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!

Grace Today

  (Photo cred Annevoskamp.com)

Grace has been on my mind a lot lately. My words for the year are scandalous grace, words that I’m just barely starting to grasp, much less put into practice.

I’m trying this at home with my children. They need scandalous grace from me to cover all the mistakes and missteps and bad decisions that already have been and that are to come. 

I’m also working on scandalous grace towards my soulmate, my love, my Mr. Wonderful. The fault line between lover and caregiver is ever shifting, and I’m trying to rain down wifely-ness more often than caregiver-ness, because that’s what I was first. With a spouse I’m finding that scandalous grace matters almost as much in the little, everyday moments as it does in the big earth-shattering ones.

And to the world at large: I’m going to try my best to offer scandalous grace to you as well. To the friend who has cut me out of her life, to the woman who has cut me off and driven slowly in front of me, to those who have hurt me and those who will: the world says I should get even. Take revenge. Trash your car or at the very least, you’re good name.

But I no longer live by the world’s standards. I live by the scandalous grace of the One who has loved me more in this second than I could love my whole family for my whole life plus a thousand lifetimes.

Scandalous grace is so hard. It means forgiveness, even when they don’t want or ask for it. It means showing kindness when I’d really rather throw a temper tantrum and slash their tires. It means having a strength that the world deems weak, getting past the past, moving on and letting go. 

 (Photo cred Lifehack)

Scandalous grace is also something I have to give myself: when I fail, when I don’t live up to mine or others’ expectations, when I make a bad call. Every day is a chance to practice scandalous grace on myself or someone else. Every day is the opportunity to try again, even if I missed the mark the day or hour or minute before.

Scandalous grace is very simple, but it is so hard.

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

Anchoring

This weekend was a good one, despite the fact that school starts tomorrow and no one is back in our routine. Pretty sure tomorrow’s going to be more interesting than usual… 

 (photo cred Meet the Best You)

But this weekend I have had renewal! I have been writing and more importantly, making time for writing. I put it back in my schedule, on my radar. It feels good to be doing that again.

I got to go to church with my family–which is a huge deal. A year ago my husband couldn’t leave the house some days because of PTSD and one of its most delightful side effects: agoraphobia. Every Sunday that we all get to leave the house together and go to church as a family is special to me. This is part of how I keep my sanity and refill my tank, so to speak.

This is a big deal.

And my boys are back from their dad’s, I got to be artsy fartsy and make some curtains, and I found a new coffee shop to do some writing in.

Even though we’re all out of sorts about getting back to the grind tomorrow and I about lost my mind when I saw someone had decorated my wall with marker in multiple areas, this was a good weekend. Even when I ate too much candy in anticipation of the twenty-one day fast from sugar I started today. Even despite looking around my disaster of a house and deciding that instead of cleaning it I was going to binge-watch some Netflix in the Oasis with Mr. Wonderful.

 It’s not a perfect life I’m living. It’s messy and crazed and about the only thing that’s consistent is chaos. But when I stop and look around at the scandalous grace I am afforded every day, I can’t help but offer some to those around me. Which makes life feel a lot better than I’m sure we look on paper.  (photo cred instapray.com)

This weekend anchored me. Grounded me and got me thinking about how I want 2016 to go for us. And though it might go completely differently than I hope or plan for, I am anchoring myself to my faith and my family. I’m being grateful for what’s going right. I’m breathing and hoping and being ridiculously optimistic. 

I’m savoring this season of joy, for however long I get it. 

 (photo cred Meredith Shafer 2015)

Sweet (20)16 here we go!

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015. Swing by Instagram and Twitter to say hi!

Scandalous Grace

I name my years.

In preparation for every new year I spend time alone, praying, seeking. I haven’t always done that and those years are obvious.

I took a bit of time away from this blog over the Christmas holidays–spent wonderful time with family, enjoyed crackling fires and squeals of delight while looking at Christmas lights with my kids and consumed buckets of hot cocoa. I played endless games of Uno and Trivial Pursuit. There was resting, eating, laughing, and breathing. 

