Help Me Raise Money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s TNT!

Seeking Sponsors for not just a Walk-a-thon, but a Marathon

TNTThe Back Story

If you’re new to Blessed (but Stressed), you might not know much about our cancer journey. You probably see the occasional photos of Pedro looking healthy and don’t know at at one time he looked like an extra for Shindler’s List. If you don’t know about those years, here are some photos from our journey. You can find more stories about our journey here and hereTNT

Ever since Pedro’s stem-cell transplant at the University of California San Francisco’s Parnassus Campus hospital on January 3, 2003, Pedro has continued to heal and experience a whole new set of firsts that he never thought he would be blessed with.

TNT Collage

I’ve Joined the Team!

And ever since Pedro’s transplant, I’ve wanted to do something to honor his journey and help others who suffer from blood cancers. Now that our nest is empty, I have the time to dedicate to training for a long-distance race. I chose to join the the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team in Training (TNT) program.

So I’ve done it! I’ve registered for the San Diego Rock-N-Roll Marathon (yes, you read that correctly! This old lady thinks she can run for 26.2 miles) on June 4, 2017. By participating as a member of TNT, I am raising funds to help find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients.

Think of it as an old-fashioned school walk-a-thon fundraiser—only I plan on running, not walking. I’d like to raise $1200 (or more!). I survived a half-marathon on Sunday, and I know I’ll be able to keep working towards a full marathon.

Your donation will help fund treatments that save lives every day; like immunotherapies that use a person’s own immune system to kill cancer. You may not know it, but every single donation helps save a life with breakthrough therapies such as these.

Please make a tax-deductible donation in support of my efforts with Team In Training and help get us all closer to a world without blood cancers.

 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

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Hearts of Love on Valentine’s Day

In a turbulent world, let's share love

On this Valentine’s Day, let’s love not just in word, but in deed.

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and that means hearts and chocolates, lace and roses, confessions of love and statements of commitment.  Our society, here in the United States, seems to be undergoing a fierce shaking apart.  Those who profess love protest in the streets.  The ones hurting the deepest feel the most alone while the loudest voices shake in anger.

And we serve a God who says, “Love one another.”

That’s what He asks.  What are we going to do?

This week at my school (I teach grades 7-10) we’re collecting Pennies for Patients.  At our youth group we collected toiletries for people without homes.  On my Facebook feed I see dear friends who’ve lost a parent and/or I see pleas for help for new cancer diagnoses, large bills for treatment or prayers for comfort as a loved one goes on hospice care.  I listen to or read prayer requests of broken homes, messed up families, drug abuse and pain.

Meanwhile the streets are filled with people yelling about love.

I don’t want to hear any more yelling.  Not that they’re wrong, just that yelling doesn’t solve it.  And I’m a retired caregiver, a teacher, a wife and a mom who is tired of noise.

I want to see hearts and chocolates, lace and roses, and I want to hear confessions of love and commitment.  I want our country to stop yelling and protesting and start loving.  God says it, and He says things for a reason.

Love is the only way the world heals.

So for those who come across this post, or your own conscience that tells us to actually DO something in love, let’s make this Valentine’s day something powerful.  Let’s fill our world with LOVE.

Make this Valentine's day something powerful #loveoutloud #Valentine'sDay Click To Tweet

I have, of course, some things near and dear to my heart, and I’ll post some links in case you’re looking for ways to share your love today, in a tangible way.  But there are a million ways out there to show love and care – find your way and DO it!

Love List

  1.  Donate to the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society.  They support research in a big way.  I’m partial to this one because it was my son’s battle.
  2. St. Jude is a children’s research hospital.  There are many, this is one of the more famous.  The beauty of childhood cancer research is that they share, and are thus making more progress than many adult cancer research programs.  Also, St. Jude seeks treatment for every child, without billing parents (at least that’s what they advertise).
  3. Look for your local school district.  Almost any classroom teacher would love some new books or some additional items to help in his/her classroom.  How about volunteering to listen to a child read?  It’s not as easy now as it used to be, our laws mean strict vetting of volunteers, but it’s still possible.
  4. How about assisting in a homeless shelter near you?  Google finds you lots of places that could use help.  I know the one near us is thrilled to get packages of toiletries.
  5. Donate blood.  There is ALWAYS a need.  I can attest to the fact that sometimes even children have to wait for blood, or platelets (that’s the one we always had to wait for) in times of crisis.  Donate!

