Monthly Archives: May 2013

Everything Will Be Okay

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If anyone else had given this small plaque to me, I might have thrown it at her back as she walked away. But this was a gift from a sister. A widow. A friend before, during, and after her own grief. I know she has walked my path. She has held her dead husband’s clothes in her arms, hoping for one last smell of his cologne. She has probably seen his toothbrush sitting unused on the counter. She has cried out to God. She has questioned her future. She has raised her kids alone. She has kept moving forward.

I have her example to follow. Her footsteps ahead of me.

And she knows that everything WILL be okay.
Different. But okay.
Forever changed. But okay.

So this is something I have to remember NOT to say to friends that are going through things I have no experience in. But someday I will look back and be able to comfort another widow with the words. I am not able to use those words with someone who has lost everything in a tornado. I am not able to use those words with someone who has been through a painful divorce.

2 Corinthians 1:4 says that God, the Father of comfort, comforts us in ALL our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in affliction with the comfort we received.

There are events in your life that make you an expert on comforting others because you have been there, done that. You may understand the unfulfilled desire to birth children or find a soul mate. You may have experienced incredible guilt over sins in your past but now are unshackled from the guilt due to Christ’s forgiveness. You may struggle every day with certain issues. You are the expert in those afflictions. And we need to look for someone else to comfort because we have received comfort from God and through others.

Look for someone. God didn’t comfort you just so you could hole up in your home, or never make eye contact with other church members. You will be surprised who God brings into your life to bring comfort and surprised to whom you are to bring comfort!

It could be a simple hug.
A text.
A card.
Even just the simple act of telling someone that you prayed for them.

We want to keep our pasts secret. Hopefully no one will know that I _____. Or that I once _______. Just understand that we ALL are there too. And God could be waiting to use YOU to help someone else.

Gives new meaning to ‘comfort zone’. My new ‘comfort zone’ should be giving comfort to others. I don’t want my affliction to be wasted.

I have a story to tell. I have comfort to give because YOU gave me comfort. You and God. Thanks.

Lord, open my eyes to those hurting around me today. Help me to see their needs and not their sins.

Which brings up a whole ‘nuther subject….

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Movie Review #1

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‘This is Our Time’

Okay, the truth is, I bought this DVD at Sam’s Club the other day for two reasons. The main one, I am proud to admit to, was that it starred Erik Estrada. The other less important reason was that it looked family friendly.

My kids know my movies always have someone die. Don’t ask me why. It seems everything I pick goes that way. It is so obvious that when our youngest was probably less than 4 he looked at the menu screen of the movie we were starting and said to no one in particular, “I wonder who will die this time.” And he started pointing at the people on the screen, saying, “this one or this one or that one.”

So last Friday night we had our customary pizza and movie. Some of the relatives were joining us so we snuggled down into the couches and watched our new movie.

I have never been one who cares if I hear the ending of a movie. If I want to see it, I will go see it. I even read the ends of books just to make sure it works out okay. So if you want to pause in your reading right here and go to Sam’s and buy the movie, go ahead… Hum dee dum dee. La la la.

Okay. Now you’re back. Let’s talk about the flick.

The movie is about 5 friends that graduate college together. They start their careers and try to find meaning in life. But you can guess what happens. Yep. Mom comes through again. My goal is to see if I can get the entire family crying all at the same time!

But the message of the movie was so wonderful. So often we hear people say (and we have probably said it ourselves), “If only I knew God’s plan for my life. What does He want me to do when I grow up? Where should I live? What job does He want me to do?”

Wait! That isn’t the point at all. We missed the point of the Christian life! The point should be WHO does He want me to be? That can be answered so much easier. We see clearly in Scripture what kind of person we should be right here right now. Wherever we are, wiping counters, typing at the computer, cleaning, teaching, sitting at a desk, WHEREVER we are is where we need to BE the person He wants us to be. That takes the load off dramatically!

