Tag Archive | blogging

What Can I Do?

Floe-Marian faces 2015That question has been on my mind every day for the past couple weeks as I have watched the news from our southern border. And I know I’m not alone.

A few days ago one of my Facebook friends wrote, 

“I just keep giving because I don’t know what else to do beyond contact my legislators… It’s World Refugee Day today. It’s a day dedicated to raising awareness of the situation of refugees throughout the world. If you are at all in favor (or ambivalent) of this administration’s actions, I implore you to take a moment today to educate yourselves and find empathy for those seeking asylum from violent countries in Central America such as El Salvador and Honduras. The vast majority of these refugees are not looking to freeload off of the USA, they are seeking safety for themselves and their families.” 

Nearly half a million people have joined my Facebook friend in making a donation to RAICES, an immigration legal services provider who is committed to reuniting immigrant parents with their children who were taken away from them at our border. (https://www.raicestexas.org). I thought about sending them some money, but I wondered what else I could do to help alleviate the terrible situation of children from Central America being separated from their parents at the border, with no credible assurance that they will ever be reunited. 

I feel particularly connected to the people of Honduras because Mim and I are currently providing support for two girls in Honduras, Dulce and Leydi, through a small organization called Casita Copan. (CasitaCopan.org)

Leydi Emily Dulce

Leydi, Emily (founder and executive director of Casita Copan), and Dulce. (Photo by Liz Dougherty)

Also, we make donations, at least once a year, to various projects of Buenos Vecinos (BuenosVecinos.org), a small aid organization in western Honduras and Guatemala organized by Ellen Lippman Finn, a retired social worker and jazz musician from the United States. 

51smFhUIbL._SX322_BO1204203200_Ellen wrote a book about her experiences in Honduras, EMOTIONAL WITNESS: My seven-year journey as an aid worker into the heart of Honduras. (The book is available in both print and digital form on amazon.com.) I’d like to share a few excerpts from her book to provide a more personal glimpse into the extreme violence today’s Central American refugees are fleeing. Ellen writes:

My house was robbed again a couple days ago, in front of many witnesses who were afraid to come forward because the robber is a gang member… This was the thirteenth or fourteenth time I’ve been robbed…

I can’t count how many times I’ve been extorted. A couple of them really scared me. One I actually paid off because they threatened to harm a dear friend if I didn’t pay. And as far as murders – I can’t even count how many friends, workers, neighbors have been murdered by police, by an angered person, by narcotraficantes [drug traffickers], by gang members. I barely cry any more.

My neighbor had her head cut off with a machete in broad daylight on a main street. The police didn’t find her attacker. Police never “find” anyone.

One of the worst scenarios that keeps haunting me is the murder of Odilio. He was the kind and respected leader of a mountain village where he built a small school. He had just finished building the school when, in the middle of the night, two crazy men high on drugs forced their way into his house and shot him pointblank while his kids hid under the bed. The children are still traumatized, as well as all of the members of his community. They have now all dispersed, leaving the village empty. This kind of violence can and does happen anywhere and at any time. My friend’s son was murdered in a restaurant. We all live in fear…

One night, I heard gunshots and called the police. They never showed up. In the morning, at about 5:00 a.m., I found a dead body at my gate, full of bullet holes, dried blood everywhere. He was a young fellow I knew. No motive found. No murderer found. What’s worse is this wasn’t the only time I had found a dead body, and I live in a supposedly quiet tourist town. San Pedro Sula, our largest city, a few hours from here, is now considered the most dangerous city in the world due to gang violence.

Later in the book, Ellen described how she put together enough terrifying clues to realize that she was actually on a hit list. She discussed this with Marel, a Honduran friend and co-worker on many of her aid projects. He investigated and confirmed her suspicions. 

… after my conversation with Marel, I periodically saw men walking by my house in pairs, especially in the evening. This frightened me terribly at first. They appeared to be reading. This made no sense. Why would folks be reading? When I asked Marel, he told me that he hadn’t wanted to worry me, so he hadn’t mentioned anything. These men were from his church, many of whom I had helped over the years in one way or another, with food baskets, emergency medical help, house repairs, and school supplies. And yes, they were in fact reading. Bibles. They were walking around my house in two-hour shifts. When Marel told me this, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I was so touched. These men were protecting me in shifts, two at a time, two bibles at a time, praying, monitoring, their cell phones at the ready….

There was a continual yet futile search for more information. As I came to understand it, the narcotraficantes didn’t like that we were working in “their communities.” The more we empowered the communities with schools, or a clinic, or a bakery to make them self-sufficient, the less power and control the narcos would have to extort from the villagers. I still didn’t get it completely, but I was in no position to try and figure it out. I had to leave if I wanted to stay alive…”

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Ellen shopping for school supplies with some of her young friends.

