"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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Marriage Monday - Good Relationships are Possible

It's Marriage Monday and I'm unexpectedly off to work at my job as a nurse today. I really had a bad attitude about having to fill in, but it is necessary. Why do I tell you that? Because my husband has been great.  He allowed me to be disappointed that my plans had to change without guilt. Then he helped me move on. As he would say, "it is what it is."

That's life. Stuff happens and you deal with it. It is much easier as a team. You have a broader perspective. You have support. You have encouragement to try something new or hang in there when your tired or even just somebody to relax with when you're really tired. We did that yesterday afternoon. We had our weekend of ministry and then drove home intending to take a nap and get a little work done since today was kidnapped by my nursing job. Instead we ended up watching some TV together, laughing, reading the newspaper, making some chilli and yes, we did do a little work but it was just a little. We relaxed together.

To all of you out there with tough relationships I want to encourage you. It is possible to have a good relationship. To be able to be yourself with your spouse and not worry about what he is thinking all the time. God is able. Our relationship is proof. If you want to know more of our story, ask me. We tell it where-ever appropriate. We love to encourage others.

Have a great day. Enjoy your spouse today!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What ARE you focusing on?

These thoughts intrigue me. "If your idea is big enough you only have room for one." And, "The trouble with us is that the passion for variety puts God in list with other things." (G. Campbell Morgan) I was thinking about this. What difference does it make if we have lots of variety in our life?  I would say in lots of ways variety describes my life. Variety because I like to try new things. I like to learn. However I can honestly say that the  old saying "Jack of all trades, master of none" pretty much sums me up.  I can cook but I'm not a chef. I can do a few athletic type things but only at a mediocre level. I can sing but I'm not really a soloist. I can play piano but again not really a lead or soloist type. The list could go on but you get my drift. Now I'm not complaining for example that I'm not a chef. I've never wanted to be one. The point is in order to "feed" all of my interests (there are MANY more) I don't spend a lot of time going deep into any of them. Some things are for a season of life. That's okay. But right now I can tell you have not scrapbooked in over a year. Why? Because there are so many other things in my life I felt like I needed to do first. Other things take priority. You may not think that is a great loss but I sort of do. Scrapbooking is another way to journal and I totally believe in journaling.

Recently Mark and I have taken on an assignment at a church to help them grow their worship, specifically through their music. This has caused me to shuffle my priorities and focus more on music than I have in years. I'm listening much more attentively. I've gotten out some old learning materials to remind myself of some good old theory. I've actually sat and practiced music at the piano. I got out my keyboard AND it's manual! :) Since this is taking up more of my time, something else had to go. I chose not to take another counseling class for a couple of months. We hired a college student to help with cleaning the house. Adjustments had to be made. When I watch TV, listen to my co-workers and read magazines I hear the "I can conquer all" mentality. If I really pay attention to that I could feel bad that I can't take care of my own house - especially since our kids are grown and it's only me and my husband at home. In fact, I did feel that way for years. Now I know better. In order to do something well you have to give it time and energy. You can't do that with everything in your life. You have to make choices - focus.

Why is this important? Back to the beginning thought, if your idea is big enough there is only room for one. In my life a main focus is learning to live daily with an infinite God, God with no limits. Because of that I'm willing to do crazy things like drive an hour and a half to another church to help them grow their worship and set aside for a season a few other things in my life. I'm excitedly watching to see what my infinite God will do, and when He will do it, and even how He will do it. What are you choosing to focus on right now?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wellness Wednesday - Continuing a Focus Theme

I seem to have a theme going in my life right now. Focus. Focus on what matters and our health matters. I have chosen to focus on eating 5-6 times daily in small amounts with protein more purposefully included and sugar/white flour type stuff cut way back.  With that I am purposefully making sure to exercise at least 3-4 times weekly and most weeks am getting 4-5 times. This is mostly aerobic exercise. When I feel like this is really implanted in my way of life I know I need to add/exchange some exercise time with core strength training but that will come. I cannot do it all at once and I'm more interested in getting and staying healthy for a life time than marking something off my list. 

