When Vision Changes

As most of my friends know, several years back I lost a significant amount of my physical vision. Back in October of 2012 I had a swift onset of Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertention, which ultimately claimed 85% of the vision in my right eye, and about 60% of the vision in my left eye. Leaving me with zero peripheral vision, a label of legally blind, unable to drive ever again, and a new perspective on life.

The first year after the diagnosis was hands down the hardest. Getting used to my new reality, understanding my limits without limiting myself, the learning to give myself a lot of grace in the process. There are still hard days (weeks, and months even). But what I have come to find is that not just my physical vision changed. I have found myself in a whole new place! Let me back up a little bit. Before my vision changed I was a full time working momma. I was struggling big time at life. My marriage was going through hard stuff. Work was grueling. I had a 3 year old who was absolutely the best gift I'd ever been given, and the most challenging obstacle I'd ever encountered up to that point. I felt like I was being pulled in a million different directions all at once, and was not doing any of the things well. I was good at my job, I loved working at the L'Oreal Bentonville office. My team was amazing, and lots of fun to be around. It was the first job in my whole career that I actually didn't dread going to work every day - because I enjoyed the people I was around. But I also felt like I wasn't giving my marriage, and my child nearly enough of me. And there were just no good options. I felt like I was just slogging it out.

Looking back I can see that God set me on that path in order to set me up for the next phase. Because of where I was, I was able to utilize amazing health insurance benefits that kept us from major financial ruin when my health catastrophe hit. It also meant that I was able to secure long term benefits once it was confirmed that my vision would never return. But these were just things to maintain care of myself and my family. God had/has bigger plans for what happened.

Over the years I have been amazingly blessed by the women that have come around me and offered love and support. Whether it be a ride to the grocery store (Hello Teena Taxi Ladies!), or friends that stop by to chat "just because". The body of Christ has really been there for me in ways that are just amazing. It has taken me a long time (and sometimes I still struggle) to get used to accepting help. But I have found that - if nothing else - it is an amazing way to start a relationship. Many of the ladies that I so lovingly call my Teena Taxi Ladies I had never met before they volunteered to drive me around. Now - I love them all dearly and call them all friend.

So for this introvert - it's been a good thing that I have to call on others, and ask for help. Because if I had simply been a stay at home mom when I felt like I wanted to be, my life would not be nearly as rich in relationships as it is now. It's so easy for us introverts to hole up and go about our day to day without ever popping our head out of our holes to see who or what could use our assistance. But now, I'm finding that the more I spend time around the ladies in my circles, the more enriched my days are. So even though I may be bent on my introvert ways, I recognize that it's not always healthy for me to stay there. So now I challenge myself as often as I can build the emotional energy to do so, to engage with others and live in community. Bring it all; the good, the bad, the ugly.

Reflecting - 3 Years of Change

At this point, 3 years ago I was experiencing the initial onset of what a week later would be diagnosed as Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension. By the end of the day I was experiencing blurry vision in my peripheral region, in less than 48 hours my vision continued to deteriorate. I saw several doctors, and visited the ER and everyone kept telling me I had a sinus infection and the pain in my head, and neck and shoulder spasms were due to stress. It took over a week for someone to finally address my extreme vision loss and take things seriously. Unfortunately by that point, and what we didn't know at the time, was that permanent damage had been done to my optic nerves. I would never drive again, and I would not return back to work. My life was drastically changed. Yet God has been so faithful to us. I have experienced such joy since that painful time. Because I can't work, I now have the time and energy to focus on my family the way that I wished I could while working. Because I can't drive I have built some really fun relationships with ladies who are willing to take me (and The Ginger Girl!) wherever we need to get to. God orchestrated the timing of our move to the downtown area which has afforded me amazing freedom and mobility in ways that I hadn't had since my illness. Yes, there are many days that I get frustrated. Yes, I have spent time being angry. Yes, I wish I could just drive myself and not have to think ahead and plan out every single detail if I want to get out. Yes, I get paranoid that people don't understand my disability because it's not obvious and I worry about being judged harshly for it. But ultimately, I'm in a lot better place emotionally, spiritually, and physically *because* of what happened 3 years ago. 

