Years – After Losing a Child – Forever Changed

laurie-12Days and weeks and months, and yes, years are passing since our daughter went to be with the Lord.

 

Some things are forever the same.

 

 

 

 

I am still Mom to two daughters and a son. (and 5 other precious souls in miscarriage)kev-n-sibs-1969

I still have the confidence of all three of my children, as I knew when each left home, that wherever life took them, it had begun with the Lord, and would continue there too into eternity.

I am thankful for the evidence of that faith each embedded in my heart. I treasure them all.

 

 

But other things are forever changed.

 

I’ve read a lot of precious, cute and sometimes well-meant but dubious thoughts of how to grieve – and how to heal toward being whole again. And I’ve talked to a lot of people who have lost a loved one, and all confirm what I feel.

 

our3kidsThat certain wholeness cannot return, will not return, until we rejoin them and we are one again.

 

I accept that, because in truth, were I to say any differently, I would be denying the power and closeness of our relationship.

 

Just about anything I can think of that was once complete – a whole, and now has a part missing, can never be the same. There may be a way to work around the missing portion, to function with the gap, to treasure what remains, and/or to attempt with various things to fill the gap, but nothing will or can ever complete the whole in the same way.

 

And I appreciate that.

The value and the particularly unique intricacies of a soul are not replaceable.   Tweet that

 

1-lauriechicagoYes, we learn to live with the space in our heart. Some days I embrace the space she filled because I had that immense joy.

Other days I grieve for things I wish I had said or done and then I laugh because I know she would ask if I had PMS or something and get me a cup of hot tea and a piece of good chocolate.

 

Some days I smother her siblings, some day I cry for seemingly no reason, and every day I sigh, and then pray for those to whom she gave life.

 

And every October I think of her as I go to a particular just-for-me event she started me in the habit of with a ticket for my birthday. I just bought a ticket for next month’s event.

LaurieMomairportI am also completing conquering some concerns she had on my behalf. And when I recently re-read some of her notes about BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) and how she said it made the most lasting impact on her spiritually I made a commitment in her memory and signed up for 30 weeks of understanding some of the depth and faith that made her who she was.

 

I am bringing her Bible with me.

 

I am expecting it will impact me too. And those forever changes will be good.

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Offended? Who isn’t!

7217We all get offended – every day – but the bigger issue is how we respond to offense.

“The way that we respond to challenges is always giving others an opinion of God. And as they look at how we respond, do we adorn the gospel? -Nancy Leigh DeMoss

 

I must think of this a hundred times a day. I view everything as a test and a challenge that I have a choice to:

  • accept offense or not and
  • react to it
  • or to stop and give God control
  • and then respond

 

It is really hard sometimes but the eternal benefits so outweigh the temporary satisfaction of a ‘smart’ reply and the regret that (eventually) always follows.

 

7330Everything really that I choose to do (or not do) every day can feed into that attitude and ultimately affect the response(s) I will give.

 

I’m finding that often one choice affects many actions and reactions:

For example, if I choose to stay up late and not get much sleep, the following day it can lead to

  • feeling irritable, or being irritable to others
  • having foggy thinking for a good part of the day after rising
  • skipping exercise the next day
  • not being hungry at mealtimes, causing insulin drops and increased reactions as listed above, or grabbing something quick and not necessarily nutritious, then feeling sick
  • This irregular lifestyle choice also leads to potential for not being available when others who keep a normal lifestyle may need my full attention and concern.

 

So what does this have to do with my theme and calling to Be the Miracle?

 

2314The main thing is that every choice I make, every day, has a larger influence and result than may first appear. I want to be ready to answer the call should God lead me to minister to someone, and therefore each decision should be made with the question of whether this will improve my physical and spiritual functioning, my attitude, and if it will “adorn the gospel.”

 

The dictionary defines adorn as:, to adorn, like wearing a necklace, to draw attention to, to make attractive

 

Titus 2 lists negative behaviors we can drop, and other behaviors we can increase in order to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.”

 

The Greek word for adorn in that verse hadar , means to honor or respect

 

1-Nev2lateMomAnd that word honor is defined showing or giving dignity, with honesty, fairness, or integrity through one’s beliefs and actions

 

On one hand it seems a tall order to suggest or require that the way we respond to challenges should always or in every way show honor to the doctrine of God.

 

On the other hand, it’s the way my husband and I want to treat each other.   It’s would be pretty hard to convince the neighbors of the desirability of a godly marriage if they only heard us screaming at one another (or at the neighbors for whatever reason).

