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Archive for the ‘Reflection’ Category

Beauty for Ashes

29 Sep

don1Eight years ago my life changed in an instant. Since then, I have been amazed at God’s graciousness when choosing to seek purpose in spite of pain. One year ago. on a day marked with “ashes”, He chose instead to bless us with “beauty”

When Don died eight years ago, the life I had created for 24 years changed in an instant. I was a widow—a single mother, but left with determination to honor my husband’s legacy and a will to create a life of significance for my children.  My resolve to craft contentment out of despair drove my every decision. With an extreme amount of faith and the support of family and friends, I began the journey to a new normal

Today I look at my children and believe Don would be proud of them. He would be happy that Chad is married and courageous enough to continue pursuing his dream. He would be thrilled that Chandler is finishing his senior year of high school and will soon be on his way to college. He would be most honored that they are men of integrity who love completely and always endeavor to live according to the legacy he left to them.

don2Make no mistake, not a day goes by that we don’t think of Don—that we don’t miss his presence here on earth. We embrace and acknowledge that he was a great father; husband, son, brother and friend who touched our lives more in his few short years than most do in a lifetime. We speak of him lovingly and often. We grin at the fact that we can’t eat apple butter without thinking of him, can’t pass a golf course without acknowledging his authority, or watch the St. Louis Cardinals without yelling “THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!”

September has always been a difficult month for me. From the first day to the last I normally have a feeling of angst and sorrow—yet all of that changed on this day last year —today no longer holds the stigma of sorrow, but is instead replaced with hopefulness. Sometimes I think that God, in his infinite wisdom, decides to astonish us with blessing when we least expect it-September 29th, 2012 was one of those God-moments.

ru2On this date a last year, with my nephews and sons in tow, we headed to Chicago, to meet my niece, Ru, for the first time. Words fail to describe the excitement we all felt—the anticipation, of finally meeting this darling girl, who we had grown to love from a mere picture, overwhelmed the atmosphere. Gone was any angst this day formerly signified and it was replaced with the message of hope that bringing Ru home symbolized.

I will never forget rounding the corner from the parking lot into the lobby of the airport — catching a glimpse of Ru on her daddy’s shoulders. Bright-eyed and a bit timid – this little girl had no idea what she represented in the hearts and lives of every individual there to meet her. Little did she know that her arrival would forever change the significance of this day to the boys and me.

Ru2aThere was nothing in the months and months of planning to bring Ru home that would have made us believe it would be on September 29th  that she would first set foot on American soil. In our humanness we could never have planned it more perfectly, but God’s plans are not ours…

I don’t believe that God intends for us to live weighed down by our circumstances. I believe He is always offering opportunities to ease our pain and to give it purpose – we must be willing to embrace them and reside in a place where we allow God to “give beauty instead of ashes, . . joy instead of mourning, and . . . praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:3)

Today. we celebrate family.We celebrate God’s faithfulness. We celebrate hope.  This morning, Don’s Martin guitar will be played during worship by my nephew Eric. Kent and I will sing on the praise team in celebration God and where his grace has brought us, but most importantly  we know that when we look into the eyes of Ru–we find an authentic example of the “display of God’s splendor” (Isaiah 61:3b)–we find “beauty for ashes”.

 

 

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A Boy and His Dog

20 Jul

vadar

“I am a believer in divine providence; that Godly intervention does exist in our lives and when it is so blatantly presented to us we should claim it. I am claiming that the God who made me is also present in my everyday life; constantly providing courage and solace via earthly forms.” These are words I wrote on another post almost six years ago after the death of my husband. I am amazed at how this truth is made known to me even now. Here is another example:

It began with an emotional phone call from Chad on Saturday before we left on vacation. He and Joy had come to the realization that two huskies in a one-bedroom apartment was simply impossible to handle. We discussed possible solutions, and I offered to put a picture of Vader on Facebook to see if anyone was interested in providing him with a new home. Chad agreed, but with this one caveat, he and Joy wanted to interview the family first and then have time to make a decision.

