Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Here's The Deal...

I have learned something lately about being a Christian. God is not willing to share; he wants all of me. He desires for me to give him even those parts that I have hidden way over in the corner. Perhaps he even wants these bits more than anything else. It is these slivers that I long to hold on to.

I don't want to think about what Jesus would do all the time. Sometimes I want to react to something like a 'normal' person. I want to reach over into one of my corners and pull out my gossip piece and use it until I feel superior to everyone about whom I have talked. From time to time I want to grab hold of that mean chunk and say what is really on my mind until the other person feels as low as I do.

It is at these times that I must really grab on to the bigger portion of me that is fixed on being obedient to Him, that large area that gave itself over to the will of her savior. Luckily most times I am able to remember that human nature is not always God's nature. He doesn't have those dark recesses like I do. He is all good. That is what he wishes for me too, taken over by good. Even though perfection will never be realized in this lifetime, I am still required to give Him my all.

Hopefully, as I go throughout my life those dark places will get smaller and smaller as I fill them up with His love, His word and His spirit. I long for the day when God really does have all of me. That will be the most glorious day of all.

It all depends on me. God has already given me His free gift; it is up to me how I use it. I am faced with choices every day. It is up to me whether I am going to reach over into the dark place or seize God's promise to me. He has promised never to relinquish me. It is up to me to do my best not to forsake him. I do this by having the character to withstand the temptation of my will, as I yield to His.

It seems like a tough choice; it is hard to give up myself to another. However, I have only abundance to gain by letting God inhabit me as I fade into Him.

Deuteronomy 31:8
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged

Psalm 9:10
Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you

Psalm 119:8
I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me.

Better Than Goo Gone®

As you approach the new year, you are undoubtedly looking for ways to simplify your life. I have a fantastic, yet simple trick for removing those stubborn price tags and stickers from your Christmas presents this year. This works better than any commercial cleaner that I have ever tried. It also has the added benefit of being non-toxic and environmentally friendly. I know that is something I am always looking for in my life.

This revolutionary product is as straightforward as this - a drop or two of sweet orange essential oil.

Here's what you do: Take a clean dry cloth and add one or two drops of the essential oil. Take your cloth and rub it on any nonporous surface that you want to clean; presto all the stickiness is gone. Not only does this trick work on the tenacious remnants of stickers, it also works on permanent marker "accidents". Be sure you test out your surface first, though, you don't want your oil to take the paint off of a wall.

I love this solution, you no doubt will too. Next thing you know, you are going to be leaving the markers out on purpose, just so you can see the marks magically disappear in a cloud of orange vapor.

Friday, December 26, 2008

After Holiday Letdwon Syndrome

I don'think I am the only one that sufferers from the phenomenon known as After Holiday Letdown Syndrome (AHLS). It is that day after Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) crankiness that afflicts both adult and child alike.

We work so hard in the days leading up to our winter holiday to make things 'just right'. Parents envision the rapture and joy on a child's face as he opens up those long awaited gifts bedecking the floor around the tree. Children anticipate just what they asked for as they stare longingly at the beribboned packages. We build it up to such epic proportions: is it any wonder that we feel let down the day after?

Things rarely live up to our expectations. The toy that looked so cool on the TV commercial is but a bit of plastic junk when all is said and done. Kids are often not as appreciative as parents feel they ought to be. Don't kids know what effort was put forth on their behalves in the gathering of all of the gifts, not to mention the labor of wrapping the accursed things?

What are we to do? How do we avoid AHLS? Should it even be avoided? Maybe we have to go through a day or so of depression to counteract elation of the days before. Perhaps this is what helps us reestablish our equilibrium, so that we can deal with real life again; it helps us to keep our heads about us. We can't go around all the time either in the high state of anticipation, nor in the low doldrums of let down.

Life is about the ebbs and the flows. We need to learn how to ride the waves, keep our brains on an even keel while dealing with the inevitable highs and lows. The only way to do that is to experience both the ups and the downs that are thrown at us.

I hope that those of us who suffer from AHLS will be able to get through today and come out on the other side a little wiser for the experience. Maybe?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I want to take a minute to wax poetic about my friends. I have been blessed with so many wonderful friends, that I would be remiss if I didn't take a moment to let them know how important the are to me.

There are my real life friends, who I absolutely could not live without, especially in these last couple of months. They came to my aid and were literally my legs for me. A thousand thank yous would not be enough to adequately thank them for their steadfastness. I love them unconditionally and hope to repay a bit of their kindness some day.

Then, there are those who I have never met in real life but have come to cherish just the same as if I met them down the street. They have taught me so much about diversity, tolerance and just plain acceptance. Having never lived farther than 75 miles from my hometown, I haven't had a very wide variety of experiences with people until I found my on-line communities. I always knew that there were different people and myriad ideas in the world, but had never had a chance to really sink my teeth into the deliciousness of it before. For the experience of thinking outside the box and moving me beyond my comfort zone, I am eternally grateful to all of my cyber friends.

I am posting a video that really touches my heart and speaks of the sentiment I am trying to express to everyone I call friend. I know it is not the type of music that everyone goes for, but I urge you to watch it and listen to the words. When you are done - go call a friend and say thank you.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Crisis of Confidence

I just heard New York's Mayor Bloomberg say something on TV that struck me as so profoundly true that I absolutely had to sit down and write out my thoughts on the subject. This country is suffering a Crisis of Confidence.

We all know that the country is in a recession. It is no secret that unemployment level have increased, bringing the current rate to 6.7%. Across the country there are over 10 million people out of work. I daresay we all know people who have lost their jobs in the last year; this makes us feel as if it could happen to us at any moment.

The reality is that we are more likely to keep our job than we are to lose it. That is right, most people are not going to lose their jobs, we just feel as if we might. The real problem with the economy is that people are scared. We have lost confidence in the American Dream. With good reason, I can see that, what with the government's lack of direction in the area of solving this economic puzzle and with people like Bernie Madoff in the world, who wouldn't lose confidence.

How does the average middle class family regain their lost confidence? Well, that is the big question, isn't it? Spending like there is no tomorrow in hopes that throwing more money into the sluggish economy will bring things around certainly doesn't sit well with most people. Sitting around in an anxious state of impending doom doesn't seem like the right way to solve a problem either. So, what to do?

I say meet positively in the middle. We need to regain our confidence in our government as well as in our fellow human beings. We the people need to be the ones to raise ourselves out of the malaise that we seem to be stuck in. It is up to us to be the change that we want to see in the world, as the Dali Lama so eloquently said. I know, I am a Pollyanna-ish person in this regard; I really do think that things will turn around and most people will be okay. This is just a ebb in an inevitable cycle of life in our country.

When broken down to its core, this country has many more Mother Teresas than we have Bernie Madoffs. Most people are good. Regardless of political affiliation, religious belief, etc, most people are honorable people. Most of us know that what is good for our neighbor is also good for us and live our lives accordingly. We simply need to restore some hope among our ranks.

Looking on the bright side does not necessarily mean putting on blinders to what is really going on. We can still have compassion for those who are out of work, help them in any way we can, without losing hope that it most likely won't happen to us. That is what it means to be an American; never losing hope in a brighter tomorrow.

I like to think that I have the strength that my grandparents had during the Great Depression. They bravely endured that time, so maybe, just maybe my generation can do the same.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


This blog today is an extension of sorts of yesterday's blog.

