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!

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Breathing is Under-Rated

  (Photo cred The Berry)
Mr. Wonderful has asthma. This time of year breathing isn’t one of those things we take for granted.

We have inhalers stashed everywhere. We have a plan when the inhalers don’t work. We have lived with the not-breathing thing for awhile and have made modifications to our world.

Because breathing is just something most of us take for granted.

We breathe in and out, go about our daily lives. Live as if we have all the time in the world. And then something happens that knocks the wind out of us and we can’t seem to catch our breath. 

That’s when out breathing becomes labored. When we have to fight just to remember to breathe in.

If you brought some junk with you from last year–hurt, anger, bitterness, sadness, defeat, despair–maybe take a moment today to just breathe.

Remind yourself to breathe in, then breathe out. Give yourself a moment to catch your breath. And then begin to let go of those things that are already weighing you down this year.

It won’t happen overnight, so be sure to give yourself a break. It will happen one breath at a time. 

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

Well Done

Before I was ever an author or a lawyer or a wife or a mama, I was a musician. Being a musician is pretty rad most of the time. Unlike algebra or organization or finance charges, music is one of the few things in this world that I get. It’s a language I speak. It’s so much a part of me that I don’t remember not being able to speak it.

There are times where being a musician is difficult though. Times when only music will do to soothe someone’s pain. As a sensitive musician-type, I already feel the feelings but playing music in this grief scenario is heart-wrenching. Not only do you feel the music but you feel all of the emotion wrapped up in the music, the emotions felt by others, those felt by yourself.

I played at a funeral today for a man taken too soon. He was by all accounts a wonderful husband, father, son, brother, uncle. I’ve known this family for several years and was always impressed with the open love he had for his family, especially for his wife. Truly it’s been a beautiful thing to behold-even after 19 years together they still had that spark.

They are a military family and part of my former church family and this is the week that marks a special birthday of sorts for my own family-both Mr. Wonderful’s sobriety birthday and anniversary of when the bottom fell out of our world. So there was a lot going on in my head and my heart during this service.

From my vantage point at the front, all I could see was the family that was left behind. Trying to celebrate his life well-lived while really just barely hanging on. They were alternating between bewilderment and just raw heartbreak. That is a painful thing to stand in the sidelines of, not being able to do anything to help them or ease their pain.

Two years ago this was almost me. I was moments away from having to plan the funeral with military honors for my Mr. Wonderful, from having to raise four kids on my own, from feeling the absolute devastation that one must feel when their partner is just all of the sudden gone.

That terrible day when I nearly lost my partner and best friend was a rebirth of sorts. It gave me two extra years of memories and time that I am so grateful for. Since tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone, I suggest we all go and tell our loved ones how much we love them. Squeeze them tight and store away as many good times as we can. Take a note from a man who’s family is feeling a tremendous loss but who will be able to lean on memories of his life well lived: live full of love, laughter and celebration. Have faith. Take each sweet moment as it comes, work through the hard times, and love your family with everything you’ve got.

In memory of Casey Joe Bussett (1975-2015).

(Photo credit Meredith Shafer 2015) ©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

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