Saturday, August 19, 2017

There are no words...

                    There are no words that can adequately
                      express how much I miss you right now,
                      Mom. I wish you were here to talk to.

I just never knew. I never imagined that this many years later,
after she was gone, that I would still have tears streaming down my face when I thought of her. I never knew that there would be no end to the missing.

Mother's Day comes and goes every year. I can't help but buy
her a card. I write the words I would say if I could still give it to her in person.

I just never knew that the missing would be forever, every day
for the rest of my life.

February 19th comes and goes every year. It was her birthday.
I can't help but get her a birthday card, and I write the words
I would say if I could still give it to her in person.

I just never knew.

I just never knew that there could be so much hurt and hatred in the country she loved so much, the country my Dad spent three years away from her to defend. If she was here, she would be so sad to see her country so broken, people so hurting toward each other.

If she was here, I know she's be calling every day, sharing her wisdom and her hope. I know she would say what she always said to me, "Honey, with love we can get through anything."

If she was here, I'd tell her how hard this past year has been, how my heart is aching and feels like it might break. If she was here, I know she would have just the right thing to say. She would wipe away my tears. She would know just how to comfort me. She would remind me not to give up hope, to hang on tightly to God.
She would remind me that everything has a season.

And I would whisper to her that I wish this particular season would
go away. That I wish things were easier right now. And I would remind her that her love for me gave me the strength to be fully myself. I would thank her for loving me, just as I am.

If she was here, I would tell her I'm sorry for every time I was impatient as she grew older. I would tell her I love her, that I will always love her. I told her I loved her over and over again, but I wish she was here so I could tell her one more time.

There are no words. I just didn't know. She isn't here, she's home with God. But I will miss her until my last breath here.

I saw this amazing and heart-wrenching video and wanted to share it with any of you who might be reading this. Also, if your Mama is here, let her know you love her. You'll be glad you did.

God Bless!
Love, Linda

Sunday, July 30, 2017

What I Know For Sure...Deep Waters

             When you go through deep waters
                             I will be with you.
                                                - Isaiah 43:2

I love having a great conversation with a dear friend.
The back-and-forth, the sharing and intense listening, 
the genuine interest and the thought-provoking questions. 
The even though I know you, I want to know more 
about you...moments.

Those moments of true intimacy feed my soul.

Recently I had coffee with a long-time friend. One who knows 
me through and through. One who loves me, just as I am. 
One I can laugh with or cry with.

Even after years and years of knowing each other, we still 
discover "aha!" moments about each other. 

One of those moments came recently in a summer-time,
lemonade in the back yard, kind-of-moment.

She looked me straight in the eye and said...
               "Linda, what do you know for sure?"

Now her non-verbal communication looked at once 
deeply interested and slightly amused, since she thought 
she knew how I would answer that question.

My actual answer left her, as she said afterwards, thoughtful
and introspective.

What she thought I would say is... 
        "What do I know for sure? I know that God loves me." 

While that is something I do know for sure, that wasn't the 
answer on my heart at that moment.

What I really said was... 

"I know there will be deep waters and I know that God is there in those deep waters."

She paused, said nothing, and finally quietly, knowing she was on tender ground, said, "What deep waters, honey."

"The kind of deep waters where God is the only life preserver 
we have. Those waters are so deep, and we are so tired from fighting them, that we just stay present in the moment and cling 
to Him."

There was a long silence and finally I just picked up the ice-cold lemonade and took a long and slow sip. When I looked back at her face, a big tear was streaming down her cheek.

She looked at me with so much love and concern and finally found the words to whisper, "Are you in deep waters right now?" 

And without pausing or thinking or taking a breath I said, 

"Yes, I am. I'm there, in deep waters, with my beloved friend, Vicky. I am there with my beloved husband, Bert. I am there with several family members who have been through so, so much this past year. But I am not the one holding them up. God is."

My dear friend gave me a giant, knowing hug and said quietly..
                       "I just love that about you."