This is just a tiny list of ways to reach out a share your Valentine heart of love with someone this week.  I’m sure you have a list too.  In fact, if you have a link you’d like to leave in the comments, let’s spread the love!

God bless you as you share your heart this week.

Let's fill our world with LOVE #Valentine'sDay Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

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Safe in the Tub – the love in the midst of the impossible

Five-Minute-Friday: Safe

This post is written with the gang over at Five-Minute-Friday where we write on a prompt, for five minutes, and then post.  Don’t think, just do it!  This week’s prompt:  SAFE

It’s been sitting for nine years, safe in the bin I threw it in when I tried to return to “normal” after Andrew’s last chemotherapy appointment in December of 2007.  I cherished each card, letter, poster, and note people sent to us. But suddenly, that year, I needed to hide them.  We had more than enough reminders of Andrew’s travel through three and a half years of leukemia treatment.

I felt desperate to return to life.

Safe in the bin where I placed them. Reminders of support and love.

This week my school is kicking off the Pennies for Patients campaign for the Leukemia/Lymphona Society. On a search for the Pennies for Patients poster that featured Andrew, I rifled through that plastic tub that I have kept safe, but untouched for years. Just opening the lid provided a lightning flashback because of the innocuous heplock flush valve lying on top of the last MRI results.  I could not read more than 6 or 7 cards, as the tears blurred my vision. The valves, flush syringes and deadening cream in the bottom of tub ensured the return of the cover.

But not before a huge rush of appreciation and love flooded me.  I saw some imaginative and slightly odd cards decorated with love by children none of our family have ever met – those children who prayed for my boy.  There were recognizable post-it-notes that I would find on my desk after returning to work after a nine-hour-day at chemo.  I read hand-written poems and prayer placed in my mailbox by my high-school students and a note left on my clean pile of laundry by a friend.  A couple of empty envelopes baffled me, but just until I remembered the lady who sent us half of her over-time check for 6 months straight to help us out.  I hadn’t met her then, but she chose to bless us anyway.

There are more.  So many more.

A tub full of blessings and love waiting for when I need it, or when I can handle it.

A safe place full of reminders that our world holds beauty in the midst of ugly, and safety in the middle of a storm.

There is still beauty in our world that keeps us safe and grounded through hard times #fmfparty… Click To Tweet

Confessions my FMF friends:  I honestly have no idea how long this took me to write.  I got hung up on the tub full of blessings tonight, which forced me to write when I thought I had nothing on the prompt!

 

Self-Care for Caregivers Involves Learning How to Breathe

breatheSelf-Care for Caregivers Involves Learning How to Breathe

To breathe or not to breathe, this is the question. I know, we all breathe, all the time; otherwise, we would be dead. But did you know that HOW we breathe plays a huge role in our health?

During Pedro’s cancer year, I forgot how to breathe. It took me several years after his stem-cell transplant to actually learn how to breathe again. Unfortunately, my health (both mental and physical) suffered greatly during my years of forgetting how to breathe.

Fear and pain cause shallow breathing—our bodies naturally respond to threats by changes in breathing patterns. The problem occurs when we find ourselves in a constant state of stress—which disrupts our normal breathing.

According to Alan Fogel, Ph.d., in an online article for Psychology Today, “Chronic breath holding and effortful breathing are not healthy because the muscular effort, coupled with the effects of stress on the nervous, hormonal, and immune systems, can impair both physical and psychological function.”

Caregivers can live in a constant state of fright, flight, or freeze. When I thought Pedro might die any given day, I struggled to assure our children that everything would be ok (regardless of the outcome). I struggled to assure myself that things would get better. Seeing a doctor walk out of Pedro’s room (or into it) at an unscheduled time sent my heart racing.

