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Living Loving Serving Transformation Stories

Anticipating Christmas

When my kids were young we made a big deal out of Christmas. We put up the tree and made sure there were plenty of gifts to open, even if some of them were underwear and socks! We wanted to make sure that somehow the number of gifts under the tree reflected how much we loved them. We wanted to create memories to last a lifetime.

When I was married to my second husband and we shared the children at  Christmas with his ex-wife, the focus became showing her up. We wanted to have the better gifts. We wanted to have the better time. We wanted them to love us more because we showered them with things. And we missed the boat in such a huge way.

My own daughter is an only child. I always felt she was missing out on having a family to share the surprise of Christmas morning. She had no one to share her toys with or to one-up on her gifts. Yet we did everything we could to bring our family around us so that she felt part of something bigger. And I made sure it was always an event when the family came over—one they would talk about for years!

Today both those efforts have faded away. My step-daughters have families of their own now. They are making their own Christmas memories with their children. My daughter and I still celebrate Christmas together, but no longer with our family. As I look back, I wish I had invested more in the relationships that surrounded us than in the number of gifts under the tree. And I hope that my girls will not follow my example but that they will focus on why we even have a Christmas to celebrate. I hope that they won’t stress out over the gifts they buy so that their children know they are loved.

I hope my girls will shower their children with love, the love that comes down from above and works its way out of them and shows up in the way they treat others, including their extended families. 

This year we are keeping it simple. This year I am looking forward to Christmas Eve service and gathering with my church family to celebrate the birth of a man who would die that I could be forgiven. I am anxiously anticipating singing those songs that move my heart to a place of worship and gratitude. I am looking forward to a change in my behavior that shows others what God has done, and is doing, in my life. I am taking in the greatest love and hoping that I can pass that on to others as I meet them.

That is the gift I am seeking and hope to give to others.

Lord, I ask your forgiveness for the times I forget that you are the real purpose for our Christmas celebration and I pray for my family that they will stop and remember not just their presents but your unfailing love. I pray our Christmas will be more about you this year.

God bless,

Maggie

 

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Living Loving Serving

Taking Risks For What Matters Most

I’m a huge hockey fan. It is a love I share with my daughter and many of our friends. We have even been known to convert people to hockey by sharing our love of the game with them. Anyone who knows us, even briefly, knows we are Washington Capitals and LA Kings hockey fans. I have a wall in my home dedicated to hockey memorabilia. I have hockey stickers on my car. I proudly “rock the red” with shirts, scarves, and jackets. I am bold about my team and happy to tell you about our community and why we follow hockey.

Funny thing is, I’m not sure that everyone I meet knows right off the bat that I am a follower of Jesus Christ and a Christian. I don’t know if I am always willing to risk that recognition in public. I don’t know that I am as willing to talk about Jesus as I am to talk about hockey.

Washington Capitals Tom Wilson with the power shot.
Washington Capitals Tom Wilson with the power shot.

When it comes to hockey, I love the excitement. I love the speed of the game and the powerful hitting and fighting that takes place on the ice. I love that these men are willing to bang up their bodies and risk head injuries for my enjoyment. They do what they do at the risk of concussions and torn ligaments:

A concussion is a type of brain injury that is caused by a bump or blow not only to the head, but anywhere else that causes the head to jolt in a harsh manner. The main symptoms of a concussion include headaches, loss of memory, and general confusion. Some of the worst symptoms include seizures as well as constant dizziness. Unfortunately, the style of play in hockey means that concussions are pretty common.

Players get out there time and again and offer so much of themselves for the benefit of others. They don’t think twice about the sacrifice or the long-term effects of what they do, they just do it. And there have been repercussions. For example, Dennis Vaske was playing for The New York Islanders when his career was interrupted by a concussion. In a game against The Los Angeles Kings in 1995 Vaske was on the receiving end of a nasty hit that sent him face first into the boards. Three other players with the Flyers had their careers ended by concussions: Eric Lindros, Keith Primeau, and Chris Pronger. Eric Lindros career ended after a shoulder to head hit in the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals. Keith Primeau’s career ending concussion was caused by an elbow to the head in 2006. Finally, Chris Pronger was concussed in 2011 after taking a stick to the right eye.

