In Her Shoes

In Her Shoes ~ Writing Through the Pain…

In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives – to see what it is like to walk in their shoes. Today I am honored to introduce you to my amazing friend Brenda. Wife, mother, sister, writer, and friend – you can find her at RecoveredIdentity.com. Let’s join our friend as she shares with us what it is like to walk in her shoes. ~ Love, G

In Her Shoes ~ Writing Through the Pain

“Alexa is fine, but… Peter didn’t make it.” My heart stopped, but my brain searched for a way to make sense of it. Silence wasn’t an option. Words spewed from my mouth, too fast to catch them. “How’s Alexa?” Immediately, I gave myself a mental smack on the head. Duh. He already said she was fine. Maybe, just maybe, I was hoping he’d say they were both ok. I don’t know.

He repeated that she was still in the hospital, but she was fine. All I could say was “ok”. And then it was over. The hardest phone call ever. Through the tightening of my throat, I let my mouth say what my heart would not believe. “Peter and Alexa were in an a car accident. Alexa is fine… but Peter… he didn’t make it… He’s dead,” I told them.

Peter 1

Aaron held me, as I sat there for a minute in silence, fighting the physical effects of receiving horrid news… the shaking, the cold sensation, the sickness in the stomach, the tightening of the throat.

And then do you know what I did? I got up and went back to my life. I shooed the kids through the bed preparations, and Aaron and I tucked them in. Then I climbed in my bed, and just like every other night, I turned on the TV and we watched together.

Peter 2

I just wanted life to be normal. I wanted to forget what I had just heard. I wanted to pretend that my brother wasn’t dead. That my niece wasn’t trying to wrap her sweet little mind around what just happened to her daddy. That my sister in law and friend was not reeling from the loss of life as she had come to know it. I just needed to immerse myself in the lives of Rachel, Miles, and Charlie in Revolution. I needed that to be my reality.

It’s been two weeks and two days since I lost my brother, but the words still echo through my head everyday like the taunting rhythm of an oncoming train… “Peter didn’t make it. He’s dead.”

Peter at Christmas

I’m not sure when that train will overtake me and flatten me to the ground. One of these days, it’s going to be real. I’m going to realize that his funeral was not just a family gathering that he wasn’t able to make it to. One of these days I will notice that he never shows up for family events.

(Peter is pictured on the far right, with his siblings. 2002)

Brendas Family

But for now, this is what I see… my beautiful sister and friend who finds herself being thrown back and forth from bully to bully… engulfing numbness, paralyzing sorrow, and angry denial. And I can’t do anything. I can’t hold her in my arms and sooth her into a peaceful sleep. I can’t heal her heart. I can’t tell her how to help her daughter through this tragedy. I can’t fix it. I can’t snap my fingers and bring her husband back to her side when she needs him most.

And my how this hurts!! I can’t even begin to put it into words. I love my people, and damn anyone who hurts them!

But wait a minute….

God did this! How could He? Are you kidding me, God?! I can see your sovereign hand in the death of Jim Elliot. I can see your sovereignty in the death of thousands of Jews during Hitler’s reign, horrific as it is. I can see your mercy in the death of my grandparents. But this… really, what good can come of the death of a 29 year old husband and father?!?!

How cruel to leave my sister alone! How cruel to make my niece witness the entire thing! How horrid to leave them all alone! You make NO SENSE at all!! HOW COULD YOU?!

Peter 4

And He answers…

“Dear, dear child, do not think that I left them alone. I am with them, closer than you can even imagine.

I’ve been with Alexa since the day she was conceived. I’ve been preparing her heart for this day. And I was with Alexa that evening, holding her tight, protecting her, guiding her through caring for her daddy and knowing what to do. I never left her side.

And I was with Peter. I held his heart in my hands. I cradled it. And when it stopped, I carried Him home. He was my precious son, and he accomplished all that I had planned for him here on this earth.

Oh and dear child, I AM with Jennifer. I knew from the beginning that she would face this sorrow. I have not left her unprepared. You would not believe the joy I received watching every moment Peter and Jennifer had together. It was beautiful.

Peter 3

I had my arms wrapped tightly around her when she was contacted about the accident. And I didn’t let go. I held her tight as she raced to the hospital. I held her tight as she whispered the heart wrenching words to her daughter. I held her tight as she went through the busyness of funeral preparations. I held her tight as Peter’s body was wheeled out the church doors and lifted into the Hurst. I held her tight as everyone returned to their own lives, leaving her to figure out what’s next.

And I’m still holding her, tighter than you could fathom. She might not feel me yet, and that might take a while, but I’m right here with her. Never doubt that.

Trust me, dear one. I will care for her with a gentle love and care that no human could ever manage.

I know what she needs and when she needs it. I will never abandon her. I am a father to the fatherless and a defender of widows. I will never leave them or forsake them. They are in my arms.”

Thank you, Father.

A group of Peter’s friends have started a memorial fund to help support Peter’s wife in paying for the funeral expenses and the other costs that comes with a tragedy like this. My heart is breaking for his wife and little girl. Please continue to remember this precious family in your thoughts and prayers in the coming days. 

To read more stories, or if you are interested in sharing your own story, please go to the In Her Shoes tab near the top of the page. I love learning about the people in this series. Connecting with others seems to make the world feel not quite as big and scary. We’re all in this together. I can’t wait to hear from you, to read your stories, and learn more of what it is like to walk in your shoes.

~ Love,

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In Her Shoes ~ 7 Things I Didn’t Know About Entrepreneurship

In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives – to see what it is like to walk in their shoes. Today I am excited to introduce you to my friend Toni! She is launching an exciting new business, and I am so very proud of her! Stay tuned for an awesome giveaway at the end of her story! Let’s join our friend as she shares with us what it is like to walk in her shoes. ~ Love, G

In Her Shoes ~ 7 Things I Didn't Know About Entrepreneurship

Some of the surprises that have come my way while starting my business have been really pleasant, and others have been more difficult to work around. It’s often been messy, and less under my own control than I would usually like.

It’ll take a long time.

I first had the idea for my product in 2007. It is now late 2014. (You do the math.) My thoughts had to percolate and refine over the course of years, and then it took months of near-constant work to complete the final push.

Success means losing sleep.

I stayed up late, sitting at my sewing machine until I couldn’t guide a straight line, and then getting up at 5am to spend a couple hours on the computer before the “real” day started. I skipped church for weeks, and I turned down social events. I returned DVDs to the library unopened and unwatched. Advancing this project after so many years had become far more important to me than seeing a new movie or meeting a friend for a drink.

This one’s a no-brainer, but still caught be off guard with its intensity: Starting a new business will suck up every available penny, and then some.

Let’s just say that my credit card balance hasn’t seen zero in a while and leave it at that.

It takes a team to get things done.

I had the sewing part of the gig down pat, but I have developed almost zero drawing skill. I had to rely on my engineering designer of a husband to draft the designs for me, and then make revisions (over and over and over). Then when the first run was printed, even after I thought I’d caught every possible glitch, my team of testers found still more that needed correcting. The next step of working with retailers has taken teamwork to a whole different level, and I’m humbled all over again when I discover just how little I know about business; many times, I don’t even know what I don’t know. I’ve had to be brutally honest with my retailers about my naivete, and they know that I’m feeling my way along. Thankfully, they have all been incredibly gracious, sharing their expertise freely and doing everything they can to help me succeed. Even while I’m technically “my own boss,” I’ve had to gratefully acknowledge the contributions of others who have helped me along the path.

Putting a price on your own work is HARD.

How can you assign a monetary value to something you love and have brought into the world? It’s simultaneously so precious, and also so personal that it’s tempting to either hoard it up or completely give it away, because how could you ever take something as vulgar as money for that?! The truth in between, though, is that work and skill are valuable. My hours matter. My contribution to the creative community matters. I deserve to be compensated fairly, and gaining the confidence to ask for what I’m worth has been a gradual process. (It’s amazing how the neccessity of making a return on my investment spurs that process along a lot faster!)

Your little side-hustle might take over your life.

Something that’s existed for a long time as an oversized hobby just may expand to into something that you can’t imagine your life without. I’ve grown to care much more about my business and about running it myself and being my own boss than I ever expected. I can’t imagine going back to an office job, working to advance someone else’s goals while setting my own aside.

You will cry when you see other people loving your product.

