Monday, February 19, 2018

School Holidays

 It's President's Day and we have had a four day weekend.  Most kids love holidays or days away from school.  Maybe they struggle in school, or maybe they aren't morning people or something else entirely.  Then there are kids who love going to school five days a week, it is routine, it's structure and they don't do well when that changes.

Elizabeth is not a fan of school holidays.  It throws off her routine and it means she doesn't have as much freedom as she would like, she can't see other kids who have special needs like her.  And then she is unsure of what to do with herself.  She also happens to be on restriction right now, so it's tougher.  These changes mess with her and so she's always a little off when this happens.

In the beginning, when she started full-time public school and we were new to the Autism Spectrum journey, Elizabeth had a lot of off days.  I would wake her up and could see it in her eyes and all over her face, something wasn't right.  Those were days I let her go back to bed, declared jammy day and when she would wake up again we would have a tv day and just let her decompress.  That was needed during her first year of Kindergarten.  Then her second year of Kindergarten, we needed fewer days of breaks, she was adjusting to the routine and expectations of behavior so we could focus on academics.  Each year she got better and better at handling changes, or substitute teachers, now she doesn't mind a different teacher at all and still loves going to school, riding the bus, seeing her teachers, writing stories for class, or working in classes. 

Thursday though, she awoke with a sore throat and actually ASKED to stay home from school.  That's not a small thing - usually, even if she feels under the weather she insists she wants to go to school.  She was off-kilter Wednesday night and Thursday and Friday were no exceptions.  Something wasn't right, we don't know what, but we know she is struggling with something.  Maybe writing lines each day is working, or maybe something happened at school that we don't know about.  I will be asking her teachers tomorrow. 

Today she is very off-kilter.  She has asked to take a thousand different walks, even though the ground is too cold for Lily to safely walk for a long time.  She wants to walk to the library alone (Chris restricted her from walking alone period because of some choices she's made lately), she wants to walk the dog, she just wants out of the house and wants to be somewhere else.  It isn't as if we weren't out all day yesterday because the car broke down.   I think today was just about having cabin fever and me limiting TV time for both girls. At least I'm hoping for that.

I hope you all have a good week.
In Christ,
Maureen

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Unexpected Sundays

We had an adventure today.  The crank sensor on the Kia Sorento has been a problem for a few weeks now.  Today it decided it was time to die completely, right as we stopped at a red light. The good news is we had a parking lot to turn into and it happened to be across the street from Taco Time.  The bad news is that the sensor must be replaced because now the car will not start at all.

As we sat waiting, I began to realize that my phone was losing its battery quicker than I would have liked, so I dimmed the screen further than it's usual low light setting and stayed off of it as much as possible.  Finally, Elizabeth decided to go join Chris and Beka and I decided we wanted to stretch our legs a little and we happened to be near a JoAnn's.  We put our coats on, refilled our drinks and walked to JoAnn's to explore a little.

As a rule, I stay out of JoAnn's unless I have the money set aside to buy something I need for a project.  This prevents my home from becoming more overrun than it already is with yarn, material, and other superfluous items for creating, trust me if you saw my craft stash you would agree my choice is a wise one.  But today it didn't matter because I had no cash on me anyway and I was hoping we would only be at the store an hour at best.  We were not that lucky.  What should have been an hour wait turned into three and half hours of waiting.

I called AAA twice, first when it had hit the two and half hour mark and then when it hit an extra forty-five minutes from when I first called and still no tow truck.  The second time I was not happy and I didn't hide it.  I was less than thrilled to hear it would be another 20 minutes and I expressed my displeasure to the young man.  He promised to write up a report and I finally got off the phone.  Within five minutes the tow truck arrived, towed Chris and Elizabeth home with the Kia and Chris came back to pick Beka and me up at JoAnn's.

Now for the fun part of this whole long wait.  I got the joy and privilege of hanging out with Beka. We discovered clearance fairy and gnome land building area and oohed and aahed over how cute everything appeared to us and made plans for the spring to create our own fairy garden.  We discovered the cutest baking goods accessories and adorable bird houses and so many things that fed both of our imaginations.   But probably my favorite part was sitting and looking through pattern books with Beka and seeing her artistic side come through as she drew for me ideas she had for dresses and costumes.  Some of them were quite elaborate and we had fun using the word peep in sentences.  We got some funny looks, but I don't care because she smiled and laughed and so did I.

