When mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy!

Well that’s a lot of responsibility now isn’t it?  Can the same be said for joy?  If mama ain’t full of joy, ain’t nobody full of joy.

We’ve all heard this analogy before; when you’re on an airplane the flight attendant lets you know that in case of an emergency you’re to put your own air mask on before you help children, elderly or anyone else needing assistance.  The whole point is if you stop breathing you’re not going to be any good to those around you.

How does that relate to joy?  If we don’t grasp ahold of true joy (not happiness or pleasure) we aren’t going to be able to pass that along to our kids or share it with those around us.

In the last part of Nehemiah 8:10; Nehemiah was telling the Israelites to stop their weeping because the joy of the Lord would be their strength.  You see, the nation had been celebrating the Feast of the Trumpets.  It was supposed to be a party atmosphere, kind of like our upcoming New Year’s Celebration.  It marked the clean slate and fresh start for a new year.  So why were the people weeping?  The priest had been reading to them from God’s word and they were upset because they knew they had fallen short when it came to following God’s law.  Don’t we all?

Nehemiah noticed the weeping and told the people to stop crying and celebrate.  There’s a time to evaluate where you are in life and make necessary changes, but this was not the time.  This was a celebration!  It was a time to remember all the Lord had done for them.  It was time to jump for joy!

Photo Credit: rAmmoRRison via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: rAmmoRRison via Compfight cc

So where do we get our strength; same place, it’s the joy of the Lord.  It’s sitting and remembering times, people, places and events in our lives where we could see God’s hand.  The joy in knowing He’s been there through it all and will continue to be.  The knowledge that He wants a relationship with us and isn’t turning His back on us.

As women I know sometimes we feel selfish taking time for ourselves.  After all, if we take a break who is going to do all the work that needs done?  Well guess what mama; there’s always going to be work that needs done.   Taking a few moments to remember what the Lord has done in your life could mean the difference between you having a lousy day, working in your own strength, or a great day, because you are relying on the Lord the way you have in the past.  Remembering what He’s brought us through builds our joy in current difficult situations because we have a history with Him.  He’s carried us before and yes, He’ll do it again!

While we’re approaching the end of a year and looking ahead to 2014, it’s a good time to celebrate!  Take a few minutes and write down a list of things the Lord has done for you.  Better yet; start a gratitude journal that you can look through this time next year and remind yourself of a year worth of God’s blessings.  Then share it!  Tell your kids and your spouse.  Let them read the journal; pass on the goodness of God to those around you.

Don’t keep it all to yourself!  Spread the joy mama!

A Selfless Adventure – Meet the Cooke Family

Have you every packed up your house and kids and moved to a foreign place away from all family and friends?   Boy we sure did!  Twice!

I remember the first time I moved away from “home”.  My husband got a job three hours north of our parents and we loaded up the U-haul and our two year old daughter and headed off on a grand adventure.  We already had friends in the area and a church to attend so despite it being my first time so far from family it wasn’t a lonely experience by any means.

Fast forward five years and we left on another adventure.  This time we moved from Michigan to Virginia for my husband to attend Liberty University.  We didn’t know anyone except for one first year college student who actually started at the college the same time we did.  This proved to be a more difficult transition.  Pretty lonely.  Financially strapped.  Mountains.  No snow.  Cancelling school if you had to scrape frost off your car windows.  Very foreign!

On both of my life changing adventures I was still only a few minutes away from a McDonalds, K-Mart, Wal-mart, mall, etc.  The people in the communities all spoke English and had the same culture I was used to.

Think for a moment of leaving home and going where you weren’t separated from family by miles of  land connected by highways but by miles of ocean.   A distance marked by a 47 hour flight consisting of 5 layovers.   Now think about doing this for the sole purpose of telling others about Jesus and meeting their medical needs.  Oh yeah, and the fact that there’s no money involved – you’re going to be living on a tremendously tight budget of funds you have to raise yourself.  So….  Are ya packing yet?