Focusing means making choices and not being able to do everything. Our culture encourages that we try and do anything and everything we want to. For the most part it also says, "do it now!"  I've found that when I cram too many things in my life I don't really get to enjoy them - I just get to do them. One simplifying blog post I read was talking about "stuff" in your home and asked if you don't have to have it to survive and you don't love it, why do you have it?  I thought that question could apply to a lot of things in our life.  Why don't you ask yourself that question once a day about something for the next week? I'm challenging you. Share your stories. What are you discovering that you are doing and/or keeping in your life that you really don't need or love? Why? Is it just because everyone else has it? Are you worried what the neighbors might think if they see you wearing the same outfit each week? What is your story?

Simplifying or focusing takes some stress out of your life and stress is the number one killer of our lives. I'm choosing to focus.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Marriage Monday - Where is Your Focus?

It's fun to look through "blogland" and see that marriage is a pretty common topic of discussion. (especially on Mondays it appears) That is encouraging to me because I (we) have learned through practical experience that marriages don't just bloom and grow automatically.  Mark and I read a devotion on our way home from our weekly road trip that brought up a simple observation.  A man who works with marriages alot compared asking an engaged woman and a married woman about their man.  He stated that when he asks an engaged gal she can easily go on for 10 minutes telling him all the great traits and abilities of her fiancee'. He said that most often when he asks a married woman she tells him of all the things her husband isn't or does not do.  How sad is that?

I know this is an accurate observation from our experience mentoring. Pre-marital mentoring is full of smiles and giggles, dreams and goals. We are starting a new couple this week. It will be fun. Marriage mentoring is a whole different experience. If there is not complete uncontrolled anger, then there is hurt and fear with much more caution in the words. Sometimes there is just this lost look. They are unsure what to say and where to start.  What happens?  Well there is no one answer that can answer that however I do have a thought that seems pretty universal. We allow "life" to get in the way. We become distracted.  We gradually get sucked into the mentality that what everyone else thinks is really important in our life. We think we need to be working harder to get the next promotion at work. We need to be home room mom for all of our kids at least every other year. We need to be a part of that hobby group and then there is always the church activities.  Teaching Sunday school isn't enough we need to help with the women's ministry and fix food for every funeral or birth that happens. Men, you  aren't off the hook. You do the same thing with different activities. What happens to your relationships, marriage in particular? The answer? They get very little of your "first" energy, time or attention.  I don't know about you but when I'm tired my patience, enthusiasm, creativity...well about anything good is not at it's best and my tongue tends to be very short and sharp. Why? Because life becomes all about "me." I am busy. I need to get this or that done. I need...and you are interrupting my plan or maybe even adding something to my list. Sound familiar?

This past week I was a bit overwhelmed with life, mostly mentally. Mark and I have come a long ways in our nearly 31 years. I didn't express my feelings through anger or tears. I did think a couple of times, "he can't know where I'm at if I don't tell him." So without making a huge issue I mentioned that I was "swimming mentally". He got it. He "took care of himself" more than normal last week. He allowed me to be quiet.  I worked hard to  see what really needed to be done and do that and not worry too much about the rest of my "list."  Our weekend ended with our ministry in another town letting us know there was a community event happening at 2:30 that we "could stay for..." Mark very graciously looked at me and said, while he was sure we would enjoy it we needed to go home. His wife needed a break before starting the week all over again. Perfect! There was a time in our life when we both would have thought we had to stay, totally because of other people's expectations. No more. We will serve them better when we stay focused and rested. What about you? How do you put your marriage relationship at the top of the priority list? Do you, personally realize that you can't do everything? This is a lesson we need to be talking about to help each other and ourselves learn because it is counter-cultural right now.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What Good is Knowledge?

"...whenever there is intellectual assent without corresponding action, there is spiritual dullness. God intellectually accepted without response in obedience, fades away from the immediateness of consciousness." G. Campbell Morgan

What that says to me is we can "learn" things. Accept them into our mind - sometimes I call it being "book smart" but if we never put it into practice what does it matter?  I believe this pertains to all of life. I thought of this quote as I ran yesterday after work. I was tired and had a long list of things that needed done. However I had not run the day before and it's only 2 1/2 weeks till my first 5K so it's no time to let up.  I felt like a slug. That's the exact thought that went through my head as I "ran". It felt more like plowing through mud. My feet were heavy and I was sure I wasn't moving any faster than a turtle. However between the music in my ears I just kept rehearsing every thing I know about exercise being good for you. In my conversation with myself I thought I needed to put in to practice what I know to be true medically. Exercise on a regular basis strengthens you and generally helps you avoid illness. I'd like to say since I've been exercising pretty regularly over the winter I've lost a ton of weight and inches. The truth is, I have not. I lost the initial bit of weight I put on that put me in a panic. That's good. I also have not gained the insidious 2-3 pounds most of us put on every year. That is also good. The at least 5 and really 10 pounds I'd like to lose, I have not. But I wonder where I would be if I wasn't trying. Probably in a larger pant size.  The moral to this story - my knowledge of exercise and health when put to practice is keeping me from gaining weight. That is a good thing.

