Friday, December 20, 2013

Lessons From the Edge

HE came to restore.

Christmas is just five days away!
Are you ready for it? *wink*

At Christmas time, I love to reflect on God's grace and mercy toward us - in that He sent His Son to earth, to live a perfect life so He could serve as a perfect sacrifice that we might be forgiven and reconciled to God. That amount of heavenly love astounds me.
However, this week at Edgewood I had several occasions to pause and give thanks for the fact that He didn't come simply to save.
Let me explain...
*I was talking with one woman about my grandmother and she said to me, "Your grandmother is so easy to love!" And I thought, Why, yes. She is. I smiled at the memories of the many ways she has blessed my life. But then I wondered, Why is it that my dad has such a rocky relationship with her? Why are they so troubled with each other?
*There is a man who lives just down the hall from the Activity Room and since we are in such close proximity, I see him often. We usually enjoy brief, but enjoyable, conversations. However, he has recently begun declining. And our conversations this week have been difficult because his mind is getting so confused. In fact, sometimes this otherwise delightful man has been rather hostile.
*One evening this week I stepped in to support a co-worker who was trying to calm an upset woman. Usually I can get this particular woman to smile and sing with me, but not on this occasion. She was not herself. Rather, she was hostile and unreasonable. And it made me so sad to see her that way.
I thought about the brokenness represented in each of these scenarios. Broken relationships, broken minds, broken hearts. And it mad me so sad. I wondered, Why, LORD? Why the brokenness and pain? Can't You fix it?
That is when God reminded me Christmas isn't simply about Him coming to save our souls from eternal damnation. No. HE sent Jesus to bring restoration and hope for eternity.
The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to (Jesus). Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

Luke 4:17-21
So I pray for the restoring power of Christ to flood my father and grandmother's relationship.
I pray for C and H, and trust the restoring power of Christ will make them whole for all of eternity.
I am forever grateful that Jesus left the glory of heaven so we could be reconciled to God through His blood.
And I find peace in the hope I have because in His complete work, HE came to restore.

***I am going to be taking a blog-break until after the New Year. May you enjoy the next couple of weeks with family and friends in the goodness of our LORD!

Disclaimer: The ideas and opinions expressed in this post are my own, and may not necessarily reflect those of Vista Springs Living Centers.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

'Tis the Season be jolly!

And that's one of the things I love about this season. Most of the time, everyone seems to be a little bit happier. A little more gracious. More willing to think of 'the other guy' first.
Note: I don't do Black Friday. It would totally kill my perception of this season. *wink*

Just Sunday night, I saw some of this seasonal kindness in action.
We'd gotten home from a weekend at Brian's mom's house, and had lots of snow to shovel in the driveway. Brian and Matthew worked on it, but Josh had other things on his agenda and wasn't able to put in his time until later. (I offered to do the shoveling instead of making the menu/grocery list and going to the store. But my family said they'd rather eat this week. Go figure!)
Anyway, Sunday evening Josh went out to do his part of the shoveling. He was out there quite a long time. At one point, Brian suggested we form a search party and go check on him but, alas, we stayed inside where it was warm. And in a little while, the door opened and Josh came inside with rosy cheeks and snowy feet.
When we asked what took so long, Josh explained that he'd gone across the street to shovel our neighbor's driveway, too. Our neighbor is a "single" mom (She's married, but her husband lives in Korea. Long story.) and both of her children have graduated and no longer live at home. It used to be that her son dutifully shoveled the drive all winter long, but now it's up to her to get it done. Josh saw the need, and decided to meet it.
I was immediately delighted by Josh's kind-hearted action. But then I thought, Wait a minute! You did what??? My son - who regularly complains about chores, who argues about doing extra things just because I need a little more help, who often seems to think the world should revolve around himself - just helped our neighbor? Without being told to do so? How did that happen?

I asked him about it later, and told him how pleased I was to see him reaching out and serving someone else. Turns out, Josh just wanted to do a nice thing for our neighbor. He didn't want to be recognized for it, or rewarded. He just wanted to help.
I don't know if 'tis the season which has gotten into him, or if Josh is maturing and learning to see beyond himself, but I'll take it.
And I'll cherish this memory in my heart. *happy face*


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It's JOY Week!

Did you know the third week of advent is Joy?

The sermon I heard on Sunday was all about joy.
And it was good!

As one who battles depression, two quotes which were shared during the sermon were particularly meaningful to me.
What do you think of these words?
The evil one is pleased with sadness and melancholy because he himself is sad and melancholy and will be so for all of eternity; hence he desires that everyone should be like himself. ~St. Francis
Joy is natural in the presence of God. Joy is a pervasive sense of well-being that is deeper and broader than any pleasure. It is a basic element of inner transformation into Christlikeness and the outer life that flows from it. ~Dallas Willard
On the one hand, it makes me mad to think of the evil one being pleased when I am in one of my down moods. I don't want him to be pleased with anything in my life.
And, on the other hand, it inspires me all the more to lean in to God and fix my eyes on HIM. I have learned - and continue to learn! - that I must focus on God, and tell myself the Truth in order to find joy in the midst of motherhood, and all other aspects of life.

If you're like me and you sometimes struggle with feeling down, will you join me this week in pursuing joy? Let us take our eyes off our circumstances and fix them on the One who loved us enough to give us His Son.
In your presence there is fullness of joy.

Psalm 16:11 (ESV)


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Early Morning Pep-talk

I am generally not a "morning person", in that I would much rather stay in bed and sleep, sleep, sleep. But, alas, the rule-follower in me always wins out, and I get up at the sounding of my alarm.
So, I found it rather ironic a few days ago when, in my sleepy stupor, I was able to give a pep-talk.

