Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Resolved to Change

I have a confession. 

After seeing an acupuncturist several times this last month, I've cut back on the amount of coffee I drink. I tried going without any one morning, but that only lasted a day. 

Now I waffle. Some days I indulge in a cup. Others, only half a cup. But I've almost decided less is more.

My biggest concern? How will I write a coffee blog if I don't drink coffee anymore?

Due to a lingering cough and continued pain in my feet last fall, I thought about seeing an acupuncturist. But didn't know who to see. So the idea floated around in the back spaces of my brain until I spoke in Chattanooga earlier last month. 

After hearing my story, a woman approached me and recommended I see her acupuncturist friend who lives in metro Atlanta. Impressed by credible stories, I took Dr. Bo Daniel Park's number and made an appointment for the following week.

And so it began.

The soft spoken Korean asked numerous questions before she stuck several needles in my back. Then came the list of recommendations that I've been slowly working into my life.

1) Eat fruits and vegetables and a little protein if necessary. 

2) No coffee!

3) If hungry between meals, swallow a tablespoon of olive oil.

4) Use only pure maple syrup as sweetener.

5) Pour equal parts organic apple cider vinegar and chopped organic pineapple into a mason jar. (If not exactly equal, it's not a problem. I basically split a jar of vinegar and one pineapple between two mason jars.) Add three or four organic eggshells to the mix and allow them to ferment for a week. 

Take 1-2 Tbls. of the mixture with juice, tea, a smoothie, or any other concoction you can come up with, and swallow 1- 3 times a day.

6) Take Mangosteen for brain clarity.

7) Take Triphala to help with reflux.

I started a sample of the apple cider vinegar and egg shell combo a week before Christmas, but ran out while waiting for my own brew to ferment. However, once I'd taken the potion for several days and rested from the holiday rush, I could tell a big difference. 

Now, a week later,  my thoughts are clearer and it's been easier to accomplish little tasks around the house. But with the recent ice storm, I haven't gone far. So the jury is still out. 

Regardless, I'm resolved to change. 

Little by little. Tablespoon by tablespoon. I plan to swallow, gag, and swallow more. Cause I can down almost anything after it's spent time in a blender. 

What about you? Are you making any changes? Perhaps just a small one?

I didn't trade sugar for maple syrup right away, knowing my sister always makes cashew brittle at Christmas. But I'm working toward it now. 

I figure every step forward, even if followed by a few back, is still getting me closer to where I want to be. 

Healthy and whole. In both body and soul. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Determined Anticipation

For an entire four wonderful days last week, I savored coffee in the same house as my grown children. We spent the first two nights at my parent's home for the holiday, and then camped out in mine.  Their presence enriched me in a way few things do.


Sam and Courtney

We didn't do much. But we didn't have to. Simply living with their heartbeats closer to mine sufficed.

(Cue a moan. My boys would NOT appreciate my sappy sentiment.)

But when the party ended and they went to their respective homes, I descended into what's called a mito crash, meaning a fatigue heavier then my down comforter landed me in bed.

Memories kept me company. And I accomplished a few things in between several two hour naps. But low clouds and thick raindrops have me longing for my covers again today.

So I'm sitting in a coffee shop, instead of my house, determined.

You see, due to the "done and over" fatigue I felt after the fervent, festive push, I considered taking my tree down early - like, before Valentine's Day. Which seemed a bit drastic.

Thus, instead of removing the "boughs of holly," I pondered the after effects of a longing fulfilled... like the feeling that settles in after we've eaten eggs benedict on Christmas morning and opened the presents purchased for months.

The rush over, the anticipation gone, a tiredness creeps in that frankly I find boring. The hype dies down and normal life lies ahead. And I wonder why my insides shift so quickly.

It's really not that hard to understand. Because Christmas requires a systematic approach.

I purchase small gifts throughout the fall. My tree goes up in mid-November to spread out the work load. Soon after, I fill my living room shelves with holiday décor and set out my favorite nativity sets with gentle care.

Normally the porch is decorated either right before or after Thanksgiving. But it took much longer this year. In fact, we didn't string lights outside until a week before the big day.

But we got it done thanks to the help of this sweet family. And then built a fire and watched a holiday movie outside on my lap top.


