Thursday, August 30, 2007

Early Morning Thoughts

It is about 4:00 a.m. and I have been up for over an hour unable to sleep for some reason. Some of my thoughts go to my dad. He has shingles right now on top of fighting to get his blood counts back up from the chemotherapy and has not had much sleep at all in nights past. Some of my thoughts are about a skunk in our back yard. How did it get there? When will it leave? Will we accidentally let the dog out and have to deal with her being skunked and have that smell linger for days? My mind wanders to the millions of things needing to be accomplished in the next few days. I wonder why I ate pizza and blueberry crunch last night for dinner and dessert. Not such a smart thing to do after torturing myself by running up and down bleacher stairs at a local high school for marathon training. These two things are not mixing well with my body. I'm feeling it now.

Oftentimes, praying will allow me to drift back to sleep. Instead, my thoughts wander. The One Year Bible I received in the mail yesterday came to mind and I grabbed that to look at today's reading. Our Pastor encouraged us as a church to be more consistent in our Bible reading. It certainly seems like a good way to achieve this goal. Reading the Bible stopped my mind from wandering and allows me to focus on what really matters.

I just wanted to document 2 Corinthians 4:8-10:

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

Dad really did not look good when I saw him last night. His left eye is swollen. He just seems worn out. I wonder if he's up right now because of all the pain he is experiencing. Can the doctor give him something to help with the pain? Is all of this related to the cancer that attacked his body? Possibly it's just a virus that his body needs to fight off? These verses bring comfort. There is a bigger picture. No matter what, God is with us and the goal of this life is to reflect Jesus.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My Identity

This summer, some friends and I met regularly to study a book entitled A Mom after God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George. (It is a book I highly recommend.) This book initiated a lot of different conversations. One in particular that inspired this blog. We were discussing our identity. There is no question that I am a mother. There is no question that I am a wife. For me, however, this is unsettling to think that this is my identity. What if God forbid I lose that identity from some tragic event. For myself, there has to be something more to my identity. Something that always has been, is, and always will be. That is where 1 John 3:1 seizes my heart. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” Just as I have always been Tristi Nikelle, I have always known that I am God’s child. This is my identity.
Early in our marriage, Rod presented me with a gift. It was a very thoughtful gift that should have brought me great delight. Instead, it brought tears. The gift was a Bible with my name engraved on it. However, because it was the Bible, the name he had engraved brought great confusion to me. Engraved in the front of this dear book was TRISTI N. CARLSON. My name has not always been TRISTI N. CARLSON. Eleven years ago I lost my name as TRISTI N. TUTTLE. However, my name has always been and will always be TRISTI NIKELLE. With great effort (and a lot of emotion), I did my best to explain this to him. To be honest, I still don’t know if he completely understands. It seems strange even as I write about it. For me, though, I have always been and will always be TRISTI NIKELLE. Just as I have always known and will always be a Child of God. This is my Identity in God.

Daddy's Girl

Last night, I was on one of my many hunts for food. Finding a Rice Krispies Treat that my five-year-old daughter received at school that day, I began to open it. Trying to justify my actions, I reasoned that she was in bed already and hadn’t even mentioned a word about the treat the entire afternoon and evening. I was craving something and this sugary treat seemed like it might fill the void. Besides, I reasoned, she rarely remembers what food we have in the house, anyway. So, I ate the treat.

To my dismay, that treat was exactly what she was hoping for this morning. “Mom, do you know that someone gave me one of those treats that we brought to Carrie’s house?” A special memory of making these treats together as mother and daughter and bringing them to our cousin’s house is now overshadowed by my addiction to food.

Guilt and shame overwhelmed me. How could I have been so insensitive? Attempting to shake the thought that I actually stole from my daughter is futile. My mind races as I try to determine a way to fix the problem. I’m considering going out and buying her the prewrapped treats that I’ve never once bought for our family prior to this moment. Embarrassed, I can’t bring myself to explain to my daughter that I ate her treat from school. “Maybe after school, ok? Not now.” Besides, I rationalize, that wouldn’t be a very healthy breakfast.

