Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sensory Joy!

At a very young age we learn about our different senses: hearing, seeing, smelling and taste. I can almost picture in my mind a Sesame Street clip talking about the different senses. When we are babies and little children, engaging our senses is new and exciting. From the moment we exit the womb and open up our tiny little eyes, everything is brand new. We talk about the concept of "new born" or "baby" but what we fail to remember is that it is not just a size or age of the baby that constitutes "new", but it is everything that that baby experiences. Have you ever experienced a toddler realizing that he has a tongue, and all the different things that tongue can do? Or a child who tastes ice cream or sugar for the first time? There is a delight, a wonder, and an amazement. As we age, we engage in sensory activities all the time. Generally it's just a part of our day to day routine, but it seems that we lose the understanding of the importance of engaging our senses. 

When we engage in our senses, it helps us feel more alive; more in touch with ourselves, other people and life in general. Most of us ( myself included) just seem to be running so fast in life, and the only thing sensory related that we tend to engage in is seeing how fast time goes by and a quick whiff of your morning coffee. Below I've listed some sensory experiences, in a hope that you will be challenged to intentionally add this element to your life.

  • The next time you go to Menards or Home Depot, spend some time briefly walking through the garden center. Allow yourself to take in the fresh smell of soil, flowers and plants. Often times they also have those yard fountains with those lovely trickling and flowing sounds. ( Obviously an idea that is not for the allergy sufferers!)
  • Purchase a shampoo and/or conditioner with mint. I recently have discovered the Suave Professionals Rosemary and Mint shampoo and conditioner. I was hesitant at first, as I never purchase Suave, but I have been won over. The shampoo has this delicious, invigorating mint scent that makes your scalp tingle, creating a super clean feeling. My hair has never been more soft and manageable. And, it's less than $5 for both of the products!
  • Along with the shower theme (we all spend an adequate amount of time a week in one!) I like to switch out scented body washes, and mix it in with an unscented, less expensive one. If you aren't into some of the scents from higher end stores like Bath and Body Works or Philosophy, you can always buy an aroma therapy oil and add that to the body wash instead. Citrus and mint based scents tend to invigorate and energize, lavender, some floral's, cinnamon, vanilla and other "cozy" based scents tend to help you relax and comfort. 
  • Bake some chocolate chip cookies or baked apples with cinnamon, brown sugar and butter. Kill two birds with one stone with this idea :)
  • Coffee lovers: branch off your regular blend/brew, and take a little extra time to breathe in the aroma before you sip it. ( or guzzle it for some!)
  • Make some homemade bread. By kneading the dough, baking the bread and eating the bread, you engage all 4 of your senses! (sight being a given)
  • Spend some time going onto google images or make some time to go to an art museum to take in beautiful paintings and photos. 
  • Get a massage or a pedicure. If you don't have the funds to do either, another idea is to soak your hands and/or feet in warm, sudsy water and massage them with a therapeutic lotion afterwards.
  • Listen to some instrumental music.
  • Hug! Kiss! Snuggle! Obviously someone is needed for this sensory experience, but one cannot deny that it is simply the best and not engaged in enough. :)
           Remember that God gave us all of our senses to be able to engage and live in His world that He created. It is so easy to take for granted simple things like our senses, but seriously, who needs any more of an excuse to eat a chocolate chip cookie or make out?!  I hope that my post has inspired just a few of you to add a little more sensory to your life.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Don't know? Don't Worry!

A week ago I found myself in a phone interview with a Target store. One of the questions was something along the lines of "Do you see yourself working long term with the senior population and in your field of study?" after thinking thoughtfully for a few seconds, I answered with "I honestly don't know. I know my strengths, my talents and my weaknesses, but I have no idea how that will manifest in my life for a career from this point on."

I stopped trying to "know" what to do a long time ago, because it seemed like the moment I thought I figured it out, God took me a totally different direction. However, I have noticed an alarming trend among people, especially Christians. That trend is thinking that you need to know an answer to a life altering situation right in that moment. Here's a question for you: what would happen if you just simply accepted the fact that you don't know? What do you fear will happen? If you haven't figured this out already, not only is satan the author of lies, but he is also the author of fear. I truly believe that fear is the base of nearly every sin and anxiety. For some things you have to look a bit deeper to find fear, but for most things, it's right on the surface, just underneath a layer of anxiety.

