Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Time to Rejoice

A Time to Rejoice … yes, that’s a given … but there also comes the season of mourning.

Does your heart ever get confused as to what it’s supposed to feel? Like, are you ever in the middle of a joyous moment and out the clear blue an instant of pure, intense sadness cuts through you like a knife taking your breath away?

This is where I am – outwardly content and well-adjusted and then striking me in sporadic moments I am entertaining grief at the passing of my sister a year ago. I miss her in ways I never knew I would. I feel depths of thankfulness for her life and the absolute humbleness at having been a privileged part of hers.

I am not typically a sad or moody person. I don’t dwell in the land of the morose for any length of time but I have my moments – it’s usually a side-trip on my way to somewhere else. And every so often, when I find myself unexpectedly here, I revel in it. I let the sadness wash over me and through me and let it burrow down to my very depths – for just a moment.

There are times when I know I am coming upon this sadness and rather than let it be unwelcomed or take me unawares I plan for the time when I can weep unashamedly – just me and the Lord participating in a time of deep grief. In the shower, driving by myself on a country road, at the graveside, or in the woods near our home. I give myself, say fifteen minutes, and when the tide of this heartache subsides, I stand tall, shoulders back, head up and carry on.

Smiling at the wonder and mystery of life,  I reflect on all it offers and I am glad, so very, very glad I am me – a daughter of the Almighty King and I acknowledge the sweet meaning of ‘A Time to Rejoice’. 

Earlier I posted a note with pictures at Reflections from Robin – a little more in tribute to our special Joni.
Also, at Your Ninth Hour there are excellent resources in dealing with grief. You truly do not have to ‘go it alone’. Let others be a part of your walk through the land of grief. Before you know it burdens become blessings and life is good again.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Destinations in Life …
Planned and unplanned destinations are a part of everyday life.
Tuesday we left home with a destination in mind – Black Mountain – to get together with Marc and Terri about Honduras. This meeting was to talk about our dream of being a part of the work in Santa Ana and a time to vent about our disappointment of not being there yet. We talked, laughed, prayed, rejoiced, anguished and anticipated over so many situations. It was wonderful. It was just the time we needed for our own hearts to be reaffirmed.
We enjoyed great fellowship of kindred hearts and just had fun on Wednesday, tooling around the mountains and loving the beautiful vistas of this area of NC. Range after range of the Blue Ridge – really awesome. Mid-afternoon saw Terri and Marc heading on to another church to share the ministry of Honduras. It saw us hanging out for another night – to have some good quality time. It was good – we love relaxing together with no distractions except of our making. Then Thursday took the form of unplanned destinations – we decided on taking the Parkway home and stopped at numerous ‘look-outs’, Little Switzerland, and Linville Falls. It ended up being a time that restored our spirits, we re-connected with each other and God and it solidified our determination to focus on our move … and to just keep the faith.
As usual, during these three days I learned some lessons. I learned that God is still teaching me about patience and His timing. I remembered that His way is more mighty than mine. I learned a beautiful lesson of how obstacles can become stepping stones; that the rough way has already been gone through many times by others who took time to make it easier for me. I learned that an uphill climb can be exhausting and exhilarating in the effort but it makes the destination all the more worth it. It registered in my heart to stop trying to figure out the why (or why not) and appreciate the way … thereby seeing beauty in every situation.
So, yes, we are anticipating a move to join the work in Honduras. We came by the decision with great difficulty and realize although it isn’t developing as smoothly as our past mission efforts have, it is still a vital desire of ours. I am glad the Lord led us to Linville Falls – we saw His mighty hand demonstrated through this amazing feat of nature.
And also, I am so thankful for life’s everyday abundance — the ability of Planning our Destinations but also, for the random spontaneity of Unplanned Destinations put together using His agenda!
Here’s a little of the beauty we enjoyed and where I learned some lessons.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Harvests of Life

