Scarily Brave. In Which I do What Doesn’t Make Sense- Because It’s the Right Thing to Do

“For such a time as this.” The words were spoken to Esther centuries ago…… and they’ve been moving me forward through fear and insecurity for years.

Nudging me. Step by step.

Somedays the words are whispered in response to my prayers- others-they are loudly proclaimed while I put my hands over my ears, close my eyes and pretend not to hear. (Why yes- I am a giant spiritual toddler. Of course. Thanks for noticing.) I’ve even had them handed to me at moments when I felt they were the least true.

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My typical response?

“Me? Called? To this? Now? God.. You’ve lost your mind. This makes no sense at all. Especially not now. And- let’s face it. I’m no Esther. Somedays I’m not even sure I’m a Tracey. By the way- did you forget about the crazy that is my life? Your clock is off. Now is not a good time.”

Yet, here I am.

Doing the next thing. Even though it makes no sense.

Why? Because I can’t ignore the nudge any longer.  Because: there are too many arrows pointing me in this direction-now- regardless of how sensible or non-sensical it is.

So yesterday- I pushed my polished book proposal out of the nest of my laptop and to the inbox of a potential agent. Today, I’m watching to see if she takes flight.  (The proposal, not the agent, Mary Poppin’s is all booked up. I had to find someone better.)

This is that moment in between when you hold your breath and wait. The moment between flight and falling.

This is the  moment where faith is as tangible as fear.

This is the moment where bravery is born.

When you take the next step- not knowing where it will lead. Even though you’re scared.

One of my heroes said it this way:

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”  Nelson Mandela

Here’s to conquering fear.

Even here.

What are you doing scared today?

  • Letting your child go around the block for the first time?
  • Drive?
  • Applying for that dream job?
  • Sitting through a treatment that could harm or heal?
  • Creating?
  • Trying a new recipe? (Hello- I feed 5- that takes bravery.)

 

 

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In Which Needles and Ink Turn Ashes into Beauty-

IMG_5206Confession: I was a bigoted needle-phobe.  I had issues with both needles and tattoos. (If you want to call passing out when I get blood draws, IV’s or, shots a problem…Bonus TMI: my husband says I make weird noises when I pass out. Apparently, I’m entertaining. )

So how on earth did THIS happen? Well- I started a journey a few years ago to get over my bigotries, just one of which was- people with Tattoos. Yes. Really.

I know. It’s 2014. I never pretended to not have more issues than the Wall Street Journal. Anyway- I thought tattoos were um… well-de classe’ would be the nicest way to put it. Trashy might be more accurate.

Then I  saw a girl at the nail shop. And after totally writing her off as a hooch for her tattoo at a glance…(Okay- then I was staring and possibly glaring.)  I realized her tattoo was the tiny foot prints of her infant. Honestly? It was beautiful.

And I REALLY wanted to know the story behind it. However- I’d missed my chance. MY staring and glaring and judginess didn’t go un noticed. when I tried to talk to her- I got the Elsa from “Frozen” treatment.

I decided that day to get over this stupidness. More than that- I wanted to have a visual reminder to not judge again. And a point of connection- a commitment to reach out and love  those I’d been so judgmental against.

I had no idea that first tiny tattoo I got on vacation in Hawaii- (Never do that, btw. Always research both your shop and artist.) would make such a difference in my life.

Sure- it gave me a reminder. It gave me a point of connection. All of which sounds kind of calculated and weird. But when I got home- I realized I wanted the piece re-worked so it could be better recognized. (My first piece was a tiny branch with a nest and 3 eggs and some blossoms. So small it looked like a spider web from eye level. But it was very meaningful.)

Which is when I met Cee Jay Jones. I totally believe meeting Cee Jay was a God thing. We connected right away. She turned my spider web into something beautiful. Something that shares my faith and family without being all screamy.

I had no idea that getting that piece re-worked would lead to a life changing event.

More than getting over my bigotries.  (Which it has. Now I see ink as just another way people share their stories and messages. I put mine on paper- and the internet- others put their on skin.) It’s changed how I feel about: myself. Who knew?

Fast forward to a few failed neck surgeries- and I’m left with what I saw  as a horrid scar. Up the back of my neck. I’m a short hair girl. NOT a good look.

Kids asked questions about it. It creeped them and me- out.

I went to Cee Jay for help. Cee Jay turned what was ugly into something beautiful and meaningful. She put the “seal” of completion on that part of my journey by covering my scar- with my story.  I don’t feel ugly. I love that it peeks out of my collar and shows some sass. I love that instead of asking abut my scar- people ask about my ink.

I also love the surprised look people get when they see a back piece on a conservative Christian Soccer mom.  “Wha?”

I love that the first comment I got on my first tattoo was: “That’s not sleazy at all.”

WHY? Because it’s not just my bigotries or stereotypes that have been shattered.  So have my husbands. He now sports a Cee Jay created eagle with bacon in it’s talons on his shoulder. A reminder the when we wait on God- we soar. (With a side of bacon. Because: bacon.) And many other people who see and ask about, my ink.

