Friday, April 15, 2011
A sense of surprise and pride can erupt from volatile situations, in places and times when you least expect them. They can even make you aware of flaws that you may have in your character or the strengths in other’s characters where you did not expect to find them before. These last three years have been difficult on my husband and myself with our youngest son. As with all of our children, he was given every opportunity to explore his talents, every opportunity to shine in athletics, the freedom to express himself in thought, voice and action. Yet, where his older brother and sister and youngest sister excelled, he wrestled with peer pressure and a need to prove that he was tough and above the rules of society.
Three years is a long time to spend behind bars. Three years is a long time to watch your son struggle with the consequences of his actions and miss major holidays and funerals that have occurred during his time away. At first, he had to “prove” that prison life was not tough enough for him. He had to “prove” that he could be the biggest and baddest in a place where being the biggest and baddest bought you "esteem" and "respect." He used his artistic talent to tattoo his entire upper torso and arms with pictures; his inability to think before he spoke bought him multiple nose fractures and scars on his rugged handsome face. I can’t even begin to tell you how many nights I lied awake, staring at the ceiling, praying until I could pray no more, crying, wishing, wondering what I could have done differently to have kept this nightmare from us all. Many days I would eat myself into a sugar coma, many more days I would not eat at all.
It took a long time for me to realize that it was not ME who placed him there. It took a long time for me to “let go” and realize that his decisions were his own.
This did not keep me from worrying about the day he was set free. Will he have learned from his mistakes? Will he realize that bad behavior begets consequences? Will he be able to resist the pull from the ones who assisted, who aided him, in his self-destructive behavior from his past? Will he be strong ENOUGH? Will he have LEARNED??? That day is today. He was released at 8 a.m. this morning. My phone rang at 8:50 and I heard a jubilant “Hi, Mom, I AM FREE. I love you so much and I am on my way to see you now.” Many mixed emotions flooded my heart and soul. I cried, I laughed, I felt joy. But I was surprised at the amount of fear that filled my mind…
One of the people who was the largest influence on his actions is his soon-to-be-ex-wife. I realize that his actions were of his own doing but this person was a major factor in his decision processes. I have always tried my best to exhibit Christian-like behavior through-out the 3 a.m. drunken phone calls from her or the threats that she would hurt him again when he got out. Whether it be using my grandson against him or me, I have done my very best to place it in the hands of God. Yet, today, knowing my son was getting set free, she wasted no time calling my house, screaming into the receiver, cursing me and my son. I have always had a little bit of a temper but I was not prepared for the torrent of emotion that arose from me. Before I knew it, before I could check my words, I found myself screaming at her loudly, so forcefully, so hatefully, and it left my son standing there in a silent, wide-eyed, state of disbelief. I even scared her. She quickly gasped and hung up on me.
I was shaking. I was livid, not able to see straight. How dare she do this, how dare she try to wreck his newly-found freedom! Then I was ashamed, painfully aware that I just exhibited the same behavior that I begged my son not to resort to. Yet….
He came to me with tears in his eyes and took my hand. This boy who spent most of his adult life trying to prove that he was big and bad, tough, above all things, wrapped his callused hand around my own, his opposite arm encircled my trembling shoulders, and he quietly said, “Don’t do this, Mom. This is not you. This is not ME anymore. Her behavior is not worth this. We are better than this. We are on a new beginning here so let’s not get tripped up over someone else’s selfish delusion of life. I’m willing to act and react like I should have done a long time ago. Now, let‘s not let mere words drop us to our knees. Let‘s stand together and embrace a new life.” Then, with eyes that looked years older and wiser, even weary and a little fearful, he nodded and waited for an agreement. He made me promise to focus on the future ahead of him, to not allow the darkness from the past envelope ME anymore. Then he said this:
“God is my mentor, Mom, and where there is God, there is hope.”
As I watched him leave, excited about his new apartment and new life that he had tucked safely away two hours from here (away from the past peers, away from the reminders of his past behaviors), he waved and smiled a smile that was brighter than ANY sun I’ve witnessed. Blowing me a kiss from the car window, he shouted, “I love you Mom…promise to make you proud now!”
