Weeds

Kneeling in the cool grass was contradictory to her senses as the sun baked her shoulders not sheltered by her brittle straw hat. The sky was a shade of blue she hadn’t seen for eight months. A mosquito landed on her shoulder and immediately began to withdraw from her life force. Life force that she needed. Silently, and aggressively brushing the offender away, the woman caught a glimpse of what was left behind on her now pinkish skin. Smudged grime. Facing forward once more, she inhaled deeply through her nose, receiving in to her lungs the scent of over turned dirt, and exhaling out what had been clinging to her violently. The filth of burden that wasn’t hers to carry.

There were so many weeds. So. Many. Flexing her fingers in her muted bubble gum pink gardening gloves shaded with mud, she leaned forward, securely grasped the vibrant green imposter that was choking out the legitimate resident of the flower bed, and yanked. They had to go. There wasn’t room for them. If she left them, they would take over completely, strangling out the sherbet orange blossoms and silvery flowers. She knew this, and she attacked them with persistence. Why could she not do that in her very own soul? Why could she not grasp the burden securely, yank it out, and toss it aside.

Tilting back on her heels with her hands on her rounded hips, she knew green would now decorate her knees. That was okay. There simply wasn’t another way. Would she finish today? No. But, she would make progress. Grasping her hands behind her back, she raised her arms up for a shoulder stretch. She needed to let this go. She needed to leave it. Walk away. Enjoy her life.

Pushing up to an upright position, tiredness had made her decision. She had let it. The rest of the weeds could wait. The flower bed looked much better. One more day of work and it would maybe be done. Was that how it would be with him? If she just kept at it day after day, would the work be done. The work of her mind releasing?

Deliberately making her way over the rock barrier to her home, she knew that even in her garden, the work would never truly be done. Why would that be any different in her heart? Sadly, smiling with a smile that didn’t spread to her eyes, she knew it could be better. She could let the responsibilities that weren’t hers go. The choices he was making. The thinking in his head. The attitude he wore. She didn’t need to hang on. But how does a mother do what she needs to do when for months and even years she has been doing it all wrong? Climbing the stairs to her porch, she lets herself in with a quiet click of the door behind her. She knows. She knows what to do. One day. One thought. One weed at a time.

Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. [Ps. 55:22.]

1 Peter 5:7 AMPC

Listen.

A woman wearing a long skirt, with long blonde hair, is dancing and praising God, while silhouetted against the evening sky

Today was my fourth Hot Yoga class. It was also the second time I have cried in class. That is 50%. I would say I am batting pretty good. I didn’t cry because I wanted to throw up. Or pass out. Or because I was dizzy. I cried because I realized something. I realized what a gift it is to listen to my body. I realized I need to pay attention to what it is telling me. It’s not like I don’t know how to pay attention. I pay attention to my husband, kids, friends, and everything else that is clamoring for my focus, love, and affection. My body is clamoring too. It desperately wants my focus. My love. My affection. It desperately wants me to listen.

As I look back over my 40 years, I can distinctly see that my body shouts differently and in a way that is hard for me to hear. It shouts in a way I don’t recognize at times, or simply don’t want to. For years it has silently screamed at me with signs for help. Stop doing that Niki, it hurts! Don’t eat that Niki, you will feel sick. Go to sleep Niki, you are tired. Breathe Niki, you are drowning. Say no Niki, you aren’t supposed to do that. But I, in my all-knowing wisdom for how my life should run, ignored my body for so long that finally even the shouting signs were complete and utter silence to me. I had methodically turned a blind eye. That is, until I fell. Until I broke. Until I spiraled down a black hole and landed in the hospital almost two years ago with a full blown anxiety attack. My body had finally found a way to get the message across. Niki. Stop. It’s time to listen. So I did.

Not because I chose to stop and listen, but my body had enough of my abuse and neglect and it made me stop and listen. It stopped itself for me, and changed my life forever. Thank you, body. The first Hot Yoga class I attended, I was a little nervous. Could my battered and still recovering body even do this? I didn’t know. But what I did know, was that I had to try. I knew exercise was a missing piece for me. It had been two years since I stopped my habit of running. I was too sick to run. I went walking with my husband which was wonderful, but not really a stress reliever or sweat inducer. I even tried running a few times (because I haven’t got the listening to my body thing quite down yet) only to have set backs until I finally played my cards of acceptance and saw running for what it was in my life. A nice piece of my past that had served its purpose for that time. Things were different now. I was different now, and that had to be okay. Eventually, I knew it would be.

I signed up for Hot Yoga class because I knew I needed to detoxify somehow (sweat) and strengthen my body. I needed low impact and I needed something peaceful and stress relieving. Why did I think I needed to detoxify? Because I have been struggling for seven weeks straight with full blown chronic hives. Obviously, my supplements, diet changes (which have been radical), probiotics, enzymes, prebiotics, etc. were not enough. I am still sick two years later (however, with some progress). Elimination isn’t cutting it. Elimination and supplements aren’t cutting it. How do I know this? I am covered in hives. Every day. Every night. Hives have made me listen. It took a few weeks of hives to tune in. I just thought I’d take my antihistamines for a while and I would be all better. But, I’m not. So now I’m listening. For some reason I am a hard learner.

About a week ago during church service there was a call for prayer. My heart leapt, and I knew what I needed to do. Go down to the altar and have someone pray for me. Recently, I was listening online to a very well know speaker who talked about how, yes, it is wonderful if God does a miracle, but our struggle through the problem is what causes us to grow. So far I hadn’t had any miracles regarding my health. But yes, I had grown and changed. As I made my way down to the front for prayer, I remembered a scripture that had been on my tongue often these past two years.

“If any of you lacks wisdom you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5 (NIV)

Standing at the altar I shared a fraction of my story and I asked for healing and wisdom. They prayed for me and I went back to my seat. The Word of God says that if you lack wisdom, ask Him. He will give it generously. I need wisdom to heal my body. I have no idea why I have chronic hives that can only be suppressed by eight antihistamines a day. Eight. A normal person with a hive outbreak will see them burn out in a day or maybe even a week or two. I am on week seven. I have eliminated all problem foods as far as I know and still, day after day, my body is covered in hives. I desperately need God’s wisdom and guidance. So I prayed, had friends pray with me, and I asked for wisdom.

The next day my scripture was:

“This is what the Lord says – your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” Isaiah 48:17 (NIV)

He was going to teach me what was best for my body and direct me where I should go and how to take care of it. I didn’t have the answers. He did. The Bible tells me so. That day, as I was researching my symptoms, I came upon a site about histamine intolerance. My eyes widened in disbelief as I read on and on for hours about a condition that affects around 1% of the population. A condition that hasn’t been widely recognized. Was this why I was have having allergic like reactions if I was consuming nothing I was allergic too? I checked off symptom after symptom, a ray of hope beginning to burn in my soul. Is this what was wrong with me? Is this what was wrong with my body? Did I not have enough of the correct enzyme to break down histamine so it builds, and builds, and builds until my histamine bucket overflows? Do other people out there suffering with hives for weeks, months, and even years know about this condition? I know I didn’t. But God did.

