THE MIRACLE OF LIFE – THE DEVASTATION OF DEATH

How do you process the two emotions in the same day, in the same moment?

My niece delivered her precious baby boy yesterday.  His birthday is 11-12-13; how wonderful!

My daughter’s 21 year old friend died 12 hours later in a car accident.  How crushing!

Both have left me clinging to my sweet 1 ½ year old grandson as I rejoice in new life and mourn for a woman who will never again hold her son.  Surreal and numbing when these two collide.

A blow of reality where the circle of life shows its completion simultaneously.

Such a gift of undisclosed time.

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GREEN GRASS UNDER MY FEET

All of us, or at least most of us…..   ok, ok,  I have had moments in my life where I’ve looked over the fence and saw that the grass was so much greener in someone else’s yard; at least from my view point.  Have you ever been there?

Maybe we need to pick a different fence to look over.  I mean, I think pretty much everyone except Bill Gates can look at their “neighbors” and find something to make them jealous.  To be honest, if you ask Bill Gates, I bet there are things he’s jealous of too; probably not material things his neighbors have (except their iphones – just had to say it ;), but there are a lot of other things that can make us jealous.  What about the lady that walked past me at the store today, I swear she can eat all the ice cream she wants and maintain her high school weight without exercise!  And how about that family at Applebees?  Did you see them?? They had all four kids, under the age of ten, sitting and eating nicely; laughing and talking; yes, mommy; no thank you, daddy.  Blah!  Mine never behaved that well at a restaurant at that age.  And have you seen that couple?  They are just so sweet to each other, so in love, I bet they never fight and he always puts the toilet seat down.

Yeah, there a plenty of material and non-material things we can get a little jealous over if we think about it.

Maybe, just maybe, we should look over the fence at the other yard.  You know the one I mean.  We don’t tend to spend much time looking that way.  Honestly, we don’t spend enough time looking that way.  You see the yard on the other side of that fence has the dried brown grass with patches of mud.  It’s not landscaped nice and sure isn’t a pretty sight to see.  It has the grass hut for a house and the family that has to walk miles just to get water to drink, the couple who sit at their child’s bedside each night going through the painful ordeal of changing their bandages and administering medication.  Yes, it’s the home of the woman who lost her husband way too young in a senseless car accident.

How come we hardly ever look in that yard?  Why do we take so much time focused on the small percentage of the world’s population that have it “better” than us and so little time on those in need.  I know we would be quick to say it’s because looking in the dried up yard is depressing.  Is it really less depressing to us when we look at what makes us jealous?  I know it tends to get me down if I spend a lot of time focused on keeping up with the Jones’ and all the things I don’t have but wish I did.

I don’t have a naturally optimistic personality.  Sometime it can be exactly the complete opposite.  (Did ya get that I’m not about to call myself a pessimist?)  The funny thing is that a lot of the time while I’m going through something or in a certain phase of my life, I’ll be completely unhappy with it.  I look over the fence at yards that I think are quite a bit greener than the one I’m standing in at the moment.  The ironic part of all is once I’m out of that situation or phase of life I’ll miss it, and I’ll realize it wasn’t as bad as I thought; and somehow in my messed up mind that phase or situation that I was so unhappy in now looks like the yard with the greener grass.

But I don’t think it stops at just controlling our jealousies and regrets.  We can’t just stop wishing we could go back in our past and re-live happier days and the world magically becomes a better place.  The whole point isn’t just to make us feel better about ourselves and our lives.  No, I think there is another step here.  The next step would be seeing if there is anything we can do or any of our resources we can use to help fill in some lush grass in someone else’s yard, or at least water it a little.  You know the one, the yard with the dried brown grass and patches of mud.

Is there a needy family that could use an anonymous gift of food left on their door step?  If you don’t know of anyone, you could always contribute to your church or community food bank.  Is there an elderly person who has recently lost their spouse and would love some company and maybe even lunch at McDonald’s?

I know what you’re thinking, those two ideas involved giving money of some sort and in this economy we don’t always have the extra funds.  How about the single mom who could really use a babysitter for the evening so she could take a bubble bath at home and a nap?  Or what about the pregnancy center, they could always use one of those beautiful baby blankets you know how to knit.

