hmm, I wonder …

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Have you ever sat down and thought, “I wonder…” and let your thoughts take flight? I have. I like to think things like, “I wonder what would happen if I were not sick” or “I wonder what my grandchildren will be like when they are adults?”. Wondering about things is perfectly normal and can actually help you out if you use them to objectively look at things from a variety of angles.

These musings help me to get through the tough days when I cannot do anything. They sustain me when I am low. They lift me up in my imaginings of the future and hope for peace and love. Ok so some are good and some are not so good but it is the hope of what can be that makes you follow onward each and every day.

When you woke up this morning what kind of day did you expect? Did it meet your expectations? Do you see things in a positive manner or do you expect the worst when you wake up?

I heard a story about a family who moved to a new area and went to the church and asked one of the members what kind of people attended there. The man replied with a question. He said, “What were the people like in your last congregation?”. The family replied that they were not friendly and seemed like they could care less  about others in the congregation. The man then told them, “It is like that here too”. That same day another new family arrived and asked this same man the same question about what the people were like who attended there, and he replied the same as he had with the other family. He asked them, “What were the people like in your last congregation?. This family replied that the congregation had been friendly, caring and generous with their love. The man then told them, “It is like that here too”. 

How could this man say these things about the same congregation? Well, it depended on the perceptions of the new families, you see. Obviously, the first family had negative impressions and perceptions before they even met the congregation so it was pretty good thought that they would find fault in the congregation no matter what happened. 

Now, the second family has a positive attitude about life in general and know that God‘s servants are not perfect. Due to this attitude, they look for the good qualities in the congregation and not the negatives. That is what they would find in the new congregation as well, kind people who live as Christ-like as they are able in this time of the end we live in.

Now, a question to ask yourself is which family am I like? Am I a negative person or a positive one? How do I view those in my congregation? Do I always try to find the imperfections in those around me or do I look for positive attributes, knowing that we are all sinners and struggle to live Godly lives in the face of Satan’s world?

It is something to think about for sure…food for thought…

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Lupus and Disability

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Many people who are diagnosed with lupus are still working. Many others are not able to work anymore and have had to apply for disability. This can be both a blessing and a curse. The biggest question many ask is “When do I quit working?” and “Can I get disability if I have to quit working?”

Each lupus patient must make these decisions on their own. Alot depends on whether they are having major issues. For instance, I went on chemo and explained to my employer that it made me sick and weak. I was informed that they were going to work with me. Upon my taking a paid leave of absence because of the weakness and sickness that chemo brings, I was informed, via email no less, that I was terminated. I admit I was bitter and disillusioned but after working for 15 years with lupus, I finally had to realize that this was my wake up call that maybe I needed to retire and take care of me.

To be sure, this decision was not made lightly. My husband was on disability already for some major issues and I was the breadwinner of the family, and I carried insurance as well. To lose my job meant that unless I cobra’d the insurance, we lost our health insurance that we both so desperately needed. Now, I ask you, if you have ever had to cobra your insurance, how expensive was it? Sad to say, ours was too expensive so no insurance.

This road we traveled carried many twists and turns but in the end, I received my disability and got insured again. The road was rough… not an easy one. We lost our house, our cars and all of our savings while waiting to get the disability pay. I had to resort to the United Way for help getting my rx’s. Unless you have ever had to do this, you will not understand just how low you feel and humiliated. I ended up not taking a lot of my meds and actually got worse because of it.

I am not writing this to scare anyone. I am doing it to share so that others can survive the transition without all the drama we went through.

I was my own advocate in this process. No, I am not an attorney, but I did all the leg work myself and compiled it and gave it to SSA. My claim was denied three times and I had to appeal each time. Finally, I went before a judge and he granted my claim. I now consider myself “retired”. I did all of this by myself. In my previous emplyment I had worked for attorneys so I figured I could handle it myself and I did.