Histamine is a normal part of our body. We create histamine during digestion. Pretty much all food has histamine. So what was going on with my body and histamine? As I read on over the week about this subject, I learned that some bodies can’t handle histamine like other bodies can. I don’t even know the size of my bucket yet but considering how sick I’ve been I must have been blessed with a small one. My hope grew as I researched more about this fascinating intolerance. I pored over article after article, noting low-histamine food lists and emailing myself information about foods to avoid and all the places histamine can be found. I memorized high histamine foods, which were (not shockingly) all the foods I am either allergic to or have major food sensitivities too. Things began to come together for me. I recalled about half-way through my hive outbreak that I cut out processed foods and all natural sugars (fruit) and my hives did improve, they were only half as bad. They were still there, but better.

A missing piece to my elimination diet puzzle fell into place as I rid my diet of the last few high histamine foods I had been consuming daily (tomatoes for example) and began to focus on replacing what I had eliminated with highly nutritious, low histamine foods. My world tilted and I saw things differently. My lotion, shampoo, conditioner, nail polish, make-up, etc. were all adding to my histamine bucket. I bought fresh foods like organic chicken, fresh basil, cabbage, etc. and began to feed my body healing foods. Nutritious foods. I still steered clear of allergen foods and especially foods I had a huge intolerance for. My thinking shifted to eating to heal my body, not just eliminate what was hurting it. Nutrition to heal my gut and cleansing, detoxifying, strengthening exercise was clearly the next step in my journey back to health.

One week. One week of Hot Yoga, low histamine food consumption and high nutrition diet and I am down to one antihistamine at night (sometimes two if I have a big stressor). One. I was on eight last week. I would say I am pretty confident that I have a histamine intolerance. I asked for wisdom and God was faithful. For two years I have stumbled and eliminated getting a little better, and then a lot worse. Not very encouraging for someone who has struggled, eliminated, cut-back, etc. You are supposed to get better, not worse, right? Today, I feel like I have solid direction. A path to go on, if I so choose. I know I won’t heal overnight. But I know, I can heal. I know God has a major part for me to play in finding total health and wellness. It’s clear in the scriptures I shared. I need to ask for wisdom. Then he will teach me (and I need to do) and he will show me the path (and I need to go). This is a very active relationship here. God didn’t zap me with a miracle. But he is guiding me every step of the way. That to me is my miracle.

My scripture at the end of this past week was:

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11 AMP

He showed me the path. So, as I laid quietly on my mat in Hot Yoga for my last five minutes of class, the tears came. The yoga position I was in, is called Shavasana (or, the corpse). You lay on your back with your arms at your side with your palms up and you breathe through your nose and relax. You can also lay on your stomach with your head turned to the side and your arms resting at your side. This position, on my stomach with my head turned to the right is where the cleansing tears came. Shavasana is meant to regroup and rest yourself. As I rested and listened to my body, I was gently reminded that my body had been trying on its own to help me. You see, at night, over the past couple of years when I fall asleep, I fall asleep in the Shavasana position. Tummy down, head turned to the right, and arms at my sides with my palms up. My body knew. My body was seeking peace and rest. Something I wasn’t giving it. My body was trying to let go of anxiety and stress, even if I wouldn’t. I have never done any type of Yoga. I knew nothing about the practice before this week. Yet my body, gloriously created by God, was trying so hard to help me. I just wouldn’t listen.

Well, I am listening now. I may have ignored and silenced my body for years, however, I have my whole life ahead of me to listen. To listen when I need to stop. To listen when I need to go. To listen when I need to rest. To listen when I need to say no. The lie that would like to take root is that I don’t have time to take care of myself. The truth is, I don’t have time to not take care of myself. Not taking care of me resulted in a major anxiety attack that I have been slowly crawling back to life from for the past two years. Who has time for that? So today, I am going to do what I am supposed to do. Whatever that may be, and in order to do that, I need to listen. I am going to seek God, I am going to take care of me, which in turn will flood new life in to my home, my marriage, my children, and my relationship with others in this great big world. Today, I choose to listen. – Niki

Signs, Signs Everywhere There’s Signs

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How do you know what your breaking point is? I’m wondering if it’s possible to know. I’m beginning to believe that it’s not. Really, you find out your breaking point when you actually start breaking. How are we supposed to know that a + b + c – d = uh oh you are broken? These variables are never the same in life.

Let me give you an example of this equation.

My son has been struggling with an asthma flare up for eight days (a) + a family member is currently estranged (b) + my uncle passed away this week (c) – one publisher I was set on using to publish my book didn’t work out (d) = dancing on the edge of breaking and having a full blown anxiety attack. This was my equation this week. It is a unique equation that most likely will never occur again. Hind sight looks back and can see the break coming. Living it was a different story. Why? Because it was a slow build. It took all the events over a period of time to break me and the wisdom of past experience to keep me from actually shattering.

Looking back I can see the build. With my son’s asthma not improving even though I religiously gave him his medications and even took him in to the doctor for an antibiotic for his hidden ear infection, my anxiety over the welfare of my son began to creep up. He was missing school which meant he was behind. Not to mention the anxious thoughts regarding his health in general. I couldn’t seem to do enough to make him well.

Then there was the existing layer of anxiety from the pain, loss and uncertainty of an estranged family member. Not knowing when, where or if you will ever see them again even though you place the situation in God’s hand’s on a regular basis is stressful. Every day.

So, after a few days of these two stressors I received word a beloved uncle had passed away. He was a delightful, caring, humorous man that was a big part of my childhood memories. His kids were our closest cousins on my dad’s side of the family. We had lots of wonderful times at their home and farm and current memories of good times had together. But it was deeper than that for me. You see, my uncle passed away from complications with cancer just like my dad had 18 years prior. My mom calls it the twin effect. Here I have my dad’s brother-in-law in similar circumstances as my dad and I can relate keenly to the loss of my cousins and aunt. This shared circumstance seemed to magnify the loss. It magnified missing my dad.

Finally, on the day following the passing of my uncle I received word from my publisher that they weren’t able to accommodate my style of book unless I eliminated over 45 pictures. I have written a memoir. The pictures are the heart of my book. How did I miss that detail (limited number of pictures) when I paid for publishing? This left me either totally changing my book or getting a full refund and starting my search again for a new publisher with a deadline looming in the near horizon. That did it. That started the breaking. I could feel it.

That morning as I searched for publishers, researched options, reached out to friends for help finding a new publisher and tackled the refund process of my now debunk publisher I began to feel dizzy. Drawing on the truth that in all situations God goes before me and he knew that I would need a different publisher for whatever reason, I charged on in my search. It wasn’t long before I began to feel myself crack. I managed to grab on to a good lead for a new publisher that seemed the perfect fit for me. Shouldn’t that alleviate the stress now that I had a solution to my problem? It didn’t. Things had been set in motion regarding my emotional health and my mind wasn’t going to just get better because an answer was found.

Thinking I was dizzy from lack of food I attempted to balance my body by consuming protein and drinking extra water. This didn’t help. I laid down. That didn’t help either. Before I knew it I had to get up to go to the school to give my son his nebulizer treatment and all I really wanted to do was lay in my bed. The room spun as I sat up and I almost fell back into my pillow. Carefully and very slowly I sat myself in an upright position. What was going on? Was I headed over the cliff again? You bet I was, I just didn’t know how close I was yet.

Thinking I would feel better after I got up and moving (that makes sense, right?) I went to the school a few minutes away to administer medication. I sat very still with my son and assessed my life that week and how I was presently doing. I realized If I didn’t stop now I was going to plummet down the cliff into the deep dark hole. I could see the signs now as I sat next to my son during his lunch hour. The dizziness. The hot flashes. The shallow breathing. I was headed for an anxiety attack and I knew if I didn’t stop right then and there I would have one. When I got back home from the school absolutely everything needed to stop. Every. Single. Thing.

