Storm-Sister Header 2

Storm Sisters Connection Newsletter Coming

Hi Friends! I’ve so missed connecting with you. I think I’ve come up with a solution that works a bit better for me and should be a bit more interesting for you. :)

I’m working on a monthly Storm Sisters Connection newsletter. It will contain a variety of bits and pieces each month. Always a Storm Sister story. Sometimes a recipe or book review. Sometimes silly photos of the Chief Furry Officer. Sometimes a question or two to ponder. Sometimes a link to blogs that helped me understand God and connection.

My hope for the newsletter?

A place for you to find encouragement and community. A place for us all to celebrate God’s good gift to us of connection with other women.

If you’re interested, sign up here or on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/StormSisters/, or you can shoot me an email if that is easier: stormsistersconnection@gmail.com.

Also, if you have a story or recipe or photo you would like to share, let me know. I would LOVE to make this a community newsletter.

So . . . until we meet again, I’ll leave you with a blog I just wrote for (In)courage. By the way, if you don’t know about this blog, you should. :) Lots of encouragement here for faith and friendship.

——————-

20170118-Rorvik-James5

It happens on the second Friday night of every month. Dinner with three girlfriends.

One of us is single, two of us are married with teenage children, and one of us is married with grown children. We all love Jesus and seek to live for Him. And we have called each other friend for decades.

On a recent Friday night, I came with a heavy heart. Apparently it also showed on my face. My friends asked me to explain and then listened to my story as tears filled their eyes. With my last words still lingering on my tongue, one friend said, “Could we pray for you?”

“Oh, yes. Please!”

So while other diners continued to talk and laugh loudly, we bowed our heads together and started praying out loud.

You can read the rest of the blog here: http://www.incourage.me/?p=183606

See you soon!

Grateful!  Afton Rorvik

RPjust3things-2

Regaining Perspective

Hi Friends–Thanks so much to those of you who shared Storm Sister stories in August. I never tire of hearing these friend-helping-friend stories. I hope they encouraged you as they did me. :)

Some of you know that I went back to work full-time a few months ago. After 25 years of working as a freelancer with occasional part-time jobs, this has felt like a big change for me. Most days it feels like a really good change. I love the chance to work with people of all ages and stages to create books. Some days, however, I struggle to keep perspective. I get swept up in all the work to-dos, and my brain just can’t seem to shut down. I loose perspective. Life gets out of balance. I need to recalculate and remember what matters, and I know it isn’t just that work to-do list.

So . .. as I write today I’m trying to regain my perspective. I went back to a blog I wrote last September and let myself talk to myself (!) about some things I need to change in my hunt for perspective. (I’ll add that blog at the end of this one.)

Myself said to myself, “You need to go back to the three Ws–Walk, Women, and Worship.”

Myself said to myself, “I know you are right. I have let some important bits of my life slip away. I haven’t seen my best friend for more than a few hours all summer.”

I know better. I read about the value of friendship in some book called Storm Sisters. :) But I let myself slip into thinking of friendship as optional, something I pursue once all the “important” work stuff gets done. Again, I know better. I know that my friendships give me strength, courage, perspective, and joy, and I know that matters more than a completed to-do list.

So, today in my little chat with myself I said, “You have to make some changes. You have to make time for friends.” So, I’m sending some emails and texts to set up some friend dates. I just can’t let that work to-do list become more important than my peeps. :)

Thanks for listening and cheering me on. Know that I’m doing the same for you.

——————–

Just Three Things

The three little pigs. The three blind mice. The three stooges.

Everything comes in threes, right? At least my husband says so. Every time we discuss a topic he says, “It comes down to three things.

I’ve had this conversation about three so many times with John that when I started to think about how to navigate the September transition that always challenges me, I naturally came up with a three-pronged approach.

I’m not sure why September presents a challenge for me, but it does. Perhaps I miss the buzz of getting kids ready for school (might explain why I went out and bought myself crayons, gel pens, and a coloring book). Perhaps I know winter is coming. Perhaps I miss my friends who go back to school jobs. Whatever the reason, I find I must fight depression with more zeal in September.

