Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Lord is my Shepherd . . .

Image found on "Think & Let Think" 
Familiar words, but so easy to read or recite without really thinking about the meaning. Since this is one of the few passages of scripture - longer than a verse or two - that I have memorized, I was reciting it in my head the other night when I couldn't sleep.  The idea was to distract my brain from all the things it was pointlessly stewing over, and I was successful.  Instead, my brain began to stew over things like "What kind of table did He prepare before me, and why are my enemies present?"  "Aren't a rod and a staff just sticks?  What's comforting about sticks?"  "This oil on my head - is it some sort of deep conditioning rinse?"   After a long night of pondering these weighty matters, I sat out to dissect the oft-heard phrases and dig out the deeper meaning.  

If you've never used a lexicon in your Bible studies, you are missing a great tool for discovery.  A lexicon is basically a dictionary of the original language in which a book of the bible was written.  By looking up specific words within a verse you can get a clearer meaning than sometimes is obvious from the English translation. There are so many nuances that don't translate well in English.  You can also find where else within the Bible that same word was used and how else it was translated.  It fascinates me, and often surprises me.  If it doesn't fascinate you, well...you've either learned something new about me, or reaffirmed your previous suspicion that I'm a little different.  

I examined the lexicon entries for shepherd, fear, rod, staff, annoint, still waters and several more.  I also read several commentaries written by people much more learned than I.  Combining all that I learned in my research, and a couple things God highlighted just for me, here is my personal translation of the 23rd Psalm:

The Lord is my Shepherd – gentle, kind and sure.  Because He is my caregiver and defender, I have everything!  He makes me stop moving and rest when I need to.  He leads me to a safe, peaceful place and provides refreshing and cleansing.  He makes me whole and ready to serve Him again.  He guides me along the paths to where I can be useful to Him so that He may be glorified.  Even when I wander into a deep, dark valley, I do not need to be afraid, because He stays beside me, to guide and defend me.  His rod corrects my way and keeps me safe.  His staff of grace supports me.  Together they reassure me and give me confidence in His presence.  I feast at His table of abundance, set up specifically for me, in spite of my enemies, who watch in envy, but are powerless to interfere.  He pours out His undeserved blessings on me until my life overflows with them.  God’s goodness and mercy are unending.  I will follow Him gladly and fearlessly, wherever He leads, all the days of my life.  And when that life is ended, I will move to a better world, to dwell in His house forever.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Diabetes Bites! - Part I

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes on July 5, 2017, and it has been a roller coaster since then.  Sometimes I am determined to research and understand this disease so that I can "reverse" it.  Sometimes I am frustrated to the point of giving up on even trying to understand.  Sometimes I'm scared.  Sometimes I'm angry.  Sometimes I think I've got a handle on what I need to do.  Sometimes I think it is impossible to know.  Sometimes I am all of these things in the same day.  I am writing a series of blog posts about what I have learned and what I wish I knew, to be spaced out over the next couple weeks.  If you have diabetes, or care for someone with diabetes, who has already been through these stages, still struggles with them, or was just diagnosed, please share your knowledge, questions, and fears, and maybe we can figure this out together.

Question #1, of course, is "What is diabetes?"   In a nut shell - when food is digested, the sugar it contains is released into the blood stream; insulin pushes the sugar into cells, where it is stored until it is burned for energy.  Think of your body as a house with central air and heat.  When a "normal" person's blood sugar rises, the air conditioner (insulin) quickly brings it back down.  If the level gets too low, the furnace (liver) pushes it back up.  The high-to-low range stays within a narrow band. 

Diabetes is the result of faulty air conditioning (low insulin production, low insulin effectiveness, or insulin resistance).  When my blood sugar level rises, the a.c. isn't strong enough, so the level goes higher, stays their longer, and takes more effort to bring down, thus creating broad fluctuations and long periods of time at the peak of the waves. During those high times, the excess glucose is causing damage that leads to cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, eye damage, Alzheimer's . . . the fun just goes on and on.

The worst part is knowing that I did this to myself.  There is a gene that predisposes us to type 2 diabetes.  Not all people who have the gene will get the disease, but if you DON'T have the gene, you can't get the disease.  That means there are hundreds of thousands of people out there who ate the same poor diet, and gained as much or more weight as me, but they are not at risk of diabetes. That hardly seems fair!  On the flip side, there are an equal number of people who have the gene but have spent fifty years making better choices and will never develop diabetes.  I have no one to blame but me.  

