Karma or Grace

Which do we give? Which do we deserve?

The idea that we get what we deserve – Karma.

Many of us know popular phrases regarding Karma in our lives, even if it’s not our belief system.  A few of us have wished Karma to happen to those around us.  One or two of us have had our choices come back around and bite us.  Karma seems to be the Hindu and Buddhist version (with a twist) of the Christian Golden Rule: do to others as you would have them do to you.

 It has to do with the consequences of our actions.

Today my eighth grade students, their parents and I, held a yard sale event in order to raise money for their class trip and graduation.  It’s been a work-in-progress for weeks. It’s not a small job, but it is a way to earn money.

Christianity says: Do as Christ did – not as we deserve, but as we’d like

One lady came to our sale and it appeared she might not have a lot of money – her simple clothing, her self-styled hair and her careful shopping all gave us clues.  After selecting with deliberation, she approached to pay for her $4.50 purchase.  She handed me five dollars and told me to keep the change. “It’s for the kids!” she spoke with a sweet and loving smile.  She spotted the brownies the students and I had baked and asked the price.

“Fifty cents,” I replied.

She immediately dug into her purse with a mischievous grin.  “I must have one – after all I need energy to walk home.”

The mom helping me waved her aside, “No!  You already paid an extra fifty cents – just take the brownie!”

Again that kind smile,

“No.  No, it’s for the kids.”

And she bid us an all-encompassing goodbye, wishing the students a wonderful class trip.

Meanwhile, a much younger lady plowed through the clothes, tossing garments one way and then the other.  She had removed her own shirt to try on several others, leaving herself in a black camisole.  Her boyfriend (I’m assuming, I don’t actually know) backed away, walked around nonchalantly for quite some time and then got in his car and drove away, leaving her to toss clothing at will.

I watched her off and on, because her manner was abrupt, slightly rude and a little shifty.  She had darkly dyed hair and spackled on make-up and when someone reached for a shirt, she grabbed it and examined it carefully.  It was odd – it’s a yard sale for goodness sake.

Friendly conversation flowed around her and it was well-established, among those shopping, that this yard sale benefited these hard-at-work students.

A customer asked me a question and as I drifted off to assist him I lost sight of the black camisole.  When I looked up, she was no longer at the table.  I guess it’s a teacher thing, because my eyes automatically scanned the area and spotted her, with many clothing items over her arms, trotting around the back corner of the building and out of sight.  I heard a car engine rev and saw the boyfriend’s car zoom onto the street and away.

The moms and I muttered about people stealing form the kids and felt a little miffed at her behavior.  Frankly, we were dealing with donations and we were cutting deals like crazy – it’s what you do at a yard sale.  Had she asked, we would have sold her those items for very little – but because she didn’t ask, we were indignant at the theft.

One of the helpers sifted through clothing, folding and straightening.  Suddenly she let out a little guffaw and held up a bright pink phone.  She opened the phone and yes, karma is real.  The lady who stole the clothing had left her phone behind – unlocked, so we could easily verify whose pictures it featured.

The karma gets better.

Shortly after, two police cars pulled up.  The officers got out and sauntered over to take their coffee break, buying the baked goods and drinks from the kids in order to offer their support to our cause.  The mom took their business card handed them the phone.

For some reason (and maybe this is not a proud moment) it gave us all a little moment of glee that this lady had stolen $7 worth of clothing (maybe) and had left her smart phone.

In all honesty – haven’t you had those moments? Gleeful moments where someone who treated you so rudely at work is the one to get in trouble with the boss?  Self-righteous moments where you saw someone shop-lift and watched security pick them up?  Have you seen those videos where the car that cuts off the semi-truck get bumped into the ditch?  It makes my students giggle, how about you?

But sometimes they’re not little moments.  Sometimes it’s not glee, but revenge that might burn in the heart.  That jerk who stole money gets busted.  Deserved.  That embezzler who loses it all.  Asked for it.  That bully who gets put-down and reviled.  Karma.

