Saturday, August 1, 2015

What's Your "Address?"

My husband and I were in the kitchen making dinner last night. He was telling me about a scripture from his devotional book the day before and how he liked the way the author had described the verse and what it meant. I asked him if he could remember which scripture it was and he said, "No, I don't remember the address." I was washing a dish when he said that and a question popped into my head. Then it turned into an idea, and now it's the inspiration behind this blog post, "What's Your Address?"

I've heard many people, including myself, say they have a "life verse." A scripture that either God gave them specifically to memorize and carry in their hearts to encourage them, or one that really spoke to them in some way and they've claimed it as their personal life verse that's helped them through the various seasons in their lives. The question that popped into my head as I was washing dishes was, "What's my address?" What is the one verse that I go to continually that is specifically encouraging to me? It immediately came to memory. My address is Proverbs 3:25-26. "Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared."

God gave me that scripture when I was 9 years old. I had just lost my friend, who was also 9, to a brain tumor. Not only that, but another little girl in our church who was only 5 years old, if I remember correctly, had also lost her battle with brain cancer not far apart from my neighborhood friend. I remember the fear that crept into my life as I sat in the funeral of the 5 year old girl, staring at the tiny white coffin at the front of the church. The fear was multiplied when I watched my friend, Leslie, suffer in her final weeks; having lost all her long, gorgeous, chestnut brown hair, then going blind, then deaf, then into the arms of Jesus. It was a very traumatic time in my young life and I can remember the fear creeping into my heart more and more each day. If I had a headache, I thought I had a brain tumor. If I was really tired or didn't feel well, I thought surely I had an incurable disease of some kind. I worried about myself and everyone around me that I loved. I was afraid of everything. It affected my sleep, my schooling, my relationships with my family and friends. Really, every area of my life. And that fear kept growing into my adulthood. It wasn't until May of 2012 that I was finally and completely delivered from fear.

The ironic part, (but not really when you consider the power of fear and negative thinking to affect the body in a physical way,) is that I did end up with a terrible, incurable neurological disease that began when I was 18 years old, 21 years ago. Many of you know what it is, but for those who are new to my blog, it's called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD). You can read about it here. Then, in 2011, I was diagnosed with an incurable auto-immune disease called Celiac Disease. Most of you would be familiar with that one after all the "gluten free" media circus lately, but if you want to know the real details of this disease, you can read about it here. I assure you, it's not just a gluten free "fad diet" to those of us who suffer with this. But, that's not the point of this post, so I'll move on. :)

The other ironic part is that my wonderful and loving Dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor in July of 2010. He fought an incredible fight of faith against brain cancer for 4 1/2 years and just passed away on April 1st of this year. In my previous post, I talked about how I've been handling the grief of losing my hero, my Daddy. I am happy to say, however, that I have greatly improved even since writing that post. I'm telling you, writing is healing. And the power of confession is even more healing.

In the Amplified Bible, my address reads, "Be not afraid of sudden terror and panic, nor of the stormy blast or the storm and ruin of the wicked when it comes [for you will be guiltless], For the Lord shall be your confidence, firm and strong, and shall keep your foot from being caught [in a trap or some hidden danger.]" I love that! I love it even more because this verse has brought me great assurance during all the trials I've faced, and still face today. Especially the part that says, "for you will be guiltless." I fought against guilt right along with fear for almost 20 years. I felt guilty for being afraid. I thought I was being punished by God every time my body was stricken with yet another physical issue. That couldn't have been further from truth. GOD IS OUR HEALER AND HE LOVES US!

As my husband and I kept chatting last night, I realized that in almost 15 years of marriage, I'd never asked him what his life verse is, his address. He told me it's Matthew 11:28. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." What an amazing scripture to have as your address!