Most of us fear what would happen if we let go. How would we feel? What would happen? Does this make me seem incompetent? Will people judge me if I don't have the answer? 

I distinctly remember a moment in time where I was sitting in the living room of my ex's parents house, shortly after I lost my job in Cannon Falls. His mother came to me to chat some "small talk", and like any normal person asked me what my plans were now that I was looking for work. I remember thinking for a little bit, looked her in the eye and said very gently. "You know, I don't know right now." Immediately her body language and facial expression expressed that of surprise and shock, and it was clear that she didn't know how to respond to my honesty. In fact, I don't think she actually did verbally respond. 

We live in a world that tells us that in order to be "OK", we must have a plan. In order to have a plan, we have to "know" what we need to do, where we need to go and how we are supposed to do it. If we don't know, it is considered weakness, laziness or being unsuccessful. This isn't surprising, since the worldly concept is "I". It does not recognize a God that does know when we don't. It does not recognize the concept of surrendering ourselves to a higher power, but rather surrenders itself to the power of money, power, self desire and control. We do not live in a world where transparency and honesty emits   strength. Why do we so often forget that the way the world operates is in direct opposition to how God our Father operates in His plan for our lives?

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."-Jeremiah 29:11  

He knows.  Here is a beautiful truth that you can cling to and call your own. Not only does God know now and forever, but in His perfect timing, He will allow you to know as well. He is never early and never late. The times that we don't know have a purpose in His plan for your life. 

Let go friends. May you see the gift in the question mark, knowing that the one who holds all the answers is in control.

Photo Album of God's Fingerprints

Have you ever taken the time to look at an old photo album, remembering the "good old days" when wearing a leotard with shorts was cool, not to mention having prepubescent legs that actually looked cute in those shorts? Seeing how your hair style morphed with the generations, including that horrid perm or rat tail? 

Sometimes I wish we had a photo album of the sequence of events that God orchestrates in our lives. Instead of having pictures of your 2nd birthday, High School graduation and your first tooth to go underneath your pillow for the tooth fairy, I wish we had a "photo album" of the job that you lost that put you behind financially but ended up moving you to a better one, or that relationship that ended and tore up your heart, only to have that relationship lead to meeting the love of your life.

It is common knowledge that we only take pictures of the happy times. You rarely see a newly divorced couple take a picture with the judge, a mother after she loses her son to a drunk driver, or a little girl bury her dog in the front yard. Facebook is riddled with pictures of our "friends" that seem to have it all together, capturing all the vacations, birthdays and sickening "happiness" that you sometimes wish you had. 

I have come to learn that in my feeble humanity and being a student of learning how to surrender my all to Jesus Christ, that tracing God's fingerprints on my life is a very therapeutic and beneficial way to see God's leading through the valleys and mountain tops, different states, pant sizes, people and hair stylists.  Although everything in my blog posts could be considered "personal", let me take a moment to get more specific in hopes that it will help you understand a similar pattern/experience in your life.

 Recap of God's fingerprints in my life:

