Category Archives: The Pieces Fit

The world has changed and so have I…

Standard

I’m not who I used to be. The world has changed and I don’t feel like me. At least not in many ways that had seemed stable before so much happened that made me feel incapable.

It started before 2020 impacted all of creation. My little self was rocked before Covid hit our nation.

March 2019 is when it started with an injury to my ankle. I had no idea that was the beginning of a long term of feeling downhearted.

Yet, as I think back, I wonder if a lot of other griefs piled one on another actually changed me and the events of 2020 finally unraveled any thread that had been holding my old self together.

Death and loss were a part of life for me since I was little. Being the baby of 8, with older parents, in a blended family, I remember many extended family members passing away when I was young and mom taking me to viewings with her, probably so she wouldn’t have to go alone or maybe just because I was young and no one was home to watch me. Also, I remember many comings and goings of my siblings, who were older, and having to say goodbye a lot, with brothers who were in the custody of their mom and siblings already married and living far away. “Losing” people seemed a natural part of life to me, always, but the sadness was still real and impacted me.

One set of my grandparents had passed away before I was born. My others lived most of my growing up years, with mom’s dad passing away when I was about 12, and her mom passing away when I was 18. I also lost a very close church friend when I was in 8th grade, she was in 7th and struck by a car. I remember that hitting me harder than any loss previously. A close friend’s dad passed when I was in high school and a classmate of mine died in a car accident my senior year. All of these impacted me more significantly at that time of my life, and I think they changed me some.

My dad passed away in 1987, somewhat unexpectedly, yet not, since he had congestive heart failure. Then, in 1989, one of my brothers died from cancer and one of my sisters found out she had stage 4 cancer. She miraculously won her battle with cancer and did not pass away until 22 years later from complications of the damage caused by the side effects from cancer treatments. Nevertheless, her challenges and tenuous hold on life affected me greatly.

In 1990, my closest in age brother left his wife, who had become my best friend and like a real sister, since she was closer in age to me than my sisters. This tore my heart in many ways that I didn’t fully comprehend at that time.

Our first born came into our lives in 1993. We were overjoyed. My heart was torn when I had to go back to work when he was 6 weeks old and I had to put him in all-day daycare. Everyday, I had to release him into the care of others and accept that I needed their help to raise our little boy. Then, in 1996, when our second son was born, I was able to stay home with him longer than the 6 weeks, but ended up having to return to work in a daycare where I could take my oldest with me, but couldn’t take the younger since he was in diapers, so I once again had to leave him with others and trust him to their care. I remember crying most days when I had to leave my boys. I was also mourning the loss of what I had dreamed/hoped my life would be, a stay at home mom.

Then in 1998, we came very close to losing our precious 6 day old daughter. We prayed to release her to God, no matter what, as we waited while the doctors performed emergency surgery to have her on dialysis to try to get her kidneys to work again. The doctors were astounded that she survived. We were so humbled and thankful for God’s blessing of sparing her life, yet, still the idea of the loss and releasing her to God, brought me low in my spirit.

As school progressed for my children, each step of their growth was another letting go, as it is with every parent. There is a type of loss here, accepting that we aren’t able to be everything our kids need. Yes, it’s a natural part of our lives as parents, but nonetheless, it shapes our hearts more than we realize.

It was early in the 2010’s when the next significant loss through death came crashing into my life and the lives of my family. The waves of grief hit one after another starting with the passing of one of mine and my husband’s dearest lifelong college friends, who died from brain cancer. Then, in quick succession, my closest uncle passed, then my closest aunt and then her husband, followed closely by my sister who had had cancer in 1989, then my husband’s father-in-law, who had been like a “second dad” to me and the best of grandpas to our children. Another brother passed from complications with diabetes. In the midst of that, my brother closest in age to me also almost passed away with a serious medical condition that has lingered with several other close calls over the last 8 years.

Our family also journeyed through some terribly heart-rending friendship betrayals and losses from 2005 to around 2017. This included being torn away from a community of work, church, school, and college alumni in a manner that ripped all of us to our cores. I think we all developed some armor of protection around us during these times and learned a new way of living in relationship with others.

