Thursday, November 16, 2017

Humble hospitality

From Thanksgiving until the finish of the Christmas season and  into the new year, we all have a laundry list of places to go, people to see, and food to bake (and eat) in preparation for the holiday season to commence.  November and December are busy months that can drain us rather quickly.  It is a never-ending cycle of self-imposed stress and expectations which can take down a person’s body, mind, and spirit quicker than you can shout,” Santa Claus”!  Yikes!  “This year will be different” we all may say, but alas, it usually never is.  Sigh. 

Do we really enjoy those eight consecutive weeks or so of hyperventilating and catching colds and other viral infections due to pure exhaustion?  I know I DO NOT.   The gift we can all count on that “ keeps giving” is the nasty Holiday Cold.  Ugh. Then, unfortunately, all the places we want to go, people we want to see, and food we want to bake becomes a little less doable and enjoyable.   
 
Upon reflection, I would like to offer a different perspective. The past seven years have taught me what it is like to NOT be in control of those “to do” lists  and expectations.  I am grateful for the opportunity to adjust and adapt accordingly without feelings of undue pressure or guilt.  I want to enjoy with my whole being what the true meaning of each Season has to offer.   For me, Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, and Epihany are all worth slowing down and sharing with others.  For you, it might be different traditions that are expressed and shared with your loved ones.  These celebrations can be meaningful only if we are fully present with one another and focusing on what is important.   

I truly enjoy having family and friends  popping in and out of our home all through those two months.  I accept that my home may look neat and tidy one day and rather messy the next.  This.is.okay.   Yep, it is!   It means more to me to sit down and share coffee, tea, hot chocolate and other treats (freshly baked or not) around our sticky kitchen table because this is our reality.  And more often than not, our reality is a messy one both exteriorly and interiorly. We are who we are.   I want our home to ALWAYS be a place of welcome to others.  To me, this looks like humble hospitality.   We, at times, have a full house when all of our family visits. Bedrooms are eschew, and we play musical chairs looking for places to sit. Lol!  When my sons and their high school friends come back to visit, and the house is full of laughter and cheer, my heart melts a thousand  times over.  Even if my body is not feeling too well, my soul is certainly uplifted.   Offering hospitality to others, in turn, heals me. 

I love decorating and baking, but I give myself permission to do it only when I have some energy and not in much pain.  Otherwise it becomes a burden, and emotionally I become irritable and even resentful.   The same reasoning can go for anyone.   If you aren’t up for the task for one reason or another, then no worries.  You can find another time that will help you focus better.  Save your energy for being with your loved ones even if that means store bought treats and paper plates.  If your sharing is done with love, that is all that matters.  

“Entertaining”evokes perfection and stress, at least to me.  It seems to feel formal and fussy.   Not that there is anything wrong with formal parties and fancy gatherings, but they lack spontaneity and simplicity.  It is not a “come as you are” type of thing—- it is finding that right little black dress!  Ugh! Talk about stress.  Lol!  Entertaining involves detailed menu planning, gourmet cooking or catering, and meticulous decorating.   That also stresses me out because we never seem to have ALL the lights lit simultaneously throughout the season.  It just never happens.  So,we laugh and go on.  

Humble hospitality invites intentional connection.   The end goal is certainly not perfection.   Loved ones and even new guests come around to just “be” with each other.  You can come in your reindeer pajamas if you wish!  Heck, just come.  Sitting, talking, smiling, eating, and laughing are some of the greatest gifts we can give one another.  They don’t need to be bought and wrapped in fancy paper.  

I am greatly anticipating this most Holy Season of Promise, Love, Redemption, and Joy.  It is my favorite time of year in which to share and celebrate the Good News.  In order to keep my heart and body in balance, I won’t be formerly entertaining, but I will open our door and warmly invite all who wish to come to gather for conversation, connection, and communion.    Come.  

Have a blessed Thanksgiving. 













Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The road to freedom

As I walk out my front door on a daily basis (well, almost), I feel nothing but deep gratitude within my soul.  I take a few cleansing breaths in and out and start on my way. Sometimes I feel pretty strong and ready to tackle my neighborhood full of hills, but other times I don’t have much energy, so I take the shorter paths which are a bit easier to walk.  Each day is a new normal for me, and I must allow myself space and patience to adjust and adapt. There is no longer getting out of bed quickly and running out the door in a hurry without hesitation or being lead by wild abandon—sometimes I secretly miss those days because they felt like freedom to me.  Instead, I no longer take for granted the healing that comes from planting one’s feet solidly on the ground and intentionally stepping forth.  

