Friday, November 30, 2012

Lessons From the Edge

GOD is all over the details.

OK, this is not a new lesson for me. God has shown me His involvement in my details many, many times. But He did it again this week, and I can't resist sharing!
I went into work Tuesday at 12:30. I immediately wrote a list of the announcements I needed to make and then went into the dining room to share them with the residents. Then, I checked my mailbox on my way back to my office.
In my mailbox I found a note which said MH had called to cancel for the birthday party we were having that afternoon - due to car troubles. And I'd just announced to the residents that MH would be there. Now, with less than two hours until the party, I was wondering what kind of entertainment I'd be able to conjure up. I can only tell jokes and sing silly songs for so long. They weren't going to be happy with just me. But, surely, there was not enough time to find a replacement! Oh, me of little faith.
I went back to my office and called MB. Explained my situation and asked if there was any way she could come play the piano and lead a sing-a-long during the birthday party in *ahem* less than two hours.

She said yes!!!

And the birthday party was a success.

Not to mention the fact that MB charges $15 less than MH, so I added a few dollars from my activities budget to my birthday party savings, went out the next day, and bought a Black Jack table cover for the Vegas Party coming up in January. Oh, happy me!

Has something unexpected come across your path recently? Fret, not!
GOD is all over the details.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Shopping Surprise

Over the past couple of weeks, I have had a few opportunities to take Joshua shopping for clothes.
And I didn't cringe with every passing moment.
I didn't get frustrated.
Didn't agonize over looking for one.more.thing.
Why, I didn't even wish to be done - just for the sake of being done.

In fact, I think it's safe to say, I enjoyed taking him shopping.

There was a day - not too long ago - when I would never have thought I'd make a statement like the one above!

You see, my past experiences shopping with Joshua have been anything but enjoyable. We disagree on an amount to spend on a particular item. I think something should be good enough, and Joshua says it isn't. So we argue, both thinking we're right and the other is completely wrong, and I just wish the shopping experience would be over. (Pretty sure Joshua feels the same way in those moments.)
We usually end up getting one item and leave the store frustrated. And when Joshua asks me to take him shopping for something else in another week or two, I think, We just went shopping! How could you need more already?

So this time, we took a different approach.

We had Joshua make a list of everything he needs for the rest of the season. I looked at the list with him and gave him a dollar amount for each item, which I would be willing to spend on such an item. We added the numbers, and came up with his budget.
I explained to Joshua that he could use the money however he wanted. If he chose to spend $40 on an item for which we budgeted $20 - so be it. But that would be less money to spend on something else. Conversely, if he was able to find sales - which brought him under budget for an item - he could end up getting more clothing than he planned.
It was up to him. I wasn't going to say NO to any item he wanted. It was his budget, and he could use it however he wished. BUT, this budget was the only money he was getting. Period.

So we shopped. And, honestly? I never expected it to go as well as it did. My son rose to the occasion. He took ownership of the decisions, paid attention to prices, valued them - even, and seemed to understand the benefit of looking for sales.
At one store he was trying on jeans and when we were talking about a buying decision, Joshua admitted he didn't like them A LOT. They were just OK. I told him I only buy something which is just OK if the price is AWESOME. And that's all I said. Joshua realized these jeans were a few dollars over the budgeted price and chose to pass them up. (Found an under-budget pair which he actually liked at the next store!)

In the end, Joshua got all the clothing items he wanted (plus a couple extra) and had $8 left from the original amount we said he could have. So I gave him $8 cash and told him he could use it however he wishes.

I love happy endings.

Have you found a new way to do something which has been troublesome in the past?


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Am I Done Yet?

My house smells wonderful right now!

Freshly baked bread (almost) ready to come out of the oven. Yummmmm!