So, what's your address? I would really like to know which scriptures in the inspired Word of God have become your life verse. And, if you feel comfortable, I'd love to know your story about why that verse is your "address." You can share in the comment section of this blog post, or in the comment section on Facebook, if that's the link that brought you here. Whatever means you'd like to use to tell me your address and your story behind it, I would LOVE to hear from you. I am greatly encouraged by other people's stories.

Some of you may be thinking, "Gosh, I don't know what my life verse is. I've never really had a scripture that I felt was specifically for me." That's OK! Can I encourage you to dig into God's Word and simply ask him if there's a verse he'd like to encourage you with? Maybe it's just for today! But friends, today is all we have anyway, right? So, please share your stories with me. If you have a specific prayer request, I'd love to receive those as well. You can fill out the contact form on the right side of this post and it will be sent to my confidential email address. I'd love to pray for you!

Be encouraged my friends. The Bible is the ultimate "Thomas Guide." It will lead you to the addresses (scriptures) that will change your life.



Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Name is Tracie, and...

It's been over five months since my last post. Hmm...sounds a bit like I'm in a confessional, or an AA meeting. Well, it may be fitting considering what I've been through in the last nine months. I have some confessions, and I have some moments of achievement. I have things I need to tell you about, because writing brings me peace, and I have some things to tell you about that I'm not proud of, but I believe they will encourage someone else who may be experiencing the same sorts of issues.

A lot of you know most of my story, but maybe not the most recent parts. For the sake of not making this the longest post I've ever written, I will write my entire story in another post or, perhaps, just keep adding to the book I'm finally writing. For those of you who have some time and would like to know more about me, you can click on the drop-down menu to the right of this post where it says "Blog Archive" and you can read bits of my story at a time, starting when I began to blog in 2009.

So...confession time. BUT, after every confession, I'm adding a positive confession from scripture that I'm speaking over my life in each of these areas.

~ I lost my Dad to brain cancer on April 1st of this year and I am still completely heartbroken. Most of the time, I walk around feeling like my world has been tipped upside-down and I'm just wandering. Wandering through memories, some appearing as if out of a dense fog and others as clear as if I was actually still living in that moment. My name is Tracie, and I feel broken and weak. (Isaiah 42:3)

~ There are a lot of days where I've hidden in my room while my lovely girls play and make their own meals, simply because I need to cry and pray, and I hate seeing the looks of worry on their faces. But also because I literally have no energy to make meals, deal with dishes, listen to whining, answer a million questions, etc., etc. "Are you OK, Mommy? Do you miss Papa?" they ask as they place their still-little hands in mine. No girls, I'm not OK. Yes, I miss Papa so much that I feel like my heart is actually breaking and the earth is going to swallow me up. That's the truth. But, what do we moms do instead? We tell our children something that will comfort them, and it's not always how we truly feel. "Yes, girls. I'm OK. I miss Papa very much, but he's in the best place he can be and everything is going to be fine." My name is Tracie, and sometimes I'm not honest with my children. (Isaiah 54:10)

~ I have eaten more ice cream in the last four months than I have in my entire life. True story. My name is Tracie, and I currently have an ice cream addiction. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

~ I. am. tired. I am exhausted in every possible sense; mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. I had no idea what intense grief was going to feel like, and the toll it takes on your entire being. I have dreams about my Dad that are sometimes wonderful and sometimes scary. When I have a good one, I'm actually angry when I wake up and realize it was just a dream and my Dad is still gone. When I have a scary one (mostly re-living the weeks before he passed away,) I wake up and I'm relieved that my Dad is with Jesus. It's a constant yo-yo of emotions. Add the fact that one of my daughters has been waking me up almost every night for a few weeks now and you've got one momma that's seriously on the edge. My name is Tracie, and I'm weary. (Matthew 11:28)

