Category Archives: Everyday Struggles

These posts talk about the day in, day out realities of living out your faith – both the challenges and rewards.

Glad I Used My Heart Not My Head

It’s no secret that I often struggle with wanting to help people for free. My desire to help people is stronger than my desire to make money for myself. Unfortunately after a few years of helping so many people for free, I began to realize that what I was doing was FREE for them, but it came at a cost to me. Once I quit my full-time job, helping people was my only source of income, so I tried to buckle down and do a better job of requiring payment for my help (services).

Back in December, I blogged about how difficult it was for me to charge a young Mom who called for help because she had just found out her 2 1/2 year old daughter had cancer. (You can read more about that here.) She could only afford to have us come help her for a few hours one day and that broke my heart. She still needed our help and I knew it. I couldn’t stop thinking about her and how I could make her life so much simpler, at least in that respect. However, I continued to fight my urge to run over there and help her because I was working on letting my head lead rather than my heart as far as my business dealings go.

Rebekah-Annika

(www.AnnikasEpicJourney.com)

Through a very odd set of circumstances after we worked with her initially, I found out that she wanted more help. Without hesitation and with sheer excitement at the thought of it, I made the decision to get a team of professional organizers together and go back to help her family for free for several days and I felt good about it! We got through decluttering and organizing the large majority of their home. I knew that I couldn’t take away the pain they were experiencing from fighting for their daughter’s life, but I knew that by helping them get organized, that would reduce a small portion of their stress.

That was back in March of this year. Sadly, their daughter, Annika lost the battle and was laid to rest October 3rd – exactly one year after the diagnosis. This news shattered my heart into so many pieces. I cannot begin to imagine how Annika’s Mom and Dad are doing. I was always so impressed with how calm and positive her parents were able to be in such a difficult situation.

Although my work with clients is normally confidential, in this particular situation I got permission from her parents to share their story. Annika’s Mom had started a blog when she was first diagnosed and I wanted to be able to share her blog with others. The main reason I wanted to share her blog was because there are opportunities for people to help them financially there. Like all of us, it’s not easy for them to ask for help. However, they need it. We can’t bring Annika back but we can help them with the other day to day hassles and expenses of having a terminally ill child while still trying to be a parent to their other children.

Please keep this family in your prayers and hug the ones you love. We’re never guaranteed a tomorrow. R.I.P. Annika.

Annika

(www.AnnikasEpicJourney.com)

Are You Consumed by Your Problems?

Do you spend your days focused on and consumed by your problems? Do you wonder why bad things only happen to you? If you do, I can teach you a little trick that will help you start to forget your problems. It will help you begin to notice how lucky and blessed you really are instead. Ready to hear what the secret is?

Take your eyes off yourself and focus instead on helping someone else.

Help Others

Did you know that whatever we focus our attention on consumes us and gets bigger? If you’re always thinking about your problems, they take full reign of your attention – front and center all day long. The bigger your focus on them, the more they make you feel slighted, mistreated and eventually you are consumed with self-pity.

When you begin to focus instead on what you have in relation to others less fortunate than you, it puts everything in perspective. I remember back in the really, really lean times when as a single mother, even though I worked full time, I was struggling to put food on my own table. I worked in downtown St Louis, which is somewhere I would never choose to hang out by choice. Every week when I got paid I would literally have just a few dollars left over after paying the bills that had to be paid that week. Without fail, I would walk out the doors on payday and come across someone on the street begging for money. Invariably, I would give them 2 of the 3 dollars I had to my name.

Homeless

Why on earth would I do that? If you are spending your days walking up and down the street begging for money, you are clearly less fortunate than me. If you are sleeping on downtown sidewalks, you are clearly less fortunate than me. When you look like you haven’t seen a hot shower in weeks, I can only assume it’s been equally as long since you’ve had the pleasure of sleeping in a warm bed. Clearly you are less fortunate than me. Many years later my coworkers would tease me for doing that because they claimed those people that I gave 2 of my 3 dollars to would take that money and buy alcohol with it. I can’t deny I was saddened to think they would waste my money on alcohol. But I have no regrets because I still believe they were less fortunate than me.