Three minutes after posting Vader’s picture, I received a private message from my friend Linda in Chicago. She told me that her sister’s family (who live near Chad and Joy) were interested in providing a new home for the dog. She had an urgency that I didn’t understand at the time, but now is perfectly clear. Linda told me about her nephew, Tenor, who had been in a serious accident the week before. His car was totaled and he was fine, but his beloved husky did not survive the accident.

Already warmed by the story, I was rooting for Tenor to be Vader’s new owner from the start. Chad and Joy met Tenor and his parents after church the next day, and Vader immediately took to him. It was obvious that the fit would be a good one. The kids knew they had a difficult decision to make.

You see, about a year ago, Tenor had numerous health ailments. He went from a young man who used to be a state swimmer to one who could barely muster the energy to get out of bed.  After several doctor appointments, he was diagnosed as having a genetic condition which affects every system in the body, but rarely is fatal. In January, Tenor’s family decided that caring for a dog might aid in his recovery. The family brought Mishka, a beautiful husky, into the family. Little did they know Tenor was still too ill to care for her.

Mishka was a challenge—high energy and almost more than the family could handle. Tenor realized that the only way this dog would fit in with the family was if he began to work with her.  It began with daily brushings, Tenor then began to take Mishka to a local dog parktenor and vadar and the transformation in both began. She became a more content dog and he gained new purpose. They became best friends, inseparable— She also rekindled a desire in Tenor to volunteer at the local animal shelter.

Losing Mishka in the car accident was devastating for Tenor. He even said that he never wanted another dog–fast forward to my placing Vadar’s picture on Facebook. The minute Tenor saw Vadar’s picture, it was like an answer to prayer. Vadar reminded him of his Mishka, but Vadar’s blue eyes made him special.

Chad and Joy did make the decision to give Vader to Tenor and his family. We often get updates as to how they are doing, and it always puts a smile on my face. I have no doubt that it was Godly intervention that allowed the kids to love and care for Vader until he was able to become Tenor’s. As this story unwinds, I am reminded of the promise in Psalm 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” especially when it comes to a dog and his boy.

 

 

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9 Ways to Help a Loved One Following the Death of a Spouse

01 Jul

mourningIt has taken me a while to address this topic, but at almost eight years after the death of my husband, I am ready to share some of the wisdom gleaned from losing a spouse at a young age. Many folks call me for advice when someone they love loses his/her spouse. They affectionately ask, “What should I say to him?” or “What can I do to help her?”. I really wish I were not the “go-to expert in this area”, but I am. These are intimate insights from my personal journey through grief. My hope is that it will help others facing similar loss.

Avoid using clichés. When speaking with your newly widowed love one; attempt, at all cost, to avoid inserting unbearable clichés into your conversation. Let’s be honest, even with the best of intentions many of us will, at some point, say something unintentionally absurd to our widowed friend – things like “Everything happens for a reason” or “She is in a better place” or my favorite “God only takes the good ones”.  Even a well intentioned “How are you doing?” is not a great choice. This question will never illicit a truthful answer, and quite frankly unless you have the super power of bringing someone back to life, you probably don’t want to know the answer anyway. When this happens (and it will), simply apologize with something similar to, “I am so sorry, that was a really stupid thing to say.” Even if it is days or months later, your friend will appreciate the acknowledgement.

Know your loved one when it comes to assistance. Take into account who your loved one is, and act accordingly. If your friend likes to cook, she might not mind throwing a donated “Casserole of Hope” into the oven for dinner, but if your loved one hates to cook it is highly likely that those casseroles will never get eaten. Two years later, laden with guilt, she will eventually throw them out. Gift cards to a local eatery or restaurant might be a better choice. If your loved one is laundry challenged-then that’s the best way you can help. Throw in a load or two of laundry, but don’t forget to fold and put them away.

I was in such a state after Don’s death that the thought of wading through my finances terrified me. It was at this point that my brother offered the best gift of all. He went through all of my finances, organized them, and took them over until I was ready to take them back. I know this wasn’t always easy for him or for his family, but it is a gift I treasure to this day.

