Monday, August 26, 2013

Why Make Our Messes Bigger?

My family and I are going on vacation tomorrow. (Yes, we waited until the LAST week of the summer...) Soooooo, I won't be blogging until we get back. May you keep your eyes and heart firmly fixed upon Jesus this week!
See you back here next Tuesday.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Lessons From the Edge

God sees. And that's really what matters.

I just had my anniversary at Edgewood, which meant it was time for my annual review. So my boss and I sat down Monday to talk about my work performance. For the most part, things went as I expected they would. BUT there was one category on which we didn't see eye to eye.
At all.
While Laura admitted she doesn't see me much (The Activity Room is waaaaaay far off from the main office, and Laura is rarely in my part of the building.) she expressed concern that I am focused only on 'Activities' and that I don't pitch in much with other aspects of Edgewood. At which point it was all I could do to keep from standing to my feet and yelling asking loudly, "Are you kidding me???"
I could have spent an hour telling her about the things I do around the building and for the residents which have absolutely nothing to do with 'Activities'. Instead I did my best to calmly give her my perspective on her opinion, and I shared one example. She was gracious enough to say she may have had a mis-perception. *Uh, yeah.*
We had a decent conversation about the matter, and I was glad for it. Still, part of me was quite put-off that she thought I was so self-focused and self-serving.

It was later that same day as I was helping a resident with something when the thought came to me, I wish Laura could see me now. I wish she saw that I am serving this resident in a way which has nothing to do with my job!
Then it was as if God spoke these words to me, I see you.
And I knew in an instant it didn't matter if Laura saw me. God sees everything. HE is the One I am ultimately serving. HE is the One for whom I do everything I do. HE is the One. And HE sees.

Oh, I know this lesson is true, but I need to keep on repeating it to myself until my heart agrees with my head.

God sees. And that's really what matters.

God sees. And that's really what matters.

God sees. And that's really what matters.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Beauty and the Beau: Pizza Night Edition

What can I say? I love these kids!

Beauty and Beau had such a great time at Edgewood when they came for the Dance for the Cure in March that they wanted to have another dance while Beau is with us this week. But, uh, I would need more than a couple days to plan an awesome party like that again! So I suggested they could come Tuesday evening to help me with Pizza Night.
The only problem was we had afternoon activities Tuesday which wouldn't allow me enough time to come home and pick them up to bring them back to Edgewood.
Ah! Not a problem. They said they'd ride their bikes.
(Almost 10 miles. Yeah. They wanted to come that much!)
Beau even made special posters to hang around Edgewood promoting their visit for Pizza Night.

Let me say, we had a great turn out Tuesday evening. And Beauty and Beau were such a treasure. Hard-working and absolutely delightful. We were ALL glad for their presence.

Those smiles are precious to me!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

When God Says, "No"

She sounded apologetic in the voice mail.
Hi, Karen. This is Missy. The XYZ committee has chosen another woman to be the speaker for their event. She is from North Carolina and I'm sure travel costs played into their decision. That's how it goes sometimes...

Missy had called me out of the blue a few weeks earlier, after seeing my website. She asked if I was available on a certain date, and would I like to be a candidate for a speaking event in Raleigh, NC?
I could make the date work, and I told Missy I would love to be considered.
It would be a totally new setting for me. Moms, but not a Christian group. I wasn't given a clear direction regarding the focus/theme of the event, but I figured that information would come when/if I needed to know. Being chosen for this event would certainly be a boost for my speaking career, and - to be perfectly honest - I was quite excited about the possibilities. Excited, with a healthy dose of nervous mixed in. What if I wasn't the right fit for this group, and they ended up disappointed that they'd chosen me?

So, I prayed. Knowing God knew all the details about this event, I asked Him to direct the decision makers. If God intended for me to speak before this group of mothers - providing encouragement without mentioning His Name - I trusted He would make it happen. I believed He would give me the words to say, that He would speak through me - even if I couldn't mention Him. With a combination of excitement and nervousness I laid this speaking opportunity at His feet, and I waited for His answer.

His answer, which came in that voice mail from Missy. No.

