Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Hope

A year ago, on February 24th, was one of the absolute most painful, heartbreaking days of my life. I posted this on Facebook, I think in an effort to sooth my emotions and have hope that I would feel that rest in the coming days, weeks and months.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest … unto your souls” Matthew 11:28-29
The healing power of the Lord Jesus Christ—whether it removes our burdens or strengthens us to endure them—is available for every affliction in mortality. - Dallin H. Oaks
During the last year I have questioned everything there is to question and I have struggled through every hard emotion there is to struggle through. And where am I a year later? Still questioning and still struggling. There are just things to which there will never be answers unfortunately. However, did I feel the "rest" that was promised in the scriptures? Did I feel the healing? I did. Not in the way that I had hoped though.

I have watched the inspirational videos of all these people full of faith who in the midst of horrible challenges were filled with peace and comfort, never doubting, never wondering. They were amazing videos to watch. And I waited, hoping the same would happen to me. I read my scriptures, I went to church, I did my best to fulfill my callings at church, but those feelings of peace and reassurance didn't come. I could never seem to feel them, let alone be "washed over: by them.

I doubted myself. I doubted my faith. I doubted my worthiness. I doubted my intentions. I doubted all that I knew. I tried. I did my best. Yet my best did not seem to be enough to make me worthy of these feelings of peace that I so desperately needed. I wondered why I wasn't able to feel His love? Why was He so far from me when I needed Him so much?

I have come to the conclusion that the healing I received did not come through removal of my burdens like I wanted. It came through strength to endure - ugly, awkward, grasping, stumbling strength.

When I was 21, I served a mission for my church in Ireland. My first month or two out was quite an adjustment. Our days were spent going door to door trying to talk to people about our Savior, Jesus Christ. In those days I was in pretty good shape physically but nothing could prepare you for the constant pounding on your feet that happened as you walked for 10 hours a day (except for walking 10 hours a day ☺). A few weeks into it, my feet were hurting so bad. At the end of the day my feet would be swollen so my toes couldn't touch the floor. In the mornings, as I would try to stand on them for the first time, pain would shoot through my feet and up my legs. I prayed for them to get better but it didn't happen. I even told God, "Look, I'm doing your work. Take this pain away so I can do it better." It still didn't go away. Finally, one morning as I was getting up and feeling that pain shoot through my feet and legs, the thought came to me, "I didn't take it away but I gave you the strength to walk each day." It was true. He didn't take away the burden, but each day I was able to get up and go and get through the day. Eventually, my body got used to the daily routine and I didn't have anymore problems with my feet except for a stone bruise every now and then.

So it was with this last year. He didn't take the pain away. I felt every ounce of it and I still do. In fact, not only was the pain not taken away but there was more stress added to it with medical issues and worries to go along with everything else. He did give me the strength to endure it - some days better than others. He gave me good friends to support me and listen to me, a good work environment that allowed me to be able to take care of the things that needed to be taken care of, a couple of family members that stood by me through all of it no matter what and a very patient, loving husband who endured with me.

Do I still question and struggle? Yes. I think I always will. My core was shaken. Everything I knew and believed became a source of pain and confusion. Who I was, my connections to this life, everything was taken from me. Do I know God is there? Yes. Do I know that He is aware of me? Yes. But for now, I doubt my worthiness in His presence. I doubt my faithfulness. I doubt my ability to feel Him near. I doubt my spirituality. I hope that will continue to change as time continues to pass on. I hope that I will find my place again and my own way of feeling and doing. I hope that God looks down on me with patience and understanding. I hope He doesn't take it personal when I yell at Him and wonder why such cruel jokes are continuing to be played on me. I hope, when I finally climb out of this pit that I am in, that His hand will be stretched out still and He will be willing to take me back in.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sun Rise in the Rear View Mirror

On January 26th, bright and early in the morning, Michael headed down our Astoria driveway for the last time.  He drove a U-haul with all of our belongings, took 5 of the kids and headed to Montana.  I stayed with Makenna for another few days.  I finished cleaning the house and packing up the odds and ends.  On the 1st of February the two of us headed to New York.  We flew back to Sioux Falls on the 6th and spent the night in Mitchell.  On the 7th, we loaded up and headed our car west.  A few hours into our drive, as the sun was coming up, I looked into the rear view mirror and saw this beautiful sight.



