11/30/15 Morning Musing: Incoherent Ramblings of an Insomniac

I did all the things!!!! All. The. Things. Every single thing that you do to make sure you sleep good: drank warm decaffeinated tea, took a hot shower, sat petting puppies, took two benadryl, put mentholatum on my chest, sat in the dark looking at the Christmas tree and listening to the sound of my breath. C’mon! Why am I still awake?! Ugh…and why does the voice in my head sound so whiny? Shouldn’t I have some control over this? Maybe that is why I’m still awake…it should sound more like James Earl Jones…no…too dramatic…the All State guy…what’s his name?…President Palmer from 24!…yeah!…that’s him! He can be the new voice in my head because he doesn’t sound annoying…he sounds…presidential…đŸ˜€ That’s better. Ok, now I’m ready to sleep.

Alarms! I’ve got to make sure to set all the alarms for getting the kids up for school and picking them up and getting them to and from all of their activities or else I’m going to forget them somewhere and Stan is going to have to work an additional ten years before retirement just to pay for all of their counseling appointments. Counseling appointment! I need to make sure to follow up with that engaged couple to see if they got into pre-marriage counseling or if we need to take them on. Don’t want to forget to check on that tomorrow so I’ll just send myself a text real quick…ok, now I’m ready to sleep.

Do I have to pee? Grrrrr…I shouldn’t have thought about it. Just thinking about it means that I have to do it. I’m pretty sure that is some sort of disorder or something. I could lay here and try to go to sleep but it is just going to wake me up again later anyway…why? Why? WHY???? And when did the whiny voice come back??? I’m definitely switching back to the President Palmer voice but AFTER I pee because that would be creepy (for both of us! HA! Surprise Mr. President!) Hold please…Ok, and now, your president: you may go to sleep now.

I can’t breathe. That is the worst thing about trying to sleep when you’re sick. What is it about lying down that makes your nose fill with cement? It is somewhat empty when you are vertical and then magically fills when you go horizontal. Screw Criss Angel…this is some dark magic right here…I bet it is connected to the Fall…only the devil could deprive people of sleep and breath when they feel this crappy. And the medicine that promises breath? Those nyquil commercials are lying mother f—-ers! I even have the prescription stuff and it doesn’t work. I may actually have whiplash from the sneezing…and why does my nose seem to be so fickle? From clogged to running and back and forth. I may actually die here from asphyxiation unless I use nose spray but it is supposed to be addictive and bad for you…but I would assume death is bad for you too…and for Stan to wake up next to a dead wife would be bad for him too…it would probably make him late for work…and there is all that paperwork…ok…ok…ok…I’ll use the freaking nose spray. Ok, now, I can go to sleep.

Geez! Is it possible to breathe too well? The air is so cold and dry! It makes my stupid damaged sinuses hurt! I’ve got the humidifier on and used vapo-rub and all that crap until I’m a gummy mess. What if I stick my head under the blankets and make kind of a breathing-tent? A little humidity buffer for my nose…that’s better. Now, I’m hot. I’m hot and sweating. Am I running a fever or is it my breathing-tent? Dammit! What if I stick my arm out to cool part of myself off. That’s a bit better…except the sheets got stuck against my face…like Chinese water torture…or is it Japanese…Crap! Am I a racist now? I can’t handle it. I’m just getting up.

11-28-15 Morning Musing: It’s a Craigslist Christmas Y’all!

