Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hiking with a ham

Since shaving my head, it seems like I've been standing in that moment - feeling  the freedom and perhaps a rushing current of life sounding like loud applause for that moment in time.  I guess I've been enjoying the little details of life a little bit more, my senses heightened to the things I really have to be thankful for.

(By the way, friends, some of my hair seems to be wanting to start to come back.  I've been finding some smidglings - my best made up word - of peach fuzz and even some dark stuff coming through in a few spots.  Yay!)

Yesterday we decided to take a hike.  We left our little down and drove 20 minutes to a gorgeous park with amazing views and these crazy rock formations.  We've become those people who live here that rarely take advantage of whats so amazing and so close to us.  (So, in the last 3 weeks, we've gone 3 different times! Yep!) Yesterday, we explored and applauded when we found ground squirrels and ooh'd and ahh'd at the beautiful scene around us Braeden likes to call "the nature."

There's something about "the nature" that calls out the free spirit in my kiddos and convinces us to leave irritation and bad attitudes behind at the car.  Figuratively and literally a breath of fresh air.

We were daring, squeezing through small gaps between gigantic rocks and crouching through caves where foxes and wolves must live.

Landen just wanted to celebrate the fact that I had a camera for him to pose for with a few dance moves.  And I applauded him greatly after his show was over.  

(Such a ham, he is!)

Our little excursion made us late for dinner, baths, and bedtimes, but as we tucked our kiddos into bed, tired out ourselves from our adventure, I enjoyed knowing when we wrote on their calendars for that day, that that was their favorite part of the day - and mine, too.

I've decided to challenge myself to find new 'adventures' every day this week.  I'm going to search for something inspiring to take pictures of, or take a walk somewhere in our little town that we haven't explored yet.  Maybe I'll create something new to hang in our home.  We'll see.  I think my soul will thank me for it!

And maybe then  I'll also be inspired to blog again (I've really kind of missed it the last several weeks!).

Oh, and I must add briefly a good reason to celebrate life - the birth of my new niece and nephew (and I'll take this moment to tease my friends who have asked if they were identical.  Haha!  ;) )

And, I have to say my heart was stilled a bit when my sweet girl held those babies for the first time.  She is already such a little mama, but holding those teeny babies in her arms... Ah!  

And Braeden, who was so apprehensive about holding them was so sweet and gentle (and I believe secretly pleased with himself).  He was a natural!

It's a treat to see my babies loving on these precious tiny babies.  

So, things I've been thankful for this week: family hiking (especially with the ham), teeny tiny babies, my babies holding babies,  and finally hitting publish on this blog again!

What are you thankful for so far this week?  What adventures might you seek out?  I'd love to hear!


Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Rock the Shot: Flower Portrait

One night, a few weeks before her birthday my sweet girl, Emerson, and I went to take some pictures of her.  What was meant to be a few minutes of taking some pictures to mark her 7th birthday turned into me witnessing the unforced and naturally sweet and free spirit of my girl.  I kept attempting to focus her on the task at hand, but in  her little girl way she would spot wildflower after wildflower.  She moved from the "most beautiful flower" to the next "most beautiful flower" with eagerness and excitment.  I'm not sure when I realized that what I was watching was giving me more of a pure glimpse of her sweet little girl heart than posing her would, but I soon stopped talking and began moving around her as she discovered and smelled and danced in the sun that was close to making it's last shouts of glory for that day.  This was one of the moments that I captured and it's become a favorite.  

 www.rocktheshotforum.com is hosting a monthly challenge this month: flowers. Check them out to see other beautiful flower shots posted by some both new and seasoned photographers!  There are some very beautiful shots!

My sweet Emerson just before her 7th birthday.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Being Real: Carrying each other's burdens

There is something about being real that is hard for me.  Do you know what I'm talking about?  When that smile that you're putting on suddenly becomes the real thing - you feel your eyes relax into a place where true joy is apparent.  Or when you hear the words coming out of your mouth that feel so genuine that you will the words to make a visual imprint on the person you're speaking to.  What you would think would be the easiest place to draw your emotions and words from, that real and authentic part of you, is sometimes the hardest.  At least it is for me. I think we're trained to respond the "right" ways and that becomes the easiest thing to do.  Of course, there is the issue of being vulnerable, too, I suppose, and that's hard...  I digress...

Anyway, I found myself listening to a friend this week whose weight on her shoulders is heavy.  Crushing, really.  I dug deep and every ounce of me wanted to speak Truth into her life that she would believe.  Something that wouldn't be a cliche .  No "it'll be ok" or "God has a plan" statements.   I've said those things before myself, but really, do I know those things to be true?  Do I know that God's plan will bring comfort? I don't.    My heart hurt for her and I wanted her to know that, so that maybe she could realize that I was carrying a little bit of her hurt so she could let go of some of hers.   I imagined myself literally taking handfuls of the heavy pain she was carrying and transferring it over into my arms, into my heart instead.

