(Tarnished) Silver Bells

The first year she found out I was on the way to being the first Grandchild, my Paternal Grandmother started buying me Wallace Silversmith bells for Christmas. She passed away in 1999, but my Dad has continued the tradition of buying me the silver bells each Christmas. I now have enough to decorate my entire dining room Christmas Tree with just these silver bells.

Each bell has a different design with the year embossed on it. Each bell has it’s own specialized box marked with the year. Each bell is real silver. Real silver needs to be polished, pretty much each year. This year as I was taking the bells out, and lining them up by year I thought about polishing them. Then, I just looked at one of the tarnished silver bells. And, I thought this is me, this is us. This is beautiful. Tarnished, worn out, a little dirty, but worth absolutely no less because of it. Isn’t that the true beauty of why we celebrate Christmas after all? Our precious Savior came as a new born baby; bright, shiny, fresh, and perfect. Just like my new silver bell for this year. No blemishes, no flaws. But, that precious baby was born for the sole purpose of cleansing our tarnished lives. There is nothing so dirty, that He can’t make worthy. Just by submerging ourselves in His salvation (symbolized in our church by water baptism), we can be made new and bright. Just like I could choose to dip these tarnished silver bells in some cleaner and make them bright and shiny. But, you know what, I more often need the reminder that it isn’t my job to do the cleaning, submerging, or changing.

So, this year. My tree is decorated with some beautiful, fresh silver bells. Some bells have a few prints and spots on them, some are more tarnished than not, and some are just completely tarnished and dark. But, there will be no dipping and cleaning this year. I’m letting the bells hang as they are as a reminder that we’re all just hanging out in this world perfectly imperfect, tarnished and worn by the circumstances of life, waiting for the Savior to come and cleanse us. He’s got this, He’ll clean up our messes. We’re worthy, worth way more than pure silver hanging on a Christmas tree.

When the “Super Moon” isn’t so super

All the meteorologist have been telling us to check out this awesome “Super Moon”. The biggest since 1948, won’t happen again until 2034…. Well, praise the Lord for that. You see, I used to love the beauty of a full moon. And, a bright orange full moon that is really close to Earth- amazing. I could stare at it all night. Except one huge problem….. I live with 2 children and a dementia patient. You may be like me, before kids and a dementia patient. That person who thinks the moon’s cycles could not possibly have anything to do with mood cycles. Come on over my friend, let me just show you…. Super Moon = Super Crazy.

So, if you’re in my stage of life, sandwiched in between caring for 2 (not so) small kids and an 82 year old dementia patient, you pray that we never see another full moon, much less a Super Moon. There have been a few studies on the subject, and not many have been able to fully explain why a full moon has an effect on dementia patients. I’ll be real honest, I don’t care what scientist have figured out. Unless they have a solution, it doesn’t matter. I know what happens in my house. Wandering, increased anxiety, more confusion, verbal and physical aggression, and just down right paranoia. Oh, and my kids. Well, they’re a little off their rocker 70% of the time, complete angels 15% of the time, and down right crazy 15% of the time. And, that 15% of the time they’re crazy almost always just so happens to be during a full moon. I think any elementary school teacher would tend to agree…..

And, while I am lamenting about Mother Nature wrecking havoc on the attitudes and behaviors in my house, can we just talk about it being dark at 4:45pm? For real, serious. Again, dementia and darkness, bad bad bad news. Sundowners syndrome is for realz. I love June and July. I can go about my business, have a full day, and make sure I have Gran in bed before 8:45-9:00 with no real repercussions. Sun is out, we are all happy as a clam- well as happy as Gran knows how to be. But, when the sun starts going down, I go into “it is bedtime for Bonzo routine” like the Mad Hatter. If her head isn’t on the pillow by dark fall, I am going to need a seriously large glass of wine. Here’s the problem. It is freaking dark at 4:45. I can’t even get the kids from school, do dance carpool and fix a bologna sandwich before 4:45. So, I have at least an hour and a half of “It’s dark outside and Gran is still awake witching hour”. Right now, it’s not even 5:00 and I’ve been called everything but a white woman, swung at, cussed at, and told I should be ashamed for being such a terrible person. All because I haven’t been able to cook dinner, dose dinner medicine, and wait an hour to dose bedtime medicine. We went the wean you off medicines route and let Mother Nature control the outcome route. One problem…. the night doses of medicines are our “happy pills”. I didn’t think they were doing much good until she didn’t take them for a week. We’ll be having those….