So . . . I recently decided to work hard to do three things every day this September. And because I don’t remember as well as I used to, all of these three things start with the same letter—W.

Walk.

Being outside and hearing birds tweet and dogs bark and bumping into a neighbor, her smiley baby, and her just-learned-to-ride-a-tricycle daughter feeds my soul. It slows me down enough to talk to my neighbor, to breathe deeply of the air, to admire the cloudless blue sky. And doing all of that takes my eyes and my thoughts off myself.

Apparently walking also produces endorphins in my brain, which gives me a mental and emotional boost.

Not bad for something free. If only I could move some mountains to Illinois.

Women.

Every day I talk to John on the phone and after dinner. Neither of us would miss our daily conversations and end-of-the-day debrief. And yet, I still need to spend time daily with girlfriends, even if that time is via text, email, or phone.

They help me find perspective. As we listen to each other, I realize that we all have challenges. They make me laugh at myself and at the silly side of a situation I just couldn’t see.

They challenge me to do what I need to do for myself in the midst of caring for others.

They remind me that God sees and cares.

When I reach the end of the day and sit down with John to debrief, if I have had my girl-time, I meet my husband with more of a “full tank.” I don’t come expecting him to make everything better or meet all my emotional needs. And, really, what one person can do all of that all of the time?

Worship.

Over the past few years, I have discovered the joy of personal, daily worship.

After I walk the Chief Furry Officer, we come home and settle into our favorite chair in the living room with a view of the front garden, a bird feeder, and the morning sun.

 

goldfinch

Then I grab my phone and tap my Pandora App, specifically my Storm Sisters Soundtrack station. (Here is the link: http://www.pandora.com/station/play/1139667308769314118). Pandora lets you customize your own station and mine is full of Fernando Ortega music, including new versions of hymns. I know many of us don’t sing hymns any more, but I find the words of hymns so life-giving. I close my eyes, breathe deeply, and let my mind focus on the words. I often find myself turning the words of the hymns into prayer. After three or four songs, my brain begins to stop jumping to the to-do list, and I begin to simply worship God. The CFO seems to settle too. :)

Worship, like walking, pulls me out of myself and gives me perspective. It reminds me that God sees and hears and cares. Nothing is impossible with God. I am not alone.

If I have a particularly challenging day and find myself churning in guilt, anger, frustration, or despair, I often return to that Pandora App and take a worship break.

Simple, right? Just three things. And they all start with W.

 

Want to join me in trying the three-W approach this September? Or perhaps you have developed your own three-pronged approach to coping with transition and times of stress.

 

 

Category: Depression

Tags: just three things, walk, women, worship, September, transition, Pandora,  Storm Sisters Soundtrack

 

 

 

 

 

GInger StockSubmitter|||$|0N|0000000000000000000000000000000000000000|16$6@5009001.264_20005020.632@148$127$@Industry.Miscellaneous$Food.Miscellaneous$@$@36$19@$@$@$@315$32@$@$@$@$@$@$@$@$@57$31@$@$@0x6x237.15$$@Industry.Miscellaneous$Food.Miscellaneous$@111$94$@16$6@$@$@$@$@$@$@13.317$36.291$@$@$@$@$@$@$@$$@$$|||$$0$0$0||0000000000000000000000000000000000000000|

A Recipe for You

Dear Readers, my friend Linda Baker sent me a recipe this week that I just have to share. I tried it and love it. Quick, delicious, and fabulous with coffee. I used the Costco brownie mix with chocolate chips in it and frosted the biscotti with Dollop all natural frosting, as seen on Shark Tank :) Then I drizzled them with some melted mini chocolate chips. After serious quality control, John gave them an enthusiastic thumbs-up!

BiscottiLinda often brings me homemade biscotti when she comes for a visit. (This is a simpler version). I shamelessly refuse to share them and savor them with a cup of coffee. So . . . enjoy!

 

Also, I still have 2017 FriendChips calendars I would love to give away. Perhaps writing a whole story about your Storm Sister is too daunting. I would be happy with just a sentence or two. :) Then on Monday, August 8, the day after Friendship Day, I will make a collage of all the sentences and post them on my blog and Facebook and Twitter to celebrate the gift of connection.

