Sunday, October 29, 2017

Living Life With An Open Heart...

            "Living "light and polite" is not really living.

             Living "light and polite" can be a way o

              keeping everyone in the dark about what's
              in your heart."
                                                - Ann Voskamp
Oh my goodness. It has been a long while since I sat down at these keys to write on this blog. So much has gone on in the last month or so, and it's not an exaggeration to say that my faith is what has kept my head above water. 

I am reminded daily that God is good, all the time. Not just some of the time. Not just when things go well. Not just when I feel calm and all is right with the world.

What I know for sure, and what sustains me, is that in the peace and in the storms God does not leave me. That's His sacred promise to me and His sacred promise to you.

Letting that sink into my heart gives me a sense of peace in a world that seems to be in chaos. 

As I read His word, and as I digest pearls of wisdom from
folks like Ann Voskamp, I am redirected toward my "True North"  when some days it feels like I am Moana (in the Disney movie) searching the stars to find her way.

I bring up Moana because I have seen it countless times with Annora Grace, my precious, precious Granddaughter. I can even sing the songs with her as I have the Moana CD in my car and we play it when we are out and about.

And like Moana, I have felt a bit lost and scared the last month or so. That happens when I take my eyes off of Jesus.

When I focus on Him, my blood pressure goes down and a sense of peace takes over my heart.

It has been easy, in all of the negativity and chaos, to want to close off my heart. I have felt under attack from someone at work and it has been hurtful and hard. What a challenge it is to keep my heart open with this person and to try to love them as God loves them.

So when I came up for air this weekend, I happened upon a
blog post by one of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp.
I read and re-read her post as almost every word resonated
for me. It was as if God was using her to remind me of how He wants me to live.

"Let your heart live unguarded - and let love capture you."

"Living 'light and polite' is not really living."

"Live with walls to block out pain- and you will block out

all of the love that's trying to get in."

Her message echoes one of my favorite passages in "Jesus
Calling," my daily devotional. I read it this summer and have it marked for times when life is challenging. For July 18th it says...
" I am nearer than you think. You are connected to Me by
   Love-bonds that nothing can sever. Ask me to open your
   eyes, so you can find Me everywhere. The more aware you
   are of My presence, the safer you feel."  

 That's His promise to me as I seek to live my life with an open heart. That's His reminder that as scary as it is to keep my heart open, that He is there to keep me safe.

When I trust Him, all is truly well.

That assurance, that blessed assurance, changes everything.

That assurance helps me to move from fear to gratitude.

That assurance helps to remind me that God is in control,   especially in times when things seem out of control.

That assurance helps to remind me that when I put up  shields to protect my heart, those shields end up being a  prison for my heart.

So here's to trusting God, the Maker of Heaven and earth!!

*Here's to knowing that living for Him with an open heart
  is what has always brought me JOY! beyond measure.
*Here's to praying for someone who needs Him desperately.
*Here's to knowing that He never leaves me and He never
  leaves you.

*Here's to not telling God how big the storm is, but rather
  telling the storm how big my God is!"

May God bless you and keep you. May you know that He loves you and holds you in the palm go His almighty hand.

Loves, hugs and prayers, 


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Being in the Present and Not the Past...

                        If you must
                                       look back,
                              Do so forgivingly.
                              If you must
                                        look forward,
                              Do so prayerfully.

                       However, the wisest thing
                                        you can do
                                        is be present
                                        in the present
                                         -Maya Angelou

The leaves are turning. Everywhere the dark and chartreuse and subtle green leaves are taking on a vibrant life of their own. New hues of flaming red and orange and yellow.

Like it or not, fall is here and nature's wardrobe is changing and turning with the cooling weather.

While I love autumn, and the changing colors and crisp temperatures, truthfully a part of my heart still longs for summer. Just a few more weeks, please? I almost wish I could shove autumn back so I could cherish more fully the warmth of summer days and nights.

And for sure, I long for summer's more relaxed schedule. 

I wish that I could turn back the clock to the blessings of the 
"there and then" of summer instead of embarking on the present... "here and now" of autumn.

And I can, if I'm completely honest, confess that I am looking ahead to the future with a bit of nervousness. Oh my gosh, how will we survive the freezing winter days here in Spokane? Will we have another ice storm? I know those cold, cold snowy days aren't even here yet, but I can feel them on the horizon.

It's hard to stay in the here and now and just be grateful for the present, at least for me it is.

The same is true at work. The new year started off with such optimism, and then, out of nowhere, a rough spot came back
up again. I wasn't prepared for it at all. I thought after last spring, we were off to a fresh start.

The "rough spot" came in the form of an unexpected email
and I felt so sad and shocked. Almost as if someone had slapped me across the face.

It was hard to stay in the present when this happened.
I found myself drifting back to the good old days, the days when a co-worker would never have thought to send an email that hurtful. I also wanted to quickly look to the future when things might be better. It was so, so uncomfortable to embrace the present when it felt full of pain.