Armed with that knowledge I took up a friend’s offer to bring me lunch and then I asked her to drop my senior off at school who had been home for a half day because of finals week. I sat on the couch and waited for her to come, take my kid to school and return back to help me. I also called my husband who was able to come home early to pick up the kids and allowed another friend to bring me dinner and support me. I needed support.  I had to stop and I needed help. I had to say yes to the help.

My mother had called and I was afraid of the torrent that would come out of my mouth, afraid that if I vocalized the truth of everything I might fall off the edge. Something told me if I named what was bothering me that maybe, just maybe the dancing on the edge would cease and I may just roll to safe ground so I trusted my gut and shared. Crying, I put into words what I was feeling about the asthma, my estranged loved one, my uncle passing, missing my dad and finally my publisher not working out. My mom prayed for me and spoke words of encouragement. I felt the fear began to gently slip away. It wasn’t gone, but it was heading in the right direction. Away from me.

Sipping two huge mugs of chamomile tea and laying down with a lavender pack on my head to calm me my friend sat with me. As the near attack passed, I knew that although I was breaking I would hold. I would hold because I saw the signs and I knew that I didn’t have to tumble over the cliff if I stopped in time. If I stopped and reversed direction in time. I had to put on the brakes and take action steps to stop now before I ran out of room to actually stop. Just because you put on the brakes doesn’t mean you still won’t go over the cliff. Hit the brakes too late and you still might tumble over. For me my brakes  were breathing exercises, chamomile tea, a lavender pack, eating protein, drinking water, laying down, not moving and asking for help.

Later, when the crisis had somewhat passed, I did the only other thing I knew to do for my son and me. I called his asthma doctor and got extra help for my kid further calming my chaotic mind. I reached out everywhere and said yes to any help offered. That was how I took care of myself.

My backward glance at the signs in my rear view mirror of my life are what helped me recognize what was going on. The signs were everywhere but they were just spaced apart. I just needed to read them together to figure out that I was headed for a cliff. Once I saw and understood, that’s when I put on the brakes and heeded their warnings. That’s when I stopped. It was reading those signs, in that order, on that road in this particular time of my life that allowed me to veer from the edge. It allowed me stop. It allowed me to reverse. It allowed to me to head back in the right direction. I may be driving more slowly, but the danger has passed. Now when I look in my rear view mirror I see a cliff growing smaller and smaller and signs that are flashing, tell me to take heed. – Niki Breeser Tschirgi

Letting Go: Why You Don’t and Why You Absolutely Need To In the Midst of Chaos

Bansky there is always hope

Last month I took a morning walk to take a moment to breathe and pray and this was the question that settled in my heart. Why, Niki, do people want to hold on to a person that does not want to be held?

That is a loaded question and not swiftly answered. As I ruminated on it with every step I took, I knew that it was a question I needed to seriously consider. It is one thing if a person is clinging to you for survival and they desperately and truly want help. But why hold on to someone who is dead weight in your arms or even worse, kicking and screaming their way out of them? Can’t the person holding on see that they just took an elbow to the rib, a fist to the eye or a kick to the stomach? They’re not even holding on yet we insist. We insist on not letting them go.

Why is that? Why don’t we let go?

Because it seems like you are giving up. When you have exhausted all of your resources, time, energy, money, and let’s get real here…patience, and you have to say “no” or even send them on their way you feel like a failure. What kind of person “gives up” on a family member or a friend that is in obvious distress? It’s hard to look in the mirror as a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister (you fill in the blank) and to honestly admit that you have laid it all out there and somebody else has got to step in. The lie is that you are giving up. It is not giving up. It is giving OVER. That is a big difference. You love this person so much (and you and others involved) that it’s time to let go and let God and others do their work. You’ve done yours. Now let them do theirs. God has promised to never leave or forsake them (Hebrews 13:5). He will always be with them wherever they go. When you give over you haven’t abandoned them. God is walking with them through this storm and you are there too praying and trusting God to do the work that you cannot do.

Because that makes you a bad parent/relative/friend. If I stop helping them I am a bad parent. If I stop rescuing them I am a bad relative. If I am not there for them I am a bad friend. If I were just doing more then I could help them. If I just gave them one more chance or one more opportunity they would get better. If I don’t give them that chance, I may be missing a moment where they will turn around. Then, it will be my fault that they don’t get better.

Letting go of someone who is not ready for help does not make you a bad person. It does not mean that you don’t love them. If you can stop for a moment and rehearse the pattern of the person living in chaos, you will see that your one more chance will most likely end up in flames. Again. Because guess what? They aren’t ready for help. They’ve been backed into a corner and have nowhere else to go and they are in full blown survival mode. So, your one more chance is only extending their stay in the chaos, and now you are camped with them in it. They will not hit their rock bottom with you cushioning the fall. And truth be told, even if you let go there is no guarantee they will ever hit their rock bottom. Meaning, that place where they wake up and will do anything to change and find true healing. Letting go actually makes you a good parent. A good relative. A good spouse. A good friend. Letting go helps them reach a place where they are motivated from the inside to get help.

Because no one knows them like you do. But I know all of the in’s and out’s. I know all of their struggles and their history. I get why they act like that or make bad choices or aren’t responsible. Someone else won’t get that, and won’t give them the right counsel…I could go on and on. Maybe it would be better for someone to NOT know them like you do so they can cut through all of the smokescreens and speak some truth. Not that you don’t speak truth, but sometimes truth is better heard from someone completely removed from the situation. Isn’t it a little bit prideful to think you are the only one that can help them because you “get” them? The truth is whether you like it or not it’s pretty easy to get manipulated by someone you love. Let someone without any attachment present them the truth and be unwavering. Yes, you can get to that point (unwavering), but it’s never easy. You don’t have to do this alone. Honestly, the longer you walk this journey you may find that you don’t know the person like you thought you did. Survival is a powerful shield that covers up and protects. What you can do is rest in the knowledge that God knows them inside and out. He knows them better than they know themselves. Psalm 139 says that He knows everything about us including our thoughts and what we are going to say before we say it. Maybe we don’t know the person like we thought we did but God surely does. That is a comforting thought as you are in the process of letting go and can be a focus of your prayers for this person.

Because you don’t have healthy boundaries. This is the biggest obstacle to letting go, and in my opinion, it is the most important thing you can do in the relationship. You need to set healthy boundaries. It is mandatory. If you do not set healthy boundaries, you will never have peace and you will never be able to let go. Here is an example of healthy boundaries:

“Hey, can you pick me up so I can go to an appointment? I really need to go.”

You: “I can pick you up after I run some errands. I’m able to take you to the appointment but I’m not able to give you a ride after.”

“Okay…thanks. I have other things planned though and I need a ride after.”

You: “Okay. Well, you can always reschedule if this time doesn’t work for you.”

You need to know what you are and are not okay with, and stick to your guns for the sake of your family; so you aren’t raging mad with bitterness at the person in your life. A conversation like this could really get someone in a tizzy if they do not have healthy boundaries. Unhealthy boundaries would have you rearrange the whole day and drop everything to rescue this person. That is not peaceful for you and may plant seeds of resentment. Try taking a moment to look at your schedule and offer something you are okay with. Throwing your life and schedule to the wind for a non-emergency situation will not foster peace; it will cultivate anger. It’s not your fault or problem that they don’t have a car or don’t live close to work or that they’ve burned all of their bridges and have no one else to help them. They put themselves there. Of course you need to be aware of what is a true emergency of physical health, etc. That is different. But if the crisis has shown up before, it will probably show up again, and you aren’t responsible to rescue someone due to their poor planning and bad choices. If you know what you are okay with doing and offer that you have shown clear boundaries. That is something you can live with.

