Monday, August 27, 2012

Favorite Birthday Gifts

Today, in honor of my 43rd (yikes!) birthday, I am back on blogger and doing my best to write a COMPLETE entry.

It's my birthday gift to me.

It's been difficult for me to get back here because, honestly, I don't know what to say.

I'm better.

But I still hurt every day.

I have a long way to go and I don't really want to talk about it.

Not today, anyway.

Today I am 43.


How'd that happen?

I thought I'd share some of my favorite birthday gifts over the years.  Fun for me, and I need fun.

(Note:  these are not listed in any particular order.  Don't want to hurt anyone's feelings...)

- When I turned 8, my parents gave me a simple, but beautiful birthstone ring.  I loved it.  And I still love it.  You'll see it sometimes on my one of my pinkie fingers.  It's super special to me for many reasons.

- When I turned 25, exactly one week from our wedding day, Mark presented me with a new NIV Study Bible... with my new name engraved on the front.   I still use it.  And it still makes me smile.

- Last year Molly and Ronna gave me an uber cool To Kill a Mockingbird t-shirt.  Love, love, love it!  And I love that they know how much I love that book.  And I love that there even is such a thing as a To Kill a Mockingbird t-shirt.

-  For my 40th birthday, just three months after our little David was born, Mark and the children gave me a Willow Tree collection of figures to represent each one of us in our family.  I love it.  And I love that Morgan, Jackson and Charlie chose the figures.  It's a centerpiece in our family room.

- In the summer of '05, I miscarried our fourth baby (yes, Davy-boy is #5).  It was a devastating loss that so many women suffer and I was wholly unprepared for the aftermath of grief.  For my birthday the next month, my precious sister-in-law, Ann, gave me a simple, but beautiful heart necklace from James Avery to represent our baby in heaven.  I wear this necklace ALL THE TIME.  It is so very special to me.

- Last summer, the kids and I dropped by Mark's office one day to have lunch with him and, like we always do, we popped by "Uncle Jeff's" office to say hi.  As we stood there talking, I noticed he had a series of Van Gogh paintings scrolling on his computer screen and I admired all of them, but one in particular.  A couple of months later, on my birthday, he surprised me with an oil painting replica of that painting, beautifully framed.  Wow.  Just wow.

- Several years ago, in the midst of a difficult season in my life, Mark and my friends put their heads together to plan a special day where the main gift was TIME.  Time with people I love.  And time to breathe a bit with those people.  The day began with a massage, then I was surprised every couple of hours when one person would drop me off to be with the next person.  The day was filled with pedicures, yummy food, shopping, coffee, more yummy food and then a party!  What a day.  I will cherish it always.

The truth is, these are just a few examples.  Mark is an amazing gift-giver... extravagant, really.  He's taught me so much about giving and receiving gifts.

I was never that good at either.  I gave with hesitation (not from stinginess, but with doubt that my gift would be special enough), and I received with a sense of guilt because I just knew the money could or should be spent another, better way.

Now, though there are still these hovering tendencies to sort through at times, I have learned the value of a gift.  Not the monetary value, but the value that comes when someone who loves you expresses that love in a thoughtful, meaningful way.

And through this, I am drawn even more to the One who is the best gift-giver of all.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hemmed In

Last year I purchased Jackson a new pair of (kind of pricey) Boy Scout pants.  I bought them with room to grow (again, kind of pricey), which meant that I needed to have them hemmed up by a tailor.

I wish I sewed, but alas, I must pay to have someone else do these tasks.

I specifically asked the tailor to make sure to hem up the entire excess, so we could let them out as Jackson grew.  A couple of days later I went to pick up the pants.  Studying the hem job, I was alarmed because the hem was super small - like maybe an inch!

When I called her attention to it, she explained that she had folded up all the excess material into that tiny hem.  "It looks nicer that way," she said.  She was right.  Somehow she managed to squeeze all that extra material into a one-inch wide space.  Amazing.

And this is why I pay her the big bucks.


I feel squeezed into a one-inch wide space right now.

For the better part of six months I have been unable to drive.  I can't go to church, to restaurants, to the movies, to my kids' special events, to the grocery store...  and the list just goes on and on.

I spend most of every day either in bed or in an anti-gravity chair (THANK YOU, Matt and Emily!!).

Surrounding me are two tv trays and a small table.

They are cluttered with...

My Bible & Bible study materials

Novel(s) I am reading (there's usually at least three I'm dabbling in)

My wallet (for online shopping and reimbursing friends for various shopping errands they have run for me - THANK YOU, FRIENDS!!)

A package of Boogie Wipes and a box of Kleenex (for wiping noses-one mommy job I can't seem to pass off to said friends)

Four remote controls (yes, I said FOUR)

Games magazines (for the rare moments the drug fog lifts and I can work puzzles)

Notepads and pens (if I don't write it down the very SECOND I think of it.... it's gone)

Coffee mug (no explanation necessary)

And various other items I feel need to be within my reach.