~ This is my last confession, for now. I wear my game face a lot. Although, in the last few days, I've found it harder and harder to wear and I think it's melting off. Makeup is a most wonderful invention indeed. Eye shadow, eyeliner, and mascara in particular are very good at hiding puffy eyelids that are swollen from crying. Concealer, if you have a good one, really can hide the dark or puffy circles under your eyes from the above mentioned exhaustion. However, unless someone can invent an automatic smile-maker, or "twinkle drops" to put the spark of life back in my eyes, then I'm really not hiding anything anymore. I have gone to every church service, church meeting or commitment, kids' Dr. appointments, my Dr. appointments, grocery stores, etc. since my Dad died. Every one. I've worn my game face to all but the last two church services this past weekend and to my daughter's class yesterday. Know why? Because I finally felt the Holy Spirit wrap His arms around my heart and the tears just flowed and flowed, melting my game face away. My name is Tracie, and I can't hide anymore. (Psalm 139)

I don't know if you've ever lost someone you love. I don't know if you've ever walked through the valley of the shadow of death with someone, and then walked through the darkness of grief. What I know is that it's hard. It's worse than I ever imagined it would be. But what I know the truth to be is that God is still with me even in the darkest moments. Even when I can't hear him, he's there. Even when I can't feel him, he's there. Even when I feel lost, I'm found. Even when I feel like I can't take another step, he's there to pick me up and carry me. God is with me. He's been with me through every moment of my life, and will continue to be with me until the end of the age. (Isaiah 43:2)

In one of his sermons this past year, my pastor said, "Don't trade the truth of what you know for what you don't understand." That statement has carried me through the process of losing my Dad. I don't understand why he wasn't healed. I don't know if I ever will. But, God is sovereign. He has each of our days numbered in His Book of Life. Not one of us will leave this earth a second before or after what he has already ordained for us. That gives me great hope. I don't need to understand why my Dad died. I just need to know that God is still with me. He's still with my Mom. He's still with my entire family and all our friends who loved my dad dearly. And, someday, we will be OK. I will be OK. (Joshua 1:9)

Even with everything I confessed to you, I've still persevered through it. I'm being the best I can be with where I'm at. I'm showing up, even if it is with my game face on. I'm honoring my commitments. I'm taking care of the basics around the house. Somehow it doesn't look like a tornado blew through here. Somehow our bills are getting paid. Somehow my kids are showered and fed and still know they're loved when they lay their heads on their pillows at night. My husband is being amazing and picking up the slack. Believe me, there's been a lot of slack to pick up and I couldn't do life without him right now. The only reason I've been able to have achievements in the midst of the things I'm not proud of is because of Jesus! His grace, His mercy, and His compassion for me are carrying me. (Psalm 6:9) His joy, even though it doesn't feel like "happy" joy, is giving me continual strength. (Psalm 59:16) His love and acceptance of me assures me that what I am lacking in right now, he is making up for it. His love covers all.

Maybe your situation isn't grieving a loss. Maybe it's depression, an addiction, a betrayal, or a financial hardship. Whatever your situation, whatever shortcomings you may have right now, know this... GOD LOVES YOU! I'll leave you with a few more scriptures.

Romans 8:38-39 says, "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Be encouraged today. (Psalm 43:5) Love, Tracie

Sunday, February 8, 2015

I Quit...Confessions of "Volcano Mommy"

Today, I said two words I never thought I'd hear myself actually say out loud...and I said them to two precious little girls who never should have heard them come out of my mouth. The words were, "I quit." I realized my mistake instantly as I watched their little faces become confused and completely panicked at the same time. "You quit? Do you mean, you quit being our mommy?!" Then the tears flowed as sobs took over my two precious girls; my seven-year-old melting into a puddle and my ten-year-old screaming and shouting.

How could I have let this happen? When did I become so consumed with stress, anxiety, fear, or whatever, that I lost control of my tongue? I know what the Word of God says about the power of the words I speak, and yet I completely lost control. There were no fruits of the Spirit in me at all at that moment. I felt so ashamed, and so lost, like I had just done something I'd never be able to undo. Well, that part is true. I can't un-say what I said. Ever. I can't erase the fear that those two words made my daughters feel in that moment. However, the intense pain I felt when I saw the looks on their faces assured me of one thing. I will NEVER lose control of my tongue like that again.

