A Gift While Traveling

Hello all!

Now that I have introduced my new blog theme, I wanted to write about the other part of my inspiration for this journey of mine.

It was actually more of an epiphany.  I was on my way up to Michigan and, as usual, I popped in an audio book on CD.  I had downloaded this title from www.eAudioSource.com quite a while ago, because the title of it struck a chord within me.  I also saw this same book in one of my favorite bookstores, “Half-Price Books,” and always meant to pick it up, but didn’t. 

The book is called, The Traveler’s Gift and was written several years ago by Andy Andrews.  It was named to the New York Times bestseller list and has sold over one million copies.

In summary, without ruining the story for those who may wish to pick up a copy of the book, the main character, David Ponder, a married man with one daughter, has just found out that he has lost his job due to cutbacks.  He is in his forties and feels like no one would want to hire him since he has done nothing but work for this same company for so long and wouldn’t have the qualifications to do much else. 

For years, David has been trying to “keep up with the Jones’” and before he knew his company was downsizing, he had purchased a new home and a new car for his wife.  Now, it seems his world would crash down on him.  And it does, when he finds that his daughter needs an emergency tonsillectomy and there is no insurance to pay for it.

On his way home from the only job he could find right away, a part-time job at a hardware store with a non-supportive boss, David thinks about nothing but his problems.  He feels so depressed and worthless that, without any thought for his family, except for the fact that he may be worth more dead than alive, decides to take his life.

A car wreck ensues and David is left to take on the journey of his life.  He finds himself in a “dream state” as he is guided by several, highly recognizable, characters, each helping him on his way by sharing the personal decisions that made them the successful and memorable people they definitely became.

The result or “take away” from the story is a list of what the author calls, “The Seven Decisions for Personal Success.”  But wait!  Before you decide that this is, “just another leadership seminar piece,” it isn’t.  I have never considered myself a leader.  Not to say I haven’t the characteristics to become one, I have always felt just a little more comfortable at the back of the pack, writing down what happens to everyone else in front of me.

This book did, indeed, strike a very convincing chord with me, as it introduced me to a part of myself that was keeping me from becoming everything I could be.  It showed me how different choices in life have made me or ruined me.

Since my sister passed, I have found myself, as a good friend of mine put it, “retired” from the role of caregiver.  I have been caring for every member of my immediate family, whether they thought so or not and whether I needed to or not, for the past eight or so years.  I have kept myself in everyone else’s business for so long, that I gave up thinking about MY future. So…what do I do with myself, now?  Who has a job for an out of work caregiver who hasn’t been in the “real world” for years?

These were, and still are, some of the things that are racing through my head, and are the exact same ideals that are stopping me from making it, “beyond the thorn Hedge.”  However, as I started to read more about these “Seven Decisions for Personal Success” that Andy Andrews talks about, my thoughts are starting to change from “Why me?” to “Why NOT me?”

In my attempt to bash through this prickly hedgerow, I will share these Decisions with you in the upcoming posts, and, in an attempt to make my initial headway into this new foray on the “real world,” you will be viewing the next post…drum roll, please…on my new website!!  I’ll let you know about the transition in the next few days.

Stand by!  And yes, it’s okay to stand in the back of the crowd and write down what happens to me.  Just remember to wear a hard hat and gloves, because those pickers are going to be flyin’!

Blessings!

“I accept responsibility for my past.  I control my thoughts.  I control my emotions.  I am responsible for my success.  The buck stops here.” – Andy Andrews, The Traveler’s Gift.

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Welcome! Watch Out for the Pickers!

Hello, and welcome to my new blog focus!  The need to shift my pen away from “Sistersitting” was painful but obvious, however, the new direction was truly, “Heaven sent.”

I am basing this blog on a passage of scripture that jumped off the page at me as I was scanning for wisdom and new direction for my life in the Book of Proverbs:  “The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway.” Proverbs 15:19 (NCV)

Naturally, when one is struck in the gut by something that makes him say, “Hmm…,” it makes sense to probe a bit further on the meaning of the low blow.  So, I went to one of my favorite websites, biblegateway.com, typed in the passage reference and started seeking out different versions of this same text.  Of course, the translation that made the most sense came from The Message bible which says:  The path of lazy people is overgrown with briers; the diligent walk down a smooth road.”

