Category Archives: Community

Staying Connected in your Community

How My Co-Worker Got Three Heads!

Myself and two other ladies manage the front desk for six physicians. We try to be that friendly face behind the counter when you check in to see the doctor. But sometimes….

In actuality, its really quite simple. We just need a simple form filled out – front and back. The first dirty look comes when the patient doesn’t want to have to fill out the form. When we kindly point out that they missed the back side – they look at us as if we had two heads.

But today was the winner. One patient’s caregiver jerked the form back from my co-worker and glared at her – for merely indicating the back side needed to be completed. It was clear to see that this woman thought my co-worker was a three headed monster!

Being sick isn’t fun, and we try to serve with compassion the patients that come our way. Please don’t hate us for doing our jobs. You see, you may have had a relationship change and have a new emergency contact instead of your ex-boyfriend. If your test results show a major issue, we want to contact you right away! It’s a good thing your paperwork is up to date so we call your new emergency contact if we can’t reach you – instead of your estranged ex-boyfriend.

What if we quit treating people that ask a little from us as if we were banished to a penal colony? What if we respected people who did their jobs with thoroughness, instead of cheap, low quality work? What if we didn’t get angry with those who greet us warmly and connect us to vital healthcare?

Truly, we are not three-headed monsters!

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The Heretofore Underappreciated Value of a Complete Sentence

I had considered being a doctor as a child, but never a nurse. I just wanted to come into the room with all the answers and knowledge. I was never interested in giving shots or sponge baths. But somewhere along the way I fell in love with words and decided to explore writing and communication.

So when my mother-in-law, Edrine, broke her ankle and I was the only relative in near proximity and with a more flexible schedule, I ended up paying a visit to Georgia to assist her a little as well as my father-in-law, Klaus, (both are in their 70’s) in their primary caregiver duties to Edrine’s aunt.

Aunt Luella is 101! That’s quite an accomplishment. But age has taken its toll on her and she struggles with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Some days when you walk into her private wing at the end of my in-laws’ home, you never know what to expect. She’s latched on to a few words that are repeated over and over again along with a sprinkling of intelligible words. You have to understand that sometimes a gibberish word is standing in place of the other word that her mind can no longer get her mouth to say.

It took a couple of days for Aunt Luella to get used to me in the room assisting with care instead of my mother-in-law. I tried my best to follow instructions and keep to the exact same routine so as not to aggravate her. She spoke mostly to Klaus, but sometimes she would look at me and say a string of gibberish.

One day, as I cleared away her morning meal and brought her a nutritional supplement, Aunt Luella suddenly looked up at me and said, “I really like that shirt.” I was stunned and overwhelmed. I finally smiled and thanked her for her kind words. To hear that 101-year-old woman speak in a complete sentence was uncommon, but especially to someone new she was still getting used to. That simple sentence, a compliment about what I was wearing, is something I will treasure forever.

So here I am, full circle, realizing that I never wanted to be the one to do the sometimes nasty jobs of personal care on someone who couldn’t do it for themselves, yet that’s exactly what I was doing for Aunt Luella. Was it fun? No! I got peed on once and in one of her dementia aggravated moments, she thrashed and tried to get her diaper off – leaving quite the mess for us to clean up. But having that one interaction with her made it all worthwhile!

When someone speaks to you, take the time to listen. It may not be evident on the outside just how much it is taking them to speak in a complete sentence to you. Maybe it’s a child that is afraid to admit that they broke something. Maybe it’s a relative that has been distant for some years and is struggling to say that they want to be involved in the family again. Take the time to appreciate the value of a complete sentence.

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7 Ways to be a Better Santa Claus

So there is going to be a lot of gift giving during the Christmas season, right? Some will be doing so out of a sense of obligation, others out of love and connection. There are still others who just get caught up in the holiday spirit and shop till they drop. God bless their hearts.

Most of the time, we make a really lousy Santa Claus. Why do you think there are so many “Ugly Sweater Parties” at Christmas? The secret to being a better Santa? Well this is a blog about staying connected, so yes the answer is being connected. Take the time to know people and be a better Santa Claus. Here are 7 suggestions.

1. Get to know your neighbors better. They may not like fruitcake. Their house is already full of calorie laden gifts. Maybe they have a son in college that they miss very much. Stationery and stamps may be the best gift.

2. Get over the gift card. First of all, you’re paying taxes twice. You get taxed when you purchase the gift card and they get taxed when they buy something with it. If you must get a gift card, at least find out what their interests are and get one they’ll absolutely love!

3. Find the reasons they “don’t” do something. Have an aunt that used to bake all the time, but doesn’t anymore? Assumed she just got bored with it? Ask her way. Maybe it’s her arthritis, and mixing is difficult. Get a standing kitchen bowl mixer for her. You’ll be giving her two gifts in one, because she’ll also be getting back her love of baking.

4. Stop avoiding scrooge! Have someone that just isn’t into the Christmas spirit? Find out why. There could be a painful memory associated with the holiday season and each year they are reminded of a great loss or never ending battle. A gift that pays tribute to a lost loved one or a gift that says “I’m on your side,” could change everything this Christmas.

5. Give yourself. Time is one of the most precious gifts we have to give. Invite a friend or family member to spend time with you in a way that both of you would enjoy – a sports event, a concert, manicure, local community theater – and throw in a meal to make it even more meaningful.

6. Touch the saint’s heart. Is your family’s hippie driving you nuts about all the consumerism and commercialism at Christmas when people are going hungry? Pick a charity, pick a need and take them shopping for items for those in need. Not the shopping type? Visit http://www.adra.org and their really useful gift catalog. You can buy a goat for an impoverished family that will change their way of life, and you can have it done in the name of your friend.

7. Support and Encourage. Don’t know what to get that coworker for Christmas? Go to their kids’ school Christmas program and present a small gift to the child for a job well done. Grandma always works so hard to put on the great big family Christmas dinner, consider a personalized serving platter, “Grandma’s famous Christmas Dinner.” Give gifts that encourage people in what they love!

All these tips have one thing in common – taking the time to connect with people. The best way ever to be a better Santa!

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The #1 Enemy of Being Connected

Relationships require connection. You may pass the same newspaper guy on the street every day on your way to work, but there is no real connection, no relationship. However, if you always wave when you walk by, even if you don’t purchase a paper, there is some connection. Something is happening. Some form of recognition and awareness between two people.

Connection is important in all relationships from coworkers and distant, extended family to your best friend or your children. Because we are human, there are so many ways we can break that connection. We fail to stay involved in our kids’ lives then hit the roof when the principal calls and says little Susie is part of a bullying clique at school that caused another student to drop out of school. We don’t take the time to ask our coworkers about their families or how their weekend went and then wonder why they don’t invite us to their get togethers with other coworkers. Then there are the really horrible ways we break connections, like abuse, neglect and slander.

Painful as all of these are, they’re really not the #1 enemy of being connected. That “honor” is reserved for a false sense of security. Some may argue with me and say that couldn’t possibly be a contributor to broken relationships, but that’s their opinion. When you screw up, you pay the consequences. But what happens when you don’t even know you screwed up because you’ve been floating on the “I have arrived” cloud and stopped investing in your relationships?

It sneaks up on you like the iceberg on the Titanic. You’ve worked hard on your relationships and that hard work has paid off, so you just sort of check out and think, I’m done. I can just rest on my laurels now. I’ve arrived and now all I have to do is coast. Reminder, when you’re coasting, you’re going downhill.

The experts say that no fad diet is going to help someone lose weight, it has to be a lifestyle change. It’s the same with relationships. No little relationship booster is going to fix it for all time. Investing in your relationships is a lifestyle. This sneaks up on spouses the most. They think all is fine and suddenly they realize they don’t feel connected anymore. They stopped investing in their marriage.

This can be overwhelming to think about. You mean I have to invest myself in all of these relationships, from coworkers to my kids? Yes. That’s too much! It can be. That’s why you have to prioritize and decide which relationships you will connect with at a bare minimum level and which will you connect with at a much more involved level, such as your spouse or your children. You value what you invest in. Don’t stop investing in relationships. Make it a lifestyle and stay connected!

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Seven Disgusting Things about Moving

I’ve been unconnected! That’s what moving will do for you. Now that the settling in to my new domicile is beginning to take shape, time to get back to work! In this entire process, I didn’t find a single person who said they love moving. It seems to be a universal necessary evil. So here you have it folks. Seven disgusting things about moving!

