Sunday, November 17, 2013

On getting older...part 3.

I can't watch the show Hoarders, it's too sad.  I've seen several episodes and what interests me most is why people live that way.  How in the world?  For the most part, each story is the same.  Something happens to them, usually a loss, and in their efforts to try to comfort themselves they begin to accumulate things.  They shop, they buy, they stuff...trying to fill the hole that their loss has left.  Nothing works, and in their efforts and their grief they lose touch with reality.  They stop smelling the stench, they stop seeing the mess.  It starts out slowly, and seemingly harmlessly until over time they discover they have buried themselves and it is so enormous that it becomes unmanageable.  Or worse yet, it becomes normal.

I watch it and it seems unreal to can they do that to themselves?  It's easy to judge.  Until I realize that we are all capable of doing the same thing.  Maybe not physically, but we can become hoarders emotionally.  Holding on to hurts, bitterness, and loss.  Refusing to let go of the injustices, the what-ifs, the if-onlys.  We all have them, and if they are not dealt with and placed at the foot of the cross, they will accumulate slowly over time until one day we find ourselves buried.  Buried in the stench of an unforgiving heart.  Buried in the filth of bitterness that literally suffocates.  And it blinds us until we are unable to see through it all enough to see the light from Heaven that offers forgiveness, and purpose, and hope.

I see this in some of the elderly.  Those who have lived their lives hoarding emotional wounds and now find themselves at the end of their lives, reaping what they have sown.  There are no amount of activities, no amount of decorating to make the place feel "homey", no amount of visitors and volunteers and special dinners that will clear all this junk out of their hearts.  It holds them prisoner more than their failing health ever could, and keeps them from experiencing the peace and security and joy that should accompany each of us in our golden years.  It should be a time of remembrance and rest.  And for some it is.  Those are the people that everyone enjoys talking to.  They have a joyful heart, a story to tell, and a smile to share.  But the crabby ones, the complainers, the ones that strike out or lash out verbally, or worst of all...just sit there and refuse to talk to anyone.  It's a little harder with them.  Whether we see them at work or at church or in a restaurant or on the street corner begging for money.  They make us uncomfortable, fearful even and sometimes we avoid them altogether.    But they are the ones that Jesus reached out to, and He wants us to as well.  Anger masks hurt.  Complaining hides disappointment and emptiness of heart.  Loneliness manifests itself in silence. 

So, in this new mission field God has placed me in, I am eager to do something about it.  I want so badly to save everyone!  If I didn't have so much paperwork to do, I think I would go around and spend my days talking to people.  Holding their hands, praying with them, singing to them, talking and encouraging and loving them.  That's where my heart is, but time and my other responsibilities don't allow it nearly as often as I'd like.  But I do as much as I can, and one thing I've discovered is how easy it is to brighten someone's day.  Even on my way to a meeting, I can take a few minutes or even a few seconds to smile, talk, touch someone and lift their spirits.  They matter, those moments we are given to touch the life of another, and we are presented with them daily.  Do they change eternity?  Do they save the unsaved?  Maybe not in that moment, but they are opportunities to give them a glimpse of the Savior that they are desperate to know.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

On getting older...part 2

So, as I sat through meeting after meeting in those first several weeks at my job and listened to the nurses talk about all the medical issues that people were dealing with and how to best treat each one, I began to decipher all the medical lingo.  While that was a relief (to finally understand what everyone was talking about) I couldn't understand why all these people had so many problems!  And everyone was talking about it like it was normal.  Infections, wounds, inability to walk and feed themselves and even swallow...and the cognitive issues.  Depression, confusion, dementia.  What in the world was going on?  Is this what happens when we age?  To all of us, or just some?  This can't be normal...or is it?

The principle of sowing and reaping is mentioned throughout the bible.  God has been teaching me a lot lately about this principle.  It has to do with the choices we make and the consequences of them.  There are always consequences...

"Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit."
Galatians 6:7-8

I used to be confused by this.  As Christians, I thought that accepting Jesus meant that He would save us from the consequences of our choices.  He would come in with his big eraser and take care of everything that I screwed up in my life.  I'm learning that is not entirely true.  While He paid the penalty for our sin in order to restore our relationship with God, and He offers TOTAL forgiveness, there are still consequences to our choices that we may have to live with on earth.  It isn't God's will, but in the areas that we don't surrender to Him, He does not always spare us from our choices.  From ourselves. 


