Be still and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Hope

Recently a friend reached out to me because she was suffering from chronic illness and pain for a long time. She'd been to doctor after doctor and wasn't getting better. The day after day of struggling with sickness becomes a heavy load to carry. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "But you don't look sick." Or how many times a doctor shook his/her head at me and said, "I can no longer help you."

My friend wondered if she might have Lyme disease, like me. She thought I would be a good person to ask "what's worked" or hoped to hear that I was cured of the vicious cycle of chronic illness.

Or maybe she just wanted to know, how do I get through this? Or to know that someone understands?

Yikes! I had to take a deep breath and think about my years of illness going around and around the same mountain. Essentially, all of my life. What I heard in her voice was what I've experienced myself...

Desperation...hopelessness...frustration ...depression...but maybe a little bit of hope?

My friend started seeing a new doctor so I offered my advice about what tests etc. to ask for. I told her to keep pushing forward and to not give up.  I told her how much my heart fills with thankfulness when I'm having a 'good day' or a 'good hour.' She's not at that place yet, as she spends more time in bed than out. 

Unfortunately, I could not tell her I was cured or miraculously better. After all, when you mix chronic Lyme disease with 3 autoimmune diseases, it is really a mess!

Today, I saw my doctor who I highly recommend and respect. He has always been willing to go the extra mile with me and "try" something. Anything. He expressed to me today how hard it is for him to see a patient year after year who he hasn't been able to help. I told him to not taking it personally because I don't. His empathy, kindness and compassion towards me are always present and evident.

I first saw Dr. Glenn Toth in 2006, and then he picked up my case again in 2011. He's allows me to see him on an as-needed basis per my request. For me, that's once a year, if I'm lucky. After 30 doctors in 5 years, I only see a doctor now if absolutely necessary. He knows this and respects it.

He prescribes the medications I need to survive. It's as simple as that.

But today, he offered me another 'thing' to try. Ugh! Immediately my defenses went up, and I humbly remembered my advice to my friend...don't give up! I remembered the years I struggled when I was only left with diagnosis's and treatments that didn't help. I was left disappointed and disheartened time and time again. So I've been resistant to anything "new" for 5 years because I got burned out.

Dr. Toth always leaves the decision to me, but he kindly and lovingly directs me in the direction he thinks "might help." Sometimes I think he's invested in me more than I am. He doesn't want me to give up. Or maybe he doesn't want to give up on me.

This time I choose to step out in faith...1 more time. I've been at this place in my life once before (Luke), and I will never regret it. This new treatment will be costly, time consuming and painful. It is meant to build up my immune system, and it will hopefully knock some of my symptoms out of the park!

HOPE - don't you just love that word?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Scars


 
I look up to the mountains. Does my strength come from the mountains? No. My strength comes from God. Who made heaven and earth. And the mountains.

We all have scars. Some are visible; others are not. Some we'd rather not show anyone at all. I call my stretch marks from having our babies my "battle scars." I am not embarrassed by them, but I still find myself trying to hide them with the right bathing suit. I humbly remind myself they are a reminder to me of the gift of motherhood I was given.

Our scars should carry no shame at all.

When Luke was 2 years old, he tripped and fell outside. His forehead caught the corner of our fire pit. Ouch! He was crying the one that gets every parent's attention - you know - the one where they are crying so hard that they don't make any noise. Yikes! Thankfully, his cut got glued together pretty darn quickly with his paramedic daddy right at his side at Children's Hospital. Yet, he has a scar because of it. Matthew has one, too, from smacking his head on our coffee table. For some reason, boys feel like a scar is something to be proud of instead of being ashamed of.

Maybe it should be?

After all, I have a scar or what I like to call "dent" in my leg from when I was hit by a car when I was 13. It's not something I'm proud of per se, but it is a reminder to me that I did not die that day all because of God's grace.

But there are also scars that no one can see. They are tucked inside each one of us. They are what we hide from most people, and we only allow a select few to see. Many times we hide them from even ourselves. They are there because of loss, despair, trauma, shame, guilt, grief, regret....the list goes on and on. Doesn't it?

