NCN 2019–Day 21

Twenty-one days! How’s it going for you on this month-long challenge to change your life? (grin) MY GOODNESS! Doesn’t that sentence sound dramatic?! Yes. It does, but I’ve found that sometimes the biggest changes can begin from the smallest of starts. Consistency is key and choosing to consistently eliminate the negative words and attitudes withIN us will, over time, help eliminate more and more of the negative words and attitudes around us!

This year has been quite the adventure for us. It’s been a time of…well…it’s been a challenge. That’s not a complaint. It’s a fact. As I spoke with some neighbors just yesterday I mentioned that 2019 has been a challenging year for more people that I know than those I know who’ve sailed through it.

Earlier in the year (and not too long ago–as in OCTOBER!!) I became overwhelmed for a short time by all that needed to be done. God, in His grace and wisdom, gave me a break and a talking to by my husband. (HA!) I was frustrated by all the many things that had interfered with my oh-so-carefully crafted schedule…repeatedly...as in: I no longer seemed to HAVE a schedule. (This might take a little bit, so get comfortable, ok? Hang with me, though. I promise: There is a point and an application.)

That was a problem for this slightly OCD/schedule-oriented person. I desperately wanted things to be different–on SO many fronts that I couldn’t fix or fight!–but this lack of schedule was right at the top for me and I just couldn’t get a handle on it. My frustration had built up until it just overflowed like lava one Sunday morning and I had a meltdown right out there on my back porch. Overwhelmed didn’t even touch it. I was tired in every way possible and, for the first time in a very long while, I wasn’t sure I was going to figure it out…at least not in time to make it happen for all of the others who were depending on me.

I had put so much pressure on myself to get everything done to my own personal standard in such a shortened time frame…do you see where I’m going with this? Maybe you’ve done that, too? At some point…or eight? Yes, I thought so. I am Wonder Woman, though, so of course this shouldn’t have happened to me! (insert a VERY wry grin and a great big eye roll here.) Ever notice how easy it becomes to head into the dark side when you’re tired and frustrated?

ANYway! The gist of the conversation with my husband revolved around his assessment of my efforts (which was FAR more generous to me that I had been to myself!) and his loving observation that in making every other person we were trying to serve as a couple a much higher priority than I had made my own self I had gotten lost in the shuffle. That needed to change. He asked me to list some of the things I was most frustrated by and was a little bit taken aback, I think, by all that poured out in response. He began to list some of the ways he thought might help me–INCLUDING taking time out to take care of ME and do something that didn’t have anything to do with anyone else. He thought I should start painting again. To be honest, at first it felt like a condemnation of just one more way I was failing and even more things that needed to be added to my “schedule.” Knowing his heart, however, I stayed still and tried to listen for the intent and not just the content of what he was saying.

That conversation saved me. Literally. It saved me and my sanity and my attitude and my heart that was hurting with all of those unrealistic expectations–that were mostly (allmine and never ever said by the people I was trying to serve. I never want to forget all of that grace and love and wisdom that God sent through my husband and straight to me in my time of desperation. Although he was doing the talking, I was being HEARD and that made all the difference in the world.

At the end of it, he asked me what I had gotten out of our conversation. There were lots of things, but the one that came out of my mouth was this: I need to make a list instead of making a schedule.

I’m not sure he was expecting that, but he readily agreed and reminded me that doing so ALSO meant that the list would evolve over time. It would grow and it would shorten, it would change directions, it needed to include things that would take care of ME and not just everyone else…and it didn’t all have to be done at once. RELIEF! A list is something that I could manage right then–and he encouraged me to do so…right then. 

IMG_20191121_072157403I headed into the house and grabbed some art supplies. I’m not sure that was what he expected, either, but it was crucial for me. He was right. I needed a list, but I also needed to take care of me a little bit before I could go back to taking care of everyone else right then. A short time later I added this tiny painting to my window sill in the kitchen so I would keep a reminder before me and, hopefully, avoid another meltdown! I was too tired to even be creative on my own, so I chose an image from Pinterest that I liked and just made my own personal version of it along with the words, “make a list, not a schedule,” and down at the bottom I added a tiny heart to remind me that I needed to love on myself while I loved on those I was working to serve.

It’s helped me.

So did the 8 pages of list that I made right after that. Yes. EIGHT pages. It’s no wonder that my mind was on overload. I was trying to remember everything and do everything all by myself. I use to make lists for every day in addition to the “continually running schedule in my head” and I had gotten away from doing that. Now, making my list helps me to remember that I can be more flexible. “THE LIST” might never get completely done, but I can make some serious progress! I can take it in smaller doses instead of setting unrealistic expectations or time lines. I can be proactive and do smaller tasks/ mark them off when I need to see progress or I can choose to do larger tasks based on actual priority instead of the order it popped into my head and got added to the list.