1. Two times the work. Anyone who has ever moved knows this is true. Most moves don’t happen overnight, especially for a family of five like ours. Just because you turn in your two week notice doesn’t mean that you can slip into coasting mode. It doesn’t work that way. It would be lovely if you could wait until the last day of your current job before tackling paperwork for the Human Resources department of your new job, but again, it doesn’t work that way folks. Everybody wants a piece of you.

2. Packing in General. Really folks, where do you start? Unless you work for a place that will hire people to come in and pack your stuff and load it onto the truck for you, packing is a never ending nightmare! No matter how organized you are in your plan for packing (I had a four-phase plan on a spreadsheet), something will come up. See number one.

3. The house hunt! This is time consuming and frustrating. Again, refer to number one. You can’t house hunt at your new potential community for three months before informing your current employer you are resigning. They will eventually get suspicious of all the frequent trips out of state. This means most of us get stuck in a very short time frame of when we have to be out of our old house and into our new home. Some companies will pay for a few weeks in a hotel, but unless you go ahead and leave your family behind until you find a home, the hunt is a lot of work in a very short amount of time.

4. Boxes. Just what we need, pieces of cardboard everywhere to make us sneeze! Homes being packed start to smell like warehouses. It used to be that local stores were more than happy to get rid of their boxes to folks who were moving. As companies have become “greener” as well as leaner, we see more stores breaking down their boxes immediately and even recycling them. Have no fear, your local home improvement stores and even discount stores now sell moving boxes. That’s right, you have to pay for this torture! Then there are those, like my husband, who saves most original boxes for things we purchase. Up to the attic we go to get the boxes that still have the original packing material in them for everything from our large screen TV to an inexpensive set of champagne glasses. At some point, you have to wonder if those boxes smell too old and look too damaged to safely get your valuable possessions to their new location.

5. Change. Of course there is going to be change, it’s a move, right? You expect change. If you’ve had an opportunity to do a little bit of research ahead of time, you may have a good idea of what changes are coming your way. You poor deluded fool. You have no idea how many changes you’ll face. There is no way to be prepared for all of them!

6. Getting Reconnected. On this end, your phone provider tells you just transfer your service when you arrive at your new location. Upon arrival, you learn that your phone and DSL provider in your previous location can only offer dial up service in your new location. Dial up service? Seriously? It’s a great day when the lights are on, the electric is on, the internet is hooked up and life is good again.

7. Money Matters. Moving is expensive. It’s a pain. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to have a nationwide bank that will be happy to issue you new checks with your new local address. But if you are moving to somewhere other than Dallas, New York City or Chicago, chances are you have to find a new bank. Each bank has its own rules, like a nine day holding on all new accounts. Then there is all that last minute stuff you just threw out, telling yourself you would buy new ones later. Of course the new house has things the old house didn’t and these have to be added in to the budget. Personally, I’ll take that extra cost for additional bathroom supplies. It’s worth it to have another bathroom in the house!

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What Tools Should You Have in Your Toolbox?

If you hang around neuro-psychologists long enough, you just might pick up a couple of their phrases. Going through the evaluations, various testings including follow-up MRI’s and so forth with Greta’s Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM), we’ve spent some time with a great neuro-psychologist. One of her phrases that we love -Tools for your Toolbox!

Basically, this doctor, who is a favorite among all the kids and parents because she is just so awesome, says her goal is to make sure Greta has enough tools in her toolbox to handle dealing with ADEM in day to day life. Now nearly three years after that terrifying ordeal of seeing my little girl hospitalized and hooked up to all kinds of things, I realize that tools in the toolbox can apply to any of us. I’ve also seen that we’re a lot happier when we embrace this.

I’m getting ready to send my firstborn off to college. He has his own issues that he deals with, like being an intense introvert and being addicted to his routines. Seeing him being forced by circumstances to change his routine is like watching ants that have lost the line. So yeah, I’m a little nervous for him, but I’ve taken on Dr. Harder’s mantra and I’m doing everything I can to make sure that Michael has the tools he needs in his toolbox to deal with life as a college student hundreds of miles from home.

So what tools should you have in your toolbox? That’s easy, the ones that help you cope and deal with life – in addition they should be legal, moral and ethical. That usually helps. While there will be similarities, there will also be tools that will be different for each person. Greta, being very literal now and decreased math skills due to ADEM, needs tools to help her remember to ask people to help her when she doesn’t understand something. She needs to tool of asking others to slow down and help her until she gets that joke, because she’s so literal.

Michael, the extreme introvert, knows he would rather do just about anything before talking on the phone to anyone. So a tool in his toolbox is going to be a good friend willing to make a phone call when he can’t.

What tools should be in your toolbox? Find those things that help you cope with life and deal with the day to day stresses that living on planet Earth serves up on a regular basis. The amazing thing is, you’ll usually find tools for your toolbox in your family, church, community and friends.

 

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How Perspective Defines the Unthinkable

One of the things my husband and I enjoy presenting at our marriage seminars is the fact that the differences men and women find fascinating about each other at the beginning can become frustrations after they are married – but there’s hope! We teach people how to reignite understanding their spouse and give them tools to turn those frustrations back into fascination about the person they love!

The funny thing about these principles, and many others, is that they can be applied to many relationships, not just marriages. So we found ourselves having yet another discussion with the oldest regarding the youngest of our offspring. Here is the scenario.

Greta was told to wash her hands before handling a book. She went to the kitchen sink that was full of the dishes I had just used to make breakfast, instead of either of the other two sinks in the house that were completely free. Michael was dumbfounded. Why would she choose the  most difficult sink to wash her hands in? That’s easy. For Greta, she just wanted it done so she could move on to the next thing and the kitchen sink was the closest to her. She went for it.

After discussing it further, we came to the crux of the perspective problem between the two of them. Michael finds it unthinkable that someone could care so little about a situation. We then assured him that it was equally unthinkable to Greta that someone would care so much!

We interact with other people on a daily basis and perhaps we even judge them because of something they have done that we find unthinkable! But we must bear in mind that the unthinkable is molded by our perspective. Let’s give others some grace that their perspective may be different than ours and therefore their actions may not be as unthinkable as previously thought.

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The secret to my super duper peanut butter & honey sandwich

I just didn’t get it. Why did Matthew only want peanut butter and honey sandwiches that I made? How in the world did very simple and straightforward a+b=a peanut putter and honey sandwich become so much in demand?

Karl didn’t get it either. He knows how practical and “let’s just get this done,” I am and he was also bewildered. He had technique in making a sandwich and he took his time with the attentions to detail, but my sandwich got the ranking of super duper and only mine was good enough for Matthew. How could this be?

Then one day I ruined it all. I showed them how I made the sandwich.

I think at this point, there are not enough words in any thesaurus to convey the amount of disappointment, let-down and “really, that’s all there is to it?” As far as technique goes, Karl’s scored way more in the artistic area. Me – I just slapped down two pieces of bread. Put peanut butter on one. Squirted honey on top of the peanut butter, so that I didn’t have to use a knife or anything to spread it – too much fuss – then slapped on the top piece of bread. Done. Eat. You’ve been provided for.

After the “great disappointment” as to my secret method, we were able to ascertain that since I didn’t blend the peanut butter and honey together artistically with a knife like Karl did; and since I didn’t put the honey on its own slice of bread like most amateurs (it starts soaking into the bread immediately and losing its potency) that somehow my simple method allowed for light airy layers that tantalized Matthew’s taste buds.

But it was no longer called the super duper peanut butter and honey sandwich.

Since when did something, simple and perfect just the way it is, deserve to be ostracized from the super duper? Why does something have to have tons of steps, like Common Core math, or lots of bling (lifeystyles of the rich and famous)? If something is good, perfect even, and simple – why can’t it also be super duper?

It’s not the first time. We human beings have a way of rejecting the simple and perfect, because we’re expecting something spectacular and flashy. If we like it, if it’s good, well then of course it has to be over the top – right? It couldn’t possibly be simple.

I still make peanut butter and honey sandwiches the same way, even if they’ve lost the title of super duper. Nothing has changed in the sandwich itself. It is just the preconceived ideas and expectations of the recipient. Time to do some inventory. Are there things I’ve been given that are perfect though simple, that I refuse to call super duper just because it’s not super flashy? Time to call all the blessings, gifts, people and things that I love what they are: super duper!

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Scrapped Rights and Duties

Everyone wears a seat belt. That was the rule laid out by mom and dad. When my sister and I were driving the family car, everyone riding with us had to wear their seat belt. Failure to follow this rule would result in loss of driving privileges. Pretty simple and straightforward.

