31 Days of Daily Bible Promises

Bible Promise

Caregivers never seem to have enough time in the day to accomplish everything they need to accomplish. During my first caregiving journey, I craved time in nature, but never had time to go outside. For the next 31 days I’ll post a Bible promise poster with a little behind-the-scenes snippet of where I took the photo.

You can also subscribe to the Bible Promise Poster series by signing up over there to you right under the photo of the mountain goat and kid.

Today’s photo features a mute swan. I took this photo last Christmas in Tulsa, OK when we visited my daughter and son-in-law. Mute swans don’t normally visit the midwest, especially not in the winter. I chose this verse because even though the swan ended up in an unexpected place, God knew where the sawn had wandered off to and kept it safe.

The other Bible promise that comes to mind when I see a mute sawn is found in Romans 8:26:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

Spicy Lentil Soup (Vegan and Gluten-free)

Hearty Coconut Lentil Soup with sweet potatoes and jalapeños. #Vegan and #glutenfree http://wp.me/p2UZoK-Dc via @blestbutstrest

Spicy Lentil Soup

©2016 Anita Strawn de Ojeda

You may have seen those bright orange lentils in the bulk section of your favorite health-food store or co-op grocery and wondered how in the world to prepare them.  Here’s a tasty answer that’s quick and easy (you can prepare it on the stove top or in a crock pot.
You’ll need:

1 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 white onion, diced small
2 jalapeños, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1/2 tsp. ginger powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. salt (or more to taste)
1/4 c. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 cups orange lentils (picked over and rinsed)
2 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes (I like the white-fleshed ones), peeled and cut into large chunks.
7 cups water
1 can of coconut milk (optional)

Crock Pot Method:
Turn the crock pot on high and add the oil and cumin seeds. Start chopping the the onions, garlic and jalapeños. Add each one to the crock pot in the order listed, and then add the spices. Cover with the lid and prepare the sweet potatoes (you can cut them into pretty big chunks (1″-2″). Add the lentil ands sweet potatoes and water (you may need slightly more water–make sure the lentil and sweet potatoes are covered). Cook on high for at least three hours.

 

 

 

The Power of Pudding

helping the medicine go down

 

Finding the secret to giving a young boy the nastiest tasting medicine became the challenge of my life over-night when he was diagnosed with leukemia. We tried everything.  Applesauce, ice cream, juice, Popsicles, regular food he liked (burritos were a favorite) yogurt and just plain water.  Nothing made that bitter, metallic taste palatable.  Applesauce worked pretty well for one medication, but made another worse.  It was a mystery and fighting a fussy four-year-old over medicine designed to save his life wasn’t really an option.  I had to win this battle!

And then one day, magic happened.  We tried pudding.  Vanilla didn’t work and butterscotch didn’t work, but with chocolate we struck gold. With chocolate pudding my boy could choke down his medicine with only a slight shudder shaking his body.  A good pudding chaser and he was happy. We had discovered the magic potion for medications.  The power of pudding!

If you’re a caregiver, you know what I’m talking about.  You look for that magic thing to coax someone to take another bite, or swallow their meds or relax those muscles enough for therapy.  If you’re a mother you look for the right currency to generate cooperation in your kiddos.  If you’re a teacher you look for the motivation to inspire something beyond the fill-in-the-blank mentality.  If you’re a coach…well, you get the picture.

In our every day lives it is more and more apparent that we’re going to need some pudding for life!  Sounds crazy, but think about it.

Politics. I’m not going to get into any political debates, don’t worry, but seriously, do we think we’ve put our best foot forward with our election options?  How about country relations? Global environment?

Crime. Lord, will the shootings ever stop?

Abuse.  Neglect.  Starvation.

Ugliness is pretty much everywhere.  It’s hard to take what’s happening in our lives sometimes.  It’s hard for Christians to argue that God is in control when things are so ugly.  Except we know He is. We know He holds our future, but the “now” can be pretty hard to swallow.

