Friday, December 9, 2016

On Doing The Right Thing

Stacey is a huge thorn in my side.  I have tried every method I can think of to do the right thing but everything ends up twisty and messed up.  Nothing seems to matter with her.  It makes me furious!  Stacey is also extremely important to people that I love and her behavior hurts them in a different way than it hurts me.  I am angry and they are heartbroken.  If you could play rock, paper, scissors with emotions, heartbreak trumps anger every time.

I am in the perpetual cycle of wanting to wash my hands of Stacey and wanting to reconcile on behalf of others.  I often end up somewhere in the middle.  Recently, I have been struggling with this lukewarm approach mainly because I want my loved ones to heal.  I have had all of these great ideas of reconnecting somehow but I can't follow through with them and my friends won't let me follow through with them even if I wanted to because, by the way, 'great' in this scenario means 'terrible'.  These ideas, at the core, are heartfelt but they are also laced with an I-Told-You-So dance and an attitude of "I'm being nice but at the same time reminding you of how awful you are."  So, I do nothing.

While I do nothing I think of what I should do, what I could do, what I'd actually like to do.  The words of a friend cut through the chatter in my head, "It is well.  It will be well."  It's not well, though.  It sucks.  This whole situation is terrible but dwelling on it is stealing my peace.  I long for it to be well.  What I would like to do is heap hot coals upon her head because she would DESERVE it!  No one would blame me.  What I would like to do is make her feel guilty about her actions and how they have affected us all.  I would like for her to feel some form of remorse but I know she feels powerful and justified.  

It is well.  It will be well.  Do the right thing.  

Sometimes the right thing is just leaving someone alone until they are ready.  Sometimes the right thing is waiting for an opportunity while also moving on with life.  Stacey is not ready for reconciliation, not mature enough to even think about it, and I don't see any opportunities in the next 10 years.  I'm a do-er, though!  I want to do something now!

It's a mind-numbing, heart palpitation inducing struggle.

Some time later I was driving home and I took in my surroundings as I sang along to the radio.  I had this calm wash over me that I had been needing for a long time.  As I smiled to myself, I thought about all of my failings. I thought of all the really stupid things I've done.  Even though, honestly, none of those compare to the deeds of Stacey, they were still stupid and probably hurtful to others too.  I remembered how people treated me at different points in my life and I remembered how God treated me.  It was humans who brought up my failings.  It was God who never brought it up again and who also bestows more blessings on me, regardless.

Since I'm called to be like Yeshua and not like the humans in this world, I did what I thought He might do. I sent things she expressed that she needed.  Baby formula, baby clothes, toiletries. I sent them as anonymously as I could but I knew I couldn't disguise that the items were from me. I did it and then I walked away.  I hoped it would be a blessing and that it would soften her heart a little, even if the softening didn't happen for 10 years.  No matter what, I felt good about it.  All I can do is the right thing.

A few weeks later, I heard a knock at the door.  Since I work from home I am not always able to answer the door, but I try to always answer for UPS.  That particular day I was so engrossed in work that I decided no matter who it was I couldn't answer.  The visitor didn't persist so I knew it wasn't important anyway and if there was a delivery, it would be there waiting for me in a few hours.  Much later in the day I went outside to get the mail and almost tripped over a large box on the front porch.  I figured UPS had indeed delivered a package but when I leaned down to pick it up I realized the box was open.  Inside was the formula, clothes, and toiletries I had ordered and shipped to Stacey.  Things she had begged for from others, things that others wouldn't give her without a price, things she and her baby needed.  Well, I thought.  At least she's sticking to her guns.    It was the only positive thought I had.  Inside the box was a note as well.  The note accused my husband and I of nonsense.  The note called me a b**** no less than four times.  It hurt and made me furious for a while.

This was all months ago.  For your sake, I would like to end this post with something like, And she showed up and said she was sorry and was sooooo thankful for everything.  Or Now we are all reconciled and we're having dinner once a month.  Isn't that what feel good Christian movies teach us about doing the right thing?  You do the right thing and suddenly things fall into place with a glowing light encapsulating everything.  No.  That is not how doing the right thing works; at least not most of the time.  Maybe it has happened that way for you.  If you are going to do the right thing, do it because it's the right thing and not because you expect a positive result.  I didn't expect a positive result but I also truly didn't expect this nasty of a response and that threw me off a little at first.