**It's a good thing I love my house and the people in it.**

Even so, last week I decided to feel sorry for myself and threw a pretty classic pity party.

It happens.

I'm not claustrophobic, but I began to feel closed in.  My large living room, with its vaulted ceilings and many windows that allow natural light to flood in each morning, became narrow and oppressive.
Despair of ever feeling good again set in as I realized that I have become, in essence, a "shut-in."

I'm sure this sounds a bit melodramatic, but c'mon... six months is a long time, people.

And though I am DEFINITELY better, the end of this journey is most definitely not in sight.  I've got a long way to go.  A lot more days in this chair.

That's my reality.

And this truly settled on me last week.  Sooooo....

I consumed at least 3 pints of Ben & Jerry's ice cream (Triple Caramel Chunk is my new fav, but Phish Food will always have my heart.).  Dipped Hershey's dark chocolate bars into a jar of peanut butter every single day.  And lost myself in the world of Ashley Judd as Becca Winstone on ABC's Missing.

To name a few.

And then, after a good, cleansing ugly cry... I heard that still, small Voice.

I have hemmed you in.

And the picture of Jackson's Boy Scout pants popped into my mind's eye.  All that material, packed into that small space... just waiting to be released as Jackson grows.

I have hemmed you in.

I don't know what He's doing.  But for some reason, in this time, in this place, with these children and this amazing husband that I love, He has me hemmed in.  He has narrowed my spaces, eliminated almost every external distraction and forced me to be here... in this small place.

Trusting Him that this tiny measure of space is packed with potential.

You hem me in -- behind and before;
You have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too
wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Psalm 139:5

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Random Thoughts...

I haven't blogged in forever.

It's hard to blog when it's hard to put a coherent thought together.

With the exception of 3 doctor's appointments and a ride through the Chick-Fil-A drive thru, I haven't been out of my house or out of a hospital in over four weeks.

Morphine makes me crazy.

My husband is amazing.

So are my children.

And my friends.

And my church.

And my mom.

And my step-dad.

I am having more good days than bad days... FINALLY!

Today isn't a good day, but it isn't really a bad day either.

I'm okay with an in-between day.

It's way better than a bad day.

I'm still on a LOT of medication.

Can you tell?

I've forgotten what I am really like.

I'm looking forward to re-discovering me.

I am COMPLETELY sure that God is near me.

He's all around me.  Beneath me.  Before Me.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Ride

Tomorrow marks five weeks since my surgery.  It's been quite a ride.

I was told by my doc that it would be a roller coaster ride; but the thing is, roller coasters are fun.

This is so not fun.

Well, actually, there is one roller coaster ride that might come close to this experience.

Ever been to Disney World?

The Steele Family LOVES Disney World.  Mark and I have been three times since we were married and would go more often if it weren't so darn expensive.  The first time we went was before we had children.    It was great because we could go at our own pace and got to ride pretty much everything. 

I LOVE all the roller coasters.  Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Expedition Everest.

All of them...except for one.

The Rock 'n' Roller Coaster at MGM Studios is a NIGHTMARE.

This coaster blasts off and whips around in the dark doing twists and turns for what seems like an eternity.  And the worst part is that you have speakers up against both ears BLASTING Aerosmith at full volume the entire time.

Aerosmith isn't the problem here.

The problem is that your senses are being hit at once at the maximum possible level and it's just completely overwhelming.

And I hated it.

And that's pretty close to recovering from back surgery.

I knew I was facing weeks of rest and healing.  I knew there would be pain involved.

I just didn't realize the intensity would be so overwhelming.

So all consuming.

I had this long list of things I thought I would be able to do during recovery.

1. Read several books.
2. Finish the Bible study I never finished in the fall.
3. Catch up on my daily Bible reading (I don't dare tell you how far behind I am now).
4. Finish David's Christmas stocking.
5. Finish the certification process I've been working on since the fall for the writing curriculum I teach.
6. Spend quality time with my children.
7. Watch Friday Night Lights.
8. Redesign my blog and blog more.
9. Work on David's baby album.
10. Have some deep, revelatory God moments.

None of these have happened.

The "ride" is so all consuming that I can't seem to focus on anything for any length of time.

I know there's an expectation that God is using this time to teach me new and life-changing lessons, but I have to be honest and say that although I do believe these will come... they aren't happening yet.

I'm too foggy.  Too distracted by pain and what it takes to get through the day to really be able to connect with God in a deep and meaningful way.

It's kinda discouraging at this point.

But I'm still on this ride and it isn't going to stop for some time.


I keep throwing out short, simple prayers for strength, for grace, for patience, for hope.  And I keep a list of those in my life that I care about next to me so that I can throw out prayers for their needs (and for a moment get my mind off mine).

And as I twist and turn with the loops of this roller coaster, prayers (no matter how simple they are) remind me of how loved I am.  By so many.

But more importantly, by the Father God.

And I remember that He's got me buckled in tight.