Emotional Rollercoaster

Ok, I want off this emotional rollercoaster. I used to love going to the amusement parks and trying all the big coasters and even the smaller ones. Of course, back in my teenage years, the Gemini was the big new coaster at Cedar Point. It was the biggest wooden rollercoaster around. Yeesh, am I that old? Anyway, someone would inevitably get to their turn on the ride but then chicken out and want off.  I would wait in line for hours to ride all the rides. But in reality, I only rode a few because we spent most of our time there in the lines. Once we were on though… Woohoo! My friends and I were horse from screaming and sweaty from running back to the end of the line to do it again.

As I’ve gotten older, I don’t find as much enjoyment in those rollercoasters. The slow climb and then the sudden drop doesn’t appeal to me like it used to. I am fonder of the stability of knowing that I am not painfully, slowly, impatiently climbing to a height that isn’t normal to drop from, then plunging downward at a rate of speed that leaves my heart and stomach at the top of the hill. I like knowing that my feet are going to hit solid ground when I get out of bed in the morning. I like the security of knowing the bottom isn’t coming out from under me as I sit around the table with my family for dinner. The uncertain ups and downs of those rides just don’t do anything for me anymore.

However, I feel like I’ve been on a different type of rollercoaster these days. I attended a funeral several weeks ago for the husband of my dear friend of 40 years. He died very unexpectedly after a routine procedure. It was very heartbreaking to think of her situation. Her husband just adored her in every way. She had to say a temporary good-bye to the love of her life. This, quite frankly, hit a little to close to home for me. I have sat by my husband’s hospital bedside after a routine procedure and everything came out fine. Proving that ya just never know what can happen.

After leaving the funeral, we went up to the hospital where my future step niece (just try to keep up with the connection here) had just had her baby. I had just left my friend in tears of sorrow for a life ending to go and mingle those sorrowful tears with that of a new born babies tears. As I stood there holding that brand-new life in my arms, I looked over at my son and realized that the very next day, HE was turning 18 years old. A heartbreaking loss, a heart filling new life, and in between it all, my own son was entering into adulthood… forever! Insert heavy sigh here!

As I enter into a new phase of my own, it gets a little uncertain again. Much like the days of the rollercoaster junky that I used to be. The inchingly long assent to the top of a hill that held an unknown other side. Then the sudden plunge whether you are ready or not. I am clinging to the two years I have left before my precious daughter turns the corner and walks the road of adulthood. I don’t even want to envision that blog post. I imagine you all can expect total hysteria, complete with the back of the hand over the forehead and slowly sinking to the bed in a feeble attempt at my best Scarlet O’Hara. Well I guess that is what all moms do when their kids grow up and they are facing the empty nest years. Somehow, I thought I had a long, long time yet before that happened. At the risk of sounding like an ol’ country ballad, 18 years sure flies by fast and yer left in the dust as the youngins hit the gas.

I can see myself along with my husband a few years from now awaiting our children to come home for Christmas the way our parents do now. Just a few years! But I cling to the bible verse that says “Train up a child in the way he should go, that when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6. My prayer is that as my kids still enjoy the rollercoasters that someday they will enjoy the stability that following the Lord and holding friends and loved ones close can bring. They are very family oriented now and they walk with the Lord and I pray that remains as they make their way in life. I pray that they always find comfort in coming home and sitting around the table.

 

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Out of the Mouth of Babes

We all have stories about our kids saying funny or at least memorable things. I have had so many of these experiences that I couldn’t possibly remember them all. I wish I would have written them down in a journal or something. Nevertheless, I do remember some of the things they said.

When my daughter was in I think third grade, it was mid-term report card day. She has always been a good student so I really had no worries about this particular report card. We’ve never had the issues of her being a disruptive kid in class or bullying anyone so we had no concerns there either. In the past, we have taken the kids to a family favorite restaurant for a celebratory dinner after getting their report cards.