And then, sometime later as God would have it, I went with my daughter Amy to a super fun, vintage store in Spokane called "Paint in Her Hair." It is made up with venders who use chalk paint or make signs or personal remembrances. I went over to the sign section and lo and behold, there stood two medium sized crosses, rugged, hand-made with a saying clear as day, typed there, a gift for me....

The first one said...
                        "Lord, no matter what today brings, 
                                      my trust is in You."

The second one said...
                         "When you go through deep waters,
                               I will be with you."

And the tears started to flow, right there in Paint in Her Hair.
Now, if you are a regular reader of this blog you may be thinking...
Hmm, wasn't she recently crying in the Carousel store in Sand Point, Idaho? Yup, I was. And here she was in another store, crying? Yup. Also, true!

While no one every told me that when you reach 70 you get to laugh, smile and cry whenever or wherever you want, these days I let the tears flow whenever they want to flow. They remind me how rich life is, so full of joy and love and sorrow.

Even as a little girl I always had deep feelings. I cried when other children were hurt or when I learned one little girl, I went to elementary school with, lived in an orphanage. I told my Mom all about her and insisted we needed to do something as she came to school with the same dress on day-after-day and had not had a haircut. 

So my Mom, God bless her soul, contacted the orphanage, and we took Charlotte to get a haircut, some new clothes, and lunch out. She almost became a part of our family, at my insistence, because I couldn't bare to think of her having less love than I did. I cried every day when I saw Charlotte at school and we gave each other knowing hugs.

Guess I'm still that same Linda today. If my beloveds are in deep water, I love them whole-heartedly and I just can't sit on the safe bank and watch them struggle. I don't want them to feel alone.

Jesus taught me that when He gave His life for me. I was in deep water and He saved me.

Those hand-made crosses will stay at our home for now, a remembrance of my trip to that store and how God reminded
me of His presence. Then...they will find a new home as a reminder that He never, ever, ever leaves us in deep water by ourselves. In the darkest moments, when we feel the most alone, He is there. He is our life-preserver, our deep-water companion.

And for that, this 70 year old Nana is so, so grateful.

God Bless!
Love, Linda

Monday, July 24, 2017

"Dirt Therapy"...

                                         Planting a seed
                         is believing
                         in tomorrow.

I absolutely love summer in Spokane! 

The mornings are cool, the afternoons heat up and gradually the heat gives way to evenings that are just down right gorgeous.

Lots of folks have irrigation systems, but my favorite sound is an old fashioned sprinkler that brings back memories of my childhood. As children we raced through those sprinklers screaming and laughing. So much old-fashioned fun!! 

While I love summer's slower pace of life, the relaxed family time, 
and water activities, my happy place in the summer (or one of them anyway) is in our garden.

It all starts in the early spring and spring brings its own list of garden activities. Cleaning up from a long winter with snow and ice, composting our soil, weeding the beds, and getting ready for the planting process. It really feels like a sacred process to me since I truly believe that we are tending to God's earth, not just our own yard. 

Our home is situated in one of Spokane's oldest neighborhoods and the streets have huge trees on both sides that create a canopy of touching branches up above. While there are lots of huge and regal homes in our neighborhood, our little one story home is sandwiched in and has such a unique personality. We just love living here.

The gardens in front of our home are exquisite, thanks to all of Bert's hard work and creativity. There is an island of plants along the sidewalk that truly looks like Hawaii. There are so many huge ferns, giant hydrangeas, five different varieties of hostas,  lilies and lots of coleus plants.

Not only are the plants breathtaking, the front yard garden is filled with garden art...a large Japanese concrete temple, aged with moss, unique lanterns everywhere you look, and there is a huge, much- loved bench tucked in near the back of the front yard.  That concrete bench with a wooden seat is filled with gorgeous, colored and comfy pillows. It's a perfect place for a morning cup of coffee or a glass of lemonade with mint from our garden.

