Wednesday, August 30, 2017

It Doesn't Mean the End of the World







I remember during my Developmental Psychology class that our instructor talked about the different stages of life.  She got to the time of life, some call the Twilight years and how often people look back and they are okay with the choices made or they regret the choices they made.  I remember how it really stood out for me that it was important to make good decisions. Even more so as a parent.

Enter 2005 and we sat in the office of a behavioral pediatrician and heard the words Autism from a professional.  It one thing to suspect something in your mind, but to hear someone whose credentials bear more weight than your mother's intuition that you were right?  There are no words to describe how much that hurts or how devastating it feels for a while after.  At first, I felt relieved.  After all, we had answers finally.  And in some ways, it was great news.  But mainly it meant that things were going to change for our little family.  It was about figuring out what this meant for our family.

From the moment she was born, I saw Elizabeth as my beautiful baby.  I watched her grow and thrive even with health issues and all I saw were the good things.  I disciplined her when she was naughty, I loved her when she was hurt and I knew she was smart.  I still know this, you could see it in her eyes even as a baby.  The wheels were working on all of the cylinders - what I didn't realize was her cylinders were hyper charged and working faster than a jet plane.  Hearing Autism, meant several things.  First of all, it meant I wasn't a bad parent.  I was vindicated from the gossips and judgemental folks around us.  That part felt good, I needed that.  I was tired of people whispering and saying awful things about her.  Couldn't they see how amazing she was?  Then came the crash - the second part; we had a lot of work to do and where exactly did this leave us?  The worst was the guilt I felt afterward.  Logically in my head, I knew I hadn't done anything wrong, but my heart took longer to catch up.  What if I hadn't eaten tuna?  What if I had been less sick (it was my gall bladder - so while this wasn't logical, it still ran through my head)?  What if people never looked and saw what I could see?  What if, what if, what if?  I was plagued with the feeling that somehow, somewhere I had failed her as a mother and so it must be my fault because what mom falls apart when her spouse is unexpectedly deployed?  What if I had been stronger emotionally?  The list went on and on.  It took a while before I began to realize several things. We also did several things that helped us.

1. We told our immediate family but asked that they not share with other people until we were ready to tell others.  We needed time to process what this meant for us and our sweet girl.   We have an awesome family and they respected our requests.

2. I researched . . . anyone who knows me isn't surprised to hear this at all.  I research a lot of things and try to stay on top of what is going on with science, medicine, etc. . .

3. We grieved.  That may sound odd, but finding out something is medically wrong or different about your child or psychologically different requires a healthy amount of grief.  In many ways, a diagnosis is a death.  Not necessarily of that child, but of the dreams we have for our children.  This is especially true for mothers.  We dream of the possibilities for our children - hearing that your child is going to have challenges medically or otherwise, is in some ways a death of those dreams.    At first, I felt as if I was alone in my grief, but over time Chris shared that he too grieved.  It's true, men and women do grieve differently.  In the end, we still were able to come together.

4. I worried and then I relaxed.  Elizabeth received her diagnosis in early May, right before Mother's Day.  I worried and researched and worried some more.  I would like to tell you that I prayed about it, but in truth, I was so overwhelmed and worried, I neglected taking these concerns to God.  I would definitely change that if I could.  I think I might have handled everything better if I had allowed God to help me through the time.  Even so, he was already at work.  When Elizabeth began school, she had already met a Kindergarten teacher, Sherry Silveous.  Little did we know then that the woman who Elizabeth easily allowed to hold her hand would be such an advocate and amazing teacher for our girl.  I requested her specifically for Elizabeth explaining that she had just been diagnosed before the summer and the principal was kind enough to agree.  Mrs. Silveous began working on a program for Elizabeth when she realized that the school hadn't had a student like her before.  She also researched and came up with great ways to help Elizabeth thrive.  After that year, Mrs. Silveous went back to school and got her Master's Degree in Special Education - she was able to follow her through third grade until we moved.  God knew we would need Mrs. Silveous to encourage us and help us advocate for Elizabeth.

