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Dear Anxiety: You Don’t Get to Win

I wrote this years ago. It is once again relevant for different reasons. I still feel a lifelong commitment to beating back the front line that comes at us from time to time. I call for a retreat of enemy forces. Anxiety, you do not get to thieve, poke, defeat, crumble, discourage, speak your lies about the truth, or distort perspective. Not on my watch!

If this is you or someone you know and love, please consider reading through to the end. May it help someone to know you are not alone and there can be victory!

☕ Espressos of Faith ☕

Dear Anxiety-You Don't Get to WinThis piece is deeply personal. More than usual. It opens a window into a vulnerable moment and struggle in our lives. But I felt God calling me out of deep depression years ago to tell my stories openly—protectively, but openly. To make sure others know they are not alone in their struggles and to show them the hope that is ever before them if they can just outstretch a hand and a heart. Belief and trust start out tiny. They are a walk and a dance with Christ that are lifelong.

Perhaps you don’t believe in Christ and want to just know what I have to say about anxiety. I welcome you here, but please know my faith informs what I have to say because once I started my relationship with Christ, I never wanted to leave His beautiful heartbeat. It brings me comfort on the darkest of nights.

We believe for better…

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Posted by on August 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

To Those Who Go Unnoticed

To Those Who Go UnnoticedThis piece is deeply personal to me. I almost didn’t write it. But something that has been bubbling to the surface for a very long time erupted in me as I watched my high school daughter dance at her recital dress rehearsal. It was as if time stopped, and God said:

“I see, Bonnie. I see. You think nobody else does, but Ido. Now, you find a way to communicate that to her.”

And my strong, sometimes fierce, and always feisty self crumpled as I shakily held the iPhone camera to record what I could for family who could not make it to the recital. There was an inner tremble, a hurt child within me, that let go as I watched her glide across the stage with such grace to John Legend’s “If You’re Out There.”

The message of the song is about people coming together in the name of peace. That’s an awesome concept, for sure. But I saw a very quiet, non-attention-seeking young lady dance for the pure joy of it,

“if you’re out there” watching or not.

And it spoke to me in all the hollow places where as a parent I had watched her hurt for so long in several arenas after a very difficult year of poor health and adjusting to a big high school—after time and time again of having amazing character and compassion to offer, but feeling like a wallflower.

My dear sweet daughter, you are not a wallflower. People in your social circles may not know what you can do and what your many gifts are, Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Flipping That Tassel: A Letter to the Class of 2018

Flipping That TasselOur oldest son graduates high school, along with close to 400 classmates. Maybe even in the rain. Outside. Oh, joy! It seems to culminate in this one night, but truthfully, the past few weeks have been nonstop events on our calendar: senior awards, senior scholarships, band banquet, language awards, induction ceremony, baccalaureate, etc. It was so hectic I found myself rescheduling medical appointments multiple times on the day of some of these events. Despite syncing Apple Calendar and setting a timer on my phone, I could not keep it all straight. That panicky feeling kept creeping in insisting that I was going to miss something important.

And then there it was: That maroon and white tassel with 2018 dangling off the end of it. And I completely flashed back to 1990. Rainy day just the same, almost three decades earlier. All the nerves of exiting one chapter and entering another one rattling around like a live wire inside me.

Only this time, in 2018, it was my firstborn.

This day was the end of many things, yes, but it was the beginning of a lifetime of choices, decisions, dreams, achieving, and sometimes falling, sometimes failing.

What? Why so negative? Not the most inspiring graduation message, Bonnie!

Oh, but it is! Because the road ahead Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Expectant Worship

Expectant WorshipI came downstairs one morning, sleep still in my eyes, hair wild, and hands feeling around for the coffee machine. Then I remembered to turn on the lamp above our frog terrarium and spray some instant humidity into the screen at the top. As I wiped away the blur from my morning stupor, two of our three baby tree frogs were sitting reverently together with their eyes toward heaven. It occurred to me that perhaps they just might know something that I did not in that moment.

There was an awareness, awe, expectancy.

If I didn’t know better, I would have thought they were having a moment conversing in their amphibian tongue with God.

But do I know better? I am not so sure. Instantly, this verse came to mind:

Psalm 121:1-2, ESV
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

Much to my chagrin, we haven’t named the frogs yet. My 12-year-old son wants them to reach a more significant size so he can name them with greater precision, aligning his name choices with what he assumes is gender. Not me. I’d rather just jump right in (hahahaha) and call them “Jeepers” and “Fly Breath,” but he has insisted that I wait.

After observing these little web-footed friends since their tadpole stage, I am convinced they are identifiable and that they each have a God-given personality, an imprint from their Creator.

“A frog, Bonnie? Seriously?” 

I don’t pretend to have conversations with them that they reciprocate in any way, but I can see their expectant eyes. They know they are cared for. While they follow instinct leaping around their habitat rapidly extending those amazing tongues to catch fruit flies, I see the care of God in their eyes. They look up, frequently. They do something we humans don’t often understand: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Integrity of a Promise

Integrity of a Promise“I am sorry. I am going to have to cancel. I am overwhelmed with work and life right now.”

“I can’t get to this today like I promised. Probably not until next week or the week after.”

“I’m not going to be able to drive you there. Something has come up.”

“We are not able to attend as we originally planned. Please have a great celebration.”

Do any of these phrases sound familiar? Either you have said them recently, or someone has spoken them to you?

It isn’t a big deal when it happens once in a while, right? But what about repeat offenders? How does it make us feel when we are regularly cancelled on? Even when it’s a professional appointment, like a doctor’s office calling, we tend to find it flaky after a while, right?

After going through each statement with different folks in mind as your usual suspects, the ones who often don’t carry through, now read the list as your own statements.

Hmmmm. Me, too.

I find these self-reflection exercises so helpful in reassessing my priorities. I am a feeler so I’m naturally wired to process how other people feel. And lately, I’ve been hyperaware I have been letting people down.

To be honest, sometimes, it is about unfair expectations placed on us, but often, we are simply overextending ourselves. Even with good intentions, we fail to say “no” when we need to, and while that seems kind at the time, it demonstrates a lack of integrity if we repeatedly prove not to be true to our word.

Matthew 5:33-37, ESV
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”

This verse has been circling round and round in my mind. Granted, this is Jesus speaking, and He is referring to taking oaths and the importance of honoring them. I could choose to blow past it and consider it very specific in context except that it was included in His Sermon on the Mount. He had a captive audience, and He was offering instruction to the crowd. The caution in it cannot be ignored. Like every word that came from The Word’s mouth (Jesus was called “the Word” in John 1:1), Read the rest of this entry »

 

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This Temple of God: Clean Eating and Emotional Detox

This Temple of God

Almost two years ago, my father passed away. Right around that time, my oldest child, an older teen, started a cold-turkey diet of eating clean: no sugars, no preservatives, and organic whenever possible. Mostly fruits and vegetables. Lean meats. He claims there was no connection to my father’s unrelenting battle with seven cancers over four decades. That’s okay. My mother’s heart saw something in that choice that spoke of legacy, taking control where there wasn’t any, and making sense of loss—maybe with some growing health consciousness added to the mix.

At first I was resistant, almost angry. For years, I had spent so much of my time accommodating major food allergies in my youngest child, that meal planning and cooking became a nightmare. On the flip side, it served as the first attempt our family had made to eat more natural. (We were also living in the middle of the South Pacific, but that’s a story for another day.)

Fast-forward eight years later, and here we were: accommodating one child who wanted to be healthier (and who could argue with that?) while the rest of us still had processed food and sugars, just as much as we had any fruits (and sometimes vegetables). Pasta was my go-to. Produce was washed but certainly not organic. Salads—even attractively dressed ones—were not my friends.

Not only did it take me at least a year to adjust to the cost difference of eating healthier, I also had to train myself to limit what I purchased from the center grocery aisles. Everything is fresh in the perimeter; stick to the perimeter! And can I lament for one minute about the condemnation I felt as my hyperaware teen health nut watched the rest of us indulge in unhealthy choices! It was a year of my fighting back, defending my choices, and pointing out that we don’t all have to change just because he decided to be OCD about labels. And he was. I would go out of my way to buy something I thought was all-natural only to find out they snuck in a chemical imposter! I was not a happy girl!

Since that time, especially after the one-year mark of these changes in my son, I began to Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Hey, Anger: Are You My BFF?

