It’s Been A Bad Day but I am Good

Today has been one of those days.  You know the kind.  The I-never-should-have-climbed-out-of-bed and Can-this-day-just-end kind of days.  I’m not going to go into a lot of detail because, well, first of all you (my reader) really don’t want to hear this list and second of all, I just really don’t want to retell it because it is just depressing.

Everyone has days like this.  As I sit here thinking about mine, I realize that I have a choice about how I respond to this bad day.  I can cry and get all worked up and bitter and angry, which quite frankly would probably be understandable.  Or I can choose to look for the things I can be thankful for and concentrate on those.

Today I am thankful that I have a husband who was home today to help me face and address all of the stuff that just kept piling on.  I can be thankful for my best friend, who lets me text her as I go to distress, and who loves me anyway.  I am thankful for our friend from church who is helping us deal with one of our issues.  I am thankful for this beautiful day, and that I was able to get outside for a walk this afternoon.  I have things to be thankful for that I can concentrate on rather than those things that are frustrating and can drag a person down but that are a part of life sometimes.

I have had a bad day today, but I am good.

 

 

 

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Puzzle of Life

“Counseling is a complex riddle where the mind’s lines are joined with scrambling and precision to make sense out of nonsense, a tedious process like piecing fragments of a puzzle together until a picture is formed.”  -reprinted from “In the Midst of the Puzzles and Counseling Journey,” by S. T. Gladding, 1978, Personal and Guidance Journal

When a person puts a puzzle together, it takes time.  First the pieces must be sorted in a way that helps to organize them and discern the “edges” from the “innards.”  Some people like to put the edges together first in an attempt to define the picture and make it easier to produce a finished product.  Some do not.  Some use the picture on the box every step of the way to guide what pieces go together in order to create the whole picture.  Some do not.  What is true for everyone, no matter what the method of preparation and the plan of attack, is that putting together a puzzle is a process that takes time and does not happen in an instant.  The shapes and colors that lay before a person in chaos at first do come together to make a beautiful picture, whole and complete.

Counseling is like a puzzle.  It is the process by which a person sorts the pieces of his/her life and begins to put together a beautiful picture, an understanding, of self and the world.  The process takes time.  It does not happen instantly.  The boundaries must be set and the picture slowly takes shape and understanding dawns as order is brought to the chaos.  Eventually a beautiful and unique picture emerges, one that is made up of the lessons and good and the bad and all the many pieces that go into living a life.  As the picture becomes more complete, understanding springs forth and leads to peace.  The picture makes sense.

Why is it that when my husband pays me a compliment I get all weird and self-conscious?  I am a blessed woman in that my husband tells me regularly that he finds me attractive, beautiful, and desirable.  Part of me loves it, and I am very glad to hear it, but there is a part of me that pushes it away and hides from it.  Why do I have such a hard time believing it of myself?  Why do I struggle to accept it and be confident in it?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I have a daughter.  I have been thinking about the kind of mom I have been over the years and how I have modeled womanhood to her.  She is now 19 years old and is developing into a woman in her own right.  I see her struggling with confidence and I wonder how much of that is because she watched me struggle with my body image and with who I am?  Just what did I vocalize in her presence?  What response did I give to my husbands praise while she was listening?  How did I dress and carry myself in her presence?

I think that one of the many mistakes that I made as a mom was to model for her a woman who was not confident and who did not believe in herself.  A women who did not realize that my weight and my other physical attributes did not make up the whole of me.  Yes, I struggled with my weight for many years, but that did not detract from the beauty that I had (and have). When my husband looked at me he did not see a fat woman, but a funny woman, a beautiful woman, a loving woman, a desirable woman.  He saw his best friend.  I think I placed too much emphasis on the physical and not enough on the qualities that made me who I am.  If I could go backwards, I would show my daughter that physical stuff is not all important.  Even though I was a bit heavy, I was beautiful and I had a lot to offer.

I guess it isn’t too late for me to model a better attitude for my daughter.  The things that make me beautiful are not things like weight and my make-up.  It is my attitude toward life, my sense of humor, my compassion, my faith and my giving spirit that matters.

my love story

Prologue

The idea of writing my love story came to me because I am doing an internship for my undergraduate degree.  I will be working at a local senior center, where one of the projects that I will work on is recording the love stories of the seniors in our area.  This project was started by someone else who had to leave it undone, and so it has been on hold for a while.  The genesis of this project is actually very interesting.  I won’t go into great detail here, but basically it began as a college project and has become very popular.  (For more details, google “love story project” and check out all that comes up!)  As I began to think about this project, I recalled my own love story.  Although I never thought of it as something that would interest “the world,” I consider my love story to be pretty special.

