Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dancing on Golden Streets

Courtesy of Whimsical Winds

Today is a windy, gusty day.  The wind chimes that line my back deck are creating a cacophony of sound that brings a smile to my face.  I do love the wind chimes but they mean more to me than just sound.

I grew up in denomination that forbid dancing.  None of any kind was allowed.  Even jiggling to a song in church could get you thumped after services.

Mom had wind chimes too, and enjoyed hearing the bells and clinks of tubes, spoons and keys as they knocked against each other in the breeze.  Neither of us could pass by one without sweeping our hand beneath the chimes to make them sound off.

It was in the last few years of moms life that I stood at the sink when a set of chimes started.  I stopped in the middle of scrubbing a pot to turn and inform mom "Listen, daddy's dancing in heaven."

"We don't dance. It's against our religion." she lowered her glasses.

"Ahh but," I told her, "People dance in heaven from the sheer joy.  No other way to express it but to bounce around and throw your arms up in the air and shout."

She smiled and answered, "I guess we'll see someday, but you know I can't dance."

I'm confident there IS dancing in heaven, just as there was in the Old Testament.  After mom moved to heaven in Dec. 2010, I bought and hung another set of wind chimes.  I gave the same set to each of my sisters and told them, "When you hear the chimes, know that mom and dad are dancing together in heaven."  Not sure the chimes meant as much to them as they did to me.

Days like today where the breeze is fresh, swift and alive, the chimes are singing of golden streets, joy and reunited hearts.  I can't help but smile as the chimes accompany my day.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Taking Care of Yourself.


That's what I awoke to do today, take care of myself.  I needed downtime.

It's not that I have been particularly busy.  But I am adapting and setting boundaries for myself.  6 months ago I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, Psoriatic arthritis.  You may have seen the commercials featuring golfer Phil Mickselson.  It's the same disease.

One of the things you quickly learn with joint and tissue diseases that you simply cannot do what you think you can.  I tire easily, and somethings I simply can't do any longer....like open jars.  I simply cannot grip a jar tightly enough to open it now.

It's frustrating beyond explanation that I don't have the same energy and strength I did 10 years ago....even 5 years ago.  But cancer, it's treatment and now chronic disease has changed how I schedule my life.  2 active days means I have to have a day to restore my physical resources.  A couple years ago I came across an article written by Christine Miserandino titled "The spoon Theory".

After a painful night last night and nothing HAD to be done today, I made the decision about 3 am this was going to be "rosey's" day.  I'm need to recharge a little.  People like me find that pushing ourselves without recharging causes a bad domino effect to our health.

Here I sit wrapped in a blanket, hot cuppa lemon tea at my side and my fuzzy slippers.  I did change out of night clothes because someone could knock on the door.  But today there is a marathon of shows to watch and a baby blanket to crochet.  Here's a sample of how the day goes...

*More on the "Spoon Theory" can be found at Christine's blog  www.butyoudontlooksick.com

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year 2014

We made it through Christmas.  I must admit that while there was some tough days, I made it through the month of December.  We found ourselves overly blessed this Christmas as well.

Today I post only for the novelty of the first day of this year.  I proclaimed today to be a "jammie" kind of day with no expectations to be filled.  I have met these expectations fully.  :)

Hoping everyone is having a great day and has a wonderful year ahead of them.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

When Christmas Wears a Black Wreath

Until about 40 years ago, when a family experienced a death, they hung a black wreath on the door.  It was message to the world you had lost a loved one, and many cases the deceased was being held "in state" inside. Seeing the wreath on the door of a loved one announced this was the place to pay your respects. It also meant, we are grieving, please give us some time.

It also warned away the frivolous and nuisance calls made to the home.  In those days, salesmen and solicitors of all types knew what the wreath meant.  In most of the world, the practice has been forgotten and I dare say, a wreath on todays door will deter no one.

But I remember wanting a black wreath on my door when my mom died.  She died just 11 days after I had a serious surgery.  I had gone to the hospital for a scheduled surgery but fearful she would die while I was in surgery...she was that close to death.  The day she died was the first day after surgery that I awoke and said "I don't think this is going to kill me".  It was the first day I believed I could survive.  My first thought was to ride out to see my mother.  I did.  She died later that same evening, while all her daughters were under her roof together.

I came home that night and wished I had a black wreath for the door.  Something to tell the world driving by "something big, something important happened to the people in this family". Life wasn't going to be normal for quite some time.  I needed  to tell the world that my mother had just died.  It tells the world, GIVE US TIME TO GRIEVE!  I think the black wreath custom should return.