Nowhere has this principle been shown to me so clearly as it has in the past few months.  The choices related to our physical health, I can understand.  How we take care of our bodies and invest in our health when we are young has a direct effect on our quality of life as we age.  Now there's a wake up call for me!  Hello!!  But as a social worker I am more focused on the mental, spiritual and emotional quality of peoples lives, and God is showing me that this principle very much applies to those areas  as well.  Everyday I see people living out the final years of their lives, reaping what they have sown...before their health, their independence and sometimes their minds have been stolen from them, or have simply slipped away.  While it's not true for everyone, far too many are overcome with loneliness.  Emptiness.  Hopelessness.    People who have lived their whole lives for themselves, pursuing their dreams, working hard, raising their families, placing their value and worth on the things they were able to do and accomplish and attain.  Now, as one by one those things have been stripped away from them, even in some cases their very dignity as they depend on others to do even the simplest of things for them, what are they left with? 

Without Christ, it's very simple.  They are left with nothing

Nothing to live for.  Nothing to pursue.  Nothing to value.  Nothing to hope for.  So they sit the days away and implode. Hopelessness is like a blanket that is draped over their souls and they have stopped trying.  Stopped living long before their lives are truly over.   It is nothing short of heartbreaking to me.

Friday, November 15, 2013

On getting older...part 1

It has been three months since I started my new job as a nursing home social worker.  It's something I've wanted to do on & off for years, ever since my sister fulfilled that role at the small town nursing home she worked at years ago.  Now here I am, 20+ years into my career and it was time for a change.  I've had a few changes, so this wasn't the first, but it is definitely one of the most significant.  My first social worky job out of college was working with adults with developmental disabilities and I was in that field for 15 years.  I loved it, but after that amount of time I was ready for a change.  My next venture for the following 5 years was working with children with autism.  Loved that as well.  It was HARD work tho, very physical and I finally decided when I began having trouble with my knees that maybe I was getting too old to be sitting on toddler chairs and running (yes running) around after kids all day.  Last year I took a position at the middle school as a para...not exactly my field but I did it for a couple of reasons.  I wanted the opportunity to work with adolescents, wanted to be in Winona (I had been commuting to Rochester for 2 years) and I wanted to have the same schedule as our kids.   It was a great experience!  One I intended to continue (I was secretly hoping it would give me an "in" in the school district which may lead to a school social work position at some point).  But when this opportunity arose last summer I definitely felt called to accept.

So here I first experience in the medical field and it's very different.  It's like they are speaking a different language, those nurses.  My first several weeks there I would sit through meetings and take notes, not having a clue what the heck they were talking about a majority of the time until I started asking more questions and figuring out all the medical lingo (I bet you don't know what EA of 1 means, or SOB or mechanical soft).  Google comes in really handy for things like that!  I won't lie, it was pretty overwhelming at first.  But now that I'm a few months into this I feel like I can take a deep breath and say "ok, I am beginning to get this now".  

I look at this, and every job I've had, as a ministry.  This is where God has placed me to make a difference.  In the lives of these people.  Right now.  I have prayed a lot about my role there and wanting to have an impact.  I am so thankful that I work for a place that values spirituality and embraces it even.  It is not unusual or questioned if anyone wants to pray with someone or talk about things of faith.  I realize what a blessing that is as a Christian, because so many places that is not accepted or even allowed. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

American Idol and my big accomplishment for the day

Not that I am counting or anything, but it's 11 weeks, 3 days, and 2 hours until Season 13 of American Idol starts. 

About that.  I'm a wee bit excited.  Last year we were "fasting" from cable so I didn't see it at all.  AT ALL.  I don't think I saw even one episode.  Well, all the anticipation from last year's hiatus must have accumulated and multiplied because right now I'm PUUUUUUMPED!!  Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, and now....Harry Connick Jr.???  I can't think of a better panel.  So much awesomeness.  I hope my internet friend (I imagine that we are friends anyway) BooMama does a live blog party during Idol this year like she has before.  It was so much fun! 

