Why You Will Want to Read All The Pretty Things

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Edie Rudder Wadsworth writes words that burn deep into your soul. Her book, All The Pretty Things launches today. It needs to be on your must read list.

Here’s Why:

  1.  You will Love the chapter titles
  2.  You will experience all the emotions
  3.  You will see grace in action
  4.  You will find redemption
  5.  You will not be able to put the book down
  6.  You will recognize yourself
  7.  You will find hope
  8.  You will cry and sometimes laugh
  9.  You will forget to breathe, finally letting out a sigh of relief
  10.   You will be changed

It’s the story of a young girl’s journey into womanhood and how through everything  love, grace, forgiveness and redemption were the threads that held it all together resulting in a beautiful tapestry only God could weave.

It’s the first book in a long time that I couldn’t put down until every last word was savored. Edie’s voice draws you in and compels you to stay.  You will come away with your heart full and a new resolve to embrace your life and live it with grace.

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Reading in grace,

Teresa

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A Firm Hand And Tender Mercies

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A few years ago I wrote a list of things I had learned from several influential women in my life and shared it here.  For each of these women, I chose a list of ten things that they had taught me.  One of those women, was, of course, my mother.  Needless to say, she taught me much more than just those ten things.  I was fortunate to have a mother who instilled Christian values in me as well as giving me a great love of daydreaming and using my imagination.  She loved me with a firm hand and tender mercies.

Our relationship was riddled with the usual upsets and imperfections and occasional sass, but I always knew she was a safe place to rest my weary head and unpack my troubled soul.  I remember her praying with me on many occasions. One such occasion was when I accepted Jesus at age ten.  She and my father knelt with me by my bedside.  I remember pouring my heart out in tears as they prayed with me.

I also remember many a late night talk fest where she nurtured my dreams and plans or listened to me wax eloquent about the latest love of my life.  I had quite a few crushes and she always listened with sincerity when I thought I was in love.She was even on board with helping me chase a certain family gospel group around because at 16  I was sure I was gonna marry their son. When I was 17 he married another young girl and broke my heart for about five minutes.  We no longer had to travel all over the countryside to chase a guy, but that didn’t stop our late night talks about anything and everything. She was my biggest cheerleader.

A lot of people have gravitated towards my mom over the years needing her to be their cheerleader.  She is a good listener and a natural born caregiver.  She genuinely loves people and prior to the Alzheimer’s was always taking someone under her wing. It was nothing for her to bring someone into our home and nurse them back to health, or if they weren’t going to get well to bring them comfort in their final days.

I’m sure my mom has never taken a spiritual gifts survey, but I’m also sure that one of her gifts is mercy.  She has always been at her best when helping others.  She used to tell me that when I was old she’d take care of me.  And were it not for the Alzheimer’s I know full well that she would be the first one by my side on the days that the MCTD wears me down. Even so, there are days she looks at me with such tender compassion when she realizes that I’m tired or not feeling well and she talks to me about Jesus.

It has only been over the past few years that I have truly begun to grasp the truth in number seven on her list: helping others is a way to help ourselves.  As I have become her caregiver, and especially, as I see each day how much help she needs with everything it has been a humbling experience.  Caregiving does not come naturally to me.  I’m pretty sure I don’t have the gift of mercy.  I love people; I have compassion for people; I do not want to take care of people. But, I take care of my mom because I love her and because she needs me.

I take care of my mom because she showed me how it’s done. She truly understands what it means to serve others. She understands that sometimes you sacrifice your plans to meet their needs.  And, while it’s still a learning curve I’m beginning to see clearly how helping her is helping me.  It’s helping me be a little less selfish as I put another’s needs ahead of my own; it’s helping me trust that God’s plans really are better than my plans as I reevaluate my dreams; it’s helping me learn to live in the present and savor simple moments as I embrace slow living; it’s helping me accept that there are things I cannot change as I trust God’s provision.  I’m learning to live God’s way, submitting to his firm hand and tender mercies.

