Always There

When I found out I was pregnant again, I was ecstatic.  Well, actually, I didn’t believe it at first.  I used one of those pregnancy tests with the two lines, and drove around the corner to the  Rite-Aid to purchase on with words, just to be sure.  It came up with the exact same result, so then I got uber-excited!  We’re having a baby!!!

My excitement lasted for quite a while, but there were moments when it turned into something else:  a combination of nervousness, doubt and worry.  When it was time for our ultrascreen, I was nervous for the results.  After all, it was 5 years ago, during that test, that we found out we were at high risk for Trisomy 13 or 18.  It wasn’t lost on me that this baby was due the day after Caleb’s due date, so I was going through everything at the same time I went through it with Caleb.  Great (not really).

When we got the results back that everything looked great, I was relieved.  And I really enjoyed my pregnancy, for about 2 more months.  As I approached the 20 week appointment, I began to get nervous again.  It wasn’t your normal “butterflies in your stomach” nervousness.  It was more of a nervous fear, a what if, gut-wrenching nervousness where all I could say was, “Lord, please don’t let this have the same outcome as the last time.”  After all, it was at the 20 week appointment that we learned our baby boy had passed.  I knew I couldn’t handle it again.

Then, out of the blue, I got a text message from a friend from my church.  She was just encouraging me and praying for me, and she had no idea the turmoil I was enduring from my inner monologue.  Her text was right on time, reminding me that God is in control, always looking out for His children.  In that moment of reading that text, I felt a tremendous peace come over me, and I was no longer worried about the appointment (which turned out to be fantastic, and we learned we were having a baby girl).

Here’s what I know:  I know that I serve a loving, living God, who looks out for His children.  I know that He cares for the things that concern us, even when it feels like we are alone, He is always there.  And I know that He ordained this baby girl for such a time as this.  Sometimes it feels like we are on our own, and we wonder where God is in the midst of our pain and struggles.  The reality is that God is always there, and has the most awesome ways of reminding you of that.  For me, it was that text message.  For you, it could be a phone call, an email, an unexpected visitor.  Whatever it is, remember that God is always speaking, you just have to be open to hearing.

Taking the First Step

Yesterday I tweeted this quote: “‎The first step to somewhere new is deciding you’re not going to stay where you are.” ~JP Morgan

Surprisingly enough, I came across the quote while cleaning out my desk at work.  No, I haven’t switched jobs or anything like that.  At my job, it is common to move buildings or offices, and this is one of those times.  Our floor is being reconfigured and my team is moving to a new location (across the floor) next week.  But, I digress.

The quote was on a stack of cards I found at my desk, and it really resonated with me.  I’ve been feeling overwhelmed (AGAIN).  I mean really, who keeps repeating this experience?  I’m over it.  Like my Pastor reminds us often, “To get what you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.”  Well, it’s not that I’ve never had a calm, underwhelming life.  I just sometimes get in over my head and don’t do a good job of managing things.  So, this weekend, I tried some things that I hadn’t done before.

First, I deactivated my FaceBook account.  Not impressed?   I am.  I have over 750 fb friends, and yes, I do actually know all of them.  In fact, I periodically did a purge of my friend list.  Don’t be impressed by the numbers, I’m not.  FB friends are mostly acquaintances and family members.  My real friends, like those closest to me, can be counted on two hands, and that’s intentional.  In any event, I felt like FB was becoming a time suck, and I needed to do something about it.  So. Saturday morning, I posted a status warning my fb friends that I would be deactivating the account by the end of the weekend.  Here’s what’s crazy:  an hour later, I wanted to pull the trigger.  But, I waited.  I waited a whole 8 hours.  Then I pulled the trigger and hit deactivate.

It’ took me a couple of days to get used to not having a Facebook account.  It has now become very freeing.  Like REALLY freeing.  Which also tells me I spent waaay too much time on fb.