5. I learned to fight.  I HATE confrontation.  I am not sure if hate is a strong enough word and for many years I avoided it like the plague and would let people walk all over me.  I couldn't do that with Elizabeth.  My sweet girl was limited verbally, I had to become her voice, she struggled socially, I had to work and help her learn how to play if she needed it, Mrs. Silveous and I fought for it together.

6. I learned a new phrase -  firm but flexible.  I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but it's true.  I needed to be firm enough to keep Elizabeth accountable, but I also had to be flexible enough to know if I needed to close up the house for a day or so and allow her some down time.  Her first few years of school I would say she missed at least one day a month.  By first grade though, we all realized that medication was the best option for her.  While undiagnosed at the time and even now, I know that Elizabeth has ADD.  I had been adamantly opposed to medication when it was first brought up at age four years old.  Elizabeth is small, even now she is just at five feet tall and unlikely to grow much taller, she was also very slight for her age, although her weight was proportionate to her height. Her body needed time to grow.  By the time she reached first grade, I was more confident that she could physically handle medication.   Our pediatrician and I both researched and agreed that Strattera was the right choice for her.  I let her teachers know she began the medication and asked them to let me know if they thought it didn't work.  We agreed to a two week trial at the pediatrician's office.  It only took one week and we knew, we had found our medicine.  Strattera helped her focus and it didn't decrease her appetite at all, so she could thrive at school and thrive physically as well.  It changed everything for her in school.  It also gave her time to slow down enough that she could control her impulses better.

7. I learned to dream new dreams.  I talked earlier about mourning the loss of the idea I had for her life.  However, as we raised the bar on challenging her to work hard and she met those challenges, I found myself dreaming again.  Earlier on, my dream was for her learn to read, in third grade she met that milestone and even now enjoys reading.  Then my dreams grew and grew for her.  Now at age 16, I dream that she will complete high school, maybe go to college or even a vocational school would be great, but I want to see her able to work and hopefully someday live on her own nearby Chris and I or one of her sisters.  While she is more than capable of cooking, cleaning, and the things she needs to do to live alone, she struggles in one area.  She has a huge heart and doesn't see the bad in people until they leave her no choice so we or one of her sisters will need to be in charge of her money until she learns more about saying no.  I even dream she may meet a nice man someday and get married.

8.  I learned she loves a challenge.  At first, I didn't know what to expect from her, but as we began setting goals and she met them, we would raise the bar higher and guess what?  She met those challenges and often times surpassed our expectations.  She will always have areas in which she struggles, but she has done so well that I am confident she will continue to grow and meet the challenges head on and succeed.

9.  I learned Elizabeth is more amazing than I dreamed. She is awesome at math.  She has a beautiful and vibrant imagination.  She loves animals and is so kind and tender with them.  She has such a huge heart, I love it, I also worry she will get hurt, but mainly I love it.  She is kind even when others aren't kind.  She loves coffee and a good book.  I love how she loves a good comic book.  We have to watch her carefully because some things are not good for her imagination, but she loves comics and books.  I love how she is happy with us or even sitting quietly reading in her room and listening to music.  I love that she will be as goofy as it takes to make younger children laugh.  She has no shame and is perfectly willing to be silly if it means they are happy.  In short, when I see my girl, I still see the amazing young woman she is becoming.

If you are reading this and you have a young child and you are reeling from shock or struggling to figure out what the Autism Spectrum will mean for you, I want to encourage you that our children can do amazing things.  I also want to encourage you to be your child's advocate and to work with their team not against them.  Autism Spectrum isn't a dirty word and while at times, we can feel like it is challenging, imagine how much more so it must be for our kids.  They have so much potential, give them time and they can shine.