This is no easy thing to go through let me tell you. Your self esteem takes a beating from not working. I loved working, and the challenges of it all. I found myself at loose ends, not knowing what to do. However, I have now settled into a fairly decent routine for my days (the ones where I feel good). I do not have guilt for missing work because of my disease. (no job:not worrying about job).

I found out a lot about myself in this process too. I found that I am an intelligent woman. For example, while I was waiting out the process of disability, and on high doses of prednisone, I decided to “pretend” I wanted a little scrapbook store. So, I drafted a business plan, looked up merchandise and wholesale, called the wholesalers for catalogs with pricing, checked out storefronts, etc. You see, it kept my mind busy while my body was not doing so good. I kept my mind focused on something other than my disease. It really did help me get through the rough times.

Disability is no easy road even when you get it. For example, my husband and I receive an amount per month that almost equals what we used to bring home weekly. Our budget shrank, our bills piled up, and we both lost hope of ever seeing the other side. Slowly, we have crawled out from under it all to discover we have many things we can enjoy that do not cost a lot of money and energy.

Now we have insurance again so we can see our doctors without the fear of paying for it. Our prescriptions are covered now and it is another blessing. We have learned to slow down, enjoy life, and enjoy the somple things now. We both were so busy in trying to work and save and do all the things you are supposed to do, that we forgot how to relax. We camp, fish, go to races, play with the grands, garage sales, etc and enjoy doing things we had pushed to the back burner while we were working.

Life has changed for us in so many ways now. We have a smaller home now than the one we had before and we drive a car that we bought with cash. It is a 1994, but it is paid for and if it need repairs, it is still cheaper than the new ones we had. We downsized our possessions and literally threw out a lot of junk we had been carrying around for years.

We moved back to Ohio to help my mother-in-law with her house and did so willing. We get to spend more time with our grandchildren and extended family and friends. While we may not have a nest egg anymore, we are surviving and feel blessed. You see, when we stripped away all the material things we had been striving for, we saw that we were not enjoying them as much as the smaller, simpler things we have now.

As those who read this blog know, many days are not easy for me and as much as I wish I could go back to work I now accept that it will not happen unless I get into remission. This whole experience is like the serenity prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr. It says the following:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

It says it all. In conclusion, disability is a blessing in that when you get sick and cannot work anymore it is a safety net. The process is different for each person. How you deal with it will either make you angry or stronger (I prefer stronger). Instead of moaning about what we lost, we choose to look at what we have and find blessings in each and every day in many ways, big or small. Most importantly, we have our focus on God, who gives us life and knows what we really need to live…1 Timothy 6:7-10 says this:

 7 For we have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. 8 So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.

9 However, those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains

Nuff said…

Legacy

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There is a song, by LeeAnn Womack called, “Something Worth Leaving Behind” and it is really thought provoking. I think at some point in our lives we think about what it is that we have to leave behind for the future generations. Some may call it an “a-ha” moment, others just stop and evaluate what their life means. For me, it is extremely personal and not as profound as some, but nonetheless just as important.

I have several things on my “leave behind” list. I caution you, though, that it does not do to get all maudlin while thinking about these things. You need to honestly evaluate what you want others to remember about you when you are gone. It is extremely important that you be honest, because lies or prettying up things only hurt, not help in this. Make a list, then think about how the items rank in importance. I think you will be surprised.   

My list is compiled of individual items for each child and grandchild specifically, and then overall items that apply to them all. I have even gone so far as to write my own obituary. What?? You may think that is wrong to do but really, it makes it easier for your family and friends when you pass. It stops the possibility of forgetting someone (in your grief sometimes people are forgotten or overlooked by mistake) in the obit and hurting feelings. It is practical and logical to do it yourself.

In starting a leave behind letter, it is essential to think about all the things you need to say. These letters can become very special to those who get them so it is wise to always try to put it in the way you would talk to them if you were sitting at a table with them. It helps me to visualize this setting and it helps me to put my thoughts in order. Writing an outline can help so it is more cohesive and not so randomly put. Unless you are a random person, that is.

