Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ali's Thanksgiving Carol

It's Thanksgiving!!!  I absolutely love this holiday set aside to be Thankful.  I love the emphasis on family, the farming harvest, I love baking and cooking and blessing those I love through what I make, I love being reminded to be thankful to the God who gives us so so much.  I love pretty much everything about this holiday.  So take a journey with me to my Thanksgivings Past, and maybe we will all be reminded of what we are thankful for: (enter wistful music and twirling feeling like on Dicken's Christmas Carol)

1.  I'm just 18 or 19 - lying there in a cold hospital room in Canada of all places!  This was the first Thanksgiving I remember where things were very different for me. I became quite sick (gallbladder but they didn't know it then) and was put in the tiny local hospital for 5 days I think.  They put me on a liquid diet.  I remember clearly talking to my sweet Daddy on the phone and he told me maybe they would let me eat cranberry jello since it was Thanksgiving day.  The whole experience was a blur - but looking back I am so thankful for my big sister who spent so much time watching over me and loving on me, and for friends who were by my side during that time.  On to the next Thanksgiving a few years later ...

2.  Lying on the couch and my parents home.  I had to stay home from the family Thanksgiving because I was sick recovering from strep throat.  My parents and whole family was over 2 hours away and the doctor told me to rush to the ER because I was having trouble breathing.  My mom told me to call the neighbors (who just so happened to be the family of my sweet Farmer Boy!) and Joshua himself came and drove me to the local ER (we were not dating at the time but best friends)  I told him to just drop me off and go back to his family Thanksgiving dinner.  But he refused and stayed in the ER with me for hours making me laugh and talking with me.  His parents waited on having dinner til after 8pm when they let me go home.  I was overwhelmed by his and their generosity.  I started seriously falling in love with him. :)

3.  My very first home alone - and this year  I was sick again and couldn't make the trip to the family dinner.  Joshua (who by now was my intended) was away with his family in another state.  I was really alone.  My amazing parents came to my house and dropped off a lovely slice of pumpkin pie before heading to the family dinner.  I wore my Farmer Boy's big cozy sweater all day.  Perhaps this Thanksgiving was one in which I learned the most because I was really alone and I could have let it ruin it, but I decided to make the most of it and enjoy my day just me and my God.  It was so blessed and full of reminders of what I am Thankful for.  Now on to the last Thanksgiving memory ...

4.  I really disliked this hospital - maybe because  I was hospitalized for a couple weeks - very sick with pericarditis.  I was downtown and my sweet Farmer Boy spent every possible moment by my side.  On Thanksgiving I was very depressed, my family stopped by and Joshua went home to have dinner with his family (which I definitely didn't want to make him miss!) but at around 10pm he called and said he was coming back to spend the night at the hospital with me.  I was so surprised that he would drive 2 hours after a busy day to spend time with me because he knew how lonely I was.   (twirling feeling and music and suddenly we're back to the present)

The point of this journey to Thanksgivings Past is to remind you all (and myself) that no matter where you are today, or who is with you, or how you are feeling - there are always blessings and reasons to be Thankful. 

Thanksgiving Present: At the moment I am fighting a cold among other things.  I got the news  from my doctor today that I have to really be careful of what I eat and may even have to be on a liquid diet (because of the likelyhood that my pancreas is upset again)...which is disappointing since I just LOVE all the butter and yumminess of Thanksgiving dinner.  BUT I am choosing now to find joy in the God who is always with me.  I may or may not spend the day around a table with the family I love ... but whatever the case I am grateful.  It's not easy - I feel very disappointed about possibly missing the day with family and my Husband .. but it is a choice I need to make. (update: my cold held back enough for me to go to the family dinner and even though I wasn't able to eat everything I had a lovely time!)

I would love to hear your Thanksgiving stories!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Walking through the valley

There are times when for whatever reason: relational problems, physical pain or illness, depression, loss of work, loneliness, isolation, financial troubles, new diagnosis, death of a loved one ... it seems our bodies try to protect us by "turning off" our emotions.  We find ourselves going through the motions of day to day life not something is missing.   I've had this happen a few times in my life: after my Grandpa died when I was 15, when surgery ended up not relieving the pain ... So what do we do in times when we feel this way?

