Monthly Archives: August 2015

Summer Isn’t Over but We Press On

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If you’ve been reading my posts you know by now that I’m writing all over the place. It’s been quite a ride already and if you are actually one of those wonderful people faithfully navigating the twists and turns with me, THANK YOU! We exceeded 900 views last week – that’s just crazy talk and I know that’s only possible because of your shares. Please keep it up.

Over here where I live, it’s still hotter than blazes. In Central Florida summer lasts until, I don’t know, late December? Maybe not, but it definitely outlasts its welcome well into November. Don’t get me wrong. I love that I can swing through Dunkin’ Donuts for a pumpkin latte on my way home from the beach. How great is that? In the style of my BFF (in my dreams) Jen Hatmaker, thank you Southern Living magazine for delivering the Fall issue this week. In the name of all that is holy and sacred, how do you people not know what the weather is like in….well, the south? It’s a cruel tease when our air conditioners are cranking at full capacity and if not for the daily thunderstorms every living thing in the lawn would be dry and shriveled. Fall is what happens in Northeastern Indiana. I know this because I have been there and it’s glorious. While I wouldn’t trade for their winter, right about now I’m pining for their fall weather. So thank you from a Florida girl who mostly loves the climate.

Dock on St Joe

Dock on the St. Joe River in Leo, Indiana

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Until it cools off enough for spiced cider and lattes, I’m exploring all sorts of cool refreshing beverages. My current favorite is LaCroix Coconut water with a splash of lime. While sweet tea with lots of fresh lemon is my standby, this is a wonderful sugar free alternative. Another new favorite this summer is iced coffee from Chick-fil-A. This treat is worthy of nomination as a comfort food.

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On other fronts, I just have brag on God’s faithfulness in the little things. We have a sweet little grandchild who is getting some therapy to help with developmental issues. The therapist was excited about a toy that he really responded to in therapy and recommended it. Unfortunately, it is no longer sold in stores. While it could be located through an online channel, it was expensive. That evening, my daughter shared a picture on her Facebook page, hoping that a friend might have one or see one at a garage sale or resale shop. Early the next morning, someone reached out. There was a brand new post on a local resale board, offering a menagerie of infant toys. And in the midst of them…the very toy that we needed for little guy! So often I want to swoop in and make things happen on my own when often our God, Jehovah-Jireh (literally, the LORD will provide), has already provided. Ask, wait and receive.

Nobody’s Cuter Than These Sweet Things!

My tribe of young moms (I’m obviously the elder) reads a book together every summer. I can’t talk about summer without mentioning this year’s read. It’s a new release by one of our favorite mom bloggers, Melanie Shankle. “Nobody’s Cuter than You” celebrates friendship. We laughed and cried over the honest stories of developing friendships and learning how to be a friend along the way. We give it a big thumbs up.

Mike and I enjoying a mental health day at the beach last weekend.

Last week I wrote about marriage. On a recent weekend Hubby knew I needed a mental health day and he declared that we were going to “look at water” on Saturday. Honestly, the very best thing ever for my soul. It was a little mini vacay and I love him for knowing when I need this.

And finally, you have to see the new movie “War Room”. From the Kendrick Brothers (“Fireproof” and “Courageous”), this one stunned the box office watchers over the weekend with its $11 million debut. I know nothing of Hollywood and critics, but I bawled my eyes out. It is a beautiful story of mentoring and the power of prayer…two of my favorite things. My favorite line? “Submission is ducking so God can hit your husband.”

I Smell Lion Poop!

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I Smell Lion Poop!

 

I walked into the bedroom at the end of a long Saturday of cleaning, running errands and taking care of other family business. I noticed it immediately. The package torn, the contents spilling out on the surface that I had carefully decluttered and dusted just hours earlier.

One of my favorite author “couples” is John and Stasi Eldredge. And one of my favorite things about working with young couples is premarital counseling. Hubby is performing a wedding in October and we are weeks into a video series around the book Love and War by the Eldredges. So we snuggled up on the sofa Sunday afternoon and watched the video that we would later share with our sweet little engaged couple. As John and Stasi began to talk about the danger and subtlety of Satan’s lies as “agreements”, I knew I had a fresh, real life example.

An “agreement” as John and Stasi define it, is a lie that originates with Satan. Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44) is master at putting his spin on a situation. In the Love & War participant’s guide, they explain: “It typically comes as a thought or feeling. She doesn’t really love you. He’ll never change. She’s always doing that. (By the way, when the word “always” is part of the equation, you know you are well into an agreement.)”[1]

We’ve been at this marriage thing for a l-o-n-g time…forty three years and counting, but it is so easy to miss the obvious and settle for the lies of the enemy.