INSIDER TIP: BUY LIGHTBULBS: When I was a more active member of YWBB in the Chicago area, at times we visited the home of a member of our group. Light bulbs in tow, we would enter the home of our widowed friend and begin to replace light bulbs around the house. I didn’t understand the gesture at first, but now I get it. Light bulbs are the last thing a newly widowed person thinks about. I don’t think we ever replaced less than six bulbs during a visit.

Ignore the compulsion say; “Call me if you need anything”.  Now, if what you really mean is, “I don’t know what to say, I know you’ll never call me, but by saying this it will make me feel better” – then go ahead and say it. But if you really will be available to your loved one, actually call her and say, “I have an hour/a couple of hours, how about I _______(fill in the blank with something specific).

Read about grief (see book recommendations below). Only read with the aspiration of gaining a better understanding of what your widowed friend is experiencing. Following the death of a spouse, as you are muddling through the myriad of feelings, it is difficult to express to others how you feel. By reading trusted authors on the topic, you can gain a better understanding of what your loved one might be experiencing. WARNING-CAUTIONARY ADVICE: Subsequent to reading about grief and it’s effects, you will have to be extremely restrained and NEVER, I mean NEVER, begin a sentence with, “Well according to __________, you should….” or “You ought to read _____ they say you are________.” Grief is hard work. It is not a linear journey and it really does look different on each individual person. Trust me, unless your loved one specifically asks you, they will not find unsolicited advice beneficial.

Dont compare your grief. Whatever you do— suppress your need to compare your loved one’s grief to something you have been through. Your grief of losing a pet, a great-great-great-grandmother, or maneuvering a divorce is not equivalent to losing a spouse. You will never understand completely how she feels and that’s ok-you don’t have to. (Did I hear a great sigh of relief?) Again, honesty is the best way to go–simply let your loved one know there is no way you can comprehend what she is going through, but that you will always be there to support her and to listen when she needs to talk.

Beware of widowbrain. Widowbrain is an insider term used by some widows to describe what happens to our brain immediately after the loss and tends to endure–well…for a really long time. Expect your loved one to forget–forget where she last put the car keys, forget that you had a lunch date, forget that it’s your birthday, forget to close the garage door, forget to…just about everything. Best you can do for this one is to recognize what is happening as normal, and send sticky notes.

Remember that people will forget. Widows get an abundance of attention early on, when everything is new. It is in the months following the death, when everyone else gets goes back to their “normal” lives, that your loved one especially needs a friend. Set a date one week after the loss, one month after the loss, six months after the loss, 18 months after the loss to make sure you remain connected to your loved one.

Everything I read about grief and loss warned that I would not have the same friendships a year later. This was disconcerting for me to consider. I had just lost my spouse and now these experts on grief were preparing me for yet another loss? Unfortunately, for many widows this is all too true. I, however; was blessed that my inner circle of friends did not change. I am thrilled that my close friendships remain a vital part of my life. I firmly believe that this is the case because they made a conscious effort to stick it out. It is not an easy road to travel with your loved one, but worth it. If you truly love your widowed friend—be there.

Talk about the spouse who is gone. This may seem awkward at first, but the more you mention the one who is passed the more comfortable it will become. Your widowed loved one must feel at ease when talking about her late spouse. In our home, Don is a frequent topic of discussion, as when we are with friends. His legacy lives on through our shared memories.

Allow grief to be personal. Finally, the most important thing to do, and perhaps the most difficult is to love your widowed friend enough to let her grieve in her own way, in her own terms, and for as long or short as appears to be right for her. There is no rulebook on how to grieve. As Americans we don’t even have cultural traditions that help us out in this area. Know that your widowed love one will most likely do something you think is “too soon” or things you believe to be “not soon enough”. She will make decisions you may find impulsive or “unlike her”, but she is entitled to grieve in her own way. Similarly, you may have a friend that seems to be grieving for too long–same thing–she is grieving on her own terms and will work through it at her leisure. Another cautionary note; this does not include behavior that is overtly self-destructive to herself or the lives of her loved ones.

Grief is all encompassing and tends to be quite self-absorbing. It is difficult for a newly widowed person to be inclusive or even thoughtful when life, as she has known it, totally changes in an instant. I don’t care how much preparation; time, or forewarning one is given, nothing prepares a person for that moment when a loved one is gone forever.

