Category Archives: Believery

A Year of Thanks

I believe that being thankful for the good things in my life is a given. My husband, my daughter, my family, my friends, my home and my memories of a happy childhood are all gifts from God. I also believe that being thankful for the hard things, the bad things, the things that hurt, eases that hurt. I have tried to live in gratitude this year since Mum passed away. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has taught me that my God is ever-present and sends reminders when I need them most. The delays that drove me crazy. The weight on my shoulders that threatened to pull me under at times. The exhaustion. All of it served its purpose. Had they not occurred, had I plunged ahead and not listened to the God-speak in my heart that said “just wait awhile” more times than I wanted to hear it, I believe that my brother would not be in the good place that he is. The timing of everything this year has truly been God at work. We would not have met the earthly angels that continue to bless us. Andy and I are sharing Thanksgiving at the home of some of these angels who knew that it would be too much for me after these last 5+ weeks of moving Howard and closing up the family home in Pennsylvania. I am blessed, I am thankful. These simple words are simply inadequate! My prayer is that I have given back at least a portion of what I have received. Have a blessed thanksgiving every day of the year, my friends.

Road Work as seen on GodVine as seen on GodVine

This screenshot of a short, little video struck a chord with me today. Since my mom passed away a year ago in August, so much of my life has been out of my control. I’ve felt helpless about so many things. As a result, I’ve tried harder and harder to be in control of things I don’t need to be in control of, adding pressure and anxiety to the point where it’s been unhealthy for me. I have realized recently, through the help of a friend, just how desperately I’ve been clinging to the idea that if I could just hurry the process along, get over the bumps in the road, everything will be okay. If I could just get this whole thing over with … But no, that is not the case because more bumps keep tripping me up. I am being taught a rather harsh lesson in patience that might be starting to sink in. Perhaps that’s why this screenshot resonated with me. Rather than fretting endlessly about when this will happen or what this entity will or won’t do next, and being stuck on hold, I am finally relaxing into God’s timeline and only taking control of what I can actually affect, such as my immediate environment (which, believe me, needs help). Even if the process to get back on my feet and out from under what weighs on me so heavily now takes another year, another five years, I think I’m okay with that. Day by day, minute by minute, “I am not in control, but I am loved by the one who is.” My faith is in my God. He sees the landscape that flows before me, while I have been worrying about how I’m going to smooth all of these bumps in the road by myself. It’s time to look up and breathe, see my environment and live into it once again, even if I stumble more along the way. I can’t control the road, the bump or the fall, but I can control how I get up again. Maybe I’ll jump to my feet. Maybe I’ll be bruised and bloody and rise slowly, but I will get back up eventually. The One who is truly in control will see to that! And He’s the One sitting in the steam roller, ready to smooth the way once I get out of the road.

Cubby Holes

I’m sitting here, staring at the cluttered computer screen, as a project awaits completion. I feel like I’m letting down the people to whom I owe this project. I’ve been struggling with it. Normally, it’s not that hard to complete, but for some reason, this month has had its challenges. Personal issues have gotten in the way. I’m not someone who can compartmentalize easily. I wish I was. I’d like to just stick whatever’s bothering me into a cubby hole and let it rot there. Unfortunately, any cubby holes that I have in my brain are more hole than cubby. If I do manage to put a problem in a compartment, it falls right through the hole in the bottom, tripping me whenever I “take a stroll down memory lane.” In other words, I can’t keep things compartmentalized. They stay in my mind, no matter what I’m doing.

Right now, the thing that is stuck there is my mother. I love my mom, but I also live almost 700 miles away from her. I don’t see her much, even though we talk on the phone when she’s feeling up to it. Even if I did make the trip back, there’s simply no place for me to stay at her small house. If she were healthy, I’d either be able to stay on an air mattress in the living room or in her bed with her since my daddy has passed. However, healthy she is not. She has a hospital bed set up in the living room. A good bit of her living room furniture is now in her bedroom on the bed. There is, quite frankly, no room for me at her house.