Hey, Anger_Relaxed. Coffee in hand. A comfortable heart-to-heart with a very dear (and emotionally safe) person. No expectations. Just sharing our thoughts together.

Doesn’t that sound so lovely? We may as well add some calming lavender essential oil in a diffuser, a dog to cuddle with, a warm blanket, a cozy fire in the fireplace.

Seriously, I was at my calmest.

But then that same painful topic came up again: the trigger. You know what I mean, right? The one where a deep gash healed over but the skin that covered it is thin and crackly? After spending two years praying, crying, healing, remembering, forgiving, talking it out, and back to remembering again, I really felt I had cycled through so many times I was in a good place.

And, overall, I am.

But wow, did that volcano of past emotion rumble only a few times before spewing it out. I had no idea it still boiled under the surface. I thought it was quiet—well, mostly.

I think we were both surprised that going back to that space in my head set sparks flying across the room again. I was back to fight-or-flight. Abandonment. This time, remembering was a piercing jab. How does that happen? How does our peace fly out the window like that?

Here’s what James, the brother of Jesus, said in the Bible:

James 1:19-20, ESV
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Okay, James, that’s awesome. It’s true that anger does not produce righteousness, but what about anger from wreckage someone dumped all over you? What about the shrapnel of betrayal? How do we ever get over that?

One part that is key in the verse in James is this: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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“I Will Be Found by You”—God

I Will Be Found by You_God

Did you ever have a moment in middle or high school when you felt like as soon as you entered a conversation, your peers would suddenly have something else to do and become scarce? (Okay, self-reveal: Maybe that was just socially awkward me?)

Maybe you came to pick up your child to leave a playmate’s home only to experience the frustration of him hiding in a closet so he didn’t have to leave.

Ever find your dog, tail-down, hovering in the crate or under the crouch because she had an accident and knows you won’t be pleased?

My daughter has a bunny with the annoying habit of retreating to her hideaway whenever I come in to offer fresh pellets or hay. It’s not very rewarding to have her scamper away at the sight of my presence.

Do you ever feel this way about God? Like you came into the room, so to speak, to ask Him something, but He might be busy listening to someone else or have better things to do?

Be honest with yourself. This is important. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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The Right Kind of Walled-In

Right Kind of Walled-InA few years ago, Boston endured one blizzard after another until the snowblowers and shovels had nowhere else to deposit the snow. (Yes, believe it or not, I am not talking about this year’s March-a-geddon.) It was almost impossible to street-park in the city, and driveways in the burbs looked like Arctic dunes. Backing out of one’s driveway almost required a traffic cop, and seeing the neighbor’s yard from your car? Forget it if you are shorter than 5 foot 5 inches. We accumulated more than five feet of snow!

The one good part about it, amidst sore backs and snowdrifts that continually crossed pathways out all our doors, was the trail we were able to create in the backyard for our Shih Tzus. Only one foot off the ground, at best, they could not break free and take off across our yet-unfenced yard. For about three weeks, they had a fence of snow that they did not even attempt to climb. It may as well have been Shih Tzu Everest.

During that time, I remember posting a photo of myself next to our driveway’s towering guardrail of white. With shovel in hand, it was even more clear to our Midwest relatives how hard Boston was hit by Jack Frost. And while my husband was understandably overworked preventing ice dams by scraping, salt-bombing, and warming the roof, I was secretly enjoying the pent-up feeling.

The human-sized height of the snow made me feel so safe, so protected, so walled-in. I love when school and other activities are cancelled and nobody can get to our house. As awful as that sounds, for an introvert, it is a little bit of paradise to have a few days off from the world at large. Even the governor of Massachusetts had my back that year with that whole State of Emergency thing.

But even for an introvert,  Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Unsent Letters: The Lost Art of Self-Control

Unsent Letters_

Every few months I write a letter to a particular person in my life. I process, digest it, and ultimately decide not to send it. When I review the many letters I have scrawled out over the course of time, I can see the progression of healing, the quieting of anger or pain, and the increase of forgiveness. Perhaps because writing is my therapy, this was a useful exercise, but even better is being able to look back to something tangible—a journal of sorts—and see where years of prayer about the issue and the person have taken me.

So, why not send it, Bonnie? Big whoopedy-doo that you wrote it. Isn’t reconciliation about the sending?

Sometimes, yes. But had I sent my original versions, I doubt they would have bridged any communication gaps with their raw emotion. And if I don’t wait on God for the timing, no matter how “ready” I am, the other person may not be. So, I don’t know. Will I ever send one? I believe I will. My heart beats for reconciliation. But the peace of God has to be there first. That is what I have been sorting out recently as I wrote letter #5 or #6 to this person. I’ve lost count.

I’ve drafted many letters along these lines to many people, never having sent them to:

  • school administration or teaching staff
  • church leadership
  • friends
  • family members
  • other parents

for various reasons: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Pushing Through Fears

Pushing Through FearsDo you have any fears that hold you back from fully functioning? Does it sometimes feel like you are pushing against a weight of overwhelm? Maybe your fears taunt you in the middle of other areas where you feel accomplished. They may look different for each of us, but they can be paralyzing and growth-stopping.

You know what else they do? They deliver a feeling of defeat.

And you know what? That’s not Kingdom (-of-God) living.

Some of my fears are irrational. For example, I fear that if I stop advocating for certain injustices or for my son with special education needs, the world will stop turning. That’s called hypervigilance and sometimes crosses the line into catastrophic thinking. I usually can do the self talk involved to chill myself out, talk myself down.

Like many people, I am afraid of letting people I love down, not meeting expectations, or  unintentionally hurting someone.

I back out of my driveway panicked that a child on a bike will go by.

I fear the local black bear entering my yard (it has entered my neighbor’s property) and eating my Shih Tzus.

I can’t say these fears regularly keep me up at night, but they definitely steal joy.

Know what I mean?

Here are the ways they thieve me of peace: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Loving Little Man

Loving Little ManFear is a funny thing—and so are the emotions of a parent watching a child suffer.

I thought I had all the wonderful ingredients to be a special needs parent, as if it was some kind of recipe God puts together. Actually, I think that it is. You see, I was born a warrior. I have always been an advocate. I have never found myself to be fearful when confronting authority in the name of justice. When I see unfairness, my heart always screams, and my mouth is soon to follow.

On the flip side, I am deeply compassionate. That’s probably why I feel stirred to speak up for the downcast. I was one of the few students in junior high school who made a point to include and interact with a fellow youth group student with mental retardation. I saw her. I wanted her to know she mattered.

But then I had my own special needs child.

On the precipice of receiving diagnoses after reaching a significant crisis point, there are two choices in our flesh: a spiral into fear or a rapid bearing of fangs. In the beginning, separating those emotions is impossible. Wrapped up in all the pain are fierce anger, a sense of desperate protection, scary projections of what the future holds, and an overall desire to howl at the moon. When our children are touched so directly by the fall from perfection in the Garden of Eden, there is something so base, so animal, within us that wants to sit at the gate and beg the angel to let us back in the Garden and slam the doors shut again.

Within four months of his birth, my fair-skinned, redheaded little boy (Little Man) Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Of Bats and Brides: Who’s Your Valentine?

Of Bats and Brides- Who's Your ValentineTwo years ago, I thought I could pick up some easy address-and-sticker valentines for my last elementary school child, Little Man, to bring in for 19 other happy third graders. Then he casually mentioned finding extra construction paper, and I thought: “Oh, yey! He’s making them this year!”

Settling into the lovely thought of slapping some supplies and the class list on the table, my lofty dreams of a Sunday afternoon nap were abruptly interrupted with this declaration:

“Let’s make valentines about bats! We can give them each a fact they might not know.”

Okay, yeah, my enthusiasm completely missing, I felt that Mother Guilt twang—you know, the one that comes along and reminds you there aren’t as many photos on the walls of Child Number 3. Before my mouth fully checked in with my mind, I agreed to do this, and several bat web sites later, we had more than enough encyclopedic information to delight any budding chiropterologist. Really, National Geographic Kids should be calling me any time now offering me a regular contributor gig [smile].

I started thinking about the great lengths Little Man and I went to in order to best represent his interests to the recipients and how we found the right pictures, communicated mild humor, chose words that sounded like something he would say, and offered some education along the way.

