been in pain.

12342486_10153485769759818_246129569753746655_nSoon after the loss,  my closest friend was blessed with her own unexpected surprise: a 4th little one to join her beautiful brood. It was a joy I admittedly have struggled to untangle from my own sorrow. The happiness I feel for her is authentic, but it’s difficult not to feel the pain of the could have beens. Up until now all our boys have been perfectly staggered in age. If I had carried my most recent pregnancy to term, this trend would have continued, but with the final pair being the closest in age of the bunch. We would have experienced our first pregnancy we’d actually get to do together. Watched the boys grow together. Done it all together.

I’ve been in pain.

Perhaps the hardest part of miscarriage is that the world around you goes on, and you carry no visible scar to help legitimize your pain. There isn’t a label such as “widow.” There is no grave marker to show. There’s no words to properly explain the gaping hole you know you’re walking around with but simply can’t find a way to show. You’re seemingly alone in it. – and no one knows, or they’ve all but forgotten.

I’ve been in pain.

They say, “time heals all wounds.” Has this ever really been true? If you leave a gaping hole in your leg untreated and wait for time to remedy it, does it really heal? Don’t you usually end up with gangrene? Why have we been taught to believe any different with invisible wounds? Why do we beat ourselves up when our pain doesn’t heal according to some fabricated timeline we’ve assigned ourselves? Why do we feel the need to limit the reaches of our grief? And how can we ever find healing for wounds we are so unwilling to admit, let alone treat.

I’ve been in pain.

1237591_10153541449494818_9191476745620302457_nMy best friend welcomed her 4th little guy into the family a couple weeks ago. He’s beautiful: perfect in every way. And with his birth, I was finally able to admit out loud to my husband for the first time whats really been paining me. Maybe it was the first time I was truly able to admit it to myself. I miss my baby. I miss what might have been. I ache to have a photo, or a birthday, or even a name for this perfect little person I haven’t been able to meet.

I’ve been in pain.

Perhaps finally admitting it is the first step to real healing. It stings like mad, but most wounds don’t heal themselves. And I refuse to ignore this one any longer.

Contentment Friday: A Meaningful Tradition to Replace “Black Friday”

Last year I was honored to share one of my family’s most important traditions on She Lives Free. This year I’d like to share it again in hopes that it catches on amidst the craziness of the ever more commercialized holiday season. 

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Wednesday morning, the day before Thanksgiving, and my laptop finally decides its long slow death march is finally coming to an end…  right as I sat down to make my deadline for submitting this very blog for publishing. Lovely. So we pile the family into the car and head over to Best Buy, to buy the family computer we were planning to acquire in the next week or so anyways. As we make our way to the front of the store, what should come into view? A line of patrons and their tents, already camped out for the upcoming Black Friday sale. My heart actually dropped in my chest. Really? THIS is what we’ve come to now? Not only are we opening more and more stores on Thanksgiving day and beckoning them away from their family tables with $9.99 Elmo dolls and discounted Playstations, now we are setting up metal crowd control fencing to contain the line of people camping out in a parking lot days before the sale even starts? It was all I could do but desperately hope my kids didn’t ask about what they were seeing, cause I was tempted to tell them that some very silly grownups were playing “lets pretend we’re on an explorer expedition” and had brought their fun campsite toys to add to the overall effect. And Im not sure how convincing that really would have been.

You see, my children don’t know about the insanity now known as “Black Friday.” Crazy, I know, but my husband and I made a choice some years ago that we would commit to abstain from Black Friday and the total circus it’s become. I hated the idea that we would gather over a Thanksgiving table on Thursday, and profess our great gratitude for all God has given us… and then run out the door so soon after in an panicked rush to “buy all the things!” It simply doesn’t compute for me. So we decided that Black Friday would cease to exist for us, and in its place a new holiday was born: Contentment Friday.