That’s everyday life in Honduras, as seen through the eyes of a 70-year-old former social worker who who lived there for seven years, trying to help families survive their cruel circumstances. She had to flee for her life, and was back in the United States for a while. It’s still not safe for her to return to Honduras (except for a few carefully planned trips to visit her old friends), so she has moved to neighboring Guatemala. Through Buenos Vecinos (which translates to Good Neighbors) Ellen is doing basically the same kind of aid projects in Guatemala that she had done in Honduras – providing school supplies and school lunches, building schools, helping to address medical needs, and so on.

After reading this book, it’s easy to understand why individuals and families in Honduras are trying to immigrate to the United States. They are literally fleeing for their lives.

Back to my original question, what can I do to help? When I lived in Chicago and was working in business, I learned that to solve problems, it is important to figure out how to remedy the immediate problem, but it is just as important to look for the root cause of the problem in order to find a permanent solution. For us in the United States today, the immediate challenge is to reunite children who have been separated from their parents at the border. That’s the problem that brings tears to my eyes every day when I watch the news. That’s the problem (or at least one of the problems) that RAICES is trying to address, and they are getting help from nearly half a million people who are donating funds to support their efforts. Mim and I might join in with a small donation. We want to be a part of this solution.

But we also want to be a part of the long-term solution. Thanks to our connections with Ellen Lippman Finn and Buenos Vecinos, we know that a permanent solution involves making it possible for the incredibly poor families in Central America to survive and even to thrive in their own communities. We can do this by making donations to organizations like Buenos Vecinos so that they can provide resources to these families to help them meet their basic needs – food, clothing, housing, health care, education, and ultimately some means of livelihood.

And, on an even more personal level, Mim and I will continue to support our two girls at Casita Copan so that they can be assured their basic needs will always be met. Both girls will have birthdays this summer. We’ll send them birthday cards, and will provide an extra donation to the organization for birthday presents. They need to know that someone in North America really cares about them and has hope for their future.

Earlier this year Mim and I sent special presents with some friends of ours who went to Honduras to visit face-to-face with the children they support through another organization, Children International (children.org).

Leydi Dulce smiling w presents

(Photo by Liz Dougherty)

We sent Dulce (age 9) a backpack filled with coloring books and crayons, art papers and pens, and other craft supplies, and Leydi (age 16) a tablet computer along with an amazon.com gift card that she can use to download apps or kindle books. (She has Internet access at Casita Copan.)

I’m sure tears will still come to my eyes when I listen to the news again this evening, but at least I know that Mim and I are doing what we can to help solve the huge problems facing our neighbors to the south. If you, like us, want to know what you can do to help solve our world’s current immigration-related  problems, we encourage you to check out the websites of the organizations that are working to solve these problems with both short-term and long-term solutions, and consider making donations to support their efforts. 

www.RaicesTexas.org

CasitaCopan.org

Children.org

BuenosVecinos.org

Also, please feel free to respond to this blog post to share other ideas you may have to address these problems.

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Ellen with some young friends.

And one last comment. Some of the story of Ellen Lippman Finn and Buenos Vecinos may sound familiar to you. I wrote a blog post last February entitled “Memoir of a 70-year-old Super Hero.” If you want to learn even more about Ellen’s story and get a really close up look at the life of a loving and eccentric aid worker in Central America, pick up a copy of EMOTIONAL WITNESS: My Seven-Year Journey as an Aid Worker into the Heart of Honduras. I laughed hard, and I cried hard as I read this book. I highly recommend it. Here’s the link to it on amazon.com.  

Talking with Floey about Peace and Patience

Floey-Marian faces selfie 2Floey came running up to me as I opened the door into our condo from the garage. She was so excited I had to drop my suitcase to give her a big hug. “Oh, Floey. I’m so glad to see you. I missed you so much!”

“I missed you, too, Mom? Where did you go this time? Were you at Christmas Mountain again?” Floey asked.

“Yup. That’s where I was, Floey.”

“Why do you go there so often, Mom. I really miss you when you’re gone.”

“Oh, I wish I could take you with me, but like most timeshares, they don’t allow dogs. But anyway, if you did come with me, who would take care of our residents? They need you at home to do the pre-wash of their dishes before they go into the dishwasher. And the ladies like to have you snuggle up close to them to be petted. You’re needed at home.”

“I guess you’re right, Mom. But why do you go away so often?”

