Posted in Faith, Inspiration, Womanhood

Crown of Glory

miss-universe

My husband, Bob, and I came across the Miss Universe Pageant while we were channel flipping before bed last night. When we first started watching, the top six contestants were being determined; but after two more rounds of elegant evening gowns and challenging political questions, we saw it narrowed down to the top three. The remaining three women were asked a final question, something to the effect of What is something that you failed at in life and what lesson did you learn from that failure? Whether it was because of nerves (which I’m sure played a tremendous part), international translations, or just the fact that these women have been pushed to succeed their whole lives, they all seemed to initially hesitate with their answers. It started me thinking about what I would have said if I had been in their shoes, and I realized I would have hesitated too, but not for the same reasons.

I fail daily. In 30 seconds it would be awfully difficult to come up with just one failure and one lesson that I’ve learned along the way. I’ve lost my cool and screamed at my kids. I’ve forgotten to acknowledge a dear friend’s birthday. I’ve gotten impatient with my extended family. Once, when our pizza delivery was running late, I called the store owner upset and learned I had mistyped the house number on our online order. Gulp. Instead of being supportive, I’ve rolled my eyes at Bob with a look that says “Are you kidding me?” I’ve overspent areas of our budget. I’ve told little white lies; in fact, I’ve told big lies in some stages of my life. I’ve been judgmental. I’ve been envious. I’ve failed to take care of myself. The list could honestly go on and on.

The most important lesson that I’ve learned from all these less than stellar moments, is that God’s grace is really BIG. Instead of being put on the spot in front of the world for 30 seconds with one chance at success, He watches me continually make mistakes and loves me despite them. No matter what I do, He is still there offering me the chance to share His crown of glory in heaven someday, and unlike the final three Miss Universe contestants, my chances are many because of His son’s sacrifice. What an awesome gift knowing I don’t have to be flawless because He loves me despite my failures! Today I pray for Miss Universe. That as she upholds the duties of her crown this year that she knows God’s love. While the world expects her to be perfect, He does not, and he offers the same gift to us all.

God Bless and  Easy Breathing!

Photo credit to People.com

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Posted in Being a Friend, Dealing with Trials, Faith, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Lighting the Way Home

This past weekend my husband, Bob and I took part in a candlelight vigil for our neighbor and friend who went missing on December 16th under suspicious circumstances. The download-1search for clues has reached a feverish pitch for this husband, father of three, and township trustee. In minus degree temperatures, we gathered with his family and about 75 other supporters from our small community to share stories and pray for his safe return. There was such a mix of feelings during that vigil; of desperation and sadness to be certain, but also of hope, that our friend and community member would be safely led home.

This morning as I was reflecting on that event, it made me think about the times we turn away from a relationship with God, and how similarly, He must also desperately grieve knowing we are lost. Luckily, there too is hope. Just as the candles we held during our vigil lent light to the darkness, God gave us his son, Jesus, as light and hope for the world. John 12:46 tells us, I have come into the world as a light so that no one in me should stay in darkness and 1 Peter 1:3 says, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. God gave us Jesus to fulfill our hope, and the clues we seek in finding our way home are written within the truth of His gospel.

Today I pray that if you are feeling lost and don’t yet know God, you would invite him to help you find your way home through His son, Jesus. If you know Him, but something is holding you back from the truth of His love for you, I pray that you would again seek hope through His word. God bless and easy breathing!

Note: If anyone has any information regarding the disappearance of Bryon Macron, please click here for more information.

Posted in Christmas, Faith, Family, Inspiration

Eddie Walker Simple

TODAY’S CHRISTMAS FORECAST: SIMPLEEddie Walker Santa

Bob and I got engaged 17 years ago in November of 1997. That year we spent a great deal of time carefully picking out Christmas decorations together. He and I shared a vision from those first purchases that we would be creating Christmases for our family for years to come. I laugh now thinking about how seriously we took those first buying decisions. It was as if we believed we could preserve all our future happiness with the items we bought. That particular year, we both fell in love with a designer, Eddie Walker, who made carvings that reflected a simpler, country way of life. Her figurines are all retired now, but over the first few years of our marriage, Bob and I would collect many of them together.

