Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Standing Stones...

Tomorrow, (or today, depending on when you read this) the 18th of February is a milestone in our family.

One year ago, on that day, my brother accidentally shot himself and died. It was tragic, shocking, heartbreaking for his wife and children, and his extended family, his brothers, sisters and mother.

Milestones are hard, they are reminders of the pain and loss that we thought had gone away. They are what they are and we have to deal.

Every time something significant in the Old Testament happened, the protagonist would create a milestone, or a standing stone of the event.

When Jacob dreamt about the ladder with the angels descending and ascending up on it, when he awoke, he set it up as a standing stone or a milestone. “'Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it'....then Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it." Genesis 28:17-18. defines a milestone this way: "a stone functioning as a milepost; a significant event or stage in the life, progress, and development of a person, nation, etc."

The death of a family member may not seem like it would promote progress or development, but I believe it has.

Through his death I now realize just how important relationships are. I'm not afraid to tell people that I love them. Not just family members, but friends. Some people look at me like I'm nuts, but I feel these emotions deeply and I'm not afraid to say it.

Because Clarence is gone, I'm ever mindful of the role that my husband Bear plays in my children's lives. They need both parents. All the time. Not just on the weekends, or when you aren't burdened down with duties and projects at work. I have felt the hurt when my nephew has had to step into the role of his father and walk his sisters down the aisle to be married. I've watched as he has taken over as the patriarch of the family. My nephew is an amazing man and certainly qualified for the job, but I believe he was handed the baton too soon.

Because I feel the loss of my brother in my own life, I am aware of my children's feelings toward their brothers and sisters. I try to instill in them how important it is to really love each other; for one day, we will have partings among us too. I want them to always know how much they are loved.

It is because of the example of my dear brother that I write this blog. He was my encouragement. He was my source of strength when I thought that my writings weren't good enough. It didn't matter to him. He thought what I had to say mattered and so he gave me the boost I needed to submit an article for publication.

So, tomorrow I will set a standing stone in remembrance of a family member. February 18th will be the standing stone. The milepost. That date on the calendar will say to me, "We have come this far. We have hurt, we have cried, been enraged, but we have grown. We will move on from the hurt and pain. We will overcome."

My dear brother, I was angry, I was in shock, I was hurt, I mourned your loss. But because of this milestone, I will remember, and I will be stronger for knowing you.

(You can read the eulogy I gave at his funeral here.)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bad Days...

We all have them. We usually hate them. They come at us mercilessly with no retreat. One thing on top of another, after another.

Like my bad day, which was really more like four bad days rolled into one long Mount Everest like journey.

Toilets overflow. Sink drains get backed up--in need of Drain-O and spills out of the trap. Then the floor of the cupboard is warped and wet. There's a hole in the bathroom door. Breakfast messes all over, burned finger with the curling iron, (my grey hair is showing,) trying to get out the door to go to church, no socks or shoes, where's the diaper bag, Finally in the truck, buckled up, where's the crock pot for church dinner, back to the driveway, return to the car, spills the coffee, stained white turtleneck, back in the driveway, takes a Tylenol, finally on the way, only 30 minutes late.

Just getting past the morning was a challenge, but now we are listening to praise music in the car. I'm feeling better, ready to face the day and be pleasant. The kids go to Sunday School and I go to the back of the truck to retrieve the crock pot full of sweet and sour meatballs. I find it upside down in the cargo area.

I have a nice travel crock pot, with a tight fitting lid and a zippered carrying case. Amazingly it contained the whole sticky mess and kept it all inside. I knew, however, that I would have cleanup when I got to the kitchen. God gave me the grace to keep a smile on my face regardless of the dripping oozing mess concealed inside the zippered container.

After 30 minutes of scrubbing, washing and rinsing, my crock was plugged in, and the meatballs were heating again nicely, only missing a cup or two of the sauce. I missed Sunday School and decided that worship service was where I needed to be.

Boy, did I ever...

God knows our needs. I say that a lot, because lately that's what He keeps assuring me. From one end of the bulletin to the other, I read of God's provision, his love, and His assurance that I am not alone.

A friend of mine posted a link to message by R.C. Sproul, entitled The Dark Night of the Soul. R.C. says this about depression:

"This phenomenon describes a malady that the greatest of Christians have suffered from time to time. It was the malady that provoked David to soak his pillow with tears. It was the malady that earned for Jeremiah the sobriquet, “The Weeping Prophet.” It was the malady that so afflicted Martin Luther that his melancholy threatened to destroy him. This is no ordinary fit of depression, but it is a depression that is linked to a crisis of faith, a crisis that comes when one senses the absence of God or gives rise to a feeling of abandonment by Him."