In Christ,
Maureen

All Quiet On the Koeppel Front

It is 10:30 p.m. in our home and it is quiet finally. The window air conditioner hums, the kitten is curled up in a ball asleep and Lily is stretched out on the floor near the foot of the ottoman that accompanies my chair.  Somehow tonight after a summer of frustration,  peace lingers in the air.
The girls are sleeping and seem so peaceful as they rest until tomorrow. Chris is snoring gently in our bedroom.
The TV is off, I have a good book to read and I know I am right where I should be in God's plan. 
Tonight I made a tough choice and decided to let a project go that I wasn't passionate about and it was very time-consuming. Letting this go means I can focus on my family and my writing.  As I sent the message to my business partner letting her know my decision I felt peace, not just in my head but in my soul. 
I have a calling from God. I have known this for quite some time now, but over the summer as I grew frustrated at how long the healing from my burns took, I forgot for a little bit.
In a perfect world, I would be able to do everything I wanted to do. Lead a youth group,  chip in more at church, have a small business, write my first novel and so on and so forth.
It is in these quiet moments that God reminded me I am where He wants me. He called me to care for Chris and our three girls and that is my job. Writing, for now, is my hobby, but hopefully, someday it will become a profession. These quiet moments remind me who I am and that God made me exactly how He knows I should be. Even if that means that the me He made doesn't have much emotional energy to spare or feel called to go be a missionary in the darkest parts of the world. Instead, I am called to love the people here in my area and my church.  I am called to raise the girls to have a deep relationship with Christ. I don't know that I always succeed, but I do know that I lead by example and try daily to model how a woman who loves God should behave or live.
I am not perfect, but thankfully He doesn't demand perfection. Instead,  he asks that I strive daily to live for Him and to seek a relationship with him.
I love a quote from my friend Tricia Goyer's book Walk It Out.  "One thing I love about Jesus is that He often approached people the world had written off - those whose sins made them untouchable."
It is so true, we see this time and time again in the Bible. The woman at the well, the demon possessed man who had a legion of demons inside him, the woman caught in adultery, the examples are numerous.  In a perfect world,  I could help the homeless a masse, adopt a passel of kids, start a soup kitchen, so many things I would love to do, but I also know they are not what God has called me to do at this point in time.
So tonight, I sit in the dark, the quiet of the house and trust that God knows me better than I do. He knows my physical and emotional limitations and I am at peace with my current assignment.  Tonight peace may not reign on earth yet, but it is here in my home and all is well.
In Christ,
Maureen

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Stepping Out In Faith






Have you ever felt God tugging at your heart?  Have you followed that tug?  Or have you chosen to stay put instead?  It is so easy to stay put and remain comfortable, especially if we feel that we have already done enough. Listening and following God can at times seems scary.  What if he calls us to do something we might not be good at?  What if we fail?  So many questions we ask ourselves when really he just wants us to say, "Yes".

I had always enjoyed listening to the missionaries when they came to our church.  I loved hearing about their adventures and everything God had been doing in the countries they served in, I even told my Grandma Taylor at one point, I was going to be a missionary - at the time I said, Africa, but that was more because a missionary had just come to our church from there, than a direct call.  I had no idea how true that would become at the ripe age of six or seven years old. 

In the Fall of 1997, I had sat in a chapel service at Southern Nazarene University.  I didn't actually have to attend because I was old enough it wasn't required of me.  But I enjoyed those hour long services and seeing what God had up his sleeve or how he would speak.  That service was about Nazarenes in Volunteer Service.  I fell in love with the idea of going, but one thing stood in my way, I owed my college money, hadn't paid off my car and couldn't afford to not work.  So I promised God that once I had those two things taken care of, I would answer his call.  The first lesson, never you should never make a promise to God if you don't plan to follow it.  The second lesson, God always makes a way.

So jump ahead a year, again Fall but 1998.  Again I sat in chapel, but things had changed.  I didn't owe SNU  money, I owned my car and I was finally in a place where leaving for a year didn't mean I would never be able to catch up financially.  Dr. Culbertson stood and spoke of the need for volunteers to go to Croatia.  I sat enjoying listening to him speak about how God could use us to do great things and would open the doors if we chose to answer.  As I sat there, God reminded me of my promise from the year before and I knew, this was the time to follow through on my promise.

