Friday, January 29, 2016


OK, so this week at work, I wanted to cry.


We had a staff meeting early on, at which time I learned a little more about Alzheimer's disease. It's cause and progression, and the ways it manifests in a person's life. And when I saw it playing out before my eyes the next day, I simply wanted to cry.

I sat at the head of the table calling Bingo in the usual way. "B, twelve." *pause* "B, one-two." But I found the need to wait until I called the next number to be longer than I'm used to. Because the dear woman to my left took a long time to look over the numbers on her card. And the dear woman on my right took a long time, too. Even though my co-worker was right there with her, helping with the search. And reminding her each time she had a number that she should place a chip over it.
That cognitive loss and the inability to quickly identify numbers - I learned Tuesday - is one of the assaults of dementia.
But not everyone was so slow. And one of the ladies who was quick to place her chips wasted no time in hollering at my sweet friend when she was going too slow.
Oh, the heart break of seeing my friend deflate at each scolding.
The loss of self-control and social graces is another dementia casualty which I discovered at the staff meeting.
I sat at the Bingo table calling numbers slowly and deliberately, as I watched grown adults who -through no fault of their own - struggled to comprehend and find numbers, and toiled to contain their angst. I was alternately holding back tears, and asking God, Why? Why is such a terrible disease allowed to steal life???
Then it was as if HE said to me, Yours is not to know the reasons why. Yours is simply to love these people. And I understood. God has placed plenty of smart people in the medical field to research and seek a cure for this disease. And HE has placed me at GLC to love on those who suffer with it until that time comes.

So, when Miss Speedy became anxious, I told her it was OK - that we had time enough to wait.
And when the ladies to my right and left found and covered a number, I congratulated them on the fine job they were doing.
At the end of the game, we exchanged hugs and kisses and "I love you"s.  And, although no visible signs of memory or social improvement were made, the smiles on everyone's faces gave a clear indication that hearts were happy.

Mission accomplished.
Are there people in your life who struggle to meet the expectations of others around them?
How can you respond in ways which will build them up?


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What Am I Worth?

I enjoy many things at the beginning of a new year.

Doing taxes is NOT one of them. *ahem*

And because my husband likes to be on top of them (i.e. As soon as tax documents start coming in the mail, he's entering information into the computer.) he asks for my ministry tax information early.
So, guess what I was doing Sunday evening.

*insert agonizing groan*

I try to keep good records, and I use the previous year's worksheets as a reference - so the process, itself, isn't too big of a deal. The part I don't like is the inevitable battle which takes place in my heart and mind over the question, What am I worth?
Because the course of doing taxes requires that I add up my income and expenses.
And once that is done, it's pretty easy to do the math to answer the question, How much did I make?
Which translates to, What was my contribution to the family?
Which unnecessarily (yet persistently) leads to, What am I worth?
And the reason I so dislike answering that question while preparing my taxes is because, Sunday night the answer would have been, "Pretty close to nothing."

Now, I've been through this cycle before. Jesus has picked me up in previous tax-years when answering those questions brought me low. I know my worth comes from Christ, alone. And nothing is greater than the price of HIS life, which He was willing to pay for me.
But Sunday evening as I was crunching numbers, HE showed me something new. That is, while my income and expenses were almost the same amount, nearly half of my "expenses" were in the category of "Charitable Giving". And 85% of that category went to the support of my little Compassion girl in Ecuador. (I remember when I decided to become a Compassion sponsor those many years ago telling God, I'm going to trust You to provide for this sponsorship through my speaking, and book sales.)
As I looked at the numbers Sunday night, tempted to evaluate myself as not being worth much, God's Spirit prompted me to ask a different question.

How faithful is God?

Looking at the numbers, the answer was so easy to see: HE provided precisely what was necessary to meet my needs (and those of my sweet Noemi).
So, how faithful is God???



Monday, January 25, 2016

Friday, January 22, 2016


OK. I know you know what TLC means. Right?

Tender loving care.

Please tell me you knew that.

