Fall is by far my favorite season. It brings golden leaves, bluer skies, and cool breezes. After a summer dominated by smoke and fire, it was a great relief to see two days of rain and cooler temperatures. I looked out the window and noticed something different along with seeing a blue sky – the trees were swaying. It took me a while to realize that we barely had any wind since the heat and drought set in late June. The wind usually blows so much that we practically fall over when it doesn’t, so welcome back wind! I will try not to complain when you blow my hair all over the place!
With summer coming to a close and fall approaching fast, I wanted to share the highlights of my summer in photos. I went for a visit to Lewistown in June and enjoyed taking Mom to dinner at the local Mexican restaurant. I enjoyed several walks with my family, before the smoke rolled in, on the River’s Edge Trail. My husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary by taking a trip to San Jose and San Francisco. We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge on foot and it was exhilarating. Finally, in August I was thrilled to see Drew in a tuxedo for the first time for my niece’s wedding.
I admit that the smokey skies made their way into my spirit. I forgot that the smallest of gifts are the most important: a mourning dove perched outside of the dining room window, the chatter of chickadees on my way back to the office, golden spots of sun on the floor, ceramic pigs strategically placed around my house by my neighbor for me to find, time with my husband on the couch watching Suits, and a smile from a coworker.
I came across the quote in the picture above during one of my morning meditation sessions. When we live in our heads, our lives can pass by unnoticed. We miss the bird placed on a branch in the perfect place for us to look up and see him. We miss the cloud in the sky shaped like a heart or the uplifting lyrics of a song. It’s better to let our fearful thoughts pass by like clouds in the sky than to end up underneath them for months, even years. Remember the cartoons when a character had a raining cloud over his head wherever he went? That is exactly what it is like to live in our heads. This is something I am guilty of and I have realized that life is far too precious to go by unnoticed for even a moment.
Next month will be three years since Christian passed away. The turning leaves take me back to the months before his passing and it can be very painful – like it just happened. As the day approaches I want to see the world as I would want Christian to see it – a miracle in process, given to us by a God who loves us.
“The Lord said to Abram after Lot had left him, Lift up now your eyes and look from the place where you are.” -Genesis 13:14
Lot and Abram had to separate because the land was not big enough to sustain all of their herds, helpers and goods. Abram gave Lot the first choice on whether to choose the better land in the Jordan Valley or the less desirable land of Canaan. Lot chose the Jordan Valley.
This story has great meaning in my life today. It is far too easy to become discouraged because my sons were born with a life threatening disease without a cure. God doesn’t want us to focus on everything we have lost. He wants us to lift up our eyes and trust that He will lead us into a bright future filled with possibilities and joy. It is impossible to notice His blessings and miracles when our eyes are focused on the ground or when our hearts and minds are stuck in the past. God wants us to lift up our eyes and focus on everything we have, not on what we do not have. When we keep our eyes fixed on Him, we will see that He has plans to bless us.
Only when we lift up our eyes can we see the blueness of the sky, the way the white clouds effortlessly float past the window, the bird on the branch, or the flower on the windowsill. When we thank the Lord for a new day the minute we open our eyes each morning, we invite His blessings into our daily lives.
Looking up can bring us out of a state of depression and discouragement, and even help us to feel confident. Today, I encourage you to believe that no matter how difficult your circumstances may be, God wants to bless you and prosper you.
I have a dream of writing a book that will inspire and guide families living with the daily battle of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. I also have simpler dreams. I think that many of us do without realizing it. A simple dream can be to wake up each and every day filled with gratitude for another glorious day of life and going to bed each night feeling fulfilled and knowing that we loved and learned something knew.
The key to reaching our dreams and goals, despite the bumps in the road, is to never give up and to keep moving forward even when we feel afraid. I have heard it said over and over that courage is feeling fear but moving ahead anyway. Courage is overcoming our past and our imperfections and believing in ourselves no matter how many times we may fall and skin our knees.