That Saturday afternoon, the thought that passed through my head was this: “He doesn’t care about your hard work. He disrespects you.” And in that moment, I could agree with the thought and move to anger, or choose the truth about my husband of so many years.

He loves me. He is so thankful for the way that I care for our home. He appreciates the effort required.

I wish I could tell you that I always recognize the deceit and cunning of our enemy. As we discussed this later with our engaged cuties, we talked about how the Bible describes Satan as a lion.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8 NIV

Since I don’t know much about lions as hunters, I read an expert, who described the lion’s acute sense of hearing, his tendency to stalk his prey and his opportunistic approach.

Basically, they hear their prey, they stalk them and they often hang out in the places their prey frequent, waiting for an opportunity to attack. This is the nature of the enemy who comes against our marriages. He listens, he lies in wait and he jumps on opportunity. Is it any wonder that we fall into the trap?

When lions in the wild want to claim territory in the wild, they don’t bury their poop. These little agreements Satan Plats are the equivalent of lion poop.

Be on the alert for them and recognize that a very dangerous enemy is stalking your marriage and wants to lay claim to your home. Once you enter the agreement, you are ankle deep in lion poop.

Many of the agreements seem so true. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • He/she never changes.
  • I’d be better off on my own.
  • I’d be happier with someone else.
  • Nothing I do is ever enough.
  • We should never have married.

Unlike the people who live in African jungles we don’t have to worry about encountering wild beasts that terrify entire villages, but the grim reality is that there is a beast who comes against all of us. His tactic is to pit husbands and wives against one another by planting thoughts like the ones mentioned.

I’m thankful that last Saturday, when that thought crossed my mind, years of practice took me to this in my arsenal:

He loves me. He is so thankful for the way that I care for our home. He appreciates the effort required.

And in that moment, the agreement was broken by truth. This time, I caught the scent of lion poop and stepped around it.

[1] From Love & War Participant’s Guide, The Enemy is Not Your Spouse, Page 62-63

Finding Ways to be With Them

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If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember.
You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you. ― A.A. Milne

We are weeks into a friend’s cancer diagnosis. It sucks, and what sucks more is that there are three thousand miles between us. These two have always fought hard…for their family and for their lives. In fact, they are veterans in the battle against cancer; but I want to shoulder up with them on the front lines. With every week that passes my longing increases to be there with them as they walk this path.

And I will be….in a few weeks. But in the meantime, I’ve been scouring the web, talking with survivors and gathering as much information as possible on ways to touch my friends from a distance. If you read this post a couple of weeks ago, you know that for me, love is action. Close on the heels of my longing to DO something is my fear that it will be the wrong thing or I’ll do it at the wrong time. (Case in point, mailing a candy bar in the middle of August without proper cold packs.) If I’m not careful, I will do nothing. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this quest to do the right thing.

First and always, pray. I know…it sounds so cliché. But when asked, so often that is the first answer from a cancer patient. Asphilippians1_3 a friend, you’ll often know exactly the needs and pray specifically for those. There are times that I have no words of my own but I need to speak them (they are sort of my thing), so I pray verses from Colossians 1, Philippians 1 and the Lord’s Prayer. These are the prayers of the saints!

Send a card. Don’t fret too much about the card itself, but focus on the words. When I asked a survivor friend, she said “I’m a Words girl so the personal hand written messages, even from people I didn’t know very well, carried great meaning.” And don’t be afraid to use humor. You know your friend best – if they are playful, celebrate that with fun cards and inside jokes.

If your friend and/or their caregiver likes to stop by Chick fil A or Starbucks for a treat, send a gift card to cover the cost of a visit and add a corny message like “If I could pop in with your favorite treat, I’d be there in a minute. Next one’s on me, and there’s lots of love sent with it.”  Double smiles if they enjoy your goofy humor!

Gift cards to cover convenience meals come in handy on treatment or appointment days. Check to see what is in their area, but places like Boston Market and Cracker Barrel for hearty meals or Panera for soup and lighter fare are some options.

Every visit to a doctor, hospital or treatment facility involves a copay. Those add up a quickly so another wonderful gift is a grocery store gift card. Sometimes, more than a meal, the family needs some cereal or toilet paper, or a prescription refilled. If you aren’t sure of the appropriate retailer, consider a VISA or MasterCard gift card – they can be used almost everywhere.