If I would have known more about the importance of the way that I breathed, I could have avoided a lot of pain and agony later on—when all those months of bad breathing turned into a bad habit that chiseled away at my health.

So, if you care for someone, the number one thing you can do for yourself involves learning how to breathe.

Four Steps to Healthy Breathing

1. Remember the numbers. Four-seven-eight. 4-7-8. Breathe in for four seconds. Hold it for seven seconds. Breathe out for eight seconds.Rescue breathing for #caregivers. http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1C3
2. Breathe in through your nose. If you feel like you suffer from chemo-brain by proxy, it probably means you suffer from stress. To regain your ability to remember things, breathe in through your nose when you want to remember something. Scientists recently discovered that breathing in through the nose enhances memory.
3. Breathe to fall asleep. If you struggle with insomnia, try the 4-7-8 breathing technique as you lie in bed at night.
4. Exercise hard on a regular basis. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular aerobic exercise can ward off viral illnesses, reduce your health risks, and keep excess pounds at bay.

Keeping pounds off is vital for caregivers because caregiving takes a big enough toll on our mental health without having to deal with weight gain. Aerobic exercise doesn’t mean you have to join an aerobic dance class (thank goodness—I have two left feet).

Simply engage your large muscle groups, make sure your heart rate increases, and your feel your body start breathing more deeply. I finally purchased a fitness tracker to keep me honest about my effort. You can do this by walking briskly, climbing flights of stairs, running, bicycling, or dancing like a crazy person in your living room.

What other ways have you discovered to relieve caregiver stress?

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

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Six Tips for Family Caregivers During a Catastrophe

Baby Steps at the Hospital

catastropheThe Family Caregiver’s Guide to Self-Care at the Hospital

“Excuse me,” I interrupted the nurse as she stood at the desk working on charts. “I don’t think Pedro received his pain meds.”

“Let me check,” she replied with a busy frown. “Yes, it says right here that he had his meds an hour ago.”

“If you check your supply, I’m sure you’ll see that he didn’t receive them,” I insisted. I couldn’t believe my bravery—normally, I avoid conflicts at all cost. “The last nurse came in and said she would bring the meds, and then something came up. After that, the shifts changed.”

With a dubious, harried look, the nurse took off down the hallway towards the pharmacy dispensing room. I trailed behind.

Two minutes later, the chagrinned nurse came out of the room with a paper cup full of meds in her hand. “You’re right,” she said, and headed to Pedro’s room.

THIS was why I spent every spare minute in the hospital—to prevent human error from harming my husband. I might not be able to cure his cancer, but I could make sure he didn’t suffer because overworked and underpaid nurses forgot to dispense his meds.

The Slippery Slope of Caregiving

When a family member gets launched into a health crisis, primary caregivers get launched into a tandem trajectory of life changes. Our bodies enter the fright, flight, or freeze state—usually choosing to fight for our loved one.

Within hours, we go through a mental list of everything we will give up or reschedule in order to remain by our loved one’s side until the crisis resolves. All too often, we slip into a state of mind where we believe our presence and participation are indispensible.

Within hours, days, or weeks (depending on the severity of the circumstances) a firm conviction grows in our minds that if we step outside the hospital room, something worse will happen. Our fear keeps us tethered to the bedside of our loved one. Friends or other family members might encourage us to step away and take a break, but we KNOW that if we do, something bad will happen.

I fell into that trap during Pedro’s cancer year. It didn’t help that partway through the year, his early remission turned into a catastrophic relapse. It also didn’t help that he needed specialized treatment a thousand miles away. To make things worse, other family members lived closer to Pedro’s new hospital—and they, too, felt that their presence provided the only barrier between Pedro’s recovery and certain death.

We came to an uneasy compromise (neither of us fully trusted the other to do the right thing) about caregivers in Pedro’s hospital room. For his entire hospital stay during the worst of his illness, a family member spent the night (and often all of the day) with him.

Of course, my single-minded, hyper-focused dedication ended up harming me. In order to achieve balance and not endanger my own health, I finally made some changes.

