Do you ever find life is overwhelming? Studies show even good stress such as a wedding or new house can be hard to manage, much less the stress that makes us crazy—like rearing children, dealing with poor health, or elderly parents. Hi, I’m Shelia Shook, and while I’m not a counselor, I’ve sailed on the smooth waters of life and trudged through miry clay. In those moments I’ve not only learned things about myself, but I’ve learned things I know can help you. So, no matter where you are in life, let my blog become your companion.
Sugar and Spice of Everyday Life is divided into three sections to make finding the support you want, or need, easier. All you have to do is click on the appropriate section on the home page.
Want to be inspired? Lifted out of the daily woes that drag you down? In this section, you’ll read slice-of-life stories about love, joy, hope, trust, courage, forgiveness, commitment, perseverance, and most especially faith. Commitment is the usual topic of discussion this time of year. Did you make a new year’s resolution? How’s that going for you? How did it go last year?
Every year, around October, I have found myself a tangled mass of nerves because I know I only have a few months left to accomplish the year’s goals. As I review my progress, or lack of progress, the holidays show up, my focus becomes muddled, and suddenly the year is ended. I have end of the year reports due, and one of those is to set goals for the new year. How do you do that when you haven’t reached this year’s goals yet?
I’m sure I’m not the only one to find the end of the year and beginning of the new one stressful. Many people often go into despair, feeling hopelessly inept, and behind before they ever get started. The new year could represent a fresh sheet of paper, blank and ready to fill in, but that can be daunting. The flipside is to look at the new year as a fresh start. A clean slate. Find forgiveness for last year’s lack of fulfillment and reach for new incite and purpose.
I like to take a blank sheet of paper and brain dump everything on my mind. The things I wanted to do but didn’t, the new things I want to do, and things I don’t want to do but must. Then I mark off the things I didn’t really need or want to do from last year (they weren’t important anyway or it’s too late). I then add what’s left to those new ideas I want to—and must—do this year. Spread these into three priority columns: Urgent, Important, and It Can Wait. In Stephen R. Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he discusses this technique. He speaks of four areas in Part Two Habit III:
|I||URGENT And IMPORTANT||Not URGENT But IMPORTANT||II|
|III||Not IMPORTANT |
(My: It Can Wait)
I nix the last one because if something falls into this category, it doesn’t really matter to me. Some people think hobbies fall into this group, but I find hobbies and recreation are important to provide stress relief, peace, creativity, and focus. Sometimes the Urgent category feels important but really isn’t, and I try to nix items off this list, too.
After adding time-sensitive items to a yearly calendar, I take what’s left in the Important column and determine what are the most important things to do TODAY. Then every day I pull more from this list, trying to focus on one day at a time. Be careful not to neglect the It can wait column, otherwise you might find it soon falls into the Urgent column. Of course, everyday adds to the spread sheet, but a weekly review and update of my lists keeps me on track.
I hope you find this post helpful as you reach for a more accomplished purpose this year.
Learn to Cope
As a nurse, my life is devoted to helping people cope with health issues of their own or their families. Issues like living with dementia, cancer, stroke or chronic pain. And as a Hospice nurse I help people cope with death and dying. Believe-it-or-not, the moments surrounding death can be some of the sweetest. But don’t worry, this section is about more than learning to cope with health issues. This section will also include stories of overcoming hard times like being broke, facing fear, stressful changes, and dealing with anger and resentment, just to name a few. However, we know the end of life is likely the hardest thing any of us will ever cope with. The following story is true with the name changed. As you see, the hope this family gains in this sad time brought joy to their hearts.
It was only the third time I’d seen this patient, but I had developed a kinship with her and her family. When I arrived, she had become too weak to talk, but I assured her family that she could still hear them. They were skeptical, but I explained that at the end of life, hearing is the last of our senses to go. Our eyesight is lost when we can no longer keep our eyes open, and our sense of touch is dependent on our circulation which at this time, is working to reach the vital organs: brain, heart, and lungs. The sense of smell and taste are likely gone before we get to that point, as the first body system to shut down is the digestive system. And because of this we aren’t hungry. The last food we ate may sit in our stomachs and sour. So, we don’t want more.
I encouraged the patient’s family to talk to her, express their love. Some family members stood aloft, grieving. They still doubted she could hear them. “She doesn’t know what’s going on around her.” “She might as well be gone.”
I stepped to the bedside and lowered my face near her ear and called her by name.
“Bobbie looks like you are getting ready to leave us,” I said.
The family gathered closer. “You really think she can hear?”
“Do you think she knows she is dying?” someone else asked.
