You Mean You Don’t See That Mountain?

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. day, I edited this recent post. Would love your feedback:

 

Do you see a colorful, spiraled mountain in this ocean view? 20150323_133750

I don’t either.

 

 

 

But he does.

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“Uke” (the unicorn) pastures by the ocean. Day after day he sees this multi-colored, spiraling mountain as he looks out toward the sea.

 

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Hmmm. I wonder why. Could it be that he can’t see past his own forehead?

Actually, he is not so unusual. I certainly have my view of the scenery around me, and I suspect that you have your view as well. I think it is fair to say that our views are often altered by our unique “unicorn horns.”

What do you see? It may or may not look the same as what I see.

Our perspective changes everything. We view life through the eyes of our beliefs and experiences (our personal unicorn horns). It’s quite hard, at times, to see another’s view, because it doesn’t match our reality. We see that colorful, spiraled mountain in the middle of the sea and wonder why others are so blind! Can’t they see it?!!

Often, even after we have become Christians, we can be tempted to view life, circumstances, and even others through our “default” perspectives—a human and worldly perspective compiled from our past experiences and viewpoints. We can miss the fact that reality might actually be somewhat different.

(You mean a unicorn horn is not really on the horizon?!!)

Perhaps you come from a background of broken trust and/or abuse that affects your sight lines. Other views might be observed through the “horns” of poor health, suffering, or financial difficulties. Certainly, our ethnic backgrounds can affect the ways we see and process the views on our horizons.

I have learned so much from my youngest son who grew up (until his teen years) in poverty and without parents. His ethnicity has exposed prejudices and profiling–the likes of which I have never had to experience. I have never been stopped by eight patrol cars with rifles raised because I fit the description of a crime someone in a town nearby had committed. (Yes, years ago he experienced a “My Cousin Vinny” situation on the way back from teen camp.) I’ve never been “watched” while shopping. He has.

While his responses to numerous situations can frustrate me and cause me to (smh…shake my head), they make sense to him. The most loving thing I can do is to try to understand him, and learn to respect him. I know I still have much to learn.

We have grown closer and closer as I have tried to understand his views. I learn so much when I ask him what he sees and understands–and when I try my best to wrap my head around his perspectives. Our pasts, training, and experiences are far apart from each other. I have needed to learn to respect him, and he has had to learn to respect me. And thanks to God, we do love and respect each other.

How do you view family members when they don’t think the same ways you think? Your extended families? Your work associates, your neighbors, friends, or even the sharers of highways you travel? What’s your perspective as you face challenges they bring to you, or as they share their own challenges? Are you annoyed and resentful when they don’t think just like you…or do you push prejudices aside and strive to love as Jesus loves. Do you pray and work to see through Jesus’ eyes? I certainly have been (and continue to be) challenged by these questions.

Try asking someone unlike you (and who you don’t really understand) to share with you about their life…and really listen. Instead of trying to point them to your way of thinking…look to Jesus and his words. He is the only one that can bring real unity through shared convictions based on his truth, forgiveness, and will-directed, sacrificial love.

I am convicted and called higher by Jesus’ example…and the Scriptures’ call:

14  For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
15  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16  So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.
17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  (2 Corinthians 5:14-17, emphasis added)

What an encouraging, challenging, and hopeful scripture! I am a new creation through Christ…with a new way of thinking.

I must also ask another question…along with the question of how I view others.

How do I view Jesus?

Really.

From the ways I have “pictured” him, or by who HE says he really is?  When our perspective of Jesus stems from what he says about himself, rather than who we think he is or should be..our life and perspective changes.

When we view life through “truth” as the Scriptures teach, rather than through our own backgrounds and thoughts, we can become more and more like Jesus. Only then can we see life, our circumstances, and others through the eyes of Jesus.

We all have our “unicorn horns,” but Jesus can show us his true and beautiful view.

The view from that vantage point is heavenly…in the truest sense.

 

 

At Least It’s Not Lice!

The questions kept coming as Micah and Gracie were eager to know more about their Papa’s neurological disease. It’s a tough one. He has lost all mobility and is wheelchair (or scooter) bound. His speech is somewhat affected and he experiences intense fatigue every day. Life as we have known it has changed. As my daughter sought to answer their questions her daughter, Gracie, was thoughtful. Then, with her eyes widened and hands gestured outward Gracie triumphantly proclaimed, “Well—at least it’s not LICE!” gracies-expression

I love children. I need them in my life. Their points of reference are limited to their few years of experiences. Their perspectives are innocent, simple, and pure. You never know what crazy wisdom might come from their mouths.

For Gracie, her perspective was likely shaped from a family vacation at a lake, fondly known as “the one with lice.” The entire week was spent searching heads for nits (aka nitpicking), lathering with special expensive shampoos, and laundering loads of linens and clothes for 16 people—several times a day. img_1210We can laugh about this time now (2 years later), but it obviously had a profound impact on Gracie (whose head, fortunately, never housed a nit to be picked). img_1250

 

 

Currently, when Wyndham and I feel the very real and difficult realities of this current challenge, we often look at each other and say…”Well, at least it’s not lice!”  (I believe a sense of humor is not only helpful, but necessary.)

