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I know many of you who follow my blog may not be of the same faith as I, so I hope you will give me room to express my deep need today for a little grace and comfort from the faith I hold dear.  Today was a tough day; it is easy to sing praise and be thankful when on the mountain tops and good times. It just as easy to get bogged down in all the worry and exhaustion which comes with hard times. 

I am no stranger to rain, and have enough years behind me to know things only last for a season and one can choose to becomes better and allow "all things to work for good" or get in the way of the divine hand directing the symphony of your life and lose too many moments mired in bitterness. Times like these are where the metal meets the road and can I still or will I  sing thanks for the beautiful life I have been given and embrace the idea of dwelling in the secret place of the most high... know I dwell under the shadow of the Almighty I profess to believe in? Though a new storm of life rages around us, I am thankful for a place to run to and for the faith of my childhood which comforts me.


When I was a little girl, there were so many voices raised in song each Sunday ... old hymns singing "It is well... with my soul" or "How Great Thou Art".  A child's heart cannot possibly know all the challenges life can bring and how much a gift it is to have the faith to say "Thank you, my life is BEAUTIFUL" even in trying times such as these.  


 
 
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All of life is a spiritual journey. When one focuses intent on this and embraces this , everything a person goes through, each path traveled, becomes an avenue of opportunity to learn, grow and change. Change is never stagnant, it must flow,  sometimes softly and gently through our lives and at others like a river filled to the brim and over flowing with raging waters.

Twelve years ago, I came to live in this valley with the intent on healing and having a peaceful, safe and calm life for myself and my children. Little did I know there was another blessing awaiting me in the arms of finding my sweetheart and being blessed with the gift of two sons he brought into my heart and home. My desire for change and the focus to not return to life in a state of sleep walking was met through the blessings and challenges of this land I moved to and the relationships I have embraced.

For a few years now, I have felt in my heart, I had learned what I needed to learn here in this place and it was time to move on. However, when you are a wife and mother, sometimes your time table is different than those around you, and you have to go through a season of waiting. Sometimes it is a very long season.

It has been as if I have been flying around in a holding pattern for those in my family, particularly my spouse,  to come to a place where change could be embraced. I have always known Paradise was not to be my permanent home, though I have tried very hard to mend, mold, and even break myself into accepting it as such, I have always always known it was not where I was intended to to permanently land. I was here for a season.

It has been a season of chipping away all those things which needed to be let go of; a season of fire to refine what was left; times of hard lessons and amazing blessings. I'm not sure if I am entirely in a place, at this point, where I can truly be thankful for all I have learned on this part of my journey, though I am fully aware I would not have changed it. There is not one thing I can fully embrace as a regret in my life because in each lesson there has come moments of serendipity.

Embracing change comes easily, but the lesson here was to embrace standing still. To embrace the lessons of putting down some roots. Standing still does not come easily for me. I am a doer! The season for change has once again arrived, and I am forward focused. I have been placing positive prayer and energy into what things I want in our life and family. The first step was for Seth and I to be on the same page, as I value our partnership and things run so much more smoothly when we work together as a team with a common positive focus.

Next, I began envisioning what I wanted life to be like. My children's comfort and happiness are always at the front of my mind, and knowing change is harder for kids, my goal was a smooth transition. I did what I always do. I made a list. The list is not in specific order of importance.

1. Smaller community
2. Excellent schools (strong academics, more classes offered than we have here)
3. Close to Seth's work (no more than 3 hours away)
4. Had to have a really good wrestling, football, and b-ball program( they have soccer!)
5. Music Opportunities for my youngest who plays piano and violin (I'm tired of driving 2 hours away)
6. Reasonable rental prices (not going to even look at buying yet)
7. School must seem friendly, supportive, and ability to communicate
8. Area should have natural beauty and mountains close by
9. 4H programs
10. Family oriented communities
11. Outdoor recreational activities
12. Wide range of churches to find a good fit
13. Hospital and medical clinics in close proximity (not willing to drive an hour away any longer)

I began a search in earnest using the internet as my primary tool. When I found a place I though might fit the bill, I contacted the chamber of commerce in the area and they sent me info. I then contacted the schools and spoke with the principle and coaches. I compared school requirements with ours here to make sure they were compatible and it would not mess with my high school kids graduating. I perused Craiglist to get and idea of rental prices, and Googled pictures of the area. When I had it all together, I moved on the step 3. ( I have to tell you everything on my list was met and more).

