Self Care

Sometimes life demands things of us we don’t feel fit to give. The choices of others might draw us into an eddy. We would drown, if we let it. It may not be the choices of others, but life itself–an illness, an accident, a crisis that arrives at our doorstep and there we are. We have answered the door and cannot say, “I’m not home.”

We must face it. Action of some type is required.

There are, thankfully, many ways to assist, support and care for others. On any level, however, care taking is not for the weak-hearted. And if we neglect to take care of ourselves, we can experience what my daughter said is called “Compassion Fatigue.”

Recently, in reviewing some older Facebook posts, one soothed me. It was a list, “20 Things to Start Doing” from a Pintrist domain.  I wish I knew the identity of the author. Without her permission I cannot post the list, but the following ideas helped me most:

  •  drink more water and green tea
  • eat lighter as the day wears on and start with a big breakfast (using more natural foods)
  • go to bed earlier
  • increase flexibility by stretching
  • do yoga or meditation
  •  find ways to live in a tidy place
  • go outside a lot more

I commend this author’s stellar list.

I love lists. Writing them is empowering for me.

Maybe it is because without them, I flounder.  I get lazy, postpone and waste my time.

Also, with a list, I can check things off.  This motivates me. And if I don’t get around to making my list early in the week,  it’s never too late.  I sometimes write a list on Friday of what I already DID and then check off the boxes one by one.  It feels great.

Best of all, though, a list empowers me to be inspired.  One idea generates another.

This author’s “20 Things to Start Doing” inspires me to practice these seven things, and from them I chose meditative/prayer time as a keystone. Coincidentally, my pastor encouraged the same, months ago. Said to not pray out of obedience or duty, but make it our day’s central piece. When I do, I’ m given rest from the care taking. I read God’s texts, and His thoughts become mine. I am not alone. He cares for me.

Lists aside, self-care is important.  May you be inspired by an idea that puts you in the hammock of God’s mercy, there to rock and soothe your soul.

 

“Cast all your cares upon Him, for He careth for you.”  ~1 Peter 5:7

Six Near Perfect Reasons for Swimming* your Laps

 

(*Replace this with your choice of cardio vascular exercise)

 

Often when it comes time to swim my laps (twice a week) I’m tempted to talk myself out of it.  The number of reasons I come up with for postponing it or using the time for something else is creative. But unsatisfying.

The mind is one of our greatest assets.  So why not make it work in our favor?  I did some self talk. It was imperative to overcome the uncomely thinking that nagged at my success.

Here are six near perfect reasons to get with it and stay with it. No doubt there are plenty more benefits besides these.

 

 

  1. I don’t feel that good, and I just came down with the sniffles.

Best reason to go.  Clear out your sinus passages with a pronounced breathing routine.

 

  1. It’s an ugly hair day. (Or ugly whatever day.)

Perfect.  A shower day anyway.  And: exercise transforms your outlook. No more Ugly.

 

  1. It’s [or not] my Swim Day/I skipped once last week.

Another perfect.  Routine is empowering.  Get back to it and don’t relent.  Pick up where you are and go from there.

 

  1. It’s hard to get out the door.

Of course it is.  Hey! Exercise is an idyllic way to practice discipline in your life. Think ahead to the joy of coming back IN the door when you finish.  And its rewards.  Don’t talk yourself out of something fantastic. Boot yourself out the door.

 

  1. It’s hard to spare the time.

A common whine. Don’t let the challenge of time management detour you. The more tempted you

are to skip, the more reason not to.  Your To Do list is a page long. Don’t yield to it. Put the

important first.  A bonus benefit of exercise is that when you take care of yourself, other things you

need to do go much better.

 

  1. I don’t want to. I feel lazy and I’d like to take a nap.

The Bible says to buffet the body and bring it under submission to the mind.  The body wants

what it wants when it wants it.  It’s bossy and likes a free ride. But to strengthen it, it must be harnessed, saddled and ridden. Put your mind in charge. Once those endorphins are released, you won’t feel lethargic or sleepy.

 

 

Things to Remember

 

I will remember the cold of 2017 on several planes. And actually, having returned from a cold snap in Tennessee, the onset of a new year still feels cold.

Without the presence of some beloved family members and some dear friends, life can feel like the blast of a cold wooden floor under your not-yet-awake morning feet.

The joy of working on an adorable Vintage investment home turns cold when your clay sewer system and basement leaks, forcing the relinquishment of big funds for repairs.