I talked to Dr. Culbertson and discovered I couldn't go to Croatia but they needed people for Catania, Sicily to work in the church there.  I was excited.  I walked to the administration building and dropped my classes for the Spring semester and began working on finishing the current semester AND I worked on my letter to send to churches to ask for assistance.  

My family thought I was nuts and acting rashly, especially when I told them my plan and that I had dropped my Spring semester.  It didn't deter me at all, in fact, it made me more determined to succeed and follow God.  I set up churches to speak to, I wrote letters, I worked full time and saved money, but it was getting close to when I wanted to leave and I was short a good chunk of change.  Finally, one day, my mom asked if I was certain I was answering God's call and told me maybe I had to wait a little longer to raise more money.  .I went for a walk instead of answering.  I talked to God, I told him how much I wanted to do what he wanted me to do, but that I was becoming discouraged and even Mom was beginning to wonder if I should re-enroll for the Spring semester. I asked him to please open some doors and help me meet what I needed to leave for Sicily.  He answered and he answered quickly.  Within a short time, I got a phone call from a woman in our church asking if Pastor Jones had told me yet.  Nope, I knew nothing, so she shared that someone sent a check for a little under $5,000 to help me go to Catania.  God came through in a huge and powerful way at that moment.  A little later, I was told that the pastor had planned to surprise me on Sunday, but it was a good thing that I knew in advance.  I don't do very well when I am surprised, I tend to freeze and look like a deer caught in the headlights.

I left for Catania with time to spare, my journey there was amazing.  I went to serve others, but while there, I got a present of my own.  For years, I had struggled with depression and feelings of being unworthy of love, God's love or anyone else for that matter.  While I worked to serve the people of Catania, they loved me unconditionally and I had time to rest away from family friction or strife.  I began taking long walks during Riposo (it's like an Italian version of Siesta) and I would take my Bible and go sit on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean and spend time growing in Christ. I cannot give you a specific time or place when it happened, but in those hours spent alone with God, the wounds in my heart that left me feeling as if I would always be a wounded wreck began to heal.  I began to be more confident in my own skin and like who God had made me. For years others had said I wasn't pretty enough, but God showed me I was more than enough for him and the people in Catania.  In the times of fellowship after church, I would sit listening to the women chat, working on my translation skills and eventually one or two of the women would reach over and pat my cheek or give me a hug.

Before that time, I didn't like being touched much.  I had been molested and had been physically assaulted. I was skittish, in their love and care, I began to become comfortable with being touched.  Before, I had not wanted children at all.  But while there, God showed me how wonderful a child could be in my life and heart if I would only allow him to use me.  I remember having this precious baby sleeping in my lap and as I looked down I realized, I wanted children. I loved the feeling of someone trusting me enough to fall asleep on me.  God had already been showing me before my time there, that my previous views on men, were not the status quo for all men, but while in Catania, I met and fell in love (in a Grandpa kind of way) with several of the sweetest older men you would ever meet.

I also was able to play and get to know some amazing teens.  My flat mates and I led the teens every week, sometimes we had deep meetings of spiritual growth, sometimes we just spent time together to have fun and hang out.  Let me put it this way, by the end of the summer I was very tan from almost daily trips to the sea with the Ragazzi.  Even now I am able through Facebook to keep in touch with some of them.

I went to serve, instead, I ended up returning home with healing.  It wasn't 100% complete, because God had some other seasons ahead for me to grow and heal, but it was enough that when I met Chris in July of 1999, I was open and willing to accept his love and kindness instead of being cautious and unwilling to let him into my heart.   I don't know that I would have been able to do that otherwise.

Opening ourselves up to God and allowing him to use us is sometimes scary.  Stepping out in faith is often scary when you don't have the money you need or are unsure of where you will live or where you will find work.  Those are just a few examples of how fear of the unknown can paralyze us.  Moving with God can be so rewarding if we are willing to listen, answer and follow instead of trying to lead. 

I hope you all have a good week.