A lot of life and living took place between my young driving days and my oldest son turning 16 years old. Let’s get Michael his driver’s license! Rite of passage just like I went through at that age. But it wasn’t that easy in the great state of Texas for a 16 year old to get a driver’s license. I had visions of Michael driving himself and his two younger siblings to school each day. That would take a load off of Karl and I. We were looking forward to it. But someone told us that wouldn’t work and we looked into the rules about driving in Texas. Things had changed a lot since I was sweet 16 and driving the family car!

Somewhere between my parents and their rules and my son being of age for a driver’s license; there were a whole lot of parents that began scrapping their parental rights and duties. Instead of being their child’s parent, they gave in to the popular notion of the time (that is still floating around out there) that their primary objective was to be their child’s best friend. Really? So if your parent is your best friend, who do you go to when you need a parent? Look no further, big brother is standing by.

This is how it works. Parents put restrictions on their offspring when new privileges are granted. As the young person proves trustworthy, the restrictions are gradually lifted. Parents have been parents. Young people have learned trust and accountability and the roads are safer. When parents quit parenting, the government steps in. It may be local, state or even federal, but when parents stop parenting someone has to be come the parent. So now the state of Texas is the parent for all young drivers. There is no way to determine if they have been trustworthy or not, so specific ages are set down. Regardless of how wonderful your little darling is, the law has specific restrictions and limitations until they reach a certain age. It’s what happens when you govern the masses.

It was so much easier and more gratifying when parents held those duties and responsibilities. It was intimate, something you achieved under the watchful eyes, cheering and support of those closest to you. Now it’s a number in line and the same rule applies to all universally – no matter how safe of a driver you are.

Will parents ever take back their rights and duties? I’m hoping so.

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Movie Bites

We took a family walk this evening and I gave the order to my youngest son – nothing that comes from a movie please!

I noticed it this morning and commented on it; that everything he said was little sound bites from various movies, TV programs or computer games. Was it cleverly done? Of course! Was he right on the mark? Absolutely! But I wanted to be able to have a conversation with him without having to visualize the movie he was pulling bits and pieces from.

This led to the family challenging each other to various levels of “screen-free” days. Matthew’s response was, sure, but you need to give me something interesting to do instead.

Isn’t that the problem? You have a bookshelf full of great books, shelves full of great science project games, art supplies, science gadgets, games, challenges and Legos. And you need something interesting to do?

And so it begins.

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Culture Becoming Anti-Social?

We’ve all been there, at some sort of event or even just a nice dinner out with your spouse and someone’s cell phone rings and they start conducting business right there – ruining the atmosphere you came to enjoy. Then there is Facebook. Are we fast becoming addicting to all of these electronic devices and mediums that our culture is becoming anti-social as some of the experts suggest?

I’ve seen a funny picture, posted on Facebook of course, saying our culture has become anti-social. But the picture isn’t of a modern day subway car filled with people ignoring each other using their iPhones and Droids. It’s an older picture of passengers on a train and each one is being anti-social to his neighbor because they are all reading the newspaper!

I don’t see it as an anti-social culture. I see it for what it is: a practical demonstration of how this culture longs to stay connected. Can we try to hard to maintain one connection that we damage another? Of course! But that’s been happening for centuries and has nothing to do with mobile devices or Facebook.

Let’s accept that we were created to be social beings and that we long to stay connected. Then let’s work on balancing our connections. Each one of us needs to find out what our priorities are. Sometimes we just get distracted by one connection for a moment and forget the connection in front of us that is more vital to maintain. We’ll figure it out. We’ve done it before. Because we like to stay connected.

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Jumping Ahead

When you are used to being active and involved in everything, being sidelined is almost a fate worse than death. So you can imagine my anticipation and eagerness after a corrective surgery to get back on my feet and get back in the game. Oops, a little too soon and a little too fast.

The good news is that the evil adhesion mass has been removed and once I fully recover from the surgery, look out world here I come! I’ve longed to do so much that my hunger and thirst for it drove me harder, faster, more – and just a little bit of overdoing it.

There are things I’ve promised myself – no more sitting around and doing nothing! Getting out and doing things again and saying yes to more invitations. But I’ve come to realize that being sidelined has an impact on more than your physical ability. It creates new habits, new routines, new ways of doing things. I’ve already faced a couple of situations where activity was available, but the habit of staying home and drawing into myself reared its ugly head and sometimes won out.

The biggest battle I face now may no longer be physical pain, but the kind of life I accepted while I was in so much pain and whether or not to continue coasting along. God give me strength to no longer find coasting along as acceptable!

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Considering Your Destiny

One of the fascinating sequels in the Bible is the book of Jeremiah, followed by the book of Lamentations. The first book is all about Jeremiah’s pleadings, on God’s behalf, for God’s people to come back to Him. The book is full of recollections of God’s many attempts to get their attention and remind them that they had a covenant. He would be their God, provide all for them, and they would be His people, faithful to Him only. But they didn’t listen. To put it delicately, they pretty much decided to flaunt their unfaithfulness in God’s face. So then comes the book of Lamentations. All God’s warnings ignored, the desolation came. Now begins Jeremiah’s laments over how none of this would have happened, if God’s people had just been faithful.

Tucked in the first chapter of Lamentations is an interesting concept in verse nine. God’s people didn’t consider their destiny.

Think about that for a moment. They were so wrapped up in the here and now, instant gratification that they forgot about their ultimate destiny as God’s people. Remember that ultimate destiny? They were never to lord it over others. God simply chose them to be the ones to share His love with all the rest of the world. They lost sight of that destiny and became an exclusive club for snobs instead. God’s original plan was to save every single person on Earth. The people He blessed to share that good news with others – they failed, because they didn’t consider their destiny.

What is your destiny? Are you so caught up in the here and now, hand to mouth, daily grind and all of that – have you lost sight of your destiny? Is your marriage something you’re just surviving today, or does it have a destiny to be great? Can you hardly wait until the kids are of legal age and out of the house, or does your parenting have a destiny?

Life isn’t just about today. God created you for greatness. You have a destiny – don’t lose sight of that. Today’s decisions affect tomorrow. A score of tomorrows becomes your destiny. Have you considered your destiny today?

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Engineering Hug

I saw this meme on Facebook about this being National Hug an Engineer Week. Hilarious! I can laugh because my oldest son plans to study engineering in college this fall. The grimace on the engineer’s face in the picture says it all. You are in my space!

Thankfully, Michael gives and receives hugs from most members of the family. His little sister is still questionable as she is way too “fun country” for him and her hugs end up being a total invasion of his personal space. I recently learned more about how much Michael protects his personal space when I confronted him about his apparent fear of rain. “It’s only water,” I would often say. “You take a shower after all.”

Michael’s response? “But I know where the shower is aiming and I can control it. Aha! Breakthrough in understanding my son. It’s not the water itself that bothers him, but that he’s not controlling where it’s going and he can’t control it getting into his very defined personal space.

I do plan on hugging my future engineer, but I also accept him for who he is and what he needs – personal space.

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You Never Know

Karl picked up a sale item the other day – a paper airplane kit. He thought the kids would enjoy it. It has an instruction booklet and designed paper so you can make a “shark plane” that reminds you of the ferocious paint jobs on WWII planes. Those fighters were serious!

It sat around for a couple of days until it was finally utilized, by Greta and two other girls from the neighborhood. It wasn’t the boys that went after it, it was the girls! They were making plane after plane and testing how well they flew, correcting any errors they may have made. I mentioned they needed to save some of the papers for the boys, but Karl just shook his head and said he could always buy another one if needed.

Maybe the one little neighbor girl, who made the most planes and was the most fastidious about the whole process, will grow up to be involved in designing planes. No one at this house told her she couldn’t do it because she was a girl. You never know.

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Tag! You’re It!!

There are days as a parent when you just need to hand it off to your spouse. You give them that look that says, you take over or this child will end up grounded for three years. Greta does more than any of the other children to cause us to keep passing the baton back and forth. But what if there is no one to pass the baton to?

I know some recent single parents with young children. They have a lot going on. Suddenly they are responsible for everything to a much greater magnitude than ever before. They also desperately need that “Tag, you’re it” moment to pass the baton to someone else for a little while.

Single parents work hard and sacrifice a lot. If you know a single parent, especially of younger children, why don’t you find out if you can provide one of those moments where they can pass the baton to you for a few minutes? Offer to take their kids to the park for an hour. Find out their favorite treat and take them to get it. Find out what their parent is really struggling with right now, and find a way to reinforce and support the parent to those children during your outing.

By the way, it doesn’t matter why they are a single parent. Death, divorce, never married; it just doesn’t matter. Those kids till need mentoring and that parent still needs a moment to tag someone else to take over for a while.