I have felt for many years that the Lord had specific plans for me to be used my him in an expansive way. Many times I have put that thought aside because I didn't feel worthy of any such calling. Who am I, after all, to be used by God? No one really. It was at such times that I would be drawn to stories of biblical characters like Gideon, who questioned God just as I have.

Gideon asked God to give him a sign that God was actually speaking to him. Sometimes I feel it would be helpful if I could have a clear a sign from God as Gideon experienced. If only the Angel of the Lord would come and set fire to a rock beside me; then I would know for sure. Alas, it doesn't work that way any more. God does still show us signs, though. We just have to be very discerning and prayerful that we are hearing and seeing with God's will in our hearts.

As I said, over the years, I have had many subtle signs of God's plan. I have seen glimpses of the big picture that is on the horizon, but have never been able to grasp the entire thing. This has been frustrating to me. I am an impatient person by nature.

For now, I sense God telling me to wait. My job at the moment is to care for my children and to serve those in my immediate vicinity. Later...I keep hearing (God) in my head. "I will broaden the scope, later."

I will wait. While I am waiting, I have a lot to do right here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

When You Least Expect It

A funny thing happened to me at the orthopaedic surgeon's office today. Well, not really hilariously funny, but funny as in unexpected. I was waiting, as is often the case at the doctor's office, while I listened to my MP3 player. I was flipping through my songs and stopped on a song called While I'm Waiting by John Waller. This is a song I have heard many times before, after all it is on my MP3 player, so I know the song. Yet, today the song spoke to me as it never had before. I listened more carefully to the words and I really felt as though God was speaking to me through that song.

"I am waiting on you Lord, and I am hopeful"*, the song says, "I am waiting on you, though it is painful"*. The words struck me right between the eyes. It goes on to say "While, I am waiting, I will serve you. I will worship while I'm waiting."* Wow. Did the songwriter write this song just for me? No. I know he didn't, but God is using it to help me understand things, just as if it were written just for me.

I felt very close to God at that moment and I was certain that my choosing that song to listen to right then was no coincidence. I needed to be open to what God was saying to me. So I closed my eyes and offered myself up to my Lord's instruction. Let me tell you what he revealed to me.

You see, the last few weeks I have been frustratingly stalled in proceeding with my life after surgery. I have felt God stirring me, but had no clear direction. Surely, I wasn't listening and praying hard enough or I would be getting the message, I thought. Then, it dawned on me --I was rushing God again.

If there is one thing God can't be, it is rushed. His timing will happen as he sees fit. No amount of begging and cajoling from me can hurry God's will. In the mean time I am called to -- you guessed it -- wait. While I am waiting I cannot be stagnant; I have to use that time to worship and to serve. This is what God has been trying to tell me.

He does have plans for me. He may not necessarily divulge the whole plan to me at once. That really is a load off of my mind. I was really struggling because I felt I should know what I'm doing. Turns out God has it all under control. I am to take each step in obedience, as I move ahead, bold and confident*. All I need to do for now is wait and worship and serve.

Psalm 27:13-14 (New International Version)

13 I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.

14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

Romans 8:24-25 (New International Version)

24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

*All of these were taken from John Waller's song "I Am Waiting". This is not the first time one of his songs has spoken to me. I have referred to his music in my blog before. I hope that he is pleased that his songs resonate so loudly and that I have used his work in a way that would gladden him.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I guess it was bound to happen.

My third child is in the fifth grade this year. He informed me last night that he did not, under any circumstances want me to attend his winter party today. I have got to tell you, even though I know this is a normal attitude for an 11 year old to have, it stung like a bee.

My two older children, at ages 13 and 12, still think I am pretty cool to be around. My little one, who is nine, has yet to stop hugging me when he sees me at school. So, I was kind of thrown for a loop that this child felt so strongly about not wanting me intruding in his space.

I thought about what he said long and hard all evening. I flip flopped back and forth between going and staying home from the party. As, I went to bed, I had made the decision to go anyway. After all, this was his last Winter Party; I didn't want to miss it.

I changed my mind this morning when I woke up. I figured it was time to let him spread his wings a bit. I felt I needed to respect his wishes and let him have his party on his own terms. As a mom, it was heartbreaking. I really wanted to be there. After all, I had been at every field trip and party he had since he was in preschool; a fact he derisively heralded to me last night. However, I knew that he would be angry with me if I showed up. It would just be delaying the inevitable, too. I had to let him grow up some time.

In the end I stayed home and cried nostalgically about the baby he once was as I anticipated the man he would soon become. He is a great kid. I know that. He is going to be a remarkable man, I have no doubt about that. Unfortunately for us moms, we have to step aside sometimes and allow our kids to make their way down their own path. It stings, but it makes me proud at the same time.

When I picked him up from school he said the party was fun. He didn't mention one way or the other how he felt about my absence. I didn't ask. I have a feeling he was happy that I had given him some breathing room. Some day he will remember that I was around all the time because I cared deeply for him, but that I let him have his space when he needed it.

Man, this mothering gig is though!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holly Jolly Christmas?

This Christmas season I find myself being neither jolly nor merry about things. I am in a funk. I am impatient. I am contrary. I have lost my pep and zest. I really don't know what the exact cause of the gloom is. I think it is a combination of things -- most of which are beyond my control.

First of all I have no tolerance for being out of commission. This convalescence is the pits. I want it to be over, yet I don't know what I am going to do when it is. People ask me how I am feeling all the time. I have about one 30th of a second to decide -- is this person really interested in hearing the long version of how I feel? Or are the looking for the short, I am just passing you in the hall and really don't even want to slow down long enough to hear your answer, version? I can never decide fast enough, so I just usually stand there with a dumb look on my face, giving people the impression that I am still ingesting copious amounts of narcotic pain medication.

The truth is I am physically right on track, and I really feel pretty fine; not too much lingering pain. I am also bored, frustrated and agitated. I want to be regular. I want to walk across the room unassisted and without a limp. I want to be able to go into the kitchen and get a cookie and a cup of tea and be able to bring them both back to the living room at the same time. I long to take a shower without scooting onto a seat inside the bathtub. I would enjoy putting on my socks without using a silly shovel/jump rope looking thing to aid me. Oh, and yeah...my legs need to be shaved and my toenails need to be trimmed. Where is the dignity in someone doing these tasks for you? So, as you can see, most people aren't looking for the long version. It would make them too uncomfortable; it's not nice to make people squirm during polite conversation.

I am also a little sad and nostalgic that the magic of Christmas has worn off for my kids. They are too old for the sparkling anticipation a little child experiences while waiting (im)patiently for the big day to roll around. They have become jaded teens and tweens who shake a package one time and declare "Shoes! I can tell by the box". There is still a little of the charm left in the holiday for my nine year old. He can't let on though, because his older brothers will roll their eyes at him. I knew this day was coming, but I always felt the transition would be more gradual. It seems like they were just toddling around the Christmas tree last week. *sigh*

This period of rest and restoration of my body was also supposed to be a time for me to get my head together and figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life. It hasn't gone exactly the way I planned. I wanted some quiet solitude in which I had ample opportunity for self reflection and examination. Instead I needed to have a babysitter. In the beginning, I needed someone around all the time because I couldn't do anything for myself. Now, when I am a little more self sufficient, those caretakers have become all to comfortable taking care of me (read taking over my life) and are constantly on hand. No time to be alone. I was counting on a bit of isolation to think things through.

