Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Reflection on 2014...Happy New Year!


                                               said Pooh

                       the smallest things

                         take up the most

                      room in your Heart.

                                              -a.a. milne 

I am almost always amazed when another year is just around
the corner. Yesterday, at breakfast, Bert and I reflected on 2014.
We're like that, a teacher and a counselor, always eager to look
at the learnings. 

Life lessons. What moved us? How did God come along side us? 
What adventures did we risk taking? What touched our hearts in 2014? 
What do we wish we had done differently? What brought us to our feet cheering? What broke our hearts? When did we show compassion? When do we wish we had given more, been there more, shown more forgiveness?

My word, and  our word, for 2014 was...  
                WHOLE-HEARTED...all in.

Be whole-heartedly in love with each other and the gift of our lives.
Be whole-hearted about sharing our love and God's love with others.
Have adventures ! Embrace our failures. Relish the hard times and the 
good times. Be present. Soak it all in with unending gratitude.
The miracles of 2014 reside in our hearts. The large and the small.

And we found, in looking back, that often the smallest things take up the most room in our hearts. 

The unexpected thank you note from a 13 year old grandson, a text message hearing a granddaughter loves us, a hug when we needed one. Time with family, playing games or being superheroes together. Seeing our adult children wrap their sweet children in love and care and attention.  Getting a text that a coffee card, and the cup of coffee it provided, saved the day. Having authentic conversations, no matter how hard. Old friends and new friends. God coming beside us in moments of deep grief.

We are so grateful for it all.

 Our word for 2015? We've got it! That's for another post. :)

And may you know that no matter what 2014 brought your way....
that it is ALL a gift. Even those things that don't look gift wrapped.
Even the hardest gut-wrenching moments. Life-lessons to be learned.
How blessed we are to have one more day to learn them.

And as 2014 comes to a close and 2015 peeks its head around 
the bend... 

May you live every day as if it was your last. 
And may you know that God loves you and holds you in the
palm of His almighty hand. He will never leave you or forsake you.
Never.ever. No matter what. That's a promise.

Happy New Year!
Love you all to the moon and back!

Linda and Bert
aka Nana and Boppa


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Grace Under AMAZING Christmas gift!

If you have good thoughts
They will shine out of 
Your face like
And you will always
Look lovely.
                               -Roald Dahl 

Her name is Tiffany. Tiffany works at the UPS store, one of the busiest places
in the whole world at this time of year. No matter that she is on Maui where the
ALOHA spirit is evident amongst native Hawaiians.  

I had gotten to the UPS store early to mail some purchases back to the mainland. No Christmas deadline, I was a relaxed observer. I had met Tiffany before. She remembered that I was a teacher, and I noticed the new and sparkling engagement ring on her left hand. An instant connection.

I was the second one through the door, following a sad-looking woman who had wrapped individual presents, but was overwhelmed by all the choices on  how to send them. It was just too much for Anna. I commented on the wreath  she had made for her pre-teen granddaughter. A creation from her heart.

What I noticed immediately was how kind Tiffany's eyes were as she held back a sea of new customers, mostly from the mainland, as she tried to help Anna make a decision. Meanwhile, an older Hawaiian woman wandered in, needed to make xerox copies, and was utterly confused on how to run the xerox machine.

Tiffany took a quiet breath and I imagined her saying a silent prayer.

She at once, with grace and a lovely smiling face, simultaneously answered the phone, helped Anna, and ran the copies for the befuddled older woman.

And then in an instant the humane climate at the UPS store changed. 

"SHE" waltzed in with a scowl on her face,  pushed aside two delightful Hawaiian gentlemen,and had entitled written all over her face. She announced that she was from the mainland (I'll leave the state out as it is not their fault), and that she needed help NOW! She had sent an email after hours with her order. It was supposed to be ready right.this.minute. Everyone looked at Tiffany.

I'd like to insert here a quotation from my very wise Nana...

Everyone is a role model you can learn from. Some role model HOW to do things. Some role model how NOT to do things.

Tiffany took another small breath, as if seeking help from a higher power. What came out of her mouth was nothing short of remarkable. She said (using the young woman's first name and with genuine kindness):"

"I'm so sorry. We have let  you down. I haven't gotten to your order yet. Since there are several people in front of you, I'll need to serve them first. But your order will be free, on me. I'll pay for it as a Christmas present to you. I hope you'll forgive me for not having it done."

