Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Todo, We're Not in Fairmont Any more..."

It has officially been 6 weeks and 1 day since I have started my new adventure at Twin Rivers Senior Campus in Cannon Falls, MN.
Life has been non-stop, "go, go, go!!!" since arriving, and between finishing up my degree, adjusting to a brand new place that comes with brand new people, trying to get a grasp on a position that has never been in existence... I am tired. And, on the weekends, I often find myself homesick.


Oh, I find things to do on the weekends. Typically my weekends consist of sleeping in on Saturday, having my morning coffee and quiet time, spending as much time as I'd like laying in my P.J's, and reading articles, blogs, etc. in an effort to get inspired. Then I slowly make it out of bed, and decide that nothing can really "get done" if my apartment is so messy, so I clean up my apartment. The remainder of the day is spent on home work, and when I can't do that any more, I tend to revert to clearance shopping and a Caribou coffee to people watch.



But lately, I'm missing home.



My mom once said to me "Sarah, home is where your mother is". And it brings tears to my eyes to see me type that quote. I've basically coined myself a "gypsy", going from one place to the other, not actually "settling down" in one place. This transition has a lot of things in common with other life changes that have happened, but this one is particularly hard. I have found myself yearning for the familiarity of my home. My home consists of my mom and two sisters, and an annoying little rat terrier named Tammi. My home consists of having coffee on the porch in the mornings, sharing one vanity with 3 other women while putting on makeup, and watching "Celtic Women" on PBS. My home consists of having wine and popcorn with my Grandma who lives just across town, and eating at the Mexican restaurant with two of my good friends.


I know that I am where I need to be, and that God has a purpose for my time here in Cannon Falls. I have struggled not to create alternate endings of what could happen...of how God may choose to unfold this story. I have found that this "grown up" world of deadlines, expectations, financial obligations, and establishing ones self is nothing short of exhausting, and lately, it's been discouraging.


My relationship with God has become stronger, and my understanding of Him being my only strength and salvation in the midst of all of this, is my one true comfort and peace. However, I find myself desperately trying to hang on to this peace, as the power of how I feel threatens to take hold of the truth.



My mom has this sweet little tradition that she does whenever one of her children come home. When I was going to college in Indiana, mom and Mariah had found a little pair of red patent toddler shoes. Mariah said "Doesn't this remind you of Dorothy's slippers from the Wizard of Oz?!" and so mom bought them, and she lays them on the table by the entry way whenever one of her children are coming home.



There really IS no place like home. And in the midst of transition, anxiety, frustration and loneliness, I strive to remember that not only do I have an earthly home with my family, but that I have a heavenly home with my Jesus..... and I don't need to do any clicking of my heels in order to get there.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Put It On The Shelf

I have blogged about the concept of "detachment" in other posts, but it seems to constantly be a reoccurring lesson in my life.


I have decided that learning to detach myself from other people's behaviors and responses ( or lack there of) is something that I face daily. It amazes me how easy it is to base how you feel about someone or something, by their reaction. It is this strange dance of being sensitive and compassionate, but also being strong and bold, unwilling to define yourself by what others think.





Since I was a little girl, God has always given me the ability to see things in people...to understand things about them that THEY don't even know. This gift has been a blessing and a curse, but I dare say that the latter is more true of the two.



A few years ago during my first job as an Activities Assistant, I had a co-worker who was extremely difficult to work with. One of the main things that made it difficult to work with her was the fact that she DIDN'T work with me, she often worked against me. She would sabotage my programs for the residents, would purposefully not offer the choice of my program when inviting her residents, gossiped behind my back, etc. It got to be a very hostile work environment, and one of the greatest challenges of my life.


As the days wore on, I gradually found out little bits of information on Lori. According to the things that she said ( and that I had heard from my boss) her husband is a very verbally abusive man, that doesn't allow her to have friends or go out if it isn't camping season, she was the oldest of 6 children and her mother died at a young age, leaving her to take care of all of her siblings, etc. I also noticed that she never ate lunch in the employee lunch room, but always ate it at her desk.


Then one day, the Lord gave me a mental picture that has helped me through that situation, as well as any other situation similar to it.


He gave me the image of a very large, 3 story shelf...almost like a book shelf. In order to stay compassionate, to love those people despite their treatment of other people, I looked for specific pieces of information to put on their "shelf". We all have things happen in our lives that cause us to behave or react in a certain way. And, if not given the tools as to how to work through those negative, life altering experiences, we develop negative behaviors that are destructive to not only those around us, but more distructive to ourselves.



In a class on Dementia, I learned a new concept. There is no such thing as "behavior". When you hear the word "behavior", most people automatically assume that it is a negative thing. Rather, "behavior" is a form of a communication. When somebody is rude, self centered, heartless, obnoxious, a micro-manager, control freak, an avid gossiper, etc. these are all forms of communication. Granted, I'm not saying that any of these things shouldn't be held accountable for, changed, etc. but I am saying that there is a REASON behind EVERY negative behavior, just as their is a reason behind every POSITIVE behavior.