 (photo cred Meredith Shafer 2015)

And it was so good.

I have needed the break in preparation for all that is to come this year. I’m finishing my second book, Mad Cow: Where PTSD & Pink Champagne Collide. It’s a hard write as it talks about the last two years. There has been much joy sprinkled throughout, but there have been a lot of real, raw, ugly moments, too.

There will be more therapies for the eight year old and for Mr. Wonderful. This year will also hold some speaking engagements I’m starting to really get excited about if when they come to fruition.

I have no idea what the year will hold for me and mine. I pray that we’re coming into a season of joy after many difficult seasons. But I’m grateful for those seasons because I have learned. And grown. And those are painful but wonderful places. 

 (photo cred loveecstaticsoul)

In my quiet time recently I suddenly knew my words for this year: scandalous grace. 

 (photo cred woodrose4.tumblr.com)

I am going to be looking for opportunities over the next 366 days (don’t forget it’s Leap Year!) to both give and receive scandalous grace. I know this means life will not go as I plan or hope sometimes, but it will be in the detours that I find a certain richness.

I’m looking forward to all that 2016 holds for my family, dear friends, and I can’t wait to see what it holds for you as well! 

 (Photo cred Hub Pages)

Have a blessed and Happy New Year!

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015. Swing by Instagram and Twitter to say hi!

 

Oh My Lands

This day! I’m at the end of my frustration with children (mine and other peoples’), second grade homework, regular work, house work, laundry, attitudes, lack of gratitude and just about everything else in between.

Ever have those days? Where it’s not just one or two frustrating things? It’s seventy-four. Thousand. Seventy-four thousand. It doesn’t help that I had to be out the door and functioning much earlier than usual for a before-school parent teacher conference and I’m currently coughing up a lung. I’m just super cranky and I’m not even taking my own advice from my Instagram post earlier–

  
Here’s what I wrote:

“Today I’m going to be grateful for the progress I’ve already made, even if it’s not where I ultimately hope to be. Today I will give thanks for baby steps and forward movement, for that is still progress. I’m saying a prayer of gratitude even as I wait for the answer–”

I had such high hopes this morning for my day and now I’ve let every little thing weigh me down. I haven’t celebrated. I haven’t caffeinate or dominated or appreciated as I had planned to.

Instead I went about my day feeling slightly overwhelmed with responsibilities and too many jobs and kids and not enough time or money. I focused on what I didn’t have and what wasn’t going right. I’ll tell you friends, that can change your day from promising to just plain rotten in the time it takes to say Merry Christmas.

During this season it’s so easy to get caught up in the should haves or I wishes. Save yourselves and learn from my mistakes today: focus on the small victories, the miniscule forward motions, the teensy degrees of progress. 

Then celebrate the crap out of them. 

 It’s the only way I know to keep the darkness of this world at bay–

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

Wild Hair Weekend

I’ve been on a tear lately. 

In the last four years of our lives we’ve had two (more) babies, moved three times, gotten sober, received a PTSD and TBI diagnosis, gotten medically retired from the military, begun ADHD testing and occupational/speech therapy, began learning trombone and gotten a book published. 

Needless to say, because of all of the aforementioned crazy, things are a mess.

I’m not just talking dirt. I’m talking clutter, chaos, scootching things under things so I don’t have to look at them, dingy windows and souls, broken toys and hearts. There have been ruined clothes and dreams. Messy fingers, faces, rooms and lives.  

 Now that we feel more structurally sound I feel capable of tackling all of those messes I haven’t had time to work on. Now that we don’t feel like any mildly rushing wind will blow us over, I feel ready. It’s amazing what a shored-up foundation will do for a person.

As the caretaker of the bunch, even though organization is not my gift, I am trying. At first I was completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of additional stuff I really needed to tackle. I have a lot of daily things that have to happen to get work done and children fed and clothed and bills paid and doctors visited. 

Why on earth would I take on more?

This is the question Mr. Wonderful posed to me just this weekend. He couldn’t figure out why I was hustling and bustling about the house. And as y’all probably know, once you begin a project it somehow creates three additional projects. The cycle is exhausting so I admit, I see his point.

