Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."

Saturday, December 30, 2017


I hear teachers and people in the Christian community talk about God's favor.

I've read the story of Joseph and seen what God's favor looks like on someone.  No matter what bad thing happened to that man, he still rose to the top. 

Not too long ago when I was studying in Ephesians I felt impressed to research Bible verses on three specific topics: God's direction, God's ability, and God's favor.  I spent several hours pouring through the Scriptures and came up with a list of verses and passages on these topics. I made a page for each topic and put down my favorite verses for each topic on that topic's page.  At the bottom of the page I wrote down a few brief truth statements based on those scriptures.  I began to read these pages aloud daily.  More recently I've read each page aloud once a week. I'll just add reading a page aloud into my time with God in the morning; so that I'm reading a page on 3 weekday mornings.

As a nursing home administrator I've noticed in the past few years that the department of public health (DPH) has come down harder on my industry than ever before.  Although the relationship between DPH and the facility has always been one of policing, in the past I've been able to develop good relationships with local surveyors.  This has become more difficult to achieve in recent times. DPH has been much more adversarial.  I hear about them citing and fining facilities right and left; even though the industry has made some strides toward overall quality improvement.

On my 4th day on this job DPH came in for their annual survey.  We did not pass.  The reason was tied to an event that occurred the prior July. Although the leadership at that time had not handled that specific event in the best way possible, the fact that DPH caused it to make the facility not pass the annual survey was over the top unreasonable.  I wrote the plan of corrections as well as filled out all the numerous forms and wrote letters to go to a hearing about the actual ruling.  None the less the facility must be re-surveyed and must pass the re-survey. 

DPH took two months to come back to resurvey.  That meant two months of not being able to bill for any new admissions.  If the facility passes the re-survey, then they can back bill for those service days.  If they do not pass the re-survey, they basically provided it for free.  I've got a Director of Nursing (DON) who makes a lot of money and thinks it is a 9-5 with an hour lunch break kind of job.  Even when the DON is there, her head is not really in the game.  She doesn't exude any passion for her job  or take ownership. 

Sometimes my job is stressful.

I got sick this past week. Typically I ignore it when I'm sick and just go in to work.  But this time it was weird.  Every inch of my body ached and I was oh so tired. I most likely had a fever since I couldn't seem to get warm; the air just seemed too cold. All I wanted was to lay very very still.  I was nauseous and had a little bit of vomiting (I'd not eaten in a day so there wasn't much to retch up). At 7AM I texted the facility owner, DON and our business office manager (BOM) that I was just too sick and wouldn't be able to come in that day.  DPH showed up at 9AM.  The maintenance director texted me. I texted back the maintenance supervisor as well as the BOM and DON asking if it was for the annual survey. The BOM replied that it was. So I drug my sorry self into the shower, got dressed, and hustled in to work.

It was one of those days when I prayed for God's strength a lot.  At the end of the day I wanted nothing more than to go home and crawl into bed.  I had not eaten by now in two days, I ached everywhere, and could hardly keep my eyes open.  But I prayed for wisdom and presence and met with all the facility leadership to discuss the day's events.  I did my best at facilitating a strategy planning session. I was definitely not on my A game. Nursing homes are set up so that it is the administrator and DON who provides the leadership - without that presence, everyone would just go their separate ways.

I felt better by the second day. Not 100 percent, but at least I could think better and even managed to eat a little something and drink some tea (caffeine at last!).

One of the things that kept hitting me throughout the day was that it was as if these surveyors were going out of their way to do us good. It was as if they wanted us to pass.  When I talked with them they were reasonable.  A few of our high functioning, lucid, articulate patients went out their way to say good things about me (I know this because they each told me the things they'd said about me to the surveyors when I visited with them that day.  And no, I did not ask!)  The surveyors only noted 4 problem findings; which in recent years in California is very good. For this facility it was unheard of. There were things they could have mentioned that would have been very problematic that they chose not to. 

I think experienced the favor of God.

I won't know the outcome for a few weeks.  A month at most.  The supervisor of the surveyors sets the scope and severity for the deficiencies. In re-surveys it has to be a low scope and severity level in order to pass. Typically the supervisor listens and relies heavily on the surveyors.

I'm praying for God's continued favor.

Watching a little miracle

Photo from The endless disconnect
There's a woman at work. I'll call her Hester.
Hester came to our facility about 5 weeks ago.  Our DON didn't want to admit her because her record stated that she originally went to the acute hospital due to suicidal attempts.  It said that she had become withdrawn since her husband died. She had taken knives and attempted to stab herself and tried to jump off a second story balcony.  I felt like we needed to admit her (and it wasn't just because she had good insurance either).  Initially we had a C.N.A. with her constantly one to one.  We removed the call light and gave her a bell. She had plastic serving utensils The DON and I had intense discussions about removing the one to one, but we finally did it (sooner than the DON wanted and later than I desired).  Initially I went in every morning to see Hester but she wouldn't even look at me.  She looked angry.  At first she wouldn't eat. 

Hester only speaks Cantonese. I have staff who can speak Tagalog, Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish.  I have only one staff person who can speak some Cantonese-Tao. She went in and tried to talk with Hester daily.  At first Hester wouldn't even look at Tao.  She never talked to Tao. I talked to the kitchen on Hester's second day and got them to make her a rice soup porridge type dish that I notice  many of our Asian patients enjoying. After Tao ate one spoonful first, Hester gobbled that right up.  The kitchen kept making that for her since at least she would eat it.  They would make her the regular meals plus the rice porridge soup.  She initially would only eat the soup.  We had to continue to eat one bite first.  Hester wouldn't take any of her medications when she first came.

