Friday, June 28, 2013

Lessons From the Edge

What you do and say today matters.

I was talking with the daughter of one of our residents this week. She was sharing some difficulties she has with one of her brothers and I was taken back by the anguish in her tone of voice.
As she was wrapping up her complaint she said, "Well, that's what happens with a mother treats her son like..." Though she didn't share any details, I could hear the pain in her heart. Hurts which stem from 50 or more years ago, and seem to still be growing today.
To hear this woman's mother talk, you would think they lived a perfect life. I know she loves her children. She speaks freely about how she enjoyed being a mother. But somewhere along the way, something went wrong. Something injured her daughter, and the wound is still festering. I don't believe for one second that L intentionally said or did anything which would harm her children or cause lasting pain. But, clearly, something went wrong.
And, although I felt powerless to do anything to help, I felt empowered by the lesson I was learning: to be intentional about the things I do and say, that they may make a positive impact and have a lasting influence on the lives of those around me. Especially my children.

Are you tracking with me? I imagine you are just like me in this regard - not wanting to wound another person with careless words or actions. So, let us resolve together to live intentionally, on purpose, making every effort to build up and encourage the people God has put into our lives. Let's make their tomorrow wonderful by our behavior today.

What you do and say today matters.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

In the Midst of the Storm

We've had some rainstorms rolling through mid-Michigan.

Last night my husband and I got poured on as we took a walk.

This morning there was a good amount of thunder echoing through the sky.

Even as I type this post, the sky is gray and cloudy. And there is a steady rain falling.
Not really the kind of weather which has me excited about doing much of anything except sitting snuggled in my blanket. Safe inside.

But the windows are open and, when I pay attention, I can hear something else besides the falling rain. Outside in the trees there must be three or four, maybe five different birds singing back and forth to one another. The sound is beautiful. Happy, even. As in, if I closed my eyes and focused on only the song of the birds, I would picture a bright, sun-shiny day - full of hope and promise.

I listen to the birds, and hear not even a hint of concern in their song. I wonder what they're saying to each other. Are they thankful that the worst of the storm is past? Perhaps the birds are glad for the rain, because they know that soon the worms will surface and they can feed themselves and their babies.
OK, I really have no idea what they're trying to communicate.

But one thing I do know.

Their song is joyful. Yes, peaceful. Even though the sky is gray and the rain still is falling.

And if I listen with the ears of my heart, it is as if I can hear God speaking through their song. It is like HE is saying, I see your storms. I know all about them. The ones raging within you, and the ones coming at you from the outside. But you do not need to fear the storm. I am bigger. I am more powerful. I am LORD - even of your storms.
See the birds? They are not afraid of the rain or the wind. I care for them in every season and every circumstance. They can sing in the midst of the storm.
You can, too, dear one.
Come, hold My hand. Stay by My side. Find your peace in Me.
I've got this storm.

What are you hearing today?


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I Don't Really Want to Trust God

OK, confession time.

I don't really want to trust God.

All this time, I thought I did. But recently I realized quite the opposite is true.
I was thinking about some struggles I'm facing and was praying as I wrote in my journal. I wrote, LORD, I really want to trust You, but... and I was about to write "I just wish I could see how this was going to work out."

As I thought about what I was saying to God, it hit me: I don't really want to trust God.
What I really want is to see and be sure of the outcome.
What I really want is for all uncertainty to be removed, so I can carry on in my life without concern for how my circumstances are going to be resolved.
I want to be able to read the end of my story ahead of time.
At the same time, I want to be able to say I'm trusting God.

In my moment of admitting to myself what was really true, God showed me the reality of what it means to trust Him: If I could see how my circumstance was going to work out, I wouldn't need to trust Him. If I knew the when, why, and wherefore, there would be no room for trust. I would have no need of faith. I could be secure in my own knowledge.
And I began to realize how lonely that would be.
*Just me, relying on myself and my knowledge.
*No need to seek my Father for guidance or insight or comfort - because I would know it all.
*I would have no reason to cling to Him, as I do now.
*I could just go along my merry way, knowing exactly what to do and expect. No surprises. No uncertainties. No need for faith.

