A Little Catch Up

For the first time in almost 7 years, I let my blogging lapse. It’s been a little over 3 months since I last visited this space or even had a thought to begin writing. I’ve actually enjoyed the break and there might be more in the future. I’ve also found that since starting a personal Instagram account that is separate from my business, I’m sharing a lot more over in that space which has kind of almost replaced blogging. I don’t have the energy to write anything in-depth, so I thought a little bullet point update would suffice.

  • The house. Oh this house! We’ve had a love-hate relationship ever since moving in. The previous owners opted to not clean…ever, so we had a pretty gross situation on our hands after we closed. It took me a solid week of scrubbing + professional cleaners to finally get to a point where I’d walk on the floors barefoot. Immediately upon buying this house, things began breaking: air conditioning, pipes, sewer lines, electrical system, toilets. You name it, it broke. In the midst of that, we decided to do a little updating too. Hey, if you’re already sinking gobs of money into repairs, why not just keep your wallet open and do a few fun things too?! So we installed hardwood floors, solar tubes and redid most of the kitchen. And now we are officially done. Done with updates and hopefully done with repairs. At least for now 🙂

    To be honest, I haven’t been in town enough for this place to feel like home yet. It feels like a wonderful place to lay my head, but it doesn’t feel like home. I hope that changes in the months to come because I really do love it and I’m very thankful to be here, even if it’s only for a few days at a time.

     

  • Bahamas! We went to the Bahamas for a week to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a decade! We had to wait until after closing to make any travel plans so as to not throw off bank account numbers for the underwriting of the loan. So with 3 weeks so spare, we made a last minute decision to go to the Bahamas. We stayed on the island of Great Exuma, which is a smaller and quieter island compared to Nassau or Paradise Island. Our hotel was great, the beach was gorgeous and it was a great way for us to decompress and reconnect. We didn’t do much other than hang at the beach, read, drink pina coladas, golf and enjoy yummy food all week.

    Everyone kept asking us if we were on our honeymoon which always made us laugh. Either we’re aging well or we act like newlyweds…or both! 🙂

     

  • Photography insanity. With fall came 21 weddings and elopements for my company to photograph. They were all over the state so consequently every week I was traveling and running from one place to the next. The leaves here in Colorado are just gorgeous in the fall and I have a lot of out of state clients who travel here to take advantage of the beauty. Our window is pretty small for how long the leaves stick around so I wound up packing in as many weddings as possible. One week we had 8 weddings in 7 days. Bananas. It was beautiful but oh-so exhausting. I’m actually pretty mad at myself for allowing things to get so crazy. I live an intentionally slow life with a lot of breathing room and margin, so to take on this much work is really not my norm. I think it was a combination of needing money for the house, trying to prove that “I’m back” after taking most of last year off due to surgery, and pride. Bad combo. Lesson learned.

     

  • My heart. As life is slowing down, I’m starting to get a handle on my emotions, my heart, the pace of my life and my focus. This has been a hard year with David’s health, coming to terms with life after brain surgery, family problems, selling our dream house, living 8 months in a basement, moving to a new town and a new church. My emotions went wild for a few months, dipping to the lowest of lows as depression returned. David was right there with me for a while at the bottom. We hung out there for many months, looking for hope, looking for reasons to keep going.

    Now that we are in our own space again and the cloud has lifted a little I can feel my heart settling, calming, lifting. It’s tempting to say that I’m “returning to normal” but the thing is, there’s no returning to anything. Things are different now. So much has happened in the last 2 years (err, 7?) to shake up my normal that there’s really nothing left to return to. Now it’s about pressing forward.

  •  School. Fall semester at Denver Seminary started at the end of August, right when the pace of my photography picked up dramatically. At the last second, I switched to an on-line class taught by one of the professors who founded my Christian Formation & Soul care program. I couldn’t pass up learning from him! Studying on-line this semester has been helpful since I just don’t have the time to drive to campus each week but it’s also hard in that you don’t have an opportunity to really interact with people in a classroom. I am looking forward to the rest of the semester because we’re going to make use of some video conferencing and I’ll finally have time to focus.

