Shingles Anyone?

I held up my stretchy hair elastic and demonstrated what I was explaining to my children. I do things like that often, taking hold of a common item to show them what I mean. This time I was talking about me. I had told them what the doctor had told me. I had Shingles. They had seen me in obvious pain and since the outbreak was on my face, that was obvious too. They were concerned and they had questions. I answered them as best as I could. I’d been searching for a few answers myself.

Why is it called Shingles? It comes from the Latin and French words for belt or girdle. The outbreak often occurs on the torso of the body.

How long will it last? Usually a couple of weeks but, with early intervention of anti-viral drugs which I am taking, it can be better in a week.

Does it hurt? It can hurt awfully bad according to the severity. In my case, so far, the pain has been mostly manageable with just a few days of misery.

Am I contagious? According to my doctor and what I’ve read, once the breakout has started to dry up, no. Early in the Shingles episode it is contagious to those who have never had chicken-pox, have not had the vaccine or have a compromised auto-immune system.

Why do people get Shingles? The chicken-pox virus has been dormant in the body since having it as a child. There are many opinions as to what triggers it back into activity. Illness, lack of rest and too much stress are the top contenders.

Why did I get it? Now we are back to the hair scrunchy. I stretched and let it spring back to a smaller size several times. Then I stretched it to its limit and held it in that position. I told them that was a good way to see what was happening in my body. I was stretched and I wasn’t being allowed to bounce back. I hadn’t been resting enough and was staying tired. I had been sick and addressed the symptoms but not the source. I had been in a constant state of stress for months. I ignored all of this and kept pressing on. Finally, my nerves just couldn’t stretch anymore without breaking so they did what they had to do to get my attention.

I asked my kids what I did sometimes when everyone was being very loud and no one was listening and I needed their attention. I yell. I don’t like doing so and I try not to do so but, there are those moments in this xlfamily that I can’t be heard otherwise. That is what my body is doing. Yelling at me so I will stop and help it to feel better.

Pain got my attention. The blisters on my face yelled at me in the mirror. I changed my plans. I went to the doctor. I started the medication prescribed. I slept and slept and slept. I cried a lot from the frustration of having to disrupt my very full life. I canceled dental appointments for them, eye appointments for me, small groups, activities, meetings, until there were absolutely no dots on my calendar. I admitted to myself and to them that I was ill.

Then, I began to address the stress. That’s going to be a journey that will take a while but, I’m taking the first steps towards where I need to be. I am praying more and attempting to allow God to handle many of the things I was attempting and failing to do so.

I had the kids attention. The Shingles had my attention. We were all listening intently. I released the band and it sprung back to the shape it was designed for. I reminded them and mostly myself that Mom has limits. I assured them and mostly myself that I’d bounce back too.

Shingles has been a wake-up call for me. I’m pretty stubborn and it took a yell for me to listen. What will it take for you? Don’t think you are the exception and keep stretching your body beyond limits. Don’t assume because you’ve gotten by with neglecting yourself that it won’t catch up with you one day. Don’t insist on attempting to control what is beyond your control.

As a Christian, I take much comfort from and find much wisdom in Scripture. This passage reads so true to my heart in the Message and I want to share portions of it with you to ponder as you consider what it is going to take to get your attention.

“My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects. God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God?
At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.
Hebrews‬ ‭12‬:‭4-11‬ MSG

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Drums, Dogs and Dragons

If you are a parent by any means, you’d do well to learn about drums, dogs and dragons. These are tools of the trade that I highly recommend to those who would thrive rather than simply survive this quest of raising children.

DRUMS and other musical instruments encourage and provide opportunity for expression and creativity through music. For children who are constantly being shaped and formed to fit into the molds of normal and acceptable behavior, being able to freely dance to their own beat can counteract the challenge and stress of learning to do life right.

We almost always buy musical instrument gifts at Christmas. This year included a Kalimba, Djembe, Bongo, Xylophone, Bodrhan and Conga Drum.

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We experiment with these a couple of times a week. We have a music room. Well, it is just a room in this old fixer-upper of a house that we put the very used piano that was given to us, the keyboard, the drum set, my guitar I never learned to play and even harmonicas can live there. It is the place where we have explored and expressed ourselves without the worry of doing it right or doing it wrong.

Every family could benefit from such a place. A place designated to singing your heart out, dancing until you are breathless and listening for the beat. That’s how we usually start our music sessions. “Quiet! Quiet!” I will proclaim. “Listen for the beat!” Then we begin. We pass around the instruments, settle on a favorite and let the fun begin.

As a homeschooling mom of many teens and tweens, we have lots of hormones and feelings and attitudes happening at any given moment, let me just tell you. Sometimes, you just have to organize the chaos to the best of your ability and go with the flow. Or perhaps I should say rather to go with the beat.

I’m glad to say that as they have been regularly exposed to various rhythms and tunes, my children are becoming musically inclined and talents are behind discovered and then fine-tuned (pun intended). I’m often asked how they are all so musically gifted. I tell the truth, I just provided the drums and tried hard to never complain about the noise.