After hours and hours in that tattoo chair- I no longer freak over every needle related medical thing. (De-sensitization- I has it.) I also gained a good friend. Someone I have more in common with than just- ink. She’s more than a tattooist- she’s just plain incredible. A mom who works her butt off to tell people’s stories and create art. On skin.

She’s also a woman in what can be a pretty brutal -man’s industry. A roller derby a**kicker. A health nut. A woman of compassion and integrity who I am proud to call friend.

Someone who’s changed my life by sharing hers- and her talent.

Today- I want to invite YOU to help change HER life. Cee Jay is an award winning Artist who’s been on TV program’s and is working on a hysterical and terrific book project.

She’s also opening a new shop- and needs YOUR help. Our help.

To open this: 2057244_1414168649.673

 

 


So she can keep doing this- 

Making beautiful art that changes lives and is a reflection of the person who wears it.

Yup- Grace and Mercy, Abide- Even Here. When ever and where ever I am. Because: He is. IMG_6289

I hope you’ll consider clicking to help her build her new shop. You never know who’s life she’ll touch next.

Follow Cee Jay on FaceBook- and you’ll be able to watch your part in building her happy place- Happy Clam Studios- in action.

 

 

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A Mile in My Mismatched Shoes. One foot in a Nightmare, the Other in a Dream.

This is not where I’m supposed to be today. I’m supposed to be on some lovely beach in Hawaii. But: cancer happened. In a big nasty, scary way.

We thought we had things all planned out. Chemo 3 weeks ago- meant my husband should have been in the best part of the chemo cycle to go to Hawaii. Except- we got through the first week after treatment and he didn’t improve.

Instead: He felt worse. Then, he found some weird streaking around his chemo site. Finally, he spiked a temp.  All of which led to the fun cascade of events that happens when a cancer patient gets sick. Emergency calls to oncologist led to a trip to the ER. Where they put us straight to the head of the line- and in a private protective room. Because his white blood count was 1. (Hint: fast pass in ER is not  good sign.)

That was last Tuesday. We held out hope that maybe with some IV antibiotics he’d bounce back and we could still make our Thursday morning flight. (Denial. We had it.)

Not so much. Instead of Hawaii- we spent five days in the hospital.  I’m glad he’s still alive. (And that I am, too. Those recliner chairs in the hospital? KILLER. FYI: If you spill your entire giant Tervis cup of water on those vinyl chairs- it will drain straight to the floor and totally make it look like you pee’d yourself. Possibly several times. )

He’s finally feeling better.  (So are the rest of us-that was disappointing, scary and rough on the whole family. ) We may have missed Hawaii- but we headed out to our cottage, yesterday. It’s near enough to the hospital that we can be there without a problem.

Let’s hope we don’t have to.

If you ask “So- how are you?” I’d answer with this picture. Because that’s exactly how I feel.  My book proposal is about to go out into the world for it’s solo flight, we’re staying at the cottage  on a lake of our dreams, and- my husband is fighting Prostate cancer for his life.

One foot in a dream, one in a nightmare.

I can’t deny the nightmare. The brutality of cancer is irrefutable. The pain of the loss of his beautiful head of hair is harder on all of us than we expected. Missing out on Hawaii- sucked. Tears were shed. Many while hiding in the hospital bathroom. Seeing him unable to fight off an infection due to side effects of the chemo he needs to live? Torturous. More tears. Lots of tears. Lots of prayers.

I also can’t deny the dream.  Even here- God is present. Even here-we’re not alone. Friends surround us with love prayers and meals and help with whatever we need. Our family clings together with hope.  I am right now- sitting in the provision of God- our little shelter in the storm of life- our cottage. Something I know is both a dream and an extravagance.  (Financial ducks in a row or, not- I still feel a twinge of guilt over having a home and a cottage when I know that others are homeless, hungry and worse.)

I know we need this place. We don’t deserve it…… but we have it. Grace is like that.  This place reminds me of that.

So here I am-  one foot in a dream, the other in a nightmare- taking the next steps. Trusting. Hoping. Fearing. Struggling. Wrestling. Excited. Even here. Thank you for walking beside me.

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You dripped Brave- girls...

Dear Moms: You make me brave. #Momcon #MOPS International

IMG_6759Truth: I left for #momcon feeling a mixed bag of emotions. They varied from anxious and afraid to excited and full of expectations and hope.

It was hard to go. I left my husband for the first time during his chemo treatment. I left a 12 year old whom I know is struggling with anxiety. I left college boys who are adults- but still my kids- and who are still affected by all the crazy, that is our life.

It was also -hard to leave #momcon! YOU inspire sister, mom. your stories keep me passionate about MOPS. Your experiences challenge me to grow in compassion and bravery. Your worship ushered me closer to Jesus. I arrived with an empty cup- afraid I had nothing to offer- and I experienced the miracle of the oil jar.

Somehow— each time there was a point of connection and divine appointment…God poured in and through me…it came from two sources- God and YOU.

Yes, really- YOU.

