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Monday, September 30, 2013

What God Puts Together,

Little girls dream of that special day when they walk down the aisle to be joined with the man of their dreams on their Wedding Day. As little girls, in our innocence we focus on a beautiful dress, the best vail, flowers, and a three tier cake. We give very little thought to the ceremony, or the vows we will take, and the man of our dreams is just that....a made up dream figure. As teens, we lose our hearts and our sanity on a regular basis, based on the cutest and most popular boys. When that first love truly hits us, we can't imagine anything better in our lives. Most times, first loves end, amid heartbreak. Through college and young adult life many dates may come and go, but if God is allowed to be in charge, our perfect mate, soul mate, and best friend will come into our lives, and we are swept away with an unbelievable love.

God was truly in my husband John's and my meeting, and falling in love. In fact before we ever knew each other, God crossed our paths. When I was in fifth grade in Sioux City, Iowa, my class was the first to inhabit the new school two blocks from my house. For that first year our class and the sixth grade from our old school were moved to the new one. That summer they had a day long playground camp at the new school. There were games, crafts, and lots of activities for the neighborhood. John and I attended that summer camp at the same time, and never knew it. It was the only year the school did this. My house was on a street that had an alley behind it, and the other street that backed up to it, was where John's cousins lived. While he visited them we were only one block apart in addition to being on the same playground.

The next connection we had was through one of his good friends in Omaha. He spent time with her and her family while his mother worked near their house. As a result he met her older brother, and the young lady he was going to marry. This young woman would turn out to be my sister. I was adopted, and when I found my birth family, John and I discovered this connection! God had ordained that we be together from before we were born. Because we humans don't automatically know God personally, until we choose to accept Him as Lord and Savior, we sometimes take many paths out of the way of His path for us. That's what I did. For years I went my way, but God is God, and His plan would prevail even if it took awhile. I am so grateful that it finally happened!

From the first time I met John, I was not interested, but he was persistent. Once God stepped in and we went out. It was obvious we were a matched set. Those who know John, know his unique humor, and his heart for people. After our first date, I knew he was special. We talked for hours, we laughed, and enjoyed being together. In three months time, we were engaged! He even got down on one knee to propose. I have to admit that I then panicked and wasn't sure I was doing the right thing. Again God was in control, even though I did not know Him at the time. I never told John how scared I was, because I figured it would go away and I really loved him. I remember we went to a movie with Gene Wilder, which we both loved because of the wacky humor that appeals to us both. The theme song was Taking A Chance On Love. It hit me then and there that this was the right step to take, and I have never regretted it for a minute. Now that I know God, I know He will use even a popular movie and song to relay His plans to us.
Through our years together, we have grown, we have learned what marriage looks like, and we have had so many special times together. Many Anniversaries, we have chosen to eat a quiet dinner at home, we don't need cards, flowers, or gifts, or romantic dinners. Those are nice when they happen, but it is the day to day that matters. We have each other, our family, and friends, but most of all we share the love of Jesus in our lives. We have learned to be content, and to know what is important. Humor has always been a big part, so we laugh often in a day, we enjoy just being together, we care about each other, and we always say "I Love You," many times a day. There have been sad times, bad times, and yet, God brings us through, and even closer knit than we were before. We are in between our Silver Anniversary and our Golden, and each day is a blessing, and a treasured memory!

Monday, September 9, 2013

I Am A Princess!

Insecure, desperate to please, and convinced I had no worth. Does any of that sound familiar to you? I pray it does not. I don't recall when I first felt so short of the mark, but I do know it has been a long, heartbreaking journey.  The first time I tried to help mother with canning peaches, I was seven. Mother was an expert at everything she did, so she assumed if she told me, I would have the same skills. She desperately wanted me to be an exact image of her. Since I was adopted, I had none of her genes to fall back on....I was just me.  She could peel an apple or a peach so skillfully there was only the thinnest skin that came off. Never, ever was there any meat of the fruit attached. I on the other hand got more of the fruit with the skin than was acceptable. To this day, I can not peel anything thinly. Mother could not understand what was wrong with me, never mind a little credit for trying.

She started me ironing early too with napkins, pillow cases, and sheets. Again perfection was the only standard. I tried, but I never was perfect. Maybe that's why I hate ironing today. I did get better, but I am still far from perfect. Cleaning, vacuuming, or washing dishes, I was never good enough. I was always told that some part was not right, no matter how hard I tried. I don't know how my mother got perfect in her house wife chores, but she never stopped working. I think maybe she was insecure herself, and these were things she could do well. That's great, but it hurt to always hear how lacking I was. Her favorite phrase throughout my life was, "I would never do that." Or she would say, "Why can't you do things like I do?" I grew up thinking I was useless, and that I could never do anything right, no matter what.

