Category Archives: Family

Focus

Did I mention I went to see a low vision specialist a couple weeks ago? My neuro-ophthalmologist had recommended it, since my vision has remained stable over the past six years. I’m not sure why he waited so long to suggest it, because I could have used the help a lot sooner, but that doesn’t matter. Better late than never.

So I went to see this low vision specialist, Dr. Putnam, and I learned a lot. I learned that what I’ve been doing up to this point to manage my low vision has been helpful, in that I’ve adapted. However, I also learned that in many areas rather than adapt, I avoid. Take using cash, for example. It takes so long to figure out what denomination a bill is, or what type of coin I’m holding, that I just use my debit card for everything. Or if cash is my only option, I’ll ask one of my children to get the cash for me. Who knows how many other things I’ve come to avoid because they are too difficult?

The biggest thing I’ve avoided is driving. I’ve never actually had a doctor tell me I couldn’t. I just don’t because I assumed I can’t because I have low vision. When it was time to renew my license, rather than taking the required test, I opted for the state identification card instead. When doctors ask me if I drive, I chuckle. Because to me it seems so obvious that I CANNOT drive. So when this low vision doctor asked me if I drive, I reacted the same as always. I chuckled and said “No, that would be impossible.” Her response surprised me. Now this doctor has seen my visual field tests. She knows very clearly what I can and cannot see. And yet she said to me, “Don’t say it’s impossible. I don’t want you to get your hopes up too high, but I also don’t want you to count it out. There’s a lot we can do. Even if it’s restricted driving, it may be something that’s an option for you.”

This idea floored me, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I’ve lost about 60% of my field of vision, but the other 40% is clear, as long as I’m wearing my glasses. Is 40% enough to safely drive a car? Dr. Putnam seems to think it could be, or it’s at least enough to warrant exploring the idea.

Speaking of my glasses, a year and a half ago, I bought a new pair with the recommended progressive lenses. The low vision doctor believed that the progressive lenses were not helping me, but were actually hurting me. The way they work, I guess they kind of block out or distort a good portion of that 40% where my eyes can actually see. Which would explain why I had secretly felt extra blind for awhile. I just figured that was the way it was going to be, and I just moved on. But now I have these new lenses, with an updated prescription, and without the progressive lenses. And let me tell you, there is a remarkable difference. It was a little strange the first day wearing them, but now that my brain has adjusted to them I can tell you I see so much better. Not close up of course, but that’s okay because I’m nearsighted. Seeing far away is greatly improved, and that has me thinking again about what Dr. Putnam said to me about driving.

My husband asked me about this today, the idea of me driving again, and I had to be honest, it scares the crap out of me. BUT – I’m trying to open my mind up to the possibility, just like Dr. Putnam encouraged me to do. I’m trying to ditch my all-or-nothing thinking here. Digging up the idea of me driving that I had successfully grieved and buried in its grave. It’s a big idea. Scary too. But I changed my mind once about this, I can change it back. It’s just going to take some time. We are deciding to reopen the chapter on this aspect of my disability and give it more thought and prayer.

So that is the exciting news around here. We have lots of other things going on but I won’t bore you today with the details. In addition to family and kid stuff I’m remaining semi-focused on running and writing, but that’s probably another blog post of its own. Stay tuned, I’ll try to be back at least once before Christmas. Happy Wednesday and peace to you, my friends.

Running With Dogs

I’m seriously not trying to draw pictures when I run, but this map looks like the profile of a dog. Do you see it? The pointy little ears and turned up nose?


But! What’s even cooler is that this was my fastest 3 miles, and that was even while running with Piper for the first mile. I’ve been secretly hoping to run a PR at the Turkey Trot on Thursday and I’m starting to really believe it’s possible! My current 5k PR is 38:24 and I would LOVE to come in under that and then go home and chow down on Grandma’s homemade stuffing and corn casserole.

What are you doing for Thanksgiving?

Abbey trip reflections

So, folks. I’ve gotta get this nagging voice out of my head, so I’m just gonna spill it. I said I would talk about what I heard at the Abbey almost two weeks ago, so here goes nothin’.