Suddenly, I realized that was VERY real to me.  Seriously, I have had so many, both through word and deed, be an example of what it is to carry each others burdens the past few years - through miscarriage, surgery (and the enormous mountain of money it took to get there), more surgery and some heartache, too.  Physical burdens... emotional burdens... there are many facets of the burdens that we face daily, isn't there?

It made me want to ask a real question, both for me and well.. for each other.  Have you felt the desire to take away someone's pain?  What about allowing someone to help carry yours?  How has someone meaningfully and purposely "carried your burdens" with you?  What would be the most practical way for someone to do that?  What would be real to you?

For me, honestly, it's words.  I'm a words person.  It's my love language.  I respond to and cherish, am moved by, read and re-read, save and go back to later, the words, encouragement and love that people have served me with.  The real, raw, honest stuff.

What about you?  Would you vulnerably share with me what this might look like to you?  I would love it if you would.   

Friday, April 20, 2012

Reflection and Pterodactyl Fur

We just got home from watching Emerson perform in a little mini play at school.  She was a farmer (and a cute one, too).  Landen is watching a show and I began reflecting over the past few weeks.  After last weeks posts (here and  here), I felt like I was riding high.  Something I thought that might be a very sad thing was actually, while a little bittersweet, very freeing and the response I received was inspiring.  The meanness, teasing, and tormenting I received when I suffered from alopecia as a kid beautifully transformed into this wonderful connection with others as an adult.  I really couldn't ask for more.  I get to lose my hair and I'm honestly thankful.

And speaking of being a kid, I found myself filling out Kindergarten paperwork yesterday for this one.

I suddenly felt an urgency to get in as much time with him as I possibly could.  His days will soon have limited time for me and Jon has to sometimes remind me that I'm not actually giving him away!  This time - this sweet limited time - I've had with him when he's been small is coming to a close and I intend to make this kid feel an endless supply of love and encouragement to take with him to Kindergarten in a few short months.

A few days ago, the boys and I visited the local dinosaur museum.   During our long walk to get there Landen ran ahead and Braeden and I got to anticipate the things we were about to learn.  And our anticipation was not met with disappointment!  He soaked that place in.

He was telling me more about the dinosaurs and their lives that he was sure had to be true, it was hard to keep up.  However, it never grew old hearing Braeden add "right, Mom?" to the end of every declaration.  It was hard to tell him 'no' sometimes when he wasn't right, so there were times I just nodded my head with enthusiasm and gave a big assuring smile like he was the smartest kid in the world.  I knew he wasn't actually feeling the dinosaur's sweat and so what if he thinks Pterodactyl skin was full of fur so their babies could snuggle with them.   Besides, who says I can't nurture that imagination?  He's got plenty of time to learn the scientific stuff, but for that day, that Pterodactyl was furry and dinosaurs sweat was sticky, stinky, and very wet.

And then there was Landen, for whom asking to slow down and be quiet is like asking him to wait to go potty.  Both of those things - not going to happen.

So, there was a little chasing him around and my personal favorite, climbing into the display to snatch him before touching the thousand year old fossil.  Yeah, that happened.

These are the days I'm going to take advantage of - chasing and snatching and all.   I'll miss them someday, I know.

And since I've been a little inconsistent the last few weeks, my Friday Phone Pics will be fuller than normal this week.  :)

Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

Monday, April 09, 2012

True Beauty, part 2

I'm not sure where to start.  Overwhelmed, thankful, humbled, overjoyed and just plain amazed don't quite cover the multitude of emotions I've experienced these past several days.  I would have never in my life imagined as I sit Wednesday afternoon writing so quickly about what felt to me like such a  life-defining choice, trying to beat that clock marking the end of naptime, that I would receive the response I've had after writing about shaving my head.  Shaving my head!  If I had questions about people's ability to have compassion on a woman who was losing her hair and looking at taking the last of it away - a part of what defined her femininity - I need only look to the kind and encouraging words extended to me over comments, emails, and Facebook messages.  Weeping as I made my way through those words, I realized that I've been shown more about true beauty through the compassion and kindness you extended to me than I would have ever imagined.  I wrote in my last post that I get to search for and discover a deeper beauty that I wouldn't have had the chance to find had I never experienced this.  And oh, it moved me to see it coming true so quickly. And I knew it wasn't just about me.  Seeing the hearts of women and men, friends and strangers alike cheering me - and subsequently each other - on and sharing their own stories of losing their hair and the battles they were facing was beautiful.  And I hope that maybe somehow this is only the beginning.  Knowing we're not alone and cheering each other on through this life is a precious and beautiful thing.

