Friday, January 27, 2017

Immersed in the Psalms: my daily routine

I've been asked by several people what I actually DO in my Psalms studies. Now that I've been studying long enough to have formed habits, I can share my routine.

Each morning, I begin with prayer... and tea. The tea is purely medicinal, I'm sure.

From there, I'll read the daily devotional in The One Year Book of Psalms, and on days when I finish a chapter I read the coordinating chapter  In The Secret Place: a Pilgrimage Through the Psalms. Then, I write out the passage I've been studying, by hand. Writing it out seems to bring different phrases to mind than simply reading it, and quite often changes my entire perspective.

After this, I turn on music inspired by the Psalms, (fit right now I have The Psalms Project, which goes through the 30th Psalm... After that, I've found Youtube playlists for all 150!) while reading through, commenting on, and coloring in Bless the Lord, O My Soul. This is a quieter, more contemplative time for me to simply and quietly process what I've read so far.

Some days a single Psalm is split up over a few days, while other days I finish an entire Psalm in a day. On "partial days" I finish up by embroidering one of my favorite verses or coloring in The Psalms in  until lunchtime. On full-chapter days, I will write out my favorite verse from that chapter in illustrated calligraphy. I'm still practicing so my work looks somewhat elementary, but I'm loving being able to hone my skills after years of neglect.

These studies take 1-2 hours each morning, and have been an amazing time of quiet and reflection so far. I'm only a month in, but I am loving every minute of my time so far.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Immersed in the Psalms: Keep Us Safe

I chose to hold off on my studies this morning, so I could watch the presidential inauguration.

Today I read the twelfth Psalm. All I can say is... read it yourself. The timing of this passage feels oh, so apropos on such a politically charged day. I COULD see it as a Psalm of despair, but instead I see - twice - a promise of God's protection.

Too many of my friends are angry, or fearful of the future. They are worried about safety, heath care, and even war. I have heard, "not my president" from so many friends - and I worry that this could divide a country that cannot afford to fight with itself, when there is hate and fear attacking us from what feels like every side.

Mummy taught me, "When you can't respect the man, respect the title." Whether you voted for him or not, I think we can all agree that President Trump is a man who needs our prayers. He stands for ideals that are bigger than you, me, or himself... and no one man can do half of what's expected in that position. I prayed for President Obama, and I will pray for President Trump. The fact that I voted for neither man is immaterial. They hold a title that deserves my prayers and respect... because ANYONE in that office, needs prayer... and respect.

Pray that he lives up to your hopes. Pray that your fears are unfounded. Pray that God's promise of protection keeps us safe.

But pray.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Immersed in the Psalms: Helping the Helpless

For the past few days, I have been immersed in Psalms 8 & 9 which talk about helping those who cannot help themselves.

This could mean any number of people, but to me it's about children. Children are vulnerable to our actions, our neglect, and... our words. One careless word can scar a child, literally for life. I know this first-hand, and I've seen it too many times to count, in others. Please, be careful with your words... ESPECIALLY when little people are present!

For my little friends, who cannot defend themselves, I would like to share some truisms that I have learned. Some are funny, others are dead serious, but they are all real.

25 Things I've Learned from 25 Years of Working with Preschoolers

1. Farts are funny. Get over it.
2. You DO fit on an 11" chair with a 32" inseam. Kneel with your feet under the chair. Unfold gently when standing up again.
3. Bubbles heal nearly every ouchie. For those that they don't, there are band aids. Buy the colorful ones, they heal faster.
4. Don't ask what the picture is... ask them to tell you about it. Watch their face light up.
5. Use "no" sparingly. Follow every "no" with a "yes". Yes, for the 10,000th time.
6. The COOL daddy ALWAYS drinks the invisible tea from the pink plastic cup. Always.
7. Storytimes are magical; they can expand your lap enough to fit seven children. Try it.
8. Mitten clips fall off and get lost. Strings through the sleeves, do not.
9. Need to go somewhere quietly? Pretend you're a different quiet animal every time. This only works if the grown-ups do it too.
10. Three rules, that's all any group needs; take turns, be kind, and always use NICE words.
11. Never ask if they WANT to do something, if what you mean is that they MUST. A question may legitimately be answered with "no".
12. Time to clean up? Who can pick up more red Legos than Katie? More toy food than Ben? This is faster than the clean-up song, I promise.
13. Crafts are messy. Do them anyway.
14. Glitter, however, is not worth the mess.
15. Teens make the best helpers. Teachers AND preschoolers agree.
16. Red juice/Jello/treats with artificial colors will turn at least half your room into scary monsters. Test this at your own risk.
17. Hug them. Hug them more. Hug them once again. Then give them another, for good measure.
18. Play kitchens are for boys too. The ONLY difference is that the pink cups will be filled with invisible juice instead of tea. Don't know why, but it's true.
19. Let them see your fears. My "fear" of the color pink has endeared me to hundreds. My fear of the dark? Thousands.
20. Do not shout when you need their attention. Speak softer and softer until there is silence. If everyone is shouting at once... blow a train whistle. Then whisper.
21. Don't believe in can't. Believe in try again. This works 90% of the time. For the other 10%, there is "let's try together".
22. Cardboard boxes and blankets over tables are STILL better than ANYTHING that runs on batteries or electricity.
23. Make snacks together. It's worth the mess. Foods that spread or need mixing are best.
24. Laugh at their jokes. All of them.
25. Accidents happen. Forgive, FORGET, repeat.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Immersed in the Psalms: Perspective

I took these photos earlier this week during a rare moment when I had the house to myself. I was enjoying the silence, and snapped the photos to remember how at-peace I felt.