Because you want your kid/friend/whoever to like you. This has got to stop. If you live like this you will never be able to say no and you will never have boundaries. Who cares if they like you or not? You know you love them and you know you aren’t going anywhere. You also know their pattern and eventually there will be no one left in their life at that moment to help but you on the sidelines with your healthy, loving boundaries. So, if currently they don’t like you, there is a good chance they will later on. It’s not about having people like us. It’s about living in truth and being healthy for you and for them. That may not be their normal but it is your normal. Throw this attitude of needing people to like you to the wind and just live in truth. If you don’t, you will camp out here for a long time not doing what you should be doing because you are afraid someone won’t like or love you anymore. That will be a prison and a terrible place to be. You literally have handed authority over to them especially if they live in your home. If you are walking on egg shells around someone, or are afraid to speak up, then that is your HUGE RED FLAG waving wildly at you to change course direction.

God can help you break that power. You need to open your mouth and speak truth, even if you are shaking in your boots and don’t want to do it. The Bible says that God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). He hasn’t! Take note when you are walking in fear. That emotion is not from the Lord. Take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and speak the truth because that is where you will find peace. When you speak truth you can stand firm on what you know no matter what the person’s response is. Lies topple and fall but truth withstands any onslaught that comes against it. Sometimes you need to do life afraid. Being afraid doesn’t mean you don’t do the right thing. You do the right thing afraid and as you keep doing that you will see your boundaries come into place and peace settle in your heart. You will take back your power and know the strength of walking in truth.

So, why is it absolutely necessary for us to let go?

Because you are enabling. No one wants to hear that you are enabling someone you love, helping keep them in their chaotic cycle. No one. But it’s true. If you are enabling you are part of the problem. Do you really want that responsibility? If you always rescue them, they aren’t learning. Now, they might not learn if you don’t rescue them, but they most certainly won’t if you do. For example:

“Mom, can you loan me money? I need to pay for my phone. I can pay you back in five days.”

Mom: “Well, I guess so.”

That is enabling! Try this instead:

“Mom, can you loan me money? I need to pay for my phone. I can pay you back in five days?”

Mom: “What happened to your money for your phone?”

“I’m not sure.”

Mom: “Well maybe next time you will budget your money better so you won’t have to be without your phone. Don’t worry, five days won’t be that long.”

The longer you bail people out of their self-imposed problems, the longer they will stay right there. Why should the person in the above example ever be responsible for their phone if they know Mom will always bail them out? The answer is they won’t be. You have got to stop enabling bad behavior and you need to begin cultivating good choices.

You cannot fix them. The only person you can truly change is yourself. You cannot change other people. I might need to say that again. You. Cannot. Change. Other. People. That should be a huge relief to you. Most people living in complete and utter chaos have deep and complex issues that you simply cannot fix. Only God can do that, and only they can make the decision to surrender and get help. Them and them alone. You can be available. You can talk over options with them. You can pray. You can show them the way. You can do what you are supposed to do, but fixing them shouldn’t be on the list. You will live in eternal conflict if you take that on because they will not come through for you. It has got to be a heart change, not a behavior change. You cannot renew their mind. God is the only one that can wash over them and change them from the inside out (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 5:26) and they have to let Him. Behavior change is ALWAYS temporary. You are not responsible for their journey. They are.

You risk sacrificing your marriage/children/other relationships. Being at odds with one another regarding how to deal with a difficult person can bring quite a bit of division in a marriage or other relationships. Until you learn to walk in unity and play on the same team you will have conflict. A decision to not sacrifice a spouse to solve someone else’s problems needs to be made. When you get on the same page regarding what you will and will not do for the person in your life that lives in chaos, it is freeing. Unity equals freedom. If you are a parent it is the same thing. Make a decision not to sacrifice everyone else and their schedules every time a self-manufactured “crisis” arises. Unless it is a true emergency, your schedule should not change unless you all agree . That means that you don’t cancel a birthday party, a date, a vacation because someone calls crying, they are stuck somewhere or they don’t know what to do with a particular situation. Keep boundaries firm and trust that the one that you love is firmly in God’s hands. Isaiah 49:16 says that God’s chosen people are engraved on the palms of His hands. That’s a pretty great image. God has got this. You just need to do your part. Nothing more, nothing less or you could really end up hurting the people around you.

You don’t want to be doing this the rest of your life…do you? Because you will. If you want to get on their roller coaster and ride it all day long into the sunset, you certainly can, and they probably would love to have you along for the ride. My mom spoke some wise advice to me a few years back regarding unhealthy relationships. She said, “So, let’s say a person is going around a mountain again. You can run around the mountain with them or pack them a lunch.” That was my mom’s way of saying, “Off you go and here is a bit of encouragement for YOUR journey. However, I will not be going on the journey with you.” So her question to me was what should I do? Go around that mountain or pack the lunch? My answer was you should probably pack them a lunch. So, if you have someone in your life going around the mountain again, chances are you’ve already seen that mountain and you don’t need a second look. Pack them a lunch.

Do you still want to be holding their hand in 10 years with no forward progress? For your sake and theirs the answer should be no. They need to find help and healing and we should do everything healthy to point them in that direction. You want them to be well and whole and you don’t want to be the person that gets in the way of that healing because you are enabling. They might not be any different in 10 years no matter what you do. But at least you know that you have done what you should do. Nobody knows what the future holds except God, but the possibility is there for healing. Every day you can look to God for what you are supposed to do in your particular situation. We are to trust in the Lord with all of our heart and lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Sometimes the things we are asked to do don’t make sense in our mind but we can trust God who knows all, that it is the right thing to do. Then, when you trust, you can rest in peace that you are doing what you are supposed to be doing. The other person may just want to keep surviving. They may want healing. That’s their journey, not yours. You have your own journey.

Nobody said this would be easy.

This isn’t an easy process and with all of these things there must be a healthy dose of compassion for the person living in chaos. Remember where this person came from. Remember what they have gone through and what they have suffered. Remembering helps so much to keep the compassion alive as you lovingly stop enabling them and erect healthy boundaries for you and your family.

Every person and situation is different. That is why it is so important that you prayerfully take things to the Lord and seek help in every direction so you can better help the one you love and yourself. Reaching out for support from your church, counselor, doctor, mental health professional, support group, etc. is key to helping you help them. You also need to know your limits and establish your healthy boundaries so you can walk in truth and love at all times during this journey with your loved one(s).

On the airlines they tell you to put on your oxygen mask first and then assist others. You won’t be any help if you put theirs on first and then pass out. Put your oxygen mask on first. Find someone safe you can talk to and gain support from. Get your sleep. Keep a balanced schedule. Go to your doctor if you need to. Slow down. Take a breather. Do something for yourself. Get in the Bible and let it be your anchor. Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there (again and again). Keep your eye on Him during the storm. Pray. When you can’t pray (because there may be times you just can’t) have someone else pray for you and/or with you. Ask for help. Keep on letting go.

For the person that you love who is struggling, remember that the chaos is comfortable and familiar because that is where they feel they belong. However, you don’t and you don’t have to go there with them. That might be their normal but it isn’t yours. You don’t belong in the chaos and ultimately they don’t belong there either. They just don’t know it yet.

