Monday, September 29, 2008

Stormy Weather

My friend The Virginia Queen Bee has been posting pictures of Sky Watch Friday for awhile now and been encouraging me to do so, since I obviously love to photograph God's Creation! :o) In the past I have also been drawn to the Saturday Sky posts, but have not joined that either. Right now the Friday would conflict with my Faith on Friday, but I still haven't ruled it out.

Anyway, today was HARD. There are just some days as moms where the battle seems to rage and all forces are aiming their attack at you! We all survived, but I am exhausted. I sent out a cry for prayer help to my friends on the Christian Artisans list and had a good cry on the phone with my Mom during her lunch break (thanks Mom!). When Hubby was taking out the trash he said, "Hey! There's a rainbow!" By the time I hobbled out it was gone, but I felt comforted knowing it was there. God has a pattern of putting rainbows in my life to remind me that just like He promised Noah that He would never again destroy the word by flood, He will NEVER give me more than I can bear. It feels pretty close at times. Boy howdy! But it is never too much!

Here is what it looks like when I stand in front of our trailer and face the neighbor catty corner to us. This is not photoshopped! Isn't it gorgeous. The air was warm and charged and alive with the storm passing through. Before I went in, slow, heavy raindrops began to fall. The kind that are huge and go plop! plop! No wonder I have had a sinus migraine. Now that it has rained a little this morning and this evening, it seems the pressure is breaking up.

As I was watching the storm roll in I thought of a poem/song, that I wrote when I was in high school. It's corny - the kind of sappy, romantic thing a petulant and moody teenager would write. It started out:

Stormy weather,

Tossed by the seas of life,

Only Jesus,

Can comfort in strife.

Corny! Yes, but so true! I need to "practice what I preach" and when I am overwhelmed I know that no matter what comfort I seek elsewhere, ultimately I need to go to the source. Isn't it nice how God encourages us through these gentle nudges? (Even when we sometimes deserve to be "zapped" by the storm!)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Songs On Sunday

Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park, Washington

Today during our worship service, I felt bathed in the love of the Lord. I don't believe how I feel is important to worshipping the Lord. Singing the songs and participating in corporate worship is not meant to be for me, but I think too often in this day and age we are looking for what we can get out of the experience. That is normal to a point and I think there are some reasons that are appropriate for leaving a church. During the last year I have been trying to focus on God and my relationship with Him as I worship. Posting Songs On Sunday has come out of that. There are some Sundays when I need to close my eyes to keep my brain thinking about my family, my comfort level, my clothes, what other people are doing, what I need to do that afternoon or during the week etc. Since doing this I find that I can appreciate my time worshipping Him more.

Then there are days like today.

Today I felt bathed in the presence of the Holy Spirit and wanted to sing my heart out! Unfortunately allergies are making my voice crack, but I felt the joy anyway, more than I usually do. After a stressful week of doctor appointments, kids going crazy with allergy symptoms and a lot of other things going on, this JOY felt like a gift from HIM!

A fawn deer near Lake Crescent.
The worship was enhanced by some awesome news that Pastor Mike shared with us. Our church has an Arabic sister church which meets in our building in the afternoon. Today an 18 year old Iraqi refugee was baptized. AMEN! This is a HUGE thing. So amazing. God is so awesome. It's easy to feel at times that people do not want to know about Jesus, especially people who come from places like Iraq. It's also easy to think that the person in the cubicle next to you at work doesn't want to hear about God. Maybe that's true, maybe that's not. When I was in the working world, I found it difficult to share my faith with people. I don't think that my life was a very good witness at that point either. Today a man was sharing about his son and I asked him if his son had accepted Christ. He didn't know, but felt that he was getting good influence in the youth group. I encouraged him to ask! It might be the most important question he ever asks his son!
I am thinking about whether there is someone in my life I need to ask or share the Lord with.
I can't help but believe there is truth to the idea that angel's dance every time someone asks Jesus in their heart. It makes my heart sing every time I hear someone's testimony and I see the miracle working power of God's love. It's a reminder that He is in control - not the enemy who is the prince of this world, but GOD! Amen!
We stand and lift up our hands
For the joy of the Lord is our strength
We bow down and worship Him now
How great, how awesome is He
And together we sing
Holy is the Lord God Almighty
The earth is filled with His glory
Holy is the Lord God Almighty
The earth is filled with His glory
The earth is filled with His glory
We stand and lift up our hands
For the joy of the Lord is our strength
We bow down and worship Him now
How great, how awesome is He
And together we sing
Everyone sing
Holy is the Lord God Almighty
The earth is filled with His glory
Holy is the Lord God Almighty
The earth is filled with His glory
The earth is filled with His glory
It's rising up all around
It's the anthem of the Lord's renown
Chris Tomlin

Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20

Bumblebee and Fireweed

"Praise to the Lord, the Almighty"

by Joachim Neander, 1650-1680

Translated by Catherine Winkworth, 1829-1878

1. Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!

O my soul, praise Him, for He is Thy Health and Salvation!

Join the full throng:

Wake, harp and psalter and song;

Sound forth in glad adoration!

2. Praise to the Lord, who o'er all things so wondrously reigneth,

Who, as on wings of an eagle, uplifteth, sustaineth.

Hast thou not seen

How thy desires all have been

Granted in what He ordaineth?

3. Praise to the Lord, who hath fearfully, wondrously, made thee;

Health hath vouchsafed and, when heedlessly falling, hath stayed thee.

What need or grief

Ever hath failed of relief?--

Wings of His mercy did shade thee.

4. Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee,

Who from the heavens the streams of His mercy doth send thee.

Ponder anew

What the Almighty can do,

Who with His love doth befriend thee.

5. Praise to the Lord! Oh, let all that is in me adore Him!

All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him!