I am also in the process of creating scrapbooks for those in my life so they can have pictorial evidence of the feelings I have for them and they can also remember the good times we have had! I know not all people scrapbook, but I do so this is an outlet that helps me.

Now that I have done this, I feel better. However, I actually did this several years ago and now have more family (grandchildren) than I did when I did the originals so I am thinking about rewriting and including the new ones as well. I want each of them to know how important they are to me and my life. I know what I want them to know and since I have done this before, I can use the outlines of the previous ones and bring it into the present.

I know, it seems sad and yes, there will be tears, but seriously, wouldn’t you love to have something like this from a friend or family member you have lost in death? How precious would it be to you? This is much more personal than a will is, and yet can supplement the legalities and let your family/friends know exactly how you felt about them. This can be especially true if yoru death should be an accidnetal or unexpected death. How comforting for those you leave behind to know you were thnking of them and their futures BEFORE it happened.

So, that is my (not so) profound blog post for today. Have a great day everyone and hope it is pain free and full of love and life!

busy day today

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Today was a very busy day indeed. My mother-in-law officially worked her last day yesterday in preparation for her move to Kentucky. Wal-Mart gave her a big cake, a beautiful bouquet of calalillies, a candle and a picture frame. She was surprised at the gifts for sure.

Today, our congregation gave her a farewell party. She has been in this congregation for some 49 years now so it was a pretty big deal! The food was outstanding, and lovingly made by so many of the congregation. There was a “jeopardy” type game with questions a bout my mother-in-law as well and a good time was had by all! Many of the friends brought gifts and cards. It was so precious to see how they will miss her when she moves.

Her move is truly a big one for her. You see, she has lived her whole life in our hometown. She has worked locally at several jobs but retired from them all now. She is 74. She was widowed in late 40’s. She grew up a few streets away from her current home so in essence, she only moved a few blocks in her lifetime. Now she is packing her belongings and moving 3 hours away to a brand new apartment that my sister and brother-in-law have built for her above their home. This is a big deal!

We have lived with her for some three years now so her leaving will be difficult for us as well. We now have her home and are making it ours. We are painting and bringing the house up to date. It is an adventure for us as well as her.

On to wolfie… I made it through this busy day and am sitting in the living room typing this and trying to keep my eyes open long enough to do it. I laughed so much my cheeks hurt. It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many of Christ‘s followers who exhibit love in such an unselfish way. It is beautiful to see that love extended to those around them as well. She is leaving a very special congregation for sure, but she is moving to another one that will keep her busy and happy as well.

Life can take such sweet twists and turns and shake things up a bit but deep down, as long as we are able, we should always be Christ like in our love for others in both word and deed. While sitting here in pain, it is nonetheless heartwarming to feel that special bond with others who believe as you do. Her new congregation is wonderful too. I lived dwon there and was a member for a time (while we lived there). It is filled with many others who are genuine, trust worthy and God fearing. A blessing indeed for her. They were for me and I miss them so but I am also surrounded here with the same love in the congregation I attend. Blessings from God, His congregations are a source of love, knowledge, wisdom and truth. Blessings to you all!

My Spiritual Food

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Our heavenly Father gives me ample spiritual food to meditate on and share with others. I am trying to stay focused on the good things, leaving the bad for God to take care of. In this regard, I have found some scriptures to help me.

The first scripture is in my lesson for tomorrow (or today since it is after midnight). It is Psalms 119:76; and it says, “May your loving kindness serve, please, to comfort me.” Wow! It is a powerful thing to say of the Almighty.

Another one from my lesson is this one at Psalms 103:3, 11 that says (3):, “(Jehovah) is forgiving all your error, (he) is healing your maladies.” and then at verse 11 it says, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, his loving kindness is superior toward those fearing him.”