You can leave your sentences as comments to this blog, and then I will contact you to get your address and your Storm Sister’s address.

FriendChips

 

                                                                      Brownie Mix Biscotti
Makes about 2 dozen
Ingredients
1 box (18-20 oz.) brownie mix—any brand. I like Pillsbury and Duncan Hines.
¾ cup flour
¼ cup baking cocoa
2 eggs
1/3 cup of oil (or up to half cup) I do what the box recommends.
Optional: Instant coffee or espresso powder, about 2 teaspoons, or orange zest, or anything else you like to use to flavor chocolate.
Water—optional, if needed

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all except water. You should have fairly stiff dough. You can add a little water if you need it to get a homogenous black and shiny, not crumbly dough.

On a large, greased cookie sheet, divide and pat the dough into two logs, about 2½ to 3 inches wide, running length of sheet, with space between the two logs. Try to make the logs about the same width as each other, and relatively even in length.
Bake the logs at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes, until they are cooked through. (They start to crack a little.) Put pan on the counter. Slice the logs carefully with a knife into about ½” slices.

You should try to push the slices apart so there is room for the sides to get heated and crunched. Depending on the size of your sheet, you may need to put some slices on another cookie sheet.I usually remove the ends of the logs, as they are already crunchy.

Bake again for about 5 minutes more. You can bake less if you want a chewier cookie, or not at all if you want. Keep this in mind, if you bake them much more than 8 minutes, they will harden as they cool and be good dunkers but otherwise difficult to eat. In my oven, 8 minutes is about right for crunchy but not hard. I’d start with 5 minutes and by trial and error, you can see what you like.

Let cool and store in airtight container.

Note: You can add chocolate chips, nuts etc., or you can glaze one side with melted chips and a small amount of oil. Really, you can do whatever sounds good to you, I think including just baking them up as cookies. They taste like brownies, but are not nearly so messy and crumbly.

rebudlogo 20151221_blog

Joy?

rosemary

Rosemary, now dressed in her Christmas finery, proclaims it: Joy.

The stocking holders on my mantle do too: Joy.

stockings

As I added these decorative touches to my house,  I remembered a Christmas when I found that word joy repulsive. Every time I saw it, I felt as if someone had slapped my face. Joy, really? Will I ever really feel joy again?

I deeply missed my mother who had died the year before. I felt overwhelmed by just getting through the day, a symptom of depression. I could not read Christmas cards. Frankly, I just wanted to join my mother in heaven. No more tears, no more aching heart or body, no more challenging people and situations.

Over the next few years, God brought a host of women into my life, Storm Sisters, who helped me learn to embrace joy again. I will always thank God for these women, but I will also always thank God for that time of grief and pain. Because I lived it, I now recognize and understand it on the faces of others.

As I decorated with JOY last week, I prayed for the women I know who may find that word repulsive this year. A friend grieving the death of her mother. A friend grieving the death of her marriage. A friend grieving the death of a dream. A friend grieving the death of a spouse.

May they, as I did, discover Storm Sisters. And may they have a glimpse within their season of grief and pain of the loving hand of God, who in His great love for humanity sent us a savior—Jesus.

My friend Linda Washington says it well in a piece she wrote for her church. Let me close by leaving you with her encouraging words.

Picture in your minds a light erupting in the darkness, a light that shreds the dark shroud of sorrow. A joyous image. But for many people, finding joy in the holiday season can be challenging, especially when weeping has endured for many nights. But in this season of Advent, we rejoice in the Savior whose coming brings healing and light. As we read in Zephaniah 3:14-17:

Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! For the Lord will remove his hand of judgment and will disperse the armies of your enemy. And the Lord himself, the King of Israel, will live among you! At last your troubles will be over, and you will never again fear disaster. On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be, “Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid! For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.

Lord, the birth of Your Son reminds us that sin no longer has victory over us. We rejoice in the hope of His coming and the new life He provides. Amen.

