Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Which Will You Choose? A Thankful Tuesday Post.



I was confronted with a verse of Scripture this morning that I can't get out of my head. In fact, it seems everywhere I have turn ed today, there it is. Frankly, I would like to get away from it, but I can't.

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!" (Philippians 4:8). 

I have been trying to ignore that verse, but I can't do it. And when that one goes out of my mind, here come this closely related verse.

"In everything give thanks." (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

A few words jump out at me from those verses. Always. In everything.

No matter how I might try to rationalize, the meaning of those words is quite clear. Always means always. Everything means every thing. Not sometimes. Not some things. Always. All the time. In every situation. In every circumstance.

So this morning I find myself facing reality. I don't ALWAYS give thanks in EVERYTHING.  I don't REJOICE ALWAYS. But isn't that what Scripture tells me I SHOULD be doing?

Maybe you face the same dilemma. You love the Lord. You want to obey His word. All of it.....not just the easy parts. And when we're tempted to ignore those parts we don't like, we're reminded of verses like these.

I don't know what kind of week you are having. But I do know how things are in my world. In these months since my stroke I have been told over and over again that there will be good days and there will be bad days. When I was in rehab and could see progress and improvement every day, it was easy to hold on to those verses.

"In everything give thanks."

But now that I am settled into a new normal, with no dramatic changes from day to day, I'm in a routine of good days and bad days. Thankfully, there are more good ones than bad. On those days, it's easy to "give thanks in all things." But then, without warning, there are the bad days. The days when I can't remember things. When I lose things. When I can't read or write. When my balance is off. When I'm feeling lonely. Missing getting in a car and driving myself places. Missing going to lunch with the girls. Missing all the things that used to be a part of my life. Missing feeling normal.

Those are days when it is really hard to "give thanks." On those days, I feel anything but thankful. On those days, I struggle.

You may not have had a stroke. But I suspect that, no matter what the circumstances of your life, you have your own list of less-than-I-would-like-it-to-be situations. We all do. We all face circumstances in life that make rejoicing ALWAYS a bit of a challenge. We all have situations when we don't feel like smiling.

But these verses don't tell us to smile always. They don't tell us to always feel thankful. They tell us to give thanks in all things. 

Giving thanks in all thinks is not about feelings. It is an act of the will.

How do we do that? How do we deal with the bad days? How do we give thanks in all things, even when we don't feel like it?

For me, the answer is simple. Not easy, but simple. I pray. Even on the days when I can't form a coherent thought, I pray.

Lord, I'm struggling today. Things are not going well today. I want to give thanks, but I just don't feel like it. I'm so thankful for all you have done for me and for all you have brought me through, but I confess that today I'm really having a hard time. I need your help. Thank you.

That may not make me read any better or remember any better. But it will get me through the hard days. It will help me to focus on giving thanks, rather than focusing on circumstances.

And that brings to mind another passage of scripture, this one from Hebrews. Don't you love how it all fits together?

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, FIXING OUR EYES ON JESUS."  (Hebrews 12:1-2a NASB, emphasis mine).

Eyes on Jesus, not on circumstances. With that focus, rejoicing and giving thanks really becomes much easier.


Which will you choose?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Child of the River. A Book Review.

Sometimes I choose to read a book because of the subject matter. Sometimes I read books that have been recommended to me. And sometimes I choose a book just because it was written by a favorite author. There are all sorts of reasons why I read. In this case, I selected Child of the River by Irma Joubert because of its setting in South Africa.




This is a coming-of-age story of Persomi, who is young, white, and poor, born the middle child of illiterate sharecroppers on the prosperous Fourie farm in the South African Bushveld. Persomi’s world is extraordinarily small. This passage struck me right away: To the right of a rocky outcrop she could see the winding road in the distance, where the sun came up and the earth stopped, the road drowned itself in a big dam. Far beyond the shimmering expanse of water lay the town. Persomi had never been there.

Persomi spends her days absorbed in the rhythms of the natural world around her, escaping the brutality and squalor of her family home through the newspapers and books passed down to her from the main house and through her walks in the nearby mountains.


Persomi’s closest relationship is with her older brother Gerbrand, who leaves the farm to fight on the side of the Anglos in WWII. But as her very small world falls apart, and as Persomi navigates the changing world around her—war and the devastating racial strife of her homeland—she discovers who she truly is, where she belongs, and why her life matters.




This history and culture drew me to this book, and I loved how beautifully it was written. Even so, I confess I struggled a bit with this one. Perhaps that's because there were so many idioms that were unfamiliar to me, or perhaps it's just the fact that reading in my "post-stroke" world is just hard! In spite of my personal struggles, this is a book worth reading. You should give it a try!




