Aging Not-So-Gracefully

Aging-Gracefully

Wed., Mar. 29, 2017

Proverbs 16:31 – Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is found on the path of righteousness.

Getting older isn’t for wussies.

A short five years ago, Rick and I often commented how fortunate we were to have all four of our parents alive. We expected things could change any minute. And they did. During one November week, both of my parents were in the hospital (at different times) and my mother-in-law was also hospitalized. A few weeks later, I watched my Dad quietly slipped away one January morning. Ten months later, Rick’s Mom passed away with much of her family present. A year-and-a-half later, Rick took off of work to stay with his Dad one night. Rick was with him when he passed away in the afternoon.

Our remaining surviving parent is my Mom. Since my Dad’s death, she has changed physically and mentally. While she wants to will her body to be able to do things she did 10 years ago, it is not able to. Dementia overtook her Mom, my Grandmother, the last number of years of her life. Unfortunately, it is also becoming a part of my Mom’s medical history, much to her denial.

It is not easy to move from child into the more parental role with a parent. Rick and I have tried to respect our parents while keeping them safe and healthy. Especially with Rick’s parents, we’ve made it a priority to make things work as they desired. We organized our lives, jobs and sleeping arrangements amongst other things to try and uphold their wishes. In trying to honor our fathers and our mothers, sometimes we were more gracious than others.

I cannot count the number of times Rick and I have questioned whether we will age graciously. Will we remember to be more accepting of other’s suggestions when the time comes? Will we be open? Will we negotiate gracefully? Only time will tell.

In the last number of years, I have gained a deeper appreciation for those who work with our more mature population on a daily basis.  While no two situations are ever the same, today, I see those struggling with declining spouses from a different perspective. At times, maybe I can bring the child’s perspective to light in a discussion … because I’ve been that child. And sometimes, I just need to listen: to an aging person, a spouse, my Mom, as well as those who have accepted the role of being a caregiver. Neither the aging person nor those providing care can be wussies.

During the last six months of my mother-in-law’s life, I had the great opportunity to provide regular care for her. It had to be hard for her to basically let me take over many of the things she had been responsible for decades. What Ersel taught me was a graciousness that I pray I embody; now and in the future. On those days I forget this graciousness, I pray the Spirit will remind me.

Holy God: please forgive me for the times I’ve been short, self-centered and unwilling to budge when interacting with other people, especially those who bodies and minds are changing. Surround me with a cloud of graciousness. May you guide me and others to react and respond in ways pleasing in your sight. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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What Prayer Life?

large_prayer-for-beginners-g13leaizFri., Mar. 24, 2017

Luke 6:12 – About that time Jesus went off to a mountain to pray, and he spent the whole night there.

When Jesus was exhausted, confused, unsure or just needed time alone, what did he do? He went to a mountain and prayed.

I believe in praying. God doesn’t need us to pray to God. We need to pray to God as a way to connect, ground ourselves and know there is someone bigger than ourselves intervening. I’ve seen the results of prayer in the lives of myself and others. I’ve felt the power of prayer while praying with someone. I’ve witness the wash of comfort that can come over someone when they are prayed over.

And yet, I struggle with prayer.

One way I find praying helpful is to write out my prayers. I have a journal which aids me with this. Yesterday, as I turned to my prayer journal, I realized the recent lack of effort on my part with prayer. I’ve followed more of a drive-through version of prayer than a quiet-my-heart-and-soul version of prayer. I’ve held onto too many things rather than sharing the load with God. I’m embarrassed and humbled that once again, prayer has taken a back seat in my spiritual life.

So, I penned a rather honest prayer. Just in case you are struggling with lack-of-prayer focus, I share with you some of the things that landed on my prayer list yesterday:

Dear God:

I haven’t been praying for the woman currently living with us and her situation enough. Soften her heart in the right ways. May she be drawn closer to you and find your guidance in her life. Soften my heart in the right ways also.

I haven’t been praying for Rick’s kids enough. Each has his/her own situation right now. I pray you bring people into their lives which will speak the message you desire them to hear.

I haven’t been praying for our grandchildren. May Spirit-filled people be part of their daily guidance.

I haven’t been praying for my Mom as her body changes. May she be open to hearing the messages you desire for her to hear and patience for me as I help care for her.