  • The mom who left her nursing child.
  • The mom who brought her nursing child.
  • The moms I prayed with.
  • The mom who saved change for a year-to pay for her trip.
  • The mom who came alone.
  • The mom who traveled far. The mom who flew for the first time.
  • The moms who bravely drove after a tragic accident.
  • The leader who came, and didn’t feel adequate to lead. (for the record neither do I. I’m learning I don’t have to be. God is. )
  • The leader who came even though her group and team is struggling and they don’t know what to do- or how to get through it together.
  • The pregnant mom.
  • The mom with cancer.
  • The mom who beat cancer.
  • The mom with morning sickness.
  • The woman facing health issues. (earthly bodies: can really suck.)
  • The mom facing the shame and doubt.
  • The teen mom.
  • The mom at home- brave enough to stay home because she knew that’s where she needed to be.
  • The mom watching the live stream- YOU inspire me to find a way.
  • YOU inspired me.Yes you.
  • All of you. Seeing you worship- together-  across denominations, across social boundaries, from across the country and around the world- I found strength in your hopeful presence.

I found holy beauty in the moment when we shared our fears and insecurities. (One word? We’re moms we don’t do one word.) When you spoke those lies and heard the truth.. I heard Jesus whispering truth in your ear and in mine.

I found joy, as we laughed together at the crazy that is mothering and being a mom.

I found renewed purpose in knowing I am called to love each of you- and every mom I meet.

I found comfort in knowing- I’m not alone. In my insecurities- in my fears- in my hopes and dreams.

I remembered what I’m supposed to forget. (The former things.)

I remembered what I’m supposed to remember. (Who’s I am.)

I found the stream in my wasteland. YOU are part of it.

We are in this holy mess of mothering- together.

We are called to be brave enough to share our hope. We are called to be brave not because we are brave- but because God makes us brave. Together.

As a Board member of MOPS International, as a Mom, as a leader- I  want you to know- you matter- you make a difference- to me- and to thousands of others. Keep it up.

As I walked through the hall #MomProm- I found feathers everywhere….and all I could think was:

“Girls- you’re dripping with bravery. Go- do your thing. I’m with you. So are the rest of your sisters- more importantly- so is the one who created you.”

I left scared-I came home: braver. Thank you.

Be you- Bravely. So will I.

Together- we’ll change the world.

“Dear Lord- thank you for your presence- your word to encourage your people to love and your sacrifice to redeem- all things. Lord- make us brave- help us. Walk with us, carry us.In Jesus Name- amen.”

What’s YOUR brave? What are you facing that’s stretching you to go beyond fear and insecurity? Let’s talk about it in the comments…

I’ll go first:

My biggest braves right now, are:

  • Facing my husband’s advanced Prostate cancer. Today is Chemo- round 2.
  • Parenting 3 very different sons-2 who are adults-and one who’s a pubescent powerhouse- uniquely with grace. love and wisdom.
  • My book proposal #amileinhershoes is in the final stages of preparation before going out to agents and publishers… honestly? It make me equally nauseous to think about the risk of rejection- and the risk of acceptance. But not as sick as the idea of NOT trying. That’s not gonna happen. I have to do this. The rest is up to God.

I’m doing it all- anyway. Even if it doesn’t make sense. Even if I’m scared. Even if I’m not adequate.

Because: God. And- because: you.

Because God is enough when I am not.

Because-You dripped bravery and I picked up some of your feathers. Thank you. (Literally. I brought some home.)

There-I showed you mine- now it’s your turn: Show me yours.  What’s your brave?

Bravely, Nervously Me. On a plane. Without snakes.

It’s not the flight I’m nervous about. It’s not even (for once) me, that I’m nervous about. (I tend to be afraid I’ll screw up. Say something dumb. Forget something…whatever, At this point I’ve messed up enough times to know: I’ll survive and people can be pretty gracious when you just own your stuff.)

This time it’s not me stuff that’s got my drawers in a bunch.

It’s: other stuff.

Cancer stuff.(I hate cancer.)
Side effect stuff. (I’m reserving the right to hate chemo. If it doesn’t work. If it works…. I just hate the side effects.)
Kid stuff. (Kids are complicated. Mothering is hard. Always.
Dog stuff. (We’re really good at turning dogs into wild animals that attack Amazon boxes. )
House stuff. (I’m a mom. There’s always house stuff. This week it’s the norm + prep for a new roof. That should be fun. See also: Wild dogs)
Stuff.

Pretty much, it all comes down to stuff I can’t control. The cancer is still there even if I’m in the same room with my husband. So are the side effects. I can’t stop them. Kid stuff happens whether I’m home or not. The dogs will make a mess and eat things they shouldn’t. They’d do the same, if I were home.

The house is as clean as I could clean it without making myself insane or injured. Laundry is in ikea bags on my bed. Clean and folded… There are pork chops in the freezer and veggies and quinoa for dinner. I packed lunches and put out school clothes for my middle schooler. (I also told him to have a good trip, 3 times this morning. Hint: he’s not going anywhere. I am. His response: “Are you trying to send me off to the army? I thought I was going to school?” Nope. Not the army mr middle school. Just school and a mom on overload.

I did what I could to make things easy. But I can’t control what happens once the wheels on this plane leave the ground. Oops they just did. I’m no longer in control.

The truth is: I couldn’t control those things prior to take off, either.