  • God knew that the relationship I was in was with a man that was not the best for me. He confirmed that by removing me from my job that I took to be closer to him.
  • God knew that I didn't have any money to start over in a new place, due to catching up with things financially after losing two jobs in under one year. Thus, He provided me with a job with housing, leading me to Tennessee. 
  • That job enabled me to have minimal expenses to get caught up with my bills and get on my feet a bit, as well as allowing the love of my life find me. He would have never found me if I was living in Sioux Falls.
  • I knew that my job would be temporary, due to granny's diagnoses of dementia and her age. Only God knew the duration of this job.
  • God opened the doors to a new job just in time. Only God knew that I was already sick during this time, I just didn't have the symptoms. Only God knew that I would lose my job during the first week, due to that sickness. 
  • Only God knew that allowing this specific sickness would prevent me from driving or flying home, as it would not be safe for me to travel alone with this sickness.
  • The only place that I could go was Jeremy's parents house. They opened their hearts and home to me, allowing me to heal and recover; giving me a roof over my head, food to eat, and friendship that mimics that of a loving family. 
  • God knew that the only thing that I could handle physically right now is a part time job. That despite the fact that bills are behind again and it will take a financial miracle to be able to live on my own again, the reality is that I can't physically do more then a part time job right now. God knew this.
  Friends, don't ever for a second think that the sequence of events in your life have no purpose.  When we don't surrender our lives to Christ, it just seems like insanity. And frankly, it is insanity. When we don't surrender our lives to Christ and recognize that our lives are not our own, it becomes a dysfunctional dance of self; your thoughts, your perception, your plans, your desires, etc.  When we don't recognize that there is a loving Father who is lovingly weaving threads into your life tapestry, we lose out on the beauty of the process. When we focus only on the pain, we cheat ourselves. When we focus only on the happy times, we cheat ourselves again. Take God out of the picture, and you have lost it all.

"And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail"
- Isaiah 58:11

Go ahead, trace His fingerprints. Trust Him and trace.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Remaining in the Rain

I love the sound of rain. The repetitive, calming rhythm accompanied with the overcast weather seems to whisper the words "still, rest, relax". I'm not sure what I prefer more; having a picnic on a sunny, spring day or a rainy Saturday, snuggled up on the couch with a cup of coffee and some brownies, watching movies or a reading a good book. The weather can be a powerful stage setting element to our moods and general disposition.

Then there is the type of rain that just pours down so fast, that you can't see anything ahead of you. This rain also causes flooding in basements and sends vehicles into hydroplaning. This kind of rain stops you or at least slows you up from your daily activities. The same element that can say "still, rest, relax" also has the potential to say "fear, damage and death", and no matter what the case, we can't stop the rain.

Over the last couple years I have been a gypsy in the desert, wandering from place to place, doing whatever I can to follow Gods call on my life; but now I have found myself in more of a tropical forest, where it is constantly raining. After my last job as a granny nanny, I thought that God had blessed me with an incredible career opportunity, complete with financial and physical provision; but instead I became sick with the mono virus and strep within the first week of work, and I lost that job. "When it rains, it pours" is an applicable statement for my life right now. 

This morning I asked God to show me and remind me of His promises. With candid honesty and full surrender I penned in my journal, asking Him to indulge my weak faith. True to His word, He led me to John 15:4-10.

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me. 5 "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who parts from me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted! 8 My true disciples produce much fruit. This brings great glory to my Father. 9 "I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in his love."

As I pondered the verses, I realized that the verb "to remain" really is another way of saying "to be". And then I realized that in order to remain within Christ, that it is really a matter of the condition of my heart and recognizing that apart from Him I can bear no good fruit and do absolutely nothing of worth and value. I also recognized that in the weakness of my body and the depressive state of my spirit, that all God is asking me to do right now is to cling to the vine, despite the torrential rains of financial hardship, trust issues, and a hopelessness of the enemy that I am battling throughout the day that threaten to loosen my grasp. Cling to the vine friends. Remain in the rain, remain in Jesus.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Good Bye Granny Nanny, Hello North Carolina

Heavens Ta-betsy, it's true. God's little gypsy is on the move again. Every time this happens in my life it is usually followed by "I hope this is the last move for awhile!", but at this point in my life I have certainly learned better. I have been learning that it isn't my business to decide how long God chooses to place me somewhere; that as His daughter, my life does not belong to me. In my last adventure as a "granny nanny", I viewed the job as an "assignment". For some reason, the word "assignment" sounded more temporary, with more room for the unknown than your typical job. Since that job, God has been impressing upon me that every adventure He places me on is just that; an assignment. We don't know how long that it is going to be, what it's going to really look like and how you and the other participants are going to change. Isn't it interesting how using a different word can totally change your train of thought?

Things have happened so quickly since Christmas Eve, that this is the very first time that I personally have had time to process these events. Now that I have mono and strep, hopefully I'll have a little extra time to write.  Until then, here is a short recap ( or not so short? We'll see :) ) of the events.

