Second Chances

Three years ago this very day life as I knew it ended.

All of the hopes and dreams I had for my family came crashing down in our kids’ treehouse, of all places. It was in that treehouse, lovingly constructed from scraps of both lumber and time by Mr. Wonderful, that I found my soul mate right before he was about to take his own life.

You see, life had gotten so bad for him that suicide seemed like the only way to make his pain go away. 

The drinking hadn’t done it. 

The prescriptions and doctors on base hadn’t done it. 

His family hadn’t done it.

He soldiered on so well that I didn’t realize how badly he was hurting until it was almost too late. Minutes were the difference in our case-the difference between our story being about second chances and it being about what life is like as a military widow raising four kids all by myself. The difference between my kids knowing their dad and wondering what he was like.(photo cred Meredith Shafer 2016)

When I found Mr. Wonderful with a half drunk bottle of vodka writing his goodbye notes, all I knew to do was beg God to save him. To save us. 

I hadn’t even seen the loaded shotgun yet.

I just knew from climbing my very pregnant belly up to that second-story treehouse and feeling the sadness and pain radiate off of him that we were fighting for time.

That treehouse was meant to be our end. Instead, somehow God used it to start something brand new for us, to give us a chance at a second chance. Miraculously our ending was re-written at the last possible minute. We got a second act by the grace of God. 

It’s surely a miracle that the very pregnant girl was able to get the drunk, suicidal 6’6″ 330 pound soldier who was more than twice her size out of the treehouse, onto solid ground and into treatment.

It’s surely a miracle that Mr. Wonderful was sent to a treatment for a few months that would help save his life, restore his mind, begin his sobriety.

It’s surely a miracle that we have had 1,095 bonus days, second chances, extra time.

And though it hasn’t been an easy road over the last three years, I am grateful for every one of those 1,095 days. I count myself blessed despite the PTSD diagnoses, the caregiving, the crushing blows, the doctor’s appointments, the setbacks, the fights with the VA, and the new normal we find ourselves in. Even the worst days in the last three years have been a blessing, because they have been the second chance I couldn’t imagine from my viewpoint in that treehouse.

September is National Suicide Prevention month. Twenty-two military a day take their lives. If more if us speak up, tell the story with no shame, maybe we can break this stigma against mental illness and invisible wounds. Maybe we can convince hurting people to ask for help. Maybe we can reach out to those around us.


Ask someone if they’re ok. Care about people. Walk through this world with more kindness and less judgment. 

You could be the difference in someone’s story-


💗❤️💗

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2016.

For more info about our story, to check about speaking engagements or to find me on social media, connect with me at www.meredithshafer.com.

Advertisements

Kindergarten

Our baby girl starts kindergarten today.

I’m sure she’s going to be great. It’s me and her dad I’m worried about. Every first that my kids face, every moment and milestone just make this wet stuff squish out of my eyes. 

How can she be old enough for kindergarten?

When I found out I was pregnant with this little one, I was already a mom to the second power. But I had never been pregnant before–my oldest were adopted and I was just as surprised as everyone else that my baby maker was in good working condition. I had just gotten remarried in July of that year and in August I was taking a pregnancy test.

And then another. And another. And another…

The day I found out I bought this teeny pair of baby shoes. For some reason Mr. Wonderful came home for lunch that day and I wish you could have seen the look in his face when I gave him those shoes! In a space of two seconds he went from confused (why am I holding a tiny pair of shoes?!) to surprised (you’ve got to be kidding me!!) to elated (my baby’s having a baby!!).

That was a great two seconds.💗

This baby girl was born into our family of boys and suddenly there was a little person who wanted to be like me. Dress like me. Fix her hair like me. Oh, she’s still her daddy’s daughter–super serious and stubborn and highly suspicious of strangers–but even with all these boys in the house she’s still my girl. My kid who wants to wear my high heels and play with my purses and “borrow” (read: completely bogart as I find it up in her room) my lipstick.All I can see as we’ve been getting her ready for school this week is every first that is to come: her first crush, her first dance, her first broken heart and date and driver’s test and going away to college and meeting the love of her life and walking down the aisle to start married life and babies of her own. I see all of these hopes and dreams within her cautious little mind, and that’s why this first day of kindergarten is about to wring me out.