I am free to be the kind of person in Christ that I know I should be. Let’s see…Start with the easy one…The Fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5 tells us we should have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Whew. What a list. Then there are the verses in 1 Corinthians that I learned in children’s church many years ago – 6:18-20 – Flee immorality because your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and we were bought with a price. Glorify God with your body. Probably other verses came to your mind.

I was so glad my family was able to see through the tears and hear the fantastic message of hope and encouragement this movie brought. It is all about the BEING and not about the WHERE.

Great movie, I give it a thumbs up! Especially the two scenes Mr. Estrada was in. As a bad guy. You know he is in his sixties! Hard to believe. Seems like yesterday I had a poster on my wall with his face enlarged to 20 times actual size…

Oh but wait, there’s more. It also stars Eric Roberts and Dawn Wells. Yes, the one from Gilligan’s Island.

Watch the trailer below. Happy watching!
http://thisisourtimemovie.com

Unshackled

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If you grew up in the sixties and seventies like me, in a Christian home, you might have listened to Unshackled radio program. It is a ministry of the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago. I can still hear the dramatic organ music playing as the scene changes. Recently I was listening to the organist at church and it reminded me of this program that I hadn’t heard in several decades. Then last month I was listening to the Christian radio station in the car and the familiar music began playing. I couldn’t believe it. After all these years, it was still going strong. It took me back to my younger days, sitting on the floor of the living room, spell bound by the stories of redemption. When I attended college at Moody Bible Institute (God Bless the School that D L Moody founded, firm may she stand though by foes on earth surrounded …) , some of the students were given the ‘privilege’ to ‘volunteer’ at the Pacific Garden Mission! It was a REAL place. Who knew?!

Shackles can be associated with our life before Christ or our life after Christ, depending on what the chains are. Before Christ, the shackles could be our sins, like in the old Pilgrim’s Progress book. But I have been praying that I would feel unshackled in my spiritual life. I love the song that Mandisa sings, “Shackles”. The words say,

Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance, I just wanna praise You.

I can feel very bound to this earth by my trials. I can feel handcuffed to my trials – or just everyday life. My kids. My single parenting. My past. My future. My present. My…My…My…Whew, where is my focus???

Every thing that could go wrong all went wrong at one time, so much pressure fell on me I thought I was gonna lose my mind. But I know You wanna see if I will hold on through these trials But I need You to lift this load ’cause I can’t take it no more.

I like this. Seriously, it seems she sings this to me. So many things have gone wrong over the last 2 1/2 years in my life. So much pressure fell on me I seriously felt I MIGHT lose my mind. Have you ever encountered pressure like that? I know many of you have.
Are.
Will.
The pressure from the outside to live a certain lifestyle. Pressure from the inside to look better than you feel. The pressure from within, Others. Books. Radio. Hollywood. But…

But I KNOW…

What do I know? I know God wants to see me struggle and fail? No. I know God wants to see me blow it again? No. I know God wants to see me hold on THROUGH the trials. Through. That gives me great comfort to know He wants me to make it out of these trials stronger. Wiser. More mature.

When you watch your kids growing up, don’t you want them to succeed through their tough classes? Through the difficult recitals? Through the painful games? We don’t want them to crater. As parents we understand what perseverance is and we want to teach it to our children. We see the big picture and the offspring just see today. Similar to God. He sees the big picture. I love that. It comforts me. He doesn’t just see me struggling today. He sees how far I have come in this 2 1/2 years. He sees where I need to be in the next few years. I KNOW. I know…

But here is where the song gets honest. Please God, lift these trials a bit. The load is too much for me to bear. Too much to handle. Too much to understand. I have prayed this MANY times lately. And God hears. How do I know? Because of YOU. You have helped lift my load. You have been beside me. You have taken my kids to the zoo. You have brought us dinner. You have wiped my counters. You have worked in my flower beds. You have prayed and prayed for us. You…You have lightened my load. Thank you. You are a gift from God. You are an answer to my cries to God to lift my load just a bit so I can grab a breath before I go under again.

You broke the chains, now I can lift my hands, And I’m gonna praise YOU.