The first time I saw an apron someone else had made from my pattern, I was entirely surprised by the level of joy I experienced. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a more gratifying experience in my working life. The entire product development process is one of self-doubt and questioning: is this worth it? Who cares about this except me? Will anyone even be interested? What if I’m putting my energy into something that I think is lovely, but I’m blinded to it and it’s really just ordinary, or maybe even downright awful? And then when you realize that yes, other people do care, it’s enough to make the heart just about burst open with happiness and satisfaction. Of all the surprising things that I didn’t know about entrepreneurship, that’s been by far the best.

A Giveaway! A Giveaway!

Miss Merryheart Aprons

Toni, Miss Merryheart herself, is graciously giving away a FREE apron pattern to one of our readers today! Just leave a comment below telling us your favorite comfort food! That’s all there is to it! I’ll randomly choose a comment on Thursday and notify the winner!

Toni has also offered to give us 15% off any printed pattern in her Etsy store through November 8, 2014! How awesome is that?! Just use the coupon code: GINGER15 when you go to check out with your purchase! Be sure to follow her on Facebook and MissMerryHeartAprons.com

To read more encouraging stories, or if you are interested in sharing your own story, please go to the In Her Shoes tab near the top of the page. I love learning about the people in this series. Connecting with others seems to make the world feel not quite as big and scary. We’re all in this together. I can’t wait to hear from you, to read your stories, and learn more of what it is like to walk in your shoes.

~ Love, 

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In Her Shoes ~ I am the Kitchen Sink

In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives – to see what it is like to walk in their shoes. Today I am excited to introduce you to my friend Jenny! She is a wife, teacher, and a busy mom to six boys! Let’s join our friend as she shares with us what it is like to walk in her shoes. ~ Love, G

In Her Shoes ~ I am the Kitchen Sink

It occurred to me recently that I am the kitchen sink.  Perhaps this was a divine revelation or maybe I just spend too much time away from adult conversation and don’t get enough sleep.  Whichever, I am the kitchen sink.

Where we are currently living, we are blessed with two large kitchen sinks.  One is designated solely for washing dishes.  It has one job and one job only.  Very occasionally it is called upon for other duties such as catching noodle water.  We have a dishwasher, but the dishes sink is used all day, every day.  It is a hard working sink.  This, however, is not the sink that I am.  I am the other sink.

Our other sink is our go-to sink.  It is always set up with a strainer for washing produce on the left side and a mat for drying recycling on the right.  See, it is already multi-tasking.    It is also the sink to which the water filter is attached.  It fills our water pitcher at least three times a day, rabbit water jugs twice a day, and any cooking or other consumable water our family uses.  It is the sink that thaws the fish and where eggs get pealed.  It is where little boys wash three bushels of apples for applesauce.  It is where the corn-cooking water gets dumped.  It where burned fingers run under cool water, feet get washed, and motor oil is removed.  But it is also where the baby has his sweet-smelling bath and where I’ve dropper-fed a newborn rabbit kit trying to keep it alive.

In Her Shoes ~ Kitchen Sink

 This sink works hard, too, but in an array of ways.  It shows.  It has rust spots on the bottom, a bit of mold around the caulk, a few scratches on the sides, and every now and then, it leaks.

This is me.  I multi-task before I am even awake and just keep adding more throughout the day.  I do so many things at the same time I actually catch myself going in circles.  I find myself cooking dinner, folding laundry, putting on band-aids, nursing a baby, assisting with homework, supervising chores and stopping squabbles…all at the same time.  I have to be tough to deal with hurtful words and gentle to heal wounds.  This work shows.  I have bags under my eyes, weariness in my body, physical pain anywhere from my feet to the top of my head and sometimes, I leak, too.

But the multi-tasking sink doesn’t complain that it has too much to do.  It doesn’t quit.  It doesn’t lament that it doesn’t look the way it used to.  It gets the job done.  It was created to be multi-functioning and that is what it does.

This is how my Creator-Father made me.  He made me to take care of my family.  He made me to do big things, like teach letter sounds and mop the floor; work long hours and discipline; teach about Jesus and how to tie shoes.  It may be difficult to see the importance of the mundane tasks I do every day.  But I know that God made me, he put me here, now, to do these things.  I am part of his plan of salvation.  I am impacting lives…those of my boys, my husband, friends and many more that I may not even be aware of.

Strong Enough by Matthew West has brought me to tears many, many times.  I live in a state of not feeling strong enough.  The song, Strong Enough, is based on Philippians 4:13, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”  I will be honest…I don’t like this passage.  I have been known to shout this passage in sarcasm, but that is because I am focusing on the “I” instead of the “Him”.  When we focus on the “Him” we can see that we are part of His mission plan.  “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

Living in the country means we are on a well.  When we lose power, we lose water.  Without water, a sink is pretty useless.  Without a sink…you get a big mess!    It is the same with our lives. Without our God-Father, Son and Spirit, our mundane lives are useless and pointless.  But when He fills us, we can do incredible things.  He created us to do His work, to continue being an example, to continue telling what a difference Jesus Christ as Savior makes, to continue going on.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

“Hands of mercy, won’t you cover me.  Lord, right now, I’m asking you to be strong enough.”  In our Savior’s name we pray, Amen.

To read more encouraging stories, or if you are interested in sharing your own story, please go to the In Her Shoes tab near the top of the page. I love learning about the people in this series. Connecting with others seems to make the world feel not quite as big and scary. We’re all in this together. I can’t wait to hear from you, to read your stories, and learn more of what it is like to walk in your shoes.

~ Love, 

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In Her Shoes ~ Just Breathe

In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives – to see what it is like to walk in their shoes. Today I am thrilled to introduce you to my beautiful friend Amy! She is going to share a peek into her life – the heartbreak, the healing, and finding love again. You can follow more of her family’s journey on Facebook! Let’s join our friend as she shares with us what it is like to walk in her shoes. ~ Love, G

In Her Shoes ~ Just Breathe

Here I am, sitting in my home office with a bottle of water in hand, cooling off after a 5 mile run and pondering where I should begin in sharing my story.  There have been many seasons in my life, some wonderful and some…well, less than wonderful.  But to get to today, I think I really have to start from where this season began, which was in the summer of 1991.

I was a 15 year old girl, just completing my sophomore year of high school, busily primping and prepping for a night out of country dancing with friends to celebrate the end of another school year.  It took A LOT of effort and hairspray to perfect the height of those bangs! When we arrived at the little honky-tonk owned by a friend’s family, the parking lot was full.  Evidently celebrating the end of school by scootin’ boots around the dance floor was a popular choice this evening.  My friends and I were enjoying ourselves- giggling, sharing our plans for the summer and dancing.  As George Strait’s The Chair started to play and all of us girls “awwwed”…a handsome young man (whom I had never seen before) approached me and asked me to dance.  He introduced himself as we stepped onto the dance floor and butterflies took flight in my stomach.  He twirled me all around the dance floor that night.  We danced to any song that came on, never taking a break from conversation and sharing many smiles and laughs.  It was magical…and in a very short time, I felt like I had known him for years.  We exchanged numbers at the end of the evening and I went home with stars in my eyes.

A&B 1991

There wasn’t a single day in the summer of 1991 that passed without us being together.  Everything seemed perfect and I had found my Prince Charming.  A couple of months into the relationship and a week shy of my 16th birthday, my parents recognized the look of love in our eyes and regretfully put an end to our relationship trying to protect my future.  I was just too young to be so swept up in love with my 19 year old Prince Charming.  Looking back, my parents demonstrated love for me that I can only understand now that I am a parent myself.  It was a selfless act of hurting their child, in order to protect me from myself.  The request was devastating, but we honored my parent’s wishes.  The night that we parted ways…I vowed to him, with tears streaming down my face, that I would love him forever…and that SOME DAY…

We kept in touch off and on over the years.  I knew he married and had a son.  He knew that I married and started a family.  We occasionally celebrated milestones or life events with a quick conversation.  We talked on the phone, or corresponded by email (once that new technology had become main stream) but never saw each other face-to-face.  Sometimes it would be many months and even years in between, but somehow we always seemed to find our way back to one another.  I was comforted in knowing that my Prince Charming was happy and doing well.

In 2005, I sat down at the computer to upload some new pictures I had captured of my children and stumbled upon a chat session left open between my husband and an unknown woman.  As I read the conversation, it became quite clear that my husband was having an affair.  I went numb.  My daughter was only 4 years old and son just 5 months old, what would I do?  At the same time, my body was not well and I felt as though nothing would ever be good again.  I tried for 5+ years to repair all that had been broken in our relationship, but my marriage was over and had been for a very, very long time.  I was 150 lbs over weight, I had lost all joy outside of being a mom, I was CRIPPLED with fear and I couldn’t stand one more day of pretending to be okay.  One Sunday afternoon in 2011, I took a stand for myself and my children by asking him to leave…and I have never looked back.

