Monday, September 19, 2016

178: death does not negate life

My grandma died on Friday at 2:45am.

She had been in the ICU for about a week, which wasn't anything new. My grandma had been to the ICU many times and come out ready to take care of her dog, her two cats, and the cat across the street.

But this time my mom, who has been taking care of my grandma's health for awhile, wasn't so sure if she was going to make it. So, with my mom and my younger niece, I went to visit Grandma on Wednesday.

I got to visit her alone first. Almost immediately, she started telling me that she loved all of us and that she would miss all of us. Then she started telling me I could have the platters in her china cabinet, and if I wanted any of her dishes or furniture, I could put them in storage for when I have a home of my own.

How do you sit by someone and pre-suppose they are going to die when you don't want to assume they are going to die? When they are still alive? When you have seen them bounce back so many times before?

How do you listen to someone you love tell you they are going to miss you?

She was in so much pain. Her breathing was labored.

I stayed through my niece's portion of the visit and then we left to let her eat dinner.

The next day I went to work. I was supposed to leave at noon for another Homeschool Alumni reunion in Oregon but decided to wait to leave til the next day so I could visit her again in the afternoon. Around 9:30 I found out the doctor said she might only have a couple hours. Do I wait until noon as planned or do I try to get someone to cover for me now? Because I work at a school that values people over convenience, I was able to finish giving the week's spelling tests and then head south to the hospital where my mom, aunt, and brother-in-law were waiting. My grandma was sleeping, but my mom encouraged me to wake her up.

She didn't act like she was going to die. Her breathing wasn't labored. We were able to just hang out. She was thirsty and wanted ice to chew, so I fed her ice. Quality time. I got quality time with my grandma.

Then we left to let her sleep.

Hours later, we went home as she continued to sleep.

By morning, she was gone.

I have never lost someone I was that close to. How does one deal with death? I don't know.

The feeling reminds me of a break-up. The dark cloud that just hovers over you, the feeling of dread.

But this isn't a broken relationship, is it? It is a separation, yes, but only a physical separation.

Her death, the end of her life, does not negate all the LIFE she lived.

We may never again experience her physical presence, but we have all the memories of the love and laughter and, yes, even quirks she poured into us time and time again, and death does not taint that or take it away or cancel it out.

Death sometimes is horrific. But I keep reminding myself that she lived a full, good LIFE. Everyone that knew her loved her.

Death does not negate her life. It simply puts a time-stamp on the end-side of it.

I want to thank those who prayed for us when I texted before my grandma passed. I want to thank those who have prayed and extended their heartfelt condolences since she passed. I want to thank my two friends Naomi and Bethany who have gone above and beyond the call of friendship. Naomi, for being my wise counselor when I was trying to decide whether to stay home or go to the reunion (and visit you!), and then being my sounding board through text and phone since you've experienced it too. Bethany, for not only being the best "wingman" ever, but for also being willing to put feet to our friendship (offering a meal, saying I could hang out even though your sister was visiting) and for being my sounding board even if I just needed to gab.

Sunday night my mom and I drafted the words for my grandma's gravestone. It will read "Her legacy lives on in those she loved."

Thank You, God, for 31 years with a present, loving, giving Grandma.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Book Review: Good & Angry

I've spent the last couple days entrenched in this book, and today I realized I am impressed by how balanced it is. And content-full. But backing up...

Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness by David Powlison is a book about, you guessed it, anger. I would say it's about how we deal with anger, but Powlison makes it clear that anger is not an "it" that you "deal with," as if it is separate from your being (see Chapter 5, or page 46, for more about that). Anger is our assessment of a situation. It says "That matters . . . and it's not right" (p. 39, or Chapter 4). What is unique about this book is that the author argues that to never feel anger is also a problem because anger "is the justice emotion. Anger is the deliver-the-oppressed-from-evil emotion" (p. 63).