"My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline, and do not resent His rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in." - Psalm 3:11-12

We teach our children that actions have consequences, and when they make poor choices in their actions, the consequences follow.  They can ask for, and receive, forgiveness and possibly even a second chance, but the consequences remain.  As adults, we are reluctant to apply that to ourselves, but God does.  For years I made poor choices in what I ate and how much I exercised (or didn't exercise), and I steadily gained weight.  In 2012 I decided to make better choices and I lost fifty-five lbs.  I felt great and didn't look too bad!  But my arrogance remained. Like an alcoholic who thinks he can have just one drink, I thought I could return to old eating patterns but not let them get out of control.  Wrong!  I was soon back to consuming high-sugar, high-fat foods; large portions; no exercise; and turning to food for comfort, reward, entertainment, and consolation.  I got rid of some pounds, but I did not get rid of my "worship" of food.  Four years later, I had regained the fifty-five pounds, plus five, and discipline followed.

"But, Lord, I tried!  I put all that effort into following a diet, walking, lifting weights.  I was strong enough to turn away from temptations (most of the time).  I was in control for 12 months!"  I did...  I was...  I could...  And God answered "You didn't try hard enough. In your struggle against sin, you did not resist to the point of shedding your blood." (Hebrews 12:4 paraphrased)  Shedding blood?  Lord, isn't that too much to ask?  "That is why I shed MY blood in your place. So you could use my strength when you were too weak."

I do not despise the Lord's discipline.  I have accepted that diabetes is the end product of my poor choices; the consequence that a fair and loving Father handed out.   I will not make the mistake of thinking I can handle it on my own.  I don't yet know exactly how to live with diabetes.  I haven't deciphered the stacks of conflicting information.  And I'm sure there will be more days when I'm a crumpled, bawling heap on the kitchen floor.  But I will look up - and remember His words, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  I will get back up and put my hand in His and try again - "For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor. 12:9-10)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Total Eclipse of the Sun

The "path of totality" for the total eclipse on August 21st passed right over Green Acres (our little spot in the country).  Every motel room in the nearby town was booked more than a year in advance. RV's, campers and tents filled the city parks. The city closed off 2 blocks of downtown and restaurants served lunch at picnic tables during the eclipse.  School was out for the day; churches served food; local businesses ran specials.  It's estimated that 2000 visitors came to town - that's a lot for a town that boasts 4500 permanent residents.  We elected to avoid the "crowds" and host our own Eclipse Party for our employees and their spouses.

I served "Eclipse-iladas" (normally called enchiladas), followed by eclipse-themed goodies like Milky Way, Starburst, and Star Crunch.  Beverages included Sunkist Orange soda, Sunny-D, Capri Sun juice boxes and Pepsi Fire.

We even had a playlist of sun/moon themed songs, including  "Moon River", "House of the Rising Sun", and "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me."

 The crew arrived as the eclipse began - about 11:30 - and we lunched in the growing dusk.  And then the big moment arrived - the approximately 2 and a half minutes of totality - during which we saw . . . absolutely nothing.  It had rained off-and-on all morning and the clouds never parted to give us so much as a glimpse of the sun.

We did get to see the 360-degree sunset that occurs with a total eclipse.  I tried not to waste the experience taking pictures, but I did snap this shot of sunset in the North.  

Though the darkness at mid-day was amazing, I am disappointed that I didn't get to see the actual eclipse.  I had never given any thought to seeing an eclipse, but after weeks of preparation and research for one that happened to cross my path, I'm now determined to see one.  So I'm vacation planning for 2024, when a total eclipse will move from southern Texas, up through Maine.  Maybe this will be my chance to finally visit Maine.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Blog Makeover -

Welcome to the new and improved blog.   "Improved" may be a stretch, but there have been some changes.  For starters, there is the new background and header.  I have gotten out of the habit of blogging and thought my renewed enthusiasm to return deserved a new look.

There won't be any huge changes to the content - a little about books, a little about crafts, a little about faith, and a little about life in general.  One addition will be some posts about my journey with diabetes.  I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes on July 5th.  So far it has been a roller coaster of information, glucose testing, diet changes, carb counting, exercise, weight loss, medications and depression.  I think journaling some of my thoughts (believe me, you don't want to hear them all) will help with the depression and anger.  Hopefully, sharing my experiences and lessons will help someone else who is dealing with this ridiculous disease.

A second addition, or rather expansion, will be more posts about faith.  In the past, I tried to avoid including most things faith-based to keep the blog P.C., but I realized that is effectively denying my faith, so there will be posts about things I've learned and messages received, or possibly questions I hope someone else can answer.

Life just keeps rolling along, like it or not, so I'll also be talking about aging, aging parents, owning a business, and hopefully some humor thrown in.

In the mean time, I am preparing for our Eclipse Party tomorrow.  We are in the "path of totality" so will be hosting lunch in our front yard for our construction crew and some friends.  I'll post pictures and details afterward.  If you are traveling to view, or can see the eclipse from your house, I hope you enjoy.  

