Encouragement During these Difficult Times

I would like to take this moment to encourage everyone to listen to their hearts about what to be doing with your time, and prioritize what is important each day. 

Perhaps we start each day writing out our goals for the day. First base your list on your needs. If you need employment right now, spend some time each day on your job search. If you need family, reach out, using the many technology methods available today. If I can learn Zoom and Facebook Messenger, you certainly can! If you have a need to improve your yard or home, make a list, wear your mask, and go pick up what you need in one trip. Don’t forget to wash your hands when you get home!

I myself have had no problem finding things to do.  For one thing, I am still working full time at home. However, there are still many things I can no longer do because of the pandemic (visiting family for instance). I am doing things that I have not had time for in the past. In fact, what I have found is that I need to focus on prioritizing all that I want to be doing. If I don’t prioritize then I am starting numerous projects without finishing any of them! In fact, because I am still employed and working at home, their are still things on my list that I am not getting to. I want to clean my attic and I want to varnish those two porch chairs, but I must focus on what is most important to me. I plan to paint my kitchen cupboards to brighten up my kitchen! In fact, I plan to take Thursday and Friday off of work this week in order to get started. Did you know that doing a professional job on your kitchen cupboards requires 2 coats of primer and 3 coats of paint! Can you imagine? I am going to embark on quite a time consuming project!

I have noticed from taking a look at Facebook occasionally and from what I see on the news that some of you out there in the world are struggling and bored. I want to encourage you today to take a hold of what you CAN do. Some ideas:

  • Start a new hobby
  • Go for a walk (I find that a walk really lifts my spirits)
  • Notice nature while walking; pay attention to all 5 senses on this walk
  • Exercise (relives stress)(make yourself do it!)
  • Meditate (this is hard work for me!)
  • Try out a new recipe
  • Remember when you couldn’t find the time to do all that you wanted to do?
  • Research ideas on the internet. I hear pinterest is full of ideas!
  • Look for professional development opportunities on line: check out Udemy, Coursera, Ed2Go, even LinkedIn has professional development within it’s website.

And finally, please don’t forget the keys to excellent mental health. Care for yourself in these three crucial areas: Exercise, Sleep, Eating healthy foods.

How we handle this pandemic is all up to us. We can look at it positively or allow our thoughts to go all negative on us which can lead to depression.  I stumbled across an online course for free the other day!  Thankfully, we can still do research in our own homes these days with a computer and/or a smart phone.

Don’t let this pandemic get you down.  YOU choose how to handle it!

Journaling

How many of you journal out there? I will admit, since my sister passed away in February, I have had difficulty doing what I MUST do, much less take the time to journal. But what I am thinking?!? Keeping a journal is the best way to deal with feelings, with grief, with my thoughts. Knowledgeable counselors tell us that putting our worries and concerns on paper helps us to get them out of our brain, so we are not worrying or ruminating excessively.

I have been keeping what I call a “prayer journal” for several years. I write in this journal when I feel that God has spoken to me in some way. When things happen that really can’t be explained by anything other than the knowledge that God had his hand in this occurrence.

I will share one of the stories in that prayer journal.

“Yesterday when I arrived at my son and daughter in laws house, my son sensed how down I was – he said he could feel the “negative vibes.” He was worried but said nothing. My daughter in law and I went to the IF women’s conference. I couldn’t get into the music as I had last year when I attended, and I took very few notes which is unusual for me. I had considered backing out of my registration for this conference, my sister had passed away in February, my house was ripped apart (planned before my sister passed), and I was genuinely tired of life. I slept poorly that evening and when we rose to go to the second day of the conference, I felt no better. Still dragging, but with a feeling of hope since talking to my son that morning and hugging my grandsons, I went to the conference. During the opening praise music, I again felt nothing which is odd for me. Music tends to be uplifting to me. During the last song, I asked God to please come into my heart and heal my sad soul. Two or three times I prayed for this. As the morning continued two or three of the speakers “spoke” to my heart and soul and I found myself writing notes frantically, looking things up in the bible that my daughter in law had given me, and feeling uplifted in an awesome way. I had another great conversation with my daughter in law and my son. We did a prayer circle together thanking God for healing me and asking him to help my son with whether he could make a career change, and help my husband as he continues to support me in my loss.”

I really did feel blessed that day and recording it in my prayer journal helped it all feel more powerful than if I had not. Also, if I would not have recorded it, I would have forgotten all about a day when I felt blessed. Now I can go back and remember.

