(Guest Post) 3 Lessons I Learned from a Catheter

This post is my father, John Riley‘s, words. If you’ve heard him speak you will be able to hear him within these writings. I hope he will continue talking about the lessons he’s learning through his personal journey into grief that began in the Fall of 2015 after the sudden death of his brother, Buddy. As long as he keeps telling stories, I’ll keep typing. 

Our hope is that these raw renderings will provide some much-needed relief and hope to those who are new to pain and loss. The ones among us who suffer silently while wishing for the person who understands to share their experience so they can say, “Really? Me too!”

I would encourage you to listen to the newly added audio with dad reading the post. Hearing a story read by its author gives it the ability to come alive. It will also give you a glimpse into why he is such a gifted communicator.

CatheterWhen someone in a white lab coat with the letters M.D. on the end of their name that’s stitched on the pocket, starts talking about you and a catheter in the same sentence, it’s sobering.

Once you get to thinkin’ about the reality of the proposed solution for what you hope is a temporary problem, it can really getcha down.

So… you have conversations… with said catheter and you get real honest.
It may sound something like this, “You and I are not going to be friends but, we’ll put up with each other as long as we have to and then we’re through!”

For me, it was only a month.
For many, it can be the rest of their lives.

Now y’all, that’s serious.

I don’t mean this to be too light hearted. It’s just that, trying to learn from it was better than cryin’ and cussin’ and carryin’ on… I suppose.

So, here are three things I learned from my catheter.
Excuse me, THE catheter.
I never wanted to own the thing.

1.- Pain can have benefits… if you let it.

Well, shoot! It’s hard to say what the benefits are because I can’t really think of many, but mainly you appreciate times of no pain.

After two weeks when I was told by my doctor (who is absolutely fantastic), “Sorry, we have to wait another week and another test.” I was upset. I had to process it.
It was only then that I could be thankful for this thing, discomfort and all, making it possible for me to heal inside.

So, I was extremely grateful that I was improving and that the greater percentage of my body was pretty healthy.

I also found gratitude for whoever invented the catheter. (That sounds weirder than I thought it would.) But seriously, I got really thankful for all the lives this person saved, including mine. Without this dang catheter, I would have already exploded five times over! Now, that’s enough to make even me grateful.

2.- Compassion has been defined as entering into the sorrows of another person and thereby showing mercy. I think that’s the way it goes?

How could I possibly enter into someone’s sorrow when I had never had the same sorrow?

I have been through the deaths of… well… everybody in my family older than I am, but this was my first time with a catheter. Now I can really feel for someone who has to have this great invention for a day, or for life.

Also, it teaches me that even though I don’t know personally what someone else is going through, I can know that it’s hard… even though I’ve not experienced the same thing. I thought I understood what it meant to be empathetic, but I’m not sure I ever truly have… before this. I hope that I will never again be unconcerned about another person’s problem.

3.- Make adjustments

By this, I don’t just mean which leg to put the bag on… but everything… well almost everything, you’ve done for many years.

Here are just a few that I have learned… fast… ’cause I didn’t have a choice.

Sleeping – don’t move around much. Get accustomed to sleeping on your back and your side. It’s not bad… except for sometimes… when it is.

Shower – unplug, clean, replug, dry… always makes ya feel better.

Dress – got me a whole new set of underwear, relaxed and unrestricted.
I didn’t realize boxers could be so comfortable! Wear ’em all the time now.

I have some that look like shorts, but the other day at my little community bank I go to, my friend the loan officer told me he could tell they were underwear. Oh well…

Loose pants are my friend. Especially sweat pants. But on days when the temperature in Alabama is 85 degrees, it looks kinda weird. So… I just stayed at home a lot.

Walking – was sometimes pretty easy, annnnd sometimes not.
Most of the time it felt like I was walkin’ with my legs spread like I just got off a horse. Nobody seemed to really notice except for one friend who did say to me, “Why are you walkin’ so funny?!”
“It’s a long story!” I thought to myself. I have lots of conversations in my own head these days. Know what I mean?

