IBD Alone

I hate winter. It’s dead. It’s cold. It’s hard. My emotions always seem to follow suit. Especially after the holidays, which seem to have a comfort & joy sensation. This January has been a tougher one. Not only do I just hate winter, but I’ve been dealing with my IBD and I feel alone. Utterly alone.

When you have an IBD, you often feel misunderstood. On the outside, I look ‘normal’. I ‘look’ healthy. On the inside, I hurt. I am scared. And I’m tired of fighting. Many times I have felt judged, and sometimes by those who have felt like they should be closest to me. I don’t ‘look’ like I should feel fatigued, they think I’m lazy. I don’t ‘look’ like I’m ‘sick’, I shouldn’t have backed out of that commitment. This IBD, especially when it is active as mine is, is no joke. You feel like things are out of control and there’s nothing you can do about it. You feel as though you’re constantly letting someone down. People do end up backing away. They no longer reach out to you about getting together or even seeing how you are. They don’t understand. This is a daily, lifelong, chronic battle. Each day could bear something different than the last. I pray for the day I could possibly go into remission and this 5+ year battle comes to a close, even if just for a while. Maybe then the feeling of isolation will somewhat dissipate. I can actually be everyone’s standard of ‘normal’ again…

Through this battle, I have done some life and self examination. The feeling ‘alone’ always pops up. Quietly, inwardly alone (and that’s hard on the soul). Especially, when I have felt overly exposed by Him. I’m sure it would surprise many that I battle this ‘alone’ insecurity (I can come off fairly social), but the insecurity is almost always there. Sometimes it’s covered up pretty well and even I overlook it, but it’s usually not gone for long before it’s there again.

It’s my exposed ugly place that He’s had me working on. It’s been my focus for quite some time now. I’ve made strides and feel somewhat more content, but when there are setbacks it’s hard not to focus on that and keep moving forward. One setback does not define you. I pray this Psalm (a lot) 16:8 when I feel ‘alone’ creeping back in, “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.”

Over the last year, I’ve been trying to learn how to see the ‘blessings in disguise’ – those life lessons from this journey I’m on. One of the biggest blessings is I cherish the good days all that much more. My smile is brighter. My laugh is heartier. My energy soars. I know the good days are truly something special and worth every ounce to fully live in them. I don’t take them for granted. Another thing I’ve learned is I love a little harder. My love is fierce for those who stay closest to me. We are not promised tomorrow. Through this challenge I pray daily that God continues to reveal moments of wisdom. I need them.

So winter stinks. But there is one thing that winter is not – it is not ugly. Oddly, I find such beauty in the nature of winter. It’s flat out stunning sometimes. It can do things no other season can. It can sparkle with ice. It can bring a crispness to lungs when inhaled. It can drop white beauty from the sky. And when the sun shines on a cold winter day it seems to shine so much brighter. I try to remember this when it feels like ‘winter’ sneaks into my life no matter what the actual season may be. Beauty is there, in the broken-ness. I am not alone. One day, whether in this life or the next, I will make peace with this and all its ‘blessings’ will be revealed. But I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t admit that I will continue to pray with steadfast hope that it will happen while I’m still here on this side of heaven 😉

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My Monkeys, My Circus

“This is what I like about photographs. They’re proof that once, even if just for a heartbeat, everything was perfect.” Jodi Picoult

I have always loved pictures. I have always loved a camera. So it came as no surprise when I fell in love with being a photographer.

I love capturing memories for people. Nothing beats giving them something tangible to look back on. It makes my heart swell. Life is full of busy-ness and a photograph is life’s pause button ❤

When I look back over all of the special occasions I have been privileged enough to be a part of: from on-the-shoot proposals to weddings to baby showers to maternity to newborns to families to pets to head shots to birthday parties to sporting activities to foster pups and adoption stories, and so much more, I am humbled. My heart feels full at the end of each session.

Candid shots of families and friends in the moment with each other are the best. It is when an instance of real life is arrested in a photograph. These are my absolute favorite pictures. Life is messy and hard and goofy and sad and crazy, and sometimes it’s all of that at once.

