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Monthly Archives: November 2007

Rick Warren (The Purpose Driven Life) says that life on earth is just a temporary assignment. This world is not our home, and therefore we will never truly find complete happiness here. Yes, there will be happy moments, but also just enough discontent, sorrow, rejection, and hurt to make us realize that we are strangers in a strange land. Happiness is not about material success or great fame and popularity. Those things can never be trusted.. Rick wrote, “Never focus on temporary crowns.”

Wouldn’t it make us more content here, if we always kept in mind, that we are just passing through? When this life is over, it’s not the end of the story. It would make many things easier to bear if we thought that way.

What is happiness to you? Is it a nice house, beautiful clothes, a boyfriend, girlfriend, or lover? A new car, expensive jewelry, a great career, or other signs of success, by the world’s standards?

I have found that happiness is fleeting, but joy abides. Happiness comes and goes, but the joy of the Lord is always present. It’s our strength. Why? Because we know we are loved by Him, and we know that there is something better  in our future.

God wants us to enjoy life, not just endure it. I believe that when we find our purpose, then we are fulfilled. That’s how we find fulfillment, by doing what we’re called to do.

Now you can’t just make that happen, though many try. God has to reveal it to you, sometimes little by little. Look for confirmations that God is leading you in a certain direction, and then follow His lead. He can change your life overnight with one connection, or one introduction. Or maybe your calling is to be the best mom or dad that you can be. Whatever it is, you will know in your heart, as God shows you His plan. And it’s never too late or early to find it. Even if you’ve gotten off the path a bit, He can bring you back.

You might not think you’re important, but without you everything would be different. You would be amazed to know all the lives you’ve touched. Sometimes the greatest ministry we could ever have, is to love those close to us unselfishly, and to simply give of ourselves.

In our upside down Kingdom of God, if you want to be first, you must be last, and to become the greatest, you must be the least. You can have all the success that the world offers, and still be a failure, still be unfulfilled. That’s because our happiness is not found in things, or great achievements, but in Him. And we will find a way to praise Him, when life is stormy, and the way is rough, simply because He is worthy.

So some days will be happy, some will be sad, some will have sunshine, some will have rain…

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Today I took my mom to her diabetes practitioner, and we mentioned that she had been having some noticeable confusion lately. It seems that this morning she had been trying to put her diabetes logs in order, with today’s date first (several days are on one page), and so on. Somehow she could not do it today, and she was so frustrated by the time I got there, that she was almost in tears. At times I try to minimize the seriousness of her confusion, but at other times I think it is important to recognize that she is struggling, and validate her feelings. Some days are better than others. The practitioner gave her a mini mental assessment which she passed with flying colors, except for one part where she was to draw a certain time on the face of a clock. She tried and tried and just couldn’t seem to get it. She had trouble with something similar, when her Internal Medicine doctor gave her an “on the spot” assessment. At any rate, it seems that there are just a few areas where things are not quite connecting right. She tried to take Aricept awhile back, but the side effects were just horrible, so she had to get off of it. She received another prescription today called Namenda. She is going to give it a try, but if she has problems, she can just come off of it also. I guess anything that’s strong enough to help your mind, can also affect it adversely to some degree. So we’ll see. I get scared when she tries new drugs, as she is on so many already, but I know that this is of great concern to her. She is a brilliant lady, and has always been very articulate and knowledgeable. I think its because she realizes that her brain is not functioning as it always has, that it is very frightening and worrisome. She still does her own tax returns, and handles her business quite well, though the amount she has had to deal with since my dad’s death, has been relentless.

But as I sat there today, I felt very happy as she spelled world backwards, and remembered ball, flag and some other word that I cannot now remember-LOL!

But I also felt very sad to watch her struggle to put the hands on the face of the clock to say 3 o’clock. She kept trying, and with each second that passed, I felt my heart break…It seems like we just keep saying goodbye to things…

Today I wrote an article about a news story I was following, concerning women who go to spas in big cities. It isn’t prima donnas and Hollywood starlets that go, but just down to earth middle class women. And they’re not just looking for a massage, or a manicure or pedicure. They’re looking for friendship and sisterhood, without the back stabbing. The women who worked at the spas (mostly immigrants) said that the ladies wanted someone they could tell their troubles to, someone to share their broken hearts with, and occasionally their joy. One woman cries every time she’s there, mainly because there is no one else in her life to turn to. Isn’t that tragic?