I wrote the pros and cons of moving and of remaining where we are at. There are definite sacrifices and things each person will have to give up if we were to move. Letting go, for the time being, of opening my own shop was a tough one(though I will be taking everything with me as I know I am meant to get it open somewhere/someday). Saying goodbye to good friends and family was another. However, the intent and focus and how I envision my life to be and the healthy direction it needs to take kept shifting my focus to moving.

My heart was anxious and a mess. I went back and forth. Then of course I settled in, asked those I can count on for prayer, and let it go, knowing every time I have left it in the hands of God to let me know a clear path, my creator is always faithful. I woke up one more with perfect peace about moving and said "Ok, now you have to do the work in Seth's heart." I waited a few days. When he had a moment to really focus his attention, I let him know all I had been wrestling with and shared with him the information I had gathered. I had been really praying for receptiveness from him, and don't know why I was shocked when he said "Let's do it" and immediately began making plans to make it happen. Another door opened.

Kids are always a hard sell when it comes to change. Sometimes being a parent is tough and we have to make the choices when we know in our heart a different direction is healthy. Being a parent gives me balance and reminds me to take one day at a time. It reminds me to have empathy and compassion. It teaches me to be mindful of others. It compels me to pray constantly. It forces me to take the tough stances in life when it is the right thing to do. It won't allow me to take the path of least resistance. I am never more grounded, stronger and sure than when I am focused on my family unit and meeting what needs to be done. My prayer everyday is to be a tool for God to use to in the lives of my children. I'm a little nervous about what this next stage in our journey will bring, but very positively focused on on the spiritual and life lessons and blessings we are moving toward.

Saying goodbye is always hard. Closing a chapter always is done with an amount of regret, and anticipation for what one will find on the next page. When you find yourself faced with two paths, a decision has to be made bringing with it sadness and blessings; bitterness and sweetness.  I have always loved The Serenity Prayer  but never has it seemed so fitting as it is in this stage of my life. There are attitudes and people I cannot change. There are things I have a measure of control over and things I do not. As my sweet family travels this path of transition over the next few months; as we journey into the unknown,  I am going to keep the words of the prayer for most in my heart and thoughts.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.


 
 
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Every single morning and evening I have a routine of checking my social media such as facebook. One group/page in particular is always on mind and agenda. The FB prayer group for my friend Clint Miller. 

I met Clint and his vivacious wife, Angela, years ago when we were all living in Campus Housing at the University of Montana. They had the unfortunate privilege of living in the apartment below this family of nine. I constantly worried about the million and one sounds they must have endured on a daily basis, but Angela and Clint constantly reassured us "it's all good." We saw each other in passing, as our lives were very busy at that point in time and on occasion we would have a passing conversation or two. After we moved, we lost touch. The wonderful world of facebook reunited us once again. 

Shortly after adding Angela to my facebook, I discovered Clint was diagnosed with cancer. Damn cancer. Just when I think I sometimes carry the weight of the world on my shoulders and I want to lie down and whine and kick about what life is throwing my way, I think of them. I think of Angela facing the prospect of raising her children, two beautiful boys,  without her lover and friend by her side and it slaps my face with the reality there are truly bigger things in life than the struggles I currently handle. She has faced "this"  with grace, tenacity, and a fortitude which inspires me. Clint has faced it with hope, humor, and a fighters spirit.

This week Angela posted on the prayer board her thoughts on hospice. It reminded me that every person their lives have touched has been forever changed. Their struggle and this path they have walked has altered and enhanced who I am and how I view the world. It has opened my eyes to what it means to truly live. It has shown me the love, comfort, and support all of us in the family of mankind can and should grant to one another.   Even Lance Armstrong has extended letters of encouragement to Clint and I have read Clint would love nothing better to share a beer with Mr. Armstrong!