How do you view your current circumstances? Do you see them through a spiritual, Christ-like perspective…or from a self-focused,  world-focused, and hopeless point of view?

It is impossible for me, as a human, to understand the workings of God (Isaiah 55:8-9). My life doesn’t always follow the script I would write. I do know that I can completely trust his love and rely on his power (Psalm 62:11-12). I am keenly aware that my joy level springs from my ability to choose an eternal perspective. I am trying hard to hold to God’s view as I enter this new year…praying not to be fearful or discouraged. Praying to view life through Jesus’ eyes.

This past week Micah spoke with us about some of the questions he mused, and of a talk he recently had with his dad. His dad had explained to him that life on this earth can be hard, but we live for a home with God that lasts forever. That changes things. God has a bigger view than we do. Micah then shared that the Bible is what makes this clear to him. He told us that he will remember that talk with his dad for the rest of his life. Smart kid, right?

After the apostle Paul endured many great hardships he wrote from his “God-perspective:”

13  It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak,
14  because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.
15  All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
16  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
17  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
18  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:13-18)

This is my goal for 2017. To fix my eyes on Jesus…to see what is unseen and eternal.

I’m not gonna lie….it’s hard sometimes. But it is true and right, so I’ll hold on to that.

And after all…

“At least it’s not lice!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grateful, Courageous, and Cheerful

I see through new lenses these days. No, I didn’t get new glasses.

I have a new way of life. One that still consists of the family I treasure and work that I love—ministering to people. But one which now includes numerous therapies, doctors’ appointments, calculated outings, and even trips to be measured for the “electric chair.” Sounds scary—but I am referring to a motorized wheelchair, complete with accompanying accessible van. Bars and ramps have already been installed in our home as we live out our “new normal.”

I must choose how I view this change in life. An assortment of viewpoints and attitudes hover around my head and are readily accessible. Which lens shall I choose?20161121_150413

My husband no longer has mobility, and suffers from a progressive neurological disease. Yes. It’s hard and sobering.

However (for a completely none other than God-given reason) we have peace. And we have so much we are thankful for. I find myself surprised to feel this reality so keenly and deeply—but I’ve never felt closer to God, my husband, or my family. And, I’m extremely thankful as I approach my country’s Thanksgiving holiday.

This really doesn’t make sense. I am quite aware this contentment is only because of many prayers being prayed—and a commitment and prayer from my husband to live each day…grateful, courageous, and cheerful.

How do you do that when you lose your physical capabilities and/or when life radically changes?

By choice.  Choosing to be grateful this time of year. This day. This moment. Tomorrow.

And choosing to be courageous and cheerful.

Each day.

The alternative choice is to become bitter, fearful, and depressed…and that, dear friends, is not an encouraging choice.

My husband chooses the former, and it spurs me on to choose the same. The Bible calls me to this. It’s a vital way to think—and it’s possible. This way of thinking doesn’t mean I hide my head in the sand to all that is hard in life while whistling “Pollyanna.”  In fact, Jesus’ tells us we will have troubles in this world. Expect them. There are all kinds of troubles here in this “short minute” of life on earth. Yet, it’s the perfect and trouble free eternal years for which I live. Aaaahhhh.

If we are waiting for life on earth to be “fair” and to always make sense to us we are in for a long and impossible wait.

Despite our troubles, we can know we know and hold to someone who is all powerful and completely loving.

I can’t see what he sees. I also can’t deny the truth of the following scripture. God’s peace exceeds anything and everything I can understand.
4  Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!
5  Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
6  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
7  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
8  And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
9  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:4-9 NLT)

Today, I feel grateful. The ability to stand, to walk, to climb, and to run feels very pertinent to me. To quickly “fetch” a drink of water when I’m thirsty is a privilege, and to take steps into a friend’s home is a blessing.  I may not always have these abilities, but while I do I’m thankful for them. My once fast and agile husband can no longer do these things, but he is a grateful man. He knows and lives love; receives and offers forgiveness; experiences peace in heart and mind; has the love of an amazing family; holds to a purpose and hope that nothing can destroy; and joyfully functions within a diverse church family that loves deeply and from the heart.

His attitude is contagious to me. And it’s a good contagiousness—no need for covering the mouth with a tissue here. This attitude shows in the big stuff and in the mundane. For instance: While pumping gas, I now stop to be thankful for the fact I have a car, and money to power it.  Each time I’m at the grocery store and slip that debit card chip into the proper slot I’m reminded of the amazing food I am able to buy, and I feel thankful.  I realize this is a luxury for many. I’ve seen, met, and spoken to many who would long for such an opportunity. I am truly blessed. Before this recent struggle, I felt less gratitude for such “mundane” things.

And who could have courage if they didn’t face fears?  Fearfulness has dogged me throughout my life, yet God has not let me down. Ever. This doesn’t mean I haven’t faced hard or even life threatening situations and felt fear. Yet, it was in those times of deepest fears God empowered me to feel the most courage.

