Corresponding

This pandemic has a lot of us in a muddle. Our plans and schedules–and many of our goals!–for 2020 have, so far, gone right out the window.

It’s difficult to plan and plant for growth when you’re still reeling from the latest blows of hard winds and whim. That’s what a lot of this feels like to me. Wind and whim. Questions abound about whether or not the wind is gale force and whether or not the responses to it are whims or solutions that will actually provide protection. I’ve had more than a few conversations about simple life tasks that we used to take for granted–like breathing without a mask!–and questioned if they’re an overreaction or an underreaction to what we’ve been told. It’s all more than a bit surreal and a-rhythmic…and not at all comforting.

Sometimes my own comfort levels with timing and personal rhythm blinds me to beautiful fact that God made us individuals and not cloned automatons. Oh, I am well aware of the fact–all the while often failing to celebrate the beauty of it! We are gloriously “messy” in our differences…and yet…those same glorious differences can frustrate the daylights out of me at times when I’m certain my way makes the most sense and would be ever-so-much more efficient.

I tend to power through tasks so I can be available to focus on relationships. “They” may actually use the tasks as a vehicle to focus on building relationships. Both approaches get things done and value relationships. Neither one is right or wrong. They’re just different…and different often bothers us more than we want to admit. I hope the differences also teach us something valuable for the day when we’re finally able to return to more and larger social gatherings.

I found myself contemplating these things as I read Genesis 2:18 this morning.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him.” (CSB)

More than just the story of God creating humanity, it is a blueprint for relationships. Even a deeply introverted person like me can see that! We need helpers to get the work done. We need responders to build relationships. It helps us be most effective for both tasks and relationships when we are CO-responders to those around us. Total isolation can kill the work load and the spirit.

I got stuck in that word “corresponding” and I started thinking about our recent times of being confined together–and separately. In order for there to be a need for response, someone must step up and take an action, make a decision, or simply bring up a topic for discussion. Leadership means using wisdom as we choose what areas need change and which ones should be allowed to remain in place.

I see the value of a unified approach to our current circumstances and yet remain uneasy about “herd mentality” thinking.  What works in one household (or marriage, or friendship, or nation!) may not be as wise in another. Once again, our differences make us messy, but who’s to say that’s a bad thing?

Here’s hoping we all find our rhythm soon…or, at the very least, learn to find joy in our a-rhythmic dances together.

What differences are you finding, celebrating, and learning from in this season of life? How are you co-responding to make life better for those around you? What tasks are you able to lay aside for the moment and which ones have helped preserve your relationships and make life better for you during this time of social distancing? Sharing is caring! (grin) Your solutions may lighten the load for someone else!

Grace and peace!

NCN 2019–Day 18

Honesty alert! I’ve been tearing up my house looking for something that’s important to me. For some reason–and I cannot imagine the WHY of this–I failed to put this thing back where it belonged. That’s almost unheard of for me about this particular object. Consequently, I have to report that I would give myself a failing grade on NCN over the last 12 hours or so…and some of that was sleep time! (ha!)

Ever done that? Misplaced something? Failed at something you usually do well? Well. All I can say is that I hope you are calmer and more gracious than I have felt about this. I am much more likely to be the one who finds things than the one who loses them. I typically put things back where they “live” when I’m finished–and typing this sentence actually made me laugh because it reminds me of my sister.

When I first moved to Atlanta after grad school I didn’t have very much. It was easy to find things because there wasn’t a lot of competition for space in my apartment! I found that I really liked that, so as I began to acquire things, I opted for choosing defined homes for my stuff. My sister visited and commented about how nice everything looked. Several months later, she came back, walked in, looked around, and said, “Everything is in EXACTLY the same place. This is a sickness.” HA!

That’s the way it goes, isn’t it?! What seems right to someone also seems strange to someone else! HOW WONDERFUL is that?! We are NOT all the same! No clones, No carbon copies, NO BOREDOM because there is this gorgeously and divinely planned patchwork of crazy-quilt people in the our world! GOD has made us different ON PURPOSE–and at least part of that, I am convinced, is so that we can see and get to know a little bit of HIM in every person we meet.

We get to choose how we react about that, you know? We can choose to celebrate the differences and look for ways to see them as strengths–because they ARE for the other person who lives a different life than the one life we live. We can choose to look for the good–and GOD–instead of starting to complain or rush right to frustration over all of the ways someone else does it “wrong.”