I struggled with which blog to post this under. I paused a moment and realized how much I have learned about faith through Clint. In the face of the unknown and unthinkable this beautiful couple has blessed so many.  Angela's words are posted here with her permission. I ask you to read them, pray for this beautiful family and those who love them. She is one of the most inspiring women I have ever had the privilege of knowing. I thank her for sharing her life in all its aspects with me. 

by: Angela Miller
Hospice is not about giving up. It is not about dying - it is about LIVING while you're dying. "Hospice" seems to be the four-letter word in the cancer jargon as if it to never leave our lips, cleansed from our vocabularies, and left to shrivel on the vine as some white flag of surrender. Is there a psychological hump that needs to be gotten over to say, "It's time for this?" Yes. I'm not going to lie that just like any other help in life, you have to acknowledge you need it before you can get it. 

But - let's face it - we're all dying. Every one of us. All 921 of us on this board are dying. We only have so many grains in the hourglass. Some more, some less, and the funny thing about life is we just don't know how many there are or how fast they are pouring out. Terminal cancer - or any terminal illness - doesn't make a mortal being. It simply magnifies mortality that we've all been had with us since conception. Life is truly a sexually transmitted affliction that nobody lives through. Anticipatory death - like pregnancy and birth being about anticipatory life - is a process. And, like pregnancy and birth, it isn't something that should be done alone and with anything less than the best supportive care, advice, medicine, emotional support, and love. 

As many of you may know, Clint Miller enrolled on hospice over a month ago and it has been the biggest blessing and one of the greatest unsung resources in modern medicine. It takes a special breed of person to be a hospice nurse and I'm pleased to say that we've hit the jackpot.

No, we never wanted it to be this way. This wasn't our "happily ever after." But, if it has to be this way, then I can lay my head on my pillow every night and know that we're doing this the right way and that we've risen to the occasion for "happily." The "ever after" is up to us .
. .

 
 
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One challenge facing me on a daily basis is how to balance the mundane with the spiritual aspects of who I am as a woman, mother and wife. In the midst of looking for my car keys, I am being hollered at by Lil’ Bit (my youngest). “Mommy have you seen basketball shorts? I can’t find them anywhere. They were on the end of my bed last night.”  I run to her room and tear apart the bedding to find them wedged between the wall and the mattress,  help another find their back pack, make sure coats are on, breakfast is put away, morning chores are attended to. Run back into the living room to check my emails only to realize I have not sent my children out the door with a morning blessing. Whew. Often times it would be so easy just to drop all the spiritual aspects and stick to getting my family out the door, but the spiritual is the fuel of our souls and keeps us inspired, creative and moving forward; not bogged down. On the days, or even weeks, that I throw these spiritual practices out the window for the sake of convenience, I can feel the difference in our energy and abilities to function as a collective.

I have found if I just organize my life, the best I can, let go of anything of non importance, such as folding socks, my life runs smoother. Do you know how much time I save in a week by just throwing all the socks into one laundry basket and not folding them? This leaves time for a walk in the woods with my son or an important talk with my daughter. All of which could have been lost, by folding socks.

In the normal course of the day there is plenty to do, as I head out the door to grab groceries for dinner,  regrettably faced with the return to cell service, as the cell phones don't work on the farm. Another ring and one of my children is struggling at school. A quick detour to help her navigate her way around a relationship problem that has been there since kindergarten, reminding her this life is fraught with issues and lessons and many things cannot be solved.   “Remain here, in the now" I tell her. "Be the bigger person, learn your lesson, practice forgiveness, pray for her, and move on. Let the other person worry about whether she will grow from this or not. You can only change you my daughter”

The car is clunking and the printer is on the fritz, and someone told me things are a struggle right now because mercury is in retrograde (what does that mean anyways?) and I should wait to have them fixed until it is over.Think I'll take my chances and have them fixed and trust all will be well.  Time to order seeds for our garden and shopping for prom outfits for the teens. Run my business; submit my billing, race to the store before it closes. Pick up the house while trying to remind myself that even these tasks are a spiritual practice; I am creating a peaceful environment. Suppers on, pick up the kids, get the homework done, eat, bath, bed, but not before everyone writes what they are thankful for in the gratitude journal.

