One Less Thing

I realized my self-talk whispers “ok, one more thing” over and over each time a new daily challenge arrives. This came to my attention when suddenly I experienced a fifteen minute window where I soaked in the joy of One-Less-Thing instead.

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My car dashboard mirrors my life with its scattered warnings. The tire maintenance light is forever “on”. I’ve had 5 nail punctured tires over 5 months.

The service engine light greets me each morning. The oil change guy hooked up a gadget reader to tell me the light is nothing to worry about, but I wonder. The brake light won’t go out even when the emergency brake is released. I stopped looking up what the other lights mean in the manual.

The dashboard reminds me of the running narrative in my mind. It goes something like this: I’m still sick. Stress is not helping me get well. Drop the kid off at school. Go to work. Repeat. My voice refuses to come back. The cat puked. -One more thing. I need to make dinner. Sweep the house. Keep trying to sell the house. Clean the bathroom. Move the laundry. I really should write a letter or send a care package to our deployed son. What just fell off the house?! -One more thing. If you sit down, you’ll fall asleep. Get up. Give Hubby the light weight fork because it is easier for him to manage. Position his shoes in a way that will help him be less likely to fall. Move his phone to his next location so he is not thrown off balance by carrying something when he travels inside the house. Help the remaining kid with college applications. I need to go to Lowe’s. Heavy duty caulk. A new vacuum bag. Take out the trash and recycling. Prepare for presentations at work. Who do I need to call back? Have I followed through on all work tasks? Scoop litter box. Check personal email to see if anyone has responded to my manuscript query letters. Send more queries. Do we have gas in both cars? Pay bills in a way that hopefully does not cause an overdraft. It’s going to be close again this month. Is Hubby breathing? Is the cat breathing? I really need to make a vet appointment. -One more thing. There are other people I want to check in with. I text them. There are other people I would like to be there for. My capacity is too narrow. I can’t believe he hasn’t been able to work for a year. We need some mobility equipment. That will have to wait. The kid needs an eye appointment. -One more thing. I can’t make that work financially. How many hours of sleep can I get if I go to sleep right this minute? Why can’t I fall asleep? And so forth.

I try not to complain out loud. “Just keep swimming” as Dory says. But seriously, if there is a Santa out there who wants to buy our house so we can leave and start over, that would be GREAT.

Today I uprooted this tree growing into our fence and felt delighted by the image. Yes, we are ready to be uprooted.

In an attempt to make extra cash, I placed an ad to be a Pet Sitter. I can squeeze in dog walking and more cat litter scooping. I can love on animals and give neighbors peace of mind. The first response? Someone needs help with a cat until they get out of jail in February. So many thoughts. Bless their heart. Sigh….

One day I will not feel so stuck. I visualize selling a manuscript and being in an affordable and accessible home. One day I’ll be in the land of all three. I have learned hard lessons. I can do better.

This week our youngest got a job. Go kid! And he broke my heart by saying, “You won’t have to worry about Christmas, Mom, ’cause I’ll be able to buy my own presents.” The sentiment is good. The reality hurts.

A new job means he needs new pants. We make a plan to go to the store Wednesday. I secretly stress about how to afford the pants, but I think we can make it work. I don’t want him to know how close we are cutting it.

On Tuesday evening I drag my work bag into the house as the guys say, “We have a surprise.”

There on the kitchen table are new pants one day early. Hubby even used a coupon. In my book, that’s hot. Hubby had a decent afternoon and they worked together. I hear that the wheelchair got stuck in the JCPenny door, and they figured that out too.

In the moment, I physically felt something fall off the to-do list. One. Less. Thing. This felt magical. I soaked in the joy for fifteen intentional minutes. I smiled in my own home. This surprise felt so good!

This was a glimpse that things can be better. Will be better. I will trust the process.

To all those who struggle, I send you a giant cyber hug. You can do this. We can do this. Deep, slow breaths.

And now I must go.

The cat puked.

Love,

Glenna

Scripture Spoke Louder

I find treasure each weekend as we prepare to move.  Most recently I discovered a 2-inch x 3-inch notebook from 1983.  The paper has yellowed.  The spiral wire feels rough like rust.  The pages are difficult to turn.