I haven’t been praying for the churches that I serve. Inspire these faith communities to become healthy, vital and sustainable as is your will.

I haven’t been praying for the denomination in which I serve and the distractions it now faces.

I haven’t been praying for my husband. Thank you for bringing such a person of God into my life. May he be guided by your Spirit.

I haven’t been praying for Your place in my life. I haven’t been praying for patience, understanding and being realistic. May I more willingly and more often turn my challenges over to you rather than failing to deal with them by myself.

May these prayers be lifted to you, Almighty God, this day. Amen.

Lord Jesus, you gave us a wonderful prayer model. Forgive me for choosing a less honorable prayer walk. Thank you for accepting me the way I am. May I be encouraged to seek your Spirit more fully each day. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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The Distracted Mind

thoughtsTues., Mar. 21, 2017

Luke 10:40 – Martha was worried about all that had to be done. Finally, she went to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it bother you that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to come and help me!” 

The end of last week, I was at a conference for work. It was close enough that I drove, chauffeuring three other attendees. I had this awful expectation: I brought enough work for a week with me. There’s no way I could ever get everything done I’d brought along. But just in case …

Actually, I worked on several things, either in the evening or during the conference. Unfortunately, I spend way too much of my life multi-tasking. I can listen to a speaker, take notes, answer e-mail and work on a project all at the same time, right? Possibly … but something WILL suffer.

This doesn’t account for all the other little things zipping around in my brain: a quick check of Facebook, jotting something down on my “to-do” list or reading a text on my phone. Unless my brain is juggling multiple things, well, then I just am not sure I’m fully utilizing time.

Wrong. I find myself with the distracted mind. Honestly, I’ve brought this onto myself with poor execution of work flow, priorities and an inability to say “no.” Throw in some family health situations, looming deadlines and not enough sleep, and whew! I’m one distracted brain.

Recently, I asked someone for suggestions on taming the distracted mind. She provided me with many helpful ideas: clear priorities, removing clutter, taming the frenzy, focusing on one task at a time. My favorite suggestions: practice self-compassion and learning to say no. Those are suggestions that probably need to be at the top of my list … and aren’t.

Many times, I’ve read and pondered the concept that unfinished business is OK. We depend way too much on ourselves to accomplish things rather than allowing God space to take up the slack. I’m just not very good at this. The voice of the person who has pointed out to me a lack on my part looms in my memory. The unfulfilled promises feel like an untied shoelace that might trip me up. My deep-seated need to not let others down always remains at the top of my list while letting myself down is perfectly fine.

The struggle between living a life of too much Martha and not enough Mary is a perpetual internal tug-of-war for me. Maybe my words to Jesus, if he were at my house, would be a little different than Martha’s words. They would probably be more like, “Jesus, it’s not my fault I have so much to do.”

Really? It’s not my fault? Then, whose fault is it?

My daily reality is becoming more like this these days: the ability for me to make life-sweeping changes in my daily habits and routines is probably not reality. But the need to make incremental, purposeful and God-pleasing tweaks certainly is. It’s a daily challenge and opportunity to try to have a little less distraction in my life and a little more focus.

Anyone else struggle with this?

Lord God, forgive my distracted mind. Forgive my choice to try and do a whole bunch of things at the same time rather than accomplishing one thing at a time. Forgive me for choosing quick earthly distractions rather than turning to you for life-filling grace. Help me want to choose to become a recovering distracted mindful person.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Messy Faith

messy faith

Tues., Mar. 7, 2017

Hebrews 11:1 – Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see.

Let’s face it. For many, faith is messy.

There are those who feel the church doesn’t speak to them; for a variety of reasons. Too often, people have experienced a church that is judgmental, set in its ways and unwilling to consider what might speak to a generation of people different than the matriarch or patriarch.

There are those whose lives have been turned upside down by some awful situation: death, divorce, greed and a whole list of other things. So many people have asked me, “Where is God?” when something awful happened in their lives?

There are those who focus more on differences than what we have in common. This is more evident today than any other time in my lifetime.

Faith is challenging on my best days. It’s sometimes impossible on my worse days. For me, faith is often messy.