Talk about grace under fire! You could have heard a pin drop in that UPS store. The growling young woman, stopped in the middle of her rant. She looked like someone had hit her.

Kindness does that sometimes. It stops us in our tracks.

The entitled young woman fumbled with her paper, handed  it to Tiffany, and said with some embarrassment, "I'll be back about noon." At the door she turned and said,"Thank you. I'm sorry  I was so rude." And she left. 

After a minute of silence the two Hawaiian gentlemen began to clap and sing "We wish you a Merry Christmas."  Soon the whole UPS store was laughing, singing and crying. Tiffany got a standing ovation!

After the store cleared out I talked to Tiffany and asked her what was her take on what had happened there. She downplayed what she had done, but whispered,

"I just asked God to give me extra kindness since I was all out."

Thanks,Tiffany, for one of the best Christmas gifts ever! 

God Bless and Merry Christmas! 





Monday, December 08, 2014

Failure is just part of the process...

Failure is just a part of the process, and it's not just okay; it's better than okay. God doesn't want failure
to shut us down. God didn't make it a three-strikes-you're-out sort of thing. It's more about how God helps us dust ourselves off so we can swing for the fences again. And all of this without keeping a meticulous record of our screw-ups.

                               Bob Goff  - Love Does

I am taking a big breath before I write this post. Not a medium-sized breath, but a huge breath. It is always a risk to be transparent and never more so than when I talk about my faith, my spiritual life. Never more so than when I talk from my heart-of-hearts. 

So I am willing to take that risk today because being authentic and real helps to keep me alive. It helps me let go of  fear. What if? What if you really knew this or that about me, would you still love me? What if? What if?

Let me start at the beginning. I am a reader. I usually have several books going at the same time. I love all kinds of books. Yet some books swallow me up, toss me around and leave me gasping for air. Some are so deep and thought-provoking that I cling to each word. 

Some, when I read them, feel like someone poked inside my soul and expressed in words everything my heart believed and never had words for.

Reading Love Does, by Bob Goff, did that to me. It was so powerful that the seismic shock waves are still being felt. With almost every chapter I uttered 
a quiet and not so quiet "Amen!" In an African-American church I attended, at least twelve wonderful women would have encouraged Bob with a "Preach it!" exclamation. And yet Bob isn't a preacher. He's a person sharing his faith and making Jesus so real, and Christianity so human, that it brought me to tears at almost every juncture.

I wanted to hug Bob as I read his words. I wanted to say what a relief it was to hear someone else say that the God I know and love and serve is not always found in a church, but may be even more real on a mountain top. What a relief it was to hear him say say that Love is an action, it is a verb. When we truly love others we take the risk to be real ourselves, the self God created us to be. And that God, as Bob describes Him, allows for us to be truly human. And being human means that we aren't perfect. 

We will experience failure. We are going to mess up, count on it!

Yet nothing, and I mean NOTHING, prepared me for Bob's quote about failure, about screwing up, about messing up big time. That quotation blew me out of the water and I cry every time I read it.

You see, my whole life I have been terrified of making mistakes.

I grew up in a family, bless their hearts, that stopped loving people when they messed up. Kept score of everything. That became extremely judgmental, and critical and condemning of  people who didn't live life according to their best guess of how everyone was supposed to live. While they didn't always voice their condemnation and contempt, you could see it in their eyes, in the way they described that person as kind of pathetic or hopeless. They may be on the family tree but I sorta wish I had gotten a different father or mother or sister or brother or friend. It was very polite and toxic, all at the same time.
Everyone knew it. It wasn't really a secret.

The message was this: There is a way to do everything and how dare you be so stupid as to mess up or do it different . There was no place for you here if you mess up, if you are truly human. I still remember my Mom telling me that if I had a fight with my dad that she would have to choose him. In other words, if we had a serious conflict, I would no longer be part of the family. 

And I knew that to be true as I looked at my family tree and the broken relationships. Folks who made a mistake or had a difference or just danced to a different drummer were estranged and never spoken to again. Like my Grandpa with my Dad. Like my Mom with her brother Bob. 

The message was loud and the message was clear.
We will sit in judgement of you and never let you forget how messed up you are and how great we are, not to mess up like you do.

That message was so powerful that to keep someone's love I learned to hide my mistakes. There I said it. I was so afraid of not being perfect enough to get someone's love that I tried to reinvent myself to be who I thought they would love more. I did that for a long time. I felt so apologetic for who I really was that I hid my real self. Pretty soon I lost touch with the real me.