But in taking on our master bedroom closet, I had a little closet epiphany: bit by bit, these Wild Hair Weekends as Mr. Wonderful calls them (the ones where I get in a frenzy to get something accomplished) are really just my way of taking my life back.

Over the last four years, I have been undone and unsettled. 

Understandably.

More life change has happened during that time than any other time put together. So I keep reminding myself that the messes that are all around me are pretty normal and I have to tackle them one at a time. Easy does it. Bit by bit. 

 (photo credit femaleentreprenuersassociation.com)

It’s taken a while to get this through to my stubborn self: you mean I can’t be Wonder Woman and just make it work out right now? One snap of my silver bracelets and evil is vanquished? 

 (photo credit wonderwomanfans.tumblr.com)

I wish.

This is why the Wild Hair Weekends exist. Not just to put our family back in order but to get my soul back in order too. To give myself breathing space and sweep out the cobwebs, both literal and figurative. To lessen the clutter and free myself of the baggage.

The struggle is real, but it will be so worth it. 

At least that’s what I’m telling myself….  (Photo credit Meredith Shafer)–My latest project, a desk for my office. I’ll post pics when I’m done.

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015. Swing by Instagram and Twitter to say hi!

Welcome December!

 (Photo credit pennielily.tumblr.com) 

We did it! We got our Christmas tree up before the week before. And it was kind of a miracle–we found two tree parts but neither was complete. We were going to have to have a mixed tree but then the eight year old checked in the “basement” (he meant the attic–we don’t have a basement) and voila. One complete tree.

There were a few meltdowns (on my part), two seriously shattered ornaments, some Christmas music and kids putting things everywhere they shouldn’t but we somehow managed. And I’m sure the baby–I mean now two year old–will have his way with the ornaments left too low. I guess it’s about time I stop calling him the baby. In my defense I just don’t want to.

The top part of the tree is pretty good, the bottom is sparse and it looks like a kindergarten art class threw up all over it. I can’t help it–I’m sentimental. I have saved every macaroni ornament and handprint reindeer my kids have ever made. With four kids that’s a lot of macaroni. 

 (Photo credit Meredith Shafer)

And I think it’s the most beautiful tree I’ve ever seen.

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015. Swing by Instagram and Twitter to say hi!

Give Yourself a Break

I hate to say it, but we’re starting off this week a little rough. I don’t know if it’s the weather or the anticipated break but yesterday and this morning have wrung me out to the core. 

There’s no one thing; it’s just the pile of things that weighs me down. Anyone else? 

 (photo credit livelifehappy.com)

Between the late night taking Charlie the Service Dog to the doggy ER (probable abscessed tooth, we’re following up with our regular vet today) and not hitting my caffeine limit yet today, I’m dragging booty. And of course I’m not super happy about spending money on doggy dental right before Christmas.

Sigh.

No longer can I party at the doggy ER all night then wake up super early to get four kids out the door. Remember those days? Some of you are still living them but I’m older now and I can’t do it. Back in the day I could stay up all night, grab breakfast with no sleep and head to class where my brain would still function pretty well.

Even a few years (and a few kids) ago, I could be up with a baby most of the night, hit the coffee hard and still make sound decisions at work.

Now–not so much.

Let’s just say there’s not enough coffee in the world today to make me feel comfortable doing much with the money/number side of my job. I’ll be doing things like checking the mail and returning phone calls and scheduling site visits. And I’ll take it easy on myself and continue to caffeinate.

And remind myself that I’m doing the best I can. 

Sometimes that’s the most kind thing we can do for ourselves. Keeping things in perspective, not talking bad to or about ourselves just because it’s a rocky start or a hard day. We can turn our own days around just by giving ourselves a break. 

 (photo credit Pommel Lane)

Don’t wait for anyone else to do it for you. No matter what you’re walking through or towards today, do your best and forget the rest. And then give yourself a break, remind yourself there are new mercies for all of us everyday, and live in peace despite your circumstances.

