In Celebration of Caregivers

This guest post is written by Dr. Teresa Burns Murphy, one of my former professors who has served as a writing mentor for me for years. I’m so grateful for Dr. Murphy! If you want to hear more about how she’s helped me, be sure to check out my podcast about those who add value through encouragement.

For over a year and a half, I received daily updates from my lifelong friend, Kim Bowie MacIntyre, about her mother, Mrs. Patricia Bowie. Mrs. Bowie had an intractable autoimmune disease that was worsening over time. Although Kim had been her mother’s caregiver off and on for several years, she served as her mother’s primary caregiver throughout most of the early months of the pandemic. As anyone who has cared for a small child or ill friend or relative knows, caregiving is difficult even under the best circumstances. In the midst of a pandemic, caregiving becomes a decision-making minefield.

Mrs. Bowie with Kim

            The pandemic has shed a light on just how difficult caregiving is, and the number of people serving as caregivers is growing. According to a recent report from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, over twenty percent of adults in the United States are unpaid caregivers. Caregivers provide both physical and emotional support—becoming guardians, protectors, and attendants to those in our society who are the most vulnerable. Those attributes of care seem less and less valued in American culture at a time when they are most needed. It’s a shame that we as a society don’t celebrate caregivers as enthusiastically as we celebrate other heroes. Perhaps this lack of recognition can be attributed to the fact that the majority of caregivers are women.

            I am grateful to have known Mrs. Bowie and that she had a daughter like Kim who was willing to take on the mantle of primary caregiver. People like Mrs. Bowie deserve no less. In addition to raising two children, she worked for decades as a secretary and administrative assistant at several businesses and institutions of higher education, including Lyon College and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences where the Patricia C. Bowie Nursing Scholarship is awarded annually. She was a devout Catholic who lived her faith with grace and humility. Mrs. Bowie also possessed a wonderful sense of humor. Born and raised in New Orleans, she had a heart-melting voice that always made me smile when she called me “honey” or “darling.”

            On the eighteenth of June, I received the phone call from Kim that I had been dreading for days.

            “She’s gone,” Kim sobbed over and over.

            There was nothing I could say in reply except, “I’m sorry.”

            Before she passed away, Mrs. Bowie told me on several occasions that she felt fortunate to have a passionate advocate like Kim. Vigilant advocacy has become necessary in order to navigate America’s current medical morass. I, too, am grateful for caregivers like Kim who devote so much time and energy to their loved ones. I know they suffer immense sorrow when the person they cared for so deeply is gone. Over time, caregivers may be comforted by the fierce love they had for the one they find themselves lost without. Memories of that love can assuage, but never fully heal, their grief.

Teresa Burns Murphy is the author of a novel, The Secret to Flying (TigerEye Publications, 2011). Her writing has been published in Amazing Graces: Yet Another Collection of Fiction by Washington Area Women (Paycock Press, 2012), Academic Exchange Quarterly, Chicago Quarterly Review, Dreamstreets, Evening Street Review, Gargoyle Magazine, Inquiry, Grokking the Fullness, The Literary Nest, The Opiate, The Penmen Review, Pulse Literary Review, Rkvry Quarterly Literary Journal, The Science Teacher, Slippery Elm Literary Journal, Stirring: A Literary Collection, Southern Women’s Review, THEMA, The Tower Journal, The Washington Post, and Westview. Visit her website to purchase Dr. Murphy’s books or read more about her work.

Getting unstuck

At that perfectly naive, curious age of 15, I sat next to the cutest boy in a red pickup truck on a dirt road. In the dark. On a cold winter night.

Stuck.

We had genuinely been doing nothing wrong. Just driving around back roads, listening to Tori Amos, enjoying the rain, when suddenly the truck stalled. The mechanical trouble seemed sudden and confusing, like a downpour in the middle of a hot summer afternoon.

But it wasn’t hot, and it wasn’t summertime. It was winter, and it was cold in the cab of the truck. And it was 9 p.m., and I was supposed to be home at 10 p.m.

We both started mentally sweating.

“Your mom is going to kill me if I can’t get the truck started” and “What are people going to think if we’re stuck out here in the middle of nowhere?”