Funny thing— this is what God’s promises have always told us. Just re-read Psalm 23. Maybe a more unfamiliar wording of this psalm will feed your soul:
4  Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.
5  You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.
6  Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of GOD for the rest of my life.
(Psalm 23:4-6 MSG)

And cheerfulness?

Deep down in the heart joy supersedes circumstances.

17  Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
18  yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19  The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.
(Habakkuk 3:17-19)

18  When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your love, O LORD, supported me.
19  When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.  
               (Psalm 94:18-19)

And that is something to smile about. Cheerfulness begets cheerfulness.  It feels good, too.


22  A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
(Pr. 17:22)

Join us in a commitment to leave each day with gratitude, courage, and cheerfulness.

…And have a wonderful Thanksgiving day—and life!


12  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
(Romans 12:12)

 

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Why Can’t I Buy You Shoes?

I waited upstairs while my husband was crowned. Temporarily, that is. He will get his “permanent” crown in a month. While he is always royalty to me, my husband’s new crown was actually bestowed on him by our dentist.

Yeah, not as much fun as a jeweled crown.

Upstairs in the food court, I worked on my computer during the two hour “dental crowning” wait. I found a cozy sofa area on the perimeter of the food court, and as I typed I overheard lively conversation. Strangers introduced themselves to each other as they sat across from one another and then engaged in spirited talks about current and challenging political situations. The conversation was certainly entertaining. I mused over the possibility of visiting food courts and coffee shops around the country–while writing about the conversations I might hear and people I would meet. People are fascinating. Everyone has their own story, and it’s weird/amazing to think that each individual is living the details of his/her life as specifically as I am. Yet God created us all—and longs for a relationship with each one of us. That reality supersedes my thought capacity—it’s in a dimension beyond my capability to process.

I took one small break downstairs after a shoe store caught my eyes. I thought of the brown boots I “needed” and took a quick look at the store’s inventory. However, I don’t like really like to shop, so soon talked myself out of spending money on something I really didn’t need. (Besides, I didn’t see THE brown boots.) So, I went back to my sofa-turned-workspace.

Then–he walked by, revealing a slight shuffle in his stride. I first noticed him because I smelled him. He had obviously gone without a shower for a while. His coat was tattered. His shoes looked like those belonging to a clown. The upper parts of his shoes flapped, displaying their disconnection to the soles. I wondered about his story. He was likely homeless, and my heart saddened as I observed his look of “lostness.” Perhaps he was as disconnected from his soul as were his shoes from their “soles.” Had he lost his family? Endured a tragedy? Lost a job? Suffered in war? I don’t know. However, I did know it was cool and rainy outside, and his feet would surely stay cold and wet as they were.why-cant-i-buy-you-shoes

I remembered the shoe store downstairs, got up and quickened my pace so I could walk beside him. I didn’t want to startle him, so spoke quietly ensuring that no one else could hear.  “Sir, I see that your shoes have holes in them and it’s rainy and cool outside. Could I please buy you some shoes?

He looked down and quickly shuffled away as he said, “no.”  I watched out of the corner of my eyes as he found a chair and adjusted his shoes and socks. I felt badly for noticing them, as I wondered if I had caused him embarrassment. He then proceeded to a food counter but quickly walked away. I tried to sneak ahead so I could prepay, but he eluded me, seemingly on purpose.

Seeing he did not want my “help,” I gave up and prayed for him. Why wouldn’t he let me help? Why couldn’t I buy him shoes?

I’ll never know. I felt sad. I know I can become too easily discouraged when my offers to help aren’t received. How about you? I like to “fix” broken shoes, broken dreams, and broken hearts. However, I can not. I can’t fix anyone (I’m busy enough working on myself), but I can point every one to the only one who can fill their soul–and who is the lover of their soul.

5  Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.
6  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
7  My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
8  Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. 
 (Psalm 62:5-8)

God sees our shame, our broken dreams, our fears, our longings. He sees our disconnection and comes beside us as if to ask, “Can I buy you some shoes?” It would be wise (and warmer and dryer) to answer yes, but it is tempting to respond the same way as the man I met today…and elusively shuffle away. Maybe we are ashamed, maybe we aren’t sure we can trust him, or maybe we are just too busy walking to hear his offer.

I know when I feel fearful, I can fail to notice God walking beside me, longing to connect to the deep recesses of my soul. I pray I won’t be elusive, but will quickly and decisively (and figuratively) say, “Why yes, I’d love new shoes.”

 

“Every Day is a New Chance”

He’s an “old soul” at six years old. I’m often taken aback by conversations with my grandson. On the playground, he might be found playing ball with his friends,or asking his teacher how her day is going and if teaching makes her happy. That’s just the way he rolls.

So, I was not too surprised with our conversation last week as I was transporting him to his cousin’s house. As we were on the way he turned to my husband, who is suffering with health challenges and can no longer walk, and reminded him that he prays for him every day. We spoke of how God has not said “yes” to our desires for reasons still unknown to us–but we trust him. After a pause Micah continued, “You know Papa, every day is a new chance.” every-day-is-a-new-chance

I stored this nugget of child wisdom in my heart and ruminated on it throughout the week. Indeed, Micah, every day is a new chance. Every day brings a new possibility, a new chance.