My habit is to get up and take a shower before the boys are up to get ready for school.
After I'm out of the shower I listen for Josh. When I hear his bathroom door open and the fan gets turned on, I know he's up and all is well. So I dry my hair and then I walk out to peek at Matthew's bedroom door.
If it's open, he's out of bed and I know everything is good.
If it's closed, I need to wake him up.
And, a few days ago, it was closed.

Matthew's alarm was going off when I opened the door, so I turned his light on and added my own wake-up call to the mix. I walked over to his bed and shook him a little, reminding him it was time to get up. Matthew mumbled, "I'm hungry." So I said, "Hey! I have an idea! Why don't you get out of bed and go have breakfast?" I paused, Matthew moaned, and I said, "I'm brilliant! C'mon! Get up and have breakfast. Then you won't be hungry anymore."
At that point, I reached down and pulled his covers off, exposing his left arm pit. As soon as I squealed, Matthew put his arm to his side - knowing my next move would have been tickling. With that option removed, I simply grabbed his legs and swung them over the side of his bed so I could "help" him stand up. It took effort, but we got Matthew to his feet. He literally stumbled out of his room and fell against the wall in the hallway. (He's a bit dramatic. Don't know where he gets it!) And I said, "There you go! You're out of bed and can get some breakfast. I'm such a good mom!"

I'm not sure who the pep-talk was really for: Matthew - to get him out of bed, or, me - to not feel like a meanie for waking him up. Either way, it was effective!

How do you face mornings?


Monday, December 16, 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

Lessons From the Edge

Even "parenting" goes full circle.

I'm in the thick of parenting right now, as I know many of you are, also.
I've made it past the early years of feeding and bathing and training (Yeah. Like I'll EVER be finished with that!) and buckling and so many other monotonous duties. But I'm still in the middle of nurturing and guiding and shaping and instructing. Sometimes my children listen and I am delighted that they've heard me, and other times? Not so much. But I know they're learning - whether it's by following my instruction, or by experiencing the consequences of their own actions.
And, while I love being a mom and am thankful to God for my children, some days it wears me down and the drudgery feels like it will never end. Know what I mean?

Well, this week at Edgewood I got a peek at the other side. I was on the phone with the son of a woman who lives at Edgewood, and we were making "plans" for her. This man and his siblings had been talking about what they thought their mother should be doing, and he was enlisting my help to get her down to exercise class two days a week. He also suggested I could drop his name if necessary to get her to come. You know, "Your son wants you to do this..."
And the thing is? It worked! Although her first response was, "Oh, I don't know. I'm a little tired this morning." When I mentioned her son's name and reminded her that her children wanted her to come to exercise class, she agreed right away. And I realized, this dear woman is now being "parented" by her children. Her mind doesn't work as well as it used to, such that now - her children know what's best for her more than she does. So they are parenting her - nurturing, guiding, shaping and instructing. It's a beautiful thing.
This whole realization motivates me even more to pour love into my own children. Because there will likely come a day when they will be parenting me.

Even "parenting" goes full circle.

Disclaimer: The ideas and opinions expressed in this post are my own, and may not necessarily reflect those of Vista Springs Living Centers.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Nothing Significant, Yet Very Worthwhile

Recently, we sat down to dinner as *almost* a whole family. Elizabeth was gone, so it was just Brian and I and the boys. As we prayed before dinner, I asked God to bless our time at the table. I was imagining significant conversations and sharing about deep things.
Often times, as soon as everyone is finished eating someone wants to jump up from the table and move on to other activities. But on this particular night, lingering around with each other seemed to be the desire of all parties.
Ahh, here it comes, I thought. And I was ready for the profound discussions to begin.

Brian and the boys have been watching episodes from The Walking Dead, so they were engrossed in a conversation about how to survive a zombie apocalypse. (My guys are going to be soooooo ready if this happens, I tell ya. *wink*) We talked about ice fishing and listened to Josh's explanation of the best weather conditions for ideal ice. Stories were told of what it's like to sleep with our dog, and I'm sure a few jokes were thrown around about poop or farting.
As we decided to clear the table and move on with the evening's activities, I realized our after-dinner discussion hadn't touched on even one significant topic. Not one!
And, yet, I was delighted with the time we'd spent together. Unhurried, just enjoying being with one another. The conversations may not have been significant, but the time together was very worthwhile.

What is one of your favorite family memories?
Lest you get the wrong impression about our family, and begin to think we're in the running for "Family of the Year", let me assure you: Not all dinners are like the one illustrated here.
I could tell you about the one from earlier this week during which we spent quite a bit of time arguing about respectful behavior, and which resulted in one of our kids being grounded.
But, I won't. *wink*


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

HE Must Have Been Smiling

...when I wrote this statement for last Friday's post:
"Can you even fathom the immensity of your reach? From the cashier at the grocery store..."

I wrote that statement Thursday afternoon, choosing rather "randomly" examples of people with whom we might come into contact every day. But even as I sat at my kitchen table tapping on my computer, God saw me Friday afternoon at the grocery store.
And that's why I'm sure HE must have been smiling when I wrote about the cashier.

Friday afternoon I was shopping and, as I stood in the check-out lane, I overheard part of the conversation happening between the cashier and the woman who was in line in front of me. I heard him say, "I'm having a very bad day and I don't feel like talking to anyone." He went on to mention that he'd dropped out of school, was quitting his job, and didn't know what he was going to do with his life. Then I heard the woman say something about God, and the cashier responded that he didn't believe in God.


