Keep on Swimming, Swimming, Swimming…

Dory!!

Ok, I had a Dory moment on Friday evening and ended up with a Dory! LOL! Yes, it is a tattoo. Yes, it is real and permanent. Now, I should also tell you here that the D. in D. Elaine Wood-Lane stands for Doris and Dory is a nickname for Doris. Also, I am hyper and forgetful sometimes…and a little impulsive sometimes. But, I’m also the queen of “Keep on swimming, keep on swimming, keep on swimming, swimming, swimming…” As we started studying the book of Joshua this morning, I was inspired once again to remember that God has not only encouraged us to not be afraid, but: 

Joshua 1:9 (ESV)

9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

So, don’t be afraid! Be strong, be courageous, and keep on swimming, even if you feel like you’re a ditzy dame like me! You have something important God wants you to contribute. Just do it! Happy Memorial weekend and happy Sunday! 

 Love y’all!    Dory/Elaine

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Resting Is Important

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Looking out the window into utter tranquility.

Resting is important to all of us, especially in our go, go, go society where it sometimes feels like you only are recognized or feel validated if you can say you are SO busy. I remember a time when I was truly busy, but I was also adding things onto my “to-do list” every day that weren’t really essential or even necessary. Was it really necessary that I reorganize my files for the new year with new colored tabs every single year? Was it really necessary to change my bed sheets every seven days like clockwork, especially when I was the only one sleeping on them and I only used about a 3×5 foot space? (This was when I was single, I should point out.) There are many things we do that are important, but there are many things we do that have been handed down to us from either experts or our parents or both. (My mother was the wash your sheets every seven days queen and had a whole other host of household rules that, quite frankly, were unnecessary and exhausting.)

For a while in the 1990’s and early 2000’s I was really caught up in the Stephen Covey organization/calendar/setting goals system. I faithfully wrote every single thing down in my pretty little organizer that I felt I had to do each day. I made goals, I made appointments with myself, I put all of my sons’ activities on my calendar, all of my singles’ group church activities on my calendar, and even times when I would be at my parents’ home, helping them out with some housecleaning and just visiting them. (They were elderly and lived across the street from me at the time.) Once I had every single little thing that I did in my life written down on that calendar and wrote down my “to-do list” every day, I looked at it all and immediately felt completely overwhelmed! I thought to myself that there was no possible way I could do everything that I had put on that calendar or reach the goals I had set for myself. You know what’s funny about all of that? I had been doing all of those things for quite a while and handling them just fine until I saw how much I was doing! Hahaha!

My point is that life is life. There are times when we are busier and have more responsibilities and there isn’t a lot we can do about it at the time. There are other times when we’re not as busy, but don’t wish to look unproductive so we add things to our lives and our calendars to feel more productive, more involved, and more important, quite frankly. Why do we do that? Do we really have to be busy 24/7 to matter, to make a difference, or to earn other people’s admiration or to earn our salvation from God? NO! As a matter of fact, it says in Ephesians 2:8-10 (NKJV) “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” http://bible.com/114/eph.2.8-10.nkjv

Yes, we have responsibilities and things to do, but there are things which God has prepared beforehand for us to do and there are times when we need to rest. We have to rest in order to be able to continue to do the things God has prepared for us to do. He doesn’t want us to be busy just to be busy. He wants our work to be purposeful, in obedience to Him, and for us to rest in between times. How often have you said to yourself over the years, “I’m going to either get up early or stay up late to study God’s word and pray?” Yet most of us never do either of those things on a regular basis. I’m not preaching here, because I’m just as bad as anyone when it comes to this particular topic. As I said above, there was a time when I was busy, it seemed, 24/7. If I had even a moment of slowing down or resting, I felt guilty. Guilty for crying out loud! Even God rested on the seventh day after creating the universe. Jesus regularly went apart from the crowds to meditate and pray. Do you think perhaps we take ourselves a little too seriously and need to give ourselves a rest and respite from time to time? I do. I think most people in the developed world have become so busy and attached to their electronic gizmos that we rarely just stop, sip a beverage, sit down and just be. How will we ever get to spend any time with God if we’re contstantly on the go? Didn’t God Himself say, “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 (NKJV).