Inside are Bible verses from a time when I took every curly q of cursive writing seriously.  I was 11 years old in 1983.  My guess is that in Sunday School we wrote a verse or two each week.  The notebook is divided into Old Testament and New Testament sections, poetry, prophecy, and more.  I have no idea who my Sunday School teacher was for this weekly exercise, but he or she was wise.  What an excellent way to learn scripture.

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Almost every page contains Bible verses that have been with me nearly my whole life.  They reside not only in a dark corner of my basement moved from home to home but also in the foundation of my heart.

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Exodus 14:14, When adults have competing agendas and it is best to hold my tongue.

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Leviticus 19:4, When the boy broke my heart.  Uh, ok, boys.  Plural.  Worshiping another human is a trap often leading to disappointment.  I learned only God can “complete me”.

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Ruth 3:10, When I found strength in the fact that a gentle woman can still have power and grace.

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2 Samuel 22:4, When I trusted God to deliver me from less than nice people.  [Sidebar:  Have you heard that 1 in 25 people may be a functioning sociopath?  Check out a great book for more info:  The Sociopath Next Door.]

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Ecclesiastes 7:9, When I developed a slooooow fuse.  I don’t anger easily.  That is a blessing in my relationships.

Micah 7:7, When I feel scared or lonely and ask Jesus to wrap His arms around me as I go to sleep.

2 Corinthians 5:7, When I take healthy risks with hope for the best outcome.

John 3:16, When I maintain perspective on the greatest love story of all time.

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Mark 16:15, When I chose to write a Christian blog and Christian manuscript about freedom found in surrender.  Preach, sisters!

What scripture has spoken louder than your circumstances?  Is there a teacher you need to thank?  Or children in your life who will benefit from the time you take to build a notebook with them?

I am grateful for the caring adults who poured light into me even if it took 35 years for me to realize the lasting power of the wisdom they shared.

Glenna

Caregiver vs. Caregiver

Perhaps I should not write this while I still remember her license plate number.  This is fresh, y’all.

Let’s begin with one of my favorite quotes:

Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.  ~  Martin Luther King Jr.

It was a perfect breezy 80-degree morning, the kind of morning where it looks like the sun is gently kissing each surface around you.  Hubby left for work with minimal physical challenges.  I jump in the car early to go pick up snacks and water for a 24-person summer school field trip.  I feel joyful and have plenty of time to shop in our local grocery store.

I paid without feeling rushed.  I turn left out of the store to walk toward the ice chest.  I need two bags of ice.  Ahead of me is an elderly man shuffling his feet like Tim Conway from the old Carol Burnett show.  I guess he is in his late 80’s or early 90’s.

My mind goes two places.  One, I want to make sure I leave him plenty of room.  I walk behind my cart slowly.  Two, I find myself praying for him.  I thank God that this man has lived a long life and ask that he have a wonderful day.  Given his difficulty to walk, it is great that he is outside enjoying the weather.

I stop to place my hand on the ice chest door handle.  The man is well ahead of me at this point.  Suddenly my eye catches sight of erratic body movements further ahead of the man.  Jumping out of a white SUV parked curbside down by the liquor store is a woman near my age.  Her arms flail.  Her voice is loud.

“You’re about to be run over, Grandpa!” She bellows.  I notice her slim figure looks good in white pants.  Odd the things you pay attention to sometimes.

Aw, I think maybe she is trying to banter with him.  To connect.  To have fun.

Censored beep, beep, beep later I realize she is not being playful at all.  She is livid.  At me.

She yells my direction, “Some people are so rude!”

What?!

I attempt to tuck in my inner Martha.  Martha, my mom, had a short fuse made of magnesium.  I can let this go.

And then my mouth opens anyway.

“Maybe from your perspective,” I send her way.  “But from where I am I was giving him plenty of space and even saying prayers of thanksgiving for him.”  I know that probably sounded stupid, but it was true.

After all, the woman is beyond us and there is even a brick column obstructing her view.  From where her SUV is parked it would be easy to jump to conclusions.  There’s no way she can accurately assess the distance between Grandpa and me from her location.

And then her mouth opens.  She combines words like prayer and the b word and other words I’m not going to type.

