Friday, August 30, 2013

Jumping off a cliff

When I began our journey of homeschooling, I felt like I was jumping off a cliff. Before I jumped, I spent time reading, researching, and finding a plan. Then I jumped.

That was 9 years ago. We are beginning our 10th year of home schooling and also our first year in high school.

It feels a bit like jumping off a cliff again.

It doesn't feel like the first time I ever jumped off a cliff. Nor does it feel quite like beginning to homeschool. But it seems similar. I remember jumping off the cliff. I remember the uncertainty. I remember the rush of jumping, falling, and then hitting the water. Once I was down in the water, I thought, "That wasn't so bad. It was fun!"

But tell that to the person on the top of the cliff (or the high diving board) who is trying to get up enough nerve to jump off. The emotions, the nerve, the perspective at the top of the cliff is very different than your perspective from the water after you have jumped.

"It's not that bad."

"You're making a bigger deal than it needs to be."

Both of which may be true. But neither of those statements  help get my feet off the ground.

Perhaps it would be better to say, "I know it's hard but you can do it."

At some point, you must simply decide to do it and jump in.

And so, I have been making plans, charting courses, checking out college requirements, and state high school requirements.  At some point, I just need to trust my gut. Set aside the concerns about the risks, the worry about not being prepared enough. Sometimes people get hurt when they jump. True. Yet sometimes they have fun when they do it again and again and again. (Just ask my kids. The weekend we camped with the cliffs that are pictured; they jumped off the cliffs again and again and again. No one got hurt that weekend. And it is a favorite camping weekend memory.)

So, go ahead and jump. Really it's okay.

And so I -- we --will

 on into

We really did jump off these cliffs!
..  this thing called homeschooling high school. 

Ready or not. Here we come.

Trusting that it will be fun. Can't wait to be down in the water encouraging others to jump in. It's much easier from down there. Don't ya' think?

Anyone else joining me? Anyone else in a season of jumping into something new? What encouragement do we have for one another?

Love, Kathleen

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another -- and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:24-25. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

For days we feel like crying...

Today my heart has been raw again. I have felt like crying almost all day long. My heart is tender. Another layer has been unwrapped. This hope. This nervousness. The anxiety. The gratitude. It is all mixed up together.

This stripping away of what is important and what isn't. I am so thankful for lollipops. He can have lollipops. Flavor in his mouth. A few months ago he was begging just for an ice chip and to go home. He could have neither.

Now, he can have ice chips. Lollipops and popsicles. And he is content. And I am so thankful that he is alive. He is breathing. His mind is with us. It is him. And yet, all he can have is an ice chip here and there. He can't even swallow his own saliva. And I am grateful. And yet, there is nothing easy about that.

I am not ungrateful. He is breathing his own oxygen. He is pushing air out of his lungs and the mark goes up. Two months ago, "it was stuck." But he didn't have the lung strength to even move it.

There was the middle of the night phone call. Being put back on the ventilator. The middle of the night phone call. The light on. Intubated five times. Finally moving from one hospital to the next. Wanting to hope that they could help. was hard to keep hoping.

Hard to keep hoping when he would improve and then get worse. Hard to keep on hoping. And yet here we are still hoping. He is still here with us. And we are so grateful.

Yet, what a hard road. Intubated five times. MRSA. Pnuemonia. Tracheostomy. Wanting to die. Wanting him to wake up. Wanting him to speak. He speaks. He has woken up. He sends me email. He laughs at our jokes. And tries to do the chicken dance with us.

And today. I feel like crying. And crying. Perhaps it is for all the tears that my husband hasn't cried. We talk about how I cry for him. It is for the days when he thought he was dying. And the day he wanted to die because it was just too much. And it is crying because God has spared his life. And we can talk to him. And he can talk to us. And God has helped him be content. I've watched a man willing submit to what God has for him.

I thought we were submitting and the Lord would take him to his heavenly home. But that has  not been the road. So far. Not yet. As I read in Beowulf, "Death awaits us all." Not exactly comforting words but true. None of us know how many days that we have. And really we don't know how many more days he will have.

My father-in-law would type that he was ready to have coffee with Jesus.

He is improving. He is walking. He is working an exercise bike. He is breathing without oxygen. So why do I want to cry all day? He is moving to the next step of rehab. He is getting closer every day to going home.

Maybe I cry because he spent his birthday and Thanksgiving in the hospital. And Saturday is his 50th wedding anniversary. They were suppose to polka together. He is close. Maybe he will polka again. Maybe it is because he has suffered greatly. Maybe it's because he tells his granddaughter I love you.

I don't know exactly why I cry. Except that God is at work. He is making my heart much more tender. I am not bitter. I am tired. I am thankful for even this trial. God has worked so mightily. And I am overwhelmed. I am overwhelmed.

So overwhelmed that my heart can barely even comprehend the tragedy in Connecticut. I have a 7 year old boy in the first grade here in TN. And I can't even imagine the grief that is overtaking. My heart was already full right here. In my own world. I just can't even imagine the stunned, overwhelming grief that is being experienced there. My heart aches for them, too.

And so I cry.

* * * 
I wrote this post last December. It is 8 months later today when I post this. My father-in-law was recovering from brain surgery at the time. Three hospitals, one rehab center and four months after the intial surgery (and about a month after I wrote the original post) he went home. He still has trouble swallowing his saliva but he eats on his own! Plus he's been directing an addition that is being put on their home.

I still have days where I struggle with sadness which I believe is left-over from the last few years. Today is one of those days. But this post was much better written than what I can compose today.