Do you get the picture?

I hope you as a reader don’t feel I’m being “preachy” here.  Trust me, I tend to write about things that God has laid on my own heart; things in my life that need changed.  This subject has been on my mind a lot lately.

Anyway, just a thought for this evening.  Being pickier about which fence we choose to look over could help us and others out quite a bit.  Allow me to be a little corny here, but… what the world needs now is love sweet love; not jealousy and envy.  And what better way to be open to opportunities we are presented with than focusing our attention on the dried up yards covered in mud instead of the lush green ones.

John 13:34-35  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

DOG-GONE HUMAN TENDANCIES

My dog is a Rottweiler; in his head.  Without hesitation, the minute he sees or even hears someone outside he runs to the window or front door and sounds like he’s ready for the attack.  If you didn’t know him, you’d be a little taken back by his rabid dog-like behavior.  He doesn’t even seem to grow weary of the facade.  Every. Single. Day. The mailman comes to our door, simply doing his job to deliver our mail, and is accosted by the sounds of a raging maniac of a dog.  Our neighbor is visited daily by family members and I’ve often wondered just what they think of the seemingly vicious animal noises they hear as they pull into their mother’s driveway, just to the left of our front yard and in plain sight of my watch dog.

When a visitor arrives at our house the insane show of brute force-household protection begins.

Now open the door.

Meet Trevor, our Jack Russell Terrier.  His pure excitement at having someone walk through that door completely consumes him.  He has to sniff every inch of your leg from your knee to your toe.  From this moment on, he’ll follow your every move throughout our house; sit next to you on the couch with his chin lightly perched on your knee.  He has nothing more to say; just being near you is enough.  If you happen to choose to sit in a chair instead of the couch, it’s very likely he’ll sit at your feet and whine like a baby until you invite him onto your lap.  Yep, pure watchdog he ain’t!

His little bipolar show had me thinking quite a bit the other day.  We had to have the repairman out to fix the dishwasher at our new little house.  Trevor kept with his usual Rottweiler like behavior until the man was in the house.  The whole time he was stationed at the dishwasher fixing the machine, my little terrier sat next to him.  Staring.  Speechless.

I was thinking how much I tend to be like Trevor when it comes to sharing my faith with others.  When I’m home and surrounded by family I am fully confident.  I am ready to attack the world; loudly and boldly barking out the news of how my personal relationship with Christ has made such a difference in my life.

Now open the door.

This time someone isn’t coming in my home.  This time I’m going out.  Out into the world.  Seeing people and interacting with others.  Having multiple opportunities to share Christ or show His love.  So what do I do?  More often than not I sit.  Being friendly, taking in what others have to say and simply enjoying being with them.  Mouth shut.

I know what the problem is.  I think we’ve all experienced it at some level when we’ve had something important to share.  Fear of rejection.  After all, isn’t that Trevor’s problem too.  We just want to be accepted and loved.

I think I’ve wasted a lot of time and opportunities worried about being accepted.  I should be more concerned about looking for the God-created opportunities to share the news of His gift of salvation and eternal life with others.  Ultimately, I should be focused on one day hearing my Savior say, “well done.”

So while I take time to work on the first impression Trevor gives and try to balance his energetic fervor of protecting his family with his need of acceptance; I think I’ll work on my own balance.  That’s why I started this blog after all.  Balance.  I’ll try to be more mindful of the moments that come my way to show God’s love to others and share the news of His Son’s sacrifice.  I’ll try to be a little less worried about how I may look, and a little more concerned about how Christ’s love is portrayed through me.

2011 SAW DRASTIC CHANGES – WELCOME 2012!!

Amber & Austin - Christmas 2011

From the very first day of 2011 to the very last day; my life has changed in more ways than I could have imagined; making 2012 by far different than I had planned.