So, if you are one who extended those incredibly genuine and kind words (including the beautiful Kelle Hampton), then from the bottom of my heart, thank you.  

Of course, closer to home than the wide reach of my family, dear friends and strangers online (whom I'll admit, I wondered how they might take the idea that I shaved my head) I wondered more about my kiddos.  Braeden, my 5 year old, came home from preschool when I revealed my bald head.  "Hey, Braeden, can I show you something?"   He turned, noticed immediately (how could you not, I suppose!), and studied my head for several seconds before asking if he could touch it.  Slowly reaching, he felt it, giggled a little, and then asked if he could watch a movie.  I smiled, feeling the unconditional love and over-site of such a thing as my hair from my boy.   And then there was my three year old, Landen, who asked, "Why did Shelly do that to you?"  Ha!

However, my 7 year old daughter, Emerson, is much more sensitive and aware - especially now that she's been exposed to the sting of sometimes being judged by her peers at school.  I knew she would know that this wasn't a normal thing for girls - for her mommy - to do.  Braeden announced on the way home from school that Mommy had cut her hair! She expressed her excitement of wanting to see and upon entering the door at home,  I turned, kneeled down and explained, "You know how I've been losing my hair?"  She nodded, glancing at my wig covered head. "Well, I decided that because I have already been losing so much, that maybe I should cut it all, instead of worrying so much about the number of hairs falling out each day."  I reached up and pulled off my wig.  Emerson, my sweet girl, whom I've always seen a compassionate heart in, took one look and immediately lowered her head and covered her eyes. "I don't like it, Mommy."  I searched her face as I began wondering if maybe I should have considered talking through it with her before I got rid of my remaining hair, or if maybe I should have just waited, when suddenly Braeden, taking a cue from his big sister, announced in a non-hurtful, matter of fact way, "Yeah, I don't like it.  It's not very pretty."  And as quickly as she looked away from me, Braeden's announcment snapped her head back up where she looked at me again and then back at Braeden.  I'll never forget how with pure confidence she announced, "Braeden, what makes you pretty is not the way you look or if you have hair, it's how kind and nice you are."

And there it was.  

That was the reason I let go of my hair.  

My hair, or lack of, has now given my children a chance to exercise what I've desired to plant in their heart from the time they were babies.   The seed of the same kindness and compassion and grace that many of you have already shown me has been planted in the hearts of my precious kiddos and is beginning a life of it's own in them.  My heart swelled with gratitude.

I won't lie, there have been a few moments where I caught myself by surprise in the mirror and I've instinctively grimaced, but I know deep down watching my hair fall to the floor was something I wouldn't regret.  In that moment, hearing those words from my girl, I knew that I had done something good.  

I'm still choosing true beauty.  And not just for me.  

Happy Monday and here's to the beauty in life!  

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

I shaved my head

Yesterday I received a copy of a book I had been long anticipating.  My favorite blogger, Kelle Hampton, had her first ever book released yesterday.  I've been following her for a little over two years and have read her beautifully written words of the journey she's been on since her daughter, Nella, has been born.   The day she discovered she has Down Syndrome.  I discovered her blog through another author I like, Donald Miller, who somehow ran across her blog shortly after Nella was born and shared the post describing Nella's birth and the days after on his own blog.  It moved me.  It brought me to tears and made me want to cheer this family on.  I wanted to hug her and be a close friend to this blogger I've never met.  I've been reading her words ever since.

That blog post catapulted her into popularity as word of that infamous post spread.  Her raw honesty and emotion were to be admired and I'm sure fellow bloggers felt like I did.  My heart ached for her and at the same time cheered for her on this journey.  From that, she wrote this book, Bloom.

After receiving my copy in the mail yesterday, I felt a sense of pride for this friend I've never met. I feel like I've been able to follow her on this journey all along and glean from the lessons and wisdom she herself was gaining all along the way.  And her photography... don't get me started!  (She's been a major inspiration for me since the day I found her.)

A blurry phone pic I posted to Instagram when I got her book in the mail.
Anyway, last night I was reading and found myself underlining and underlining and both crying and laughing along the way.  Her courage and attitude and ability to see beauty in the people and world around her are truly inspiring.  And then I read this:

"It's taken me awhile to grasp it all, but I have finally arrived at the grown-up place of life-is-what-you-make-it and there are lots of things in life we go through that aren't comfortable or ideal, but they could be so incredibly worse, and a simple life of comfort does nothing to change us, mold us, make us into better, stronger more beautiful versions or ourselves...
I have been reminded so much these past couple weeks of just how wonderfully blessed we are, and the older I get, the more I embrace change as an opportunity to learn just what I'm capable of.

