DIYers

God is very good to me. Life may be kicking my butt but God is good and I have a remarkable story that illustrates this beautifully:

CHAPTER 1

A good friend of mine from our former church in L.A. invited me to a prayer and worship service last Thursday night. To be honest, I didn’t want to go. As much as I love this dear community of friends, I just wasn’t sure I had the emotional energy to see them…many of whom I haven’t seen since my decline. So, I sat on the invitation for a few days and in that time published my last post. As I composed & edited the post and put the struggle into words, I decided I really should take advantage of Pammy’s invitation regardless of my reservations because I knew the experience would help calibrate my perspective and bring healing. In addition, the kids were willing to drive me down which sweetened the pot even more! 😉

Olivia was 4, Max 8 and Wilson 10 when we moved from L.A. to Santa Barbara so it was a little freaky for the boys to be back at Christian Assembly – they remembered everything being much bigger back in the day. Ha! Although we’ve been gone for twelve years, it only took one step past the threshold of the church before I began to run into friends…by the time we got settled in the sanctuary, our posse numbered 12+. The 7 years we attended CA were formative for our young family. I was part of a small mom’s prayer group that was very special and I became deeply invested in the spiritual nurturing of all our little ones. Now these kids are grown and many of them were present Thursday night praying fervently for ME…how precious is THAT!

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THEN…
…and… (apparently I never brushed Olivia’s hair)
…NOW!

The highlight of the evening for me came after an organized time of prayer for spiritual, emotional and physical healing…a large group gathered around me including Wilson, Max and Olivia. As I looked down at my kids praying, I was overcome with a strong sense that they should be prayed over but I was sobbing and couldn’t do it so I motioned to my friends Pam, Robin and Kathy to pray for them. I just sat there and sobbed and, quite unexpectedly, felt led to pray prayers of anointing over the kids myself even though I couldn’t articulate the words. I motioned to Kathy to help me place my hand on Olivia’s head and then the boys’ and through my tears I prayed the prayers of my heart that came out as unintelligible sounds and groans. I wish my description could do the experience justice…it was such a precious, “full circle” picture of community, friendship and love. God met me in that moment and reassured me that He has my children in the palm of His hands. Something my heart needed to be reassured of, I guess.

My prayers? Well, for Olivia, I prayed that her heart will be protected. She has been and will continue to be on the front lines of my struggle and I pray her faith fuels her strength. For Max, I prayed he will be sensitive to and empowered by God’s spirit as he grows in his gift to lead others (in worship especially) but also in life in general. And for Wilson, I prayed he will be a bold beacon of God’s grace and truth and JOY in the many contexts he will find himself in this transitional season from youth group leader to military officer. For all three, I prayed that the tough stuff will not leave emotional scars but will deepen and inform their compassion.

As for me, God used the evening to remind me to trust my instincts. I am in a frightening and frustrating process as expressed in my last post. It is easy to feel lost in the increasingly unfamiliar space I find myself in and (although I appreciate the professional resources available to me) my best defense against losing myself in the chaos is listening to and trusting my gut…an important insight for both me and Rolf because we are DIYers at heart, always have been, from Rolf’s building projects to the way I managed our home to the way we problem-solved Rudy’s care and now mine. It was as if God was saying to me on Thursday “Don’t worry. You’ve got this. I’m guiding and you’re listening and you have a team of wonderful people following your lead. Trust yourself. All shall be well.”

So, whenever I think I’m hearing from God I look for confirmation and then this happened the following morning:

Chapter 2

The kids and I rolled in at 1am on our return from L.A. As a result, I was out of sync in my normal routine and extra tired the following morning…about 3 bites into my breakfast I began to choke. The boys jumped into gear and began our family’s choking protocol but this time it didn’t work and the blockage was not budging. Trying not to panic, I motioned to Max to pound on my back harder. The food shifted and my airway opened up but it was still lodged in my throat. It was really painful and I was unable to swallow my saliva. After a few attempts at trying other techniques with no luck, I told Wilson to call 911 figuring they’d have some quick and easy remedy. Three first responders arrived, assessed the situation and advised I be transported to the ER. I really didn’t want to go nor did I feel like the situation warranted an ambulance transport…if only we could get a good whack at just the right angle…I asked one of the first responders to try…he did so, lightly, but expressed concern over hurting me or making it worse. Understandable, but while Wilson answered the others’ questions regarding my general information, I turned to Max and asked him to give it another try…2 or 3 strong strikes later and I was free!! I leaned back with a deep breath and big smile just as the ambulance and EMTs arrived. Woo Hoo!!!! They checked my vital signs and left pretty quick after that.