Not only have I been the giver, I have found myself on the receiving end of a good deed and it feels amazing! During those same lean years that I was “foolishly” giving 2 of my 3 dollars to homeless people, I was reaching out to churches and other places trying to get help paying my own bills so my power wouldn’t be shut off, or so that I could feed my kids. I’ll never forget that a young couple with a small child “adopted” my kids and I for Christmas. They brought presents for my girls and a bottle of perfume called HOPE for me. They told me the perfume was not intended for me to wear so much as it was to serve as a reminder that there is always hope. They also brought each of my daughters Happy Meals from McDonald’s which was a big treat because we seldom had the opportunity to eat out during those days.

The fact that these people chose to think of others rather than themselves during the holidays was such a complete blessing to me and left a profound impact on my life. But the thing that stands out to me the most in their act of generosity was that they were trying to teach their 6 or 7 year-old daughter to always think of others. What makes this even more amazing was that their daughter did not have a hand. She only had a prosthetic hook for her hand. Talk about someone not focusing on their own problems!

R.I.P. Mom

Sadly, my Mom died exactly 1 week after my last post “Her Smile Said It All”. As tragic as it is to lose your Mom, I feel like we couldn’t have asked for it to go any smoother than it did. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2003 and was given 6 months to 2 years to live. That was 11 years ago!

She decided early on not to fight the disease with chemotherapy and I can’t help but wonder if that was a blessing in disguise. Either way, the cancer itself didn’t seem to impact her life at all. Then about 3 months ago, she lost control of her right side, almost as if you would if you had a stroke. Within 2 weeks of noticing that initial decline, the doctor told her she could no longer live alone and he sent her home to die. Apparently the cancer had metastasized and spread to her brain and bones.

My brothers and I stayed with her around the clock for the next 5 weeks until she died. It’s amazing to me how much of a decline there was every day. I was the “weekend girl” and was responsible for caring for her each weekend. It was unbelievable how much of a change I saw week to week. I could have never foreseen the night that I got her all dressed up to attend her grandson’s wedding reception, and we posed for the selfies in my last blog post, that when I returned the following weekend, my Mom would no longer be able to communicate or interact with me. I don’t think anything prepares you for that. By the following weekend, she died….peacefully, surrounded by all of her children.

Saying Goodbye

My brothers and I at her funeral.

The blessings in all of this are more than I can count, but here are just a few: 1) She didn’t suffer in pain for very long. It could have went on and on for years, but it didn’t. 2) She got to die at home like she wanted, surrounded by the people she loved. 3.) She could have ended up having to go to hospice which would have cost a fortune! 4) She got to spend the last 5 weeks of her life surrounded constantly by her loved-ones. 5) Exactly 2 weeks before she died, she was all smiles and so excited to go to her grandson’s wedding reception. To me, the fact that she was laughing and having fun with the people she loved 2 weeks before she died, was a gigantic blessing in itself!

Her Smile Said it All

I find myself today at an all too familiar place as of late, the bedside of my mother who has been sent home to die. We have had a very unusual relationship almost my entire life. Somehow, somewhere, early on in my life, I took over the parenting role. Not only parenting her, but also trying to parent my siblings as best I could.

Mom

Her health has been declining rapidly each day. Today as I watch her lying there confused, in pain and scared, my heart breaks for her. My biggest concern since she was diagnosed with cancer  has been that I wanted to be sure that she knew God in the close, personal way that I know Him before she died. Unfortunately, from everything I can tell, and every discussion we’ve had, I’ve gotten the impression that she still doesn’t. She can no longer carry on conversations. So I quietly pray at her bedside for her.

