How to Lessen the Impact of Loss

God’s people have never been strangers to grief. They lived in captivity more often than their spurts of sovereignty, which were plagued with treachery and warfare. Jesus was thronged by desperate people because their lives were punctuated with disease and grief. One of my favorite scriptures comes from such a time. “By the waters of Babylon we  laid down and wept, and wept, for thee O Zion.” Their own trail of tears marks the path of my personal loss.

Life in the good ole’ USofA suburbia insulates and protects most of us. Modern medicine reduced morbidity until many only experience death as the loss of an aging grandparent. That feels normal. We expect it. Sudden or traumatic death affects few of us personally. Since it’s more of a vicarious adventure we forget and really don’t wish to remember the grim reaper stalks at will.

For now let’s put aside the reaper…remember that even blest lives experience loss. The loss of a beloved family member fractures the heart, but loss of a job, a difficult move, a pet who dies is just as real…loss isn’t measured on a scale to be real or significant. And so the question that applies to us all is a simple one: How do we deal with grief?

Scripture invites us to taste of the goodness of God. Sadly, many choose to chaw on large of wads of bitterness. But here’s the thing–bitterness spreads through your soul like a cancer, darkening, mutating your joy into despair. In contrast, thankfulness for what does remain in your fractured heart is like planting seeds that will grow and blossom in due season. I practice gratitude daily amid all the heartache, hoping for a bountiful harvest. Do I see any good yet? No. I see no evidence of healing, but this is the winter of my grief. Spring cometh! In the meantime I will continue to plant seeds of gratitude and water them with my tears.The seed lies buried in the fruit

How To Save Time & Money with the Q.O.D. Meal Plan

As adults, certain chores get repetitive, don’t they?  Chores like meal planning and cooking 3 squares a day just burn my grits..  Eating occurs a little too predictably at our house, but I learned a secret.  The Q.O.D. meal plan saves me time and money, so it’s a win/win.

What is it you ask?  You didn’t take Greek or Latin in high school?  I did, but darned if I can give it to you in any particular language, just medical-ese.  Any nurse will tell you it refers to a medication administered every other day.  Yes, Q.O.D. means every other day.

When applied to my kitchen, it’s a prescription I find quite appealing.

  • Cook Monday, enough for two meals.
  • Cook Tuesday, enough for two meals.
  • Wednesday eat Monday leftovers.
  • Thursday eat Tuesday leftovers.
  • Friday date night go out for a bite.
  • Saturday eat light while prepping Sunday dinner

Bgrey and black pen on calendar bookoom! I cooked three times, stretched my meat, and saved money on my grocery bill in the process.  Adapt my Q.O.D. meal plan to any variance of days in the week and it still works.  Cook Sunday/Monday, reheat Tuesday/Wednesday, cook Thursday, date night Friday, reheat Saturday…it adapts to any schedule.

I know, I’m fortunate my husband likes leftovers.  As a matter of fact, he thinks they taste better the second time around. (His momma trained him well.)  I live in the fast lane on a fixed income.  Saving time and money ranks right up there with winning the lottery.  Remember: Q.O.D. and score big!

How to Debunk the Flat Earth Theory

Let me begin by qualifying my blog with the acknowledgement that not very many people subscribe to my little epistles.  Thus the scribblings of an old woman don’t affect all that many of you.  You may find this blog helpful in dealing with loss, but even if you don’t, writing serves as a catharsis for me, and so I write.

I always wondered why the ancients believed in a flat earth.  As a young child I saw hills and valleys and knew the earth held form.  Why didn’t they?  What was wrong with them?  I finally figured it out.

Since Alma’s death, new truths assail me daily.  As an adult, I know that the current life expectancy is a 20th century phenomenon.  The ancients lived with death.  Without antibiotics they lost their children to disease.  With crude hunting tools they lost their mates to hunting accidents.  Their resulting emptiness and flat lives colored their perception of the world.  I totally get it now.  They lived grief stricken lives.

Yet even now death steals loved ones away, stealing our joy in the process.  This weekend another tsunami of grief overwhelmed me.  I suddenly realized birthdays and holidays loomed before me…7 momentous days in the next two months, seven momentous days without Alma.  I felt like someone pulled the plug on my reservoir of joy and I couldn’t stop crying.  I felt empty.  Flat.  Luckily (or unluckily) I was at church when this hit me.