Let the Amen

Sound from His people again;

Gladly for aye we adore Him.

Doe and Fawn, Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park, Washington

What can I add to that old German Lutheran hymn! Isn't it beautiful? It's rich and beautiful and wonderful and I can't help but think that the author had a heart bursting with joy, trying to express his love for God.

Psalm 100
A psalm.

For giving thanks.

1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;

come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the LORD is God.

It is he who made us, and we are his;

we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;

his faithfulness continues through all generations.

From NIV courtesy of Bible Gateway

I'm sorry that blogger makes the lines come across weird. We read this responsively as a congregation. This is a practice that many modern churches have written off as old fashioned or too "stiff". Personally, I think there is something powerful about all those voices joined together speaking His Living Word.

Deer at Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park, Washington

One of the things I am looking forward to when God restores us to a new Earth is seeing how the animals will be different - when they will be how God created them to be, as we will be. The Bible says that if we fail to praise Him, even the stones will cry out. The Psalms write about Creation singing praises to its Creator. Everything that God created is already so amazing, I can't wait to see His original Design!

Mount Olympus from Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park

Give thanks to the Lord

Our God and King

His love endures forever

For He is good, He is above all things

His love endures forever

Sing praise, sing praise

With a mighty hand and outstretched arm

His love endures forever

For the life that's been reborn

His love endures forever

Sing praise, sing praise

Sing praise, sing praise


Forever God is faithful

Forever God is strong

Forever God is with us



From the rising to the setting sun

His love endures forever

By the grace of God

We will carry on

His love endures forever

Sing praise, sing praise

Sing praise, sing praise


Forever God is faithful

Forever God is strong

Forever God is with us



Forever God is faithful

Forever God is strong

Forever God is with us




His love endures forever

His love endures forever

His love endures forever


Sing praise, sing praise

Sing praise, sing praise


Forever you are faithful

Forever you are strong

Forever you are with us


And ever

Chris Tomlin

Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made,

their starry host by the breath of his mouth.

7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;

he puts the deep into storehouses.

8 Let all the earth fear the LORD;

let all the people of the world revere him.

Psalm 36:6-8

Three of the most precious gifts He has given me - D, J, A.

Maybe as you read this, you don't feel like praising Him. We all feel like that at times. As in our earthly relationships, it's not about what we feel. Love is when the relationship keeps on going and growing in spite of how you "feel". Be patient. Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Faith on Friday

Our church is continuing the sermon series and Bible study on Abram/Abraham, this week focusing on Genesis 12:10-20 when Abram went to Egypt. This is one of those passages of Scripture that has bothered me. It doesn't alter my faith, but as a woman growing up in our time period, it really irritates me. My first reaction is, "What kind of a creep let's his wife be taken off by another man like that just to protect himself??!!" If you didn't read the passage, undoubtedly you now recognize it as the time Abram told Pharaoh that Sarai was his sister, but neglected to say that she was also his wife.

Apparently in the Egyptian culture of that time, adultery was unacceptable, but killing a man and taking his widow was okay. Okay! So, with that in mind, it is somewhat understandable, but it poses the question, "Is it ever okay to lie?" My gut response is to say quite emphatically, "NO!"

What Abram shared was only a half lie because Sarai was his half sister, but obviously the half not shared was important. What if telling the truth would cost someone's life? Gulp! That one is a little more difficult. I have never been placed in that position, but have met people who lived behind the Iron Curtain or survived the Holocaust in Europe and there were times for them when telling the truth or the whole truth would have had dire consequences.

Let me clearly state that I do not believe in "situational ethics", but I sure hope I am not put in the position of trying to decide that for myself. I am not sure that I can even answer my own question. Recently I studied both the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John and so I thought about Jesus' responses to leadership. He never lied, but some times he never answered the question. Perhaps that would need to be my response if I were ever put in that type of position.

It's easy to judge Abram or other characters in the Bible and think, "How stupid are you?!" But we have the retrospect of time and scholarly wisdom, the indwelling Holy Spirit and the example of their historic mistakes. When I give it thought, I cannot be the one to cast the proverbial first stone.

Abram's biggest mistake was to rely on his own understanding and his own means, not God's. Doing this, he fell flat on his face. Poor Sarai and even Pharaoh and his household suffered the consequences of Abram's actions.

During my twenties, I made many mistakes like this. Fortunately (depending on how you look at it), I suffered most of the consequences. The fall out hit me. Nearly a decade was lost before I righted myself and listened fully to His voice. It is senseless to dwell on that time as He has forgiven me and there isn't much I can do now, but as I grow older, I realize how precious that time was that was lost. Like Abram, I failed the same "test" more than once. Like Abram, God blessed me afterwards in spite of myself and I do not take that for granted.

Proverbs 3:5-6 are verses I hold dear. I believe I have shared on here before that they are my life verses. The wisdom of the writer applies to Abram's situation and to my every waking hours, so I leave you with those thoughts:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

First Dentist Trip

Yesterday, the girls went for their first trip to the dentist. It was quite eventful, but not because of the girls. I had a run in with the assistant who insisted that I either leave two of my kids alone in the waiting room or leave one child alone in the back for her first dental visit. What kind of a parent would do that? My children are 5 and almost 7. We were at the dentist for over 2 hours!! They could not be unsupervised for 2 hours! She told me that there were gals at the front desk and it would be fine. I told her that the gals at the front desk had a job to do and it wasn't baby sitting my children! At that the gals at the front desk looked like they were ready to applaud! lol