The biggest revelation, the biggest message I heard God speaking to me was that I need to keep sharing my stories, and with that I need to get back to writing my memoir.

We were sitting in the chapel, following along with the Psalms the monks were chanting, and they came to Psalm 40, which I recognized to be the one given to me when I lost my hearing. Given to me, as in, I heard the song “Jesus, Lover Of My Soul” one time in a movie many years prior, and then it was all I could hear in my head when I could very literally hear nothing else. That song, that Psalm, became my mantra for over a year. The words “taken me from the miry clay” resonated with me on so many levels.

Reading the Psalm in church got my attention, but that’s not the part that spoke the loudest to me. What spoke to me most was when I went back to the cottage and read the Psalm for myself. Verse 3 in particular, and I immediately felt God saying that I needed to continue writing – “singing my song” – so that people will see Him and put their trust in Him.

He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.

What my sister helped me see was that writing my memoir is much like training for and running a long race. It takes time, it might not look pretty, but the most important thing is that you keep working towards the goal. The key is consistency. So even if it’s just a half paragraph a day, or even every other day, it’s okay. I just need to be committed to not quitting. I will get this memoir written. It’s going to take a lot of patience, and you can bet I’ll need a lot of help, but dang it I’ll have it done eventually.

I have over 7000 words written at this point, and I’m kind of stuck as to where to go next, but I’ll keep chipping away at it. I’ve told a lot of small stories to make up those 7000 words but there is still a surprising amount of detail left to tell in order to make it a complete story. Some of those are details I don’t possess, memories that aren’t mine to tell because I was either sleeping or only somewhat conscious, but that’s where I’ll need to utilize my new “asking for help” skills.

It’s quite intimidating, the idea of writing a book. I have author friends and family so I know it’s possible. Normal human beings do it all the time. I just worry that it’s not possible for me, because I have cognitive struggles from the M.S. But that’s the primary thought that’s kept me from working on the book, so I need to stop thinking it.

Cognitive struggles due to M.S. Big Fat Sigh. This is probably one of the most difficult parts of the disease for me to accept. I was always the smart girl, the know-it-all, the straight A student. “That Mindy, she’s so smart”. I never had to struggle to understand things. That 4.0, smart girl persona? I let that define me, and now that that part of me is being chipped away, it seems my self-worth is being chipped away right along with it. This is painful to write about, but maybe it needs to be said, because as I’m writing this I am getting rather emotional. And in my experience, that lump in my throat is usually the first step towards healing a deep wound I have been ignoring for far too long. I need to swallow that lump, along with my pride.

I struggle daily with forgetting things. I know people say this is typical of aging, but I know it’s more than that. I also struggle with comprehending simple concepts, whether they are new to me or not. I struggle with holding conversations and putting ideas together. I struggle hard with writing, and this is the most heartbreaking. I have always loved writing. I have kept a diary since I was a little girl. I started blogging back when you had to write your own code. I journal thoughts in my head throughout the day, and sometimes those thoughts actually make it to my written journal. Just today, my laundry folding was interrupted by this blog post forming itself in my head, itching to get out.

Writing is part of who I am, so when I set such an ambitious goal as writing a memoir, having never written a real book before, you can imagine it’s frustrating to feel like you are unable to make any progress. When your brain just refuses to make the necessary connections, it’s very discouraging.

But! I read a meme recently that reminded me that when God calls us to something, he factors in our failures and frailty. So I’m taking that as truth and leaning on Him, always and forever.

Busy day, busy week

I told a friend the other day, “I don’t know how you people do it!” And by “you people”, I mean those who do lots of things, all in succession, repeatedly over time. Because dang. I am managing, it’s fine, but I lived in my warm cocoon of permanent disability for so long I almost forgot what it was like to have a full schedule. Like normal people.

I’m still permanently disabled, of course, but my new energy levels allow me to do considerably more, and I’m just now feeling like I’m getting the hang of it. Although I have been feeling lately that my fatigue is trying to creep back in and I am almost certain it’s because I haven’t been running. I plan to rectify that situation soon.