Amy Transformation

I will be the first to say that the months following were hard, VERY hard.  Attorneys, counselors, single-parenting, etc. but there was a feeling of peace in my home that we had never experienced.  I was slowly becoming myself again and my children were blossoming, too.  I changed my lifestyle and started eating healthy and exercising…and suddenly, I found myself feeling FREE.  In the midst of all the stress, anger, fear, attorneys, battles, and sometime debilitating loneliness…”I got mail”.  I couldn’t believe it!?!

We shared our journeys and he encouraging me to keep taking care of myself and face my fears because I was worth the fight.  His sound advice was words of experience, because he too had been in very similar shoes a couple of short years ago when he found out about his wife’s affair. He was now a single-dad, raising his son in a state far away from family and friends.  He needed a fresh start, so he took a job offer that relocated him to New Mexico.  At the time, I didn’t know what this new season would bring, but I was thankful that God saw it to bring him back into my life because of the strength and courage that he helped me find.

Bolin kiss

As the days and weeks passed, there was no denying that a promise made 20 years ago still held true for me.  I loved this man with all my heart and as crazy as the timing seemed, I knew HE was my new season.  There were several factors that seemed impossible to overcome.  I mean, we lived 900 miles apart for starters. But God reminded me that His perfectly orchestrated plan will always be better than mine.   Prince Charming received a COMPLETELY unexpected career opportunity from one of his customers just 2 hours away from me and the kids.  God was putting the pieces into place.

Bolin wedding

I became his Mrs. in February of 2013.  My 12 year old daughter helped plan the wedding and our 3 babies were the only attendants we had standing beside us.  It was picture perfect; a small chapel with floor to ceiling windows looking out over a creek with two large Texas Oak trees intertwined with one another; a white, baby grand piano; a center aisle for my Dad and son to walk me down to my awaiting Prince Charming; and my brother and best friend, officiating.  We were surrounded by our family and a few very close friends.  My dreams were coming true.  I finally made good on my promise by vowing before God and our witnesses that I would love him forever, in sickness and in health…words that take on a very deep meaning to this bride and groom.

Bolin ceremony

You see, my Prince Charming has very sick lungs.  We had been given a picture of what the next 5-7 years might look like for us months prior to our wedding day.  According to the specialists, his lung function was decreasing to a dangerous level and the only way to improve his quality of life would be through lung transplant.  5-7 years would give us time to be Newlyweds, get our affairs in order, give time for the kids to grow up a bit…but God’s plan is not ours.  A 9 day hospital stay with IV antibiotics for a respiratory infection caused damage that could not be reversed.  And as of April 4th, 2014, he was listed as a candidate for a double lung transplant.  So now our plan includes, NO plan as we wait for “the” call.  And despite all the unknowns of being the wife to a transplant candidate, I do know this: I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  This was the journey God brought me on, around and through in order to have what I have today.  I am the Mrs. to my Prince Charming…and there is no happier place on earth for me.  I do all I can to make each day count…because I made a promise, and I am unwilling to have a single regret!

Bolin hospital

To read more encouraging stories, or if you are interested in sharing your own story, please go to the In Her Shoes tab near the top of the page. I love learning about the people in this series. Connecting with others seems to make the world feel not quite as big and scary. We’re all in this together. I can’t wait to hear from you, to read your stories, and learn more of what it is like to walk in your shoes.

~ Love, 

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Dancing with My Sister ~ In Her Shoes

In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives – to see what it is like to walk in their shoes. Today I am thrilled to introduce you to Brianne Whitley – my lovely sister-in-law! She is going to share a peek into her life, and tell us what it is like to have a sibling with special needs. You can also follow her on her new crafting and lifestyle blog – Whitley Life, and on Facebook! Let’s join our friend as she shares with us what it is like to walk in her shoes. ~ Love, G

In Her Shoes ~ Dancing with My Sister...

According to the National Down Syndrome Society website, “one in every 691 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome.” I am fortunate enough to have a younger sister with down syndrome. There are many people that don’t know a lot about down syndrome, or the struggles that they go through. The definition from the National Down Syndrome Society on what down syndrome is and what characteristics they have is, “In every cell in the human body there is a nucleus, where genetic material is stored in genes.  Genes carry the codes responsible for all of our inherited traits and are grouped along rod-like structures called chromosomes.  Typically, the nucleus of each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent. Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21.

This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. A few of the common physical traits of Down syndrome are low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm – although each person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees, or not at all.”

With these visible characteristics, a lot of people can tell when a person has down syndrome. This being said, a lot of individuals treat those with down syndrome different than they do anyone else. They just want to fit in like anyone else. They want to be able to do whatever anyone else is doing. Having a younger sister, I know this first hand.

Brianne ~ In Her Shoes

One memory I have of my sister trying to fit in [and just being a pesky little sister ;)] would be the time when I received a really nice make-up set for my birthday. I had it sitting up on my vanity in my room. I went up to my room after school one day and found her playing in the brand new make-up set that had not been used yet. She had it everywhere. All over the floor, her face, her arms, the vanity, and even her hair. You can imagine how upset I was when this happened. Thinking back to that time, I really I wish I would have taken a picture.

As a sibling to someone with down syndrome, growing up was sometimes a struggle. My parents have done an amazing job raising us, but sometimes its hard for a child to try to explain the emotions they are experiencing to a parent. I know I did. I remember sometimes feeling jealous of my sister, she monopolized so much time when she was younger. Sometimes I felt like what I did didn’t matter. I would get upset or angry, and my parents never really understood what caused it (most of the time, neither did I). It’s hard to describe some of the emotions I had while growing up. Most of the time it was written off as being a dramatic teenager, which most of time time it probably was. More recently, I have met others who have siblings with special needs. They experienced a lot of the same feelings I had while growing up.

Looking back on my feelings as a teenager, I would chalk up most of my feelings to raging hormones and not knowing what to do with all of them. Sometimes it’s nice to know that there are others out there that had the same feelings you did. I would get so frustrated with myself for some of the emotions that I did have towards my sister. They wouldn’t last very long, but having even the thought of jealousy made me uneasy.

Brianne and Brooke ~ In Her Shoes

 

I love my sister so much and don’t know what I would have done without her. She is such a light in my life. Even though we fight like “normal” sisters would, she is such a joy to be around. One of our favorite things to do is turn up the music in my parents basement and sing and dance until we’re too tired to do dance anymore. I’ve had several friends recently come up to me and tell me how much they appreciate me bringing my sister around our group of friends. As much as I told my parents it was a pain to bring my sister around with me, I loved bringing her with me. Being able help make people more aware of down syndrome and show people that they just want to be part of the group as much as you or I want to be part of the group, really makes me feel like I’m helping make a change.

Check out http://www.ndss.org/ to find out ways you can help spread awareness of down syndrome to your community.

“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.” —Thomas Merton

To read more encouraging stories, or if you are interested in sharing your own story, please go to the In Her Shoes tab near the top of the page. I love learning about the people in this series. Connecting with others seems to make the world feel not quite as big and scary. We’re all in this together. I can’t wait to hear from you, to read your stories, and learn more of what it is like to walk in your shoes.

~ Love, 

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In Her Shoes ~ The Five Givens of Life (Part 1)

In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives – to see what it is like to walk in their shoes. Today I am honored to introduce you to Heather – a dear friend of mine. She is the author of the incredible new blog Indomitable. She continues to encourage, inspire, and challenge me with each of her posts, and am thrilled that she will be sharing with us for the next few weeks! You can also follow her on Facebook! Let’s join our friend as she shares with us what it is like to walk in her shoes. ~ Love, G

In Her Shoes ~ The Five Givens of Life (Part 1)

Being an avid book reader means I have made friends with a million fictitious characters and learned life-changing lessons from authors centuries dead.  I have my own little favorite-book list that I can’t help but continue to try to cram down the throats of my friends.

Reading changes you.
It instructs you.
It teaches you.

Often, I have found my back against a wall, cried out for help, and been answered in a book.

One such book is called “The Five Things We Cannot Change”.  It’s written by an author who is specifically Buddhist, but since I am specifically not, I wanted to tell the principles in his book, but with a bit of deviation.  Instead of focusing on the underlying current of that religion, I want to tell stories of how God has met me in those 5 places.