We are now once again home, warming up with hot tea, blankets, and the fireplace and enjoying some down time, oh and Lily was happy to see us so she could stop doing the pee pee dance and she headed straight for the backyard.  It is good to be home safe and sound after our little adventure. 

Oh and another bright side, I have been awake on 4.5 hours of sleep, so I will sleep well tonight...I hope.

Have a good week.
In Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Different Children Have Different Needs

Raising three daughters isn't always easy.  Adding that one of them is on the Autism Spectrum doesn't always make it any easier.  Thankfully, their differences and similarities are easy for me to navigate, because I have a really supportive spouse - if only other spouses were as supportive as Chris.  I thought I would share how Elizabeth is similar and different from her sisters.

1. Easy to overstimulate.  Interestingly enough, Beka and Sarah are fairly high strung girls.  Everything was the end of the world for Sarah when she was younger and it is very similar now to Beka.  Elizabeth however, is pretty laid back and just kind of goes with the flow most of the time.  She has her moments when she loses it, but they are much less often than Beka or even a younger Sarah. And yet, when it is cold outside or if Elizabeth has had enough, she can lose it just as spectacularly as her sisters.

2. Doctors - for many years all three girls shared a pediatrician.  That's where it ended.  Elizabeth required a special eye doctor, asthma, and allergy specialist, a behavioral pediatrician, a special dentist who could work with her anxiety, Parent-Teacher Conferences included setting up times for I.E.P's, I could go on and on about the differences in medicine but I'll spare you and me the drudgery.  The number of specialists she needs are slowly shrinking which is nice and it saves on gas now.

3. Teachers - I am much more vocal with Elizabeth's teachers than Beka's or Sarah's.  Although, this year might be an exception for Beka since it is her first year in public school, so I have been in constant contact with her teachers up until Mom became ill.  But for Elizabeth, I let the team know of even a small change in the house.  This helps her team help her and understand if she suddenly has a meltdown.  Once she meltdown, and has her cry out, she is fine, but not before going through a gambit of emotions and reasons she's upset first.   Beka loses it and then calms down fairly quickly but she loses it more often and sometimes over little things.  Lizzie doesn't lose it until she just can't take anymore.

4. Delayed reactions - Beka has a small delay in how she reacts to bad news, but for Elizabeth, it can take months before she reacts to something.  Whether it is due to a death in the family or something stressful going on at home. It took her months before she reacted to Grandpa Ted's death.  Although, when Beka went missing this past summer (she was walking to Burlington without permission) Elizabeth began crying after a little while because she was worried that Beka might not be safe.

5. Imagination - all three girls have very vivid imaginations.  This isn't surprising really since we are a family of readers and we limit television time a whole lot more these days.  Chris can read a book and see the images in his head, and Sarah can as well.  I have to work harder at it. So each of the girls uses their imaginations in different ways.  Elizabeth enjoys writing, Beka enjoys drawing comics and recreating things she sees, but with her own spin.  Sarah enjoys baking and reading and music to let out her inner imaginative kid.  Regardless of their differences, we love that our girls are so creative and use their imaginations.

6. School needs.  Most parents with a typical child buy school supplies and send their kids off to school.  Your child may or may not deal with a bully or have trouble.  When Elizabeth has trouble though, it isn't small or at least it wasn't for many years.  Lizzie has climbed to the bathroom stall door and swung on it like the little monkey she was, she has lashed out and kicked or hit people, she and Beka both are passive-aggressive if they don't wish to participate in class - they just go sit quietly and refuse to join.  While I'm thrilled that they aren't being disruptive, I have had more than a few conversations with their teachers about the importance of them participating in class and with each of the girls.  Sarah was more easy about participating in class, mainly because I don't know if it occurred to her to resist listening to an adult.