“Well, Floey, whenever I’m home, I’m always working, seven days a week. That’s the nature of our business – round-the-clock caregiving in our home. That’s why Mim and I need to get away, and why we almost always go away separately – so someone will always be home with you and our residents.”

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Christmas Mountain Village, Wisconsin Dells

I guess I understand. But what do you do at Christmas Mountain? I know it’s a ski resort in the winter and a golf resort during the rest of the year, and you don’t do either.”

“That’s a good question. You know what things I like to do, Floey. Don’t you?”

“Sure. You like to read and write and play the piano and go for walks.”

“Yup. And that’s exactly what I do at Christmas Mountain. I always get a nice, comfortable condo where I can sprawl out and enjoy my time there. Sometimes I even take my little five octave keyboard along so I can play the ‘piano.’ And, of course, I have my computer, iPad, iPhone, books, a puzzle, and I’ve even started bringing along a coloring book and colored pencils.”

“Wow. That’s why you always pack up so many bags when you leave!”

“That’s right. I want to have everything I might need to relax, in whatever way I feel like relaxing. This time I was away for almost a whole week, so I packed a lot of stuff.”

“Did you use all your stuff?”

“I guess not. I didn’t do the puzzle this time. I did more reading and writing than usual. And I walked quite a bit, too. And I spent some time just thinking.”

“What did you think about?”

images“One of the things I thought about was one of the books I read, THE GIFT OF PEACE by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, former Archbishop of Chicago. It was an incredibly inspiring book.”

“What was it about?”

“Here, let me show you, Floey.” I pulled my briefcase out of the car and pulled out the little book.

“Cardinal Bernardin wrote this book during the final months of his life. Thirteen days before he died, he finished the book, and hand-wrote a letter to serve as a preface to the book. The letter is actually published in the book in hand-written form. Let me read you an excerpt from the letter, Floey. That will give you a good impression of the tone and content of the book itself.”

“Okay, Mom. Read away.”

I have decided to write this very personal letter explaining why I have written this little book, The Gift of Peace. It is not an autobiography but simply a reflection on my life and ministry during the past three years, years that have been as joyful as they have been difficult. My reflections begin with the allegation of sexual misconduct brought against me November 1993 and continue to the present as I prepare for the last stage of my life which began in June 1995 with the diagnosis of an aggressive form of cancer.

To paraphrase Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities, “it has been the best of times, it has been the worst of times.” The worst because of the humiliation, physical pain, anxiety and fear. The best because of the reconciliation, love, pastoral sensitivity and peace that have resulted from God’s grace and the support and prayers of so many people. While not denying the former, this reflection focuses on the latter, showing how, if we let him, God can write straight with crooked lines. To put it another way, this reflection is intended to help others understand how the good and the bad are always present in our human condition and, that if we “let go,” if we place ourselves totally in the hands of the Lord, the good will prevail.

“Wow. Did you say he died less than two weeks after writing the book?”

“That’s right, Floey. Pretty inspiring, isn’t it? I’m so glad I had the time and a quiet place to read his book and to think about it this past week. That’s why going to Christmas Mountain is so good for me. I have the time to be quiet, to read, and to think.”

“What else did you think about?” Floey asked.

“Well, I thought a lot about patience, especially on Tuesday.”

“Patience? That’s not your word for the year. I think that was Mim’s word a couple years ago. Why did you think about patience? And, why on Tuesday?”

“Think, Floey. You know. What do I always do on Tuesday mornings?”

“That’s easy, Mom. Every Tuesday morning you add a post to your blog. Right?”

“That’s right. When I know I’m going to be away from home I usually try to write the post before I leave home so that all I have to do when I’m away is my final editing and posting it on the Internet. Then I send an email to let subscribers know it has been posted, and I post a comment on Facebook to let a lot of my friends know it’s there. The Tuesday morning process usually takes less than an hour. Well, the Internet connection at Christmas Mountain is always slow, but at least Internet service is available. Last Tuesday the Internet connection was the slowest I have ever experienced. I wasn’t even sure I could post my blog. I pounded the table a few times, and I paced all around the condo many times trying to think of where I could find a public Wi-Fi network I could use to post my blog – like maybe at McDonald’s or Culver’s. I finally was able to post my reflection about favorite hymns, “An Odd Favorite,” at Christmas Mountain. However, I’m sure my blood pressure was well above the healthy normal range!”

“You really were frustrated!”

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These terminals were the workhorses of the Finance Department. A telephone handset plugged into the modem on the right to communicate at 30 cps.