At the beginning of the year I was going to work each day to a job I loved.  Face it, in America we introduce ourselves according to what we do for the most part, and not who we really are.  This was one huge change I was about to see unfold as I gave up my career to be home.  This choice came as a result of other things that happened in 2011, primarily my health and the health of my family.  As the year began I found myself visiting a few doctors to find that my fibromyalgia has been getting worse and was now being joined by its frequent traveling partner; chronic fatigue.  The two create a vicious cycle that spirals in only a downhill motion.  Blood work revealed that my body wasn’t retaining any of the b vitamins as well as vitamin d.  Sugar and caffeine are enemies of these two syndromes but you feel forced to depend on them to get through your day which then leads to more complications and crashing each night.   The depletion of nutrients in my system has also led to recurring infections.  The worst of which hit the end of June as an impacted sinus infection that had me in the emergency room feeling like I was having a stroke as the left side of my body became immobile and my speech was slurred; to the most recent being three kidney infections in three months.  So I found myself ending the year unemployed and under anesthesia as more tests were needed.  So there we have major change number one; the choice to give up a career and essentially lose a piece of who I had been on January 1st; which I feel was a far better choice than losing me altogether.

Shall we move on to major change number two?  In the 22 years we have been married we have packed up and moved homes eight times.  Well, I thought, and hoped that this last move would be the LAST MOVE.  But as you can imagine, some of the aftershock of major change number one was the loss of my income.  My husband and I made the same amount each year.  He did always seem to work enough overtime so his W2 was a little higher than mine though.  😉  When you give up 50% of your income you can’t keep 100% of what you have.  So we are moving, once again, this time to a house that is quite a bit smaller than the one we are in.  There wasn’t much of a choice here as all four of us voted and the fact that we like to eat a little something each day left us with the only choice being eliminating the high house payment.  So downsize it is.

Major change number three, or maybe this is just a major event, came just a few weeks after I left my job.  My husband was rushed into surgery for an emergency appendectomy.  This of course was a short term event and one without any real lasting consequence other than the fact that my husband is never ill, so seeing him in the hospital for a few days and off work a few weeks was quite an event for our family.

So we are left with major change number four.  This was and is by far the one that has changed me the most.  Our 20 year old daughter is expecting and I will be a grandmother.  Before I get a ton of emails and messages please read on.  Yes, my daughter is unmarried, and yes we were flooded with emotions the day we heard that were nothing like the emotions I imagined feeling the day I heard I was going to have my first grandchild.  I had expected tears of joy, not tears of sorrow.  I had expected being excited and not distraught.  I literally cried for seven days straight.  We had been through so much, why this?  Well, the thing that shifted my thinking and got me to dry my tears came in the form of some simple words from my 17 year old son.  He said he wasn’t worried about what people were going to say about her because he’d just tell them that it was by God’s grace that their tummy’s didn’t grow every time they sinned.  Yep, she has to wear her consequence right out front for all to see and others may be able to keep some of theirs hidden for no one to see but God Himself.  You know what? My son is absolutely right.  I’m not at all justifying the sin or trying to make light of it in any way.  I’m simply saying that we humans tend to base our judgment of others on what we see happening out in the open.   For sure the bitterness I’ve held in my heart for ten years now doesn’t compare to this, right?  Wrong!  The lie that you’ve told, well now, that has to be overlooked since you can justify the reason you lied, right? Wrong!  What about that sin that is buried so deep in your heart that it only comes to mind sometimes late in the middle of the night that you can’t tell anyone about because no one would understand?  What about the fact that you might look at her or someone else and think to yourself, “At least I’m not that bad.”?  Well, that might just be the proud look mentioned in Proverbs 6:17 as one of the seven things the Lord hates.

Yep, no one but God may ever be aware of most of our sins.  And yep, everyone that meets us will be aware of this one of my daughters.  Fortunately, she has the opportunity for God to have the glory in this.  Even this!  She has the opportunity to raise a child to know God and serve Him.  Knowing full well that life is sacred she never even considered some of the “choices” that others may think were more convenient for her.  I give her a lot of credit for that and am so thankful.  I give her credit for admitting what she did and not letting what others may think or say keep her from church and following God.  There isn’t one person alive that would be able to serve God if our sin kept us from His service.  My family is very fortunate to be in the church and circle of friends we are in at this time that are continuing to love her and not ostracize her as I’ve seen happen before.