Okay, so, I said life is full of harvests?
Yep, like emotional harvests – family life is full of this one. You put so much energy and feelings into your relationships with your spouse or your children and consequently you reap emotional harvest throughout life. This is the best! I love family! I love all aspects of preparation, watering, enrichment, and I love the harvest of laughter, support, reciprocated love, and shared joy.
Of course, more emotional harvests include the romantic part of you – your celebration time with your spouse or significant other. Now, that’s a great harvest time! And then, there’s the harvest of cultivating wonderful friendships – it’s so neat having old friends that you share memories with and even though years may go by where you don’t see a special friend, when you do re-connect, it’s like only yesterday you were with them. New friends are vital, too, and keep life fresh. Also, in relationships with our ’spiritual’ family there’s a rich harvest when those of like hearts participate in unique times of jubilation and too, in times of comfort and support when crisis comes.
Which kind of leads me to spiritual harvests – this is one of the most fulfilling of all life’s harvests. I mean if a person is not alive and enjoying the harvest of sacred richness then most of the rest of life will be pretty mundane. How wonderful to have a relationship with the Creator of all the universe that consequently enables one to indulge in total pleasure of nature, people, thought, and just – life.
Then too, there’s delicious intellectual harvests – reading, studying, and working hard to learn something. This gleaning of wonderful knowledge continues throughout life as well – if we avidly participate in keeping mentally active. Graduations are some of the most fantastic celebrations in life – and we all can participate as we journey through our own ‘academia’ in life’s journey.
There’s physical harvests – exercising, eating right, taking care of this body and then being able to enjoy good health and special activities like hiking or swimming. I am such a avid believer in good thoughts helping to produce good health — therefore I arise every morning and am eternally grateful for every breath and physical ability I have. A physically balanced life leads to ultimately a harvest of being able “to do”.
Of course, there are the financial harvests that we should be able to enjoy along life’s path. I truly believe all of us in the good ol’ USA take for granted this harvest. Every single material part of our life is the harvest of being financially fit. If you have a roof over your head and regular food for your belly then you are rich indeed and the rest of what you have is just fluff. We spend so much time on this harvest – working sometimes 24/7 for more and more rather than stopping to enjoy each day and truly savor all the rich bounty we work so hard for.
All of us are guilty – at one time or another – of abusing one or two or all of these areas of life and then the harvest suffers. We’re not a rich as we could be or able to enjoy all we might have if only we’d done things differently. We wish we had more interaction with the kids, or we would love a date night with our special someone. We long for someone to talk with, to laugh with. We wish we felt closer to God, had a relationship with people at ‘church’. We’re sorry we didn’t get that degree or learn that trade. We hate that we’re overweight. We can’t stand that we get so breathless after a walk up that hill. We’re sick of working that job and we regret not taking time to … just sit and relax in our home.
Well, you know, it’s all about choices. Maybe we haven’t done so good in the past but hey, we can look to a brighter, more productive future! We don’t have to live in a state of famine in any area of our life – not when we know we can do better. Make up your mind … that you will not live in a barren land. It can still happen – we can transform our lives by beginning anew, making a clean start. Decide today that you’ll get a little sweaty, put forth enough effort that you feel the strain of working hard. Then, plant a few worthwhile seeds. It may take a little fertilizer here, and look, you might should till the soil there, remove a few rocks, water a little, spread some sunshine, pull some weeds, do a little pruning and then when you’ve done all your part – really have done it well – then sit back and anticipate the harvest!
This is what makes up abundance in life – prepare as you go along, and live with anticipation of goodness … what a celebration it could be – the wonder and joy of Harvest Time!
There are resources on home and family, spiritual growth and finances in Your Ninth Hour – it’s just the place to find what you need for your New Beginning!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Seasonal Harvest

I love the autumn – it is my absolute favorite season of the year. I love the colors, the crispness in the air, the cool mornings, the geese that settle onto the pond, and of course all the fall gathering of fruits and vegetables from the garden!

Before a harvest there is the time of preparedness – which involves so many aspects – for instance, the mental decisions that are gone into … like, careful consideration of what fruits you want ultimately to bear. There’s also preparation of the earth and you have to have a knowledge of what a plant needs as to whether or not you add nutrients to the soil, or maybe even a handful of sand to ensure proper drainage. Of course, there’s the inevitable clearing of the land – sometimes this is just a minor job if the area has been used in the past but there are those times when it’s a brand-spanking-new project and radical clearing and fertilizing must take place. Careful thought is given to the location of plants as well – which ones should go side by side, and also if its planted in full sun, partial sun or shady.