In this case (and every Friday from now until, um, otherwise noted) GLC means
Grandhaven Living Center.

As I see it, my new role in life - at least for the hours I'm clocked in at work - is to bring TLC to the folks living at GLC.
So there we have it. TLC at GLC. My new Friday series.
I pray you'll enjoy it, and - more importantly - that you'll be encouraged and inspired to apply some TLC to your little corner of the world. *smile*

*This week at work I told one lady where I live about a dozen times. That is, because she asked me that question as many times. In a matter of probably 10 minutes.
*On another occasion I showed a lady how to dip a paintbrush into water and then swirl it in watercolors so she could paint a picture. Also showed her how to put the paintbrush on the paper to put color there. (Repeated regularly for the duration of the time the group was painting.)
*While playing the GLC version of Uno, I helped someone chose which card to play. By reminding her (for the umpteenth time) that she needed to follow suit or number.
Yes. I repeated myself a lot this week.
Because I spent most of my time on the memory care side of campus.
Can I just tell you? I work with a wonderful team of people at GLC. When I am not repeating myself to one resident or another, I often find myself watching various team members doing the same thing. That is, they're answering repetitive questions, redirecting wandering souls, singing the same ol' songs again (Honestly, that part never gets "old" for me.), and listening to a story for the gazillionth time.
And the part of it which delights my heart, is seeing my team members doing all this repetitive behavior so kindly. We know folks are going to ask the same questions over and over. We are well aware they love singing the same songs today as they did yesterday. (Or five minutes ago!) We expect to hear S tell about this story, and J to talk about that one.
It's what they do.
So we answer the questions, sing the songs, and listen to the stories - with grace and love.
It's what we do.
And it's what makes the difference between joy and frustration at GLC.
Simply put: we know what to expect, and we know the best way to respond is with grace and love.

So I got to thinking... What if we (That is, you and me.) employed this same principle in our homes? When the toddler asks, "Why?" for the fiftieth time; when the pre-schooler can't find her shoes again(!); when the tween forgets to use deodorant again(!); when the teen comments for the sixth time today that he's tired of school; when the husband goes another day without making the bed; when things happen just as we have learned they will - what if we responded with grace and love?

Something to think about! *smile*


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Inside Sadness

I've never hidden that I'm a little behind the times, have I?
Like in the fact that I am still using a basic phone. Hey, it still works just as well as the day I got it. Three and a half years ago. Although, I think I want to get a smart phone in the next few months.
I mean, really? I just want a camera. But who buys cameras anymore?

Ahhh, I digress.

Anyway, about being behind the times - I finally saw the movie Inside Out this weekend.
To be fair, we did try to see it in the movie theaters months ago.
Twice, in fact. But both times when we got there the showing had been sold out.
Oh, I had tried to get the family out the door early.
"Relax, Mom," they said.
"We have plenty of time," they said.
"Don't be in such a rush," they said.
"Sorry, that show is all sold out," the gal at the ticket counter said.
"Told you so!!!!" I wanted to say. (Someone must have been keeping Anger away from my control panel in order to keep me quiet. *ahem*)

So, this weekend, we finally saw it. And although the movie wasn't what I had expected - I loved it.
Because it allowed me to think about feelings.
Was it just me? Or did other people who've seen Inside Out also feel exhausted when Joy was running around trying to keep everything "happy?" I mean, I'm all for being happy and having a good time. But that character had me gasping for breaths with the way she was racing here and there, trying to keep Sadness from touching anything.
And as the movie played on, and Riley kept going deeper and deeper into her pit of despair, I just wanted to jump into the scene and hug her. Invite her to cry on my shoulder. Let her know she was loved. That the darkness wouldn't overwhelm her. That it was OK to miss her old home, yet encourage her that her new home would be good, too.

I was so glad that's where the story line ended up going.