It was important to Little Man to represent himself honestly. He didn’t want to convey just any message. He wanted to remain true to himself.

When his classmates open that valentine, many of them will not even need to turn it over to see its sender. It will look and read so much like Little Man, that anyone who truly knows him, or is his daily companion, will recognize the author’s voice.

Valentine’s Day may be a loaded occasion for you. Maybe you have Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Why I Left My Church One Easter

Why I Left My Church One Easter-3It took me more than five and a half years to write this story, the one where my heart left my church one Easter. And even now, I am fully aware of the following:

  • I left a building and a shepherd, not the people and not my true Shepherd. I still run a prayer group (going strong many years now) with wonderful women I met there. The Church, ultimately, is the Body of Christ, and I will never abandon her.

1 Corinthians 12:12-14, ESV
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

  • I still love the people who remain, and I am keenly aware that they have their reasons for finding something of value there. For a few years, I did as well.
  • None of this is to disrespect that particular church or shepherd. We are all God’s children.

But I believe this story has value. I hope you can have an open heart while reading it.

As Easter 2011 approached, I felt that sick feeling in my gut I had been feeling for years, really. Easter is a time to invite friends to church, to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, to spread love to a world that needs it (yes, we should be doing that all the time, but people tend to seek a church out for Christian holidays).

But I had a major problem:

I couldn’t picture wanting to invite anyone to my church.

In my mind at the time, right or wrong: If they were already broken, they could break more. If they needed Christ, they would only find Him being beaten on a cross.

They wouldn’t necessarily get the message that His resurrection brought grace.

I agree that it is very important we understand He took on our sin. Our sin and what should have been our judgment placed upon His body are realities we must never forget.

The judgment-only focus did not mix well with depression, anxiety, and abandonment already part of my history. Nor did it help a young mother longing to connect with a real, loving, compassionate God.

So, I knew it wasn’t a good sign when I begged my husband to go away that weekend with the kids. We could still attend church—just not our own. How sad is that? I’m not proud of that moment, but I needed the other half of the story. I needed grace. So to Burlington, VT, we went and worshipped and celebrated Easter with a lovely evangelical church there who took us in.

And that’s the day I knew I had to leave. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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To Be Called by Name

To Be Called by NameIsaiah 43:1, ESV

But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

Our house is full of new pet excitement right now. After researching lionhead rabbits for two months, we found a lovely breeder on a small farm in Nowheresville, New Hampshire, about an hour north of us.

Four years ago, we brought home our first family pets: two Shih Tzus (lion dogs). We are apparently obsessed with animals with a lion resemblance! Earlier this summer, we rescued a few tadpoles from our pool that are now tree frogs in a terrarium. And now a bunny. I did not grow up with pets, so the fact we now have five still amazes me. And while my Shih Tzus’ names were chosen before they were born, my frogs still don’t have names. My younger son insists that they are full-grown before we attempt to give them specific identities.

And this bunny. This fluffy, double-maned, dwarf-sized rabbit is basically a ball of fur with feet and ears. It is a black and gray beauty, and despite our hours of brainstorming names like Truffles, Mistletoe, and Avocado, it remains nameless*.

When I asked my daughter how she chose this particular baby rabbit from the four does that were available, she said: “It was the softest. That is what I wanted.” And a memory from 13 years ago completely snapped into place for me: a tiny ten month old crawling down the hall toward the only shag carpet we had…in the bathroom, collapsing victoriously onto the edge where she pet that carpet over and over again as her reward for all the strenuous drag of her body. At that moment, I thought: “God made this bunny for her. He knew she would identify its fluff as hers when they met.”

But I will tell you something. The bunny knows my daughter’s scent, her light touch, her cuddle, the warmth of her cheek against its side. In just a few days, it anticipates her cupping her hands to support its baby hind legs. It hears her rustle in the loft bed above her cage and knows its owner is there. It is secure and can snuggle down for the night. Hay and water will be there in the morning.

What I find so difficult is talking to the frogs and bunny but having no clear way to address them. I feel like somehow it holds part of my affection back, that until they are associated with a name, I cannot fully give my heart to them. Somehow a name Read the rest of this entry »

 

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A Lesson from Life on the Prairie

A Lesson from Life on the Prairie-2Over school breaks, my family likes to binge-watch some of our favorite television series. We are a bizarre mix of interests: everything from science fiction to historical drama. We are huge Doctor Who fans, and recently, I introduced my two younger children to LOST. At the time that show first aired, our family had made a decision to accept a temporary post in the Marshall Islands for a few years. LOST became a reality to us in more ways than one, but that is a story for another day. My tween son really enjoys The Flash.

When she can manage to find the time, my daughter loves following Little House on the Prairie, which takes me back to my childhood. My mother and I have vastly different emotional wiring, but the end of a Little House episode was one of the few times I would see her shed tears. As an adult now, I think I understand why. The wholesome, Christian values presented in every crisis on the show are the end goal, right? They show what we should aim for, more or less, but also where we currently fall short. Whatever he was in his personal, real life, the actor who played Pa Ingalls brought an ideal into our living rooms each week.

And Pa regularly weeps.

My stoic daughter sees this as a bit overdramatic at times, and perhaps it is. But for me, Pa’s tears are a huge relief.

Life hurts. We fail at times. We can’t control other people or outcomes. And wayward children/teens/adults often have to learn the hard way.

We have made our way (after many years of intermittent watching) to Season 9, the final season, and in it, Pa’s adopted son Albert starts experiencing negative behavioral changes. He is hanging out with the wrong crowd, needing acceptance, and in the city life, he falls prey to a morphine addiction. Pa does what he can to change the environment to give him a new start; they temporarily move out to Walnut Grove again, but taking the addict away from the temptation does not produce a cure.

When I entered our family room, I caught a scene where Pa locks Albert Read the rest of this entry »

 

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10 Ways I Cope Through Deep, Dark Winter

10 Ways I Cope Through Deep, Dark WinterI don’t know about you, but the short hours of daylight and long, dark nights really get to me by January. The holidays are over, the school snow days have commenced, temperatures have plummeted, and cabin fever is an ongoing threat. Some people call this Seasonal Affective Disorder. I call it: “anyone living in this climate and these latitudes for part of the year.”

I am an introvert and very sedentary by nature, so being at home writing and editing with warm dogs at my feet is my preference, but there are challenges to working at home. And, really, I see all five of my family members fight to get through the Boston Deep Freeze in more ways than one this time of year. Lately, we New Englanders have been basking in the 9 degree glory of no wind and a temporary reprieve from the white stuff.

But what about the darkness, the dry air, and the way this time of year messes with our minds and bodies?

Our white landscape typically starts to melt in March. That can be a long wait!

Here are some tips that get me through the countdown to April showers bringing May flowers.

(By the way, I receive no compensation for these endorsements.) 

1) Warm Meals for All Times of Day

If you don’t have an Instant Pot, run right out and get one. Seriously. Or at least purchase some kind of electric pressure cooker.

The idea of warm oats waiting for me upon wake-up, all set with a timer and ready to warm me and my family in the chilly downstairs, is a reason I can get up on days when the bed seems like the best place to hibernate.

Have I mentioned how much an Instant Pot (electric pressure cooker) has changed my life? Out all night taxi-ing kids to activities? Only come up with a dinner thought at 5:00? So quick, so easy, so good. Get one with a timer if that helps. My steel-cut oats greet me in the morning after setting the timer the night before. Really, the IP and I have become BFFs.

Most of the time, I search on Pinterest for recipes, but this book has become permanently attached to my kitchen countertop this January. It already has the splash marks of a well-loved book! Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Becoming Icicles—and Other Dangers of Comparing Ourselves to Others

With our current deep-freeze tundra conditions in the Boston area, I revisited this photo, and in so doing, I realized how timely this lesson from three years ago was for me—yet again! Sigh. I find the struggle is real. Comparisons keep us in chains. Letting Christ define us sets us free.

Fellow inhabitants in semi-Arctic temperatures: Stay warm!

☕ Espressos of Faith ☕

Becoming Icicles- and Other Dangers of Comparing Ourselves to OthersI live in the Boston area, and over the past eight days, we have received over 5 feet of snow. My roof has a low-enough pitch to develop ice dams, so this year, after many years of my husband chipping away at them, he installed roof warming cables. As you can imagine, after 5 feet of snow and dropping temperatures, my roof cables were doing exactly what they were supposed to: preventing dams. But in the process, they were also creating ice stalactites that, after a few days, extended down from two stories to almost touch the ground. They were incredible, the talk of the neighborhood. People would walk their dogs by and stop and marvel at our sharp, massive ice needles. The bus driver even made comments. They were honestly the most beautiful winter “growth” I had ever watched before my eyes.