Olivia and Carl

The next day, I baked cookies with mom and Courtney, and started wrapping gifts. And as the week progressed, I checked off a to-do list that, in time, allowed me to relax in the pew of two candlelight services since Nathan sang in one and mom's hand bell choir played in the other.

As each congregation stood to sing, O Come All Ye Faithful,
I fought tears like always, imagining an entire world of Jesus followers trekking to Bethlehem one more time, together.

And as I type, tears have started flowing again, surprising me.

But I love those moment.s I love when our candles are held high and we sing, Silent Night. And I love the feeling of peace that descends, reminding us that something much bigger is at stake than the daily drama we face.

A divine baby was born. God entered the world through Mary's womb. And the beauty of it all defies logic.

But it's 2017 already.

So what's up with me?

The sheer power of anticipation became more real to me this year. For six to eight weeks, I was driven by the excitement that leads to the night of wonder.

I shopped. I wrapped. And occasionally even joined in the food prep. 

And it was all for a grand party that ended somewhat abruptly, in the bleak midwinter, without colorful, shimmering lights.

But it also hit me that the whole point of living with determined anticipation is to ignite what we need for the long haul.

As December 25th approaches the bad fades, a calm pervades, and I actually believe, All Is Well.

The best of humanity ignites as we remember His birth. His coming. His entry into this world.

But He really is coming again. And I wonder what would it be like to live with a similar determined anticipation throughout the year.

It's hard to stay focused without a looming deadline. I know.

But it's out there. Somewhere. And living as if that day matters more than anything else will allow everything else to fall into place.

I want that perspective. I need that hope. The story isn't over.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Dove Soap Satisfied for Christmas

When I woke two coffees ago, it was quite clear that Don had shared his cold with me. Zinc, echinacea, silver, Advil, and Mucinex have kept me going. But slow I've been.

Still, I wore matching shoes for the first time in over two months today. Advil helped ease lingering foot pain. But after weeks of therapy, I may have finally found a pair of shoes that will allow me to leave my post-surgical boot behind. 

While two healed feet for Christmas would be nice, I'll forever be walking on redesigned models of God's original blueprint for my appendages. Thus, they will never be Hallmark normal.


Yet while a cold clogs my nose and surgical changes hamper my stride, perspective invaded my privacy again last week, rocking my world.

It started with an argument over Don's clothing choice for a Sunday afternoon concert. He went for casual when I wanted a tad dressy. The marital angst bled into the new week where I decided not washing my hair for his work party would suffice as proper payback.

Please don't tell Santa. 

The low key gathering seemed a safe bet for dirty hair. Plus, washing and brushing my hair would've only tired my already tired frame. Throw in the fact that every time I go through a surgery I realize I can stretch my showers out another day, and trust me, choosing a semi-greasy-up-do was easy.

However, I got my comeuppance the next evening as water washed over my frame. Craving clean hair, I reached for the shampoo bottle only to discover it held watered down remnants.  

Overwhelmed, I considered my options but there weren't many. So with no shampoo in sight I did what I've never done before: I lathered my hair with a bar of dove soap. 

Some of you may have done that before and it's no big deal. For me, it could be called a new low. 

But it worked. And no one else knew that the sweet aroma from my hair came not from a bottle, but from a bar of soap.   

Life went on. The sun rose and set. And eventually I realized that a full bottle of shampoo sat underneath the bathroom sink the whole time. 

(So I'll definitely rethink future pay back schemes.)

But after walking around for a few days dove soap satisfied I knew I would make it through the holidays. 

I love Christmas. The trees. The lights. The shopping. The music. But it's way too easy to get sucked into the frenetic energy that twirls in the air, raising expectations. I often push too hard and chase after the perfect Hallmark holiday, even though there really isn't one.

So I'll nurse my cold and slightly odd feet. I'll nap and wrap without bows. I'll kiss Don goodbye when he leaves to visit his daughter in Colorado. And on Christmas Eve, I'll sit through a favorite service with long held traditions that keep me close to the cross. 

Because the redemption of the world didn't come easy. It was costly, painful, even dirty at times. Which is why I'll fight to stay dove soap satisfied, cleansed in the deepest way, imperfect yet redeemed.

And there, planted in the place of redemption, I'll enjoy a Merry Christmas, imperfections and all.