– Niki Breeser Tschirgi

Close Call to a Fall (Part 2)

Building the nerve to do Parkour

Our first day driving back to Spokane was very uneventful until Sheridan, Wyoming. As I came down into the city I could feel my steering wheel shake back and forth. Earlier in the week my “service due soon” light had come on, but we all know what that really means is to keep driving until you can’t drive anymore right? It had caused me some anxiety but I kept reassuring myself that all would be well and I would get my van serviced in Spokane.

Clearly that wasn’t the case so I found myself parked outside of a gas station in Wyoming searching for mechanics to call. Of course it was a Sunday and nothing was open so after getting a hold of my husband and being assured I could make it to Billings we finished our day with no more incidents. We made good time and easily checked into our cabin at the KOA on the Yellowstone River. I took the kids swimming (seriously we were the loudest) and we played mini golf (which was more like fight with your brothers and hit the golf ball across the campground as hard as you can golf) as our swimsuits and towels dried in the laundry room.

I knew the next day our trip would be delayed. I had planned on waking up at six o’clock, loading my kids and our stuff in the van and showing up at the Honda dealership in hopes that they had nothing better to do on a Monday morning than fix my van. However, I didn’t hear my alarm on my phone because the air conditioner in the cabin was so loud. I woke up after eight o’clock instead. It didn’t matter anyway. The first available appointment was at one o’clock that afternoon. So, I got up, packed up and made my way over to the dealership around ten o’clock. I figured I could find something to do around Billings while we waited.

The dealership took my van and I saw that less than a mile away was the Billings Zoo so the shuttle took us over to spend the day at the little but delightful attraction. It was a hot day but I had packed water bottles and as the kids scurried between bald eagles, tigers, chickens and koi fish we were making the best of our day. There wasn’t much available for lunch so I fed my kids processed zoo nacho’s, soda and ice cream and at two o’clock sat in the shade outside the zoo waiting for my shuttle ride. I waited. I waited some more. Then I waited some more. Where were they?

At this point I had no phone (it had died an hour earlier) so I scoped out the terrain and decided it was best that we walk. I could see the dealership from the zoo parking lot so off we went. Handing my pink and black backpack to my 13 year old I bent down so my 8 year old could jump on my back. He was done for the day and wasn’t going to make the walk. I felt fine. What’s another 40 pounds on my back in the hot August sun? So maybe we were stuck in Billings with a car repair and we were supposed to be home but that was life. So maybe a shuttle was supposed to pick us up and now I was walking on a highway with four children in the high heat of day. That was life. Sometimes you just have to do.

I tromped into the dealership with Zack on my back for a full effect and announced very sweetly that a shuttle would have been nice! I laughed and they got us water bottles, lollipops for the kids and coffee for me. A couple hours later we were done. The rotors were fixed and I was free to go on my way. They even did an oil change for no cost…probably because they left a mom and four boys stranded at the zoo to walk. I would take what I could get.

By the time we got out of there I was not going to drive all the way to Spokane. It would get me home at way too late, or early however you look at it. I felt great, like I could drive 8 hours but somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I wouldn’t do very well once the sun went down. We headed to Wal-Mart about 10 miles away to stock up on Red Box and food but once we got there I could not find my wallet. I searched the car and my spirits sank. It was nowhere to be found. I had just paid the dealership. It had to be in my van. A little thought flitted about my mind warning me about this recent development of forgetfulness. I had noticed that I was starting to forget stuff as of late but I pushed the fleeting thought away and instead chastised myself for the loss. With no wallet there was no gas, no hotel, no Red Box, no nothing. I didn’t have time to analyze my fleeting and gently nagging thoughts.

We retraced our steps to the dealership and it wasn’t there. I stopped, took a deep breath, cleared my mind and thought again to the last time I had my wallet. I remembered pulling it out of my pink and black backpack to put it in my purse but it hadn’t made it to my purse. Then I remembered. Zack needed help in the way back seat to buckle. I climbed back by Zack and there it was in plain sight sitting next to my son. Hadn’t I searched the whole van? No, I hadn’t. I had gotten into frantic mode in the Wal-Mart parking lot and briefly skimmed a few areas. All this road time lost we headed back to the Wal-Mart and did our shopping. By this time Red Box had nothing to offer so I did what I had to do and bought some $5.00 dollar bin movies. Anything to survive.

Finally we got on the road to head to Missoula. My husband had made arrangements with a hotel in the city to take some of the burden off of me. We rolled into Missoula close to eleven o’clock that night and even though it was late I stuck my dirty and smelly boys in the shower. Why? Because I hadn’t done enough that day right? I finally lay down past midnight, read a chapter in my book to relax and fell fast asleep.

We got up around seven o’clock that morning and quickly loaded the van, ate the free breakfast and checked out within the hour to be on the road to go home. I felt great. I had clean boys, I had slept through the night and I was headed to buy a giant americano at City Brew Coffee to fuel me for the trip. We only had four hours to go and we would be home.

The drive was beautiful and before we knew it we were crossing the state line of Washington. We even stopped at the mall when we arrived in Spokane to pick up my son’s football cleats for his first practice that night. We were home before noon (ran through the car wash first though…my van was literally a bug) and everyone was glad. My boys made quick work of unloading the van and all was well in the world.

That week I hit the ground running. I had so much to do in my house! I needed to put stuff away, clean, go through stuff to sell at a garage sale, take my high school son to testing and pick him up, football practice, swim lessons, do the garage sale and go to a friend’s birthday party. I knew I should rest. I knew I should slow down. But I felt fine. I was doing all the things I was supposed to do, right? Everything except slow down. I heard warning bells go off. I shoved my own counsel away that dishes could wait. I ignored the voice that said lay down and breathe because I didn’t have time to lay down and breathe. I brushed off my husband’s concerns about my forgetfulness and I assured friends that I was fine. I had things to do and I was going to do those things.

By the time Friday evening had rolled around I had helped with a garage sale all that day and was headed with my husband across town to celebrate a friend’s birthday that night. We were quite late to the party because we had no babysitter until our son got home from work. I had downed a minimum of four cups of coffee earlier in the day and as I sat in the car heading to our final destination of the night I began to crash. It was a slow-motion crash but I could see it coming and in my mind I shouted, “Oh no!”

Opening the car windows I breathed in the night air and tried to have a conversation with my husband. My thoughts were disjointed and he gave me concerned looks when my answers weren’t making sense. I knew I was not my normal self. We made it to the party fine but I made a beeline for a chair where I could sit. Reclining and keeping as still as possible I practiced my deep breathing and motioned for my husband to please get me some water. I felt terrible that I had showed up at this party in the condition I was in. My friends were great and supportive but still I sat there putting all my energy into not tumbling far, far away.

There I sat for the next hour drinking glass after glass of water to hydrate and flush my body. I felt tingly all over (a major warning sign). As I sat on the cliff of my pit again I knew I could easily fall down my deep dark hole and this time it would be in front of a bunch of my friends. It alarmed me. I had been doing so well. I was doing what I was supposed to do, wasn’t I? No, I was doing more than what I should do. I had over done it physically. I had done too much and I had done it to myself. How easy to get disillusioned. Medication was helping but part of the reason I had been doing well was because I had changed my lifestyle. How foolish of me to think I could jump back into my self-made rat race and survive. I was clearly headed for a crash and I was doing everything in my power to avoid it, praying that I would not make impact. Grateful for my husband who kept bringing me water and silently praying I hoped the pit would not consume me once again.