 

This little challenge speaks to me to make it a habit when choosing an action or behavior, to wonder: will this response show honor to the doctrine of God . . . or not.

 

KimafricaHave you been offended recently?

Have you had to make any choices yesterday or today?

Have you had opportunity to adorn the gospel?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Are You That Woman?

When the phone rings late at night, every parent and grandparent knows the concern that tightens your stomach, and the prayer that forms on your lips before you pick up the call.

 

Dave34Date-stamped on our hearts was news delivered one August night when I answered the late-night ringing. My daughter’s concerned voice brought me to full attention, sudden fear gripping my heart. “The family chiropractor’s radiologist saw something in Dave’s x-ray” she said, “and Mom, they think it could be cancer.”

 

A robust 14, Dave was an all-star football player. His mature focus and fierceness had earned him a reputation – and a number of hard knocks including broken bones, cuts and minor surgeries. Thus, it had been “nothing new” to have Dave discover a new ache over the summer. He played hard and would often ache all over when he got home but always laughed it off, saying he was sure the players he tackled hurt worse than he did! But Dave would not be preparing for his first freshman scrimmage after his paper-route in a few hours. Instead, he would be heading to the hospital. Numb with shock, we prayed for him and for the medical staff who would bring a diagnosis in a few short hours.

 

All thought of sleep had fled for me, and I headed for my stress reliever – the treadmill. Despite the lateness of the hour, I flipped on the CD player, climbed on the belt and began a light jog. The words “Come, now is the time to worship.” filled the air and I gasped at the thought. Worship. Now? Worship? That, I reminded my numbed brain, was focusing on the qualities of God.

 

SS07003As I ran, and the music played on, the words came.

Almighty, Benevolent, Creator, Divine…. Excellent, Faithful – GOD… like a cadence it blended as the music continued, “come, come…”

I really wanted to run – to run away from whatever we had to face tomorrow, but God was telling me instead to “Come.”

 

 

 

Full circle, it brought back memories of my tendency when Ken and I first married to “run” if I’d done something wrong. Sensitive to my wounded past, Ken would, instead of chastising me, open his arms and welcome me to “come” and to know love, forgiveness and healing.

It made it so much easier to deal with any situation to know that I was so kendee60s016cherished.

Perspiration blended with tears as I ran and ran, exhausting the alphabet and my body.

Calls of diagnosis, treatment plans and surgery went back and forth at a frantic pace the first 12 hours. I agreed to spend nights with the children so Dave’s parents could remain at the hospital and go to work from there.

 

 

My voice trembled at work the next morning… a good friend heard the pain in my voice and asked, “What’s wrong?” Her reaction to my news was memorable, and so like her: “I can help…I will…” She began brainstorming her skills and skills of others that she knew. Her assurances made me want to worship the God who was already proving his presence through her.

 

A shared burden is lighter, and I felt strengthened by her friendship and tender heart. I’d been wondering how I would survive this pain, and now her voice saying, “I can” rang in my ears. Meanwhile 16 family members greeted me from our Christmas family photo on the bulletin board, reminding me that they also would soon be treading un-familiar territory in their faith-walk. And what about David?

 

A soft-spoken, thoroughly athletic young man, Dave was built sturdily, like his Dad. From DaveNMarcWienkethe time he could walk he emulated his daddy-hero, playing football and baseball from kindergarten to high school. He later told me that he knew every part of “his story” was a part of God’s plan for him – even this ‘place’ in his life was where God meant for him to be. From the beginning he knew things were serious because his parents wept while praying before they went into the hospital. But he knew we were not fighting alone. Our angel of mercy had been busy, and her works were personal. Soon David’s arms held an autographed Green Bay Packer football, and he had the fresh fruit he longed for. My special friend somehow knew that if his family was cared for Dave could focus on his healing, and soon their arms, too, were filled with cards, gifts and email responses to bring to the hospital or to the siblings at home. Her inspiration had spread to hundreds who contacted others, who contacted others.

 

One woman’s open heart had begun a cascade of helps, prayers and examples of faith-in-action that continued throughout all 5 years of Dave’s cancer battle. Every time I think of her, I remember that one person saying “I can and I will” makes a huge difference.

 

Dave Fly1That one woman who personalized Dave’s need, enlisted a community of supporters and gave a family inspiration and hope that they did not have to fight the battle alone inspired me to look at people in need with new understanding and also say, “I can.”

 

Do you know that woman, or a woman like her?

or

Are you that woman?

If so, thank you on behalf of all grandparents, parents, siblings, relatives and dear friends who have needed someone in their chaos to say I can, and I will.