There it is. God is the One Who does the breaking. I can’t really do it myself. I can’t do it for my spouse. Although….I can sure try to ! That is why I can praise Him. Because He did it. He broke my chains so I can praise Him. So today I am unshackled because of the work of Christ on the cross. He paid for my sins. He rose and conquered death. He refines me. I have to live in obedience to His Word even when I feel shackled by life’s trials. I can feel weighed down by all that life throws at me. But I can get through my trials by relying on God’s strength and not my own. By letting those around me reach out to me and help. By trusting His promises to be true.

In August last year, God broke through my spiritual fog and shook my foundation. He has only spoken clearly to me just a handful of times in my life. And this was one of those times. He instructed me to change my prayers. From praying my plans and asking God to do them, to “Not my will but Yours”. ugh. That was so difficult. I have great plans. They might even be biblical. But I changed my prayers. Not my plans, God, but yours. Yikes. But no, it was an unshackling of my faith. I had total peace. I was UNSHACKLED. I began to say those words through gritting teeth at first, then through a smile. Then praise to Him. I was finally set free of controlling everyone and everything around me. I was able to finally lift my hands, free of the chains. My feet were able to dance unfettered. Praise God.

So with God’s help, I will keep praying those words, those five little humbling words: not my will, but Yours. Unshackled. Free to dance. Free to praise. Free to accept help from others so I can give it to another someday. Free to forgive. Free to love. Free to _______. What has your unshackling given you freedom to do? I want to be unshackled.

http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=ZvohSuRL3a4&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DZvohSuRL3a4

The End is Near

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20130517-125054.jpgHe was born on his due date. He followed the ‘book’ on sleeping, eating, teething, and talking. Walking was earlier than some and I don’t really remember his crawling. That is how it started. The Dyers had a child. Their family ‘chapter’ had begun.

This week it changes. The new ‘chapter’ begins as high school graduation finishes. It will be a challenge to navigate the new normal.

Again.

New normal has become our motto for 2013.

My oldest child graduates on Sunday. Tears are streaming down my face as I write this. Tears of sadness that his dad is not here to cheer him on. Tears for happiness that he is growing up. Tears of gratitude that he is a follower of Christ. Tears of every emotion a parent can have.

‘The20130517-125035.jpgy’ say not to make major decisions after the death if a spouse. I say EVERY decision I make is a major decision. Especially this year. My son graduates and goes off to college. That event holds so many big decisions in itself. So we are navigating our way through all the crazy college plans.

My boy was always very intelligent. At a young age, while other parents were teaching their children The Lord’s Prayer or the Periodic Table, our son was able to identify all the major exotic automobiles!! In his child-like voice, he would say ‘Lamborghini’ or ‘Diablo’ or Porsche. Then he moved into dinosaurs. Then mythology. Then dabbling in different languages. Honestly, he passed my intelligence level when he was about 4 1/2!! He took this love of learning into the classroom all through high school.

On Sunday he graduates with honors as one of the valedictorians.

God knew him before he was born. Before those hours and hours of labor and delivery. Before I laid eyes on his mis-shaped head and chubby little body. God has a plan for his life, even when we don’t understand certain events. Not getting to share his college experiences with his daddy while attending the college his daddy graduated from. I can’t find my way around the campus to save my life. I only go there for wrestling matches. I can barely find Eskimo Joes! God has a plan for his dorm life, even though it isn’t where he wanted to be. God has a plan for his future, even though I have some ideas that I think he should consider.

 

I love you, son #1. You are so caring, for me and your siblings. You will be great at everything you do. Vaya con Dios…

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Pruning

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I started and couldn’t stop myself. I began trimming the yaupon holly in my front flower bed and kept going. I whacked away. I sawed. I cut. Pretty soon I had a mess. An expensive mess really. They had grown too large for their location and were leaning quite far from the point if entry in the dirt.

But let me quickly add: I have no green thumb or even a slightly greenish finger. I pretend to. I fool myself into believing I can do things that I have no business doing.