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Gettler and ISN

The youngest two and myself spent some time Sunday afternoon watching a most interesting documentary on toxicology, highlighting the life of Dr. Alexander Gettler. It was fascinating to see the science of forensics, before it was accepted in criminology, and the fight to have it respected. However, it hit home for me.

As a safety assistant for a general contractor, part of my job is researching and presenting the safety information needed for our guys to be in compliance with safety requirements. To be honest, some of the guys see some of these safety requirements as huge inconveniences that make them work longer on a particular job and end up costing the customer more. But they get to go home at night because they are safe. Watching the documentary showed me that there was a time when workers injured on the job were accused of being weak and crippled before they came and the employer had been kind to them in even giving them a job.

I shared this information with the guys and how working in dangerous environments was pushed under the rug for many years. It brought a new light to the reason why we go over dangerous chemicals and the protocol for dealing with them, including learning how many parts per million you can be exposed to before serious illness and death occur. There is a reason why we follow these safety rules and maintain our data on ISN, a safety portal for industries and their contractors.

Today, I’m grateful for the hard work of Dr. Gettler, for perfecting the science of toxicology and helping to get legislation passed to protect workers. Our guys get to go home at night to their families because they work safe.

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Relevant

Real.

I love it when young people embrace the real. There is so much garbage mixed in with everything out there it’s hard to keep up, but each and every day young people are choosing real stuff of substance over the superficial.

But if you think “real” is skirts to the floor and super long hair knotted up in a bun, you may be more irrelevant than you are real. While there is nothing inherently wrong with long skirts and hair in buns, it’s not the only “real” option out there.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting some real and relevant young people and those mentoring them. Yes there is modesty, simplicity, diligence, honesty, loyalty and hard work; but it’s also colorful, modern, vibrant and lived out passionately. I love these real young people and others love them too – because they are relevant.

 

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The Real Trip

My husband organized a trip for young people from our church to go to an International conference for youth and young adults. There were many amazing experiences at Generation Youth for Christ, but more than the amazing meetings and meeting people from all over the world – there was the trip itself.

Personalities not previously seen finally become known after nine people travel 14 plus hours in a van that is packed full. One way.

Traveling back home to East Texas from not so sunny Orlando, Florida, was with the knowledge learned about the personalities of traveling companions. It changed everything. We had learned about each others’ strengths as well as idiosyncrasies. We knew what to expect of each other and how to make it work better – and where firm boundaries needed to be drawn.

GYC was an incredible experience and I’m so glad that it happens again in 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. But I learned just as much on the trip itself.

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Connecting the Dots

Few things foster bonding amongst a group of people that know each other at varying levels of intimacy than a road trip. The longer the trip, the greater the capacity for bonding. Hopefully it’s all good. No one likes that trip remembered for the one miserable soul that made the whole event miserable for everyone else as well.

We started off with 9 passengers in the van, heading to a youth convention, before dropping off our two youngest at my in-laws’ home. The seven of us continued to our destination of Orlando, Florida – family destination extraordinaire! By the time we got to Orlando, I was so the kids weren’t in the van.

Between Gainesville and Orlando, there is an adult establishment. Billboards attacked the eyes every few feet and sometimes from both sides of the highway at the same time. Silhouetted images and bold phrases that told exactly how far they go left very little to the imagination. The only other billboards blanketing that stretch of highway as much as the adult establishment’s advertisements, were for a facility that helped those with unwanted pregnancies.

After the adult establishment was long behind us on the highway, I kept seeing billboards to help those who were in a situation they weren’t planning for. It didn’t take long to connect the dots. All the way down to family destination extraordinaire, were signs of a society that boldly advertised that which destroys individuals and families and those dedicated to restoring hope to those caught in a culture of anything goes. What we reap, we sow. I’m thinking that if I ever decide to take my entire family to Orlando, Florida, I’ll go out of my way to take a different highway, hoping this one is safe for families on their way to one of the most popular family destinations in our country.

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What She Found in the Closet

Personality. My daughter has it. In fact, she has so much personality she has little time for things like cleaning her room on her own. Personality people love group activities and let’s face it: cleaning your own room isn’t a group activity. Greta loves to help in groups and will be the first to volunteer and she’s great at cheering on the team. That’s why we love personality people.

But her room is still a mess and the boys don’t wan to make it a group activity that Greta will love and help their little sister out. So we bribe them. Matthew is paid to work in the room for a while. Greta is thrilled to have company on doing a chore and the room gets cleaned. We gloss over the arguments and chalk them up to simple sibling rivalry.

The next morning, Greta came out with a huge smile and one of her recently rediscovered treasures, found deep in the recesses of her previously hideous closet. It was an envelope full of homemade cards from the kids at her school – from when she was in the hospital. She came out waving the envelope and shouting to the world:

See mommy, people do love and care about me.

Of course I responded that I never had any doubt and smiled, and tried not to cry, as Greta read card after homemade card from different schoolmates expressing that she get well soon and how much they loved and missed her. It’s been two years since our lives changed and ADEM came to our home, but those words of love and encouragement still found loving reception in Greta’s heart, and mine.

I told my class at church – I wish everyone could go clean their closet and find an envelope full of the love and encouragement folks have given them when they went through a difficult time – and remember that people still love and care about them. Go ahead, right now. Go clean out the closet of your memories. Don’t dwell on the obstacles and hurts. Remember the love and support of those who stood by you and perhaps even carried you through that time. Like Greta, hold those precious memories high and say to yourself that it’s true! People still love and care about me!

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Focus Woman, Focus!

We hit a muskrat with our Toyota Camry. Estimates are it has done about $800 worth of damage. Not fun. Christmas, taking a youth group to a big event in Florida in January and still trying to get a son through his senior year of high school – now isn’t a good time to cough up some of that green stuff to fix the car.

And while we are at it, why do we always get stuck with used cars? How come we had to get a real winner, a Camry with a damage title, and the stupid key fobs won’t work unless we invest hundreds of dollars to replace the car’s computer system? I could go on and on, but God stopped me.

It was like He was waving His hands up and down and jumping for emphasis. “Focus Woman, Focus! Look at what you do have.”

When our family needed a second vehicle and there weren’t many affordable options, someone hooked us up with this Camry for a very competitive price. The mechanic we usually take our vehicles to gives my husband a ministerial discount. I could go on and on – and this time God probably won’t stop me. I’m much happier when I’m counting my blessings instead of focusing on a few trivial bumps in the road.

It’s really simple, but it’s sometimes very  hard. Choosing to count our blessings instead of dwelling on what’s going wrong at the moment isn’t the natural choice for us folks. But that’s okay, because I happen to know Someone in the supernatural business. Through God’s grace, He can transform my life and give me a character like Christ’s. The car will get taken care of eventually. Perhaps most important is taking my heart to God’s garage for a tune up.

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Information Overload

It doesn’t happen very often, but I saw my oldest son go through information overload this weekend. Perhaps it comes from being a senior in high school and having in less than two months time the following: SAT, ACT and semester final exams. The finals start tomorrow. I’m hoping Michael recovers from the ACT in time to switch gears to finals.

There comes a point where you’ve pushed yourself too much, too far, too fast and you have to disengage. We tried all sorts of things to help Michael relax from the test so he could get back to regular homework assignments due Monday morning, but it was laughter that finally eased the tension. As the wise man said, a merry heart is like a good dose of medicine!

Overload is easy to experience, especially around the holiday times. Before your natural instincts to shut down and disengage go into autopilot – make sure you take some time to laugh. Watch some kids playing at a playground. Read a corny joke book. Watch one of the “Thou Shalt Laugh” presentations or post a joke on social media and ask others to keep it going.

The people around you want to stay connected, so take a moment to laugh instead of having to disengage. Enjoy the holiday season. Laugh!!

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The Forgiven Restaurant

There is a saying that goes something like this: You fool me once, shame on you; you fool me twice, shame on me. No one likes to be snookered. Those who have been burned once often make sure they can’t be burned again. Who can blame them? I was determined not to get burned twice – at a “terrible” restaurant.

I have been a vegetarian for more than 20 years. I can assure you, that unless you lived in some “pocket” of vegetarian population, there just weren’t many options for vegetarians 20 years ago in restaurants. Grilled cheese or Mac&Cheese are good fail safes for most, but since my body can’t process cheese (thanks to Crohn’s surgery), I had even less options than other vegetarians. The last thing I needed was to eat at a restaurant that insisted on penalizing me for getting my dish without the meat.

