February 10, 2016

Ashes to Ashes

"By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; from dust you are and to dust you will return."  Genesis 3:19

I never went to an Ash Wednesday service growing up (mom informed me we didn't have services), so after 37 & 1/2 years on this earth, I went to one tonight. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the Lenten season in the Christian Church, and it comes the day after Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). Mardi Gras (or Carnival) is, of course, the church's acceptance of the timing of a pagan ritual to dovetail it into a Christian tradition. As a Christian, that doesn't make Ash Wednesday any less special to me, because Ash Wednesday means that Easter Sunday is 40 days (without Sundays) away.

While Carnival is a time for feasting and celebration (sometimes excessively so), Ash Wednesday is a time for facing our own mortality. As a Christian, that is NOT the end of the story. I am mortal. I am sinful. But Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph, came to blot out my sinfulness and mortality. Blotting out my sinfulness means that I can stand before Him in the final days. Blotting out my mortality means that I will live forever.

In addition to those things, Jesus came to earth, died, and rose again to give the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is who enables me to make choices that are glorifying and pleasing to God. The Kingdom of Heaven came near when Jesus became a baby, and the Holy Spirit came when He died. It is the Holy Spirit who helps us to make choices that keep the Kingdom of Heaven here until such time as we are reunited with God. In this life, He gives us breath and new life.

We are born, and then we die. Yet Christ allows us a way to be born again, so that we may never die. While the weight of my own sin is upon me, the reality of Christ's death and resurrection are a balm to my soul.

February 08, 2016

A New-ER Life

Last summer when we got home from a weekend with my family (my baby brother got married and we stayed with my brother and sister-in-law), hubby said, "It's time." That meant time to move closer to family. We are here in Houston, over 800 miles from both sets of family (not counting the part that lives in Utah), and it's tough. Since I moved to Houston in 2009, I've been "ready" to move back to Birmingham.

In 2009, I moved to Houston knowing ONE person. I'm an introvert, but I do need more contact than just my new husband (love you babe!). Through the years I have met and made good friends here, some through work, some from hubby's college days, some from just living in my neighborhood (they're awesome), and some from hubby's years in Brasil (If you forgot, his parents were missionaries there for almost 30 years and he grew up there). I actually became content in Houston, something I never thought I'd do. I still MISS my family (Nashville and Atlanta) and friends (Birmingham) in the "real" south.

I told my boss, and while he was disappointed, he said that in my position, he'd do exactly what I'm doing. Although that was affirming, he's kind of got his head in the sand and also said that if I don't move till 2050, he'll be okay with that. Hmm. That kind of stresses me out, but I have to remind myself that it's NOT. MY. PROBLEM.

Another move is on the horizon. We are headed to look at houses soon, and we'll be putting ours up for sale not long after. I definitely have mixed emotions. Our house is our first house that we've owned, though we've lived in 3 since we got married. Our neighborhood is awesome. My employees are fantastic. I had to turn down the awesome job opportunity of opening a brand new store to do what we want to do as a family. We are making sacrifices to be near family, and I don't mind at all. I feel the sadness of the sacrifices and the excitement of what the future holds.

I will be close enough to see my nieces and nephews grow up. I will be close enough (like I was in college) to jump in the car and head over for the weekend without having to go to the airport, park, go through security, get on the flight, get my baggage, and then drive to wherever I need to go. We will be far enough away that family won't be on top of us.

Here's to new adventures!

February 01, 2016

After the craziness of the beginning of the week, we had a death in the (extended missionary) family. Over seven years ago, we headed to Fort Worth to undergo premarital counseling from a couple who had been married almost 60 years, and had been in Brasil as missionaries for 37. Jerry and Johnnie Key were more than gracious to let us into their home and their married life, so that we might learn from them and have a chance of being married as long as they were. Johnnie passed away on Tuesday night, and we were able to make it to the service on Saturday. We were blessed to be invited to the family events, both before and after the funeral.

