Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Prayer for Marriage

Yesterday marked our twenty eighth year of marriage. July 28, 2012. As I was spending time with God and my journal in the morning, this prayer came out of my heart and onto my journal's pages. By recording it here, it's my hope that maybe some of you might be encouraged to seek God's strength and will for your marriage. Our marriage has entered a new season. Empty nest. Our purpose of raising our children is now finished and we look forward to a new season of growing friendships with our adult children. If it weren't for God's help, guidance and love, our marriage would not be what it is today. It is only by His grace that we have life, have love and can have hope for a future of fruitfulness for Him.

Lord, you have brought us through fire and water to the place we are now. (Psalm 66:12) Thank you for the healing you have brought us individually and as a couple. Thanks that you've given us so many blessings we don't deserve. Wonderful young adult children, and a family that is expanding to add now a daughter-in-law. You've given us good health, sound minds, and a vision for our future. We both want to live lives of significance and purpose, Lord. I know that because of what you did for us on the cross, we already have that. (John 14:6)

I ask in Jesus' Name and by His blood that You would release us into the next season in our lives. I believe Your plans for us are very great. Plans for welfare, and not for calamity. A plan to give us hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) Thank you that you are in ultimate control, even though we long to be. Thanks that you see all things from beginning to end. You are outside our space and time continuum. I ask you, Lord, from your vantage point, to fulfill Your will in our lives. Cause us to be fruitful and content wherever we are, Father!

Help us to use our gifts and talents for you. Help us not to judge others for what they have, and what we think we don't have. Help us to have an eternal impact on our children, future grand children, friends, family and the world around us. That's what we both want. Lord, only what we do for you will last.

Unify us, Lord, for it is only in unity that we have strength, power and influence for your Kingdom.  Make us quick to forgive each other and others. Give us understanding of each other and patience in our weaknesses and faults.(Colossians 3:14)

Protect our marriage from ungodly and evil influences, Lord. Protect us from Satan's schemes and keep us both on the narrow path, Lord. It is only by keeping to the narrow path of your ways and your will that we find life. Life in all of it's fullness. (Matthew 7:13-14)

Help us to remember what is truly and really important, Lord. Not the externals, but the internals of humility, integrity, love, honor and holiness. Give us both a hunger and thirst for righteousness. And, as we seek righteousness in you, lead us into your peace and joy. Lord, you promise us joy in following you and your ways. I receive that joy, Lord! I receive your peace on behalf of both of us and our family!(Romans 14:17)

Bless us today, Father, and every day. Bring us into even greater areas of influence for you, Lord. Fulfill your plans and your vision for our marriage. May your kingdom come and your will be done in us, and in our family. In Jesus' precious Name and by His Blood. Amen.

A scripture verse that I've leaned on so much through the years is Psalm 37:4-7a. It says,

"Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass. Be still and rest in the Lord; wait for Him and patiently lean yourself upon Him."

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Turning negative thoughts into gratitude

Seems like every year up until this year, I kind of grumbled because I had "extra" work to do to water all of the flower pots that I wanted to plant. And, I like to plant quite a few of them. I love flowers! I don't usually get real expensive ones. I always feel like my pots of flowers are not as good as the gal's down the street. But,

I like to pick them out. Even if they are just simple.
I like to plant them, but I usually let them sit in their little plastic containers for far too long on the driveway, and some of them end up dying there. That is a sad admission, but true.When I finally get around to planting them, I really do enjoy the creative process of deciding which pot gets the Impatience, and which pot gets the Geraniums. What plants will look best in the hanging baskets, and how to arrange the Asparagus Fern in the big terra cotta pot on the deck.

This year, as I pondered buying and planting the flowers, I was dragging my feet. I really wasn't excited about planting flowers in the pots on the deck because it is peeling and looks bad. However, one night I decided that my negative feelings about my deck were preventing me from fully enjoying the flowers.