Meet the Cooke Family!  Chris is an RN and Sarah is a stay-at-home mom with four beautiful girls (Riley, McKenna, Amelia and Lucy) between the ages of 11 and 6. This summer they packed up their belongings and moved to Papua New Guinea; an island just above Australia.  They are there serving the people of PNG along with 300 missionary families in the medical clinic.  Their first term with the Mission will be for four years.

cookes

A few years ago the Cookes began to feel God was leading them to international missions.  Chris heard about the need for an RN at the clinic in PNG.  Their medical care is very limited and most of the tribal people still believe in using witchcraft as a method of healing.  Believing God had led them to hear about this position the couple started searching for a mission organization to work with.  It took 2 ½ years of planning and preparation before they were able to get on a plane.  Chris needed to obtain his PNG nursing license (which took a year itself) and everyone needed passports and immunizations.  They had to sell their house and they also sold most of their belongings.

Chris doesn’t receive a pay check at the clinic; like a lot of missionaries they had to raise their own support.  Once all the preparations were completed they purchased their airline tickets and were ready to go.  Even though they were only at 45% of their needed support they were heading out on faith.

The Cooke girls catching a nap during their 47 hour trip!

The Cooke girls catching a nap during their 47 hour trip!

When they finally landed in PNG they were off on an adventure of their own.  Simple things like hot water we take so much for granted here in the states; in the Cooke’s new surroundings they have solar hot water heaters which means a shower taken in the morning or on a cloudy day are going to be quite chilly!  What about learning the cultural differences – over there raising your eyebrows at someone is similar to us whistling at someone with a bit more connotation.  Can you imagine gestures you’ve grown up with now mean entirely different things due to the cultural changes?  Not only getting use to new foods and having to cook entirely from scratch, but also spending your mornings trying to learn new languages so you can function in this new culture that has 850 languages.  The cost of living differences are huge as well; their produce is really cheap since the climate is great for agriculture however their prepackaged foods are horrible expensive since it all has to be flown in.  A single box of cereal cost $12 U.S. dollars!MARKET

Chris has been able to help meet the needs of the clinic as he serves as the RN.  Outside of routine illnesses he helps prepare medical supplies daily to be sent out to missionaries living out among the tribes.  Since there are no road systems the medical supplies are often delivered via airplane.

neighborhood

The family has also been able to minister to a mother and her newborn that are staying with them who arrived with a serious life threatening virus.  Sarah has been teaching the mother about infant care and hygiene and the baby is finally gaining weight!nasha

Currently they are looking into purchasing a home so they don’t have to move around from rental to rental for four years and also it will help lower their taxable income.  They will need to raise $10,000 for a down payment in order to purchase.

If you’d like to learn more about the Cookes or support their ministry to the people of PNG you can check out their blog page through New Tribes Mission.

31 days

This post is part of the Nester’s 31 Day Challenge; Writing on the same topic each day of the month of October.  Click on over to the Challenge to find a number of topics and authors ranging from Simplicity & Organizing to Personal Endeavors. You can head back here and scroll to the bottom of this post for a listing of all 31 days of Good News & Good People Doing Good Things.

Adopt-A-Grandparent

My mom will be 81 next month.  She’s in a season of her life that can be rough.  She has me nearby, my husband and my kids but I know since my dad has passed away she can get quite lonely at times.  We live about 25 minutes away from her and I’m very grateful that she has some awesome neighbors.  They keep her sidewalks shoveled in the winter and visit daily for tea.  She has told me that the loneliest part of her day is in the evening, when it’s dark out and the light of day is gone as well as its promise of a possible visitor or drive outside.

My mom is actually very fortunate; her health is great and she has good friends and a good church that keep her busy.  A lot of seniors aren’t as fortunate as my mom.  I hear her tell stories of some of her friends who don’t have families that live close by that can help them or worse, their families are around but for whatever reason the relationship is over or they don’t bother disrupting their daily life in order to help.

