"My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours. Maybe nothing is more important than that we keep track, you and I,of these stories of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories, in all their particularity,as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us most powerfully and personally." -Frederick Buechner

Friday, December 30, 2011

Goal Setting

It's December 30th. We will be leaving shortly to head to the wedding of a dear friend but in the meantime it's one of my favorite times of the year. It's the end of this year and the start of another. A time of reflection and dreaming of the future, making plans, and exploring possibilities.  I really like this time.  I like looking back in my journal and being reminded of all that has gone on in the past year(s).  Not just the "big" stuff - I can remember that without my journal but the little things, the details of the big stuff that might otherwise get forgotten/missed and the personal little things that often develop into something significant in my life. It's a time of celebration of what has happened and looking forward.  I strongly believe in journaling but if that terminology intimidates you or just doesn't appeal to you at the very least I would encourage you to do this:

1. Make a list of all the things you can think of that happened this past year that you are thankful for.  Don't let the little things slip by - like being home when a friend you haven't seen in years stopped by.

2. Make a list of some goals for 2012. I'd suggest one thing for your physical well being, one thing for your spirit and one that's good for your soul - something to enrich your individual life.  Why write them down? Because if you don't you will lose track of them and possibly never accomplish them.  After you've written them up, mark your calendar quarterly for the next year. Mark a day to review your goals. (You don't have to take a whole day - just review them on this day) This will help to keep you focused and on the road to accomplishing your goals.  Now, does this guarantee that you will accomplish all of your goals? No. I've missed more than I've made but I've gotten alot further for taking the time to figure out where I'm headed and what I need to do to get there.  Remember this is a grace-filled life. God's mercies are "new every morning." So if you miss your goal, you just start again!

My husband and I revise our "spending plan" each and every year based on past expenses, known upcoming expenses and our goals for that year.  Last year we set it knowing we had some medical bills and we chose to do some work on our house.  We achieved our goals of paying off all of those bills. However, in the past 6 months we quit paying close attention to some of the smaller things coming our way, some of the "little details". End result, we have to really buckle down the purse-strings for the next few months. For the time being this canceled our vacation. RATS. Good lesson with very little actual "pain".  We are very blessed to be able to pay all of the bills we had and have way more "things" than many, many people. We're fine - in fact we're more than fine. This little bump caused us to talk, again about what is really important to us and re-focus on what we want to do with our life.  I share this little piece of our life to encourage you to write down your goals AND to review them on a regular basis.  Keep the "main thing the main thing"!

Anybody else want to share a goal setting story, success or failure??

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wellness Wednesday - Take Some Time

Today's wellness thought is not involved but it's not always easy.  Take some time to be quiet. Yes, that is what I said, quiet.  Shut off the TV and the music.  Find a corner away from the rest of the family.  That may mean you need to go somewhere outside your home, or maybe just to the basement and shut the door.  I suggest beginning by taking time to be thankful for all you have and the people in in your life. Then just ask God what He wants to tell you and then, be quiet.  It's hard but just let your mind think through it's thoughts. The pace will eventually slow and you may or may not "land" on a thought that you just can't "shake" off.  Write that thought down and really ponder it. (Ponder, isn't that a great word) Soak in that thought.  If you are lead look up a verse that seems to tie to your thought but don't rush to do an involved, all-inclusive study of the all the verses connected to the original one. Just stay put.  Your time may not be enough to "finish" the thought. That's okay.  When you have to physically move on you still have your note to yourself.  Return to that note in the days to come until you feel that you have worked it all the way through and come to a conclusion, conviction or plan. Record that outcome -and date it.  You may need to come back to it in the upcoming year to remind yourself what the Lord told you.

This kind of time keeps up from being swayed by everything that comes into or by our lives. Some of them very good ideas but they might not be for you at this point in your life. We are happier, more content and peace-filled when we know who God is, who we are, and where we are headed.  We may not know all the details of any of those areas but that's where faith comes in!

Would you share where you go or how you "get quiet"?  You just might encourage someone else to try.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Simplicity is a "popular" word right now.  Many of our younger adult friends are into living "simple", getting "back to the basics" etc. etc.  We think (and rightfully so on many counts) it's because our world is so busy. While I do agree that our world is busy and noisy I'm not sure that this is a new thing at all.  I think we are very a very easily distracted people.  We can be perfectly happy one minute and then we hear a new song on the radio (or Pandora or Spotify) and all of the sudden our music collection is way out of date. So we're "off" hunting the latest download. Oops, what was it we were doing before we heard that song?  It's just that simple.  This morning I stumbled across this devotional thought from a couple weeks ago by one of my new favorite authors, Gary Thomas.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Simple Things: A Devotion for Advent

“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in strips of cloth and placed him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn.”  Luke 2:4-7

            The storming of the Bastille was the seminal event that unleashed the tumultuous French revolution; Europe would never be the same.  And yet, astonishingly, King Louis XVI’s diary entry for that day was “14/7 1789: Nothing”.
            Sometimes the greatest historical events are missed by contemporary observers, and that was certainly the case with the birth of Jesus. A relatively poor husband, a soon-to-be mother, and an unborn child stood poised to change the course not just of history, but of eternity, yet there was nothing to mark the grand occasion--no parades, no banners, no reporters, not even the most basic comforts.             Martin Luther writes, “Behold how very ordinary and common things are to us that transpire on earth, and yet how high they are regarded in heaven. On earth it occurs in this wise: Here is a poor young woman, Mary of Nazareth, not highly esteemed, but of the humblest citizens of the village.  No one is conscious of the great wonder she bears, she is silent, keeps her own counsel, and regards herself as the lowliest in the town….  Imagine how she was despised at the inns and stopping places on the way, although worthy to ride in state in a chariot of gold.”             If you were writing People magazine during the first century, there would be thousands of couples you’d include before you would mention this one.  Mary was from the segment of the population that would never be featured in People magazine.  Luther goes on, “There were, no doubt, many wives and daughters of prominent men at that time, who lived in fine apartments and great splendor, while the mother of God takes a journey in mid-winter under most trying circumstances.”             How much we miss when our eyes follow glamour instead of substance, and romance instead of love!  “They were the most insignificant and despised, so that they had to make way for others until they were obliged to take refuge in a stable, to share with the cattle, lodging, table, bedchamber and bed, while many a wicked man sat at the head in the hotels and was honored as lord.  No one noticed or was conscious of what God was doing in that stable… See how God shows that he utterly disregards what the world is, has or desires; and furthermore, that the world shows how little it knows or notices what God is, has and does.”             This Christmas season, let’s remind ourselves that the values of God’s Kingdom bear little resemblance to this world’s.  This ignored baby would one day teach His disciples, “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.”  But even at His birth He demonstrated, as Luther writes, “the world’s greatest wisdom is foolishness, her best actions are wrong and her greatest treasures are misfortunes.”              As followers of this humble baby, we are called to notice those whom a world lusting after glamor often ignores. We are to prize character over immodesty, generosity over affluence, and humility over power.  We are not to value people because they have fine clothes, expensive cars, or famous faces—God’s greatest heroes are often nondescript, anonymous, and less than pleasing to the eye.             Luther reminds us, “Behold how very richly God honors those who are despised of men…  The angels [couldn’t] find princes or valiant men to whom to communicate the good news; but only unlearned laymen, the most humble people upon earth… See how utterly God overthrows that which is lofty!  And yet we rage and rant for nothing but this empty honor, as if we had no honor to seek in heaven.”             This advent, what do you find yourself seeking--approval from the world, success in society’s eyes, or obedience to the King of Kings?              If God has placed you in a high place, good for you—be faithful where you are.  If God has called you to an entry level position, or one of utter anonymity, concern yourself with the applause of heaven, not being mentioned in The Huffington Post, The New York Times, or USA Today.  What I love about worshipping at Second Baptist in Houston is that a CEO sits next to the receptionist; a business owner passes the communion plate to a customer; the banker studies Scripture with the mortgage holder.              What binds us isn’t our status in the world, but our union in Christ.  Those who seek glamor and fame would have missed Jesus while panting at the feet of Herod.  May we not make such a foolish mistake.

Let's take a few minutes to consider Gary's words. Where are you?

