Post #2 – a status update


in which I attempt blog-resuscitation


I just noticed that I have only posted once to this blog for all of 2016. Like many of my fellow blogging friends of the early 2000’s, I find myself asking, “Should I renew my domain for one more year or let this die?”

Considering that I was a daily blogger for SO MANY YEARS, it makes me sad that I haven’t made time for writing. A lot has changed. I guess, in the midst of the changes, I just didn’t want to write and hit publish at the end of the day.

Sitting…at what used to be our school table. Now it’s just a table. I’m not sad about it.

Drinking…water.

ReadingEverything We Keep: A Novel by Kerry Lonsdale. It was suggested by my kindle, so I borrowed it. Right now I’m just getting dragged on by suspense at the end of each chapter. So far, so good.

Preparing…for the holidays. I’ve done my shopping. I’m almost finished with the wrapping. The kids are counting down the days until exams are finished and school is out. Then the fun can begin.

Thinking…about whether or not it’s safe to return to facebook. Yes, I deactivated after the election. I have learned that I get along better with others when I don’t know what they think about every.little.thing. Plus, who needs to know what 480 people think about a thing? Not me.

General mood…roll tide.

That’s enough for now. I’ve got laundry to do.

 

What I most enjoyed this Christmas


We went carolling twice this Christmas.

Our ladies at church put together several goody baskets to deliver to our shut-ins. And we sang songs for them when we delivered the baskets. That was the first time in a long time that my children have been carolling. I knew the girls would enjoy it. Abbey said when we were finished, “I love singing and making people happy.” I wasn’t sure how much my boys would enjoy it, but they surprised me. They wanted to keep going and they felt bad about not stopping in every single room at the nursing home.  So many lie in their beds, forgotten and alone; it was so special to them for us to take a moment to sing and give a squeeze on the arm or a hug.

We went carolling again last Wednesday in my MIL’s neighborhood. As many of our extended family that could gathered at her house for a family meal and fellowship time; I think the final count came to 39 people. After we finished eating, a group of us went out to carol through the neighborhood. It was the first time I had been carolling outside of it being a church function. We were just doing it because (1) my MIL wanted us to, and (2) it would be fun (Karl’s family loves to sing together). I’m guessing we stopped at anywhere from 15 to 20 houses and sang two or three songs at each house. It was a choral explosion (but without the cheesy dancing).  Here’s a picture of most of us from our Thanksgiving…

A few observations:

  • People connect through music.  And I think (at this point in time) there is a resurgence in appreciation for a capella singing.  As evidence, just consider the many youtube videos of singing groups and individuals that are forwarded all over these interwebs and the popularity of shows like Glee and movies like Mama Mia.  The people we visited Wednesday evening were obviously gladdened to see a group had come right up to their doorstep to sing to them.  When we finished, my MIL went up to the door to explain that she was their neighbor and to deliver a personal, “Merry Christmas.”
  • Upon learning that we were all part of the same family come to sing carols, the person (or family) expressed even greater appreciation and awe.  We really do create a beautiful sound when we sing together (traffic stopped to listen).  But the surprise at finding that “my neighbor can sing” made me think about the popularity of programs like American Idol, X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent.  I think there is something about “discovering” that a “regular” person can sing well that makes people happy.
  • Social media reared its head.  Not only did a few of our family members update their statuses whilst carolling, but at two homes the residents pulled out their cell phones and cameras to take pictures and record us.  Perhaps the pictures will become part of their family album, but one of our aunts did ask about getting properly tagged in facebook.
  • Children LOVE carollers.  Some adults hesitated to open their doors, but the kids who made it to the doors first swung them wide.
  • It’s fun when the home owner sings along.
  • Some adults became a little emotional while we sang to them.  I’ve always been a sympathy crier, so I had to stop singing and get control of my own emotions when I noticed someone else crying.  I’m tearing up now just thinking about those people.  It was all I could do to keep from invading their personal space to find out why they were crying, how they were doing this Christmas, and just giving hugs.  I know it would have been really weird for the other person, but I felt the need to give hugs before we left each house.

Which reminds of something else I enjoy about the holidays: hugs.  Wednesday night alone I gave and received close to 70 hugs.  If there were 39 people at MIL’s house, subtract 6 for myself and my immediate family, leaving 33, multiplied by 2 for hugs and kisses upon arrival and departure, then I gave and received 66 hugs.  But I can add my immediate family back because I gave hugs and kisses at bedtime….so, at least 71 hugs and kisses in one day.

Physical touch and beautiful music are so important for our emotional health.

You may not want to serenade anyone today, but you can give someone a hug.

And not that stupid Christian side hug.  Give a real hug.

Because you need a real hug.

How to make sure of a happy old age


This is a little piece written by James Russell Miller, a presbyterian pastor who lived from 1840-1912.

