Yes, I AM a Cat Lady

I confess:  I AM a cat lady.

Not the one with the dozens living in the house and stinking up the place but the one who relies on her furry pal to get her through hard days.

I raised Roosevelt from the day he was born.  

His mom was a sickly outdoor cat that had never made it through a successful pregnancy and was not a candidate for being spayed because she wouldn’t have survived the anesthesia.

So the day I heard a tiny “mew” outside my window I hardly expected the sight I beheld. Here was mama kitty utterly amazed that she had birthed a baby, walking off the edge of the porch with a tiny black something still attached by the umbilical cord.

She could have cared less.

I grabbed scissors and a towel and rescued the little darling without much hope of his surviving.

But he did.

That was seven hospitalizations, two surgeries and one giant heartache ago.

He has become my comfort companion, my purring pal, the one who knows before I do that my RA is flaring, my heart breaking.

I am thankful for this oasis of comfort in a desert of hurt.

I am thankful that the God Who made me also made animals to bring healing in the midst of heartache.  Oh, so thankful for a husband that puts up with my crazy “save everything that breathes” personality and doesn’t mind if a cat sneaks up the side of the bed in the middle of the night to get cozy in the covers..

When Dominic died, I remember sitting in my chair as the parade of sweet friends and family came over to cry with us.  Roosevelt sat with me the entire time.  His warm body reminded me that I was still here even when my limbs seemed to float away into the ether and my mind wasn’t entirely certain that what I saw or heard was real.

I have learned to count my blessings.

And while the majority of them walk on two legs, at least one has four.

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Repost: What if My Testimony is Endurance?

Clearly marked boundaries, categories and rules make things easier.

But life rarely fits in the tidy boxes I like to create.

And when it doesn’t I’m tempted to ignore the parts that don’t fit-tempted to pretend they don’t exist-so I can maintain the world I’ve created for myself. I would rather march on in ignorance than drag out my underlying assumptions to figure out if they are true or false.

That takes a lot of work.

Read the rest here:  What if My Testimony is Endurance?

Who Can See the Wind?

I’m a stickler for accurate theology.

While that might make for interesting and lively debate with fellow believers, force of habit limits my imagination when it comes to what I believe with certainty about Heaven.

So on the other side of sending my child ahead of me to live with Jesus, I find I wish I were more free to make up scenes of what he might be doing there.  But I cannot, no matter how hard I try, create a movie-style narrative that includes him and the saints that have gone before.

And that leaves a gaping hole in addition to the unfillable abyss in my heart of where Dominic used to be.

I also do not believe my son sends me signs from heaven.  I wrote about that here a few months ago.  Although I do believe that God Himself can and does use the natural world to encourage my heart and give me hope.

And approaching the third anniversary of Dominic’s leaving, I need a little encouragement to hope.

So a few weeks ago I did something for myself that I probably should have done long before.  I bought six beautiful sets of windchimes-different lengths, different tones-and hung them all around my house under the porch eaves where even the slightest breeze sets them swaying.

They help me remember what Jesus told Nicodemus, “The wind blows all around us as if it has a will of its own; we feel and hear it, but we do not understand where it has come from or where it will end up. Life in the Spirit is as if it were the wind of God.” ( John 3:8 VOICE)

They help me remember that God drew Dominic to Himself by His Spirit when he was a little boy in ways I can’t see or fully understand.

They help me remember that God was present and working on the day He called him Home.

They help me remember that God is working right now to hold my heart steady and help me rest firmly on His promise that we will be together one day for eternity.

God has not abandoned me.

Every tinkling sings hope to my heart.

fatih sees the invisible sun and flowers

 

 

 

Manifesto of the Brave & Brokenhearted~by Brene Brown

I am thankful for Brene Brown.

She has helped me put words to my feelings, helped me see a way forward when I felt there was none and helped me own my story even though it is hard.

I keep her quotes around to encourage my heart and remind me that I am brave.

This is one of my favorites:

manifesto of the brave and brokenhearted

I Don’t Get to Be Ugly

It’s easy to justify bad behavior when I am hurting.  

As the saying goes, “Hurt people, hurt people”.

But if I know Jesus, I don’t get a pass.  I don’t get to act ugly or pretend I don’t know better or have His Spirit to help me BE better.

Sometimes I AM ugly.  Sometimes I do act badly.  I am ashamed that even though I am fully aware of my own desperate need for grace and mercy I sometimes withhold it from others.

I’m also ashamed that I can be judgmental and hateful and short-tempered and short-sighted. I can exclude others and run out of patience and choose to turn away when I should be tuning in.

And I’m really, really sorry.

hands-passing-heart

I’m trying to lean more fully on the grace available to me through God’s Holy Spirit.  I am trying to pause so that the first thing that springs to mind doesn’t always fly out of my mouth.  I am learning to wait before returning phone calls, emails and text messages.

I try to take a walk when my heart is twisted ugly so that the ugly doesn’t spill out onto others and ruin THEIR day.

I don’t get to lay aside the calling to love because I’ve laid a child to rest.  

I’m working hard to remember that.  

love God love others rocks

 

 

Just Plain Hard

Today is full of tears.

No real reason-other than the obvious one-but so many things coming together to remind me this life is hard, hard, hard.

