TRAPPED!

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Lovable, but not a genius. That’s Grendl, the white, not-so-miniature schnauzer we adopted from my folks when they moved to a senior residence. She had been, in large part, leash trained. Very seldom had she gotten a chance to run free. She’d been content as a refined, in-door, pampered lady in my folk’s home. That is, until she came to live with us and met Goliath. He’s our little, white, Maltese-shitzu. Our wild child!

Our large, fenced-in backyard became a huge playground for them both. Her old legs revived as the dogs chased one another – and every car, bike, truck, bus, and skateboarding pedestrian that passed by! She taught Goliath to bark, and he taught Grendl to run.

But one day, these two friends found the gate open.

Now, I don’t know how a doggie brain works, but knowing these two pups, I’d guess Goliath showed not one moment of hesitation as he raced into the world. But, I imagine Grendl paused before she chased after him. Regardless, off they trotted into the unknown together.

It wasn’t long before we realized they were gone, but it didn’t take long to locate them. Silly dogs had gone around the house next door and wound up in the neighbor’s also fenced backyard. When I called to them, they both came running, Goliath straight to my arms, but Grendl to the position pictured above. 🤣

That sweet, dumb dog (sorry, Mom!) thought she was trapped. I don’t care how many times I coaxed her from outside the gate, she still continued to woefully, repentantly stare at me from behind the fence. I actually had time to jog home, grab my phone, and return to take her picture. She hadn’t budged. I had to enter the fenced area and gently lead her through the exit, laughing the entire way home!

Oh, dear dog. I’m sorry I laughed at you. I’ve been there, too, and feeling trapped is not a funny feeling.

I’ve not often found myself in that situation physically, but I’ve been there emotionally numerous times. It’s a desperate, frightening, lonely feeling. And, like you, I’ve watched friends run free while I’m left behind, encased by bars too narrow to slip through. 

Being emotionally trapped often provides special challenges. If my friends realized I was trapped at the bottom of a deep, physical well, they would quickly run to my aid with buckets, ropes, and ladders. Some would even meet me at the top with dry towels and warm clothes. IF they knew I was trapped.

But being trapped emotionally makes rescue more unlikely. The fence often remains invisible to others. That’s not their fault. It’s merely the truth. None of us can read minds. (It’s kind of like my trying to read the puppies’ brains!)

So, two questions arise. One, what can I do when I’m feeling enclosed by pain, uncertainty, fear, financial or health concerns, relationship hurt, addiction, loneliness, or any other cage from which I see no escape? I can look up and lock eyes with the One Who can set me and anyone else free.

“But Thou, O LORD, art a shield for me, my glory, and THE LIFTER UP OF MINE HEAD.” Psalm 3:3

I have a Saviour, and His Name is Jesus. He is the way to freedom. Wherever I find myself, I can find Him. It matters not if my entrapment is the result of my own unwise choices, or if it’s due to circumstances over which I had no control. He sees me. He loves me. He will make a way for me.

Personally, I find my greatest release in my time of Bible study and prayer. My time with the Lord draws my attention away from earthly problems and sets my focus upon His love. Once in a while, He points me to the path leading out of my problems. He comes alongside and gently leads me to liberty. Sometimes He lovingly shows me I’m not nearly as “trapped” as I thought. The gate beside me is already open. But whether or not He chooses to alter my circumstances, He always sets my spirit free! He is the Friend Who knows how I feel, and He cares. As I come to know Him better, I am encouraged to know how kind and capable He is on my behalf. And, “trapped” with Jesus by my side is not at all fearful!

As I travel through life, and if I remain attuned to the innermost needs of those around me, I will find others who feel the claustrophobic pains of entrapment. Thus, the second question remains:  how can I help others?

I don’t suggest you run home, grab your camera, and race back to take their picture to post on social media like I did to Grendl! Rather, come quietly alongside them, comfort them, lead them to the gate of freedom whenever possible, and simply be a supportive friend. Pray for them. Send a “snail mail” note of encouragement or drop off a donut and cup of coffee. Remind them of the Saviour’s intense and personal love.

