As the Hourglass Gets Low the Sand Becomes More Precious

I went over to my painting instructor’s home with my painting in hand and a small bag of groceries she requested now that she can’t drive. It was mostly catholic candles and fruit.

She sat me down at her table and offered me a bowl of warm soup. Her kids may be grown but she extends her Italian Mom hospitality to me. As she speaks, she keeps telling me, “Eat, Eat!”

I know that with the cancer and her collapsed lung she tires more quickly so I obey her and ladle another spoonful into my mouth.

“I just know in my heart I’m not going to make it this time.”

A lump formed in my throat as I forcefully made myself swallow that mouthful of chicken noodle soup.

My spirit sunk as I searched for words and knew there were none to offer. Just this weekend, I ran across a powerful quote: “Learn to give support, not advice.” This time support was listening. I knew it wasn’t time to conjure up some false encouragement or tell her she could fight it. But I wanted to. So badly. She was entrusting me with her deepest feelings; ones she couldn’t even express to her children.

I wanted to remind her how strong she has been in life – how she raised three kids as a single parent and at one point juggled three jobs to make ends meet. I wanted to blurt out how she defied cancer last time with only a 5% chance of survival. But I also saw the tired in her eyes and knew this life and pain had caused her to grow weary and weak. She knows heaven is on the other side and isn’t scared to talk about death and dying.

She went on to explain that chemo was not an option right now because it is so potent and hard on the system and that at this point, she was only pursuing radiation to ease the horrible pain.

We moved into the painting room and I saw a little spark of energy as she helped me figure out how to blend my acrylic paints correctly with my cheapie brushes. I saw that smile and pride in her work and how happy art made her. I fought my sunken feelings and concentrated on what she instructed.

The phone rang a handful of times during our lesson. Her son, worried, asked her to spend the night. Her doctor, the one who helped her beat cancer four years ago, called to express his sincerest sadness in finding out she had cancer again.

When she came back from the calls, she helped me figure out the next part of my portrait and then went on to tell me this and that about what she would like me to help with if her time came to a close. She wanted me to help her children with the picture slideshow. She wanted me to make sure her paintings and her stories for each one were rightly recorded. I nodded and shook off the sadness best as I could but my face couldn’t hide it. When she noticed she asked me not to cry and of course those words opened the flood gates. I tried to compose myself as quickly as I could as I knew my sadness pained her.

Over the course of this year, her right arm has grown weaker. She had no idea what was causing the intense pain and her doctors didn’t figure out it was cancer until last month. Now she has cancer in multiple spots in her bones and is fighting a collapsed lung. I’ve never paid her a penny to take lessons. We had a special agreement that I’d give her Photoshop lessons in exchange for painting lessons. The last several months with that weakened arm, my “lessons” have mostly been visits where she tries to make me feel like I am instructing her even though she isn’t able to do much.

I know in my heart we’ve formed a sweet friendship and she mostly pretends to still trade lessons for my sake. She wants to see me further my painting abilities and at this point doesn’t really expect much of a trade. She isn’t even instructing at her two jobs anymore, yet she has invited me to continue our lesson time even though she is very weak.

I think of all the other things she could be doing with these two hours once a week, knowing she could possibly only have until the end of this year, and I realize how special this gift is. She is gifting me something very precious: some of her remaining time. I will always be grateful for these moments.

Because Believers Contemplate Suicide Too

Please read this/share this/save this if it is on your heart.

Before you ask, let me clear the air and say I’m not suicidal. However if I’m completely honest, I can say thoughts have run through my head that I wish hadn’t about my worth, my life, my purpose, etc.

The truth is being a Christian doesn’t mean we are immune to depression, suicidal thoughts, and self-harm. We struggle like everyone else, regardless of belief.