I still have plans, though. I don't intend to grow resentful of my family. I love them and love having them around in such a paradoxical way. When they are gone, I miss them like crazy. Once they return home, it takes about 15 minutes for them to wear out their welcome.

I realize that I have to work with what I have. They pick up on my moods and attitudes. I've got to make the most of these years that I have left with them, while still maintaining a life of my own. I will not be a piece of dried up driftwood, aimlessly floating around with no purpose. I have a purpose beyond my front door and by golly, I am going to find out what it is! I just need a few minutes of peace and quiet to figure this thing (life) out.

Maybe the things that are bothering me aren't so much out of my control after all. Perhaps it is my frame of mind that is throwing things off. Hhmm... When I get a minute, I am going to think about that.

Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I Have Concluded

I had an epiphanic moment on my way home from a meeting today - you can't make people care. It is not an earth shattering revelation, but one that I have not pondered before.

I have always been very conscientious with my work habits. It doesn't matter to me whether I am being paid for the work or not; I still feel a sense of responsibility and pride in the work that I do. In a word (or two) I Care. Now, I know I am not the most organized person in the world; I don't have a penchant for facts and figures. I try to work around my deficits and accentuate the skills that I do have. I do it all because I care about the work that I do.

Many people seem to blow off work that they aren't getting paid to do. I don't understand this at all. Why take on a responsibility that you have no passion for? Volunteer work is in a class all by itself. The rewards are few and the hours can be grueling. You have to care about the organization you are working for, or your efforts will surely fall flat.

Not everyone who says they are going to do something is actually going to follow through. It is hard to discern who is actually going to go the distance. This is an unfortunate fact of life. Not everyone cares and there is nothing you can do to make them.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

An Elf Visited My House Today

As you may know I haven't been able to put up all of my Christmas decorations this year because of my recent hip replacement surgery. I had just resigned myself to not having any lights and decorations on the outside of the house. My husband didn't much act like he was too eager to climb on the roof and put the lights on the house. Much to my amazement, he got up this morning and got on the roof and put the lights in place. My 12 year old son had a grand time setting up the other lights and decorations in the bushes and yard. He couldn't wait until it got dark outside so he could show off his elfish work. He did a fine job. I think I may let him do this every year now.

Friday, December 5, 2008

New Discovery

I am always excited to find new environmentally friendly, safe, natural and best of all affordable products. While doing some on-line Christmas shopping this year, I ran across this product simple called Pure Soap. The website I got it from only sells it in bulk, but it was only $11.00 for 12 bars of soap. You can easily pay upwards of $3.00 a bar for natural and castille soaps, so this sounded like a bargain. Even though I had never heard of this soap before I was curious enough to order a 12 pack. I placed my order and hoped for the best.

I got my new soap yesterday and I am so impressed with this product. It has a heavenly almond scent to it, but is scented only with pure almond oil. That is a plus to me. I love pleasant smells but I can't use artificial fragrances. It is made with cocoa butter and a variety of vegetable fats, no animal lard in sight. You've gotta love that too.

I took a shower with it last night and was not disappointed. The smooth compact bar is easy to handle and makes a gorgeous lather. My skin has been extremely dry since I had surgery, so I was pleasantly surprised that my skin didn't feel dry, flaky or itchy at all.

I am going to next try this soap in my homemade laundry soap powder recipe and see how it works. I will keep you updated as to how it performs in that capacity.

You can find the soap by doing a Google search for Pure Soap. I happened to find it at Giaim I was happy with their service and delivery. If you decide to try it. Let me know how you feel about it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I Must Have Done Somethng Right.

On Thanksgiving day, I took my camera with me to my parent's house and had my brother in law take some pictures of the kids for our Christmas card. I came home and uploaded them into the computer and chose one that showed them all looking ahead and smiling. Then changed the color to black and white because the colors of their clothing was wildly variant and clashed awfully. I was pretty proud of the finished product, if I do say so myself.

So, what did you do right, you ask? Well, when my daughter saw the picture she said. "Oh, I like that picture. I look really good in that one." I almost cried. At thirteen, I would never have said something like that about myself. I was woefully self conscious and lacking in self esteem. I vowed when I had my little girl that I would raise her to be a strong woman who new her worth and was not ashamed of it. I guess I did a pretty good job of it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Freshen the Air Naturally

I love scents and (good) smells. There was a time when I burned my Yankee candles daily, thinking I was clearing the air of the nasties. What I didn't realize was that it was all of those artificial fragrances that were the main cause of my horrible migraines. I found this out when I eliminated commercial cleaners and air freshening sprays and candles in my house because of my son's asthma. I no longer had the near daily headaches. I now shun the very thing that I loved so much -- my candles and my air freshener sprays. I needed to find an alternative though, because I still really enjoy a clean, fresh smell in my house.

Face it, with four kids and three dogs, there is always some sort of foul smell that needs to be combated. I turned to essential oils. I found that these potent oils not only smell pleasant, they also have aroma-therapeutic properties to them. I began to get really excited about all of the uses these tiny brown bottles held. Depressed? Try some lavender oil. It is also good for antimicrobial use when applied topically. Got a headache? Peppermint oil is your best defense. You will find that it also calms an upset stomach, as well as a host of other ailments.

I could literally go on and on listing assorted oils and their marvelous attributes, but I won't bore you with that today. I just wanted to share some of my favorite combinations with you. These can either be mixed together in a spray bottle with distilled water (shake before each use) or used in a diffuser. Play around with different oils until you find your own signature scent. It really is tons of fun.

Fresh Scent
clary sage, lemon, orange, rosemary and ylang ylang

Balancing Scent
lavender and peppermint

Autumn Spice Scent
orange, cinnamon, clove and ginger

Holiday Scent
fir, lemon, rosemary and eucalyptus

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pared Down Christmas

I usually go hog wild and crazy with my Christmas decorations. This year, however, since I had surgery less than a month ago, I had to pare down. I only got out two Christmas trees. I had to forgo all of the little vignettes I usually put up around the house. I have a hand painted (by me, thanyouverymuch) Christmas village that has a spot the living room. Then there is the Santa collection that is lovingly displayed in the playroom/office. I have acquired cookie jars, teapots, towels, salt and pepper shakers and various other objects d' Christmas that I sprinkle throughout the house. I leave no room undecorated, even bathrooms need a smidgen of holiday flare in the form of soap dispensers, towels and bathmats. All of that will have to wait 'til next year, because I can't manage to set it up this year.

Did I mention I am really getting tired of this walker? Okay... that is a discussion for another time, back to Christmas decorating.

All of that is just inside the house. I have been collecting and making more and more things to display in the front yard. Last year we added a five foot tall penguin, whose arms kept flying off with any random wind gust. My husband swears he is still going to put the lights on the house; it's just to windy today to do it. =O)

I let the kids decorate the trees. This is another area in which I have had to give up authority. I have no control over anything around here any more. Meals, laundry, cleaning, hair cuts, taxi driving -- I can't do any of that, so I have learned to let it go and let it get done as it may, by whomever it may. Not the easiest task in the world for a person like me. I have had had dominion over all of these elements for the past 14 years, but I managed to rise to the challenge.

The kids did a fairly decent job decorating the trees. They had a companionable time looking at all of the ornaments with their names on them that I have collected through the years. I get one for each child each year and put their name and the year on it. When they grow up they will have a whole assortment of ornaments to hang on their own tree.