 

Books About Grief

Turn My Mourning into Dancing

Henri Nouwen

I’m Grieving As Fast As I Can: How Young Widows and Widowers Can Cope and Heal

Linda Sones Feinberg

Learning to Breathe Again : Choosing Life and Finding Hope After a Shattering Loss

Tammy Trent

35 Ways to Help a Grieving Child (Guidebook Series)

Dougy Center for Grieving Children

Courage to Grieve 

Judy Tatelbaum

Let Me Grieve, But Not Forever 

Verdell Davis

A Grief Observed

C.S. Lewis

 

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“A” is for Adoption

18 Apr

249846_10151297629455758_117341435_nOn our anniversary this year, I sat across from my husband of five years, looked him in the eye and said, “When we married, did you ever imagine we would have a “yours, mine and ours”?” To which he confessed that he did not, but also admitting that it was one of the most blessed decisions he has ever made.

Adoption seems to have become somewhat of an epidemic in my family—quite by accidental intention. My youngest brother and sister-in-law have been foster parents for years and now have a sibling group in their care that will likely become their forever family. My middle brother and I have supported their commission along the way, never realizing that God was beginning to direct our hearts in the same direction.

Marc (my middle brother) and his family welcomed Ru into their family and into all of our hearts, this past year through an overseas adoption. If you haven’t had the blessing of following Ru’s journey, you can do so HERE. The fact that Marc and Sandra’s decision to adopt Ru and our decision to adopt Brandon coincided is, in my opinion, by divine providence (this is another story for later).

Neither Kent nor I will ever forget the Sunday we first heard our son’s name spoken for the first time. We had no idea that from that utterance, God immediately began creating a bond in our hearts perfectly weaving His radical plan with our uncompromising obedience. Much as taken place since that day, but I can say with great assurance that I knew from the first time I heard his name that Brandon was going to be our son and we were going to be his forever family.

We began praying months before we actually met Brandon. It was Super Bowl Sunday 2012 that Brandon was first introduced to our family. Scared, alone and with little comprehension as to what was happening to him, Brandon timidly entered our lives and our hearts. Empowered by faith and great tenacity (little did we know that would be enough), we began living as a family.

God’s eternal blueprint for adopting us as sons and daughters is the heart of our earthly adoption of Brandon. Though I don’t believe every Christian is called to actually adopt an orphan, I do believe it is every Christian’s responsibility to support the mission of adoption in some manner. It is our birthright as God’s adopted sons and daughters.

Galatians 4:4-6 – But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”

Adoption is TimelyJust as God adopted us in the “right time”, so do adoptive families. It was in the “right time” that Brandon needed a family and the “right time” our family was ready to embrace him. God had prepared both of our hearts (predestined if you will) to accept the challenges and the blessing found in obedience.

Adoption is Costly – Our adoption by God was gained at tremendous cost. He paid the ultimate price by sacrificing his only son so that we would have the privilege to call Him “Abba Father”. Earthly adoption is also costly. Not only is there an immense financial cost in most adoptions, but an equal (if not greater) emotional cost, as well as a high expenditure of time and stress. Fortunately, coupled with great cost is that of greater reward.

Adoption is Unconditional – No where in this scripture does it state that we are God’s children only if we look a certain way, or until we mess up, or if we are acceptable to him. Adoption by God is unconditional. I can’t tell you how many times under oath we had to answer yes to the question, “Do you understand by adopting this child he has the same rights to inheritance as your biological children and that by adopting him he is a full member of our family?” – unconditionally without prejudice.  I think that’s why, when people ask me if Brandon is my “real” son, I get a little offended (as insulted as I can get anyway). My answer is always “YES, he is my son – unconditionally”. As I call my heavenly Father, “Abba”—Brandon calls us mom and dad. As God calls me his daughter, so I call Brandon my son.