May the love of God hold you close as you celebrate His coming this weekend.

Monday, December 12, 2016

After Generations of Silence

When I sink into Bonnie's brown recliner with coffee in hand, I spend several minutes praying into my morning. At least I try to. Because I know that the Holy Spirit is waiting to guide and direct my day.

For Jesus promised, "If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever―the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you" (John 14: 15-17 NIV).

When lights shimmer from my Christmas tree and nativity scenes cover my shelves, I find it easier to press into the "Spirit of truth." Dependent on the decor, I am not. But when cherished memories and holiday lights adorn my small living room, the visual reminders counter lingering negativity as my brain awakens.

A hand-painted ornament 
 celebrates the artist's talent. 

Three Wise Men from China remind me of a trip long ago.

A quartet of panda bears symbolizes the blending 
of two different families.

And a set of painted, metal snowmen, purchased by Don's first wife, celebrate another life well lived.

Surrounded by memories, I warm to the day. Maybe it's the 'light in the darkness' thing. Or the dirty shepherds. Or the angels that tore open the sky on that first Christmas day.

Or maybe it's all of it combined.

Regardless, when relics of the mysterious birth meet my gaze, I savor the sweetness that anchors my soul.

Which brings me to my point. A point that was driven home in yesterday's Sunday service.

Long, ago, the prophets grew quiet. God held his tongue. And 400 years of silence passed before our Savior's entry into this world. 

400 years. Several generations of silence, meaning no word from God, no comfort from His presence, no fellowship with the Spirit.

Can you imagine?

I can't. I really can't.

So when I sit and dwell on the season, I try to savor the sense of His presence more than normal. Because I take it for granted. I approach His comfort, His reassurance, and the still-small-voice with a drive-through mentality. 

If I don't receive a timely answer, or linger in an unresolved state, I grow demanding, nervous, unsure.

Yet time and again, He whispers to my soul and feeds me with His word. The same word that "became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1: 14). First as a newborn baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And later as a grown man who broke the curse of sin and death through the sacrificial gift of his life on a wretched cross.

While we like to dress up the season with lights and glass ornaments, the real event took place in a dirty world of deep longing, where parched souls ached for the simple reassurance that they had not been forgotten. 

And after generations of silence and long days of suffering, a cry was heard. A divine baby was born. And the voice of God has resonated ever since.

I don't know about you, but that stirs something deep in me. And I don't want to take that voice for granted. I want to listen more closely and allow the Spirit of truth to change me. And to perhaps even allow the divine gift to matter more than the feeling of loss that invades and the grief that overtakes. 

For Jesus promised, "If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever―the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you" (John 14: 15-17 NIV).

[While this is probably not a university sanctioned video, I heard this group of the Voices of Lee perform this song at a concert Sunday afternoon. And it was profound.]

Monday, November 28, 2016

Thirty-Three Years Connected

Several weeks ago, I indulged in a piece of deliciously moist chocolate cake while sipping decaf coffee. A savory cherry topping melted into each bite, making me very glad my brother requests the homemade cake for his birthday every year.

After initially requesting only a small piece, the guest at the table asked for seconds. No one blamed him. Especially when he explained that American desserts trump those he's savored in his homeland of Germany.

However, while Florian claims the US has an edge on decadent sugar displays, his mother grew up with a view of the Alps that once stirred my soul more than chocolate cake ever will.

Thirty-three years ago, my family traveled through Europe. Toward the end of our second week, we happened upon the Eitzenberger's Bed & Breakfast in Garmisch Partenkirchen

The charming lodge offered a spectacular view of the Alps. And as we got to know the family during our hearty bread and cheese breakfasts, Dad insisted we sing a few barbershop tunes. In return, Mrs. Eitzenberger and her daughter yodeled for us. Connected by a love of family and music, my dad and the proprietors exchanged Christmas cards for many, many years.

Fast forward thirty-three summers, and before Florian left to spend a semester abroad at Georgia Tech this fall, his grandmother (the elder Mrs. Eitzenberger) encouraged him to look up my dad. The two connected and Florian even shared a traditional Thanksgiving meal with us last week. 

As our small world's collided, I valued the unusual sense of unity.