So, you see, even in the worst of situations, you are able to see the flaws in your own heart. But even BETTER, you are finally able to see the strengths in the hearts of other’s where they might not have been before.
Perhaps it just takes a little time for THEM to see it for themselves.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
I am breathing a very collective sigh of relief. With slight trepidation, I went to my follow-up appointment with my cardiac specialist this afternoon. I honestly didn't know what to expect. I've come to know this man as very honest and to-the-point, yet he possesses a gentle smile that will put the most fearful patient at ease. He is VERY tall, a giant of a man with a piercing brown eyes and a "no-nonsense" style about him. Yet, I strangely felt comforted as he burst into the room and asked me if I had been experiencing any chest pain, shortness of breath or palpitations as of late.
As he slowly gazed over my chart and "scolded" me on my slightly-elevated blood pressure reading, he pulled his stool in front of me and folded his hands in in his lap.
"You have a mitral valve leak. This is what's causing your heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness and fatigue."
"Most people with this problem aren't affected too badly by it. Yours is a little more pronounced. I want to do a follow-up echo in six months to see if it has gotten worse. But we ARE looking at a valve REPLACEMENT; WHEN, I don't know. Let's take it one day at a time."
"Your arteries are clean. Your heart, otherwise, is in good shape. But I need to keep a close eye on it. Let's hold off on the b/p meds while you cut out your sodium...don't look at me that way...and we'll schedule another echo in October."
"Okay....what caused this??"
"Maybe you were born with it, maybe it's just wear and tear. We can't really say for sure, but it's there. Now, take a deep breath..." and he leaned toward me with stethoscope in hand.
As he instructed me to breath deeply, my mind wandered back to the fears I had been entertaining in my mind. The Lord answered prayers that I would not have an enlarged heart as previously thought. The Lord also saw fit that I got such a caring and kind physician that took his job seriously and I was not just another chart number to him. We talked for a little while and he instructed me to continue eating high-potassium foods because my potassium levels were a "pain in the butt" and monitor my palpitations.
One answer tucked safely under my belt. Beginning in May, I am starting a whole new gammut of tests for another problem. More blood, more pee, more poking and prodding. We still don't know why I've lost over 40 pounds in a month and a half. The Reese's Cups and Italian cuisine would beg to differ! But I am confident in my Lord and my doctors!
Thank you all so much for your love, prayers and concern! They have helped very much during this time. And I'm also sure it's what assisted in keeping this old bird pretty tough through it all...
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
I am convinced that you can't find better friends or confidantes than here on SparkPeople. Yesterday and today I have received goodies with words behind them that brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. There are good people here. No, there are ANGELS here and I will always believe that from the bottom of my very touched heart.
I haven't exactly been the best of a friend back, though. I have allowed myself to exhibit and harbor a very short temperament in the last weeks that have passed, a very short fuse in the way of family and friends whom have only had my back and were looking out for me. Even as I was being grumpy, I realized that I was being that way yet didn't want to put out the energy to change it. I have been laying my head down at night feeling regret and remorse, making a mental note to try to do better tomorrow. Tomorrow would come and it would be no better than the day before. I was just tired of trying to be the "nice" one when everything in MY life seemed to be going wrong for me.
What a ridiculous and shameful attitude. If that isn't the epitome of laziness, then I don't know what is. It's almost like I was punishing everyone else because things weren't going right for me. That is really lousy and, although it felt "good" at the time to just let mean words fly, later I would cry and want to just fade away. That lead to more shame and more anger in the fact that I wasn't exhibiting any self-control for ANY emotion that I was feeling. So, I've been putting my heart and soul underneath a huge microscope. I've been re-examining my intentions and goals and making sure I include God in every aspect of my life. An amazing thing happens when you do that.
You don't feel so quite alone anymore.
Suddenly you feel like you don't have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Even though you may be surrounded by the most understanding and caring people in the world, you suddenly have a realization that there is Someone who can help you carry the load, from the smallest of tasks to the giant ones. And you can find rest. In your mind AND in your heart.
