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

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.

Signature GSE

 

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.

In About A Year…

She energizes me every time we are together.

We make a plan of attack.  We let go of stress.  We choose to focus on our project and nothing beyond the scope of that project.  We slash 12-15 occupied hours from our week to make this happen.  This is bold and brave in my tangled world.  This is unpaid time to create something bigger, better, broader.  This choice frees our minds and invites creative space.

We have been so busy delivering the service that we miss consistent time to compile, gather, and finish content for the workshop series.  We’ve done the research.  Now we write what we’ve wanted to complete for three years.  More youth and children can have access to the opportunity in upcoming days when we hit pause so we can adjust our work.  As a different friend says, “Sometimes you need to take a minute.”

We pick a date for our next meeting and hit the bi-weekly calendar repeat button.  It feels good to be with a fellow creative person.  And she’s so smart.  She’s done the surrender work in her own life.  She is at peace.  I want peace.

Back in the car I think, In about a year we’re going to meet our goal.  Maybe in six months!

My car rattles.  I make my way to the highway, then catch myself.  No.  Not in a year.  Not in 6 months.  We will do the work and it will happen as it happens.  This project will unfold as it is meant to be.

I will not force it.

I will surrender to the process.

I will do my part of the work and we will see the reveal in time.

I pray, Show me the way.

I am a planner who can also be spontaneous.  I get hung up in the goal setting and walk in circles around the straight line that would be the easiest route.  I make things harder.  Not this time.

Make me a new vessel, Lord.  Guide my path.  Not my will, but Yours.  I don’t want my work-all-night-to-meet-a-deadline mode of operation.  No.  Not this time.

And so, the project begins with fresh air and a relaxed attitude.

       Proverbs 37:7 Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret….

In about a year…  We will diligently do the work with an open mind and see what happens.  I will rest when it’s time to rest and I will work when it’s time to work.

Does this make sense to other artists/writers out there?  Does surrender lead to a better way through life’s path?  I welcome your thoughts.

Pictures from the Cincinnati Nature Center on 9/17/18.  I was there for a training event.  The instructor gave us time to explore.  I saw deer, frogs, turtles, and I watched the leaves begin their seasonal descent.

God bless you,

Signature GSE

Wet Soil

I saw a grasshopper jump 6 feet Sunday.  Impressed, I measured to be sure.  Sometimes I just want to know.

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Thinking about my already stressed immune system, I pop an extra Flintstones vitamin.  It’s time to tackle the landscape while rain drizzles.

The ground is soft.  This is my best chance to rip out overgrown weeds.  Working wet soil is easier than working hard soil on a sunny day.  I accept that my clothes and shoes will become muddy.  I give thanks for consecutive hours to focus on yard work long overdue.

 

Crickets chirp for hours likely because it is so dark they think it is night time.  I double check online and sure enough crickets usually stick to nocturnal chirping.  Again, I wanted to know.

Digging literally into my work, I smile thinking that crickets may not know that even when it’s dark during the day, there is light on the other side of gloomy clouds.  Then I mental note rephrase light to be a capitalized L, Light to represent Jesus.  My speed remains steady.

Eventually I realize that if I am going to finish all that needs to be done, then I’m going to have to get on my knees.  There’s no avoiding the mud or muck.  I must get serious.  Kneeling reminds me to pray.

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Section by section and weed by weed, I become increasingly meditative and prayerful thinking about how if wet soil is easier for me, then how easy must wet soil be for God?  I consider how God uses our tears.  I pray in thanksgiving and surrender that God will use my tears for good.  Our family is in a season of change and pain.  There is good to be found on the the other side of the clouds.  The Light is always there.

I uncover a decorative rock that I haven’t seen in a while.  I nod to the sky as if to say, “Metaphoric show off, Lord…my Rock.”

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I’m in the deep end of the pool as my mind wanders.  Part of my thoughts skim along the idea of leaving the day job that I’ve done to positively impact the lives of children and families for 15 years.  The personal cost has been more than I imagined.  Maybe it’s time to quit.  I’m terrified to quit because I don’t want to disappoint God, and I truly adore my students and families.

Perhaps it was the earth and dirt that took my brain to a time that changed my life’s direction back in 1992.  A group of college students and ministers  (all guys from the states plus me and one other girl) dug dirt out of a foundation for a church in Mytishchi, Russia.  Then we began adding brick to raise the walls.  We were the first team of several teams to visit that location.  I never got to see in person the finished church.

I think about the dirt moved, the drunk local brick layers, and the many crumbling bricks I carried.  The Russian bricks were unlike anything I’d seen in the USA.  To follow are pictures from my 1992 scrapbook.

 

On my knees in my messy front yard God whispers to my soul that just as my hands were a small part in a physical foundation that carries on His work beyond the summer of 1992, my efforts for the last 15 years are also part of foundations in lives that I can not see.  His work carries on with or without me.  My job is to surrender to whatever is next, to be open to possibilities.

I search the Internet once in a while over the years but rarely see any structure that might be close to what we were building in Mytishchi.  I know from the scrapbook that this is a sketch the Russians had on the wall.  This was their goal during a time of limited building supplies.  I wondered back then how the rough red brick could become a white smooth surface.