It does not matter how far I go nor the pace of which I travel.  I could care less.  No, I do not clock my daily steps with a Fitbit or some other device.  To me, this is a hinderance to my own progress.  I walk quietly and purposefully without the noise of music or podcasts straining my ears.  Why?  Because each step matters.  My story matters.  My freedom matters. There are days when I am struggling with a lot of pain and fatigue so I might only jaunt briefly around the yard.  I call this a success.   Dropping my competitive yearn as in years ago gives me the freedom from comparison which does not serve me well. It is refreshing to just walk, observe, ponder, and pray.   I call this my “gratitude walk”.   It is a sacred time to commune with God and feel His peace wash over me. 

Sometimes my path might be an evening stroll on our boardwalk at the beach with my hubby.  We walk hand in hand and just talk about our day while connecting with one another. If we are lucky, we run into friends who are walking as well and we stop and chat and share some laughter.  This brings some levity into our souls which is appreciated after dealing with the stressors of the day. What a blessing for me to continue to gain strength to physically walk more than I have in several years.  Michael reminds me of how far I have come and to celebrate what I can do on any given day and not focus on what I can’t.  Once again, freedom. 

There were many days and weeks over the past years that I was so completely debilitated that I was unable to walk outside.  I could only manage shuffling around the inside first floor of my home. Sometimes I couldn’t even manage that alone.  I had to have help from my caring family or my dear sweet friends.  What blessings they were!  God was certainly caring for me in those times when I felt the most vulnerable.  Those were dark, depressing days that definitely did NOT feel like freedom.     

This year I am celebrating more milestones of actually putting one foot in front of the other and finally getting somewhere!  WooHoo!  My strength and hope are renewed, and my Heavenly Father is paving the way before me.   I continue to walk in His Love and Light.  When I surrender to His will, I know His perfect plan will be worked out in and through me.   Not my way,  but His.   Freedom. 

The road to healing is not a straight one.   I am sure you are well aware of this yourselves, no matter your circumstances.   I veer off to the side of my road many times and end up in a ditch.  Presently the ditch isn’t so deep , so I am able to get out and find my path which leads to freedom once again.  It seems to be a continual process of our lives.  

Can you think of areas of your life that you might have fallen off the road and into a ditch?  Is it possible to regain your strength and reset your GPS to guide you to your destination?   My hopes and prayers are with you on your road to freedom, and may you discover sweet joy in your journey as well. 

As Henri Nouwen says,
      “ In everything keep trusting that God is with you, that God has given you companions on the journey.  Keep returning to the road to freedom.”  













Monday, October 9, 2017

To breathe or not to breathe

‘‘Tis the season of smellies and artificial scents all over the place.  Ugh!!  I dread just stepping out of my scent free zone and into the not so subtle aromas of candles, poupori, sprayed cinnamon sticks and pine cones, smelly floral arrangements of Fall.  Sadly, on top of the everyday bombardment of artificial smells, I am now dealing with the worse two seasons of all—Fall and Winter.  I am tired of being polite or politically correct on this issue, so bear with me while I make my voice (and nose) heard. 

I suffer from extreme chemical sensitivity which is only one of the many annoying symptoms of chronic M.  This symptom is difficult to manage due to the fact I must live in the world and not stay contained in a bubble which is fragrance free.  Unfortunately, if I just wouldn’t have to breathe, I might be better off.   Lol.   All kidding aside, breathing in toxic chemicals which are so offensive is not healthy for anyone.  This is the truth. What ever happened to “natural scents”?  Why do we attach artificial scents to the air filter systems, cleaning products, room deodorizers, etc etc?  Most are completely unnecessary.  The smell of real baked apple and pumpkin pies is sure better than a yankee candle.  Simply placing fresh citrus in bowls works well to add a fresh odor to any environment.  