Over the years, our tastes changed dramatically, and we opted for more modern expressions of the Christmas season. The Eddie Walkers found their way to back bedrooms or to the downstairs family room. Some years I just didn’t unwrap them at all. This year, however, I found myself desperately longing for those days when things were so much simpler. As I dug through the Christmas boxes and bins in the basement, I lovingly unwrapped those Eddie Walkers. I took them upstairs and placed them in plain sight for all to see who visit us this holiday. It was just one step, but in giving those figures a prominent place in our home, I felt like I was taking back a lost tradition from a time where dreams were big and expectations were few. Life already seemed a little bit simpler.

The question I had to ask myself was, “Why shouldn’t it be?” The birth of the child we’re celebrating was far from grandiose. The King of Kings was wrapped in nothing more than a cloth and laid among stable animals. Other than the gifts that the Magi bestowed upon Him, everything else was as simplistic as it could be. If such humble beginnings were good enough for the Prince of Peace, shouldn’t it be for us as well? In this age of instant gratification and constantly doing, isn’t Christmas the perfect time to catch our breath and find reasons to experience a bit of nostalgia and peace? Unfortunately, most of us do the exact opposite this time of year. I know I stand guilty as charged. I worry about the right decorations, the right gifts, the right food, the right time to go to church, the right outfit for each Christmas party. I become a product of my surroundings, a frazzled, hot mess! This year, I decided to take it back a notch. I did a lot of shopping online. I limited the number of social commitments we made, I even took Christmas dinner with extended family from a traditional, formal, sit-down to a finger foods and sandwiches party.

So I ask you, how can you simplify your holiday this season? Do you have your own version of our Eddie Walkers that you can dust off this Christmas? Or maybe you have a traditional recipe your family used to make when you were younger that you haven’t made in years. Maybe it’s turning off the phone for a few hours each evening or simplifying a usually complex meal. Whatever it is for your family, I hope that you can recover a bit of nostalgia this Christmas season that will help you to de-stress and remember a simpler time of joy and love. God bless you all and Merry Christmas.

Posted in Faith, Family, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Christmas Lists

I think I heard a communal sigh from some of you when you saw the title of this post, as in, “Gee Jen, could we get through Halloween first? Walking into any retail store and seeing it decorated for Christmas when it’s not even Halloween is disconcerting enough, but do we have to read about it in blog posts too?” Believe me, I COMPLETELY understand. I promise you all that the jack-o-lanterns are still burning brightly at our house as we gear up for Trick-or-Treat, Halloween parades and the like. It’s just that as November quickly approaches, there are those in both mine and Bob’s families who like to get their holiday shopping done earlier rather than later, so it is about this time every year that I hear the familiar call of “Christmas lists please!” and have to sit down with Bob and the kids to see what I can pull out of them.

Last evening as I sat down to begin to compile lists for our family, I titled my note “Christmas Lists 2013” and underneath listed each person’s name: Bob, Meghan, Jake and Jen. Even Daisy, our puppy, who is barely teetering on the “Naughty” into the “I’m going to have to find a new home” list found a place in my notes. As I began to jot down a few things for everyone, a quiet voice seemed to whisper at the back of my mind, “Where am I on your list?” to which I immediately responded by writing God at the top of my paper. I sat there pondering this a moment, feeling a little bit like the little drummer boy who claimed to have no gift to bring to the Christ Child. I began to think about what gifts I might give to God this coming holiday season and one finally came to mind, time.

Time I could certainly spare. Over the past several weeks I had realized that the time I had been spending in prayer with God had certainly dwindled. It was not until I was gravely ill and back in the hospital with health scares abounding, that I began to desperately call out to Him again and ask Him to help me keep my eyes fixed on Him. When I was sick, I received two devotionals in care packages from close friends. One is Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young. This book is uniquely written from the perspective of Jesus as if he was having a personal conversation with you. There are so many days when I have gone to that book now and the message for a particular day is exactly what I needed both emotionally and spiritually. The reading for each day is short and the supportive biblical verses are right there for you to examine more closely. I highly recommend it! The other is Prayers for a Woman’s Soul by Julie K. Gillies. For all your ladies out there, as busy moms and/or executives of our careers, it is easy to bombard heaven with prayers to meet everyone else’s needs. But how often do you pray for your own needs? As daughters of faith, we need to be open to a daily offering of our own needs up to God, and Prayers for a Woman’s Soul is a great way to begin.