Contentment Friday isn’t just a sweet little term we’ve coined to excuse missing out on the cheapest shopping of the year. No, Contentment Friday is quite possibly second only to Christmas in terms of holiday importance for our little family. It’s a BIG deal around here. The basic premise is simple: in order to focus on our hearts and minds on the idea of contentment, we abstain from spending money in any way, shape, or form on that Friday after Thanksgiving, and we instead fill the day with family centered activities in our home. We stock up on all groceries and essentials in advance (to ensure we never have any reason for unexpected spending,) we block off the date on our work calendars as a holiday, and we prepare to spend the whole day celebrating as a family. This year will be no exception. We’ve bought cinnamon rolls to bake for breakfast, stocked up with some great new board game options, made plans to cook our favorite bacon appetizer and devour it during a family screening of Stars Wars: A New Hope (my 5 year old is especially excited about that one,) and we have all the supplies to bake sugar cookies to frost and decorate. We never feel like we’re missing out, because Contentment Friday is usually one of the fun filled days of the holiday season for us.

contentmentfridayquoteOn Saturday, we continue the fun celebrating our official opening day for the Christmas season. By abstaining from anything Christmas related while we’re still focusing on a season of gratitude and contentment first, we get to experience a whole day dedicated to welcoming the yuletide season into our home. This is the day each year when the Christmas tree goes up, the holiday music finally gets played, the decorations come out, and those great claymation classics like “The Year Without a Santa Clause” are screened. And Im pretty sure we drink more cocoa then the rest of the year combined. Best of all, our hearts are truly prepared for the fullness of Christmas’ joy because we’ve really given heed to the gratitude from which it springs. Simply by being intentional in recognizing all we have to be thankful for, we find ourselves content with the life we already lead, and this in turn births an abundance of joy in our hearts – the very joy that the Christmas season should ultimately be about: not a quest for more things, not a stressful march to simply get through this season with what sanity we can manage, but a season of joy to the world and peace to all men.

My heart’s dream would be to see Contentment Friday take hold in more families then just our own. Imagine the impact it would have on the retail world if even half of Black Friday demand just simply went away? There wouldn’t be a need for crowd control fencing or a website to track the Black Friday death toll each year (oh, how I wish that wasn’t a real thing,) and perhaps some stores wouldn’t even be able to justify calling in all those of employees away from their families without all these customers clamoring for their attention. Because the hidden truth of Black Friday is this – it’s not the retailers’ faults; we have nobody but ourselves to blame. If the demand wasn’t there, the stores wouldn’t have a reason to continue the craziness any longer. So the power is ultimately ours. Nothing battles the current of consumerism more than the value of contentment. When our hearts are focused on being content, we see the virtues of the life we already live and the numerous blessings we already possess – and suddenly no amount of discount seems high enough to give that up to go sleep in a Best Buy parking lot.

 

Terrorism, Tragedy, and the Autistic Child

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With the news from Paris on every channel and reports of horrible acts of terrorism splashed across every headline, the anxiety can weigh especially heavy on parents with small children at home. For parents of children on the autism spectrum attacks like these bring a whole wealth of additional challenges and considerations. My son Aidan, for example, has been able to read any newspaper headline with ease from about the age of 3, so shielding him from events of terror has been nearly an impossible feat. And since he is already prone to severe anxiety and oversized emotions, and both his age and his diagnosis cause him to struggle to understand complex social constructs like religious extremism or even politics in general? Events like these have the potential to rob him of much needed structure and security and plunge him into total chaos. Here are some valuable tips for helping these special kids cope with such difficult issues.

Resist the temptation to be anything less than honest.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of fudging the truth to keep our kids from their fears. Why not simply answer questions about unimaginable evil by somehow explaining it away all together? Although this tactic can buy some quick relief in the short term, it creates much bigger problems in the long run – especially with these children who often have extraordinarily gifted memories. Set a history now of being an honest communicator with your child when they have questions or concerns, rather than risk being permanently characterized as likely to offer less than truthful information.

Avoid offering extraneous details – stick to the facts.
Sure, we might see the clear connections between terrorism and religious extremism, or see how the history of US politics in the Middle East may contribute to modern day extremism, but is this all necessary information for a child who’s seeking to get their mind around some already complex ideas? When your child is presented with details of an attack or asks a question about something they have read or heard, its important to address only their specific area of inquiry and not offer any new information into the equation. Keep it simple, with age appropriateness in mind, and wait to see what their next questions may be before offering up new info unprompted. Your child may be satisfied with far less information than you think.

