Fortune cookie wisdom #20

Courage comes through suffering.

This fortune cookie blew away from the rest and was found the same day I found my lost ‘I am courageous’ sock. I only wore the socks once before losing one in Paul’s shirt for a couple weeks.

It seemed like a sign of some sorts. But what does it mean?

What does being courageous even mean? The dictionary defines courageous as not deterred by danger or pain; brave.

I would like to think that I am courageous. In the next couple weeks I am planning on doing courageous things.

This weekend I am running my first 50k. It takes a lot of courage for me to do this and probably will entail a lot of suffering too. There is no guarantee that I will succeed. I am very fearful that I might not be able to achieve the goals I’ve set in place for myself.

Within the next two weeks I will be submitting a 45 minute presentation for a local autism chapter about what it is like to be a sibling of someone with autism. I really need to put myself out there about the most difficult experience in my life. It is going to require a lot of courage. I am finishing my book on what life is really like with a disabled sibling. I’ve had to face my scars and demons.

As an extra test to my bravery, over the holiday weekend a filling fell out. I went to the dentist today to get it fixed. They said I could probably do it without being numbed. I would rather run a marathon with a broken leg. I was horrified and then they said I could get anesthesia just in case. But I decided to brave it despite my fear.

Then this past weekend I spoke to my dad about God. I don’t feel like he has much time left. For some reason he has softened his heart toward me lately. He told me that he loved me for the second time in my life. The first time was on my 18th birthday prompted by my mother. Then this weekend I asked him to come out and sit with us, his family, by the campfire. Surprisingly to everyone, he did.

Before this, I justified to myself that someone else should talk to my dad. My brother Luke sat down with my parents awhile back and aired out all of his grievances. It seemed like a good thing. I thought that he was getting along great with my dad. I felt like Luke is a better Christian than I am so he could carry the weight of talking to our dad. But my eyes were opened to the fact that Luke and my dad do not get along.

My mom is a devout Christian and my dad is a Christian bashing atheist. I bet you can guess how that worked. I believe that the best marriages are of those that have the same religious beliefs. Because, we the children, have to take sides. I feel the need to talk to my dad about God. I most likely wouldn’t have that burden if both my parents were Christians or atheists if I followed their beliefs. It causes a lot of disharmony and stress.

So on the way out of the cabin this weekend I said to my dad that I hope he finds God before God finds him. My dad laughed and said fat chance. I knew that my words probably did no good for him, but it released me. I did everything I could and if it is the last time I see him I will know that I did not leave a coward.

I don’t think that I am more courageous than the average person, but I am trying to be brave when there are demons to slay and fears to conquer.

 

What is happening? Part 1

So many things have happened in the last week, I don’t know where to start. It feels like a year has passed in a week. I will try to start at the beginning.

My faith feels tested. I’ve been asking God for a sign. But so many bizarre things have happened within a week that I don’t know how to interpret them.

It started last Friday as I was picking Arabella up from volunteering at Bible camp. I finally got a call from the doctor’s office. I don’t have Celiac and the polyps that were removed are benign. My stomach is starting to feel better. The doctor said if I went off Prilosec too fast, it will cause an excessive amount of acid to pour into my stomach. That is probably what happened, but I scheduled an appointment for allergy testing anyway.

Friday night a huge storm hit where our cabin is up north causing massive damage. I think that the power finally went back on yesterday. What a mess that will be to clean up. There were multiple trees down. Thankfully no one was hurt and the cabin is fine.

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Saturday morning we awoke to get ready for my Uncle Rick’s wedding. He had a whirlwind romance proposing 36 hours after meeting and moving in with her the following week. They married 7 months later, her 4th wedding and his 3rd. They seem like a good match. I really hope it works out for them.

We were going to leave early to meet up with my brother Luke and his family for lunch. It was my daughter Angel’s 21st birthday the following day and more than anything she wanted to meet up with the family for sushi. Just as we were ready to leave, another severe storm rolled in. There was a tornado warning for the path of our house, the restaurant we made reservations at, and where the wedding was going to be held.