Take a minute. Breathe. Drink coffee. 

 (Photo credit single mothers.us)

This is my plan before I tackle the rest of my day. And no matter the outcomes of all the crazy I have going on, it will still be a blessed day.  

 (Photo credit evepostapple.tumblr.com)

I hope yours is too, friends.

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

Swing by Instagram and Twitter to say hi!

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 22

  (Photo credit On Sutton Place)
Grateful for Sundays–church, family dinners, afternoon naps, snuggling in the nest with the baby. What a great start to my week!
©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

Swing by Instagram and Twitter and say hi!

Resumé

I was talking to a sweet friend of mine from work today. She and her family have been through some trials lately and are still firmly ensconced in The Middle. 

The Middle is the worst.

Seems The Middle isn’t just a tv show.  

(Photo credit Buzzfeed Community)
It’s the place where you can’t seem to get your bearings. The Middle is where you tend to get boxed in by your circumstances. And it seems like it takes forever to get through.
I am very familiar with The Middle.

This is usually where I lose things: joy, hope, perspective. It’s the space where I can get awfully wrapped up in what I’m seeing. What I’m feeling. 

During our conversation I began thinking about the choices we have when we’re in the dreaded Middle. How, when I have been in The Middle, I have sometimes felt like there were no choices, that I was just stuck. But it dawned on me: one choice is always present, even in The Middle.

Choosing joy. 

 (photo credit lostbumblebee.blogspot.ca)

The middle is a difficult place to do this though. Let’s be real, many of us start looking at our circumstances and feel as if this place has overstayed its welcome–that’s frustrating. When you’re ready to move on from The Middle but The Middle’s not finished with you yet.

You know, on paper my family is not only a little weird, if I look at the facts objectively, we’re not that impressive. At first glance, our family resumé is a one-pager with large font. There is a cute toddler, a strongly-opinionated four year old girl, an eight year old with some focus and behavior stuff going on, a twelve year old with an eye rolling issue, a former military guy as the husband/daddy of the house with medical records out the wazoo and an under-employed lawyer/piano teacher/mildly regionally successful author.

On paper, we’re not so hot. 

 (photo credit Mashable)

Despite this resumé, I am trying to lead the way in some of our choices. I am trying to show my kids–even in the early morning before I’m fully caffeinated–how to choose joy.

Extravagant, relentless joy.

I fail a lot. For instance, yesterday. All. Stinkin’. Day. 

 (Photo credit Pinterest)

But I remain persistent in my quest for choosing to live a joyful life no matter what the medical records say. Despite the school testing and the ADHD psychology testing. Even through upcoming potty-training and temper tantrums and slammed doors and eye rolls and financial difficulty and bad news and VA appeals and doctor appointments and parent teacher conferences.

I’m trying to put one grateful foot in front of the other and shine some hope and light into other peoples’ lives when they’re in The Middle too. 

Or in The Beginning, where their grief is so raw and fresh from loss it seems as if there is no relief. 

Or The End, where relationships have come undone and the bags are packed and the boxes are labeled.

There are always reasons to get stuck looking around at your circumstances. Believe me, I know. Stuck is a place I know well. Grief is a hole I have crawled into. Circumstance has convinced me I was finished.

But joy.

That flashy, glittery Vegas-like sensory overload of joy that I have felt in my darkest place. It was a choice. And I could choose it because I have faith in a God who just won’t quit. Working on me, loving me, taking me under his wing. 

 So no matter where you are in your chapter–The Beginning, The End or that pesky Middle, your story isn’t over yet. And if your family resumé is a one-dimensional, unimpressive one-pager at first glance like mine, take heart.

Choosing joy turns those medical records into a medical retirement, the ADHD testing into opportunities to help our son learn better, that under-employment into a way to help with finances while having the flexibility to be there for my family.   

 (Photo credit The Odyssey)

Keep working on your story. And if you choose joy along the way, well, there’s no limits to what your everyday can look like, beginning, ending, and The Middle.

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

Swing by Instagram and Twitter to say hi!