Changes in the Wind…

There is a new development to my blog site now and I will explain it to you.

While I will continue to use this as a personal blog about life, love, family, Faith, etc., I am also going to be focusing on my life as a writer in an effort to build up my credibility among the social networks on the world wide web.

So here it is. I am beginning a new chapter in life that actually coincides with the other chapters: Mother, Wife, Daughter…

Now I add Chapter – Author

Write now (and yes that was a pun…) I am working on a fantasy story about a fairy tale with a twist. Rather the idea is that fairy tales are definitely off kilter and…oh what the heck. I will just give you the working tagline:

Every girl dreams about being a princess in a fairy tale…Pity this princess never dreamed about a fairy tale like this one.

As I mentioned, it’s a work in progress…make that a very new work in progress so it will be some time before you all see the story behind this tag. But I will be regularly updating my progress on here as soon as I figure out how to do so creatively. Anyone with website-making savvy is welcome to apply. The pay sucks at first (you get nothing other than the satisfaction of helping a poor ignorant; but I promise some of the proceeds once I get a book contract. More details when we get there.

I would love to have you come with me on a journey to Live my dream. After all, that’s what this whole blog is about. Seize the Day and all that! 🙂

Sincerely,

Sarah

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Love for the broken heart…

I have been listening to Third Day’s Cry out to Jesus lately. Over and over and over again…

My family is sick, my son has a condition that no one seems to know how to treat, my daughter is feeling the lack of attention as her daddy and I work around the clock to figure out where to go next in her brother’s options.

And the icing on the cake? The sleepless nights that lead into long, stressful days.

I have never been more afraid in my life of the unknown than I am now. I have also never been more certain of God’s unending Grace and sovereign control over every aspect of our lives.

How does that oxymoron work you might ask?

I have also never spent more time on my knees before the throne of God than I do now.

I have gone through trials and struggles in my life and have sought God’s guidance during those times. I struggle through doubts and temptations and questions when my life seems to be taking a turn for the worst.

And really, I cannot say that my life has been all that laden in trials. Some might even call it charmed. God has blessed us with good health, a roof over our heads, beautiful children, a strong God-centered marriage, and even many of our wants supplied.

I struggle with fear. Even in light of all the blessings, I struggle to comprehend the full extent of God’s love for me. It truly does overcome all fears. But I have to surrender my fears to God in order for Him to work.

How difficult it is for me as a mother to open my arms and surrender. My children are and always will be God’s. His first and on loan to me for a brief time.

Yet I want to scream out! “I bore this child within me for nine months. I labored to bring him/her into this world. It was MY sweat and blood and tears. MY child. You cannot have them.”

You know what I fear the most? I fear what happens when I finally say, “I surrender my children to Your Will God. No matter what they belong to You! You give and you take away; blessed be Your name.”

I ache for my son when he cries for endless moments and does not seem to be comforted by anything I do. I want to rage at the doctors (who are only human) when they cannot give me answers to the questions I so desperately long to know. I weep when exhaustion has stretched me to the limits and I do not feel like I can go on any longer – I want to crawl into a little ball and hide myself from the world until all the pain goes away.

In the end, I consecrated my son and my daughter to God the moment I found out they were growing within me. It is a daily – often moment by moment – struggle to surrender them into the best place they can possibly be. In God’s loving, healing, amazing arms.

I will struggle tomorrow when the lack of sleep and lowered immune system brings our family down. I will struggle when the next doctor tells me they have never seen Luke’s condition before before deciding that they would still like to experiment on him to see if they get good results. I will struggle as Luke’s weight may or may not start increasing and we have to worry about a possible failure to thrive. I will struggle as the genetics counselor tells us what could possibly be plaguing my son on a DNA level.

But I can – and will – do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me. The Joy of the Lord IS my strength in mysterious and powerful ways. And if I cry out to Jesus, He WILL meet me wherever I am. And He will hold me tightly in His loving, strong, healing, AMAZING arms – just as He holds my children there too.

Rest for the Weary

Okay, I know that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, sovereign. So that means He knows all about my sleeplessness, the panic I feel when my husband leaves for work in the morning and I am running on fumes. He knows that I feel like I cannot go on and He is completely aware of my helplessness.

He knows that I am desperately praying my daughter will sleep for at least another hour, even as I hear her start to stir. I am dreading the wake-up knock on her door (her routine for some odd reason is to knock and let me know she’s up) and praying that the Baby at least will stay down for more than a fifteen minute nap.

