Sunday, April 05, 2020

Essential?

I haven't written in awhile. Not because I don't have any thoughts. Believe me, I have TOO many. I think that is part of the issue. Narrowing it down to one or two basic points without getting overwhelmed. Realizing that if the thoughts are coming with good intentions, it is ok if everyone doesn't agree. As a people pleaser, that is difficult for me!

We are at a challenging point in life right now. The world is dealing with COVID-19. A virus that is challenging to medical staff, governments, families and individuals. A virus that has tightened social restrictions from countries, travelling, to groups of less than 250...than 100....than 10....to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. A virus that has closed schools. A virus that is spreading faster than what we know to do with....for now. A virus that has definitely slowed, if not halted, the economy in Michigan and other areas except for "essential" services.

I looked up "essential". According to Merriam-Webster.com (HOW convenient! I didn't even need to find a dictionary!), as an adjective it means of the utmost importance. As a noun, essential means something basic or something necessary, indispensable or unavoidable.

We are told to wash our hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds. Don't touch your face!

The beginning of virus warfare was panic buying for essentials. Apparently, many considered toilet paper to be one of THE most essential items to have for staying at home. Baby wipes and hand sanitizer quickly flew off the shelves as well. This was probably early to mid March 2020 in the United States. As of the beginning of April, many shelves for paper products are still empty.

If we venture out to the store, we are urged to make as few trips as possible, to only have one person from a family shop, to practice "social distancing" of 6' from each other in lines, etc. Most doctor/medical appointments are being done by "telehealth": online conference apps between medical staff and patient. Schools were closed. Decisions are still being made about the rest of the school year. Most teachers and students can connect through online communication. Many parents are working from home if able. So far, restaurants are open for take-out, carry-out or drive through. No sit down dining. No sports - end of seasons. No concerts, but many musicians have cheered us up online with impromptu home concerts.

We are urged to stay at home unless absolutely necessary for food and other groceries. So far, we are allowed to be able to be outside for walks and exercise. If doing these activities with another person, we are urged to stay 6' apart. We are being told to try and limit exposure as much as possible. Our mom is at a nursing home. Residents are not allowed visitors. Staff is being temperature tested to enter for work. We have made some visits to mom's window or on Facebook Messenger to video chat.

This has brought up some interesting thoughts and conversations for politicians and business owners. What defines an "essential" employee? What work can be done remotely from home? How will this change employment structures WHEN this all calms down?

Friends, I urge us not to find our self worth tied to any job title or skill set. I feel that this will be easy to do if we are told to not work and file for unemployment. The term essential does NOT define our importance. To our employer. To our families. To ourselves. Many things have changed or shut down. Here's an exciting discovery: The world HAS NOT stopped spinning.

Here's another thing. YOU are essential to the One that knew your beginning and knows your end. YOU were especially created for such a time as this. NOBODY ELSE can fill in YOUR piece of this puzzle we call life. 

Yes, this virus is scary. The situations coming because of it are nerve-wracking and anxiety producing. And yet....there are good things continuing to happen on our spinning sphere. Neighbors are looking out for each other. We can still smile with our eyes even if it is determined that wearing a mask will help. Keep looking for the good. Keep knowing that YOU are important and very essential just because YOU ARE YOU.

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Esther 4:12-14 (NIV) When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”**

**If you would like to read more of Esther's story, there are 7 chapters in the book of Esther in the Bible. www.biblegateway.com is an excellent resource

Friday, November 01, 2019

I Didn't Know

I recently attended a writers conference. I have wanted to go in previous years, but always found a reason (ie: excuse) why "now" wasn't a good time. I figured if I'm going to do it, do it well. I signed up for the extra night and a pre-conference session. The extra night was to make sure I was there on time and in the right frame of mind to focus on one thing. Life has not been about only one thing at a time, or seemingly about me, for quite awhile. 

My anxiety struck up as I got ready to leave that day. I'm almost ready to give her a name as she seems like a nit-picky, perfectionistic version of me I'm trying to get away from. "Why are you going to this BY YOURSELF? YOU don't like to go places where you don't know at LEAST one other person! Do you know how much other life stuff you have going on right now? WHY?" 

Why indeed. I slammed the door a bit harder than intended. Set my map app. Turned the radio louder to drown her out and drove away.

I was not alone for long. I found out that weekend was where I was supposed to be for that weekend. I don't think of myself as a writer. I think of myself as a person who likes to write now that I don't "have to". Our name tags listed our name as well as what we had entered on our registration. Mine said "devotionals/blogger". I made the mistake a few times of saying I "just" have a blog. I was reminded and encouraged that nothing is "just". Point taken. Learn to own it. "I am a writer" Take that, anxiety!