To my returning friends, thanks for not giving up on my blog.  If you are new here, thanks for coming by and I hope you found something you enjoy and that will bring you back.  Please leave me a greeting, including your blog address if you have one, so I can pay a return visit.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Memories

In my on-going quest for non-overstuffed closets and cabinets, I am participating in the city-wide garage sale this weekend.  Toward that end, I drug some boxes out of the basement storage room - boxes that haven't been opened since we moved to this house six years ago.  One box was some bric-a-brac of my Grandma's.  With some encouragement from my wise mother, I was able to choose a few meaningful items to keep and let go of the rest. 

The second box was mementos from my children's preschool and grade school days.  After an hour of tears as I reread "You're the best mom ever!" and "My mom is as pretty as a princess," they all went back into the box, to be brought out another day when I need a good cry. 

Also in that box were two thin, paperback books - "A Gift of Memories from Grandma/Grandpa".  I gave these books to my maternal grandparents when I was newly married and asked them to complete them.  Grandpa's Parkinson's Disease was advanced enough at that point that writing was difficult, so most of his answers are one or two words, but there are some wonderful insights and a few humorous stories. 
"Grandpa, if you were elected President, what would you do for our country?"   "I would outlaw green peppers in salads."
Grandma told a story of hiding in a patch of tall grass as a child, and listening to the whole family searching for her.  She also admitted to some cooking fiascoes in her newlywed days.  

I wish I had taken the time to visit with them about their answers - to ask more questions and get more details - but when you're twenty-two, you think there will always be time. Even as incomplete as they are, the books are precious.  They were repacked with the other items for another round of memories another day.

Not long after my day of memories, I was browsing Barnes and Noble and picked up "Mom, Tell Me Your Story" a guided journal by Susan Branch. This memory book is much more in-depth, with spaces for full-page answers, rather than a word or two. 

Some are straight forward questions:

Where did your family go on vacation?
Who were your childhood friends?
What did you have then that we don't use any more?

And some are going to take more thought:

What did you dream about while growing up?
As you matured, what kinds of things inspired you?
What is your best advice about relationships?
What should I know about having children?
What would you most like to be remembered for?

Writing my own story is a challenge that is both exciting and frightening.  I'm not shooting for a professional memoir, but I do want to write more than cursory facts.  I want to give my children some genuine insight into being a child in the 60's and 70's, a young wife in the 80's, a stay-at-home mom in the 90's -  a true picture of their mom, flaws and all. But also some some stories that they'll enjoy finding and re-finding.  My plan is to work on it bit by bit.  Maybe I'll present it to my kids when I'm 60 - or maybe 70 - or 80.  After all, there's always plenty of time, right? 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Solve and Share: The Answers

The best laid plans . . .

Sometimes things just don't work out as you anticipated.  Such was the case with my mini-challenge for the April Readathon.  Several people got some of the answers, but no one got them all.  However, some people came up with alternate answers that are true, even though not what I intended.  So, I counted everyone's answers as correct and made a $20 donation to Literacy KC.

Here are the answers I intended:

#1 - rabbit, basket, eggs - Easter
#2 - calla (lily), mum, daisy - flowers
#3 - Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington - presidents
#4 - One, II, 3 - numbers

Bonus:  Coke (nickname for cocaine in title), Sprite (another word for fairy - Tinkerbell) and Tab (file tabs) - soft drinks 

Thank you for playing.  Hope your Readathon was a success.  See you in October.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Solve and Share Mini-Challenge

Hints:  #1 - The answer has to do with objects pictured on the books.
            #2 - The answer is in the titles.
           #3 - The answer is in the authors' names.
           #4 - The answer is in the titles again.
Also - the genre, plot or theme of the book does not come into play.  It is strictly the cover that matters.  Hope that helps.


Welcome, Readathoners!  Here's your chance to make a donation to promote literacy - without spending any money - and have some fun at the same time.

The Challenge:  Below are four sets of book covers.  Can you discover the common theme that connects the three books in each set?   For example, the three books below contain the words Summer, Autumn, and Winter in their titles, so the answer would be Seasons of the Year.

The Prize:  In this challenge, everyone's a winner because the prize goes to charity.  The more people who play, the bigger the contribution.  

0-25 correct entries = $10 donation
25-50 correct entries = $15 donation
51-75 correct entries = $20 donation
76+ correct entries = $25 donation

The money will be donated to LiteracyKC.  Please visit their site and see all the wonderful things they are doing to promote adult literacy and family reading.  Once the donation is made, I will post a copy of the receipt - just to keep things on the up-and-up.  

When you have your answers, you can leave them in the comments, or on Twitter using #solveandshare.  Comments will not be visible until after the challenge.  You'll have to use the honor system on Twitter.   The challenge will stay open for the duration of the readathon.






The Bonus:  There's one more puzzle - for the serious puzzler.  If anyone manages to find the obscure connection between these covers, they will receive a $15 credit at their choice of Barnes and Noble or the Book Depository.  If there are multiple super-puzzlers out there, the winner will be drawn at random.  



Good Luck!