Thursday, February 27, 2014

More About Being Still

Earlier this month I wrote about having a "Be still and know that I am God" moment. I thought that after that week passed that I was good; that I understood what God wanted from me. Apparently I have a very short memory or a poor understanding of what God was trying to say (probably a little of both).

Tuesday night I had an unexpected break down thinking about a variety of things. I cried and questioned God and called out for some reassurance. He was merciful and reminded me of the journey that He has me on but the whole experience left me emotionally and physically frail. That made for a very interesting Wednesday.

When I arrived at work I was exhausted and could hardly focus. As I looked ahead at my schedule for the week I felt a tidal wave of crushing responsibilities weighing down on me. Worse still, I felt like there was no time to accomplish it all. I made a post on Facebook and was touched by the way everyone responded. One of my friends said she would pray for me and, when she did, she said she heard the phrase, "Be still and know I am God."

In the Bible when God repeats a phrase it is because He wants us to take note. So I decided maybe I need to sit up and pay attention. As I pondered over what it means to "be still" I realized I had no idea what God was actually asking of me.

I went to the internet and looked up some commentaries on Psalm 46:10 and found one that spoke peace to my heart. It talks about what "be still" means in this passage. Basically it is more than stopping and not trying to do so much. It is an attitude of "giving up" and acknowledging that without God's power we cannot accomplish anything. Here's something that stood out to me:

Here is the irony in this term “be still.” While we must take the initiative to fulfill our responsibilities and live our lives, the uncertainties of living in a world of sin and woe will continually challenge us. Personal initiative is no substitute for reliance upon God (cf. James 4:13-17).

So, I do have to keep striving towards fulfilling my calling but I have to do it in total reliance upon God.

This is definitely something that is going to take some time to fully understand and realize. At the heart of it I think God wants me to take a step back from continually filling my plate so that I can focus on what He is doing and what He is calling me to do. I'm also going to have to work on my attitude about job responsibilities. I know what I'm called to do and when I look at that task it is overwhelming. However, with God, I can accomplish it. I have to stop trying to do so much on my own and start praying that God will take care of every little detail along the way.

P.S. Here's commentary that I found on Psalm 46:10 that really illuminated some things to me.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Play Therapy Supplies

One of the things I enjoy most about mental health counseling with kids is that I get to do play therapy. I love having activities for the kids to do when I show up because I believe that a child's work is play (as the famous Jean Piaget and Maria Montessori have pointed out) and that through this play they learn a lot about themselves and the world. That being said I have spent the last year or so gathering up play therapy items. I wanted to share some of them with you because they are so easy to acquire (you might already have some at your home) and so easy to use. Yesterday I actually spent some time assembling some different sensory/sand trays.

Sand trays are the backbone of many play therapy techniques and can be used in a lot of ways. I wanted to make two sand trays: one "traditional" and one sensory. The sensory one has cloud dough in it which has a wonderful, soft texture but also allows for some sculpting and building. Here's how I got my trays ready.

First I picked up some lock top boxes from Wal-Mart (about $4 each).
To one box I added 3 boxes of cheap cake mix.
This is what cloud dough is! You can also make it with flour and vegetable oil but for less than $1 a box this was the easiest and cheapest way to make it.
Cloud dough is lots of fun. It feels awesome and it has some mold-able properties to it.

The only thing I would suggest is using some wet wipes when you are finished. Even after brushing my hands off there was quite a bit of residue left.
After that I popped the top on and I'm ready to go!
The cloud dough box can be used with young kids for exploring textures and for imaginative play. I will use it in a way somewhat similar to a sand tray and will probably put some figures in it for my kids to act out or create scenes in. Sensory play is really important for kids with autism and ADHD because of its soothing effects and exploratory properties. The feel of cloud dough makes it a great sensory play tool!

Later this week I will show you how I made my "traditional" sand tray with some not so traditional items.

