Posted by: Beth | November 25, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving

I want it to be a happy holiday.  I do.  Really. And honestly, the last few weeks I have felt better physically and been more jovial than I have in months – or years!  So many things to be thankful for.

Yet, my heart is weighed down with sadness.  I don’t know if more people in our community have died the past few months than usual, or if I’ve just known more of them.  Young people were killed in car accidents, some leaving parents and children.  Middle-aged people who struggled with chronic illness left behind parents and children.  Older folks who were more than ready to meet their maker left families who were simultaneously glad the pain was over and lonely and sad about the empty place at the table.  And whenever I learn of another parent who has buried a child, I feel a little of their grief and emptiness.   And then there’s the folks who are literally on their deathbed, with vigilant family watching over them.

Those things are in our community.  You know the national and international news – probably better than I do.  That’s enough to make you crazy or grief-stricken or something bad I don’t even know a name for.

And yesterday was just A DAY I don’t particularly want to repeat.  No one terrible thing, just a string of unpleasantness.  And on Thanksgiving Eve, at that.

Yet, there is hope.  There can be happiness.  Wherever there is Jesus, there is hope.  Where there is hope, there is some (maybe just a tiny bit) of strength to go on.  Where there is strength, you can put one foot in front of the other, or maybe pick up a phone.  When you can reach out to someone else, something mysteriously wonderful happens.  There is more strength.  There may even be a shared memory and a smile.  On very blessed days there is laughter.

And then, a bit of guilt kicks in.  How can I dare be happy when someone I really care about is no longer here?  Or will be here on this earth just a short while?  Because we can.  Because we must.  Because, whether we like it or not, death is a part of life.  Grief must be dealt with, and every one of us does it a little differently, and that is okay. 

So, on this Thanksgiving Day, if tears fall down your cheeks, let them fall.  If in spite of your pain, you smile and laugh, good for you!  Laughter is good medicine, and we all need some goodness in our lives.  If it happens that you’re having a pleasant day filled with family and good times, enjoy!  There is a time for everything.  Occasionally our heart times match up with the calendar.

Wherever you are in your journey, may you find some warmth and friendship this holiday season.

#bgwww22

Posted by: Beth | November 11, 2022

New Things

Colorful leaves

Cooling temps

Hayrides

Pumpkin spice

Sweaters


Bonfires

New beginnings


Wait a minute.


Those first things are fall things.


New beginnings? In the fall?  No!!  Fall is the ending of things.  Dying leaves.  Trees that look dead.  The end of daylight.  Okay, no, not really, but the shorter days grieve my soul. New things are supposed to happen in the spring.  Or summer when the garden harvest is in full swing.  Or maybe late summer when football season starts.  But October??  New things?  I’m kidding, right?

Nope.  I am not kidding.  October, 2022.  New things.  And I am so very grateful.

Mid-month my favorite aunt, aka my “ ‘nuther’ mama,”  and I were shopping in Hobby Lobby.  I have crocheted off and on since I was too young to remember when I learned how.  I have tried a few times to knit.  I can’t do it.  Something about two needles instead of one and the coordination required made it impossible.  I mentioned that as I looked at darling patterns for — you guessed it — knitted items.  The kicker was a hat kit for children.  Each kit was just a small skein of yarn and a head of a Sesame Street character.  But I fell in love — okay, probably lust —- with them.  My dear aunt said something like, “You’re so talented in things like that.  If you try it, you’ll get it. You’ll figure it out.”  Into the buggy went two hat kits, a learn-to-knit kit which included all the paraphernalia I remember my mama having, a few extra skeins of yarn, and a pair of needles the size required for the hats.

After a few false starts, including a humorous moment when I somehow had the yarn I needed to be working with at the wrong end of the needle, I managed to knit what could be the beginning of a scarf.  It was so full of mistakes I cast off the stitches and started on something else.  But that little scrap is a new thing for me, and I am thrilled to be learning something new while I am  on the plus side of sixty.