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. (Psalm 5:3-4)

Every day is new chance to:

Count the many blessings I have been given.

Serve others.

Notice new ways that God is at work in my life.

Choose gratitude.

Hope.

Encourage someone.

Remember what Jesus did for me.

Accept God’s love and power even if I don’t understand my circumstances.

Overcome a harmful habit or sin and replace it with good.

Share this love which can make an eternal  difference in someone’s life.

Today we have this chance.

A couple of nights ago I woke up for a few hours and took the opportunity to pray. I thought about this “random chance” to pray and began to thank God for a vast variety of people, scenes, creatures, and emotions I enjoy and that he created. I was filled with wonder at how music “works” and how humorous and adorable are so many creatures. I stood (or rather lay) dumbfounded  at laughter, joy, excitement, sorrow, and the many varied emotions we are able to experience. I thought of the intense power of love and how it is something we can only know because of God. It was a fun prayer time as I remembered this “chance” to choose God. I read a familiar passage in a less familiar version and was uplifted so much I’m eager to share it with you…as we hold to the fact that every day is a new chance.What will you make of your chance today?

 
  This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”
  God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.
  And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!
  That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times.
  The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next.
  Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in
  until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.
  All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs.
  These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance.
  That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us.
  But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.
  Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.
  He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God.
  That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.  Romans 8:15-28 (MSG)

 

 

Out of Eggs: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Menopause

As I opened the refrigerator it hit me. My epiphany came as the waft of cold air came spilling from the stainless steel rectangular box. I was out of eggs. This eggless dilemma was deceiving, as the cardboard egg container still looked the same from the outside.20160805_131350

However, upon opening the carton I saw it was true. The last egg had been used. I was not prepared for the drama that was now thrust upon me. You see, my pumpkin muffins were waiting. The oil and water had already been added to the mix (that’s right—they weren’t homemade). All that was needed to complete this delectable snack was one stinkin’ egg. I didn’t need a jumbo egg, a large egg, or a brown egg. I didn’t even care at that point if it was organic and cage free. Any egg would do. My muffins would not turn out well without an egg. The egg was needed to hold it all together and to bring moisture.  But I was in a hurry. No time to find a neighbor with an egg, or make a quick trip to the store. I’d have to do this thing eggless. The pumpkin muffins went into the oven. Thirty minutes later, voilà. I was left with muffins that were falling apart, dry and crumbly. Muffin tops rolled over the edge of the crinkled paper muffin holders.

And this, my friends, is what happens in menopause. When that last egg leaves, women often feel they are thrust into an oven, and then things start to fall apart. All moisture leaves the body. The whole body. And the muffin tops hang over the edge.

For me, during menopause I lived with my own personal summer—like a summer at the equator while wearing a fur coat. I often couldn’t sleep until it was time to wake up, and that greatly increased my fatigue level. Dryness of all kinds was a problem, as were heart palpitations (which turned out to be tachycardia resulting in a heart ablation, rather than menopausal palpitations—surprise). My doctor assured me that palpitations causing one to pass out were not normal menopausal symptoms. So, don’t attribute everything to menopause. Now, years later, the night sweats are gone, with the exception of one that arrives each and every morning at 6:00 a.m.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Fortunately, I didn’t feel much change emotionally, except a bit of sadness about the end of an era. Adding to the fun symptoms, menopause often hits when children are leaving home and parents are aging and passing from this life. I experienced all of that and felt it keenly. During that time, emotions could run high. And aging is part of God’s grace?

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead— since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.   Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:18–22)

I share this verse for encouragement, even though we are probably not looking to have a child at this stage of life (though this was the situation with Abraham and Sarah). This scripture tells me that even when our wombs are dead God can still work powerfully through us. God’s power in our life can become more evident than ever if we hold to his promises and are strengthened in our faith. Menopause, like everything else, is more than just a physical issue. It brings with it an opportunity to grow in our faith.

Some women go through menopause without much effect. However, as that last egg prepares to leave, a woman’s hormones go through great transitions as the estrogen leaves the premises. Like my pumpkin muffins, we can tend to feel like things are “falling apart.” We may feel like we live in a hot oven. We wonder why our skin changes and why sexual intimacy can be painful. We may ask, “Where did my libido go?”  We may find it more difficult to stay svelte…or get svelte. That’s a kind way to say we feel fat and have difficulty losing weight. The subtitle “Opportunities to Grow” is not about our changing metabolism.  As you read this you may be viewing menopause as an event that will happen years from now, or perhaps it is current. Maybe you went through it years ago and you barely remember how it affected you. Or if you are a guy, you may be wondering what is happening to your wife during this time. Whatever your stage, use this information to prepare you, confirm that you are not crazy, or encourage someone else who is in this stage of life.

