Archives for category: Blog Peep Questions

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Last week on my friend Mandy Thompson’s blog, she asked us if we thought physical or emotional pain was worse. I, of course, had an opinion on that. Partially because it was about pain, and partially because I have an opinion about almost everything. 🙂

The comment section started to feel like a bit of a “Blog Peep Question” post, since every time I answered a question, another one was posed. And to be honest, that’s my favorite kind of conversation. I love being asked questions that make me think about things in ways I maybe haven’t before.

Since my (in)courage guest post last week, I’ve had so so so many emails asking me some of the same questions we covered over in Mandy’s comment section, so I’m totally stealing from those comments/questions today to tell you all some of the answers I gave. I thought they may answer some of your questions as well.

[After you’re done reading, you should totally check out Mandy’s blog and her music. She’s an amazing song writer and completed a challenge she gave herself to write 100 songs last year. I’m am, quite literally, president of her fan club. If you’re on Facebook, you can join here:]

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This is a summary of what I answered to the original question of which was worse, physical or emotional pain:

I have to say, despite being able to empathize with the physical, I probably feel more strongly drawn to empathize with those in emotional pain because emotions often leave us with less ability to choose our reactions than physical pain does.

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Then a question about if that answer is true even when the physical pain never fades away:

Even when physical pain doesn’t fade, I’d still choose it over the emotional pain. The big ones: betrayal, judgment, intense loss… they can immobilize the spirit, which is more limiting than physical immobility. That being said, both types of pain are inevitable. And both types of pain are ones that can make us grow stronger if we keep ourselves focused on the One who knows all, sees all and loves us through it all.

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In response to a comment about physical pain being worse when it’s chronic, because emotional pain always has a chance to heal:

I agree and disagree. I haven’t had a break from pain in years. Mine fluctuates between really awful and wanting to beat my head against the wall until I’m unconscious. In other words, I have chronic pain. :) It is torture and exhausting… but the emotions that come with it are what makes it harder.

It’s the dread of having to wake up the next day, if sleep is even possible. It’s the grief over a life that was dreamed of and lost. It’s the anger over stupid decisions to do things I know I am incapable of, and trying anyway. It’s the sadness of being isolated and alone. It’s the emotional pain that is derived from the physical that can be more paralyzing than the fact I can’t move from the couch.

I’m not diminishing the physical. It can literally make me feeling like I’m losing my grip on reality at times. But the physical causes the emotional… and that takes an exhausting toll. It’s when my mind is able to align with my heart so I can make the choice to smile that I start coping. It’s in faith that my emotions are in check… and only then can I deal with the physical hurdles in front of me.

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This was in response to a very good point, that my emotional pain wouldn’t be there without the physical pain:

You’re right… some of the emotional wouldn’t be here if the physical didn’t exist.

I think the point we’re maybe all missing in this discussion [me included, until right now] is that both types of pain bring growth. And that growth, in the end, is the thing we often wouldn’t trade.

When people tell me they couldn’t do what I do, my response is often, “You just haven’t had to prove it yet.” After writing that post for (in)courage yesterday, what I wish I could go back and add as an answer to many questions is that WE DON’T HAVE TO KNOW THE WHY. So many commenters are saying that they can’t see the good coming from the pain. My answer is that it’s not our job to know. It’s God’s. It’s just our job to trust, whether we see it or not, that He brings beauty from the ashes. Maybe it’s not supposed to be beauty in my life. Maybe it will bring beauty to someone I’ll never meet. My job is simply to trust Him. To go through the physical and emotional pain and embrace the peace of knowing that He is taking care of it.

It requires surrender, and that’s hard. But surrender isn’t giving up. I haven’t given up on healing. I haven’t given up on the idea that I might get worse. I’ve simply given up on the idea that I have any control over it… and the idea that I WANT any control.

It’s not about how bad the pain is. It’s about how good our God is.

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Then we started in on more direct questions for me:
Why don’t you want control anymore?