 

 

 

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Guardianship – Sometimes You’ve Just Got to Laugh

Guardianship is a heavy responsibility and sometimes the details and responsibilities seem overwhelming.  I’ve been chatting with some friends experiencing this (1 out of 4 women do) and thought I would post a true stress reliever story to encourage them, and all of you who might be in a challenging guardianship. Ah-la Sergeant Friday, the following is based on a true story, but names and details have been changed, just for fun because no one here was innocent.

I knew from the start that guardianship for a cantankerous grandfather with a much-checkered legal past was not going to be easy. I didn’t expect any lighter moments, but some came in an unexpected place.

Granddaddy had called for a court hearing challenging the guardianship. There were three challenges: misuse of funds, preferred change of guardian, and return control of his 7239pension check. Gramps mysteriously refused to ride to the court with us, so my husband and I were in the waiting room with the list of challenges written out on a yellow notepad that rested on my lap covering a mound of paperwork.

Gramps hobbled into the courtroom with his 4-pronged cane and a woman whose face seemed familiar. His court-appointed lawyer pulled out a chair for Gramps and turned to me whispering, “He’s apparently convinced Diana, head of the agency you recently hired, to be his new guardian.”   A simple, “Okay” was my knowing response. My husband slipped me a hopeful note saying this could be my rescue, but I wrote back “Ha” and whispered to wait and see her response as details were revealed. Gramps had always been a charmer and easily portrayed himself as the victim.

We all silenced and rose as the judge entered the room. The purpose for the hearing, and challenges were read. Gramps’ attorney, and the social worker representing my concerns were introduced, and then the ‘fun’ began.

I was called to the bench first. As I shared some of Gramps past behaviors leading to the 7271guardianship, I could see the eyes of his potential guardian growing wider with shock and worry. The explained the challenges, and was obviously going to move to the next issue, when Gramps interrupted him. “It’s his fault,” he yelled, pointing at the social worker. “I should have got a contract out on him when I had the chance.”   His lawyer’s lips thinned with restraint as he leaned over to loudly whisper into his hearing-aid laden client, and we hid smiles of irony behind our hands.

Though the judge calmly told Gramps he would get his chance to answer in a moment, Gramps wasn’t done, and continued to malign the social worker. The judge calmly explained the procedure and asked Gramps to confirm that he could see and hear the other people in the courtroom. “I can see him,” he emphasized, pointing his finger at the social worker, “good enough to reach over and punch him in the face if I want to.” After the courtroom calmed from that and Gramps agreed to answer only when spoken to, the judge moved on to the next issue. Why did Gramps feel he should have another guardian? His answer, “Coffee,” was surely not what anyone expected.

“Coffee?” the judge repeated, requesting an explanation. “That stupid guardian poisoned coffeemy coffee last time she visited and I can prove it. I saved it and brought some so you can try it,” Gramps wound down, as he waved a small plastic bag in the air. Obviously restraining his humor, the judge remarked that he did not drink coffee and the court appointed lawyer would have to try it.   Amidst the chuckles, the potential new guardian moved next to me and wrote several phrases on the edge of my notepad as the laughter faded… “Oh, my …I didn’t realize”… “I can’t”…

I patted her hand and told her I understood, the courtroom was called to attention and Gramps was asked this time if he could get another guardian who he would want. Gramps first appealed to the young lady who explained to the judge why she was no longer interested and then he told the judge he had a friend who approached him just a bit ago and offered to help. When he was asked to recall the date of the meeting the courtroom broke up again as Gramps replied, “I don’t recall the exact date but it couldn’t have been more than 20 or 30 years ago.”

His lawyer rolled his eyes and the third challenge was brought up. “Let me ask you one last question,” the judge posed to Gramps, who sat up straight as he could, obviously thinking he was going to rule the day. “If you got your check back would you pay the rent this time?” Everyone leaned forward a little, wondering after previous outbursts how Gramps would reply.   I closed my eyes at his response. Grandpa cursed, yelling,   “H—No! – it’s just a waste of money.” Gramps’ continued dialogue was lost in another outburst of laughter at his outrageous answer.

When the judge returned with the decision there would be no new guardian, Gramps 7215furiously stood and waved his cane threateningly. “You – I don’t ever want to see you again,” he screamed. I moved back while the deputy restrained him, then kindly asked me if I’d like them to return Gramps to his apartment. While I thought it best he have time to calm down, I took a risk.

 

“How about it Gramps? I asked. “Should I come pick you up in an hour or two and we can pick up a nice lunch? – I’d pay…”

7296“You’re buying? Well, alright, but no coffee, ok?”