When these times of chaos occur they are what I tag the ‘Gag Reel’. It is in the midst of trying to seize an instant of a perfect pose that pandemonium breaks loose. These fleeting moments tickle me. It is when we learn to laugh when we probably feel like crying. It is learning that happiness happens when we learn to let go of what we think our life is supposed to look like and celebrating it for everything that it is. Things feel silly, out of control, and sometimes frustrating. They always make the BEST pictures because it is real life. That is the day to day. Those are the moments we actually live in.

With Christmas card season upon us, and everyone trying to capture the perfect family shot thought I would share my family’s experience trying to get a good picture with all four pet dogs. Yes, there is a decent picture and those who have seen it tell me how adorable it is. I smile and say, “Thank you. It was an event.” because I don’t remember getting the perfect posed shot. I remember how the minutes were really spent and the recollection always makes me chuckle. It was crazy, frustrating and fun.

When I saw the images I laughed until I cried. Having the moment of the chaos captured is priceless because it is an honest depiction of my life. Being able to laugh in life (and sometimes at ourselves) is so important for our soul.

So when you have an overly active five year old and two dogs who look like they have lost their marbles and a little dog who lives in her own little world and your husband is no longer sure what to do about the situation or when life is more like the dog in the back to the left (will leave it at that) remember to “embrace the glorious mess that you are” (~Elizabeth Gilbert).

Even though a photo can make everything seem perfect, life is perfectly imperfect and since every picture tells a story don’t be afraid to tell yours truly. Because the truth in my world is, if chaos is a work of art, then my life is a masterpiece.

From my circus to yours ❤

Walton's

Okay, so now what?

Earlier this week, I voiced out loud a prayer that’s been brewing in my heart. Something that had started troubling my peace. In a group devotion the question posed for discussion was “Do you feel a tug at your heart to live completely with God, but are still uncertain about pursuing it? Explain.”

I felt this tug a few years ago. I dragged my feet for a bit and felt much like the child trying to yank the hand I was holding in another direction until one day, I took the plunge. I believed in God, but have struggled centering ‘my’ life around His plans instead of my own. This plunge was scary. It had no safety net. At times I was sure I felt the air being sucked right out of my lungs.

To fully live with God means letting go of a lot. I had to let go of my life expectations, my life plans, my feelings, and at the same time be willing to examine who I am as a person and let him expose some ugly things. I’m still not perfect, but I am more me than I have been in a really long time (if ever). I have more of a simple peace in life than I thought possible. As a human, I don’t fully ‘like’ the circumstances I went through to get where I am, but I cannot deny I am much happier here.

All of that is great. Okay, so now what? I’ve taken the plunge. I’ve followed God’s direction and some pretty amazing things have happened, but what now? Where do I go from here? I took the leap (off the cliff), landed on my feet, planted my feet, but am unsure where or how to grow from here. It’s kind of dark and quiet in this place. Sometimes I feel like I’m in an abyss and I can hear my echo, “Heeellloooooooo???”

I think of my favorite four-letter word <insert eye roll>, wait. So, I voiced my prayer out loud to my friends. It pretty much went, “Now what?” I think I needed some reassurance that I’m supposed to be waiting. I got the physical votes of assurance from my girlfriends, but the real reassurance came over the next couple of days.

I was wrapping up my daily task for the devotion homework the next day and there was that question <insert snarky-ness> again about ‘a tug of the heart’ for us to answer by ourselves in our quiet time. Heaving a sigh, I wrote that I currently felt in limbo, unsure what comes next. I shut my study and moved on.

I had decided to embark on a personal bible verse-a-day for December. It is definitely geared for the season, but the first line of the verse hit me like a ton of bricks considering what I had written two seconds earlier for my ‘tug’ answer, “All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign.” Isaiah 7:14. I could almost feel the Lord’s snarky-ness as I re-read the verse “All right then”. I continued reading and the last verse felt reassuring too, “Then the Lord will bring things on you, your nation, and your family unlike anything…” Isaiah 7:17.

I closed my eyes and listened. My heart said, ‘Patience, child.’ My eyes bolted open. He hasn’t left me alone in this dark, albeit peaceful, place. It’s just time to be quiet right now. Put one foot in front of the other, if you will. He simply wants me to honor the space between no longer and not yet. I shed some tears of thanks for the reassurance my heart needed. And in response, the very next verse I spied as I dove back into the world, was on social media, Isaiah 55:11 “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” Amen. I hear you, Lord. Thank you for clarifying any last little shred of doubt, it was you telling me to be patient.