Think about those verses for a few minutes. Isn’t it amazing that our Creator, the Most High, can show us loving kindness? In the lesson it continues by stating, “Meditating on these and other scriptural accounts fills our hearts with gratitude for Jehovah’s loving kindness and we are moved to praise and thank him. The more grateful we are at heart, the more inclined we are to become imitators of the true God. (Ephesians 5:1)”

It fills my heart to think that me, a lowly human sinner, can approach God freely and by forgiven for my errors and I can feel His loving kindness (which the Bible says is superior) surround me. It is humbling indeed.

I love this lesson and I am glad to share it because it truly does help knowing that our loving Father can help us when we are down, physically or mentally or both, and He can lift us up by means of His loving kindness and Holy Spirit. I am so thankful for my relationship with my heavenly Father. May each of you find the peace of God as well and become shining examples of how God is alive in your life.

Losses of Late

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Losses are becoming a very real part of life as I enter my fifties. I can recall that when we heard of someone passing, it was always someone older, it seemed. Now, it is becoming more and more that these people are our friends, coworkers, loved ones and neighbors. I do not like it. Not one bit. Most of the time when you read an obituary, or just scan them, it is reassuring not to know any of them. This is changing for me. I am now reading them to make sure I do not miss anyone I know.

Have you ever noticed that no matter what we do or how we live, death seems to find us all. I do not personally believe that there is a predetermined time or place for my death. The Bible tells us that “time and unforeseen occurence befall us all”. So, instead, I think that there is a certain randomness to it, that if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, you may suffer because of your choices in the matters.

For instance, if you drink and drive, your chances of being involved in an accident go up, way up. Yet, conversely, if you are driving home from the grocery, a drunk may hit you and cause you pain and suffering. Randomness. Some things can be concluded from the choices you make. That is easy. If you smoke, you are at greater risk of emphysema and lung cancer. However, you can never smoke and get the same things.

There are those who would make the argument that smoking isn’t the problem (substitute drinking, drugs, etc., for smoking). They say that it is “their time”. There it is again, that mysterious magical phrase that implies that predestination again. Oh well, you say, I can have my beliefs and you can have yours. Good, now we are on common ground.

I am writing all these things because in the last month or so, we have experienced several losses in our family, friends, and community at large. My husbands two uncles, Tom and Don, passed away. On the heels of them, a good friend lost her father suddenly. As we were recovering from these losses, we heard of the loss of a young man who was a police officer in Alaska. He grew up here in our hometown, and he went to school with my daughter and nephew. The city joined together to give him a heroes sendoff, complete with a motorcade through town and a memorial service at the high school. Things were finally settling down a little when another friend told us of the loss of a classmate, at the young age of 52, to a sudden heart attack. That was two days ago. Today, a dear friend wrote to tell me she could not walk in our lupus walk because her husband had passed away yesterday. I tell you, it has been a rough time lately. If you add to the mix, my spiritual daughter being physically abused and almost killed by her abusive husband, then you can round it all out.

I wonder at times like these, how to comfort those who have experienced these losses. In the end, the best thing I can do is be there if they need to talk, help out if they need help, bring food if it is needed, and be a friend. Sometimes it is not the words, but the actions that speak to a grieving heart.

I pray that all these families will feel God surrounding them in their time of need, and that they may know there are people out here who are willing to listen and help as needed. While the pain is fresh in their hearts, remember that the loved ones will live on in their legacies of love they have given to their families.

These folks have all dealt with their losses in a dignified manner that is amazing to behold at times. While their deep grief is seen, just below the surface, it is the memories that will sustain them.

I have lost friends, loved ones and many more in this lifetime. I will lose many more I am sure. Because of this, I try each day to tell those I love, that I love them. I try to live like a song I love says “something worth leaving behind”. When I go, I hope those who are still here will remember me with fondness and share stories of times long ago. I hope they laugh, loudly, and see old friends of long ago. Mostly, I hope they will remember that they were all loved.