Her nephew visited on her 5th day.  Hester gathered up all her belongings to follow him out when he left.  She seemed angry that she did not get to go with him. For the first few weeks it continued like this.

Then we stopped having to take a bite of the food first. She started taking her medication. We gave her regular utensils.  She began eating bites of the other food.  She started eating anything we gave her. She began to come to the door of her room if she wanted something such as a snack or roll of toilet paper for her bathroom.

One day she gathered up all her belongings and went to the front hallway.  Eventually we had to take her back to her room.  She started routinely seeking out snacks and occasionally coming out of her room to take short walks in the hallway. She would look at Tao when Tao spoke to her.

The other day Tao mentioned that Hester is now speaking to her a little bit on her daily visits.  Tao said that Hester still won't come into the group activity or dining room for a meal but that she's at least talking with her. Yesterday I saw Hester out of bed and standing beside the bed of her room mate.  She was curiously examining her sleeping room mate.  Hester was taking an interest in someone else!

Hester is going to be all right.


Sometimes I am
acutely aware of my brokenness.
It is not of the beautiful broken variety,
more like trash
sitting by the curb.
Ugly and undesirable.
I hate that I'm this way.
I want to be different.
I grow and change in life
but still at the core
is this broken part.
aren't we all broken?

broken people by lucri
Broken People by Lucri

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Wham bam new job

Things happen so fast when it comes to my work.

Rhea (former DON in west LA and clinical director/boss in Victorville) texted me on Sunday, 10/8/17. She asked if I was still looking for a job.  I replied yes.  She texted me a location which I looked up on the internet and saw was within commuting distance from a house John owns and lets 2 of his adult children live in.I texted that John has a house in Covina and I could work there.  She said that would be great.

On the following Tuesday Rhea called me and asked if I could interview with the owner on the upcoming Friday.  I said yes and then told Kimberly my current boss of the upcoming interview.  (I had already handed in a resignation at Rockcreek for my last day to be October 31.  There just weren't enough staff and the burden of constantly coming in and filling shifts all over the place was just too much for me - I felt overwhelmed.)

Then later on Tuesday Rhea texted and asked if I could "start tomorrow".  I called and asked if she meant to interview and she laughed.  

We talked and she said the owner didn't need to interview me since she wants me. I said I would take the job but wanted to wait out the month. She texted me on Wednesday after 4PM that I needed to start the very next day or not at all.  I asked her to at least give me until Monday and she said OK

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

It's such a priviledge

Last night was so fun at CRC.
Graphic from Mental health platform

It felt like many of the guys were really into the class. 

We've been studying boundaries.  We're using The Cloud & Townsend book entitled Boundaries.  The two gals who teach with me had debated about if we should do the specific chapter because it was on Marriage.  Most of the guys in our class aren't married. I'd argued that most of the guys had children and some relationship with their mom as well as that most of them would want to get married some day.  I figured that many would find it a topic of great interest.  It turned out that many of the guys were very into the topic.

There's a kind of awe in the group when anything related to women comes up.  To put it into context: these are mostly 18-23 year old male prisoners with a few, older, mentors mixed in.  They miss female companionship and at the same times have histories of failed relationships.  Many of them know they haven't always treated women right.  They find the ways of women to be a mystery.

Whenever I read that book it hits me anew just how broken we are as people.  How much we need Jesus' grace and healing. I pray that God would use me to help minister His grace to these young men.  I pray that their hearts would be softened and turn to God.  That God would bring healing and that these young men would stay with God when they're released from prison.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Still trying to figure it out
Photo from Sociais & Metodos
So much has happened on the job front.

I met with my old boss and it was a healing encounter.  I actually got to hear those words that we all long for when someone has done us wrong, but rarely get to hear. She apologized and said she'd been wrong.  She even looked a bit misty eyed when she did it.  She talked about that RN who'd talked bad about me, and the other folks that had been part of that group of people.  When she'd worked with them more herself she realized that some of them were lazy and some of them were not emotionally stable or healthy.  Although that same nurse continued to work for the company, my old boss had come to realize that she had problems.  She said she was sorry that it had taken her so long to make it right with me. She talked about the potential job and offered me a large salary plus bonuses to come work with her again.  I left that meeting feeling like I'd finally had the closure that I'd always wanted with her.

Right after that a recruiter contacted me.  Recruiters contact administrators all the time (one of the many side effects of a high turnover job). I didn't initially think much about this one. When she told me the position and company for which she was recruiting, my attitude changed.  It was a company I'd longed to work  for because I greatly admire their clinical stance and commitment to people who have mental illness.  I told her I was super interested and she had that company's regional HR person call and talk with me.  The HR person and I totally hit it off. The HR person set up for me to phone interview with the regional director of operations and the VP of operations.  The phone call with them went well; I was thinking how great it was to talk with people with the same  passion, vision and values as my own.

At that point there were two jobs I was looking at - one where I'd worked before in west LA and one where I'd always longed to work in Long Beach.  Although the Long Beach job was close to a condo my husband owns, neither job was close to where I am currently working and living. I set up to go to both job sites on the same day so I'd just be taking one day off work.

I went to the old job in west LA first.  It was fun to see all the positive changes that have been made.  There were lots of sweet greetings and hugs from the staff who still worked there.  It was a positive experience.  My old boss offered me the job and I asked for 2 days to consider due to the location. I left there thinking how fun it would be to work there again.  The location didn't please me; LA traffic is the worst.  Last time I worked there I had to drive 1.5 hours each way to and from work daily in grueling traffic.  I didn't want to do that again (plus John would never want to buy a home in the type of neighborhood I previously lived in.  It was a bit ghetto). Housing anywhere within an hour drive of west LA is off the charts expensive. I pondered these things as I drove to the next location.

