Gifts and Blessings

I’m always amazed when people take time out of their days to bless me. Whether it’s a friend sending a text at exactly the right time or an email checking on me, lunch or meeting for coffee, it always seems to come at the right time. 

 (photo cred the WoW style)

Giving these gifts–big or small–requires a sacrifice of some sort. Maybe time or effort or just looking beyond one’s self to see who needs to be blessed. In a world of selfish behavior and looking out for #1, I find this gift-giving so refreshing. To be on either the giving or recieving end is a blessing.

Every time someone reaches out and does something spectacularly selfless, I not only fill up with squishy gooeyness on the inside, but it spurs me on to do the same. To pass it on and pay it forward. This week I recieved a very personal gift, and it required a sacrifice of time and lots of talent. My friend Linda gave me a portrait of my family that she drew. 

 (photo cred Meredith Shafer 2016)

This wasn’t just something she whipped up. It took time away from her busy schedule as a teacher, mama and grandma. She had to study the original, outline us, color us in. Every detail was tended to, from eye color to the cover of my book– 

 (original-photo cred Meredith Shafer 2016)

So I ask: who can you bless today? Who needs your time or talents or kind words or smile? Who needs some encouragement? I dare say there are several people in your world that could use some of that stuff. Encouragement and hope are powerful seeds to plant inside someone–take a moment today to look around and see who you can bless. 

And if your are in need yourself, see what happens when you encourage someone else. It’s amazing how it will come back to you–

 (photo cred brown-eyed-whimsy.tumblr.com)

Now go, be blessed and be a blessing!

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5 Things I Wish You Knew About Life with PTSD

Going through a staggering amount of paperwork and learning curves and medical interventions has kept us pretty busy over the last two years. At one crucial point, I was just trying to keep my soldier alive. And since I was pretty new to this game, I didn’t know how to talk about it for awhile.

But now that we’re a little farther down the road, there are some truths I’d like to share with you about what our life actually looks like on a day to day basis. Since we are no longer in survival mode, I feel that now is a good time to pass on a few things I have learned in this journey. It’s by no means an exhaustive list and since I can only speak about this experience through the lens of a caregiver, know there’s much, much more to this story. 

 But for now, here are a few things I wish that everyone knew about us:

1. We are a family dealing with mental illness so we probably don’t always fit into your idea of what a family looks like. Or sounds like. Or behaves like. So please don’t judge us by our bad days or our good days. Neither is entirely accurate.

On our best days we appear relatively normal, albeit a little louder and more colorful than most. We have some introverts, extroverts, flamboyant ones, shy kids and some ADHD and panic attacks sprinkled throughout. 

On our worst days we have tears, meltdowns and struggles that you probably can’t understand. Please know that we are truly doing our best but if we react to a situation in a bizarre or inappropriate (to you) way, your judgment is going to be less than helpful. Stares or comments other than “Is there anything I can do to help?” aren’t encouraged.

Sometimes we are struggling so hard to keep it together as a family that we can’t be bothered with your idea of decorum. We are simply trying to survive. 

 2. One of the worst things you can do is negate our journey by saying something insensitive and demeaning. For instance, someone actually said the words, “He looks ok to me.” He might. In that moment. But what that person didn’t realize was that Mr. Wonderful hadn’t been out of our house for two weeks. And had fought through three panic attacks to get out the door. 

Sometimes he might forget that he already had this conversation because his short term memory is shot. Or he might fly into a rage at those insensitive words because. You. Just. Don’t. Know.

Don’t judge our struggle based on what you can observe in a moment. 

3. Our idea of a good day and a bad day is radically different than yours. A good day for us is no meltdowns, few panic attacks, and a decent wake up where Mr. Wonderful is able to get his bearings relatively early in the day. Maybe he feels good enough to get a workout, a shower and a hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment in. This is a good, good day.

A bad day is, well, it’s not something I can put into words yet. I’m still working on it and I may have to get back to you on this one.

4. You might perceive us as flaky if we’ve had to bail out on you. Last minute. Again. We have the best of intentions. We want to be at your birthday party or graduation or celebration. Sometimes we just can’t. 

Sometimes we’re actually on our way out the door but then Mr. Wonderful can’t leave the house. Or we start the day well but it progresses in the wrong direction. Or I know Mr. Wonderful will be ok without me but I’m just not up to getting the whole traveling circus out the door by myself. To friends and family, please understand our absence doesn’t mean we don’t love and honor you–we just may not be able to love and honor you in person.

5. We are doing the best we can. From the outside that may not look good enough. And sometimes it’s not. We try super hard. Every day. But even hard work can’t always get us where we need to be. That’s why one of the things we tell ourselves over and over is to give ourselves a break. And share some grace. And we try to be grateful for every good moment, every silver lining. 

Because we’ve walked the edge between life and death, we now want to celebrate every good thing we can. Life  isn’t a guarantee, and we aren’t promised tomorrow. These are now things we know for sure. 

We no longer take life for granted. Or good days. Or breathing or remembering or functioning. Crazy may be our new normal but we embrace our crazy. We embrace our new normal. And we embrace each other. 

