Abundant Living

In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Monday, April 24, 2017

What does the fact that I'm surprised say about me?

Enclos paroissial de la Martyre | La Martyre, Brittany, France:
Photo by Yann  Caradec 
It's funny how I'm suprised when I pray and God answers.

A few months ago I began studying the Bible book of Nehemiah.  One of the resources I'm using in my study is Kelly Minter's book Nehemiah, a heart that can break. From the start of the book, I've been struck by Nehemiah's heart that responds to the problems of others.  I've been moved as I've read about how he took the needs he saw to God in prayer and then acted. I've been praying that God would heighten my awareness of needs around me and how He wants me to respond.

Since I've been praying, God led me to Prison Fellowship Ministry and then to weekly luncheoning with my sister.

For the past several months my son Daniel has been talking about a ministry with which I was previously vaguely familiar: Voice of the Martyrs (VOM).  Today I went over to their website. I felt impressed to start setting aside time each week to:

  • Read a few paragraphs about a brother or sister in the Lord who is imprisoned for their faith. 
  • Pray for that person
  • Compose/choose 12 phrases that  VOM has set up to be in the receiver's language.
  • Print the 12-phrase letter
  • Address and set up the envelope for this letter 
  • Take the letter to the post office and pay and mail it
From start to finish it will take less than one hour per week.  Aside from the post office part I can do this at any time of the day or night.  This is a tangible way I can encourage and "make a difference" for a brother or sister in the Lord who's suffering for our Savior. Wow - what an honor.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The ministry I never wanted

My oldest sister used to live with my mom.  Her name is Pam. It's always been a question in the back of my mind as to where Pam would go when my mom would some day die.  She's rather flakey and never really held down a job. She's also stubborn & doesn't take care of herself.  She's one of those people who, when she's telling about life events, starts to add things to the account that aren't true.  As is frequently the case of many people of that type, she tells her stories so much that she actually believes them.

During my high school years Pam caused me a lot of pain and misery and we've never been close.  However, during the past 10 years or so I've come to a point where I just live in the immediate present where she's concerned.  Since I'm not able to change her behavior I don't mentally, or aloud, get into things I think she's doing wrong with her own life, my mom, or my mom's money. Since this change on my part, she and I have had positive encounters when I visited my mom. When everything is said and done she is my sister and I do love her.

As time went by Pam started receiving a small monthly check of around $560.  As my mother aged it became useful that she had Pam living with her. Pam is now age 70.

My mom passed away in mid March.  After much back and forth, Pam went to live with my niece Kara. Initially Kara had told Pam that her dog could come but it had to live outside.  They had a dog house for the dog and another dog already lives there.  The first day Pam moved in went well and the two dogs became friends. Pam convinced Kara to let Pam bring her dog inside.  However, the dog has some accidents and Kara reverted to her original stance of the dog needing to live outside.

I'd been meaning to go visit Pam but hadn't gotten around to it.  Ten days after she'd moved in with Kara I received this text from Kara:

"Well Pam wants out of there. I've been trying extremely hard to make this living situation pleasurable for her and she hates all of it. She is currently sleeping in our backyard with giggy (this is Pam's dog's name) when I asked her not to. It's just giggy that needs to sleep outside b/c he is ruining our house by going to the restroom inside. She wants to move out as soon as possible so if you have any alternatives that would be great! She has been name calling, lying to me, and going behind my back. She hates me and wants out as soon as possible."

Kara was at work when she sent me this text so we couldn't really talk then.  I called another niece and talked with her. This niece gave me the details on what had been going on. I let Kara know I'd come take Pam to lunch the next day and talk with her.

As I thought about what I'd say to Pam when we talked I had a desire to just confront her and tell her that no one would be giving in to her tantrums as my parents had her entire life, that she needed to learn to give in to other people's needs.  I wanted to emphasize how reasonable Kara is being and that Pam's not gonna find any place she can afford that will let her even bring her dog.  I wanted to make her go take a shower the moment I arrived.  But I prayed that God would give me wisdom and His words for Pam.

As it ended up Pam was waiting on the house steps when I arrived.  I took her to a salad buffet place and basically waited on her since she has a knee that won't bend, she walks super slowly, and getting up & down is difficult for her.  We had a nice lunch and sat for close to 30 minutes just sipping tea & talking when we'd finished lunch.  I didn't end up being confrontational.  I did manage to slip in that Kara has the right to make her own house rules, that it's warm in so Cal and her dog is fine outside, and that I don't know of another place she can find that would allow her to bring giggy.  I was extremely diplomatic in the way I presented these things.