God does know the plans He has for me. They are plans for a future, and a hope. When I am weak, He is strong. 

Parenting yes's and no's

I love what Jen Hatmaker says in her blog about parenting yes's and no's. As a parent I'm constantly worrying if I'm getting it right. Am I setting my focus on the things that matter? Am I demonstrating grace, or am I just being too soft? Jen has some good thoughts. 

Bubbling over

God has been teaching me some really amazing things these past few months, and I really am just literally bubbling over. I came to a realization today while sitting through Dianne Sanabria's Identity In Christ and Spiritual Warfare class just how far God has brought me over the last 4 years. To the point that I do not even recognize the person that I once was! Hallelujah! HE sets us free! I was so bound up with anger and resentment. I was bitter and depressed. I was self righteous and superior to those around me. I was confused, unhappy, and insecure. He has brought me to a place of humility. Through that humility I have learned how to BE loved, and I have been shown love that is beyond my own comprehension. He started calling me by name, and had to drag me through the trenches to get me to pull closer to Him. But in those darkest moment he has shown Himself to me. He has cared for me in ways that I cannot express. The God I know today is so much bigger and so much more real than I ever gave Him credit for. If only I could let others see what I see and have them embrace it for themselves. It is literally painful to me to see others who are stuck in the same way that I was. To be blind to the bondage that is holding them back from feeling the power of our Saviors love for us! I am so thankful for all of the amazing people that God has one by one placed in my path on this journey to find Him. Each has served a unique roll and I can look back and see the stepping stones of the journey He has me on. So with all of that I am SO EXCITED for what He has planned for me in His grand story! He WANTS me, He has CALLED me. I am His child and He has freed me. All glory to our Father and Creator! Praise His holy name!

Finding Quiet

I have found that when I have too much time on my hands I seldom appreciate the quiet and the space to do life as I choose. Yet when the pace picks up those sweet moments of peace in between the chaos are simply golden. I got a moment of golden peace today. Between Baker Bash and quick lunch with my Ginger Girl I stopped to sip coffee and have peace in a bustling coffee shop. Then strolled over to the library where I plugged in my headphones and just journaled. My selfish side tends to yell that I need more quiet time. But I actually seem to be more productive with my peaceful moments when they're tucked neatly between blankets of bustle. And if these winds of change that are brewing are any indication, that's a good thing. Things are about to pick up. They're about to get real in a hurry. So we best get used to how change feels. God has big things in the books. 


Finding Your Identity in Christ

I started a new study this week through my church and we're focusing on finding your identity in Christ. And in that, I had an opportunity to step outside my comfort zone and be a "table leader". If you know me very well, you know that I run from leadership roles. I fear them, I don't feel well equipped. If given the opportunity I will come up with 100 (in my mind) good reasons why you don't want me doing that. Yet God in his infinite wisdom knows just exactly how to put me in those circumstances so that I can thrive. That is what happened to me today. As it happened several of the ladies who had volunteered to be table leaders came down with one illness or another, and we were left with only 2. One of which being my sweet friend who drives me. So when I tagged along to the meeting before the study I was graciously asked if I would help. Well, as I do when faced with an "I need help" situation, I was unable to come up with a good reason not to help. So I nervously took my paper with questions to aid in table conversations with heart thumping and palms sweating. And you know what? I didn't die. In fact, I was blessed with some of the best 30 minutes of conversation I've had in a while. These 5 women who had never met before, myself being the youngest, managed to laugh and cry and enjoy each others company enough and become even more excited about the weeks to come as we embrace our identity in Christ. So, here I am, throwing my hands up once again. Okay God. Clearly YOU got this. I had NOTHING to do with this, but you let me in on it anyhow.

A few of the things that stood out to me today from the study:

Why is your identity important?

  • how you do life is determined by what you believe
  • you cannot pour out to others what you don't know yourself

"Your Christian walk is the direct result of what you believe about God and yourself . If your faith is off, your walk is off. If your walk is off, you can be sure it's because your faith is off." ~ Neal Anderson in Victory Over the Darkness (emphasis mine)

"... idols can't be removed, they must be replaced. What we need is a living encounter with God." ~ Timothy Keller in Counterfeit Gods

When we believe lies about ourselves, we are believing lies about God. 

