Sunday, October 14, 2018

Just around the corner...

                     "No matter what... 
                I want to choose  gratitude!"

The seasons in Spokane are changing and a glorious fall is
upon us. After a summer of nourishing and babying our plants and flowers, and spending countless hours of enjoyment in our garden, our gardens are being remodeled by Spokane's cooler weather. The breath taking colors of autumn, that were just around the corner, are now replacing the vivid red geraniums and yellow daffodils. Lush trees, with leaves of green, in an instant are changing to reds and golds.The leaves are cascading down, twirling in all their glory as if to say, "My job is done and a new season is almost upon us."

My word for 2018 is transformation and autumn is a perfect time to see God's transforming powers, right before my very eyes.

Life right now resembles those trees and leaves. Autumn, in a flash, is right here right now. Some enormous and transforming changes are coming with this new season. Some of the changes hurt my heart, others are exciting and challenging. Each one is a chance to choose fear or to choose gratitude. 

               No matter what this Autumn season brings, 
                    even when it is really hard to do, 
                        I want to choose gratitude!

Last night I received a message that I knew was coming, yet I dreaded it completely. I knew that Rick Westra would let us all know when our beloved Vicky had at last gone Home to God. 
Rick's message said Vicky was now in God's hands. 

During the night, through tears and more tears, I kept replaying 
and remembering my friendship with Vicky, one of the most meaningful friendships I have ever had. This morning, after getting me a cup of coffee, my dear husband, Bert, asked me (with his counselor hat on just a bit)..."Honey, what will you miss most about Vicky ?"

We then spent about an hour talking about what makes some friendships a "deep friendship," the kind of friendship that gets to a new level of authenticity and transparency. The kind of friendship
where you feel truly seen and heard and deeply loved. That's the kind of friendship I had with Vicky. I loved her, just as she was, and appreciated SO much about how she lived her life. I guess I might call her a friend who was always grateful. Even in the midst of a seven year battle with stage IV breast cancer, Vicky was grateful for even the smallest of joys...a flower peeking through the concrete sidewalk, the color of a beautiful sky, the gorgeous red and yellow and orange colors of Autumn leaves.

After my coffee and talk with Bert, I got up and looked out the window to see huge, gorgeous trees with deep yellow leaves, the sunshine coming through them, making them almost iridescent.  
Then one lone leaf started its slow-motion twirling flight to the ground.

It so reminded me of Vicky as I looked at that leaf,  cascading to its resting place. It's job on the tree, now complete. Yet it would become part of the dirt below, still here, yet not so visible to the naked eye. That leaf had a new nourish the tree. It wouldn't be visible in quite the same way, yet it would still be here.

That moment of seeing that leaf transform,  reminded me that my dear friend, Vicky was right. Just as her poem said she would be right around the corner, no longer visible in quite the same way, but present none the less. All was well for the leaf and "all is well!" for my precious soul sis.

I feel so grateful to God to have known Vicky, to have been her friend. I am so grateful for the other precious friendships I have made because we all loved Vicky. My dear friend Jackie and another soul sis, Peggy, are grieving too. We all miss Vicky, but are so glad she is safe and whole in God's arms.  

So I am choosing gratitude this morning, mixed with tears of missing and loving. I am remembering, as Vicky shared in her poem, that she is not gone, but just around the corner. I am thanking God for the honor of being Vicky's friend.

As I face other challenges and joys coming up this fall, I will carry Vicky in my heart. Her life-lessons about choosing gratitude are life-changing. This morning I am thanking God for bringing my dear "soul sis" into my life. 

God Bless!
Love, Linda

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Precious moments and saying goodbye...

           "I am yours for all of eternity: I am the Alpha and 
         Omega. The One who is and was and is to come,
         the Almighty." Rev. 1:8  
                             "It's all as it's meant to be."
                                  - a text message from Vicky Held Westra

Some text messages just take your breath away. You know they are coming. You can just feel it in your heart and in your mind and soul. Vicky's last text message to me said, 
              "We met with Hospice for end of life care." 
Nine words and my heart stopped and my tears flowed. 