Our family garden began in the early spring. We planted vegetables that were suited for cool mornings, and the shorter days. Careful thought went into each stage and because we planted early and have re-planted a time or two since then, we have been reaping a steady harvest which began in late June. It’s been quite yummy. All of us have pitched in when the picking, canning and freezing had to be done. And we’ve all eaten wonderful produce throughout the summer. We’re still into this gardening, though, because now, it’s the fall greens, okra, squash … but, as all times of harvest progress, it will be over all too soon.

Gardening is one of the joys of life – flower gardens, herb gardens, fruit and vegetable – it’s a creative growing time. We learn so many of life’s lessons from cultivating things. We get to participate with the Supreme Creator when we decide to plant and reap the benefits of a garden.

Life is full of its harvests. When the long awaited harvest time comes, it’s a time of celebration, enjoyment, of gratefulness. So many things happen to enable there to be a harvest. Long before the bountiful yield there are those necessary steps that must be gone through and there’s a couple of ‘inevitables’ that are a given and I guess the biggest is: work. This work will bring on muscle strain, exhaustion, and sure enough, you’ll probably get dirty and sweaty more than once.

Whether it is a physical garden of fruits and vegetables or life as we live it, harvest is a wonderful season of life.

Never had a family garden? There’s no time like now – a good fall garden can be a wonderful thing … greens, some squash, pumpkins … just do some investigating and see what you can do for now, or if not now, just plan and prepare for springtime. At Your Ninth Hour there are some good resources on gardening.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Called to Care

When you are called to care you can do it any number of ways. You can do it with the attitude of the the inevitable, you can do it under the compulsion of love, or you can do it with the look-at-me mindset of the minimalist.
Some of us choose to have a ready heart and look to be called. Others never knew they had a heart that could answer a call until they were surprised and overwhelmed by a situation. Still others hear a call but choose to ignore it, leaving it to other more capable hands. Sometimes the call is by design because of who you are and the family you were born into. You will respond to that call as if you were born to the task – because you were.
Such was my case in the call of caring for my own loved ones.
Probably, most likely, with rare exception, you will have to answer a similar call. You will be called on to care for family – in sickness, in tragedy, in death, in life … and you will be one of the ones who will make a difference. You’ll be a decision maker, an advocate, a supporter, an encourager. You will find inner strength and hidden talents. You will discover a ‘you’ that you never knew could stand up to this kind of pressure, deal with circumstances that are mind-boggling on a normal day – and you will find that normal days were a figment of someone’s imagination. You will know exhaustion in its purest form and at times it will be a daily companion. You will find strength from unexpected sources and support will be all around … if you’re not too proud to ask and accept.
I mentioned already that as a ‘budding baby boomer’ I came to the conclusion that I would be eventually be involved in the care of my parents and my Downs Syndrome sister. It was at least 10 years prior to any active necessary involvement that our healthy, of sound mind parents called a family pow-wow to discuss their future. This was a meeting with the two of us sisters and our spouses – so, it was six of us sitting down to decide momentous options of the final years of the lives of these three individuals. It wasn’t an emotional time of pain, regret or remorse – it was an emotional time of compassion, strength, and focus. Our parents came prepared. They had living wills, they had predetermined power-of-attorney, custody of Jonell, they had the funeral arrangements and insurance set up.
Although no one wants to discuss his or her death or the months leading up to that final chapter of life, because it is inevitable, it is probably wise to prepare not only yourself but those who will be involved in all of that. With this discussion comes peace and a sense of well-being – also, a sense of control in like being able to direct the moves of this last Final Act of the Story of Your Life.
Granted, none of us ever knows the ultimate unfolding of those last months and days. It could be scary and daunting anticipating the future or you can trust that you did your best to prepare. Still intimidating, maybe, but it does help to know that when you are to a point of not being able to ‘call the shots’, someone you love, who loves you, is in your corner, looking out for your best interest.
The story for our Dad, then our Mom and finally our precious Jonell were unique and independent of each other – with Dad we knew so little about all that was going on but we asked questions and stayed on top of all he was experiencing. We learned a lot about advanced stages of Parkinson’s Disease and Scleroderma. We learned how to be comfortable with home therapists and eventually, palliative care. With Mom we learned much about Alzheimer’s and Dementia and broken hips and hip replacement, rehab hospitals and hospice care. With Jonell we kept learning – now about diminishing skills – motor, social and communication. We knew when to call in hospice for help. We learned about oxygen in the home and the turnover of and adjustment to home health care.
In each story we learned how to call upon on our individual strengths and talents. I am so different from my older sister. She is capable of many things I am weak in. I am strong in other areas and so we found our roles and adapted to them. In love, we cooperated and got through these years in a marvelous way … growing in love for our own special family and being honored to be doing just what we were called on to do.
You just do what you gotta do – with love and joy and peace and well-being and pride. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. You ultimately believe you were born for just a time as this. You realize that the end of one story begins another and for this next unfolding you are better prepared, more equipped to handle life. You realize you can never be adequate, never be totally prepared but you know with confidence, that you can give it all you’ve got and you will be fine. Your best will get the job done.
Life, you gotta love it.
As mentioned before, there are lots of ‘calls’ in life. No doubt we are called on every single day to make a difference in some way or another. Our family should be number one. Listen to their needs and act like family. Be there when the times come that you are needed. But in addition to our physical family, there are those whose family can’t help and they are calling – even when no one hears. There are times in life when you come across someone who has no voice – or at least, their voice can’t be heard above the racket of materialism and greed. Can you hear them?
There are a few folks who don’t turn a deaf ear. They choose to have hearts of compassion. If I could, I would sing rhapsody of praise and recognition to these folks that choose to make a difference. Here’s kudos to a few people I love who chose to listen to and answer a call they heard – Michael and Jennifer, Marc and Terri, Karen and Dorian, Jennifer, Mark and Lori. Actually, I am so blessed – I know so many others … and my heart is richer because of it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Caring for Parents or “Elder Care”