(photo cred Meredith Shafer 2016)

Of course I’ll miss having her here with me. So will her littlest brother. And her dad. But more than that I know this is start of the big pulling away, the forming of her own thoughts and opinions and life. This is when I have to start letting go, one piece at a time when all I really want to do is hold her tighter, protect her from all the gross stuff and bad people she will eventually encounter, and put her in my bubble of hugs and kisses and dancing around the kitchen (usually just me while she watches with eyebrows raised) and trying on new lipsticks. 

Mr. Wonderful and I are letting this precious little girl out of our sight all day, five days a week. We are putting our faith in a big God to go with her, take care of her and strengthen us.

I’m not sure I can take this day, but like other mamas and daddies across the globe, I’m going to suck up (most of) my tears, I’m going to send off my baby girl with a smile and a wave, and I’m going to console myself with breakfast at our favorite little joint and the fact that I still have one more kid at home with me.

Don’t even get me started on that one.

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2016. I would love to connect with you on Instagram and Twitter, swing by and say hi!

Who Is Your Tribe?

Who are your people? Who do you surround yourself with? Are these people lifting you up, encouraging you?

Your tribe is important. Who you spend time with, who you allow into take up space in your life is critical to where you are headed. If you have goals and dreams, you better have light-givers, encouragers, destiny-builders in your circle. There has to be someone in your world who believes in all you are capable of, someone who sees all the potential inside you.You have a choice. The people in your life will either build you up or tear you down. You can’t force them to do either; what you do have control of is who you allow in.

(photo cred Facebook.com)

Let’s choose our tribes carefully. I’m trying to surround myself with people who pray, love, and bring light into my life and into the lives of everyone around them. People who challenge me to be better, who are challenging themselves as well. I love friends who make me think deeply, laugh uncontrollably, strive greatly. I’m also trying to be that for them. 

Who is with you? 

Who is not? 

To reach your God-given destiny, you need your people to be on your team. Look around: if you’re successful are they clapping? If you fail are they offering a hand up? If the answer is no to either, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate who is in your tribe-

💗❤️💗

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2016. Swing by Instagram and Twitter to say hi!

#mytribe #mypeople #support #friendship #makeorbreak #success #successbuilders #tribe #friends

Vacation Mode

Vacation Mode: noun. The inability to manage real life after you get back from vacation, aka, you’re surprised that no one is bringing you copious amounts of delicious food any longer and you’re shocked to be hit square in the face with things like alarm clocks and feeding kids and responsibilities.

(photo cred luvinthesun.com)

This is a real thing, friends. We’ve been back for a week now and I’m struggling to figure out where all these children are supposed to go now that school is out and how I’m supposed to do all of my jobs. Things are so out of whack at the Shafer Casa that I started typing this blog post in my car while waiting for Mr. Wonderful to emerge from the trombone repair shop (with three of the four munchkins having some sort of battle raging behind me) and I finished it a mere eighteen hours later.

What is happening?!

I can’t seem to get it together. For real, I am disorganized, disinterested and since I’ve been under the weather for 48 hours, just done. I’m about twenty minutes from a long soak in the tub followed by some binge-watching followed by absolutely nothing.

Has anyone seen my motivation? I must’ve left it around here somewhere….

Life continues to march on despite knowing full well I can’t get out of Vacation Mode. Little Sister lost her very first tooth today! This is always a big milestone since the Tooth Fairy is the second most discussed visitor right behind Santa. 

And Big Brother lined me up next to him again to see if he’s passed me in height yet. It’s like he wants to know the exact moment that it happens so he can put it on his calendar. Baby Houdini was in rare form with his sweetness on overload. Little Brother made us all laugh until milk came out of some of our noses. Mr. Wonderful took me to the gun range for a date day-these are what we call good times around here!

(Photo cred Meredith Shafer 2016)

So maybe for a little while longer I’ll just have one foot in Vacation Mode and one foot in Real Life. Maybe I won’t get to everything on time (or even at all) but my kids will be fed and happy and I’ll make time for more date days with Mr. W. And we’ll enjoy summer and laughing and fireflies and swimming and I guess all those responsible-type things will get done around it all.

