Funk

FUNK. Not that other word. ūüėģ

funk

noun

he was in a funk because his wife ran out on him: A (STATE OF) DEPRESSION, a bad mood, a low, the dumps, the doldrums, a blue funk.

I really do strive for honesty here. If I ever write fiction, you’ll know it. There’s no fiction to the fact that I’ve really been struggling with the doldrums lately, a real blue funk if you will. The reasons for this low can be counted on several fingers:

  1. I miss my mom. I miss her and I regret a lot of things about the last few years she was here. I regret not being as patient as I should have been. I regret wasting time thinking more of myself than her. I regret getting angry when she would offer advice without my asking. I catch myself doing the same thing with my daughter, and I see the same frustration on her face that I felt when I was in her shoes. The fact is, we moms are at loose ends when our kids grow up. It’s difficult to shut off the “mom switch” when our kids grow up, and it’s hard to accept that we aren’t needed as much as we were when they were younger.
  2. I miss the younger me. I miss the legal secretary that juggled the work and phone calls of three sharp lawyers and a very sharp legal assistant, prepared PTO (Patent and Trademark Office) filing packets, managed to squeeze in lunch, and still made all the deadlines on her docket calendar. I struggle to get the laundry done, the pantry stocked, dinner cooked, and my small business running. I struggle to find time for the things that don’t seem important, but are important to ME. Things like organizing my family photos (both mine and those from my mom). Things like spending more time writing, both for the magazine and the novel I started a ridiculous number of years ago. This funk, though. It just sucks the energy out of me and it’s hard to work on those things when so many things are screaming for my attention. (See Reason #1 above ‚ÄĒ I never understood why my mom struggled with getting things done. Now I do.)
  3. I struggle with worrying about the future. I am not a numbers person by any stretch of the imagination, but in more recent years my mind plays a little math “game” that I really don’t want to play. When I hear of someone passing away (dying, if we’re blunt), I immediately calculate how much older they were than I am now. Someone’s Aunt Mabel passed away at 74? She was only 21 years older than me. That’s not that many years, especially when I think of how quickly the last 21 years have flown by. Do I have 21 years left? Is that enough time to do what I want/need to do? I am a Christian and I have put my faith in Jesus. I know others who say the same and say they can’t wait to go on to be with the Lord. I get it. I really do. But I still struggle with wanting to see my daughter marry and have children, with wanting to go on many more road trips with my husband. And then guilt sets in because it sounds as though I am putting my family here ahead of the Lord. Is it any wonder that I’m struggling with a funk, the doldrums, a depression?

A couple of weeks ago I got off to a roaring start, blogging almost every day for a week. And then we lost our golden retriever. And then I had a lot going on and then the funk I’d been running from caught up with me and I’ve had a hard time thinking of something interesting or entertaining to write. I knew if I didn’t write something, the days were going to stretch into weeks and then this blog would be neglected for months again.

I am working on getting ahead of the funk. Of choosing joy. Because the Lord’s joy is my strength. I just have to keep reminding myself of that and keep putting my trust in Him.

A Good & Faithful Man

A good and faithful man lived in the white brick house next door to my mom. Retired, he took care of his house and he watched his grandchildren when they got out of school each day. One day he decided to mow my mom’s¬†yard when he mowed his own. Mom looked out the window and was surprised to see him pushing his mower across her¬†backyard. If I remember right, she opened the backdoor and waited for him to see her there ‚ÄĒ at which point she said, “Jose, you don’t have to do that! My son-in-law mows it when he can.”

Jose just smiled and nodded his head and said something to the effect of he didn’t mind helping out today.

Eventually, my husband stopped taking his mower to my mom’s because Jose never let the grass get tall enough for my husband to be able to mow. Every time Jose mowed his yard, he would just keep on going until Mom’s yard was mowed, too. It wasn’t just a blessing to Mom. It was a blessing to my husband because he didn’t have to load his riding mower onto the trailer and make the 80 mile roundtrip to mow Mom’s yard.

Mom always said, “We need to do something for Jose. He is so faithful. We need to get him a gift card, bake him a cake, or something.” This was around the time Mom got sick for the last time, and we were preoccupied with doctors’ appointments, radiation treatments, and chemo pills. So we never got around to doing something for Jose.