Funny how much control we think we have, until we realize we don’t.

So, here I am, on a cramped, delayed flight to Louisville. (Can’t control that either… There’s a theme here somewhere.)

I left my husband -who’s hair started falling out yesterday due to chemo, 3 psychotic dogs, a slightly anxious middle schooler who called home for diarrhea meds before I even boarded my flight with 2 college boys to hold down the fort. I am THAT: woman, wife, mom.

There are emergency #’s and contingency plans. But, still. It’s hard.

Why am I doing it?

Because God has uniquely designed me to serve him, by loving moms. One of the ways I get to do that is through MOPS International. This week is #MomCon. MomCon is when we gather together as Moms and leaders to remember why we do what we do, and to worship and be together.

After a lot of praying and watching ( my husband… To make sure he’s really ok.) and asking…. My husband and I decided that I should go.

Even if it’s hard.

Being brave- isn’t about things being easy, being brave isn’t about not being afraid. Being brave is feeling the fear and trusting God is bigger- then doing the thing you need to do.

So…. This is me. Nervously, bravely on a plane. Heading to MomCon. To go and do what I’m called to. Because I believe God called me knowing everything that would happen leading up to this moment.

God isn’t surprised by cancer. Or “stuff” issues. God carries us through them.

As he’s carrying me, now.

The MOPS theme this year is “be you, bravely”

funny how God’s already giving me opportunities to grow more brave…. Isn’t it? It’s almost as if he knew or something…..

Praying for you, as I’m flying over the clouds. Are you nervously bravely doing something today? Tell me what it is in the comment section… I can’t wait to hear!

And if you’re heading to #MomCon I’ll see you soon! I’ll. slightly nervous but trusting brunette with a prostate cancer awareness blue streak in my hair… Say hi! I have chocolate:)

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Cancer and Life and Goin’ on a Bear Hunt- My Preschool Theology.

“swish, swish, swish”

“Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, have to go through it.” When I taught preschool, and when my kids were young- this was a daily favorite.

For the past few years- I’ve been living this nursery rhyme. Not so much a favorite. There are things we’ve been facing that are scary and hard…. like surgeries, sickness, cancer, radiation, drug side effects, family challenges, emotions, chemo……

Honestly? I’ve tried everything to avoid circumstances that are hard and complicated and  dangerous- to no avail. You’d think all those years of the Bear Hunt would have sunk in… they didn’t.

I’ve tried to go over them by spiritualizing and minimizing how hard they are.

I’ve tried to go around them, by avoiding them… (cupcakes,  cooking and home decor projects and the internet-are great temporary ways to avoid stuff you don’t want to deal with.)

I’ve tried to go under them – by bargaining with God, trying to manipulate my mind and God’s,  and trying to manipulate my circumstances…

None of which, have worked. The bear is still out there.

I can’t go over it. I can’t go around it, I can’t go under it- I have go through it. I’ve realized I have been wasting a lot of time and energy trying to avoid stuff that could have been used dealing with it.

Because: dealing with it is HARD.

“Swish, Swish, swish.”

“Ouch!” There is friction in going through tall grass. It  hurts.

“Swim, swim, swim.”

“Gulp! Gasp! Choke!” There can be some swallowing of water while you’re trying to swim. (At least when I do. I used that “Womanly” pass several time during high school swimming to avoid getting my hair wet. I barely passed.) Your arms  get tired and sometimes the water is so cold you wonder how long before hypothermia will set in.

“Creep, creep, tippy toe creep.”

Sometimes you have to go into the darkness of the cave…. and there is no light switch on the cave wall. You have to walk in the dark. I’m not a fan of walking in the dark. I have a hard enough time when the lights are on. It’s frightening.

It’s also-part of going through it.

In pretend bear hunts and in real life sometimes you have to do the same….

I’m not sure what you’re facing today.  I’m not sure if you’re  trying to go over- it under it around it or through it….. but here’s the hope I’m holding onto today-

Isaiah 43:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior

 

When I can’t go over, under or around it— to promises to be with me through it.  I’d love to edit that verse to say that he’ll put out the fires- part the waters and calm the river- but, it doesn’t.  (We can talk about my frustration with his ability to do so and yet- not- on a another day…)

But today- I’m glad he is with me- even here. As he is also – and desires to be with you- where every you are. Even if you’re trying to go over under or around it….

Dear Lord- You know how much of a “bear hunter” I am… I stink. I’d rather go around it- over it- under it- anything but, through it. However, I know that isn’t always your plan. YOU know I don’t like that… so I won’t pretend to. But I do trust you, even here- in the dark…. help me be brave and keep going when I can’t see what’s ahead of me…help me go through it- in Jesus name- amen.

FYI? (Readers- not Jesus- He’s got all the FYI covered.)  I noticed they made the bear hunt much more politically correct. You now shoot the bear with a camera. WHAAA?

Just a note: If I ever go on a bear hunt- I won’t be chasing a bear or entering a cave with nothing but a camera. That’s just dumb. I’ll take my camera and a gun…of course.  justsayin. I would’t want to miss either shot. Adventure is fine- being a bear’s dinner- not so much.