This would not have been such a big deal except that this is apparently a brand new rule since June when we were there with D, a new rule that patients were not informed about. I do understand some of the basis for the rule - safety because unruly kids have bumped the dentist while working on a siblings mouth and for space wise in a room with thousands of dollars of equipment. My experience in pediatrics gives me a basis to understand that. But they placed me in a position where I could not back down because my children were already with me. I was polite, but assertive and told them that I would not leave any of my children alone for any reason and that if we all couldn't go back together, then I would be leaving. They allowed it for yesterday but not again, which I understand. So when I have to take D back in December, I will have to find a babysitter for the girls. This may be no big deal to the people in the posh, yuppy dentist office, but it is for us. Likely the rules will be the same at other dental offices so it probably won't be fruitful to look elsewhere

I am not unreasonable and if I had known BEFORE the appt I could have made plans. A more professional approach would have been to send a letter to all their pediatric patients, stating the new policy. This would not have been too costly because pediatrics are the minority of their practice and they are a part of an extremely wealthy dental group. Also, the assistant could have broached it in a kinder and more professional manner instead of flat out saying no and pushing me into the defensive corner. She was young and probably too young to understand about the reactions of Mama Bears when their young are threatened! :o)

So anyway, J went first. I asked her to smile and show me her teeth and this is what she did.

Here she is studying her digital xrays on the monitor, listening to the dentist explain things to me.

Then the dentist explained what he was going to do and he was quite gentle and kind with the children, for which I was thankful. J ended up having an unusual cross bite that hopefully she will outgrow because otherwise it will require an orthodontic plate with screws! Ick! Just like her Mama, when J concentrates and is nervous she bites her lip.

Here is A. She is kind of pale because we have all been fighting bad allergies since we came back home. When we came back down the hill yesterday, the air was so brown that we could almost not make out the skyline of the city in the distance - I had to search for it! The poor kids suffer so bad and it really effects their behavior - which isn't fun for Mom or conducive to productive school work! :o)

A further irritation was that we saw the dental hygienist. Our regular hygienist is just finishing maternity leave and we wanted to wait for her, but they told us that on the first visit they did not see a hygienist, only the DDS. So we scheduled and saw a different hygienist. She turned out to be really nice and gentle and taught me a few tricks for taking care of the kids' teeth. She is an identical twin so we had a great conversation about twinhood, twin parenting etc and that was fun, ending us with an upbeat. The kids did great and I am really proud of them.

Now, does anyone know anything about dental sealants? That's what they want to do to D in December and I don't know anything about them. He has permanent molars and they want to do that to protect from cavities but I am a little leery about putting chemicals in my kids' mouths!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wellness Wednesday

Welcome back everyone. I had hoped to have some pictures to go with the post, but I'm pooped! :o) It was dentist day. Over the last 2 weeks my weight has gone up and down between 309-312. This morning it was 311#. The variation is likely because of the swelling on my knee/leg. My jeans are baggy on me, so I guess that is a good sign. I really do not want to go backwards!

One thing I forgot to write is that the day that I injured my knee, I walked over 13,000 steps! I was so excited and thought about all my blog friends and how wonderful it was to make a goal of well over 10K, which I had only done once before. That's about 4.5 miles and I had hoped to challenge that number each day we were hiking, but as you know, that did not happen.

Still, I am encouraged about the strength I am gaining and looking forward to meeting with the physical therapist tomorrow to discuss how I can be a bit more active without impacting the knee. As you all suggested, I have been doing the upper body exercises and my kids love those - it's a great way to learn to count. We are up to 100 and my two kindergartners don't even know they are doing math! LOL

Yesterday I did something really fun. I made sourdough whole wheat English muffins. They turned out yummy! It's not difficult, though it has several stages over time. That was good for me because then I wasn't standing all the time. Hubby had some for dinner last night and will soon have a post up on my other blog. Several of you have been nudging me to get posting on My Journey To Wholeness and I do have a few things to post but have just been really absorbed with my children's school and getting better. It seems I have been on a plateau but now that I am not in continual pain, I'm getting the urge to get back full force working on my health. There are still many things I can do that do not require walking and standing!

So, now with the start of this new season and the change of the weather, are any of you doing things differently? Any new changes for you? How can we encourage each other to keep working on our wellness? I am open to ideas.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Where My Toes Came From

Here are some more pictures from my vacation in Washington, mainly posting for my family to see. This is my Auntie Irma, who is the older sister of my Grandpa Johnson. By the end of this post, I will show you where my toes came from! :o)

During my growing up years, my family didn't spend a lot of time with Auntie Irma, but when my Grandpa died, we grew close. And today when I see her, I run for a big hug! She is the living reminder of the only Grandpa I ever knew. This year, Auntie Irma was in a new senior apartment complex that was really nice. Look at the twinkle in her eye - she's in her mid 80s and she still wears purple nail polish, lipstick and fashionable clothing and jewelry.

D, J and A are petting Heidi, Auntie Irma's Pomeranian (who has a "teddy bear" cut). Heidi was a little bit scared of the kids as you can see here. This was our 4th day in a different place and the kids were just giving out. They behaved so horribly that day, I was embarrassed! Fortunately, Auntie Irma has lots of great grandchildren and was very understanding. Her apartment was small, so we went out to lunch at her favorite Mexican restaurant and enjoyed a good time together.

Okay, you know my weight. You know my BMI. Why am I embarassed to show my toes? LOL Probably because California's dry air makes my skin, especially on my feet, dry and icky. My foot's in the brown sandals and Irma's is in the white.

Irma's Husband, Uncle Vern, died not long after my Grandpa. I came and spent a weekend with her at that time and while we were watching TV at night, I looked down and GASPED! I have peculiar toes - the 2nd and 3rd are like conjoined twins and they stick out past my big toe. Because they won't stay together, but spread out in a V, they cause me lots of issues in finding shoes wide enough for my toes! I always wondered where my feet came from, not seeing them elsewhere in my family, but there they were - the same toes at the end of Auntie Irma's feet! We're not sure if that is a Smith or a Johnson trait, but at least I know now, I didn't fall off the turnip truck! LOL

So, aren't you excited? You know where my toes came from! Since having children, I am increasingly interested in seeing how the genes display themselves. Do you look like someone in your family?