We have to have a balance of work time and rest time. If we never take the time to rest, do you know what happens? We wear our bodies out and suddenly we are forced to rest. How do I know this? Because that is exactly what happened to me. I managed to always complete everything on my list back in the day and then one day I was unable to get out of bed. I felt like a ton of bricks had fallen on me. I had no energy, every place, space, and part of my body hurt and I felt so ridiculous. I had things to do, places to go, people to see! God said, “Nope! We’re going to spend some time together, you and I. You’re going to be still for a while.” It turns out that I have fibromyalgia. Now, for the most part, it is controlled by medication, but I still have to be careful and organize outings and workloads carefully with periods of time to rest. If I don’t, well, let’s just say it’s not pretty!

So, all of this is to say, this morning it is cool and overcast here in Colorado Springs. I opened my windows, have my cat sitting on the window sill, have a cup of coffee in a jaunty orange mug by my side and am enjoying the sounds of all the birds. God is good, isn’t he? He gave me the perfect time to rest and enjoy the morning.

Peace and love, Elaine

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Loss and Grief

There are many types of loss and grief. Most of the time people think of loss in terms of losing a loved one through death. That is a major loss, but we suffer grief at other types of loss as well. We may suffer loss and grief when we lose a job or change jobs. We may suffer loss and grief as we age. We may suffer loss and grief after a romantic breakup or marital divorce. We may even suffer loss and grief due to children growing up, losing pets, or moving to a new home or a new city.

I’ve gone through loss and grief periods in all of the ways that I listed above. None of them are easy and none should be made light of just because someone else has never dealt with that kind of loss. Your loss and you grief is valid if for you it is impacting your daily life. What do we do with loss and grief?

There are no magical “abracadabra” ways to remove loss and grief from our lives because they are a part of our lives that we can’t escape from. I don’t know anyone who has never experienced loss and grief in some way. Since there is no magical way to just make it go away, we must find ways to deal with our loss and grief so we are able to go on with our daily lives, meeting our responsibilities and letting those around us know we love them and need their presence and care during this difficult time.

Some healthy ways to deal with loss and grief include journaling each day to describe your feelings and thoughts. If you miss someone, you might write them a letter in your journal to express that. If you’re feeling particularly sad one day, you might journal about those feelings as well. You can even write prayers and gratitudes in your journal as your journey through this time of grief and loss.

For people of faith, prayer and meditation are often very comforting during this difficult time. Many times we get angry at God for our loss, particularly if we’ve lost someone to death. We don’t want to talk to Him because we’re afraid we’ll lose our temper and say things that will make God mad at us. I have shocking news for you. God can take it! He knows we get hurt, angry and upset with Him. He would much rather hear our true feelings toward Him than for us to remain silent and cut ourselves off from our relationship to Him. There are many examples of people getting angry at God in the Bible and God answering that anger with love and grace. A perfect example of this can be found in Jonah, chapter four. Jonah was angry at God in that instance because of God’s compassion on the nation of Nineveh. How did God respond to that anger? He caused a tree to grow up over Jonah where he sat pouting angrily at God so Jonah would be in the shade!

Sometimes we are surprised by loss and grief and often those are our darkest hours. My first experience with this was when my brother, Joe, was killed in a car accident on Christmas Eve many years ago. I was shocked, heartbroken, and so stunned at first that I was completely numb. I walked around in a fog, going through the motions of grief, but knowing my grief was so profound that if I let it escape, I might not survive. I had two baby sons at the time and also knew that I could not remain in this numb state of grief because they needed me. I still had a responsibility towards them to not just take care of their basic needs, but to love them and nurture them. How could I do that when I hurt so very much? Well, I prayed first. I cried over and over, “God, how could you let this happen? Why Joe? Why did he have to die in such a horrible way? Where were you when it happened?”

I received no immediate answers. I was met with silence. Then, and this may sound like an odd way to deal with grief, but I watched a Cary Grant marathon of movies all day on New Year’s day, mostly by myself. (Cary Grant had died the same year my brother did, hence the marathon.) I sat in front of that television and watched movie after movie. I cried, I laughed, I cried some more. I got lost in some of the movies and forgot my grief for some moments. Some of the movies brought the grief back so freshly I was sure my heart must be bleeding inside. Finally, at the end of the day, my emotional well was completely empty. I had cried myself out. The next day I got up and took care of my family. I still had grief over my loss, but I had expressed it so thoroughly, I felt cleansed of the deepest parts. Over the years, that grief has resurfaced many times. I still miss my brother. I can’t wait to see him again in heaven, but today I can deal with it. It has been 29 years since I lost my brother. I still don’t know why he was taken home early, but I do know that our love endures somehow. I know I still love him and? that he still loves me. In that way, he is always with me. This eases my grief immensely.