When I think of courage and determination, I think of Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, Steve Jobs, my mother who raised all three of us girls with little to no help, my grandmother who came to a new country and raised her children on her own, my sisters and my boys. I think of parents who put a smile on their faces and do the best they can for their families even though they feel afraid of a life threatening diagnoses.
No dream is ever too small because we are all part of a greater whole. Our contributions may be as small as bringing a smile to someone’s face, holding the door open for the person behind you or as big as inspiring millions like Martin Luther King, Jr. During his life, Christian was not able to join the football team or shovel the neighbor’s driveway (he had such a kind heart that I know he would have if he was physically capable) but he brought a smile to my face when I was most afraid. He inspired teachers and fellow students by going to class every day and completing his homework. No matter how much fear he felt he always smiled, loved and showed kindness.
I encourage you to never give up on your dreams. If enough of us do something every day that will make a positive impact on the life of another, we will truly change the world.
As 2016 came to a close, I made a choice to let go of the past and keep my sights on what lies ahead. I decided to do my best to only look back if I needed to smile or laugh. I always love the prospect of a new beginning, a fresh start to the new year. I have never been one to make New Year’s resolutions; however, I believe in the power of intention and adopting new and empowering beliefs.
When we make a resolution for the new year or a new intention, what if we were to begin by believing that we are enough just as we are, that we are loved more than we could ever imagine or that we are worthy of the best things in life?
Rather than focus on the pain and difficulty of 2016, I want to take the lessons learned as well as the joyful memories. I have learned the importance of gratitude, acceptance and compassion. With each passing day without my son, I realize more and more how precious life is – a gift to be cherished and enjoyed.
The other morning, I came across the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. I decided that the words of this prayer would mirror my New Year’s resolution.
This prayer is an antidote to depression because it helps us to look outside of ourselves and in doing so, we may realize that our problems are not as monumental as they seem. It also reminds us that by serving and loving others, we become God’s hands and feet.
Thank you for reading my blog in 2016. I hope to post more frequently and most of all I hope to bring a ray of sunshine to someone’s day. I hope you had a wonderful New Years and wish you a prosperous 2017!
Yesterday, Drew had his 6 month checkup with the heart and lung doctors. Drew has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a life-threatening form of MD that attacks muscles all over the body, including vital muscles like the heart and muscles that help us breathe. When we took Drew to see the doctors about 7 months ago, his numbers went down, so naturally we were nervous and afraid. To our surprise, the doctor came in the room, smiled, and asked me what I am giving Drew because his heart strength went up significantly. It was a blessing and a relief.
Not too long after receiving the good news, I kept wanting to ask about Christian. Why did he have to suffer so much? Why was his heart so much weaker? WHAT DID I DO WRONG? WEREN’T YOU PAYING ATTENTION? Most of the time, as I have been reluctant to accept, we will never fully understand or even know exactly what happened until we see our loved ones again in heaven. I believe we will experience so much peace and joy in God’s presence that it will not matter. Even when things go well and life gives me roses, I still want to hold onto the thorns. What will happen if I stop being so sad? Will I forget his voice, his smile or his strong spirit?
Part of healing is being thankful for each day and living each day as I know Christian would want me to live. I have had my pity parties and it’s normal when we are grieving, but after a while they actually do more harm than good. Complaining and being negative keep us from being all God created us to be and all Christian would want me to be. There were so many things Christian was not able to do and he accepted it most of the time. So many things that are mundane or even grievous to the rest of us were all Christian ever wanted. He wanted to work, run track and do the same classwork as the rest of the students. He wrote letters until he could not tolerate sitting up at his computer anymore. He tried reading the bible from front to back until his pain started and he had to spend most of the day tilted back in his chair. He did everything he could until his last breath that chilly October morning, which feels like it was yesterday and like it was ages ago at the same time.