And what a mess I became. Unrecognizable. I wanted to hide my failures or gloss over them or alter them a bit in an effort to try to earn someone's love. Earn is the operative word here. I never felt like I was enough, just as I was. Mistakes and all. 

Have you ever felt that way?

And then one day, thank God, I could no longer live life like that. Being less than authentic took too much out of me. I was finally ready to change. I saw failure in a new way. It was part of growing. It was nothing to be ashamed of.

It took so much courage for me to peel away who I thought others wanted me to be so I could become who God made me to be. No apologies for who He made!

That process of owning my mistakes and embracing my failures gave me new life. It was, as Bob Goff says, "part of the process." So what does that mean concretely in my relationships with others?

It is truly okay to fail; better than okay. Once I believed that, suddenly it is okay for you to know that I am a recovering person, thirty years clean and sober. Suddenly I was and am proud of having the courage to own that for several years, after the pain of a heart-breaking divorce, I drank too much to dull the pain.  Not falling down drunk, but not a comfortable amount for me
to drink. This girl that had barely had a drink in college, and never been intoxicated, lost her way. And then, after lots of personal work, and God's good grace, found it again! :) 

If in knowing that part of my history, you  no longer want to know me or read my blog or be my friend, I am okay with that. 

It is more important for me to share those life lessons and be transparent then it is for me to pretend that chapter never happened. I share that in my classes at the college and I cannot tell you how many students come up and in hearing my story are so grateful to know that it is possible to change. It is okay to fail and to overcome  and to grow back, stronger than ever. They are grateful to know that God did not abandon me during that hard time. Instead, He was there with me, all along, holding my hand and offering me comfort and love and hope.

Suddenly it is also okay for you to know that I am now, as my true self, exuberant in how I live my life. I am a full-throddle type of gal who loves to hug and sing and tell you I treasure you. I live whole heartedly. I give my heart and when I do you will know you matter to me. I go out on a limb for people and show up big time for those I love. I am no longer afraid of you seeing the real me.

Suddenly it is okay for you to know that I believe that people deserve second chances and third chances and more chances to find happiness. I believe that when they do the best they can, that God smiles. And I believe that when those choices we make don't always turn out the way we wish they had, that God embraces us and doesn't chastise us.

I do believe that God didn't make His love for me, or you,  a three-strikes you're out kind of process and I am so grateful He has lovingly helped to dust me off again.

And when someone is judgmental of the hurts and mistakes someone I love makes, I will rear up like an angry Momma bear and defend the person who is hurt by those judgements. I truly believe that if God doesn't keep score of their mistakes and failures, then we should not keep score either.

In fact, truth be told, I am drawn more to human people, people who don't
pretend to have it all together. I am drawn to folks who aren't judgmental and critical of others. I feel more comfortable around people who are real and
embrace other real people. And I certainly like myself a whole lot better when I am real and not afraid. I like myself a whole lot better when I am not
keeping score of the mistakes of others. Sadly, I can be judgmental too. It's as if it passed down in my DNA. And each time it comes up, that critical inner voice that wants to tell others how to do it and do it correctly, I have a strong talk with her. I tell myself it is only my fear talking. A criticizer is not who God made me to be.

I am so, so grateful for the book Love Does. It is worth a second and third read. If you haven't read it yet, get it for yourself for Christmas. Give it to others. It's truly a life-changer and a soul-restorer!

And finally, at this Christmas time, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, I rejoice that the God I know and Love and serve loved me enough to make His love real to me. Christmas, for me, is a time of birth and rebirth.

I am grateful beyond words that my God is a God of second and third chances. He is a God that doesn't keep score. He is a God of forgiveness and love in action. He is a God who loves me just as I am and helps me every day to become all He meant me to be.

May God Bless you and keep you and hold you in the palm of
His Almighty hand!

Love, Linda

Saturday, December 06, 2014

What to do when your car blows up, shortly after your computer just did...

Some weeks you'll just utter a prayer,
"Help me stay sane, Lord. Help me look
to you for my security and well being.
For only in You is my strength revived. Only in You is my peace restored. Only in You, dear God, can I find my rest. Only in You."
                            Jerry Sittser, A Grace Revealed

It was a very busy day and I had written a list so long it 
looked like a battle plan. After all, it is finals week at the college where I teach so things are a bit hectic. Okay, really hectic. 
Everything needed to go like clockwork. The ultimate goal was for me to get my youngest adult daughter to the hospital since she was having neck surgery. 

