Monday, June 2, 2014

I Got it All Together…Now Where Did I Put It?

This past weekend, as I was throwing piles of scrap wood onto the fire pit along with the debris of yard work only recently done after approximately twenty years of neglect, I threw myself an enormous pity party. I considered myself entirely justified in doing so. My reasons were legion. I really hate to sweat, and the ninety percent humidity combined with eighty degree heat made the logic of such a fire questionable at best. "The next time I have a huge bonfire," I grumbled, "it's going to be October and there will be weenies on sticks!" The lake was beckoning with the sounds of jet ski and pontoon motors humming at a steady level. "Is our pier in?" I asked myself. "No, of course it is not," came the immediate reply. "Maybe I'll go inside and take a break in the air conditioning," came the next thought. In a heartbeat, I remembered that although the air conditioning was running, the cabin is missing two big windows and is covered with tarp. The air conditioning is not actually effective at this time. The charm of the little log cabin in the woods on the lake, gleefully purchased as "the deal of the century", was wearing painfully thin. Buyer's remorse and a pity party seemed to be the order of the day.

 As pity parties go, this was not truly a red hot event. I was able to focus my thoughts in another direction. I began thinking about my recent trip to Scotland, and in particular, I thought about the other women on the trip. What bonds 42 women together? It could have been the challenge of learning to navigate the shower in every new hotel. It could have been the first day of dealing with jet lag. Perhaps it was the search for free wi-fi and trying to stay in touch with family at home. In reality, it was something most European tours do not include. This trip included a daily Bible study--not your typical European tour fare. What became just an interesting side note to the trip rapidly became the focus and glue of the trip.

The women on this trip all appeared to have it all together. Ages ranged from retired to early thirties. Most women were married. Most shared they had children and a good many had grandchildren. It was, to say the least, a very classy group of women. All seemed to share a love of reading. After all, this tour was hosted by a well-known Christian author, Liz Curtis Higgs. Liz taught from the book of Ruth, drawing every woman in the group into her grasp of the Bible--the language, the idioms, the customs and the foreshadowing all included in this great work of the Old Testament.

Something about the intimacy of this daily early morning ritual prompted guests to start sharing pieces of their lives from home. The first days focused on the superficial--the churchy equivalent of name, rank and serial number. Women shared name, occupation, and marital status. But as the days went by, the prayer requests began. This wonderful group of Christian women was truly and delightfully human. More than one woman shared a story of a prodigal child. One dear lady shared of her current struggle with Stage IV cancer. I was able to share my grief in the loss of my wonderful mother, whose generosity had paid for this trip. These women, who have it all together, have issues! Their lives are not perfect.

This group has remained in contact with one another through the wonder of social media. A group member created a private Facebook page, and my feed now consists of a large percentage of posts on this "secret" page. Not only are pictures and book recommendations flying over cyberspace, the prayer concerns and praises have been hitting the airwaves as well.

I had also received a group email from a coworker that morning. Not only is this person a coworker, she is also a dear friend. I work in an office with very dynamic and successful women. All are confident, accomplished, generous and caring, seemingly without a care in the world. Yet this particular friend was coping with a mother-in-law with Alzheimer's in a crisis stage, along with a brother-in-law who was MIA.

So as I stood, dripping in sweat and grumbling about the injustice of not being able to frolic on the lake, my heart went to this group of remarkable women and they faith they demonstrate. I realized my "problem" --my unruly cabin--was such a blessing. For heaven's sake, I have two houses in a time when homelessness is epidemic. My cabin is located in the place I have loved since my teen years. It is located in the place where I was able to question, grow and become committed to my faith. It was in this place, on THIS lake, that I came to know beyond any doubt, the Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Son of God and that amazingly enough, He knew me and loved me.

My cabin is a work in progress. My suburban house is on the market, and hopefully will sell soon. When that happens, I will be moving to the cabin, which currently does not have a single closet. Someday I will be able to frolic on the lake with the other carefree people. But I have realized that even though I will someday "get it all together", I will always have from to grow. As long as I am living, there is the potential for something to go wrong. I'm fairly confident--make the 100% confident--that something down the line will go wrong. There will be more heartache in my life. Yet I am not alone. I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses as the writer of Hebrews assures me, as well as family and friends.

