God as Our Guide Helps Us Become a Reflection of Him

Lily

When we allow God to guide us, we discover that our life starts to reflect his beauty and love. It doesn’t happen overnight or automatically, it takes time. The inner beauty is worth the effort of letting God teach us..

Understanding Green Hope

green

Green Hope

The minute we crossed the creek that emptied into Ressurection Bay near Seward, Alaska, I fell in love with the green. Deep moss muffled each step, and Tonsina Creek babbled nearby. Our tour guide explained that the trees had fallen during the Great Alaskan Earthquake back in 1964.

The devestation has since turned into a cathedral of green. The color soothed my soul and the silence filled me with peace.  I could easily see why God is the God of green hope.

God is Our Rock and Refuge

rock

God Our Rock

We missed our easy chance to stop at Bow Lake in Banff National Park on our way north to Alaska at the beginning of the summer. I had marked the location in the guidebook, but I let other things distract me.  When I glanced over at the last minute and saw the Carribbean-blue lake–and the crowded parking lot, I murmured my regret. When pulling a trailer, one finds it easier to pass by than to try to turn around on a narrow, heavily-trafficked road.

On my way back from Alaska, I made sure to keep close track of my location so that I could stop. I didn’t have to fight crowds in the parking lot, so I pulled in and parked.  The lake, the glacier and the majestic peaks awed me with their beauty.

Late in the season, when most of the snow has melted, one can see the formidable and rocky faces of the mountains. They made me think of how God has promised to be our rock and refuge.

The Word of God Endures Forever

endures

Not Much Endures

I teach both world history and U.S. History.  And the more I teach, the more I realize what I don’t know.  One thing I do know, though; nothing endures.  Not the Egyptians, not the Aztecs, not the Romans–none of those empires endured.  Things don’t endure either.  They wear out, fall down, and get destroyed. Beautiful things like flowers last only a moment in time before they fade and die.

But God’s word? It has endured since the beginning of time. It will endure forever. You can count on it!

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 #caregivermedicine 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?

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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Appreciating the Little Things

Inspire Me Monday thoughts

We are learning to appreciate the little things - even this, the biggest room in the house

We are learning to appreciate the little things – even this, the biggest room in the house

It’s a tiny little thing, this rental house of ours.  We’re crammed in this tiny space and the majority of our stuff is in storage. It’s been a big transition from Kansas to California.

It took great strategy and planning, rearranging and sending more to storage, in order to get five seats fitting into the living room so our whole family could sit at the same time.  It’s a “one-butt-kitchen” aptly named because there’s only space for one person to turn around at a time.  Our family tradition has changed from everyone carrying dishes and clearing the table at once to an elaborate claiming of chores and taking turns at getting it done.  This, of course, often means mom asks at bedtime, “Who was supposed to wash what was left in the sink?”  And everyone shrugs.

The animals have a small run out on the side of the tiny house and seem to have adapted well – maybe because in this small space everyone hears their demands for food.

We laugh that it’s just not possible to get alone time in our house, although we respect closed doors.

But seriously, I’m not complaining.  Truly I’m not.  It’s small, and we really can’t have company until it’s not so hot outside and we can spill out onto the postage-stamp-front-yard.  But I’m okay with it.  My family DOES fit in here.  When we get together for our family worship time, it’s cramped and almost too much togetherness but my heart fills with contentment because we’re all here and all together.

My oldest went back, last week, to college and is miles and miles away and the next one is heading to another college soon.  We’ll have lots more room in our house then, but that’s not really what I want.

So I sit in my tiny rental-house and I can hear my neighbors on their tiny front porch and I laugh that I have laundry hanging out in the side doggie-run because although I could buy and plug in an electric clothes dryer, to do so would mean giving up some storage space.  I smile at the thought of not being able to cook anything elaborate because much of my cooking supplies are in storage and I’m perfectly content to not be slaving over a hot stove in this over-100-degree weather.  There really are blessings to a tiny dwelling.  It takes about an hour to thoroughly clean this thing, top to bottom, assuming of course, there aren’t too many people home to get in your way and slow you down.  We don’t lose things because it doesn’t more than a moment to locate anything we’ve misplaced.

But mostly I’m happy because all of my kids have spent time here and know where “home” is for now (we dream it’s temporary and will find a home to purchase) and in spite of it not being spacious and beautiful, it’s home.  We live here, we’re healthy, we’re happy and we’re home.

We don’t need big reasons to rejoice.  We can appreciate the little things.

What little things are going on with you that help you appreciate life?

 

We can choose to appreciate the little things. #inspirememonday #blessedbutstressed 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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