All that to say this: the holiday season is almost here. There will be a LOT to do on top of your already big to-do list, so actually MAKE A LIST and start to check it off instead of trying to keep the one running inside your head or make a schedule that only puts pressure on you. Maybe you need to grab some art supplies, too, or a take a walk, listen to music, or sit and actually pet your pet! Whatever it is that will feed your soul, put THAT on your list, as well. Build some time into every day that doesn’t have anything else to do with anyONE else but you. It might just make NCN over the holidays become an easier effort for you and everyone else, as well.

Remember: you can do this! PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION! (even on the list! grin)

Grace and Peace!

 

NCN 2019–Days 8-10

Happy Friday, y’all! and WHEW! We’ve (almost) made it through the first full week of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER! Whether or not we were able to do it perfectly, does not matter. The important thing is that we have been attempting to make the world where we live a better place.

And, now…a more pressing question for contemplation: What are you DOING with all of the energy that might previously have gone into complaining? Are you “fixing” the things that bother you or just ignoring them this month? Don’t wait another moment! Find ways to remove the perceived need for the complaint! Stop simply focusing on the things that cause you grief and irritation and begin to look for the solutions to the problems. Being proactive is SO much better than sitting around waiting for things to happen–and HOPING that they’ll “happen” the way you want them to go!

If you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it.     ~Anthony J. D’Angelo

Can you imagine all that we could accomplish and all the good we could do if everyone worked toward solutions instead of railing at the state of things around them?! There is ALWAYS something we can do to make things better, even when we can’t change the thing that’s really bugging us. Maya Angelou put it this way:

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”  (emphasis MINE!)

Attitude can make ALL the difference! Let’s make today and this weekend a time of positive change for ourselves and those around us. Choosing not to complain can improve morale even as we search for the solutions and improved morale leads to greater involvement by those who can help you find solutions. Harness that energy and made a positive difference this weekend! Step up, step out, and LEAD the people around you toward making the world a better place to be by being an example–BECOME A PERSON OF INFLUENCE!

OR, at the very least, you can try this:

“Stay away from ‘still’ people. Still broke, still complaining, still hating, and still nowhere.” ~Anonymous

HA! (and YES!)

You can do this! Remember: PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION.

Grace and Peace!

Dear Rosanne (Dementia Chronicles #4)

According to my handy phone calendar, the date was May 21st. I had lunch with what I hoped would be a new friend from church. Everyone who knows her seems to love her. I want to love her, too. Friendships aren’t always easy to establish as we get older. They take time to develop and more than just surface details in common. I think she and I might have some things that could help with that. She seems really great. I want to get to know this for myself.  

I’ve always been that way. I want to find things out for myself. It slows the learning curve some days. Other times, it really pays off to get that first-hand, personal experience. I was hoping this would be one of those times…

…and I was right. She was every bit as wonderful as people said. She knows God–really knows Him and she was intelligent and funny. Those three things don’t always go together, but they do in her. I like it when that happens. I think it’s the way God wants all of us to be. She’s also WAY kinder than I think I could ever be on a normal day, much less one when I’m stressed or tired or hungry (hmmm…this list may be getting a little bit too long. Note to self: pray about this…and pray that it isn’t always like patience, where you can only get it if it’s tried and you’re pushed to practice it.) (Why do I think God just laughed at me?) ANY. WAY! She’s kind–all the way down to her thoughts!–and that’s impressive to me. I want to be kind like her. Maybe, if I hang around with her a little bit…well, it’s worth a shot, anyway.

We had lunch at a corner diner in town and then stayed for awhile talking about all kinds of things like Bible studies we liked and wanted to do, family, trips that were planned, and…the loved ones in our lives who are living with the challenges and changes of dementia, how we’re handling things, what we’d really love for God to do about it, and a whole host of other things. We ended up inviting our waitress to worship with us and, as we left, we decided that we’d both like to do this again. We set a tentative date for “sometime in September.”

Well, Rosanne, it didn’t happen. September has gone and we never got our second lunch date. To be honest, October’s going to be a bust in that department, too, but I’m holding out some hope before the next one arrives. I don’t want to be pushy or overly optimistic–as I tend to be, at times–but maybe, just maybe, we can make it happen before then. I know from the snippets of information through friends that both of our loved ones are in new locations now and, I pray that your person is settling in as well as ours seems to be. Oh, how I pray that is the case. Seriously, I am praying for you and your loved one just like I’m praying for mine and for all of the others who have stepped out of their silence to let me know they’re all in the same boat right along with us.