And we cheer on the sidelines for these rough and tough players as they get up and do it all again. As I think about this great game and the risks players are willing to take to their health in the name of a sport, I’m left wondering what risk I am willing to take in the name of Jesus that might yield a lasting result. What am I willing to do to bring lasting joy and healing to someone else? What risk am I willing to take to show my love of Christ with the same passion I show for my love of hockey? Am I willing to take the hard hits and get back up to share another day?

Washington Capitals player Michael Latta dancing with the puck.
Washington Capitals player Michael Latta dancing with the puck.

Hockey can be a brutal game and so can sharing the Gospel. We may have to dodge a few pucks shot our way as we defend our faith. We may run the risk of being knocked down to boldly step forward into the other zone. Our heads will likely be spinning some days as we launch into new territory. We may even loose the life we planned as God opens new doors to us. We may suffer a few bumps along the way; however, the end result might just be winning the game, in his name.

Be bold. Step forward. Put on your protective gear and don’t worry about what might happen. Know that you are protected and that even when the fight seems impossible, there will always be another chance at the goal. And remember that the angels are cheering you on.

Written with contribution and photos by Brittney Marcum (@NewViewOfYouPhotography )

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Living in Singleness Living Loving Serving

Living and Dying with the Addict

Once again the media has exploded with the disturbing story of a sports figure and celebrity who has been overtaken by their addictions. The arrows of blame are flying at everyone whoever came into this person’s life as he too is blamed for being a weak person. And as the arrows of shame fly, so does the misunderstanding of what it is like to watch someone who is slowly killing themselves and the painful decisions that their loved ones must make if they hope to survive and keep on living.

The Lamar Odom saga is one that many of us live outside of the spotlight. We do it in our own circles and often without sharing our drama with those closest to us. These past few days I feel as if my healing scar has been ripped open again as I remember the frustration that I could not save my husband from his demons. Like Odom, he suffered a horrific childhood of abuse and at an early age was introduced to self-medication for his pain by his foster family and doctors. My husband, Dan, would live his life in and out of treatment programs, praying for relief. Unfortunately, he also suffered from bipolar disorder and even when he was clean and sober, he felt he was going crazy. He did things that made absolutely no sense to anyone—including him.

People would say to me all the time—if only he had Jesus he would change. If only he would commit to a program he would be ok. If only you were tougher on him. If only you weren’t so hard on him. If only…

You see friends, those of us living with the addict and mentally ill, we do all those things. We cry ourselves to sleep praying that God will deliver them. We become hopeful when they fall on their knees and accept the Lord into their lives. We celebrate when they agree to enter a long-term treatment program. We watch them count the days of sobriety and we think, “This is it.” We all do all that we can and yet sometimes the demon inside wins the battle here.

And sometimes, we let go and let God take over.

Letting go and watching what happens outside the protective boundaries of our homes can be almost as unbearable as struggling with them inside where no one sees the battle. This is when our faith is tested as we see them rise above only to slip away. AA talks about those who may never fully come clean and how we need to keep them in our prayers. Often those prayers are for deliverance—a deliverance that may only come with death. And that’s when the blame game really kicks into gear, as we see it being played out in social media today.

You see I lived this for many years. My husband lost his battle. I made tough decisions to protect myself and my daughter that few understood. We too had a legal separation that I sat on for several years hoping that I would never have to file the final papers. When Dan was hit by a car and left with severe brain damage, I had to go ahead and finalize our divorce so that he could receive long-term care. That didn’t mean it was over for me though. He was still my husband despite what some legal document declared. We still visited him in the nursing home. I was still his emergency contact. And when he died, I was still the wife that arranged for his funeral and led the family to say goodbye.