In any situation, when my mind and heart are melancholy about the past and skipping to the future, I  know a deeper truth.
          I will never know true joy and true peace and 
          true contentment until I embrace the present 
          with a grateful heart.  

Yet how do I get from here to there? From glancing back to the past or skipping ahead to the future? How can I stay in the present when it may have situations that are full of discomfort and pain?             

What I know for sure is that, on my own, I can't always feel grateful about the present. 

In this struggle to stay in the here and now, God's grace is what can make all the difference. When I focus on His love for me, my heart can move from fear and anxiety to love and gratitude. 

His soft whisper, "It's not about you, Linda" brings me back to empathy and thanksgiving. His presence and His word help me to focus on caring and on taking the high road.

Truthfully, I can get stuck in the past and on who did what to whom. I can replay and replay moments that were hard to bare. I can focus so hard on the there-and-then that I miss the lessons of the here-and-now.

This pattern seems to echo itself as I look at the once vibrant green leaves in our backyard. I may not feel ready for fall, the leaves turning and falling. Yet I know with complete certainty that to everything there is a season, and if I can trust God's plan, I can find gratitude in this moment. 

That's when I can truly say... "It is well with my soul."

Today I want to take Maya Angelou's words to heart...

I  want to see the past through forgiving eyes.
I want to anticipate the future with a prayerful attitude.
And I want to gratefully embrace the present as the best gift ever.

God Bless!

Thursday, September 07, 2017

A Reminder of What Matters...

                   "We are all just walking 
                     each other home."
                                                             -Ram Dass

It's hard to see the news these days. It seems as if much of my beloved America is in distress. Here, in Washington state, forest fires rage from every corner. The air quality registers as hazardous and children and adults are warned not to be outside without a mask on. The smoke is so thick that a house down the street seems engulfed in fog. School has started, yet the usual hustle and bustle of children outside is replaced with playgrounds that are absolutely quiet. 

While the fires haven't touched Spokane, they are eating up Montana and Oregon, our dear neighbors. Friends and students who are fire fighters and helpers are headed out of Spokane to lend a hand. 

These neighbors we do not know personally, mean something to us.

We are all part of the same neighborhood.

God's neighborhood.

Somehow it doesn't matter, in the midst of this crisis, if we are Republican, Democrat or Independent.

Somehow it doesn't matter if we are black or white, brown or yellow, or a beautiful mix of all the colors God designed for His children.

Somehow, in the midst of the tragedies, fire or water or wind,
what church or synagogue you attend, doesn't matter any more. 

Somehow it doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, your children are my children too.

Somehow, in the midst of all that is wrong and scary and hard,
God's message of "love one another as I have loved you" rings a bit more true.

Maybe not for everyone, but for many of us who were even a bit polarized in our deepest heart-of hearts. Maybe now what really matters becomes a bit more clear.

As I was watching the news about Houston, Texas, already tears streaming down my face, I saw a news clip that said it all.

Shameka Carter, an African-American, single-mom in Houston, had lost her home and all of her possessions. She went to a grocery store to get food for her three children and while in front of the cashier, ready to pay, realized that her wallet had also been lost. It was sort of like the last straw to her already ravaged spirit.

The gentleman standing next to her in line, without any fanfare, took out his credit card and payed for her groceries, all $300.00 dollars of them. She was shocked and overwhelmed with gratitude.

While she couldn't give back money, the next day she stood outside that same grocery store, the gentleman's generosity fresh in her mind, and she made a homemade sign. It said, "Hugs given out here." She stood there for hours hugging
old people, young people, children, blacks, whites, hispanics, 
police officers, pastors, everyone going into the grocery store.

Yet what was the most startling to me, is that she had her eyes covered with a blindfold. She couldn't see who she was hugging. She said that this would remind her, no matter who people were, that they were God's children.

And she said three words to each person. Words that matter.
Words that heal in the midst of a hurricane. With her house gone and life in tatters she said...

"God bless you!"

Powerful words that broke through race and economics and politics.

"God bless you!"

And people who didn't even know each other found comfort.
They knew, if just for a moment, that we are all part of the same neighborhood. God's neighborhood.

In closing, I am reminded this morning of a television show my children  saw when they were little, Mr. Roger's Neighborhood.
In that neighborhood everyone was welcome. Everyone was helped, everyone was at home.

"It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, It's a beautiful day to be neighbors. Won't you be mine? Won't you be mine?"

A simple lesson, yet in the midst of all of this heartache, smoke and fire and wind and buckets of rain, I am clinging to God's love and His powerful message.

No matter what, "Love one another as I have loved you!"
After all, we are all just walking each other home. We are all neighbors.

God Bless!

Saturday, September 02, 2017

If I Had Only Known...

      If I had only known, 
      it was the last walk in the rain,
      I'd keep you out for hours in the storm.
      I would hold your hand,
      like a life-line to my heart,
      underneath the thunder we'd be warm.
      If I had only known.
      it was the last walk in the rain.
                               Song sung by Reba McEntire

My Mama once told me that this day would come, the day when I was older and started to lose my friends. She reassured me that it happened to everyone. I remember the conversation as if it was yesterday. "You'll go to lots of memorial services," she almost whispered. "You may wish you could stay home, but always go and say goodbye."