At the Long Beach job I first met in person with the regional HR and 2 operations folks. That went fine.  Then they had the on site clinical and nursing directors tour me around the campus.  I fell in love with the site and all it had to offer clients as well as these two men, they would be great to work with.  Then I went into a room with about 12 site leaders sitting at a table and interviewed.  Typically I hate that kind of thing since I'm basically a shy person.  This time it went great.  I felt at home with these people.  The next day the regional director of operations, the person who would be my boss if I got the job, called me.  She explained that the way they ran the 12 people interview, every person completes a private ballet about their thoughts on the candidate.  She told me that every single person I'd spoken with that day wanted to work with me. I felt great because I'd liked them too and wanted to work with them. She said that the next step was to fly me to their corporate offices to meet with the owner and the president of operations.  She explained that they had to sign off on any administrator hired by the company to manage one of their programs.  She said that the regional HR woman would contact me with potential dates for that interview.

I was torn about my old boss.  I had only asked for 2 days to let her know my decision. I didn't want to keep her hanging. If I did not take the job, she would only have 3 of the original 5 week notice the leaving administrator had given her to find a replacement.  I knew that almost every other administrator would just accept her job offer, and then if the other job came through, tell her that a better offer came up.  That felt wrong to me.  That would leave her in a bad spot.  I prayed about it and decided to just do what seemed to me to be the right thing.  I explained about the other offer and said that she should open up the search because I didn't want her to end up without an administrator.  I said that if the other company didn't come through, and she'd not found someone, that I would still be interested. She seemed angry.  She said something about yes, I did need to tell her, it was not like she just had another administrator in her back pocket.  She stonily asked me why I would want some other company compared to the one she worked for and I explained that it was about the location and the other job was close.  She seemed like she was forcing herself but she did say that she could understand that if a job was closer to a home I already had, in that same situation, she would take the closer job. She told me not to be a stranger and to stay in touch.

When I spoke with the regional HR person for the Long Beach job she said something a bit odd.  She said that the regional operations person would prep me for that interview and that the two people I would be interviewing with were "not like us".  At the time she said that I felt gratified that she already considered me part of her group context. When the woman who I hoped would become my boss and I spoke I asked her a question.  I asked if they had sent any other candidates for this position up to corporate offices.  She admitted that they had, but that those people had not had my experience with inpatient or running a building that had a union in it.

The flight to the corporate offices was only a couple of hours.  I had my first experience using a taxi to get myself to the interview.  The interview was not comfortable.  I didn't get any vibes like they loved me but these two women were the type that were not easy to read.  Two days later the regional HR called me and said that she was so sorry, she could not offer me the job.  I felt so sad. I'd really wanted that job and all the doors had seemed to be opening.

Exactly one week had passed since I'd contacted my old boss. I texted her.  She texted me back.  She'd already put a new plan into place. The program director at the site wanted to do an administrator-in-training gig so he could sit for the state and federal tests to obtain his license.  The administrator from another building within an hour of that one would hang her license there and preceptor him in the program.  He'd learn to be the administrator there and when he was all done he'd become their administrator.  I actually believe it is a good plan.  That man had worked there for 12 years and had a life long commitment to the location. He's young and has a wife and 2 small children.  This is good for him and the building.

Now I went within 2 weeks from a certainty that I would have one good job or another, to no new job. Wow

I'm perplexed.  I don't think I did anything wrong.  It feels like I have bad outcomes.  This is one of those times when I have to choose to believe the truth - that my life is in God's hands and obedience to Him is what matters most.  I trust God.  I know He has good plans for me.  I have no idea why this all happened but I can choose peace and happiness knowing that He is in control.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Unexpected encounter

Things that happen in life never cease to amaze me
Photo from Aging Care
Several years back I was fired from a job.  I'd worked for that company for 7 years and then quit because I re-married and moved from the site location.  A few months later they'd asked me to help them out on an interim basis and I did for a few months.  Then a few months later they'd asked me to become the administrator at a location that was within 45 minutes of my new location.  One year later I was fired from that location.  It broke my heart. I'd never been fired before.  It hurt a lot.  I had to work hard to get past that and live in forgiveness and just let it go.

This week the woman who'd been my boss at that job, the one who'd fired me, contacted me. She wrote on my most recent facebook post that she'd sent me her home and cell numbers via a message on LinkedIn.  I called her.  The man who'd taken over for me when I quit due to moving had handed in his resignation.  He'd been at that location for close to 8 years.  The location staff were of course upset.  When she'd asked them who the administrator was before him, they'd named me.  When she asked the 3 department directors who'd been there since then if they wanted me back, they'd said yes.  So she wanted to talk with me about going back to work there.

It seems strange to me that someone would fire me and then call me up and want to hire me again.  Back when I was fired I didn't think I deserved it.  Afterward I looked at my performance and found ways I could have improved, but I was still a good administrator.  We were meeting budget and didn't have any problems with regulatory agencies. Patients were fine. None of the patients' families had any complaints. The problem was that the resource RN on my boss' consulting team didn't like me.  If I'm honest, I didn't have a very high opinion of that RN.  She didn't seem very professional, helpful or hard working. But she was both professional and work friends with my boss.

That RN is still on the consulting team (not to be mean but I don't think a person such as her could get a better job).

I'm meeting with my former boss this coming Friday at the Starbucks down the street from her home.  I'm praying about the meeting.  I'm seeking God's direction.