In Christ,
Maureen

Monday, August 28, 2017

High Points and Low Points

I am reading a really good book, Walk It Out by Tricia Goyer. She talks about how God uses our low points to help others struggling.  I have to say in 43 years of living I have found that to be true. A Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren is another book that helped me realize this lesson.

In my late teens to mid-twenties, I longed for nothing more than to be like the other kids on my college campus.  Or my perceived ideal of the other kids on campus.  The kids who seemed to walk around as if they had no cares, whose parents gave them money for college, or bought them their car, the kids whose lives had been uncomplicated.  I wanted that so much. I didn't want to know abuse, or bullying or what it felt like to be suicidal.  I didn't want to know that Dad's die, I wasn't immortal, or have a mom who could barely keep afloat much less help me financially.  I saw myself as a scarred monster who longed to be a part of a "normal" life.  A life where I never knew some of the things I knew.  And yet, as I've grown older I realize now that God has used those situations and hard times to allow me to be compassionate, to be able to understand others pain.  I had the gift of empathy before, but the low points in my life have led to some amazing high points as well.  The ability to talk to Sarah when she struggles and understand her desire to not be different.  Or a woman at church whose life has been less than stellar and how even now she is struggling to find true spiritual healing and continue to grow in Christ.  In other ways, God has taken what I hated for years about myself and used it to help others and connect with them.

This could be a huge long blog about all of my trials and how they shaped me, but instead, I want to encourage you to read Walk It Out instead.  Also, if you can't contain your curiosity, please feel free to read my older blogs from several years ago.

I would like to end on this note.  No matter how crummy your life has been, no matter what other people have said to you, I want to encourage you that God can and does love you.  How do I know this?  Because he took a battered and scarred young woman and has slowly transformed her life into something beautiful.   He has a habit of loving those who do not seem worthy of love by our world's standards.  Look at the woman at the well, Matthew and Zaccheus who were tax collectors, the woman who committed adultery, the list could go on forever. Maybe one of the most powerful examples of transformation in the Bible is the Apostle Paul.  Originally, this man who was called Saul, was working to eradicate the Christians - he saw them as a threat.  He was zealous in his hatred of them and even watched approvingly as people stoned Stephen.  Yet, with the encounter on the road to Damascus, his life was forever transformed and he because zealous for Christ and spread the Good News to the Gentiles and the world changed forever. 

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

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Change and anxiety

Elizabeth begins high school in two weeks. While other parents think clothing,  supplies, I have a few extra things. One of which is enough to make me want to run and hide, I.E.P.

For anyone new here who hasn't run that fun meeting it is where you discuss yiur child's strengths and the areas where they fall short.  This is a meeting only for students who have disabilities.  Our first I.E.P. meeting took all of the wind out of our sails. Nothing screams failure  (in my mom brain, not because anyone said that) like having a group if people dissect and tear down what your child deficiencies are. It isn't said meanly or to hurt you,  but that doesn't make it stink any less. These meeting make me anxious and exhausted by the end. No one is cruel or unkind but it stinks listening to these flaws and feeling that maybe if you had done this different or eaten something else maybe others could see what you see. An amazing, beautiful,  smart girl with an amazing heart. 

And the truth is that Elizabeth has come so far. The girl who struggled with echolalia and spoke in jargon now can talk the hind leg off of a mule and I treasure every time I have to ask her to stop talking. The child who could only parallel play at first can now interact more with others. She has good days and bad days, but thankfully we go to a church with kids who are kind. We still struggle with impulse control and speech but she has still come so far in her years since age four. A lot of how far she has come is because she had us and a good team.

A good team is key. Let me say that again,  A good team is key.  People who fight just as hard as you do to break through the barriers and yet help you keep your child emotionally intact, because they realize that while your child may not fit what the world sees as normal that doesn't mean they are any less awesome. A good team will see Elizabeth's amazing and beautiful mind. They will see it as an asset instead of a detriment.  A good team realizes that despite the frustration we all feel when it feels as if we may never progress that if we all keep trying then she will hit that milestone we are all working towards.  A good team utilizes Chris and I as her parents to help get through to her. We have had that team before,  I am praying we will have a team like that again this time around.

