Archives for : January2015

Capture Those Special Moments

Stop and Savor!

It’s tempting, at the beginning of a new year, to become so focused on self-improvement that we race around with lists in hand, frantic to prove we can achieve the latest goals that we set for ourselves.

While discipline is wonderful, balance is even better.

That’s why we are spending the month of January reprising some of our favorite posts from 2014—those we hope will inspire you to think about what really matters in life.  So slow down and savor.

 

Capturing Special Moments in Time

This post first appeared in our October 27, 2014, blog

           My stomach churned with excitement as our small plane circled the rocky island of KarmØy on the western coast of Norway, then gracefully touched down and coasted to a stop.

          As my husband and I and three local passengers made our way to the front of the plane, the pilot asked us in accented English, “Is someone meeting you?”

          “Yes, I answered tentatively.  But when we stepped out of the plane, there was no one in sight.

          We picked up our luggage, and made our way to the small Haugesund terminal.  When we opened the door, the waiting room was filled with smiling faces—all of them waiting for us.  They were holding a sign that read “WELCOME SHEPPARDS!”

          We had never met my father’s first cousins, and we had no idea of what to expect, but the days ahead were filled with emotional moments I knew I never wanted to forget.

          That first evening as we sat down to “evening coffee,” my eyes stung with tears as they sang grace, first in English, for our benefit, then in Norwegian.  Sitting around a table heaped with lefse, flØte kake, waffla, lapp, and a variety of other nameless confections heaped with whipped cream, it was clear they had pulled out all the stops in their preparation.

          The conversations were warm and welcoming, and the days of our short stay flew quickly by.  But there were times when I inhaled deeply the scent of rich coffee and savored the sounds of Norwegian folk songs sung by relatives to the accompaniment of guitars and accordions, and I said to myself, “How I would love to freeze this moment in time and take it home with me so I could pull it out and relive it all over again.”

          So I did the next best thing.  Each evening when everyone else went to bed, I did what I love to do most.  I wrote.  The combination of the day’s stimulation and multiple cups of strong Norwegian coffee kept me going far into the night.

          MY POINT IS THIS:  If you want to freeze specific moments, take pictures, yes, but Journal.  You don’t have to be a particularly good writer, just a good observer.

Photos are terrific, but words can preserve smells, tastes, sounds, conversation, and nuances of emotions in a way no photo can.

So capture special moments.  Freeze them.  Them pull them out and relive them all over again.  You only live once.

Or twice . . .

 

© Copyright, Sharon Sheppard

 

 

 

 

 

 

Counting Her Blessings

Here’s the third reprisal post we’ve selected for our series of four inspirational pieces from thewisejourney’s 2014 blog.  It’s one of my favorites because Elaine Davis is a dear friend who has demonstrated extraordinary courage and commitment to her faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Counting Her Stitches, Counting Her Blessings

By Sharon Sheppard

Until three years ago, then 77-year-old Elaine Davis, a retired nurse, enjoyed a fulfilling life.  She felt blessed to have a close family, wonderful friends, a part-time job at a yarn shop, and plenty of interests to occupy her time: reading, knitting, and watching the Minnesota Twins.

But then she received a diagnosis of stage four ovarian cancer.  She had five major surgeries within nine days, but little could be done to stem the progress of her advanced cancer.  Expecting to die within a week or ten days, Elaine transferred to St. Benedict’s Center Hospice Care, where, amazingly, her condition stabilized.  Now, three and a half years later, she’s still there.

Before she became ill, Elaine had been a popular speaker for Christian Women’s Clubs and women’s retreats.  So after she settled in at St. Benedict’s, some women from her church asked if she would be their retreat speaker.  Though Elaine knows she will never again move from her bed without the help of a hydraulic lift, her friends know that she still has plenty of wisdom to impart.

Staff cheerfully accommodated the group by bringing extra chairs into her room, and ten women gathered to hear her talk on How to have peace and joy in difficult circumstances.  Word spread, and from her bed she has now spoken to 18 groups.  “Never have I had so many opportunities to share my faith,” Elaine says.

Her face glows as she talks about her personal relationship with God and the many ways He has provided for her every need.  Her positive attitude and radiant demeanor make Elaine a valued confidante for staff members, who often visit her after their shifts are over.   She teaches them how to knit and has several one-on-one Bible studies each week with her newfound friends.

