NCN 2019–Day 26

Today is a beloved cousin’s birthday AND her wedding anniversary, as well! I remember picking roses from the bush in front of my Mississippi house and being ever so grateful that God had given us so many to decorate her wedding cake–after all, it was right on Thanksgiving Day that year! I also remember how we had so much food prepared for her reception and the family Thanksgiving celebration that the roses ended up being stored outside overnight in the cars…where the water in ALL of the vases froze absolutely solid. 

IMG_20181130_071351806_HDRIt was quite a sight and quite a shock! We weren’t expecting that. We didn’t let it change the wedding plans or have a major affect on the wedding festivities, though. We just laughed, cut the blooms off, and left the stems in the frozen water! Her cake was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. I still think about it every time I pass by similar blooms here at my current Georgia home.

I picked those bushes on purpose once I got settled here. They’re my favorite…and what could have made us upset that day, just made us laugh and turned into one of our favorite family memories.

Whether its a Tuesday or a holiday, we get to choose how we react to what happens. We get to decide. Sometimes we do that really well. Other times, we realize later, we should have taken more time before we pronounced our judgments or relayed our responses.

That’s one of the most important lessons I hope we learn from NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER: the rush to respond rarely leaves us with a good memory or leaves others with a good impression. Once we become determined not to complain, it automatically makes our brains become wired to look for solutions instead of becoming bogged down in the challenges. It doesn’t stop the challenges, it just changes the way we view them! They can then become adventures, funny stories, opportunities for growth, and a chance to bless those around us by illustrating creative problem-solving and a choice to add to the number of blessings we share with the world and the ones we love in it.

It’s a pretty good opportunity to share the goodness of our God, as well.

It’s a choice. Are you willing to keep making the right ones?

Remember: you can do this! PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION!

Grace and Peace! (and Happy Birthday and Anniversary, dear Cousins!)

NCN 2019–Day 19

Have you found your purpose yet? Do you know who you were created to be? These are some big questions. The answers can be even bigger. IF you’re still not sure at this point, maybe this verse can help you clarify some things.

“For am I now trying to persuade people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of God.” Galatians 1:10 (CSB)

This little gem just arrived in my email and I think it came just in time. There’s nothing wrong with making other people happy. In fact, I think we’re actually supposed to care about others in ways that make their lives better. Doing so will, quite naturally, help us to feel at least a little bit happier about our own.

The problems come when we make the happiness of others a higher priority than making sure that we’ve first been pleasing to GOD. Being God’s servant doesn’t mean living a life of unrelenting, punishing service. It WILL mean that we’ll be called to do some things that we’re not always comfortable doing, but AS WE DO THEM God generally comes alongside us and brings His sweet peace and joy and, before we know it, we’re feeling better and being grateful for some of the very things that made us wonder if He really knew who He was asking to do them in the first place! (grin)

And what, exactly, does this all have to do with NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER? It’s a reminder that when we live in a way that is consistent with our calling we won’t have as much time (or the desire!) to complain. Consistency in living out our purpose. That’s the key. It is the very fitting definition for our “progress, not perfection” theme this year.

Yes, we all get out of alignment with our calling from time to time, but if we look closely enough when that happens, we’ll see that we’re trying to please people instead of trying to please God. Don’t take my word for it! Take HIS:

“When a person’s ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Proverbs 16:7 (CSB)

Sounds like another great way to eliminate some complaining to me! Give it a try and let me know how it works out for you. The peace with others may take a little time to get here, but the peace between you and God (Who is really in charge of everything!) will be immediate and healing while you wait on those around you to catch up and find who THEY were created to be, as well.

Did you need to see this today? Maybe someone you know does, too! Spread the peace! Share the Word! Reap the rewards of pleasing God.

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

 

NCN 2020–Day 6

My husband and I were reminiscing over breakfast yesterday. One year ago we were coming off a great and successful show with lots of plans for our business future. Now, we no longer have a business. By it’s very nature, life changes. We had no clue how much that would be true for us this year. You may be in the same boat with us.

Our season for this year has been a difficult one, but we’ve learned a lot. While some of it is stuff we’d really rather NOT know, we now have a pretty solid base of knowledge and  friends/resources with additional information on the subject for reaching out and helping others who also find themselves loving a person with dementia/Alzheimer’s. Our family is blessed in that we’ve continued to work together to figure out the solutions that work for us and be as supportive as possible in the process.

Along the way, we’ve had legitimate times of despair and frustration. That, too, is life. As I walked along the road and talked to God about this yesterday, I absolutely loved that as I ran through the mental list of difficult changes during the past year, I had a corresponding list of blessings that we are now seeing or that have emerged as a result of those changes.