My husband John is out of town right now and we texted a bit later that evening.  One particular text that he sent me really hit me:

"As you have done to the least of these...you've done it unto ME"

How I treat Pam is how I'm treating my Savior.

I never planned on having much to do with Pam after mom passed.  But I felt impressed to, for the time being at least, go see her weekly.  I believe that having someone befriend her and take her out once a week will assist her during this transition time.  On the one hand since I'm not working right now I have time.  On the other hand I don't have a lot of money.  But still...I feel like this is what God's saying. He's the one who supplies my money ultimately any way.  Also, the truth is that I do have enough money to do this for right now.  Plus, we're going to inexpensive lunch deals.

So I guess for now I'm having weekly lunch dates with Pam and praying that God would somehow use me to make things better there


Prison Ministry Fellowship

https://firstantiochchurch.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/prisonministry.jpg?w=700&h=458
Photo from FAC
I wrote a while back about being impressed to pursue ministering to prisoners or ex-prisoners.  The day I thought God was speaking this to my heart, I went online and looked into what was going on in this regard in my community.  I came across a group named Prison Ministry Fellowship.  I was familiar with this group because when my children were small we sometimes donated to the their project angel tree at Christmas time. So I contacted them and was emailed by Audrey, who is the southern California field director for this group.

It's been a process:
  • First I completed a PMF volunteer application and had to obtain 3 references, one of whom needed to be a leader or pastor at the church I attend.
  • Once my initial application was accepted, I was set up to complete 4 online courses.  Each of these courses had 4 modules and each module had between 3-6 lessons. ( I was super impressed with these courses. They taught about prison culture, how to teach, how to mentor, and the TUMI program.  They also provided relevant case studies that gave a clearer view of what this type of ministry would involve.)
  • Then I had to get a PPD.
  • Then I had a face to face interview with Audrey yesterday.
The interview was set for 1:30PM and I expected it would be an hour.  But we ended up talking and lost all track of time.  When I followed her into an office area to print off some paperwork for me, we were both astounded to find that the clock indicated that it was 3:45PM. It was a wonderful time together.  This woman has such a heart and passion for prison ministries and a testimony that almost made me cry.

It was interesting because I'd indicated all along that I have a desire to serve so I can work wherever is needed, but my big interest is mentoring women who've been released. When we met and actually discussed the needs, I found that they have a huge need for programs in the local men's prison. The local men's prison, CRC, is a medium level II correctional facility. They have a specific program CRC started back in November where young men ages 18-21 are somewhat separated out from the rest of the population. They need instructors to teach PFM pre-release curriculum to these inmates. The curriculum involves practical skills so the inmates have better chances of success when they leave the institution.  Topics include such things as job seeking, interviews, job maintenance, healthy relationships, personal goal setting, time management, etc. Audrey explained these courses as practical life classes with God at the back of them. PMF already has topic related experts who volunteer and teach courses on boundaries and anger management.

I have some mixed thoughts about working with that group.  On the good side I know they need the programs, they're scared children on one level, if they can get their lives together now they have such a better prognosis for their lives, and I've always had a soft spot for young men (most likely because I have 3 sons, who are currently ages 28, 24, & 23).  On the down side I'm guessing this group is less quick to open up and share because of their fears, they are more likely to think they already know it all, they are extremely testosterone-fuled, and I'm not sure I'd appeal to this group.  However, maybe I could be a positive mother figure for them.  I don't know.  I'm praying about it.

Audrey has a super great relationship to the warden there, so she said she'll get me a provisional clearance for the month of May. I just had to complete a provisional clearance form to be run by CRC.  Then I can go in and observe the pre-release classes for this age group, pre-release courses for the regular population, and TUMI curriculum for both groups.  TUMI is an acronym for The Urban Ministries Institute.  I looked over that curriculum and was very impressed. It covers college level Bible courses and is set up so that even people with low reading skills can do the work.  This curriculum was developed by a man who has a calling from God to equip ministers to work in urban areas.

I'm praying and waiting on the Lord regarding what He wants me to do.  Audrey felt convinced that if I come in and observe I'll find if I am meant to be involved in prison ministries.  She also has no doubt that when I observe, it will be really clear to me where I'm meant to minister.

There's a several page application I still need to complete so that CRC can clear me to volunteer there and I would need to go through a 4-hour CRC volunteer orientation that is offered once each quarter.