Having this perspective ( which went along nicely with my "shelf" image) has helped me to navigate the uncharted waters of other people. Sometimes you step into a new situation, and you had NO idea that you were stepping into the path of a woman who was being abused in her home, a man who's father never said he was good enough, a woman who has the need to control everything that comes in her path because everything in HER life is uncontrollable. We step into the lives of people who don't have any tools in their "interpersonal communications tool box". It is a sad reality that they may never even receive that tool box in life.


Ugh. I still have SO much to learn about the concept of detaching, and yet reaching out in compassion and understanding to people who don't even understand that there is another way to live their life; people who don't understand that there are other ways to treat people. I also have to work on being o.k. with somebody not liking me, or something that I do. Oh, and being assertive...that is the other thing. This season of life has been a reminder that I am still indeed a work in progress. This "refining" business is tough.






Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Do You See Me?



Do You See Me?


I may be slow, and my eye sight is poor, but is this all you see, or do you see more? Do you see my wrinkles, my white hair, my denture smile, or do you see a woman who is worthwhile?
Worthwhile of your time, worthwhile of your heart, worthwhile of your personal desire to start
To start to understand how things used to be. To start to understand the things and events in my life that have made me, me.

I was a child, who loved to play, and dreamed of being a wife and mommy someday

I was a teenager with many grand wishes, filling my hope chest with linens and dishes

I was the young wife who fell in love, and quickly learned what hard work was made of

I was the young mother holding babies on my hips, wiping away tears, Sewing, cooking and mending for many long years.

I was a middle aged woman, whose children are grown, and have babies of their very own. I gained a new title other then “wife and mother”, now to add to my beautiful life, I am a grandmother!

I am the grieving widow who longs for her spouse, who struggles to live life without the hugs, without the kisses, without the “good mornings” and Saturday porch breakfast.

I am the woman whose life has new meaning, a woman who is pursuing adventures that feel quite freeing! I have more time to give of myself to those in need, and finding that I need them too. I have learned that the relationships that come from that kind of giving are a blessing in disguise that has helped me make it through.


I am the woman, who people would label “old”. I no longer can take care of myself, and my house of 50 years is sold. “Pack only what you can fit in these few boxes” is what I am told. As I unpack belongings, and prop pictures of my family on the shelf. “How can this be?” I think to myself. My privacy is gone, I don’t know a soul. The tears fall down my cheek, and depression takes its toll.

I am the woman who no longer knows my own name. I struggle to speak, and my action’s aren’t tame. I lash out with my fist, knowing no other way, to communicate the pain that I’m feeling that day. I know deep down inside, that something isn't right… that all of a sudden, I’m losing the fight. Will you fight for me? Will you choose to see? Will you love me, love me for me? Will you say my name, and not my disease? Will you reach out your hand, will you throw me a rope? Will you help me to find ways ,
to find ways to cope with my anxiety and fear, find a way to let me know you are near? Not just physically near, but near in heart…for caregiver, that is the very place to start. I need to know that I’m not alone in this fight, I need to know that it’s going to be all right. Will you show me how, will you lead the way? Will you sing old songs with me, and help me handle whatever comes my way?


I hope you’ll remember me, even though I won’t remember you. Know that I love you, even if I cannot tell you that I do.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lover

Last October, I went to a "Women of Faith" conference in Saint Paul. One of the resources that I purchased was a book by a fantastic, vibrant, down to earth single woman named Lisa Harper. I was captivated by her deep love and commitment to her relationship with Jesus, but more so, her desire and passion to understand and apply God's word to her life and the lives of those that she speaks to.


As a Christian, there have been several concepts that have been hard for me to wrap my brain around. I think that the number one concept of difficulty is the concept of being in a "love" relationship with Jesus. Understanding Jesus as being not only my Father and Friend, but as my Lover as well. The more that I think about the different roles that Jesus plays in my life, the more that I realize that His timing is perfect. He doesn't expect us to understand everything that He wants to be for us in one fell swoop. It takes years upon years of life experiences, brokenness and humility to grasp the many roles that Jesus has in our lives.


About a week ago, I started an independent Bible Study by Lisa Harper entitled "What Every Girl Wants: a portrait of perfect love and intimacy in the Song of Solomon. " One of the reasons that I was intrigued to buy this book is that the author is a single woman in her late thirties, early forties. What could she possibly have to say about the book of "Song of Songs" in the Bible... a seemingly racy, yet beautiful portrayal of sex, intimacy and relationships?



It took me quite a few years to understand Jesus as being my "Father", and it took an equal amount of years to understand Jesus as being my "Best Friend". When I have experienced the varying stages of loss in these areas,that is when my understanding of these roles grew.

