Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ringing out and Ringing In - with Joy

This is the day when many reflect on the past 365 days...evaluating, recalling, even comparing them.  And I, like them, have done the same.

In church on Sunday, we were challenged with Psalm 90...a focus on time and the fact that at its best, life is brief. I was challenged by one particular verse...

"Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." v. 12

So when I look back at 2013, as most years, it has been a mix.  I gained two incredible colleagues who have been kindred spirits, my daughter and her family moved back close by, Edster and I have found a home church, I have reunited with some great friends, I continued to do meaningful work at the hospital, and I have experienced growth spiritually and creatively this year.

But Caleb has also had his struggles and times when my advocacy has felt futile, my mother went on to heaven in August after her decade-plus with Alzheimers, a gallbladder surgery, and after Christmas, I was hit with a hurt I did not see coming. And the Lord gave me another quote:

"Those things that hurt, instruct." - Ben Franklin

And what I realize is, no matter what 2014 brings...there will be joy.  It may be mingled with other things, but if I view my life from God's perspective, I will be grateful...and gratitude is the gateway to joy.

Sometimes gaining that heart of wisdom comes from the instruction provided by pain...sometimes there is no other way.

My job is to focus on the things that God deems important.  So much in life that concerns us really does not matter in the long run.

I commit 2014 to you, Lord.  Continue to conform me to be more like you as I allow you to love on me the whole year through.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Taking a Moment...

Long lay the world...in sin...
'til He appeared
and the soul felt its worth...

Do you feel that thrill of hope?  Wishing you and yours the most blessed of Christmases.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Facebook Christmas Story

I have been giving this a lot of thought this year...having a lot of downtime to heal and perusing Facebook and Pinterest looking at all the Christmas photos and festivities.  But something's missing...

Where are the photos of the mother with her children celebrating Christmas in a homeless a shelter?

Where are the photos of the young man who made a grievous choice that has landed him in prison for Christmas this year?

Where are the photos of the lonely and aged who can no longer keep up with the pace of life and exist alone?

Where are the photos of those spending their last Christmas in a hospital or in hospice enduring a terminal illness?

Where are the photos of the spouse and children braced for violence after a parent's drinking binge that will surely come this Christmas?

Where are the photos of those with severe disabilities who seem invisible...forgotten...and their families providing intensive care even on Christmas?

Or those of parents holding their child at his end of life on Christmas Eve?

And many others...

And as I think of those whose photos are not going to make the Facebook Christmas Story...

Facebook is NOT life...it is NOT a true representation of life.  Life is messy and hurts and is to be embraced in the high notes and low notes until we experience eternal life.

Jesus came in the non-threatening form of a baby in a feeding trough for all of us...especially for those we will never see on the Facebook Christmas Story.


Let's enjoy and be grateful for all we have...celebrate the JOY of this season...

But let's also prayerfully remember and serve those this Christmas whose circumstances will go unnoticed.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Few Festive Photos

Well...I have been knocked into the slowest of slow lanes recovering from gallbladder surgery...but my pal, Kim, has been cheering me up with her recent brushes she offered in the Test Kitchen and other fun places.

In the corner of the eat-in kitchen...I set up a very simple branch in an oversized glass brandy snifter and some sand.  A simple decorative touch...

I made this little brush by combining the words with the sprigs Kim provided.

And made this with Kim's vine heart brush and text overlay.

And what's not to love about Kim's "jingle all the way" brush?

So, although I'm laid up...amazing how you can create with your feet up, letting your nail polish dry, and a laptop nearby.

Thank you to all who have encouraged me this week with your texts and prayers!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Astonished and Amazed - A Friday Find

A week ago I wrote this post...

A week ago I opted to rest and rely on a God who loved Caleb far beyond my capacity...

Whose wisdom is beyond my ability to comprehend...

And seek His solution...His way.