Six Tips for Family Caregivers at the Hospital

1. Learn the schedule. Know the daily routine—when the nurses dispense meds and when the doctor makes rounds. Use an app on your phone or a good old-fashioned notebook that gets passed from caregiver to caregiver.Six tips for finding balance as a #caregiver when catastrope strikes. http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1BZ

2. Keep track of meds and adverse drug interactions. Pedro figured out that Zofran (a drug to prevent nausea) actually made him vomit. More than once, family caregivers had to point out to medical staff that he had a reaction and shouldn’t be given the medicine.

3. Take breaks! Every morning I would walk down the street to the local Starbucks. I always went before the shift change and well before rounds or meds (see #1 and #2). The brisk walk and change of scenery did me a world of good.

4. Take the stairs. Walking up 11 flights of stairs several times a day might not seem like self-care. But believe me, the endorphins helped counteract the stress-induced cortisol. Sneak in as much vigorous exercise as possible.

5. Share the burden. I came to really appreciate the family members who spent time with Pedro so that I could keep my job. Their love and participation in the duties made my life easier.

6. Breathe deeply. I know, it sounds self-explanatory. But throughout Pedro’s crisis, I resorted to shallow breathing—which harmed my health. Take time-outs throughout the day to breath deeply and think of things that bring you peace.

I know these all seem like baby steps. When a loved one experiences a catastrophe, baby steps might be all a family caregiver can take. Remember, survival mode takes precedence—and that actually helps you through the initial crisis.

These small steps will help you maintain balance and a sense of control when the world seems horribly out of the control.

 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

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Screaming – Five Tips for NOT Screaming

When you feel like you really need to!

While tempting, screaming seldom solves anything.

“Get out of my way!” I screamed at the driver who cut me off. “Where could you possibly have to go that’s more important than me taking my son to the ER?”

“I don’t have time for this!” I screamed in my classroom at the mountain of papers the substitute had piled up for me to grade.

“You can’t have him, we’re busy!” I screamed at the people wanting to talk to my husband about stupid mundane problems at school. “Can’t you see my son is hurting?  Who cares about your trifling issues?”

“Don’t talk to me about your over-active son’s problems!” I screamed at the couple in the elevator. “My son used to be active, but now he might not even live!”

“Don’t joke about me ‘moving in’ when you see me carrying a suitcase into the hospital!” I screamed at the janitor. “This has become my life overnight, and it’s NOT a joke!”

“How can you all keep going on as though nothing is happening?”  I screamed at the world.

“How can you go snowboarding when my son is fighting so hard to live?  Why do you go shopping when my son is being poked over and over?  Why are you renting movies and cracking jokes when my son is in so much pain?  How can you go to school when my son is going through torture?”

I screamed at everyone!

My son. My only son. Fighting for his life while the world keeps going. My precious, precious son.

Wait a minute.

God’s son. His only son. His precious, precious son.

Does God want to scream at us?  “How can you keep going?  How can you keep doing those mundane useless things?  Don’t you realize my son was tortured, poked and suffering?  My only son?!”

But that’s not the kind of God He is. He doesn’t scream at people, just like I wasn’t really screaming at anyone. But I wanted to.

I wonder if God ever wants to scream.

Five things to do when you feel like screaming (but can’t):

  1. Breathe deeply from your diaphragm.  Seriously, it sounds too simple to be real, but breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth can change your mindset.
  2. Vent to a journal.
  3. Pray—if all you can say is, “Dear God!” it’s okay. He understands the groaning of our heart (Romans 8:26-28).
  4. Praise God—it sounds counter-intuitive, but praise wins over rage, every time.
  5. Phone a friend (a safe friend) and ask if you can vent out loud.
Five tips to prevent you from screaming, even when you feel like it! #caregiving #stress Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

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He Lives within my Heart

After-effects of a battle with Alzheimer's

 “He lives within my heart!”

You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart!

It’s amazing to stand in an auditorium filled with Christian pastors and teachers and have all 300 or so lifting their hearts to God together in song.  I loved every moment.  Until they introduced the hymn, “He Lives”.  The song leader motioned everyone to stand and I felt my heart sink even while it also rejoiced.