So, aside from getting a few loads of laundry done, running the dishwasher, and taking out my bathroom garbage, my big accomplishment for the day was to rescue my candle.  This is my favorite candle in the ENTIRE world.  I know I have mentioned it before several times (it used to be called Campfire Marshmallow, but they changed the name last year).  It is quite possibly my most favorite smell (with the possible exception of Vince's cologne but I won't be gross). 

The wick had some problems, it had gotten off center and was buried in black chunky stuff.  So I did some surgery with the new tool I just got that trims wicks (candles are important to me, don't judge) and to make an already long and boring story shorter, I doctored it up and now it is burning beautifully, with a clean and centered wick, and I am very happy about it.  Vince called me the "Candle Whisperer". 

And in my quest to find a picture on Google images, I came across this amazing creation and I NEED TO KNOW HOW TO DO THIS!!! 

That is all.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Not My Blog: Comfort Edition

New look, new day, new inspiration from this blog that I just stumbled upon this morning.  Happy Saturday!  Now, time for coffee...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Why I could just puke on myself

I had a revelation today.  A huge one, actually.  It was one of those life-changing moments that made me pause in my mental tracks and say, "whoa".  It all started with the book I am reading right now...

It is so good. amazing that I began having my revelation while I was still reading the introduction.  When that happens, I know it's going to be good!  The book is about a Christian mom (a very funny one, which is always a plus in my eyes) who took herself and her family and a group of friends on a journey to let God teach them about the excess in their lives.  The purpose of the journey was to empty some space that is typically occupied with "stuff", and make room for the Holy Spirit to move in their hearts.

So as I began reading last night, I started to realize something that I have kind of known, but somehow this time it just slapped me in the face:  I am so pampered!  I am a spoiled brat. And so are you, by the way.  We all are, those of us who live in this country of plenty.  Plenty of food, everywhere.  Comfort, luxury in fact, abounds all around us.  We are so used to it that we don't even see it.  We crave comfort, and it is smothering us.  We want to be just the right temperature...not too hot, not too cold.  We want comfy chairs and comfy beds and comfy clothes and comfy cars and comfy jobs and comfy faith and comfy lives.  We have all this, and we have the audacity to want more. 

So...with that realization smacking me around this morning, I began praying for God to show me what to do about it.  I mean, it's not my fault that I live here, right?  This is the society we live in, this is our reality.  It's not like I can just sell everything and move to Africa and be poor, as if that would somehow accomplish something spiritual.  That's not what God is calling me to do right now. 

So, what is He asking of me?  What am I supposed to do with this new revelation? 

Bless others.  It's that simple.  Use the gifts and talents and the abundance of blessings He has given me to bless others.  BING!  That's it.

So right there in my bedroom this morning I asked Him, begged Him to show me how, rather than heaping my blessings up on myself and those whom I know and love who are already blessed.  We spend so much time "blessing the blessed", and ignoring the poor.  The orphans.  The widows.  The lonely.  The desperate.   The lost.  They are everywhere.  And they are waiting.

But I don't have time for all that.  I have a family to raise and a full time job and a life and everything...I am so overwhelmed, how can I possibly do more, God?

That is exactly what satan wants me to think.  Every time I start to have a desire to reach out to others, he says "it's time to get her busy". 

I am so sick of hearing me say "I'm too busy" that I could just puke on myself!

So as I got ready for work this morning, I asked God to help me stop being "too busy".  To stop filling my mind with my own thoughts and listen to His voice, the voice that whispers as it leads.  And much to my surprise, my day was sprinkled with opportunities.  Opportunities to be a blessing to others.  So many opportunities, and instead of ignoring them or letting them overwhelm me or grieve my heart, I listened. 
"Go sit with him, have your breakfast with him and talk."

"Don't rush...listen to her.  Your other work can wait."

"Put lotion on his hands."

"Ask her if she knows Jesus."

"Go talk to him...yea, it's an hour past his bedtime and he's still messing around.  But he wants to talk to you.  Don't worry about the time, just go."

And in each of these opportunities, I listened. And something happened.  Something miraculous. 