And being rejected by a promising publisher can chill your bones, as well. When I was told in a two liner email that my historical novel did not line up with their company’s plans for the coming year, it seemed as though they’d taken a needle to my lungs and deflated them.. I did not even tell my husband about it for months.

But one must not sit on their hands.

To wit, it so happened that two sweet ladies at church asked me to read my story to them, as often as we could meet. We are more than halfway through. All the while, I see flaws and oversights, character development needs and basic errors that couldn’t otherwise be detected, without an out loud read with an audience. They have fun speaking up, suggesting tweaks and turns, which I as the author weigh in the balance. Without realizing it, I am learning how to be a presenting author, learning how to defend my story with confidence.

Perhaps the cold will turn to warmth this next year. Revision is never foolish.

I must go on. In fact, I take hope in the words of Kathleen Kelly, the protagonist from the movie You’ve Got mail. She answers her second co-star Greg Kinnear (one of my favorite actors , as they break up, that no, she does not have a boyfriend, but there remains the hope and promise of one. Stars are in her eyes.

Unpublished writers, be pro-active and keep the stars in your eyes.

 

Another Kind of Goodbye

 

 

As long as ten years ago, I would sometimes drive by a beautiful building, or a well cared for small house, and wonder who owned it, and how they obtained it. It wasn’t an envy, more like an admiration kind of thing.  But I did wish and ponder if I would ever be able to own a second piece of property, as an investment.  I had a conversation with the Lord about it— asked Him what he thought of such a notion, would it be all right with Him?  Then I went about life, and didn’t think too much more about it.

The Lord remembered me.

My parents were blessed with the ability to leave my siblings and myself a good inheritance. Though the summer God plucked my Mother was a forlorn one, it opened up an avenue for me, heretofore untraveled.

I was happy for Mom’s new eternal residence, but my spirit felt dampened. Curiously at the end of a few weeks, I felt a heart tug, to go back to Grand Rapids, my birthplace. It was a yearning, a longing.  I knew things were not as they were sixty years hence, but I still wanted to go. To see my childhood house again, and to walk down Garland street, find my playmates’ houses was compelling. I could find two of my grandparents’ homes, and see the South Methodist church and my old elementary school. Best of all, perhaps I could find our cottage on the lake, a thirty minute drive from the city. A cousin did some hunting, and through her efforts, found the area of the cottage on Big Lake. Astoundingly, it had become listed for sale/Open House, two days after my mother’s death.

I did not take this as a sign, nevertheless thought it remarkable, and by summer’s end, made plans to fly “home” to answer what felt like a call on my heart.  Having grown up in Grand Rapids with summers at this cottage, it was a powerful thing to do.  My joy abounded.

Recently, I read Psalm 87 and at verse 6, was caught in its wonder. “The Lord records as He registers the peoples, ‘This one was born there.’”  Following the script, it said ‘Selah.’  This means stop or pause and think about it, something my mother taught me.

I flew to Grand Rapids that August, with my husband. It was exclusive and thrilling to re- visit our 1950’s dollhouse cottage, put myself inside its walls, climb its steps, touch the knotty pine kitchen cabinets my father had made, go down to the lake and sit on the dock, (albeit a different one)and find the old fish house, with some of its foundation blocks still in place.  As I stared at them close up, a Daddy Long Legs came up over the top edge of its wall, as if my own father sent it, to acknowledge he knew I was there. He was the one who taught me not to be afraid of spiders, and I still remember how he did so, letting a Daddy Long Legs crawl over his hand.  Emotion washed over me.

Long story shortened, God did not have the cottage in mind for us to purchase.  It was too pricey, and too remote—on a dead end road, not safe to be there on my own. My husband said a lake property didn’t interest him, and he would only come twice a year. Other things soured the option. There was no internet service, no city water, no sewer service, it had a propane tank, and the nearest town was ten minutes away. I realized I wasn’t a wilderness kind of gal. I wanted to live in a small town, where there was a sheriff.  Because God drew these parameters for me, I could let go of the cottage.

We looked at other houses.  The nearest fun town was Allegan, so we took that road. After months of searching, and a major rejection on an offer, by December, a perfect little house near the historic downtown opened up for us.  It was ideally suited to our needs in every way. And it was for a price that if in Tucson, would sell for three times as much! Amazing.

A 1933 home requires a lot of tender, loving care and grueling work.  We enjoy it three times a year, to partake of three seasons: spring, summer and fall.  We are making improvements that are safety driven, function driven, and beauty driven.  We have found a loving church family nearby, so what more can we ask for?