But when it comes to reaching out? Sometimes we feel we should conceal how we feel or be silent. Please don’t. We have a God who loves us beyond what our human hearts can measure. And He has placed people and resources in your life to reach out to.

http://micahjmurray.com/to-the-christian-contemplating-suicide/

Holiday Focus

This holiday season has been rough for me. Mostly because I am trying so hard to keep it centered on Christ and I feel like I’m failing. There’s been bouts of sadness, bickering, you name it – and it makes it hard to feel the true joy that is at the heart of Christmas.

I wonder if trying harder this year makes me more conscientious that I could do better. I don’t feel like it’s a trial or that I need to “blame Satan” for interfering. No, this is just because I’m an imperfect person in a busy secular world and interactions with others and distractions get in my way.

I hope my effort despite recent failures pleases God. I’m not trying to guilt myself or fit a certain mode of worship, I’m just trying to take the steps I can, because that’s the right thing to do.

One of the hardest parts with my living situation right now is that we have a guest room and it is constantly occupied. This weekend relatives are staying to go to a Sweet 16. Then, next weekend, one of my cousins and her family will be here for Christmas. And then, immediately after, my family is caravan-ing to a neighboring state for a big birthday party.

That precious week of vacation time I saved for the week of Christmas? Now gone to hosting people and traveling out of town. Is it wasted? No. But is it what I wanted? No.

I wanted a week of low key relaxing, wrapping up the Christmas season in the comfort of my home and preparing for the new year by taking care of personal things. Now I’ll be hosting people, driving 7-8 hours out one way and then back, and returning to work in the new year exhausted instead of rested.

Is it selfish to just want some darn peace and quiet? Is it cruel to not appreciate seeing relatives and getting to spend more time with them? I don’t know. I’m just running on empty.

DIY Advent Calendar

I mentioned in a previous post that I wanted to do something extra special for my nephews to help them remember all the reasons they celebrate Christmas. Well, here it is!

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There were a few things I had to take into consideration as I made this. The first being this would have to be shipped halfway across the country and last several years. The lesser being that Mom and Dad could hang this where curious little hands couldn’t reach or open them and try to cash in on all the treats at once, ha!

On a scale of difficulty from 1-10, this is like, a 2. Looking back, I’d ideally use coin envelopes instead of my method, but smaller packs weren’t available in stores and I needed to send this out ASAP. I’d also take more time to decorate the outside of the envelope. I’ll do that next year.

I used:

– A wooden plaque with hanging already built in from Michaels.com (Use a larger size for larger trinkets)

Craft wood clothespins from the scrapbook section. They’re shorter than regular ones.

– Wood stain

– Short Envelopes

– Assorted candy, toys, stickers, and quarters

– A printout with verses about the Christmas story. I used this one.

Step One: Stain the wood plaque

(Optional, but it wasn’t hard and adds richness)

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Step Two: Use wood glue to glue clothespins ( I laid them out and lifted as I went)

The beautiful hand model is my boyfriend. Haha.

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Step 3:  Wood glue tells you to clamp as it dries.

Instead of clamping 24 pins, I used cans. I know, I know. Genius. 😉

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Step 4: Print the verses, trim them, prep the envelopes. 

If I had enough time to order coin envelopes I would have used them. Instead I cut short envelopes in half, folded the cut edge over, taped it, and use those as my coin envelope.

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Step 5: Prep your goodies

This was a challenging part. I have three nephews which means three of something in each tiny envelope. It made some of the envelopes look really bulky and I chose to give more quarters and opt out of the second candy choice. I know my best friend is grateful for less sugar. 😉 For the last day, I wrote 24/25. Since it’s the grand finale, I gave them all a light saber light up thingy. And on the back of the envelope I wrote, ” The Light of the world is born to save us.” Quarters not pictured.

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Overall, this was a very time consuming but worthwhile project! I have to give Josh a shoutout for helping me with staining and glueing. I hope my nephews enjoy it and think of their auntie when they see it each year. Auntie thinks she’ll be sending new envelopes each year to keep them interested in new treats and bible verses.

