Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A revolving door, a basket of big shoes, and a house full of happy

My blog title pretty much sums of the theme of my summer. It is one of much coming and going of friends and family.  No, we haven't offered our home as a summer air B&B, officially yet!  Lol!  But I must say, it kind of feels like it.  Believe me, this is a good thing.   Truly, this is the first summer in six years since not being well that I am able to experience the pure joy of the crazy chaos of my surroundings.  Sometimes I am an active participant of the silliness, and sometimes I am a passive one.  No matter the case, I am savoring each moment of living, not just surviving. 

Mike and I tease about our B&B because we up front tell people that it really is a "make your own bed and cook your own breakfast" for the most part. It takes me hours before I really function well in the mornings while so many "normal" folks have already been up and at it for the day. However, there is always food in the fridge and a grocery store around the corner.  Most importantly, hot coffee can be offered at all times of the day. Win win!!  Our guest bedroom and our man cave in the basement are frequently occupied.  Between my own guys as well as their many friends, I actually can't keep up with who is where most of the time! Crazy!  Sounds of laughter and joy fill our home which certainly lift our spirits.  

The silly shenanigans of board and video games being played, movies runnng as if the basement were a theater, cooking and baking at all hours of the day and night, and basketball bouncing in the driveway---make our home a place where all are welcome for sure.  I truly treasure every moment as I know the young men and women are growing up, moving away, and settling into their new lives.  This is bittersweet. 

Watching our own sons and their beautiful friends interact and share life together makes my heart very happy.  Over the years our house has always been a full one, and I wouldn't trade that for the world.  Parenting young adults and journeying with them as they step into this uncertain world full of daunting challenges is not an easy thing.  Who knew?  We try our best to guide with lots of love and understanding and then step aside and allow God to fully watch over and care for them.   

This summer our family bid farewell to some dear friends of many years.  Obviously this was not easy to do, but saying goodbye was a necessary part of the process for them to move on to new midlife adventures.  For that, we are happy for them.  We celebrated with small parties and picnics to help give them send offs they will hopefully remember for years to come.  I know we will.  

I am not saying that the Aleo summer has been devoid of conflict and sick days and suffering. This is certainly not the case.  As a family we are always working on relationship issues which entail much prayer and sacrifice and sometimes keeping our "big mouths shut"!!  However, it is in the deep mystery of receiving God's mercy and grace that we gather the strength to press onward together.  

So, amidst the work and play schedules, the sick and painful days, the sitting with others who are hurting and suffering, the celebrations of important life events, and gathering around the big kitchen table for many meals of the loaves and fishes, our house is full of happy.  Praise God.  








Monday, July 31, 2017

Singing sweetly


"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body,what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"     Matthew 6:25-27 (NIV)

These past few weeks of summer, I have had some beautiful opportunities to sit still and listen to the voice of my Father.  Really listen.  The little break I have taken from the constant stimuli from social media has been well worth it to my soul.   Instead of fixating on what is going on in everyone else's lives and all the fake filters of beauty, I have been intentional about paying more attention to my own.  Connecting and listening and praying with and for people have allowed me to center my days with a slightly new focus and purpose.  It feels refreshing and meaningful.  

This summer season as well as this season in which God is placing me have been pivotal for my interior growth.   Living with the daily-ness of chronic M usually has me in a state of anxiety or worry to some degree.  It is a fact of life that I live with now but learning how to better manage it is the key to acceptance and moving forward with new goals and dreams.   I have been blessed with ongoing opportunities to become a patient advocate within the M community and help others on their journeys of living with this debilitating disease.   Helping others, for me, is the best way to get the worrisome focus off of myself and lean into God's promises of His protection, guidance, and love.  Grace.  All Grace.  

Recently I had the pleasure of watching mamma bird feeding her little ones while flying in and out of the little birdhouse.  I love observing nature because it really brings me closer in touch with our magnificent Creator.  The small songbird would sing sweetly much of the day to her little ones. She would feed them and protect her house.  Being a close observer on and off during the day gave me joy in my soul.  I meditated on God's Word about how He cares for us and all of His creation .  It was calming to be in the quiet presence of mamma bird and her young.  True peace washed over me.  No room for worry.  Praise God.  

Have you had any opportunities to witness nature lately that have given you pause for praise and thanksgiving to our Creator?  
Have any particular circumstances allowed for true peace to settle into your soul without the world's constant worry and anger shouting large? 

These few photos were taken from inside our house looking out through a screen because mamma bird did not like me getting too close. National Geographic I am not.  

I wanted to share the beauty of nature with all of you.   No fake filters. The real deal.  






Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Settling into Summer

Here it is mid July already. How can this be?? I am taking a little break from my normal routine of blogging and being attached to social media.  I haven't cut it out all together but have drastically reduced time spent in social media land. I must say, it is a welcome relief.  Instead, I am enjoying connecting with my people the "old fashioned" way of person to person.  Leaning in and listening and sharing life together are refreshing and comforting.  Holding hands, exchanging hugs, and laughing along side one another invite heart to heart conversations.  