I decided to reframe how I was looking at the deck. I asked myself, "What is one positive thought that I can have about a peeling deck?" I decided that it really does match a lot of things in my house. (this is true) I like antiques, and I really do like peeling paint on furniture, so why couldn't I just transfer this attitude to my deck? I'm not saying that we'll never get to restaining the deck. We need to do that. But, we are too busy on other projects to get that done yet. Should I allow that to prevent me from tidying up the deck as best I can and planting the flower pots that I really like? Should my negative attitude about my deck prevent me from enjoying beauty, of experiencing joy? I told myself, "no, it should not." So, I went to the greenhouse and picked out my flowers. Impatience, Marigolds, Petunias, Vinca, plus Asparagus fern. By the time I talked myself into buying them, it was almost the end of June. I had gone way past the usual time for planting, Mother's Day. 

Since I decided to reframe my attitude about the deck. I have also reframed my attitude about watering the flowers every day. See, it's been almost one hundred degrees for several weeks. This is the hottest Iowa summer I can ever remember. My flowers are extra thirsty. They cannot survive one day in this summer heat without being watered thoroughly. In summers past, I would grumble to myself about having to water the flowers every day. At the end of the day, when I'm the most tired I would remember that I hadn't watered them yet, and I'd grumble. 

This year, I am viewing my flower watering ritual differently. I usually get up in the morning and either before or after I have tea, I give my flowers a drink, too. They are a thing of beauty in my life. I want them to stay alive in this heat. I want them to thrive. 
I give each of my four hanging baskets a huge glass of water. I fill up two quart size pitchers and water all of the pots on my front porch and my deck. Every morning. It has become a ritual that I enjoy. 

Today, as I was out in the ninety-five degree heat pouring the cool water into one of the hanging baskets, the thought came to me from Psalm 23:5, "my cup overflows". As the cool water sank into the hot dirt, and some of it overflowed the edge of the basket, I thanked God for how much He has made my own cup overflow with good things. Life, the love of my husband and young adult kids. My air conditioning in this awful heat. So many things to thank him for!

God, thank you for fresh water to drink and that I have enough to quench not only my thirst, but also the thirst of my lovely flowers. The flowers that you made. The beauty that you have surrounded my life with. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Does the world overwhelm you?

A few weeks ago I found a book at Half Price books that turned out to be one of the most validating and helpful books I have ever read. It's called, The Highly Sensitive Person--How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D.

See, I have noticed in my life that I tend to need quite a bit of time alone. Yeah, I know that is called introverted. But, lots of noise around me that goes on too long can make me very anxious. I've wondered, "what is wrong with me, that this bothers me so much?". "Why can I not watch much violence in movies like the rest of my family can?" (I really shouldn't care at all about that one.)

After I've been out shopping for a couple of hours, I've had enough. I need to go home and relax in my chair with a book and a cup of tea. After reading this book, I realize I am not alone! About 15 to 20 percent of the population is highly sensitive. I'll list some of the traits for you. (Learning this stuff about myself was a HUGE revelation!) If you find yourself feeling "different" than the people around you, you might be highly sensitive. Maybe some of these things apply to you. 

1. highly conscientious
2. able to concentrate deeply
3. often think about our own thinking
4. deeply affected by other people's moods and emotions
5. more affected by stimulants like caffeine unless we are used to them
6. more "right-brained"
7. more sensitive to smells, sights and sounds

These are just a few of our traits. We notice levels of stimulation that go unobserved by others. This goes for sights, sounds and even pain. This means that we might get "over-stimulated" easier, and need to take a break. 

You might have some of those traits and not others. I wanted to share this insight for all of you out there that might also have felt like "the odd man out" because you get over stimulated easier. You want to leave that party before your friends do. Or, you don't feel like going with the "gang" on the weekend. You'd just rather have a quiet night at home.  I want to tell you. IT'S OKAY TO WANT TO BE ALONE. You are not weird.