Oh, I love that God knows my heart, my thoughts, and my every need.
I love that HE knows just how to reach me.
Because after the time we spent while God spoke to me about what it means to trust Him - and what it would mean to know it all myself - I realized, I actually do want to trust Him. I need Him, and I want to keep needing Him. I don't want to be self-sufficient, an island unto myself. I have a Father in heaven who is writing my story, who knows what He's doing, and who is completely trustworthy. And, with everything I am, I want to continue holding His hand as HE leads me through this life.

How about you, friend? Are you struggling to trust Him? How can I pray for you?


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I Won't Clean for You...

...Will you return the favor?

I read a great post last week on Lisa-Jo Baker's blog about the things we moms can do for each other. And, while I appreciated the entire thing, there was one sentence which stood out to me above all others.
What can you do to encourage another mom?
How about "Not cleaning up before she comes over."

Does that statement resonate with anyone else as much as it does me???
I mean, seriously. I don't believe I am the only mom who struggles with feeling overwhelmed in just about every aspect of life. And when I go to another mom's house and it is spotless, well? Let's just say I have to really kick the positive self-talk into high gear.
*It's OK that your kitchen is cluttered, Karen. That doesn't make you a failure mom.
*Don't feel bad that your floors aren't free of dog hair. You aren't a loser.
*Ignore the perfectly arranged family room. Your worth comes from Me, not from your home.

But when I go to a friend's house and there are dishes on the counter, and toys on the floor, unfolded laundry in a basket in the hallway, and maybe spots of dried milk on the kitchen table? Well, I feel relaxed and comfortable.
I feel like she understands me.
I feel like the pressure's off.
I feel like it's OK to be me.
I feel like giving her a hug and saying, "Thanks for not cleaning up for me!"

I am totally not opposed to cleaning my house.
But if you come over, and the house is cluttered? Please know it's because I love you and I don't want you to feel pressured. *wink*


Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

Some Reading While I Rest

I had a great retreat last week, and am thankful for a time to rest.

But it occurred to me I could leave you with some reading while I rest from blogging. I made a quick visit to my archives to bring up some of my favorite posts for you this week.

Monday: This is Hard - One of my first video devotions, from November 30, 2008.
Tuesday: 100 Things - Not so random facts about me, from May 11, 2007.
Wednesday: I Forgot! - In retrospect, this should have been my first clue about Matthew's attention difficulties, from May 16, 2007.
Thursday: Bath Time - Makes me laugh remembering this event, from January 22, 2009
Friday: This Week's WORD - A good thought with which to end the week! From May 8, 2009.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Lessons From the Edge

You've got to accentuate the positive.

This is one of the songs which plays frequently at Edgewood. And even though I *ahem* get a little tired of hearing it, I must admit it's a catchy tune. And I found myself singing it to some residents last Friday.
We took a trip to an airfield nearby to watch radio controlled airplanes fly. The event was called WarBirds and Classics Over Michigan, and it was fun for our residents to look at the planes. (Especially some of our veterans. I thought one man would have tried crawling into the plane if no one was watching. And if he was able to shrink himself to nine inches tall!)
It was great hearing them reminisce.
The not-great part was the weather. It was quite chilly. And breezy.

BUT, it wasn't raining.

Last year when we came to WarBirds and Classics Over Michigan, not only was it chilly, but it was also raining. And we didn't get to see any planes fly.
So this year, whenever someone commented about the temperature, I said, "At least it isn't raining!" And I started to sing...You've got to accentuate the positive.