They say the Joy of the Lord is our strength and I think I can get that on a subconscious level. However, when every muscle and joint in my body is screaming at me to sleep so it can refresh itself, I find myself struggling to hold on to joy. It’s a handful of water that seeps out through my fingers as I race to catch every precious drop, knowing it is futile.

For me anyway.

It’s not the Joy of the LORD for no reason is it? So Lord, I am weary and wilting, my limits pressed to the breaking. If Your Joy is my strength, then that means I have nothing to do with it and I NEED you to infuse me with You. Your energy, Your Spirit, Your refreshment…Your Joy.

It’s about time Spring came…

The one major drawback to living in the Midwest for me? The long, cold winters…

For someone who is grossly affected by weather changes, sunless, dreary days are just the epitome of depression-inducement. I really struggle with this aspect of myself because I know that it is not from God. I give in really easily to grumpiness and pessimism, allowing my attitude to permeate my entire day.

On the upside, this also means that the sunny, warm days of spring, summer, and even a little bit of fall just fill me with joy and energy. My baby is two months old on the sixteenth of this month and the lack of sleep would normally be extremely dampening to my spirit. However, with the return of spring and the warm, sunny weather, I am finding myself full of an energy that only comes from the spark of God-given life.

I am thrilled to be alive…

This month marks a lot of new changes in our lives. Financially, physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally…it’s all there in the works as God molds us like once-more pliable clay. I have felt the hardening that creeps into my heart at times when depression and stress and trying to do it all on my own takes over. It scares me just how hardened I can get and how much I end up taking for granted before I end up surrendering to God once again. Such a roller coaster of ups and downs – my old self still rears its ugly head at the worst of times.

You know what I notice the most during these times of willful rebellion? My imagination and creativity take a nose dive into the abyss. I have been working on several manuscripts and stories. It is amazing and daunting what lack of surrender to God does to my writing. Everything either sucks royally, or my mental block kicks in full force. We truly are tied indubitably to our Creator. We can truly do nothing without His blessing and grace. Why do I forget this so easily?

Bella is standing on the window seat and staring at the activity going on outside. It is still a bit chilly this morning, or she would be out there herself. I cannot wait to watch her and Luke chase birds, dance in the rain, and play on our nearly two acres of lawn.

Life is truly a beautiful experience even through the pain and tears. With all that goes on in our world today, all the despair and hopelessness, all the evil…it’s still amazing what we can find to bring us joy. God is our provider, our Creator, our Healer, and our Savior among many other attributes.

Tis the Season

Do you find it ironic that in the midst of a season dedicated to peace, joy, generosity, and goodwill, many people struggle with depression, despair, and hopelessness?

Why is this?

We expend so much energy to fill our holidays with bright lights, sweet treats, and rich foods. We spend so much money to purchase gifts for family and friends, knowing full well that they will more than likely forget what they received within a couple of months. We throw ourselves into the preparations for this one – maybe two – day celebration only to feel the dramatic and draining let down after the festivities are concluded.

If you noticed, the above paragraphs speak of abstract feelings while focusing on what we ACTUALLY do during the holiday rush. Not once did I mention the true intents of the season – at least, not in concrete ways.

And therein lies the real issue…

You see, it’s not that the season isn’t about peace on earth and joyful giving; it’s that we have lost those qualities to abstract dreams while bringing into concrete focus, the ideals of greed, temporary happiness, and instant gratification. We say that the reason for the season is Jesus Christ and all that He represents…in the end however, we don’t live what we preach.

Me and my family made a commitment this year to bring Jesus Christ out of the abstract woodwork and into the central focus of our holidays.

It is definitely easier to do in theory than it is to give up years of ingrained habits. And I found myself resorting to old feelings of selfishness and greed. I mean, I have rights to enjoy a little selfishness for a couple days a year – Right? I want to cling to my arcane traditions and temporary pleasures – damn the consequences after the season is over…

The morning of Christmas dawned and I was half-heartedly fighting back these thoughts. I watched as Bella opened up her two presents and Jake, his gift from me. And I read the little sheet of paper that my husband gave me – a voucher for a one hour massage whenever I wanted to redeem it.

The small portion of my spirit that actually tunes into the Spirit is saying – I will enjoy my massage far more than my husband or daughter will enjoy their store-bought gifts. Of course, the selfish part of me complained rather loudly that I deserved more than just a measly back rub in light of all the sacrifice and work I put into making this Christmas festivity great…Right?

I was still struggling as the Christmas meal wound down and in a fit of selfish pique, I left the dishes and my family for the comfort of my bed so that I could pout in relative peace. I knew that I would have to deal with the mess after I woke up, but I really couldn’t care at that point.