Your Un-official Guide to MOPS International MomCon

 It’s just days before I leave for MomCon.  MomCon is a highlight of my year. It’s one of few times a year when my mom-account is balanced, and (for once) is in the black. (Unlike my checkbook which is never truly balanced. Truth: I don’t care about that .13 I can never find.)

I’ve been with MOPS for over 20 years, and I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks for MomCon attendance, that I thought I’d share….

*Be forewarned… I am a MOPS Mentor… I don’t pull any punches, this is the stuff you really need to know- TMI or not. :P

Disclaimer: This post is my advice as a MOPS Mom and leader- not as a representative of MOPS International. :)

MomCon Tips and Tricks

 Bring comfortable shoes. No, really. The last thing you want is blistered toes, trust me, it’s totally distracting, and even if the shoes are CUTE, bloodied toes, are not so much.

Don’t over pack. You will, so will I, because I pack like the jerk... But, I’m saying it anyway. Don’t over pack. It’s like eating vegetables…. I put them on my kids plate knowing they won’t actually eat them, but at least I don’t feel guilty for not offering them.)

You need: pen, paper (I bring a new notebook just for convention every year. then my notes are all together.) bible, an empty bag for free-bies and shopping that you can either check on the way home, or carry on. Don’t forget your camera and chargers… and cables.* Also, some exhibitors don’t accept credit cards, so you’ll want to bring bring some cash for incidentals, tipping and shopping.

Pack simple snacks in case of emergency. Ummm preferably fibery ones…you will need the fiber.. trust me* (See below) Try as we might, feeding this many moms all at the same time, or finding restaurants that can accommodate your group for your budget can be tough. Time is tight, and you’ll be cranky if your bloodsugar dips. Bring a few healthy snacks to keep you happy and satisfied.

If you need a few “*minutes to yourself,” take them! Be honest with your room mates. Tell them to go ahead without you, you’ll meet them at general session. Use a code word. (Our group’s code was “Polly.” If you need to take a “Polly,” take one. If you don’t you’ll get the polly-grips. (Poligrip? Does anyone remember the denture cream commercials?) Girlfriend– if you don’t go… you’ll end up feeling like someone poligripped your guts. That, is a very bad thing. Don’t make yourself sick by having nature’s calls answered by a bodily answering machine. Bring a copy of “Everybody Poops” and read it aloud to them the night you arrive.

Seriously, I’ve made myself sick trying not to poo when anyone’s around.LEARN from my mistakes! Eat fiber and do what you gotta do. Traveling is hard enough on the tummy-don’t make it harder. Your tummy is your friend, keep it that way. Yes, I’m belaboring this point, because I’ve seen too many women sick at convention because of this:(.

 I know, I know, your period isn’t supposed to be this week… be prepared anyway. Periods like MomCon. It’s probably all the estrogen. (I think this number of moms in one place, at one time creates some kind of estrogen vortex. I believe it’s strong enough to affect the weather and synchronize schedules so: be aware! Also-you’ll be the super hero of the room if you’re prepared and someone else isn’t… ;)

 If you are a caffeine freak (I am, so I can call you one…) consider packing some tea bags, or *gasp* instant coffee in case of emergency. Everyone thinks they can grab a cuppa on the way to general session and you CAN, however, the lines can be long. Plan ahead! It’s worth it to bring a travel mug too- then you’re all set. I’m bringing Starbucks Via- because I can totally snort it if necessary. Yes- I’ll be the one with a coffee ground mustache. :P Nobody wants a caffeine headache. (Or, wants to deal with a cranky caffeine fiend in withdrawal. :P)

SKIP Something. I know, I know. You paid for MomCon. But, please don’t feel like you have to exhaust yourself trying to get the max for the minimum. This ain’t TJ Maxx.

I’m not saying spend the whole weekend shopping. I’m just saying skip one workshop (There’s probably one you can’t remember why you signed up for it. ) Just sit by the pool. Explore the beautiful hotel. Take a nap or, have a nice, quiet, unhurried lunch by yourself. You’ll be glad you did. I always am! :)

However- DO NOT SKIP GENERAL SESSIONS. You will regret it if you do. Just sayin.

 TALK TO PEOPLE. SMILE. These are your people! We are ALL in this MOPS thing together. We’re sisters from all over the world. Smile in the elevators! Talk to women who seem to be alone. If you’re shy, watch for name tags or MOPS paraphernalia- consider that an invitation to connect. Make sure NO MOM IS ALONE at MomCon. Make it your personal responsibility. Just ask: “Where are you from? What are you looking forward too? Favorite thing so far? How many kids did you leave at home? Have you been to MomCon before?”

This makes all the difference between being AT MomCon, and being a PART of MomCon. Your smile, your chat, your connection makes a difference! ** double bonus points if this is outside your comfort zone. If you talk to someone you don’t know and it’s hard for you- find me! I’ll give you chocolate. (I’m not kidding.)

Give feedback. Don’t complain. Like any event of this size-stuff goes wrong. (umm like floods and hurricanes and toilets that overflow and lines for coffee and such.)