The grass weaves in and out of the gardens. We love to sit on that cozy bench, have coffee and chat with our neighbors and those who walk by. "Love your yard" starts many a conversation.

Those huge trees that line our street give us lovely shade in the front so as the day heats up, we often move from the back yard to the front to escape the heat. When you stop a minute to watch the sun coming through the leaves on those gorgeous and gigantic trees, it brings about such a sense of peace and wonder.

While the front yard is shady, the back yard is filled with sun-loving trees and plants. Our cherry and pear trees both flower in the spring, and there is lush foliage everywhere. The back yard is sunny all day long. We have two dining areas back there. One on the lawn for the two of us, and then a larger table in the back of the yard for more diners. 

At the very back of the yard is Bert's studio and shed.
Their walls, facing the yard, are filled with art. Lanterns hang from the trees and an old-fashioned swing, with comfy pillows, is surrounded by multi-colored adirondak chairs. That area is the center piece for many a conversation. 

Colorful, huge umbrellas echo the colors in the cushy pillows we sit on, and the trees come alive with a breath of wind as gorgeous chimes in the trees share their music with slightest breeze. 

The tinkling sound from the chimes is almost angelic.

And at night? Oh, at night both the front yard and back yard become a fairy land of small twinkling lights and lanterns that come alive with a warm glow that melts your heart. We love to sit in the old-fashioned swing, with Daisy (our doggy) between us and quietly just take it all in. 

There is even a prayer corner in our garden that brings me such peace each time I sit down there. It helps me remember whose garden this really is. 

It helps me remember that everything we are enjoying is a gift from our Heavenly Father!

Our garden, and all the love and work that goes into it, is not just a show place. It is really a sanctuary for Bert and for me. As I dig in that dirt, it is therapy for my soul. The feel of the dirt, the smell of the plants, the aroma of the chives and lavender and mint, well, they all remind me of God's goodness. And there is just nothing like popping a cherry tomato in your mouth straight off the vine.

My dear friend, Jackie, once called gardening dirt therapy, and she is so, so right about that. Thank you, dear friend, for sharing that insight with me. Gardening is therapy for my soul, my mind, my heart and my physical body. It is couple's time for Bert and for me. Strolling with coffee cups, and looking at how our plants are doing, is a little bit like watching our children grow.

It also makes me so, so happy to get a vase from my potting table
and cut flowers from our garden and share them with our neighbors and family. All this beauty is so fun to share!

So today, after a day of gardening, my soul is at peace and
I am grateful beyond measure for the garden beauty that surrounds us. It's surely a reminder that God is good, all the time!!

God Bless!
PS- Garden pictures to follow in a later post! :)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

"Just Plain Hard"...

                 Stand up straight and
                  realize who you are,
                  that you tower over your
                  circumstances. You are a 
                  child of God. Stand up straight.
                                                                                      -Maya Angelou

Yesterday was hard. Really hard. All of the details don't really matter, but somehow I was just off, misdirected and over sensitive. I knew I was in trouble when the tears started to flow, and I was so missing my Mom that I couldn't stop crying. I must have said ten times, "I wish she was here to talk to. She would know what to do." I kept talking to God all day long, but looking back now, in the early morning light of today after several hours of sleep, I recognize that I might have been talking to Him, but I'm quite sure I wasn't listening to Him.

My  Grandma (Nana) used to say, with a half- stern, half-twinkling look in her eye, "Sometimes days are just plain hard and then we all just need a talkin'  to." 

What she meant was that we all get mixed up, sad, frustrated and tied in knots, and we all need a voice to redirect our efforts. We all need someone to sit us down, look us square in the eye and say... "Yes, this is hard. It's very hard. But you are not alone in this hard. I am here with you."

I don't have very many days when I feel grumpy. Almost never, ever. But I sure as heck felt grumpy yesterday. I felt a mix of sad and mad and helpless. I felt scared. I prayed continually, but not whole-heartedly. Truth be told, I was mad at God.

Yes, mad at God.

