A week and a half ago, after setting the intention to be more budget-conscious I found myself needing a black ink cartridge. Those things are expensive and I didn’t have enough left in my weekly home management budget to buy one. I could’ve used money from another account or my savings and it would’ve been fine but I tend to do that a lot so I decided to stick to my budget and get creative. I printed everything in blue ink instead of black for a while but as the week wore on this strategy got increasingly frustrating and I found myself with a list of “things to print when I get an ink cartridge.” I needed a black ink cartridge to live efficiently. I decided I could try to earn one. Now I’m a little rusty when it comes to earning money since I’ve been staying home with Jessica (and preparing for Jessica and trying to conceive Jessica) for the past 11 years and I’m particular about the time I commit outside our home. So I decided to post a message on my community Facebook group offering to cut back the myriad brown and crunchy frozen plants in people’s front yards. I listed my qualifications (Master Gardener Training, Landscape Design practice/consulting) as well as my availability (3 spots on Thursday) and price ($20). I hoped 3 people would want to take me up on my offer so I could buy my ink cartridge and get on with my life. In less than 3 minutes I had 3 customers and I was elated. Within 8 minutes I had 5 customers so I said I could do 2 front yards on Friday too (Hey, I thought, I can also buy the essential oil I’ve been needing to replenish). By the end of the night I had about 20 messages and by the next morning I was up to 30. The following week saw an additional 10 people added to my list, each wanting a different service (tree pruning, lawn consultation, landscape design, winter clean-up). As I met with different neighbors I realized that I inadvertently stumbled into a ready market for my landscape love. I’ve worked hard, I’ve made some mistakes, I’ve learned a lot, I’ve gotten dirty, I bought a hedge-trimmer and wielded it with pride (because I spent 60 hand-cramping minutes cutting back ornamental grass with hand pruners and that hedge trimmer gets the job done in less than a minute!). So this past week I filed papers with the Texas State Comptroller to officially establish Beautiful Village Landscaping LLC. Now proudly (and humbly) operating in Bulverde Village.
I have been off my synthroid medication for 8 months. I had my 6 month follow up in February and my antibodies were the lowest they’ve ever been, my thyroid hormones were were great. I’m telling you this to give you hope because bodies can heal. I have been told (repeatedly) by all manner of individuals that this doesn’t happen. I have been told by a small handful that it can. Anything is possible.
I remember sitting on the living room floor with Ritchie 2 years ago. I’d just been to the doctor where they suspected I had celiac disease. I was devastated because autoimmunity can be a slide and once you have one disease it’s easy to start collecting disorders until eventually your body is just mired in dysfunction. I sat there feeling so disheartened at the prospect of that and also humble. Like, well, if this is what God wants I will accept it. But, like many of you, I had other plans! Mainly living with and loving my family having adventures, using my gifts and skills to help other people grow. These last few years have been an interesting adventure in cultivating a deeper understanding of the interesting tapestry that is woven from personal choice and God’s will. Sitting on the floor in tears, I didn’t feel like I had filled the measure of my creation, there was more for me to do. And not in a self-aggrandizement kind of way, just in a mothering-give-back-to-humanity kind of way. So I asked God to help me figure out a way to do that, to fill the measure of my creation. I remember praying to be healed and then over time I changed my prayers to ask for the gift of healing. Instead of relying on something external to change my circumstance, the gift of healing meant asking God to teach me about this beautiful creation of his (the body) and to help me understand it and how to work with it’s natural tendency to heal. I think sometimes we think of the gift of healing as something we have and use for other people but in my experience asking for the gift of healing to heal myself has been a different kind of prayer leading to a beautiful journey. Like any artist, I have found my Heavenly Father to be more than willing to share the intricacies of His creations with me. Tune into your inherent strength & divinity, be brave enough to seek it and see what happens!
Yesterday as I settled into the news of the terrorist attack in Belgium and felt the fear that comes when people are hurt, this scripture kept coming to mind. These timeless words were uttered by the prophet Elisha to his servant when they woke up confronted with a seemingly insurmountable opposing force (represented by the tents). Before taking any action, Elisha prayed that the servant’s eyes would be opened and that he would be able to see that their sincere and brave efforts supporting Israel were augmented by the surrounding horses and chariots of fire. It was at that point that the real state of things was clarified to at least those two individuals.
Sometimes when disaster strikes or hurt abounds, it can be hard to “see” the hand of God because frequently we want to see Him in protection. Like Elisha and his servant, we want heaven’s hand to be manifest in the avoidance of pain for innocent people. It takes practice, patience and earnest seeking of the spirit to learn to see him in the midst of pain, to see Him in moments when resilience is being cultivated. After yesterday, take a deep breath and acknowledge the fear that you naturally feel because it has the power to transform you, to give you the desire to see things you might not have seen otherwise. When hurt abounds, as it does now, God can always be “seen” in the healing if that’s what you’re looking and praying for.