I find on this side of burying Dominic that when two or three other stressful events pile one atop the other I crumble.  Sometimes it’s other family members  doing the best they can to muddle through and sometimes it’s physical pain or disappointment or the random “ya-ya” stuff of life in community with other people  Whatever it is, the weight-in addition to grief-just absolutely overwhelms me.

I used to be stronger.  

Or at least I thought I was stronger.  But maybe the truth was the burden I was carrying wasn’t nearly as heavy as I thought it was and I just didn’t have anything to compare it to.

Now I do.

And I am oh, so weary!  I want to curl up in a ball and wish for it all to be over. I want to hide in a hole and hope the world passes me by.  I want to wait out my years unnoticed and unchallenged and pass peacefully to eternal rest and the joyful fullness of what has been promised.

Not an option.

So I hang in and hold on.  I cling to hope and I climb the mountain.  I crawl when I can’t walk. I beg for mercy when my mind grows dark and all I see is the long years stretching before me like a prison sentence.

And I cry.

I let the tears roll down my cheeks and fall into the corners of my mouth.  I taste their salty sweetness and let them remind me that Dominic matters. That even when other folks have forgotten and moved on, he’s still part of my every day. My heart is still in pieces. My family circle has been torn apart.

Some days I can push it down and forget a little.  But today I can’t.

It’s just plain hard.

 

 

 

Limping Along

Those of you who follow the blog regularly know I have rheumatoid arthritis.

It’s something I’ve been living with three times as long as the years I’ve lived without Dominic and I find strange parallels in the twin journey of chronic disease and chronic heartache.

Both are crippling in their own way, both force me to work around the pain.  Both have changed me in ways I could not have imagined and certainly wouldn’t have wished on myself or my family.

Both have taught me to endure.

Both have taught me many other things as well:  

I have learned to be more compassionate.  With pain as my constant companion, it reminds me this life is hard and that it’s hard for others too.

I have learned not to take a good day for granted.  I never know when I will wake to an RA flare, I am constantly surprised by random heavy grief days and I can’t tell when I go to bed at night what tomorrow will bring.  So when a day is good, I grab hold of every moment.  I laugh, I move, I do things that make my heart sing.  And I store the memory for days that aren’t so good.

I have learned to be gentle to myself.  I can only do what I can do.  And what I can’t do today will just have to wait for tomorrow-or maybe wait for forever-and that’s OK.

I have learned to say, “no” graciously, without making excuses.  I try very hard to live up to commitments so I am selective in taking on new ones.  I know that if I take on too many, I’m sure to have to let someone down in the end.  I can’t make others outside my disease or my grief understand so I’m learning to not try.  Their disappointment or disapproval is something they have to carry, not me. (I wrote more about this here:  No. It’s a Complete Sentence.)

I have learned to create “work arounds” for the things that I have to do but are very hard to do. For my RA that means unloading the dishwasher two plates at a time instead of lifting the whole stack at once.  For my grieving heart that means spreading out the hard things over a week instead of a few hours.  It means not feeling compelled to answer every message, phone call or text right away if my mind is unclear or my heart too heavy.

I’ve learned to wear what’s comfortable.  Whether that is shoes that accommodate my crooked toes or refusing to put on a “happy face” mask in public-I am who I am.  I certainly don’t mope around or try to draw attention to myself.  But I’m just not responsible for making other people feel comfortable with my disease or my grief.

I have learned to plan “rest stops” on my daily journey.  It may be a moment to sit down or a moment to do something creative or a moment to watch a funny video-but each thing is designed to help me recharge for the next few hours.  If I try to soldier on I end up too tired and emotionally spent to do anything.  One day of that and I may lose a whole week.  So I pace myself.

I have learned that appropriate medical intervention and treatment is not a crutch, it’s a pathway to a more productive life.  I resisted taking medication for my RA for a long time-the potential side effects are frightening.  But when the swelling, pain and joint deformity became too much to bear, I gave in.  I shouldn’t have waited so long.  It was foolish. I will never be free of the disease, but my life can be better with appropriate intervention.  It’s the same with grief.  Anti-depressants and anxiety medicine do not remove the pain of grief but they can make space in a heart and mind to do the work grief requires.  There is NO SHAME in using whatever tools are available to make it through.

I have learned to ask for help. There are a number of things I just can’t do alone.  I used to be able to do them.  But not anymore.  Asking for help is not defeat.  I have to remind myself of that.  At the end of the day what matters is that what matters gets done-I don’t get “extra credit” for struggling through alone.

I have learned to speak my truth.  (This is one I’m still working on!)  If I am having a bad pain day or a bad grief day, I don’t try to hide it.  I just tell those who ask and those closest to me the truth. The energy I have to expend to keep it covered up means less energy to work on the underlying factors contributing to the bad day.  It’s just NOT worth it.  And I’m not good at hiding it anyway.

I have learned that walking (literally or figuratively) with a limp is not a defect.  It’s simply my life.  I won’t apologize for it.  If someone asks, I’ll share.  But if not, I just go limping along, making my way forward.  I might be slow, but I’m moving.

And that’s what counts in the end.

I will walk with an emotional limp for the rest of my life … But I don’t want it to just remind me of the struggle and the pain; I want it to remind me of a place of surrender, a place where God met me and blessed me. Otherwise, it is just wasted pain.

~Nancy Guthrie, The One Year Book of Hope, p. 332