Since I can't end this with something bright and cheery and miraculous I will just tell you the truth.  The truth is that normally I answer the door when I think it's the UPS guy. I run to accept packages and that day, I couldn't. I couldn't walk from my home office to the front door. I was that busy.  I believe that was God imparting a blessing on me because, had I raced to the door, I would have been face to face with Stacey and that would have created much more stress and drama than I can handle.  Instead, I was given a clear signal from Stacey that I could stop trying.  She would be fine without us.  I also knew God had protected me from that interaction.  I honestly have peace to this day about the offering I tried to give.  All I can do is the right thing and if I do the right thing It Is Well, even if it isn't perfect.  I still have hope that someday, even if years from now, there will be reconciliation or at least a truce and that I will still be giving.  Hot coals and I-Told-You-So dances are easy, but they are not the right thing. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Dangers of Hope

The sky threatened to snow, but it was only half serious about it.  Tiny flakes sputtered sporadically and looked more like dandruff than magical snow.  Grey clouds added beautiful contrast to the glowing morning sky and the shadowed mountains took on a more dramatic look than their usual, plain, yellow shrubbery.  My surroundings were brilliant.  I couldn't help but think that there was a reason for the brilliance.

That had been happening a lot lately; me looking for meaning in everything.  In fact, just a few hours earlier, I had decided to indeed put on a full face of make up, straighten my hair, and put on real clothes.  So I disrobed of my yoga pants and Matisyahu t-shirt and put on skinny jeans, boots, and a nicer shirt.  I was full of anticipation that in a very short while I would find out officially that I was to finally be a real mom.  You can't look like a slob on the day you find that out.

The thirty minute drive to the clinic felt miserable.  For a few minutes I would be calm and hopeful and even sure that the news would be good.  The test would show as positive.  I had done all the right things, not just to get pregnant, but in life.  I looked back on my life and made a mental list, that I shared with the glorious sky, of why I deserved to receive this miracle; this miracle aided by science and desperation.  All at once, just as quickly as the sky changed too, I had darker thoughts.  During the last three years I had not received one thing that I wanted or needed or pleaded or waited for so why now?  I started to cry a little, anticipating bad news and what that would mean.  It would mean that today would not be the day that I looked in the mirror and knew I would be a mother.  It meant considering going through all of this again.  It would mean having to have hope again.

For the past two weeks I was instructed to go home, take it easy, and just 'know' that I was pregnant.  So I did.   I stopped taking ibuprofen and Zyrtec, ceased eating or drinking anything on the list the internet provided for pregnant ladies, didn't go through scanners at the airport and everyday I looked at the picture of our microscopic embryo and just 'knew' it would grow.  I shared with my friends and family and I had hope.

Hope is difficult for me.  Hope equals vulnerability.  You can't brush it off.  Once you are publicly hopeful, people know if things don't work out that you are sad.  They pity you.  If there's one thing more difficult for me than having hope, it's being pitied.  I prayed that this would turn out right, not just to avoid being pitied but because I truly wanted my shot at raising a family. Also, I wanted to give my husband his second chance at parenting with someone who would stand unified with him and create a healthy family dynamic.

At the clinic, I signed in.  My hand shook as I wrote.  I took a deep breath and decided it was okay to be excited and nervous.  It would be positive, I just knew it.  Well, maybe.  No, it would, it would.  breathe  Before I was called back for the blood draw I decided I should use the restroom.  Having frequented the clinic weekly and sometimes daily over the last few months, I made my self at home and entered the back of house to find the restroom.

Blood.  Blood everywhere.  How could I not have known this was happening during my drive?  I was too caught up in my own head.  Oh that sharp pain?  Probably a sign that there's life.  That hot burning feeling?  Probably normal.  Nausea?   Early pregnancy sickness.  It had to be.  Luckily the restroom in an IVF clinic is equipped with everything a woman needs in a situation like this and I was wearing a long wool coat so I could hide what had happened when faced with people.  I shook.  I grabbed the handle of the door and couldn't bring myself to open it.  If I left the room, I thought, then it's real.  I have to tell someone.

Of all the things I 'knew' that day, the only time I was confident was in the restroom.  I knew there was no pregnancy.  I burst through the door and into the hallway where I collided with a nurse, Natalie.  She was my favorite nurse, actually.  She could tell that I was on the verge of crying and asked if I was okay and I couldn't speak.  I leaned against the wall with my face in my hands and shook my head and then I was pulled into a nearby office.  Behind closed doors, I squeaked, "There's blood." Natalie rattled off statistics. Sometimes this doesn't mean anything.  11%.  Take the test anyway.  Then, she gave me a shot of progesterone, just in case.