LAMENT IS NATURAL AND NECESSARY, but COMPLAINING DOES NOT HAVE TO BE A PART OF IT.

That’s right. Read that again. (Seriously. READ IT AGAIN. It’s important.)

No matter what changes have come your way since our last NCN, you get the choice about how you’ll react to them…and choosing to acknowledge the losses–even when they are deep and devastating!–without wallowing in the negativity of complaining about them IS possible.

As I type this, I have a list running through my head of friends and family who have faced devastating losses this year. Please know that I am praying for ALL of us as we hurt and as we heal! Whether your loss and lament involves changes at home, at work, at church, or within your circle of love, it is critical that you acknowledge it to heal, but equally critical that you stop complaining about it so that you can move forward.

Lament is NOT just complaining. Look it up.

Mourning the hard losses and difficult changes is natural and is a phase to move THROUGH. Complaining about them keeps them fresh and rehearsing the hurt keeps you bound to it. We need to find ways to use what we’ve learned to help and bless others. Let’s start moving forward toward healing instead of just moving in circles of complaint.

I know. This may seem like an odd post for NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER. I wasn’t planning to write a post like this, but somehow it just seems necessary today. I don’t know who this one is for, but I’m asking God to bless you. I’m asking Him to be especially close to you today and I’m asking Him to start helping you move THROUGH to the other side so that you can begin to see your own list of corresponding blessings as a result of the changes you’re dealing with today.

You are loved more than you can imagine. God adores you and He wants the best for you! Complaining about it won’t change a thing and, aren’t you ready for a positive change today?

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

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!

 

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.

 

Quilted

I’m cleaning out again. This time, I started with my linen closet…errr, closets (Plural. Eye rolls..Plural…again.) I love linens. There’s something about thread counts and coziness, colors and cleanliness that makes me smile.

As I’ve sorted through my collection of goodies, I unearthed a stack of older quilts. Several of them were purchased from various antique dealers across the South, a couple were gifts, and a few more were created by my maternal grandmother and one of her sisters. Those are the best!

I have a stack of more modern quilts that are larger and made to fit up to a king-sized mattress. While I find them to be useful and comfortable, my favorites are those smaller ones that are pieced together from colorful bits of cloth that served a different purpose and used to cover up people I know and love. Seeing a family quilt where the makers can tell a history of who wore what and when…well now, that is special.

There is the one with the big multi-colored corduroy squares made by my grandmother that wrapped me up and kept me warm on more high school football/band trips than I can count. It went with me on through college and was one of the first things I spread over that mattress on the floor in my first–and mostly empty!–apartment after grad school. Though it is ragged along the edges and in need of repair now, it is far more valuable to me than any of the others.

IMG_20190514_120636948Another one, made by one of my grandmother’s sisters, shows off the double wedding ring pattern and is full of bright, colorful rings on a cream background with scalloped edges. Aunt Pearl did this as one of her last quilts and I consider it a prized possession even though she missed a stitch or two due to failing eyesight. I love this quilt because she refused to quit doing what she loved just because it became more difficult. It now adorns the foot of a guest room bed so I can see and enjoy it regularly.

There’s something about resting under a handmade-with-love or out-of-necessity quilt that the store-bought and machine-made ones just can’t provide. There’s the love that came from the making along with the love that came from my daddy as he purchased another Aunt Pearl quilt with little Holly Hobby-like silhouettes because it reminded him of me and a Girl Scout project I did in elementary school. I also have a couple made by a beloved cousin and a treasured friend.

There’s the one my grandmother made out of scraps from clothing worn by all my aunts and uncles when they were growing up. I can’t tell you who wore what patch, but she could have… probably because she made those clothes for them, as well.

As I’ve sorted through these beauties I’ve begun to sharpen my focus. I’ll be keeping the love and passing along some of those I just purchased because something about them caught my eye…even the handmade ones from someone else’s family that ended up in the antique stores.

IMG_20190514_120846943Of those that are departing, there is one that reminds me a little of what my life looks like right now. While one side is a smooth and somewhat faded floral, the other side shows a definite pattern. Unfortunately, it looks like it might have been someone’s (or even several someones!) first shot at quilting. The pattern edges aren’t clean and clear. The points don’t always join where they’re supposed to join. It’s what I’d call a life lesson quilt–more than a little messy, but still capable of getting the job done. I still like it, but I think it’s time for the lesson to be passed along…now that I’ve been reminded to keep doing what I can for the people I love even when it gets hard and looks messy on the surface. Despite my perfectionistic tendencies and desires to be in charge of the results, God will have the job of sorting the outcome. I just need to keep covering up my people with love…and lots and lots of prayer.

Wishing all of us a day pieced together with love…even if it looks a little wonky or in need of some repairs!

Grace and peace!