7. Food Issues:  Sarah has always been a good eater and she loves fruits and vegetables.  Elizabeth was a picky eater up until a few years ago.  For many years she would only eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pasta, hot dogs, french fries, chips, and chicken nuggets.  I could get her to at least drink chocolate milk, which our pediatrician was fine with if it meant she at least drank milk.  A few years ago though a switch flipped and she is more willing to try new foods.  Beka, however, is tougher.  We have to sit with her at the table and Chris has to be with me and with her and prompting her to eat, otherwise, she will sit and not eat anything and starve until breakfast.  I'm hoping in the next few years that her desire to try new foods will kick in.  Interestingly enough, Sarah is only picky about her food touching each other on some things and Chris' mom is the same.  I, however, could care less and Chris really could care less. Our main thing is there is food and that's all that matters and we will eat it.

8. Clothing issues - Again, Sarah was fairly easy going on clothing until she hit her teens.  Suddenly it was dark clothing or nothing.  Forget about pink or even a light blue, she loved black, dark blues, and reds, everything else was forbidden in her mind.  Elizabeth is a little easier to dress and less picky.  Our biggest problem is watching her as she goes out the door for school because she has certain

9. Consequences - each child has their own thing that makes them tick or that will be a terrible punishment for them.  Some kids love video games, others love drawing, or reading books, or playing with friends outside.  Really it just depends on your child I've discovered.   Growing up Sarah LOVED her electronics and she still does to this day.  So when I needed to make my point about a bad attitude, or smart mouth, I took her electronics.  It was successful, because she hated it and it drove her to work harder at holding her tongue.  Elizabeth is tougher, she is sneaky and will just steal them back, or she would until Chris grew tired and frustrated of her sneaking stuff so he destroyed her tablet and Kindle.   Rebekah, loves drawing, taking her electronics isn't a big deal for her, she can easily find other ways to entertain herself.  Take away her drawings or swat her tushy and you would think she is dying.  Now I want to clarify something important here.  There is a difference between swatting your child in discipline and abusing your child.  Hitting for abuse is used as a way to frighten and intimidate your child, it is about power and control.  When Chris or I swat Beka on the tush, we have a three swat rule as in no more than three and we keep the shame period short to five or ten minutes maximum.  We also reserve swats for when all else has failed and we never swat when we are angry, if we know we will remain angry for a while, we find a different punishment and we do NOT punish without input from the other parent to ensure we aren't going overboard.  Growing up for two years with a stepdad who abused us, and Chris growing up with his abusive dad has made both of us very cognizant of the important of checks and balances and the importance of making sure you aren't punishing your child when you are angry.  As you can imagine, this means we rarely swat our girls, because we always go towards time out, grounding, or creative means before swatting.

10. Needs - Sarah is and was all about alone time.  Elizabeth has become the same as she grows older and would spend all day in her room reading, listening to classical music and just being if we let her.  Beka, however, wants to be social.  Unfortunately, being social means you don't always get your own way, so she struggles with talking to others calmly and rationally.  Of our three daughters, Sarah is the most social capable of the three.  She can read social cues and body language and as Beka grows older she will be able to do these things as well.  Elizabeth however, struggles to read social cues and body language or hold a conversation with other that involves giving and take.  Different children have different abilities.

Sarah needed to know I was home if she needed me growing up, her mom was a single mom who worked a lot to provide for Sarah and her siblings.  There is nothing wrong with that, but Sarah really liked knowing that at the end of the day, she could come home, I was there and she could just relax for a little while and then talk to me about her day.  She needed the little assurances that I was there, that we cared and a million tiny things I did to show my love to her.

Elizabeth and Beka, however, sometimes ask if I will go back to work so we can have more money (we aren't hurting financially, they would just like more money to buy things they don't necessarily need).  Then they swing back to enjoying that I am at home if they need me.

Sarah couldn't wait to grow up and neither can Beka.  Both girls thought it meant they could do whatever they wanted.  Beka still thinks this because she is 10 years old and it sounds good to her little mind right now.

Elizabeth wants to stay with us as long as possible.  Beka swings to this side sometimes too, she has ebbs and flows, but Elizabeth is consistently positive she wants to stay at home and she doesn't want to drive a car or get married or do what married people do.  She loves the bus though, and I can see her enjoying taking the public transit often.