My Love Story

My love story began when I was just 16 years old.  I was just two weeks away from my 17th birthday, and I was a typical 16 year old girl.  I was looking at some CDs at a local Christian book store when I heard his voice for the very first time.  “That’s a good album!” he said.  When I looked up, I found myself looking into the most beautiful blue eyes I’d ever seen.  He was a college guy, and had just turned 21.  I couldn’t believe that he wanted to talk to me!  Russ and I talked for almost 2 hours that first time, and I gave him my phone number.  The phone call never came.  Over the next 14 months I ran into him again, several times.  Each time, I gave him my number again because he had lost it.  One of the times I ran into him, we were at the same bookstore where we had met.  He told me about a recent break-up with his girlfriend and was upset about it.  I remember when he left the bookstore, I thought “I’m going to marry him” as I watched him walk out the door.  I then spent the rest of the day beating myself up for thinking that!  Finally, I ran into him at Schmucker Hall, the music building at Gettysburg College, just after finishing my voice lesson.  I decided to give him my number one more time.

That night, he called me.

On January 14, 1992, we had our first date.  We went to “The Dive,” a club at the college, for a snack.  Then we went to the practice rooms at the music building so he could play his sax for me.  That spring we spent a lot of time on the phone and seeing each other.  He even went to my high school senior prom with me, even though he was a senior at the college.  Every time we were together, we grew closer and closer.  One day my family was having a picnic at my house.  We lived about 7 miles west of Gettysburg.  Russ rode his bike all the way from town to surprise me and visit me.  My dad took one look at him coming in our driveway and said, “That boy is serious!”

We dated for almost two years.  During that time he came to see me at college and helped me with my homework.  He was there for me when my grandfather died, and spent the night in the main lounge of my building holding me and letting me cry.  On my 20th birthday, Russ proposed.

We were at Ludwig & Luigi’s, an Italian and German restaurant.  He asked me as we were finishing our dinner, and of course I said yes!  The funny thing was, about a month after his proposal, the restaurant closed down.

We were married on July 23, 1994 at Calvary Baptist Church in Bethlehem, PA.  It was a small and simple wedding, but our family and closest friends were there.  We went on a honeymoon using some of the cash that we’d received as wedding gifts.  We went to Williamsburg, VA for a few days.  On the way home, we stopped at Indian River Inlet in Delaware for a night at the beach with my family.

Our first apartment was in Bethlehem, and we were excited to move in and start our married life—the happily-ever-after that was supposed to happen.  We soon found out that marriage was more work than we’d anticipated.  Neither of us was good at managing money, and some of the choices we made at the beginning of our marriage had some big consequences.  He took a low-paying job in the newspaper industry to get started, and we moved to Pottstown, PA.  The plan was that I would get a job too.  The very weekend we moved, I found out I was pregnant.  We hadn’t even made it to our first anniversary, and the plan was to wait 5 years for kids.  Plans don’t always work out the way we would like.

Our daughter was born on January 26, 1996.  By the time she was four months old, she had a broken femur and evidence of another healed break.  That summer she was officially diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (a.k.a., Brittle Bone Disease).  Bad financial choices, along with heavy medical bills, caused some growing money problems for us.  In the midst of this, I had a miscarriage.  And then I was pregnant again, with our son.  He was born February 11, 1998 at 37 weeks gestation.  He was 11 pounds, 5 ounces, owing to my gestational diabetes.  I had to wean him at 4 months old, because the diabetes did not go away after my pregnancy.  The next several years brought us struggle and changes, as Russ changed jobs and we ended up moving to Delaware.  I was having health concerns that led me to having a hysterectomy when I was just 27 years old.  During this time, too, we started to realize that something was going on with our son.