Because as one who has struggled with feelings of despair, I know. Simply having someone say, "Cheer up!" "It isn't that bad!" "Everyone has tough times." "This, too, shall pass," does nothing to help.
Forgive me, Joy, for not receiving your remarks the way they're likely intended, but when you're in the bottom of a pit - words are pretty meaningless.
I remember in those days, wishing someone would just put an arm around me and tell me it was OK to feel sad, frustrated, upset, even lost. Platitudes weren't what I needed. I so desperately wanted to know that I was still loved - even when I wasn't feeling lovely. (Not that such gestures would have kept me from needing anti-depressants, but I sure would've felt less lonely.)
So I was delighted at the end of the movie to see memories touched by all of Riley's emotions. I was thankful to see an acknowledgement on the screen that sadness and hard times can be mixed in with joy - that they aren't mutually exclusive. And I was glad for Hollywood's encouragement for us to put our arms around a sad person and invite them to share their feelings - that we might love them where they're at, and encourage them to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Have you seen Inside Out? What did you think?


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Boy Needs His Momma When...

...he's at the mall.

Forgive me, please, for being stereotypical in this post but - as you'll see - the material was there, and I just couldn't let it go.

OK, disclaimer aside, let's get on with the story.
This past weekend, Matthew and I found ourselves at the mall. He needed a new winter coat and some shirts, and I wanted a new necklace. So we ventured out together to get 'er done.
The winter coat was found and purchased without too much difficulty (But definitely with Matthew being impressed with the sale price we'd gotten. I took advantage of the opportunity to tell him about looking for coupons online before going to the store.) and then the challenge ensued. You need to understand: Matthew is very particular about the clothing he wears. Must be the right color, not too bright, the right kind of fabric, not too long, certainly not too short(!), comfortable-to-him cuffs at the end of the sleeves, no annoying graphics - but not too plain, either. I think I've covered it all. (Oh, and when it comes to athletic pants? He doesn't like a stripe going down the pant leg. The next time you're in the store, take a look at the athletic pants. They all have stripes!)
Anyway, we were looking for sweatshirts Saturday.
As we were walking through the first store, Matthew was basically silent. And not stopping at racks to look at shirts. When it seemed to me Matthew was wandering rather than looking, I reminded him he needed to verbalize some opinions about what he wanted. Such as, "I don't see anything here I want," or, "I like this. I am going to try it on." All the while I'm thinking, Do I really need to teach you how to shop? Isn't that something you should just know how to do? Er, wait. You're a boy.

We left the first store without so much as trying on one shirt. Everything I had pointed to was wrong somehow. Too bright. The wrong texture. Not enough design. Too much graphic. Yada, yada, yada. Quite frankly, at that moment, I was already ready to take a break. And I came up with a great idea. Since I was pretty sure Matthew wouldn't want to stand around while I looked at necklaces, I suggested he look through stores for a sweatshirt, or two, while I went to pick out a silver chain. I told him to call me when he found something and I'd be there as soon as I had my necklace.
I figured he would have the freedom to find just the right shirts, I would get my necklace, and we wouldn't frustrate each other in the search. Wins, all around.
As I was narrowing down my search, my phone rang and I thought, Wow. That didn't take long. Guess I was right. All he needed was a little freedom to pick out what he wanted. (The thoughts of a true female shopper...) But when I said, "Hello," Matthew didn't tell me of his shopping victories. Instead, he said, "Um. I can't do this without you." *swoon* So I told him where to find me, and after I'd gotten my necklace (for 20% off the already 50% discounted price, thank you) we went out in search of shirts, again.

We found a sweatshirt that might be OK, but Matthew thought he'd need a white t-shirt to wear underneath it. And in his mind that seemed to be a legitimate obstacle. I said, "So, we'll get a white t-shirt," and found a two-pack on a near-by rack. Problem solved. Then we looked at a different display of shirts and, by some miracle, located another sweatshirt he was willing to try on. He was slightly concerned that the collar might be too wide, but I pointed out he could wear a t-shirt underneath if necessary. Brilliant!
In the end, we bought the two sweatshirts and got the white t-shirts for free because of a "Buy 2, Get 1 Free" deal. Matthew was happy with our successes, and impressed by my deal-finding ability.
And I learned that shopping isn't an inborn skill for boys.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Confessions of a Control Freak *re-post*

OK, so last week was my first week back to work. And, uh, it's taking some adjusting.
So, let's just say I didn't have a chance to record a video devotion.

