Pieces

Have you ever had a week (or month, or year) that left you weary? No? Just me then? I have a sneaky suspicion we’ve all been there.

Last week was such a week. After a few days of extra “running” with my dad (on top of my part-time job) including an appointment, lab work, and an order and prescription not getting from one place to another, I was asked by a pharmacy tech if I was okay. To which, I teared up. To which, she offered me a sucker. Oh, bless her heart, dear Jesus. It was far more than the sucker, it was an acknowledgment of my hard day…week.

Honestly, I’ve been reluctant to consider myself a caregiver for my only living parent. I’ve come to realize, through words of a friend, that just because he doesn’t live with me or require supervision, I’m still a caregiver.

Most of the time, besides calling every day and visiting a few times a week, he is self-sufficient and living in an independent-living apartment. Yet, doctor appointments, keeping track of medications, phone calls to make, and insurance issues tire me.

I’m not complaining, at all. In fact, I’m very thankful I can be the one to help him in his later years. I’ve learned so much from him, laughed with him, and sat with him.

However, I want to, hopefully, encourage others who find themselves caring for a parent, child, or anyone needing extra help because . . .

It is hard.

I find myself being torn between my family and him.

And, often I am ashamed of the feelings of frustration. The feeling of selfishness when I think, oh great, one more thing to do. I’m not perfect, and neither are you, oh weary one trying to hold it all together. Only Jesus is the perfect One. And, that is something I need to remind myself of quite often when I’m in the midst of it all.

Last week, as I headed to my dad’s apartment before I needed to be at work, Pieces by Bethel Music echoed through the van. This is not a new-to-me song, however, the first verse caught my attention that early morning. I actually wondered, as I hit the “back button” (I’m sure that is the technical term), is this a version with different words?

The lovely voice of Steffany Gretzinger sang:

Unreserved, unrestrained
Your love is wild
Your love is wild for me
It isn’t shy, it’s unashamed
Your love is proud
To be seen with me

‘Cause You don’t give Your heart in pieces
You don’t hide Yourself to tease us

It was like a lifeline as waves churned around me.

I played that verse over and over, allowing it to sink in, eventually floating in His love.

God loves us, no matter what we think, say, or act out in frustration. He doesn’t leave us when we wonder if we are worthy of anyone’s love. His love is perfect.

Hence, I declare Pieces, by Bethel Music, our February song of the month (video below).

If you are a caregiver, whether full-time, part-time or on-call, recognize this job is hard. It’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling – it doesn’t mean you don’t love that person any less.

And, please do not isolate yourself. You need others to encourage you, cheer you on, and remind you about self-care (something that isn’t natural for most of us). Take others up on their offers of help (another thing I’m terrible at doing). Never forget God is holding you through it all – communication with the King is key.

You’re doing the hard thing. And in your love for that person, you’re doing the hard well.

Goodness of God

Word of the year*, resolution, goals. . . What about a song of the year? Or a song for the month, if you’re like me and find many songs that hit you in the heart.

Therefore, I hereby decree, by my proclamation, Goodness of God by Bethel Music to be January’s song of the month. Henceforth, this decree shall overrule ye fruit of the month delivered to ye doors. Ye welcome.

Enjoy!

*Yes, I have a new word for the year but it is still fresh and I’m seeking Him for what it means. When I feel which direction God is leading me with this word, I’ll share. 

(lyrics below vide

Lyrics
I love You, Lord
For Your mercy never fails me
All my days, I’ve been held in Your hands
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God
And all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God
I love Your voice
You have led me through the fire
In the darkest night
You are close like no other
I’ve known You as a Father
I’ve known You as a Friend
And I have lived in the goodness of God
And all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God
‘Cause Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me
Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me
With my life laid down
I’m surrendered now
I give You everything
‘Cause Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me
‘Cause Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me
Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me
With my life laid down
I’m surrendered now
I give You everything
‘Cause Your goodness is running after
It keeps running after me
And all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I’m gonna sing of the goodness of God
‘Cause all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I’m gonna sing of the goodness of God
Oh, I’m gonna sing of the goodness of God

 

The Wild Ride . . . so far

“Look forward, don’t look back.”

I get it, looking back puts a person in the past. And, once there, a mountain of regrets often happens. A few weeks ago, I found myself wishing certain things would have been done differently during a specific time in my life. Once I opened up that door, regrets followed by tears, took over my whole being.