I went to her conference alone as my husband got stuck at work. As we were on our way to the meeting, my daughter pipes up from the back seat in a chipper excited voice and says:

“Mom remember how we always go to Fazoli’s for dinner after report cards so we can celebrate good grades?”

“yes!” I say, looking forward to my favorite dish already. Her voice quiets some as she says “I don’t think this is gonna be one of those times.”

My mom was driving and I was fairly certain she was going to have to pull over since she could no longer see through the tears she had while laughing so hard. I myself thought I might have tinkled a little right there in the car. There are some moments that are funny at the time but after a while they sort of fade into the past and we don’t really remember them anymore. Then there are those funny moments that stay with us forever for some reason. This is definitely one of the forever moments. That has been about seven years ago now and it’s often referred to at report card time. My daughter was in our church school at the time but now she is home-schooled. However, since she has friends in the public schools, we know when report card day is.

Rest assured, her grades were indeed good and I was able to get my favorite dish after all. Hmmm, funny though, I don’t really remember what that dish was, but I still have the memory I really want to hang on to.

Our Words Matter

How we speak really does matter. It can give an impression to others what our views are on a particular topic. It can also determine someone’s first impression of us, right or wrong. If we are using foul language, someone will assume that we are not a Christian and talk that way in all circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, we all slip up when we get, say, hurt or really angry. But I’m talking about our every day speech. When we use a certain type of talk, we automatically can put out feelers for people to draw conclusions: are we a Christian or are we of the world? And what it says is perfectly acceptable. You don’t have to be a proclaimed Christian to not talk with questionable language. You might just find that speech undesirable. That’s ok too. “But for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) I had a conversation with my 17-year-old son about the issue of questionable language. He had never tested those limits before, but as he is becoming an adult, he looks upon things a little differently now. Like the “why can’t I do that now, I’m practically an adult?” kind of way. I had heard a couple of what some would call vegi-swear words and I was like WHAT did you just say? He told me that he didn’t understand why they were called “swear words” they were just like any other word, just that… words. I began to ponder this for a little bit, then I replied with a parable type story.

If we are separated into two different groups and one group is of the worlds views on foul language, that it’s normal and fine. Then the other group is of the mind set that it doesn’t reflect Christian or proper values. You are all walking down a wide path together with space between your groups. Group 1 (world views) are looking over at group 2 (Christian views) and noticing their words are different, they must be Christians. Then group 2 hears the talk coming from group 1 and determines that by all the foul language they hear, that group of people must NOT be Christians. As a Christian family, we are to be in group 2, this is how we have raised our children. We have also raised our kids to know the why behind what we or they believe. Don’t just say “well that’s the way I was raised” or “that’s just what we do.” We should be able to give a real reason for why we do what we do and believe what we believe. That being said, I presented him with the image of people wandering back and forth across the space between the groups. Pretty soon no one can determine which group anyone belongs to because they seem to be in both. If we want to belong to the world then act like the world. If we want to be a Christian then act like a Christian. “Choose this day whom you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15)

If we want to show people that we belong to Jesus then we should act like we belong to Jesus. Much in the same way that we act married by wearing a wedding ring and not flirting with someone else. We also can’t tell others about what we believe if they see that we act the opposite way.

My son had a look of understanding and nodded his head in agreement, “I see” he said. My heart was full as a Christian mom who wants to see her children grow in Christ. I just feel like our kids need the “why” behind the “don’t do that”. They also need the “why” behind the “this is what we should do”. Let’s give our kids some credit, they do have their own minds. Granted I’m speaking of kids that are like 8 and up. When they are little, they don’t understand the “why’s”— it’s the training time. I just think we would get better results if we stop the “do what I say because I said so” approach. We want our kids to be able to think for themselves, don’t we? Let’s better equip them to do so. By the way… I haven’t heard any questionable language since we had that conversation. Not saying I have it all figured out—far from it! But that one thing seemed to work at that one time. That’s how we have to handle things, one incident at a time with one tool to fix it at a time.

