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Listen With Your Eyes

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Listen With Your Eyes

We all long to be seen. You can’t see in the dark. We need to turn the light on.

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STAGES – Living Gracefully with Aging Parents

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Stages Final

Continuing on with our STAGES series, a dear friend, Terri Fullerton, is sharing a piece of her life and heart with us in this post. When I read this on her blog, Conversations at the Table, I knew it had to be included here. She graciously agreed to share it with us. I know this will resonate with so many of us and encourage us to live gracefully with our aging parents. I hope my kids will read this one and tuck it away for future reference. I’m already praying for an extra measure of grace for them as they deal with me as I age. 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing this, Terri! It is a pleasure to have you join us on EPFH today.


Living Gracefully with Aging Parents, by Terri Fullerton

Imagine that you are given a stack of index cards in your young adult life. Your task is to write one answer per card. These are your Life Index Cards.

indexcards

Who do I love?

What do I believe?

What do I value?

What are my dreams?

What makes me feel alive?

What are my hobbies?

What are my roles?

Where do I enjoy serving?

What is my daily routine?

The answers change throughout your life because your interests are fluid. Something ignites a new passion. Seasons of life refine values and nurture growth. Deep pain and anguish unearth valuable gems of clarity and maturity. Getting older is similar to the art of photography.

Growth teaches you when to use both a wide-angle lens to capture the bigger picture and the telephoto lens to zoom in on specifics.

Sometimes we stumble through this process. Our mistakes provide rich opportunities to clarify some of our values, like ‘What is the loving, graceful thing to do in this situation?’

By the time you reach your 50’s, you have seen the aging of elderly parents or  your spouse’s parents. You may fight this and deflect the issues. Be aware of the quaking in your own soul. For many of us, losing our parents is a deep unspoken fear we do not face very well.

At first their aging is like small, slow waves. You see a parent try to recall a specific year or word they have used lots of times. Sometimes it catches you off guard. You may laugh with them or get irritated, but hopefully you offer a hug or a smile. I was standing in the kitchen with my father-in-law a few years and I asked him what he had for breakfast. “Fruit and… oh, what is that word?”  “Describe it to me.”  “Well, it’s round and you toast it. It has a hole in it.” “A bagel!” I exclaimed. “Well, you know, you are not a bagel maker and you don’t use that word every day. I can see why that one may get hard to retrieve.” We laughed and hugged each other.

I wish it stayed this simple but it doesn’t. It seems like the mind and body of an older person is like a jigsaw puzzle with an ever-growing number of missing pieces. I don’t know if it’s possible, but maybe we can be a living puzzle piece and remind our parents of the things they can’t quite figure out.      

Remember the Life Index Cards? Unlike the seasons of adding to them or refining them, aging is the process of letting them go.

Energy levels decline and reduce their hobbies. Physical challenges decrease the ways they serve. Gardening and taking care of their home of almost 50 years becomes too difficult. Their connection to their memories is like an unpredictable tide. Recalling memories, making meals, taking the boat out on the lake to fish become frustrating tasks. What was once second nature becomes a complicated process.

No wonder it is so hard. No wonder older people sometimes hold on tighter to things they need to relinquish. I imagine it is really difficult to watch your hand of index cards get smaller.

I am reminded of Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. In this book, he chronicles his experiences in Auschwitz during World War 2. A turning point for him was when he started thinking about what the Nazi’s could not take away from him; namely the way he chose to respond to what happened to him at the concentration camp. I wonder what cannot be taken away from aging parents. Which cards will remain?

There are some things they get to keep like their faith and the incredible legacy of love they have birthed and invested in over their lifetime. Help them to hold on tight to these cards. And if, for some reason, your aging parents drop them, be willing to pick them up and try to put them back in their hand.