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Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

What have you learned from your mother?  I invite you to share her wisdom in the comments!

Thankful for tender mercies and grace,

Teresa

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Mustard Seed Faith (learning curve)

 Today’s post is a list of things I’m learning on my health journey series. If you are just now stopping in you may want to read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 before continuing. 

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As you can well imagine, or maybe you know from your experiences, dealing with illness is not an easy thing.  There is a lot of uncertainty and waiting. I’m not going to lie or pretend to have it all together – it is scary to be faced with tests and a chronic diagnosis that has so many unknowns. Some days it backs me up against a wall, and I’m frozen, unable to move or think straight.

Faith is hard fought and trusting God’s plan feels shaky.

Even when I waver, I know God is God, and I know he is sovereign.  I know he walks ahead of me on the path seeing what I don’t see.  I know he is with me even when he seems far away.  And, I know that I need to keep moving forward doing the next thing.  I can’t get lost in what if’s and neither can I bury my head in the sand refusing to acknowledge the realities.  It is a fine line that requires the balance of a tightrope walker.

Faith is hard fought and trusting God’s plan feels shaky. 

But, faith as small as a mustard seed moves mountains and God’s plan is sure.

Slowly, but surely I’m learning to trust his plan. He has been teaching me ways to travel:

  1.  Pray hard.
  2.  Rely on Scripture.
  3. Realize I can’t, but God can.
  4. I’m invincible until God says otherwise (words from our friend BJ that he heard from his minister).
  5. I need to operate under the assumption that I am doing well until I hear otherwise (this does not mean bury my head in the sand, but I shouldn’t borrow trouble).
  6. Extend grace to myself and to others (none of us can do it all ).
  7. A perfectly clean house is overrated (don’t’ be slovenly, but don’t obsess – most people don’t go looking for dust bunnies).
  8. Practice thankfulness (don’t complain).
  9. Be intentional about relationships (I need to plan ahead and pace myself so that I don’t neglect family and friends.  They need me, and I need them).
  10. Make time for things that feed my soul (writing and puttering around my house making it beautiful).
  11. PRIORITIZE – it is essential that I learn to embrace what is most important and let go of the lesser things.

This list is a work in progress, but it is a good reminder to keep me focused on the big picture.  The Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD) is just one part of my life, and while I want to respect it, I don’t want it to be the boss of me.  I never want to forget that God is the author of my story.  Even in my mustard seed faith, his plan is sure.

Linking up with Emily and others over at Chatting at the Sky for What we Learned in January.  

Learning in grace,

Teresa

Backstory (health journey part 2)

When I shared a little with you last week about my health journey, I wasn’t sure how much more to share or where to go next.  I know some people like more details.  I know that I need to see how it all fits together, so I write it down.  Everything I have written so far was too much for one post, and there is a summarizing or going forward element to all of this that I also need to share; therefore today’s post will be part two of four parts. Today goes back a few years to give you some backstory that some of you already know, but I’ve not written about it much.  In part three I’ll give you a little more specifics on my journey last year (which started late 2014).  Then, I’ll wrap up this impromptu series with part four, which I still need to write. If you don’t mind indulging this foray into my health, I think I need to process before I can move forward if that makes sense.  And I want to go forward.  To read part one first, click here.

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In 2011, I contracted double pneumonia that almost wiped me out.  I was in the hospital for nearly three weeks.  My understanding, after the fact, is that I’m blessed to be alive.  My kidneys were beginning to shut down, which resulted in a couple of dialysis treatments and my heart was going into Afib.  I was in ICU for the first week and don’t remember all the details, mostly just impressions. I ended up with plasma and blood transfusions.  I had a thoracentesis to draw fluid off my right lung.  I was too sick to pray for myself, but I kept getting reports that others were praying for me, and that was what sustained me.  I knew God was with me, and I wasn’t scared.  I felt safe like I was in good hands.