Monday, September 22, 2008

My least favorite color is orange...

...but my favorite season is fall! I love the crisp air, the tone of the sunlight, the suspension between hot and cold with one foot in summer, the other in winter, the harvest, the thanks, the feast and my first born's birthday!

Happy First Day of Fall!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Alzheimer's Awareness Day and Songs On Sunday

I apologize in advance for another heavy post, but this was timely for the calendar. This is a little long, but I wanted to share some of my experiences with Alzheimer's Disease and put a face to it, because it is something that people still joke about and don't really understand.
One of my blog friends, Snowbird, reminded me that today is Alzheimer's Awareness Day. The photo above was taken on my vacation, at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park and I chose it because it serves as a metaphor for the havoc Alzheimer's wreaks in a person's mind. The fog rolls in. Occasionally it parts and there are a few lucid moments, but eventually the fog is so thick, one cannot even recognize one's self. If you check Snowbird's post, you will find excellent links and information.
In today's post I want to share with you a little bit of my experience with Alzheimer's Disease, as well as how praising God in song can be a ministry to others.
An important woman in my life was Dorothy Lucille/Ann Larimore (aka Clancy)Duren Johnson. As her name indicates, she had a complicated and stressful life. Born January 2, 1920 in Yakima, Washington, she was christened Dorothy Lucille Larimore. Her parents were poor, an incorrigible mostly Irish man named Melville Larimore and a feisty Polish/Slovakian woman named Annie Dipko. Her early life was marred with arguments, alcoholism, financial distress, the deaths of a sister and an infant half brother, a divorce, time in Seattle Children's Home after running away, and an often harsh stepfather. As a young woman she held her 4 month old daughter Patty in her arms while they rushed to the hospital. Baby Patty never made it there. Her marriage was disappointing. She made a lot of poor choices, one of which led to my father being born out of wedlock. Later she married my Grandpa and they raised three sons - all three of which went on to bring heart ache to their parents. This is the sad part of the story. If I left you with this impression, she would be flat, tragic and unmemorable.
Dot, as she was called by her friends and family, LOVED life! Sometimes I think those who survive great heartaches, live life fuller once they put their minds to it. She was stubborn - if she put her mind to it, she got it done.
She was a mother to four children and grandma to 7. None of her great grandchildren were born when she was alive. In the above picture she is with my Uncle Larry on the left and my Dad on the right, about 1950.
During WWII Grandma organized bomb shelters and helped at the Catholic school where her son attended. She was a volunteer and organizer, a baker and a lover of dance and music, especially from the swing era. Dot was the "go to gal" if someone was sick or injured, which earned her the nickname "Doctor Johnson."
Dot embraced life and was not afraid to work hard, get dirty or have fun. As a girl, I loved to hear tales of Grandma standing on a chair to have an eyebrow pencil line drawn down the back of her legs as she prepared to go to a dance (no nylons during WWII and this mimicked the seam). My favorite story was how she killed her mother's favorite turkey who was mean and chased the children to the outhouse. One night she had it! She beat the turkey with a broom stick. Part of her punishment was plucking him, but she never had to run from the meany again. In the above picture she is helping Grandpa's cousin Ray Beigle carry supplies in for hunting camp.
Dot was a hunter, fisher, camper, hiker, joker,Cribbage player and all around great cook. Having worked hard during the war (her sister Eve was a "Rosie the Riveter"), she held her own in a tough world and wasn't afraid to work and hunt with the men. I believe everyone in this picture is now gone. This is hunting camp about 1948. The old man in the front is my great great grandfather, Loren Harmon Smith from Newaygo county Michigan. He brought that branch of the family to Washington about 1907. He died the year after this picture. His son, daughters and grandchildren don't know it, but the deer head they had mounted as his last - Dot actually shot, but used his tags! He maintained the bragging rights!
As I said, there wasn't much she couldn't do if she put her mind to it. From her I learned to crochet, enjoy looking in second hand stores and garage sales (my daughters sleep under a butterfly quilt she bought me once at a garage sale) and from her I also picked up the bad habit of eating for comfort. And I'll admit it, she spoiled me! At the time I was the only granddaughter and she enjoyed having a little girl. When I was little, I loved nothing better than to spend time with Grandma Johnson and thought of her as my "fun Grandma", though in my later years I realized that was unfair to both of my grandmas.
She was one of the most stubborn people I ever met. When she was mad, watch out! One of my favorite stories about her stubbornness comes from my Mom. She hated Elvis and would complain about his music and gripe that he couldn't sing. Turn him off! Then she went in the kitchen and started working and a song came on the radio. She just had to pipe in, "Now, there's somebody who can sing!" What she didn't know is that the man on the radio WAS ELVIS! LOL
She was stubborn, but she was also a Mother in Law. She is pictured above with one of her daughters in law, my Mom and my beloved kitty Cinders. Although I'm sure she was frustrating at times, she taught my Mom a lot as a young woman, wife and mother.
She was passionate, giving, teaching, loving and fun!
She grieved greatly for the losses in her life and I have often thought that she would be one who would truly understand the ache of my grieving. Underneath the gruff exterior and all her capabilities was a tender heart that few saw. Raised a Catholic, she always longed for greater connection to God, but I believe her own actions/guilt kept her from attending mass or moving forward in her faith.

And then, after Grandpa almost died of heart infection, she became a patient. Back in 1982 Alzheimer's Disease wasn't commonly known. All we knew is that the color had drained from her life. The fog crept in. At first it was embarrassing, awkward and confusing. That's how it felt for us. I can only begin to imagine how she felt inside, knowing that something wasn't quite right and losing a battle to keep all of what she knew to be herself. Initially we could still interact with Grandma and enjoy spending time with her. Later she became paranoid, physically violent and angry.