Just a few hours later a family emergency came up, and our hurricane-nephew came to turn our house into a frenetic place of rambunctious energy.

As I look at these photos just a few days later, I realize that nearly everything I see can be interpreted based on perspective.

The candle on the table - I can see that it's nearly burned down... OR I can see that we have been enjoying the same candle for several weeks.

The flowers - I can see that they are starting to wilt, OR I can see that there is still some life in them, nearly two weeks after they were purchased.

I see my blanket and know that I was curled up on the sofa feeling the effects of the weather - OR I can remember that I was warm inside my house, and did not need to venture outside on a day that would have been cripplingly cold.

Through the window I can see that we still share a driveway and side-yard with neighbors literally 20' away, OR I can see the new flooring, and enjoy the fact that we have been slowly improving our house for the past 18 years.

In the next photo, I can either see a micro office-cart put together out of the needs of a failing body, OR I can see that I have everything I need right at my fingertips, wherever I need to be.

I can see that our home is small enough that our fireplace is only for gel fuel and decoration, OR I can see that we've managed to find a way to have a cozy fire, even without a chimney.

In my life, I can see that I have been forced to use my wheelchair more often than not in the past two years, OR I can see that I have an all-terrain chair that allows me to trek around offroad, and that I am able to "outrun" my son for the first time in 15 years.

In taking a year to study the Psalms, I can see a desperate attempt to add peace and calm to a chaotic life, OR I can see that we can afford for me to be a stay at home mom, even after my kids have grown, and that I have the freedom to finally do something for myself.

Some days these changes in perspective come easily to me. Other days I have to struggle to even see them. Just within this past week however, my eyes have been opening to some of the more subtle positive perspectives within my life.

It's a welcome change.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Immersed in the Psalms: My Cup Overflows

I wanted to share what happened over the weekend. Because it may sound cliché in a blog about the Psalms, but... my cup is truly overflowing.

I have degenerative conditions and permanent eye damage, causing severe issues with lower resolution screens. Because of this, we saved up and purchased a high-resolution Kindle Fire for me to use. This has been my connection to my friends and family through: email, Facebook, blogs, and discussion boards. The family calendar is connected, as is our cookbook. I read books, shop, surf ideas on Pinterest, and stream music with it. While not technically indispensable, it is used for several hours every day. Even with my studies in Psalms, I am using it to access: an e-book, an app with various translations of the Bible, music, and a Pinterest board full of needlepoint inspiration. On the day she arrived, I named her Shirley Goodness because she "follows me all the days of my life."

About a month ago, Shirley began having issues. First it took longer for her to charge, and then her battery started draining more quickly. Within a few weeks she was draining her battery in 4-5 hours, and taking as long as 15 hours to recharge overnight. I began using her while plugged in, but when she began draining her batteries within six hours WHILE PLUGGED IN... my husband put a call into Amazon, to see if we could pay to have her battery replaced.

Amazon does not offer battery replacements for their devices. Nor, we learned to our horror, do they make the high resolution Fire anymore. My husband tried several times over four days to see if anything could be done, and it looked as if I was going to have to adapt to life without the internet for a year or so when I received a call on Saturday.

Malorie from Amazon wanted to see how she could help me. After a quick description of Shirley's symptoms and what tests we had tried, she offered to send me a brand new tablet. When I explained my resolution needs, she put me on hold briefly. After a few more questions, she came back with the unbelievable: she had located a refurbished high-res Fire, and could ship it to me as early as Monday, if that was okay with me.

Okay? OKAY?!? I was literally speechless with gratitude!!! After several days of being told that there was nothing that could be done I had given up hope and resigned myself to carefully eking out the last dregs of battery, and praying that we would be able to replace Shirley with a laptop as soon as a year from now. Now within a ten minute call, here was the answer to the prayer I hadn't even dreamed to pray. My Shirley Goodness has been REPLACED and is GOOD AS NEW!!!

My gratitude bubbled out all at once, as my hands literally shook. I told Malorie, quite honestly, that there was no way to truly express my gratitude to her for her kindness in truly going above and beyond the call of duty. If you see this Malorie, once again, THANK YOU!!! 

Truly and honestly, my cup overflows. And now, once again and for the foreseeable future, Shirley Goodness and Mercy shall be following me... all the (foreseeable) days of my life!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Immersed in the Psalms: Focus

When I started, I thought that this was going to be a simple study in the Book of Psalms while writing them out by hand. Then I thought it would be an immersion in praise; a time to reset my thinking in a positive direction.