Monday I was humbled, by a voice on the end of the phone, to hear that the Lord had "turned the heart of the king"...

That, indeed, Caleb has a great God...

And all the barriers that were standing in the way of Caleb receiving the services he deserved and needed for a meaningful life crumbled by standing firm and trusting God.

There are no words that can express my awe of God's Divine intervention...

He is alive...He cares...He is involved!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Practicing Gratitude When You Don't Wanna

Hot, searing tears well up...pour out...sting...

No one warned me of the unrelenting power my children have over me...even as adults...

I hung up the phone.  Those who know me, know I've focused the past 22 years of my life on advocating for children and adults with severe disabilities AND their families...

Inspired by my courageous Caleb...

But today it all feels for naught as he is being terminated from his day program provider and the other options are not viable.  And barring a miracle (for which I still believe)...he will be at home, without structure and limited stimulation 24 hours a day.  It's complicated...a system that is to serve fails.

But my post is not about that...it was about giving you some context for what I write now.

Gratitude is easy in the nice warm fuzzies of life...it is practicing gratitude to God when the feeling is not there at all that it becomes a sacrifice...it is pure obedience.

Friday, Caleb, Edster and I went out for a drive in our mini-van.  I sat back with Caleb, helping him as he ate his lunch...only to have Caleb lay his head on my shoulder and lean up against me...for at least a half hour.

Caleb's autism tends to manifest itself like a pinball...pacing or moving to self-regulate.  Kodak moments don't come often.  But I am so grateful for those moments on Friday.

Yet...even without those moments...I will praise and express my thanksgiving to God...because He is worthy as I'm reminded in the Old Testament passage:
Though the fig tree should not blossom,    nor fruit be on the vines,the produce of the olive fail    and the fields yield no food,the flock be cut off from the fold    and there be no herd in the stalls,18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  Habakkuk 3:17-18 (ESV)
 Caleb has a GREAT God...and I will take joy in Him.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Christmas in November

I try to stave off the Christmas urge until after Thanksgiving...but in Akron, Ohio that's impossible. Yesterday kicked off the annual Holiday Tree Festival for Akron Children's Hospital by opening its doors to the public.

All trees, wreaths, stitchery, miniatures PLUS are made and donated by individual and group sponsor, which are auctioned the night before...with all proceeds going to the hospital.  We are lucky to have this event free for our community the week before Thanksgiving.

More than 100 items on display...some traditional...some themed...some very eclectic and unique.

And while the sight as a whole is so magical...there's so much you miss if you don't take the time to look at the details.  For that, camera, I thank you!

This tree, covered with white roses, honored a precious little one, Sofia, who was in the NICU and sadly she was unable to sustain life.  This tree was created and donated by her mother.  A texture from 2 Lil Owls was used with this image.

These storyboards show you a synopsis of some of the details.  I used an action from The CoffeeShop Blog where you can also obtain it for free, here.

Of course, there was a tribute to the Steelers with a themed tree put in the middle of Cleveland Browns territory.

And so much shine and glitter, taking a self-portrait was no problem.

And as if all this beauty wasn't enough...while oooh-ing and ahhhh-ing...different musical groups from the community provided entertainment...such as these dashing dapper Dans!

And before leaving, snow was heavily coming down.  What fun!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Gratitude in the Air

I had a morning appointment yesterday...and afterward Edster and I and the furry boys went for a road trip to Mrs. Yoder's Kitchen in Mount Hope, Ohio.

Arthur took his normal seat...

Most leaves were down...lots of brown, beige, neutrals on a cloudy day...lots of leaf blowers going. And in Amish country where they can still burn leaves...there was a blue haze in the air...and the smell was loaded with memories of life after the school day as a child when we burned leaves in the city in the Fall.

Traipsing through the countryside, you could smell Thanksgiving...

The harvested fields made us ponder what we have...

Gratitude is in the air!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Look Who I Found? - A Friday Find!