The day of Mom’s funeral, we were so comforted by the people who came to pay their respects. The person who surprised us, and possibly touched our hearts in the most unexpected way, though, was Jose, sitting in the back row of the funeral home chapel. He smiled and shook our hands and told us how sorry he was for our loss.

Not long afterwards, my sister and I both agreed, “We need to do something for Jose.”¬†Once we decided on selling the house, we made plans on how best to utilize the funds we would earn after the sale. At the top of the list was “something for Jose.” Our commitment to that grew even more, because our good neighbor remained faithful, continuing to mow¬†our yard while we worked on the house.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a thank you note for everything he’d done and my sister went to the bank and withdrew some nice, crisp bills to include with our note. We both agreed that while the sum seemed quite generous by some accounts, we wished it could have been more.

We met up at his house on a Saturday morning and rang the bell. Jose came to the door with his usual smile and we both hugged him and gave him the envelope. He didn’t really look at it at the time; we chatted for several minutes and he told us he had meant to mow the yard before the new owners moved in, but his mower broke down. I told him it was alright because my husband had stopped by with his own mower after doing some yard work for his mother in Dickinson. He just hadn’t been able to mow the backyard because he couldn’t get the mower back there. Jose smiled and said, “I got it after I got my mower fixed. I wanted the new owners to start out with a nice yard.”

After chatting a few more minutes and emphasizing how much Mom (and we) had appreciated him over the years, we hugged again and said we hoped we would see him sometime. We started walking back to our cars, and then had the thought that maybe we should tell the neighbors on the other side how nice their new neighbors were, and say thank you for being good neighbors all these years. We rang their doorbell a couple of times, but no one ever answered, so we started walking back to our cars to leave. At that moment, we saw Jose trotting across the front yard of our old house.

“You made a mistake! You made a mistake!”

Jose thought we’d accidentally put money in his thank you note that was supposed to go towards a bill! We started laughing and told him that it was for him, at which point he said, “Oh, NO! It’s too much! I never did that expecting to get paid!”

We reassured him that we knew he didn’t, that he was a good and faithful neighbor and we wanted to bless him the way he had blessed Mom and us. He shook his head, and then told us a story:

When he first bought his house, he didn’t have a mower and wasn’t able to get one. All he had was a weed wacker. So he used the weed wacker to keep his yard as trimmed up as he could. While he was trimming his yard, he said he prayed to God. He told God, “If you’ll help me get a mower, I will use it to help someone else.” He got a mower and then he said, “I had to keep my side of the bargain.”¬†He didn’t want to ask, and he hoped she wouldn’t get upset or “call the cops” ‚ÄĒ he just started mowing a little bit of Mom’s yard, and then a little bit more, until he was mowing the entire yard.

And so that’s how Jose started mowing our mom’s yard. He did more than that, though. He kept an eye out for her. One day he saw her taking her trash bag to the outdoor can and she stumbled a little. He jogged over to make sure she was okay, and then he told her, “Just put your trash bag by the front door and I’ll put it in the can for you.” From that point on, he took care of that for her every week.

He is definitely a good and faithful man, and maybe a little bit of an angel, too.

Someone

I’ve been needing to write this for quite a while now. Until today, the words just wouldn’t come. The events described below occurred over the course of roughly eight years.

Have you ever been acquainted with, or even friends with, Someone¬†who is obliviously careless in the way he or she treats people? For all intents and purposes, Someone¬†is great ‚ÄĒ professing a love for God and people, and usually getting it right.

Until Someone gets it wrong. Repeatedly. And there seems to be no going back. No chance of recovery. Because Someone is completely oblivious to what he or she has done.

In the beginning, I thought I was at fault because I was putting too much value on things. It started with a table¬†that I’d donated to a cause ‚ÄĒ a piece of furniture that had been in my family for decades, but for which I had no room. All seemed well, until one day I noticed the table sitting outside the building, the mid-century formica curled up by the recent rainstorm, ruined beyond repair. It made me so angry to see the table misused and cast aside ‚ÄĒ wasted. I regretted donating it, but then I told myself, “You don’t know who did this. And it’s just a THING. It’s not worth getting so angry.”