The natural tendency is to pull back.  Isolate ourselves so we don’t cause embarrassment or judgment as yet another wave of grief overwhelms us.  And that is the exact opposite of the approach we should be taking.  I somehow got funneled to the very front row last Sunday, so I was pretty visible and as much as I tried to hide my tears, I’m sure I was a spectacle.  The ministry of my church family, their support and prayers, lifted me over that initial wave.  In the afternoon my oldest son helped us map out a way to get past Alma’s birthday.  You see, it’s people who help us get over losing people.

So my antidote to the flat earth is a simple prescription of love from those closest to you.  If you know someone struggling with grief, just give the poor soul a hug.  Save your words for prayer.  Be the form and substance that lifts a person from the flat earth they are experiencing.  Be a mountain of strength for another.

When a Sun Day Isn’t on a Sunday

We home school.  I know, we’re old people, but we home school two of our grandchildren, and the other six are homeschooled as well.  That means we see the world from a little different perspective.  (When we first started 38 years ago, I thought we might just have rocks in our heads.  It didn’t take me long to realize those were Mexican jumping beans doing somersaults of joy.)  It also means that we define words differently from our institutionalized counterparts.  For example, we don’t have snow days.  We enjoy SUN days.cousin love

We may have enjoyed out last SUN day this week.  After a treacherously hot summer and a long anticipated fall, we finally got a short burst of Indian summer this week.  Yes, we took full advantage of it.  All the grands enjoyed some time at a local park, and we sat reveling in what turned out to be the nicest day of the week.

Here’s the thing.  Life requires setting both boundaries and priorities.  Set boundaries to be sure the big, important stuff gets done.  Set priorities so living never gets shoved out of the program.  Balancing on that narrow beam can get tricky, but luckily our state helps us.  In Missouri we are required to log 1000 hours a year of core, non-core, and field trip studies.  We faithfully keep a record of these activities, so when a bonus like a super-gorgeous glorious day comes along…yup, we’re ON it!

We should have spent a few moments eulogizing our institutionalized counterparts and being thankful for our freedom, but nope, we just played and sat in the sun and had a wonderful day together.  Sundays are special in the Rhoads household.  We love going to worship and family dinners.  We love SUN days almost as much. (wink, wink.)

Is Your Church a Family or a Building?

A church is more than a building.  A synonym for church should be family.  I am soooo incredibly thankful for my church family.  Last weekend we witnessed a piece of heaven descending and it appeared in unlikely looking packages.  Our church hosted a family in-town retreat.  Every family that came participated in meaningful ways, knitting our hearts with chains of fellowship. Palpable love. From hugging babies to squeezing together doing dishes, we felt harmonized by heavenly chords.

retreat1We kicked off the weekend with a pig roast potluck.  Yum!  We also had brisket and hot dogs, so every tummy got full and we packed away enough pulled pork for another family dinner.  The brownie bake-off produced an 8-foot table laden with enough chocolate to make Hershey himself proud.  Haley’s lemon brownies disappeared in a hurry though, so a few non-chocolaholics may reside among us.

Ray and the Wise Guys kept everyone laughing throughretreat3 Holywood Squares.  Their creativity amazed me.  I mean, John the Baptist came with his head on a charger, for heaven’s sake!  What does that tell you?  Vanna White couldn’t be there, so she recommended her cousin Hannah Green.  We live among a lot of ingenious people!

Saturday we enjoyed the spoken word, cake decorating, and classes with personal study guides.  An afternoon virtue walk brought personal ministry.  Recreation proved so enjoyable it was hard to drag folks away from the game boards for pictures.  Colin brought a drone for an aerial picture of us all…what will people think of next?

retreat2The retreat topped off with dinner at the Mountain Top Cafe, a message from BJ, a hayride and campfire.  The artistic talent, musical offerings, spoken ministry and teamwork of the entire branch just put the icing on the cupcake.  Literally.  We all enjoyed Cupcake Mountain.retreat 4

A branch is a family, a really large extended family.  Being in close quarters with everyone participating, made us feel more like a family than ever.  Sure, we have our characters, but what family doesn’t?  We also have enough love to spill over and wash us with joy, so yeah, I love my church family!  A church isn’t a building.  It’s a family.

