Monday, July 21, 2014

A new normal

It has been six weeks since my sister passed away, five since her life was celebrated in a beautiful service.

Finally, I think I know what normal will be like.  I will be in frequent contact with my father, talking about his needs.  I'll make more frequent trips to visit him.  I will feel welcome in his home, where I did not before.  Not because of him, but because of my sister.

I am not going to bash my sister.  She is in a better place and nothing I can say will ever improve our relationship, but the truth was our relationship was clouded by her mistrust of me.  Truth revealed to me over the last six weeks proved what I had suspected - we did not know each other.  I did not know the secrets that dominated her life and she did not know my heart.

The questions I have make me wonder if I did my part in trying to help her.  What did I do to make her not trust me with the truth?  Am I feeling guilt?  I don't think so.  I think it is more regret and sadness over what could have been.  But I do what I always do: pick up pieces and clean up the mess.  What is left right now the Lord has given me the tools to manage and doesn't feel as overwhelming as it did June 12.

So what now?  To quote a song I love:

"Many things about tomorrow,
I don't seem to understand.
But I know Who holds tomorrow,
And I know Who holds my hand."

And so blogosphere I sign off with this:  I do not know how people live without hope in Jesus Christ.  His death and life after death is what gives me assurance my Heavenly Father knows me, cares about me, and hears my prayers.  When it is my turn to be in His presence, I know it will be something I did not deserve and could not earn.  I will be there because HE wants me there.  He wants you there, too.  Believe.  Confess your sin.  (I have to daily.) Accept His forgiveness and grace.  Be in relationship with Him.  In the end, that is all which really matters.



Monday, June 30, 2014

A couple of commandments

I'm a Christian and I'm proud of it.  I believe the whole Bible.  If you have a problem with that, you are excused.  If you are okay with me interpreting a couple of commandments, then hang around, you might learn something.

First, do not lie.
Left off of the commandment are conditions for lying like inserting the words "but" or "except."  Just don't.  Don't put it there.  Do not try to justify your untruth to me or God or anyone else.  Stop it.

Why?  Lies hurt.  Now, I am not perfect.  Have I lied?  Yep.  In my lifetime, the lies told about me by my family have hurt.  I recently discovered I was not only lied to, but lied to for years.  Deception - intentionally concealing a truth.  A truth that I must now pay for.  After the first lie that I had to deal with, I decided to be as honest as I could humanly be.  I am blunt.  I am not cruel.  I tell the truth.

Second, honor your parents.
Now my interpretation is this.  Moses had a bunch of people traveling through the desert.  Old people travel slowly and it would be awful tempting to leave them at the last camp out and move on.  God said not to leave them.  Bring them along.  The elderly deserve to be provided for.  Even though I have disagreed with many actions of my parents, I decided prayerfully a LONG time ago to provide for their needs and not leave them in the desert.  Whatever version of the desert we have in 21st century America.

The commandments can be summarized into two points: love God and love each other.  Lying is not loving.  Leaving your parents to die in the desert is also not loving.

Someone out there in cyber-land is thinking I am a very angry woman.  You could say that.  I would agree with you.  And here is my last point:  anger is not a sin.  There are many warnings in the Bible about sin that can occur when you are angry and I have to really watch myself.  God is angry at times.  Jesus was angry in the temple.  Anger is a God-given emotion and it can be productive.

I am going to end with this: the Lord of the universe loves me and you enough to let us learn lessons from Him and each other.  Not all lessons are easy or very palatable.  Some cause anguish... but joy comes in the morning.

I am waiting for that morning.  The Sonrise will be glorious.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Getting to Know my Sister (Differently)

It's been eight days since I found out my only sibling had died.

It has been a whirlwind of clean up and meetings and parent and pet management.  Travel.  Lots of travel between my home and hers.  After a few days, I was able to sleep again at night.  Eating isn't a problem - so don't worry about that.  I'm a stress eater :)  On the plus side, I lost 5 lbs this week.

Planning a service. Trying to decide what needs to be handled when.
As a very task-oriented person, that part of it isn't too overwhelming.  It's just the quantity of what needed to be done.

The stressful part of this:  meeting new people.  As an introvert, that is particularly difficult for me.  As the sister of someone who had a bubbly, vibrant personality, it was more difficult.  My sister and I are very different in how we interact with people.  On my drive to her town, I started getting cryptic messages from her friends via facebook.  My stress level rose.  Not only had I just lost my only sister, I was worried about how her friends perceived me.

I prayed a lot.  I need to be salt and light.  I need to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  But what I needed was to receive salt, light, and the hands and feet of Jesus.  I lost my mother 10 years ago.  She had been very sick, so I was able to prepare (as much as you can) and was not surprised at her death.  The death of my 44 year old sister was a shock.

But what I found were people who accepted me because I was the sister of someone they loved very much.  Some of them have actually talked with me and could accept what I needed to say. They loved her so much they filled the funeral home chapel.  So I'm going out on a limb, and it feels pretty shaky, and going out with her friends.

I want to know the Natalie they knew.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Random end of year thoughts

I've had some thoughts banging around in my noggin so I owe it to all four of my loyal readers to share.

1.  I did not watch "The Sound of Music Live."  I have a few reasons for this.
First, it is my favorite movie.  Of all time.
Second, Julie Andrews is my favorite singer. Of all time.
Third, I like Carrie Underwood.  She is a fantastic performer and I want to keep liking her.