How can you accentuate the positive today?
Just so you know, I took my retreat day yesterday. So the blog will be resting next week.
I'll be back on the 17th.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Not Scary World

Last week I got a phone call from a woman who had read an article I'd written. We were having an enjoyable conversation when the subject of school came up. She was surprised to learn that I do not homeschool my children. Like, really surprised. She asked if I send them to a public school, and when I told her I do she asked, "Isn't that scary?"

In the midst of that conversation - for a very brief moment - I revisited my feelings of I'm-not-a-good-enough-mom-because-I-don't-homeschool, but God quickly and graciously took me past my faulty thinking. And I responded with a confident, "No."
No. It isn't scary to send my children to a public school.
*My daughter leads a Bible study in her public school and is shining the Light of Jesus among her classmates.
*I know there are Christian teachers at all the schools. My children have been in the classroom of several of them.
*My son told me recently about his science teacher affirming her belief that life begins at conception. He thought that was remarkable enough to tell me about it several hours after he'd heard it.
*I've had good conversations with Christian parents of other kids who attend our public school.
*And I've had the opportunity to be in the lives of and pray for kids who would not be in our lives if my kids didn't attend public school.
Besides all those factors, I thought of the fact that I met Jesus and HE saved me while I was attending a public university. At a university where partying, drinking, and sexual promiscuity were the norm, Jesus sought me out and captured my heart.
Even now, I live in public. We all do! And there is no need to be scared. (OK. It can be scary to consider some of the things going on in our world today. I often find myself asking Jesus to hurry up and come back!) The reality is, Jesus is alive and active in the public world just as much as He is in our privacy.

HE is too big and too powerful to be confined to our safety nets.

I am so grateful for that phone call, the conversation I had with that young mother, and the ensuing reflections through which God has led me.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Inadequate, or Inspired?

My husband is quite a stud.

Have I ever mentioned that before?

He works out almost every day. And works hard.
A couple of years ago he started doing this thing called Cross Fit, and he really enjoys it. He likes going to the gym and "kicking the butts" of the young 'uns. (Those 20-something studs, and even some Marines. *proud wife*)

So, a few days ago Brian was watching an event from the Cross Fit Open online. This particular competition involved workouts with high weights, high difficulty, and high repetition. And the athletes were amazing as they tackled the routine.
After watching almost the entire event, Brian said to me, "I am feeling incredibly inadequate right now." And I replied, "So, why are you watching that?"

"I'm looking for inspiration."

Oh, did I ever understand!

Brian's comment - about feeling inadequate while he was looking for inspiration - sounded just like me during my years in MOPS.
I was so hungry for inspiration, yet after nearly every meeting I had the same response. "I will never be as perfect as the woman who just spoke to us."
*I remember hearing tips about getting your child to obey 'Right away. All the way. And with a happy heart.'
*I listened to women talk about how to decorate our homes 'just so'.
*And let us not forget the women who talked about scheduling and activities which would make your child a little genius.
All those women seemed to have it so together. Everything was all figured out, and they were well on their way to "happily ever after".
And I? Was left with the feeling that I would never be as perfect as they were.
I was looking for inspiration, but I felt incredibly inadequate.

Now, I know those speakers who came to my MOPS group had good things to say. They were all godly women, but I was dealing with my own issues which prevented me from hearing the inspirational things they were saying. The truth is, I needed someone to tell me I wasn't alone in my struggle. I needed someone to tell me what I was going through didn't make me a loser-mom.
I needed someone to point me to Jesus and show me how HE could bring hope and peace to my circumstance.
I needed to know it is OK to not be perfect.

And that is why I am so thankful God has given me the opportunity to share my story with other moms. To confess my struggles and testify to the goodness of God as He brings beauty out of my mess. I cannot begin to express what a delight it is to hear these words from a mother who needed to hear my story: "I'm so glad to know I'm not alone!"

Jesus, please keep speaking through me so overwhelmed mothers know - they are not alone!


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

You 'da Man!

I witnessed the cutest interaction a couple of nights ago.