“Oh Ho the Mistletoe. Hung where you can see. Somebody waits for you; kiss her once for me. Have a holly jolly Christmas…” A few nights ago, I was watching as my family was putting together the Christmas tree. (I have bronchitis again and am participating by just taking it all in right now.) We were listening to Christmas music and drinking hot cocoa topped with floating, melty marshmallows. During the decorating process, the kids came across some ornaments that Stan and I have kept a bit separate from the others. So, as kids are prone to do, they started asking questions about the ornaments that we appeared to be protecting. (Perceptive little boogers!)  
In my crackling, hoarse voice, I began to tell the story to the kiddos: A few years ago, when we were going through the aftermath of the poisoning, we found ourselves approaching Christmas with really tight finances. My medical bills had been ridiculously high for the previous six months…$18,000-out-of-pocket-in-just-six-months-high…and Stan and I were faced with buying gifts for family and for our little ones. We were determined to make it a memorable year for our kiddos and not let my illness rob them of the little fun things that childhood offers. (Now, before anyone jumps up on that high horse about Christmas not being about gifts (other than Jesus) I know…but our kids were robbed of a lot during that time because of my illness and we wanted them to have something…we wanted some aspect of childhood to be protected for them…left unstained by worry and sickness…this wasn’t about consumerism and losing sight of the meaning of Christmas at all…it was about trying to shield my precious children from adult worries, adult burdens, and…well…adult realities.)  
That was the year that we would get Michaela her first bicycle. Most people remember their first bike: it’s shiny and new, tires still have that unused rubber smell, and there is still a lot of that black oil on the chain (that inevitably ends up on your new pant’s leg before you wear them to school when it starts back.) That was not the case for Michaela. Her first bike was purchased off of craigslist and Stan had to drive almost an hour to and from the house where he went to purchase that crummy little bike. When he got it home, he had to re-oil the chain and the wheels, had to get new training wheels to attach to the sides (and of course they didn’t match or fit that well since they weren’t made for the bike) and had to replace an inner tube. The little white tires were a grubby gray color that we couldn’t get to come clean and the once-cute little stickers all over the bike were now peeling and curling a bit.
Caleb’s Christmas present that year was a similar situation. It was a Home Depot Brand tool bench (also purchased off of craigslist.) Stan had to drive over an hour to go get this plastic little bench with it’s hammer, screw driver, and jigsaw and all the peeling stickers that accompanied that warped-in-the-middle-plastic-bench.
Not only did we buy their presents on craigslist that year…we were able to do so only because we sold things on craigslist. And that brings us back to the ornaments that the kids found at the beginning of this musing. See, these ornaments were each given to Stan during his childhood and hold a lot of sentimental value for him…but on ebay, they held actual financial value since they were still with the original boxes. Stan and I were considering selling those ornaments in order to have money to buy Christmas presents for the kiddos. We had gone so far as to write the listings but just couldn’t pull the trigger on doing it. There was something else that we needed to face…because of the poisoning, we were not going to be able to have any more children (whether we wanted to or not.) That choice had been taken from us since my body had been exposed to such horrible chemicals…which meant that we could sell some of our baby stuff on craigslist.  
It was bitter-sweet. It was painful to have our family’s options stripped away and our finances ravaged by someone like this. It was infuriating to have my health fade so dramatically right before my eyes. But God was right there in that mess with us. He didn’t make it easy for us. He didn’t make it painless for us. But he was in it, leaning into it next to us. And in that moment, he allowed me to gain something as I began to release something else.  
For Stan and I, those little ornaments mean a lot. They remind us that God is right here in our mess with us. They remind us that he doesn’t have any tasks for us to do that he doesn’t equip us to accomplish. Those ornaments are a reminder that, even though this world is huge and there are problems much greater than ours, our God sees us. Finally, those ornaments remind us that no matter how deeply I love those kiddos, I can’t out-love God (who is called love!)
So, how are you doing with this? Entering into this season of advent, where do you find meaning? In what ways do you feel connected to God? In what ways do you feel him loving you and your loved-ones? Are there parts that are painful for you? Is there a piece of your pain that you need to give over to God to hold for a bit? What are your “ornaments?”
My prayer today is that we would quiet the noise that would crowd out our thoughts of God. That we would be still in the head-knowledge that he has this so that our heart-space can catch up. I’m praying that we would clearly see the “ornaments” in our lives where God has utilized our hurts or unmet wants to meet other wants or needs. Much love friends,

Atypical Morning Musing:  Learning to See

This isn’t a typical morning musing but just something that has been going on the last couple of days.  I’ve never been able to draw before…not even a little bit.  A few months ago, I went to a leadership seminar and heard the director of creativity for Pixar speak and he said some things that really stuck with me:

1.  Failure is inevitable but we all fear it.  The problem is when we allow fear of failure to keep us from trying new things.  If you are in a position of leadership, it is important to create an environment where failure is safe.