After trying relentlessly to start the truck, after checking wire connections, after lifting the hood and examining the possible metallic reasons we might be stuck, the cute boy finally had an epiphany.

“Hey. Let’s pray.”

So we did. We held onto one another’s chilly hands and begged God for help.

The cute boy turned the key. The truck started. We were unstuck.

And we were relieved. So relieved we laughed and laughed as he drove me home, thanking God and acknowledging what we’d experienced wasn’t just an answer to a prayer but an actual miracle.

I thought about this beautiful moment in time today when I was feeling emotionally and mentally stuck about something I’ve felt frustrated about for several years. I’ve checked all the parts. I’ve examined options for repairs. I’ve attempted to seek expert help. I’ve tried interventions. I’ve communicated my thoughts and feelings.

Yet here I am, feeling stuck.

I don’t have many answers about why we often remain in the hallways of struggle or stuck-ness, but I do know this: through recovery, I’ve been given some valuable tools which help me get unstuck.

  1. Other people calling me to action.
  2. Other people inviting me to serve.
  3. Turning my eyes from my own self-pity to others’ needs and to God Himself.
  4. Practicing gratitude.

Then there’s #5. When at a total point of desperation, ask Him for help. He has a track record of getting people unstuck.

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Beauty on the hour

“Maggie, your sparkly shirt looks so pretty this morning.”

She climbed over the chest at the end of our bed, the morning sun reflecting off the sequins on her pink t-shirt. Her face beamed slightly, disguising a little smile.

“YOU look so pretty this morning, Maggie,” I changed my compliment after seeing her little smile peek through.

She didn’t respond. She just snuggled in next to me for about sixty seconds. Then it was off to the races, demanding we stop drinking coffee and get up, get going, and get her to school on time. This is how Maggie does mornings. Full hilt, full steam ahead from the minute her eyes pop open.

I drove her to school (while sipping coffee and trying to match her energy level by 50%). She must have been feeling extra loving and only half as preteenish this morning because she let me walk her to the door (gasp).

I left feeling especially mom-rad. I hummed a little tune in the Buzzardmobile (my old Kia Sorento which a buzzard careened into on the interstate a few years ago). I suddenly heard a song on the radio which instantly reminded me of someone I missed terribly, and a tear ran down my cheek unexpectedly. I’d been feeling deep longing, not just for this person, but regarding loss and grief lately.

Suddenly I noticed a spinny truck next to me–a concrete mixer. If you’ve been reading my blog posts for long, you probably know I’m obsessed with spinny trucks. I knew God had placed that truck right there right then just for me. Just for 30 seconds at that red light. It was my beautiful moment for that hour.

The previous hour, it had been Maggie holding my hand for five seconds in front of everyone at school.

The hour before, it was the tiny smile spreading across her face while she climbed into my bed.

And now the spinny truck God sent to me, just to remind me He was there. He knows. He loves me still.

I started thinking about how much richer my life would be if I started charting and journaling about the most beautiful moment of each hour. Don’t we spend enough time dwelling on the three worst things people do to us each day? The catastrophes of our lives? The mistakes we make? The losses?

Maybe you don’t. I do. I have.

I don’t really want to spend my life that way anymore. I’m opting for beauty on the hour instead. It’s there. I just forget to look for it sometimes. I forget to make note of it. If I jot it down, though, I’m more likely to remember to look for it the next hour. And the next.

Then I’ll remember to share it with you. And you’ll remember to look for it in your life. Then God gets the glory for giving it to us.

Pretty sure that’s how it’s supposed to work :).

Let’s start seeking.

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Summer Giveaway!

Who doesn’t love a good book giveaway?

From now through July 30, 2021, my Mama Meditations devotional books and gratitude journals for moms are on sale (only the signed copies exclusively available through my bookstore). So I decided to help promote the sale by giving away a signed copy of Volume II along with a cute pink Mama Meditations t-shirt.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the series, I wrote the series based on my own experiences as a Christian mom in a Twelve-Step recovery program grappling with parenting, gratitude, and other principles.

Mama Meditations, the series, are devotional books/gratitude journals designed for moms determined to grow closer to God while becoming whole, healthy Christian parents. Mama Meditations Volumes I and II contain 60 entries each, life lessons and spiritual reflections, by yours truly.

