Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Guarantee!

There is something I can guarantee: if you really take time to worship God your pain becomes more bearable.  No, it doesn't mean that the pain is less (sometimes it is worse) but when you focus on the Creator of the Universe and our Savior Jesus Christ, the unbearable becomes bearable.

Worship can take place in many ways.  Singing is probably the first thing that popped into your head when you read the word: Worship.  the freedictionary.com gives this definition of worship:
"wor·ship (w├╗rshp)
a. The reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.
b. The ceremonies, prayers, or other religious forms by which this love is expressed.
2. Ardent devotion; adoration.
3. often Worship Chiefly British Used as a form of address for magistrates, mayors, and certain other dignitaries: Your Worship.
v. wor·shiped or wor·shipped, wor·ship·ing or wor·ship·ping, wor·ships
1. To honor and love as a deity.
2. To regard with ardent or adoring esteem or devotion. See Synonyms at revere1.
1. To participate in religious rites of worship.
2. To perform an act of worship."

Even being devoted to God is a form of worship - loving Him is worship - so ANYTHING we do to show that love and devotion to God becomes worship.  The life I live becomes worship when I live in a way that pleases God.  The choices I make becomes worship as I make choices that God approves of - for His approval the Word of God is FULL of things God loves: purity, honesty, obedience, respect to elders, generosity, thankfulness, serving others ... 

And yes, worship does include going to church or singing songs of praise to our Great God.

On Sunday my sweet Husband made lunch for my Grammie and I - then he brought up his guitar and hymnals and we spent quite a while singing together from the old hymns.  It was beautiful.  Just the three of us lifting our voices to the God we love.  Worship happened.  We all came with things weighing on our hearts, pressures of the day, even pain - but we left feeling revived and full of joy. 

How will you choose to worship today?  I would love to hear your stories!  Feel free to email me privately at aliwenz78@gmail.com

God bless you all today!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

When are we done?

Last night I was working alone on wedding flowers (which I LOVE doing).  I had the Christian music station on the radio and a song came on that had a line in it about a baby having his daddy's eyes.  Out of absolutely nowhere I felt a crushing pain in my soul - that longing, broken kind of pain that takes your breath away - and the tears filled my eyes.  In the same moment I felt annoyed for feeling that pain over something that I have been dealing with for over 5 years.  I wished for this pain - the pain of being unable to have a baby biologically - to be over, for it to be healed and gone.  I've had physical pain a lot longer than the pain of loosing the ability to bring a child into the world, and the second pain is infinitely greater.   I know without a shadow of doubt that God will and is redeeming this loss and that He is going to use this to bring something beautiful into our lives.  I know that adoption is beautiful and that if God is willing we will have children someday.  I KNOW all of these things, but the pain of not being able to carry a baby - to have a baby that has my sweet Farmer's eyes is real and very vivid.  I want to be done with it.

I've had this same longing to be done when it comes to physical pain as well.  Several weeks ago when the specialist brought up the very likely possibility that what is causing all these health issues is something more complicated and less curable than we were hoping, I just felt like "WHY can't we be done - we've been down this road too many times already!"  I get the feeling sometimes that people are so sick of me being "sick" that I back off on friendships because I am tired of being unreliable and I'm so scarred that people will get so sick of me that they will leave.  I sometimes push myself too hard because I despise what people must think of me.  Yes, there are relationships that have stood the test of time and there are people who I know will stand by me through rain or shine.  For those people I am so thankful.  But I just find myself wanting to be done with all of this.  Why can't suffering and trials just take a break? 

Then I remember Jesus. 

Even though He is God He came to earth and suffered.  Yes He suffered the worst death I can imagine - but even before that He suffered living a life without the comforts we long for - he wasn't wealthy, He didn't even have a home of His own, all His life people questioned Him and even tried to kill Him many times before they finally did.  He had to flee for His life, spent 40 days and nights fasting in the wilderness (that alone would be the death of me!), tempted by Satan - and in His dying moments He was taunted and spit upon - the very Son of God!  ANY suffering that you or I endure on this earth pales in comparison.  What got Him through?  Love.  He came to show God's love to a needy world, and in those moments of pain and suffering (mental, physical, and emotional) I am sure that love motivated Him to keep going.  If Jesus is to be our example of how to live we need to find the motivation we need to keep going even when we long so deeply to be done with pain.  When the pain of wanting children of our own is too much, I just picture the eyes of Baby Brenda - an orphan in Cameroon who I loved deeply.  Her eyes will always haunt me and call me to a love that goes outside of myself.  When I think my physical pain disqualifies me from LIVING my life I think of the sweetest Husband in the world and I suddenly have the strength to be all that I can be and to serve my Husband with love.  

Love is a great motivator so embrace the example of Jesus today no matter what you are facing. 