So the next time I think I have it all together, I hope I remember to put "it" in the right context…that of being blessed and loved.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Night Owls vs. Early Birds--Is There Room in the Nest for Both?

Recently I returned from a twelve day adventure to Scotland. I traveled with my friend, Jodi Wilson Kosary. We've known each other since kindergarten. We attended the same small school with basically the same people from kindergarten through high school graduation. We attended church camp together, went to amusement parks together, played guitar and piano together, and sang in many choirs together. And then we went on a trip to Scotland. Together. Just the two of us and forty of our closest friends we didn't yet know.

Traveling can be stressful. Connecting flights, running through the airport, trying to exchange currency, learning how to flush the toilet in a strange place and coping with motion sickness can all accentuate the sense of everything being out of control. But throw in the night owl--who typically finds her bedtime between 11:00 and midnight--with an early bird--who is asleep by 10:00 but up by 6:00 a.m--and the potential for conflict is high.

All the things that are common sense do apply in this situation. Both early bird and night owl were able to compromise and were sensitive to the circadian rhythms of the other. It didn't hurt that the purpose of this adventure was to visit Scotland with author Liz Curtis Higgs.  Ms. Higgs is a Christian author, Bible teacher and "encourager". Both Jodi and I have read her historical fiction (set in Scotland) and gone through her Bible studies. For both of us, the opportunity to have a daily Bible study with Ms. Higgs herself was not to be missed.

This particular Bible study focused on the book of Ruth. I can't teach it any better than Liz, so I won't even try. I will recommend her book The Girl's Still Got It (which can be found at and advise, compel, exhort and entreat you to get a copy and go through it with a friend or group of friends. (And yes, I know how to use a thesaurus.)

What I will tell you is that the answer to my question of early birds, night owls and room in the nest was found in that study. A major theme of the study was that Christ came so that outsiders could be insiders. The labels we attach to ourselves and others are made by us--not by the God who created us and loves us.

So on the penultimate day of the trip--when the early bird looked at the night owl and asked if setting the alarm for 4:30 a.m for a 6:30 a.m. pick up time to the airport--the tired night owl did not attack the early bird. Rather, a compromise was made and the alarm was set. The night owl slept in while the early bird got ready, and they both made it to the airport on time. (In a nice bit of irony, the flight out was delayed more than an hour and both the night owl and early bird could have slept in a wee bit more…whatever that might have been.)

Indeed, there is room in the nest for both the night owl and the early bird.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Fear Not

Being an avid reader, I follow several authors on such aps as Goodreads and have "liked" many of them on Facebook. When one such author couple offered a free download of their latest book, a devotional entitled Fear Not in exchange for a review, I jumped on it. As some of you may know, the last year has been a struggle in many ways as I have grieved the loss of my mother and gone through all the "firsts" without her. I had hoped this devotional would offer some encouragement and be somewhat uplifting. The following is the review I wrote on Goodreads.

So you think you're having a bad day? Struggling with a loss-loss of a job, relationship, illness or death? If you are looking for a devotional to offer encouragement for things in your life that are not going well, then this is probably NOT the devotional for you. If you are uncertain of your faith--uncertain if God is really in control or if there will be a glorious life after death as promised by the Scripture, then this MAY be the devotional for you. Dave and Neta Jackson offer within the introduction the concept of "right remembering" and "wrong remembering". They state: “Wrong remembering focuses on the injustices done and incites hatred and revenge. Right remembering is a testimony that even suffering and death cannot extinguish the victory that is ours in Jesus Christ.”  With this in mind, the devotional offers compelling stories of those whose faith has triumphed--often over death--and points to ways in which the current reader can also triumph.

Divided into historical eras, the book offers several essays on various time frames impacting the church, beginning with the establishment of the early Church as described in the Book of Acts, and ending with modern day times and the spread of Islam. Following each essay are individual stories from that time.

Most disturbing to me were those stories that had to do with the Reformation. In an effort to be "RIGHT", there were many who were "WRONG". Those who were wrong often were tied to the stake and burned. From the tragedies rose great ministries, however, and the cause of the Gospel was furthered. For example, Wycliffe was martyred for his faith--a part of which included making certain the Gospel was shared in written English-- and now the Wycliffe organization excels in Bible translation throughout the globe. However, reading account after account of those who were racked, tortured and burned for their belief. One has the impression Jesus is not amused and will have some words for those who were behind the racking, torturing and burning.