First and foremost, I want to let you know that being a granny nanny to granny was one of the greatest privileges and experiences that I have ever been gifted with. It is by far the hardest job I've ever loved, but the gifts and insights of Gods love and selflessness are priceless. I would also like to communicate a very key element to this experience that was never announced over Facebook. Part of this job was being apart of an elder abuse situation that was not evident to me until about 1 month into my job. There is not an ounce of my body that doesn't believe that her family loves her, but when you take a southern/mountain person heritage and plain ignorance of understanding abuse vs. love and all that love entails, there is no room for excuse but as always, plenty of room for grace. 

 Christmas Eve granny was losing a lot of blood and placed in the ICU. I went out on a limb and impressed upon the Dr. that it is not within granny's interest to have her discharged to her home. As such, she was discharged to a nursing home which is exactly where she belongs. Throughout this series of events, the "true colors" of my employer were revealed, making it very easy to cut ties to my new forward to present day! ( All of a sudden I feel like I'm writing my own version of "A Christmas Carol")

About a month ago I placed an ad on Craig's list in an effort to look for a new job. About one week later I received a rather interesting response, requesting to speak to me on the phone. The next day I had the most lovely conversation with a strong Christian man in his 80's, telling me about how he feels very strongly that I am the person he is looking for to be the care coordinator/developer of a co-housing senior community that he is building in Hendersonville, NC ( where Jeremy lives). It didn't take me long to realize that my spirit was really connected with this man I had never met, and shortly after that he asked if it was o.k. to speak with Jeremy on the phone. One week later he met with Jeremy face to face over a cup of coffee, to which my dear boyfriend was slightly less skeptical than he was before, but not yet "sold". I assured him that I was far past being "sold" on the legitimacy of this opportunity, and that he can take all the time he needs to get past that point, as I have this fairly strong feeling that I may usually be at that destination first in most things like this.:)

A week ago this Saturday I had a interview with Gilman and his business partner, with Jeremy present as well. From the moment I hugged this precious older man, I felt tears beginning to work its way to my eyes. An 83 year old man who continued to reiterate to me that if you live your life in honesty and respect of people, that everything else would fall into place. An 83 year old man who has a passion, vision and dream for the well being and care of seniors and all people on the triad understanding of the spiritual, emotional and physical. But most of all, an 83 year old man who loves Jesus deeply, and in more ways than one assured me that if I gave him my time, talents, energy, heart and passion to this assignment, that he would take good care of me. It was a trust that was established so quickly, I can only attribute God to the speediness of the delivery. After about an hour, I was offered the job as the Director of Life Enrichment Outreach for the Village of Wild Flowers co-housing community. I will share more about my job description as it develops, but this is an opportunity that pretty much surpasses anything I could have ever dreamed of.

I started my job last Wednesday (I will be taking pictures soon), and have since been battling strep and mono, so I haven't made it too far yet. God's provision in this turn around has been unbelievable, as always. It's amazing to me how I always stand in awe of how He provides, even though He has done it time and time again. I am currently living with Jeremy's wonderful parents who have quickly become like a second father and mother to me. Not only have they graciously opened their home to me in this transition, but they have loved on me in a southern manner that involves far more than just biscuits, mayonnaise and chocolate ice cream. They have opened their hearts to me, and especially with being sick, this has been invaluable to me. God always finds a way to take care of me. Always. 

And last but not least, being so close to Jeremy has been such a wonderful blessing. I thank God every day for blessing me with a man who is so supportive, self aware, encouraging and has this profound ability to give me a good kick in the rear and knock sense into my head when it is needed, while making me laugh and lightening my spirit at the same time.  But above all, I am so grateful for the fact that He understands that He walks in God's grace and is subject to following the Lord no matter where He leads. He is hungry for knowledge, wisdom and insight, as well as cheesecake...which I learned when a brand new slice that I had "saved for later" had somehow disappeared. Eh, I guess sacrifices can be made. :)

In closing, I leave you with this fitting quote.

"Even if we go through great trials and the trials are, perhaps, even deeper than we experience now, we can know that the best is yet to come!"- Corrie Tenboom