When it was my turn, the cashier said, "Hi. How are you today?" I responded by saying, "I think I'm doing better than you are..." And our conversation continued along these lines:
Me: Sorry to hear about your bad day.
Him: Yeah.
What were you studying in school?
I didn't have a major. I never had any interests growing up. So I didn't know what I wanted to do. (He had been in college for five years. Never thought he'd use an education, but went because his parents made him.)
Hey, I'll give you a dollar off on your groceries if you can give me tips on being happy.
Wellllll, I heard you tell the customer before me that you don't believe in God. And that would be my main tip. HE changed my life when I was in college.
Maybe you should consider Him.
Well, maybe I don't really NOT believe, but...
So, what do you like to do?
I don't have any interests.
OK. What do you do when you aren't here?
I sit at home and watch my roommates do stuff.
I think what you should do is visit a church and meet some new people, and maybe you would find things with them which would interest you.
I can't remember the last time I met a new person.
See? You should give it a try.
Do you have suggestions?
For a church. I don't know where to go.

So, I told him about the church where I am a member, and about a new service for 20-somethings which I thought he should check out. And he indicated that maybe he would.
By this time, he had finished with my groceries and he said, "I gave you the dollar off on your groceries as I promised." Then I dug through my wallet to find my card. I gave it to him and said, "My email address is on here. If you visit that service at my church, I want you to email me and tell me about it. AND, I'm making you a promise. I promise I'm going to pray for you."

Yes. When I wrote that line, I know God could already see me talking with "C" the next day, and I'm sure HE must have been smiling. Now I'm smiling, as I pray for C and anticipate his Father drawing him close.
I'd love it if you would pray with me!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I Have NEVER Fixed the Brakes

My bed gets made *almost* every day.
"My" bed, in which my husband also sleeps.
And often times that makes sense to me, because he gets up before I do - to go work out. I'm the last one out of bed, so I make it.
But that isn't always the case. Sometimes I'm up and out of the house before Brian, and when I get home the bed looks just like it did when I left.
Minus my husband's hunk of studly body, that is. *wink*
And so I confess, there has been more than one occasion when I have been making the bed after a long day of work (OK, I know - at that point there are only hours until it will be time for me to go to bed again and mess it all up. But I like a made bed. Don't judge.) and I have grumbled in my heart something like, Really? Why can't Brian ever make the bed? Is it written somewhere that bed-making is MY job? He sleeps in it, too, after all.
Typically, my grumbling gives in to a self-righteous mental rant of all the things I always do around the house and for the family. *cue the woe-is-me music*

As HE so often does, God gave me pause during one of those grumbling episodes for a brief perspective check. I'm not sure how it happened. (It certainly wasn't anything of MY doing, so I can only attribute it to the power of the Holy Spirit.) All I know is suddenly I was thinking about all the things Brian does do around here.
We just got new windows, and Brian took care of coordinating, ordering, and paying for that whole ordeal. He put up the Christmas lights outside. Whenever we have issues with the car or van, he always takes care of it. He's also my go-to guy whenever I'm having computer problems. These are not "every day" things like making the bed is, but they're bigger things - and I simply don't want to deal with them.
In as much time as it took for me to list off the things Brian does - which I DON'T do - God stopped my grumbling and changed my heart. HE gave me the ability to be thankful for all the things Brian does, rather than to focus on the things he doesn't.
And then, the funniest thing happened.
Last Friday I noticed the brakes on the van making a terrible noise. (I usually drive with music on, so I have no idea how long I'd been missing whatever was happening with the brakes.) I told Brian there was a problem and left the van home on Saturday so he could "look at it".
And Saturday afternoon he told me, "I fixed the brakes."
Just like that.
It was that easy!
All I had to do was mention the problem, and it was fixed.

Sunday morning as I was making the bed again, instead of grumbling I thought about how thankful I am for my husband. He does so much for me!

Being thankful is a much better place to be than grumbling. What are the things you have to be thankful for today?


Monday, December 09, 2013

Friday, December 06, 2013

Lessons From the Edge

Make the most of every opportunity.

Colossians says it this way: Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (4:5-6)

A couple of years ago, I had several stories in this Lessons From the Edge series which had to do with a man I referred to as "D". He moved into Edgewood shortly after I began working there, and lived almost across the hall from the Activity Room. I saw him frequently by virtue of our proximity, and he came to lots of activities, too. It didn't take long for him to win my heart. He was a delightful man and I was blessed to be part of his life.
D and I spoke often about Jesus, and even prayed together for D's salvation. He struggled with accepting God's love, but over and over I reminded him of that Truth.
In time, D was in need of more care than was available at Edgewood, so he moved. And not too long after that, he moved again. To live with his daughter in another state. I was privileged to see him last Christmas when he came back to Michigan. (One of his daughters lives near to me, so I went to her house for a visit.)
But that was my final opportunity.
This week I received an email from one of his daughters telling me he had passed away that morning.

So, I've been thinking a lot this week about the brief opportunities I have to be part of a person's life. At Edgewood, and otherwise. Can you even fathom the immensity of your reach? From the cashier at the grocery store, to your next-door neighbor, to your great-aunt and your cousin "Louey", and the colleague down the hall at work. We come into contact with so many people. It may be for a moment, for a season, or for a lifetime. But whatever the length of the interaction, we can be used by God to make some eternal differences.
If we watch for the opportunity and obey His promptings.

Who are the people you're seeing today?

Make the most of every opportunity.

Disclaimer: The ideas and opinions expressed in this post are my own, and may not necessarily reflect those of Vista Springs Living Centers.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Drum Roll, Please

And the winners of the Kathy Troccoli Christmas CDs are...

Jennifer and Tamrah!

Are you ready for this?
I asked my kids to help by drawing the names. Elizabeth picked Jennifer's paper, then Josh drew one out and - put it in his mouth. He chewed on it and acted like he was eating the paper.
Ha, ha. Funny guy.
But before I knew what had happened, he opened his mouth and - the paper was gone.
"Did you seriously EAT that?" I shrieked.
Josh just smiled.
And said, "Now we'll need to wait until tomorrow to see who won!" You know, when he uses the bathroom. *ahem*
But, have no fear! I figured a way to get around his trickery. I just looked at the remaining names and deduced the winner was the one whose name was missing. I'm brilliant.
And that's how I knew Tamrah was the other winner.