After about an hour I was feeling better. Better enough to engage in more conversation and make sense. After we all said our goodbyes and we finally made it home I crawled into bed and slept hard that night. When I awoke in the morning I felt more like myself but remembered the warning to slow it down and I heeded. Canceling plans and rearranging my schedule my husband (and I agreed) put me on house arrest to recover. It was a few days before I felt like I was back to what was my “normal” now and I reflected on some of my boundaries I had let slip, or rather tore down and destroyed. Boundaries like how many activities in a day I would allow and how much sleep I was getting or how much caffeine I was ingesting. It was so easy to overdo it because I felt better but it didn’t take long to wildly careen back toward my deep dark pit. Its gaping jaws were looming in front of me and I was standing just far enough away to look in but not quite close enough to fall now that I had some tools in my tool belt to help me. Regardless, it was too close and I gladly turned back around and resolutely made my way forward and away from the fall. How fast it was to hurdle back to the darkness and how much slower it was to move away from it. But move away is what I did…and moving away is what I am still doing.

Close Call to a Fall (Part 1)

Vector silhouette of family.

Even if you are on medication, taking all of your supplements and eating right you still can run yourself in the wrong direction and end up on the verge of another panic attack. It’s true. I know. I just did this to myself and here is how it went down…

I’ve had a great summer. I’m a stay-at-home mom with six kids. We are an adoptive family and there is a lot of let’s say…energy in our home. With five boys and one girl it can at times, okay every day get a little crazy. Every day.

At the beginning of the summer I did very well pacing myself. I went to bed at a decent hour. I scheduled one thing a day. Mornings until lunch were at home time and afternoon was for swimming or the park. In July we took a road trip to Wisconsin (from Washington State) and my husband was along and did most of the driving. We saw family, hit water parks, visited national parks, camped in cabins and had a really great time.

When we got back I still paced myself fairly well. Now this is my opinion and family and friends may strongly disagree but for the most part I felt like I was balancing life and anxiety like a Kung Fu master. After all I was feeling fine right?

In August I took another road trip with my four youngest boy’s ages 8-13. It was a two day drive to Denver and it was just me this time. That meant I drove the whole way, I was solely responsible for the safety of my four children and the atmosphere in my van for two 8 hour driving days there and two 8 hour driving days back. Considering my situation I felt it went quite well. We arrived at my brother’s in good spirits. I had no sense of anxiety but of course I was tired. We had a wonderful time. I took my oldest school shopping, we went swimming, my brother took us boating and tubing and we watched a couple movies. I was honest with how I was feeling as far as my anxiety and we modified our days accordingly.

Toward the end of our stay we took a beautiful drive into Rocky Mountain National Park. The plan was to hike into a mountain lake so we parked, ate lunch (shoved in my van because it poured rain for 20 minutes) and headed up the trail. What I didn’t expect was for my 10 year old son to help amp me up, meaning trigger my anxiety.

Before we went on the hike I pre-medicated my son. He has asthma and it is well under control but before any exercise we always pre-medicate him because exercise can be a trigger for his asthma to flare up. He did okay for a little bit but after awhile I took a closer look at him and he was panting hard. We sat down and I accessed the situation. He said his breathing was fine but he wasn’t doing so good, meaning he was very tired. I hadn’t really factored in the elevation. A lot of people struggle in Denver with altitude sickness or just plain old fatigue. It’s just not the same air when you are up in the mountains.

This went on for the duration of the short hike. We would walk a ways and then have to stop to rest. The whole time I could feel my anxiety crawling through my body to take over my mind. Was I killing my son on this hike? Here we were in the remote mountains with no cell phone and no medical care close by. I didn’t have my husband around to help balance my thinking. My head knew that he wasn’t having any asthmatic symptoms. I’ve seen them many times so I know what they look like. My head knew he was just tired. He is a lover of art and video games…not nature.

It wasn’t far or even that steep to get to the lake. When we were about 5 minutes away we sat down and I said we were done. My son was fine. His breathing was fine. I on the other hand was not. My brother went on to see how far it was to get to our destination. My son rested and declared he could do the rest of the hike. He didn’t have any wheezing, he had no complaints about his breathing but he was just super tired. Really it was just the thin air. I kept telling myself he would be fine but anxiety kept hitting my mind with bad thoughts over and over like someone desperately trying to break down a door to get in. Finally we made it to the lake and my son took off to connect with his cousins and brothers and was laughing and playing in a tree and having a grand old time. I on the other hand stood and stared out at the mountain lake and wished for some kind of pill to make the craziness in my mind go away. I breathed deep and settled down. It was all going to be okay. It was already okay. It had been okay. I was okay. He was okay. It was okay.

After we had taken pictures and pretty much ruined any peace for other visitors with our children and their antics we headed back down the trail with no problems at all. My son never needed to stop and didn’t complain one time about being tired. We loaded up and drove back through the park, stopped in Estes for an amazing burger at Penelope’s, delicious homemade ice cream at a local candy shop and then purchased over priced taffy to end our fine day.

The next day was spent resting and packing up for my trip home. We went to a discount movie in the evening with all of us as a final “hurrah” in Denver. The next morning came too soon and finally it was time to depart. It’s never easy saying goodbye to the ones you love so with a see you later I set my eyes on the road and headed back home to Spokane. I headed back to what would later be what I refer to as my close call. My close call to going back down the pit. A place I swore I would never allow myself to go again.

In the Quiet

Private Or Public Directions On A Signpost

I don’t recall struggling with anxiety immediately after the loss of my father. Maybe I did and I just didn’t know it. Things were a whirlwind of grief after I returned home from the funeral. The truth is that after all is said and done everyone but you go back to their normal life. That’s when it gets really hard.

I attempted to go back to school. I was only a few weeks shy of finishing my spring semester, but after a day of dragging myself to classes and explaining to professors and classmates what had happened, I just couldn’t do it anymore. Someone looking on the outside that had not experienced the death of a parent may not get why I couldn’t just pull myself up by my bootstraps, hunker down and finish the few weeks left, but I couldn’t. I felt numb as I withdrew from my 17 credits. All that work I was forfeiting. Why? Because I had just experienced the greatest loss of my life. For me it was okay. What were they? Credits? I was getting almost a full refund because of my circumstances. After staring death in the face my perspective had radically changed. If I wanted to do school at a later date I could. It wasn’t the end of the world. Losing my dad was. Right then and there what I could do was go back to work and try to find my new normal. Anything more than that was just too much.

The days and weeks passed and three months later I got engaged. It was such a happy time for me in the midst of my grief. We had a 10 week engagement that kept my mind busy. Even though grief was very prevalent, our wedding was sweet and happy and full of joy. I married my best friend. My brother walked me down the aisle and my mom bravely rejoiced with us in her dark cloud of loss.

My first inkling of anxiety began months after we had been married. At the time I didn’t know what it was but looking back I can solidly pinpoint it and label it. When it came time to travel I’d suddenly get a bad feeling, like something was going to happen. A very bad thing. Death. I felt responsible to stop that bad thing from happening so we wouldn’t go. If we went and I had felt like we shouldn’t and something bad happened it would be all my fault. I couldn’t endanger my husband like that. We had friends getting married in Seattle which was over four hours away and it was wintertime and I had a bad feeling. I was sure we would die on icy roads or in a car wreck or from falling boulders. We didn’t go.

