Monday, November 10, 2014
We can’t always predict which turn’s life will take. Many times the journey life carry’s us on require detours down dark, sometimes even tragic, disastrous, calamitous, and yes catastrophic roads. Our paths may be obstructed; the roads uneven and gloomy. Finding joy in the midst of our fears can almost be overwhelming if we're really being honest. Life, on any given day can be overtaken by ominous dark clouds but that doesn’t mean our joy is gone. There are days when the happiness we expected to experience has gone MIA. For one reason or other happiness can be lost, misplaced, or simply buried under a mound of difficulties. The thing about joy is it’s never really lost. Sure we may think joy has disappeared but the truth is joy is always inside us, we just have to choose to unwrap it. The quality joy offers us is deeper than anything happiness can ever offer. The reality is happiness is an automatic emotion to something we think is good for us. The hard part about our emotions is they come and go but joy is a constant.
Life Lesson #13 is about finding JOY in the Journey, learning to slow down and take one day at a time.
The pursuit of happiness without joy tends to lead us into rushing through life, expecting happiness in every moment, in every place and in everyone we attach ourselves to. But that’s not what joy is all about. Joy requires self-control, gratitude and the ability to accept both the good and bad life throws our way, to see the humanness of those who travel this dirt road with us. I may not always experience happiness, but I always have joy. Joy is part of who I am and who I have become. Our family of four hasn’t always found happiness in every path we’ve taken but in every direction we’ve gone, we have experienced joy. Some paths are harsh, and in the final goodbyes, we take away bits and pieces of truths, lessons learned. Our strength and ability to laugh in spite of hardships is not something we do, it’s apart of us, rooted deep inside the knowledge joy has ownership over all our other emotions. True we aren’t always happy, we struggle through bad days, we argue, disagree around here but at the end of the day laughter and love are the roots of our family’s existence. Happiness isn’t what brings us together, joy is. No matter what we have been through or will eventually go through the one constant our family has is the knowledge joy will always blow away a down right terrible, rotten, bad day.
What I find so sad about the world we live in these days is how we have lost sight of the things which really matter. We are so busy looking for happiness, trying to find ourselves; pushing to the front of the line we neglect the essence of contentment. We don’t have to fit in, to be like the rest of the world, we can let go of our insecurities and unhappiness if we’d just open up our eyes to joy as a real possibility. What our little family has learned from our journey is this: joy is not something we have to dig up or cash in on, instead joy is a gift, beautiful and free, offering us hope, faith, peace, love and yes happiness in its truest form. Joy sees our anxious hearts, and sustains us through every dark path life takes us down. With joy, even when sadness is banging on the door, we can smile. Joy helps us hang on, lighting up our souls when the night falls. Joy finds us at our weakest point and lifts us up, translating this crazy world for us.
At the end of the day, joy breathes new life back into us. I am thankful for this precious family of mine. Joy reminds me daily how blessed I am in spite of the heartache of disease, the lost breast, lost family, and all the scars and broken promises of yesterday. By the grace of God I have been found and brought in from the cold, healed from the wounds of bitterness. I have been given a family, strong and forgiving, a life though not perfect is amazingly beautiful. With joy I know happiness, pure and unfiltered!
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
I've truly been blessed by the grace of a beautiful extended family here in Texas and abroad. Family, not by blood, but by bonds of deliberate choosing. I love my spiritual and emotional family with all my heart and would sacrifice anything for them. My little band is a small, yet fierce group of women who aren't just friends on occasion but forever. Over the years these women have become sisters of the heart. Unfortunately only a small few are pictured above, but pictures or not, on any given day, I know who my friends are. Without a doubt I know who I can always trust and who I can count on..Sometimes they come running over, we grab a coffee and other times I find a Facebook tag making me laugh or many times they call and other times an encouraging text message.These women are my best friends, part of our family. I’ve known some of my sisters for close to 2 decades or more, others over 10 years and a few for just under 3 years. We have shared many things together, and yes we have gone even months without seeing one another, yet when we talk or gather it’s as if time hasn’t passed at all. The closeness I share with these women is precious and worth more than anything the material world has to offer.
Through the years we've shared holidays together, the birth of our children, adoptions and graduations, marriages, some divorces, the loss of parents, breast cancer and many other illnesses. We come from different backgrounds, up bringings and totally different ways of looking at life yet these women are my family, sisters of the heart. When I’m at my lowest, during the most distraught moments of my life you will find these beautiful women bringing light back into my heart, pushing me to go further, allowing me to confide my pain without fear of betrayal. No turmoil I've ever faced has run them away, and with each and every triumph I look back on, I see my sisters there with me. Life with these ladies makes perfect sense and I wouldn't want it any other way!
Life Lesson #12, Friendships tie us together. Truth: Our friends are the family,(no matter how different) we chose to walk though life’s complications with.
Looking back and even forward, I am truly grateful for the days I can recall a memory, a moment when my craziness and their laughter came together and was imprinted on my heart. I can’t count how many times I’ve felt alone in a battle, only to look around me to see my sister’s flank my sides, lift up my arms and see me through to victory. I am forever thankful knowing deep in my heart that these amazing ladies never turn me away, instead they listen to my insecurities and frailties without judging my heart and intentions. I love knowing we can come together or separately and walk away better for the experience. My dear sisters know me better than I know myself sometimes. Each one of them can call me out on my self-pity, being honest with me no matter what. These women build me up, take note of my flaws and yet still love me. Yes at times we can disagree, but no one can take their place in my life. Each one of my sisters knows exactly how I tick. They know my ins and outs, my hang ups, quirks and disappointments, yet they love me.