I have no excuse for the way I hurt my children with those two little words. Yes, I've been under a tremendous amount of stress over the past few months. Yes, my girls have been fighting constantly, both with each other and with me. I have been feeling like a volcano about to erupt for a few days now, which should have been a warning sign that I needed to pay serious attention to, but I didn't. Nothing excuses the fact that I lost it. I just plain lost it. I messed up, big time. I was "Volcano Mommy."

After many tears from the three of us, and my being completely honest with them about why I was so angry, I was able to explain to them that when I said, "I quit," I was not talking about quitting being their mommy. I was talking about my efforts to stop their constant bickering, fighting, yelling, name calling, etc., etc. I was talking about my consistent efforts to make them understand that I'm their Mother, and they are to honor me and respect me, even if they don't "feel" like it. I told them that I was tired of trying to teach them these things, when it seems to go in one ear and out the other. I told them I felt completely disrespected and that my feelings were very hurt. However, after all that needed to be said was said, I was able to reassure them that I had made a terrible mistake by allowing those words to come out of my mouth, and that I didn't mean them. I asked them to forgive me and they did, without reservation.

Children are amazing. My children amaze me. No matter how awful they've been acting towards me or each other, when something like this happens, they want things to be right again so quickly that it's almost like they forget the fact that they've just been hurt so they can make everything OK again. Their need to feel safe, loved, and protected overrules their need to hold an offense. Man, can we learn some serious lessons from our kids. I'm blown away at their ability to forgive me so quickly, especially when I've messed up this badly.

As much as I wish things would have gone differently, that I would have had a more calm approach to the conversation that still needed to happen, we each learned valuable lessons through this experience. My children were immediately remorseful, which is usually not the case. They lavished me with hugs and apologies. They asked me if they could please be excused to go and talk with each other and do some "research." I have no idea what they're talking about, but I can't wait to see what they've come up with.

I should never have allowed the volcano mommy inside me to erupt. But, maybe it was what needed to happen for the lights to really come on for my kids about how things need to change right now. I've basically been a single parent since November, and my hat goes off to every single parent out there who is trying their very best to not become volcano mommy or volcano daddy. What gives me the greatest hope is that even though I messed up as their mother, I can still run into the arms of my Heavenly Father and ask his forgiveness. The same comfort that my girls had from my reassuring hugs and kisses is the same comfort I feel from my Father in Heaven, who also forgives me the moment I ask him to.

1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." I am so thankful that God is gracious and merciful to me. I need him so desperately right now, and I know he's with me. I pray that my children never see "Volcano Mommy" again. It was a good indicator to me that I've been trying to carry the load of my life on my own shoulders for a while now. Which is exactly why Peter tells us to cast all our cares on Jesus, for he cares about us. I needed the reminder to let go of all the things in my life that I can't control right now, so that I can remain in control of myself.

I debated whether or not I should share this post with you. Let's face it, it's not an easy thing to admit when you've messed up. But, if it encourages just one other parent that we can be forgiven by God when we've made a huge mistake with our kids, then it was worth it to put myself out there like this. I hope you're encouraged. We need each other. Raising kids is hard just by itself. Add to it any other life challenges and our job becomes almost impossible at times. At least it feels that way to me. It is, in fact, an impossible task if we're trying to do it in our own strength. We must give our cares over to the Lord so that we can do this most important job that we've been called to do...raise godly children. Hug another parent when you see them. Encourage them and tell them they're doing a great job.

Much love,


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Challenge

It's been quite a while since I've sat face-to-face with my computer screen, just staring at a blank blog post page...the vertical line in the top, left-hand corner blinking away, waiting for me to start typing. "What do you want to say today, Tracie?," the blinking line asks with every blink. It waits patiently while the torrent of emotions in my heart flood up into my mind and try to answer that question... What do I want to say?

