Pressure Cooker of Life

I can remember the yummy chicken dinners that my mother prepared in her pressure cooker; at the end of the process, the chicken was tenderized. A pressure cooker works using a combination of pressure and steam to cook food quickly.  There is a valve to control the steam and a certain amount of steam is let off to alleviate some of the pressure at different times in the cooking process.

A lot of us have different coping mechanisms to alleviate some of the stress that we feel, and sometimes one of those is Facebook. It connects us just enough to let off some steam and alleviate the pressure quickly. Even though we feel better when we let off steam,  it doesn’t last for long.  We need to have the courage to stay involved in the process of discovering why we’re upset and ‘stay on the burner.’

Yesterday, I was presented with some unexpected news and now I have to weigh the pros and cons about how to deal with this issue. I need to stay on the burner and deal with this, and there will be consequences either way, but in the end, I know that it will lead to my heart being tenderized.

We live in a society where sometimes we don’t share the important things; we would rather stay in safe conversations. Oddly enough, though we live in a society connected through cell phones and Facebook and so many other websites, we live in isolation. That disconnect is making us lonely as a society.

It is risky to share what is really going on because there is always a high probability that people are not going to understand; even your closest friends might not understand. That is why we make choices about whether or not to speak up and be authentic or just live lives on the surface. No matter which way you choose to go, there are always losses. It could be a loss in friendship or a loss of security. Telling the truth disrupts your life as it is now, but when we have the courage to go through the process of being tenderized, we gain strength and freedom.

 

 

The Wait is Over!

lyla and hannah

Fifteen days ago, I got a call from my son-in-law, Vince, that my daughter Rachael was in labor! It was unexpected because Hannah was not supposed to arrive for another three weeks. I was so excited, I couldn’t sleep all night. The whole next day I carried my phone everywhere and there wasn’t any news for hours and hours. I tried to pass the time watching the last U.S. World Cup game with friends, but that was no match for what was really on my mind that whole time!  Then I got a text that labor had slowed down and that Rachael and Vince had actually taken a nap while I had sat on pins and needles waiting! Later that night, as I was getting ready for bed, I got a text saying, ‘Hannah Mae is here!’ So instead of going to bed, I went to see my precious granddaughter.

Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to go through the hard times that we have in life if we knew what happiness it would bring us in the future? I had no idea how delightful it would be to hold Hannah when I was chasing my own little two year old so many years ago.  At the time, it was exasperating, especially because I have Cerebral Palsy, and there was no way I could catch Rachael! But right now, holding my granddaughter brings me nothing but joy.

My little granddaughter, Hannah Mae, was in such a hurry to join this world, that she was born three weeks early. Although her parents could hardly wait to get her home, her little lungs were not quite ready, so she spent the first 10 days of her life in the NICU. I was quite proud of them as they patiently waited for her lungs to get stronger and three days ago their wait was over and she came home!

Just like my daughter Rachael had to go through a long and hard labor to bring Hannah into this world, and then wait to bring her daughter home we all have to go through many difficult experiences, but often without the understanding that it is these very struggles that produce the beautiful gifts and skills that God wants to give to us that will lead us to future joy! What gives you the strength to hold onto God’s promise of future joy during your hard times? Have you developed a way to hang onto the hope that God offers us in every difficult circumstance? Please share these in the comments below and spread His joy!

Fixing Leaky Faucets

Joyce Meyers was talking last week about how Satan is a deceiver, and she went onto say that there are nagging thoughts in our mind like, “You are not good enough, or you are not performing well enough,” that are most certainly from Satan. It caused me to think about John 10:10 in a completely new light. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

When my focus is wrong, negative thoughts eat away at me and rob me of my peace of mind and creativity. Some thieves, are blatantly overpowering, others are quiet yet just as disruptive. Thoughts that start with the phrase I wish or I should are like a leaky faucet; always in my mind and always needing attention.

