The Morning After

(Photo cred gillianleigh on flickr)

Today is Election Day. In the morning who knows what the landscape will look like. My hope is that no matter who wins, those of us who call ourselves lovers of Jesus will help to reconcile our country.

A large group of Americans are not going to be happy at the end of the day; I daresay most of us aren’t too excited right now anyway. But one thing remains if you say you love Jesus:

He is still risen.

He still died for all of us–Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals–and he is still risen.That is a pretty solid foundation on which to place our trust, no matter how your team does today. The President does not rule over heaven and earth; he or she will have fairly limited power as kept in check by the separation of powers (i.e., three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial) that existed since some really wise guys drew up a little document called the Constitution. 

So–Jesus lovers unite. 

Let’s focus on what’s going right, what we can do to actually help on the Morning After. I spent a good six-and-a-half minutes coming up with a few suggestions, please feel free to add to these as you see fit:

1) Pray. Maybe you think I’m crazy but what if we Jesus lovers all prayed for our country? The Bible says the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective. Instead of grumping about our lack of choices in this election, I have come to the conclusion that prayer will get me farther down the road than griping, sniping, put-downs or commentary.

2) Invite someone to dinner. Is there a single mama or military family or college student that you can bless? One dinner can take the burden off those who are struggling for just a moment and make them feel human again. 

3) Invite someone to church. Sometimes people just need an invitation–who can you invite?

4) Give something away: time, talents, money, encouragement, a smile, those kids’ clothes clogging up closets. It will help you remember what it feels like to be blessed as you bless others.

5) Serve others in some capacity. Give a ride, give advice, serve a meal, take someone shopping or refill their prescription.

6) Volunteer someplace. When you see a different batch of people than the ones you normally associate with, you often get a glimpse into new or different circumstances.**

**Warning: this might make you grateful for the life you’re living.

7) Reconcile with someone. With all the hate and anger and ugliness spewed forth this year, we could all use a little more reconciliation. Do you need forgiveness? Do you need to forgive? Throw away your bumper stickers and lawn placards (they’re outdated as of tomorrow anyway), and shake hands. Cross your neighbor’s lawn or your coworkers’ cubicle and mend fences.

If we actually want America to be amazing again we’re going to have to start doing a better job of loving our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus lovers, it’s up to us to lead the way.

No matter what tomorrow brings. 

No matter who is in the White House.

Tomorrow isn’t nearly as big of a deal if we actually believe what we say we do. God is still on the throne, which makes the Morning After only a Wednesday in November.💗❤️💗

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2016. Connect with me at www.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.

Hot Mess Monday💗

So…

Today I had the most expensive cup of coffee I’ve ever had to the tune of $5,463.81. You read that right, friends.

Let me explain.

I went to one of my fave coffee places to work. Then I ran to the grocery store to get a few important things, like diapers (no, Baby Houdini isn’t potty-trained yet) and bread and milk. You know, enough staples to last us til payday. Then my debit card was rejected.

Wha?!?

I quickly looked at our account and EVERYTHING WAS GONE!!! Son of a biscuit, we were negative and overdrawn and even our savings account was wiped smooth out.

After all of the blood drained from my face and my legs started working again I left the store and called Mr. Wonderful, who raced off to the bank to tell them we had been robbed. Robbed!!

When I gathered myself, I looked closer at my account. That’s when I realized $5,463.81 was taken out of our account for the cup of coffee I had ordered earlier. Now, this coffee is Snickerdelicious and it’s truly my fave cup of coffee in the world. But I wouldn’t pay that much for it. Even if I had that kind of cash burning a hole in my pocket.

So, long story short (I know, too late!), I spent a large portion of my Hot Mess Monday doing things like calling my bank and going to the cafe again and talking to many, so many people about how in the world we can get this resolved sooner than 3-5 days it typically takes. Because I still needed diapers and staples and gas and did I mention they took all my money? And then some?

I’m happy to report the kind people at the cafe went above and beyond, apologizing profusely and offering help and a gift certificate for my troubles. And I was pretty impressed with my bank as well-that fraud department is efficient! By the time I figured out it wasn’t fraud but a (giant) mistake, they had already blocked our account and cancelled my debit card😳

Nothing has gone as planned but we are rolling with it. Only by the grace of God is all our money already back in our account and diapers purchased. I’m no longer driving around on fumes, either. We didn’t have to wait 3-5 days, hallelujah!!

