Tuesday, June 27, 2017

My Hyper Workaholic Husband



I have a husband who is a hyper workaholic. He's the kind of guy that never stops doing stuff. 

Never.

I think if he could get away with doing things in his sleep, he would. It's a quality that can be both a great blessing and a great curse. Allow me to explain.

He gets up at the crack of dark to go to work. When he's not doing overtime, he usually winds up running errands for our church, or working on a church-related project. Sometimes he'll come home on the early side of late and fix something in the house that needs fixing, or he'll decide to make dinner for us (he loves to cook and absolutely needs to create something foodish at least twice a week to stay sane), turning my once-clean kitchen into a flour-ensconced war zone. Sometimes he promises to help someone or make them a special dessert. Only when the cakes have cooled or the desserts are chilling in the fridge does he finally settle down for bed, which is usually after I'm already asleep.

Even when he had his accident over four years ago, he didn't stop for long. The man had third degree burns on thirty-five percent of his body, and came home eighteen days later with skin grafts, a swatch of pig skin with three hundred staples in his mid-section, and strict orders to not do anything but his exercises. Did this stop him? Nope. He was practically vibrating in his lounge chair, and finally came up to me all hunched over because of the staples and said "You gotta give me something to do!"

He hasn't stopped since.

His doctor (and practically everyone else) told him he needs a break, and must take time off to recharge. So we went to an off-grid cabin in Maine for a week. I'd prepared all of the food ahead of time so all we needed to do was heat it over the fire or bake it. No fuss, no mess. Just rest. 

The first few days he actually slowed down enough to relax. But then he started going on walks, finding things to do like gather wood, chop wood, and find places to drive to so that we could walk around. He needed to do something. Anything. 
Then God gave me an epiphany. We bought coloring books, crayons, and colored pencils with a sharpener. He spent the next three days coloring! It was the only time in our twenty years of marriage I'd ever seen him busy and still at the same time!

You'd think all of this self-discovery and rest would put his mind into a lower gear. At least I did. But when we came home, he happily dove right back into the chaos- in fact, he was even busier than he was before we left for Maine!

He did three straight weeks of overtime. We're talking fourteen to sixteen hour days, five days a week. The weekends were used to play catch-up with church needs (he's a deacon and also the church building manager), so I haven't seen much of him for the past month or so. if this keeps up, I might have to start scheduling appointments to see him!

My husband is a powerhouse for God. He works for Him, does ministry for Him, and expects nothing in return. He's a giver to the point of sacrificing his precious time and energy to help someone in need. People can call day or night- he will be there for them. He's a rare and precious man. He's also as hyper as an over-caffeinated chipmunk! 

I wish I had half of his energy. Only God could have a man do as much as he does, and still have the strength to breathe! I still marvel at all God has done with my husband.

I wish that there was a way to infuse each other, so he would rest more and I would have more energy. The only way I'll get him to stay still at this point is if I duct tape his butt in bed! 

hmm...Another epiphany? I wonder how much duct tape I'll need?


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Which Way Are You Facing?

Epiphanies can hit you at the oddest times. This one happened while I was in church during a sermon.

The pastor was talking about getting closer to God and keeping your eyes on Him, and since I'm a literal thinker, I kept picturing myself nose to nose with the Almighty. Can't get much closer than that, can we? 

But then it hit me; all I had to do was turn around to be the furthest away from God. One simple act with a plethora of consequences! He's right there with you, but you can't see Him- all you have to do to get as close as possible is turn around.

Wow.

How many times have I walked around looking for God, only to never see Him? How many times did I turn my eyes away from Him to see some shiny sin-filled bauble dangling in my peripheral vision? And how many times did I refuse to turn around because the bauble seems like the right thing to focus on or (let's be honest here), I didn't want to focus on anything else that might tear me away from the sparkle?

I can tell you this- every time I turned my eyes from God I got into trouble. Every. Single. Time. So why do I still do it? Because baubles are shiny and we humans like shiny things. It's so much easier for us to stare at a glittering object than focus on our work- just ask any school student or desk jockey. Shiny catches the eye and seems more interesting!

Just look up a series of YouTube videos called 'The Most Satisfying' and you'll know exactly what I mean. I could stare for hours at that stuff. 