  1. Because I never had it in the first place. I had an illusion of it that made me feel like I had some sort of power. I couldn’t see it then, but I see it very clearly now.
  2. Because I don’t have His wisdom… I don’t have His all-seeing eye that knows how the world works as one great entity. Which means I don’t know what is best for the greater good. I’d love to be healed, but not if it means that some other life will be worse off because of it. Only He knows the answer to that.
  3. Because my life is more peaceful. Because I don’t have angst over MY choices anymore. I still have choices to make, but I place them in His hands. And I know that if I go with what I truly believe He wants from me, then I’ll get through. Even if it’s a stormy path… He’s got it under control. He’s in the center of the storm. I’m safe. Difficulties in life are nothing compared to the peace of knowing He has it all taken care of.
  4. Because I trust Him.
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How do you trust Him, if He could’ve stopped this from happening to you?

You know, that question makes me think of Job every time. Everyone talks about Job like God did something horrible to him. God didn’t do it… He just didn’t stop it. I don’t think God did this horrible thing to me… He just hasn’t stopped it. But He loves me, He comforts me, He brings me goodness in the midst of the trouble.

How many times has a parent let a child make their own mistakes? And still provided the love and comfort and goodness to walk the road with them? It’s what a loving parent does.

The thing is, we screwed up the whole perfect-world-garden-of-Eden thing because He gave us the gift of free will to choose for ourselves. He could have made us want nothing else but to serve Him, but that lacks love. Because love is a choice. He loves us, and all He wanted in return is for us to choose to love Him back by being faithful to Him.

Free will put my life in this position. And still, all He wants from me is to choose to love Him and be faithful to Him. Some see that as too much… to give up control in order to love Him. What they don’t realize is the freedom that comes from loving and trusting Him enough to give Him that control.

I trust Him, because long before the choice was before Him to take away this disease, he earned my trust by hanging on a cross. Enduring pain I can never imagine because He loves me beyond condition. It’s not about keeping score of what could be done for whom… it’s simply about love.

I guess another way of saying it is this: I trust you. You’ve done nothing specific to earn that trust… I simply do because I love you. It’s part of the deal. I’m quite sure I will make a decision you will disagree with someday. Perhaps you will make one I disagree with. But you will have your reasons, and so will I. And because I love you, I will continue to trust your heart.

I don’t know His reasons. But I love Him. And I trust His heart.

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There you go, peeps… some answers to some questions I’ve been getting emails about. [Thanks, Mandy, for letting me borrow my comment answers to put over here.] How about you all? Any opinions? Answers of your own?

How about any questions you’ve been dying to ask?


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What do you find joy in, without fail, no matter what?

  • my nieces and nephews
  • phone calls from my friends on their way home from work [Sorry, Oprah. But at least they’re not texting.]
  • movie afternoons with my parents or family
  • any time a friend walks through my door, for any reason
  • the videos my friend Shannon sends me of her family
  • getting lost in good music that feels like prayer
  • any amount I am able to sing
  • a book that makes me lose all sense of time and space
  • getting a good back and forth conversation going on Twitter when you can feel the other person laughing along with you, even over a great distance
  • emails and tweets and Facebook messages
  • hearing from a friend about their good fortune and getting to be a part of it with them
  • when a red Netflix envelope shows up in my mailbox
  • being useful
  • my Wall of Doodles 
  • videos of Elias
  • my godchildren
  • Riley curling up next to me and sighing
  • ok, pretty much any of Riley’s antics
  • an unexpected card in the mail
  • making Susie laugh until she cries [crazy girl thinks I’m funny]
  • being the one someone trusts enough to confide in
  • watching Alias
  • unexpected lunch dates
  • Kyra Sedgwick’s character in Something To Talk About
  • hearing stories about my friends’ kids [there are some doozies]
  • taking an easy breath
  • writing a good story
  • having the chance to encourage someone and watch them start to believe in themselves
  • looking at photos – even of people I don’t know, whose stories I have to imagine
  • looking around my house at the hand-me-downs from people I love
  • comments from readers 🙂
  • seeing pure joy in someone else
  • even though they usually causes me pain, I love the sound of a good storm … and uncontrollable laughter
  • being able to help, whether it’s needed or not
  • watching someone walk through the mire and come out strong
  • babies
  • watching Hannah and Eliana dance
  • the crazy expressions that flit across Jonboy’s and Tyler’s faces
  • memories I think of all the time… like the rush of wind in my face when riding in a boat, floating on a raft in the water, the sound of cicadas in my parent’s backyard, late night movie marathons with Thomas and Anna, seeing the body prints where deer slept in the snow, the doorknobs that looked like diamonds on Grandma Flo’s doors, Grandma Rita’s jewelry box, hearing the rain come down on the tin roof over the patio on the farm, having picnics under the weeping willow trees, Grandma Colwell’s porch swing, having bonfires to roast s’mores, the smell of dewy Spring grass and the stillness of the lake on a cool crisp morning, Grandpa playing Redwing on the piano, the feel of Mom’s long fingernails when she’d run them over my cheeks while cuddling before bed, Dad calling me baby doll, the list goes on and on…