For those of you who don’t follow me on Instagram (please do, I’d love to see you over there where I actually post on a daily basis lol), I’ve been doing some YouTube videos on Hot Mess Mondays. Mondays are hard for this hot mess mama, so I’m just trying to put a little encouragement out there each Monday to be sunshine for someone who may also need it. I hope you’ll stop by soon!

This has been an especially Hot Mess Monday but life is good, friends. I have a roof, healthy kids, a husband I really like, and a job. Today I have running water and enough food to last til payday. And most importantly, I have Jesus’ love.

Truthfully, if I only have Jesus, I have all I need.

Blessings, y’all!💗❤️💗​


©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2016. Swing by Instagram and Twitter to say hi! Or visit http://www.meredithshafer.com

💗❤️💗

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!

Last Weekend

I had the most amazing twenty-four hours last weekend! I flew out to Colorado to lead a ladies retreat that was supposed to bless them, give some lovely ladies much deserved rest and relaxation.

As it turns out, I was also blessed.

I’m so surprised how that worked. I spoke most of the day, helped facilitate small groups at our breakout sessions and then flew back immediately following. I should’ve been exhausted.

Instead I was exhilarated.

The ladies came to this retreat with a lot of stuff in their suitcases: relationship troubles, deaths of loved ones, job issues, sadness, regret, soul sickness.

It was not a day at the spa.

This was hard work for some of these ladies. And they stuck with it, worked through it, and left a lot of the baggage they brought with them at the retreat center when they left. Many of them walked out lighter, more determined, and more convinced than ever that they have a special place in this world that only they can fill.

And I left there wondering at a Maker who would create our beautiful surroundings, give us much needed time to discover his peace and give us hope just by being together in his presence. 

 

(Statue in the Mother Cabrini gardens, photo credit Meredith Shafer 2015) ©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.

Life Insurance

Finding life insurance is a weird, grownup thing to do. Mr. Wonderful has always had it through the military but now his is about to run out. So we’re shopping.

Which should be fun right? I usually love me some shopping, but not this kind. It puts me in a mortgage-y adultish responsibility-coma. This is so not my area.

Who wants to think about the end of their life?

So of course, I started thinking about the end of my life. How no one really likes talking about endings but we all love beginnings. And then I remembered that I don’t believe the end of my life will truly be the end. For me, it will be the beginning of my forever with my brother, my best friend, my Jesus. And my family that’s gone before. And maybe even those babies I lost a little bit after the stick turned pink.

I don’t know how all of that will go. I’m not super concerned about those details. The things I want to get just right are the jobs I’ve been given here on this earth. 

Being a good mom, being the wife my husband needs, being a friend and encourager to those who will accept my friendship and encouragement. And to those who don’t.

The one thing I think I have kind of figured out is that the more broken we admit to being, the more places there is for God’s light to shine through. I’m so imperfect it’s laughable some days. But I’m here, I’m available to do whatever is asked of me, even if I’m not sure I can.

So I’m looking into this life insurance thing and I’m thinking. And it just seems smart to make sure I have more than enough for this journey and the next.

Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015 (Photo credit Women’s Day)

Sharing Your Story

Everywhere I turn there is something about PTSD today. Good information, good people sharing hard things. I have to admit this makes me a little weepy. It makes me feel things.

I’m usually all about feeling things and as a generous oversharer I am no stranger to telling our story with emotion. However, this new chapter of our story, the one about PTSD, is the hardest to tell. Maybe because we’re still on the journey. Maybe because we barely survived parts of it. Maybe because for awhile, I couldn’t find the strength to talk about it; I was using all of my strength just to get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other to try and protect our babies from seeing behind the curtain.

This story of hurt and shame and pain and worry and fear must be handled delicately. I have to parse out bits and pieces as I can. My dear Mr. Wonderful served our country and came home with PTSD, or The Mad Cow as we call it. And to be respectful of where he is in his healing, and where I am in mine, I must dance around and through the darkest days we’ve faced as a couple.