Adoption is TransformationalNo one, adopted by God, remains the same afterwards. His Spirit transforms us. We think differently, act differently, our potential to love grows; we are redefined. I have found our adoption of Brandon to be transformational as well. We are not the same family—we are not the same as individuals. Our roles have changed; values clarified and spiritual walk strengthened.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An Ordinary Life

14 Apr

encyclopediaRecently, I began reading Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. I did not choose to read this gem through my customary means: a friend did not recommend it and I had not read any book reviews pointing me to it’s value. I am an avid reader of contemporary writing teachers, Jim Burke, Nancy Atwell, Ralph Fletcher, Jeff Anderson and one of my favorites, Kelly Gallagher. It was while reading his newest book, Write Like This: Teaching Real World Writing through Modeling and Mentored Texts that I was introduced to Rosenthal’s writing. Gallagher’s pedagogy emphasizes the necessity of teaching students “real world writing” as apposed to “standard driven” instruction. He surmises that it is through modeling good writing and carefully examining superior writing, that accomplished writers are created (which is the goal of any writing teacher worth his/her salt).

Galagher introduces Rosenthat’s book as mentor text for students to practice  the “express and reflect” purpose of writing. In Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, Rosenthal uses the highly unorthodox encyclopedia format to compose her memoirs. She shares her lifetime remembrances alphabetically, composed in a standard encyclopedia entry. This idea fascinated me: to chronicle one’s life story through the alphabet seemed worthy of exploration. So, I downloaded the book and began reading.

The bond I have generated with Rosenthal’s writing was nurtured early in her book as she provides a disclaimer, of sorts, in the forward of her memoir. Rosenthal candidly admits that she was not “abused, abandoned or locked up as a child”. She did not live “in poverty or in misery” and that she is really quite ordinary. I, too, fall into the somewhat average category. My parents were great parents, I did fairly well in school, I was never beaten or neglected. Sadly, I didn’t even live up to the reputation most PK’s (preacher’s kid) have, for I have sinned far more as an adult than I ever did growing up in a parsonage. My one admission to living the extraordinary would be in facing the unexpected, and far too early, death of my husband after 24 years of marriage.

This past year, I have so neglected my writing that I longed for something to kindle the lost fire. So, I have made the decision to give Rosenthal’s idea a try. It is time to reenter the blogosphere.  For the next few months (my resolve ends with a timetable), I will attempt to capture and recollect the mostly mundane, but hopefully entertaining, quips, neurosis, snapshots and vignettes that have made up my 50 years on the earth.

This is my story.

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Just Ask Mary

16 Dec

Here is the Advent devotional I wrote for my church’s series this Christmas season.

Luke 2:19seward_-_mary_&_baby_jesus
“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
Devotional:
I have experienced the joy of giving birth twice. I remember every nuance of the nine months and delivery—every smell, every sound, every person who shared in the great event. I remember listening for the first breath coming from my child; counting his fingers and toes, and holding onto each moment as a special memory. Even though these memories are over twenty years old, I have treasured them in my heart and mind, never to be forgotten.

I can’t imagine the whirlwind life Mary had experienced up to this point. First, an angel told her she would give birth to the Son of God, and then she became pregnant-shamed that she was not married. Next, Joseph, who had to be overwhelmed with the prospect, obediently took Mary as his wife and while traveling to Bethlehem Mary gave birth in less-than-desirable conditions. This scripture finds Mary in a stable swaddling the Son of God and yet she was like any other mother. She cherished every moment and contemplated what had happened to her from the time the angel appeared until the birth of Our Lord. She treasured these memories as her story.

It is comforting to know that Mary had normal, human thoughts and emotions. But if you think about it, she was just an ordinary person commissioned by God for an extraordinary purpose. We are no different. We must take the time to contemplate our life circumstances, especially those that have strengthened our faith. Some life events are joyous, some sad, others bewildering but all jointly create our story. A story where God has taught us, guided us, and continues to remind us that it is He who creates the extraordinary from the ordinary. Just ask Mary.

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Brokenness Restored

01 Nov

I went through the early years of my childhood needing stitches every six months, but no broken bones. When kids would come to school with casts on their arm or leg; I thought it was a bit glamorous. They seemed to get preferential treatment; lots of attention—heck, they got to go to lunch early. Even now, at the middle school where I teach, students are given the “key” to the elusive elevator if a leg, ankle or knee is out of commission. Glamorous, right?