Before Grandpa took her to the nursing home, where she lived only one week before dying, I would go out to their house to give Grandpa a break and take care of some of her personal hygiene. Grandma had always been nicely dressed and loved to accessorize. Her hair was styled and she always wore the right shade of lipstick. Having extremely wavy/curly hair that I spent hours straightening with a hair dryer and curling iron, I had no idea how to put curlers in her hair. I fumbled and learned. It was hard for me to bathe her as she looked up at me helplessly, somehow knowing that I should not be bathing her as she had bathed me as a child.

Some days I hid my tears. I knew if she saw my pain, it would concern her and worry her. But, gradually I looked forward to those bathing times. Behind the closed door of the bathroom I could speak to her, woman to woman and gently love her in ways that I was not confident to do in front of a family of men who sneered at God. I sang. I didn't know what to sing, but I knew she loved music. So I sang...

Jesus loves me, this I know.

For the Bible tells me so.

Little ones to Him belong,

They are weak but He is strong.

Her body visibly relaxed and I continued with The Old Rugged Cross, Amazing Grace and whatever other hymns came to mind. I didn't know what Catholics sang, so I didn't know what or if she would recognize any of them. So many times she rocked me, cuddled me and sang to me as a little girl and now as I sang hymns to her, we both felt some of the fear melting away. She was a captive audience in the bath tub. So I told her that God would always be with her and that when she was afraid, she could ask Jesus to help her. My faith was still young in those days and if I had to do it again, I would have read the Scripture to her boldly and I would not have cared how many godless men were listening to me!

One of my most reassuring memories was when we were in the hallway and she pointed to a picture. It was a gaudy, horrible 3D pictures of Jesus praying at Gethsemane in an even gaudier gilt frame. A faded palm leaf from Palm Sunday long past, rested behind the corner. She stopped and pointed and looked at me. She pointed again, repeatedly with her index finger, but in spite of her best efforts could only utter in awe, "Him!" My eyes welled and I nodded affirmation. Him. That's who I had been singing about. That's who I had told her would protect her and comfort her. Him. She repeated, "Oh! Him!" in an admiring and loving tone. It was then that I knew and understood that God transcends time, disease, modern medicine, our understanding and He never abandons us even if by all outward appearances it seems that we could never understand!

Shortly after that she became sick and it was time to place her in a nursing home. Grandpa couldn't handle it alone anymore and in a couple months I was off to college in another city. It was too much.

Towards the end, she knew Grandpa's name and my name most of the time, but not always. She knew we belonged to her and searched our faces for help, recognition and escape. She loathed the nursing home and hours before she died, she grabbed my dress, nearly ripping it and screamed, "Theresa! Don't leave me!" It was the hardest thing I ever did - walking down that hall and out the door as she screamed my name! That evening we received a call. She had been strapped in a wheel chair because she was so agitated and angry; she rocked herself to the point where she had a heart attack. She loathed being caged, imprisoned and neglected.

If you know a caregiver of someone with Alzheimer's Disease, please take the time to stop and talk to them. If appropriate, check and see if you can assist them in some way. Today there are all kinds of programs, some free and some paid, for caregivers to have respite. Our church has one called The Club. Many state and county agencies can provide assistance, but most of all families with Alzheimer's need love from every day people. Prayers are always welcomed and this is something anyone can do!

If you know someone with Alzheimer's Disease, do not avoid them. Treat them like a human being. After all they really are! Do not embarrass them or shame them. Do not assume that because the wires are scrambled in their brains that they do not on some level understand how you are treating them. If appropriate give them a HUG! Sing to them the praises of the Lord. Read God's Word to them which is Living and Active! I am thoroughly convinced that people with brain disease and altered states of consciousness can still hear God speaking to them!

Please, if you lose your keys or misplace your papers, don't make a joke about having Alzheimer's Disease. It's a serious disease. It's no joke. And it certainly isn't funny.

Sadly, our society in general is very rude and lacking in their care of the elderly and anyone different. Alzheimer's Disease can strike anyone. It is not only the disease of the aged. My Grandmother likely began having symptoms in her late 40s. She died at the young age of 67. Alzheimer's is no respecter of race, age, bank account, creed or religion. There is some evidence that an active brain can prolong the onset of symptoms. Knitting is one of the activities that can be helpful! But there are no guarantees. The medical community doesn't know as much as they would like to about Alzheimer's Disease, but there is at least one type which is hereditary. That is a scary sentence for those of us who have lost loved ones in the fog. My neurologist told me that the testing is not generally advised unless Alzheimer's Disease is suspected as a diagnosis because a person could have the gene and never have the disease. Having a positive result could cause a person to live in terrifying fear. So, I have not been tested and likely never will.

A good read about Alzheimer's Disease is Aging With Grace, which chronicles the Nun Study. And a fiction film from Billy Graham's World Wide Pictures, A Vow To Cherish, is a heart wrenching portrayal of early onset Alzheimer's Disease as well as an example of how love is an action, not a feeling.

I hope you never experience it in your family or in your person. But, if you do, please do not isolate yourself. You are not alone. People care. Sometimes people don't know what to say. Sometimes they are afraid. But don't try to go it alone. And by all means, don't try to do it without God!