We couldn't be late.

So hustling and bustling I left the building I teach in and headed to my car in the faculty parking lot. Since I get to the college by about 5:30 am each day, and the parking lot is virtually empty save a few cars for maintenance and custodial folks, I can park anywhere I like. My car was easy to see and access as I almost ran out the door. I threw my rolling cart carrying scads of papers to grade in the back seat, quickly turned on the engine, and put on my seat belt. Just the usual routine. 

I was not prepared for what happened next.

I shifted the car into reverse and pressed the gas pedal.
Nothing happened. The car did not go in reverse. I tried drive and the car didn't move, not even a little. I put the car back into park
and it made a horrible grinding sound of protest.

I was stunned and in disbelief. Nothing out of the ordinary had happened on my way to school. I hadn't heard an unusual sound or felt an unusual motion. 

I instinctively knew, from my not so vast knowledge of car maintenance, that the transmission must have blown up. It was gone. The car was totally useless. It was going no where. And this happened today of all days. a moment plans changed. What was I to do now?

Now... when there wasn't a moment to spare. I dashed back up to my classroom where my daughter,who also teaches at our college, was standing. I had just left there moments ago with promises to meet her at the hospital.

"I have some news," I said. She looked at me in wonderment. 
She knew the tight time frame we were on. What was I up to?

"It's my car," I said slowly, trying to stay calm 
and keep the hysteria out of my voice. "It blew up," I uttered, as calmly as possible given the magnitude of what this meant. 

"Blew up? Your car isn't working?"

And so began a car race reminiscent of the old Gene Hackman movie The French Connection. We had to dash north to her home to get another car. I would drive that car and follow her, we'd drop off a car at at the high school where her daughter is a junior (since she needed to pick up the younger children after school), drive back to the college to meet her next class, and then off to the hospital. 

And what a miracle, we pulled that all off with only moments to spare. We made it just in the nick of time to Sacred Heart and she checked in for her surgery, filling out the paperwork as she went down the hall.

As I sat in the waiting room I was still in a state of shock. And then in small increments it hit me. After all, it was only a few short weeks ago that my computer blew up. Expensive, yes, but I could afford to replace it. Replacing a vehicle is another matter all together.

And another scenario set it. I was supposed to go to the Nutcracker Ballet with my oldest daughter and her daughter that very night.
         How in the world was I going to pull that off?

I did what I always do when it feels like the bottom has just fallen through. Pray first and then call Bert.

I knew he was at work, but would probably come home for lunch and get my message. I wanted to keep the fear and trembling out of my voice when I heard his voice message on our answering machine. I told him my car had blown up, wasn't moving forward or backward, and that I was headed to Sacred Heart. News bulletin  I was now using Amy's car. I tried to be light hearted, even a tad jovial. After all when the computer blew up, Bert offered to get me a new one for Christmas. I was quite sure however that a new vehicle wasn't in his budget either.

And then it came to me. A quote. One of my favorites from a new book I'm reading by Jerry Sittser, A Grace Revealed. His prayer about "Only in you is my faith restored. Only in you."

Jerry also wrote another book called A Grace Disguised, a powerful story of human tragedy so confounding that it shakes you to the core. Computers blowing up? Cars blowing up? How about having your whole life blow up? Right there. In front of you. Jerry was in a car coming back from an event with his mom, wife and four children. He was hit head on by a drunk driver and all of his entire family lay shattered by the side of the road. Jerry was doing life-saving measures on his mom, wife, Linda, and daughter Jane all at one time. The three other children were hurt, but not critically. 

He lost all three of his dearly beloveds right in front of his eyes. Poof, they were gone. They were dead.

Jerry Sittser was my Sunday school teacher at the time and his wife Linda sang in our choir. The magnitude of this loss hit all of us so hard that we were rendered almost useless and speechless and faithless...for months and months.

And in this new book, Jerry looks back on how God was there all along. And when hard things happen, unexpected things, expensive things, unthinkable things... He will be beside me as well.

In one horrible moment, Jerry became a single parent to three small children. In one horrible moment his life changed. And he uttered this prayer many times. Minute-by-minute, day-by-day, week-by-week...

"Help me stay sane, Lord. Help me to look to you for my security."