“I sure was, Floey. Once the post was out there, I went for a walk. That helped me calm down. I thought about how dependent upon – and demanding of – technology we have become. I remembered my first job where I worked with computers – Northwest Industries in Chicago. That company was widely considered leading edge in using information technology for making business decisions. In the mid-1970s we used a dial-up connection to transmit data at the rate of 30 cps (characters per second), about six times faster than a good typist can type a letter. Pretty fast, don’t you think? Whenever I wanted to see a report, I sent it to the printer (initially we had no monitors to view) and then went to get a cup of coffee while I waited for the report to print. After a couple years, the top executives were equipped with monitors that could display data at the rate of 120 cps. That’s when we were collaborating with decision support specialists at MIT, in the glory days of using computers to enhance management decision making.

“I can’t even remember how I could be so patient in those days! Patience. Maybe that was a virtue I possessed in the 1970s, but I certainly didn’t have it last Tuesday. I just wanted to add a post to my blog. That’s all. And technology was crawling along, not zipping by.”

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“I bet you were really, really frustrated, Mom. I can see you getting stressed out just talking about it.”

“You’re right, Floey. But I thought about it for a while. You know, patience is listed as one of the gifts of the spirit, right after peace. The Bible says in Galatians 5:22-23:

But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. [New Living Translation]

“I don’t know, Floey. Maybe I need to spend more time pondering and praying for the gift of patience.”

“Hey, Mom. Maybe patience should be your special word next year.”

“Maybe… It’s a little early to think about next year’s special word. I still have seven months left to focus on kindness – my word for this year.”

“You’re right, Mom. That can wait. Did you think about anything else while you were at Christmas Mountain last week?”

“Well, yes, there was one more thing. But let’s talk about that later. I still have to empty the car and get settled in again at home.”

“Okay, Mom. But don’t forget we have to continue this conversation.”

 

Patience-is-not-about-how-long-you-can-wait-but-how-well-you-behave-while-youre-waiting.

Another Perspective on CLARK

Clark KornelsonLast week’s post, “CLARK – One of the best and worst guests in my life” was one of the most looked-at posts in my almost five years of blogging. Typically from 40 to 80 people look at my blog on the first day of a post, usually a Tuesday. The next day, about half that. Then it gradually tapers down until the next Tuesday, when I post again. All together, on average, each post is viewed by between 100 and 200 people during the first week, sporadically after that. For last Tuesday’s post, Whispering Winds had 156 views on the first day. The next day there were 113 views. By this morning, after seven days, there have been 407 views. I think this might have set a new record for my weekly blog. But more significantly, this response tells me that Clark influenced a lot of lives, and many of these people still care about him 12 years after his death.

The gist of last week’s post was that my brother-in-law, Clark Kornelsen, was a challenging person in my life. There was very little that we saw eye-to-eye on, but because we were family, we needed to get along. We were two imperfect souls doing the best we could. In retrospect, we were good for each other – which undoubtedly is why God provided us the opportunity to interact with each other so much. It was God’s way of helping both of us grow to be kinder people.

I was very careful when I wrote last week’s post to try not to offend anyone who knew Clark, especially his children, my niece and nephews. My purpose in the post was not to criticize their dad, but rather to share how God sometimes uses difficult relationships for everyone’s benefit. I was pretty sure many people could identify with having to deal with challenging relationships.

Family Portrait 12-25-02

Clark and Nancy with their kids and grandkids – Christmas 2002

The first reader comment I received on this post – just a few minutes after posting it – was from a regular reader, someone whom I have never met but is a friend of a friend. Betsy wrote, “You, and God, touched my heart this morning Marian. Thank you.” That made me feel good about writing the post, even if I was taking a chance that I might offend someone. I guess it made me feel it was worth the risk.

A few minutes later another regular reader commented – someone else I have never met. Claudia is a cousin of Clark’s who lives in California. On Facebook she wrote, “I did not realize that is your connection to my family. I know my cousin Mardelle absolutely adored her brother Clark!”

Oops! I wondered if Claudia felt she needed to defend her cousin’s reputation after reading my blog post. She and Clark’s sister Mardelle were very good friends. Perhaps she thought I was being too critical of Clark. (Mardelle, who passed away a couple years ago, had been an avid reader and frequent commenter on my blog.)

Later that day Mary, a college friend of mine, posted a comment on the blog. “The fall of 1968 Clark & Nancy hosted a Canadian Thanksgiving celebration for Wheaton student Jeannie Cardiff in their home & I was invited. At dinner that night Clark asked about my grad. plans & my interest in missions, & then suggested that I contact Greater Europe Mission re: their summer short term programs. That brief conversation resulted in my leaving with GEM for Germany 10 days after graduation (June 1969) as a summer worker, then extending to teach the next school year at the German Bible Institute. The lessons learned in my walk with the LORD that year have framed my outlook on the world, its desperate need for the Gospel, & living a Gospel-centered life. God’s faithfulness continues & Clark (as an instrument in the LORD’s hand) was a pivotal part of it.”