“He better not direct and have us hold out that note,” I whispered to my husband regarding the actions of the song leader.  I tried to sing, I really did.  But as soon as we hit the chorus, tears beat the words to my mouth.  Swiping my cheeks frantically, I leaned my head down so my hair could cover my face a bit.  The congregation sang mightily and the chorus sounded amazing echoing around that great hall.

They hit the last verse and I muttered to myself, “Don’t hold it…don’t hold it.”

I’m pretty sure that song leader attended the same university my dad did.  You know, that one where they teach you to hold your arms up and wave the audience into unison singing, where you learn to sing with emotion and emphasize certain notes.

This song leader entered the chorus with gusto and loudly sang the lines, “You ask me how I know He lives?”  He  took a deep breath, and just like my dad used to do, he directed all of us to a grand finale,

“He LI-i-i-i-i-i-i-VES, within my heart!”

“Amen!” shouted pastors and teachers.

“Oh dear!” I whispered.

He lives…

My dad’s been gone just over a year.  The pain and confusion is over for my dad. The caregiving days are over, for my mom.  I no longer wonder or worry about how dad is doing, but it’s worse not having him around.  When I hear those songs he loved so much, or read a verse he cherished, or see a new building being built or spy old blueprints: in those moments the loss of my hero smacks me so hard.  It blindsided me during that hymn and I hate that it did, yet I love that it does.  My dad sang that song out of pure unadulterated joy in his Savior.  He believed God had led in his life and he believed that Christ lived in his heart.  He believed it, he lived it and he sang it.

Watching my dad with Alzheimer’s was difficult, but getting the opportunity to see him cling to the love of his Jesus was beautiful.  I couldn’t sing “He Lives” with my fellow teachers very well.  The tears fell too freely.

But I have the song in my heart, where my dad taught me to place and hold the love of God.  “He Li-i-i-i-ives, within my heart!”

Alzheimer's cannot remove Jesus living in your heart! #HeLives #caregiving Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

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What a Rubber Ducky Taught Me About Salvation

rubber duckyRubber Ducky Memories

I walked into the guest bathroom this morning and saw my grandson’s rubber ducky sitting on the edge of tub. Memories of a smaller tub and a similar rubber ducky floated into my head.

January 3, 2003—Pedro had eaten his breakfast one painstaking bite at a time. I had braved the San Francisco fog and walked to the local Starbucks for something better than hospital food. Neither one of us ate much, though, because anticipation ran through our veins faster than the IV pump could deliver Pedro’s morning meds.

Transplant day had arrived! For two torturous weeks in November and December, Pedro had given himself Neupogen shots in the stomach each night. In the morning, he would check in to the cancer ward on Eleven Long of the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Parnassus campus. For four hours he would sit in a chair hooked up to an apheresis machine that would collect stem cells from his blood and pass the blood back into his body.

In the late afternoon, the lab would count the number of stem cells collected, and the doctor’s office would call to let us know how whether or not Pedro would need to return the following day. We couldn’t leave San Francisco until they had collected enough stem cells. The process dragged on, day after day. While he sat in the apheresis chair, I would scramble to find another cheap hotel or change our plane tickets one more time.

Most people spend 4-5 days in the apheresis chairs. But after all Pedro had gone through to get to remission, his body took longer to produce stem cells. After a month of rest, we had returned to the hospital right after Christmas for one last round of chemo.

First, We Kill You

The doctors had explained the transplant process in simple terms. “First, we give you enough chemo to kill you,” the intern explained. “Then, right before the drugs kill you off, we infuse you with stem cells. They act like smart bombs and repair everything that’s wrong with you.”

Despite the high doses of chemo, Pedro’s energy remained high. He played his theme song each time a doctor came in to visit, and we watched funny movies to pass the time the day before the transplant. We also had our first visit from a hospital chaplain (awkward, to say the least). But nothing could contain our underlying river of joy.