Keep going.

I've found that there are times when you just have to force yourself to do the things you don't "feel" like doing.  Go to work.  Clean the house.  Even sometimes getting up in the morning.   And even though this may not change the way you feel, it helps you get through the time in the valley.  

It's frustrating wanting your emotions to catch up with what you know and believe to be true.  But eventually they will.  Don't give up but keep on going and do things that you know you used to like doing or things that you know are important: read the Bible, pray - even if you don't know the words to say God cares how you are feeling, spend time with others who are encourage you, cook, garden, sing ... these things can give you little glimmers of what you used to love and help pull you out of the self-defeating feelings or lack of feelings. 

Do these times that everyone goes through steal away all joy and hope?  They don't have to!  Joy is based not on changing emotions but on truth - the truth that God is with us no matter what, the truth of heaven, the truth of those around us who love us for who we are, the truth of the beauty in creation!  That is one of the main reasons I wanted to start this blog - to remind myself and others that there IS a joy or "a different kind of happy" that is not based on circumstances. 

Do any of you have ideas for what you do when you are going through a valley in life?  I would love to hear!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Not just a body

“Life depends on the physical body, but the physical body is not what life is all about” (Unknown)

I've been reminded so much lately that life is so much more than this body of ours.  When friends find out they have cancer, dear friends and family get closer to the end of a long life, diagnosis change, young people are snatched from life during a car accident ... there is just so much to remind me that these bodies we all have are not what makes us who we are.   The beauty of the human soul shines forth even on the death bed.  We all have the choice every day if we will let whatever is happening to our physical body determine our attitude, or not.  What is happening to our body is often not in our control.  But we can choose what our true LIFE is going to be.  We can choose to have joy in our lives even in sadness, we can choose to trust God with all that we are, we can choose to love those around us.  Life is SO much more ... so live today a full life no matter what.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A shoulder to cry on ...

Last night I was watching true story about a sweet young woman who had given birth to a still born baby.   It was a heart-breaking story. I cannot imagine that pain and loss.  She was pregnant again and struggling with panic and fear that she would loose this baby too (she didn't!). 

The pain of loosing a child must be nearly unbearable.  I have sat with one of my closest friends and cried with her when she lost a baby.  There is no comfort to offer in those moments.  My friend told me the worst "comforting words" were from people who told her that she was young and could have more babies.  She wanted to be allowed to grieve the loss of THIS baby and not have her pain belittled in any way.  Every person has suffering and pain unique to them.  No one can feel someone else's pain. 

Back to the story I saw last night: one thing this young lady said stood out to me.  She said that when her baby died her group of friends grew silent.  No one called.  No one commented.  No one was there.  Just silence.  She felt neglected in her time of greatest need.  What a shame!  But, unfortunately it is not rare for this to happen.  Pain, loss, death, cancer, mysterious illnesses, divorce, affairs, loss of faith .. all of these times of deep suffering are hard for people to bear.  Friends may disappear because they feel it is too hard to walk through this suffering.  People don't know what to say because they feel if they say the wrong thing they will cause more pain.  It's human nature to want to shrink away from pain - in others as well as in ourselves.  But I am challenging us all to NOT.  You don't have to have the answers.  You don't have to know some amazing thing to say to that friend who is hurting.  You don't have to feel comfortable with the situation.  You just have to be there.  Offer support in little ways: make a meal, offer to babysit, pray for them (and let them KNOW!), call them on the phone, send a text, offer to clean their house .. drive them to the doctor ... there are SO many ways to offer support. 