I hadn’t thought about that Canadian Thanksgiving hosted by Nancy and Clark for some of my Wheaton friends in over 40 years. It was fun to remember that evening, even though the memory may have been prompted by Mary trying to redeem Clark’s reputation from my blog.

Between Facebook and the blog itself, there were lots of reader comments last week, many more than usual. These comments confirmed for me one of the key messages in “The Monastic Way” devotional readings by Joan Chittister for this month. The entry for last Thursday, February 18, was:

It is not so much that what we see we must see correctly. Instead, we must remember that most of what we see, we see because of the filters we wear while we look at it. “Persons,” Laura Ingalls Wilder says of the situation, “appear to us according to the light we throw upon them from our own minds.”

The filters I use when I remember Clark, and the filters Claudia and Mary use, are different. In all cases, Clark was a significant person in our lives. Based on the number of comments on last week’s blog post, Clark was a significant and positive influence on many lives. We just all saw him a little differently. We all saw Clark – as we see everyone – from our own perspective.

Clark - Terry on shoulders

Clark and his first son Terry going for a walk – with Clark “heightening” Terry’s perspective of the world.

 

Being Robbed

Blogger Linda Swanson - "Journey in Process" blog

“Journey in Process” is one of about a half-dozen blogs I follow. Linda Swanson in the blogger.

“I will not be robbed!” was the title of a blog post written by Linda Swanson for her blog, Journey in Process. Linda is a spiritual director who works mostly with missionaries all around the globe. She currently lives in New Jersey. She and her husband, Kevin, who is a pilot and a pastor, have spent most of their careers working for Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), an aviation and technology service focused on providing support to missionaries.

During the year that I have been following Linda’s blog, she has traveled extensively, speaking at several retreats and conferences, mostly for missionaries in Africa and Asia. She’s back in New Jersey now, and a couple weeks ago she wrote about being robbed at her new home and how she reacted to being robbed. That blog post reminded me of the times that I have been robbed, and how being robbed made me feel.

Telephone TableThe first time I was robbed I was in high school. There was a small telephone table in the dining room that I used as the space for dropping my books and purse when I came home from school. I also left a few of my things on that table – like pens and notepads. Sometimes I left some money there, if I didn’t want to have it with me in school.

One day, I remember I left two one-dollar bills on the table.  When I came home from school that day, the money wasn’t there. I asked my brother Danny about it, and he didn’t know anything was missing. When I mentioned it to my mom and dad, my dad said that around noon that day, he saw one of our neighbors come out of the house. (We never kept the door locked.) Dad had walked up to the house from the barn to see what the neighbor wanted, and the neighbor said something about wanting to borrow a tool – but my dad said the situation seemed a little suspicious. The visitor was a new neighbor that no one really trusted yet. Together Mom, Dad, and I concluded that the neighbor had probably come to the house to see my dad about something, and had decided to walk into the house and look around since no one appeared to be home. He probably saw the two one-dollar bills and slipped them into his pocket. My family never did trust that neighbor.

2 one-dollar bills 2 croppedWe did not confront the apparent thief. Mom said I should consider $2 the cost of the lesson I was learning about leaving money lying around in the open. Two dollars may not seem like much now, but back then it was two weeks’ allowance. I felt bad about the money, but I felt particularly bad that the reason I lost the money was that I was careless about where I kept it. I did learn a lesson.

The second time I was robbed I was living in Chicago with Mim and two other women – Marlene and Maurine. We were the four M’s. We lived on the first floor of a large vintage two-flat in a nice neighborhood. One beautiful summer night we left the windows open in the sun room. The next morning we discovered that two of our bicycles had been stolen from the sun room. The thieves had simply cut the screen, climbed inside, chosen the two bikes they wanted to steal, lifted them out the window, and probably rode off on them. We were fortunate they just wanted a couple bikes. They could have walked off with a lot more of our possessions. But I remember feeling spooked – knowing that while I had been sleeping, a couple strangers had been in our apartment. I was a little scared.  I learned a lesson that day, too – don’t leave first floor windows open at night in a city.

This 26-inch 3-speed Schwinn bicycle had been my a really special present I received on my 10th birthday.

My 3-speed Schwinn bicycle was one of the bikes that was stolen. My parents had given it to me on my 10th birthday.