And I am capable of so much."

And later, her sister Carin told her, "So many  people fear hard times,"  she said, "they go through their life solely seeking comfort and avoiding personal growth at all costs because it hurts.  But I promise you, Kelle.  I promise - if you can find a part of you to believe me and trust what I'm saying - you will be happier than you've ever been....  Because life is all about how you look at it."

It was like she plucked all of my thoughts and experiences right out of my brain and wrote this for me.  For me.

You see, I've been hanging on so tightly to this worldly version of beauty.  I've been trying to hold on to every last strand of hair that was hanging on for life itself.  Every day - every single day - after I step out of the shower, I go through the process of "fixing" my hair - what  hair I had left.  I'd blow dry it, use my straightener on it and comb through it again - just before plopping my hat on my head or fitting my wig so it sat just right.

And last night I wondered why.  Why am I holding onto this hair that is flat out failing me?  And I couldn't answer beyond the simple fact that it was because it's what the "world" is telling me to do.  It was because I was valuing the wrong kind of beauty.  And I decided it was time.

This morning I got ready, shuffled my kids out the door, dropped them off at school and sat in the parking lot and thought for only a second before I texted my friend and said, "I think I'm going to shave my head."  And like the good friend she is, she didn't even question why, she answered, "Want me to come do it for you?"  And before she took the scizzors and eventually the razor to my head, she asked for my permission, "Ok, are you ready?"

Yep.  I'm ready.

Ready to be me.  Ready to not conform to the world's standards of who I should be, or what I should be ashamed of.  I'm ready to whole-heartedly embrace the excitement I felt as my hair was falling to the floor because I knew, I just knew, that God is using me.  That I get to go through this because "a simple life of comfort does nothing to change us, mold us, make us into better, stronger more beautiful versions or ourselves."  I get to search for and discover a deeper beauty that I wouldn't have had the chance to find had I never experienced this.

I'm ready.


Face-timing Jon while Shelly was shaving

That's not to say you probably won't see me with my wig on when I'm out and about (I've found my head gets cold quite quickly!), but you can know that underneath that fake hair is my plain bald head.  The shiny, bald, smooth head that represents a new sense of freedom.

This is me!

P.S.  If you'd like to see a follow up post, click here.  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Escaping Reality

Yesterday afternoon, I excused myself to the bathroom to cry.  I had just written an email to a friend who had asked to pray for me.  The flow of words that came out of me, fingers typing so fast to her, feeling anxious that her prayers couldn't come quickly enough, couldn't hold the flood of tears that had been brimming my eyes that whole time.   I sat, in the dark, and let myself get to the point of being unable to catch my breath.  Details surrounding my surgery, my hair loss (again), some of the ugliness in my own heart, and some tears of anger wondering why some things are the way they are just plain caught up with me (sorry to be so vague).
I had to ignore a friend who came by to see me because I was in no shape to be seen or talked to at that moment.  I'm sure anything I would have been able to blubber out wouldn't have made sense anyway.  I value being looked upon as being at least mostly put together and in that light, that moment was a major fail.  Thankfully my friend is one who has loved me unconditionally over the past several years and wrote me words of love and encouragement a short time later (which were surely part of an answered prayer that I had been crying through in my dark bathroom).
As is thankfully common after such a cry, I felt pressed to do something about it.  And so, what is becoming somewhat of a theme for me (though this time it didn't come without a temper tantrum) I knew I should press on to choose joy, knowing that I am being given perseverance.  There's no option to give up or quit, so I persevere.  And try my damnest to do it with joy.  No trudging, looking down into the sticky, ugly, muddy, messy parts of life (though there may be some moments here and there), but looking up, looking ahead, and pressing on.  Choosing joy of the things I have been given all along the journey.

James 1:2  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Take that trials of life!

From 2012-03-14

(Yep, that hair on my head - fake.  I decided to give in and just start wearing my rug - and embrace it.  :) )

And, you know, I have an awesome husband who saw through me to the feeling of being trapped I had inside and took the afternoon off to take me to a city nearby, 20 degrees warmer to play with our kids, soak in the sun.  


And, like one more small gift, one I didn't even really appreciate until I was home and the kids were asleep, I plugged in my camera and glanced at the last few pictures I took that day.  In these particular ones,I recalled trying to snap it quickly while we were driving home, angling myself across the dash to get it and quickly thinking it was impossible and gave up.  And reviewing those pictures, I found this gem.  

(Granted, I totally cropped out the dashboard and window frame, but whatever.)

Of course, once at home again, none of our problems are really gone, but my attitude was in a better place and I breathed a sigh of relief.  

It's ok.  I'm ok.  

Real life continues to throw itself forward and grown up responsibilities aren't going away, but neither am I.  The long haul awaits.  


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