Hello, Sunshine

My journey in suffering started out so quietly that I barely knew what I was dealing with. A hard day here, a difficult boss there. Slowly, difficult times began to stack up.

Then David lost his job and the floodgates opened wide.

We were instantly launched into a long journey through adversity. Wave after wave of trouble hit us. Year after year we endured, with barely enough time or strength to catch our breath in between the crashing waves.

Suffering touched every aspect of our lives; job loss (twice), chronic health conditions, financial hardship, infertility, near-death experiences, car accidents, death, fractures in family, fractures in friendships, the loss of our only child and more surgeries than I care to recall.

After 11 years, we became accustomed to hardship. Dare I say we were habituated to it.

But now, it seems the tides are turning.

A warm breeze is blowing through our life and it feels like we are entering into a season of peace, or at the very least, a season of less-trying experiences. From where I stand, the majority of our challenges appear to be dissolving bit by bit. Sure, somethings like infertility and childlessness will likely never leave us but many of our other trials are slowing. The healing is coming and the darkness is lifting.

For the first time in over a decade, life feels light.

After a long season of suffering, it can feel downright uncomfortable to emerge from beneath the wet blanket of dashed dreams and crippling despair. Year after year, eventually you become accustomed to life being hard. You become accustomed to always bracing for impact.

Like coming out of a cave after many years of groping around in the dark, stepping out into the sunshine of life can be disorienting at first. The effort it takes not question or doubt the credibility of your new-found positive circumstances is immense. You can’t help but wonder how long the sunshine will last before another storm hits. And yet in the midst of this wariness and confusion, Jesus whispers, “Do you trust me? Do you trust that I am good? That I love you deeply? That I don’t intend adversity to follow you around forever? Allow yourself to hope…

Ah, hope. Such a wonderfully tricky thing for those of us who have endured life’s worst.

At times it seems easier just to not even go there. Keep your head down. If life goes well for a time, great – but always be ready to brace for impact. Hope can seem like such a gamble. Dare I hope that my darkest days are coming to an end? Oh the pain I would feel to take hold of that hope, only to have life take another detour into pain and suffering!

Hope can lead us astray if it’s grounded in the wrong things. The Bible never tells us to place our hope in our circumstances. No. That would be a grievous error, sure to disappoint. Instead, we are to place our hope in Him. The Unchanging One. The God who will always be there to carry us and to lift our faces from the dirt. The God who will never betray us or turn His back when life gets hard. And it will most likely get hard again one day.

Our ability to hope is directly correlated with our confidence in God’s goodness. If we are utterly convinced that God is good and that He loves us, we can safely hope. Hope placed in His hands will never disappoint.

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,
who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement
and good hope,
 encourage your hearts and strengthen you
in every good deed and word.” -2 Thess 2:16-17

Hard things likely still lie ahead for me, for you. But God is good. And right now the skies in my life are clear for the first time in a long time and I’m going soak up the sunshine for as long as I can.

HelloSunshine

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Overflow

In the last few weeks I have met some very interesting characters. I could write a book on them. But I thought I’d write a blog post instead.

I met a man who looks like Santa Claus but acts like Scrooge. He was a paramedic for 35 years and now the bitterness resulting from sustained illness has caused him to bemoan every aspect of his life from his smelly apartment to his old dog with failing teeth. He hates our beautiful town almost as much as he hates the government and his “feeble-minded” doctors who will never ever listen to him.

I met a woman who has bone cancer, but you’d never know it by looking at her. She was the picture of joy and strength as she floated into her chemo clinic with a laughter that was infectious. “Did I mention that I broke my shoulder this weekend? I’ve got an MRI after chemo,” she said with a deep sigh and a wink.

I met a lady named Nina who had 7 children, but only 3 are living now. They all had varying forms of addiction and she couldn’t quite get them to stay on the straight path. Sadly, it got passed into the next generation and she was leaving the next day for a funeral so she could burry one of her grandsons who got caught up in a gang and drug related shooting.

Then I met a woman named Cindy whose magenta pink lipstick matches her magenta pink track suit. She can drink a whole suitcase of Bud Light in one weekend!