Other details remain the same. We continue to work through the mental hurdles and the actual, real-life physical tiredness that comes as we sort through all of the details and the possessions of a life B.D. (Before Dementia). We spend a lot of time praising God for His provision and crying out for more of the same on a regular basis. We’re moving forward day by day at what seems to be a weird morphing of glacial/faster-than-a-speeding-bullet pace–kind of like being whisked from place to place in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure of long ago…(yes, I really did see that…and I wrote it down, too. SMH…maybe you’ll still have that second lunch anyway?) We move from step to step in realization and recovery and regret and relying on God for breath to breathe our way forward. Then, just when we think we’re getting a handle on it, we start over again because we went through a stack of pictures or a box of paperwork and fell apart again over silly things that make no sense at all.

…unless you’ve been there, too. Care-giving is not for sissies–even when it takes different forms and you have really good help and a great support system.

All of that, Rosanne, to say this: I hate we missed out on a second lunch-date in September, but I’m hoping we can set another tentative date in the not-too-distant future to talk about God and what he’s teaching us in this time of deepening dependence on Him.

Also, I’d also like a lesson or two in that kindness-thing, if you’ve got the time…I’m trying, but I still struggle with that mentally way more than I should.

Grace and Peace!

Margin meets meaning

I recently had an epiphany as I walked in the relative coolness of my early Georgia morning. By the way, I love the word epiphany. Although the dictionary defines it this way:

e·piph·a·ny ( /əˈpifənē/ )  noun

  1. the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12).
    • the festival commemorating the Epiphany on January 6.
    • a manifestation of a divine or supernatural being.

Wikipedia (the true source of all internet wisdom—HA!) defines it this way: An epiphany (from the ancient Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, “manifestation, striking appearance”) is an experience of a sudden and striking realization. Generally the term is used to describe scientific breakthrough, religious or philosophical discoveries, but it can apply in any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective. 

ANY.WAY! I had one of those as I walked and prayed about something I’ve been praying about for months…literally months and months. I’ve struggled with whether walking away for a time from some activities that I love is actually God’s will or just a desire to make things easier right now given the family circumstances that we are facing. I believe that I might have finally figured out that those two things aren’t always mutually exclusive. (By the way, change is hard.)

A dear friend and prayer partner recently asked if I was still working on “margin” in my life. I told her that I hadn’t had much time for that lately, but perhaps, I SHOULD be working on it. We laughed and moved on with our conversation. Her simple question set my mind in motion, though, and I began to look for ways to incorporate what I spent a whole year learning about just last year. It shouldn’t have been so difficult to remember–and I really shouldn’t have needed someone to remind me of what I had so recently learned, but it was and I did. (Did I mention that change is hard?)

As I walked along the road I asked God–again!--what it was that He wanted me to do about my schedule. I had thought that giving up our business would open up all the time and allow for all of the personal reserves that we would need, but that hasn’t been the case. Instead, I’m finding–as many of you already know–that physical work is far easier than making our way through the spiritual, emotional and mental battles of dealing with a loved ones’ dementia. Suddenly, I had a thought that tied AJ’s simple question to the ones piling up in my prayer time: What if last year’s focus on Margin was ACTUALLY all done in preparation for what we would face THIS year? What if God, in His infinite wisdom KNEW and provided me with a whole year to practice what I need to practice, grow, and teach in a whole new way during the difficult days that we’re facing right now? (MAYBE because God knows change is hard for us, too?)

Well, well! Hmmm…things. to. think. about!

I shouldn’t be surprised by that. God is always good. He is always preparing us for the next levels and making us fit for the next battles. What surprised me–again–was the WAY that He seems to have done so about this subject. You see, I thought that last year’s focus on Margin was ALL about LAST YEAR and all of the business and busy-ness that it contained. I lost sight of all I have learned from that quote by J.O. Sanders, “God never ploughs [sic] unless He purposes a crop.”

Well, welcome to the season of harvest right here in the first week of summer. I came home and immediately put into action a plan to rearrange my schedule. Some of the changes involve things that I dearly love and that I have held onto out of a desire to serve God and others by using the spiritual gifts that God has given to me. Personally, I had questioned if it would be more selfish to continue in them (and possibly do them poorly) or to step away for a season. Following Christ closely doesn’t leave much room for selfish motives or ambitions, so I am putting some things aside for the moment that will, hopefully, also help provide an opportunity for growth in others. If “the moment” becomes longer than I currently anticipate, then God will be in charge of that, as well. His gifts are never meant to be hoarded or neglected, so I am certain that He will make a way for all of us to grow. Additionally, while I will be laying aside some tasks, He has already shown me ways that I will be able to take up/expand some others.