I guess that’s all for now. Maybe I’ll write sooner than 3 months from now. Or maybe not! We’ll just see how the Spirit moves 🙂

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This & That

  • We put an offer in on a house this week! We found the cutest little ranch house on the west side of town. It had an open kitchen, large deck (with a built in fire pit!) and spacious backyard. It is just the cutest. We knew the second we walked in that we loved it and wanted it. We wasted no time at all and had an offer submitted within 3 hours of seeing the house. We really wanted the house so we put in a really great offer of 15k over asking price + waiving inspection. Sadly, we still lost the house to another buyer. Turns out we were one of 5 offers (all over asking price) and the “winners” were cash buyers who also waived the appraisal, in addiction to the inspection. We were (still are…) incredibly disappointed.  
  • We have officially found a church that we loooooove! We made the tough decision a few months ago to head out in search of a new church. We didn’t have to look very long before we stumbled upon a gem. On our 3rd Sunday, one of the pastors introduced himself to us and invited us to join his small group. Whoa, what a blessing! The teaching is solid and biblical, the worship is incredible, David is already involved with the men’s ministry and we have made some new friends through our small group. I keep waiting for something bad to happen, but as time goes on I’m starting to realize that this is just a really wonderful godly church, no catch. 
  • David is doing much better these days. Still short of breath at times and gets tired easily if he’s had a big day, but overall he is getting stronger and healthier as the weeks go on. He will be meeting with a hematologist in a month or two to have some blood tests done to see if he has a blood clotting disorder. We’ve been really impressed with the level of care from his new doctor too, it feels like everyone is really watching out for his best interest. It’s crazy to think that just 6 short weeks ago we went through such a scary time. I’m so happy to have my smiling, strong, wonderful husband back!
  • I don’t have the time or space to write out all my thoughts on approaching my 1-year mark for my craniotomy, maybe in the near future. My standard response to those who ask how I’m feeling these days has been: “I don’t feel as good as I did in 2014 before SCDS started and I’m not sure I’ll ever get back to 100% or normal, but I’m better than I was before surgery and I’m learning to let that be enough and rest in the healing that God has done.” There are still areas were I desire more healing (balance, cognition, headaches) so I have been reading a lot of research on The Migraine Diet and it’s relation to patients with SCDS and there seems to be enough positive correlation that I thought it would be worth trying to see if I can regain some things that I lost in SCDS and surgery. The Migraine Diet is not just for “standard” migraines. It’s really for anyone who suffers from chronic (or even occasional) headaches, neck pain, vestibular migraines, brain fog or other certain neurologically related issues. The diet is incredibly restrictive, but thankfully it is only short term (6-12 weeks) to give your brain time to “reset.” It calls for complete elimination of all: caffeine, alcohol (goodbye wine*sniff*sniff) yogurt, cheese, citrus, nuts, yeast breads, MSG, all artificial and natural flavoring, most preservatives and a variety of beans and lentils. There’s quite a few other random items on the “do not eat” list like overly ripe bananas, avocados, marinated meat, onions and gelatin as well. Basically anything that is in a box, package, can or bag is going to be off limits unless it’s a natural frozen food….so pretty much anything that is delicious is off limits. I already miss pizza haha! 🙂 I sort of eased into it over the last week and have only been strictly adhering to it for 4 days so far. Time will tell if it’s helpful at all!
  • Grad school has been nothing short of amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever had an educational experience where I just can’t get enough, where I wish my 3-hour class was an 8-hour class because I love it so much. Even my research papers get me excited. I love my professors, my books, my classes and I even (almost) love waking up at 4:45am so I can get to campus on time for class. Every week that goes by is further confirmation that I am walking in the right direction.

The River

I decided to post the first paper I wrote this semester to my blog. Not because I think it’s amazing or worthy of public appreciation (ha!), but because it describes so well the place where I currently am and I want to remember this place. The paper was to be a personal spiritual journey reflection paper. We were to identify an obstacle (ha! I have like 14 and I couldn’t choose so I rolled them all into one and just called it “suffering”) in our spiritual journeys and the steps we are taking to overcome it. Alongside that, we were to develop a word picture or analogy for this obstacle. These things have been floating around in my brain since oh….2009 and I feel like I am starting to finally make some progress with marrying the ideas of God’s love and the role of suffering in life. 

So here is my first paper affectionately titled, “The River.”


When I started my first day of school at Denver Seminary, my husband David was in the hospital with two large blood clots in his lungs. I quietly slipped out of his hospital room at 4:45am after a restless night’s sleep listening to him struggling to breathe and fighting through pain that his morphine drip was not helping. I walked through empty hallways with my books in hand, passing nurses in the cardiac wing who looked at me quizzically. Little did they know, I had a long drive ahead of me to a very important class that I refused to be late for. My husband is probably the only person who truly understood how important it was that I make it to class, despite, or perhaps in light, of his tenuous condition. 