I met a man named Robert today who is clinging to his very last thread of independence. He probably shouldn’t be walking, but he knows the second he is completely wheelchair-bound, everything will change. He’ll wind up in a state-run facility where your days are scheduled and access to the outside world feels limited. He struggles up the 2 steps into his home and I imagine he struggles even more up the 15 steps to his bedroom. He tripped over trash on the floor and cursed it, all the while knowing he can’t bend over to pick it up. A bowl full of cigarettes sat next to a very well-worn easy chair in his living room, hinting at how he spends most of his days. His 5-day old stubble and stains on his shirt suggest that just getting ready for a trip to the grocery store is a lot of energy, energy that he’d rather save for the produce department.

These are just a few of the people I’ve met in the past few weeks since I started volunteering for a local organization that provides free rides to elderly and disabled people. Most of them go to doctor appointments, hospitals, dialysis and chemo. But some of them like Robert just need a ride to the grocery store that is 4 blocks away. My job is to show up with a smile on my face and take them to their destination.

One of my favorite things is just asking them questions as we drive along. I’m not afraid to ask about their illness or disability. That’s one thing I wished (or perhaps, still wish for?) I had more of throughout my SCDS journey. Many people with chronic illness, disability or pain actually need to talk about it, process it and share. It helps them to feel understood, validated, heard. When you have a chronic medical problem, you live with it every hour of every day. And you get to talk about it very infrequently to people who are quick to change the topic of conversation and remain unengaged. I experienced that more than I care to admit in the last year.

Every person who has sat in my backseat gushes out answers a geyser when I ask even one little probing question. They want to tell me how hard it’s been, how frustrating blood draws are, how their medications are causing weird side effects. They go into a doctor’s office and they have exactly 5 minutes to explain things before the doctor cuts them off, writes a lab order and is on to the next patient. I get it. I get it so much. It’s good to have a listening ear sometimes. I’m glad I can be that ear.

The job is easy enough. I love to drive and I love to help people. It’s a winning combination.

The difficult part is hearing the stories, seeing the struggle and feeling the swells of empathy roll through my gut. Part of me wanted to stay the whole day with Robert instead of just setting his groceries on the kitchen counter. I wanted to clean, make lunch and talk more with him. I also couldn’t wait to leave, because the sadness pierced my heart so deeply, I was afraid I might burst into tears right in front of him.

I get these little glimpses of what life is like….without health, without hope, without Christ. And it’s almost too much for me to bear. Almost.

I will continue because I know it’s just as good for me as it is for them. I’ve gained a lifetime’s worth of perspective in just a few short weeks. I have more face-to-the-ground gratitude in my heart than I ever have before. My heart is overflowing. God has brought me a sense of joy, strength and spiritual fruit that I can only hope to overflow back into their lives through the love of Christ.

Lulu

I am officially a Puppy Aunt! Sweet baby Lulu came to join our family on Monday! 
I journeyed with my sister to pick her up and take her to her new home, which proved to be a pretty easy task. We thought she might be a little furry wrecking ball in the car, but she just sat quietly and occasionally chewed on the straw to my diet Coke (thanks Lulu, I guess I was done with it anyways). We brought her to my sister’s house and let her explore, did a fun little puppy photo session and played outside. 
I am officially obsessed! She is the squishiest little nugget of fur I have ever seen in my life! She’s getting close to being potty trained already, thanks to a wonderful breeder who started the process early! She loves her stuffed toys and she is completely attached to Jenny. Precious little punkin!
I love her name too, it’s so much fun! It rhymes with lots of things, like moomoo and foofoo and bugaboo. She’s going to have a bazillion nicknames. While my sister is definitely the poster child for Lululemon, puppy Lulu is not necessarily named after the clothing company. But maybe we could strike a deal with Lululemon to see if she could be sponsored by them or something?!? 😉
Welcome home sweet little LuluMoomooBuggaboo! Love youuuu! 🙂