The main thing I brought home with me from my Monday walk was a sense of release/personally answered prayer and a sense of purposely walking closer to Jesus than ever before. I’m finding that this season of difficulty is also demanding a deeper journey with my Savior (because…well, you knowchange…!)…and I’m finding myself more in love with my God than ever before as I rush to draw near to Him. There is no other way to survive this!

Perhaps there’s more to teaching than simply standing before a crowd or pecking away at a computer. Hmmmm…Maybe, just maybe, I will be teaching others about God by putting into practice what He’s already taught me…when I just thought I was busy and in need of some margin for my soul. Instead of simply going for a walk by myself, I encountered God and He set about changing my expectations, my prayer time, my understanding of past lessons learned, and, as a result, my reality. Epiphany, indeed.

Grace and Peace!

 

 

 

 

Waiting on perfection

I’m weird. (Don’t laugh too loudly. You are, too.) One of the things that make me weird is that I’m always in pursuit of perfection. That may sound like a good thing…but it can get in the way of getting some things done around here. In college, I would often be found cleaning the kitchen and bathroom the night before an exam because I “neeeded” (yes, ALL those extra “e”s are needed there.) to have things “perfect” before I could concentrate on the studying.

There are other things that contribute to the weirdness, of course. We all have things that make us individuals, but I guess that pursuit of perfection in the strangest things is one of my biggest challenges. I’ve been battling it (as in, I’m rarely distressed over it, but I’m always aware of it!) for a long time, but never more so that these past few months as we’ve battled much bigger issues.

I work hard to keep our home clean enough to be restful to me so I can make it restful for others. That means you can’t eat off the floor (since I have a cat and I don’t eeeven recognize a 5-second rule when there are animals inside), but all the towels and blankets are folded neatly in the closet and I try to keep reasonably up-to-date on the laundry. I’m not such a stickler on the dusting in times of stress, but it does bug me on occasion. I don’t let it get in the way of having friends over for a chat, of course, but I’m aware. Very aware. (Btw, I am only this way about MY house–or the hotel rooms I’m inhabiting. I could not care less–and don’t even notice!–other people’s spaces. I’m there to focus on the people, not their surroundings, aaannnnddd…maybe I should learn from that and cut myself some slack, but…so far…that hasn’t happened all that regularly.)

With all of the traveling and hospital sitting-time we’ve done recently and all of the necessary schedule re-routing as a result, some of these normally-done chores of mine have fallen behind in favor of just trying to catch up on a little rest so we can “do the next thing.” Because of that, I’ve not been able to be as creative…or, rather, I’ve had to be creative about finding ways to do some creating. I’ve optimistically carried painting supplies places that I never allowed them to see outside of the luggage and I’ve resorted to pinning things on Pinterest boards that I would like to try one day…when all things are perfect…and I have the time. Blogging is about as creative an opportunity as I’ve been allowing myself and I think that’s been more sharing than creating for me lately. Yesterday, I chose to allow myself to “create” some mail for loved ones. See, I’m stretching it.

Last night I showed my husband the wrapper off of a Dove Dark Chocolate square that says, “The magic is in the mess. Dorothy S., Louisiana” I don’t know who Dorothy S. is or how the people at Dove chocolates found her, and I would never have believed her to be right in this statement before, but something about her words grabbed me. The more I thought about it, I remembered that if I wait to create until things get “perfect” about the situation we’re in right now, then I might not create again for a long, long time. I can’t do that. I can’t wait anymore to let things be perfectly straight and manageable and comfortable and whatever other word I’ve allowed to interfere with doing something that feeds my soul and expresses life-joy even in the midst hard things.

This, too, is a mental health issue. It’s also a life and time management issue, a willingness to have fun issue, and a seize the moment for joy issue. In short, it is a God issue…as most things are. We don’t have to be perfect to enjoy the day we’re being given, but we DO have to be willing to look beyond our circumstances and remember that Jesus came to give us life! Abundant life! HERE and NOW…and in the time beyond, as well. While taking time to bless yourself may not sound very spiritual to some people, doing so can be a reminder that God created each of us in His image…and the very first characteristic that He shared with us was His ability to create.

“In the beginning God created…” Genesis 1:1.

While we won’t create anything so magnificent as the world and all that is in it, we can choose to create some joy and some peace and some rest right were we are today.