The sky grew dark as night and sirens were going off. The wind swirled around in many different directions. Lightening bolts slashed through the sky as thunder clapped to usher in a torrential downpour. The rain came down so hard and fast that it poured into my son’s bedroom. After the storm passed, we mopped up the water as fast as we could in our dress clothes. We were running very late for lunch. Paul was an usher for the wedding and Angel was singing. They couldn’t be late. I worried that perhaps my uncle’s union wasn’t meant to be.

We made it to the restaurant an hour after our reservations. There were only a handful of customers. The place was always a classy joint, but on that day the music was the chef’s choice. They were playing rap. When a song came on with lyrics containing every profanity known to man, my brother Luke quietly left the table and complained to management that their choice of music was not appropriate for his little girls.

The wedding itself was held in a small church without A/C. I was a little worried that all of our cell phones would go off with the weather alarm during the ceremony, but the weather turned around. After the ceremony, there was a reception with an open bar. Once one of my aunt’s found out that Angel was turning 21, she started plying her with alcohol. Why wait?

It was at about this time that my son told me he no longer believes in God. I wanted to reassure him but I reminded myself that I was having my own crisis of faith. When I was having the most doubt, other people started cramming their faith down my throat which weakened my faith even more. I knew from my experience that I just had to listen. He left after the meal telling me that his rap band had their first gig that evening, but I wasn’t invited. He turned off his locator on his phone and returned home between 4 and 6 AM.

My daughter Angel caught the bouquet. Will she be the next to marry? As she danced with her boyfriend Dan, I thought perhaps she would be.

That evening Paul and I took advantage of a stunning sunset after weathering the storm.

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And the two shall become one.

To be continued…

Can you fix me?

I have been having a debate with myself forever over what is coincidence and what is meant to be. Do things happen for a reason or is there no rhyme or reason?

When we bought our house almost a year ago, we had some problems with the dryer. It was taking forever for the clothes to dry. I really didn’t notice it after awhile. But then other things started to break. The fan went out in our refrigerator. The dishwasher started to leak. I needed to get someone out to the house to fix these problems. While the guy was here, he might as well check the dryer.

I started to time how long it took to dry clothes. Three hours for a big load! I knew it was long but I didn’t realize it was that long. Maybe I just needed a new dryer?

The guy came out and pulled tons of lint out of the machine. It was backed up into the vent inside of the house. Big time fire hazard that I wasn’t even thinking about fixing until other things started to break.

Why did I ignore the biggest problem that needed fixing?

I think that I ignored it because it was still working, however dangerously and inefficiently. It only became a problem for me when something else wasn’t working at all.

This past week I went to see the counselor alone for the first time. I never would have set up an appointment by myself for myself. My husband insisted on talking to someone when we were having problems with our son. Now our son is doing so much better and here I am going to the counselor talking about myself.

I asked the counselor if she could fix me. She said that she could not, but I can. How come I ignored this for so long? I want to fix everyone else, but don’t want to work on the broken parts of myself.

I think the way I’ve been living my life has been working, although at times not very well.

The counselor asked me what are three things I wanted to keep the same about myself:

  1. My grit/determination
  2. Honesty
  3. Continue seeking self-reflection/growth

Then she asked me what are three things I want to change:

  1. Worry less/relax more
  2. Healing
  3. Be at peace

When discussing these goals, I realized that I was afraid. Part of me wants to stay the way I am. The demons I know aren’t as scary as the unknown. My anxiety and inability to relax has given me great determination as a runner. My depression and quest for full healing and making peace with the past is what I attribute to my honest self-reflection as a writer.

If I am able to change the things that I perceive to be negative in my life, will I still be able to keep the positive outcomes that was ignited by my pain?

Will I still have grit if I have nothing to run from? Will I still be able to write if I was totally happy with my life? Would it be worth giving up some of my grit in order to be at peace or relax more?