Exercise – wasn’t on the agenda. Every day made me look forward to the time I could really start back exercising and made me feel a deep concern for those who never can.

So, the catheter has taught me to be open to learning new ways of doing things. As I get real close to being 70 years of age, it makes me realize I want to keep growing.

Considering these three things, I hadn’t really thought of it, but maybe the catheter was my friend? However, I’m not gonna have it framed and hang it on the wall. (Can you imagine?! Yuck!)

What are you going through that people can’t necessarily see, but is making a huge impact in your everyday? Has it taught you a kind of gratitude that you never knew you wanted to learn?

Finally, Pictures Of Gorgeous Women That Make You Feel Better About Yourself Instead Of Worse


Grab your sister, daughter, mother, aunt, grandmother, BFF and watch this wonderful, refreshing message.

The Skinny on the Book ~ by E. Wierenga

It is my honor to feature Emily Wierenga and a glimpse of her incredible story of experience, strength and hope. Her journey is one that everyone should read, especially females, counselors, ministry leaders, teachers, coaches, those who have daughters, a sister, wife, mother…I think that covers everyone. I am blessed to know this incredible woman and pray that God will bless her, her family, her ministry and all those who come in contact with her.

The nurses murmured to each other under fluorescent lighting as I lay shivering on the metal hospital bed, cold. Later, I would learn that they had marveled at my hypothermic, sixty-pound sack of bones, reasoning, “She should be dead.” I was a breach of science; a modern-day miracle. Yet in that profound moment, all I
could think was: “Why can’t I lose any more weight?”

After four years of slow and steady starvation, I had finally quit eating altogether.

It started when I began to squint my eyes for the camera. I wanted to create laughter lines in a laughter-less face. Then, I began sucking in my cheeks. I liked how it made me look thinner. Model-like. I was nine years old.

The next four years were a blur. Anorexia starved my mind, but I’ll always remember the darkness. Days smudged with counting calories and streaming tears. Days filled with frowns, fierce yells and fists pounding against my father’s chest…

Dad loved us by doing his job so well he put ministry before family. He’d kiss us on the cheeks early in the morning and lead Bible devotions and sigh when we asked him questions on Sermon-Writing day. I hated Sermon-Writing day.

I got baptized at age eight because Dad said I should and I wanted to please him the same way I wanted to please God. I associated God with my father—a distant, unemotional man who said he loved me yet was too busy to show it.

One year later, I realized that even though I’d gotten baptized, Dad still didn’t ask me how I was doing, not really, and so God still didn’t care. Not really.

Food was dished onto our plates at every meal; again, I had no choice but to finish it. This inability to make my own decisions killed my independent spirit. Mum meant well; as a nutritionist, she served healthy but plentiful portions. As a result, we became healthy but plentiful children.

Meanwhile, a woman I’d become very close to, ‘Grandma Ermenie,’ passed away. And life became even more uncontrollable, and disappointment, more certain…It’s a scary place to be in, this place where you have no one, so you have to become bigger than life itself, in order to carry yourself through the pain. A nine-year-old isn’t very big. And all I wanted was to be small. Because the world told me that thin was beauty. And maybe if I was beautiful, Dad would want to spend time with me.

I didn’t know about anorexia nervosa. We weren’t allowed to play with Barbie dolls or take dance lessons or look at fashion magazines or talk about our bodies in any way other than holy, so I didn’t know anything except that Mum changed in the closet when Dad was in the room, and made us cover our skin head to foot.

A kind of shame came with this not talking about bodies and beauty became something forbidden. And I wanted it more than anything. So I stopped eating.

It was a slow-stop, one that began with saying “No,” and the “No” felt good. I refused dessert. I refused the meals Mum dished up for me. I refused the jam on my bread and then the margarine and then the bread itself…

At night, I dreamt of food. Mum would find me, hunting for imaginary chocolates in my bed. I wanted her to hug me and make the fear go away, but was worried that if I did, my guard would be let down and I’d eat real chocolates, so I stopped hugging her for two years.