That facility is an administrator's dream in many ways.  It's a five star facility. The same administrator has been there for the past 8 years - a rare occurrence in our industry. I always loved that program.

I don't live anywhere near that facility.   The job would pay a lot and John is willing to buy a house together in that area.  It's a super expensive area but I could always buy a place, work there 10 years, and make money from selling the home.  It's an area where houses continue to increase in value.  But that RN is still there.  Perhaps I could be wise and avoid her. 

At least I feel validated by her wanting to talk to me about working for her again.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Trying to process an uncomfortable situation

I had an uncomfortable experience with my youngest son Daniel last night. 

We'd met for dinner after work and then were going to go back to his house so I could see his new home (he's renting a place with 3 other graduate students & one of those student's wife).  Before we got in our cars, he seemed awkward, and when he spoke to me his voice was a bit shaky.  It felt like he was saying something he needed to say, but was anxious and uncomfortable about it.  It seemed like he felt he needed to do it. I could tell he'd thought about what he said a lot.

He told me that he does not want to have me try to give him advice regarding work-life balance, universalism, or who is in the body of Christ.

I was surprised because I thought I'd gone out of my way to make sure that I don't push my beliefs off on him. As I thought about it I rememberd one recent situation. I had told him that I believed he acted very pushy and wrong toward a friend of his who was Catholic.  I let him know that I didn't think it was a good thing that he kept showing his friend "what the Bible says" about things that were different than what the Catholic church teaches.  His friend was agreeing with Daniel but it was causing his friend problems with his parents.  This particular friend was the kind of person who would be swayed drastically by the fact that Daniel believed something. I'd shared with Daniel that the stream of Christianity is wide and there is latitude in what people think.  Of course we all see it the way we do, but at the end of the day, it's all about God and His greatness.  We can count on His grace where we missed it.

Of course I will seek to be careful and not talk about these things in any way. I respect Daniel greatly and never want to act in any way that makes him feel disrespected.

Yet, I find myself concerned for Daniel. 

During the past few months I've noticed that he's becoming what I would call a rigid fundamentalist.  This makes me sad because one of the biggest gifts I've always felt that Daniel gives to those around him is that they can  just be who they are when they are with him.  He's had friends of all ages, intellectual abilities (from genius friends to mentally challenged), sexual persuasion,  cultures, and walks of life.  My experience in life is that rigid fundamentalists often leave the rest of us feeling not good enough when around them.  I also feel like they often miss out on the joy and grace that is so abundant in life.  I don't want Daniel to end up like that missionary who asked Jayne to marry him in the book Jane Eyre.

I've also noticed over the last year that Daniel is extremely intense regarding his beliefs about helping our fellow Christians who are in need and being persecuted.  It is to the point where he doesn't seem to feel that just relaxing, having fun, or spending money on yourself is ever OK. I've tried to encourage him that our God created beauty and joy for us to experience.  That pleasure is a good thing, it just can't be the focus of our lives.

I know he's young and at that stage of figuring out what life is all about for himself.  I pray that he gain a balance.  I pray that I don't cross what he believes are his boundaries in these areas.

I am grateful that I have a 23-year old son who is so passionate about the Lord.  I'm grateful that he works so hard and has now been given grants so he can pursue his PhD in chemical engineering and environmental science. I admire the way he lives frugally so he can give to others.

But like all mothers, I want the best for him.

So I pray.

I also ask God to help me be sensitive to his feelings and to not cross any lines.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Heart Boundaries
Photo from Mindful
There was one young man who really got to me at CRC last night. 

He is all tatted up. His head is shaven and he has this tattoo on top that looks like some kind of seal. He has what looks like a red lipstick kiss mark tattooed on his cheek, he has something written in cursive on his head above his ear.  He has a bunch of other tattoos all over.  It's the first thing you notice about him.  He also has a serious countenance.  He is Latin and your first impression of him is that he is a gang banger.

When we were in our small group talking, I was impressed with him because early on in the discussion he brought up something he'd read that week.  I'm always impressed in life by people who read. Throughout the group discussion he was well spoken and voiced ideas that will serve him well in life.  It was obvious that he gets the concept of it not mattering what other people do or don't do because you have to choose who you are going to be.

At one point he said that people see him and probably think negatively based on his appearance but that, when he starts talking they see that he's got much more too him.  That's exactly how it was for me.  I find myself praying for this young man.

I pray that God would bring him close to Himself.  That God would prosper him and use him to help others while he's on the inside.  That he would be able to establish a healthy relationship with his child's mother. That he'd be blessed with a job when he gets out.  That he would become an inspiration to others and be used to God's glory. That he would be a father who starts a new legacy in this generation.

It seems to me that God's using these young men at CRC to get to my heart.  To enlarge the boundaries of my heart.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A bit of work craziness
Graphic taken from Bing's Pinterest
I've noticed during the 2 weeks since I started back at Rockcreek that things are different than when I worked here before.  There's a serous lack of employees who can drive the company van, and major employee attendance problems.

This means that just about every day I'm getting call off calls from employees at one of the  3 homes with which I work.  It seems like there's always a huge struggle to find coverage.  Most frequently these call offs are for the PM and NOC shifts.  I've had face to face meetings with the staff at all 3 houses and one of the major issues discussed was attendance.  The ironic thing is that not everyone showed up at these trainings. I've been catching up with those who didn't show and talking about what was discussed at those meetings as well as explaining that attendance at trainings is just like attendance at the job- a person can't be a no call no show, they must call and let me know why they can't make it and get an authorization from me to miss.