And as Jerry's prayer came back to me in the waiting room at Sacred Heart, I started to cry. I may have lost my car. It may have blown up and need to be replaced. It may be inconvenient or expensive. But I would get through this. It was just a car.
It didn't blow up on the road where I could have been badly hurt.
None of my precious grandchildren were in the car.

Jerry's loss put my loss into perspective in a heartbeat.
His prayer brought peace to my mind and heart. "Only in you, dear God, can I find my rest. Only in you."

And I am so grateful to once again know that profound truth in my deepest heart-of-hearts!

God Bless!
Love, Linda

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

An Antidote to Negativity...Random Acts of Kindness

Sometimes the questions are complicated
and the answers are simple. 
                                             -Dr. Seuss

From time to time I over-think and over-analyze what goes on. Several weeks ago, negativity hit my door with a loud bang, and I stewed and fretted and ruminated and prayed. And then I prayed some more. And then, since I am an extrovert, I processed. I tried to make sense of that which just didn't make any sense at all. I'm not sure if you have ever done that, but if you have you know how it feels. More and more complicated. I was awash in the questions. Why, why why?

My beloved husband has only seen me stewing like this a very few times in our thirty plus years of marriage. When that happens, Bert knows to"let me be," as he puts it. He walked by while I was journaling about it all, paused and almost whispered, "The answer is simple, Linda." I looked up and knew he was up to something."I'll take you out to breakfast at Hogans. That always helps."And it did. 

Kindness is always a powerful antidote to wash away the impact of negativity, meanness and hurt.

So once we sat in our usual booth at Hogans and got our usual menus and ordered our usual meals with our fabulous and usual server, Katie, the fog started to clear. All at once, I knew what was required. It literally hit me like a bolt of lightening. The answer was simple.

Counteract what had happened with kindness, LOTS of kindness. Penetrate the space around me, the people around me with all of the love and care and kindness and gratitude that my heart could muster.

And what specifically hit me was that while Bert and I are generous tippers to those who so graciously help us and serve us, and we had always done so for Katie, I had never once, never ever tipped our cook at Hogans, the guy who makes our breakfasts. I knew in my deepest heart of hearts that this had to change and it had to change NOW!

So I quietly asked Katie if tips were split between those who worked there and her facial expression said no, they weren't. So I went to the owner of the cafe, who always works on Saturdays and Sundays, and asked if it would be okay to tip Aaron, the cook. Now Aaron is no small guy. He's actually quite huge, covered in tattoos, and usually wears a Seahawks t-shirt while he slings those hash browns from one side of the grill to another. While he breaks eggs
and makes pancakes...well it's a sight to behold. One of our rituals in Hogans, an old fashioned 1950s neighborhood hangout in Spokane, is to yell to Aaron "Thanks for the great breakfast!" each time we leave. Since the grill is out in the open in the restaurant, and Aaron makes breakfast in front of a crowd at the counter, he usually looks up and grins. Not a huge grin, but a small grin, a grinning from the inside kind of grin. 

He's used to it now, that yell of "thanks!" He even waves to us when we come in. And we are "regulars!"

So, since the owner said "yes, you can tip him but no one does and he'd never expect it," I couldn't wait to pull off this unexpected surprise. I dug deep into my purse where I carry various and sundry items you never know when you'll need, and pulled out an envelope. Then Bert and I started to unload the bills in our wallets into it. Five twenty dollar bills to be exact. We had planned to do some Christmas shopping with that money, but that could wait. 
I just knew this had to happen right his minute.

Aaron was up to his eyeballs in orders and both hands and arms were flying around with the bacon and the eggs, so I gave the envelope to the owner with one request. "Please tell him that his great breakfasts feed our stomachs and our hearts." The owner looked puzzled. I said, "He'll  know what I mean." We yelled our "Thanks for the great breakfast!" and left.

I immediately felt better. The hurt was gone, the fear was gone, and I couldn't wait to get to
the grocery store where Tom's Turkey drive was going on. That's where you buy a bag of groceries for a family, a turkey comes with it and on Turkey Tuesday the meals are given to 11,000 needy families. We do it every year.

Rosauers is not far from Hogans, so off we went. Bert, who always loves to clown around and sometimes swing dances with me in the grocery store if the music is just right, rolled down his  car window and proclaimed, loud enough for anyone in close proximity to hear, 
                                                      "She's back!"