After reading it, I was both convicted and encouraged, spurred on to sacrifice more and endeavor to be less selfish in my mothering and in my growing friendships with other women.  It’s kind of long, but very much worth your time and attention.

*    *    *

This may scarcely seem a fitting theme to introduce in a book meant chiefly for the young, and yet a moment’s reflection will show its appropriateness and practicalness.

Old age is the harvest of all the years that have gone before.  It is the barn into which all the sheaves are gathered.  It is the sea into which all the rills and rivers of life flow from their springs in the hills and valleys of youth and manhood.  We are each, in all our earlier years, building the house in which we shall have to live when we grow old.  And we may make it a prison or a palace.  We may make it very beautiful, adorning it with taste and filling it with objects which shall minister to our pleasure, comfort, and power.  We may cover the walls with lovely pictures.  We may spread luxurious couches of ease on which to rest.  We may lay up in store great supplies of provision upon which to feed in the days of hunger and feebleness.  We may gather and pile away large bundles of wood to keep the fires blazing brightly in the long winter days and nights of old age.

Or we may make our house very gloomy.  We may hang the chamber-walls with horrid pictures, covering them with ghastly spectres which shall look down upon us and haunt us, filling our souls with terror when we sit in the gathering darkness of life’s night fall.  We may make beds of thorns to rest upon.  We may lay up nothing to feed upon in the hunger and craving of declining years.  We may have no fuel ready for the winter fires.

We may plant roses to bloom about our doors and fragrant gardens to pour their perfumes about us, or we may sow weeds and briers to flaunt themselves in our faces as we sit in our doorways in the gloaming.

All old age is not beautiful.  All old people are not happy.  Some are very wretched, with hollow, sepulchral lives.  Many an ancient palace was built over a dark dungeon.  There were the marble walls that shone with dazzling splendor in the sunlight.  There were the wide gilded chambers with their magnificent frescoes and their splendid ornaments, the gaiety, the music, and the revelry.  But deep down beneath all this luxurious splendor and dazzling display was the dungeon filled with its unhappy victims, and up through the iron gratings came the sad groans and moanings of despair, echoing and reverberating through the gilded halls and ceiled chambers; and in this I see a picture of many an old age.  It may have abundant comforts and much that tells of prosperity in an outward sense — wealth, honors, friends, the pomp and circumstance of greatness — but it is only a palace built over a gloomy dungeon of memory, up from whose deep and dark recesses come evermore voices of remorse and despair to sadden or embitter every hour and to cast shadows over every lovely picture and every bright scene.

It is possible so to live as to make old age very sad, and then it is possible to so live as to make it very beautiful.  In going my rounds in the crowded city I came one day to a door where my ears were greeted with a great chorus of bird-songs.  There were birds everywhere — in parlour, in dining room, in bedchamber, in hall — and the whole house was filled with their joyfull music.  So may old age be.  So it is for those who have lived aright.  It is full of music.  Every memory is a little snatch of song.  The sweet bird-notes of heavenly peace sing everywhere, and the last days of life are its happiest days —

“Rich in experience that angels might covet,
Rich in a faith that has grown with the years.”

The important practical question is, How can we so live that our old age, when it comes, shall be beautiful and happy? It will not do to adjourn this question until the evening shadows are uopon us. It will be too late then to consider it. Consciously or unconsciously, we are every day helping to settle the question whether our old age shall be sweet and peaceful or bitter and wretched. It is worth our while, then, to think a little how to make sure of a happy old age.

We must live a useful life. Nothing good ever comes out of idleness or out of selfishness. The standing water stagnates and breeds decay and death. It is the running stream that keeps pure and sweet. The fruit of an idle life is never joy and peace. Years lived selfishly never become garden-spots in the field of memory. Happiness comes out of self-denial for the good of others. Sweet always are the memories of good deeds done and sacrifices made. Their incense, like heavenly perfume, comes floating up from the fields of toil and fills old age with holy fragrance. When one has lived to bless others, one has many grateful, loving friends who affection proves a wondrous source of joy when the days of feebleness come. Bread cast upon the waters is found again after many days.

I see some people who do not seem to want to make friends. They are unsocial, unsympathetic, cold, distant, disobliging, selfish. Others, again, make no effort to retain their friends. They cast them away for the slightest cause. But htey are robbing their later years of joys they cannot afford to lose. If we would walk in the warmth of friendship’s beams in the late evening-time, we must seek to make to ourselves loyal and faithful friends in the busy hours that come before. This we can do by a ministry of kindness and self-forgetfulness. The was part at least of what our Lord meant in that counsel which falls so strangely on our ears until we understand it: “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when you fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.”