I began cutting my husband’s hair right at the beginning of our marriage. In fact, we got clippers for a wedding gift and took them on the honeymoon! He had grown his hair out for our wedding,longer than I had ever seen it ,so it was time to return to the buzz cut. So off with the long, back to the short. So I adapted to cutting little boy hair as our family grew. And a few years ago one boy wanted a real style. Being the confident person I am, I checked a book out of the library, laid it open on the washer, and began cutting a style on my boy’s head. It has been fairly successful, in that he keeps returning for trims! I keep telling him that someday he will have to visit a ‘real’ hair stylist.

One time when we first moved to our current home, in order to save money, I thought I could put the fertilizer and weed killer on the lawn. I had a spreader thing. I had the chemicals. How hard could it be? We live on nearly an acre but I was willing to walk back and forth, back and forth, for hours laying the yard chemicals. We got some good rain soon and I watched as my sparse weedy yard transformed into a striped embarrassment. Neighbors wondered if we were putting in a football field since it looked like we were marking the yardlines. You have to understand that I have neighbors ( who are probably reading this!) who take great care of their lawns. We have a yard; they have lawns. So I am sure they hated to look out their windows for weeks. Now that I think of it, I did notice their drapes pulled for many months after this… Shutting out the riffraff across the street! The wannabes. The hoy ploy. Yep, that’s me.

Who was I kidding? I have no business doing the job of a professional. But lacking confidence has never been my struggle so I find myself in similar circumstances every summer.

This year was the year of pruning. I pruned those yaupon hollies to the point of hideousness. But it had to be done. Well, maybe not pruning but certainly removal. I kept wondering if there was a spiritual application to this therapeutic whacking I performed on the innocent trees.

My answer is yes and no. I know the gospel of John talks about God’s pruning in our lives. Sometimes it is just a little snip here and there. Other times it is major painful overhaul. That is where I feel I am right now. Major. Painful. Overhaul.

But God doesn’t do it for a while and then say, “Oops! Took too much off that time. Better get rid of this person and start over on another.” Thankfully, His pruning is specific and exact. He has a plan for our lives and doesn’t just take some off here and there just to amuse himself or keep himself busy and distracted.

His pruning is backed by love. He knows what He is doing. Loving discipline.

The end of the story is that my neighbor came to rescue me before the neighborhood association kicked me out or wrote me a nasty letter! He chainsawed the trees out of the ground. Thankfully the house’s foundation didn’t come out with the trees! He is going to replant 2 of the trees at his place and see if they can be revived.

In their places we put dwarf crepe myrtle. It gives the house such a different look when you drive by. So much brick wall is showing now! It looks great.

But now I need to finish weeding and trimming the hedges on the other side. I may get the knack by the time I get to the last hedge.

Maybe I will just call the boys down and trim their hair instead…

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New Friends, New Path

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All of our stories are the same. All of our stories are different.

I met with 5 other widows the night before Mother’s Day. A Bible study friend lost her husband 13 years ago and she has a compassionate heart for us newbies. She has walked our path. Now she is down the road ahead of us. Her 2 kids have survived and thrived so it gives us hope.

We talked. Laughed. Cried. Laughed. Complained. I cried some more. But in the end we were bonded forever. We all felt every story personally. We lived our own story again as we told it. But we were among sisters this time. We were among girls who understood every word. Every tear. Every hug.

We offered advice. We hugged. And best of all, we parted as new friends. It is a club you don’t want to join. But since I am a member of this club now, I couldn’t pick more wonderful ladies to stumble, struggle, cry, and succeed with. It was hard to leave; I didn’t want it to end.

We all have children. (But I had the most! :))Each of us has something especially difficult to deal with-financial concerns, people concerns, and small children who won’t retain memories of their daddy.