Matthew was sitting at the table playing games on the computer when Elizabeth came up from the basement. (She had been down there working on a project all evening.) Seemingly out of the blue, Elizabeth asked Matthew if he wanted to come downstairs and play his video games in the basement.
A bit confused, he looked at her and asked, "Why???"
"Because it's cooler downstairs. You'll be more comfortable...And I don't want to be alone. My imagination is playing tricks on me."
She probably flashed him a puppy-dog look at that point, too.

Matthew is a very accommodating guy, and it didn't take him too long to agree to Elizabeth's request. So she turned and bounded back down the stairs.
Looking up from my place in the kitchen, I said to Matthew, "She needs someone brave and strong to protect her. And you're just the man for the job!"

I only wish I had a camera ready to capture the look of pride on Matthew's face, as he gathered up the computer and went to the basement to stand guard over his big sister.
It was priceless!


Monday, June 10, 2013

Friday, June 07, 2013

Lessons From the Edge

Charm and lots of personality, can overcome twang and lack of punctuality.

We had a country singer come to our birthday party last week. This was the second time he has come to Edgewood. The fourth time I've had him scheduled. (The first time he didn't come, he got stuck in a snow storm somewhere. Don't remember the reason for his second cancellation.) So when I got a phone call from his manager just a few hours before he was due to arrive, my heart sank a bit. Fortunately, it wasn't another cancellation. Simply a report that he'd gotten held up in construction, to let me know he'd be late.

Even before M arrived, I had decided I wouldn't be hiring him again. He comes from far away, and it just didn't seem to be working. Cancellations and delays don't fit well with me or with residents who tend to show up 15 minutes early for everything.
I served birthday cake and explained that M was on his way. Hoping I could keep everyone interested enough in staying, so M wouldn't be singing to an empty room.

The concert began shortly after M's arrival, and the residents seemed to quickly forget about the time they'd sat waiting. Smiles covered their faces, toes were tapping along with the beat, and several of them were singing along.
That was all nice, but I still wasn't planning on hiring M for another program somewhere down the road. Did I mention he's a country singer? Not my favorite kind of music. In fact, in a room full of 80 and 90-somethings, I had a feeling I wasn't the only one aching for some Big Band tunes.

However, when the concert was over M walked around the dining room, greeting all the residents who had come to listen. And with each interaction he had, I kept hearing the same thing: "Oh, please come back again!" "I enjoyed your performance so much!" They exchanged hugs and hand shakes and lots of kind words, and I realized the residents had easily forgiven the tardiness. They didn't seem to mind the twang. M won their hearts with his charm and personality, and nothing else really matters.
Looks like I'll be hiring him again, after all.

Charm and lots of personality, can overcome twang and lack of punctuality.


Thursday, June 06, 2013

Dog Lessons: Part 3

Go to the Comforter.

It used to be that Mindy had a kennel. She slept in her kennel, and that is where she stayed whenever we left the house.
But then she got really weird about it, so we quickly got rid of the kennel. And Mindy had to find a new place to sleep.
She chose Joshua's room. He made a comfortable nest for her right under his bed, and she was a happy dog. Every night when he goes to bed, Mindy faithfully follows.

The other day as I was getting ready for work, Mindy took her usual day-time position. She likes being where the action is so, while I had my breakfast and gathered my things for work, she was laying on a blanket in the corner of the family room. I think she felt comfortable there - watching me do my thing.
When I put on my shoes and grabbed my purse, Mindy got up and slowly walked to the steps - looking at me with her sad eyes as if to say, "Mommy, don't leave me alone again." I said my usual, "Good-bye, Mindy. Have a nice day!" And as I opened the door to go into the garage, Mindy ran downstairs.
I knew where she was going.
She was headed straight for Joshua's bed - where she would stay all day when no one was in the house. Yes, she would be alone. But I knew the familiar smell of her beloved big brother would comfort her little heart.
And she would be OK.

