Wednesday, March 30, 2011

the blessing of pain...

Let's see from a show of hands... who likes PAIN??

Oh, come on! Don't you just love it? Don't you just wanna sign up for it? Yeah, I pretty much want to run AWAY from it at all costs, don't you? I mean, seriously. If something's going to be painful-- whether it's a conversation or a relationship or a decision to make-- I'm probably going to go with the PAIN-FREE option.

But as I learn more about my Savior, I'm becoming more and more convinced that pain is ultimately a good thing, and many of us (including myself) would be helped if we learned to acknowledge it and live in it more often.

(by the way, much of this blog post comes after a sweet, sweet conversation with a dear older woman in my life (my "living room friend" as I have called her in previous posts) who has sat with me, listened to me, and helped me walk through much of my pain this past year. I love you, Debbie!)

I'm convinced we are all carrying pain. LOADS of it. Some of it might come from past disappointments or hurts that have never been grieved. Some of our pain comes from our own sinful hearts and the expectations we place upon others. Some of our pain comes from the frustrating, stressful, frightening, or heartbreaking circumstances in our lives. And some of it is simply because we just live in a fallen, broken world and our hearts long for Paradise.

But it's there. And we can choose to:

A. deal with it
B. deny it or stuff it
C. ignore or mask it

Personally, I find that when I'm commonly doing "B" or "C," I'm short tempered and judgmental. I feel anger well up in my heart. I get angry at others and at myself. Instead of letting myself admit what is really hurting in my heart, it FEELS safer to just stay angry. It's less vulnerable and after all, I won't feel quite as much PAIN, right? (even though those around me end up feeling it)

But it's when I choose option "A" that I experience grace. When I admit to myself, to the Lord, or to others that I'm hurt about something, I cry. It hurts. I am forced to grieve. And not ignore or stuff it. And guess what? I'm humbled. I'm able to be a better mom and wife. I'm able to listen to others' struggles without trite answers or hoping they'll just "get over it."

My living room friend says if she were to ever write a book, it'd be entitled "Grieving Your Way to Mental Health." ha! I LOVE that! Wouldn't most of us think that in order to have mental health, you need to get PAST grief?? I'd argue along with her that it's when we DO grieve our pains (whatever they may be), we are actually closer to mental health. So I'd rather risk being an emotional wreck and appearing weak (because I AM!!) than to live in the underlying anger or denial. I'm just not wired that way. Masking my pain or stuffing it just doesn't come as naturally to me.

Pain is a blessing. (I know that sounds absolutely crazy.) What if we didn't have it? I'd touch a hot stove, not feel a thing, and my hand would burn up. I'd make terrible decisions in my life and continue doing so, never feeling any of the consequences for them.

Pain is a red flag. It tells us something's wrong. It says, "hurry up and deal with this!" If I feel pain in my body, it's there to clue me in that there's a problem! What if I tried ignoring it or denying/masking it? I could perhaps miss the entire underlying problem and things would get WORSE! Likewise, when I feel pain in my heart, it's there to deal with. It's there to tell me something's wrong. And if I don't, the underlying problem is likely to worsen and worsen, right?

PAIN isn't the enemy that I think it is. I'm having to reorient my thinking to believe that.

I live with pain in my heart every day. (perhaps I feel it a little more acutely than most folks? ugh- it's a curse!) The pain is from lots of different things, but one of the most obvious pains I carry is my daughter's alopecia. Certainly the pain has been deep and sharp at times, enough to curl up in a fetal position and never get out of bed. But most days now it certainly isn't that strong. But nevertheless, it's still there just under the surface. And the smallest little thing can set it off. When we go out in public and my daughter decides to take off her hat, I watch a literal sea of stares come our way. That hurts my heart. It just does. Period.

But even if I handled that situation "well," nothing is going to take away the sting. Not all the good Gospel conversations. Not all the self-help books. It still hurts. It's not supposed to be this way! Here's what I'm saying: just because I might be handling my daughter's alopecia "well" doesn't mean it's not painful.

Suffering well doesn't equal PAIN FREE.

Sometimes I wonder what it would look like if we got just a little more comfortable with the pain in our hearts. I wonder if we'd drink a little less, or take a few less pills, or use less things to distract or entertain ourselves. I wonder if we'd spend more time being vulnerable to people. I wonder if we'd be a little less angry and impatient, and more gentle and kind. Heck, I even wonder if we'd pray a little more, letting that pain point us to the One who took all the pain upon Himself. Our Savior certainly didn't shy away from pain and pretend it was all okay.

