Face Lift

A teen girl takes a wrong turn after her parents divorce and finds herself in a recovery center that uses quantum jumps as grief recovery.

Twelve weeks of fun focus sessions where kids and teens play their way through the stages of grief recovery.

A middle school foster kid connects with a family who walk with him through recovery from loss.

Sammy has a secret and he carries it with him through every moment of his life.

What do you get when you mix a monkey and an elephant? You get an elephonkey. Children learn about blended families.


 

FACE LIFT

It doesn’t matter what I write, the theme of grief recovery comes through loud and clear, so this blog is getting a face lift. We are going to concentrate on the stages of grief and how to write a better story for  ourselves and our loved ones.  We’ll take excerpts from stories and curriculum to start a conversation. We’ll discuss the stages of grief, symptoms to be aware of, and how they affect different age groups. We’ll even hear Excerpts from the Experts.

Grief is temporary. It is a state that fills the vacuum left by loss. It passes. Joy never dies. It is the state of your immortal soul. This blog provides windows of escape, stories of passage, portals from temporary grief-stained moments to the immortal staying well of Joy.

Welcome to Immortal Portals.

Photo Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/16899432@N05/3403132849/">thechannelc</a> via <a href="http://compfight.com">Compfight</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

 


 

Stages of Grief

1. Anger and Denial: I clump these two together because they are waltzing partners. About the time you realize you are well entrenched in one, the other takes the lead and spins you around in 3/4 time.

2. Bargaining:This stage takes a different face depending on your age and circumstance. We will explore all the ways that children, teens, and adults bargain their way through loss.

3. Despair: The crash, the burn, the lowest of lows. Don’t let this one destroy you. It is actually significant. It tells you that you are just about done. You’ve stopped blaming and playing games. You are ready to heal.

4. Acceptance: You are ready to step through the portal into your natural state of being; Joyful.

5. Staying Well: I add this one as the fifth stage of grief because it takes awhile before the portal you’ve stepped through stops trying to suck you back to the side of sadness. It is important to anchor yourself firmly through active staying-well activities.


 

Taking Back My Immortality

So today, I leave you with an Emotive Educational Activity. This is something you can do for yourself. No matter where you are in your recovery from loss, this EEA will help you.

Get a pen and paper. Think of the last time you felt real cheek-burning-soul-swelling-sparkle-bubbly JOY. Write down the experience. Describe the feels it gave you. Where were you? What was happening? Write down as much detail as you can. Conjure up the feelings, relive the moment.

When you get to the peak of that feeling, send out into the universe the thought “I’m taking back my immortal joy.”

Try to repeat this activity every day for as many joyful memories as you can evoke. Don’t forget the last step. At the peak of your remembering, speak, think, grab a hold of “I’m taking back my immortal joy.” Call it to you.

Until next time, friends.

Immortal Joy

 

Miraculous Monday: Little Green Blessings

Little Green Blessings

I always wanted a Christmas wedding.  I had fantasized as a young girl of bridesmaids in red velvet trimmed in white fur and snow covered Christmas trees lining the cathedral aisle.   When the man of my dreams proposed in October, I knew a large formal wedding could not be planned in a couple of months and I wasn’t going to wait another year.  We had a life to get on with.  So we decided on a Spring Break wedding, landing on St. Patrick’s Day. A red color scheme was abandoned for emerald green and gold lame’.

The wedding was glorious.  Satiny emerald dresses reflected candlelight and brass lanterns adorned the sanctuary.  I was wed to my best friend in a fairy tale setting complete with carriage ride to the reception. Jewel toned emerald colors and delicate white flowers surrounded our nuptials.

 

***

Bailey had Christmas money burning a hole in his pocket, so we went shopping. We stopped into one of my favorite stores and my son walked past a sale table and screeched to a halt. Sitting on the fifty-percent-off-after-Christmas-sale table was a nutcracker. Not just any nutcracker, mind you. This was a baseball player in a kelly green and white pin stripe uniform.

My son in all of his 8 year old wisdom exclaimed, “Momma! This would be perfect for me. I collect nutcrackers, my room is green, and baseball is my favorite sport!”

Green Nutcracker

I checked the price tag. Though it was 50% off, it still would use up all of his money. I told him he could afford it, but it would take everything. He stood in front of that sale table for eons, trying to decide whether or not to give it all up for that nutcracker. Finally, with eyes downcast and wrinkled brow, he decided he couldn’t let go of all the money and we left the store without the nutcracker. I assured him it was always better to wait if you weren’t certain about a purchase.