So, I hope all of the rest of you fully enjoyed the Super Moon, because it has pretty much ruined my week.


Talking to our kids about the Presidential Election

I’ve not spoken about my political views online. I will not speak about my political views online today. I personally prefer to have those conversations with close friends who know my heart and will take the time to fully understand my position on the issues. People who disagree with me, I disagree with them, we have a legitimate conversation, and hug each other as we agree to disagree. I’ll preface the rest of this post by saying that my filter is not up this morning. Two hours of sleep isn’t enough recharge for my filter. So, maybe I’ll regret some of these things tomorrow. But, probably not.

But, I’ve seen some posts this morning that tug at my heart strings, and I can’t remain silent. Let me start by saying once again. Regardless of who is President of the United States, Christ is King. My safety, security, sanity, hope and joy are in no way wrapped up in who wins or loses the presidential election.

And, the posts about, “But, what do we tell the children?” At the risk of losing friends, let me just say if you think you need to say something different to your children based on who wins the election, you may be part of the problem. If you want the hate and shaming to stop, stop it in your own home. This great nation has had a lot of terrible presidents, and we’ve somewhat survived. He or she alone do not have the power to destroy this nation, or the hearts and minds of our children. So, here’s what I am telling my children.

First, Jesus Christ is King. I believe what the Bible says. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. …” Romans 13:1-7. Regardless of who is elected president, God has got this. I will continue to pray for Donald Trump as our president and leader just as I would have prayed for Hillary Clinton as our leader. Above all, I will pray for our Nation and for God’s will to be done in and through me.

Secondly, our democracy worked. Regardless of what I think about the electoral college system, or the quality of the candidates that either party put forward; the system worked as it is currently designed to work. We had primary elections, we put candidates forward, and each one of us had an equal opportunity to go vote. The people voted, and Donald Trump won. As many people as are drastically upset about this, there are an equal number of people who felt he was best equipped to lead our country. I respect that system.

Third, regardless of what kind of person Donald Trump is, he is not the one that influences my children. There have been a lot of lying, cheating, stealing, abusive, and arrogant leaders in power before him. Not one of them had the power to shape who I am as a person, and he doesn’t have the power to shape my children. If I don’t want my son to be an arrogant, sexist pig that abuses women, I need to model appropriate behavior at home. I need to teach him to value women (and men for that matter), I need to teach him appropriate words to say to and about women. I need to teach him how to not be an ass. I need to surround him with a community of like minded people that will shape him into the man he needs to be. If I don’t want my daughter to be victimized by chauvinist men in our society, I need to teach her to respect herself. I need to make sure she is keenly aware of her worth in Christ, her worth to me, and her worth to this society. No one can make her feel inferior without her consent. It is my job to teach her how to physically, mentally and emotionally defend herself against the scum of the earth of this society that may try to exploit her. But, more importantly, I hope to teach her how to chose wisely the people she surrounds herself with, so that she won’t be in those situations.

Fifth, don’t believe everything the media tells you. Take information, evaluate it, check it for accuracy, and form your own opinion. You cannot and should not be dictated by a biased media one way or the other. Have a brain, use it. Don’t let the media tell you what is going to happen with the weather, with the election, or in the economy. You discover your own information. You know what is true. Be smarter than taking every word that comes through the internet or television as gospel truth.