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What does your prayer life look like? What do you pray for regularly?

Honestly, my prayer life is pretty constant. It could be because I’m alone all the time without anyone else to talk to. 🙂 But it’s more accurate to say I was always this way… constantly talking to God and listening, although I didn’t realize it was prayer when I was younger.

I used to think prayer always had to be structured, with the right words and posture. I think those things can be incredibly beneficial and helpful, but when I place too much emphasis on that I often find myself more caught up in how I’m saying my prayers than what I’m saying. And that really doesn’t work for me. It just doesn’t feel as sincere. Just like we all have different ways of learning and communicating, just like our ways of organizing and processing are different, I think our prayer can be different as well.

For me, pretty much all my thoughts are a conversation with God. I’m a thinker. I could sit without the television or music on all day… just reading or writing or, when my body is exhausted, just laying in the quiet letting my thoughts wander. And as I think of people in my life, events in the world, situations I am facing, the back and forth thoughts in my mind are just as conversational as talking to my best friend. It’s me wondering and processing and talking things through in my mind, and listening for answers. Not great, audible, booming-voice-of-God answers but the whispers that settle into my thoughts and resonate in my heart.

There are days when I’m worried or unsettled and the words for my thoughts don’t come as easily. When I know I need His guidance but am at a loss for what to say… what to ask… how to begin… those are the days when I appreciate the memorized prayers I grew up on. Those are the moments I say the Memorare or the Acts of Faith, Hope and Love. I am such a visual person that sometimes it’s easier for me to pray the rosary… get into the repetition of the prayerful words and visualize the people I am praying for, seeing them wrapped in grace, at peace and well. Even when “original” words of my own don’t come easily, I know God understands my thoughts and the desires of my heart.

And there are also those recited prayers that I use simply because I love the words. It’s kind of like the idea of not needing to reinvent the wheel. When someone has said something so perfectly, something I desire with all of my heart, I don’t feel a need to find new ways of saying it. For example, this is a prayer that I say every morning, because it’s what I want for my life:

God Alone Suffices

I offer you, Lord, my thoughts: to be fixed on you; my words: to have you for their theme; my actions: to reflect my love for you; my sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory.

I want to do what you ask of me: in the way you ask, for as long as you ask, because you ask it. I pray, Lord, that you enlighten my mind, inflame my will, purify my heart, and sanctify my soul. O Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, pray also to Jesus for me.

For me, I don’t think prayer is about changing God’s mind in regards to my circumstances… I think it’s about letting God know I’m here, I’m paying attention, I love Him and honor Him and am in it with my whole heart. Just this past week I’ve had a rough situation with my doctors and realized that, in order to maintain the progress I’ve made with the Cushing’s over the past few months, I needed to make a change in my health care. It was stressful and scary and reminded me how much being homebound limits my life and my choices.

I was praying a lot. And I had other people praying for me like the fierce friends they are. Despite the stress and the knot in the pit of my stomach, I knew full well God already knew the outcome. I wish I could say that made the knot go away, but it didn’t. It did, however, help keep me focused. My conversations with God kept repeating as I would tell Him that I trusted Him, I knew he already knew the solution, but that if He had found a way to bring this to resolution without me having to jeopardize my health, I would be so beyond grateful. I would be willing to go where He needed me to, but I really, really, really would prefer the path be clear.