When I have the opportunity to share with others about my experiences from the last few years of my life; the healing of my marriage, and the complete redirect of my life when I lost my physical vision it is SO FREEING. God uses opportunities like this to remind me that HE works all things for good for those that love Him, and that HE HAS A PLAN for this, for me. I just have to have enough faith to continue to put one foot in front of the other and follow in the direction He's taking me. He's working out the details. I just have to keep walking.

Acorn ponderings

I am going to attempt to describe my ponderings from today as I was mowing the yard on how God spoke to my heart by using acorns. **Full disclaimer - sometimes my story telling is not exactly in a straight line, and occasionally takes random detours. This drives certain people (AhemJeffAhem) a little bonkers. So my apologies in advance if it's not exactly concise. 

Over the last several weeks the weather began to think about getting colder (although it changed it's mind this last week...) and got pumpkin spice latte's and all things Fall started to emerge in the market places. Additionally our roof began being pelted with acorns from a tree in our back yard that is a rather mature acorn maker. It started off with just a tap or two that I recognized from years past as the start of fall. *TAP* Yep, there's those acorns again. *TAP-TAP* Yep, it's fall alright. Then occasionally it sounds like someone just threw a bucket of acorns at the roof *WOOSH BAM*. I mentioned to my husband recently that I was a little wary, even, of stepping off of our covered back porch for fear of receiving a concussion from those crazy acorns. I could just picture it: the news article would read "Bentonville woman receives emergency care after neighbor finds her unconscious from head trauma due to acorns".  Needless to say; while I was mowing my yard today I was a little wary of going too close to the tree lest I get smacked.

But then my heart was stirred. *Hey, you* What? Can't you see I'm trying to be productive here? *Don't you think all of these acorns here scattered on the ground, do you think this is maybe how you speak to Me?* I'm not following... *Sometimes you come to Me with your daily needs and wants, and others you pelt Me with the desires of your heart.* WOOSH BAM indeed. Whoa. Then, as we do these days, I went to take a picture for posterity sake and it dawned on me; the closer you get to the trunk of the tree, the thicker the crop of acorns becomes. *WOOSH BAM* 

Matthew 10:29-31  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Psalm 37:4  Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

What an Awesome God we serve, when he can speak to me through the acorns in my yard.

weight loss

Jeff and I have been working hard over the last 9 months to get healthy. The goal for Jeff started out with just wanting to be healthier, and has turned into him losing a solid 40 pounds (WOOHOO! Rockstar!), and becoming a running machine. We all got new, good quality bikes back in November to help us on this track. We've tracked calories, we've adjusted the things we consume, and increased our overall activity. For Jeff, he saw results pretty quickly, losing 15 pounds in the first several weeks. For me, it's been a lot slower process to boost my metabolism. After 10+ years working behind a desk my body has taken longer to get jumpstarted. But it appears to finally be moving in the direction I want it to! It's soooo much easier to stick with something when *I* am seeing tangible results. Finally I can say that I have lost a big round number (10) and I'm seeing the results in my, now, baggy jeans. It may have taken 9 months to get here, but I'm just glad to finally see results. I haven't turned into the running (or riding) machine my husband is, yet. But I do walk. A lot. And when I walk it's a speed walk. It's what me and my siblings used to call my mother's Cedar Point walk. We would go to *The Awesome-est* Roller Coaster park when we lived in Ohio, and would occasionally get season passes. When we were all old enough and tall enough to ride the big coasters we were on a mission each visit to ride every coaster as many times as possible. So the Cedar Point walk was this walk-as-fast-as-you-can-without-running thing (*because running was not allowed at the park in the lines...) Anyhow, running just has not been my thing in the past. My lungs couldn't handle it, more than anything. Last fall I tried jogging for very short periods of time and in the length of 3 houses in my neighborhood I'd be dying. So I stopped trying and just stuck to the speed walking. Well apparently that has paid off. This past weekend I was pleasantly surprised when I went on the Fun Run with Aylin (After Jeff did his actual RUN RUN in the Mana Spring Fling 5K) and while keeping up with the kiddo we actually jogged most of the 1 mile and I DIDN'T DIE! And I wasn't absolutely toast after, either! So maybe it's time to try the jogging again...