I've been in this dark place. I have said those very words. Months ago I wrote in my personal journal, (only part of it will I quote here, much is too dark for me to even reread.) After unemployment stretched on and on, the army not accepting Bear's active duty packet, the mortgage company threatening to foreclose, and my suburban being repossessed, I described my crisis of faith in this way.

"Everyone says to me, 'You must believe in God's Word...' 'You have to trust that He says He will never leave you or forsake you...' 'He is with you always, you just have to look to Him and believe...' 'It will all work out, you'll see, and you'll look back and understand why you went through what you went through.' (and this is a good one,) 'He'll never give you more than you can handle.' So, what if I can't even believe that this IS the word of God, what if God isn't even there. What if He just created us and leaves us to our own devises and this is just what we get for being selfish, wicked human beings. I cannot believe anymore!! He has drug me into too deep of a pit and I can't get out. This is more than I can handle!"

That's where I was several months ago. I was in a Dark Night of the Soul, and that is exactly what my depression was rooted in, my belief that God did not exist, or if he did then he didn't care about me and had abandoned me.

But God...

He pulled us out of that pit. He set our feet on solid ground and made the path straight before us.

But God...

He has not left us, He is using people, circumstances, hymns, and scripture to anoint my wounded heart. He is bandaging my broken spirit with His word--to let me know that I am not alone, that even the psalmist David soaked his pillow with tears.

The words of Charles Wesley spoke to me today during the hymn of the day. I don't know why that particular hymn was chosen, it didn't seem to fit with the topic of the transfiguration of Christ, but it was just what I needed to hear; verse three of "Christ Whose Glory Fills the Skies"

"Visit then this soul of mine,
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
Fill me, Radiancy divine,
Scatter all my unbelief;
More and more Thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day."

R.C. speaks again of this crisis of faith, he says. "Spiritual depression is real and can be acute... Our faith is not a constant action. It is mobile. It vacillates. We move from faith to faith, and in between we may have periods of doubt when we cry, 'Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief.' "

I am at this point in my recovery. I can now acknowledge that He is here and I'm trying to believe, but I still doubt at times.

Bad days happen, toilets overflow, crock pots spill their contents and ooze sticky messes, coffee cups dribble on white shirts and people get cranky.

But God...

He is there to comfort us through those bad days with words such as these, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Cor. 4:7–10).

Our joy comes from the Lord, not of ourselves. We cannot produce joy without first being filled with the joy of the Lord.

During my Dark Night, I was going through motions but I wasn't IN the word of God. I carried my Bible, but it wasn't open much of the time. I hid behind a facade of the cheerful Christian and didn't allow those around me to see my hurt, and I didn't listen to much of the comforting words that were said to me.

I knew in my head that Jesus had gone through much more than what I was called to bear, but that didn't make it any easier, after all He is God! But R.C. put that in perspective for me as well. That doesn't mean that Jesus was a Pollyanna, always being "glad" in the face of trials. He knew grief too;

"Our Lord Himself was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Though grief may reach to the roots of our souls, it must not result in bitterness. Grief is a legitimate emotion, at times even a virtue, but there must be no place in the soul for bitterness. In like manner, we see that it is a good thing to go to the house of mourning, but even in mourning, that low feeling must not give way to hatred."

The sermon title today was "The View From Up Here." I mentioned before that pastor was talking about the transfiguration. The sermon title means so much more to me. The view from up here is so much better than the pit that I was in. The bitterness and hatred are fading away and being replaced by His love and provision for me. The depression and darkness of my soul are giving way to His light, as bright as the noonday sun, as I return to the presence of God and bask in His glory.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Gonna be real here folks.

I decided a long time ago that this blog was mostly for me. I'm not out to impress anyone with sewing skills, canning abilities or Biblical knowledge. This is my journal, I've just invited you all along for the ride. So, this is what my journal entry is for today.

Today sucks. Big time. It started out rotten and just got worse.

I volunteer at the food bank; and this morning was our volunteer breakfast. I was told it started at 7:30, didn't start until 8 or maybe even 8:30. No set time, why even bother, no one else seems to have a schedule or a life.

So, I arrive and no one else was there. Ok, there was this one guy, but he's mostly a creep and I don't get a long with him. I talked, dug through my small talk repertoire and got more irritated as the morning went on.

So finally everyone else arrived, we ate, and I scooted out before the "I appreciate you, but this is my program and I'll tell you how wonderful I am." speech.