During this conversation one night, it struck me that Jesus basically said the same thing in the garden. He told his Father he would do His will, but he’d rather the cup pass him by. It made me feel better about asking for my will, letting Him know what I desired, even though in the end I still wanted His will to be done. And I feel so blessed that a resolution was found for me this time.

I’m obviously not an expert on prayer or anything, but I will say I don’t think it’s something that only helps us build our own relationships with God. I believe it helps us build relationships with each other as well. I whole heartedly believe that I am at peace with my life because people pray for me. They don’t even need to pray for my healing or for my physical life to change… I have asked so many to just pray that I have the strength and peace to deal with what comes for me.

That prayer continues to be answered.

I don’t think prayer is just about changing circumstance, although sometimes it does. It’s also about changing my heart… aligning my will with His. Asking Him to give me a heart that would rather serve Him than serve my own desires. To me, that is the most powerful thing.

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How was your visit with the Turner’s? When are you going to post about it?

I’ve gotten this question from a number of you through email… I guess after the big lead up to them coming, people are wondering when in the world the blog post about their visit is going to be published!

Well, the blog post didn’t happen because their visit has been delayed. Yes, a normal person would say that we had to cancel their visit, but because I not only have a long history of experiencing Catholic guilt but am adept at inflicting it on others, I’ll be guilting them into coming eventually.

I’m just kidding!

Kind of.

They were all set for their road trip to Wisconsin, but after taking off they found themselves stopping every 15 minutes so poor Matthew could throw up. Really bad timing to take a kajillion hour drive when you have the stomach flu. They turned around and headed back to Nashville, but were thankfully able to get plane tickets and still spend the holiday with Jessica’s family. Since they didn’t drive they obviously couldn’t detour here, but it really worked out better anyway. It would have been bad having Matthew visit after just getting over the flu, and Jess ended up with a bad cold the day before they would have come anyway.

Not to mention the blizzard we had all of Christmas week, in which they shouldn’t have been driving.

In the end, my whole Christmas was more on the quiet side this year, as my parents were snowed in and unable to make it for lunch on Christmas day as well. But I guess 18 inches of snow will do that to people, so I let them off the hook. 🙂 Let’s just say that Santa had no problem landing the sleigh in Iowa this year.

However… my friends Mark and Susie dropped by quick on Christmas Eve before they went home to celebrate with their boys. They had just been to Mass and surprised me by videotaping it. I’m telling you guys, there is no greater gift than to feel a part of something, even from a distance. I put in the DVD and watched, participated and smiled a lot. The camera was placed perfectly so when people walked up to communion I could see them… I’ve never had such an urge to jump through the computer and hug people in my life. There were people I expected to see, people back visiting and people I simply forgot about until the camera caught their profile.

It was like going home.

On the other end of the spectrum, I spent a portion of my Christmas Day on the computer listening to my friends who had gathered at Brent and Tam’s house in Oregon sing Christmas carols… they shared their morning with me before heading out to family activities. How amazing is that? I’m stuck here, my family is snowed in, the Turner’s are detoured and yet I still manage to be surrounded by love because of this fantastic technology. Computers may seem like a cold way to communicate, but when you have the warm hearts of caring, considerate people feeding it, the computer can turn into the heart of Christmas.

Lucky me. 🙂

[I was going to close with that, but Riley just gave me the evil eye. Of course the pup keeping me company was the best part of Christmas. As always. 🙂 ]

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How often do you groom Riley?

Simple answer? Anytime he starts to look like this:

When his hair gets long I think he looks like a grumpy old man, which means he gets away with less because he loses that cute-innocent-puppy look. It benefits both of us when his hair is shorter because he gets away with more, and I find myself laughing at him more. 🙂

I used to have us on a schedule [which is probably sad to admit, but I think I missed having obligations so I tried to schedule the mundane in my life], so I would alternate months for our haircuts. May, I’d cut my hair… June, I’d cut Riley’s hair, and so on. That’s out the window now, though, and I get out the scissors for one of two reasons. Either it’s because I have some energy or it’s because one of us looks so shaggy it’s unavoidable!