The next day’s verse-a-day proved further conviction. I typically read around (before and after) to get a bigger picture of the verses I’m given to read. Isaiah 9:2 affirmed my answer from the day before, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness a light will shine.” And the first portion of verse 4, “For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders.” He’s not going to leave me here in the still darkness forever. I will know what’s next when it’s time to know.

As I’m letting all of this resonate and thinking about the clarity I’m feeling about patience, the song in the background on the ‘Sounds of the Season’ channel catches my attention. It’s by Dan Wilson and the song is titled, “What a Year for a New Year”. A beautiful summation of the answer to my prayer. The next thing will come. The next new year. Patience.

Don’t get me wrong, life is pretty happy- peaceful. Not much ruffles the feathers. It’s pleasant. But internally I have felt this question stirring, “What should I do now?” I do not believe we’re meant to live a stagnant life. It would stink. I believe we’re meant to grow and evolve. However, I’m also realizing that sometimes God calls us, but then puts us in these quiet, still places. It can be a time for reflection. I find I work on my flaws more when I’m still. You can heal some broken places. It’s like the cocoon- the transition between the caterpillar and the butterfly. Or the season of winter- the transition between a completed purpose (fall) and new life (spring). It’s in the quiet, dark places that some of the greatest work is done.

Today there is no further ‘answer’. No further conviction to have patience. He’s made His point. I believe, He knows it’s been received. And I don’t find “What now?” as the center of my unsettled prayer anymore. I feel at peace with that…So, what now? Well, I wait.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1PxqT6IUEo (link to song)

Lyrics to What a Year for a New Year by Dan Wilson

What a year for a new year
We need it like we needed life I guess
Last one left us lying in a mess
What a year for a new year

What a night for a sunrise
And we thought the dark would never end
Reaching out to try to find a friend
What a night for a sunrise
Sunrise

What a day for new day
And our star shines like a miracle
And our world is almost beautiful again
What a day for a new day
New day

What a year for a new year

What a night for a sunrise
And we thought the dark would never end
Reaching out to try to find a friend
What a night for a sunrise
Sunrise

Soon we’ll be lying in our beds
And new dreams will fill our heads
And the old ones will be ended
Hope we’ll forget about this place
Let it go without a trace
Wipe the teardrops from our faces
Oh! What a year for a new year!

You’re Here…

“When I look to the sky, something tells me you’re here with me.” ❤

I awaken early this morning which isn’t abnormal, but instead of rolling over to go back to sleep my heart all ready aches. The weight of November 28th always stings. I know my mind won’t let me fall back asleep, my thoughts are all ready too consumed of you. I get up. I have a task to do for a turkey anyways. Season it. My mood is grumpy. This time of year is usually emotional now. I feel cheated. The holiday season doesn’t ever feel complete anymore. Something always seems ‘off’.

It’s challenging. November 26th is my anniversary. A wonderful time, a happy time, a cherished time followed two days later by my least favorite memory. How do I not steal moments from my marriage with the impending dread of November 28th? I try hard to be more present during this time so I can focus on the moment I’m in, but it’s always there. I’ll find myself snappy or impatient or just plain grumpy, and at first I’m not sure where it’s coming from. When I stop to gain control of my emotions, I quickly realize it’s sadness speaking out.

Back to this turkey. Season it. I’m tiredly and admittedly cranky seasoning this turkey. I feel like the naked bird – bland. Wish I could throw some salt, pepper, garlic, thyme and sage on me and VOILA! Transformed. As these thoughts are running through my head, the sky through my kitchen window catches my eye. “Beautiful.” I mumble to myself. I finish my task, grab my phone and tea, and head for my safe haven – the back porch. It’s quite nice outside to be so late in November. I snap some pictures. I let the moment soak in. You’re here. This is you saying good morning. Thank you for coming on the morning I need it most. I feel a little uplifted.

Back inside I decide to make your trademark breakfast, oatmeal. But not the same this morning, with a twist. Spice it up. Season it. Transformed. (Btw- it was good. Link here: http://www.foodista.com/recipe/64CFRJ68/baked-smores-oatmeal)

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After getting dressed, we decide to go pick out a Christmas tree. I snap a picture of course making the 5 year old pose in front of the selected tree. I see the sun rays coming in on the image, but when I get home to really check it out one ray shines brighter than the rest. Yes, I see you. Thank you. We’ll take this tree home and season it too. Transformed.