In full disclosure I'm not a certified play therapist. I do use play therapy techniques frequently at my job and I receive supervision on a regular basis. If you are interested in learning more about play therapy or finding a fully licensed and registered play therapist check out this website.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Counting my Blessings: Week 2

1. Spring weather this week! Praise the Lord!
2. Starting a new book (When Rain Hurts) on my Nook and loving it.
My Nook in the hand knit case I made for it. Kind of looks like Cookie Monster!
3. Getting to spend some girl time with my best friend and hearing how God is moving and working in her life.
4. Getting a huge shipment of new donations for Walking With Orphans!
5. A good therapy session with one of my clients. Some weeks can be up and down. This week was kind of "eh" for most of my clients but I felt like one in particular had a very therapeutic session this week. Pray for her as she transforms from her old brokenness into a new person.
6. Fridays! Man, sometimes the weekends are such a blessing! There is nothing better than reaching the finish line of a long week and being able to relax.
7. Hearing from my friend Talitha who is in Romania and being reminded of my boys and all the kids I love there. Sometimes these thoughts are bittersweet but the kids have been on my mind a lot recently and the thought of their faces brings me great joy :)
8. Supervision at work. It's nice to be reminded that we're in this together.
9. Getting back into my Bible study with a book about helping the poor and orphaned.
10. Bubble baths! I take one most nights and last night I sat in there for almost and hour just relaxing and reading. What a blessing!

Find the other weeks below:
Counting my Blessings: Week 1

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Book Review: Hunger Games Trilogy

Before I even start this blog let me say that there are spoilers ahead. If you have not read the Hunger Games trilogy yet and don't want the surprise to be ruined then STOP READING NOW!

So, I finished the Hunger Games trilogy today.
Last night I got about 30 or 40 pages from the end of book 3 and skimmed ahead because I really just wanted to see how it all ended. I went back today and finished those last few pages (and I really didn't miss much) and here's my take on the trilogy...

Book 1

By far the best book of the series. Everything was dramatic and perplexing. Right from the start you wonder why do the Hunger Games exist? How do these two clods from District 12 even have a chance? What's with the drunk guy? And, most importantly, isn't this all a little violent to classify as "young adult fiction" (and we wonder what's wrong with kids today...)?

What I liked:
  • Katniss comes out looking very B.A. in this book.
  • The berries. Unintentional genius. Good writing on Collins's part.

What I didn't like:
  • The whole thing with Peeta. Just...all of it. The kissing. The fact that he proclaimed his love for her and then sided with the Careers (albeit briefly). It's just so teen romance drama.
  • I also hated the ending with Cato and the mutts. 1. The mutts creep me out. 2. He had a truly horrific death. No one deserves that.

Book 2

I tore into this one hoping it would be as good as the first. No such luck. I felt like it was a 90% rewrite of the first book with more kick butt characters, a splash of back story, and a hugely confusing plot twist.

What I liked:
  • Meeting some new characters who were pretty B.A. themselves.
  • Getting a little more understanding of why the Hunger Games exist.

What I didn't like:
  • The fact that we went from the explanation of the Quarter Quell to Katniss being whisked away to the Capital in about 10 pages (not really but pretty close).
  • As mentioned, I feel like the book was a 90% rewrite of the first. Blah, blah, blah...Hunger Games again! Blah, blah,, blah, extended detail of what happens in the arena...blah, blah, blah...plot twist!
  • After Katniss blows the force field and is rescued the entire rebel back story is given in 3 or 4 pages. How do we go from the beginning of the book where we have no idea that 13 still exists to having a fully operational, underground District harboring nuclear weapons?!?! (For the record, I actually predicted the exact reason why District 13 still existed.)

Book 3

Ugh...I can't even. Worst book of the series by far. Made me want to throat punch someone.

What I liked:
  • Very little. I will say that when it all shook down I was glad that Katniss ended up with Peeta. I was originally team Gale until I found out he didn't even like Katniss "that way" until 6 months before she went into her 1st Hunger Games. Peeta always carried a torch for Katniss, even if he did resent her sometimes for not always feeling that way about him. Also, Gale was a warmonger who may or may not have contributed to the death of Prim. To even be able to fall in love with him fully and completely Katniss was going to have to do a lot of convincing (both herself and Gale). Plus, I think Gale would always have been hankering for more action than someone with severe PTSD could handle. On a side note, how is Katniss even a semi-functioning human being at the end of all this?!?!
  • As twisted as it is, I actually liked that fact that Snow kept his promise not to lie to Katniss. In the end the one person she could trust was her sworn enemy.