Deal with it. I don’t expect you to ignore problems. But, please- deal with it appropriately. Standing around griping about the lines and how YOU’D plan things so much better, just spreads discontent and hurts the feelings of the hundreds of people who’ve worked to make this event amazing. WE are MOPS. Handle your complaints like you would with a friend. ;)

Use the evaluation survey that will be emailed when you get home. These aren’t ignored. Each one is read and we improve whatever we can, each year. If you see something that really needs to be addressed immediately- find, text or call your MOPS Volunteer Staff Member (Now, is a good time to look her up on the www.mops.org website) or, a MOPS  Staff member and talk to someone  who can either help- or find someone who can help.

 Respect your roomies. MomCon is special. It’s like Vegas, without the sin. What happens at MomCon stays at MomCon. If someone in your room snores, gets gassy or poligripped- don’t write about it in your newsletter or on your blog. Don’t talk about it with your friends. Enough said.

Sleeping with people you don’t normally sleep with, is weird. We all know it. No one wants to accidently put their feet on the butt of the chick you’re sleeping with because your body thinks she’s your husband and your feet are cold. (Maybe that’s just me.. oopsy) Try to work out who needs what side of the bed, who needs a little light on, or some noise in the room, in order to sleep. Try to find a room temp that works for everyone. Be flexible, but also be honest about your needs and try to meet the needs of the girls in your room. The morning people can shower quietly in the morning.. the night owls can do so at night…. work together, girls!

Be ready- someone in your group-will have a meltdown. Be gracious and forgiving without taking responsibility for everyone’s happiness. When you have women together for any amount of time, someone is bound to have a meltdown. (Maybe more than one) This isn’t the end of the world. Give each other some space and some grace. Remember: You may be the one who needs it later that day.

One of the biggest relational struggles I see, is when moms try to make everyone around them happy. It’s just not possible.

If girls night out isn’t your thing. Don’t go. If you’re not a shopper, relax and meet up for lunch. It’s OK! You don’t have to make everyone happy!

Don’t over spend. Travel is expensive. MOPS has done everything possible to make it as affordable as possible- plan your budget wisely . I also suggest visiting the exhibitor page at MOPS.org and plan a few purchases in advance. No one wants to arrive home and find out they’re overdrawn or, in debt. Be careful!

MomProm: Don’t miss out, because you’re stressed out. Keep it simple- you don’t have to find a dress that was actually worn in the Great Gatsby Movie. Just throw on some cheap long pearls from the costume aisle and a headband or boa and have fun. This is our night to just be US. Together. So- whether you go all out or not- just: go. We’ll all be glad you did! PS: the most flapper thing on me will be my arms…. I’m over 40- it’s how I roll.

Plan ahead to give- Yup. I know: You had to pay your airfare, gas, meals, registration, get your haircut, buy new shoes, etc.

Consider NOW, before you leave, how you can give a bit back to MOPS International during MomCon. Pack your own coffee and give that $30 (whatever your addiction would cost:) during the offering. Skip that new pair of shoes that will just give you blisters, and donate the $, instead.

Why? because it makes a difference. MOPS is ours and needs OUR support. We want no mom to be alone… and that costs $. Consider monthly giving, or a one time donation. Just give what you can. But, plan ahead!

You’ll be glad you did.

See you soon!

A Mile (or a thousand) in the Shoes of a Cancer Caregiver….

IMG_0665I’ve tried tennis shoes for comfort and heels for confidence.

I’ve worn my slippers- and aloe infused socks. (Am I the only one skeptical about those? I mean really- Even if they were when I bought them- I use Tide- if it takes out blood and grass stains- I’m thinking invisible aloe doesn’t have a chance.)

Somedays, I’ve just stayed barefoot- no time to bother with shoes.

Truth: it doesn’t matter what shoes I wear- these are hard miles to walk.

Last week we started a new path of treatment- chemo. This path holds a lot of unknowns, and preconceived notions. In our heads- Chemo= the worst thing ever. Every after school special is playing in fast forward in our minds along with every bad 80’s drama and House episode about cancer and chemo. It’s quite a show. A depressing scary show.

Those background fears do not make the list of potential side effects any easier to read. Nor- does the paperwork acknowledging all the actual  risks. (Apparently Cancer Centers frown upon denial. Something about informed consent or, other such nonsense.)

Hello? If you read that stuff you instantly “catch” both OCD and hypochondria.  You will vaguely experience every one of the side effects.

I read them- and: I swear- I had hair loss this week. (No lie. Hair- all over my keyboard.)

I’m not the one getting chemo. OY.  It may have been me pulling my hair out- because this is all just: hard.

Again it’s a lot of hurry up and: WAIT. Hurry up- start chemo. Now wait and see what happens. Will it work? How sick will he get? Will the meds work? How much hair loss?

No one can answer these questions but time and God. And God- while he’s making his presence known in the middle of this- is NOT sending detailed expectation checklists. (HE SHOULD.)

So we wait.

While we wait -we snatch moments of normal out of the fire of cancer and chemo. A lunch at Bob Evans. A drive to the cottage. (FYI: my driving prompted hubby’s first dose of Zofran. I’m awesome like that. He drove home. Yup. It was my driving.) Watching a storm. Watching the sunset- through a storm. (see pic) Watching Good Mythical Morning- because we’re all really 12 emotionally.