I sent a quick email off to Missy, just to let her know I'd received the answer, and to thank her for calling me. She responded with an email which sounded apologetic, like her voice mail. And I felt compelled to send her one more response. I told her:
I trust God to open the doors through which He wants me to walk. Raleigh wasn't one of them - and I'm OK with that!
And I mean that with all of my heart. One of the most valuable lessons I have learned over the past eight years - through speaking, and life-in-general - is that when God says, Yes, it's a very good thing. And when He says, No, it is also a very good thing.
God always does what is best, and I see no reason to be disappointed with His best.
Are you with me?


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Brother and the Beau

Ahhhhh, they're cracking me up!

Beau (Elizabeth's sweetheart) is staying with us this week. And while I am enjoying watching the two of them interact, I am also spending a great deal of time laughing as I watch Joshua and Nick interact. They're like a couple of real brothers, I tell ya.
It started when I went downstairs Monday morning and saw a barricade of sorts set up near Joshua's bedroom door. Apparently Nick was trying to prevent Joshua from getting out.
(It didn't work!)
And I'm guessing it was a form of pay-back for the failed-barricade-attempt when Joshua walked quietly into Nick's room. I saw him walk out with a tub of Vaseline in his hand, but had no idea what was going on.
Until about half an hour later (at which time Joshua was "safely" at football practice) when Nick came out of his room hollering. He stood at the sink washing his hands and discovered, "It won't come off!" He had Vaseline all over his hand. Seems Joshua had coated the door knob with the slimy stuff.

These two are going back and forth at each other like real jokesters. Just wondering what I'll find them up to next...

Haha! The "next thing"...
Elizabeth and Nick made cookies last night and this morning it was discovered that the plate of cookies had been replaced by a plate of dog food. (Guess who did that???)
The cookies were found in the TV stand with a note which said, "Next time I might not be so nice..."


Monday, August 19, 2013

Friday, August 16, 2013

Lessons From the Edge

Sparkles make everything better.

I found a craft online a few weeks ago which I decided to do with the residents at Edgewood. We took glass ivy bowls, poured some acrylic paint into them, and tipped the bowls to get the paint to coat the inside. And, to be quite honest, although the residents seemed delighted with their projects I wasn't so impressed.
Even less so when I made my own.
I had this great idea of how mine would turn out, but reality was much different. I looked at my ivy bowl coated with purple paint and just thought, Blah.

But in step two of our project, the sparkles saved the day.
We waited a week to make sure the paint was nice and dry, and then we added the final touch. I bought sparkly gem-type stickers from the craft store, laid them out all over the table and let the ladies get busy decorating the outside of their ivy bowls. I'm telling you, they looked fabulous! The sparkles made all the difference.
But there was still one problem.
For some of the ivy bowls.
Although the outside looked lovely, the inside showed clumpy paint and that made the whole thing kind of yucky. And that just wouldn't do. I didn't want the ladies to be disappointed with their projects.

Then, quite by accident, I discovered a solution.

I had put all the sparkly stickers into one of the bowls just to hold them, and decided that looked really pretty. I remembered one of my cabinets had a bag of silver tinsel-type filler in it, so I took some and put it inside my bowl. And - it looked great.

More sparkles to save the day!
I wish you could have heard the ladies oohing and aahing over their ivy bowls. In the end everyone loved what they'd made. Even those who at first doubted their ability to make a craft project. I'm telling you, sparkles make everything better.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

What Every Mother Wonders

It happens quite frequently when I meet a younger mother and she inquires about my children.
"How old are they?" she asks.
And I tell her, "They're 17, 15, and 13."

Her first response is usually about the fear of having teen-agers. But, inevitably, her follow-up question will be something along the lines of, "Tell me, does it get easier?"

I smile, because I understand her feelings so well. She wants to know if there is really going to be an end to the temper tantrums in the middle of grocery shopping. Will she ever get to use the bathroom alone again? Is there any hope that one day she won't be tripping over blocks and stuffed animals every time she turns around? Can she believe the day will come when she won't have to pull into some random parking lot to change another poopy diaper?
She is in the middle of mothering young children, she's tired, and she just needs hope that "these days" won't last forever.
And, remembering when I was in her shoes, I want to hug her and tell her with confidence, "YES! It does get easier!"
But, I can't say it. Because that would be a lie.

I hate to say it, but the truth is - "It" doesn't get easier. It just gets different.