I can’t wait to make one for Kai when he’s older. ❤

O Come Let Us Adore Him

I stood at church this Sunday and watched the light on the first advent candle [hope] flicker. Considering that I had no clue what an advent wreath was 5 years ago, I am quite thankful my church has one! The first week of advent, with three remaining. And here I am still detoxing from Thanksgiving gorging and family feels. As I see each candle lit consecutively it reminds me to reflect and shows me how short Christmas season really is.

I feel like holiday seasons pass by so much quicker as an adult. Does anyone else feel the same? And with Christmas being a time we give gifts, it can easily become more consumer focused than Christ focused.

I’m working on getting decorations up this week because they help remind me that there is more to this season, even if it’s just awe as I watch the Christmas lights sparkle and ponder Jesus taking human form (fully man, fully God) as I gaze at the nativity set.

I’m also working on an advent calendar for my nephews. I thought about my small but important part in their lives right now and how this Christmas I could make a spiritual impact rather than just giving a toy. I’ve decided to hand make an advent calendar for them with verses each day about the Christmas story with room for reflection and their parents to make it more of a devotion if they wish. I’ll also include some fun, of course. I have candies, stickers, and dollar bills to stuff in there as little gifts as they open one each day. I feel like this is the perfect year to give it now that the eldest is a great reader and the littlest is able to sit still and engage in the activity.

I need to clarify that I am doing this with their parents’ permission. I feel it very important, especially regarding spiritual things, that I get permission and that I do not overstep the parent’s spiritual instruction in their children’s lives as they are the main source and have a big responsibility before God to keep. But in this way, I can do my part this season to share Christ with them in a very special way.

Do you or your family have special traditions that help you remember the reason for the season?

Uncle Don’s Cabin: Why so many Evangelicals are still Pulling for Trump — (not so) completely. miserable.

I need to share this post with everyone — not to try to dissuade someone from voting for their candidate of choice, but to start a necessary conversation on a bigger picture: racism and white privilege in the church. 

Evangelicals are jumping off of the Republican ticket like never before – a truly unprecedented exodus. But an estimated 65% still remain faithful. While it’s true that Trump’s strong words against abortion, Gay rights, and the most vile human being an Evangelical can imagine have left so many still swooning, two recent studies suggest that […]

via Uncle Don’s Cabin: Why so many Evangelicals are still Pulling for Trump — (not so) completely. miserable.

Happy Halloween!

I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post that while most people love Halloween I don’t really get the hype and I’m still sorting out my feelings about it.

Well, it’s Halloween again, and while it still isn’t my favorite, in the last few years I’ve had fun and enjoyed myself and I can say that really helps chase away the negative feelings from my youth.

Here are some things I still don’t get:

– Lawns that are decked out more than christmas (they sell halloween lights, what?)
– Dressing little kids as fictional serial killers or having them wear over sexualized costumes
– People paying lots of money to scare themselves silly at haunted mazes/houses
– People with no knowledge on the occult and magic suddenly taking an interest and messing with seances and ouija boards, etc
– Turning off all the lights and pretending not to be home

All that aside, as a Christian, I can either be grinch-y and judge-y of everyone and turn my lights off and refuse to associate myself, or I can look for opportunities to be a light in my community. Keeping my porch light on and passing out candy helps me acquaint myself with some of the families in the neighborhood. It makes that connection and in return, I may be able to bring God glory in that. I can also participate in local trunk or treats at church and give kids a safe alternative to trick or treating where they don’t have to check their candy and fear cruel intentions.

Holiday origins are very complicated, but if you look up other holidays, you might find the pagan origins are just as “interesting” and that we’ve strayed from the practices and traditions of those. So I see Halloween in a very similar way.

The difference with Halloween is that there is a lot of scary and evil themes, but I can’t think of a better night to let your light shine. In fact, I feel like as a kid, I felt some fear associated with halloween and some of the dark themes. But now I know that God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear, and I don’t need to be scared. If and when I have kids, it is very important to me to let my kids know this isn’t a day we fear. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God, and God has the power and victory over evil.