The fear came later after I was home. I was sent home on a bitterly cold night.  Rocky’s mom was with us and between the two of them – one pulling and the other pushing – they managed to get me up the steps from the parking lot and into our apartment.  It took me several days (ok weeks) to adjust to being home and trusting that I would be alright without around the clock care.

Rocky’s mom stayed with us a few days; my sister came after that, followed by my parents.  I remember the day my parents left, my dad knew I was apprehensive about being alone while Rocky was in classes.  He reminded me that God would be with me and that I had to be on my own sometime.  In other words, he was telling me the time was now, get on with it already (but in a nice way).  So, I did for the most part.  We still had a few people who sat with me on the evenings Rocky had to be away, but eventually, I got used to being by myself again.

And, finally, I made it back to work.  I didn’t want to go back to work.  Not because of my workplace – they were wonderful to me and very supportive- but because I was so drained.  I don’t think I realized until some time later just how much the pneumonia had slowed me down.  I’m sure I didn’t pull my full weight at work, but still, they were gracious and showed me Christian kindness.  Everybody pulled together to help me.

After the pneumonia, everything in my life became defined by pre or post pneumonia.  My whole life became measured by that event.  The year before the pneumonia I had been through surgery and had finally been feeling like I was back on track, and then the pneumonia hit.  After the pneumonia, I assumed that I’d feel like myself again soon enough.  But I didn’t.  I had good days, but they seemed few and far between. My tolerance for almost everything was on a short leash.  The simplest of things seemed more than I could handle.  And I was suffocated by fear.

Fear of everything.  I became more aware of death and getting older and how short life was.  I lived life waiting for the next bad thing to happen.  I remember in the winter of 2012 holding my breath hoping I wouldn’t succumb once again to pneumonia because I wasn’t sure I’d survive it a second time.  I started questioning my faith and my salvation and whether or not I’d done everything right to be accepted by God.  (Knowing full well that it is all about his grace and my faith).

Quite honestly, I believe I was under attack from the enemy, he was trying to push me to the depths of despair while I was in such a weakened state.  I prayed a lot and clung to the scriptures that had sustained me while I was sick.  I put on a brave face and tried my best to muddle through.  And, I must just say here, that God was and is faithful to me.  He has been my rock through everything.

I lasted about a year after returning to work. Then we moved.  I haven’t worked public work since.  The day I knew it was time to leave, was such a liberating day.  My job was our primary source of income while my husband was finishing school, but I knew God was telling me it was time, and I knew he would provide.

We moved back to my hometown to the little house we’d been fixing up next door to my parents.  My mother was battling Alzheimer’s, and my father was no longer driving due to Macular Degeneration; it was becoming more apparent that my parents needed me.

The first few months back home were filled with good days and some pretty bad days as we all adjusted to the new normal of living with Alzheimer’s.  It was very taxing mentally more so than physically.  I still had days that I felt wiped out and barely had the energy I needed for essential tasks.

My husband would shake his head that something as simple as basic housework or going to the grocery could make my whole body ache.  I couldn’t explain it.  The simple everyday things that most people do like cooking, dishes, laundry, scrubbing the toilet, running errands, etc. became overwhelming to me.  There were many times that I didn’t want to go out or attend events because the effort just seemed like too much.  I struggled with feelings of guilt, inadequacy and wondering if I was just lazy, or was I really that tired.

I had known for several years, long before the pneumonia, that I sometimes got tired easily and that I ached quite a lot.  I would have good energy days that everything seemed to flow. I managed most days to function.  But, if I had an especially tiring or busy day, or if we’d go on a trip, even just a day trip, I’d pay for it later.  It would sometimes take me several days to bounce back.

I had even suspected that I might have something going on with my autoimmune system, but for whatever reason, that route was never pursued.  I also had a lot of hormonal issues, so I chalked a lot of my tiredness to that.  No matter how tired, overwhelmed or depressed I became, it got better sooner or later.  So, I naturally assumed after the pneumonia that things would eventually get back to normal.  And, although I did see improvements and even had some excellent days,  almost four years later, I was still floundering, and I was still aware that I had not bounced back to my pre-pneumonia state of health.