As a mother of teens, I can say I am so thankful to be finished with diapers and sleepless nights, tantrums in the grocery store and fights over toys, as well as bathroom visitors and wet sheets every morning.!
But I look at my children today, and I think about the challenges we face, and I have to say - mothering really doesn't get easier. Our struggles are just different. (And, in talking with mothers of adult children, I know they would say the same thing to me!)

Now, before you begin to think I've sunk into a pit of despair, please let me finish that thought.
I look back on my years of mothering babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers, and elementary-aged kids, and I think about the challenges we faced. I remember how difficult those days were, and how often I thought I wouldn't make it through them. I recall the tears, the yelling, the frustration, and the feelings of defeat. Then I take those thoughts captive to a greater one: God, in His faithfulness and grace, brought us through those days. He'll do the same thing today, and for each day ahead of us. And I find great HOPE in that thought.

So, dear mother-of-little-ones, if you find yourself tried and tired and at your wits' end, and you want to know, "Does it get easier???" please hear hope when I tell you, "No. It doesn't get easier. It's just different." But remember: The same God who brings you through this phase of troubles will faithfully bring you through the next one, too.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

~Romans 15:13


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

JESUS Draw Me Close

I just started reading Leviticus in my read-through-the-Bible program.
And the first thing I did was apologize to God for my attitude that this was going to be a dry, boring read. Laws, laws, laws. That's all I could think of - I'd be reading about laws.
How was that material going to draw me into HIS presence???

My first assignment was to read chapters 1-4. And there they were: the laws.
*How to prepare a burnt offering.
*How to prepare a grain offering.
*How to prepare a fellowship offering.
*AND, how to prepare a sin offering - for the anointed priest, the whole Israelite community, a leader, and an individual member of the community.
So many rules and regulations to follow!

Because I am quite the rule-follower (If we're taking a walk and a sign is posted which says, 'No trespassing,' don't even ask me to step over the line to go exploring. I.won'!) I became a bit overwhelmed by the thought of all those requirements. And it made me even more thankful for what Jesus did when He came to earth.

He died once. For all!

I closed my eyes and began to pray, thanking Him for bringing an end to all the rituals and requirements of the sacrifices. What Jesus did was enough. The offering of His life covered the sins of the priest, the community, the leaders, and you & me! My heart was filled with gratitude toward my Savior.
As I sat there praying, this song began running through my head. And I smiled at the realization, God really could draw me into HIS presence - even by reading about laws.
So now, I want to invite you to hit the play button, close your eyes, and enjoy a few minutes in the peaceful presence of your loving God.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Mommy Guilt

Let's see, I think it began when I turned my back for just a second and my toddler fell down the stairs.

Er, no. It was before that.

I guess it was the time I didn't pack enough diapers for our outing, so my baby had to sit in a poopy mess and ended up with a terrible diaper rash.

On the other hand, I remember feeling it when I had such a hard time figuring out how to nurse, and I was afraid my baby wasn't going to thrive.

Or maybe it began while I was still at the hospital after giving birth. I remember sitting on the edge of my bed in tears with the realization that when I went home, there would be no Nurse Button. And I didn't think I'd be able to handle a baby on my own.

Then again, that feeling may have been creeping in while I was still pregnant - wondering if I was eating the right foods, and hoping all the parenting resources I was consuming would keep me from failing as a mommy.

Whenever it began, I have to admit it's still with me some days. Even as recently as last week when we had a "discussion" about a math test Josh needs to take. He's known since the beginning of June the test was coming, but he hasn't been studying. (Too busy fishing, you know!) And I haven't been nagging reminding him about reviewing.
So when he approached me with a mix of panic and apathy (That's a hard combination to muster. You ought to try it sometime. *wink*) saying he didn't want to take the test, I wondered if I had done the wrong thing by not nagging reminding. While I knew he would have been annoyed with me for reminding nagging him about studying, I wondered if I should have done it, anyway. But then there was the thought about the reality that the boy needs to learn responsibility. He's old enough to do what he knows he needs to do. Still, I battled with the notion that I should have done more, and quickly found myself up against another episode of, here it is:

Mommy Guilt
The pervasive feeling of failure which lurks in the gut of maternal beings every time they do something wrong (real or perceived) in or around the lives of their offspring. Also known as the illusion which sometimes causes these maternal beings to believe said offspring are doomed to a life of agony and hopelessness, simply because they were not born to a "perfect" maternal specimen.