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As I’m riding back home the car in front of me catches my attention. The last kind of car you drove. You’re definitely here, especially today.

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The rest of the day provided more distraction than emotion. Which is a nice and needed break. You knew that too, didn’t you? You sat back, you watched, you smiled. You enjoyed seeing the laughs and grins and hugs throughout the day.

I felt you once again this evening. Watching my brother, at 29, tackle a new sport, hockey. Oh, you smirked (quite a few times), I felt it. Your presence was so close, a couple of times I thought I’d turn to my right and you’d be sitting there leaning back, arms crossed, long legs stretched out in front, with that smirk on your face you got when you were really tickled at something. You loved it. And were proud of your son (and probably slightly impressed too). My brother chose to try something new. Season it. Transformed.

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Five years. Five. Has it really been five years since I’ve hugged your neck, held your hand, curled up in your lap (yes, even at 27 years old I would curl up in my daddy’s lap) or pecked those lips (yes, we’re ‘that family’ that goes for the lips)?

With blurry eyes as I’ve written this, a tear finally escapes and slides down my cheek just now. It makes it all the way to my neck. A chill sets in deep. To try and explain how time passes when a close loved one is lost is hard. Time flies by, as it often does in life, but at the same time it feels as though laughter or a touch or tears were just shared with the one suddenly missing. Wasn’t it just yesterday…

“Time heals all wounds.” I’m not particularly fond of this saying. When a wound heals, it leaves a scar, a reminder. You do get used to this new life without this special person, but time doesn’t make the loss any easier.

I saw a quote not long ago, “The wound is the place where light enters you.” It caught me where I least expected it to. There is truth here. But only if you allow it. I felt the light all day. It doesn’t take the pain away, but I smile through the tears. And I’m left – transformed.

Consider the Ravens

A black mass, they twist and swirl and swoop down, then back up. Their formation is astounding. I find myself mesmerized and slightly terrified at the same time. It’s become a tell-tale marker of cooler times coming. They start forming in October when reds, yellows, oranges, browns, pumpkins, emptying fields and floating leaves create one last splendor for the eyes and soul. It’s as if the year is giving one final burst of life before relinquishing itself of earthly duties and going into hibernation.

Just a bit ago, I found myself carefully watching this mass of blackbirds as they swooped across the field. There’s something intriguing about their movement. It brings a new meaning to ‘birds of a feather flock together’. I first noticed the birds do this back in college. I was working outside as an after school counselor and I remember feeling slightly as though I were in an Alfred Hitchcock film.

Where it can be disturbing on many levels and rather perfect for the spooky time of year, I do find myself curious and the next thing I knew I was Googling…apparently, this is a common phenomenon, especially for winter. The birds create a super flock for protection, food gathering and communication purposes. I began humming “Consider the Ravens” by Dustin Kensrue (lyrics below). Next I was on YouTube…

This song, introduced to me a couple of years ago, immediately became a favorite. It was presented to me with the bible verse: Luke 12:24 “Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds!” Currently, the devotion I’m reading speaks about letting God be our fulfillment, our satisfaction. Not people, nor possession, nor position. Verse 23 says, “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” And verse 25 states, “And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span?” Time should be coveted and spent wisely. Why do we live so wastefully? My favorite line in the song is “So Father give me faith, providence and grace.” #amen I would much rather live that way. God’s got us. #trust

I won’t deny – it’s so much easier said than done. Resting in God is tough. #anyoneelsestubborn ?? But it brings a great peace. My faith journey has been dark like a swirling mass of crazy blackbirds and it’s been bright like their captivating motions and formations amazing swoops conquering leaps and bounds. What I’m finding now is it’s more like their purpose – a super flock working together, trusting and protecting. And I am finding peace even in those dark, swirling moments ❤

I will leave you with my morning devotion verse that has popped out at me all day long: “Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” Luke 1:78-79

Always remain in a soul search and along your journey, wherever you may be at the moment, don’t forget to consider the ravens.

I’ve got bills to pay

Taxman on my tail
Just keep prayin’ that
The check’s in the mail

There are times it seems
When everything’s lost
And I’m moaning, I’m tossed
And I see..