✓Stories and life lessons: 60 entries in story format help readers become the moms and Christians God created us to be. Readers seeking encouragement & support in recovery programs will especially benefit from the author’s experience & mention of recovery principles.

✓Prayer prompts and Scripture: Use the prayer prompt after each entry to guide your prayer time and Scriptural meditation, connecting you personally to Christ during your devotional quiet time.

✓Gratitude journal: Take time to create a unique gratitude list, reflecting on your own unique experiences as a mom.

I hope you’ll register today for the fun giveaway and share the giveaway link or this blog post link with a friend, too.

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Filling the God Love Space

Looking for love in all the wrong places.

Right… I’m pretty familiar with that old tune. And I’ve certainly been there, done that. Lots. #IYKYK.

While sudsing up and tackling a sinkful of dishes a few days ago, I contemplated this age-old dilemma. Why do we, as humans, seek human love so voraciously? Not just human love… inappropriate affection, passion, desire, sex, intimacy, emotional bonds, connection… all of it. What are we so hungry for, and why are we willing to go to any lengths to get it?

And I mean any lengths… if you knew all the things I’ve done trying to get these things… you’d probably disown me as a friend or family member, and you’d certainly stop reading my writing. Trust me. When Paul talks about being the worst of sinners in the New Testament, I relate. Big time.

Why did I do those things? Because I was trying to fill a God Love Space. We all have one. This space can only be filled fully and accurately with God’s love. We either don’t know that or don’t want to accept that, so we strive to fill it with all kinds of other stuff. Human love and affection. Sex. Porn. Drugs/alcohol. Social media attention. Friendship. Emotional intimacy. Workaholism. Food. Excessive exercise and idolatry of the human body. Whatever… we just need to FILL IT UP.

While contemplating the God Love Space dilemma and seeking spiritual solutions, I yammered for seven minutes and created this podcast episode.

I hope you’ll listen, share, and comment. Tell me about how you relate. Ask for prayer if you need it. Share something you’re grateful for related to your own spiritual journey.

Spoiler alert: there is a solution. And it’s simple, but not easy. And I know this won’t surprise you…. but it’s spiritual, and it involves gratitude.

Thank God I found it.

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Small Changes–Big Improvements

Today’s guest contributor is Hannah Wingert, fellow mom & Christian writer. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with practicing gratitude, Hannah!

My gratitude journey

About 10 years ago, I decided to start a gratitude journal. I’d heard that writing down three things you’re thankful for each day could have a positive effect on a person’s attitude, and I figured an attitude adjustment wasn’t a bad idea.

I dug a mini spiral notebook out of my desk drawer and moved it to my nightstand right next to my water bottle and my asthma inhaler. Every night before I went to sleep, I spent a few minutes writing down three things I was thankful for that day. Every night for about a week, that is. Exhaustion from parenting young children and sheer forgetfulness soon made that short-lived habit fall by the wayside.

Recently though, I’ve picked the habit back up, but this time, I modified it so it works better and is more realistic for me. Just making three small adaptions completely changed how I view thankfulness and gratitude. Maybe these tips will help you, too!

I started focusing on WHO I’m thankful for.

Sure, it’s great to write down things in your life that you’re grateful for, but who are you thanking for those things? My gratitude journal is now a place where I write my blessings from God.

I no longer have a dedicated notebook for my gratitude journal.

Instead, I write the three things I’m thankful for each day right in my devotional notebook I use each day. This keeps me more focused on God and makes it part of my regular routine without adding anything. If you don’t have a notebook you use for devotions, you can definitely start a gratitude or blessing journal specifically to help you be more grateful.

I write my blessings down in the morning rather than at bedtime.

I used to think that I couldn’t do it that way because it was supposed to be things I was thankful for from that day, but then I realized that doing it in the morning kept me from skipping it because I was too tired at night. Also, it gets my heart focused on gratefulness before I dive into my crazy busy day.

I’ll be honest with you. Sometimes, it’s extremely hard to find things to be grateful for. There are some days when I have to really think hard to get that third or even second spot on my list filled, but it’s getting easier with time, and it helps me focus on the little things in life I have to be thankful for.

