Please note that all posts are copyright. Do not reprint in whole or in part without permission of the author. You may refer to one of my posts in your own writing; simply include the link(s) so readers can be taken directly to my work. Thank you, and enjoy! ~Susan

Friday, 30 September 2016

Flashback Friday: When Someone Dies

Today is Flashback Friday, and in light of my pastor's recent passing, I thought it would be appropriate to share the following, which I originally wrote just last October:

Today's post is a bit more serious than some of the other Ten on Tuesday subjects. We've been asked to share ten things we can do to help a friend or family member when someone they love has passed away. I know a couple of people who've recently lost someone, so this really hits home. My son's teenage friend lost her mom after a courageous battle with cancer just before school resumed; just this week my friend's son passed away suddenly at 43. What can you do at such a time as this?
1. Don't just offer to help; do something. The bereaved are often in shock and feeling overwhelmed. Take a meal, sit with them, offer to clean their home (I don't think you want to do this last item without asking).
2. Lend a listening ear. They undoubtedly want to talk about their loved one and the grief they are experiencing.
3. Don't try to 'fix' their situation. It's not fixable.
4. As tempting as it is, don't offer clich├ęs. 'He's in a better place,' 'she's no longer in any pain,' may be true, but in many ways offer no comfort right now. A simple and heartfelt 'I'm so sorry for your loss' is much better.
5. Send flowers or make a donation to the charity of choice as indicated in the obituary. I usually make a donation one dollar for every year of the person's life.
6. If you have any, share your stories of the deceased, including those that evoke laughter. Laughter is always a good medicine. Also those that show the character of the person who's passed on.
7. Send a card. There's no need to say anything extra; let the card speak for you. But if this is someone who lives at a distance and you won't be able to be there for in person, feel free to include a note or letter that shares a story or two as outlined in point six.
8. Attend the visitation if you can. My husband and I really dislike visitations. They put the bereaved in a bad spot - they're forced to hold a kind of receiving line, offer comfort to others when they're in their own pain, and listen to far too many cliches. On the other hand, if everyone felt as we did, no one would show up at all, and I'm not sure how that would go over.
9. Attend the funeral service if you can. In some ways, it's less intense than the visitation and gives you the chance to show your support. There's nothing worse than going to a sparsely attended funeral - it seems like the deceased or their loved ones have no friends. You also learn more about the person and have a chance to share your stories with others afterwards.  But don't just show up for the food!
10. If you're part of a group of mutual friends, coordinate the group's efforts. Have a rotation of meal-deliverers, listeners, comforters.  A burden shared is a burden lightened.
Life is busy and it can be hard to be there for someone who needs you. If we all have time for Facebook and blog posts, though, we have no excuse not to touch base with people who've lost a loved one. A quick e-mail or phone call can mean a great deal. And don't forget the person in the months that lie ahead, with all of those first 'anniversaries.' They often have a lot of support at the beginning but are forgotten as time passes. Remember to check in periodically to let them know you're thinking of them, especially on days that will be particularly difficult.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

6 Words

See! I'm back again already! 

The last Wednesday of every month, Eli compiles a post inspired by Ernest Hemingway, who said any story can be told in six words. Eli asks bloggers, friends, strangers, and a few strange blogger friends to respond to a prompt. This month the prompt is "September is National Passport Awareness Month. In six words, tell us where you'd go, and what you'd do. Think "To Croatia, to get a tan" or "England, to change Pippa Middleton's mind.."

My answer? "To Sweden, to celebrate our 25th."

As I've mentioned here before, I've wanted to go to Sweden for a long time now. It's a place that's definitely on my bucket list. Truthfully, I don't know if we'll get there for our 25th anniversary in 2018, and it's really okay if we don't. Sweden will always be in my mind at least as a dream.

Other places that are on the list include: Hawaii, Bermuda, Aruba or Curacao, Belize, or a cruise or Compassion trip. If you were choosing for me, which option would you pick, and why?

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

I'd Rather Be Writing

I'm finding it a bit difficult to get  into a regular routine this fall. Part of that is having my son back home for a couple of weeks as he has decided to put off college and to move in with a friend at the beginning of October. He needs some time to think about what he wants to do with his life and, as he puts it, "adultify." Another part is my pastor's recent death and my re-evaluation of priorities.

