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Cave to Cliff

One woman's journey from darkness to light

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gratitude

Freedom and Waking Up

While most are gearing up to celebrate our freedoms or perceived freedoms on the 241st birthday of the United States of America my mind drifts back to a morning 9 years ago.

My life had been turned upside down and my heart was wounded. I didn’t know how I would make it through this time in my life. I didn’t want to wake up. I dreaded mornings. On some level I knew we would make it through, but it felt like I was swimming through liquid lead. 

July 4, 2008 I walked out of my bedroom to find this on my dining room table. This gift of beauty, so thoughtful and much needed. It was like water to my parched soul. 

What do you do when you feel like you can't ever get out of bed again? Life has you beaten, or so you think.

I had kept my kids up really late the night before so they would sleep in. I was tired and wanted to sleep in and have peace in the morning. My friend, Sarah Nichols, had walked into my house that morning and left this gift on the table.

I had heard the door open, but thought that maybe it was Christopher letting the cat in or out. I didn’t think much of it at all. I didn’t know someone had walked into my house, only a few feet from my bedroom door and left a gift that changed my life.

I had previously told Sarah that I was having such a hard time getting out of bed. She wrote 30 or so reasons of why I should most definitely get out of bed. I remember calling all four kids into my room to hear these reasons. I wept as I read them:

  • Dusty
  • Sage
  • Ireland
  • Christopher
  • There’s something new to learn every day
  • His mercies are new every morning
  • “…for He Himself is the giver of life and breath and all else.” 
  • because if you do it today, you can do it tomorrow
  • You don’t want to miss out on life.
  • Sunrises!
  • All things work together for good to those who love God
  • You are fearfully and wonderfully made
  • Because fact is, Jesus loves Dar!
  • Music (esp. 80’s rock)
  • You’re beautiful
  • Because of His grace!
  • The love of Christ compels us
  • Because even dandelions and thistles are resplendent with God’s glory. 
  • Hot chocolate!
  • Facebook [it was fairly new back then]
  • Freshly picked blackberries

There are several more. 

You know what that did for me? It really did give me some reason to get out of bed even when it’s SO hard.

I am grateful for that gift. It stays in a drawer right next to my bed. I think of it when I am sad or feeling overwhelmed. That simple gift has catapulted me into the life I have now. 

Sarah has left this world to be with Jesus. Though she is so missed, it’s the perfect place for her. She has impacted hundreds of people by the way she walked in love.

I want to be like that, too.

 

Today’s the Day

The alarm sounds off early today. Today is the day I get up earlier for some alone time. I will pray and exercise before sitting down at my computer or doing dishes.

I have a lot of those “today is the day” moments. Yet, days often fade into obscurity. At the day’s end I lie in bed wondering where I brought value to anyone and how can I do better in the morning.

Really, though, it’s those old lies that whisper to me as I lay my head on my pillow, “You’re not good enough. Look at you. Your desk is a mess, your house is a mess, your kids are out of control. You can’t write well (nobody looks at your blog), you’re a terrible photographer (remember that one time you royally messed up), and you can’t at all sing (off pitch and a nuisance to the people in your life who really can sing. Oh, and you’re STILL fat.” And so, I drift off to sleep with a weak reply of, “That’s not true. I mean, all those things are true, but I am more than that….right, Lord?

Do you have those moments where you forget which way is up and where to go next? In those moments I remember a poem I heard of many years ago. I would spend my days listening to Elisabeth Elliot on the radio and on tapes at home. She would say, “When you don’t know what else to do, do the next thing.” For 20 years I’ve had a little poem from an unknown author up on my fridge. Part of it says:

Do it immediately;
do it with prayer;

Do it reliantly, casting all care;j

Do it with reverence,
tracing His Hand

Who placed it before thee with earnest command.

Stayed on Omnipotence,
safe ‘neath His wing,

Leave all resultings,
“DO THE NEXT THING.”

I laughed as I wrote that last line. I can still, after all these years, hear the voice of Elisabeth reading that poem and telling us all, “You are loved with an everlasting love, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

I pull out my Bible turning to 1 John to read all about the great love that God has for us.