My husband’s health crisis which kept him in the hospital for a week due to complications occurred six months after I endured three painful and mostly unsuccessful spinal taps, which were three months after I had brain surgery to repair a rare and degenerative vestibular condition. Brain surgery was on the heels of my husband’s job loss, which was on the heels of a ruptured ectopic pregnancy which almost cost me my life and resulted in the loss of our only child. The loss of our pregnancy came after three years of infertility testing and treatments which have brought us no closer to parenthood six years later. Suffice it to say, I have become acquainted with suffering.
Despite the brevity, I do not recount this grim list of events casually. Each one has made a deep and distinguishing impact on not only my day-to-day life, but my spiritual life as well. I share these events as a way to set the scene for describing the subsequent spiritual wrestling match that has taken place in my heart. 

Through the vast majority of the trials I have experienced, my faith in God and my enthusiastic pursuit of Him have not wavered. I have clung tightly to Him as David and I have weathered the storms that have come our way. I have continually sought the Lord through prayer, worship, Scripture, godly counsel, church, spiritual direction and a simple but deep longing in my heart to know and experience Him more. Along the way, however, a shift occurred in my perception as I unknowingly began to view God’s intentions for me with trepidation. My belief that God was good held firm, I just did not believe His intentions for me were good. I knew God was loving, He just did not love me quite as much. Subsequently, the door to my heart began to slowly close as I rationalized my way through why God would intend such hardship for me. I still sought after His wisdom, comfort, peace, guidance, presence, grace and forgiveness, but my pursuits ended there. 

During a guided retreat in November for CF606 which I was auditing at the time, I was made painfully aware of the impervious state of my heart. One of the retreat exercises entailed reading through various verses and writings about God’s love. Aggravated, I regarded this exercise as futile because of my conviction that God did not actually love me. Why spend an afternoon reading through things that did not even apply to me? It was in these moments when the Holy Spirit confronted me with my deeply errant view of God and His love. Does God’s love automatically equate with blessings or a lack of problems? Does the Lord’s goodness mean one never suffers or experiences hardship? Should the natural response to trials be closing one’s heart off to God in an attempt to self-protect? I was overwhelmed by how far astray my assumptions about God’s nature, which is characterized completely by love, had gone.

The retreat was a catalyst for reshaping my perspective. How I viewed suffering, trials and pain in light of my renewed sense of God’s love began to change. Conversely, how I viewed God’s love in light of suffering, trials and pain also began to change. As I opened the crack to the door to my heart wider and wider, my mindset began to shift and I have been more welcoming of God’s love in its various forms. Much of the Old Testament has been particularly transformative, allowing me to gain insight into the relationship between God’s love and the suffering of His people. One section of Hosea 6 has brought me considerable enlightenment in regards to God’s love and His intentions in suffering.
Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us 
down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise 
us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going 
out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the 
earth (Hos 6:1-3 ESV). 
Isaiah 30, which speaks of eating the bread of affliction and drinking the water of adversity (Is 30:20 ESV), is a perfect description of the nourishment I have become familiar with and has given me considerable great insight into the Lord’s recognition of suffering and what He intends for it. 

The purpose for my suffering remains partially veiled. I do not believe the Lord has fully revealed His design for it in my life, nor do I believe my heart could bear the full weight of such purpose at this time. However, as I look back over the years, I survey remarkable maturity and growth that only suffering could produce. As gold is refined in a fire, so has my heart been refined by the trials. I cling to James’ words in the hopes that the perseverance produced by these trials might one day be made complete so that I would be fully “mature and complete, not lacking anything” (Jas 1:4 NIV).

If I were to further speculate, I might estimate that the suffering I have experienced serves, in addition to developing a mature faith, as a precursor to ministerial calling, whether that be in the realm of chaplaincy, spiritual direction or simply helping friends who need companionship while walking a difficult road of their own. Despite my blindness regarding the reason, I intend to continue in my pursuit of vulnerability before God. No longer will the door to my heart receiving and reciprocating God’s love remain closed. That is not a state to which I wish to return and so I will remain unflinching in my reception of His love, whatever form it may manifest itself. This includes intentionally remaining open in prayer during subsequent hardships, such as my husband’s recent hospitalization. The temptation certainly existed to adhere to past faulty beliefs the second we walked into the emergency room. As a result it takes extra intentionality to refute past convictions and continue forward in my simple but transforming belief that God is indeed good in my life, He is indeed for me and He does indeed love me.