Gratitude and parenting

I’ve also started encouraging my kids to be more mindful about their blessings. All four of my children love these gratitude & devotional journals for kids from Gratitude and God that incorporate thankfulness right into a guided biblical devotion for kids.

Lately, I’ve really enjoyed Volume I (and am excited to read Volume II when I’m done!) of Mama Meditations: Devotional Book and Gratitude Journal by Bethany Wallace. I love that the gratitude is built right into the devotional for each day.

How do you find ways to encourage gratitude and thankfulness in your daily life?

You can find Hannah at SunshineAndSpoons.com or on social media:

Website: www.sunshineandspoons.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sunshineandspoons/

Instagram: www.instagram.com/sunshineandspoonsblog/

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/sunshineNspoons

Re-everything

Today I was talking to a recovery friend about the value of sponsorship. While listening to her talk, I realized (again) something valuable about sponsoring others in recovery.

When I sponsor (and you can apply this to mentoring others, too), I’m afforded the opportunity to RE everything :).

You know what I mean. Relearn. Reexperience. Reteach. Reflect.

I’m not just walking in front of the people I sponsor as a guide. I’m also walking alongside them, relearning and reflecting on the very struggles they’re complaining about. I have a different perspective, of course, and I’ve already been there and done that. But there’s something eye-opening about walking with; I grow all over again through helping them grow. And boy, am I grateful for that.

Recently someone I sponsor experienced a traumatic break in an intimate relationship. It was sudden and unplanned. And it felt cold and cruel.

The only reason I was able to offer more than Kleenex is because I’ve walked that path already–and by God’s grace, I’ve climbed out of the pit and am on the other side.

But for me (and for others), it’s more helpful and meaningful to have a sponsor willing to walk with me through my worst moments and greatest challenges. It’s more helpful to have someone share their experience than to listen to someone list off three things I should do to improve. It doesn’t just make me feel warm and cuddly and loved. It genuinely feels like the hand of empathy pulls me up, out, and through.

I hope you’ll take time to extend the hand of empathy and experience to those suffering, to those you sponsor or mentor, and to those you love. They’ll be eternally grateful.

Mama Meditations, Volume II, is available!

mama meditations books gratitude moms

I’m happy to share that Mama Meditations: Devotional Book & Gratitude Journal for Moms, Volume II, is now available on Amazon! If you prefer a signed copy, you can order directly from me (just keep in mind these copies typically take two weeks to order/sign/ship).

Mama Meditations book series for moms by Bethany Wallace

Mama Meditations: Volume II is a devotional book and gratitude journal designed for moms determined to grow closer to Jesus Christ while becoming whole, healthy Christian parents. Mama Meditations: Devotional Book & Gratitude Journal for Moms, Volume II continues the story-telling tradition of Volume I which readers grew to love. While maintaining the strong spiritual integrity and encouraging, beckoning exhortations of Volume I, Volume II of Mama Meditations calls women into an even deeper faith journey and greater discovery of Twelve-Step recovery principles.

Those of you who have already read Volume I will find that Volume II has slightly longer chapters and more entries related to recovery principles than Volume I.

Mama Meditations Volumes I and II contain:

✓ 60 recovery-oriented spiritual reflections by author Bethany Wallace. The entries, in story format, express lessons learned through parenting about how to become not only better moms but also joyful, light-bearing individuals God created us to be.

✓Readers seeking encouragement and support in recovery programs will especially benefit from Bethany’s experience and mention of Twelve Step recovery principles.

✓All entries are accompanied by prayer prompts, Scripture excerpts, and journal prompts with space for creating gratitude lists specific to each reader’s experience.

I hope you will join other moms on a quiet, reflective journey full of hope, laughter, encouragement, and realistic spiritual reflection in Mama Meditations: Volume II or give copies to your favorite moms!

Sneak peek: Mama Meditations, Volume II

Since my new devotional book and gratitude journal for moms will be released on Amazon April 15, I wanted to share a chapter of the book with you in advance to whet your reading appetites and to give you a glimpse of what this book is all about. Sometimes it’s difficult to make purchasing decisions if we don’t really know what we’re getting, right?