10173594_10152161556649818_2724005321082070142_nProvide safety in routine.
It can be tempting to try to appease difficult emotions with treats, privileges, or even easing off on normal requirements and expectations, but for the autistic child this can actually make the situation much worse. Provide comfort by sticking to familiar routines and predictable boundaries. When your child see’s that everything is still normal on the home front, it helps reinforce the idea that their world is still the same as before these terrible events, and that they don’t have to worry about total upheaval. Life will go on, and a strong routine is the best way to communicate this right now. 

Be vigilant about media exposure, but give yourself a huge measure of grace.
Children on the spectrum have a wide range of skills and areas of struggle, but many of these kids have hyperlexia, which is marked by not only unusually advanced reading abilities but a often a compulsion to read any and all written materials around them. It can be next to impossible to shield these kids entirely from events that are dominating the current news cycle. Give yourself grace and be prepared to answer any questions if and when they may arise. However, be aware of the media sources your child may come in contact with and take steps to filter them to the best of your ability. Avoid watching the news while your children are still awake, even if you think they aren’t paying attention. Don’t leave newspapers out or laptops open to newspaper websites. Ensure parental controls on computers, tablets, and/or smartphones your child may use keep news outlets from their access. I’ve even been known to flip over a copy of Newsweek or two when standing in the checkout lane, or hide them behind the Martha Stewart Living. You may not be able to shield them from the event entirely, but you can take steps to keep the coverage from being overly prevalent in their view.

Watch for nonverbal signs of anxiety
Even if your child has questions or concerns about events on the news, its not a given that they will verbalize them. Stay educated about various nonverbal signs of anxiety and keep an eye out for any new behaviors or changes to your child’s overall emotional state – even if you think your kids are still totally unaware. It’s impossible to know for sure what they may have overheard, seen in passing, or even been told by others, so never assume that the news isn’t playing a role in any behavior changes you might see.

Reach out to your resources and get support
Get in touch with your child’s teacher. Reach out to your ABA. Talk to your child’s counselor or psychologist – or consider contacting one if you don’t already see someone regularly. These issues can be extremely difficult to navigate, and it’s essential to have as many resources and tools on your side as possible. Build a support team around yourself and your child, and never hesitate to admit if you’re feeling out of your depth. It’s always ok to ask for help.

The War on Thanksgiving

War on ThanksgivingThe War on Christmas is getting its yearly spin in the news cycle, from the rampage over red cups to the horror over “happy holidays.” Every year these tirades take over our national dialogue once more; it’s as predictable as clockwork.

Yet we never hear about the War on Thanksgiving.

Where is the hashtag campaign complaining not that Starbucks isn’t Christmassy enough, but rather that its Christmassy the minute of Halloween’s end?

Where is the outrage that a holiday once hallmarked by a family gathered for dinner is now celebrated in the parking lot at Best Buy, holding place in the Black Friday line up?

Where are the news pundits railing about a national culture tearing away more and more at the traditions of a holiday we once held dear – a holiday once marked by conservative values like gratitude, contentment, and the closeness of family?

While the world is debating the merits of this supposed War on Christmas, Thanksgiving is waving the white flag and quietly succumbing to its defeat. And yet no one seems to care.

What can we expect to teach a generation who are growing up in a world where Thanksgiving has all but been replaced with a season that can only be described as “pre-Christmas?” How can we ask them to eschew a culture of entitlement when the Christmas toy catalogs are showing up the week of Halloween and commercials are beckoning them to make lists to Santa before the leaves have even left their fall branches? Are we really prepared to raise children in a culture where a season devoted to the art of gratitude has been replaced instead with a wanton consumerism that threatens to consume us all?

Instead of adding to the tirades about “holiday trees” and politically correct window displays, consider taking a stand instead for Thanksgiving. What better way to put Christ back into Christmas than to spend November focusing on gratitude and preparing our hearts for the season yet to come. The way to experience the fullness of Emannuel, God With Us, is to experience the season of anticipation before Christmas comes on the scene. Thanksgiving prepares us for the coming King – where hearts lined full of thankful prayers take the place of a manger filled with straw. When we skip over Thanksgiving, we find ourselves unprepared to receive the holy child, as if we have no room in the inn of our hearts and minds.