Then, my mom began to show evidence of some memory loss and decline. She had already been moved to an assisted living center, but around 2016, we had to move her to a memory care unit for her own protection. My heart literally hurt every time I visited with her. We would share laughs many times, but also a lot of tears. She would experience rapid downward progression with her dementia and then stabilize. For 3 years, I felt that I said a final goodbye at the end of each visit we had. 2019 was the worst.

A month after my ankle injury, mom had another decline that sent her to a hospital and we learned her body had forgotten how to properly chew and swallow. Because of this, she had to be on a strictly liquid/pureed diet so she wouldn’t aspirate her food. A month or so later she experienced times of falling asleep in her wheelchair and falling out of it, which precipitated her being moved to a special reclining wheelchair that she couldn’t move on her own, therefore, she lost her ability to move around the halls and be on her own, which she much preferred.

Her final decline hit rapidly after that. She passed away at the end of December 2019. Of course, I had been prepared somewhat for this loss, and in some ways, it was a relief to see her battle with dementia come to an end. Death is still final, though, and losing mom made me more aware than ever how much I still long for mothering in my life.

Not as serious, but also a loss, my ankle injury caused me to lose my own mobility for a very long recovery time. Coupled with the stresses of mom’s decline and subsequent passing, I gained back weight I had lost. This blow continues to challenge me in the aftermath of the pandemic, because of my lifelong struggle with my weight. I now feel incapable of the emotional strength I know that is required of me to wage war against this battle that has drained so much from me since I was very young and first put on diets by doctors who didn’t know better back in the 70’s.

Now, in this year of 2021, one of my two living sisters has had to go into memory care. I wasn’t prepared for this, as were none of us in this family, especially her husband, girls, and grandkids. My heart feels unable to face this and, for the first time in my life, denial, or maybe avoidance, has crept in as a means of managing the grief and the struggle it is emotionally for me to go visit her.

There are other losses I could detail, but I won’t because not everything needs to be shared in a public setting. I also don’t want to come across as simply having a pity party or making excuses for myself. I’m not looking for answers from whomever reads this, nor am I looking for sympathy from others. I always desire empathy/understanding, in all parts of my life. However, my point of writing this is to sort through it all for my own self-care. I am trying to find a new way to move forward amidst all this loss and all that continues in this world with the pandemic, wars, racism, etc. I’m trying to wrestle with the acceptance of my humanity and limitations, to stop beating myself up over the fact that I’ve been brought low by all of this and to accept my inability to lose weight due to my emotions being made worse because of the heaviness of everything that has happened up to this point in my journey.

I do hope this serves to encourage someone else who may be struggling, to know they aren’t alone and to give permission to be human, to feel grief and loss and sadness, to accept that these losses over the course of a lifetime can sometimes create a “weight” in our souls that becomes too much to bear. We need help and support to get through without doing ourselves in with our vices. My vice is in the form of food, not binging, but not being able to live in strict control of limitations of what to eat and how much to exercise. I still fight every day to make wise choices and not let it overtake me, but the emotional energy I need to be more strict and intentional with weight loss is being used elsewhere, to keep me working every day, to push me to be present for my family and friends, to make me strong in dealing with bills and the day-to-day of life, and so on. I just don’t have it in me right now to follow an eating plan and exercise plan with huge restrictions, but, knowing I have medical needs that are impacted by my weight, I know that food has to be managed and I do need to lose.

So, what can I do to change? How much longer do I ride out this downward wave of sadness and grief ? I’ve never stopped trying to eat better and exercise more, but in the last two years, I have failed every single weight loss/management tool, trick, plan that I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a lot!). My daughter’s wedding is in 2 weeks, and after that I feel I will finally have more headspace and some emotions freed up to allow me to use my free time to walk more and go to Planet Fitness, to truly cut back on all the comforting carbs (can I confess how much I’ve craved mac and cheese the last few months?!?). I’ll also be turning 54 in October and I feel hopeful that weight loss before I turn 55 , that I had intended for the year before I turned 50, could be a real goal to pursue.