In some metaphoric way, there’s no room for me in her life anymore, and that about kills me.  She loves me and I love her, but she is no longer concerned about me. Her life revolves around the nurses and care workers from Hospice that come in. I listen patiently. But only on a good day, do I get to share with her what is happening in my life. Am I selfish to want this again? Maybe. Am I realistic enough to know that, for the most part, those days of happy conversations are gone? Yes. Mentally, she is all there, but her world is small now, and I’m on the periphery. Perhaps I’ve started grieving already.

I’ve caught grief from people who see her once and think that they have a handle on the situation. Because I’m not there, I guess in their eyes that makes me not a good daughter, doesn’t it? They don’t understand that I’m well aware of what is happening with her. I’m in frequent contact with my brother, who is her main caregiver. While I get conflicting reports, depending on whether I’m talking to him or my mother, I know and care deeply about her condition and about her. She was the best mother a girl could have. We have always been close.

Perhaps that why this hurts so much. She had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. I found out only recently that this was THE diagnosis. I had heard it bandied around for a while, but my brother confirmed it this week. It makes sense. This diagnosis answers a lot of questions, but it also presents a new dilemma for me. How do I keep it in its place without obsessing?

If you ask my mother, she doesn’t believe it. According to her, she will walk again, drive again and resume her normal life after she gets over this little hiccup in her life. Parkinson’s took my wonderful father-in-law. I’ve seen what it can do. I don’t have her optimism, as misguided as it may be, but I can’t take away her vision of her future either. I’m not that cruel to say, “Sorry, Mum, it’s not going to happen,” when maybe it’s that very thought of a normal future that makes her okay with how she is living. So I have to wonder why I’m obsessing over things I can’t change. I do know that I’m not good at hurting; I bleed all over my cubby holes.

I guess it’s time to clean up the mess and get back to work on today’s project. I can at least do something about what’s in front of me, even when I’m feeling so helpless about my mother. I’m having to relearn some lessons from the past about how to deal with this. It’s taken me a while to get there, but thank God for God and keeping my problems where they belong. I’m better for now, at least until the next refresher course.

The Caller’s New Name

One of the fun things that I do is edit the monthly newsletter for our church. I started in January of 2006, so I’ve been at it for 99 months, but really it only seems like 3 months, plus 8 years. The newsletter is called The Caller. It wasn’t my choice. It’s been The Caller for over 20 years, through at least two other editors. As a title, it’s kind of old fashioned, with that “sittin’ on the porch swing with your best gal” feel to it.

We could probably update it to something more in tune with today’s world, like The InstaChrist or Jesusgram or iCall. My favorite is GraceBook. Something with a more technological feel would give people the impression that we’re a groovy and happening church, or should that be a tight and rad church? Because we are a tight and rad church.

We have a cool outreach to over 150 children on Wednesday nights. If we include the adults that volunteer their time to help, that number reaches 300. We have rad programs that reach out to the LGBT community within and without our building, programs that are committed to helping feed and clothe adults and children in our community and programs that reach out into the world through mission trips. We have an on-line presence with a website and FaceBook page. Our choir is growing again with a new choir director. Our one-on-one caring ministry is touching more and more people in need. A few years ago, our congregation decided that it was time for our building to be more attuned to our current ministries, so we’re completing a remodeling project that turned around our 50 year old sanctuary a full 180 degrees. It’s turned us on our ears, as we re-examined our ministries, stream-lining some, expanding others, adding new ones that count. Even cynics would have to agree that what we’ve done and are doing is tighter than skinny jeans on a hipster.

Our church is “tight and rad.” Translate that to “active and growing.” We are fulfilling our Christian commitment to reach out and care for those beyond our building’s walls. Growth is good, and yet the newsletter is stuck with an old-fashioned name. The Caller. As if we’re going to go knocking on doors and invite you to church. Who does that anymore? It’s not like we can go a-callin’ on the neighbors at any time of day. As a society, we’re not that way now. Who has time to sit and chat? We’ve all got phones that go with us every place we go. Why visit in person when a text will do? So, I’m proposing that an appropriate name for The Caller that would be in keeping with the current times and mission of the church would be … The Caller.

