I decided…and you can, too.

IMG_20190906_092212433I woke up late (at 6:15A ūüôĄ) this morning and found that my wonderful husband had packed his own lunch and gone on to work without a single complaint. His simple act of grace was much appreciated and such a blessing that I DECIDED that I would fill my day with his example. As I walked my way through my prayer list this morning and worked around the yard, I’ve been determined to make this a day when I simply gave God praise for the blessings of life.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve got to tell you that I almost didn’t make it through my prayer list. I almost slipped up and asked for something! (EEEEK!) I’m kidding of course–about the eeeek! I know that God doesn’t mind our asking for things, but my goal for the day is to just tell Him “thank you!”…so…I had to revise a couple of things as I went through my list.

For the family God placed me in and continues to bless me with, I thanked Him for His watch-care and the privilege of a Godly heritage, for strong and healthy nephews, and the gift of actually LIKING my family members. I know that is a gift many cannot claim.

For the friends who encourage my heart and keep me accountable, I praised Him for His personal touch through their counsel and told Him how glad I was for those who know Him and reflect Him in my daily life.

For the ones who have survived and and are still facing hard things, I gave God praise for the strength I see in them because I know it comes from Him.

For those dealing with difficult health issues, I gave thanks that God is our Healer and our Provider.

For the ones with difficult family issues, I told God how wonderful it was to see them love even when it is hard to do so and how proud I am that they haven’t given up when so many others would.

For the ones who have just faced the physical storms and are now facing the aftermath and cleanup from Dorian, I thanked Him for their personal safety.

For those who, like us, are dealing with the heartbreak of dementia within the minds of loved ones, I gave Him praise that we can still lift each other up and encourage each other in our shared experiences. I have become grateful that I can pray for them (for US!) with new understanding.

For the one who has just lost her father, I gave God praise for his legacy and the beautiful picture she posted of the last time they laughed together.

Along the way, I met a new-to-me neighbor, trimmed back some shrubbery and a couple of rosebushes while I thanked Him for the delightful scent of the roses and for places along the stems that aren’t covered in thorns. I also managed to liberate a VERY green frog who had gotten trapped in my rain barrel and I expressed my gratitude for clean water and the luxury of sharing it with plants in need. I found limbs that needed pruning and gave thanks for the right tools to use and the ability to drag the detritus to the fire pit out back.

IMG_20190906_102932890_HDRAs I finished my yard work and made my way to the porch, my phone rang and I rejoiced to have time for a conversation with my brother, whose great joy in getting to cut hay on his birthday made me laugh. I sat on a small pew on my porch, read through some of David’s songs of praise and allowed the wonder of having a hallowed place of my own to sweep over my spirit. I was reminded that I have a hand in¬†MAKING a hallowed place anywhere I DECIDE to give God praise and enjoy the blessings He has provided. We are unusually blessed–and when we decide to think about it, celebrate it, and share those blessings with others around us, we can help them remember that they are, as well.

I hope you remember that and celebrate your blessings today. Feel free to share them with me so I can tell God “thank you!” on your behalf, too!

Grace and peace!

 

 

 

Dementia Chronicles (part 4)

Dementia–the gift that keeps on taking. Every time I think we’ve got a few things figured out, we find out there’s so much more that we don’t know about this nastiness.¬†The fact that no one else knows either is no comfort at all!¬†Some of the things you expect to lose. Some of the things…well, you just never see them coming.¬†

It was a great weekend. We took an extra day off to roam through the mountains on the way to see our loved one and other family members. We were excited to see her new placement in a fantastic memory care unit. Advised to come after lunch since that would allow our loved one to remain on schedule for most of the day, we showed up when and as instructed.

Routines are important. (for all of us!)

We arrived and were met with great joy, got an opportunity to see the new digs, and were then led to a private sitting room off the main unit. We had a wonderful visit! The conversation lagged a bit at times as we ran into memory blocks or losses, but we quickly diverted and changed subjects when needed. Finding new ways to share information is tricky these days, but we made it work. I took pictures and they turned out looking ready for framing. Everyone looked happy and healthy.

FACT: You can’t always¬†see dementia…even when it feels like you really ought to be able to do so. That is a deceptive gift.

As we returned to the unit, our loved one was excited to see the new storyboard lovingly created by her daughter loves to scrapbook. It is gorgeous! Filled with family photos and facts from happier times, storyboards help identify each resident’s lodging place and gives others on the unit an opportunity to get to know people in ways they can no longer share for themselves. Our loved one stood there smiling, pleased, and said she remembered some of them. It was a gift for all of us as we took our leave for the day.

