Vulnerable 

Exposed. Unguarded. Out on a limb.

Naked.

These words don’t conjur the most positive images. But I would pose to you that this is exactly where God does his best work.

(Youversion bible app)
When we are humbled enough to accept all he has to offer, when we let him break down our walls and stop pushing him away because of our self-imposed need to present a perfect self to him, that’s when he can use us.

In our brokenness, in our frailty, in our weakness.

This video is my brave Army guy’s testimony at our church. 

This video took courage. Mr. Wonderful is the guy I’ve been writing about for some time now. My sweet, strong army guy has suffered terribly for years from PTSD, depression, anxiety, alcoholism, even drug abuse.

But. God.

God saved us so he could use our pain for his purposes: to bring light and hope and saving grace and salvation to anyone who is still in that dark and broken place. We still have hard days but we will count them all as joy, becuse we have been snatched back from death’s door.

If you are having trouble with the darkness of mental illness, depression, PTSD, anxiety or anything else that has you feeling like you just can’t go on, please reach out. We will be your people if you don’t have any. I’m also leaving the national suicide hotline numbers in this post so you can reach out. 

YOU DO NOT FIGHT ALONE!

There is still a purpose for you, so please don’t give up. There is still a plan for your life. Even good and beauty can come from pain if you allow them to be used. Let my family stand before you as living proof-

National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK

If you’re a veteran: 1-800-273-8255 (press 1)

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬

©Meredith Shafer 2017. Connect with us: Facebook (@meredithshaferauthor), Instagram (@mypinkchampagnelife), Twitter (@mypinkchamplife) and meredithshafer.com

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.

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! 

Three Days

From here…  (Photo cred redimidospelagraca.blogspot.com)
It is finished… 

Good Friday: the day scandalous grace gave it all for all of us. The dark day for followers of Jesus who, at that moment, had no idea that the Son’s light would be shining down on all of them so soon.

But then–

 (photo cred hecallsmelovely.tumblr.com)

Could it be? Could the tomb really be empty?

On that third day when all but the tiniest sliver of hope was lost, love came rushing in, death was defeated in the final round and victory–sweet victory–was placed into our hands by the scarred hands of the Savior.

It’s time to celebrate the miracle, the gift and the sacrifice.

A lot can happen in three days–

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

891

We went to the VA today.  

 (Photo cred beachbrights.blogspot.com)

That’s when we found out our doc moved. Across town.

Then the doctor said a cardio referral for Mr. Wonderful will take up to two months unless we run here and call there and double back, turn around, sit down.

All this to say I can’t stop worrying about Mr. Wonderful just yet. He keeps having the seizure-like episodes and then had some actual heart pains and the neuro guy said he needs to see a cardiologist immediately.

Which will be two months from now if we play within the system. Frustration and honestly, straight up fear washed over me. 

And then. 

 (photo cred allieseidel.com)

I remembered the grace God has offered me. For free. How my good Father has already provided the answer I seek, the resting place I crave. The timing we need. I recall the scandalous grace and the way He has already saved my family.

You see, I have had an extra 891 days with my husband because of God’s scandalous grace. I have had 891 extra days of smiles and hugs and good mornings and prayers and dinner times and memories since that day in 2013 when I found Mr. Wonderful in the kids’ treehouse writing goodbye notes. 

Every day since has been a gift.

Even the hard days.

Even the days where we fight or fuss or learn something new about PTSD or slug it out with the VA. Even when we have more month than money or more kids than time or more pantry than food.

Every day–all 891 of them–have been a blessing from my Father in heaven, a record of his unfailing, unrelenting, scandalous grace.

And I am grateful. 

 (photo cred the WoW Style)

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Health Care

I have to be careful that I don’t go on too big of a rant here–no one’s got time for that!

We’re currently at the VA to get an MRI on Mr. Wonderful’s shoulder. Even though I’ve been working since November to get him scheduled with a neurologist for the seizure-like episodes he’s been having. We aren’t doing an MRI on his brain but his shoulder.

This makes no sense to me at all. The shoulder is not the emergency in our house. A 6’6″, 330 pound man falling on the ground while I, the smaller human in this equation, try to break his fall–this feels like more of an emergency in my book. We’re now up to daily episodes, sometimes multiple times per day. But we gotta get that shoulder looked at.

I made multiple calls to the VAChoice program, which is supposed to help if your appointment is more than 45 days out, which ours was back in late December/early January. I’ve made calls to neurologists. I know he is one veteran in the grand scheme but he’s my vet and I can’t break his fall very well. You should see us–we’re hilarious when this happens.

It looks like we are going to end up keeping our appointment with the VA neurologist in a few weeks.

I already want a second opinion. 

I’m getting all wrapped around the axle on something I can’t fix or change or speed up. I want Mr. Wonderful to see a civilian neurologist last month. I want his crazy scary seizure thingys to stop. I want to be at home on a Tuesday night with my family instead of waiting in a lonely hallway by myself for a late-scheduled MRI that ran even later. 

  (Photo cred Meredith Shafer 2016)

But what I really want is for God’s plan, his destiny for my family, to come to fruition. I want him to use us–even in the VA–to spread light and hope. God knows they need it here.

I only want what he wants for us. So I will unwind. I’m relaxing. I’m taking a little me-time right here in the VA. And we’ll go get some fried chicken and have a little Date Night on our way back to our family. And I will trust and believe that God works all things for our good. Even if it’s not my time or my plan or my way.

I have enough faith to trust that he’s got this. 

 (photo credit Meredith Shafer 2016)

Swing by Instagram and Twitter to say hi!

