Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I Wish I Was There

Yesterday when I turned my phone on, I had this message from my daughter waiting for me:

I miss having a mom in the house that will sometimes pick up my mess when I'm too tired to do it. Unfortunately, I go to bed knowing that in the morning, the kitchen will look exactly how I left it.
I smiled at her sweetness, and thought about the conversation we'd had this past weekend. My girl is in the thick of classes and looking for an internship for this summer. And she isn't feeling like she has any of it under control.
Rather, she's feeling quite overwhelmed by it all.
Especially the unknowns.
And in moments like this when she's tired and overwhelmed and feeling a bit disheartened - while I know I can pray for her - I really wish I could just be there. To clean up her kitchen, and do her laundry, and buy her groceries, and anything else she might need.
Oh, and to sing her songs at bedtime, like I did when she was little.
In moments like this it's hard for me to remember that my little girl is a grown-up and is learning to handle life on her own. Because just like she misses having a mom in the house, I miss having my girl.

But she's there, and I am here.
She's growing up, and I am learning how to let go.
And my mother's heart is thankful beyond words that my Father - her Father - is there and here. Growing her and helping me. Holding us both, and always hearing my prayers for my girl.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

~Philippians 4:6-7

Karen

Monday, February 20, 2017

Friday, February 17, 2017

I Have a New Friend

Two years ago at this time, I had just begun a new adventure.
I left my job as an activity director and welcomed my 97-year-old grandmother into our home.
It was a delight.
It was quite difficult some times.
It was the right thing to do.
There is absolutely no way I could have done it alone.
And because of an organization called Great Lakes Caring, I didn't have to.
Grandma had weekly visits from a Registered Nurse who was full of compassion and was always ready to answer our questions and offer help. She had twice-weekly visits from a home-health aide who helped her with showers - and was also full of compassion. Grandma received visits from a social worker, Chaplain, and case manager. And even had weekly massages!
In addition to all that, while Grandma received care from Great Lakes she also was matched up with a volunteer who visited regularly and always lifted Grandma's spirits. How many times did I hear her say, "That Jenny is such a nice girl!"?
Soooooo, because I am so grateful for the blessing Great Lakes was to us, and because I believe strongly in their mission, I have become a volunteer like Jenny! Even have my own official badge:

And yesterday I met my match for the very first time. She is just lovely!
In fact, I think that's what I'll call her here on my blog.
Lovely.
Yes. That suits her just fine.
I have a new friend named, Lovely, and I look forward to sharing her with you on Fridays.

Karen

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What is Your Goal?

Goals?
Ugh.
I'm just not good at them.
Setting OR keeping them.
Though, if I am not good at setting them, I suppose keeping them is a moot point. *wink*
Brian used to ask me on occasion, Where do you see yourself in five years? What do you want to be doing in ten years? How do you want to spend our retirement years?
And my answer was always the same: I don't know!
So, last week as I did my homework for Precepts, and this question was posed: "Honestly, what are your goals in life?" I was stumped.
As in, I thought, Really, Kay? You're going to hit me up on this, too???
But then I re-read the verses I had just been studying.

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

~Philippians 3:13-14
And I realized therein was my answer to the question. Really, I just want to be like Jesus - loving people, speaking and teaching the Truth, serving as He served. Whatever God calls me to do, whoever He is making me to be - that is my goal!
In this moment, the ways that goal seems to be fleshing itself out is via speaking for moms' groups and women's events, Sunday school with my 3rd and 4th grade girls, a couple of volunteer opportunities I'm discovering (More on those at a later date!), and simply serving my family. These are the places God has led me to, and these are the places He seems to be growing me. Where I can be His vessel. Where I can extend grace and show compassion and point to God. And as much effort as I put into it, I cannot think of anything I'd rather be doing. I cannot come up with a higher goal.
I just want to be who HE wants me to be, doing what HE wants me to do.
And if that happens to involve a calendar full of speaking events and opportunities to sow into the hearts of women? Maybe writing another book? Well, yee-ha!

How about you? To what do you aspire?

Karen

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

When I Was Your Age

How many times did you hear that phrase when you were growing up?

If you're anything like me, every time those words hit your ear drum you promised yourself, Yeah, well when I'm you're age and I have kids of my own, I'm never going to say, "When I was your age..."
And, again, if you're anything like me - You've broken that promise more than a time, or two.

Like I did yesterday.