You can check out more of what he has to say at http://askgarythomas.blogspot.com/   if you are interested.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Our Foundation

Over this holiday weekend we choose to go to my parents church with them. It has been a very long time since we have been there. This is the church I grew up in. A small, simple church filled with generations of families that have been worshipping there for years. There are not many frills in it's building's structure nor the service. No flashy videos or back drops to the speaker. No bands or choirs but lots of Bibles, hymnals and people. People who notice when you come and haven't been there for a long time. They even know who you "go with".  We didn't need to tell anyone we were Howard and Carol's kids. They knew.  They notice when my parents aren't there. They pray for and keep track of each other as much as you will let them. When our son-in-law was ill with cancer, they prayed and supported my parents as grandparents of a young man with terminal cancer. We didn't have much energy to give them but their church family did. 

I sat in the pew and sang Christmas carols led only by the piano played by an accomplished pianist who humbly gives her time on a weekly basis. As I sat there I realized the simplicity of the church I was raised in gave me a very strong foundation to weather the changing seasons of life. My family's church is not perfect, none of them are. But it's strength is it is based on the Bible, God's word. It's not dependent on one pastor or music, sports or after school programs.  Those things can be good and I have participated in, led and taken my family to all of those kinds of programs over the years. But what I realized this weekend is, I can do that because I learned to trust in God, first. As a kid I was taught that the Bible told us about God and that God wanted to have a relationship with us.  I, like Abraham in Romans 4:19 am "fully persuaded that God has power to do what He has promised." In fact there is a hymn that uses that verse for lyrics and I learned that at church as a kid. I can still hum the melody.

That belief has carried me through each "adventure" in my life, the good, the bad and the ugly.  We're bumping up against some circumstances that aren't "fun" right now.  But, as in the other times in my life, I know that God has promised to care for me, to teach me, and to protect me in the process. He didn't promise to magically remove all difficulties in this life. He did promise to never leave me or forsake me. I am "fully persuaded that he is able to do all that He promised.  Knowing that makes all the difference. It allows me to not give up on relationships, or circumstances even when I can't see how it is all going to work out. That has served me well in my lifetime.

As 2011 comes to a close it's a good time to reflect on your core beliefs. To give thanks for lessons learned that you can build your life on. Can you name one person or circumstance that you recognize today as something that helped you build your foundation?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

I was struck this morning with the simplicity of doing the right thing.  We make this wellness thing so hard.  We need lots of tests and books and exercise equipment and kitchen tools. Special food bought from special "health" stores not to mention calming candles, soothing music, lights...well you get the idea.  This morning I was reading in 2 Timothy 3:10-17.  I suggest you read it for yourself in your favorite version of the Bible or maybe even in several versions. I love doing that to try to discover some different perspectives on what the words mean. Now, with wellness in mind listen to these words:

 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, 
my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings 
- what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch...
Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted...
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of,
because you know those from whom you learned it...

Please note I do not have any kind of educational degree in Biblical interpretation but here is my take on this.  Paul is basically saying you know and see my life. You know that my purpose is faith, patience, love  which sounds like a stellar Christian life so far. He continues including endurance, persecutions and sufferings.  To a certain extent if you've been around the Christian faith very long you know that some suffering and persecution is a part of the package. However did you notice that word,  endurance. Hmmm, he is noting that we need to have endurance as a part of our life.  I can't think of a better way in this life to learn endurance than in your favorite exercise of choice.  In order for it to benefit you have to stick with it! Walking one day or even for a week or two is a great start but you won't reap much benefit if you don't keep it up.

Let's move on for a minute, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of.
We have all heard or read what we need to do for exercise and food intake.  There are many, many articles written and published every day on this topic. We just need to do what we know to be true. What I believe may be different than what you believe - but you have to do it, consistently, or what was that word? Endure. You need to endure doing the right thing.  I believe that we are better off the more we eat what I call "real food."  I have come to the conclusion that I would rather eat food made from scratch than from a powder in a box.  I would rather have food without sugar substitutes made by man and just have a smaller portion than more of one full of chemicals.  Now, will you find a macaroni and cheese box mix in my cupboard? Yep, and you will find frozen pizzas in the freezer. Sometimes you just need something easy and fast. (I know there are healthy ways to eat easy and fast too) What I am saying is I just need to live each day making decisions that are consistent with what I believe. Can their be exceptions? Yes and without guilt and condemnation!  In all the thousands of articles regarding health research, the consistent theme is you have to eat equal or less calories than you burn in a day to maintain or lose weight. This decreases your chances of developing many major diseases. (period)  No fancy words. No high priced plans. No complicated schedules. Simple. Eat food with nutritional value in reasonable amounts.  Can you have a treat? Sure. Just let it be what it is - a treat, not a regular occurance. 
By the way, this same simple principle applies to exercise.  We just need to do it on a regular basis. It needs to be a part of our life just like work and eating. It is necessary to keep you active and healthy.

I'd love to hear one thing that you "have learned and become convinced of" in your life. Don't be shy. Others might need to hear what you have learned to reinforce what they are considering.  If you have a question why don't you ask that as well. Someone may have the answer!  This is all about living life in community.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Putting the Christmas Crazies to Rest

As I sit here on a beautiful Saturday morning 1 week before Christmas I want to encourage you.  No, I want to CHALLENGE you to put the Christmas Crazies to rest.  STOP for 5 minutes, just 5 minutes.  Take a deep breath and say this prayer with me. Lord, show me how to celebrate your birthday with my family and friends. Amen. Now grab a piece of paper and a pencil if necessary to write down what really has to happen in the next week. Having been married for 30 years and having grown kids I've been through this a few more times than some of you. Looking back this week the times I am remembering are the simple times. So let me make some suggestions for you to think about as you make your holiday choices.
1. This season is about celebrating the birth of Christ so talk about that with your family. I had a book that had simple family friendly ideas for the whole month of December. It even suggested when to do your holiday baking etc so you didn't forget things. Maybe you could use a book to help you. If it's too late for this year shop at your local Christian bookstore after Christmas for next year!

2. I remember turning down the regular lights to better enjoy the Christmas lights and drinking hot chocolate after the kids were in bed to calm down and do a little Christmas time reflection.

3. Making Christmas cookies with the kids involved was a must. Yep, it's a mess, but then I'm a mess in the kitchen no matter what so who cares?  One year I even made them matching aprons.  We made "gingerbread houses" out of graham crackers more than one year.  As they got older we made real gingerbread houses. Frosting cut out cookies is always way more fun when you do it together.

4. Gifts - DO NOT LET THIS STRESS YOU OUT OR CAUSE YOU TO GO INTO DEBT. For our family we kept it pretty simple but fun. We always gave the kids a book to encourage reading and an item of clothing that they actually needed. (It's way more fun to get something wrapped up and unwrap it as a surprise than it is to go buy new pj's) Then we'd get them a couple of fun presents. One of the Christmas' we all remember the most we collected big boxes for a week or two before Christmas. Then we made them do a treasure hunt which led to the basement play room full of big boxes.  It was March before those boxes were all gone. They made a maze, a train, forts and that's not all but it's all I can remember right now. Another trick is wrap EVERYTHING. You know, the batteries separate from the game. The pj top separate from the bottoms - everything! It draws out the unwrapping and can make for a lot of laughter.  Several years we gave each of the kids two homemade gift certificates to stop at a toy store on the way to Grandma's Christmas Eve day and pick out their own new toys.  Sounds dangerous but we learned that they had far simpler taste than we did.  We did tell them that we had $ limits but never were burdened with it. This was a huge help to our budget! AND the shopping was a big part of the gift. Just being allowed to look at all the possibilities in the store and then pick out what they wanted. (Note to grown ups, you can not rush this process. Be patient. That is your biggest gift to them. Let them enjoy it.)

5. Go caroling somewhere and don't forget to watch for all the fun Christmas lights in your town as you go.

Done.  See I don't remember fancy dinners and just the "perfect" outfit for me or for our kids. Parties bigger than the neighbors or gifts for everyone at work or on the block. I remember smiles and giggles and being together with the kids. (and extended family) My husband's family all crowd into his parent's too small for all of us house and play card games and eat snacks after the kids open their presents. We love it! Being together celebrating the birth of Christ is what it is all about. Keep it simple.