It took me 50 years to experience a broken bone, however there was nothing glamorous when my ankle twisted under my body as I hit the ground at the bottom of the stairs. As is often the case, my mind was somewhere else while descending the stairs in my home. I was sure my foot was grounded on the final step, but I was wrong. I tumbled, albeit gracefully, and ended up in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. Knowing instantly life was not going to be the same for the next few months, I attempted to arise from my fallen state.

After a thrilling few hours at the local emergency room, my greatest fear was confirmed. Along with my pride, my fibula was broken. After a short crutch tutorial, I was on my own to amble about with this most awkward form of transport. Let’s just say I was cursing myself for not beginning that weight bearing, upper-body workout I had intended to start months ago. Maneuvering the crutches seemed not only impossible for my weak body, but a huge blow to my ego. I thought to myself, “How can I possibly live this way for eight weeks?” With leg wrapped in a splint, crutches in hand and a Monday morning appointment to the orthopedic surgeon, I headed home.

Upon arriving home feeling bit overwhelmed, I did the only thing a socially connected 21st century gal could do.  I posted by misfortune on Facebook. Immediately folks began to reply to my veiled plea for sympathy, reassurance and commiseration. Within a few moments, a post caught my attention-one that was sure to alter my crushed spirit. A friend stated that when she had broken her ankle the doctor had prescribed a knee scooter. Knee scooter? I had never heard of such a thing, but even the thought made me smile. With urgency, I sent out a plea to anyone who might have one of these magical vehicles that I could try for a few days. Within minutes, a neighbor messaged that she had one for me to borrow. Eureka!

As soon as the scooter was delivered and I placed my leg with its pathetic-booted ankle on the seat, I began to feel a sense of liberation. With one knee up on the scooter I could maneuver around the house at a speed rivaling Mario Andretti. Suddenly, my world opened up again. The possibilities were unlimited, and my condition did not seem as bleak. Freedom was restored along with something I had lost along the way—dignity tempered with hope.

I know the journey of the next few weeks will not be easy. I know that I will have days of discouragement mixed with days of great accomplishment. What creates confidence that my situation is not quite as dire as I first anticipated, is my ability to acquire the tool paramount to making my day easier—one that will afford me opportunities to “scoot” along this path of recovery with a bit more ease and confidence.

I have been up and down the stairs in my home a million times. I know the rhythmic pattern to each step: the rise of each rung and the cadence by which I can progress up and down effortlessly, even in the dark. Yet this one time I became distracted, and totally missed the mark. It wasn’t on purpose—I just wasn’t paying attention.

This staircase, connecting the floors in my home, is not that much different than life. We live our lives day after day with a sense of security. Our journey becomes familiar and we become experts in the voyage, then one day, we become distracted; we aren’t paying attention. Something happens that totally rocks the world we are so acquainted with, and the life we have maneuvered so well for so long is suddenly shattered. We begin to feel hopeless, discouraged, and sometimes despondent. What we fail to realize, is that within our desperation—God is the “life scooter” we need to maneuver through our recovery. The God of the universe reminds us that true liberation and freedom comes only through him, and by leaning totally on His strength we can begin to heal, restore and be fully renewed.

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On Honoring the Sabbath

23 Sep

Today is Sunday, September 16, 2012—the Sabbath for Christians.  Over the past few months, I have tried to live more deliberately—at least where the Sabbath is concerned. While my desire is to live more “intentionally”, I don’t want to be trapped by “legalism”, so I have tried to remove myself from electronics for this one day of the week—at least from “sundown to sundown”: in order to be more present in my worship. I still have dedicated time to read and write on the this day; I just don’t have the distraction of my phone, iPad or computer.

Another change I have made is that I make every attempt to plan the Sabbath before the day arrives. This is, in fact, very liberating. I no longer find myself wondering, during the Sunday morning service, where we will eat or what we will eat—it has already been determined; most likely around the family table—something that is rare at our home these days.

Finding words to express how these purposeful actions have transformed our family—is not possible. Every week I feel more connected and immersed in the lives of my kids and my husband, because of sharing one “intentional” meal together. We laugh, connect, support and hold each other accountable at the same time.

