I Blog For Books

29 January 2010

One Small Room

This week, part of our class had to do our 6 hour clinical rotation in a nursing home. I have had little experience with nursing homes, and was rather apprehensive about the few hours I'd spend there. The visit was mostly an observational one, to give us a better picture of RN duties outside the more traditional hospital setting. From the time I entered the facility until the moment I walked out the front door at the end of the rotation, the only thing that matched my preconceived notions (and past experience) of nursing homes were the residents!

When I say the residents, I mean only that I expected senior adults to be living there, and that is exactly what I found. Absolutely nothing else about this visit was what I expected it to be. As we wound our way through the residence halls, two things struck me right away: the cleanliness (it was cleaner than some hospitals I've been in), and the attitudes. That's right, the attitudes. Without exception, every single person on the staff that I encountered during my 6 hour visit was pleasant and willing to answer questions, displayed care and concern to the residents, and presented themselves in a very positive manner. It was obvious that they cared about the jobs that they were doing.

What stood out the most in my mind was the individual living arrangements. This particular facility has a very high number of private rooms; the rest of the rooms are doubles (two residents per room). The administration spoke briefly with our group, giving us a bit of history and a glimpse of future plans. While some administrative people you encounter sound like a walking PR firm, this was not in the least scripted (or certainly didn't sound like it!). It was a story from the heart about people who are passionate about the service that they provide and about the people who become part of their family. We heard funny snippets about shared rooms being divided into two distinct parts (if you ever shared a room growing up you will completely understand!). For the residents at this facility, it truly is HOME.

Look around you, if you're at home. If not, visualize the place you live. Now constrict your vision and realize that you will be living in one room. Just one room! You obviously can't take everything you own ... what matters most? That socked me rather hard. What does matter most? What would I take with me if I had only one room? If I had to condense my life into one small room, what would I take to make it as much home as possible? The one constant that I saw in almost every single room I had the opportunity to view was pictures. I don't know if they were friends, family, or both, but nearly every single resident had pictures on a wall in their room. I think about my living room as it sits right now. Never mind the shoes that need to be put away or the hoodie thrown over the back of the couch, never mind the books stacked in at least two different locations ... there are pictures on almost every available surface. Pictures of our families. They are there with us because our families cannot be. It's no substitute for the real thing, but it's definitely better than nothing.

What would you put in your room, if one room was all you had? I'd definitely have pictures, maybe a rocking chair if room was available. I'd have my Bible, and probably more books than allowed if my eyes let me still read. What else? I don't know. I don't want to think about it ... but maybe I should. What better way to get your priorities in order than to realize that you, too, might be living in a single room someday? What matters most?

In What Matters Most, author Hyrum W. Smith guides you through setting goals and formulating a personal mission statement. Does that sound familiar? Smith founded the Franklin Quest company, which later merged with Covey's Leadership Center to become Franklin Covey Company, one of the best known providers of time management training to both individuals and companies. In a nutshell (and without going back and rereading the book), Smith's book asks that you break things down to their very basic components to determine what is the most important thing in your life. For most of us, an answer wouldn't be difficult to come up with. What matters most to me? My children, my husband, my family, my friends. When you get your priorities in order, your life flows smoother. What should be my first priority? What matters most?

My relationship with God is at the top of my list. Without Him, I have nothing, I can be nothing, I can do nothing. Because of Him, I am blessed to have three beautiful children, a loving and supportive husband, family that loves and cares for me, and friends that I can depend on. Because of Him, I have reasons to live. Because of Him, I have a future. I never need to lose sight of that simple fact. God, I am humbled by the richness of my blessings. What I have done to deserve such bounty, I do not know, and may not know in this lifetime, but I am eternally grateful. Please continue to lay your hand upon me and guide me along the path that you have determined is mine.

"To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."~Mark 12:32-34 NIV

20 January 2010

What I Really Am

When something triggers an idea strong enough for me to sit down and write, I have no idea where it will end up. I don't know if that's because I'm untrained, or if that's just the way my brain works. There are times when I go back and read what I've written and it surprises me. I'm thinking to myself "I wrote that?" Last night, I was driving home in the light fog and the ideas were flowing. Fog, how the spectral shapes can make you think you see things that are not there, the eerie feeling that comes when you are out in the fog ... anyway, you get the idea. Today when I sat down and began writing, a line from the Nickelback song "How You Remind Me" flashed through my mind and sent me down an entirely different path.

Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger penned the lyrics to this particular song, the first single released from 2001's "Silver Side Up." I haven't heard the song in several weeks, but I've almost stopped questioning why things direct me to write. Because I'm not totally familiar with the lyrics, I looked them up. Reading through the entire song, it's not so much the whole song as parts of it that made me sit up and take notice. Kroeger starts:

Never made it as a wise man
Couldn't cut it as a poor man stealing
Tired of living like a blind man
I'm sick inside without a sense of feeling
And this is how you remind me
This is how you remind me
Of what I really am
This is how you remind me
Of what I really am

Let me break my thoughts down for you. First, I don't claim to be wise, and although poor, I don't steal because that's just wrong. The next few lines were like a sledgehammer. Tired of living like a blind man, I'm sick inside without a sense of feeling. This is how you remind me of what I really am.

Wow. When I was walking through life without Jesus by my side, I really was living like a blind man (woman). Without his guidance, there are obstacles everywhere. There was always a sense of something missing, feeling like I was not where I should be and unsure if I was going to get there. Thinking back reminds me of just how far I've come, and what I would be without him.

It can be difficult to turn your back on what you've done in the past. Ask for help. None of us are perfect, but we are all God's children. He sees, he hears, he loves, and he forgives. Every blessed day he reminds me of this fact: I am His!

God, I thank you for loving my imperfections, for steadying me when I stumble, and carrying me when I fall. Thank you for guiding my path, for showing me what we can do together. Please help me to let others see you in me.

"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." ~1 John 1:8 NIV

15 January 2010

The Reason

Do you ever wish you could change the radio station in your head? You know the one I mean ... the one that just arbitrarily plays bits and pieces of songs until you have to find the music and listen to it on an external component (in my case, it's usually the computer). Today's tune? "The Reason," the 2004 hit by the California grunge band Hoobastank.

While grunge is not the type of music that I ordinarily listen to, this particular song struck a chord from the first time I heard it. Written by lead singer Doug Robb, "The Reason" climbed the US charts to peak at #1 on the Top 40 charts, and at #2 on the Hot 100. The song is probably most famous for its airplay on the final episode of "Friends."

Why does this song stick in my head? I don't know what Doug Robb was writing about, but "The Reason" has been referred to as an "anthem for change." Look at the words and decide for yourself:
I'm not a perfect person
There's many things I wish I didn't do
But I continue learning
I never meant to do those things to you
And so I have to say before I go
That I just want you to know

I've found a reason for me
To change who I used to be
A reason to start over new
And the reason is you

What comes to mind? A relationship that has suffered? For me, it speaks volumes about my relationship with Jesus. He knows, of course, that I'm not a perfect person. He doesn't expect me to be. What does he expect? That I do the very best that I can. But you know what? The more I learn, both about myself and about Jesus, I realize that there have been many times in my life when I have disappointed him. What makes me want to change that? To change who I am? He does. Jesus is the reason to start over.
The apology of the next verse is especially true for me. For those that I have hurt, I'm sorry doesn't seem to be enough. I'm sorry, too, for disappointing God.

I'm sorry that I hurt you
It's something I must live with every day
and all the pain I put you through
I wish that I could take it all away
and be the one who catches all your tears
that's why I need you to hear
(repeat chorus)

Music is a powerful tool. Interpretation is largely left up to the listener, and for ten people, a song will probably have ten different meanings. Doug Robb's song may not have been written as a tribute to Jesus, but that's the interpretation that works for me. Those are the words laying on my heart.

Jesus, I'm sorry is a pitiful phrase to offer for the mistakes that I've made. Fortunately, you have blessed me continually, absorbing the hurt and standing strong beside me even when I chose not to notice your presence. I pray that you continue to guide me, and to keep my eyes open.

"...'What was your reason for doing this?'"~Genesis 20:10 NIV

12 January 2010

Never Alone

Music is almost a constant in my life. I'm listening to it, reading about it, or it's playing in my head. Sometimes, a thread of a song will make me stop, think, research ... and write.

Today, a phrase from the Green Day song "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" started running through my mind - "I walk alone." I thought about it, and wondered why that particular phrase came to me. I don't walk alone ... but I have.

Look at Billie Joe Armstrong's lyrics and think for a minute.

I walk a lonely road
The only road that I have ever known
Don't know where it goes
But it's home to me and I walk alone

There have been times in my life when I've been there. On that road, feeling like I am truly alone. Never mind the fact that I have a rather large extended family and group of friends ... never mind the fact that the feeling could come when I was in a large group ... the feeling of being terribly, utterly alone.