As a single, 23 year old woman, I have bounced back and fourth from contentment of being single, to the desires of marriage and babies. Through a series of life lessons and events, I have come to the realization that our culture has presented a terrible lie; this lie is that we are all supposed to be on a specific track at different ages in our lives. For example, graduate when you are 18, go to college, graduate from college when you are 22, work in your field shortly after graduation, marry, have babies and live happily ever after.


As Christians, God has already set us apart to do His work on this earth, so why do we still give into the "unspoken" rules and regulations of the biological clock that society claims is "ticking"? I have also come to see that by believing this lie, we are undermining God and His perfect timing in our lives. It almost is a matter of not trusting Him with all the details, but instead putting our hope in what WE can achieve on this earth.



Doing this Bible Study has really opened my eyes to the joy and the fulfillment that can come from seeing Jesus as my Lover, in addition to my Father and Best Friend. I'm not quite "there" yet, but I'm definitely on the right path. I find it a blessing that before the deep love of a marriage relationship can come into play, God steps in and fulfills our hearts and souls with the love that no earthly man or potential husband/wife could possibly compete with. I cannot help but smile when I think of how beautiful my relationship will be with my future husband, when I have a clear, pure understanding of God's role as the true lover in my life. When I can understand that the fulfillment and joy that I will have with my husband is only a small taste of that which I have with my Jesus.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Perfect Disaster

Today was a really hard day. It was one of those days where it didn't matter how cute your outfit was, how sweet your tone, or how articulate your communication was, it was still a hard day.


Sometimes I marvel at how God prepares us in advance with the tools that we need in order to handle a difficult future situation. This morning the topic of my devotion was "detachment". For those of you who are not familiar with "12 Step lingo" , the word "detachment" is a verb that refers to making the intentional effort to separate yourself from the negative reactions, behaviors and words from other people, circumstances that we cannot change or control. For example, all of us have had to detach ourselves from the reality of this really ridiculous winter that has ruined a lot of plans and put a lot of inconvenient u-turns in our daily routines.


First thing this morning, I was verbally laid into by our chef over minor things that could have been prevented with communication on both ends. In less then 10 minutes, the "Talented activity director with bright, fresh ideas" was exposed. Her dirty, unorganized laundry was aired out in public as she was painfully aware that several mistakes were made. And not only were these mistakes made, but these mistakes affected other people. There was no smile, no "pat on the back", no words of encouragement. It was just honest, blatant, tactless statements that communicated to me that I didn't please somebody. But worse, I had let somebody down.


After the incident, I went to my office, shut my door, and cried. A flood gate of tears was thrust open, and I wasn't able to get the gate shut for the rest of the day. As I processed what had just happened, I asked myself WHY I was so upset. Analyzing the situation in terms of what was said, what he said, what I did, etc. I realized that there were two pieces that made me upset. The first piece was that the person who was offended didn't come to me first, and rather went to somebody else. But the most crucial piece that made me upset was the fact that I had let somebody down.... that I, Sarah Green, had made a mistake. I'm not a perfect person by ANY stretch of the word (farthest one from it!) but all my life, I have spent extra time and effort avoiding situations in which I would fail, and in which I would make a mistake. I would carefully think through scenarios, lay out my options, communicate them the best way that I could, etc.


Making mistakes is apart of our human DNA. It's how we learn, grow, and gain self awareness. It happens every day, and in many different situations. Mistakes made in private are SO much easier to deal with. You know....over measuring something, putting the vacuum cleaner bag in wrong, washing a red sock with your whites, an overdue library book, etc. But the mistakes that happen in public can be absolutely mortifying. But let me take that a step further. Mistakes that were made that you didn't KNOW was a mistake; you weren't informed, trained, etc. are the hardest of all.


Why is this true? I know this to be true because very rarely can we control what someone does or does not do for us. We can carefully plan what WE will do and say, but that holds no weight over what others do and say.


An absolute perfect example that comes to mind is when I was in an 8th grade gym class for the very first time in my life. I had been home schooled up until that point, so the concept of a "real" school in general was new and scary to me. In gym class, everyone was asked to do 20 push ups. I panicked, because I hadn't a clue as to how to actually do a push up. I was never taught. So, I tried to save face, and observed my surroundings, doing my best to imitate what I saw around me. One nasty little boy pointed at me, and verbally made fun of me, in addition to doing a cruel imitation of my attempt. I went home in tears, and I DEMANDED my father to show me how to do a push up, so that when I got to gym class in the morning, I could do it right.


Did I have control over whether or not I learned how to do a push up? No. I was never taught. Did I have control over how AJ Benney made fun of me? No. The only thing I had control over was learning how to do that push up, once I realized what supposed "mistake" I had made. The situation that I had with the kitchen was almost exactly the same, minus the 8th grade boys and Jr. High awkwardness.


One of the things I love about Jesus is that when I fall down, He picks me up. He doesn't analyze why I fell down or walk right past me. He picks me up, brushes me off, and gives me the strength that I need to keep going. He also provides me with the courage that I need to learn from those mistakes, being willing to accept the fact that I can't always do it perfectly. Besides, why should I feel the need to do this, when that is His job?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fellow Struggler

The following is another daily devotional from "A Grand New Day", by Women of Faith. May God speak to you through this post, may it serve as a reminder that we are all in this race together and that we all need each other as we cling to our Heavenly Father.