Lulu loves her Aunt Becky! 😉

Puppynado

Let’s have a little story, about that one time we almost adopted a crazy puppy. 
One day I was driving down I-25 on my way to Denver for class.  It was a beautiful morning, I had finished photographing the sunrise and I was looking forward to the day ahead. I had just stopped for a hot cup of coffee, of which I was about to take my first sip.
Up ahead, something catches my eye. What is that? Is that….no, it couldn’t be…surely…is that a puppy on the side of the highway?!? I slam on my brakes (carefully preserving my hot coffee) and pull over onto the shoulder of the interstate. Yes indeed, a sweet little puppy is running around. Barely 5 feet from traffic, he was confused, alone and not quite sure which way to turn. I get out of my car, careful to not get run over myself. I run over to him and I quickly distract him away from the semi-trucks that are headed his way. 
I asked him what he was doing on the side of I-25 all by himself. He responded by licking my face. I asked him how he got there. He responded by chasing a bunny down an embankment. I decide we should probably go for a walk and see if maybe he just escaped out of his home. Surely his owners must be frantic and looking for him, right?! We walk away from the highway towards all the pretty farms. We walk all over, looking for his family. We knock on doors, we wake people up, we explore driveways and backyards and we come up empty handed. 
As the morning goes on and I realize this puppy and I were going to be together for a while, I decide he needed a name. I name him Puppynado because he is a tornado of fur and slobber and joy. He loves our adventure so much and especially loved chasing all the bunnies. Puppynado was happy as a clam walking through horse property and country roads with me. Note: I got the pink leash after banging on a poor woman’s door for 15 minutes at 6:45am. In her sleepy stupor, she gave me the leash so that I would leave her alone and let her go back to sleep 🙂

We keep walking, exploring, searching for his owners. Surely, someone is missing Puppynado at this very moment, right? Well, if they were looking for him, we never saw them. After a long time of looking around, watching the passing cars drive down the dirt roads and feeling a bit defeating,  we head back to my car, careful to avoid the semi-trucks. Puppynado happily gets in the backseat, ready for our next adventure.

 At this point, I’m not quite sure what to do with Puppynado. I know one thing for sure…he’s ridiculously cute and he’s slobbering all over my jacket with his big pink puppy tongue. I know that I want to give him the best shot at reuniting with his owners, wherever they might be so I met up with Boulder Animal Control. Puppynado greeted them with the same enthusiastic kisses and he greeted me with. They determine he is 8 months old and not microchipped (seriously people, microchip your pets!). They told me they would help him get entered into the Lost Dog program. He would get a bath, a fancy photoshoot and an online profile where people can search for him. Sounds good! Surely, someone will claim him in no time. I say goodbye to Puppynado, pat his head, rub his velvety ears and wish him luck. He never even turned around to thank me, he was too preoccupied with his new animal control friends and watching a squirrel.

Because I’m obsessive, I check Puppynado’s online Lost Dog profily approximately 28 times that day. No one has claimed him. I check the next day and the next and the next. Still, no one has claimed this sweet little tornado of fur. Eventually, almost a week passes and Puppynado graduates from a Lost Dog, to an Adoptable Dog. That’s when my heart starts twisting in knots.

I want this dog. I love this dog. I helped save his life. But I have several problems facing me, the least of which are my 2 spoiled kitties who would not take kindly to having a furry hurricane chase them around the house. Followed by a very logical husband who knows the last thing we need right now is a puppy. 
I pray. I agonize. I cry and ask God what I should do. I talk ad nauseam with David about it. And I never have peace about the decision. I do have peace about visiting him again though. So off to the shelter I go that we can play together.
See why I named him Puppynado? He’s a tornado.
After just 12 hours as an Adoptable Dog, someone places a hold on him. My heart sinks a little bit knowing that in all likelihood, he would be going home very soon with someone who wasn’t me. Regardless, I brought David over to visit him. I wanted him to meet this little guy who wiggled his way into my heart. 
I’d be lying if there wasn’t a little piece of me that wished David had formed an impenetrable bond with Puppynado. A bond that took away all of his logical objections to adopting a crazy puppy. A bond that was so strong that he would say “Beck, we have to get this dog. Wild horses couldn’t keep me from adopting him. Perhaps we should just keep walking him all the way home.” That didn’t happen, but it didn’t stop us from having lots of fun with him 🙂
 David felt that a more appropriate name for him was Puppy CrayCray 🙂
We get home and I agonize/pray/cry/obsess some more. But only long enough to realize that Puppy CrayCray aka Puppynado had adopted by someone else. I’m not sure who, but I hope they’re kind and loving. I hope they feed him steak every day and have a big backyard full of bunnies and an 8 foot fence. 
And that is the story of how we almost adopted a puppy, but not really. The end. 🙂

Bluegrass and Storm Clouds

This week in our Bible study, we talked about resting. We’re reading Richard Foster’s book called Prayer, which has been a great read so far! Chapter Nine was all about the Prayer of Rest.