Fortunately, I have an archive full of devotions from which to pull, and I found one I wanted to re-share.
I recorded this video shortly after Brian and I returned from a cruise we took two years ago. (The cruise we were going to take on our 10th anniversary, which became the one we were going to take for our 20th anniversary. Which we finally got around to seven months before our 21st anniversary.)
Anyway, I had completely forgotten this incident happened (The one I'm going to mention in the video. Not the cruise!) and it brought me such joy to be reminded. Hoping and praying God will use this to encourage you in your journey today.


Friday, January 15, 2016

New Friday Series: Title TBD

Soooooo, I started my new job this week!

I am a Life Enrichment Assistant at Grandhaven Living Center in Lansing.
In other words, I am helping facilitate activities for some precious senior citizens.
It is very similar to what I was doing at Edgewood. Except this time I am not the one "in charge."
And I am so good with that. *smile*

I have much to learn, like names and buildings/floor plans and entry codes associated with each. (It's a memory care facility. So the doors must be secured.) I did it before. I know I can do it again. But, oh - my brain is in overload right now.
There is one very sweet woman who implanted herself in my mind and heart right away. She lights up the room when she walks into it, and after knowing her for only a short while - I am convinced she can do nothing except be nice. Yesterday before I left work, she gave me these:
They're paper flowers she made (She attached the middle with needle and thread!), and upon which she composed kind notes to me. Honestly? I wasn't able to decipher everything she wrote. But I did interpret that she loves me, and she's glad I have joined the staff at Grandhaven.
My cohorts in the Life Enrichment department assure me - I'll be receiving more notes like these from J. I've seen their collection of these flowers in our office and now I understand what they are. Little pieces of love from a very sweet little lady.

And so I embark on a new vocational adventure. Thankful to God for leading me here, and trusting Him to walk me through it. Don't know what I'm going to call it yet, but I hope you'll join me for the journey.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

We're Both Growing

There was a time when I thought we'd never make it this far.

I remember days of tears, fits of rage, nights of anger, and outbursts of yelling.
(Coming from both my son and I.)

Indeed, at the time I was convinced one or the other of us wouldn't "survive" motherhood.
That is, if I didn't eat my offspring first...
Life was that hard.
I couldn't handle his animosity, and I hated who I was becoming in response to it all. I resented the fact that motherhood wasn't the picture-perfect world I'd imagined it would be. And I found myself despairing of another day - another opportunity to fail as a mom, get angry with my child(ren), and miss the joy I had thought would be mine.

Writing this out makes me even more thankful for the grace of God and the work HE has done in my life.

Anyway, back when I was in the midst of those struggles I thought we would be stuck there forever. But yesterday, my son turned 18 years old.
Now, I am not saying we never struggle anymore.
Far from it!
But I am saying the trials we faced which I thought would be the end of me - weren't. I am saying God has faithfully brought us through every valley and HE has made us better for it. I know I am not yet the woman God intends for me to be, but - Praise Jesus! - I am also not the woman I was.
I remember very clearly the day I was on the edge, and - probably in an attempt to console myself - I thought, One day, these kids will grow up. And they won't be the same. They're going to mature and leave these childish ways behind. And almost immediately I had the very distinct sense God was saying to my heart, Darling, they aren't the only ones who are going to change. I'm going to use these trials to change you, too.
And so today - as I look at my now-adult child and consider all we've been through, as I ponder what lies ahead, and anticipate more of God's good work in his life - I am overcome with joy. Not because we've had a perfect life. But because we have a perfect God, who works good even out of what seems to be bad.

Are you facing a struggle today which seems like it will never go away? I pray the God of hope will 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, January 13, 2016

Welcome to my Alternative Classroom


Stupid winter weather.

I was very much looking forward to attending Precepts Tuesday, to begin our discussion of Acts 1.
But our unusually mild winter has come to an abrupt end, and unsafe driving conditions lead to the cancellation of our class.