20151019_blog

Loving a Daughter with Special Needs

Today I want to introduce you to Christy, the mother of a special needs daughter. She and her husband serve as missionaries.

Karis, now eleven, has the developmental abilities of a six-month-old girl and is completely dependent on Christy and her husband and other caregivers for everything—changing diapers, pureeing her food, feeding her, and transferring her to her wheelchair or wherever she needs to go since she does not stand or walk, and she cannot see.

Christy, I know how intense life is for you. Im so grateful that you took the time to join me on the blog and help us all understand more about the life of a special needs parent.

Thanks for inviting me to the blog. It helps me to know that my words might help someone else.

So, tell us, what is the hardest part of your role as the primary caregiver for a special needs child?

It is the weight of the constant responsibility that is always on my shoulders. Even if I get a “break” when someone else is caring for my daughter, the weight of responsibility is still on me. Keeping Karis alive and healthy requires twelve or so different medicines and vitamin supplements that can never be allowed to run out. Every day I have to prepare these medicines to mix into her food or go through her g-tube. She is on a medical diet where food has to be pureed and measured to the exact gram. Add to that doctor’s appointments, therapists, changing diapers, and lots of lifting and transferring her to wherever she needs to go. It’s hard to ever get a break because of the extensive training I need to give anyone who would take care of her, and also because, let’s face it, who really wants to volunteer to take care of a 65-pound child who can’t walk or talk and has a lot of seizures. I rarely feel comfortable asking even close friends to care for her because I know how hard it is and that most people are intimidated by even the thought of the task.

In the midst of all the hard days, what do you see that warms your heart?

The best part of my role is hearing my daughter laugh and seeing the rare times when she interacts, in her own small way, with people around her. It is gratifying to understand her grunts, sighs, laughs, and body movements, and to (usually) know what she wants from interpreting her own “language.” She isn’t capable of showing much love, but the times she cuddles with me are wonderful. We usually have a little cuddle time after I feed her, and sometimes she will lean forward in her wheelchair to find me so I can hug her, and sometimes will be calm, rest her head on my shoulder, and go to sleep (she can fall asleep in two seconds.)

Being the parent of a severely handicapped child has also taught me, through experience, about God’s unconditional love.

I struggle to accept that God could love me regardless of how “good” I am or how well I live up to expectations (usually my own expectations rather than God’s.) But I see how profoundly I love my little girl, just because she is mine, not based on anything she can or can’t do, not even based on her showing me love in return. If I, as a deeply flawed human being, love my daughter like that, how much more must God love me just because I am His. I still need this lesson to penetrate more fully into my heart, but having my daughter has helped immensely.

How can a friend best step in and become a Storm Sister to you?

This question is very pertinent in my life right now. After eleven years of the stresses and constant, unrelenting responsibilities of caring for my daughter, my body finally gave in and crashed on me. I was diagnosed about nine months ago with major depression and found that I was not, and still am not, functioning very well at all. So I am very much in need of Storm Sisters to come along side me at this time. I decided to be very open and honest with my friends, coworkers, and boss at work about my struggles because I have known all along that I needed help to get through this, and I wanted a lot of people to be praying and supporting me. I have found very supportive friends, some I was already close to and others that God brought into my life just in the past nine months or so.

One of the main things that they have done for me that has really helped is to stay in consistent communication with me. I’ve found that processing my day through email or texts and having people respond to me, even with very short responses, is one of the most helpful things.

Sometimes I don’t have the energy to take the initiative in communicating so I really value friends who take the initiative to check in and see how things are going. Hugs are really important, too.

I often feel in need of help, but it is hard to ask for it. Having people volunteer without my having to ask is priceless. Even if it is not help with directly caring for my daughter, to have help with making dinner, doing laundry, cleaning the house, or other things like that is still very appreciated.

I have one friend who is wonderful at this. She will sometimes call me and tell me she is bringing dinner over (not asking if I want her to, or when would be a good day, just telling me she is coming), or offer to come over once a week for two hours and help with whatever I need. She even made my son’s birthday cake last year when I was feeling really overwhelmed and didn’t think I could make the kind of cake he was asking for. Now that she has offered so many times, I feel comfortable asking her for specific things when I need help, because I know she is willing and really wants to help in any way she can.