I sat with different people over the few days. Some had come alone. Some had come with friends. Many it was first-time attendance. Some had attended numerous years. I sat with an older couple. The wife referred to her husband as her boyfriend. So cute!. They shared they had recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary with their family. I didn't tell him that he reminded me of my dad. That would have made me cry. I sat with men and women younger and older than me. I listened as they shared why they were attending and some of their stories they were willing to share. I was able to encourage some. Many encouraged me a lot. 

I didn't realize until a few meals in that some of the people sitting at our tables were "in the industry" of writing: editors, publishers, authors, agents, presenters of the sessions. I was a bit intimidated when I made that little discovery. Why was I surprised though? They have to eat too! Anxiety snuck up again as I tried to replay conversations in my mind where I might have said something I shouldn't have to someone I shouldn't have. 

I learned a lot. The weekend ended. I came home. The feeling to write has nagged me. I made an online Facebook support group because I don't have time right now to meet in person. I "friended" some of the attendees. They "friended" me. Writing is really kind of lonely overall. Sharing what is in my head and heart is kind of overwhelming overall. 

How many times have I let what or who I didn't know get in my way? Is what we have written on our name tag as a job or how we would describe ourselves really what matters? It was a Christian writers conference. Would/Do people know that about me without seeing it on a name tag? 

I write this to remind me...and you....don't let what you don't know stop you. I was reminded of the verse: 

Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

and then I found verse 6: 

So we say with confidence,“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
To those who shared hospitality with me: thank you for being an angel when I needed one. My new name tag: mere mortal/writer

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Alarmed

I was sitting in a parking lot when I heard it. It wasn't the first time. It won't be the last. Sometimes it's even my fault!

A car alarm blaring in the not too far distance. Loud. Annoying. Continuous....until the owner pushes the right button and shuts off the annoying blare. I'm sure when car alarms were first produced they served the purpose intended. The alarm is aimed to protect your car from being stolen. Occasionally helpful as a personal way to find the vehicle if a person is not good at remembering where the car is parked. (eh hem)

B E E P

Since car alarms are now just part of the way we do our daily business, the alarm seems to be mainly ignored by anyone else around the car. If the noise continues long enough, someone might mention it to a nearby business to see if the owner can be located. Overall though? Ignored.

I went to some Easter productions over the weekend. The Good Friday service was worship music interspersed with the life and death of Jesus those last days. The thing that hit me the most? A steady heart beat. The slowed heart beat with labored breathing. The heart beat. Stopped. Not like you would hear in a hospital, hooked to a monitor, an alarm might trip, flat line, a steady beep....until the machine is turned off.

This time? No hospital. No monitor. The heart beat. HIS h e a r t  b e a t  just....stopped.

I didn't know how alarming that would be for me as it brought me back to the living room and the final days of our dad the year before. He had fought Melanoma cancer 4 times. This time he was losing. It took almost a month in all for him to let go. The day after mom's 75th birthday. 52+ years married. 5 kids. 9 grand kids. 1 great grandson. That day the Hospice nurse left saying it probably wouldn't be long. A few hours later, I checked for a heart beat with a stethoscope I am not qualified to use. I expected to hear that steady, but slowing thump thump. There was nothing.

I had not had anyone THIS close to me die. I had heard the alarms of others as they shared their stories of grief in the classes I had attended knowing what was coming for our family. I had seen the blips of posts on FB and obituaries as others lost loved ones. I could ignore and be rather blissfully unaware....until that day.

B E E P

The other Easter production showed creation, Adam and Eve (BEEP), Noah (BEEP BEEP) , Abraham, Joseph, Moses (LET MY PEOPLE GO BEEP BEEP BEEEEP).

JESUS

Some of the miracles portrayed. (BEEP BEEP BEEP) Palm Sunday where the people cheered for their King that was the King they needed, but not the King they wanted. Jealous leaders that were claiming to teach about God, but didn't know God. Supper with friends the disciples. Betrayed. Arrested. Falsely accused. Whipped. Beaten. Crucified. The slowed heart beat with labored breathing. IT IS FINISHED.

Put in a tomb. A rolled away stone. A glorious morning. Tell the story. Then.

Fast forward to now. The alarms are sounding. Do we hear? Do we ignore? Do we tell others? Do we just quiet the alarm and go on about our day? Do we go to church, sing a song, join a Bible study, listen to Christian radio?

Do we write a blog?

BBBBBBBEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ephesians 1:17 (NIV) I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

Mark 16:6(NIV) “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene,who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Daily Mental Walk of Shame


I wrote this for a short story contest. I had been kicking the idea around in my head. Not necessarily a short story format, but it gave me a deadline. Honestly? I need deadlines. I can procrastinate something fierce without one....even with deadlines too often I wait until the last minute....or close to it.

So, I didn't win. However, in the long run, I'm ok with that. If I had, I couldn't use it for a year. I'm hoping it will help others to read it as much as it helped me to write it. It is a bit more non-fiction than I would probably admit most days.

