Pieces

We’ve missed a lot of church in the last forever since all of this dementia madness started with our loved one. That’s what happens when you live hours away from family when they need you–and you need them. Texts and phone calls have to suffice during the work-week, but in times of difficulty we need to see and touch and be Jesus with skin on for each other as much as we can, so we’ve put in a good bit of road time lately.

I’ve tried to “make up” for missing church by listening to extra sermons and reading the Psalms as I cool down in the mornings after my walk. There’s something very soothing about talking to Jesus (and the occasional neighbor) while I walk and then letting the Psalmist’s words flow over me and speak to me of things that come from a heart determined to be God’s. I used to really identify with the Psalms that focused on the positive–and I still do, but some days I feel really close to David and his fellow writers as they talk about their difficulties. I get them in a different way these days.

I’ve also started listening to the Bible on CDs as I work around the house. I’ve read it all before, of course, but I’m finding new life in words that are read with a dramatic voice and musical accompaniment in the background. I turn it up loud enough to be heard all through the house and get busy doing my chores. Sometimes I get mentally sidetracked as I find a dust mammoth (I hate dusting and I have a cat, so…it happens) or locate a piece of mail that might have slipped through the cracks of our schedule. Usually when that happens, I back the CD up a track or two to make sure I didn’t miss anything, but the other day I was making up a bed in one of the guest rooms and I heard something that I wanted to make sure I heard again and again.

The voice was reading the section in Exodus about when God’s people were building all of the parts of the tabernacle. A couple of  guys named Bezalel and Oholiab (yes, I know…not many of them around these days) were specifically gifted by God to “do every kind of craft…and the ability to teach others.” (Exodus 35:30-35)

I love that part and I always read it through at least twice when I get there! As someone who enjoys creating, it sounds like these would be people I would want to know and learn from–and, probably, occasionally be jealous of, as well. (just keeping it real here. grin) I mean, who wouldn’t want to know how to do EVERYTHING artistically AND be able to teach?! That sounds like a dream job to me. (AnyWAY! I digress!) As great as it would be to know how to do everything artistic in nature, it was equally important that they be able to teach others. (Sometimes, we’re not always good at sharing our knowledge of how to do what we know, are we? Something about job security, selfishness and pride, maybe? Just a thought.) Truly, though, there was enough work for everyone on this job of finding ways to use everyone’s talents to glorify God. And, in case you’re wondering…There still is.

I listened more intently. In fact, I went back and started the whole CD over so I could hear it ALL again. The descriptions of materials used, the order in which things were accomplished, the reason for certain steps or materials–all of that fascinates me. At the end of Chapter 39, the work of creating was finally finished and they began the bringing of the pieces to Moses for inspection and for placement…and it hit me: As gifted as the artisans and workers were individually, it was the completely assembled pieces in their proper placement that created the place of worship and gave the people a place to know was inhabited by God.

So, Becky…what does that have to do with us now? Well, more than you might imagine. After I took time to give praise for this wonderful Word, I contacted a friend who–like me and others I know right now who are feeling a bit battered by our current circumstances– and shared with her that God, the master Creator and Healer, is ALSO able to take all of our shattered pieces and put them back in order–to put US back in order!!–so that we can continue to be a place and person of worship and praise no matter what we are facing.

I thought of all of this again as I stood in church yesterday morning and participated in worship; singing with and praying for all those other friends who I know are feeling a bit shattered by their circumstances, but who made the choice to worship the One Who makes all things new and for Whom nothing is impossible. The One Who knows every single thing we need…is also the Source of every single thing we need. Worthy of worship and worthy of praise, indeed! I pray He will be especially near to you today. He is able!!

Grace and Peace! (and healing, if you’re in need of it!)

Psalm 139: 1-18 (CSB)

Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I stand up;
you understand my thoughts from far away.
You observe my travels and my rest;
you are aware of all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue,
you know all about it, Lord.
You have encircled me;
you have placed your hand on me.
This wondrous knowledge is beyond me.
It is lofty; I am unable to reach it.