We returned in time for breakfast the next morning and found that we were surprise guests again…with no memories of the day before, but it was ok because we were able to have real conversations again. Moments of lucidity are a gift that none of us take lightly anymore. We shared the photos from the day before as proof that we had indeed been there and were rewarded with smiles and shoulders shrugged with confusion about why she didn’t remember. Another photo was taken to document this visit, as well. The storyboard was a brand new surprise…again…and I breathed a prayer of thankfulness for the delight it brought and asked God to let it always be a source of joy.

My check-in call today wasn’t as joyful. It was painful as we once again went down the questioning pathways that led us to where we are. I did my best to bring comfort that God is still in charge and is in the process of providing even when our loved one finds it difficult to accept and can’t remember why this provision is even necessary. I was grateful that just talking it out and being heard seemed to help calm things down. Ending our call on as high a note as possible, I still texted the following to a friend afterward.

Had the hardest realization today… She said, “I just need something to look forward to!”–and I realized that Dementia has stolen this gift from her. When you can’t remember what happened, you also can’t recall what is supposed to happen…and it just broke my heart. ūüė≠ What a horrible, horrible thing this stuff is!!! What she can’t recall, she fills in with error, so she feels abandoned. No memory of our visits this weekend at all today.

Some days it is as hard to be the forgotten as it is to be the one who is forgetting.

Comfort us all, Father God, as we do our best to keep honoring You and our loved ones even as we lose them, as they lose themselves, and as they eventually lose us¬†all before they’re¬†actually gone.

Remind us that in You nothing and no one can ever be truly lost, God.

We need to remember that. We desperately need to remember that.

The 90%

It’s been a rollercoaster for us lately. You can probably say the same thing about your life. That’s the key word, of course…it’s life! Nothing ever stays the same, otherwise we become stagnant and stale in our outlook, our aspirations, and our prayers. None of that is a good idea. As much as we often say we’d like things to stay the same, growth can’t occur in a vacuum. Change is constant, inevitable, and God’s deliberate idea of blessing us.

As my husband and I have discussed our circumstances, laughed, cried, prayed and driven more miles this month than I can say, we’ve been reminded of the truth that Chuck Swindoll so beautifully penned many years ago:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church….a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.

I believe God gave this insight to Pastor Chuck. I’ve had his quote pinned or taped to some surface in every office I’ve ever worked in professionally. I read it every day for years. I think it stuck. I hope so, anyway. The truth it contains has bolstered, encouraged, and (at times!) convicted me. I’ve been blessed by it.

Attitude is important, but so are the people around us. I’ve been blessed by my circle of friends near and far as they have prayed, called, emailed, texted, and made sure my cat was ok when I couldn’t. Some even sent cards and Scripture happies in the mail! IMG_20190617_064938374

Others ministered to us in different ways. My friend Patty (which came out typed as “Party” originally because my fingers obviously know the real Patty!! Lol!) actually blessed me back in December with a Christmas gift that has continued her blessing. Every day, I walk past a calendar she sent to me. Each month has a new reminder as the focus. This month, it has been a reminder to choose “gratitude” as my attitude!¬†IMG_20190617_062805485

Well, there have been days when that was easier than others, but I have done my best to be grateful and express that to God and those around me. Today, I will get to choose again. So will we all.

What attitude will you choose as your 90% today?

Grace and Peace!

Sharing a good word

There’s a verse in the Bible, Luke 4:25, that is part of the story where Jesus had just returned from the wilderness temptation and begun to teach in his hometown. Some of those in the crowd listening to Him questioned how He got this knowledge and authority since He grew up there and they thought they knew everything He did. Some of the others were quiet, but He knew that they were actually there to see if He would do another miracle like He had done in other places.

As part of his response to the crowd, “Jesus said to them, ‘Surely you will quote this proverb to Me: ‚ÄėPhysician, heal yourself!…'” The implication was clear: they wanted proof of what He was teaching, and yet He knew that no amount of proof would change their minds.¬†As always, God knows our hearts and our needs even before we acknowledge them. Over time, the phrase “Physician, heal thyself” has come to mean that we ought to make sure our own business has been handled before we start getting in the business belonging to others.

Well, I am no Jesus, but His phrase has been ringing in my head for awhile now. I’ve been trying to implement more Margin this year and teach others to do the same…and I keep getting sucked back into old patterns. It’s to be expected, I guess, since no life change is automatic just because we “decide”¬† even when we take some steps to make it so. While I am considerably better at looking for and making room for Margin, I still have to be vigilant about biting off more than I should chew. There’s still a lot more to learn.