Our culture doesn't seem okay with this. It seems that the 'cooler' you are, the more stimulation you'll want from all forms of media, people, excitement, and activities. I want to tell you, that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Out of around 311,000,000 people in the US, there are about 46,650,000 of us who are highly sensitive. So, millions of us need that time alone with less stimulation in our immediate space. Or, at least we get tired of it quicker than others.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Swede comes to America--A father's story

My dad's passport
When my dad was sixteen, he got on a boat in Sweden bound for America. He made the journey alone. The year was 1948. 

A few years ago, I crafted a fictional story, based on his actual trip to America, to enter into a short story contest. I didn't win a prize, but I sure enjoyed musing about what kinds of things my dad could have been thinking as he left his family in Sweden, bound for a new land. 

As I think about his desire to immigrate to America all by himself, I have simultaneous thoughts of admiration and shock. As a mom to young adults myself, I am shocked that his mother would let him go! I admire his courage and adventurous spirit. 

Several years prior to his immigration, his Uncle Carl had immigrated to Nebraska farm country. My dad was en route to help his uncle on the farm . Below, you will find my fictional story based on true events. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

The Swede

Karl’s little red house in the forest was the only home he had ever known. Now he was leaving it. He was preparing in his heart to say good bye. Not many words were spoken on the way to the dock. Much was left unspoken.

After hugging little brother Bertil until his arms ached, he squeezed sisters Marta and Inga. Mama and Papa were next. Mama cradled his face in her hands and looked deeply into his soft gray eyes. She could only whisper. 

“Karl, I know you will be fine. Joseph is eagerly awaiting your arrival and has good work there for you. We love you. Please don’t forget to write your Mama and Papa.” 

That was all she could say before emotion overtook her. Karl understood. He couldn’t talk much either. He struggled to hold back tears, just as his Papa did. A man should keep his emotions in check.

It was April 19, 1948. The Gothenberg loomed like an ominous gray mountain in the cool morning mist. Karl felt his heart flutter like a hummingbird as he approached the crisply uniformed purser hailing “All aboard!” to those with third class tickets. He shuffled along with  throngs of swarming passengers. Karl turned to wave good bye one last time. Yes, they were still there. Like statues, except each had an arm waving furiously. Karl couldn’t tell if his mama and sisters were still crying. Papa’s face was solemn, but peaceful. Karl knew his papa believed in him. One hot tear escaped Karl’s eye and ran down his cheek. Of course he would miss them! His little family. His little red home in the forest.

Just as Karl turned his gaze from his family, the ship’s thunderous horn blew and Karl thought he would jump right out of his skin. He boarded the ship with his small weathered suitcase in hand and his tweed cap firmly pressed on his wavy blond hair. He would be fine. Those were Mama’s parting words.

His third class cabin was plain. The sheets on his bunk were slightly worn, but neat and clean. A small sink stood alone in the corner, but there was room for nothing else. Not even a window, Karl thought. He gently set down his brown duffle and eased himself carefully onto the lower berth, his hand running over the wool blanket.  He let himself feel the sorrow of leaving his family behind, but was at the same time full of excitement. Come to think of it, he was hungry! The lunch Mama packed him could wait until later. It was coffee time, almost a religion in Sweden and he wanted to find the nearest place to get some. The key turned easily to lock the door of his cabin and he took off down the hallway.

The coffee room was already brimming with mostly Swedish travelers. Steaming cups of strong, black liquid littered all the table tops, with a Swede perched in front of each cup. Nervously, Karl searched the room for an empty chair. There was none. His hungry stomach and the little bit of Kronor in his pocket kept him standing there, looking. 

Suddenly, a young man behind a wooden counter was smiling and waving him over, “Hey….Boy…over here!” 

The next thing he knew, Karl was sitting in the last open spot at the counter with the telltale cup of coffee and a half sandwich.
“Name’s Rudolf Andersson, you can call me Rudy. What’s yours?”