Therefore, I’ve written this to push me forward to take the turn in the road of my journey and break off of this path that has far too many ruts in it . Yes, the world has changed and so have I, but in many ways, I’ve changed for the better; I want to focus on that and let it influence this huge area of my life that seems like it’s only gotten worse…

Not over or under or around, but through…

Standard
Not over or under or around, but through…

It’s been far too long since I’ve felt like writing here. Those who know me well would understand that when I’m silent, I am processing and gaining understanding. This past year has given me much to contemplate and sort out, and I haven’t had the words to put together to encapsulate my complete thoughts much of the time, mainly because my thoughts haven’t felt complete.

This puts me in mind of the Matrix movie. For those who are Matrix fans, you’ll remember that Neo learns entire new skills by a program being downloaded into his “main frame”/brain. Neo’s learning happens in a flash…. Me, on the other hand, my new programming can take a long time to process, especially when it’s undoing old learning and re-programming me to think in completely new ways.

I can’t actually say I’m finished yet, with the re-programming, but I have had some breakthroughs in the last couple of months that I do think I’m ready to begin sharing, even while still in process. The major breakthrough I’ve had seems to have become a theme for me during this season, and it is: “There’s no way out but through.”

I feel like I should have learned this so many years ago, and truly, maybe it’s just been a progression of learning it over time and life’s experiences. However, this past year, in particular, as well as some specific challenges that have presented themselves to me and/or some family over the last few months, have made this truth hit home in an entirely new way. I feel like I’ve been forced to sit with this and reckon with it from a fresh perspective and that God has truly been working in my life circumstances to really bring this home as a part of my truth and understanding of living into all that God uses to transform me/us into who He meant us to be from the start.

This truth can actually be summarized as how we learn the virtue of perseverance. We all have to face the facts at some point in our lives that there are situations that can’t be avoided or short-cutted. Sometimes, we just have to do the hard work of slowly working through a tough time in order to get through to the other side.

I have experienced this directly in the last few months with an experience of choosing to take a side road to get out of a traffic backup. I have to laugh now, but at the time, it was a situation that sent me straight to praying out loud and singing hymns from my childhood to help me persevere through the dark, snowy night and the twists and turns on a gravel road that definitely wasn’t made for two cars at a time. I journeyed through backroads that put me in mind of terrible movies like Deliverance and crime shows like Criminal Minds. I gripped hard to the steering wheel, all the while thanking God for every sign of civilization I came across and asking Him for safety and relief from the blinding snow (the kind where you feel like you’ve suddenly chosen to travel at light speed in the Millennium Falcon). The same thought rang through the back of my mind that entire hour on that detour I chose to take….there is no way out of this except to keep pressing forward until the end, which I was hoping would get me back to the highway and on the other side of the traffic backup (and it did).

There are so many circumstances in life to which I’ve been realizing this applies. I see it in mine and my husband’s mid-life transition with moving, changing careers, letting go of our children into their adult lives, and helping our parents prepare for the letting go of their Earthly lives. This is a transition that is taking waayyy too long, in my opinion, but, there’s no way out of it but through it.

Thinking more outside of our individual life situations, looking at the difficulties we have been facing as a nation and all across our world, the same truth applies. Whether it’s COVID or race relations or national and global policy and politics, there are simply things we need to do the hard work of learning from, growing through, and being transformed into something better, people who were intended to be more than who we are and who we have been, people more like our Brother Christ and more like the Creator meant for us to be when we first entered into this life.

So, in all this, I have to ask myself what is going on here that God wants to use for change, for good for all of us….not that God is causing it, not at all….but what is going on that brought us to this juncture, this mountain we have to climb that has no way of circumventing it? Something, or things, led us here to these moments in time, choices we made have ended up bringing about these consequences….because to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. We are in these consequences of our own making, but what does it say about what we need to learn from it, how we can grow through it, and ultimately, what good can God bring about if we allow Him to transform us by persevering through all of this, doing the hard work required to change, and leaning into the hope of finding all of the world a better place on the other side of it because of our choice to accept that we must go through it and not take any shortcuts this time?