So far, the side effects (physical ones at least) have been manageable. Nothing like an 80’s medical drama or after school special.  Also- not like what we’ve experienced with family members.

But it still: sucks. We are currently waiting for direction from the hospital after a change in his side effects…..

We knew this would be a storm to walk through… and it is. But, much like that  sunset Saturday night at the cottage- we’re also finding the sun can make it’s appearance even in the very middle of a storm.

And that- is a beautiful thing.

Even here. Where the shoes I wear don’t seem to matter- as long as I keep taking the next steps….although- I admit I’m hollering a bit—– “Lord- we’re gonna drown!” I’m not the first one…

Luke 8:23-25New International Version (NIV)

23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

 

IMG_6655

In Which a Heated Chair and an Allergic Reaction are Not the Same Thing- How We Survived Chemo Day 1,

IMG_6655Monday, we spent the day at the Cancer center. We needed to be educated to “choose” my husband’s next treatment plan. The whole idea- I find dumb. We are not doctors, how on earth are we supposed to choose? We didn’t even sleep at a Holiday Inn Express the night before.

They gave us several “equal” options. Basically, it’s literally  choose your own poison-when it comes to chemo.

Overwhelmed by the choices- we took a break from the appointment to talk through, pray and decide.

It was a hard decision. Eventually we made it- then- returned to the oncologist’s office and scheduled his appointment to begin treatment. This involved much signing of consent forms and even more information. Specifics about  potential side effects, common side effects and un common side effects.

There is something weird about chemo. (Well there’s a LOT that’s weird about it… but we’ll start here.) Or, maybe it’s just our response to the idea of chemo. Chemo? Is the ultimate denial buster. There is no more pretending.

Crap just got real. For our whole family.

Monday night was the beginning of pre- chemo meds (read: mega steroids) Tuesday was a long day of waiting and appointments. First with a Nurse educator who went over everything to expect and watch for, then- finally- the actual infusion.

Everyone responds differently both emotionally and physically to chemo. There’s really no way to predict what will happen to any one person. One of the things that can happen in the first few minutes is to have a reaction to the meds. The hospital is pretty firm about telling them if you feel anything “off” or different. If you do react- they have meds to counteract on hand and ready- so you can hopefully continue treatment- otherwise you need to start the decision making process all over.

We were pretty anxious about the risk of reaction.

Our chemo- to-do bags at our sides- (I don’t believe in being bored.) we took our respective seats. Kyle in the big comfy Chemo chair- (Heated WITH massage. He might have gloated and been a bit smug about that…) and me in the not so comfy but serviceable “driver/ companion chair” directly across from him. My job: to watch him like a hawk.

We had a great nurse. She found a good vein on the first poke- then ran the pre-chemo meds through without a glitch. We also had a great visit with the chaplain on site- and prayed and talked about God’s presence even here- in this mess.

By the time they actually started the chemo meds- we were messaging obnoxious things with good friends….(a great distraction- BTW. I highly recommend giggling about stupid things in the infusion center.)

However- about halfway through treatment- Kyle suddenly got a pseudo panicked look on his face. “I feel hot. I think I might be having a reaction.” He said it quietly – to me. I looked at him and he looked fine which is what i told him… (they’d said he’d turn beet red and we’d know it if it happened.)  However- I am NOT the boss of the Cancer center- and THEY listen. within a few seconds his comfy chair was swarmed. 5 nurses and a doctor popped up from nowhere.

They immediately clamped off the infusion, and started peppering him with questions. “What do you feel?”

“Warm, kind of hot a little sweaty.” They readied the reaction cart and started opening the counteractive meds. At which point he got a funny look on his face. Kind of an “i’m either dying or, stupid.” look. I don’t know how else to describe it.

“Umm… wait a minute- is the heat on on the chair?” He sheepishly asked…..

“Yes- We’ve been pushing the buttons like 12 year olds playing in an elevator….” I responded (ish- I don’t actually remember what I said.)

“It could be the heated chair.” He said.

“Oh Lord…. can we turn off the chair and give him 60 seconds? I bet it’s the chair- because she looks fine.” I responded….

The entire staff waited with us…. tick tock…. tick tock…. he cooled down.

No- he wasn’t reacting. He forgot he was enjoying the heated massage……

Much a do about: nothing.

Within a couple of minutes his IV was running again and he finished up his treatment with some music playing and the heated chair turned : off.

We laughed about it all the way home. “You don’t kow the difference between an allergic reaction and a heated chair.” Is now our favorite line.

It was like a tornado drill…… we now know and trust that they really ARE watching (and listening) and ready for anything while you’re in those chairs.

Maybe next time, he won’t gloat so much about having the comfy chair…..justsayin.

So far the preventive  side effect meds are doing their job. His particular chemo med doesn’t even cause baldness- just some thinning- if anything. It does however take some time for what ever side effects you’re going to have (if any) to set in…. we’re still in the waiting phase.

So far? So good. Plus- hilarious. I’m sure they’l be talking about us all week at U of M….. it was an epic chemo-moment.