For fun, I bought a gingerbread house kit for them to decorate. They anxiously awaited the first opportunity to decorate it. Alas, it didn't go quite as planned, the icing was runny and it wouldn't set up. It fell flat as the walls came tumbling down. They had a grand time, though. All they really wanted to do was eat the candy anyway.

It was really pleasant to watch them having such a good time. I am usually scurrying around getting everything set up, so I miss out on the sociable atmosphere; I just want them out of my hair. So all in all, I guess it is a good thing to have a pared down Christmas every now and then. I helps remind me of what first-rate children I have. I also gives me a chance to really focus on the gift that Christmas really is - one that should be savored and unwrapped slowly, not something that we scramble to finish in a rush.

Monday, November 17, 2008

How long is your recovery?

It has now been almost two weeks since my hip replacement surgery. I am making adequate progress as far as the healing of my body goes. The pain is not so totally consuming as it was at first, or even a week ago for that matter. I am starting the process of tapering off of the pain medication and trying not to rely on sleeping pills (thus the reason I am up at midnight). It is still sore and tender, not yet ready to bear my full weight. However, I no longer feel the the searing white hot pain that took my breath away when I so much as shifted my position. This progress begs the question on everyone's minds -- When am I going to be well?

Physically I would say in a week or two I will have sufficient stamina to resume normal activities. I hate to say that though, because then everyone is going to expect me to be fully restored. That is a scary prospect because I feel that my mental state is miles behind my physical recuperation. I still feel discombobulated, out of sorts, just not myself at all. If I push myself to bounce back before I am psychologically ready, it could be disastrous.

The reason I went ahead with this surgery was because I felt that I wasn't giving my family my maximum. The benefit of me being a whole, pain free person, outweighed the risks of being out of commission for a bit of time. I had become exhausted, irritable and just plain not easy to live with. It was time to put my family on the front burner. They had suffered right along with me for far too long. Having a chronically ill parent is not easy on a kid. They grew resentful of me not having the energy that I needed to do the things they wanted to do. Not to mention they were fed up with my crotchety, prickly reactions every time they turned around. Yes, it was time to put all of the expectations of the outside world on hold while I got myself in good shape, so I went ahead with the operation.

Really, what I am afraid of is that those distractions from the outside world are going to start creeping in before I am ready. I am bothered by the thought that people will start to see me getting better -- they will see me out and about and will assume that I am ready for business as usual.

I know that it is not fair to leave everyone in the lurch, but I didn't have this surgery so that I could be a better volunteer. I am already a colossal volunteer; I have that down pat. I had the operation to be a remarkable mom and a new and improved wife. While I appreciate that while I am not there, someone else has to do my job -- I know that finding a replacement volunteer is a cinch compared to finding a replacement mom and wife.

Yes, they will just have to get along without me for the time being. They will find a way to muddle through; I feel quite certain. I just have to get both oar in the water before I start rowing out into the deep water. There are just some things I know for sure and I know without a doubt, that I have to steady myself at home and get healthy for my family or else it will all collapse around me.

I don't know when I will be 'well'. You'll be the first to know.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Surgery Update Day 6

I suppose I should update you on days one through five first, huh?
  • Day one was 11-04. I got the call that morning to be ready and at the hospital by noon, as the surgery was scheduled for 2:00. Right when we got there - at 12:05 - they were frantically looking for us. Come to find out the man who was supposed to have surgery before me drank a cup of coffee that morning, so they refused to operate on him. They wanted to bump me up and take me in right away. Funny how doctors don't like waiting even five minutes on a patient to show up, but have no problem letting those same patients languish for hours in their offices waiting to be seen. That's a story for another day, perhaps, back to day one. I woke up at about 4:00 in the recovery room feeling nauseous, cold and parched like I have never been before. They gave me drugs for the nausea, warming blankets for my chilled body and ice chips for the thirst. For the most part I was comfortable. The Anesthesiologist had a nerve block in place so that the surgical site wouldn't be quite so painful. They brought me to my room where I was congratulating myself on not being an annoyingly whiny patient like the one in the next bed over in the recover room. She was a real eye roller that one. I talked to family and friends and felt acceptably comfortable.
  • Acceptable would turn to unsatisfactory on a dime during the night. I could not get into a restful position, no matter how much I wiggled around. The nerve block was starting to wear off and I was running a slight fever. I began to be a tad less judgmental of my recovery room roommate from earlier in the afternoon. I probably sounded twice as gripey as she had. My receptors were buoyed slightly when I woke up at 11:30 and was told by Eddy the tech guy that Obama had won the election. I turned on the TV just as he was finishing his speech, so I flipped around to find a replay of it. I enjoyed it enormously.
  • Day two would dawn with quite literally a pain in my butt; my butt, my hip, my leg, you name a body part on my left side and it had mutated into a fiery ball of molten hot lava being jabbed at with a red hot poker every time I moved -- even breathing hurt. Much to my amazement during this particularly uncomfortable time, Physical Therapist Nurse Ratchet with the voice of Minnie Mouse (picture it) walks in and cheerfully announces that I will be getting out of the bed, walking around the room for a bit and then settled into a chair for five hours until the group physical therapy session started at 2:00. You have GOT to be kidding me. Um... no she was quite serious. I explained all of the extenuating circumstances -- low blood pressure, low blood count, nausea, fever, and the...PAIN; it had been almost three hours since my last pain medication dose. The more I resisted the more she insisted. She even went down the hall to get a blood pressure cuff to check my blood pressure herself. It was about 70/60, which is low but not low enough to prohibit getting out of bed. I gamely tried. I really did, but in the end it was a no go. I simply could not do it. The mind was willing but the body was weak. They came back and tried again later, but it just wasn't going to happen. I know my cut off point. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, but that was just too much for me to endure.
  • That night I became so frantic with pain that I just didn't feel it was worth it, I should have just lived with a bad hip. Completely broken. That is what I felt. I got out my bible and began to read scripture and pray. I couldn't tell you now what scriptures I read or what I said in my prayers. It doesn't really matter. I felt the proximity of my God. He had begun a great work in me and he would no be abandoning me here and now. By degrees I began to feel better as the night progressed. When the Doctor made his rounds at 6:00 am, I was feeling almost sufficiently hardy enough to sustain life. I attended two, yes TWO physical therapy sessions that day and blew PT Nurse Ratchet's theory that I was a whiny baby prima donna clear out of the water. She couldn't help but comment on my marked improvement. I graciously stated that I did indeed know my limits and when I say I can't do it, I mean I physically cannot do it. I really was looking forward to getting a good night of sleep, but alas it didn't happen. Broken, hit or miss sleep was the best I could hope to achieve.
  • Friday was D-day, or rather, departure day. I almost didn't care that I had to go to Physical Therapy that morning to have them deem me fit to leave,or that it would take most of the day to get all of the necessary paperwork in order, as long as I did, indeed, get to leave. I beat my various and sundry offspring home by minutes instead of hours, but *deep sigh* I was home. They all had rather complicated social engagements planned for the evening, except for my 12 year old who stayed home to watch The Long, Long Trailer with me. I went to be quite early, but I would once again find real sleep allusive.
  • The next day was tolerably uneventful. I decided that night to take a sleeping pill before bedtime, hoping that it would forestall the tossing and turning. It worked rather well. I snoozed it up at one point for four solid hours!
  • The only things still bothering me on Sunday were my incredible, unquenchable thirst, my loss of appetite and the rancid taste the sleeping pills left in my mouth. I still had a considerable amount of pain, but was able to manage it with strict adherence to the pain medication schedule. I took a couple of naps and as bedtime approached I wondered if I would have trouble sleeping again. I decided to take Benadryl instead of the Lunesta in an attempt to keep the horrid aftertaste of Lunesta out of my mouth. This would turn out to be a really big error in judgment. The Benadryl made me fitful, only sleeping in maybe 20 minute intervals. Finally after about five hours of that I got up. If I was going to be awake, I might as well be doing something. I went into the living room, caught up on some e-mails and watched some recorded shows on the DVR.
  • That brings us to today, the set back day. Since I got very little sleep and the sleep that I did get was so broken and restless, it hardly qualified as sleep, the only purpose it served was to make me sore cranky and on edge. I started to feel useless, inept and generally just a waste of good space. I literally cried for three hours. I couldn't stop. What if I got all the way through this recovery process only to find out that I wasn't any good at any of the things I had only dreamed of doing while in pain for the past 14 years? What if all I was ever good for was to be a warm body to fill a chair position on a PTA board? Everyone knows these people have no real skills, anyway - they are only there because they said yes when asked, right? I was (and still am) scared to death to find out if I have something real and substantial to offer the world. When all of the illness and pain and frustration are stripped away, what would I do if I found no brilliant sparkle at the core? I still have not satisfactorily answered these questions in my mind. I really don't know who I am or what I am capable of doing in the absence of affliction; it has been too long to remember that person. I guess I will just have to start getting to know myself all over again. Just when I was getting used to this one, too.
If you are reading this and find a misspellings, errors in grammar or improper use of syntax, keep in mind that I am still taking heavy pain medication. Also, anything I said here cannot be used against me at a later date. It would be bad form to do so. =P