Being able to turn your mind off, quiet your heart before the Lord and rest in His presence is so very important. And yet we do it so infrequently. The pace of life can be so hectic with iPhones, work schedules, after-school activities, meetings, social stuff and ministry commitments. A lot of the people in our Bible study shared how hard it was for them to simply rest and be still in God’s presence.

This is something I struggled with for years.

Through most of my high school, college, grad school and early years of my business, I operated at a pace that was unsustainable. I almost always worked full-time while going to school full-time. I was always saying yes to things I really should have been saying no to. I rarely slowed down and I never stopped. And then I would wonder why I frequently crumbled under the pressure of it all.

This really started to catch up to me in 2012 and 2013. Working full-time for my business, almost full-time for my 2nd job, pursuing fertility treatments (talk about a time suck!), trying to be a good wife, friend, daughter and sister nearly destroyed me. I was stretched thinner than I had ever been stretched. I operated in “survival mode” for the majority of those years. Somehow, a 60 hour work week became the norm.

People would ask how I was doing and all I could respond with was, “crazy busy.” And the funny thing is, people would affirm that response! They’d say “oh, you’re so lucky to have so many weddings to photograph!” “you do such a great job at multi-tasking!” “you’re fortunate to have 2 paying jobs” Yes……but. Yes to all those things, but no one ever stopped to say “hey girl, you’re gonna implode soon if you keep this crazy pace up.”

And I think that’s because our culture glorifies busyness. We tolerate it, embrace it and equate it with success.

Think about it. 9 times out of 10, when you ask people how they have been, they respond with some version of: “I’m slammed at work, we’ve been super busy with the kid’s schedules, crazy busy, keeping busy, I’m staying busy…” And half the time they say it with a smile on their face. As if that’s the goal. As if busyness is the objective.

So it’s no wonder the idea of resting in God’s presence feels so foreign. Because it requires us to set aside all the distractions from our minds and just be. It feels odd to clear a whole day (or even a whole hour) and go for a hike or sit on a bench and pray or go for a drive. It feels borderline wrong…

In the past year I have made a very intentional effort to rest more. To clear my schedule, my mind, my list of things I say “yes” to. I’ve tried to whittle down my priorities, live simpler and leave whole days wide open for nothing but being out in God’s creation. I know that I have the luxury of being self-employed and the ability to manipulate my schedule however I want, but as someone who runs their own business there also the temptation to fill every hour with things that will help grow and sustain your business. Trust me when I say I know many self-employed people who never rest and are constantly going 90mph.  I have had to be very intentional to not make myself busy.

Not being busy has been glorious. I feel like I’m making up for lost time. For all those years that I barely rested. I’m taking intentional time to go for walks, hikes, drives through the mountains. I’ve been reading books, watering my flower garden, enjoying a cup of coffee on the porch, meeting David for lunch and quietly watching storm clouds pass by in the afternoon. And I’ve been listening to a lot of bluegrass lately too. Bluegrass seems to go hand in hand with a restful outlook on life. 🙂 It’s been in these times of rest that I’ve felt closest to God lately. There is enough space in my heart to feel Him move. My mind is quiet enough to hear His softest whispers

It’s been interesting when people ask me about my summer schedule. They typically say something like “Do you have a lot of weddings lined up this summer? This is your busy season, are you just swamped with work right now?” And I often respond with something like “I’m as busy as I want to be.” Because I feel guilty saying “Actually, I’m not busy at all. Actually I don’t have any weddings this month. Actually my primary objective this week is to go on a cool hike and maybe read a good book.” People have no idea what to do with that kind of response haha! 😉 Plus as a business owner, you run the risk of looking like your business is in the tank if you say you’re not busy. After all, busyness equals success, right?

Now I know that we all have seasons in our lives where busyness isn’t exactly something we choose (even now in my moments of intentional rest I find myself thrown back into feeling too busy for my own good). It just kind of happens to us. Tell the single mom who works to support her kids to stop being so busy…see how far that gets you. Tell the person trying to fund raise for their start-up ministry to stop being so busy…see what happens. I get that there are times in our lives where busyness is equated with survival, not success. Trust me, I’ve been there.