Today, Grandma, I remember YOU for all those whose memories are buried. Today I lifted my voice and hands to Heaven as I sang and I remembered you.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Faith On Friday

England (in the picture above), represents only one of the stops on both my physical and faith journeys in life. This last week, since hearing and studying about Abraham I have been thinking a lot about faith and what it means. gives results from 11 different dictionaries. Some of the entries have up to 9 different definitions of faith. The writer of Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) says: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Someone in our study asked where the idea of "blind faith" comes in. What a great question! I offered that I felt it comes from the secular world and that God does not expect a blind faith. In fact, the realization has come over me, that my faith truly is a gift from God. The longer I walk with Him, the more I trust that in spite of all I see around me, He is True. Trust is a VERY difficult thing for me. When you've been burnt a number of times, you don't tend to sidle up next to the fire! Where did this trust come from? Honestly, I do not believe it stems from any good or meritable trait within myself. I tend to be cynical and with a medical background and a love of research, I like proof or at least reasonable evidence. So this week I have been mentally tossing it around.
On, I liked this portion from Easton's Bible dictionary 1897 (faith. (n.d.). Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary. Retrieved September 19, 2008, from website:
Faith is in general the persuasion of the mind that a certain statement is true (Phil. 1:27; 2 Thess. 2:13). Its primary idea is trust. A thing is true, and therefore worthy of trust. It admits of many degrees up to full assurance of faith, in accordance with the evidence on which it rests. Faith is the result of teaching (Rom. 10:14-17). Knowledge is an essential element in all faith, and is sometimes spoken of as an equivalent to faith (John 10:38; 1 John 2:3). Yet the two are distinguished in this respect, that faith includes in it assent, which is an act of the will in addition to the act of the understanding. Assent to the truth is of the essence of faith, and the ultimate ground on which our assent to any revealed truth rests is the veracity of God.
What I took from this, besides the fact that I am barely beginning to understand in some ways what I know and believe, is that knowing something is one thing, assenting or agreeing to this information is another. One could be the brightest individual in the world but not use that knowledge and information to better one's own life or the lives of others. Mensa is an organization for those whose IQ score lists in the top 2% of the population. I'm sure there are many worthy people belonging, but I have also heard of Hollywood members with messed up lives touting their Mensa membership. Intelligence, just like money, cannot give you everything. Sometimes it gives you nothing. Most of the efforts we add are like the building blocks of The Tower of Babel - they glorify ourselves and will be destroyed.
I am not a theologian. I've never been to seminary. I don't claim to have a corner market on Biblical knowledge and revelation. I just want to love Him more, better, fuller and grow! And I long to see other dear Sisters in the Lord, grow in their own faith and in their journey with knowing Him. It seems to me that what God is looking for, is not the "volunteer of the year" (though good works are a fruit of our faith and faith without works is dead - James 2:17), nor "Martha Perfect", but willing hearts. God wants people who want to. Please excuse my imperfect grammar. I can have all the knowledge and information in the world, but if I never do anything with that knowledge, it is useless. In other words, I can buy a ticket, but if I don't get on the bus, I'm not going anywhere.
The rest of this quote from the above mentioned 19th century source, takes a bit of thinking to wade through, but I believe it brings up some good points. (You could scroll down to the next black type if you aren't interested.)