Sarah and Elizabeth are both generous in spirit.  Beka is the youngest and struggles sometimes with the concept of putting others first as most babies in the family do.  She is learning though a little more each day that it's important to think about other people first sometimes.

These are just a few of the samples of how I have three daughters who each have their own personality.  While many thing Elizabeth is more different than her sisters the truth is, while she has some delays, she is catching up a little at a time with her sisters and peers.  She has her struggles and will for a while, but we are here for each girl to catch them when they need it, but also to stand back and allow them to dust themselves off and get back up to try again as they grow older.

I hope you all have a good week.
In Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, February 8, 2018

How Can I Help?

A sweet and wonderful friend of mine and I were chatting and she admitted she has been watching and praying everything going on with Mom via FB. She said she didn't say anything because she didn't know what to say.  So it got me thinking.  I often seem to know what to say, but that is my gifting, however, that is not always everyone's gift.  So I thought I would share a few things that you can do to help when people you love or know are struggling.

First I want to tackle what to do if you are far away.

1. PRAYER:  I know it may seem like so little to do when your friends or someone you care for is hurting or facing a tough situation but knowing my friends from all over the world are praying for Mom has really helped me get through it all.  So please, keep praying for those in need.


2. G.I.F. - these are those mini video pictures that move.  My favorite ones are the hugs.  Especially, the one from Monster's Inc the movie where Sully is hugging the little girl Boo and the look on his face is sad and you know in that moment that his heart is breaking.  I use that one A LOT,  and in case, that wasn't clear I mean I use it A LOT, A LOT, A LOT.  Somehow that GIF embodies everything I want and hopes to convey when others are struggling.

3. FUNDRAISE:  This is especially true when someone has a parent dying or a sick child in the hospital. GoFundMe or even better CaringBridge is very helpful.   And especially if your friend is living in the hospital afraid to leave their loved one in fear something will go wrong.  This can help take care of hotel rooms, food, a million little things you don't realize you need until you are the one at the hospital.

4. FOLLOW THEIR UPDATES:  This one is helpful.  It keeps you in the loop and it allows you to know what's going on so you can change your prayers.  Something as simple as a sad face or a thumbs up lets your friend know that you see what they are saying and aren't just going about your day all happy go lucky.

Okay, so how can you help those that are nearby:  I'm so glad you asked.

1. PRAYER!  Come on, you didn't really think I wouldn't say anything about this again did you?  Anyone who knows me, know my first response to tragedy is to shoot up prayers to Heaven.  No matter if it's a child with test anxiety or what.  A lot of it is because when I was younger I heard a great song by Steven Curtis Chapman called, "Let Us Pray" and it really convicted me on how often do I say I will pray for someone and then go on with my life.  I make it my goal now to pray as soon as I know someone is in need and I keep a notebook so I can write down prayer needs so I can bring them to God.

2. TALK BETTER YET, LISTEN - this is a tough one, but it is so important.  Take a coffee or chocolate or lunch something with you and go and sit with your friend.  You don't have to say a word, just listen.  Let them cry, you don't have to cry with them, but let them cry and don't make them feel as if they have to stop anytime soon.  I often hug and tell them to just let it all out.  I also have offered more than once to go with a friend who needs to go into the middle of nowhere so she or he can scream in grief and anger without worrying that others will hear.  Don't knock it.  It's been extremely therapeutic for me sometimes.   Friend, Tammy Pruss shared these things helped her. " Gave a shoulder to cry on and just listened. They brought food, visited, but most of all they loved."
3. DON'T WORRY - Don't worry about saying the wrong thing.  Don't even speak if you think you may say something wrong - just be there.  When my family almost lost Matt after the awful car accident in 1996, just having people come and sit with me, or Mom meant a lot.  It wasn't about saying anything, it was just knowing they cared.   Don't worry that it's inconvenient.