"Your anger is both brilliant and appalling. The shifting line between good and evil plays out when it comes to your anger, like everywhere else. Your anger is Godlike to the degree you treasure justice and fairness and are alert to betrayal and falsehood. Your anger is devil-like to the degree you play god and are petty, merciless, whiny, argumentative, willful, and unfair."
--David Powlison, Good and Angry (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2016), p. 65-66 (Chapter 6!)
Powlison then delves into what he calls the "constructive displeasure of mercy," which to me, honestly?, has been rather confusing. But, in summation, when you feel angry, you can do anger well by responding with 1) patience, 2) forgiveness, 3) charity, and 4) constructive conflict, each of which he explains in detail. I thought his description of patience especially noteworthy:

"You struggle within yourself so that you don't react immediately in the wrong way. You bear with difficult people and events, not out of indifference, resignation, or cowardice. You hang in there because you are driven by a different purpose. . . . [Patience] is how to be purposeful and constructive in the face of great difficulties. . . . By definition, patience means that what's wrong doesn't change right away." (p. 78, Chapter 7)

I love that Powlison repeats over and over that mercy is not saying that what someone did was okay. "Jesus gathers up our angers, not to neuter our sensitivity to evil, but to redeem how we respond" (p. 72, emphasis mine).

I am only 100 pages into this 243 page book, but so far I have gleaned a lot and done much self-inspection. I have learned that I don't have to lump all my irritation/impatience/frustration/mad issues into one lump and say "that's bad, I need to be more patient." This is SO helpful, because some things are worth getting stirred up over (p. 31). Because the author makes that differentiation, he can then provide Biblical tools for how to handle that justice emotion constructively.

I'm hoping in the second half of the book Powlison will deal more with the less-godly side of anger, like irritation when someone doesn't understand what you're talking about on the first go-through, or doesn't hear you even tho you've yelled from the bathroom three times already, or the drawer sticks when you're in a hurry because a wooden spoon is wedged in there and when you jerk the drawer free your whole body feels jarred. I think he will though since one of the upcoming chapters is called "The Everyday Angers."

So far, this book gets 5 out of 5 stars for being so balanced, Biblical, and not trying my patience by being slow to get to content. (Trying my patience...impatience....anger...get it? *silly joke* But seriously, each chapter is packed full of content.)

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for a timely review.

Monday, August 29, 2016

177: us single, them married

A college classmate shared an article entitled "I Suck at Being a Friend Right Now." I knew I needed to read it because sometimes I have a hard time extending grace to my married friends. After reading it (click on the link!), I remembered something I had written in my journal. It's a little incoherent (b/c that's how I roll) but it's my reminder to myself that singles and marrieds are in vastly different seasons of life, and yet the gap between the seasons is extremely thin.

Do the unthinkable and let me not forget the feeling of walking in black mirrored fog.

It can feel like an "us" singles, "them" not. But there is a VERY thin veil between the two, with no predictor when one of us will slip into "the other side." Even I, as I walk with you along the illusion of an unending garden walkway, unending walkway while "they" have the estate's manor, may suddenly, while yet griping at my interminable status, run smack into the middle of a concrete step, look up, and see the house only a pace away, hedged on either side and pulling me through its open door with nary a chance for a backward glance.

It feels interminable. It looks unending. And indeed it may seem our lot to tread the garden path and take advantage of living this life to the full.

But never presume that those magically sucked through the illusory veil felt less surprised than you, felt less keenly the disparency between "us" and "them," and did little but live to deserve the switch. So you, walking the VERY SAME PATH of the women before you, may one day stub your toe on the manor's step and have your life changed.

And then, what fools we will have been, thinking we would never reach the attainment of "them." What are they but us in a different season of life? What are we but a parallel life of theirs?

At the church potluck yesterday, I gazed around at the tables. So many people I know from other churches, now all of us attending the same church (what happens when you live in the same community all your life). But they over at that table, while my age, are married, having kids, and are able to interact as peers with other marrieds. And those, over there, while seemingly so much older than me when I was little, are now practically peers, if I could somehow bolster my confidence and bridge the gap between "me single," "them married." Instead, I sat with other single girls my age (goodness, I'm 31) and some teenagers. It's all in my head, I know it. It is a work in progress, to rise beyond the fact that my living conditions look fairly similar to how they did a decade ago and join a world where I may not be married or have kids but I am a peer with life experiences and the ability to exchange conversation just as well as if I did. Pathetic much? I'll get the hang of this by 40, I'm sure. :)

Book Review: Come With Me

Oh, now that's ironic. Posting a book review after my last post. :-P I have been reading some really good books lately (Dignity and Worth: Seeing the Image of God in Foster Adoption, for example). Don't really want to write about every single one though, so I'll stick with the one I received for free, from Bethany House Publishers, free in exchange for an honest review!