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Come back tomorrow (or soonish) for the rest of the story?

Relying on grace,

Teresa

That Which We Will Not Give Up

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click the picture for more info about Blog-tember. click the heading below to see all of today’s entries.

Friday, Sept. 4: What are you passionate about?

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This one is not as easy as it sounds.  I tend to rule with my emotions, so on any given day I could be passionate about any given thing, depending on my mood.  Hence, the need to filter through all those emotions to land on my true passions.  As I have gotten older, things have shifted and I’ve been learning to curb the emotional tide that can overpower reason from time to time. I truly believe that our passions our woven together with God’s purpose for our lives, and as such, require careful curating.

Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Psalm 37:4

Maybe the real passion comes from those things that emerge as the non-negotiables.  Sometimes, we waste our energies and passions on causes that aren’t ours to bear.  It’s rather like the overuse of the word love (guilty here, too!).  We use love to describe everything from the latest trendy socks, to food, to our job and the people we’d do anything for.  Sometimes in all that love, it’s hard to know what love really is.  It’s more than a word to describe a feeling.  It’s an action that springs up from our very depths and will not be squashed.

For example, I love Pizza, but I could survive without it.  I love my husband and I don’t even want to think about surviving without him.  Obviously, the word love here is used to mean more than one kind of love.  I think it’s the same with passion.  Some things on our passionate list may have more priority than others and listing them together may seem shallow.  But, as long as we understand the difference, then I think everything I”m passionate about from the mundane to the world changing can make peace with being on the same list.  From that list, I can then narrow my focus to those that are non-negotiable. Those that I will hold onto for dear life. Those that most define my God-given purpose.

Some of my current passions, in no particular order, are: Alzheimer’s, my husband, my family, chocolate, Italian food, Writing, decorating and organizing my home, napping, watching Blue Bloods, the current political and moral climate, enjoying a girls day out, taking drives, snapping pictures of everything, day dreaming and my faith in God and the gift of salvation.

I must add here, that I think the things we are passionate about don’t necessarily mean that we love all of them.  Sometimes, our passionate focus on something can stem from our desire to fight back against that which we we truly hate.  I also think that some passions are for a season and some are for life.

A prime example of this is the fact that my mother has Alzheimer’s.  I’m very passionate about Alzheimer’s during this season of life.  Not because I love the disease ( I truly hate all that it represents), but because I love my mother. I’m passionate about protecting her and helping her, not because I want to make decisions for her, but because she needs me to and I love her, so I want what is best for her.

Alzheimer’s was not on my passion radar until it knocked on my door. Whether or  not it continues to be a passion hinges on a lot of variables, one of which could mean that I too may one day stare this ugly disease in the face.  I passionately hope and trust not, but it is not mine to decide.

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Another current passion that made my list is Blue Bloods.  It’s just a TV show people.  No big deal.  Really, could I be any more shallow.  Is it a true, fight to the death, passion? No, of course not.  But, during this season of life it represents a lot of things to me: time spent with my husband, a chance to unwind from the real world, a glimpse into a family dynamic that speaks of love, service, trust and passion.  All the things I think are important for family to cling to in times of distress.

Especially in times of distress.  Those are the times we most clearly need to be passionate.  Much of life requires us to fight for our needs to be met, to fight for what we believe in, to fight for what feeds our soul. It is during these times that we need to know what we will not give up.  

I can give up Blue Bloods, I can even (hope I don’t have to) give up chocolate, or a lot of other passions, but there are a few that I will fight for such as my faith, my husband, my family my friends, and the need to be creative.