Most women go through menopause in their early fifties. Again—do you see God’s grace at work? Imagine enrolling your child in kindergarten as you enroll yourself in Medicare. God understands that when we are in the menopausal stage of life it would be difficult to manage a toddler.  Menopause is simply when a woman stops ovulating. This results in the cessation of menstruation (another little gift from God). Hormonal changes can result in a lovely variety of symptoms:

  • Hot flashes (A hot feeling—the kind where you want to bury yourself naked in the snow.)
  • Night sweats (Did I go swimming in my sleep without realizing it?)
  • Insomnia (The inability to sleep…Where was this when my kids were little?)
  • Decreased libido (Decreased sex drive, or as the phrase goes, “My get up and go, got up and went.”)
  • Mood swings (Feelings that shift, causing you to weep at commercials or become angry at houseflies.)
  • Forgetfulness (Why did I walk into this room? Why is my mail in the refrigerator? What is my youngest child’s name?)
  • Dry skin (Yes, this especially includes vaginal dryness.)
  • Recurrent yeast or bladder infections
  • Recurrent colds or flus
  • Loss of hair (But don’t worry…it will likely reappear on your chin.)
  • Weight gain (Oh, the joy.)
  • Fatigue (I’m tired just reading all of this.)

Some women have minimal symptoms of menopause, while others hit the jackpot and get all of them. Some women may experience heart palpitations, panic attacks, or headaches. For others who have had headaches previously, they may lessen. We all experience this special time in our own special way. Be sure to consult your physician about your specific medical conditions, especially if you are having irregular bleeding or pelvic pain.   Many women have perimenopausal symptoms for years before they reach menopause. During this time they may skip cycles or have shorter or longer periods. Do remember, until the last egg is gone you can still get pregnant.

What can you do about these symptoms? First and foremost, pray a lot. Seriously. Menopausal symptoms can take our focus away from Jesus and weaken our ability to fight sin. Menopause does not give us a ‘’free pass” to become angry or indulge in self-pity. With God’s grace, allow these things to cause you to depend more on God. When you struggle, let it draw you closer to God’s power and love.

Keep helpful scriptures close at hand and read them often. Talk to trusted friends about your struggles, and ask for prayers. Catch the temptations before they give way to sin. Many symptoms can be treated, or at least their severity decreased. For example, insomnia can be helped through regular exercise, natural remedies, relaxation techniques, or even medications. Try to avoid technology before you sleep. It can prevent your mind from relaxing. Vitamin E suppositories or very small doses of natural estrogen suppositories, along with good lubrication, can help vaginal dryness. Healthy eating (with minimal carbs and sugars), along with vitamin and mineral supplements, can help reduce fatigue. Vitamins B-12 and D-3 are often low in women. When low in vitamin D, women can tend toward brittle bones and osteoporosis.Drinking plenty of water helps prevent bladder infections and also helps the skin stay moister.

Married Men: Oh Please Pause…May I offer you suggestions from a woman who has been there, done that? Thankfully, my husband was very encouraging and supportive through this time, though we navigated through a few storms.Your wife is not possessed. She is going through a difficult transition emotionally and physically. She would rather not feel the symptoms she does. She will do better with your love and support than with your solutions for “dealing with menopause.” Gifts of gym memberships, tweezers, wrinkle cream or strait jackets will likely not be well-received. Hugs, expressions of love, and assurances that you believe she is beautiful will be most helpful. She needs to know she is still valued and the object of your affection—not your “old lady.” Together, make a plan ahead of time for how you will handle new difficulties that arise. When the difficulties come, you will better know how to help each other. When the covers fly off at night and she throws off her nightgown, this is not an invitation. She does not want a hug. She does not even want to be touched. An ice pack would be the most romantic gift you could offer at this time. Ask her what would help her as she navigates this stage of life, what she most needs from you. Thank you for your understanding.

Women: We’re in This Together Friends, remember that every woman who lives long enough goes through this change and comes out on the other side, and so can you. With God, you can do this gracefully. It’s really an okay experience. I’m fully enjoying this stage of life, as are most of my friends. Make sure you stay close to God and laugh at the days to come. A sense of humor goes a long way. The wisdom of Proverbs tells us:

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. (Proverbs 15:30)

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)

Remember that this time in your life involves your husband as well, so wives, be sensitive to your spouse. It’s really not all about you or him. It’s about us as a couple, with God at the center. God still calls us all, male and female, to consider each other’s needs above our own. That’s a constant upward call for me. I hope I’m getting better with years of practice and learning from God, empowered by his Spirit—but I always need the reminder.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17–18)

This post is an excerpt from my new book, “An Aging Grace: Collected Wisdom on Aging Gracefully,” available at ipibooks.net

 

Digging Out from Disappointment

We’ve all felt it. It comes in various shapes and sizes without respect for age or background. It can kick you in the gut—when you don’t get a desired job, or make the team, or garner attention from someone you were sure you would marry. Maybe it stabbed you when a trip to the bathroom dashed your hopes of a longed-for pregnancy. I still remember several years of that longing-turned-disappointment.