God has a Plan

According to Mary C. Neal, M.D. in her book, “7 Lessons From Heaven; How Dying Taught Me to Live a Joy-Filled Life,” there are two favorite bible verses that compete for the rank of #1.  One as you might guess is John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…”  The other is Jeremiah 29:11:  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Mary says, “I find this little fact revealing because it shows what people most want to know and remember about God’s intentions toward us.  In John’s gospel, I learn that God loves me.  In Jeremiah, it’s that God has a plan for me.  Both are exceptionally good news.”

I so agree with her when she later says that these verses are favorites because we humans need to know that we matter to the one who made us.  That we have a future no matter how difficult life gets for us.  We are all struggling hard to live life in a positive way when there are negatives all around us.  We are hurting from the loss of loved ones; struggling with life challenges.

My beloved sister of 54, passed away on February 1st. She had high blood pressure, but was otherwise a healthy, active and adventurous young lady. Her loss breaks my heart.  At her funeral our priest said something I will never forget:  “We can welcome grief, at least be unashamed of our grief, for after all, when we grieve a loss it is because we loved greatly, and we are here on this earth to love.”

1 Corinthians 13:13:  “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love.

Two Sunday’s later I was singing the Gloria in church and I had raised my voice to heaven when I saw in my mind my sister in heaven.  Jesus’s arms were around her and she had the biggest, happiest grin on her face that I have ever seen.  She had struggled with depression here on earth and at one time told my other sister that she couldn’t remember feeling real joy, she wasn’t sure what that felt like.  So seeing her in heaven with such joy on her face, was healing for me.

“So if God does have a plan for me in all this mess, what is it and how can I find it?”

Source: 7 Lessons from Heaven; How Dying Taught Me to Live a Joy-Filled Life, by Mary C Neal, MD

Meaningful Gift

Visited dad today at the assisted living facility.  His appetite is still not what it was, but he looked good today and I noticed that he looked happiest when we told him that we had four loads of gravel delivered to our driveway – something that would not have happened if he hadn’t put it in the contract with the quarry he owns.  We thanked him and he looked very pleased.  This reminded me that we are happiest when we are able to give.

I have been looking for a way to give my dad something.  It is hard because at this point in his life he wants nothing, material things are meaningless.  I told him today about the book I read, “Imagine Heaven.”  I asked him if he would like me to type up some of the best parts of the book, and he actually said, that yes, he would like that.

So crazy as it may seem, I am all excited about doing this.  I have highlighted and underlined all the passages in this book that were “ah ha” moments for me, but I might need to do some skimming to determine what parts might be “ah ha” moments for him  I will have to put myself in his shoes.  I am better at that than some people, but I can picture it being a bit of a challenge.  I also don’t want to re-write the book or anything, and I would like to have something for him to read next weekend when I go to visit.

Pray for my success with this please?  Thanks in advance.

It is a beautiful day in Wisconsin – finally!

There is nothing like a sunny breezy day.  Going for a walk this evening was pure pleasure.  I even did some singing!  Definitely got my steps in 🙂

Tonight I want to share another concept from the book, “Imagine Heaven.”

Jesus used an agricultural metaphor to teach this:  “Wake up and look around.  the fields are already ripe for harvest.  The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life.  What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike!”  (John 4:35-36 NLT, italics mine).  Helping people find faith and grow spiritually might get you mocked or persecuted in the short run, but it will one day bring you great, great joy!

When we take the time to help others find Jesus – he will reward us!  When you help others spiritually, no one may even notice, but God cares!

Source:  Imagine Heaven, by John Burke (a New York Times Bestseller!).

 

 

LOVE – How is it measured?

Last week I worked only two days out of five – one day was admittedly a vacation day (I spent it cleaning a house that our family wants to rent out).  The other two days I spent taking my dad to doctor appointments.

His regular doctor is telling me that it is time to let dad rest. It is no longer wise to keep encouraging him to walk and exercise each day. If he prefers a wheel chair to his walker, it is time for me to accept it.

She said it more kindly than the way I am saying it. I have a tendency to state things as they are.  Perhaps I could be described as blunt.

What really had me crying in the doctors office however wasn’t necessarily that piece of information. It was when they gave me the depression scale and told me I could help dad with it.  I read it to him and became increasingly upset as he continued to circle the statements as true. Things like, “I feel down much of the time.” The killer for me was when he circled yes to, “I feel like I am letting my family down.”  I said, “Dad, how could you be letting us down? Why would you feel that way?”

And of course like all the other times I ask a question, he either isn’t hearing me, or he cannot answer. My dad is as hard of hearing as any human being can be.  He wears hearing aids that don’t do much. The audio department in the clinic says these are the best kind of hearing aids for my dad, but really, it is amazing what he cannot hear.  Amazing and depressing.

So, the biggest thing that I have gotten from reading, “Imagine Heaven” by John Burke is this:  Life on earth is all about love.  The more we can love others the closer we are to fulfilling our purpose here on earth.