Those Pesky Feelers

I recently had a conversation with a friend that left me spinning for days, maybe even a week. It never ceases to amaze me the "truth" that others choose to speak in the name of "love". Where there may have been some small nugget of truth (I'm still trying to work through that and decide for myself) the fact of the matter is that the presentation was far from helpful. Although I am certain that the intent was pure and intended to point me in the right direction, the effect that it had ended up causing me to question things that I shouldn't. So for those of you who have the gift of Exhortation, I urge you - despirately - to use caution when attempting to spread your "love". When speaking to those who are much more sensitive than yourself you may end up doing more damage than good. If you don't have all the facts, refrain from speaking until you do. When digging for informtion, don't assume you have the full picture. 

I have always struggled with being able to clearly articulate how I feel about a matter. Frankly it hasn't gotten any easier in my 30+ years, I've simply decided that it's something that is worth working on. But there are those who have similar issues to me who don't feel comfortable or safe even attempting to share their feelings. It is so much easier to just crawl in a hole and attempt to disappear. Is that helpful? No. Does it solve anything? No. But it is a gut reaction to those of us who have a hard time connecting feelings with words, and clearly communicating them. 

Do I need to work on being able to clearly communicate my thoughts and feelings? Absolutely. Do I need to work on being able to speak up for myself in the moment when someone is off course. Definitely. But I would also encourage those of you who feel it necessary to chastize others to think twice about what is going to come out. Is it necessary? Is it true? And are you offering helpful advice, or just spewing your opintion? 

It's always difficult for me to swallow situations like this, mostly because I just can't identify with them - At. All. The concept is so foreign to me that anyone would feel the need to correct someone in this fashion, I simply cannot identify with why anyone would feel the need to tear another person down. But I recognize that simply because I see it this way does not mean that they see it the same way. In the same way that I recognize others may not see things the way I do, I would hope that others can recognize that the way they feel about a matter may not be the same as their recipient. Above all, when in doubt speak in love. I don't mean by  "lovingly" telling your brother or sister they need to change how they are living or acting. I mean be there for them, be a shoulder or an ear. Tell them you hear them, and that your Father loves them. Let HIM be the one the conviction comes from. HE can and will do these things if we let him.  But when others get in the way and feel that - if they don't say it, no one will - it is likely to do more harm than good. 

Peace. Love. Grace.

May we wallow in those things.

year one. love.

This week I have my one year follow up with both my Family Doc, and my Ophthalmologist. It's kind of sureal to me that a whole year has passed. An entire year has gone by where my visual ability has completely changed from what I knew little over a year ago. And although my vision is not so terribly great these days, I choose to believe my over all quality of life has improved. My relationships are stronger with my family, my marriage is in the best shape it has ever been, my child is learning and growing and thriving. I have had the opportunity to meet and be blessed by an amazing community of women that I might not have ever had the opportunity to know had this event never taken place. 

That's not to say that this last year hasn't been hard. Because, the Good Lord knows - it has been. Probably the hardest year of my life so far. Yet everyone that has surrounded me over the last year has been a helping hand in one form or fashion to help keep me going. To encourage me when I need it, and to drag me out of the dark hole I often find myself slipping into. I pray every day that the Lord will bless all of the amazing people in my life with an extra portion of the amazingness that they have shown me. 

If I have learned nothing else over the last year, it's that you can never know the full extent of a kind gesture. Simple things can be so huge, and have been for me so often. So I hope and pray that any person who might feel discouraged or jaded by an effort of giving - don't give up yet. Bless, and Love others because He has asked it of us. Your acts may encourage others. Even if the direct recipient of your acts do not receive the full blessing you offer we can never know if someone else will. Love. Because loving feels good. Loving is what we are called to do. Let the world be rained on by our love. Let it be drenched to the core and saturated with it. Love. 

As one who has been rained on with love and saturated to the core - more people need this feeling. I never would have survived this last year in the condition I have without the love I received.