Sunday, February 19, 2017

Even If...

                Other people are going to find healing
                  in your wounds. Your deepest life
                  message, and your most effective
                  ministry, will come out of your deepest
                  hurts.
                           
                                                                          - Pastor Rick Warren, said after his son's suicide

She is hurting right now, and at times her physical pain is
overwhelming. She is suffering, this beautiful friend of
mine. Even though I am praying and praying for her healing, 
I feel such a mix of sadness and helplessness as I see her go through this.

My dear, dear friend Vicky Westra has new physical
complications from her stage four breast cancer, and they
have left her shaken and holding on to her faith for dear life.

If you know Vicky and love Vicky, this latest physical setback 
she is going through may have shaken you to the core. 

It has done that to me.

While I hang on to HOPE, and I won't give up on praying for a positive outcome from all of this pain, a new knowing seeps into my heart.

Simply put...I cannot imagine this world without Vicky Westra in it. 

While I certainly don't know what God's plan is for Vicky, I do know what my plan is for Vicky. 

I am at every turn asking God to heal Vicky completely. I want her here for Rick. I want her here for Nolan and Colton, her sons. I want her here so she can experience life's greatest joys. I want her here at her son's weddings, and I want her here so she can some day be a grandma who dotes on her grandchildren. 

I want her here to take beautiful pictures of sunsets and clouds.
I want her here to go to the beach she loves so much. I want her here to share her amazing wisdom on her blog. I want her here to see Nolan's hockey games. I want her here to have fun with all of her spectacular friends who adore her,

And selfishly, I admit, I want her here so she and I can continue our wonderful friendship.

But truth be told, it isn't up to me. My plan for Vicky may not be God's plan for her.

Just that thought has me on my knees, barely able to breathe.

For the past six years, I have seen Vicky's spirit, and her choice of JOY and LOVE in the midst of some of life's greatest challenges. Knowing Vicky has been life-changing for so many of us who love her. She has changed my life and enriched its depth more than words can ever say.

Vicky is my soul sister, a sister of my heart!

So at once I am begging God to heal her and in the next minute
begging him to ease her suffering. Like so many other 
prayer warriors for Vicky, I beseech God daily to help Vicky and heal her. I want Him to take away this pain that robs her of the life she deserves. 

I want her cancer journey to be:
DONE. 
OVER. 
KAPUT. 
FINISHED. 

I want cancer to leave her body. 
NOW, please.

I want her to have a healthy life back again.
I want a happy ending for my dear, dear soul-sis.

I've even been mad at God and asked, "Why her?" Why, when thousands and thousands of us are praying for Vicky's health... why have You not answered our prayers?

I have felt such anguish for Vicky, and it has brought up old questions about how God works. Why, when she could be healed with a touch of His hand, has He not made her well? 

Yet I know and trust God completely. I can look back on my life and see God's goodness manifested in thousands and thousands of ways. 

I can see answered prayers. 
I can see His grace in my life and the life of so many others. 
I know He loves me, and I know He loves Vicky. 

Why then is she not getting better? Why are these prayers not being answered in the way I think they should be? What in the heck is God's plan in all of this?

I have prayed and prayed and prayed for an answer to these questions and yesterday that answer showed up. 

My dear, dear friend Jackie sent me a clip of MercyMe's new song Even If...

The words and music touched my hurting soul. I sent it on to others, and it ministered to them as well. I cried and cried when I heard it because I knew it was the truth, and I knew Jackie sending it to me was an answer to prayer.

I don't know what twists and turns Vicky's life and cancer will take, but what I do know for sure is that the God who made heaven and earth loves my dear friend completely. He is there with her in this suffering. I know for sure that Vicky is surrounded by all of us who love her. What I know for sure is that we will never stop praying.
What I know for sure is that God has a plan for Vicky's life, and He has a plan for mine, too.

Even if this does not turn out the way I want it to for my special soul-sister, Vicky, He is still my HOPE and Vicky's hope too.

Just knowing this gives me the strength to say...
                       "It is well with my soul."... and
                       " My HOPE is You alone."