* * *
May it encourage someone else that they are not alone. There are days when we all feel like crying. Perhaps it is just left-over sadness. Thanks for letting me share some of it today with you.
Love, Kathleen

Linking with Jen & Emily this week.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How to help in crisis Or how salsa found a ministry

Did you know that salsa has a ministry? If you love salsa like I do, you probably already know that. One of the best things I've learned through our recent crisis craziness of 2012 is how to minister to others. This is due entirely to the way so many have ministered to us and loved us really, really well.

Have you ever wondered what you could do to help someone in crisis? What do they need? Me, too. I have often been paralyzed to help because I didn't know what to do. Often the person in crisis doesn't know what they need either.  I often have not been brave enough to do anything. Those missed opportunities make me sad.

Now, I realize that I could help by doing something small. Do something in proportion to your relationship with them. Yet, the better you know someone, the better you can love them. It can be an email or a card in the mail.

Offer what you can do for them. "I'm going to the grocery store or running errands today. Can I pick up something for you while I'm out?". If they say no, accept it and move on. If they say, "Yes. Could you get some milk?" Ask what kind, buy it and deliver it.

Sometimes in crisis, you just need to know someone cares. Showing up with their favorite whatever can communicate just that. Put please do it in a non-obtrusive way. Mail it. Stop by to simply drop it off -- unless they indicate that they need you to stay and talk and just be there. Otherwise, plan to be quick.

Life is so exhausting in crisis and time to sleep, rest, or just be unstimulated is sparse. Be sensitive. They may need company. They may need a break. Each moment is different. It can change quickly. Even as quick as walking from the parking garage to the waiting room kind-of quick. 

Nevertheless, sometimes the need is salsa. Really it is.

One night two of my sisters-in-laws were coming over while my father-in-law was in the hospital. I wanted to minister to them. I would make salsa. I know they like my recipe because each of them has called me more than once for the recipe. I would be bringing their favorite whatever.

I knew I had hit the mark on the money when they showed up with salsa, too!! It was a lovely. Mutual encouragement indeed. I loved them. They loved me, too. Together, we enjoyed the ministry of salsa that night.

I don't remember the particulars of how my father-in-law was that night or why logistics caused them to come to my house. I do know that those of us doing the care giving needed moments like this outside of the hospital. It helped us tremendously to be together, doing something "normal." Usually laughter was included. 

Yes, laughter exists in crisis. It helps to deal with the stress. It helps to bond the caregivers in the craziness that abounds as the normal of the crisis season. It's a can-you-believe-this?-kind of laughter.

A picture during the medical crisis last fall of my mother-in-law, my husband's sister, our sister-in-law and me.
Salsa also exists in crisis and it is good to remember that once-in-awhile. Especially as it is a highlight moment from last fall -- an evening in the ministry of salsa between my salsa sister-in-laws.

Here is the favored Black Bean Salsa Recipe, as close as I can to how I make it since I eyeball it and taste it a lot, tweaking it to my liking.

2 cans of black beans, rinsed & drained
2 cans of corn, drained
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
tomatoes, chopped & seeded, sometimes not seeded, usually 3-6 tomatoes
garlic, lots, usually minced from a jar
lime juice, lots
salt & pepper, lots
Mix together. The longer you let it marinade, the better. But we almost always dig in right away. 

What have you found is helpful in a long-term crisis, such as a loved one in the hospital for months? What advice would you offer?

Friday, August 9, 2013

When rearranging a few boxes taught me something about priorities

The dust still settles on the stacks of books on my nightstand and my husband's matching stack of non-book stuff on his nightstand.Yet, aside from those nightstand bundles, the rest of our bedroom has been recently cleared of clutter.

I prepared our home for a stay-cation where my husband & I celebrated 20 years of marriage at home alone without children. I took many boxes out of our room. I wish I could say that I truly decluttered rather than merely moving them to another room.

Nevertheless, taking the clutter out of our bedroom has helped me so much. Not just for a 20th anniversary week but also on a daily basis whenever I walk into our bedroom. It has given me clarity about priorities in the midst of undone projects.

Last summer I began helping our girls tidy their room.  Since they come from parental pack rats, it was a big job. We were unfinished sorting their stuff when we needed the dining room to host a baby shower for a dear friend. So we put the boxes of their stuff into our bedroom instead of theirs -- to help them.

Then, as life flew on by, a medical crisis took our lives by storm. I never got back to the girl's room project. After awhile the extra boxes just became part of the scenery and attracted even more boxes into our bedroom. We have a small house. In an effort to make room for people to come over, I moved more boxes in our bedroom. And here it is -- one year later.

It symbolized our life actually.

As we made room to take care of other people, we shifted the focus of our priorities. Last year my husband and I were called to  emergency foster care, and a father-in-law in the hospital for four months.We gave up a little time for one another during a demanding season of pouring out for others.

It has been a great opportunity to grow-up emotionally and spiritually. Yet, it pushed our focus away from each other. It had to. We are finite beings with limited energy.

It happens gradually this collecting of clutter,  to-do lists, and pressures to be responsible. And yes, there are times to put the boxes in the bedroom and host the shower.

Yet, now is the time to refocus on our marriage. That is what moving a few boxes has taught me.

I  have a visual reminder that I can make our marriage a priority even though pressures remain.

To do-lists, the clutter, the boxes never really go away. It was a season of pouring out for others that demanded more of our attention. Now, the challenge is to go back the focus of one another even though other pressures remain. To realize the pressure of projects and to-do lists is not the same as a father in the hospital struggling to breathe.

We need to keep it all in focus and not let the habits of the demanding season set the standard for the normal way of life.

I do this by taking time for a walk with my spouse even though there are boxes in the dining room that have needed attention for over a year. He is more important.

That is what I am learning by rearranging a few boxes in my house.

What have you been learning lately?
Linking up with Emily at Imperfect Prose.

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