Where can I go to escape your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I live at the eastern horizon
or settle at the western limits,
10 even there your hand will lead me;
your right hand will hold on to me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me,
and the light around me will be night”—
12 even the darkness is not dark to you.
The night shines like the day;
darkness and light are alike to you.

13 For it was you who created my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise you
because I have been remarkably and wondrously made.[c][d]
Your works are wondrous,
and I know this very well.
15 My bones were not hidden from you
when I was made in secret,
when I was formed in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw me when I was formless;
all my days were written in your book and planned
before a single one of them began.

17 God, how precious your thoughts are to me;
how vast their sum is!
18 If I counted them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand;
when I wake up, I am still with you….

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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!

 

Dementia Chronicles (part 3)

As I wrote this, our loved one had been in an Emergency Room for over a week. (By time of publishing, she had been there for 12 days before being admitted.) I never knew that was even possible. We’re still not sure what the step will be or when it will happen. We’ve cried and prayed and waited for God to show up in calming the chaos and in bringing it under control and He has…for very small, intermittent bits of time. A few times, we were able to have actual conversations with her, but those typically didn’t last very long…certainly not as long as we would have liked!

It’s both refreshing and frustrating to catch a glimpse of her humor and then lose it again. Heartbreaking, actually, is probably the best word for it. We miss her. We love her. We’re working to keep her safe. We tell her all of that over and over…especially the “We love you!”-part. At times it comforts. Others, it barely registers. Instead, she is often convinced that she is in danger and wonders why help isn’t given to protect her and she becomes angry, as a result.

The professional caregivers around us have been kind and sympathetic. Some of them have gone FAR and above their normal call to duty. One of them even brought in home baked cookies to tempt our loved one to eat!  We’ve wondered why it was taking so long to find answers. So have they. Dementia treatment is so individualized that even “normal protocols” are governed by how a each mind and body reacts. Trial and error, wait and see are the order of the day…and that makes long days seem even longer…for ALL of us.

Today (the day of writing), we discovered that we are far from alone in the waiting. At one time there were SEVEN other families with those same questions in the same Emergency Department. Staff is stretched thin and must handle their regular load in addition to these guests who’ve been sent here for days on end in search of some small light along the darkened path of mental illness.

Finding lessons to learn along the way is the only way I know to cope in all of this. So far, we’ve learned the differences between hallucinations (seeing what isn’t there), delusions (believing what isn’t true), and dilerium (a serious disturbance in mental abilities that results in confused thinking and reduced awareness of the environment). While I AM a word-person, I could have managed quite nicely without ever knowing or being present for all three of these things and more.

We are becoming woefully familiar with drug names and treatment regimens, while working to learn the necessary steps to take as precautions to maintain safe environments and use all available resources. THAT is where God’s enlargement of my community has been most helpful. People in the same boat have a vested interest in sharing knowledge. Reaching out to tell what you know and see what they do can lead to all kinds of exchanged information! It’s even less to some renewed/revitalized relationships!

I think what I’m learning most of all, however, that while we can’t control everything about it, how we end up is greatly influenced by how we’ve lived. The attitudes we choose each day help determine our futures. I am determined to make the most of this lesson! If this is ever to be my lot in life, I’d like to be so full of praise and love for God that He just keeps on coming to the surface even if I completely disappear.

That means I’ll need to practice that more. Maybe you should, too.

No matter where you find yourself today and regardless of what you’re facing, look for ways to lighten the load of the people around you. Choose to look for and acknowledge the GOOD things and the kindness shown to you.  Pass them along! Be determined to share your knowledge and your faith, as well. Pray and remember to include some praise as you do!

Set the tone for the future and make today a better one, at the same time. It seems the only way to live.

 

small packages and bigger baggage

“When a man is wrapped up in himself, he makes a pretty small package.” ~John Ruskin 

John Ruskin may not have mentioned this to anyone, but his quote can also be applied to women. I know this to be true by way of recent personal experience.