But they were also about 40 pounds…

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Posted by on January 6, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

The Gift of Elf-ing

the gift of elf-ing

I have a confession to make. I love elf-ing. Yes, that is the verb form of elf, and no, it is not in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. I am not referring to the infamous The Elf on the Shelf (which, while cute, I don’t participate in, by the way, because I stay away from traditions I know I will fail).

While I love the movie Elf, that is not where I’m going with this.

Love me some J.R.R. Tolkien Middle-Earth, Rivendell Elves of The Lord of the Rings fame, but those graceful, immortal, pointy-eared creatures are not what I had in mind either.

The elf-ing I am talking about does not require striped tights and a springy hat. I don’t have to wear green. I merely have to consider the following questions to get started:

WHO:

Who needs extra love this season?

Is there anyone I would like to bless to show my appreciation for who that person is, what (he or) she has meant to me, or what (he or) she has done for me?

WHAT:

With this person in mind, how is love best communicated to her:

Acts of service?

Words expressed, written or verbal?

Something homemade?

The gift of my time and my presence?

Financial blessing?

WHEN:

When I plan the best timing of such a delivery, I want to consider: Read the rest of this entry »

 
 

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Fighting “Still”—and Other Struggles of the Season

Fighting Still—and Other Struggles of the SeasonI am not very good at keeping still. In fact, I turn still into a such a multitasking event that I defeat its entire purpose. Last night, for example, I sat down to watch The Peanuts Movie with my youngest son, and I turned it into a moment of buying a subscription to a creation science magazine for my oldest child for Christmas.

I was always the child who had to play a board game with myself or work on a scrapbook project while watching television. Even when my friends would come over to play Barbies, I would sing commercial ditties or manage multiple tasks at once. Ask any one of my childhood friends, and she will tell you I drove her nuts! Being at rest is not a concept I have ever understood. I have always been driven and project-focused. The night of my bridal shower, I stayed up late for hours to make sure all thank-you notes were immediately written, stamped, and addressed.

For a long time, I chalked it up to an amazing work ethic. I was the ant of Proverbs 6—and proud of it!

Proverbs 6:6-9, ESV

Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.
How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?

Right now, for example, I am writing an email reply to my mother while

–looking for dressy heels for my daughter at Famous Footwear online, 

–writing this article, 

–checking on the dogs, 

–and thinking about the school evaluation forms I have to fill out and promptly sign and return to special education office in the school district. 

I also might stop and wrap one present.

I might be productive, but I certainly am not focused.

What does still mean for you?

My still consists of the few moments Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Expectant Like Mary

Expectant Like Mary

This year, I made myself a promise that I would buy 95 percent of Christmas gifts before Thanksgiving. I’ve even managed to ship a few care packages and boxes of presents already. I think I learned from previous years that if I want a peaceful, Christ-focused Advent season, I have to be organized, planned, and efficient.

Two years ago, my father passed away on December 2. Advent was a blur. I don’t even remember if I shopped. This is a difficult time of year for that and other reasons, and I am choosing to spend December reading about shepherds watching their flocks by night, singing worship carols, and focusing on Immanuel, God with us. I want to create more family time, play board games, do a jigsaw puzzle, watching the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, The Christmas Story, and Elf. I can’t wait to cuddle my dogs on cold nights and breathe in Christmas candles and essential oils diffusing in every room. I look forward to my daughter baking cookies and filling the house with the delightful smells of Christmas.

I want to be expectant in my heart and soul, like Mary, mother of the Christ, my heart trusting in my God.

Luke 1:46-50, ESV

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.”

What about you? Did you anticipate the fun or the stress of last-minute grocery runs for the cranberry sauce, post-Thanksgiving cleanup, Black Friday shopping, crowds, traffic, and the tensions that can be both beautiful and stretch us taut when around extra family during the holidays? Did you put up your Christmas tree? Lights?

Is there anticipation in the air—or just weariness?

Whatever season you are in, wherever the needle on your stress gauge is at the moment: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Giving Thanks: Not the Usual Suspects

Are you gathering around the Thanksgiving table giving thanks for the usual suspects…or the unusual ones? I wrote this several years ago, but it still resonates with me today.

☕ Espressos of Faith ☕

Giving Thanks- Not the Usual SuspectsI’m not quite sure how it happened, but Thanksgiving appears to be upon us. I have no idea what I’m making yet. I have not admitted to myself there is cleaning to do, groceries to buy, or even plans to firm up. I’m in limbo. Stuck. I’ve been waiting on news on whether a loved one is moving forward in cancer treatment or facing an overgrown, unwanted enemy who invited more friends to the table while we weren’t looking.

I simply cannot plan, think, or even decide which task to start.

Ever live in limbo, holding your breath for the next news to ring your phone, pop onto your e-mail, or flit across your newsfeed?

The truth is that we all come to our Thanksgiving table this year with so many world events on our minds. Amidst ISIS, beheadings, bombings, displacement, wars, genocide, human trafficking, school shootings, tense political debates, riots…

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Posted by on November 13, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Finding Peace for Stress Junkies Like Me

Stress Junkies Like MeStress has been piling up in my house of late. College application deadlines. New braces. Another (brief) parking lot accident. And add to that every major road leading out of my town is currently under construction. Yes, massive stress bubbling under the surface. It’s the kind of pressure that leads to hypervigilance.

Deadlines do this to me, especially life-course-determining ones. Anxiety used to be my roommate. I kicked her out a while ago and changed the locks, but once in a while she slips in through an unlocked back door. That girl knows no boundaries, I tell ya!

In the middle of one of those days, I took my son and husband to the airport for college visits (landing in rush hour traffic both to and from Boston) and made it home in time to get my daughter to dance, throw a nicer shirt on, and attempt to manage back-to-school night at the high school jumping between the schedules of a freshman and a senior on a massive campus. It felt like an episode of a teen sitcom as I rushed around trying to slide into each class before the bell rang.

So it was in my great hurry to arrive at the last class that I cut a corner down a hallway, and, to my great surprise, there was a low-to-the-ground, black end table next to a couch in the loft area between halls. I imagine high school students gather and are aware of the furniture there—but not me. I was not aware. It simply was not in my line of vision. I had Algebra I, Part 2 (whatever that is) to get to, where my friend teaches the class. What a nice way to end the long day, except for this: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Waiting on God in the Valley

I was recently reminded how many dear ones are in a personal valley right now. I hope this brings them fresh encouragement from the only One who offers the living water to refresh our spirit.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” — Jesus (John 14:27)

Blessings,
Bonnie

☕ Espressos of Faith ☕

Ever feel like screaming:Waiting on God in the Valley

God, where ARE you? It’s the eleventh hour, and I’m beyond impatient waiting on you to show up!”

In a crisis situation, that desperate plea sounds pretty reasonable, right? We’re frantic, and we cry out. There’s nothing wrong with that. David did this repeatedly in the Psalms. God isn’t afraid of our honesty. In fact, He welcomes it.

Even so, there are four fundamental misconceptions with these statements, and believe me, I’m guilty of wrong belief myself!

  1. God is not with us.
  2. He might not respond, so we have to get His attention again.
  3. It really is the eleventh hour.
  4. It’s about us.

As for Number One, can I just say here that

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Posted by on November 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

If Waves Could Speak

If Waves Could SpeakEarlier today I found myself standing with my toes in the sand staring out on the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean from the vantage point of Duck, North Carolina (Outer Banks). My cousins had generously shared their vacation with me, and my husband committed to the intense job of Mr. Mom in addition to his many other duties all week.

Considering we are in the throes of college application deadlines in our home, I couldn’t run for that airport terminal quickly enough! I left three kids, two dogs, two tree frogs, and three caterpillars behind. Begrudgingly, my husband took on frog duty, and I am happy to say that within two days, they captured his heart as he watched them hunt crickets and their little throats vibrate. (If you have not witnessed this, it should go on your bucket list!)

Our view is oceanside. With the sliding door set to screen, we can hear the waves crash to the shore. After days of high winds, we finally made it out to the beach.