About the same time, the fine arts time at our coop began studying basic music theory and learning how to play a simple song on the tin whistle.  This is our third year with this experience, but it is the first time I have also attempted to play to the tin whistle.  It’s fun :). 

That made two new things in October.  Maybe I’m not so very old after all.

And then the last week of the month. 

Back in August, I had mentioned to our choir director and pastor that I might be interested in filling in as pianist from time to time.  The real need was for someone to play parts during choir practice.  I can handle that, so I started attending choir practice and took home a couple books to practice.  One Sunday in October a chain of events happened that could not have been happenstance.  The end result was that our choir director knew I was willing to play on Sunday morning.  The next week he asked if I could accompany during the morning service.  Of course I said yes.  Sometime between that moment and Sunday morning, I realized that Sunday would be the fourth anniversary of our son’s death.  Suck it up, buttercup, it’s showtime! I messaged my prayer support folks and they covered me in prayer.  I don’t think I told anyone at church about the anniversary until that evening at choir practice. While playing the piano that Sunday was not a completely new thing, it was the first time I had played for a congregation since a while before our son died.  If I had realized the significance, I would have still said yes, probably after hesitating a bit.  I’m glad I said yes.  I now have a new, happy memory for that date.

So YES, Fall can be a time for new things 😊.

Enjoy the holiday season that is fast approaching.  Be brave.  Try a new thing.  Even if your heart is hurting, when another part of your heart yearns for something a little different – a different food, a new road trip, a new hobby, a new book – be brave and try.

#bgwww22

Posted by: Beth | July 28, 2022

THE HAND YOU’RE DEALT – PART 2

My motivation for writing “The Hand You’re Dealt” got lost in the process of thinking of some light-hearted examples.  The next statements may seem unrelated, but hopefully by the end of this you will see some connectedness among them.

No parents wake up one day and say to each other, “Why don’t we have a child with special needs?”

Families who appear to be perfect, have it all together, and are breezing through life probably have a challenge or two that 99% of the people around them don’t see.

If a stumped toe is the worst pain you’ve ever felt, it’s awful.  If you’ve had major abdominal surgery or a few broken ribs, you can laugh at how minor your stumped toe is.

If your great uncle you’ve only seen once in your life is the closest relative you’ve lost, the grief can be painful.  Until you lose a parent, a sibling, a friend you see every day, or a child.  Those are all different kinds of grief.

If the worst remarks you heard made behind your back are about how your clothes don’t match, and you care what people think, your feelings are hurt.  If you grow up and have children and see people whispering about how different a child is, remarks about clothes don’t even warrant a half a thought.

As children grow older, we expect them to communicate their needs and problems.  A number of physical and mental differences can make this difficult to impossible for some years or the child’s entire life.

Some folks park way out from the store so the car paint doesn’t get scratched.  Some parents can’t go to the store because there is no one to stay with a child and a screaming child, even one that is being cared for, is a magnet for calls to the police and DSS. 

For those who aren’t well trained and/or experienced, it can be difficult to distinguish between a child who is being abused or abducted and one that is struggling mentally, had a breakdown in the store, and the parent is simply trying to get groceries and get home.

Some “different” children are runners.  Some trust everything that everyone says.  Some can’t yell and get your attention.  Some can’t hear you calling. Anyone who has watched young children for a few days knows that they can get out of your sight for a moment no matter how diligent you are.

The point of all this is that parents, caregivers, and siblings of children who are not average/normal (I don’t even know the current politically-correct term) are playing life with a different “deck” than families of close-to-average children.  The causes of the differences are many and varied.  The challenges the families face are dependent on the causes of the differences and their support circle (if they have one). The intensity of the feeling of loss and grief vary from person to person.  What loss?  What grief?  What pain?  Think of all the milestones we expect children to meet – kindergarten graduation, playing sports, being involved in church or scouts or both, high school graduation, a decent-paying job, perhaps a wedding and grandchildren.  Some or all of those are either lost completely or greatly different than you anticipate when you first learn that in a few months you will hold a baby in your arms.  The grief and accompanying
 pain are real.