What is wrong with our world that we don’t get close anymore? No one seems to really care about anyone but themselves, and their immediate family. We have become an isolated society, going to work, and then retreating to our bedrooms to stare at the TV, or surf the net. We don’t have connections or a sense of community anymore.

In some respects, things were better many years ago, when people had extended families to help them through their struggles.

When we adopted our daughter, at the age of 3, it was very rough for us. We were a little older than some parents, and my husband is 8 years older than me. So that makes our mothers just about ancient. (Just kidding.) But the truth is, our moms were much older than most grandmothers these days, and they were both sick, as well. So we had no one to turn to. My little girl came with emotional hurts, and it was difficult raising her without the help of others. (The one thing I agree with Hillary Clinton about is…it does take a village.) But we didn’t have a village. We didn’t have anyone. All our babysitters were hired, and there was rarely any chance for us to get away together. It’s not that the money was a problem, but who can you trust with your child these days? It took a long while to find those few that we could.

I desperately needed a mom who wasn’t sick and aging. I needed some counseling from my church, but all I got was scripture verses and platitudes. (I needed more.) I needed a friend who would say, “I’ll take her overnight, while you rest.” But I had to do it all alone and isolated. And it was more than I had bargained for. I was prepared to comfort her, but I was not prepared for how angry she would be. (Or that because I was in the place of her mother, who gave her up, she would take out all her pain, insecurity, and frustration on me.) It was a very rough time. I had to be treated for a severe depression, because I had no one to lean on for support.

And so we come back to this story, of these lonely, forsaken women, who have no one to turn to, but an immigrant worker in a hole-in-the-wall spa. They have to pay to tell their story, just as I must pay my counselor to tell mine. Has it really come to this? Are we so alienated from each other that we have to pay someone to listen, because we have no one to share our pain and (sometimes our happiness) with? How tragic…

Despairing of life, a man checks into a hotel at the end of a depressing day. Due to corporate layoffs, he has lost his job and is unable to pay his mortgage, car payment, or child support. Reaching into a corner of his luggage, he uncovers a loaded revolver. With trembling hands he places the barrel next to his temple. Just as he is about to pull the trigger, he thinks of his last hope.

He needs to read a passage from the Scriptures, longing for anything that will encourage him not to give up. He fumbles with the bedside table drawers, looking for a Gideon Bible. Knowing that every hotel and motel room has one, he continues his frantic search. It must be here somewhere…But instead of the Bible, he finds a “One Night Stand” package, and an “Intimacy Kit” with free condoms. In disbelief, he picks up the gun, puts it to his head, and slowly pulls the trigger.

How I wish that I was making this up, but I’m not.  All over the United States, hotels and motels are saying goodbye to Gideon Bibles. It seems that today’s generation is more interested in “sexual lifestyle” products, instead of Scriptures. They like to leave their worries (and their values) behind.

It’s just another sign that the end is near. Our society is turning its back on anything to do with God and morality.

America has always been known as a Christian nation. Not any more. We get upset because there is so much violence, school shootings, child molestation, murder, suicide and crime, etc. And yet, we’ve told God that He is not welcome in our schools, workplaces, or leisure destinations. When we have a national crisis, we all sing “God Bless America”, but what do we give Him to bless?

A nation that turns its back on the Word of God has no hope. Our pledge says “One nation under God”, but we will not submit ourselves to His authority. Our money says “In God We Trust”, but we only trust ourselves, and the almighty dollar.

In my individual life, I need to get back to the Word of God. As a nation, we need to follow its principles.

There is no question that the Bible can’t answer, no fear that it can’t calm. It teaches us how to live purely, and how to love unselfishly. We can find comfort and guidance in its pages. It is a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path…

Please read other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

Well, somehow or other I’ve lost control of the house again. Could it have anything to do with the fact that the bottom floor was flooded a couple of months ago, by careless men working on tearing down our deck, who most often make me think they’re tearing down my house!  (Wow, was that ever a run-on sentence!) Truth is, I had gotten my act together prior to that, and had everything pretty much in order. But then came the flood, and 10 days spent in a motel during the drying out process, etc. Things were turned upside down, and I never really got my motivation back after that. And then of course, there is the fact that my teenage daughter moved back in for a short while. (I don’t think I ever again saw the floor to her room.)