DOGS and other pets encourage and provide opportunity for learning responsibility and to nurture and care for another living being. Plastic dolls and stuffed bears have their place, but, a real living, breathing animal as a pet takes a child to a whole other place. Being depended upon and being counted upon is just what many children need in their lives.

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As a foster mom for fifteen years I often saw that the hurting and wounded children that walked into our lives could trust our dog before they bring themselves to trust us or other people. A pet is an opportunity to do for another life what should have been done for you. A pet never tells your secrets and never thinks you are ugly or dumb. They never think your dreams are unreachable. They love you at your worst. They think you are the best. What an opportunity for healing and growing and maturing!

DRAGONS and other fantastic creatures and adventures provide opportunity for imagination to soar. Stories can be written, poems penned, pictures painted, drawings sketched as they create worlds of heroes and heroines, worlds where good prevails and where you can soar far above the battle that rages below.

Look, our kids face battles just like we do. Whether you birthed them, fostered them, adopted them or simply loved them, the children in your life sometimes need to escape from the demands of school work and chores and maybe even memories of a dark yesterday.

As a mom I have learned the importance of listening patiently to the retelling of dreams that seem surely to have been embellished. I have learned to laugh with delight at the corniest of jokes. I have applauded effort rather than results. I have created scenarios to teach subjects that were tender and make them bearable. I have walked through the doors of imagination and validated the need to do so.

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Pretend is the place where you have no limits, no boundaries, no closed doors. They can visit Mars or save the world or be a little prairie girl. They can right the wrongs and correct the injustices and discover the solutions. They may, they likely will, discover themselves while the visit there.

Take courage. Gather your drums and dogs and dragons. Prepare thyself for the quest of raising up children who know how to find the beat, love and dream.

Will You Be Mine?

I have known great love in my life. I was cherished as a child. My husband has lavished love upon me. My relationship with Jesus is a love affair of the soul. There is another great love story in my life and none of you that know me even a little will be surprised to know that it involves the remarkable love of adoption.

We have adopted seven children. Three were infants when they came to us as foster children – 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months. We had the great joy of being able to adopt them after they had been with us and after we had grown to love them. They, being very young had no real say in the matter but, as they also had grown to love us, it was a welcome and beautiful turn of events for us all.

Our other four children would be what is referred to as older-child adoptions. The youngest of those came to us at 3 years of age and when the adoption occurred he was 5 but, still too young to have much of a voice about it. He knew he was loved and he knew he was safe and he loved us back with great abandon. That was enough.

The other three were indeed old enough to have an opinion. Having joined us as foster children at ages 6, 7 & 8, each arrived with adoption as the plan. The adoptions happened when they were 9,10 & 9 yrs old. They were young but, they were a part of the decision to be a forever family.

I’d like you to stop and think for a moment of children you know that are 9 & 10. Think of the emotional fragility of that age and the tender hearts, the feelings that are stirring as they become tweens, the dependence upon the adults in their lives for guidance and self-worth, the way they need affirmation and encouragement. Then, I’d like for you to think of them, uprooted, unsure, traumatized, confused, frightened and ‘in the system’. I know that wasn’t pleasant. There’s nothing pleasant about a child, any child being in such a place. You’ve just imagined the real plight of thousands of children.

If you’ll bear with me there’s a point to these thoughts. One more thought path. After being in such a terrible predicament, think of them having to answer the question of ‘will you be mine’? Think of the enormity of it. Think of the trust required, the risk taken, the courage needed.

I hear a lot of concerns about the risks that accompany adopting older children. I’m not going to tell you it isn’t risky. Love is risky business. Love leaves you vulnerable. But, the risk is just as real for the children being adopted as it is for the adults who are adopting.

Once, many decades ago my Henry asked me ‘will you be mine’? I answered yes. Once, maybe more than once, in your life time you have heard Jesus ask you ‘will you be mine’? You should answer yes. The day may come when a child who needs a family will ask you ‘will you be mine’? Will you answer yes? If you are blessed beyond measure as I have been, you may one day draw a child into your arms who has every right to hesitate to trust and ask them, ‘Will you be mine’? They will hopefully say yes.

We chose to adopt all seven of our children but three of them also chose us. This is the great love that we will celebrate this weekend and every weekend of our lives. The celebration of a question asked and the answer given.

“Will you be mine?”
“Yes!”

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Great Divide excerpt for Christian Fiction Friday

I’m participating in my first blog hop and excited to do so. Below is an excerpt from my book _Great Divide_ from the very first chapter. I hope it makes you smile. Christian Fiction Friday!

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I was almost there when I met Aslan. He looked strange. His face was misshapen. There were little bulges all around his cheeks. I immediately thought that wasps must have stung him! My heart was moved with compassion! I hurdled towards him with my last ounce of strength when I realized this was not the case. He had a mouth full of the eggs I had just collected! Outraged I yelled one of our new training commands we had just learned at Puppy Training. “Leave it!”