The most important thing I can tell you about life with PTSD is that without our faith and each other we would have nothing. But with it, we still have everything we need. 

 (Photo credits Meredith Shafer) ©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

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Storms

I was privileged to speak at a ladies’ staff retreat yesterday. These beautiful ladies were kind and thoughtful, hard working and some were in the midst of the biggest storms they had ever faced.

I can identify.

When in the middle of the storm, often all you can see is the devastation around you. You can’t see a way out, an end, a lifeline. It seems overwhelming and there’s a good chance you may go under.

To those ladies, and to anyone else out there who finds themselves in the midst of the hard or scary or impossible let me offer some encouragement: wait it out. This stormy season is only temporary. Though it feels daunting the storms can’t last forever and soon you will find yourself in a new season. Stronger and braver than you were before.

Wait.

Trust.

You don’t have to face the storms alone. You can reach your hand out to the One who calms the storms with his voice and take refuge. Find his peace and hope, even in the middle of the mess you find yourself in.

  
(Photo credit diaryofabrwneyedgirl.blogspot.com) (©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015)

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Square One

I need a mulligan for this week already! I don’t golf, but as I undertand it, a mulligan is basically like a do-over. 

Yes please.

First my coffee shop closed. Yeah, I was disappointed but I deal. Then I received an email that a friend’s husband had passed away and heard that another dear friend has breast cancer.

And today my husband’s clinic–the Patriot Clinics that serve vets at no cost–closed its doors. Mr. Wonderful has been receiving hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment for his PTSD and traumatic brain injury and its one of the few things that has had a positive effect on him without the crazy side effects of post meds used to treat the symptoms of PTSD.

The clinic treats vets with diginty and provided treatment that has great results but that the VA and insurance won’t pay for. I don’t know why but I’m sure it has something to do with the almighty dollar. And until they either get their electrical issues resolved or find funds to move to a new place, we’re back at square one for treatment. 

I’m so tired of square one.

Used to when a lot of bad things happened all at once I would just throw a party of the pity kind. Now I realize that when there seem to be so many obstacles and troubles and everything going completely wrong, it’s actually a sign that I’m getting close to whatever it is I’ve been working towards.

Obstacles are meant to keep us down. Trip us up. Make us lose our breath or step or mind. But it’s when those obstacles keep piling up that I know to look around because my miracle is coming.

All this bad news is meant to crush me, to derail me from writing and cheering people on and trying to serve and be a blessing. All this grossness is meant to clog up my soul like a hairball clogs up a sink. 
It won’t work.

I know that our miracles are coming so I am going to keep on keeping on to do my part. I’ll pray. And I’ll keep my chin up and try my best to bring my A game, no matter what obstacles jump into my path.

If you find yourself at square one today, take heart and take hope. Your miracle could be right around the corner too.

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

I would love to connect with you on Instagram or Twitter, come say hi!

National PTSD Awareness Day

 I know there’s lots of stuff going on in the world today, and I’m afraid PTSD Awareness Day will be lost in all the news and noise. PTSD is our world 365 days a year, not just today. That’s the case for so many. Just wanted to share, encourage, and say you’re not alone!

If you need help:  

(Photo credit celebrating freedom) ©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

I would love to connect with you on Facebook and Instagram at My Pink Champagne Life or Twitter @MyPinkChampLife. Swing by and say hello!

 

To All the Waiting Mamas

I hesitated to write anything around Mother’s Day, but after reading some lovely ladies’ blogs at My Perfect Breakdown and Waiting for Baby Bird (y’all should go check out their very poignant posts), I really felt it pressed in my heart to add to the discussion.

There are many roads to motherhood. I’m convinced there’s no one right way. I’m also certain that the path to and through motherhood is often full of pain and waiting.

And it’s the Mamas who are in the midst of the pain and waiting that I wanted to talk to.

You are important.

I know a lot of Mamas who are currently waiting. Waiting to hear from the adoption agency. Waiting to see if their fourth round of IVF has worked. Waiting to see if the vasectomy reversal is an option. Waiting to hear when their son in another country will get to come home.

I know Mamas waiting for test results, waiting for a phase to pass, waiting to hear from their kids’ fathers, waiting to hear from the adoptive parents, waiting to hear from their kids.

We Mamas, in all our forms, have the really tough job of standing in the gap for our children, often before they’re children: when our bodies fail us, when the adoption falls through, when the baby is born sick or isn’t born at all.

When the child isn’t home yet or we can’t be with them. When life happens and we just want to know why but probably never will.

This waiting we do as Mamas isn’t a wait the rest of the world understands because it is a waiting of the heart.

This is the hardest kind of waiting because you have to go all in.

100%.

Which pretty much guarantees that we will get our hearts broken somehow. At some point. In some way, probably unforeseeable to us at the time.

And yet we do it anyway.

This takes bravery on our parts. And faith that something good will eventually come out of the situation somehow. We wait even when we don’t know what else to do.

Mother’s Day has been a source of pain for me at various times throughout my grownup years. Even when I wanted to celebrate my own Mama sometimes it was difficult when I was in a place of waiting. 

Motherhood has not come to me easily.