I hope that you consider reading this book yourself.  With eyes open to finding truth where you might otherwise not expect it, and with a mind, sharp to keep what is good and discard what is not.

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THE FIVE GIVENS OF LIFE:
Part 1 of 5.  EVERYTHING CHANGES AND ENDS

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I was nineteen when I first met him.  He was seventeen.  Almost eighteen.

When I first saw him rollerblading around the parking lot, I could have never known the things that were laid out in front of us.  He was my first everything.  My first kiss, my first love, my first death.  I lived by his side for the next thirteen years before this first given of life proved itself true: everything eventually changes and ends.

We both grew up in the same cult and were working on staff at a branch in Indianapolis.  The irony of being sent there to learn how to help troubled youth was great, for I knew nothing about life myself.  But such was the steady pattern of this cult.  Always the blind leading the blind.

I was sent there as punishment for my bad attitude at home.  But that’s a whole story in itself.

I spent my days attached to 6 other girls near my age ranging in background and history from cowgirl to Mennonite to mountain girl.  Then there was me.  We were all as different as different could be.   Still, we all found our perfect match within the group.

Sadly, one of the methods of mayhem within this cult was to not allow much depth in forming friendships, so I often found myself banned from the people that I would finally connect with.

We joined this cult when I was 10 or 11.  To tell you the truth, much of my childhood is foggy, with little bursts of exceptional clarity happening around traumatic events.  Therapists have told me that our minds serve to protect our emotions, often concealing events that we cannot bear, and only releasing them when we have become strong enough to face them.  This has been my steady theme since setting out on the adventure to climb my own Mt Everest about seven years ago.  To find the dysfunctions within me, right them, and then sit back and wait for the realizations and memories to become clear so that I can handle them.  Some of the realities have been realizations of damage, but surprisingly, some of them have been the new awareness that I was indeed loved.

During those years, what I remember of them now anyway, I felt unwanted.

A burden.

Taken for granted.

Being sent to Indianapolis drove the final nail in that coffin.

Kicked out from my family.

It’s a pill that just never goes down well.

This boy rollerblading around the parking lot was going to be the first in my life to call me his “favorite”.  In a way, I see how God used him to show me my value.  But it takes some fortitude to even find that now because I know how it ended, ya know.  It’s hard to be true to those original moments when you know the whole thing eventually goes down in flames.  It’s like watching the Titanic movie.  You stop appreciating the romantic scenes when you know the boy freezes to death hanging onto the side of a door floating in the ocean.

Anyway, we eventually left that place.  Actually, we were kicked out.  I went home and wasn’t welcome, so I began moving from place to place.  This lasted 18 months.  All the while, both of us were not allowed to be in touch with the other in any way.  It was so painful.  Adults have no ability to remember the severity of first love.  Just like pain not having memory, we grow older and get used to disappointment and hurt and heartache and forget altogether what it is like to be so young and so fragile and so breakable.

There I was, 20 years old, living out in the real world, trying desperately to figure out the things I did not learn for the previous ten years while tucked away from society living in a cult.  My sister in law took me shopping for my first pair of jeans and tennis shoes.  This was before the invention of low-rise jeans.  I can still remember those jeans like yesterday.  And the high top Nikes.  I had no idea how to dress.  I probably still don’t actually, but I can pull off some mean yoga pants now.

Eventually I knew I needed to find him.  I needed to know.  The last time I spoke to him, he told me he’d find me.  He promised.  And I hung onto that promise for dear life.

I wrote a letter and mailed it to the address given to me by directory assistance.  I had no idea who his parents were and what their names might be.  I just knew that he lived in Marietta, Georgia.  Guided by the ever so thin stands of fate, that letter made it to the right house and into the right hands.

Seven days later, on the dot, I was watching Dawson’s Creek alone in the living room at my brother’s house when the phone rang.  The sight of the caller ID sent my heart into my toes.  Not seeing or speaking to someone that you desperately love for a year and a half brings some serious intensity to a reunion of any kind.  Like getting a loved one back from the dead, there is an instant of pause inside of you that stops and freezes time… so you’ll never forget it… and because you don’t have any idea what to do.

A week later, we met up in Chattanooga, Tennessee at the Choo-Choo Hotel.  As clear as if it were yesterday, I can see him walking across that courtyard in his yellow checked Abercrombie shirt.  The smell of Eddie Bauer Adventurer floats around in the back of my mind.  The talks, the hugs, the kisses, the tears, the surreal moments of that first reunion.  I will never forget them.

Though I have long since said my good-byes to that boy who stole a piece of me for eternity, those moments of our meeting and falling in love and then losing each other and eventually finding each other again are forever sealed away inside of me.  Nothing can shake them from me.  I cannot forget them even though I have tried.  The severity of the agony that I felt when I lost him thirteen years later was equal to the severity of my love for him there in that Chattanooga hotel courtyard.  When I let the memory rise up inside of me even now, parts of my chest feel like they rip in half anew, and I simply am unable to keep the tears from falling.

Only eighteen years have come and gone since I lived those moments that are seared within my most sacred memories.  Yet they seem like several life times ago.

All my dreams realized themselves and then slowly disintegrated.

And finally, with an epic crash, they shattered and died and are no more.

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I can’t be sure when it started, but I live with a very profound awareness of the transiency of life.  Every time I reach out to love something or I find myself lost in a moment of enjoyment, I can count on the fact that the next heartbeat will bring with it the steady awareness that all things are meant to change and end.

Yet still, here we are, right?
There is still a yard to landscape and a body to keep fit and a house to decorate.  There are still children who have lives to live and memories to make.

I can’t just check out because eventually it will all change and end.

I think we humans go to pretty great lengths to forget our mortality.  To invest ourselves so deeply in the here and now that we forget the steady pounding of time and what she brings with her.

You only live once, ya know.
Really?

I’ve got news for you. YOLO is a lie!!  The concept to “eat, drink, and be merry for tonight we die” loses its sparkle at a funeral.  The feverish lusts of a “feel good” life are met with sadness and discomfort when the givens of life encroach on her happy party.

First, we don’t only live once.

Second, even if it were true that life is here today/gone tomorrow, drinking up pleasure and running from the plain and sometimes mundane truths of life – the givens of life – is only rushing faster and faster to a really noisy death.

All things are meant to change and pass away.

Flowers.
Health.
Life.
Loved ones.
Friendships.

Houses.
Societies.

The athletic achievements of our middle age.

Everything we hold dear.
Our pursuits and dreams.
Our careers.

Sharp minds dull and agile bodies succumb to old age.

Trophies gather dust and medals tarnish.

Last month, I said good-bye to my ninety eight year old grandfather.  And though his passing brought with it – for me anyway – a very certain peace in the fact that he is no longer suffering and has finally made it Home to be with the One he called Savior, there were a few existential realities that I could not ignore.

In his younger years, he was a bowler and a horseshoe pitcher.  He had a whole room dedicated to his trophies.  I remember that room like the back of my own hand.  I remember the pride I felt in him.  My grandpa was an amazing man and here was the room to prove it.  Since long before I was born, he’d begun receiving awards.  Each one, proof of yet another victory.

Four summers ago, my family was out in the same area in South Dakota as his beloved farm.  Because my new husband and his daughters had never seen this beautiful part of my childhood, it was important to me that they at least have the knowledge of those sacred rooms and that yard filled with the imaginations of my early years.

We had to let ourselves in through a kitchen window because it had all been boarded up.  If ever I have faced the stark reality that all things change and come to an end, it was walking into that farmhouse.  The air stunk with the deadness of all the mice and lizards in the house.  Tiny intricate skeletons lay on the stairs that I used to slide down with legs tucked into a pillowcase.   The kitchen that was once Grand Central Station and spit out such wonderful things as homemade caramel rolls and apple pies was picked clean and the carcasses of ten thousand flies lay on the bright red counter tops.

The propane tank that served as my imaginary horse was so overgrown in weeds, that it was not visible anymore.  The chicken coop – with its flattish roof – was in disrepair.  I stood there, vividly remembering having danced up there with my cousins when I was little.  We would link arms and sing “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” as we skipped from side to side.