This is not a plea for political correctness. It is not a call for allowing chaos. It is most especially not a promotion of the idea that we’re all somehow nebulously “Divine” or a rejection of the God we learn about in Scripture. It IS, instead, a call for greater harmony as we look past our differences and annoyances to seek out ways we can encourage the strength and the blessing of those around us this week.

Heading into the holiday season can up the ante on schedules and attitudes as we gather with those we don’t see very often and spend more time in “confined spaces” with those we do, but it doesn’t have to be a negative thing. We can CHOOSE our responses to our differences! Let’s make better choices this year! Who knows what our encouragement can help others achieve?

Remember: you can do this! 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!

I decided…and you can, too.

IMG_20190906_092212433I woke up late (at 6:15A 🙄) 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!

 

 

 

Day 18–NCN2016

I rarely watch commercials, so as we were watching a previously recorded show last night and my husband asked if I had seen “that commercial” (as they sped by thanks to the remote control), my answer was a definite “no” regardless of which one he meant.

He paused, backed it up, and we watched the one he wanted. Apparently, he had seen it while on a recent business trip because I’m pretty sure he hasn’t seen it here. We’re both1118160811a-1 fans of the remote control and its fast-forward button. (it gets you back to the game a LOT faster!)

That tiny little interaction has me thinking about life and wondering what else I might have been speeding past…things that are a lot more important than a commercial. What else have I gone “remote control” over and put on hold until I finished this task or that one? What have I outright ignored or just deleted before it finished because I was in a hurry?

1118160811.jpg“You’re spending too much time thinking about crazy stuff!”, you might say and, perhaps you’re right. I’ve been so focused on “getting through until…” lately that I’ve probably missed more than I realized. That changes today. I’m adding another element to my NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER, and you’re welcome to join me in that, too.

In my efforts to “get through” and “get it done”–and not complain about it!–I’ve missed out a little bit. I tend to get so task-focused that I forget to actually “enjoy” sometimes. Am I the only one? I don’t think so. Oh, I’ve taken some time out to have fun this month. I took friends on a picnic and decorated for the season a little bit and I’ve spent more time writing than I have in a while, but I also know that, while I haven’t complained (often!), I also haven’t deliberately enjoyed things as much as I could have, either.

That brings me to this weekend’s challenge: take time to appreciate who and where you are–and who shares life with you! Look for the beauty around you–in nature and in 1118160817.jpgpeople. Take a photo, write a note, drag someone you love out to enjoy it with you or celebrate the beauty all by yourself, but do THAT this weekend instead of remote-controlling your life while you miss out on actually living it.

Thanksgiving is coming up next week and we might as well start practicing for it today!

Grace and Peace! (and NO COMPAINTS!)

*And yes, I did go out and take these pictures while still in my pajamas today just for fun! The colors are even better in person and that late-blooming hydrangea picture had to be taken from my deck because it is higher than my head! (big grin!) Stopping to smell the roses actually happened today and it was worth every single second! 

 

Day 2–NCC2016

Well, yesterday was a real treat for me! I kept hearing from people who have decided to join us in the NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER challenge and I have loved hearing the stories of those they’ve asked to come along, as well.

One sweet friend laughingly told me that she had made it “about 20 minutes!” into her day before she caught herself! Another texted and told me that one of her friends had just done “sober October” and wasn’t sure they could manage a NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER right on the heels of that one. (HA! Good for YOU, person I do not know, and how fabulous!) I also received notice that one of my friends is on a very “technical” jury case right now but is “determined not to complain tomorrow.” I love it! Soldier on, sweet people!!

Along with the experiences of Day 1, I’ve also learned that among the many who are attempting this is a returning group from last year–of PRISON NURSES!! Ok, y’all, if THEY can do this, so can we!! From homeschooling mamas, retirees, theatrical professors, public school educators, nurses, accountants, and  engineers  to Bible study aficionados and children, this challenge is for EVERYONE!

Several of my friends suddenly noticed the TIMING of this challenge takes us into the election next week…and they are already cringing. (Don’t even think God wasn’t entertained by this, too! grin) Another sent out the following, “Well, so far, NCN hasn’t been too tough, but I’m fixing to leave the house and mingle with society…fingers crossed and prayed up.” (hilariously true)

My favorite communication, however, arrived late in the day. It was a text that simply said, “Define complaining.”