For some great ideas for the Christmas school break time why don't you visit my friend, Cindy's blog http://cindybultema.blogspot.com/2011/12/surviving-thriving-on-christmas.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ReflectionsOfHisBeauty+%28She+Sparkles%29

Friday, December 16, 2011

Opportunities to Make a Difference

This morning I've just been pondering the power of our thoughts. One author was encouraging me to keep an "eternal perspective."  He meant that in each situation that comes into my day to remember that it is not just about the moment. It's about eternity. It's not about whether I get my way or credit for the work I just finished. It's about getting the work done right, people cared for and thereby sharing the love of Christ. God knows what we are and are not doing, being, thinking....  Sometimes I make this waaaaay to hard.  I think living for Christ involves becoming a missionary or other vocational ministry worker. WRONG.  It means being you where-ever you are. (period)  My friend Arlin said it this way this morning.  (He is finishing up some business meetings in Chicago I think.)

Last night we headed across the street to Gibson’s Steakhouse.  That was an experience in eating.  The meal started with a show of the steaks and seafood – tableside with an explanation of the Gibson FDA meat certification.  They are the only restaurant in the US with their own grade.  The filet was extremely good and the side dishes were fabulous as well.   Here are a few pictures of the food we had there.  The meat was amazing, but the desserts were crazy.  The table split two desserts and couldn’t finish them – not by a long ways.  The Turtle Pie had one gallon of ice cream and the carrot cake was a quarter of a four layer cake.  I have to admit besides being very full, I felt a little guilty about the amount of food that was wasted and the cost of our time together there.  It certainly wasn’t the most expensive meal I have ever been part of by a long shot – the prices were actually pretty decent.  But we had talked earlier in the day about a trip to Africa that one of the members was making and the attempt to raise money to help schools across the ocean just have enough power to run some notebook computers.  I find myself more and more thinking about the wasteful spending of money as people are suffering.  Anyone else struggle with that reality – that we Americans are spoiled and could use our money in a lot better ways.
My little patch has plenty of opportunities to make a difference for people.  This week as I have been involved in groups talking life and legacy plans – I have heard the words – I want to make a difference – on many reports and discussions.  I have been convicted that life is not about making a difference – it is about being a difference.  That little change of words – from make to be – is a significant change in responsibility.  God convicted me that I can make a difference without really doing all that much myself.  It is a matter of getting others focused and managing their output.  If we are going to be a difference – we have to do something.  That is what God desires – for us to go and do things in order to be a difference.  We need to follow God’s lead to help us truly change people’s lives by being what God desires.  Are you ready to be?  Another day of Masterminds before we head home tomorrow.  God is so good.  (Emphasis mine)

Everyday, where-ever you are is the world you live in and the opportunities God has given YOU to live for and with Him.  Is that the attitude you have today? If not, give it a shot and see if it makes a difference in your day. Then share about your day with us! We'd love to hear what you do or do not notice.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wellness Wednesday - Tuning Up Your Instrument

I can't tell you exactly when but sometime over the past nearly 6 years now my friend, Shari and I, began to learn what had only been words to me up till that point: Our physical health effects our spiritual health which effects our emotional health.  Now don't get me wrong. I'm a woman. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my physical health effected my emotions.  If I'm tired, look out! I could explode or melt down at the drop of a hat as the old saying goes.  I, like many,  am learning That we have spent most of our lives, "growing our souls, not always realizing that lack of physical discipline can undercut and even erode spiritual growth." as Gary Thomas says in his new book, "Every Body Matters".  I have totally used the line of thinking that our spiritual health and maturity is much more important than our physical health. What that boils down to however is an excuse to not exercise on a regular basis when time is tight. Seriously, it's basically just another excuse in my long line of excuses.   While I still believe that my relationship with God is or should be my number one priority there is much to be learned from physical discipline. Physical and spiritual discipline are not mutually exclusive, even if I would like them to be at times.

Gary Thomas does a good job of reminding us of all the times that the Bible talks of the silver-making process as a metaphor of personal refinement. Psalm 66:10-12 says,
For you, God, tested us;
you refined us like silver.
You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.
You let people ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance.
A silversmith doesn't gently massage silver into being. He doesn't talk it into shape. He puts it through the fire. He hammers it until it becomes what he has designed it to be.  God refers to his people like this on several occasions. Here's one: "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver."  Malachi 3:3.

I think one reason my excuse of needing to spend my time on spiritual fitness over physical fitness if I can only do one or the other is encouraged by today's way out of control emphasis on the perfect physical body. Women never appear to age, with shining non-grey hair and small waistlines. Men who's muscles bulge...well you know what I mean. Being the wonderfully mature christian woman that I am, I do not want to allow "vanity" into my life. (cough, cough - I'm nearly chocking on my humility)However, common sense will tell you if I'm too tired to exercise, I'm going to be too tired to go visit my neighbor who needs help. If I'm overweight and out of shape it's going to be really hard to stand and serve food at the homeless shelter or chase those young kids in Sunday school. If I really have given my life to Christ to use as He chooses, and I have, then doesn't that mean being prepared to do whatever He asks me to?  In 2 Timothy it says, "In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work." (emphasis mine)  So there is a reason to want to be in good physical shape. It is to be ready to be an instrument for special purpose, made holy and useful for God. This means stopping our treatment of our bodies as if it is extra-cirricular - just a side note. Our bodies are the tools God created for us to use for Him.

Now don't get me wrong on this.  I am NOT saying that God cannot use us for His work if we are overweight or out of shape. He can and does, daily. Just look around. I'm saying that it is possible we could do things more easily or more completely if we were in shape.  We would probably be more effective as well. As a nurse I've always hated it when an overweight doctor starts talking to his patient about needing to lose weight.Who knows, we'd probably even enjoy it more!

So think about it. How are you going to tune up the instrument God created you to be?

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Marriage Mirror

One of the best wedding gifts God gave you was a full-length mirror called your spouse. Had there been a card attached, it would have said, "Here's to helping you discover what you are really like."
Gary and Betsy Ricucci
 Wow, I've never thought of it quite like that before but it is so true, if we're willing to admit it. My husband had an outpatient surgery last Wednesday.  This was a scheduled event. Actually it was the 3rd year in a row that he has had some sort of surgery in December after the really physical part of his work is done for the year. The few days following surgery are a mixed blessing for me.  I have to admit, I love that I have a legitimate reason to say "no" to everything. My husband needs me you know. So as in years past we came home and settled him into his recliner with a couple of movies ready to be played. Pain meds, check, water, check, blankets, check...well you get the idea. Once he was settled (and after I took a nap - it was a very early morning) I started in on some of the household chores I had been putting off, being quiet of course and checking on him often.  That lasted through the night of setting the alarm every 4 hours for pain meds and resettling him in the recliner the next day. Then reality began to hit.  The Christmas shopping isn't done. Oh well, we can do some of that by internet and make a plan for the local shopping. Maybe he'll feel like going out in a couple of days. Oh and there's that budget report I need to do for Treasure Chest Ministries. I can't finish it without his input. And last but not least, the clinic where I work is still a bit short staffed AND we switched to electronic medical records in October. That means we have inputting to do which requires extra time. Guess what? Those of us who are not full-time are expected to fill in these gaps. 2 1/2 months later...I'm really tired of this expectation. I get anxious about my responsibilities at work...and at home. I get crabby. I start thinking. I start fussing. I start getting short-tempered. Notice anything?  All of the sudden life is ALL ABOUT ME!  Instead of serving my husband who could really use the help I'm wanting him to take care of himself AND help me figure out what to do and when to do it. Wow, that turned around in a hurry. Hmmm, back to the top. Marriage can be a mirror to show us what we are really like.  I don't like what I see in this circumstance. I became very self-centered very quickly. That caused my attitude to change from servant to take care of yourself, from patient to not patient, from kind to well let's just say not as kind. Nasty. I didn't like who I saw when I took the time to look. 

The good news is that marriage is for a lifetime. My husband loves me and is my best friend. I apologized and asked for his forgiveness. He was so gracious to even allow some talk time to figure out what the root of my anxiousness actually is instead of just leaving it at surface value. You know what? Looking in the mirror this morning I see a more peace-filled woman. Thanks God. Thanks Mark.