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I light candles, pet my dog, and look at pretty pictures I’ve taken. Then I remember the beauty of all that is around me and I suddenly feel lighter.

Today I’m grateful for:
* my dog
* friends coming to visit today
* the rain
* the sun
* my Christopher

 

A Heart of Gratitude

It’s been nearly 6 years since I began my gratitude journal. You can read more about the start of that here. A woman I only knew as @delightingdays on Twitter had gifted me an amazon gift card so I could buy One Thousand Gifts. I now know her as Stacy Karen @delightfulhome. She likely has no idea of what an impact that small gift has made on my life.

Back in 2010 I was a single mom raising 4 kids on my own. Three of those kids have come to me through adoption. Day-to-day life was a battle. Every. Single. Day. I was alone and couldn’t figure out how I could better parent children with a background of trauma.

Depression was my constant companion. It lurked in the background, other days  I wore that thing like a robe. It was all worn out and comfortable to me. Shaking it off left me feeling empty.

I didn’t know it could be replaced with JOY. I had never known such a thing.

I knew there was something more. There had to be. Jesus didn’t come so that I could be trapped in my own mind. I didn’t know how to get out. Then I began to read A Holy Experience Blog by Ann Voskamp. She had begun the practice of listing 1000 for which she was thankful. Interesting concept. It certainly couldn’t hurt, right?

In One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are Ann points out in Luke 22:19 that Jesus broke bread and gave thanks before feeding the people.

In the original language, “he gave thanks” reads “eucharisteo.”

I underline it on the page. Can it lay a sure foundation under a life? Offer the fullest life?

The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning “grace”. Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks.

But there is more, and I read it. Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning “joy.” Joy. Ah…yes. I might be needing me some of that. that might be what the quest for more is all about ` that which Augustine claimed, “Without exception…all try their hardest to reach the same goal, that is, joy.”

There it was! Grace and Joy wrapped up as a gift in our giving Thanks.

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This isn’t anything new to us, is it? God’s word tells us to pray always giving thanks. Paul is a great example to us. In each one of his letters he’d say that he gives thanks for them [the people he’s writing to]. It has been right there all this time. There is no secret to joy.

So, I sit down to write. Some days I forced gratitude until it began to pour out of me. It was like those old water pumps. You begin to pump and the water doesn’t come at first. Then suddenly there’s a deluge of water, overflowing your bucket.

Today I’m at number 1147. I don’t write every day, but it has become my habit to look at this life through the filter of gratitude.  I find that is most important for me to practice gratitude when I feel the world closing in on me. We can sit in a room full of people we love and still feel so alone.  Get out that gratitude journal and begin by counting the gifts you have right there.

My friend used to say, “Look at your hand. What’s there?”I thought it was silly at first. Then suddenly it was profound.

What can you be grateful for today? Running water, paid bills, new deck, chirping birds, electricity?

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Today and yesterday I wrote:

1139. Joshua and Jessica’s wedding.
1140. Though today had some really tough spots, the day ended well. I count that as a victory.
1141. The migraine that threatened to overrule my day has quietly slipped away.
1142. Dinner was delicious – yay me!
1143. Kitchen is clean.
1144. All the laundry is done.
1145. Late night quiet moments to work and write.
1146. Early morning vineyard sunrise shooting with the love of my life.

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The Skies Reflect My Heart

It is a beautiful autumn day here in my small town. The skies opened up letting the rain fall on the first day of Autumn. Last night I woke several times listening to the rain come down. Somehow it comforts my soul. My heart feels as though it’s been split wide open. I am raw. Yesterday I kept thinking, “I am wrecked.” I didn’t mean it as something tragic, rather I saw it something beautiful in it.

Rain. Autumn. My favorite time of year. The leaves turn beautiful hues of gold and red. The nights turn cool, while the days stay warm. School has started again. I like the routine of it all, though I haven’t quite gotten the hang of it yet.

I wish I had a fireplace or wood stove. Today is a day I’d love to lie in a comfy bed reading a great book while being warmed by wood heat. That feels like rest to me.

I can’t get over the beauty of Autumn. It’s a huge burst of unspeakable beauty as leaves die and fall to the ground. It calms my heart. I would love nothing more than to go for a long walk in the woods with a good friend. Talking, not talking, I don’t care. I’d have my camera observing the life around me. I love the crunch and rustle of the leaves underfoot.