Finally, the nurse pushed through the doorway with a strange cart that held an open tank of water on top. “Transplant time!” she chirped. A rubber ducky floated serenely in the pool of water as it sloshed with the cart’s movement. “Your stem cells are frozen,” the nurse explained, “and we thaw them out and warm them up a bit in this bath before we pump them into you.”

We bobbled our heads, too excited to say much.

“And now you’ll have TWO birthdays,” the nurse exclaimed. “Don’t forget this one, Pedro,” she cautioned. “Imagine, you can have two cakes per year!”

Within twenty minutes the room smelled like slightly rotten grapefruit. “I see you prepared for the day,” the nurse said with approval when she saw me give Pedro his first stick of gum.

The chemical used to preserve the stem cells (DMSO) left a grapefruit-garlicky taste in his mouth. Because of his facial paralysis, gum chewing (any kind of chewing) didn’t come easily. But it didn’t matter. Soon, the nightmare of cancer would end and Pedro would experience rebirth.

Three Birthdays

Of course, after the transplant, healing took time. Lots of time. Pedro didn’t pass from circling the drain to riding his mountain bike again within weeks. Each sniffle and ache sent us running back to the doctor to make sure the stem-cell transplant had worked.

We held our breath at each checkup, and for an entire year he received chemo treatments straight to his brain. He had to get immunized all over again, on the same schedule that babies and toddlers experience.Can a rubber ducky teach you something about #salvation? #BGBG2 http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1Bp via @blestbutstrest

Pedro studied up on super foods and antioxidants in an attempt to resist relapse. Only to discover the scary way that too much chocolate can act as a vaso-restrictor and mimic his original symptoms.

We celebrated each milestone with caution. But deep down, we knew that those stem cells had done their job. Pedro had received healing the day that rubber ducky floated into his hospital room.

The whole process reminded me of another kind of rebirth. The one where we confess our sins and ask Jesus to take control of our lives. The transformation from circling the drain in sin to mature Christian takes time, too.

We make mistakes. We have to go through a relearning process similar to the immunization process. We doubt the efficacy of our salvation. We want to wrest control from our Savior and do things our own way. Others might look at us and question whether or not we are really saved. But deep down, we know we have experienced rebirth.

The rebirthing and regrowth processes take place at a different rate for every patient sinner. We find the key to happiness when we dare to internalize Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a purse heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

The Message that’s Better than any Rubber Ducky

We don’t have to act as doctor, nor nurse, nor stem cell. All we do is ask, and God will do the recreating within us. I read The Message translation this morning, and it stuns me with its beauty:
Psalm 51:7-15

Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don’t look too close for blemishes,
give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
I’ll let loose with your praise.

Transformation happens when we sign up for the process. The process might prove painful and have many dark nights of the soul. But transformation will take place.

New Year or New Every Morning

God's grace offers a fresh start every day

God's grace means we get a new start every day

God’s grace means we get a new start every day

On New Year’s Day, it’s natural to focus on the “new” part.  It’s a new day, a new week and a new year all in one, this year.  Today is a traditional time to make New Year’s Resolutions and a time when the entire country focuses on getting organized and healthy and cleaning up our acts.

For me personally, it’s even bigger than just the start of a year.  In the last few months I’ve switched houses twice, live in a different city and state and of course, I changed jobs. “New” has been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve never been much for making Resolutions, mostly because I’m not good at keeping them, also, if I think about all the things I should be changing in my life it becomes overwhelming quickly.  Let’s face it – I have a lot I need to work on changing.  I should straighten out my diet and exercise more.  I should be more organized and more consistent.  I should spend more time in God’s word, I should…I should. The “should” list is pretty much endless.

Yeah.

I’ve never been much for the New Year’s Resolution thing.  In spite of that, I cannot help but think about how great the ability to start fresh feels to my soul.

Today I read this verse in Lamentations 3:22-24

Because of the Lord’s gracious love we are not consumed,
    since his compassions never end.
They are new every morning—
    great is your faithfulness!
 “The Lord is all I have,”[a] says my soul,
    “Therefore I will trust in him.”