“Karl Aberg”, he said above the chatter of other coffee drinking Swedes.

“Where ya headed…..I mean after ya get to New York? Are ya travlin’ alone?”

Karl spoke hesitantly, “I have an uncle in Nebraska. I’m taking the train there to stay with him. Yah, I’m travlin’ alone.”

“Yah? What will ya do there?”

“My uncle has a farm. I will help my uncle with work there.” said Karl timidly.  

“Ah…how old are ya? Ya don’t seem old enough to be travlin’ alone.”

“Sixteen and one half. I just made the cut off for travlin' alone.“

“Twenty one here. I took this job on the Gothenberg to earn my way to America. Been workin’ ‘bout four months. A couple more and I’ll be on my way to the land of milk ‘n honey!”

Karl realized that his hands had been gripping his coffee cup as if it were his life preserver. He loosened his grip and took a bite of his sandwich as he thought about how kind Rudy was, and how these days at sea might not be so lonely after all.

“Ahh, yah. Where ya from, I mean what part of Sweden?”

“Ljungby, in south central Sweden. You?”

“Uppsala, near Stockholm.”  Rudy spoke briskly with a thoughtful and inquisitive look on his face. “You happen to know Goran Nuvall? He's from around Ljungby and worked on my cousin's tree farm.”

Karl warmed to the young Swede's friendliness and his eyes brightened as if someone lit a match behind them. “Yes! My oldest sister went to school with him, but I haven't seen him in some time!” 

Rudy shook his head in disbelief and amazement and refilled coffee for a Swede at the counter. The conversation between these two young men continued on for days like they had been old friends.  Karl was indeed grateful for someone to talk to on this long voyage. Someone who reminded him of home.

The next ten days on the Gothenberg seemed to go by quickly, especially with Rudy's companionship. Fear, anticipation and relief swirled around inside of Karl as the boat neared its destination. He certainly was not sad to leave it! The suffocating cabin, crowds of people, and nausea…others’ and his own had almost gotten the best of him. 

Karl had his small brown bag in hand and his tweed hat was again pressed firmly on his head. He was ready. His hand went to his breast pocket to feel for his passport. It was there. As he fell in line with the other passengers ready to disembark, he could see the captain and the first mate on deck in their stark white jackets dismissing passengers. Another officer stood beside them, with a starched blue uniform. Karl wondered who he might be.

“Son, may I see your passport?”

My dad's passport stamp
Karl was not sure what he said, and a wave of fear washed over him. The serious faced officer repeated himself. 

“Son, may I see your passport?”. 

By his hand gestures, Karl finally understood what the man meant and took his passport out of his pocket and handed it over. The officer asked Karl a few more questions, but of course, Karl did not understand. That is all he could say in English, “I do not understand.”

The line was backed up behind Karl and he was getting more anxious. He finally understood that the officials were not going to allow him off the ship because he did not know English. His heart sank as if to the bottom of the harbor. Had he come all this way….all the way from Sweden, only to be sent back home? More waves of panic and nausea swept over him as he stood there with his shoulders slumped and his face to the ground.

“Hey….over here!” It was Rudy! “Is there a problem here?”, he spoke in English to the official.  The blue uniformed man repeated himself. 
“I’ll vouch for him!” cried Rudy. “I’ll make sure he gets to where he’s goin’.” 

After asking Rudy to confirm his identity, the official got an incredulous look on his face and said gruffly, “All right. Make sure he gets to the Port Terminal and through Immigrant Registration. It’s a matter of this boy’s safety on our shores.” 

Rudy looked at Karl with a knowing grin and translated the news to him. Karl smiled back, and without reservation walloped Rudy with a hug so hard, Rudy thought he would suffocate. 

“Tack so mycket!”, cried Karl with relief and gratitude. Rudy spoke with a calm brotherly voice, “You'll be fine.” He would be okay, Karl thought with an audible sigh. Those were mama’s parting words.

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