How to Avoid a Moldy Life

The choice is yours:  A moldy life or living instant in season.  The Bible offers this one short phrase as an injunction for all of life.  At first I wondered what it could possibly mean, but I learned its lesson the hard way.  I now base much of my life upon it…but what does that mean to you?

Nike says it succinctly: Just do it.  I add the now.

I like this wry explanation. “Someday is not a day of the week.”  Penned by Denise Brennan-Nelson, her tongue-in-cheek view of the antithesis makes me smile.

Defined by action, being instant in season requires immediacy.  Thinking of someone?  Call or pen a note.  Yes, I’m old school.  Our children text or email, but the result remains the same.  The lifeline you toss to another may be just that.  Solomon talked about it:  “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”  A prayer into the universe gets directed to you and what? You procrastinate? You choose not to answer?  Whose hope, whose life drowns because you chose to do it someday?  Lifelines save lives and heal hearts, as I’ve learned so poignantly these last few months.  Instead, be instant in season.

We once lived in an over-sized garage. We never redecorated or made it our own because, of course, it was just temporary.  Why pour money into something we’d be leaving behind?  Four years later it looked exactly the same as when we moved in, and I learned my lesson.  Make your life your own today.  Live in the now. Embrace the tangible and make it real.

The basis of living in season is falling in love with your life.  Create a life beyond mere existence, a life of passion.  Yes, goals may be long term, but actionable steps make the promise real today, not tomorrow.  Distilled down into the nitty-gritty, it requires taking responsibility for your hopes and your dreams, being the architect of your own future.

neverWhat happens when we fail to live our lives instant and in season?  Ever have to clean moldy food out of the refrigerator?  Your hopes and dreams become diseased and unhealthy when harbored past a designated shelf life.  Turned in upon themselves, you create your own desert of depression.  The cure?  Toss out the old and dream up some new.  My planner for 2018 reminds me of a favorite C.S. Lewis quote: “You are never too old to set another goal or dream another dream.”  I look at it and read it several times a day.  Yes, I believe that.  With all my heart.

Are You a Bible Wrecker?

bible 4I know people with pristine Bibles.  I am not one of them.  I am an inveterate Bible wrecker and it makes the Word of God come alive for me.  Worse yet for all you pristine Bible lovers, I plan on never mending my ways.

Of course I bean with underlining my favorite passages as a child. I then proceeded on to color coding.  I chose word topics and using colored pencils and highlighters, colored verses with or about those words.  That very soon led to personal indexing.bible 2

Threading ranks as my second favorite form of Bible wrecking.  I find a topic of study, and cross reference one verse to the next and so on throughout the Book.  I found I needed to add the starting and closing verses to the Bible’s concordance in the back to be sure I could find it at a moment’s notice.  Indexing is key for me, because nothing is more frustrating than knowing I have a scripture somewhere in a book of 66 books.  I started running out of space for indexing, and had to get creative.

bible-1-55894952-1539785010836.jpgThen I started adding quotes and reference material by way of inserts.  I began with typing them onto thin tracing paper, but with the advent of computers, quickly resorted to using regular copier papaer.  I learned the hard way not to use rubber cement as a medium for insertion.  It eventually dries out and the insert becomes a nuisance.  Worse, it discolors the margin as it dries.  I now favor a high quality paper crafting glue.bible-5.jpg

I finally starting adding Washi tape to highlight books since my Bible had no tabs.  Word of warning: Don’t wait to do this.  It’s hard to cover over notes in the margin.  Since my Bible is starting to fall apart, my next new Bible will have Washi tape inserted at the start.

I do enjoy Bible journaling and art journaling, but I use other versions for that pleasure.  When Alma died I found it hard to hold thoughts in my head, and focusing on short phrases kept me in the Word.  I had a wide-margin version of the Bible I already used for that form of meditation and worship, and focused on that medium of study.  I am not an artist, but the whole point is that you don’t have to be.  It’s a form of personal meditation, and I am chagrined to share my simple artwork…but it illustrates the point.  Just do it and stop worrying about perfection.