So call me depressing. Call me a pessimist. (well, please don't because I actually care way too much what everyone thinks about me...ha!) But until Glory where there will be NO more pain!, I think I'm going to grieve my way to mental health. :)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

at 37 months...

(You didn't think the updates would stop at 3, did you?) At 37 months...

  • I, too, am addicted to Angry Birds. (Mommy thinks it's incredible & a little scary how effortlessly a 3 yr. old can get around on technology!...) Did you know Angry Birds also makes for a fun game to play on the floor in real life, too? Daddy puts a pillow on his head & oinks like a pig. Then, from across the room, I make the cutest little angry face as I charge Daddy & try to knock him over! he he...
  • I know that I have alopecia, and that it made my hair fall out. But it doesn't bother me. I just think I'm gonna have hair when I get bigger. (I keep saying I want red hair...)
  • Still as smart as a tack. I can count to 30 and I can spell and read some easy words like "hat," "pat," "cat," "mat," etc. I know how to spell "Caroline," "Mommy," and "Daddy," too.
  • Favorite things are listening to/singing music, reading/telling stories, and watching anything with Thomas the Train.
  • I love going places-- to stores, to somebody's house, to my Sunday School class at church, to a restaurant, anywhere.

  • Not doing a whole lot of this lately! Yep, the afternoon naps are saying adios. It's hit or miss, depending on how tired I am. When I don't nap, I still have "room time." Mommy gets out some toys in my room, sets the timer, and I have to play quietly by myself for 45 minutes until the timer goes off. It maintains sanity in our household...
  • Oh, and did I tell you guys I'm going to preschool in the fall? Yep, my best friend, Leah, will be in my class, too! Two mornings a week, and I'm excited!!

  • I LOVE getting packages in the mail! Just this week I got several! I run & get the scissors for Mommy to open them when they come. My 2nd cousin Eva sent me a box of her clothes with a babydoll! and "Miss Lori" sent me a box of super cute clothes, too! (of course in my excitement I have to dig thru them and immediately start trying some things on over my clothes, you see...) Plus my friend, Sari, sent me a book, too! Wow, you guys! Thank you, thank you!
  • Being three has its challenges. We're not gonna lie. I have quite a strong personality and an extensive vocabulary, and together that has its advantages and its disadvantages. Mommy & Daddy are working with me (endlessly, it seems...) to use nice words instead of ugly, bossy words and screams. It's tough at 3 to accept that the world doesn't revolve around me and that God has put Mommy & Daddy in my life to be my boss. (those are concepts big people still struggle with, too!)
  • So with the challenges of age THREE, our family is doing alot of apologizing to one another these days. When we have done or said something wrong or hurtful, (even Mommy & Daddy) we confess it to one another. Mommy & Daddy truly need Jesus just as much as I do. Mommy even put herself in timeout for saying something ugly to me!, and that seemed to have quite an impact. We pray often together that Jesus would help our hearts to be kind and gracious to one another.

  • I'm a PICKER!! (And no, I don't mean a nose picker.) I'm a SCAB picker! (ewww, I know.) So remember the incident with the gash on my chin? (above) Thankfully I've left that completely alone thus far. However, the bandaids created a small secondary boo-boo next to the gash, and because I couldn't BEAR to stop picking at it, it continues to open up, bleed, and get larger. So then the bandaid on that boo-boo began causing a 3rd(!) boo-boo next to IT, so now we're trying out a latex-free, hypoallergenic bandaid to see if that helps. Any little scratch I get (like another on the top of my head), I pick at!! Even though I know better, I can't stop myself.

  • For now it's a secret what exactly I'm working on, (we'll show ya later!) but for the record, I like doing whatever it is Daddy is doing. If he's got a project going, you better believe I'll be right in there with him. (and yes, that IS a tattoo on my arm that my Mamie gave me. Pretty cool Grandma, huh?) :)
Three may be a challenge.

But it's a joy, too! Just look at me. :)
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

lessons learned from the couch...

Sudden onslaught of cold chills. A hundred degree fever. Queasy. Achy. The need to be in bed.

Yep, sure enough, on Monday I got it. The FLU.

Thankfully there is a God. And He has given us Tamiflu. And it is a wonderful thing, as it's only Wednesday and I can now hold down foods & sit up on the couch without the feeling of searing pain exploding in my brain. I'm at the "good" part of being sick. (if there is such a thing!) You know, where you can at least get up out of bed and head to the couch. (a change of scenery!!) You can eat again, watch tv, or perhaps... blog! :) But that's about it on my "to do" list for today... well, that and maybe I'll get around to showering...