I recently learned that someone I love has been going through an unimaginable struggle in this thing called life. I cannot help but relate and empathize because I, too, have been through the unimaginable. We all have to some degree. Yet, this person suffers in silence. Why? The same reason we all suffer...out of shame or embarrassment; feeling judged or misunderstood.

It shouldn't be that way.

I've learned that  being vulnerable is what brings healing - when the light meets the dark - (thank you Tenth Avenue North).  I've experienced healing when others have said to me I understand. I've been there. You're not alone. 
 
There's one thing I know for sure ~ let your scars show. Because they matter. Don't let fear stop you from owning your truth. Those scars are there for a reason. To teach you something or maybe someone else. A definite reminder that our scars make us who we are. I believe they are a reminder of God's grace and love despite what we see.

After all, Our help comes from You. You're right here pulling us through. You carry our weakness, our sickness, our brokenness all on your shoulders. We don't have to see it to believe it.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Our Firecracker

Tomorrow would've been our daughter's 14th birthday. Instead of a birthday celebration, we will memorialize Emily Rose in our annual visit to her grave. Since her death, I have found it healing for me to go through her "memory box" on July 4th, which includes photos of her, a clip of her hair; personal items and sympathy cards. I'd read through each card every year.

I'd let the tears fall. Some years more than others. I'd let the memories all come back; sometimes I would catch myself smiling when I remembered how much love was poured on our family.

Recently, I met with a mom who also lost her baby to a stillbirth. A mutual friend, she and I sat outside on this neat patio at a cafe in West Allis, and we just talked and talked.

It's interesting how quickly a stranger can become a friend.

She shared her story with me; and I shared mine. We all shed many healing tears that day. I hopefully left her with something called hope and the truth of knowing God hasn't left her side- not for one second.

Megan came across a picture of Emily recently while we were going through my grandma's personal items. The look on her face and her reaction made me realize just how 'shocking' it is to look at Emily's picture. It is really hard to look at. Yet, I feel the need to do so year after year.

Until this one.

This year I am going to skip the memory box ritual. Why? Because I'd rather have this image in my head when I think of our little firecracker on her 14th birthday in heaven...And this one sure makes me smile ~ Have a happy and safe July 4th!


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Disappointment

I've been searching for another family member for over a month now.  Another dog, specifically. Even more specifically, a puppy. It has to be a male and a Yellow Labrador Retriever mix. The "mix" choice comes from experience with our Cally girl (likened to the picture below). We had her only 12 years - not long enough. Yes, I am particular but everyone else would be happy with whatever I brought home. 

After all, this is a very important decision whether you are an animal lover or not. I've been one all of my life. Growing up, my family bred English Springer Spaniels. We always had at least one, mostly two, dogs running around our house. Puppies would come and go - we all shed many tears when that happened. This is a huge commitment. It's a big decision. Any animal becomes a part of your family. Forever.



Yes - we know the time, commitment and sacrifice it will take. I've learned along the way that it is worth it. We have been back-n-forth about a puppy versus a young or an adult one. We've had a home visit from one rescue, applied to several more. Every other day I've been showing Mark and the kids a "picture" of a possible match for us. As time went by, I would receive one email of 'disappointment' after another about a dog not being available. Or I would receive no reply at all. Or the dog was five states away!

I recently visited the Wisconsin Humane Society (with my specific list and all)  and was surprised at how my heart was tugged at by each one in its cage. It did not matter what breed or size or gender...my heart just melted. I wanted to take them all. Each one of them with a story to tell. Before leaving, I had to visit the kitty area and was pretty proud of myself for not walking out with another cat. :) I am happy with my Jimmy...18 lbs and all!



I couldn't possibly take all of the dogs at the Human Society so instead I said a prayer for each one as I walked on by. I believe it made us both feel better. I left that day without a dog or a puppy.

Disappointment...again.

We have been working with a specific dog rescue for over a month, including a "home visit," but they, unfortunately, do not have enough volunteers to keep the organization operating efficiently. We've been disappointed several times by them.