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Small yet thoughtful items for pocket or bag

A care package is another wonderful way to bless. Consider mints or ginger drops to counter bad tastes from drugs. Include some special tea and shortbreads. A good quality lip balm and skin lotion are great options – just be mindful of any issues with scents. Note cards and postage stamps (there are so many great designs – check out this one on the USPS website – I love it!) are also great to include. The emphasis in this is quality over quantity – so thoughtfully choose a few items that will truly be used and are perfect for your friend. You know them, you love them, so handpick items that you are drawn to. Most important, add words that will encourage and bless and even entertain.

Send a super soft, comfy throw or pillow – it’s great for car trips and chemo, or just resting at home. It may well be their favorite thing. Emphasize – QUALITY – it’s a subtle way to send the message that you expect them to get well and be around to use it for a long time. Being generous, even magnanimous, gives hope to the one receiving that they have time to enjoy the gift.

Create a recovery playlist – send the playlist along with a gift card to cover the cost of the song downloads. This is especially wonderful during chemo.

Gift a subscription to a magazine related to her interests/hobbies. Fatigue may interfere with reading novels but short stories/articles are just right. A gift subscription to Netflix or HuluPlus is another wonderful idea.

If their dietary restrictions and your budget permit, send a fresh fruit arrangement. They are beautiful and a wonderful treat. I’ve had great experience locally with Edible Arrangements. A nice box of cookies or chocolates that they can offer guests is a great gift – if they are a host at heart, it’s a way for them to show hospitality to visitors.

Send lots of text messages – include a funny picture or encouraging quote – and always add “No need to respond”. Sometimes texting is exhausting, but getting messages is awesome. Funny-Text-Messages-Google-logo

Gentle readers, cancer touches each of us. The National Cancer Institute predicts in 2015 there will be 1,658,370 new diagnoses in the United States alone. It’s likely that you have either been personally touched or have a near friend or family member who is presently in the battle. I will be blessed if you leave a comment.  How have friends encouraged and blessed you and your family?

 

Note: The recommendations above that specify a particular brand or service are based on my personal experience alone and I was not compensated in any way.

Children at Play

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Last week I viewed a video on Facebook that prompted many to express concern and even sadness over the difference in what three generations said they did for fun as a child. The grandparents were from my generation, and I have to admit that sexagenarians (way to make older people sound edgy!) tend to look backward through rose-colored glasses. They spoke of picking blueberries and gardening, even encountering a bear while out adventuring. Even the middle generation, now adults the age of my children, recalled gathering friends to play games or build forts.

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My brothers and I in front of our home.

I thought about how I might answer and recalled my childhood. One of our many pastimes was joining other neighborhood kids on the playground at our school, right down the street. At the ripe old age of ten, we rode bikes a mile to the shopping center, or found a vacant house with a steep drive and dared each other to speed into the street from the carport. My knees stayed bloody and by the grace of God I avoided a head injury. We played kickball in our front yard until there was no grass between the base lines and we drank water from the hose on the side of the house.

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The four oldest – I’m on the right on Jim’s shouders.

We were mostly unsupervised and once my sister fell from the high slide at the school playground and broke her arm (my parents paid for her medical care…they didn’t consult a personal injury attorney, but that’s a subject for another day). We were barefoot, dirty, and dehydrated most of the summer and every one of us had “creeping eruption” at some point. I’m convinced that my dermatologist is buying a yacht with the money I’m spending with him for skin cancer treatment. Our home wasn’t air conditioned so we spent lots of time outside under trees, seeking shade in the hottest part of the day. Daddy worked nights so we were pretty much banned from the house unless it was dark or there was a thunderstorm. We played outside. ALL.THE.TIME. It was good for us and we had lots of fun. So, ask me now and I’ll recount those adventures as if they were magical.

But if you had asked me that question then?

When I was growing up there were three channels on our black and white television – the only electronic distraction around. Weekday children’s programming was limited to Captain Kangaroo and Romper Room. On Saturday mornings there were cartoons and on Sunday nights we looked forward to the Wonderful World of Disney. There was one television for the family of eight, so we gathered around it and had to agree on the program. I spent lots of Saturday afternoons watching science fiction, thanks to my older brothers. Peering through the cracks in my fingers, my hands covered my face in fear throughout the half hour programs – I will never forget “pod people”! Fifty years later I can tell you my mother loved to watch the Red Skelton Show on Tuesday night. I’m pretty sure that if you had asked me then “What is your favorite thing to do?” I would have answered “Watch TV.” No question or doubt in my mind.