Friends were another source of dissension. I picked friends that were a lot like me...ordinary people. We had fun together, and we liked the same things. I didn't have to pretend with them, I could just be me. Mother didn't think they were good enough. They were alright, but she would have chosen friends for their money, their social status, and their looks. It made me sad, and I felt so alone sometimes. I longed to be accepted for who I was. It made me very awkward around people, because I had to always be mother's creation. No matter where we were or who we were with, mother talked for me. "Carolyn likes.....or Carolyn thinks...." She put words in my mouth, and told me what to like, or not like. I don't know if she really knew what she was doing, but she so wanted a clone of herself.

When I accepted Jesus as my Savior, slowly, but daily, He has molded me into what He wanted me to be from the moment He planned me. It has been a very long, hard road, but slowly, I learned that I am of worth. God chose me before creation to be His Princess. He waited for years and years for me to come to Him, and develop a relationship with Him. He never gave up on me! He made me His daughter, a princess of the King. He has taught me that He designed me, He fashioned me heart, body, and soul so I could be His child for eternity! Ever so slowly, Christ has taught me that I don't have to fit in, I don't have to be like anyone else! I have been wonderfully made so I can reach others and turn them to my Savior. I am still insecure sometimes, and sometimes I don't think I measure up, but those are the world's standards. As long as I follow God's word, and let Him lead me, I have all the worth and value, He deems necessary. Jesus gives me all I need to walk in confidence. I am His princess. I have long since settled things with my mother. I can see now through God's eyes how sad, and insecure she was. She bluffed her way through with money, prestige in the community, and processions. She accepted Jesus as her Savior three years before her death, but sadly too late to enjoy truly being a princess. For now God is taking my failures,successes , tears, and joys, and putting them in a wonderful harmony to do His work here. The greatest thing God has taught me through this journey, is I don't have to hide my hurt from Him, I don't have to be what I was not meant to be. Hand in hand, He leads me, and when I walk into the heavenly realm one day, I will be wholly, and completely what God had for me before time began!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The "C" Word

Cancer is a disease I don't remember being aware of until the early 70s, when a friend had bone cancer. I watched him become less and less active, and finally he could no longer leave his bed. The disease left him incredibly thin, and any movement at all broke the bones in his body. I can not imagine the pain he must have endured. It was a time when research and treatment was not as advanced as it is now. At the time I became terrified of getting cancer. The next time this disease reared it's head was with my own father. I had come to know The Lord as my Savior,by then, so cancer or any disease no longer held the same fear for me. My Dad was in the hospital for a biopsy, and he called early one morning to tell Me it was prostate cancer. He wanted to tell me first, so I could help soften the blow for my mother. My Dad had surgery, and it was completely successful! He never had a reoccurrence.

The very word cancer, has always been a word no one wants to hear from their doctor, and yet as it has become more prevalent in our world, it seems to have touched almost everyone I know. If caught early, chances are good that it is contained, and further treatment is not needed. Others are not able to be in remission without chemo and radiation. One friend battled colon cancer for years. He tried all kinds of things besides chemo, like nutrition and succeeded in fighting the fight for many years. In that time, he never missed work, and kept going. Another friend I had when we moved to Bellevue, was battling cancer when I met her. She often did not feel like driving, so I took her to her doctor, to chemo, and radiation. Chemo took several hours each time, and I went in and sat with her while she was there. As I sat in a large room at Methodist, there were multiple chairs, each with a patient waiting while the chemicals flowed through their bodies. What I learned was the incredible bravery of these people. I know they were in pain, the chemo made them sick, yet they smiled, visited, knitted, and read. Other than the ports, and tubes, and IV bags, you would not have known their misery. I remember one young wife who was there for the first time. She was the only one who still had long thick hair. She was scared, yet showed her brave, sweet side. I found out she was a believer in Jesus, so we shared some prayer time. I came away vowing that if I ever got cancer, I would pray to be as brave as she was.

Cancer does run in some families, and then again can attack with no previous history.
It is no respecter of race, religion, male, or female. It doesn't care of you are rich, poor, celebrity, or not. What I know is, everyone I have known has fought back with dignity, bravery, and confidence that they would be better. I no longer fear this disease, because I trust Jesus to be in charge. I know that the inner strength comes from Him, and I know that I have a network of family and friends behind me. My prayer is that I would be as brave as all those I have known. I sat in the hospital yesterday as another friend starts this journey. She will be no less brave.

