Friday, September 7, 2018

Praying For Folks Who Are On My Last Nerve

Lately, I keep feeling compelled to pray for people I'm having issues with.

Praying for people I'm doing great with is so easy! I like people, and I enjoy praying for God to intervene in their lives.

But when I'm not doing well with folks - when we've had a falling out or when I'm annoyed with people - well, to be honest here, I would rather complain and distance myself from those who are stressing me out. Granted, this plan doesn't accomplish anything good or helpful; i's just been my pattern. Just being real here.

But recently, when I'm about to launch into a tirade, I feel this little nudge in my spirit to shut off the complaints and start praying. I've learned enough about obedience to know that I should listen. So I start praying. Today God nudged me to pray for someone I’m mad at. So I asked God what I should pray for? “I guess fire and brimstone are off the table?” I didn’t hear any laughter.

There is nothing holy in these stingy but obedient prayers of mine.  There is a lot of "Lord, you know that girl is making me crazy, and I need to you fix her! She has lost her ever loving mind! Please do something about that! Amen." About 60 seconds into a prayer like that I start to feel convicted of my judgmental attitude - God is sneaky like that, convicting me in the middle of praying for someone else.

So my prayer shifts a little bit: "Lord, maybe she's acting like a crazy person because she's going through something hard. Please help her with the hard thing and then please cure her crazy. Amen." About then, when I'm feeling pretty proud of myself for being so "others-focused" I feel a spiritual tap on the shoulder that isn't a recognition of a job well done. I know He wants me from me. Ugh. Fine.

Now, with a heavy sigh and slumped shoulders in recognition of where God wanted me to end up, I sound more like this: "Lord, please be with my friend. If she has a need, please meet it. If she has a hurt, please heal it. And Lord, if you want to use me to bless her, please soften my heart and show me what you need me to do. And Lord, please forgive my pride and judgmental attitude. I'm a hot mess. I know it, and you know it. I just lose sight of it from time to time when I get caught up pointing out other people's issues. Please forgive me and keep working on me. Thanks, God. Amen."

I wish I could say that it only takes one cycle through this lesson for me to fully learn it. I'm guessing God would prefer it that way too. But I'm a tough nut to crack. God has had to walk me through this lesson multiple times in the last few weeks. I think the process might be going quicker, which is a sign that I am starting to get the hang of it, but I have certainly not "arrived". I'm so thankful that God doesn't give up on us!!

It's a good and loving God who is patient with our weaknesses and gentle with our correction. He accepts us where we are and loves us too much to let us stay there.

Monday, August 27, 2018

First Day of School Traditions

It’s the First Day of School. I’m not gonna lie. I’m really happy about it. Not the “getting rid of the kids” part - I like them, and I don’t see them enough as it is, now that they are so busy with sports and band and jobs and FortNite :-) But I’m looking forward to the routine. The waking up at the same time every day, going to same place, knowing what to expect every day part of school is what I’m most excited about. Summer is an ever-changing, never-the-same game that is too much for my fragile brain to keep up with. Even with a calendar on my phone and printed out and taped to the fridge, I’m still dazed and confused trying to keep it all straight. I need some consistency.

This pic is 6 years old.
They were so little!

But the start of another school year does have me getting all nostalgic. My boys are getting so old! Two in high school and the little one in middle school! The time has gone so fast! That saying that “the days are long, but the years are short” is so true. It feels like just yesterday that I thought I would never survive Aaron and Luke being toddlers at the same time. I remember telling Drew that it was going to be them or me. Someone wasn’t going to make it :-) They are 16 and 15. We all survived :-)

Do y’all have any First Day of School traditions? We have three - one I don’t mind, one I would take back if I could, and one that started out of the blue.

The one tradition I don’t mind - but the boys could do without is the obligatory first day pictures. You know the ones where you pose at the front door, usually with a sign that says what grade you are in, wearing the new backpack? My boys grumble and groan, but they know the drill. The only fun part for them is posing with me so they can see how much taller they are than the year before. The older two are much taller than I am. The little one is catching me. When they pose with Drew, they all wait until right before I snap the pic and then hop up on their tiptoes (Drew too!) to try to be the tallest in the photo. Men!