In August of 1978 Linda Langstraat found herself living in the inner city neighborhood of Grant Park in Atlanta, GA.  She was embarking on a new career of ministering to senior citizens with the Mennonite Central Committee. She started with a group of 35 seniors who had little support and lived alone.  In talking with the seniors she found out their greatest need was just having someone to visit with.  Linda immediately knew she could handle that and knew this was where God wanted her.

Shortly after she arrived in Atlanta she attended a workshop by Bob Lupton, Executive Director of FCS Urban Ministries.  After the workshop she knew she wanted to be the hands and feet of Jesus to these seniors.  She and Bob began meeting on a weekly basis to brainstorm ideas for working together to serve them.

As time went on and Linda grew closer to her seniors she noticed repairs that needed done on their homes, hair that needed washed and many other long overdue chores.  She began doing all she could for them and as people started to hear of her work they wanted to help.  Churches quickly became involved and began helping and donating supplies.

Seven years later Linda realized those 35 seniors she befriended has given her much more than she felt she had given them.  Seeing how much this was doing in her own life she decided she’d offer the opportunity to others.  The Adopt-A-Grandparent Program came into being.  Over 1,000 seniors have been “adopted”, loved and cherished since those early days of the program in 1978.

31 days

This post is part of the Nester’s 31 Day Challenge; Writing on the same topic each day of the month of October.  Click on over to the Challenge to find a number of topics and authors ranging from Simplicity & Organizing to Personal Endeavors. You can head back here and scroll to the bottom of this post for a listing of all 31 days of Good News & Good People Doing Good Things.

 

A Nice Debt Collection Agency?

Isn’t “Nice Debt Collection Agency” an oxymoron?

 

31 days

This post is part of the Nester’s 31 Day Challenge; Writing on the same topic each day of the month of October.  Click on over to the Challenge to find a number of topics and authors ranging from Simplicity & Organizing to Personal Endeavors. You can head back here and scroll to the bottom of this post for a listing of all 31 days of Good News & Good People Doing Good Things.

Chloe’s Community

Chloe Saxby is a beautiful 5 year old girl from Australia who loves to talk about Kindergarten.  In January of 2012 she was running, riding a bike, dancing and acting like any other three year old.  In February that year she became ill with a virus and was vomiting.  After she had been without vomiting and fever for one week her mom and dad took her back to her preschool class.  They received a call from her teacher; she had been stumbling and could not climb out of the sandbox herself.  Her parents took her straight to her doctor.   After numerous doctor visits and testing they were given a diagnosis in April.  Chloe had Vanishing White Matter Disease, a form of Leukodystrophy; a degenerative brain disease with no forms of treatment or cure at this time.  There are only two institutions in the world that are even searching for a treatment.

chloe

The family was sent to Sydney Children’s Hospital where they were met by a team of neurologists who then forwarded her information to the Netherlands to a doctor who is an expert on White Matter Disease.  They were told how the white matter of the brain is composed of fibers coated in a fatty covering called myelin.  In White Matter Disease this myelin is damaged and disappears which makes the nerve impulses slow down or fail.

Slowly she has been losing her ability to function properly.  She’s no longer able to stand or walk and has very little use of her arms.

So how does this heart wrenching stories make its way into my 31 Days of Good News & Good People doing Good Things?  Well, it can be amazing to watch how people can reach deep into their hearts and pockets to come to the aid of a family going through life shattering changes.

When their town of Woonona, Australia heard of the family’s situation they decided they just had to help.  Unable to deliver a treatment plan or cure they did one thing that was in their power.  Participation came from a number of local businesses from school to swim clubs.  Their banded efforts raised nearly $40,000 to convert the family’s van into one with wheelchair access for Chloe.  Efforts to raise funds for treatment and research for a cure still continue through marathons and other fundraising efforts.