Honestly, I don't feel like writing today. I don't feel like saying anything. Past experience reminds me, however, that on the days I don't feel like writing it's usually because I need to write. Along with past experience is a recent experience, which I will write about later in this post, in which I was challenged by a hospital chaplain to write the truth of what was in my mind and heart, not just what I thought people would "want" to read, but what they "need" to read. So, even though I don't feel like writing today, I'm going to anyway.

Many of you know that my girls and I have been in Washington State since the middle of November to help take care of my dad, who is fighting brain cancer. To try to count the number of precious moments my girls and I have had with my dad and family since we've been here would be impossible. Even though it has been incredibly difficult to watch my dad, my hero, suffer tremendously, I wouldn't trade one second of the time we've had together. We had a lot of catching up to do.

Christmas Day began with our tradition of having the girls open their stockings and a few gifts before heading over to have breakfast at my sister's house. They took over the tradition of breakfast at Grandma Peggy's house after she passed away six years ago. My brother-in-law prepares a delicious breakfast every year and we have had the privilege of being here for three of those years. Usually, it's Dad, Mom, myself, my two sisters, our husbands, and our children. This year was my first Christmas apart from Josh since we met fifteen years ago, so of course that meant it was the first Christmas our girls were apart from their daddy, too. We were all feeling the empty spot at the table, but were determined to have a good day. We finished our feast and gathered in the living room to open each others gifts. My dad was extremely weak and so tired, but he wanted to stay and watch his grandchildren. Like I said, he's my hero.

Eventually, my mom took him home (which is conveniently right next door to my sister's house) and then she came back to help us pack up gifts and clean up. However, the conversation and mood had turned to anything but a holly-jolly Christmas. All we could talk about was how we were going to take care of my dad. He was getting too weak for my Mom and I to handle when the caregiver wasn't there. Even when the caregiver was there, who is an amazing lady, she still had to ask for my help at times when my dad needed to get from one place in the house to the other. We were beginning to realize the need for things to help him be safer and more comfortable.

But most of all, there was the elephant in the room. You know, the one you try to push in the closet and hope it doesn't pop out. It was the one question no one wants to know the answer to... "Is this our last Christmas with Dad?" There! The elephant is out of the closet. I said it. Do I feel better? Not really. But, I've come to realize in hindsight that the "elephant" was probably what led to the events that happened later in the day. I'll get to that in a minute. We finished cleaning up, and put our conversations about hospital beds, facilities, doctors, etc, on hold and went back to my parents' house to rest until our small family dinner later that evening.

Around noon, I began to have very strange sensations and sounds in both of my ears. It was like every sound was magnified 1000x normal, yet both ears felt like they were stuffed with cotton balls. I couldn't think straight, and I began to feel the all too familiar "boat rocking" sensation of vertigo begin. My first thought was that I was getting a migraine, so I decided to lie down and drink a cup of decaf coffee and have some dark chocolate. I can't handle the amount of caffeine in regular coffee, so the combination of decaf and chocolate usually works for me to stave off a major migraine. However, things went from bad to worse and in a matter of a couple hours, the room was spinning.

When I say spinning, I'm not talking about a slow spin, like when you first get on the Tea Cup ride at Disneyland, and you're in control of how fast you spin. I'm talking about the room spinning in every direction all at the same time, like in an aerotrim. An aerotrim is a gyroscope large enough to contain a human being, used for cardiovascular workout and balance training in pilots and astronauts. See the picture below.

Notice how happy the woman in the picture is? I can guarantee you, I was not smiling. In fact, I was physically ill. I somehow managed to keep my head completely still and eat some dinner in my room while the rest of my family was at the table for Christmas dinner. Sometime after that, by the mercy of God, I fell asleep. I woke up several hours later, around 2:00am and tried to get out of bed to use the restroom. I fell on the floor. I called my mom's cell phone and told her I needed help to the bathroom. When I got back to my room, I began to throw up. At that point, I realized I needed to go to the hospital. I had no idea what was causing the severe vertigo, but I had never experienced it so violently in my life. So, my sister came over to stay with Dad and the kids and off to the ER we went.