I was almost robbed a third time, but I caught the thief in the act. I was climbing up the steps of the “L” in downtown Chicago. It was about 5:00 Friday evening, and the stairs and platform were crowded with everyone rushing to go home from work. As I reached out my hand to hold the swinging door to the “L” platform I turned to look back at the person behind me to be sure he would grab the door after me and not get slammed in the face. I saw that he was holding my wallet as he was removing his hand from my purse, a shoulder bag. He was startled to see me look at him, and he dropped the wallet back into the purse. When I got through the door onto the platform, I walked as fast as I could to get as far away from him as possible. Again, I was scared, but very thankful. That’s when I learned to use a small purse and keep it inside my completely closed briefcase.

L platformMim has been robbed twice. The first time, she had met me in the loop after work so that we could do a little Christmas shopping. As we walked from the Sears Tower to State Street we passed some kids who were laughing and jumping around on the street. A couple of them bumped into us, but we just smiled and kept walking. Everyone was having a good time, enjoying the spirit of Christmas. However, when we were in a store and Mim reached in her purse for her wallet to make her first purchase, she discovered that her wallet was missing. I paid for the present she was buying, but then we went home and called the police and filed the report. Unfortunately, in this case, Mim also had to notify credit card companies and get a new driver’s license. This robbery wasn’t particularly costly to us, but it was the biggest nuisance.

concrete flower pot w petuniasThe oddest robbery we’ve experienced was also in Chicago. Mim had just finished planting a big concrete pot with petunias and other annuals to sit on the ledge beside the front steps of our two-flat. She went around to the back of the house to put her garden tools away. When she came back to the front of the house to admire her handiwork, the pot was gone. In less than five minutes, someone had stolen Mim’s big flower pot. It had to be a strong person, because the concrete pot filled with potting soil and live plants and soaked with water was heavy. I can’t imagine that someone would steal a freshly planted flower pot to enjoy for the summer.

In all five of these robberies, we were a little shaken. I googled “robbed quotes” to see if someone could express more clearly than I can what our feelings were about being robbed. The closest quote to how I felt was by the British actor John Boyega. He said, “Being robbed hurts – not physically, but from what it does to your pride.” I guess I would substitute “sense of security” for the word “pride.” Being robbed makes you feel vulnerable and a little scared. In our cases, we also felt thankful that the losses weren’t greater.

What Linda said in her blog was,

Linda SwansonRobbed. I don’t know what to do with that word. When I woke this morning, I felt the power of that word start to do a color wash of gray over my perceptions of our new home, our new neighborhood. I lay in bed much longer than normal feeling the word, recognizing where it wanted to take my thoughts and conclusions, assumptions and presumptions. And, I decided not to go there.… Life will only be right if I remember where my security really comes from, that my joy and contentment are based on my relationship with God and not my circumstances.

Thanks, Linda, for reminding me of what it feels like to be robbed, and prompting me to be grateful again that my security really comes from God.

JOY – My Special Word for 2014

JOY Cross“Abbey, Mim & Me – Our Special Words for 2014” was the first blog post I wrote this year. I explained that rather than coming up with any New Year’s resolutions for 2014, I would spend the year focusing on JOY. The idea of choosing one special word to focus on for a whole year came from Debbie Macomber in her book, One Perfect Word: One Word Can Make All the Difference. The word I chose was JOY; Mim chose ENOUGH; and Abbey chose PLAY. To help me remember to think about my word, I bought an amber-colored glass cross with the words, “The JOY of the Lord is my strength” printed on it, and it hangs from a suction cup on my patio door. Every time I slide the door open, the JOY cross clinks on the glass door and I think about my word. Most nights I lay in bed before falling asleep and I think about the joy I have experienced that day.

I’m sure I’ve been more aware of joy in my life this year than any year in the past. The irony is that I’ve also experienced more than my usual share of sadness. Maybe that’s why God gave me the word JOY to focus on in 2014. I’ve been to lots of funerals for friends this year, and about half of them (4) have been for friends about my age – mid-sixties. But even at funerals, there can be joy, as we get together with old friends we haven’t seen in a long time and remember good times together with each other and with our friend who is no longer with us.

One of the biggest changes in our living situation happened early in 2014. For most of 2013 we had only one nonagenarian living with us. Before the end of January, another 92-year-old moved in. A couple weeks later a third 92-year-old moved in with a neighbor along with the understanding that she can rely on us for the general management of her care. Keeping up with three (now) 93-year-olds is keeping us very busy! All of them are very active. One is an avid reader and enjoys going out with friends and family. She has some kind of social engagement almost every week. The other two go to bingo once a week and have two or three other outings every week. All together, we have lots of good times together – a regularly recurring source of JOY.