Can I get a witness?

The good news is, when I moaned to my husband (a.k.a. my voice of reason), "Why can't I ever get anything right???" he graciously talked some sense into me. And I want to share the same encouragement with you, my fellow moms-who-struggle-with-mommy-guilt.
We don't get it "right" all the time (or much of the time) and that's OK.

Our children are not going to fail in life just because we aren't perfect.

God IS perfect, and HE will work through us - in spite of us - to bring our children to adulthood.

We can rest in God's grace and be motivated by His love, rather than driven by Mommy Guilt.
And again I ask, Can I get a witness?


Monday, August 12, 2013

Friday, August 09, 2013

Lessons From the Edge

You can't do it. But GOD CAN.

So, I just celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary on Wednesday, and today I have another.

Anniversary, that is. Not another wedding! *wink*

Today marks my third anniversary as the Activities Director at Edgewood Retirement Center.
And, like any other anniversary, it gives me cause to pause, and reflect.
And, like any other time I pause and reflect, I am delighted to be a witness to the power and faithfulness of God.

While it is true I LOVE what I get to do at Edgewood, I LOVE the men and women I serve there, and I LOVE the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus, it is equally true that my struggles surrounding this job have been huge.
* I cannot count the number of times I was absolutely convinced I could not make it as a "working mother". (Paid to work, that is. I know ALL moms are working mothers!)
* The challenge of at-work relationships has tested my patience, and endurance, and capacity to care.
* Understanding my calling and trying to decipher my priorities has, at times, left me at a loss for what to do next.
* My anxiety and depression diagnosis came during my tenure at Edgewood. And I'm quite certain the added pressure of working played a significant role in wearing me down so I finally went to see the doc.
* Oh, how many times I have wanted to throw my hands up in the air and yell, "I can't do this!
I QUIT!!!"
But here I am, looking in the eye of my third anniversary. And I can testify that the struggles haven't destroyed me, as I feared they might. The challenges have grown me. Even the pressure has been used for my good. What I once thought was going to ruin me, God has used for good. And He has even used me in the process to be a light for Him.

Is any of this resonating with you?
Are you at a place in mothering where you're feeling particularly challenged?
Is there relational strife between you and your husband? Or someone else?
Have you had just about all you can take from the stress at work, or church, or any other group of which you are a part?
Feeling like throwing your hands up in the air with a declaration that you just can't do this anymore???

Wherever you find yourself today on the spectrum of Life-is-good to I-quit!, I want to encourage you to hold on. Hold on to God. Hold on to hope. Hold on to faith. Just hold on. And watch God display His power.

You can't do it. But GOD CAN.


Thursday, August 08, 2013

I'm Sure He Didn't Mean That

I worked a long day at Edgewood - running around getting things in place for our activities, making sure residents were happy, tying up loose ends. All the typical stuff I do in a day at work.
I came home and sat down for maybe five minutes before I got back up to start working on dinner. And I made a beautiful dinner. If I may say so myself.
(No pictures. I was entirely too busy to think about that!)
Then, tired to the core, I picked up my phone to call Matthew home for dinner.

What he said: Awwwwwww. Really?

What I heard: Mom, I don't care that you worked late today and you're tired, but you came home and made a nice dinner for me anyway.

Do you ever do that?
Do you hear your kids' frustration in needing to end their play time as a personal insult?
Does their disappointment make you feel unloved and unappreciated?

Before I went down that road with Matthew's complaint, I had to tell myself, "I'm sure he didn't mean that."
And I bet your kids don't mean it, either!


Wednesday, August 07, 2013

We Were Just KIDS!

Twenty years ago TODAY, this picture was taken.

Twenty years ago.

We were just kids! I look at this picture and I think, How is it that my mother and father allowed me to get married when I was practically still a baby?

It makes me laugh to remember how I thought I knew so much about love and life when Brian and I got married.
Oooooooh, I had so much to learn!
And I? Am so thankful God paired me up with a man who would patiently and graciously learn right along with me.

Smiling at the thought of what the next twenty years will hold for us.