I walked into a local grocery store last week just to hear my name called out in a loud and cheerful greeting. It’s the kind of thing that can happen when you live in the “country” and shop at small-town grocery stores. People get to know you. They may even go to church with you on occasion. You see them in the local bank and you might even have them on your personal prayer list from time to time…or show up on theirs. For absolutely certain, you have to know that you will not be getting away with buying your favorite ice cream on the sly, so just you need to just go ahead and own that right up front. Also, when you supposedly write a blog and then DON’T write for awhile, well, you can expect to get called on that, too. Ask me how I know. (insert the chagrined shrug emoji here…and then go ahead and smile, because it just happens that way sometimes, doesn’t it, Cheryl?! LOL) Yes, my name was quickly followed up with an inquiry about when I planned to publish my next blog. I gave a vague little smile and told Cheryl that I was “processing.” Until that moment I hadn’t given blogging much thought because I’ve been in mourning.

No, I didn’t lose anyone close to me. I lost a thing, …a dream, …some expectations, and the ability to go and do my own thing while expecting that to continue somewhat indefinitely. It sounds selfish when I write it out like that, but it’s been pretty real for me. To be perfectly honest, I’ve been more than a little bit sad about all that loss, so I’ve been wrapped up in myself more than a little bit as I’ve carried this heavier baggage down the road without an end in sight…and I needed some space before I could write about it. Some days are, of course, better than others. Grief is never linear, but dealing with it head-on is a lot healthier than ignoring it and hoping it will go away on its own.

This past year, after our busiest and most successful year ever, we decided to close our business. We’ve joked about going out on a high note, but our spirits have felt anything but high about it. The decision caught even us off guard though it was our decision to make. I asked us (my husband and I) a question that had only one answer, so our decision was both made and then made official for the IRS in less than two hours. The year 2018 was a great one for our little business, but keeping it going and growing took a toll. It meant that we didn’t see family or friends very much. It meant we missed a lot of church and quite a few special events that we’ve always enjoyed participating in or seeing. It meant that we spent almost every waking moment for the months of the “show seasons” moving forward with intense focus. We worked hard almost all the time and when we weren’t working hard, we were working out ways to work more efficiently so we could fit more work into our already crowded work schedules. It didn’t leave us much time for anything else, including planned visits and keeping up with loved ones, much less for emergencies…

Family. You know they’ll love you anyway and NObody ever sits and thinks, “Well, YES, I am choosing my work over my family and friends and I am absolutely fine with that!” At least, we didn’t. We missed out on quite a bit and we knew it, but we kept moving forward with even bigger plans for 2019.

God had other plans.

Family health issues are a fact of life as we get older. It happens to everyone. Even as we worked and planned for our next season, we noticed some parental age-related changes that cropped up sporadically, at first, and then with greater frequency and severity. It became obvious that they would become increasingly difficult to manage. My folks were fine, but we have other family obligations that began to make it more and more difficult to commit to a show schedule, increase our time with loved ones, and still be available to participate in family care. The topper came when we sat in our tax lady’s office and saw the result of our great year and knew that no matter how successful we made our business, it would never be enough to justify our absence in the lives of the people we love. We have a larger obligation–and desire!–to be successful in being part of our families…for the sake of those who are well and for those who are not.

The loss of our business hurt. There are days when it still hurts for both of us. On those days I have to remind myself of all of the reasons we made the decision to close and remember that I am not alone in this battle. I’ve actually had more help with that than I anticipated. In addition to my fabulous husband, the God of All Comfort keeps showing up to help me. Without exception, when I become pitiful and focused on my own loss, He draws near and shows me what I’ve gained: ease of schedule, ease of pressure to perform/create just for the pleasing of others, increased opportunities to spend time with and care for those we love, and an unexpected loosening of some invisible bands of pressure that had grown to impede my breathing without my even being aware of them.

We’ve also been released–and given some time!–to focus on our marriage. As a result, we’ve begun to make more opportunities for laughter and fun. Our list of positives continues to grow and we are determined to keep finding and celebrating those gifts! We’re resting in the idea that God always has a plan that is for our good (Jeremiah 29:11)–even when it doesn’t always FEEL good to us and we can’t quite see the end result or enjoy all of the pathway to it.