Right now I'm just trying to do what I think God is leading me to do and taking it one step at a time.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Big Picture

My niece and I had been trading off accompanying my sister to watch over my mom. On Thursday
Photo from America Explained
I left out the door and then came back to say goodbye to my mom.  It didn't even seem like she knew I was there; which may have been due to the morphine I'd been giving her as frequently as the physician's orders would allow.  I'd stopped by the store enroute to home; the entire trip from my mom's house takes a bit over an hour.  When I was almost home my niece called and told me that mom had just passed.  

All I could feel was gratitude.  In the early morning hours, when I'd watched my mom's body struggling for each breath she took, I'd prayed asking God to just let her go in peace.  I'd said that it was all too much, she shouldn't have it so hard.  So then, to hear she'd passed, was a relief.  I'm encouraged to know that the 1 Corinthians 5:8 assures me that those of faith are present with God when they leave these bodies behind.

I was talking with John today about how  I grateful I am for these past few months because I've been able to spend more time with mom.  I'd bring food over to her house and cook a meal that we'd share together. We'd hang out and visit.  She was still relatively healthy, and totally lucid, until the very end.  I'm so grateful that I had that time.  If I'd been working I would not have been able to spend as much time with her.  It's interesting because of course I'd been deeply disturbed when I was let go at my job.  In the ensuing months I'd applied for numerous jobs.  I'd interviewed for 4 specific jobs that I could really see myself in, knew I was qualified for, and felt I did well during the interview - but never got the job.

Looking at it now, I'm just grateful for the time I've had.  Time to be with hear when things were good.  Time with her during her last days.  There was one night during those hospice days at home that stands out in my mind.  She'd taken my hand and kissed it.  At that point she was lucid but extremely difficult to understand when she talked to us. I was surprised and touched when she did that because it was not something my mom would do.

You just never know what God's got planned.  I can only see what's right in front of me, but God's got the big picture.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Powerless

Roses are red, violets are blue  I wish to be numb, for a day or two  Take my heart, I don't want it today  But tomorrow is a different day:
Saved from Squidoo
On the good side, I'm not numb any more.  I'm not questioning inside my head if I'm capable of feeling.

It's just that I can't let go and let myself feel all the pain.  I have to put it aside for now and use my head so I can act wisely.  Seeing my mom right now - more than 2 weeks of not eating and the last 6 days of not drinking - seeing her gasping for air and the rattle in her chest.  It's awful beyond words.

All I can do it give her 0.25ml Morphine every 3 hours to ensure she's pain free.  Periodically reposition her in what would seem to be a comfortable position.   Occasionally hold her hand and say how much I love her. Sing the old hymns she so likes with the hope that it comforts her spirit.

I'm grateful that Romans 8:26 assures me that the Spirit of God helps me pray.  I have a few words to say but my heart is longing with more than I know how to say.  I don't really understand why my mom can't just die instead of going through all this.

I feel so powerless.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Transitions

We are all just walking each other home. -Ram Dass  we just talked about this quote in nursing and then here it is on pintrest :):
Photo from Pinterest page
To say that watching someone die is difficult is not accurate. For me it is a heavy feeling that weighs on the general numbness that has been my constant state for the past week.

A week ago we took my 91-year old mom to the hospital via ambulance. She'd neither ate nor drank for the past week despite our best efforts. After the first couple of days of trying to decipher what the doctor was really saying amidst her many words, I realized that my mom was entering into that last phase of her life. It took a few more days to convince my sister who lives with my mom to bring her home on hospice. My niece & I agreed to share being at the house so my sister won't be all alone with mom. My sister cries frequently & asks if I'm sure mom won't just "bounce back". As if this is a decision I'm making.

I'm okay with this all in theory. My mom has been clear her entire life that she doesn't want to die in a hospital with a bunch of tubes in her. She was clear in the hospital that she just wanted to go home. I want her to be comfortable at home, receiving the steady trickle of people whose lives she's touched who want to come hold her hand & express their love & gratitude. Although I'm extremely awkward/inefficient at it, I'm fine with doing all those "nursing tasks" surrounding hygiene & daily life for my mom.

The thing that is getting to me is watching the effects of dehydration; the dry lips and sunken facial features. I constantly apply lip balm & swab her mouth with a wet spongette to help. But nothing can totally ameliorate the effects

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Practice

Photo from Even Rocks Cry Out
I've "tried" silence and solitude twice now.

In our bedroom, on my side of the bed, I routinely take time out first thing in the morning to praise & thank God as well as engage in my prayer list.  I also read some from the Bible and reflect a bit on what I've read.  So I've now inserted time for silence before I get into the Bible reading.