Like I said to the boys afterwards, it was good that we called for help and had back up but ultimately we followed instinct, figured it out and got ‘er done! Yay us! Where was Olivia? Out on a long run. There will be future episodes for which she will be needed but this time God gave her a break and guarded her heart. Praise Him!

So, has all this translated into less frustration in the living out of the day to day? No. But, it is helping me connect the dots and not feel so lost…as have all your thoughtful comments and messages this past week. Thank you, friends! I welcome your insights and words of love always.

FUUUUUUUUUCK

I apologize! This is an awful word and I don’t use it flippantly but ALS is an awful disease and sometimes it’s the only expression that satisfies. Ironically, it’s the only word I can still enunciate perfectly so there is twisted personal value for me in using it as well. 😉

Friends, I am in the midst of the toughest adjustment to date in the progression of this disease and it’s a hard hurdle to clear…I’ve lost practical use of my arms. I feel like I’m wearing cement sleeves and I can’t lift them anymore, my fingers are beginning to curl and I am no longer able to grip. As a result, my level of independence has plummeted and my level of frustration is skyrocketing.

I’ll spare you my long list of “things that frustrate” but the discouraging reality of losing my arm use is the seemingly endless domino effect of other issues that now need to be addressed…i.e. the threat of pressure sores and other skin issues because I can no longer adjust my position on my own or dehydration because I can’t lift a cup to drink so I’m not drinking as much throughout the day which leads to constipation, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah. I saw my neurologist Monday and we added 4 new medications to my daily regimen to combat all the emerging issues (note – I can barely swallow the 2 meds I’m currently taking). I’ve definitely been in a consistent progression for the past year and a half but there is a convergence of critical symptoms happening right now that is all consuming…and chipping away at my quality of life. It’s time to make a trip to the GI to discuss a feeding tube; I have a breathing machine I’m supposed to wear 8 hours a day and can only tolerate 2 1/2; and pretty much everything requires more energy than I have. To top it all off, I can no longer eat my favorite comfort foods and retail therapy has lost its allure. (Insert blog title here!!!!) There just isn’t a whole lot in a typical day for me that is light hearted and easy.

I don’t share all this to be pitied but to show the crazy extremes because in God’s precious mercy, there has also been a convergence of encouragement from many sources lately that I’m holding onto tightly as lifelines…

  • For example, a friend from Boston sent me this song that speaks to my heartache: Click here
  • My 90+ year old friend emailed me a copy of a devotional she’s reading and this excerpt resonated with the singer in me:

“Your Father is training you for a part the angels cannot sing, and His conservatory is the school of sorrows. Others have said that He sends sorrow to test you, yet this is not the case. He sends* sorrow to educate you, thereby providing you with the proper training for His heavenly choir. (*Personal note: I take issue with “sends”. I prefer “uses”.)

In the darkest night He is composing your song. In the valley He is tuning your voice. In the storm clouds He is deepening your range. In the rain showers He is sweetening your melody. In the cold He is giving your notes expression. And as you pass at times from hope to fear. He is perfecting the message of your lyrics.

Oh dear soul, do not despise your school of sorrow. It is bestowing on you a unique part in the heavenly song. ” -George Matheson

  • Rolf forwarded me Richard Rohr’s daily meditation about my favorite – Julian of Norwich! Yay:
Amen! Amen!
  • …and so much more. Thank you all. God is using you.

Please pray for a quick adjustment to new systems of living, for emotional strength and physical contentedness in my long, motionless days and fitful nights. ‘Grateful for you!!!

Rudy’s courtyard is coming along. Rolf and the kids spent most of Saturday replanting and refurbishing the planter…it turned out great. All we need is a hummingbird feeder in the tree to finish is off, I think. A big thank you to those of you who have sent in a gift!! What a sweet encouragement to our whole family. ‘Grateful for you!!!

Thank you friends.

Putting the FUN in Funeral!

I’ve had the details of my funeral mapped out for awhile but I met with my pastor and Rolf and Wilson last week to discuss it all while I can still talk. It hasn’t been an easy task…knowing how much to do by myself (which isn’t fun) and when to consult my family (who would rather not discuss it). Pastor James described it well…my death is something the family doesn’t want to think about and something I think about all the time. So true. I dreaded calling this meeting together but I also knew it would give me peace of mind to leave a plan in place and hopefully make it easier on everyone when the time comes. One could argue that this is something we should all be doing anyway and it is but, let me tell you, it would be a whole lot easier to stomach if the felt need wasn’t so imminent.