Healing Wounded Hearts

Several weeks ago, I received a text I was hoping and praying that I wouldn’t receive. “Test results back, no brain activity at all, taking him off the vent tomorrow.” These were the words that came from my dear friend of 40 years. A strange medical situation had happened a few days before with her husband after having a fairly routine procedure done. The doctors at a different hospital where he had the procedure done assured my friend that the surgery went beautifully and there was no sign of this being a result of a mishap.

When he came home the day after the surgery, everything was fine. By the end of the day, she was rushing him back to the hospital as he cried out to her that he was dying and that he loved her. They did the scans and ran the tests, the brain scan revealed that his brain was completely surrounded by fluid. Hoping for a miracle, she along with countless others including myself, were praying for him. The news of this hit me like lightening. I can’t begin to imagine how it hit her.

This friend is one of the three of our little club. We have been friends throughout our whole youth and beyond. Paula, the friend in distress, has been my friend since kindergarten. Nina came into the picture in seventh grade, thus making us a threesome for the next 32 years. As we have gone through our various stages in life, we still remain close in the way that only childhood friends do. We have busy lives and are in different places in those lives. Nina’s two boys are grown and my son and daughter are just about there now too. Paula never had children. However, we pick up where we left off every time we get together, which is really only once a year. But nonetheless, we make it count.

So many years of skit making, trying on Paula’s older sister’s clothes (much to her frustration), and lip sinking to every song on the radio, even throwing in a little air guitar from me to complete the whole scenario. We had many overnights filled with snacks, music, and conversations about boys. We even all three dated the same boy, one right after the other starting with me, then Nina, then Paula. We are pretty sure Paula scared him the worst. I think he had it bad for her. Paula got her first car when she was sixteen and it was a beaut! A gold sprint that I’m pretty sure was nothing more than a tuna fish can in fancy wrapping. Pulling into the high school parking lot, she was more concerned that people noticed her new car than getting in the parking space without incident. That proved to be a poor call on her part as evidenced by the dotted line of dents and gold paint lining the drivers side door of the car she pulled in next to. Well, at least she made her mark.

Nina and I have a little bit of a different connection. She and I were both in an abusive relationship when we were about eighteen or so. We both know how the other struggled with that. She got out before I did but she was the one who said the words to me that will stay with me forever. “You want to be with someone that brings out the best in you and you in him, not the worst.” I don’t know why that was so powerful to me as opposed to the other comments I received like, “he’s going to kill you if you don’t leave” or “why do you let yourself get beaten up like that?” or even the wise words of my brother telling me “I’m going to kick his butt next time I see him”. Somehow Nina’s words meant more. I guess it was because they came from someone who had really been there.

Now of course we are all beyond that craziness now and on to new craziness. The kind that you look forward to everyday. Waking up next to the one who shares that craziness and spending the day going through the craziness together. Now the craziness shifts for Paula as she prepares to say goodbye to her life partner, her best friend, her lover, her everything. Jon and Paula dated years ago but then went their separate ways. She married someone else but Jon never married. He never really got over Paula and wasn’t going to settle. Eventually, Paula’s marriage ended in divorce and she and Jon would meet again. They rekindled the love and finally tied the knot. Sadly, I couldn’t make it to the wedding as I was out of town on a trip that had been planned for two years. But I was no less delighted for them both. I saw pictures and knew that this should have happened many years ago. However, God’s timing is much better than ours.

They have been married three years and are now having to part again, but this time not by choice. Mine and Nina’s hearts bleed for Paula and I know we are feeling our own mortality in this. I have sat at my husband’s hospital bedside without answers more times then I care to remember. But he has always come home and life resumed as usual. Not for her, though. Not this time. I wanted to text her a scripture to give her comfort in this terrible time of grief, but which one would be the best one? I prayed and asked God to show me the scripture I should send. I opened my Bible app on my phone to find the verse of the day. It read… “The Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalms 34;18

I couldn’t believe my eyes… well… ears! But then it shouldn’t have surprised me. God always shows up when I call on Him. I sent her the text and prayed that God would go before it. She replied with a thank you and a request to keep praying. I did. I will keep on praying during her healing process, funeral planning, and being able to get on with life someday in a new way. God finds every opportunity to reveal Himself to us if we will let our eyes see Him. My prayer is that she will let the eyes of her broken heart see Him. I can’t think of many other things that would cause me to be broken hearted and crushed in spirit than having to bury my husband. Oh how I will be praying for her to lean on and then continue to walk with Jesus.