Knowing all I do about the truth of that last sentence, it is still taking some time to process the grief over the loss of our business. It’s also taking some time to process the grief and loss that comes from changing family roles and responsibilities. The increasing need to “parent” a parent takes some getting used to…for all of us. It’s still early days yet on some of these fronts, but I’m really ready to stop being a small package with big baggage and get back to seeing what God has for me to learn in all of these changes. As with many other life lessons, this is a process and I have to choose it deliberately on a daily basis.

The good news for now is that I’m choosing to move forward and I’m getting my focus back where it belongs. I’m trying to unwrap all these new-to-me-again gifts I’ve been missing out on for awhile and celebrate THAT even as I attempt to process the grief. Here’s to the gifts from a God so big that He can deliver delight even from the ashes of despair.

Be glorified in who You lead us to be, Father, as we seek to become even more wrapped up in You.

Grace and Peace, dear friends. Grace and peace. This, too, is a process.

 

Choice of the day

I didn’t really want to go meet her, but it seemed important to my new family-to-be that I meet their neighbors, so I dutifully crossed the street following my new fiance and his sister. We were headed to visit Mrs. Jewette Grogan, a long-time neighbor and family friend. Her small brick house was attractive, neat, and well-kept. She matched her house.

We were warmly welcomed in although she didn’t receive any advance warning of our visit and invited to take a seat. She was lively and seemed interested in hearing all of their latest news. As they introduced us, she leaned forward and said, “How delightful!” It wasn’t a word I had heard actually used in a very long time. She seemed to mean it…I mean, really mean it. We spent less than an hour there and when we go up to leave, Mrs. Jewette said–again–how “delighted” she was to see them and meet me. Delight. It was a word I would often associate with this little lady over the coming years. That simple conversation has stayed with me and has often helped me choose my attitude when faced with unexpected “interruptions” in my schedule.

Fast forward the many years between then and now and I have noticed that my attitude has become a bit more jaded of late. Perhaps it is all of the gloom and rain of this winter weather (I seriously notice the lack of sunshine during the winter months!), the recent health challenges in our household, the news about challenges some of our loved ones are facing, the accident awhile back–or, maybe a combination of it all, but I’ve noticed a level of “blah” that I’m just not accustomed to feeling. It has affected my effectiveness at even simple tasks in addition to my mood.

I am not a fan of the “blahs” in life. Those nebulous yucky feelings are often as stressful as having a specific trial to overcome! I am, also, not alone. I know this because I’ve received emails and texts from several friends who are lately battling similar issues. Just yesterday one of them sent me a meme about the following words: “I’m so stressed that relaxing makes me more stressed because I’m not working on what’s making me stressed.” (LOL–and yes! I totally understood!)

I responded, “Trying to catch up on homework, taxes, apps, spending time with Mike…and have a good attitude. Made myself pull out the homework this afternoon…and in the top of DAY TWO (eye roll emoji here!) there it was. Pray and tell God “what is on your heart and what you need to know to understand.” I just broke down and said, “God, I want to be delighted in your Word, in the computer work, in learning the new software for photos and apps, for doing the tax work, for creating, for everything! I just want to be delighted.” I barely got it out before I heard in my spirit, “Choose to be delighted. Choose that no matter what you’re doing.” Girl! I closed my book, got out some new watercolors and made this (photo below) to put over my computer.”

IMG_20190225_063946870

Oh, I’m not kidding myself. I know it isn’t “fine art” by any stretch of the imagination, but as I brushed the colors across the paper, I thought about all of the tasks ahead for this week that will overlap, the choices made in one area that will make a difference in another one, and how the overarching theme about how they will ALL be done depends on me and the attitude I choose as I do them. Today, I am deliberately choosing to BE delighted. I am determined to go beyond the simple (or not-so-simple!) task of getting things done. I am choosing to delight as I do them. I think it is a God-honoring choice and another way to draw closer to Him as I deliberately choose to celebrate the ABILITY to do the tasks in front of me and celebrate the wonder that is all around us whether or not we stop to acknowledge it.