It seems like I can’t go into stores, office buildings(medical included), public restrooms without potentially entering a mine field.  I find that most store changing rooms smell so badly that I can’t even try on the clothes. I must take them home for that process. Those scents not only trigger an awful M, but I physically get respiratory distress which is another whole level of sick.  And yes, I carry scarves with pure peppermint oil or apply Vick’s vapor rub to my nose.  I certainly do everything to help myself, but sometimes it isn’t enough.  I not only speak for myself, but I am advocating for my fellow sufferers as well.  

If I visit someone’s home I need to ask them ahead of time to please “de-scent” their place.  For my dear friends and family I don’t feel embarrassed but for people whom I do not know, I don’t say anything and then just “hope for the best”.   If their house doesn’t waft with artificial smells, someone undoubtedly will be bathed in strong perfume!  I can’t win.  Even staying for a short time is not really a viable option for me.  It is not that simple. Church can be a disaster zone—- perfumes and incense will send me running for the door.  I can walk in feeling pretty well and leave feeling pretty sick.   

Since chronic M is mostly an invisible illness, how I may look is not a true indicator of how I may actually feel.  Dressing up nicely to appear in public with a smile on my face doesn’t mean I am not bothered by my surroundings and ready to head straight on ino a sick attack.   I do my ever-lovin’ best to participate in every way I can to enjoy life and all its blessings, but my overly sensitive nervous system has different ideas.  If you happen to see me with a strange look on my face with eyes glazed over, you will know I am headed to go down soon.  So, get out of my way!!!  

I kindly ask consideration, tolerance, and understanding of my heightened chemical sensitivity even though it may seem awkward or strange.  Please don’t be offended if I ask you to not wear perfume or give me lotions and soaps for gifts.  It is nothing personal against you. Not at all.  It helps me to navigate my surroundings a bit easier so that I can enjoy stepping outside of my comfort zone.   It would be much appreciated. 
 
So this year at the Thanksgiving table, please pass the turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, but not the artificial cinnamon pine cones around the centerpiece.   Thank you. 

















Monday, September 25, 2017

A leaf of faith

Autumn is upon us, and fairly soon here in New England, our trees and fire bushes will turn glorious colors---golden yellow, crimson red, burnt orange, and finally brown.  As fun as it is to witness and enjoy the ever changing landscape, this means that there is positively no more holding onto summer.  My flip flops definitely give way to my favorite boots, and time marches forward.  Ready or not. 

As with nature's seasons, our personal life seasons are similar.   Some bring unwanted and untimely sadness and suffering, and we tend to want that time to pass over us as quickly as possible.   The hurt and pain and darkness can become very burdensome to bear.   Other seasons fill us with immense joy and ease to breathe.  The light seems to certainly overshadow the dark.  It is only natural that we desire to stay connected and soak up all the gifts of this season.  

I am always learning that whatever season I may currently be walking through at the present, God has in store for me great gIfts of His love and mercy to continue down my path set before me.  I may not understand the "why", but I want to respond with a "yes" to His will.  This isn't always easy by any means.  Currently, God is asking me to really take a "leaf" of faith to trust Him in the waiting.  Patience.  More patience.  

There is always interior growth during any season but certainly more in the difficult ones.  With ease comes a bit of relaxed comfort, but with the cold, dark trying times, sprouts of faith are rooting below the surface.  We just can't see those "fruits" in the waiting from our human perspective.  Only God can. 

My particular seasons of living with chronic M are helping me embrace my faith ever more fervently.  Somehow I go in and out of them like a flowing river, and sometimes I go kicking and screaming like a maniac.   This.is.true.   (Ask my hubby and kids)!   

How about you?  What season are you currently traversing?  Are you fumbling and bumbling along your thorny path, or are your feet planted firmly on the ground moving forward with confidence?  

Maybe you are finding it hard to hang on just one more day because the pain seems overwhelming.  I understand, my friend.  I' ve been there.  Don't give up.  Another season of light and beauty is around the corner.  Believe this to be true.  

Let's all take a "leaf" of faith in the Autumn of our lives.  












Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September skies

As the school buses roar up the streets once again, and I hear the giggling of children's voices, I know that Fall has arrrived in some sense of the word.  While the yearly calendar may not officially state its arrival until September 22, the lazy hazy days of summer routines are now replaced with the mad rush of back to school nights, football games, and band performances on the field.  In our particular area since we are a shoreline community, we are bidding farewell to most of the tourists and hello to lots of school activities and getting stuck behind school buses--- especially when it comes to having a time crunch to get to my needed appointments.  Ugh!  It seems we are trading one delay for another.  That's ok.  It is good to take a pause every now and again.