“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” (Ecclesiastes 11:5)

Hope and the Mystery of Christmas 🎄

Standard

This Christmas season has been different than so many others for me. Has it been for you?

Grief has weighed me down amidst the usual joys of preparing for Advent. It’s my first Christmas since my mom passed away last December 27. Of course, this year has also been filled with so many other losses, for all of us this worldwide pandemic. Grief has become somewhat of the norm.

Keeping traditions as much as we have in the past has been my way of fighting for the joy. Yet, I’ve tried to give myself , and everyone else, more grace and leeway to let go of some of the traditional patterns we have kept, to not be so determined to keep them all in place that we end up causing more stress than finding Hope in the usual rhythms of this season.

I found some renewed hope in focusing on making more room in my heart for Christ and inviting Him even deeper into parts of my soul that I may not have even realized had grown overcrowded with the stuff of this world. God’s Spirit has come through for me by revealing a couple things in me that still need His transformation and by reminding me that He can do that for me if I will seek Him in those areas and allow Him to do His work there. God used songs to reach me in those places, and bits of quiet time, moments alone and focused on Him, away from all the sadnesses and disappointments of this world in this last year.

Just this last week, there was a song called “He is Worthy” that lifted me to the true Hope that is found in the Mystery of the Baby who came to our world so long ago. The reason for Christmas is our reason for Hope in whatever season or circumstances we find ourselves, at any time, but all the more so in times such as we have all seen in this last year.

I do not understand all the mysteries of how God took on our flesh in became fully human while still being fully Devine. Nor do I grasp all of Who God is or how all the stories we read in the Bible could’ve happened. However, I know that I find joy and Hope in Him, in reading about the Mystery, through embracing the Truth even though I don’t totally understand, and by asking Him to come into my heart in ever deeper ways, pursuing my relationship with Him and all the rhythms and traditions of life that bring me closer to Him.

I find Hope in believing in the Mystery, the unknowns , while knowing, from personal experience, that He is the only One who is able, who is worthy, who has come through for me in my life on the deepest levels, and who can truly redeem all of this mixed up world. I’m clinging to Him this Christmas, even in the sadnesses all around and within me.

If you ever want to talk more about the Mystery and finding Hope and joy in this life, I would be honored to spend some time with you just talking and sharing together.

God bless you at Christmas and in the year to come.

The strangeness around us…

Standard

This world is weird now. Everyday, I have to remind myself what day it is because so many days are basically the same. I’m relieved when I awake and realize it’s not a workday and I can simply take care of my home, enjoy my family, and rest. Yet, it’s mostly still the same…another day at home without friends, without extended family, hunkered down trying to figure out how to live this day.

Life may not feel exactly the same for you. Perhaps this pandemic has altered your day to dayness in other ways. However, I think we can agree, for most of us, life has changed and it’s not exactly how we would rather it be.

I find myself angry and frustrated a lot, just keeping my head down and trying to push forward as best I can. Yet, at my core, I know my feelings are actually grief, feeling helpless and sometimes hopeless, but afraid to give in too much to the seeming tidal wave of sadness that threatens to engulf me. I mean, I’m made for crises; I kick into gear and am one of the first to come up with a plan when a tragedy hits. Day to day hiccups can throw me for a loop, but give me a disaster and I can shine. Yet, long-term , out of the norm, serious marathon-type battles, such as a global pandemic…well what do I do with that?!?

I’m exhausted…how ‘bout you?

So, here we are; it’s Thanksgiving week, time to reflect on all our blessings and be grateful. This is my second favorite holiday ( Easter being my first; Christmas is my third). I fully embrace the opportunity to focus on giving thanks to God for all the good in my life, because I know it’s all from Him, yet, I’m finding this year more challenging. Are you?