But this culinary adventure has not been without frustration.
The recipe said to bake the bread for 50-60 minutes, so I set the timer for a little past 50 and got involved with other things. When I heard the familiar beeping noise of a timer going off, I rose to test the bread. Took one loaf out of the oven, noticed the top was nicely browned and had the cracked look that "done" bread usually has, but I decided to test it anyway.
A thorough search through my utensil drawer produced no bread-poker-tester-thingy, so I resorted to a knife. And discovered the bread was not done, in spite of how lovely it appeared on the top. So I returned it to the oven to give it five more minutes.
Another beep, another test, and another conclusion the bread was not yet done. *sigh*
Back into the oven. (This time with foil on top, cuz I didn't want the top to burn while the insides were baking.) Back to waiting.
Have I ever mentioned I I kept thinking, Alright, already! I have other things to do besides babysit this bread. Can we be done?!

And it was just about right then - at the end of that thought - when God showed me His involvement in my bread-making exploit.
As I considered the reality that I am not a good wait-er; as I recalled my desire to get to the end of a journey, more than happy to skip over the bumps and curves and obstacles along the way; as I recognized my bent toward just wanting to be done - it was as if God were speaking through the not-yet-done bread in the oven.
His words to my heart sounded something like this, Karen, dear, I know you don't like to wait. I know you would like to KNOW when that bread will be done so you don't have to keep getting up and checking. I know you would like to KNOW when you're going to be done, when your trials and testing will be over. Oh, little one, I know everything about you!
That's why I want you to trust Me. That's why I want you to surrender all of your concerns and your angst about waiting to Me. Because I know what you need. I know what is necessary in your life to make you more like My Son. And I am working it out. In MY time. And My time is perfect, you know.
I love you, child. Keep trusting in My love.

What can I say? My Father knows what I need to hear!
Did He have anything to say to you through what He said to me???

Ahhhh. The bread is done now. Out of the oven and on the cooling rack. Looking forward to sharing it with my family for dinner. It's going to be yummy!

And so worth the wait!


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Beauty and the Beau ~ The Tale Continues

We had a visitor this past weekend.
Elizabeth's beau, Nick, came to stay for a couple of days.

It's so sweet to see how happy she gets at the thought of his visits. :) And, to be honest, I enjoy them, too. Nick is a delightful young man. Thoughtful and polite and a joy to have around.

Saturday morning I walked into the family room to the two of them plus Nick's big black dog sitting on the couch; and Elizabeth using my sewing kit to perform some kind of surgery. Seems the big black dog had holes which needed mending, and Elizabeth was only too happy to help.
So, while Nick played the X-Box, Elizabeth stitched and the two of them chatted away. What a cute picture it was!
So cute, in fact, I grabbed the camera after surgery was complete to share the moment with you.
I must say, I am so thankful for the relationship these two are developing, and their openness to seeking guidance. Brian and Nick talk openly about this growing relationship. Elizabeth is eager to ask me questions and seek input. I know Nick talks with his own parents. And there are other significant adults building into the two of them.
So, so different from my own experience as a teenager stepping into the world of relationships for the very first time. Of course, I thought I knew everything back then, so I probably wouldn't have been open to discussion, anyway.

But as I look at Beauty and the Beau, I see two God-fearing kids who are humble and seeking to build a relationship which honors and pleases HIM. Oh! That fills my heart with joy!


Monday, November 26, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Stone was Rolled Away

Have you ever been concerned about something?

Worried, even?

About something really BIG?

The other day I read about a few women who had such a concern. Here's their story:
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?"

~Mark 16:1-3
It was customary for the living to care for the dead by anointing their body with spices. And because Jesus meant so much to these women, they were especially eager to take care of Him. But what about the stone? Who would move it?
I've read that the stone in front of Jesus' tomb was likely between 5 and 6 feet tall, and up to a foot thick. Certainly too big for three women to move!
What ever would they do???

My suggestion would be to keep reading.
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.

~Mark 16:4
God had already taken care of the stone!
In fact, He'd done a lot more than roll away the stone. He'd made a way for all of mankind to be reconciled to Himself. Jesus was not there. He is risen! The tomb was empty. What a sight for those dear women.