We spent the last almost 6 years in South Dakota.  It is the longest I have ever lived anywhere in my entire life. I was excited for our new adventure in Montana.  I was excited for a fresh start, for our family being all together.  As I looked in that rear view mirror though, I was filled with sadness.  I made some amazing friends and unforgettable memories while I was there.  I was leaving people who had helped me through the hardest 18 months of my life - people who had listened to me, prayed for me, supported me, showed empathy and love.  People who I had shared chocolate with ☺ People who I had grown to love.  It was so weird to be heading away from all of them, especially when I had just gotten home from this awesome trip and I hadn't been able to go back and tell them all about  it!  

As we headed down the road, there were some beautiful views ahead of me.  There were mountains, blue skies, trees, sights that I honestly can't get enough of.  The mountains fill me with awe.  There is something about them that seems to bring God closer to earth.  I can feel His presence in these mountains.  But I can feel His love in my rear view mirror and I am so grateful to all of you who helped me feel it.  You are all as beautiful as the mountains before me and the sunrise in my rear view mirror.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Falling Down the Stairs

The Saturday before Christmas I had just gotten all the kids up and was headed down the stairs.  We live in a two story farm house and the stairs are kind of narrow and steep.  A couple steps from the top, I slipped.  I tried to catch myself but couldn't.  Down I went.  It hurt.  A lot.  No matter what I tried to do, I couldn't stop myself from falling all the way to the bottom.  Each step brought new pain and by the time I hit the floor, I couldn't move or breathe.  I lay there, on my back trying to process what had just happened.  I hurt so bad I was sick to my stomach.  My kids came running to see if I was ok.  One even reached out a hand to help me up but I couldn't move.  I was still trying to process where the pain was coming from and what kind of damage it had done.  So I lay there, moaning, trying to breathe and sort out the fall.  As I lay there, my kids just stepped around me and continued on with their morning - talking and eating breakfast.

Slowly my senses came back to me and I was able to get up and slowly walk back up the stairs.  The fall had ripped my pants and bruised my legs and a few places on my arms.  I had some how hurt my right hand too though I didn't know how or when exactly it happened during the fall.  The rest of the day, I moved slowly and sat a lot because my legs hurt and my hip and hand were swollen.

As I walked up the stairs, I thought, "This is the perfect ending to this year."  This last year has been a huge fall down the stairs.  It has been an out of control, pain beyond recognition fall.  I could see it happening, I tried to reach out and stop it and no matter what I tried, I couldn't stop it and I ended up at the bottom of the stairs trying to comprehend what just happened, what was causing the pain, and what kind of damage it did.

Slowly, over the year, I have been able to come back to my senses, figure out some of the pain and slowly walk back up the stairs.  It has left marks on my soul and in my family.  It has caused me to move slower than I usually do some days and it has caused me to come to a complete stop and sit other days.  There are things that I have had to change because of the rips from the fall.

It's been a month now since my tumble down the stairs and the bruises have faded.  My hand is still sore and I have a hard time gripping with it but no one can see any evidence of my fall.  My life has been the same.  I have started healing, no one can see the marks of the fall.  There is still pain, there are still things that I have a hard time gripping, but the constant pain has eased.

I have done my best to climb back to the top of the stairs despite the pain that they caused me.  It was hard. It caused feelings of insecurity, pain, anger, hopelessness, betrayal and mistrust.  But from the climb has also come new friendships, strength, humility, empathy and love.

Am I grateful for this fall down the stairs?  Heavens no!  Would I want to do it again?  Not on your life!  Have I learned anything?  Yes.  I have learned that I can do hard things.  I have learned that despite the betrayal and hurt, there are those out there that love and help no matter what.  I have learned that doors will be opened in the right time and even though those doors may be hard to go through, they are opened to walk through to a better place.  I have also learned that I would much rather have a slide than a staircase ☺

Saturday, October 7, 2017

September

Wow!  It's been a long time since I have posted!  September was a blur of volleyball, cross country, football, doctor appointments and school!

We started the month celebrating Dillon's 13th birthday.  He was lucky and had the day off school so we went to go get Maddi and celebrate with her.  It was rainy that day so we couldn't be outside but we found some ways to have fun anyways ☺  We started with a gumball eating contest at the mall.  Dillon won and no one choked!




We did a little shopping and when the sun came out for a few minutes, we took some pictures.






Michael wasn't able to be with us that day so on our way home, we stopped and grabbed some cupcakes so that we could celebrate with him that night.  We love Dillon!  He is so kind and respectful.  He loves sports and puts 110% into every practice and game.  He's good at school and everybody seems to want to be his friend.  He is such a blessing to our family.  His sweet spirit brings peace to our home.

The rest of the month flew by.  Our weekends were spent at volleyball games, football jamborees and cross country meets.  Mondays and Fridays were spent at the football field too.  Makenna sang the National Anthem at a couple of varsity volleyball games.  It has been so fun to watch them all do their thing this fall!