That’s exactly what happened one day at lunch with my coworkers. I asked for a salad without the meat. I’m willing to pay the full price still, I just don’t want the meat. The server told me I would have to pay an upcharge for the change. Seriously? You guys can use that meat for something else and I’m going to pay you to do that? I bit the bullet and ordered the salad so my friends and I didn’t have to find another restaurant on our already short lunch break. But the restaurant made it on my list of places never to return to service.

About a year ago, a “Get Healthy Marshall” program came to town. Many experts came talking about the health benefits of a simpler, plant based diet. The Mayor of Marshall, Texas, was all for it as he had seen his own health issues improve after adopting a more healthy lifestyle. Several restaurants in town went public with offering special menus to be in accordance with the new “plant strong” lifestyle. And it is very popular in Marshall, Texas!

Karl and I went for lunch today. To the “terrible” restaurant as they are now on the list of establishments offering a healthier fare. I went with full knowledge that a “better” restaurant down the street was available if this terrible restaurant still tried to penalize people for being vegetarians. The options were few. Other restaurants have a lot more plant strong offerings, but it was delicious! The atmosphere was perfect for our lunch and the service was spot on. When paying for our meal, I told the owner about giving her restaurant a second chance and being glad that I did.

When she heard my story, she admitted that whoever had insisted on charging me extra for leaving off the meat was probably someone without much food service experience and who didn’t work for her for very long. She was grateful that I had given her restaurant a second chance and thrilled that we enjoyed our experience there today.

I walked out of that restaurant having no desire to carry a grudge about what had happened in the past, and thankful for grace. I gave that restaurant grace and a second chance. But God had given me grace, extended forgiveness to me when I was unforgiving toward others that had harmed me. God reminded me that I’ve had my share of second chances.

Was there a risk that I would have gotten “burned” again? Of course. Life is full of risks. But God risked everything to extend grace to me. I’m glad He prompted me to extend grace to this restaurant. Besides the beauty of forgiveness, I tasted one of the best veggie sandwiches ever!

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When Heinz 57 is a Good Thing

There was always one answer missing. No matter how hard I looked on those multiple choice forms, there was never a “Heinz 57” on the list. So I grew up filling out Iowa Tests of Basic Skills forms with resentment each year (as well as many other forms) with the plain old “white” or “Caucasian” because I don’t have enough of any one thing in me to be predominant. But then again, that’s a good thing. Like last night.

Last night was our church’s annual International Christmas Festival. We celebrate all of the cultures represented in our church as well as this special time of year. Folks are invited to dress in a way that reflects their heritage, if they so desire, and bring a food dish representative of their culture. Last year, Karl and the kids went as the Germans they are (I have a little in me) and I went as a Native American. Karl took Streusel Kuchen, and I took Native American Fry Bread. But because of our varied heritages, we were able to choose a different culture to represent at this year’s festival. Last night we went with the English-Welsh side of the family (Karl’s mother and who knows where it comes from in me).

We dressed in lady and knight costumes and served English scones with preserves and tea. Evidently English scones are hard to come by in East Texas. The leftovers were claimed, with quite a bit of demand, actually. Even the peach/apricot preserves were victims of kidnapping by the church media director. We also got to enjoy guacamole made by our Honduran friends and cassava cakes by our friends from the Philippines. What a night!

What culture will we represent next year? Well, since my DNA test came back 19% sub-Saharan African, it might be time to represent the soul side of me. This is what makes being a regular Heinz 57 of races and ethnicities so much fun. I want to proudly celebrate each and every part of my heritage. Why limit it to only one? Things have gotten better over the years on those dreaded forms demanding to know my race and ethnicity. They haven’t figured out “melting pot American” yet, so I click the best answer I can which is finally now available. “Prefer not to answer.” If I can’t claim every single part of my ethnicity then I’d rather not say anything at all.

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I Used to Dance

A friend of mine has recently done a very wonderful, yet very brave thing. He openly admitted he has recently been struggling with depression. Kudos to you friend. Not an easy thing to bring to the forefront. Most of us prefer to stay in denial.

Crohn’s Disease has taken its toll on me, but depression was one of the areas I refused to allow it to take me. But it did. So I did the only thing I knew I could do, deny it. It wasn’t easy to see at the time and I’ll admit, it is still a struggle for me. I’m not a sit on the sidelines kind of person. I’ve always been right in the middle of stuff enjoying life to the fullest. Being sidelined by a disease has been attacking me at the very core of who I am and who I always thought I was.

A patient God and a very loving husband and family have been going through this with me. Karl is actually glad that I’m finally admitting how much I had struggled during some of my lowest points with all that Crohn’s has taken from me. The best way I fight back? Finding every single way I can enjoy life to the fullest again – no matter what others think. I suppose it is best summed up in my thoughts that I shared with my friend.

When a child hears a happy tune – they giggle and dance for joy. When they get a favorite toy – expressions of happiness unlimited. When they see someone hurting they are ready to give all – immediately. Being an adult really sucks because so many people tell you to grow up. But I was much happier when I giggled and danced and gave all I had.

Crohn’s still gives me bad days, but I’m determined to giggle, dance and give like a little child, because life was meant to be lived happy and abundantly!

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The 11th Hour

It wasn’t called World War I, until after World War II. Before then it had simply been called what it was, “The Great War.” It was a costly war around the globe. Nothing like it had been seen before and all hoped that nothing like it would ever be seen again. So on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the war was officially ended.

Here in the United States, this Armistice Day became a federal holiday. Eventually it became what is known today as Veteran’s Day. So today we proudly honor our veterans and thank them for all they have sacrificed for our country.

The treated was signed with great thought put into every detail of the ceremony. This was a war to end all wars, so naturally the ceremony to end such a war had to be the ceremony to end all ceremonies. But we didn’t pay attention.

The Great War is now known as World War I, because we didn’t enforce the requirements of the treaty. World domination arose again and many more lives were lost. The atrocities that happened during World War II should keep us awake at night if we ever think we can let our guard down again.

Today we have very few living veterans of World War II, but I hope we will never forget all they have done for us. I hope we never forget the solemnity of the 11th hour. I hope we never allow atrocities and world domination to rear its ugly head again. Thank you veterans! Thank you for doing your part in protecting the freedoms of this great nation. I pray we will support you the most in doing our part to make sure there is never a World War III. We are grateful for our dedicated and devoted soldiers, but we should never treat them flippantly, by allowing war on a global scale to creep up on us again. Let us all remember the importance of the 11th hour. A war to end all wars. A ceremony to end all such ceremonies.

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Underlying

Arthritis. Yuck.

As I continue to engage in this war with Crohn’s Disease, I do end up in battles with arthritis. Crohn’s drops arthritides into the bloodstream and so my Crohnies and I can get Crohn’s induced arthritis. Not fun.

What I learned from my Rheumatologist yesterday is that the Crohn’s ulcers themselves do not have to be active and flaring in order for the arthritis to be active and giving me grief. In other words, the underlying cause of everything doesn’t have to be visibly active in order for some of its spinoffs to be actively attacking my body.

Reality check. I had no clue. I thought it was all or nothing and that I just didn’t have tons of ab pain whenever one of the other Crohn’s symptoms was manifesting itself. Nope. They can creep up at any time, even when the main culprit appears dormant. So right now I’m applying this little nugget to life in general. Hits me like a brick.

How many times have I thought things weren’t so bad because the main thing wasn’t going nuts? How many times have I put up with little relational issues that were stressful and harmful, because I thought the real big relationship killer wasn’t that active right now, so I could handle this other stuff? The reality is that even if the big bad issue isn’t “active” it is still what is feeding and prompting all of the little things.

Time to take a careful look at what is plaguing me. Time to stop jumping from one side issue to the next and focus on correcting the one underlying thing that is spawning it all. This isn’t going to be easy. God give me grace.

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Of Faith and Old Wives’ Tales

There is a big potted plant in our house, a gift from our church family for Pastor Appreciation Month in October. Thankfully, they got us a plant that is hard to kill. I don’t have a great track record with indoor plants (or outdoor for that matter).

Karl was asking the kids why it was important to talk to the plant. They knew the answer – we give off carbon dioxide and the plant uses that for its vital processes. In return, it gives off oxygen, which we then use for our vital processes. It is all scientific. But there was a time when it wasn’t all about science.

There used to be an old wives’ tale that if you talked to your plants, they would be healthier plants. A lot of people laughed, but those who talked to their plants knew it was true. They didn’t know why, but they saw the results and kept up the good work. It wasn’t until many years later that scientists broke down into vital processes and symbiotic relationships what many people had before received – simply on faith.