Monday, November 3, 2008

Totally Overwhelmed

I usually go into the school ever day to check my PTA mailbox and make sure there are no fires to be put out, but last Thursday, I didn't go in, as both my little kids were in after school tutoring. I decided just to drive up and quickly pick them up and then head to the middle school to pick up the other two. The Librarian brought my little one to the car and handed me a gift bag. I was a little confused, but she said, it's from the staff. I expected to open it up and find a little token of their appreciation. I get one once or twice a year -- a candle, a book, that kind of thing.

As I was waiting for the older ones to finish their after school socializing, which can take a while, I decided to open my little prize. I was completely bowled over by the contents of the bag. It was a handful of cards.

The first one I opened was from the Librarian herself, it was a Barnes & Noble gift card, oh how sweet I thought to myself, I had been wanting to go and get some books and magazines, but I didn't think I could really spare the cash right now hhmm...maybe I can buy a book and a magazine. Then I looked at the amount -- $100! I have never been able to spend that much for books just for me! Yippee! The next one was a card signed with well wishes from all the staff members. I was choked up reading all the nice notes. They are a sweet, wonderful group of ladies (and one man, lol). There was another card from the teachers in fourth and fifth grades where my kids are students. By this time I am sitting in my car with a big lump in my throat. It is not often that I get that much adulation in one day. I gotta say it felt delightful.

I then moved on to the next plain white business sized envelop; to my amazement inside was $50 gift card to a local Mexican restaurant. The following one was yet another gift card, $50 from Boston Market. The one I open after that was a handful of $5 gift certificates from a local burger place, I was bowled over as I counted them out there were 11 of them -- $55! The final envelop had a note on the front that said it was for those nights when Dad needed to get some fast food, I was astounded as I counted out $120.

I was just floored at this. I wasn't expecting it and to tell you the truth I felt a little guilty accepting it. I am not sure why, but that was my first reaction -- that I didn't deserve such generosity. I am much more comfortable giving to and serving others than having the same bestowed upon me. I am still in awe, but I am almost past the guilt and falling headlong into gratitude and honor. I will take a big stab at accepting the gifts in the spirit in which they were given. I know a lot of thought and effort when into it. I still can't believe it though. It is going to make things so much easier for my surgery on the 4th.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Choose To Be a Blessing

Being a blessing to those around us is a choice. Part of being a blessing to those around us is to be a constructive, positive influence. Looking at the bright, positive side is also a choice. At times it can be a hard choice, but I have never met someone who said "Boy, I regret looking for the good in that situation."

In John 1:16, it says "From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another." As Christians if we believe that all good things come from above and that we do receive one blessing after the other because of the grace of our God - we must pass it on. We can't just hand out our blessings and be positive with those who agree with us, we are called to repay evil and insults with blessings (1 Peter 3:9).

Whenever it is within my power I will choose to live in peace and positivity. What blessing is it to my fellow humans to tear another down to build myself up? I have never understood the need to base self affirmation on destroying the character of another. It accomplishes nothing but strife. Each day has enough friction of its own without adding my own to the mix.

These days it is difficult to keep an affirmative outlook. There are a lot of dark clouds in the form of negative people out there. In my view these are people who have lost their way and are in need of my support, not my condemnation. In this case I choose to be a blessing. My support does not include patting them on the back and telling them that what they did or said is okay. Giving my support, to my way of thinking, means guiding them; leading them to an understanding that choosing positivity is always a good option.

Being a blessing in this life is a process. Not everyone is born with rose colored glasses on. Bad things happen in our lives and it can be an uphill battle to stay positive. We often feel reluctant to bless the life of someone else, because we feel that it will not be repaid in kind. It feels like -- why should we be the ones to bless someone else? That doesn't matter. Blessing someone else is not an act of reciprocity; it is a gift, freely given.

It is my prayer that it will be said of me that I was a blessing in the lives of those around me; evidenced by the fruit I leave behind. What a testimony that would be of my relationship with my God and the power of the fullness of his grace.

John Waller's The Blessing

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tweaking the Toothpaste

A while back I posted a toothpaste recipe. I was happy with the way it cleaned my teeth, but I found that it was separating in the container and needed to be shaken or stirred every time I brushed my teeth. I don't want an extra step every morning to my routine, so I did some research and tweaked my recipe a bit. I also made a bigger batch, so that I don't have to get out all my supplies so often. I like a really refreshing toothpaste with very little sweetness to it. If you prefer a sweeter toothpaste, you could add a bit of Xylitol to your recipe and/or leave out the menthol crystals if it has too much zing for your taste. Here is my new and improved recipe.

4 tbsp vegetable glycerin
1/4 tsp menthol crystals
1 cup baking soda
1200 mg soy lecithin
10 drops peppermint essential oil
1 tsp - 1 tbsp water as needed

In a glass bowl measure out vegetable glycerin. Add in the menthol crystals and microwave for 20 seconds. Stir to dissolve. To a small mixing bowl add baking soda, the glycerin mixture, peppermint oil and soy lecithin. Beat with a mixer on low speed until combined, adding extra water as needed to obtain the desired consistency. Once combined beat the whole mixture on high speed for 1-2 minutes to make sure everything is combined properly.

Storing the mixture in a glass container with a tight fitting lid is optimal, since it tends to dry out quickly. Use a pea sized amount to brush your teeth. I guarantee your teeth will never feel smoother with any commercial toothpaste.

Fear is Never a Go(o)d Thing.

"The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself!"
~Franklin D. Roosevelt during his first inaugural address in 1933.

Does anyone else see the irony of that phrase being used in the inaugural address during the depression? These economic times that we are now experiencing have been reported as 'the worst since the Great Depression".