Again, we must live a pure and holy life. Every on carries in himself the sources of his own happiness or wretchedness. Circumstances have really very little to do with our inner experiences. It matters little in the determination of one’s degree of enjoyment whether he live in a cottage or a palace. It is self, after all, that in largest measure give the color to our skies and the tone to the music we hear. A happy heart sees rainbows and brilliance everywhere, even in darkest clouds, and hears sweet strains of song even amid the loudest wailings of the storm; and a sad heart, unhappy and discontented, see spots in the sun, specks in the rarest fruits, and something with which to find fault in the most perfect of God’s works, and hears discords and jarring notes in the heavenliest music. So it comes about that this whole question must be settled from within. the fountains rise in the heart itself. The old man, like the snail, carries his house on his back. He may change neighbors or homes or scenes or companions, but he cannot get away from himself and his own past. Sinful years put thorns in the pillow on which the head of old age rests. Lives of passion and evil store away bitter fountains from which the old man has to drink.

Sin may seem pleasant to us now, but we must not forget how it will appear when we get past it and turn to look back upon it; especially must we keep in mind how it will seem from a dying pillow. Nothing brings such pure peace and quiet joy at the close as well-lived past. We are every day laying up the food on which we must feed in the closing years. We are hanging up pictures about the walls of our hearts that we shall have to look at when we sit in the shadows. How important that we live pure and holy lives! Even forgiven sins will mar the peace of old age, for the ugly scars will remain.

Summing up all in one word, only Christ can make any life, young or old, truly beautiful or truly happy. Only He can cure the heart’s restless fever and give quietness and calmness. Only He can purify that sinful fountain within us, our corrupt nature, and make us holy. To have a peaceful and blessed ending to life, we must live it with Christ. Such a life grows brighter even to its close. Its last days are the sunniest and the sweetest. The more earth’s joys fail, the nearer and the more satisfying do the comforts become. The nests over which the wing of God droops, which in the bright summer days of prosperous strength lay hidden among the leaves, stand out uncovered in the days of decay and feebleness when winter has stripped the branches bare. And for such a life death has no terrors. The tokens of its approach are but “the land-birds lighting on the shrouds, telling the weary mariner that he is nearing the haven.” The end is but the touching of the weather-beaten keel on the shore of glory.

(HT: Challies)

Psalm 16


I have not had a great morning. Today is one of those days when I would rather put my kids on a bus and not have to deal with arguments or math or PE. Rather than give in, I fight it. I have to fight that urge to be selfish, to do whatever I want to do. I have to do what’s right considering my current responsibilities. So, I take a few moments to meditate on this psalm and pray. It’s true that right actions lead to right feelings, that doing what’s right ends up helping me feel better.

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.

The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.

I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Book Review: Will Medicine Stop the Pain?


by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Laura Hendrickson, M.D.

Or shop Westminster Bookstore

I wish that I could say that the terms and descriptions in this book are foreign to me. Depression, dementia, and bipolar disorder, however, have affected my family members and friends. On at least two occasions, no one knew there was a problem until we received a call from the hospital regarding a suicide attempt. Though more accepted in Christian circles nowadays, I remember when a discussion of depression was only carried out in whispers. That is why Will Medicine Stop the Pain?: Finding God’s Healing for Depression, Anxiety and Other Troubling Emotions by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Laura Hendrickson, M.D. caught my attention. Fitzpatrick, author of more than ten books, a member of the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC), and frequent conference speaker, has been counseling women for twenty years. Laura Hendrickson, who formerly practiced psychiatry and is currently a biblical counselor and member of NANC, shares her testimony of her personal struggle with deep depression following the birth of her son. I agree with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, who wrote in the foreword, “This book … is long overdue and desperately needed.”

Fitzpatrick and Hendrickson offer this word of caution and encouragement before reading the book:

This book is not intended, nor should it be interpreted, to state or imply that any particular drug, pharmaceutical company, therapy, medical diagnosis, or counseling program is wrong or harmful. All of the medications identified in this book by brand name or by generic name can play an appropriate role when expertly matched to a particular mental disease or serious emotional crisis. But do we in our depression, like King Asa in 2 Chronicles 16 run too easily and first to the medical and counseling establishments for relief in drugs when the solution may be found in the Bible and prayer? If you have picked up this book because of its title, you probably have already answered the question posed by the title and are looking for more biblical and effective alternative opinions and ‘treatments.’

To explain those “more biblical and effective alternative opinions and ‘treatments,’” Will Medicine Stop the Pain? is divided into two parts: “Our Bodies, Emotions, and the Problem of Suffering” and “Seeking Answers with God’s Help.”

In part one, Fitzpatrick and Hendrickson lay a good foundation by explaining the amazing connection between our inner man and outer man, our physical bodies and our thoughts, feelings, and choices.

Many passages in the Bible teach that we are duplex beings. That is, we consist of two distinct aspects: a body or outer person, and a spirit or inner person…This inner person is the real you that God sees and interacts with (1 Samuel 16:7; Hebrews 4:13). Your inner person is the source of the activity that can be measured in the brain, which is part of your outer person, or your physical body… Our speech and behavior are the body’s outward expression of our inner life.