Came to that conclusion through a process of elimination. *wink*


Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Free Saeed

Have you heard of Saeed Abedini and his plight for freedom from an Iranian prison?

I have been praying for Saeed for quite some time, anticipating a movement from God on his behalf. At times it has seemed the leaders of our country have been on his side, making efforts to secure his freedom. But recently, they missed what should have been a "certain" opportunity. And it broke my heart.
Well, today is a day during which many people are banding together to give Saeed a voice. I'm joining the movement. And I want to invite you to watch this video and join with me. Let's post and speak and tweet. Let's make our voices heard, that our leaders may take notice.
And, above that, let us continue to pray!


Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Thanks. I Needed That!

I had a rotten, horrible, no-good day yesterday.

I'll spare you the details.
It's enough to know my afternoon involved a lot of tears.

And then I had a prince come to my rescue.
Josh - my 15 year old son, who often wears me out with his teenage angst.
First, he offered to finish making dinner for me. (So I could go be alone or "whatever", he said.)
I told Josh I was OK to finish making the meal, but I readily accepted his help with the process. We finished quickly, then I went into my bedroom. I turned on my Kathy Troccoli worship CD, got down on my knees and poured my heart out to my Father. I shed many more tears, and I received the love HE was willing to pour over me. Then I got up, sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", and decided it was time to face the world again.
When I turned to walk into the kitchen, there was my prince again. Several inches taller than me, standing in the doorway with open arms. He bent down, hugged me, and said, "I love you."

I had tears again, but this time I welcomed them.

Just in case you missed it, my post yesterday involves a giveaway. You *might* want to check it out.


Monday, December 02, 2013

Christmas Music Giveaway

I'll do the drawing Wednesday when I get home from work. Probably about 4:00.
Feel free to tell your friends (who need their spirits lifted!) about this giveaway.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

I pray you enjoy this day with family, friends, and good food.
See you back here Monday!


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I'm Too Young for This, or, I *Might* be Living in Denial

I won't be doing a Lessons From the Edge post this week. (Thanksgiving Break, you know.)
But if I was, I'm sure it would have something to do with what happened at work yesterday afternoon.
We had our monthly birthday party and while we were getting the dining room set up, I was chatting with my volunteers about my family's recent deer "adventures". To bring you up to speed, Josh got a deer Sunday afternoon. He and Brian decided they want to process it themselves, so it is presently hanging in my garage. About 12 inches from my vehicle. *Eeewww!* AND, Sunday evening "someone" put the deer's heart directly on the kitchen counter. As in, muscle to formica. No plate, no wax paper, no nothin'! I was not pleased with that decision and turned to Facebook to, uh, vent.
Also in the dining room at that time was our piano player for the party. He and I are Facebook friends and he'd seen my status update Sunday. So he joined in on the conversation, too. It was fun to laugh together about it all.

Then it happened.

The piano player said, with a large grin on his face, "You're so funny! You remind me of my mom. She would be reacting to this the same way you are."
On the one hand, I thought, Oh, that's sweet. I remind him of his mom.
And then I thought, Wait a minute. I know he's only in his early twenties, but I'm pretty sure he's got older siblings. How old is his mom? How old does he think I am???
Suddenly, I was feeling older than I want to. And I wasn't sure I wanted to remind this young man of his mother anymore. Because I'm too young to feel old. *ahem*

Any idea what lesson there might be for me in this circumstance? Cuz I'm not seeing it! *wink*


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Not My Normal Monday

What started off as a "typical" Monday afternoon quickly became an "atypical" Monday afternoon.

I walked into the house after work to find Matthew playing one of his favorite X-box games. And after I said, "Hello," I asked him if all of his homework was completed. Matthew said, "Yes," so I continued on to my room to change my clothes. Passing through the living room, I saw a basket of laundry which needed folding so I turned around to continue my typical Monday afternoon routine.
Peeking my head around the corner, I asked Matthew, "Have you folded your laundry today?" And I was fully expecting to enter into our usual dialog.
Matthew: Oh, yeah!
Me: Pause the game and take care of the laundry.
Matthew: I can't. I'm in the middle of something important.
Me: Pause the game, Matthew.
Matthew: Just a minute. I'll do the folding, I promise!
Me: OK. But when I come back out here after I change my clothes, you need to be folding that laundry.
Matthew: I KNOW. I will!
...Several minutes pass. I return to the scene. Matthew still sits in front of the TV. The laundry has NOT been folded.
Me: (bordering on angry) Matthew, pause the game right now and go fold that laundry.
Matthew: (clearly annoyed) But, Mom! I can't!
Me: Then turn it OFF and take care of your job.
Matthew: But
Me: Do it!
Matthew: (huffs, gets up and goes to fold one measly basket of laundry)

So, that's what I was expecting to happen after I asked my usual Monday afternoon question.
Instead, this is what happened:

Matthew: Yes. I almost turned on the TV and then I remembered the laundry. And I knew you would make me stop playing and I would get annoyed. So I folded it before I started playing.

My son is brilliant! *grin*


Monday, November 25, 2013

Friday, November 22, 2013

Lessons From the Edge

Sometimes, you've just gotta say it like it is.

We often joke during our lunch break about how easy it would be to produce a sitcom by reproducing the things we see and hear each day. I'm quite certain this scene would be in one of the episodes.
Honestly, I am NOT making this up. I truly participated in the following conversation this week at Edgewood.