Sometimes that unavoidable shagginess occurs when I have no energy and the result is how he’s looking right now. Because I can only stand for so long, or my hands can only work the scissors for so long, Riley ends up getting haircuts in stages. Right now, he has an almost-complete cut as I have yet to trim his front legs.

In other words, he looks silly and ridiculous. I thought about taking a picture for you, but since he asked for his dignity back after being seen in the Snuggie I thought I’d better not. 🙂

If you could have one thing for your house [decorative, not practical] what would it be?

Usually I have instant answers in my head when I read your questions, but this one I really had to think on for awhile. Logically, if I really wanted to dream about something in my house I’d have to add on a room because there’s no space left to put anything else!

One thing I’d like to do is figure out an easier set up for painting canvases, like putting in a tall center island I could stand at, or an architect table that could tilt. But either option would require me getting rid of my dining room table, and it is pretty convenient to have a place to sit when company comes for dinner. 🙂

If I’m thinking extravagant, I’d take up all the carpet and put in dark, hardwood floors. Then I would use Flor carpet tiles to create large area rugs… that way if Riley marked anywhere, I could pick up that piece of tile and clean it or replace it! But now that I’ve written that out, I realize that DEFINITELY has a practical purpose behind it, so I’m not sure it would apply to this question. I’ve often thought I’d like it if my woodwork was painted white, or if my kitchen cupboards were darker and more interesting, but in truth I’m not dissatisfied with anything in my condo, really. I just like to daydream about those kinds of things.

The ideal scenario would be to have Nate Berkus show up at my door, tell me what HE thinks I should do, and then let him go crazy!

I think I may have just come up with the perfect scenario for a reality show… Nate could re-do my condo while the Dog Whisperer whipped Riley into shape, all while Ellen DeGeneres hosted her talk show at my house and surprised me with all of her 12 Days of Giveaways prizes…

… never let it be said I don’t know how to dream big, people!

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Would you trade your medical struggles for normal health if you also wouldn’t have the lessons you learned throughout it?

I know this is going to sound crazy to a lot of people. In all honesty, it sounds insane to me as I sit here physically feeling the way I do, but I can say without hesitation that I wouldn’t trade what I’ve learned for good health.

And I really, really would like to be in good health. I’d love to walk outside, sing to my heart’s content, dance, go to a friend’s house, travel home for the holidays. I’d love to not have to think through every single movement I make and I’d love to be blissfully ignorant of the word debilitating.

But more than all of that… I love feeling at peace, believing, trusting, accepting and being open to life as it is. And when it comes down to it, I don’t want to trade fulfilling who God needs me to be for my own comfort. People used to tell me they prayed for my healing so I could be whole, but the only thing that would make me less than whole is if I chose what I needed over what He needed from me.

At the beginning of the book Crazy Love, Francis Chan talked about how we should be in awe of how God used such diversity and creativity in creation. He talked about how we compare ourselves to each other… thinking that if we’re not as sinful as the person next to us, then we’re on the right path. But the truth is that God created each of us uniquely for a unique purpose, which means God isn’t grading on a curve. There won’t be someone standing next to us to point at and compare ourselves to when we tell Him about our lives.

When I read that, about not being graded on a curve, I sat and thought about how we all continuously try to be like everyone else. To be normal… to fit in… to say the right thing and look the right way, to have the right job, the right house, the right clothes. We all say we’d never go back to junior high and relive those years of trying to fit in, but in truth I don’t think we ever move completely past it. And it’s the exact opposite of what God created us for. He made us diverse for a reason. He doesn’t grade us on a curve because it would be like comparing apples and jackhammers… two unique things created for different purposes.