Would I even be me anymore? It was very confusing.

Some of the negative things in my life I turned into blessings. If I get rid of the bad, would I purge the good that came out of it as well?

Do I have to give up the good things I have to get the good things I want?

I guess the big question I can ask myself is why I didn’t do anything about the major problems until something else wasn’t working?

Why didn’t I start writing my book until I lost my job?

Why didn’t I ask for help until my house was almost on fire?

I was so upset when I lost my job, when my son was acting up, and when several appliances stopped working. But I now believe that God used these things for my own good to spur me into action that I needed to take. Maybe I am wrong, but I can’t believe that any of these things have been a coincidence.

 

 

 

Goal 4: Worry less/let go/learn how to relax and handle stress better

I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase ‘let go and let God’. It is something that is a lot easier said than done. I really wish there was a step by step manual on how to do it like an idiots guide or something.

Is it a process? Is it something that just happens? Will I be able to turn off my worry someday like a faucet? Or will it incessantly drip until it drives everyone, including myself, crazy?

How can I relax? How can I handle stress better than I already am?

How can I let go of these children that were once mine to hold onto? How do I let go of a business that I once helped build? How do I let go of past hurts? How do I trust God? Is there a dummies guide?

Maybe eventually I will figure it out. But until then I want to keep working on it. I don’t want worry to rob me of my joy in life.

Goal 2: Spiritual growth

As I mentioned recently, a few months ago we left our church and started attending a new church. I noticed my ruby ring was stolen the morning I left to go to church right before Christmas. The following Sunday we sang a song stating that God was the God of miracles. I thought in my head, yeah I believe in God, but I don’t believe in miracles anymore. I was seeing more tragedy around me than restoration. Even in my own life recently, a precious gift from my mother was stolen.

We didn’t know who took the ring, we just knew that it was missing. We allowed my son’s friend back into our lives after I got a lock box for the remaining precious gems. We didn’t think it was the friend that took the ring. We honestly thought it was another boy whose mother told me that her son stole from her. This second boy was in our house over the time that the ring went missing along with the first.

We took the first boy back into our house. We told him that we trusted him. But through our misguided trust, I started treating him like he belonged here again. I cooked for him and did his laundry. It was through this act of trust that I discovered my stolen ring in his pocket when I was doing his laundry. A miracle occurred. I never thought I would get my ring back and I never thought I would catch the person who did it.

After talking to my son about the betrayal of his friend, I sent a message to the other boy’s mother telling her that the ring had been found. I couldn’t imagine the agony of thinking that my child victimized another parent, a friend.

A miracle happened, but I no longer believed in miracles. I didn’t trust God. Instead I put my trust in someone that intended to hurt me. How bizarre is that!?

I was betrayed by someone I considered to be a best friend many years ago too. But hey, so was Jesus. Right? I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. If I didn’t trust the boy, I never would’ve gotten my ring back. I learned a lot in the process.

I am a pretty good person. I live with few regrets. I’ve been hurt more than I have hurt others. I’ve even read the Bible from cover to cover, but I’ve never truly trusted God before. I wanted to do things my way. I wanted to be in control.

Then yesterday a big miracle occurred. A most precious gem was stolen, a child by the name of Jayme Closs. She is a 13 year old girl in our state of Wisconsin that was kidnapped after her parents were brutally murdered. She was missing for almost 3 months without a trace. Just gone. Yesterday she was found. ALIVE!! What a miracle!

I no longer believed in miracles, but I do now.

Now I have to wonder…What more can God do??

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Aren’t miracles precious and beautiful? Are you looking for a miracle in your life??

Lost, but found

A miracle happened today.

The year of 2018 was probably the biggest year of change in my life. I’m going to spend the next couple of days talking about change, future goals, what have you with the introduction of the new year.

But as of today, a miracle happened.

