For the Broken

I did not see that coming.  Twice, in fact, I paused in awe within the last seven days.

First, I went to spaghetti-a-plenty night at our local Larosa’s restaurant with the young man who has helped us accomplish countless house tasks over the last two months.  He and I have painted wall after wall and multiple ceilings while worship music played.  We sang or talked about life along the way while occasionally saying we’d go get spaghetti when the list of to-dos were done.  He’s done carpentry and plumbing work.  The list is long.  He’s 26 and he could have chosen to be anywhere.  He didn’t know us until he answered a random church text to go help a family in October.

That introduction day surrounded by our mess, he looked deep into my eyes to size up the situation.  He promises that he will not leave our family’s side until the house is ready to be put on the market.  “I’ll care for you the way I would care for my own mom,” he said.  He delivered mercy with a paint brush to my soul.

During dinner he shares, “I look at your husband whose body is broken and it makes me think of how broken I have been on the inside.  Through this time with you I am reminded that no matter how his body is failing him that he has everything I’d ever want:  a wife and family behind him.  Kids that love him.  ALS can’t take that.  He is more whole than I have felt in a while.”

I see the reflection in this young man’s eyes that his heart is healing and he is moving on with God into the next season of his life.  He’s spending time in prayer, scripture, and seeking wisdom.  I hope I get to serve punch at his wedding one day.

Second, yesterday Hubby and I went to church.  Often this fall we watched online as the home tasks were many and his body struggled.  It is Christmas.  We want to be inside our church to worship.

Hubby had a rough morning so we need more than the rollator.  I quickly load the wheelchair into the trunk.  The sun is shining.  The car is old but warm.  We are smiling.  A friend checks in on text and I reply that I feel peace and hope to carry it through the holiday.

And then 10 short minutes later…

As we roll toward the door the gravity of Hubby not being able to walk into church rips open my tear ducts.  We can not get into the sanctuary where it is dark fast enough.

I don’t make eye contact with Hubby for the first half of service.  I look away to wipe my tears and wonder about my mascara status.  I place my hand on his knee.  I hope that he will take my hand.

He doesn’t.  I can feel his pulse.  It’s a strained rhythm like the rhythm happening in my own body so I know he is fighting tears too.  Eventually I peek and see his wet eyes.  I don’t know if he’s missing our son in the Air Force, missing his mom who passed away this fall, or if it’s the weight of simply everything we face right now.

Releasing my stubbornness, I stop waiting for his hand to move and move my own hand to find his.

I am reminded that whatever brokenness we feel, there are many more who feel angst too.  Sometimes the holiday lights amplify pain or grief.  For all who suffer right now I lift up this prayer for you.

Dear God,

We praise your name even when times are difficult.  Lord, lift up the brokenhearted.  Please help the lonely feel your presence this season.  Be with those who long for a loved one who has passed.  Your Word in Psalm 34:18 says you are near the brokenhearted and we claim that promise right now.  Be near us.  Bring joy in the simple things.  Heal the sick.  Give hope to the hurting.  Bless the caregivers.  Ease suffering.  Be with military families near and far.  Help all who feel alone to find joy that can only come from you.  Wrap everyone with your love and peace.

Amen

With love to all,

Signature GSE

Find Your Mastermind Group in 2019

I’ll give it one month, maybe two, then decide if this is for me, I thought in the fall of 2016.

A new friend, Jill, said something along the lines of, “You, two other women I know and myself have a lot in common.  We do different work but have similar entrepreneurial spirits.”

Did I need or want one more thing to juggle on my calendar?  Nope!  Yet she captured my interest, so I went.

There are four of us.  Our rules are simple:

  1. We meet once per month for an hour and give grace to plan occasional 5-6 week stretches during busy times of the year.
  2. One person is on the “hot seat” per Mastermind meeting.  That person brings any topic or project they wish to discuss.  The hot seat person opens the discussion.  Once their introduction is complete, then the other three brainstorm ideas, ways to help, suggest people to connect with, and more.
  3. We pick the next date to meet and rotate the hot seat person.

We enjoy the simplicity, the safe space, and the shared wisdom from a variety of business and educational experiences.  Over time precious friendships have formed or strengthened.

Mastermind groups can begin with people you know or don’t know.  There are resources online or you can build one as you desire.

I adore the ladies in our group.  I appreciate the way we help one another expand our thinking and encourage one another’s growth.  My two-month trial turned into multiple years and is going strong.

Would a Masterminds group be helpful to you in the new year?