Now the hard part is leaving our home in Arizona to come here, and leaving Michigan to go back. I hate good byes. It was hard enough to say goodbye to Mother, and I can’t say I did it well.  I leave both Arizona and Michigan reticently, when it becomes time to depart.

Recently, it became that time again, to return to Arizona, and the blues set in. I was bothering myself about it, for days. I didn’t know how to help myself past this.

God remembered me, again.

I was babysitting/playing cards with the pastor’s kiddos, when it was near time for me to say goodbye.  I told them, “After this game, I need to leave.”  (Giving cues is helpful to small children.)

The second oldest boy’s face lit up and he said,“Oh boy!”

Talk about laugh out loud!  His mother heard, and corrected his manners. She explained she told him he could play a video game after I left.  No wonder he was thrilled.  Ha!

Immediately, I realized God had given me a gift.

If the Lord calls us from one place to another, we can receive it with some component of joy, if not in full measure.  Sorrow has its place, and is appropriate in its timing.  But at some point, sorrow needs to take a back seat—it cannot be so big that it rules us.

God has things to give us, sometimes elsewhere or without the person or things we want to cling to.  He has things to show us, because He loves us so much.

So, I’m flying back to Arizona tomorrow.  Oh boy!

 

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The Delight of Truth

Today, I celebrate the delight of truth.  My prayer for our country and all countries, is for truth.

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Anything short of truth is not freedom.

July 2, 1776 our forefathers formally declared our country’s independence, Congress approved the document July 4th, and it was signed August 2, 1776.  A new government or the notion of a new government began, floundered and still flounders, each term replete with its benchmarks and errors.  Sometimes our leaders erred, and others guilty of underhanded deeds, deeds of intent.

We were born into this time of history, two hundred and fifty one years after the Declaration.  Isn’t that interesting.  No doubt our founding patriots expected the presidents, among other things, to be upstanding, truthful, bi-partisan, and a strong commander in chief. That job description seems to have been filled by only a few pair of shoes since 1776.  Thankfully, some attributes still exist, in part.

I delight in truth, and as a Christian, believe that the way to the truth is Jesus. The closer we are to Him, the less the collateral damage.

Truth is a delightful thing.  It cannot be repressed. We are supposed to stand with the truth, in respectful ways. Today, in our country, we need truth more than ever.  Perhaps we can pray for it more than we do.

Without truth, a sad continuum follows. First comes an evil, next the hiding of it.  Corruption has deep roots and long reaching branches, going far beyond the act itself.  It seeks annihilation of the truth in any way possible.  It needs a network of those nearest it, to learn and cooperate with a new version of the truth.  There might be a killing or removal of a witness who knows the truth.  Or, a burying or sealing of the evidence, in a secret place.

But can truth be altered or stopped?

I can lie about a sin, but my maker knows what I did. He ingrains the knowledge in my conscience.  Until I confess it, it remains there.  When I was five, I stole some gum or some such, in a corner store.  I knew it was wrong, I felt guilty.  My mother made me pay for it, apologize, and tell them I wouldn’t do it again. Pilate tried to wash his hands of the murder of Christ.  But he couldn’t—water being a mere removal of the blood upon the knife.  How interesting Pilate did this.  He felt the stain upon him, and wanted to be freed of it, underscoring a universal truth.  We all want our sins washed away.

A loving God knows that.  The plan of salvation is simple, but complex. To summarize the genius of it, God sacrificed what was dearest to His heart, Jesus.  He made Jesus to be sin for us, and put power in the blood. That shed blood is the compound that washes our sin white, as stark as snow. He alone can hear our confession, and remove not only the stain of, but the sin itself.

I can burn a document to make it disappear, but whatever was written thereon remains. When King Jehoiakim burned God’s scrolls in the hearth fire, God dictated a replica to Jeremiah, and then Baruch the scribe, and God added several more words to it the second time. (Jeremiah 36). My childhood diary is long gone, but God heard the words of a little girl’s heart on those pages; they remain in His heart.

If someone is murdered, God knows who and where, and exactly when.  He is an avenging God, the Judge of all good and evil. When Cain murdered Abel, Abel’s blood cried out from the soil. (Genesis 4) God made Cain a fugitive and vagabond, though he did set a protective mark upon him, as well.  The truth mixed with grace.