I'm so glad God is patient and is willing to stick with us, waiting until we turn around to see Him. It's almost like He wants to yell 'Surprise! I've been here the whole time! Aren't you glad to see Me?" 


We are both the closest to God and the furthest from God, depending on which way we're facing. So the big question is...which way are you facing?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Being Crickety



It's not easy losing some of your mobility- even if it's only temporary. At least I hope it's temporary! But with every trial there's a life lesson- sometimes more than one. I've learned to laugh about my creakiness, and I want to share a few things that creaky life has taught me.

One lesson about creakiness is similar to child-rearing; what used to take me five minutes now takes me at least fifteen.  Alas, the pendulum has started swinging the other direction. My kids are now helping me to get over obstacles instead of the other way around!

I've also noticed a change in my decision-making skills because of my temporary lack of mobility. 

Stores are no longer chosen by their sales flyers, but by how many benches they have available throughout the store.

Big stores must have motorized carts. At first I was daunted by using them, but now it's a lot of fun- especially when I can cruise around the store announcing 'Watch the tram car please!' (anyone who has been down on the shore boardwalk knows what I'm talking about!)

Little stores must have chairs or wheelchair carts.

Weight loss is no longer about attractiveness or fashions, but about increasing functionality.

Dinners have become more simple, usually involving the crockpot. Stove-top cooking has become a rare beast, unless it's a recipe for 'make in one pan and simmer'. Casseroles are also in the mix, as long as I can cut the veggies and meat sitting down at the kitchen table.

Not only do I check bathroom stalls for toilet paper, but now I'm looking for that helpful little ballerina bar bolted to the wall just in case the toilet sits too low. Like I wasn't already anxious enough by public restrooms. Sheesh.

Swimming isn't for play anymore- it's for exercise.

Exercise DVDs used to be no good because I never used them. Now they're no good because I can't use them.

I can't catch the kids doing something sneaky anymore because the knee pops betray my former ninja stealth. (and the kids love catching me trying to sneak up on them!)

The cats always know I'm home before I even take out the house keys due to cane thumping and knee popping.

When I go for a walk, kids keep running up to me asking if I have bubble wrap. 


No one likes being crickety, but I'm going to make the best of it until it either goes away (read: get rid of it), or I find better ways to deal with it. In the meantime, I'll be snap, crackle, and popping my way around stores and the house, doing what God tells me to do- and if you hear the sound of Rice Krispies, take a look around- I might just be behind you!

Monday, June 5, 2017

How God Grows Us


Ever feel that if just one more thing went wrong, you'd go stark raving bonkers?

Me neither...not

I'd been feeling overwhelmed lately and asked my buddies on Facebook for some encouragement. I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I got a private message from a Christian friend, asking what it was I needed encouragement for, so she could pray for me. It's friends like these I wish lived closer to home.

I told her my troubles and how I felt. She told me feelings are fleeting and temporary things, and God is using these troubles to grow me as a Christian. Before I could stop myself, I blurted,
'Egad woman- I know He's trying to grow me, but does He have to add so much manure?!?'

And she laughed

Her laugh made me feel a little better. And after talking and praying with her. the bad feelings did fleet...er...flee. The black cloud wasn't entirely removed, but at least I could see the silver lining. 

When I'm in one of those 'one-straw-before-the-back-broken-camel' moments, I used to hide myself away from people and sulk, wallowing in misery until I pulled myself out of the muck of my emotional tar-pit. Now I force myself to talk with others and ask for help, as hard as that is. I try not to complain to the world (though that sometimes happens), but instead find a friend on the phone or online that is willing to hear my troubles. 
Though the issues and that overwhelming feeling don't always go away completely, talking them out with a friend makes me feel like I can handle things once more. Their prayers and willingness to listen infuse me with God's strength to move forward. What a blessing that is!

God piles on the manure on occasion, but He also provides a means to gain strength through Him- He wants us to talk to fellow Christians to gain perspective, gain composure, and maybe even laugh a little in the process. He never meant us to go it alone in our own strength. As my friend encouraged me, I'd like to encourage you if you're in the same proverbial manure pile.