Best,

Signature GSE

 

Eyeballs On Row4ALS

They finally caught my full attention after months of me casually following them on Instagram.

“They” are a team who is preparing to row across the Atlantic ocean!

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On board will be the first person with ALS to be part of such a feat.  You can read Alan’s story on their website http://www.row4als.org.

As I type the Row4ALS team is in Spain preparing for their December to February journey.  Their goal is to raise money to cure ALS.

I am concerned that they do not have enough social media followers!  Please follow or like Row4ALS on Instagram or Facebook!  They have a Twitter account too, but it does not seem as active as Instagram and Facebook.

As readers know, ALS has hit our family hard.  I am inspired by the Row4ALS team.  Most mornings when I wake up, I pull the covers up and ask for a hug from Jesus.  Then I read verses from the Bible.  Then I look to make sure Hubby is breathing.  Then I watch the latest on Instagram from Row4ALS.

Go Alan & team!  Thank you for seeking a cure!

Deuteronomy 31:6 ~ Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid…; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

Signature GSE

I’ll Tell You First

I ponder who to call.

The friend who will cheer for the dream despite disappointment?  The problem solving friend?  The friend who will wallow in the sadness with me for a few minutes?  The friend who will say what I want to hear?

Stars are visible in the night sky.  I drive silent.  The Holy Spirit touches my heart and I sense a, “How about you tell Me first?”

This leads me to ask myself, How many times do I tell God last?  

Answer:  Often.

This time I choose differently.  I turn off the car and sit in the driveway to converse with our Creator before approaching the threshold into house chores, next day work prep, mom, wife, and caregiver roles.

Dear God,

The publisher that stayed in touch since June and seemed to seriously consider my manuscript finally sent the decision email.  I’m sad, Lord.  She’s passing.  I really thought she was the person to take next steps with me.  Please show me what to do going forward.  I surrender to Your will for this book.  Amen.”

One thing I’ve learned especially in the last two years is that every time I am perplexed the best choice is to surrender.  Immediately.

What to do will become clear soon.  For now I will be still and listen.

Exodus 14:14. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.

Love,

Signature GSE

 

Welcome to Our Mess

Sweet Baby Jesus, I think with 100% praise and 0% sarcasm.

In the same moment when I’m both on the bathroom floor at under the toilet rim level and inside the sink cabinet level, I see the ancient WD-40 can.  Maybe I have seen the idea written on a meme or maybe someone wise mentioned it along the way, but I suddenly know exactly what I can do with said can.

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First, I spray the rusty cabinet hinges.  The doors adjust into their appropriate spots and squeak sounds disappear.  Second, I spray under the toilet rim, wait, add bleach to the bowl, and scrub.  Stubborn stains that I missed in past weekly scrubs begin to melt away.  It’s a toilet gunk miracle.

And all this happened after a friend installed new sink faucets.  Gasp!  He may have seen the gunk pre-miracle.  It also took place in the mostly off-limits for 20 years master bathroom.  Guests don’t go there.

But now they do.  In this challenging time for our family we’ve learned to be open.  There’s not a single off-limits room now.   Every step of the way has been about surrender.

Being honest with friends and strangers has led to more love than we could have imagined.  People who love Jesus also found room to care about us.

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One of my work philosophies is to meet people where they are without judgement and with listening ears.  In recent weeks that same kindness has been reflected back to us.  I see it in soft eyes and busy hands.  We are down to packing, moving what’s left of our furniture, carpet installation and a thorough cleaning.  This is doable.  Thanks will never be enough.  For my praying friends, please pray us through to the other side.   Our bodies and minds are weary, but God’s love is strong.

Psalm 31:1-5  In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame;
    deliver me in your righteousness.  Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.  Since you are my rock and my fortress,
    for the sake of your name lead and guide me.  Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.  Into your hands I commit my spirit;
    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

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3 Songs of Surrender

And then the fridge broke.  Dear God, I can not handle one more thing breaking.

Quickly the Holy Spirit reminds me that this is a first world problem.  We go a week with the contents gone and the refrigerator doors open.  I surrender this too, Lord.  Take it please.  I have nothing left in my brain to solve this challenge.

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In a moment that reminds me there are no coincidences, I run into friends from a past small group at church.  Within 50 hours the fridge is fixed.  Hallelujah.  I continue other house projects with volunteer help as it is available.  Hubby has an extra tough week physically.  ALS seems to have lows and lower lows, then levels out.  There’s a pattern I can’t identify, but I know the clock ticks and we need to move to a more accessible home soon.  I look forward to the day when I can see him rest easier in a new environment.