Sigh…this day had been going so well.

Is she coming after me?  My faux Terminator eye surveys our surroundings.  In seconds I assess where the security cameras hopefully are, what time it is, how my body will flatten hers if she hits me first, and contemplate if I can withstand assault charges.  I am not proud of this.  I’m just saying I was raised in a way that is ready for unanticipated action.  Generally, I am a pleasant person.  I try to maintain a kind face even in these strained moments.

I finish putting ice in my cart.  Grandpa shuffles into the liquor store and the angry lady gets back into her SUV.  I step into the parking lot so I can make a mental note of her license plate, then turn right to find my car.

I maintain awareness as I load my trunk.  I know my insides are shaking a little bit.

Sitting in the car I text a trusted BFF to ask for prayer.  A day once going well now feels scary.

When back on the road, I see the SUV.  The lady still looks erratic.  She runs her hands through her hair many times and might be yelling at Grandpa.

I drive, pray, go over the checklist for the day.  Crisis adverted.

Then a deep truth hit my heart.  That lady is a caregiver for Grandpa.  I don’t know if she is every day, but this day she is.  As my mind softens, I dismiss some judgement about how if she really cared about Grandpa she wouldn’t send him alone into either store and especially not the one with hundreds of glass bottles.  It occurs to me that maybe as a caregiver she is angry.

And sometimes I feel angry as a caregiver too.

I just felt anger toward a fellow caregiver.  With good reason, I saw her as an enemy first.  But what does the Bible say about our response to enemies?

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  Matthew 5:44

Do I love her?

How long did it take me to pray for my enemy?  Answer:  38 minutes

It was easy to recognize Grandpa’s struggles, but it was hard to recognize the possibility of her struggle.  It took me 38 minutes to pray for her.  Maybe she needed to let off steam and I was an easy target.  To follow are a few additional thoughts about invisible caregiver pain:

1.  People don’t read minds.  The SUV lady couldn’t read my mind and I couldn’t read hers.  Lord, May we try to give people grace first instead of judgement.

2.  Perspective is varied.  Depending on where you are standing or what you are doing at the moment before you look up makes a big difference in what you see.  I suspect if the woman had been parked behind us or beside us she may not have jumped to the conclusion that Grandpa was in danger.

3.  How often do we miss the caregivers?  We sign up for meal trains, we bring things to patients who are sick, but what can we do for caregivers?  There are other blogs and articles with ideas on this.  I encourage you to keep caregivers in mind when you support people who are hurting.  Lord, Please help caregivers to be comforted, seen, and heard.  Also, help me to be sensitive to the journey of others.  Amen.

Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.  1 Chronicles 28:20

When Was The Last Time

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2009 Shaw Farm

When was the last time he took my hand and we took a walk together?  When was the last time he could stand up from the couch without thinking about how to stand?  How many years ago was the last time he could golf–his all-time favorite activity?  When was the last time our home did not involve daily groans and pain?

As a mother, I vowed to cherish everything about our sons:  every flutter as they swam in the womb, first grins, first toys, first words.  My heart skipped beats when their little hands kept reaching for mine well into elementary school years.  I knew their childhood would end.  I treasured their soft skin and cuddles.  I would not squander those moments.  And while storing up sweet memories I welcomed the fact that one day our boys would move on to a greater destiny beyond their mom’s heart.

What I did miss was treasuring simple moments with my husband.  Yes, I appreciated him.  Yes, we tried to spend time together.  Yes, we overcame the fact that opposites really do attract and chose to draw closer to God, our translator, to communicate.  Yes, we did not give up on our marriage or each other.  But did I truly cherish him?  I didn’t think he was leaving.  And he hasn’t left, but sometimes it seems like he isn’t all here either.  My mind reaches for precious moments of ease that I forgot to store in my brain.

Grief arrives in many forms.  Sometimes we grieve the loss of a job or relationship.  I’ve endured the pain of people close to me passing away.  You may have too.  And now I endure the pain of watching chronic illness ALS-21 steal expectations we had for our present and future.  Our youngest child is a teenager.  I thought we had more time before hubby and I grew old together.  But symptoms of old slowly moved into our home decades too soon.  We are like the metaphoric frog in the pot of tepid water who didn’t know the heat was about to turn up.  We sat calmly in the pot not noticing that the water began to boil our circumstances.