Besides my relief in making it to the resurrection, this passage in Mark encourages me because it reminds me that nothing in my life - no concern or worry or struggle or hardship - is too big for my GOD to handle. I am trusting there will be a day when I will look up and see that the stone - which is very large - has been rolled away. And though I don't particularly like waiting, I have learned God's timing and His purposes are perfect. I can trust Him.

And so can you.

Is there a very large stone in your way today? I pray God will use these words to encourage you, too. May you know with confidence that your Father in heaven sees you, knows what you need, and is able to roll your stone away.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

It's the Little Things

OK. Please allow me a moment to tell you how happy Matthew made me yesterday.

I *might* not have gotten out of bed right when my alarm went off, so I *might* have been a tad late getting into the shower. Which means I *might* have been a bit behind schedule when I got out of the shower. Which, of course, means I was probably a few minutes behind in going to wake up Matthew.
But when I peeked into his room, Matthew was already out of bed. In fact, he's been getting up on his own most days recently. (It's a nice change!) So I went back to my room to continue getting ready.
Some time later I went to the kitchen - just to remind Matthew that he probably ought to get into the shower. In the past, he has moaned about having to get out of his comfy position (He's usually snuggled up in a blanket.) but yesterday he hopped right up, rinsed his cereal bowl, and got into the shower.
Back in my room, I was listening to the water, waiting for Matthew to turn on the shower. (He has a habit of sitting in the tub under the hot water coming out of the spigot, and he completely loses himself.) I was just about to tell him to turn on the shower but as I raised my hand to knock on the bathroom door, he turned the shower on. So I went back to my room, making note of the time for purposes of knowing when he'd been in the shower "long enough".
I'd made my bed when I glanced at the clock and noticed five minutes had passed. Decided I ought to inform Mr. I-love-to-stand-under-hot-water that his time was up and he needed to turn the shower off now. But as I turned to walk out of my bedroom, I heard Matthew turn the shower off. And, I'm telling you, I got a great big smile across my face.

*I didn't have to drag Matthew out of bed.
*I didn't have to nag him to get into the shower.
*I didn't have to tell Matthew to turn the shower on.
*I didn't even have to tell him to turn it off!

Some moms might read these words and have no idea why they make me so happy. But those moms whose kiddos practically run from responsibility, who can't seem to stay focused on a task, and who somehow manage to bring their dear mother to her wits end with their inability to follow through - those moms will understand. It's the little things.
And sometimes the little things are HUGE.

Hang in there, you moms who understand me. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. *big grin*


Monday, November 19, 2012

Friday, November 16, 2012

Lessons From the Edge

Imagination can take you places.

So, last week I had a Chat With the Activities Director meeting. A time to just sit with the residents and listen to their ideas and feedback. And I asked if they had any suggestions for trips they'd like to take. (I was thinking of suggestions like going out to dinner at a local restaurant, or attending a craft fair. You know, reasonable things like that.) And one woman piped up, "How about a trip to Las Vegas?!"
I laughed at first. Sure. Like we could take a trip to Vegas!
But after I thought about it for a moment, I got an idea. I may not be able to take the residents of Edgewood to Las Vegas, but perhaps I could bring a bit of Vegas to Edgewood! And so was born my latest party plan.
On January 30, 2013 we're going to have a Las Vegas Party at Edgewood. We'll have BlackJack and Bingo. Hopefully a Color Wheel and maybe Poker. And any other games I can come up with/learn about/borrow. I'm going to borrow some decorations from another Activities Director friend, chips from my brother, and I'll buy prizes for the residents to get with their winnings. So much to figure out and plan, but I am totally geeked about having this party. Because I know the residents are going to have a blast.

It reminds me of the time my family ate dinner under the dining room table and pretended we were camping. And the time our neighbors came over and we had a luau in January - imagining we were warm in the sun, when there was snow all around us outside.

Las Vegas is almost 2,000 miles away from Edgewood, but in a couple of months it's going to be a lot closer!
Because, imagination can take you places.
By the way, if you have any suggestions for me about decorations or games for a Las Vegas party, I'm all ears! ;-)


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Words of Wisdom

...from my inspirational calendar. :)

If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it.