January 27, 2016

Yeah, I don't feel like such a klutz. I talked to my mom tonight and last week, she fell on the tennis court and hit her head on the court. She had to have 10 staples in her head. TEN STAPLES. The woman is almost Medicare-worthy (in age only), in great shape, and has never had stitches. But she's had staples in the back of her head twice. The first time was from leaning back too far in the porch swing and hitting her head on the brick porch.

I can now live with the fact that I waited till my 30s to have weird shit happen to me.
I am sitting in the middle of the unknown. I have a broken thumb that may need surgery to heal properly, I have a job that is totally overwhelming, especially in the midst of a State Board inspection that may result in a fine for me. I have a husband who is taking a licensing exam in another state so that we can move closer to family.

The unknown is weighing heavy on my heart and threatening to drag me down. My body and mind are threatening panic attacks. I'm currently able to keep them from becoming full-blown. I hope that increasing my exercise level and breathing exercises will help. The trick is actually doing those things.

The stress waxes and wanes -- from day to day, it's not the same. Today was a better day, as I had 9 hours of sleep last night and got some things done today before I went to work. Work was even okay. One of the major deficiencies with the Board has been corrected, at least to a point that they'd find it acceptable. I'm trying to convince my employees they're not bothering me when they tell me I have a consult. 90% of them are on board. My partner? He's worried about the amount of time it takes to be a manager. I remind him that if I didn't live 5 minutes away (he lives across the street), I wouldn't be in the store on my day off. EVER.

All that to say, I just wanted love last night. Yes, I realize that is quite the non sequitur. That's how my brain works. I asked hubs to pray over me. Before I could ask for exactly what I wanted, he started. As a result, I prayed for what I didn't get to articulate to hubs. In the first place, it was scary to ask for prayer. It was scary to admit that I was not even okay. Although I certainly prefer introspection, I HAVE to put my nonstop brain out there so I can have support. (Or not -- that's always a risk!)

Instead of putting myself out there, I want to RUN. I almost called hubs today to ask him what he thought about me getting the hell out of Dodge first and living with friends while he stays here to sell the house. I seriously considered that for about 2 hours, then I realized that it would be running before it's time to go. I'm growing, y'all! I will stay as long as the Lord has me here, even though I know that our time here is short. He is faithful to remind me that He is in control, that He has my back, that He knows what I'm going through, and that He knows what He's doing. He WILL put me in situations that make me grow, either closer to Him or away from Him (the preferred result is CLOSER). As stressful as life can be, I am thankful that God allows me free will and choice. Even when I am despondent, I can CHOOSE to trust. Even when I am angry, I can CHOOSE to believe that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him. Even when I doubt, I can CHOOSE to ask questions and listen for answers instead of walking away. I can CHOOSE to walk through the things that are uncomfortable and icky and squirmy instead of running or shutting down.

And so, I CHOOSE to do the hard thing. I have had plenty of experience with that, but it's still hard. I will stay put until He tells me it's time. Tells us it's time.

January 20, 2016

I've got a career in a straight-laced (strait-laced?) profession in healthcare. The day-to-day seriousness gets to all of us sometimes, and humor is absolutely necessary. It doesn't mean that we don't care -- it means that we have to have some comic relief from the reality of the fact that we could kill you if we make a mistake. I follow a Facebook page called "Excuse me! This is a PHARMACY not a fast food restaurant!" Today, there was a photo posted of a prescription sent to a pharmacy by a doctor's office that said:

"DRUNotes: if generic is used, then remind patient it is because the pharmacist is as cheap and ignorant as the insurance morons."

There are SO many things I can say about this post, but my comment was that the doctor could have written for the patient to get brand name only and the patient would have gotten brand. Generic available? We substitute unless the doctor or patient tell us otherwise. My exact comment? "Or they could write "dispense as written." It's a thing, you know. smile emoticon" Of course, the smile emoticon actually looked like a smiley face.