This week I share the pain of my friend Laura who just lost her mother earlier this week.  For Laura and her mother things went quickly.  I pray God's mercy touches Laura and her family and leaves peace with them.

Over the last 2 months, my sister lost first her mother in law, and then her father in law.  He died slightly more than a month after his wife.  Perhaps he really couldn't live without her.

My sister and her family was grieving the lost of two parents...when an aunt passed away last week.  The whole family is in grief.  I had to counsel my sister.  She was weeping in despair because she didn't FEEL like decorating for Christmas.  She asked for help and got no response.  Now one wanted the festive dinners.  The cookies didn't taste as sweet this year. No one wanted cookies.   My sister didn't want to spend the time to bake more.  She was MAD because this wasn't Christmas.  She was MAD because she couldn't do it all, everyone else seemed to put the pressure on her to MAKE Christmas.

So I told her to take a step back.  Obviously, Christmas is foremost the celebration of the birth of Christ. Everything else was second to that.  She and no one else should beat up on themselves because THIS Christmas, they were hurting too much to boisterously celebrate with carols, lights, endless baking, trees, or parties.  She needed a black wreath on the door to tell the neighborhood "Hey, cut us some slack, we're grieving up in here."

My advice to my sister.  Stop trying to find time to wrap gifts.  Go to the dollar store and buy gift bags.  Call it good and hide the bags until you're ready for the snoopy noses.  The world will not end if you give gifts still in the department store bags.

Curb the activities outside the home.  You don't have to go to the church party, the office party, the neighborhood party..the school parties.  Choose one that you love and remains important to you, if you feel up to it.  But allow yourself down time for the rest of the facilities.

Forget the elaborate holiday dinners.  You're tired...so use that crock pot.  Serve something non traditional...baked spaghetti, lasagna, grill steaks, slow cook the pot roast.  Your family isn't likely to remember this Christmas as the one mom didn't fix a turkey.  They will remember the Christmas that grandma and grandpa died and no one felt like celebrating Christmas.  Pare down the menu and do what you can.

Don't be shy about asking for help.  I was pleased that when she did state how the family was feeling, several near by family members invited her into their home for dinner.  Other's offered to decorate for her.  She turned them down on the decorating.  She has her tree up and she's decided that's enough for this and that's okay.

Be good and kind to yourself, full of grace because you are in mourning.  Hang out the black wreath and let the world know something important happened here.

Celebrate the birth of Christ and let all the other stuff slide.

Matthew 11:28

Amplified Bible (AMP)
 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

When Christmas Is Not the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

For me it started on Dec. 12th, 1985.  The loss of a much anticipated pregnancy turned my holiday upside down.  The bright lights of the season, the smells and the sounds were dulled by a vibrating pain...my own heartbeat.

People laughed and sang.  They exchanged gifts.  I didn't get out of bed.  The pain of an newly empty womb was too great for Christmas cheer to erase.  To most, my grief was unnatural so they left me alone in the dark corner of pain I had painted myself into.  No one wanted risk the entering the darkness for me.

Time went on and with the arrival of another son, Christmas became fun again.  We threw ourselves into traditions, family dinners, gift exchanges and all seemed wonderful.  But time changes things.

In time however, most important people in my life would die in the month of December.  While carolers sang about Joy to the World, we buried my aunt.  The next day we would bury my father.  10 years later, I would endure the pain of mastectomy and then in just 11 more days my mother would leave us to spend her first Christmas in heaven.  My little family trudged home in the cold, and curled up together on the couch.  We stared blankly at the Christmas tree and the gifts underneath.  There was no joy as we went through the motions.

That was 3 years ago and I'm thrilled to report there has been no more Christmas deaths in our family. Over the last year I had bewildering physical issues were diagnosed as a chronic illness.  This year I equally looked forward to and dreaded Christmas.  My heart is willing.  My flesh is weak.  As Christmas approaches I found joint pain slowed me down and the task of "Christmas" seems too big to conquer.  The chores of decorating, baking and entertaining just seems too monumental to even begin.

Perhaps you know someone in a season of life where things are not wonderful.  Death, divorce, disease or distress, all impact how much we can do or enjoy.  Someone asked me today, "What are some ideas of things I can come along side you and help you enjoy Christmas."  That prompted this post.

To start with, listen closely for the wistful sound of their voice when they tell you what they love about Christmas.  Then you can figure out how to dive in.