As you can imagine, there were tears at this meeting but, as is the Geyling gift, there were also a number of straight up jokes at my expense that made me laugh big belly laughs too. 🙂 I’m a woman of tradition & order and my choices reflect that but I also value community and creativity so that is evident too. And, of course, no Trish-organized-event would be complete without a party favor (already ordered and received!). Hopefully the details won’t reveal themselves for a very long time but when the time does come, I want my family and friends to carve out a space to grieve and embrace whatever unfolds while making room for big belly laughs too.

FYI, speaking of death and the need for funeral plans, today is the 25th and I miss my boy.

2nd Lieutenant Geyling

Our attention toward and various celebrations of Wilson in recent weeks culminated at his commissioning into the US Army as a 2nd Lieutenant Infantry Officer on Saturday.  It was beautiful, sobering, full of hope & promise and overwhelming all at the same time…7b1a8251

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“Wilson Geyling is from Goleta, California. He is graduating with a Bachelors of Arts in History and Humanities. He is branching Active Duty Infantry. He is being pinned by his parents, Rolf and Trish Geyling, his siblings, Max and Olivia Geyling, and, in spirit, by his youngest brother, Rudy Geyling, who sure would have been happy to be here today. May he rest in peace. CPL(R) Joe Zombrano, U.S. Marine Corps will now render 2LT Geyling his first salute.”

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Our family had the honor of presenting Wilson with his bars.
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Olivia’s godfather and Marine veteran Joe Zambrano flew in from FL to give Wilson his first salute.

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‘So grateful to many of our friends and family for being a part of this special milestone
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Longtime friends Ryne and Miranda from youth group days surprised Wilson – so sweet
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Some circle time fun and sharing

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Words of affirmation from Uncle Steve
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‘Grateful Gma Jo and Oma could join us too

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The following day, the veterans in our church prayed over Wilson.  It was rich and sacred.

 

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Will you join us in their prayer?

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As if we hadn’t packed in enough goodness for one weekend, we tacked on a performance of Les Miserables at the Pantages in Hollywood.  I’m so glad we got to see this together as a family…it’s one of my favorite productions.

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I remember when I first saw Les Mis, I was deeply moved by the theme of redemption and love throughout the whole story but this time around, as I watched young Marius and his peers battle for freedom and reform, I cried the tears of a mother of a young soldier and sobbed at Jean Valjean’s prayer…

Click here to take a listen…

 
God on high
Hear my prayer
In my need
You have always been there
 
He is young
He’s afraid
Let him rest
Heaven blessed.
Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home.
 
He’s like the son I might have known
If God had granted me a son.
The summers die
One by one
How soon they fly
On and on
And I am old
And will be gone.
 
Bring him peace
Bring him joy
He is young
He is only a boy
 
You can take
You can give
Let him be
Let him live
If I die, let me die
Let him live
Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home.
(Songwriters: Alain Boublil / Alain Albert Boublil / Claude Michel Schonberg / Herbert Kretzmer)

Oh! So moving!  Almost too much for this tender heart of mine.

Here’s another link to the whole 10th anniversary concert performance online…by far my favorite cast.

Sandwiched in between all that was Rolf’s birthday…it seems fitting he spent his birthday investing in his family.  I’m most grateful for the thousands of ways he invests in the children and influences their lives…critical thinking and humor are at the top of a very long list of attributes he is passing down.  Happy Birthday Rolfi!

Audio of prayer at church

A Sweet Tribute to Our Boy

My heart is deeply touched by Rolf’s dear colleagues who launched a precious tribute today for our little boy!  (I know, that’s a lot of descriptive verbiage but I’m excited.)

It is such an honor, I wanted to share it with you…

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Naming rights are typically reserved for $100,000+ pledges.  What a generous gesture for our Rudy.  Oh, how he loved the time he spent at the rescue mission…especially the courtyard.  We have asked you to participate in fundraisers for organizations like the American Heart Association and Camp del Corazon in Rudy’s honor over the years and our collective effort has raised over $60,000 for kids living with heart defects!!  Amazing. We have one more opportunity to honor Rudy benefitting others in crisis.  No obligation but if you feel moved to be a part of this tribute, you can click the link below OR print out the pledge card photo, fill it out and send it to 535 E. Yanonali St., SB, CA 93103!  🙂

Click here to donate

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Playing hide ‘n seek in the courtyard.

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Playing with trucks in the courtyard.

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Playing by  his own rules.

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Keep your eyes out for photos of the renovated facility and new Rudy courtyard next month!!   So special!  Thank you.