Here is this remarkable song by MercyMe. May it soothe your soul as well. 

And may I humbly ask a favor...Please keep Vicky in your prayers.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6fA35Ved-Y&sns=em


Jackie, thank you, my treasured friend, for all of your love and
prayers. You are truly a gift from God in my life. Thank you for sending this song my way.

God Bless!
Love, Linda

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day!

                  Love doesn't mean doing extraordinary 
                    or heroic things...
                It means knowing how to do 
             ordinary things with tenderness. 
                                           -Jean Vanier
                                                                    
A Valentine's day letter to my Valentine:

Dearest Bert,

Today is Valentine's Day, a day to celebrate love.
Yesterday, when I walked into Safeway, the store was aglow with huge bouquets and cards, boxes of candy everywhere.

While I appreciate that we all celebrate holidays differently, finding the beautiful and simple heart you made for me on the counter this morning, my beloved Bert, is what tugs on my heart on a day like today. Even more "romantic" are all of the 

day-to-day simple blessings you bring my way. 

You... doing the dishes every night after dinner. 

You... thanking me for making the best meal "ever."
You... telling me, almost in a whisper, how your eyes    
just like to look at me.

All of those small and simple, ordinary "gifts," well, they make my heart sing.


You do them with such tenderness.


For years, on my birthday, you walked straight into whatever class I was teaching, carrying a huge bouquet of flowers. And in front of all of those students, you kissed me. Not a little kiss, mind you, but a kiss from your heart.


I could hear all of the women in the room let out a deep "sigh...."


You could tell they so wanted someone to love them the way you love me.


You... holding my hand in church.

You... wiping away my tears.
You... just being there and greeting me with so much tenderness.

All the little, extraordinary kindnesses, for all of these 34 years.


You... waving me off in the morning, blowing me kisses.

You...listening to all of my fears.
You...being my best friend and soul-partner.

You...reminding me that when I make a mistake,

God loves me and so do you.

You, my darling husband, are an answer to every prayer I ever prayed. I asked God for someone to love and cherish and someone who would love and cherish me.


And God blessed me, Bert. He gave me you.


So on this Valentine's Day, my beloved Bert, just know this...deep down and for always...


                                YOU HAVE 

                                MY WHOLE 
                                   HEART
                                  FOR MY
                               WHOLE LIFE

I will love you forever and beyond,

Your Linda

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Very Tough Question To Answer...

                               We can do hard things...
                     because He never leaves us 
                            or forsakes us.

I always knew the question would come. While I dreaded having to answer it, I knew that only prayer could help me tell that part of my story with grace and compassion.

No one had quite said it with such vulnerability. The fragile tone of voice, and the words barely able to escape her lips, well, they caught me off guard.

My dear student, with tears cascading down her face, her voice
shaking, her knees moving up and down, as if panic was only inches away. Her world was about to implode, and she couldn't imagine how she and her two children would get through this. She had been betrayed at the deepest level. Not once, but over and over again.

She couldn't do it any more. After talking to her minister, and then her counselor, she had filed to end her marriage. She felt completely broken.

Little did she know that when she came to my class that day that
I would show the video of Fred and Lorraine and the song Fred had written about his beloved wife. They had been married for more than 70 years. Lorraine had just passed away and Fred wrote a song for her called "Sweet Lorraine." The video clip was a testimony about for better or worse...marriage vows that have such deep meaning.

(Please, don't miss seeing this powerful video clip...it's life-changing and heart-healing.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDi4hBWsvkY

Seeing how much Fred loved Lorraine broke the dam wide open.
When the lights in class came back on, she was not the only one crying. I always keep kleenex in my classroom since our topics are academic and soul-baring all at the same time.

She asked if we could stay after class, and she could talk to me one-on-one.

"Of course," I said. I picked up her hand, gave it a small squeeze of reassurance, released it and dismissed the rest of my students.
She just sat there for a long minute, quiet, trying to find the words.