The three-wheeler that claimed my 13-year-old tibia sat parked in the garage with three flat tires.  The Lincoln Towncar that was my Gramps’ pride and joy was there too.  Old, forgotten, and probably dead.  I pushed the dust on the window aside and saw the familiar tan leather seats with their embroidered Lincoln logo.  I remember when he got this car.  I remember thinking it felt like a boat when you sat in the back while speeding down gravel roads – floating up and down on those fancy schmany shock absorbers.  I remember that this car saved his life once when he was in an accident when he was younger.

Around every corner, there was another memory.  A memory that still seemed so close that, if I just closed my eyes, I could surely still smell the smells of the farm and his woodshop and taste the bitterness of the stolen drinks of his coffee and hear the sounds of my cousins’ voices.

But now, those times are gone.

They are over.
They have changed and ended and thoroughly passed.
Everything about the house was falling apart.
It was empty.
Mold and mildew everywhere.

The smell was so bad that I had to cover my nose.

On my way past the garage, I passed through his trophy room.  I ran my fingers across decades of proof that he was an amazing man.

How can it be?

All that work.

All that effort.

All that dedication to perfecting his technique.

Here it is.

What’s left of it anyway.

It came and it passed and now it matters so little that it seems like it never needed to happen in the first place.

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How does one find peace in the givens of life?
How does one find joy in the small things and live thoroughly present to life while mingling the acceptance that we were designed to let go?  Even our mere ability to grieve and mourn show us that we were put together in a way where we were meant to face loss and the pains associated.

Does impermanence cancel our chance for happiness?
The givens of life are the things over which we have no control.  Which are, probably most things.  We live and eventually see that reality does not bow to our commands.  We are forced to go along with things that we would otherwise not allow.  When we want so much to hold on, we must let go.  And when we want so much to let go, we are forced to hang on.

Out of this realization sprang the prayer composed by Reinhold Niebuhr that is the cornerstone of the recovery movement.  “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

But what are the things that we cannot change?  What are the things that we must open our hearts and hands up to in order to find any sort of peace in our impermanent life?

1. Everything changes and ends.

2. Things do not always go according to plan.

3. Life is not always fair.

4. Pain is part of life.

5. People are not loving and loyal all the time.

The word “given” has two meanings.  It is first a condition that cannot be changed, but it is also something that has been granted to us.  Embracing the givens of life is, as author David Richo says, “to say ‘yes’ with gusto to what is unsatisfactory”… knowing and acknowledging the fine lines spoken of in Niebuhr’s prayer.

There are things we cannot change.  And these are the things we want most to be able to.

Death and heartache.
Sickness and disease.

Betrayals and pain.

Letting go of our plans.

Saying good bye too soon.
Loss.

In the book, the author says, “Each of the five main givens of life confront our deeply held illusions.  The fact that things change confronts the illusion of permanence.  The fact that plans fall through confronts our illusion of control.  Our illusion that things will be fair or that pain will not happen to us or that people will be always trustworthy are all called into question by the givens we face in the course of our life.  Accepting these givens liberates us from ignorance and illusion.”

All of these are the things that we as a culture and society have gone to work trying to control.  We have pushed our mortality and its reality as far from our every day minds as we can get it.  So much to the point that, when faced with a funeral and casket, we feel uncomfortable in its presence.  As if death were not as much a part of life as the moments bursting with effervescence.  As though letting go and saying good-bye were not woven into the very fabric of our beings.

 

Avoidance vs. Acceptance

Meister Eckhart was the one who said the now-famous quote, “Everything is meant to be let go of that the soul may stand in unhampered nothingness.”

As a culture, we spend our lives trying to work out our problems so that we maintain control and do not need to face the givens of life as immoveable realities.  We try to negotiate with pain or stay in control of hard circumstances so that the loss sustained will be undone or at least lessened.

When we do this, we conflict with the absolutes in the world around us, and the last thing we find is peace.

Pain IS part of life.
Loss IS a part of life.
Change IS a part of life.

Everything changes and ends.

It just does.

Fighting against is brings unrest.
Accepting it – though it requires tremendous psychological and spiritual work – brings peace and stillness.

On the other side of acceptance lies the ability to move on.  To leave the wound behind while carrying and maintaining the glory of the scars within us.

Our losses – when fully integrated for good in our lives because we abandon our false control and accept what really is rather than fighting for what we wish for – are transformed from gaping holes in our souls into wells of deeper and deeper capacity.

David Richo says, “To go through the experience of mourning a partner or family member, for instance, leads to letting go of whomever we lost.  Grief readies us eventually to give up clinging to the past and to move toward closeness with new others who offer approximations of what we lost.  We will not recover our mother, but we can experience motherly moments in nurturant others.  Thus we feel no longer alone and isolated but reconciled to reality and reconnected to other humans.  In fact, reconciliation is the ability to accept the approximation.  This is the ‘yes’ of healthy compromise.”

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If “having your ‘no’ intact” means that you know how to be assertive and protect yourself from abuse, “having your ‘yes’ intact” is the concept that holds hands with that truth.   One is psychological work; the other spiritual.

Having your “yes” intact means that you choose to say a robust “YES” to the givens of life.  It means accepting life on life’s terms.  It means relinquishing the control you thought you had (that you never really did) and finding the calm peace that comes from that.

Be still and I know that I am God.

Are you hearing me now?
Am I speaking your language now?

As long as we are feuding with life’s givens, we not only stagnate our souls and live in ignorance, we disallow growth, healing, and the beautiful art of moving on.  When we try to hang on when we need to release, we hurt ourselves.  But when we back up and realize that there just are things about life that are hard to accept, and find the bravery to accept them anyway, we unlock doors inside ourselves that would otherwise bind us as captives for the rest of our mortal lives.

Everything changes and ends.

Our bodies age.  Tight skin loosens, sharp vision dulls, strong muscles and bones become frail.  Time is the master than no one can successfully run from.  We all age.  But the choice to age gracefully is within us as well.  The choice to fight a losing battle in an effort to hang onto our youth just looks like a midlife crisis.  And so instead, we must choose to accept what is.

Opening up our hands and souls to the aging process with grace looks like this:  less glamour, more wisdom.

Our relationships change.  Brothers and sisters who were once close fall away from one another.  Divorce is a reality in our world.  Friends sometimes turn away or are disloyal.  The closeness we experience with our family and friends during certain periods of life ebb and flow.  Sometimes close, sometimes distant.  Should we raise our fists when a family member or friend is not as close or loyal as we would like, we are living in disharmony with the given in life that people are not always as loyal as we would like and that things do indeed change.

Living out a “yes” to that is painful.  Opening the hand and accepting the new is hard.  But stubbornly trying to hang onto what was is setting yourself at odds with life’s unchanging rules.

In a world where things change and end, an attitude of acceptance and trust makes sense.
Death is real.  In fact, it’s not only real, it’s inevitable.  Young and old alike face this passageway from one life to the next.  We fear it because we do not know it.  And what we do not know, we cannot control.  We fear it because it means loss.  It means change.  It means an end has come.

When the casket is filled with 98 year old bones, we cry happy tears in celebration of a life well lived and the sad, but light, tears of our appropriately timed good-byes.  However, when the casket bears the body of our beloved spouse or child, the tears that follow are much more bitter.  When the givens of life – that all things change and come to an end – follow a time line other than what we have in mind, the pain is very real and very personal.

And when the casket is proverbial and the death being grieved comes in the form of divorce or abandonment, the same noxious gasses fill our lungs and make us recoil in agony, struggling for fresh air and firm footing.

Time is both our friend and our foe.  Moving at the pace of a snail on a sedative, the progression between first-blow and moving-on sometimes is the work of many years.  But when it comes – the calm place of acceptance – the sweet breath of trust whispers to us, “Things change and end and grief happens.  The ones we love are impermanent as are we.  Here – even here – in this pain and in this loss, I can find stillness and acceptance.”

And so we live our lives in full knowledge and acceptance to the fact that things do not always go as planned.  That things we love eventually fade and good byes are part of human existence.

And so we let go of control.  We let go of the belief that we even have control.  We live alive and present to what is now without the worry of what is to come.  With understanding for what has been.
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I write these next words to the ones of my readers who know Jesus and have claimed him for their own.  Or rather, been claimed by Him as His own.

While it is true that I have found great comfort and taught myself ways of pain management and peace using these helpful tools of psychology and a broader understanding of the realities of life, enough words could not be added to this ending to tell you of the peace that I have discovered that passes any sort of understanding that I have gained in books.

The solid knowledge that My Father in heaven is as aware of me as I am aware of my children has been a balm to my soul the way no knowledge or important lesson could ever be to me.