Today is an especially busy day because I had a dentist appointment this morning to get a crown set up, and this afternoon I have my regular infusion for my MS medication. It’s noon and my face is still half numb from the dental procedure this morning so it was very strange eating my lunch. I’m tempted to get a second cup of coffee but if I do I’ll have to do drink it through a straw. I’m kind of looking forward to the infusion because it will be a forced opportunity to take a nap. Not that I ever need forcing, of course. Naps are the bomb diggity.

My daughter turned 10 on Tuesday (yay for double digits!) and she is having a few friends over Friday night for a sleepover so I’ll be spending the day tomorrow doing some catch up cleaning and preparing the food for dinner. She chose tacos even after my multiple suggestions for ordering pizza, so I guess I’m cooking. Anything for my birthday girl. We all love tacos, so it’s cool. Before dinner though, we’re taking the girls to Playing Picasso so they can do some pottery painting. Then we’ll go back home and eat tacos, then send the girls in the basement so they can watch Harry Potter and be their silly selves without judgment from big brother. Birthdays are fun, don’t you think?

I’m hoping to catch up more on writing in the next few days, to tell you about what I heard God speaking to me at the abbey last weekend, and maybe some other random musings about that habits I’m hoping to hone (like writing). Growth and change, but all good stuff going on here.

St. Gregory’s Abbey 2019

Last weekend my sister and I traveled south to stay at an Episcopalian monastery. This has been an annual tradition for us, and this was our 9th year. One of the ministries of this monastery, besides constant prayer and worship, is to provide a place for others to retreat from life, reconnect and reset. Pushing the reset button looks different for everyone, but for my sister and me three days of time alone and away from the hustle and bustle is the way to go. We are both very introverted, so time alone definitely recharges our batteries.

Every year we have stayed in a cottage at the back of the property. They do have a dormitory near the chapel and main building, but we have never stayed there. Well, I have, on solo visits prior to our annual tradition of going together. We enjoy the solitude of St. Benedict’s cottage, away from the monks and the other guests (except when we are attending chapel services). We also really enjoy having a kitchen for preparing our own food, which you don’t get with the dormitory. We started this tradition with elaborate menus and recipes, and as the years have gone by and we get older (and perhaps a little lazier) we have reduced the complexity of our menu plan. We have never felt hungry or lacking, and we always go home with food leftover.

Every year has been different, but also much the same. Nothing about the monastery has changed since we started coming. The cottage looks identical now to the cottage we stayed at our first visit in 2011. The schedule of church services is the same, and the chapel smells as it always does, of heavenly incense. The lack of change is strangely comforting. What is different for us every time is how much we are dealing with in our lives, good and bad. Every year one or both of us has had challenges we are battling, and the beauty and the gift of these weekends is that we are able to really look inward and upward for answers, reassurances, and guidance.

I can’t say what these weekends mean to my sister, but for me it’s a time to reconnect with each other, and also with the Lord. I have great conversations with God on these weekends. Not that I don’t have conversations with Him at other times, but the difference at the Abbey is that I do a LOT more listening than talking. And boy, does He have a lot to say to me. I plan to share some of what I heard from Him in a later post, so stay tuned for that.

Overall it was a very transforming and therapeutic weekend, and I look forward to many more down the road. What sorts of things help you reset and recharge?

2019 Capital City River Run

Welp, I did it! I ran a half marathon. All 13.1 miles with minimal walking. All of this training I’ve been doing really paid off, and I was able to run pretty much the entire way. I walked over slippery bridges and once late in the race because I was sensing some drop foot, but other than that I was good to go. I did NOT feel like I was dying, and despite how I looked to others at the finish line, I felt fabulous. I was all smiles and ready to sign up for the next one.

The Comradery: I simply could not have done this race without my friends. Alicia and Staci were with me every step of the way, guiding me away from obstacles and leading me down hills so I wouldn’t lose my balance. They even kept me from taking off in the beginning at too fast a pace, which is something I tend to do, and pay dearly for on these long runs. I happened to see a couple other running friends before the race started, and that really helped to boost my adrenaline. All the runners I have gotten to know are pretty special people. We are a diverse crowd, and yet everyone is so supportive of on another, regardless of all our differences. We are all running with the same goal, but for very different reasons, and I find that pretty awesome.