Yes, you have every right to say I’m just standing up in defense of my daughter.  You bet I am.  You know why?  Because based on those words of my 17 year old son I had to face the fact of my own judgment on her.  I had to look hard at myself and the sins in my past and my present that leave me only able to drop to my knees and repent to the One who came to die for those sins.  I have no right to judge her, or anyone else, only God has that right.  I am not saying what happened wasn’t wrong or condoning it at all.  I just saying we aren’t to be judging each other or trying to decide who has repented and who hasn’t.  We are called to love and edify one another.  We all have different consequences to different sins.  Her consequence is going to be with her for the rest of her life and I’ll be there to help her and love her and keep her eyes on the Lord as she’s going to need Him now more than ever before!

Believe me, I’m preaching to myself here.  In light of these circumstances I’ve been judging others that are judging her.  It has really brought to light my need to seek God deeper in my life so that my focus is on my relationship with Him and what I can do to serve Him and serve others for Him.

So now we move forward and search for ways that we can bring glory to God in this situation.  We have a beautiful pink or blue bundle of joy coming in July.  We have a baby that God has known was coming from the beginning of time.  This baby will never feel unwanted or unloved or feel as though it was a mistake.  No life is!

So we open 2012 with more life changes than I ever would have imagined in my wildest dreams.  But you know what?  It’s ok and it’s going to be ok.  My God is still on the throne and will work all things together for good because we are trusting Him.  I am so thankful to each of you who have prayed us through this past year and through other major events we’ve had throughout our life.  The love and support of those close has meant the world to us.

What did I tell you at the beginning of this blog?  Stay tuned!  Life can be quite a wild ride!  And our family has decided that we will be living a more joyful life the way God intended.  James chapter 1 says to count it all joy when you face trials.  I’ve decided instead of whining about what’s happened to us I need to realize that God apparently thinks we are strong enough to get through this if we lean on and trust in Him.  So there you have it – I’ve decided to see the joy in life!

And hey, did you hear? I’m going to be a grandma!

We interrupt this life to bring you….

To bring me what?  Well, I guess that’s exactly the answer I’m about to find out.

A short time back I had decided that my life was totally and completely out of balance and it was time to do something about it.  I had no idea the total turn things were going to take. 

As I write it’s now 11:50 am.  On my typical Thursday I’d be in my dress clothes, I would have probably answered 20 phone calls by now, assisted three staff members, approved two loans, responded to 12 emails, met with four members and set up three appointments.  Making decisions at every turn; some little and not important, some bigger and very important; usually all while someone else was waiting outside of my office to be the next to grab my attention.

So how’s today looking so far.  I’m still in pajamas, dishes are soaking in the sink, my daughter has texted giving me her lunch order so I can have it ready while she breezes through the house on her lunch hour, got the cat out of my husband’s dresser, found that the weekly menu list has been changed to read “mom’s home to cook from now on”, and received another text from my husband with a request for a particular meal for dinner.  My only two decisions so far today have been if I wash towels before or after darks and do I watch something on NetFlix or surf the net.  All while the dog stares at me wondering when I’m going to leave so he and the two cats can start their poker game; or whatever else they do while their home alone on Thursdays.

What’s happened?  I quit my job yesterday.  A very good paying job, with co-workers who were more like family, customers/members I loved and the actual work itself that I honestly loved, and was pretty good at – if I do say so myself.  So have I gone crazy?  Ah, not quite.  But I was well on my way. 

My job was pretty significant and so it made me feel pretty important too.  I liked that.  I liked feeling knowledgeable and having a job that helped people.  I liked being able to answer questions the staff had or at least knowing who to get the answers from.

So why walk away?