I was tied in knots knowing my dear sweet friend, Vicky Westra... who has stage four breast cancer, was in the hospital having to have another surgery on a kidney stent that was causing her a serious infection.

She has been through so much and now this.

I just couldn't wrap my heart around the suffering she has been going through. So I told God (as if He didn't know) that enough is enough. I didn't just say it. I shouted it!

I was out in the garden working and praying and my tears started to fall. So I turned to Heaven and yelled, "Enough. Hasn't she gone through enough?"

I have to laugh a bit this morning wondering if any of our dear neighbors were out in their backyards and how my talking to God out loud might have sounded to them.
Yet I truly didn't care then, and honestly don't care now, how it sounded to anyone else. I needed God to listen, to hear my heart, to hear how scared and mad I am about the suffering that Vicky has gone through, is going through.

After a good cry and some sleep, I know that not only does God know that Vicky is suffering, He was with her in it all.

* He was there to comfort her in that surgery room. 
* He was there to hold her hand. 
* He was there with Vicky and is there right this very minute.

He is here!

I wish I could say that the rest of the day went better. Outwardly it did, but inwardly I was still struggling. I felt discouraged. I just let myself feel whatever came up, and kept giving it all to Him. 

Giving Vicky to Him, no matter what. Letting go of thinking
this just can't turn out this way. 

When I get scared like this and have a "just plain hard day", I
always feel better when I read God's word, and when I go back to Jesus Calling, a simple daily devotional. I feel better when God gives me a "talking' to."

Sure enough, I found so many "gems" that spoke to my hurting heart. Reminders about who God is and reminders that He loves me and is always there for me.

Reminders that he He loves Vicky and is always there for her, too.

And then I came upon a quote by Maya Angelou that felt like a gift from the Lord. I could almost imagine Maya Angelou, in a grandmotherly tone, saying to me...

Linda Marie...

Stand up straight
Realize who you are
You tower over your circumstances
You are a child of God
Stand up straight.

Finally, after a big ugly cry, I sat down , journaled and listened to the song Even if. 

Finally, my heart felt calm.

Yes, yesterday was "just plain hard," to quote my Nana.
Super hard for my sweet friend Vicky and hard for me
as her friend. Yet I feel renewed this morning because I am focusing not on how awful things are, but how God is there in the awful.

God is here, no matter what, and for that I am deeply grateful!
Today I will remember that I AM A CHILD of GOD!...
and as Vicky always says..."All Shall Be Well!"

Amen and Amen!
God Bless!


Friday, July 14, 2017


"Summer was our best season; it was sleeping on the back
  screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the treehouse;
          summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand 
colors in a parched landscape."
                                                   -Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird 

We just came back from ten glorious days at Diamond Lake, surrounded by family and hot days and warm nights. Splashing water and time to hold the baby of the family. Casual meals and sleeping in. Playing Pictionary and having long, catch-up talks.

I love the pace of summer, mostly because it is such a huge contrast to the rest of the year. I love taking the time to let in all of God's love and grace. I love taking the time to read books that suck me in and turn me around and challenges my thinking. My grandchildren always like to ask me, especially at the end of a vacation, "How many books did you read this time, Nana?" And my answer this vacation was "Five amazing books, sweetie." These were books that I heard about and loved to read (or re-read in some cases). Books that made me think and 
books that helped me better understand love and loss, especially the 
loss of a child. Here are a few of those titles:

and Still She Laughs: Defiant Joy in the Depths of Suffering by Kate Merrick
 colors of goodbye: A Memoir of holding on, letting go, and reclaiming joy in the wake of loss
by September Vaudrey
bittersweet: thoughts on change, grace, and learning the hard way by Shauna Nyquist
HALLELUJAH ANYWAY: Rediscovering Mercy by Anne Lamott
Goliath MUST Fall: Winning the Battle Against our Giants by Louie Giglio

All of these stories talk about faith in hard times, finding peace in times of unbelievable hardship and loss, and trusting God in the very worst moments of our lives.