What about you? Have you ever thought about your marriage or significant relationships as a chance to look in the mirror?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wellness Wednesday...On Thursday!

Hello! It's been awhile. I apologize. Our Thanksgiving holiday was spent with our kids and lasted until the Monday following Thanksgiving.  Our children are both married and spend either Thanksgiving or Christmas with us and the other with their in-laws.  We thoroughly enjoy them and like to make the most of the time they are with us. We love that they enjoy their families too so we fully support them in spending dedicated time with their in-laws as well.

Over the past two weeks I've had repeated occasions to think about health.  My mother has Alzheimers and has recently taken another step of decline. My mother-in-law has a very healthy mind but her body is failing. My husband was told by his doctor at his pre-hernia operation physical that he has very healthy organs (heart, lungs etc) but his body (joints etc) are his weak link. I struggle with losing the 10-15 pounds I've put on over the past 10 years which causes fatigue. My extremely physically fit niece struggles with celiac disease to the point that it "benches" her from playing college volleyball.

I am more convinced than ever that God created us body, mind and soul, totally integrated.  One does not operate without the other. Thus when one part is out of balance or has any kind of problem, every part of your being is effected in some way. As I visit with others about this I am finding that most people say they agree. However, I'm finding most of us (yes, including me) don't live like it.  Most anyone you talk to would tell you that consuming alcohol or illegal drugs in large quantities on a regular basis is a problem and will cause trouble. My brother who has smoked since he was a young teenager will tell you that smoking cigarettes is a problem and they aren't illegal.  He'll tell you they take money from your budget as well as only cause problems physically. There are no "pluses" for smoking and that comes from a seasoned veteran of smoking - not me. But what about being addicted to carbs or caffeine or choosing comfort foods to console or reward yourself on a regular basis.  What about sitting down and staring at the TV night in and night out with no form of physical exercise on your calendar? Often I don't even think about it. I just start planning what "treat" I can have when I get home or while I'm running errands. After all I've "worked hard all day" or I'm doing "this" all by myself. I deserve a "reward/treat".  However rewards or treats are supposed to be occasional, something to really look forward too, not an everyday occurrence.

I'm reading a great, but very convicting book by Gary Thomas, "Every Body Matters".  You can check it out here http://www.garythomas.com/home  In it, he refers to a Christian physician, Dr. Scott VanLue who became convinced that he needed to stop simply treating the symptoms and start addressing the underlying problems in his patients' lives. After nearly a decade of practicing traditional medicine, in which he saw thirty to forty patients a day, Scott came to the conclusion, "I'm not really helping anybody here; I'm just giving out meds."  Soon after that the author says one thing that particularly grieved Dr. VanLue is "seeing people gradually grow comfortable with their poor state of health, even when they can do something about it." Okay, now he is stepping on my toes...maybe my whole foot.  I turned 50 this year and while in good health I have put on approximately 15 pounds over the past 10 years,  allowed a known neck problem to grow to a painful state before doing anything about it, (repeatedly) and tried to deal with intermittent bouts of IBS with meds rather than finding the root cause. Most all of us want to feel better, be a little slimmer or in better shape but we want to do it without too much work or inconvenience. We just don't have time to take care of ourselves. Hmmm, what's wrong with that statement?  I can already hear you.  "I don't have time because I have a job, kids or parents to care for, church work to do, classes to take...need I go on?  I can say all of most of those things myself BUT maybe it's time we really settle down and look at the scriptures.  As Christians we are members of the Body of Christ. We are a part of the Body, not the whole Body.  We need to be obedient to do our part. Then we need to stop and let others do their part.It's hard because we see the needs and we perceive that if we see the need, it is our job to fill the need. That is sometimes but not always true. The media and society have developed an image that we as individuals take and believe that we are to fulfill. It's thin, muscular, pretty, rich, and able to do all things. The truth is that is we can not expect to be like everyone around us.  We need to live in the bodies God created us with, but we do need to make choices to be the best us we can be, whatever that looks like in our own lives. I'm taller than many women, love people but need my time away from them, love to learn and to teach. That in and of itself makes me different than some of my friends and family.  I shouldn't strive to do be and do like them.  I wonder what would happen if we all took some time to figure out what we need to do to get ourselves in good physical, emotional and spiritual health and then did it.  I'm going to spend some time exploring this. Want to join me?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wellness Wednesday - Be Thankful! It's good for you!

Honestly today's Wellness Wednesday suggestion is the easiest healthy habit yet!  Studies have proven that grateful people are happier, healthier people. REALLY!  Our local Christian radio station was talking about a study done with teenagers struggling with depression. They asked these teenagers to journal daily what they were thankful for.  Those that did it resumed a healthy emotional state sooner than those who did not. (My words and interpretation of the study)  I also noted that Jason Kent, son of Carol Kent, the author of "When I Lay My Isaac Down" states that one of the ways he copes with life in prison is to journal or to pray out loud all of the things he is grateful for.  If being thankful can help a young adult man who is in prison for life with no chance of parole keep his emotions healthy I would say that is pretty good proof of it's validity.

So I would say this Thanksgiving Day week is the perfect antidote to what ails you!  Enjoy it and it can be a balm so soothe your soul. Spend some quiet time with the Lord thanking Him for all he has given you whether it is a lot or a little makes no difference.  Spend some time with the people in your life letting them know that you are thankful for them, glad that they are a part of your life. Laugh a little. Watch an old movie (or a new one). Make something whether it be food, a card, a decoration, whatever! Working with your hands and engaging your imagination is a great refresher for all of us!

"I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart..."

Monday, November 21, 2011

We're Not Everything, but We're Something!

I just read a little story that caught my attention.  The author states that some good friends of theirs had a 4 year old son.  That 4 year old saw the author carrying a load of "rather large boxes."  The boy looked up at him and said, "Gary, are you the strongest or is God the strongest?" Of course everyone  knows just how ridiculous that question is, not just because it was "Gary" but because we know how incredibly strong and fantastic our God is. Then the author asked, so if that comparison is so absurd why do we expect our relationship with another person to "fulfill" us?  I"m thinking marriage but if you are not married it could be another relative or friend or even employer.  There is just no way our spouse (or friend) can be everything to/for us. HOWEVER, they are very special people that the Lord put in our life and this is a great time of year to remember to be thankful for who they are to us.  So today I would like you to forget about your "expectations" of your spouse/friend for a bit. Instead think of 3 things that you are thankful for in regard to your spouse. I challenge you to tell them and someone else.  As a whole we need to do better talking about what we like in people versus what we don't like. Maybe this little exercise will help us remember.

1. I like that my husband is very creative.
2. I like that he likes music and can sing.
3. I like that he will try new things with me - food, games etc.

Now it's your turn!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It's a Heart Thing - Unthinkable Circumstances

So I've been pondering, mulling over, camping out on, and yes, even thinking about things. This last chapter in the study of "unthinkable circumstances" is my favorite. It puts words on my heart's thoughts.

I'm convinced most of us live life just trying to "keep up." Keep up with our job and home responsibilities, the kids' activities, church responsibilities and a hobby or two. Why? Because that is what life is in America, right? That's the "American dream" - work and a home, family, friends, hobbies and money to retire on. But what if that's not "really  living?"  My husband and I are singing the song, "Blessings" by Laura Story in Church tomorrow.  I've been mulling over the lyrics for weeks. If you don't know it you can listen to it here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CSVqHcdhXQ  The last chorus goes like this:
‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if my greatest disappointments,
or the aching of this life
is a revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?
And what if trials of this life,
the rain, the storms, the hardest nights
 are Your mercies in disguise?
I "get" that thought.  I've always felt a little "different" than most of those around me. That's hard when you grow up in a very small community where there isn't much variety in people. But I know now it's not because I was "different" than them. I just learned earlier than most of them that this is not my home, not really.  My heart is sold out on Jesus. And now that I've experience a tiny, tiny bit of his suffering through the death of our son-in-law, grief of our daughter, depression and adultery of my husband, moving away from our  ministry and friends, my priorities are solidified. It doesn't really matter what it takes to get us there but we need to experience God's love, forgiveness, grace and faithfulness. Once we do there is the same. Nothing is better than spending time in His presence and then sharing Him with others. The best way to share with others is to be real. To be His hands, feet and maybe most importantly His ears. People need to be heard. That is showing them love. They don't care if you have "the answer". They just need to know that someone heard them. Someone heard their heart, not just listened a moment, said "there, there" quoted a verse and said "I'll pray for you." They need a hug, possibly tears or help packing their boxes or finding a ride to the hospital or grocery store. When they are ready to really hear the reason behind your actions, you'll know it. They usually ask.