And I was. My heart was back. My spirit was back. My gusto was back.
I was doing kind things for others and I felt alive again! Ahhhh...I think there is a life lesson here!

We bounded into Rosauers and started taking bags off the shelf. We picked one out for every one of our grandkids, and said their names out loud. Those grand babies that range in age from 23 to 3 bring such light and love into our lives that we wanted to honor them as we got Thanksgiving dinner for 14 families. We've never felt better! Our Christmas fund was getting smaller, but our hearts were getting bigger! 

The shopping cart was full of bags and as we put them on the conveyer belt in front of the cashier, she smiled. "WOW!" was all she could muster. Bert grinned at her and said with glee in his voice, "These are in honor of our grandkids. They'd want us to do this." Then we left Rosauers and headed to our car, bundled up with our jackets and scarves to protect us from the 
freezing 30 degree Spokane weather.

What would our next kindness adventure be?

As we started to get into our car, we noticed all the freezing volunteers along the entrance to the grocery store parking lot. All of them were holding Tom's Turkey day signs as a reminder to passing motorists. They had been out on that curb as we drove by, headed to Hogans, and they were still on duty as we were leaving the Rosauer's parking lot. We just looked at each other and smiled.

We spied a drive thru espresso stand in the same complex and with a grin on or faces and joy
in our hearts, we drove up and ordered six hot chocolates. We were on a roll. We were smiling and laughing as the barrista asked, "Six? You want six?" "Yes, please,"I answered. "We need to get them to the volunteers over there." She started to grin and chat and said she couldn't wait to see their expressions when we delivered them, especially the teenage gal who had dressed in a turkey costume. The barrista's voice was now animated and full of kindness. She volunteered to donate six cookies to the sidewalk party.

Yes, doing random acts of kindness is contagious!

We delivered the hot chocolate and cookies, the teenage girl in the turkey costume cried she was so happy, everyone was stunned, including us. After some quick hugs we headed home. 

On the way home, we were both quiet, thinking about what had just taken place. Quiet is always unusual for me so Bert went first. "How do you feel now, honey?"And I started to cry. And truthfully, on and off I've been crying ever since. I managed to choke out, "I feel lots better." And he pulled over, stopped the car, reached over to hug me and I let the tears and the joy and the lessons all mix together as I sobbed and sobbed.

If it took having someone be less than kind to help me find how much you get back when you give kindness, then it was worth going through that pain. 

All of the complicated questions faded away. The answers were simple. When you feel bad and rotten and sad and scared, do something for someone else. Give your love, your heart, your pennies and it will come back tenfold to you.

And as Thanksgiving is here tomorrow, I am so grateful to be reminded of this lesson. 
I have SO MUCH to be grateful for!

May your Thanksgiving be full of love and joy and peace and gratitude.
May you see God's blessings at every turn.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Ouch! unexpected pinch

One day she finally grasped that unexpected
things were always going to happen in life.
And with that she realized the only control 
she had was how she chose to handle them.
So she made the decision to survive using
courage, humor and grace. She was the Queen 
of her own life and the choice was hers.

I've never done well with people who are mean. And while I know
as surely as I am standing, okay sitting here, that 98% of God's world
is filled with amazing, gracious, kind, and unselfish folks, I also am realistic enough to get that the other 2% can do a lot of damage. Last week I inadvertently bumped into several of them. And it hurt and not just a little bit.

Someone once suggested to me that since I was a Christian, God would keep
me from feeling pain. After all, the person said, wasn't my God a God who could do anything? I had to take a long slow breath before trying to answer that question. Because it is a complex one.

The God I know and love and serve is the Creator of ALL, Almighty and He loves me enough to come along side me in every aspect of my life. But does He shield me from pain and hurts and tough times? No, He doesn't. Those are the times that I grow closer to Him, lean on Him more, seek His word more, and try desperately to love people the way He loves people. Unconditionally.

Last week it wasn't easy to do that.

I am a big believer that words are powerful. Words can do great good and heal and support and help. Or words can hurt and leave scars that don't go away.
Whoever said that "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."...well, they lied.

I may be oversensitive to the meaning behind words. I grew up in a home where at times words were used as weapons. My Dad, and especially when he had been drinking, threw words  around like darts heading for the bullseye on a dart board. He knew just where to land the big ones. He knew the vulnerable spots and often went for them. Now please don't misunderstand. I loved my dad dearly, but I didn't like who he became when his anger exploded.
He was suddenly mean and scary, a terrible combination.