Do not avoid them because you don’t know what to say. Sometimes there are no words, but a shoulder always works! Do not allow them to feel forgotten or forsaken. Sometimes, it takes very little difference to make a difference.

Grendl ran off several more times, and sometimes we had difficulty finding her. But we always looked until we found her. She was always relieved to see us and come back home. The tail wags and cuddles were our reward.

How much sweeter to see the shy, appreciative smile from a grateful friend. Just because you were there.

“He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.”   Psalm 40:2,3

 

 

 

 

I HEAR YOU!

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BANG! I woke this morning to the sound of a load of lumber being dropped at the house directly behind us.

The surrounding neighbors were probably awakened shortly thereafter by the pounding of my heart!! 😳 Oh, my! For someone who has grown acutely aware of every noise in our home, THAT was rough!

So, today, I’m thinking about sounds. With three elders living with us, I’ve become attuned to an amazing variety of audio signals. For your understanding, and perhaps, for your enjoyment, use only your audio imagination as I describe a short list of sounds you would hear every day in our home. (It’s okay to chuckle. ☺️)

Both dads use walkers. I can differentiate them by how they are used, the time of day, and the direction they are headed. My dad’s gait is painstakingly slow and halting; he’s rather stealth. My father-in-law’s walk is noisy and reckless and includes the scuff of slippers against the hardwood flooring.

Then there are the phones. My father-in-law dislikes cellphones, so we transferred his landline to our address. The problem is he can hear nothing. The audio amplifier (pictured above) really helps . . . when we can get him to wear it. When he does hear and answer, he tends to tell whoever is calling he can’t hear, and he hangs up. My dad, however, tends to think every phone that rings is his phone. He will “answer” every time, very disappointed when he gets no one to reply. His own phone, on the rare occasion it rings, plays the theme song from “The Andy Griffith Show.” VERY loudly. My mother’s phone tends to ring it’s harp music wherever she is not. Lol!

But phones also sound out numerous notifications, each with its distinct tone: texts, messages, warnings, news, dying battery. Keeping up with all those different sounds from all the phones can be challenging. And sometimes, humorous!

My father-in-law uses an oxygen machine 24/7. The big tank downstairs swishes day and night. The portable tank on the main level doesn’t make too much noise unless he is sleeping on the couch. If he doesn’t take oxygen in through his nose, the machine beeps continually.

Nighttime noises provide angst. When a thump in the night wakens me, I first have to determine if the noise was in my dream or if it actually happened in the house. Haha! Then I need to evaluate whether it requires attention. THEN, I have to get back to sleep.

The stairlift also makes some unique sounds. I hear the arm rest clank down when a trip up or down commences. I hear the beep when the chair reaches a new level. It chirps incessantly if it’s not locked into the correct position after each trip. The other day it made a new, rather alarming sound. I finally discovered the battery was low and repair was necessary.

My father-in-law’s sound amplifier squeals horribly (insert horrid feedback sound here!) if the headset gets too close to the main unit. My father-in-law tends to place them together on the table when he walks away for a few minutes. Bless his heart . . . He cannot hear the piercing sound. The rest of us clamp our ears until one of us separates the unit or turns it off. Haha.

Since my dad has grown increasingly weak, we have an “intercom” (baby monitor) in his room. We have receptor units in the sunroom and our upstairs bedroom. We hear dad when he gets up, snores, calls for help, and talks in his sleep. We hear EVeRyTHinG! Day. And night.

My mother loves ice! She has received endless ribbing about her “ice addiction” since we were children living at home. We know she is up for the day when we hear her ice filling her cup for the day, and we know she is settling in for the night when we hear the ice clinking into her glass for her bedside table. And when I hear the refrigerator door open, I know that will be my mother, too. The gentlemen never rummage around in the kitchen.

Then, of course, the microwave beeps, the oven timer chirps, the doorbell rings, and the television drones on. I evaluate every cough and sneeze I hear. Several times I’ve had to listen for the sound of  fire truck and ambulance when we’ve needed help. I listen for water to run (and to be turned off, because that gets forgotten here these days.) The dog whines to go out. He scratches at the door (bad, doggy!) to come in.  Two of our folks wear medical alerts. We have “fun” with those alarms any time of day . . . or night! And I won’t even attempt to describe the many other sounds I hear!