 However, time moves on whether I am ready or not.  

Watching and listening to the younger families go here and there with "concerned" looks on their faces remind me of my younger years toting my own boys around from practically sunrise to sunset.  I was involved in carpools, after school activities, volunteering for what seemed like everything, and prepping for dinner mid afternoon just so a good, hot meal would be ready at different times of the day according to the schedules.  Whew!  Just writing about this tires me!  Some days it is actually hard to imagine that we all survived those challenging but rewarding years.  

This is the time of year that I feel the most in between of sorts.  Living in a beach area is so much fun and has a more "let's stick with summer feel".  I am still enjoying the boardwalk strolls and putting my toes in the cool sand.  There is definitely less sunlight now, so it is quite noticeable that the days are growing shorter.  I feel that all so gentle nudge to eat dinner a little earlier on the porch so that we can quickly clean up and head down to the beach to catch the GORGEOUS September sunsets.  They are magnificent.  God's masterpieces on display.  No other explanations needed.  

During the day the September sky has a unique glow all of its own.  The color is azure with nary a white cloud.  In the late afternoon, the tilt of the setting sun shines at a different angle in my family room. By 4:00pm, it is quite noticeable. 

 Also, the squirrels are scampering about collecting their food stash for the winter.  They are hysterical at times, but when they dig into my potted plants, I am none to happy. I am fascinated at the signs given in nature to help us prepare for the seasonal changes ahead.  

My body is trying to prepare for the upcoming season of Autumn.  This.is.never.easy.   However, since I am currently undergoing new treatments for managing my chronic M, I will step forward with more confidence and Hope than in past years.   

How are you facing Fall?  Are you ready for pumpkins, mums, and apple cider donuts?  Do you like the refreshing cool, crisp air? Sweaters and boots? Fading daylight?

For me, I have one foot with a flip flop on firmly planted in summer sand while the other foot is inside my favorite boot firmly planted on Fall leaves.  

Whatever season, just enjoy its gift.  







Monday, August 28, 2017

Lean in, listen closely, and linger longer

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time."  
                  John Lubbock,  The Use of Life

While summertime has a rhythm and flow all of its own which tends towards a lot of "doing"---going on vacations, celebrating friendships over backyard  picnics, entertaining the kids out of school, and maybe attending local baseball games, it is still important to make space for some rest.   Holy Rest.  Slowing down and fully embracing the quieter moments that summertime has to offer can be full of soul refreshment.  It is like sipping a cool, tall glass of fresh iced tea or lemonade while siting on a neighbor's porch and being fully present without an agenda or expectation.   No rushing allowed.  Practicing leaning in and listening closely as if time stands still for a brief, few moments are  cherished.  A spiritual thirst is quenched.  

It always seem like I can hardly wait for the arrival of summer especially after a long, cold and dreary spring up here in New England.  I have my ideas and agendas which are only loosely set in soft sand.  I absolutely love the break in routine and just go with the flow.  That's how we fly at our home currently.  Lots of comings and goings and activity balanced with the need for rest and quiet.  But then before I know it, August is upon us!  Where did the time go?!!  

I still wish for daylight to last past 8:00pm!  Now after we eat dinner, we hurry to clean up the dishes to get to our boardwalk before dark.  That little bit of rushing can sometimes make me feel anxious.  However, I guess that is preparing me for the fall routine.  Wow.  The sunsets this summer have been magnificent.  I want to see every one of them so as not to ever take for granted God's grandeur of His glorious gifts.  His beauty shines forth upon this dark and messy world.  God is in control.  

Looking over the past seven years of living with chronic M, I must say that this summer has brought me the greatest joy of participating in my life once again.  I still journey through the ups and downs wth this disease and the unpredictability of what the next hour will bring, but I am learning better how to manage and cope.  I care for my body differently now and realize the importance of balancing the doing with the being. 

I would love to hear of some of your highlights and adventures you experienced this summer.  I also am happy to listen to your struggles as well.  This is life no matter what season we are in at the moment.  