2.  Because failure is inevitable, it is a good idea to fail early…start the project by trying something you have never done before very early in the creative process.  

3.  Art is not about learning to draw…it’s about learning to see.

So with those thoughts in mind, I pulled out a sketch pad the other morning and started drawing.  I found a picture online and sketched what I saw:

It felt good to experience some success and exciting to have tried something I’ve never done before…so I thought I’d try to draw a subject that I had feelings about…my daughter…what I “see” is peace and beauty:

And then last night, I decided to do my son…I have always seen him as my baby so I drew an older picture of him…and made him even younger (chubbier) in it…I guess what I “see” is that he will always be my baby:
So, I guess it would be a good idea to try new and scary things more often.  Hope you all get to feel scared soon!  Much love friends,



11/19/15 Morning Musing: Productivity Trap

I have had a really difficult time writing lately. I sit down to do it and think and try to feel inspired and it doesn’t flow like it used to and so it leaves me feeling anxious and with a warm heat in my face that I only experience with failure…shame. From the beginning of this journey with writing, I have felt strongly that it has been a way that the Holy Spirit talks to me…so being without it has left me feeling that he has withdrawn from me. Of course, my mind knows otherwise but it is still distressing to feel this way…evidence that our feelings can be liars, I guess. But truth and reality hit me this morning as I sat down, once again, and tried to force the Lord to write through me again. Did you catch it? The absurdity of me trying to force something on God? Me trying to manipulate the omniscient one? It would be laughable if not so ludicrous and blasphemous. And yet, there it is. I have tried to “American Dream” my relationship with God. Before you get offended, I am a patriot and love receiving the blessings that being an American affords me…but I think our culture feeds into some pretty unhealthy patterns and values in the name of the “American Dream.” One of those beliefs is that you are only as valuable as what you produce…that working and doing are the same thing…that we have to produce something every minute in order to justify our existence. This is how we…or at least I…get caught up in that idolatry that I love to serve so much: busy-ness. 
I am guilty of being one who has, when I have seen people sitting and “doing nothing,” judged them as non-contributors. It is this very thought, this unfair judgement of others, that had held me in-prisoned for years: I was unable to take naps at all when my children were babies because I had a thought in my head that sleeping during the day was something that people who drain the resources of others did…people who didn’t contribute to society…people who leached off of the efforts of others…so I would keep myself awake and super-productive (as productive as I could be while sleep-deprived) during their nap-times as a way to justify my existence. As if the fact that my Creator wanted me to exist wasn’t reason enough. Do you understand how completely absurd that is? It would be as ridiculous as if the benches, that I made recently, decided that they had to learn to sew in order to be valuable. I created them and determined their value…I created them for a purpose that I understand…I spent the time, resources, and energy in designing them with care, all while knowing what I planned to do with them. The benches themselves do not have the master vision that I have as their creator…they don’t have all the information…they don’t understand the joy and satisfaction that I experienced in designing them and carefully making them exactly how I wanted them to be…and when they add pre-requisites of their own to their value, instead of simply fulfilling what I would have them accomplish, they will reduce their effectiveness in what they were designed for.
When I self-impose demands on what I should produce or fulfill in order to earn my value, I am no different than my benches requiring themselves to sew. It’s absurd…and insulting to the one that created them for a unique and beautiful purpose. So instead of earning my worth, today I will quiet myself and receive…I will listen to my Creator speak into me words of purpose and mission…words of love and investment…words of meaning and value…and it will fill me until I can’t hold any more without some of it spilling out of me and that…that bit right there…will be what I contribute to the world…that will be how I am productive…that will be my contribution…and I can’t think of a better one.
So, how are you doing with this? Do you feel like you are in a frenzy to get more and more done? Are you rushing from one thing to another and left feeling inadequate across the board? How about how you see others? Do you place value only on what they can do for you or how hard they work? What if you suddenly were rendered incapable of “producing” the way that you do now? Would you still remain valuable?
My prayer today is that we would all slow down from being so productive and ask God what he values in us. That we would take a good look at the gifts and opportunities he has placed in front of us and thank him for them by investing in them…developing them…and sharing them. I’m praying that we would learn to accept that there is value in each of us and the stories that our lives are meant to tell…and that we would be brave enough to live out those stories. Much love friends,

11/17/15 Morning Musing: The Only Way Forward is Through.