Oh, what about the children and people that Trump is going to discriminate, hate and deport? Well, I hope I don’t have to say a word to those people. I hope I have already said what needs to be said to them, and more importantly loved them with the love of Christ. They should not doubt my support for them and love for them, and willingness to fight for them regardless of who is president. I can honestly say I have watched, and cried, and pleaded as my friends and employees have been deported on more than one occasion. I have watched parents ripped away from their children. And, friends, that has happened with both a democrat and republican in office. I know people who are afraid to share their religion because of the disrespect they will receive. If I feel the need to tell those people anything based the presidential election, I have already screwed that up. God has called me to love all his children and spread the compassion of Christ regardless of who is president. That conversation, more importantly, those actions, should have started long before today. Do I know people in this country illegally, yep. Do I tend to align with the Republican party, yep. Do I think they should all be departed, nope. The system is flawed. We need to figure out how to love and honor all people while having an immigration program that is safe. Shipping them off and building a wall isn’t it. But, we haven’t been doing “it” correctly for quiet some time. I have to do and say what I am called to do as a Christian, while being respectful to my government. But, I have and always will fight for the disadvantaged, the under privileged, the lesser of our society, those who don’t have a voice. And, that has nothing to do with the color of their skin, their immigration status, or their religion. So, please stop being part of the problem and spreading the fear gospel that because Trump has been elected these people are screwed or somehow less than. We should have been fighting for them long before now, and the fight for human justice must continue until His Kingdom comes and we are all sitting as equal heirs in Heaven.

So, parents, instead of worrying about what happens to our great nation over the next 4 years, let’s reset this process. One, model respect for your children. Start with honoring who America has elected as president. Two, show respect in your household to your spouse, to your children, to your neighbors and to those who just absolutely crawl under your skin. Three, take this opportunity to teach your children about our constitution, teach them about American history, teach them about what your core family values are. Make sure they know the issues, make sure they understand all the issues at stake. But, more importantly, make sure they know to pray about important decisions in life, and that they can trust God to be in control. Don’t teach your kids to hate our president or the people who voted for him or her. Teach your kids to be respectful adults who honor the process and fear the Lord their God. And, let’s all work together to move this great nation forward.

“It is Well with My Soul”, but is it really?

I’ve had these thoughts swirling around in my head for a couple weeks now, but just haven’t had time to sit down and hash them out. So, be warned, we may be here awhile. Actually, I’m sure I have lost half the thoughts I had. Anyway…..

A couple weeks ago I went to an IF Table Gathering at my church. If you’ve never heard about IF Gatherings, you should google it. Pretty amazing thing to be part of. But, for those of you who don’t care that much, here’s the general idea: A group of 6-8 women gather together each month over a meal and discuss 4 questions. We do life together, laugh, cry, think about how Jesus is moving in our lives and in our world. A couple times a year, we do one big gathering at our church where we all meet together. We had one such event a couple weeks ago. The general theme of the night was God redeeming all of our story for His glory. Three women gave their testimony about how some really crappy things had happened in their lives, and how they saw God work to restore it to good.

Part of the worship set we sang was “It is Well With My Soul”. I had to take a minute and ask myself if I truly believed the words I was singing. “When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to knowa. It is well, it is well, with my soul.” To be quiet honest, there are many areas of my life over the past few years that I am not at all happy with my lot. When my sorrows like sea billows have rolled, it wasn’t well with much of anything in me- my soul, my physical, mental or emotional health. It has been during this time of most tribulation I’ve encountered in my life that I learned the back story behind the song “It is Well With My Soul”. Horatio Spafford penned this hymn in 1873. He was once a wealthy lawyer and real estate investor. In 1871 his 2 year old son died. Soon after, he met financial ruin after the Great Chicago fire which destroyed much of his investment property. He had further financial trouble hit during the economic downturn of 1873. He decided his family needed a break, and planned a European vacation for himself, his wife, and their 4 daughters. Change of plans, the wife and daughters went ahead of him. Their boat sank and only the wife survived. He received the news via telegram. On his way to meet up with his wife, he was inspired to pen the words of the hymn as he passed near the place where his daughters had died. So, what about my pity party!?! Life has sucked several days, but praise the Lord, we have not suffered financial ruin and my babies are happy and healthy (well, minus the one home today with strep throat).