 

My Christmas Traditions

Wow, it’s hard to believe that Christmas is in just five more days. It sure seems to come sooner every year. We have certain things that we do here in our house every year when we decorate and prepare for the Christmas season. First off, we usually wait until the weekend of Thanksgiving to decorate, however, we put up our three trees (yes three) Thanksgiving morning or sometime during the day. We like to have the trees on thanksgiving night. We also have the exterior lights and décor done and set on a timer to come on at dusk. I guess you could say we like to usher in Christmas on Thanksgiving night.

We also have an advent tree that is made of wood, complete with a chest of drawers that each contain an ornament for the 25 days until Christmas. My kids at 16 and 18 still like to take their turn putting one on each day. My son takes the even days because his birth date is an even number and my daughter has an odd number birth date so it works out perfectly. We have a tradition with our family tree as well. It involves little tiny critters like squirrels, raccoons, bunnies, etc. I hide the said critters deep within the tree and the kids have to locate them all. I had a squirrel that I put in the tree one year kind of as a joke and the kids loved finding him. So thus began the tradition of adding a new critter every year.

There is one other tradition that is my favorite. Our family prepares some sort of gift for Jesus and we place it in or under the tree. On Christmas morning, we then open our gifts for Jesus and reveal them to each other. We want to always remember why we celebrate this season. I know that’s not a novel thought but we want to give back a gift to the one who gave us the greatest gift ever. I really try to search my sole and find a gift to give my Lord. It might be a clock to signify that I want to give more time to Him. It might be a photo of me to signify that I want to give more of myself to Him. It might be a “love letter” signifying how much I love Him and want to love others the way He does. It really doesn’t matter what the gift is, it’s the thought that counts. Isn’t that what we are always telling our children at birthdays and Christmas when they receive presents? Matthew chapter 7 and verse 11 says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who will ask Him?” Let’s give a gift to Jesus this Christmas. I pray that we all have a blessed and joyful holiday season. Blessings to all of you.

Should I Feel Guilty?

I have a dear friend who is going through a trial in her life right now. She is going through a divorce after a 24-year marriage. She and her husband were almost divorced 20 years ago for a lot of the same reasons that they are divorcing now. He has had, in the past and now again, an addiction to pornography. Along with some substance abuse issues. My friend is a devout Christian and has always been very dedicated to her marriage, family, and most especially her Jesus. So obviously this came as quite a shock to me when she shared this news.

I, of course, prayed with her and told her that I would continue to pray for her and her family. She shared that her son is really struggling with it and she’s not sure how the whole custody thing is going to work out. Then she told me something that I don’t think most women in this situation would be thinking about so early in the divorce process. “He needs to respect his father still” is what she said. To me this shows just how spiritually mature she is. Oh, she’s not perfect, just like the rest of us… but she is more mature than a lot of Christians I know. I would like to think that I would be that mature should anything like this happen in my marriage. I don’t want to believe that I would cut his clothes into strips or take a meat tenderizer to his computer, you get the idea.

Then that got me to thinking… when I prayed with her, I prayed for my family as well. I thanked God for the husband I have and how grateful I am for my family. A strange pang of guilt came over me after reflecting on my prayer. Wow! Was I actually feeling guilt for having a husband who didn’t have any addictions? Was I supposed to have a husband that saw other women as his source of sexual entertainment? Could I really empathize with her if I didn’t have that kind of issue going on in my own life?