That night I wrote in my journal:

Dearest Vicky,
When I got your text today my heart stopped and I could barely breathe. Yes, my precious friend and soul sister, my friend who has fought cancer for seven long, long years... it's time. It's time to start to say goodbye and it's time to look back on all of the precious moments.

I am so grateful, dear one, for each moment we have shared, each prayer we have prayed, each email and text message we have sent...all of the connections that have linked our hearts forever.

Plain and simple, you are a treasure. When God made you, He made a miracle. Your love for life and gratitude for everything, even the hardest lessons that living with cancer has taught you, have changed all of us who know you and love you and have been blessed to share this journey with you. 

I'm not sure you understand the impact you have made. Your faith in God, your prayers for others while having chemo, your deep, deep love for Rick and your boys, your honest, authentic voice in every blog post you have written, your reaching out to help and come along side others in the midst of your own hard times, your trusting in God even when so many prayers for a miracle have not been answered in the way we all would have wanted... you, my dear soul sis, trust Him anyway.  

For all these years I have heard you say, in the hardest of hard moments.."All is well." After everything you have been through, you are still able to say, and mean it, "I do know Jesus is at the core of this all... It's all as it's meant to be."

And on top of all of those precious moments and memories...Thank you, dear heart, for really "seeing me" and "knowing me" and encouraging me to just be me. Thank you for every prayer you have prayed for my beloved Bert and for all my dear hearts. Thank you for commenting and sharing your heart on my blog. Thank you for the cards you sent me and the bracelet and necklace with the moon on it. Almost every communication we have had has ended with "Love you to the moon and all the way back again." 

And, my dear friend, we have loved each other just like that.

I will be grateful for you all the days of my life, dear Vicky. I will, as I told you, always share your story...with my family, with my friends, with my students. I will miss you forever. You hold a special place in my heart that no one else can fill.

Rest now, dear one. Know that God Almighty is there with you, holding you gently in the palm of His hand. Know, that when it's time to go home to Him, His angels will gently wrap their wings around you to take you home to God. Know that your Daddy will be there to greet you with open arms. Know that you have been His good and faithful servant.

What an honor it has been for me to know you and to call you my soul sister. I will always love you to the moon and all the way back again, dear Vicky.

God Bless!
Your Soul Sis, 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

When You Feel Overwhelmed and Discouraged...Move, Keep Walkin'

    "I know your prayers ain't been answered yet,
                 but it's not over yet."                 
                               Song "Move (Keep Walkin')" by TobyMac

Sometimes the questions my grandchildren ask are so profound that
they take my breath away. They have a way of simplifying life that is soul-refreshing. When I am asked one of those questions that
comes straight from their heart, I stop for just a moment, pray and ask the Lord God Almighty how would He want me to answer this?

That happened on a recent vacation trip to Diamond Lake. It was
truly a family retreat with smores, fireworks on July 4th, making meals together, taking walks, and catching up with ourselves and each other. One of my grandchildren, or my "Grands" as my dear friend Jackie would say, started to ask me important questions, the kind that give you pause to think and ponder. I found, quite truthfully, that I kept thinking about what they asked and how I answered all week while we were up there.

And we, my grand and I, kept chatting about these hard questions,  and new thoughts about them.We talked over dinner, breakfast, and walks around the lake... an ongoing dialogue if you will.

What were some of those questions?
* Nana, why does God let bad things happen to good people?
* Nana, when something awful happens, and your heart is broken,
   how do you keep going?
*Nana, is it okay to be mad at God because my friend is dying?

Out of the mouths of babes, right? I told my dear Grand that when I
go to Heaven one day, I hope God will let me ask him those exact same questions.

Specifically, this grandchild had found me out on the dock, reading my Jesus Calling book, and weeping about my dear fried Vicky Westra. Not crying a few tears, but really allowing myself to feel the depths of her pain and the loss I will feel when she goes home to God. Tears for my beloved Bert who was so ill that we almost didn't come up to the lake at all. Two of the most wonderful people I know...both struggling, both believing in God's love and grace, and both putting their trust in Him.