Elaine has even become a favorite with visiting canines.  Every other Thursday a volunteer brings in dogs to patients who request visits. When they reach the second floor, the volunteer lets go of the leash and Christopher Robin makes a beeline for Elaine’s room for a long snuggle.   The feelings are mutual.

None of us would choose Elaine’s circumstances, but the peace her faith brings is so genuine no one is doubting that it’s real.

So for now, she flips on the Twins and picks up a ball of yarn to knit mittens for needy school children.  For now she is content.  Counting her stitches.  Counting her blessings.

© Copyright, Sharon Sheppard, 2014.       This piece originally appeared in CentraCare’s Spotlight on Health

Promises to Keep

As a New Year’s gift to you, for the month of January we are reprising some of our favorite posts from 2014—those with an inspirational message we think you will find encouraging.

 

I loved meeting and interviewing Scott Stanley when my husband was a stem cell transplant patient at Mayo Clinic.  This is an expanded version of a post from April 16, 2014.  Scott’s courage and the story of how he discovered what was really important in life inspired me, and I hope it will encourage you as well.

 

 

PROMISES TO KEEP

 

By Scott Stanley

As told to Sharon Sheppard

 

The ring of the cell phone barely registered above the rowdy banter of our two preschoolers.  Still hyped and sweaty from their T-ball game, they strained against the seatbelts of our minivan, ignoring my wife’s attempts to shush them.

 

“Scott,” said the voice on the line, “Joan, from the Mayo Clinic.  We have a heart.”

 

I hesitated, not sure I’d heard right.  A heart transplant offered virtually the only hope that I could survive long enough to see my kids grow up.  And as a 37-year-old dad, I had determined to grab that chance if and when it ever came.

 

“We need you here in three hours, Scott.  Four at the most,” Joan said.  “Unfortunately, our Mayo jet is grounded by a severe local thunderstorm.”

 

“We’ll figure out something,” I said, and flipped the phone shut.

 

“We’ve got a heart,” I said to my wife, Cheri.  She stepped on the gas.

 

Arranging transportation for the 350-mile trip from our home near Lincoln, Nebraska, to  Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, proved agonizing.  On separate cell phones, my dad, my wife, and I kept hitting dead ends.  Finally we connected with a pilot and an UltraAir corporate turbojet out of Moline, Illinois, from one of the many companies that provide free transportation for transplant patients.

 

Health crises had kept me away from my family far too often.  A few days earlier, after returning home from Mayo for the umpteenth time, I’d told my boys, “Now Daddy can be home for a whole month.”  Three-year-old Blake and five-year-old Chase cheered.

 

Now I fervently clung to the boys at the airport, knowing this could be the last time they would ever see their dad alive.  As Cheri and I left them in the hands of their grandparents and walked toward the plane, Chase stood near the runway crying.  “But Daddy,” he shouted, “you said you’d be home for a month!  You promised!”

 

As the plane taxied for takeoff, I stared back at my two precious kids until distance and darkness swallowed them up.  My faulty heart thudded, and my somber thoughts turned to a family that was grieving the loss of a young person this night.  Someone who had to die so I could have a chance to live.

 

Until my diagnosis, I had never heard of hypertrophy cardiomyopathy (HCM), a congenital heart disorder that affects about one in 500 people.  As superintendent of a golf course, I’d worked 18-hour days, and I loved my work.  I’d always been vigorous, athletic, and driven.

 

After months of testing, five stop-gap surgeries, and numerous car trips to Mayo Clinic, the doctors said they had done everything they could do for me short of a transplant.  They had no idea when a heart might become available.  I only hoped I could hang on that long.

 

Now, shrouded in white, I listened as the surgeon reiterated what I already knew.

 

“Scott, there are no guarantees with this.  You need to know that you may not make it off the table.”

 

“I will,” I said.  “I’ve got to.”

 

I’m a stubborn guy, and for once in my life, maybe this would be an asset.  I love my boys more than I ever dreamed possible, and I knew I couldn’t leave Cheri to raise them alone.

 

The attendant wheeled me into surgery at 3:30 a.m.  A highly skilled team of specialists removed my failing heart and replaced it with the one that had so recently beat in the chest of its young donor.  Three hours after the procedure began, my new heart was up and running.  At 11:30 that morning, the team moved me into ICU.