The "other" moral to this story is knowledge in and of itself doesn't really help anything unless we put it into practice. What knowledge do you have that you are not using in your own life?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Marriage Monday - Learning and Soaking in the Moments

You may have noticed less postings in the past few weeks. It's one of those special times, a change of seasons in our home. Almost a month ago now we moved my mother to a local nursing home due to her Alzheimer's disease.  This was a very difficult weekend. My brother, Dad, husband and I were together for the weekend and it took all of us to get this job done. As you can imagine, it wasn't "done" by just physically getting her there. There are many details to attend to which predominately show up as care of our hearts. Each of us is grieving a loss of the wife or mom we knew. However, we are very fortunate to have each other to talk to and work with to make decisions as well as share memories. I've learned more about my parents and their relationship in the past month than in most of my lifetime. Dad's mind and heart is full of memories and a strong desire to continue to care for my mother.  This experience has reinforced to me again the value of fully soaking the in the moment we are in right now, especially in our marriages.

As it happens, at the very same time we were helping my parents make this major change in their life we were entering a new season as well. Treasure Chest Ministries is seeing a dream come true. We are working along side a church in Harlan, Iowa to deepen their worship and build their teams for worship through music. The heart of Treasure Chest Ministries is to be a catalyst for the Body of Christ by matching people's passions to needs. Most often we are placing other people. This time, this need met the passion of my husband's heart. Why do I bring this up on "Marriage Monday?" Because we are a team. We prayed about this. We talked to our family and a few trusted friends. We met people from Harlan and talked and prayed some more. Is this my passion? No, not specifically worship but yes, helping people recognize who they are in Christ and going deeper in that relationship is.  That said, as a couple we have had to do a lot of talking and have made a few adjustments to "life" as we know it. We still have our "day jobs." So we agreed to not assume pretty much anything. We have done this type of ministry before and not handled our time well. It wasn't healthy and didn't end well in that regard. This time we talked with the leadership of the church involved. We have some preset boundaries with them. That's a great start.

Secondly, we are talking about stuff as it comes up. We have an agreement not to "stuff" things till "later" and then let it all come exploding out at some inappropriate moment. (yep, that's me) That's growth in our relationship. It's based on a growth in our trust.

Thirdly we are intentionally trying to soak in the moments and listen to what God is teaching us. My number one lesson so far is what a different person my husband is than he was years ago. He is much stronger and focused. It is so much fun to see his creative side come out again.

Last night we had a "moment" together as we soaked in the realization that God has allowed us to meet so many amazing people. Some of them are "recognizable" names, many are not. Yesterday in Harlan we met up with a man we knew more than 30 years ago. He experienced a horrible accident which left his legs paralyzed as a young adult man. We haven't seen him in probably 20 years. There was an instant connection when we met. Why? Because he loves God and through this accident he has moved even deeper in to his relationship with God. The result of that is he cares more about God and people than himself. He generously gave his home community a gift of love and music last night. As Mark and I sat and listened we knew this was a moment we needed to fully absorb and not take lightly.  One of the quotes Scott used was from C.S. Lewis (I think) "We do not have a soul. We are a soul. We have a body."  Scott's body has not been "healed." His legs remain paralyzed. But his soul is healed. He has dug deeper into his relationship with the God of this universe and sees life with a different perspective than before his accident. He is honest and open about his life. He does not claim it is "all good" or that he never "complains" or misses walking and running. He does say he has learned so much and that he wouldn't trade for anything. Mark and I say the same thing regarding our marriage. Going on 8 years ago now our life took a huge hit. It hurt. It was hard and it has taken a long time for our souls to heal. But we have. We are together. We are in a covenant relationship and we are learning to soak in the moments as individuals and together. Have you taken time to appreciate the "moments" in your life and relationships?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wellness Wednesday - Real Life, Healthy Food

Today I am taking an easy route for health. I'm learning from others. I have discovered a blog of a young mom who has been extremely gluten intolerant for years. However, she has not become a victim. She has made life a life of discovery! She creates food that tastes good and is good for you. She has quite a variety and I'm on the way to the kitchen now to try her Lentil Soup.  Check it out!