It is easy to love family (for me anyway). And I would imagine that we are meant to make a difference for those that we come in contact with during our every day lives.

But I have seen others love more. I have seen others give so much that I can’t imagine how they have anything left.  How do they do that? How do they find the energy? If I don’t have that kind of energy, is that OK?

Is it possible that I am no different than these others?  That perhaps they cry easily too?  That perhaps they are just as worn out as I am?

Check out Revelation 21:4; “The earth will change. There will be no fear, no hatred, and no hunger or pain. Only love” Quote from page 171 of “Imagine Heaven.”

Ready for your research project?  Google Akiane’s paintings of “The Prince of Peace” and “Father Forgive Me.”  Akiane’s story is in the book, “Imagine Heaven.”

That’s it for now.

Imagining Heaven to help us with life’s trials

It has been a difficult week. The Bothne House where my dad has been living comfortably for over a year flooded in Coon Valley, WI this past week. All the residents were evacuated in the middle of the night, and I found out the next morning that my father had been taken to Vernon Memorial hospital in Viroqua and that he was safe. That is #1 right? He is safe.

I found myself back at square one however.  A need to find a new assisted living facility that can provide his needs, yet give him the freedom he needs to live his own life.  That is what assisted living facilities give our loved ones.

These last few days after the flood have been full of all the same self doubt thoughts that I went through in 2015 when we first found out that dad could no longer live on his own.  Do I bring him home to live with me?  Do we sell our house and purchase one that will “work” when dad is under our roof?  This old house wasn’t built right.  One bedroom and one bathroom on the ground level (dad can no longer navigate steps). There are tons of painful reasons why we continue to choose to place dad in assisted living.  Perhaps the biggest reason is his stubbornness. He listens to strangers and accepts their care, letting his children care for him seems to be something else entirely.  Assisted Living also gives him a social life, even though he claims he does not need one.  We all need other people.

In spite of the crazy busyness of the last few days, I have found a few minutes to read (as always), and I am still in the middle of “Imagine Heaven.” John Burke has certainly opened my eyes to the joy we will eventually feel when we join Jesus in heaven.  He wrote:

There is something wired into us that we all long for, something we crave, and yet every human experience leaves us still searching.  As U2 sings, “But I haven’t found what I’m looking for.”  All our longings point toward Heaven, and those who have had Near Death Experiences say it’s more real and far more beautiful than we can imagine.”

John Burke uses scripture and the stories of hundreds of people who have experienced Near Death Experiences to help us imagine heaven.  He says:

How did hundreds of people – doctors, airline pilots, bank presidents, tenured professors – who din’t need to make up wild stories to make money (and would lose professional credibility doing so), come to describe an amazingly similar place?

I believe he has a point. He also says, “The verses in Hebrews  suggest that God created Earth in the image of Heaven, just as he created mankind in his image.”

Jesus’s disciple, John  had a vision of Heaven (recorded in Revelation).  Check it out in your bible. (Revelation 21:10 – 12, 19, 23). John Burke says:

I used to think the descriptions in Revelation were purely metaphorical. While I still think much is symbolic, when so many people with Near Death Experiences (even blind ones) describe the same supernatural beauty John described, you have to wonder! If it’s true, imagine how awesome, how intriguingly beautiful, how much like earth Heaven will feel, and yet so much more alive, all of it vibrant, colorful, infused with the very light and life of God permeating everything.

This book is definitely a good read. And reading it gives me hope for the future, my future and my dad’s, right at a time when I need it the most.

Have you wondered what Heaven could be like?

I am reading some fascinating stories about Near Death Experiences in a New York Times Bestseller right now that has been out on the market since 2015.  The book is called, “Imagine Heaven” by John Burke.  John has researched the many books that have been written about Near Death Experiences.  John explains that in writing his book he has mostly “chosen the testimonies of professors, medical doctors, wealthy professionals, or children, who don’t seem to have anything to gain by such amazing stories.”

Captain Dale Black, author of Flight to Heaven says,

Imagine Heaven is a comprehensive compilation of inspiring life-after-death experiences – grounded in the author’s solid Bible teaching.  Extensively researched yet enjoyable to read, John Burke’s book is a must-read for those wanting a thorough understanding of Heaven.

He uses the stories he has researched and scripture to explain his thoughts and help us imagine heaven.  For example, he says,

“Maybe the reason we never feel fully satisfied in this life is because we were created for the life to come.  As Paul said, “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us….We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:18, 22).  What if this life is merely a birth canal into true Life?  Imagine – to live again, forever young, but with wisdom too?

