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

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!

 

Capacity

I love to learn, especially about human behavior and social change.  The toughest human subject for me to observe, though, is me.  Learning about reasons for my own behavior, habits, and struggles is the hardest set of knots to untie.

There are things we understand logically in our mind long before we accept the same logic in our heart.  Lately the word capacity rolls around in my head like an old-fashioned marble.

I am the gal who didn’t finish Lysa Terkeurst’s book The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions In The Midst Of Endless Demands, which is really about how to say no.  I probably didn’t finish because I said yes to something and put the book aside.  I also didn’t finish the book Boundaries: When To Say Yes How To Say No And Take Control Of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend.  I am a book finisher.  So, the fact that I didn’t finish reading either book may point to pattern.  Uh, yes.

The pattern goes all the way back to a 6th grade Happy Gram where the teacher wrote about me “she always does more than necessary to create excellent work.”  While that felt good at the time, now I’m not sure that was the happiest of words.

I am at a crossroads where I wish I had more to give when I have given more than I had.

So, I began saying no to projects last week.  I said no to projects I normally would be honored to complete.  Right now I need to spend time with our Higher Power, spend time with some family and friends, write and create the next chapter of life.  Every decision going forward is considered along with the question: Do I have the capacity?  I suspect wisdom and capacity are closely linked.  We shall see.

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An unattractive picture from the end of the Surrender Trail 2016 that captures how I felt then and maybe how I feel right now too!

Proverbs 4:7 (NIV) The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.  Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

Do you have wisdom in this area?  How do you measure and make choices about capacity?

Why #WildWednesday

The first time I used #WildWednesday on an Instagram post, hubby said he was a little concerned what I was up to.  I blog Wednesdays and Saturdays on the steady with a few special occasions sprinkled into the mix.  Wednesdays are extra special to me.

We were married five years before children arrived.  Wild Wednesday is a term we used long ago before two people became three, then four.  Being young and the lowest seniority at each of our jobs meant we often worked weekends.  When off days fell on Wednesdays we could take quick road trips.  The world seemed quiet and travel costs were less expensive mid-week.  #WildWednesday is a nod to a sweet time.

On this Wednesday I am still thinking, praying, and meditating about the 3-Day Surrender Experiment.  Coming up Saturday I plan to post about “capacity”.  In the meantime, I am feeling a little wild indeed, wild about cutting down shrubs and tidying landscaping outside our home!  My imagination chopped down ALS a few times too.

Caregiving means more than caring about someone else.  This week caregiving involves sawing gnarly trees and bushes while singing the song “All By Myself”–not the verses in the melancholy Celine Dion way, but belting out the chorus in a proud anthem type way.  Happy Wednesday, y’all!

Colossians 3:23  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord….

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

 

No Games

Each year I spend a fair amount of time listening to friends tell me about their heartbreak and the guys in their lives who are not fully committed to participating in a relationship.

Frequently the behavior described leads me to respond with “he may be a coward.”  A coward is timid or uncomfortable doing unpleasant things.  And guess what?  A relationship can be filled with unpleasantness.

Relationships require work to be successful.

In the spirit of love for my husband, I’d like to brag on him for a moment.   To follow are ways I knew when we dated that he is not a coward:

1.  He didn’t lose my phone number.  He called when he said he would.

2.  He didn’t flinch when a different girl flirted with him.  He knew what he wanted and ignored her.  He wasn’t waiting for someone better.  He did not play games that left me guessing.

3.  He wrote a letter to me every day I was away on a summer mission trip the first year we met.  I treasure those love letters.

4.  When I made a mistake mistakes he said, “Let’s talk about it.”  I eventually agreed.

5.  When he made a mistake mistakes I said, “Let’s talk about it.”  He eventually agreed.

Sidebar: We are both stubborn, but we knew even at a young age that we must set time aside to deal with our mistakes.  With angry lips quivering we still found a way to create safe space for discussion.

6.  He was able to apologize and to receive apologies.

7.  He loves Jesus.  We do church together.  There was zero doubt from the beginning that faith would remain an integral part of our lives.  Someone gave us a framed poem called “Marriage Takes Three”.  I agree with that poem more and more year after year.

Opposites do attract.  We are living proof.  It is not uncommon for each of us to argue our perspective on a topic.  Most of the time when we stop to listen we realize we are saying similar things.  Not one year of marriage has been easy, but I am thankful that I have never questioned his love or integrity.

8.  Humor helps.  Yesterday he shared that his arm muscles are starting to fail due to ALS.  He made a gesture with his arms that led me to call him my T-Rex.  Somehow laughter joined the conversation.  Today he sent me a cute T-Rex cartoon text.

We are finding ways to lighten a heavy load.

Ephesians 4:2-3  With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

How do you maintain unity through the ups and downs of a relationship?