Often we share the Sabbath table with friends and family, most often buddies of the kids and my nephew, Eric. Their friends are eager (if not forced) accomplices in our time together. Not speaking for them, but I think there is a certain harmoneous connection when the day is shared.

Additionally, we have found that simple rituals, such as lighting special “Sabbath” candles, create a climate of honor. We understand that these rituals have no significant “magical” qualities, but are gentle reminders that God IS the light of the world and that our lives reflect His love.  Sharing our Sabbath meal is meant to be a time to impart blessings and embrace thankfulness.

When evaluating the many changes our family has made over the past six months, this is one that, I believe, is of most value. Living intentionally has meant making choices “on purpose”; making choices that create a more meaningful life for our family. My challenge to you is to look at your week and find a place for a “Shabbat”  for your family—a time to rest, rejuvenate and recharge.

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On Turning 50

02 Sep

Since turning 50 on July 30, 2012, I have started to write at least four posts with the intention of reflecting on the experience. None of them quite “hit the mark”. This past week, my 6th grade students and I closely read the poem “On Turning 10″ by one of my favorite poets, Billy Collins. So as a tribute to him, as a mentor text to my students and as a celebration of turning 50–here are my thoughts…

 

On Turning 50*

The whole idea makes me feel like I’m riding a jolting roller-coaster spiraling down the rails
or the rush of wind as it hits
my face and is suddenly gone,
a kind of haunting at sunrise
a spring in the middle of winter.
I know it is time to think of looking back,
but I know it’s too soon.
The dance is not yet
in it’s final moments.
But I find myself doing so
just the same.

At the dawn of adolescence
I reached for life
I dreamed.
At 20 I was newly married, at
30 a mother
At 40 experienced loss,
a solemn darkness
to overcome.

But now I am mostly dividing
my thoughts
Some yearning for what is in the past knowing the sum of life’s story somehow equates gratification. This is the beginning of life
in some sense.
Time to say good-bye to regrets and guilt.
Time to embrace the next chapter.
It seems only yesterday I believed that
life was boundless,
limitless
But now reflecting,
I know
it’s simply
splendid. I exhale.

*Inspired by On Turning Ten by Billy Collin

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Living Intentionally Through the Drought

20 Jul

Central Illinois is experiencing one of the most devastating droughts I can remember. Crops are in ruins, bodies of water are dried up and our neighborhood looks more like the dessert than the customary green of summer. We diligently examine the DOPLAR radar praying that today will be the day we will receive the respite we so desperately need. On the rare occasion we actually are blessed with moisture, it has simply been a tease of a few drops. Then no amount of anticipation has caused any more liquid to fall from the sky.

It dawned on me this morning that intentionally living is much easier when things are going well—when finances are stable; when there are no major life stressors; when I am not so stressed. I call these the “non-drought” times of life. During these times it is easy to praise God, pray, read the Bible and connect with the body of Christ. However, that is not how God intended us to live, nor is it His plan for our lives. He wants us to live a full life–an intentional life in every circumstance, during every season. In John 10:10 Jesus says, “I came that (you) may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Just as the earth experiences drought, when we experience a “drought” season life can become colorless. We are often less effective, and tend to allow soul-things to become dormant or even die. Prayer becomes more difficult, reading scriptures non-existent and then there is the human tendency to disengage from the body of Christ that has been our very breathe of life. How foolish we can be sometimes!

With Kent still out of a job, summer coming to a close without much accomplished, and my heart heavy with unfinished life decisions, I can feel a drought coming on. I have some lame excuses, like I haven’t had the time or it’s been too hot or the kids are staying with us a month longer than I expected, but these are just that – excuses.

I am finding that it is within the “drought” that intentionally living is truly tested. Now is the time to “on purpose” choose to carve out time to spend in the Word and in prayer. Now is the time to make the effort to connect with those folks in my life that offer spiritual guidance and challenge. Now is the time to intentionally choose not to allow the affects of drought to cause spiritual dormancy.

Is it really possible to live abundantly through the “drought”?  Scripturally everything points back to intentionally living. It means facing each day with conscious determination; knowing that today has purpose, today has promise, and that today I will again choose life.

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