Most do share some challenges.  Scheduling anything – doctor appointments for yourself, counseling, dental check-ups, parent-teacher conferences – can be a bit challenging.  Trying to attend church or social gatherings is often more stressful than the good gained from the comradery, and the family becomes isolated.  Children can’t tell you when they hurt inside, and it can take minutes, hours, or days to figure out that the screaming is from a physical problem.  A simple dental check-up can be an ordeal.  Yeah, yeah … you just have to prepare them and find the right dentist.  That’s a great theory but it doesn’t always work that way in real life. Learning social skills can take longer than typical, so the children end up being bigger than those they can appropriately interact with.  Only then, the other children’s parents aren’t comfortable with the situation.  The fear of making mistakes is intense.  The fear of a neighbor or someone who sees you in town calling child protective services is real.  Children are tiring!!  Healthy, “normal” children can drain your energy.  Multiply that by 4 or 5 or maybe some power of ten and it’s close to how draining it can be to care for children with special needs.

So what can you do to help someone sort out the different cards in their decks?

Just be there. 

Be a friend.

 Be present.

 Be quiet.

 Be accepting. 

Bring a cup of coffee or a bottle of soda pop and sit and talk about the weather while the children play – and expect them to be strange, weird, loud, or unusually quiet. Share a gift card for gas or pizza delivery if you know those could be helpful.

 Riding along on appointments is time consuming and draining for you, but it can be helpful. 

The real key to being helpful is to listen a lot, talk none to others about it, and offer very little advice that isn’t asked for.  If you can do that, you will be a priceless gem.  I know.  I have a few of those.

#bgwww22

Posted by: Beth | July 27, 2022

THE HAND YOU’RE DEALT



Perhaps you can relate to one or more of the following scenarios.

You are choosing a checkout line at the local department store.  Every line has six or eight people, except one.  For some crazy, unknown reason there are only two people in that line and neither cart is overflowing.  Of course you choose the shortest line!  And then customer service is called.  The issue is resolved.  The customer attempts to pay.  The card doesn’t work.  It takes a while for the person to realize he is not getting out of the store with the desire merchandise.  He does, however, have some cash and has the cashier void all but four items.  Whew!  Finally, that’s done.  The next person has only a few items.  You should be out of here in minutes.  But, no!  Two items do no have valid tags.  Of course this is realized one item at a time and everyone waits on price checks from two departments.  Meanwhile, that eighth person in three of the other lines are heading out the door.  And you’re still stuck waiting for a chance to pay.  Tough luck, buddy.  You were dealt an icky hand.

For the first time in you life, you buy a lottery ticket.  It’s not the big bucks, but it is $5000.  Woo-hoo!!  Lucky hand that day.

You’re a college freshman registering for classes.  You need three or four 100-level classes.  Only one is available.  Why?  Juniors and Seniors, who get to register first, filled them up because when they where freshmen, the classes were full.  This is a so-so hand.  You get some electives out of the way and take those classes when you’re a Junior.  It’ll work out sometime in the next three years.

Your parent is diagnosed with cancer.  The survival rate is 85%.  Within a few months, your parent is dead.  This is a (fill in with a bad, bad adjective) hand.

Your sister is diagnosed with a cancer with a 5% survival rate.  She lives another ten years with minimal side-effects.  Woo-hoo!  A winning hand!

You live in the South.  It snows eight inches on January 3 and the temperatures stay near freezing for a week.  If you’re a child near a hill, this is a 5-star hand!  If you’re a parent ready for your children to get back into school, maybe it’s a 2-star hand; you do enjoy the snow a little.  If you’re an emergency response worker, this is overtime.  This is a tired hand.

You’re an 18-year-old male.  You answer the house phone.  (Yes, there was a time when each house had ONE phone and everybody living there shared it.  And it was tied to the wall with a wire.)  No matter who is calling, they think you are your mother when you say “Hello.”  This is a frustrated will-my-voice-EVER-change hand.