With toes dipped in the water alongside my cousin, she offered me a precious memory of her mother, my late aunt, in the waves one summer. I thought about my children playing in the waves on many a beach escape. And if I really went deeper, I knew the waves knew so many of my secrets, dreams, memories, and emotions.

As the ocean water surged to a crest and then spilled over to crash, it looked as if it was responding to a hidden nod that it was time to bend and roll, with a delayed reaction in parts of the line but otherwise mastering uniformity in the landing. An invisible agreement. A knowing.

And I thought about what the waves would speak of, if they could speak about my own life, and what they had witnessed: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Top 10 Reasons I Love Living with Tigger

Do you have a Tigger in your home? Here’s why I love mine! He has opened up my perspective and taught me much about myself.

☕ Espressos of Faith ☕

Top 10 Reasons I Love Living With Tigger

I have to pause sometimes at School Return Time when I’m low on sleep and trying to track with the beautiful ADHD brain that comes home and pitches 1,000 ideas to me at once.

It’s a fascinating mind that can do this. He has my utmost respect and admiration,

but

I have to remind myself to be fully present.

  • To not just “uh-huh” him, to engage with follow-up questions
  • To acknowledge a few of those ideas
  • To affirm that his heart to publish a series of 11 dog adventure stories (with a bubble on the jacket to market my book, LOL–his idea–he even asked me first!) is seen for the kind intentions that go with it

Too many “stop it, slow down, pay attention, settle down, be still”s in his day already. Someone needs to plug in and hear what he is really saying. For anyone who loves a 

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Posted by on October 17, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Bowing Low: The Message of Reconciliation

Bowing Low

Knock, knock, knock. Send her an email.

Really, God, we’ve been through this for years. I get the idea, I ask if it’s time, and You say, “Not yet.”

Yet.

And so it was, that still, small voice telling me what I already knew He would want me to do: I needed to reconcile with someone I had hurt and been wounded by—three years ago. Outcome didn’t matter. A response from the other party wasn’t the point. It was about who I am in Christ. If I truly am reconciled to God through His Son the Christ, then I must be a reconciler. There isn’t any gray area there.

Consider what the Apostle Paul says in one of his letters to the Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21, ESV

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;  that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Paul makes it very clear that when God made us a new creation, He “gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

It’s not a choice or an option, really. Once we are new creations, it’s part of the deal.

And let’s be honest: That is wicked uncomfortable in theory, but God is with us(Immanuel) in practice. When it was time, after three years of healing and asking God to confirm it, it was as natural as sliding on my flip-flops.

Why is that? Read the rest of this entry »

 

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10 Ways to Recognize Safe Counsel

10 Ways to Recognize Safe CounselThere are people in my life who have earned the right to be blunt, honest, offering constructive criticism and feedback, and I receive it because of history, trust, love, and mutual understanding.

On the other hand, there are other folks who regularly cross that line and yet have not earned that place in my life or space in my head. I may love them deeply, but they speak from insecurity, negativity, and/or a lack of self-control. They are not voices God wants me to let in.

Along those lines, I frequently tell my children:

“People who put you down do not deserve space in your head and heart. Be kind but don’t engage. You are worth more than the voices of insecure speakers in your life—and I am too.” 

It’s a hard call at times, isn’t it? We should be open to feedback, but some folks are not healthy enough to offer it safely.

Know what I mean?

As I “grow up” in Christ, I am learning more and more that there are some voices I need to shut out and others that should be let in. I am growing in the discipline of asking God first: “Lord, she is saying this. Is this true? Is it from You? Should I take heed or put through Your filter and discard?”

God loves us so incredibly as a parent that He wants us to hear correction safely, gently, and with grace. And voices that don’t reflect His tender care need to be checked in with Him. For that matter, all voices do. Sometimes I have been caught in the web of someone’s honey offering when really they were simply waiting to build trust so they could crush it with unkindness.

Because we lack the ability to see other people’s motives, we must consult God and trust in His protection.

One of my favorite Proverbs on this topic is the entirety of Proverbs 4, a beautiful message written from King Solomon (son of King David) to his sons. Consider the wisdom here. There are at least 10 amazing guiding principles in the way the father counsels his children. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Prayer from Dirty Bath Water

Praying from Dirty Bath WaterI watched them approach the shrine, bow, ring the bell, toss a coin, and clap. Somewhere in there, they made a request—a wish, really—for a good medical test result, getting into the right school, a worry about one of their children. I was struck by how much my Western mind and heart did not connect with how they offered their pleas. I understood the heart behind it—but not the actions.

But I wasn’t raised in Japanese culture.

My host family and I had many conversations about this around the dinner table. I wanted to understand at which point their “faith” held on, tangibly grabbed belief, and grew expectant. Twenty-four years and two degrees in Asian languages and culture later, and I’m still not sure. But I do know that it opened a door to rich conversations and some understanding between us, and I came to learn that rituals and gestures at the shrine were more about respect than faith. Ringing the bell was to get the attention of the god of that shrine.

Why is Jesus not found at a shrine?

Do we not have rituals we must perform, like money and hand gestures, to conjure His attention?

And, what on earth do you mean, ふいつげらるど-さん (Fitzgerald-san, or Miss Fitzgerald, my maiden name) about talking to God in your bath water?

Bath water? In Japan, Read the rest of this entry »

 

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5 Ways to Defeat an Insecurity Problem

5 Ways to Defeat an Insecurity ProblemIf you ever want to know what insecurities are on a magnified level, spend one day sitting at a middle school lunch table. The cattiness, the put-down behavior, the one-upmanship: It’s a hot mess of growing humans who aren’t fully sure of their identities yet, and, feeling under a microscope as if the entire world is looking, they lash out at everything and everyone to find their place in the pecking order. It’s human sorting on steroids. Where do I fit in? Who are my friends?

Don’t get me wrong. I love middle school students. My husband and I teach the middle school and early high school crowd in Sunday School. They can be deep thinkers and amazing communicators—but we see them in a safe setting where they can be themselves and share from their hearts.

I know several of them face open hostility and negativity Monday through Friday from the minute they get to their bus stops to the minute they arrive home. While there are amazing growth points in middle school, I have always said that if you can survive middle school mostly intact, you can get through almost anything.

Personally, I’m delighted to have two children already through the murky, turbulent waters of middle school. I hold my breath as one more child goes through. And while middle schoolers get a bad rap from this kind of behavior, the truth is: Some folks struggle with this into adulthood. Insecurities can be slithery snakes that chokehold us from experiencing joy and hope for the future.

Let’s take a brief look at the damage our own insecurities can do. They can lead us to: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Strong Enough to Jump

Many of God’s creatures like to create life in my aboveground pool. We’ve had tadpole rescue sessions (before the pool was shocked for the summer), and a few months ago, I discovered many eggs (larvae?) half-hatching from what looked to be flying ants. Yeah, so fun. Welcome to mating season. Come one, come all to what has been mistaken as a “love pond” in my backyard.

I was having such a lovely float around my pool one day for a good half hour. Slowly I drifted round and round to the steady pulse of the pool pump. I stared at the tall trees, prayed for dear ones, and marveled at the fact that my children are no longer the ages I am interrupted every few minutes. It was glorious. GLORIOUS!

When my youngest son came out with goggles on and the jumping-in-pool determination of an 11 year old set on a good swim, he made it through one quick pool-bottom-floor lap before surfacing with a shout:

“Ew! A dead frog! There is a dead frog on the bottom of the pool!”

Still not wanting my peace disturbed, I replied: “Are you sure he’s dead?”

My son, lover of all animal life and greatly saddened that an amphibian friend met its demise in our pool, exclaimed: “It was belly-up, Mom. And not moving.”

With that, we both scrambled out of the pool in search of a net to extract the remains to give it a proper burial (before my dogs thought it made a nice chew toy).

My son, Little Man, completed Operation Dead Frog Retrieval and put him down on the grass at my feet. Yup. Dead. Froggy had suffered his last supper with a side dish of chlorine.

He simply couldn’t jump out. His legs could only take him so far. He never made it out of the solar cover and over the side of the pool into the bushes.