 

Sometimes you just gotta laugh.

 

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The Cookie Lady

Another funeral today.  Some shared memories to treasure, lost moments to regret and the difference hope and assurance can make even in the toughest times.  Several young people  encouraged us all to in some way seize the day – follow the leading – don’t just think about what you can do but to do it.  And so I share a story of a dear lady who taught me to treasure faith and to savor life.

In our neighborhood she was known as “The Cookie Lady.”  Perhaps you knew her as your GrandmaV1cropSunday School or VBS teacher, as “Grandma V” or as Magdalene Veenstra

Mom!” my exasperated 8-year-old pouted. “All the other kids go see the Cookie Lady every day. Can’t I go, PLEASE?”

The same request punctuated every afternoon since we’d moved to this new area of town. A lady who gave away cookies to small children made me wonder if we had made the right move.

Sighing reluctantly, I looked at the five eager faces outside our screen door and made up my mind, bowing playfully; “Ok, Princess. I am your royal subject. Lead me to the “Cookie Lady.”

Giggling in delight, the children led me past homes similar in size and social status as ours. I hesitated as they rounded the bend neighbors had pointed out – in awe of the half dozen imposing brick or column-fronted homes, and the social and financial power they represented. It was almost as if the bend contained an imaginary boundary.

“Come-on,” the children urged, running to a beautiful red brick-and-wood two-story. Beating me to the door, I was amazed the children saw no difference in our “station” as they rang the door and beautiful multi-toned chimes harmonized a welcome.

GrammaVhome

A tall, elegant lady answered the door. The description “Loving.” came unbidden and remained as I watched her interaction with the children. She handed each an obviously homemade sugar cookie centered with a pecan half.   Business done, the 6 little ones lined up on her porch and munched happily, while Magdalene Veenstra introduced herself as “Grandma V”, smilingly guessed I was Cheri’s mom, and handed me a cookie. Imaginary social barriers were dismissed by her charming story of how she once offered ‘store-bought’ cookies – instantly rejected by children announcing they would return when she felt better and made the good cookies again. I left bemused and carrying in my heart a warm invitation to join her for a cup of tea the following Monday afternoon. Little did I know how the Cookie Lady would change my life.

A junior-high “home-ec” class was my only preparation of protocol, and I wore a skirt to honor her generation and her genteel nature. Grateful for the sense of smell when she opened the door, my aproned hostess did not need to tell me she had been baking. I followed her to the kitchen with an anticipation that never dimmed over the following 15 years of our Monday-night “tea.”

teacupInstantly comfortable, I was  eager to hear the history and receive the teachings of this treasure of longevity. She directed me to a seat at the yellow-topped table of another era and I watched “the ritual” as I came to think of her tea preparations, while drooling (inwardly only I hoped) over the freshly-baked delicacies for two placed in the precise center of our delicate pink English china plates.

A pleased surprise filled me as she bowed her head in prayer. Realizing this longed for grandmother figure also shared my faith instantly drew our hearts closer.

From that MondaIMG_1716y on, recipes filled our conversations –not only recipes for her famous cookies, almond-filled tarts known to other generations as bridesmaid-tarts, and numerous other edible treats, but recipes for living, for walking-the-faith, for loving our families, and eventually even for dying.

Each cup of tea opened a chapter of a living history book with tales of war, the depression, numerous presidents, life on several continents, and invention of radio, airplanes, automobiles, and television; but history came only after our time of prayer for family – including present and future generations. What a painless way to learn!

BibleheartHer acceptance taught me to accept others; her child-like faith (“I asked God to keep me safe while I slept – should I now insult him and stay awake worrying?”), taught me to keep things simple and a favorite adage of hers –“use it or lose it” gave me inspiration to utilize my talents and energy. It was this very adage that provided a final lesson.

Her eyes had dimmed and she asked me to read to her. Her hearing was also limited so I was sitting on a cushioned footstool at her feet. She had ceased most cooking and had shocked the motor vehicle department by voluntarily giving up her license with a simple “It’s time.” I was distressed by her inactivity and began encouraging her with some gentle chiding to follow her “use it or lose it” saying, when she caught me by surprise. Leading forward until we were practically nose-to-nose instantly stopped my thoughtless chatter.   I gave her full attention as The Cookie Lady looked me straight in the eye, paused for effect and challenged, “You ever been 93?”

tea partyWe laughed the rest of the night over her remark and my shocked reaction. As usual, though, I was on the way home when I realized the lesson amid the humor. I cannot lead where I have not gone. Similarly to Ecclesiastes’ “a time for everything”, I’d discovered there’s a time to walk before, (the next generation) and a time to walk behind, (the last generation) but the time is always right to walk beside – especially over a cup of tea.