I want to be intentional this week to purposefully look for all there is in life for which to be thankful. I’ve also just realized that maybe this year is also a time to be “thankful in all things,” to look for the good that God can potentially bring out of all the challenges and difficulties of the year. He doesn’t cause the bad to happen, but He does take it and transform it into something good…when I allow Him to do so…

I know this is truth because God has done it before in my life, in the lives of my family. We’ve had long, difficult journeys before in our time on this Earth, and God has worked through those times to bring each of us deeper into His grace , to a more spacious place in our souls. I have to believe He’s going to do it again…I have to hope…for my own sake, for my family , friends, and for all of you, too….God makes beautiful things from dust, just look at this world around us….

Read the rest of this entry

The strangeness around us…

Standard

This world is weird now. Everyday, I have to remind myself what day it is because so many days are basically the same. I’m relieved when I awake and realize it’s not a workday and I can simply take care of my home, enjoy my family, and rest. Yet, it’s mostly still the same…another day at home without friends, without extended family, hunkered down trying to figure out how to live this day.

Life may not feel exactly the same for you. Perhaps this pandemic has altered your day to dayness in other ways. However, I think we can agree, for most of us, life has changed and it’s not exactly how we would rather it be.

I find myself angry and frustrated a lot, just keep my head down and trying to push forward as best I can. Yet, at my core, I know my feeling are actually grief, feeling helpless and sometimes hopeless, but afraid to give in too much to the seeming tidal wave of sadness that threatens to engulf me. I mean, I’m made for crises; I kick into gear and am one of the first to come up with a plan when a tragedy hits. Day to day hiccups can throw me for a loop, but give me a disaster and I can shine. Yet, long-term , out of the norm, serious marathon-type battles, such as a global pandemic…well what do I do with that?!?

I’m exhausted…how ‘bout you?

So, here we are; it’s Thanksgiving week, time to reflect on all our blessings and be grateful. This is my second favorite holiday ( Easter being my first; Christmas is my third). I fully embrace the opportunity to focus on giving thanks to God for all the good in my lives fe, because I know it’s all from Him, yet, I’m finding this year more challenging. Are you?

I want to be intentional this week to purposefully look for all there is in life for which to be thankful. I’ve also just realized that maybe this year is also a time to be “thankful in all things,” to look for the good that God can potentially bring out of all the challenges and difficulties of the year. He doesn’t cause the bad to happen, but He does take it and transform it into something good…when I allow Him to do so…

I know this is truth because God has done it before in my life, in the lives of my family. We’ve had long, difficult journeys before in our time on this Earth, and God has worked through those times to bring each of us deeper into His grace , to a more spacious place in our souls. I have to believe He’s going to do it again…I have to hope…for my own sake, for my family , friends, and for all of you, too….God makes beautiful things from dust, just look at this world around us….

Read the rest of this entry

A time to be silent and a time to speak…

Standard

Ecclesiastes 3 has helped many to navigate the ups and downs of life. I’ve pondered its verses today, this whole last few days, as mom’s 90th was today, 8/15. She’s gone but still I wanted to celebrate this day, honor her life once again, and remember…

I grow silent and pensive during times of grief, when my heart is troubled , and I’m pondering much, yet internally , there are many words, thoughts coursing through my mind, and songs too. If y’all could hear it, you’d ask me to be quiet. 😂

I’ve learned that I need to be silent in order to grow, to become, to learn, for God’s Spirit to transform and heal me. It may not be that way with you. We are all made differently. My hope is that my silence is never misunderstood, though I suppose it probably often has been, is, and will continue to be , by some who don’t take the time to actually know who I am.

I pray that I will always be a person who takes the time to know others in the depths of who they are, that I will listen to others when they speak as well as in their silences. I pray I will allow others to be who they are and to simply love them , if given the opportunity to do so.

My heart is heavy for many reasons tonight; however, missing my mom today seems like the most important reason for the weight of my grief , for today, for this week, not for always, though, yes, her passing changed me forever. That change is real but not bad, just like the grief is real but not bad.

I pray for you, whomever you may be, in your heart heaviness , whatever is causing you to grieve. May you feel okay about grieving and allow yourself to experience it however you need to do so, and may you feel God at work transforming you in the midst of it.