We know He holds our future, but the “now” can be pretty hard to swallow. #inspirememonday… Click To Tweet

So today I have some pudding for you.  Something to help us get through the bitterness of what this world has to offer.  Something to make the “now” palatable, although still not great.  Something to stop the shudders of nightmares and the tears of grief.

Here’s some medicine to get us through today, and this medicine has far more power than pudding.  Please add your preferred pudding/medicine in the comments below!

Pudding to help the medicine go down

Pudding to help the medicine go down

 

 

Pudding to help the medicine go down

Pudding to help the medicine go down

Pudding to help the medicine go down

Pudding to help the medicine go down

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. Vist 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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Five Tasks You Can Complete in Under Five Minutes

Putting Tasks Off Wastes Time

I often feel overwhelmed by all the tasks I have to cram into a day. The house needs cleaning, the bills cry out from the desktop, and the refrigerator sits forlorn and empty. Make a meal? Ain’t got time for that! If you’re a caregiver, completing chores seems even more difficult.

tasks

I have the type of personality that gets easily distracted, but I started school before kids got diagnosed with ADHD. I can sit and read for hours, or quietly stalk birds with my camera waiting for the perfect shot. But buckle down and clean the house? Nope.

The Five-Minute Friday community has taught me that one can accomplish an awful lot in a mere five minutes. I now use my timer for more than just the Thursday night ritual of writing and hitting publish. Many simple household chores take five minutes or less to complete.

My Top Five Five-Minute Tasks

1. Empty (or load) the dishwasher (that’s right, on the advice of our dishwasher manual, we don’t rinse our dishes first).
2. Load the washing machine and fold a load from the dryer.
3. Sort the mail and pay the bills.
4. Scrub the shower, sinks and toilets in one bathroom (hey, not with a toothbrush!).
5. Iron an outfit.

I have learned to set my timer and focus for longer periods, too, knowing that I can reward myself by quitting the onerous task when the timer goes off. If I don’t dawdle over the tasks I dislike, I have more time to accomplish the things I really love.

What about you? Do you put off tasks because you think they’ll take too long rather than deciding on how long you’ll take to do the task?

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The Caregiver’s 23rd Psalm (God Will Provide)

The other day as I studied Psalm 23, I found myself rewriting it in the margin of my Bible from a caregiver’s point of view.  Caregivers and sheep have a lot in common.  They feel clueless, helpless, and vulnerable (ok, I’ve never asked a sheep if this is how they feel, but they don’t run around marking their territory and acting invincible).

caregiver's psalm

The Caregiver’s Psalm

God provides for me, a caregiver—he offers to meet my every need.
He provides food, time for reflection and rest (but all too often I forget to take what he offers).

He knows my quirks and indulges me because he loves me. I feel refreshed when I spend time with him—a deep-down renewal from the toes up.

I might not always want to go where he leads, because I often think that I know best. But I have to remember that his ways are better than my way—they lead to right actions and right living. His ways lead to a closer, more intimate relationship with him.

Sometimes the path he leads me down scares me to the point of rebellion and refusal because it looks too frightening; filled with worst-case scenarios and things I don’t think I can handle. So I take a deep breath and remember that he walks with me, ready to guide me each step of the way through what terrifies me.

Not only does he walk with me, he has gone before me and conquered evil. God has a plan that will use me and my experiences to help others understand his character and perfect love.

The hard times simply prepare me to love—even my enemies and the people who annoy me.

Your love acts as a balm to my ruffled feathers, Oh, God, and fills me with peace so that I can function. Your goodness and love infuse my life—making me fit for living as part of your kingdom and caring for the person you have entrusted to me.

I am the caregiver, you are the curegiver. No matter where this journey leads me, I know that you walk beside me.