Due to the driving situation, last Tuesday was very difficult for me.  I'd worked all day and then rushed to CRC to do the class.  As I left CRC I was happy and looking forward to going home and relaxing.  I checked my work phone and found messages regarding a client who had to go to the ER because he is non-verbal and was limping so we needed to ensure nothing was broken.  I sat in the parking lot of CRC and made calls for about an hour trying to get someone to come in and take the client to the ER.  I then realized that there was not anyone to get, so I went in and took the client to the ER.  Fortunately CRC is only about 15 miles from the house/facility where that clients lives. I didn't get back to the facility until 5:30AM.  Then I drove the 45 minutes it took to get home, took a bath, and went to bed for 1 1/2 hrs.  I then had to get up and get ready and be in to work for one of those house meetings, followed by a meeting with a day program and social worker about a client which did not go well.  I finally managed to get out of there by 2:30PM on that day, but still got calls and texts the rest of the day.  That whole situation was a bit too intense for me.  I need to get some time off work each day and be able to sleep for at least 5 hours. This is a salary job so I don't make any extra money if I have to do these kinds of things. I am OK if this doesn't happen but a couple of times a year, but if it happens all the time I feel that it's just too much. 

I almost had to go in and cover  a NOC shift last night (which is Saturday night and I'm theoretically off on weekends). In order to avoid going in to work myself, I told the staff person on duty  that she'd have to work a double.  In health care in general there is the understanding that if your replacement staff does not come in, and coverage is not found, that you must stay.  The staff person was upset at me and told her residential manager (RM) this morning that she was sick because she is diabetic and did not get to take her medicine.  I texted her and asked if she was OK.  I also informed her in the text that I didn't know that her working would cause her to miss taking medication.  I said that if I'd known I would have worked. She texted back that I knew she had diabetes.  I agreed that she had told me that last week but that all diabetics are different and I didn't know that her staying would cause her to miss medication doses.  In all honesty I am not sure if she did miss a medication does because most diabetics take an AM and PM dose; not medication in the middle of the night.  But still...

I pray that this does not become a regular event.  I pray for health of the employees at the facilities I cover.  I pray that there would be a spirit of responsibility and team work.

On this past Thursday the woman who is the program manager (PM) for my homes came to me.  She said that the other woman who is PM for the other 13 homes was quitting and Friday was her last day.  She said that she really likes working with me and wants a PM with whom she can partner and would really like to work with me.  I responded that I really like working with her too and, no matter what, we'll work together.  She'll either be my PM for these 3 houses or we'll be PMs together.  I prayed about it.  Every day I work for this company I want to be excellent and work as unto the Lord.  My main over riding feeling is that I want to fix problems, make things better, and be a blessing where I am at.  By God's grace I've developed some skills and have some knowledge that can be helpful in this setting. 

Friday the executive director (ED), PM and I met.  I basically told the ED that 2 of these 3 homes have huge problems and the good 1 has conditions out that we're seeking licensing to put back in. If they want to keep me there so that I can be of help in fixing all that, I'm good with it.  I told the ED that I know she's been telling me that for the first time she can remember they actually have several  Q applications (I am working as a Q right now); that they have more qualified  applicants then openings. So if she wants me to be a PM, I can do that.  There is a east and west side PM and I live closer to the east side homes. However, I was a PM for the west side homes close to 3 years ago. I told the ED that I could be a PM, if that's what they wanted, for east or west sides.  I told them that I just want to work where I'm of greatest service.

The PM position pays about 20% more than the Q.  They both pay terrible for all the required education, knowledge, skills and work they take. I love the ED, the Rockcreek faciliteis, and this industry; which is part of why I keep coming back to work here. I feel OK about the fact that I only stay 1 -2 years when I work for them because I take no training, jump right into the work, and make things better.  I also feel OK because it's always just too  much, it interferes with the ability to have a life outside of work.  The 2 times I've left before, I gave a month's notice.

The PM and ED decided that I should be the west side PM.  I think that the PM was very happy because she is currently working as the east side PM and the east side, for all it's problems, is not as troubled as the west side. I recognize that it's going to be a big headache but am excited that I'll get to train a brand new Q. I really enjoy teaching and mentoring employees in this field. I feel like it puts all my experience to use.

I'm a bit afraid of all the staffing challenges and the possibility of having to come in and cover shifts or take clients to the hospital during my off time.  I have prayed that God would use me to His glory, so I'm believing that this will be part of that.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Tidbits from class at CRC
Photo from The Preacher's Word
One of the things that really blesses me at CRC is the young men who are so eager to change. Who are trying to learn what being a new person looks like in day to day life.  Who want to have better lives and are working to make that real.

There was a discussion during part of the break out portion of class this week that I found interesting.  One African American man who looked like he was 15 years old (but he had to be at least 18 since this is prison), who I'll call K, asked me some questions. Another couple of African American young men who I'll call E and T joined the conversation. E and T seem to be in their mid twenties. The conversation went something like this:

K: Does it always pay to be a nice guy? I mean, do you really do better in life or do people just take advantage of you?

Me: Wow, that's a great question. Because you know, sometimes it doesn't seem to pay off; not in the short run.  Sometimes it does seem like  you do all the right things and don't look like you prosper.  But since you asked me, I'll tell you what I believe.  I believe that whatever  you put out there in life is what you ultimately get back.  As Christians, we call this "sowing and reaping", Hindus call it karma.  But, whatever you want to call it, it is a true phenomena.