2.  My schedule this semester and the upcoming semester is pretty rough - two new (out of three preps) which means little down-time during the day.  My goal this break was to read a book that didn't involve education or math, but I wound up cooking a lot instead.  But I cooked some AWESOME food.  AWESOME.  You would have benefited from trying it - it was that good.

3.  I really don't like things as gifts.  I like time from people.  However, my family blessed me with some well thought out gifts this Christmas, and I'm pretty happy about that.

4.  We don't sing together as a family quite enough.  We did the other night when my dad was in town and it was great.

5.  While I don't know if I'm ready for my break to be over next week, I do love my job and my co-workers and I miss them when I don't get to see them.  One came to church with me today and I was so happy to see her.  I work at a great school.  Can't wait to see the kids again either.  So... maybe I just contradicted myself?  Hmmm.  But really, I'm not ready because I still have planning to do to be ready for Monday.

6.  I don't really like football unless my team is winning.

So, I hope you enjoyed reading the random things banging around in my noggin.  I hope you celebrated the birthday of our Savior last week and have fond remembrances of 2013.  Come on 2014.  Let's make a great year!

Monday, November 25, 2013

The gift of time - it is good.

Yesterday was unusual.

First, Leah and I decided to skip Sunday School and sleep in.  There was no lesson and we were tired.  Went to church and lunch like normal and headed to the mall.  It is the weekend before Thanksgiving - it couldn't be that crowded, right?  Wrong.  I can't imagine what it is going to be like next weekend.

After lunch, we shopped for the next four hours.  We have NEVER done that before.  It was a productive trip.  Yes, we found some cute stuff for ourselves, each other and the boys in our family, but we had a long time together.  It was good.

When we got home, we changed into pajamas and decided to forgo the plans we had for cleaning the kitchen thoroughly and straightened it instead while we put together our most girly dinner - broccoli and cheese dip with tortilla chips, grapes, strawberries, brie, and some chilled roasted pork from a previous meal.  Our guys would never buy into this meal.  Harry Potter: The Chamber of Secrets was also on the menu.  It was good.

We rarely get this opportunity for uninterrupted time, but the guys are in Jamaica on a mission trip right now.  We do miss them, but I am not going to waste this opportunity to be with my daughter.  Yes, we have cleaning and more shopping to do to be ready for Thanksgiving.  Yes, her guy will be joining us tomorrow for a few days.  These three days have been ours - and I am off for the entire week!  It is good.

I remember my kids when they were little.  Wide-eyed and excited for the next adventure.  They both have new adventures ahead of them - both will graduate in a year and a half.  L will head to seminary and other life changes - moving out! - and A will head to his college of choice - yet to be decided.  G and I will learn how to live without taking someone somewhere to do something and be empty-nesters.  We will probably have to decide whether it is time to begin planning the retirement nest... It will be good.

Until next time, faithful readers,  make your time good.

Monday, June 24, 2013

On campmeeting and answered prayers

In the history of my denomination, campmeeting is significant and important.  It was a time of preaching and singing.  Of fellowship and friendship.  A time when the church body would move to a campground and "tent".  They brought their ice blocks, livestock, and all other items necessary for living.  As time passed, many campgrounds ended their meeting time in the summer, and other things changed.  Like electricity and plumbing.  Our local church campground, now has electricity in the "tents" (cabins), although no air conditioning - thank goodness for the invention of the box fan - and there is a bath house with toilets and showers.  But with automobiles, most of the congregation now lives in their homes and drives to the campground each night during the meeting time.

This is the week of campmeeting.  Since 1832 this meeting has occured annually - with the exception of a year or two during the Civil War.

The preaching is special - visiting pastors.  The music is special.  It is a time of introspection and renewal as a church.  And also personally.

I can recall several times kneeling at that altar and having friends surround me with their hands and their love and prayers.  I can recall answered prayers and the peace that followed - and sometimes it wasn't peace, but it was at least an answer.  I can recall being one of those people surrounding a hurting friend.  But answered prayers don't just come kneeling at the altar.  It can come sitting in a chair on the stage right before singing.  It happened to me last night.

Last night, I had a solo in the second choir piece of the evening.  It is one I had sung before and I knew it very well.  Right before the offertory prayer, my head started to throb.  So much I thought I would faint if I stood up.  Folks, this is 5 minutes before singing.  I didn't even hear the offertory prayer - I was praying silently to God to help me be able to stand up and sing that solo.  Right after that, the beautiful lady sitting next to me grabbed my hand and held it during the remainder of that prayer.  I don't know that she knew I was hurting but I knew she was praying for me and that it would be okay.  And it was.  My head was still hurting but I am fine and grateful to the Lord for praying friends.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Parenting

I've realized something:  parenting is hard.

Especially when it is your own parent that needs parenting.  Boo.  I knew this day would come someday.  It came a lot earlier than I had hoped.  It actually started around 2002 or so when my mother's health really started to decline.

Now my sister and I are in the position of making care decisions for my dad.  Since she lives with him, little sister gets the brunt of the burden.

He tells us he is glad we now get along... um... we have gotten along quite well for a pretty long time.  Guess he didn't notice.  But if we agree on a care decision, we are "ganging up" on him.  OOOOO KAY then.

We are doing the best we can and I think we can be proud that we are honoring him by not leaving him to fend for himself.  Improving the health of a 76 year old with cognitive issues, a very enlarged prostate, an iron will, and no appetite for real food is proving to be a challenge.  Thankfully, the rehab center where he is staying is supportive of our decisions and honest about his challenges.

It has been a day.