So that brings me to last week. The names and place shall remain anonymous
as I am not going to use a computer to damage them the way two folks used emails to throw a few well paced darts at me. The words were totally unexpected. The level of contempt was very thinly disguised. And there was lots of innuendo, fill in the blanks with wondering. Are they talking to me? After all, this is being sent to more than one person. I couldn't help wondering, if they were so upset why they never said a word about it to me individually. Banging the keys of the computer and letting the vent ooze out somehow gave them courage. One word kept surfacing for me. One sentence kept floating back, over and over again. And here it is.

It's easier to throw sticks and stones when you hide behind a computer.
However, it is just pain cowardly. That's right...cowardly.

Yes, it is hard to come to someone and in a face-to-face conversation share how something they did hurt your feelings. Yes, it is hard to share disagreements in philosophy or ways of doing things in a face-to- face format. 

It is an adult skill to do that. It takes courage to do that. And it is the right thing to do that.

It allows the other person you have a conflict with to see your face and hear your voice and get the magnitude of what they did that hurt you. However, and since I teach conflict management, I have come to believe that if the goal is to solve a problem or improve a relationship, then find the courage to talk to the person.

They can't fix or change or apologize or make amends when they don't even know they hurt you.

I see this a great deal on some well known women's blogs. I have stopped going there because I cannot stomach the fact that someone would start up a blog of
"haters" who judge and condemn and vilify another human being. How
could someone say such nasty things and not think they would hurt deeply.

More frightening perhaps is that they actually wanted to deeply hurt the other person.

This wasn't an easy week for me. I prayed and prayed and asked for God's guidance. What should I do or say back. I knew for sure that this attack, although thinly disguised, came from someone who must be hurting. It took awhile, but I finally got to the spot where I could pray for them and ask God's guidance about how I could respond in a loving manner. 

I made the decision to survive using humor and courage and grace. I had no control about their comments, but I did have control over my response. 
Would I be aggressive and defensive? Would I debate them on the grounds that their assumptions were inaccurate and unfair?

Or would I try to gain the seed of truth from what they were upset about?
Would I show compassion and empathy, even if they didn't. Would I find the courage to be kind and caring and loving and compassionate, in my heart, no matter what. 

I am still in process. I am focusing on how much LOVE surrounds me and there is SO much of it. I am so grateful for those who love me as I am, faults and all.
I am so grateful for family and friend and colleagues who appreciate the me God created and express that gratitude rather than thinly veiled contempt.

I made a small attempt at communication back and tried to pepper my words
with hope and care and concern and a desire to heal hurts.

My beloved hubby, upon reading what was said, had a few well chosen words to share. I won't put them here as they might make you blush a bit. But once he calmed down he said, "Plain and simple, honey. They may be a bit jealous of what a great person you are, " Of course he would say that because he loves me with his whole heart.

My daughter sent me the quotation at the start of this blog post and listened to me as I felt so sad and almost sick to my stomach. Her empathy and care and calling to see how I was doing...well she and Bert saved me this week.

Vicky Westra, without even knowing the details of the hurt, told me she'd
pray for me and that she loved me and was grateful for me. Also, a quote on Vicky's blog helped my thinking:

                      Focus on what matters and
                   let go of what doesn't.

My friend Sharon understood and listened and was angry that someone would vent on me in such a cruel way.

And without my asking for it, countless students and friends and family
connected with me. They didn't even know what had happened. But their kind and loving words soothed my hurting soul. God is good all the time and He knew I needed support.

And finally, in my quiet time, filled with some unrest, I've asked God to help me learn whatever lesson He has in mind for me in this situation. I know I am not perfect. I know I may have done something that hurt them so badly that they would want to hurt me back. I don't know or understand what that is exactly, but I am open to talking and finding out so I can apologize if necessary.

And my goal? Be kinder than necessary. Go out of my way to let others know they matter to me. 

And what keeps coming back in my prayer time?... a clear message 

Words are powerful. They can do great good or great harm. Always use them carefully and share them in love. And in the end, be the woman I was created to be. Instead of slinging hurt, sling joy and hope and peace and love.

Thanks God, I'm listening!

God Bless!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

What to do...when your computer blows up

Technology can be your friend, or not.
                                    -Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft

I have a love-hate relationship with technology. There, I said it.

