November 26, 2015

Give Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving 2015! I cannot believe that I made it, but I did! Yes, I finished my paper on time, submitted it last evening, and now I am resting after a very long and hard push to complete my last "required" paper of my doctoral program at Regent University. I still have some smaller assignments to finish between now and December 11, but they are minor in comparison. Furthermore, I am in such a good place, academically, that I cannot think of anything to do EXCEPT to shout out my thankfulness to the Lord because He is good. He is so good, He is so good to me.

Right now, I am relaxing so that I can enjoy some family time later this afternoon. We are eating dinner at our friends house, so there is not much "work" to do this morning. I am enjoying my cup of coffee as I sit at my desk and blog a bit. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade is on TV, and my parents are watching it in the family room. I am in my room (always), sitting here with the "boys" (my two cats) and thinking about all that I have to be thankful for this good day. I mean, it is 2015, and my life is good.

Truthfully, there is not much I can say other than I am content, happy, and pleased to be where I am right now. I thought about it a bit ago as I was watching the parade with my parents. I am not sure why this thought popped into my head, but as I was sitting there watching the balloons float down 6th Avenue, I heard this voice in my head say, "I am a teacher." Weird, really, how that happens, but that is what I heard this voice say to me (my inner voice, I guess you could call it). I thought about it for a minute, and then I smiled. Yes, I am a teacher, and somehow hearing that pronouncement made me smile. I don't know why I thought about it in that moment. It wasn't like a saw a "teacher float" pass by on the big screen. It was just something that occurred to me, and in that moment, I felt content. I thought, "Yes, Lord, thank you for letting me be a teacher."

My blog has been filled with my struggles to come to terms with my career choice. This year, in particular, it seems that my thoughts have been focused on this one question: Is being a teacher the best choice for my life? I wrestled with the decision for months, and up until last month, I was still feeling unsure of my answer. Finally, I made the decision to accept it, and since then, it seems that all the "fuss" has subsided, and I have comfortably taken on the role and begun to enjoy it. Yes, it is as if once the decision was made, the acceptance of it received -- the stress and the struggle subsided. It all faded away.

Today, therefore, I give thanks to the Lord for many things, of which one of these things is the fulfillment of a long ago dream to become a teacher. I thank the Lord today for the privilege, responsibility, and opportunity to be a teacher.

It is a good day to give thanks. As I think about all that I am thankful for today, I cannot help but give praise, honor, and glory to the Lord for He has made everything in my life good. I am blessed. I am favored. I am positioned and prepared and purposed for a specific plan, and that plan, it is GOOD.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! 
His faithful love endures forever. Psalm 118:1 NLT

It is funny, really, to think about how much my life has changed over the course of the past three or four years. I mean, this Thanksgiving 2015 marks the third holiday spent together in this home. I can barely remember the previous ones other than to say that today seems strangely different. I am trying to process the change, mostly as I see my Mom and I realize just how limited she is in her abilities to do the cooking, cleaning, and housekeeping. My Mom always had dinner at her house. She always put on a good feast. The last year and now this one, will be spent at a friend's house for dinner. The challenge is to see how my parents can handle the event. Neither is in a good place to be able to enjoy the day. My Dad is dreading having to walk up stairs (nearly impossible for him now), and my Mom, while happy to be going out, is trying to understand everything that needs to be done. I am in the middle of it all, trying to make sure we show up on time, have everything we "promised" to bring, and make sure my son (the sleepy one) is up, moving, and ready in time to leave the house at 1:15 p.m.

What's more is the fact that in truth I would rather had stayed home. Yep, it is true. I would rather have just made a small dinner here, nothing really fancy, but still a good meal so that we could rest more today. Despite my wishes, wants, or will -- we will go -- and I know the Lord will bless our time today. Still, there is a part of me that thinks the days of us visiting with friends or even hosting them here in this house are over.

Give Thanks in Everything

This past week has been stressful for me. It has been awful, really. I had a major blow-up with my Dad, and I suffered most of the week with silence between us. Thankfully, that "silence" is broken now, and we are on speaking terms again. I know how this life is getting to him and to me, and I know that we are "all" struggling to deal with my Mom's deterioration. I see so many things, so many issues crop up that really are all about my Dad's inability to control life now. This is so sad…and while I am not sorry for expressing my frustration and anger at his behavior on Monday, I am grieved that I chose to blow up and lose my cool over such a small thing.

I was over in my Dad's office earlier this morning, on the hunt for some super sticky tape when I noticed that my Dad's bell (sort of an old fashioned desk bell) was sitting in his cupboard. I made a remark, "Oh, you found your bell" to which he replied that it had been pushed back behind his desk, and yes, he did find it. It wasn't but two weeks ago that he accused my son of not returning the item after he had used it for one of the plays at the community college he was stage-managing. This was two years ago, and according to my Dad, my son had failed (yet again) to return an item borrowed. The truth, of course, was that the "item" was returned on time, and was where it belonged (in my Dad's office/hobby room). My Dad simply reacted strongly to what he thought was true, when in fact, there was no fault at all, just a mishap and an item misplaced for a time. This is the behavior we are dealing with daily. My mother is not taking her pills each day, so my Dad gets angry. My Dad is having to do more work than he can possible handle (due to his physical limitations), and my Mom gets angry. It is called "old age," and I hate that this is what I see all around me.