I can't remember how many hours later it was when my mom told me she was going out to the car to try to take a little nap, but then came back crying. I thought she was going to tell me that my blood test results were back and it was bad news. Well, it was bad news, but not about me. My sister had called to say that the paramedics were on their way to the ER with my dad. At the time, they were suspecting that he had had a stroke, but weren't sure if it was that or a seizure. Either way, his left side was paralyzed. I could not believe what I was hearing. And I could not believe that I was too sick to go see him across the ER. We waited for them to do preliminary imaging and make sure my dad was stabilized and then they prepared to transfer him to Swedish Hospital in Seattle, where all of his doctors are.

I was worried about my girls. They had watched him being taken away by the paramedics. I knew how sensitive they were and I was so afraid for Hailey. I didn't want the stress to trigger an attack in her body, as it so often does. I was so sad. I was so mad. I was SO frustrated! Why? Why, when my dad needed us the most, was I not able to be with him? I had been here for almost two months taking care of him every day, only to have the most important thing happen and be completely helpless myself. I did not understand. I asked if the paramedics could at least roll his gurney next to my room so I could wave and say goodbye to him, which they did. I am so grateful for them. At that point, I had no idea what the future held for my dad and there was no way I wasn't going to tell him that I loved him before they took him to Seattle.

The ER Dr. admitted me into the hospital later that afternoon. I found out late that evening, after my dad had gotten to Seattle for an MRI, that it was indeed a stroke. I just cried. There was nothing else to do at that moment. I was completely alone. I hung up with my mom and just cried and prayed until a nurse came in to take my vitals. I was so sick, so dizzy, so helpless, and so alone. Did I mention alone? I know that I am never truly alone and that God is with me always but, I had never felt so alone in my entire life. This is the part where the hospital chaplain's challenge to me comes in.

I didn't actually see him until the third day of being there, but it was perfect timing. I was too sick before then to have even been able to hold a real conversation with anyone. We began to talk and he listened to me patiently tell him what had happened since I had been there. He kept hearing me say over and over again things like, "But I know God is with me. God has His hand on this. God is taking care of my Dad. God is taking care of my kids." He looked at me and said, "I hear you saying all of these things, but I want you to tell me what you're feeling inside right now. What are your fears? What are your worries? Are you angry? Are you feeling alone? Tell me what you're feeling. Don't tell me what you know about your faith. Tell me what you don't know about your faith." What?

At first, I was shocked. I wondered what kind of a chaplain was this? He certainly wasn't seeming to be encouraging. He wanted me to tell him all of my bad feelings and stop talking about my faith. But all of a sudden, a dawning occurred to me. I needed to put aside my Christian "lingo," my "game face," my "super-woman" complex for just a minute and actually allow myself to feel the full weight of my emotions, my fears, my confusion, and my anger. I started to tell him how alone I had been feeling. That my husband was in Virginia and my family was in Seattle, where I wanted to be. I felt like I was 3,000 miles away again, as I have been for over six years now. I was angry. I was confused. I could not understand the timing of the events. I was worried about my dad, I was worried about my mom, I was worried about my daughter getting sick, I was worried about myself. How long was this relentless vertigo going to last? Why now? Why was I sick AGAIN?!

In that moment I realized what God had sent that chaplain to tell me. He sent him to tell me that it's OK to be scared. It's OK to be mad. It's OK to be human. I've been trying to be strong for so long, not truly facing my fears head on, and my body finally said, "Enough is enough. You can't do this anymore." He told me that God knows I'm a woman of faith, a woman after His heart, and His will. But that he needs me to be honest with him and be more real with him than I ever have been before. That was the key to my body beginning to get better. The chaplain asked me what were some things that I do that bring me joy and peace. I told him that I sing and write songs, I write on my blog, I go to the ocean, etc. That was when he challenged me.