Healing. That’s what Autumn reminds me of.

Welcome the healing. Welcome the leaves falling to the ground. Maybe they’re in love with life and they know that for the tree to really live they must fall to the ground making room for the good things coming in the Spring. 

 

 

Identity

Who are you? Who am I? What does God say about that?

I was already writing a post while listening to something on YouTube. By the end of the video I decided to change my post for today.

I’ve written before of how I have trouble with some of my kids, especially my oldest adopted daughter. Every day is a battle and it can be quite discouraging. Over the past week I’ve thought about how we perceive our worth or what we take on as our identity defines all of our behavior. Les Brown says something about treating someone as they should be and they will rise up to that. Simple to say, more difficult to do. It is a hard thing to speak and pour life into someone when it’s returned with nastiness. However, nothing will change unless that hard thing is done.

Blessing. I have books of blessings and books about blessing. I’ve read them, but haven’t applied them. I feel like I’m doing so many things right and that maybe this is the last frontier to conquer; proclaiming life and healing over myself and my children.

I’ve been learning to love myself more. It feels so selfish to say that. I mean, aren’t we, as followers of God called to lay down our lives for one another. We deserve nothing, right? We are but worms. Yet, Jesus tells us,  “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” How do we love our neighbor as our own self if we despise who we are?

I will speak life, God’s words to myself and my children. Even when it’s hard.

This is what got me thinking about it today. Please take the 15 minutes to watch this.

 

Mother’s Day 2014

Traditionally, Mother’s Day has been a source of pain and chaos in our home. Old hurts weigh us down like anchors. Our fears and hurts about mothers and mothering rise to the surface and we attack. I attack. Sometimes kids attack with their words and actions. The day has been a royal pain. Last year I called my best friend from my van crying, “I am a horrible mother. These kids are hurt. I am hurt. I said mean things. I can’t make this better. I’m never going back inside.” Well, I did. I can’t make it all better, but I can try.

A few days ago as I was driving along the highway I came to the realization that I needed to deal with some unresolved feelings. So I started talking to God about that. I am sad that I don’t have a mom to celebrate. For many years I tried to stuff that sadness. I mean, she died 30 years ago when I was 9, surely I should be over it, right? Well, get this. Being over it doesn’t mean not being sad. I gave myself permission to be sad. I talked to my kids about that. I said, “Hey, so this Mother’s Day thing is hard, isn’t it? Well, it’s not going to be hard this year. I’m sad. It’s ok to be sad. I know that you might be sad, too, and that’s totally ok. It is not ok for us to hurt one another because we hurt. This year, we are going to rock this Mother’s Day!”

My mama and me. Look at that hair. Seriously people! Those are some pinchable cheeks right there!
My mama and me. Look at that hair. Seriously people! Those are some pinchable cheeks right there!

I became a mother when I was 21. Christopher changed the way I looked at life. Suddenly I had this little baby who would quickly grow into a man. I felt so honored to be the one chosen to raise him. I still feel that way even though I fall so short. I thought that having a child meant that my Mother’s Day would be magical. I had an unrealistic expectation and because of that ideal, I was often hurt. However, my first one was very good.

A page from my scrapbook. This boy wasn't thrilled with the sand, but he got over it.
A page from my scrapbook. This boy wasn’t thrilled with the sand, but he got over it.
A close up of little Christopher. Look at his cheeks! Oh, that boy. I am still smitten by him. He has always been such an incredible gift to me.
A close up of little Christopher. Look at his cheeks! Oh, that boy. I am still smitten by him. He has always been such an incredible gift to me.

I think I’d mostly get money from my dad to buy mom some perfume or something.  However, when I was 9 years old I decided to do something a little different. I remember heading down to the local department store. I’m sure it had an official name, but we simply called it “The Department Store”. You could buy anything there! I chose a light blue felt rectangle, some googly eyes, white yarn with a silver thread running through it, a fake flower, and a needle. I have vague memories of my best friend, Peggy, being with me. I don’t know that she did the same thing, but we were often together. I can’t imagine that I did it without her there for at least some of the process.