Josh was telling me about a problem he has with the windows in his Jeep. Apparently, they don't open.
I asked him, "Didn't Dad fix that last summer?" Josh confirmed he did the repair, and told me it was an intermittent problem. "Maybe something in the window is just frozen?" I suggested.
And he looked at me as if to say, Yeah, Mom. Like you know anything about my Jeep.
Or more likely he was doubting my ability to know anything at all. *ahem*
So, I had to tell him. I mean, he practically forced my hand! And I complied as I explained that when I was in college and had my first car *read that: When I was your age* I had an intermittent problem during the winter, too. That is, one morning I opened the driver door to get in, but it wouldn't stay shut. And since I had to get to campus for class, I got a rope or something and ran it through the handle on the door and around the seat - and tied the door shut.
Not the safest way to drive, to be sure, but you do what you've got to do, right?
Well the thing is, when I got to campus and got out of my car - the door stayed shut! And that's when I diagnosed my problem. Something inside the door was frozen, and the drive to campus warmed the car so the frozen thing thawed and worked again. Thus, dear man-child of mine, I do know something. Maybe something in the window mechanism is wavering between being frozen and not. And that's why sometimes it works, and other times it doesn't. I mean, it could happen. Because it happened to me when I was your age. But I drove my car, anyway. (Up hill, both ways. Through three feet of snow, without shoes.) And I was thankful!
Er, I got a little carried away with that last part. Seems like that's what my mom always said about walking to school anytime I complained about something - when I was his age. *wink*

Karen

Monday, February 13, 2017

ASK

Karen

Friday, February 10, 2017

When a Home Makeover Becomes a Heart Makeover

If you see me babying my right arm, don't worry. I'm OK.
You see, I did a lot of painting yesterday. And since I am not ambidextrous - well - my right arm got quite a workout. So it's a little sore now.
But so worth it!
Yeah, because in addition to good progress being made on the house we're getting ready to sell - oh, did God use that time to continue His good work in my heart.
See, the thing is, I wasn't actually excited about going over to the house to paint. That is, I would have rather done just about anything else. I mean the house is dirty, no one else would be there to make the work seem like it was going faster, I'm always cold when I'm there, I was doing just fine taking care of laundry and other chores in the comfort of my home, and - quite frankly - I really didn't feel like getting paint all over myself. (Always happens, no matter how careful I am...)
But guilt had the last say, and I left what I'd rather to do accomplish what I ought to do.
There. I said it.
Anyway, as I was painting I received a text message from an organization for which I pray. The text was to alert me to pray for emergency housing for two very young children and their mother who are facing immediate homelessness. So in my heart I was suddenly joined by a frightened and desperate family, and I began praying for them. And after a couple of hours of painting and praying, I packed up and started for home. That is, I lugged the vacuum cleaner down the stairs, turned the heat down (Yeah, that part about always being cold when I'm over there? Easily fixed by cranking up the thermostat.) and made a couple trips to the van to load everything up.
The back and forth outside got me quite chilly again, so I turned up the heat in the van - and that was just about the time God's Spirit got through to mine.
It was as if He said, Do you realize what you just did, dear? It was so easy for you to solve your problem of being cold. I acknowledged that it was, indeed, easy. And then He brought that family back to my mind. The one I'd been praying for while I was begrudgingly painting the house I didn't want to paint. The one who currently doesn't have a home. Who probably would be delighted to stay in that house - in spite of the mess, and the need for new carpet, and the in-the-midst-of-repair-walls-which-also-need-paint, and the chill in the air. Because the furnace works, and makes the house toasty.
My very next thought was the recognition that I am way more fortunate than I realize. I was driving my van across town from the house I used to live in to the one in which I currently live. I was driving - not walking, or taking a bus, or looking for a ride - and I was warmed by the heater, and I had ingredients waiting for me at home with which I would make dinner for my family. My family - which may be imperfect, and may have struggles, but we're healthy and we're together. I have the resources to buy gas for my van, the physical ability to climb on chairs to paint high places - not to mention the ability to lug a vacuum cleaner up and down stairs, from one house to the other. Yeah, and I have a really great vacuum cleaner. Even that's got a wonderful God-story behind it!
In my moment of clarity I began to understand that God was willing my thankfulness and gratitude into being. I had been wallowing in a pit of woe-is-me, I-have-to-do-work-I-don't-want-to-do and was fully neglecting my need to be thankful.
(And, yes, I believe it is a need.)
Because when I'm rolling around in self-pity all of my focus in on me, my troubles, and how "bad" I have it. But when I start being thankful my gaze shifts upward. I start looking at God and recognizing how generously He has provided for me. When I give thanks to God, I am reminded of His faithfulness - and I remember no matter what I have, or do not have, God is good.