I was in the atrium welcoming a musical guest and helping community members find seats when I saw V approaching. I walked over to her and asked if I could help her find a place to sit. She said, "No. I'm just trying to get away from him." And she gestured toward the other side of the atrium. "He's after my body."
My decision to not follow her gesture with my eyes was intentional, as I really did not want to know to whom she was referring. *wink* So I looked right at V and said, "Oh, my. I guess you can say something like, 'No, thanks.'"
V has got to be in her late 70s or early 80s. She has always seemed rather reserved to me, bordering on prudish. (Yes, even to ultra-conservative me. Haha.) So I fully expected the conversation to end there. But, no. She had more to say.
"Oh, I don't know. He's after my body. And I don't understand. There are so many younger women here." (I wasn't sure if she was referring to the mid-70s crowd, or what. I smiled and continued listening.) "I don't know why he wouldn't go for a younger woman. Unless..."
And this is when a certain sparkle shown in her eyes, "...he just wants someone with more experience!"
V looked pretty proud of herself at that thought, and took a seat to enjoy the music.

Sometimes, you've just gotta say it like it is.

***Just to be clear, I am not advocating for this stuff to be going on with the folks at Edgewood. Well, except the married ones. It just struck me as terribly funny when V got that air about her and made that statement. Reminds me of something I might have seen on the Golden Girls.

Disclaimer: The ideas and opinions expressed in this post are my own, and may not necessarily reflect those of Vista Springs Living Centers.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

All Work and No Play...

...doesn't often happen around here.

Last weekend we got busy raking and bagging leaves. BUT before we got to bagging, Josh and Matthew wanted to take a break from work to enjoy jumping.

What fun do you have while you're working?


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Positive Self-Talk, a la Psalm 42

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savoir and my God.

~Psalm 42:5
I am presently memorizing and meditating on this verse.
And I'm lovin' it!
I picture the psalmist, discouraged by his circumstance, and giving his soul a pep talk.
Telling himself the Truth.

I don't know if the writer struggled with clinical depression. I doubt if they had any such understanding in his day. But - as one who does struggle with it - I am inspired by his way of dealing with the down times. I can almost hear myself echoing his words, Why are you troubled, Karen? Why the long face and heavy heart? Don't waste any more time feeling depressed. Get your focus back on your Father! HE is your hope and salvation. HE will redeem you. Even in this.

Oh, what the Truth does for my spirit!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Matthew, the Deer Slayer

Opening day. His first deer, ever.
Matthew was so excited. And I was, too. So happy for him!


Monday, November 18, 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

Lessons From the Edge

You gotta follow the rules.

I'm a "rule follower" by nature. Following the rules is not new to me.
But I don't like people telling me what to say/write. So when I am TOLD what to say, well, that little rebellious nature in me rears its head. And I want to NOT say what I've been TOLD to say.

OK, background information complete.
You probably know (if you've been reading here with some consistency...) that Edgewood has just come under new ownership. And with new ownership comes new rules. Which one can find if they read their new Employee Handbook.
Who reads that stuff, anyway?
I do. I'm a rule follower, you know!

So, as I was perusing my new Employee Handbook my attention was peeked when I came to the section about social media - which includes any blogs we may happen to write. Apparently, anytime I mention or discuss matters pertaining to my work at Edgewood (gah! I need to get used to calling it Vista Springs Edgewood...) I now need to include a disclaimer at the end of my entry, freeing Vista Springs from any ties to my words or opinions. Because I am so controversial in what I say here. *wink*

So, I'm buckling under the pressure. I'm going to say what I've been TOLD to say. Even though I don't want to. Because I'm a rule follower, remember? And in case the new boss-man (or anyone else up the chain) reads one of these Lessons, well, I don't want to get fired for insubordination.

You gotta follow the rules.

Disclaimer: The ideas and opinions expressed in this post are my own, and may not necessarily reflect those of Vista Springs Living Centers.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gone Adventuring

We had house-guests last weekend.
Elizabeth's boyfriend, Nick (aka Beau), and their friend, Emma, came for a visit. And they had a full weekend. Raking leaves, watching movies, dinner out with friends, Sunday school, youth group...and somehow at the end of it, they were looking for more. Elizabeth asked me if they could go on an adventure. She said they wanted to go somewhere she'd never been in Okemos, and "have an adventure".
I knew they just wanted to be together and have fun - exploring the land - so I said, "Ok."
With that, they looked at some area maps and headed out the door.

An hour, or so, later Nick and Michaela (Elizabeth's BFF - who joined in most of the weekend's festivities) came into the house laughing. They wanted me to come outside to see what they'd gotten. Nick grabbed the camera and - honestly? - for a moment I was afraid of what I might find when I stepped out the door.
Did he really need to capture my reaction on film?

Turns out I didn't need to be afraid. The thing they'd gotten was an old toboggan.
And the way they got it was by playing the Bigger or Better Game. They started off with a penny and traded themselves up to a great-big wooden toboggan. They had a blast doing it, as they made good memories. And now we have a new sled for when the snow falls.

Love my adventurers!


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

HE Sees

She had nothing to say about it. No choice in the matter. She simply had to do as she was told.
Pushed into a man's arms and bed, she wound up pregnant and mistreated.
And she ran.
She ran into the dessert where she could be alone. No matter. No one would notice, anyway, would they? She was an insignificant slave girl. Unloved and unseen. Who would care if she left her miserable existence?

Do you recognize this story? It is the circumstance in which Hagar found herself in Genesis 16. But the story doesn't end with the same despair with which it began.
On the contrary, Hagar had an encounter with the angel of the LORD and found a hope she'd never before imagined. The angel told her to go back to her mistress and promised he would increase her descendants. Then he told Hagar that she was pregnant (Although she already knew...) and gave her details about her son's life.
Imagine with me what that must have been like for Hagar. This girl who had been treated like a piece of property - who probably felt unnoticed and forgotten - had just been spoken to by the angel of the LORD. He told her things no one else could possibly know about her. How could he know these things?
Unless, unless...
He actually saw her!
Genesis 16:13 says,
She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
And that's where the hope entered her life. Suddenly she was NOT unnoticed. She was seen.
The God who created the world saw her!