I often feel like the phrase “I know how you feel” is sooooo over used in our society. The truth is that even if we have gone through the same ordeal, we still don’t know how “they” feel. We only know how “we” feel. The only one who truly knows how we feel is God alone. But back to the issue of feeling guilty, did I really feel guilty for having a faithful hard working loving husband? Or was I feeling guilty for expressing my gratitude for him at a time when she was at the end of a marriage that clearly demonstrated that she did not have that. This is also how you can determine someone’s spiritual maturity. She simply said “Amen” when I praised God for my husband.

Why do we sometimes feel the need to say we know how someone feels or that we ourselves feel some sort of guilt when a dear friend or family member is struggling in an area that we have not had to struggle in? We don’t need to feel that guilt. Even if the other person rants and raves that we don’t know how they feel or we have never had to go through that or whatever. Hold fast to the blessings that God has given you and just try to be a listening ear when someone needs to vent. Don’t try to know how they feel, just validate that they are hurting and sorrowful. It seems kind of silly to feel guilty when you haven’t been through something you don’t want to go through anyway, but we do it. Our friend or loved one wants to know that there are good marriages or jobs or homes or whatever out there still. Otherwise there would be very little hope for them to recover from a trial. Show them that it’s possible because it’s right in your own home.

How Did I Do That?

If you have ever looked into how to start a blog, you would have been told how easy it is and how it only takes three minutes to set it up. Well let me tell you, it most definitely did not take me three minutes to set up. Unfortunately setting up a blog is not so accessible for a blind person. I have felt my calling to be a writer for quite some time but in today’s technologically driven world, it’s been a bit of a journey. So let’s hit the proverbial road and find out just what it takes for a blind person to blog.

After searching out on my computer about how to launch a blog, I quickly learned that there are countless sites that offer expert advise on how to build your blog and its audience. They talk very highly of certain sites that are best to host your blog and how successful it can be in a relatively short amount of time, as long as you’re willing to put in the work. I’ve never been afraid of the work it takes to write, in fact I love the process and I’m finally at a point in my life where I can devote the kind of time it takes to be a writer. My kids are old enough to allow me that time. My first priority has always been my family but the dynamics have changed since, you know, children tend to grow up and all.

So now I have the time, the ambition, and a platform on which to write. But it’s unaccessible for me to write on it. Not the least bit frustrating right? I asked questions of the afore-mentioned sites promising ease and simplicity in starting my blog as a blind person, but the answer I received across the board was… “Hmm, never got that question before, don’t know what to tell ya.” Then as if I never asked the question, they moved on to other people with more answerable questions in the live chat we were in. So here I am at the threshold of a writing career and the “experts” don’t know what to tell me. I have a friend named Brett who knows about these things and I went in to see him and get the blog set up. He very kindly walked through the process with me and we found out together just how difficult it is for a blind person to post on a blog. The JAWS program that I use on my computer and the way the blog sites are set up just don’t want to play nice. It wouldn’t read to me the vital things that needed to be read for me to enter my posts. So needless to say, I was feeling a bit defeated. For so long I’ve wanted to write and just when it was about to happen, a roadblock of epic size pops up.

However the story doesn’t end there because you wouldn’t be reading this if it did. My very valued and selfless friend offered to post the entries for me on a scheduled timeline. This friend has made it possible for me to continue with my dream, no… calling to be a writer. I call him a blessing. Brett has many responsibilities at the Disability Network where he works and I write articles for. But his passion is for helping others and bringing awareness to issues such as this one. So many people with disabilities of any kind are often overlooked and underestimated for a particular job or project simply because accessibility is lacking. We have so very much to offer the world but we just need a way to offer it. The take away here is don’t feel sorry for someone like me or anyone else with a disability, feel sorry for the people who are missing out on what we could offer them with the right accessibility. I’m just so thankful for people like Brett who are willing to be the link in a broken chain to make something happen. Seek to be that link for someone. In Luke chapter 3 and verses 10-11 it says…”What should we do then, the crowd asked. John answered, anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” NIV. We are to be there for one another and there is no greater blessing than helping another who is in need.