Do me a favor–if you feel this excerpt from Mama Meditations, Volume II, resonates with you, buy the book or share this post with a mom you love.

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From Mama Meditations, Volume II

Remembering what my life was like before recovery is actually difficult sometimes. I’ve made some good choices day after day for a long time now. Don’t get me wrong—I am far from perfect. I think mean thoughts about people I dislike sometimes. I curse under my breath occasionally when another driver nearly causes me to wreck. I am human! I’m on a faith journey, growing toward becoming who the Lord made me to be. But that doesn’t mean I have poofed into a perfect mom, perfect wife, or perfect Christian.

Yet I am very grateful God has used recovery to help me grow closer to Him. The good habits I have worked hard to establish have become part of me. They’re ingrained in my soul. They are who I am now.

Occasionally I see photos pop up in my feed on social media, reminding me of who I was two years before I joined my recovery community. Wow, I think to myself. That’s really who I was. I really lived with him. I really made those choices daily. I felt that way every day!

Thankfully, the Twelve Steps instilled in me the ability to choose differently. One of the greatest things that happened unintentionally is that I started working the Steps five years before my daughter was born. I learned how to replace my attitudes and perceptions of cynicism, pessimism, and discontent with gratitude. My sponsors taught me how to work the Steps, which helped me grow in honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness. I developed patterns of healthy behavior and appropriate boundaries. I began waking up early every day to spend time with God; this changed my life permanently. I came to believe time is my most precious commodity, and I started spending it more wisely, choosing only to invest in what matters most to me. The Lord set me free from many spiritual ties which bound me to past regret and sin.

And all this happened before my daughter was conceived. If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is.

Thank You, God, for changing me before giving me the opportunity to grow through loving my daughter. May I never stop growing closer to You.

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” –Hebrews 11:6, NKJV

Mama Meditations, Volume II, release date april 15!

I’m so excited to share this news: the second volume of my Mama Meditations series will be released on Amazon April 15, 2021!

Many of my faithful blog readers and book readers have anticipated the release of volume II, but most were pleasantly surprised when I told them it would be published in April. The truth is I am not the fastest writer in the world, but I have been writing entries (chapters) for my Mama Meditations series for a few years and storing them. I didn’t know when I would decide to publish. When I was ready to publish the first volume, I had too much material for one book, so I opted to split it into two volumes.

If you’re reading this post but haven’t purchased Volume I, let me share a little about the series with you to catch you up. Mama Meditations: Devotional Book & Gratitude Journal for Moms, Volume I was published in early January. Volume II is very similar in style and content but with all new stories and spiritual reflections for moms to enjoy and learn from. In addition, Volume II contains even more recovery-oriented content than Volume I. I didn’t intentionally include more information or shared experience about recovery; it’s just what came out through writing. It leads me to believe God must want to use the second volume to reach even more moms in recovery than in the first volume.

I hope you will check out both volumes in the series! My intention in writing and publishing this series is to encourage and exhort moms who may be struggling to grow spiritually while raising their children, trying to find the beauty and goodness in motherhood, or even beating themselves up about every little thing they don’t do as well as they believe other moms do. I have been there. I’ve done that. I’ve battled my perfectionism, my critical nature, and all my defects of character. I have felt tons of mom guilt for working too much, and then I’ve faced endless frustration when staying home with my child. I’ve prayed to God to help me be more patient, and five minutes later, I have had to put myself in time out to avoid throwing a mommy tantrum. Through my work in recovery and my faith in God, I’ve learned so much from being a mom–and much of that through allowing God to show me truths directly through my relationship with my daughter. He’s helped me slow down, live where my hands are, and love more like He loves.

If you relate to what I’m talking about, and you want to know more, this series might be right for you (or someone you love!).

Oh! And here’s a tidbit of good news for you: Mama Meditations: Devotional Book & Gratitude Journal for Moms, Volume I, will be available FREE for you in Kindle format on Amazon April 30-May 3. If you love having a digital copy of your favorite books handy when traveling or when killing time waiting for the doctor or dentist (you know how it is), snag this free e-book. And be sure to tell a friend about this fabulous deal, too.

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