~Terri

photoTerri is a wife, mother of two adult daughters and perpetual dog owner. She loves writing, reading, photography, hiking, snowshoeing, traveling and collecting fossils. She values questions that lead to deeper questions as they cultivate the soil for deeper roots of faith. Terri is a mentor at FaithWorks where she also leads Bible studies. She rotates teaching a Bible Study at the Haskell Detention Center and Jail. Terri is a recent graduate of WritersBootCamp led by Margaret Feinberg and Jonathan Merritt. You can follow her blog at terrifullerton.com.


Other posts in the STAGES series include:

The Introduction
I Thought I Loved You Then

STAGES – The Introduction

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I’m currently going through a doozy of a life stage. At my age, I’ve gone through a few of those. Some not so doozy-like, which I should be more grateful for. Rarely do we find our lives rockin’ the comfort zone. I remember one time in particular, somewhere around our 15th or so anniversary, that my husband and I were in “sigh” mode reveling in the moment of peace and calm. It didn’t last for long, but it was nice there for a few months. Then on to the next stage. Most of the time we are in a stage or transitioning from one stage to another. We can take little vacations from the stage or transition, and those vacations are often necessary, but we can’t hide from it forever. Life happens, right?

You’ve heard it said that “if you’re not growing, you’re not going” or this one, “if you’re not trying, you’re dying”. Well, the truth is that living in a comfort zone is well, not living. It’s not where life happens. Life happens when we step outside of our comfort zone and take risks and move forward, even if we’re only stumbling forward.

Regardless of whether we’re going and growing or dying or trying, on some level, we’re moving forward. It’s just the way life goes. We are born, we start school, we become teenagers, we may go to college, we may get married, we may become parents, we go through physical and hormonal changes, our kids get married, we become empty nesters or retire from our jobs (which is essentially the same thing only one gets a nice watch and a party), we become grandparents, our parents age and we might become caregivers for them, we may be in that sandwich stage of being parents to our kids and our parents, our parents may need help beyond what we can give them… then there are transitions from each of these stages to the next. And sometimes some of these stages get all stacked on top of one another or we go through a season of immense pain during any particular stage and it seems like we’ll never make it out alive.

Here on EPFH, we’re beginning a series called “STAGES“. Pretty original, huh? Hey, while going through stages is not simple, at least the title can be. The series will continue on until we run out of life stages or people who want to share them. The plan is to offer a few each month, in no certain order, sprinkled in with our other great posts about other great stories. Our amazing contributors and some phenomenal guest posters will be sharing bits of their STAGES stories that they have either made it through or are currently making it through.

Stages Final

The STAGES series will be all about “the passing on of love… one toe tickle at a time”. Our desire is for you to walk away from reading these posts with a sense of hope that you are not alone. That you are not crazy. That you can indeed survive. Because someone else has. And they did not go crazy. They actually lived to write about it! As this image depicts, we want you to feel like your great grandfather tickled your toes and passed on some kind of wisdom and love through the point of contact – and maybe even make you giggle. But a few tears will be okay too.

 When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” 1 Corinthians 13 (The Message)

We can’t stay infants forever. We grow as we go. Our desire is to grow together. To encourage each other along. Sometimes we get so involved in our own life that we can’t see what’s around us. Sometimes we’re squinting through the fog of our stage so tightly that we can’t see others around us who want to help. Who can help. Who want to love. We hope we can do that for each other here.

We hope you’ll enjoy this series. This, of course, is the first installment but in the future, if you’d like to read more, just go to the search field on the sidebar and type in “STAGES“. We count it a privilege that you would allow us to be a part of your journey. As always, the stories we share here are shared in hopes that they might encourage you along in yours.

~Andrea & the EPFH Team

This Is the Church

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This is the Church

This is the Church.

Forgive me for taking pictures during church but it was a sacred moment that I had to permanently capture. It needed to be more than a mental memory because those memories (at my age) are all too fleeting these days.

This is about a woman who was sitting in church alone… with tear-stained cheeks and a used up tissue. 

 

 

This is about a woman who was alone. Until she wasn’t.