Sounds! So many sounds. And I count on my ears to differentiate each one.

So what? Is there a lesson in there? Yes. For me, there are two.

First, I’ve become increasingly grateful for good hearing. I know I don’t hear as well as I did forty years ago. But my ears work plenty well enough to keep my loved ones safe. And I praise God for that!

Secondly, I pray my spiritual ears are as sensitive to the voice of the Lord as my physical ears are to my earthly environment. Not all the sounds I hear are loud. Some are little more than stirrings. Sometimes, I’m alerted by an absence of sound. But I’m constantly alert and listening. Now, I must ask myself, am I spiritually alert to the stirring of the Holy Spirit in my heart? The proddings and urgings He sends to get me to obey.  Do I hear them? Do they move me to action? The warning He speaks to my heart when I’m tempted to make an unwise decision? The encouragement He whispers to cheer me when I’m discouraged. When I fail to hear Him, am I drawn to check out what’s going on in my heart?

Well, I’m going to be working on amplifying my spiritual awareness. I pray I will always listen for the Lord’s voice. May I never let His most important voice be drowned out by the temporal cares of this life!

Speak, Lord! Thy servant heareth! I Samuel 3:10

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”    John 10:27

QUARANTINED!

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Gonna admit it: I’ve had some fear. I’ve done some wallowing in self-pity. I mean, the entire world has erupted into a place I don’t recognize. Simply getting groceries proves challenging. Germs lurk everywhere. I’m in a situation from which I find no relief. My big plans for a dream vacation emptied like dirty dishwater down the drain.

Yet, when I look at the situations others find themselves in, I realize I haven’t been truly hurt as a result of this horrid situation. At this point, all my loved ones are virus-free.  I’ve been only moderately inconvenienced. Although I’m exhausted, the personal damage effected by this horrid virus has only been to my mind.

I’ll confess, calling to cancel our flight two days before leaving bummed me out. But certainty we’d made the right decision ultimately replaced our disappointment.

We are closing in on two years in our caregiving journey for my parents and my father-in-law. Although we have no regrets in taking on this responsibility, I concede it is the heaviest load I’ve ever carried. It’s often 24/7 now. The weight physically, and, more so, emotionally is utterly staggering.

My siblings have been gems to give us breaks for church and special events. They’ve also allowed us to get away every four months or so for a week of respite. But our last real break happened late last summer. Burn-out has stalked us. I’d, naturally,  been allowing my heart to soar as I loaded my suitcase for our big trip.

But then . . . pandemic landed in place of our flight.

As I unpacked, I began to panic, wondering if I could mentally handle the imposed restrictions. Alone. No help. No relief. No known end. I started to erase my fridge calendar (above), but I just couldn’t do it right away. I wanted to continue dreaming rather than face reality.

We have guarded the health of our loved ones with every ounce of our beings. No one in. Only my husband out, and that being very limited. We sanitize groceries, mail, and packages. We miss our family and our support system, . . . but we are doing fine and are grateful.

It took a while to get to that point of gratitude.

It finally came when I received a spiritual vaccination! Are you interested in receiving what I found to protect against fear, depression, and uncertainty?

It’s administered in Psalm 46. This Psalm was written when King Jehoshaphat faced war with multiple kings. His heart was fearful. (I urge you to read of his circumstances in 2 Chronicles 20:1-32. Notice, in particular, verse 9. Also notice the resolution of the situation.)

In his consternation, he sought God. He took notice of God’s character. He took time time to praise Him as he pleaded for new help. The problem we currently face is as real as what he faced. And our answer mirrors his exactly.

So how can Psalm 46 help?

PSALM 46

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. [Think about that!] There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most high. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: He uttered His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. [Think about that!] Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations He hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; He burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will Be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. [Think about that!]

This Psalm assures us that, though the earth be utterly demolished, God is our refuge. God’s character never changes. He will hold us in His strong Hand throughout any calamity! And what does He expect of me through it all?

Be still and know He is God.

Be still? You mean, like, quarantine my mind with Who God is?

