You Don’t Understand Me

“You don’t understand me,” my mom said as she began to cry. The words stung. I knew they held some truth in them. I want to be gentle with her – and be lovingly compassionate with her. I can do that most of the time, but then there are those times – when she begins to accuse me falsely or when she goes into a complaining mode – that I get worn down and snap at her. Rather than seeking to understand, I react to the words that spill out of her mouth. If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. Proverbs 18:13 I read these words the other day and immediately knew they were meant for me. Sometimes I am too quick to answer before I hear what another person is really saying. Because of Alzheimer’s my mom struggles to retrieve words. Often what she says is not really what she means at all. Thus, I am getting lots of opportunities to practice listening to her intentions rather than her words. She may want butter and ask for cream. She’ll say her glasses are foggy when she feels dizzy. She’ll say she does not need to shower when what she is expressing is that she needs help in the process. Living with my mom grants me many opportunities to grow in listening to the meaning behind words. When I do that, my responses connect with what she really is trying to express rather than what bubbles up out of her mouth. Conflict between any individuals is best addressed by sincerely trying to...

Little Will: A Brave Mindset

My grandson, Will, fell down and hurt his head again. He has a knot the size of a lemon on the back of his head.  A large lemon. I went over to Will’s home to see how he was doing.  Each time Will falls and hurts his head, I grow anxious. I know the concern about concussions and Will has had his share.  At age 5 this little guy’s head has endured more bumps and bruises than I dare count. This time, while playing basketball with his dad, his feet flew out from under him as he raced backwards to catch a ball and he whacked his head on the pavement. Hard. The decision was made to watch him and not panic.  His parents had been through this before. But around 11 PM, they were on their way to the ER.  Will was in serious pain.  Throwing up.  His eyes were not tracking. Will does nothing halfway.  He is one of those kids who has no fear. But I saw the fear in his dad’s eyes as he carried Will out to the car. I heard the fear in his mom’s voice as she called to say they were hurriedly doing a cat scan to rule out bleeding, a life-threatening emergency. I lay awake in bed fighting fear in my own heart. The updates were frightening.  They suspected bleeding or a fracture. It turned out to be swelling of the occipital lobe due to a concussion.  (A fracture has not entirely been ruled out yet however.  It’s too hard to tell with the swelling.) Will is not cautious. He...

The Illusion of Time

We lost an hour recently due to daylight saving time. (Unless you live in Arizona or Hawaii!) This time adjustment was first implemented during war times to conserve fuel and signed into common practice under the 1966 Uniform Time Act.  As with anything else the benefits are debatable.  Some studies suggest that people have more headaches, heart attacks and even more accidents in the week after we “spring forward” in March. To be sure, losing an hour leaves me feeling a bit groggy but I think of how regularly I can lose time by simply not being wholly present in TODAY. When I am tempted to wish time away – to long for a day or a season of life to end –  I am reminded of a poem in Linda Dillow’s book, Calm My Anxious Heart.  This powerful poem was written by a 14-year-old boy: It was spring but it was summer I wanted; the warm days and the great outdoors. It was summer but it was fall I wanted; the colorful leaves and the cool dry air. It was fall but it was winter I wanted; the beautiful snow and the joy of the holiday season. It was now winter but it was spring I wanted; the warmth and the blossoming of nature. I was a child but it was adulthood I wanted; the freedom and the respect. I was twenty but it was thirty I wanted; to be mature and sophisticated. I was middle-aged but it was twenty I wanted; the youth and the free spirit. I was retired but it was middle age that I...