I’ve realized that when I hear these phrases, it’s because my focus is wrong. Just like it is important to take care of the plumbing in your house, it is necessary to interrupt the lies that want to filter through our minds. Even one drip at a time raises your water bill, so it is important to take care of fixing that leaky faucet. Acknowledging that my focus is wrong is the first step in receiving the grace God has given me to move forward.

As I watch my daughter and my friend Jill prepare to have their babies, I have a similar sense of anticipation over the growth of our Joni and Friends Portland Area ministry. I find myself thinking, “Is anything I can do to help this to be more fruitful?” I can always think of things I should be doing better, but I have to press through the drudgery of the everyday by looking at the promise of things to come!

For example, I keep meeting people who are like-minded in both my passion for disability ministry and my writing! The encouragement we share in these relationships help to break the spell of negative thoughts that creep in so quietly, but are as loud as a sonic boom if left alone!

As we get ready to celebrate the Fourth of July and we hear the fireworks booming, let us look for ways that we can dislodge our negative thoughts and quiet them with the encouragement of God and others!

The wait is on…

lady looking at clock

I’ve been doing a lot of waiting lately. Sometimes waiting can be torture, and sometimes it can be exciting! Farmers like my father and my brothers have planted seeds in the ground and then waited for months and months to see how the crop would turn out.  On one hand it is exciting to think of what may come up and on the other hand, it is nerve-wracking because they are dependent upon this crop for their livelihood.

Several months ago my daughter and my son-in-law announced that they were having a baby in July! They told me in December, and at that time, it seemed like so far away. But here we are today, about 5 weeks away from the birth of their precious daughter. This wait has been exciting more than anything else.

Another thing that many of my friends in the Northwest are waiting for is the Joni and Friends camp at Twin Rocks. Some of the people returning to camp have had such a good time that they start counting down the days months in advance! But in order to make the week a success, there is another group working to put the events together. I am in charge of recruiting volunteers for Pampering Day and a Couples Dinner. This wait has been similar to the farmer’s wait in that all I can do is tell people about it, and try to plant those seeds, and then see what happens from there. Some people may be too busy, and others won’t be interested at all, and that can be discouraging. But on the other hand, some people jump on board right away. The more people I ask, the more likely it is that people will say yes.

With all the waiting that’s been going on, I’ve been thinking a lot about Moses in Exodus 32. The Israelites waited for years and years to be led out of bondage and into the Promised Land. They were RIGHT THERE, but God told Moses to go up to the mountain to hear from Him. While he was gone, they waited and got afraid; eventually taking matters into their own hands. The results were disastrous on many levels. The Israelites missed out on hearing about the plans that God had for them because they chose not to wait on God’s timing.

Waiting isn’t optional, but our attitude is. We can either grumble and complain which usually leads to bitterness, or we can enjoy the process of developing the skills we need as we move forward. Sometimes we don’t know why we are waiting, it’s only when we look back that we see how God was shaping us for the tasks at hand.

What are you waiting on right now? Are you digging in your heels and taking matters into your own hands, or going with the flow?

Tis the season…

Rachael's shower

Tis the season of graduations, weddings, and new life to begin! Each one of these events holds excitement and expectation. In my life, I am getting ready to experience a new season; being a grand-mom. My daughter is having her first little baby at the end of July and it is thrilling! I remember my friend Dottie helping me to prepare for my daughter, Rachael’s birth 27 years ago, so when Dottie threw a baby shower for her this past weekend, it brought a lot of joy to be able to celebrate together again! Dottie has been one of those friends I could always count on.

For several years, raising my girl was all-consuming, and at her high school graduation it made me a little bit sad to to wonder, “Now what am I going to do?” When she went to college, it was time for another part of my life to begin, and I’ve found that it has been just as satisfying; especially now when I get to experience the joys of being a grandma! I’ve found a richness in both old and new relationships and I’m looking forward to many trips; including an upcoming trip to the beach with a few friends.