After many doctors and much struggle, our son was finally diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 7.  He also was diagnosed with Tourette’s and with Encopresis.  In the middle of all of this, Emily had several broken bones as well.  And then on March 25, 2004 something happened that changed our life.  My husband had been volunteering at a church, when the ladder he was on malfunctioned.  He suffered a broken hip, and when they did the surgery to pin the hip complications arose.  Unbeknownst to the doctors, his iliac artery and vein were also injured, and the stress of the hip surgery caused them to burst.  Russ underwent almost 9 hours of emergency surgery to locate and then fix the bleed that almost took his life.  We later found out that doctors had to recusitate him twice during the surgery.  The next several weeks and years brought recovery, numerous surgeries, physical therapy, heavy medical costs and financial stress.  He didn’t walk for 3 years!

Eventually, Russ took another job that we hoped would be good for our family and easier physically for my husband.  We moved back to PA, and he started working for his brother.  For various reasons, the situation didn’t quite work out as planned (again, a lesson about plans not always going the way you hope) and so I took a part-time job.  I hated it, I was disillusioned by life, and we were still struggling with health issues with our kids.  During this time, someone I once knew in middle school contacted me and we talked.  Given our history, I should have run away from this person as fast as I could, but I didn’t.  I kept talking to him, and confiding in him, and found myself sneaking around to talk to him.  Emotionally, I removed myself from my marriage and this individual had no trouble encouraging that.  My husband and I had grown so far apart and I felt like this man was listening and cared.  Without going into details, suffice it to say I had an emotional affair that turned into an abusive and harmful relationship.

This is where my story really becomes a great love story again.  Through the year, a lot of crappy stuff happened to us, and because of us.  I had let that stuff pull me away from my husband and my faith; it almost removed me completely from what God had given me.  Nevertheless, my husband did not give up on us…on me.  Even with others telling him to leave me and take the kids and forget me, he wouldn’t.  He chose to fight when it was most important to fight.  I was finally able, with my husband’s help, to break away from this unfaithful and harmful relationship with this other man and cleave to my marriage.  It took some time, but my husband was able to forgive me and I was able to heal.  Together Russ and I have moved forward.

In the years since, we have faced extended unemployment, money issues, and health threats.  During the nearly 2 ½ years of layoff and unemployment, he and I spent a lot of time together, talking and healing and falling in love all over again.  We have connected in a way that makes us one flesh.   I have to say that it is very different than what we had in the beginning.  Now what we have between us is tested and has proven to be strong and reliable, as it is based on more than just feelings and circumstances.  He is my best friend, and my biggest supporter.  He makes me want to be better and stronger.  He keeps me going when things get bad, even if he is the only one.  I am not alone on this earth because of the gift that God gave me in this man.

Russ and I just celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary a few days ago.  Yes, we saw our share of bad times in our years together, but we live in the good times.  We are strong together and we are focused together.  We actually like to be together, hanging out and talking.  We trust each other, and support each other, and even defend each other.  Our love story is all the more beautiful because of all it has seen and overcome.  It is all the more beautiful because of where it is taking us, together as one.

Jesus With Skin On

I watched a Facebook video that was shared today. It showed two young men who asked strangers in NYC for food and each time they were rejected. These same two young men bought a pizza and gave it to a homeless man. Then one of them came back, looking somewhat different, and asked for a slice. The homeless man responded generously, offering a slice. The young man shared the pizza, then got up and gave the homeless man some money because he was so willing to help someone else despite his own need.

It was a very touching and thought-provoking video.

I would like to say that I would share my food if someone asked and said they were hungry. But the truth is I would probably reject such a request too. Especially in the middle of NYC. I hang my head in shame at that admission. In this day and age, we are taught to keep to ourselves, to view beggers as opportunists just looking for free stuff or for drug money. We are taught to hold what is ours close to us. This attitude makes us blind to the needs of those around us. Calloused. Hard-hearted.

As a Christian, I have no right to act like this. Christ wouldn’t have. Christ would have fed the homeless man, talked to him, loved on him. Christ would have taken the opportunity to point the way to God and to freedom. Christ would not have ignored the man. To Christ, this man has value. Just like we all do. To Christ it would be worth whatever is cost to reach out to this man.

Lord, help me to see the people around me with your eyes. Help me to love who you love the way you would love them. Help me to see the needs in front of my face and work to meet them. I don’t want to be so hard-hearted and calloused.

I want to be Jesus with skin on.

For Nigel…

Today I received the sad news that my friend has died.  This friend was diagnosed with cancer 2 1/2 years ago.  He has fought a good battle, but now that battle is over.  Even thought we knew in the past weeks that this moment was coming, I still wasn’t prepared to receive thaIt news.  I just can’t quite process that Nigel is no longer here in this world with us.