As we live more years and know more people, disappointments seem to loom at every corner. We feel the disappointments of poor choices made by friends or family (or ourselves)—and relationships that didn’t turn out the ways we had envisioned. Often they come in the form of health challenges. We don’t ask for them, plan for them or desire them in any way. ~1524161

As I have mentioned before, my husband has a (still) undiagnosed central nervous system disorder. In a year’s time this villain has stolen his ability to walk, caused great fatigue and various other difficulties. However, recent MRI findings brought us new hope for a treatment that could “fix it.” The doctors thought they saw a vein formation putting pressure on the spinal cord. To confirm this MRI “finding” my husband would need to go through a procedure (an angiogram) to locate and treat the problem.

We counted the days until August 10th—the day of the procedure. Though we knew it was not a sure cure, the doctors were hopeful and so were we. Full of faith, we dreamed of how we’d celebrate our new miracle.

Instead, the procedure showed the MRI findings to be false. To add insult to injury, he had a very difficult time waking up from anesthesia causing enough concern to land him an extra hospital stay.VZM.IMG_20160810_224055 The night he came home he developed a high fever from infection. That day was also the hottest day of the year, and for some unknown reason the power in our house went out. It felt like cruel irony—power gone. It seemed that all we had hoped for resulted in “disappointment on steroids.” A hard kick in the gut.

With significant sleep deprivation, the next morning I sat in a 100 degree parking lot outside of a lab while holding a little sterile jar of pee in a bag—and sobbed. And prayed. And wrestled with God. I asked him if he had heard me, and if he cared. I “reasoned” with him that we could accomplish so much more with renewed mobility and energy. I reminded God of his promises and how faith- building it would have been for all the grandchildren who fervently pray for their Papa.

I felt like I was sinking in mud and getting nowhere—like a time I got my car stuck in mud. The car wouldn’t move forward, and sank lower and lower. I then reasoned that if perhaps I stepped on the accelerator a little harder I get could get out. Instead, mud flew and I sank even deeper.

Several things were needed in order to dig out. (A good cry was one of them.) I didn’t want to sink in the mud then, and I don’t want to sink in my disappointment now. With my car, I needed some solid ground, some trial and error, a push and a tow in order to move forward. I needed the same in that hot parking lot, holding the sad, now infected jar of pee.

When my car was stuck, I grabbed handfuls of nearby gravel—solid ground to put beneath the wheels. Likewise, when sinking in disappointment I must find solid ground—“one piece of gravel” at a time. The solid ground is truth. I must hold on to truth. We live in spiritual battleground and Satan wants me to believe the lies—that God doesn’t care or have our best interest. Two of the many “truth rocks” I rely on are:

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.
In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
(1 John 4:16-18a)

 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge…

One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong,
and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.
(Psalm 62:5-7, 11-12)

The solid ground also includes the majesty of creation. As I observe nature and smell the summer gardens, view the sunset and hear the oceans roar I am reminded that God is the potter. I am the clay. As I see around me the love of a mother for her child and witness lives who have radically changed— I know love is from God. God loves me. He hears me. I rely on this. I know this in my mind and place it in my heart. I don’t have the big picture. He does.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
(Isaiah 55:8-9)

The solid ground includes the immeasurable blessings and answered prayers I have already received from my father: My salvation, his spirit within me, and the hope of eternal life top the list.

My husband, who is a godly man of integrity is also a blessing I don’t deserve. Though not so physically strong now, to me he has never seemed stronger. The relationship I share with my children and grandchildren cause my cup to overflow with joy. My friends are a beautiful result of this solid foundation. I am blessed to be part of a loving, vibrant church who lives for God.

I dig out by finding solid ground and placing it in my heart and mind. Sometimes it takes trial and error. I don’t always get it right but God is gracious.

Sometimes I can’t seem to find the solid ground, or the gravel seems to slip from my hand. That’s how I felt in that parking lot. So, in that hot parking lot I texted my daughters and friends to tell them I was hurting and needed help. I needed encouragement. And they sent it. In scriptures, in prayers, and in encouraging words. I needed the push, and the tow to help me dig out.

And I have hope. No disease or disappointment can take that away.

Grab your solid ground, keep trying, ask for a push, and don’t be afraid to be towed. Remember you don’t have to drive alone. God has this. He always has. Our heavy foot on the accelerator doesn’t help. With God, I can do this. You can do this. Let’s dig out together.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of  the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a new place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. (Psalm 40:1-3a)

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:3-5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank You for Those Broken Chains

In honor of Memorial Day, I’m re-posting a blog from last year. Our visit to Normandy resulted in my gaining a much greater appreciation for the men and women who sacrificed their lives…but even more appreciation for God’s sacrifice for me. 

Oh, the inspiration and the irony. The past few days have been full of both. Normandy, France, was to me…a piece of history. That is…until yesterday when I experienced this place of beauty and blood-stained sand–where a decade before I was born something happened that continues to affect my life today.

