Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Great Reminder...

                            DO   MORE
                       OF  WHAT MAKES YOU
                                                           H A P P Y

It was a simple message on a t-shirt. Yet it was as if God sent those words straight to me.

Do more of what makes you happy! 

I smiled at the young woman wearing it at Starbucks. 
While she looked familiar, and at a quick glance I felt like I knew her, it seemed like perfect timing to say,
"I love the saying on your t-shirt. What a great reminder!"

All of a sudden the quizzical look on her face turned into a huge grin. "Linda? That's you isn't it?" She looked a bit startled at how loud her voice had been and her demeanor changed. All at once she was out of her chair, both arms open, ready to give me a bear hug.

As soon as I heard her voice, I recognized that somewhat southern twang and those deep blue eyes. She had the kind of grin that showed off most of her teeth. You just felt kind of giddy in her presence. She looked older than before, but then so did I.

Former students are everywhere! 

They are working at hospitals and are the ER nurse when Bert is brought in. They are teachers who love their students like I do. They are doctors and lawyers and social workers. They work at MacDonalds and they own small businesses.

This former student, Jennifer, had always been an artist. She and I used to comment on our shared love of design and I always loved to gaze at her photography portfolio.

That was then and this was now, so I was so happy to have a moment to catch up with her. Her bear hug felt like just the gift I needed that morning. Her sweet and kind words almost melted my heart.

* "I use what you taught me every day."
* "Whenever I correct my self talk and make it more positive, I can almost hear you whisper in my ear that I am somebody special."
* "I'm so honored that you were my teacher."

I tried not to have a big ugly cry in the middle of Starbucks. Somehow her kindness just sunk into a place in my heart that needed healing.

You see the end of the quarter is always bittersweet.
That very morning I had just said goodbye to 76 amazing students, and all the way to Starbucks I was trying to be brave.

I told myself that this always happens, this goodbye at the end of the quarter.

I told myself that while I would miss those students I might never see again, that they would always be a part of me and I would always be a part of them.

I told myself that after 50 years of being a teacher that it shouldn't hurt so much to let go of all of them.

But it does hurt. 

It is glorious and magical and God's work, and I pour my heart and soul into teaching every day.

The message on Jennifer's t-shirt told the story perfectly.

You see I get to do every day what truly makes me happy and teaching brings me such JOY!! I used to say, and it's still true...I was made to do this!

My grades will go in today after another long, long marathon grading session and then I'll get to rest and do more of what makes me happy in other areas of my life.

Yet for now...I will just take in Jennifer's words and thank God for the blessing of seeing her again.

God Bless!
Love, Linda

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Greatest Kindness...

                                   One of my very favorite sayings is... 
                            "Sprinkle kindness like confetti."

When you are truly the recipient of an amazing act of kindness, it restores your hope and it enlarges your heart.

The pictures above are of two people who hold the keys to my heart. They are the kindest people I know, the most giving and the most unselfish. They are Mama and daughter...Amy and Jenna. They both love fully with their whole heart and they both love Jesus and live for Him.

When my beloved Bert had a TIA stroke a year and a half ago, 
his whole world changed. While we were so grateful to God that Bert was still here, Bert retired from being a counselor and felt it wasn't safe to drive. 

So he was at home a great deal, recovering his strength. During that time, Annora Grace was born and Amy and Jenna's beloved dog, Daisy, came to our house so the family could become adjusted to the new baby.

Sometimes new babies and doggies need to get to know each other in small doses, so the decision was made to have Daisy visit us...for a small while.

And then it happened...Daisy and Bert (affectionately called Boppa) became buddies. They took walks together, took naps together and Daisy became Bert's special companion.

Daisy brought a huge smile to Boppa's face, just as sweet pets often do. That sweet little pooch filled a hole that no one else could fill and Bert was so attached to her.

And then the time came for Daisy to go home and the unthinkable happened. 

Amy and Jenna decided that as much as they loved and adored Daisy, they loved Boppa more. So Daisy, all these months later, is still at our house. She is still Bert's buddy and every day she puts a smile on his face.

When I think about how truly unselfish that act of kindness is, giving your special puppy to someone else you love so he can be happy, well... it just brings me to tears.

I'm not surprised that Jenna has a heart of gold, after all her Mama does too. I know that God must smile when He sees acts of kindness like this and it warms my heart every day to see Bert with Daisy.

I couldn't love Amy and Jenna more!

God Bless!
Love, Linda

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Words Are Powerful...

             You can do ALL things through
                Christ who strengthens you.
                                             Philippians 4:13

I won't lie or try to sugar-coat yesterday. It was just plain awful and scary. It seemed on every level that the things I thought I knew and understood, things I counted on...well, some of them just collapsed before my eyes. 

At every turn, at school and at home, there was an incredible sense of dis-ease. It felt almost like I couldn't quite get my footing, and I was praying non-stop.

So, as I always do, I read my Jesus Calling book and here's the gist of what it said...

"Let Me help you through this day. The challenges you face 
are far too great for you to handle alone. You are keenly aware of your helplessness in the scheme of events you face..."

I just chuckled to myself as I read this. 

Helpless...That's for sure! 
That just about nailed it!

As much as I tried to put a positive "spin" on what was going on, and it just kept compounding as the day progressed, I was left with two powerful phrases...

     * Put your trust in Him and

     * You can do ALL things through Christ who
        strengthens you.      

What I know for sure is that God is not helpless. He has a plan that I cannot know or understand. He is there in the midst of this hard time. He cared and grieved with me as the walls came tumbling down. He will not leave us in the midst of the mess, but help us to navigate through this.

I could not change the course of these events, but He could.

So this morning, when I woke up and had my prayer time, 
I asked Him to guide us today as all of this unfolds. 

I asked Him to help Bert, Amy and sweet Annora Grace to get well.

I asked Him to reduce the baby's fever. 
I asked Him to help me forgive the person who broke my trust. 

I asked Him to give me the strength to face today.

I don't know how it will all turn out yet, but I do know that 
He hears my prayers. 
I do know that in Christ ALL things are possible.

So today I am focusing on choosing JOY and GRATITUDE in the midst of fear. Words are powerful and remembering 
that I can get through anything with His strength, not my own,
gives me a sense of inner hope and peace.

Could I humbly ask a favor... could you please pray for my family? Thank you!

May you know His love and peace in all of the tough situations 
that come your way.

Sending you loves and hugs and prayers!

God Bless!
Love, Linda

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
                                                                          - 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:

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.

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 
                                  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's life-changing and heart-healing.)

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   
* Hard things so hard that our stomaches ache and our hearts

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. 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!