I not only read books for me, I also read books to my dear, sweet grand baby, Annora Grace. Two of her new favorites are:
Bears on Wheels (with sound effects for the wheels) :) and 
God Bless You and Goodnight!

This time away was also a chance to sit by the water and pray, to thank God for so many blessings and to ask Him to heal those I love who are struggling with health issues, especially my dear friend and soul sis, Vicky Westra.

It was a time to look out at gorgeous sunsets and hold Bert's hand.
It was a time to watch the 4th of July fireworks as they reflected on the lake. It was a time to sleep in and sip coffee and have early morning chats.
I am so grateful to God for this time away, a time of refreshment
and renewal!

I hope that you, too, are having a blessed summer! 
Enjoy these pictures of our special time!!
God Bless!
Much love, Linda


Friday, June 23, 2017


"MOXIE: It's a street-smart spirit that's as old as recorded history and as new as the rising son. David had it; Goliath didn't. It can jump oceans and move mountains. It's a spirit of being that says, "I was born to do this!"

Recently one of my students came to me and asked if I had time to talk. My answer is always the same. "Of course I do. How much time do you need?" She is someone who has been struggling, struggling for a long time. She is bone-weary and spirit sore. She feels tired from the "fight of just surviving." She wonders if there can be another day that is rich with meaning, instead of being full of fear and trauma.

I met her at school, early one morning when we didn't have classes, and she came with two cups of Starbucks coffee. She had heard me say in class, when asked what my favorite coffee was, that I liked an iced mocha, but it had to be decaf. She remembered the specifics and her whole face lit up when I said, "Look at YOU. You even remembered what kind of coffee I like. That's a real deposit for me. Way to go and pay attention."

Now mind you, she has been in my Gender Communication class where we learn about bids, and deposits and withdrawals from our emotional bank accounts. We learn about turning toward others and the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse. We learn about John Gottman and the sturdy relationship house. 

So when I said, "that's a real deposit for me," she knew exactly what I was talking about. A grin slowly spread across her face.

After a few dibs and dabs at conversation, I call them that since they are the precursor to what someone really wants to talk about, she began.

"I don't know where to start. I am so messed up. I feel like who I am is just slipping away, right in from of my eyes."

Big tears started to cascade down her cheeks, cheeks caked with makeup to hide anything that might look like an imperfection. She looked down, almost as if that was the only place she belonged. Under the radar. Out of sight. Not visible. Not worthy of looking someone straight in the eye.

"How do you do it?" she said as the tears started to roll. Almost like the ocean, wave-after-wave of tears and sobs.

I let her cry and just stayed in that very sad moment with her.
What an honor that she could be so real with me.

Finally, when the time seemed right, I reached out and took her hand and then, with my small, left hand, I gently raised her chin up so she could look at me.

Again she repeated the question, this time with even more energy, "How do you do it, Linda?" she added, "You are always so positive, so full of life and spirit. I have been watching you. Day-after-day you come in here filled up. My Grandma told me that some people have "moxie," this deep sense of spirit and purpose. You have that," she said, barely able to look at me. 

"How do you do it?" she said, sounding more frustrated this time, as if how she was going about life just left her depleted.

I let her question rest in the air. I knew the answer, but wanted to share it gently. When I was ready, and had sent God a fast, "Help me Lord, help me to honor You with these words," I said, almost in a small, quiet whisper...

"I am not the one who does it, sweetie. God does it. I am just His vessel. What you see is His spirit in me."

This is what I love to call a "sacred moment." It is really why, after 50 years, I am still teaching. This is really what gives me grit and "moxie," as her Grandma used to say.

"Moxie" is a word that doesn't get used very much anymore.
Yet I love that word, enough so that some years back I purchased a small book and that word was the title. The book is filled with quotations, one liners as I like to call them.

I love the sayings. They are full of sparkle and pazzaze. They resonate with what I call "grit" and courage and resilience. Yet as much as I love the sayings, they leave me just a tad empty and asking the same kind of question my student was asking.