Looking back, I realize where that disturbing sense of loneliness came from. It came from my refusal to reach out and grasp the one lifeline that is always there. Even though I dedicated my life to Christ when I was a child, I did not faithfully follow the path that God had set for me. There were years-more years than I care to think about-that He was no more than a strong presence in the back of my mind that I refused, for whatever reason, to bring forward. The amazing thing is that He never left me. Through the ups and downs of my life, through the things that I probably never should have ever even thought about (or done), though I turned sideways to block Him from my line of sight ... God never left me. What in the world did I do to deserve that?

I don't know. God does, because He put me here. He kept me alive as a preemie (against all odds) for a purpose that He alone knows. Now, I feel like I'm going through my days trying, somehow, to make up for all the time I lost. I'm never going to be a licensed minister, but that won't stop me from proclaiming my Lord. This may be the only venue that I ever utilize - but God has given me these words.

What song am I singing now? "Have Faith In God." It's credited to BB McKinney, but I can't verify that, and don't have a hymnal at hand to see who they give credit to. Whoever the author was hit it dead on in this particular song:

Have faith in God
when your pathway is lonely
He sees and knows
all the ways you have trod
Never alone
are the least of his children
Have faith in God
Have faith in God

I do. How very fortunate I am that he didn't give up on me. God, thank you, once more, for your many blessings. Help me to be what you know I can be, and help me help others.

"For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations."~Psalm 100:5 NIV

08 January 2010

God Is In Control

Last night's BCS National Championship game was the meeting of two football dynasties. Alabama's Crimson Tide came into this game the overwhelming favorite, in search of their first national title since 1992. The Texas Longhorns were not only ranked second in the nation, but were coming into the game as the underdogs. I'm not going to get into a bowl game history lesson, but some seemed to forget that the last time Texas played for a national championship, they were also the underdogs. Led by Vince Young, they defeated the highly touted USC team in 2005 to take the national title back to Austin.

Reading the posts attached to several of the game stories this morning, I am extremely disappointed. The nasty jibes and often foul comments are simply unnecessary. Yes, this was the ultimate college football game. There could only be one winner. What happened? On the fifth play of the game, Longhorn senior quarterback Colt McCoy was injured. Colt McCoy is not the only quarterback at Texas, nor is he the only player on the team, but when those three words "McCoy is injured" boomed from the television speakers, Texas fans worldwide sat up a little straighter and wondered how this would affect the outcome of this final game of his college career.

Replaced by freshman Garrett Gilbert, McCoy spent the rest of the first half in the locker room and xray in an attempt to determine whether or not he would be able to return to the game. Despite multiple sacks, Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy led the Tide to a 24-6 lead at halftime. Questioned, both coaches simply stated that the game's strategy would change. For Mack Brown and the Longhorns, it would be a fight to get back into the game with an untested leader. For Nick Saban and the Tide, it would be adjusting for the freshman quarterback they were now facing.

Shortly after the start of the second half, fans learned that McCoy would not be returning. He stayed on the sidelines, talked with his predecessor Vince Young, and encouraged his teammates. The Longhorns rallied to within 3 points, but fell to the Tide 37-21. What I was most proud of was the way that both coaches and most of the players handled themselves during this game. After the game, Nick Saban could have gloated. He didn't. He spoke quietly and respectfully of the quality of both teams, giving credit to an excellent season played by the Longhorns under the leadership of Mack Brown. Cut to Colt McCoy. My first thought was "leave the poor guy alone!" That thought went away as soon as the obviously emotional McCoy began speaking.

He told Lisa Salters that he would have liked nothing better than to play, but that he couldn't feel his arm. Say what you want about that, and I'm no quarterback (I'm not even remotely close to an athlete), but if you can't feel your extremities, their usefulness and accuracy are both about tied for zero. McCoy went on to say that "I always give God the glory. I never question why things happen the way they do. God is in control of my life. And I know that if nothing else, I'm standing on the Rock." With those words, I believe we saw the real McCoy.

College football is over for the year. The national championship title returned to Tuscaloosa. For those fans who can only find nasty things to say about either team, their coaches, or about McCoy's injury, God help you. While it's fun to shout and fun to cheer, in the end, it's still just a game. Don't make it more than it is. Growing up and living in the football-loving south, I am very familiar with the phrase "football isn't a matter of life and death, it's way more important than that!" It isn't. When judgment day comes, I seriously doubt God will be concerned with your devotion to your favorite football team, but will instead be wondering why it couldn't have been directed toward His team.