The Spectators: I had an entire team of spectators cheering me on throughout this race, and this was pretty dang awesome. My husband, my son and daughter (who had no shortage of hugs), my dad and stepmom, my sister and her boyfriend, my niece, and as a last surprise of the morning, my big brother. I was so surprised to see him there because he has been so busy working lately I just didn’t expect he would be able to make it. But he was there. They were all there, and they knew why this was such a big deal. It wasn’t just a race. This race happened almost exactly 6 years from when I lost my hearing and vision. In fact, that morning a memory came up on my husband’s Facebook feed. It was a posting he had sent out updating everyone on my long hospital stay. I was so sick and no one knew what was wrong with me, and I could not walk unassisted, among other numerous issues. So to have that come up on his feed the day I was running my first half marathon was just incredibly fitting.

The Final 5k: At 10 miles my family was there cheering us on, as they had in several other spots, and my son started jogging next to me. The excitement of the moment took over, and I invited him to run the final 3.1 miles with us. They frown on this sort of thing, I guess, but no one bothered us about it. He did a great job keeping me going and holding me steady down the hills. However, when we were nearing the finish, we were at the top of a very steep concrete ramp that feeds into the baseball stadium where the finish line was. He danced on ahead of me while Alicia and Staci took my arms to help me down. I was so embarrassed to see my husband at the bottom of the ramp, taking our picture. It looked rather pathetic, as if my legs had stopped working, but really it was just a matter of keeping my balance down the incline. When we reached flat land my son was waiting for me and we began to sprint the last stretch towards the Finish. I was so giddy I was almost in tears. And after I crossed the line I tried to stop but instead just fell to the ground. This is what seems to happen after my races and it alarms people because it looks like I’m hurt but really it’s just muscle weakness and poor balance. The motion of running keeps me on my feet somehow, so when I try to walk it never works. They brought me a chair and a woman put a medal around my neck and we all just stayed there congratulating each other and taking pictures.

It was a fantastic race and I am so glad I did it. Every time I try a longer distance I think about how far I’ve come, and I wonder how far I can go. My curiosity I think is what drives me. I just want to see how far I can go before my body says no. Yes, it tries to tell me no some days, but I’ll always try to call it’s bluff.

I am so grateful to everyone for supporting me and cheering me on. I could not have done this without you. Most of all though, I owe my gratitude to Jesus Christ. I would not have even started on this journey into running and health if it had not been for His sustaining grace and comfort. He is my constant, every day all day running partner. Hallelujah!

The Finish Line:

Courage

Yesterday was my scheduled long run of the week, in preparation for my very first half marathon in 36 days (but who’s counting?). I planned out my route, a simple 5 miles out through town and on to the park trails, and 5 miles back. I started out feeling really strong, and I was excited for this run because up to this point my longest run had been 8 miles. I knew I was going to have to walk for parts of it, to rest my knee, and I was okay with that concession.

Do you ever embark on a new challenge and you feel really confident about it, only to fall flat on your face, metaphorically speaking? Well, I did this, only it wasn’t metaphorical. A mile and a half in to this long run, I tripped on the sidewalk and fell Flat. On. My. Face. I sat on the grass between the sidewalk and the street and inspected my wounds. Were my teeth still in tact? Was I gushing blood? Were my cochlear implants still on my head? Yes, no, and surprisingly, yes. After about 20 seconds I stood up, brushed myself off, and continued to run. But as I ran I could feel my upper lip swelling and I could taste blood. I decided to call my husband, who happened to be working from home that day, and ask him to bring me some ice. Until he drove up to give me the ice pack, I fully intended to run the remaining 8.5 miles with a fat lip and what would eventually turn into a massive headache. I think he could see that I was on the verge of tears, and he suggested that I ride back home with him and just rest a bit, that I could always go back out when I was ready. After a few moments of hesitation, I said yes. I kept my running clothes on for several hours, under the delusion that I would go back out and run the 10 miles. But then the headache came, and I decided I was better off taking an Aleve and sleeping for awhile. I could always try again Saturday.