I remember when a cancer diagnosis went with a little shake-of-the-head and a sigh, “Well, he smoked all his life.”  I’ve seen people murmur at an accident scene, “Drunk – she had it coming.”

So Karma fights with “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”

We must train ourselves not to hope the revenge happens. Instead of dealing out reactions to other’s choices, we must choose to treat as we would want to be treated, not as they deserve.  Why?

As Christians, we have not received Karma – we are not forced to receive what we deserve. “ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  Sin has separated us forever from a God of love and light.  But our God does not deal in Karma, He deals in grace.

 

He took our #Karma and dealt us #grace. #inspirememonday 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!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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The Nature of the Beast

Life Gets Crazy

“It’s the nature of the beast,” I wrote to Anita in one of our many chats:  things pile up in the worst possible ways.

The end of the quarter looms a week away – grades are due, finals given, frantic make-up assignments might possibly be turned in by desperate students and/or more anxious parents.  The yearbook, one of my advisory duties, is due tomorrow – ads need to be polished, pages reviewed, lists double and triple-checked, pictures counted and words edited.  I might have a child that is not wanting to turn in (let alone DO) his homework (it’s stupid, you know) – assignment sheets must be checked, projects supervised and motivation offered.  I’m the sponsor of the 8th Grade class – graduation must be planned, tributes written, gowns and flowers ordered and class trips planned.  It’s spring – students shrug off assignments previously easily completed, drama happens from the slightest thing, and end of the year projects and trips are suddenly imminent.  I’m a writer – I need to meet deadlines, post blogs, write stories and put thoughts into order.

Besides being simply a long list, we have to complete everything well, correctly, on-time and with a smile on our faces.  Is that even possible?

It’s the nature of the beast that when life gets crazy in one area, it’s a certainty that it’ll spin out of control like the Gravity Max, Full Throttle or Sky Scream (great names for crazy roller coasters found at www.coasterguy.wordpress.com 

It’s the nature of the beast – life runs out of control like a crazy roller coaster!
(credit to coasterguy.wordpress.com for great pic)

This is all true for caregiving and parenthood, teaching and doctoring, musicians and authors.  Life gets crazy.  It zooms up and down and then flies around in circles, forwards and backwards.  Events spin upside down and right-side up so fast it’s hard to tell which way is actually correct!

Just like a roller-coaster, once locked in, we have to finish the ride!  Getting off is not really an option.

So what do I do?  My heart rate increases while my sleep decreases.  My worry rises as my exercise takes a back-seat to deadlines.  The pile-up can drive me crazy!

Or.

I can take one thing at a time.  Make a list.  Ask for help.  Communicate my needs.  Scream as needed.  Laugh often. I can hang on while realizing that the ride will end.  Everyone might not be glad they were on the ride, but lessons will be learned, goals accomplished, and relationships cemented.

It’s the nature of the beast.  Life gets crazy.  Hang on, scream, laugh and enjoy the ride.

It’s the nature of the beast. Life gets crazy. Hang on, scream, laugh and enjoy the ride.… 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!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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Freedom of Choice in Everything

we always have the power to choose

Freedom of Choice: It’s what my son advised me to write about today.

My son, the leukemia survivor who watches my writing from the sidelines, knowing it’s about him and keeping out of it in ways only a sixteen-year-old can do. He’s given me permission to write about him, and, as he doesn’t remember much about the roughest parts of his journey through chemo, he sometimes reads my writing and often doesn’t.  He grants permission, but stays detached.

Even on the way to hated chemotherapy treatments, Andrew chose to smile and be happy. It’s those moments when we’re reminded we have freedom of choice.

There are distinctive memories Andrew carries with him, and those are often regarding the ways in which he lost control.  He remembers that medicine doses were non-negotiable.  We were blessed to be based out of Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, and they were absolutely wonderful with Andrew.  They gave him every chance to choose, when he could have a choice.  Songs to hear, videos to watch, color of the food tray, where (but never when) to poke the needle (this arm, or that arm), what he wanted to order for supper, if he wanted to snack – all of these things were left up to Andrew.  Downing his medicine, in whatever manner the doctor prescribed, was not optional.