Maybe in the next few weeks we have left of summer, we could slow down from the frantic pace of preparing for fall and lean into the wonders of nature.  Let's stop and listen more closely to someone in need and offer some encouragement.   How about we linger longer in the unhurried moments that are left of this bright and sunny season.  Meet me on my deck, and we can sip some fresh iced tea and smile.  















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.  

 
 

 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Spring Awakenings

As the season of Spring brings new life, hope, and renewal, so does turning another year older bring me new possibilities of moving forward in my personal journey.  This April I turned 53, and I am not afraid to tell my age one bit.  I am thankful for everyday that God gives me breath on this side of heaven. The older I get, the less I am concerned about age and the perverbial fountain of youth.  Hooey on that stuff!  One thing that life with chronic M constantly teaches me is to definitely NOT sweat the small, silly things. Embracing the beauty and goodness around me is what keeps me focused on the positive even on days when it may be really difficult. Life is all about fully living in this present moment and paying attention to it. 

Being aware of my surroundings is like going on a daily treasure hunt for me.  I am like a crazy woman scouting our yard and neighborhood with my iPhone snapping pictures of all the gorgeous signs of new life.  The trees, bushes, flowers and plants are bursting forth with blossoms of brilliant colors and deep shades of green. The squirrels and the chipmunks are running around busily and full of life as they seem to almost play tag games with one another.  My heart is always happy when I see my favorite bunnies hopping about the yard chewing on grass trying not to be seen. My ears are in tuned to the various birds tweeting and singing as they are constantly eating at our bird feeder.  They are my "outside pets " which are really easy to care for!  The adorable woodpecker is comical and provides me entertainment while I sit at the kitchen table and view his antics out the window. 

It is apparent that the interior work of Winter is now bearing sweet fruit.  I don't want to miss a second of it because it passes so quickly and then the newness of the fragile transition is gone...

There is a hymn that I grew up singing that I believe captures the essence of my message.  It is beautiful.  I invite you to listen and pause just for a little and give praise and gratitude for all the gifts and blessings which surround us.    

Happy Earth Day to all! 

Here is the link to the hymn by John Rutter. 


 
 
 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Happy Anniversary to me

Many milestones in life both great and small, as well as the seemingly in-between, are often marked by anniversaries.  For many varied reasons, important dates are remembered.  They can have happy memories attached to them like romantic events, birthdays, religious ceremonies, graduations, achievement awards, and the like.  However, some anniversaries may be more somber and carry with them a heaviness of the heart. These may involve the passing of a loved one, leaving good friends for a far-a-way move, or even remembering a tragic historical event like 9/11.  No matter the circumstances surrounding the anniversaries, they help us keep track of the rhythm and flow of the seasons.  

March 29, 2017, I marked my one year anniversary of my first health visit to my world renowned headache specialist.  For me ( and my family) this was actually a big deal.  You may think that is kind of weird or a bit overboard, but not so.   I was all grins and giggles for the day! 😊😉   When I stepped into his quiet and very courteous office last year, I was impressed from the start.  The waiting room lights were dimmed.  There was no music or loud TV blaring.  The office managers spoke in whispers behind the glass window with warm, friendly smiles.  Really?  Was this place for real??   Yes it was, and praise be to God for it!!  I knew help was on the way.  

In reality, Dr. G's care of me has changed my life and how I now live and manage my chronic M.  I had tried six ways to Sunday looking for the right care until God placed the opportunity right in my path.  I am slowly stepping back into my own shoes (or should I say Texas boots) once again.  It is nothing less than a miracle.  Dr. G is another critical care health provider along with my cranial sacral, massage, and yoga therapists who are helping me climb new mountains of HOPE.  I am grateful from the bottom of my heart.  

You might be wondering just how did I celebrate this exciting one year anniversary?  Flowers? No, too smelly.  Candy? No, only good dark chocolate counts.  A yummy lunch out?  No, my hubby had to return to work.  Give up?   What a better way to celebrate than receiving 31 Botox injections all over my head and neck!!  Silly, now why didn't you think of that? Lol. 