For weeks, he talked about the nutcracker-that-got-away. I couldn’t believe he was so attached to the idea of a baseball player nutcracker. Months later as I tucked him into bed, his chubby face was crestfallen, pinched eyebrows and pouty lips broke my heart.

“What’s wrong, Bailey?”

“I was just thinking about that nutcracker.”

After all this time, it still weighed heavily on his mind? I was sure he would have forgotten about it by now.

“I made the wrong decision. I should have bought it.” His lip quivered and a tear slid down his rosy cheek.

My heart fractured as I gazed into his glistening eyes. “Well,” I asked, “are you gonna be able to stop thinking about it and get some rest?”

“Probably not.” His voice cracked.

My heart wrenched right out of my chest and shattered on the floor to see him so miserable.  “Well, do you want me to get you something to sleep with?”

“Okay.” He swallowed back tears in a forlorn voice.

I walked to my closet and pulled out a hidden gift, unwrapped the tissue and held it behind my back. I took it to him and said, “Will this do?”

I revealed the Little Green Baseball Nutcracker that I had returned to purchase for his birthday. His face lit like a bonfire, joy exploded onto his features. He reached for the nutcracker, then swerved around it and grabbed me in a bear hug and sobbed into my hair.

“Thank you, Momma.” His little voice broke, his tender eyes weeping tears of joy.

We hugged and cried as he stroked with reverent awe, the little green blessing. Finally, he settled down, we wiped our tears with gulps and shudders and laughter of relief and wandered into the land of dreams.

 

***

It sat on the side walk in front of the antique shop, tiny and green and just the right size for the three year old walking along, hand in hand with me.

Little Green Rocking Chair“Mommy! Look!” She tugged on my arm and pointed at the perfectly sized rocking chair. Slipping her fingers out of mine, she ran to the chair and backed into it, bottom first.  A bright smile dawned on her face.

“Come on, sweetie. Let’s go inside.” I had one thing on my mind, finding a chest of drawers for the nursery before the baby came. I pressed my fist into my back and waddled into the store

Dayla pouted out her bottom lip and scowled, but obeyed and followed me into the musty smelling shop.  A longing glance at the perfect green rocking chair, still moving back and forth, carried her through the door.

I found the dresser and negotiated a price, arranged for it to be delivered and called Dayla from the front window. “Time to go, baby.  What are you looking at?”

“My rocking chair, mommy. It fits me just right, did you see?”

“It does? Show me.”  I grinned at my precious daughter as she dragged me out to the side walk. Frustrated with my pace, Dayla ran ahead and hugged her chair, then planted her bum in the seat.

“See, Mommy? It’s juuuust right.” She rubbed her chubby fingers along the arm rests and kicked the rocker into high tilt, face beaming with satisfaction.

I watched sheer joy dawn across her face.  This child was not one to ask for every little thing.  She rarely got attached to objects. I waved to the store clerk, struck a bargain and loaded the tiny green rocker into the van.

Dayla was ecstatic.

“Oh Mommy! Thank you thank you thank you! Oh Mommy, it is perfect! Oh my! Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Dayla kept the words of gratitude rolling all the way home in a chorus of jubilant repetition in her Shirley Temple voice.

My eyes welled with tears to hear such deep and heartfelt appreciation pour out of a three year old. “Dear Lord,” I thought, “Let my heart be so full of thanks when you send blessings my way.”  I glanced into the rearview mirror to see Dayla wagging her head emphatically, fist wrapped possessively around the little green rocking chair.

“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!”

***Green Yard

I was never really fond of the color green, red or blue was more to my liking, until these little green blessings started infiltrating my life.  Green has become one of my favorite colors.

I cannot see the color green without thinking about the good things in my life.  Emeralds and satin, pinstriped baseball nutcrackers and little green rocking chairs have become symbols of love and family for me.

The marriage is dissolved, the feisty daughter is grown and going to college, the cherub boy drives away from me every day into his own adventures and I am left with a thankful heart.  Thankful, because I know that little green blessings aren’t just in my past, but surround me, uplift me, and call to me from a hopeful future.

Green Herb GardenA sprig of mint struggles up through dried and yellowed ancestors to wave at me from my garden; a little green blessing buds for my tea cup.  A postcard from a foreign land displays green and lush hills and whispers heartening words from a kindred spirit; good news breaks open a smile.  A children’s book featuring leprechaun’s beckons to me from a book shelf; I tuck it in my arms, a gift for a future grandbaby.

I will always look for these emerald drops and it won’t be hard to find them.  They crop up everywhere as gifts to brighten my journey.

“Oh thank you, Lord, thank you, thank you, thank you, for little green blessings.”