I've considered blogging an exercise in writing, but sometimes my devotion to it means that my other writing - the writing I should be doing -  winds up on the back burner. And the truth is, I need to make my "real" writing happen. For that to occur, I need to put regular blogging aside, at least for a time. Right now I only have 12 followers and others who check in when I post to Facebook or who visit from Question of the Month, Six Words, or Flashback Friday. I may continue writing for those hops since they pop up only monthly. And at some point I may return in full force, but first I need to get my house in order (both literally and figuratively) and establish better habits.

My readers are nothing if not understanding. I so appreciate each one of you and wish you well as you continue your work in the blogosphere. Keep thinking, writing, and challenging others to do the same in an atmosphere of encouragement and respect.

Please revisit this page on occasion to see if there's anything new. In the meantime, cheers!

Friday, 16 September 2016

Dear Friday

What a difference a week makes. But no matter what chaos and change is happening in our lives, we must still give thanks. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

As I reflect over the last seven days, these are things I am grateful for:

1. Our pastor gave us the last 4.5 years of his life as a faithful shepherd. His big heart and deep love for people were evident as he taught and ministered to us. It is sad news for his wife, adult daughters, son-in-law, and parents that he is no longer here to love and care for us, but joyful news for him that he is in heaven with Jesus. So we rejoice with him and pray for his family and the many people who cared so deeply for him, including ourselves.

2. My son. Although he has decided to drop out of his college program already and it was a place that I thought would be good for him, I appreciate the courage it took to examine himself and realize what's best for him at this time. Also to be able to address some long-standing issues that we weren't necessarily aware of. I'm thankful for the time and space that he is taking to think things through and for his determination to surround himself with positive people.

3. My daughter. She seems to be in a good place right now and has positive supports. She is working toward the achievement of good goals and is growing as a person.

4. My husband. We celebrate 23 years of marriage this Sunday. We've had our ups and downs, but we still love and support each other, laugh together, etc. We're still learning and growing and desiring to better ourselves. 

5. My mom. She loves me and my family and does her best to help us in any way she can. I'm thankful God has given her many years and I pray the years to come are her best yet.

6. Prayer. It's such a gift to be able to commune with God and to share everything that's on my heart as well as to praise and thank Him for who He is. I'm thankful for prayer meetings and life group, for every opportunity to gather in prayer - where two or three are gathered, He is in our midst (Matthew 18:20).  

7. Old friends. This week I had lunch with someone I went to school with from kindergarten through high school. We also went to the same university, but he was in sciences and I was not. He lives and teaches in the U.S. now, but it's always a treat to see him and catch up. I'm thankful that he's a Christian too and we can converse about matters of faith.

8. Newer friends. Thankful for Facebook and in-person friends who understand some of the things we are going through and are in prayer concerning them.  

If you are a praying person, please pray for our pastor's family, co-workers and close friends who are grieving his loss. Also for us and our church as we mourn. Our pastor had a significant impact on so many people and though we trust that God knows what He's doing, this is a difficult time. 

You are loved! 

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Sermon Notes

Last Sunday our teacher addressed the subject of "praying when God seems to sleep." Since this is no doubt something that a lot of people are interested in and experience in their faith walks, I thought I'd share what we learned.

First of all, the text was based on Psalm 44. This is considered a psalm of lament (verses 9-25), reflecting corporate confusion and disillusionment. Why haven't the "formulae" for getting God to act worked? What should our response be?

1. We need to remember and celebrate God's mighty deeds (verses 1-3). As God's covenant people, the Jews had much to draw on in their history with God. As His new covenant people, we remember the virgin birth, Christ's incarnation/ life/death/resurrection, Pentecost, the early church, mission movements, revivals, local works, etc.

2. We need to affirm that God can do His mighty deeds again (verses 4-8). Ephesians 3:20 says that God can do "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." 

3. We have to recognize that sometimes God lets us experience His absence and lets us fail (verses 9-16). God is the ultimate controller of history; He has His plans and sees the big picture. As finite humans, we cannot know what He knows and understands. We need to trust what He is doing. Ultimately, He will be glorified in and through all things. 