But I think even in the midst of busy, we can carve out time to spend resting in the peaceful presence of God. He is the Provider of rest and peace. And He very much wants to supply us with it. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”-Matt 11:28 But we can’t always expect that rest when we come before Him refusing to let go of unnecessary (keyword: unnecessary) commitments, activities, schedules and preoccupations.

So, let’s all just collectively let the unnecessary stuff fall away and embrace a little more rest, simplicity and peace. Shall we? You never know what good things might come out of all the running around we won’t be doing.

I took this a few nights ago driving home. I just pulled over on the side of the road and watched this amazing storm for a while. 

Reclaiming Joy

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our next steps. Or maybe I’ve been thinking about the fact that we don’t have any next steps.

Any time I see someone who I haven’t talked to in a few months, the questions come…”what are you guys doing? Like for real, what’s the plan? Are you going to adopt? Are you still trying? Are you not trying? Can you honestly try for a family for so long and then just give up? Oh my gosh, are you secretly doing IVF and not telling anyone?”

Even if the questions aren’t fully verbalized, they’re there. I can see them in their eyes. The words are just below the surface.

And I typically dodge the questions. Because I don’t have any answers. My only answer has been this: we’re only moving when God tells us to move. And not a second sooner than that. And we’re only pursuing a direction that God leads us to. We’re not going to rush into something without being fully convicted of his prompting first. And so far, God hasn’t given us any clues as to what or when our next steps will be. And I’m getting the impression that He doesn’t have plans to tell us any time soon. And to be honest, we’re perfectly fine with that.

Sometimes it’s not a smart move to race forward without appreciating where you are. Sometimes it’s not wise to jump into something before your heart has fully healed. Sometimes, you need to give yourself a little time and grace to just stop, breathe and revel in the place that you’re in.

I feel like God has us in this place right now where we are reclaiming our joy. Not that we haven’t been happy people for the last 4 years, we absolutely have. But infertility was sort of this big wet blanket on our life. It refocused our thoughts, it dictated our schedules, it took all our money, it dominated so much of our life. And it feels like we just took off the big wet blanket and we’re drying off in the sunshine right now.

It feels so good to just enjoy life again.

And so no. We’re not talking about what our next moves are. We have no next moves. And we are ok with that! I’m 100% happy with just enjoying life right now, without worrying about what’s next.

What’s next is we’re going snowshoeing tomorrow. And we’re going to have a nice dinner with our family tonight and I’ll probably have a glass of wine. What’s next is I’ll probably be updating my Pinterest board with a few new recipes this afternoon. What’s next is we’re looking forward to sunshine and hiking in the 70 degree weather we’ve had here lately (well, not today. It’s snowing today. But I hear it’s going to be nice again soon!). What’s next is enjoying Spring Break where I can get caught up on my reading for class a little it (how is it that I’m only auditing one class and I’m still behind on my reading?!). That’s what is next for us.

Sometimes when you’re in the process of reclaiming your joy, you just focus on what’s in front of you. You take hold of the place where you are at, regardless of circumstances, and you celebrate. You don’t look ahead, you don’t look behind you. You just love where you are.

New Car!

You guys! It’s here! It’s finally here! We finally bought a new car!!!!!!!!! AHHHH! So beyond excited about this! We have been so patient and sooooo diligent in saving. And now we finally have it! A beautiful new 4Runner to call our own. Yipeeeeee!!! I honestly don’t know how we’ve managed 7 camping and ski seasons together without this thing.

We debated for a looong time about if we wanted new or used. We test drove both, weighed the pros and cons of both and we eventually settled on new! While black was a strong contender, we eventually went with a gunmetal gray color, which is beauuuutiful!

I owned a 4Runner back in college and I sold it when we got married due to all the commuting I was doing for grad school. It was the saddest decision I’ve ever made, giving that 4Runner up. But now we have one again it feels like all is right with the world again ::happy dance::

 
 
 66 miles on the odometer
 

We took it up for our first mountain adventure this weekend. Fishing on the river, nothing crazy. But still, it did great!

Then Sunday and Monday we got hit with a little snowstorm so we had our first chance to test out the 4×4, which performed beautifully! It’s so nice having a car that doesn’t slip and slide all over the place when there’s more than 4 inches of snow on the ground!
So happy to welcome this beautiful thing into our family! Woot woot!!! 🙂