Cookie Lady Pecan Sugar-Cookies

Cream together: 1 pound margarine, 2-1/4 cups sugar, 1 Tbsp. vanilla

Sift together: 3-1/2 cups flour, 1 tbsp. soda

Pecans  for topping

Combine both mixtures and roll into balls about unshelled walnut size. Flatten with glass bottom dipped in sugar. Press ½ pecan into center of each cookie before baking.

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes

Makes several dozen, depending on size

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What has #1 position in your 168 Hours a Week?

Shhhh.  No one is supposed to know that even in church our Position sometimes goes to IMG_2245our heads. Rarely does one find a person at the top of the ladder who can toss off the burden of social image and  still relate to those at the bottom, or on the first ‘rung’ of life’s ladder.  It’s tough to mentor someone else from that precarious perch at the top, and sometimes that work-position or church-position becomes The Position in our lives.

More important than our position in our career, our church, or even in our home, is our position in Christ.

We each need to ask ourselves:

Where are you in relation to Christ?

Do you know him, or know about him?

Do you follow Him?

Focusing our thoughts on our position with Christ will illuminate things like the position where I have placed my time with the Lord, family, outreach and all the things we do in 168 hours we are given every week.

IMG_3644It is because (just like the oxygen mask in an airplane emergency) I must minister to myself in order to minister to others.

So

How can I minister to myself?

Especially when I feel overwhelmed by self-imposed lists of responsibilities and they become burdens.

A big thing we can do for ourselves is to examine our 168 hours a week. Write it out – everything.  Then, far more important than asking what I am doing about each thing on my to do or should have done list, is to ask if the list itself has taken the position of priority in my time – and in my life.  When I total up the hours for each activity what patterns do I see?  What needs do I see?  How can I position myself to be enabled to mentor others?  What do the mentees seek?

When others seek a mentor, no one looks for a perfect person – or a perfectly-fallen person.  I know I look for someone who has gone before me – been where I am going, or is where I am now – but has experienced victory, and continues to experience joy no matter life’s challenges.

 

I can minister to myself by evaluating what is on that chart. Once I complete it, I can then identify by highlighting or circling or totaling the time spent in each category. That will enable envisioning what position those activities have in my life, and I can easily determine which have been beneficial and which have been detrimental.

 

coverI once played a silly game at a shower. One volunteer sat under a blanket and other attendees circiled around the covered woman calling out for her to toss out what she would not need for an extremely hot and oppressively humid day. Whatever she tossed out from under the blanket made for shrieks of hilarity because, of course, she was surrounded by the answer – the blanket.  Something beautiful that had become an encumbrance.

 

Similarly, in order to minister to others, I need to remove whatever is that weight – that blanket in my life that amplifies my burden.

What can I throw off to better serve my husband (piles of papers). What can I throw off to better serve others (too much time on social media), what can I throw off to minister to myself? (whatever holds me back from life and health).

 

A simple tool to identify your suffocating blanket —a 168 hour worksheet – can be found by Rhonda of Eyeinspire. Link below

http://eyeinspire.com/being-mindful-of-time-168-hours-worksheets/

I’d love to hear about what you found in your 168 hours.  What were the top 5 or top 3 time-used categories?  What is your ‘blanket’? and What can you toss off to better serve others?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How To Personally Apply Scripture

AnnetteLook what I found!  Ken’s update of a wonderful tool our friends the Hegle’s shared year’s ago in our early days with the Navigators.  We still use this method today.

Knowing something is great and can draw me closer to God, but living out that knowledge can change my life, and sometimes others’ lives too.

The most valuable personal result of consistent Bible study is when others are seeing our lives enriched and changed through personal application of what we learn.

Here’s a sample of steps and an example of creating a specific plan from a single verse. When we ask God’s help to put this plan into practice we can be confident that God will be changing our lives and the lives of those we encounter.

1. Verse

Record the reference of the verse or passage which has impressed upon you about any need in your Christian life.

OS120582. Truth

Briefly state the truth of the verse or passage which has impressed you.

3. Need

State how you feel about the verse or passage and indicate how it relates to you. Does it show some spiritual need or lack in your life. Will a change in your life make you more pleas- ing to God.

4. My Intentions

State specifically what you intend to do toward having your life changed in this area of need. Keep the action simple. It should be a step toward improving your life in this area.