I am caught betwixt and between and it is a very difficult place to be. I was thinking about this today, how just three years ago, my parents were planning on moving into an apartment near by. This was going to be a major move for them, downsizing from a house to an apartment. I was living about 10 minutes away, and for all purposes, the plan was a good one. They would sell their home, and then they would move into a smaller place (three bedrooms, but without maintenance, etc.) near by. In hindsight, year 1 and 2 would have been okay, but the turn into 2015, would have caused them great concern. My Mom is not able to prepare meals anymore, and my Dad is not able to do much to help her in the home. How would they have managed? I am not sure. Perhaps I would have stepped in to help more, but then I think, how could I have done that with working full-time and my doctoral studies? It wouldn't have been possible at all.

So, in hindsight, the plan we made to move in to this house together was a good one. I may not like the fact that I have lost a great deal of my freedom, but it has been much easier to care for my parents here than if I was living 10 minutes away and being called on daily to help out. I guess the Lord knew what He was doing by bringing us together these past couple years.

As I process all of this change, I received a photo on my phone from my cousin, Dale, in Florida. He had taken his girls (ages 15 and 13) to see my Aunt in the nursing home this morning. They are good about visiting, and they send me photos to show to my Mom (my Aunt's only sister). I appreciate what they do, how they are good about going there, and how the girls (both sweet and beautiful) are so willing to spend time with their grandmother, who suffers from dementia and stroke.

Today's photo was different though, and for a moment, I didn't recognize the older man standing there next to the girls and my Aunt. As I looked closer, I realized it was my cousin, Mark. Mark is the black sheep of the family, a man who has spent his life pursuing the seedy underside of things. He is often homeless. He is drug-addicted and he is an alcoholic. I know that my cousin, Dale, will not let him see their Mom unless he cleans up. Apparently, he was willing to do that today because standing there in the picture, he actually looked good (clean and presentable, I mean). I felt this strange prick in my heart as I looked at the photo. I remember all the years we spent together, all of us, at my Aunt's home in Ohio, and the fun times we had back then. My grandmother was the center of our home, and she always made the holidays so special. My parents, my Aunt and Uncle, and all of us kids would hang out and just enjoy being together. I think back on those precious memories, and my heart breaks because so much has happened, so much sadness, pain and sorrow. I would never of imagined that some thirty years later, I would be single, living with my parents, sharing a home with my son, and preparing to graduate for the fourth time from a college or university. 

The plans I had as a child never materialized. I thought I would grow up and get married. I wanted a large family back then, about 6 children, and I wanted to live in a house like my Aunt and Uncle had in Ohio. It set far back from the road and was surrounded by trees. It was country living at its best, and I loved visiting with them whenever I could. I thought "this is what I want" someday. Of course, I never thought that I would leave Illinois then. I never thought I would be "anything" special but a wife and a mother (like all my school friends). I wasn't smart. I wasn't a super athlete. I had no special talent. I was just a plain girl, silly often, and really not the most attractive or unique in any way. I hoped God would bring me a good husband. I hoped that He would allow me to have children. I wanted to stay at home, be a wife and a Mom, and just live my life surrounded by my children. I had no visions of greatness, no thoughts of accomplishing anything in my life. Just a home. Just a family. Just a life filled with lots of love, lots of fun, and lots of happiness.

Accepting the Past

Now as I think about what has transpired, that at age 53, I would be ready to graduate with my PhD and go on to being a full-time professor, I wonder about it all. Lord, what did you have in mind for me? Is this what you wanted for my life? I never had a clue. I never had an inkling that this is the life He would choose for me to live. 

My life didn't turn out as I had hoped, but what I have today is very good. I am happy. I am content. I have a good future. I have interesting things to do. I have plans, and I have prospects that say to me "You are going places!" Still, my heart still longs for home, for family, for those warm memories that were so important to me as a child. Perhaps one day the Lord will permit me to have a family again. Perhaps one day the Lord will provide a home, a place where I can live out my days in peace and tranquility. Perhaps one day this will come to pass. Until then, I will carry on. I will move forward with intention, focus, and determination. I will go where He sends me, and I will find peace, joy, and love there. I will live where He tells me to live, and I will make a home that is sweet, warm and wonderful. I will do the work He has prepared for me to do, and I will find joy in it, contentment through the process, and success as my hand produces good results.

Yes, I am thankful today for the twists and turns in my life, for where I have been and for where I am going. I know the plans the Lord has for me, and I am confident that they are, indeed, good.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. 
“They are plans for good and not for disaster, 
to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

The Lord is GOOD. He is so very good, and today, I give thanks for all the GOOD He has brought to me, and all the GOOD He has planned for my future. Today, I give Him thanks for He is so very good to me.

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