God, You keep amazing me with the people You put in my path. Who knew…You did. Sigh…

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The Grandma Syndrome (or Looking At the Heart)

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“I have found David, son of Jesse a man after My own heart…” Acts 13:22

“Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks on the heart. ”
1 Samuel 16:7

I was no spring chicken when I had our last child. For that matter, I wasn’t a spring chicken with the first one either! The little guy is 5 now and since he was born, frequently, I have been identified as his grandma. I feel like quoting from the movie Parenthood. “I’m too young to be a grandmother… I was at Woodstock. I peed in a field!” Some of the offending accusers are about my age. Some are teens who can’t put an age right on anyone over 22. Some are older folk. The first time it happened was at A and W, with all six kids, the youngest in a baby carrier. The conversation went something like this.

Teen behind counter: And that includes your discount.
Me: what discount?
Teen: senior discount.
Me: why did I get that?
Teen: I am supposed to give it to everyone who looks old.
Me: (looking at the customer next in line) I am going to count it as a crazy mom discount and just move forward.

Everyone who looks old?? Really? What grandma would take six kids out to eat? Only a mom is crazy enough to do that. But it happens often. Mostly when it is just he and me. Restaurants. Grocery stores. Hobby stores. You name it. This last week we went to a place to eat and celebrate a birthday. I struggled to get everyone’s order figured out and the gal ( not young but closer to my age) said she gave me a discount since I am clearly with my grand babies!! I had a fashionable scarf tied around my neck, modern jeans, for crying out loud, I had taken a shower that day! I wasn’t wearing a moomoo or a house dress or a velour sweatsuit or even eighties jeans. Nothing against those things. Just saying. I leaned over the counter and as nicely as I could muster, I set her straight. No, it didn’t end there. She proceeded to ask in shock how old I am and how I must have gotten a late start. Unbelievable.

Why do we assume things about people? We do it all the time. She has a bunch of tattoos so she must be ________. He wears an earring so he must be ________. Look at her kids, they must ______. What kind of money did they spend on ____. We must constantly fight the sinful urge to put someone in a box, think we know things, when we should remember God looks at the heart. That is where
it really matters for eternity. But the heart is so hard to judge!!! We can make assumptions about people all day long since all we are looking at is their behavior or outward appearance.

But God looks on the heart.

I struggle with being judgmental and legalistic because I like checklists and rule following.

But God looks on the heart.

My heart isn’t where it should be when I am judging you on things but judging myself on a very different scale. I am trying to be more aware of heart issues with my kids. The “perfect one ” may not have a heart for God, even when he/she looks so good from the outside.

But God looks on the heart.

God doesn’t care if we have perfect attendance at Sunday school or awana. God doesn’t care if my kids look spit-shined sitting perfectly still in our designated pew. Our hearts could be nasty. That is what He sees. How could God look at King David and say he was a man after God’s own heart when he committed adultery, had a man murdered, covered up his sin. God saw something in David’s heart that outwardly we wouldn’t necessarily see.

So this week when I am asked if my Grandkids are with me, I will smile to myself as I am reminded to look at another’s heart and not focus on the outward appearances.

By the way, the same week as the encounter at the birthday dinner, an employee of another establishment heard I had 6 kids and marveled at how I didn’t look old enough to have more than two! But she was working for tips, my friend reminded me! Gotta have friends that speak truth!

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Cell Sabbath

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No Ipod Symbol (combination of two free images...

No Ipod Symbol (combination of two free images on Wikimedia Commons) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For many years I have sat under a Bible study leader who talked about treating Sunday differently, as a day of rest. I always argued in my head against it. She didn’t know how much laundry I needed to do. She didn’t know all the emails I needed to respond to. But recently I was struck with an idea in the middle of Sunday worship. Why not a technology break on Sundays ? We could do it. So I broke it to the kids. You can imagine their happiness at the thought! We went to the store and chose a lovely basket with a lid and put it on the kitchen table. We planned and talked about it.  We did it the next week. On Sunday at breakfast, we all put our cell phones, iPods, tablets, etc into the basket. When we got home from church, we did not turn on the TV or take turns on the computer. We spent time together.