This sounds like a plan, friends-

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2016. Swing by Instagram and Twitter to say hi!💗❤️💗

Schooooool’s Out. For. Summer!

Today is it. 

This is all she wrote, the last day, and by 3:40 this afternoon we’ll have another school year in the books. My kids are delirious and frankly, some of us were done with school weeks ago. Mostly me, but whatever.

(How picture taking really goes at our house. Photo cred Meredith Shafer 2016)
I’m vowing that this summer is going to be spectacular in its ordinariness. I’m not signing my kids up for origami or making your own goat cheese or finding the artist within. They won’t be learning to build robots or going to space camp.

Nah. We decided long ago that our kids were going to have to figure out their own fun, use their imaginations, go outside and stay there for awhile. There won’t be a lot of technology. The kids will continue to do their chores that help our household run and teach responsibility at the same time. Even the two year old has jobs here. He unloads the clean silverware from the dishwasher (after someone has removed the scary, injury-inducing knives, of course). 

Sometimes he is a go-getter and unloads silverware even before we’ve had a chance to run the dishwasher. I often find our silverware bunched in a pile in the drawer because he can’t see what he’s doing but that’s ok. He’s learning how to be part of our community.

We really only have two rules around here: work hard and be kind. Everything falls under those two rules and it keeps things simple in a fairly complicated house. With the Bigs going to their dad’s house every other week for summer visitation and the Littles just trying to figure out how to wear pants, sometimes it’s crazy up in here. Throw in at least three therapies or doctor’s appointments per week, various work obligations, my new baby speaking and writing career that I’m trying to get off the ground and it can get to be just too much.

So.

Work hard.

Be kind.

Simple rules that everyone can figure out.  What we will be doing this summer? Showing Jesus’ love to everyone we meet, spending copious amounts of time outdoors, running amok in the neighborhood, learning to ride bikes and be potty trained, figuring out how to build forts from blankets and eating sno cones and swimming til our fingers are wrinkly raisins. We’ll be going to church and serving our neighbors and redoing furniture. We will probably hang out with family a lot, take little road trips, make memories that involve juicy moments savored and retold, the memories enhanced and cemented with every telling.

(photo cred zsazsabellagio.blogspot.com)

We will be the Pinterest-fail family this summer. We will relax from the frenetic pace of the school year; unplug, rejoice, enjoy. We are going to have a summer fit for the early 1980s and I can’t wait-

(Photo cred smosh.com)

Blessings, friends!💗❤️💗

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2016. Swing by Instagram and Twitter to say hi!

Coffee Quotes

   
   (all photos from sweatpantsandcoffee.com)
Have a blessed and caffeinated day friends!💗☕️💗☕️💗

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2016. Swing by Instagram and Twitter to say hi!

Happy Birthday Baby Girl!

At 6:30 tonight I will mark the 5th anniversary of the birth of my baby girl. I was already a mom to two boys that I had adopted so having a baby was a completely different experience.

After laboring all day and my blood pressure going sky high, we made the tough decision to have an emergency c-section. I’m so happy we did because I finally got to meet my little red-headed baby daughter! 

 (Photo cred Meredith Shafer 2016)

Happy birthday my sweet and sassy sidekick! I love you and I know you are going to do great things💗❤️💗 (Photo cred Meredith Shafer 2016)

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2016. Swing by Instagram and Twitter to say hi!

Celebrations

I’m procrasrinating my editing deadline (finalized manuscript due one week from today people!) and it feels so right. I’m just not in an editing sort of place right now, I have no focus after the craziness of this week and I think I just need a mental break.

So I’m giving myself permission to do just that.

In the meantime I’m celebrating. This week has been full of some really great family moments at our house, and when we have those, we hold on with both hands because we know how elusive things going well can be at times. I’m always a silver lining kid of gal so I’m usually celebrating anything I can get my hands on. This week, however, has held some really special moments.