What I didn't like:
  • Again, same song, different verse. It's another episode of the Hunger Games. Katniss blatantly announces that fact in the war room just before going to the Capital (so much for subtlety). 
  • So much time between the beginning of the book and the actual action.
  • Finnick. I'm actually lurid about the fact that he dies. And at the hands of those stinking mutts (I freaking *hate* those things). What did his death accomplish?!?! Nothing!!! Johanna should have been killed. Sorry Jo but you were not vital to the plot line AT ALL. And yet she manages to survive?!? And Finnick, who just regained a semi-normal life and married the girl of his dreams after exposing the Capital and all it's shenanigans, ends up dead?!?! Ridiculous. 
  • Some of the "coincidental" things that happen in the book are really poorly written. Take, for example, the commercials they film. For the 1st one they need Katniss to say something brilliant. So they try and stage it. When that doesn't work they send her directly into a war zone. Nevermind that like 3 pages before this she was in the hospital. And then she just happens to deliver the perfect, rebel-rousing line. Funny how that happens...
  • Prim. I understand her death was pivotal to ending things and getting Katniss to have a realization about Coin but it just sucked. What sucked even worse was when Katniss's mother was so overcome with grief she couldn't even talk to or visit her other daughter, let alone go live with her and take care of her again (we'll just leave that to the drunk, sounds like a great idea :::rolls eyes:::). Because what every survivor of trauma needs is to go live on their own in a place that likely triggers them 24/7 with no supervision or outlet. Perfect parenting.

I really like it when a book is really well thought out and when you get to the end and all the pieces have fallen into place you want to gasp because suddenly everything makes sense. This trilogy didn't provide that for me. I figure Collins was going for an analogy by making all the books so similar...a Hunger Games (in different "arenas" each time), Katniss being manipulated by others, grisly death scenes, and one shining moment in each book where Katniss figures out what's really going on and pulls a brilliant move which changes everything...but really it was a little too much. At least she wrapped up all the loose ends. I've already seen some of the 1st movie but I won't be watching any of the rest. The whole premise of children killing each other and the depictions of the death scenes is a little too much for me. Plus, I really, really, REALLY do not want to see the mutts (my disdain for them runs quite deep if you haven't figured it out).

My final rating: 7 out of 10

Monday, February 17, 2014

Counting My Blessings: Week 1

So, as I have mentioned before, I'm something of a worrywart. I can, and frequently do, get worked up over the smallest of things. This has been going on for a good many years now and I'm actually starting to suffer physically because of it. I'm determined to take control of this though. I've started sleeping better and I have boundaries around my free time now. Before I freak out about something I try and approach it logically and I try to remind myself to stop and pray.

This weekend I was having a somewhat trying time with my anxiety. I knew it was because the week before I had been really slack with my quiet time and journaling (and, by default, my prayer time). On Sunday I decided I wanted to do something to remind myself that life isn't all about worry and stress. Our pastor was preaching from James and there were two verses I found that stuck out to me:

"...Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you..." - James 4:7b-8a

There are two things I must do: resist the devil and come near to God. I have to actively push away from the devil and then purposefully move towards God. If I get slack then I'm no longer getting closer to God (I might even be getting further away) and I'm susceptible to the devil's tricks. For me that means my anxiety will get worse. Satan has wormed his way into my thinking over years of unguarded and unbridled disobedience and if I give him an inch of room he will turn it into a full blown panic attack.

So, what I have I decided to do? I'm going to count my blessings. Each week I'm going to think of 10 things that I was blessed with during the week and I'm going to share them here. Hopefully I will end up making this a daily habit and then share the 10 best with you at the end of the week.

Last week's is a little late but I want to get this kicked off. Without further ado, here are 10 things I was blessed with last week:

1. Meeting a new friend who loves Jesus, orphans, and Eastern Europe as much as I do!
2. The promise of spring that was in the air on Sunday afternoon.
3. The fact that all of my friends and family stayed safe during the ice storm last week.
4. Getting better at my Romania and starting to feel like I may actually learn this!
5. Watching the Olympics with my mom.
6. A rainstorm (I love the sound of rain!).
7. Walking our dog after being stuck inside for most of the week.
8. Learning that my Romanian friend Elena is coming to the States in March to start college!
9. Learning that 2 of my friends from the boys transition program in Romania made public professions of faith on Sunday!
10. Knitting a sweater for a child in need with yarn that I dyed myself.

Yes, I'm definitely blessed!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snow Days: Round 2

Well, we got hit again this week with some serious winter weather.