Second, I cooked Sunday for the whole week. This doesn’t sound eventful to most of you, I’m sure, but I am, by no stretch of the imagination, the woman who works all day and wants to cook dinner for her family when she comes home.  The thought alone wears me out.  And yet, I have a responsibility to do something. So I opted to find a balance.  Sunday afternoon, I invested about 3 hours of my time into either fully cooking or prepping meals for the week.  Some meals were frozen, others put into the refrigerator.  Granted, the week is only halfway through, but there is still food in there and I’m feeling really good about the lack of stress I feel in the evenings.  I don’t have to do anything but take out what was prepped and cook it (which takes SO much less time), or my husband can start dinner (or warm it up) before I get home.  Do you have any idea what a stress relief that is??

Lastly, I’ve cut back significantly on the television watching.  Why?  Another time suck.  Granted, today I’ve been posted in front of the tv because of the earthquake here in Richmond (can you believe we had an earthquake???).  But I’m committed to this very limited television thing.  I’ve already seen an improvement in my productivity, and that makes me happy.

I think I’m on my way to moving out of the zone of overwhelm.  What’s funny is it has only taken a few tweaks.  That’s it.  A little advanced planning, a little discipline, and voila, less stress!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, or just need to make some changes, I encourage you to take an assessment and then take some basic steps to make changes.  After all, the first step is deciding you’re not going to stay where you are, right????

Smile

As you can tell from last week’s post, I’ve got a few things going on right now.  Work is busy, life is busy, and it is a little overwhelming. Tuesday night was the first time in 2 weeks that I actually rested, meaning, I wasn’t just sleep.  I got to close my eyes and rest, without random thoughts and dreams popping into my head.  I’ve taken a few days off from work this week, and was excited that my night of rest was a sign of better things to come.  I got up Wednesday morning, got in a great workout at the park, and thought, “Oh, yes, I’ve got endorphins, life is good.”  I even began to invoke my inner Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon’s character in “Legally Blonde”) and found myself saying, “Exercise gives you endorphins.  Endorphins make people happy.  Happy people [aren’t mean, they just aren’t].”  Sidenote:  the quote actually ends, “Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”  I always change it to suit my situation.

Unfortunately, Tuesday night’s restful sleep was not night a sign of more restful nights to follow.  Correction:  it wasn’t followed by a restful sleep on Wednesday night.  Admittedly, this is my own fault.  While I am off work for a few days, there are a number of things going on, and I can’t let the ball drop on them.  Yes, this is where my workaholic tendency comes in.  I’ve been . . . monitoring . . . my BlackBerry.  Responding to the items I deem as urgent that no one else is in a position to answer, and skipping the rest.  I really should be putting the Blackberry away completely; I’m working on it.  It’s quite draining to plan a memorial service, and, frankly, my few days off are more about needing to focus on that than they are about needing time off from work (but I am in need of a vacation, honestly).

Now, I’m not here to whine or complain.  In the midst of my not so restful sleep Wednesday night, I had an interesting revelation.  Sometimes, in the midst of everything going on, you just have to smile.  You know, like the Kirk Franklin song says, “You look so much better when you smile, so smile.”    So I’m smiling. And one of my favorite things that makes me smile popped into my dreams Wednesday night:

Yes, sometimes I dream in YouTube.  Don’t judge me.  But my YouTube dreaming made me smile last night.  Not just in my dream, but I woke up with a smile on my face (before I fell back asleep).  The video is cute, you know you laughed and probably watched it more than once, but it isn’t just about being cute.  It is a reminder that you have to take time out and just enjoy the special moments in life, the ones that make you smile.

My week isn’t all about sadness and stress.  Yes, it’s hard to know that my grandmother is gone, and even harder for me, who has spent my 33 years of life blessed with 4 living grandparents yet, in just 9 short months, I’ve lost 2 of them.  Work can be stressful, but I do enjoy what I do (most days, we all have “those days.”).  But I’ve laughed a lot the past couple weeks, I had a BLAST hanging out with my mom yesterday while we ran errands in preparation for the memorial service.  In other words, I’ve found the moments to make me smile in the midst of what can be a trying time.