This gal is a sister of a woman I work with. I have tried a few of the foods through her and they were very good. So I'm motivated to try a few more! Why don't you let me know if you try any of these or have a favorite healthy recipe to share.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Marriage Monday - So Much More

This Monday has me thinking about marriage and the interesting position we live out as married couples. We are two individuals melded into one. We are a couple. Why? I've come to believe we are a much deeper, more well rounded person when we allow ourselves to become one with our mate. We experience things with a broader or different perspective than if we did it alone. We try things when we are with them that we probably wouldn't try if we were alone.  Mark and I always think of the time we went to Europe with several other couples. We got lost nearly every day but it wasn't a scary, bad thing. We laughed and it became the day's adventure. Why? Because there was a group of us. We knew we would be okay.  We were not alone! Many times since then Mark and I have had things happen leaving us feeling lost. However, we knew from past experience that being lost could be an adventure if we would let it. More importantly, it could be an adventure if we didn't let fear take over.

Over the past two weeks I have spent more time with my parents than I have in years. I've learned alot about both of them. After 48 years of marriage, Mom, even with her Alzheimer's filled mind, knows my Dad and she knows that she would like to be with him. At first she talked of going home and she still does at times but the main thing she talks of is being with Dad. She doesn't care if he stays with her or she goes with him. She just wants to be together. Why? Because he represents love and security to her. And Dad, well his heart breaks every time he walks out the door and leaves her there. He tells me how special she is to him and how he just wants her to be happy. Why? Because she represents a full life to him. He tells me how she showed him determination and exposed him to art and beauty in a way he had not seen it before. He makes sure that I notice that even now she always wants to share whatever she has and tells me that she is always that way. Together their life is richer, fuller, full of love.

This is a great example for me. Who am I in my marriage? Do I fully appreciate all that my husband has brought to my life?  I have always said life with Mark has brought me "higher highs and lower lows" than I could have imagined. That is a true statement, and there is so much more. His ability to think "outside the box" has helped me try things I know I would not have without him! What have you experienced in your life that you might not have if your spouse had not been a part of your life?

Friday, April 6, 2012


Yesterday at work I was working near by as a couple of my Catholic co-workers were talking. One of them was trying to remember what the mass would be that evening and she was getting confused. They were giggling like little girls as they worked together to remember which service was on what day of this "Holy Week." I admit it made me smile as I heard them talk and the thought even went through my head that it was a bit sad that they didn't know as they were both adult women and one of them stated clearly that she went to Catholic school as a child. This morning however, it strikes me that although I am not Catholic I am in much of the "same boat."  I have had the privilege of growing up with Christ in my life. I accepted Him as my Savior at the ripe old age of 6 and have never looked back. The church I grew up in did not really make a "big deal" of Christmas and Easter but always told the story and explained it's meaning in our life today. However in my adult life I have participated in many a "production" for these holidays. I have to admit it has at times been more of a time of doing something for someone else than a time of reflection and appreciation for myself. Today will be a bit different. We have a new experience going on in our life. I'll explain it all at some other time, but it means we are going to a different church this year. Tonight we will attend their Good Friday Service which we had no part in arranging. I'm believing I will be more attentive and will very likely "see things" in a fresh way.

That thought was already going through my head when I read from a book that I've been using in my quiet times lately. The book is not written around the theme of Easter but today my reading time took me to John 13 where the story of Jesus washing the disciples feet is. The author made this comment, "Jesus is about to let flesh be broken with nail, heart be broken with rejection,  the chains be broken with bleeding love. And in His last hours before His earthly end, He doesn't run out to buy something or catch a flight to go see something, but He wraps a towel around his waist and kneels low to take the feet of His forsakers gently in hand and wash away the grime between their toes." -Ann Voskamp, "One Thousand Gifts" He breaks bread with His disciples. He serves them by washing their feet. He doesn't ask for them to serve him, give him his favorite food or a massage or even play his favorite music. He is very present with them. He loves them and tells them what is going to happen, for their sake.

