Thursday, June 25, 2020

Emotions

Our emotions are tricky things aren't they? One minute we're up, happy, moving forward, and then something happens and we're sad, stopped, leaning over the chasm of depression and wondering if we will fall in. Have you been on that roller coaster recently? I surely have.

While it is possible to shut ourselves off from our emotional responses, build walls and keep other people at arm's length, that is NOT healthy. We need the ups and downs of our emotions to feel alive. We need the hope of turning our emotional burdens over to God to give us a way forward when we are feeling overwhelmed. 

Life isn't easy. Life is not always joy, rainbows, and unicorns. But life is precious, and we only have one chance to live it. I don't have all the answers to your struggles, but I know the God who does. I don't have all the answers to my own struggles, but Jesus promised that when I come to Him He will take my burdens and give me rest. He offers that same rest to you.

Whether you are laughing or crying, raging at the world or hiding under a blanket, God still sees you. He still offers His love and peace. He is holding out rest for your weary soul. Accept His gift.

I'll be praying for you.


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

How


Today I'm joining back up with one of my favorite groups, the Five Minute Friday writers. And yes, I am quite aware it is Tuesday - life is moving at a different pace around here ;)


How do we write stories that show both the grit and the grace of everyday life? I have been taking an online writing course this spring from Leslie Leyland Fields. Each week we are encouraged to think about another element of writing our stories. It isn’t write, write, write, but rather think, think, investigate, think, write, refine, write some more. 


This slower process has been good for me. It has reminded me that not everything needs written right now, and truly, maybe not every story even needs written at all. Through it all Leslie has encouraged and challenged us to not be afraid to write into the hard or difficult memories in our lives. Not everything I write needs to be shared - amazing, right?!? But for those things that I DO feel led to share, I want them to be the best they can. I want my writing to draw people into my story, the one where God is the center, where Jesus is the Savior, and where I keep listening day by day to hear where to go next.


How we write and what we write can either encourage or discourage others. Right now our world, and our country in particular, is going through a lot of very, very hard things. Am I adding noise to the chaos, or am I offering a glimpse of peace, of healing, or restoration? I pray it is the latter.


So I’m going to get back to writing, a little at a time, and see where this think, think, investigate, think, write, refine, write path takes me. To start with, I’m not going back very far. Just two and a half weeks or so. How soon will you read this story? I dunno.


Two and a half weeks ago the girls and I were in a minor car accident. It is categorized as minor, no airbags deployed, none of us had to go to the hospital immediately, but the changes in my life and activities these past two weeks have been anything but minor. That is where I will start writing. I am praying that through writing into this difficult time I can offer hope, and peace in the midst of this crazy world. So check back next week. Maybe some words will have been through the refining process by then.


How will I proceed? With much prayer.



Saturday, May 9, 2020

Happy Mother's Day




mama encouragement, motherhood, Jesus loves you



Happy Mother's Day!


I know some of you are having a terrific day, and others are so disappointed or mad that they want to cry. Mother's Day runs the gamut from over the top joy and love to the depths of despair and sorrow. All of those options are on the table today. If you need to cry, go ahead and do it. If you want to dance and sing, that's okay too. 

After 22 years of motherhood I think I've lived all the possible options for the best and worst of attitudes and occurrences on Mother's Day. May I offer a suggestion? Stop being so hard on yourself, and your family. Motherhood is really hard, and vitally important. We will all have our up days, and those filled with struggles. Some days are a glorious struggle filled with laughter and smiles at the end. Other days seem like they'll never end and are full of heartache.

God gave you those precious children for a reason. More than one reason actually. You are to teach them about God and Jesus' love and sacrifice. They are there to refine you and teach you about sacrifice and finding strength in God alone. 

Mother's Day will be hard for a lot of people this year, what with travel restrictions, quarantines, and social distancing. Take time today to think about the blessing you have. Focus on the good you've found in motherhood. If you need some time alone today, take it. If your family makes a mess, leave it for tomorrow. 

Today, work through whatever you need to with God's help. While today may not start out happy, you can find joy in God's presence, and peace. Go to Him and find strength for this really awesome, yet really tough job of motherhood. 

Consider yourself hugged Mama!
You are loved.


Saturday, April 25, 2020

time for reflection



introspection, mental health, trusting God



Taking time for reflection or introspection is hard work. Some of my friends journal every day, others - not at all. I fall somewhere in the middle. Whether we think, pray, meditate, draw, create, journal or do something else entirely, we need to set aside time to reflect - and then adjust our lives if needed - regularly.