I am so encouraged by Hagar's story, and the implication for my life. God sees me, too. Every moment of every day. Even when I am feeling alone and unnoticed, HE sees.
Are you in need of this encouragement today, my friend? Do you feel like nobody sees you, or understands the things through which you're going? May you find hope in El Roi. The God who sees!
And if there is any way I can pray for you and your circumstance, please let me know.

Love to you!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Laundry Lessons

One of the things Brian has done to lighten my load since I've been working at Edgewood is this:
He gathers the laundry, sorts the loads, and puts them through the washer and dryer. He had a fairly short learning curve, and only has questions occasionally now. But the other night, Brian hit me with a question which still makes me laugh.

He held up a blue t-shirt and said, "So, I've got this shirt and the tag says, 'Wash separately.' How do I do that?"
Me: Seriously?
Brian: Yeah.
Me: You wash it without anything else.


That was our conversation.

And Brian looked at me like I was the most brilliant person on the planet. I love it when I can impress him that easily.
Then I went on to explain the most probable reason for those instructions - to prevent the color from bleeding onto lighter clothing. And I told him to just throw his shirt in with the dark load.
"Are you sure it'll be OK?" he asked.
"Yeah. I'm sure."
Since I am apparently so brilliant when it comes to laundering, he took my word for it.
I love that man!
And I am so glad he can answer my silly questions about car care and plumbing and appliances and the like.
We're good for each other. *wink*


Monday, November 11, 2013

Friday, November 08, 2013

Lessons From the Edge

We all need a little help from our friends.

We made fall door banners this week. I saw the idea in a magazine and thought it looked fun. And certainly it would be easy enough for the men and women at Edgewood to make. I would do all the grunt work - the measuring and tracing and cutting. All they'd need to do is choose their pieces and glue them to the banner. What could be easier than that???
In spite of how simple I thought I'd made the task, there were some who had troubles. One, in particular, just couldn't figure out how to apply the glue, where to put the leaves, etc. She was struggling. (But she has such a sweet personality, she never did get upset about her difficulty.)

And I was filled with joy.

Not at her struggle, mind you. I was filled with joy because I had the opportunity to witness friendship in action. While SH struggled with her craft, SY patiently and lovingly guided her through it. I kept hearing statements like, "Try this," "Hold it this way," "That looks nice," and "I'll help you with that."
SH has memory issues which affect her ability to do most things other people consider "easy".
So I watched with delight as SY helped her with the simplest of tasks. Without judgement, condemnation, or belittlement. SY just saw the need, and she helped. And SH accepted SY's assistance graciously. It was beautiful to see the two of them working together.

Your mind might not be foggy like SH's, but I be it's true you need some help today.
*Has life got you bogged down by "too many things to do"?
*Maybe you're fighting a cold (or messed up your knee!) and you need someone to step in and give you a hand?
*Or, is it that nagging heart-ache just looking for a shoulder to cry on?
Whatever your need is today, when you see a friend offering assistance please accept it without shame or embarrassment. It's OK to need, and it's OK to receive.

We all need a little help from our friends.


Thursday, November 07, 2013

Mom, You Need to See This

My hubby came across this video and showed it to me.

I'm so glad he did!
Because most of us are hyper-critical of ourselves and I think this video has some hope to offer.

Soak it in, dear friend. Soak it in!

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Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Another Favorite Song

I have so many favorite songs! I can't help it. God uses music to speak to me and touch my heart - and there are just so many that reach me tenderly. *peaceful sigh*
Most of my favorites come from Kathy Troccoli, but occasionally God sneaks one in from another artist. Like this one. I heard it for the first time last month when Brian and I were at the marriage retreat (click on the link if you want info about the retreat coming in March) and I still delight in the lyrics every time I listen.



Tuesday, November 05, 2013

I've Come a Long Way

Last Friday Elizabeth had a bunch of girlfriends over for an Ice Cream Party.
We introduced her to Jersey Muds this summer when we were vacation and she wanted to share the freezing-cold-sugary-goodness with her friends. So they went to the store, bought all the ingredients and came home to assemble the amazing confection.
The girls watched with eager anticipation as Elizabeth concocted the Muds.

And all of them squealed with delight as they dug in. :)
And this is where things get amazing.
One of Elizabeth's guests had to work Friday at 5:00, meaning - she wouldn't be able to join the rest of the girls for a yummy dessert of Jersey Muds. And Elizabeth, as full of compassion as she is, couldn't bear for that to happen. So she asked me, "Mom, can I have my ice cream party before dinner?" *insert puppy-dog eyes*
Now, you need to understand. I am a stickler for not eating snacks before dinner. I don't want my kids ruining their appetites so they are unable to eat the good food I prepare for them. And filling up on sugar? *gah!* I didn't even allow Elizabeth to ingest refined sugar until after her first birthday. I was so uptight about that.

So, as I considered Elizabeth's request, and realized it would mean the girls probably wouldn't eat much dinner - because they were so full of sugar! - my first inclination was to say, "Uh, NO."

But I thought about my response before I verbalized it (Proof you can teach an old dog new tricks!) and I concluded ruining one's appetite for dinner with Jersey Muds one time truly would not be the end of the world. In fact, allowing for such reckless behavior *wink* might just be fun. For the girls, and for me. It might communicate to my daughter and her friends that they don't need to go somewhere else - or hide from me - when they want to do silly teenage things. Perhaps they would even become more assured that I am a safe person to whom they can come when they don't feel like any other adults are listening or understanding. Yeah. Maybe Jesus could even use Jersey Muds to help me draw closer to these girls.
So I said, "Yes." Yes to Jersey Muds before dinner - so all the girls could participate, and I could be a part of their good, clean (albeit too sugary) fun.
And I realized, I've come a long way!