Being sick is a terrible thing. It's awful. But boy, when you finally turn a corner, isn't it the most glorious feeling ever?? Some things are better learned from the couch...

1) I can't live alone. I'm serious, I am amazed at how you who are single parents survive when you are puking and running high temps! My hat is off to you! I mean, I could barely even speak to tell my dear husband what I needed, much less could I have gotten up on my feet to go GET it!

2) We. Need. People. (and especially all the more when you've got young kids.) I don't mean any ol' sort of people, but what I'll call "your people." "Your people" live close by and love you enough to drop whatever it is that they're doing because they know you desperately need help. Since we don't have the luxury of having family nearby, "our people" usually come from our church. But I wonder how would we survive without their help on days like this? (as I'm typing this, a dear friend has offered to keep Caroline this afternoon so that Marc can work & I can rest)

3) Nothing tastes good when you're sick. Nothing. Not even chocolate, which is a crying shame.

4) We are dependent. Sickness is a perfect reminder that things do not go according to MY plan. As I might like to think I'm so strong and IN-dependent, sickness says exactly the opposite. The reality is that I'm quite frail, and it's only by God's grace that He gives me every breath, each day.

5) Whoever came up with the "BRAT" diet wasn't all that smart. (you know, "BRAT" for bananas, rice, applesauce, & toast to eat when you're sick) But rice? Really? Who wants to eat RICE when you've been sick? I know it's bland and maybe easy to digest and all, but I can't think of anything worse to eat than just plain RICE! As I'm thinking about it, maybe it should be the "BGAT" diet: bananas, GATORADE, applesauce, toast OR the "BATS" diet: bananas, applesauce, toast, SEVEN-UP... any other better suggestions?

6) Feeling good physically is such a gift of God. Really! We think we're entitled to it! We don't stop and thank God enough for it. I am reminded of many who don't have that luxury each day. Many who won't get out of a bed and recover. It's a tiny glimpse of resurrection each time we do.

7) We are made for rest. Not only does sickness stop you from the physical go-go-go, but once you're past the worst of it, it gives you some quiet time to reflect. To relax. Oh, and if you don't do those things, you'll get sick so then you'll have to do them...

8) You appreciate what you have and you hate what you have. Shall I explain? As I laid in bed practically comatose yesterday, every now and then a sweet little face would pop up next to me. "Mommy, how do you feel?" and I'd feel the sweetest little kiss on my cheek. There was no better sight than to look over and see Caroline's silly smile, and it made me long for the time when I will feel well enough to play with her again.

Now the hate what you have part? Yeah. That comes when you finally DO feel well enough to take the trip & venture outside of your room to see what has happened to the rest of the house in your absence... CHAOS. Like a bomb has exploded. Every book and toy and game piece and clothing article has been wildly strewn about, as if a pack of wolves was let loose to ravage your home... Your first thought is ugh. I don't care. I can't care right now. And then, as you begin to feel just a wee bit better, you find yourself secretly cursing the day you thought it'd be a good idea to get the 100 piece animal miniature set...

But I kinda think the BEST lesson was learned NOT from the couch, but by Daddy yesterday. At the end of such a looong, stressful day of trying to survive with taking care of two gals and frustrated with not being able to get anything done for work, after tucking Caroline in bed he came into our bedroom and said:

"Whew. Hats off to you, Mama! And ALL the moms in the world!" as he lifted his hat into the air. "I don't know how you all do it."

Now I'd say that's a pretty good lesson to learn, eh? :)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

one hat, three ways...

One new hat. (thanks for the help finding this, Brooke! Once we saw this cute hat on Annie, we knew we wanted one, too...)

Three ways:



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blue ridge beauty...

If you're gonna come up towards our neck of the woods when the weather turns warm, there's no doubt we'll have ya up in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains that are only 30 minutes from our house.

And that's exactly where we took Pop & Mamie for a small hike to a waterfall off the Blueridge Parkway.

Mamie & I used our walking sticks.

Pop & I took a water break.

I was enthralled with the water and loved throwing sticks into the top part of the waterfall.

Even at the tail end of winter, the Blue Ridges are simply beautiful.

But let's not forget the REAL Blue Ridge beauty... :)
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Thursday, March 17, 2011


It's Spring Break & my Pop & Mamie are here from Texas! Today we visited Charlottesville (1 hour away) & here's a few shots from our walk around the beautiful grounds of UVa (University of Virginia)...