Burke uses many stories to help us imagine heaven and not surprisingly there is a lot of reference to the power of love.  For example:

Gary Wood, who died in the car accident (mentioned earlier in the book), said, “A radiant, beautiful light came from Him.  When He looked at me, His eyes pierced me, they went all the way through me.  Just pure love….His words came as the same sound as the water flowing over Niagara Falls….’Tell people they are special and unique, each one.  God made every one of His children to have a divine purpose, which only they can accomplish in the earth.'”

Don Piper who wrote the book, “90 Minutes in Heaven:  A True Story of Death and Life” after he was crushed by an 18-wheeler and pronounced dead for 90 minutes, wrote the forward for “Imagine Heaven.”  He prays that many will “read this balanced, relevant, and penetrating analysis of the Bible’s report of Heaven and these stories of the fortunate few who have experienced Heaven during a temporary separation from earth, and will embrace the utterly urgent need to prepare for their own entrance into eternity.”

Are you prepared for life after death?

What brings you joy?

Someone asked me what lifts my heart this morning.  I took a few seconds to really think about it.  I had done some listening to Christian music on the way in to work, and when I choose to sing along, it usually lifts my spirits considerably.  So my response to my co-worker was, “Well, I guess I find joy in singing some good Christian Music.”  A student walked in then and our conversation ended.

How often do you listen to Christian Music?  Do you need something to lift your spirits at times?  I printed out the lyrics to some of my favorite songs, like “I can only Imagine,” by MercyMe and What Faith Can Do, by Kutless. This way, I can glance at the words and sing at the top of my lungs while I am driving.

Have you sung the lyrics for “What Faith Can Do?  Do try it some time….what an uplifting and beautiful song.
What Faith Can Do, by Kutless – Lyrics

Everybody falls sometimes
Gotta find the strength to rise
From the ashes and make a new beginning
Anyone can feel the ache
You think it’s more than you can take
But you are stronger, stronger than you know
Don’t you give up now
The sun will soon be shining
You gotta face the clouds
To find the silver lining

I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains
Hope that doesn’t ever end
Even when the sky is falling
I’ve seen miracles just happen
Silent prayers get answered
Broken hearts become brand new
That’s what faith can do

It doesn’t matter what you’ve heard
Impossible is not a word
It’s just a reason for someone not to try
Everybody’s scared to death
When they decide to take that step
Out on the water
It’ll be alright
Life is so much more
Than what your eyes are seeing
You will find your way
If you keep believing

I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains
Hope that doesn’t ever end
Even when the sky is falling
I’ve seen miracles just happen
Silent prayers get answered
Broken hearts become brand new
That’s what faith can do

Overcome the odds
You don’t have a chance
(That’s what faith can do)
When the world says you can’t
It’ll tell you that you can!

I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains
Hope that doesn’t ever end
Even when the sky is falling
I’ve seen miracles just happen
Silent prayers get answered
Broken hearts become brand new
That’s what faith can do
That’s what faith can do

Even if you fall sometimes
You will have the strength to rise

 

Source:  Internet, For non-commercial use only, Data From: LyricFind

Home Maintenance and Inspiration

Yesterday we painted the walls in our bedroom.  I needed a new look.  I realized some time ago that I have always chosen neutral colors when painting in our home (my husband is the construction guy, and I am the painter).  Neutral colors because that is what “they” advise.  “They” being those who write about home improvement issues.

At this stage in my life I feel like I NEED my home to reflect who I am…and I want to feel comfort and joy in my color choices.  It wasn’t easy choosing colors.  Luckily things like the color of the carpet kept me from getting too wild with my choices.  Now looking at the finished results, I have to say that I am quite pleased.  Three of the walls are “Spiced Ginger” – a Dutch Boy brand color (if you want to look that up),  and the fourth wall is “Lava Flow.”  So, imagine the color of lava flow.  Yes, I know!  It is pretty bright….but guess what?  I love it!  And it compliments the work of art that I purchased for that wall some time ago.

So, given inspiration, I have chosen colors that we both like.  I did pray on the way to Menards, our local home and building store, because I knew the colors I was looking at were out there a ways and I knew they would not compliment our blue grey carpet in that room, which the hubby says is not old enough to replace.  I even found a bedspread and matching shams at Shopko, on sale!  I took my little paint color strips in with me to make sure.  That bedspread has my paint colors in it, PLUS the colors in the carpet and curtains….so Walla!  It is a miracle (or prayers answered), however you want to look at it.  The picture I shared includes all colors – cool huh?  Still some work to do of course – the work is never done.

Oh, and the living room is next.  That will happen this fall.  I get to throw out the couch that has been shedding little black flecks of vinyl all over the place….UGGHHH!  Yes this has tried my patience.  Needing inspiration to be patient!