Sometimes we have some control over the hands we’re dealt in life.  More often, we do not. But always, “You gotta play the hand you’re dealt.”

For people living with long-term health problems (physical, mental, or emotional), the hand is complicated.  The top picture shows a few hands of cards.  Hopefully you’ll recognize at least one.  Below is a picture of the hand of folks struggling with health issues of themselves or their children.  Some of them seem strange?  I hope so. Can you imagine playing your favorite card game with this hand?  Navigating life can be complicated in the best of circumstances.  When life deals a much-less-than-ideal hand, it’s even more challenging.  Let us all extend a little more grace to those around us.  Some of us are still trying to figure out which game the cards belong to.

#bgwww22

Posted by: Beth | May 19, 2022

Content?

I’ve been angry.

A LOT!

There.  I said it.

I’ve confessed my anger.

“Angry about what?” you may wonder.

It’s very simple.  I’m angry because I can’t do as many things as I used to do. I need more rest. I bet most folks over 40 or 50 can empathize with me.  Meanwhile, my friends who are 80 or so are chuckling to themselves and thinking, “Honey, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  Just wait. I hope you live long enough to see how good you have it right now.” Some folks my age who have serious health issues are thinking about the same thing. 

I am trying to learn to be content.  I’m better at it than I used to be.  My brain knows (mostly) what I need to do to take care of myself.  But, my silly want-tos sometimes don’t listen.  Fortunately, the take-care-of-yourself part of my brain is winning more of the time than it did twenty or so years ago.  Yes, I have been stretched too thin (energy-wise, not my body; it’s never been too thin) for most of my life.

Recently, my evening devotional ended with Ecclesiastes 3, the chapter about there being a time for everything: to be born, to die, to love, to hate, for peace, for war, to build up, to tear down, and a lot of others.  The VERY next morning the verse of the day that popped up was Ecclesiastes 3:1.  Well, well.  I wondered what opportunity was about to pop up in front of me that I really needed to evaluate before I opened my mouth.  That very week, two opportunities were literally in my face.  Things that I have done – or something very similar.  Things that I CAN do.  But SHOULD I? 

The prayerful, thoughtful answer was a quick “No” to both.  Could I enjoy those ministry opportunities?  Most likely.  Do I have the skills needed?  I think so.  Would my other responsibilities suffer?  Yes, they would, because every day has only 24 hours and I cannot work twelve or fourteen of them.  Maybe if I hadn’t in my thirties and forties I could now, but that’s water under the bridge and we’ll never know.

Maybe, just maybe, I am learning to be content.

I still wanted a garden this summer!  Oh well … maybe next year.

#bgwww22

Posted by: Beth | May 15, 2022

Wouldn’t it be nice?

Oh, that would be so nice!

I watched as children splashed, swam, and played around in the pool.  Their parents sat at a nearby table, dressed NOT in swimwear but as if they are headed to dinner at a sit-down restaurant.  HOW in the world can you DO that? Well, I’m sure it helps that your children are confident and secure being in the water twenty or forty feet away from you.  Meanwhile, we have one grandson, aka fishmonkey, who happily swam away and started conversations with others, and one who clung to me like white – or brown- on rice.   There I stood in three feet of blissfully cool water, encouraging him to put at least a little space between us.  “I’ve got you.  I’m not going to turn loose.  You have on a life jacket.  You are fine.”  I sighed deeply as I thought, “This is not a restful vacation.  This is work in a different place.”

Across the street at the ocean, a similar scene played out. Fishmonkey needed someone very near him because he is fearless and would go out too far.  Honestly, you can’t hear well over the sound of waves.  And clingy one would barely get into the water, and only if I was with him.

Fast-forward just one year.

I sat beside the pool, dressed in shorts and a shirt and watched BOTH boys playing in the water.  Fishmonkey splashed everywhere and talked with people.  Little clingy one, secure in a floatie, clung not to me but to the edge of the pool, venturing toward the middle from time to time.  He contentedly played by himself until time to get ready for bed.