" The "wounds" of being vulnerable will mean that some people will turn their backs on us, judge us and criticize us in front of others. The cost can be high. However, the "healing" of being vulnerable means we no longer live in fear of having our secrets revealed. I am not advocating starting every conversation with our worst struggles. There are times and places where God leads us to speak up, but we need to be aware of when it is appropriate and whom it will impact. In the process of responding to the divine nudge of His voice, we discover amazing freedom and contagious joy.


Our openness, when fitting, is a magnet for the people around us who are longing for just one person in their lives to be "real", to listen to their story without raising an eyebrow, to let them weep without providing advice. Instead of being competitors who are trying to impress each other with how perfect we are, we become fellow strugglers who are attempting to live out our faith in an authentic way. Our carefully constructed facade melts away and is replaced with the genuine version of ourselves. Fear taunts, "people with reject you". Faith says allow God to use the broken places of your past to give hope to someone else. "



~Carol Kent ( Excerpt from book "A New Kind of Normal")

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What is Love?

This afternoon as I sipped on my mint mocha, I chatted with a good friend of mine. Her status on facebook said something to the effect that Valentines Day is another slam in the face for those who are single...or something like that. I think that this week at some point or another, we've all thought about the concept of love.
From little on, I've always viewed Valentine's Day as being a day to be celebrated. My mother was ( and still is!) very gifted at making holidays special, adding meaning and purpose to holidays that most people miss the point of as they spend money on food, gifts, etc. I have really sweet memories of Valentine's Day as a child.


Throughout my childhood years, my mom has made homemade valentine's for each of her five children, upon which she had inscribed the things

that she loves about each of us. She would make food to go along with the "red" theme. Lasagna, spaghetti, maybe red Jell-O. One year, her and my father bought a heart shaped pizza from a local pizza joint.



As a single woman in her 20's, I will not claim to have not been a little bummed on the Valentine's Day's that have come and gone without a spectacular man to share them with, but I can say that for the most part, I have always had a pretty positive view of the holiday in which we celebrate the gift of love.
Love is a wonderful thing. However, I feel that our society has succeeded in skewing the definition of what love truly is. We have all given into the verbal trend of attaching the powerful word "love" with inanimate objects like coffee and trucks, while turning right around and saying that we are either "in love" or "love" somebody in our life.





For as long as I can remember, I have been coined "mature", "wise beyond my years" and my favorite, an "old soul". Maybe it is because of this fact that I can recognize that my generation really has no idea of what love truly is. We have placed such an emphasis on physical attraction, chemistry, and the good "feelings" that come from what is believed to be "love". Sadly we live in a world where the concept of love has not be taught or demonstrated, but rather has been mistreated and abused, causing confusion and pain. Society has told us that love is a "feeling". That same society has communicated that when you no longer have that "feeling", you must search for the next person, thing or "fix" that will provide that same feeling; often promising that this "feeling" will be better then the last one.

What about the love that doesn't "feel" good? The love that is displayed by the father who refuses to allow his unrepentant, narcotic addicted son to live in his home. The friend who speaks a painful, necessary truth in love to another friend, and is then in turn is rejected for demonstrating this love.
How about the "Unnoticed" love? The stay at home mom who faithfully rises each morning to take care of her family; folding the laundry, making home made meals, and wiping the vomit from her children's mouth when they have the flu? What about the father who works 70 hours a week in order to pay the bills and put food on the table? My favorite example of "unnoticed" love is the spouse who faithfully visits his wife every day, despite the fact that his wife does not recognize him any more, and cannot verbally communicate anything to him, due to the horrific disease of Dementia.





Anybody who knows me knows that I have a special love and interest in the older time periods, specifically the 1800's. Even as a little girl, my favorite game of make believe was "Pioneer". I've always been inspired by the people of this era, and here are the reasons why:
Very few people today go through the kind of hardships that people from this time period did. Building a house with your own two hands, only to have it burn down, along with all of your livestock. Losing your babies to illnesses that could have been prevented with medicine that wasn't yet discovered, with the reality that a doctor and help was miles and miles away. Having to leave precious valuables behind, such as friends, family and those items that weren't necessary to survive, and would also weigh down the wagon. Enduring month after month of intense heat, blisters, and exhaustion while commuting to an unknown territory, without the comfort and certainty of knowing what the destination actually is.


I believe with all of my heart that despite the hardships that the people of this era suffered, they knew the true meaning of love. It was an era where gender roles were not criticised and obsolete, but were embraced out of the sheer need of survival. Men needed women, and women needed men. The men provided for their wife and children, working hard on the farm, hunting down supper, and paying special attention to protecting what God had blessed them with. Women understood that their calling was to have and take care of babies, cook homemade meals, make clothes for their family and maintain their home. In general, this wasn't challenged or questioned, it just was.