 

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Useless Fires

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altar sacrifice“Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands”. Malachi 1:10 NIV

“Why doesn’t one of you just shut the Temple doors and lock them? Then none of you can get in and play at religion with this silly, empty-headed worship. I am not pleased. The God-of-the-Angel-Armies is not pleased. And I don’t want any more of this so-called worship! Malachi 1:10 The Message


Well…. anyone who has ever said the Bible doesn’t read clear can’t use that argument here. I’m not sure how God could have been any more clear on this matter of giving our best sacrifice. He did not mince words.

“I am not pleased with you,
says the Lord Almighty.” 

Yikes!

There have been plenty of times that I’ve given less than my best. Only we know if we have or haven’t offered our best sacrifice and the Lord Almighty judged the intentions of their physical offerings at the altar then but He judges the intention of our heart offering now. Since we don’t offer animal sacrifices anymore, thank the Lord!, this becomes a matter of the heart.

This passage was written in the time when an animal sacrifice was offered for payment of sins. The rules were clearly laid out in Leviticus (strange read, btw) on what was considered acceptable and what wasn’t considered acceptable. For anyone reading this who hasn’t grown up in the church or read these scriptures, this probably all seems super weird. And it is. But, in a nutshell, pure animal sacrifices, the best animal they had, were to be offered as a sacrificial blood offering to keep a right relationship with God. Yeah, still weird, I know. But this was God’s provision for the people in what we call the Old Testament times. Then when Jesus came, He became the ultimate and final sacrifice needed to forgive our sins when He died on the cross. Therefore, animal sacrifices were no longer necessary. Yes, I know, still seems strange. So much of that Christian faith is just that, faith. If this seems like a bunch of jibberish to you, I simply ask you to find people and resources you can trust and keep searching.

A three-legged animal, a blind animal or maybe one that was sick and going to die anyway was what these people were offering. To the Lord Almighty! Figuratively speaking, it’s what most of us offer every day too.

IMG_1277We recently celebrated my husband’s birthday. I planned (I even contacted his favorite restaurant in Singapore to see if they’d give me a recipe for his favorite burger there. And they did!), prepared, shopped for the best ingredients, created a pleasant environment in our home, all that jazz. He deserved his requested meal and was very much looking forward to it. His mouth watered for days. What if I was lazy and didn’t feel like going to the store or preparing the meal or even having clean dishes. What if I just went and picked up McDonald’s? He would be disappointed. You can’t make anything at McDonald’s taste remotely like a Brewerkz Volcano Burger. I suspect that not even a miracle can make that happen.

I’m not saying that McDonald’s might not
be someone’s best but it’s not my best.

Can we talk food drives? You know those food drives where we go to our pantry and grab everything we don’t eat like cans of beets or cheap soups that we bought 10 of because they were on sale? Or do we go to the store and buy things that we would want for a holiday meal? The good stuff? Yeah, I’m guilty too. I was actually convicted of this several years ago. The recipient of the food doesn’t know who gave it or if it was my best, but I do. And the Lord Almighty does.

I’m so guilty of placing my pitiful
offerings before useless fires.

I was reminded of an encounter with a homeless guy many years ago. I was very young at the time. I’m not proud of this encounter, but it was a learning experience for me, so not wasted. In a nutshell, the guy had attitude and he wanted money. I wasn’t giving money. After a long and heated discussion with him (heat from him and attempted love and grace from me) I told him I would get him some food when I went through the drive-thru and to meet me on the other side if he wanted it. He did meet me and I gave him a burger meal and he said “that’s it?”. I was taken aback that he was so ungrateful. I mean he was homeless for goodness sake! In my heart, however, I knew that this was not my best. Somehow I think he must have known too. The Lord Almighty definitely knew. I drove away furious and feeling all self-righteous that I had totally wasted my money on burger meal for “that ungrateful homeless guy”. As I drove off I looked back and he was not there. He was not anywhere. I hadn’t gone that far and he couldn’t have disappeared that quickly. I have often thought that he might have been some sort of messenger sent from God to teach me a lesson. Which I did learn or at least began the process of learning.

I say “began the process” because a few years later another encounter happened in Nepal that indicated there was still work to be done. I wrote about this story in more detail here if you’d like to read it.

