A Whole Year Eclipses: Brother Update

August 18th came and went and, unfortunately, my brother’s concussion didn’t follow. There was a small glimmer of hope? That on the anniversary of the life-changing accident, the brain injury would just -poof!- go away and he could go about with life plans. That isn’t what happened though, and  we look at the possibility of another anniversary passing vaguely without promise of any guaranteed progress.

I remember last year distinctly. I called N from a department store parking lot to ask him a super simple shopping question and his reply was that  he was at the hospital and had been involved in a bad accident. From there, they expected the concussion to last days. From days, it became weeks. From weeks, they tried to offer a hopeful couple month’s time. After six months, they told him he now was an anomaly, and after a year, people who fit his parameters are so rare they don’t have medical data to project any timelines for progress.

Many of the therapists he is working with are also at a loss and ready to ween him from their services. After all, after a year with little improvement, a medical professional probably has little more to say or contribute. Nothing seems to be working in his favor except for the fact he is still retentive of all his knowledge and fully sound of mind. The problem is that his brain can’t process all the hard sciences and data without taxing him critically at this point. That means working on his doctorate is put off indefinitely.

They went away for a short trip to see the solar eclipse in the path of totality to “get away” from it all for N’s accident anniversary. My SIL unwinds best in nature so they took a few days to camp and another day or two to visit friends. N’s head was in a bad place for a portion of the trip, but he said viewing the eclipse was breathtaking.

Even though it’s just as silly as the -poof- dream above, I still hope and pray that if it’s God’s will he will be able to enjoy his son’s first birthday next month concussion free.

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Legalism/Unity – A Free Verse

Legalism says we’re different.
Too different.

Legalism says here’s a piece of chalk:
Now draw a line. 

Legalism is the air-
Used in inflating egos.

Legalism says don’t question.
Just nod.

Legalism says
only show them your good side.

Legalism says
you’ll never be good enough.

Unity says we have differences
but also God. 

Unity says see my ugly;
see our ugly.

Unity says admonish
in love.

Unity says let’s discuss
and work this out together.

Unity says gather for
‘Iron sharpens Iron’.

Unity says
But with God all things are possible.

“Let’s Rename It.”

I clocked out of work on Monday, sat in my car, and checked my phone for voicemails and text messages. My art teacher has cancelled most of our planned meetings since her cancer diagnosis but today, I was notification free. My gut feeling wasn’t positive, but I drove over to her place anyway.

I was greeted at the door by my winded and pale friend. She grasped the door firmly and it took all her energy to just speak. “It changes from one moment to the next. I was doing better earlier,” she explained. From there I was beckoned into the kitchen where she placed a cracker-sized piece of sourdough topped with cheese, salami, and tomato in my hand. She leaned over the kitchen counter and tried to forcefully eat hers. “I’m trying. I’m really trying [to care for myself].” I watched her take a half-hearted bite while tears trickled down the corner of her eyes. She was exhausted. She felt defeated.

I forcefully swallowed the salami cheese lump in my throat and hugged her gingerly. I had tears too. “I’m sorry you are going through this,” I whispered. I walked back to my spot and finished my snack for her sake.

“I’m trying to pray fairly,” I told her. “I pray with faith for God to fully heal you if that’s His will, but I also pray that if it’s your time He gives you strength and lessens the pain.”

She nods and then apologizes for crying and I tell her it is perfectly fine to cry.

Her photoshop lessons are on pause indefinitely. Since she is now technically in hospice, we work on end-of-life planning. She helps me with painting and I help her gather pictures for her memorial montage. It’s just as heavy and grim as it sounds in theory, paired with her sharing sweet memories from certain snapshots.

We began with a new desktop folder. “What would you like to name it?” I dare not name it myself.

“Last.” She says firmly.

I type in her request with a heavy heart. We open up her pictures folder and go through each folder, one by one. I wouldn’t say this was a miracle, because I was CTRL+Z’ing some of the accidental shortcuts I made, but we had the folder name disappear twice when it shouldn’t have. Either her archaic laptop was freaking out, or I was subconsciously undo-ing more than once. The important part is that I wasn’t trying and truly didn’t understand why the folder name kept changing if I had so many images in there already and it wasn’t undo-ing THAT.

“Look. It disappeared again!” I searched her desktop for the Last folder and found it hiding out as “new folder 4”. “Perhaps last is not the right name for it. We need something more hopeful.”

She tightens her jaw. “Let’s rename it.” She takes a moment as her voice quivers: “Hope.” She apologizes again for crying. “Maybe it’s not my time yet.” We both remain quiet in the intensity of the moment. She pulls out a tissue and wipes her eyes. “You know, this is the first time I’m crying for me.”

Even though the buggy little four-letter folder may have been a glitch or oversight on my part, it truly was a miracle for her. It strengthened her and gave her hope for that day. And I know in that way, it was from God. It was a sign she isn’t defeated yet.

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.