So. What are YOU waiting on to bless YOUR own soul? Don’t get caught up in your circumstances so much that you forget to LIVE in the midst of them! Advice from me to you (and from me to me!): don’t wait on things to be “perfect” before you start making them “better.” Find a way to bless your own self today. Maybe it is by creating, cleaning (uh, nope, that’s probably just me. sorry!), going for a ride or a walk, getting an ice cream cone, reading a book (or even just a chapter?), taking some hobby time or simply sitting still and breathing quietly for a bit. WHATEVER you choose, make sure you take time to thank God for the moments and ask Him to help us ALL choose to really LIVE and LOVE the life we’re given instead of waiting on everything to be perfect.

Grace and peace…and LIFE!

 

NCN 2018–Day 29

IMG_20181127_111626618You never know what’s going to happen next. That’s why planning is so important. I realize those two statements may sound at odds, but they’re really not.

I’m a planner. For every day I face, I’ve usually thought ahead, looked at options and possibilities, and made a plan…and at least one list. (grin) I’ve been doing that since I was a kid.

Plans can adjust when necessary and the important things will still get done reasonably well and in a timely manner. Since having a plan in place generally makes for less confusion and stress, it also helps make a good attitude even easier when the changes aren’t what you would have ever chosen.

Good attitudes are invaluable in times of change, stress, and dealing with the upcoming unknown. I’m living that out today and so are most of the people around me. Although God wasn’t surprised when our plans changed suddenly yesterday, we were. The choice of how we choose to deal with the change is up to us, so I’m happier than ever to have been practicing a good attitude during NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER.

The month is almost over, but each of us can continue this discipline as we move forward. We’ve been strengthening our good attitude muscles all month. There’s no reason to stop that now that the plans have changed. In fact, it may be more important than ever before.

Grace and peace!

Romans 12:21!

NCN 2018–Days 23-25

IMG_20181123_105324483_HDRI always find it interesting that immediately following a feast of giving thanks for all they’ve been blessed with, some people rush out to push and shove and “beat out the other guy” in an effort to acquire even more. Does it mean that they’re actually also “more” thankful as they fight to add to their piles? I wonder.

I vividly remember the first time my mother and I attended a Black Friday event. I was about 12 years old and I stood in awe and wonder as I watched grown women fight–in public!!–over sheets! I mean they literally exchanged blows and yelled at each other over SHEETS in the JC Penney! My mama would have whipped me on the spot for such behavior. It was immediately official: I was DONE with Black Friday sales.

I have friends who do Black Friday as a social tradition with friends and family, and while I can’t quite figure out why that is enjoyable for them (since I am usually happily at home sleeping in and having a late breakfast! Yes, Lord!!), I applaud their determined pursuit of family, friends, and fun. I’m also incredibly grateful that they remain friends with this blog-writing hermit despite her lack of participation in such things! (seriously grateful!)

The husband and I did manage to  venture out into the world of “Black Friday” today…to purchase the world’s largest Sharpie marker and some hot pink flagging tape. We’re preparing for a specialist’s yard sale tomorrow and I’ll need to make directional signs and cordon off parts of my yard so I can keep some of my smaller planting areas safe.

After much deliberation, my husband has decided to pare down his hobby list to create some margin for himself in the areas of shop space, time, focus, and need for supplies. The hobby he’s “giving up” (for now, at least) is wood-turning. He was gifted at it, enjoyed creating functional art, and was fully stocked to participate in this hobby…and hadn’t had time to do so in a very long time. Choosing to walk away from something he’s REALLY good at was a difficult decision for him, but he’s taken his time, considered his options, and made the choice to focus his creativity in different directions more aligned with his current goals and schedule.

Last weekend, I challenged you to review your family calendars in an effort to make sure the events and appointments on it matched your current agendas. This weekend I’m challenging you to consider letting go of events, hobbies, and “stuff” that no longer fits who you are or who you want to become. This will be harder…because you will need to think about where you are and where you want to go as a person.

Make sure you don’t rush this and don’t be afraid to ask yourself some difficult questions. That’s they way we learn, improve our focus, and make room for the things we can enjoy in the time we have. In short, it’s another way to eliminate yet another reason to feel guilty and complain.

Does something immediately come to mind that you need to eliminate? If so, how can your changes benefit others (and maybe even your pocket book!) as you pare down and share those resources with others? OR, maybe, this is your wake-up call to get busy working with the things you already have and doing the things you LOVE to do!! Either way, make the most of what you have and take advantage of the next few days to have SOME FUN!!

Grace and peace!!

Romans 12:21!!!