And I wondered if I even counted as a Mama before I had a baby in my arms. Did it matter that I had a Mama’s heart with no baby yet? Could my waiting and my pain make any difference?

I believe it does.

Many become Mamas in their hearts long before their child is present. And on a day such as Mother’s Day when we’re all celebrating Mamas everywhere, this might cause pain for those Mamas whose hearts are full but arms are empty.

So to all the Mamas who are waiting-waiting for a phonecall or paperwork or their fertile days or a letter or email or hug or travel plans or to see their own Mamas again someday-you’re not alone.

I’m praying for all the Mamas in my life who are waiting for something. I’m praying for strength for you, for courage, expediency, protection and hope, and for all you need at this point in your journey.

Blessings to you, Waiting Mama, and Happy Mother’s Day-

  
(Photo credit brightboldbeautiful.com) ©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

Public Speaking

Last Saturday I got to do something that scared the pants off me but that I knew would be awesome if I just felt the fear and did it anyway.

I got to speak to and encourage a gorgeous group of about 200 ladies at a place called Destiny Christian Center-appropriate name as I was speaking about Destiny.

Or Density as I have typed over and over.

With this book thing going on, I’m getting a lot of interesting and humbling opportunities. I could not be more grateful. Or more terrified.

People are asking me to speak. In front of other people. Often lots of people. In big rooms. On a stage 

Now, in one of my former before kids gigs I actually did a lot of musician-y, performance things. My undergrad degree is, after all, in music. And that’s a totally comfortable sensation for me. Want me to sing and/or play the piano in front of people? No problem, love to, sign me up.

Want me to speak to people imparting these supposed nuggets of wisdom while keeping everyone entertained and engaged and making them feel this was totally worth their time? 

Eek!!  

Maybe this is a bit of self-imposed pressure, but I do feel a certain amount of responsibility once someone has entrusted me with a microphone (and we know I like to rock the mic like a vandal!). With that act they’re saying they believe that I’m not some loose cannon they’ll have to have security tackle before dragging me off the stage. 

This is an act of trust that I don’t take lightly.

Honestly in preparation I do a lot of praying and soul searching. What am I supposed to be saying? Is there someone out there you need me to say specific words to? Oh sweet Jesus, please don’t let me mess this up for you!

Not to brag, but encouragement has always been one of my gifts. I love making people feel better about themselves or their situations. I’m ok with labeling myself a middle-aged cheerleader. No, I take that back. The ladies in my family live to ripe old ages so I’m actually not even close to middle aged.

I also tend to pray a lot as I’m walking onto the stage. Please don’t let me trip, don’t let me accidentally use one of my driving words, and for the love of Saint Peter please don’t let me say anything you don’t want me to!

I feel like I’ve been called to talk to women as a very imperfect, flawed and broken human. And maybe it’s because if others who are hurting and broken can see a hot mess like myself on a stage, they’ll believe it’s ok to take off whatever mask they’ve been hiding behind and be real. Raw. A hot mess just like me.

And I believe with my whole heart that when we are all broken together, exposing our wounds and warts, we start helping each other get put back together. We show our kids it’s ok to be flawed. We show our friends they can tell us dark things because we’ve been to dark places too.

And out of that darkness the seeds of hope come. And bloom. And spread.

So. I’m still going to be nervous each time I speak at an event or lead a women’s retreat or talk about hard things. But I’m going to keep doing it. And I’m going to trust that God is doing his thing, shining light through all my brokenness.

And hopefully I won’t trip.

We Remember-April, 19, 1995

Today marks the 20th anniversary of an event that rocked my innocence, my state, and our nation-the Oklahoma City bombing. This horrible moment that left scars on our people and our downtown and our state also brought about a thing called the Oklahoma Standard.  (Photo credit Wikipedia.org)

This standard of care helped write the national book on both how to handle recovery efforts and how to create an amazing remembrance memorializing the heroism, loss and recovery from tragedy.

We lost 168 innocent people that day; 19 of them were children.   (Photo credit Charles Porter)

Over 800 were wounded. An act of terrorism that tried to steal our well-being, our sense of self and security failed. It hurt us, but it did not keep us down.

 (Photo credit karashall.blogspot.com)

We know hard times here. But we are survivors. And others have learned from us. When 9/11 happened, rescuers from Oklahoma were sent to help with recovery because they had been through it. We introduced our Oklahoma Standard to others to help bring peace and hope.

There isn’t much I can write to add anything to the anniversary. I just want the first responders, those wounded and still recovering, and those who lost loved ones to know you are not forgotten. 

We are celebrating today, celebrating how far we have come, how much we’ve learned about ourselves, celebrating and remembering the lives lost and the heroes formed from ordinary people that day and the days and weeks following. (Photo credit unknown)

Marking the spot where tragedy happened there is now a beautiful beacon of hope. The Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial is an incredible testament of healing. Horrible scarred buildings and earth were transformed into a place of peace, with our Survivor Tree, reflecting pool and remembrances of each person.

  (Photo credit Flickr.com)

I’m proud to call myself an Oklahoman. God bless Oklahoma and God bless the United Statea of America.

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015