So Friday felt like a bust and I woke up Saturday knowing this was my day to get that long run in, but really feeling like I need to be safer about it. This had been the 3rd time I fell this month, and while I need those long runs to prepare my body for 13.1, I don’t think it’s wise to run so far from home without a guide. I can still get the same workout on the dreaded treadmill in our basement. I hate running on the treadmill, but I need to get ready for this race, and not injure myself in the process.

To be honest, I woke up Saturday not really sure if I was going to run or not. But then I was on Facebook and my friends were posting reports of their long training runs. And then a friend texted asking how my face was doing, and another friend reminding me that yesterday’s fall was not failure, because she still remembers when I needed a walker to walk. So with a few messages of encouragement, in just a matter of minutes, my extreme discouragement transformed into full-on Courage. I was ready to run these miles. The icing on the cake, folks, was when I walked down to the treadmill and was reminded of the picture I keep above the display that says: “There will be a day when I can no longer run. Today is not that day.” I had forgotten all about it, but you can bet that was the final word of encouragement I needed to make sure I got that run started. And once I start, you better believe I’m a stubborn mule and I will finish, dang it.

I learned some things about running on the treadmill. One, when you run longer than 99 minutes, it stops moving and restarts the timer. Thankfully it didn’t reset the distance because that would have really frustrated me, but I ended the run at 9.99 miles just to be on the safe side. Some other advantages to the treadmill are that I can watch tv, I can stream Pandora without using data, and I have immediate access to a bathroom. So it wasn’t all bad. I did struggle with finding a good pace but I suppose that’s all part of the training. Better to figure this stuff out here in the safety of my home, than out on the course on race day.

I’ll be honest, compared to most of my runs, this one was pretty sucky, but it’s done and I have to be okay with that. My legs didn’t fail me, although my knee did cause me to fall once so I was glad I had a grab bar, I had zero drop foot issues, and I was actually able to finish with a very slow jog. So it’s a win in my book, whether I like it or not. Two days of rest and then I’ll be back out again for some short runs!

Cedar Point 2019

Last week we made our now annual trip to Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. This was a favorite place for Mike and me when we were kids, and it makes us pretty happy to be able to share the magic with our kids. The odd thing is that they each love it for different reasons. Luke loves all the thrill rides, and Natalie loves the petting zoo. So while the boys run around riding rides, the girls mosey and shop and make friends with camels and tortoises.

You can see in the first picture below that we had to get a photo to show where we were while the boys were waiting in line for the Steel Vengeance. We were happily exploring the museum, NOT riding the Steel Vengeance. When we got a closer look at the model of the ride (you can see it behind us) and the 90 degree drop it makes, we knew we had made the right decision.

We have always been able to buy our tickets ahead of time and get two for the price of one, but this year Mike found us an even better deal that included drink passes. We all got bracelets that allowed us to get free fountain drinks all day long. This turned out to be a really great thing because they have refreshment stations all over the park, and they don’t just serve soda. They had fruit juices and teas as well. I’m not a soda drinker, but I do love my sweet tea, so this made me very happy. Also, it completely wiped out the begging that’s gone on in the past when the kids are thirsty (as they should be, walking around in 80 degree weather) and Mom doesn’t want to spend $10 on enormous fountain drinks they will likely not be able to finish drinking. With the unlimited drink plan they gave you small cups, so you only got what you needed at the time and by the time you finished it, you were close enough to the next station so you could just get another.

ALL that to say, we never felt dehydrated the entire day! So hurray for that.

Also, isn’t my husband cute with his Coca-Cola logo looking Guns & Ammo shirt? I tried to get a nice photo of us but our goofy daughter photo bombed us. That picture on the right was taken at the end of the day and Natalie was trying not to smile. Her dad always manages to cheer her up when she’s trying so hard to be in a bad mood.

We finished the day with a night ride on the carousel, which was both beautiful and terrifying. I’m not crazy about being up so high in the air and this was the first year I went on it without the benefit of Zoloft. That’s another blog post altogether, but let’s just say I came really close to a panic attack at the top of the carousel. Thankfully Mike could see I was not okay and he held my hand and reassured me we would be okay. I survived, obviously, and will now be working up the courage for next year’s carousel ride. Because tradition trumps anxiety, and also I’m a smidge sentimental.

