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.