We decide on a bagel for breakfast instead. Slathering cream cheese onto a cinnamon raisin bagel for her to eat, my mind is still trying to justify the choice I made last night. Thoughts quickly shift to how I always seem to be disappointing our little girl.

This morning began with her bouncing out of bed at 6:00 a.m. All I was hoping for was a little time to myself before I had to take on the role of Mommy. Yesterday she didn’t wake up until after Daddy was already off to work and she wanted to be certain today wasn’t a replica of that disappointment. Saying goodbye to Daddy before he leaves for work is obviously one of the highlights of her day. I made my disapproval very clear about her early rising from the very moment I saw her. When he came downstairs, he greeted us both with a kiss and in an attempt to support me, began to impress upon her the importance of getting her sleep. She ended up in tears and I with a guilty conscience.

Guilt. Depression. Sadness. These are all feelings consuming me this morning before the majority of humans even begin their day.

It really doesn’t help matters that the love this little girl has for her Daddy completely obscures any love she might have for her Mommy. Not to mention that I am continually reminded that Saturdays and Sundays are her favorite days because Daddy is home with her all day.

I write myself a note to buy Rice Krispies Treats at the store before I pick my daughter up from school. Attempting to cover my guilt with buying these store-bought treats will likely result in more unwanted pounds for myself. However, this seems to be the best solution to today’s dilemma.

This problem is obviously bigger than my craving for a sweet treat or my disappointment from being second-rate. I need to find my fulfillment in a place other than food or my daughter’s love and approval of me. Filling the void with food simply causes lower self-esteem as the pounds add up. And it is really a losing battle when it comes to winning a little girl’s heart if the competition is against her Daddy. I’m not too old that I can’t recall the joy involved in being Daddy’s little girl.

A couple of hours have passed and I realize a lesson can be learned from my little girl. As she bounces out of bed to greet her Daddy as the highlight of her morning, I can and should start the day with my Heavenly Father.

Is there any better way to start a girl’s day? There is still a father that wants my heart completely. And, He is the only one that can satisfy my cravings.

Strength as we Wait

One of the songs we sing at church is Everlasting God. Since February (with my dad's diagnosis), this song can bring me to tears with its first line:

"Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord"

The tears are a combination of sadness and joy. The sadness comes because of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of what will happen with both my father and father-in-law. Fear of what will happen to life as we know it. The what ifs can consume me. The joy...well, the Lord is strengthening me through all of we wait. And it seems as though waiting is all we can do these days when it comes to the battles against cancer.

Currently, we still have not heard any direct results of the CT scan dad had a couple weeks ago. It can be mind-consuming as we wait for the results. What if the cancer has returned?

So I take comfort in the words of this song, Everlasting God, based on Isaiah 40:

Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord
We will wait upon the Lord
We will wait upon the Lord
Our God, You reign forever
Our hope, our Strong Deliverer
You are the everlasting God
The everlasting God
You do not faint
You won't grow weary
Our God, You reign forever
Our hope, our Strong Deliverer
You are the everlasting God
The everlasting God
You do not faint
You won't grow weary
You're the defender of the weak
You comfort those in need
You lift us up on wings like eagles

Why a blog?

Recently a friend of mine I met as a teenager at church camp sent me her blog link. She and her husband were announcing the birth of their first son and pictures were posted for our benefit. Instantly, I felt connected with her once again despite the years and distance between us. I was able to read through her past postings and feel the pain and joy she has experienced over the last year or so. Thoughts began to flood my mind: Disappointment over friends losing touch; Longing to pursue my dream of writing that I’ve never embarked; Questions as to whether or not anyone would care to read my thoughts and feelings should I create my own blog.

I’ve decided that whether or not anyone wants to join me, it is one way I can pursue my passion of writing. Not to mention there’s really no way of being shot down by anyone telling me my work is not what they want it to be. No deadlines. No chance of failure. The perfect writing environment if you ask me.

I’ll also post the latest news about my father and father-in-law with their battles with cancer as well as my challenge of facing the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon this October. It might just be a way for me to stay connected with others despite my insane calendar, too.

Here goes nothing…