As of 3 & 1/2 hours after posting the snarky comment, I have 222 likes (and counting!). I'm not a social media hound, by any means, but I like to keep people laughing about real life. As Emily Sailers (of Indigo Girls fame) said in an interview once (about the song Least Complicated, which is basically a song about putting your real self out there, I think), "You have to laugh at yourself, because you'd cry your eyes out if you didn't." As I look back, that one quote has defined the dynamic I keep in my workplace. We have FUN and laugh a lot. Not because our work isn't serious and important, but precisely because it IS. We need humor to get us through the day, what with the constant barrage of phone calls and e-scripts and weird questions (today's question: what kind of ephedrine is in the Bronk-Aid and Primatene tablets) and needy patients. We need levity to balance the gravity.

As for a career in a strait-laced profession, maybe there's a future for me in comedy.

December 25, 2015

Christmas Day

Well, Christmas was anti-climactic, as we reached a high of 84 today and I had to work. We're 21 degrees above normal average for the high, and 29 above for the normal low. It doesn't "feel" like Christmas. I didn't "feel" like Christmas at work today. What did I do? Took my laptop and my stack of Christmas movies to work and played them all day.

Point of conviction today: I really didn't want to work. The Lord was sweet to whisper to my soul, "You were put on this earth to SERVE those who don't celebrate My birth. Show them who I AM with your attitude." WOW. I couldn't really argue with that one.

December 24, 2015

We just returned from the Christmas Eve service at our church. We are a satellite campus without a building, and we usually meet in a school. As has been tradition since our campus started, our Christmas Eve service was held at Tin Hall, Texas's oldest reception hall. Upon walking into the building for the first time, I realized that it's really an old honky-tonk. (Jesus would have TOTALLY been in the honky-tonk with the folks who didn't think they were better than everyone else.) We were blessed to be a small part of the long (126-year) history of Tin Hall. It will be closing its doors for the last time on December 31.

The service, as all Christmas Eve services, included tradition -- Christmas Hymns, a childrens' presentation of the nativity, and the final carol, "Silent Night" with candles lit and lifted. As we sang, the emotion of the story got to me with the final verse of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth

Jesus was born so that I would not be a slave to death. He was born to give me birth of the Spirit (second birth). He came so that I might have a tiny part in the history of the world. For that, I am grateful, to know that I matter to someone because He made it so.

December 20, 2015

Right brain-Left brain

I have discovered that my right brain has been quelled by the fact that my husband doesn't have one. No, really. He had part of the right half of his brain removed because of a tumor. Almost 30 years ago.

I don't blame him -- not really. God was gracious to reveal to me over the events of the last couple of days (see previous post) that I quit music right before I met hubs. It's NOT HIS FAULT. He might have been a result of that. I love him to my core. I told him tonight that I could live without him, but I certainly didn't want to. I quit when I thought my voice wasn't worth being listened to anymore (AGAIN, NOT HIS FAULT). SERIOUSLY, right before I left for Brasil. I don't really want to get into that for the public right now, so I'll refrain from the full story, but I'm comforted that I didn't lose myself because I chose hubby over my right brain, or creativity.

My left brain and hubby's adapted left brain (logic) work amazingly well together, and we have exchanges that no one would ever get who didn't know us (and sometimes his family doesn't even get our exchanges). My right brain (creativity) has no counterpart in our marriage because he has none, and his left brain (logic) has adapted amazingly well. As a result, I have "settled" for the left brain logical exchanges (which are REALLY A LOT OF FUN) at the expense of the right brain creativity. I have realized that and talked it through (a little) with hubs.

By my own choice (and not knowing how to express it), I have focused on my left brain -- the math, order, logic, administrative part of my brain, and I have stressed a little at the fact that my mind can't stop thinking about the things I have to do. I can make a list, and I thrive on checking things off that list, but my mind still races. What to do to calm the mind but put order to it?

I have discovered another solution. Feel the feels, and write down the thoughts, and play the music and make the adjustments to the knitting patterns and be okay with the imperfect yarn spun from the pretty fiber. I'm a "process" person as opposed to an "execution" person, which stresses the corporate America "me" out. The real me loves it, except for the fact that the firstborn in me wants to finish the process. Or maybe I want to finish the process because of societal pressure to be "responsible." I'm not sure. But that's okay, because I know that there might be a difference. If I want to finish, I want to finish. If it's pressure from outside, I'm not sure I want to finish.