By the time I got home, the house was a wreck, Chels had run off, Miss Busy had broken a hole in the door and the phone was ringing long distance from Iraq.

The kids ran out the door and hopped on the bus before I really knew what had happened.

I then got the vacuuming done because there was food all over the floor, and headed out the door with Boo in the stroller to do my 3-mile walk. We did 1/4 mile before it started raining on us. I stuck it out and did 1.25 miles and we came home. Cold, wet and more cranky.

The babysitter came and took Boo upstairs for his nap, she doesn't sit with him until he falls asleep, so he gets up and gets into mischief. (Ok, I probably shouldn't sit until he is good and asleep, but I like having a bit of control over the situation.)

It turns out that sometime while she was here, he got into a game board that my uncle made and scattered pieces all over my bedroom an his bedroom. The other day I shampooed acrylic paints out of the girls' carpet because of his mischief.

Work was sucky, we were arranging fabric, and it's hard on my hands to move the bolts of fabric all over, they are heavy and I have carpel tunnel syndrome. It irritated me to have to rearrange stuff like that. Espeially when after the day crew leaves, the girl I work with at night has quit and sits in front of the computer if there are no customers. I hate just sitting. I don't want to BS with someone all night long. When I'm not doing anything it seems like this job is a waste of my time when I could be home taking care of my children.

So after work, when I came home I got the report, Ace had a nose bleed, Miss Busy had a scratched eye, no chores had been done, yet they were all sitting in front of the TV.

Then after dinner, which wasn't too fabulous either, the school counselor called me and said that Chels had come to school crying and was all upset about the morning's activities.

I never should have gone to that stupid appreciation breakfast, I can feel sufficiently appreciated if I just stay home and help my children.

I'd really like to just start this day all over again. Crawl back under the covers and sleep until noon. I'm feeling like having a good cry, but that would be unproductive. I'd really like to just go to bed, but that would be unproductive. There is laundry that needs done, sewing that needs finished, projects of my own that I would like to work on just for the pleasure of doing them, but I'm feeling pressure from all the "must do's".

Stop the world, I wanna get off.

Phone calls...

are the most wonderful things aren't they? Especially when they are from your sweetheart half a world away.

It is so nice to be able to share and communicate just like he was at his office 20 minutes away instead of thousands of miles.

God has blessed us with this communication. It hasn't always been this way. In past deployments there was often no communication for days, even weeks. I am so thankful that we can talk almost daily.

It allows me the opportunity to better pray for him when I know the daily struggles he faces.

Daily communication should be a part of our spiritual life too. I've been neglecting my spiritual life lately for some reason. Maybe it's that I think I don't have enough time, or I feel I've gotten too far away from God and can't bridge the gap. But yet, I know that I'm not the one who has to cross the chasm, He has done that already.

Just like our earthly relationships, we need to cultivate and grow deeper in our spiritual relationship too. We wouldn't want to keep talking about the weather with our friends here at home, and we shouldn't always be in the "greeting" mode with God. He wants more from us than our Facebook Status updates, He wants more than an hourly "tweet" telling Him our plans. (He laughs at them anyway.)

He wants deep meaningful conversation. He wants the best for us and daily status updates really aren't the best we can give him.

I think we have become a society that craves all the instant gratification we can get. Microwave popcorn takes too long, frozen dinners make us wait. We are so impatient at red lights, we take airplanes instead of driving and complain about the check-in lines.

I admit I did it today, I was waiting in the 20 items or less line at the grocery store, waiting to purchase my 24 pack of toilet paper. The lady in front of me was having a pleasant conversation with the checker, but I was nearly stewing in my own juices, being impatient about the time it took her to load the lady's groceries. As I walked out the door after paying for my one item, I was mumbling under my breath about how long that took and now I'm going to be late, crab, crab, crab.

What if I spend my "phone call" to God that way? Is my prayer life hurried, impatient, and cranky? Do I just give him my laundry list of requests? Dump on Him my grievances for the day; then expect Him to turn me into a joyful Christian?

You get what you put into a relationship. You reap what you sow, and what you give you will get back in return. When I talk to my sweetheart on the phone, I know that I may not have much time and my next phone call is never guaranteed. I try to leave the conversation with loving attitudes and encouragement. Yet, my conversation with God often times is too quick, cranky and discouraging.