5. Checkup

State how you will make sure you accomplish the goal you have set. Maybe jot a note and keep it with you for a reminder until its completed. You may want to tell a friend, your husband or wife or relative what you intend to do. Have them check back with you to see how its going.

1375Approach personal application with confidence that God is conforming you to Christ’s im- age, and that He will complete what He has started. Let God use this tool in your life – Re- member this is not a self-effort project.

1. Verse – “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, Honor one another above yourselves” ( Romans 12:10 )

2. Truth – That God wants me to show devotion and honor to my brothers in Christ.

3. Need – I find I often take my closer relationships with other Christians for granted, not really thinking about way to honor them and be devoted to them. Dan is one person I particularly want to honor more.

83074. My Intentions – I will spend Saturday helping Dan to finish painting his house, and while we talk I will make a point of specifically complimenting him about two things I respect about him.

5. Checkup – I will place a check here Saturday night after I have done this.

You’ve got the tools – ready, set, GO!

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Out of Our Brokenness

SueBadeauSix days – eight roommates, and almost as many different rooms. You think the hotel staff was confused? At one point I had room cards for four different floors in my purse!

My white slacks are on their way back from Western Canada and a favorite necklace is returning from a brief visit to Pennsylvania.

 

The laughter and the prayers, the humility and the acceptance all were part of letting each of us newbies and mentees feel truly valued. The sisterhood of AWSA was amazing. But the most treasured thing we shared was what we all had in common – brokenness.

 

HearthurtsSome of us thought we were the only ones bringing pieces. Remnants of dreams, relationships, budgets, diets, hopes, longings. But prayers before conference began and the tables of materials for sharing among one another, revealed stories of every form of need – and of the One who united us all.

 

Instead of sermonettes or teachings there were testimonies of brokenness and deliverance. The theme that ran through all of our writing and speaking – the human need for wholeness found only in Christ.

BabbieetalSeveral of my new friends wrote for those like them who adopted children, some specifically called to love and adopt special needs children, another whose biological children were joined by 22 others, most old enough to be considered unadoptable. These women offer hope and compassion to others who adopt or have been adopted. Beautiful mosaics.

 

JoyanettaOther new friends told about the personal repercussion of huge changes in the publishing industry – one illustrating a 90% drop in income. Disease and financial stress were other common denominators, but there was not a single whiner.

We even had a joyologist!

 

Hope and respect and encouragement – leads, material, and follow-up contacts were freely offered. Those who experienced brokenness recognized, related, and respected others enduring similar turbulent waters.

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Tears of joy were also frequent as at one table where a guest unknown to an author across the eight-foot circle connected.

Are you?

AnitaBrooksNmeYes, I am.

Did you write?

Yes, I did.

Let me tell you how what you wrote changed my life.

Brokenness met broken and delivered.

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IMG_1401IMG_1421 IMG_1451IMG_1443

A number of these beautifully restored women spoke into my life spontaneously and generously, and others humbly rejoiced that God had also given me opportunity to share with them and others, through them.

 

There were no separations of status or fame.

We were all God’s girls.

 

Daughters, sisters wives, mothers, and grandmothers.

 

Enjoying one another.

 

 

 

IMG_1447

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of these mothers had children and grandchildren  taken from them by death, and by life-choices and circumstances. They openly shared their shattered hearts and told how God brought hope into what they called their messes. Pain is messy.

I sometimes write of grieving after losing our child and was astonished several times by the sisterhood I felt. At the International Christian Retailer’s Show (over 1600 booths of publishers,distributors, marketers and producers of Christian products) a woman stopped me out of the crowds passing through.

She was signing a book for children and offered me a copy, then reached under her table to ask hesitatingly, if I might know of someone who would be interested to read this other book – on the loss of a child. Another time I was chatting generally with an editor about how readers want vulnerability about our brokenness so they know we understand theirs.

Agreeing, she turned and requeIMG_1462sted a worker to remove a sample book from their display and gave it to me – the book, she said, that helped her – after losing a child.

Perhaps, she said, I might find something to pass on to others.

 

 

At the banquet, a woman I’d not yet met called out my name across the room and came over, asking to share our writing topics. She gasped when I explained, as she’d recently lost an adIMG_1430ult child and felt she should co-write about it. We will be communicating. Perhaps…

IMG_1440Then our main speaker had to cancel at the last minute due to an unexpected event. Mark Lowry would have loved to have been there as Torry Martin pinch-hit a hilarious illustration of how God can use an ADHD driven personality!