Laugh – It Will Change Your Perspective

When I see two-year-old Beth walking up to my house, I feel joy – partly because she is my granddaughter and partly because Beth is almost always happy. She loves to laugh. Her robust giggles bubble up freely from her belly. Why is it that we tend to laugh less when we get older?   Perhaps it’s because we grow aware of all there is to grow heavy hearted about: work and financial pressures, health concerns, the discord and violence in our world. Then there’s our kids – those little people we love with all our hearts and want the very best for. (I care just as much about what happens to my grandkids as I did their parents – only there’s now 11 of them!)  Being earnest about parenting (or grand-parenting), we consider carefully each and every decision and work diligently to help our little ones mature.  In troubling times, it’s easy to grow overly serious and let go of joy. Also, the busyness of life gets in way. Maybe we run out of time to laugh.  The old proverb “If you are too busy to laugh, you are too busy”  certainly rings true for me at times.  That’s why I love to be around Beth.  She reminds me to take the time to be joyful. Here’s five reasons why we should laugh more: ONE: Laughter is the shortest distance between two people. – Victor Borge “We cannot really love anybody with whom we never laugh.” (Author, Agnes Repplier) Laughter triggers positive feelings and fosters emotional connection.  This bond can serve as a shield against stress, arguments and disappointments. Think about how...

It’s Out: Fifty Shades Darker

Parents, With the release of Fifty Shades Darker, sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey, I believe it’s important that Christian educators and parents are up to speed with what our kids may be talking about or planning to watch. I choose to see neither, so I am referring you to some other sources: Here’s a good article on Crosswalk.com: Why Fifty Shades Darker Should Make Us Cry The books sold beyond the author’s wildest imagination. The plotline fueled many a lunchtime chat. The first film caused a flurry of delight among both young and old. And discussion boards are trembling with anticipation as the 2nd in the erotic trilogy prepares to hit the big screens tomorrow. There’s no doubt about it, the Fifty Shades phenomenon has made quite an impact on our society. How should Christians respond? Perhaps you feel appalled, or disgusted. Perhaps you feel tempted (Christians are by no means automatically immune to the allure of this genre—but that’s a subject for tomorrow’s blog post). Instead, I want to suggest that Fifty Shades Darker gives us reasons to cry. Read more…. Focus on the Family: Plugged in Blog: Fifty Shade of Abusive Influence “A new study out of Michigan State University (published in the Journal of Women’s Health) indicates that young women who read the bestselling bondage-and-S&M-laced story by British author E.L. James were more likely to engage in a range of risky behaviors compared to those who hadn’t read it.” Read more…. When Fifty Shades of Grey was released, my daughter wrote a thoughtful blog on her observations that is worth reading again: Erin MacPherson’s Post about...

A Personal Letter (Continued)

Dear Readers, Thank you for your encouraging responses to last week’s post.  It helped to open up about the struggles related to caring for my mom.  Your uplifting words not only lighted my spirit, but also helped to alter my perspective. The cry of my heart is to see things from God’s perspective – to have the eyes of my heart enlightened, so that I may daily know His hope and the immeasurable greatness of His power.  (Ephesians 1:18) God reminded me of another season in my life when a different set of circumstances felt difficult to bear… and how He graciously intervened to alter my perspective.  Back in 2005, I had been hired to be the administrator of a brand new, uniquely-styled school – Veritas Academy.  Doors opened that fall to a larger-than-expected first year enrollment of over 130 students. I was excited to see what could be accomplished, although I only planned to stay on for the two years I had committed to. Not a day more. Little did I know then that God had far deeper – and longer –  plans that eventually would include the rest of my family in some form or fashion. God also used (and is still using) my tenure at Veritas to grow and purge me of perspectives that had gotten in the way of my relationship with Him – namely being too much of a people-pleaser and a propensity to manage things in my own wisdom and strength. I will never forget that first year back in 2005-06: The exceedingly long hours. The daily problems that required immediate attention. Striving to meet the expectations of...