I took the blood test and thought for a moment, Maybe it's fine, I hoped.  They said they would call me before noon with the results.  I called my husband.  I texted my friends and my mom.  My mom called me.  I drove, stunned, and then would burst into tears, and then I would stop- repeat.  Once at home, I focused on work.  I knocked out everything I could, crying all the while and then received the call.

"Hi, it's Natalie.  We ran your test first, as soon as you left.  Are you doing okay?"

"Mmmm hmmm."

"I don't have  I wish I did..."

She said other things I didn't even want to think about at the moment.  Things that included scheduling an appointment, going through the process again, and that sometimes this happens.

"Do you have any questions?"


I couldn't bear to do the formal ending of a phone call.  Okay, you too.  Have a good day.  Bye.  So, I just hung up.  Natalie would understand.

Hope is dangerous because it can shatter you.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The House I Live In

This house has sheltered me for a little over a year now and during that time it has taken on a slow transition from man cave to something lighter, brighter, and more neutral with the goal to a) not curl up in a ball of depression from all the dark colors and hideous furniture and b) to sell it and move to a place of our own where the history starts fresh and in a location that fits us.  We want to be closer to the city versus out here in farmville.

Unfortunately, I am more logical and practical than my desires.  The remodeling is taking longer than expected because of life and because I don't like to rush things nor do I like to spend money.  I have been hating the fact that I have to live here for an undetermined amount of time and that we've stopped house hunting.  I used to sit in a room and think, 'I hate this room.  If I were staying here permanently it wouldn't be so dull, but we need to decorate for a future buyer so I have to live with it for X number of years.'  The pessimism built up until I didn't like hanging out with myself.  I was super annoying.  So, I decided to do what I coach employees to do when they are fed up with a co-worker and the issue really isn't anything more than a personality conflict: find three positive things about that person, or in this case, about each room of my house.

I didn't go to each room and write down three things, rather I have been allowing myself to just live there.  Someone might buy this house in  one, three, maybe seven years, but I don't have to live like they already own it.  Walls can be painted again, furniture can be rearranged, and until we actually show the house the only taste  I need to worry about is my own.  This has resulted in feeling excited about changes I get to make to the house and projects my husband and I can work on together.  I don't hate this house anymore!  As days go by and I put my stamp on it here and there, the lingering history also fades and is replaced with peace.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

For My Aunt Janice: Two Years Later

Your broken body cannot weather the years your youth longs to spend 
    So go down graceful 

    Sleep with the angels, and wake up whole again 

    'It was not your time'  
    That's a useless line 
    A fallen world took your life 
    But the God that sometimes can't be found will wrap himself around you
    So lay down, sister, lay down

-Bebo Norman

She greeted me with a smile as she physically strained to pull her blankets higher, tucked under her chin.  She didn't look like herself, her shell was weak and small.  I sat at her bedside hesitantly, realizing she was not just sick, she was dying.  I had planned this visit to say good-bye because I was moving to Idaho in two weeks and was not sure when I would be back for a visit.  And she was sick.  I didn't know she was dying.  

She didn't look like herself but when she greeted me, her beautiful brilliance shone through.  Her eyes were a little brighter as she said, "Hello, Dearie."  She would have hugged me but she was cold so I put my hand on her shoulder ever so gently and told her it was okay.  In true form, she was not focused on herself, rather she wanted to hear about my engagement, upcoming marriage, and I showed her my ring.  We talked for about 5 minutes and I could tell she was getting worn out so I said good-bye and I love you and left the room.  

Seeing her and realizing she wasn't just sick, she wasn't just weak and recovering, left me in shock.  I managed to spend the afternoon with her family and not break down and then Hospice arrived.  Hospice came in and set up.  She was dying soon.  How could I not have known?  I still struggle with some guilt from that.  

My last moments with her were sweet.  I left a letter with her husband to read to her later, that I knew she didn't have the energy for while I was there.  The letter was about her.  It was about all she had done for me, unknowingly.  It was what I wanted her to know before I moved 1,500 miles away but it ended up being what I wanted her to know before she left us.

I have been trying to write about her for two years.  She passed away two years ago today.  I have six drafts and each starts differently.  Each says too much and not enough.  I have this analogy in my head that when she died, I sustained a wound.  The wound is healing very slowly.  It hasn't started to clot.  The bleeding has stopped, but it's still open and requires a bandage.  As time has progressed, the wound has become part of me.  I am used to cleaning it, babying it, ignoring it; it's normal now but sometimes it festers.  Sometimes just the reminder of saying good-bye, sometimes the memory of her in my life, sometimes something insignificant reminds me of how much I miss her.  I'm reminded of how much I miss seeing her with my Uncle, with my cousins, in the pew on the other side of the church, at family functions. I miss her comments on facebook and that she used to read this blog and encourage me to write.  I miss that she is on the earth with us.  