Okay…so what, you may ask as I did, does that mean?  Well, if you look up the definition of the word, “sluggard,” you see many different definitions.  “Lazy” is one of them, along with “idle” and then finally, the tell-all for me, “procrastinator.”

Immediately the old adage, “Never put off to tomorrow, what you can do today,” zipped into my mind.  There were also more passages in the Book of Proverbs about sluggards that talk about the different excuses he devises for not going to work or for working at anything at all:

“A sluggard says, ‘There’s a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets.’”

“As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed.”

“A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.”

“A sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven people who answer discreetly.”  Proverbs 26:13-16 (NIV)

I am the world’s BIGGEST procrastinator.  I am always “about” to start a job, but not quite.  I can invent excuses by the thousands and tell myself I am wise for thinking things through just a little bit longer.

Well, after being confronted and, might I add, “convicted,” by the Word, and realizing I deserved the aforementioned punch in the gut more than I ever knew, I set out to find the best course of action for my penitent behavior.

This blog, should you decide to read it and endure the pickers with me, is a written account of my attempts to find a way through the thorn hedge that is stopping, and has been stopping me, from becoming the person that I was meant to be.

Why would you want to follow me on this journey?  Well, even though the abovementioned proverbs are humorous, when you laugh about them, as I did, you find yourself thinking, “That’s certainly not me!  I’m not like that.  Now my friend ___, he is definitely a sluggard.”

Well, not so fast!  Are you holding off on that big decision?  Are you hoping that someone else will take on that monster project that is lingering in your garage?  Have you found your true purpose in life?

I’ll be the first to admit my guarded behavior, and I will say it again:  “I am the world’s biggest procrastinator.”  Come along on this journey with me…it will take a lifetime, for sure, but at least, as one of my favorite authors, Andy Andrews, writes: “My life won’t be an apology.  It will be a statement!”

Will yours?

Blessings…and yes, my travelling adversities will be a gift.  For me, and, perhaps, for you!

“The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work.”  Proverbs 21:25 (NIV)

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The Window

This past Sunday, we celebrated Deanna’s life.  We memorialized her in a beautiful chapel that was a favorite of ours when we were little kids growing up in the church school of the First Congregation Church of Ann Arbor, the church that this chapel is attached to.

It was very quiet and comforting, with just the girls and Ken and I along with a family friend, Mrs. Lenz, who was the Christian Education minister when Deanna and I were kids.  There were flowers on a small altar that were Deanna’s favorites, bright gerbera daisies, with two pink carnations and one blue, intermixed with the rest.  The two pink representing Deanna and I and the blue, my brother, Ted.  My father brought my mom a carnation when each of us kids was born.

We spoke of love and how it is something that never disappears and how we need to rely on our memories to sustain us now that our loved ones are gone.  Mrs. Lenz said she felt that the veil that is between Heaven and Earth is so very thin, that if we speak to our loved ones and ask them for help or plead them to be near, they hear us and send us messages and helps and comfort.  That is when I just had to, of course, interject and say, “Oh my favorite thing happens…Grace!  She mentioned that “grace” is something to definitely watch for…but, you have to remember to look for it!!

We talked some more, prayed, shared smiles and tears, and then we parted ways.  But before we did, Mrs. Lenz wanted to tell the story behind the beautiful stained glass windows in the chapel.

There was one window, in particular, that made me remember another that I had seen back home and stopped to look at recently.  They both had a dove within their depictions and they each represented peace, new-found glory and the ascension of Christ.

The window at New Life Hospice Center in Lorain, Ohio

The above window was hanging in the hospice center where Deanna was being cared for in her final days.  I didn’t really find comfort in its meaning until I was leaving Deanna’s memorial service and saw those same doves and was reminded, through story, about their significance. 

Deanna is free.  She has ascended into glory.  She will no longer be in pain.

It’s amazing how you can look at a window or a picture and it makes you feel anxious and heavy burdened at first.  And then, when things calm down and you are finally given that small bit of understanding, that truth, that very same picture will give you nothing but peace.

I hope that when you look at the picture above, you can feel it’s peace within, and know of its story of freedom and deliverance of the soul from pain and sorrow.  And I hope you will be comforted, too.

Blessings…and peace!

“Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.”  Psalm 55:6 (NIV)

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The List…

I have been blessed to have been sent so many beautiful cards these past few weeks from family and friends.  They contained poems and scripture and words of healing and hope.  I thank you all for them.