 

When the haze of anesthesia cleared, I woke to a mass of tubes connecting me to a wall of state-of-the-art machinery.  In spite of debilitating nausea, my first waking thought was, “I made it!  I’m alive.”

 

Through an incredibly long and miserable recovery, Cheri was my rock and my best friend.  She slept at the hospital for two weeks, closely following a terrifying pattern of medical and emotional ups and downs.

 

After my release, I spent the next couple of months at Gift of Life House near Mayo, a home-like facility for transplant patients and their caregivers.  Now the tedious days of recuperation hung as heavy as Nebraska humidity.  The only thing that kept me motivated to persevere through all those mindless repetitions of physical therapy was the promise I’d made Chase to be home for his first day of kindergarten.

 

I suppose a guy can’t go through these kinds of crises without some heavy-duty soul searching.  “Why me?”  I asked.  I felt increasingly useless and depressed.

 

But as my physical health improved, my mental and spiritual outlooks did, as well.  I came to value my family and my faith as never before.  Coming face to face with death helped me to gain a new perspective on the fact that God must have plans for me.

 

While working on the golf course, my church attendance had slipped.  Weekends were busy on the course, and I joked that I worshipped at the Chapel of the Eighteen Holes every Sunday.  Now I knew that was one of the things that had to change.  I would never have made it through all of this without God’s help, and I couldn’t ignore that fact that His Son, too, had to die so I could live.

 

Against the recommendation of the transplant coordinator, I finagled a pass to go home.  On a brilliant Midwestern fall day, I walked the four blocks with Chase to school.  Kids from up and down the street streamed into the schoolyard, dressed in their new, first-day-of-school clothes.  Chase eased into the crowd and then, with a wave, disappeared behind the heavy doors.  I wouldn’t have missed that for the world.

 

“My daddy walked to school with me today,” he bragged to his class.  “He’s got a new heart.”

Indeed, I have.  In more ways than one.

 

© Copyright, Sharon Sheppard, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

Strength is Born in Solitude

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

While the media review highlights (and some not-so-high lights) from 2014, listing the TEN Best . . . and TEN Worst of this and that, we’re reminded of some good things, but also of a few things we’d rather forget—beheadings, lost airliners, and the Ebola scare, to name a few.

But because we like to bring mostly good news to readers of thewisejourney.com, we’ve decided to reprise four of our personal favorite posts from our own 2014 blog—one each week during the month of January.   If you missed any of these the first time around, here’s your chance to be inspired.  And if you caught it the first time around, we hope you’ll enjoy it all over again.

Because the New Year brings both reminiscing about the previous year and anticipating some new beginnings, we hope you’ll find fresh hope and encouragement from these posts.

Meanwhile, we wish you the very best of God’s blessings during the year ahead.

From the City Cousin and the Country Cousin

 

*****

 

TAKE A BREAK ! ! !

         I know, I know . . . lots of January mags and blogs are telling us to shape up—declutter, lose weight, get on that treadmill, set some goals!  

         But our message is a little different:  RELAX!

         As an alternative to that barrage of performance-based messages, we’re inviting you to savor the moment.  Cultivate an appreciation for solitude.

         So to help you do that, we’re devoting this month to reprising four of our favorite posts from 2014.

 

         Whether your beverage of choice is chai tea, a macchiatto, or a tall glass of ice water, take a deep breath, a soothing sip, and inhale a few moments of quietness . . . 

 

So here it is, the secret to (lasting) happiness:

 

Strength is Born in Solitude

(Reprised from our February 21, 2014 blog)

In a world where speed and productivity are prized, and busyness is a way of life, solitude has become a rare commodity.  But strength is found, not in busyness and noise, but in quietness.

Are you weary and exhausted?  Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).”

In order to cultivate a personal relationship with God (and what a stunning invitation he offers us!), it’s going to take some quiet time alone.

  1. S. Lewis says, “God can’t give us happiness and peace apart from himself . . . because it is just not there.”

We were made for God, and in the end, nothing less will satisfy us without Him.  We are all thirsty and empty, and He alone fills the hungry void.

“For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things (Psalm 107:6).”

Look for a quiet place today, even if you can only spare five minutes.

You’ll be glad you did.

Mary Z.

 

And what a great way to start the New Year!