To the One Who Is Struggling:

Dear Friend,

I’m sorry this is all so hard. What you’re going through seems improbable on the best days and impossible on the worst. It’s hard to keep your chin up when life keeps knocking you down over and over again.

Yes, you’re bruised. Your wounds haven’t healed yet. I see your pain, feel it rolling off of you. 

Just when you think you might make it, another wave crashes over you, threatening to pull you under. You’re in over your head and relief seems as far away as the shore.

But friend, I want to tell you that even though you feel like you’re drowning right now, there are plans in the works. Plans to give you hope and a future. I can’t tell you how or when things will change. I just believe with all my heart that they will.

I believe in a good God that goes before us, stands behind us and walks beside us. You’re not sure if you believe, or you haven’t been in close contact with this God I’m talking about? That’s not a problem for him; you can’t do a thing to earn his scandalous grace.

You can have his peace in the midst of the chaos, the crazy, the pain or the grief. You can experience this peace no matter the circumstance. And it’s free.  

 (Photo cred babynameslog.com)

All you have to do is accept it.

Hang in there friend, better days are ahead, and I’m praying for God to hold you in the very palm of his hand.

Blessings,

Meredith

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

Work in Progress

Today has been about as crazy as yesterday. But.

I’m finding joy despite the gum. In. Hair. 

(Photo cred Meredith Shafer 2016)

Look how sad the little nugget is😢


And the mountains of homework that second graders seem to have regarding quadrilaterals and polygons…pretty sure I didn’t know what those were until middle school. We find the silver linings where we can. The eight year old who struggles with so much brought home an amazing book report–we are celebrating the crap out of that!
(Photo cred Meredith Shafer 2016)

  The twelve year old handled a situation that happened on the bus and he did it with wisdom well beyond his years. Apparently an older kid on the bus was making racist remarks about the twelve year old, who is originally from South Korea. I’m proud of him for trying to ignore it at first, addressing the kid on the bus, then addressing school officials when it wouldn’t stop. He handled it better than his mama would have; I’m afraid I err on the side of hot-headed mama bear when it comes to my kids.

We also had a minor accident even as I typed this blog post requiring copious amounts of paper towels to sop up the blood. After a lotttttttt of screaming and crying and hollering I was able to determine that though there was a lot of blood, this was not indeed an emergency. The eight year old had been swinging the four year old around and when she landed with a cross necklace in her mouth (whaaaa?!?) it cut her gums. No emergency here.

During the screaming and hollering I was fully preparing myself to go to the ER. That’s kind of our thing around here.

Thankfully, instead  of going to the ER, I’m getting ready to put the baby to bed, soak in a hot bath, and binge-watch anything on Netflix.

Tomorrow’s another shot at getting it all right. Or at least better.

Goodnight y’all!

Monday Madness

By 8:03 a.m. today I lost my mind and frankly, my will to do anything. Everyone at my house was off their game. 

Everyone.

The twelve year old left everything everywhere as if the magic cleaning fairy would be arriving soon to clean up after him. 

 (Photo cred thefunnybeaver.com)

The eight year old woke up late, moved slow, worked my last nerve with talk back and outbursts. I also found out why I keep getting a bill from the school cafeteria: despite making and taking his lunch every day, he was getting a tray instead of eating his lunch. So I do indeed owe the school $16.47.

The Little Sister of the bunch spilled her milk, threw a fit, spilled more milk. I still hadn’t lost it yet though. I was still slogging through getting the oldest two out on the bus at two different times and then getting the two littles ready while the baby was spilling yet more milk and the dog was drinking out of the toilet and I had so much work to get done today and it was time to cautiously wake up Mr. Wonderful (cautiously because he has the PTSD, we have a process) when I realized: 

This is my life. For realsies. 

 (Photo cred curiano)

Confession: I’ve been a fraud. Faking it with optimism and gratitude til I make it but never really making it up that hill. Working three jobs to make ends meet. Raising four kids, sometimes by myself. Caregiving for Mr. Wonderful. Waiting for someone else to come and claim the life they lost because this can’t be mine.

A few short years ago I had a working husband who was able to help a lot with our busy household. I only had three kids and two jobs. There was no VA battle, no PTSD, no ADHD, no running around constantly like a crazy woman. I only had to run around like a crazy woman sometimes back then.

I’m so tired of pushing and straining and striving to try to make changes and have nothing budge. I’m exhausted from not seeing more progress to spur me on. I’m tired of being tired and worried and unable to sleep or find time for working out or finding joy in time spent with my kids instead of hauling them from point A to point B just hoping I get them there on time.

I’m sick of fighting the VA to get my soldier the care and benefits he deserves. I’m afraid I don’t have any fight left and the battle’s not done yet. 

I’m weary today. And overwhelmed. And claustrophobic by the walls of responsibility closing in. I’m ready for the spring of my life and it feels like the winter winds have just begun.

The one thing I have going for me right now is that in my hardest moments of realness and raw honesty God meets me where I am. He comes to me with comfort, hope and peace, somehow knowing that this Monday, when I’m on the edge of losing my mind and my hope I need his steadying hand more than ever. He changes me from the inside out, even while He upholds me. 

I find great comfort in knowing that the orchestrator of the chaos of the universe cares about each hair on my head, on each worry and heartbreak and tear and breath of little ol’ me.

I remind myself that things can’t be too bad if I am loved, both by God and by my tribe. That I have a life that some others would trade me for in an instant. That as hard as things are today, today is only temporary. 

 (photo cred Instapray.com)

And the God of my today is the God of my yesterday and tomorrow. He will see me through. He has gone before me, walks beside me and is behind me.

I just have to get out of the way of myself, surrender to his scandalous grace, and remember it’s not over yet.

He’s not finished with me. 

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