The hidden JOY of being somewhat overwhelmed by all this added caregiving responsibility is that we now have six independent caregivers who help us out several hours a week so that Mim and I can take two afternoons off almost every week to do fun things – like going to movies and shopping at resale shops. (The best of many good movies we saw this year was “The Theory of Everything.” We both highly recommend it.) Mim and I were also able to get away for four quick mini-vacations – a first in many years. We visited friends in Wausau for a Wisconsin-style lobster fest. We went to Minnesota for the 150th anniversary of Gol Lutheran Church, Mim’s family church. And we went to our Christmas Mountain timeshare a couple times – once to celebrate our first wedding anniversary and once to just relax for a few days. We had lots of JOY to celebrate with each getaway.

Abbey head-on colorJOY would have been a good name for our dog Abbey. She brought an incredible amount of JOY to Mim and me and to everyone who lived with us during the eight years she was with us. When she had to leave us in November, there was a great big hole in our home. One of the 93-year-olds said the same thing every time she came into the house from one of her outings, “I miss Abbey so much.” Abbey would always be at the door to meet us. All three nonagenarians and Mim and me quickly agreed we wanted to get another dog to love us and be loved by us as soon as we could.

Within a couple weeks, Floey (short for Florence Nightingale, caregiver in training) joined our family. She’s been with us just over a month now, and already she’s taken on the role of bringing each one of us a daily dose of JOY.

Floey sittingJOY definitely was “the perfect word” for me for 2014. Focusing my attention on that special word helped me find and recognize and appreciate how much joy is in my life.

Which leads me to what I think will be my word for 2015 – GRATITUDE. That word keeps coming to mind whenever I try to think of what will be a good word to focus my attention on next year. I’ll decide for sure by January 1 – but I think GRATITUDE will be the word.

JOY Cross and Pond - closer

Abbey Still Has More to Say

Abbey-Marian

Abbey and me collaborating on blog posts

In my imagination, Abbey has been talking to me over the last couple weeks. Her spirit is still very much alive. “Mom,” she said, “I was really sad to leave you, and I still think about you a lot. But I’ve also been really busy exploring heaven. You can’t imagine all the smells there are up here. One of my first days here I picked up a familiar scent and followed the trail for a few minutes, and you’ll never guess who it led me to – cousin Holly! We reminisced for a while about the good old days in Uncle Dan’s workshop, and then she offered to take me around to meet lots of our relatives – both canine and human. Every day in heaven is a new adventure!”

It was so good to hear Abbey talking to me again, even if it was just in my imagination. One thing Abbey said to me was, “Our imaginations are among the best gifts God ever gave us.”

Abbey also told me, “Mom, you need to get another dog as soon as you can. Your family is incomplete without one. I’ll help you find the next dog, one who will be the perfect fit for you and Mim and everyone you take care of. What you need to do is write a HELP WANTED ad in your blog to let your friends know that you are looking for another canine companion and caregiver – someone a lot like me. Then you also need to do an Internet search for ‘dog adoption.’ Your old dog Megabyte, who I met up here last week, told me all about how search engines work. She said if you enter the search criteria correctly, Megabyte and I can arrange to have the right dog come up near the top of your search results. Then you just need to follow up with the contact info to meet the perfect dog for you.”

As you know, I followed Abbey’s advice. Last week I blogged the HELP WANTED ad. I also did an Internet search to try to find the right dog. IT WORKED!!! The perfect dog came to our attention almost right away. I followed up with the contact info for ARVSS (Animal Rescue and Vet Support Services), learned more details about her, filled out an online application, and interviewed her and her foster mom. As of Sunday afternoon, she has joined our family.

Yesterday, Abbey entered my imagination again and said, “Mom, you have no idea how happy Megabyte, Maia, and I are that you brought another dog into our family. We had a party last night to celebrate our new sibling. And we’re so proud of you that you followed our advice and found the dog we sent your way.”

Floey adoption photo

Floey – named after Florence Nightingale.

So who is our new companion and caregiver? We’ve renamed her “Floey” – short for Florence Nightingale, one of the most famous caregivers of all time. She came with a rather strange name for a dog, “Pony.” We figured that “Floey” sounds enough like “Pony” that she’ll adjust to her new name quickly. And, in fact, she already has. I called her by her new name a few minutes ago, and she came right over to me. She’s lying on the floor beside me now as I’m writing this blog post.

“Hey, Floey, do you want to help me write my blog post today?”