I remember the only time a nurse entered Andrew’s room with a cheery, “Are we ready to take the medicine?” and I watched the nurse’s face as she finished her question and realized the error of her ways.

(more…)

Steal Away with Me

Enter My Presence and Refresh Your Spirit

Steal Away with Me – I will take care of you

Steal away with Me.

Escape the chains of responsibility

Eschew the ropes of judgement and scorn

Discard the tethers of others’ expectations

And sit awhile with Me.

Steal away with Me.

Let the laundry lie in its limp endless loads

Seek a crack in the cacophony of caregiving

Allow the worries of work to wander away

And relax a moment with Me.

Steal away with Me.

Life is not as I designed it:

Filled with wonder and beauty and love.

So let go of your unrealistic expectations

And trust yourself with Me.

Steal away with Me.

Let the breeze of My loving grace refresh you

Allow My peace to soak into your soul

Bask in the warmth of My wonder and love

And sit awhile with Me.

Steal away with Me – and I will give you peace

Steal Away with Me. Find grace in the presence of God #getaway #refeshyoursoul #inspirememonday Click To Tweet

What brings peace to your soul?

It seems we live in a crazy world.  Work, children, chores and even amazing church responsibilities all seek to divert our attention from the One who offers us the spirit of peace, love and grace.  This weekend, I hungered for that and found solace and grace at the beach.  Often I find serenity in a sunset, a waterfall or the earnest face of a student.  But I confess to days when I forget to even look for what our gracious Father offers us:  to cast our cares on Him, to rely on His direction and to remember that His plans are eternal.

How do you refresh your spirit?

I’d love to hear your comments below!

 

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!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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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!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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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!

 

Extend a Helping Hand

Even when the situation is hard on you

Our family loves hiking in the Sequoias

The first one to lend a helping hand was not the most capable-looking one of the group.

She was, however, the most cheerful.  She pushed past the line leader and they both stood staring at the creek where my daughter, Karina, and I stood, taking a picture to commemorate our hike.  We were about three miles up a trail in the Sequoia wilderness and while the waterfalls cascaded peace into our souls, it appeared, from faces of this group, that peace had left them long ago.  They were coming down from the direction we were heading and as this group of four stood contemplating the log extending halfway across the snow run-off creek, I could see by the shaky ankles balancing on rocks that they’d been hiking awhile.

Miss Cheerful pushed ahead, balancing on a rock and a nervous smile she declared, “I’ll cross and then help you!”  She awkwardly crossed her Nike aerobic shoe over the other and slid onto the log, lunging forward toward the rock on the opposite bank.  Instead of continuing her forward move, she grabbed for a branch of a tree and tried to pull herself across, sending her weight backwards instead, as the tree bowed beneath her weight.  Her plunge into the icy water was met with gasps and shrieks from her friends as they surged forward to help.  Lady Two slid into the water as a futile gesture of help while the last two in line extended useless hands.

Teeth chattering, Miss Cheerful pulled herself up onto the rock before I could slide down toward her to help.  Lady Two desperately scrambled behind her to leave that icy wetness.

 “I’m okay, I’m okay,” chanted Miss Cheerful.

She immediately turned around and pulled Lady Two up the rock.  Ladies Three and Four followed quickly with pleasant coaching from the coldest, wettest and most uncomfortable Miss Cheerful, who also explained to us the beauty of their hike and the amazing trees they had seen.  As soon as everyone was on our side of the creek, another group rounded the bend.

I could see at a glance these ladies were with this first group.

All were dressed in Zumba class style leggings and tennis shoes that were more for fashion than hiking and all were adorable in cute hats and coordinating jackets.  Toward the back of the group walked one woman wearing a white sweatshirt and flowered leggings and suddenly, as she turned to talk with the lady behind her, the reason for this odd group out in the wilderness hit me.  BRIDE scrolled across her back – this was a bachelorette party.