After acknowedging any fear or anxiety, try to see this: The signature of the adversary’s work is in fear, division and coercion. On the other hand, the signature of heaven is found in compassion, cohesion, healing and growth. So find peace in the stories of compassion that begin to emerge, bask in the goodness that flows from people who care. Find strength in the solidarity of humanity, the vast majority of whom abhor such violent acts. Watch as wounds, both physical and spiritual, heal through the ministering grace of heaven. Listen for the stories of people who draw on angelic strength and choose to grow through this hard thing that life offered them. And hug your babies, your spouse, your parents or yourself, maybe sit in stillness for a few minutes, smile at a neighbor or a fellow driver, recognizing that whenever you choose to love, unify, heal, strengthen and support growth, especially in the midst of fear, you’re in good company “for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.”
A little over two years ago I found myself coaxing my lungs to pull in some air after receiving a blow that reverberated to my soul. The nurse at our IVF clinic had just informed me that I was no longer carrying the babies I had been cradling in my womb. I fumbled through a few more blurred conversations with Ritchie and Jessica and my close friend Cindi and wrote this email to our family and close friends later that evening:
I have never known something with the strength that I knew this so I am left to reconcile that kind of knowing (which seemed to have a pretty cut and dry interpretation :)) with this place where we are sitting now which, at this point, still feels a lot like shock. It is uncomfortable to be sure, confusing, devastating and yet hopeful. I have felt the hand of God so clearly these last few months, it’s undeniable. And I am confident that He won’t leave me now although I imagine the answers and understanding will be slow in coming. In the meantime I’m going to grieve the beauty that has been before me.
Thanks for your love,
After walking timidly across the tan industrial carpet, into my initial appointment with my good psychologist, I sat on the proverbial couch and nervously drew breath. After a few initial questions, it didn’t take long to begin unearthing some of the struggles that were weighing heavily on my heart. For various reasons, these heartaches were things I had kept fairly close, hoping, with sincere faith, to manage on my own without burdening or embarrassing others. (My, how times have changed, as I apparently feel comfortable enough these days for anyone to happen across these solemn struggles of my soul). As I verbalized hard experiences, she would say “Wow, that sounds really rough” or “What a struggle for you.” These thoughts were refreshing to my parched soul because they were honest and true. It began to be clear that I hadn’t allowed myself to feel through the experience. You see, in the interest of believing that the Savior can make beauty for ashes, I thought that faith meant that I should ignore the ashes, sweep them under my bed, under the fridge, anywhere, because someday something beautiful would come in their place. My belief was that if I had enough real faith, the process would be immediate. I thought faith meant that the pain should be lessened or completely mitigated and that by feeling the sadness and the loneliness, I was denying the grace offered by heaven. What I didn’t realize was that my soul-squelching pain could indeed coexist with my steadfast faith. I could be completely heartbroken AND also possessed of a firm belief that the Savior was still mindful of me and that my losses would be made up.
I think the Savior teaches this when he meets Mary and Martha after the death of Lazarus. He knew, he KNEW, that in moments, they would be reunited with their brother. I imagine there are a lot of reasons that He wept with them, and those few verses are among some of my most treasured bits of knowledge about Him. He was dealing with two separate souls with distinct personalities and struggles. Martha greets him with a faithful expression of her belief that He can work this miracle. They converse about the resurrection and He alludes to the work He is about to perform. At that point Martha retrieves the distraught Mary. The Savior could’ve said, “Hey, don’t worry, I can fix this, dry your tears and let’s go.” But he didn’t. He sat with her in her sorrow. He took in the experience alongside both sisters. He felt the disappointment (had you been here…), he felt the loss. And he let them feel it too. He wasn’t put off by it and he didn’t need them to go elsewhere to manage themselves so that they might present their polished, faithful and smiling faces before He would work His miracle. No, they all descended into the awfulness of grief before they made the ascent out of it together. How did that frame the miracle of Lazarus coming back to life? If the grief had been glossed over or denied a voice or tears, how would those miraculous moments have changed? If He hadn’t respected their individual understanding when it came to Him or life or the resurrection, what would the exchange have looked like? I think the palpable agony of loss and the tears give life to those moments, it makes them real. And I believe the Savior is nothing if not real.