Forget the War on Christmas. Who will fight back for Thanksgiving?

I See Christ in the Red Cups

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In my humble blogger opinion, this year’s red cups are the MOST Christian Christmas cups Starbucks has ever designed.

Yes – you read that correctly.

I see a cup where they have stripped away all the snowmen and penguins in holiday scarves. Santa is nowhere to be seen. All of the holiday trimmings and distractions have been removed, and we are left with a blank slate. A simple cup of red, as bare and plain as the stable that housed the newborn Lord on Christmas night. Simplicity – a beautiful stand for the heart of Christmas in the midst of a world who seeks to distract us from that holy night.

I see a cup of scarlet red, like the saving blood of the savior who came to earth to die for the creation He desperately loved and pursued. Without the message of His death, we miss the purpose of His birth.

Most importantly of all, a cup that leaves room for everyone at the table is the very embodiment of what Jesus called us to be. We serve a Savior who called Jews and Gentiles alike, and who saved His scorn not for the people who represented a different culture, but for those who misrepresented His. Jesus never commanded us to loudly fight for our rights as Christians, but rather he called us to lay down our own rights in the name of bringing the gospel to those who don’t yet have a place in His family.

I Corinthians 9:19-23 (ESV)

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

I see Christ in bare red cups.
#MerryChristmasStarbucks

I Speak for the Turkeys

Last fall I had the amazing opportunity to share my heart over on Delight and Be. As the calendar rolled over to the 1st of November this morning I found myself urged to share these same thoughts as we dive into the holidays once more. 

It was the day after Halloween and I found myself standing squarely in the middle of my living room letting out a silent scream. A Christmas commercial. Amidst the discarded hulk mask and superhero cape and the crinkled up wrappers from last nights snicker bar binge it was all I could do not to pull out my own hair and curse all things merry and bright. A Christmas commercial – heralding all that was snowy and shiny and on sale for only $19.99.

Im one of THOSE people, you know the type – we are the grinches who complain about the stores decorating too early or who gripe about Starbucks bringing out the red cups in November. Im the Scrooge who loudly declares a moratorium on any Christmas music while any of the leaves are clinging red and orange to their branches; the one who scares her children with threats of bad reports to Santa if they so much as think of starting their wish lists before the turkey and cranberry sauce have been reduced to leftover sandwiches. If you met me in November you’d be convinced that I had experienced some sort of horridly traumatic Christmas past that converted me into an avid rejecter of all things remotely yuletide.

Im going to steal a page from my children’s Dr. Seuss obsession and appropriate the catchphrase of the Lorax for a minute. Except instead of the trees? I speak for the turkeys. Now before you roll your eyes and click that little red x in the corner of this screen, let me clarify that Im not speaking for the turkeys in the picketing for PETA and buying a tofurkey sense. By all means, when it comes to turkeys go ahead and shoot ‘em, pluck ‘em, and roast ‘em up nice and juicy. Im allll for turkeys… when they are covered in gravy that is. Lots and lots of gravy. No, I speak for the turkeys as the adopted mascots of Thanksgiving, which in my humble opinion is the single most important holiday of the year – and also the most under appreciated.

I will go so far as to say that without a Thanksgiving we absolutely unequivocally wouldn’t have any Christmas at all. Aaannnd I know what you’re thinking: she’s gone and lost it now. The baby Jesus couldn’t be laid in His manger and the shepherds wouldn’t hear the angels sing unless… the pilgrims came over on the Mayflower and had a feast with the Indians?

Yep.

Well, sort of.

Ok not at all. But there IS a point to my madness, I swear.

Image Credit: Grace & Salt

You see Thanksgiving is a holiday that boils down to only one thing: gratitude. Underneath the turkeys and the pilgrims and the bundles of wheat on our perfect Pinterest mantles, Thanksgiving is in its simplest form is an entire season wholly dedicated to stepping back from a culture that’s saturated with discontentment and an all out pursuit of more for the sake of more, and calls us instead to look at the abundance we have already been blessed with and utter a prayer of gratitude for having more than we could possibly deserve. Thanksgiving is a season of “thank you’s” in a world of “but I want more’s.” It’s the epitome of counterculture at its finest.