A Personal Letter

Dear Friends, Today I offer a personal letter – and a confession of sorts – to those of you who know me and also to those of you I have never met, but take the time to read my blog. Thank you! I find myself in a somewhat dark season right now, a time when I feel like I am going nowhere and unable to accomplish much. Even writing a blog feels difficult. I find myself posting less and the blogs I do write feel hollow. My mind feels like it’s stuck in neutral and has been for over 8 months. That’s when my life took a “detour” with my 89-year-old mom moving in with us. Immediately the pace of my life slowed down. I no longer had the freedom to come and go as I pleased or to do much outside the home, except for those activities that could be done with a person in late stage Alzheimer’s. My greatest challenged morphed into how to find contentment in these circumstances –  In doing the same things all day long, day after day.  In trying to be interested in the same limited, circular conversations.  In serving my mother even in the most simplest of tasks.  In maintaining the simplest of schedules in order to accommodate her needs.  In continually having to answer the same questions.  In keeping her safe while allowing for her need to be independent. I consider myself pretty tough. Resilient. I am a Finn with SISU. I have learned how to meet major challenges and to rise up when I have fallen, but God is teaching...

New Beginnings Each Year

I like January. As much as I enjoy the holiday season, I relish the chance to slow down, reflect on the year gone by and to ponder the up and coming New Year. I look through my previous year’s journals, and then record all the answered prayers. I marvel at God’s faithfulness. I take time to ponder unanswered prayers and unmet goals. Plus I acknowledge my personal failures and shortcomings in the past year. But then I let it all go. I thank God for His faithfulness and allow His grace and forgiveness to wash over me. That’s what January means to me – a new beginning. I think of what the LORD said to the Israelites in Isaiah 43, that they were not to consider the things of old because He was doing a new thing for them. So I put down the past year and anticipate with hope what the New Year may hold and how I can personally walk in newness. What growth will take place in my heart this year? How will I be different by year’s end? Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Actually each day offers us a chance to restart…. ….to put aside the previous day, will all its struggles and regrets,  and begin with renewed energy the next day. “His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning and great is His faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3: 22-23) I can’t change the past or erase my mistakes. Nor can I take on tomorrow...

The Gift of Listening

If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.   Proverbs 18:13 Listen first. Then speak. That was Jef Fowler’s  advice to me early in my employment at Veritas Academy. As I would go to him seeking advice on how to address an issue, whether it was with a student, a teacher or a parent, his counsel always began in the same manner: “Make sure to begin by listening attentively. “ I have to admit that at times, I actually believed I needed to get my opinions out quickly in the event I ran out of time. (I think Jef knew this about me!) I learned, however, that the most important way I can actually help another was to give ample time to attentive listening. This gives the person a chance to sort through their feelings and thoughts as they talk through them. Often what they need most is not my “brilliant” advice but a sounding board by which to think through things themselves and to apply what they already knew to be right to their circumstances. If I accomplish nothing else, this in and of itself is the most important aspect of these conversations. Furthermore, by first listening attentively, what I actually have to say is far more applicable to their circumstances. Here’s what Jan Johnson has to say about listening in her inspiring book Invitation to the Jesus Life: “To listen deeply can be a struggle because we have to let go of our agenda and the need to defend ourselves or the desire to persuade people to see things our way....

Teaching Kids the Fear of the Lord—Wisely.

It didn’t go as I had envisioned. Haddie was in tears. Kate clearly did not understand. I had botched what I had intended to teach them about God’s transcendent nature and the “fear of the Lord.” As many of you know, as part of a University-Model School, I teach my grandkids their school lessons at home one day each week. This year I decided to begin each Tuesday with lessons on the attributes of God. For the most part, it has been delightful. We’ve discussed how God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. It’s been fun to break down the words into their Latin roots. We have pondered His sovereignty and His immutable nature. We’ve had great discussions, which I believe have reached their hearts. Last week, by teaching about God’s transcendent nature, I wanted them to view God through a lens of awe and respect. I told them how Moses responded when he saw God in the burning bush and how Daniel responded when he saw God in a vision. I explained to them how both had grown profoundly afraid when they encountered God and then, out of deep reverence, they chose to obey Him. As a follow up, I asked them to respond in their journals to this question: “How does a healthy fear of the Lord make you want to obey?” Joey was close. “If you have a fear of God you will really want to trust Him and believe in Him.” Haddie sat there, with tears in her eyes and fearfully cried out, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.”  She was clearly stressed...