There was nothing extraordinary about Nigel.  He wasn’t perfect.  He wasn’t rich.  He didn’t have great influence or power.  There was nothing that really set him apart from other men.  Except that he was different than other men.  Nigel was a believer in Christ.  He loved like Christ.  If someone was hurting, he was there.  Even in the midst of cancer treatments and bad news and the struggles his diagnosis caused his family, he was there for those who needed a friend.  I can remember him having Russ and I over to his house one day when we were facing a very difficult circumstance.  He cooked for us and hung out with us and listened.  He and his wife gave up their whole day to be there for us.  He didn’t think twice about it.  You see, people are important to God so people were important to Nigel.

One birthday a few years ago, Nigel made me my own flan.  That seems like such a small thing!  But he knew that I really loved his flan and so he made it for me.  He liked to serve that way.  He liked to make people feel special like that.

He was one of the few people who my husband could talk to and open up to.  They went out for coffee or a bite to eat a few times.  They talked in church.  They talked on the phone.  Nigel and Russ lived very different lives and careers, but there was a real acceptance and love there between them.  He was trustworthy and faithful to pray and to listen.

Today I’ve been reading what others have had to say about Nigel.  I am overwhelmed with the number of people he touched and the number of ways he touched them.  Such a quiet man who lived his life for him family and for Christ ended up influencing so many people for Christ!  And Christ was what set Nigel apart.  It is what made him so special to so many.

He didn’t like that he had cancer.  He struggled with the things he faced in these last years.  But Christ carried him through.  Because of his faith, his attitude was always one of victory not defeat.  Until the end, he trusted Christ and he showed it.  He embodied Christ and his love.  That is what set him apart.

This ordinary man lived an extraordinary life that will not be forgotten.  I am so thankful for the privilege to have known him and to have been able to call him friend.  In his honor, I hope to show Christ to others in the same way he did.  I hope to make a difference!

9/11

Thirteen years ago something happened that changed the world.  It became a pivotal point in history, a point that marked a new era.  A handful of islamic terrorists took over a few airplanes and attempted to crash them into four specific targets.  Three of the planes hit their target.  The fourth plane fell short and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania because of the heroic efforts of the passengers on-board.  Several thousand innocent people lost their life that day.  And a country lost it’s innocence.

Thirteen years later, we are remembering as a nation.  People are sharing photos and statuses on Facebook and Twitter.  The president is participating in memorial activities.  I am glad to see we haven’t forgotten as a nation.  I am concerned, however, that maybe we are beginning to forget.  I saw an interview with some college students recently who, though they lived through this day, were very young and don’t remember or know very much about what happened.  They know we as a country talk about it every September 11, but it’s impact on them personally is hard to see.   My own daughter falls into this category, though she knows more than a lot of college kids. My husband and I have seen to it.  To her, it is vague memories and something bad that happened a long time ago.  We are past that now.
I sometimes think that attitude is beginning to be prevalent in our America that is 13 years past that day.  The unity and patriotism we saw in the immediate aftermath of the attacks is long gone.  The zeal to seek and destroy those who did this and those who could do it again is gone.  Now we have Benghazi.  Americans were left behind to die at the hands of islamic terrorists, and our government is unwilling to let the truth come out about that day.  Our government may even be responsible for those Americans deaths!  Just in the past few weeks our country is facing a new terrorist threat in the form of ISIS, and our president does not seem to view it as a very serious problem.  Thirteen years ago we saw what these people are willing to do.  Last night the president gave a speech that I felt was lacking in the zeal and understanding of what must be done to protect our nation, our people.  I don’t think the impact of 9/11 has lasted long enough because we are still facing serious terror threats and regardless we are beginning to open our defenses up for politically correct motivations and that is dangerous.

It is important to remember what happened that day thirteen years ago.  It is important to teach our kids the significance of that day.  It is important we remember who our enemy is and exercise appropriate caution and action.  Rest assured, our enemy knows exactly who we are and they will not give up!!

It is important that we never again endure the loss of life that 9/11 gave us!!  It is important that we never have to look into a grieving mother’s eyes and know that her loss could have been prevented, that we could have stood strong.  It is important that we remain vigilant and aware of the dangers that are still out there for our nation and we take them seriously!

May God bless and protect our country.  May those who lost loved ones be comforted, and may their country not fail them in this time of continued threat.  May we never forget!!

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