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I reflected on the lives of the young men and boys who landed on those pristine beaches over 70 years ago at the “beginning of the end” of World War II. I watched  videos of survivors describe that fateful day when many of their “band of brothers” fell. Preserved in a museum, their belongings tell their stories. I heard those stories, told and untold. My heart felt sad, full, grateful, and inspired as I walked among the 10,000 white crosses commemorating men whose bodies never made it home. I saw name after name of men who once lived and walked as I imagined the futures they never lived. In my mind’s eye I saw the tears their families cried. They fought for my liberation and I left inspired. 20150428_122259

As irony would have it, today I am in Berlin, Germany–once home to “the enemy.”  I greeted two of my friends and colleagues, one who is German and one who is French. My French friend shared that his father-in-law, who lives in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, where the bloody D-Day battle was fought, was sixteen years old when the invasion came. Tears welled in his eyes as he spoke of stories his father-in-law had shared with him. I needed to hear those stories…to learn of the past that changed my present and future. 20150427_161849

My mind goes back to a sculpture in Sainte-Mere-Eglise that stirred my soul. It’s entitled, “The Day They Came.”  20150427_110537 (1)Once-chained hands reach upward..but the chains depicted were broken chains.

As a women’s minister I am often with fellow Christians. I spend time teaching and listening…and learning. I marvel at ways I see God at work. This past Sunday was a glorious and historic day in Paris, as four elders were appointed in the growing, loving, and lively church there. That same week four Parisians (college, high school, single, and adult) experienced “broken chains” as they were baptized into Christ. Tomorrow I will be with numerous Europeans while we learn from the Bible during the Spring gathering of the European Bible School. The fellowship will be sweet and the bonds tight. Cooperation and unity will continue to be forged–as they are essential for showing Jesus to the continent. French, German, British, Canadian, American, and more…all will be there–united in purpose and filled with deep and meaningful love for each other. This is all because many years ago someone came and paid the price required to break the chains of our own (my own) pride, selfishness, and everything else opposing God’s loving plan.

I’m reminded of the words of President Reagan at the 40th anniversary celebration of D-Day.”If we forget what we did, we forget who we are.”  In the spiritual realm (which is the part of us that can’t be buried under a tombstone) I’d change one word.  “If we ever forget what HE did, we forget who we are.”

And that’s the truth. The sculpture of the broken chains would read…”The Day He Came.”

That day changed everything…and he is still the only who can break the personal chains that embitter and enslave us…and the social chains of hate, prejudice,and entitlement that separate us. We are all level at the foot of the cross of Jesus.  If we ever forget what he did, we forget who we are.

We aren’t meant to be chained. We are loved, valued…and because of his amazing grace…worth his unthinkable sacrifice. Thank God for broken chains.

Tomorrow, as I stand arm-in-arm with dear friends, fellow workers, spiritual brothers and sisters–my allies.,.the ground will be level, as it is always is at the foot of the cross. I will stand grateful for what Jesus did. Because of that, I know who I am.

“Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” as arranged by Chris Tomlin

     Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
     ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
     My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace
     The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures
     My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

Another Opening Day

Some days it’s just nice to be grateful for the simple things in life.  I love this scripture, and believe that wherever we live we can see God’s amazing work and learn to love our surroundings. Psalm 16:5-6
Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
        you have made my lot secure.
    [6] The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
        surely I have a delightful inheritance.

This post was written several years ago but still reflects my sentiments.(One disclaimer – while I’m still a loyal fan, I get increasingly disappointed when the game becomes only about business.)  While there is not much spiritual depth in these words, sometimes I just like to be thankful for simple joys. And…of course we know that the first verse of the Bible includes baseball.  Genesis 1:1  In the “big inning” God created the heavens and the earth.  (Forgive me … I  learned that in elementary school.)

Opening Day – (Why I love New England)

Today is opening day at Fenway Park. It is cold and rainy outside.

You know why I love New England? Because no matter the weather, people will be at the park early to purchase their sausages piled high with onions and peppers. The stands will be full, as they always are. The fans will sing along to Tessie and Sweet Caroline. I just love living here. 

I grew up in the South.  I graduated from the University of Florida and have lived in New England for the last 22 (update: now 29) years of my life, after a few other southern stops.  As soon as I arrived, I knew I had finally come “home”.  I found a place that matched my driving and my dreams.

When I was a child, my mother read me a book with the most amazing pictures of children building snowmen..of white steeple churches, pumpkin patches and  beautiful, colorful leaves. I wondered where such a wondrous place might be!  Was it real?

Then I found it. It is real. I saw my very first snowflake in the Carolinas while on my honeymoon and I’ve loved snow ever since. I still love it!  There is nothing more peaceful and beautiful than a snowfall. There is also nowhere else in the world I know of where I can look outside at the park across the street from my house and watch the girls’ high school tennis team shovel snow off the courts. I played tennis in high school and never was there such fun. We just sweat a lot – all the time.