The tradition I would take back if I could is First Day of School fresh Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. This idea seemed awesome when they were in preschool. Preschool started at 9am. No one minded running to Dunkin at 8:00am to get donuts. But once they started getting on the middle school bus at 6:40 (AM!!!!!!), I really wanted out of this tradition. Of course, it was too late by then. Please learn from my mistakes! Choose your traditions carefully! Middle and high school start really, really, really early! Beware those "before school" traditions. Can I recommend you google some AFTER school ideas?

The tradition that started out of the blue happened the day that our youngest, Nathan, started full day kindergarten. I was so sure that I would be doing a happy dance when all three boys got on that bus together and drove off, leaving me to myself and my own devices for the first time in 10 years. Drew and I talked about it all summer. He was super supportive of me finally getting some time to myself. I had a million different ideas of how I would fill my time and couldn't wait to get started. Then the big day came. We did the pictures. We did the donuts. We walked to the bus stop and even took one of those “sad kids, happy mom” pictures. Then all three boys got on the bus together to go to elementary school. I watched that bus pull away and just stood there. I was frozen in a “now what?” place. In that moment, I watched as the reason I got out of bed every morning drove away. This is going to sound super dramatic, but be patient with me - I watched as my identity drove off on that bus.

All through college I was forming a plan to become a math teacher. That’s who I was going to be. Then I got married and got that job teaching math. So I was Drew’s Wife and A Math Teacher. Then the boys were born, and we decided I would stay home. After the sleep deprivation wore off, I looked up and realized that I wasn’t A Math Teacher any more. Instead, I had become A Stay At Home Mom. Ok. Let’s do this! So I did. Until they rode off in the school bus. Now what? Since I graduated from college, I had defined my identity by my job. I was what I did. Now I have no job - do I have no identity? It was a scary, sad, bizarre moment as that bus drove away.

The truth is that I had defined my identity in all the wrong ways. Who I am has nothing to do with what job I’m holding at the moment. Who I am has everything to do with who God says I am. I could go on about this for days, but I’ll sum it up and come back to it another day - God says I’m His child, blessed, chosen, adopted, favored, redeemed, forgiven, made on purpose and for a purpose - and none of these facts are based on any job. But I wasn’t holding on to who He says I am. I was holding to who I said I am. Talk about a shaky foundation! Again, lots to talk about another day. 

Anyway, as the bus drove off and I stood there completely lost and shaken, Drew realized that we had a problem and began First Day of School tradition #3 - Dawn and Drew breakfast date. He looked at me and said, “How about we go out for breakfast?” I was almost in tears at that point. I just nodded “yes”, and off we went. The day got easier from there. And the week got easier as I adjusted to my new normal. And I did a ton of soul searching that year to figure out who I was apart from my kids.

Today's FDOS
Breakfast Date
was Starbucks. 
This year, the little one will start 6th grade. Drew and I will go on our 7th First Day of School breakfast date. It’s not a necessity any more. Now it’s a wonderful chance to spend time together and pray for the boys.

If this is your first year to have all the kids go to school, I highly recommend having a plan for that first day. Call a friend, set up a coffee date, schedule a mani/pedi, something! If that first day of everyone in school is in your future, maybe my story will help you prepare for your day. If you are like me, experienced at this “all the kids are in school” thing, let’s reach out to another mom who just sent her baby off to kindergarten. Let’s ask her out for coffee or lunch. Let’s make sure those around us are ok. It can be one more First Day of School tradition.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Back to Writing? I Really, Really, Hope So!!