A few weeks ago our pastor said something like this: ‘don’t think you have to be broken to go to counseling, we all need counseling.’ I’ll add on that we are all in some measure cracked, broken, or unsure. Maybe you won’t feel compelled to go see a pastor or counsellor after your self-reflection time, but might you seek out a trusted friend and talk things through? We are meant to live in community, not in isolation. Is anyone else missing their in-person community during this time of social distancing to try to slow the speed of the corona virus, or is it just me?

A few days ago I spent about an hour on the phone with a good friend. We were talking about the struggle to find a new normal, a routine of sorts to structure our days and weeks since our normal activities have been cancelled, postponed, or moved online. Our church has been really good about having regular facebook live events in addition to streaming our weekly services. This is helpful, but I miss seeing people and interacting face to face. I miss the presence of other people.

Have you encountered something similar? A struggle to find your rhythm? I think that’s okay - even expected right now. Some days I wake up energized, ready to clean a closet or go outside and work in my garden. Other days I just want to curl up alone, with a book or a movie. My moods and aspirations change often. Your probably do too.

I am grounded through all of this by the knowledge that the same God who carried my grandparents through the 1918 influenza epidemic and the Great Depression is still here guiding me today.

When we take time to reflect, we find different challenges on different levels. Some days all your reflection may prompt you to do is wash a load of laundry or bake some cookies. Other days you will dig deeper. Like when I got to 1 Corinthians 13 in my Bible reading earlier this month. I don’t want to be a noisy gong, be nothing, or gain nothing. That prompted me to take a deeper look at all the times recently when i have not been loving towards my family. I’ve been feeling a little off-centered since then. Good thing I’m a lump of clay that the Master Potter can re-center.

If you’re feeling a little off-balance too, I encourage you to go to God and ask Hi to help you too.

Life is too short to not live it. Spend a little time reflecting on where you are today. Then ask God where He wants you to be.





Thursday, April 16, 2020

At Home Nature Play



nature play, stay at home, opt outdoors


Hi out there!

I wish I could see all your smiling faces in person.

Being separated from our friends and extended family really stinks!

Fortunately, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, Spring is slowly making its way to us. To encourage, and hopefully inspire you, I'm linking my monthly newspaper column about At-home Nature Play. I hope it gives you some ideas to implement, for yourself, and the kids.

Find the column here.





Tuesday, March 31, 2020

March 31, 2020


COVID19thoughts, encouragement, new normal


What if this is your new normal?

What if whatever unusual situation you find yourself in today becomes your way of life for the next three months, or even the next three years?

Does that thought cause you dread, anxiety, or even grief? As Americans we have had it oh so good for oh so long that we might have, as a collective nation, forgotten what it is like to struggle for existence.

If we were to take a look back in our history, we would find that our grandparents, and for some of us our great grandparents, knew exactly what it meant to sacrifice and struggle. They are now referred to as the Greatest Generation - those born from 1901-1924, those who grew up during the Great Depression and served and worked during WWII.

For those of them that were children at the outset of WWI, I doubt they understood the sacrifices their families were making to send men off to war. They only knew what had happened in their short lifetimes, and that varied widely based upon where they lived and their economic status. Some had been in cities with a natural gas boom, or where cars were being seen as a new mode of transportation, not just a toy for the rich. Others lived in rural areas and life continued on as it had for the decades before they were born. This Great Generation grew up during a war, lived through the depression, and served in the following war.

We are currently facing a war of a different kind: a war against a virus that threatens to undo our world’s economy, and for many of us, our current way of life. How do we explain this to our children? How do we even wrap our own minds around our change in circumstances from only a month ago? One day at a time - one prayer at a time. Our children know their own “normal” - what we need to help them understand is their new normal, as we navigate our own. Prayer is the first step, loving each other is the second.

We do not know what the future will bring. Only God can see outside of linear time. In three weeks’ time will the curve of new cases be flattened, even gone? Or will it take three months or even a year before our lives attempt to return to what we used to think of as normal?

In the midst of all this uncertainty, what are we to do? What should we be called to do? Let us each start by doing our part. Today in your home, or at work if your job has been labelled essential, let’s each do our part. Wash laundry, cook meals, stock groceries, care for the sick - whatever your part is in the fabric of our nation - go do it. And do it well. In Colossians 3:23 Paul admonished fellow believers “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”

We are called to work heartily. Whether that is a third grader working to master long division or a CEO re-writing the budget so their employees are paid, work heartily. Work hard. Give it your best effort today, and again tomorrow. God is watching. He wants us to be a blessing to those around us and not a burden. One way to do that is by doing our part - without complaining.