I have been blessed this past month to just take in each precious moment with dear friends and family without a forced agenda full of expectations. This has been good for both me and my family.  It has given us time to just be together in the simplist of ways.  We are breathing in the calm and peaceful rhythms of grace---gifts from God.  Praise Him.  

There have been quiet,unspoken miracles made from our messes.  Prayers answered.  Beauty from ashes.   The sacred simple. 

Here are just a few glimpses of my summertime moments--- sipping iced tea on the porch.  Dancing with Fourth of July sparklers.  Watching a fireworks display.  Eating way too much delicious ice cream.  Walking out in nature.  Standing in awe of the vastness of our universe by viewing the moon and the stars.  Laughing silly at our family game nights.  Catching fireflies. Chasing childhood memories.  Celebrating family milestones with a party.  Planting flowers.  Watching flowers grow.  Relaxing instead of doing.  Prioritizing the need for rest first instead of last. 
  
How is your summer unfolding?   Have you noticed a different flow and rhythm to your days?  Have you given yourself permission to relax and turn off a little social media?  

Wishing and praying you have the opportunity to take time to watch the flowers grow.  












Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Surviving at Sea

The sound of the waves with their rhythmic ebb and flow beckons me to come closer.   

My bare feet, cold and full of seaweed and pebbles, squish into the wet, brown sand. 

I hesitate---not sure if I really desire to leave the peace and calm of the shore. I step ever so slowly and cautiously into the frigid, murky waters of the Long Island Sound. 

Curiosity and courage move my feet forward as the water becomes deeper and colder. I swim. And swim. And swim. 

I soon grow weary from swimming. The ocean is vast---it makes me feel so small. Looking around, I see no one. I feel scared and alone. 

My body starts to naturally tread water. I breathe the ocean air while trying not to panic. Instinctively my body alternates between swimming and floating on my back. I question why I ever left the safety of the shore.  

Before I realize it, I am in the middle of a storm at sea with the treacherous waves and hot, beating sun overtaking my body. It is terrifying. I am trying to save myself. 

I thirst. The water is salty and not fit to drink. I am hungry. I have no food.  My body is wracked with pain from head to toe. 

The waves are relentless and keep pulling me under.  

All is black.  I can't find any light. 

Where are the life boats? Where is help when I desperately need it? 

I cry out in prayer to God to save me! Heal me! Please take away the awful pain and darkness of this experience! Please! I can't take it anymore. 

My screams of terror and desperation are not heard in the middle of this gigantic ocean. Or are they?

My body is in so much distress, and I am pushed beyond my limits. Or so I think.  

The sea becomes stormier and scarier by the minute. I am pulled under time and time again thinking surely I will be taking my last breath.  For good.  

This is it. I feel it. Lost at sea. 

Wait---I have so much more living to do! Please God, help me. Save me from myself!!

Then, far off in the distance, I see a light. 

The waves calm down and I begin swimming toward the light. 

I forget about my weary, thirsty, hungry, and sun-burned body. I keep swimming, not by my own strength, but by God's grace.  

As the light appears closer so do the glimpses of a shoreline. Muffled voices cry out to me. I am giddy with excitement! I smile. Swim. Laugh. And swim some more.  

Help is on the horizon! God IS saving me! He is sending me a miracle. 

People are running into the ocean to save me. They care for me. They love me. 

Yes, I have a lot more living to do. 

New hopes, new dreams, new God-sized purposes to fulfill. 

After seven very long years at sea, I am braver, stronger, and wiser. I know how to better care for myself whether in the midst of a raging sea or on the calm, sandy shore. 

This intentional knowing serves me well. 

Without my new found faith in our Almighty God, I would have remained in the darkness.  

He continues to sustain me on and off the shore. 

I did not choose this incredible and chaotic journey.  

It chose me. 


 

 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Sweetness After the Storm

Greetings, June!  I am happy to be welcoming in a new month and a sunny day for a change around here.  June is the start of summer and the beginning of another rhythm and flow to this season of life and activity. For me, I am sure ready to bid farewell to the month of May.  

Transitions into any season wreak havoc on my body and spirit.  This Spring was no exception unfortunately. It was the pits for me!!  Between the pollen and the rapid barometer pressure shifts as well as the crazy temperature fluctuations, I felt doomed.  I should have stayed in bed with the covers pulled over my aching head.  Oh, that's right, I mostly did. Ugh.  But as life moves on, I didn't really want to miss a moment of it.  I get much more frustrated and lonely when bed is where I must stay.  

Last night was a whopper of a loud thunderstorm, and I felt it was kind of a good way to end May.  By morning the air and sky were clearing, the temps normalized, the birds were sweetly chirping, and my outside plants and flowers received heaven's rains. It was all good. 

As I took my brief late morning stroll around the neighborhood, the sun shown brightly and the bees and the butterflies were busy about their day's work among the flowers.  I noticed how green the grass looked and it reminded me of the green of Ireland. A true peace washed over my body and soul.  A peace that had alluded me for some time now.   I felt refreshed and renewed.  

I thanked my Creator for the reprieve and temporary calm after the wicked storms of which I have been enduring.  

Definitely, there is a sweetness after the storm. 

I pray for all of you, my friends, to experience some of that sweetness too!  