I spend hours each week clearing “stuff” out of our house.  It feels like we are in a race against the clock to move to a more accessible place.  We had plans to remodel that will never happen while we are here.  I feel the ugly emotion of jealously toward people I haven’t met who will do projects here that I likely will not see.  Tears drizzle my checks occasionally over leaving our home of 20 years too soon.  What really got me down deep was when our oldest son was home on leave from the Air Force.  A couple nights he didn’t want to go see friends.  He shared that he just wanted to enjoy the walls of our home because he knew he might not ever again get to come home to this address.

On the flip side of the moving coin, I celebrate the thought of being in a home where my husband doesn’t have to crawl upstairs at night.  Are we old enough to require a no steps living arrangement?  Apparently yes.  This thought process requires me to clear clutter faster.  Time is not waiting for me.  I’ve quit looking at other homes online because I need to focus on the task of leaving this home first.  I trust God will provide the right place for us at the right time.

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:34

I often tell myself that our situation could be worse, that there are worse things that people deal with.  These thoughts push me along to be grateful for the good things in our lives that we do have, or things that are better because we’ve had to adapt.  For example, I’m not sure my husband has ever verbally appreciated me more than he does now.  His kind words mean a lot to me.  We are also more forgiving and appreciative these days.  It seems like we have reached a calm place where we are slow to anger and less judgmental.  I thank God for the side benefits of sticking together and pushing through tough times as a team.

Are you grieving a loss or expectation of any size?  It takes time to grapple with it.  If you have tips or favorite verses about grieving that you would like to share, please comment.  I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

Resting Face Fix

We sat on the 52nd floor of Prudential Tower inside the Top of the Hub restaurant.  It was the last evening of a week-long training in Boston, Massachusetts.  The city lights twinkled in the night-time landscape.  My female co-worker’s fork froze midair ascent when he said it.

His name was Alan.  I had stored him in my contacts as Al from Nashville–met 2012.

Among the dark wood finishes and fresh flowers, we had a deep conversation about youth led substance abuse prevention and teen empowerment.  With intrigue and conviction, he points to me, “You are smarter than I thought you were.”  I am silent, then he continues, “Looking at your face this week I didn’t know you were this intelligent.”

Huh.

Now…I may suspect this was a moment of unconscious bias toward females in his life.  It could be.  But I chose to own my piece of it quietly because this was the fourth time in my adult life that something like this was said to me.  Four felt like a theme.  Even if the score is three males to one female who said something similar over the years, it is still a theme.  I’ve been back burner simmer thinking about this subject matter for a while.

Fast forward to 2018 when I’m getting ready to leave for a writer’s conference.  On my list to discuss with my Masterminds group was:  My Resting Face Problem.  I filled in the 4 women team on the issue.  They offered quality meeting people for the first-time guidelines.  Then we came up with the idea to have specific words in mind all week that would hopefully project on my face in the quiet times, walking around campus times, and all times.  They suggested I come up with 3-4 words.

Strategy Words So, I did just that.  During the drive I committed that the following words would be on my face while in public always:  welcoming, kindness, humble, confidence.  Each time I left my room I looked in the mirror and said those words.

Then a metaphoric resting face earthquake happened not 24 hours into the conference.  I received a punch you in the stomach kind of phone call from home.  The call was about work, co-workers and children I care about immensely.  It was a blind side and news of a likely short-sighted decision that could roll down hill in a painful way.  I turned my face toward the nearest wall because I felt the strategy words slide right off my face.

I quickly prayed for many things and did my best to acknowledge gratitude that no one was physically bleeding or worse at home.  I was minutes away from the next meeting with a literary agent.  Turning toward a wall may have morphed into bouncing off walls because someone noticed.  I strained for composure when the sweetest person scooped me up.  Her name is Janine Rosche.  This dear sister sized me up in less than 2 minutes and asked if she could pray me over the hurdle.  Uh, yes please, Jesus take the wheel, I’m thinking.  She prayed me from brain implosion WHAT!? to calm.  I am forever grateful.  She is a Christian Romance writer.  Her blog is JanineRosche.com.  [I will buy anything she writes–hear that publishers?!]