In Come With Me, Suzanne Eller, an author with Proverbs 31 ministries (for those who follow Lysa Terkeurst, etc.) shares what God taught her as she spent time in the Gospels. Each chapter is loosely devoted to one of the 12 disciples. I say loosely because I felt the correlation between the disciple and the lessons the author extrapolated from that disciple's life were a bit of stretch at times. Still, I have never studied the disciples, so some of the connections she made really were insightful. The overarching theme of the book I think would be living as a true disciple of Christ, abandoning all for Him. Each chapter has a different focus.

It took me a long while to make it through this book, I'm not sure why, but this review is waaaaay overdue (it came out in May!), but when I did get around to opening up the pages, there would often be a nugget waiting for me.

Each chapter ends with a handful of "Taking It Deeper" questions (for cross-referencing Scriptures and reflecting), a main Scripture verse, a short prayer, and bullet pointed ideas for "Living As a Disciple." This is not a theological book. It is one woman sharing her journey of faith in an instructional way, like the older woman teaching the younger woman, only not in a "I have it all together" way but in a "let's seek Jesus together" way.

I am giving this book 4 out of 5 stars.

"Intentional gratitude is a course corrector. It turns away temptation. You aren't asked to pretend that there aren't challenges, but to take a step back and tackle them in a different way." (p. 127)
"There's nothing wrong with dreaming. Many times those dreams are a catalyst to make a difference or to take a huge step of faith. Your dreams can encourage you when getting there is difficult. . . .
Dreaming is worthwhile unless it makes you unhappy with where you are or who you're with, or it creates resentment with God's timing versus your own. . . .
Should we dream big? Absolutely. Should we obsess, worry, wrangle, or plot to get what we want, or to have what someone else has? Probably not the best plan." (p. 130)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

176: why I have a hard time getting rid of books which I delve into the psychological connection between me and my books.

What does my library mean to me?

Like, honestly.

After writing a long, rambling, very probing draft on the subject, here's my rewrite.

My library of 489 books (plus the one I just bought at the Christian bookstore) is my trophy. It is a monument to my perceived self, proof that I am intellectual, that my interests are varied, even if several of the books remain unread, or bookmarked 32 pages in with boarding passes and napkins, or are relicts of my college days.

Owning books is virtuous. Owning good books is even more virtuous. I have imbedded this fact on my psyche and, with it, great pride in my 489 (plus 1) collection.

Maybe it all started with my favorite Disney princess and her love of books

To get rid of a book feels like relinquishing part of who I was or who I want to be. The desire to be a woman who is more than a popular fiction reader, someone who is intellectual and deep and reads classics. And I do love an occasional dip into philosophy or history or Shakespeare! I do! But I'm probably never going to read a 751 page book on John Adams even though I am interested in who he was. And although I bought that still shrink-wrapped book on Sam Houston while at the San Jacinto Monument in Houston, Texas, and therefore have a sentimental attachment to it, realistically I'm never going to read 531 pages on him either. To get rid of a book is admitting that I will probably never pursue that potentially interesting topic.

Counseling interests me, and Seeing With New Eyes is supposed to be a really good book on the topic, but right now, that's not where my interest lies. But it sure looks good on a shelf!

It looks good.

I want to tell you about all the different kinds of books (not just history!) I own just so you'll be impressed with me.

Yet, they are like a weight around my neck.

I am afraid to let books go.

Afraid to let go of the memories--I bought American Women and World War II on the U.S.S. Midway while venturing out on a day trip by myself in San Diego!

Afraid to admit the unvirtuous fact that I like the Basil Rathbone movies better than the Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes short stories.

Afraid to let go of books that would add greatly to that ideal future homeschool library.

Afraid to close a chapter and say I'm no longer interested in that subject.

That is the salient point:

I am not interested in them right now.

What do I actually read? What if, instead of holding onto books I'm interested in and take pride in and that I bought with great excitement for amazingly cheap prices, what if I culled my library down to what I actually read? It would be far more meager. Maybe not less interesting, but less diverse. Less to boast about. And with some of my favorites now on my Kindle app, not an accurate show-off of what I read.

Is this me, or is this who I think I should be?