Where does genuine "moxie" come from?

My take is that if you see what looks like "moxie" or courage or grit in me, well it comes from the God I know and love and serve.

I would have "burned out" years ago if my spirit just came from me. At the first and fifth and twentieth tragedy or trauma, by myself I most likely would have folded.

Now please do not misunderstand me. When God made me, He made me to jump oceans and move mountains. He made me to shine and share His love. He didn't make me to live life quietly, although He did make some folks to do that.

When He made me, He gave me a "go get um' spirit!"
He infused me with a deep, deep love for others and a brimming-over passion for life. He made me to live "out loud" and to share my passion for living with others. 

Yet, most of all, He made me to live with Him at the center of my life. Not me at the center, Him at the center. That's what my student saw. She saw God at work in me.

So back to the coffee conversation...

She slowly looked up and squeezed my hand. "Really, it's God in you that I see?"

"Yup. You got it," I said." This 70 year old wife and Mama and Nana and teacher and friend, relies on Him. Who you see is God at work in my life."

And that, my friends, is why I keep teaching. That is why I am still in the classroom where He wants me. So many of my students are so thirsty for life. They are amazing people, yet many of them feel really empty. I am there to share His love with them, for them to perhaps, if I get out of the way, see Him shining so brightly that they will want Him in their lives.

And she did, want Him. And right there, in that classroom waiting to be moved to a new location...filled with old boxes ready to go downstairs for fall classes...we talked about God's love and how He is a God that never leaves us or forsakes us. He is a God, that if we let Him, fills us up day-after-day. He is the God who is the Alpha and Omega, the one we can lean on when life throws us unimaginable curve balls. 

I asked her if I might share her story on my blog, as long as I didn't use her name. She said, "Yes, of course. Maybe someone will want to know Him because of my story."

She picked up her heavy book bag, and I gave her a big hug. As she started to leave she turned around, this time with a big, old grin on her face. "Thanks!" she said. "I won't ever forget our talk." And I replied, "Neither will I, sweetie. Neither will I."

God Bless!
Love, Linda

Friday, June 09, 2017

A Bright Spot in a Very Hard Week...

"The most precious jewels you will ever have around your neck are the arms of a child!"

This week a very dear friend, and teaching colleague of 25 years, passed away in her sleep. Totally unexpectedly. She wasn't even ill for one day. 

Karen Clark was such a bright light, such a caring soul. She lived her life with love, kindness and quiet dignity. She was an amazing teacher and a steadfast friend. Even in the darkest of moments, Karen was a reminder of pure goodness. While Karen loved God, she didn't broadcast her faith. She just lived it. She spread love, His love, everywhere she went.

We are heartbroken, those of us who knew and loved Karen. Her students are grief-stricken. 

We are all in shock. 

* We are reminded that you can be here one day and gone the next. 

* We are reminded that life is short, often much shorter than we want it to be. 

* We are reminded to tell those we love that we love them, and to do it today!

So many many life-lessons.

And in the midst of this profound grief, this little girl, sweet Annora Grace, has had her arms around my neck. Hugging me. Reminding me that "All is well"... even when it isn't. 

Her hugs have been a reminder of God's love, even in the midst of pain.

As I look at Annora's pictures posted here, I am also reminded of my very dear, forever friend, Jackie. For Annora's first birthday, my thoughtful and sweet friend got her several darling outfits, all monogramed with Annora's initials. 

Annora, or "Kissy" as we call her, is wearing one of our favorite outfits in this picture. 

Thank you, dear Jackie, for your friendship and love and your prayers for sweet Annora Grace! You are such a treasure!

And this week, this little sweetie of 13 months is taking steps all on her own. Look out world, she is on her way!! Annora, and her hugs, have been been a bright spot in a very hard week.

God Bless!
Love, Linda 

There are no words...

                    There are no words that can adequately                       express how much I miss you right now,                  ...