Yes! Exactly! Spend time saturating my thoughts with dwelling upon Who He is!

When my mind is unwaveringly fixed upon Him, I find it impossible to worry.  To be dismayed or discouraged. To want my circumstances to be any different from what He allows. There’s room for nothing short of praise! 

Praise works as both a vaccine (preventative) and a cure (treatment). That’s absolutely priceless! With that knowledge, I can bolster myself for both the present and future. And, my friend, so can you!

”Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.”

Isaiah 26:3

SUGAR CRAVINGS?

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Fair warning: this post differs from my “normal” post. Honestly, I’m an open book. I do goofy things and make dumb decisions, and I have no problem sharing those humbling situations if what I learn can be an encouragement.

This post, however, isn’t really about me. It’s about a precious loved one who lives with us. A dear one who is experiencing the ravages of a broken brain. Who, until these past few years was known for incredible wisdom and insight, but who has now lost common sense due to late stage dementia.

I hate dementia. It’s a heartless thief! It robs families of loved ones and replaces them with strangers.

My precious one is forgetting how to get dressed. Not recognizing common foods, dear family and friends, or familiar situations. Refuses to accept that a cure for all ailments has not been discovered, and, in turn, believes we are withholding the said panacea out of reach. 

I’m not particularly comfortable sharing the sadness of this disease with others. My goal is to protect the dignity of those I cherish. But as I looked at these three cans of cream soda, I realized a truth about myself. Perhaps you will relate as I share.

Growing up, we understood soda was a special treat. And when the rare opportunity to drink the sweet treat came along, I remember seeing water added to dilute it so we did not over-indulge in sugar. NEVER was it offered for breakfast!

Now, one of those who protected my health so diligently when I was young is requiring my vigilant eye in tending to the diet. I serve balanced meals every day. I make sure all our occupants are staying hydrated.

Recently, however, sweets are being craved. I mean, LOTS of sweets! At this stage of life, my goal is to make them happy, so, as long as healthy meals are also being eaten, I allow the extra indulgences. The weirdest part, though, is the craving of soda for breakfast!

😳

Rarely is more than half a can of carbonated beverage consumed at one sitting. But the old can, the current one, and a can in waiting are required to be lined up for the meal. Seriously, it’s odd. But it brings contentment, so I concede. I’ve been told repeatedly that it’s how we’ve always done it. (Of course, it’s not.) But that’s what the broken brain thinks. And the craving for sugar is calmly satiated.

But as I stared at the arrangement of cream soda cans last week, it dawned on me that I, at times, have a broken brain. Not a physically broken thinker, but a spiritually broken one.

I am guilty of craving the sugar of earthly pleasures. I’d often rather quench my desire for entertainment than my desire for valuable spiritual nutrition.

For example, why does it seem so much easier every morning for me to grab the television remote or my phone to check out the world according to Facebook than to grab my Bible? Why is my first inclination to “phone a friend” or post a prayer request than to bow my head and carry my concerns directly to the throne of grace?

Perhaps it’s the “sugar rush” of immediate gratification I’m craving. Maybe, the attention of the crowd thrills me more than the attention of One.

Regardless of the reason, it’s “broken brain” thinking! It’s silly to think anyone or anything can replace a well-balanced diet of spiritual discipline.  Clearly, television, social media, and earthly friendships are not inherently evil. When used wisely and in modicum, they serve a fine purpose.

But I truly long for the day when my mind is craving Jesus above ALL else. When He crowds out all other superficial desires. When Christ is ALL I want!

My loved one has an excuse for wrong thinking. But, as I’ve asked myself numerous times before, what’s my excuse?

Please, dear Lord, fix my thinking.

“O God, Thou art my God; early will I seek Thee: my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land.”

Psalm 63:1

 

WHAT AN IMPRESSION!

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I had an . . . awakening last week.

You see, we sleep on a memory foam mattress given to us by friends who’d only used it for six weeks (another sweet answer to specific prayer). One morning, as I crawled out of bed and started pulling up the sheets to make it, I noticed the odd-shaped dent in the mattress. It quickly dawned on me what it was from. Me! Memory foam does not lie. It dutifully takes on the form of the objects placed upon it.