The rest of the month, in between games and trying to get to work, I spent hanging out at various doctor's offices.  Since I had my uveitis come back at the end of the summer, I was required to get more blood work done and have a physical.  My first round of blood work filled 9 vials.  When I went in for my physical I was told that one of the tests came back with high results so they wanted to break it down and see what was causing to be high.  I had 5 more vials of blood taken that time.  While I waited for those results it was suggested I have a mammogram.  First one ever.  A few days later I was called back saying my blood work showed positive for lupus and that I needed to go in for a second mammogram because they found a suspicious spot.  I also had to go to a rheumatologist for further testing for lupus.  Second mammogram resulted in needing an ultrasound.  The ultrasound showed I needed a biopsy.  The rheumatologist said no to lupus but had me take a chest xray for something else that I don't know the name of.  The xray came back clear so he had me have a CT scan of my chest.  That also came back clear.  In the meantime I had my biopsy consultation and scheduled my biopsy.  The  next day I went in for an MRI on my brain to check for MS.  Two days after that, I had my biopsy.  Five days later everything came back clear, no MS no cancer!  The cause of my uveitis is still unknown and it was frustrating to go through all of that and still have no answers but I am grateful that it was not any of those things they were testing me for!  I also had a small cyst removed from my head (I thought it was a mole) and got my flu shot!  I should be good for a while!  In 6 months I will go for a follow up mammogram.  Next month I will go in for a follow up for my eyes to make sure they are still clear.  Hopefully that will be all that my future holds in the way of medical things.

During this Zeke also failed another hearing test.  We had to take him in for a CT scan of his head.  It showed nothing.  That means that fly that used to live in his head really did eat his brain!  We will do yearly checks of his hearing to make sure that things are not getting worse.  Right now it is very mild and only certain tones so it does not seem to affect him.  Hopefully it will stay that way!

So... that was our month of September!  I am hoping for a much slower October as fall sports wind down and doctor visits end.  

Oh!  And we also got a new dog!  Nellie, a very sweet Irish Wolfhound!  I love her!

Monday, August 14, 2017

I Will Be What I Believe

Recently I heard a song sung by a group of children called "I Will Be What I Believe".  I loved it and I thought, how important is it to actually BE what you believe?  If all of us that professed to be Christians and follow Jesus Christ would actually BE Christians and follow Jesus Christ, how great would that be?  Think of the impact we could have on others!  Think of the impact it would have on us!  If you aren't Christian, you still believe in kindness and goodness.  Think of the impact you would have if you WERE kindness and goodness!  And I don't mean just on holidays or when it's easy.  I mean all the time.

I have been blessed by many people who ARE what they believe.  They are kind, thoughtful, caring, humble.  They serve and love those around them.  Everyone wants to be near them because of who they are.  They make their world a better place.

This year, as we start the new school year, this is our family theme.  We talked about what we believe.  "We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous and in doing good to all men..." (Article of Faith #13) among other things.  If we believe these things, are we these things?  What can we become better at?  Do we believe in being kind to our neighbor?  Do we believe in forgiveness?  Do we believe in serving those around us?  Do we believe in working hard and doing our best?  If we do, have we BECOME that yet?

Our goal this week is to identify one thing that we would like to start on.  Then we will work to BE that one thing.  As we become better at that particular thing, then we will add another and another until we can say that, "I AM what I believe."

One person, trying to be what they believe can affect so many others.  I know my life has been affected many times by those that are what they believe.  It has made me want to try harder and do better.  It has made me want to be like them.  Be that one person.  BE what you believe.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Singing with the Canaries

This last weekend Makenna got the opportunity to sing the National Anthem at the Sioux Falls Canaries game.  They are a AA baseball team.  She did a great job!  After the game the kids got to go run the bases and get autographs from all the players.  Our friends from church came to watch her sing and we were also able to bring Maddi with us.  It was such a fun day!  Here are pictures ☺
 
pregame practice

Performance time!
Running the bases after the game.  Zane did it too but not sure what happened to his picture.

Getting autographs

Olivia getting her shirt signed


Olivia is quite proud of this shirt and wants to know when we can go to another game.  She had a lot of fun!

Makenna with her signed shirt.
All the kids with Michael and Matt.

All of us together ☺

My favorite picture of the day ☺

Saturday, August 5, 2017

My Baby Blues

I have posted before about the Uveitis I keep getting in my eyes. I happened the first time right before Thanksgiving almost 2 years ago.  They were so inflamed that the iris was stuck to the cornea (or something like that, not sure the names of all the layers - the second layer was stuck to the top layer).  I had to have my eyes dilated for a month and ended up having to get injections in both eyes.  Eventually it cleared up but no reason could be found for why it happened.