One thing about this dreaded word is that it not only plays no favorites, it comes and goes. Some, like my Dad had a one time encounter, and never again. My sister had a one time encounter, and never again. Others, can be in remission for years, but it can return in another area unannounced. For them, each time a spot is found, or something isn't right, it is a trauma of "is it back?"  I praise God that research and treatment has been ongoing, and has come so far. Most of all, I praise God that He and He alone is the ultimate healer. If you, a friend, or loved one has been or is now on this journey, I pray that the great physician and healer, Jesus, is in charge and that you can trust Him for the outcome.... But the "C" word is still scary, and probably always will be. 

Childhood cancer is for me the saddest. These children at various ages have to endure the pain, the sickness of chemo, and the life of doctors, hospitals, needles, and fear, for something they probably don't understand. Again, these littlest patients have that same bravery and fighting spirit. What it all comes down to, for me, is a tremendous respect, and being totally in awe of anyone who has to go through this. What an inspiration all cancer patients are to the rest of us. No one will ever know their struggles, but them, because it is the bravery and courage we are left with!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Age Is A Stage Of Life!

I am old! At least that's what my grandchildren think. It's an age old reaction of the young when you tell them you are any age over 20,"That's so old!" When we are twenty, we see the age of 40 plus as old, while ages of 50 and older are ancient. I've done it and so have you. When I was young, my mother had a friend who often said, "I will just die when I turn 30."  Sadly, she did die unexpectedly two days before her 30th birthday. I have found that as I approached each decade of life, it was not the trauma I had been led to believe. Now as I approach another decade milestone, I just feel blessed that God has given me these years.

For so many elders, life begins to decline, as health fails, minds become less sharp, and eyes and ears become dim and muted. When my mother had to finally go to a Nursing Home, I spent many hours there every day. I observed a variety of ways elders cope with the process. Some were pleasant and  eager to visit, get involved in activities, and were thrilled with any attention. They appreciated my efforts to visit with them when I visited my mother. Others were withdrawn, grumpy, and chose to just sit in the common areas or in their rooms. Many were confused, and I know many did not feel well, or were in pain. Sadly too many spent day after day with no family coming to visit. One sweet lady said she had no family left, except a sister-in-law. This lady was not from Nebraska, had never been to Nebraska, but ended up here because of her only relative. She was very lonely, and lit up when anyone talked to her. One day as I walked past her room, I heard her crying. It broke my heart. I stepped in, and when she saw me she smiled. I gave her a hug, listened to her, and stayed to pray with her. It was nothing special on my part, just the love of Christ showing through me. I am so glad I had that time with her, because not long after that, she got very ill, and could no longer sit and visit. I treasure  the wealth of life and experiences I learned from her. We all can learn from the elders around us, if we would take time to hear their stories.

I also discovered that if I took our dog, Samson with me, they all wanted to pet him and talk to him. We some times forget that these elders once had lives that included pets and all the things we still enjoy. Just because we age, doesn't mean we no longer love, or enjoy the things we once did. There is nothing quite so sad as an elder that is forgotten or ignored. Aging is a process that is not always easy, and to have to do it alone is heartbreaking. I didn't always enjoy visiting my mother every day, but I am grateful that I did. I learned a lot in those three years, and met some really sweet people. That I cared about. My little circle of elders also loved listening while I read the Bible out loud. I prayed with them, gave them hugs, and loved on them, and listened to them. For a season, God gave me a mission field that was a huge blessing.

I also had the privilege of being my mother-in-law's care giver for three years. We were blessed to move her down the hall from us. As she became more dependent on me, I learned more about the aging process. Just imagine for a moment what it feels like to be 90 plus. Physical  ailments compound one on another, you can't see as much, and you can't hear very well. You find yourself in a body that doesn't respond the way it used to be able to. You can't remember so many things, and your world has become very confused. I used to get frustrated with my mom-in-law, Mary, because she was so child like, yet at 97 I thought she should know better, or at least be able to understand. The reality was that she couldn't help the confusion. I tried to imagine her world, what she was feeling. She was slowly piece by piece losing who she used to be. She was losing control over a life that had been independent and confident. When she was stubborn, it was because she really couldn't comprehend, or because it a last stand for some kind of control. It must feel like total isolation.

I have a sister and brother-in-law whose health now will necessitate giving up their home, and going to a nursing home. I know the pain, anger, and confusion they will experience, yet God's plan is in their best interest. My prayer for them and all of us as we age, is that God will smooth the way. I pray that with this view of understanding and compassion, that life will be easier for our elders, and for us. Our elders have a lifetime of experience, talent, and legacies. They deserve our respect. Somewhere inside is still the talented, vibrant, educated person that lived, and loved, and laughed at 20, 30,40,50,60, and beyond!