Since June is headache and migraine awareness month, I will again this year be posting some facts about the disease and try and shed some light on it.  I will continue to share my personal story as well.  


 


 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Wake up. Get up. Show up.

It is Monday and the start of a new week.   I am waking up. Getting up. Showing up.  I am stepping into this week with a new determination of body, mind, and spirit to get going once again---No. Matter. What.   For this past month, I have felt beaten up, torn and tattered from my battle with chronic M. It has left me wounded as though "IT" has had the upper hand.  Ugh.  Many various triggers have been involved which have been completely out of my control.   Unfortunately, this is my reality with this illness. The message is loud and clear, thank you very much. 

 Many family and friends and well meaning folks ask me "why" all the latest trouble.  I am on a continuous roller coaster of highs and lows which leaves me drained to no end.   It is what it is.   I try and mange the illness the best way possible, but "IT" is always a moving target.  There is no simple answer to give.  Acceptance of my reality is the best gift I can give to myself.  This doesn't mean giving in or giving up trying to live the best life possible amidst the circumstances, it means having the faith to persevere along the rocky road.  I love my life and desire to live it to the fullest for which God has purposed me.  

Many lessons learned along the way as well as many gifts received are treasured indeed.  As I said before, I am humbled and grateful.  

I feel deep gratitude for another day to wake up, get up, and show up.  I don't how far I will travel or what I will get accomplished, but I do know with the Lord's constant help and mercy, I will walk in faith and seize every opportunity to reach out and encourage someone who needs a little help. 

I will close with a few insightful words of A.B. Simpson who wrote in my daily reflection book, Streams in the Desert.  

"The pressure of hard places makes us value life.  Every time our life is given back to us from such a trial, it is like a new beginning, and we learn better how much it is worth, and make more of it for God and man.  The pressure helps us to understand the trials of others and fits us to help and sympathize with them...  Trials and hard places are needed to press us forward, even as the furnace fires in the hold of that mighty ship give force that moves the piston, drives the engine, and propels that great vessel across the sea in the face of the winds and waves."  

It is my hope and prayer for you that in your trials, both great and small, you will be able to navigate the stormy seas and stay aboard the mighty ship until it reaches the calm shores of peace.  


 

 
 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Letting go

Lately I have been struggling with letting go.  This struggle is certainly not new to me, but sometimes I feel its tug-of-war more harshly.  Springtime seems to be the perfect season to declutter drawers and clean out closets and purge the unnecessary junk in my life.  This process of cleaning out and letting go is one which reaps freedom both physically and emotionally.   I get that.  I really do.  I have learned from my Buddhist sister that holding onto attachments is not healthy.  The older I become, the more I realize this to be quite true.  

For the past six months or so, I have had a front row seat to watching closely the way my Buddhist sister and neighbor has been quietly and calmly going about the business of cleaning out, giving away, and preparing to move states away from CT.  Her concentrated and focused effort in the tedious task has been inspiring to watch.   As her house contents became less and less chaotic, her soul grew more contented and peaceful.   It was obvious to many around her.  She actually shared in conversations details about the process and what it felt like as she was preparing her home and heart to move from her dwelling of twenty years to begin a new adventure.   

Sharing in her personal journey of departure has been a sacred time for me as well.  For months, I, too, have been practicing the discipline of detaching on several levels.  In reality, my friend has greatly motivated me to get to my own house and dig in and start really thinking about needs vs. wants.  What is necessary to keep vs. what can I part with so that others may live better?  Over the twenty some years of living in our current house, I think we have collected too much, and a lot of "stuff" just sits.  Ugh.  This doesn't feel like freedom to me.  Instead, it feels burdensome.  

On an emotional level, the process of letting go is more related to how can I simplify my daily living that better fits my daily-ness of chronic M?   This is a big task and not to be taken lightly.  It is a personal decision carefully tailored to fit my needs within the boundaries of my family and social life.  (Yes, I do still have somewhat of a social life!)  As I learn to continually let go of what no longer serves me in my current health status, boy, what a freedom I discover.  Big time.  To be honest, this is where I have my deepest struggle.  I "want" to have certain aspects of my "old life" back.  Some days I find myself totally sad and attached to my "easier" days of DOING. That being said, I am being refined in the fire day by day.  

The Good Shepherd continually calls me to Him so that He can can give me eyes of faith to discern His Wisdom and true Peace. Letting go from attachments of this world allows much more space for the Holy Spirit to guide me all the days of my life.  

With a bittersweet heart, I am letting go of my dear friend and neighbor who has lived across the street from me for twenty years.  We will communicate and share life across the miles as many friendships often do. We are spiritual sisters who share Christianity and Buddhism in our journey of life. I thank her for all she has taught to me over the years.  She is a very wise lady.  

We will luckily have the ability to walk and talk via FaceTime!  How wonderful is that?!  Encouragement and love are always meant to be shared no matter how close or how far away.   I cherish the blessings of my true friendships no matter where they may dwell or no matter how often I am in their physical presence.  Love you all, my special ladies! ❤️❤️❤️

I dedicate this post to sweet Nelum--- may God grant you His Peace and His Light on your paths yet untraveled.