These pictures were all taken on Wednesday. We got sleet and freezing rain on Tuesday night and things were mostly iced over Wednesday. Then Wednesday night we got some snow. Today (Thursday) things started to melt but it may get icy again over night. I've been off work since Tuesday (we were called off early in anticipation of the coming storm) but I'm reporting tomorrow. While I wish that I gotten at least one more day of work in this week I'm thankful that I'm in not in a position where some unexpected days off are detrimental to me.

So, what did I do on my time off? I starting knitting a sweater obviously.
 That's all hand dyed yarn that I've been saving for a special sweater, Colorido which was designed specifically for a charity knit. I've had this queued up for over 3 years and I dyed this yarn specifically for this sweater. I finally got off my bum, wound up the yarn, and got started. And after 2 days of working away...
I think I'm making some good progress. Most of my knits will go into my charity knitting pile and this one is no exception. I hope it will keep some child nice and warm. And hopefully the color combinations will help them feel cheerful as well.

I've also been chipping away at my 7 pages of Romanian homework but that's not very interesting to look at.

Hope that you stayed safe and warm over this last week and are careful as you head out over the next day or two!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Be Still

I'm having a "Be still and know that I am God" moment right now. Literally. The other day I wrote about how my elbow was hurting me. Yesterday (Sunday) my friend, Jennifer, who works for an orthopedist told me that I have tennis elbow, or tendinitis in my elbow. Recovery involves anti-inflammatory creme, a brace, not lifting anything over 5 pounds, and only lifting with my palm up. It can take quite a while to recover. 4-6 weeks for "immediate" results and as long as 12 or 18 months for full recovery. And tendinitis is a chronic condition so it can come back if I overwork the tendon again.

Yesterday morning I also woke up feeling dizzy and off balance. I have chronic bouts of benign positional vertigo and it seems like it was back again. The best thing to do it sit (or lay) without moving your head too much. It can take several days to go away and, like tendinitis, is chronic so it comes back from time to time.

As I drove to church all I could think was that God was trying to get my attention for some reason. I generally operate my life on 2 speeds: 150 miles per hour or off. The only way I usually slow down is if I'm sick or hurt. And even then I'm usually limping along. I can count on one hand the number of times I've taken a sick day in the past 10 years. I once told my former co-teacher, Cliff, that if I called out sick to work then he should probably notify the authorities because I was likely dying or dead. When I'm sick or hurt I think it's because, sometimes, it's the only way for God to get my attention. But I wasn't sure why God wanted me to pull back. Saturday I cleaned a bit and tried to get ahead on some stuff but my to-do list is always growing. I thought maybe I needed to spend a little time working on the nonprofit...setting up an account system for this coming year, logging donations, updating the webpage...I figured that would be low impact. All that was put to a stop however when I went to get my computer and stepped in a puddle of cat saliva. So maybe that isn't what God was trying to tell me. Instead of trying to do anything else I went to sleep.

I still feel like there is some reason I need to slow down and look up. Figure out what's going on around me and what I'm supposed to be learning from it all. Or maybe I just need to stop trying to do *so much* at such a break neck speed. I'm forever learning the art of balancing my life. I know there are naturally times where things get busier and slower but I try to cram slow moments with things to do. Maybe I need to learn to relax. Stop and smell the roses. Enjoy down time (kind of makes me twitchy just to type the words down time).

We're scheduled to have "winter weather" again for a few days so maybe I'll have time to practice relaxing then.

"He says, 'Be still and know that I am God...'"-Psalm 46:10

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Simple Woman's Daybook: Feb. 8 Edition

I have a friend who takes part in the Simple Woman's Daybook quite frequently. It's good for a quick peek into what she's doing so I thought I would give it a try.
Outside my window...
It's a surprisingly beautiful day! Not too cold and no rain. Looks like we have some snow flurries and ice/hail in the forecast for later this week.
View from the upstairs window.
What is up with the weather on Tuesday and Wednesday?