4. MEALS - if you have never come home from the hospital after spending a day with family or a loved one and there is nothing to eat, the milk has gone bad and the pizza place is closed for the night - you might not get this one.  Let me explain it.  When someone you love is in the hospital and doing badly, the last thing you are thinking of is whether you have milk or food.  You tend to focus all of your energy on the person in the hospital.  So get a group together and plan to bring meals to the person who isn't hospitalized.  It seems cliche, but it is helping more than you can ever know.  It's why I didn't starve when Matt, Meg, AND Mom were all three in the hospital.
Sunshine Schuppel shared how hot meals helped her when she needed friends to help during a tough time.  "Hot meals when we didn't have time to cook.Cards to let us know they were thinking/praying for us. A gift card for my husband and I to go out to dinner and just be together in the midst of the chaos. Little gifts sent through the mail to let me know I wasn't forgotten." That last part is awesome - it's the little things when you are stressing out that help you get through a tough time.

5. STAY - One of the things that might have been nice when my family was in their car accident would have been if someone had stayed at the house with me.  I was 22 yrs old, and everyone was at the hospital and the house was empty except for me.  It really scared me, our house wasn't really loud per se, but it was a hub of life, until that time.  Or ask them to come and stay with you.  Being a lonely house by yourself is very scary and it is tough on a person emotional well being.
Pastor Rick Olsen shared this on Facebook when I asked the questions about how others had helped when facing difficult times or tragedy -  "Just came and sat with me!!!! Presence means a lot!!!!"  Well said, Pastor Rick.

6. CALL, BUT NOT TOO EARLY - when a tragedy strikes - please, please, please, please do not call people at 9 or 10 a.m. in the morning.  It is a reasonable hour if you work, it is not a reasonable hour when you've spent all night at the hospital and switched off with someone and the phone won't stop ringing.  Mom shut off the ringer after a while and started leaving notes on the door with updates on Matt. If we had known how she would have disabled the doorbell too.

7. GIFT CARDS - Starbucks, McDonald's, heck good ole fashioned cash so they can use the cafeteria downstairs is a good option really.  Packing a lunch is the last thing you are thinking about when your child, parent or spouse/partner is in the hospital.   Gift cards or bringing a meal is helpful and a great way to say you care without saying a word.

8.HOUSEHOLD CHORES - take out their trash, clean the house, mow the lawn do the little things that someone doesn't have time for when facing a difficult situation or a tragedy.  Seriously, it is more helpful than you will ever know to come home and see that someone has mowed my lawn and it's one less thing I have to worry about.

Kathleen Grover, a friend of mine shared this - "Set up transportation to get my kids to activities. And don't laugh, my friend brought over a huge stack of decent towels when I had a houseful of unexpected guests b/c of a family death. With 5 growing boys, I wasn't spending money on towels and barely had enough for us. Someone else loaned her kid's suit when one of mine couldn't fit into his. Meals wrapped and labeled and put into the freezer. My d in law found umbrellas for me and my 6 siblings for the cemetery the day my Mom was buried. Sometimes it is the little things that keep you going. And of course, and always, prayer."

9. CARDS - as in the Hallmark kind that allows you to just say something without actually speaking audible words.  They help and you can stick gift cards in them, so there you go.  You can convey your concern AND be helpful at the same time.

10. DON'T PUT A TIME LIMIT ON GRIEF -  I cannot tell you how many friends I've heard lately who have suffered a loss and people tell them after 6 months or a year that they should just get over it.  Everyone grieves differently.  Everyone has a different timetable for grief and more importantly grief never really leaves us.  We will ALWAY miss the person we've lost and we will ALWAYS struggle with the aftermath of a tragedy.  My friend, Mindy Wagner shared this, "Just let me grieve. It is ok to be sad and anyone that tells you that they are there to simply let you wallow in the moment is so refreshing". 

11. ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCE - What do I mean by this, I mean if you have a friend whose family loses everything in a fire - don't be surprised if they are skittish about anything that might possibly cause a fire.  If a friend loses loved ones in a car accident - don't be surprised if it affects them even 20 years later.   Even now in 2018, there are times when the car accident in 1996 comes roaring back to me and its aftermath is still with me.  Even now I am a terrible passenger in the car, I've also become a more nervous driver as I get older.  I am on a blood pressure medication and it causes dizziness.  If I feel even the slightest bit dizzy, I refuse to drive.  If my eyesight ever becomes slightly impaired, I will give up my license if it can't be fixed.  Seeing the consequences of my grandma's unwillingness to give up her license even though she was blind in one eye and going blind in the other eye, I will not make the choice and cause harm to someone else or my family because I cannot give up being independent.

12. THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK - You know the old adage "If you don't have something nice to say, then don't say anything at all"?  It is true in life, but never more so when a person is grieving. 

13. GRIEF AFFECTS PEOPLE IN DIFFERENT WAYS - I've seen a lot of grieving people in my short 43 years, but if I've discovered anything, I've found that people react differently when they grieve.  The nice person who never says a mean word, suddenly tells people off and yells at people.  The responsible money person may suddenly blow a ton of money or someone already irresponsible with money may become worse with it - I've seen both examples happen.   Don't be surprised if your friend who is usually bubbly and perky takes longer than you think she should take when it comes to finding joy again, and even when she does smile and seem happy, it will always be tempered with pain and grief to some extent.   Give them a few extra measures of mercy and grace, they are going to need it and someday you may need it too. 

I hope you all have a good weekend.

In Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Nnnnnnneeeeedddddd Sssssllllleeeeepppppp

I am an insomnia sufferer.  I often struggle to fall asleep AND stay asleep.  I found it improved this summer when I cut back on TV watching and started reading a few hours before bedtime.  I was ecstatic actually.  Having battled insomnia since 2009 when it hit it all time worst ever and it's continuing trend since I am always interested in ways to find more sleep.

I also happen to not be a Gwyneth Paltrow fan or her GOOP site fan.  Paltrow often dabbles in quackery and has unrealistic lifestyle expectations having grown up in a household with money and having her own millions, to call her ideals unrealistic would be an understatement.  So I was intrigued by the idea of clean sleeping, even if it did come from her.  I found multiple articles during my search on Google
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/goop-clean-sleepin_us_596f9bf7e4b05453c5cd1a91
was just one of the articles I read on the subject and I found it the most helpful because it's backed up with doctor's who actually went to medical school (another doctor I don't mind listening to is Dr. Josh Axe, he is a doctor of osteopathy so he also went to medical school).   Here is his article on sleep.
https://draxe.com/cant-sleep/

If you prefer not to read the article, here are the six tenants I can get behind.

1. Commit to getting at least eight hours of sleep a night.  Paltrow recommends nine to ten hours, but this goes against medical advice.  I can make it my goal, it was for many years, so realizing I need sleep is a no-brainer for me.  I miss sleep a lot really.

2. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule.  I've been battling this one since Mom got sick.  Flying ALWAYS messes with me, without fail every time I fly to a new time zone, even with something as small as 2 hours messes up my sleep.  It's my least favorite aspect of travel.  I enjoy traveling, just not that one aspect of it.  So it only makes sense that I am struggling to keep this one right now.

3. Avoid technology before bed.  This one is kind of a no-brainer, except to my 23 yr old.  She lives on her computer and cellphone constantly.  I also keep all electronics out of the bedroom if possible.  My Kindle is the one exception and I keep the backlight down on a very low setting to keep the blue light from triggering my brain.  This helped a lot through this past summer and I will continue working on it.

4. Limiting afternoon caffeine.  I struggle with this one more.  Especially, when my insomnia is at it's worst, but I will try to recommit to it again.

5. Banning bedtime snacks.  I admit I am the worst at this one.  Paltrow actually encourages fasting for 12 hours, but doctor's say science doesn't really show any benefit and given that Paltrow subscribes to many iffy "health" ideas, I think I can forego fasting a full twelve hours, but I will definitely be foregoing a bedtime snack.

6. Make your pillow smell good.  Honestly, I don't make the pillow itself smell good, but I do diffuse essential oils in our bedroom and so I associate the smells of lavender and lemongrass together with sleep and they are pleasant not just to me, but to Chris as well.

Paltrow has other ideas as well that are discussed in the articles, but those are the ones I know are helpful because doctors and my psychology textbooks have been encouraging them for years.

I hope you all have a good week.

In Christ,
Maureen

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Do You Still Believe in God?

It's still early evening, but our house is slowly quieting down.  Beka is almost ready to head, Lizzie is reading comics in the living room and the animals are settling in for the night.  Chris is an early bed person since he works from 5:30 a.m until 5 p.m. most nights and Mary is happily reading and I am contemplating several things.