Florian made visiting easy. Almost too easy. My sister even referred to him as "Nathan's German twin" because he looked and acted a lot like my oldest son.

Nathan and Florian
As turkey and stuffing led to apple and pumpkin pie, we discussed everything from Toledo, Ohio to the recent political climate. Florian absorbed our use of colloquialisms with ease, and then occasionally used them against us. 

It was great fun.

Nathan, brother Mark, Florian, me, Dad, Mom

Resurrecting thirty-three year old memories added a flavor to our Thanksgiving that felt similar to the cherry topping that covered that moist chocolate cake. The cake would've sufficed. But the cherry topping enhanced the memorable experience even more. 

Bottom line, you just never know when a connection will fire, then sizzle for years, and eventually ignite into something new.

Call it destiny, fate, or a keen sense of déjà vu, visiting with Florian felt surreal and reminded me that crossing cultural divides is meant to enhance our lives. Not to mention that sending yearly Christmas cards may in fact have a purpose and lead to sweet moments far down the road.

It's easy to curl up and stay safe on our side of the street. Oh so very easy. But the world is calling. So let's do this thing. 

You may be surprised in just thirty-three years.

All photos (except for the family photos) courtesy of pixabay.com

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Sweetening the Melancholy

I thought about grabbing a Starbucks coffee on the way. Definitely should've swallowed some Advil. Because without pain relief or a little pick-me-up, my stitch removal turned into a dicey encounter with a surgeon, a small knife, and about 18 stitches a little too embedded in my skin.

The ensuing pain surprised me because I've been relatively pain free since about 10 days after the surgery. That was not the case last spring. So I was hoping the doctor was going to release me from my no-weight bearing status, allowing me ditch the knee-scooter during my midnight potty runs. On the contrary, he replied with a resounding, "No!"

"We broke that bone," he explained. "We sawed through your first metatarsal and then put it back together. You need more rest."

These photos are from my right foot surgery. 
But the left foot x-rays look exactly the same.

The bruising in my arch, combined with the reality of three procedures and incisions (of which I only shared one), forced me to face the need for more healing. 

Still, I left a little disappointed. Melancholy even.

I want to decorate for Christmas. Make an apple pie for Thanksgiving. I want to be out and about, but too much movement causes severe pain in my hips and right arm.

So I sit. Nap. And thank God for family that provides entertainment and car rides to sweeten the melancholy.

Just Sunday night, a small group of us gathered for a painting class in honor of Courtney's birthday. I helped arrange the event and made sure we had kettle corn to share. But once there, Courtney took over, ensuring I had whatever I needed.

The end result was worth the added effort.

A few hours ago I spent thirty minutes teaching an eight-year-old how to play Jingle Bells. The arrangement is in G position instead of C position, demanding she process all new notes. It's a challenging choice for her but she made good progress today. 

The simple feat felt solid.

Later, two high school students ate pizza and hung out as we practiced Christmas music for our December recital. While that may seem sacrilegious to some (since we haven't eaten turkey and mashed potatoes yet this week), a certain calm overtakes me when we dive into holiday tunes that proclaim peace on earth and joy for all.

It's a bit serendipitous. Unrealistic even. Cause this world serves up more hard than we can process.

But it's worth the time out. A holiday time out. Even if they stir up some melancholy that needs a little sweetening. 

You may be thrilled by upcoming events or you may be a little underwhelmed like me. But no matter what this week or the next month holds, seek the sweetness. And I don't mean the sugar hidden in the pumpkin or pecan pie.

Look for the moments that have meaning. Even the painfully ordinary or just simply boring ones you might have formerly ignored. 

Value your family even if they annoy you. Hug the relative that cancelled your vote. Savor the taste of flavorful food, even if it isn't gluten free. And live in the body you've been given... no matter how slow or fast you move.

That's my plan. We were made for a purpose. To make whatever big or small difference we can make. So don't skip out.

Sweeten someone's melancholy and then have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Photos courtesy of pixabay.com

Monday, November 14, 2016

Chasing the Moon

I just returned from an adventure. Makayla, Olivia, Makenzie and I chased the moon. When we caught it rather close to a Starbucks, I considered indulging in a late night decaf coffee binge. But we were too wound up. Yogli Mogli with toppings sufficed instead.