So after taking a deep breath, and regaining a smidge of my composure, I took my Grand's hand and said a small prayer before I even tried to talk about these profound questions. In each case, I started by saying, "Honey, I don't really know how God works sometimes, or why hard things happen to me or people I love like Vicky and your Boppa. But what I do know for sure is that God loves me. He loves you. He loves Vicky and Boppa. He never leaves us, even when things are hard and awful."

Then, out of the corner of my memory, I remembered reading Julie Garmon's last blog post and the song she posted there. When we were back in the house I went over to a computer (someone was doing homework there :), and brought up TobyMac's song about "Movin' On, It Ain't Over Yet!" It talked all about broken hearts and wondering if God's promises apply to me and my life, to Vicky and Boppa's life, to all of our lives. Here's the link to that powerful song...

While I don't know what challenges are on the horizon, this song is an upbeat reminder about trusting God and that no matter what, my job is to keep moving on and remembering that "It Ain't Over Yet!!" 

No matter what challenges you may be facing right now, may you remember that God loves you, even in the hardest of hard times. He will never leave you or forsake you. He is there!

God Bless!
Love, Linda

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Soul Work in the Deep Waters...

              Entrance into another's soul
                 is always a sacred honor.

It is a gorgeous day, here in Spokane, Washington. It's almost 8 am, the sun is shining through the trees and saying..."It's time to come out and play." Bert is still snoozing away and Daisy, our precious puppy, is snuggled into a blanket, one ear raised so she doesn't miss a thing.

It feels just right to sit down this morning and try to put into words what has been going on in my mind and in my heart the past month and a half.

                              It's not easy, but I'll try.

It would be fair to say that I have been busy and that's why I haven't taken the time or energy to post on this blog. That would be true, but not a sufficient answer. It has been the end of an amazing school year filled with graduation and saying good bye to hundreds and hundreds of students. 

It has also been a busy time filled just trying to catch up...on the
work here at home, my classroom at school, with communicating with my dear hearts. 

           Yes, again true, but not sufficient to explain my absence.

If I'm being perfectly honest, and I have always tried to be transparent here, I haven't written because I have been speechless on so many fronts. On one hand, amazed at God's goodness and love for me, for all of us. On the other hand, stunned by the hard times that bring my faith to its knees. I know, more than ever, that He is here and never leaves us, even in our darkest hours.

As I just texted my dear soul sis, Vicky Westra...

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

That's a promise from God Almighty, the maker of Heaven and earth. He says He will never, ever leave us, even when 
it feels like we are drowning and can't imagine how we will get through this (whatever this is). I am resting on that promise. I believe it to be true. I know it is because God has been with me in good times and in the hardest, hard times.

                        This is one of those very hard times. 

Two people I love with all my heart are struggling so hard and going through deep waters.

It feels almost as if the water is rising, just as it does here every spring when the snow in the mountains starts to melt and the rivers are in a near-flooding stage for weeks on end.

First, let me start by talking about my beloved Vicky Westra. My dear "soul sis" is in deep waters. Vicky has stage four breast cancer and has battled this awful disease for seven years. She has been a beacon of strength and courage as she continues to find joy and gratitude, even in the midst of pain. Recently Vicky got some very difficult news, that things were even worse than she had imagined, and she is clinging to her word of the year..


I am clinging to hope right along with her. Here is a clip to watch so you can meet my sweet friend in person. Please watch this and if you can, pray for my dear friend Vicky...Pray for HOPE. Please pray for peace and pray for healing

Second, not only is my sweet Vicky in deep water, so is my beloved husband, Bert. Bert is just the best person I have ever known. His capacity to love and help others always amazes me. Like Vicky, he never complains and always is grateful. As some of you know, Bert suffered a TIA stroke about two and a half years ago. He has had memory problems ever since. In the past few months, those memory problems have become more significant and seeing him go through all of this has been hard and heart-breaking. Yet in the midst of these deep waters, my precious husband leans on Jesus and celebrates God's love. 

I think there are days that my struggle with all of this is even worse than his.  I just keep doing all I can to be a support to him, to love him with my whole heart, no matter what. To be there for him and reassure him that he will never be alone in this struggle. Some days I can only lean on Jesus. He gives me the strength to be fully loving and fully present.