God, please help me never to forget that you are in control. Open my mind and heart so that I may receive your guidance, and continue along the path that you have chosen for me.

"A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control."~Proverbs 29:11 NIV

06 January 2010

Three Beautiful, Blessed Years

On January 5, 2007, I was in a hospital room in Heidelberg, Germany, trying with varying degrees of success to help be a labor coach. Isn't it strange how things change? It was no laboring mother in that hospital bed, it was my baby (actually my oldest), and I was just praying for strength for both of us to get through this! Some 15+ hours later, January 6, 2007, Samantha Mackenzie was born, and our lives have not quite been the same since.

I'd always heard the stories, but I guess there is truth in the saying that there is nothing quite like a grandchild. From the moment I first held that tiny little angel, she grasped my heart. I have been blessed to spend a lot of time with Sami over the past three years, thanks to the Army. When the Army tells Nik to go, she buckles down and does what so many other military parents do--gives over the care and safekeeping of the most precious thing in her life to the two people she knows will cherish that charge: her mom (me) and her Honey (my mom). The joy of spending time with my only grandchild is dampened by the sadness of having to watch my daughter depart once more.

Today is Sami's third birthday, and like her first, she will be spending it with her mommy. This year there will be more family than mommy, because Nik and Sami are stationed at Fort Drum. Grandpa Jon, Grandma Becca, and Aunt Nannelle will be able to celebrate Sami's day with her. Sami has celebrated each of her birthdays in a different location: her first was in Germany with mommy and friends; her second in Alabama with Neicy, Honey, Rob, Aunt Nannelle and Uncle Creighton; and now her third in New York.

As we go through life, most of us celebrate the day of our birth in some way or another. Even though we have a special day to celebrate our moms, I think that this year I'm going to thank my mom on my birthday. After all, if it weren't for her and my daddy, I wouldn't be here! I won't be able to thank daddy in person, but he will know. Later on this afternoon, I will call to say "Happy Birthday" to my little angel, but I am also going to thank Nikki for giving me one of the best gifts ever!!

Thinking about birthdays and gift-giving brings me back to the holiday season we just recently celebrated. Although we do not know the exact date of Jesus' birth, we celebrate his birth on December 25. It's not about Santa and spending money, it is about the gift of eternal life. Take a minute to thank GOD for giving us the best present of all: his son.

For those of you who have already celebrated your 2010 birthday, happy belated birthday! For those of you, like myself, whose day of celebration is yet to come: take a moment in the midst of all the well-wishes to give thanks. Give thanks to your parents for having you! Most of all, give thanks to God for the gift of life ... and the gift of eternal life.

God, among the many blessings that you have so generously bestowed upon me are four bright lights: my three beautiful children, and my precious granddaughter. Make me worthy of such riches!! Happy Birthday, Samantha Mackenzie Magoun! You have brought untold blessings to your neicy! God, I ask that you continue to guide this "neicy's" footsteps so that I can be as much a blessing to my granddaughter as my grandparents were to me.

"From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another." ~John 1:16 NIV

05 January 2010

It Worked!

Today, I received several copies of an email titled "It Worked!" If I only sent it to 12 of my friends and family, I would be rich in 2 days! If I delete the email, I'll beg. I smile every time I receive this email, because it's nothing new. I have received this particular message too many times to count over the years that I've had email, and I have yet to receive a windfall of any kind.

Think about the tag line used as the header for this particular email: "It Worked!" How many products have used this in the past, and with what success rate? Curious, I set out to see what I could learn about attention-getting headlines. When I typed in the phrase "it worked!" into Google, I received nearly 50 million hits in less than a second. Scanning the links that ranged from Australian sunscreen usage to designated drivers, I was amazed at the results. Typing in other phrases such as "new and improved!" (56 million hits) and "try it!" (47.5 million hits) gave large numbers as well. What do you do when you find something that works for you? As a general rule, we tell others. We want to share our happiness/success/discovery!