Yet, looking back can help a person see God’s goodness, mercy, grace, and love. Often I get busy in the here-and-now of life and fail to clearly see God working. But faith and trust.

This has been my year of courage. In January of 2019, I asked God for a word-for-the-year, just for kicks and giggles, and it didn’t take long for Him to whisper into my mind, “Courage.” I think He was pretty serious about it – as if He was patiently waiting for me to ask.

Looking back, it has been a wild ride – a good kind of wild.

Small beginnings were presented – little “things” that I’d normally say an immediate, “No.” Yet, a whisper, courage, entered my in mind and my no became yes in many situations.

A writing friend, who decided to submit part of her novel in a contest, asked me to join her and submit part of my novel. I quickly said I would before I chickened out, knowing if I’d wait to reply, the doubts and insecurities would win. Neither of us “won” the contest in the conventional sense, but I won in gaining more self-confidence, learning more about the submission process and, dare I say…the process was exhilarating.

Having been accepted to take part in a launch team in early spring for The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman, the team, along with anyone else, had the option to participate by posting daily pictures and thoughts to Instagram with a daily prompt from a chapter of her book.

The prompts, along with re-reading the corresponding chapters, led me to write honestly. I opened up in a few postings about my fears and the process of overcoming. It wasn’t easy to write so vulnerably since I used my public writing Instagram account, but courage.

Author Jerusha Agen, who has a blog called Fear Warrior Blog, read and commented on a few posts pertaining to fear. To my utter surprise, she messaged me about an opportunity in writing a guest post for her blog. I agreed and wrote, Fear’s Captive, an honest post from my life of fear and what was happening in my life. I was shaking in my boots, yet, courage, dear heart.

But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.

― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

A month later, a job-opening notification popped up on my computer screen. Oh my, did the voices of doubt and fear immediately sound in my mind at the thought of applying. Voices of, You’re not good enough, You don’t have a college degree – no one will want you, and even, You’re old and fat – someone younger and thinner will do a better job than you. 

Then, the voice in my mind and heart, courage. As just like Lucy, knowing it was the voice of Aslan, I knew it was the voice of God. Whether hired or not, obedience and “trying” would be worth it.

Now, I have a new job and love it. I hate making mistakes in the learning process and need to remind myself, almost daily, of all I’ve learned in the short five months since I listened to God’s prompting through the word, courage.

Finally, the encouragement from friends and family kept me going. I had a small group of friends who knew my “word” and I am at a loss for words (shocking, I know) as to how I can express what their words and actions mean to me! Thank you seem so small.

Encouragement. Funny how the word “courage” is smack-dab in the middle of “encouragement”.

This year has been so…fruitful and full of growth. If you are ever prompted to pray for a word-for-the-year, go for it!

Looking back and seeing God’s hand in your life is a very good thing. Thank you, God, for the whisper, courage [dear heart].

In looking back, what have you discovered?

courage dear heart

The Gift of Perspective

“I just can’t get in the Christmas mood,” I confided in a friend after the sermon this morning.

The season has been full of fun, but also the pain of what friends and relatives are going through. Friends who have lost spouses this year. Friends and relatives who are dealing with end of life with parents and loved ones. Friends who are fighting the cancer battle knowing the outcome may not be their choosing.

This weekend a person fighting cancer gave me the gift of a hug and honest conversation. He told me the lessons he is learning and it is okay not to be okay at times, but doesn’t stay there. He acknowledges it sucks but leans in to the positivity he sees all around.

What a wonderful perspective in the midst.

Today, God brought a friend to mind during prayer time before the sermon. Her mother-in-law’s earthly journey is ending soon after a courageous fight. I prayed for them as the pastor continued on with the prayer list. And, during the beginning of the sermon, I sent a text to my friend letting her know she isn’t alone.

I know God was okay with me not paying attention to the sermon. Normally, I’d try to squealch that nudge because of what others might think and, “hello, we were already praying for other people so pay attention!”  He brought her to mind at that specific time for a reason. A reason beyond me, and plans.

What perspective for this rule-following, trying-to-recover people-pleaser.

Each person battles something. Many times we will never know their silent fight. And, sometimes someone will let us in on the pain, mourning, fighting, and tiredness of it all.

What a privilege.

What lessons to be learned.

And, what a gift of perspective.

pexels-photo-306825.jpeg

 

The Gift of Stopping

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her shaking her hands as if they were wet. I smiled and turned to her as she said, “That makes your hands cold.”