Y’all I seriously laughed out loud!! As I shared it with some of my line, however, I received confirmation that, perhaps that IS needed, so here it is according to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the “simple definition” is:

  • to say or write that you are unhappy, sick, uncomfortable, etc., or that you do not like something

  • : to say (something that expresses annoyance or unhappiness)

while their definition for students says:

 

  to express grief, pain, or discontent :  find fault

The Becky-version of complaining adds a little bit more to the pile: to find fault in a negative manner, stating more than the obvious, “throwing shade”, continuing to restate a particular issue, having a bad attitude…even if silent.

Well. I may have just lost some people with that one. (laughter) Certainly, we will all have situations where we will need to make statements about things that need to be better over the next month. It might be a health issue, a broken piece of equipment, or an action or attitude being portrayed in our presence. Such things DO need to be handled, but they do not need to be belabored. State your case and move on. Illustrate your ability to use language succinctly the first time and extend the grace of moving on after you do so.

You can do this! YOU can! And, if necessary, you can also illustrate the concept of self-forgiveness and start again. That’s a lesson we can all use, as well.

Grace & Peace! (and NO COMPLAINTS!)

 

Away with friends…

Right now I’m away with friends. This is the “mumble-something-th” year” we’ve done this since our college graduation from our beloved Mississippi University for Women.

There are just seven of us on the retreat this time due to jobs/moving and family health concerns. We miss those who aren’t here, but we are valiantly “retreating” just the same. (…and hoping they can come to one in the fall…if we can manage another quick one…in the fall? We’ll talk…)

The food is abundant. The laughter near constant. The joy of being together deeper than we’ll ever be able to vocalize or write. All these years together mean there are few silences and even fewer topics off limits (are there limits?) in our fellowship. We’re here to see, to shower with love, to lift up and empower.  We’re here to be reminded of who we REALLY are in a world where we each wear many hats…and, though we’re grateful for each hat, when we’re together, the hats come off and years fade…and we are just US.

Us-ness in a world seemingly committed to uniformed individuality. Celebrating our uniqueness and also our chosen togetherness is a marvelous gift we give to each other. No pressure to conform, but encouraged to be who we were created to be by the One Who loves us best…the One who has a way with friends who are away with friends.

Grace and Peace!

Shared dreams

I started out my morning drinking hot apple cider just to spite this Georgia heat while I read THIS and decided it just sounded too beautiful not to share! I hope you’ll click on the link below and enjoy it as much as I did…

Grace and Peace!

The Extravagant Invitation We’ve All Been Waiting For

 

Heroic faithfulness?

Our Sunday School class is in 1 Samuel right now and the lesson this week is on David and Goliath. Almost everybody knows this ancient story. Its part of our cultural lexicon and used even by people who aren’t believers in the Word. We refer to it when we face difficult situations with impossible-looking tasks or to significant victories where the little guy comes out on top even today. As I read through the material in preparation to teach, this quote made quite the impression on me, so I thought I’d share it with you today:

“Heroes do in times of crisis what they’ve faithfully done in times of calm.” *

I read that sentence, grabbed my highlighter, and then I read it again and headed to the computer. Those words speak to me. In this world of political and social upheaval, we’ve seen policemen, firemen, and other emergency personnel run toward the danger almost every day. They go because they’re trained to do so. They’ve worked hard to be ready at a moment’s notice. They go because they care. Despite the actions of a few, the majority hold the line and perform admirably every day whether they’re caught on camera or not.

“Heroes do in times of crisis what they’ve faithfully done in times of calm.” 

You don’t have to be a public servant for these words to apply. The same can be said of those who are faithful to prepare and perform any task. Not so sure about that?

  • Ask the child with the scraped knee when the parent shows up with a hug and a band-aid.
  • Ask the patient in need of pain management or just a friendly face.
  • Ask the employer who can’t get product out the door or make a living without the people who show up on time and as scheduled…and who actually work while they’re there.
  • Ask the friend in need of a listening ear and some sound advice.
  • Ask the husband or wife trading sleep to comfort and encourage–or do the dishes and laundry!– after a difficult day.
  • Ask the school without enough qualified teachers or coaches.

We may not automatically think about people performing mundane tasks as preparing to be heroes, but perhaps we should. Heroes-in-the-making are everywhere, quietly going about the business of living faithful lives. We need to be reminded to say “THANK YOU!”–BEFORE the need is great and the response is required. We need to show appreciation for those around us who do their job and show up consistently to make our lives better.

You know what this means, right? It means you need to be reminded that someone is counting on you today, too. They may not call you heroic and they might not throw a parade, but you matter more than you think you do. Your work ethic matters. Your attitude matters. Your presence matters. Your faithfulness matters.