How do you deal with grief? Do you push it down inside and try to ignore it? Do you get angry and take it out on family and friends? Have you allowed it to take over your life so you’re stuck in it and can’t seem to find a way out of it? If so, let me assure you there are healthy ways to get unstuck. I wouldn’t recommend a Cary Grant movie marathon, but there are ways to deal with your grief and continue forward on your journey. There may even be times when you remember the love that you shared with that person and feel joy.

May God bless you on your journey, Elaine

Moving Finding Joy Blog Posts to Pocket Full of Words

I’ve been maintaining two blogs, one of them being Pocket Full of Words and the other being Finding Joy.  I’ve discovered that the Finding Joy blog isn’t one I update often and more frequently connect with people in that capacity (inspiration and informal transitional life coaching ministry) on a FB page by the same name. So, long story short, I will be importing the blog posts I had on Finding Joy to Pocket Full of Words and then deleting Finding Joy. As I move them over, you can read what you want and leave the rest as the old saying goes!  I hope all of you have a pleasant week leading into the Memorial Day weekend and I’m sure I’ll be posting some more poems here throughout the week!   

Angel in Pink Curlers

As I went down the canned goods aisle at an old-style A&P grocery story in Amarillo, Texas, looking for chili, suddenly an elderly woman’s voice from behind me says, “If I weren’t any bigger than you, hon, I’d be ashamed to be seen in public!”  As I turned around to find the source of the voice, I saw the woman who made this pronouncement, and realized she was talking to me.  Although the words could be taken as rather malicious, the smile on the woman’s face quickly made me realize she was teasing me.  She was smaller than me, hunched over, with an outfit on that my mother would have worn were she still alive:  light spring green polyester pants and a striped short-sleeved cotton shirt to match.  Her hair was in pink foam curlers and I wondered how long she had worn those curlers.  Did she ever take them out?

“Ma’am, I’m not that skinny, but I thank you for the compliment anyway!  You’re not very big yourself!”  We both laughed as I went over to this complete stranger to talk with her a moment.  It was easy to see, by the laughing, but longing look in her eyes, that she was dying to talk to someone, anyone, who would listen for a few minutes.  When I reached her, she easily and naturally put her arm around my waist like we had known each other for years.  “You know,” she said, “I used to be young and full of energy like you. Oh how I would fly around, taking care of my three children, cleaning the house, cooking three square meals a day, and then going out to help my husband with the cattle from time to time too!  Then one day I woke up and realized my sweet husband beat me to heaven, my kids scattered like a yard full of baby chicks all over the country, and I didn’t have anyone to take care of any more.  It gets tedious sometimes, just taking care of myself.”  I laughed and gently hugged her back saying, “Well, I still have my husband, but my mother is gone and my sons are grown so I understand you to a certain extent!  I don’t know how to cook for just two people so I find myself making enough food for an army of teenage boys.  Do you live around here, close to the store?”  I asked because the antiquated grocery store that bore the smell of too many years refrigerating items  and then the surrounding rough-hewn, dilapidated homes in the area said told me that my husband and I had inadvertently stopped at a store in the middle of a very rough area of town.  As a group of three thugs that looked like gang bangers swaggered past us, I found myself pulling back to give them room to pass and feeling intimidated by their mere presence.  “What’s up Mrs. G?  You ok,” one of the rough, tattooed young men asked the woman I was with as he passed by.   “Anthony, I’m perfectly fine today!  Thanks for asking!  How’s your mama doin’, bless her heart?”  I realized that she knew these young men.  They were her friends. “Doin’ alright Mrs. G.  She doin’ alright.  I’ll tell her you asked about her.  See ya later!”