Did I mention I was looking forward to our discussion?

If you don't mind, I've decided to process my thoughts with you here on my blog. Actually, even if you do mind - I'm going to do it. You have the option of clicking off this page, I suppose. But I hope you'll stick around - that we might encourage each other through the Word of God. *smile*

So over the past week I have been studying the first chapter of Acts. And, while there is a lot of good stuff in there, one thing in particular stood out to me and has been ruminating in my spirit.
Consider this:
6 So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Acts 1:6-8
What did the apostles want to know?
And what did Jesus tell them?
He answered their question. But did He tell them what they wanted to know?
Indeed, He did not.
He told them what they needed to know.
Seems the apostles were focused on the wrong concern. But rather than chastising them for their misplaced curiosity, Jesus gently redirected their attention - and told them what was important. In my mind, Jesus' words sound something like this: Hey, guys. Yours isn't to know the details of when the Kingdom is coming. Yours is to tell everyone about Me, so when the Kingdom comes - they'll be ready.

I believe it is no accident that I am studying this passage at this time in history. For very often recently, I have taken into consideration the happenings of our world - the natural disasters, the steep moral decline, the terrorism, the constant battle with evil. And I cannot help but wonder, Is it happening? LORD, are You getting things ready for Your return???
It may be that He is. But in studying Acts 1 this past week, I keep getting an overwhelming sense that we don't need to know when Jesus is coming back. Rather, we are to "be [His] witnesses" all over this world, so that when He comes back - people will be ready.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, let's do this!


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Good Mail

At first I thought it was SPAM, and I was about to delete it.

See, I glanced at the name and didn't recognize it. So I figured the email was just another one of the dozens of junk messages I receive every day.
But then I read the subject line and my heart leaped with joy inside of me:
Safe and sound! - Wheaton in México 2016
The message was from my daughter's college professor, telling all 17 sets of parents that their kids had made it to Mexico. And my day of praying and wondering turned into a chorus of thanksgiving.

Saturday morning at about 3:45 I walked into Detroit Metro airport with Elizabeth, helped her get checked in and find her way to the security point, and then I walked out.
Without her.
My baby girl (who isn't a baby anymore) is spending this semester with her professor and 16 other Wheaton College students studying in Mexico. She is living with a Mexican familia, taking classes at a Mexican universidad, and being fully immersed in a new culture.
I am both excited and scared for her.
With both of those emotions in full force, I spent my entire day Saturday praying for my girl. Wondering if she'd made it to Dallas yet. Was she on the plane to Queretaro? Had she begun speaking only in Spanish - as her professor had instructed the students to do? Would she really be able to adapt to hearing, speaking, and understanding Spanish 100%? Was she going to become home-sick and wish she hadn't chosen to study cross-culturally?

All these questions turned into prayers as I waited for some indication that she had arrived in Mexico.

And then I received that good email - which seemed to me to be God's way of saying, OK, Karen. I managed to deliver your daughter safely over 2,200 miles today. You can trust Me to care for her heart and meet her needs, too. Have faith, dear one. I've got this.

And so, I'll trust.

How about you? What steps of faith is God asking you to take today?


Monday, January 11, 2016

Thursday, January 07, 2016

He is NOT My Enemy

So I'm gonna stop living like he IS.

I try, oh - how I try, to interact peaceably with my teenage son. Looking for just the right blend of I'm-the-mom-that's-why, let-him-be-a-kid-while-he-still-can, get-your-chores-done-now, tell-him-he's-doing-a-good-job, remove-your-boots-before-you-take-another-step, don't-sweat-the-small-stuff, I-love-you, and leave-him-alone-he-doesn't-need-mommy-right-now.

Wondering how long the search will last.