All is well, and I feel stable-ish at this moment.  I am getting used to the treatments now and look forward to them as I know they will help me feel "better".   It is daily management of many symptoms that are complicated and debilitating but research is underway all the time.   The second part to my exciting anniversary is that I am being enrolled into a new research study by my specialist and a team of other great minds who are clinically looking at patients and their responses to certain "data".  Of course this is secret now. I feel like I am a spy of sorts.  Kinda fun.  

Do you celebrate special anniversaries both great and small?  Joyful and sorrowful?   How does celebrating make you feel?   Maybe today or in the near future you might remember someone who may be in need of your assistance in helping them remember a special anniversary in their lives. 

 

 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A blessing to others

On this snowy day, what a better idea than to write another blog post?!   Actually, this time I want to share my friend's post because she has an amazing heart for the Lord and for her new ministry.  Her name is Beverly Rihtarchik, and  we have been "blogging friends" for quite awhile now.  Beverly is a courageous and energetic woman who is the founder and president of Redeemer Christian Foundatiin, Inc which is a charity whose purpose is to assist in providing Christian education in impoverished areas in the Middle East.    This charity offers love and hope to those who are oppressed and will give them opportunities for a much better future.   Many children are orphans and many are being persecuted for their faith.  They really need our help.  

I am inviting Beverly to be my guest post today.  Won't you please take this time to read it and open up your heart to helping these children in need? 
Thank you so much!!  As we bless others, so too, we are blessed. 



I also invite you to follow Beverly's blog, Walkingwellwithgod, for a refreshing perspective on walking out our everyday faith.   She is a real sweetheart and encourager to all!  


Saturday, March 11, 2017

It's all about the boots

What do finger-lickin' barbecue, eclectic music, cowgirl boots, and man buns all have in common?  Why, Austin Texas, of course!  My recent adventure to Austin was quite a hoot!  In just a week's time, my hubby and I were able to gather a quick sense of Austin's fabulous culture.  People told us that we would enjoy the city, and enjoy we did.  

While Michael was busily working his days in an intense presentation workshop, I was fortunate to have some free time in which to explore my surroundings.  I took off on foot and made my way around the area near our hotel which was a high end, trendy marketplace called the Domain.   It was about twelve miles or so out of the city proper as well as from the UT Austin campus.  Many of the sights, smells, and sounds were interesting to say the least.   It was fun and freeing to explore and absorb.  

One of the main highlights of the trip was to connect with our son who is a junior at the university. He was so happy we could finally visit him and see a part of his corner of the world.  Our little sightseeing excursions involved tempting our palates with down home barbecue as well as Tex-mex cuisine. All very yummy indeed.  

The other fun "activity" was locating real cowgirl boots for me.  Yes, that's right!  If you know me, you realize that I am quite the boot gal.  I was determined before even making the trip that I wanted to find a pair of boots.  Mission accomplished.  Yay!!  And naturally I found a beautiful purse to match.  How much fun was that??  A lot! 

The weather was starting to turn into Spring,  so it was quite delightful.  Blooms of all colors were popping forth, and the crazy cacti were all over the place both in the wild as well as in planters.  So cool!  Walking about in light clothing was just what I needed from  a break from the long Winter. 

My big accomplishment was overcoming my fear and anxiety of taking a trip this far.  Flying on a plane with my temperamental head and annoying chronic M me nervous and reluctant to step forward and try.  However, the trip went well overall. I kept to my basic routine of eating and resting (like traveling with a toddler) and was able to mange my symptoms appropriately.  

I was thrilled to enjoy every single minute of this adventure. God's grace blanketed me, and I felt warm and comforted.   

I thank each and every one of you who wished me well and kept me in your thoughts and prayers.   Bless you!  I felt lifted up as on eagles wings.  Truly.  

My trusting and surrendering will continue this Lenten Season.  This is a time for listening. A time for growth.  A time for renewal.  


 


 B
 

 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Leaving on a jet plane

Right at this very exciting moment, I am actually constructing this blog post from more than twenty thousand feet in the air.  The sky is azure blue with layers of whispy clouds which appear as rows and rows of puffy cotton balls.  No, I am not dreaming.  No, I AM NOT DREAMING!  I am squeezed into my "comfy" seat by the window peering out of the Southwest plane.  Woo hoo!   My hero hubby is seated beside me intently reviewing a manuscript and notes for his upcoming seminar.  Fun.  For me, I am about to embark on a small adventure away from East Lyme, Ct.  Wow!  