On the one hand, we see the need to separate one’s self from the tossing about that happens when emotions are not paired with knowledge.  On the other, we must admit that even the most mature among us will face emotions in our lives that could best Hercules.  Another given of life that is not among the list above is that we are not enough.  Our knowledge is not enough.  Demystifying these secrets of the universe and our human make-up is not enough.
Jesus calls us to one thing.  Trust.

He is aware of our limitations because he made us.  He knows our emotions because they were his idea.  I do not believe it is errant or dangerous to explore methods of coping and lessons on handling those emotions well and maturely, but the solid ground that does not shake is not found in books of psychology, but rather in a Book about theology.

He has told us that we will face things that are painful.  He has said that we will experience hurts and that nothing is new under the sun.  And He has not made silly promises that He won’t give us more than we can bear.  But He has given calm assurances of his Presence.

For me, learning about Him came first.  Learning to trust while my body felt on fire because the pain of life had become too much happened before the realizations of psychology that I’ve shared above.

Trust is that rare and priceless treasure that wins us the affection of our Heavenly Father.  For Him, it has both charm and fascination.  Among his countless children, whom he so greatly loves and whom he heaps with tenderness and favors, there are few indeed, who truly entrusting themselves to him, live as veritable children of God.  There are as few who respond to his goodness by a trust at once filial and unshaken.  And so it is that he welcomes with a love and predilection those souls, all too few in number, who in adversity as in joy, in tribulation and consolation, unfalteringly trust in his paternal love.  Such souls truly delight and give immense pleasure to the heart of their heavenly father.  There is nothing he is not prepared to give them.  “Ask of me half of my Kingdom,” he cries to the trusting soul, and “I will give it to you.”  – Paul deJaegher.

Uncompromising trust in the love of God inspires us to thank God for the spiritual darkness that envelops us, for the loss of income, for the nagging arthritis that is so painful, and to pray from the heart, “Abba, into your hands I entrust my body, mind, and spirit and this entire day – morning, afternoon, evening, and night.  Whatever you want of me, I want of me, falling into you and trusting you in the midst of my life.  Into your heart I entrust my heart, feeble, distracted, insecure, uncertain.  Abba, unto you I abandon myself in Jesus our Lord.  Amen.”  – Brennan Manning

The enormous difficulty of pain, suffering, and evil remains, heartache lingers, and there are some wounds of the spirit that never close.  Unfortunately, organized religion is often of little help in times of spiritual crisis.  In fact, if often makes things worse.  Any brand of religion that focuses exclusively on the supernatural and makes breezy pronouncements about the afterlife offers no comfort, consolation, or solidarity in our present suffering.  The arrogance, rigidity, and blazing enthusiasm of religious fanatics who see in every hurricane and cosmic upheaval a sign that we are on the brink of apocalyptic catastrophe only alienate the shipwrecked and heartbroken.

However, a fleeting, incomplete, glimpse of God’s back – the obscure yet real, penetrating, and transforming experience if his incomparable glory – awakens a dormant trust.  Something is afoot in the universe; Someone filled with transcendent brightness, wisdom, ingenuity, and power and goodness is about.  In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, somewhere deep down, a Voice whispers, “All is well, and all will be well.” – Brennan Manning

 …

To read more encouraging stories, or if you are interested in sharing your own story, please go to the In Her Shoes tab near the top of the page. I love learning about the people in this series. Connecting with others seems to make the world feel not quite as big and scary. We’re all in this together. I can’t wait to hear from you, to read your stories, and learn more of what it is like to walk in your shoes.

~ Love, 

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In Her Shoes ~ An Intentional Future…

In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives – to see what it is like to walk in their shoes. Today I am honored to introduce you to a woman who has really touched my heart. Alysha shares her inspiring story and encouragement with others on her blog – An Intentional Future. Please do me a favor – grab a box of tissues and join us as our friend shares with us what it is like to walk in her shoes. ~ Love, G

In Her Shoes ~ An Intentional Future

The year I turned 22 I met the man I envisioned myself spending the rest of my life with. Pete was a young, strapping military man with a passion for risky outdoor activities such as high-altitude mountain climbing. He was also a romantic who longed to be married and to one day have a family of his own. We shared a love for God, a similar sense of humor, a desire to live a life of adventure, and deep compassion for those in need.

When I was 23, he proposed while in a hot air balloon over Napa Valley. I was ecstatic. We were soon married and shortly after I became pregnant with our first child. I was 24 years old.

Amidst military deployments our precious daughter, Isabella, was born. Our love grew exponentially as I witnessed the depth of a father’s love for his daughter.

We continued to live adventurously when at 25 I found myself nursing a baby in a foreign land. He had accepted a position working in the Middle East. We rejoiced as the opportunity meant the end of deployments and the beginning of life as a family.

During our time abroad, we sought respite while on vacations trekking in Nepal and climbing mountains in Europe. We formed life-long friendships with people from all around the world and cherished our little budding family of three.

At 26, we welcomed our second child, our son Lucas. Our family was now complete. We were beyond blessed.

My 27th year included a move back home. We bought and renovated our first home and settled into life together. Daddy commuted to work and mommy stayed at home caring for two young babies. We looked forward to weekends together, which included rides pulling a bike trailer, visits to the park, and service at our local church. Once again, we counted our blessings.

Later that year, the ball dropped. My young, strapping military man was diagnosed with cancer and it was stage IV.

We accepted the challenge and pursued a cure. There was no way I could ever live without him, I thought. Surely, God would never allow him to die. We declared victory over cancer before victory was ours to claim. The treatments came and went and soon we heard those dreaded words, “It is terminal and there is nothing more we can do.”

So, at 28 my worst nightmare occurred when I buried my husband. I was not only a single parent to two young children, but also a widow. Upon saying goodbye, I set about attempting to live without the man I once envisioned myself growing old with. Clearly my plan was not God’s; He had other plans.

When I was 29, it happened, I met my Chapter 2, who coincidentally is a widower. Now at 30 I will marry Dave and we will set about pursuing our life together, while purposefully living to honor our past.

Alysha's photos 1

The reality of love after loss is very bittersweet. There is an intense realization that without the pain of loss, new love would not be possible. The truth is, grief does not end where new love begins. It simply morphs into something different by making concessions for the past.

It is possible to love again. When my Pete said goodbye, my finite mind was incapable of envisioning how I could ever possibly love again. I wondered how I could love anyone as deeply. Now that I have experienced the joy of love after loss, I know it is possible to love again and to love just as deeply as I loved before, if not more deeply.

Loss has allowed me to be more vulnerable in my current relationships. Loss has left me with an intense desire to experience relationships on a new level for which a real vulnerability is required. This vulnerability is capable of creating a love that is unrivaled by any other because I know how fleeting life can be.

Alysha's Photos #2

I have also learned that comparisons are inevitable. I don’t mean this in a Dave does this better than Pete sort of way, but in a Pete did it this way and Dave does it this way and this with why I love(d) them. I enjoy recalling memories of Pete and often share them with Dave. I also enjoy hearing about his Becky because I understand that if it were not for her, he would not be the man he is today.

I am still actively grieving my loss. There are days I am overtaken with intense sadness for my loss, my children’s, and the life Pete lost. There are days I recall memories of our cancer journey with the same realism as if it all happened yesterday. On those days, my Dave listens to me and comforts me. There are also days when we talk about Becky and Pete as if they are still with us, because in reality, they are. They will always be with us in spirit and we intend to do our best to keep their memories alive. The vulnerability of love after loss allows me to grieve his loss in addition to my own.

Lastly, I am scared to commit. I have struggled with an overwhelming fear that the past will repeat itself. I also have to remind myself that even if I had known about Pete’s illness before we were married, it would not have changed my love for him or the fact that I desired to share my life with him. In other words, worrying about the future will not help anything. Worry will only impact the fullness of joy I can experience in the present.

Despite the pain of loss I am thankful for my experience. I have had to accept that my experience has brought with it many blessings; for one, it has made me a better lover. I now have an intense understanding for the fragility of life and for that reason, I intend to make the most of the opportunity to love and be loved once again.

Alysha's Photos #3

To read more encouraging stories, or if you are interested in sharing your own story, please go to the In Her Shoes tab near the top of the page. I love learning about the people in this series. Connecting with others seems to make the world feel not quite as big and scary. We’re all in this together. I can’t wait to hear from you, to read your stories, and learn more of what it is like to walk in your shoes.