I received a free copy of Child of the River from Thomas Nelson Publishing in exchange for my honest opinion.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Refreshed


It has been said that all good things must come to an end. That is certainly true of vacations. Today is back to reality. But even as I am experiencing the "reentry" that comes after a vacation, I am feeling renewed and refreshed.


For the last few years, vacation has meant sitting in a beach chair with my toes in the sand, listening to the sounds of ocean waves crashing onto the beach.






This year we decided to do something different, and we headed for the mountains.







When we were at the beach last year, we enjoyed the exploits of Pete the Pelican.




This year we followed the adventures of Dudley Duck.








What a relaxing week it was. No particular agenda. No appointments or doctor visits that had to be kept. No chores to be done.





Just relaxing. Laughing. Talking. Making memories together. A week of giggles and snorts and belly laughs. The sounds of love. The sounds of family.



Now it's back to "real" life! Yet even as I'm faced with unpacking and sorting laundry and putting things away, there's a smile on my face. 



Relaxed.  Refreshed.  Renewed.




It wasn't just about the location. It was about the people.


It was smiles and giggles and laughter. It was conversation. It was together. It was family.



Family. One of life's greatest blessings.



The vacation is over. But the memories will last a lifetime.



More happy than my heart can hold.



"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name."  (Psalm 103:1 ESV)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Life on the Road. Recovery.

Two weeks have passed since we loaded the car one last time and drove home from our recent road trip around the country. When we got into the car that Monday afternoon and I heard the voice from the GPS say "navigating home", that was music to my ears!


After more than 8,000 miles, 21 states, 19 different hotels, and far to many restaurant meals, it was good to be finally home. These two weeks since we returned home have been busy weeks. Unpacking, catching up on laundry, grocery shopping, all the things that are part of getting back to "normal", whatever that is!


Before the trip, I had spent more than four month focused on my stroke recovery. I spent my time going to therapy and to Doctor visits, doing my therapy "homework", and napping. Before we left on the trip, I "graduated" from therapy, which means that I had a new routine to get accustomed to. And since living on the road is completely different from life at home, I find myself once again making adjustments and trying to find my new normal.


One of the most interesting things about this trip was how different parts of the country experience spring. Here in South Carolina, spring usually comes pretty early. Things around here warm up and green up pretty quickly. It was warm when we left here in April and even warmer when we got to Florida. But after that we headed north, and I was reminded that spring comes much later to other parts of the country. When were in St. Louis, it was very cold and wet, and that's what we experienced as we headed further north and east. In fact, we had to buy some warner clothes!


Now that we have returned home, we have passed warm weather and have headed straight to hot! This leaves my system a little discombobulated!


Getting our "normal" back after an eight week road trip requires a period of adjustment! Recovering from the fatigue that is part of such a long trip, adjusting back to our regular schedules, trying to shed those extra pounds that inevitably show up after travel - it's all part of the recovery process. Perhaps it's because I'm getting older, or perhaps it's stroke-related, but it seems this road-trip-recovery is a very slow process.


Even so, I am thrilled to be back home. Back in my own space. Back in my comfort zone. While we were away, we saw some beautiful scenery. Ate some delicious food. Stayed in some really nice hotels.


I'm thankful for all these experiences. Thankful that I could experience them with Al. And now I'm looking forward to whatever lies ahead as we recover from this adventure and move on the next one!


"The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness."  (Lamentations 3:22-23 NASB)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

It's Anniversary Week!

Several of my friends are celebrating wedding anniversaries today, and others will be celebrating in the next week or so. I'll just give them all one big "Happy Anniversary!" shout-out rather than mentioning each of them by name, since I would inevitably leave someone out.

On a more personal note, Saturday of this week marks another milestone in the journey of my life.  45 years ago - June 10, 1972 - I said "I do". For the past (almost) 45 years, my life has been shared with the man of my dreams. And what a life it has been!

We began our married life in a little house in the "Avenues" of West Columbia, SC. (If you're from Cayce/West Columbia, that will mean something to you. Otherwise, probably not!) When I say it was a "little" house, that's exactly what I mean.  It was a very small house, less than 1000 square feet. We have since lived in apartments that were larger than that house!

We had some expectations when we married. We expected to live out our days in West Columbia. (Or maybe we might move to Cayce!) We expected to move someday to a larger house. We expected that we would have children. I'm sure that back then we had other expectations as well.

In many ways, life has far exceeded our expectations, even our wildest dreams. Over the years we have moved far beyond the boundaries of Cayce/West Columbia. Far beyond South Carolina. To Colorado and to Connecticut. To Minnesota and to Florida (talk about climate extremes!). We lived in the mountains of North Carolina, and now we find ourselves back in our home state.

