Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Burdens



Just about everyone I have encountered lately has been weighed down by life's burdens. Financial, health, relationship, work, school, and other stresses interrupt thought processes and impede progress. The holiday season only seems to amplify all that we need to do as well as what is lacking in our lives. 

What if we took stock of our worries, our stresses, our burdens...our plans for our lives that don't seem to be working out and then did something about them?  Often our perception of what we feel we should be doing doesn't match up with what is healthy for us, or with what God wants for us. We live in a culture of doing, of busy, of accomplishing, of making progress for progress' sake. Often we take on too much, inflicting on ourselves much of the stress in our lives.

Advent is a wonderful time to lay down our burdens and have faith that God will help us through - to take a look at the busy-ness in our lives and weed out what isn't serving us, our family, or our faith well. If we didn't have so much to do, perhaps we'd have better health, less financial stress, healthier relationships, and free up adequate energy for school or work and the other things we need to do in life. 

God, please help us to slow down, to realize what is truly important in our lives, and to let go of the rest. Inspire us to ease our burdens in a positive, productive way.  Be with us as we nurture our relationships with others and help us to also nurture ourselves. Thank you for opportunities to joyfully help lighten others' loads. 


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

New Start


Emails have been pouring in. A family in need of peace, friendship, love, and a new start will soon be arriving and we need to be ready for them. They have lost so much - friends, family, their home, their livelihoods. They need so much - a home, jobs, education,.. support as they get settled into new lives and get back on their feet. Soon, very soon it seems, the New Start Ministry will be swinging into action to welcome this family and all that entails.

After thinking we may be most likely to get the opportunity to help a Syrian family, we have recently learned that Congolese refugees are more likely. This doesn't change much about what we need to do to prepare for their arrival - but does allow us to learn about another beautiful people and their dire situation. 

God, please be with all refugees as they seek safety. Thank you for the opportunity to be able to help a family have a new start. Please help the New Start Ministry and our refugee family as we navigate unfamiliar paths together. Lead us as we learn to celebrate our differences and find a common bond. 
How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 1 John 3:17-18

Monday, November 28, 2016

Collide



They are killing each other. The Council meets to figure out who is to blame, what must be done. Can there be peace when two countries collide?

Through the lens of hate, a situation gets blown out of proportion, someone losing it all as a result. Finding your voice to stand up for the wronged isn't easy. 

Urging others toward peace is nearly impossible when fear and hate are thrown like daggers, judgement overruling love in the process. Sometimes a look to the past can shed light on the future. 

They are being persecuted. One stands strong while the other falters. Another preaches hate while carrying a secret of her own. It is often easier to join the crowd than to risk becoming a victim of hate. 

Hate, feeding on our inclination to fear difference, is strong, but Love is, too. Not gentle and starry-eyed, Love makes us take a look at how we love each other and commands us to stand up to Hate, even if that means putting ourselves on the line. 

This second day of Advent, I pray for the cast and crew of Collide as we do our best to do our best through tech week and two performances of this amazing play. God, thank you for this inspiring group of teenagers who thoughtfully crafted this tapestry of what it is to live in a world of fear, judgement, and hate while striving for peace, acceptance, and love. Please touch their hearts and their minds as they work through their own battles to bring this work to fruition. Please bless the crew with patience, understanding, and the energy to not only complete this production, but to lift up these youth as they struggle with lines or with life this week. Thank you for Collide and its wonderful messages during this time of division and collision in our world. 

ADVENTures 2016


As I drove through the night from Connecticut to Pennsylvania to celebrate Thanksgiving with my husband's family, and back again, I had a lot of time to myself as my husband and children slept. Quiet time, lest I wake my sleeping family. 

With peaceful music wafting through the van, I began to pray. I prayed for our safe journey, for the safety of other drivers and their passengers, especially those who veered across the dotted line and back into their lanes, perhaps too tired or distracted. Prayers for friends and family poured out along with those for our community, our country, our world. After praying about things that weighed heavily on my heart, I drove on in silence, opening my heart and my mind to God. Prayers of thanksgiving followed, as the dawn illuminated the myriad blessings in my life. 

As I journey through Advent, I do so prayerfully. 