 

Miraculous Monday: Confessions of a Worshiper

14729088682_1febb5a546_b Tears spilled down my cheeks.  I was terrified.  I didn’t know how to play these songs, or these keys, my brain felt sluggish, I couldn’t think fast enough, my fingers wouldn’t move to the right notes. The worship leader was sick, so the song list had completely changed.  We were given the songs as we walked in the door, so I didn’t get the usual hours of practice during the week.    Church was starting in 40 minutes, 30 minutes, 15 minutes and I wasn’t ready.  This was it.  It was time to play or quit.   I had to choose…walk away and tell them, I just can’t do it (very tempting) or believe that He would give me a miracle and cause my fingers and mind to work.

“You are getting too old for this kind of stress, LaDonna!  Just walk away.”  “You don’t have to put yourself through this kind of torture.  They will be just fine without you…better even!”  “You are about to really embarrass yourself.”

The practice was over.  Church was about to start.  We never did work out the transition to that last song.  We didn’t get the right chords in the chorus.  We didn’t even get through the whole song!  My hands were shaking.  It was a disastrous and nerve wracking rehearsal.  I played more wrong chords, than right chords.  I hit more off beats than on.

We walked to the green room to pray before the service.  On the way, Jarrod said “Well…” sigh.  “What do you think?”

I answered, “I think, I am on the verge of bursting into tears.”  I don’t have it in me to take praise and worship lightly.  It is serious business, a sacred trust, and I was about to breech that trust with a hideous display of incompetency.

We walked into the room and Annie was on her knees.  I fell to the floor beside her, desperate.  She began to pray.  I don’t remember all the words to her beautiful prayer, all I remember is praying in agreement.  “God, help us!  Take our hands our voices, our minds.  Play and sing through us.  In our weakness you are strong.  In our weakness you are strong.  In our weakness you are strong.”

Then we were walking through the door, past the game table, into the side room, up the stairs, onto the stage.  I looked at the people, their faces up turned with expectation or hunger, need and lack.  They had come to meet with God.  They were waiting for us to lead them into the holy place.  They had left their issues and problems, worries and needs to come to this place to hear from Jesus, to feel His presence, to sing His praises.  They were depending on us to be ready to take them there.

We weren’t ready physically, musically.  I was the least prepared, the rookie musician.  But something had happened in that prayer room.  Surrender.  We chose to trust Him to be the worship leader, the singer, the musician.  We relinquished control.

The count, the intro, the music started.  We pressed our hands against the keys and strings and He took over.  We opened our mouths and forced air through our vocal chords and He sang.  We stopped looking at one another for cues and fell into a particular unison, a river of Spirit sound that rushed by and carried us away in its great current.

By the second song, I realized I wasn’t even thinking, I was worshiping.  My fingers formed chords that I didn’t even know.  My hands moved in rhythms not even possible for my level of coordination.  My heart soared.  He was using my body to create worship, He was moving through me.  Not just enhancing my ability but actually taking control of my faculties. 4823024371_9c631ed461_b

I was stunned.  Humbled.  Overwhelmed.  Literally.

Tears fell freely down my face and onto the black and white keys at my fingertips.  Words I had never formed spilled from my lips.  Miraculous notes and harmonies poured forth from a soul that had been emptied of pride only to be filled with Him.

Jesus led worship that day.  He was ready even though I wasn’t.  He met His people and touched their needs, healed their hurts, breathed in their praise.

When I told this story, my friends and family all but rolled their eyes.  I could see the disbelief on their faces.  I saw them process the information through natural explanations and rational events.

Understandable.  I would have done the same thing in their shoes.  Maybe you are there now, coming up with many arguments, imagination, drama queen, senility as they did, quietly in the natural processing of reason and fact.

They weren’t there.  They don’t know how utterly terrified and unfit I was.  They only see the fact that I play frequently.  How big a deal could it be?  They don’t know that I practice 3 or more hours a week on one or two songs.  They think I am exaggerating.  Only God and I know the truth.  It was His hand, His mind, His ability that played that day.  I had nothing to do with it.

I came so close to walking away.  I almost took the easy way out.  I could have walked off the stage gracefully, keeping my dignity intact, no risk, no chance of humiliation.  Instead, I chose to trust.  I offered what I had…my loaves and fishes…(or in my case shaky fingers and foggy brain) to the Miracle Maker.  I stepped off of the cliff of security into the unknown abyss of faith right into His miraculous arms.  In doing so, in shedding my need for dignity and control, I was overtaken by the Holy Spirit and was merged with the master creator, the master musician, The Master.