I had left that impression.

The great thing about memory foam is this: it forgives and rebounds. Perhaps that’s its best quality.

Not all of life has that capacity, however. Impressions can, potentially, last forever.

Do I even need to write the rest of this post? I’m guessing my readers already know where I’m headed with this, but I’ll see if I can add a bit more to amp up the thought.

All of us leave impressions.  Every day. Every where. We “impress” our loved ones, our co-workers, classmates, cashiers and waitresses, doctors, nurses, and therapists, neighbors, church family, and even remote strangers we meet along the way.

The impression we leave will be solely up to us. Yes, others may allow that “dent” to have whatever effect they desire in their lives, but the imprint itself is our own responsibility. 

We’ve all heard stories about the life-changing results of an encouraging word to a distraught stranger. Sometimes those situations make the headlines, but they seemingly  affect few of us. HOWEVER, the next impression you or I leave could be a major headline in THAT person’s life. What a powerful thought!

We do not know all those around us are experiencing. We may know a bit, but even those closest to us may harbor burdens about which we are clueless. If we only knew . . . .

So, how do I make sure I am leaving a good impact? Live a godly, Christlike life. That’s it. Stay in the Word of God, speak with Him often throughout the day, and let His impression be made on my life. Let Him shape me. Then, when I rub shoulders with those around me, I will be leaving HIS impression on them! Excuse my vernacular, but, that’s just cool! It’s foolproof. It’s simple. And it’s doable.

The challenge is making the changes in my life needed to be more Christlike. In order to leave a godly impression on others, I must do an introspective inventory, carefully evaluating myself as I compare my life to what the Lord desires it to be. Do my hobbies, habits, goals, priorities, or relationships need changing? Perhaps. Then I must prayerfully and diligently work on those areas that need improvement.

The adjustments will be worth it. Not only will I benefit, but those around me will be blessed as well.

Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to try AGAIN to get this blue ink off my finger. I coated it thoroughly in order to take that picture above. As I noted earlier, some impressions are permanent. I’m really hoping this isn’t one of those times!! 🥴

MEANWHILE . . .

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It was a dark and spooky night . . . .  but I had no clue it was only the prelude to a couple of extremely trying weeks. Let me back up and share the story. I hope it’s not too long for my readers.

On November 20, shortly before my husband arrived home from work, my mother hurried into the family room, in a panic because my 88 year old dad had fallen. I hurried after her, my heart pounding. With both of my parents and my father-in-law living with us, as cliche as it sounds, we never know what a day may bring.

Dad assured me he was fine, but he needed help getting up. After a few tries, I finally finagled him up onto my bent knee, pivoted, and transferred him in a seated position onto the edge of his bed. Then, I knew we had trouble. From that position, he could neither stand nor lie down. After a few minutes of discussion, I used the medical alert to call for help.

Soon, emergency workers arrived. They reassured me we’d done the right thing in calling. They left with dad in an ambulance. MEANWHILE, my mom got ready to follow them. She didn’t want to wait for me.  I assured her I’d be there as soon as I could, wanting to first make sure my husband was available for his own dad.

My dad had a broken hip which would require surgery the next day. As MPOA, I talked with the surgeon and decided with him to do a less invasive surgery, if possible. I felt way out of my comfort zone making such decisions, but I felt peace. Just before midnight, dad was transferred to his room, and we stayed to see him settled in.

When mom and I were finally leaving the hospital, we walked out into an extremely foggy night. I commented that it looked like a spooky Halloween night, and we laughed. She decided to follow me home. I drove slowly, keeping her constantly in my rear view mirror. But on the second to the last corner, she didn’t follow me. I pulled over and called her. She sounded shaken but okay as she said she’d had an accident. I immediately drove the quarter mile back, just as two officers pulled in behind her. They greeted me by saying it was “a spooky Halloween-type night.” Ha! Yeah, I’d noticed!! 