What a joy to laugh through 99% of the entire banquet talk.  I hope it’s ok I taped some of it for when I need a pick-me-up.

Well, he will never know.

 

PatBooneandI I met Pat Boone and Ken Ham, was interviewed by HSBN TV, was encouraged to take up boxing, had one dinner with Babbie Mason and another paid for by a stranger who already had an impact in my life and my future.

My heart and my suitcase came home overflowing.

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The enemy did not like it. Some had to leave early due to tragedies and emergencies. The pictured text above was real – it arrived during my time in Cincinnati.

Others faced heartbreaking news shortly after arriving home. Yet, as we continue to uphold one another, there is still hope. I have every confidence that out of these new storms, new seeds will also take root, and grow. Eventually, we pray the fruits that arise from our brokenness will be talked about and written about so that others can know we are real.

We understand. We write our truth that others will also find hope.

 

Out of our brokenness.

 

 

*AWSA – Advanced Writer’s and Speakers Association – http://awsa.com/

– I am so honored to be included in their member directory among many who already touched my life.  IMG_1458

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Garbage Out!

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In many ways, it made perfect sense. You’ve probably heard the unlikely inspiration that resolved my insomnia—the email with the urban legend where New York garbage workers are on strike and a frustrated homeowner gift-wraps his garbage, places it in the backseat of his car which he parks, windows down, in front of a store a few blocks away.

 

It’s like the best part of a movie mystery – the bad guy ironically gets stiffed from his greed by clever deceit and the good guy (with whom most of us prefer to identify) gets to watch the set-up unfold as he cleverly gets rid of his very stinky problem.

 

Laughing at the unlikelihood of a New York thief only stealing the gift-wrap-disguised garbage and seeing the tail light blinking in the distance as he drove off with the unlocked car and the package, I moved the email to the “trash.” Ding! It was gone.

car-photo-rearlight-mI couldn’t help but reflect how nice it would be if life’s garbage could be erased that simply. Going beyond the digital definition of garbage (data which is no longer useful, but which is clogging up storage or memory) I was jolted with the truth about what was keeping me awake. Garbage. Unproductive, time-wasting, dead, putrid, non-life-giving thoughts.

 

Granted, I had a lot to think about, including family and friends’ situations, work pressures, economic fears and financial concerns. But worrying about a host of things wasn’t getting anything accomplished, and it could, I knew, ruin my health. I could feel it. I used to be able to stay up overnight, or several nights, to complete a project and be raring to go the next day with little or no sleep, but lately, I’ve noticed something odd. The less sleep I get, the more weight I gain, the more aches and pains I feel, and the slower I move. It was taking me days to recover from a single all-nighter. I was forced to see the results of wanting to fix everything and everyone weighing on my heart.

 

The chance I begged for, to conquer the all night tossing and turning without pills came with the how-to-get-rid-of-your-garbage email.

 

TrashchickenThe leftovers of my life, like stockpiled garbage, were not very attractive. Even if I hid food garbage in a clever cover up like the chicken trash bins, or wrapped my mental and emotional stuff in a new outfit and a fake smile –  it was all still trash.

Yech. I was actually hoarding every rotting worry, storing them like hundreds of useless emails, instead of properly disposing of them.

Not any more.

 

I grabbed the pen and pad for journaling that’s kept beside my bed, listing the concerns that had kept me awake. Three lines for columns next to the list of problems automatically filled the page. I didn’t have to write the headers, as goal planning had become automatic:

Column one—The Worry

Column two—WICD (What I can do about it,)

Column three—Who I could contact for assistance

Column four—Outcome.

 

OS12058My husband mumbled in semi-sleep at my chuckles over the lopsided list. More than 30 concerns, worries and fears filled the first column, but only one word answered the query of what I, personally, could DO about them – nothing.

 

Lying awake had never yet inspired a solution, which brought me to the third column where I wrote in God for the contact. The mind-picture was complete. Each individual all-nighter of worry, fear, or concern was now re-gift-wrapped, without the deceptive bow – instead, a transparent covering.

God could see the contents. Disguising them was useless. And I didn’t have to “trick” God to “steal” the unwanted parcel. The hands of God were extended eagerly, so in them I placed my worries saying, “Here – I think these are yours.” Sighing in relief, I felt the reality of the verse in Isaiah that says,

Don’t panic. I am with you. (41:10)

 

Days, weeks, and months later, the outcome column developed a pattern as it filled with details of what happened regarding each sleep-robbing fear. Over 90% of the time the recording was identical: NH – never happened. The rest had been resolved; some with the fresh perspective of a good night’s sleep and an attitude change, and others in unique ways, that only God could have done.DSC00184

 

Even though life still has stress (and produces garbage) when I delete them from my mind by  letting God deal with them a new thing happens. A confidence that the issues are being handled gives me rest.