Please pray for Bert and for me that we might go through all of this clinging to God and praising Him, no matter what. He is our strength and our foundation. He holds us up in the good times and hard times. God continues to amaze us at every turn. We listen to this song by Selah, a Christian music group, and it reminds us who God is.

We are all doing soul work,  and learning one day at a time to focus on God's love and strength. We are being stretched by deep waters, but we are not broken. We rely on God and that truly changes everything. Here's a song that gives us HOPE!
Perhaps listening to it will give you hope as well.

I am so, so grateful to God that both Bert and Vicky are here!
They are here to love and care about! They are here to share life lessons about gratitude that we all desperately need. They are here to remind me, remind us all, to enjoy every day and to be grateful, no matter what we are going through. What a gift they are to me and to so many others!

And as you read this post...may God bless you! May you know, whatever challenges you are facing, that you are NOT alone. He is there with you! He holds you, just like he holds Vicky and Bert and me, in the palm of His almighty hand!

Much Love,

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Finding Comfort in Kindness...sharing from the heart

                               If every person made it a rule that
                         wherever you are, whenever you
                         can, you will try to act a little kinder
                         than necessary- the world really
                         would be a better place. And if you
                         do this, if you act a little kinder
                         than necessary, someone else,
                         somewhere, someday, may
                         recognize in you, the face of God.
                                                    -RJ Palacio, Wonder

When I saw the trailer for the movie "Wonder" I just
couldn't stop crying. Here was the story of a young boy,  
with Treacher-Collins syndrome, who had been born with
what the world sees as a highly deformed face. His name was
Auggie. I read the book, Wonder, and went to the movie with my dear, dear granddaughter, Jenna. 

Jenna knew that I wanted to go. She had already seen the movie Wonder with her big sister, but she could see in my eyes and hear in my voice that this really mattered to me. So she stepped in with such kindness and went to the movie again- this time with her Nana.

While my story of being visibly different is not the same as Auggie's, Auggie's story brought back so many memories.
As I sat in that movie theater I could feel the cruel stares that Auggie experienced and I could remember, vividly, the stares
I had received as a little girl.

You see looking and asking with compassion is one thing.
Looking with judgements and condemnation is quite another.

Knowing me well, to comfort me Jenna held my left hand through the whole movie. Before the movie started, she even showed me more kindness by warning me that Auggie's doggy's name was Daisy. Daisy is the name of the darling doggy Jenna gave to Bert and to me. Jenna instinctively knew that I might be upset about what happened to Daisy in the movie. She told me she would hold my hand extra tight during those scenes.

And she did.

I could hardly breathe as the story unfolded. While I know that everyone faces suffering and pain, this story paralled mine with so much vivid reality that I felt a little exposed.
There, on that screen, was part of my story.

Yet, while I will always remember seeing that movie, reading that book, and learning new lesson's from Auggie and the people in his life, what I will remember most is Jenna's kindness.

Her kindness comforted me, held me up, and made me feel not so all alone. 

I've been the recipient of her kindness before. After Bert's TIA stroke, and Annora's birth, Jenna gave up her beloved doggy Daisy so that her Boppa could have company at home.
She loved Daisy enough, and her grandpa enough, to be selfless.

What I know for sure is that the world needs more kindness
right now,  the kind of unselfish kindness I see in Jenna's heart. 

What I know for sure is that Amy's darling daughter is on the right track.

What I know for sure is that Jenna's kindness has reminded me to "act a little kinder than necessary." The world really
is a better place when we extend kindness to others. 

I truly see God's face in my precious granddaughter's eyes!

May we all #choosekindness

God Bless and Happy Mother's day!
Love, Linda

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Sleep, Glorious Sleep!

                                                     Live Every Day...
                               Like It's Saturday!

Oh my goodness. What a luxury it is to sleep past 3am, the usual time I get up each week day when I am teaching. Now please don't imagine that I am complaining here. I am not. I am so used to this schedule that it is second nature to get up at that hour. However, there is something so delicious about a Friday night when I can whisper seven magic words to myself ...
                       "Tomorrow...Get up when you want to."