What are you going through today that makes you feel down?  Don’t let it get you down.  Find your favorite thing, and make sure you Smile.  “You look so much better when you smile, so smile.”

Remembering . . .

Two days ago, on July 18, 2011, a wonderful woman, Fredricka Sanders Creighton, went home to be with the Lord.  I know this because I know that she had accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior.  She was my paternal grandmother, and I loved her dearly.  I’ve been thinking a lot the past couple days about her; remembering the time we shared with her.  As I reflected on my life with Grandma, I found it ironic that, here I was, remembering, but the last several years robbed her of that same opportunity, due to the effects of the disease that took much of who “Mrs. Freddie Mae” really was:  Alzheimer’s.

This post is not about Alzheimer’s though. I want to tell you about the woman who so effortlessly used to tell anyone who would ask about me and my brother and cousin.  She had a bumper sticker on her car that read, “Let me tell you about my grandchildren.”  And if you asked her, she would tell you.  I distinctly remember hiding behind a pole in the Stamford Town Center (Stamford, CT) parking deck with my older brother and cousin, because some stranger saw the bumper sticker and asked Grandma about her grandchildren.  She proceeded to start talking, and turned at one point to point to us, only to discover we were hiding.  Kids, I tell you.

Grandma Creighton was a vibrant woman. She was full of life, and joy and smiles and hugs.  When we were younger, she would always make clam dip for my Grandpa to go with his Lays Potato Chips (the yellow bag), and we would always beg Grandpa to share.  I don’t know how she made that clam dip, but it was YUM-MY!  Then there was the dream cake.  It was a yellow cake with layers of some sort of creamy white icing (probably with Cool Whip in it), pineapples and coconut.  I can still taste that cake.  My 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Anderson, wrote me a note about that cake at the end of the school year.  It was THAT good.

Grandma was a social butterfly; Mrs. Popularity.  She never met a stranger, and made you feel like she’d known you since her childhood; even if you’d just met her 5 minutes ago.  She was full of life and love.  Never stuffy (though those plastic covers on the gold couches would have you think otherwise), always sassy and always with a hug to give; you know, the kind of hugs that only a Grandma can give.  She loved music, and, even in recent years, would dance to the music.  I guess that’s where I get it from; I always have a song playing in my head.

I’m going to miss my Grandma.  She was a wonderful lady, and brought so much joy and love into our family.  She showed me what love is really about, and taught me so much over the 33.5 years I got to share with her.  I’m truly blessed to have had her so long, and am thankful to know that she is back home, with the Lord, rejoicing, dancing and singing with the constant songs of heaven’s choir.

Thank you, Grandma.  I love you, and I will see you later.

In the Midst of Solitude

Yesterday, when I arrived home, I just sort of shut down.  I found myself at first annoyed by something, and then ultimately angry.  Over the years, I’ve learned how to be significantly more self-aware.  As part of that, I know that, when I’m that angry, I should just be quiet, so that’s what I did.  I put myself in time out, or in the “corner.”  The corner is the place I go to just be quiet.  It’s where I have to sit myself until I am in a much better mental state.  And I don’t think of the corner as a bad place.  In my mind, the corner has great snacks, a Tempurpedic mattress and all the comforts I could ever want.  It also doesn’t have other people.

As I rose this morning to start my day, I still felt a little bit of that quiet mode.  The difference is that now, it isn’t about frustration or anger.  It’s just about being still.  Sometimes we go so much, move so fast, have so many things going on that we don’t take time to just sit still.  And I don’t mean sit still and watch tv or veg out.  I mean just flat-out be still.  We have iPods and phones and televisions and video games (and the list goes on), and there is always movement.  But what happens when you just shut it all off and sit still?  All of those things are distractions.  Let’s be real, there really isn’t anything on tv right now.  Most of the shows won’t have new episodes until the fall, and the shows that do are, for the most part, “reality tv” where I can feel my brain cells leaving (yes, I do watch some of it, but it doesn’t make it right).  So what’s the point?