I then thought about the five tadpoles we had rescued a few weeks before Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Healthy Confrontation—and Unhealthy Triggers

Healthy Confrontation and Unhealthy TriggersEarlier this week I attended a meeting with 30 other people. The topics at hand were shifting leadership and self-examination as we moved into a season of significant change. We all shared faith in Christ and a dedication to move in His Spirit toward a direction in unity—but how to get there? And isn’t that always the question?

As it turned out, I was one of the first to enter the room and find my spot. When I noticed the number of chairs set out, I realized there was an expectation of a greater number of people arriving than I originally anticipated. I felt my blood pressure go up. I have always struggled to be around a crowd of people, and while 30 people is not overwhelming, 30 people with strong opinions on weighty topics could press me in. As the room filled up, I started my deep breathing, tapping my foot anxiously until my husband arrived.

One by one as topics were introduced and I sorted out which personalities in the room were going to weigh in, I prayed for patience, grace, and love. I have a deep love for each of the people who were in the room that night; we serve God together. But I am a feeler with heart overload, and when confrontations arose, I found myself noticeably sucking in my breath. People made difficult statements to each other in love. Full-on panic set in for me. I began to plan my exit.

To be fair, all topics were handled in loving ways and with kindness and open ears and hearts. So as I drove home after the meeting (I managed to stay until the end), I cried out to God:

Why am I like this? Why am I so impatient when people express opinions? Why do I crawl into myself when people disagree with each other? Why am I having an ungodly response to what was a godly meeting? Lord, I prayed in advance of this meeting and prepared my heart. What else could I have done?

You see, I was very ashamed of my reaction, even though it didn’t directly affect another person in the room and it remained all in my head.

I came home and confessed to my Read the rest of this entry »

 

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“Deep Calls to Deep”

Deep Calls to DeepI look at my French bulletin board hanging over my kitchen table, filled with Christmas card photos from many years and places we have lived. Along with graduations, births, weddings, and celebrations, I see broken hearts, unraveled marriages, cancer, loss, abandonment, children with developmental struggles, addiction, etc.

But you know what else I see?

Jesus. The grace of Christ in so many lives. The calling out to Him from the depths of messy life—and the answering.

It was about nine years ago that I sat on a cement bench on a small island beach in the South Pacific. It was night, and I was squeaking out a desperate prayer in a tiny voice. The weight inside my heart was holding down so much pain that if it had bubbled up full force, it would surely have broken the sound barrier. Instead, like the slow leak of a balloon, only low-energy pleas came out. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Nothing Can Block Out the Son

Nothing Can Bloc-3No, that is not a misspelling. And yes, I meant “Son.”

You see, years ago my husband and I made a promise to our now-17 year old son that we would drive to the path of totality to see the solar eclipse this year—a “bucket list” item for him before he left the nest for college.

And so it was. We headed to Kentucky, meeting up with some family in the Midwest along the way. From where we were staying, we drove three hours to stand in a parking lot in Hopkinsville, KY, that afternoon in time to see, through ISO-certified glasses, the eclipse begin and end.

It took some coaxing for my anxious younger son, 11 years old, to trust us that the glasses would do their job to protect his eyes. Once he overcame that obstacle, he was amazed like the rest of us at the show God put in the sky that Monday afternoon. It was worth tolerating 12 hours of gridlock on the way back to the hotel.

As the sun moved behind the moon (from our vantage point, anyway) to where it was safe to remove our glasses for two minutes, we noted so many observations, among them:

  • The temperature dropped.
  • The sun set around us panoramically 360 degrees.
  • The light never went fully out.

Hmmm.

Even with the moon in front of it, a ring of light still haloed from the sun. The light could not be fully turned off. And really, the moon only had just over two minutes of blocking time. The sun then continued its determined glide back into full view.

It was surely magnificent. No doubt about it. But it did not completely darken my world. It did not shut off the lights.

It struck me (as I had 12 hours to reflect on the way home!) how true this is of Jesus. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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10 Truths About Darkness (and Where We Can Find the Light)

10 Truths About DarknessIt was 2 AM. I had to use the bathroom, and we were dry camping—in our own yard.

Yeah, that’s a long story. It involved many delays in picking up our travel trailer and a Ford F-150 transmission blowing in the middle of trying to back the trailer into our yard—the day before we were to leave. Fun times.

So the younger kids and I camped overnight in the trailer until the watermelon seltzer I chugged before bed hit my bladder. Then into the woodsy yard I went, in the pitch dark, where foxes, deer, and the occasional bear or fisher cat roam. Needless to say, I wasn’t wanting to take my time getting there.

The back door was locked. I knocked, and the dogs started barking. Surely, my husband would hear me then.

Nope.

Then I banged on the door. More barking.

No footsteps.

Realizing the futility of that after about three minutes, I walked around to the garage door, put in the code, and assumed an unlocked inside door.

Nope.

More knocking and banging. No response.

Finally, I went around to the front door and rang the doorbell. Over and over again without stop.

No rescue.

I knocked and banged and called my husband’s cell phone.

Still nothing.

I finally called my son’s cell phone—the same son who inherited my penchant for not answering the phone.

And there it was—my son actually answered!

“Mom, is that you? Hold on. I’m coming.”

In the fifteen minutes outside brainstorming new ways to communicate my need to sleeping family members inside the house, fear had started to trickle in. It was dark, and in my mind, every noise was the local bear deciding that moment was the one to descend upon my lawn.

My imagination ran wild.

What if a criminal drives by right now to see me in my nightie? What if the police are on patrol and decide I’m breaking in? What if my neighbor is looking out his window at the scene I am making at 2 AM in my own yard?

Darkness makes everything seem impossible, insurmountable, even dangerous.

But is it? Is it really?

What is the truth about darkness?

1. There is a Light. God the Father provided it through His Son Jesus. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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When Airbags Deploy

When Airbags DeployI was happily driving my daughter back from camp in Keene, NH. We “processed” the week, reminding the younger brother to not interrupt during this time, and by the time I pulled up to the traffic light at the end of the ramp to my exit, my mind was on unpacking, tadpoles going AWOL upon reaching froglet status in my house, and dinner. I pulled to a complete stop, waiting for that green left turn arrow. And there it was.

Awesome. Just a few miles to go. I entered the intersection gradually, only to hear my youngest son, Little Man, make a comment to get my attention as we both saw the sedan speeding toward us on our left, running the traffic light.

Slam! Crash!

I remember crying out to Jesus. And waiting for a secondary crash that never happened. When the airbags went off around me and my daughter who was sitting in the front, I detected the classic burning smell as well as other fluids now leaking out of the car at a fast rate. I asked the kids to exit the car if they were able.

But then my own door wouldn’t open. Airbags trapped me. My brain was in slow motion. I remember the kids in view as they exited the vehicle, and then it registered that I was physically able to crawl across the debris to get out the passenger side.

For what seemed like forever, I stood there mumbling over and over again that there was a green arrow. My kids told me later that I repeated that many times as I trembled and tried to find more words. It was a full hour, an ambulance ride, and a few x-rays among us later before I could speak in full sentences. But we were okay.

Bruised, stiff, sore, shaken, grateful.

A few more inches into that intersection, and the speeding car would have hit my driver’s side door more directly.

My Honda Odyssey did exactly what we trusted it to do in this accident. It bubbled us with airbags to ease the impact. Had my daughter been incorrectly sitting in the front passenger seat, had she not weighed what was necessary for the airbag sensor, it would have been a completely different story. I shudder to think of it, especially when I see the totaled van and the items within it tossed and shattered.

So, let me ask you something right now: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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When Apologies Never Come

When Apologies Never ComeWant to know a secret? I am coming out of a cocoon of emotional healing recently, and my life has significantly transformed. I have metamorphosed into Bonnie 4.0. Here’s just a tiny window into the changes that, taken one at a time seem small, but when pieced together, they reveal the Father’s loving, gentle artwork.

The Potter and His clay.

Ready? Here we go.

I get up early. (I am not a morning person and require seven hours of sleep to be pleasant.)

I talk to hummingbirds and tadpoles. (I have never been a nature person. Lately, I’ve turned into my Polish grandmother 40 years too soon, interrupting every conversation to comment on the amazing cardinal or chickadee to land on my bird feeder.)

I cheer on my garden plants. (I never used to be able to keep a houseplant alive; the thought of planting anything made me break out in hives.)

I let more stress slide off me. (I have two teenagers, a younger child with special needs, a traveling husband, and a [small] publishing business. Stress has been my middle name for as long as I can remember. So has sleeping in a position where by morning my shoulders are touching my earlobes and my neck all twisted up.)