I made a difference.

I can't wait for tomorrow.  For more opportunities to listen to God's voice and respond.  It's so easy, it's so worth it.  And I will not be too busy. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Panic attacks, deep breathing, and my all-time favorite smell

Campfire Marshmallow.  It's my favorite smell in the world right now.  IN THE WORLD.  Seriously, I can't even tell you.  I've had the candle burning in the kitchen for most of the day and it is emanating throughout the whole house, making it smell so yummy!  I discovered this heavenly smelling candle at Pieces of The Past (my favorite store in downtown Winona) years ago and I told Vince today that if he ever wonders what to get me for Christmas or my birthday or you know, Thursday...he could get me anything "campfire marshmallow" and I will be very happy.  It's been a lazy kind of Saturday.  Well, I've been keeping myself very busy all day so lazy isn't the right word I guess, but I've been home all day with no where that I needed to go and I loved it.  My day was filled with laundry, cleaning, some Casting Crowns, kale chips (gross...although Hope loved them) and a little piano.  I am learning how to play a new song "I Will Rise" by Chris Tomlin, which is my new favorite worship song right now. 

Lord knows I need me some worship music to help me maintain what's left of my sanity.

Nick is driving now. 

Deep cleansing breath.

Yes, my baby is driving.  He has his license and his own car and his own mind and everything.  And I am having some trouble adjusting. 

It's not that I don't want him to grow up, or that I'm not excited for him or immensely proud of him.  I am all those things!  I think what's hard about this for me is the not knowing.  And the independence.  And the being out of my sight for longer than I'd like.  And the driving.  Mostly, yea it's the driving.  The driving on the roads with the other cars and the dark  and the wind and the rain and the cell phone which I have made him promise and swear and threatened him not to even think about while he's driving.

Deep cleansing breath.

I try not to worry, really I do.  Ok, no I don't.  I worry a lot.  Which, I know shows lack of faith.  But I struggle with trusting because I can pray for God to protect my children from harm, but there are no guarantees.  Bad things happen.  To Christians even.  Christians who pray.  We ask God for protection and bad things happen anyway sometimes.  That's my fear.  Like now, for instance.  Nick is at a friend's house in a small town near here with a group of other teenage drivers who have all gathered at this friend's house to "hang out".  I told him to call at 10:45 when he is supposed to leave to come home so I know exactly when my panic attack can commence and approximately how long it will last so I can prepare accordingly. Still 75 minutes away.

Deep cleansing breath.

And wine.

It's not just a fear that something bad will happen that I struggle with.  It goes deeper than that.  I am also afraid, maybe even more afraid, that if something very bad did actually happen I would be so angry and disillusioned with God that I'm not sure what effect that would have on me, and my faith.  Oh dear.  I need to give this to God.  Really, I do. 

Give it to God...yes I know.  Let go and let it.  God grant me the serenity...memorized that one years ago.  Most of the things we worry about don't happen...oh shut it.  Really, I know all that.  In my head.  I'm just having trouble convincing my heart.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Four Words

God surprises me sometimes.  Waking up this morning, I laid in my bed and began to pray.  For some reason, I didn't start with the usual "oh, dear Lord please help me through this day..." and then proceed to list off all the things that I anticipate would be challenging to me today (sometimes including just getting out of bed - ugh).  No, today I had grabbed my Nook a few minutes before and went to Jen Hatmaker's blog.  I discovered her blog a few days ago when a friend linked to it on Facebook, and I have been stalking her ever since.  She has become my new BFF because she is hysterical.  HY-STER-I-CAL!!  Like, snort and cry and pee-your-pants hilarious.  If you need a laugh, go.  Just go.  I promise it will be worth it.  She's a Christian mom, a writer and speaker, and is part of an organization called "If", which is focused on mentoring women and equipping them to fulfill the call God has placed on their lives.  She is passionate about women, about helping the needy, about making a difference and it got me to thinking...I want to be passionate.  I want to make a difference.  But how?  How can I find the time in my busy life when I can't even seem to find the time to go for a walk or blog or keep up with our laundry or vacuum my bedroom or...breathe? 

