Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wind's in the East...

Wind by Gureu
CC BY-ND 2.0
Wind's in the east, mist comin' in
Like somethin' is brewin' and 'bout to begin.
Can't put me finger on what lies in store, 
But I feel what's to happen all happened before.
(Lyrics, Chim Chim Cher-ee by Richard M Sherman & Robert B. Sherman)

Season's changing. The hot summer bids us farewell and autumn's settling in with his cool breeze, yellow,orange and rusty hued leaves, shorter days and longer nights. We've all been here before and we know what's in store, generally. 

I mean we can predict weather cycles, but not specific storms too far in advance. Calendars remind us of upcoming holidays, but not what will take place in between. We plan our days accordingly--check the weather, the calendar dates, our to-do lists, but when it comes down to it, we never quite know exactly how the day will start or end or what might upend us. I suppose that's good, or we'd never get out of bed. 

It's been a mysterious year for me--a year when the East wind kicked up a storm--compounded family crises (good and bad) found me spinning in every direction imaginable. I've been here before--handled years like this before--nine years like this, to be exact, but who's counting? (Oh yeah, me). I thought after that first year of suffering concussive syndrome symptoms for seven months, I'd be prepared for a year like this. 

But I wasn't.  This year I'm weary. Literally at the end of myself. 

For years, (nine years) I've been feeling like I'm never enough for everyone who needs me. And I'm not. This year proved it. 

Eighteen months ago, I was diagnosed with vitamin D3 and B12 deficiency. No biggie, right? but after a year's worth of healthy eating, bi-weekly B12 shots and a myriad of natural food supplements, I felt the east wind blowing and all the physical symptoms returned. Luckily, blood work showed my vitamin levels were fine, in fact way off the charts, but I'd contracted mono. Again, no biggie. It's treatable. Been here before.

The only treatment? Rest. Lots and lots of rest. 

Hey, every adult wishes they'd be ordered to bed, right? Yeah, but what happens when you're the main caregiver for two aging mothers, an active grandmother to six grandchildren whom you love with all your heart, a small group leader and an already a hard-to-motivate writer? 

Let. It. Go. and ask for help. 

Following the doctors orders, I gave myself permission to sleep. A lot. Twelve hours a day for two weeks. Nine hours every night the third week, and so on, until my body finally regulated to a normal eight hour night. 

And, you know what's amazing? While I slept, my mothers were well cared for by others, my family was flexible and came back to visit when I was well, and my writing...well...I didn't write, but the rest helped restore my creativity. Ideas flow more easily and instead of just scheduling archived articles, it's refreshing to actually write an original thought. (Thanks for your patience). 

Best of all, I'm learning that it's okay to not be enough for everyone. God is. That sounds cliche, I'll admit. But it's true. When I thought I had to run around like crazy meeting everyone's needs on my own, God's taught me that He is ultimately in control. [He will provide for everyone's] needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:17 NIV). So much more than I can offer. 

How about you? Is the east wind blowin'? Feelin' like somethin' is brewin' 'bout to begin? How do you handle the changes that upend you? 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Be a Life Preserver

On the ferry by C Carlstead
flickr.com_photos/cristic/560163635_CC BY-ND 2.0
Life was smooth sailing until the summer before my tenth birthday when my father walked out on us. Forever etched in my mind, it was the first day I ever felt lost.

Everything in my life changed that day--holidays, church gatherings, even after school routines--and I found myself gasping for air, barely keeping my head above water.

Our home, once overflowing with family during holidays and birthdays, now sat eerily empty as half our extended family wondered what to do with us. After-church dinner invitations halted and television noise filled the air instead of friendly conversations and kids' laughter. And, worst of all, a locked door and empty house greeted me after school because my mom now worked.

Oh, how my heart yearned for normal and the family comfort it once knew. So, I sought out family wherever I could--looking for hope for my future--praying that God would somehow allow me a glimpse at what a forever family looked like. And He was faithful.

While I bobbed in a sea of raging chaos and change, God threw me four life preservers that helped me navigate those choppy waters of a fatherless childhood and adolescence:

  • An attentive teacher. Mr. P was my first male teacher and one I'll always remember. Rather than coddling me, knowing my family situation, he taught me courage. Oh, he had my back, like a good father, when the class bully picked on me, but most importantly, he helped me discover my voice. He gave me the courage to speak up for myself and to be comfortable with the sound of my own laughter. 
  • A caring faith community. Shunned from our "family" church, my sisters and I sought out a loving faith community across town; one with an active youth ministry. The youth group became my family; a place of comfort and belonging, spiritual encouragement, and growth. It's where God grew me up into who He created me to be through the leadership and friends.
  • A loving extended family. Newly married, my eldest sister and brother-in-law took me under their wing. They welcomed me to their extended family celebrations where I witnessed numerous godly marriages that extended decades. One celebration, in particular, a fiftieth anniversary, stood as the catalyst of hope for me. Attending with my then boyfriend (and now husband of 32 years, yay!), it hit me...there is such a thing as a godly, forever family. 
  • A generous friend. Adolescence was a tough road for a single-parented child, especially one whose sisters were both married. God graciously gave me a friend from seventh to twelfth grade who generously shared her family life with me. Her parents meant the world to me as they often invited me to stay for dinner, go on vacation with them, and allowed me to share the day-to-day routine of their family. It was in that home that I caught a glimpse of a normal, loving family; the one I longed for someday. Truly, a gift from my heavenly Father.