1.  Offer to help decorate.  For me, this was a big ugly cry breakdown. It means carrying bins up from the basement, unpacking, building an artificial tree, stringing the lights, unwrapping each ornament and reflecting on the memory.  It took me three days to accomplish and STILL had to carry the bins back to the basement.  This year I was physically unable to.  So I put up one of those unfold and plug in trees.  I used ornaments from one of those discount stores...."everything you need for the tree".  I hate it.  It broke my heart.  I would have loved someone to tell me, I'll help you string the 1000 lights on the tree, and I'll carry the bins up and down.

While you're at it, bring on the hot chocolate, cookies and Christmas movies!

2.  Bring a crew of teen boys and hang lights outside if you know someone really enjoys outside decorations.  I love my candy canes but they will rest this Christmas in the basement because my neck and shoulder can't handle venturing in the cold to set up the display.  I can't handle the physical effort either.

3.  Prebake dinner for them...roast that turkey,  make 2 pans of your holiday special dishes and share one with that person on your mind.  Keep in mind the importance of PREBAKE.  It's not always the financial cost of the dinner, but the physical toll it takes that causes the problems.   I would suggest to church groups who deliver turkey's to families.  If you are aware of physical or emotional difficulties this Christmas, ask if they would prefer the raw turkey or have someone prebake the turkey to take the challenge off their back.   If you ORDER a meal from a local deli, make sure your friends know if you plan to deliver it, or they need to make arrangements to go get it.

4.  Long distance friends and loved ones can benefit from catered meals from their local grocery store.  A credit card and a quick click of the computer mouse can arrange meals and goodies when you can't do it yourself.  If you have the financial means, gift cards to Amazon, Itunes or other online services are a great idea.

5.  Deliver or mail a box of homemade cookies or candies that we can offer to friends who stop by.  I WANT to bake cookies, but know the process of rolling out dough and putting pans in and out of the oven will make me hurt.

6.  Offer to drive them to the shopping centers so they can pick up their gifts.  I have an elderly friend who mentioned that she has asked her son to help her order something online because she couldn't see to drive at night.  She was disappointed he was going to know what his gift was before she handed it to him and would liked a ride to the mall.

7.  Invite them to YOUR home for a night of Christmas movies and popcorn.  It gets lonely when everyone else is celebrating with family and yours is gone.  Don't forget the single parents who have to share custody with the ex.

8.  See that they can get to church services and make the arrangements if necessary.

9.  Bring them along to the Christmas Cantata, stop on the way home for some peppermint hot chocolate!  ;)

10.  Offer to wrap gifts for someone whose hands has lost their dexterity due to arthritis or disease.

11.  Let them know you value them.  Invite them to spend Christmas with you, if you know they will be alone, also remember the next point...

12  Don't forget to give them space.  The things that make Christmas hard are still there.  The memories of those who have gone on.  The children over at their other parents home.  The college graduate who can't afford to go home.  The expectations people around them have thrust upon them.  People who have Christmas pain can't be holly jolly 24/7.  There's going to be painful days with painful memories.  Be a good friend and support them while they have their ugly cry and hand them tissue until they've got their grief out.

Listen and ask first before showing up at their door with 5 lbs of cookies, 10 lbs of tinsel, a turkey and a preplanned day in the city mall.  Accept they may have limitations that despite how loving and caring you are, the trip to the city to see the lights and hear the college choir MIGHT be a tad much for them.

13.  Remember it's okay to allow them down time.  The newly bereaved NEED time to grieve and if it means skipping Christmas this year, that's okay.  You can ask if you can do any of these things, but don't be surprised if they are too numb to care.  When a friend is sitting with a dying loved one, let them be aware of your invitations and offer.  Most likely they will choose to stay close with family at that time.  But it's nice to know you're not forgotten there in your grief.  It's hard to deal with death at Christmas.  It's even harder to feel like you've been left alone to cope.

Having both of my parents die at Christmas - though 10 years apart, I will say it was so nice to arrive home from the services to a message from a friend that she had a hot casserole to bring over.  There really wasn't any Christmas for us that year. I don't really remember it.  I'm sure the gifts were exchanged, but that hot dinner delivered when we were cold, tired, grieving and numb...that we all still remember.

12.  Last, don't forget to arrangements a few days after Christmas to clean up the decor and get the trash out.

May we all have a blessed Christmas this year!

*My thoughts and prayers go out to my friend Laura as spends this season at her mother's side, loving her into eternity.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Seeking Grace

I struggle to find my spiritual groove.

I am NOT Beth Moore.  I am not Kay Arthur.  I am not Lisa Terkeurst.