Do the hard work of prayer. Your life, regardless of how it looks today, offers you the opportunity to pray for others. Instead of joining in the masses who are complaining about our elected officials doing too much or too little in this crisis - spend that time in prayer for them. Pray for your family, your neighbors, your local firemen, EMT’s, the Doctors and nurses at your local hospital. Pray for those who are still working at the grocery store or the gas station. Pray for those working at home, the unemployed, those in quarantine, those in the hospital. Then do the really hard work of praying for those who have lost a loved one to this virus. You have time to pray today - use it wisely.

My final admonition for you today is to not give up hope! Looking back through history we see both good times and bad. They alternate. This too shall pass. There will be an eventual end to this virus and the havoc it is causing in our world. In Romans 5 we are reminded that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character, hope. Why? Because the Holy Spirit pours God’s love into our hearts. If this all sounds foreign to you, I encourage you to read the Gospel of John. You can read it for free on the Bible App on your phone, or at biblegateway.com - then ask questions - get answers - meet Jesus.

In just under two weeks we will celebrate Easter. Celebrate all Jesus has done for us. It does not matter what our new normal is. What matters is remembering all God has done for us - and that He has promised to never leave us.



Easter is coming.


Work hard, celebrate with awe.


Sunday, March 22, 2020

March 22, 2020



coronavirus, thoughts on living, Gods peace


A fellow writer posted yesterday and asked us to share our stories. She asked us to share our coronavirus stories, that in doing so, we would read each others’ words and not feel so alone during this time of social isolation.

A week ago my boss asked us to practice social distancing - in an effort to keep people safe and healthy - without being socially distant.

Catching a theme here? Yeah, me too. So now, at 12:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, I will write, and pray that God gives me the words to share what’s on my heart. Let’s begin shall we?

It’s early on Sunday, March 22nd, 2020 and I’m thinking back on this month. Just over three weeks ago I went to the NFL combine in Indianapolis. People were all around me, having fun, talking football, thinking of the future in rosy hues. It was a good day to be alive, spend time with friends, and to laugh at the snow.

On Tuesday, March 3rd, Our older daughter and I went to Fountain Square. An old neighborhood in Indianapolis that has seen a revitalization over the past 20 or so years. It is where my dad grew up in the 40’s and 50’s. We went duck pin bowling, bought chocolates, and browsed the vintage clothing shops. It was a windy but sunny day full of the promise of a coming spring. We laughed and danced.

On Friday, March 6th I went to work as usual, and then the girls and I attended the opening of an art exhibit celebrating diversity and inclusion through art. The future still looked bright and free.

On the following Monday, March 9th, my youngest daughter and I went to Indianapolis. We went to the Garfield Park Conservatory and photographed tropical flowers. Then we went to the City Market for a late lunch of NY style pizza. She had been wanting to go there for years, and since it was Spring Break, I made sure it happened. That afternoon marked our first real conversation about coronavirus (COVID-19) as we walked around downtown and talked about how we thought they would work to keep everyone safe for the Big 10 college basketball tournament. Later that week the tournament would be cancelled, along with every other major and minor sporting event across the US.

On Wednesday, March 11th my mom came over for lunch. It was nothing unusual, just the girls, grandma, and me. We had wanted to see her, and get her expert advice on a knitting project Arlene was doing. My mom is 77 years old and in good health - a situation I try to never take for granted. I know many people younger than her who struggle with a host of health challenges.

Thursday the 12th was a day for errands and grocery shopping. The lines were longer than usual. People were starting to talk a lot more about coronavirus - they were beginning to stock up - there was a tension in the air. The news from other countries was not good. People were getting infected and many were needing hospitalized. This was not just another round of seasonal flu. What would it be like here? This was the day the Big 10 tournament (and many others) was cancelled. Now it was getting real - affecting things close to home. The outlook was much less rosy than it had been just 4 days before. Had it only been four days (three really) since that Monday afternoon stroll around downtown Indianapolis?