Oh, how I want to live with a thankful heart. Every moment of every day.
Because God is good. All the time!

Karen

Thursday, February 09, 2017

What I Wish I Would Have Heard

So the other day I was chatting with a friend on Facebook - via the comment section of her post. She was at our mutual dentist's office and I said something about liking the massage chair they have in the waiting room. I mentioned that I love sitting in it while Matthew is getting his ortho adjustments. Ahhhhhhhh.
And she replied that she wasn't able to enjoy it because she was "chasing the baby" - but realized she'll have a chance some day.
My initial reaction was to say, "Yes. You will." And then I was tempted to advise her to enjoy these moments because they'll go so fast. *Gag!*
Fortunately, before I typed such hypocrisy my memory took me back to a day at the pool when I was chasing kids. When I was looking longingly at the moms who got to sit around enjoying one another's company, seemingly relaxed and care-free. When one of them said to me, "Your time will come," and I didn't feel consoled by her words.
I remembered another time when an older mom tried encouraging me (At least, I think she was trying to encourage me.) by saying, "Oh, we've all been there." Except rather than being encouraged, I felt like her words were telling me I needed to suck it up - because I wasn't the only one who ever went through whatever I was going through at the moment. (In retrospect, I understand that was the faulty thinking of my depression.)
In light of these memories I paused before I finished typing my response. I didn't want to say anything which might in some way discourage or discount my young-mother friend. So I asked myself what I would have wanted to hear at that moment if I were in her shoes.
And I wrote, "Yes. You will. Until then, I pray God will give you the grace to stay in the moment and trust Him through each one." Because even as I wanted to encourage her to not wish these days away, I understand the desperation one can feel when it seems like "this" will never end. And I wanted to direct her gaze toward God as the One who will help her through every "this" she encounters.
Because I have been through a lot of "this."
And I have found that HE is faithful!

Hmmm. After writing these words it occurred to me that someone reading them - even now - may be in need of the same encouragement. If you're the one, I pray God will encourage you with the knowledge that HE sees you, HE knows what you're facing, and HE will be faithful to see you through it. May God give you the grace you need to stay in the moment and trust Him through each one.

Karen

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

How Should We Respond?

Have you noticed the unrest in our world today?

Heard about the arguing and resistance going on in Washington, D.C.?

Read any articles, or watched any reports about President Trump's Cabinet appointees?

Have you wondered what you can do???

As I scrolled through angry and concerned posts (about Betsy DeVos's confirmation) yesterday on Facebook, I commented one thing:
Let's pray for her, asking God to give her wisdom and to work good through her.
Regardless of our political affiliations or our feelings about the men and women in office in our government, I hope as brothers and sisters in Christ we can agree on one thing.
God is sovereign.
And if God is the One who is holding this world together, I hope we can agree to trust Him above our political leaders. Furthermore, if we are trusting Him over our political leaders it seems most reasonable to me that we ought to bringing them to Him in prayer. We ought to be petitioning God to work in and through them, according to His good pleasure and purpose.
And if we can agree to trust God and pray for our leaders, maybe we can find a way to exist in harmony with one another.

Karen

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Never Give Up

Full disclosure: I am not a big football fan. I had nothing riding on the Super Bowl. Didn't even know who was playing in it until I asked the girls in my Sunday school class this past weekend. And, going into the game - I didn't care who won.

Having said that...

What a great football game!
Er, more appropriately, what a great fourth quarter and overtime period.
Like I said, going into the game I didn't care who won. But I had heard something recently about Tom Brady being in or near his last season, because he's old. (*Gasp!* He's six years younger than I am. But knowing that he's old like me kinda gave me a soft spot in my heart for him.) And I heard that he could set some kind of record for the most Super Bowl wins, or something like that. And my softened heart thought it would be great for him to make that achievement. AND, I'm a sucker for the underdog. So when the Patriots were so far behind, well, I really started pulling for them.
In the midst of my rooting for the underdog, I had to answer to my son who had completely written them off. I kept telling Matthew there was still hope. That as long as there was time on the clock, there was still a chance for them. I told him this was a perfect example of why you should "never give up."
And he rolled his eyes at me.
Which made the result of the game even sweeter. *wink*