She leans into me as the young men leave, “I know those boys, all of them. They live on my street and nicer young men you could never find!  They take care of my lawn, take out my trash for me, and last month when I had pneumonia and was in the hospital, they even took care of my little Freddy.  Freddy is my little mutt dog that means more to me than life!  Yeah, they’re good boys.  Now, what about you?  Tell me about yourself.  I don’t believe I’ve met you before!”  We talked for about 10 minutes, laughing, and generally making each other happy just by taking a few minutes to connect, to get to know one another, if even just for a few moments.  Finally, seeing my husband waiting for me at the end of the aisle, I realized I needed to get what we came in for, and go back to the small, old Route 66 motor court (motel) we were staying in for the night.  “Well, ma’am, I guess I better be goin’!  We just came in to get some food for lunch.  Is there anything I can do for you before I leave?”  “Oh child!  Not a thing, not a thing!  You already helped me by stopping and talking to an me, laughing with me, and giving me a hug.  You’ve been a light of sunshine in my day that I really needed.”  I gave her a real hug then, feeling her pink rollers under my chin as I hugged her gently.  She was so tiny, she looked like she would shatter if I hugged her very hard.  “Well, you take care now, ok?  You made my day too!  I love you!”  She got teary eyed and replied, “I love you too, you little bit of nothing!”  I hugged her again, a lump in my throat as I grabbed the can of chili I came after, and hurried down the aisle to join my husband.

“Who was that?  Was she one of your elderly cousins?  I didn’t know you knew anyone in Amarillo,” Alan said when I reached him.  “Oh, I’ve never met her before in my life!  She just needed a hug and some attention, so I gave her some love and she gave me more back.  She’s really a very sweet lady.”  Alan shook his head in bewilderment.  “I never understand how you meet so many strangers and can talk to them for ten minutes like you’ve known them forever!”

“Oh, God just brings them on my path anywhere I go!  She was very sweet and reminded me a bit of Mother so we just talked for a little while.  Did you get the bowls and plastic ware we need for the chili?”  So we went on with our day and the little lady I had met, who put sunshine in my day, went on with hers.  “You know, sometimes God puts angels in our path to cheer us up!  I think I met that woman just for that purpose, to cheer me up!”  My whole day was better for having met the cute and feisty lady with pink hair curlers and I thanked God for her as we left the store.

This is a true story that popped into my head this morning as I awoke early in the morning.  I’ve never forgotten this woman nor her laughter and sunny, generous nature.  I thought I was brightening her day, when all along, she was brightening mine.  

“Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”  Hebrews 13:2

                               

Christmas Eve at Walmart, Lubbock, Texas, 2000 Something

Christmas Eve at Walmart, Lubbock, Texas, 2000 Something

It was Christmas Eve, late in the evening, when I realized there were still some things I needed to buy for Christmas dinner the next day so my sons and I drove over to our regular Walmart. The store aisles weren’t nearly as congested as I expected, but did look like someone had thrown a hand grenade in the middle just to see what would happen. Every aisle looked like it had been looted. Shelves were fairly empty, stuff was all over the floor, and it was a mess! I didn’t even head over towards the toy or Christmas sections of the store because I was afraid those might be where everyone was located given that the parking lot was full and the east side of the store, the grocery section, was so quiet.

I hurried through the aisles, trying to get everything as quickly as possible, because I wanted to do a little baking that night before I went to bed. We were living with my dad then, partly to keep him company after my mother passed away, partly to combine household expenses to a more economic level for both of us, and partly to watch after my dad who was getting a little bit forgetful and confused. He would receive the bills and I would write the checks and pay them. He was so afraid he’d forget to pay a bill that on the day he received a bill of any kind, the moment I walked in the door, he’d hand it to me and have the checkbook waiting on the kitchen table for me to write it out and put the payment out on the mailbox for the next day’s mail. Besides being a little forgetful, he had macular degeneration so could only see the periphery of everything, which greatly limited him for many things.

After I picked up all I needed in the grocery section, my sons and I met at the front and found the shortest line, but still had about three people in front of us, some with groceries, but most with toys or gifts of various and sundry types. The register clerk seemed to be moving rather slowly so the person right ahead of me, snapped at her very rudely. I hate seeing this happen ever and usually try to lighten things up when I get to the clerk.

When I moved up in line, I on an upbeat, chirpy note, said, “Hi! How are you doing? Are you ready for Christmas?!” The young woman said “No,” and then started crying! She was trying her best not to cry, but still, there were tears flowing down her cheeks and she had to clear her throat twice before she could answer. “No! I’m not ready for Christmas and I guess I won’t be this year at all!”