One afternoon almost six years ago to the day, RJ and I sat side by side on a tweed loveseat in our reproductive endocrinologist’s office. We had just completed (another) battery of tests to shore up our diagnosis in an effort to help us chart a course through infertility. With the sun blazing in through the slanted shades, we sat together with anger, despair and disillusionment between us as our compassionate doctor reviewed our options. Towards the end of the conversation, having observed the tears sliding down my once-hopeful face, our good doctor made the following observation, “Mrs. Miller, I’m sensing that your emotional credit card is about at it’s limit right now. I think it might be helpful for you to talk to someone. Before we begin, I’m going to need it to be at zero balance because we’re going to max it out with these procedures we’re talking about.” Beyond all semblance of composure, I took in his kind smile through blurred eyes, nodded and with feelings of both defeat and relief, took the psychologist’s card he offered me. That moment, filled with so much sadness and hope, would initiate some of the most profound healing I have ever known.
This ties into boundaries next time. I promise.
I was talking with someone dear to me who has been working towards something that feels divine. There have been moments when this endeavor has moved slowly and moments when it’s had undeniable momentum. There have been times when she’s felt frustrated, confused and helpless and there have been moments of clarity and beauty. All these things have met in swirl of faith as she strains towards something that has the potential to be incredible and yet could also turn out to be heart-wrenching. What I’ve noticed, and it has a familiar edge for me, is a willingness to invest so much of oneself without the assurance of a certain outcome. So often, I find myself willing to pile up loads of effort and sacrifice as long as I can exchange it for something meaningful or important or, at the very least, finished at the end of the day. But the manifestations of real grace that I’ve been privy to have come when souls have found a synergy with heaven in the process of a struggle, challenge or blessing. Once that connection becomes the beautiful thing, whatever comes afterwards often feels like a grace-full gift.
I have always loved this poem by Robert Frost. You’re probably familiar with it too…
The Road Not Taken
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the last two lines in the third stanza. Until recently, I thought I would always eventually find myself on the first road…the place I thought my life would look like. After some pretty significant differences at the outset of my parenting career, I figured I was just on a detour and I’d eventually rejoin the masses on the main road. But I forgot about way leading on to way….I didn’t anticipate the ways that I would change and the people I would meet on my road and how that would influence future decisions, especially those having to do with this beautiful little girl in our house. So I’m learning to accustom myself to surprises, to keep listening to my instincts and to appreciate the joy and excitement on this road. I think I’m improving my adaptability but my stress resilience and courage could still use some work. A lot of times it’s scary and intimidating to do things I’ve never seen done before. I have no context for what “that life” should look like so I create it the best I can with the tools and knowledge I have, trying imbue it with as much confidence as I can muster and striving mightily to incorporate the all the goodness I was given growing up. This effort, in turn, reinforces my ability to trust myself so at the next crossroads I assess the situation and make the choice that seems right for us.
Does everyone feel a bit lonely on their road sometimes? This one can be a lonely place because I think maybe my life is a hard one to understand if you haven’t lived it or listened well and it’s hard not to be understood. And yet, there are parts of this road that have been so intensely personal and beautiful that I usually don’t just volunteer my story, I wait for people earn the right to hear it. I wait until I know it can be appreciated because I treasure all of it. It is my story, after all.
So last night as I brushed a kiss across the cheek of my long-awaited, naturally-birthed, ivf, co-sleeping, nursing Montessori pre-schooler, I felt nervous, brave and very, very, grateful for the beauty she’s shown me along the way.
Oops. Well, I had a few funny things I wanted to write about so without further ado, here they are:
Jess, from the backseat: “Mommy, I wan help you drive”
Mommy: “Sorry baby, you have to stay in your seat.”
Jess, still in the backseat: “I’m not a baby, I’m a big girl. But I really want to mom.”
Mommy: “Well, if you can reach, you’re welcome to help me.”
Jess: “I can’t reach mom, maybe if I was an octopus!”
Jess, trying to turn off the light in her room (she could reach the lights at Lisa’s but she can’t here. This is frustrating for her). “I can’t do it mom, it’s bust!”
I think she was experimenting with the phrase “it’s busted” and that was her best attempt.
There’s more, but I can’t remember and she just woke up…love you all.
So Jessica discovered “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” on the Disney channel and she really likes it. We had to have a little discussion about not emulating Captain Hook but she’ll go around saying things like “Capin Hook’s a seeky sook!” (Captain Hook is a sneaky snook!, a quote from one of the pirates). And last night we had imaginary “poconuts” (coconuts) falling down our stairs. Daddy had to watch out as he was coming up because they were hitting him. Then as she was trying to not brush her teeth she started singing a song about strawberries and poconuts to the tune of “Once there was a snowman.” She was yelling to “Sista Millah Mommy” in the “microphone” again too. Tonight she just laughed and laughed while we tickled her, she tickled us and we all took turns hiding. The highlight of our day was probably when she threw her shoe in the toilet at the Middle School. Ritchie is disinfecting it now. I love that girl.