I looked up and smiled. “She knows she’s leaving us,” I said, and turned back to the patient. “Don’t you, Bobbie?” I saw a twitch of her lips. I waited, then continued. “I’m excited for you, Bobbie. You are about to see Heaven and those beautiful golden streets you talked about. And the huge Angels. You are about to see Jesus, and—”
“She smiled!” someone behind me shouted.
I saw it, too and turned to her daughter. She beamed. “Did you see that?” she asked the room full of family. “She smiled! I saw her smile. She smiled,” the daughter repeated.
Each person in the room agreed: “Bobbie certainly smiled.” “Unmistakable.” “Unbelievable.” Voices blended with contagious laughter and excitement. Another daughter hurried from the room. “I have to go tell my husband. Hold on Momma. I’ll be right back.” When she left, the room buzzed with the exciting news. “Momma’s not dying. She’s going to see Jesus!” And within the hour she did.
Just knowing where she was going gave the family joy and purpose in their mother’s death. I pray as you face difficult times that you find peace and resolution and, thereby, joy. Knowing the why is not always possible. But know and trust that God has a plan, that He listens and can give you that little sign of hope you need to get you through.
Sometimes life is just life. It’s neither happy nor sad. It can be mundane, boring, or repetitive. Or it can be exhausting, both emotionally and physically. How do you handle those times in your life? In this section you will find stories about families, parents, siblings—stories of all types of relationships—including relationships with God.
I find relationships can make the difference in how I respond to life. Some are saccharine sweet. You know, those times when people are artificial, and you wait for the other shoe to fall. Other relationships are bold—in your face and give you heart burn. Yet along the way, I experience relationships which are genuine, loving—real. A tasty treat I enjoy. Regardless, relationships add flavor to life.
When a relationship goes sideways, and we don’t see anything good coming of it at the time, God can. He knows His plans and sees ahead. It reminds me of the time I stood on the balcony of my son’s twenty-ninth-floor loft and watched him walk to work in uptown Charlotte, NC. I could see from above the maze of structures and streets as he made his way to his office building up and to my right. From my left, a group of people walked toward Micheal, but he couldn’t see them coming. He hadn’t yet gotten to the intersection where I knew they would meet. I saw an open manhole around the corner and prayed he would see it when he got there, and not fall in. Just then, a truck stopped at the manhole, and I watched men put out orange cones and set up white construction road blocks with orange stripes. Michael turned the corner and seeing the warning signs, crossed to the other side of the street.
God is so much higher than the twenty-ninth-floor. He can see what is coming toward us and what we are headed toward. He sees when we make a wrong turn or take a detour. Sometimes He sends warning signs. But if we fall in a manhole, in His perfect timing, He sends someone to help us out. Grant it, we might not like who He sends, and at the time, we might be blind to our struggle being a good thing. Such is the Bible story of the arrogant teenager, Joseph.
Joseph survived being thrown into a pit by his brothers and saved only to be sold into slavery to serve in a palace, and then spend years in prison for something he didn’t do. It humbled him, and he grew noble, dependable, courageous and unfaltering. He found himself second in command only to Pharaoh over Egypt’s grain supply and in a position to help his brothers and father in a time of fierce famine. Did God see the maze of his life? I believe He did. But Joseph didn’t. When he landed in that pit, Joseph had no clue that farther down and around the corner, his being tossed into a pit would lead him to save his family from starvation. His years as a slave and a prisoner were used not only for his own good, but for the good of the Hebrew nation. He saved the lineage of Christ.
We will find strength and personal growth if we can but fathom that what others may intend for evil, God means for our good and ends in His divine purpose. He sees years ahead, where we can only see what’s in front of us—and sometimes not even that. You can read the story of Joseph and his relationship with his brothers in Genesis 37-50 in the Bible.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this sampling of my blog. When I get together with family or friends, we are like old fishermen swapping stories. Like fishermen, our stories are true, but often embellished. Regardless, they always evoke emotion and stir us to embrace life as it comes. Some stories are hilarious, some inspirational and full of hope, others are about building relationships, and still others are about coping or finding victory in overcoming.
I see this blog as an opportunity to swap stories with family, old friends, and new friends—like you. Stories that help people. I pray reading these stories help you find inspiration as you learn to cope and embrace life. I’m sure you have your own stories to share, and I look forward to hearing from you as you share those stories with me. As much as I’d like to help everyone individually, it would be an impossible task. My goal is to create a community of safety where we can share stories and grow together.
Remember, wherever you are in life, you are at the right place when you visit my website and read my blog. Come on back and share a slice of life with me.