Don't hide yourself from others. Find a Christian friend and talk to them. 
Look for friends that don't just agree with you, but are also willing to be honest when they don't and tell you in a gentle way.
Know that in all things, God has a plan and this is a temporary feeling. It will pass.
Pray and talk to God and ask for strength, endurance, and to send Encouragers. 

And when the trial is over and you've done a little growing, be an Encourager to someone else. You never know what kind of hidden blessings He has in store for you!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Three Tweets and a Hoot

My husband and I are morning people. We're up right before the sun rises, and we're in bed by the time the sun sets. So we figured when we had kids, they would follow in our early morning footsteps.

Well, one did. The other one? Not so much.

In the beginning he had to get up with us- at least when he started sleeping through the night. But once he became a teenager, things started to change. Especially now that he's graduating high school. 

Tweet, tweet, tweet...hoot.



There was an old cartoon of an owl family who had three eggs ready to hatch. They were classical birds in this case, and when the owlets hatched, two sang in perfect classical tones- but the third? He was all jazz. Oh yes, people, we classical birds are now living in the jazz era. Our son can't seem to rise before ten o'clock on the weekends, and that's when we wake him. Once we let him sleep in and he wasn't down the stairs before two o'clock in the afternoon. Yikes!

For you other night owls out there, two o'clock is when the morning birds' energy starts to wane. By the time he's in high energy mode, we're ready for a nap. This makes for some interesting family adventures.

Not to mention a challenge every school day. For twelve years. Ugh.

My daughter is the exact opposite- she's up before my husband and I are, and usually has her chores done before we're out of bed. This is a child born to love the early life of a rancher or farmer, and her love of horses is sending her right in that direction. She lives to be up at the crack of dark, and if she does work at a ranch, she'll fit right in. By the time we get up for a family trip (usually around six a.m.), she has breakfast made so we can all eat and move, move, move.

That's if we can get Hooty out of bed. 
Even the smell of freshly made breakfast won't stir him out of slumber at six in the morning! We wind up waking him up at least three times before dragging him out of bed (sometimes literally!) to get dressed so we can go. Nine times out of ten he's sleeping in the car on the way to our destination, while the three of us are chattering away with excitement.

Lunchtime is about when the energy levels equal out, and we can all get along for about an hour or so. My son will start to interact with us, and we morning birds still have the energy to belt out road trip songs as we go on our merry way. By the afternoon we're dragging while he wants to explore. By night time he's excited and full of energy and the rest of us are travelling zombies. 

Our not-so-little owl will be flying off to college this fall, and I can't help but wonder if he'll survive the morning classes. I also wonder how the family dynamic will change when there's three morning birds left in the nest. I suspect a lot less drama and earlier starting times in the future!

It's not easy for morning birds to raise an owl (and I suspect the opposite is also true of owlish parents raising a morning bird), but I think we did a pretty good job.

After all, if he can survive us, he can survive anything!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Called on the Carpet


Ever have one of those moments where truth hits you in the heart so hard you have to cry out 'Ouch!"?

I hate those moments; but I also love them. At least when I have a chance to step back and recover from the 'Ouch' part. 

Our deacon was talking about 'Ears open, Mouth Shut' moments- Times when we had a chance to share God's word, but didn't. I don't know about you, but just him mentioning that made me scrunch down in my seat a little bit.

He wasn't talking about us having open ears, but the uninformed masses that don't know God who are ready to hear about Him. They might be ready to hear, but fear freezes the words on our lips and we say nothing, losing a great opportunity to help them get to know God.

The deacon asked 'How many times have we had someone come up to us to teach us about Jesus? In a week? In a month?  In a year? 
Well, that was easy- no one. Not one person ever came up to me and asked me if I knew God or Jesus. Not for a few years, no less just one.

But his next few questions really hit home.

How many times have you talked to anyone about Jesus? In a week? In a month? In a year?

Ouch.

Scrunch, scrunch, scrunch.

Romans 10 talks all about it. Not only to hear and proclaim the Word of God, but to spread the Word to others who are willing to hear, like in verse 17- Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. 

Can't really do that if my lips are frozen shut...can I? Yikes!

Many times I felt called to say something to someone and I kept my yap shut. Oh sure, talk about writing, fabric crafts, or movies and I'm a talkaholic, but talk about God? Pass the superglue please!