Sadly, we have lost that. We now live in a world full of casual dating, one night stands, and gender/gender role confusion. We live in a society that is constantly blaring what is attractive, sexy and even "normal", and that how we "feel" is all that matters...and whatever you can do to achieve that feeling, go for it! We live in a world of people who are fumbling and searching for ways to fulfill the desire to be "complete", and to have companionship. We are constantly barraged with messages that say that say things like "Woman, you don't need a man in order to be successful! You have a college degree and can make more money then most men can!" and "Men, you don't really need to get married and make a commitment to ONE woman. Shoot, why commit to one woman, when you can sleep with and have relationships with a variety of women! Trust me, you'll NEVER get bored."

A powerful example of the fact that God has indeed designed gender roles, is the homosexual relationship. I know that this is a touchy subject for a lot of people, but bear with me as I bring this point to the fore front. In most homosexual relationships, it is apparent that even though it is a relationship between people of the same sex, one individual assumes the "male" and the "female" gender role. I know that it goes much deeper then this, but that is as far as I'm going to go with that topic for this post. To me, it just affirms in a very strong, powerful way that God has made man and woman, complete with different needs and different roles.


It makes my heart ache to see people who don't love themselves, don't allow themselves to love, and to be loved. Those people who do not have the power to do so, because they have never been shown, or they have, and were maimed for life. I believe with everything in me that satan uses fear and regret as the ultimate tool to prevent us from experiencing the joy of loving others, and loving ourselves. If this makes my heart ache, I can only imagine what it does to the heart of God.


I don't think that it is a coincidence that Easter follows right after Valentine's Day. Most people think of "new life" and "Resurrection" when they hear the word "Easter", but as we enter the days that lead up to Good Friday, we are reminded of the ultimate demonstration of love: Jesus's death on the cross. This Valentine's Day, I pray that you will allow yourself to experience this love that enables and strengthens you to have the courage to love others deeply, as Christ loves us. May God's love free you, inspire you and uplift you in a world where true love is unknown.


Know that love, share that love, be that love, for God IS love.


"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son. For whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal Life." -John 3:16

Thursday, February 11, 2010

One Fine Day

Today was a beautiful day.


Last night I had a restless night. I didn't actually fall asleep till about 3 a.m., and woke up to my alarm going off at about 8:45. I had the day off today, because I am putting on two Valentine's Day parties for the residents on Saturday. The first one will be a special V-day breakfast for my memory care residents, complete with reminiscing about love and past relationships and singing those good ol' love songs like "Beautiful Dreamer" and "Let Me Call You Sweetheart". ( If you haven't had the privilege of hearing these songs, you are missing out)

Then from 2-3:30, I will be putting on a V-Day party for the rest of the residents. I simply can't wait! And, if the weather behaves, I will have several fellow students volunteering as well! Planning special events is one of my favorite parts of my job.


My morning started with an opportunity to get to know a new person in my life a little bit better, and get opportunities and prayer requests for ways in which I can volunteer at the new church that I'm attending. After that refreshing fellowship, I decided to "get outta' dodge". I packed up my laptop, school work and GPS (Lord knows I can't go anywhere without it!) and drove to Hastings, which is about a 16 mile trip. I treated myself to an incredibly yummy lunch at Panera bread, plugged in and did some homework, and then did a little exploring. I ended up at what I quickly learned to be the mother ship and gold mine of Activity Professional resources: Good Will. I felt like I was in Disney Land as I flipped through the racks, and thumbed through the shelves. I found some amazing resources for the department for super cheap, and decided that thrift store shopping is one of my "hobbies". I thought I was a "hobby loser", but Good Will changed that. Thank you Good Will.


And just when I thought my day couldn't get any more perfect, I stumbled upon the bargain of all bargains at Target. ( Is this really THAT big of a surprise?) For a whopping $7.41, I got the same pair of boots that I have in black, in brown!! And I LOVE my black boots! It was like a little pat on the back from the Lord, saying "Sarah, you've worked so hard, and I want you to look stinkin' cute, so here you go." Mind you, I don't believe that EVERY bargain is a "pat on the back" from the Lord, but there was something special about these boots.


To top off a perfect day, I had a refreshing coffee date with a good friend. There is something to be said about the fellowship of a fellow woman of the Lord. It's refreshing and as awakening as a good latte. It seemed like every piece of this day was filled with constant reminders of the Lord and His faithfulness, and once again showing me in the most colorful ways that He knows my needs, and He knows exactly how to meet them.


Further more, my Jesus knows me. He knows what makes me "tick" , and what makes my heart sing. Sadly, I have felt that my "heart singing" moments were few and far in between these days...that although I have a love and passion for my job and my residents, the other parts of Sarah Green were getting shoved under the rug and put on the back burner. But today...today God surprised me with one little thrill after another, reminding me that there is a great big world outside of Twin Rivers Senior Campus.... a world filled with discount books, clearance turquoise, heaven sent boots, good coffee and refreshing friendship.