At the ocean, they both played in the edge of the water. The threat of rip tides was high, so none of us ventured out past our knees.  Okay, fishmonkey went out waist deep on the days the ocean was calm.  They built sand forts and dug for treasure. Sometimes I was out in the water, too.  BUT I was able at other times to wear my shorts and shirt or a summer dress, sit nearby, and watch them.  It was nice.  Very nice.

Parents and caregivers of young children — yes, they will grow up.  No, they will not be permanently attached to your hip.  It will seem like it. For some children it is a very long and sometimes painful process moving away from clingy. However, time passes and things change.  Let us attempt to find contentment wherever we are.

#bgwww22

Posted by: Beth | May 5, 2022

Surprised by a Book

Surprised by a Book

Hard work with a cheerful attitude, death of a parent, courtship, honoring commitments, friends acting weird — not exactly the topics I expected to interest our grandsons, ages 5 and 9.  A story about dragons or a shoot-out in the Old West or a young boy who constantly gets into trouble — those I expect the boys to find interesting.  But seriously, a slowly moving story of commitment to faith and family?  After a few chapters, I put the book aside to hear, “But Nanny, what happened next?!  You can’t just stop reading it!”  And so, we continued reading one or two chapters a night until we finished Like a Green Tree by Edith S Witmer (Rod and Staff Publishers, 2017) .

One lesson from this experience is that while as parents we know what books our children have enjoyed reading or listening to us read, we need to try different topics and authors.  Reading a wide variety of materials is the only way to discover how varied their interests really are. 

We all know that values are caught more so than taught.  Our behaviors and behaviors we vocally admire in others make a much deeper, longer-lasting impact on children than anything we tell them.  In Like a Green Tree, Leroy Miller experiences spiritual growing pains during his twenties. He questions his faith when some of his friends act strangely. He wonders why the young woman he was so sure that God had chosen for his wife told him, “No, I will not allow you to court me.”

This book is marketed for young teens, and I hope to read it again as our boys get older.  Yes, the farm life is different from our everyday lives and no, we do not share exactly the same faith.  Still, the acts of how to get along with others and question your faith are valuable. 

Happy Reading!

You may not find this at the big box stores or online suppliers. You can find it at http://www.milestonebooks.com. 

#bgwww22

Posted by: Beth | March 26, 2022

Regrets?

It can be hard to say that final good-bye.

Even with a heart full of love and wonderful memories, the process is difficult.

Regrets cause the process to be more painful and take longer.  At least, that’s what it looks like to me.

So?

So this.

Love someone?  Tell them.

Angry and bitter?  Attempt to sort it out.

Appreciate someone?  Tell them. Be specific.

Sorry for something?  Apologize.

Have a precious memory?  Share it!  Some of the best conversation start with, “Do you remember when we ….?”

Guideline for fewer regrets:
1. Love God.
2. Love each other.

#bgwww22

Posted by: Beth | March 12, 2022

Rest = Shabbat? Nope


I have a long-time friend who practices Shabbat. My opinion of that has ranged from “Must be nice!” through “I wish I could do that,” to “No, I just can’t.” I’ve thought she was crazy.  I’ve been envious. 

Observing Shabbat is basically resting from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.  (I thought. More on that later.) A Jewish custom, church leaders have added to the scriptures until it can be a major chore to follow all the rules.  I’ve even seen a kosher gas oven!  It automatically lights the oven before sundown on Friday, so that you can cook without lighting a fire. 

On the topic of rest — there are different kinds of rest: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.  Most of us know when we need physical rest.  And if you don’t take care to get enough, eventually your body will take over your will to do things and you will rest when your body just stops.  Watching an active child plop on the floor and be asleep in five seconds can be entertaining.  Adults tend to push through those kinds of tired and it takes an illness to force the person to rest.