I've been taking this awesome e-course by Brene' Brown based on her fantastic book, "The Gifts of Imperfection."  And I'm linking up with Kim's Friday Finds.

One assignment was to find a photo that is exuberant with the aura of who you truly are...

This was no easy task...it required a lot of time.

Well, here I am...pre-baggage!  Now this is a photo of the photo I put in my art journal...

And then we were to answer four questions and write them in our journal...

  1. What do I see looking at her?
  2. What do I love or admire about her?
  3. What makes her light shine?
  4. What can I do to take care of her?
Oooh...weird...thinking and writing about yourself in the third person!  But the truth is...we are so self-destructive in our thought patterns and maladaptive behaviors we use because the self-affliction we endure from ourselves...

So these are my responses...but this is an ongoing journey...

A profound exercise...not for the faint of heart...and not a one-stop-shop kind of deal.

I'm half tempted to put this photo up at work with a caption that says, "I'm on your side."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Snow on Geraniums

Linking up with Kim Klassen over at her Texture Tuesday...

I've been doing the 30 days of gratitude this month that so many are participating in on Facebook.  This morning gratitude came so easily as I looked out on the freshly fallen snow from the night before.

I am so grateful for the four-season artistry of the Master Designer.  I am grateful to live in an area where there are four separate seasons...and I am grateful for each and every one.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Do I Trust You? - A Texture Tuesday

A Texture Tuesday...a peaceful scene to soothe my broken heart.  Took this photo on vacation during a photowalk through Thomas, West Virginia.  Used Kim's aurora texture...

Sometimes we are blinded by tears and heartache...and all you can do is trust.  My severely disabled son, Caleb, is having a very rough time and so am I with the system.  So...I must remember these words and sing them back to the Lord.

Sometimes my little heart can't understand
What's in Your will, what's in Your plan.
So many times I'm tempted to ask You why,
But I can never forget it for long.
Lord, what You do could not be wrong.
So I believe You, even when I must cry.

Do I trust You, Lord?
Does the river flow?
Do I trust You, Lord?
Does the north wind blow?
You can see my heart,
You can read my mind,
And You got to know
That I would rather die
Than to lose my faith
In the One I love.
Do I trust You, Lord?
Do I trust You?

I know the answers, I've given them all.
But suddenly now, I feel so small.
Shaken down to the cavity in my soul.
I know the doctrine and theology,
But right now they don't mean much to me.
This time there's only one thing I've got to know.
Do I trust You, Lord?
Does the robin sing?
Do I trust You, Lord?
Does it rain in spring?
You can see my heart,
You can read my mind,
And You got to know
That I would rather die
Than to lose my faith
In the One I love.
Do I trust You, Lord?
Do I trust You?

I will trust You, Lord, when I don't know why.

I will trust You, Lord, till the day I die.
I will trust You, Lord, when I'm blind with pain!
You were God before, and You'll never change.
I will trust You.
I will trust You.
I will trust You, Lord.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Party Over Here...Party Over There: A Reunion

Arthur kept asking all morning, "Is it time yet?"

Arthur knew there was going to be major party action today in Shaker Heights...

A Corgi convention...

I felt like I was in an illustration from a Tasha Tudor children's book like Corgiville...but it was a PARTY!!!!!

Dr. David Newmarker, a dentist and Arthur's breeder...invited all of the pups, i.e. Arthur and his siblings, to celebrate their first birthday together...

With an amazing spread...

Each dog had his/her own goodie bag attached...

to a mylar balloon...

and each doggy got a blanket, too!

And a cake with all their names on it...

but none of the pups knew how to blow out the candles.  But the pups were the stars of the show...

Dana, Isa, Oliver, Kevin, Dorothy, Muffin, and Arthur...

Isa was the only tri-color of the litter...

And Oliver, in my opinion, looks the most like Arthur...

And then they were one...and Arthur and all had a GREAT time!  And so did I!