So imagine my surprise on waking up from a very long nap to see that my amazing husband had personally cleared up every last bit of the mess, even sweeping the floor and wiping down the counters. The food was put away and he and Bella were happily enjoying their time together (a fact that caused a twinge of guilt when I realized what my selfishness had missed out on while I napped for three hours) For my temporary pleasure, I gave up time that could have been so precious for our family.

I am tired; don’t get me wrong. This pregnancy has taken a lot of my steam out of me, and napping is a good thing for me to enjoy. But did I really need three hours? Granted, it felt good, but it made going to bed that night extremely difficult.

Watching my husband’s face as I took in the clean, sparkling kitchen, I realized that he had given me a gift so much more meaningful than the paltry little board game I got him or even the meal that I prepared. He gave out of pure joy and servant hood, while I gave with the expectation that I was going to receive something in return. Talk about making me cry…he definitely got it! This concept of service and remembering the sacrifice of Christ as he gave up his deity to become a lowly human being and show us what it means to give our all. Jake got it this year and I was left with the melancholy that comes from another year of losing the big picture.

It didn’t stay that way though…I definitely made the connection and got on the right track by God’s grace. But it is bittersweet in victory because I lost out on the chance this year to celebrate Christ’s birth with the right attitude in my heart. Next year, I can make that commitment again – and pray that I do not lose sight of it once more.

The reason we have to live in joy and peace and contentment every day and moment of our lives is because of the total surrender of God’s Son to His Father’s Will and the sacrifice that was born of that selfless, amazing surrender. This is what I will strive for…this is what it means to celebrate Christmas!

Holidays, Hobgoblins, and Heaven

My daughter is a brilliant kid. Which automatically makes her suspect when anything unusual happens around the house. That and the fact that she is the only other one in the house during the day and I tend to be too sluggishly pregnant and adult-like to cause trouble – most of the time…

Bella likes to clean up – any mess and this girl is on it like a moth to a flame. Which may surprise some mothers because I have been told that kids don’t do chores unless they are literally forced to under pain of tears, discipline, and loss of privileges. Seriously though, my daughter is made of special stock and it did not come from me. I am an adult and I hate cleaning…I am good at it…when I get around to it that is. Bella has been known to throw a fit if she cannot for some reason participate in the Keem-up process (and no that is not a misspelling – it’s her word for doing chores.)

In the end, the hobgoblin mischief that she performs seems to cancel out with the nearly OCD tendencies to deal with the resulting messes. Except in her own room; and really, as long as the mess remains contained there, I really don’t care. She really is a brilliant kid – and that does not always mean trouble I have come to discover. She even feeds the dog – by hand because apparently, it is disgraceful for Bear to eat out of her own food bowl. We are still working on that – I am getting kind of tired of tripping over the dog food pieces that Bear missed.

Okay, now that I am done bragging about my beautiful, helpful, wonderful daughter… 🙂

The holidays have always been my favorite time of year for various reasons. The usual being the sights, smells, sounds, and flavors of the season. I would say that my main reason was because it was the season to celebrate gratefulness and the birth of our Savior, but for honesty purposes I will admit that this was not always the case. It is a part of the process, but I definitely focused more on the temporary and material parts of the holidays. This will explain the reason why each year’s holiday ending brought with it a sense of melancholy and disappointment – until the next year’s celebrations began.

This year, I am so excited by a revelation brought about by God’s prompting that I have a feeling the disappointment and melancholy will be absent by the end.

Lately, we have become reawakened to the plight of the poor and the needy. Now we are not rich by any means, but we have our needs and even many wants met and statistically we are in the top 10% of the world’s wealthiest people. That is staggering to me. I always thought of myself as sort of middle-class, but the fact that 90% of the world is poorer than me quite changes my perspective.

So what are we doing with these riches we have been blessed with by an amazing God? Not nearly enough. This will be the goal of our family from here on out. We will use our excess, our resources, to reach out to those in need – no matter how big or small the need. Instead of focusing our Christmas holidays on gift-giving and material accumulation like we have done every other year, we are going to start teaching Bella what we should have been learning ourselves long ago. That everything we have belongs to God and it is to be used – not in selfish gain and greed – for the welfare of others.