I realize this simple choice won’t cure those in the throes of deep depression, but maybe it will make a difference in just the tiniest part of your week so that it gives us all a place to draw a breath and keep going forward with a little bit lighter step? Who knows?! Maybe it will spread across our whole calendars and creep into our homes and the way we deal with those we love…and even, with those we struggle to love? I chose the verse at the top of the painting to remind me as I go forward that even those things that take a more concerted effort to choose delight in are STILL POSSIBLE with God’s help. I’m expecting to need His help to get my to-do list done, but I am supremely confident that He is up to the task and because of that, I am, too.

How very grateful I am for a God who keeps me on a short leash about my attitude!!! It is a CHOICE for me to make–and for you, as well! Let’s choose to be delighted today! It just might make Monday FUN!!

Grace and Peace!–and DELIGHT!!!

 

Some help required

I hate asking for help.

Maybe I’m the only one, but I’m guessing that’s not the case.

According to the writer of Acts, Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35 NIV)

I could try to pretend it is a “holy thing” and say that I’m just trying to live up to Scripture (insert VERY wry grin here)–and I do!—but I think that Jesus was simply stating a very human truth in addition to giving us a reminder that it is our job to help those who are weaker than we are.

It’s that word, I think: “Weaker.” I’ve never liked that word; refused to be that word; been absolutely determined not to live a life defined by that word. To be perfectly frank, I don’t remember applying that word to anyone else unless they were really, truly in that state through no fault of their own…and, even then, I’ve applied that word as a label very rarely. “Younger, smaller, sure, but weaker? Not so much. It just seemed unnecessarily mean. I was taught to be self-sufficient as much as possible. I probably took that to an extreme.

On the other hand, I am generally happy to lend a hand when asked. (That sentence had “always” in place of “generally” when it first slipped out onto the page, but honesty compelled me to change it.) I like helping most of the time—especially if it is something that makes things prettier, more efficient, cuts down on waste, or makes a loved one’s life a little easier. I don’t think of that of helping “the weak” at all. It is simply an expression of affection or the opportunity to be of service to those in my community.

Why, then, do I hate to ask for help…for myself? I have no issue asking for help for others. I’m happy to lead the way in that! But…for me? I hate it. I’d rather just do without.

Until I can’t anymore.

I’ve found myself there lately and I haven’t liked it even a little bit.

A couple of months ago, we dropped my husband’s truck off for repair and he took the big red truck to work the next morning. I didn’t have anywhere to be and it didn’t change my day plans at all…until he called. He wanted to let me know that while he was stopped at a traffic light behind a long line of cars—who were backed up because the police were working an accident scene at the intersection ahead!—he heard a horrible squealing-tire sound…just before being struck from behind. To be accurate, he wasn’t the first point of impact. That dubious honor belonged to the lady behind him who was then sandwiched between the car making impact and the bumper of the big red truck.

It seemed a simple matter, but then it turned out not to be so after all and here I am—about two months into this and still no resolution date for sure and certain. Although I wasn’t even part of the accident, my life has been the most affected by it in our household as I am still without my big red truck, which is currently receiving a new frame and being knit back together because they discovered there was more damage than previously understood.

I’m grateful that they’re able to repair it. I’m grateful that there are people who know how to do that–because I most definitely do not! I am grateful that most of the time I work from home and, at first, my thoughts actually led me to a mini-celebration about all the things I could legitimately say “no” to since I didn’t have transportation for a bit. It seemed a slight bright side in all of this to this introvert who loves being home more than anything. We’ve made it work pretty well for the most part, I’d say, but lately, I’ve begun to notice a change. There are only so many things that I can work into the time when the blue truck is here, when my husband is available to do them, or that can be postponed for the apparently indefinite time it will take to repair the big red truck and return it to factory specs.

I’ve begun to chafe a bit at my confinement. I’ve had to ask for help. (Did I mention that I hated doing that?) Oh, I know. It’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t make me weak. It doesn’t even mean that I’ve been forced into an untenable position in any way–except that I really don’t like to ask or admit a need for help…or a ride…or to borrow a car…or assistance of any kind…despite the number of INCREDIBLY kind people who have volunteered or called to ask if I needed anything…including my very kind neighbor who graciously loaned me her car to drive to Bible study and get my hair cut yesterday! (THANK YOU, SUE!!!) I’ve just mainly associated community as a means of society, not as an avenue for assistance…at least for myself.