It’s kind of like Thomas – often referred to as doubting Thomas. He wasn’t there when Jesus appeared in resurrected form to many of the disciples. So when they began to tell him all the news, Thomas doubted. He wanted proof. He wanted a scientist to say that this is why plants are healthier when you talk to them. It’s not the talking, it’s the exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen. He wanted it presented in a way that would remove all doubt.

Jesus came and showed Thomas the scars in His hands. Here was the proof. Thomas claimed Jesus as his Lord and his God. Then Jesus says something really interesting in the gospel of John 20:29.

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

So I’ve learned from my beautiful new plant that I hope lasts a very long time, that faith is sometimes not knowing how something works, but seeing that it does work; and choosing to believe that it is the right thing to do, even if you can’t say why it works. Faith is like talking to a plant, before science showed us how it worked.

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My Best Set of Towels

My father was very logical and therefore practical. This combination didn’t preclude him from appreciating quality however. Logically, after all, if you bought a higher quality item at the outset and didn’t have to replace it several times over with cheaper imitation items, you were better off. He was usually right. The $60 dress he bought for me when I was a mere girl of 16 still hangs in my closet, because it was of high quality.

But when dad made up his mind to do something, practical and logical trumped any preconceived ideas. He displayed this many times, including the time he used my best set of towels. Mom and Dad were visiting us at our home in New Mexico. Dad determined that before they began their trip home to Oklahoma, he needed to wash the car. The next thing I knew, my father was using wash cloths from my best set of towels to wash the car.

When I expressed my disappointment over the matter, dad looked confused. He simply said something like he didn’t think it was my best set of towels. Dad was right. I was wrong. I wish he were still alive today so I could explain my silliness and thank him for delivering me from a life of constriction inside a self made box.

You see, I only had a few real “sets” of towels. Most of our towels in our early poor stages of marriage were old ones gathered from “the barn.” This was a family kept repository of things grandmothers had at one time owned. These rounded out my linen cabinets, but this one set, it was actually a real set, not hand me down old things. The problem was, that this set of towels had seen quite an amount of use and were looking older than many of the hand me down towels. Of course dad was right, it didn’t look like my best set of towels, because it wasn’t.

Don’t worry, we eventually got new towels and there are no longer any vestiges of the relics from the barn. But there are two hand towels from my best set of towels, that have now been set at a position of elevated rags. They remind me of how I got caught up on “a perfect set” of something and failed to realize it was worn and good for nothing more than washing a car. It was certainly not worth any damage I might have done to my relationship with my father.

Hopefully I’ve been freed from seeing “perfect sets” all the time and can be honest with myself and with others when something is old, worn and needs to be replaced. Hopefully I’ve learned to always see people as more important than things. Hopefully I’ve gotten at least a little bit of my father’s logical and practical wisdom. I’d take even the smallest amount and be grateful.

 

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Easy to Forget

I’ve written before about how grateful I am for finding someone or a group of someones who can understand what you are going through – community. It hasn’t changed. Recently I put a question to the ADEM group on “Ben’s Friends,” a website dedicated to connecting people with rare diseases, including ADEM, about helping friends understand.

The response from a man in his 50’s was just what I needed to hear. He’s been through what my little Greta is going through, but as an adult, he can express his needs a little more reasonably and in the typical “adult” manner than Greta can right now. His advice helped me a lot. His kind words to Greta were that she had nothing to be embarrassed about. All she had to do was ask people to slow down a little or go over something again, it’s not a crime to ask.

I thanked him and told him that even Karl and I can forget at times that Greta needs a little extra help here and there, because everything looks so normal on the outside. He wrote back that his wife has the same ordeal. She’s so grateful to have her husband back after he had been through and had to relearn to do that sometimes it’s easy to forget that he still struggles sometimes.

When everything looks “normal” on the outside. It’s easy to forget. It’s easy to forget that there are still things on the inside that trouble us and make us need to ask for a little bit of extra help. The problem is, we get tunnel vision. We see “normal” so much that we aren’t always prepared for the after effects of ADEM to rear their ugly head and we have to slow the train down and adjust. It catches us off guard. Because we are human and it is easy to forget.

Praying that when I’m jarred back to the reality of ADEM and the fact that life will never be “normal” again; that it doesn’t take me quite so long to adjust each time. Perhaps there are others in my community, my circle of friends that also need me to pay attention to when they need a little extra help. There are many out there that need us to be prepared for anything – not easy to forget.

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Always Running for Re-election

I’m not sure who the fools are that keep doing it, but out there somewhere are folks that keep on re-electing a terrible lawmaker. First of all, it is amazing that the guy even gets elected to congress in the first place. After what he does, they just keep re-electing him. What gives? And we haven’t even gotten to the worst part yet.

Have you seen his laws? Who do you know that hasn’t been impacted by his laws? How does he get these past the Presidential Veto? No one seems to be able to stop him, yet his laws make life so difficult.

My fellow citizens, I urge you to take this matter seriously. I urge you to speak of this lawmaker’s evils against humanity and convince your family, friends, neighbors and community to stop him from causing more problems. If we can get grass roots groups going all over this country, we can stop the madness!

We must put an end to Murphy’s Laws!

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Three Widows

I was in the kitchen at church, helping out where I could, but I felt out of place. The other three ladies in there were all widows. There was something they could share between them that no one else would understand. They could encourage and sympathize with each other better than anyone else ever could.

My heart ached for these women, yet I couldn’t deny the beauty of their shared grief turned to shared comfort and encouragement with one another. One woman had been a widow for more than a decade, the youngest of the ladies. The oldest had just become a widow and the woman in the middle had lost her husband a couple of years ago, but just recently lost her oldest child. So different, yet they found ways to strengthen and encourage each other.

The Bible has a lot to say about social justice – mostly about caring for the orphan and the widow. If you have widows and widowers in your church, your neighborhood or your community – reach out to them. Don’t forget about them. Especially reach out to younger widows. They have a heavy burden to bear. Their married friends begin to fear that this grieving widow will try to steal their husbands. She slowly gets left out of things she had once always been included in.

Seeing three widows minister to each other and encourage each other was a moment of reverence, but I was grateful that none of these women had been rejected and forgotten by her church family. May we never forget.

 

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To Stand or Not to Stand

Injustice.

This word doesn’t appear without being noticed. It seems to be one of the popular phrases of the day. Some are moved to right it. Others are moved to disgust that everything seems to be called an injustice today. I saw a different side of injustice this past week. It has changed how I view things.

I stood up for someone. It meant damaging one relationship to help the other. It wasn’t easy to do. Was it the right thing to do? In debriefing over the incident, I realized that in my demanding someone show respect for someone else, which they ought to do for a variety of reasons; I was the only one doing so. The belittled woman didn’t even stand up for herself!

That’s when it hit me. This wasn’t about injustice. This was about choice. One woman chose to disrespect another. But the 2nd woman didn’t respect herself enough to stand up on her own and decry the abuse! She chose to stay in that environment and do nothing about it.

I still need to learn so much about how to right wrongs and how to prevent injustice, but what I learned in this incident has left a huge impact. Before I can come in and undo an injustice, I must first coach the person being abused to see that they have a choice to make. They have to start standing up themselves.

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A Tale of Two Funerals

In the past two months, I have attended two funerals at the same church, with the same nice funeral home folks from down the street and the same congregation and community. But the funerals were vastly different.

Same church, same desire to love God and serve Him with their whole life, but the two men who passed away had one major difference. One led with truth and the other led with grace. The Bible has a lot to say about truth and grace. The truth will set you free. Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. In John’s gospel account, he says we were able to catch a glimpse of the glory of God in Jesus – full of grace and truth.

After spending time devouring God’s Word, it seems that we need both truth and grace in our lives. From reading at the beginning of all things, in the book of Revelation, to the beginning of our little part of it on Planet Earth, in the book of Genesis; the truth is that we screwed up. We disobeyed God and brought much suffering upon ourselves and a curse upon humanity. But Jesus led with grace. He already had a plan in place to save us.

Two funerals. Two different men. The man who led with truth, had a few people say some nice things about what he had done to serve others. Those attending the funeral were scattered around the largely empty church. The man who led with grace? His funeral was packed with standing room only, even in the balcony. So many people shared stories amongst themselves about the impact this man had made in their life. Relationships were healed that day as folks saw a living demonstration of grace and healing.

Two men, two funerals, two outcomes. Lesson learned: we make a better impact for God when we lead with grace.

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I Need a Tire and a Sledge Hammer!

There are a multitude of movies that explore, in one flavor or another, the fantasy of a world where there is no anger, lust, frustration, hatred or jealousy. It’s the usual, and futile, quest for Utopia, often an old B Movie, but modern ones exist as well.