Do you know what this has done? My kids find games in the closet they want to play together. The oldest has discovered the joy of putting together his grandfather’s model cars and planes. Maybe he just likes to sniff the glue (NOT), but he seems to have fun. The youngest has siblings that include him in activities. The girls do various crafts. Or they all just go outside to play. Some days I have heard them plan ahead what they can do together on the next Sunday. Their initial fears were about mom driving them to church with no phone! What will happen if____? How will you call for help? As for me, it forces me away from Sunday afternoons in front of the TV.  I tell the kids to plan their homework accordingly so Internet work and computer typing is done ahead of time. We are giving this a try until the end of the school year and then we will talk about it and evaluate it. We may want to pick another day during the summer.

I have never suggested anyone else do this.  I don’t want your kids to hate me! I don’t want your kids to dislike me! And I don’t want my kids to think there is anything spiritual about what we are doing. We are just doing it to broaden our horizons. To keep from getting lazy. To exercise a part of our lives that has gotten lost.  So pray for me to persevere in this when it gets tough.  Someday I will relay to you what we have learned, if anything, through this experience.  I will tell you now that this is NOT something their father would have endorsed…being a man who likes to watch football and Formula 1 racing and Sunday afternoon movies while he napped…Maybe this is a small step in the direction of finding out who I am, who this NEW person is. ( see earlier post about the two becoming one and the one being one again). Read the rest of this entry

C25K or My Journey Through the Grief Stages

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As I was trotting on the treadmill this morning I had a comparison pop into my head. My hesitancy to move ahead on my exercise app (Couch to 5K) is similar to going through the stages of grief. I don’t want to get past week 5 day 2 because it gets harder. I have to jog longer at one time.
The stages of grief that some have identified are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. When I compare the two activities, if I can call my grief an activity, I see that I can struggle at a certain stage because I am afraid to move ahead. I may be afraid that moving ahead means I am moving further away from the life of my husband. I am moving further away from the last time I held him in my arms. I am moving further away from the last time we kissed. I don’t want to let those memories fade away but as I move forward in my grief, those events DO begin to fade. I start to wonder what his voice sounded like when he called me. Do you know that he always called me Moses? Is that the silliest thing you ever heard?! I think it began when he started spelling m-o-m and then changed to “MO” and then to “Mosay” and then evolved to Moses.Yes, I realize it really doesn’t make any more sense to me, even when I write it out! But I am starting to forget the sound of his voice calling me that silly name that I often said he shouldn’t call me! If I leave the early stages and move to the acceptance stage, will I forget the smell of his cologne? Will I remember the way his hand felt in mine? Will I forget the sound of his singing Billy Joel songs while I played the piano?
So today I moved to week 6 in my exercise app. I won’t be ready for a 5k anytime soon but I am moving forward in my progress. I guess it is the same way with my grief. I go through several stages each day, depending on what I have read or what memory was triggered. Some memories are incredibly painful. I have many of those actually. I have to stop pulling the scab off the wound and somehow move to true healing. I have to take the painful and ask God what He wants me to do with it. How does He want to use my past to bring glory to Him? I can’t even imagine that right now. I may be returning to the denial stage, denying that He can work this for good (Rom 8:28). Denying that there is any good that can come from my grief. That there is anything profitable that can come from raising my children in a single parent home. I don’t really understand the bargaining stage because who am I going to bargain with? Mark is dead; no bargaining happening there. God? Not sure this is the time to bargain. That would have been more productive say 4 months ago as Mark lay in a hospital bed.
But I can definitely see myself staying in the depression stage a while. I can ride that train all day if necessary! Just ask some of my texting friends. I am sure there are times they wonder if I am going to make it to dinnertime. But, Lord willing, I am getting further along each day. I never imagined I could make it 4 months. But then, really, what option did I have? I HAVE to make it. I have a house full of kids that need a parent, even one who cries at dinner. Even one who is flawed and sinful.  I am all they have right now.

When you exercise this week and are having trouble seeing any progress, remember the stages of grief and pray for someone you know who is on this trek right now. Pray that they would see God-given progress to where God can use them to bring glory to Himself.