Category Archives: family

A Community Mourns

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I woke today, just another day. Tuesday. I headed to Bible study, the chiropractor, took my mom to an appointment and went to the grocery store.  Everything pretty typical.  Just another day.  Yet, it wasn’t just another day.  It was a day that I was super aware of the gift of this day, of this time.

A family in our community lost their son/brother/grandson/nephew. A real tragedy.  A family of 6 became 5 overnight. In an instant, their world changed.  My world didn’t change…or did it? Today I mourned along with my entire hometown.  Everyone I know knows someone in this family & we would like to help, but unfortunately, there is nothing we can do. We are at a loss, but we long to find something we can do. The town can think of little else and as we go about our “normal” day, we know that inside the walls of that home there are tears, hugs, and folks poring over photos of happier times. This family is surrounded by love and I have no doubt that they will survive, but right now they are in pain and the community wishes we could take the pain away.

Not having a better idea, I decided to buy some paper products and drop them off at their home. When I pulled into their driveway, I noticed their garage doors were open. I got out of my car with my packages and walked up to a garage full of drinks, cases of water, paper plates, jugs of juice, etc. I was struck by the overwhelming amount of items that people had been dropping off. I didn’t see a family member and I didn’t need to.  They know that people are heartbroken on their behalf because they would be hurting if it happened to any other family.  They would be the first ones there with gifts and prayers. No words can express our deepest sympathy and paper plates and cases of water can’t either, but maybe the love behind all of them will be felt and ease the burden a tiny bit.

Today was just another day, but as I went through my normal routine, I was aware that there is nothing normal for them.  They will need to figure out their new normal and it will take a long time, but from the looks of it, they will have enough paper plates and love to get them until that time.  Until then we will keep on praying.

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“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”        2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”         Matthew 5:4

 

 

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Lenten Blessings

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I have had the privilege of hosting Wednesday evening suppers throughout Lent. Our community is pretty unique in that we celebrate Lent together among denominations.  So, on one Wednesday,  the Presbyterian pastor preaches at the Lutheran church, another one the Reformed Pastor will preach at the Methodist church, etc.  We all worship together and grow and learn with different congregations.  It was truly a blessing and as we head into Holy Week, we will have a few more opportunities to worship together.

This year, my husband and I decided to host supper before each service.  It has been a fun time to get together and socialize a bit before church.  It was a huge blessing for me.  And, speaking of blessings, I printed out a couple and made table tents of them so that they could be on display so if someone arrived late, they could say their own prayer before eating.  As the season progressed though, we started just holding up the printed cards and everyone prayed together. We used two different blessings.

The first one was handed down to me from my mother’s father. John Dunlap Wise.

Dear Heavenly Father, We thank you for the many blessings that are conferring us from day to day. Bless this food now to us. Watch over us and guide us through life, and at death, accept us. Amen.   I can hear his voice and his cadence as I pray it.

The second one I found online:

For food that stays our hunger, For rest that brings us ease, for homes where memories linger, we give our thanks for these. Amen.

They are great blessings to share. Happy Easter!

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A Funk Buster!

IMG_3353Yesterday I was in a funk.  No doubt about it.  Today I looked up the word “funk” and found out its’ synonym is depression.  Woah, that’s heavy.  But, yesterday I was in a funk and it just felt heavy for no real reason.  Plenty on my mind, but nothing terribly pressing.  I just sat and went deeper and deeper into my funk.  I played games on my phone, watched junk TV and ate an entire bag of potato chips.  At an event last night (an eating event where we sampled foods from different countries,) I shared with some Moms that I had eaten an entire bag of chips.  Then I did the math.  170 calories per serving, 7 servings per container equals 1190 calories!  I quickly admitted that I was growing sick towards the end of the bag and didn’t finish about 1/2 serving so they allowed me to deduct some calories.  OK, so I will have to sit with the fact that I consumed 1105 calories worth of Baked Sweet Potato Chips. (A healthier alternative to regular potato chips if you eat less than the entire bag!)

Regardless, the chips didn’t cheer me up. Being entertained by mindless television didn’t lift my spirits and playing Sodoku on my phone did not make me a genius. I went to bed discouraged and dissatisfied. However, I also went to bed with the resolve that today was going to be a much better day.  Before going to bed early to get adequate sleep, I deleted the games on my phone, I laid out my clothes for the day, I sat out a lemon to start my day with a cup of hot lemon water and I changed my attitude.