Often times I read parenting books or books on spirituality and I wonder at how effortless it sounds to bring spiritual awareness into everyday moments. Life is messy, busy, and changes on a regular basis particularly when you have children. Sometimes it is just plain exhausting to have one more thing on your plate, however I have found that the more time I can spend nourishing my spiritual self, the smoother the rest of life flows, or at the very least, the better I am able to handle it. I take them time to attend church services and ladies group, though adding one more thing to my week seems impossible the realization is ever present: I cannot feed my family if my soul feels dry and withered.

A friend of mine recently said I was a mix between Bob the Builder and Martha Stuart with a little Mary Poppins thrown in. This morning my endeavor is to channel my "inner Martha", while drinking my morning coffee and attempt to bring some order to this place. Order in my world does not include walking into my living room, the sleep not yet out of my eyes and slipping on wet mud that one of my fellas tracked in only to slide into something I am not even sure is from this planet and then falling over their rubber barn boots which are not where they belong. Mopping before coffee was not on the to-do list this morning but the mess had to be laid to rest before I could even think of filling my house with the aroma of java and engaging in my devotions. I have to admit my I could feel my blood pressure rise and my thoughts were anything but loving and kind toward my children. For a brief moment I could understand why some species eat their young. Before you gasp in indignation at my thoughts you have to admit anyone who has ever had to deal with teenagers at one time or another has resonated with that statement.

Before I could even wrestle with the mess left behind I decided there was nothing like the present moment to be thankful for the gifts in my life. There is something about practicing thankfulness in the midst of chaos and frustration. It is easy to practice one's spiritual beliefs when all is well. I have to learn to practice my faith no matter what life brings me. We are told in the New Testament ( I Thess 5:18) "to give thanks in all things..."  Where does the spiritual aspect intertwine with the mundane? It is where the rubber meets the road: daily practice, daily mindfulness, daily focus.  In my world, the spiritual intertwines in every way. There is no way for me to separate out the spiritual from the mundane, as the practice of my spirituality shows it’s real shade of color on how well I can apply it in the everyday. Mountain top experiences are profound, and refreshing, but we cannot live everyday there. It is in the bringing back into our daily experience that we truly honor it and its meanings. When raising children, or managing our jobs and co workers,  and living out our daily lives, if we view the task as a spiritual experience, it can awaken and change us. We live more fully,  heal ourselves and experience profound changes in our own lives and the lives of those around us.

When Seth and I were first married we had no dishwasher and our washing machine would not shut off on its own. I had to turn the water on and off throughout the cycle or it would over flow. While I fancy myself an organized person, 7 kids ages seven and under quickly derailed much of my natural tendency toward organization. I had been begging, more accurately nagging,  Seth to purchase a dishwasher and fix the machine and his reply was "My mom used to boil water for dishes on the wood stove and wash clothes in the creek up the canyon, at least we have a washing machine." You can imagine how well that response went over. One day I overflowed the machine five times. The last time this occurred I bore no resemblance to a prim and proper southern girl practicing her spiritual beliefs in the mundane moments of life. I am pretty sure I felt on my face the looks I had seen, as a child, on my mother. My children fondly call it "the look of DEATH."  Instead of breaking out the mop and more towels, I  walked out to garage and retrieved Seth's drill from his tool box. I drilled three holes in the floor and allowed it to drain under the house. When Seth returned home I told him where he could take his stories of his childhood  and suggested sweetly, through clenched teeth, if he did not want our floor to look like swiss cheese, he had better address our washer issue.  So as I address the laundry monster and the tower of dishes today, I will be thankful. It may take a little extra fortitude but things could be worse. Today I posses a dish washer and a new washer and dryer!