He said, "I bet your blog is full of scripture and encouragement, right?" I said, "Well, yes." He said, "You are a woman of faith. Anyone who knows you knows that about you, right? But what I want to challenge you to do is to write about what people can identify with. Fear, worry, anger, etc. You are always going to bring God glory, no matter what you write. It's in you, you can't help that. So, have the courage to write honestly about what you're going through. Because it's the pain that people like me identify with. It's the agony about their loved one. It's the frustration at the timing of events like this. That's what they relate to. That's what they need to know they're not alone in walking through. The encouragement will come, yes. But, for a moment, they need to be in the dark pit with you before you can show them how God helped you climb out."

I was floored. I was challenged, indeed. I was humbled....I was in the hospital for four days. The vertigo barely let up, even to the point when I was discharged to go home. I spun and spun, cried and cried, and prayed and prayed. Josh had to come out to take care of me a couple days after I'd been released. I wish it wouldn't have been because of being so sick, but at least we got to see him for over a week. It was much needed tangible strength for my girls and I. My husband is amazing. God knew just the right time to send him to us.

I will never fully understand the reasons why I got so sick right before my Dad had his stroke. One thing I do know is that I don't think I could have handled finding him that morning, unable to move his left side. And, from what my sisters have told me, I don't think I could have handled seeing him in the hospital for that week after the stroke. My body was already completely stressed, which is what the Dr's determined caused the attack in the first place. So, I can't imagine what would have happened had I not already been in the care of doctors during that time. I do not believe that God causes illness. He is our Healer. But, I do believe that he allows us to go through things at specific times for very specific reasons. I believe my hospitalization was His divine protection over me. I really do. It gave me time to grieve alone, without worrying about making my kids sad. It gave me time to pray and intercede for hours upon hours. It gave my kids a chance to get to know their other family members and friends who were so wonderful to step in and help take care of them. I am so grateful to God for every good thing that came out of this horrible situation. As I always say, He is forever faithful.

There is so much more to say, however, I feel that I should end for now. Please keep my Dad and my family in your prayers. We need prayer like we've never needed it before. Thank you.



Monday, July 7, 2014

Can We Be Real?

Yesterday, I posted a Facebook status that basically said I was done with cable TV. Well, it got me thinking that I'm actually starting to feel the same way about social media. I'm not saying I'm going to delete my accounts, but I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. My main reason is this: It's not the real story of our lives. What it usually is is what we want people to "think" our life is like. It's a snapshot. A cozy little image of our best selves, or should I say, "best selfies." It's pictures of our adorable children smiling big smiles, or siblings with their arms around each other, snuggled in their bed reading together. Where are the real pictures? You know, the ones from ten minutes before where the kids were fighting and screaming at the top of their lungs and you were locked in your bedroom counting to ten. Can we be real?

Where are the selfies after you've just given your child with Sensory Processing Disorder a shower and you're soaked from head to toe from all of the thrashing around it took just to wash her hair? Not to mention totally exhausted, your back muscles in knots, crying right along with her; both from exhaustion and also the thought that it's just not fair that a shower is torture to your child, even though you are just trying to be a good parent and keep her clean. Then, we move on to drying off and brushing the tangles out of her hair. More torture. Next comes teeth brushing. At this point, we're just praying the neighbors don't call CPS from all the screaming. All because our little girl has an over-stimulated nervous system and can't handle a single ounce more of sensory input. This is often my reality. Can we be real?