E: Didn't say anything but was watching me very intently as I talked about this and was nodding in agreement. 
T: I know that's true because when I was on the outside, I tried to be generous.  Once my girlfriend and I saw these homeless people and I gave them money.  I saw that they didn't have any shoes so when I got some new shoes I brought them my old ones.  Sometimes I'd bring them food. During that time I got a good job and made lots of money.

K: But what about the guys here who're always up in my stuff? Who mess with me.  Do I have to be good to them?  Won't they just take more?

Me: Have you taken the boundaries class yet?

K: Shakes his head  no

Me: That class will last several weeks and I think you'll really benefit.  In it we talk about ways to be a good person but set boundaries in our lives. Being kind and good does not mean letting people get over on you or take advantage.
E: Oh no, you can't be letting people mess with your stuff up in here.  There are some people who if your soul was a real thing that you could put in your pocket, they'd even steal that.  You have to have boundaries and guard yourself and your stuff. [On an aside note, isn't E poetic with that whole thing about if you could put your soul in your pocket, they'd take it.  That's profound.]

T: Looks directly at K and smiles.  Now I know what you're talking about.  That's something different from doing right and being good like we're talking about.  Those types of guys, you can't let them mess with you or take your stuff.  You only have your little bed and your few things, if you let them start taking stuff from you,  you'll have other problems. 

Later during this break out session, as we were going over the homework we came to a section with Bible verses where the guys were supposed to look them up and write about what the verses meant to them.  The verse was Romans 13:1. This time T and E had these things to say:

E: When I read that verse I thought about how it means that God has let every authority be here.  That means that since God has let me be in prison, that even the warden and the guards and the rules, God wants me to obey them. [If you understand prison culture, you'll understand that this is a huge revelation for E.  In prison culture the warden & guards are "the man" and looked at as the enemy.]

T: Yeah, like doing good at my job IS about working for myself to pay my rent and put food in my refrigerator, like I talked about earlier.  But it's also about doing good for God.  He's our boss over everything and all the other bosses.

Me: I so much feel that way T.  I've had jobs where I've worked real hard and the owner didn't appreciate it at all.  But I would remind myself that I didn't really work for the owner, that everything I do is for God.  Because He's been so good to me and given me so much.  I can never be anything but grateful.

E. Me too.  God's done so much for me.

I'm just so blessed by these young men's hearts.  The culture of people who end up in prison is called anti-social.  Anti-social culture is all about yourself, looking out for number 1 and not really respecting anyone or anything.  Rehabilitation programs try to teach what is called pro-social behavior; behavior that a person engages in to benefit both themselves and others.  Pro-social behavior respects authority.  Those who work in the criminology field know that changing anti-social values and mind set is not easy.  That's a huge part of why around 70% of released prisoners end up back in incarceration within 3 years.  It's such a blessing to me to watch God working in some of these young men's hearts.  To see them change and grow.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Unexpected Prayers

I have a confession to make - typically I'm not very good at prayer, I tend to feel like I'm "not doing anything" when I'm praying. Of course I know with my head that this is not true, but it's still how I most frequently feel.  But lately I find myself drawn to prayer.  Prayers of gratitude and prayers for the ministry at CRC.  Specific young men periodically come to my mind and I find myself praying for them.

Picture from Streams of the river
Picture from Streams of the River

Friday, May 19, 2017

Rockcreek Again

Later in the day this past Tuesday I saw that Rockcreek was advertising to hire a QIDP/Administrator. I've been thinking and praying about if I want to go back to work there. I've never felt totally "finished" there.  I love that company and those people. So I went ahead and applied again.

Wednesday morning Kimberly, Rockcreek's executive director, called me.  She told me that they actually have 3 Q openings but are in the process of hiring 2 Qs.  She said that neither of them have been promised any exact location and I could have my pick of any of the 3 locations and "start tomorrow" if I wanted.  She told me that she had 2 current, somewhat stable, program managers right now but if one of those slots were to come open I could certainly have the position (Qs supervise 3 homes and program managers supervise 4 or 5 Qs). She was eager for me to work for them again.

I told her I was happy to be a Q.  I mentioned that what I love about being a Q is getting to be around the people who live in the homes, that many truly wonderful people work for Rockcreek, and that if I do my job well I can really make life better for the people who live in the homes. I didn't say it to Kimberly, but one of the other things I like about working at Rockcreek is that so many of the Qs, house managers, Kimberly, and the HR director are all people that I like on a personal level.  The kind of people who it's fun and easy to talk with - I just find them interesting.  The kind of people I'd actually like to even hang out with in my personal time.

I didn't need to mention to Kimberly what we both know are the downfalls of being a Q.  It pays poorly, it's always a challenge to keep staff, you're on call 24/7 and get called a lot when you're off work. If you really have staffing shortages, sometimes you even have to cover for an line staff and work the floor. It is due to the downfalls that I've left working for Rockcreek on 2 other occasions.  The first time I worked as a Q for a bit over 1 1/2 years and then left to go try being an HSA in an immigration detainment center.  About 2 1/2 years later I worked for them for a year as a program manager.  I left that time because Rhea offered me a position as a nursing home administrator. Rhea had worked for me as a nursing director back in 2004 - 2006. She'd become a clinical director for a company that owned a few nursing homes and needed an administrator in the area where I lived.

On the good side it feels great to be wanted and appreciated.  I'm grateful to get a job. I know that I can go in there and do a good job for them and make things better.  However, to be candid, I'm struggling with my ego. I'm the only person I know with a license to be a nursing home administrator that would work as a Q or program manager in this type of setting. The pay is less than half what I'd make as a nursing home administrator. It's much less prestigious.  But I don't actually need more money.  It's most likely good for me to work hard at a more humble position.  It affords me the opportunity to practice having a servant's heart and humble attitude.