Its helped me to look through pictures again these last couple days. Being in WV, our family’s home state, has also helped ( how I miss it here…been singing Country Roads internally for about 36 hours now …”all my memories gather round her; miner’s lady, stranger to blue water …Mountain Momma, take me home”). I don’t know that I’ll do this every year, but this year, it’s exactly what I needed, and I share some more pictures here to finish this birthday celebration of my sweet momma’s life …

The Snake River runs through it….

Standard

I have this last post about our trip out West. I realize I’ve spent all of July talking about this trip in some fashion or another, but some things must be shared, especially in this time of our lives. I’ve tried to soak up and reflect on every moment we had on our trip, and I would be remiss if I didn’t share it with others.

One thing I haven’t done in these posts, yet, is philosophize and pontificate, share my deepest spiritual thoughts with you. The primary reason I haven’t is because I’m still pondering on all of that. My soul was impacted deeply on this trip, so deeply that at one point I actually prayed to God that I didn’t know if I could take any more in….but that night we went to the hot springs in Emigrant, MT, and we soaked for a couple hours, then slept like babies in our little cabin, and the next day….well, the next day was Yellowstone, and you better believe my soul had much more to welcome into it, and yes, there was room….

The beauty we experienced on our trip was a healing salve for my spirit, so wounded by months of strangeness and violence in our world. I would highly recommend it to you if you’re feeling bruised and battered, sad and mournful, after these last six months of life that has happened around us. If you can’t get away to the West, or the coast, or somewhere immersed in God’s creation, then purpose yourself to go looking for beauty wherever you can find it around you.

I know that I’ve had to do this in the last couple weeks since our return from our trip. SW Ohio seems really rather blah after seeing what we saw, but there is still beauty and joy to be found all around us, whether in the city or suburbs or country, we just have to intentionally look for it, ask God for it (He loves to give us these good gifts), seek and you will find….

So, the Snake River seemed to be everywhere we went out in Idaho, et al. Even the river we rafted, the North Fork of the Payette, is a tributary of the Snake. I was comforted by the end of the trip when we once again crossed the Snake and I got to say farewell to it. lol I would go back again just to travel along it’s winding trek. Thanks to the Tracht’s for sharing all this beauty with us!

I took so many pictures of water, as we drove past in our van and when we stopped purposefully. I deleted many of them because they were blurry or just didn’t do it justice. I share here a few of those that seemed to be worthy of the grandeur I experienced along the Snake…

There and back again, the surprise of Salt Lake City

Standard

I love to fly, and I hadn’t flown anywhere since 2012. When we first made plans to take our trip out West, I was a bit frustrated that our flight needed to be to Salt Lake City, given we would have to drive about 5 hours to our ID destination. Yet, I admit that I had a crush on Donny and Marie Osmond when I was a child and I was always fascinated with their UT origins, so the idea of flying into Salt Lake City grew on me.

I was not prepared for the beauty we experienced there. I sort of wish we could’ve stayed a while to explore it. The downtown was totally easy to navigate. I think the city overall is a large one, but the downtown isn’t huge, nestled right next to the mountains with the vast expanse of the valley before it, leading to the Great Lake itself. Beautiful and a bit awe-inspiring is how I found it.

My pictures don’t really do it justice, and I so wish I’d captured more of downtown, in particular, the state capital building area, but I didn’t. Even my few pics of the Morman Temple area are limited by the fact that it was under construction and we only drove around it without getting out . Nevertheless, here are my pics from our air arrival and departure, as well as a few downtown and then the rest of my Antelope Island pics on the Great Salt Lake….enjoy.

The West’s went out West….

Standard

Of course, a huge part of the joy from our family trip was the fact that we shared it together and with some of our dearest friends. We so so missed Noah and Legend, but their job situation just wouldn’t work with it this time around. I’m sharing just about every picture I took that had a person in it as well as the random pics of the signs from the places we visited. Some of these are duplicates I’ve already posted, but they belonged in this collection….more still to come….

Look for the little things

Standard

Yes, I love sunrises and sets, huge mountains and the expanse of the ocean, but in the day-to-day of life, it’s more often the little bursts of beauty, laughter, and provision that carry us through…