I will focus on the roses in life and not hold onto the thorns. I will honor my son’s life by thanking God for the new day when my alarm goes off. I will be thankful that I can work and that I have my health. I will be thankful for clouds as well as sunshine, Mondays as well as Fridays, unpleasant people and sweet people, sour and sweet. I will live.
It has been several weeks since my last post and since then, we have gone on vacation and survived the spring forward time change. The robins are back and the trees are blooming. I have put off writing again and again because admittedly, I have been depressed. Not just the “I’m having a bad day” kind of depression, but the kind that makes your bones ache or feels like a heavy weight is on your chest and you have to talk yourself into getting out of bed a lot more than usual. This is not easy for me to admit. I had the hardest time trying to pinpoint the cause or event that triggered this cloud that has been hanging over my head – is it grief, lack of exercise or fun, my diet? Although all of these things can contribute to depression, the antidote that makes a world of difference in finding the light again is contained in one word: GRATITUDE.
Years ago, I started a gratitude journal. I kept it on my nightstand and made myself write down 5 things I was thankful for from that day. Despite the prognosis of my sons’ disease, I was able to find the joy in life almost every day. As the surgeries increased and the care took longer and became harder, and as I had to watch my oldest son endure pain and loss that was completely unfair, I stopped writing in it. A few months after we lost Christian, I bought a new gratitude journal. I may write down something big like “I am thankful for receiving an unexpected refund in the mail today” or something small like “I am thankful for the chickadees singing outside of my window.” Anything big or small that we can find to be grateful for can lift us up. We literally have to lift up our heads and look around so we can notice the beauty of God’s creation, which in turn lifts up our hearts. A heart of gratitude sets the stage for God’s blessings and His favor. It also opens windows and doors for goodness to flow into our lives and invites joy into our hearts.
I would like to start today’s post by sharing a bible verse with you. “Lord, help me to realize how brief my time on earth will be. Help me to know that I am here for but a moment more. We are like grass that is green in the morning but mowed down and withered before the evening shadows fall. Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.” (Psalms 39:4; 90:5, 12 TLB)
When we lose someone we love, we are never the same. Not too long after losing Christian, I would look out the window every morning and watch the sky change colors as the sun came up. I still do. At sunset, although my heart aches as daylight fades, I do the same thing. I stand in my kitchen in the last light of the day and close my eyes, appreciating the warmth. I am going to share with you something that Christian said to me the night before he passed away. It felt like a knife going into my heart hearing it, but his words have changed me. He said “Mom, I wish my pain would stop long enough so I could really look at and appreciate things.” He said this as I was covering up his finch, Kiwi, for the night. I think he wanted to look at him just a little bit longer.
During the years before Christian passed away, due to burnout mostly, I went through many days like a robot. I would notice things but not REALLY notice. I would see with my eyes but not with my heart. Now, it’s like seeing everything through a new set of eyes. I see the blueness of the sky and the red tints in the clouds and my heart stirs. I hear a line in a song or a certain tune and I feel an inner stirring in my soul that I forgot was even there.
I read somewhere that we can take beauty for ashes. We can take the soil, which is fertile with grief and watered with tears, and plant seeds which will slowly begin to grow into a beautiful flower. This flower represents the beginning of spending life in a way that honors our loved one. This may mean different things to different people such as appreciating the preciousness of each day, each moment or serving others. This can also mean finding out who we are again and taking steps to rediscover our talents. This may mean taking up a musical instrument we may have given up on years ago, picking up a drawing pencil again or going back to the gym. For myself, I have drawn a couple of pictures and started working with my photos. I have also cherished my reading time even more. Christian and I shared a passion for books and I will keep on reading for him.
All I know is that life is too precious, too brief, to spend it being grouchy every Monday or to let our loved one go out the door without telling them we love them. I look back on my life and see far too many moments that were taken for granted and I intend on living my life to its fullest, for Christian and for everyone I love.