When will you really make time for your Creator? When will you make time to have that meaningful conversation with the One who gave you breath? He is longing to hear from you in a deep and meaningful way, and He doesn't check your Facebook.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Vintage Sheet Swap

Oooh, what fun! Jen at Rosey Little Things is hosting a vintage sheet swap. I joined late, but she still let me play! I've got my vintage sheet fat quarters cut, folded, rolled, tied and ready to go in the mail. I'm so excited to see what goodies I get back. I love swaps! It is such a nice way to share and get a different variety of stuff rather than the same old stuff you always pick up.

Besides, vintage sheets are FRUGAL!! And I'm all about that!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I have a friend...

Isn't that a nice way to start a post?

Everyone should have a friend.
I would have to say that she is my oldest friend. That is not to say that she is the oldest friend that I have, but she is the one whom I have known the longest. We probably met in our church's nursery. She is 9 months and one day older than me. We went through grade school, Jr high together and then I moved over into the next school district. Not too far, but far enough that we didn't hang out like we used to.

I graduated high school, she graduated high school and then life got underway and I haven't seen her in years.

She comforted me during my father's illness and death. She has shared with me joys and sadness through the years.

It is so nice to be able to just pick up where we left off last. I never hear, "I called you last, it's your turn!" or "I'm not writing another letter until she returns one to me!"

She's been there for me through the years, and she's come to my rescue again.
Without any prompting, other than me stating my goals, she has given me great encouragement and concrete direction so that if I follow her advice I will be assured of meeting those goals.

Now that's a friend.

Here is an excerpt from her last note to me.
"I made a goal to work out 6 days a week and not miss a day. And I am over 300 days and counting. The end of March will be my one year mark. Here is what I did. I made the goal that I would work out for at least 25 minutes a day -- and it counted as long as I hadn't gone to bed yet.

It didn't have to be intense. I just had to do it. And so I began. Sometimes it was in the evening. Sometimes it was in the morning. Sometimes I was literally in my pajamas and barefoot. On the elliptical. For 25 minutes. But I did it. And I developed the habit of exercising.

Because I am going to have to do it for the rest. of. my. life."

Oh, my gosh!! Fat girl inside me is screaming! I don't wanna do this for the rest of my life! Isn't there an easier way? Isn't there a pill? A shot? A surgery, a suction, a something?

This is where my "self" takes over and what I know to be true in my heart is wrestled to floor and subdued with a slice of cheesecake.

I really do know that it takes hard work. I really do know that Fat girl didn't move in overnight. She came in one spple fritter, and one Biggie size french fry at a time.

And oh, she didn't come alone. She brought with her some of her friends too. She brought Sloth, Apathy, Busyness, and Blatant disregard for a healthy lifestyle.

But with the help of God, good friends and determination, Fat girl is packing her bags. She's outta here. It's going to take baby steps, and lots of them. Then I'll jack up that Reebok step and take bigger steps. Then we'll tackle long fast walks, and maybe a YMCA class.
I will make it. Skinny girl will take over and be more prominent in my life. I'm afraid that I'll always have a shadow of Fat girl behind me. (In more ways than one, haha!) But I'll make it, with lots of encouragement from old friends.

So, I better get used to it. I better stop being whiny and wimpy. I'd like to stay around long enough to enjoy some more of this good friendship. Love you, Bec.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The war continues...

Here's the score:

1. The battle is between Fat girl and Skinny girl. Fat girl is whiny, she doesn't want to get out of bed. Right now she has more influence over the physical body than Skinny girl. It's hard to overcome her influence when the bed is warm and the room is dark.

2. Gin Miller could kill me. She is a hard taskmaster to Fat girl. She's not as tough as Jillian and she's definitely more compassionate. But to keep up with her, Fat girl will have to move out. "Kill her, Ms. Miller!" Then skinny girl and I can keep up.

3. Hip Hop Reebok is not fun when you can hardly keep your balance enough to stay on the step. Good thing I'm not doing this at a gym where I might actually be seen! (gasp) The loud guffaws would certainly stifle my resolve.

4. The shopping list is all wrong. Starbucks apple fritters are not part of this workout, but Fat girl keeps forgetting that. Skinny girl needs to exercises her resolve and assertion and not let Fat girl bully her. (But you know, Fat girl is big, and bossy, and cranky when she doesn't get her apple fritters.)

5. The real reason this battle is hard right now. I haven't invited the Fitness Master to be in on it with me. He is the one who keeps my spiritual life in shape. He is the one to whom I should look to get rid of Fat girl. He can do it. He can help me tackle her to the ground and make her pack her bags.

Philippians 4:13, for Pete's sake! "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."

"Jesus, can we do something about Fat girl? Skinny girl can't breathe!"

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