Monday, November 04, 2013

Friday, November 01, 2013

Lessons From the Edge

We have to ask.

Tuesday my grandma didn't come to the dining room for lunch. So I went to her apartment to check on her.
She just wasn't feeling well. Needed to stay in bed and rest. We talked for a bit and then I had to leave. Grandma gave me her keys and asked me to check her mail later that afternoon. "Sure thing," I said, then kissed her and went on to my next thing.
A couple hours later, I was in the van rushing to get an errand done before going home. And I realized I'd forgotten to check Grandma's mail. Which is when I also realized I'd taken her keys off my wrist and didn't know where I'd put them. Doh!
I convinced myself to relax about it. I was going back to Edgewood in an hour, so I planned to find the keys and check/deliver her mail on my next trip. *Whew!*
The problem is, the next trip was super busy. (Meet & greet session with the new owner and residents/family members.) And when it was over I was in a rush to get home so I could join my family for dinner. When I was laying exhausted in bed that night, I realized once more I'd forgotten to check Grandma's mail look for Grandma's keys so I could check her mail. For just a second, I actually contemplated getting up and going into Edgewood to look around. My sleepy mind quickly nixed that idea.
So Wednesday morning I looked and I looked. Scoured the atrium. Searched the office. Looked around two other offices where someone might possibly have place "found" keys.
But I saw nothing.
So I looked some more. And still found no keys.
I walked upstairs to my grandma's apartment and sat down on the side of her bed. She asked, "Do you have my mail?" And I told her about losing temporarily misplacing her keys. But I assured her I would find them again. As soon as I got the newsletter started printing, I would get back to searching for the keys. "No need to worry, Grandma. God knows where they are!"
And I was off again, this time to get the newsletter going.

As I walked out of her apartment back to the activity room I prayed, God, I know you know where those keys are. You see them right now. Would you please lead me to them? And I trusted HE would.
I gathered a few pages for the newsletter from my desk then headed for the office. The remaining pages were somewhere in my boss's office so I went in there to find them. I looked over one desk, then another, until I found what I needed. I picked up the pages and as I turned to leave I spotted a set of keys on the other side of the desk. A double-take told me they were my grandma's keys, and I snatched them up for a closer look and a final determination.
Yep. They were hers!
God led me right to them while I was looking for my newsletter pages. *smile*

The thing is, I had already looked in this office for the keys. In fact, I thought I'd looked quite thoroughly. So, why, I wondered, didn't I find them the first time?
Well, the first time I hadn't prayed about it. I hadn't asked God for help. Really. That is the only difference I can make of the two situations. The keys were sitting on her desk as plain as day. Somehow, I just didn't see them the first time.
God used that "insignificant" moment to remind me of a valuable Truth. A lesson for me in every day. I am needy. HE sees. HE knows. And HE will help me. But I'll miss Him if I try to take care of things on my own.

We have to ask.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Beauty and the Beau: Halloween Edition

Elizabeth's BFF (Michaela) had a birthday party last weekend. And since her birthday is so close to Halloween, she decided to have a combination birthday/Halloween party. They had tons of fun planning, decorating, and making treats.
Since Nick is part of Elizabeth's life, Michaela invited him to the party, too. Since it was a Halloween party, they had to dress up. And since Elizabeth is still a little girl at heart, she decided they would dress up as a prince and princess. *grin*

Aren't they adorable?

The funniest part of the whole thing was that Elizabeth wanted Nick to wear some make-up. She thinks that's what princes do. And Nick, as gracious as he is, went kicking and screaming allowed her to put eyeliner and foundation on his face.
He came stomping up the stairs and declared, "If this doesn't prove to her I love her, I don't know what will!"
And there you have it. The way to know prince charming loves his princess: He wears make-up for her. (I love the sparkles by her eyes!)

And they lived happily ever after.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

When Preposterous Becomes Profound

So, last week I told you I would post about a great conversation Brian and I had on our way home from the marriage conference. Well, here it is!

We were talking about wounds and memories and started on this thing where one of us would name a time or situation and the other had to share a corresponding memory.
Brian said, "Middle school." And I responded with a memory from computer class.
I was sitting in my chair doing something on the computer and my two best friends were standing behind me playing with my hair. (I used to have long hair.) One of them pulled it up onto the top of my head and then screamed, "Oh my gosh! You have such a hairy neck!"
So began my hatred of my neck and my fear of wearing pony-tails and braids. I actually shaved the back of my neck for the next several years.

Brian and I went on from that memory to talk about the hatred of my arms I've had since elementary school. They're hairy, too. And I grew up with the frequent experience of kids reacting to the hair on my arms in a way similar to how my best friends reacted to the hair on my neck. "Your arms are so hairy!"
"Wow, you have more hair on your arms than a guy!"
"How did you get such hairy arms?"
And on, and on.
Sometimes I thought about sarcastic come-backs with which I could reply. Like, "Oh, really? Wow, I've had these arms all my life, and I've never noticed that hair before. Thanks for pointing it out to me!" But even the best-delivered come-back did nothing to heal my breaking heart. I felt out-cast and ashamed, and wanted to hide my arms in any way I could.
I hated the mockery.
And I hated my hairy arms.
In fact, it was in elementary school when I decided my wedding gown would have long sleeves. Yes, some twelve years later I was married in AUGUST - in long sleeves.