Sometimes life doesn’t work out the way you anticipate; but guess what; it can be so much greater than you expect! The way we can truly enter into the fullness of new experiences and relationships is to let go of disappointments. For instance, when I was right out of college and looking for a job, and things didn’t work out the way that I had thought they should, that was disappointing. I’ve had many other major disappointments as well that could have cast a dark shadow on my life, but I discovered that accepting the things I could not change has led me into the freedom that I know today. Those difficult times were not stumbling blocks, but actually building blocks.

Raising Rachael was both stressful and delightful (as it is for most parents), and some days I couldn’t see past each moment. But believe me, I wouldn’t trade any of that, because each one of those days brought me to closer to where I am now; about to experience the birth of my precious granddaughter.

Help…more then a four-letter word

 

helpinghand

For most of my life as a woman with Cerebral Palsy, I have tried to be as independent as possible. I got a college degree, raised a daughter as a single mother, and lived alone for several years after she went to college. Now I’ve got a roommate and I qualify for much more help than ever before. I feel absolutely spoiled.

I used to think that having people live with me would be confining, but actually, it’s freeing. I didn’t realize there would be so many hidden benefits to letting people do things that I used to struggle with. Besides having someone to visit with in the morning, it cuts down on the time it takes to do the monotonous, but necessary routines in life.

I thought that if I needed help to do these things, it would mean I was in bad shape, but I am finding out that this is not necessarily true. It just means that I can use the time and energy that I have in different and more productive ways. Rather than spending an hour and a half getting ready for the day, I can devote more time to things like sleeping in, my writing, my work with Joni and Friends, and keeping in touch with friends who are important to me.

Receiving help can either feel liberating or confining. It depends on your perspective. I’ve realized over the last few years that my perspective has changed. Instead of just being independent, I see the value of inter-dependence. A few years ago, there was a group of women at my church, Rock Creek Church, who formed, ‘Team Lyla’ and they brought food over once a month. That showed me the benefits of being inter-dependent with my church community. As they brought meals, I visited with them and got caught up on what was going on in their lives and our friendships grew stronger as a result.

It is another example of Ephesians 4:15-16, which says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

We often think that receiving help makes us look like a victim, however, it is in receiving help, that we are given the opportunity to use the gifts God has given us to bless others. Living life with this perspective is the way to change our own hearts and others’ too, by showing them the benefits of living inter-dependently.

 

Springing into Action

Lyla getting off of the bus

Several years ago, when I got my scooter, I had tried to take a ride on the city TriMet bus, and it had been a disaster. It took me forever to maneuver my scooter into the proper position, and I felt like everyone on the bus was staring at me thinking, “I wish that lady would hurry up!” I was thinking, “I wish I could hurry up,” too, which made my arms go stiff. When I got off of the bus, I thought, “I’m never doing that again!” I figured the bus driver would agree! My main choices from that point on for transportation have been services that require two days notice to get picked up and dropped off at my home. For a woman on the go, this really puts a damper on things, because I have to miss things that come up last minute.

Last week, I got an email about a meeting that I was supposed to go to, but I hadn’t scheduled a ride for me to get to the meeting. As the time got closer, I was regretting my inaction, and I decided that I wanted to attend the meeting. But by the time I changed my mind, I thought it was too late to get to there. My friend Mary Anne, who was sitting right across the table from me, had been wanting me to take a bus ride for weeks, but I had weaseled my way out of it. To her surprise, and mine, I looked at her and said, “Will take a ride on the bus with me?” She said, “Oh yeah! Let’s go!”

To my delight, getting on and off  of the bus this time was much easier than I remembered it being because TriMet has redesigned them. My driving skills have gotten better too. I got to my meeting, and Mary Anne and I enjoyed dinner downtown together. I found that our adventure had led to a new-found freedom. I discovered that when I let go of the past, I can experience the joy of rolling into the future.

Have you discovered a new-found freedom this week? Share that good news with me!