Photo from Nelly Cherry
Sometimes there's a moment in time that becomes fixed in your mind.

There were a few such moments during our last class at CRC.

The men have a workbook through which we are working.  Each week they receive a chapter that they work through on their own prior to class. The class includes 35 men and is set up so that there's a general opening introduction regarding the chapter we're working on that week. Then we break up into 3 smaller groups to allow for more intimate discussion.

When part of the discussion involved stuff that happened during their childhoods, I was moved by how truly terrible things had been for some of these guys. One man talked about how, starting when he was 6 years old, he had to get the money he needed if he expected to eat that day.  Another mentioned how there'd never been any kind of routine in his house since life had revolved around his mom doing whatever it took for her to get drugs. As I listened to bits and pieces of the nightmare experiences that comprised many of these young men's childhoods, I couldn't help but think why would we be surprised these guys ended up involved in criminal activities?

Several guys really grabbed my heart with their comments during our discussion about long term goals. Here are some of those comments that got me:

* "I feel kind of funny saying this and you might think I'm weird, but one of my long term goals is to not have a kid with anyone unless I'm married to her.  I already have one child but I'm not going to have any more unless I'm married to the mother before we have children.  My dad must have something like 20 children wandering around with lots of different women, I don't want to be like that."

* "You know, my dad's been in and out of prison my whole life.  This last time he's been out the longest he's ever been out - two years.  Everyone says I'm just gonna be like my dad, but I'm not.  When I get out my goal is to never come back to prison. I want to be different."

* There was a very quiet young man who I had to encourage to speak. He tentatively said, "I'm not sure if this counts as a goal, but I want to get my GED." When he made this announcement a few of the other inmates made comments such as "that will only be the beginning. You can do that and then keep going", "way to go, good for you", and a few clapped for him.

I was hit again, as I was last week, with that pervasive feeling emanating from many of the young men in that room. It was Desire.  Desire to change.  Anxiety about if they would be able to.  A bit of puzzlement as to how to really do it.

It is so rare in life that I come across such sincerity of heart in people who want to become different, who want to be better. I can't express what a joy it is to get to teach people with this attitude.

I pray for each of these men and look forward to seeing how God's gonna work in them.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Lunch with Pam

I'm really rather selfish and tend to put myself in the middle of life, as if everything revolves around me.

Perhaps this is why I am so surprised that I enjoyed the three hours I spend with Pam today.  We went to this great fish taco place that has sort of a fast food place, but almost a restaurant, kind of set up.  We went after the lunch rush and there were lots of empty spots by the time we finished eating; so we sat drinking tea and talking for quite awhile. Then I took her with me to go buy some herbs for a hanging herb garden I'm setting up.  Pam used to have a huge herb garden when both my parents were alive and they had a ranch out in the country.  She's into herbs and knowledgeable regarding them.  It was a entirely pleasurable time.

Here I'm thinking I'm doing this thing for her, but it's me who ends up getting blessed.  Honestly didn't see that one coming.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

First time

Image result for prison ministry
Photo from ICIBC
Last night was my first night actually getting to go to the prison and volunteer with Prison Fellowship ministry. I found that these young men truly grabbed my heart. One of the things that kind of surprised me was how comfortable I was in that setting.

I'm volunteering with a youth offender program that pulls young men ages 18-24 out from the rest of the population.  They have a few older guys mixed in with these ones to provide leadership.   Maybe it's because I have 3 sons in their twenties, I don't know, but these guys just felt like kids to me.  My heart went out to them. They may look all "bad" and tatooed up, but they feel like people trying to figure out how to do life differently.

I want to be a part of helping them do that.

We just started a class about job seeking.  I recognize that this is a real issue for these guys and that it's gonna be hard for them to get jobs when they get out.  I'm already praying for them. I also pray that God would help me remember all of their names (there were 26 there last night and a few got turned away.  I emailed the other volunteer about wanting to set up more chairs for next time because the prison staff sponsor told me that we can have up to 35 and next week is their last chance to get into the class). I pray that I can be an example of God's love for them and that God'll work what He wants in these men's hearts through this class.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A more global perspective
Photo from North Central College
I try to live life daily with an attitude of gratitude, but sometimes I may not appreciate how good I have it.

There's nothing like gaining a more global perspective to bring my blessed state into a more clear perspective.

Here's a few facts that have hit me as I've been reading What can I do? by David Livermore:
  • 20% of the world's population owns 74% of the world's financial assets
  • If you earn $50,000 a year, you're among the top 1% of the richest people in our world
  • If you earn $20,000 a year, you're among the top 11% of the richest people in our world
  • Just under 1% of the world's population (WP) dies from hunger every year 
  • Half of the WP is malnourished
  • Around 1/3 of the WP doesn't have access to a safe water supply
  • Almost 1/3 of the WP has TB (BTW: In the U.S. TB is fairly easily treated by taking several drugs for 6 to 9 months).
  • Drug trafficking is the largest organized crime ring in the global community 
  • Second to drug trafficking is human trafficking
  • 10% of the WP controls enough explosive power in nuclear weapons that they could blow up the entire civilization many times over
  • The Christian faith is estimated to be growing at a rate of 6.9% a year.  The largest portion of this growth is occurring in Latin America, Southern Africa, and Southern Asia.
Sometimes this type of information can be overwhelming.

I was encouraged by Livermore's referring to some information found through Global Perspective Inventory research. Their research found that individuals who understand global issues and see themselves as global citizens most often feel a need to give back to society and work for the rights of others.