We both took a deep breath. This wasn't an easy topic. It was a heart-breaker. I did what I always do. I closed my eyes for just a moment and whispered to God, "Please help me say to her what You would want me to say."

The look on her face took me back to another time, another conversation, years and years ago....

"Mom, I want to know the truth. You never leave anyone. Why did you and Dad get a divorce?"

Oh. my. dear. heart. be. still.

Sometimes the truth stays hidden in the dark. Sometimes the truth is so hurtful that it feels like we won't survive telling it.
Sometimes it's hard to separate my truth from their truth.

What do I say? What do I leave out?

Years ago I had said the same prayer I had just sent for my student..."Dear God, please help me!"

As a Mama, I would have given anything, and I mean anything, to not rip my children's lives apart. How could they possibly survive all of the pain and destruction of a family torn in two. I loved them more than I loved myself.

How could I do this to them?

Leaving a marriage when you had promised to stay? Who does that? Why do they do that? How could they do that if they knew what it would do to their dear hearts, their babies, their precious "lovies?"

This is not the place to get into all the details, but perhaps
it is the place to share the insights gained from so much pain.

I never expected to be divorced. Never, ever, ever. I never expected to have a marriage unravel, a marriage I had given everything to. I just never, ever expected to be in that place.

I had always wanted to protect my dear hearts from any pain.
After all, wasn't that a Mama's job? To protect her lovies?

Yet here I was...taped out, prayed out, depleted and scared and
feeling at the end of my rope. How would my dear hearts get through this?

The answer came to me one night, years and years ago, with such clarity and peace after a time of deep, deep anguish and prayer.

We will get through this. God is with us and because of Him, we can do hard things. 

*Hard things so hard that we fear they will rip us in two.
*Hard things so hard that we can't imagine ever finding peace   
  again.
* Hard things so hard that our stomaches ache and our hearts
   hurt.

God loves us and never leaves us. He is there with us in the midst of such pain and fear that we can hardly breathe. 
He will hold our hands as we navigate so much fear that it feels like it will swallow us whole.

He will be there with our lovies when they feel lost and alone.

We can do hard things, not by ourselves, but because He is with us.

So back to the talk with my student...

She could only whisper the question..."How did you get through a divorce? How did you survive it? How did you
help your children get through it?" 

"How will I survive this?" she said looking up at me with such sorrow. "How will I help my children survive this?" she said, looking so torn apart that I reached for her hand again.

All these many years later...there it was. That question I knew
would one day be asked by one of my students.

That's a very tough question to answer, at least for me to answer with compassion and God's love and grace.

My own tears came cascading down my face as I found my voice enough to whisper back to her...

"It is so, so hard," I said, knowing that sugar-coating the truth would only make things worse. "I remember feeling just like you are feeling now. I felt hopeless too. Ruined, too.
Broken, too."

"Yet what I know for sure, is that in the hardest of hard moments, God never left me. He gave me a hope and strength to carry on. He never left my children. And inch-by-inch, with His unending love and peace and hope and grace, He brought me back to life. He brought my children back to life again, too"

"What I know for sure is that He brought me through that pain and He will  bring you through it, too. He will never leave you or forsake you."

"Never, ever." 

We talked for almost an hour. I prayed with her right there in my classroom. She took a deep breath, hugged me and then left to go get her children at daycare.

I took a deep breath too...closed my eyes and whispered to my Heavenly Father...
  "Thank you for never leaving me, Lord. Please be with her
    in all that is to come."

I know and trust that He will be.

Yes, we can all do hard things, things that threaten to break us, because He never, ever leaves us or forsakes us!

Amen and Amen!

God Bless!
Love, Linda








Saturday, February 04, 2017

Happy Birthday! Life-Lessons at 70...

                 The longer I live the more
                    beautiful life becomes.
                                                                        - Frank Lloyd Wright

I'm a celebrator of life!  Those who know me best know that
I was born with an endless supply of JOY and energy and enthusiasm. I live life full-bore, and I want to soak up every divine second that God has granted me. I tend to feel emotions deeply...happy, sad, mad, glad, scared...I feel them all. 