What do you do when you're feeling alone and sad?
May I suggest applying this lesson from Mindy? Go to the Comforter!


Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Dog Lessons: Part 2

You can't hide disobedience.

It can happen one of several ways.
*I might hear the familiar click of Mindy's claws as she lands on the wooden floor while I'm walking down the hallway toward the family room.
*Sometimes I hear the her dog tags jingle just as I'm about to open the door and walk into the house.
*Every now and then I notice the corner of the couch is warm, even though no one else is home so I know there hasn't been a person sitting there.
*And other times, it's simply dog hair on the cushions which blows her cover.

Whatever the form of revelation, I know Mindy has been on the couch. Even though she knows she isn't supposed to be there. And honestly, sometimes I sort of laugh to myself about it because I wonder, Does she really think I don't know what she's doing?
Because even though I don't see her doing it, I totally know!
That little dog is going to have to get a lot trickier if she thinks she's going to hide her disobedience from me.
*She might start by installing carpet so I don't hear her claws hit the floor every time she jumps off the couch.
*Perhaps she should take her collar off so her tags don't jungle when she jumps down.
*It might be a good idea to pull a blanket up onto the couch with her, which she takes down with her as well - to insulate the cushions from her warm body.
*The blanket would help with the dog-hair-left-behind issue, too.

Or, maybe, she could just stop laying on the couch.

So, I have to ask. Is there disobedience in your life which you think you can hide from our loving Father? Because He's been reminding me via my interactions with Mindy that HE can see it - even if we think we're being smart enough to cover it up.
You can't hide disobedience.

Yet, just like I keep loving that little mutt (in spite of her laying on the couch), God reminds me His love for us remains. Unconditionally.
And when we choose to obey, we find HE knew the best way all along!


Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Dog Lessons: Part 1

I'm beginning a mini-series today.
Lessons I'm learning from my dog. Lessons about life, and faith in God - which HE is speaking to me through this little mutt, who has captured my heart - in spite of herself. *wink*

How long will this little series last?
I have no idea.
Let's just take it one day, er, one lesson at a time.

Lesson #1: When you're stuck, follow the Leader.
Mindy has a long leash which pretty much gives her access to the entire back yard. I think it's a 30 (maybe 40?) foot leash, and it's attached to a cable which runs from the deck to the shed. It allows her to go all over. And she loves to explore!
Problem is, sometimes her wandering leads her in circles and she ends up restricted in her movement because she's tangled herself up around a tree or the swing, or some other plant. And in those moments my normally-hyper-dog becomes quite pathetic. She lets out her woe-is-me yelps until someone comes to help her out of her mess. (That someone is usually me...)
So I go outside, assess her situation, and then lead her backwards through the mess - until she is untangled and can run free again. And it's in the untangling that I have learned this lesson.
You see, sometimes Mindy has to go through some uncomfortable things during the untangling. She might have to squeeze under a low bar on the swing, or walk around the tree two and three times, or squeeze under that bar yet again. But I've noticed she never questions me when I'm leading her through the obstacles. Because she trusts me, and she knows from past experience that I will ultimately lead her to freedom. So she keeps following.
And when she makes it through, her little tail wags happily and I usually get some kisses.

OK, my friend, it's time to apply the lesson I learned from Mindy.
Do you see the parallels for our lives? For the times when we get stuck in our own messes?
I'm not the only one who ever gets stuck, am I?
Each time I go out to lead Mindy out of her stuck-ness, it is as if God says to me, Karen, do you see how this little dog is trusting you to lead her? Do you see how she obediently follows you? (Don't start with Me about how she got herself into this mess, dear. You know all too well, you've done the same thing.) Just like you can see the solution to her problem and she can trust you to bring her out of it, so it is with Me and you. I see you and I know everything about your circumstance. I will lead you through your mess. I will get you un-stuck. You just need to trust Me.
When you're stuck, follow the Leader.
I love you!


Monday, June 03, 2013