I also saw a trend in a lot of them that made me think about my life over the last year and all the things that have happened.  Of course, the multiple loss of loved ones stands foremost in my mind, and it was evident that this same fact was on the hearts of the card senders, as well.

I never thought of myself as being judgemental.  I always felt that I gave each event in my life equal opportunity to produce whatever feeling or action it was due without getting in the way of it.  But I was wrong. 

I recently found myself playing the “why me” game and the “perhaps this happened because…” situational theory.  It added no personal gain, as far as sympathy was concerned, in fact, it only made me seem more judgemental than ever and produced a profound sadness that dumped me into further despair.

I recently read this passage from a Max Lucado book entitled, “Come Thirsty.”  It reads:

We only have a fragment [when it comes to life's stories]. Life comes in fragments.  Our mishaps and horrors are only a page out of a grand book. We must be slow about drawing conclusions. We must reserve judgment on life’s storms until we know the whole story.

I interpreted this message to mean, for me, that only God knows the true reason for all things.  It maybe difficult for us not to wonder why and think of what ifs, but dwelling on them only makes you feel worse.  Not to mention, it makes you judge and jury of God’s business, which is not a path I recommend taking.

The Lucado passage goes on to say that, “I am content with what I know.  I am not perturbed by what I don’t.”  It is not always an easy thing to say to yourself, but if we hold all our questions, make a list so to speak, of all of the “how comes” that occur in our lifetime, we can be sure that when we get to our eternal home, we will receive all of our answers.

Just now, in writing that last paragraph, I thought of my sister and brother.  I remembered how, when I was little, I always thought they knew everything.  I mean, they started school before me, they went through puberty before me, they drove a car before me.  They even dated way before me.  How much I looked up to them and asked them for advice.  And, how much they enjoyed being in that position!  Ha…

But they didn’t know everything.  They got “fragments” of life’s understanding, just like I did.  However, now that they are with our Father in Heaven, they honestly do know more than I do and about much more than I could ever think of to ask or list. I can hear the raspberries and “nah-nah-nah, boo-boo’s” of my siblings, now!  The teasers!

Blessings!

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (Matthew 6:34)

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Grief, Emotions & Personal Space

It has been a rollercoaster of a week for me.  I have been experiencing a number of different emotions all through my day and the worst part is that my brain never seems to give me a heads-up as to when or what type of emotion is going to come to my head.  Tears leak out at a moment’s notice, followed by a smile of reflection over a memory and then a sigh of relief that my loved ones are safe in the Father’s arms.  Then, right when I am relaxing from my day, the whole process starts all over again.

This, my friends, is the grieving process.  What is said to be normal and healing seems to feel more like a controlling force that has you in its grips until YOU decide to break free of it.   When does that happen?  It is different for all of us.

For me, it happens when I can summon my loved one as I am witnessing something truly amazing, beautiful, insightful or unique to them.  This “ability” comes from something I started when I was little.  Every time I did something or felt something that truly overwhelmed me, and my parents weren’t there to witness it, I would call them and share my vision with them.    I remember the first time I did this.  I was on a trip with my church youth group to Chicago, and we took a tour of the Sears Tower – at the time, the tallest building in the world.  When we got to the top and walked out to the lookout, I was overwhelmed by the sights I saw, and the only thing I could think of to do was to call my parents and tell them so they could see it, too!  I did, and they delighted in it.

Another time, I was on my honeymoon cruise, and as I opened the door to our cabin on the ship, the first thing I did was ask Ken if I could call my mom and dad!  I know, I know…it doesn’t sound like the first thing you think of on your honeymoon, but to me, sharing a moment or experience that takes your breath away with those that haven’t witnessed it and maybe never will, seems like the most important thing to do at that time.

The desire to do so overtakes me when it comes on, it has me in its grips and until I describe it to a loved one, I cannot break free of the feeling, the necessity to share.

Not long ago, I was at my niece, Chelsea’s, choir concert.  I was sitting next to Deanna who was so excited to finally hear her sing.  The lights dimmed and the choir walked out on stage.  When Chelsea came out, I looked over at Deanna and saw the joy in her face and I immediately had the feeling to summon my mom and dad to witness this perfect moment in time.  All I do is close my eyes, and ask, without speaking, “Mom, Dad, do you see this?  Are you with us at this time?”  And I always feel comforted by a presence that overcomes me with warmth along with a smile that is stuck on my face when I open my eyes and view that special moment with them.