That's how God made me, and that's how I have lived my life... only one day short of my 70th birthday.

Most folks who know me find it hard to believe that tomorrow, 
February 5th, I will be 70 years old. Comments like...
                         
                         "You can't be 70!" 
                         "You don't look 70!" 
                         "You don't act 70!" 

have been my bread and butter this last week. When I hear those words I just smile and say...
            
            " I am so grateful and blessed to be God's child
               and to know in my deepest heart-of- hearts that
               He loves me. I am so grateful and blessed to be
               seventy years of age."    

One of my dear friends asked me how it felt to be 70. We were
having coffee and sharing the ups and challenges in our lives.
She wanted to know what life-lessons I had learned. She challenged me to write them down.

Her words to me went something like this... 
"Are you going to write a book? You should, you know. If you don't write a book, I challenge you to share 70 life lessons on your blog. I, for one, want to be able to look back at what you've learned since you have always been my teacher. I want to hear about the good life-lessons and the tough life-lessons. How about doing 70 life-lessons, one for every year of your life, over the next year ? Is that too tough for you?"

Somehow the words "challenge you" was all that it took. Add a dab of "Is that too tough for you?" and you've got me hooked. 

I always love to take on a new challenge. Once when I was little, and my Dad saw me slacking off and heard me whining and eager to quit, he said, "Oh, that's okay honey. If you feel that is too tough for you, just quit." 

Something about his tone of voice and facial expression made me wake up and meet the challenge head on. From that day on my
least favorite word in the English language was the word QUIT!
Quit...give up, toss in the towel, quit trying, quit giving, quit living.

No thanks!

So game on. Not the Super Bowl game that falls on my birthday 
(go Falcons!), but game on to share 70 life lessons. So...here goes. 

Life Lesson #1: 

There is only one you. Plain and simple, you are a miracle.
While you may find it hard to believe you are a miracle, the truth is... YOU ARE. 

I am a miracle, and so are you!

There is no one like me. I was created by God, and God doesn't make mistakes. I was created to do amazing things. My job is to go be the best me I can be!

While you may not have heard you are a miracle from those around you, in fact you may have heard quite the opposite, don't believe those who would sell you short or project their own fears about life on to you. God made you, and He doesn't make any junk.

Growing up, and having been born with one normal-sized hand and one small hand with no fingers, it was hard sometimes to think of myself as a miracle. I was so different and different must be bad or not okay. 

Yet, when I went to Malibu in 9th grade, and learned that God loved me and I accepted His love, everything changed. 

And I do mean... EVERYTHING!

I suddenly knew that God had a plan for my life. He created me, and I was His miracle. He loved me just as I was and knowing that was life-changing for me.

At age 70, what I know for sure is...

*He created me to live my life fully, no matter what comes my way. 
*He created me to live my life fully in the midst of great joy.
*He created me to live my life fully in the midst of great sorrow.

On the days when I am filled with doubt and fear and pain, especially on the hardest-of hard days, He is there beside me
and I am still a miracle on those awful days. 

And now, at age 70, there are still days when I don't feel like a miracle. There are days when I feel sad and discouraged. However, I remind myself, usually out loud, that no matter how I feel in this minute...God loves me. He gave me one life to live and I want to live this miraculous life fully. I want to embrace and use every gift God gave me. I want to live this life knowing that I am His miracle.

One of my favorite authors and comedians is Erma Bombeck.
I will close Life-Lesson #1 with one of my favorite quotes from Erma...
   
  "When I stand before God at the end of my life. I would hope
    that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and I could
    say, I used everything You gave me."

So today, as I share Life-Lesson #1, may I always remember how much God loves me, and that I am His miracle. May I always remember to cherish and use the unique gifts and talents He gave me. May you remember this life-lesson too.

Amen and Amen!
Love and hugs and prayers!
God Bless!
Linda













                                     

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Fear vs. Hope...

                                       "Worry isn't prayer!"

I remember sitting next to my dear friend, Roberta, at church. We had both been struggling with certain family issues and concerns, and we trusted each other to share the truth in our lives. She looked at me and said how each week she gave the same problem to God and then, in an instant, took it back again and tried to solve it herself.