The lives of more recent martyrs are included as well. The famous (at least in Christian circles) story of the Ecuadorian Waodani tribe and the five missionary families that ministered to them is included in several installments. These accounts were less troubling and more uplifting--maybe because the killers were more reactive rather than proactive and were not acting in the name of Jesus Christ as they did it.

Corrie and Betsie ten Boom held on to their faith despite the Nazis in a concentration camp. Mary McLeod Bethune stood up to the Klan and praised God while offering educations to poor black students. Todd Beamer, with others, stormed the hijackers over Pennsylvania and recited the 23rd Psalm and prayed with the telephone operator before the plane crashed.

I'm not certain this is the book I was expecting. The historical sections were written extremely well, and some of the individual stories were uplifting. Others were very depressing, and though meant to be uplifting caused feelings of anger at worst and irritation at best. Understand this a book of martyrs before you turn to it, and you might well find solace. Looking for a more sympathetic and encouraging read, find something else.  

What I did not say on Goodreads is that my mother would have despised this book. We had a pastor who spent an inordinate amount of time talking about those martyred for their faith. There were more sermons based the things that happened to the apostle Paul than sermons preached on the words and actions of Jesus. A tome filled with stories of those who died would have just angered her. I think I am more tolerant than my mom, but this was a depressing way to spend a great part of the day.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Pure Religion?

As the clinical director for an adoption agency, I frequently hear James 1:27 quoted to me…and thanks to Bible Gateway, here it is.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after(A) orphans and widows(B)in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.© (NIV)

This is sometimes the response I receive when I ask what brings the family to adoption. Adopters generally fall into two camps--the infertile and the religious. The religious adopters often express they believe they are "called" to adopt. So this verse--or more likely than not,   just the "look after orphans and widows" part is the answer to the question. And as an adoption agency, it makes sense to hear the orphan part, but I have to admit I am sometimes frustrated that the potential adopters just slide right over that widow word. This becomes more evident when the potential adopters jump right to what kind of orphan they are hoping to help. The orphan they believe they are called to help is a baby--a newborn, please, and one with no health conditions born to a woman who has not used any illegal substances. Even better, she hasn't used any legal substances, like tobacco or alcohol either. And how is she eating? It would be great if she hasn't had any processed meats. The most typical concession made by these potential adopters is to adopt trans-racially. However, I have come across a few families that do not want to make this concession either. In short, they would like to adopt an orphan that could just as easily come from their own family line.

Is this really a picture of what God is asking of us? Somehow, I just don't think so. For one thing, these babies are living, breathing individuals who come with a history! These babies come from two biological parents. Despite the cartoon image of the stork dropping babies into the waiting arms of loving parents, the fact is these babies have human parents. And let's face it. if life was going well for these parents, it is unlikely the idea of adoption would ever cross their minds, much less actually be completed. Infant domestic adoptions happen because women find themselves in a position in which they do not believe they can care for their child. I have never met a birth parent who woke up one day and said "Yay! I get to give my baby to someone else!" There are overwhelming circumstances that stand in the way of their ability to give to the child all that they believe the child deserves. 

Some of these overwhelming circumstances can or may include poverty; a lack of education; substance abuse; domestic violence; or even just a streak of bad luck. There are some birth parents who could successfully parent their child, but believe there are other parents who could offer more and better. 

And what about the widows? My mother was widowed for 18 years. She was blessed with great health for 17 of those 18 years. She had an active mind, body and spirit. She was generous with her money and time. She was generous in her love to me. While she grieved my father's death, she did not have the "distress" that is faced by so many birth parents. 

So if we are to heed this particular passage of scripture, what should we do? I think it is probably more helpful to focus on the word "distress" rather than the the two groups that are named experiencing such distress. It's not that I don't want people to adopt--I think adoption is a wonderful picture of the Gospel. I wouldn't be a mother if not for the gift of adoption! But I think a good adoption plan will include care and love for birth parents, as well as the infant being placed. 

My challenge for myself and others is to look for ways to help those in distress…whether they are widows, orphans, or my neighbor.  Blessings to you all. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Dry Drunk Syndrome and Motivation

Recently I was speaking with a counselor type person who compared overeating and thoughts about weight to that of a "dry drunk". If you're not familiar with the concept, a "dry drunk" is an alocholic who is not drinking. Now I know I'm not the first person to hear how overeating is related to addictions--think "Overeaters Annonymous"--but this dry drunk analogy really gave me pause.