________________________
ADVENT PRAYERS
November 28th: Collide
November 29th: New Start
November 30th: Burdens
December 1st: Rain
December 2nd: Givers
December 3rd: Hugs
December 5th: Wanting
December 6th: Instead
December 7th: The Truth

December 8th: Safety
December 12th: Connecting
December 14th: Ministry
December 15th: Breath
December 16th: Dreams
December 17th: Less
December 19th: Pageant
December 20th: Family


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Blessed Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving we are blessed to have survived the seven and a half hour trip to Pennsylvania to spend the holiday with my husband's family .

In this land devoid of WiFi , we are blessed to be spending some quality time together. Thanksgiving dinner done, my family enjoys Home Alone and looks forward to sharing Christmas gifts of sharing photos and home videos with grandparents, a great-grandparent, and an aunt.

Blessed doesn't even begin to describe the incredible Christmas gift we received yesterday. A "12 passenger van" to replace our slowly falling apart one. Bewildered is another good word to describe it. And amused. You see, this is no typical "12 passenger van." It does have the seating for twelve like our former vehicle, but has much more cargo room. We were astonished to discover that the van was in fact a fifteen passenger van missing aback row of seating!

I'm in a bit of shock, and unsure how I'm going to manage parking such a thing, but we'll make it work. We will not only have enough room to get everything to Camp Calumet  this Summer, but will be able to continue to use our van to help others .

I'd write more, but I need to get back to some  movie watching with my family. Besides, I haven't been blessed with good phone typing skills and this is taking me forever.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

It's OK


The teen sits at the table, doodling during the Sunday School lesson. It's OK.

He leaves worship before the Sharing of the Peace begins. He does this every single Sunday. It's OK.

He sits in the back of the worship room, enveloped in his hoodie. It's OK.

I know the doodling teen is listening simply by the way he seems to not be listening. Too look at someone as they speak is much too distracting - facial expressions, lips and tongue moving, things happening in the background. It's much easier for him to focus on paper and pen and voice than the world around him and what is being said.

Not liking to be touched by people he doesn't know well, this is the best way for him to meet his need to refrain from physical contact in an appropriate manner and not seem rude. 

The hoodie wearing boy is doing his best to not be overwhelmed by the assault of sounds,  sights, smells, and sensations of his surroundings. 

Unlike his brother, the ten year old likes to sit up front during worship. That's OK.

He rubs a soft blanket on his cheek or squeezes and runs his hands over a spiky, squishy ball as we wend our way through worship. It's OK.

He climbs into my lap, leans against me, asks me to rub his arms, or sometimes asks me if he can have a drink of water. After the drink he flaps his arms and spins them around and around. That's OK, too.

And he kicks his feet, stands up then sits down again, walks around a bit, and comes back to his seat during the Sunday School lesson. It's OK.

Not only is the front of the sanctuary where all the action is, but there aren't people in his way taking up too much of his attention.

Our church provides "sensory bags" for children like him to help them be able to better enjoy worship. Getting pent-up energy out in preparation for sitting still for the remainder of worship is key to his experience. Moving helps him listen, helps him concentrate. Sitting still, he would be concentrated more on sitting still than the lesson.

People with sensory issues can have a difficult time navigating Sunday School lessons and worship if made to conform to the standard rules of sitting still and eye contact and removing your hat or hood during worship. Giving them the freedom to do what they need to do to be able to learn or to worship tends to be worlds less distracting than the involuntary outbursts that may occur if they are not allowed to do so. 

Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently... Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help. Romans 14:1,4






Thursday, November 17, 2016

Days Like Today


It's days like today that I realize I'm not good at sitting still. That I yearn for things to do ... creative things, bookish things, any things other than sitting, doing nothing.

My three youngest and I are hanging out at Epoch Arts for the day, for homeschool picture day this morning and early afternoon and a one act play rehearsal this evening.

It's days like today when I miss my husband and my teen boys. I'd love to be here hanging out with them, enjoying their company. But two of them have to work and the third has no interest in getting his picture taken nor spending an entire day away from home.


It's days like today when I learn again how to stop, breathe, take in the moment. To slow down and enjoy my children's laughter, their questions, and their antics. To enjoy the view. 