Saving faith is a moral act, as it proceeds from a renewed will, and a renewed will is necessary to believing assent to the truth of God (1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:4). Faith, therefore, has its seat in the moral part of our nature fully as much as in the intellectual. The mind must first be enlightened by divine teaching (John 6:44; Acts 13:48; 2 Cor. 4:6; Eph. 1:17, 18) before it can discern the things of the Spirit. Faith is necessary to our salvation (Mark 16:16), not because there is any merit in it, but simply because it is the sinner's taking the place assigned him by God, his falling in with what God is doing. The warrant or ground of faith is the divine testimony, not the reasonableness of what God says, but the simple fact that he says it. Faith rests immediately on, "Thus saith the Lord." But in order to this faith the veracity, sincerity, and truth of God must be owned and appreciated, together with his unchangeableness. God's word encourages and emboldens the sinner personally to transact with Christ as God's gift, to close with him, embrace him, give himself to Christ, and take Christ as his. That word comes with power, for it is the word of God who has revealed himself in his works, and especially in the cross. God is to be believed for his word's sake, but also for his name's sake. Faith in Christ secures for the believer freedom from condemnation, or justification before God; a participation in the life that is in Christ, the divine life (John 14:19; Rom. 6:4-10; Eph. 4:15,16, etc.); "peace with God" (Rom. 5:1); and sanctification (Acts 26:18; Gal. 5:6; Acts 15:9). All who thus believe in Christ will certainly be saved (John 6:37, 40; 10:27, 28; Rom. 8:1). The faith=the gospel (Acts 6:7; Rom. 1:5; Gal. 1:23; 1 Tim. 3:9; Jude 1:3).
What I took from this, is that I need to have knowledge of who God is (I highly recommend doing a study, like Lord I Want To Know You. Understanding more of God's character increases your trust in Him to fulfill His promises to you.), but I also have to decide whether I will "sit" on this knowledge or do something about it.
For example, I knew about God from an early age. I believed the way a child believes and this belief was tested by fire. But, when I was 11, the Gospel was presented to me and for the first time in my life, the eyes of my heart were WIDE OPEN. I knew. I understood. Then I chose. Once I understood what I knew, I had no other option than to choose Him. I was compelled to move forward, I was compelled to choose baptism and there was no turning back. Please, I'm not bragging on myself. This was the work of the Holy Spirit coming to fruition in my heart. Romans promises that those He calls, will be justified. If anyone ever tells you that they did something to receive God's love or eternal salvation, then they are selling you a lie and do not know the truth of God, because all of our righteousness is as filthy rags to God. (Isaiah 64)
How do we know who God is? How do we take that next step? What do we do if we are "stuck"? If you are feeling "stuck" right now or just not able to even "feel" right now - please don't turn away. Please don't let the words of men, or for that matter, my words, turn you away. Being stuck is a part of a growth pattern. The key is not to stay stuck. We all go through spiritual dry periods, but we need to choose NOT to stay there. Many times this is easier said than done. I don't know about you, but when I don't "feel" like doing something, it is so hard to get it done... or even get it started.
I couldn't find the verse, but I remember reading that God KNOWS who we are and He is mindful of our frame, that we are but dust. That is to say, He made us (Psalm 139) and He understands how we work. He understands both our capabilities and our shortcomings. He will never ask me to do something I cannot. You wouldn't ask your vacuum cleaner to wash the dishes would you? He is mindful of how you are made and when you are weak, He is strong. Paul wasn't joking when the Holy Spirit inspired him to write, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13) Nor, when he wrote Philippians 1:6: "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." God keeps working on His UFOs (unfinished objects for you un-knitterly types!). He never abandons them! If you doubt His calling, His love for you, the gifts He has endowed you with, please read the first two chapters of Ephesians. Do you know He is describing you?
Get to know this God in His Word.
Get to know this God in the praises of His people.
Get to know this God in fellowshipping with His family.
Get to know this God in all He has created.
Get to know this God in conversation with Him.
You cannot shock God.
He will not plug His ears or turn His head.
You don't even have to explain yourself.
He knows.
He even understands.
He loves us anyway.
When you can't feel Him there, that's when He is likely closest to you.
I couldn't find the reference, but I remember reading, underlined in red in my Grandma Hopkins' Bible, that He promises to be with us even to our old age and gray hairs, even to the end. She leaned on that promise every day. She knew He meant it. He means the same for you.
When you don't want to open the Bible,
When you don't want to pray,
When you don't want to sing,
When you don't want to fellowship,
When you don't want to talk,
When you don't want to think,
When you don't want to feel,
When you don't want to take another step,
When you don't want to wake up the next morning,
Ask Him,
Ask Him to help you want to,
Ask Him to help you,
Ask Him to hold you,
Ask Him to strengthen you,
Ask Him to lead you,
Ask Him to guide you,
Ask Him to teach you,
Ask Him to show you,
Ask Him to tell you,
Ask Him to meet you where you are,
He will be there!
And sometimes we need to practice Psalm 46:10 - Be still and know that He is God!
The Psalmist writes over and over, that he called on God because he knew God would answer. Call on Him. He will answer. He is the answer.
When you are weak, He is strong. He will listen for your voice. He will answer.
When you fall, get up.
When you fall again, get up.
When your heart is bursting, get up.
When you can't get up, know He is holding you in His everlasting arms, that He is hiding you in the shadow of your wings.
Abraham had faith. God gave him the ticket. Abraham "got on the bus". God worked miracles in him.
Theresa had faith. God gave her the ticket. Theresa "got on the bus". Man! What a journey it has been. God worked miracles in her.
Are you holding a ticket? Do you need a ticket?
Ask for faith. Take the ticket. "Get on the bus." Don't let the enemy steal your joy. "Keep on keeping on." When you get to the desert, know that "this too shall pass."
If you are struggling, know that you are loved. If you would like me to pray for your faith journey, feel free to email me (address on upper right) so that it is private. I don't have all the answers, but I know He does. Just as you bless me with your encouragement when I am weak, sad and discouraged, I hope to bless you.
This study of Abraham has left me much to ponder. I want to know Him more and more and understand the mystery and riches He has given me. At this time I am thankful for the prompting our new sermon series and Bible study has given! And if you read this far, thank you. If you are feeling "spiritually up", pray for those who are feeling "spiritually down" or "stuck". The greatest gift we can give each other is prayer - lifting each other up to the Father!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wellness Wednesday

Good Morning Everyone! First of all, THANK YOU for everyone who has given comments, ideas and encouragements! I'm slowly working on a system to be able to reply to all the comments I receive, but it is hard to keep up. So, if you do not receive a reply, please do not think that I do not care. I do!

Last Wednesday I made the mistake of writing to you as I was still absorbing the not so fun news from the orthopedic surgeon. This Wednesday, I have a better perspective. Sunday I made it to church and I went forward for prayer and anointing. Tuesday I made it to ladies Bible study on Abraham. Fellowship was a tremendous help!

Even though I wore the knee immobilizer, used the cane and did the minimum amount of walking possible, last night I could feel why I am NOT supposed to walk. Given how far I have gradually come over the last 5 weeks, I do not think it will take 3 months to be walking. Today I feel more hopeful and I am looking forward to seeing the physical therapist next Thursday to start planning a more active role in my recovery.

In the mean time, I am taking Susan's advice and working on organizing and doing the things I can do from a sitting position. This week I have gone through about 1200 emails from the last year just sitting in my hotmail inbox! That felt good. And Ruth at Sew Chic had a great post about planning ahead for sewing. I was excited to read this because it is one of the things that bothered me that I cannot do right now, especially since I purchased a lot of fabric on my trip and many new to me vintage sewing patterns that I want to try. If I plan out things now, then when I am able to sit in that position to sew and press, as well as cut out, I'll be ready!

In addition, schooling is going well in the sitting position. As many of you suggested, arm and upper body exercises can be done while sitting and I have incorporated that for our P.E. time. The girls love it.

Hubby is learning how to make bread, which is helpful since that does require a lot of standing. He made his first solo batch on Sunday and it turned out pretty good.

And just like sewing planning, I'm doing cooking planning. I have purchased several new cookbooks for healthy cooking and will be planning some new menus for the future when I am able to stand more in the kitchen.

Things are looking up. Praise God! Would you please pray for my Hubby, though? We are wearing him out. He already does so much for us and now even more. Next week he will start teaching another University of Phoenix class, which means Thursdays will be marathon days, not coming home until 11PM.