“Sure, Mom. What do you want me to do?”

“I want to let people know all about you. What should we tell them?”

“That’s easy. I’m 10 months old, nearly full-grown. I weigh 28 pounds. I never knew my parents, but I think I’m a distinctive mix of several breeds including Australian Shepherd or border collie, and whippet. I’m quite petite in my features, except I have long, lean legs which make me a very good runner.”

Floey playing with cousin Lucy in Uncle Dan's carpentry shop.

Floey playing with cousin Lucy in Uncle Dan’s carpentry shop.

“Why did you want to join our family, Floey? You know you’ll have to be a working dog if you live with us – you’ll have to be a loving companion and caregiver around the clock.”

Floey meeting Anna.

Floey meeting Anna.

“I think I was born to love and be loved. I think we all were, but not everyone realizes it. When I first walked into your house and saw Anna sitting at the kitchen counter, I knew I had to run up to her and kiss her. She laughed and laughed and petted me. We were both so happy. Then when I sniffed around,  exploring the house, I saw Carolyn sitting in her room. I ran up to greet her, and she reached out her arms to welcome me. She told me how beautiful I am. I immediately fell in love with both Anna and Carolyn. That was after I’d already fallen in love with Mim and you. Can you imagine what that feels like to fall in love with four new people, all in one afternoon? It’s wonderful!”

“Hearing you talk, Floey, I want to say you are the personification of love, but I know that’s not quite the right word. Dogification, maybe? Anyway, I’m truly thankful that you have joined our family.”

“And, I’m thankful that God brought us all together,” responded Floey.

This is the perfect week for Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for, including the dogs in our lives and their uninhibited and unlimited ability to love.

Floey resting on my legs at the end of her adoption day.

Floey and me putting our feet up at the end of our first day together.

 

THINK about the Gift of Language

Do you hate the political ads on TV as much as I do? Which ad do you hate the most? Is there any ad, from either political party, that you really like?

I’ll be so glad when the election has come and gone and TV can get back to its usual commercials that we can simply ignore, rather than being manipulated into getting angry about the “factual” distortions that are being shouted at us.

political ad cartoonSomething that makes me even angrier than the political ads on TV is some of the political diatribes posted on Facebook. I have FB friends on both political extremes as well as all along the continuum from left to right. The tone of some of their posts is extremely condescending toward their “friends” who hold differing opinions. I’m tempted to unfriend some of them, but then I reconsider, hoping that posts will get friendlier once the election is over. Unfortunately, I’m afraid I may be proven wrong, but I’ll wait and see.

I really don’t believe that God gave us the gift of language so that we could create political ads and Facebook rants.

T-H-I-N-KOur pastor said something in church (MessiahChurch.com) a couple weeks ago that I’m trying really hard to remember. Pastor Jeff said that he and his wife Melissa are trying to teach their kids to THINK before they speak, especially when they are responding to something that irritates them. They need to THINK before speaking – to ask themselves the following questions about what they are going to say:

  • Is it TRUE?
  • Is it HELPFUL?
  • Is it INSPIRING?
  • Is it NECESSARY?
  • Is it KIND?

Those key words form the acronym THINK. (You can watch a 12-minute video of his sermon here – and click on the arrow for the October 19, 2014 Sermon, “Pick the Correct Song!”)

Can you imagine what political ads on TV would be like if the creators of the ads had asked themselves those questions – if they had taken the time to THINK – before creating the ads?

Can you imagine how much kinder your friends’ Facebook posts might seem if your friends would take the time to THINK before they post their comments?

I’m trying to imagine how I might respond differently to friends, acquaintances, and strangers if I would take the time to THINK before communicating my responses to them. Is my comment TRUE? Is my comment HELPFUL? Is my comment INSPIRING? Is my comment NECESSARY? Is my comment KIND?

Thanks, Pastor Jeff, for telling us about the THINK approach to communicating – to THINK before we speak. Your comments were HELPFUL and INSPIRING.

One more thought. To all those questions: TRUE? HELPFUL? INSPIRING? NECESSARY? KIND? I’d like to add the comment, “and the greatest of these is KIND.” That brings me back to my favorite Bible verse of all time. Here it is as I memorized it 60 years ago from the King James Version:

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. [Ephesians 4:32]

kindness kittenThe most important question for me to ask myself before speaking (or messaging, or posting on Facebook, or blogging, or communicating in any other way) – “Is the comment I am about to make kind to the person who will be receiving it?” If not, let me re-phrase the comment, or maybe even keep quiet.

Language is a precious gift. I guess it’s prudent to THINK before using it.

Kindness - Mother Teresa quote 2