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. Vist 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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Listen to Your Heritage (It Has the Power to Transform You)

Listen to Longfellow

listen

Whenever I hear the word ‘Listen’ I immediately think of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous poem about Paul Revere:

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere… (http://poetry.eserver.org/paul-revere.html)

Of course, I especially love the poem because of the family connection. Paul Revere happens to be my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. I have loved history ever since my grandma told me of my connection to Paul Revere.

As an awkward, introverted kid, I always felt rather proud and full of worth when I could share with my classmates that Paul and I had a family connection. Sometimes kids would scoff, but I had a Daughters of the American Revolution pedigree paper that my grandma had given to me prove my claim.

As a child, my pedigree defined me and gave me self-worth.

A Different Kind of Family

When I turned fourteen, I found a different basis for self-esteem. I spent the summer working in the kitchen at a summer camp, and I discovered that I had a different pedigree and an even more impressive lineage than a chance connection to a historical figure.

John 1:12 laid it all out for me, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” I realized for the first time that I have a place in God’s family.

Since God is the king, that makes me a princess, right? And what little girl (or gawky teenager, or hurting young adult, or worn out homemaker, or middle-aged granny) doesn’t want to be a princess?

So listen to me, friend. You can join the family. God wants you to step up and accept your lineage. We don’t have to put on our princess costume, and clean ourselves up before we join the family. We only have to accept the invitation and then let God do the cleaning up and transforming.

As an adult, my heavenly heritage defines me. Listen to your Father.  He wants to reveal your heritage to you and dress you like a princess.

Four Tips for Encouraging Others When It’s Not Your Love Language

Encouraging Others is a Learned Skill

Encouraging others does not come naturally for me. Maybe my intorvertedness or laziness keeps me from encouraging others, but I know that encouragement plays an important role in others achieving success.

encouraging others

Everyone Moves at a Different Pace

My husband and I took ten kids mountain biking on Sunday. One young man had never been on an Ojeda bike trip before, and didn’t realize what he had signed up for. I usually stay at the end of the group, waiting for the stragglers and making sure no one gets hurt.

When we hit a difficult part of the trail, I hang back and think up new blog posts or solve world problems whilst the kids grunt and groan and push their bikes up the trail. Eventually they get far enough ahead so that I can clean the trail without fear of having to stop in a tight spot and end up having to push my bike.

Two miles into our 9.5-mile trip, he ran out of water. I had a small bottle of frozen water that I moved to a side pocket where it would melt more quickly. Each time he asked for water, I would stop and share the melted water with him.

Four miles into the trip, he hopped off his bike and sat on the ground. “Did you eat your granola bar already?” I asked him. He had. I grabbed another one from my pack and tossed it to him. “Eat some of this,” I told him, “it will build your energy up.”

Six miles into the trip, he alternated between pushing his bike fifteen feet, sitting on the ground and riding fifty feet before he took another break. “Have you ever gone on a mountain bike ride before?” I asked him. He shook his head no. “Well, in that case, you’re doing an awesome job!” I assured him. “The first time out can be rough!” His sad face stared at me with unblinking eyes.

Experiment with Encouragement

In situations like this, I never know what to do. Does he want an audience for his agony, or does he need encouragement to just keep on slogging along the trail? I felt frustrated by his lack of progress, so I decided to experiment by staying out of sight behind him. He continued to hop off his bike every 50 feet or so, and his resting periods got longer and longer. The sum total of his conversation included two words: “I’m thirsty!”

I tried riding in front of him, but he quickly fell out of sight and I had to stop over and over again to wait for him. In addition, I didn’t feel comfortable having him out of sight behind me.

Pedro called to check on us and I let him know how far behind we had fallen. I offered to take the shortcut back to the vehicles, so that he and the bigger group could just keep on riding. This time, when my buddy and I started up, I tried something different. I kept about 30 feet behind him, and each time it looked like he was preparing to stop, I would praise him. “Great job on riding over that rough spot!” I would call out. “Keep up the good work!”