Not to say that gift-giving is a bad thing. Don’t get me wrong. I love having glittery, wrapped boxes under the tree waiting to be opened on Christmas morning. But we have lived so long with this concept of spending wildly over the holidays to fulfill a bunch of wants, knowing that within months, we will have forgotten that we wanted it at all. We focus on being fair to everyone, making sure that no one gets more than another – because God forbid, our children learn that nothing in life is fair. We make gift-giving an obligation and a forced habit, taking all of the joy and blessing out of the gifts.

This year, we are starting something new. Now we will be searching for ways to use the stewardship God granted us to bless others whether they be family, friends, or even – maybe especially – strangers. Thus our gifts will truly be given from the heart and will not lose the blessing that they were meant to hold.

I cannot wait to get started…

Just to get some perspective

I am posting my latest written work in serial form on here, since I have to wait to actually attempt to publish it for real until after January! GAH…anyhoo, I could definitely use some ideas on how to make it better in the meantime…

Today’s post is the prologue and first chapter…and yes, this is definitely my own little beginnings as a self-marketer… 🙂

***

 

Prologue: A Life Truly Lived…

 

It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth — and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up — that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.

– Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

***

There is no one who understands Living better than the dying…every precious moment, every breath of air from their lungs, every morning they open their eyes and see another sunrise. From the day of their death sentence to the day they fall asleep for the last time on this earth, life holds a meaning and a purpose beyond any mortal reckoning. Every moment is savored, knowing that it might be their last.

The oddest thing about the dying is that the closer they get to those black, unknown gates the more they seem to realize that life as they knew it – even fully lived – pales in comparison to what lies beyond. The dying soul seems to reach out instinctively for what hides behind the veil, and if it does not fight its course, it accepts that there is more to life than death.

 

The living do not seem to feel that irrevocable pull, for their souls are too immersed in the here and now. They fear the unknown voice of Death, whose siren song is silenced by the noise and busyness they call life. Morbidly entertained by stories of death and destruction, they cannot bear to truly face their own mortality. The human nature fights against what it cannot see or feel or touch or taste or hear…no one has died and lived to tell about it, although there are some who may have heard the call and been turned back before they actually embraced it in full. The living shudder in terror and fight Death with everything they have.

So how ironic is it that from the moment one takes their first screaming breath in this big, cold world, they are already dying?

If more people were aware they were dying a little more every day, what would their Living look like?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One: Zoe Elizabeth Hamilton

 

Dear God –

Mom says the doctors have to run more tests today. I don’t know what they are looking for anymore since they already know I have cancer. I know the last treatment didn’t get it all. The needles and tests and stuff are more scary than the fact that I am probably not going to make it to my thirteenth birthday. But every time I complain about those things, I think it makes mom and dad more upset. They keep hoping and praying that one day the tests will show I am cancer free.

I don’t tell them that I know better. They might think I am giving up hope altogether. I don’t think I am though. I just get this feeling that YOU might need me with you sooner than they would wish.

It’s okay though God.

– Zoe Elizabeth Hamilton

***

“Zoe, it’s time for your appointment,” The twelve year old sighed heavily and slipped the sheets of paper back into her private box. Making sure that the lock was secure, she grabbed her sweater and a baseball cap and left her bedroom.

“Coming mom,” Zoe called out, knowing that her mother would be storming up the stairs if she didn’t answer in a timely fashion.

A recent bout of seizures had left her parents in a panic each time she left their sight. It had taken all of her willpower to fight their insistence on taking shifts in her room at night when she slept. When she finally offered a compromise in the form of a baby monitor by her bed, they reluctantly backed down. Still, she learned to respond quickly when they called – it was either that or face a hysterical stampede as everyone in the family bolted to her last known location. The first time had been kind of funny to watch actually, until her mother was still crying two hours later.

That was the problem with dying – everyone took her far too seriously now and laughter was almost non-existent. She wanted to hear the joyful sounds that used to happen regularly – before the cancer came.

Her mother fussed over her as she sauntered down the stairs. Zoe didn’t have the heart to tell her to back off – appointment days were always the worst as far as stress levels went, so she gave her family some leeway. Her dad had already left for work that morning – having to sit through several meetings that he couldn’t avoid – and her sisters and brothers were in school, a thought that left Zoe with a tinge of regret.

She had missed so many school days since her diagnosis four years ago, that her mom was now schooling her at home with the help of a state virtual academy. She liked the ability to pace herself and do homework in her favorite recliner, but it hurt to see her friends and siblings enjoying a community of peers she might never be a part of again. Her new set of peers consisted of the patients she met through various hospital-organized cancer events.