Our story hasn’t been woven into completion yet; therefore, you’re only going to get the parts I am able to talk about right now. I hope as you read this and my future pieces on PTSD, that you keep foremost in your mind that we are working hard for healing, that Mr. Wonderful doesn’t deserve anything other than praise for his bravery and efforts and that this is all really hard.

Please go easy on us.

Being open and vulnerable in a concrete way like writing things down and sharing them is terrifying when you have some seriously deep wounds. Writing alone is like the picking of scabs. But the more we tell our story, the closer we come to healing. And maybe the more hope we can give someone who has yet to find their way out of that dark place.

I’m not sure how much I can talk about yet. Let’s just say 2013 was the year everything went to hell in a hand basket. I was pregnant with our fourth child and Mr. Wonderful was slowly losing his grip on his, at the time, undiagnosed PTSD. And then he lost his grip all together. 

Watching a loved one self destruct right before your eyes is both surreal and excruciating. Time slows down, each moment taking up the space a week occupies when you’re trying to keep a loved one alive. As for my part of our story, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. I was just trying to stay pregnant, trying to keep my kids fed and doing my best to make sure Mr. Wonderful didn’t kill himself or someone else.

He became so unrecognizable to me during that time that it felt like I was living with a sad, numb, angry, scary and unpredictable stranger. 

The PTSD gave him such terrible nightmares that he didn’t want to sleep. So he would drink to be able to sleep. He would drink to function. He would drink to forget. The on-base doctor prescribed pills for anxiety and depression but mixing the pills with the alcohol became a near fatal recipe. Which led to a near fatal suicide attempt. Someday I will write more in depth about these things. But for now, I’ve picked at these scabs to the point of bleeding again and it’s just too much.

We have come a long way by the grace of God. In one minute, my life could’ve been so different. And I am happy to say that we’re not where we used to be. We’re not finished with this journey but we’re moving forward and on the mend. And I’m grateful for every day I get to wake up next to Mr. Wonderful and see my kids and my little miracle baby. And I know that somehow, in some way, our story is going to bring someone hope in their darkest hour.

Gratitude, trust, prayer, faith-our family wouldn’t be possible without all of this. Thank you for reading this, and if you know someone who may be suffering from PTSD, please share this and the suicide hotline number below. Tell them not to give up. And don’t you give up on them either because there is always hope. We don’t need to lose anyone else.

1-800-273-8255 (America’s National Suicide Prevention Hotline)

Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

Give It Away

It’s nearly Easter and this usually turns me inside out for some self-introspection. I love Easter-it takes place in spring, it’s a time of renewal and joy and making things new. A spiritual clean slate.

Along with newness I feel like cleaning up. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to give things away: from my home, in my work, from my heart. Unfortunately, for years, I was the wrong kind of giver. 

I gave away parts of myself that I shouldn’t have or gave with strings attached. I gave the wrong things to the wrong people because of a need to be liked or loved or perceived in a certain way.

That’s not true giving.

Now that I’m (finally) more comfortable in my own skin, I realize that giving away of one’s time, money, gifts, talents, heart or soul are big responsibilities. Ones that shouldn’t be taken lightly, for yourself or the recipient.

For me, giving now comes from the overflow of my life. The more blessed I become, the more I must give away. Not out of obligation, of course. But because this light shining in me is meant to be shared and I have more than enough to give away. It overflows from the new mercies granted to me every morning when I wake up.

No longer do I have to give away my pride or dreams or hopes for the future. I just give God’s love as freely as he has given it to me. I become its conduit as it flows through me, created by the joy I have, the gratitude I have for this life I’m living. Even though there are hard days and impossible days I can still do them all because of the God that lives in and strengthens me.

Today the thing I feel the need to give away most is encouragement. I may be a more “mature” cheerleader than you’re used to hearing from, but whatever that thing is that you’re facing, that hill or mountain or seemingly unsolvable situation, I have four simple words for you: You can do this

And once you do, you’re going to feel some overflow of gratitude. Some multiplication of lightness and joy unexplainable by mathematical equations that bubbles over and spreads into every crevice of your world and heart and mind.

What are you being asked to give away today?

(Photo credit Meredith Shafer 2015)

Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015