I know that I will be able to reach out and feel my sister and brother in this same way, but it will be after my surface emotions fade into good memories, dreams and laughter which, for me – and it seems the same for Ralph and Chelsea, too – comes with allowing yourself some personal space, time and prayer.

We have decided to have a small memorial “service” for Deanna at the church where she and I went through Sunday school classes together, up in Ann Arbor.  It will be a private, personal time of reflection, discussion and prayer, guided by a wonderful family friend and reverend from the church.

Please know that we are thankful for your understanding of our need for personal space right now and that we have discussed plans to make a road trip around Michigan to visit all of our family and friends in the coming summer.  Deanna will be buried with her Mom, Dad and brother, Ted, in Charlevoix at that time, as well.

Also, please know that, during our service of prayer and reflection, I will close my eyes and call upon you all to witness with me, the peace that transcends all understanding that comes when we summon our Father in Heaven.

Blessings!

“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”  James 5:16

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Absent from the body, present with the Lord

Hello:

It is with a very heavy heart that I write to let you all know that my sister, Deanna, lost her battle with cancer today at 7:30am.

Her journey continues, as does mine, only she will be doing the sistersitting now.  I’m sure that I will feel her next to me while I write and hear her speak to me through memories and dreams. 

Deanna wished to be cremated and that has been arranged.  We have not decided on a service as of yet, but it will most likely be something very small and private.  I will not be posting the particulars here due to privacy reasons.  Those that have access to my email or phone can call if necessary.

In lieu of flowers, however, donations can be made to Mercy Regional Foundation at this link: https://www.ehealthconnection.com/secure/lorain_foundation/foundation.asp or you can mail a donation, noting that the funds are in memory of Deanna Hanson to: 

Mercy Regional Foundation
3700 Kolbe Road
Lorain, OH 44053

All donated funds will benefit Mercy Hospital, the Mercy Cancer Center and the New Life Hospice of St. Joseph.  These facilities gave such loving and devoted care to Deanna during her illness and we are forever grateful.

Thank you, my friends and family, for coming along on this journey with Deanna and me.  I must say that this is not the end of “Sistersitting,” it is merely a change in direction.  I am a sister in Christ, so you readers are my brothers and sisters.  Therefore, if you want to keep up with my posts, I stand ready to sit with you…with a beautiful muse on my shoulder whispering her take on my life in my ear.

Blessings!

Deanna Irene (Dean) Hanson — 1963-2011 — I love you big sister.

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Still with us…

Hi All:

Deanna continues to rest comfortably in hospice care.  She seems very peaceful and in no pain whatsoever.  Chelsea, Ralph, Ken and I were all up to see her this afternoon, and are confident that she is aware of our presence and hears our caring words of comfort and ease so that she may know that we are okay and she doesn’t have to worry about us.

Chelsea made the decision to go back home to Michigan today.  It was difficult for her to say goodbye for the last time, but she knows that her mom is close to being reunited with Grammy and Papa and Uncle Teddy.  That sounds much too infantile as I look at it now, because Chelsea has been so amazingly insightful and a true confidant to me.  We are on this journey as a sister and daughter to Deanna, but are becoming closer to each other as sojourners of life in general.  That, to me, is grace.  I have been on the lookout for it, as usual.

We are hoping that, even though it is difficult to do, our decision to get back into our life routine will help Deanna to know that things are okay with us and that she can make her transition into her new life.  I will continue to visit her every day and will stand by 24/7 for a phone call that she is most definitely on her way.

I thank you all for your support and continued prayers.  We are so blessed to know we have such loving family and friends.

I will close with this short story excerpt I received in my email today:

When Death Becomes Birth

by Max Lucado

You, as all God’s children, live one final breath from your own funeral. Which, from God’s perspective, is nothing to grieve. He responds to these grave facts with this great news: “The day you die is better than the day you are born” (Eccles. 7:1). Now there is a twist. Heaven enjoys a maternity-ward reaction to funerals. Angels watch body burials the same way grandparents monitor delivery-room doors. “He’ll be coming through any minute!” They can’t wait to see the new arrival. While we’re driving hearses and wearing black, they’re hanging pink and blue streamers and passing out cigars. We don’t grieve when babies enter the world. The hosts of heaven don’t weep when we leave it.

Blessings!

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