Friday, August 26, 2011


Today I have wanted to get so much done with cleaning the house and stuff - but I woke up not feeling well.  It was unexpected (I know you may be asking why feeling lousy would be unexpected - but I think I see myself as feeling better than I do a lot of the time so when it gets in the way it is unexpected) and I could have just given up on everything today.  BUT, I have been learning that even when I feel cruddy I can get some things done if I just pace myself.  Yes, there are days when I can't do much at all - but it is always exciting to me when despite pain or feeling yucky I am able to get something done.  I had to take lots of breaks and I didn't get everything done that I wanted - BUT I did get a lot of cleaning done and even the laundry.  I realize that the laundry won't get folded tonight - and I am ok with that.   Even the best laid plans can be ruined by the unexpected.

Life (physical pain or not )  has a way of throwing unexpected things our way.  Every moment we each have the choice to make to either allow the unexpected "bad" things destroy us - or to make the most of even the things we would never choose.  And then of course there is the beauty of the unexpected as well.  I did not expect to be married to my Farmer Boy - and what a joy he is to me!   So pain or pleasure allow the unexpected to make you a better person today. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Blessing Others

Thanks to all of you who took time to pray for me and my sweet Husband during my time sick in the hospital with pancreatitis.  I've been home now for a week and am finally beginning to feel like my old self again.  We won't know for awhile if the surgery fixed the bile duct problem, but at least it's over and I can go on with day to day life.

This past week we enjoyed wonderful fellowship with my family my six siblings and I all gathered at my parents and camped in the yard, spent hours around a camp fire, played with nieces and nephews and just enjoyed each other.  One of the most memorable moments was when my sweet parents set up a beautiful table complete with lighted lanterns and twinkle lights, and cooked a gourmet dinner and then surprised all of us by serving us and allowing all of us siblings and our spouses take time to just be together (our youngest brother also served with them).  All eight children were in the house and somehow during cooking and serving my parents managed to keep the kiddos happy and give all the parents a needed break.  The hard work they put into planning this and then blessing us kids was amazing and beautiful.  I want to be like my parents.  I want to take time to bless others by serving them in practical and surprising ways.

Take some time to think of the people who are dear to you, and think of creative ways you can bless and encourage them today.  I would love to hear your stories of times you were blessed or times when you were able to bless others.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Doing Something you Love

I think one of the very best tools for helping manage pain is to find something you LOVE and are able to do and doing it!  There is nothing quite as depressing as having no meaning in life - and I think that is one of the main reasons why people with chronic health issues often struggle with depression.  Often jobs are lost, relationships fail and the person with health issues may feel like there is no purpose in life.  I have often said how important it is to find something to do and to feel purpose - for some it may be in writing encouraging notes to others, for some it may be in writing a book, for some it may be holding premies at the local hospital, for some it may be in giving a call to others who are house-bound ... there are many ways to feel useful even without a traditional "job".  Some of you might find great pleasure (as I do) in growing a little garden, or in taking gentle walks, or cooking dinner for your hard-working husband. 

Some of you might not know that one of my favorite things to do is play with flowers.  I have always loved flowers, and enjoyed making little bouquets as a child.  When I met my handsome Farmer Boy I began to work at his parent's farm and that including helping his mom with wedding flowers.  I loved learning from her how to make corsages and bridal bouquets.   However, it was hard for me to keep up with the fast-paced life on the farm, and my health prevented me from continuing the year after we got married.   I cried for hours over how much I missed working with wedding flowers.  When we moved to Seattle area I felt like my passion for wedding flowers was really over.  Then a friend and a cousin asked me to provide wedding flowers for them (I had done lots of weddings on my own over the years while working at the farm) and I agreed.  Shortly after I completed these weddings my mother-in-law suggested that I begin my own floral business in my new location.  2011 began with me starting my official wedding flower business (which is really more of a hobby that I can do at my own pace taking as many or as few weddings a year as I want to).  By the end of this month I will have completed 5 weddings in this spring and summer!  I love working with wedding flowers and I love being my own boss because I can work at my own pace - do 90% of the work from home, and my sweet Husband helps me with delivery and anything else that I need.  It feels so good to help provide some money to go toward our adoption fund, or to help my Husband through school.  Just looking at flowers makes me happy and I am sure it lowers my pain level greatly!  With all that said; I have a big wedding to get working on today!  If you know anyone getting married in the Washington area let me know!  Here are some pictures of my work as well as my website!
photo by Andrez Valenzuela

photo by Constance Starks

photo by Kaci Bisconer

photo by Patrick Wilson

photo by Kevin Wren

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Of Crock Pots and Casseroles

Oh how I am loving crock pots and casserole dishes!  These two kitchen tools are a match made in heaven as you will soon see.  Many of my readers will agree, when you have chronic health issues (not that this is at ALL isolated to those with health issues or chronic pain), you find that making meals for your family (or even just for yourself) can be a major challenge.  I am definitely in that spot lately.  Sometimes I just don't even feel like eating so making food for a Husband with a rambunctious appetite can be quite a chore (but I welcome it because I love Him more than life itself!)!   Lately for whatever reason I have been almost totally unable to eat meat.  But my sweet Husband loves meat - so I have to think outside of what I feel like eating and cook for him.  It's an act of love, and if I allow myself to, I can find it like a puzzle or a contest.  I feel like I succeed when he is happy and fed at the end of the day.

