My Red Glasses

I wear them everywhere, in fact I wear them so much it has become how friends of mine find me in a crowd. I wear them on my head and they serve a great function of keeping my hair out of my face or calming that one unruly curl that wants to go in its own direction. More than a fashion statement, my red sunglasses with sparkly hearts on the earpieces are a vital and necessary part of my migraine coping system.

What many who see me and many who know me well would never suspect is that my red glasses have a secret super-power.

They are my light shield.

Light is such a great thing, it helps us see by bouncing off of things in our path and gives us pleasure in revealing different hues of paint splotched on canvas in breathtaking works of art. But light is also my nemesis.

I have chronic migraine. There are very few days when I am completely symptom free, most of my hours are dominated by either prodrome symptoms or postdrome symptoms, with migraine attacks in the middle.

My triggers are many and varied, which makes it difficult to anticipate or avoid them. Here is a partial list:
flashing/strobing light
changes in barometric pressure
change in sleep patterns
over-scheduling
food additives
food combinations
too much sugar
too much caffeine
not enough caffeine
Mondays…just kidding, but sometimes it is hard to pin down the cause.

The strategy is to avoid as many of these triggers as possible while still living a semblance of a normal life with a job, a spouse, and three beautiful children. I exercise to increase endorphin levels which helps lessen my symptoms. I try to sleep at regular times, but I also struggle with insomnia. I keep my schedule at a bare minimum whenever possible so that if something unexpected arises I will be able to absorb it without immediate breakdown. I avoid rich desserts and high-sugar foods, but I crave sweets hardcore when I am headed toward an attack. I keep my caffeine consumption at a steady level, and regularly go completely off of caffeine for periods of time in order to prevent a dependency on it to function.

Some triggers I simply cannot avoid. I live in northeast Kansas. We have weather systems that roll through regularly that send me to bed with fatigue, dizziness, and a complete inability to keep a thought in my head. I am a mom and a pastor, which means there are times that people need me that don’t fit nicely into my schedule. Sometimes I do too much. Especially on days when I feel good.

And sometimes I eat the pizza anyway, because life is short and what is one more migraine when I am going to have one later anyway?

But I digress. I was talking about my glasses. My red sunglasses that hold my hair so nicely and go with everything I wear, who possess a secret super-power. They cover my eyes when the sun is too bright on a cloudy day. They cover my eyes when someone installed a ceiling fan under a light and I have to stay in that space but want to avoid the instant nausea and dizziness. They cover my eyes when the light is the wrong frequency or has a short and blinks randomly. They are my shield against pain when I have a migraine but I have to function anyway.

Fun, cute, fierce, and one of the many coping mechanisms that make my life with chronic migraine just that much more bearable.

Coping where I can.
Honestly.
ReFreshing

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A beautiful dress

This was at the top of my soon to be 9-year-old daughter’s birthday list.
“A buetaful dress” to be more precise.

My rough and tumble tom boy.
My sweet and sometimes spastic child who can’t always find herself in space.
My awkward, lovely, frustrating, cherished girl.

She wants a beautiful dress.

It makes me misty-eyed because it reminds me that at the center of herself she just wants to be loved. She longs to be appreciated and celebrated.

It is hard to remember this when she won’t brush her long red curly hair.
It is hard to remember when I have to ask her six times to stay out of her brother’s personal space.
It is hard to remember when everything about her is and always has been loud and sharp and on the move.

But she is almost always in a skirt and tights, and she loves to make bracelets.
Why wouldn’t she want a beautiful dress?

Why is it so hard for me, as her mother, to see this tender heart longing to be seen?

Am I too busy?
Have I fallen into the rut of seeing only her challenges?
Whatever the cause, I am awake and aware of her today.

Because she wants a beautiful dress.