I think everyone has their own level of what they can and can’t handle.  Some people pass out at the sight of blood; other people spend their lives as a surgeon without a problem.  What you have to figure out is where your particular level is; and keep your life balanced so you stay under that.  I didn’t have balance.  I put my entire stress coping mechanism into my job.  When I got home and I was asked what was for dinner I’d go nuts thinking I had just made 80,000 decisions today for myself and others, can these people who live in this house just make one.  I was overwhelmed at times knowing there was a known, vast difference in the inequality of workloads and wishing some would work a little harder and help me out.  So when I was needed by my mom, who recently lost my dad, I was overwhelmed and it was just one more thing on my to-do list. 

I wasn’t putting my health as a concern.  Relationships lost their place.  You get the picture, right?  And for what? For a title.  To feel needed.  To feel important.  To like the number that appeared on the W2 at the end of the year.  To, to, to – to what?

It didn’t start that way.  I was never a career minded person.  I only went full time at work because my husband had lost his job.  It all came on slowly.  I was good at the job.  When I met someone and they asked me what I did, I had an answer that sounded a little important.  Like I mentioned in my blog post, balancing act; it was a slow fade.  I had my life in control. 

Wrong person to be calling the shots.  I quit leaning on God for direction.  I got this.  Me.  And I’m pretty good at it.   I didn’t forget about God.  I still believed in Him and His power.  But things were going good; at least I thought they were.  So why bother Him?  As time went on I was paranoid at the thought of making any mistake at all – at home or at work.  Bitterness grew.  I withdrew from relationships; the one with God and the ones with other people in my life.  Didn’t trust the people who had a hand in the amount of work or stress I had – home and in my career.  Felt unappreciated and like I didn’t matter much or why would they do this.

Yep, sounds psycho I know.  But when you get to that point you know enough is enough.  I tried little things to get back on track.  Even this blog was part of that.  But it finally came down to needing a huge change.  Wow, not the change I expected.  But the change that was needed!

When I was switching the laundry from washer to dryer I found myself singing an old song I had learned from a Gaither Vocal Band album when I was a kid, I believe it was written by Gary Chapman.  “I’m yours Lord, Everything I’ve got; everything I am, everything I’m not; I’m yours Lord, try me now and see, See if I can be completely yours.”  You could google the rest of the lyrics, their good!  And I remember the whole song and have caught myself singing it repeatedly throughout the morning.

Ok, I know that sounds even more psycho but you know what shocked me more than the fact that I could remember those lyrics from 25 years ago?  It was the fact that I was singing.  I am happy today.  I honestly haven’t felt this happy in a very long time. 

Some may think this was a dumb decision, some may think this is a step of faith.  But honestly, I’m not concerned with anyone’s initial thought.  I’m concerned with this chapter in my life turning, and bringing glory to God as He shows His work in my life.  That’s what He wanted all along.  I invite you to watch!  It’s going to be a wild ride.  When you give in and submit to God’s will and way in your life it always is!

So stay tuned!

Romans 8:18   “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

What is that awful smell?!?!?!

I have no clue.

Yep.

Nada. Zip. Zilch.

If you spend any amount of time with me you will certainly come to find an interesting fact.  I have no sense of smell.  Yes.  For real.  Honest.

I can’t tell you why or how or actually even when this happened.  I can’t exactly remember ever having it.  My mom will tell you of a time I had to see a doctor because I had cysts in my nasal passages and I was on medication to dissolve them.  Yada.  Yada.  She said that’s the best she can come up with to answer the, “How did this happen?” question.

It’s quite possible I never had the gift of that smell to begin with.  Some individuals are born without other senses like sight and hearing.  Those two seem to be the first things you think of when you think of a person who has lost one of their senses.  Honestly, I’ll take a defunct smeller over those two any day.

I actually know a man who lost his sense of taste due to an operation he had to have.  I can’t imagine losing a sense you’ve always had.  He can’t satisfy that natural desire for something sweet or salty, or anything he gets a craving for.  The pleasure associated with food is gone.  As much as he has tried to eat various things in hopes that he may at some time be able find something he can taste, his search has been unfruitful.

Losing or being born without the sense of touch has to be horrible.  I’ve seen reports of children that do not have a sense of touch so they are in constant danger of hurting themselves.  They can set their hand on a stove burner, resulting in third degree burns, and never feel a thing.