As I have begun to explore the relationship between God’s unconditional love and His purpose in suffering, I have been led to a word picture of a river. A river is a wild and unbridled force that cuts through rock, plummets as a waterfall over cliffs, frequently floods low-lying areas, forms steep canyon walls, carves paths through impenetrable terrain and on occasion, injures the occasional recreational enthusiast. 

A river also shapes trade routes, provides irrigation water for fields and farms, nourishes surrounding flora, provides drinking water for wildlife and people alike, allows for spectacular scenery, fly fishing, rafting and outdoor relaxation. Rivers are wild and scary but they are also life-giving and peaceful. They are a vivid juxtaposition of wonder, life, necessity and goodness with rampant power, torrential rawness and a hint of danger.

If I wish to lead others to the water of this mighty River, then I myself cannot be afraid of it. I must be willing to submerse myself in these mysterious and often painful Waters. It is not enough to sit on the River’s edge and remark on its beauty, take photos and urge others to jump in while I stand at a safe distance, afraid to get wet. If I aim to attend to others along this river of God’s love, I must be a guide who is not hesitant to get in the boat and face the rapids head on. I cannot walk the shoreline shouting instructions at those who were willing to enter a boat, I must enter the River myself.

To draw the picture of a rafting guide out further, if my boat were to capsize with myself and crew in it, I cannot swim to shore, set up camp and count my bumps and bruises for the subsequent few months. There is no progress in rehashing old wounds while maintaining a victim mentality. If my boat were to snag on a log in the River and the air began to escape from it, I cannot wave my white flag and decide to walk the rest of the journey. The River goes places that cannot be traversed on foot. 

This is why I left David’s hospital room that Wednesday morning. Since that retreat in November, which opened my eyes not only to my own errant ways of thinking but also to the conviction that I was being called to begin the Christian Formation and Soul Care program at Denver Seminary, I have been utterly convinced that hardship should not hold me back from exploring more of God’s love for me. It probably would have been much easier to skip class, defer my studies for a semester and ruminate over yet another hardship that we have endured. I love my husband deeply and wanted to care for and support him in any way I could, but we both also were highly aware of the significance of not letting another health crisis impede the journey towards further spiritual growth and development. So I tiptoed out of his hospital room and back into the River.

This Time Around

I was packing boxes this week to get ready for our move in just 5 short days (did I mention that our buyers moved up our closing date? So now we are moving on Friday, which is 2 days after I begin grad school. Yeah…that’s not stressful at all!). I came across the journal I wrote in from 2007-2009 while I was getting my degree in counseling at Denver Seminary. Goodness. During my very first semester when I was only 6 weeks into my program I wrote, “I don’t think this is for me….” And it just got worse from there.

I have such a different mindset this time around.

I had orientation on Friday and there was nothing but joy and anticipation in my heart. No doubt or fear, no questioning or uncertainty and no temptation to run out the door (haha)! The entire 7 hour orientation was like a balm to my soul. I soaked in every message, every piece of advice given to us by the various professors, deans, students and faculty. I had the privilege of eating lunch with two professors in my program and they were so kind and encouraging. The entire day solidified my belief that things will be very different this time.

With such a strong desire to make my grad school experience rich and redeeming, there is certainly self-imposed pressure to do all the things I didn’t do back in 2007-2009. Read all the pages in all the books. Pour my heart into researching papers. Attend every single class. Stay on top of every assignment. Prepare. Enjoy. Study. Soak it all in. Thrive.

Truly I hope that I do all those things. But I think a little grace will go a long way too. It’s tempting to strive-strive-strive-achieve-achieve-achieve. But throwing myself into perfectionism and legalism isn’t going to accomplish anything. I have to keep in mind that I am still recovering from brain surgery. And we’re moving and house hunting. And I’m still running a business. And I’m still a wife. This education experience is sure to be rigorous and challenging, but it’s ok to rest, breathe and enjoy the ride as well.

After registering for classes, I had a peek at my course assignments and I am equally excited and overwhelmed at what is ahead of me. I have 3,126 pages to read, 10 papers to write, midterms, group projects, retreats and finals in the next 5 months. So yeah…. grace 🙂

Ahhhh just look at these beautiful books! I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to each one. They don’t feel like arduous text books to me. They feel like pages of wisdom, challenge and nourishment for my heart that I can’t wait to read. Let the journey begin…