I woke early after a good nights’ sleep and began my morning routine.  Cup of Lemon Water (I prefer tea, but started the day off healthy!) & headed to my Bible.  Maybe that’s where the funk came from.  Maybe I haven’t been spending as much time in the Word. Where should I begin? I decided to employ a technique I learned a while ago to just read a chapter in Proverbs based on the date.  There are 31 chapters in Proverbs, so you can just pick one and start reading.  (Yes, I know it’s like that old joke where you randomly open the Bible and put your finger on a passage and do what it says with sometimes scary results.)  But, this method would give me a place to begin.

Proverbs 23:1,2

When you sit to dine with a ruler,
note well what is before you,
2 and put a knife to your throat
if you are given to gluttony.

Are you kidding me?! I can’t make this stuff up.  Seriously?! After sharing my eaten bag of chips story with the Moms at the event, with my daughter on the phone, with my Mom during a visit, with a friend in a text the first scripture I read for the day is “..and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony?”

Needless to say, I read the entire chapter, wrote in my journal and then made myself a smoothie with almond milk, spinach, avocado, protein powder & banana. I had a nice salad for lunch and I sincerely have had a much more productive day. (I haven’t even turned the TV on.) All is well, but if I thought I might unwind with a glass of wine this evening, I shouldn’t have read on:

Proverbs 32:29-35

29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaints?
Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?
30 Those who linger over wine,
who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.
31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup,
when it goes down smoothly!
32 In the end it bites like a snake
and poisons like a viper.
33 Your eyes will see strange sights,
and your mind will imagine confusing things.
34 You will be like one sleeping on the high seas,
lying on top of the rigging.
35 “They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt!
They beat me, but I don’t feel it!
When will I wake up
so I can find another drink?”

I can’t even believe that’s in there…but it is, and obviously “SOMEONE” thought I needed to hear it this morning.

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This is Us….Really

This_is_usThe television show This is Us played after the Super Bowl last night.  A night we’ve all been waiting for.  Not the Super Bowl, but the show. Spoiler alert: Jack died. We knew he would, but we just didn’t know exactly how.  (Isn’t that true to life…we will all die, we just don’t know when or how.) I don’t usually stay up past eleven, but for this show, I had to.  I actually wanted to get it over with.  These teenagers were about to lose their father and I wanted to get it over with. As you may have seen, a young, vibrant, healthy father died of a widow maker heart attack. Sometimes these things happen.  I know, because it happened to me.

I was 16 when my father died of a heart attack and the show This is Us portrayed the gamut of emotions that those teens faced pretty true to life. I’ve wondered about my last words spoken, I’ve mourned my father not knowing my husband, and I’ve talked to a tree to tell my father my troubles. Yep, I’ve done it all and though those characters were fictional last night, the pain they emoted is real for many. I cried along with them….but not as much as I expected I would. I’ve relived the moments that I shared with them and I’m sure I’ll relive more as next week’s episode promises funeral scenes, but I didn’t actually relate as well with them as I expected. You see, their grief is new & raw, mine has been with me for 38 years. Time really does heal, but it never erases. I found myself watching the show and then comforting myself that the “Jack” character wasn’t really gone, he’ll be reappearing in flashbacks for months. In real life, that is not the case, or is it? Actually, the thing I remember most about the night my dad died was not wanting to close my eyes because when I did, I was afraid that I wouldn’t remember what he looked like. What if he vanished from my mind and my memory? How can I preserve the images?  Well, Kate (the daughter on the show), even if you lose that videotape of him, he will remain. My dad was only a part of my life for 16 years but he, too, reappears in flashback scenes. A saying he used, a smirk, even someone jumping to the front of the line at the grocery store will make me think of him. I didn’t forget, I won’t forget, so that fear is gone. Thank God.

This is Us.  This is many of us. This is some of us, yet to come. I don’t know exactly how Kate, Kevin, and Randall are going to cope with it, but I now know how I did. I can do all things through him who gives me strength. –Philippians 4:13 

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.        –2 Corinthians 12:9

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“Be A Finisher!”

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It is so frustrating for me when I ask the kids to clean the kitchen and I return to find that they put most of the dishes in the dishwasher or that they did everything but wipe off the crumbs from the table. I often find clothes folded, but not put away, rooms vacuumed but the vacuum remaining in the center of the room, an envelope addressed with the recipient’s name, but the address is pending.  Wait!  Are we still talking about my kids?  Probably not!  Some of the above happen to be my doing….or more correctly my un-doing or perhaps, my “not quite done”s.

A friend and I were talking a while ago about our jobs and tasks around the home and she reminded me that another friend of ours says, “Be A Finisher.”  Finish a task completely. I started to see that this was a message that my kids needed to hear and understand months ago, but only recently have I noticed how much I need to implement this practice.