Zoe was silent on the car ride, pensive thoughts keeping her from being her usual chatty self. She could tell her mother was worried, but couldn’t bring herself to actually say anything – test days always brought on an apprehensive mood and for the most part her family left her alone until it was over.

The waiting room at the children’s hospital was warm and reassuring, perfect for the children and their frightened families. Unlike some waiting rooms, the patients and families interacted with one another, sharing life stories and successes along with the struggles and losses.

Most of the time, Zoe was able to shake the doldrums while she caught up with the regulars.

Zoe knew several of the kids from the cancer support groups that she and her family attended on a regular basis. Some of them had started treatment around the same time she had and they tried to engage her in conversation with little success. Knowing well the ups and downs of each day, they didn’t push her.

Glancing around the room, Zoe noticed another quiet kid in the opposite corner. From the looks of his parents, they were first time visitors to the cancer center. She had never seen them in the waiting room before. Her heart instantly went out to them and with a whispered word of explanation to her mother, she headed over to introduce herself.

“Hi. I am Zoe. What’s your name?” She asked quietly, addressing the boy who looked to be around her own age. His head was still covered in a mass of curly red locks and she absently wondered if his mother had to fight to tame the unruly mop.

For a moment, the boy just stared at her as his parents smiled timidly in her direction. The fear in his gray-green eyes was stark, instantly arousing a tender, mothering instinct in Zoe. She wanted to hug him, but knew that it might scare him away before she had a chance to even know his name.

At a less-than-subtle nudge from his mother, he finally broke down and spoke.

“It’s Parker,” He mumbled, flushing as red as his hair. He shuffled uncomfortably as she continued her scrutiny with an easy smile.

“It’s nice to meet you Parker. I have bone cancer; how about you?” The bluntness seemed to throw him again and Zoe flinched, thinking that she had pushed too far. He recovered again, more quickly this time although the flush still colored his pale skin.

“I got a tumor in my brain,” The fear was back in full force and Zoe decided to change tactics, focusing on her own story for a little while.

“I actually started out with a tumor too, but it was on my leg and had already spread a little before the doctors found it,” She began, noticing that Parker’s parents seemed to be listening to the conversation as well. The haunted look in their eyes had given way to curiosity at her precocious introduction. “Used to be in volleyball until my left leg started hurting really bad. I kept getting bruises and wouldn’t remember where they came from. I was eight years old. I’m twelve now. How old are you?”

“Thirteen,” He stated shortly before a curious look entered his eyes. “What was your favorite position?”

“Setter mostly, but Coach Hansen liked to rotate us a lot,” She couldn’t resist the urge to boast. “We won every game one season. Did you play a sport?”

“Yeah. Four years; I played softball until…” His voice drifted off and Zoe noticed that his parents cringed as if struck.

“How did you find out?” She asked gently, knowing that this was sometimes the hardest part of first conversations. Reliving the early days of questions, tests, and more questions was a huge hurdle on the road to acceptance. At least that’s what her mom said.

“Got headaches a lot. They got so bad that I started having eye problems. Couldn’t see the ball sometimes and it smacked me right on the head. Dad says I dropped like a sack of potatoes right there on the field,” Zoe could hear the humiliation in Parker’s voice. “Woke up in a hospital bed and nurses whispering about how bad it looked.”

During the telling, Zoe had moved to sit next to the distraught boy and she cautiously placed a comforting hand on his own doubled up fists. He had been squeezing the life out of a corner of his tee shirt and instantly stilled when he felt her soft touch. He flushed again, but didn’t move away.

“Gonna get surgery?” She asked quietly. “My best friend Allie had a brain tumor and she just got out of surgery a few weeks ago. She’s not here today or I would introduce you both.”

“The doctors said they have to do more tests to see if it’s oper…able,” He struggled with the word that could change his life. “That’s why we are here today.”

“I needed surgery after my first round of chemo. Some of the tumor was still there, but the doctors removed it and they didn’t even have to take off my leg,” She grinned widely at the dumbfounded expressions on the family’s faces.

It didn’t take much to shock the newbies. The trick was in giving them just the right amount of shock treatment – mainly humor – without completely destroying their sensitive emotions. Going too far before they had gotten used to everything could send them into a panic.

There wasn’t time to gauge the extent of their reactions as Zoe’s name was called from the front of the room just then. She hoped she hadn’t pushed them too far.

“I gotta go now, but I’ll probably see you around. If Allie is here next time, I can introduce you. She loves talking about her surgery,” Still in a semi-state of shock, the new family could only nod as she bounced away. Her previous troubled mood had lifted with the reminder that some kids had it worse than she did.