My legs were getting thin, and that was what mattered, but I dreamt about her arms, and woke up hugging myself.

I slipped from a state of not being hungry to a state of choosing to be hungry. I liked how my pants sagged, how my shirt became loose, my face slim, and my eyes, big. And at some point, I became a different person, intent on being skinny no matter the cost.
this is how it starts.

Emily’s book, Chasing Silhouettes: How to Help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder.
View Endorsements here
Read Sample Chapters here
Follow Emily on Twitter and Facebook

“I know many of you have not struggled with eating disorders, but there are 8 million Americans that do… and many of them are young girls, in families that are desperate for solutions… there is only one solution, and that is Christ, and this book points to Him. Would you help me get the word out about this? 

Will you order a copy for your church library? Your school library? For the family down the street? Thank you.”


The challenge this month was to: Create a collection of similar subjects that also share a similar look. Choose a subject you like, with a lot of examples easy to find (people, flowers, insects…), or that you can capture in studio condition. To maintain cohesion between all the photos, take them in the same kind of conditions, and for photos taken before and during the challenge, while you edit them.

Other challenge entries can be found here: Monthly Project 7

Look around…there’s beauty everywhere

I am more than elated to be hosting my sister, the incredibly gifted, Jennifer Riley. To say that she is talented would be the understatement of the year. To call her designs genius would be like calling Michael Angelo, average.

If you’ve already met her you know that she is the kind of person who you want to refer to as “best friend” shortly after being introduced.

By every sense of the word, Jennifer is one of the most talented and creative people I have ever known. Her arrangements give people goosebumps. Onlookers will stand, mouth gaping while those next to them whisper, “Have you ever seen anything like that?!

The answer would be “No.” No one has seen anything like it because there is no one like her. Jennifer takes beautiful flowers and other various materials and puts them together, sprinkling some kind of magic dust on them before setting them out for the enjoyment of others.

Her work has appeared in magazines, newspapers and venues all over the country and it always leaves people asking, “Who did these arrangements and where can I find her?

I totally get that you may be thinking, “Well, she’s biased. It’s her sister.” While it gives me an incredible sense of pride to call her sister, her work speaks for itself.

Jennifer’s exquisite handwriting is considered a necessity to those wanting to make a lasting impression with their invitations. So I thought it would be fun to have her answer the questions I had for her and take pictures of the paper to post for you to read.

Are you ready for this? It’s an interview/spotlight post like no other!

Let’s do this!

1.~ What inspires you?

2.~ How do you put up with all of the demands? I couldn’t do it.

3.~ Have you always loved creating beauty/or should I say, arranging beauty to make it more beautiful?

4.~ Your work has been described as “Exquisite.” “Like nothing else around.” Unique.” Beauty with a twist.” “Fun.” “Better than anyone else out there.” What do you think about these statements describing the work of your hands?

5.~ You were recently chosen to create more than 700 arrangements for the 2012 Kentucky Derby. That must have been a daunting task. In cases like that, do you find it difficult to remain motivated? Are you able to ignite the passion in those working with and for you?

6.~ Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

7.~ If you could give solid advice to one aspiring designer, what would it be?

From baby showers to weddings, corporate events and home decorating, the options are limitless. Here are some pictures of Jennifer’s craftsmanship for your viewing pleasure.

When seeing one of Jennifer’s designs, there will be no question who the artist is. She has a style all her own. One that, though many have tried, cannot be replicated.

I am so grateful that she would take time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for us and share from her album of work. She currently takes her own photos, but I’m thinking of putting in a bid. (Just kidding, sis)

If there is anything that you would like to ask her, please comment in the section below. She’s no different than any of us creative types when it comes to hearing praise about our work. So don’t hold back!