So ready or not here we go again. Public school is happening and I promised to give them a full year. Heaven help us all.

Have a good week.
Maureen

Monday, August 14, 2017

Challenges

Do you know what is tough?  Accepting who you are and that it means you can't be everything you wanted to be.  In theory I love the idea of throwing parties, adopting enough kids to need 20 million bedrooms, taking in refugees, finding a way to run a tiny house village for homeless people.  Those are the things I would love to do.  Now for the list of what I can actually do. 

1. Pray for you.  I may not be able to be at every single party you throw, or come to a ton of busy stuff, because crowds are overwhelming for me more and more as I grow older.  I can however, and often will pray for you.  Sometimes even if you don't ask for it.

2. Encourage and be a good cheerleader!  I am an excellent cheerleader online.  I have friends who sell Younique, Mary Kay, do Beach Body Coaching, sell doTerra (I tried, I am not a party girl, it's not me), the list could go on and on, but I'll spare you.  You know what I can't do - sell stuff.  Seriously, I've tried countless times, it is not my thing.  I cannot sell ice to an Eskimo. So I need to let that go already and just accept it.

3. I can make a mean cup of tea and I'm learning to make coffee so you can come over and visit.  Or I'll bring them to you so we can hang out and chill or you can talk. 

4. I can sing. That's self explanatory I think.

5. I can research the heck out of stuff for you.  Seriously, it is something I enjoy doing. I love learning new things and sharing them.

6. I can write.  I am working on becoming a word smith - good with my words, sharing my stories and hopefully someday sharing them by selling my books. :D 

7. I can bake some amazing cookies and fix a good meal for you.

8. I can sit and knit with you.

9. I can watch documentaries and tell you all about how fascinating I find them and I apologize if it isn't fascinating for you, but I'm going to ramble anyway.

10. I can give good hugs.

11. I can encourage you to grow in Christ with my words on here and in life.


Normally, I am a fly by the seat of my pants girl. You want to take a spontaneous road trip, let me work the logistics for a few minutes and I am there.  You need someone spur of the moment to babysit, I can usually do that. Do you need someone to help sing the National Anthem in front of a stadium full of people, I can be ready on the fly.  I can pitch in with set up and clean up, I can do a lot of things.  I cannot however, be overly social.  I am learning to accept that I am a homebody who loves to read a good book, knit and listen to a good audio book (borrowed or purchased, either one works for me). I am learning that with the gift of Empathy, comes a price - and if I want to stay standing and not have it take a huge toll on me emotionally or physically, I have to practice a lot of saying no.  Some people call it self care, I don't.  It has the word self in it.  And I don't want to be selfish, I also don't want to go insane.

By the way, I hate saying no.  It gets me into trouble a lot. Because I want to say no, but yes comes out of my mouth and then I'm over extended (it doesn't take much) and before I know it I end up sick.  I'm beginning to realize it's my mind and body's way of making sure I don't get too crazy with my schedule.   I hate hurting other people's feelings, but I am learning to do it to protect my family.

What are you good at?  Are you a great social networker?  Can you sell ice to an Eskimo?  Do you love to sit quietly and learn for day and weeks and months on end.  Share with me your list of what you can do.

I hope you all have a good week. 

In Christ,
Maureen

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Libraries in Heaven

I took a challenge yesterday from a fellow wordsmith,  my friend Tricia Goyer to spend 30 minutes writing. The results in two days have been interesting. Today definitely turned interesting as I began writing about Heaven and what it would mean to me or for me.

It started as a question. Do they have professional readers and writers in Heaven? It's an interesting question and began to evolve into more and I began dreaming of a HUMONGOUS  Heavenly Library for those whose sole job was to read and write to entertain others in Heaven or keep them informed of how everyone was doing or let them know if something exciting was coming. Stay with me and imagine this if you will.