This happened a few more times and my husband was always very supportive of me. But this wasn’t like me. I was the one who loved a grand adventure. Since when did traveling mean death? I had the where-with-all to recognize that I had changed and that wasn’t my normal. I chose to push through the bad feelings and I began to live my life again. It took a lot of prayer and trusting God to push through the stifling fear I had. I made little anchored memories to help me. I had a routine I would repeat in my head so that I could get in the car and drive across the state or climb on a plane and fly across the country. I would remember all the times I had “bad feelings” and then I would remember how everything ended up okay. The bad feelings were lies. I needed to trust God with my life. If it was my time to go, it was my time to go. I refused to not live. It was hard. It was painful. It was tearful. But I got in the car. I got on the plane. I lived.

As the years went by my fear began to evolve into a deeper and more strangling hold. I began to fear the death of my husband. I would think about it constantly and imagine every which way he could die. It was a terrible fantasy I could not turn off and it tormented me. It was a silent spirit killer that I kept hidden. Somehow I had it in my mind that I was doing something wrong by struggling with my fear. I didn’t want my husband to die, so why was I thinking about it all the time? If I told anyone they might think what a weak and terrible person I was so I struggled in silence. Hiding. My brain was focused on good and healthy things but it was also equally focused on fear and death. This went on for years. I lived in shame. I couldn’t turn off the fear. What was wrong with me? Wasn’t I a strong Christian? I felt like such a failure.

About five years into the struggle (after we had adopted our first two children…that’s another story) my best friend moved to Montana and I planned a trip over President’s Day weekend to go visit her. My husband was out of town for work and it was the perfect time to go. It was only a few hour drive but it was through the mountains and it was still pretty wintery out. I planned the trip, loaded up my two kids and felt the fear rip through my body. At that moment I made a decision. I turned around and looked at my two precious children I had received and I thought about life and the fullness of life. I thought about friends, family and living. It wasn’t living for me to cower in fear. It wasn’t living for me to bow to my emotions. I may have to live afraid. But I was going to live. I pulled out my little anchored memories that reminded me I would be okay and I started my car, put it in drive and I went. The bad feeling was only a bad feeling just like all the other times. I got there just fine with my two kids and had a wonderful time.

On the way home I was tested again in my fear but again I refused to cower. It had started snowing in the mountains and it was time for me to leave. I buckled my kids in the car, hugged my best friend goodbye and headed toward I-90 to go home. The tears began streaming down my face as I headed into the snow. I specifically remember quietly sobbing through the pass but pressing on. I drove all the way white knuckled but I made it. Sometimes you just have to do life through the tears.

That trip was a huge victory for me to continue to travel even though anxiety was now a part of my life. I just didn’t know what it was called. I began to learn what was real instinct and what was anxiety. As I explored this I could feel the difference. Anxiety was rooted in fear. Usually irrational fear. A real instinct was rooted in calm and peace. It was that gut feeling you get. The knowing. The God-given sense and warning to listen. It was strong and solid not empty and futile like anxiety. At first it was a small difference but it was there and I began to differentiate what was true and what was not. I ruefully acknowledged that my emotions and feelings were so good at lying to me and I was so good at listening.

Someone who does not struggle with anxiety may not know the mental exhaustion that one experiences. The energy it takes to get the mind ready to do something grappled in fear. The mental checklist I had to go through before a trip. I would take every fear and look it face on. I would hang it out in my mind like laundry and look at it. I would recognize the irrational and I would remember all the times I had been fine when I had the bad feeling. After I had done all of my mental gymnastics I was ready to go on the trip or do whatever it was that I was afraid of. But not until I had gotten my mind ready and the only way I could was through prayer and discipline. I had to take every thought captive, ask God for help and then do what I knew I should do. Even though I learned coping mechanisms on my own I still hadn’t dealt with the root. The root of my anxiety festered for years until I finally crashed. However, it was in the quiet time with God that I was able to stand during this time. It may have been shaky…but I could stand. In the quiet is where I stood. In the quiet is where I still stand.

A New Beginning

Pair of Adult Bald Eagles (haliaeetus leucocephalus)

After the phone call from my mom letting me know my dad had passed away, I had a couple of days to pack, make arrangements with my job at the coffee house, contact my professors at school and coordinate travel to Iowa where he was to be buried. It had been less than a week since I left New Hampshire and before I knew it I found myself back on the plane and headed to the Midwest for the funeral.

I don’t really recall which airport I flew in to or who picked me up but what I do remember clear as day is walking up my grandparents cracked and well worn sidewalk to their two story house in the little town of New Albin. I knew this visit would be unlike any visit I had done before. As I swung open the door to my grandma’s familiar kitchen my grandpa shuffled toward me crying. I had never seen him cry so this was a new and uncomfortable thing. He just kept saying how sorry he was. I knew he was sorry for himself. I knew he was sorry for me. I knew now for sure that this was for real.

The first order of business was the wake. I had never been to a funeral before so I just kind of went along and did what I was told. It felt so surreal and I kept wishing it hadn’t happened; only to be reminded by people, by flowers and finally by my dad’s casket arriving that yes indeed this time in my life had really happened. I hated the reminders.

I felt awkward and strange as people I knew and didn’t know told me over and over again how sorry they were as we stood by my dad’s closed casket. Me too. I was sorry too. The sorries were like a constant, slow and winding river. I couldn’t see around the bend to know when they would ever stop. After an hour of “I’m sorry” and “How are you doing?” I looked a lady straight in the eye and told her I was doing great. She stared back at me in confusion and I dare say disapproval. She finally moved on shaking her head. I just shook my head back and I moved on to. I moved on to the basement where everyone was eating lunch and plopped myself down in a chair. It was sort of like a reunion but it was a very odd one. A mixture of a ray of gladness to see the living with a constant shadow of sadness for the one gone. It was a delicate balance and I gladly admit the people handled it well.

The next day was gloriously bright and beautiful for the funeral. We arrived at the church and were part of the processional down the aisle to be seated up front close to where my dad would lay. My mother read my dad’s favorite passage of scripture, the love chapter. My brother played the piano while I led the congregation in song. He provided the harmony as the music soared on the chorus of “You are Awesome in This Place”. The most comforting thing happened next as we sang that song. A strong beam of light pierced down upon us through the windows and warmth enveloped both of our bodies. I have no other way to explain it except that I felt the physical presence of God rest upon us and the whole congregation. The music sounded louder. The music sounded cleared. The music sounded right.

The pastor shared, people shared and I read a story about my dad that I had written called “The Warrior”. The funeral seemed to swiftly rush by and as we exited out of the church my heart was touched as I looked out over the packed pews and saw it was standing room only. There were people that had flown as far as Alaska to pay their respects and the impact of their presence was not lost on me. We wandered out into the yard and the somber mood had visibly and physically lightened. People were chatting and catching up and waiting to follow the processional to the graveyard for burial. It was like a giant sigh of relief had escaped now that the service was finally over. I began to see the importance of closure and saying goodbye. It was hard. It was exhausting. It was relieving.