It seemed to work, because our pace picked up slightly. I heard water sloshing in my bottle, so I said, “Hey! Some more water has melted. Would you like some?” When we stopped, I explained the trail numbering system and told him how to figure out the remaining distance.

Each time we passed a numbered marker, I would give him the remaining distance. At our next break, he said, “So we have seven quarters left to go, right?” He even smiled when he said it.

Affirmations Afterward

Once we hit the logging road, I sprinted ahead to see how far we had to go to reach the parking area. When I crested a small rise, I could see the vehicles and the rest of the group milling around. I circled back to my friend, who had once again started pushing his bicycle, and said, “We’re almost there! You can make it!”

He hopped on his bike and raced off whilst I leisurely turned my bicycle and headed back. I briefly thought about sprinting to the finish, but decided to let him show up first.

The other kids cheered for him when he reached the parking lot, and my chest filled with pride and gratitude that everyone else had joined in affirming him. I have such good students!

Later on whilst grabbing a bite to eat at Taco Bell, I overhead a group of kids talking. “Mr. Ojeda beat me by this much!” one of them said, as he demonstrated the gap of an arm’s length.

“Well, I beat Mrs. Ojeda!” my little buddy exclaimed. The kids gave him a high-five and patted him on the back.

A few minutes later, one of the group turned to me and quietly stated, “That’s because you chose to stay behind, isn’t it, Mrs. Ojeda?”

I smiled mysteriously in reply. My heart melted that the young man would be perceptive enough to ask his question quietly and to affirm me in the process.

What I Learned

1. People need different kinds of encouragement.
2. Take the time to experiment and find out what works best.
3. Remember to praise the product and encourage the person.
4. Others take cues from you. We have a culture of encouragement on our mountain bike rides. I often hear Pedro leading out in the cheers and encouragement as kids make it up difficult spots. Our students don’t come from homes where encouragement and affirmations play a part in their lives, but how quickly they catch on and share their skills with others!

What about you? Do you have any tips for the rest of us on how to encourage others?

Surreal

9/11 and Caregiving

In those surreal moments, remember you're not alone

In those surreal moments, remember you’re not alone

Surreal.  It’s a feeling that has been following me around this week.

Today, 9/11, definitely sparks memories of that day 15 years ago when I walked my oldest into her first grade classroom to find her teacher not paying attention to the arrival of the children like he usually did.  Instead he sat transfixed in front of the wall-mounted TV.  I watched reruns of the plane hitting the first tower, my heart rate increasing with each commentator’s announcement. Just as I wrapped my mind around one plane and one tower, another plane came from the side of the screen and blew into the second tower.  I made sure the teacher was watching the kids again, then I ran home.  And that is not a figure of speech.  I ran.  All the way home.  I burst into the bathroom and updated my husband and then glued myself to the television for the next couple of hours.

Surreal.

Over and over watching the planes crash, seeing items falling from the building and gradually realizing it was people jumping.  And then the worst moment, the collapse of the tower.  By the collapse of the second tower, feelings were numb.  The surreal feeling was the absolute certainty that this was terrorist, that this was planned and that this was evil.  The surreal unknown was that we didn’t know what was next.  Who was next.

Surreal.  The whole thing.

This week, for some reason, I’ve seen one St. Jude Children’s Hospital commercial over and over.  It’s a lovely family with three children (like us) and it appears the oldest has cancer (it was our youngest).  The dad talks about how wonderful it is that St. Jude’s has never given them a bill (why couldn’t we have been in THAT hospital).  The mom talks about the worries you have as a parent and how nice that St. Jude lessens those worries and you can concentrate on your child (concentrate on your child – the only thing a parent can do in that circumstance).  That’s all very nice.  But EVERY time, and I do mean EVERY time, I see that commercial, I get an adrenaline rush and that surreal feeling.