And when the final bite of stuffing is consumed and the last piece of turkey has been placed in the final leftovers sandwich, a new season emerges: Christmas, the season of joy to the earth and goodwill to all men. And its here that we find the thread that seamlessly pulls us from one holiday into the next: because the root of our joy? It has to be gratitude. Without the fertile fall season of gratitude we can never reap our Christmas’ joy. For Christmas depends on Thanksgiving the same way the crops in the fields depend on nutrient rich soil and abundant rains to bring them to life for the harvest. It is only in a heart of gratitude that the seeds of joy can take root, and its only by watering them regularly with prayers of thanksgiving that joy can thrive and grow bring forth something new and beautiful in our lives.

To truly receive the joy of Christmas it is essential to dive in fully and embrace the season of Thanksgiving with our whole hearts. To begin to make room for the presents the yuletide season brings, we must first spend time emptying ourselves onto the altar of gratitude, recognizing the overabundance we’ve already been given. For it simply wouldn’t be Christmas without Thanksgiving. The world around us may try to hurry us along, beckoning us across its ramshackle bridge straight from the halloween candy right into a Christmas tree farm and long lists to Santa. Don’t go my friends. Take the long way – under the falling leaves of red and orange, through the fields of golden wheat being brought in for the harvest, and by the long table of abundance shared with those we hold most dear as we remember the incredible blessing of even having these people to walk life’s journey with. Take a stand against the “Christmas Creep” and build up those boundaries around a season increasingly taken for granted. Speak for the turkeys.

And don’t forget the gravy.

Apologizers Anonymous

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Hello my name is Stephanie.  And I’m sorry.

Bob Goff loves to tell his readers that they should quit something every Thursday. It’s a powerful concept really: intentionally looking at yourself each week and trying to identify something that’s holding you back, bringing you undue stress or guilt, or otherwise just doesn’t need to be part of your life anymore. So when a post from Bob showed up in my Facebook feed last night asking what I was going to quit? I took a pause and gave it a thought.

And then I had the essential come to Jesus moment of any addict. The scene where I said, “Whoah. I have a problem. An apology problem.”

It’s often the butt of jokes  – my husband jokes about it, my mom jokes about it, a number of my close friends joke about it. I say “sorry” so many times in a day it’s enough to make your head spin. Preemptive apologies. Apologies for things totally out of my control. Apologies for things no one noticed or cared about. There have even been multiple occasions where someone has called me out for apologizing so much – and I have responded by apologizing for apologizing. Thats right ladies and gentlemen, I even say sorry for saying sorry too much.

They say the first to recovery is to admit you have a problem.  Im pretty sure your step two involves a meeting somewhere with free coffee and maybe even a donut. Im kind of hoping I get a donut. Once you get past the donut step though? I’m admittedly pretty clueless as to what comes next. I feel like this is the part where someone should be assigning me a sponsor. Someone I can awkwardly call in the middle of the night and say “I’m so sorry for waking you but…” Of course then they’d have to call me out on my whole opening the call with the apology thing, and the whole call would likely just devolve from there. I’m pretty sure any sponsor of mine would go nuts pretty quickly. Folks there is NO amount of free donuts that is fair compensation for my unique level of crazy.

And yet I’m still feeling like it’s time to take up Bob’s challenge. It’s time to quit with all the sorries. The apologies I do make would likely be far more meaningful if they were rarer, if they were reserved for things that were truly deserving of my remorse. Yes, I’m fully aware how hard this habit will be to break.  I expect at some point to have friends and readers call me out for not successfully keeping to this goal, and my response will most likely be to apologize for it. I’m in deep y’all. So deep. But it’s still worth a try. It’s a habit I recognize impedes my ability to be my best me, and to confidently embrace my worth. So I’m standing up behind the podium of my blog, in this wonderful support group meeting we all call the internet, and I’m saying to you all:

Hello, my name is Stephanie. And I am so sorry for always saying sorry. Wait, sorry for that, cause that was me saying sorry again. But so was THAT. Sorry. I mean… ugh. Ok. Not saying sorry anymore. Sorry this is coming out all jumbled. I mean I’m not sorry. Sorry. Crap. ………. Did anyone bring donuts?