He did, he immediately and obediently opened his mouth to let 3 eggs (one of them bantam size) drop and crack at my feet. Now, I was mad, bent out of shape and about to blow. I could feel my temperature rising. I grabbed his leash, without speaking a word although he apparently thought I’d be pulling out a liver treat for his quickness to follow the ‘leave it’ command and attached him to a tree. Cookie Doe was now bawling so loud that I’m sure she could have been heard a mile away.

Forty-five minutes later having finished up the milking, returned the girl goats to the yard, carefully securing the gate, cleaning up the spilled grain and broken eggs I walked into the house. I kenneled Aslan and headed straight for the shower, longing to go back to bed but understanding that the day had only begun, after all, it wasn’t even eight o’clock yet.

The children would likely wake while I was in the shower, so I’d have to hurry. Having just gotten my hair good and sudsy I heard a shrill scream. I stopped, cocked my head like a dog might do and listened. There it was again! A scream of terror! Something was wrong! Not even stopping to turn off the water I grabbed my towel as I sprinted from the bathroom, through my bedroom and into the living room where the two girls were standing and holding on to each other for dear life.

“What is it?” I gasped! Quickly taking in the scene, looking for blood and realizing that wearing only a towel I certainly wasn’t wearing a gun. Together, in one accord, eyes wide with fear they answered. “A MOUSE!”

Soap now stinging my eyes worse than the sweat had done earlier, I turned. Without a word I walked back through my room, back into the shower, ignoring the minor flood that now existed on the bathroom floor.

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Stupid Cupid

Valentine Day is just over a week away and I’m hearing lots of comments concerning it. One of my teen daughters said just what she thought about it. “I hate Valentine’s Day”. I was a bit startled by her strong comment but, then again, not really. Yes, I mumbled to myself, I fully recall thinking ‘Cupid is stupid’ at her age. I even saw a friend on twitter who is planning an anti-valentine party. I couldn’t help but giggle. Another friend and I were a bit shocked as we entered a store together and the first display we saw in honor of Valentine’s was filled with dancing little devils holding menacing pitchforks. A day that seems to revolve around emotions surely stirs them up.

As a school-aged child I remember my own experiences to be strained at best. I enjoyed making the decorated box for my desk and took great care about filling out each tiny card to take to my classmates. The thing is I was filled with such apprehension about who would not drop a card in my box that I secretly resented the whole affair. Perhaps I was the first one to mumble ‘Stupid Cupid’ (not likely) but, I am sure I haven’t been the last. Up until I was fifteen I didn’t have lots of attention from boys. After that I had way more attention than I knew what to do with but, that’s another story for another day. Here is what I learned early on. Valentine Day was a day to be measured and more often than not I was found lacking. Lacking on the scale of love. Now, that’s heavy.

Now to most of us as mature adults we know that is foolishness but, still there is this day to celebrate or face or endure, accordingly. Some of us are married to the loves of our lives and have been a long time. Some of us have found the love of our lives and making plans for the future. Some of us have known love and lost it which causes our heart to grieve. Some of us are still waiting and hoping. Some of us have given up on love altogether.

With this in mind I’d like to offer a few suggestions that might make a day that seems unbearable, bearable in spite of Stupid Cupid.

1 – If you are in a relationship worth celebrating then do so. You have been given a great gift. Try something unique rather than elaborate. Give each other a pedicure at home with lavender scented water and include a nice foot rub. Make chocolate covered strawberries together for each other. Go to the museum and laugh at each other’s responses to the unusual things you will see. Read poetry to each other and do so with much dramatic flair. Be mushy.

2 – If you have known and lost a love worth grieving then do so. You too have been given a great gift. Give yourself permission to have grief but, don’t allow grief to have you. Honor the memory of what was good yesterday and then remind yourself of the joy of today. No matter how sweet the past may have been, it will not sustain you completely in the present. If you aren’t careful, you may find yourself stuck between the two and wasting away. That’s no way to live your life and you have a wonderful life to live. You too can celebrate love by pouring it out on others.

3 – If you are still waiting and growing weary as you do so, you too have something worth celebrating. You! You are worth celebrating. Show yourself a little love. A new book, a day off, a trip to the spa, a special concert, a lovely meal, maybe even a road trip. On my own?? You say? Yes, on your own!! I say. Why not? Go different places and do different things and remind yourself that you are worth celebrating during the waiting.

4 – If you have quite given up on the whole idea of love, you also have cause to celebrate. Here is what it is. Love has not given up on you! Things may have fallen apart and left you sure you can never trust again. People may have shocked and disappointed you until you’ve declared you will never be vulnerable again. Life may have pulled the rug out from under you just as you thought you were finally on the right path. You may feel you have earned the right to reject love and maybe you have. But, here is more good news. Love does not reject you!

Here is how I know.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT)

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