I rejoice in their victories with them and I hurt when they hurt. I celebrate their accomplishments with joy and yep I even squeal in excitement when each one of them and their families find happiness. This gift of unconditional love and true friendship has shaped my experiences in life as I pray I have done the same in theirs. I know no matter where we go, wherever life takes each of us, I will share my heart and they will share theirs with me. True friendships are gifts not to be taken lightly. I treasure each and every one of them. I thank God every day for these powerful, beautiful and truly amazing women in my life. Their presence in my life has been one of the greatest blessings. I have experienced more support and love from these ladies in the last year than I can even begin to express. No matter the time of day, my sisters of the heart have stood by me, believed in who I am and in the woman I am yet to become. The truth is because I know them, I am a better person. Because they love me, I have learned not only to love generously, speak slowly, listen carefully and to give of myself selflessly to others as they have given to me.
My beautiful sisters I will love each of you for as long as I live. I pray that’s a long, long time ladies! I saw this quote from the Board of Wisdom, and I do believe it says it all, "Always together, never apart, best friends forever, SISTERS AT HEART". I'm thankful to each and every one of you for allowing my family and I to become part of your tribes and for making it possible for our friendships to become part of our children’s inheritance for generations to come.
Monday, November 3, 2014
I can’t tell you how many times Johnny and I have been asked how we've raised such chill kids. To be honest, I’m never quite sure how to answer this question. Our boys are good kids, with big hearts and a view on life which many times are very different from their peers. Growing up in the shadow of cancer’s grip has a way of keeping life in perspective. Our family story is not unique; it’s just full of random chapters, out of order, which have ultimately shaped our views and perspectives.
Johnny and I were both raised in small, close families. I was brought up as an only child, yet our home was full of people on any given day. My parents were in ministry so I learned early how to share, love unconditionally and to roll with the ups and downs. Johnny is simply a very easy going man with a big heart. From the time we were married we made the decision to bring our kids up in a way they would never fear us or doubt our love for them. To this day our dinner table is a place of laughter, sometimes tears, disagreements, open conversations and truths. Life in our house is very lively, and never boring to say the least. Johnny and I have always been the parents, in charge, but we have and do play with our kids, living life beside them, the good and the bad. We don’t hide a whole lot from them. We have always believed in being honest with our boys so they never have a reason to doubt us or our word. We tend to deal with issues that arise as a family, a unit, with honest discussions which may not always be fun or what we want to hear. We all have a voice in how we deal with things, though as parents we make the final decision, we have never made our kids feel insignificant in anything affecting their lives. We simply do life TOGETHER. We have failed many times as parents, screwed up, made bad decisions, and disappointed both our boys and each other. Life is not meant to be perfect, without bumps and bruises. Instead it’s really about living out loud and outside the box, together.
Looking back, I believe with all my heart we are where we’re supposed to be as a family. We could fixate on the past, the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s but then we’d lose the whole point of living life outside the box, wouldn't we? Our boys’ chill factor comes solely from two things: One, knowing God’s in control even when we aren't and two, believing and understanding their parents love them unconditionally, PERIOD. Are we perfect, do we have it all together, oh heck no! Our boys will be the first to express this fact to anyone who asks but at the end of the day we are a family. This last year has been the toughest we've ever lived through. Hurts, betrayals and yes ,even boundaries have been pushed, all combining and coming together, attempting to pull us apart, destroy who we are and rip our faith apart, but by God’s grace the complete opposite happened. Instead, we have come together, as a family, everything on the table and found our footing, not in perfection, or any other wild idea of what a nice normal family looks like. What we have found in the chaos is grace, forgiveness and a beautiful example of life outside the white picket fence.
Life lesson # 11: Don’t be afraid all to live your life outside the box; you never know what’s waiting for you!
Life for us, the Dowling and Olachia family, is typically nothing like a Norman Rockwell painting to say the least. But you know what? I’m OK with that. Depending on the day, Micah can leave us speechless without a filter, Joshua can leave us scrambling at the last minute, I can drop a full glass of tea all over the table or Johnny can forget to pay a bill. Anyone curious and willing enough to be a fly on the wall will find Johnny and I listening to the boys music in our SUV, at a concert of their choice, watching a Disney movie , football, hockey or the Walking Dead together. Basically it’s all pretty random stuff to be honest, but pretty typical around here. Is everything my taste, absolutely not! Do I believe in being involved in your kids’ lives, and making them apart of yours, YES! Boundaries are absolutely necessary and essential but so are open doors. Yes Johnny and I dress up in costumes with the boys for Halloween; we ride roller coasters right beside them, try crazy concoctions, and act like loons as much as taking part in both deep and ridiculous conversations with our children. As parents, we allow them to see our faults just as much as our accomplishments. Most importantly, we share our faith, our walk, or lack of it at times with God not just in front of our boys, but beside them. We’re real everyday people, and that’s exactly how we want our boys not only to see us but to know us this way.
I am humbled knowing our kids, at 15 and 17, can be themselves out in the world and with us, not ashamed of who they are . I am always amazed and grateful our boys welcome their parents and grandparents in their lives. True, they make a lot of decisions without us on their own these days as it should be, still it’s good to know they’re willing and do come to us for guidance without fretting the outcome. Do they roll their eyes when I kiss them in front of their friends, oh ya, they do! On the flip side of the coin though, every morning on the way out the door Joshua, Micah and Johnny stop for a kiss and a hug. We've learned never to be ashamed of our kids, even when they mess up, who of us hasn't? After almost 18 years of being a mom it’s a blessing to sit beside my teenage boys and have them rest their heads on my shoulder no matter who’s around. We can be goofy together, laugh out loud, share life experiences and be open and honest with one another. So we aren’t perfect, we’re awkward at times, we are most definitely far from having it all together, and nope we aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but we are our own unique kind of family, chilled and warm at the same time, just how it should be.