 Why does an alcoholic stop drinking? Initially, it is probably because there is a threat associated with continued drinking. Stop drinking because the court ordered you to mandatory testing after that DUI. Stop drinking because the spouse said "I'm leaving you if you don't..." Stop drinking because the job performance has suffered and you're on probation. So the alcoholic stops drinking, but resentment grows. The alcoholic doesn't have the problem...those around the alcoholic do. "The judge doesn't realize it was just a one time shot at a party. I don't usually drive after I've had a few". "She is just uptight. She'll see that I can do this!" "Stupid boss. I he had to live with what I have to live with he would have a couple at lunch too!"

 Realistically, what is likely to happen to this dry drunk? The motivation to stop is strong and present. There are pretty significant consequences for continuing the past behaviors. But without ownership and a mind shift toward personal benefit and change in habit and lifestyle, the dry drunk is oh so likely to become a wet drunk once again. It's just a matter to time.

 And so it goes with overeating and not exercising. I can't count how many different weight loss methods and programs I have done over the years. I'm a lifetime member of Weight Watchers and have been since 1988. Yet I weigh more now than I did when I started that program for the first time! Some of the programs were effective; some weren't. My success in the programs often depended on my motivation and how long that motivation would last. I would hear all the things about lifestyle changes; not being on a diet; and how our relationship to food is a factor in continued "success". I would often begin the program with an almost religious fervor and stick to the "rules" like a fanatic. I would be rewarded with a lower number on the scale, a smaller size of clothing, compliments from those around me. But eventually the high would end. I would stop journaling. I wouldn't keep an appointment with the weight loss center. I would be the queen of excuses.

Case in point--two years ago I lost nearly fifty pounds. Then my mom was diagnosed with cancer, my daughter placed my grandson for adoption (I had guardianship and was caring for him) and I was going through some significant struggles in my relationship with the Dude. I maintained the loss through some of the initial pieces of this, and then I went to Ireland for two weeks. I never returned to the program that had been so helpful. As Mom's cancer progressed, food became her enemy. She was losing weight at incredible speed, and food was everywhere around her house all in an effort to entice her to eat. As she lost, I gained. Chalk it up to the stress. Chalk it up to comfort food. Chalk it up to whatever I wanted to say--I gained the fifty pounds and then some!

So now I find myself journaling, exercising, and enjoying the support of the Dude. Nearly 20 pounds down, I'm seeing "success". On what piece am I now focusing? This is a toughie. I'm trying to focus my thoughts away from resentment and frustration and anger with myself. Resentment--"Why wasn't I blessed with the genes my sister inherited that makes her tall and thin instead of short and fat?" Frustration--"My thin clothes aren't fitting again!" Anger--"I look awful. I can't believe I can't keep off the weight. IT JUST ISN'T FAIR!"

As a therapist I've preached the power of cognitive or rational emotive therapy for years. Thoughts impact feelings and behaviors. Feelings impact thoughts and behaviors. Behaviors impact feelings and thoughts. Change the thoughts and the other pieces will fall into place. Have I practiced what I preach in this area of my life? Not so much. Clearly there is work to do. But that's my new focus.  

Monday, May 13, 2013

Holding On and Letting Go

So as not to be accused of plagiarism, I want to be very up front and say the inspiration AND title for this post came from a sermon series by Philip Gulley (check out  It's one of those resources that has been helping me through the grieving process.

Yesterday was a difficult day. It was Mother's Day...and while it was never a huge celebration for us, I always took flowers to Mom. We usually went out to eat. And of course, she wasn't here for even this small type of celebration. was a difficult day. It didn't help that it was COLD here in central Indiana and the plans we had made to keep my mind off the day were based on being outside. Being the wimp that I am, and not having a winter coat with me, the Dude and I opted to change the plans. This left me alone with more of my memories and thoughts.

I'm realizing grief is really a process of holding on and letting go. It's sorting through things...and consciously deciding what stays and what goes. When we cleaned out the house, we had to think about who wanted to keep what; what would be of use to someone else not present for the cleaning process; what could go to Goodwill; and what would find its way into the trash. Fortunately my sister and I agreed on how to split the things. We had promised Mom we WOULD NOT FIGHT and we didn't. We are holding on to each other. This is a good thing.