FDR had the right idea. He knew that people do strange things when they are afraid. People were in a state of pandemonium because they feared for their future. Those who were unemployed feared not being able to pay the rent and feed their families. The employed were afraid of losing their job tomorrow and thus being in dire straights.

The problem with fear is that it often does nothing positive to motivate. People may start hording things, becoming miserly and selfish. Some become envious of the fellow down the street who has more than he does. These are fearful responses that do little for long term security.

My grandmother, who bore nine children from 1929 - 1948 lived in fear her whole life. When she died in 1986 at age 75 she still lived in the same ramshackle home she had lived in since the 1950's. Her children had urged her to move for many years, but she was afraid to spend any money. She had money stashed in every nook and cranny of her home. Thousands of dollars that could have made her life a tad easier in her later years, but fear kept her from enjoying much of her life. This is no way to live.

Neither should we spend like there is no tomorrow, fearing that we will never have another couple of dimes to rub together. Likewise, this will not produce a positive, enjoyable outcome in our golden years. We have to take positive steps to plan for the future without fear.

The opposite of fear is courage. We have to have the bravery to face the future with resolve. We need to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

As a nation we pulled through the Great Depression. With vision and hindsight, used wisely and without fear, we should rise above this economic crisis too.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Best Ever Make It Yourself Laundry Soap

I am a huge proponent of making my own cleaning and laundry products. The problem I was having with my homemade laundry soaps, both the powdered and the liquid versions that I have tried is that they make my clothes dull, especially the whites which come out a icky shade of gray.

The reason for the dullness is the soap that is added to the mix. Pure soaps leave a residue on your clothes and is what is responsible for the ring in your bathtub (ie, soap scum). Who wants soap scum on their clothes? Not me. The problem is that most detergents are made with petroleum based produts, which I want to stay way from. Virtually all are also made with sodium lauryl (or laureth) sulfate (SLS), which doesn't leave the scum behind, but can be very harsh to the skin. So I needed to find an alternative -- Dr Bronner's Sal-Suds. Although it does have SLS in it, they use a special process to make it mild and they also use an all vegatable, organic base.

I love the results of my new laundry detergent. It cleans well with no residue and it does not irritate our skin. It is also very cost effective. I paid $7.33 for a 32 oz bottle of the Sal-Suds. I use 1 cup per recipe so I can get 4 recipes out of 1 bottle. That works out to $1.83 per 2 gallons of detergent. Add that together with the borax (.18), the washing soda (.21) and the baking soda (.08) we are talking about $2.30 for 256 oz of detergent. I use about 1 1/2 oz per load which works out to 1.3 cents per load.

This is my recipe. It makes 2 gallons of thin liquid detergent I use 2-3 tablespoons per load. I have a front loader washing machine, but I am sure it will work in traditional machines too. It is low sudsing.

1 Cup Dr Bronner's Sal-Suds

1/2 Cup washing soda

1/2 Cup baking soda

1/2 Cup borax

On top of the stove in a large dutch oven, heat 6 cups water and Sal-Suds on med heat until it heats up but not to boiling. Add in the washing soda, baking soda and borax and heat until disolved. Take it off the heat and add essential oils and equal amounts of Polysorbate 20 if desired. Into a 3-4 gallon bucket pour 4 cups of hot water. Add to that your heated water Sal-Suds, sodas and borax mixture. Next add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of cool water and stir. Transfer into 2 clean 1 gallon containers and let sit for at least 24 hours before using.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Healthcare Crisis

I am getting ready to have hip replacement surgery in two weeks. I went to my family doctor yesterday for my preoperative appointment. I was deemed in acceptable physical health to undergo surgery. My emotional health is a little more precarious. The prospect of this operation is making me moody and anxious. The doctor gave me some Xanax for temporary relief from anxiety and upped my dose of Effexor, which I have been on for about a year for my dysthimia (long term low level depression).

I went to the pharmacy to pick up the prescriptions and was in sticker shock. It was $87 for all three. I usually only pay a $4 or $10 co-pay depending on the drug. For some reason the Effexor was $70; better than the $400 it was originally, but not something I was planning on paying.

In further preparation, I made an appointment for my husband to give blood for me in case I need it post-op (which I did last time). I found out that they now charge fees up to $300 for designated blood donations. I was not planning on that charge either. Now we have to weigh taking my chances on needing blood from the general population blood bank or paying extra to get his blood.

We have already paid the surgeon the $500 he asked for, before he will even operate on me. This was also a new consideration. When I had this same procedure five years ago I was not asked to pay in advance. I guess a lot of people are skipping out on doctor bills, so he has to collect up front. We are lucky - we have that money in our savings account. I feel bad for those who don't.

When this surgery is all said and done we will have spent about $4000 out of pocket on a $30,000 procedure. Some of that money we have 'laying around' and some of it we will have to pay in installments to the hospital. I am grateful for good insurance, but I can't help but feel downcast for those who don't have it. What if someone had to live with the pain of AVN simply because she was uninsured.

Our healthcare system in this country needs a total revamp. Call me a socialist all you want, but I would be the first one in line in favor of Universal Healthcare. I have heard people espouse "I've got great health insurance, (because I work hard, because my company offers it, etc) why should I have to pay for health care for someone else?” I just don't understand this mentality. Yes there are lazy people in the world. Yes there are people who would take advantage of the situation. These people already exist. Creating Universal Healthcare is not going to make much difference in the monies that we are already spending to take care of people who don't need it. I believe it could make a difference in the lives of those who do without it.
We can't make the country deadbeat free; that is impossible. To take away healthcare for those who truly need it just because we are afraid to give benefits to someone who may take advantage of the system is just foolhardy. We are already paying for the freeloaders anyway. They are the people who go to the ER; receive medical attention and then bolt, never paying their bill. These costs have to be absorbed somewhere.

Our poorest population is at this time covered by Government sponsored healthcare. I worry about the average working family who struggles to make ends meet and may at different points have to choose between taking a sick child to the doctor and going to the grocery store. My heart aches for our elderly Americans. They worked diligently all of their lives, only now to have illnesses that go untreated because they simple can’t afford to go to the doctor, or can’t afford the medications that would treat their conditions. Yes there are some programs for these people, but it’s not enough.

We can’t go through life only thinking about ourselves and being selfish with the ‘Why should I have to pay for someone else’ attitude. It is just wrong at a base level. We should all be cognizant of the world beyond our own front door. As a Christian I have to pray and search the scriptures for what God would have me do. He is my guide and my conscience.

When I go to the polls this election year, I will think long and hard about this issue, as well as others. I will indeed vote my conscience.

Matthew 25:31-46 (New International Version)
The Sheep and the Goats
31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Drop Dead Deal Breakers

We all have issues from the past that shape the way that we deal with life and relationship now. The way that we were raised has such an impact on everything that we do in our lives – how we react to things and who we allow to surround us. We create boundaries based on things that make us uncomfortable from our past. Sometimes these boundaries are conscious and sometimes we draw lines in the sand without even knowing what we are doing.

One of the things that I cannot allow in my life is secrets. I grew up with secrets in my home. For the most part my parents were competent parents; we weren’t abused or neglected in any way. I always felt like there was something going on that I couldn’t put my finger on, though. I was a very perceptive and investigative child and I wasn’t content until I figured out what it was.