Tonight we had a prayer service at the church.  It is a new thing for us, that comes with our new pastor (who I am thrilled to see here) and it was a good time of prayer.  Prayer for those who are ill, including Mom, those in need of a touch from God, those who are mourning and our church as we struggle to grow each day and bring God to our world.  While we are still floundering a bit to find our place and become more comfortable with this time in prayer (it's been a while since our church has had a time like this) I find the fact that many are willing to come and spend time in prayer encouraging. 

In a time when the world would have us believe God is dead or not real, these men and women of faith are still willing to come together to pray.  Some of us were older, some of us were younger, but we came just the same and that speaks volumes of comfort to my heart.   The only way I would be more enthused would be if teens came and joined us for prayer!  Could you imagine how much more God could move if all of the generations came together and responded with "Speak Lord and use us as you will, we are your servants and we are willing to listen?"!  The thought of that alone is so exciting to me.  

When was the last time you got excited about what God can do?  Was it yesterday or a few years ago?  Do you still believe that God can move and change or revolutionize our world? Let's pray right now.

Papa,
You are amazing and awe-inspiring.  Thank you for all of your wonderful blessings and mercies.  Thank you that we can come together with you in small groups of two or larger groups of more and you are still willing to listen to us.  Thank you that no matter how much we mess up you still forgive and extend grace and mercy to us, even though we don't deserve it.
Papa, begin moving as only You can through our communities, homes and the world and show up in a mighty way proving to the naysayers that you are real and you can still do mighty things.  You calmed seas, moved mountains, and healed those in need.  Nothing is impossible with You.
 We come to you and lift up our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and ask that you please encourage them and bless them with the strength to say they are not ashamed of you.  Make them bold for you and make us bold for you.  Make us the light on the hill to shine to the world for Your glory.
In these things, we pray,
Amen.

I hope you have a good rest of the week.
In Christ,
Maureen

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Does God Speak to You?

A few years ago I felt the Lord speaking to me.  It started with me agreeing to go to Catania.  It started with something as simple as saying, "Yes, Lord, I will listen" and has grown from there.  As time has gone by and I have grown in my walk, I find He speaks to me more and more.

Do you hear God speak to you?  Do you expect him to shout?  Or do you listen for his whisper?  Do you feel his conviction in your heart about certain things?  

I don't ask in judgment, I ask because I am curious.  I know God speaks to me, sometimes he is very audible, other times I have to find a quiet place so I can listen quietly.  Sometimes it is as simple as He wants to encourage me.  Other times, I need guidance and in a huge way.   Sometimes, God is speaking to me because He needs to lay something deeply on my heart. 

Several years ago God laid it on my heart to become more cautious about what I watch, read or listen to each day.  It's made for some interesting conversations with God and others.  I have family members who are less picky than I am about what they read.  Or when someone writes something and they want you to read it, but it isn't good for you to read that particular genre or style.  For me, I have certain things I stay away from to keep depression at bay really. 

  1. I stay away from things that are too dark or depressing.  The one exception I have made recently is the Winter Series by Keven Newsome. It is good and if you didn't know that Winter is living for Christ, as you read about her past it could bog you down quite a bit.
  2. I stay away from books, movies, or music that are explicit in language or sexual themes.  This has made for some interesting talks with certain family members who really love reading some types of fiction that leave me blushing and walking away.
  3. I refrain from sad music that is too morose or sad.  I find I prefer praise and worship more these days.  
  4. As a rule, I stay away from soap operas.  Why?  A few reasons, but the biggest one is that they can really bog me down.  I also refrain from shows like Grey's Anatomy, This is Us, Parenthood, and other emotional dramas.  I have a vivid enough imagination and can depress myself just fine on my own, so I don't need any help.
  5. Pretty much if it's rated above a PG-13 I don't watch it.  If I do, it has to be a really, really, really good movie.
I have found PureFlix helps a lot and they have a lot of really good shows and movies.  I have also discovered that with so much amazing fiction that I am enjoying rediscovering my love of reading.  I have also been enjoying rediscovering some older Christian music.  It's amazing how much elevated your mood is when you choose to listen to music with a happier message.

I hope you all have a good week.  I will be praying for you.
In Christ,
Maureen