I've always been a big believer in the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And I have always tried to put myself in other people's shoes. If the person on the other end of phone was grouchy, then I told myself that they might be having a terrible day. If someone cuts me off in traffic, then I told myself they may be going to visit a loved one in the hospital who doesn't have much time. But lately I have been looking at everyone and trying to see past the exterior plane. I have found my heart reawakening and have felt a connection to everyone I meet. I've realized we are all on this unfair and sometimes cruel earth together. I've also realized that, at the end of the day, we all put our heads down at night hoping to see the dawn of a brand new day.
Some of us don't get that chance. Some of us may even be on borrowed time and we have to make the most of what we have at this very moment. Which means that what we do today has to COUNT. It has to mean something to US and to OTHERS. And if that means watching what comes out of our mouths in the heat of the moment, isn't it worth it to take the few extra seconds to think before we speak?? I'm speaking from a personal standpoint here. I've mouthed off everybody from my old man to my managers at work. I'm surprised I still have a job!
"Have you been walking on a surface that's uncertain?
Have you helped yourself to everything that's empty?
You can't live this way too long.
There's more than this, so much more than this.
Have you been holding on to what this world has offered?
Have you been giving in to all these masquerades?
It will be gone, forever gone.
Let this old life crumble, let it fade.
Let this new life offered be your saving grace."
Each day can be a new beginning, a new life to be explored, to be taken as a gift from God. A new day, a new beginning, the opportunity to see the sun rise in the morning is not a thing to be taken lightly. We can squander our minutes or we can make them count for something. We can waste precious seconds by being the ultimate grouch, to make someone feel like crap over something minuscule in the grand scheme of things, or we can move ourselves to be there for them in the true heart of understanding. Believe me, everything we say or do has a backlash. It can either come back to "haunt" you or it can lighten the load of the heaviness in your heart.
Let your old life crumble. Let it fade. Are you carrying the weight too much? Are you running from the true call in your life? Are you squashing down the light within you that could be touching the heart of another? Let it shine. Let it out. There are those out there who need to see what only YOU can give. Trust me, in the end, you'll be the one with the greatest gift when you realize what you are truly capable of doing...
By the way, I know for a fact that you can really touch someone's life who really needs it. How?? Because you've all touched mine.
More than you will EVER know.
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
Somewhere along the line we tend to lose the child-like wonder of the world around us. We become so burdened with LIFE. We become "programmed" to keep up those around us, to have the have-nots, to stay in the clique, to be in the "in" crowd. Or maybe we just don't care anymore and find ourselves "dropping out," or maybe even pulling ourselves into the proverbial fetal position, closing our ears and hearts to the caring and outpouring of love around us. Meanwhile, in the back of our minds, there is a steady knocking, a whisper that says, "But are you REALLY happy? Is this what you REALLY want?"
I had been doing both. Physically and mentally I've been playing a spiritual tug-of-war with myself. But through this mini-battle, which isn't quite over yet, I've come to realize things about myself and my views of life in general. It's been a journey of self-realization, a re-awakening that, I believe, God has placed upon me to get my feet firmly planted back on the path that leads to Him. He never gave up on me. Even when I gave up on myself. Even though there are still times I want to throw in the towel of self-defeat and sigh, "Whatever, ya know? It's all just too much for me to handle." I've managed to raise my head during those times and see the outstretched arms of my Father, a smile on His face that says to me, "Here I am. Don't give up because I haven't. Just rest here. Let me take care of the minutes, hours and days before you."
There is a song by Jeremy Camp that goes something like this...
"I take a look at my life and I wonder why I go through the things I do.
Then I see everything in a different light and understand Your promise isn't through."
"I see that it's best for me to go through the struggles that I have.
To help me to clearly see and to shape me and mold me as I am.
The purpose sometimes we may not know and the hope may not be clearly seen. There are many things He wants to show and He wants EVERYTHING at his feet."
The chorus explains why:
"To make me a (wo)man, wholly devoted to You...and keep a childlike faith."
So maybe this is why we have struggles, whether it be financially, mentally, spiritually, or whatever. These struggles are what makes us into the people we are today. We can either allow them to harden us, overtake us or make us better people. Perhaps it will help us to better understand those around us so that we may be there for THEM in THEIR time of need. I don't really know. But my personal journey through my little health crisis has had me riding the roller coaster of uncertainty. It dawned on me this morning while I had the massive chest x-ray machine rolling circles around my upper body that this life doesn't have to be lived pefectly...it just has to be LIVED. And LIVED in such a way that we can lay our heads down at night with a clear heart and clear mind. If that means reaching out to others whom we might not have otherwise reached out to before, then so be it. Even when our own mind screams, "But I'm going through a personal crisis here!!! I don't have time for anyone else's drama...."