These days I don't participate in as many activities as I used to, Church stuff or otherwise. I am getting to know my co-workers better. I'm listening more and talking less. (I know that's hard for some of you to believe but it's true!) I spend daily time with my Lord and Savior. I know I will never be completely content until I meet Jesus face to face. In the meantime this is an amazing life He has given me to live even though it's not exactly the way I pictured it. It's a heart thing.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Unthinkable Circumstances and Purpose!

Last night was the last night for our group of gals to meet together face t face.  We were small in number but once again God proved that He has a time and a place for everything and everyone. We were a notoriously late starting group so when there were only 3 of us at "starting time" none of us thought anything of it.  As we visited while waiting for others to come we were suddenly interrupted by one of our gals hustling into the room apologizing for being late and going on to say, "I can't stay long but I came for prayer. I need to pray with someone."  There was no hesitation. All three of us welcomed her in and listened to her concerns dealing with a very tough situation with some of her family. Lives are in danger and they are in another state with no family members near. She tearfully told us of this latest situation involving 4 of her great-grandchildren.  With tears in all of our eyes, but determination in our hearts we held hands, bowed our heads and prayed from our hearts. We asked the Lord to protect and provide for those in danger and we prayed for Solomon-type wisdom for our friend. After leaving our concerns with the Lord she got up and quietly left to meet her daughter to decide what to do next for their family.

Our nights theme was purpose. Purpose even when you are learning to live with a "new normal."  The piece of this lesson that spoke directly to my heart was when Carol Kent told a story of a Christmas spent at the prison with their son J.P.  She told of going to the rest room. While in a stall in the rest room a woman burst in, crying, cussing and saying, "I HATE THIS PLACE. I hate everything about this..."and on and on.  Carol quietly states, "My previous, professional Christian self would have come out, stood beside the woman and put my arm around her while quoting my top 5 favorite verses and then said a prayer for her and left.  My new self came out, put my arms around her, held her and said, "I know. It's awful. I hate this place too. My son is here." and after holding her awhile longer (as they cried together) she wiped her eyes and left.  Carol and I agree. We both believe she shared Jesus just as, if not more effectively with her "new self" than her "old professional Christian self."  There is nothing wrong with sharing scripture (I do it alot) but what she was talking about was the difference between being willing to truly feel with someone, being willing to hold them and possibly mess up your outfit or make up. Caring with all you've got - literally.  My husband and I were talking about this type of thing a few weeks ago. We decided that we want to be the type of people who won't just tell you we will pray for you, but will stop right then and there and pray with you. We are different people than we were 7 years ago. We don't want to waste time just talking about doing something or caring. We just want to do it, day by day, right where we are. People are way more important than our schedule, our list of things that need done and even our beautiful, comfortable, wonderful church building and services. Sometimes, like today, sharing a heart-felt big hug with a co-worker who's had a really tough time that got resolved today is sharing Jesus better than sharing my favorite Christian book.  That's hard for me say because I love reading and sharing what I read. But my co-worker would rather have me in her life than just my books.

Our group of three gals fulfilled their purpose with our friend last night.  We didn't worry about the evenings "agenda". We did what we knew we should. We listened, cried a bit and prayed with someone in need.  If you are reading this you are one of God's "treasured possessions". He has a purpose for your life, no matter what it looks like to you. In fact I'm going to be bold and say, especially if your life is looking a lot different than what you had planned and you are still faithful to our Lord. Your faithfulness is a fantastic witness to others of the greatness of our God. Thank you.

Please share a thought that the Lord has laid on your heart over the past few weeks. You just might encourage someone else to hang on, step up or patiently wait one more day. That just might be one purpose for YOUR life!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lessons from the Leaves

I didn't get anything posted yesterday mostly because I couldn't "land" on a subject. I figure if there are too many thoughts floating around in my mind and spirit there are too many to share. This morning I'm still considering something I noticed Saturday while working with my husband to take care of the leaves on the 17 acres of property we live on. (It's a part of his business)  Due to an early heavy wet snow he had "lost" time in the process so it was all hands on deck Saturday.  I didn't mind. There is a strange feeling of accomplishment in working hard, getting dirty and being able to see what you have done, even if just for a few minutes.

The weather was gorgeous and I was enjoying being outside.  While working to get the deep accumulation of leaves out from an inlet between two homes I suddenly had this thought, "I wonder if this is what God feels like sometimes? He sends us out only to watch us come back to the same corner, hiding with the walls high around us."  I wonder if He feels like saying, "Jody the way out is so obvious.There is really only one way out. It's my way." Now once were out of our hiding place there are infinite opportunities but getting out, well that's another story.

Then I was noticing the colors. Who knew there was a path between green to orange or red? God does. He created trees and leaves with this extravagant show of beauty. There were so many shapes and colors and sizes! (Hmmm, just like there are so many different kinds of people)

Then I thought about how the fallen leaves can be good to protect flower beds but too many leaves left on the ground can kill the growth underneath.

Well, can you see where I'm going with this. The Bible says that if we don't praise the Lord "the rocks will cry out." God's creation can speak to us, teach us if only we will listen. What is God saying to you this season? What do you see in the leaves of the trees or while watching animals store up for winter or even in just the temperature changing? Let's honor God today by sharing your thoughts? There is nothing too insignificant. Every detail no matter how small or great is purposefully placed there by God for YOU today! Enjoy!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Finding Your Way Through Unthinkable Circumstances

Unthinkable circumstances…they can be either those of joy or great sorrow. Odds are, you have experienced both at one time or another in life. My greatest sorrow was nearly 22 years ago.
After navigating through a seamless first pregnancy, our son Joseph was born on February 28, 1990. At 7 lbs., 5 oz. and 21 ½ inches long, he looked perfect and whole. But he wasn’t. At five days old, Joseph died from heart defects that were not detected before his arrival and these defects could not be fixed after his arrival. I found myself in an unthinkable circumstance…
My confusion, hurt, and misunderstanding was immense. I had come to know Christ as my Savior at the age of 13. I believed that God had a reason and purpose for ALL things that happened in our lives. I understood, even then, that the God that I loved and trusted throughout my youth was the same God that I must continue to loved and trust as I navigated through this unthinkable circumstance.
I did question why. I did question what I might have done to cause this to happen. I did feel anger and misunderstanding toward God. But I never doubted my faith. I knew I could not make sense of this through my own power. I had tried that for some time, and couldn’t. In the beginning, I felt some feelings of abandonment but as time went on, I began to know with certainty that was the enemy trying to use this unthinkable circumstance to shake my faith and cause me to turn away from my personal relationship with Christ.
Then my unthinkable circumstance shifted…living the rest of my life with anger toward God and a part from Him was something I could not and did not want to imagine. My relationship with Him and His love gave me great comfort. The assurance of His promises was something I could not abandon. Never.
 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine of nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, no any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35 – 39 NIV
That covers it definitively! NOTHING can separate us from God’s love and blessings. Not even this great sorrow I had suffered. I knew I could be more than a conqueror in not just this circumstance, but in EVERY circumstance I find myself in as I walk through life. I am so grateful that I did not allow this unthinkable circumstance to become a stumbling block in my relationship with Christ.  If that had been what I chose, what a sad waste of how this circumstance would have been used in my life and those around me.
I now have the advantage and experiences of 20+ years.  Since that time, I have come to understand the meaning and true-life application of James 1:2-4 where it says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.”
Unthinkable circumstances…joys, sorrows, testing, blessings…all are intended to push us on and up and closer to what God intends us to ultimately become—more like Him. I agree with C.S. Lewis when he says we won’t get there in this life, but He means to get us as close as possible until then!

Jan Rosales
Beavercreek, Ohio
Author of, “Given In Love But Not Mine to Keep: Finding Strength In The Loss Of A Newborn 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Unthinkable Circumstances and Joy?