As I'm reading this book I pray that God will show me ways to integrate my life, work, and giftings with ways to address these global issues.

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'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
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


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


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


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.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Realizing powerlessness

rope You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope with less of you there is more if god and his rule:
Photo from Makeover
One of my favorite scriptures is the portion of Jesus' famous sermon on the mount that we refer to as the beatitudes found in Matthew 5:1-12. I'm especially delighted by the way Peterson paraphrases the first verse in The Message: 

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you  there is more of God and his rule.

My first marriage was to an alcoholic.  I became rather crazy trying to  control that poor man's drinking.  I finally got myself into Al-Anon. I'll  forever be grateful for Al-Anon because it was there that I learned about 12 step programs.  The first step that they talk about is accepting the fact that you are powerless.

The importance of recognizing my own powerlessness is the foundation for life.

When speaking of solitude and silence Dallas Willard once said that "it is a fallacy to think that one just needs more time. Unless a deeper solution is found, "more time" will just fill up the same way as the time we already have.  The way to liberation and rest lies through a decision and practice. The decision is to release the world and your fate, including your reputation and success, into the hands of God."  Willard goes on to observe that "Sin, Paul tells us, "was in the world", even before the law came. It forms us internally and pressures us externally. Hence we must learn to choose things that meet with God's actions of grace to break us out of the system. These things are disciplines of life in the spirit, well known from Christian history but much avoided and misunderstood.  For those who do not understand our desperate situation, these disciplines look strange or even harmful.  But they are absolutely necessary for those who would find rest for their soul in God and not live the distracted existence Pascal so accurately portrays. Solitude and silence are the most radical of the spiritual disciples because they most directly attack the sources of human misery and wrongdoing.  To be in solitude is to choose to do nothing. For extensive periods of time. All accomplishment is given up. Silence is required to complete solitude, for until we enter quietness, the world still lays hold of us. When we go into solitude and silence we stop making demands on God. It is enough that God is God and we are his. We learn we have a soul, that God is here, and that the world is my Father's world."

I appreciate Ruth Haley Barton's comments concerning the practices of solitude and silence.  In her book Invitation to Solitude and Silence she talks about her inner demons of the desire to perform, to be seen as competent, productive, culturally relevant and balanced as major obstacles to the practice of solitude and silence. I struggle with these same issues.  To "do nothing" seems crazy.  I feel anxious even thinking about it.  I get busy thinking about it to avoid doing it.

But...the desire for more is still there.  The fact that I can't seem to work out what to be doing in my life right now exists.  In my application for 150 different jobs that have not resulted in employment, I see the fact that I'm not making "it" happen.

Seeking Solitude and Silence

I really like this one. It seems lonely, but its how it was supposed to be.:
Photo from gentleman essentials
Blaise Pascal noted that "all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own room", he found that the reason for this inability is "the natural poverty of our feeble and mortal condition, so miserable that nothing can comfort us when we think of it closely". Pascal said that people turn to diversion to distract us from ourselves.  He explained that "Hence it comes to people so much love noise and stir; hence it comes that the prison is so horrible a punishment; hence it comes that the pleasure of solitude is a thing incomprehensible".

This seems true of the world I see around me. In the culture around me I see a constant addiction to cell  phones and listening devices.  When I've traveled and shared rooms with people from work, I've found that it is common practice to never allow there to be any quiet; that people turn on the TV when they enter a room even though they're not watching it.  People tell me that they do this all the time at home.  This drives me crazy.  Aside from work or to obtain information, I don't use my cell phone much.  I adore long walks at the beach, or any beautiful outdoor place, without any kind of listening device.  I want to just drink in and enjoy the silence.

Pascal also observed that people are driven to diversion and develop the confused idea that rest is attained through excitement. He wrote that people "always to fancy that the satisfaction which they do not have will come to them if, by surmounting whatever difficulties confront them they can thereby open the door to rest".  I can see that in the frenzied vacation pursuits of so many.  Not that exciting vacations in and of themselves are wrong; in fact, that might be very right for some one.  It's just that I don't think these excitement laden activities will produce the peace, connection to God, and rest for the soul. As long as exciting vacations are pursued for what they are, they can be great.

Pascal believed that people have "another secret instinct, a remnant of greatness of our original nature, which teaches that happiness in reality consists only in rest, and not being stirred up". When I think about these words of Pascal I'm reminded of these Bible elements:
  • In Genesis we're told that man was created in God's image
  • In the Garden of Eden there was not sin and man had perfect communication with God
  • In the old testament I read about the sabbath and a rest.  In the Exodus story God provided manna for His people and they only collected enough for their daily needs.  But on the 6th day they collected enough for that day plus the sabbath rest day.
  • In the new testament Jesus made His famous statement in Matthew 11:28 - 29 about how He'll give us rest.

I  recognize that, although I'm not as addicted to the noise agents of my culture, I have my own barrier.  It's something I developed during my lonely childhood in my crazy family.  I write scripts in my head.  Sometimes it's about what could or might happen in my own life, but frequently it's a story about someone else in a life with such and such going on.  It's like I read a fiction book of my own making in my head while I'm walking, cooking, or engaging in some other life activity which doesn't require concentration. This thing that I do isn't bad in and of itself, but sometimes I use it as a barrier from the pain or questions in my head that I don't know what to do with.  Sometimes I use it as an escape.

 I think that Pascal, and all the other mystic and contemplative writers, were onto something.

So, it is with this in mind that I've determined to embark upon a quest to understand and implement what many refer to as spiritual disciplines of solitude and silence.

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