Caring for Parents is something every one of us will eventually do. There are times where ‘broken’ relationships exist – like, when the nest ‘emptied’ out meant that all feelings of co-responsibility, and interactions ceased as well. However, by in large, that is not the case. Almost every adult – “baby boomer”  – will sooner or later take part in making decisions for their Father and/or Mother.

Elder Care is not in any way shape or form something to dread, be apprehensive about or resist. With the right knowledge, communication and support system this time of a person’s life will without a doubt be one of the most rewarding experiences ever! Know that you will participate in every emotion imaginable during this time – expect tears, laughter, anger, and even exasperation, but woven all through should be LOVE!

The best scenario by far is when there is open communication and acceptance on the part of everyone. Know what your responsibilities will be, delegate who will take care of what, and plan for this inevitable passage through life.

Some absolutes –

  1. Make absolutely sure “power of attorney” is decided early on – so, that in the event of stroke or sudden illness or accident, you can be assured of your voice being heard.
  2. If a DNR (do not resuscitate) is desired, then legality of that form needs to be taken care of and then the form is to be displayed in the home or hospital room.
  3. There should absolutely be a Living Will gone over by everyone involved.

Dignity should be a priority – even when you don’t see any signs of cognizance on the part of your parent – because if dignity is not maintained then guilt will be your conclusion to this story. You are the advocate here – you are their voice, so, let them be heard. Make sure their wishes are kept, that they are treated with the utmost respect If that means moving them from one facility to another or changing their physicians completely then take care of it.

Rejoice that you have parents to care for during this inescapable time of life. Remember to experience the joys of memories, stories, and bring to mind often the times of laughter and happy moments lived through together. When the time comes where they no longer recall those memories or maybe even, you – then trust yourself to ‘go with the flow’ – if that means ‘visiting’ with them in their childhood, then that’s what that day brings. Live where they are for the moment and understand that this is an okay place to be. By and by it may be only in our hearts where those other special times will live but thank God they existed at all.

That’s it for now – more to come on specifics. I will be sharing info on some great forums and resources along the way. In the meantime to get you started on some good research check out A Place for Mom.