How vain, to think that I was in control.

This morning as I read through the fourth Psalm, I was drawn to Psalms 4:6b "Let the smile of your face shine on us, Lord."  It sounded right and good for my focus and goal to be as simple as basking in God's smile. This was the message I thought I was to hear from this passage.

Then as I was writing the verses out, another verse jumped out at me - practically shouting my name as I penned it, while now pondering each word carefully.

Psalm 4:4b "Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still."

I had planned on sharing each of the books I have chosen to use for this journey, and why I chose each one tomorrow. Instead, I want to share a simple photo of my mobile "desk" that travels through the house with me, as my body requires constant shifts in position... quite often sitting near my bed or the sofa, as I recline in my mountain of cushions feeling frustrated and broken.

Everything is here for me. Ready for praise... and ready for silence. My bed. Not a prison, but a place for silence and meditation.

I think a still small voice just whispered in the wind.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Immersed in the Psalms: Time to Sing

So here's a quick recap of my last 2 1/2 years.

My husband lost his job the day after his 16th anniversary. One week later, the person who fired him, mysteriously quit. Coincidence? Suuure. Our biggest loss? Six weeks of paid vacation per year. He's back to 74+ hour, 7-day workweeks; something we thought we had left behind, 11 years ago.

One month later, my mother passed away completely unexpectedly.

I was assaulted, then publicly shouted at by this person's mother. My father witnessed the shouting... what did he do? He SIDED WITH MY ATTACKER!

Then my body began to fail me. It has been steadily getting worse ever since. My wheelchair is with me whenever I leave the house, I am unable to climb stairs anymore, and two hours of light housework is followed up by six hours of extreme exhaustion. A simple flu virus leaves me sick for two months, breathing with the help of nebulizers that leave me shaking and nauseous.

Just as my body began to fall apart, the state unionized in-home daycares. My plan for the past 20 years had been to start an in-home daycare, once I graduated my own kids. This new union means that I would be unable to take any kids who receive government daycare subsidies... which is exactly who I had intended to take on; the lower income families. Twenty years of planning and purpose, lost. 

My eyes also took a turn for the worse; I am now fully nightblind, my depth perception is shot, and my vision is no longer fully correctible. I can drive only during perfect daylight conditions and on city streets. I now wear reading glasses over the toric multifocals I've had for eighteen years.

My father remarried less than seven months after my mother's death. I found out third-hand, one week before the wedding. I spent six months watching my new stepmother's daughter talk about the parties and dinners she enjoyed at my childhood home. I was not invited to my childhood home once, and in six months was only called ONCE. I have not heard from my father since I angrily pointed this out to him.

When I finally went to the doctor to find out why my body was falling apart, I found out that I have a malfunctioning heart valve. Open heart replacement is my next and only step. It is anything but risk-free.

Then we learned that my son had the same condition. And then, my daughter. Fortunately they are both stable and MANY years from the same surgery, but this is degenerative and unpreventable. They will need the same surgery someday for no reason other than that I am their mother.

My husband ended up developing a hernia from the physical demands of his new job. We are still making monthly payments on his surgery.

My daughter and I are both battling anemia, which has simultaneously stolen our energy, and given us extreme insomnia. 

I have developed a third hernia; this one causes GERD, and is not typically operated on which means my diet has been changed for life. I pop Tums while munching on bland foods and dreaming of lemons.

The tendons on my hands now dislocate, meaning that my fingers are permanently weakened and alternate between locking, and snapping shut tight. There is an operation for this, but because my injury is caused by a genetic disorder rather than extreme age or an injury, the surgeon says the operation would only make things worse. So I sleep in a splint, and am slowly giving up things like sewing, crocheting, and braiding my own hair.

And up until ten months ago, we dealt with ALL of this while sharing caregiver responsibilities for an individual who vocally and visually lusted after me every chance that they got while being as difficult as physically possible.

Why am I sharing this? So that when I say that it's time for a change, you can see exactly how ready I am for that change. I can't change my circumstances, and I can't change my health. The only thing I CAN change, it's how I handle what is thrown at me... and I certainly can't do that alone. 

Four months ago I set aside a "freebie" e-book, and decided that I would start the new year with a devotional studying the Book of Psalms. Last week one of my friends shared that he had just finished copying out the entire New Testament by hand. Being kinesthetic, I was inspired to try this myself and decided that writing out the Psalms would nicely enhance my devotional time. 

That's when inspiration struck. Why not also color the Psalms, with a themed coloring book? What about embroidery? I could stitch a different favorite Psalm every month. And there are multiple Psalms set to music... Psalms DOES mean songs, after all! 

Thus was born a one year adventure. Starting on Sunday, and for an entire year, I will be:

Some of my adventure may be shared, while some will likely be kept personal. All I know for sure, is that I am ever so ready for an adventure of praise after so much pain.

It's time to sing.