I am not a finisher.  I’m one heck of a starter, but I am not a finisher.  I find this in projects like crafts and home improvements, but also with my day to day life. I brush my teeth but set the toothbrush on the sink instead of putting it in the cupboard. I make my toast, but don’t put the toaster away. I butter my bread, put the knife in the sink, but not in the dishwasher. “What is so hard about completing these tasks?” I ask my children daily. This morning, after coaching myself to be a finisher, I found out where the difficulty lies. The task never finishes.

Today, I wrote a letter.  I know for some of you this would be the hard part, but for me, brightly colored envelopes and stationery are right in front of me and I’m ready to begin! I wrote the letter and put it in the envelope. I put the recipient’s name on it and set it on the counter. (Be a finisher!) I got out the address book, wrote the address, left the address book on the counter. (Be a finisher!) I put the address book back in the basket where it belongs, but the basket was on the table and not on the shelf where it belongs. (Be a finisher!) I put the basket on the shelf where I saw that some books were on the floor that should’ve been on the shelf. (Be a finisher!) I put the books away and the task was completed or so I thought. The drawer where I got the stamp was open. (Be a finisher!) I shut the drawer. The scissors that belong in the drawer are on the counter. (Be a finisher!) I put the scissors in the drawer and the address labels in that junk drawer got all jumbled up and the drawer wouldn’t close. (Be a finisher!) I straightened the labels and thought, “I should write a blog post about this.” (Be a finisher!) I wrote a blog post. (Be a finisher!)

Finished.

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3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.     –Phil 1:3-6

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Gorgeous Christmas Card Photos

IMG_2442They arrived yesterday.  The Christmas card photos.  Gorgeous families that I am blessed to call friends.  There were no notes, just photos of smiles and Christmas scenery emitting feelings of joy and peace. I know these families.  Some of these families are indeed celebrating the season with joy and peace.  Their children are young and would make every day special.  The twinkle in their eyes is sincere and they will indeed be awestruck come Christmas morning.  The others, though, are not quite as fortunate.  Some of them have been transparent with me this year and have allowed me to know that behind the superficial smile on their child’s face is a deeply troubled soul who causes havoc in the family. These kids have troubles.  These parents have troubles.  But, for an afternoon, they tried to get all the personalities represented in the photo to cooperate and to smile.  I don’t know how much blood, sweat, and tears went into this photo shoot, but I do know that in the end, it was worth it.

The ones who are not dealing with mental illness will laugh at the antics their kids did while trying to get the perfect picture and the ones who are dealing with mental illness will cling to the photo that represents a tiny bit of normalcy in an otherwise chaotic home. I hope that the struggling parents will feel a sense of accomplishment in actually getting a photo that can be sent out to others and I hope the “typical” parents can treasure and appreciate the gift of happy children.

I thank them all for sending the cards to me.  I will display them all season and I will pray for them.  I will pray that the holidays do bring them joy and peace. I will pray the same for my family….with or without a gorgeous Christmas Card photo shoot.

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Understanding

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I visited a cardiologist this week and was diagnosed with PVCs (Premature ventricular contractions.) The doctor took a lot of time with me and attempted to explain the complicated heart and ventricle electrical system.  Even with his drawings and lengthy description I didn’t understand.  And, I decided that I didn’t need to understand, but he did and I told him so.  I didn’t think there was a chance that I’d understand in a short office visit all the intricate things he learned during medical school.  I was comforted by the amount of information he had and his full understanding of it.

4 Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

—Proverbs 3:4-6 NIV

In the doctor’s office, I decided to not lean on my understanding and it was a relief. The following day, I had lunch with my friend.  She has spent the last 7 months dealing with breast cancer and surgeries. She is an adoptive mom friend of mine who adopted because she was unable to have biological children of her own due to cancer in her youth. She adopted two children from hard places (aka foster care, trauma, unknown backgrounds) who have serious mental health issues and her life is anything but easy. She shared with me that the doctors said her cancer may return within two years and possibly it will return in her lungs. She said this and then went on to describe the temper tantrum her boys had the day before, the calls from the school and how both kids have been acting up due to the added stress in the family.  Kids from trauma facing potentially more trauma is a bad combination.

On my way home from lunch, I was talking with God and wondering why she had to face so much.  I don’t know anything about living with cancer, but I do know about parenting kids from hard places and I know the struggles she faces daily with that.  Couldn’t God just heal those boys and allow some peace in her home?  I know He could, but why won’t He?  And, why won’t He now so she can focus on her health? I just don’t understand. That’s right.  I don’t understand.  And, guess what else?  I don’t need to.  “Lean not on my own understanding, acknowledge him and he will make my paths straight.” Again, I don’t need to understand, I just have to place my friend into the hands of the one who does.  As much as I trust my cardiologist’s understanding, I trust God more. There is definitely comfort and relief in that!

 

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