 The Lord sorrows with those who sorrow for the truth. He may tarry, but He will not let unrequited sin go unpunished.  He loves to forgive, but he wants people to live by the truth; these are partnered.

Truth comes around full circle, for it dwells eternal.  Buried truth is not unknown to God.  When Achan stole a Babylonian robe, two hundred pieces of silver and a gold bar worth fifty gold pieces from the spoils of Jericho, items God said belonged to Him, God revealed where Achan buried them, in his tent. Achan and his family were stoned for it, because he defied God right to His face. This was no small thing. It was brash disobedience, and put all of Israel in danger.

Locked up truth has chains that snap. Guards, barred doors, thick walls and ankle bracelets did nothing to stop the release the Paul and Silas in prison. They’d been singing praises to God for hours.  And at midnight, God sent an angel to wake them up, and accompany them into the street, where they went free.

If man thinks truth can be altered, burned, forgotten, buried or locked up, he’s a fool.

I like the third verse of The Battle Hymn of the Republic:  He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat; he is sifting out the hearts of men before his judgment seat;  O be swift, my soul, to answer him; be jubilant, my feet!

     Our God is marching on. 

Our country is not perfect. Some presidents have done things unbecoming of their stature.  Perhaps Abraham Lincoln comes closest to having a pure heart.  He was not without opposition, of course (though the Lord Himself had enemies).  But Mr. Lincoln believed in sincerity of prayer, and working for a land free of enslaved thinking.  In our house hangs this of his wise sayings, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”

“Be joyful always; pray continually.”  ~1 Thessalonians 5:  16, 17

Happy July Fourth!  We cannot celebrate a perfect nation. But we can celebrate God’s watch care of this nation, for two hundred and fifty one years.  And delight in truth.

Rejoice. And pray often.

 

 

 

Is there something else you pray for our country?

 

 

 

A Daily Miracle

Part II, a Lenten treatise

Deborah J. Thomas

Lent begins the first Wednesday of March this year. This season is one of God’s best gifts.

When I visited my sister recently, we sang a few worship songs at her piano. One captivated me, a beautiful melody about the Holy Spirit. I pondered His role, and I’m still pondering Him.

Practicing Christians know the basics. He’s the third being of the Triune: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, we say in that order.  God the Father sits and rules from His throne in Heaven, and Jesus as Son is seated at His right hand.  But where is the Holy Spirit?  Perhaps He is the most mysterious of the Trinity.

Of course, all of the Lord God Almighty is mystery.  But the Father and Son have been more revealed or at least visible, over time, than the Holy Spirit. God the Father directed mankind, and spoke to his prophets throughout scripture. Thus, He’s become more familiar to us.  God the Son came to earth and people living at that time got to see him—Son of Man and Son of God, Jesus was called. The account of the gospels taught and showed us all manner of truth about God the Son, Jesus.

But the Holy Spirit is lesser seen, lesser known. His name makes that obvious: He is Spirit. Not seen by human eyes. However, just like the wind, He’s there.  (And sometimes witnessed through evidence.) Ephesians 1: 27 states that God wished to “…make known the riches of his glory (knowledge of Him) among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you…” In other words, the Holy Spirit dwelling in the true believer. After Jesus returned to heaven, the Holy Spirit came to his followers, so they’d sense God with them, in Jesus’ s absence. Stunning! The Holy Spirit resides in any person who invites Jesus Christ into their heart. A miracle!

‘Rauch’ was the name of that haunting Hebrew melody. It transports the listener to a pre-Messianic period as if it were wafting through the doors of the Temple in Jerusalem. “Spirit, Spirit, Spirit divine,” it sings, followed by “Not by might or by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord God Almighty. (Zech. 4:6) The setting for this passage in Zechariah is that part of Israel’s history when the Lord instructed Zerubbabel and Joshua to lead the Jews in the rebuilding of the temple.  It would not be physical strength or societal position that would build the temple from the ground up. It would be the Spirit. In short, not by man, but by the Lord.

This principle can be applied beautifully. First, in Jesus our example, in His sacrifice and resurrection. How he endured the crucifixion is an enigma. I barely stomached watching Gibson’s movie The Passion.  I wept. Though overdramatized in parts, it showed with certainty no man could have survived the abuse, flogging, climb to Golgatha, and piecing of hands and feet in meager human strength.  It had to be the spirit of God giving him ability, which He begged God for in Gethsemane. And the resurrection? The spirit of God.  In fact, Jesus’ entire life was partnered with the Spirit—in His stories, His prayers, His miraculous healings and restoring of life to the dead.  All was unconventional, unexpected, radical, and offsetting—but done under the moving of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s the difference between climbing countless flights of stairs alone (and perhaps not making it) or taking the escalator!