It all started last night when I saw the moon as we drove to a service downtown. The sighting reminded me that I'd read something about a super moon appearing this week. A Google search confirmed my suspicion and the desire to watch a much larger-than-normal-moon-rise churned inside.

But church distracted me.

However, after the evening service, Don and I chatted with Makayla and Olivia. And right before we left, Makayla blurted, "We need to get together."

Since their mom and I were good friends, and I felt their loss when she died two years ago, my answer came swift.

"I know," I started, "Let's watch the moon rise tomorrow night. Are you free?"

"Yeah!" they both agreed.

"Do you know that neighborhood, The Summit, near Publix?" Makayla asked.

Unsure, I listened close as she explained the directions. Familiar with the place, we agreed to touch base this morning. And before noon, we had a plan.

When I got a text that they were running late, I headed up the summit alone. The ritzy neighborhood road led me up a small mountain I didn't even know existed. Half-way up, I looked to the west, enthralled by the wide-open view. 

At the highest point, I discovered an unfinished home with an unfinished lookout. A couple stood where I longed to go but couldn't dare on a knee-scooter. Soon however, a black SUV drove up and the driver informed us she was about to lock a gate further down. 

Disappointment seeped in. But after pulling out my iphone compass and realizing that the panoramic view looked south rather than east, we devised another plan.

Makayla, Olivia, and Olivia's friend, Makenzie, drove back down the steep incline in search of a view of the eastern sky, to no avail. 

So when I caught up with them, I led the charge, "Follow me," I commanded. "We'll head to The Avenue."

And they did.

They followed me in traffic as I watched minutes tick by on my car clock. They stayed close after I turned onto the four-lane highway and later headed into an unfinished strip mall. 

When we still could't find the moon, they followed me back onto the main drag, through an elevated Kroger parking lot that leads to a small strip mall and beside a Mexican restaurant. From there we turned right and then left back onto the main highway again. 

It was then that I began to wonder if my timing was off. Or if the moon was lost. Or if all had been for naught.

But just a few minutes later, it finally happened. I caught my first glimpse of the reddish moon and pulled over into a bank parking lot not far from a Target.

It was far from the picturesque scene I'd envisioned. Street lights and tail lights permeated the dark. But we'd chased the moon and finally found it.

Three giggling girls piled out of their car, unloaded my scooter, and then joined me as we made our way toward the moon for a few photos. 

A few weeks ago, a Facebook friend with a very rare autoimmune disease (that both of her young children also battle) wrote about how she felt convicted to try something new every day for thirty days. 

Limitations often suffocate those of us whose fragile bodies demand rest. So making plans and sticking to them feels unrealistic. 

In Linda's case, she made plans to have lunch with a friend one day, only to wake up with a very sick child. Her "something new" for that day was to simply to stick with her lunch plans instead of waiting for the doctor's call, and to leave her child with her husband even though her worried heart wanted to stay close. 

Inflamed lungs would've slow my step. But she maintained her stride that day and broke a little free.

Her determination has stirred something in me as I heal. Instead of focusing on my limits, I keep trying to do something different. Just a little different. Like chasing the moon with Makayla, Olivia, and Makenzie.

As we savored our yogurt in a slight outdoor chill, hearts opened and stories were shared. Chasing the moon had been fun. But communicating heart to heart added a richness to the evening even the biggest moon couldn't touch. 

We held hands and prayed before going our separate ways and I looked Makenzie in the eye and said, "You are the one Jesus loves."

It's a thing at our church these days. A statement our pastor recently made from the pulpit before asking us how comfortable we were with the idea. (If you don't believe me, listen to the sermon posted at the very end.)

Way back in September he asked if we could say it. Believe it. And even live it.

Try it. Say, "I am the one Jesus loves."

Does it make you nervous? Doubtful? Afraid of becoming self- centered?

Don't be.

When our awareness of His love is rooted in the reality of our brokenness, it grabs hold in a way that makes it easy to then say, "You are the one Jesus loves."

Our church is currently partnering with another downtown, so I'm trying out a new t-shirt design and all the proceeds will go to Hope Chapel.

So check them out below. Think Christmas. And go chase the moon.

Because you are the one Jesus loves.

Both designs are available at this link: Susan's Teespring Store

Romans: Part 4 from Sanctuary on Vimeo.