This was a hard week.  It's hard to imagine "joy" in the midst of hard times. Yet some of us are eternal optimists. Some of us avoid reality by pretending to be optimists and filled with crazy faith. Some of us really are filled with crazy faith. Others just don't get, can't imagine it and aren't sure they ever will.  In our little group I would say there were women in every phase of joy.  Yes, truthfully we have a sister in Christ who can't imagine ever feeling joy again and says "I'm okay with that."

We talked alot about expectations and comparing. It's really dangerous to look at someone else and think I'm not as good or happy or bad or whatever as them.  Jesus never tells us to look at each other. He does, on the other hand, tell us to look to God.  We looked at a passage in Hebrews 12:2-3.  I've been reading it in the Amplified Version. Let me share a bit of it: "Looking away (from all that will distract) to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith....He, for the joy (of obtaining the prize) that was set set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame.... The first point and to me the most important is that we are to look at, focus in on God. We need to see life through the lens of God. Is that easy? Is it natural? No. Is it doable? Yes. Pray. Pray repeatedly. Ask God to help you see life through His perspective. Start the day and pray as often as you need to re-focus through out the day. How do I know He will answer? These verses tell us He is the "author and perfecter" of our faith.  HE is our creator. He not only created us. He continues to create our maturing into His likeness. HE gives us perspective, joy, faith, love. We can't do it ourselves and it only gets harder when we look at others and think we need to be "like them."

Relax today. Ask God to help you see life through His perspective.  Ask Him to help you experience joy and then watch for the answer. Be alert. Expect God to answer you but be aware He is "far beyond all that we ask or even think." (Ephesians 3) His answer very well may be different that the way you "expect" it to be.  If you have already experienced an awareness of God's perspective at some point in your life we'd love to hear about it. Share it with us. You can encourage others.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wellness Wednesday - Making Decisions

As I sit here this morning I must admit there are so many "wellness" topics it's hard to choose what to talk about. My friend Shari and I get together and share what we are learning about physical and spiritual wellness on a regular basis.  This is a time to share openly and honestly and then we always pray.  Truthfully this is the healthiest thing I do for myself.  There have been times when it is hard to say I'm going to take 2-3 hours "just for me".  BUT I know that I am better for having a safe place to be with a safe person who will listen, ask questions, love me no matter what and tell me the truth as she sees it.  I'm one of those people who mulls things over in my mind and heart.  When I do that one of two things can happen:
1. The lies get filtered out from the truth and a direction is determined.
2. The lies grow and grow and grow and the thoughts become bigger than life, distorted and no direction is determined.

Often I can tell the difference as I say things out loud to my friend.  Just hearing it spoken can sometimes show me the difference between the two sides of the subject I'm considering.  If not, my friend asks questions and we pray and God always finds a way through my thought processes.

Sometimes we use our time to sort out facts from fiction in the "wellness world". There are so many "health and wellness tips" out there. It's hard to determine what is factual.  We compare notes of life knowledge that we each have. We discuss the source and we think of trusted institutions or people that we can ask. My friend is taking classes on nutrition and holistic health and I am a nurse so we have a pretty good place to start. Right now I'm trying to sort out why I have Irritable Bowel type symptoms. I've tried several different approaches and so far not much success but it's looking like stress could be the biggest culprit. Between changes at work (which have infringed on my time with my friend) and trying to help my parents with some health issues I think I'm "stewing" inside.  I have a "date" with my friend on Friday.  That will help.

So my wellness thought for this day is to make sure that you have a safe place (person) to go to when you need to "sort out" the debate going on inside your mind.  This will help you make good decisions and bring more peace to you life.  What are some other things that help you make good decisions?

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Great Weekend Lesson

We had a great weekend going.  If you don't know me I like to have a good time but after the work is done. You know how that goes. When the "work" is done you are often too tired or it is too late.  Well since my husband's crash 7 years ago and the death of our young son-in-law I have learned "up close and personally" you just do NOT know what tomorrow is going to bring so enjoy today!  With that in mind even after a long week at work we had a "$50.00 date night!" This was a first for us.  Mark had done an "odd job" for a widow in our neighborhood and did not charge her.  She wanted to pay so he said "okay, give us some money towards a date." Wah-lah! $50.00!  We headed to a mall near our home to eat there are watch the people.  I know adventurous and romantic!(grin) Then we went window shopping, very leisurely. Nice.  Then we went to a movie. We don't generally go to movies in the theatre as they cost way too much and so many times they are surprisingly full of stuff we really don't care to see.  We actually laughed and enjoyed the one we saw.  Then came one of my favorite things - "no alarm clock morning".  I just love turning off the alarm clock and waking up when my body tells me to wake up.  I aim to have this happen once a week and enjoy it every time.  A quiet day doing housework and bookwork for our ministry ended with playing cards in front of the fireplace.  I even said to Mark, "it doesn't get much better than this!" Then only a couple of short hours later we were arguing. Can you believe it? It was nothing really important. I moved Mark's billfold to use a credit card number for some on-line Christmas shopping and somewhere a long the line a receipt went missing. Defensive attitudes sprang up like weeds. Stubbornness held them steady. Really? Yep.  He searched. I searched. The small white piece of paper had disappeared. Mark gave up and headed to bed. I stewed. I searched some more. No receipt.  I felt so sour.  Our great day had just been spoiled. All kinds of thoughts went through my head..."if he...it's not....I didn't..." All thoughts of my innocence and his guilt. Hmmm, if we are truly a team as we say we are then the lost receipt was our lost receipt and we needed it to return that item.  We did resolve our conflict and that was exactly the ticket, remembering that we are married, together, a team. The conflict was about a lost receipt, not about me or him or who did what.  One of the men in our small group last night used this object lesson.  He placed a pillow between he and his wife. He stated that when they have a conflict they need to do this -  he moved the pillow to the coffee table in front of them. Then he stated "our conflict is about that" and he pointed to the pillow.  "We just need to remember that. It's not about us. It's about the issue at hand."   Point taken. 

I'm thankful for my "great weekend." In amongst all of the "greatness" I just might have learned a lesson!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Unthinkable Circumstances - Faith and Perspective

When you are in the midst of your life's circumstance - whatever that may be - crisis, celebration or the mundane it is often hard to not have tunnel vision.  We often get so wrapped up in "me" that we miss much of life. There are times when we need to focus, concentrate and just do what is in front of us but I've come to believe that even in those times we need to share with a trusted family member or friend that that is what we are doing. Then we need to ask them to help us not stay isolated beyond the immediate need.  We also need those people to remind us that God is in control and we are not.

As we journey through discussing life and unthinkable circumstances I've asked some people I know to share. I will post those thoughts as I receive them. I believe our stories of life are important lessons that we all can learn from. Here is the current thought on faith through unthinkable circumstances from my daughter.  http://www.lifelovegreen.com/2011/11/when-i-lay-my-isaac-down-ch-6

I'd really love to hear from you. The people who were present Wednesday night at our group are stronger today because of two women sharing parts of their story of God walking them through (not around) some tough circumstances.  My daughter and I are sharing lessons we continue to learn after the main crisis of our life thus far has past.  Now I'm beginning to share lessons I'm learning while watching my father take care of my mother with Alzheimer's Disease, something he never dreamed of doing.  What are you learning?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Unthinkable Circumstances

"To walk faithfully with God will always bring a person to experience God's laying His Heart over his." Henry Blackaby. If there is one thing this study of "unthinkable circumstances" is reminding of it's that everyone has some. Yes, some, often more than one "unthinkable" thing in their life and it's surprising how many people have multiple things all surfacing at the same time like my family did.

This week we were an extremely small group meeting Wednesday night but as God would have it, it was exactly the right setting for two gals to share some of their personal unthinkable situation.  One gal shared carefully stating that there were just too many people around the first few weeks, some of them associated with her place of work and she just couldn't share. But now, she wanted to and she did.  Her honesty and open-ness led the gal sitting next to her to share a tragic event in her life from when she was 13 years old and this wonderful woman is older than me! (Which means she has been hiding these thoughts for a looong time.)  She told us she had never told anyone except her husband.  She had so much hurt stored away in her heart. One of the points of being open about your circumstance is to "clean out the wound."  When you are honest and open you don't have to hide anymore.  You don't have to carefully select your words or decide if to even speak.  You don't have to remember what you have and haven't told someone. You don't have to "put your happy face on" if you don't feel like it. You can be real.  That said, it is not necessary to tell every detail to every person.  One sweet gal in our group keeps reminding us that her counselor tells her not to "ruminate" on the past. He means of course that we do not have to rehash all the details every day. Learn the truth, deal with it and move on! Today is a new day.  That does not mean to live pretending "it" never happened. It does mean to learn from it. Live wiser but free from "it" controlling your every thought and decision.