I’ve known that God has felt a bit too far away the last several months. Yes, I’ve continued to pastor for the two churches I serve. I teach and preach about how when we feel far away from God, it’s we who have moved and not God. Recently, faith has left me feeling depleted rather than filled. Joy and energy aren’t as abundant as I would like.

Let me be clear. I’m not giving up on my faith or questioning God’s existence. I’m not depressed or contemplating some rash decision. I’m just being honest that pastors are like other people. For us, faith also gets messy. We need permission to experience the valleys and peaks of a faith journey.

I often feel like I am letting God down if I didn’t follow certain spiritual disciplines every day. Or I get distracted and spend way too much time on something that really isn’t very productive. Maybe the reality is this: faith is messy. My suggestion for today: let faith be messy.

Almighty God, try as we may, sometimes we just create more messes than positive things in our lives.  Even when we yearn for the simple and easy, these often evade us. Reassure us this day that you love messes and the messiness of our lives. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Misplaced or Lost?

Wed., Mar. 1, 2017

Matthew 18:14 – That’s how it is with your Father in heaven. He doesn’t want any of these little ones to be lost.samsung-galaxy-s7-gold-platinum-964x750

Monday night, I misplaced my phone for a few hours. Notice, I said “misplaced.” Not “lost.”

I worked late at the church. When I arrived home, I put away the groceries, got the mail and sat down to sort through it. A couple hours later, I realized that I didn’t know where my phone was. I searched my purse, my work bag and the car. No phone. I retraced my steps. Still no luck. Maybe I left it at church? It was late when I went back at church. As I turned the light on in my office and saw no phone on my desk, my stomach got an empty feeling.

Did I leave it at the grocery story? I couldn’t remember. I’d worn a fleece jacket and my phone had been in my pocket most of the day. It wasn’t there now. Where did it go? Another walk through of the places I’d been since getting home. Still no phone.

By own, it was late into the night and I was trying not to panic. I could use the alarm on the clock next to Rick’s side of the bed. Surely it would show up before I left for my part-time job in the morning? I just didn’t know when. I’d searched for over an hour with no success. By now, I was very annoyed with myself. I really do not want to be “one of those people” who is always misplacing and loosing things. How could I be so irresponsible?

One last thought. I sat in our snuggler when looking at the mail. The snugger is bigger than a recliner but smaller than a love seat. And it reclines. Hands down, our favorite piece of furniture in our TV room. Rick is forever losing his phone in the snuggler. He loses cups, glasses, pencils, the paper and a myriad of other things in that little space between the cushion and the outer edge. I literally ran down the stairs into the TV room and put my hands along the edges of the snuggler. There was my misplaced phone. It slid out of my pocket while reviewing the mail.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Lent is a specific season on the Christian church calendar for believers and seekers to draw themselves closer to God. To be more mindful, more intentional and more disciplined about how we seek and live God in our daily lives. Challenged by another Christian recently, my focus this Lent is “mindfulness.” I know there is a God. I know God loves me. What I do not do a good job of is making sure I am mindful in how I plan my day, make decisions and depend upon God to help me make the best choices possible. Rick and I often wonder whether the hundreds of little decisions we make daily are clutter on God’s desk or important to God. What I do know is that far too often, I blow through the day without mindfully including God in the things I say and the actions I take. I certainly do not want to be held responsible for the time I waste and the distractions that sidetrack me.

Misplacing my phone challenged me to think: how often do I misplace God in my daily life? How much time do I spend searching for God when I’m feeling challenged or overwhelmed? How can I be more mindful about not depending upon only myself in my daily life but making sure I share the yoke with God? This Lent, I want to be mindful. I don’t believe I’ve lost God in my daily life. I sometimes just feel I’ve misplaced making sure God is involved and a part of all the decisions and opportunities before me each day.

My goal is to say this one line many, many times a day to help keep me more mindful of God’s presence in my life: “God, slow me down and help me mindfully see you in my life right now.” When I do not include God as I would like, I pray that I have enough good sense to go hunting for God and keep searching for God until I reach down and feel him in my soul.

Lord God – Please forgive me for the thousands and millions of times I walked through my life without fully depending upon you. Place it upon my heart the great ways we can work together to achieve great things for your kingdom. God, slow we down and help me mindfully see you in my life right now.  Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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