God, open my eyes to see the heart in each of my children that cries out to be loved, cherished, seen and understood. Give me awareness of my own tendency to walk through life so busy that I miss the quieter call to love these precious gifts.
Amen

Awareness, beauty, gratitude–
Ingredients for a ReFreshing Life

**I wrote this post over a year ago and set it aside. It jumped out at me today, tugging again at my heart.

Christmas Pondering

Luke 2:19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

When was the last time you did any pondering? With the way everything moves so quickly, it is hard to find time to ponder anymore. Social media makes it easy to be emotionally moved by love/anger/fear/sadness/empathy one moment and laugh at silly cats talking about cheeseburgers the next. How is it that we can shift gears so quickly? The emotion barely has time to set in before we are scrolling on to the next thing. As disturbing as this might seem, the information we are reading and the stories we are moved by mostly have to do with the lives and experiences of other people, sometimes people we’ve never met who live on the other side of the globe. It is easier to keep them at arm’s length and only allow them to touch our emotions on the surface. Still it is troubling that we interact with so many deep needs with so little thought. Possibly more troubling is the thought that we could be losing the art of thinking and feeling deeply about things in our own lives.

It might just be me, but when things get busy, during the holidays or toward the middle of each school year, I function with very little deep thought from day to day. I follow the commands of my calendar, moving from one appointment and event to the next without any time to process what I have just experienced. Like scrolling through Facebook, I can find myself keeping the story of my own life at arm’s length and the events of my day from drawing any deep thought.

With all that was happening in her life, the announcement of the angel, the trip to see her cousin Elizabeth, the return and Joseph coming to take her to his home, the journey to Bethlehem for the census, Mary took time to ponder. Perhaps in the stillness of a baby sleeping after the shepherds had left in the early morning hours. Maybe in the days to come as she experienced first-hand feeding a baby from her body, sleeping 45 minutes at a time, changing for-real clothe diapers. Definitely as they met Anna and Simeon in the temple after the time of purification to dedicate little Jesus as a firstborn son. She actively stored up these experiences and pondered them in her heart.

When we ponder, we establish memories. The stories we tell ourselves and others about the events in our lives are the ones we keep for years to come. Moments that we pass over without a thought are gone forever, but those we choose to reflect upon are treasures that last.

What is happening in your life right now that could use some mulling over? What treasures are you brushing off for more pressing demands of work, or the louder demand from the buzz of your phone? For those of us who don’t check our phones that much, maybe it’s using the radio or TV to drown out the silence. A little of that is ok, but if we find ourselves simply filling space with meaningless activity then we need to reevaluate. With all of this filler, we forget to feed our souls.

By contrast, when we remind ourselves of God at work in our lives, when we turn our hearts to gratitude for all we have and all God has done for us, when we take time to ponder, we find the deep joy God offers to us in himself.

Scientific studies have recently shown that what we ponder makes a difference in the ways our brains function, carving neural pathways so that the thoughts we think a lot, we continue to think a lot.  Like driving home and forgetting how you got there, our mind follows pathways that are familiar without our direction. It works with gratitude, being thankful as a practice makes it easier to see things to be thankful for and reinforce the gratitude. The same is true if we think about what God has done for us and is doing in our lives. Wouldn’t it be great to have gratitude and joy as our autopilot response? When we tune our minds to perceive God at work and find even more to ponder.

God gives us a lot to think about. We can start with what he did for people in ages past, recorded in the Bible. What he has done for all of humanity and the world in coming in the flesh to walk among us in the person of Jesus. Redemption. Grace. Mercy. Love. We can move on to how this plays out in our daily lives specifically. His giving us family and friends. The job that feeds us. The children that fill our homes with cheerful noise. The animals and pets that provide such loving companionship. The friends close by whose care and concern for us shines bright. The warmth of love transmitted from loved ones who are far away in cards, pictures and letters. A bird outside our window. The sun shining, the breeze blowing, the glint of light off of the snow, the break in the clouds. All can be reminders of God’s love and care.

God has done such great things for us, let us not set aside his blessings for fleeting pleasures, busy schedules and mindless lives. Let’s take time to ponder, and in that act of pondering store up treasures of memories and grace.