And so I tried to let it go.

A couple of years later, Someone¬†asked if they could borrow my “old” camera to take some family portraits. It was not my primary camera any longer, but it was still a good camera, one my daughter was beginning to use. I took joy in passing it down to her, and I asked her before loaning it out, since it officially belonged to her. When the camera was returned, I didn’t think to inspect it, but the next time my daughter tried to remove the memory card, the eject button was broken and I had to pry the card out with my fingers. Upon closer inspection, I discovered the contact pins for the memory card were damaged. The camera was ruined. And Someone¬†didn’t say anything. Again, I stifled my anger and reminded myself, “It’s just a THING. Maybe it was an accident.”

And so I tried to let it go.

Most recently, though, the carelessness has had nothing to do with things, and everything to do with people. Someone promised to be there for one of MY people. To fill a parental void left by an absentee parent. Someone made promises. Promises to go visit my person at college and to stay in touch. To step in where the absentee dad had left a void. Someone broke those promises. And my person was left yet again with a wounded heart.

It was getting harder to let it go.

Another one of MY people went through difficult times a couple of years ago. I’m glad to say my person is on the backside of those difficult times and joy fills her face more often than sorrow. But in the dark days she sought counsel from¬†Someone¬†she should have been able to trust. Someone¬†broke her trust because she did not follow¬†Someone’s¬†timeline ‚ÄĒ she did not heal in the way, or as fast, as Someone¬†wanted.

It was getting much harder to let it go.

Someone else¬†claiming to be her kindred spirit, her soulmate,¬†told her with all seriousness she was going to hell for things done in the dark days, and then turned around and did similar things, if not worse. All the while, Someone else pretended to be one thing around one group¬†and another thing around another group. My person struggled to be transparent,¬†to stop being all things to all people ‚ÄĒ she finally sought to discover who she is in Jesus Christ. In the discovery of who that is, she opened up her heart to forgiveness and reconciliation. Someone else gave her hope, and then snatched it away, telling her their friendship was ended, that they would never be friends again.

Suddenly all the pieces began to fit together for me. The carelessness with the things. The carelessness with the promises. The carelessness with the confidences. The carelessness with the “rules” ‚ÄĒ “it’s okay for me, but not for thee.” The carelessness with relationships.

And in that moment, it became easy to let go. To leave those someones behind, to realize that maybe these things happened for a reason because that place, those someones, were not where I (or we) belonged.

Each and every time I think of those¬†someones, I try to ask God to help me forgive the hurts inflicted, however obliviously, on my loved ones and myself. I try to remind myself that those¬†someones probably have no clue how their actions hurt me and mine. And I remember that I am¬†someone, also ‚ÄĒ to make every effort to treat others with care and loving kindness.

 

Coincidence? I think not!

There’s a cliche that goes something like this: “The devil is in the details.” When googling the quote I discovered there’s also a version that states “God is in the details,” and today I found this to be exceptionally true.

A few months ago, a dear friend, Sonja, called me to ask for details regarding the house we were preparing for sale. A young woman had come into the office where she works, along with her mother, and in the course of their conversation my friend discovered the young woman was looking to buy a house in Alvin. I remember my first reaction was, “Oh, we are NOT ready!” So with the disclaimer that we still had a good bit of work to do, I gave her the address to pass along to those who inquired.

With so much left to do on the house, I didn’t really think about it anymore. My sister and I kept working on the house and finally listed it with the realtor. We had a false start the day before the house actually went on the market — a young couple expressed interest in it, but in the course of walking through the house, a problem was discovered with the brick walls: they were a little loose with age! We immediately contacted masonry companies for repair quotes and hired a company to secure the walls around the entire house. We were relieved that the repair was not horribly expensive, but still well done. By the time the work was done, however, the young couple had moved on to another house.

I don’t really know the order in which things happened after that — my sister had more contact with the realtor during the sales process than I did. But I do know that in a very short period of time, we had two offers made on the house. One was our listing price and the other was several thousand dollars less. We were thrilled to have two offers and it didn’t take long to agree to the best offer. After inspections, some minor repairs were indicated and we offered a repair allowance which was accepted and we had a deal.