I’ve also discovered that it is very good for me to be able to help other people in some way. First of all, it takes my focus off of myself, which is really important. Secondly, it makes me feel like I’m useful and needed and can minister to others, even though most of my time is spent caring for my children (we have a six-year-old son too) and keeping the house running.

It is hard always to be the recipient of other people’s help, and constantly to feel indebted to others because of all the help they are giving, even though I need it sometimes. It is humbling to admit that I can’t do it all on my own. That humbling process is a good thing, even though it is painful. But it is also very refreshing to feel like God can use me in others’ lives. So being a Storm Sister can and should involve the help going in both directions.

How does your faith help you navigate each day?

There is NO WAY I could make it through without God’s help! I have been learning (although I’m still not great at it) to lean on Him for His strength when my own is not enough. That is most of the time these days. But I’ve seen how He has given me the strength I need time and time again when I had absolutely nothing left and felt there was no possible way I could keep going with what needed to be done.

The hope of heaven is another thing that helps me through the hard times. That promise seems much more real to me now, and when I’m feeling sad or discouraged, I often try to imagine what it will be like to one day see my precious baby girl as she was meant to be—able to walk, run, and dance; able to see; finally able to understand and express herself in words and reciprocate love to others; never having to live through another seizure.

I talk to her about that time, even though it is likely she doesn’t understand what I am saying, and I often remind her that Jesus loves her.

We also talk to our son about how it will be in heaven, and have done so from the time he was a baby. We want him to look forward to seeing his sister one day in heaven, and we want him to know that she won’t be like she is now forever. And since we don’t know how long she will live down here, we want him to know that, although her death will be sad because we will miss her, it will also be joyous because she will finally be whole.

In fact, he is looking forward to that time so much that he sometimes tells me he wishes he could die and be in heaven now because it is going to be so much better! (I tell him that that is true, but that we’d also like to have him down here for a good long time.)

Thank you, Christy. Your words have so touched my heart and opened my eyes.

Dear Readers, would you join me in encouraging Christy this week? For those of you who pray, please ask God to strengthen and encourage Christy in her struggle with depression. Feel free to leave a comment here for her. Or you can contact her through my website. Lets encourage this dear young woman.

20150727_blog

Seeing the Unseen

After a week that included two memorial services, my mind and heart have turned often toward heaven. I have remembered those last moments with Mom—moments I describe in the final chapter of Storm Sisters.

A beautiful smile covered her face, a face that had become frozen in a look of blankness for the past few days. And then, very, softly, she began to hum. Her entire face gradually lit up with an expression of utter joy as her eyes flew open one last time.

And then she took one last, raspy breath and stepped out of this world and into the next.

“Welcome to heaven,” I whispered as I kissed her one last time.

That glimpse of a world beyond this world still gives me comfort, especially this week as I said goodbye to two friends just a few years my senior.

Our friend Dave filled this world with kindness, integrity, and thoughtfulness all fueled by his big heart brimming over with love for Jesus. Our friend Ingrid spoke such wisdom into my life, wisdom that came from walking with Jesus through many years of challenge. In her thick German accent, she often reminded me, “Keep trusting God.”

Celebrating the lives and hearts of these two people this week reminds me to look beyond the daily to-do list, to look beyond what I can see, hear, touch, smell, or taste.

Join me this week, will you, in asking God to give us eyes to see beyond this world, to comprehend Him and the eternity He offers us through the death of His son?

unseen

socialmedia

Personal Pain on Social Media?

I hit a rough patch recently. We all do, right?

So how do we navigate these challenging times, these moments that take our breath away and make us feel weak and inadequate?

And, for those of us who maintain a social media presence, how do we talk or not talk about these moments in the public forum?

Sharing grief on social media can help navigate loss, or so say some experts.

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4784659

http://www.newsweek.com/parting-such-tweet-sorrow-245058

Both these articles talk about the power of connection social media can provide—an antidote to the isolation that grieving, struggling people often seek.