Continued prayers appreciated- and YES Kyle gave me permission to share ethos story- because: duh. Funny. And we’re looking for 2 things in all of this mess- 1) God’s presence 2) humor. We found both at that first chemo appointment-

Even here- God is with us and holding us. And- quite possibly- laughing with us.

Dear Lord =please use this treatment to kill this cancer. And please continue to wrap your arms around us during this process. (Just not in an overly warm way… Kyle will freak, and so will the nurses- if you do…) Thank you Lord for the little reminders of lighthouses you placed there for us…..and for the pastor who encouraged us with just the right words….words you’d already spoken to our hearts about storms and facing them with God….I love you lord- even here- amen.

Luke 8:23-25New International Version (NIV)

23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

Matthew 14-

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

 

 

 

Hasbro_WWF_Ring_1990_Wrestling [1600x1200]

WWF of Faith……In which I don’t have six-pack abs nor, do I wear golden underwear to work- but, I’m wrestling, just the same….

Hasbro_WWF_Ring_1990_Wrestling [1600x1200]“Let’s get ready to RUUUUUMBLE.”

I can almost hear that famous 80’s wrestle mania announcer as I step into the ring, ready to wrestle. (It’s been a long time since I’ve watched wrestling… I’m not actually- a fan. You probably guessed that already.)

Except,  I’m not wearing golden underpants, (well- not in public) a mask or a cape. Actually? Right now? I’m wearing my horridly wonderfully comfy yoga shorts and a yoga top that has never seen a yoga class.  With slippers, of course.

But- trust me, I’m wrestling. Not with a famous wrestler… that would just be awkward, and hurt. I’m wrestling with God.

On the surface- that IS probably even dumber than the idea of me stepping into a WWF ring. Me? Wrestle God? HELLO? I’m going to lose.

  • God is considerably stronger than me. (Duh.)
  • God knows every move I’m going to make before I make it…(can’t exactly pull a slick move on God.)
  • Between an autoimmune disorder, arthritis and 3 neck surgeries- body sucks- I can barely wrestle my 8 pound shorkie without injuring myself….let alone GOD.

However-If you look deeper- it’s exactly what I need to do.

I’m not the first one to wrestle with God. I’m in good company. For the record-I don’t think Jacob wore golden underwear, either. 

In the story linked above- (Go ahead- read it- I’ll wait…) Jacob is facing the potential wrath and attack of his brother. (Yup- families have been dysfunctional since the very beginning.) Jacob sent gifts to pacify him. (hey- bribery works- sometimes.) Jacob then sent his family across a river- to a safer place. (Safer meaning: away from him.)

Jacob stayed back and wrestled WWF style all night. Literally. With an angel of God. That’s hardcore. Jacob refused to let go until the angel blessed him. Around sunrise- the angel did just that. After touching Jacob’s hip and causing him to walk the rest of his days with a limp…. (Jacob didn’t let go – he kept wrestling- even with that limp.)

“Finally The angel let Jacob know that he’d actually spent the night wrestling with God… and that God had decided to bless him. But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.””27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”“Jacob,” he answered.28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[f] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

Most of my readers know that the past few years have been especially rough for me and my family. We’ve faced losses, the decline of my husband’s parent’s health, (oh- what a mess that is.) I’ve had 4 major surgeries, and My husband was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. Add to that: daily life, common core curriculum homework, other personal issues and the effects that all this has on our family and loved ones? We’re a mess.

We feel battle worn and tattered. And- much like Jacob- we feel like we’re facing an approaching enemy.

This week- we’re fully engaged. Tattered and tired or not- we’re wrestling. Today- is the day my husband starts chemo.

And today is another day I refuse to let go of God, until he blesses me.

Yes, I am wrestling. With emotions- with fear, with fury. with cancer, and yes-with God. I desperately want God to spare my husband’s life.

Honestly? I think Jesus may have a new set of nail scars- from my fingernails. Because I am holding on as tight as I can. I will not give up. I might be hurt in the fight. I might walk away with a limp- but I won’t let go.

How about you?

Are you facing an attack? An enemy? Whether it’s cancer, sickness, loss, work problems, kid problems, emotional issues, eating disorders, addictions… whatever it is…

I hope you’ll join me in the ring…. (Golden underpants optional.)

Let’s be brave and wrestle and hold onto God until he blesses us- how ever he sees fit- and what ever the cost.

We might be hurt in the wrestling. We might walk away with a limp- but the blessing will be worth it. God’s blessings always are.

Entering the ring is scary. It does;t feel brave. The lights are bright and the noise is deafening. The risks are huge. But what I’m learning is this: Sometimes starting out scared- ends in bravery.

Here’s to wrestling scared.

“Dear Lord- you know every detail. Of my life and the lives of my readers. Make us brave Lord- give us courage to wrestle through whatever we face today. We won;t let go util you bless us- whatever the cost…. Because we love you- we know you are good and you desire to bless us…I love you Lord- even here- in the wrestling  ring. Amen. ”

 

 

 

 

Where I write about what it's like to walk a few miles in my shoes and the shoes of others….

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