Isn't it amazing? The God of the universe became man. He lived on earth and he died on earth. As he prepared to die he served man. He did take quiet prayer time following that act of service. Why? To talk to his Father, God. To ask his Father if this was for sure the right thing to do. He was very deliberate in every action saying "not my will, but thine be done."  It encourages me to be intentional. To serve and to take time to confirm that I am "on the right path." To pray to my Father God, being honest, telling Him what I think I would like but asking that His will be done. That means I have to trust Him enough to be willing to do His will and the truth is I have no reason not to trust Him. So today my goal is to be more aware of God's sacrifice through His son Jesus. To dwell on the fact that He served man until his very last breath and to ask the Lord to help me be a good servant in my life. What about you? What does this make you think about?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wellness Wednesday - Don't Do It Alone!

In the past week I read an article in "Real Simple" magazine about a study on women and time that they did. There was an accompanying article that talked about a woman who is a pulitzer prize winner, a wife, and a mom. Good reality check. Those people we read about doing "great things" are just people too. One thing she does is go to a schedule exercise class with people she knows. This requires getting up early in the morning several times a week to get this done. She says it is her time. She feels better for doing it and therefore it is on her calendar. The time is reserved. That time is not "lost" or "wasted" it was carefully looked for and found. She needs a way to help her stay healthy to take care of her family and work. Evidently this works for her.

Several months ago my daughter asked if I wanted to do a 5K with her. I'll admit, I laughed out loud. I am not a runner - never have been. However over the past several years I have become an avid walker. I have long legs and I walk with a purpose. I love fresh air. Sometimes I wear head phones and listen to great music. Sometimes it makes me want to dance! Sometimes, actually quite often, I pray while walking. After some time, quite some time passed by I found myself want to increase my pace. I started to "trot" a bit, then a little more and a little more. I can now do 2.5 miles with only very brief periods of walking, mostly to catch my breath. I have done 3.1 miles which is 5K a few times now as an intermittent walk/run.  While I was out yesterday I was thinking about my journey to learn to live healthy and all of you, my friends.  I needed my daughter to challenge me. I needed to have a goal in early May so that I wouldn't quit over the winter when I can't run outside like I usually do.  I need to hear stories like the one of the pulitzer prize winning wife and mom who sets time aside to exercise and still accomplishes much. I need the freedom given by my husband to take the time to do what I need to be healthy. We are lucky, you and I. We have each other. You contact me and tell me what you are learning in your life. However, very few of you ever comment publicly on this blog. You call or message me privately. I appreciate it. I learn from it. Thank you.  Now I'm challenging you to share your journey publicly. There are lots of people like me, real people who want to do better with their lifestyle habits. We need to know it's possible to live healthy and still live.  And I'm sure there are many of you, like me, who need a goal and someone to know about your goal so that you will keep getting out there. This is a place where you can do that.  Share your goal here and/or on my Facebook page. Who knows, you just might accomplish more than you know you can do and you might help someone else in the process!

"Now unto Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory...." Ephesians 3:20-21a NIV

Monday, April 2, 2012

Marriage Monday - Do you have Boundaries?

So as the beautiful, filled up morning unfolds I am struck with a question. Where are the boundaries in marriage?  Are there boundaries in marriage? I believe there are. Why should there be when "the two become one"? I mean if we are truly "one" then isn't everything in our lives overlapping, shared by both?
My answer is yes and no. Yes, we have become one. We should have unlimited access in the form of trust and care and love. Because of that trust and care and love we are here to serve each other. Helping each other fully live life should be one of our top goals. Helping each other means telling the truth out of love, not always complying just to "keep him happy." But honestly helping your spouse because you love them - sometimes that includes saying no. Why are they asking you to help them with their project? Do they really need help or have they taken on too much again and they are drowning? If they are it's your job to determine how to best help them. Do you actually help them get it done while reserving a time to talk about not always saying "yes" to everything that is asked of you or do you say no, because you've talked about this several times and they need to walk through the consequences of their choices? Then think about your side. Why do you want to say "no?" Are you mad at them for getting into this "too busy" position? Are they "interrupting" your plans? Do you know how to help?

Do you have "boundaries" in your marriage? Are there things that are totally yours to take care of and things that are your spouse's? How does that work for you? Do you think there is one right way?