I started to spend less time searching for a dog, although, the dog is to be a birthday gift for Mark's 45th coming up this Thursday, May 21st.

This morning I decided to start my hunt once again. I browsed different pet websites and finally found what we were looking for at the Wisconsin Humane Society -  a litter of Yellow Labrador Retriever mix males puppies were "Coming Soon." That's what the website said.

I felt hopeful and emailed them immediately to ask when they were going to be available and if I could put a deposit down on one of them. They promptly replied that the puppies were available today, and there was already a line waiting outside for them. I was away from my computer most of the day and later discovered the puppies were already adopted.

Huh?!

I felt confused and bewildered as I wondered how these other people had the "inside scoop," and I didn't. I realized it was pretty simple actually. I didn't check the website last night, and they did.

Instead, I was taking pictures of our Matthew at his Junior/Senior at the Milwaukee Art Museum.



I was too late for the puppy, but I was where I needed to be. Not searching out dogs, but being with my son. Much more important I'd say.

Time will tell. I believe in the famous saying, "Everything happens for a reason." I know the right dog will come along at the perfect time, but in the meantime, I feel something called disappointment and it stinks. My hope remains strong. I am once again learning the hard lesson of patience.

Maybe it is this one instead?



 Or this one?



Come on! Look at them! 

There are thousands of dogs needing a furever home every day.  I know ours will come at the perfect time. The "waiting" is the hard part. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

In Remembrance of ~

This past weekend we gathered together with family in Montello, WI to memorialize my mom who died eight years ago yesterday. Per her request, she was cremated. Each one of her children took a portion with us, but the rest of them resided in a beautiful blue, engraved urn at my dad's house. Until now. 

I sprinkled her ashes in my rose garden, right next to Emily's baby pink rose bush. It felt like the perfect place to put it.  I've tried tirelessly to make sure those two roses survive the Wisconsin winter every year! I've only had to replant them twice. As time wore on, I began to feel that it would be nice to have some place to 'go' to pay my respects besides my rose garden. Not just for me, but for my family, too. When she was dying and making her wishes known, I did not have an opinion either way.

It is interesting to me how much wiser we get with age.

There is just something about having a place to lay flowers down on your loved one's grave. Or a balloon or stuffed animal or cross. A bench. Or to just sit there and cry.

I know there healing in doing this, and it is part of the grieving process. We visit our daughter, Emily Rose's, grave every year on July 4th to honor and remember her. I like to call it walking through the grief  because I sometimes question if it will ever end.

People often say 'time heals all wounds' or 'time will make it better.' I don't believe either one is true. I think grief changes. It ebbs and flows and changes through the years, but the scar remains. Sometimes it becomes an open wound, and we are thankful when it's not.

So my dad bought my mom a headstone at a cemetery in their hometown where he will be laid to rest next to her after his death.

How do I say Thank You to him for this gift to our family? I hope he understands the significance of this event to us and what it means to each one of us....right on down to their youngest grandchild, Elizabeth Aurelia Edwards (same middle name as my mom).

I brought 8 "blue" balloons (Mom's favorite color) to release up to the sky and beyond to heaven (watch out helicopters!); my sister brought flowers and an angel statute; Johnny brought flowers and 'love you Mom' balloons. It was an amazingly beautiful and memorable time.


 
We talked about my mom- the laughs, the fun times, the quirky stuff. We ate her famous lasagna for dinner later that day. All in remembrance of her.

We all agreed that when she left this earth there was a 'spark' that had gone out in the world. She was someone worth knowing. I often tell people, "I wish you could've known my mom. You would have loved her!"

I couldn't help but picture my mom looking down on her family and smiling with a twinkle in her eye and joy all over her face. We took a lot of great pictures, played an Elvis tune on a smartphone and told Polish jokes. All in good fun. It is what she would have wanted.