My legs held up really well all day. Towards the end my knee was hurting a little so I put my knee brace on and that helped some. My balance was suffering and my left foot felt like it was dropping so Mike held my hand at that point in order to give me some stability. I walked a record 21,693 steps that day and nobody had to carry me to the truck, so I call that a win. Everyone had their brand of fun and it was a great and memorable day. I look forward to going again next year!

Just an overall great day

Today was a really great day. Nothing out of the ordinary or spectacular, it was just a good day, so I wanted to share before I head off to bed.

The kids and I went to church this morning. Hubby was at a shooting competition so it was just the three of us. We had been preparing to ride the bus, but were able to secure a ride with the pastor’s wife at the last minute. So while we were a bit excited about doing something new by riding the fixed route bus, we were thankful we didn’t have to get up super early to catch the bus. We’ll hopefully try again on another day before the summer is over.

Church was great, as usual. I love my church family, because they are just like that: family. I was able to have a bit of time after the service to catch up with the some of the other women and invited two of them to BSF in the fall.

The afternoon was spent relaxing, having lunch with the kids, chatting with my sister, and doing a bit of bookkeeping for the church. By the evening, after dinner, I was feeling pretty sluggish and the sun hadn’t set yet, so I threw on some running clothes and went for a quick two miles around the neighborhood. I’ve been doing a pretty good job with resting my knee and doing the exercises the doctor gave me, and tonight’s run really showed me that it’s paying off, because I only took a few brief walking breaks and I had no knee pain throughout the run! Even after I got home I didn’t feel any pain. Not only that, but my pace was pretty strong for the time I was running, at around 11 or 12 minutes, which is pretty fast for me. I usually average closer to 13 minute miles. So I was pretty ecstatic about that run, and it really gives me hope that I’ll still be able to complete the half marathon in 56 days!

I’m excited about the upcoming race, but I’m even more excited about a lot of leadership opportunities I have coming up. Leadership is not necessarily my comfort zone, but I feel like God has really been working on me in this area, and helping me to step out of my comfort zone little by little. I can still be my introvert self and interact with others. I really enjoy getting to know people and hearing their stories. In the fall I’ll be leading a Bible Study Fellowship group, a discipleship group through my church, and Financial Peace University. That sounds like a lot, but I’m hopeful I’ll be able to keep a good balance and manage my time well enough to handle it all.

Shifting gears here, but I recently saw the dermatologist and I thought it was just going to be a follow up to get refills on the antibiotic for my rosacea, but the doctor I was seeing left the practice so I was seeing a new one. Not new to the practice, just new to me. I was very reassured from the minute he walked in the room because he actually examined my face under the light, and the last doctor never did that, which I always thought was odd. This new doctor is changing up my medication a little bit and putting me on something stronger, with the hopes that eventually I won’t have to take the antibiotics. He also gave me a prescription for a cream that should help the specific problem areas on my face. So that was a really positive visit and I went home feeling hopeful that we can get my face cleared up even more.

So the last couple weeks were filled with a couple doctor’s visits, my monthly Tysabri infusion, and lab work to make sure I can still take the Tysabri. Then in a week or so we go to the dentist for cleanings, and take the kids to the orthodontist for evaluations. Not exactly your idea of summer fun, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Being healthy is super important to me because if I didn’t have this energy, I wouldn’t be able to do any of the volunteering that I’m signed up to do. So I’m staying focused (i.e. mildly obsessed) with the running, daily exercises, eating my fruits and veggies, drinking my greens, and taking my vitamins. Staying healthy for this M.S. girl is kind of a full time job.

The Prodigal

I’m a little tired today, but it’s still early. There’s a chill in the air, so I’m out here enjoying the chirping of the birds while wrapped in a blanket.

The cool weather has me wishing I was running. With the breeze and the sun, it’s my favorite weather to run in. If I didn’t have neighbors so close on each side I would be doing my exercises out here on the deck. Maybe next year I’ll be old enough to not care, but I’m not there yet.