A Postcard from the Muck

  
I dont think I’ve ever sat down to write a more difficult post. Or a more necessary one.
There will be no fancy formatting, no pretty pictures, and no perfecty designed pinnable graphic with a carefully selected quote from the writing. Just words, in their truest and most naked form, slowly trickling from my keyboard and taking their places is neat rows across the screen. I feel a bit like a singer who tells the band to put down their instruments and steps up to the mic with a single guitar.

I’ve missed you dear readers. Its been a long summer that somehow bled over into the fall and made it harder and harder to get back to business the longer I was away. In the beginning it started as Aidan finishin out Kindergarten and coming home for the summer. And for all the ways he has so dramatically grown and thrived this first year here (and I promise, I have an entire post coming down the pipeline dedicated solely to an Aidan update,) it had also grown really clear he desperately needed some hands on love and attention this summer. And so I stepped quietly back from the keys, temporarily let go of the thing I worked so hard to build, and trusted that God would reward the choice to put my most important job first for awhile.

It was a beautiful summer and Aidan is absolutely better off for that choice. But somehow in the crevices of my mind the lie started to creep in: you’ve lost your blog. You worked so hard and now you’ve burned out and fizzled into nothing. Your readers have all lost interest and left. You wrecked it.

Little by little the lie took root and the anxieties grew. It became a more and more difficult task to sit down and face that stark white page with nothing but a blinking cursor waiting for me to say something, anything at all. Even if I could manage to type some words, the reality of the editing, and the formatting, and designing graphics, and social media cross promotion – all the “shoulds” of a strong professional blog – it was overwhelming. The longer it went on, the more difficult a return became.

And then came the BIG curveballs.

Major flares of my health conditions. A schedule packed with meetings for Aidans IEP and other educational needs. Kidney stones. A double kidney infection. All sort of reasons to excuse myself from my calling and retreat to the couch defeated.

So there I lay, on that couch, right in the thick of the muck. And nobody wants to hear from somebody in the muck. No, we want a recovery story! We want our bright and shiny heroine to return from her struggle and tell us all about how it was and about the glory of it defeat. So I kept waiting for the victory to come, so I could be worthy to sit in front of these keys and speak to you once again, all bright and shiny and new and full of wisdom and DIY tutorials.

But the hits kept coming. And the muck kept stinking.

And somehow the calling kept aching. That part of my soul that says “Child of God I created you a storyteller. I formed you in your mothers womb with a purpose, and that purpose calls you to write, and speak, and share. You are a truthteller, no matter what other design you may try on or attempt to squeeze into or hide behind or even convince yourself you’re trapped under. You are still, at your core, what I created you to be. And you can’t run from that.”

So, dear readers, this is my postcard to you. Greetings from the muck. I’m here, not shiny, not new, and not entirely sure of how this season of life will play out. But Immeasurably More is still true: He still gives good and perfect gifts, Immeasurably More than whatever I could ask for or even imagine in the first place, even if its hard to see laying on this couch surround by perscription bottles and discarded piles of plans and “should haves.”

But there’s one thing I no longer keep on this couch with me: the lie that it would be better to share nothing than to share anything less than I’ve come to expect of these posts. That lie has been thrown right out into the trash. That lie has been carried all the way to the dump and incinerated. 

This is the first post Im writing from my new couch office – a refurbished ipad, a special keyboard case to essentially convert it to a laptop, and soon there will even be a lapdesk. Im going to get back to the business of who I was created to be, because even covered in muck Im still that same creation. Its time to get back to the heart and soul of who I was created to be as an author. Its time to recognize that sometimes when that singer steps forward away from the band, and the lights go down, and we hear those first bare and naked sounds of a voice quietly singing out, clear and uninumbered? We hear with our hearts, we’re moved in our souls, and something magical happens.

Im ready to step up to the mic again, even if some of these songs have to be unplugged.

Greetings from the muck. I’ve missed you.