What more could a girl need?


God: The Color of Water

Something has been on my mind. ok.... so, that's actually a lie. There is never just "something" on my mind, but multiple things at a time. It is 1:37 a.m., and this is most definitely a restless night.

This post is about something very near and dear to my heart....and that topic is the African American people/culture. February is "National Black History Month". I put this recognition on my calendar, and created a reminisce program for my residents.


I have distinct memories as a child of flipping through the culture and religion books in the "Child Craft" encyclopedias ( does anyone else remember those?). My favorite book series as a child was the "American Girl" series, and my favorite "American Girl" was Addy, the young slave girl. I have beautiful memories of my mom reading them to me, as part of teaching me how to read. I remember how one time she started crying as we read about how Addy and her mother had to leave her baby sister behind before they fled the plantation, because the baby might cry and give them away.


Secretly ( and I guess not so secretly any more!) I have always wanted to be a black woman. Their culture possesses so much strength, beauty and of coarse, "soul". :) I've always wanted to go to a random black Baptist church, and whoop it up with the congregation, singing at the top of my lungs like I had talent like Whitney Houston or Diana Ross.


Some of my all time favorite movies are the inspiring, heart wrenching movies like "The Color Purple", "Remember the Titans", "The Great Debaters", "To Kill a Mockingbird" and my latest favorite "The Secret Lives of the Bees". My heart never ceases to skip a beat as I watch the leading characters stand against prejudice and ignorance, and love and live with a passion that gives me something to reach for in my own life.


Last semester, I took a class called "Cultures in the Work Place". I will remember this class for as long as I live. The exercises that we did, the places that we saw, the conversations that were sparked, awakened a life long love and passion for culture and diversity. It also helped me realize how unknowingly, I have chosen to be educated on different cultures, two being the Deaf culture and senior citizens.


One of the books I read for that class was called "The Color of Water", by James McBride. James McBride wrote the book on his life, but put special emphasis on the life of his mother. His mother was born into a Jewish family, but married a black man and had a large amount of children. His mother suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse, became a widow more then once, but most of all, she did not allow these things to define who she was, pulling her down and taking her under.


That is one of the many things that I so appreciate about the African American culture. Their spirit. In the book, there is a part where James asks his mother what color God is:






"One afternoon, on the way home from church, I asked her if God were black or white.



A deep sigh, 'Oh boy, God's not black, He's not white, He's a spirit.'



'Does He like black or white people better?'



'He loves all people, He's a spirit.'



'What's a spirit?'



'A spirit's a spirit.'



'What color is God's spirit?'



'It doesn't have a color,'she said.'God is the color of water. Water doesn't have color.' "




(Pg. 50-51)



What would happen if every person in the world believed this to be true? How would things change? Further more, when will we start looking at the heart of the person, and not their skin color, disability or lack of social class? When will we begin to realize that education is the answer to ignorance and fear? When will we start embracing difference, and realize that that difference could in turn aid in saving our lives?


I don't want to get all "Uncle Sam"ish on you, but it starts with YOU. And, most importantly, as Christians, we are commanded to love and accept, even if we don't understand. What we must understand is that God is the color of water....and water doesn't have a color.


Monday, February 8, 2010

"Though My Hair is White as Snow..."


When I worked at Saint Luke's as an Activities Assistant, they played and sang this song in the bell choir. You will all recognize the song...it just has a little bit of a different twist to it.

Jesus Loves Me... Senior Style
"Jesus loves me this I know, though my hair is white as snow. Though my sight is growing dim, still He bids me trust in Him"
"Though my steps are oh, so slow, with my hand in His I'll go. On through life let come what may, He'll be there to lead the way."
"Though I am no longer young, I have much which He's begun. Let me serve Christ with a smile, go with others the extra mile."
"When the Nights are dark and long, in my heart He puts a song. Telling me in words so clear, "Have no fear for I am near" "
"When my work on earth is done, and life's victories have been won. He will take me home above, then I'll understand His love."
"I love Jesus, does He know? Have I ever told Him so? Jesus loves to hear me say, that I love Him every day."

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Friends: "See through you" or "See you Through".