She was right, you know. Both that we'd go to lots of services and that it matters, when you can, to say goodbye.

Bert and I are of the age where we are losing some dear friends, and we always want to "show up" to honor them and to love on their families.

Yet some services, totally a surprise, are harder than others.

Carolyn Wall's death was one of those services.

Bert and I have known both Don and Carolyn in different contexts. Don, Carolyn's husband, had been in a poetry class
with Bert. Two guys with humor in their hearts, and hearts as big as all outdoors, egging each other on. With poems that brought laughter and poems that brought tears.

We had already been to Don's memorial service.

I had taught with Carolyn at SCC for over 30 years. She taught English, and I teach Communication classes there. 
We were in the same division and saw each other the hall and at meetings. She was an amazing teacher who loved the written word and loved her students. She was my colleague and my dear friend. We both loved to kibitz about our husbands at that poetry class, how warm and wonderful and funny they were. I light up she I talk about Bert and similarly Carolyn always lit up when she talked about Don.

In fact the words Don and Carolyn almost seemed like one word.

No matter how long they had been married, Don looked at Carolyn with his heart wide open, as if she was the very best thing that had ever happened to him. All of those years of marriage and that look had never changed. He adored her.

And in her more quiet and unassuming way, Carolyn was always his "bride" and she looked right back at him as if he was the only person in the room.

Three adult children later, lots of grandkids, careers as English teachers...they walked through life together. 

"Devoted to each other,"  that's what my Bert used to say about them.

And when Don died, Carolyn knew she'd go it alone and be there for the kids and grandkids and family and friends, but there was never quite the same look in her eyes. They were dimmer without her Don.

And now it was her turn to go.
After a stroke and a recovery and then another stroke.
In a heartbeat... she was gone too.

The picture of the two of them was on the table at the memorial service.

Their children knew that Don was going so they had time to say all they wanted to say to their dad.

However, they had no idea that their Mom wasn't going to beat this thing. After all, Carolyn was from Vermont, a tough gal and an overcomer. They just knew that she would overcome this too.

But just like that, in a whisper, she was gone.

There were lots and lots of tears at Carolyn's memorial service, but we all "lost it"  when her youngest son played Reba McEntire's song..."If I Had Only Known."

You could hear the muffled sobs all over the church. We, none of us there, had known that Carolyn was leaving. If we had, we might have visited more often or said our goodbyes or told her more often that we loved her.

Yet I think most of us were crying so hard that we couldn't speak for another reason. As we heard the words to the song, our own "someone" came to mind. 

If they were gone in a heartbeat, would we have regrets that we didn't  really appreciate them more while they were here?

I clutched my beloved Bert's hand through the whole song.
He held my hand tightly and his fingers caressed mine.

He knew that I couldn't fathom losing him.
I knew he couldn't fathom his life without me.

We realized, as the song played and the pictures of Carolyn and Don filled the screen, that their children couldn't fathom losing their Daddy or their Mama.

Jeffery, their youngest son who put together the slideshow that ran with Reba's voice, was a burly tough cop in Seattle.
Yet as the tears cascaded down his cheeks, I realized that under that tough exterior he was still the little boy who loved and missed his Mama.

If he had only known she was going, he might have done things differently. He might have called her more or told her that he loved her. He might have thanked her more often for all she did for him.

As Bert and I left the service and headed home, we talked about how important it is to live every day as if it was your last. How important it is to tell those you love that you love them.

Tell them now.
Do it now.
Don't leave the words unsaid.

So I want to live that way right here, right now and thank all of you who read the words from my heart on this blog. I want you to know that every comment you have ever made has touched me deeply. Your encouragement to write my story
matters to me, more than you could ever know.

I started this blog as a way to process life and share my heart with my family, especially my children and grand babies (some of whom are all grown up now.) I wanted them to know who I am and what has been on my heart.  I wanted to share my life-lessons with them, thoughts that might guide them in their journeys. I wanted them to know that I love God with all my heart and I love them just that same way. 

I wanted them, if they ever read these words, to know how much they matter to me.

I felt ten years ago, and I feel today, like God has led me to do this blog. Usually the verbal one, usually the talker, perhaps writing, instead of talking, would teach me new lessons. And it has.

And if along the way, any of my life-lessons have mattered to you or helped you, then it was worth the risk of putting them "out there." 

In closing, may God bless you and keep you and hold you in the palm of His almighty hand. May you know His love each and every day. May you cherish those you love and may you tell them how much they matter to you. May you do it now, while there is still time for them to hear your words and hold your hand.

And Carolyn, my dear friend, I will miss you forever. 


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 a bit 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 am so grateful to God for my special Mom, She was amazing and 

I was blessed every day to know her and love her.

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! :)

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