Right now I'm a bit mechanical in my approach.  I set my phone timer for 5 minutes. This time amount most likely would seem paltry to most people; but for me this is where I am at, the most I can do at this time. (I have a thought that some day I'll become one of those people who takes out long stretches of time such as half a day, an entire day, or a weekend to give God their undivided attention.  But I'm not there yet.)  Five minutes of me not talking.  Five minutes of me trying to silence all those thoughts in my head.  I start by just saying "I'm yours Lord".  I end, after the timer rings, by thanking Him that He would want to talk with me.  So far I just have thoughts bouncing all over in my head as I try to quiet down.

In Invitation to Solitude and Silence Barton writes about how it can be more beneficial to acknowledge disruptive thoughts rather than try to ignore them.  She writes about how fears, concerns, and repetitive ideas can be a glimpse into our interior selves.  She encourages the reader to bring them to God.  So far, for me, it's not really like that.  It's just that my mind is all over the place.  Being silent does not come naturally to me.

I figure that I just need to do it daily. Get myself into the routine, and eventually more will come  At the very least I think that my "time with God" each day is too much about myself.  I'm praising and thanking and asking for - which is all fine and good.  But when do I listen for what God might be wanting to say to me?  Certainly my time in the Word is that...but I think there might be more.  So, I'm thinking that God knows my heart and sees that I'm trying to set things up so that I give Him my complete, undivided attention each day.  From what I know of His character, I believe He will honor this desire.  I don't know how this will look, but I'm expectant.

After silence today I read from a devotional that I've been going through.  Then I took some time to review a book that we're going to be facilitating at church for a women's Bible study starting next month.  As I was glancing through the Bible study workbook my attention caught on a page with a photo of a woman who leads a prison ministry.  When I saw that picture a voice in my head said I want to do that. I certainly have the time right now; and even when I'm working again, I can take a few hours one evening a week or on the weekend to do something.   I have been blessed in my life to have a few people, who at various stages in my life, invested in me.  I've had some times in my life when I've been able to invest in others, but not as much as I'd like.  My heart always wants to be there for others when they are going through tough times.  But it does not naturally happen for me that I connect with people in this way very often.

So I went online and happened upon Prison Fellowship ministries.  I've been peripherally involved with them in the past through Project Angel Tree; when my children were little, some years we would buy presents to donate to Angel Tree as our family Christmas service project. I remember, years ago, reading about Chuck Coleson and his vision when starting this ministry.  As I looked through ministry opportunities on the website today I was drawn to opportunities to mentor a female prisoner directly prior to and/or following her release.  I thought about how tough it is for people to get jobs once they have a prison record.  I reflected on how some people in this situation don't have a healthy support system. I know that life is hard.  No one can take away life's hardships or pain.  But, in my experience, having someone to come along side and go through the hard times - not being alone - can be very powerful. I want to do that for someone. So I completed a very brief application and I guess I'll be contacted.  We'll see what happens.

I don't know if the silence time and this opportunity to serve are related. I do know that over the past few years I've been trying to implement what I call "immediate obedience". This is the immediate obedience thing, theory and my practice, in a nutshell:

I've often encountered Christians writing or talking about hearing God tell them stuff.  I've never actually heard a voice.  But sometimes there are thoughts in my head, that sound just like all the other thoughts, that I think are the voice of the Holy Spirit within me.  You know how when you're listening to the radio sometimes the station doesn't come in clear and it's all static-y?  Sometimes the God thoughts are like that for me.  I can't really hear them well.  I've noticed that when I spend time praising God, being thankful throughout the day, being aware of God, reading the Bible, reading books related to God, listening to uplifting Christian music, etc. that it's easier for me to hear what I think are the God thoughts. Under those conditions, these thoughts seem to come in more clearly.  Another thing that I've noticed makes it easier to differentiate the God thoughts from my own thoughts is what I call immediate obedience.

Immediate obedience is when I do what the thought is.  For example, the thought may be to go give that homeless person I see some money.  Or it may be to write an encouraging email to a specific person.  It can be all kinds of things.  I'm not absolutely sure that these specific thoughts are from God - but I figure if the thought is to do good for someone, it can't but be good to do it.  I've  also noticed that those specific types of inclinations or thoughts are typically the easiest for me to ignore.  Because I'll counter those thoughts with ones like Oh I'm too busy, or, my little bit of money won't really help the real problem, or some other reason not to do the thing.  It's very easy for me to get caught up on my own agenda for the day and the flow of the tasks for daily living. But I've found that when I think it's a God-thought for me to do something, and I do that thing right away (what I refer to as immediate obedience), that I can hear the God-thoughts in general more clearly.  When I engage in immediate obedience, there is less static in my head.









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