I long to be a better friend to those around me.  I sometimes shrink back just because in this place of life we are in I don't get the opportunity to be away from the house much or even have people over much .. BUT I can still pray and I can send a message to someone who is hurting.   Don't do nothing just because you can't do everything.  Together we can ease some of the pain around us and at least offer a shoulder for that friend to cry on when they need it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Jesus: the best dream of heaven

I wasn't sure what to post today - nothing really in my own life exciting to write about right now (except my walk today with the gloriously crispt fall air, the crunchy yellow leaves beneath my feet .. yep that was pretty amazing!).   But in general, I'm not feeling very motivated to write at the moment - and when I read this article I knew I had to share!!

It's so important to keep our focus away from ourselves, our pain ,our healing, our longing for the freedom from suffering in heaven - and to keep our eyes on Jesus - the reason for every blessing we have or long for someday in heaven.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Is Life Worth Living? Carol's Story!

Carol is a beautiful person whom I met through the blog!  Her story is inspiring as she has been through something very difficult that has changed her life.  But she still says life if worth living and that takes courage and a strong spirit.  Here is her story:

"Hello everybody. I am a 54 year old living in Wales in the United Kingdom. Until a year ago I was a vibrant fun loving woman who hadnt a care in the world. Then Bang...A brain heamorrhage turned my life upside down.This last year has been a nightmare for me and those around me. I am scared to go out of my front door, scared to be alone in my home and scared to go out alone. But with the help of those around me I am getting better slowly. My whole perception of the world around me has changed. I look at everything differently now. People, places, flowers, trees all have a meaning to me unlike before.Everything is "special".Everybody is special. I no longer take anything for granted. It all has a meaning whether its a little dog running past my house or a little child crying. Its all a big deal for me now. So to all those who are thinking that life isnt worth living...believe me it is. You never know whats around the corner. Love to you all. Carol.XXX "

Expected Life

Facebook is fun because you can see pictures of the lives of friends you have lost touch with over the years - see what their wedding was like, drool over their beautiful babies etc.  It's also fun because a few of my old friends and acquaintances are now bloggers and they share stories about their lives and mostly pictures of their families. 

Last night before bed I happened to look at the latest post of a childhood friend of mine.  She shared gorgeous photos of a beautiful baby boy .. their trip to the pumpkin patch, her husband carving pumpkins with the little guy ... just the cutest photos that made me imagine what her life is like.  She started off the blog by saying that when she was a little girl and pictured her life THIS is what she pictured.  She didn't know the details (who she would marry, what her baby would look like etc.) but she is living her dream life.  I am very happy for her - her family is gorgeous and their life looks beautiful (now I know that even the most "perfect" looking life has struggles and I am not saying her life is free of those by any means). 

Her words got me thinking as I went to bed last night.  My mind was flooded with pictures of a gorgeous little red-haired boy.  And I thought: what would it be like to be living my childhood dream?   When I was a kid I wanted first and foremost to be a mama.  I played house all the time, pretended to be pregnant.  I had lots of baby dolls and loved rocking them to "sleep".  As I grew into a teen being a mama was still my #1 goal.  I wanted as many kids as I could have.  Second to being a mom I wanted to be a missionary and travel to far off lands helping those in need.  But being a mama was always my first dream and my deepest dream.   Right now I literally have 9 friends posting pregnancy pictures on facebook - complaining about being "fat", sharing ultra-sound photos .. I have countless friends posting baby pictures - literally everywhere I look are more baby pictures.   And I can't help but feel like these friends are living MY dream!   (I am sure it was their dream too - or maybe for some of them it wasn't their original dream, but they do seem pretty excited about it now.)  Am I saying that people shouldn't share their baby news with me?  NO WAY!  I absolutely love looking at the adorable baby bumps my friends are sporting.  I spend a lot of time just enjoying the beauty of the babies my friends have made.  I treasure being brought into this exciting part of the lives of my friends.  But, to say that I never feel jealous would be a lie.  I questioned if I should even post this because I don't want my pregnant friends to read it and feel bad for the blessing growing inside them!  I don't want my grief of infertility to taint the joy of their fertility.  But, after talking with a friend who is also struggling with infertility I realized that it might be helpful to express some of depth of suffering involved with infertility.