We have traveled to places we only read about or dreamed of visiting. All across these United States.  Thanks to our road trip two summers ago, we have now both been in all 50 states at least once.  We've visited such far away places as Tokyo and Paris. Sydney and Cairo. Edinburgh and Jerusalem. And numerous other spots in between. What an amazing journey we have had together!

I've said many times before that every journey has hills and valleys, smooth roads and potholes. Sometimes the scenery is beautiful. Sometimes not so much. Sometimes the road is straight. Sometimes there are curves. Bends in the road. It's all part of the journey. And we've experienced some of all of it!

Even so, there's joy in the journey. Joy because we're right where our LORD wants us to be. Joy because we're taking the journey together.

As we have been for almost 45 years. Through thick and thin. In good times and in not-so-great. Through it all. Joy in our journey. Together.

This last year has certainly put the "for better, for worse; in sickness and in health" to the test! Even through all that, there is joy in the journey. And I wouldn't want to take this journey with anyone else!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Time to Remember

 
 
 
 
We're approaching the Memorial Day holiday, which many view simply as a kick-off to the summer vacation season.  But Memorial Day is so much more than that. This is a holiday which has its roots in the days following the Civil War and which began as a way to honor and remember those who had died in that war.  Although in recent years it has been observed much like other patriotic holidays (Independence Day and Veterans' Day) as a way to honor all the men and women who serve in our nation's military, I believe it is important to remember why we have this particular holiday. 
 
This day is so much more than just a kick-off to summer, and it is so much more than a day to honor the military, as important as that is.  We have Armed Forces Day (the third Saturday in May) to honor those who are now serving in our nation's military.  Sadly, unless you are part of a military family or you live in a community near a military base, you may not even be aware of this holiday.  We have Veterans' Day in November to honor all those who have served in our nation's military.

This holiday, Memorial Day, is a day set aside to remember those who have died in service to our country.  To remember that freedom isn't free.  To remember that all those who went off to war didn't come home.  Memorial Day is a day to remember.

In places like Gettysburg and Vicksburg.  At Bull Run and Bunker Hill. In faraway places like Normandy and Argonne. Korea and Vietnam. Baghdad and Mosul.  Kabul and Kandahar. In all these places and many more, somebody died for you. Memorial Day is a day to remember that.  Somebody died for you.

As you're celebrating Memorial Day with family and friends, remember.

This weekend, while you're enjoying your day off from work, or your day at the beach, or your barbecue, or your ball game, take time to remember.

Freedom isn't free. 

Remember.

Somebody paid the ultimate price so you can enjoy all these things.

Remember.

Somebody died for you.

Remember.


"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."  (John 15:13 ESV)


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Life On The Road. Focus.

We are midway through our fifth week of life on the road. Five weeks of sleeping in hotels. Five weeks of loading and unloading as we travel from one hotel to the next. Five weeks of living out of a suitcase. Five weeks of restaurant food, some of it really good, and some not so much.

Five weeks away from home makes one weary. After this length of time, even little inconveniences get magnified into big irritations. Being away from home and family and friends for this length of time finds us longing for home, which makes this a good day to make a determined effort to focus on the positive.

Whether you're on an extended road trip or not, fatigue has a way of dragging us down, causing our focus to shift from the positive to the negative. That makes this a good day to shift my focus. To focus my attention on the positive. To remember all the reasons I have for being thankful.

Let's just start with this: yesterday marked six months since my stroke. Six months ago life changed, not just for me, but for my husband as well. Six months ago I was in the ICU, with family and friends wondering if I would wake up. Today I am so much improved that most people don't even realize that I had a stroke! Yes, there are things I can't do as well as I once did, but I am alive and healthy! I am a very blessed woman, and so thankful for how God has brought me through this challenge!

When I finish this post, I am going down to the gym to walk off some of the delicious food I have eaten over the last few days. A few months ago, I wouldn't have been able to do that, but now I can!

While we have been on this trip, I have been reading. Yes, reading! I never thought I would be able to do this again, but I am actually reading a book and enjoying it! It's a very slow process for me. In my "previous life", I probably would have read this book in 2 or 3 days. Currently, I have been working on it for about 5 weeks, and I'm about halfway through. If I let it, that could really frustrate me, since in the past I probably read about 10 books a month. But now, I am so grateful to be reading again and enjoying the process, something I never really believed would happen.

We have seen some beautiful countryside on this trip. We have eaten some delicious food. We have experience all kinds of weather.  It is a warm, sunny morning here in Ohio, which I'm very thankful for after almost three weeks of cold and gloom and rain.

One of the things I am most thankful for today is a change in our travel schedule, which allows us time to go home for a few days before we finish the trip. I'm looking forward to sleeping in my own bed. I'm even looking forward to doing my own laundry in my own washing machine!

Life on the road can be challenging.

But there is always something to be thankful for!