So when Brian looked at me and said, "God picked those arms specially for you, because He loves you so much," I thought, That is the most preposterous thing I've ever heard. I thought for a moment then confided in Brian my belief that I would never be able to say I like my arms. I'd simply spent too much time hating them. I couldn't imagine ever feeling otherwise.
But Brian wasn't giving up. He kept insisting that God had given me these arms out of His great love. And after a while I sensed His Spirit moving in my heart.
Like He was asking me, Karen, do you really believe what you say you believe? When you say I can take bad circumstances and work good out of them, do you really believe it? When you profess that I am sovereign and good at all times, do you mean it? Do you?
Then is it possible I chose those arms specially for you, because I love you so much?

I couldn't argue.
I told Brian he was right. God did choose these arms specially for me! And as I prayed to surrender my hatred for these arms, God replaced my contempt with joy. I'm looking at my hairy arms now, and I am remembering God's faithfulness and power to redeem bad situations. I am reminded of His goodness. And I am actually anticipating the next time someone says to me, "Wow! You have really hairy arms." I'm going to respond with, "Yeah. I know. Isn't God great?!" Karen

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dear Elizabeth

I sat down a couple nights ago and wrote to Elizabeth.

Actually, I've been writing to her for over 18 years now.
Sometimes weeks or months pass between entries, but I started a journal for her when I learned I was pregnant and it has become one of my joys.
Initially, I thought when she was a teenager I would write things like,
We had such and such conflict and this is what I did, and this is why. Hoping now that you're older you'll understand. ((hugs))

But I have found quite a different sort of thing happening.
*Sometimes I write about a struggle I've had and shared how God has been faithful.
*Other times I re-tell a conversation Elizabeth and I shared about an issue she's facing, and I try to speak more words of encouragement.
*Most recently I wrote out a prayer for her.

More and more, I am being filled with joy at the thought of God using these things I'm writing to speak Truth to Elizabeth and encourage her heart. Maybe even some day down the road when I am not here anymore.
I wonder, Will she read this one when she's struggling with motherhood? Will it give her hope to know I felt the same way? Will she be able to glimpse God's goodness through my words?

Even as I sit here and write these words, thinking and praying about how God might use them to bless my daughter, I am amazed and humbled by His gracious work in my life. I remember well the days of despair I faced years ago. I recall when I yelled, more often than I spoke. I think of wanting to resign my role as mother because I didn't think I could do it anymore. When "Surviving Motherhood" seemed like an oxymoron to me.
But God has used my darkest days and hardest moments to shape me. HE is transforming me into the woman HE created me to be. And I know - if God can do that work in me, surely He can use my feeble words to bless my daughter. Now, and in the years to come.
Yes, LORD, please make it so!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013

Lessons From the Edge

God is not surprised. By anything.

The boss-man (that is, the owner of Edgewood) joined us for our department meeting Monday morning. He doesn't usually sit in on those meetings, and I was surprised to see him there.
But God wasn't.
He came to the meeting because he had news to tell us. "I'm selling Edgewood," he said with a peaceful sort of sadness about him. I was surprised to hear his announcement.
But God wasn't.

As the meeting continued, the boss-man explained his reasons and did everything he could to assure us Edgewood will continue to be the excellent place it is today. As I listened, God began assuring me HE was not surprised by any of the morning's revelations. And I started feeling peaceful about it, too.
The question entered my mind about whether the new owner was going to bring in an new activities director. But the boss-man said there are no plans for personnel changes. He did say we're all going to "officially" be fired, and re-hired. (Will it go on my permanent record that I've been fired? That makes me feel like such a rebel. *wink*)
For a while I wondered what was going to happen to our Bible study. Would the new owner say I couldn't do that with the residents anymore? But I have since learned enough about him to believe we will be allowed to continue.
I still have a question about whether or not the new owner will be agreeable to me taking time off for speaking events. When I was hired, I was upfront about my speaking ministry and told them I would need to take time off a couple times a month for it. And the boss-man was OK with it.
But I wonder, What if the new owner isn't?
'Cuz that'll be a deal-breaker for me.
Yet, I remain confident God won't be surprised and so I am choosing to have peace about the uncertainties, too.

Next week I'll meet the new boss-man, and the sale will be finalized. Maybe everything will carry on as it has been for the past three years. Or, maybe it won't. I don't know. But God does, and so I wait. Without worry. Because...

God is not surprised. By anything.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wounds Happen

While Brian and I were at the marriage conference last weekend, we heard a lot about wounds. The hurtful things which happened to people in their lifetime (often/mostly as children) which have stayed with them into adulthood. And which have been a source of pain and often the root of sin. Both men and women (husbands and wives) shed tears as they shared about the lies they have believed because of their wounds - and how believing those lies led to various sins, which in turn wounded their spouse.
For a time, I stopped being "wife" as I sat and listened. I became "protective mother" and could only think about how desperately I want to keep my children from being wounded. As I witnessed the pain these people had endured - as I recalled my own wounds - all of my energy was focused on the notion that, somehow, I had to find a way to protect my babies.

During the drive home, Brian and I talked more about wounds (I'll post a great story about our conversation next week...) and I told him how I had felt about wanting to protect our kids. Brian understood my desire, but we agreed it will never happen. Our children have already been wounded. WE have wounded them, though that was never our intent. And they will continue to receive wounds as long as they live in this broken world.
Wounds happen.
The realization was enough to make me feel hopeless and helpless.

But then God used Brian to show me the hope. He said, "We can't protect our children from the wounds, but we can train them to defeat the lies."
Ahhhh. Truth.
And hope!

We sat with the kids Monday night and told them about our weekend. We shared some of the stories of our own wounds, and I told them about my desire to keep them from all wounding.
Then Brian went on to explain the reality that wounds happen, and the hope we have in defeating the lies.
We talked about knowing the Truth so we are able to recognize lies when they come. We talked about the battle we have with the enemy of our souls. And we encouraged our children to be alert. Oh, how I pray the Truth will be deeply planted in their hearts and protect them from the lies of the enemy.

Because wounds happen.
But Jesus heals. And with His Truth, we can defeat the lies.