Nepal 3.30.31.11 shopping.sunrise.citytour 015

An adorable young girl followed us around town asking for 5 “rupee” and saying “hello” over and over to us with her sweet smile. I was alone with our 11 year old daughter at the time, in a foreign country, so I feared that if I gave her anything it could turn into more than I bargained for so we smiled back with every bit of our hearts and offered her nothing more. She later ended up outside the cafe of the hotel we were staying at and I asked the restaurant manager if he could give her some food and that we would pay. It was their custom to only give bread. If they gave anything more then they would come back often and disturb the guests. So that was all I could do. I thought… Until a young woman saw her and invited her to eat with her at her table. She pushed her plate of food over to the other side fo the table for her to eat. I didn’t think her smile could have become any sweeter, but it did. I watched this play out before my tear-filled eyes and even snapped a picture of her from a distance so this moment could be a reminder of my innocent ignorance and lost opportunity to be brave. But more than that even, a picture of God’s grace that covered the situation anyway. I knew I had not given my best. She knew it too, but she managed to smile back at me anyway as if to tell me that it was all ok. God took care of it. Took care of her. Grace.

Cambodia July 2012 213Back in our traveling days we often traveled to impoverished and broken countries where we were confronted with a host of beggars and peddlers. We knew that if we gave or bought their goods that we would likely be feeding the corruption and brokenness but if we didn’t then that little one might go hungry. We found it heart-wrenching to decide what to do especially when a little 4-year-old comes up to beg or sell their goods or a mom holding her 2-year-old peers at you through the window while you eat your meal that cost more than they’ve probably ever held in their hand and maybe had in their lives. We did what we could without asking for a mob scene which would likely have happened when they got anything from us and went back to tell the others.

I’m not saying that we need to give every homeless guy a thousand dollars or every sweet begging girl a gourmet meal. I only know that we know when we’ve given our best and when we haven’t and God does too. I know I have offered my share of pitiful and unworthy sacrifices to the fire but that’s not my intent. I’m not an awful person. I’m not even that selfish. Spoiled, unthoughtful and ignorant perhaps, but not selfish. I’m so thankful for God’s grace in my “useless fire” offerings. I truly believe He sees the heart above all else. That being said, I can’t count on His grace to cover me if my heart grows cold. The Lord Almighty knows.

So I stand convicted. Again. No more three-legged goats or sickly rams offered which render the redeeming fire of God useless. No more nasty canned beets, no more measly burger meals or not giving God’s precious children more than a piece of bread and a smile. The Lord Almighty and His creation deserves my best because He has given me His best. I know I miss the mark on pleasing Him all too often. I am so grateful we do not live under the Levitical law and there is grace and mercy because of Jesus’ death on the cross.

I’m trying, Lord. I’m trying.

Again.

~Andrea

John 3:8-21 The Message (The Bible paraphrased by Eugene Peterson from the original version to understandable English/contemporary US slang.)

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

“This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.”

see

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I ordered a personalized bracelet from Darma Z. I’m not a leather cuff kind of gal but I loved the look of one that she had in her portfolio. The words she had on it didn’t fit me. So she’s making me one special. 🙂

I asked her to put the word “see” on it. Simple. Lower case. Just “see”.

see cuff.jpg

Some of my favorite words lately are grace, peace and hope but those are sort of overused on jewelry so I wanted something different and landed on a word that encompassed all of those other good ones.

See…

See grace.

See peace.

See hope.

See love.

See brokenness.

See redemption.

See beauty.

See? It works.

I want to open up my heart eyes and see all that good God has for me.

And while I’m doing that, I should take my shoes off.

IMG_0154

Isn’t it like us to keep our shoes on (aka heart closed off) and keep all things potentially painful at bay and not allow ourselves to see? Really see.

If we walk barefoot we might step on something painful but it also means we FEEL!

We all have stories. Some of our stories are out there and some stay hidden until it’s time. God is being so faithful to show me so many stories in people around me that I didn’t see before. Even my own! I didn’t take the time to see. Perhaps I didn’t WANT to see.