I laugh more. (I’ve always cherished humor. I’m 44 years old, and potty humor can still send me into hysterics. So can three shots of espresso. But ab-tightening laughter? It escaped me for many years. I could not find it. It ran off somewhere and didn’t send me the address.)

I tell my dogs crazy things, and they love me anyway. (I get ridiculously, roll-on-the-floor caught up in chatting up my Shih Tzus as if they think about anything but eat, sleep, my lap, going outside, and treats.) Read the rest of this entry »

 

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A Question of Ownership

A Question of OwnershipWe had the date on the calendar for weeks. After much research, checking the internet daily, making inquiries, and searching several locations in the tri-state area, we had found the one. The. One. Our very first travel trailer. And it’s amazing after all the brainstorming of items on our wish list, our priorities were different from what we originally had thought.

Bunkhouse or living space?

Decent kitchen or bigger bathroom?

Couch and table?

Slide-out or no?

Our kids each had a vote, even FaceTiming when they couldn’t go with us so they could see the interior.

Fifteen years old, no bunkhouse but bigger living space (and a slide-out to accommodate our four-legged family members)—we were counting down the days until June 8th. Pick-up was in Connecticut, about an hour and a half away. We did everything we could between sale and pick-up day to prepare that part of the yard to house our future mobile vacation investment.

And there we were, sandwiches in hand, ready for a day of waiting on the truck to receive the necessary alterations at the maintenance shop. We eagerly walked through our apartment on wheels one more time.

But there was an unfortunate snafu, one that meant we could not bring the trailer home that day as planned. I could already picture the faces of all three kids, who couldn’t wait to find a trailer in the backyard when they arrived home from school.

As it turns out, the trailer had an issue with Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Father of the Fatherless

Father of the FatherlessPsalm 68:5, ESV, David singing
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.

It’s Father’s Day again. [When I first wrote this, it was my first one without my father.] For many of you, a fatherless Father’s Day has been a reality for some time now. Maybe he was never in the picture, or perhaps your loss happened along the way.

For me, it has been six months, and I’m so thankful I’m not breaking out in hives at the thought of writing this holiday column. It doesn’t mean I’m not still tender. I certainly can’t forget the amazing father God gave me. I honor him in my own private ways. My breath caught in my chest when it was time to purchase cards this year. I stood in the card aisle for quite a while just taking my new normal in. It’s moments like that one when I cry out quietly in my spirit: “Oh, God, I miss him. Give him a hug for me, Jesus!”

I lost my earthly father, but the beautiful promise of heaven is that I still have my heavenly Father, and so do you, if you choose Him for yourself.

This is a timely and also timeless message. Wars ravage, terrorists attack, senseless acts of violence prevail, human trafficking spreads.

Can you imagine if we all saw ourselves as we truly are: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Are There Foxes in Your Wheat Fields?

Are There Foxes in Your Wheat FieldsJudges 15:4-5, ESV

So Samson went and caught 300 foxes and took torches. And he turned them tail to tail and put a torch between each pair of tails. And when he had set fire to the torches, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines and set fire to the stacked grain and the standing grain, as well as the olive orchards.

We have been slowly working through the book of Judges in the Sunday School class my husband and I teach every week. After revisiting the cycle of redemption playing itself out over and over again in the book of Judges, we finally made our way to Samson, the infamous judge whose strength was his unshaven hair and whose heart was easily seduced by enemy women. Not exactly the hero one might picture helping Israel get out from under enemy oppression, Samson was fond of sleeping with the enemy.

For a quick review of biblical history at this time, Israel had wanted to define itself much in the same way as surrounding people groups did at the time. It wanted a national identity, a ruler, a king. But God’s plans were to have Israel follow Him, with allegiance toHim alone. He wanted to set it apart from other cultures and establish it as His own.

When the book of Judges begins, the Israelites had already made their exodus from their oppressor Egypt, wandered the desert, and reached the Promised Land: Canaan. All God had asked them to do was to clear out the land of all other people and to not make a covenant with any of them. They were not to intermarry or follow foreign gods.

Well, they made a sad attempt at clearing the land and then gave up, intermarried, and worshipped in the style of those they were living among. Yeah, not exactly obedience. Hence the first turn along the cycle:

  • Disobedience
  • God’s consequences to bring Israel back to Him
  • Israel’s repentance
  • God’s blessings on Israel

God, in His provision, provided Israel with judges, leaders who could bring His people back to repentance and help them fight their enemies. The problem was, by the time of Samson’s appointment as a judge, Israel had become complacent. The Philistines were living somewhat peaceably with them—but with Israel clearly the lesser nation.

God told Samson to keep a Nazirite vow and grow hair (as part of that vow). He set him apart, from his birth, to create a conflict with the Philistines so Israel could show itself mighty again. And how did He do this?

He used Samson’s greatest weakness: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Signature of God

Signature of GodStopping at the mailbox on the way home from running errands, I noticed a package. Curious, based on the accompanying card, I looked inside. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t breathe for about twenty seconds.

Before I tell you what was in the package, I should confess that I am a “deep feeler” personality. I feel on several planes at once, so I saw this object on emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical levels all at the same time.

Right there, seemingly from the grave, was

my late father’s signature,

captured on a small charm hanging from a chain.

His full name. The way I remember it on his invoices, permission slips, checks. Sprawled out in tiny font right in front of me. A piece of Dad. It hurtled me back decades. Decades. Suddenly, I was eight years old again, and that script had authority, significance, security.

Then I was mid-twenties, and there it was with the accompanying voice in my head:

“Doll, now make sure you invest this for the future. You’re going to want to pay attention to…”

I couldn’t move for about ten minutes in the car. Tears bubbled up, sobs came, lead weighted me down in the Dad-sized hole within my heart.

“Dad, is that you? Dad?”

I know it’s silly. I didn’t expect him to hear or respond to me, but for a fleeting few moments, almost all my senses felt keenly aware of the jolt and the memories packed deeply within that simple visual: his handwriting sprawled across metal.

Then: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Mistaken Crowns: When We Are Not the Answer

I could hear the ramping up of emotion in the dining area from my room upstairs. My youngest son, who struggles with anxiety, had just survived his first few days of the new school year and was quickly unraveling from holding it together for six hours a day in front of peers and staff. As ugly as the meltdowns can be, I could see from the short time they lasted and the quicker recovery period that he is developing coping skills. Even so, this particular afternoon, I really didn’t want to be the recipient of his angst. I had been in a lot of traffic and went to my room for a while to get my peace on.

But then, the storm—the one where lightning is starting to flash and a big crash of thunder will soon follow. I’m so used to being hyper-vigilant that I almost ran down the stairs, but then I stopped myself. I heard something. My oldest son responded to the distress signal and calmly entered the room, speaking gently, rationally, briefly, and directly to his little brother. He was following all the instructions I offered him recently on how to bring Little Man down a notch.

And it worked.

Mistaken Crowns.jpg

I began thanking Jesus out loud in my room because it was amazing to hear someone else step in and do a better job than I often do. It was a relief of dramatic proportions. After about 20 minutes, I came downstairs, asked Little Man how he could have handled his stress better for the next time, and quietly affirmed his older brother.

I was not the one God put on this assignment, and had I barreled ahead, three people would have missed a blessing. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Blessing From Broken Places

[This was originally written before Easter 2017 as I faced down my fears about April.]

April is wrought with good and bad memories for me, especially in recent years. My father’s birthday is in early April; his burial was toward the end of April. The events kick off memories around his death and burial that I’d rather forget. I had been doing so well, but as we turned a corner toward the end of March, I felt the need to “close my curtains” and only let safe people hold me close. “I will reemerge,” I told myself. “I’ll get past this. It will be okay.”

And while I was lamenting to a close friend, she told me she wants this April to be different for me, perhaps from this point forward. She recommended I “redeem” the pain.

Blessing From Broken Places
So I am.

I bought two plants, and call me eccentric, but I gave them names and placed them in the window of the common room where I look outside all the time. I need to see something grow.

I restocked the bird feeder for the first time all winter. They haven’t found their way to it yet, but it’s ready for chickadees and cardinals to land in front of my window.

A friend of mine brought me a set of pansies, completely unaware of my resolve to make April great. They are bright yellow, the color of the sun, of life, of hope.