The officers had heard the explosions. Mom had hit a curb and blown two tires. The tow truck would take almost two hours to arrive, so I decided to take her home and come back to wait.
The picture above was taken as I came back alone to the scene at 12:30 am. Again, I was way out of my zone, but I waited in a nearby parking lot. About thirty minutes later, I watched another car pull up beside the crippled vehicle. I decided to drive closer for a look-see.  A man was out of his car, looking into mom’s car. I mustered more courage than I knew I had and pulled a bit closer. From a fairly safe distance, I questioned him. He said he was checking to see if someone needed help. Although I seriously doubted him, I thanked him and told him all was well. He did a u-turn, drove slowly back by, and pulled off the road again a little further down the way. I don’t know why.  He stayed for about ten minutes and finally drove off.

After another thirty minutes, the tow truck arrived. We arranged a tow to our house. At 2:00 am, the car was deposited into our driveway. I was exhausted, but so thankful to be home.

The next day, dad had successful surgery. We were relieved. A couple days later, he was transferred to rehab.  I will spare many ugly details to say rehab was a horrible experience from the beginning. It was similar to the terrible stories you hear but never expect to experience. We were shocked. But it was a long holiday weekend, and no one was available to help us.

MEANWHILE, we’d been transporting mom to and from the hospital/rehab since her car was (is) still disabled.

MEANWHILE, our kids came from out-of-state for a combination Thanksgiving/Christmas celebration. Sparing the happy details this time,  we had a delightful time.

MEANWHILE, my father-in-law was not feeling well, and not acting like himself. On Sunday afternoon, he felt he couldn’t walk, so, again, we called for medical assistance.

MEANWHILE, amidst eight emergency workers in our hallway, our kids were trying to pack and leave for their home in Ohio.

MEANWHILE, my husband’s sister and brother-in-law were visiting at the house, our other son and grandson were trying to say goodbye to family, and mom was waiting to be driven to see dad in rehab.

MEANWHILE, I was completely overwhelmed. After the ambulance departed, we finally got everyone organized and on their ways.  Family left, including my husband who followed his dad to another hospital. And suddenly the house was empty – except for me. And God.

Several hours later, my father-in-law was diagnosed with pneumonia. He should recover, but he will go to rehab, as well.

Yesterday, I had a long meeting with the rehab staff and executive director. Yep. Way, waaay out of my comfort zone. (I think I’d almost rather be the patient than the patient advocate!) But the meeting went well. Today, my dad was a different person. Changes were made almost immediately, and he responded exceedingly well. I’m so relieved!

But here’s the biggest MEANWHILE . . .

MEANWHILE, God has been seated quietly in Heaven. He’s not been surprised, dismayed, or “out of his comfort zone.” Not at all. I have come to realize through this ”series of seemingly unfortunate events” that His Grace IS sufficient. His protection, peace, comfort, and wisdom have been made so evident. Because of His strength, I’ve done things I never thought I ever could or would. I’ve had peace beyond my comprehension. I’ve had strength beyond my human capacity. He had it all planned, prepared, and available at just the right times and in just the right portions.

I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but I now know this: that MEANWHILE, God will remain calmly seated in Heaven, watching over us all, available to give me all the help I might require. God is, truly, very good!

And, in that knowledge, I will “lay me down in peace, and sleep: for Thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8)

Praise Him!

”I laid me down and slept; I awakened; for the LORD sustained me.” Psalm 3:5

THAT ONE FRIEND

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Do you have one? Someone with whom you are absolutely comfortable. The one person you can totally be yourself with? Whom you can completely unburden your heart to without shame? One you can call any time to share a laugh or a bawl your eyes out?

I had to to chuckle as I saw this sweet scene across the room this week. Our little granddaughter and our silly dog Goliath are true buddies! One is always following the other. Friends! This most likely will not be a relationship that lasts forever, but for now, it satisfies them both. And for now, that’ll do.

Not too long ago, however, I did a Facebook poll, querying folks as to whether or not they considered themselves to be lonely. Honestly, I was not surprised by the results. By far, most people consider themselves lonely.

And, I’ll be transparent enough to say, I’m in that larger group. As a matter of fact, my husband and I have talked numerous times about this very topic. Apart from our relationship with one another (which remains sweet), neither of us remembers having a “best friend.” We’ve had sweet relationships with many dear friends, but finding a best friend has eluded us both.