In the last week, people were killed just because they existed…their lives were such an affront to some terrorists that they felt they deserved to die. This week, I went to a religious women’s conference (that I will not name) and ended up in tears because I was so frustrated by the mis-information that I was being handed there…and I knew that people were totally buying in to it (including the speakers.) In the past week, I’ve learned of several friends having loved ones diagnosed with horrible diseases that will brutally ravage their bodies until their souls are forced to find alternative homes. For the past several weeks, I have endured horrible cluster headaches that have consumed so much of me when they are occurring, that I am unable to think or function.I am not telling you all this to bum you out…but this is the reality of the past week(s) for me and it feels heavy. I’m grieving.  
I’m grieving the senseless loss of lives…those who were victims of the attacks as well as those terribly confused and lost people who perpetrated them. God wanted better for them.  
I’m grieving over the lost opportunities for the women who were fed false information at that conference…and they probably don’t even know it…which makes me grieve even more. God wants better for them than this.  
I’m grieving the upcoming loss of loved ones that my friends will be facing…grieving their loss of health, their fading sharpness of minds, and eventually just their ability to be physically present with loved ones. God wants better for them than this.  
I’m grieving my own loss of health and energy in recent weeks…it makes me fearful that I could relapse into the poor health that I’ve endured over the last decade. God wants better for me than this.
I’m frustrated and I’m grieving because I know the character of my God…and because I know him, I also know that he wants better for us all. I know he values life because, as the Creator, he spoke it into existence. I know he values health because he is the Great Healer. I know he values truth, because he took on truth as part of WHO he is. (“I am the way, the TRUTH, and the LIFE.”) For that matter, I know he loves the lost and confused ones because he wants to be the WAY for them. (His statement would hold no value if we weren’t in need of it…we are lost, buying into lies, and dying…which is why his offer of the way, the truth, and the life is such a beautiful gift.)
But here’s the kicker: We were never designed to experience this stuff…it wasn’t part of God’s plan. He did not intend for us to ever experience death and illness. We weren’t supposed to ever feel lost or lonely. Relationships were not expected to ever be broken and humans were certainly not designed to endure suffering. So, it is no wonder that I am grieving (and I assume that you are as well…if you are allowing yourself the space to experience it.) God did not intend for us to experience this brokenness and pain and that is why we grieve…that is why we feel robbed of shalom…that is why we are offended all the way down deep in our very essence when we are confronted with the stark contrast between what we were meant to experience and what is our reality. And it is important that we do the messy work of experiencing this and feeling all of the nasty feels that go along with it…because if we don’t feel it…if it doesn’t make us grieve…then the contrast becomes a little less obvious each time these types of ruptures happen…and with less contrast, truth becomes less clear…becomes a little bit fuzzier…blurred…and then we will not only forget who our God is, we will forget who we are…because that God that we might forget…is the same one who gives us our identity.  
If you are like me, you don’t like to feel the messy stuff…it doesn’t feel good to grieve…but it is necessary because if I skip this part, I will miss the opportunity to learn more about my Creator…and instead of growing from this experience, I will be forced to experience it again and again due to stuffing all the feels down deep inside. See, it is like having a glass of water: You can keep putting a bit more water in…and that water will go deep down inside…but when the glass gets full and overflows, you can’t expect it to overflow with wine because that isn’t what was put into the glass. If you don’t allow yourself to grieve and properly process things, then understanding and holiness can not flow out of you…and this broken world could really use more people with understanding and holiness couldn’t it?
So, how are you doing with this? Are you allowing yourself the space and the freedom to grieve the things that break your heart? Or are you stuffing? Are you feeling all the feels (even the uncomfortable ones?) Are you allowing those that you love to grieve when their hearts get broken or are you trying to force them out of the grieving process so that you can feel better about things? Are you attempting to make everything in life fit into a nice, neat package with bow on it or are you allowing the messy things to be messy?
My prayer today is that we will grieve the things that grieve the Lord. I’m praying that we will allow our hearts to break and be softened so that we can be strong and whole in the end. I’m praying for health, protection, understanding, and wisdom for us all as together we learn to link arms and do the messy business of living. Much love friends,
**Please excuse any errors in typing or thinking…I took two benadryl before working on this.**

Extremely brief musing: My Parents Always Said “Bekah Leigh has never met a stranger.”