What do I actually read? Now. This person today in real life in real time. If I got rid of some of the books I probably won't ever read, would I perhaps find my true self? Who I am now? Would I find something beautiful behind the lie that my identity is wrapped up in the gargantuan amount of looks-impressive-on-a-shelf books I own but don't read? Would I find that I can be an interesting, intelligent, culture-shaping individual without owning 489 (plus 1!) books?

This is my psychological connection to my books. Basically pride and fear.

P.S. After writing this draft, I gathered together 43 books to let go of. I am trying very hard to not let my emotions kick in and change my mind. I also have been reading the new book I bought--because that's what books are for.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

175: the discomfort of a crush

You like someone. And (of course) they don't like you back. How do you know? Because he could do something about it if he did and he's not. Logic. Doesn't always penetrate the emotions. You re-hash your interactions (even if it was literally just a "hello, *name*) and groan as you remember that thing that made you look ridiculous (I can't believe I said that!!!), those words that sounded pushy (I totally turned him off!), or uninterested (I did not! Oh no!). You let the pull and salt wash over you a couple days, and then, when you expect things to start feeling better (because emotions come in waves), I don't know, a hormone tweak or something makes the wave drag on longer than it should. These uncomfortable feelings of unrequited like should be ebbing. I want them to ebb. This is painful. No, not painful. Just very uncomfortable! I remember things I said, things I did. So so so stupid! Ack! Augh! Argh! Recoiling in amazement at my own dunce-ity and then going back and looking at the disaster all over again. I was a complete flirt! -Lie- I made a complete fool of myself! -Lie- He would never like me because I am so inadequate. -Lie- He probably has some secret weakness that I wouldn't want to deal with anyway. -Lie- I'm going to forget about him. I don't need him. I'm better off without him.

And so instead of embracing the discomfort, we do everything to make it go away. Which I'm all for, as long as we don't deceive ourselves that it's somehow our fault or his fault or that we don't want him anyway. Cuz that's what I do. I start lying to myself to make me feel better.

Maybe we should embrace the uncomfortable truths.

Such as, I like him.
He probably doesn't like me.
It's not because I'm horrid.
It might be he simply doesn't like me. *ouch* *shrug*
That isn't stopping me from liking him.
I'm going to have to live with this discomfort until it dies down. Not feed it, not rehash it, not beat myself up over it--just live with it.

And the comforting truths.

I did my best to get him to like me back.
I may not have performed perfectly, but the right guy will be attracted to me, despite my awkward or ridiculous moments.
There really are other good guys out there. I might not know any at the moment that seem as well-suited for me, but God has proven to me before that whoever I currently like isn't the end-all of amazing guys.

What to do then? I don't know. Give it over to God...again. Acknowledge He can bring romance out of clods and rocks. Confirm your trust in His power and the beauty of His doings. Remind yourself He loves you. Basically, lay before God what we already know and believe above and beyond our temporal wishes. Testify to ourselves what we have witnessed of our God.

And then, ride out the discomfort a little longer.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

174: meshing homeschool and public school expectations

Yesterday and today (mm, it's past midnight, so yesterday and the day before yesterday) I volunteered at a homeschool convention so I could get in free and listen to speakers and buy really cheap books downstairs where all the leftover books from the June curriculum swap are available for donation only. I left with 68 books. . . and with some really good thoughts and ideas shared by the speakers.

I wrote a status on Facebook tonight that seems to accurately encompass my thoughts this eve. I re-post it here so I won't lose it. :)

"I'm thankful I work in a school where my class size is so small and the administration is so flexible that I can implement homeschool-style methods and even be Spirit-led/seize teachable moments. I am thankful that this season of life is the next best thing to being a homeschool mom myself. I am thankful that I can have a job that is fulfilling and encourages creativity and grows skills that I will always benefit from having learned. It's weird though because I feel like I ride the fence between the world of homeschooling (my heritage) and the world of public schooling (our "competition"). Between "let God lead you as to what is best for your child" and "do not be bound by the world's educational goals" on one side and "excellence is following research-based best practices" and "how does this align to state standards or common core?" on the other. Both sound good. Both are good. But they ARE different. They approach education very differently. And then there's my little classroom, where I mesh all the ideas flying in my brain and the voices of both sides telling me what to do, and figure out what I'm capable of doing with my abilities and what I'm expected to accomplish. 3 weeks til I go back."