Miss Cheerful muttered something  about “cold water and bathroom” to her group and sprinted up the trail as the lemmings proceeded down the opposite trail toward our creek.  Karina and I just held onto our puppy, who desperately wanted to play and jump.  We watched with fascination as more and more women poured down the mountain and gathered around the creek crossing.

“Watch out for that log!”

“Be careful, that water’s cold.”

“Don’t step on that rock it is slippery!”

Advice poured from our side of the creek as the bridal party attempted different methods of crossing.  Finally, a tall lady in hiking books and brilliant leggings bravely strode across the log and leaped gracefully up the rock.  Immediately behind her vaulted another fairly fit lady dressed for the weather.  Both giggled as they stationed themselves carefully on the rock and leaned back to extend a helping hand.  One by one the ladies crossed the creek. Some grumbled that they couldn’t do it.  Some muttered that the water was cold as their feet dipped in while sliding off rocks. Others shakily asserted that they were fine.

Interestingly, the ones who insisted they were fine were the ones sporting wet looking feet and shaking ankles, sweat-stained shirts and Zumba shoes.  As each crossed, words of encouragement and cheer rang from the two hikers stationed to help on the slippery rock.  The bride crossed without incident, and without a word.

The two hikers, waiting for the last of the party to descend the trail and cross the creek, grinned up at Karina and I.  “I know they’re talking behind my back and they’re never going to forgive me for the worst bachelorette party of their life,” said Brilliant-leggings out the side of her mouth.  She reached out a hand to the next creek-crosser.

Her voice switched to high cheer and encouragement, “You’ve got this! You are doing so amazingly well!”

Her hiking friend doubled over with laughter.  They both turned to look at the bridal party huddled together, waiting for the last one to make it.  Some didn’t look super happy.

“I forget that not everyone finds hiking to be enjoyable,” muted guffaws came from both hikers.  Karina and I chuckled along.

When crossing hard spots in life – extend a helping hand!

“It’s beautiful up here,” I offered, “maybe someday they’ll look back on this and think it’s a great memory.”

“I’m not so sure,” responded Brilliant-leggings.  She stretched out to help the last hiker, who immediately plunged her feet into the frigid water.  Gasps and scrambles followed until finally all were safe on our side of the creek.

“I don’t suppose you want a group picture,” I offered with a giggle.  I often offer this when hiking and watching groups try to take selfies to remember they’re conquering of tough trails and beautiful vistas.

Brilliant-leggings mock-glared at me and her companion chuckled, “I think we’ll pass on that for now, thanks!”  They turned and without missing a beat, began encouraging their group upward and onward to the trail-head.

Karina and I hiked a bit further and then the rain turned us back.  We enjoyed our hike but were happy to get in the car.  We ate our lunch out of the chill air and talked about the beauty of the hike.

I suspect that this group of non-hiking ladies will remember their six mile hike for a long time.

They’ll remember the big trees and the freezing water washing over their feet.  A couple will remember frigid water more places than their feet! They won’t forget the rugged trail and the huge boulders.  I imagine they’ll remember the bride and the beautiful wedding that was probably yesterday.  But I also hope they’ll remember what has stuck in my mind:

The ladies who extended a cheerful and helping hand.

The first lady to help was just as out-of-her-element as the rest, but chose a happy attitude that said, “We got this!”  The next were maybe the ones others were not happy with, but who were trying to be supportive and positive and encouraging in spite of realizing they’d blundered in their planning.  And others were those that were determined to be up-beat in spite of freezing toes and exhaustion.  Those that remembered to say thank you to those hands reaching across the stream and those that hollered encouragement to the next one across.

It’s easy, in this life, to get bogged down by the waters pulled at your feet or the freezing temperatures of discouragement or despair.  The journey, however, becomes so much easier when we lend a helping hand and aide others in their journey.

It’s easy, in this life, to get bogged down by the waters pulled at your feet or the freezing… 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!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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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!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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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!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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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.