I also tend to have a major slump in energy right about 4 pm - exactly the hour that I should be thinking about starting dinner for my husband before he heads off to work (or rather in between 2 jobs - have I mentioned that he is a very hard worker?).   So, I am realizing that to provide him something other than top ramen or frozen burritos I need to think ahead.   And this brings us back to crock pots and casseroles.  A couple of days ago I threw some frozen meat and some tomato sauce, Italian spices, onion, garlic and fresh kale into the crock pot.  And without any work at all I had a yummy pasta sauce.  The crock pot is amazing for making soups and stews - but I am trying to use it for things other than the obvious.  Curry, taco meat, even a whole roast chicken!   My one issue is that the crock pot has to be full to really heat (the heating element is at the top of the pot), so I almost always end up making too much for the two of us (or the one if it is something that only he will eat).  Well, this is where the joyful marriage of crock pot and casserole comes in!  Today I took the pasta sauce (which my husband was kinda tired of eating) and I made it into a lasagna casserole (with baby lasagna noodles so cute!).  He will love it, and I have saved a pot of sauce from going bad!   Basically any crock pot meal can be turned into a casserole. Now, thankfully my husband actually LOVES casseroles - but some tips for keeping it yummy and not just a mushy mess is to make sure you add fresh things (like for me I added fresh noodles, cheese and cream layered with the sauce), don't overcook the new casserole, and end with some fresh greens on top (basil or arugula spinach etc).  Just think of the possibilities!

I hope this helps those of you who are in a dinner-time slump!  And for those of us with health issues that cause cooking to sometimes be an extra challenge: these dishes require less time on our feet and often provide meals for a couple of nights!  We CAN provide lovely yummy dinners for those we love!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Moments of Joy

My sweet Husband and I have been made very aware over the past month that no situation in life is certain.  Jobs, finances, where we live, starting a family, health situations ... all of these things can change in the blink of an eye.  We don't have control over most things in life and that can leave us feeling afraid and alone, wondering what tomorrow will bring.  During times when life feels turned upside down, how can we get through?  How can we live this MOMENT when we have no certainty of the next one.  Here are some of the ways I have gotten through the uncertain days we have had lately:

* Watering the garden - last night I felt just too tired to do anything, emotionally spent and physically exhausted.  But I knew the hydrangea in the front yard had been wilting during the heat of the day - so I forced myself to get up and go water the yard.  The smell of rain filled my senses as I saturated the dry ground with water.  The sound of water hitting the leaves, the sight of glistening water droplets in the evening sun, the feeling of the cool mist from the hose ... it was a beautiful moment full of joy. 

* Baking - yesterday my Husband and I picked wild huckleberries from the forest in our back yard - then I made huckleberry muffins (well ok I took a boxed blueberry muffin mix and switched the blueberries for the fresh huckleberries - this is a good way to bake if you don't really have the motivation to do the whole process!).  Both my Husband and my sweetest Grammie LOVED them, and it always brings me so much joy to bake something yummy for the people that I love so much.

* Music - going to the early morning church service (even though we were dragging our feet because we were so tired) was a huge blessing this week.  The discipline of joining with others to sing praises to our Great God EVEN when we feel sad or alone is always a blessing if we let it be.  The songs stirred something inside my soul and reminded me that God is bigger than anything. 

*  Focus on others. I was blessed to be asked to be a bridesmaid in the wedding of a dear friend. The wedding took place last Saturday.  I was also honored to be asked to provide the bridal bouquet and flowers for the wedding party and family.  Going to be part of this great occasion was a time that reminded me that in focusing on others - watching the beautiful bride and handsome groom interact, seeing two families joined together for life ... it was such a joy to witness!  Even though I was still grieving over things that have been going on in our life, I was so filled with joy to be able to leave all that behind and focus on the bride and groom.   Self-centeredness is poison, so looking outside ourselves and focusing on others can bring great healing and joy to a weary soul.

* Enjoying "little" things: watching Jeopardy with Grammie, a midnight grilled cheese with my sweet husband (gourmet grilled cheese I might add!), joking around with my youngest brother,  shopping at Costco with two of my sisters, playing "P l aaaa..no" with my nephew, a sweet nap on our cozy couch.  There are so many opportunities to find joy every day NO MATTER WHAT if we just take the time to open our eyes.