Between the river and the ravens I’m fed
Between oblivion and the blazes I’m led
So father give me faith, providence and grace
Between the river and ravens I’m fed
Sweet deliver, oh you lift up my head
And lead me in your way

I’ve grown sick and tired
Of trying to stand still
I’ve learned to let the wind
Pull me where it will

Throw myself into
The will of the wait
I can never be great
’til we’re free

Between the river and the ravens I’m fed
Between oblivion and the blazes I’m led
So father give me faith, providence and grace
Between the river and ravens I’m fed
Sweet deliver, oh you lift up my head
And lead me in your way

Although I’m walking through
The valley of the shadow of death
Evils all around
It’s coming from the right and the left

Trust that I will see
The glory above
Oh, your banner of love
Flies over me

Between the river and the ravens I’m fed
Between oblivion and the blazes I’m led
So father give me faith, providence and grace
Between the river and ravens I’m fed
Sweet deliver, oh you lift up my head
And lead me in your way

Daddy’s Little Girl

Happy birthday, Dad. I’m sure your heavenly birthday is grand, but sure do wish we could celebrate together. Found this going through ‘old stuff’. I miss you everyday and know how lucky I am to have had you to call Daddy. Love you ❤

The first one to hold her it was love at first sight.

An instant spark of life. A moment when everything was just right.

Her first smile. She learned to walk.

She loved to laugh and boy could she talk!

Through the years he would watch her laugh and cry.

He would teach her many things and make her believe she could fly!

Whenever she wanted, she’d crawl into his lap.

They’d be together for hours while taking a nap.

In her eyes he was perfect. He could do no wrong.

She wanted to be just like him, wanted to dance to the same song.

He raised her well and now she’s growing up.

She’s becoming her own person. She drinks from her own cup.

Change and time has affected them both. The sky has no limit.

She wants to know everything and all that’s within it.

As their time together becomes more distant, it is the way life goes without fail.

But there will always be that Little Miss Muffet’s fairy tale.

There will always be the unconditional love and life with its fantastic swirl.

But wherever she may go, she will always be Daddy’s Little Girl.

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Written by CAA 12.30.2000

Puppy Paradise

Double your pleasure. Double your fun. We’re definitely not running the Doublemint ad over here…

It’s more like double your pressure, double your run. Running to stop the chewing…running to stop the barking…running to stop the fighting…running to stop the indoor potty-ing…sigh.

But they’re SO cute, right? Sigh. Don’t let their picture fool you. It was taken back when we first got them almost two months ago. They’ve grown quite a bit since then and their little cat fights sound more like two wild beasts going at it for the final kill. Most days it feels like I’m running a three-ring circus. “Prepare yourselves! You’re about to witness the craziest show on earth!”

I’ve been amazed at how smart these two pups are. Although they each are a different kind of ‘smart’. She is what I call clever. She is stubborn. She ‘knows’ what we want, yet she chooses to do what she wants. You can see the challenge in her eyes when she stares you down as if saying ‘What are you gonna do about it?’. He is what I call intelligent. Things click quickly with him. He learns quickly. He aims to please…except when she’s around. Yes, she’s the ringleader. The alpha. The instigator.

Together the mess they can get into is hair-pulling-teeth-gritting-audible-sighing mess. I’ve ‘blessed their hearts’ more times than I can count. It’s true what they say, they’re so precious…when they’re sleeping! It’s hard to keep the choice of two in perspective when one is chewing on the bottom of the kitchen cabinets while the other is peeing down the air vent.

This brother and sister duo can be chaotic, but they’ve also brought lots of love and laughter into our home. We’ve belly-laughed watching him discover and chase his own tail, and her bounce like she’s Tigger with springs in her hind legs. It’s as if they’ve lived here for years. They’re a natural part of our family. They love to be loved and to give love. Snuggles and softness and wet kisses are part of the package with these two. It’s double the loyalty, double the love.

It’s always easier said than done, but isn’t that true with most anything? This too shall pass and I’ll soon forget how crazy they made me and long for those ‘cute puppy days’.

I’ll try hard to remember that while I’m double-lamenting for my sanity 😉

Our opinions become fixed at the point where we stop thinking. ~Ernest Renan