Can you see me here in 15 years?? (Mommy doesn't even want to think about that!) :)

These small single dorm rooms are the oldest on campus, and they've got NO plumbing and NO air/heat... and would you believe they are among the MOST coveted?? (Will one of you Wahoos please explain this to me?...)

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Friday, March 11, 2011

not one birthday, but...

TWO! (can you believe it?)

Our sweet, sweet friends from church wanted to throw me a pink pig birthday party, (remember I had been talking non-stop about wanting piglets on my cake??) and so here it was!, complete with a pig cake & pig presents. :) (and not to mention, a few of us pigs, too... ha!)

My talented buddies Laura & Julie MADE this pig cake for me from scratch!

You gals are so talented that Mommy had to take a picture.

And so did I. :)

"Happy Birthday to you...."

Blow 'em out!

And the BEST part...
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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

the ordinary becomes extraordinary...

And all it took was a little candlelight. :)

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

days like these...

I (Amy) hate alopecia sometimes. Can I just say that?

Most days since our official diagnosis two months ago, I don't care about the fact that my daughter is bald and will probably always be so. I mean, it doesn't affect or alter the way we have to live and it doesn't change how Marc & I treat our daughter. So normally, it just is what it is and I go on about my day as a mom.

But the past few days haven't been that way. I feel the sting of pain again. I dodge the gaze of people's eyes in public. I find myself getting angry over the dumbest thing. I look at everyone else who is able to keep their kids' hair from falling out and wonder why I couldn't. I give in to self-pity and just seem to want to wallow there.

Most days aren't like this, though.

I don't really know why the flood of pain has returned. I guess it could be the change in season, which means we have to change out our winter hats to the spring/summer ones. Which means some of last year's hats don't fit as well. Which means we make a shopping trip out to buy some cute everyday hats. And while finding & buying cute hats is fun in and of itself, sometimes it makes me mad. Because honestly, if my kid had HAIR, I wouldn't be buying them.

And then there's the normal kid stuff. Last week my daughter took a bad fall and has a gash across her chin. Recently the crease in her eyelids have been really dry and it's caused them to get red, despite my efforts to keep them moisturized. Every little bump this gal gets on her head SHOWS! And I think we're at the age now where we seem to collect scratches and scrapes and bumps and bruises everyday from the normal life of a toddler. Today she woke up with some normal allergy-type gunk that would make any of us look a little under the weather. You know, where we get bags under our eyes and our complexion just doesn't look as great? Well, when my kid looks under the weather, it's alot different than when your kid looks under the weather. And combine that with the gash on the chin and the red on the eyelids and the bleeding scrape on her head, and.... (deep breath) it breaks my heart. I don't even know if this makes sense to anyone but moms of daughters with alopecia totalis.

I'm guessing the sadness/grief/anger over this will probably come in cycles, many times triggered by the smallest of things. (guessing that's "normal")

Most days are fine.

But it's days like these that I am keenly aware of the struggle against many idols in my heart. The over-desire to be attractive and for my daughter to be pretty. The over-desire to fit in. The over-desire to be loved and accepted. The over-desire to have a comfortable life, pain free. (now wouldn't that be great?) And just like it's the dumb little-cute-hats that remind me that things are not right here in this broken world, it's these over-desires that war within me that remind me I need a Savior.

Thankfully I've got one. But I've got so much more.

I've got a Father who understands what it's like to watch a child who is "different" than those around him. To a MUCH greater degree, He knows my sadness and anger. And He chose to adopt ME into his arms as a daughter even before the creation of the world! (Eph. 1-2)

I've got a Savior. A substitute. Jesus. Someone who took the stares, the rejection, and all the shame on my behalf. And then He gave me a righteousness that is in no-way, no-shape OF me. On most days, I enjoy walking in public with COMPLETE confidence knowing that I am a beloved daughter of the King. (The idea of living in the light of justification has taken on a whole new meaning for me as I hope to teach Caroline what that means as she grows. Pretty sure it'll end up being her teaching me...) And on the days I perhaps don't feel the confidence, (like today) it doesn't mean that my status has changed.

And I've got a Comforter. A guide. A Holy Spirit. Someone who softly whispers the Gospel into my heart daily. A Spirit that reminds me what has been done for me and helps apply it to my heart when I'm not quite feelin' it.

Most days I'm fine. No tears. I don't acutely FEEL my need of help, though it is always there.

But it's the days like these that push me to reflect upon all that the Lord has done and help me trust and depend on Him all the more.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

rain or shine...

it's time to get outdoors again!

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