Nearly 37 years ago, I accepted Jesus as my savior. Those years have seen peaks and valleys of professing my faith, with nearly as many valleys as there have been peaks. Has Jesus been inconsistent during this time? Of course not! I should have been shouting from the rooftops, telling everyone that I come into contact with, taking out full page ads in the paper ... or should I? Where does it say that I must be the most attention-grabbing believer? Nowhere. My granddaddy was not a teacher, nor was he a preacher, not even one to be overly talkative at times. He lived his faith. He believed that he was a child of God, and believed that God would provide. We are all different when it comes to expressions of faith. My outlet is writing, yours may be singing, and someone else's may be preaching the word. What works for me might not work for you.

The biggest decision we ever make in our life is not whether or not to buy that car/house, or to date/marry someone, but is the only decision that has ETERNAL consequences. If I turn away and deny my God in this life, I can be certain that when I stand before him he will deny me. If, on the other hand, I turn my life over to God and follow his will, believing in his saving grace, he will say to me "welcome home, child" when I stand before him. Can you say the same?

Turning my life over to God was one of the easiest decisions I ever made. I was nine years old at the time. Rededicating my life was a conscious commitment that I made just a couple of years ago. God hadn't given up on me, but I had put him on the back burner. I am truly grateful that he had not done the same with me. What worked for me? God. He did, He still does, and He always will. (How's that for a tag line?)

God, I ask your hands to lie upon me and guide me through all the days of my life. Teach me the words that will let me share your amazing power and glory.

"Teach me knowledge and good judgement, for I believe in your commands." ~Psalm 119-:66 NIV

01 January 2010

Once More, A New Beginning

Today is January 1, 2010. One hundred forty-seven years ago, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Fifty-one years ago, Fidel Castro upset Batista and took control of Cuba. Thirty-five years ago, Mitchell, Haldeman, and Erlichman were convicted of obstruction of justice in the Watergate debacle. Sixteen years ago, NAFTA went into effect. Six years ago, Myspace was officially launched. Three years ago, Adam Air Flight 574 disappeared over Indonesia with 102 people on board. One year ago today, the state of California made it illegal to write, send or read text messages while driving.

Looking back always brings a sense of amazement to me, especially when I sit poised on the brink of a new year. Who would have thought that Castro would still be in power fifty years later? Did anyone realize six years ago just how predominant social networking would become? How many people in California have violated the text messaging law? Thinking about these, and other seemingly irrelevant questions, causes me to think about things that are relevant, at least to me. What will 2010 bring for me and those that I love? How will I effect change in not only my life, but the lives of those that I touch? How can I serve others? Will I meet my goals for this year? What are my goals for this year?

Making New Year's resolutions is fairly common. While more women than men tend to make these life-changing goals, men are actually more likely to keep them! Why do we make resolutions at the beginning of the new year? There are as many reasons to make resolutions as there are people that make them. Think back over the past few years. What have your resolutions been? Have you kept them? If not, why not? If you have kept one (or more), how did you succeed?

The first stumbling block in making personal goals or resolutions is a simple, yet sometimes overwhelming, one. Remember to make your goals SMART. What is a SMART goal? Breaking it down, S stands for specific. Instead of making a generalized goal such as "I'm going to get healthier this year," make the goal specific, "I'm going to lose weight this year." M stands for measurable. Measure your weight loss plan by further detailing the goal to read "I'm going to lose ten pounds this year." A stands for attainable. While we are familiar with the phrase "Shoot for the moon! Even if you miss you'll land among the stars!", that mindset does not always work well for goal-setting. If you plan to lose weight, for example, make your goal an attainable one. Discounting measures such as surgery or other diet aids, is losing 150 pounds in one year an attainable goal? You may have that as a large goal, but set smaller attainable goals to reach your large goal. R stands for realistic. A realistic goal is exactly what it sounds like. If my goal to increase my bank account in 2010 is winning the lottery, well, I think you get the idea. Last, but certainly not least, is the T in SMART goals: timely. Set a time frame to achieve the goal you've set for yourself. I think that there should be an B on the beginning of this goal-setting phrase for begin. Why? If you don't begin, even the SMARTest of goals will not see completion.

What is your plan for 2010? My goals for this year are not overly complex. To graduate from nursing school in May and pass the NCLEX to become a registered nurse is one major goal. One other goal? Live each day so that I am a witness for God, being thankful for his abundant blessings.

God, you have stood in front of me, beside me, behind me, and even carried me over the past 45 years. Once more, I ask your mercy and grace in helping me through. Help me to be your emissary in the days to come, for it is truly through you that all things are possible!

"I can do everything through him who gives me strength."~Philippians 4:13 NIV