The need for mental and emotional rest can be a little more difficult to see, especially in ourselves.  It seems easier to detect in a friend when we can say, “You really need to take a break from ___(whatever the stress is)__.” Most of us tend to think we can deal with the cause of the stress later. Dealing with mental and emotional tiredness may involve more sleep, counseling, physical exercise, being outdoors, and better nutrition. 

Spiritual rest … well, let’s just say I had not thought much about spiritual rest. I have experienced physical exhaustion from trying to do too many church activities, including ministries.  I have experienced doing more physically and being less tired when I was doing what *I* was supposed to be doing. I have been exhausted in every way after spiritual battles.

I have had opportunities over the years to create some margin – some Sabbath rest. When our children were becoming teenagers, activities like church twice a week, karate, dance, and baseball filled our schedules.  And school – can’t forget that, even when you educate at home. One year I had had enough.  I declared that NOTHING would be scheduled on Thursday afternoon/evening.  That would leave a little time to visit family, watch a movie on the spur of the moment, catch up on laundry, or just do nothing. It was not always easy to stick to, and we did make a few exceptions, but overall the plan worked well.  As the years passed and activities changed, so did the day we “took off.” 

Then, in my late 40s, I was told by my doctor that if I expected to get well, I had to sleep eight hours a night.  Well, since I got up at 5:30 to get to work, that meant getting to sleep by 9:30.  I need at least a couple hours at home to do things and chill out before I can sleep.  So there I was, not a teenager but the parent of teenagers, with a self-imposed curfew around 7pm. What a life!

As time passed, of course things changed again.  I don’t always get eight hours of sleep, but I try for at least seven.  And I’ve had to learn to snatch rest when I can.  I have learned to sit in the summer-time shade and chill – physically, emotionally, and mentally – even when there is a list a mile long of things that I need to do.  Most days I’m up before anyone else so that I have at least half an hour of quiet time. 

I thought I was doing pretty well at resting.  And isn’t that what Sabbath (Shabbat) is all about?  Well, no, it isn’t.  I am sure there is still a lot I don’t understand, but while we’re working through Breathe by Priscilla Shirer, I am learning some things. The most significant (so far) is this:  Shabbat does not mean just resting your body. It does not mean just resting your mind and emotions.  It is resting in the peace of God, looking back at what he’s done, and looking forward to what he will do.  That may not seem much different from just being quiet in the mornings, reading a scripture and whispering a prayer.  But, for me, it IS different.  The Jewish greeting “Shabbat Shalom” has a deeper meaning for me now. Rest.  Trust in God’s provision.  Celebrate what God has done and will do.

#bgwww22

Posted by: Beth | March 6, 2022

What if?

What if _____?

If only I had ____?

We’ve all had those thoughts.  The blanks hold different words, but we’ve all felt it.  The pangs of wishing we had done something differently or not done it at all or had just done something instead of nothing.  The encouraging words we wish we had spoken and the hurtful words we spat out in a burst of anger or the cold, calculated words that tore into someone’s soul drift into our minds, building regret and increasing guilt.

The question causes anxiety about the future, too.  What happens if I go to school far away?  What will people think if I don’t go to college?

 What if I keep financially helping my adult child?  What if I don’t?

What if my child screams one more time in the grocery store?

What if we have lasagna for supper?

 What if I pick up a few items from work to use at home?

 What if I don’t read the latest novel by my favorite author?

What if I fail a class?

 What if I go out with friends instead of helping family?

 What if I paint my nails green instead of pink?

What if we go on vacation instead of repairing the sagging bathroom floor?

 What if I paint the den walls orange?

Many “What if”s are, in the grand scheme of life, inconsequential.  Some are not.  In the moment of decision, we may not know which ones are important and which aren’t.   Hindsight, it is said, is 20/20.  I’m not so sure that even that is true.  It does seem a lot easier to tell what WAS important than what WILL be important.

When the “What If”s begin to stifle my breath and paralyze my limbs, I remember my dear Mama’s words:  Make the best decision you can with the information you have at the time.  Then go on and don’t look back. You’ve done the best you can.

#bgwww22

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