In a single word, the solution is CREATE. I have a guitar that I picked up for the first time in at least 4 years. I have yarn that I've impulsively bought (SO PRETTY!) so that I can create something with it. I have food in my freezer for 6 months that I can use for dinners and leftovers. I have yarn in bins that I can use to create things that I will never use. Before we move, I will finish the unfinished projects and donate them to a shelter, but I have become much more selective in my yarn choices. None of what I have is bad, but the LOGICAL me wins over the CREATIVE me to say that I need to buy what I will make for ME or for friends. I have 4 (soon to be 5) sweater quantities in my stash that are for ME, and ME ALONE. It soothes me to knit for me. That may seem selfish, but it's not. Those projects for me will be finished. That yarn that will not be knit for me will be a waste of money, unless I donate the project.

December 19, 2015

Hubster drove me clear across town yesterday so we could go to a sold-out concert (Behold the Lamb of God by Andrew Peterson and company) that we didn't even have tickets for because my planning abilities aren't the best. We walked in the door at will-call and begged for any extra tickets they had. They were technically sold out, but since the concert actually tells the story of the gospel, they didn't want to turn anyone away. I haven't seen the show in at least 7 years (not since I've been married) and hubster has never seen it.

I started listening to Andrew Peterson in college, when he first released Carried Along (now out of print but available on iTunes), or maybe when he started touring with Caedmon's Call (not a band anymore but still a band). His lyrics are approachable and deep at the same time, and they have resonated for me personally over the years. Take the song "Hosanna" from the album, "Resurrection Letters, Volume II". We tend to think that "Hosanna" is praises of jubilation to our Lord Jesus, but in other languages (and apparently in the original), it means  "Save us!" or "Savior!" and that is what he sings about in this song. It makes me think that we have no idea what those people in the street were begging for. I always thought that Hosanna in the highest was a phrase of praise to Christ as King, but they didn't know He was THE King. I didn't change my view until I lived in Brasil and read a Bible in Portuguese. The text says "Salvo!" which translates loosely to "Save." Christ came, and he humbled Himself to be a man. Philippians says that He didn't even view equality with God as something to be grasped. As a result, He was granted a name above every name, that every knee should bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus is Lord. As in, He was the king that was foreshadowed in the Old Testament, who would be King of all Kings. In "Hosanna," Peterson has the verses speak of our struggles with lies and addiction and falling when we should stand. Save us from ourselves, Lord, because we are sinners. Save us from our own care, because Yours is better. Save us from the world, Lord, but do not let us ignore it, because it needs You as much as we do.

December 13, 2015

Year of Difficulty and Joy

This year has been a hard one. I've lost 30 pounds that I needed to lose, I've seen 2 nieces (one blood-related and one not) born, a brother married, a brother engaged, and I laugh as I realize that I followed the "hard year" with the good things that have happened.

It's been another year of living far away from family. It's been a year of juggling work and home and meds and emotions. It's been a year of numbness until about 2 months ago. There are things that have been hard that are in my control, and there are things that have been out of my control. I like to think I've been good about not stressing about the things that are out of my control, but I haven't been so good about changing those things that I'm in control of. Am I scared of succeeding? Am I resigned to be stagnant? Does the year look hard because I've had a hard week? Or a hard holiday season?

I'm reminding myself (especially lately) that writing is such an outlet for me. It puts thoughts into words and  helps me put things out there "into the universe." If I don't write, my thoughts stay in and stew in their own juices. Writing helps me make sense of things, or at least figure out what might be rational and what might not be. I'm trying to write a little each day, whether it be in my journal or here. Some of what gets into my journal makes it here, some not.

At the end of today, I'm thankful that I have a husband who loves me more than I know, a sturdy roof over my head, plenty of food to eat, and friends who love me if I'll only let them.