I am forever thankful that God placed these people in my life. The lessons I learned from them remain even decades later. And as I welcomed my children's young friends into our home, I prayed that God would use our family the same way He used those precious life preservers of my youth; that for those seeking acceptance, normalcy, family, and God, they would find it all under our roof.

Are there children or young people in your life who might be drowning in some rough family seas? Are they seeking some resemblance of normalcy in their world? How might God use you and your family to ease them through this tough time?

(If you joined me here from the Christian Children's Authors blog, Welcome!)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Taming the Busy Monster

3 Monsters
by Larry Wentzel
CC BY 2.0

...keep my Sabbath days holy, for they are a sign to remind you that I am the Lord, your God. Ezekiel 20: 19b-20

If you've joined us here from {re}fresh, welcome!

Rest. Simply stop. 

But, it's not always that easy is it? 

Society screams above God's whisper to rest and shouts "Go! Go! Go! Don't stop, keep going!" It's like we measure success by how busy we are until there's nothing more left to squeeze out of us by day's end. And the worse part? Society wants us to repeat that every. single. day. Seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, minus a week's vacation if you're lucky. Oh, and on that vacation? Don't rest. Go, go, go some more. Pack as much "busy fun" into your week to make up for the previous 51 work weeks. 

Whew! I'm exhausted just writing that paragraph. Nap, please?

So, as Christians, what's the big deal about rest? Here's a few thoughts:

Rest is ordained.  After creating the universe in six days, God ordained rest as Genesis 2:2 states:

 On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. 

Rest is holy. It allows us space to breathe, to listen and to worship. God knew our bodies, minds and souls needed refreshment; down time to heal and process and rejuvenate our creativity as well as worship our Creator. 

Exodus 20:11 explains it this way:

 This is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy. 

Rest is healing. When our physical, emotional, creative and spiritual health suffers due to anemic rest, we break. And even then, when our bodies try forcing rest upon us, we fight it. We will ourselves to "get up and be better". We ignore our symptoms and forge ahead despite the still small voice that says, "rest". But, if we let him, God will use rest to heal our emotional and physical maladies. It's then, when our schedules clear and our distractions disappear that we can finally hear Him; finally allow the Holy Spirit to move in our lives.

If rest is so holy and healing, then what about work? God never said don't work. Work and creativity has always been part of God's plan for us. 

The Lord God placed man in the Garden of Eden to tend watch over it. 
Genesis 2:15 (NLT)

But, God created a day for rest and worship. Taming that Busy Monster that lurks over our shoulders or shouts above the crowd, is key:
  • Build a work ethic - work hard and efficient while on the job
  • Set boundaries - protect your family time, creative time, and Sabbath days
  • Say "no" - to projects, ministries and outings that zap you and overstep your boundaries
  • Be brave - stop feeling guilty while resting. View rest as holy, God-ordained time 

Father-God, thank you for thinking of everything, especially rest. While the world shouts "do more", help us to stop and rest and listen to your still, small voice that beckons us to come away with you to a quiet place. Remind us that resting in you not only brings healing and break through, but it's holy and ordained. It's through rest that we worship and commune with you and our hearts, minds and bodies are made whole again. Amen. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Easing First-Day Anxiety

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. Proverbs 12:25

If you're joining us here from the Christian Children's Authors blog, welcome!

Mikey entered kindergarten kicking and screaming.  His mother didn't know what more to do except drag his stiff, reluctant, five-year-old body behind her like he was drafting on an imaginary skateboard. 

I'd been brave up until the moment his blood curdling cries echoed through the halls of Samuel Huntington Elementary School and into Miss Kane's classroom. Once Mikey arrived, my courage slipped through my quivering lips as I held on tight to my mother's skirt. 

Enter, Miss Kane--the sweetest, most loving teacher I'd ever known. She knew just how to calm our fears with reassuring kindness and creatively distract us long enough for our parents to slip away without notice. Soon enough, fully immersed in one of the play stations, we'd made new friends and our anxiety was long least until the next day. 

Easing separation anxiety with little ones isn't formulaic. Each child owns a different personality and it takes time to learn what works. However, from experience as a parent, day care provider, preschool teacher and grandparent, I've learned several general guidelines that help ease children's anxiety:
  1. Pray specifically for and with your child--that God would ease their fears and give them joy and protection
  2. Visit the classroom, day care, etc. with your child prior to the first day 
  3. Involve your child in "first day" preparations (packing their lunch, choosing a special outfit, packing a special "comfort" toy)
  4. Make drop off quick. Lingering only causes more anxiety in them and you
  5. Reassure your child about your return and leave them with a kind word
  6. Teachers/caregivers should greet every child with joy, compassion and kindness
  7. Teachers/caregivers should offer multiple activities to help distract children and ease them into healthy socialization with peers
  8. Parents, be consistent with routines and always return on time
by Dawn Aldrich
Halo Publishing, 2009
Years ago, while caring for my then, three-year-old great niece, I realized separation anxiety does not dissipate simply because they are familiar with the caregiver. It helps, but it's not the issue. The issue is, they fear separation from the parent. 

Implementing the above guidelines by trial and error and simply intuition as a parent and experienced caregiver, I wrote Auntie's House (Halo Publishing, 2009). This picture book, (pre-k through first grade), walks the young reader through a typical day a little girl spends with her auntie while Mommy works. It addresses separation anxiety in a positive manner, reassuring her that Mommy always returns at day's end. 

Adding Auntie's House to your child's first day preparations may help ease their anxiety. You can read the reviews on Amazon. 

Let's help one another out. Would you like to share your first-day stories or concerns below? We'd love to pray with you and for you and your children.