That’s been pretty evident lately as I’ve had several opportunities to encourage the practice of Margin for others around me. My teaching THEM has reminded me of my own need of it, so today, I am making room for Margin as I take time to do Bible study, laundry, put some food in the freezer, and even do a little pre-Christmas prep. (Don’t freak, but I’m actually behind on this for me! LOL)

IMG_20181018_171858793

While I’ve been kicked back with a cup of hot chocolate, I’ve been thinking about the benefits I’ve gained and I’ve made this a blessing-counting day! One of the best blessings of pursuing Margin this year has been that when I mess up these days, I’m quicker to recognize it and a little easier on myself as I self-correct. Pursuing Margin has been a healing process for me, providing liberation in areas I didn’t even know were in need of liberty. (And yes, there IS another verse about knowing truth and how it sets you free, but I won’t use it here because the context is wrong even though the truth of it isn’t–and Scripture taken out of context benefits nobody!) Another gift of Margin has been that I also have developed a heightened awareness of when the people around me are in need of it, too. Additionally, I tend to celebrate when they make a move to add Margin, so the opportunities to celebrate the Margin of others has inspired me to have more joy in my own life. There’s something very real about sharing in someone else’s joy that makes you even less needy in your own–another one of God’s fun-things, I am certain!

So, here’s the word I’m passing on today: Become a person of influence right where you are! Find a way to share your own life lessons and participate in the joy of the people around you…and don’t be too surprised if you feel like it’s actually your own joy that your celebrating. And…if you get a chance…add in a little more Margin. It can’t hurt, right?

Grace and peace!

Changes in atmosphere

40469This week has been one of change. On Monday, I was pulling grass out of the back garden flower bed when tiny drips and drops of liquid sunshine began to fall all around me. There was no need to stop doing what I had started because the drops were gentle and sporadic. My work continued.

Within thirty minutes the drops had increased in both frequency and intensity, while the sky remained full of light. Still, I moved toward tasks that could be done indoors.

As I dug into the recurring efforts of maintaining order and folding clean clothes inside (yes, I know: definitely first world issues!), the sky opened up outside and dropped an upturned bucket-load of rain all around us. I watched puddles form in the driveway and then watched them connect with others out in the yard to create a mini-moat around the front of the house.

My neighbor called a little bit later to tell me that his rain gauge indicated we had received a little over 2 inches of rain in less than 30 minutes…much faster than our ground could absorb in that amount of time.¬†He also called to ask if I was interested in having fresh pears. The answer was an enthusiastic “yes!”–even before he sweetened the offer by saying that HE would have them picked and delivered to me early the next afternoon.

Now, seriously, who could say “no” to that?! (And, yes, I DO have the best neighbors!!)

As I pondered this latest gift from God–because my husband had just been talking about wanting some pears this past weekend!—I also thought about some of the other changes going on in my life right now. I’m a bit over half-way into this year of adding more Margin to my life and I’m beginning to see some significant benefits emerge. I’m also beginning to see that this may not just be limited to a one year search for me. Already, the changes have been quite profound.

  • I’ve noticed that while I still haven’t lost all of my impatience with area traffic conditions, I’ve also made room for being nicer while I’m being affected by them. I can now foresee the possibility of having a ‘church sticker’ on my truck, which I have previously avoided because I tend to be impatient and there was just NO reason to tick people off about church because they got ticked about my impatience behind the wheel. (yes, really.)
  • I’ve become more aware of the times I’m tempted to walk in and take over, and I’ve begun to step back and allow other people to “figure it out” for themselves…and I’ve TRIED to offer advice only when asked…or when I see a fatal flaw…ok, maybe this one still needs some work. (personal eye roll)
  • I’m learning to include some time for me in my week that doesn’t involve “just getting it done” all the time. It turns out that this actually makes me happier to go along with other people’s schedules when needed…who knew?!
  • I’m spending even more time talking with God and I’m finding a deeper love of His Word. That’s something I’ve been asking Him to help me with for quite awhile. It turns out that I am enjoying the challenges of the Word more now that I’m not taking on ALL the challenges thrown my way by the world!
  • I’m finding that while the work doesn’t go away, sometimes I need to. Choosing to find a stopping place and walk away may seem like a no-brainer to most of you, but that’s a hard one for me. I’m not in any danger of becoming a slacker (grin), but I am choosing to heed what my body, mind, and spirit are in need of instead of just being hyper-focused on accomplishing the task no mater what the cost. This may just be the biggest change of all for me so far!