I bought a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of happy dogs to put together with my daughter on weekends.

And on my father’s birthday, I will Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Collecting Jars: A Mother’s Obedience

It’s Mother’s Day once again, and after going through every card in the store, my son settled on making one for us to send. The occasion can be an amazing day or a painful day for so many for a variety of reasons: recent loss, unfulfilled motherhood, a difficult mother relationship, abandonment, etc.

I’m not the gushy Mother’s Day type. I consider it the highest privilege and best job I’ve ever had, but we avoid the crowds and keep it low-key in our house. It’s sandwiched between my husband’s birthday and our wedding anniversary every year. There is plenty to celebrate in the month of May. We all simply want to be together. We don’t live near any of our family, so it has become a day to ourselves.

Collecting Jars_As I was preparing to write on the topic, I wanted to focus on an often overlooked mother in the Old Testament. She has much to teach us, and yet, her name wasn’t even included in the account. She is simply “the wife of one of the sons of the prophets.”

Ever feel like a description like that one? (Well, maybe not the prophet part!)

2 Kings 4:1-7, ESV, Anonymous author, possibly Jeremiah the Prophet

Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.”

And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.”

Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few.

Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.”

So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her.

When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing.

She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”

First, let’s take a look at her situation. Her husband Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Burdens in My Backyard

Burdens in My BackyardI took my dogs out a few days ago and noticed some flowers scattered at the foot of the homemade cross in my flower bed. They were sprinkled so carefully: a layer of white petals creating a bigger ring with a smaller circle of pink petals inside, almost hugging the cross.

I was so touched by that, wondering which child put that there, or, did a stranger happen by? That would be unlikely, but it still intrigued me. I guessed the wrong child. My daughter had “prettied up” my little memorial,

my sacrifice, 

my pledge, 

my prayer, 

my surrender. 

Something about it called her in, and she adorned the holy ground there. To me, it was pure worship, adoration of what the cross means to us.

It’s a curious story how the cross ended up there. It all started in my therapist’s office. Yes, I have a therapist. [Feel free to reference some family therapy sessions if you like. If you find them as intimidating as I do to all be in the same room together with the eagle eye of a professional, this might bring you some relief.]

We were processing some events in my life since my father’s passing, and she suggested, in order to move on from some of the wreckage around it, I have some kind of ceremony or visual display of truly giving those ongoing concerns to Christ. That’s when I thought of Good Friday, when my husband and I went up with almost everyone else in the church service to hammer our own particular burdens to the cross. I’ll never forget feeling his muscles exert force along with mine to give those things to Christ. It was so beautiful and worshipful to do this corporately.

But what about in my own backyard?

I decided to nail two twigs together, place them firmly in our flower bed by the back door, and write a note to Jesus.

My note was simple: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Are the Bulls of Bashan Surrounding You?

Bulls of BashanShe came over to my house that afternoon trembling. Life had rocked her, and while she approached the finish line of a chapter of her life coming to an end, she was fearful. Who wouldn’t be? What if all the pieces God had helped her set into place suddenly were yanked away?

The fear was palpable. As I embraced her and held her hands, I could feel it. And so I prayed. There was no other peace I could offer than Jesus. My words were empty. I was rambling as usual, grasping at straws to bring comfort. But His words are always full, life-giving, and without end.

As I prayed, I reminded Christ of these words in His Holy Scripture:

 

2 Timothy 1:7, KJV

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

All I could do was remember His promise and speak it to her. I had no power of my own to take the spirit of fear away.

But I had the name of Jesus. And it was enough.

***************

Initial news of a diagnosis had come in. It sucker-punched

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Reshaped by Love: The Cross Before Me

Reshaped by LoveBleary-eyed with bed hair still wisping across my path of vision, I glanced down at the floor in front of the coffee maker. A shiny glimmer caught my eye, and as I wearily bent down to investigate, I saw that it was our cross cookie cutter, sharp side up, looking abandoned and almost unrecognizable against the dark browns of the coffee floor mat. I hadn’t seen it in at least a year. It usually resides in the small utensil drawer where infrequently used items like bamboo skewers and honey stirrers keep each other company. It was clear someone haphazardly tossing clean items from the dishwasher had jarred it free, not noticing it took a slight plunge to the floor. I know the child capable of this, and it gave me a pre-coffee smile, which is admittedly very difficult to achieve.

It reminded me of another time I found a wooden toy snake slithering along my floor near a 4 inch wooden cross made at Vacation Bible School. I was struck that day by the reality of spiritual warfare and how that sneaky serpent had been trying to get the upper hand ever since the Garden of Eden. But the cross. Christ on the cross put that snake under the heel of Jesus.

But this cross…the one waiting for me on a sleepy Thursday morning? It was a very powerful reminder of the road to Calvary, the one my Jesus walked this coming week so long ago.

Like the cookie cutter cross that at one point shaped many preschool Sunday School lessons in Play-Doh, the real truth of the cross Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Training With My Master

Training With My MasterI’m sitting in the very back of the dojo where both my sons train twice a week. My oldest son has been with the same shihan for 10 years. My little guy first entered the dojo in utero when his brother tied on his white belt. I don’t want to think about the amount of tuition we have spent here over the years, but it has been worth every penny. Both sons started their martial arts training for different reasons, and both of them have grown in so many ways.

As I listen to my oldest son whack a punching bag and review his self-defense with a man he has grown to trust over a decade, I also hear how easily he receives his feedback. They are currently preparing for a tournament as well as a visit from Grandmaster. A black belt test is not too far in the future. It’s a culmination of years of hard work. My son moves when Shihan directs. He fine-tunes his Fleeing Snake when Shihan offers correction.

Honestly, I’m pondering how beautiful this is, and why, as a parent, I don’t always get the same response. (Insert smile here.) Their communication is seamless. With strength, stamina, stability, and self-discipline on the line, trust is of utmost importance. Shihan will not recommend him to go before Grandmaster for a black belt until he is completely confident in his ability. Student must surrender to Teacher in complete abandon that all of this effort will lead to achieving the end goal.

Hmmm.

I’m thinking about my own walk with God in this moment. I’ve been trying to follow His lead for 37 years. Not all of that time has my faith been mature. Sometimes it still isn’t, but I’m an apprentice in training.

Our faith walk is so personal. We may each start out for different reasons.

Someone may have told us our Master was worth following Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Lazarus Moments: Trusting God With Decay in Our Lives

Lazarus Moments: Trusting God With Decay in Our LivesI kicked, slammed my body onto, and punched the dishwasher. It had spent the past six months vacillating between functional and dysfunctional. We would get about 15 good cycles out of it, and then it would suddenly start turning off after loading the first water cycle. No cleaning—only wasted water. Some days I would restart it 10 times. We were not friends. On those days I would hand-wash the build-up on the almost-nonexistent countertop while trash-talking my limping, lame appliance for deceiving me once again into thinking it was revived, healed, restored, capable. Nothing I could do in my own strength could make that confounded piece of plastic do my bidding.

Then, for two weeks, my husband and I taught our Junior High Sunday School class, focusing on the content-rich and highly symbolic account of Jesus raising His friend Lazarus from the dead.

John 11:32-37, ESV, Apostle John speaking

Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.

And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”

Jesus wept.

So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

There are a few key points to mention before we make a crazy connection between the dying dishwasher and Lazarus—and our lives in general. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Pulling Vines: Landscaper of Our Hearts

Pulling Vines_Pulling with everything in me, I grabbed hold of some stubborn vines declaring war on my pachysandra and yanked away. The morning sun beat down with increasing intensity and my muscles pulsed in ways they hadn’t all winter, yet my focus remained steady and determined.

I’ve had enough of weeds choking me over the years. They crept in silently. I would ignore and eventually get used to them, not really seeing how big they were becoming—until one day I couldn’t see past them. I was horrified how they seemed to tower over all healthy growth in my life.

The same was true when I went to the mailbox one day. I saw an overgrown, out-of-control forsythia bush and almost didn’t recognize my own yard. My stomach turned. I was disgusted that I had let my lawn get that trashy, that I lost my vision for intruders, and that I’d let my guard down, given up, lost my fight.

Know the feeling?

I look back to a year ago when the repercussions of years of long drives to therapy, IEP battles, and the never-ending search for new answers, avenues to explore, and home coping strategies for one Read the rest of this entry »

 

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