Of course there are moments when I long for a more normal life. I’d love to have a husband and a family, a career and a social life. I want to be a part of things… a real, tangible, active part of the outside world. But the truth is, I have no idea who I would be right now had all that happened. I have no idea what my priorities would be, where I would have lived, who the friends would be surrounding me. God set me on this path and lined it with blessings. I can’t presume my dreams would have turned out better than His plans just because they seem easier in my mind.

There is a sentence under one of Chan’s videos on his website that talks about how all of us are striving for a normal life, but have we ever stopped to think that maybe the goal in life shouldn’t be normalcy? That one sentence made my circumstances make sense to me. If I judge my life against others… or even against the life I used to have… if I’m grading myself on a curve of normalcy, then of course I look short-changed. But that’s not the goal. The goal is to live the best life I can with what I am given.

Obviously my life is intensely abnormal compared to others, and these past few months have been the hardest of my life. But I still wouldn’t trade it for the normal one I always thought I would have, because this is the one He meant for me to live. It’s a relief to know we’re not graded on a curve, but instead loved for exactly who we are designed to be.

And I wouldn’t want to be anyone else.


Let’s just start this by saying I couldn’t have bought him a more appropriate shirt for Christmas last year. He is the most perfect dog for me, but DUDE, he’s got issues. 🙂

How is the little mascot handling you being really sick?


Honestly, he is really affected by how I’m doing. Just lately he’s started getting a little playful with me again, but since June he has been extremely subdued, which is not his personality at all.

When I was immobile and my legs were so intensely painful, I had to train him to go around my legs or lay up by my head because he always wants to rest his chin on whatever area is hurting the most. It’s so strange how he knows, sometimes before I do, where trouble is. A few years ago I had a picc line in my arm that started hurting quite a bit. He would not leave my arm alone, whining while resting his head on it. The next time the nurse came they had to pull the line because it was infected, and he never went near that arm again.

Since June until now, I couldn’t get him to play no matter what I did. I was feeling so guilty that I couldn’t get up and he was so melancholy, but if I tossed a toy he’d just stare at me like, “You should be resting, woman.” But the moment someone else, someone healthy, walked in the door… he became a completely different animal. He’d jump and run and bring them toys… it was like he knew they were healthy and could play.

This pup never ceases to blow my mind.

My one major complaint: the more stressed out he is, the more he marks. And I’ve really been stressing him out. I wish he could have the intuition that tells him spot cleaning the carpet is quite a chore for me… but apparently he didn’t get that gene. There have been moments where I’m tempted to tear up all the carpet and live with concrete floors for convenience, but I haven’t gone quite that crazy yet. As annoying as it is, everything else about him makes up for it. 🙂

Can Riley tell when you’re feeling extra bad?


The above comments pretty much answered this question, too, but I’ll give you an example of his extreme empathy since it’s so fresh in my mind.

The past two mornings I woke up with migraines. Often I’ll wake up with a bad headache that will turn into a migraine, but Monday and Tuesday my vision was already blurry when I opened my eyes. Needless to say, we spent most of our time laying on the couch, medicated, in the dark. As often happens if I have a migraine that lasts more than a day or so, Riley started getting nervous.

By yesterday afternoon, he started getting sick to his stomach and threw up three times before we finally went to bed. Usually he is sound asleep all night unless I move and he adjusts his position … because he must be touching me at all times. But last night, he was antsy all night, periodically getting up and standing by my head, smelling by my mouth or ears. He almost had me paranoid, wondering if something bigger was wrong with me!

This morning, however, when I got up with my normal headache and the migraines gone… he’s back to normal. No sign he was antsy or sick like last night, and instead has been playful and a bit ornery.

I guess he’s making up for lost time.

So, yes… he can definitely tell when I’m feeling worse, and does his best to take good care of me. My friend Susie says all we need to do now is teach him to dial 911 and he’d be perfect. 🙂

When Riley is glued to you and you tell him to move, does he do it or does he do what mine do – pretend they don’t hear so they don’t have to move?


Does this look like a dog that would move for no reason?!?

He’s actually really good about where he walks and I never have to worry about tripping over him, but let’s be clear:

This is Riley’s house. He just lets me live here.