Fiona in January

Fiona in January

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Prayers For Reagan

I can't remember a more terrifying day than yesterday in my (some might say short) 27 years on this planet. I also can't remember a time where I understood better the phrase "pray without ceasing", because that's what I did all day long for my niece Reagan.

Reagan is almost 15 months old and, I know I'm biased, but the cutest thing ever. She's a smart, playful little girl who really charms everyone. I've always felt like I had a special bond with her and her older brother Cameron (age 4) because I was lucky enough to live with them for about 10 months while my sister was pregnant with Reagan and up until she was about 4 months old.

I cried almost all the way (to my now) home when I moved away to the Eastern Shore (about 2.5 hours from them), it was ridiculously hard to say goodbye to them, especially when they didn't really understand I wasn't going to see them every day anymore. Cam is that kid who always rushes to hug me when I walked in the door from work, impatient for me to hurry up and change clothes so we could play. Reagan is the source of so many stories and memories - from her dramatic activity in utero to more recent stories, like how she refused to feed the ducks bread she wanted herself. My sister has told me so many times (sometimes in gentle frustration!) how much Reagan reminds her of me when I was little. A stubborn, but funny little girl - full of curiosity and laughter.

Yesterday she had a seizure and they couldn't get it to stop. So she was rushed to the hospital up in Columbia, MD. There they had to intubate and sedate her heavily and get her in the cat scan. Thankfully her scan came back clear, no bleeds on the brain or damage. They airlifted her to Children's Hospital, where she is now.

The seizing finally stopped and she woke up in the afternoon. She started breathing on her own soon after and is schedule for more testing. Today we're waiting to see what her spinal tap shows and I think she's scheduled for an MRI and an EEG. The doctors want a better look at a brain ventricle she had trouble with when she was in utero to make sure there's no scar tissue that could be causing the seizures.

The good news is that she's alert and driving everyone a little crazy since they had to move her from a bed to a crib because she kept wanting to play with all the buttons on her machines. She's eating and drinking and talking and acting like her normal little self. So really it's just waiting to find out what is causing these seizures.

During all of this, the only two things I could think were "God, please keep her safe, please heal her!" and "I hate myself for not being there!" I physically could not be with my family during this horrific day for stupidly practical reasons. We only have one car right now and Aaron had it at work (20 miles away from our house) and couldn't leave because he's a medical professional and they got completely slammed with patients nonstop all day. It broke my heart constantly to know that my niece was unconscious most of the day, my sister and brother-in-law were terrified and just having to wait at the hospital and there was no way for me to be there with them.

I did all I could do, talked to Kate on the phone on and off all day and prayed constantly. Thank God she's doing well today...please pray with us about her tests. She is being treated by one of the best pediatric neurological teams in the country and they are determined to find answers.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mom Really Does Know Best...

It is fitting that on Mother's Day, our pastor would preach a sermon that I swear half of sounded like it came directly from my mom's mouth. I kept flashing back to memories of her throughout the years while I was growing up, teaching me the principles coming from our pastor's mouth over and over again. I say over and over again because I was (and still am on occasion!) an outrageously stubborn child when it comes to listening, obeying and softening my heart to God's principles.

This morning's message was focused on forgiveness. I have never been moved to tears during church...until this morning. It was so amazing too because I almost didn't go this morning. I wasn't feeling well, my stomach was a wreck and I had to drop my husband off at work, then attend alone...which isn't nearly as much fun. I was this close (picture my pointer finger and thumb pinching a tiny space here) to just blowing off church this morning and staying in bed. I am so incredibly thankful I didn't. I needed to hear this message.

Forgiveness and I have an odd relationship. In many ways I am quick to forgive, accept and move on. Still, there are several people that immediately jump to the forefront of my mind who I have stubbornly refused to forgive over the years for various reasons. Before I get into that, I want to mention a few points from Pastor Brian's sermon, the second message in our church's new series "Redeeming Love".

He began by dispelling popular misconceptions of forgiveness running rampant in our culture and even in the church these days:

1. A person should not be forgiven until he/she asks for it...FALSE! As believers we are to forgive...period. Forgiveness is not conditional, we are commanded to forgive.

2. Forgiving includes minimizing the offense and the pain caused...FALSE! Just because you forgive someone who has hurt or wronged you does not mean you give them a "free pass" to abuse you. It does not restore a relationship immediately and diminish the fact that you have been wounded. (which brings us to the next point)

3. Forgiveness includes restoring trust and reuniting a relationship...FALSE! Forgiveness is not a cure-all bandaid to slap on a relationship and "make it all better". What heals a relationship and rebuilds trust is the process of the person who hurt you to recognize and take ownership of causing that pain and destroying that trust, restitution and the tenuous task of rebuilding trust in a relationship. It will take time to get to that point.

4. You haven't really forgiven until you've forgotten the offense...FALSE! I love what our pastor said about this was something to the effect of, "I don't know who came up with this saying, but they were an idiot!" This is an idiotic and impossible concept. You will never forget, that isn't a principle tied to forgiveness at all.

5. When I see someone else hurt, it is my duty to forgive the offender....FALSE! This one really hit home with me. There are two people on that mental list I have of those I haven't been able to forgive who directly hurt someone I love more than anyone else in the world...but they didn't hurt me. They hurt him. He has moved past it, but I haven't...and that's wrong. It is not my responsibility to forgive them. It's not my right to wrestle with the burden of fact it is a sin to take up the offense of another person.

A big ouch on that last one, right?

The rest of Pastor Brian's message focused on why we must forgive and how we are to forgive. We must forgive those who have wronged us because God has forgiven us, because unforgiveness will affect us personally (I can attest to that!), and because we will need forgiveness ourselves.