I didn’t know this would be the last Mother’s Day gift I gave to my mom. [hug your mom, your friend, your kids, blah blah – no really, do it – i think these are things we say when we’re getting to be about 40]

I have NO idea why I wrote "We Love Mom". Who is we???
I have NO idea why I wrote “We Love Mom”. Who is we???

I was so proud of that thing. I had never done anything like that before, or since. (Though I sometimes imagine I’m a fantastic embroidery artist. I just think it’s something I would enjoy doing as long as I could do it well!

So, this year rolls around and we’re going to have an awesome day. I didn’t entertain the thought of it being anything other than spectacular!

Guess what??? It was! My kids blessed me in so many ways!

We went to the Cheesecake factory and walked around Washington Square. We met lovely people at Lush.

This is a card from Sage. I thought it was the most adorable thing ever! He loves me more than the rest of them! Haha!
This is a card from Sage. I thought it was the most adorable thing ever! He loves me more than the rest of them! Haha!
Ireland's card. The "raining" part is supposed to go with the "love". She asks me, "Do you like the raining Love part, mommy?" Yes, sweet one, very much.
Ireland’s card. The “raining” part is supposed to go with the “love”. She asks me, “Do you like the raining Love part, mommy?” Yes, sweet one, very much.
What a little gift giver Ireland is. She made me a calm down bottle. It's glitter and water. When you're angry you shake it and wait for the glitter to stop swirling. By then you should be calm. Hilarious. She knows I need it.
What a little gift giver Ireland is. She made me a calm down bottle. It’s glitter and water. When you’re angry you shake it and wait for the glitter to stop swirling. By then you should be calm. Hilarious. She knows I need it.
Breakfast of Champions & Warriors. Oranges, scrambled eggs, and ice cream prepared by Ireland. She had the first and last bites of my ice cream...and several in between!
Breakfast of Champions & Warriors. Oranges, scrambled eggs, and ice cream prepared by Ireland. She had the first and last bites of my ice cream…and several in between!
Christopher made art for me. (He tells me this picture is upside down.) I love that he made me this.
Christopher made art for me. (He tells me this picture is upside down.) I love that he made me this.

 

I was loved on and well cared for this Mother’s Day.

Total win. Choices matter.

I chose love over fear.

Love Wins.

Always.

 

Goodbye January, Hello February!

Well, January has flown by and 2014 is well under way. I thought that last year was full of changes, but I only thought that in retrospect. I didn’t expect them, I merely rolled with them.  This year I am expecting changes. I am even looking forward to them. In fact, I’m even orchestrating some of them.  (Woah, did I just say that? Who is this woman behind the keyboard, anyway?!?)

January brought a a lay off and a new hope. I surprised myself by not being able to be depressed about it. I had a goal of getting to bed earlier, 10:30 pm. I tend to stay up WAY too late and drag the next day. I even printed out a little goal tracker for the month. Looks like I met that goal over half of the time. That used to be discouraging, but guess what? That’s WAY more than I was doing the month before. I felt more in control of my life and I’d like to believe it’s because I was well-rested. Oh, you know, it’s not that I was more in control of my life, but that I was more in control of how I reacted or responded to events in my life.

A couple of my other goals was to read my Bible more and write in my gratitude journal each day. We all have something we can be thankful for. I bet practicing both of those things also helped me to manage my life better.

I finished the Nikita series. (It wasn’t one of my goals, but I did it anyway!)

There are a few other  goals I am working toward, as well. Not necessarily blog worthy, though.

I’m looking forward to February. I’m even excited it for it. I’ve got some things in the works that I can’t wait to share!

I’ll be working on my bedtime, Bible reading (or study), and gratitude journal still. I’m going to add in exercising and letter writing. I won’t write a letter a day, but I was recently inspired to write notes again. Most of us enjoy being thought of, right? Well, a few days ago I cleaned my office. I purged, shredded, filed, and organized. I came across letters I’ve received from all sorts of friends from all over the world. I don’t keep everything, just the really important ones. I felt so loved, even after all these years! I began to think of my friends that I love so dearly. Our lives are busy and full. Facebook makes it easier to connect, but it’s not the same as opening up a letter just for you!