One change that happened in 2018 was that my son’s best friend, the boy with the face tattoo, got kicked out of his house. In June we bought a bigger house and pretty much right after that, the boy moved in. We talked about having him live here full-time as a foster child. Paul and I were talking with him about getting his face tattoo removed, helping him finish high school and get a job, and working with him on getting his license. We were making him meals and doing his laundry.

There were signs that were unsettling, but we ignored them. After my ruby ring was stolen, we were convinced it wasn’t him. I bought a lock box for my valuables and within a week the boy was living with us again. We told Alex we trusted the boy. Alex’s relief over this was visible. He was Alex’s best friend since the early grade school years. We just didn’t believe he would steal from us since we have been doing everything we can to help him through a hard time.

This morning I found my lost ruby ring. It was a miracle since I never expected to see it again! But I found it in the pants pocket of the boy with the face tattoo when I was doing his laundry. I felt a great elation and sadness. My ring has been returned to me, but my son’s best friend stole the ring. He will never be allowed in our house again. I haven’t told my son yet and this is really going to be hard on him.

Why did we ignore the early warning signs?

This past year we also left our church which we have been members of for 10 years. There were signs over the last several months that it was no longer the right place for us. It took something big to finally get us to leave. Now we found a new church that is a better fit for us.

I think that most people know when something is over. I think we knew, but we didn’t do anything. We tolerated instead of taking action. Why does it take something big to move us from something we know?

For me personally, there has been so much change in the last year that I have been trying to avoid change. I have been clinging to everything that I have known and watching as it slips away. But sometimes change is for the better. I have to trust that God has a better plan for my life. I have to learn how to let go. I need to know when it is time to let go (before something valuable is stolen). There is also a price for not accepting change. I didn’t really realize that until now.

To be honest, I feel a tremendous amount of relief. I have the tendency to be overly responsible and want to fix things. Having the boy here was a big burden for me. I wanted to save him. I wanted to take the bird with the broken wing into my nest. I wanted to do something even his own mother was unwilling to do. Now it is over.

I got my ring back and that truly is a miracle!

 

 

The brewer’s wife

Recently I met someone new under unusual circumstances. We met through our realtor, at a party she was hosting with a stranger at the stranger’s house. Generally this was out of my comfort zone as an introvert. Paul, the extrovert, said that he didn’t care either way if we went. It was rare to have a weekend evening free at the end of summer. Even rarer was that the introvert was all excited to go. I wanted to meet some new people in the neighborhood.

The party had an eclectic variety of home brews that were remarkably good. Paul said that he wanted to thank the brewer for offering up his marvelous beer. We had a long conversation with the brewer and he stated that he loved sharing his beer with friends. I jokingly asked him how we could become friends.

Skip a month ahead…I was planning Paul’s 50th birthday party. I was wondering what to do about drinks. I was already planning on having the food catered in. Then I thought of the brewer. I asked him if he would be willing to share his beer with us for the party. I offered to pay him which apparently was illegal. Whoops! I didn’t know. He said he wouldn’t accept money, but would do it for a friend. So we set up his kegerator at our house with 3 of his home brews.

After the party, we invited the brewer and his wife over for supper and to pick up the kegerator. Now the brewer’s wife is a doctor of psychology. Most of her clients are autistic. She also works with their families.

I had my first one on one conversation with the doctor. I ended up telling her a lot of things that I don’t even tell my closest friends after knowing them for years. I told her about the day on the lake that my brother almost drowned. That day, at age 6, I was left alone to watch my 3 younger brothers swim.  Alissa would certainly yell if there was a problem, but Alissa didn’t. I told her that since I was in grade school I felt like an adult.

I told her that I was homeschooled from 8th grade through 10th grade because my autistic brother was too violent to go to school. I told her that I lived my late middle school and early high school years in great isolation from my peers. I told her how I was a caretaker for my brother. Instead of going out with friends on a Saturday night, I helped shower my autistic brother. I told her that for many years I was a massive bruise from when my brother hit/hurt me. I told her the hardest part was that he never was told that hurting me was wrong.