I received the call the day after I said good-bye to her.  I was driving home.  My route redirected to her home where I embraced my cousin, her youngest son, in a desperate attempt to remain calm but to also try to transfer his pain to me, which didn't actually work, but I wish it had. 

I spent the whole rest of the night, into the early hours of the morning with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.  I couldn't help but feel a little thankful that I was able to say good-bye, to spend time mourning with my family, and attend her memorial service  before I moved away.  

For feeling thankful, I felt guilty.  I wish she would have recovered.  It wasn't her time.  Two years later, I mourn differently.  She has met her Creator.  She isn't in any pain.  I am happy for that but find it difficult that a disease took her incredible spirit from us.  The finest moment, no man can measure, is to look your Savior in the eyes. 

Rita, by Bebo Norman

Lay down softly in our sorrow
Lay down sister to die
And cover over, my sweet Father
Cover over her eyes

Your broken body, it cannot weather
The years your youth still longs to spend
So go down graceful, sleep with the angels
And wake up whole again

'Cause it was not your time; that's a useless line
A fallen world took your life

But the God that sometimes can't be found
Will wrap Himself around you
So lay down, sister, lay down

Slower passing are the hours
To tell this tale that takes it's time
But the finest moment, no man can measure
Is to look your Savior in the eyes

So take her tender to Your table
Take her from this killing floor
To taste the water that is forever
Let her be thirsty no more

It was not her time; that's a useless line
A fallen world took her life

But the God that sometimes can't be found
Will wrap Himself around you
So lay down, sister, lay down

And the God that sometimes can't be found
Will wrap Himself around you
So lay down, Sister, lay down

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Just Add Water Family

I have two blogs!  The newest is specific to the journey we are taking to build a family through IVF and adoption.  Interested?  Check it out at Just Add Water Family.  If you like it or think someone else might like it, follow it, share it, etc.

I haven't abandoned this blog, I just needed to separate this subject out into it's own blog.

Let me say blog again.  Blog, blog, blog.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Wedding Stories: The Processional

The processional was very important to me.  I decided if I was going to have a wedding, it was going to be meaningful and symbolic.  I didn't just want to have my friends, all dressed up, walking down the aisle. Every aspect of the processional was carefully selected, not totally for reasons of aesthetic perfection, rather to be meaningful.  When I look back at my wedding I will remember that it was beautiful, but more than that, I will remember how deeply meaningful it was.  I will be able to tell my descendants that I took this union seriously and that it was an outward expression of that commitment.  

The song A Page is Turned, by Bebo Norman, was performed by my two cousins, David and Seth, and my close friend DA.  They are some of my very favorite people and very talented musicians.  Unfortunately, I don't have a recording of them singing the song, but I do have a YouTube of Bebo Norman singing the song. This song is so close to describing Charlie and I and our lives before we met.  The line that says, "boy with curly grin," is cool to me too because curly grin means that he has dimples.  That's definitely Charlie.  Charlie and I both got second chances in multiple areas of our lives.  I love how this song celebrates that.  

Click the video below and scroll down through the pictures of the processional (slooooowly, it's a 5 minute song) and it will be kind of like you were there, but not really :)  


My Soul Sisters
These women are my soul sisters. Until the rehearsal and wedding day, they had never all been in the same room at once.  I told them each for years, "If you all met each other you would get along like old friends," and that's exactly what happened. It was so cool to see my very best friends become friends with one another. These ladies are women of integrity, intelligence, wisdom, and deep faith.  They are also quirky and insanely fun!  Most importantly, they are the friends who I know will counsel me to keep working at it when marriage gets hard.  Pretty dresses and walking down the aisle are fun, but the real purpose of a bridesmaid is to support the marriage covenant.  

My BFF Jessie

My sister Myranda.

My BFF Abby

My Cousin/Soul Sister/Friend, Laura 

My BFF Amy

Building of the Chuppah

Flowers are expensive and they die but not having the bridesmaids carry flowers might have increased the chances "what do I do with my hands" awkwardness and we just couldn't have that.  I decided that they would assemble the Chuppah.  So, if you're wondering why, in the previous pictures, they were carrying huge poles, that's why. 

The beautiful covering that they attached to the poles was hand sewn by Laura.  She is amazingly awesome.  She put in 18 hours (or more) of hard work to make the perfect Chuppah covering.  