Anyway, I’ve digressed a bit. The important takeaway here is that no matter how much time we’re currently spending in prayer, we could always give God a little bit more of our time. God is completely crazy about us and wants us to spend time with Him. Though He knows the interworking of our souls, He desires to hear our voices in prayer, whisper to us in the silence of our minds and hearts and bathe us in the joy of His presence.  Psalm 4:3 says, I know the Lord has set me apart for Himself; the Lord hears when I call to Him. Psalm 21:6 says, Surely you have granted Him eternal blessings and made Him glad with the joy of your presence. Did you ever think that you could make God happy just by being you in His presence? 🙂 Do you know that even in “seasons of silence” God is always listening to you and loving that You trust Him with your needs?

I know it’s not Christmas yet, but who says we have to wait? Give God the “treat” of your time at Halloween, share with Him the bounty of your thanks at Thanksgiving. Best of all, I dare you to include Him on your Christmas lists this year. What will you give to the Kings of Kings this year? I hope you will all challenge me to answer that question as well as we head toward these upcoming holidays.

God Bless and Easy Breathing!

Posted in Dealing with Trials, Faith, Inspiration, Life with CF, Uncategorized

Coke or Pepsi?

No, this post isn’t about voting for your favorite soft drink, but rather a thought that was inspired by a book our daughter, Meghan, has, Coke or Pepsi Unlimited. It’s a fun book, meant to be shared with family and friends, that covers a wide range of topics from favorite scents to what superhero powers one might like to have. One of Meghan’s favorite sections covers “Would you rather…” scenarios. There are questions such as, Would you rather have 3 eyes or 4 arms? “Would you rather have a lifetime of bad hair days or “I hate all my clothes days?” Would you rather always have a stain on your shirt or always have something stuck in your front teeth? You get the idea. While we all enjoy humoring Meghan with our answers for these seemingly silly questions, I’ve learned that sometimes in life we encounter “Would you rather…” questions that aren’t quite so amusing.

Recently I encountered such a scenario when I was hospitalized for my Cystic Fibrosis (CF). At the start of my stay, the doctors discovered through testing that I was resistant to all but two IV antibiotics, Tobramycin and Colistin, to help fight the infection in my lungs. Both are very effective at treating the bacteria that were the source of my infection. The downside to using them is their toxicity levels. Tobramycin has long been known to be toxic to the kidneys. It can also cause hearing loss, something I’m already beginning to experience due to the many courses of this antibiotic I’ve taken over the years. In terms of toxicity, Colistin can severely impact the nervous system. It is also even more toxic to the kidneys than Tobramycin, which is why it is usually one of the last IV drugs of choice for CF patients. In fact, I had been put on Colistin once before, and though it was administered with a 24-hour saline drip for dilution, my kidneys stopped tolerating it after just three days. Unfortunate as it was, in this most recent case we were out of options. The doctors decided that the benefits outweighed the risks and decided to put me on both IV drugs to combat my infection.

I was extremely anxious about how my kidneys would tolerate the two drugs together and openly discussed this with my doctor. It was a very frank “Would you rather…” dialogue. I asked if my kidneys started showing signs of distress what our first course of action would be. He said, “Take you off the Tobramycin and just administer the Colistin and fluids.” If that still isn’t enough? “Cut down the dose of Colistin.” If that still is no good? I remember his response so clearly, “Well, Jen, in that case I would rather see you on dialysis than to lose your lungs.” I had to let that sink in a minute. Would I rather go on dialysis for kidney failure or be able to continue to breathe? Wow, talk about a punch. I remember silently complaining, “Geez, God, no one should have to make decisions like this. Mine just keep getting harder and harder. How unfair.”

Then it occurred to me that Jesus had encountered the ultimate difficult “Would you rather…” decision that fateful night in the Garden of Gethsemane. Would you rather die on a cross and shoulder all the sins of the world to save all of humanity or let this cup pass over You, fall out of favor with Your Heavenly Father and lose all the souls of humanity to Satan’s evil? Unbelievable, isn’t it? No wonder Jesus was sweating blood! That decision made my decision about kidneys vs. lungs sound like child’s play comparatively. I was immediately a little bit embarrassed for my earlier gripe.

So what do we do in these situations when we encounter what seems like an impossible “Would you rather…” decision? One of my favorite bible verses is found in Proverbs 3:5-6, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. When we encounter difficult decisions in our own lives, we have to look to Jesus not only because the bible tells us to, but also because He’s been there and truly understands our need for answers. I wonder if He sometimes allows us to encounter these monumental questions in life, to remind us just how important it is to trust in Him and to consult Him in our decision-making.