I’m not sure why but strangers are very comfortable approaching me where ever I go. I just had a little old lady come up to me at sprouts and tell me all about how she was in a coma for seven years and how many cats she has now and how much she likes the Henna on my hand and how mangoes are yummy and how Kroger has blueberry/ acai berry tea now…and so so SO much more. I got the impression that she went to the store just to find a person (any person) to talk to because she seemed desperate to get to say all of these things and never paused to take a breath. I mostly just looked her in the eye and listened but I found that I had lots of feelings when I left: I felt lonely for her and a bit sad but also happy because she was so happy to say all of these things and have someone to receive it and see her. I feel blessed to have my loved ones and memory of the last 7 years. And…I feel even more convinced that people are walking around among us who just need human contact and are dying to connect to someone…even if it’s some random gal at Sprouts. So, I think my take-away is that we should pay attention to those who travel in and out of our circles of contact and notice what their needs are. We might just make someone’s day by simply acknowledging them and allowing them the space to express what they are thinking. Much love friends,

11/5/15 Morning Musing: Rest For the Weary

We have recently had several different people suggest to us that Caleb should be in “Select Sports” because he was to a level that was above the average kiddo playing at the YMCA. (My understanding of this is that it is more competitive and can help your child go to the “next level” in whichever sport it is.) While I found that flattering, I also was a bit disturbed by it when they described the rigor and sacrifices involved: traveling out of town for games on a regular basis, multiple practices per week, thousands of dollars spent per season, talk of this being the only way he would get on the team in high school, and even how it pays off in college scholarships. Ummm…are we clear that he is 8 years old? I mean, I’m all for planning ahead (God knows that I will carry plans forward to an endpoint decades down the road all the time because I love making patterns in my head) but this seemed ridiculous. I still couldn’t help but feel a bit of anxiety, however, around this as I worried that I might be robbing my son of some brilliant future just because my thinking is conservative where this is concerned. 

Thinking about the havoc that this would reap on our schedule was the most stressful. As it is, the kids are in school 7 hours per day, both are in taekwondo, and each one has an additional activity that they are doing. To me, that seems like more than enough…but there is that niggling thought that I’m preventing him from excelling in something by not signing him up for the elite select sports. Meanwhile, I am trying to tame my own crazy schedule so that I can have healthy boundaries around aspects like when I work and when I don’t, how many personal activities I should be involved in, when/where/how much should I volunteer my time, etc.  
And then, it hit me…the majority of adults I know are out of control in this area of life. In fact, I recently had a couple talk to me about their marriage and how disconnected they were feeling. When I suggested that they might need to remove some things from their commitment list, the look that they each gave me indicated that my suggestion was on par with having suggested that they take up human sacrifices as a new past time. EVERYTHING on their extensive to-do list was of the utmost importance. They could not conceive of removing anything (or even scaling back on anything.) All that really means is that NOTHING/ NOBODY is a priority because they have elevated the weight of everything (aside from their marriage) that they do to the same level.
Why am I talking about this? Several reasons: First, I think that we have so many blessings in life that we have forgotten that we are blessed. We have allowed the prevalence of blessings in life to numb us so that we begin to think of them not as blessing but as something we deserve. Secondly, I think that most of us are either losing sight of our own life’s mission or never had one to begin with. Consequently, we are getting tossed around in different directions every time some new thing comes into sight for us. Finally, and most importantly, I think that our kids need to be taught how to rest…how to not have something external occupying their time and mental real estate every waking moment…and this isn’t something we can teach them if we don’t know how to do it ourselves. So, I don’t know about you, but I have some serious work to do.
My prayer today is that we would discover our mission and use that mission to eliminate things from life that don’t line up with it. I’m praying that we would learn to say no to “opportunities” that are not in line with our mission and then rest in our decisions instead of carrying guilt or running through countless scenarios in our heads. I’m praying that we would learn to rest and teach our children how to rest so that this epidemic of pointless and needless stress would die with our generation. Finally, I’m praying that we would each embrace the opportunity of rest that we find ourselves tempted to overlook today and that we would meet God there. Much love friends,

11/2/15 – Morning Musing: Celebrate!