But how do we talk about our pain and sorrow on a social media without whining, without giving details that might hurt others, or without giving more information than people have time to read?

I chose to mention my rough patch in vague terms, and I also stated that I could not/should not share details.

Best approach? Not sure.

But I wanted to let readers (you!) know that my life contains struggle just as it also contains joy. No perfect life here.

I also wanted to protect myself and those I love by not saying things that would live forever on the Internet, long after this rough patch passes.

I also opted out of social media for a period in order to “circle the wagons” with a few close flesh-and-blood friends and gain perspective. And, in true introvert fashion, I needed long stretches of quiet to think, read, and pray.

Thank you for understanding. Thank you for not asking for details. BUT thank you for being there.

“I’m praying.”

“Want to have lunch?”

“Be sure you aren’t isolating.”

One of you reminded me: “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
 they shall mount up with wings like eagles; 
they shall run and not be weary; 
they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Thank you, Dear Readers, for hearing my pain and for drawing me back to God. Thank you for living as Storm Sisters.

Grateful!

cabin

In a Cabin in the Woods

I always thought I wanted one day to live in a little cabin, tucked away in the woods.

Peaceful. Remote. Beautiful.

So I fulfilled that dream for a few days just last week. John and I rented a two-bedroom cabin high in the hills above Evergreen, Colorado. Getting there meant traversing a rutted, steep dirt road. So thankful we had a jeep!

Inside, the cabin did not disappoint. Modern appliances. Running water. Flushing toilet. Cozy rooms. Comfortable sofas.

After the harrowing ride up the mountain the first afternoon, I felt elated at the prospect of big gulps of peace and solitude.

I requested a quiet day the next day. “Let’s just sit and read for a day.” John acquiesced.

So the next morning I pulled out my Kindle. He perused the bookshelves in the cabin. I settled into a comfortable chair. He plopped on the sofa.

Occasionally we read bit to each other from our books or stopped for a snack. Except for these word-filled interludes, all other words spoke only from a page or a Kindle screen.

Ah!

My introverted self recharged. Almost like plugging my phone into an electrical socket. My recharge-meter slowly crept toward 100 percent.

But then something unexpected happened.

By that evening, I became restless. Ironically, my out-going, city-loving husband lay contentedly on the sofa and continued to read.

What had happened to me?

John and I always laugh about how similar we are to the couple in the old TV show, Green Acres. Remember it?

Eva Gabor, a confirmed city-girl comes to live on the farm with Eddie Albert, a confirmed country boy and her new husband.

In the intro to the show every week, Ed sings (while in a three piece suit doing farm chores), “Farm living is the life for me. Land spreading out so far and wide. Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.”

Eva crones in response, “New York is where I’d rather stay. I get allergic smelling hay. I just adore a penthouse view. Darling, I love you, but give me Park Avenue.”

You can watch the intro here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mbk81X6WHA4

Countless times I’ve teased John about his common bond with Eva Gabor. He loves Manhattan! And I have insisted that I, like Ed, prefer the rural life. Or the wooded, secluded life.

So . . . what happened to make me restless in the woods? Have I morphed into Eva Gabor? Has John morphed into Eddie Albert?

Simply put, I’ve changed.

I have tasted the deep joy of friendship, of living near people, of sharing life together in hard times and not-so-hard time. Storm-sister living.

God has opened my eyes to his good plan of connected living and shown me the richness of living this way.

Isolation no longer holds the appeal for me that it once did. I now crave the laughter around my brother’s dining room table as his family at all ages and stages gathers. I now savor the conversations with our son and his girlfriend at the end of their long work days. I cherish the moments with my friend, Roberta, as we remember together and clean her mother’s house.

People.

So, goodbye rural, isolated life. Hello populated, connected life. Time, I think to embrace my inner Eva Gabor, with an occasional nod to my inner Eddie Albert, of course.

What about you? How would you describe your dream place? How do people play a role in your dream?

I’ll be posting some Colorado photos on my author Facebook page this week if you want to see ‘em: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Aftonrorvik/675391955878827?ref=hl