Fitzpatrick and Hendrickson explain that God created us so that our physical bodies alert us to problems in the inner man, and vice versa. The authors include several clear diagrams to help illustrate this foundational point. Having a biblical perspective regarding the connection between the inner man and our behavior influences every aspect of how we choose to address depression, anxiety, moods, pain, and perceptual problems.

In chapter two, Fitzpatrick and Hendrickson discuss physical and emotional pain (which includes depression, anxiety, fear, and mood disorders) and how the two occur together. They also explain the drugs most commonly prescribed to deal with physical and emotional pain, how these drugs work in the body and, because so many people self-medicate on top of their prescriptions, how they interact with street drugs and alcohol. In their explanation of what medicine can and cannot do, the authors expose drug “poop-out,” therapeutic tail chasing, dependence, the myth (my word) of chemical imbalance, and the dangers associated with medicines that recent research is suggesting “may even rewire the brain as they produce relief of symptoms.”

In chapters three and four, Fitzpatrick and Hendrickson provide a biblical perspective of our pain and suffering. They explain why people suffer, God’s ultimate purpose in allowing people to suffer, and how best to respond to pain and suffering. They encourage the reader to identify with Jesus Christ in his suffering on our behalf. Recognizing that far too many people look at the suffering of Jesus as only benefiting their eternal destinies, the authors provide six reasons Jesus’ suffering helps us deal with today. In this particular section, filled with comfort from the scriptures, the reader will find prompts to pray or read a passage of scripture in order to begin thinking about how Truth can transform perspectives and feelings.

In part two, Fitzpatrick and Hendrickson offer greater detail about specific forms of emotional pain and how to apply the biblical principles discussed the part one.

When the problems we’re facing have to do primarily with the body and its functioning, a medicine that cures or relieves physical symptoms is part of God’s common grace to our suffering world. But when the problems we’re facing have to do primarily with the heart or inner person, something different is needed. Only God can cure an ailing heart; only the Spirit can bring hope and light to a distressed mind.

From chapters five through eight, the authors apply scripture to depression, fear, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, out-of-control moods, and cognitive-perceptual problems. Regardless of an individual’s plight, her emotions and behavior can improve when she changes the way she thinks of herself and God. She may not be able to move completely off medication, particularly those who suffer under schizophrenia, dementia, or a brain injury, but, as the authors teach, there are practical steps one can take in applying scripture to each situation so that a woman is no longer lead by her feelings and fears.

The appendices include short chapters entitled, “How You Can Know If You’re a Christian,” Understanding Medicine Dependence, Withdrawal, and Side Effects,” “How to Talk with Your Doctor,” and “Resources for Further Study.” Anyone wishing to stop taking her medicine must read the appendix on understanding medicine and talk to her doctor first. While it has been a great relief to me that the medicine prescribed for my mother is helping her, I must admit that “poop-out” and tail chasing are already becoming factors she is facing. I plan to give a copy of this book to her and do what I can to see that she follows the authors’ suggestions, but only with help from her doctor and a biblical counselor. I fear going it alone after an extended time on medicine would lead to a severe relapse.

Depression may be the last taboo in the church. Women whisper about feeling down, or about their moods, but the ‘D’ word is rarely used. Depression and mental illness ought not to be reserved for the medical establishment. Christians need to claim authority over the issue of depression. In most cases, people are dealing with issues of the heart. As more and more negative news stories and research studies regarding the side effects of the foremost medicines to combat depression and mental and emotional disorders are released, people will seek alternatives. The church stands in a unique position with the message of the gospel.

I learned a lot reading this book. For instance, Fitzpatrick and Hendrickson point out that most of the medicines prescribed for depression and anxiety end up making the patient feel worse and that the very structure of our brains can be altered by these medicines, making withdrawal very difficult. In Appendix C, “How to Talk to Your Doctor,” I was shocked to read of a trend that many patients are prescribed medicines without “even the indirect physician supervisions that the law requires for nurses and physician’s assistants,” rather they are prescribed medicines by psychologists who are not required to have as much medical training.

I recommend this book to all women, particularly those who suffer with chronic pain, mood swings, depression, and anxiety. Even if you do not struggle with depression or OCD or crippling anxiety, the section on moods and PMS is very helpful. The suggested exercises for using Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi and Peter’s second epistle will prove beneficial to any believer who puts them into practice. The authors include four or five probing questions at the end of each chapter to help the reader uncover root spiritual issues that may be contributing to her emotional pain. One other helpful feature closing each chapter is a personal story from other women who have faced the struggles detailed in this book. Finally, I think co-author Laura Hendrickson’s testimony will encourage women who want to be free of their medications to take the steps necessary to do so.