 

Turns out my Worry-List is a lot shorter these days, and remarkably, I am getting more done—and sleeping better.

 

I can lay down with peace and rest. The difference: like the Psalm says, At day’s end I’m ready for sound sleep, For you, GOD, have put my life back together….

 

And, I might add, taken my garbage out!

 

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Taking a Risk

img716 3Forget curiosity killed the cat – think curiosity discovered new wonders!

 

Risky living.

 

Embrace the fullness of life and just DO that something you have always wanted to do.

 

Each of us reading that last line might envision vastly different scenes.

Friends have zip-lined, jumped out of a plane, gone bat hunting (on purpose!) and other adventSS07100ures that have zero appeal for me.

Instead,

I considered a foodie risk (smile).

 

 

If it worked, it would be the first time for my lifelong love-affair with Greek food.

 

BaklavaBaklava, Spanakopita (Spinach and Cheese Pies), and stuffed grape leaves with lemon sauce – oh my. They all made my heart beat faster. I set out on a quest to discover the secrets so I could make them at home.

Sadly, I was rejected by a local Greek chef when I asked for a job in his kitchen. He said he knew what I was up to – I’d work till I learned the recipes and then I’d be gone – likely along with all of his lemon sauce!

Driving by upcoming Greek Fest signage brought mental images of prior years –people streaming into the church and its outbuildings days before the festival. Of course, they would have to be preparing for all their food fans for days before the festival.

Apron ready and armed with notebook and pen, I headed for the hall behind the Greek church. What is the worst that could happen? They could call the cops, I supposed, or toss me out.

But what is the best that could happen?

I wanted to find out!

GrapeleavesI walked into their hall waving my apron and cheerfully called out, “Room for one more?”

“Of course!” “Come on in!” “Grab a chair…” — instant welcome!

Women of all ages were seated in rows along long tables. Some were filling and rolling stuffed grape leaves, others created desserts. The first table had already made room for me, so stuffed grape leaves it was!

The International sound of laughter set the tone for Greek and English conversations all around me. It was a big happy family preparing for holiday! My teensy bit of Spanish knowledge was no help with the Greek, though I watched expressions and listened carefully, trying to catch any nuance of discussion. Thankfully, a woman named Penny leaned toward me confidingly. “I bet you are wondering what the Greek chat is about, hmmm?”

“Yes, I’d love to know.”

“Well the older women are talking about the scandalous clean shaved younger pastors, (in the past they all were required to grow beards) and the younger women are sighing over how handsome they think they are.”

 We laughed together.

3oldmenIt was age-old and worldwide I assumed, recalling el Centro – outdoor park-like community centers in Spain, where daytime I watched old men gather while the women did their marketing. Later asking the father of the home what the men talked about, his first answer was, “You women and the weather.”   When we laughed he tried to correct it to business and literary ideas, and everyone laughed more, because they’d talked about us, and as we’d walked from shop to shop we’d talked about the men!

The Greek lady, Penny, chuckled when I recounted the story, and shared Randy Travis’ lyrics from Forever and Ever, Amen “As long as old men sit n’ talk about the weather…As long as old women sit n’ talk about old men”

 

“For sure,” she laughed. “The same the world over.” She leaned in again asking about me and I confessed I’d come for their secret recipes. A take-care-of-business kind of person, she called over some ladies to dictate recipes for “our new friend.” After half-a-dozen

Fruit and Nut Bars Recipe

Fruit and Nut Bars Recipe

secrets filled the little notebook in my apron pocket (always come prepared), a younger woman leaned over from the other side and said it might be faster – and more legible – if I just bought their recipe book.

 

A new cookbook was not the only thing gained from my experience. Hugs all around and a love for the joy and camaraderie of another culture in my own community warmed my heart. It also led to another friendship when I brought the Greek treat Baklava for my next birthday at work. A sweet lady, Kay, came into the office inquiring who made one of her favorite treats, and left astonished that it was my first time using her recipe!

Coincidence?

Co-incidence means it takes more than one for it to happen. The risk taker, and the welcomer.

 

IMG_22451Pet. 5:14 Give holy embraces all around! Peace to you—to all who walk in Christ’s ways.

What welcomers might be waiting to embrace you and your dream?

What was a first time or favorite risk taking for you?

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