~Mathilda Gage


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My Filters Might Need Fixing

Have you ever struggled to understand what God was trying to say to you?

Ever wondered if you might be the one confusing the process, because of the filters through which you're hearing Him?

No? Please tell me how you do it!!!

Because I think I might need to do something about my filters.
Last week at Edgewood I was overcome with delight by several encouraging words and blessed interactions I had with residents. Some of them thanked me for the work I am doing. Some told me how much they enjoyed the activities we're doing. One woman said I'm the "best" Activities Director they've had since she's been there. (And she's been there for 14 years.) Another woman told me she was so thankful that I was at Edgewood, as I helped her getting around her apartment. I heard these things, and my heart smiled. BIG.

I say all this - not to make myself sound wonderful - but to help you understand my struggle.

You see, I realize if I heard these things under different circumstances, I would hear them as confirmation that I am doing what I need to be doing; that I am where God wants me to be. But as it is, I am having trouble hearing it this way at Edgewood.
Not sure how much I've expressed it here, but I often feel bitter about the fact that I have to work. I feel stretched too thin - wanting to give my best at Edgewood, then feeling like I have very little left to give when I get home. To be honest, I get tired of feeling like I'm "always" working - when I'm getting paid for it, and when I'm not. Oh, how I wish I had more time to devote to my speaking ministry. I miss other ways I used to serve before work, and I think, If I didn't have to do this, I could do that!
Sunday when I was at church, I heard a woman talking about how she is able to bless a single mom by watching her son after school so he has a safe place to stay while his mom works. And I thought to myself, I want to be able to do that for someone! Why do I have to work? I want to be a blessing, too!

Even as I write out this post and read over my words, it seems so easy to see.
I am a blessing.
I am making a difference in the lives of people.
It is good for me to be at Edgewood.

But, why is it so hard for that which is in my head to get to my heart?
I'm certain God is speaking to me. I so want to understand what He's saying. Perhaps my filters need fixing. Maybe I need to let go of expectations?
I'd love a neon sign, LORD. Of course, a billboard would do!

And, of course, just about the time I'm almost ready to say I'll make Edgewood my focus, a dear friend recalls that we met because I spoke for her MOPS group, and she says, "What a blessing that you speak for MOPS!"
Waiting for that sign...


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Spot, the Snapping Turtle

Have I mentioned here before how much Joshua loves his critters?
Oh, does he ever!!!!
Last week Joshua made this video of Spot - the snapping turtle which has been his pet for the past 13 or 14 months. Since making the video, Joshua has had another turtle lover contact him with questions about his own turtle. It has been a delight to see Joshua excited about offering help and advice to this other young man. He takes it all so seriously - wanting to word everything correctly, and give just the right suggestions. I guess it's his way of paying someone back, as Joshua has often been the beneficiary of other people's turtle knowledge.

All that to say, here's a cute little video for your viewing pleasure. And for those of you moms out there with a son who is constantly bringing critters home - hang in there! One day you will be delighted to see him growing in responsibly caring for his critters - and eagerly sharing his knowledge with other critter-lovers.
I'm sure of it! :)


Monday, November 12, 2012

Friday, November 09, 2012

Lessons From the Edge

Our stories are for sharing.

We have a lot of veteran's at Edgewood (As you can see in the picture above.) and this past Tuesday we had a ceremony to honor them. A (large!) group from the Michigan State University ROTC came to Edgewood for the program. They began by presenting the colors, then several of them gave short speeches before announcing our veteran's by name and presenting each of them with a flag.
It was a wonderful ceremony. The speeches were heart-felt, and everyone was touched. But it was what happened after the ceremony which made the greatest impact. The cadets stayed in the atrium and talked with our veterans and other residents.

Here, N is showing the Purple Heart he received from World War II.

D has a way of telling captivating stories.

R was eager to tell about life in the Air Force.

And this young man sat down to talk with H about his experience in the Army.