I have experiences where I feel like I am right there in the presence of God.  He surrounds and fills me.  I am hitting on all cylinders.

But most of the time, I am struggling.  I read bloggers who share "what the Lord taught me this morning during my 2 hours of quiet time with Him" and my eyes blink.  I'm excited that I read the devotional "Jesus Calling" and prayed "Thank you for your blessings to us today".  It's hard to believe I should get the passing grade compared to the spiritual giants who spent hours on their knees.

I attended Beth Moore's simulcast this fall on "Grace" and learned that some of my problem is the legalistic "law based" doctrine that I still FEEL chained to.

I grew up in a denomination of laws.  I was 10 years old when someone at school asked "what does your church believe?"  I started the list..."We don't believe in swearing, drinking, dancing, movies, having tv's, wearing pants, wearing shorts, exposing the collarbone.  We don't believe in gambling or playing with cards, we don't listen to secular music, we don't use crude language.  We don't believe in sex outside of marriage" (actually it was a totally taboo subject so I didn't think it was supported INSIDE marriage either)...and my list continued on.  Like the good little Sunday school attendee I was prepared to espouse the evils of embracing the "world".

When my friend asked, "So what do you believe in?"

I had to think a moment.  "Well, we believe in the Triune God.  Um...we believe Jesus is God's son born in a virgin birth to die and that He arose to save our sins."  I paused.  "Uh, we believe you have ask forgiveness for your sins to be saved and you go to hell if you don't get saved."

Even I realized my list of what I believe IN was way shorter than the first one I pounded down.  I didn't add that "we believe if you don't follow all the rules of the church, you will lose your salvation and still go to hell."

About 8 years ago switched from that denomination to a grace based non denominational church.  After a time, I began to see that Grace was much larger and so much more than I had been taught formerly. I began to shed some of the "rules" I had been following.

The simulcast showed me that I still had a lot of shedding to do.

I spent so many years trying to measure up to the perfect "Good Christian woman" that had been laid out for me.  I tried to toe the line and follow the rules.  Most of the time, I fell short of those expectations, I felt a Christian failure.  I no longer consciously follow those rules, but in reading this morning I still FEEL the failure when I can't meet the expectations of others.

The good news is that I believe God is MORE than happy that I took 2 minutes to spend with Him with thankfulness and pleasure than if I had forced myself to spend 2 hours with an open Bible, a pen and a journal.  He is thrilled that I shared the time with him and went on instead of pounding my fist against a table insisting I would NOT leave my quiet time until I had learned some spiritual truth.

Yes.  I still struggle with the rules.  Though no longer governed by the church, the lack of them makes me feel like drifting flotsam. It's a little scary to live Christ likeness by the law of God and not falling onto the laws of "me" or the denomination.  Realizing this means I can lean back, close the cover of my "Jesus Calling" and rest in the grace of knowing I will never "do" enough to earn God's approval.

I've had that since He created my life.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Coming When Called

This morning, I stepped into the brisk morning air to call in our pomeranian "Leia".  This is her...3 legged and one eye, she is a tail and ear away from being named "Lucky".  Because she has a tendency to hurt herself, we limit her outdoor time.

This summer I noticed a tendency she developed to ignore me.  At least that's how it felt to me.  I can stand on my deck, hollering, dancing, calling, and whistling and I get no response.  But when I step onto the patio and into her line of sight, her little tail begins to beat it's furious rhythm.  Her 3 tiny legs churn in her haste to get to my side.  I walk to the door and hold it open as she rockets inside.

It amuses me.

It also irritates me a tad as it requires me to step out of the shelter of my deck to get her attention.  I'm sure there's a lesson for me in that somewhere.

This morning as she rocketed into the house before me, the prompting from the O Most High stopped me in my tracks.

"You're just like her you know."

I must admit I rolled my eyes just a bit but the divine word still came.  "I've told you I'm here, that I'm always here.  Yet you don't believe Me unless I step out so you can see Me."

Ouch.  Jesus told us in Matthew 28:20 that HE was with us always as we went through our lives for Him.  But it's correct that many times I fret and fuss that I can't SEE Him, because I can't FEEL Him.  So that must mean He is not there.  I pray and beg Him to show Himself to me.

While I believe it goes against the nature and character of God to get impatient with me and want to thump me on the head, I can at least imagine that He like me...gets tired of always having to SHOW me He is there before I listen for His voice.  That I must see Him when He calls before I will move toward Him.

I sit here honored that He met with me and spoke to remind me "I am with you always, to the end of the age."

I must work on moving to Him when He calls.