Upon starting my Saturday morning, I made my habitual four cups of morning coffee and settled into my daily devotionals. I know that I've blogged about the ones that I'm reading from this year, but I'm going to share the titles again. The first one is "The Language of Letting Go" by Melody Beattie, and the second one is "A Grand New Day" which is by the "Women of Faith" speaker team, as well as various guest speakers that have spoken in their ministry throughout the years.
I can usually glean something from each daily reading, but this morning's reading in "A New Day" really hit me hard. I have come to find that I am a visual learner, next to being a verbal processor. I think that it takes the combination for me to really "get" something.
The devotional this morning was entitled " Surviving a Crisis of the Soul" and it was written by famous singer, author and motivational speaker, Sandy Patty.
" I have found that there are three things broken people need in order to survive a crisis of the soul.
  • First, you need people who will be "Jesus with skin on". A few "unshockable" saints who don't try to see through you but instead show up in work clothes with their spiritual sleeves rolled up to try to help see you through. They are the good Samaritans among us who don't lean back in an above-it-all posture, clicking their tongues, analyzing why you are lying face down in the dirt. They simply bring you bandages and try to get you where help can be found. They are "safe people". And for awhile, perhaps a long while, you'll need to put barriers up to protect yourself from "unsafe" people.
  • Second, you need a "safe place", a physical space apart from the maddening crowd where you can have the space and time and nurturing environment that will help you find your life's balance, your sanity, and your faith again.
  • Third, you need a "safe God". Not, mind you, a tame God. Not a water downed version of God. But a great and powerful God who is as tender as a Shepherd is with His lost little lamb."-Sandy Patty (Excerpt from her book "Falling Forward")
Did this not also hit you like a ton of bricks? How many of us have found ourselves in "crisis's of the soul" moments, when life has just turned upside down, loneliness threatens to take over your well-being and you literally can't get your body off the ground....but rather are just lying there with open wounds, waiting for someone to extend a hand and meet you where you are at?
Have you ever felt that at times, there were friends in your life who could only "see through you", rather then "see you through"? I know that I have. Sometimes it seemed like a particular hardship or "crisis of the soul" would happen and carry out for a very long stretch of time. During this time, it was apparent where the dividing line was amongst my friends, as well as the other relationships in my life. It is during these times, that we as human beings ache for real friendship...the kind of friendship that, as Sandy Patty put it "will show up in their work clothes with their spiritual sleeves pulled up, ready to see you through". To add to that, to have those kinds of friends that won't try to supply answers, analyze things, give you a "to do" list, or simply just not say anything at all, when you are in need of verbal encouragement and affirmation.
Now, here is the tough question. Do you strive and make an effort to be a "good Samaritan"friend? Do you do what you can to lay aside your personal emotions of discomfort and fear in order to meet a loved one where they are at, right there in the ugliness of open and festering wounds?
If my memory serves me correctly, I think that at one point I wrote a blog post a little bit about "safe" and "unsafe" people. Often times, the people who are "unsafe" are hurting in a very deep way....in such a deep way, that it affects all the relationships in their lives. In the book "Captivating" by John and Stasi Eldredge, they paint that picture well, applying it to the types of women. "unsafe" women are often "striving women". They are those women that you don't feel at rest when you are around them. They are constantly trying to improve something, give you an answer, and are not accepting of the concept of surrender, because in their mind, all control is ultimately theirs. But the reality is that fear is what drives the "striving woman". Accepting and realizing in the depths of your heart that there are things in life that you cannot control, makes a person vulnerable. It allows that person to feel and experience emotions that are unpredictable and usually quite painful.
"Safe" people are those people that we DO feel at ease around. Their very presence says "I am here and I am engaged in who you are." They are those people that you know will listen to you for the sake of listening, will pray for you rather then worry for you, and, most importantly, will communicate in various ways that how you respond to them or feel about them, will not define who they are. They have a deep rooted confidence in who they are as a child of God, and know that any positive attribute that they bring to the table of friendship is not of themselves, but is of the Lord.
May you all have the courage to be a "good Samaritan" friend, and may God bless you in turn with people who will come along side you and meet you where you are at. But most of all, may you come to accept, believe and KNOW within your soul, that although people will fail us, the Lord will always meet you just as you are...broken, dirty and unable to get it up. For it is when we are unable to get up, that He lifts us up, dusts us off and takes our hand.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Multi-colored Fingers

Today was one of those days that was full of reminders of why I'm doing what I'm doing. Even though we shouldn't need those reminders, God is His goodness and grace hands us those special encounters, experiences and unexpected joy, as if to say "See my child, I have it all under control."


Every Thursday morning we have a different pastor from the area come and do a church service for the residents. I was able to bring down some residents from memory care, which ended up nearly filling the whole chapel. There are few things that warm my heart more then seeing senior citizens gathered together in church. I think the reason that I find this endearing is because many of my seniors have lived 80 plus years, and throughout all the changes in their lives; death of loved ones, loss of home,loss of friends,loss of community, loss of hearing, loss of mobility, etc. they still have their faith. They still have their hymns. They still have the Lord's prayer. Although this may be a generation that understood the concept of "religion" rather then the concept of a "relationship" with Christ, they understand that God is the only thing in their life that will not change.