Coming home, I passed a girl walking the side of the road. She was roughly the same age as my Beanie, with tattered clothes, a thin jacket that was trying desperately to warm her body against the bracing cold. My heart broke into a thousand pieces and I thanked God that my daughter was warm in her college classroom at that time. But my heart still anguished because this was SOMEONE'S daughter, someone who didn't appear to have had the same opportunities my baby did. Her frail body struggled to climb the hill, her face turned down as it looked at the concrete underneath her ragged shoes. I slowed the truck and asked her if I could give her a ride home. She pointed to a house just beyond the trees and said "thank you" but she was already there. But something struck me with a lightening reality...there was suddenly a LIGHT in the shadows of her face. Just enough to remind me that within this person was a soul who needed kindness just as much I do...as much as you do....
I wish for us all to do one thing EVERY DAY that might give a spark to someone's soul. It just might surprise you how many will take a kind word or action and make a mountain out of it. For all we know, they might fabricate a tapestry of wonderful things in their lives from those few seconds or minutes we offer to share with them. How many of them will we eventually see entering the gates of heaven because we showed them a little bit of Jesus in that moment?? Who may otherwise have not been show Him before?
Give a little bit of yourself even when you don't feel you have anything left to give. You'll be surprised at how much lighter your own burdens feel after that....
God bless and happy giving.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Nope. He doesn't possess the ability to wait until the ACTUAL day to give gifts. The day before Christmas he will give me a present or two, the day before Thanksgiving he will steal a piece of pumpkin pie from the fridge and my birthday is usually celebrated the day before. He is like a little kid who can't wait and, amidst the "No! No! No!s" will shove the impending present before me with wide-eyes and an elfish smile. Today was no different. This evening, before me on the kitchen island, was a pretty red cellophane heart-shaped box adorned with the name "Russell Stover." I told him that TOMORROW was St. Valentine's Day and he nodded impatiently and pushed the box a little closer...
The hand-written words on the card jumped out at me:
"Just a reminder that I love you...
not just during the good times but during the hard times as well. Maybe even more now than when we first met. I need you and want you by my side all the days of my life.
I will love you always,
When the tears welled-up in my eyes, he seemed satisfied that he had touched the part of my heart that always spills over with such sentiments. Then he stuck his hands in his pockets and said he was going to go change the oil in the truck.
I don't want to change that about him. Well, let's put it this way, I wouldn't be able to if I tried. When he and I first met, this little idiosyncrasy used to get on my last nerve and we even fought about it a few times. Not only does he do this with me, but he used to do it with the kids, too. They obviously didn't see a problem with it, but I always wanted to stay close to tradition. I was raised to wait for the day and I didn't like navigating from those routines. He was raised the same way, too, so I could never understand why it was so difficult for him to wait for the appropriate day for gift-giving.
He knows that I'm a stickler with dates and will give him his gifts tomorrow, a small box of candy (he's not a huge chocolate-lover) and a Harley-tee. In fact, when I tried to give him his gifts tonight, he backed away and said, "No, I can wait until tomorrow." as if it were ME who couldn't wait in the first place.
I asked him this past Christmas why he does it. His answer?
"We're not guaranteed tomorrow. So don't put off doing tomorrow what you can do today."
I guess that can apply to just about anything, right?? Like smiling at your neighbor, a surprise touch or hug to the ones you are closest to in your lives. Maybe we should all just CHILL OUT and REACH out to our loved ones a little sooner than expected. I'm not saying we should all go nuts and give our Christmas presents on Thanksgiving or celebrate Thanksgiving on the Fourth of July, but maybe we can give of ourselves a little more "freely" as if we ARE celebrating a "holiday" that very day.
So, I'm sure that Russell Stover was pretty popular with the ladies back in his day and he's still invoking lust in us chocolate lovers today, but I think my Old Man is a little more fly than he is.
Maybe a little wiser, too!
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