I am thinking...
About the 5 or 6 lists I have going in various places and all I need to take care of today.
I am thankful...
For a weekend with no outside obligations!
In the kitchen...
Ummm....I try to stay out of the kitchen. Tomorrow I'm making some deviled eggs though!
I am wearing...
Jeans and a University of Arkansas at Monticello sweatshirt. Go Boll Weevils!
I am creating...
A blanket! It looks like a long strip but this will be knitted together with other strips to make a patchwork style blanket. I'm using a bunch of yarn scraps.
Almost ready to start the second strip!
I am going...
Nowhere for the rest of the day if I can help it.
I am wondering...
What's wrong with my elbow. I had surgery on it when I was 5 (dislocated it on the playground) and there is cartilage loss or something that has given me minor problems over the years. However, recently it's been aching pretty bad. I thought it was because of how I slept on it and/or from lifting weights but I'm not 100% sure...
I am reading...
Mockingjay (the last book in the Hunger Game series), a book on short term play therapy, and US weekly :)
I am hoping...
My motivation for cleaning and crossing off things from my to-do list keeps up for the rest of the weekend.
I am looking forward to...
Watching some of the Olympics tonight.
I am learning...
How to speak Romanian. My second lesson lasted nearly 3 hours last night!
Around the house...
Not much going on today. Dad has a cold, mom is at work, my brother and sister-in-law came over for a bit, everyone (except me) may go for a walk at Stone Mountain later today...
I am pondering...
A lot...but nothing I'm ready to share with everyone yet :)
A favorite quote for today...
Found this yesterday and love it:
One of my favorite things...
Seeing my cat sunbathing.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
Work, work, work...Gym Dawgs (UGA gymnastics meet) on Friday, Kidsignment (second hand kids clothing sale) on Saturday...
A peek into my day...
See above :)

If you want to do your own daybook, go here.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Worrywart: Hypochondriac Edition

I am a bona fide worrywart. My incessant anxiety issues will probably come up multiple times on this blog in various forms. I can find anything to worry about and often do. There is almost always something I can find to work myself up about. This weekend, for example, I had a brief episode of hypochondria.

My Myers-Brigg's personality is an INTJ. I thrive on logic and order and I value intelligence. However, because I can get stuck in my own head and I like to come to a conclusion before fully fleshing ideas out, sometimes I come up with the "worst case scenario" and assume that to be the truth. At various points in my life I have been afraid that I had botulism, a brain tumor, AIDS, and various forms of cancer (never mind the very obvious reasons why I would have none of these issues). Take, for example, this classic freakout about the brain tumor...

Me: I'm totally freaking out!
Best Friend: Why?
M: I think I might have a brain tumor.
BF: Why would you think that?
M: I've been having these weird migraine-type headaches for the last few weeks.
BF: You don't have a brain tumor.
M: I might!
BF: You don't have a brain tumor.
M: I could!
BF: You don't.
M: Well, I'm going to the doctor and I'm going to ask them and what if they tell me that I have a brain tumor?!?
BF: They're not going to tell you that you have a brain tumor because you don't have one. You are more likely to have a tumor on your ass.
M: Yeah!!! Well, what if I go to the doctor and they tell me that I have a brain tumor on my ass?!?! What then?!?!

Just a sampling of my ridiculous thinking.

Needless to say, WebMD has become a frienemy of mine. It offers hope in one paragraph ("Migraines can be a sign of the following: stress, lack of sleep, looking at the sun too long..." Excellent! I'll just take a nap everyday!) and life destroying damnation in the next ("...cancer, leprosy, and brain eating bacteria." Great, I'm pretty much dead.)

It also really helps that my mother, aunt, and grandmother enjoy watching true crime and hospital horror shows. They have a weird, soul crushing story for everything. Cut your finger? They saw a story about someone who lost the entire right side of their body after an infection seeped in through a paper cut. Feeling dizzy? They watched a program about an entire school of children who contracted a rare disease that caused them to feel dizzy and then suddenly drop dead two days later. If you are looking for comfort from them you are likely not to find it. The icing on the cake is mentioning an ailment to them and ending up in a 2 hour conversation about all the horrible and bizarre things they have heard about people who had the exact same thing that you did. Oh, and P.S. they all ended up dead. But you're likely to pull through! :::pat on the back:::

This weekend I was pretty sure I had contracted some awful disease. I won't even tell you my symptoms or what I thought was going on because, thinking about it in hindsight, I can see how it was all simply crazy-pants. I'm not saying that there isn't cause for concern when things do go wrong. But let's face the facts: I've had good check ups from my doctor for the last several years. I eat relatively healthy and work out 4-5 times a week. I take supplements and vitamins. This doesn't make me invincible by any means but I have managed to escape several rounds of respiratory issues and stomach viruses this winter.

So, no. I'm pretty sure I don't have pneumonia of the pinky toe. But since I've just proclaimed my current, healthy state of existence I'm pretty certain that next week I will come down with the flu.