I’m pretty sure it’s a part of a pride thing. I’m good at that. Sad, but true: I really get that pride thing. THIS, however, has also had a different element to it: I’m learning a lesson, albeit a lesson I didn’t desire–or even know I needed.

I’ve needed and I’ve needed community in a way I’ve generally been able to avoid previously. Me! The introvert who celebrated at the opportunity to stay home even more than before! I’ve needed…and I’ve needed community. That’s different for me. It’s also been instructive and humbling, a little bit scary, and more than a bit frustrating for me. Additionally, it’s also been probably the most necessary lesson I’ve had from God in quite awhile.

Scripture is always true. It IS better to give than to receive, but it is also a good thing to  be on the receiving end of things sometime so that we don’t take for granted the many blessings we have, the opportunity to bless others when they are in need, and we learn to bless them in ways that show how grateful we are to help. It’s also good to be part of a community that loves you and be reminded of that, as well. Needing community doesn’t make us weak. It makes us human. Life lessons all around. I’ve had a refresher course in attitude around here lately.

Apparently, God knew I needed help with that, as well.

Grace and Peace!

Edited for update: Just moments ago my phone rang. Although this post wasn’t intended as an actual request for assistance, another precious member of my community called to say that she had read my blog post and she wanted to offer me the use of a truck until mine is returned. Once again, I am humbled–and once again, it is because of the goodness of my God and the graciousness of His people. I am, indeed, the most blessed person I know. Go, God, and thank you, sweet friend!

 

 

following and leaving

My parents always taught us that we were supposed to leave a place at least as nice–if not better!–than when we found it. It wasn’t so much that they always SAID that; they just lived it. I’ve thought about that a lot over the years and tried to do the same. It’s often easier to say than to do, but little things add up when you’re making deliberate choices.

img_20181228_142623459The other day a friend and I were heading out from the church in the rain when she suddenly pointed out a small bit of ivy growing at the base of one of the columns. “One day you’ll need to write about that!” she said before pointing out where a large pot of ivy used to sit nearby. “I’m always amazed to see where things take root.”

 

img_20181228_142654417I looked around and spied the pot and its contents across the way–no longer in the same spot, but still making an impact. I could see the ring caused by the pottery and the ivy sprig left behind growing in a tiny crack and spreading out and I wondered, “What kind of trail am I leaving? What kind of impact am I making and how does that need to change or be improved? Am I leaving my own footprints behind or God’s?

While I rarely make a long list of resolutions, I’m always aware that the start of a new year is a pretty good time for an evaluation of progress. My personal new year starts later in the year–on my birthday–but this was too good to pass up, so ever since then, I’ve been thinking about how I want to use 2019 to reach the next steps.

Last year, my focus-word for the year was “Margin” and God used that to teach me and make quite a difference in how I made decisions. In fact, although the past 4 months was one of our busiest in schedule, it was also one of the most relaxed for me because I made the necessary margin calls so that schedule was even possible. I was busy, but it was a busy that made sense based on the priorities my husband and I had set for us and our business after a long time of prayer. I’m already seeing the footprints of my 2018 Margin decisions affect the path for 2019, and I want that to continue.

When I started considering my focus-word for this new year, the decision didn’t take very long. My word for 2019 is both simple and complex: “Jesus.” I want to follow more closely, linger longer, deepen and enjoy our relationship, and see where He wants me to stay long enough to leave parts of us behind and where He wants us to move onward in new adventures. I want to follow more closely and leave more of His influence behind than my own when I leave a place. That’s the way I want to make things better than I found them this year…by following and leaving. I want to move more of me out of the way and make more room for Him to show up. I want to keep making good Margin calls so I can stay where I need to be and not be concerned because I’ve filled up my calendar with so many good things that I don’t have room for the God-things.

Following and leaving…it sounds like something that will make a difference this year. I pray it will be a good one.

“And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” Luke 5:11 (ESV)

Grace and Peace!