I told her of my restrictions because those things could set Matt off. I wasn’t allowed to use hair spray, wear nail polish, or perfume. We had to dip our tooth brushes in peroxide and baking soda for awhile. I told her that my dad was abusive. I told her how I sometimes have flashbacks.

She said that lots of times special needs siblings have issues with addiction or depression. She said that the depression rate of special needs siblings is 50% compared to 6% of the regular population. But she said that the state lacks funding to have programs for siblings because they are ‘normal’. I find that very sad.

I told the doctor that I would be willing to speak to parents or siblings about my experiences. I told her if my story could help a couple others who are struggling, it wouldn’t all be in vain.

That evening, they left the kegerator at our house promising to get together soon to pick it up.

The next day I apologized for being so candid. I told her that I don’t usually share personal things with complete strangers about my life (outside of this blog). She told me that she was honored that I shared my story and that for everything I’ve been through it’s surprising that I am a solid person. (She also said she would be sending a bill which I hope she did not mean!!!).

She said that she was planning on finding a way for me to share my story of hope with others who are struggling. I’m not sure if anything will come of it or not.

I’ve always felt like my purpose is to help others…to write about it…to speak about it…

God works in mysterious ways…sometimes he works through beer.

 

Luke’s visit, part 9

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We didn’t spend the whole time talking when Luke came to visit. Although I must say that I didn’t talk a lot. I spent a lot of time listening, transfixed by Luke’s words. It was the first time he spoke about our childhood with any meaning.

I think that through his struggles, he has gained new insight, wisdom, and purpose to his life.

Maybe our suffering wasn’t in vain after all.

Doesn’t a brilliant rainbow first need rain?

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We invited Luke and his family to our new house and out sailing for the first time. Luke’s youngest daughter wanted to jump off the balcony into the swimming pool. Not a good sign for the upcoming teenage years. She also wanted to buy a sailboat, but said that she didn’t have any money. She is so funny that I think the carefree comedian Luke is still living on.

Paul patiently taught the kids all about sailing. I think someday he would make a wonderful grandpa. My dad spent a lot of time ridiculing us for things we didn’t know and called us stupid when we came to him with questions. But as I watched Paul and Luke with the children, I was happy to know that they are both wonderful fathers without ever having had wonderful fathers.

Sometimes our struggles can become a blessing.

 

Vegas, part 2

I had a lot of time to myself with not a lot planned on this trip…which equates to having a lot of time to overthink and worry.

While I was in paradise, my 3 closest friends were at home suffering. My best friend Cindy was getting attacked for standing up for something she believes in. My friend Lisa lost her child in a car accident while I was gone. My friend Jen has terminal cancer.

It wasn’t as much fun in paradise alone worrying about things I couldn’t control. I’m not used to being alone, but I think I will have to start getting used to it.

I spent time alone at the pool and watched people. I saw the lifeguard pick his nose and riffle through his emergency bag in boredom. Did he think he was invisible?

There was a man who was alone listening to his music on a speaker over the music that was playing getting drunk with a bucket of beer. Out of character, I really liked a song he was playing and approached the man asking what the song was. I didn’t know it would result in a deep conversation about the meaning of life.

Why are you here? Have you ever questioned your existence? Do you believe in God? If God exists, why does he allow bad things to happen to good people? What are your thoughts on other religions? I’m still waiting on a sign that God is here…

It felt good to have a meaningful conversation. I left the pool as the man was ordering another bucket of beer.

I was feeling anxious again. It was all encompassing. I called home and my husband said that he was having a hard time and wished I was home. We just moved and put our old house on the market. Both of my children were leaving that weekend on separate trips. I was not going to be home to help them pack.