It has eluded many people. Finding a “bosom buddy” (thank you, Anne, of Green Gables, for that term) is a rare find, indeed.

Now, loneliness does not mean alone. It does not mean friendless. Neither does it indicate unsociability.

Just as a child can sit amidst his toys and whine about nothing to do and a woman can stand in front of her brimming closet and feel she has nothing to wear, so can a soul be surrounded by a congenial crowd and feel lonely.   

The two sides to this social coin are thus: one, most everyone goes through seasons of loneliness, and, two, a season of isolation is not necessarily a bad thing.

However, staying in a state of continual loneliness can damage a person’s health. Seriously. I read one bit of research indicating chronic disassociation could be worse for one’s health than obesity or smoking fifteen cigarettes per day! I am not an expert by any means, but continual lonesomeness certainly appears to be a worrisome condition.

So, what causes one to feel alone?

It could be just about anything, but I’ll name a few possibilities: having a schedule that is out of sync with others (those who work nights, for example); insecurity or feelings of inferiority; conversely, feelings of superiority; a general notion of not fitting in or that “no one could understand what I’m going through”; a lack of social skills; shyness or having an introverted personality.

So, what’s a lonely soul to do? Well, there’s plenty that can be done. Force yourself to BE a friend. (Remember, “a man that hath friends must shew himself friendly.” Proverbs 18:24) Stop avoiding social situations. Talk. Engage in meaningful conversation, expressing your opinions, likes and dislikes, and seeking out the preferences of others. Listen. Putting people on your prayer list is also a way of building a friendship.

Most importantly, if you are a Christian, remember you always have a Friend. He accepts you just as you are. He continues by your side, and mine, literally inclining His ear to hear us speak to Him. About anything! Anytime. As a Friend.

When I bear my heart to Jesus, I’m not telling Him anything He doesn’t already know. Confessing my sins, my fears, and my failures to the Lord doesn’t bring shame. It brings relief. Cleansing. And guiding counsel.

It’s sad that those who do not know Christ in a personal way cannot enjoy such a sweet friendship with Him. But, it’s sadder yet for those of us who DO know Him as Saviour to neglect the exquisite friendship He offers.

Oh, how we need to keep a growing relationship with the Lord by reading His Word, talking to Him in prayer, and relishing in time spent together with Him! It quenches our longings for a soul mate.

And do you know what the sweetest part of that is? It’s a relationship He craves even more than I! What a Friend we have in Jesus!

”There is a a friend that sticketh closer than a brother!”  Proverbs 18:24

 

OH, APPLESAUCE!

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No way could I turn away any apple my grandchildren dropped into my bags at the orchard recently. It wasn’t the apples I adored. It was the look of pride on the faces of those precious children that made me value each apple as much as they did.

But later, when I tried to sort through the menagerie of fruit, I realized the futility of the task. I’d never seen such an odd assortment. All shapes, sizes, colors, and levels of maturity! I had to laugh.

And then, I had to decide what to do with the fruit of those sweet, little laborers.

Applesauce! Of course.

I have no fancy peeling gadget, so I spent the next several hours peeling and slicing. I dropped each slice into my largest stockpot as I worked. I started with just a tiny bit of water, a wee bit of brown sugar, a pinch of salt, ground cinnamon, and some big, fat cinnamon sticks.

Nothing fancy.

Then, I waited for the next several hours as the slices simmered on the stovetop. Occasionally, I stirred them. I watched the fresh, crisp slices slowly become mushy.

I also made two caramel apple pies that day. After I filled the pie pans to overflowing, I had some extra apple slices. So I threw them into the pot. They looked quite fresh compared to those that’d been simmering for a few hours. I wound up cooking the entire concoction a couple extra hours just to make sure it was all “applesauce texturized.” I didn’t mind. The cinnamon-y smell of fruit permeated the entire house.

Before I got ready to serve some of the sauce for dinner and put the rest in the freezer, I took a picture of it. It just made me happy.

But as I looked at the picture later, I had the strangest feeling I could relate to those apples. I know . . . that sounds weird. But stick with me for a minute.