We rode in the procession to the little graveyard just outside of the town of 300. As we stood on the grass by the freshly dug grave I began to sing the verse “Praise God, Praise God” from “Amazing Grace”. Everybody joined in and after the pastor shared a few more parting thoughts. As the service ended and people began to mill around someone said, “Look! Over there! Can you believe it? Only at Steve’s funeral!” There above the grave site flew a bald eagle and a moment later another one swooped in to join him. On that sunny April day two bald eagles graced us with their presence. God had given us another gift. People began to clap and as I looked around everyone had their necks craned to the sky and their hands shading their eyes watching the majestic birds circle. Wide smiles of disbelief graced many faces showing an intermingling of joy and grief. I recalled a verse in the Bible, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Although many were pondering the end of my dad’s life that day I knew he was simply at the beginning. A new beginning. His eternal beginning. Because he believed in Jesus Christ he was now in paradise. I stared at the eagles and reminded myself that now my dad was simply on a long vacation. A very, very long one. But at the end of that vacation I knew I would see him again. Not lying on a bed almost unrecognizable with sickness but running and strong. He would not be weary anymore. He would not be faint anymore. When I finally get to heaven there would be no more separation. That was my hope. Because of the power of the cross I would not only see my dad again but I would be with him forever. Eventually. With that I turned my back on the place where my dad’s body lay fully aware that his spirit was gone and headed back to the car to my new beginning. Life without my dad.

Guest Post by Marsha Breeser: “One Cold Kiss” an excerpt from “Two Suitcases”

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**After posting my blog yesterday my mom reminded me that she too had a written account of the loss of my dad. So here by permission I have posted her remembrance of my dad’s final moments. Thank you for allowing me to share mom!

“One Cold Kiss”

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;”

                                                                                                                     I Timothy 4:7

In my heart I sense the time is drawing close. Steve will not live much longer. Two days ago another patient who received a transplant died. At that moment I sensed God prompt me to pray that He would make it clear that if Steve were to go off life support I would have no doubt as to why, and when I would direct the doctor to do this.

I lean over and kiss his cheek. It feels cold. My mind trails back to Alaska when he would come in from his fieldwork. I would kiss him on his cold cheek. His moustache was usually full of ice. How fitting the last kiss is cold.

It is time. Leitha, his doctor approaches me in tears. She tells me a massive intra-cranial bleed signifies the end. Now I need to make the most dreaded calls of my life. Before I give the okay to disconnect life support I want to prepare our children. First I talk with Cid. He weeps over the phone. Later Niki cries too. With those two phone calls go any illusions I may have had that I can protect my children from pain.

I am thankful for Ellen, Mike, Dave and Sharon who surround us. We are all tired and hurting. The respirator is unplugged. We settle in the room to wait on God’s timing. And it did take time…11 hours. At one point I say to Steve, “You are doing it again. The doctor said you would die and here you are hours later, still breathing”. We all speak to him, believing he can hear. Our words reflect his personality and fighting spirit.

Tiredness seems to envelope me. I fear I will fall asleep. I pray, “God please let him take two quick breaths and die”. I don’t want him to suffer or struggle. I look up to check the monitor. His heartbeat over the last several hours has been gradually slowing. As I lay my head down Mike calls my name and points. The monitor shows a flat line. Steve takes two quick breaths. I catch my breath with awe. Dave pats Steve’s arm and says, “Well done good and faithful servant”.

God how marvelous that in a twinkling of an eye we can be absent from our bodies and present with You. Thank You that death is not the end, but the beginning of life with You. Help those of us left behind to patiently wait our turn.

In the End

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My dad would have been 65 years old today. It made me stop for just a few seconds and wonder what he would’ve done these past 18 years here on earth that he has been absent. But just a few seconds. No sense dwelling on what would never be. What is the point in that? It would just reap a harvest of sadness where acceptance has been resident and I’m not about to evict that occupant.

The day I arrived at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical center relieved that my dad was still alive but slightly horrified and unprepared (even though my mom warned me) at the condition he was in was the day things began to change for me. I was staring death straight in the face for the very first time and it put a reality in my heart that was not there before. Death truly was real. I believe that although I couldn’t recognize symptoms of anxiety or remember having any at the time that this was where the seed was planted in my life. The seed that eventually grew into a monstrous vine that entangled me, bound me and laid me flat.

My dad continued to hang on to life after I arrived. Days passed as he was in and out of delirium. One of his closest friends from Alaska had flown out and day after day we sat vigilantly keeping watch. We talked to my dad and I sang to my dad. We ate bad pizza, drank vending machine soda and wearily met each day wondering what it might behold.

Since my dad had been in the hospital quite frequently and for long periods of time over the course of his treatment the staff had a fond attachment to him. The day after I arrived my dad crashed and the nurse who he affectionately called “Wayner” (his name was Wayne) rushed to do his job as they tilted his bed to make the blood rush to his heart and then did what needed to be done to stabilize him. But my eyes weren’t on my dad. They were on Wayner. He was clearly distressed and upset. Only after my dad had stabilized did the frenzy and deep concern in his eyes dim. A great respect for nurses planted itself in my soul that day. This man loved my dad. How could he not? He was with him day in and day out serving him and relating with him. He was a welcome balm in our time of emotional depletion.

It wasn’t just the nursing staff that was fond of my dad but the doctors were too. Every morning during rounds before they could talk over his chart and discuss his progress (or lack thereof) they had to play “Name that Bird Call”. My dad would play them a bird call and then they all had to guess. Even in the hospital my dad’s delight for wildlife could not dim nor his love and enjoyment of people waiver.

Gone were those days though of chipper rounds and laughter as the staff miserably failed at bird naming. Instead, there lay my dad. I knew that God could do miracles but as I looked upon him and prayed for his healing I knew his time was winding down in this world. But still I prayed, faithfully. Knowing that sometimes healing comes through death.

Two weeks passed and my then boyfriend and now husband showed up for the planned visit to meet my dad and family. I tried my best to prepare him for the state my dad was in, but just like me he too was shocked at the condition of my father. By now he was in the ICU and even though we all held out hope I knew that he would not be coming home to us but rather he would be going home to Him.

As the time drew near for me to leave to go back to college I was torn. Do I go back as planned like my dad would want me to do or stay until the end? Did I need to be there when my dad passed from this life to the next or should I keep doing what the living do best. Live. I decided to go. It seemed the right way to honor my dad. To keep living among the living.

On our last day at the hospital my boyfriend and I went into his ICU room one more time to say our goodbyes. My dad had not been awake at all while Matt was visiting. I leaned in to tell him I loved him and that I was headed back to college now. Spring Break was over and it was time to go. As Matt stood by my side and spoke promises to my dad that he would take care of me my dad opened his eyes. He looked first at me, and then he looked straight at Matt resting his gaze gently upon him. Then he closed his eyes and I knew that was God’s gift to me. Perhaps it was God’s gift to my dad too.

Loading the plane to head back to school I sat next to Matt in the window seat and began to cry. The plane was full and I knew people were staring but I didn’t care. As the plane taxied and took off I knew that was the last time I would ever see my dad alive again. So there on the plane headed home with each second putting more miles between me and my father, I cried unashamedly for the upcoming loss of my dad.

A few days later I got the call I was waiting for. The call that told me my dad was gone. My roommate wrapped me in her arms and just held me as my mom told me the story of his passing. They were all around his bed because hours before they had taken him off of life support. They suspected he had a brain aneurism and there was no response so the decision was made to let him go. However, my dad couldn’t just die. He had to live for awhile longer because that was just the kind of guy he was. Strong and full of life that even off life support his heart beat on. My mom, my uncle and my aunt and some family friends were there. Tired and wanting my dad not to suffer anymore my mom quietly prayed in her heart, “Lord, let him take two quick breaths and die.” So he did. Two breaths later and my dad entered into glory. Two breaths later and our lives were changed forever.