This past weekend was a good reminder to me of what is most important in life. I think about all of the stuff I "stress" about that will not matter one bit at the end of my life. Life is about the moments. It is about spending time with the ones you love. So ~ I thank my mom for bringing us together again and continuing to teach and grow me into whom I am supposed to be. A mother's love never ends; neither does a child's. 


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

99 years young

My grandma died on Sunday at the sweet, tender age of 99 years old - just shy of her 100th birthday. We had plans to visit her at the end of February as we usually did, to share that milestone with her. We were looking forward to a vacation from our cold winter weather and visiting with family. Instead, our plans have changed to planning a spring time memorial service at Wisconsin Memorial Park, where she will be laid to rest next to my grandpa.

I offered to write my Grandma's obituary.  It will be my first one.  I hope I do her proud.  I don't want to write the "usual" type, where it lists...survived by...preceded in death by..,etc.  Yes, all of those things are important and will be written, but I want people to know my Grandma and what her life meant.

Her LIFE...all 99 years, 10 months and 24 days of it!

The best obituary, I ever read, was written by my friend, Cheryl, and it was for my mom.  Please click here to read it.  I hope I can express to others my grandma's life in the same way; however, her personality being more private and introverted may make it more difficult to write.

The last time I saw my grandma she was lively, communicative, funny and looked happy. One time, she shared her private feelings with me about my childhood that profoundly affected me.  I'd say so much so that it will be the title of my memoir, if I ever write it...Tossed Aside Like a Rag Doll and I will dedicate it to her. We really connected that day in a special way.

Yes, she was struggling physically, but she was able to sit outside on her porch with her family.  I asked her if I could paint her fingernails a pretty pink color that I picked out just for her.  I loved seeing the smile on her face when she nodded yes.

We celebrated her birthday with her favorite foods and dessert.  We showered her with presents and flowers.  She smiled and laughed often. The sun was shining, and the day was beautiful.  It was the best of times. That is how I will remember her.

My grandma and I shared our love for writing and reading.  When they moved to Arkansas when I was 10-years old, our relationship changed to a pen pal one.  We got to know each other in a different, special kind of way through all of those letters, back and forth.  I saved many of them,  and I will read them again soon.  We continued this until a few years ago when she couldn't write any longer. Although I continued writing to her, I knew she was filled with great sadness that she couldn't write back.

I will spend the next few weeks "interviewing" my family members about my grandma's life.  I'm not really after the facts per se, but rather how she touched their lives. What they learned from her...what they loved about her... what was her childhood like...what did she love about life?  Some of it might make it into the obituary; some of might not.

I'd say it pretty much comes down to: What's her legacy?  Hmm...something I think matters to each one of us.  Something I hope to capture in her obituary.

That song by Nicole Nordeman called, Legacy, comes to my mind as I write this.  She sings, "I want to leave a legacy.  How will they remember me? Did I choose to love? Did I point to you enough to make a mark on things?"

When I write my grandma's obituary, I will write from a place of how she always made me feel, and that was loved and accepted all of the time.  She was one of the kindest people I have ever met.  I will remember school shoe shopping with her when I was a kid.  I will remember the drive down to Arkansas, with all 5 of us, plus the dog smashed into a baby blue colored Pinto, rusted floor and all.  She would bake us the best Christmas cookies and mail them each year.  Her deep faith in God was genuine, private and understood.  I never doubted her when she said she was praying for me.

I'm happy today that my grandma has made it safely home.  She didn't reach the "milestone" that we had all hoped for, but in the big scheme of things, I don't think it really matters.  She lived a good, long life that I am glad I got to be apart of.  She will be deeply missed and fondly remembered.

Grandma, Mom, Tracy and I ~ 1973

Grandma on her 99th birthday



Betty H. Edwards, Feb. 25, 1915 - January 18, 2015, born in Chicago, IL.
Birth name:  Sara Elizabeth (Betty) Hines

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Bittersweet

Tonight, I am feeling something called bittersweet.  My friend, Laura, died today.  Her suffering ended, but ours began.  That is how life goes.  She leaves behind 3 children who really needed their mom.  She was a mother, daughter, sister and friend who will be deeply missed.