I listen to music while painting.  Worship is powerful.  It is my battle cry and my surrender prayer.  Here are 3 songs that I listen to most through the brush strokes:

1. Who You Say I Am – Hillsong Worship.  When I feel like I have failed, this song reminds me I am a child of God, chosen, not forsaken.  While watching church online I share with Hubby, “I’m sorry.  We were blessed to work with almost 7,000 kids and families in the last 15 years, and maybe this work has been a failure for our own family.  It’s my fault.”  He kindly answers, “How do you know it’s failed?  Maybe not.”  God is bigger than what my limited view can see.  bitmoji-20181002082758_15385264950172. It Is Well – Kristene DiMarco & Bethel Music.  No matter what happens “through it all my Eyes are on You, through it all it is well…and it is well with me.”  “This mountain that is in front of me will be thrown into the sea.”  “The waves and wind still know His name.”  “So let go my soul and trust in Him.”

3. No Longer Slaves – Jonathan David & Bethel Music.  Fear and spackle are frequent companions these days.  This song reminds me “Love has called my name”.  “I am surrounded by the arms of the Father”.  “Let us sing freedom”.  Fear is not welcome, but it is a daily fight.

There are miracles in process all around me.  My angst is cast onto the Father continuously.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:18

I can not explain the miracles and help that has shown up but for the grace of God.  To Him we give the glory.  One day we may list out these miracles for you.  To those who have literally been the hands and feet of Jesus, we thank you.  And thanks is not enough.

We carry on in the home stretch marking things off the to-do list along the way. 20181029_064305

When times are tough, what are your songs of surrender?  What keeps you going?  Do you have a worship battle plan?

3 Thoughts About ACE Scores

Uh, that got my attention, I paused during an online training this week.  I better get my act together.

The screen said that people with an ACE score of 6 or higher are more likely to die 2 decades prior to people with lower scores.  ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences.  I’ve known for a couple of years now that my score is an 8.

3 thoughts:

1.  I am astonished by the number of people who don’t know about the ACE study.  Here is a link to learn more and to take the quick test:  https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/03/02/387007941/take-the-ace-quiz-and-learn-what-it-does-and-doesnt-mean

2.  Share this information with friends, family, and co-workers so that they will know about ACEs too.  This can be helpful as people learn to address or heal personal wounds.

3.  Lead with love.  People may carry pain around without realizing it.  Perhaps you are the kind, patient person that someone needs today.

It’s the weekend and I am house project focused.  Our goal is to have the house on the market by November 10.  I look forward to a calmer way of life in a few months.  With the ACE score reminder I know my mind and body need a better pace in my adult life.  My stress level has been too high for too long.  I am beginning to understand that taking care of me is an acceptable priority.

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3 John 1:2 ~ Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.

Take care of you,

Signature GSE

Whistle Stop For Self Care

I saw the train at the top of the hill on two previous trips.

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Once again I head toward Cleveland to take a class.  Surely I could stop at “that exit with the train restaurant” this go round.

But by the time I finish home duties Thursday there is no way I can make the trip before midnight.  Shucks, no train.  Hmmm, if I can slip away from the class right away the next day…then maybe.  I need to return through Cincinnati before President Trump shuts down the road with his evening visit, and I need to get home to prep walls for paint and visitors.

Post learning on Friday I slip away asap and head to the location I find via Google:  Buckeye Express Diner.

Alone and near giddy, I drive up the hill.  I ration 30 minutes.  I need a late lunch and I crave minutes of peaceful adventure.

“First time?” The man at the counter asks.

I scan the menu posted on the wall and place my order before finding a seat in the train.  There is a juke box and TV screen.  I opt to look out the window.  I take time for slow breaths.  I attempt mindfulness.

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My server is sweet and attentive.  I wonder if people like her know how their random kindness is extra appreciated these days while I am tired and putting together the puzzle pieces of a home move.

The food is good.  Yum!  I eat half of it.  It is just enough.

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Time’s up.  I am reminded as I exit that there are more good things in the future.  There is special seating (with permission) in the caboose area.  I make a goal to sit there next time.

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Love,

Signature GSE

 

 

Not Forsaken

Is that a trick question? I wondered.

The Wells Fargo operator had asked, “Is this a time of hardship?”  I didn’t understand why she asked at first, but then realized it was because I paid the October mortgage bill on the last day of the grace period.  For me I felt like we were winning–aka, no penalty. The mortgage company sees this differently than I do.