Days like today are a much needed reminder that there is joy in lazy days that aren't illness-induced lazy days. That it's ok to not do so much every once in a while. 

Today I will sit back, relax ....and make a list of everything we have to pack for our trip to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving. Because that's what I enjoy doing. And maybe, just maybe, I'll join the children when they watch the Parent Trap. We do have popcorn...

Maybe a day like today is just what I need.

Friday, November 11, 2016

No Matter What



No matter who you voted for or what you think is best for our country...

No matter if you're celebrating or scared for our country...

There is this to consider:

No one won.

No one completely agrees with any one candidate's views, policies, or behaviors.

The only way we win is if we continue standing up for what we believe is right and good...

If we refuse to let hate, prejudice, and fear win...

If we take care of one another...

If we are kind...

If we move forward in hope, in love, in prayer, and in faith that we can and will make this world a better place.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Not Yet


My family knows the torture that is November. Well, how torturous it can be for me, anyway.

Christmas-y things are popping up everywhere. I'm working on the St. Paul Puppet Academy Christmas program, as well as Our Savior Lutheran Church's Christmas Pageant and Interpretive Movement Ministry Christmas performance. I'm planning for our family ADVENTures. 

BUT

I'm not allowed to listen to Christmas music or watch Christmas movies until Thanksgiving night!!!

I want to whine about this, but I have no one to whine to but myself, as it's a self-imposed rule. Don't get me wrong - my family members are totally on board with this rule, as I tend to go slightly overboard with the whole Christmas thing. And I do whine anyway. Starting sometime in June or July. 

I can't help it. I love Christmas music. I love Christmas movies...especially the John Denver and the Muppets Christmas Special from my childhood and A Muppet Christmas Carol. And A Family Circus Christmas, How the Grinch Saved Christmas, and...and...and...

SO

I'll instead concentrate on the craziness that is our lives this month. I need to pack for our trip to PA for Thanksgiving, get myself and children to various medical appointments, and we have our last two weeks of Epoch Arts Homeschool Co-op. Eleven out of the next twenty-two days we have Collide rehearsal (Collide is a one-act theatrical production at Epoch Arts in which Zachary and Haley are acting and I am helping). Just this weekend alone, various family members need to be at puppet ministry rehearsal, Collide rehearsal, a Pentatonix concert, worship, two birthday parties, and a four to five hour School of Lay Ministry session. 

AND

And this month I get to work on Christmas gifts for my in-laws, because we do Christmas with them the day after Thanksgiving! I also need to put together a Christmas music CD for our trip home from PA. And find some Christmas movies to bring with us. 

Maybe November won't be so torturous after all...

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Side Effects




I want to kill myself, but I'm feeling much better.

Navigating chronic illness seems impossible at times. The amount of work that goes into simply getting through the day can be astronomical, even when you're not doing much of anything. 

And then there are the medications that can do miraculous things. And that can cost far more than the hundreds or thousands of dollars a month these treatments often run. The side effects of some of these live-giving medications can kill us. 

I am currently on one medicine that makes me highly susceptible to infection and taking it could possibly lead to me getting a rare and untreatable form of cancer. I just started another medication that can worsen depression and make one suicidal, among other things. 
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But these treatments also do wonderful things like give me the ability to get out of bed each day, to walk, to use my hands...to be a functional person. They are truly a blessing.

The drugs that are supposed to stop my disease and improve my life could kill me...or make me want to kill myself. These are the risks many of us take in order to merely be able to function most days. 

The reality that we're putting our lives on the line in order to be able to live them is overwhelming at times. 

The choice to take these risks has been worth more than I could ever express. Life on these meds has been the difference between feeling like I'm going to die and being able to live life. It has brought me from feeling trapped in a dysfunctional body to wondering just how much function I can coax out of my body...from despair to hope.

"I want to kill myself, but I'm feeling much better...wonderful!" That thought ran through my head as I read the possible side effects section of my newest psoriatic arthritis treatment. I laughed at the thought, because that's what I do. Without a sense of humor, I don't think I'd make it through life with chronic illness ... or the possible ramifications of the treatments.