Laura, simply, made the world brighter.  I feel as though a 'spark' has gone out in the world.  If you knew her, you'd understand.  She had a heart for God and a zest for life.

Her life ended way too soon.

Life is interesting, isn't is?  I am waiting for the same "news" about my grandma.  She will turn 100 years old on February 25th, but I don't know if she will "make it."  We are all excited for her to make that milestone, but I don't think it matters much to her. We visit her every year on her birthday, but our travel plans to see her in San Diego are on hold, for now.

She has lived a good, long life...99 years!  Can you even imagine?  Because of that, it makes it easier to understand and accept it, doesn't it?  But for someone like Laura,  I am left feeling frustrated because the answer  to the "why" of things is not for me to know.

There comes a time when questions cease and faith begins.  I learned this a long time ago from my dear mentor and friend who had suffered loss herself.

The past few days have left me feeling on edge and sleepless, as I've waited for the news about these people that I love.  That dreaded call.  I remember it well when my mom was dying.  Yet, when I think of my dear friend who is now  in heaven - completely known - I can't help feeling the sweetness.  She met Jesus today.  Her suffering and pain ended instantaneously, as she took hold of His hand.

Our life is but a blink.  This loss has sure put things into perspective for me as I am the same age as hers. Laura has taught me to savor each and every moment.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed to anybody.

I feel the bitterness, as I think of her life taken too soon.  I will feel the bitterness at her funeral because there is no sense to be made of this.  I will shed a whole bunch of tears for days when I think of her kids.  I will hug her mom tight because I understand what it feels like to lose a child.

As you go to sleep tonight, would you please pray for this family?  And I hope you feel the sweet, as I do, when you realize the whole purpose of life.  I know Laura knows full well, "Well done, good a faithful servant. " I know God is good, and He is right there beside them.  I know this for sure.

He said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will return there. The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. May the name of the LORD be blessed!" Job 1:21


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Heartbroken

I found out a few days ago that my friend, Laura, is dying of brain cancer and has at-home hospice.  This is after an 18-month battle fighting cancer in her shoulder with chemotherapy and surgery.  This is on top of being a single, divorced mom who lost her job.  She went to the doctor for her "check-up," and they found it had spread to her brain.  Her diagnosis came in early December, but I didn't receive the news until now.

She was given 6 weeks to live.

We became friends a few years ago where we met at our kids' school.  We have kids in the same grades.  We found we had a lot in common.   We immediately "clicked,"  right from the start.  I love her 'realness' and 'spark.'  I love her love for God and her children.  We are the kind of friends (I like to call us kindred spirits) that get together for coffee/lunch dates from time to time.  You know the kind, where you can just "pick up right where you left off" kind.  I am reminded of how much I appreciate the gift of friendship.

More so, now.

Laura and I would talk about our kids, school, health, life, but mostly we talked about our faith.  We talked about how to trust God and believe in His promises during the hard times of life.  We shared how hard that is sometimes to do.  I was in awe of her deep, profound faith when I knew she was struggling so much.  I would leave our time together always feeling encouraged.  She has that gift.

The last time I saw her was in October.  She was cancer-free, feeling stronger and looked great.  She had plans of becoming a Milwaukee Police Officer.  I strongly encouraged her to go for it.  She would have been a really good cop.  I kind of have that sense after being around cops my whole life. :)

Just this past Monday, I thought of contacting her to get together again.  But, life got in the way, as it always seems to do.  Then, I received the devastating news.  I grieve the time lost.  I called a mutual friend to get more information.  I wanted to visit, call, text - DO something, anything!   I found out that the last report of her current condition was not good.  I contacted her mom to see if I could visit.  I was told it was not a good time for visitors.  I was told this yesterday, too.  Understandably so.  I watched my mom go through the same thing seven years ago.

I am too late. 