Imagine an extremely large building filled with endless rooms filled with nothing but books and wood furnishings and wood work intricately carved to praise God and Chris.  Each room has long tables for those who need to write and research and huge cozy fireplaces with fires blazing.  Each fire let's off a different pleasing aroma.  Around these numerous fireplaces as overstuffed chairs and sofas with tables to place your beverage on and plenty of light to read by because the light is the Son and it never goes off. We can doze there if we want as we allow our brains to absorb the information we have learned. Or discuss what we have been reading and what we we have learned or are learning.   Maybe angels help us with research and find the books we need. Iwonder if the Heavenly librarian requires a inside voice too.

Will we ever tire in Heaven? Will we have freedom to choose our heavenly body? Or am I stuck being 5'3 and fluffy. Will I still require stepstools or ladders to reach my tea mugs? Or can I request of higher metabolism and a few extra inches to reach where I need to reach.  Or better yet, will my home be pint sized just for me and all who are height challenged have houses designed with our unique problems in mind. Jesus to his disciples he was going to prepare a place for them after all, will those homes be unique to each individual or uniform. . . I sincerely hope they are unique,  I'd rather not have to count to find my home. I can see me now, walking in to the wrong home as Chris tries to flag me down. Or a neighbor miscounted.  Oops, I'm sorry I seem to have miscounted again. Hey it that pot roast? Mind if I stay for supper? Will we have annoying neighbors in Heaven?

But the best thought to me, was the library.  The possibilities are endless! So many books and an eternity to read them?  What if Heaven for book worms was a HUMONGOUS library? I love that idea so much. It makes me giddy to think of it.

This is just an example of where my free writing went today. I hope as I practice each day I improve my skills and descriptive abilities.
So the question for the day is what would be your idea of Heaven?

Have a good week
In Christ,
Maureen

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Books, loves and changing minds

I remember the day (not the specific date mind you, but when it happened) when I began to realize I really just wanted to finish my Bachelor's but maybe not in psychology much less go to graduate school for it.  I was following my advisor into her office and she was telling me how she was reading a book about James Watson a prominent psychologist already dead and gone and she was reading this for fun. . .I had no desire to read those books, much less for fun.

I admire those in psychology and studying it helped me understand myself, and those who had abused me better.  I wouldn't be who I am today if I hadn't studied that specific focus. And yet, it doesn't excite me as it once did. I had decided to minor in English for something to break up the monotony of constant studying. In the making that change,  I began to realize I enjoyed reading fiction and assorted types of literature much more than my psychology text books. That's problematic. . .not feeling excited to study what you've chosen.

So I decided to stay the course but would pursue English for my graduate work. Life got messy as it is apt to do and to this day I do not have my Bachelor's Degree. My husband is a sweet man, but he would like me to finish Psychology. . .no. It has been so long since I took Statistical Methods and Theory of Research Design that I would be hopelessly lost. You know where I wouldn't be lost? In an English class because I still read even now and work to incorporate classics into my reading list even now. I can and often do make notes in my books,  underline passages or quotes that I want to remember, and reread favorites often.
If I tried to finish my Psychology degree now,  I would fail miserably.  In part, because I'm not excited by it and also because I would be bored to tears. I would not,  however, be bored reading and discussing books.

Now for the tough question. Do I want to teach? No thank you. Teachers rock, teachers are amazing but I am not foolish enough to think I can succeed in that noble profession.  I can however, work on creating stories for people to read. Stories bursting out in my imagination. That I know I can do. Even at 43 years old, I know I can succeed at writing.

It's funny how we still in our 40's are figuring out who we are and who we will be or want to be. But for me the search is over. I will become a writer. Regardless of how successful I become or don't become. It's not really about money,  it's more about letting my imagination out and allowing it the freedom it has long been denied.