So today we met at the title company in Pearland to sign all the papers. We found out for certain that our buyers were twin sisters, one of whom had been the young woman who inquired about our house when talking to our friend, Sonja! They were absolutely delightful young ladies — hardworking nurses who’ve been raised with a view to the future. In visiting with their mother, who came with them, we learned at the age of 24, they decided they wanted to invest in a home, rather than throwing hardearned money away on rent. And here’s the crazy, “oh my gosh, it is such a tiny, tiny world” bit of the story.

We exchanged our stories — where we were from and what we did. I mentioned I live near Lake Jackson, the mother mentioned her son worked at Brazosport College. I said, “Oh! I teach photography there in the Community Education department!” She gasped and exclaimed, “My oldest daughter is in your class!” I asked if her name was Angela, and “Yes, yes it is!”

So several months ago, this very sweet young lady called me to ask about what kind of camera she needed and told me how much she was looking forward to the class. Several months ago, her mother and one sister walked into my friend’s office and mentioned they were looking for a house to buy in Alvin. And today we discovered all these paths that seemed completely separate were actually very close indeed.

I would definitely say God is in the details. I take a great deal of joy in knowing these sweet young ladies, fellow Christians, will be making their home and memories in our childhood home. I am pleased that such good people will be the new neighbors of the neighbors we have been so fond of for so many years. 

I think our mother would be so happy. I know she would. I know I am.

The Gift of Lifetime Friends

My guy and I, along with our girl, spent years 1997 – 1999 living in Huntsville, Texas. We¬†moved there, where we’d originally met in college in 1985, when AJ¬†accepted a position in the Human Resources department with¬†the state prison system.¬†Though short, those were good years for us, in large part because we became friends with another married couple who would prove to be more like family than friends.

We visited a church called Family Faith one Sunday and really liked it. The worship was powerful and the sermon series on family was spot on for what we needed at the time. I don’t think it was very long at all, maybe two or three weeks, that one of the ladies there, Lucy Arnold, told me, “You need to meet Alena. I just know you will be great friends.”

I am so grateful for Lucy’s intuition, because she was 100% right regarding Alena. I was 33 years old, Alena was 24 ‚ÄĒ we immediately hit it off and became fast friends. We both loved to read, we were both relatively new mothers since we had toddlers¬†and she had another baby while we lived in Huntsville. I loved how easy it was to talk with Alena ‚ÄĒ about anything and everything. She always took her life experiences and turned them around to what God had done for her, what He had taught her. Even though she was younger than me, I learned so much from her!

The bonus of our developing friendship was the friendship that grew between our husbands, too.¬†When two married women become close friends, friendship between their spouses is not always a given. The fact that the four of us enjoy each others’ company so much is a real gift and one we do not take for granted, and it was Clyde who officiated at our wedding vow renewal a few weeks ago. A two hour drive now separates us, but when the opportunity to fellowship presents itself, we are delighted to rearrange schedules, whatever is needed to be able to spend that time together!

Today is Clyde’s 60th birthday and with his characteristic spontaneity he decided to take a day trip to his favorite place, the beach. Alena contacted us to see if we could meet them and their kids out there and, of course, the answer was “yes!” We made it out to Peregrine, going toward San Luis Pass, and the guys got the little portable grill going for hot dogs while Alena and I took a walk down the beach. Such a sweet visit catching up with each other! Upon our return, a fire pit had been dug and a small wood fire was burning in preparation for s’mores. We sat around the fire and talked, and then Clyde wrapped up our evening by leading us in a couple of worship songs.

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Friends and sisters by choice. ‚̧

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Lots to smile about – we’re together!
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Alena & Clyde, with their kids, plus a few “extras” along for the ride!

How I miss having these people nearby! I love you, Tauriainens! You are the best! ‚̧

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Alena & Clyde Tauriainen, AJ & Laura Jinkins

 

The Sin of Worrying

Late August I went to the doctor because I have been aching all over and wanted to find out why. I mentioned that I had a sore spot in my groin on the left side and my doctor determined one of my lymph nodes was enlarged. So she sent me for an ultrasound and referred me to a surgeon because she expected a biopsy of some sort would be needed.