Writing is a gift from God and I know it is woven into the very fiber of my being.  Even in those times when the well seems to be dry, or I am frozen to publish anything  I still know that writing is a part of me.  I still know that my survival hinges on being able to express my thoughts in words; being able to paint you a picture with my words.  That is why I keep writing, even the mundane, so that I don’t lose touch with the passion of laying down words, because I don’t want to miss the day when the purpose in the passion shines through in the most brilliant of ways and my soul sighs in blissful contentment. 

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Finding purpose and passion in grace,

Teresa

Joy?

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Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.   –Romans 12:12

This was one of the verses included in my devotions this morning.  I had to chuckle a little as I read that verse, in light of what I’ll be going through this afternoon.

In a little while I’ll be sipping a lovely “cocktail” in preparation for a routine procedure in the morning.  I have not looked forward to this at all.  I remember well the nastiness of the drink and how I couldn’t finish it the last time.  I also don’t like it when I’m not in control of a situation, so these things usually make me more nervous and fearful than your average person.

So, I’ve done a lot of praying for peace and protection and for good results.  The normal types of prayers.  I also have prayed in hopes that somehow the taste could be blocked.  Seriously.  Not to gross you out, but I almost gag at the memory of five years ago when I last drank from this gutter drink.

I sat with my mother for a while last evening and while we sat quietly in her living-room I spent some time in prayer and was reminded of God’s faithfulness to bring us peace and I knew he’d be with me through this ordeal. And he will.

You can imagine my chuckle this morning when I read that verse in light of my prayers and upcoming procedure.  So, I am doing my best to be joyful in the hope that I won’t taste or even have to drink all of it.  I am trying really hard to be patient with my current ‘affliction” (I think that word is very appropriate for the insult of having to drink the dreaded concoction) and I think faithful in prayer applies here as I’ve done my share of asking for strength to get through this.

I know this verse is to remind us of our hope of heaven and that our suffering or afflictions are nothing in light of that hope.  I also realize that what I will be experiencing this afternoon and tomorrow morning is nothing in light of Christ’s suffering, or even the suffering of one who is facing life threatening illness. I don’t take these things lightly.  But reading this verse this morning, reminded me that Jesus loves us and he cares about us.  He understands our fears and he will be with us in all things, even the minor things that can make us apprehensive.  He also sends us the right scripture at the right time to drive home the point.

Whatever you are facing today I hope that you take hope, practice patience and pray faithfully.

Hoping in Grace,

Teresa

Advent I – Hope

Today is the first Sunday of Advent.  Churches and Homes around the world will light the candle of hope.  This begins the season of anticipation of the arrival of the Christ child.  Of course this is symbolic as we know he came long ago.  For believers this also represents the anticipation of his second coming.

The prophet Isaiah foretold his coming.

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Below is a devotional I wrote a few years back for our church Advent devotional book.

Celebrating the “Hope” of Christmas

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

As a child I loved to plan my wish list for Christmas.   I had every faith that I would get what I hoped for.   I knew my parents would do their best to see that my dreams were fulfilled.  And sure enough they did not disappoint. 

Over 2000 years ago we were all given a wonderful gift at Christmas  – one that had been talked about and hoped for and for those who believed their faith was made sure.

A Sandi Patti song tells us that “…the gift goes on, the gift goes on, the gift goes on and on and on…”  I like that –  a gift that keeps on giving year after year – forever.

Not only can we receive this gift of the Christ Child, but we can also share Him with others so that they too can receive the gift that He so freely gives.   Because of our salvation in Him we have an everlasting hope for the future.

Our faith is made sure in our hope of eternal life.   This Christmas, in addition to the other gifts we share with one another, let us purpose to also share the gift of the baby Jesus and bring others along as we celebrate His birth, His ultimate gift of salvation, and the hope of eternal life for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the believer, the celebration begins with His birth and continues through eternity!

PRAYER

Dear Father, thank you for the gift that “goes on and on”; A gift that is for all who will receive.  During this time of celebrating the Birth of Christ, help us to share His hope with others so that their faith too can be made sure.  Amen

Hoping in Grace,

Teresa 

Linking up for Sacro Speco with All Manner of Inspiration