But I have discovered that in the midst of my searching, while I'm trying so diligently to cultivate a peaceful relationship, I have lost sight of who I am fighting. Er, have you seen War Room yet? I'm realizing I have a lot in common with Elizabeth. That is, just like she felt her battle was with her husband, I have been feeling like I'm fighting against my son.
Cue Miss Clara: You're fighting the wrong enemy!
Ah, no. My son is NOT my enemy. The enemy of my soul is the one causing all the trouble. And he is the one to blame for the turmoil between my son and me. My enemy doesn't want my son to feel love from me, doesn't want me to build him up, and certainly doesn't want God to be glorified in our relationship. So he whispers lies into my ear and gets me to believe my battle is against my son.
But thanks be to GOD!
The Lover of my soul (and my son's!) speaks Truth. He reminds me of His promises. He calls me to pray and tells me to never give up. Because HE will fight for me against the real enemy.

So this girl, here, is gonna get back to living like she knows who the real enemy is. Trusting the One who already has the VICTORY. By the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, this girl is gonna love her son when it's hard. She's going to pray for him when he's being temperamental and difficult to endure. She's going to recall the promises of God in the face of discouragement. And she's going to trust that in His time, she's going to see a beautiful picture unfold before her eyes.
Because God is good and He makes beauty from ashes.

Wherever you are today, I invite you to join me on this journey. Whether you're struggling with a teen, a toddler, or even the reflection in the mirror - may you surrender your battle to the One who can win it. Who knows what you need. And Who will never give up on you.

Come. Let's do our fighting from our knees.


Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Can You Hear Me Now?

In retrospect, I imagine God must have been shaking His gracious head - wondering why I insisted on playing Verizon with Him.

It was last week, Wednesday, and I was preparing to go in for a job interview. I'd already interviewed with two other companies, had one job offer, and was asking God to direct my heart to the place He wanted me to go. In fact, I specifically asked Him to give me a sense of peace (or NOT) in my heart to help me make a decision. Then I gathered my stuff and headed out to the interview.
Things were going well enough during the interview and I thought I could see myself working at this particular facility. But then the scheduler said she had second and third shift positions to fill - that is 4pm to midnight, and midnight to 8am - and my heart sank. Because those shifts would not be conducive to family life for me and my tribe. Still - I felt the job would be very rewarding, an offer had been made to me, and I began to justify that it wouldn't be "too bad" because I would only be working part-time.

Three crazy shifts a week couldn't be unbearable, could they?

On the drive home I began to come up with other justifications and was building a case in my mind for why this job seemed right. Totally ignoring the sinking-heart feeling I'd gotten when the shifts were discussed. Seems I'd forgotten that I had suggested God could give me a NOT sense of peace as a way to direct my heart.
Then it occurred to me that I ought to call my contact person from the first job offer to ask a couple questions. I was making assumptions about a concern I had with that company and figured it best to verify rather than assume. Call it Divine intervention.
So that afternoon we spoke on the phone, and my fears were laid to rest. Furthermore, I received words of encouragement from her which made me feel relief. Not to mention a couple of text messages she sent after our call, which seemed to bring peace to my heart.
And that's about the moment it hit me.
While my heart sank during my interview earlier in the day, all these things associated with Grandhaven Living Center were making me feel peaceful.

It was as if HE were saying to me, Can you hear Me now???


Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Women's Listening Retreat

Nearly twelve years ago I attended a listening retreat with about 15-20 other women, which strongly impacted my relationship with God. As long as I live, I am certain I will never forget the tender moments I had with Jesus in that 24-hour period.
(Ask me sometime about my Beautiful Chair, and waltzing with Jesus!)
In recent years I have dreamed of hosting a retreat for women - modeled after the one I attended. And I am happy to say, God is bringing it all together. Because a new year often brings with it desires to grow spiritually, and cultivate spiritual disciplines, I want to invite you to consider attending this retreat with me. The theme of the weekend will be What Are You Waiting For?, and I will be speaking as we learn from Matthew 14:22-33. However, the focus of the retreat will be on listening to Jesus - as we spend concentrated time in His presence.

If this event sounds like one in which you would like to participate, please visit my website here for more information and to register.

Looking forward to what the LORD has in store for each woman who comes to listen.


Monday, January 04, 2016