There were those in my family and in the recovery community that didn’t understand how I was still in the picture after all those years and after finalizing our divorce. Why hadn’t I walked away and pretended it never happened? Even at his funeral, my brother went around asking people why they were there for such a loser, a liar, a thief, and drug addict that had caused so much pain. You see, that is the gift of grace and mercy that my faith brought me. Many of us loved Dan and could see beyond the actions his drugs and mental illness led him to take. We could see the same man that God saw. We could weep, as I’m sure God did, at Dan’s pain and torment. We could love the man that was made in God’s image and who despite his deepest beliefs in that same God, just fell short. We could see our own imperfection and still love ourselves because we were willing to love Dan as Jesus loved the sick and mentally ill.

So as this story unfolds in the press, let us stop criticizing a woman who made choices to protect herself while still loving her husband. Let us pray for the family and friends who gather around a man they love for who they know he is. Let us pray for the man who hurt so much he could never find peace. And then let us open our eyes and our hearts to our own families and friends who are walking this same walk in everyday life. Let us reach out in understanding and compassion as their hearts are torn apart because their lives are being lived out in front of them, even if they suffer in silence. And let us keep trying to help the helpless and lost, just as Jesus did when he walked the streets.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen.

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Boomer Living Living in Singleness Living Loving Serving

Get on Out There: Overcoming the Third Wheel Syndrome

We’ve all been there. Friends ask us to join them for dinner along with another couple and there is that awkward moment when you both realize something is just off. Maybe you all walk into a restaurant and low and behold, most of the tables easily sit four but with five, well now we have to wait. Or we are invited to come over for a game night and there are only couples and you wonder how you will even out the sides since you are the extra person. Let’s face it, society, including our churches, is couples-focused and some days we feel as if we don’t have a place at the table.

I have lived through all the experiences above. I been around the edges when my friends are planning a weekend at the beach and they are hoping that I won’t overhear because they are only going with other couples. I know what it is like to walk into a gathering at church and look around for a seat only to see that there are two seats and someone is holding them for another couple. I try to search out another single or someone who came without their spouse so I can partner up and at least give the appearance that I didn’t come alone.

This yearning to belong and getting out there to become a part of a community can be difficult waters to wade into if we hold onto the thought that we don’t belong or fit in. You do. If God is nudging you into an area, go there. Trust that he will smooth the waters and that you will find your place. We can easily be our own worst enemy if we wait to fit into the couples’ world, because for the most part, we don’t. That isn’t a bad thing; it is a different thing.

Seek out other singles or individuals whose spouses may not be fully engaged in their lives and activities. Call the person who just lost a spouse and invite them to go with you. Ask the person whose partner is hospitalized or in nursing care to be your partner in an adventure. We singles are a strong community if we are willing to bond together and strengthen each other. So the next time you are going to an event, invite someone, even if you have to pay for them to go. Together you can walk into the room and take those last two seats. Together you can find the person standing alone and invite them to be your third person.

And, if you are going as the third wheel, be a tricycle that you propel forward! You are getting out there and doing what God is asking you to do. Be the strong thread in that threesome and bring the best you out for the occasion. Live and laugh and love every moment of being the single one because for this part of the journey, it is how God is shaping your life. Roll on into your purpose friends.

“If a man prevails against one who is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 World English Bible

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Boomer Living Coaching Tips and Exercises Living in Singleness Living Loving Serving

Grief Life

We planned for our future.

We had a vision for our lives.

Together we would do this.

Then one day;

You were gone.

The future we planned no more.

The vision detached,

Distrupting my life.

No more together adventures.

Me alone

The world turned upside down.

New plans to imagine.

New routines to make.

New life to find;

With others.

Stuck between what was,

What is, and yet to come.

Pulling myself forward,

Out of the dark;

Into the unknown.

Looking for his plan in this.

Holding onto faith.

Yearning for love.

Hiding from tears.

Praying for me.

Resting in his will.

Trusting in his love.

Shattered pieces healing.

New life emerging;

Breathing…living

Finding new purpose.

Walking a new path.

Willingly restored.

Stepping forward.

From grief to life.

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Living Loving Serving

A Day of Remembrance: 9/11 Thoughts

This morning I woke with that same somber cloud of quiet sadness that has hung in the air every September 11th since 2001. I don’t know why, but going to bed last night I thought this morning would feel different from all the other years. Fourteen years has not changed anything. I still want to cry and I still have trouble believing what happened as I, and millions of others, relive the hours and days of that tragedy.