Virginia is one of my residents who is in memory care. She is by far our resident who is further along in the disease of dementia. She rarely speaks, because the disease has taken away that part of her brain, but every now and again she'll respond with "yes or no". I was able to bring her down for church this morning, and discovered something wonderful. Even though she can't verbally respond to you, she can still read and she can still sing! She sang every single word of those hymns. But the most wonderful thing that happened is that after the service, I started singing "He's got the whole world in His hands". I sang "He's got the whole world...." and Virginia chimed in with "in His hands". I almost fell out of my chair! How sad that people stop communicating with her, because she can't respond. How sad that people allow their discomfort to control and make decisions for the amount of attention or affection they give her! How sad that people make assumptions of her total abilities, based on one or two interactions. He truly DOES have the "Whole World in His Hands", doesn't He?












From the naked eye, people see a bingo caller, a "crafty" person, a "fun" person, a person who smiles all the time, a person who is "bouncy" ( Upon meeting a resident for the first time, she said "Oh, so YOU'RE that bouncy one everyone is talking about!") However, I have come to understand that my title as an "Activity Director" is a rather, shall I say a... misleading title. Yes, I plan the calendar, choose, create and facilitate activities, etc. but really, being an Activity Director is just a secret agent cover for being a bridge into the deep waters of a person's heart, a friend for the lonely, a listening ear for the unheard and a voice for the meek. My title is also a disguise for instilling manners, respect for others, a mode of inspiration, a broom to sweep out of the "cobwebs" in their brain, as well as serving as an "attitude check".


At one point last semester, I remember looking at my fingers and feeling like something was missing. And that missing item was a combination of paint, glitter, glue, and food coloring. My tiny little nails would get clay or dirt in them, from a craft or working in the garden. When people would make a comment on my hands/fingers, it always made me feel proud. It was like a little trophy that showed the world what I do.


Today I made a tactile sensory item called "rainbow stew" with my memory care residents. Who would have known that obscene amounts of corn starch, water and sugar, with a little food coloring, thrown into a Ziplock bag, could bring so much joy? I am happy to announce that my fingers are stained with green food coloring, but that hasn't been the only thing that has been stained....my heart has been permanently stained with a love and a passion for these people.They have me wrapped around their arthritic fingers, and I've got the fingers to prove it.






"Child, I have you where I want you, and I will provide"

I think one of the greatest kinds of peace that I have as a Christian, is knowing that I am exactly where I need to be, at exactly this moment in time. In a world that is striving to communicate to people in thousands of ways that you need to continually push forward, look for the "next big thing", and then gives you ways to cope with situations that are difficult and unbearable...ways that will ultimately paralyze your physical, emotional and spiritual growth as a human being, Jesus says, "My child, I have you right where I want you to be. I knew that you would come to this place in time before you were born. Before you received the phone call, before you knew these people, before you were even able to speak, I knew that you would be in this place, at just the right time."

This concept continues to baffle me. Every day we are given an opportunity to live either with the mindset of "It's all about to me", or with the mindset of " I am not mine own, Jesus, lead the way". Something that so many people fail to realize, whether you are a Christian or not, is that the only thing we ultimately have control over in this life is the manner in which we do things. We control our attitude and perspectives on situations on things that just happen in life.


Have you ever heard of those people who are so afraid, that they won't leave their house? Or those people who won't travel long distances in a car or a plane, in fear of injury or death? In our fear, we try to control our elements. In our fear, we forget that no matter how much we try to protect ourselves, avoid things or not "feel" things, those things will still happen. Life is a delicate balance of uncontrollable elements and opportunities to influence those elements.


I just don't get how people can live without Jesus. In my current situation at my job, I have been reminded time and time again, that I cannot do this on my own. The peace that I have had in this, is knowing that God has called me to this place and I am exactly where I need to be, according to his divinely designed plan for my life. He doesn't leave His children stranded, and He always provides.


Last night I was chatting with my sister, and she was telling me in humorous, animated detail that their car got stuck in a snowbank in their drive way. Mariah said that she, our other sister and our mom, pushed and pushed, and couldn't get it out. And then shortly after that, a man appeared, gave it one good shove, and it was out. She then said that on my same day while they were all gone at work and school, somebody had scooped out their entire drive way. This is just one of the many examples that either myself or my family has experienced when it comes to God's provision. He's aware that there are not any men living at the Green household, and He's also quite aware that there are times where 3 women do not have the strength of a strong man. Isn't that just like God? The world would say something to the effect of "Well, 3 women can do that! Heck, 1 woman has the potential to be stronger then a man these days!" or " Oh, that is so sad that you don't have a man to help with things like that. How do you survive, and how are you going to fix that situation?" But GOD says " Good morning my darlings. I know that this is hard, but I love you, and I already have this worked out. Trust me."


Which voice would you like to listen to? Which voice gives you peace?



I want to end this post with one of my all time, favorite hymns. When I sing this hymn, I feel like the Holy Spirit is speaking through me with every verse.



"Great is thy Faithfulness, oh God my Father! There is no shadow of turning from thee! Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not, great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!


Pardon for sin, and a peace that endureth! Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide......


Strength


For


Today


and bright hope for tomorrow. Blessings all mine with 10,000 beside."


Jesus, Take Our Hands and Lead Us.