A month ago I wondered how in the world we would get the house ready to sell.  Hubby’s muscles have left us.  The 16yo has to be taught how to do every odd job plus has homework.  The 20yo is 1526 miles away with the Air Force.  I have multiple jobs.  We gave most of our money away over the years doing the ministry I thought God asked me to do.  The clock is ticking.  We have one asset, the house, and it needs to go in order to start over.

Help comes from unexpected places.  Someone I work with said she’s been reading scripture and decided she would get people together to help.  Two miracle gift cards showed up to help purchase paint.

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I prepped the house as best I could and busy friends took time to help me move furniture around and patched a ceiling hole.  A neighbor and co-worker helped me sell other furniture and miscellaneous items to make room and to assist with the cost of more paint and supplies.

October 13 came and I had little idea who would come.  I thanked God in advance for whatever muscles that would arrive.

First, dear friends near my age came along with a 32yo new dad who could choose to be anywhere but chose to paint with purpose.

Around mid-day two young guys arrived.  I thought they were going to be disappointed that the basketball goal was already sold the hour prior.  “We’re here to paint,” they said.  When one took off his sweatshirt and out popped an arm with Jesus’ face tattooed on his muscles, my tears were unavoidable.  I knew right then miracles are happening.  The hands and feet of Jesus are present.

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As the weekend progressed people came for different reasons.  Some said they want to give back because their life has been better lately.  Some because of their love for the Lord.  One couple came partly because familial ALS is in their family too.  I began to pass out house keys like candy.

One young man looked deep into my soul, sized up the situation, asked me to list out the projects that scare me, and promised he’d stay by my side until the jobs are done like he would for his own mother.  He’s 26 and has a lot of carpentry, plumbing, etc. skills.  Wow. Wow.  Wow.

We’ve been full steam ahead with volunteers ever since.  I’d love to say some of their names, but I haven’t asked for permission.  I do my best to thank them personally.

On Tuesday night I went with my best friend since birth to see Hillsong.  I had no idea how I could stand on my sore feet and I stressed internally that I should be home working.

During the song I Am Who You Say I Am God mushed my heart like Playdough.  In a prayerful time I felt the Holy Spirit tell me, “You answered the call.  You gave up a lot.  You never let go of the house or lifestyle, and you’re going to have to let go of that now too.  It will hurt.  And you will go on.”

Like the song says:

I am chosen, Not forsaken

I am who You say I am

You are for me, Not against me

…I am a child of God.

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The castle I painted for our sons is gone, covered by “falling snow” white semi-gloss.  We are packing for a new adventure.  I am struck how the answer is “surrender” every time I am perplexed.  I look forward to sharing the manuscript Surrender on the Trail with readers one day.  As it turns out the trail was merely the beginning of what I am learning about surrender.

Love,

Signature GSE

P.S.  Thank you to new and old friends from Springdale Nazarene Church and SNC Norwood who took time to help our family.  May you be blessed abundantly.

Put The Dream Out There

What is the dream or idea that rolls around in your head?

This week I had an opportunity to present on the topic Developing Youth Led Prevention (of substance abuse primarily).  I got to know my audience by asking key “show of hands” questions and then shared a tool kit of my favorite go-to resources.

I dared to add to the list an equation I created based on years of successful Prevention work.  I call it the Edwards’ Effectiveness Formula.  The self doubt part of me wondered if I have any right to apply math to social entrepreneur work.  Who am I anyway?!  And then my more confident side thought about how people often ask me how I retain young people in our programs, how we accomplish community improvement tasks year after year which led me to think, Why not?!

With my hands in the air like I just don’t care I shared the formula:

E = R (EB/F)

Or, said in detail, Level of Effectiveness equals Evidence Based Program divided by Fidelity times Quality of Relationship(s).  Each of these variables can be measured and are, I find, an essential part of the process when working with young people.  I was open with attendees that it’s a theory I’m testing.  When I saw multiple people start scribbling notes in response to the reveal, I knew that the formula made sense to them too.  It was a cool moment of risk and reward.

What is the dream you would battle nerves to share in a room of 75 or more people?

Let’s say the dreams out loud.  I’ll tell you mine:

  1. Publish book Surrender on the Trail.
  2. Speak with women at events across the country.
  3. Publish another book called Martha’s Daughter.
  4. Go to grad school.
  5. Live in a country with an education system that supports the whole child including positive mental health and life resiliency skills.

Please share your dream(s) too.  I’d love to hear from the waves of your heart!

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What You Do Matters button is from the DC Holocaust Museum. Artist button is from Sparklezilla.com.