I went to work on Friday, March 13th. Our regular solid cleaning routine had been ramped up even more. Not panic, just concern. We had less visitors than usual. I think the public was just waking up to the understanding that if the Big 10 tournament was cancelled, other things might be as well. At the end of the day we had an all-staff meeting. We found out that we would be closed to the public until at least the end of the month. There would be more details on Monday. Stay home tomorrow. I understood it - we are a museum. We let people learn through experiences - most of them hands-on. Earlier that afternoon we had heard that the Children’s Museum was closing. I, along with most of my co-workers, had figured we would not be far behind. It it was closed, and we hadn’t, we would have been inundated with children and they parents, way beyond even our normal capacity - and that would not have been good for the recommendation to keep a local distance to avoid spreading the virus.

This past week at our house had been different, and yet not. Our younger daughter was granted a second week of Spring Break wile her college figures out the logistics of switching to all online courses for the remained of the semester. Our older daughter had worked that weekend, worked again on Monday, had a shift cancelled, and then was told her employer would be closing - permanently.

Having the three of us home mid-week was not that unusual, other than the news about the virus. You see, we spent 16 years as a homeschooling family, from the first day of Kindergarten, to the last day of high school. That has prepared us for a lot of this “new normal” we are in right now. We know how to go for long walks in the woods each day to get our exercise, how to enjoy curling up with a good book, and how to bake up a storms’ worth of good treats.

But more importantly than all of that, we have faith in God and in Jesus Christ as our Savior. We know where to weather our storms. Being a Christian does not make this storm easier, but it does make it possible to hold on to hope int he midst of it. We have hope because we know the One who holds our tomorrows. He is the Alpha and the Omega - the beginning and the end. He knows our future. The same God who created the universe and named the stars knows my name. I am His beloved child.

Fear may be on a daily quest to try to undermine my peace, but it will not win. This peace I have has been hard-won and will not be surrendered. It has come as my faith has been tested and tried over and over again. I have been through the refiner’s fire over and over again - and I know that He is not done with me yet. There is still dross to remove. It is a life-long process, this refinement.

I do not fear the future. I used to. Then I finally came to understand that wavering back and forth across the line between faith and fear is too exhausting. I had to decide to go all in and trust God with everything: my marriage, our kids, mu job, my very life. I had nothing to lose. I was in a dark and painful place. I knew I could not thrive there, I was barely surviving there! So I let it all go. I had been reading a book about healthy spirituality and this line stood out to me as though it had been written in neon lettering in the sky ‘ a person with nothing left to lose becomes the most powerful person on earth.’

What did I have to lose? Nothing of value. I could see my life that I thought I had control of crumbling around me each day. I surrendered. For the first time I truly meant it with my whole heart when I prayer “Whatever, Lord.” Whatever He wanted to give, or take, or do - it had to be better than what I had - which was nothing.

So where does that past surrender leave me today, in the midst of a global pandemic? Safely in the arms of my loving Heavenly Father. Hands up and open wide. I can now close my eyes, stretch out my hands, open my heart and connect with God in a deep and powerful way through the Holy Spirit that lives within me.

As we look tot he uncertain future we have many questions. Will the social distancing be enough to stop the spread? Will thousand more have to die, or will most recover? Will someone I know and love catch COVID-19, struggle to breathe, and possibly even die? I do not know any of these answers, but I do not need to. I know life had been hard, is hard, and will continue to be hard for many of my friends. Some of them know Jesus and have begun to receive His peace. Others do not know Him and have no peace, no real hope. I pray for them all.

My grandparents lived through WWI and WWII. They were a vastly different generation than what I see today. They might have worried, in fact I’m sure they did, but I think they did something that we lack today: they prayed. Then they trusted God to keep His word and they went on living, loving, and serving others. The trusted God to not forsake them, to give them comfort and hope. Perhaps they were made of sterner stuff than we are. They didn’t have google to answer all their questions - shoot - they’d only had the Dewey Decimal system for 35 years when WWI began. We struggle to imagine life without toilet paper, they struggled with not having food. We want to be over-informed on what is happening across the globe, and anxiety runs rampant because of it. They were under informed, and yet lived to tell us about it.

What lessons of faith did I learn from my grandparents that can help me during these challenging times? Perhaps they can help you too. I learned that you can always, always pray the Lord’s prayer - that His will would be done. I learned that family is important, and we should be quick to forgive others. I learned that God can be trusted - no matter what!

When I was 10 my grandfather died. My most vivid memory of that summer is from his funeral. During the eulogy, their pastor talked about how Dale trusted God. Someday, hopefully quite a ways into he future, I hope the same can be said of me at my passing, “Carol trusted God.”

I am praying for you to trust Him too.