At any rate, being the perfectionist I am (or used to be), it bothers me when things aren’t somewhat orderly. (So I guess you could say I’m quite bothered these days.) 🙂

Sometimes being a woman and having to clean house drives me wild. (If I were a man, perhaps I’d have a wife to do it. No, most likely I’d hire it done.) But the thing is, while I do like a clean house, I hate the drudgery of cleaning it. I resent it greatly. Flylady of Flylady.net calls it the “Home Blessing”. I try to think of it that way, but after a couple of hours, I don’t think of it as a blessing. Actually, the only time I really consider it a blessing…is when it’s done.

Part of this is due to the fact, that I am a creative spirit, who would much rather be writing or reading, or anything but cleaning house. So I run back and forth, from the cleaning to the keyboard, trying to find a brief respite from the mundane tasks.

This house has so many things wrong with it, that it would be easier to move, than fix them. It will probably take the rest of our lives to scratch the surface of what needs to be done. At the moment, our house is missing 2 decks. These were demolished for reconstruction, but the whole project was abandoned, when the guys hit the water pipe that flooded our downstairs. So we are in deck limbo. If I were to open my sliding glass door in the second story living room, I would be like Humpty Dumpty, and would take a great fall. So I live behind closed curtains, trying to remember when we actually had porches, and were able to enjoy the peaceful scenes of our lakeside home. We would spend all evening in the summer on our back porch, resting in the porch swing, and listening to the frogs and crickets. (Wait a minute…did I actually ever live like that?) It is only a faint memory, since the death of my dad, when the care of my mom began to consume my days and nights, and all my thoughts.) So we are poor porchless people at this time. (Don’t you love the alliteration?)

So when I can’t take anymore housework, I run to my computer (though presently, I could easily trip on something getting there), and write articles and abstracts, answer emails, moderate the Grief Discussion Board, and sometimes shop on Ebay. It is an escape from all that isn’t happening in my real life. 🙂

Flylady says that you should declutter for 15 minutes, and then take a 15 minute break. (I really like that part of her philosophy!)

(For my article on “Reducing Stress By Living Simply” visit here: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/389469/reducing_stress_by_living_simply.html

If I am not being creative, I feel like I am smothering. I have to have an outlet for the thoughts and words that fill my mind. I am determined to find a way to balance all of it, so that I have a clean, orderly house, and a happy creative mind. Tune in later…this could take awhile.

Home is a place that we carry inside of us. We can make a home anywhere, if we need to, and want to. It’s funny, recently, when our house flooded, I went to a motel for about 10 days. Sometimes I would come back to our house to check on things, and then I would mention to my my husband that I was “going home.” Going home? I WAS home, or at least I was at my house. Why would I refer to the motel as “going home?” Because I was thinking of home as the place I was going to settle into for a time. Home is carried in my heart. Whenever I go to a motel, I do something that others might consider strange. I always put some special touches in the room. Last time I bought myself some flowers, and I put a battery operated fountain on the table in the room. I had a few items that I had purchased at a thrift store that day (a beautiful rose creamer, and some silk roses and lace) and I placed them as decorative touches around the room. And suddenly it felt like…you guessed it…home. ) So home to me, is something I carry in my heart, but I will create a warm and a cozy feel wherever I go, and I will surround myself with beautiful, meaningful things. I will always have my books, and my Bible, and paper to write on, and a pen. If I don’t have anything else, I’ll decorate my room with a perfume bottle and a scarf. I have to do something to make it mine…to make it feel like home. I am certain that wherever I go for the rest of my life, I will do this. And for me, that will be home.

Music has always meant a lot to me. In fact, I married two musicians/singers. (Not at the same time.) I used to sing professionally with my first husband in nightclubs and lounges. I have happy memories of that time. My current husband, Rob, and I owned a Christian Coffeehouse (Crossroads) for four years, and sang together there on the weekends. I loved singing with him. We both enjoy music so much. Our favorite times, were when we would have the coffeehouse all to ourselves, and we would go in to practice. We were in heaven, just singing our hearts out.

Tonight we were listening to music on the computer, and watching some YouTube videos. We were trying to come up with story lines to make one video better. The trouble with story videos, is that it limits your imagination. I have always enjoyed thinking up my own scenarios, as I listened to the music. Images are so powerful, and to go with a song, they have to be right.