I believe in my heart of hearts that I am not going to get a chance to say good-bye to my dear friend on this side of heaven.  Not in the way I would've wanted to or chosen, but I trust that it is the way it has to be.  Instead, I will pick out my very favorite stationery and pen, sit down at my table, light a candle for her and write my friend a handwritten letter.  I will write until I cannot write any longer.  I will let the tears fall. I will mail it on Monday, and I hope she gets it in time. I will pray for her family and her kids. I will pray for her.  I won't say good-bye to her because I know I will see her again.  It sure will be good to see her in her new body, walking hand-in-hand with Jesus.

I am left feeling heartbroken about all of it down to every last tear shed; however, I believe there is a lesson to be learned from everything in life.  I believe the lesson here is to treasure every momentI've been reminded to slow down and step out of the craziness of life and focus on what really matters.  It's not about the job, money, success, prestige, biggest house, expensive car...I could go on and on.  We are all guilty of it ~letting time slip on by and wasting it on what won't even matter at the end of our lives. That popular country song by Tim McGraw, "Live Like You Were Dying" keeps popping into my head.  It sure puts things into perspective.

Finally, read the good book...took a good, hard look at what I'd do if I could do it all again...loved deeper...spoke sweeter...gave forgiveness I've been denying...tomorrow is a gift...what will you do with it? What did I do with it?

The lesson is to appreciate the time we are given.  It is about honoring and praising God for the gift of life each and every day.  It is about spending time with our loved ones. It is about making time for people, not things or endeavors.  It's about doing it now.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Dear Sarah...

Today I was the substitute teacher in Luke's 6th-grade class. His teacher was at home with his family, two young boys, and his wife, trying to cope with the loss of their daughter who died in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy.  This is after they lost their baby boy in similar circumstances at the beginning of last summer.

The sad, devastating news have many of us who know them feeling at a loss. I talked with some of the other teachers today, and we just stood there shaking our heads in astonishment and disbelief.

I planned to stay speechless, but I felt that 'nudge' to share my story with one teacher.  I told her that I understood what they were going through because we went through the same thing. I told her Emily's Story, and then how I miscarried twins later that year. Two more miscarriages within that same year almost broke me.

I know, I will be reaching out to Sarah and her family, once again, all in due time. In the meantime, I find myself feeling frustrated with the struggle of,  What am I even going to say to her, even after all I've been through? And then my mind shifts to, How did I make it through that? How do I still manage the loss?

I realize that is what I will say to her. I will tell her about all of it, if she'll listen.

I will tell her about the support group, Mission TLC, which I attended for months at Elmbrook Church to help me heal.  I will talk about the friendships I would never have made otherwise.  I will give her the list of books, bible studies and songs that helped me the most.  I will share with her how keeping a journal was my solace. I will tell her how we memorialize Emily with a rose garden, crocheted blanket, balloons and a garden stone as part of the grieving process.  I will share with her that the roller coaster of emotions that come with the staggering stages of grief will eventually come to an end.

Acceptance.

I'd say that's a pretty good place to be.  She will get there, too.

I will share with Sarah my most precious prayers that I prayed in order to keep on breathing: "I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." ~Psalm 27:13 and "Be still and know that I am God." ~ Psalm 46:10. Somehow, I needed to get that last one stenciled on my bedroom wall so I wouldn't forget it :)

Most importantly, I think what she needs to hear about is my walk of faith....God's love and faithfulness to me.  That through it all, hope was never out of my reach.  I believed that He was good no matter what my circumstances.  I will tell her how my faith was challenged like never before. And then, I will tell her how long I was angry at God and how healing it was for me to let Him know.

I will tell her that she can overcome this.

But for tonight, as she lays her head on her tear-stained pillow, and with a heavy heart, I would like her and her family to know:  

Dear Sarah~
May you feel the Lord's presence and comfort tonight like never before. You are not alone, not ever.  Let the love of God and your loved ones carry you through this difficult time because I can tell you that it will.  You are loved beyond measure by our everlasting Father.  Each day will get easier, but the hurt will always remain. He will teach you how to live with it.  I can promise you that you will smile again. God bless you, your husband and precious children, both here and in heaven.
~Lori