 Where are we flying?  We are flying to Austin, Tx.  Michael just happens to be attending a workshop for a few days, and we are fortunate to be able to visit our son who is currently a junior at the Univ of Texas.  How cool is that??  Very cool. This opportunity could not be passed up.  Easy decision, right?  Well, not exactly.  

For the past seven years since my illness, I don't make decisions easily.  Not.one.bit.   Living with chronic M, on some days, makes stepping outside to walk to the mailbox a near impossible feat.  I am not kidding.  When those days drag on and on, I tend to lose my strength as well as courage to look forward to anything in the category that might be titled, "adventurous".  However, since I have been responding more positively to a new treatment regimen as well as acquiring an awesome headache specialist, this year I made up my mind that I was going to give "adventure" a new go of it. And a new go of it, it is!  

As I have mentioned in previous posts about preparing to attend an important event or special family gathering that might be an all day function, it takes me a ridiculous amount of time and bag of tricks to even help me manage.  So, in preparation for a week away in a hotel and flying on planes, I started to hit the panic button.  It took my dear family and amazing friends to encourage me not to freak out.  They said, "just try".  Two simple words.  Just try. 
How will I know what I can and cannot manage unless I "just try"? 

A big part of living with this debilitating illness is the fear.  Another is the anxiety.  I am not ashamed to say so, either.  I will keep writing and sharing, authentically, my journey.   If my story is to inspire and help others along their way, then I cannot be afraid to tell of my messy and broken. The only way to get to the bright side is to sludge through the mud at times. It isn't all a smooth path.  It is actually a welcomed path for more opportunities for God to work His miracles of continual grace and love.  

Now while I was carefully packing for this adventure, I made sure NOT to pack M Monster.  I told him on no uncertain terms that he was not allowed to accompany me to try and derail me from having a good time.  I thought all was going well until the morning that we were to depart.  There from across the room, as we were checking out, stood that M Monster laughing his sinister head off with that smirk on his face.  I thought to myself that I was seeing things.  What???  Arghhhhhhh!!!  Nooooo!  Blasted.  The shooting pain in my eye started and then the other all too familiar symptoms followed.  Instead of throwing a M Meltdown, I thought it best to pull myself together, medicate, and march forward to board the plane.   With that, my sweet hubby took my hand and told me that all was going to be just fine.  We would get to Austin even with Mr M.  He helped me "find my brave".  

I plan on sightseeing and spending time with our son while taking a sneak peek into his college world for a few days.  I hope to enjoy some warmer weather and get some good exercise by walking.   Michael and I are just happy to get out of dodge for awhile and break away from our same old, same old.  I feel confident that this short trip is exactly the perfect way to begin the Lenten season.  I am planning on fasting from fear and anxiety while feasting on trust and surrender. It is time to, once again, journey into the desert with our Lord and listen to His voice while drawing closer to Him through suffering.  

If you observe the Lenten season, I wish you a holy and meaningful forty days in the desert. 



 



 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Love whispers

I am a romantic at heart, so I guess this is why I truly enjoy celebrating Valentine's Day.  Many people complain that it is just another overrated, marketing ploy for people to spend too much money on cards, candy, flowers, and dinners out.  While this may be true, in part, I like to honor this love holiday in ways that honor our hearts, sans commercialism.   

In our current society that is glued to electronics for means of socialization, I desire to intentionally engage more face to face, hand in hand, and couch to couch if at all possible.  Sitting with people over coffee or tea while leaning in and listening to their stories invites simple hospitality for heart to heart engagement.  Warm and friendly hospitality can and should be simple.  Nothing fancy.  Nothing fussy.   Just respect the moment.  

There are countless creative ways to show care and concern for those whom we love and cherish.  It is important to tell them how much we love and appreciate their presence in our lives. Little notes of kindness and encouragement are fun to write.  Sometimes just lending a helping hand when and where it is needed could bring much needed relief to a heavy burden.  A sincere smile to a stranger might be the only positive display of Christ's love and light for them.  

Now, gift offerings of flowers and chocolate are perfectly acceptable, too!   (Hmmm. Dark organic chocolate is the best!) lol.   