Yes, your faithfulness matters…and so do you.

Thank you.

Grace & Peace!

 

*Explore the Bible Leader Guide HCSB, Summer, 2016. Eric Geiger, General Editor. Lifeway, One Lifeway Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234.

 

 

 

 

God didn’t make a mistake…

Mom. God did something wrong. He messed up on me because he made me brown, he did not make me white. He needs to go back and fix it so I can be white.

A friend recently posted the quote above on her Facebook page…and my heart just broke right open. She went on to tell about how she responded and how she sought help from someone else within their circle to reinforce her words and help instill pride and understanding into her precious child.

I wanted to write about it then, but it just seemed a bit out of touch for a middle-aged white woman to address such a thing in her blog. I’ve continued to think about it though, and with all that has happened in the last week or so, I know for certain that I was wrong. It needs to be addressed by ALL of us. Not addressing such a thing has led us to where we are right now…and it is beyond unacceptable for us to be where we are. But, honestly, where to start? Where to start?!

I’m so grateful he talked to his mom and didn’t just keep this to himself. This precious child who is strong and smart and handsome knows he can trust his mom with what he thinks. That’s the mark of great parenting and I’m incredibly proud of his mom and the way she walks her walk in the difficult task of raising her boys.

Because she was open enough to share it, I’ve had to think about it. It hasn’t all been comfortable. I’ve had to deliberately think through what I was taught and what I “caught” as I grew up in Mississippi in the 1960s. For the record, that doesn’t always mean what people think it does. Some of the most educated, lovingly inclusive people I’ve ever known come from the same place I do. A person can never be truly known simply by the history, actions and attitudes present in the land of their birth. The same can be said of wherever you come from, too, I suspect, and that’s part of the point of this post. We can’t change the past, but we can certainly do something about today!

Children can often get things wrong simply because they aren’t old enough to understand or don’t hear/know the whole narrative. This child got it wrong because WE as adults haven’t understood the whole narrative, so what has been passed down over the generations has led us to this toxic reality that we share today . With that in mind, I’ll start like this:

  • Oh, sweet child (and adults and everyone in between!), God is never wrong. He is perfect.  “As for God, his way is perfect…” Psalm 18:30 (NIV) 
  • Because He is perfect, we can assume that we are not mistakes. He made us on purpose and He made us ALL different. There is no wrong color and no right color because God apparently likes them all or He would have already stopped making people of all different shades –and height and weight and every other physical characteristic you can name.
  • God made each of us on purpose. Psalm 139 is clear about that. He carefully created us and planned out our lives in order to bless us. That’s really great because it tells us that the things we can’t change about ourselves (our parents, the place we were born, and our genetics–including our skin color!) are things that God chose individually just for us. HE thinks that’s the best way for us to be. Yes, He could have created you differently, but God decided that YOU would best glorify Him by being just the way He made you–and He is never wrong.
  • The things we can change about ourselves (our thoughts, decisions, actions, and attitudes) are the things over which He gives us free will. These are OUR choices so it is up to us to make the most of them so that we can glorify Him and honor those around us as fellow creations of a loving and almighty God.
  • When God’s Word tell us something and the world around us acts like something else, you can take it to the bank:  it is the WORLD that is wrong. People are the problem, not God. That’s always the case whenever there is hate, discrimination, and bigotry–and a whole lot of other ugly words I wish you would never have to learn about first hand.
  • The decision to elevate one skin color (or any other physical trait!) over another is a sin. It isn’t a cultural issue. It isn’t a pride issue. It isn’t “the natural order of things” or any other phrase that’s used by those who practice it. It is sin.
  • The only cure for sin is Jesus. That’s why every single person on the planet needs Him.
  • The only way we can change our society is by accepting Christ and then acting like Him. We need to be “Jesus with skin on”–no matter what color our skin is!!– for everyone we meet. We will still mess up and we will occasionally be wrong in really big ways because we are human, but if we are consistently trying to be like God tells us to be in His Word, then we’ll be way ahead of where we are right now…and our world NEEDS us to be like He tells us to be. It is the only way some of them will ever hear about Him.

Hear me well, please. Wherever you are, whoever you are, or whatever you look like, God loves you! Be proud of who you are! He designed you on purpose for great things–the best of which is to be like His Son. You can only do that if you choose to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and walk out the rest of your days according to His teachings in Scripture. It isn’t always easy, but it is definitely worth it.

Now. How will you choose to walk out and talk out today? Your choices matter…to all of us.

Grace & Peace!