The fact of the matter is that these things are very real human emotions. A future world where there is no undesirable emotion displayed can only mean one thing: look out because one of these days it’s going to blow! Things kept bottled up inside result in high pressure and highly volatile environments. In no way am I advocating wrong methods of displaying some of these emotions, especially anger. But there are other ways to take out your frustrations instead of harming yourself, others or property.

Today, I want to put my squatty fingers on the throat of Crohn’s Disease and strangle it until it breathes no more. But since that would be a not appropriate display of my frustration with this autoimmune disorder, I shall have to find a better way to vent my hurt and frustration. I’ve heard that tires and sledge hammers are a great way of getting out anger.

Wait a minute. Crohn’s has left me with little strength or energy today. I guess I’m back to strangling. While I’m at it, I’ll try to get rid of all the other autoimmune disorders as well. Couldn’t hurt.

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X=3, Y=-7 and the New Orleans Saints

Everyone was waiting to hear what the referee would say as fans were cheering in the stands and folks at home were glued to their TV sets. Do you remember that play? Almost anyone you ask today, except for the obvious, will agree that it was a bad call. Most folks know that the New Orleans Saints won the super bowl due to a variety of bad calls, including the famous “Pass Interference” call that had folks holding their breath.

For me personally, I wouldn’t want a championship ring that in my heart I knew I hadn’t truly earned. But that’s just me.

Next, we have the big scandal of a head coach that gave players bonuses for intentionally hurting opponents. Many knew. Many kept their mouths shut. Hence began my hatred for the New Orleans Saints.

But I’ve realized recently that life intersects. If you were to plot my life on a grid, like we used to do in Algebra class, I would have given myself all kinds of positive numbers. Hatred for a football team? Who cares? It’s just a game. That doesn’t have anything to do with my faith, right?

So I took a deeper look and realized everything gets plotted on my grid. My hatred for people who had done wrong was still hatred. My ardent support of anyone who would kick the Saints’ butts was nothing but seeking revenge and making sure they got what they deserved. Really?

It’s just a game. But the attitude of hatred and demanding retribution aren’t the attitudes of a Christian. Did the team do wrong? Yes. But I’m not their judge. They’ve been fined and had penalties put on them. Yes, they still got away with the superbowl championship, but what matters is my heart.

Faith is my X axis and life in general is my Y axis – and they do intersect! It is all connected. I’m still not a big fan of the Saints. But instead of harboring hatred and demanding retribution, I’m going to choose to forgive and give them a chance to earn my respect again.

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Innocence Lost – Generationally

Where were you when..?

For each generation this question has a different face, but it all represents the same thing: innocence lost. For my grandparents, they remembered where they were when they heard about Pear Harbor. My mom remembers where she was when it was announced that President Kennedy had been assassinated. For my generation, the question is about September 11th, 2001 and the four planes that changed our world.

My youngest son is in elementary school and their memories are so different. A fellow student one year older only has the memories of what her mom has related to her. She can’t remember her infancy. Matthew was still in the womb. He was born into a different world than the one he was conceived in. I can’t seem to put it into words how much has changed since that day. The kids have grown up thinking this is life. But we know it used to be different.

I suppose each generation has mourned what their kids will never know. You might think of it as a chipping away of our innocence. Generally, it is portrayed that each generation gets its own statue of innocence that gets a little knocked off over time and events. I don’t think that’s true. I think we all have the same statue of innocence and too much has been chipped off lately.

I would fear that my grandchildren would have nothing left. I would fear that this world will be its own demise and take me with it, except for one thing I know.

God.

I’ve read the end of the book. God comes back, kills the dragon, gets the girl and we all get to go home. As my children and someday in the far off future, grandchildren, see innocence chipped away, I’ll remind them of the one thing that changes everything.

God.

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When Sparks Fly

Dry. That’s a pretty good description of what our little corner of Texas has been like this summer. Preparing for another safety meeting this morning, I reminded the guys of the importance of keeping their equipment well maintained and containing any sparks while they do their work. Anything can spark a fire these days in our area. Just a little more than an hour from us, a vehicle lost a tire, and it was still hot and started wildfires that evacuated folks from their homes for a few hours until the fires could be brought under control.

Of course burn bans are posted throughout the area. This is not the time to be playing with fire. As I thought about our current situation, I wondered about other sparks. When you know a friend or acquaintance is going through a rough time, that’s not the moment to get sparks flying.

When people are wounded and hurting, for whatever struggle they are going through in their lives, consider them dry. Consider them in an area protected by a burn ban and please no sparks. Watch your words. Watch your actions and leave nothing behind that could ignite the dry conditions all around.

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10 Weeks

So I’ve embarked on this new 10 week program called Creation Health. It talks about your whole health by looking at C R E A T I O N, Choice, Rest, Environment, Activity, Trust, Interpersonal Relationships, Outlook and Nutrition. It is going to be an interesting journey.

One of the beautiful or scary, depending on how you look at it, aspects of Creation Health is the personal evaluation. We take a short quiz to assess where we are at now and then again at the end of the 10 weeks. Why? To see if we’ve managed to learn anything and more importantly – apply it to our lives. Why? Because they want to know they’ve made a difference in offering this program to us.

Think about it for a moment. Isn’t this true for all of life? It can’t just be something we’ve learned, but something we’ve put into practice. What if everything we did had a before and after evaluation so we could see if it was really making a difference or not? Ten weeks on the Parent Teacher Organization, Defensive Driving Class, Fill in the blank Disease Awareness (I can recommend two if you don’t know any: ADEM and Crohn’s Disease). At the end, are we any better off than when we began? Did we take the time to put it into practice instead of merely learning it?

Ten weeks. I’m going to see what happens. God help me put what I’m learning into practice! If you’d like to know more about the program yourself, visit http://www.creationhealth.tv.

 

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Positivity

My little wilderness man really enjoyed this season of “Get Out Alive” with Bear Grylls. Yes, it was still television, but he loved learning about the respect for the wild and survival. At the end of each challenge when all the teams would gather together to find out which one Bear would choose to go home – Bear often spoke about positivity. Basically I got from it that if you have a nasty attitude while you are trying to survive in the wild, it would be like having one arm tied behind your back and asked to row across a lake.

Positivity came up again yesterday, as I checked my mother in for her a preventive procedure. The lady at the desk checking her in had a sign about always being blessed. I started a conversation with her and we all enjoyed our time together. Everyone should have that much fun checking in for something as painful as a mammogram!

This woman shared her experience of just that morning, feeling down on herself and her mind filling with all kinds of things that were horrible about herself. Out of nowhere, a woman walked up to her and said nice things about her and basically put all the bad thoughts to shame. Our new friend felt joy at the negativity being sent packing and the positivity filling its place. That experience would carry her through the day.

It is so easy to listen to the negative. It is so easy to sink into pity parties and loathing ourselves. It’s true that we may not be perfect, but God didn’t wait for us to be perfect before He died for our sins, so maybe we need to keep listening to what God has to say about us. His words are positive, full of love and compassion. Yes, there is correction and guidance, but it is always spoken with great love for us. If positivity can help you survive in the wild then positivity can help us survive in the wildness we face every day just by getting up in the morning. With God’s help, I aim to be more positive!

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Time Out Gets a Bad Rap

I am here to speak up for that often misunderstood gift of Time Out. Someone in the marketing department should have gotten fired for promoting this solely for disciplinary purposes in school. It’s about time we saw the other side of Time Out. Please bear in mind, this is coming from a woman juggling too many things and about to drop them all. Time Out is the only place you can set them all down and not get in trouble for it.

How Time Out should really be marketed: Are you running at capacity? Are your shoulders no longer broad enough for the burdens you are carrying? Did one more thing just get dumped in your lap? You, yes even you, can leave it all behind during Time Out. This special place leaves all the external stimuli behind so you can just be alone and get your thoughts together once again. Some of the world’s greatest leaders highly recommend Time Out. Read this excerpt from that Nazarene Radical – Jesus, “Come apart and rest awhile.” Call now and we’ll even throw in a special Time Out box, with great pictures inside of remote places of serene beauty to help you get the most out of your Time Out experience.

With truth in advertising – this is the way Time Out should be promoted and right now, this busy pastor’s wife, mother of three and very poor juggler is in line to be one of the first to get my very own Time Out!

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Scramble Leadership

My oldest son goes to a small Christian school, where he is a senior this year. The first Saturday night of each school year, there is a Junk Scramble. The four corners of the gym are stations for the freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors respectively. There they set up camp, students bringing whatever they could find and whatever they think might be called for.