Motherly sarcasm aside, Sunday night's game really did make me smile. To see a team come from so far behind - when any reasonable person would have said the game was as good as over - just blessed my heart. Maybe because I think it is such a great lesson for my teenage son to learn as he gets ready to engage this great big world on his own.
And, maybe because I have been in so far behind myself.
So far behind plagued me as a young mom, trying to get a grip on raising kids.
Still haunts me now as I attempt to navigate parenting adult-children.
Some days I feel like the game is as good as lost.
Do you???
Thus, my sentiments for this year's Super Bowl victory.
I am reminded that we need to keep trying. As long as there is still time on the clock, we have a chance. We're only defeated if we throw in the towel.
So, fellow mothers-in-the-trenches, huddle up and let me hear you say it.
Never give up!!!

Karen

Monday, February 06, 2017

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Confessions of a Dependent Woman

I had lunch with a new friend yesterday.
We've met face-to-face a couple times, been Facebook friends for quite a while, and done our share of texting. But this was the first time we were able to spend any significant time together in person. And what a joy it was to watch God at work - breaking down walls and opening hearts.
See, this dear woman has been through some rough stuff in her life and is therefore a little gun-shy when it comes to trusting people and forming friendships. In spite of that fear, she felt comfortable being open with me and sharing her true self. And when she expressed her own surprise at how much she was sharing - because she believed I was "safe" - I suggested what I thought may an explanation for why she felt that way about me.
When I was a young mother struggling to hold myself together, I was living a lie. Every day when I left the house, I wore a mask trying to convey that I was a perfect mother - just like I thought everyone else was. Although on the inside I was a mess, I tried to portray confidence and happiness outwardly. And, wow! Was that ever a tiring charade to play!!!
So I shared this confession with my friend and explained to her that, by God's grace, I got over trying to be who I am not. I told her that by His gentle (and sometimes painful) refining fire, He is transforming me to be more like Jesus - and that I no longer feel I must try/pretend to have a handle on life.
I am fully dependent upon my Lord. For everything!
"So, you see," I told her, "I know I don't have it all together, and I don't expect anyone else to pretend to, either. Maybe that's why I feel safe." After further conversation we agreed: Any "together-ness" we have, anytime we get it right, or live virtuously, it is only by the grace of GOD and all the glory goes to HIM.

Without HIM, I am a hopeless mess. But with HIM - all things are possible!

Karen

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Dear God, I'm Sorry

The other day I was getting supplies together to go paint in a house we're getting ready to put on the market. Among those supplies was a plastic grocery bag. And as soon as I grabbed the bag and closed the cabinet door, I regretted my action.
Because Mindy came trotting over to me with a look of hopeful expectation.
And I wasn't going to grant her wish. (She thought I was preparing to take her out - as getting a plastic bag to, uh, be a responsible pet owner is one of the steps she knows comes before a walk.) Never mind it was too cold for a walk anyway. I had a job to do, so I apologized to my faithful companion for getting her hopes up - and I stepped outside.
Without her.
Yet I carried with me the very sad look in her eyes which cried out, But, Mom! I want to go with you. I want to go on a walk! Can't we spend time together?
And with the memory of her disappointed puppy-dog eyes, I found myself wondering if I've ever left God feeling the same way. How many times has He witnessed me picking up my Bible - as if I am going to spend time with Him in His Word - only to see me rushing through a reading, or so distracted by my circumstances that I am clearly not present with Him?
As much as I felt remorse at inadvertently getting Mindy's hopes up, it crushed my heart to consider the reality that I have grieved my Father's heart.
That I have left Him wanting for time with me.
Even wishing I would give Him as much attention as the task at hand.

Lord, Jesus, please forgive me. I am sorry for every time You have been graciously waiting for me to come and abide with You - to sit at Your feet and allow You to feed me from Your Word - and I have instead gone somewhere else. I am sorry for every time I have failed to notice You, forgotten to seek You, or simply brushed You off. Oh, that You desire to have me in Your Presence is too much for me to comprehend. That You - in Your holiness, would love me - in my imperfection. I cannot grasp the magnitude of that Truth, Father. Please, according to Your grace and mercy, establish me in Your love and enable me to cherish time with You as You cherish time with me.

Karen