After some tests, the surgeon was concerned because the ultrasound showed a lymph node of 5 cm. Normal is between 1 and 1.5 cm. He sent me for a CT scan, but the soonest it could be done was a week later (which was last Friday). I really struggled with fear, because I lost my mom to cancer last year and I kept thinking about all the artificial sweetener I’d consumed in 44 oz Sonic and Bucees diet sodas over the years. (Probably a tanker full, at least.)

This morning I began a Bible study that my daughter has been encouraging me to do. In the course of reading the lesson, I flipped open my Bible to a scripture, but along the way (and only one page over) I saw a sidebar with a topical commentary on “worry” and I read it, because I have been worrying greatly over all this.

Worry is paralyzed faith. Worry is telling God he can’t handle things, that I have to take care of them. Worry is a sin.

Needless to say, I felt conviction immediately. I asked the Lord to forgive me for worrying, because no matter what happened ‚ÄĒ I belong to him and I trust him with my life, however much of it may remain.

Five minutes later the surgeon’s office called to say the results were in and could I be there at 2:45 pm to discuss them?

For a split second I felt that fear, that worry try to creep back up, but I resisted, reminding myself of what I’d read and how God has me in the palm of his hand. I told them I’d be there, and then I called my guy and asked him to meet me there after his workout.

And here’s the good news: the lymph node has shrunk. It has gone from 5 cm down to 2 cm! Almost normal. My surgeon believes it was responding to a small spot I had on my calf (that was removed by the dermatologist and came back non-cancerous from pathology) that had become inflamed, and most likely infected.

I am so grateful to the Lord for such good news. In addition, the CT scan revealed that all other organs (liver, pancreas, all that good stuff) is fine ‚ÄĒ no weird things to be concerned about. Praise the Lord!¬†¬†

Happy Birthday, Mama.

Today is my mama’s 73rd birthday. Last year, when we were in the middle of battling her cancer, we tried to celebrate her 72nd birthday with a family dinner. The details are a little vague because we were so overwhelmed by what we were dealing with. We asked her how she’d like to spend her day and she tried to muster up a little¬†enthusiasm, but it required so much energy ‚ÄĒ energy she didn’t have.

I remember we got sliced brisket, fried okra, coleslaw, and the trimmings from a local barbecue place that we’d frequented for years. My sister and my girl both made desserts. I can’t remember what my sister made, but my girl made an “Orange Slice Cake” that Mama had asked for.

We really hoped Mama would be able to enjoy the day, but I think her illness had progressed much further than any of us realized at the time. She was tired and the radiation treatments she received in May had fried her tastebuds. It didn’t help that the barbecue place we’d always enjoyed seemed to be slipping, with the brisket being half fat ‚ÄĒ and I’m not exaggerating. It was terrible. If we hadn’t been so worn out from everything else, one of us would have taken that styrofoam box of fat back and demanded a refund. The cake my girl made was delicious, but it was a very rich and heavy cake ‚ÄĒ more suited to a wintertime dinner than a summertime birthday party.

After the so-so birthday dinner and cake, my sister started feeling poorly and within about thirty minutes, she was shaking with chills and fever. Her symptoms were so frightening I, along with her kiddos, took her to the urgent care center while my guy and girl stayed with Mama. I can’t remember what the final diagnosis was, but meds were prescribed and she began to feel better. By the time we got back to our mama’s house, it was late and time for everyone to call it a night. I remember being sad that it was more than likely our mama’s last birthday with us.

Today, on the anniversary of that day, I’m sad. I miss my mama and I miss the sound of her voice (my sister and I chuckled about that earlier – that we missed her voice, except for when she was nagging us about something she thought we needed to do or not do). I have her voice on a recording from my voicemail and every so often I will listen to her say, “I was just calling to see what you’re up to. I love you.”

Like I said, I’m sad. But I’m also happy, too. Because today is my mama’s first birthday in heaven with the Lord. And she is with her mama and daddy, whom she has missed since they passed away in the mid 1980s’. I like to think they are enjoying a family dinner with the best food (it is heaven, after all) and lots of good conversation and love.

Happy birthday, Mama. I expect being healthy and surrounded by love is the best birthday gift of all. I love you.