I think God sent Jesus to illustrate He delights in us. That humanity is what He wants to use. Not ‘by might or by power,’—not with the strength of horses and chariots, the savvy of kings and wise men.  Not by man—man fails and comes to his end.  But by the Spirit. The Spirit is our provision, just as he was Christ’s. As He did for Zerubbabel and Joshua, he can do for us, to build us. (Be prepared for those hammer blows, at times. He doesn’t spare the anvil.) He’s our ability to cope and overcome. To forgive. To be humble and unselfish.  To serve others.  He’s the miraculous in daily life!

 

Holy Spirit, thank you for coming and being the miraculous to us. We need you.

Wake us to invite you into our days. Enter our prayer life.

Please use us purposely. Help us with life’s trials; give us strength and endurance.

This Lent, breathe into us, Breath of Life. Fill us with life anew.

In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Set Aside

 

Part I of a treatise on the miraculous, for Lent

Everybody wants to be loved, we latch onto it. Love helps us cope with life. In 1958, Phil Spector cut a song, To Know, Know, Know Him and I thought it was cool. Here are the first nine lines.

To know know know him
Is to love love love him
Just to see that smile
Makes my life worthwhile

To know know know him
Is to love love love him
And I do
And I do
And I do

As a young girl, I began to feel I was not quite like other people.  That I was different and not preferred.  I wore glasses from the age of two. When I was five,  I was given penicillin for a boil on my behind, and broke out with a rash that never left. I was the middle child of three. My older brother liked my sister more than me. Or at least it felt like that. And my foster brother also liked Karen more.

Happily, there were some reprieves from my poor self image. I did well in school and I learned piano well. I also had two good friends, Marilou Hage, and Marcia Dorman.  My parents and grandparents loved me dearly, and my sister adored me. These things brought me great happiness.

Still, when winter came to Grand Rapids, Michigan, my life got hard. The harsh and frequent snow, and icy weather had an immediate effect upon my skin.  It chapped, cracked and bled.  I had scabs and sometimes staff infection entered the wounds.  I’d have to stay home from school to recover. My parents gave me support and understanding.  I was taken to doctors and later, the Mayo clinic to seek solutions.

Kids asked questions about my rash and scabs and it was embarrassing.  I can remember how I flushed, as I gave them a reply. I tried to hide my skin, but the eczema broke out everywhere there was a joint or flap:  behind my knees, armpits, my neck, at the bottom of my ear lobes, every finger knuckle, my wrists, and then on my lower arms, where there were no joints at all. Though my siblings never made fun of me, my classmates’ curiosity and probing made my self-esteem plummet.  Michigan winters gave me a good understanding of what it was like to feel ‘set aside.’ But I think God used those winters to offset my life in a permanent way.

I think each of us has a life experience that leaves a lasting mark. A relative of mine was abused as a girl.  My mother lost her thirteen year old brother when he ran away from home to find his mother who left the family. Georgie jumped off a train from a bridge, into the river below, and drowned.  My grandfather’s eyesight failed in his twenties, and he lost his accounting job. My former husband was mistreated by both his parents his whole life without reprieve, and no apology was given him later on. These kind of things make us feel as if we’ve been ‘set aside’, singled out, a product of the extraordinary.

Could it be that God marks us, as if to distinguish us—in love?  Surely the One who made us couldn’t want that we should have a life of unrelenting hardship and abuse.  Yes, there are cultures where cruelty and persecution goes on for years.  In The Immortal Irishman, we read how the English Parliament suppressed and battered the Irish for years, believing them to be inferior Catholics. How sorrowful that some cultures must endure dictators, oppression or depraved poverty without relief.  These things defy understanding except we know that in this earthly life, evil sometimes gains an upper hand.  A good God raises up the good to fight against the evil, for His intention is for it to be conquered and replaced with goodnesses.  Praise God this is so.

The Lord marks all of us, one way or another.  He calls all people to come to Him in earnestness, to “know, know, know” Him. True followers are given a gift, His Presence inside them. Philippians 4:11 says, “The Lord is near.” With this gift, we are ‘set aside’ from the world.  In good ways, in servitude.  For to know His presence is to love Him.

Part II will consider this amazing presence of God within us, a most miraculous thing.