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Then last night as I prepared this post, I found it.  I am certain.  To follow are pictures of a thriving 2018 church in Mytishchi, Russia.  I’m so pumped that it exists.  There’s even a few online pics of people, now 26 years older, I recognize.

 

Hi Peter!  Then and now:

 

My hands were a small part of a lasting foundation that I don’t get to see up close and I may never see in person.  I don’t get to know.  It’s not for me to always know.

Jeremiah 18:3-4 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.

I surrender to whatever vessel God wants me to be next.

Meanwhile, the yard is looking much better!

 

SURRENDER – 3 day experiment, day 3

Hubby says as I enter the kitchen this morning, “Our grand kids were supposed to visit us in this house.”

Sigh.  It’s true.  That was the plan.  I’ve had that cry numerous times as the “stuff removal” continues.  I don’t see how we can stay in this home for a few reasons.  There is only a half bath on the first floor, no shower.  Bedrooms and full baths are upstairs.  Finances are strained.

I carry on with trash collecting and errand running.  My mind wanders in and out of the Surrender experiment.  I reflect on parts of the day 2 verse:  Be humble, God will lift up in due time, cast all anxiety on Him, He cares.

In the Walmart parking lot I catch my hands making a tossing motion to cast all my anxiety toward the sky.  I think about writer friend, Kelly, who tweeted last night about the experiment “What are we holding back from God?”

That question led me to add to my surrender list:

8.  Dear God, I give you the dark places of my mind, the places that I rarely acknowledge even to myself.  I will no longer hold anything back.  It is all Yours.

At Kroger near the seafood someone calls out, “Glenna!”  It is a neighbor from our street.

“I saw that you agreed to be one of the stops on the deck crawl.”  It’s true.  Our neighbors have an annual progressive party.  I don’t plan to make a big deal out of it, but in my mind being a stop on the list of addresses is my way of quietly saying goodbye.

Our chat continues a while.  My neighbor offers wonderful ideas about turning our first floor laundry room, located next to the half bath, into an accessible shower.  She suggests that our laundry equipment move to the second floor or to the garage.  By the time we are done I can visualize the new set up.  A bedroom in our living room or dining room would be the easiest part of the adjustment.  I leave her side feeling hopeful.  She even gave me a contractor phone number.

The day continues and I end up taking a nap.  I woke up not as hopeful, but open to possibilities.  I will call for an estimate.

And the surrender list continues:

9.  I release my thoughts about how our current challenges will evolve.

10.  I will continue to practice surrender and let go each day this week.  I will seek and stay close to God.  Your ways are higher.

John 16:33 (NIV) I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

I believe there is peace found in surrender.  My main discovery in this experiment is that surrender is a process.  I have lots of practicing to do.  Thanks for joining me on this journey.  What are you learning about surrender?

Blessings to you and yours,

Glenna

SURRENDER – 3 day experiment, day 2

God wacked me over the head with a song this morning.

I spent quiet time yesterday and early today poring over every word of Proverbs 3:5-6.  I personalize the words.  Trust in the Lord with all my heart…not my understanding…submit…He will direct my path….

Leaving home for outsourced biscuits and gravy (don’t judge), I ramble with God in the silent car:  I committed to share this surrender experiment.  I’m not sure I have much to say, God.  Is surrender acknowledging Your power?  I gratefully let go of any power I thought I had.  Really.  My body aches every day with this crazy clean out the house effort. It was all I could do to resist taking a muscle relaxer at 6am.  I can’t do that because I need these daylight hours…yes, I need You too.

Driving downhill sunshine flutters through leaves into the car.  I hear the words HERE NOW loudly in my ear/mind.  I recognize that phrase is a song title by Hillsong United that I haven’t heard in a while.  I sing some of the words:

Here now.

Cause I know that you are here now.

It makes no sense, but this is grace.

I know you are with me in this place….

I continue to sing.  My voice raises in worship.

And then it hits me.  I am overcome thinking and KNOWING that surrender brings God up close.  Our Higher Power is ever present.  When we surrender it is in those moments that we are in total closeness, togetherness, and in acknowledgement of God’s love.

Huh.  I’ll be chewing on that thought for a while.  What do you think?

Also, God is love therefore it should not surprise me the love I’ve felt both for God and for people in the last two days.  Random people:  The mother of a 3-year-old and 6-month-old at the laundromat, a pregnant cashier at Bob Evans, the man at Great Clips with a suicide prevention tattoo…and not so random:  my husband, sons and friends.  If you poke my arm heart emojis may float out of me.

Here is the verse for day 2 along with my surrender list continuation:

1 Peter 5:6-7 (NIV) Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

5.  I surrender my path.  God, take the lead.  I trust You know a better way.
6.  I surrender debt.  God, please clear the way to debt free living.  I hand over the mistakes made when we inaccurately counted the cost of what it would mean to live in the non-profit world with a corporate world house.
7.  I let go of fears related to ALS in our family.

Now back to sorting, trash bag gathering, and lugging items to Goodwill.

If you chose to join me, how is your surrender experiment going?  Am I on to something?  What are you discovering?

Sidebar:  Do you see a face in the clouds with the rainbow picture?

Love,

Glenna