Lucky for me, just like the answers to the questions in Meghan’s Coke or Pepsi Unlimited book, my situation became a non-issue. Through the power of many people’s prayers, I was able to tolerate both medicines and went home 17 days later in much better health. I realized though that for all of us, there may be times in life when it will not be that simple and a difficult decision will have to be made. What we all need to remember is that Jesus is there and not only does His Word give us guidance, but it also demonstrates that He can empathize completely with us having been there Himself. Psalm 119:105 sums it up perfectly. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. When in doubt, the answer is clear. God. He won’t ever steer us wrong.

Posted in Being a Mom, Faith, Family, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Daisy Mae

TODAY’S FORECAST: Cuddly

Some of you have inquired about my absence on the blog and were worried that something had happened with my health that had not allowed me to write. Thank you so much for your concern and I’m so sorry for worrying you; I should have posted something much sooner than today. I am here and actually feeling quite good for as much as Ohio weather has been on a roller coaster the last few weeks. We’ve been fluctuating anywhere from the 40 degree (Fahrenheit) range to the 80 degree range in a single day! Let me tell you, I’m still convinced I could make BIG BUCKS in the meteorology field. These old bones and joints can feel those cold fronts coming a mile away. The “human barometer” is alive and well! 😉

As it always does, change has graced our lives in a number of ways over the past two weeks. First and foremost is the fact that we got a new puppy. Faithful readers meet, Daisy. Daisy, meet faithful readers. 🙂DSC07011

Daisy is a Morkie (a mix between a Yorkie Terrier and a Maltese). She is 2.5 pounds of pure puppy! She chews on everything with her sharp puppy teeth and loves to play tug of war with her rope. She goes wild when you say the word, “Treat” and sleeps in a pink bed with the word, “Princess” on it, which pretty much says it all. 🙂 She’s 11 weeks old and is working on being house-broken.  (She best be giving it an A+ effort too, because I’m getting really tired of following her around with the carpet cleaner!) She’s a total wuss in the rain but it could be because she is just a wee bit spoiled. She wags her little stump of a tail when the kids get home from school and we couldn’t love her much more, despite her ornery and stubborn nature.

After two weeks with Daisy I’m convinced that having a puppy is like having a baby all over again but worse at times. There are no diapers to contain the pee and poop when it doesn’t land outside where it should. Between running to grab her to avoid an inside accident and running to get her outside to the backyard just in time, I’m getting plenty of exercise. While the exercise is good, this Mama is one tired lady at the end of the day. Blogging? Well blogging has had to wait during this baby stage. Mom needs to sleep when the baby sleeps to keep up with her. So yeah, at the moment, creativity will have to wait a little while. It’s funny, by the time Bob gets home from work, instead of hearing about what the kids did I’m usually whining and saying, “Do you know what YOUR dog did today?” He says it reminds him of when the kids were toddlers and getting into all kinds of things and I used to say, “I need five minutes of peace, just five minutes.”

The puppy teething might be even worse. It means utter destruction if you leave a her unsupervised for even just a second. The corner of my new entertainment center took a mild beating when I left her so I could take my own “potty break” the other day. Anything she can get her little mouth around is fair game, including toes, fingers, shoe strings, sandal straps, corners of furniture, strings under the furniture, electrical cords, etc. Bob jokes some days that we’re going to give the people we purchased Daisy from fifty cents on the dollar just to have them take her back. Depending on her degree of stubbornness, it may go from fifty cents, to a quarter, to FREE, to we’ll pay a quarter on the dollar to give her back!!! LOL.

I have to admit that when Jake carries her around and proclaims proudly, “This is my puppy,” or when I overhear Meghan say, “Daisy do you want sissy to take you outside?” my heart melts just a little.  The kids are great with her and surprisingly helpful too. We did make a family pact together that we would all help take care of her; and though there’s been a few expected sighs during this second week, they still get up to feed her or take her out when we ask. Daisy has definitely brought our family closer together and blesses us with her light and energy. Maybe that was God’s intended purpose for her to be in our family. I know he has a purpose for everything, even sharp puppy teeth!!! 🙂

DSC07085

I promise I will write as time allows. I’ll have more news about the changes God is bringing to our life as well as puppy updates, I’m sure. God bless and easy breathing!!! Love and peace until we meet again. 🙂