More than just the fun of seeing which class can be the first to bring “something reptile” to the center of the gym to the scrutiny of the awaiting judges, is the awareness of the classes getting to know each other better. In Michael’s class, I saw several times where seniors had the chance to do a little more preparation, and some of them just played basketball. In fact, it was quite obvious since each class wears a different color that night, that only seniors were messing around while all of the other classes were busy at their stations, organizing their junk and trying to be ready to quickly grab and run once the game began.

Michael reminded us that the junk scramble comes just before the election of class officers. I mentioned what I had seen and gave him some advice. Those seniors that were goofing off and messing around, don’t elect them to leadership positions. They didn’t show they were there to help and prepare. They didn’t take it seriously.a

I think the school is very wise to give the students such a fun and “ice breaker” type of activity at the beginning of the year to give students a chance to see what kind of personalities are in their classmates and who can they really count on. Perhaps more businesses and institutions should have junk scrambles for adults. Does a supervisor need to know who is up for a promotion? A junk scramble just might reveal who is working and who is not taking things seriously.

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The Sixth Son

I’m reading one passage/chapter from the Bible each morning. I went through the Psalms. I must admit, I took Psalm 119 by sections. Next I went to Philippians. It was only 4 chapters long, so what next? I finally landed in the book of Nehemiah. I specifically remember passing by Chronicles and Numbers. I really didn’t feel like reading long genealogies. Ha! God had something wonderful for me today in Nehemiah chapter 3.

Nehemiah isn’t a super long book, so I thought I can handle this one chapter that names everybody who helped rebuild the wall of Jerusalem that had been broken down and burned. I’m starting to drift into that when will this boring list be over phase when I discovered, it wasn’t that boring after all. I noticed something. Everyone was included. People who lived in Jerusalem and those that lived in Jericho. People who were just your average citizens and folks that were priests and even the Nethinim. Two verses especially stood out. One man is listed as taking a section – and his daughters! My favorite verse: the sixth son of a certain man took a section of the wall and rebuilt it.

Have you ever felt like the sixth son? Back in medieval times, the first son was the heir, the 2nd wend to the military and the 3rd went to the church. You might find something for a 4th or 5th son to do, but to be the 6th son? Yet this man, the 6th son, is specifically mentioned as doing his part in rebuilding the wall. He is included.

I think that’s one of the many things I love about God’s way of presenting things. His grace, His mantra of “I have room for everyone” is found in so many places and so many different ways in the Bible. The Nethinim, a group of people set to always serve in the temple in menial tasks;  a man who had a handful of daughters and the sixth son. There really is a place for everyone in God’s kingdom.

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Why Connect?

Why connect? It is actually a two phase question. Why should we connect? And if you are already in the habit of connecting with people – why? What is your motivation?

Dr. John Townsend talks about folks that connect with an “unlikely” person, just so they can mold them into something better and really enjoy them when they have finally left caterpillar stage behind and embraced butterfly. The problem is, most folks want to be connected with for who and what they are right now. If changes happen in their life, so be it, but right now they need to know you accept them as they are.

Think of it as in incoming college freshman. Every dean on the university campus sees bright minds that they can’t wait to have as distinguished graduates of their program. But the professor that accepts you for who you are now and makes one of those amazing connections that help a student feel safe to share their hopes and dreams and why they came to college in the first place – that is a true connection for the right reason.

Parents – we especially have to make connections with our kids right now – yes, even when they’ve gotten sent home from school or really messed up your kitchen floor. We need to connect with people in our lives right now, right where they are. If our only reason to reach out is to change someone to where we will really like them later on; the truth is that we will have a shallow connection now and a shallow connection later.

Take the time to make connections, real ones and really enjoy them. There may be someone in your neighborhood today that just needs to know someone cares, right now, at this phase of their life.

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In All Fairness?

I rather like being a clear cut it is either right or wrong kind of person. The cop out answer of “It’s complicated,” more often than not is an excuse to do what you want to do anyway because you’ve spent some time rationalizing it.

Yet as a mother of three children, with different personalities and ways of doing things, it’s not always easy to show them that I’m being clear cut with the principle of the issue. Perhaps it is because they, as children, appear to us adults to be always on the lookout for any amount of unfairness. It is as if they go to special training to hunt out any possibility that their brother or sister may have gotten away with something that they did not.

My son got out some roast leftovers (which I managed to incorporate into breakfast this morning) for lunch and I told him no, because we were going to use some of it again at supper time. My daughter pulled out a biscuit from this morning and he was upset that she was getting away with it. I gently reminded him that biscuits weren’t on the menu for tonight, but the leftover roast had appeared at breakfast this morning and would again at super tonight so he didn’t need it at lunch as well.

I look at how some adults, as individuals, corporations and even nations interact with each other and it seems to me that many of them never outgrew that childish phase of hunting for ways where they were being treated unfairly. I wonder what would happen if they spent the same amount of time volunteering and making a difference in their community?

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The Dying Ridge

We’ve all seen it before on some nature program, a book or even in a movie. A sick or injured animal gets isolated by the predators and that’s the way nature is. As Biologists and naturalists well know, it is the way of nature.

But today, I saw a different story. I was watching a documentary called, “The River of No Return.” The narrator was astonished to see an injured elk, isolated on the top of a ridge by wolves, suddenly defended by another elk who proceeded to chase away the wolves – at the risk of her own life. The narrator didn’t hide his surprise and admitted what he had just seen went against everything he’d ever learned in biology.

Sometimes it seems like we’ve been injured and there is nothing left to do but submit to the ways of nature, find our dying ridge and wait for the inevitable. But today I learned that nature has compassion. There is reason to hope.

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The Drag Test

When I worked at summer camp, not revealing how many years ago, we had a swimming pool. Lifeguards did the work they needed to do. Camp Yorktown Bay, where Michael worked this summer, has a nice lake and therefore they had to practice and perfect the Drag Test.

During training week, the staff were required to find the “dummy” drowning camper nicknamed Luke Skywalker within a certain length of time. As with all drownings, every second counts. Assuming the camper was underwater for two minutes prior to the alert being sounded that a child was missing in the lake, the staff now have only 2 minutes left to find the child before permanent brain damage and so forth takes over.

Michael described in detail the work of the staff divided into three groups: divers, swimmers and walkers. Staff were assigned to their appropriate group based on their skill level in the water. Michael, of course, ended up as a walker. His description of the walkers linking arms and going through the shallow part of the lake step by step searching for Luke Skywalker definitely made me feel like I was there experiencing it for myself.

The precision and efficiency the staff is required to achieve before campers actually arrive is impressive. What if we put such practices into our parenting? When was the last time your family did a fire drill – and took it seriously? If you live in Tornado alley, or even if you don’t, do you know what to do? We expect summer camps to protect our children and to hire competent staff before we entrust our precious offspring to their care. Is there a need for a “drag test” in your home?

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The Two Reasons

Squash bugs have decided to invade my little garden box of squash. Yuck.

I have given the 11-year-old the task of using his pocket knife to destroy these pests that will rob us of our produce. He looked at me stunned, his eyes revealing his thoughts of “I can’t do that.” So I looked him in the eye and told him the two reasons.

There are only two reasons why a man ever kills. It is to protect his family or to provide for his family. He got it. He understood that getting rid of the bugs protected our garden that was to provide food for the family.

It is somewhat ironic that we had this conversation this morning. You see, Matthew has been declaring his childhood is over in various ways. He no longer picks up children’s offering at church, instead he brings his own money to pass out to all the “little kids.” And so it has gone for the past few weeks. In his rush to leave the innocence of childhood, he has stumbled upon the harsh reality of adult responsibilities. Perhaps indeed this summer will be the boy’s “coming of age.”

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Cookies and Juice

We agreed to conduct one of our marriage seminars this past weekend, even though it was our anniversary. It was the only weekend the church had available. We stayed in the home of the associate pastor and his family and did our presentations. After the first night, we returned to our room to find a special treat in our room – and one of the pastor’s little boys anxiously awaiting to see if we liked it or not.

It was a simple homemade card that said happy anniversary and a plate of lemon cookies along with two glasses of delicious apple juice. Did I mention that lemon cookies are one of my all time favorites? After the seminar, we pass out evaluations for couples to write down what they learned and how much they enjoyed the presentations. One couple wrote down that they have hope and see a light at the end of the tunnel.

It wasn’t our first choice to do a seminar on our anniversary weekend, but a plate of lemon cookies and a child’s happy face as well as a couple’s renewed hope in their marriage certainly make it worth it!!

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