L ight the darkness
O ffer help to someone in need
V alue time spent with one another 
E njoy the many blessings bestowed upon you.   

"And now these three remain:faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love. "     1corinthians 13:2 

Happy Valentine's Day! 
 



Monday, January 23, 2017

At the Intersection of Hope and Disappointment

After an amazing turn around for me regarding management of my chronic M toward the end of 2016, I was doing the happy dance as well as a few jigs for sure.  I was smiling away as I was able to participate in a good amount of holiday activities with family and friends as well as host a house full of guests for a month.  It was an open door policy with people coming and going, and let me say, all of that activity while wearing me out, really kept my heart joyful.  I was and still am---VERY thankful.  Praise God.  

Now, January has actually been a different story.  It arrived with a big boom of brazen M madness.  Ugh!  What was happening here?  On January 1, I experienced my own version of the new year hangover but not caused by too much happy drink as it were.  No, it was the all too familiar M hangover of a myriad of symptoms which weren't too pretty.  I was at the end of my botox run and was due for another treatment in the second week.  I practically crawled all the way to the office in Hartford.  My sweet and gracious headache specialist took such good care of me and offered hope and encouragement as he always does.  He is balm for my soul when I have close to meltdowns in front of him.  He GETS it.  He FEELS it.  He LIVES with it.  

Returning home and enduring the past few weeks have left me feeling like I have been at the intersection of hope and disappointment.  I came to the red light and have briefly stopped my journey to pause and reflect.  I am a bit worn down but still carry much HOPE within me.   I fully realize that living in the daily-ness of this chronic illness, I need to constantly readjust my sails according to the way the winds blow.  This is a given for survival as well as fully living. Over the years,  I am proud of myself in developing the necessary coping skills.  However, it is all because of God's loving and merciful hands all over me with His constant guidance and protection that give me my daily strength.  I consider my circumstances ALL GRACE.  

So it is time now to start back on a new road to take off to new adventures.  I have a few in mind, and I intend to chase after them..  I intend to pray for bravery and a new found trust in what lies ahead. I intend to look for miracles in my sometimes messy and mundane life.   

"And miracles happen whenever the emptiest places are made into a dwellling place for God," says one of my favorite authors, Ann Voscamp.   

I pray to also allow myself space to hold onto both hope and disappointment on any given day and just be with those feelings.  I pray I will do so without judgement.  Learning to accept the constant ups and downs is one of my big intentions for this year.  

No matter your current circumstances which may find you at your intersection of hope and disappointment, I invite you to just sit with your feelings as well without judgement.  Give them time and attention.  Learn from them and move on...

I bet you will discover wonderous miracles.   

Blessings.  
 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Living with intention

It is a week or so into the new year, and I am just now sitting down catching up on emails and blogging.  After a hectic and fun-filled holiday season, I am trying to catch my breath once again.  This past Christmas was special.  It was the first in seven years that I was able to be off the couch and actually participate in the family events and gatherings.  WOW!  I made it to a lively Irish music concert, two movies IN THE THEATER, view some movies at home, and cook, and clean, and host!!  Can I get an applause here?  I did, indeed, ENJOY the blessings.

Last year's "year of yes" surely ended with a resounding YES in many ways.  It seemed to be the perfect word for me.  A few years ago, I was challenged by a friend to choose a word for the year and pray and meditate on it.  It is a spiritual discipline that has proven creative and affirming.  I blogged several times about my year of YES and how that was shaping my journey.

Upon prayer and reflection, I am choosing "intention" as my word this year.  It is my intention to pay attention more in all areas of my life.   I desire to be more mindful and centered.  I do not wish to just be on cruise control or at a level of simply surviving my days.  Even in my dark and painful moments, I wish to be alert and respond purposefully, not carelessly react to life.

Each moment is a sacred gift from God.  It deserves my full and undivided attention no matter my circumstances. I long to linger soulfully, live braver, love deeper, and listen closer. 

I thought this quote from author John O' Donohue was appropriate to share. "At its heart, the journey of each life is a pilgrimage through unforeseen sacred places that enlarge and enrich the soul."

I invite you to think about choosing a word for the year that might help you discover greater enlightenment upon your path. It is my prayer and intention to be a humble
Kingdom-builder
Peace-maker
Hope-giver
Light-bearer