~ Love, 

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In Our Shoes ~ Missing Him…

 In Her Shoes is a series normally written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives – to find out what it’s like to walk in their shoes. Today I am sharing a special post with you. Part of it is written by me, but I also had the help of my wonderful military wife friends – Becky, Audrey, Katie, Jenna, Sadie, Kallie, and Kim.  I hope that you’ll join us as we share what it is like to walk in our shoes. ~ Love, Ginger 

In Our Shoes ~ Missing Him...

I will check my phone about a million times today. Touching the home button, I will look at the photo that comes up on my phone. It’s one of our wedding pictures – he’s holding me in his arms while giving me a tender kiss.

No matter how many times I look at it, I will probably see the same thing. No missed calls. No missed texts or emails.

Sighing, I will slip the phone back into my pocket. This phone is my lifeline when he is gone, and almost never out of my reach.

And then at some point in the day, I will hear a chime letting me know that I have a text message from him! I live for those moments right now – those little sounds letting me know that he is thinking of me right at that instant. That tiny connection with him can make my whole day. 

I miss my Beloved…

Wedding Dip

My lovely friend Crystal recently asked me over coffee how much longer until he comes home – and I just had to shrug my shoulders. It’s still so far out now that I can’t start the countdown just yet.  I am grateful that we’ve finally made it to the halfway point of this deployment, but I can’t even wrap my head around having another several weeks of this. Worrying about his safety. Missing him.

One breath at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time.

I have been blessed by family and friends who have been so helpful while Joe has been deployed, and Crystal encouraged me to share with you some simple ways that you could be a help to military families, should they ever cross your path!

Each family and situation is so different that I didn’t want this to be all about me or my family. I asked for the help of some of my amazing military wife friends who answered a quick question for me: What are some of the most helpful and memorable ways that others have helped you while your loved one was deployed? 

I am so grateful for these women, and every bit of their service! They have kissed husbands and sons good-bye as they headed off to war, baked cookies for care packages, celebrated birthdays and holidays without their loved ones, and held down the fort until their beloveds came home. This is truly a collaborative effort, and I am honored to call these strong women my friends!

Becky, Indiana – 

The “bestest” thing someone can do for a person whose spouse is deployed is be there for them. Not just the vague, “If there’s anything you need…” either, but make firm offers, like babysitting for a doctor’s appointment or seeing a need and addressing it, (“Hey, I see you’ve got some branches down from that storm. When would be a good time to come over and clear those out for you?).

And here’s a biggie – understand that even though technology has made it easier to communicate with a deployed spouse, they’re still gone from home and still missed. Skyping with someone isn’t the same as snuggling next to them in bed.

Audrey, California –

Some people make meals for us, which is my favorite because when hubby is gone, I tend to go super easy…eat out way too often, mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, etc. so a home-cooked meal from someone else is awesome.

Giving me free time…watching my kids so I can grocery shop, go to appointments, or just get a coffee in peace is always much appreciated.

Keeping me and/or the kids busy…I have friends who take turns coming over in the evenings so that one evening a week I can have adult conversation and wine with a friend, since evenings and weekends are usually the loneliest.

Katie, Kansas –

Offer to mow their yard.

Offer to be the on call as a mechanic. I had a guy that would check out our car before I left town since we have an OLD car.

Laundry fairy ~ Two ladies each came once a week, picked up our dirty laundry and returned it sorted, clean, folded the next day.

Know the person’s favorite drink (Starbucks, Sonic, etc.), and surprise her by dropping off treats randomly.

Scripture ~ We had someone anonymously mail us postcards with a verse and nothing else. I got at least one each week and it was always just what I needed to hear.

Secretly pay for little things you know they would enjoy (Parents Night Out, movie passes in their mailbox). For some, deployments have an increase in pay. For many (reservists) it’s a decrease.

Bad weather ~ check on them if you’re getting out. Do they need milk? Do they need help shoveling their driveway?

PRAY. It’s hard. It’s real. Cover them, their loved one, and family.

Jenna, Nevada –

I think the most helpful thing that my family & friends have done during deployment time is to spend time with me/call me. To me it’s not that people have to have great advice, or the perfect thing to say, or do that will make you feel better. I just like having the company. Not feeling alone has made all the difference in helping me get through this deployment.

As far as something I wish non-military people knew about deployment, I guess it would have to be that when the spouse leaves, that isn’t the hardest part. I think people remember to call/text/visit around the time the spouse leaves because they think that initial transition is the hardest. But in reality, I think the hardest part is hitting two or four months in, and knowing that you are only halfway through! I would want people to know that when you have a friend/family member who has a spouse or child deployed that calls/texts/visits are appreciated throughout the whole time the service member is away. We never “get used” to them being far away. It sucks every day until they are home.

Sadie, Kentucky –

There are a TON of groups that support the deployed soldiers – as it should be. But when someone would remember US (myself and our 3 kids) during a deployment, that spoke worlds to me! I know that being deployed is difficult – but the family is LEFT BEHIND and something is missing in our daily life.

I had one friend in California who would mail me and the kids gifts for Valentine’s Day, or “just because.” She was so sweet and it always made me tear up.

I had well meaning family members tell me they knew exactly how I felt with my hubby being gone, except that since they were never military with a deployed spouse, there is no way they knew “exactly how I felt.”

Holidays were HARD… spending Christmas with just me and the kids. Family lives 2600 miles away in AZ and we’re in KY, so visits are few and far between. Military life isn’t for the faint of heart.

Kallie, Hawaii –

I will start with what non-military people should know… Yes, I married my husband knowing he was in the military and there would be a chance of deployment, however that still does not make it any easier when we get the phone call saying that he will be deployed. And doesn’t it make it any easier when your spouse misses out in those first steps taken or the first time your child says, “Dadda.”

Simply ask. They will tell you what they need. It can be something as simple as watching the little one for an hour while they run to the store.

Ask what you can send to the spouse while they are deployed. Deployed members LOVE getting packages. Sending their favorite drinks or snacks are always welcomed by them.

Kim, Nebraska –

Sitting down and having tea with a friend is so important. Having someone that we can vent to helps us to be not so overwhelmed anymore. We can feel so much better about life once we get it off our chest, and then we can keep going.

I am such a lucky girl. There have been wonderful people who have brought us a meal, mowed our lawn, texted, and offered their help while Joe has been away. I received the sweetest note in the mail from someone letting me know that she was praying for Joe while he is gone. My dad has helped watch the boys so I could go get my hair cut by myself. Other friends have spent time with me during evenings and weekends when I’m alone.

I can’t put into words what each of these things has meant to me! 

The thing I’ve found to be so discouraging about deployments, is that I tend to feel so very alone. Each phone call, every question asking if there’s anything that we need, every coffee date with a girlfriend has been a gift… and helped to make this deployment a little easier.

What I love about these ideas is that it doesn’t have to be limited to military families! How many of you can think of a tired mom who needs an hour alone without her kiddos? Can you think of a friend who would enjoy a Sonic drink during Happy Hour? What about someone who you could send an encouraging text, or even a card in the mail? 

I know that I am only one of thousands of others who will lay their head down tonight, and stare at the empty pillow beside them…but because of the encouragement and help from my family and friends, I won’t feel quite so alone. 

One breath at a time, one hour at a time, and one day closer to being in his arms once more.

To read more encouraging stories, or if you are interested in sharing your own story, please go to the In Her Shoes tab near the top of the page. I love learning about the people in this series. Connecting with others seems to make the world feel not quite as big and scary. We’re all in this together. I can’t wait to hear from you, to read your stories, and learn more of what it is like to walk in your shoes.

Love, 

~ Ginger

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In Her Shoes ~ The Ladies in Waiting

In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives – to see what it is like to walk in their shoes. Today I am excited to introduce you to my blogging buddy Cara Meredith! She has a lovely and inspiring blog, and I hope you’ll check it out! Let’s join our friend as she shares with us what it is like to walk in her shoes. ~ Love, G

In Her Shoes ~ Ladies in Waiting

I look down at my feet: they’re puffier and a little wider than usual, but what, really, is “usual” these days?  The left and the right, well, they haven’t worn heels for a good couple of months now, though not for lack of want.  Instead, they’re happiest when propped up on a chair, when resting instead of moving, when still and submissive instead of pushing full-steam ahead, instead of hitting the ground running.

Like sledgehammers attached to the end of leggy appendages, they’re kind of my ladies-in-waiting.