The Daily Mental Walk of Shame


My name is Cera. Cera Bellum. My age doesn't really matter. Overall, it doesn't. By most people's standards, I am pretty smart. At least I am usually. On the days when the brain fog is not quite so foggy, I can seem quite intelligent. 

Every day starts out pretty much the same. I wake up. Usually much later than I planned on, and after hitting snooze at least one time more than I should. Should. It's like could and would. I really don't like those words. They make me feel guilty. It's early yet. Too early for guilt. Moving on. 

It has been awhile since I jumped right out of bed ready to take on the world in the Land of Overwhelm.

When I make it out of bed, sometimes even before I'm out of bed, I mentally climb a ladder. The ladder leads to the platform that will begin the daily walk across to the other platform known as the end of the day. The other platform that signifies the end of one day blurring into the next. The platform that leads back to a bed and insomnia's version of sleep. 

Sometime during that walk there will be the dip into the prescription bottle that makes the tightrope connecting the platforms not quite as narrow. More like a bridge. My time has become measured by the filling of the med boxes from the bottles: 2 fills of 2 boxes and it is time for more refills and another month has passed. I didn't even always need meds. Now? Meds help. Most days. Most. Days. I also found out it is much easier to talk to a doctor about other family member's prescriptions than my own.

Some days, the better days, the walk can start on an almost wider  bridge. However, sometimes the space narrows to a tightrope as the day goes on. Then the real balancing act begins.

Some days the ladder leads to a roller coaster with ups and downs and loopy loops. The goal is to not have so many downs. I don't like roller coasters, especially the big drop at the beginning to allow for picking up the speed.

A wide walkway is better as I do not walk alone. I have "friends" traveling along with me. I would not have always called them friends. Sometimes I still don't. I don't know what else to call them either. Maybe just by their names. 

Dee Pression  and Ann Xiety

Dee and Ann each hang on to a hand as I make the daily crossing. Some days are easier than others.

On a not so easy day, Dee tries to whisper slowly droning in my ear even before we are fully awake. "You don't really feel like getting out of bed today do you?" "Shower? Why? Too much work!"  “These PJs are comfy! Why get dressed?”

Ann says in a rushed, panicked voice, “There will be people out there! They will have expectations and you might have to answer the phone, Cera! You hate answering the phone. You would rather text. Here. Don't forget your smartphone, dummy. Oh and by the way there's a new game app you should download so you can avoid your fear of roller coasters. Hey, look a cat video!”

Along the daily walk, sometimes we meet others that also know Dee and Ann. We covertly nod as we pass, but we do not talk. Besides not everyone can see Dee and Ann like they would a broken leg or glasses. They just think we do not try hard enough or we are lazy. How hard is it to get out of bed and shower?!?! 

We see cutesy or scary ads and social media posts that state “reach out for help”. “You are not alone.” “Mental illness can become mental wellness.”

Dee and Ann whisper loudly past those with taunts of “You don't really want us to leave do you? People would see the real you! What if they don't like you? You know not everybody even believes in us. Do you see what happens to some of those celebrity people when it is a mental illness and not physical? That could happen to you.”

So, I hold it in and somewhat together another day. Not reaching out. Feeling alone. Dealing with mental issues people do not always acknowledge. Mental issues that I don't always acknowledge.

Dee, Ann and I near the platform at the other end of the tightrope as another day closes.

There I introduce Dee and Ann to some new friends waiting there for us: Hope and Faith. Maybe those meds, ads and social media posts do work.

Tomorrow's walk.....and all those to come will be better. At least mostly, right?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Missing You

My brain is not comprehending
how you were HERE
and now you're not.

My brain is feeling overwhelmed
with emotions
and memories.

My body is remembering
sitting next to you
holding your hand.

My spirit feels tired
until I remember
there is more than this
than missing you
than trying not to think
too much
not to feel
too much.

My soul can think
eternally
while my mind grapples
the past and the present
with small bits of the future.

The grief
I've shoved in a place
deep inside my mind
until I think
I'm ready
to deal with it
on my terms.

Your smile
your laugh
your heart
your YOU
Missed.
Never forgotten.

kl
4-26-18

It's been over a month since our dad lost his cancer battle. I don't know what I THOUGHT it would be like. I had time to prepare. I thought I was. I thought I did. It is not like what I thought. I have kept myself busy with some things that were really important and NEEDED to be done sooner than later. I have kept myself busy with stuff that just fills time. So I don't have to think or feel. I go through motions.

Missing You isn't just about grief. It is about life changes that have come up at a time I really don't need more to deal with. Time to make decisions about things I would rather not decide. Not now. Maybe not ever.

Following the thought of "God doesn't give you more than you can handle", I think God and my dad have more faith in my abilities than I do.

Revelation 21:4 (NIV) He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”