This week, as I watched my cancer-free sixteen-year-old struggle to find his footing in a new school, as I cut his fast-growing hair, as he hugged me from his six-foot-height, that surreal feeling overwhelmed me.  It wasn’t that long ago that we were fighting for his very next breath.  It wasn’t that long ago we were praying with every ounce of energy that he would wake up the next day.  It wasn’t that long ago we anointed him for healing.  It wasn’t that long ago I was pushing his pain med. pump after a bone marrow test and it wasn’t any time at all since I sat with my child, mask over his face, in the playroom, looking out the window at the world – just like in the commercial.

At the end of that commercial my heart aches for that family, and for the countless other families that are in the midst of that surreal moment of catastrophic illness and facing their child’s death.  My heart almost stops when I think of friends whose child did not make it through the battle.  Because while fighting for your child/s life is surreal, losing your child is the worst form of reality.

This blog is for those walking difficult journeys.  Those caregivers who are facing so much uncertainty that the surreal feeling never leaves and overwhelmed is a constant adjective with which you describe your life.  It’s for those who struggle with mental illness, or the loved ones who join in that fight.  It’s for mother’s of sick children, it’s for spouses who have had to change their job description.  It’s for worried dad’s and hurting families and caring friends. Anita and I pray that this blog is a place for anyone in need of the reminder that you’re not alone.

Through every surreal moment in your life, whether it be from memories of 9/11 or from caregiving or from just being careworn; there is someone reading this blog, or writing this blog, who is willing to pray for you.  You’re never alone.  But even better than that, the hope we want to offer is that you are never alone because the Creator of the Universe, the God of life, the Savior of the world, will never leave you nor forsake you.  Someday we’ll understand these surreal moments of life.  Until then, lean on the One who is able.

And if you’d like us to pray for you, please let us know!  Through any surreal moment – – you’re never alone.

Through any surreal moment - - you're never alone 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 (just ONE, please).

2. Vist 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 :).

I found inspiration for my Monday at #inspirememondays. Join us! (tweet this)

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!

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Words Have the Power to Heal or to Break

Sticks and Stones Can Break Your Bones (but So Can Words)

I may have broken some bones today. Not mine, and not real bones. But I used ungracious words in a phone conversation.

I don’t know about you, but when frustrating situations simmer and stew and don’t get resolved in a reasonable amount of time, I usually end up on the phone trying to have a civil conversation that heads south in a hurry. Today’s volley of unkindness started months ago when the boarding school where I work tried to set up postal service at our homes (as opposed to us having to rent mailboxes in town or have the school secretary sort our mail).

heal

It seems simple enough, so we cancelled our PO box, installed a mailbox in front of our house, put our new address on it and waited for the change of address request to work its magic. For two weeks, we got mail.

Then the Post Office and the county got into a territorial fight over the house numbers and the addresses. One thing led to another. Our mail has arrived intermittently (depending on who currently holds the upper hand in the argument) since June. Two times now, we have not received important mail that we knew should arrive.

And so I called the postmaster. I thought I could keep calm, cool and collected, but when the postmaster started placing blame on other people and saying that they “Always delivered the mail,” I got a little testy. And then I got emotional. I may have had angry tears and a snot-filled nose cloud my voice (and my reason).

I may have started using big words, like ‘unconscionable’ and ‘malfeasance.’ I may have put the phone down before our conversation had actually ended.

Losing My Cool

And then I cried for ten minutes because I knew I had handled the situation badly. I have this thing about my mail and privacy. It stems from control issues related to my husband’s cancer journey when my sister-in-law opened the letters I sent him when he had to stay with them between hospitalizations.

My word for the year, constrain, will send me to the post office tomorrow to have a gracious conversation with the postmaster. I owe an apology for my mean attitude and frustrated tone. Above all else, I want my words to heal—we have enough angry words breaking bones all over our nation right now.

I’ll do my part, one gracious word at a time, to promote healing. What about you?