So.  I prayed.  I asked God to make me passionate.  Show me what to focus on, because I am trying to focus on so many things that it makes my head spin.  Literally.  I just needed Him to boil it down to the now, the relevant, the very things that He wants ME to focus on in my life.  And This is what He told me...

Four words.  That's it.  As He began giving me the words I grabbed a notebook and the closest thing available to write with which happened to be a big fat sharpie marker, and I started writing because I have learned that when God starts talking to me I need to pay attention.  He gave me the four words one by one and as I wrote each one down He gave me the next. 

And then He stopped. 

Oh, I tried to keep going and add to the list things like faith, cleanliness (of course, He wants me to have a cleaner house, right?) and health and...with each one He said "NO! I want you to focus on those four things.  That's it.  Those four."  Of course the other things are important too, but for now this is to be my focus. 

Ok, Lord, I hear you.

Be grateful...for the blessings that He has given me, including but not limited to my wonderful husband, our awesome kids and grandson, our home, our jobs, our friends, our families.

Be content...oh, how this has challenged me lately.  I am going to be ok with working full time and knowing that is where God wants me right now.  I am going to make the most of the time I do have with my family, and make it count.  I am not going to stress about the dust or the clutter or the smudges on the windows, or the walls I want to paint...but I will be content and grateful and focused on the things that matter more.

Show mercy...I will be less critical, and more compassionate when my kids mess up...because I mess up too and I am blessed when those I mess up with are merciful to me. 

Love...oh, how I love my children.  If you only knew the love I have for you.  Each of you.  It just overwhelms me sometimes.  And I am afraid that I don't show it enough.  Or in the right ways. But I try and I am learning everyday how to show my love more.  I wonder sometimes what you will remember when you are older...what will you say I focused on?  I pray that it's not "mom focused on the house being cleaner."  Or "mom focused on what we did wrong."  Oh, how that would break my heart.  Because that is not where my heart is.  At all.  Yes, I tend to obsess on those things at times, but honestly it has more to do with me and allowing myself to get stressed out than it does about you or what I expect from you.  Each one of you is precious to me, and important, and deeply loved.  I want more than anything for you to know that. 

Ok, back to my time with God this morning, and how He surprised me...

He went on to tell me to "Get involved as a family in the lives of others.  Be other-centered and keep your focus on Me.  Jesus.  I am your let Me be LORD!" 


I got me some chee-alls, y'all.  And a southern accent apparently.  And the chills got stronger when I went to church and heard our pastor give an awesome, powerful message about loving our neighbors.  Not isolating ourselves like we so often do - driving into our garages and shutting the door behind us without ever interacting with those who live near us - and essentially building spiritual walls between ourselves and others, keeping them out.  I could go on and on about this, but the point is that we need to get outside of ourselves and invest in the lives of others.  Truly invest.  When it doesn't benefit us at all.  When we reach out and go out of our way to be kind and helpful and servants just for the sake of being like Jesus.  Nothing more. 

And nothing less

This is how you make a new beginning...ask God to give you a passion for the purposes He has put on your life...and be open and ready for the passion to ignite a flame in your soul.  A flame that might turn into a never know!!

Oh, and by the way, in case you were wondering, you still have to keep your rooms clean :)

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

2013 Resolutions, More or Less

Here we are, starting a new year.  I am super excited for 2013 for a number of reasons.  First, and probably most importantly, I love to write 3's.  So I have that to look forward to all year long.  Yes!

I have a feeling that this is going to be a year of change for me..not necessarily outwardly, but inwardly.  God is going to continue to mold and shape me and I know this because that is what I seek.  We get in life what we go after, and in order to go after something we have to first have a vision.  Change...that is what I see for myself, and will be trusting Him to do it.  So, here are my resolutions, more or less...

More God and less worldly things.
More trust and less worry.
More peace and less trying to figure everything out.
More health and less weight.
More contentment and less wanting.
More time with my husband and kids, and less distractions.
More time with extended family and friends, and less excuses.
Suddenly the word "less" looks really weird.
More relaxation and less busy busy.
More saving and less spending.
More fun and less discouragement.
More spontaneity and less having to plan everything.
More listening and less wanting my way.
More Jesus and less me.

Here's to a new year!!!