It also didn't help that the deacon speaking was my husband

There was no way i could scrunch down further in my seat without hurting myself. And when I looked around, I noticed a lot of others scrunching down too. So it wasn't just me after all.

God created us to glorify Him- That's our one and only job on this planet. And as my eyes scanned the room, there was a whole church full of people who weren't doing their jobs- me included.

Double ouch!

Don't get me wrong- I'm in a good church, with good, spiritually driven people. We work together getting the church fixed up (we're renovating when we can), and we also adopted a day care center and donate food to them and the surrounding neighborhood on a regular basis. I run the bread ministry, as a matter of fact! 
But something important got lost in all of that giving. We're feeding people without teaching them how to feed themselves via the scriptures- and I think a lot of churches (and church people) are making the same mistakes. 

If you feed them, they will come...but only until the food runs out. People need to develop a taste for learning more about God before they come back week after week. We need to feed their ears as well as their mouths.

God called me on the carpet that morning. I'm more aware now of His call to action, and less fearful of obeying it. With God beside me, who can be against me? And if He's giving me the words to say, they'll be the right ones- as long as I keep that superglue in my purse where it belongs!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Even God Rested!

This has been one heck of a chaotic year. If you don't know why, you might want to read the previous blog posts- but get some coffee first, you'll be a while!

Both my husband and I were burnt out. Completely. Like 'rampaging forest-fire inside a volcano' burnt out. We were coming to the last dregs of our energy, time, stamina, and sanity. His blood pressure was way up, as was my temper. We needed a respite.

We got one.

Thanks to a pastor friend of ours (Yes, you, Rob!), we were connected with a ministry in Maine for a stay at a pastoral retreat cabin in the boonies. As long as my husband qualified (he's a deacon so he could apply), we could stay for a long weekend. After the owner of the cabin read my husband's long list of ministries, he contacted him and said 'Buddy, a weekend isn't enough- if you can do it, I'd suggest an entire week!'

So that's what we did. The week of our twentieth anniversary, in fact.

Granted, at first I wasn't thrilled about being cooped up in a cabin with nowhere to go. Oh, and did I mention it was off-grid? That means there was no TV, internet or even phone service. No screens, no DVD players...nothing concerning visual entertainment or contact with the outside world.

But there were elk, coyotes, and bears around, so they said. That didn't help.

Egad. I was going to die. If not of boredom, by the mauling of some wild animal as I tried to limp my way to civilization.

But wait- was there another way? I could still use my laptop, because the cabin had solar power; I could plug and charge my Link to Sanity (at least during the day), and get some writing done...right? Both my husband and I had a plan. We were going to write, read, write some more, and brainstorm all kinds of things we could do in ministry. After all, that's what busy people do- even when they're supposed to be resting! I even brought a craft with me for my creative side- just in case.

We also had to eat, and there was no way I was going to cook all week. So we made meals we could bake or make on the propane stove/oven (as we couldn't use anything with heating elements like crock pots or microwaves- they take too much power). There was no freezer but there was a cube-like fridge, so we froze what we could for the trip, and packed a massive cooler full of food for single serving breakfasts, lunches, and dinners- and even more than a few veggies and fruits to snack on. We were set.

We visited and stayed overnight with my husband's uncle on the way up, but miscalculated the distance to the cabin (thinking it was on the way), and wound up making a twelve hour drive instead of an eight or nine hour drive to Maine the next day. We had to adjust our time to leave and left as soon as we woke up- about 4:00 am. Let's just say when we got to the cabin at 4:20 pm, we were ready for a meal and some rest.

The cabin wasn't the mud-and-stick hut I imagined it would be- it was a one thousand square-foot pine-scented piece of heaven! The kitchen bore a wood stove (for warmth, not food) that was giving off a pleasant heat that the owner stoked before we arrived. There were even bird feeders all over the place for us to enjoy the local feathered wildlife! We were greeted cheerfully, shown how to work the water pump and energy system, given the basic rules in a notebook, and left to ourselves for the night. 

I don't think we ever unpacked so fast in our lives. 