God’s grace is new every morning!  Did you get that?  Every morning when you get up, you start new with Jesus.  New Year’s Resolutions?  Not necessary.  Every single day is a new start.  Through God’s grace we get to work on changing what we need to change every single day.

God's grace is new every single day. #godsgrace #newinchrist #blessedbutstressed Click To Tweet

 

My Christmas gang was so much fun. But now it's New Year's and new starts...

My Christmas gang was so much fun. But now it’s New Year’s and new starts…

I’m sitting in my quiet house, after a crazy busy Christmas break with all my kids home, plus other friends and family who visited.  It was wonderful – tiring but wonderful. I had a huge list of things to get done through the break and I completed a good portion, but still have lots to do. I should be…should do…should…

My plan is simple.

I’m going to cling to being new, every day, through the grace of Jesus Christ. God can change in me whatever He needs to change. He will give me the strength to do what I need to do. He provides whatever I need.  I will rest in Him and choose His grace each day.

New Year's Resolution or new start with God? #newinchrist #newyear2017 Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from 2016!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

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The Music of God’s Love

My Christmas Agenda Might be Different from God's Plan

I had not idea the music to make me less homesick could be a blessing to a lonely old man.

I had not idea the music to make me less homesick could be a blessing to a lonely old man.

I leaned against the cold marble, pulled up my knees and brought my flute to my mouth,  and let the beloved music of home and Christmas fill the frozen air.  The French train station was crowded down nearer to the tracks, but not where I sat guarding my backpack.  My traveling companions suggested songs and I tried to comply, having no music, as I felt I had sacrificed valuable space already, backpacking around Europe with my flute.  I played “Silent Night” and the echoes drifted across the high ceilings and wrapped around the marble pillars.  I closed my eyes and tried not to feel homesick as my fingers automatically searched for the next note.  A strange smell wafted into my consciousness and I opened my eyes as my song faded.

There, about six feet to my left, tottered a smelly old man, practically toothless, dirty and hunched over with tiredness and cold.  He stopped when he saw me watching and stayed where he was.  My friend suggested another song and with my eye on the bum, I started to play again.  He shifted closer.

I scooted a tad to the right and continued playing.  He shuffled nearer still, an odd hum coming from his direction.  The backpack to my right prevented me from moving any farther and I lowered my flute to shove the bundle over.  My friend said quietly, “He’s not going to hurt you.  Your music is beautiful and he just wants to enjoy it.”

Scared and insecure, I began playing again and in spite of my self-consciousness and the smell drawing closer, I lost myself in the music and played to the end of “What Child is This?”  In the sudden silence following my song, I heard a burp.  I stared helplessly at my buddies who giggled a bit and shrugged.  “What are you going to do?  He likes your music.  It’s his blessing tonight.  Play more.”

Leaning to the right, trying to appear as though this were comfortable, I played on as the old man on my left leaned with me.  By half-way through “The First Noel” I could look up and see him almost bending over the top of where I sat on the floor.  His eyes were closed and a slight curve lifted the sides of his mouth.

At the sight of that smile, I relaxed for the first time since arriving at the train station hours before when we found out our train wasn’t going anywhere.  I’d had an agenda – through France and onward to Italy.  Let’s move it, Christmas is coming!

I rested my right elbow on my backpack and looked up at the peace on the face above me, smiling and nodding to the haunting notes from my flute.  I played on, the sounds amazing in that ancient marble building.

I had an agenda, but God has a plan! #blessedbutstressed #christmas Click To Tweet

I had an agenda, but now, with 30 years of hindsight, I wonder if God didn’t have another plan.  While I desired travel, to make memories and experience new sights and sounds, maybe I was actually there to be Christmas to a sad and lonely old man on that cold winter night.

I’m facing a crazy busy Christmas season, yet again.  I have a new-to-me house to move into, kids to pick up from airports, gifts to wrap and memories to make.  I have an agenda.  But I need to pause, because I can’t help but wonder what plan God has for me this season.  Who will God send me that needs to feel the beautiful music of His love?

Who needs the sweet music of God's love? #blessedbutstressed #christmas Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week.

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer–just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

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