My son Alex is going on a music trip touring Europe. He called me that night. He just turned 18 last week and is a smoker. He is planning on taking his vape on the trip. He was worried it would be against the rules and regulations of the trip. I have extreme paranoia that he is going to be kicked off the trip for being a dumb ass. But he is 18 and can legally smoke if he wants to. Then he said when he gets back he is planning on working 3rd shift at the vape shop. My daredevil hell raiser son will be the death of me! I started praying awhile ago that he has a kid just like him someday. I feel bad because he always dates the sweetest girls.

My daughter Arabella is on a church youth group trip out of state. The day the kids left, the youth director resigned. She recently got divorced and moved in with her boyfriend. It is tearing up the church. Some people are taking the stand that it is not Biblical for the youth director to divorce her husband and move in with her boyfriend…others are saying that her private life is her own business.

The youth director made it sound like she was forced to resign. No one asked her to. My friend Cindy was the one that asked if marriage was not sacred in the church anymore. She asked how the youth leader was going to explain her new relationship status to the children she was leading. Cindy never called her to resign. Now everyone is attacking Cindy for questioning. They are calling her judgmental. They are calling her a hypocrite because she is divorced.

What most don’t know about Cindy is that her ex-husband started another family on the side while he was married to her. This is very painful for Cindy because she has children with her ex and wants them to view marriage as sacred with the backing of the church.

Why can’t my life and the lives of my loved ones be worry free???

Next time it will be more about Vegas, I promise..

Moral dilemma 3

We recently found out that our youth director at church moved in with her boyfriend. She divorced her husband a couple of months back and shortly thereafter moved in with her new boyfriend.

This has been tearing the church apart.

There are those that say it doesn’t matter what she does outside of her job. If she leaves, then this group will leave with her. There are others that say they don’t want the moral leader of their children showing them that it is okay to leave your husband and take on with another man. If she doesn’t resign from her position, another group will leave.

I am not judgmental or a prude, but I personally believe that the person who is getting paid with my tithe money should ascribe to the moral teachings of the church.

I personally do not care what two consenting adults decide to do in the bedroom, I don’t. I could care less about the living arrangements of my child’s math teacher. But they better be good at teaching math.

I wouldn’t expect a drug and alcohol counselor to be out getting drunk in the possible presence of clients. There are certain things that are expected when you take on certain job positions.

So the battle begins…the ripping and tearing starts.

I feel so torn. I really like our youth director. She is great with the kids. I even like the guy she is living with more than her husband. But that is beside the point. I can’t make decisions based on feelings.

To make matters worse, our choir director and organist recently resigned from their positions due to an unrelated matter. I have become close to the organist. She has been teaching my son how to play piano the last couple years. My son has always been a difficult teen to raise and she has been a very positive impact in his life. It pains me deeply to see her go.

Maybe it is time to find a new church home. It has gotten to the point where I don’t even want to go to church anymore. I feel so much sorrow over this.

If my children decide they want to be in a relationship, I want them to marry one person and stay married. I don’t want them to be like our youth director…several broken marriages with children from each marriage growing up in broken homes acting like everything is rosy living with a new guy.

Would I still love and accept my children even if they don’t live the life I want for them?? Absolutely, without a doubt!! I made the decision to raise my children Christian. It is not easy and I want a church that will back me up on this. Is that too much to ask?

I am not even opposed to people cohabiting, or am I? Last weekend Angel’s best friend from out of town came home with her live in boyfriend. They wanted to stay at our house for the night. I really struggled with what to do. My daughter Angel is an adult and today my son is an adult. I have a really hard time seeing my adult children and their friends as adults. To complicate things, Angel’s friend also belongs to our church. I told Angel that her friends were welcome to stay but I would be setting up separate sleeping arrangements for them.

Would I respond differently if the adults living together were my age? Would I respond differently if I didn’t still have a child in my house watching every decision I make and using that as a moral compass?

Honestly, I really don’t care what other people decide to do. It is no concern of mine. But if that person is tasked with the paid position of teaching my children Christian morals, I feel really uncomfortable with that person not practicing what they preach.

Is nothing sacred anymore, even within the church??