I asked questions, but was always put off. This further aggravated the niggling feeling of uncertainty that plagued me for most of my life. It wasn’t until I was grown that my parents finally came clean and told me what the big ‘secret’ was. I remember thinking that the secret itself was really not that big of a deal. If I had grown up knowing it, it would have been incidental to my daily life. It was the secrecy that bothered me more than anything else.

This is why secrecy is a drop dead deal breaker in my relationships. I do not enjoy a secret when I am out of the loop. It makes me very uncomfortable. That is not to say that my friends and family must tell me everything move they make, but as far as it pertains to me – I need to know about it.

The worst excuse for leaving me out of the circle of information is that someone didn’t want to hurt me. Maybe it bothers me so much because my mom is often known to use this excuse. “I didn’t want to tell you because I was afraid you would be upset.” Um…so you think keeping a secret isn’t going to hurt me? Think again. It does. Deeply. I don’t blame her for my reaction, but it does explain it. Perhaps I allow it to hurt me more profoundly than it should. It is feasible that I need to work on that. *Sigh* One more thing I need to work on in my life.

So, like I said, everyone has them; those things that we just can’t cope with in our lives and relationships. The trick is to be aware of these things in the lives of other people as well as being able to set boundaries in our own lives. I don’t know which is harder to tell you the truth.

Getting along with others is so hard sometimes, but at the end of our lives all we really have are our connections. Our accomplishments and amassed fortunes don’t mean much if we have left everyone in the dust on our journey. There is give and take in relationships. We just need to know when to give and when to take; when to cut it off and when to overlook things. It is a delicate sojourn, but well worth the effort in the long run.

It takes an unwavering dedication to not only know and love ourselves, but also to love and know those around us as well. As Christians we are told to love our neighbor as ourselves. We have to first have a firm grasp on ourselves and why we react the way that we do; why we are who we are. This leads to acceptance, and ultimately, to love for ourselves. Once we do this, we are able to see clearly what loving someone else really means. Then we are free to let the love we fell for ourselves spill over and cover those around us.

Galatians 5:13-15
13You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 15If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

When We Hurt, It's Personal

When I have been hurt by someone or something, being told to get over it or that I shouldn't feel the way that I feel is not helpful. I honestly don't think I am alone in this feeling; most people don't want to have their feeling invalidated. It rubs a blister on our already raw nerves. Exactly when will I get over it? That is a good question. I'll get over it when I have worked through it on my own terms. We all have different ways of dealing with stress and hurt. What good does it do to tell someone else that they aren't doing it right?

I look at my life in terms of relationships. That is what it is all about, as far as I am concerned. It doesn't matter how much I do; how many things I accomplish. If I fail to connect with people on a personal level then I have fallen short of my life goal. So, to mend a broken fence is very important to me. I am not, however, willing to allow the fence to be rebuilt with shoddy materials just to get it back up. It is liable to fall down again quickly if care is not taken to make certain that every piece of timber is of quality and every nail is hammered in with caution. This will insure that we have a sturdy fence that will withstand then next high wind that blows through.

My deepest relationship is the one I have with my God. He has been there through all of the tempestuous times in my life. Nothing gives me more comfort than knowing that he has never relinquished our relationship no matter how hard I tried to shake him off. For this reason, during times of hurt, I turn to the one who has never hurt me for advice on what to do next.

So, as I guard my heart against the inevitable pain that goes along with being human and forming the relationships that are so important to me, I find solace in his words. I never know how long it is going to take for me to make sense of the chaos that has been created. I must first ask that the Lord search my heart and see if there is anything there that needs to be removed. I most assuredly am not infallible, so I need to be humble enough to admit fault if need be. Then I must push forward.

Psalm 139:23-24 (New International Version)

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Philippians 3:13b-14 (New International Version)

13:... Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-9 (New International Version)

6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Decision is Made

Those of you who know me well, will know that I have been contemplating hip replacement surgery for quite some time. This will be my second hip replacement. My right hip was replaced in 2003 and I am happy to say that it was successful.

Shortly after that surgery, however, my left hip began to deteriorate quickly due to the degenerative bone disease (avascular necrosis or AVN) that I have in my hip joints. I told myself after the last surgery that I would not wait too long for surgery next time. I felt putting off surgery had hindered my recovery because my muscles had weakened from disuse, caused by the pain of movement. While I don't feel I have waited too long, as I did last time, I do sense that I procrastinated longer than I should have.

Why did I wait so long? One word. Fear. The first surgery was tortuously painful. Way more frightful than I anticipated. I have lived with daily pain for many years. I have carried and given birth to four children (while in pain from the aforementioned AVN). I have received fillings without adequate amounts of Novocaine (that's a story for another time). I felt I was adequately prepared for a little post-op pain.

I wasn't expecting to wake up in the recovery room and truly understand the meaning of that 1-10 pain scale. If you think you have experienced a 10 while giving birth -- think again. This was worse. Much worse. It felt like this - the train not only ran over me, but sensing that he may have been mistaken, the conductor backed over me to make good and sure I was hit. It was abhorrent enough to give me a mental block against every going through it again.

Nevertheless, here I am, preparing to have the same operation once more. My doctor assures me that new pain blocking techniques have been established and it will be less distressing than my previous adventure. I certainly hope so.

I am also promised a shortened recovery period. After my surgery on November 4th (I'll vote early), I am ambitious enough to believe that after about six weeks of convalescence, I will be moving around easily. To be pain free after 14 years will be freedom, indeed.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Piglet's Got the Right Idea

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. "Pooh!" he whispered. "Yes, Piglet?" "Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. "I just wanted to be sure of you." ~A.A. Milne

It is genuinely nice to have a friend like Piglet has in Pooh - you can breath a sign of relief just knowing they are near. It is also gratifying to be that kind of friend for someone else.

Problems can come in sometimes, however, if those around us view our relationship with our friend as exclusive. We may start to be perceived as a clique. How do we develop deep and lasting ties with people without appearing aloof?

At times, we have to be open to new people joining our circle. It may be hard. Being vulnerable to an unknown person opens up a lot of anxiety within us. This is when we (as Christians) must rely on our relationship with the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. Our ability to be discerning is sometimes faulty. We tend to jump straight off the cliff into bad relationships while inadvertently snubbing a potential friend who has our best interest at heart. This is a time to be still and listen. It may seem enticing to be with a crowd that insinuates perfection and superiority; in the end we all know where this lands us.

The love and friendship that scripture demonstrates for us is the kind that binds us all together. We cannot be bound together separately. In groups where there is disunion, we should be doing everything within our power to unify. Polarization is not of God. It works against everything that Jesus stood for. We, as Christians, must work persistently to wipe out anything that separates us from the love of God that is in Christ. Since we all are part of the body of Christ, if we do not love each other, then we are separated from the love of God. Separation from God, for us, is a sin. So, to keep from sinning and being separate from our God, we must be inclusive of all.

This leads back to my first question - how can we develop deep bonds with a few while still maintaining inclusion for all? By our actions, of course. People can tell when we are genuinely welcoming to them. They know when they are wanted in the conversation. This is truly a situation where actions speak louder than words. Our actions will betray a closed heart, even if our mouths are professing openness. So, let your words be few and your conduct be guileless. Getting to know someone new takes time and effort on our parts.

Let us be influenced by the Holy Spirit in our social lives, as we are in our spiritual lives. It only makes sense that we would want to be led by God to form the bonds that he chooses for us. Not all friendship roots are going to run deep, but that doesn't mean that the impression that we leave on someone is not lasting. How much better is an admirable impression than a sub-standard one?