Like the rain on Monday, these things started out slowly and have built in momentum over the past 8 months, but they’re picking up speed and forming new connections with¬† thoughts and goals that have been put on the back-burner for longer that I can remember.

I’m becoming more creative and discovering the idea of “play” again–and just the idea of that makes me a little emotional. God certainly intends for us to work and do good while we’re here on the earth, but He is no hard and crushingly demanding taskmaster…despite my own previous behavior toward myself. Choosing to take¬† time to enjoy the opportunities God has placed in front of me has a new dimension now. While I have long enjoyed God, now I find I am approaching the tasks I’m assigned with a much more relaxed attitude and finding ways to make them even more fun instead of just getting them done and checking them off like so many items on a chore list. Like that rain, this idea is both refreshing to my soul and producing growth in other areas of my life.

Thank you, God, for the idea of Margin, for including room for play in your plan, for being patient with me while I stubbornly clung to the idea of accomplishing much with great effort instead of doing so with great joy, for choosing to bless me in spite of my mistakes and frustrations, and for loving me enough to send me pears before I even prayed for them. You are good…and I am grateful.

Grace and Peace!

 

‘Tis the Season

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I love getting mail! ALL kinds are welcome: snail mail, email, personally delivered, parcel post or freighted! It reminds me of that line from Richard Rogers’ immortal song “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music: “…brown paper packages tied up with strings…” (and now, I must apologize for the earworm, but I’m singing along with Julie Andrews, so you might as well do the same!)

Yesterday was a very lovely “package day” at my house! Although I’m not really into the acquisition of “things” for myself, I had mail of every kind imaginable delivered and it was FABULOUS! I opened several Christmas cards, some simple household products, two gifts I’d ordered for others, and two marvelous Christmas happies for ME from dear friends who live in different towns in Mississippi!

I also received a nice long phone call and a great text message. Actually, I had several of each, but these two were special.¬†Why even mention them? Because almost everyone I know uses those tools every single day and somehow we don’t stop to think of them as “gifts” because they’re not generally tangible.

The content of these two communications¬†was special to me, however, because God used them to confirm something I’ve been thinking about for awhile. They contained encouragement about exercising a gift He has given to me that I haven’t been using to full advantage. Though the messages were vastly different and neither was harsh or loud, they spoke powerfully to me about what God would have me do in the days to come. Without chiding or deriding, God chose to use the voices of friends and give me the gift of their time…and His.

I’m grateful for that. In a loving voice and the forwarding of a daily devotional , GOD showed up and spoke to me in a very personal way. The words these friends shared inspired me and reminded me that we too often forget the power of communicating with each other. We forget to give of ourselves in simple, personal ways…or we discount the idea that what we have to share might truly make a profound difference.

This is the season for gathering and gifts–whether or not you believe, as I do, that the real reason for all of the hoopla was the quiet birth of the One who came to save the world. This is just your friendly reminder that your words and your actions can be gifts of even more significance than anything you might order, wrap, or have delivered this year.

Use them wisely. Share them generously. Choose them as carefully as you would the finest present and use them to bless and not just add to the cacophony of seasonal noise. Share the thoughts, feelings, ideas, and writings that encourage and inspire YOU with others. You may never know how it can be used to influence them or be passed along to others.

Grace and Peace…and packages of God-delight for you and yours this season!

NCN 2017–Day 22

Psalm 100 (NLT)

A psalm of thanksgiving.

1 Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
2     Worship the Lord with gladness.
    Come before him, singing with joy.
3 Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
    He made us, and we are his.
    We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
    go into his courts with praise.
    Give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good.
    His unfailing love continues forever,
    and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

On this day before Thanksgiving, I pray that you won’t wait to enter His courts with praise! I hope your preparations go smoothly and your people arrive safely. I ask God to bless you and your families whether or not you are together this holiday season and I can’t wait to hear how He does that.

IMG_20170518_070436983I’ll be getting into the kitchen and having some prep fun all on my own later this morning after I talk with my mama. I’ll be remembering all those Thanksgivings at my Grandmother’s house with tables groaning from the food overload, but even more filled with love and hugs from my amazing family. I will pray through the family as I cook and be grateful. I will give thanks for my precious church family and our new pastor, for those who have poured their love and knowledge into my life, for friends across the world and for those who join me here. I am, indeed, the most blessed person I know.

I hope you think you are, too.

God is GOOD and there is no room for complaining over here.

Grace & Peace!