When I sing the words to “It is Well With My Soul” what exactly am I proclaiming? For a long time, I thought I needed to be happy or joyful to truly sing “It is Well”. But, as I break down the lyrics, and consider the context in which it is written, I realize this isn’t really the case. In fact, I think my God is big enough to handle me saying, “I am completely, 100% totally pissed off right now. You are totally not working life out according to my agenda. My heart is broken. But, in the midst of it all, I know you are God. And, some way some how, I am going to muster the faith to truly believe you’ve got this under control.” So, things don’t have to be going well, for it to be well. My heart doesn’t have to be happy or even joyful for me to proclaim that it is well with my soul. As a verse states,

“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.”

No matter what shall become of my earthly comfort, Christ has shed his blood for my soul. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on therapy trying to hold my crap together the last couple years. For those who know me well, know that there were some days I couldn’t even fake it until I made it. Because our lives had been relatively easy and stress free, with the exception of financial scare of 2008-2010, I had learned to stake my happiness and joy on my external circumstances. I accepted Christ as my Savior over 25 years ago; yet, even though I claim to let Him be, I’ve never had to make Him Lord of my life. To be honest, I didn’t need Him to do anything for me. I loved studying the word of God and tried applying it to my life. But, until you have experienced deep grief, sudden loss, a total change in lifestyle, lost your identity- I don’t know if it is truly possible to wrestle with the term “It is Well With My Soul.”

Some of you may think I am being a little dramatic here. Point taken, I have a flair for the dramatic. The basics of my story aren’t that terrible. Yes, my mom died suddenly, but I was adult. She met both of my children, they were old enough to know her and carry her memory with them. Yes, my grandmother with dementia lives with us. But, we have plenty space for her and flexible jobs. So much more was going on during that time, and other things have triggered out of that spiral. I lost my best friend, I lost other friendships, I lost the relationship with my sister, many family relationships have been strained. If I had enough strength to pack my bags during part of that time, I would have lost my husband and kids because I would have left. Even beyond that, so much was and has been going on. Living with a dementia patient has further rocked my world and cut to the core of my sanity. I am not proud of the person I am on many days as I don’t handle the situation or myself well at all times. But, here is what I do know. God is good. He has taught me a dependence on Him like I have never known. And, honestly had He not totally rocked my world on multiple occasions, I would never know the joy of this utter dependence. Because, my little perfect life, Williamson County living self didn’t need Jesus to make me happy. I had a great job, an amazing shoe salesman, and a gourmet coffee shop on every corner. There weren’t many problems that a good cup of coffee and a new pair of shoes couldn’t fix.

But, what about those moments where my money couldn’t make me happy. Let’s be real people. Money never made anyone truly happy. It can make you feel crappy in a better part of town with a cute outfit. But, money in and of itself can’t make me or you happy. Oh, but what about my kids. They’re cute, their smart, they’re talented; what about the times they screw up and can’t make me happy? Well, again, if I depended on my kids to make me happy, I’m in a sinking ship. If you could hear the shouts inside my house as we all try to get ready in the morning, you’d realize that as amazing and perfect as they are, my kids are not the source of my joy. Oh, yes, but I have a husband that loves me deeply. Yep, he’s amazing. Besides my mother, he’s the one who has consistently loved me when I was most unlovable. But, guess what- there are days when we don’t like each other very much. Friends, yes, I have some pretty cool friends. But, I have also had days of extreme loneliness where I felt like no one really got me. None of the amazing circumstances that make my life easier than most are a source of “It being well with my soul”. I can’t make it well. Nothing on this earth can make it well. My “wellness” is invested in my Savior, and the satisfaction of knowing that no matter what I have hear on earth, my true purpose and glory will be fulfilled in Heaven with Him.

Oh, what about this election, and the absolute udder mess that is going to be left? Us, self-employed, hard working, Bible believing Christians are sure to be doomed. Our nation is going to be doomed. Maybe, but doubtful. I certainly believe that we could learn a good deal as a nation by looking at the Roman empire. Heaven forbid we turn to the gospel as a nation for some good hearted advice. But, regardless of who is elected president. Regardless of what terrible policies are put in place. Regardless of what country makes us enemy number one, and regardless if we get blown to smitherenes- here is what I know. No matter who is President of the United States, Christ is King. Jesus is Lord. And, even if I lose it all tomorrow, IT IS WELL with my soul.