To some, it may not seem like a big deal to have someone with whom they may swap stories. But, I'm telling you, our veterans LOVED the open ears and eager listening provided by these young cadets. I haven't heard the atrium that noisy in a long time - as story after story was told, memories re-lived, and lessons shared. And to be honest, I can't really say who received the greater blessing: our vets who got to tell their stories, or the cadets who were able to listen.

One thing I can say with certainty, however, is this: Each of us has a story and - just as we benefit from telling it - so others can be encouraged by hearing.
What story is sitting in you today which someone else may be waiting to hear?

Our stories are for sharing.


Thursday, November 08, 2012

I'm Learning to Laugh

I remember laughing frequently at dinner when I was a kid.
I have an older brother and an older sister who picked on each other A LOT. And my brother was generally goofy anyway, always cracking jokes and doing silly things. Hasn't changed much, now that I think of it. Between the two of them, we laughed a lot.

As a mom (with control issues *ahem*) I have not been a fan of goofing around at the dinner table. I am much more in favor of calm conversation and compliments for the chef. So when I heard my father reflecting on how much he enjoyed our crazy family meals, I wondered how it could really be possible. How could he revel in that chaos? (My father is the one from whom I believe I inherited my control issues...) I wondered, Is it a factor of his age - and the reality that his memory isn't what it used to be - which allows him to remember the chaos with such fondness?

Or, could it be the silliness we experienced at the dinner table really was as fun as we remember it to be? Could it be the noise, bumped tables, and occasional spilled milk are all a part of future fond memories?

These questions are making a big difference for me.
Especially at the dinner table.
I have caught myself loosening up. I have watched both of my boys acting very silly - really cracking themselves up - and found myself laughing right along with everyone else.
Sometimes I look at Joshua and see my big brother. The goofiness. The joy in making other people laugh. The love of being the center of attention. I remember how much I enjoyed laughing at with him at my childhood dinner table, and I find the same joy at my adult dinner table.
And, honestly? It feels good.
Letting go of the need to be in control of every moment is freeing. Recognizing the value in goofiness and the ability to express oneself in a silly way is - dare I say it? FUN!

Oh, I wouldn't call myself "cured" from my control issues and uptight tendencies around chaos.
But I'm learning to laugh. And it feels so good!


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Throwing Security Aside

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Mark 10:46-52
Oh, how I love the Word of God! Not only for it's encouragement and hope, it's teaching and direction, but also for the way it digs into my heart and causes me to change.

This particular passage raises several questions for my heart.
*Why were people rebuking Bartimaeus for calling out to Jesus? Do I ever discourage people from seeking Him?
*Bartimaeus shouted all the more. Do I have the courage to keep going when others are mocking me?
*Bartimaeus wasted no time responding to Jesus' call. Do I drag my feet when Jesus calls me?
*It was Bartimaeus' faith which made him well. Do I believe Jesus is able to do great things in my life?

These are all great questions!
However, if we stop there, I believe we're missing a gem.

Some time ago when I was studying this passage I learned in interesting thing which changed the way I see Bartimaeus.
Did you catch what he did with his cloak?
He threw it aside.
At first glance that action may not seem like such a big deal. He wanted to get to Jesus, so he quickly got rid of anything which might hinder him, right? A good idea, to be sure. If Jesus is calling, your best move is to get up and see what He wants!
But there's more to it. Bartimaeus was a beggar. His cloak was significant. It was probably the only "thing" he had. It would have been is bed at night, his shelter from the rain and sun, even his "collection plate" for the alms which passers by would offer him. His cloak was his security!
(If you can say a beggar has security...)
Yet, when Jesus called, Bartimaeus threw his cloak aside. He was so confident in Jesus, he immediately let go of that which had previously meant security to himself.

And that action of Bartimaeus' causes me to ask my heart, Am I clinging to an old form of security, rather than trusting fully in Jesus?

Are you?


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Difference Between Need and Want...

...can be determined by cost.