Last night, I shut it all off.  I plugged up my phone, grabbed a book and had a nice relaxing bath.  I kept reading my book until I convinced myself that going to bed really is the best thing.  And you know what? It was a very peaceful and quiet night.  I read, but I also listened to the thoughts (not the voices, the thoughts) in my head, filtering through the randomness that plays through my mind to get to the things that really matter.  I found myself with a renewed sense of energy and determination, and, when I woke this morning, looked forward to the solitude that this morning brings me.

Take some time to enjoy the solitude.  A lot of times we fear it, when, in reality, it’s just what the doctor ordered.  Perhaps a trip to the corner isn’t so bad after all.

I Just Can’t . . .

Anyone who has ever experienced a devastating loss knows that there is nothing more debilitating, more heartwrenching, and more painful.  I don’t mean losing a game if you’re an athlete, or losing your keys and being locked out of the house.  I’m talking about a great loss; the loss of a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a best friend or, in my case, a child.  I mean the type of loss that feels like someone just punched you in the gut and knocked every bit of air out of you; the kind that hurts so much you’re not convinced that you can fall asleep at night, or worse, that you will wake up the next morning.

I’ve been there.  The night after we found out our son, Caleb, had gone home to be with the Lord, I remember going upstairs to get into the bed.  My heart hurt so much, I didn’t know if I would be able to fall asleep that night.  Even more difficult, I wasn’t convinced I would wake up the next morning.  I got into the bed and prayed one prayer:  “Lord, please let me go to sleep tonight, and let me wake up in the morning.  And Lord, please give me peace.”

I know what you’re thinking:  “Not Rasheeda.  The one who has great faith, who trusts God in everything.  Proverbs 3:5-6 is her favorite scripture, after all.”  Well, you see, that’s the thing about life.  Sometimes you get dealt with a dose of reality that causes you to sink or swim.  I wasn’t sinking, but I didn’t feel like I was swimming, either.  I was just there.  I didn’t know how to explain what I was feeling, though.  I just knew that, well, “I just can’t.”

“I just can’t” meant so many things to me.  I just can’t talk about it.  I just can’t explain how I feel.  I just can’t get out of bed today.  I just can’t leave the house.  I just can’t stop crying.  I just can’t be around people.  I just can’t talk to anyone, even if it’s small talk. I. JUST. CAN’T.

Can’t was never in my vocabulary.  Philippians 4:13 tells me that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  What do you mean you can’t?  You can, and you will.  You have to.  Right?

Eventually.  But in that moment, for that period of time, I couldn’t.  And I learned that it was okay.  It was okay to be weak.  It was okay to hurt.  It was okay to feel like everyone around you was either pregnant or just had a baby.  It was even okay to be upset that a teenager was having a healthy child, but you didn’t.  Your child was gone.  It was okay to be angry, disappointed and all around upset.  And it was okay to allow yourself to work through those emotions.

But you know what else I learned?  I learned that, eventually, I would stop saying, “I just can’t.”  I learned to name my emotions.  I learned to share my story.  I learned that, in my greatest moments of pain and weakness, I did not lose faith; in fact, I gained it, because I had just enough presence of mind to call out the simplest prayer and ask God to help me.  And He did.

Since that time, my prayer in times of loss either for myself or others is always the same:  May God strengthen you, encourage you and give you peace that passes all understanding.  May He carry you until you’re strong enough to stand, may He hold you until you’re strong enough to walk, and may He be beside you when you’re strong enough to run again.

Even when we “just can’t,” God can.  And He will.