Thanks everyone for sticking by me and all your support. Next week I'll try to come up with something more interesting for Wellness Wednesday.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

Make new friends,but keep the old.
One is silver,the other is gold.
(A and J)

If you were ever a Girl Scout, you undoubtedly recognize those lyrics. I remember the beauty of that song sung a capella and in round by young girls at camp, many moons ago. And really they have been a theme for my life. Every year I attended a different school until I reached middle school. There have been many other good byes and "start overs" in my life and sometimes making friends has been hard. Generally I have been on the fringe in life, hanging on the edge, not quite in the inner circle - too quiet, too smart/nerdy, too conservative, too intense - fill in the blank. My Mom had many a wet shoulder consoling me through the years. But those experiences taught me to choose genuine people to develop friendships with.

One of the hardest parts of moving to California, was leaving behind the sisterhood of friends I had developed at Northwest Pediatrics/Madrona Medical Group. Nurses and medical staff work together through a lot of stress to get the job done and the bonds created in camaraderie are strong. I don't regret coming here with Hubby, because he is my home, but I do miss those friends. And when I go back to visit, it is hard. You can't just drop by in the middle of a busy medical schedule to say hi - well, you can but you get in the way. So, it has been 5 years or more since I have seen many of the people dear to me, but each visit home I try to visit my friend J. J is a "golden" friend.

J, A and D on the swings.

J is one of the nurses I worked with for about 9 years at Northwest Peds. At first we knew each other in passing and then circumstances brought us closer. One year J had a heart attack and since, at that time, I was working part time for Dr. K and part time on the desk, I was chosen to fill in for her doctor. Not an easy job working for a perfectionist doctor. Not an easy job filling J's shoes! Praise God, J survived and healed and returned.

Somewhere along the line, I began photographing her children's weddings. I have enjoyed and been challenged by photographing 4 of her 6 children's' weddings and twice I have done family pictures with the whole big group. In spite of one of her sons being grumpy :o) about smiling in the pictures, it has been fun. Through the years I saw her family grow and change. One of the things I found satisfying about my years in pediatrics (as opposed to my other experiences in ob/gyn, family practice and various specialties), was the relationship you develop with your patients, seeing them change and grow and getting to know some of them personally due to the nature of frequent pediatric visits. I experienced that same joy photographing her family and then remaining friends. Now one of the children from the first marriage I photographed is a teenager! And two of the girls from that marriage are identical twins born during the blizzard, the same night I met Hubby online! None of us will forget that night! :o)

August tenth unfolded the next chapter in our friendship. K and B, the two girls whose weddings I photographed were there with their children. J whose wedding I also photographed, was there with his children. All our children played together, just as if they always knew each other. Kids can be mean, it's true, but they also have an amazing capacity to expand their play realm to include others. It wouldn't surprise me if they didn't even know each others' names - they just get down to the important stuff - PLAYING! Discernment is a good thing, but maybe we adults should loosen up and learn a few things from our children!

This is L, the newest grand baby. He was a little sleepy and happy to be in Grandma's arms.

He wasn't quite sure what to think of me with the camera, but watched from his safe position.

L has a big sister named E who has all kinds of adventures that her Mommy shares with us via email. When I took this picture she hadn't decided yet what to think about me.

E is the best kind of princess - beautiful and lady like and able to hold her own! :o) Do you see that look she is giving me?

After a few shots, L began to warm up and gave me a smile! How could you resist that face?!

This picture cracks me up. L looks a lot like his Grandma's side of the family and I thought it was funny to get them both in profile, but looking opposite directions.

Sharing a special moment with Grandma.

L is admiring his Papa! Here J is with her Hubby M. They have been married almost as long as I have been alive! Together they have a wonderful family and homestead.

M and J have quite a romantic story, having met as children. Both of their families, at separate times, lived in the big farmhouse they have been lovingly restoring. They met as children and the rest is history!

L is still keeping an eye on Papa - what's he getting ready to do?

L and E are the children of M and J's youngest daughter B and her great Hubby T. E was still not real sure - can you see that the tears are not too far away.

Apparently L just wanted to see Grandma's face. I kept shooting. There were giggles and it was cute.

My girls had fun playing with E. They're in a blur because they are running circles around one of the vehicles. Hey, whatever gets the energy out! LOL Remember I have city kids. They were so happy to get out on the farm and play.

Here E and my J are rounding the corner. J is overflowing with delight.

J's youngest son R has a lot of birds. Here is J and one of the emus.

There are several peacocks and pea hens with beautiful colors. They had just molted but their colors were spectacular. I'd love to have some silk to knit in that color of blue!

E,J,D and A watching the birds.

Baby peacocks, running from me!

I went to the other side to capture the kids' faces as they watched and fed the birds. Unbeknownst to me, there was a peacock roosted above me and when he jumped down noisily in front of me, I must have jumped ten feet! J got a good laugh at my expense! LOL

Several of my online friends have Farmall tractors, so I had to take a picture of this sign.

Playing in the barn with all the cousins and their excitable dog!

Some of the boys, "just hangin'".

We all decided to walk down the road a block to the entrance of R's land which adjoins his parents.

One of the boys rode a dirt bike. D's eyes were as big as saucers!

J,D and A - the city mice in the country.

E, J and A played harmoniously at the piano.

The kids were playing some sort of Indiana Jones adventure on this boat. The beauty of a zoom lens is "spying" on the kids without them knowing.

Oops! They caught me. Now we became the villains in their play drama. A was right in the midst of all the boys, happy as a clam. J is a bit overwhelmed when we are with a lot of people so she watched with me.

Oh no! The villains draw near!

E was told she could take a couple cookies home with her, so she snuck down the porch with this handful.

A is checking out K as she says good bye.

K with J

K and D
We sure had a lovely time with lots of play, walking, a good lunch and great fellowship! Whenever I visit with J, I feel so comfortable and relaxed, it's hard to say goodbye. The nicest kinds of friends, silver or gold, are the ones you can pick right up with, wherever you left off.
Thanks J and Family for a great day!