Tuesday, August 06, 2013

How to Offend Me

Just say I look like I have it all together.

OK, I'm being a bit extreme when I say that statement offends me.
But I thought it made for a fun title. *wink*
The truth is, my heart breaks a little whenever someone proposes an opinion like the one above. Or even hints at it.
I am quickly reminded of the times when I have looked at other women and thought, "I will never be as perfect as her!" I recall the times when other moms seemed un-approachable to me because - to me - they looked so polished. So perfect. So together. I cringe at the memory of how those moments fueled my insecurity.
And I am saddened by the thought that anything about me could cause another woman to feel the same way.

This whole line of thinking came about recently when I was with a group of friends - and one woman whom I've only met once. We were all talking when she asked for my input on something, and followed her request by saying, "You seem like you have it all together." I might have physically shuddered when she said that.
The thing is, this sweet woman isn't the first one I've heard propose such an idea. And before anyone else starts heading down the same road, I want to make one thing perfectly clear:

I am a broken mess.
And the only way I have anything together, is because God is holding me!

I shared last week about my depression struggles. I've written plenty about the challenges and messes I've faced (er, created *ahem!*) as a mother. And I think you know by now that my domestic skills are, uh, shaky at best.
As much as I am willing to share my failings, my greater desire is to point to the faithfulness and power of God as HE carries me through each day. So, if you ever watch one of my videos, or read one of my posts and find yourself thinking anything along the lines of, Man. She's really got it together, please remember this truth: It's all GOD. HE alone is my strength and the One who sustains me. Amen!


Monday, August 05, 2013

Friday, August 02, 2013

Lessons From the Edge

Even rainy days have bright sides.

I took a group of residents to watch the Lansing Lugnuts play baseball on Wednesday. It was a noon game so we had plans to eat lunch at the ballpark, and hopefully watch the Lugnuts bring home a win.We've had this date planned for almost a year, and I have been hyping it up to the residents, recruiting them to sign up and come along for a good month now.
So, Wednesday arrived, we loaded up the bus and went to the ballpark, found our seats, ate our lunch, and stared at this for over an hour.

Yet, even while we waited, this is what I got to see.

A little rain wasn't about to dampen the spirits of these folks!

And even after we got back to Edgewood - after sitting in the ballpark for over two hours watching rain instead of baseball - one of the residents commented to me, "Well, at least we didn't see the Lugnuts lose today!"
Indeed, even rainy days have bright sides.


Thursday, August 01, 2013

Messy Me: Part 3

So, I went through a weekend which was supposed to be fun, but seemed more like a pit to me.

But God used it for good.

In the days that followed, I had good conversations. Healing, even. And I came to some realizations which are strengthening my resolve to be mentally healthy.
*It really is OK that I need my meds. A mental illness is just as worthy of treatment as a physical illness.
*Feeling good is normal and OK. This one took a little more time for me to understand. For as long as I can remember, I have had some sort of guilty feeling when things have gone well for me. Like, I had trouble admitting that I had a nice nap, or that I fully enjoyed an afternoon alone. Somehow, I always felt it necessary to find something which had gone wrong - so when a person asked how my this-or-that was, I could give a less-than-good report.
It seems depression has shaped my thinking for far too long, and warped my sense of what is good. Such that I thought "bad" was the only thing "good". I am finally coming to understand that it is good, and normal, and OK to feel good.
*Therefore, when I take my meds and I feel good, that's OK. I have increased my dosage so I am no longer taking nearly nothing. I feel a lot better. And I am asking God to help me find the level which is best for me.

My story is not finished yet. I know my struggle is not over. But God sees the end. HE sees Messy Me, and HE knows how it is all going to be resolved. I am trusting Him with every breath as I wait for the conclusion to be Written.
It has been a joy and a privilege to share my depression story with you here this week. Depression can feel like a very lonely road, and I pray my openness has been encouraging to some.
Even freeing.
Blogger tells me more people have been reading these posts about depression than my other posts typically reach. And that increase tells me this subject matters. We need to talk about it. We need to get rid of the stigma depression has held for so long!
Even so, I realize some of you may feel uncomfortable leaving comments here (And I totally understand!) so I want to invite you to email me. There's a link on the sidebar to the right.
If you need to talk, I am happy to listen and pray!