Then we went to Kellie Pickler’s MySpace web site, and viewed the video of her at the CMA awards. Kellie is singing a song about her mother, who left her when she was very young. (Her mom has come forward recently, and said that she left, because she was abused by Kellie’s dad.) Kellie co-wrote this song, and sings it from her heart. She broke down, when she sang it on the CMA awards. By the time we finished watching the video again, we both had visible tears in our eyes. Music is so personal,and sometimes the music just gets inside of you.  My heart goes out to her, as I can see that she is really hurting, and in many ways, Kellie’s still just a little girl who needs her mom…

Well, you just have to laugh at life. I never thought I’d be one of the ones missing from the Thanksgiving table. I tossed and turned all night, and then woke up with chills and fever. No way could I make it to dinner. Yes, life does throw some curves.

So while the rest of my family is chowing down on turkey and dressing (and lots of other goodies), here I am with a thermometer, and Tylenol. Say what?????

Well, I’m not as devastated as I would have once been. I guess my body is telling me that I need the rest. My schedule has been ridiculous, and I suffer from sleep problems since my dad died. I was always a night owl, but never an all-night owl (until recently). I really need to get this under control, but it is so difficult.

At any rate, I hope your Thanksgiving was everything you hoped it would be, and more. I’m still smiling, so that’s good. But I had a bad day…

It is the night before Thanksgiving, and I took my mom out to dinner, as I do at least once a week. Then we did a little Christmas shopping for her great grandchildren. She was off balance most of the night. She told me before we left for dinner, that she had fallen three times last week. Twice she had to call my brother to come pick her up off the floor, because her arms cannot support the weight of the rest of her body, in order to raise herself up. The other time she was struggling with a package that the mailman had pushed too tightly into the mailbox. As she fought with the package, it won, and she fell into the nearby street, on her bottom. (“Help I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up”) But God has angels everywhere it seems. A nice woman who lived nearby (that she did not know) appeared, and helped her up. It just so happens that this lady worked in a nursing home, and knew the proper way to lift my mom up, without getting hurt. (My widowed mom still lives in her own home by her wishes.)

My mom always tries to hide it from me when she falls. We once had an argument about this. She had relatives visiting her, and she fell, but no one told me. I even asked, when I saw a bruise on her arm, but she lied about it. When I did find out, it made me mad because I am her primary caregiver, and I need to know if she has taken a fall. But what can I do? She has a mind of her own, and says she doesn’t want to worry me. I think at times she would rather eat worms than use her walker. That is so frustrating to me, because if she takes a bad fall, she could be incapacitated for a long time. Life would then get even harder for her…and me. But the good thing is, I have learned that I am not in control of all this. I have to trust God, or I will go crazy with worry.

If you have lost a parent due to aging, then you know the pain of watching them slip away, little by little. My dad died a little over 2 years ago, after a triple bypass. He came through the surgery fine, but went through a horrible time from complications of pneumonia, staph, and serratia. It was a nightmare. He wasn’t supposed to die like that. So many people have a triple bypass, and it changes their life, for the better. But not my dad. (He’s actually my step-dad since I was seven years old.) At first, we didn’t get along, but the older I got, the more we loved each other. After I married and moved out, we became very close over the years, and his death was the saddest moment of my life so far. When I walked into his room, and stood with my family by the bed after he died, I literally wailed. I could not believe this man that could fix the world if it broke, could not fix this.  He was gone. He had retired to take care of my insulin dependent mom, who has so many health problems, and I did not know how I could make it without him. I hope I have made him proud by the way I have cared for her, and tried to be there for her. I will never stop missing him.

So now I have to watch my mom go through the ravages of aging. Thin skin that bruises at the slightest bump, always cold and needing a jacket, off balance continually, slowly losing her eyesight in one eye, and having a great deal of trouble remembering things. I try to cover over that part for her sake, because it embarrasses her when she can’t think properly. She was a very smart woman, who worked all of her life until retirement. The only friends she had were through her work, and she never really nurtured those friendships, so when she retired, she really had no one. So other than a little bit of family, I’m it for her. And my brother, of course, who comes for lunch every day that he works at a nearby Home Depot. He does her grocery shopping, because I have a torn rotator cuff (shoulder problem), but I do all the other errands-doctor’s appointments (between the two of us, we have a different doctor for every body part-lol), shopping, post office, pharmacy, etc. (We also do a fair amount of grocery shopping anyway.)