On Earth and In Heaven

My last post didn’t end with it’s publishing…God heard my heart and spoke directly to my concerns.  So here’s the rest of the story…

After writing about my struggle with “fading away”, the boys randomly shared one of their latest favorite songs with me and the third verse of the song took my breath away:

“Should the fire that once burned bright become an ember my eyes can’t see, I will remember Your sacrifice, I will abide in Your love for me”

Click HERE to listen to the whole song.  It is like salve to my soul every time I listen to it.  Now, I know that abide means to live or dwell but I wanted to see if there was a deeper meaning I could explore so I looked up its definition.  As if Merriam Webster wrote the third definition especially for me, I marveled at it’s relevance:

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Although the definition is in reference to a feeling or memory, it has a much more literal application for me..should the fire that once burned bright become an ember my eyes can’t see, I will remember Your sacrifice and continue without fading or being lost in Your love for me!!  Amen, Amen!!!!  Thanks Boys, your song recommendation rocks and the tender reminder of this simple truth helps cut the sting of today a bit – as do all the sweet, generous and inspired comments & messages from you, dear friends, thank you! 😉

Hey, speaking of inspired, the DP girls lacrosse team endured a tough loss at the championship on Friday but surfaced with big smiles thanks to good friends and some post-game IHOP pancakes!!

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The tears we shed, we all agreed, were over the fact that the season is over.  Selfishly, I wish lax were a year-round sport.  Thanks Girls for such a thrilling season and so many wonderful memory-making moments!!!

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Another season ended this weekend.  I officially handed my worship baton off to the kids on Sunday.  Although it’s not something I planned to do on Mother’s Day specifically, it seems poetic in retrospect.  😉  God used my involvement in worship ministry over the years to shape me and give me a special community of friends with whom I share a love for God and music!  To be entrusted with the task of leading others in worship is something I always considered an honor and never took for granted.  Though my heart will continue to worship, I’ll miss leading desperately.  How grateful I am it’s one activity done on earth AND in heaven!IMG_3610

Someday I’ll be able to do this again!

Livy and I got to go to a friend’s baby shower on Saturday too so I dusted off the Anna Quindlen essay I’ve given to all my new mom friends for decades…best advice ever and a sweet reflection to be reminded of on Mother’s Day weekend!

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So true!!  Olivia asked me at dinner last night what age I enjoyed parenting the most and I couldn’t choose.  I simply adored my babies, my toddlers were soooooo cute, I loved all the activity of the school years and, like Anna, I wound up with the three people I like best in the world (plus Rolf and Rudy, of course).  How grateful I am that love is something that exists on earth and in heaven!  😉  Praying for peace and lightheartedness in the midst of a string of emotionally packed days.

 

A Gradual Fade

Our family had another special evening out last night ;)…Olivia was honored at the SBART annual awards ceremony as athlete of the year for girls lacrosse.  ‘Such a sweet affirmation and I’m so grateful for the positive year she’s having.  I pray all this goodness is seared into her heart (all the kids’ hearts frankly) and buoys that precious heart for a long while!  After a string of evening commitments, however, I’m glad we’re staying in tonight, I need to rest up before tomorrow’s big game!!  Ha, ha

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The past couple of weeks have not only been an exercise in pacing myself physically, they’ve been an exercise in us pacing ourselves in midst of this disease as well.  I say “us” because, as you know, this is a team effort and the continual adjustments impact all involved in my care.  We’ve had a lot coming at us…more dr. appts than usual, the delivery of my breathing machine and not-so-smooth learning curve, the boys’ return and their adjustment to my greater dependency, my first cortisone shot to combat the tweaks that come with my continual loss of muscle, an increase in choking incidents, a brand new issue with pressure points and my losing the ability to lift a cup to take a drink depending on the time of day.  Frustration and irritability on my part seem to be on the rise too…understandable, no doubt, but certainly not optimal for all involved.  I so want to endure this journey with grace and dignity and patience…but sometimes that requires more energy than I can muster.  My frustration came to a head last night when I wanted to engage in a discussion with the kids about general life stuff and I just couldn’t…the brilliant insights 😉 are all there, what I lack is the ability to express them and that breaks my heart.  ‘Thousands of thoughts but only a few words.  Today I’m grieving all the things I feel I haven’t taught the kids yet…oh, I know, they’re smart and will figure life out beautifully, it’s just that we do life so well together and a big part of that for me has been the processing of life we’ve done together.  It’s one thing to fade from public life, it’s entirely different to feel like you’re fading from personal life.   How foreign it all is!

Ok, boo hoo, that’s enough.  I’m still praying for healing or a plateau or, better yet, Jesus’ second coming…join me?  Thanks friends!!!