Years into the healing of our circumstances my husband was asked to share his story with a group of men at our church.  He did so with great abandonment. He was so happy to share the victory from secrets and shame in his life.  Afterwards a young man came up to him asking with unbelief in his voice, "why would you publicly share all of that crud in your life?" My husband was smiling big as he told me his response, "only be to please the Lord. Because the Lord asked me to and because you no longer have any power over me. I'm not hiding anything."  That is HUGE.  My husband is living experiencing freedom in Christ due to his faith that God can handle his life, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Everyone of us in that small group meeting in a preschool room in our church Wednesday night could honestly say, "I believe in a God who can handle me and my life circumstances even when things look really lousy."  That faith has and is carrying us through each day of our life. Jim Cymbala said, "People with faith develop a second kind of sight. They see more than just the circumstances; they see God right beside them."  Amen!  Like Elijah praying for his servant, today my prayer for myself and for you is that God would open your eyes to see Him all around you no matter what you life circumstances look like today.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

It's Wednesday again - time to talk about living in wellness.  I visited one of my favorite Nurse Practioners last week. Something she said really struck me.  She said, "I always ask people about headaches and their bowel habits because there are so many people out there living with some level of discomfort that they think is "normal."  She assured me that living with discomfort more than 50% of your days is NOT necessary.  So today I simply want to challenge you to take 5-10 minutes to evaluate your physical and mental health.  Ask yourself a few questions and write down the answers.
1.  Do you experience headaches on a regular basis? 
2.  Do you worry about "things" in your every day life?
3. Are those "things" on your mind to the point of a distraction?
4. Do you feel bloated?
5. Are you constipated? (or have diarrhea) frequently?
6. Do any of your joints hurt?
7. Are you off balance or dizzy frequently?
8. Are you constantly tired?

Add any questions you think of and then answer it honestly.  If you are experiencing any of these symptoms on a regular basis it's time to talk to a health provider.  Check it out. You may be able to feel better with just a few lifestyle adjustments.  Need some referrals?  Let us know in the comment section of this blog and we'll be glad to help you find reputable resources.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Standing On the Promises of God

"The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him," Nahum 1:7  
Those are the words I heard Friday afternoon from my mom's mouth.  Now admittedly this time she stumbled a bit on the final words but those are the words I have heard come from her mouth many times in the last few years.  I first noticed it neatly written on an index card and tacked to the bulletin board above her kitchen sink a long time ago.  No frills, no big deal. It was just there in the center with the appointment reminder cards and missionary prayer cards all around it.  I noticed but I didn't think too much about it. Now I'm thinking that I am so glad Mom took the time to memorize that verse.  She needs to really know that truth deep down in her heart and I believe she does. Like most all of us she has seen her share of "trouble" in this world. Her mom died when she was 11 and Grandpa didn't remarry until she was an adult. She married young the first time and that marriage did not last. The pain of adultery and "shame" (her word, not mine) of being the first divorced person in her immediate family was hard. But Mom has known for most of her life that God is with her each day, walking her through whatever comes her way.  She needs that now more than ever.

Friday afternoon when I heard those words Mom was lying in a hospital bed. To our knowledge nothing "life threatening" was going on but she collapsed twice in the previous two days. The second time she was definitely unconscious for a bit so the ambulance came and took her to the local hospital to get checked out.  The biggest problem is my mom has Alzheimer's Disease.  She is not completely "gone." She has moments of lucid thinking. She still recognizes all of us in the immediate family and remembers her siblings etc.  The thing about people with Alzheimer's (and many other forms of dementia) is that when they are taken out of their normal surroundings they typically become very confused and/or frightened.  I witnessed both as I sat with Mom at the hospital more vividly than I ever have.  She knew me when we got there a few hours after they had arrived at the hospital. She was pleased I was there which allowed my husband to go with my Dad to get him something to eat and pick up Mom's medicine.  In amongst the time alone with her she asked me repeatedly where she was and told me she was sure she could go home.  When I would explain that she had collapsed not once, but twice and we were trying to figure out why she would just shake her head or shrug her shoulders with a very puzzled look on her face. She would then resign herself to what I told her for a few minutes and then we would start all over. Out of the blue in the middle of the afternoon she quote Nahum 1:7.  I believe that even though physically she is at a state that most of what she knows is just trapped somewhere in her brain her spirit knows God. I believe her spirit connects with The Holy Spirit of God. That's important because Scripture promises us that He will help us in our time of need. Mom needs the security of God caring for her when she doesn't understand what is going on around her.  Besides that, it was also comforting for me to know that she had that piece of truth embedded deep in her heart.

I had never seen my Mom quite so frightened/panicked.  She depends on my father for everything and he has risen to the challenge of caring for the woman he loves even as he watches her disappear before his eyes. I am witnessing love "in sickness and in health." He continues to very respectfully speak to her and about her. He does not want to "worry" her about anything. This time both he and I had to speak calmly but very firmly that she needed"The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him," Nahum 1:7  
My Dad is living with this truth in his heart as well.  Again, I was comforted knowing he is trusting in our Lord to get us through this season of life.

This weekend has taught me alot and reminded me of the importance of memorizing scripture.  We need God's word in our heart and mind to guide us when nothing else can.  I have a friend who started a blog to encourage her friends to memorize scripture. We all share what verse(s) we are working on twice a month. I think it's time I take this a bit more seriously. What about you?  Have you ever witnessed someone knowing just the right passage of scripture when they needed it? 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wellness Wednesday - Caring for Yourself

As my "season" of extra hours at my part-time job continues I am continuing to learn how to take care of myself through, not just after the season is over.  I don't know about you but usually when the "unexpected" or even the expected interruptions (holidays, vacations etc) come into my life my personal care goes out the window. I don't want to become a self-centered dictator type person that ignores everything that doesn't benefit me but ignoring me doesn't work either. So this time I'm taking a bit different approach.  The first week I did quite well at continuing with my "rocking" (running slowly/walking) then that fell off for 2 weeks.  However, rather than giving up entirely I started back Sunday. I took a long brisk walk with a friend combining my time for exercise with my friend that I haven't been able to spend much time with. It worked for both of us!  I've rocked the past 2 evenings after work. I must admit I felt satisfaction with myself last night that I did not let exercise completely escape my life.

Meanwhile in amongst the busy-ness I'm really working on drinking the necessary amount of water for me.  I'm drinking at least one 8 ounce glass of water before I leave for work. Then I'm filling a fun (orange), cheap plastic 72 ounce bottle with water and taking it to work. It has attracted a bit of attention and now others are talking about what they can do too! That's just bonus support! As of yet I have not gotten through the whole bottle but I'm working on it.

Lastly I have prioritized the daily chores around the house and only tried to accomplish the top of the list. Every day I've done some housework but not everything that could/should be done. Then I've taken time nearly every day to just relax a bit before bed time. I usually read or watch TV.

I have some female friends who live near a lake. Several of them go Kayaking in the mornings. This gives them exercise and a quiet time to recharge spiritually. I think anytime you can do something in nature it gives you an extra boost.  We don't take seriously how taxing the noise all around us is to our minds.

What do you do to take care of yourself in a busy season or do you even try? The Bible says our bodies are the "temple of God". God's Spirit lives within us. I don't want His home to be falling apart at the seams just because I wouldn't take the time. It's really not attractive to anyone for anything if you are constantly tired, unkempt and whiney. So I ask again what are you doing to take care of yourself?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Marrriage Monday - A Comfortable Weekend

This weekend was very comfortable for me.  I've been working extra hours for 3 weeks now. I can let that drive me crazy with the "what about getting______ done" but I've determined this is the current season I am in. I'm going to accept it for what it is. So when my husband asked me if I would take a mini  road trip to check out some bikes on Saturday (knowing we had tickets to a concert that night) I said, "yes!"  See in my past I would have said, I don't have time - house to clean, laundry to do, dishes to wash - you know the drill. And I probably would have been inwardly upset that he even asked..."couldn't he see all that I have to do? He could offer to help. Then at the end of the weekend when I sat down to watch one TV show "to relax" I would think, "where has the weekend gone? I'm not ready to go back to work yet. quiet grumble"  Why would I push myself like that?  Expectations.  Mostly my own possibly a few by others but really, truly mostly my own. 