Mrs. Saxby is starting a fundraiser and is one of four women worldwide that have come together to raise funds and sponsor a conference to help aid further research.   If you’d like to learn more or donate go to http://www.chloesaxby.com.au/ .

31 days

This post is part of the Nester’s 31 Day Challenge; Writing on the same topic each day of the month of October.  Click on over to the Challenge to find a number of topics and authors ranging from Simplicity & Organizing to Personal Endeavors. You can head back here and scroll to the bottom of this post for a listing of all 31 days of Good News & Good People Doing Good Things.

A Single Mom Reaches Out And Ends Up Touching Thousands

In 1994 a recently divorced, 41 year old mother of two boys found herself struggling to pay bills and handle car repairs, and other problems with no one she could talk to.  This mom, Debbie Quick, put an ad in a local paper for any other single mothers who would like to get together and share their stories and struggles and be a support for one another.  In 1995 in her Santa Clarita, CA living room the first meeting of Single Mothers Outreach was held.  The group organized a closet of gently used clothes donated by the community as well as groceries allowing moms in need the ability to get free clothes for themselves and their kids as well as a few days worth of groceries.  Seven years later it opened its first storefront in Canyon Country.

The business functioned as a drop-in type service for years for people who were in crises providing the free clothes and food to those in need.  In 2007 they restructured and partnered with various organizations in the region in order to expand their services.  In 2013 SMO moved to Savia Community Partnership along with the Domestic Violence Center of Santa Clarita and A Light of Hope so the organizations could all work together to help families in crises.  Their building was underwritten by members of Real Life Church in order to save SMO’s funding for their programs.   In February of 2013 they opened Closet on Main which is a boutique clothing store whose proceeds help fund the organization and also provides retail management training for some of the women they are helping.

Their primary focus is single moms due to the fact that they tend to fall into a lower economic status but they also serve single dads as well.  Over 60% of those they help have income levels under $15,000 per year and you may be surprised to know most are not those who left their marriages due to domestic violence but rather horrible divorce scenarios where one parent has completely walked away from the family.

They offer financial literacy programs from Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University as well as technical training, job search skills, group sessions and other resources.

DaAnne Smith is the current director of Single Mothers Outreach and had previously spent years on the board of directors.  Motivating her is a desire to see people’s lives transform from near hopeless situations to confidence that they can make it in their new life with the knowledge that there are others that care and who they can lean on for support.

They would love someday to see chapters open in other communities.  Seeing people rise above their circumstances and not stay defeated as a victim helps the person, the family, the community and ultimately the nation.

To date SMO has helped more than 2,200 single parent homes get back on their feet, gain independence and support.

For more information you can find them at http://singlemothersoutreach.org/.

31 days

This post is part of the Nester’s 31 Day Challenge; Writing on the same topic each day of the month of October.  Click on over to the Challenge to find a number of topics and authors ranging from Simplicity & Organizing to Personal Endeavors. You can head back here and scroll to the bottom of this post for a listing of all 31 days of Good News & Good People Doing Good Things.

9 Tips That Help Me Through Fibro Foggy Days

Well it’s Friday and around here I like to take a little time to write about my daily struggles with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.

How do I say this?  I CAN’T THINK STRAIGHT THIS WEEK.  Ok, I guess I came up with those words pretty easy but if I wanted to speak past a 6th grade grammar level this week I would have needed a thesaurus.

Researchers are studying more and more on the topic of “fibro fog”.  At it’s very worst it can cause a disorienting affect that can leave a person not knowing where they are or where they were headed for 30-90 seconds or more.  I have  personally been fortunate to not have experienced things that bad.  My main problems are losing my train of thought sometimes mid-sentence, comprehending what I’m reading and having trouble following conversations.  Sometimes it can feel like a bunch of static in my head and I wish I could just tune in to whatever channel is my focus for that moment.  Sometimes I’ll have to ask people to repeat what they just said because it feels like it literally goes in one ear and out the other.