Hebrews 4:16

16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Colossians 3:12-14

12Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Good Versus Evil

Have you had those moments - days or weeks even, where you feel that those around you have let you down so profoundly that it hurts to breathe; but you know that breath - in and out, in and out, is really all you have?

I know the feeling of slogging through my days, not really living; just breathing to exist. Everything still gets accomplished. There really is no time for the luxury of a full-fledged break down. The zest however is not there. My heart is indeed not in it.

This week I have come to realize one thing for sure, (do I sound like Oprah, now?) and that is this - my feelings are as important as the feelings of everyone else. This may sound like a simple concept and maybe I am a late bloomer in coming to this realization, but the notion was totally foreign to me until recently. I am a product of a different generation. We were taught to always defer to others; otherwise you were being incredibly selfish. Couple this with the fact that I am a middle child whose main job growing up was keeping the peace and running interference and you can see that it didn't occur to me that my emotions might take precedent. To understand this insight is truly new to me.

Understanding the concept and putting it into practice are two different things, however. Those around me are used to my concessions to their feelings and not rocking the boat. When I suddenly stand up and say. "You know what, that's not okay." There are bound to be reverberations that are uncomfortably felt. Those close to me are wondering what the heck has gotten in to me and I am wondering if this new assertive behavior is worth the aftermath.

Such has been the case this past week - several times. I didn't hold back my sentiments when push came to shove. I didn't leave me with victorious feelings, though; it actually made me feel more desolate than before. Maybe there is a learning curve?

Throughout the week I had to learn to lean more heavily on my relationship with my Lord. I appreciate the fact that the comfort that I receive from him is perfect. In those hours when it hurt to breath, but I knew I must - He was there. He was there to pull me out of the trap that the enemy had set for me. It feels wonderful to have eluded the schemes of the one who yearns to bankrupt my self esteem.

I cannot believe that there is God without also knowing that there is Satan. Satan really does not want for me to make these advancements in my life and improve my feelings of self worth; then I can no longer live in fear. Fear is the number one area in which Satan gains leverage in my life. In everyone's life, in my opinion. So, the breakthrough begins with resisting the urge to say "Never mind, it's too painful - I'll just keep things the way they are" and pushing through to the other side of that misery where God is.

Then you can breathe - not just to exist, but to thrive and smell the sweet fragrance of victory. The triumph of good over evil; there is nothing more lovely.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (New International Version)

The God of All Comfort

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

Psalm 119:75-77 (New International Version)

75 I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me. 76 May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. 77 Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight.

"What can we do but keep on breathing in and out, modest and willing, and in our places?" ~Mary Oliver

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sweet Charity

I have been hearing from a lot of Christians lately that surely this world must be coming to an end because of all of the depravity that they see around them. First of all scripture tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5 (as well as elsewhere) that the exact time of the second coming of the Lord is not known. So, why the speculation? I think it is because some believe that certainly God would want to get us (Christians) out of such a calamitous environment. It has just become too overwhelming to deal with. Secondly, the vileness that is going on in the world is nothing new Ecclesiastes 3 shows us that. It only seems that way to us because, again, it is too staggering to deal with. No, I don't think Jesus is coming anytime soon; especially while his people are being so disobedient.

The calamity is not in the evil of those around us, it is in our own villainy. We have become egotistical as Christians and we feel we are entitled to everything we have. Not only that - if someone else doesn't have as much as we do, then that is there own plight. We have the Marie Antoinette 'let them eat cake' mentality. I have a feeling God is appalled by that.

There was a good reason that Jesus came to earth not as a wealthy or even a middle class citizen, but as a poor man. He was a carpenter by trade. He worked with his hands. There is a good chance that he went periods of time without work because there was no need for a carpenter at that time or the project that he was working on was finished. He would probably have to wait for a while or travel to another town to find work. Do we think he was lazy? Not making good choices in his line of work? Maybe he should have used his talents in a different way. Then he may not have had to rely on the kindness of strangers or charity to fill in the gaps in his employment. I think not. Assuredly we would not fault Jesus for working in a low paying, physical labor job; so why do we find fault with those around us who make the same choice?

If you take a good look at scripture it clearly tells us that we are to take care of the poor among us. It shouldn't take governmental mandates in order for us to be generous. We should give freely knowing that the laws of reciprocity will surely be in our favor down the road. We never know what life situation we may find ourselves in some day. I know I don't want to be in a position to help someone right now and refuse, only to find myself on the receiving end of the charity next year and have someone deny me help.

Of course we shouldn't assist others out of fear or guilt. We should do it because correct thing to do - because Jesus told us to.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11 - 7 If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. 89 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: "The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near," so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs.

Proverbs 21:13 - 13 If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor,
he too will cry out and not be answered.

Matthew 19:21 - 21Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

2 Corinthians 8:7-10 - 7But just as you excel in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us-see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 8I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 10And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so.

A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back to School Update

The kids had a great first day of school. My seventh grader was a little bummed because he has third lunch, which is when mostly eight graders eat, but other than that I really heard nothing but positive things. I took a few pictures of them as we were leaving. I can't believe how much they have grown. Cliche, I know, but it is so true. Parenting makes time a paradoxical situation in which every moment is an eternity and it is over before you know it. I am trying to enjoy every moment and stage of their development as much as I can, since I realize that in the blink of an eye it will come to an end. *sniff, sniff*

Know it All

From a worldly point of view there is no mistake so great as that of being always right. ~Samuel Butler, Note-Books, 1912

Proverbs 3:5-6

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Don't you just love those people who always seem to know it all? You know the type I am talking about -- the ones who, during a conversation, often interject the word actually. "Well, actually, the chicken had to come before the egg because..." "Well, actually, I am a pompous ass." Okay they don't actually say that last one, but they might as well.

We all encounter these people in our lives. It makes me wonder -- what drives someone to be a know it all? Why do they feel the need to be right all the time. I think that the answer is fear. So many roadblocks in our lives can be attributed to that (not so) little word -- fear. I think frequently, folks feel afraid that if others see them as they really are, they will not be liked, so theyexalt themselves to expert in all subjects.

The problem is that one can never relax in this constant state of readiness. She ahs to always be ready with the correct information in which to stump her fellow confabulator. It has to be tiring, always trying to win an argument when the person she is talking to never even realizes that the pleasant chat they were having was actually a debate. She walks away with a victory in her pocket -- the fact that she actually knew the facts to a tee. However, her friend is shaking her head and wondering why she even bothers to have a conversation with her; it always feels like she is trying to one up her. It starts to wear on the friendship.

It is indeed impossible to always be right about everything. Furthermore, we weren't put on the earth to know all of the answers all of the time. As a Christian, I believe that God made us with an inquiring mind that seeks to know the answers to all of life's queries. It's true that we have a tremendous capacity for knowledge, but we will never know it all.

It is my belief that only God knows all the answers. That is why scripture cautions us not to lean on our own understanding, but to acknowledge God in all ways. It is only then that who we are to be can come to fruition. If we hold so tightly to our own intelligence that we are living in fear of being wrong, then we are surely not living our best life.

God longs for us to live victorious lives. He wants the best for us, just as we want the best for our children. We must learn to let go of our own pride and relinquish our hold on our own perception of perfect understanding and concede that God alone knows it all. It is a lot less taxing and infinitely more joyful.