Living my dream will never happen in the way that I dreamed it would.  I will never carry a baby inside me.  My sweet Husband and I are in a funny place right now - without a home of our own just trying to get him through school, unable to pursue adoption at this time .. our life is far from the dream and expectation I had as a child.

BUT, that doesn't mean that our life is bad.  There are beautiful things every moment that maybe we need to focus a little harder to see - but they are there.   God has given us wonderful people in our lives.  He has given us both very challenging ministries to people who are hurting in some way.  He has given us responsibilities.  He has given us the lives of beautiful nieces and nephews, god-children to be involved in and enjoy.  He has given us a warm place to stay (even if it isn't our dream farm house!).  He has given us laughter.  He has given us beauty in little things.  He has given us music.  He has given us a sweet garden.  He has given us a wonderful church.  He has given us opportunities for growth.  He has given us each other! (I often tell my Joshua that he is my dream that has come true and I am SO grateful for our marriage!)   He has blessed us beyond words even though for the most part, this life is not what we expected or dreamed.  

I rejoice for the life He has given us because I know He gives what we need even when sometimes as a spoiled child I feel like pouting that He didn't give me what I wanted.   May His grace transform my heart to want more than anything what He wants for me - for us.   For His dream to become my dream.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tell YOUR Story!

I was totally shocked.  I know that some people have different views of illness and life and death etc. but to come face to face with such a very different mentality about suffering, productively, and life made me feel like the wind was knocked out of me.  I spend a lot of talk communicating with people in various walks of life, many dealing with health issues, many not.  This person I came into contact with has shown over and over that they are either afraid of or very judgemental of ill health.  By literally mocking those who are sick, and saying things about how those with ill health have no reason to be alive - (because they can't be productive), how this person doesn't want those with health problems in their family .. it goes on and on.  

 I don't know what has influenced this worldview - maybe their parents were harsh toward people who were sick, or maybe they fear being sick so much that they have created this mindset. Maybe they have seen people who are disabled taking advantage of it and using the situation in selfish ways ... And in fairness - this person is not very involved in knowing that I even have daily health struggles.   But the whole situation got me thinking. 

I don't buy into this worldview for a moment.  I do know that suffering can make you feel useless at times, and may make you question your place in this world.  (believe me I have gone through those stages) But, I know too many stories of people who faced serious and debilitating health issues yet were amazing productive forces in the world.  I also know myself that I wouldn't give up my life for anything - pain and all.  I don't think my life is a waste at all and I have a lot of joy even amidst the pain.  But what I want from you is YOUR STORY.  I want to know what you feel about this issue and why you feel your life is worth living even in the middle of whatever suffering you endure.  You can email your stories at and your story might just be published here on my blog! 

Let's encourage each other and change the mindset that ill health makes life unworthy!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


As I turned the corner I was enveloped in light.  It literally took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes it was so beautiful.  The trees covered with red leaves made a tunnel of the road and as I drove through I was overwhelmed by the immense beauty of creation - and because I know Who made those trees my heart was turned to worship. 


The bad news and sad news is all around us.  Suffering is part of the human condition - and it will be part of each person's experience in one way or another during our time of this earth.  We need to each be doing all we can to face the darkness and make even a "small" difference by bringing light.  But, one thing I have found to be helpful when I feel overwhelmed by the sadness and sickness and suffering all around (and in) me, is to focus on the beauty that is still very evident if we just open our eyes to it.

Like the leaves yesterday.  I was in a hurry - trying to get to a doctor appointment which was making me nervous because I have never driven to this doctor or even on this hwy - and I am dreadful with directions.  So I could have missed out on the beauty of that magical moment in the tree tunnel, but I decided to enjoy to drive even though I was nervous.  And in the end I made it to my cardiologist just fine AND I got a beautiful reminder of the beauty of creation and the Creator on the way!

Take the time to open your eyes to the beauty God puts all around us - even in the midst of the busyness of life and the suffering you may be facing.