Ocean City, NJ, is my little slice
of beach heaven
We took a week's vacation down the shore this summer (that's Pennsylvania talk for being at the beach). While we were there, I did a lot of writing - journaling, writing down prayers, just jotting down random thoughts. About 4 days in - I'm really slow to catch on to things - I realized that I had been doing a ton of writing, and that I was really enjoying it! I used to write all the time! I mean, you are here - on my blog - where I used to write every week. My brain injury, among other things, got in the way of that writing for a long time. I missed it! I tried vlogging for a while, but let’s be honest - I wasn't very good at it.

There were two major problems with the vlogging situation:
  1. Consistency was an issue - making videos is just more difficult, technically speaking, than writing a few paragraphs. The house has to be empty- otherwise, you can hear my kids yelling at video games in the background. I can't be in my pjs - that look totally undercuts any message I'm trying to send :-) Uploading requires real internet connections and not just my phone in the Target parking lot. See! Issues. So I had a really hard time being a consistent vlogger. I just couldn't put out videos on a regular basis.
  2. Content was also an issue - I was trying too hard to avoid the elephant in the room. I didn't want to be "that girl". You know - that girl who writes/vlogs/whatever about her chronic condition. I so badly want to be more than my brain injury that I was avoiding talking about it. But it is a very real part of my life, so avoiding it was stupid and led to vlogging that was less than authentic. 
So let's try a fresh start -

My ER pic from 2015
Smiling cuz I have no idea
how much our lives were
about to change
My name is Dawn, and I have a traumatic brain injury with chronic migraines. It affects every aspect of my life and the lives of my family. I was injured in March, 2015, and the last 3.5 years have been full of life, lessons, laughter, limitations (whoa! check out that alliteration!), challenges, blessings, and the full gamut of emotions as I have learned how to cope with a new - and ever-changing “normal”.

In case you haven’t made it to my “about me” page (or in case it’s not up to date, which is possible), I’m happily married to Drew - we just celebrated our 20th anniversary in December. We have three sons - two in high school and one in middle school. Our home is loud, usually happy, smells like sweaty boy, chaotic with sports, band and work schedules, and someone is always eating. I love it! But my injury has changed our family. We all had to learn how to adapt to a new “normal”. This isn’t just MY chronic condition. It’s OUR chronic condition.

Oh how I wish my injury story was glamorous! Or noble! Or heroic! But it’s not. It’s so lame. I slipped on wet tile and fell down on my face. I went straight down like a tree. I landed on my chin and rattled my brain. I’m told I made an epic sound when I went splat. I don’t remember that part, but it’s nice to know I made an impression. Brains don’t like to be rattled. A concussion that was supposed to heal in under 6 weeks led to outpatient physical therapy after 6 months and then to daily migraines and confusion after a year. Now, 3.5 years in, I never know which version of me is going to wake up: the semi-capable adult who can make it through a day with some head pain but who can fake “normal” and parent well, the pain-riddled migraine sufferer who is in agony and has to stay in bed and can’t cope, or the dazed and confused fruitcake who looks competent on the outside but gets lost on the way to the grocery store. Once we know how a day is going to go, the whole family can adjust and adapt as needed. We’ve gotten pretty good at it. It’s just tricky not knowing.

But I’m so much more than my brain injury! I’m a woman with hopes and dreams and a huge love of life! I think that’s why I held off writing about it for so long. I don’t want my injury to define me. I don’t want to be “the girl with brain damage”. I’m fun! I love to laugh and make other people laugh. I enjoy baking and travel and talking to people! I love a party! I just have to work the things I enjoy into the limitations of my life. This is my reality.

So where does writing fit in to this? What am I rambling on about? I’m telling you, my very patient friends, that I’m going to come back to blogging. Well, I’m going to try. I always have something to say :-) It may be about parenting, marriage, what God is teaching me from His word, or even (heavy sigh) my brain injury and what it’s like to deal with a chronic condition. I can’t promise consistency. But that is my goal. I can’t promise anything wise or deep. There are many other bloggers doing wise and deep out there. But I can promise authenticity. And laughter. Life is too short to take anything too seriously. Even a brain injury.

((In between blog posts, I'm all about InstaStories! You can find me posting stories on Instagram almost daily as @comeoverforcoffee))


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