I am appalled and horrified to realize that recent studies show Americans spend an average of six to eight hours a day in front of some kind of screen. A television. A phone. A computer. Absorbed. Totally absorbed and oblivious. Captivated. I'd even go so far as to say addicted. That even includes children in grade school. Yikes!

Like the young lady in the Safeway parking lot. She was headed to the store, her smart phone in one hand, eyes down, gazing at the screen and she was totally unaware that she was in a parking lot with busy cars whirling everywhere. She wandered aimlessly into the lane of oncoming traffic. One car screeched to a stop, another going the opposite direction slid to a standstill and guess what... she never looked up. She never saw she was in danger. Finally, an older gentleman rolled down his window and gently shouted, "Miss, be careful!" The look on her face said it all. She looked up, dazed, almost glassy-eyed, and stared at him as if he was from another planet. She shook her head, went back to her smart phone and somehow managed to meander into the Safeway store without bumping into the automatic doors.

I'm aware that younger America is marinated in technology and not all of it is bad by any means. But to quote my Grandma, and I seem to dispense her wisdom frequently these days, "sometimes a new fad isn't all it is cracked up to be."

Yup, Nana, I read you loud and clear.

Since I am a college professor and spend my days with savvy college students 
who navigate technology as easy as breathing, I can see the benefits of easy access to information. Really I can.

Everyone has a phone and I do mean everyone. These days I'll often be found saying "Get out your phones and google the Gottman Institute and see what they say about how to handle conflict gently in gender relationships." Easy peasy. All the world at your finger tips.

I get it. Even I am computer dependent. That's how most of my students communicate with me after hours. That's how I blog. That's how I contact consulting clients. And perhaps I didn't recognize my own dependency on this magic information dispenser until my home computer blew up.

Blew up is not an exaggeration.

One minute it was working fine. Then I closed it. 

Later, when in great expectation I opened it again, the screen had lines going every which way. It looked like an etch-a-sketch drawing where a toddler had gone wild with the buttons and covered the screen with lines. Oh. my. goodness.

I made a mad dash to the Apple store, as I use a Mac Pro, and was met by a young computer geek with a huge smile A smile that lasted until he saw my screen. "Oh dear" he whispered. Then he opened up the back of the computer, which I have had for at least six years, and sighed. The kind of sigh that never comes before good news. And then he said one word, as his eyes looked at the computer and then looked at me. He wasn't so disgusted as to be obnoxious, but you could feel a tad bit of contempt. 

"VINTAGE," he said in disbelief. "How old is this?"

I imagined myself at some archeological dig site where a rare bone is discovered. Yet in archeology that discovery might bring elation. This discovery had a side-order of disbelief and criticism served with it.

"Vintage," I said, punctuating the word with an explanation point. And then I started to laugh.

I don't mean a small and lady-like laugh. 

I mean a holding your sides until they hurt kind of howl. And when I could breathe properly and get words out in a coherent fashion I whispered, "Just like me. Vintage."

I left the Apple Store with a new Mac Pro, following the exchange of data from one computer to another. It's important to add that I am filled with gratitude that I had the resources to get a new laptop. 

I came home and told every detail of my story of the blown up computer to my dear husband Bert. 

He gladly listened, with a twinkle in his eye, to the entire, saga. After all, he's a marvelous counselor and is used to listening attentively and genuinely to people's problems. However Bert sees the pros and cons of overuse of technology, uses a computer as little as possible, and only does so at work.

Bert still relishes the old fashioned tradition of getting a newspaper at our door, holding it in his time-worn hands,  sipping and savoring his coffee,  and examining each page of the paper at his leisure. He comments on the photography in the Spokesman Review and the story titles, little things that most of us miss. After all he comes from a family of book publishers who specialized in historical, Native American and "coffee table" books. As a child he was in on every aspect of what it takes to do the research for a book, write a book, edit a book, and do the photography for a book. He appreciates the "art" of publishing and holding and feeling the final product.

I am so, so blessed to share my life with this man of tradition, even though years later he wouldn't know a kindle from a spindle. He's old-fashioned and that's only one of the countless things I adore about him.

Bert nodded wisely as I gave him the details of the computer mishap. Then he gave me a big hug and kiss, and he solemnly, with a small side of humor, told me he loved me. He assured me that he'd love to get that new computer for me for Christmas. And then we both started to chuckle when I recalled the proclamation that the old computer was declared "vintage." After all my "vintage" life-partner rarely even uses a cell phone.

God Bless!
Love, Linda

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