Find her on facebook by clicking here.
Be on the lookout for her website, coming soon.
You may also contact her through the information on her business card.

In Her Skin

As I said in yesterday’s post, my beautiful Bella is the author of this week’s post on self-image. She told me to edit anything that I didn’t think should be included. I think all of it should be included. Some of it made me sad yet hopeful. Bella is unique. She has a rare gift that makes people uncomfortable to talk about. She is exquisite. I’m so grateful that she’s mine.

I asked her seven questions. I told her she could add and/or takeaway. I also told her to write whatever came to mind. Here are her answers.

What would you say is the most difficult thing about being a 14 yr old female today?
The hardest thing for me would be insecurity. In these circumstances perfect model images – don’t help. I often find myself comparing my image to everyone else.

What is your biggest fear right now?
Fear itself. I have constant anxiety, so there is no biggest fear. Practically everything can trigger an image-or as you people call it fear. When I am in darker times I try to remember 1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts away all fear. The one who fears is not made in perfect love. It’s also hard because sometimes I feel OCD which causes me to obsess over even the smallest things. For instance a phone call from a stranger that goes unanswered would be obsessed over for who knows how long.

What does the word “beauty” mean in your world?
In my eyes the first thing that comes to mind is image-but then I think about inner beauty. My friends sometimes tease me about my boyfriend who they do not think is attractive. I think he is very attractive. There is a soul to this comment. I have never wanted a guy unless I fall in love with his personality- who he is. If a relationship is based off of image, I might as well be a cat lady. Now let me get back to the part where I have found what my friends could not find in him. With the inner beauty locks the worlds image from my eyes, I find what others can’t see, and that is attractive. It even helps me see the person in the attractiveness God gave them. For a fourteen year old, the word beauty, in the “REAL WORLD” means, how do I look-what’s wrong with me?

On a scale of 1-10, how important is the way you look to you? To your friends?
To me I would say it was about a ten-same probably for my friends. That dose not mean I don’t care about my “soul” image. I still want to be as beautiful on the inside as was meant to live up to my full potential.

How important are the relationships in your life?
They are extremely important to me and it is particularly hard for me because I try to balance them out. A fault of mine is that I am intensely open with people and for that I got stabbed in the back. (Figuratively speaking of course.) I had a situation in fifth grade that shows just how open I was. I had a truth or dare thing at my birthday party, and it did not end to well. I kept being nagged to tell someone and I did. I can blame whoever I want for it but it was originally my fault. What happened was that rumors got spread about me, and the worst part was that one of the people was one of my closest friends who knew everything about me – and it was used against me. I never forgave myself for that – and there are many other things I am not going to say over the internet that I will probably never be able to forgive myself for, but the best part is that Jesus does. That is another relationship that is important to me. I have trust issues with Jesus, and for what he does, I have no right not to trust him. I want strong relationships with friends and family, and I still need to work on them. I want to build a relationship, not to knock it down, but to build it up. In other words, yes relationships are extremely important to me.    

What is the first thought that comes to mind when you think about God?
Father. He is the dad you always wanted but never had. He is love, He will not turn his head from me when I mess up- he forgives me continuously and approaches me with open arms every time. I have no reason not to trust and love Him. I want my life to be built on his unconditional love, and so I want to work to get there. I have to move.

What is one thing you hope this next year will bring?
I want stronger relationships with friends and family (and my boyfriend). I also hope to become more mature and humble in God’s presence. Oh, and I want to make mistakes so I can learn, because if you stand back and watch-you will never experience the change and growth. YOLO.*

* YOLO is an acronym for “You only live once.” You probably knew that, but I had to do a Google search to define it.

Is there anything that you would like to ask Bella? Something that you wish I had asked? She loves reading your comments and hearing your thoughts on her writing. Please take a moment to leave her a note.

Other guest posts by Bella:
You Are Not Alone 
Secrets are to Sickness as Openness is to Wholeness
Guest Post: Bella’s Cross