I felt badly for obviously reopening a very new wound, but as the silence stretched between us for a minute, I could tell she really needed someone to just listen to her. I gently said, “What’s wrong, hon?” That’s all the encouragement she needed. “I was working this part-time job at Walmart just to make extra Christmas money so my kids could have a good Christmas this year. I’m a nurse at ** Hospital and I just found out this morning, with no prior warning, that I’m being laid off, effective today! What in the world am I going to do now? This part-time job at Walmart isn’t going to support me and my kids!” Then she started crying in earnest. She had finished checking out my items and I had already paid, but felt she needed a few moments more. I had just learned of the layoffs at the hospital on the evening news a couple of hours before. They were letting over 60 people go due to budget cutbacks. No warning had been given, although some of the employees had heard rumors. This young woman had obviously not heard the rumor.

“Well,” I replied, “Are you a registered nurse or an LVN? Either way, you should be able to find some job in nursing soon, don’t you think? I mean, at least you have good credentials, right?”

“I’m an LVN and I do have good credentials and a good reference, but if the main hospital in town is laying people off, I don’t know if there will be any good nursing jobs in town available.”

“Oh, I had not thought of that,” I said. One thing I did know was that healthcare workers were usually in high demand. I couldn’t understand why the hospital had laid off that many people when healthcare workers are in such high demand, especially LVN’s and RN’s. Suddenly struck by inspiration, I asked, “What about jobs in home health agencies? Have you thought of that? We have a nurse from a home health agency who stops in to see my dad a couple of times a week to treat a knee he hurt when he fell out of a tree recently.”

“What?! Your dad fell out of a tree? How old is he anyway?”

“Oh, he’s 90 years old and if I’ve told him once, I’ve told him a hundred times to stay off the roof of the house and to quit trying to trim his trees by himself! But did he listen? Oh no! He decides while I’m at work that he’ll climb up that old maple tree and cut out the deadwood in it. In the process, the ladder slipped, he started falling, and the only thing that stopped him was the fence. He landed on the fence, hung by his knees, totally upside down with his feet on the outside of the fence. He’s a strong old guy, but he didn’t have the strength to pull himself upright on the fence and get down. If his mail lady hadn’t happened to see his feet and know him, I don’t know what would have happened to him! She helped him down, took him inside the house, and found my emergency number. I went home immediately and looked at the damage. The spikes on his fence had dug into the backs of his knees and left bad, deep wounds. So, I took him to the doctor and the doctor prescribed a home health nurse to give him antibiotics by injection and to keep an eye on the wound. She loves her job, by the way. She said she has been much happier in home health than she ever was working at a hospital. I know the name of the agency where she works and could give you a referral there if you like. My husband used to be their accountant.”

At that point, the clerk came right around the counter, grabbed me, and started crying again, but this time with hope and relief. “Do you really think I could get a job at that home health agency? You’re not just saying that?” “Yes, I do think you could get a job there. How long did you work at the hospital?” “15 years.” “Oh, wow, then sure I think they’d hire you! Call Brad at ** Home Health and tell him that Dee Lane suggested you apply there. Tell him everything! It’s worth a shot anyway, right?” The clerk hugged me and I hugged her back. I told her not to ever give up hope because there was always hope and a way to get back on track. Then I said, “I know I just met you, but I really care and God cares even more for you!”

My sons had already gone outside. They were embarrassed, I think, by one more instance of their mother getting caught up in an emotional moment with a total stranger. I gave the clerk one last hug and then followed them outside, tears rolling down my cheeks. “Mom! What are you crying for and what took you so long?” I pulled out a tissue to wipe my face, handed off our shopping basket to one of them and as we headed for the car, I told them about the clerk’s predicament. “You know, boys, I just received my Christmas present for this year. I was honored that she talked to me and that I could be there to offer her encouragement and hope. You know we’ve been in dire straits before and people have popped up out of nowhere to help me all along. It was nice to be able to be the person offering help and hope for a change. Besides, your mom is a crazy lady who loves to talk to people! You should be used to it by now!” We all laughed as we got into the car and drove away.

I learned later that the young lady did call the home health agency, she was hired, and they were really happy with her! So what she thought was a disaster ended up being a blessing for her and her children. Just another example of when God closes one door, He leaves a window open to the next adventure. Never forget to really listen to people and pay attention to them. I spent 15 minutes with that young woman and I’ve never regretted it. I mean, really, are we truly in such a hurry that we can’t pay attention to those around us? I know more times than I can even count, people have taken time and trouble to help me, so it’s my turn to pay it forward…