In the past goals have been something that was scary and overwhelming to me. When I fell short of them I chose to wallow in my failure instead of learning from it and recalibrating those goals. I’m sincerely surprised that I’m not upset about not having a perfect record for going to bed on time all last month. That’s something that would’ve utterly ruined everything for me! This time around I’m thinking, “Wow, that was awesome! Let’s see how the next month goes!”

Hey, I have a quilt I want to start! I want to have it done by Christmas! (Don’t laugh, I’m super slow at quilting and it won’t be a surprise for the receiver of said quilt, but it will be beautiful and hopefully treasured!)

What is your new goal for the month? A project you want to finish…or even begin?

 

How Getting Laid Off Freed Me…

I am amazed by all
That I have seen from You
Teach me Your Way

Show me your face
Oh Lord

excerpt from the song Whisper Lennox Fleary

It is the third Saturday of 2014.

In the first full week I created my financial goal plan for the  year. I was so pleased with it. Yet, I kept hearing a quiet sort of voice in my head encouraging me to not hold on to that plan too tightly. So, when I had finished it and saw it was good I told myself, “Self, this is a direction, not a plan set in stone. This may not happen and it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t.” So that was that. I hole punched it and put it in my handy dandy financial binder.

The following Monday I had the thought, “You’re getting laid off…” Okay. That’s interesting. An hour later I received a call letting me know that I was being laid off that day. I turned in my time card almost immediately and began to process this. I was sad. So very sad. I loved my job and the people I worked with. I enjoyed connecting with the customers and getting to know them a little. I worried. I wondered how I was going to make it financially. I do not want to go back on food stamps. I do not want to be cold or afraid that my water or electricity will get turned off. I tried to sleep the day away, as is my custom when I’m stressed; that or binge eating. I couldn’t do either. I knew that I wasn’t actually despairing, I was just sad and that’s ok.

By the end of the day I was good. The kids and I all sat around as I read parts of the book of Job. I realized that getting laid off is merely a small bump in the road. It doesn’t change me or what I am called to. I do not have to be afraid. I do not have to fear neither poverty or wealth. My circumstances do not change who I am or who God is.

When we prayed that evening Christopher thanked God for me getting laid off because we know God has something else in store for me.

From that moment on I’ve been excited. My heart has opened up and I feel a softening. I have options open to me, this is not the end of the road. I didn’t feel burdened by my job, but I feel so free right now. (Mind you, if my job was offered back to me, I’d take it, but I’d also keep this feeling of freedom.)

Getting laid off didn’t actually free me, what it did was show me the freedom I had all along. I have had an INCREDIBLE year. My complete mindset has changed over the past year, but I could only realize that and walk in that after I was laid off.

I have spent the past year listening to and meeting some amazing personal development speakers every week. I have learned, little by little, how to take my thoughts into captivity and not let all the negative thoughts rule. (Truth: sometimes I do let them and I need someone to snap me out of it!) I have so many things I’ve learned from so many people. I can’t possibly list it all here.

I have so many things I am looking forward to in this next year!

What are you looking forward to? What direction is God calling you?

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Snippets

My days are filled with laughter and crying and yelling and squealing and silliness and seriousness and busyness and harsh words and kind words.

That’s a lot of “and”s.

It has been a whirlwind of a day. My sweet Danae finally had her baby today after 48 hours of labor. The baby is in NICU because he’s not breathing well. Please be praying for that. I haven’t even met him yet, but I love him.

I felt kind of stressed through the day, not in a super bad way. There was just a lot to manage and I was concerned about the baby and Danae. It takes a lot of energy to keep reminding oneself that worry does nothing and that God is here in this. My thoughts are like 2 year old kids constantly needing to be re-directed.

My day is ending splendidly, though. I have this zany group of friends that I do know in real life, but we really never are all together. In fact, one of them I’ve known for years and I’ve only seen her at Grocery Outlet. These friends make me laugh so much and I am so very thankful for them. I needed them today in that way and I didn’t even know it until it was all over and done with. We pray for one another and we laugh with/at one another.

It’s life giving and a saving grace.

 

Peace out, friends!

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