When she described that process, I held my breath and realized that I had been nodding my head in agreement as she spoke.

That was exactly what I did too. 

I gave God my heartaches and then, because I am a fixer and doer and go-getter in my life, I picked them right back up again, thought and worried about them endlessly, and tried to find solutions that would resolve all of the conflicts.


It was and is an on-going process that leaves me weary and exhausted. I imagine that God smiles when I  take everything back and perhaps even shakes His holy head at my good- intentioned ignorance.


Have I forgotten, again, that He is the great solver?

Have I forgotten, again, that He is the King of Kings? 
Have I forgotten, again, that He is the creator of Heaven and Earth?
Have I forgotten, again, that He holds my story and future in the palm of His mighty hand?

After all, I say I trust Him. I say my HOPE is in Him and yet...

I have to remind myself, sometimes hour-by- hour, that He has got this...whatever this is.

I talk to God almost all day long. Many of the conversations are internal and others are out loud, just as I talk to my dear friends here on earth. I am working on listening to God and being still so I can hear His voice more clearly.


Being still is not something I am very skilled at.


Instead of being still and trusting God to be God, my mind often whirls with worry. I play and replay scenarios. If I just did this...? If I just did that...? What if I...?


Worry. worry, worry. Yet as my daughter Amy says, "Mom,

worry isn't prayer." Worry is about trying to find human solutions I am in charge of. Prayer is about asking God to guide me in each challenge I face. 

Worry is about trusting me. Prayer is about testing Him.


In my early morning prayer time each day, I turn to the book Jesus Calling. There are messages for each day and they are from scripture, yet worded as if God was speaking just to me.


Most days the message is so profound that it stops me in my tracks. Today, February 1st, is no exception.


Here's a bit of what Jesus Calling has for me today...


          Follow me one step at a time. That is all I request of you.
          In fact that is the only way to move through this world. 
          You see huge mountains looming, and you start wondering
           how you are going to scale those heights....If I do
           lead you up the cliffs, I will equip you thoroughly for that
           strenuous climb. I will even give my angels charge over
           you, to preserve you in all of your ways.         

What that means to me is that God is right here, right now, next to me. He asks me to follow Him by taking baby step after baby step. No matter how large those mountains are that loom in my life, and trust me today's mountains leave a huge lump in my throat, He does not ask me to worry and sweat the outcome of it all. Instead He asks me to follow Him, one step at a time.


I do not need  to try to be the fixer. The real fixer is holding my hand all day long, no matter what happens in today's journey.


That is my hope and my peace. He does have this, no matter how big this is.


God Bless!

Love, Linda


            

          


Saturday, January 21, 2017

An Awkward Moment Filled With God's Grace

           

   God loves you just the way you are,
     yet He refuses to leave you that
     way. He wants you to be just like 
     Jesus.
                                      -Max Lucado

The snow had piled up until it threatened to bury us. Everywhere we turned there were new and bigger piles of snow. To make matters even more challenging, just as it got warmer and the piles started to melt, we had freezing temperatures that turned the melted snow into unforgiving ice.

The evening news even showed one woman in ice skates skating down what had once been the street in front of her house. Now, it was an ice rink.

The weather teased us from time-to-time with a blue sky and temperatures that begged you to come outdoors and play.

It was on such a "teasing day" that another "life-lesson" crossed my path. Another moment where the Lord God Almighty stopped me in my tracks and gave me the opportunity to grow in Him.

As I looked outdoors and saw the sun sparkling off the ice crystals, I just couldn't help myself. I couldn't stand being indoors one.more.minute.

All of us Spokanites feel a bit claustrophobic since the really cold temps plus freezing rain have kept us indoors more than usual. We are a hardy group of souls. Yes, we are. Perhaps not as hardy as the souls in Minnesota, where my dear friend Vicky Westra lives, yet we are hardy never the less.

It may be ten degrees here, however in Minnesota it is probably 20 degrees below with a wind chill that makes it -40 degrees. 