I have an incredible girlfriend whose adult son was in an auto accident about 3 weeks ago. He has survived (although with traumatic brain injuries) and is having to slowly relearn the most basic of functions (like how to breathe) on his own again. Every time the son makes some progress, no matter how minor it might seem, my friend…his mother…rejoices at his progress. She praises God for his goodness with each small victory…because it is that…a victory. 

While my girlfriend and her family are celebrating every nuance of her son’s life, I am struck by how much of my own life I am wasting…missing…allowing to slip past me in a blur. I’ve always been a busy social butterfly…flittering here and there…finding social interactions everywhere I turn but also able to “get stuff done.” Recently though, I started discovering more about my personality and found that I am a creative (Seriously, who’d have thunk it? Not this girl!) and I have been trying to test that side of me to see how it holds up: building things, tweaking or improving on already existing items, and creating art in order to discover what God would reveal to me within me. I have found that this is where real passion exists in me…I feel alive when I am doing it!  
The problem? Well, I didn’t make any changes to my life other than adding in these new projects to an already full-to-bursting schedule. I kept adding on…more…and more…and there have been consequences…real tangible consequences: I have not yet eaten lunch with my children at their school this school year, we have gotten out of the habit of reading together as a family in the evenings, we haven’t had a family game night in months, writing has been something that I think fondly about but never get to do, and my mind doesn’t know how to settle down at bed time anymore. These may seem minor to you but they are big for me because they are things that I would consider to be among my priorities…but by looking at how I spend my time and energy, no one would guess that those are my priorities.  
So, recently, I gave a talk in our marriage class about fun and connectedness and one of the big points that I made was about our out-of-control schedules…how every time we say “yes” to something, we are saying “no” to something else because time is a finite resource. I think we get stuck in a habit of saying yes to good things and we feel ok about it because we look at it and think “I’m doing what I should because this is a good thing.” Before we know it, our lives are full of good things and we end up missing the best things: sneaking into the kids rooms after they fall asleep and watching their chests rise and fall with their breath, snuggling on the couch in the quiet house with the pups while they each try to burrow in closer to me than the other one, taking the time to let my husband know that I am still excited to study him and learn who he is and what his heartbeat is about…these are the moments that make a life…accomplishing things is not a life…it’s a to-do list. (Yes, Bible studies are great but do you need to participate in 10 of them? Where is the cutoff?) The task before us isn’t to fit as much as we possibly can into our lives…the most productive person does not actually win…the American Dream of having and doing it all…is falling short (in my esteem.) I think my goal is to do less…to accomplish little…but to live more…and to learn to see and celebrate the little things that make it a life…the things that I take for granted every day…the things that my sweet friend is praising God for when her son is able to experience them for another day in that hospital room. It’s time to celebrate the every-day miracles: life’s breath, deep renewing sleep, fits of belly laughter that leave me out of breath and with a cramp, the warmth of my children’s bodies as they sit next to me on the couch, holding my husband’s gaze as we communicate across the room without moving or saying anything, and truth spoken to my heart by El Roi (God who sees me.)
How are you doing with this? Is your life flying by? Are you experiencing your life or missing it? What is your purpose? Does how you spend your time reflect your purpose? Do the people that you love know that they are a part of your purpose? Are they a part of your life or a part of your to-do list? We can’t change the past but we can absolutely make changes today…what changes do you need to implement in order to live in a way that shows what your heart beats for?
My prayer this morning is that we would slow down and look with honesty at our time and how we spend it. I am praying that we would feel convicted about areas of busy-ness that need to change as well as areas of neglect that need our attention. I am praying that we would not take for granted what my friend’s son is fighting to accomplish…that we would not waste the good gifts that our loving God has granted us…and that we would not trade in God’s best for something that is merely good. Much love friends,