The kitchen was roomy, and as the oven was baking our dinner, we went upstairs to check out the bedroom. And it was a bedroom. The room was almost all bed! Not only did it take up most of the space on the floor, it was tall- almost up to my ribcage. We both noted the hand-made quilt on it and smiled appreciatively, but then I wondered....how was I going to get up on this thing with two gimpy knees? 

I had to find out if I could get into this massive bed. I hoisted my trunk onto the mattress, and tried to swing my left leg over the top- and failed. I tried again, grasping the quilt and sheets on 'his' side and I tried pulling myself up. After a minute or two, I was on top- and out of breath.

Then I heard my husband chuckle. I would have maimed him (because the Bible says Thou shall not kill, after all), but the bed was so soft and so comfy I almost put off dinner to get some sleep. But my belly complained, and I had to slip off of the mattress ever...so...slowly onto the carpet. 

The next few days were spent sleeping, watching the birds, eating, and reading. It's really nice to be unplugged for a while! I'd forgotten what that was like. On the third day though, we became restless (and we ran out of milk), so we went on an adventure. Try finding a Wal-Mart in the middle of the Maine boonies with a GPS that didn't work until we were miles down the main road! As we left the dirt road and hit asphalt, I'd hoped we'd find the cabin again when we came back.

We found the Wal-Mart at least thirty minutes away, and decided to peruse the aisles a little. I found a few crafty items that I needed, but the best find was... coloring books! I loved to color, but what I didn't know is he loved to color too! All these years and I never knew this. We flipped through about twenty of them before he chose one and I chose two, making sure we also got a big box of crayons and colored pencils. And a sharpener- don't ever forget the sharpener.

That as our only trip out of the cabin that week. The laptops, lesson books, and projects we were going to read, write, and plan, all were replaced by three coloring books, crayons and colored pencils. We were happier than two kids in kindergarten. 
Our TV was the bay window featuring blue-jays, wrens, finches, a woodpecker and one red squirrel; at night we were lulled to sleep by the 'peepers'- little frogs by the thousands that chirped like an orchestra of crickets.

The rest of the week was filled with naps, crafting, and coloring. We didn't do one 'productive' thing the entire week. Maybe that was the point.

Our only adventure with the large outdoor wildlife was a bear removed one of the window feeders with a loud 'Pop!' about 1:00 am mid-week, destroying the feeder. The little birds still flew to the window though, looking in at us as if to say "Dude- where's the birdseed?"

By the end of the week, his blood pressure went down twenty points. My temper dissipated. We visited his cousin overnight on the way home (and this time it was on the way back), and got home in time to spend a few hours with the kids on Sunday. We came home to a clean house- our two friends and the kids all worked to make the house sparkle- my Mother's day gift! The only sad part is we didn't have a 'buffer day' to rest before we had to jump back in the fray on Monday morning.

Sometimes you just have to stop, unplug, watch the birds, and color.

We learned a lot about ourselves this week. We need to rest more. Need. Not want. We have to remind ourselves that even God rested on the seventh day! 
We must plan off time to rest, and not try to 'let it happen'. Busy people who don't schedule time off will never get it.
We also learned that being off grid is good, and not to pack so much stuff just in case we get bored. To take more fun reading than lesson reading. To take less food (we had a lot of leftovers). And to remember to bring coloring books and plenty of crayons and colored pencils. It leads to a lot of really good conversations.

Now that we're back, we're not jumping into the chaos with both feet. Yes, we have a lot to catch up on, and yes, there is a backlog of things to do, but our minds are rested and can sort thorough the muck a lot better now. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you're rested! And I'm making a point to keep it that way as long as possible.

I'll no longer get mad at myself for falling asleep on the couch. I'll have a more flexible schedule, so when driving jobs come, I can maneuver things around. I will watch less TV, play less computer games, and time them when I do. Looking back, I was stunned by all of the time I wasted with a screen in front of me! Now if I'm in front of the TV, I'll be doing something productive- like cutting fruits and veggies or sorting through papers. The job is a lot less daunting that way, and I still get to watch my favorite shows.

If you need rest, please plan for it. Even if it's staying home and unplugging everything- do it. Rest your mind, body, and spirit for a day, a weekend, or a week to get yourself back on track with God and His purpose for you. It will be the best thing you've ever done for you and your family!