A year later, it flared up again.  This time it was just in my left eye.  There wasn't as much inflammation in the front so I didn't have to stay dilated but I did have to get another injection in that eye to help get rid of the swelling in the back of my eye.  I continued on drops for about a month.  That was November of 2016.

May of 2017 it came back again.  This time it was in my right eye.  The inflammation was only in the front this time and it was not very bad.  I went to see a retina specialist per doctors orders.  He gave me drops and said if it comes back again we would have to start over with blood tests and things like that to see if we could figure out what was causing it.  I went back to my eye doctor in June for a followup and it was all cleared up.

On July 24th I had my yearly eye exam and I expressed to her that I felt like my vision was not very good.  (This inflammation causes blurry spots in my vision).  She checked and sure enough, it was back - in both eyes, front and back.  She put me on drops and I made an appointment with the retina specialist again.

This last Wednesday I went for that appointment.  It had for sure come back and was much work than it was in May.  The inflammation in the back was not being helped by the drops.  So... I had to have injections again.  Yuck!  The last time I had them was not a good experience.  I think they (not the retina specialist - different office) put dilating drops in my eyes instead of numbing drops because when he put the needle in, I felt it!  I squished my eye up as a reaction to the pain so he pulled the needle out and gave me another drop.  Then he put the needle back in.  Again, pain!  This time I held still though.  As he was starting to put the medicine in my eye, the head rest that my head was on fell backwards and my head moved.  He pulled the needle out to see what had happened.  Then he had to put it in a third time (still pain) and finish the shot.  Oh my heck I hated that!  My eye was dilated for 2 days after that.

So, hearing that I needed injections again was not pleasant.  The retina specialist does it differently.  Instead of going in to the bottom corner of the eye like my previous doctor, he goes up into the top.  So instead of just a numbing drop in the eye, the upper white part of my eye has to be numbed clear up and to the side.  It is a 15 minute process for each eye.  They get these really big q-tips and stick them in some sort of numbing medicine.  Then they stick that up under the eyelid in the top corner.  Because it can scratch your cornea, you have to look down and away from the q-tip while it is in your eye.  After 5 minutes, they come in and switch it out for a second one and then again in 5 minutes with a 3rd one.  After that, I get the shot.  Then they repeat on the other side.  It is really hard to sit for 15 minutes looking down and to the side!  It is also really hard not to pull that q-tip out when they first put it in.  It's very irritating!  It does make the shot painless though.

I was so glad that Michael went with me that day because I would not have been able to drive home!  My eyes were dilated and very irritated from the q-tips and the shots.  I could hardly open them all the way home.  The rest of the night they ached and most of the next day.  It hurt to move them or touch them.  By Friday they were much better and because the medicine he gave me was so strong I don't have to do the stupid drops anymore!  I go back in 2 weeks for a followup with my eye doctor to check my eye pressure and then I go back to him in a month to see how things are clearing up.  In the meantime I have a whole list of blood work that I have to get done and I had to schedule a physical to see if they come up with anything as to why this may be happening.

Uveitis is usually caused by some sort of auto-immune something.  We are trying to find out what that is so that we can address that and hopefully stop having issues with my eyes.  Until then, I am hoping that this last set of shots did the trick because I do NOT want to do it again!

My eyes that night after I got home.
My eyes the next morning.  

More Family Time

We ended July with a visit from Michael's family.  Joyce, Stacey and Carter got to come spend a weekend with us.  We had so much fun!  The kids loved showing Carter around the farm, playing Batman with him, going to the lake and taking him to see the race car and "Cornbines".  We made "s'nores", rode horse, fed the calf, played Go Fish and ended the weekend with a trip to see Maddi.  Can't wait to see them all again!

Here are pictures from our weekend (there are a lot!)
 Maddi and Munu
 Makenna and Carter building a dam and a river
 Go Fish
 Zane on a Cornbine
 Playing with our Main Street Village
 Getting on the combine.  He was nervous at first. They are big!
 They look suspicious...
 Carter checking out the race car
 Makenna and Stacey on their run
 Carter and Stacey
 Michael teaching Carter about the beans
 Up in the combine

 Dillon
 Stacey and Olivia
 Checking out the equipment
 Riding Nacho
 Carter on Nacho.  He's a natural!
 Adventures of Batman
 S'nores by the fire
 Maddi and Carter
 Olivia and Carter at the lake
 Driving Peanut
 Stacey and Maddi
 Everyone but Makenna.  She was at work.
Cousins!