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

 

My Doula Heart

My first thoughts after giving birth to my oldest child were “That was amazing! I want to do that again! I can do anything!” I was so empowered, I truly felt that I could move mountains.

I know that not every woman has that experience, and as I talked with other moms who had struggled I knew that I wanted to be a part of the solution. Looking into becoming a labor support professional, a doula, I realized there were too many road blocks for me to pursue that dream at that time. But my heart had been awakened, and it wanted to serve.

kathrinas-birthday-2My first child was born in 2003 and it took nearly 13 years for life to swing around to where I could attend a doula training. In that time, though, I had been longing. I had checked in over the years to see if there was a training near enough, within my budget, at a time when I could attend. I read books, and articles, and blogs on birth. I even served my first laboring mother two years before I attended training.

46-baby-feet-3By the time the stars aligned and everything fell into place, I was ready to jump in with both feet. This year I have had the privilege to attend two more births, serving two brave, strong, and capable women as they brought new lives into the world. I got to encourage their partners in providing support to the women they love. I took beautiful photographs of those passion-filled, life-drunk moments filled with fresh tears and smiles of victory.

6 Cry Black and WhiteSome are uncertain about this beautiful process, but for me it stokes an inner joy for the parents and their new loves. I love birth! And I love that the women I serve will walk away knowing they are courageous and strong.

My doula heart beats for those moments.
ReFreshing

Steadfast Heart Doula Services

Good in the world

I believe that God is at work in the world.

As a Christian, this should not be a controversial statement, but many would disagree, at least in practice. If we believe the world is a scary place, full of danger, darkness, hatred, and pain; if we then live our lives in fear, isolation, protectionism, and suspicion; if we define other people as our enemy and trash creation–if any of these are true–then we are denying the reality of God at work in our world.

I believe God created the heavens and the earth. I have no idea how that happened, what it meant for God to speak and suddenly photons are flying through space at the speed of themselves. I do not know how God formed the earth, lit the stars, set the universe in motion, or sparked life into existence. I stand in awe of the beauty and complexity of creation and am constantly amazed at the scientific discoveries that show this world in ever smaller, ever greater, degrees of complexity.

I believe there is beauty in the world. I see the sky and the clouds, the deep endless variety of blue that as a Kansas girl provides the boundaries of my visible world. I drive the Flint Hills and observe the green, brown, yellow foliage that feeds animals wild and domestic. I see the frolicking calves, the bounding deer, the soaring eagle and flitting swallows playing in spaces that fit them like a tailored suit.

I meet people whose individual personalities delight me, from the cynic, to the organizer, to the ever-optimistic, to the deeply compassionate, the humorist, the critic. Each one with perspectives to share, experiences to recount, and a light to shine.

I do not see the world through rose-colored lenses, though. I know there is pain. I know there is violence. I know both are closer than I want to admit. Each one of those people I meet have scars, I have them myself.

But I believe we have a choice.

We can choose to see the good, beautiful, gracious gift of the world and all who are in it or we can cower in fear that pain will come knocking on our door. We can set our eyes on God at work in the world and receive comfort knowing that we are not alone in seeking good and just and beautiful endings. We can choose to join God in pursuing dreams of a world that is healed, and lives that are healed, and communities that are healed.

We could also choose to shut ourselves away. We could focus on the darkness. We could build our walls higher, our moats deeper, our cannons larger, our swords sharper.

When the darkness is the biggest presence in our view, it is impossible to walk in love. Love requires an open heart, and fear shuts it down. Love requires the willingness to sacrifice, but fear makes us hoarders. Love requires that we listen and learn from one another, but fear galvanizes our opinions until we are incapable of hearing and considering the perspectives of others.

I believe God is at work in the world and is looking for people to join in. God’s work is love in action. Will we choose to see the light of love and rejoice, or will we fixate on the darkness?

A Refreshing choice.

What’s a Doula?