I often do things because I believe someone else expects me to. The truth is if we trust God with our lives we should be doing things - every thing- out of love not our own expectations or guilt or for attention. There have been times in our marriage that I have chosen to do things out of fear of disappointing or upsetting my husband if I didn't. That is not the way a healthy relationship works. This weekend was so comfortable because I knew that Mark knew I'd been working alot. It was a beautiful day and there is nothing I like better than being outside after I've worked inside all day. There was something he wanted to check out AND he knew I'd be "happier" if I could enjoy some of the great weather we've been having and probably more productive.  He was right on both fronts.  In the past I would have said no, that I had too much to do around the house before going back to work on Monday. My mind would not have gotten a break and I wouldn't be in a good mood, ready to work again this morning. I'd be wishing I had enjoyed the weekend more and hoping that the clean pile of clothes and well swept floors would make my husband happy.  Well his clothes are clean. The house is reasonably clean and I'm recharged for this week.

What did we do to get to this point?  We just keep talking, praying and trusting God. God says "true love casts out fear." I'm not afraid to ask Mark what he really needs/wants from me today AND I'm willing to let some of my own expectations away. We talked about this "busy season" at work. We both realize it won't last forever. It's all about relationship which involves doing life together, trusting each other and God with outcomes.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Unthinkable Circumstances and Hope?

Find rest, O m soul, in God alone, my hope come from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.  Psalm 62: 5-7

Yahweh Tsure (yah-WEH tsu-REE) The Lord My Rock - representing God's permanence, protection, and enduring faithfulness.

Gabriel Marcel defines hope as "a memory of the future." I had to stop and think about that one. To me it means that we are not "stuck" where we are at the present time. "This" is not all there is.  A very small example would be normally I work a half-time position, job sharing with another nurse. We have a set schedule but are free to trade days with one another, giving us great flexibility. However, for the past 3 weeks and at least one more we are all working full-time+ to make a huge transition in our office.  Right now I'm living with the hope that the future will be as it was in the past - part-time!  Obviously this example is not a major life event but the same thought process can work for us when it is.If we know that the Lord is My Rock - steady, permanent, solid in our lives we have reason to have hope.  Just because the circumstances of our life at this moment are chaotic and appear to be something we have to go "through" and not around does not mean I have to "give up."  I can have hope because my God is a "rock."  He has a plan for me. One of my favorite authors, Henry Blackaby asks this in his book about Abraham entitled, Created to Be God's Friend: How God Shapes Those He Loves.
"Have you ever felt the magnitude of God's encounter with you? Have you so sensed His eternal purpose through you that you have radically and thoroughly released your will to His will, and your heart to His Heart? Have you been progressively experiencing God's shaping your character to match His assignment in your life?...Every Christian is ...called by God to be on a mission with Him in His world." 
That thought can fill us with hope. Even in your current circumstances which can feel trapping, overwhelming, stifiling God is shaping me because He loves me. He created me with a purpose.  We have a "memory of the future" - a future that God planned, eternity with Him! That will never change. Hold on to your hope - hope in Christ.

I love this story of a 12 year boy who was having a nightmare that recurred several times in a month. In his dream whenever he focused on an object it would suddenly shrink and then start spinning counterclockwise at ever-increasing speeds. The experience was so unnerving that when he woke up, he saw objects in his bedroom growing smaller and smaller and then beginning to spin uncontrollably, just like in his nightmare. Finally one night the dream changed. "I was having the dream, " Christopher explained, "when suddenly a slab of stone appeared right in front of my face so I couldn't see anything else. It looked like it was some kind of marble and had handles on either side and writing on it. As soon as I saw it I grabbed on to the handles. When I looked closer, I realized the inscription read: "Jesus Is the Rock." It blocked out all the stuff that had been scaring me, and I never had the dream again."  When he looked at the stone, he couldn't see anything else.

Can you focus on our "Rock"? When we focus on God it totally changes our perspective. What are you looking at today?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Unthinkable Circumstances - Stretcher Bearers Part 2

Before we rush onto Chapter 5 (check back tomorrow) I want to think about "stretcher bearers" a bit more. When I met with the gals Wednesday night one of them commented she had never heard that term before.  It's something we have probably all experienced in our life in some way whether we called it that or not.  Now you have a title for those people who just won't let you do it alone.

Here's another story explaining the role of stretcher bearers. http://www.lifelovegreen.com/2011/10/blogger-bible-study-when-i-lay-my-isaac-down-ch-4/comment-page-1/#comment-3684  The part that stuck out to me the most was this:
Wow, we had an amazing bunch of stretcher barriers during and even after our fight with cancer. People inviting me over to their house for family dinners so I could eat with someone, 4 families in particular keep me social. I would say honestly without them keeping me going I don’t think my heart would have been ready for Mac when I met him, but because of these four families it was.  Did you catch that? 4 families - one for each corner of the mat as they lifted my daughter (and her husband before his death) up to Jesus. How did they do it?  They invited her into their families. They did not allow her to be alone.  Once again I am reminded that God created us for relationships.  We all need quiet times, times alone to settle and focus on the Lord. HOWEVER, we were not created to live life without other people "in" our life.  By "in" I mean allowing someone to really get to know us.  When we keep all of our thoughts in our head they spin around and around and how or where they come out no one can predict.  One thing I can tell you is that those thoughts are usually very distorted and do not often really help us in any way. In fact they (the thoughts) usually cause us more trouble.

Think back, tell me a time when you were thinking one thing and then someone shared with you and let you know it really was not at all like you were thinking.  Or share a specific time when you were lifted up by your stretcher bearers.  Have you ever thanked them?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wellness Wednesday - Where Did It Go?

Whoops, what happened to yesterday? You've had those kind of days. The ones that start when you wake up with about 25 things on your mind that you believe need done today! Yesterday was one of those days.  Right now I am on week three of full-time+ working at the medical office where I am normally 1/2 time.  We are taking on a new system and it is truly "all hands on deck."  For the most part it is going well but it is very intense and there is no clear leader for the team I work most closely with.  It's stressful for me because something I deal with on a regular basis is feeling responsible for "everything" I see.  However in this case, I am NOT the boss so I'm trying really hard to just take care of me and help others when appropriate.  I'm really starting to "feel" the stress of not being home to get the other things in my life taken care of in a timely way.  I'm not alone. The statistics prove that stress is one of the top health issues in America.

Time Magazine

Time magazine's June 6, 1983 cover story called stress "The Epidemic of the Eighties" and referred to it as our leading health problem; there can be little doubt that the situation has progressively worsened since then. Numerous surveys confirm that adult Americans perceive they are under much more stress than a decade or two ago.  A 1996 Prevention magazine survey found that almost 75% feel they have "great stress" one day a week with one out of three indicating they feel this way more than twice a week. In the same 1983 survey only 55% said they felt under great stress on a weekly basis. It has been estimated that 75 - 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress related problems. Job Stress is far and away the leading source of stress for adults but stress levels have also escalated in children, teenagers, college students and the elderly for other reasons, including:  increased crime, violence and other threats to personal safety; pernicious peer pressures that lead to substance abuse and other unhealthy life style habits; social isolation and loneliness; the erosion of family and religious values and ties; the loss of other strong sources of social support that are powerful stress busters.(Taken from this web site. Check it outhttp://www.stress.org/americas.htm)

Why do we allow ourselves to get so stressed out?  I did great week one. I simplified life at home as much as possible. Easy meals, all the laundry caught up the weekend before but I only expected the extended schedule to last 2 weeks. Now I know it could go on for a  month or so.  I need to "reset" my brain. I need to ask the Lord to show me what really needs done and how to do it and then trust that He will do so.  As I often say, none of what is currently going on is a surprise to God. He has my life in His hands. I just need to allow Him to lead.

What role does stress play in your life?  How do you handle it?