The shakeup was Monday.  I carried on prayerfully the rest of the week.  Mostly I could focus, but I felt my body stress while in a new situation and it hurt to know people were hurting at home.  Resting face words became even more important because I used thinking about the words to center myself each day.  I needed to remember who I am and why I was there.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday hummed along and I enjoyed connecting with people and learning.  Thursday afternoon I sat down before the long drive home to care for some business deadlines and emails.  The covered patio overlooking a pond was a comfort.  I knew I’d feel better if I knocked out the work rather than pause at rest stops looking for wi-fi.

So help me, the phone rings and during the call I hear another piece of work information that sours my stomach.  People can be cruel.  The details don’t matter, but it was a problem that led me to be concerned whether I could handle driving 6 hours home.

Most conference attendees were already gone.  The campus was quiet.  Along comes a husband and wife team from Alabama that I had met earlier in the week.  They run a marriage ministry.  They stopped to say hello.  I explained that I was concerned about making the drive.  They asked if they could pray for me.  Yes, please.  

And then the full circle moment zapped my heart.

This is a clip from their prayer:

“….Lord, every time we’ve seen Glenna this week her face is a welcoming face, a kind face.  She is weary right now before the drive, but we ask you restore her confidence that we know is in her.  We thank you for the humble spirit we’ve sensed from her all week….”

I almost fell to the ground.

God is good.  God looks out for us and all of our struggles.  He even helps with resting face fixes!

While the Bible may not talk about the term “resting face”, I do cherish the following verse because rest and God’s presence is vital through the ups and downs of life.  In our facial expressions God can give us rest and focus.  In our struggles the greatest theme above any of our own life themes is the fact that God can weave the words and people we need into our current challenge.  We have His presence and we have His kind of rest available.  He will go with us.

And he said, “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.”  Exodus 33:14  NKJV

Glenna

Feel the Feels

Pic Feel the Feels

You might think that someone who was a psych major would already know this, but what I am about to share is something I’ve only figured out how to do in the last 18 months.  I am not an expert, but I am getting better and practicing.

As children many of us are taught to suppress undesirable emotions.  For example, we may be told don’t be mad, sad, cry or demonstrate feelings that might make someone else (like a parent perhaps) feel uncomfortable.

Nowadays in my work I find more and more information that states it is important to validate a child’s emotions.  Tell the child it is ok to feel what they feel, and then encourage them to think carefully about what actions they will do next while being aware of their feelings.

Sidebar:  Jesus had all the emotions while on earth that we have too.  It’s how we utilize those emotions that matters.  We can welcome the feeling(s) and still be in control of our behavior choices.

Recently I told a friend, “Not that you are…but be enraged if you need to be.  Use it.  Maybe you need a little mad to keep moving.  Feel the feels and let them pass through your body.  Then get back to work.”

I have found that if I fight the feels, then it takes longer for me to get on track.  I have learned to:

  • Pause.  Allow myself to take a time out when I need it.
  • Identify the emotion or emotions.
  • Say in acknowledgement “I feel _______ (fill in the blank).”
  • Visualize the emotion(s) pass through my body.
  • Repeat as needed.  Breathe and exhale through the process.  Release the pain if needed.  Sometimes I thank the emotion for stopping by and for reminding me that I am human.

This process validates rather than fights the feeling.

Key:

  • Fighting or suppressing emotions derails my time management.
  • Validating and identifying an emotion normalizes my feelings and takes much less time to address.

Another time saver is when I pray, “God here is________.  Take it.  Lead me in the direction I should go.”  I am done figuring out anything that my Higher Power can bust through walls and decipher for me.

We have grace for others, we need to have grace for ourselves too.  I’m trying to do so anyway.  It is hard!

God has adamant love for you.  You are not alone.

Proverbs 3:26 …for the LORD will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.

Hebrews 4:16   Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

All the above being said, emotions that get in the way ongoing should be addressed with a professional.  Be brave and seek help from your doctor or therapist as needed.  There is so much power and freedom to be found in tapping into the truth about ourselves.

Glenna