I was having trouble living one life, and now I’m living two. I will be there for her always, but I am overwhelmed at times with all there is to do. But I am more overwhelmed watching her go downhill. But that is something I cannot change, and I guess I have to accept it, and enjoy the time we have. She says continually that she doesn’t want to live to be much older, so I guess I have to remember that if anything happens.

(To read my article on “Old Age and Happiness” go here): http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/404850/old_age_and_happiness_attitude_is_everything.html

There have been at least two times that I thought she was dying, and stood by her hospital bedside, trying to prepare myself for her death, but somehow she pulled through to everyone’s surprise. Losing my dad has been terribly hard on her. They were married 44 years, and loved each other very much. 

It seems that I am always grumpy when I come home from our days together, because the stress of it all wears me down. Holding onto her so tightly everywhere we go, wondering if her blood sugar will go low again, watching over her every move, and just trying to listen to all the complaints that a woman in her condition has. The child has become the parent, and it is exhausting. It is just too much some days, and I think I bring it all home, and snarl at my husband at times, when I don’t mean to. If you have ever been a caregiver, then you understand what I mean. I am so patient and kind to my mom, but I often take out my frustrations on my husband. I wish I wouldn’t do that, and I am working on it. I love him very much.

Okay, that was my vent for tonight. This day is always an especially difficult one. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and we are going out to eat. I cooked last year, but just don’t feel like it this time. After dinner, we will go to a movie.

We will miss my dad. Our little gathering is dwindling. This year it will be me, my husband, our 18 year old daughter, my mother, and my brother and his son.

I have many happy memories of Thanksgivings past, and I hope that tomorrow will be nice as well. (I never know when it will be the last one for my mom.) But I guess there are no guarantees for any of us. The secret is to cherish the moments. They say that happiness does not occur in whole days, but in moments. It’s the moments that matter…

I saw her today as I was checking out at Ross. Her face was so grotesque that it almost looked like she was wearing a mask. Her nose was very over-sized, much like one of those big red clown noses, that people like to kid around with. It was lumpy and monstrously ugly. And her cheeks were like two large, lumpy padded pillows. At first my mind could not make sense of what my eyes were seeing. But as I narrowed my focus, I realized that this was not a mask…this was her face. The one she would have to get up to each morning when she brushed her teeth. The one she would have to catch a glimpse of, in the mirror, out of the corner of her eye, as she washed her hands in a public restroom. The one that she had to look out from each day, as she worked at the cash register. She would never hear anyone say she was beautiful, and that made me very sad. All women love to hear that, whether we believe it or not…

I began to think of all the times that I have not felt adequate, or fashionable, or pretty enough. My heart felt a distinctly sharp pain, and I knew that I would have to magnify it a thousand times over, to understand what this poor lady went through every day. How many times would a child point and laugh, or God forbid, cry in fright? How many teenagers coming through the line would jab each other in the ribs, and make a derogatory joke at her expense? How many adults would stare in gaping astonishment, at the sight they were beholding? How many people would turn away and go to another register, unable to deal with the horrible image?

Standing there, I realized how blessed I was to have a normal face-one that didn’t call attention to itself in a crowd. While I compare myself to others, who are much more beautiful, and feel like I am lacking, she would probably give anything to just be plain for one day-to just have a regular nose and cheeks. (To just not be noticed.) Once again, I felt a stabbing pain in my heart, that threatened to double me over, because that’s the way I am. (I identify with people to the point of physical pain.) And I knew at that moment, that she was far more courageous than I would ever be.  I would want to hide under the covers, or stay inside with the curtains drawn. But she bravely took on the world, and all its sorrow day by day.

Then it happened. A lady stepped up to her register, and the hideously deformed cashier smiled the biggest and kindest smile. And her eyes were like shining stars, with the warmth of a cozy fire. And for that moment, she was beautiful. I saw her spirit, and her misshapen body just fell away.

The Bible speaks of a time when believers will know each other “by the spirit”. These bodies are only a shell for the spirit within, and when they are no longer useful to us, we shed them and break out of our cocoon. That is when we are truly free. And in this life, there are moments, just moments, when you see beyond the trappings, be they gorgeous or grim. And you cut through all the superficiality, and the facades. And you see the spirit.

God help us to recognize all the lonely, but truly beautiful, people in our midst.