Maybe we need another name, but it can be difficult to think what else we would call ourselves. Professional Emotional and Physical Support in Labor and Delivery Assistant seems a little long. Sometimes we may shorten the description to professional labor support, but what does that entail? The word Doula means “female servant” from the Greek, and really refers to the role a Doula plays in serving and supporting other women.

What a Doula does.

A Doula is a person (typically a woman but there are male Doulas) who has special training in the physical and emotional aspects of childbirth as well as strategies and techniques to help a laboring woman and her partner have the kind of birth they desire. Doulas meet with their clients typically 2-3 times before the baby’s birthday to get to know the preferences of the laboring person and help to form a birth plan.

Doulas provide uninterrupted labor support during labor and delivery, helping couples ask good questions about their options from medical care providers. The Doula brings a copy of the birth plan, takes notes on procedures and keeps a timeline of the birth. Doulas are there to support emotionally, suggest changes in position or activity to reduce pain and help labor progress.

After the baby is born, the Doula will stay with the new mother for a predetermined amount of time (typically 30 minutes to 2 hours), possibly taking pictures or helping the new family move to a recovery room. Doulas also check in with the new family at home in the first few weeks postpartum. They will listen to you tell your birth story and talk to you about common postpartum topics like breastfeeding, baby care, and caring for yourself.

Doulas charge a fee that depends on the services they offer and the area or clients they wish to serve. Doula fees range from $250 to well over $1000. There are affordable ways to hire a Doula if you have a lower income. Some Doulas have a sliding fee scale, or may work for a non-profit, or a hospital.

What Doulas don’t do.

The Doula is not a doctor. Doulas are not medically trained and do not perform medical tasks. A Doula should not suggest medical interventions or administer medications. Doulas are not your voice, they help you to find your voice. The Doula you work with may ask you a question about your comfort level with a procedure if it is something you have talked about previously, or they may ask you if you have questions for your care provider, whether an MD, OBGYN, Midwife or your labor nurse. Doulas are there to empower you to advocate for yourself.

What Doulas might do.

There are Doulas who have special skills or training that they bring to the labor room as a bonus. Some Doulas are trained in massage. You may find a Doula who is also a photographer. It may be that your Doula is a yoga or other fitness instructor. Some Doulas also serve the other children in the family. Other Doulas are available to serve the family postpartum for an hourly fee.  From time to time, a Doula may also be a trained nurse. In that case, they will probably identify under a different title of monatrice.

I hope you have a better idea of who Doulas are and what they can do for expectant mothers and their partners. Maybe we need another name, or maybe we just need to increase awareness to the point that everyone knows what a Doula is and how Doulas can help you have your best birth.

Healthy Pregnancy and Birth,
How Refreshing!

People in the credits

I watched a movie today. As soon as the credits began to roll, my daughter wanted to get up and leave. The movie was over, the credit extras had rolled. Why stick around and watch the boring names scroll by?

The stars get the headlines, but there would be no production without the hundreds of names in the credits. We often undervalue the contribution of people who work behind the scenes. Once I was fortunate enough to sit through a screening of a film with the men and women who had made the movie possible with graphics, editing, lighting, music, even grips and assistants. They sat through the credits. All of them. And applauded. No headliners were in the room, but those who worked behind the scenes congratulated each other on the fruits of their hard work.

Most of us don’t get to headline. We work behind the scenes at banks, behind counters, at stores, sweeping up after the headliners, and we think we don’t matter. The truth is that without each person doing his or her part, we would get nowhere in society. I heard once that the greatest contributors to our health and well-being are the trash collectors.

Next time we watch them go by, we should applaud. We should put them in parades. We should celebrate the great work they do to make our cities livable, instead of disease ridden dumps. And we should celebrate each other. Don’t let an opportunity pass you by to encourage those behind the scenes workers. Thank your bank teller and look her in the eye. Thank your drive-thru server and treat him like a person. If we could do this, imagine how much nicer it would be to live in our world.

Don’t get up and leave during the credits, watch the names roll by and say a prayer of thanksgiving for all of the people, who often go unnamed, who make your life possible.

A ReFreshing thought.