The "Flower" Girl:  Ellie
She thought it was cool that she got to carry a lit lantern down the aisle.
You can't see me (which was the point) but I sneaked out of the Bridal room before the processional started so I could enjoy it too.  I hid on the staircase and peeked over the top of the gift table until it was my turn.  I didn't want to miss anything!

The Ring Bearers:  Axton and Bunny
Why is there a triceratops and a bunny in our wedding?  Click here  

Finally up front, we had David, Seth, and DA play/sing Dancing in the Minefields by Andrew Peterson.  We love this song because even though it's not totally accurate of us (1st verse) it is accurate, overall, of anyone who has been married whether they stayed married or not.  Marriages in all phases, no matter the number of anniversaries, have struggles and sometimes they seem insurmountable. It's about making a choice to keep your promise. What better time than at a wedding to hear something truthful, humble, and convicting versus cheesy, sappy, and idealistic?  I hum this song all the time.  It's my vow.  "I'll walk with you in the shadow lands until the shadows disappear."

So when I lose my way, find me
And, when I loose love's chains, bind me
At the end of all my faith to the end of all my days
When I forget my name, remind me

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Wedding Stories: How a Bunny and a Triceratops Became a Special Part of Our Wedding

While still living in Overland Park, Kansas, my nephew Axton spent the weekend with me.  His weekend visits usually consisted of trips to the park, the mall, Target, watching movies on my laptop, reading a thousand books before bedtime, and eating out at a sit down restaurant of his choice.  He chose On the Border.  

Axton had learned, not too many weeks before that day, that I was engaged to Charlie.  He had spent time with Charlie when Charlie flew into Kansas City for Axton's 6th birthday party.  Axton loved Charlie instantly.  I learned, that day at On the Border, that his excitement for the impending wedding ceremony was a lot more than I had ever anticipated it would be.  Just after ordering our drinks, Axton became very serious.

"Aunt Jessica," he said with his hands clasped on the table, "I want to have a business meeting with you."  He knows the way to my heart and he had also apparently retained a conversation from a year or so earlier when I explained to him what lunch meetings were and that sometimes I had them at On the Border.  Suppressing a smile, I put on my serious face and nodded at him to proceed.

"My friend Rogan was a ring bear and I want to be a ring bear in your wedding," his eye contact never wavered.

"Perfect!  Charlie and I already decided that you are going to be our ring bearer."  He smiled and I started to look at the menu.

"I'm not done, though."  I closed the menu.  "Bunny wants to be a ring bear too."

I had anticipated this and had even thought to offer it up.  Bunny has been Axton's favorite stuffed animal since birth.  He has infused so much personality in his stories of Bunny and what Bunny says or does that most of the adults in Axton's life feel like Bunny is alive too.

"Okay," I say.  

"Really?  Can he wear a tux too?  Do I get to wear a tux?"

"Yes, you get to wear a tux.   We will have to try to find a tux for Bunny.  Maybe they have one at Build-a-Bear that will fit."

"Wa-hoo!"  He picks up scraggly, dirty bunny  from the seat next to him.  "Did you hear that Bunny?  You get to be a ring bear!"  Bunny was pleased.  

"Anything else?"

"Yes. I have to carry the rings on a pillow?"

"Well, I don't really like the pillow idea but I don't know what else to do.  So, I don't know."

His eyes lit up.  "Well, I was thinking maybe I could carry them on a triceratops.  You know, on it's horns."

I laughed and said, "That would be awesome!" 

We discussed the possibilities of finding just the right triceratops and that he would have to walk very carefully so the rings wouldn't slip off the horns.  I also texted Charlie to let him know about the idea and make sure he didn't think it was weird.  Although, regardless, we would've ended up with a triceratops anyway.

We found a tux for Bunny at Build-A-Bear.  He wore both a tie and a bow tie since Axton couldn't decide which looked better on Bunny.  Charlie found the perfect sized triceratops at ToysRUs and it now lives with Axton.  

Axton practiced very very hard, the day before and the day of the wedding, to walk carefully down the aisle with our rings around the triceratop's horns.

Axton and Bunny were the coolest ring bearers ever!

That conversation with Axton set the tone for how I wanted our wedding and wedding planning to be.  I wanted the people involved, who had to sacrifice time and money, into being part of our wedding to have fun.  Why not have a bunny and a triceratops in the wedding?  The ring bearer should get to have fun too!  Some brides might be focused on everything being perfect and matchy, but having Axton's input and excitement is part of what made our wedding perfect.