What I’m learning, and it’s a molasses-slow process for this girl, is that God wants me to see what HE is doing all around me. His work, His Heaven. It surrounds me. Even in my hidden story and your hidden story. I only have to take my shoes off, open my heart eyes and… see.

May I encourage you to take our shoes off for a little while today (either figuratively or literally)? Feel the feelings you need to. Even the painful ones. Open the eyes of your heart. And see.

~Andrea

“Open your eyes and see how good God is.
Blessed are you who run to him.”  ~Psalm 34:8

I Hope You Dance

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Tommy Andrea dancing

Someone asked me recently what my biggest regret in life is. I have to admit I’ve lived a mostly “goody two shoes” sort of life. No major life issues, no major life mistakes, tried my best to live by the rules and not mess up and have pretty much succeeded in that. Although a mostly no regrets sort of life is a good thing, a REALLY good thing, I’m not bragging so don’t read that into my words – that’s not what this is about.

As I pondered this “biggest regret” question, I had to do some thinking. Of course I regret not loving more, not investing more, not exercising more, not being healthier, not trying harder, not wearing sunscreen more… those types of things but I knew none of those were my answer. I decided that one of my biggest regrets was not dancing more or really just not dancing. In all of my rule following and legalistic attempts to be perfect, I should have loosened up a bit. I should have danced. I truly think my heart would have been happier and free’er if I’d have danced. Think about it… you really can’t be uptight when you dance and if you are you’re not doing it right. You’re free when you dance. You laugh when you dance. You cry when you dance. You feel when you dance. You connect when you dance. Yep, I think this very well could be my biggest regret.

So…. young ones…

“When you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.” ~Mandisa, I Hope You Dance

I Hope You Dance, Mandisa

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed.

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance,

I hope you dance
I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance,
Never settle for the path of least resistance,
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances but they’re worth takin’,
Lovin’ might be a mistake but it’s worth makin’.

Don’t let some careless heart leave you bitter,
When you come close to sellin’ out reconsider,
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance,

I hope you dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along,
Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder where those years have gone)

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance,

Dance, dance, dance

I hope you dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along,
Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder where those years have gone)

Saturday’s Silence

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Saturday’s Silence

“Jesus said, “It’s done . . . complete.” Bowing his head, he offered up his spirit.” John 19:30 (The Message)

And now we wait. We mourn. We gather. We wonder. We believe. We trust. We hope…

…that what He said He would do, He would do.

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Half of the Moon

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“Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.”  ~Mark Twain

The moon is always a whole moon but it’s never fully exposed. When it reveals itself in what we call a full moon, it’s still just half of the moon. We only see one side of it. It’s impossible for us, on earth, to see the moon fully. Fully exposed. Fully known. Fully vulnerable. Only God can see it fully.

We are a moon. We are a whole being but we don’t expose ourselves fully. We may reveal more to some than others but there is a side to us that only God can see.

It takes so much courage and trust to share ourselves in all of our fulness. Fully exposed. Fully known. Fully vulnerable. Many of us try. Many of us don’t. Many of us can’t. We’ve been burned from past exposure, often repeatedly, and closed off that part of our soul that no one could ever love enough to protect. This is why we need grace and the Giver of it.

God sees our other half. He sees the dark side. The hidden parts. He longs for us to share that with Him. He waits for us to tell him about these parts even though He already knows. Because He knows that in the telling that we will see that He is trustworthy and we will find our brave.

We are the moon. He is the Creator of it. He sees us fully and loves us anyway. So so much.

On the dark side of the moon there is a sun. It covers the darkness with light. It brings freedom. It brings hope.

So there’s that.

Hallelujah!!

~Andrea

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 1 Corinthians 13:12 (The Message)

The Brave Mom – By Tori Ten Hagen

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This amazing wife, mom and writer happens to be my daughter. I just had to brag. It’s what a mama does. She originally posted this on her blog but gave me permission to share here as well.

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