Yep, of all the senses to lose, I would have chosen smell had I been given the choice.

Diaper days were probably a bit easier for me to deal with than a mom with a properly functioning sniffer.  The down side – I’ve never smelled a rose or wonderful bread baking in the oven.

The question I get asked the most once people find out about my “disability” is if I can taste food.  Well, all I know is that I can taste what I’m eating.  I don’t know if my taste has picked up the slack for my loss of smell or if my taste isn’t quite as strong as yours; either way, if I eat a potato it taste different than chocolate pudding.

Now this doesn’t seem to be a problem for me throughout my day to day life, it seems like more of a bother to everyone else.  Try to think about it for the rest of the day today, how many times do you, or someone around you mention some scent wafting through the air.  Well let me tell ya, it’s quite a bit.  My own mother still asks me to smell things.  I’ve got to the point where I tend to just go along with it with people I don’t know very well, sometimes that’s easier than going through a whole explanation and question and answer session leaving me feeling like I need to join a freak show.  So, yep, sometimes I’ll simply stick my sniffer toward whatever olfactory stimulating item you’re holding out and just nod and say, “nice”.  To those I’ve known for a while I usually just tilt my head and raise my eyebrows and get the patronizing, “Oh, yeah, sorry, I forgot” response.  Or better yet, the “Well just try this, maybe you’ll be able to smell this one.”  Yeah, that’s the favorite of my daughter.

So what’s the whole reason I’m telling you all this, well, no reason really.  Just makes me think how each one of us may have things going on, something that from looking on the outside no one would be able to tell.  Things we’ve each learned to live with or without in our own lives.  That’s part of what makes us all unique.  So I can’t smell and maybe you have six thumbs; that’s what makes me, me and you, you.  I guess I’m just thinking that if there is something about someone that they can’t change we shouldn’t hold that against them.  The color of their skin.  Their height.  A disability.  The shape of their face.  Look past those things at the personality, yep, that’s where you can decide that the individual won’t make your recent call list on your cell phone.  But not the things they can’t change.  That kind of judgment would actually be saying their Creator had made a mistake.  No life is a mistake in any form.  Unique, yes.  Mistake, no.

I wouldn’t exactly call it lazy……

So I was in my bedroom on my wonderfully cozy bed enjoying a few moments of net surfing before I called it a night when my ghetto kitty, Kasey, kept getting on my computer.  I stroked her as long as I could but the cat hair getting on the keys wasn’t too appealing so I gently picked her up and tossed her out of my room and shut the door behind her. 

My husband and son were in the living room watching something on NetFlix when I noticed the pages on the websites I was visiting were taking forever to download.  I wasn’t concerned about my net problems; I was hoping that the slow lag on our wireless wasn’t affecting their movie.  I was totally willing to put the computer down and pick up a book if it was hindering their viewing.

Now let me preface this next bit of news with a few facts about me.  I have been known to text my kids in the morning to be sure they are up for school; I’m soooooo not a morning person.  I also have been known to make a phone call two minutes later when they didn’t return said text.

So naturally, keeping with my normal practice, I stayed put, on my bed, and preceded to text my husband to ask if my surfing was getting in the way of their show.  I heard the familiar ring of his text sound and turned my head to the left.  Well, low and behold, his phone happened to be on his night stand next to his side of the bed. 

Still concerned with whether or not my surfing was impeding their watching enjoyment, I proceeded to call my husband; loudly, due to the fact that I had recently shut the door on Kasey’s behind; and tell him that he had just received a text. 

The bedroom door opened and he came in, picked up his phone, and read.  As he looked at me, not surprised at all but more irritated, I couldn’t help but laugh.  I was so worried I was interrupting his show in one moment, and as quick as a blink, the worry faded right out the door as I focused on how comfortable I currently was with all the pillows around and behind me with my lap desk in place.  Like I said, my actions didn’t come as a huge shocker to him.  Nope, we had a good laugh and he retreated back to the living room to join Austin where he left off and I returned my attention back to the web.  Hmmmm? That’s funny, he forgot to shut the door when he left??  Hello Kasey.  Payback??? Maybe!