Can I make a confession? I had an appointment with a new doctor recently and the nurse asked me about hobbies and interests. Do you know what my first thoughts were? Please don’t make me write it down for the world to see! I spend entirely too much time using electronic devices….texting, watching you tube videos, checking Facebook and binge watching Netflix. I’m working on that because I’ve realized it’s a distraction and a time thief. When I was a child, after the eleven o’clock news the stations signed off and there was no television overnight. Everything shut down and there was a sabbatical of sorts. It got quiet. I need that pause and so do our children. However….

I’m not so worried about how my grandchildren might answer that question – I’m pretty sure I know what they would say. But the truth is, I’ve been paying attention to them and no matter how they answer the question, I know the real answer. They are happiest when they are playing. Yes, they have tablets and when the Florida summer heat makes outdoor play unbearable or the doctor is running way behind and patience is running out, Mom hands them over.  And I think we all agree that there is already too much “mom guilt” so let’s just give each other some grace about that.  Each family must decide for itself how much screen time is appropriate without external judges weighing in.   What I know for sure is that they love to play, especially outside. I’m confident that fifty years from now my grandchildren will tell stories of water slides and trampolines, swimming pools and scavenger hunts. I hope that I am part of the stories that are being written on their hearts through the wonder of play.

Mom, send them outside.  Better yet…go outside with them and enjoy the magic of play, if only for a bit.

Phoebe and George go walking (2)

And at the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy and your eyes sparking. ~ Shanti

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“The most memorable days usually end with the dirtiest clothes.” – Unknown

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“I hope my children look back on today and see a mother who had time to play. There will be years for cleaning and cooking, for children grow up while we’re not looking.” – Unknown

When Love Can’t Show Up

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“It is a long way off, sir”
“From what Jane?”
“From England and from Thornfield: and ___”
“Well?”
“From you, sir”
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Road with clouds

It’s been one of those weeks.  One of those months, really.  People I love are in the trenches and I’m far away.  They are dealing with the kind of news that makes you sit straight up from the shock of it and then the heaviness of it threatens to bring your shoulders all the way down to your knees.  They are strong people, “my” people.  They aren’t new to the arena – not some rookie gladiators facing giants for the first time.  They are people of faith.  They trust God.  Their shoulders are squared and their eyes are on the one who gives them hope. They’ve seen his faithfulness and they trust him for their future.  They are hanging on to every word that comes from the Father.  They have placed their hope in him.  I’m amazed and inspired by their faith.  So I’ve lifted my face toward heaven and will believe with them.

But I want to hold their hands and sit quietly with them when they have to wait.  Love cooks and runs errands and brings Starbucks to the hospital, darn it!  It takes care of laundry and littles.  It is PRESENT.  Isn’t it?

Yes. And no.  Distance separates us physically.  Too many miles mean there can be no hospital visits.  After a much melted chocolate bar, I’m certain that my friend almost three thousand miles away prefers that I not send a casserole.

So, what do we do with that?  Struggling with lots of emotions, I had to get honest and name them.  The first one that popped up?  Jealousy. Jealousy bubbles up when I think someone else might be doing what I could do better (see what I did there?).  It rears its very ugly head when I begin to fear that my position will be usurped.  Perhaps the person who is present will become nearer and dearer to their heart than me.  Insecurity shows up for this party, ‘cause he and jealousy are close companions.  I had to honestly deal with that in light of this:

  • Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 1 Corinthians 13:4
  • Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves. Philippians 2:3

Motive check! When my heart longs for the people I love to have every need met and I turn from my own desires, I can rest knowing that God is going to provide and that his plan for them is good.

Fear is real, friends. Allowed to run amuck, my thoughts will go to all sorts of scenarios that never end well. So far from the battle, I begin to worry and fret. This reminds me that every thought matters:

  • Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. Philippians 4:6-9 (MSG)

And finally, I had to deal with this. I’m sad.  It’s a profound sadness because I can’t connect the way that my heart longs to. I struggled with admitting this because after all…THIS.IS.NOT.ABOUT.ME.  Others are facing serious illness and loss and I have no right to feel sad that I can’t be there.  And then the Spirit of God reminded me of this:

  • Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” – John 11:35-36

I know that I have entered into the emotions of my people. And that, my friends, is holy ground.  You might want to remove your shoes and join me there.