I knew exactly what she meant as I closed the freezer door in the grocery aisle with a frozen food item in my hand. “I agree! I should have put my gloves on,” I said.

She pulled her cart, with her cane resting inside, next to mine and began a conversation about the food she just pulled out of the freezer. Having lost 63-lbs, she told me about trying to keep the weight off, but it was hard because of her newly developed habit of stopping at a fast-food restaurant because of the convenience.

I learned that her small dog, who she used to share a fast-food burger with, had to be put down recently and the guilt she felt from making that decision, yet, knowing it was the right thing to do. The dog was 16 years old and her husband, who died seven years ago, enjoyed walking the dog a few times a day.

We talked about other things, then, she wished me a Merry Christmas and went on her way.

krogerMy mind was back on my list and the time after that encounter. I mean, I wasn’t expecting to have a conversation in aisle two and time was slipping away. The store was crowded and weaving in and out of displays became an Olympic event.

As I was on the last leg of my grocery shopping, she appeared again and laughed about how we must like the same food. We told each other, “Merry Christmas,” once more and kept walking this time.

Driving home, it hit me. Yes, I wanted to get my shopping done and get home. But, what if I would have been in a bigger hurry and blew past the woman. Was she just being friendly or did she need a listening ear? Or was this a lesson for me in listening?

I’m not sure who was more blessed by the conversation.

Deadly Deceit – Book Review

A journalist. A deputy. A mysterious murder. Secrets. And, enter the Watcher (dun-dun-duuuunnnnnn)

Journalist Vivian DeMarco discovers her boss’s unresponsive and her attempts at reviving him prove futile. Deputy Ryan Frost is one of the officers on scene and isn’t thrilled to see DeMarco. They have a bit of history from the author’s book 1, Living Lies. Let’s just say it isn’t the most wonderful history.

The death is suspicious and through a series of events, DeMarco and Frost must work together to solve the mystery – and to find out who the Watcher is and the connection to those he uses as puppets.

natallie walters 2nd book
Find Natalie Walters at http://www.nataliewalterswriter.com  Facebook, Instagram, and Goodreads

This. Story. It is full of suspense and a side of romance. And, the characters are developed in such a way that at one point I seriously wondered if they are real people!

Themes of trust, forgiveness, and moving forward hit all the feels. I sympathized. I cheered on. Whispered a few, “Oh, girl.”

Natalie Walters sure knows how to weave a story! I highly recommend Living Lies (book 1), which at the time of publishing this post, is zero dollars at Amazon in Kindle format. And, of course, I highly recommend Deadly Deceit, (book 2).

Go on, get these books in your hands today! I, personally, cannot wait for Book 3, Silent Shadows (preorder is available now!)

 

The publisher and author sent me this book, however, I was not required to write reviews. All opinions are mine.

 

The Power of Looking Up

I didn’t want to go. I was tired, a bit cranky for unknown reasons, and just blah. Yet, I forced myself to say, “Yes.”

Cold air blew through me, wishing I had grabbed a winter coat. Zipping up my light-weight coat as far as possible, I shoved my hands in my pockets, also making me wish I had gloves and a hat. How unprepared was I?!

It was cold, muddy, and the air smelled of wet leaves. The cloudiness on the trail matched my mood. I plodded along, looking down because roots are always ready to trip a person and mud, well, slipping on and landing in mud is not my idea of fun.

Every now and then I’d glance ahead to find two of our party of four rounding a bend in the trail, their young legs taking them places quicker than our old knees and ankles. I wondered how they could enjoy the surroundings when they were walking so quickly.

Yeah, I know. Ding-ding-ding.

It’s kind of amazing what you’ll see when you’re looking up. 

fall 2019.jpegOh sure, I saw the colorful leaves, green moss, and darkened nuts on the ground. But, that gloominess of the trail was brightened every now and then by the sun pushing its way through the trees. Light and shadows played on the trees and their changing leaves that held on for dear life.

During times of trouble in my life, I think I have the tendency to look down and buck the wind. Determined to get through the crisis, I focus on the tasks at hand and not tripping. I want to get back to “normal” sooner than later. When it is all over, I often have regrets pop into my mind – I should have done this or that differently, I should have taken more time to think about this or that . . .

A person can’t live in the past, or by should-haves and what-ifs,  but, I can learn from it. To me, looking up means looking to God. And looking to Him, well, that is just perfect beauty.

Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. — Psalm 105:4