All that deep stuff aside, I am going to be passing out candy and dressing up in steampunk clothes and watching movies tonight. And it’s going to be fun.

Do you have any associations or good or bad feelings towards Halloween? I suppose if you grew up trick-or-treating and going to parties, my post sounds really odd. I would love to hear some positive childhood stories.

Test Results are In!

All the results are back.

I do not have a blood clot. 
I do not have liver and kidney issues. 
My ticker is doing just fine. 

This has been a very expensive process, but so worth the peace of mind! I was really stretched in my faith, and I needed that. Learning to lean on God and trust His will is hard. I don’t even want to dare say that I wholly leaned and trusted the whole time. But I got so much closer. I’m humbled, and mindful of how hard it was; on how much I have yet to grow in the area of trust.

I think the height of my surrender was last week, trying to get a last minute appointment to figure out the test results, and crying in the car and giving it all up to him. At that moment, I knew I could handle whatever was happening, big or small. I actually found it easier to trust God with my health, and harder to find that big faith in paying for all the extra expenses of the medical fees coupled with an upcoming car fix. I’m ashamed to admit that, but want to be real. Did God handle it all and help me figure out how to handle it all? Of course.

As Thanksgiving approaches, we remember to give thanks and find gratitude and I know this small trial is actually something I’m thankful for. I’m glad that I was able to go through this to grow my faith in the Lord. Is the issue gone? No. But I don’t have to worry about a horrible underlying cause.

I hope despite some of the excessive worry and financial freaking out, I was able to bring God glory in this. I am so grateful that no matter how the results could have come back, my God is there for me.

But If Not, He is Still Good

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So there’s a lot happening right now.
It’s a grab bag of happy and not-so-happy things.

I’ve been dealing with edema on one side of my leg for nearly a month. The crazy thing is this could point to really crazy things like kidney/heart issues or a blood clot. Or it could be nothing. I’m taking it seriously and spent last week and today getting some tests done to rule out things like deep vein thrombosis.

Friday afternoon, I somewhat grudgingly coughed up a couple hundred dollars to get an ultrasound done of my leg. I couldn’t see the screen or understand what the beeps and sounds meant as the medical staff moved their wand all around my leg. In that moment I felt a bit helpless and scared. I closed my eyes and prayed and tried to acknowledge to God I knew he was in control and if there was something there (like a blood clot) that it was His will for me and I’d accept that. More like I prayed that several times until my mind and heart were at the same place.

Today I woke up extra early to get a blood panel drawn to help rule other things out. I was there an hour before work started. Did I get done in time to clock in at start time? Nope. One hour and a half. That’s how long it took to get my blood drawn. And with a baby needle.

But I emailed HR from the waiting room and told them my situation and they said do not worry. Just like when a simple doctor visit last week turned into needing more time off for imaging. They have been so understanding. God is helping me in the details.

My brother is still suffering from his brain injury.
My newborn nephew is still needing to gain weight to get back to his birth weight.
My SIL is dealing with healing from birth, a newborn, and a husband with a brain injury.
And who knows what my health issue is.

One of my old church acquaintance’s husband is dealing with cancer right now. He went to the doctor to discuss migraines and found out it was much more than a migraine and is now in treatment for cancer. They have a friend who made bracelets to help raise some money and remind people to pray for him and the family. On it is stamped, “But if not He is still good.” It is not a direct phrase from scripture but is a coined rephrasing from a passage in Daniel.

Last night I picked up that bracelet I bought and meditated on the words and also prayed for them. Do I believe those words? I’m learning to. I’m learning to say despite circumstances, I can see He is still good. That His plans may not make sense to me. But I can trust and acknowledge His goodness even in hard times. Even in the if nots.

You’re already so loved.

Part of my goals for today is spread this beautiful message by Sarah Bessey.

Please do take a moment to read it. Please take a moment to process the words. Please take a moment to consider how loved you are no matter your circumstances.