There are a few little tricks I’ve been keeping up my sleeves for days like this.  I thought I’d share a few of my personal dos and don’ts with you.

  1.  Don’t trust your brain.  Even though you think of yourself as a normally intelligent person who’s really focused; just face it.  For certain periods of time, possibly every day for some, you won’t be able to trust the little grey matter computer in your skull.  Don’t stress about it or feel less of a person – just work with it.  Determine that you’ll change how you do certain things so you can manage at your very best!
  2. Don’t panic – you’re not losing your mind.  I have a book by Dr. Teitelbaum called From Fatigued to Fantastic; a guide for Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue (I recommend this book!  Great for someone newly diagnosed or who’s been navigating the fibro waters for a while), he says that some patients will get really nervous that they could be losing their mind or developing Alzheimer’s.  He states how the two aren’t related and the one doesn’t turn into the other.  For example, with fibro fog I might forget what you just told me, but with Alzheimer’s I may forget who you are.
  3. Make lists!  And use them!  Use a planner too!  I am getting better at this all the time.  For example, I developed a grocery list that breaks down into 14 sections according to the 14 isles in my local grocery store.  This really helps me to stay on track and focused.  I don’t have to keep scanning through a list to be sure I grabbed it all; I just start at isle one and I’m all set.  I’ve made multiple copies of the list and I have them on a clip board hung on the inside of my pantry door.
  4. Sleep.  Please don’t throw something at the computer screen.  I won’t feel the hit anyway and you’ll have to fix your computer.  The problems with fibro fog will just be magnetized the more tired and wore out you are.  I understand insomnia can come with the territory too; try your best to do what you can to wind down at night and possibly talk to your dr to see what can be done to help.  Insomnia is horrible and can highlight the fatigue, fog, and pain.
  5. Talk to your doctor about possibly adding some supplements to your mix.  I discovered a supplement called ribose from reading that book I mentioned by Dr. Teitelbaum.  It’s a simple, natural sugar that your body uses in the energy molecules and can help the body process other nutrients as well; such as the B vitamins.  As part of my treatment my doctor has me taking B vitamins 3x’s a day; mainly for the fatigue because my body isn’t retaining B or D nutrients.  However, I have noticed a drastic difference with my fibro fog on days I don’t take them.  But like I said, check with your doctor first!
  6. Get oxygen moving in your blood!  Again, if you’re going to throw something at your screen right now, do yourself a favor and make it a cotton ball or something.  Exercise increases the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain and it does help with the fog.  I understand there are days we can barely shower let alone get out for a walk; for those days, I’ve even noticed sitting on my porch or even in the house in a quiet room for a bit and breathing deeply helps calm down my mind when it’s racing or foggy and it allows me to focus better.
  7. Cut back on the sensory overload.  I grew up in a house where the tv was on almost constantly.  Sad to say it’s on way too much in my own home most days.  To top it off I have my cell phone, my ipod, my computer, my husband, my kids and my grandson all contributing to the amount of input my brain is trying to process at any given moment.  On days I’m at my foggiest I find taking some time away from all the media noise helps!  I can’t turn off the people in the home, I’ve tried ;).  But I can limit what I can control!
  8. Uni Task.  Yep, did I just coin a new phrase?!  I don’t know who decided multi-tasking was the benchmark for productive women but they certainly didn’t have fibro.  I’m not militant about this, yes, I’ll do other things while I have a load of laundry in the washer but trying to do too much just adds to the already confused state of our minds.  Focus on one thing at a time and don’t allow yourself to be distracted with trying to do multiple things at once.
  9. Avoid caffine.  Trust me, a Coke is usually the first thing I want to grab when I need to focus but it only means you’re going to crash later on; trust me.  Also because it’s a stimulant it can make all those jumbled thoughts floating around in there move faster and making things worse!

Stay well – Live Joyfully!