Funny the things I remember most, beyond watching the news unfold around me. I remember wondering if I should go to work only to get the call that we were evacuating to be safe. I wondered how to explain this to our daughter because we would have to tell her. The Pentagon was just a few miles away and well, everything was changed. We called friends and family to make sure they weren’t in the Pentagon that day and we called simply to say, “I love you.” I remember the silence that evening more than anything else. Living outside of Washington, DC the sky was always full of planes flying over and cars rushing between work and home and sports fields. Not that night. All we could hear were fighters flying over for our protection. That night we drove to churches to pray. We walked the streets in dark quietness because all the stores were closed. As a nation, we simply shut down.

In the days following we were changed people. We cried openly at work and in the grocery stores, and people placed their hands on our shoulder because they understood. We let people pull out in front of us and nodded in shared grief. We held onto our children and wondered if it was safe to let them continue to live. We were kind and gentle with each other as we processed what was happening in the places near to us. We came to understand that we had to get back up and live our lives to show the world and the people who wished us harm that we were stronger than them. We had to show we were a nation united and that together we would recover.

As you head out today under the cloud of such enormous loss, I pray that you will remember who we were for those few days after. We are still kind, compassionate, praying people. We can still set aside our political and religious bickering to find a way support each other. We can still let someone pull out in front of us and not blow our horn when someone doesn’t move as quickly as we think they should. We can still help our neighbor if they are struggling. We can still ask a stranger if they are ok. We can still gather together, hold hands, and pray for our country. We can rise up from the ashes of that day and honor the memories of 9/11 by being good to one another. Who knows, maybe today could begin anew a nation where we turn off the TV and turn to our families. Maybe today we will pick up the phone and check to make sure a friend is doing ok. Maybe tonight we will remember to say prayers with our kids and tell them how we love them. And maybe tomorrow we can carry on as if every day is the day after.

Dear Lord, out of the shadows of our grief and sadness may we find new hope and light. Lord, make us a people who care for one another, who help each other, and who pray for our nation. Lord help us to remember out of evil, good will prevail. Make us a people of compassion with giving hearts that change our neighborhoods and that brings renewed joy and hope for the future.

©maggiemarcum.com

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Living Loving Serving

Wishing the Best For Others

Jealousy, fear, and self-interest can get in the way of our celebrating the good fortune of someone close to us. Jealousy comes from the fear of losing something—someone is moving on without us or doesn’t care about us. Fear arrives with the unknown—what is going to happen once the person close to us moves up the ladder or marries or moves away. Often it is our own self-interest that we turn to when we hear news about change—what does this mean for me? However, if we truly love and care for one another the first response should be that of joy and celebration.

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Boomer Living Coaching Tips and Exercises Living Loving Serving

A Season of Purpose

Living with purpose isn’t about how much we do. It is NOT about making ourselves feel better or relevant. Living with purpose is about having a heart for others that compels us to serve our brothers and sisters. Purpose is the result of a changed heart that propels us into action, with little thought about what we get out of it. It is a heart that overflows with excitement to be there for another human—to share our love and our gifts that someone’s life too may be changed.

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Boomer Living Living Loving Serving

What I Learned at Camp

Last week our church hosted a sports camp for the children in the area. It has become a beloved tradition for us to provide a free morning camp with Bible instruction and fun Vacation School Bible-like music. This is the first year I have been able to participate as a volunteer. I signed up, not really knowing what to expect and I have left feeling amazed by the gifts freely offered by the team of volunteers and the gifts received by these precious children.

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Boomer Living Living Loving Serving

Living to our Fullest

Today I had the privilege of helping out at a sports camp our church is hosting for the youth in our neighborhood. I was impressed by the number of high school- and college-age volunteers that gave up their time at the pool or sleeping in late to hang out with a bunch of kids and play soccer in the heat. And then there were the men and women who took personal/vacation days to volunteer on the field and around the camp. What really impressed me though was the 50 plus gang that showed up—especially the 60/70 year-old crowd that were running around the field with the kids.