One of the things my mom continuously tried to pound into my brain (figuratively!) is that by holding onto my anger and resentment, by refusing to forgive, all I do is hurt myself. I don't hurt that person - they don't notice at all...all I do is let that resentment fester into bitterness. She also constantly taught me that I was the only one who could control my emotions and feelings. That others couldn't "make" me feel anything, that I always had a choice, even when it didn't feel like it. Our pastor hit on that point this morning too (he and my mom would get along well I think!) when he said, "every time you hate something or someone you surrender control. You are basically saying that you give them the power to control your emotions."

As I mentioned before, the hardest thing for me to let go of, the people who I have the hardest time forgiving are those who have seriously hurt the ones I love...I'm freakishly protective of my family and friends (at least that's what I've been told) and when they are hurt, I have to struggle to balance my God-given gift of empathy with the anger building inside me directed toward the one who caused that hurt. Unfortunately long after my friends and family have been able to forgive those who hurt them and move on, I still find myself wresting with that bizarre third-party resentment.

That brings us back to the ever-important concept of HOW do we forgive? How do I let go of this anger and resentment?

1. By relinquishing my right to "get even". Paul says it best in Romans 12:19 - Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. It is not my responsibility or right to judge others, leave that responsibility to God.

2. By responding to evil with good. We are commanded to love our enemies, do good to those who hurt us and even to pray for those who hurt us. My mom also told this to me more times than I can response was always, "but I don't feel like it!" Guess what...God doesn't say to live by our feelings. To be honest, feelings suck most of the time! We are to live by FAITH which means we are to live by obeying God's Word, which commands us to (guess what?) forgive...and pray for those who hurt us. Right again Mom...

3. By repeating these steps as long as necessary. Forgiveness is not a point, it is a process. It could take years of constant prayer, asking God to help me forgive and let go. For an impatient person ( this concept makes my stomach sink. You mean forgiveness won't just happen because I say I forgive someone? Crap. Like so many lessons and life events, it is a process.

At the end of Pastor Brian's sermon he challenged us to think of who is still hurting us today. To ask ourselves who it is that we are struggling to forgive. Just like that, 4 people popped into the forefront on my brain...3 of which have hurt people I love. The fourth person has passed away and I struggle with how to forgive someone who wounded me so badly for so many years when they have since died?

It's going to be anything but easy, but today I am going to start taking those first steps toward letting forgiving that one person and letting go of those other 3 who I have no right to try to forgive in the first place.

I pray that God will not only help me to let go and forgive, but that He will help me balance my empathetic nature with the Biblical concept of not taking on "third-party" resentment and love and cry with my friends and family when others hurt them, but not to take that grief and pain onto my own shoulders.

If you want to check out today's message (and I highly recommend you do!), go to

To wrap up, let me say a final thank you to my awesome Mom, who I wish lived closer. Thanks for putting up with my stubbornness as a kid and not literally strangling me when I was even worse as a teenager. I love you so much and wouldn't be the fully-functioning adult I am today without's to you Mom (and my older sister Kate who's also featured in this photo)!

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Writer's New Idea

Being a writer is a very bizarre thing. As far back as I can remember I've been very verbal, very focused on words and stories, and once I learned to write, it has been the way I deal and interact with the world. I love to write, whether it is fiction, non-fiction, blogging or recipes - writing is just a huge part of who I am.

I have been working on my second novel on and off for over a year now and just can't seem to get past a certain point. I have great ideas for it, but apparently the story just isn't quite ready to be fully written yet. It has been discouraging, but I am not a writer who is working with solid deadlines, pressure and stress. I am writing for my own benefit and have no interest in attempting to force myself to fill the page with unremarkable words. This (in a very tiny nutshell) is exactly why I never wanted to write exclusively as a career (i.e. journalism, etc). I know myself and I know that forcing writing into a cubbyhole of "work" will make me hate doing it. That doesn't mean I don't use this gift I've been given. Thankfully I am working at a job that allows me to use my experience and God-given gift of writing in new ways.

That being said, this weekend I was hit with another idea for a book. My first memoir-style blend of non-fiction and fiction writing. I have been reading more of this style lately along with other books and I extremely enjoy it, often wondering if I could pull together something similar using my own experiences.

I'm always looking for thoughts and feedback on my ideas. I'm posting the prologue here and welcome your comments. I'm working on an outline this week and am really starting to get excited about this new project!

Make no mistake, this doesn't mean that I am not working on my fiction novel, it just means that (thankfully) it will be shifted to the back burner and I'll pick it up again when I'm ready and when it is ready to be written.

Prologue - First Draft

To this day, the mere mention of the city of Toledo, OH causes a family-wide groan closely followed by near-hysterical laughter. Toledo was the site of one of our most notorious family road trip milestones and by far the most bizarre. I don’t think any of us have returned since that fateful day when disaster struck in overwhelmingly comical forces.

My family grew up, grew together in cars. Some of my most potent childhood memories are of either a) waiting by the side of the road with the family car for a tow truck or b) being crammed into the back of a sedan with my two sisters bickering over who was going to have to sit in the middle seat and sharing a walkman as the scenery rolled by.

Cars are so much more than mere transportation to me, they are the flint that sparks a story, a memory, “remember when we had that green LeBaron? Dad could still catch air in it going over that bump in Old Bowie…” These are the stories that inevitably populate family reunions, holidays and meals as we all grow older, move away and start our own families. These are the stories that make us laugh until we can’t breathe and vow to never again think, “How hard could it be to pee in grass?”

This is the story of my family. Of our cars. Of our outrageous luck, both good and bad and how we have survived decades of bumpy roads, hairpin turns and even a flaming vehicle or two.