Matthew approached me recently - very sweetly - and asked if I would buy him something from his book order. (Not just 'something,' actually. He wanted a specific book. The next release in a new series to which he has taken a liking.)
While I am absolutely delighted with Matthew's love for reading, I am also a big believer in utilizing the library. He reads and reads, and if I were to buy every book he wanted - well - I couldn't. Not enough money!
Anyway, I asked him about getting the book from the library. He placed a phone call and learned the library doesn't have the book yet. And Matthew didn't want to wait for it. He said he needed a book right away because he finished the last one he was reading, and he's supposed to read 100 pages per week for his language arts class, so he really needed me to buy this book for him, because - clearly - he couldn't get it from the library. Not sure he comprehended the fact that a book from the book order would take a couple weeks to come in. Wasn't feeling the need to argue that point. *wink*
The book he wanted was $12, and I asked Matthew how much he would be willing to contribute toward the purchase of said book. (I know he has money!) He shrugged his shoulders and offered $3. When I smirked at his not-so-generous suggestion, Matthew reminded me that he really needed the book. I said I'd think about it.

Fast-forward approximately 36 hours.
Although I didn't understand why Matthew couldn't wait for the library to get the book (OK. I understand not wanting to wait. Believe me. I understand that! I just mean, he could certainly pick another book to read in the interim.) I decided I would help him get the book. Except, my counter-offer was $6. When he was getting his things ready for school in the morning I got $6 and said, "Here, Matthew. I have $6 you can use to get that book you need. You'll have to contribute the other $6."
His reply? "Oh, I don't want to buy it anymore."

So there you have it. For $3 the book was a need, but for $6 it was a want.
An unwanted-want, that is! *wink*


Monday, November 05, 2012

Friday, November 02, 2012

Lessons From the Edge

Simple appreciation makes a significant impact.

We had a party at Edgewood this week.
A Halloween party.
And - while I had wonderful support from the kitchen staff, and some great volunteers - I worked my hiney off!
There's always just so much to do. Planning, purchasing, organizing, checking and double-checking, decorating, promoting, and then carrying it out and cleaning everything up. *phew!* Even with great volunteers it makes me tired!

So Wednesday, after everyone had left and I was alone in the dining room wiping down a couple final tables, I was surprised when the door opened.
I looked up and saw F. You would know him from 50 yards away because of his great big smile and hearty Hello! I returned his greeting and he told me he just wanted to come in and thank me for the Halloween party. He said, "You work so hard. You just work and work and work. Thank you!!!" With that, F smiled his great big smile, waved at me, then turned and walked away.
And if I had a mirror, I think I may have discovered a smile on my face as big as the one I love so much on F. The notice he took of my efforts, and the time he took to express it made me forget how tired I was in the moment. In fact, even as I think of it now - I'm smiling. :)

Simple appreciation makes a significant impact.


Thursday, November 01, 2012

Warning: Objects in Conversation...

...are more shallow than they appear.

The other night I was in the kitchen making dinner, and Elizabeth was in the dining room working on a school project. She paused for a moment and asked me, "Mom? Have you ever had a friend you needed, and they knew you needed them, so they could be mean to you because they knew you would never leave them?"
It took me a minute to process Elizabeth's question and I was wondering why she was asking - perhaps looking for some advice, or maybe just needing to unload?
As I thought it over, I recalled an unhealthy relationship I'd had in junior high. Yeah, it was a "friend" I "needed" and she knew it. Only it wasn't really a friendship, rather she was popular and I wanted to be accepted by her so I did what she wanted and she treated me like, well, *ahem* like that, and I just took it.
Because I wanted to feel accepted.
And if she was paying attention to me - even if it wasn't nice - I felt accepted.
In a pathetic sort of way.

I shared my little story with Elizabeth in hopes my vulnerability might open some doors to good conversation. Perhaps help her through whatever she was facing.
When I had finished speaking she smiled and said, "Yeah. That's like me and hot glue."
Elizabeth was using hot glue for her project and was frustrated because she kept burning herself. This "friend" she needed was being mean to her, but she couldn't leave it because of her need.

Uh, yeah. Not quite the deep conversation I was anticipating. *wink*