Because really, every part of me – my ceaseless mind, my restless heart, my growing belly – is in wait.  Baby Brother will arrive sometime the latter half of August, we think, and until then we play the Great Waiting Game.  We embrace the liminal space, the in-between time of not quite knowing, of wondering and watching.  This whole idea of liminal space, or liminality, as coined by Franciscan friar and author, Richard Rohr, is nothing short of beauty-filled to me: it gives word and definition and meaning to the tapping impatience of my toes, to the elongated, reaching stretch of my calves, my ankles, my feet.

A thousand times a day, it seems, my mind is submerged in questions (with these that follow solely about the baby – forget the rest of my internal musings): Who will he be, and what will his little personality eventually morph into?  When will he actually arrive?  Will my love for him be immediate, snap-of-the-fingers quick, or will it grow with time?  Can I truly ever love him as much as I love his big brother?  And whoever thought parenting more than one child was a good idea?  For when there are more questions than answers, when we know that change is on the horizon but it’s just not there yet, that’s liminal space.  When we feel like we’re living in the gray – even if we believe The Gray an ethereal place to be – we embrace liminality.  We lean into waiting.  We grab hold of the ellipses.  Maybe we even whisper the words of U2’s “40,” a song that loosely echoes Psalm 40’s waiting theme:

I waited patiently for the Lord,

He inclined and heard my cry

He lifted me up, out of the pit

Out of the miry clay.

 Though not listed above, my favorite part of the melody comes with the chorus, when Bono asks (and the audience repeats) the same simple question, “How long?”  How long am I to sing this song?  How long am I to be in this waiting space?  At one point or another, it’s the song we each find ourselves singing – as evidenced by concertgoers while on tour for U2’s 1983 album, War.  “40” ended the night.  And the haunting chorus “How long?  …How long?” continued its echoing lament long after the musicians left the stage.

Because it might not be our song today, but it might be the song we start singing tomorrow, or on tomorrow’s tomorrow.  And when “How long?” begins its wail, we take heart, knowing we’re not alone.  We’re not alone in waiting for news of the diagnosis, and we’re not alone in our loneliness.  We’re not alone in the newness of transition, and we’re not alone in the pain of the infertility and in the pain of labor and delivery alike.

And this, I suppose, gives my weary sledgehammer, ladies-in-waiting feet hope – for they know they’re not alone.

In Her Shoes ~ Cara MeredithCara Meredith is a writer, speaker and musician from the greater San Francisco area.  She is currently writing her first book, a memoir of belief and disbeliefwhen she’s not on a hunt for the world’s greatest chips and guacamole.  She loves people, food, reading, the great outdoors and her family.  She and her husband, James, currently live in Pacifica, California, with their almost two-year old son, Canon, and a second little boy set to make his appearance in August.

To read more encouraging stories, or if you are interested in sharing your own story, please go to the In Her Shoes tab near the top of the page. I love learning about the people in this series. Connecting with others seems to make the world feel not quite as big and scary. We’re all in this together. I can’t wait to hear from you, to read your stories, and learn more of what it is like to walk in your shoes.

~ Love, 

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In Her Shoes ~ Walking Off the Career Path

In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives – to see what it is like to walk in their shoes. Today I am excited to introduce you to my new blogging buddy Meredith! You can find her at her heartwarming new blog Very Revealing. Let’s join our friend as she shares with us what it’s like to walk in her shoes. ~ Love, G

In Her Shoes ~ Walking Off the Career Path

“What exactly are your career goals then, Ms. Bazzoli?” the man on the phone interview questioned why I was taking giant steps backward; why I applied for a position I am overqualified for. This curiosity lingered at the back of many of his other inquiries, but this time he shot directly.

As I fumbled for interview buzzwords, my mind fixated on the image of a beggar I sometimes see on the corner of Taylor and Union Streeet. You have to strain to read his sign because he’s consumed every square inch with his story.

At the top, his sign reads: OUT OF WORK PAINTER. Based on the sketches of cars and other drawings I can’t quite make out on his sign, I know he means that he’s an artist, a painter like Van Gogh or Davinci, not one that rolls taupe and salmon tones onto bathroom walls and dining rooms.

I guffawed the first time Drew and I spotted it, “If all artists expected their work to sustain them financially, we’d all be out of work actors, dancers, writers, sculptors, and fill in the blanks!”

The second time I saw him, I envied him.

He claimed painting as his life’s work, not just a hobby, but a career. He showed no fear in saying what he was going for in life, but wore a sign announcing it to each car that passed by, asking for the support from the man in the Honda Civic with the bashed in right taillight and the girl texting in her Ford Focus.

People struggle to find the fit reaction when I tell them I am quitting my job as a special education teacher. Congratulating me feels like betraying kids with disabilities or belittling the teaching profession.

When they hear I work for Chicago Public Schools, they say they don’t blame me. Some shake their head at the inner city district that wore me out before my time.  They may roll their eyes, blaming a politician I haven’t heard of or citing the lack of support from parents. Some propose I try to teach in a more promising district in the suburbs.

Certainly, my days as a teacher in CPS left me exhausted. Some days I tried with a full heart, with pizza parties, skip-counting raps, and poems I wrote using only words I knew my students could read. I spent myself.

Other days I used prep-periods to lay my head on the desk while I fell further and further behind on my paperwork, overwhelmed by tracking whether Student A could identify circles and Student B could read consonant-vowel-consonant words with 80% accuracy.

And on both types of days, and all the ones in between, I came home with enough energy to slink out of my car, trudge up my apartment stairs, and flop onto my couch.

Yet, it would be dishonest to say I am leaving teaching for any of these reasons. It would be dishonest to say I make the change because of teaching at all.

While fulfilling my role as a public servant, I met the respectability quota of my peers. I spent my days in the “inner city,” considered by all who heard what I did as “patient,“ the term most commonly ascribed to us special education teachers.

Meredith's In Her Shoes - Pencils

Trust me, I wish I could stay. Something deep inside me longs to stay put in life, to plant myself in whatever field I land in and to send my roots deep for safety.

A friend told me once she hated things staying the same. Not me, I am Lot’s wife, looking back and being turned into a column of dinner seasoning before I get the picture.

The lesson planning, the IEP’s, the testing pressure. These things make teaching hard to enjoy, but the reason I am jumping off the career path is more moving-towards than moving-away. I am not quitting, but starting.

I am an out of work writer and comedian.

I am holding up my sign and standing on the corner and saying, “this is my life’s work.” Before you panic, I lined up a day job (everyone breathes a sigh of relief), but it is not one that spills into every available space the way teaching did.

With the interviewing man, I discarded the answers I grab for by instinct to protect myself and make sure people think I’m a good, responsible girl they could let water their plants while they’re on vacation.

I didn’t blame my depression and anxiety, I didn’t cite my move to the suburbs, I didn’t mention my mom’s cancer, I didn’t talk about the hostile work environment or explain how the teacher’s lounge feels like a continual set for the movie Mean Girls. I didn’t make up a respectable career path. All these things factored into the pro and con list that brought me to the phone call with the uncomfortable question, but none sufficed as an answer.

I held up my sign, squished to the edges with my story, and said, “Well, my comedy and writing have been picking up, and right now there is no room in my life for them to grow. They’re more than hobbies to me, I plan to pursue them, and I’m pursuing jobs in environments I care about, but don’t take as much of me as a full-time teaching job. I also hope to adopt and foster kids someday and I want to have time and energy to dedicate to my kids.”

I wanted to keep going to tell him about incubator troupes, Harold Teams, Coaching opportunities, blog, publications I want to submit to, and pieces I am working through, but remembering the man on the other line was an HR rep and not my therapist, I refrained from telling him about my secret dream to publish a children’s book.

Walking off the career path, I leave a lot of things behind.  But today, I’m choosing to focus on the moving-towards over moving-away. I am moving forward with faith, dragging my feet, but believing I can cover some distance.

I am, Meredith Bazzoli, 25, out of work artist, plummeting life trajectory, feeling wonderfully afraid and terribly excited.

And don’t forget, I do have a day job.

To read more encouraging stories, or if you are interested in sharing your own story, please go to the In Her Shoes tab near the top of the page. I love learning about the people in this series. Connecting with others seems to make the world feel not quite as big and scary. We’re all in this together. I can’t wait to hear from you, to read your stories, and learn more of what it is like to walk in your shoes.

~ Love, 

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I’m Ginger ~
I'm a wife to my Beloved, mom of three boys, bookworm, survivor of a broken heart, and Kansas Girl. It is my desire to encourage you. No matter what storm you're going through right now, you are not alone. I promise.
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