The one sign of hope that I do have is that she was raised Catholic and I know that it has been very, very important to her that a priest visit with her so she can give her last confession. Because she has not been super active in church, we’ve had a hard time getting a priest to make that visit.

Moments after I began writing this post, there was a knock on the door. A priest that my brother had contacted was here to pray over her, take her final confession and do something Catholics call anointing the sick. Though my Mom was heavily medicated, it was clear that she understood what was going on. I felt such peace and comfort hearing the words the priest prayed over her – promising that God would comfort her, give her peace and that all of her sins have been forgiven.

As the priest left, my Mom thanked him wholeheartedly with a smile, nothing more. That smile was the biggest smile I had seen in days from her. And for that, I thank God. He reminds me there is always hope.

Mom

The Dog I’ll Never Forget

When I was about 12 years old, I was walking home through my subdivision from a friend’s house. I remember passing by a dog that was barking incessantly and angrily at me from behind a wooden fence. For some reason, I have always had a fear of dogs and so I was practically running by the fence when somehow, the dog broke through the fence and attacked me. I still have a small scar on my leg from it.

I can’t say with 100% certainty that this incident is why I never really cared for dogs, but I’m sure it played into it. You know those people that tell stories about their dog’s personalities or the cute things their dog did? While listening to those stories never bothered me, I have never understood those types of things about dogs. Nor did I ever find the stories cute or entertaining.

Needless to say, when I remarried and my husband brought home a brand new puppy for my daughter to help her through the transition without even asking me, I was livid. I was already having a hard enough time adjusting to a new marriage, a new home, 3 more kids, their existing dog, a couple of snakes and lizards, my older daughter moving out and living way out in the country with the ex-wife that lived what seemed like only a block away.

Tyson

Of course, the responsibility of taking care of the dog fell on me. I fed him, took him out for walks, trained him and took him to the vet. And I resented all of it. That is, until he slowly but surely stole my heart. Tyson didn’t do any of the irritating things that other dogs did like barking, jumping on people or licking. I began enjoying watching his little antics. I began seeing his personality and being able to understand what he needed or wanted. I knew when he wasn’t feeling well. I knew everything about him. And I absolutely loved everything about him!

I’m not proud to admit that my marriage didn’t last very long, but it didn’t. What was amazing to me about it though was that from the first day my husband and I separated, Tyson climbed up into my bed and slept next to me where my husband had always been. It was as if he realized that I needed him to fill that void. He had never once tried to sleep in the bed before. With Tyson, for the first time in my life I was able to understand why people shared those silly stories about their dogs. I was able to understand that dogs do all have their own personalities and that they are able to communicate with you in their own way. I also understand now why they say that dogs are man’s best friends.

When my life was completely out of control about 2 years ago because I was working constantly and had way too much on my plate, I asked the person that we bought Tyson from if she would be willing to take Tyson back – at least temporarily. We know her very well and I didn’t feel uncomfortable asking her this at all. I knew she loved him as much as I did. At that point, both of my kids were living with me, 2 dogs were living with me and a baby was living with me. There was way too much chaos. Since I didn’t feel like I could ask my other daughter to get rid of her dog, I saw Tyson moving out as something I had to do to simplify my life. It was a very, very difficult decision but I knew He would be well taken care of and loved immensely.

Within the first year of them taking Tyson, he had some type of brain aneurysm and died. I was devastated and heartbroken. However, I was also thankful because I realized that God allowed all of this to happen to protect me. I would have never been able to handle seeing this happen to Tyson. I would have been paralyzed and not known what to do. I would have 100% completely fallen apart.

It’s been a year or so since Tyson died. My life has done a complete 360 and I am now living completely alone as opposed to having everyone under the sun living with me as I did at the time I let go of Tyson. I think about him often and have toyed with the idea of getting another dog. But I keep being reminded there will never be another Tyson. And for that, I am very, very sorry. 🙁

Tyson Old