This morning I was reading Luke chapter 15, the story of the prodigal son, and it reminded me of the ridiculous choices I made way back when in my prodigal days. I also read as part of a devotional reading plan this morning about how we often relate to God in a similar way to how we relate with our earthly fathers. And this led to a strong desire to share my prodigal story with you kind readers. So, here goes.

I was a straight A student in high school, with the exception of that B in gym. I was a well behaved child, mostly. Not necessarily because I was good hearted, but more so that the other kids at school wouldn’t judge me and call me a hypocrite. So when I tossed that graduation cap in the air, I felt like I had been released from the judgment. I could experiment with the world. I wanted to explore. I started saying yes to the party invitations.

Prodigal: “spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant”

That summer, while still living at home, I did a lot of heavy drinking. I discovered a lot of things, like how my friends were acquiring liquor, and also that my body does not like rum. Since I had turned 18 earlier that year, I was able to legally buy cigarettes, so I started smoking too. Menthols, because regular cigarettes were nasty. (Who was I kidding, right? They’re all nasty.) It was a fun summer, but it was mostly regrettable for all the lying I did to my parents.

When I went off to college that fall I thought I had gotten the rebellion out of my system and I could move forward. Famous last words.

I lived in the dorms, down in the valley. I had to walk quite a ways to get to class (up hill! Both ways! In three feet of snow!!). During this time period I was dressing like a dime store punk – greasy hair, long baggy bell-bottom pants, polyester shirts. I kind of wish I had pictures, but we didn’t have digital back then. My new look must have attracted the wrong people because I was befriended by John, who also lived in the dorms. I’ll never forget this conversation: we were walking to class and talking about music and I was telling him how much I liked Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and he asked me – “Oh, do you smoke?” I thought he meant cigarettes, so I quickly answered yes.

And that, my friends, is how easy it was to get started smoking marijuana. This was the beginning of the end of my college experience. I was introduced to pot and as it turns out, I loved it. So much so that I was smoking it all the time. I was sleeping too late, missing class, being a total jerk to my roommate, and doing questionable things I thankfully can’t remember. This went on for months. When our grades were posted and I saw that I was getting C’s, I gave up. I had never in my life gotten C’s, so I couldn’t see any way to come back from it. Without a word to anyone, I went to the registrar’s office and dropped out.

My mom lived in the same town, so I told her first. She graciously allowed me to move my stuff into her dining room and sleep on a cot until I could secure a more permanent space. I don’t remember how long before I told my dad, but I remember we were in a movie theater, waiting for a movie to start. I told him I had dropped out of school, and instead of being angry at me for throwing away my future, he told me he loved me and gave me a great big hug.

I still can’t really describe to you how much these gestures of grace and forgiveness mean to me, even to this day. I trusted I could count on my mom to accept me, but I had expected condemnation from my dad. I expected disappointment, yet I received unconditional love. I was the prodigal son, and he welcomed me home with open arms. He didn’t throw me a party, but he may as well have. That hug was something special. It was a gift that gave me the strength to move forward with my life. To pack up and move on.

Genesis 12:1 (NIV) “The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”

I spent several months living in an apartment with a couple of my brother’s friends from high school, and eventually (miraculously, perhaps) rededicated my life to following my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God met me on the kitchen floor with a dusty Bible one morning and called me to move to Lansing. It’s where I’ve built so many cherished friendships, and it’s where I met my husband and we are raising our family. It’s where I later learned that my great grandparents built a home and raised their children (my grandfather and great aunt). My grandmother even graduated from the same high school my husband did.

So the miracle that happened here, the end of this story, is that God saw that door I slammed shut with my stupidity and opened a window to a new life, a better life. He welcomed this prodigal daughter back home and threw her a party.

Have you slammed any doors shut in your life? Is God trying to show you a window to something better? Maybe it’s time to dust off that Bible, grab a cup of coffee, and search for it. Pull up a chair and sit with Him for awhile, He’s waiting to show you. If nothing else, He wants to give you a big party-sized hug.