Here in New England my mind can’t easily get lazy. I returned early this morning after dropping my husband off at Logan. I went through the “fast lane” into the Sumner Tunnel. Approximately ten lanes converged into one.  (update: Thanks America – for the Big Dig which helped alleviate this situation.) It was “cut throat” and you had to stay sharp to live.  Compare that to the challenge of my last trip down south.  I slowly meandered through back roads, searching to find any roadside stand that sold boiled peanuts.  I turned back onto the highway (of course blocking a lane to make my left turn…how else do you do it?) and realized from others’ looks I would likely be locked up if I did that again.

In New England what you see is what you get.  There is no fluff – except fluffr’nutter sandwiches (peanut butter and marshmallow fluff) – which were new to me upon my arrival. Here, if someone doesn’t like something you say or do they won’t politely smile and say “why thank you darlin'” and then talk about you to someone else. Just yesterday I was in line at a fast food place on the Mass Pike and the guy in front of me was given the wrong order.  When he (the customer) mentioned it the person “waiting” on him said, “Buddy, that’s not my problem.” See, here you just get what is really on one’s mind, unfiltered.

In my hometown I grew up attending almost every home University of Florida football game.  (Steve Spurrier was the quarterback then.)  It was a great experience and I was a devoted fan. Often, I came home sunburned.   Several years ago my husband and son sat through a blizzard watching the Pats beat Oakland. They came home with no feeling in their arms or legs, but it was a “wicked awesome” experience. No comparison.

So today, as I drove home from a morning appointment in the cold and rain I was grateful for all the many blessings I have living here, but still wishing I could be sitting at Fenway Park about now.  I think we play the Orioles.  Doesn’t matter…I know the main chant will be about the Yankees. But I can’t go.  I’ll need to help pump the water from the snow melt out of the basement. Somewhere along the way, I have become a New Englander… and I really do love it.
 

Hesitate…or Jump In?

I think the fear began the day before our wedding in December of 1974. I was taking my very last university final. For my elective that quarter (we were on a quarter system at the University of Florida) I had taken a life guarding class. Since the month was December, and the only school pool at the time was outdoors, the water was heated. I still remember many cold days when I would quickly throw off my warm up suit and race into the pool…desiring as little time as possible to be exposed to the elements while wearing a swimsuit. (In that part of Florida during that time of year the temperature often reached the 30’s and 40’s.) A few days before this final test the pool heater broke and the water was cold. Very cold. My instructor postponed the lifesaving test for a future date when the heater was working, but I couldn’t wait. I was getting married and moving to a new state the very next day so I requested to take it as originally scheduled. The water and air temperature were ridiculous as I dove in for my test. (I got such severe leg cramps my “victim” had to help me out of the pool.) Needless to say, I’m sure you never saw me sitting on a lifeguard’s chair.

My family fully understands (through years of observation) that it takes me a really, really loooong time to place myself in cold water. In fact, it usually doesn’t happen. I’ll start in with my toes, then after 15 minutes or so work up the courage to get my feet in. After about a half hour of inching myself in, I will either slowly submerge myself with a scream…or give up and get out. Usually I get out. Yes I know it would be simpler (in your mind) to just jump in. I really don’t enjoy this dilemma, because I like to swim.

Imagine my joy when I found out early this year that a gym near my house contains a pool where the water temperature stays in the mid to high 80’s. Aaahhh. I signed up and have been swimming all year. I eagerly and willingly jump in with no hesitation whatsoever! I don’t even bother to gingerly put a toe in before getting all wet…I’m quickly “all in” swimming laps. The water is invitingly delightful. I stay in as long as possible.20160311_151948 (1)

As I returned home from swimming today, I thought of how I (and I’m likely not alone so will use “we”) can too often hesitate toward wholeheartedly “jumping in” with God…opting to put a toe or two in the water. We can hesitate in simply obeying the Scriptures when they seem hard. We can hesitate by way of indecision and procrastination. We can hesitate in reaching out and sharing our faith. We can even hesitate in prayer. At times I hesitate to pray because of the hard work involved in prayer. It takes a decision to jump in wholeheartedly in order to overcome our hesitation. And it takes a recognition and acceptance of the love and mercy of God.

When I hesitate,  I fail to embrace the truth that I am jumping into the arms of my infinitely loving and powerful Father. I can forget that his ears are eager to hear my thoughts, my praise, my fears, my failures, my requests, my longings. I can let fear rule, though God’s perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). When I embrace the love of my Father, I can then “jump in” with no hesitation and arms wide open. His love is warmer and more refreshing than my 86 degree pool. It’s not cold or painful. And it’s oh so refreshing and strengthening.

1 Kings 18:21 (NASB)
21  And Elijah came near to all the people and said, ” How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word.

Proverbs 24:11-12 (MSG)
11  Rescue the perishing; don’t hesitate to step in and help.
12  If you say, “Hey, that’s none of my business,” will that get you off the hook? Someone is watching you closely, you know— Someone not impressed with weak excuses.

Hebrews 10:19 (MSG)
19  So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body.

Thankfully, God did not hesitate to help me!

Romans 8:31-33 (MSG)
31  So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose?
32  If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us?
33  And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen?

Jump on in. The water’s just right. It’s delightful. It’s perfect.