4. We should understand that failure is not always evidence of disobedience. Think about Abraham, Job and Jesus, just for starters. On the surface it may have appeared that they failed, but ultimately God knew what He was up to. God was exalted through their stories and each one triumphed over  circumstances.

5. We must keep praying, whether we understand or not. We should express our pain, disappointment, etc. and let God know how we feel. He knows anyway; nothing is hidden from Him. We should also acknowledge that God has the power to change our circumstances and situations. He wants us to come to Him and make requests. He desires conversation and relationship. He longs to give us good gifts, even when sometimes the packaging hides the beauty contained within. Ultimately, His love never fails.

Our church summer has been a series on prayer. How ironic that the day after we  we wrapped it up, our pastor was taken to hospital and found to have suffered subdural bleeding between his skull and brain. A day or two later he underwent surgery and today he is in serious condition in a deep coma. Doctors are optimistic that he will make a full recovery and we pray with everything that is in us that this will be so. If you're a praying person, would you please join in? Pray for our pastor, his wife, daughters and son-in-law, that they would sense God's presence and peace. Pray for healing. And pray for those on staff who are having to take on larger roles and responsibilities during this time.

Thank you.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Saturday Weigh-In

Just a quick check-in since I should be going to bed. I find it hard to believe I haven't posted a weigh-in since May, but it seems to be the case. At that time I still had 4 pounds to lose and nothing has changed in that regard: 3.8-4.8 pounds to get to my goal weight. However, at least the weight I gained on my last holiday (August, I still have to blog about it) has disappeared. 

This week I plan to get back on track with my meal planning (dinners anyway). That means lentils Monday, leftovers Tuesday, quinoa Wednesday, leftovers Thursday, beans Friday, leftovers Saturday, and soup or pasta Sunday. Does that sound like too many leftovers? Well, there are only two of us now, so unless I come up with a greater selection of proteins, leftovers it will be.

I also want to get back to exercising. Yes, I've been walking the dog, but since he stops to sniff quite often, it's not like we're walking at a Speedy Gonzales pace. And while I've been doing my physiotherapy exercises, they're not exactly weight-loss oriented.

Still checking in with my weight-loss pal about once a week, and will continue to do so. 

How did you fare with your "diet" over the summer?

Friday, 9 September 2016

Dear Friday

It's been a busy week and there's much to be thankful for:
1. Got the "kids" moved in to their residence dorms on Monday. My daughter doesn't like us referring to them as "kids," so I had to laugh (silently) when the President, faculty and staff who addressed us Monday identified them as such. One member of the student council even called them "children." LOL

[Aside: I'm confident they're both going to have a great year - they're right where they're supposed to be!]

No, this is not me, but shows one of my neck exercises :)
2. Making progress with my physiotherapy and am down to once a week visits. Now to make sure I faithfully do the exercises to keep things moving forward.

3. Great night at my Christian writers' group. I hadn't been in months and have revised the opening of my novel. Hearing it read aloud I was able to identify some of the problems and begin thinking about how to resolve them before our next meeting.

4. I have more time to write now that my husband and I are empty-nesters. But I haven't spent a lot of time writing this week, focusing on organizing and tidying up some things around the house. Next week I'll have to get back to it, though. There will always be housework to do and I need to prioritize my time so that writing is one of the things that come first.

No, I don't do my laundry old-school, LOL
5. Less laundry and dishes to clean! Smaller grocery, utility and electrical bills!

6. Popped in to pick up one of my son's final projects from a teacher at his old high school. Ended up having a nice chat with two of his teachers from last term, both of whom think a lot of him and are happy about his direction for this year.

7. I did a shift for someone at work a couple of Saturdays ago and didn't have to work today as she filled in for mine. One less shift this week in order to get more done at home!

Yes, my rhubarb was about this big!
8. The rhubarb's been growing like crazy and no one has been picking it. I did it this morning before the predicted rain arrives. A couple of mosquito bites to show for my efforts, but also - stewed rhubarb, rhubarb pie, strawberry and rhubarb jam (not yet, but hopefully soon - first I will wash, cut and freeze what I'm not immediately using).

Well, enough about me! What are you thankful for today?