That’s right. No change. It may seem like an old-fashioned name for a church newsletter at first, like we’re not keeping up with the trends of the modern, secular society, but really, it is the universal message for all Christians to call people to Christ. That has never changed. We are called again and again to reach out. In response, we, the called, are reaching out to those who are in need of Christ and Christ’s care through us. We are calling them to us. We are The Caller.

I don’t know how much longer I’ll be the editor of The Caller. I will continue until God calls me elsewhere or calls someone else to do it, just like He called me. What I do know is that during my turn as editor, I will always champion the name, The Caller. It’s a little awkward, a little old-fashioned, but it also says everything about who our church is as Christians. We are The Caller. And people are answering.



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That Sinking Feeling

I was sitting at a drive-through window yesterday when I got that sinking feeling. No, I wasn’t debating the merits of fast food on my waistline, nor was I kvetching about spending the money on fast food when it could have gone into my European vacation fund (if I had one). I wasn’t saddened by my choices. Nor was I aware of any upcoming doom that might have been averted by forewarning. My heart and my head were unaffected by this sinking feeling.  Instead, it was my right foot that gave way beneath me. Only my right foot.

Odd, I thought. I cautiously raised my foot part way and put it back down. Again, my foot sank. By now, I hope you’ve figured out where my right foot was and possibly what was being affected. I’ll give you a hint. Consider that I was in a drive-through. In my car. Oh, what the heck, I’ll just say it. That sinking feeling was caused by my brake pedal. MY brake pedal. My BRAKE pedal. My brake PED … you get the picture — when you realize something is wrong with your car and the moment of panic sets in.

How was I going to get home? Safely.

 Obviously, I’m no mechanic. I had no idea why this was happening. All I could do was have an “Oh, Lord, is it the Apocalypse” moment and then regroup, pull myself out from in front of the raging locomotive of anxiety and onto the placid lake of “I’ve got this.” Who am I kidding? It’s bad enough that I mixed metaphors, but I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t pretty upset by the situation. My motor of perpetual escalation was running faster than the car’s, but what could I do?

Once I got my food, I very carefully pulled into a parking space and got out to examine the car. I live in the Upper Midwest. The Upper Midwest has snow in the winter. A lot of it. My car had what I affectionately call “snow poop” built up in the wheel wells. Hmm, thought I, I shall kicketh off the snow poopeth and the vehicle shall be saved. Yeah, no. That wasn’t it.

So what do I do? I sat and debated about calling my husband. I could drop the car off at the mechanics which was sort of on the way home and have him pick me up, but by then the food would be cold. Plus, the mechanic was closed by now. The car was still drive-able, so I made the decision to drive the three miles home. If I could hit the lights just right, I would be okay, I figured. There were no warning lights on in the dash, and the car still braked. It was when I applied continuous pressure that the pedal sank. So, wise or not, after making sure that there was a wide gap in traffic, I set off for home.

And prayed. I prayed for green lights. I prayed that the car in front of me would turn. I prayed that the car behind me would back off. (Okay, I always pray for that one. I’ve been rear-ended more than once.) I prayed to make it safely home. And I did. The food was still warm. Bonus!

So the car is currently parked in the garage waiting for our next harrowing trip to the mechanic this afternoon. The hardest part will be going down our sloped drive-way backwards. I hope.

When I apply the brakes in my car, I expect them to work. If they don’t, I know something is wrong, and hopefully, it can be fixed. Quite often, it’s not the problem that I think it might be. I’m no mechanic, so it’s no wonder that I’m often wrong. What I know for certain is that my brakes need fixed, and I need to leave my car in the hands of someone who can fix it.

I’m like the broken brakes; I cave under pressure. When I apply prayer, I expect it to work. If it doesn’t, I get that sinking feeling. I get angry and anxious and confused about what I should do. But, it’s not the prayer that is broken. It’s that what I’m praying about is often times not the problem that God knows needs to be fixed.

The Great Mechanic knows what’s wrong with me. He’s the one that fixes me, despite my self-diagnosis, because He’s the one who knows my ins and outs.

Just like my mechanic knows my car. I’ll have to pay him, of course. Depending on what’s wrong, it may cost an arm and a leg. But that’s a lot less than what Jesus paid to fix the broken me.

Well, off I go … after I pray for green lights all the way.