Social media can be a substitute for what our realities actually are. Where are the 420-something "friends" when you are walking through a deep, dark valley? I can count on one hand, maybe two, the friends who are walking with me through my valley times. And there's nothing wrong with that! We need to be careful who we allow into the valley with us. We need to be sure they are people who are encouraging us, speaking positively, and helping us to get out of the valley, not camp there. My point is that we can get unnecessarily lonely when we look at the number of friends or followers we have on social media compared to the number of actual phone calls and visits we get in reality. I know people who have, at times, based their worth on how many followers they have on Twitter and Instagram, or how many "friends" they have on Facebook. That is so sad to me. It's sad because that used to be me. Can we be real?

Where does this need for followers come from? Why do we get so obsessed with the numbers? Why do we compare our friends lists with other people's lists? All of these things lead us down a dangerous path of needing approval, craving attention, feeling rejected or accepted, and for what? And by whom? The only person we need to make sure we're impressing is Jesus Christ. The people who deserve our undivided attention are the ones who live in our home with us. Our spouses and our children. Too often, social media takes the place of spending real, quality time with the ones who are actually craving our attention. Our true followers. Our biggest fans. They are the ones who would rather spend time snuggling with you and a book, not you and your smart phone. Can we be real?

I got a serious wake-up call a few months ago when my youngest daughter said to my oldest daughter, "I really want to play a game with Mommy, but I know she won't stop looking at her phone. So, maybe we can just play later. I know her phone is more important." Oh. My. Gosh. I was wrecked. I thought, "Of course my phone isn't more important than playing a game with my child! I'm just crushing candy to take my mind off my legs feeling like they're being crushed!" But, that's not what my daughter thought. I am still guilty of spending too much time on my phone, but I have gotten much better since that day and am determined to get even better. Maybe to the point of not even touching my phone, with the exception of answering a necessary phone call, until after the kids are in bed. Better yet, until the next morning once my husband and kids are gone for the day. Candy crushing can wait. Tweeting can wait. Selfies can most certainly wait. Surfing my timeline can wait. There is no excuse I can give that will make my daughter change her mind about me and my phone. I have to show her with actions. Love acts. Love shows. Love proves. Can we be real?

What if we were real? What if the picture we paint isn't all sunny and full of flowers? I've tried my best to show my real side on my Facebook page. But there's only so much I want to share about my reality. I want to maintain a positive attitude and outlook that will be a blessing to others, not just one more sob story on someone's timeline. Not everyone needs to know everything you're going through. But that is why social media frustrates me so much! There are times when I really do want to be real. I want to say, "I'm really lonely. Open for visitors!" I want to explain more details of what I'm dealing with so that people will understand why I physically haven't been to church in a month. I want to share our parenting challenges in raising a child who suffers every day. And maybe I will. Maybe I can be real and still keep it positive. After all, my true reality is that Jesus is my source. He walks with me every day. There is always something to be thankful for, even in the dark valleys.

I will continue to ask for prayer when I need it. I will continue to post things that I hope will encourage people. I will continue to share my heart, my songs, some pictures, and my blog posts. But my attitude toward social media has changed. I want it to be the right kind of vehicle for the right kind of purpose. If it's not enhancing my life, if it's taking away quality time from God and my family, if it's threatening to trap me in depression or loneliness because I wish I could insert myself into the pictures I'm looking at, or making me desire to impress people, then it's not worth it. My value is found in Jesus.

I will end by saying that social media is not all bad. I've reconnected with many good friends from my past. I've strengthened relationships with people I thought I'd never talk to again. I've gained a lot of new, truly wonderful friends. I am able to keep in touch with my friends and family all over the country. That's why it's a love/hate thing for me. I love it for so many reasons and I hate it for even more reasons. However, I think it's where the future of communication is headed. I don't want to be a hermit. I just want to be sure that my priorities are in the right place. So, I've been real with you tonight. I've shared my opinion. The beauty of these "platforms" is that you never know who you're really talking to. I hope that those reading this will hear my heart on the subject. I pray that we would all just be a little more real. Make a phone call, send a card, show up with flowers. You know, like we did "back in the day." Can we be real? I think we can.

Love, Tracie