The Dude and I have been looking at houses together. We are looking toward the future. We are working on my job involves travel throughout the state and the ability to work a good amount from home, I do not have to remain where I am. I bought my current residence while going through a divorce. My house has four bedrooms and is located within the school system my daughters had attended for most of their educations. Both daughters live quite some distance from me now. There is no need to hold on to this house.

On the other hand, moving from here will be letting go of a life I had with my mom. She moved here to help me during and after my divorce. I spent many evenings with her having dinner and walking the trail in her neighborhood. We would often go shopping together. Her house is for sale and while I want it to sell, I fear letting go as if somehow this will sever me from her even more.

The intangibles are much more difficult to determine what stays and what goes. I want to let go of the memories of her final week; of watching her struggle; of the entire year of cancer. I want to hold on to the memories of meals shared; of special occasions; of vacations and card games. I want to hold on to "DeKockisms"...the things that seem so normal in our family but for others. (Brown sugar on rice comes to mind...) Unfortunately, that first list of memories seems dominant in my brain right now. It's work to wade through those and come to the happier memories.

If I had a pat answer to the things with which I struggle, I would gladly share them. I tell myself to hold on to the good memories of Mom; my relationships with my sister, aunts, cousins and friends; the job I love; the Dude; my pets. I tell myself to let go of the house; the things; and above all, the negative memories and the tears.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. It's a day late, but I love you just the same.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Clean Sweep

Pro basketball playoffs have begun. I'll be honest--I'm not much of a fan. I claim to be a Pacers fan, but only because I live in Indianapolis. Truth be told, since Reggie Miller retired, there hasn't been much to cheer about when it comes to the Pacers. So maybe that makes me a fair weather fan, but to be honest, there is just more in the world on which I want to ponder. 

Back in the almost glory days of the Pacers (when Reggie reigned supreme) there were years in the playoffs when the team did quite well. Never quite well enough to win a championship, but well enough to "sweep" the other team early in the series. This meant that the team would take the minimum number of games required to win the series all at once. (Forgive me if you are a sports fan and think this is like saying the ABC's.) 

These past few weeks have been full of hunting down paperwork, dealing with different banks and investment firms, chatting with the Treasury department, meeting with realtors and trying to make decisions. This past weekend, my sister flew in and my aunt and uncle came down and we packed up and cleaned out my mother's home. Please understand--my mother was a very clean person. She took housekeeping to an art form. Of course, she was not able to do this so much over the past year as the cancer made its deadly progression through her body. But furniture was divvied up, a truck was rented for Aunt Helen and Uncle Max to take things back to Hebron (I now only have two tables in my home instead of three. At the moment I have to china cabinets, but one of those will be leaving by the end of the week) and the trash bin is full. A carload plus went to Goodwill. Once things were out of the house, my sister and aunt attacked the house to make it shine. Both bathrooms were scrubbed, mirrors were shined, cabinets were wiped clean, and floors were done. We all agreed that window cleaning was none of the current company's forte, and this should be hired out. 

My sister and I have agreed upon a realtor and I am meeting with her tomorrow to sign paperwork and officially get the house listed. We hear it is a buyer's market, so we are hoping this house sells quickly. I would like to have all the pieces of her estate decided and settled. I would like to move ahead. I would like to make a clean sweep of getting things done. 

Rarely do clean sweeps happen in pro basketball. Even less do clean sweeps happen in real life and in relationships. I was happy that Aunt Helen decided she wanted the table and china cabinet. I have had no use for them for years, but did not want to get rid of them because they belonged to my grandparents. Aunt Helen made the connection (seemingly obvious) that these were her mother's. Thank heaven she was able to restore them to Hebron. Donna and I had a moment in the house when things felt surreal. I told her that it felt like Mom could come back in at any moment. Donna said that at least we had the house clean for her. Of course, the down side is that Mom would have no clothes as they have all made it to Goodwill. Donna's answer for that was equally appropriate for Mom--"We would just have to go shopping!"

I do not want to sweep the memories of my mother out of my life. I do not want to sweep my long distance relationship with my sister out of my life. I fear selling Mom's house but at the same time cannot wait for it to sell. Maybe the clean sweep is not so much to be desired.