One day, I’m swinging free on the apple tree of life. I’m soaking in life’s sunshine.  The next thing I know, I’ve been plucked from the branch, peeled, sliced, and thrown into the stockpot. Then the heat turns up, and I feel myself turning into mush.

Have you been there? Are you there now?

Life’s circumstances can change, literally, in a heartbeat. Sometimes we see “it” coming; other times we are blindsided! The cares of life, whether they be large or seemingly small in size, short or long in duration, and either physical or mental in nature, can make us feel we are simmering on a hot burner. At times, we even believe we can see the end in sight. Then, plop! In come a few more slices requiring more time in the pot. It can get quite discouraging.

My first reaction is often to look for a way out of the pot. Yet, quite honestly, if I believe in the absolute sovereignty of God, the fact that He wisely controls every aspect of my life, that’s usually not the proper response. He has a purpose for the paring and heat He allows.  He has a marvelous “recipe” in mind for my life. And for yours. The hurts, exhaustion, disappointments, and challenges all serve to turn my life into what He knows will be a blessing.

I’ve been reading the book of Job in my Bible recently. That good man suffered far beyond what most people will ever comprehend. Yet, he stayed “in the pot,” allowing God to use his life as an example to thousands of generations as to what He  can do through a fully-surrendered life.

So what can I do when I’m feeling overheated and kind of mushy? First, I can trust God. Faith keeps me from pot-jumping, complaining, and bitterness. Secondly, I can stay in the Word of God, looking for verses of encouragement and strong examples to follow. Next, I can turn to Him in prayer, asking Him to strengthen me day by day. Lastly, I can seek help from those who will support me according to the Lord’s guidelines.

And what if today I’m swinging freely in the orchard? Well then, I thank the Lord for the sunshine, and I watch for friends who may need my encouragement.

Between the orchard and the kitchen, lots is always going on! But it’s all well worth it! God’s “recipes” are the best!

“I have called upon Thee, for Thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech

. . . . 

Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of  Thy wings.”

John 17: 6, 8

 

 

 

 

 

BEYOND WORDS!

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“I can’t even put it into words!”

How many times I’ve said that very thing! As an English teacher and etymology instructor, I view words as my mental Tinker Toys. I enjoy playing with them, and I love the challenge of  expressing exactly what I mean in the best way I can. Now that doesn’t necessarily guarantee it will come out that way, but please know, I am making an attempt at saying it right. 😉

Whether I’m writing a blog, teaching a workshop, making a Facebook post, or simply having an intimate conversation with a friend, I am constantly aware of the words I choose.  Each is carefully weighed in my mind. Most likely, only another English teacher or writer could truly grasp the almost obsessive importance I place upon each utterance.

But have you, like I, ever been caught without a word in your known vocabulary to describe something? Once in a while, a scene is simply too beautiful, a situation is too precious, or a heart is too hurt to adequately express to its fullest?

This scene I captured on our recent trip through the Great Smoky Mountains gave me such a feeling. Neither the photo nor a caption tells the whole story of that moment. Such magnificence. Such perspective. Such beauty and serenity!

You just had to be there.

Our emotional and spiritual experiences can place us in the same situation. How often I go to the Heavenly Father without an adequate vocabulary to express my heart fully to Him.

Sometimes I find it hard to tell Him how astoundingly grateful I am for how He has, once again, provided for my needs.

Other times, my heart is too frightened by looming possibilities as I see the future through my physical understanding instead of with the eyes of faith.

Often, I find myself simply so confused by a situation, I don’t even know how to pray.

But, praise God, He has given me a solution for those times!

“Likewise, the [Holy] Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the [Holy] Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”  Romans 8:26

When my words fail me, the sweet Holy Spirit expresses my heart to the heart of God with His infinite vocabulary. He can fully convey my sadness, my gladness, my fear, and my appreciation when my words fall short.

So as I pray, I will look up to Him, my greatest helper in conversation, The One Who fills in the blanks when I don’t know what to say. Truly,

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD which made heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1,2

And someday, when I get to Heaven, maybe my vocabulary will finally be complete enough to praise Him for His help for all eternity.

That thought itself leaves me speechless once again!