It has felt bit like -40 degrees in my heart. While I am a raving optimist by nature, the past few months have left me a bit weary. That's not entirely true. Really weary. Lots of situations that are absolutely out of my control. And just when I started to regain a bit of my footing, a car backed into my car leaving two doors badly dented.

While the car isn't a brand new one, it is quite new to me. When I took a look at the damage I realized that I felt a bit like those doors. Visible dents and damage.

Now please don't misunderstand. I'm not one who feels compelled to look perfect, yet from time to time it's unnerving to have "my dents" become visible to everyone. Yet I know in those moments of insecurity that God loves me, visible creases and all.

Yet I also know that He loves me too much to leave
me that way.

Now, after that side note about the car, let me get back to that light-shining, hope-filled moment.

On the day I wanted to get outside, I felt particularly "stung" by an interaction that had happened with someone close to me. It was an "ouch" that left me cringing and hurt. It was, as my beloved Bert said, an "updated postcard" on this person. 

For several weeks Bert had listened and listened as I processed this hurt. My tears flowed until I wondered if they would ever stop. Finally, my beloved reminded me that the interaction that had left me quaking was more about them than it was about me.

I knew that intellectually, yet my hurt heart had a hard time catching up to that reality.

So on that sunny day where the outdoors called to me, I wanted to go out and work off physically some of the steam of this interaction that hurt my heart. It left me wondering if I could ever be at peace with this individual.

So angst in hand, and bundled up in all things warm except gloves, I grabbed the snow shovel and headed out to our front yard. More accurately, what used to look like our front yard. 

In its current state it looks like giant mounds of meringue on top of a lemon meringue pie. You can barely see the ten foot trees for the mounds of snow.

I decided to make a dent in all that snow. I'd move it around a bit so you could see our old familiar bench where we loved to sit in the summer and watch our neighbors walk by. Perhaps if I saw the bench that brought so much comfort in a warmer season, my own hurt heart might warm up too.

And then, as I was digging and throwing snow everywhere, I saw a mail man inching his way carefully down the street. This wasn't our regular mail carrier, the one we loved to exchange "HOWDIES!" with. This must have been a temporary replacement. So I kept on shoveling.

Then I heard it as clear as day. I looked up, startled, hardly believing that he had said it out loud. It felt like he bellowed it, and the sounds reverberated off the slick snow.

"What are you doing shoveling with just one hand?"
he called. I looked up, shocked. I looked around, amazed. Had this complete stranger announced to the world that  I only had one hand? 

I looked down to gather myself together, said a quick
"Help me Lord!" prayer and looked back up. At this point I was eye ball to eye ball with him as he was standing in our driveway. 

Would my reply be tinged with sarcasm or even worse would I give no reply at all? Would I try to ignore the comment and pretend I didn't hear him?

I wanted to respond the way Jesus would respond, and I knew Jesus would be kind in this moment.

I received an answer to my short prayer, and I felt God's love pulse through my heart. 

looked the mail man in the eye, walked over and shook his hand. I smiled and said, "Hi! I'm Linda. Yes, I'm shoveling with one hand. (insert twinkle in my eye here). If I had another, I'd love that but I am making due with the wonderful one hand I've got." Then I smiled and chuckled.

He looked at me and said, "Oh my God, I can't believe I just said that to you. I blurted it out. I'm so sorry. That was so rude of me."

Then, unexpectedly, I leaned toward him and gave his flustered self a quick hug. "No need to be embarrassed," I said. "I love how kids are when they are honest and see my small hand. They tell it like it is too."

And in that moment, that interaction of give and take, of embarrassment and apology, we connected.

Human heart to human heart.

It truly was an awkward moment filled with grace.
Grace for him and grace for me.

After he left, and I continued to shovel snow, I noticed that I felt a lot lighter. I started to hum some of my favorite gospel tunes. The hurt I had carried, that only moments before had felt like a boulder, now felt like a small pebble on the beach.

Thank you God! I felt loved and free.

God Bless!
Love, Linda