Being a Bible wrecker offers me a creative outlet and a way to express what the Word means to me.  It also prepares me for sharing intentionally at a moment’s notice.  I hope it makes me a warrior for the Word, not to use it as a weapon, but as a way of zealously defending the King.  Last but not least, it seasons my life with all the benefits of a life with Christ.  Peace, joy, and strength keep me going through this season of loss and change.  The Rock and His Word never fail.  Yup.  I plan on being a Bible wrecker ’till the day I die.  #noregrets

 

What is YOUR Comfort Margin?

I like spring of course. Who doesn’t? Milder temperatures and fresh balmy breezes never fail to intoxicate the senses. Now that’s comfort! But here’s the thing. It exists as a mere eyelash in time. Blink twice and suddenly it is H-O-T.  I’ve come to the uncomfortable conclusion that my comfort margin may not exist.

fall leaves
Cancelled this year. Sorry, folks!

Then it begins. I dream of fall. I yearn for fall. Will fall ever arrive? I conjure up memories of brisk air and a landscape contrived by a Master painter. Wait for it…Wait for it…When it finally arrives it seems all the more glorious for having waited a lifetime. Wait! What? Blink twice and it becomes another eyelash in time. Who forgot to pay the Power bill this year? My glorious fall suddenly devolved into a sodden mess and I’m a basket case.

After a great deal of annotated analysis (I am, after all, almost seventy) I finally realized my problem. My perfect number is 72. My comfort index is an eyelash, not a sturdy one-inch ribbon. I feel content at 71-73, which I’ve proven exists as a figment of the imagination. I need to cultivate a wider ribbon of comfort. That’s my goal this year. I want to add a degree on each end of the comfort index for a wider margin of comfort. What’s the measure of your comfort of index?

 

Flame the Fire of Joy

After a full week of algebra and schoolwork with pedal to the metal, we enjoyed an afternoon of bowling yesterday. Yes, we left mowing undone. We left a small mountain of wood unsplit and unstacked.  My work area held a manuscript for book three needing to be imagined and a blog post to write. Yes, we were out an out slugs. Instead, we chose to follow Grand Poppy’s sage advice: “We keep the fun,” and loved seeing the joy explode out of the hearts of our two scholars.

Children grow up. I know, it’s hard to believe since it happens one baby step at a time. When parents turn around and suddenly realize the children have grown up without them, a ginormous opportunity remains forever lost. Enjoy time with them now to avoid the bitter ashes of feeling cheated later.

Living in the moment doesn’t mean we work less. We work faster, with more focus.  We love intentionally. We create pockets of time from which we extract these memories to cache away as joy for another day. Here’s the thing: It doesn’t always happen at a bowling alley. Amazing, right? Share popcorn over a movie, snuggled in an afghan. Play a rousing game of Mexican trains and for goodness sake, let the silly train whistle drive you crazy. Bake some cookies. I’m full of these little ideas. I could go on all day long, but I think you got my drift already.

We country folk who heat with wood like to say it’s the only form of energy that heats you twice: once when you cut it and again when you burn it.  These romps from routine hold the same promise: warm the heart in play, and remember the warmth for years to come when the eagles have flown the nest. Best of all, the flames of joy burn clean with no ashes to sweep from the hearth. Boy, howdy! That’s a win/win for ya’! What price joy? I have no answer for that.

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Togetherness. Extreme Togetherness.

It’s been an extremely big day for me.  When Bill retired, he became my chauffeur and wanted to ferry me places. We started spending a LOT of time together, so much so that I hardly drive and rarely spend a day without him. Togetherness. Extreme togetherness.

But a glorious new day has arrived! When he departed for a weekend retreat without me, suddenly I am driving myself. Yay! I remember how! I get the bed to myself. I had no idea what that felt like. And I get to have a girlie night. Woo hoo!!

Having these two munchkins for a night brought extreme joy. We played with play dough. We watched a movie. We made dinner and dessert together. We made jewelry. Crimp beads were a challenge, but they caught on quickly. Pawing through my stash was more than than raiding a cookie jar. And my, how they giggled.

Something tells me Bill has a ministry here, and I should explore other opportunities for him.  As a mother of three sons, I waited my whole life for this night, and it did not disappoint.  So so thankful for these two little girls!

This easy recipe is great for girls.  Spray a muffin tin.  Lay crescent roll into the tins.  Add 1 tsp crushed pineapple and 1 Tbsp cherry pie filling.  Pinch the tops together.  Bake at 375 until  browned and done.