Have a good weekend.
In Christ,
Maureen

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Friend or Father

One of my favorite sounds in the world (even when my TMJ flares is hearing our girls and their excitement when they see Chris and call him Daddy.  Dads are very important. The role they play in the lives of their children has been proven repeatedly in studies.  In truth I don't need a study to tell me this because I see it in my own life. I had my dad for five short years. But those five years shaped me and what I thought a husband and dad should be. Seeing Chris with our girls and knowing these things always makes my heart full and it also makes me long for my dad.

1. My girls have no clue what it is like to not have Chris around.  There is no mourning for the what could have beens if he wasn't gone or wondering if he is proud of them. They know because he has made it a priority to be sure they know he loves them.

2. I love knowing that he is there for them even when I can't be. He is an amazing dad.  It has helped heal some of the pain I feel seeing him with them.

There is another father we can count on as well. God. But what if you didn't have a dad growing up? Or what if your example of a dad was not a good example.  There are some really awful dads out there. That's just wrong, but it is a reality in our world that is filled with sin and free will.

Sometimes, I think we focus on explaining that God is our father more than the fact that he wants a relationship with us. And Jesus came to be the bridge. God was the law maker as our Father,  and Paul even says that the law is death. But Christ stands in the gap. He is like our older big brother who says, "Wait a minute Dad, I already paid the price for that remember? It's forgiven."  God sent Jesus so he could understand our humanity more and so that we could see Grace on earth for a short time as Jesus His One and Only Son. God does not want to be all about rules. He realized that no one could follow the law and not mess up and that the act of continually sacrificing animals became a routine without the heart behind the act of requesting his forgiveness.  But when we truly and thoroughly begin to realize that there was ONE major sacrifice, a sacrifice that no animal or another human being could possibly make on their own because we are humans are imperfect, the weight of that and what it truly means makes our act of asking forgiveness of our sins even more humbling. Realizing we could NEVER possibly earn God's love by acts of goodness alone. We as humans will never, ever be righteous enough on our own to deserve or earn the gift Jesus and God gave us.  Which brings me to a new question.

What is sin? Off the top of my head or many people's heads,  I'm sure we think of thieves, murderers, serial killers, or child abusers. But sin is more than that. Sin is the willful disobedience of God. Sin is when we hold a grudge, or tell a white lie, when we take office supplies, or when we cheat on our time card. These seem like such small examples, but they are still sin. That's why in Romans we see it written,
"As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;"
(Romans 3:10 NIV
http://bible.com/111/rom.3.10.NIV)
that means even those who you see going to church, we are not without sin either.  The church is for sinners and we are ALL sinners, including Christians, even me.

In early June I was burned when I used too much lighter fluid and foolishly closed our grill lid. The flames had no place to go but out the side door straight at me. If it sounds like it hurt, I can assure you it did. In the car on our way to the Emergency Room, I was crying, "Oh God". That may seem small to many, but to me that is the name.of my God and my King. It is a very big deal. At that point, I was in so much agony that even now I am unsure if I was calling out to Him for help or if I was taking his name in vain. It bothered me. . .A LOT. So I prayed and asked him to forgive me. I would rather ask forgiveness and be certain, because I know God knew my heart and state of mind, but I was so blinded and confused by the pain, I couldn't tell. 

I am not sharing this to show you I am better than you. On the contrary I hope you see that even though I grew up in the church, even I still sin and have to seek forgiveness.  

Even as you read this if you are thinking But God could never forgive me, this woman has no idea what I have done. Let me assure you, God knows.  He has always known. And yet he loves you even now and wants to welcome you into his arms. He deeply wants a relationship with you. And you can find him if you seek him with all of your heart.

If you read this and want to ask Him into your heart it is as simple as this prayer.
God,
I am so sorry for everything I have done. I want you in my life and to be the King of my heart and life. Please come into my heart and forgive me of my sins.
Amen. 

Some of you may feel the need to confess your sins out loud.  You can alone, just you and God or find a Christian or friend who is a Christian and confess with them and pray more if you are led by God to do so.

So which is God? The man who made rules or the one who wants a relationship with us? He's both.

If you have prayed that prayer, Welcome to the Family!!

Maureen