Saturday is purely magical. I always make coffee the night before and just pushing that button with no sense of rush or have to...well it is just so good for my soul. After doctoring up my brew with a magical concoction, I settle down with the fireplace on, my cup of coffee, Daisy, our sweet doggy by my side, and reach for Jesus Calling. I almost sigh at how luxurious it is to read it and then read it again, slowly and out loud this time.

I wonder this morning if it would be so special if I lived like this every day. Would I appreciate the slower pace of life?

Would I take the time to smell the coffee? Would I pet sweet Daisy with no thought to "I had better get a move on?"

Being a teacher brings me such total JOY that I would do it for free. Yet anyone who has been a teacher knows that the work load is tremendous, not just in the planning, but also in the paper grading. On Saturday there is still a big pile of papers to be graded, and they will be done by Monday morning, but I don't have to do them right.this.minute.

Just that extra few hours of sleep makes the world seem bright and gay, even though it is super cold and rainy here in Spokane. We are all wondering when in the heck Spring is really go
ing to get here. (It was snowing as I came up the south hill this week. While it didn't stick, it was SNOWING.)

Oh dear sweet baby Jesus, we desperately need some warm weather. The poor trees and flowers are so confused. You can almost hear them saying...

                  "Should I really unfold completely? It's a bit
                    too chilly for that."

Yet a day by the fire, reading and sipping coffee, seems like such a blessing. I might do this or I might do that.

Or in Pooh's words...
                 "Let's begin by taking a smallish nap...
                   or two."    

I'm with Pooh on that one. "Sleep, Glorious Sleep"...
how precious you are.

May you have a fun, relaxing and restful weekend!
God Bless!
Love, Linda


Saturday, April 07, 2018

Happy 35th Wedding Anniversary Bert!

It's a rainy day here in Spokane, a drizzle really. A perfect day to curl up by our fire and reminisce about the last 35 years.

Yes, today is our 35th wedding anniversary and "Praise God!" my beloved Bert is here so we can celebrate it together. We have been sipping coffee, listening to some of our favorite music and telling stories...lots and lots of stories. We are holed up in our comfy family room with Daisy the doggy rotating between our laps,
on the wall the huge hand painted sign I got Bert for our 25th anniversary. It says...

                              YOU HAVE
                              MY WHOLE
                              FOR MY
                              WHOLE LIFE

Our story has so many twists and turns, meeting in grad school. Me... with a shattered heart, never going to trust again. Bert with a heart of gold, knowing I needed to heal, that I was completely broken. He... being a much needed friend and helper...someone who prayed for me, for my girls, constantly. And he listened...he listened and listened, without judgement. I cried with him, buckets and buckets of tears.

He was a perfect gift from God, I believe that with all of my heart.

And then one day I realized that he was truly my best friend. My
friend Gail nudged me by saying, "Linda, if ten years from now you tell me there are no good men out there, I'll personally kill you.
There is one standing right in front of you,"

And he was, my Bert, standing there then. And he is standing here now, thirty five years later.

I am amazed to this day that he really likes me, just as I am. He really loves me, no matter what. He thinks I'm pretty. He tells me that every day. I still leave him love notes, every day. Thirty five years later.

We have been through some tough times, some very tough times, but we give those times to God. He holds us and we get through them.

Don't misunderstand, there are times Bert drives me crazy. At times, he has a tough time finishing what he starts. I'm a big finisher. But in the end we both know how little that really is.

We know what BIG is. After all, two years ago he had a TIA stroke and I almost lost him. And God brought him back to me.

I cherish every day I have with him.

One of my favorite sayings on a framed picture of the two of us is...
                              You don't have to promise me
                                  the moon and the stars,
                               Just promise you'll stand
                                  underneath them with me. 

And so my paratrooper, businessman, wind surfer- namer, best friend, Daddy, Papa, counselor, helper, listener, holder, hard worker, server of others, care-taker, lover of God, best person I know, love of my life...

                              Happy 35th Anniversay, my beloved!

You have my whole heart, for my whole life. And my darling, I have yours!

God bless sweetheart!
Love always!
Your Linda


Just around the corner...

                                                    "No matter what...                  I want to choose  gratitude!" The seas...