My kids enjoyed one other’s company. Sure, they fight like cats and dogs but at their cores, they are all best friends. It’s hard to see in the picture but Baby Houdini is riding Big Brother like a horse and Little Brother and Little Sis are making sure he doesn’t fall off. Charlie the Service Dog is also keeping a watchful eye-

(Photo cred Meredith Shafer 2016)

Little Sister did amazing at the dentist, which isn’t news to you but to our family, when we have another kid who has such bad sensory issues the dentist is torture, this was a good day. 

 (photo cred Meredith Shafer 2016)

This week was also Big Brother’s Gotcha Day-the day he was born into our family through adoption twelve years ago. This pic is the moment he was placed into my arms for the first time. It still makes me teary-eyed!😭

 (photo cred Meredith Shafer 2016)

And finally, the kid who has the most struggles in school got a scholastic award for reading! He won the Thunder Reading Challenge for reading the most minutes at his school-well over 700. He told me he was going to win and he did! He read to anyone who would listen, the dog, his siblings. I even saw him reading to one of the neighbor kids… 

 (photo cred Meredith Shafer 2016)

This has been a week where living in the Shafer household has felt more like thriving instead of surviving. That’s a goooooood feeling, one we don’t take lightly around here. Thanks for celebrating with us, it brings me great joy to look around and see that we do indeed have so much to celebrate!

Blessings, friends!💗❤️💗

(

  

Grateful

 (Photo cred erincondren.com) 

Gratitude is such an overlooked tool in our survival kit. It doesn’t get enough credit and slides under the radar sometimes. 

Gratitude is a game-changer when life is going fantastically wrong. It’s a heart-mender, a push-giver, a sorrow-ender. Without it, life remains dull and, well, lifeless. 

But throw some gratitude into a day or a season that just isn’t working and see what happens. The season may not change right away but your perspective will- 

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2016

#gratitude #grateful #gratefulheart #gamechanger #godisgood #changeyourperspective

The Pause

I’m finding that, besides my prayers for my children, The Pause is one of the best tools in my parenting arsenal. That moment before I speak is critical–will praise or criticism escape my lips? Will it undermine everything I’ve done that day? Will I speak scolding words or good ideas of how we can all do better?

When life is chaotic (aka, every minute of the day) The Pause makes all the difference for me.   

(If you can’t tell Baby Houdini is swinging from the handle in the car while we wait at the bus stop😮.) It’s so much better when I don’t I go off half-cocked before I’ve had a chance to accurately assess the situation. Often I tend to make up this parenting thing as I go. This can make me fun and spontaneous, like when we ruin our dinner with ice cream and skip cleaning to run away to the park. This can also be tricky in the crazy of four kids, each clamoring for the thing they need right this minute.  This is an accurate representation of how our picture-taking usually goes. Easter 2016 pic–pretty much the best we could do that day. 

Sometimes I forget The Pause and words come out sharper than I intend or my frustrations with another situation, a different kid or even just a rough PTSD day spill out. No one is a winner when that happens.  A decade plus into this parenting gig and I’m just now figuring out how valuable The Pause is, so I speak life into my children. So I encourage and grow these little humans into big humans that love Jesus, each other and try their best to leave this world better off than they found it. 

I don’t care what my kids end up doing for a living. I think it goes without saying that I prefer them to do a job that’s legal and doesn’t involve poles or dancing or something that requires a death wish. Other than that, I just want them to be productive citizens who know how to be kind and work hard. I want them to learn from my mistakes in parenting. 

I hope they will learn earlier in parenting than I did that taking a deep breath before answering the one million questions allotted per child per day is helpful. That counting to three before disciplining a child is imperative. That stopping to figure out what really went on before the he said/she said will help accurately diagnose both the problem and the solution. 

I am no expert at The Pause. I am still learning how to embrace it and use it in each situation with each kid. But I am a mama who doesn’t give up. My children are going to do great things in their lives and it is up to me to nourish those seeds of greatness with my prayers. And before I speak into them all the good and blessing and love and instruction that I am supposed to, I will give them–and myself–the benefit of The Pause. 

I’m happy to say I’m a work in progress-  (photo cred Good Morning Quote)

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2016. Swing by Instagram and Twitter to say hey!