Thursday, March 27, 2014

What Spring Cleaning and Lent Have in Common...

I'm cleaning out my heart to make more room for God!
                     -Linda Seppa Sallisbury

Ahhhhh...just saying the word "Spring"makes me smile. Perhaps this year, more than any Spring season in my memory, I am just plain antsy for Spring to get here. Almost daily I look for signs of a bulb peeking up through the almost-frozen soil, a little green tip of a plant  filled with the promise of more to come. I look for signs of sunshine and blue sky. I even put bright yellow pillows on the bench in front of our house and the large copper pot there is filled with yellow mums and some orange tulips.
These signs of spring come in each night since the nightly temperatures in Spokane still dip into the freezing range. Yet I am grateful for even these small signs of spring since my dear friend Vicky Westra, in Moorhead, Minnesota, is hoping that it will stop snowing. Stop snowing, are you kidding me? All of us all over the country, who have been living the Disney movie "Frozen" for the past few months, are SO, SO ready for the luxury of sun on our shoulders and the smell of blossoms in the air.

Spring outdoors may be some weeks away, but Spring inside is 
full steam ahead with Spring Cleaning.

As my winter quarter grades at the college go in this week...and may I stop momentarily and in gratitude offer an audible "thank you, Lord"... I have become a deranged Mrs. Clean on the inside
of our home. My grandma used to describe some people as a "whirling durbish" and while that sounds like a cyclone-at-work, I think that is beginning to describe me. I look around and see anew things on the home front that have been unattended to...for some time, really. Piles of books that haven't bothered me for months, and in fact brought comfort as the fireplace blazed away in the chill of January and February, now drive me crazy. How did that pile get so high and out-of-control? Who lives here anyhow?  Where has my focus been?  Did I not see this "stuff", these distractions of sort, that were starting to crowd out our breathing room? Suddenly I see "clutter" that has been ignored, forgotten and has taken on a life of its own.

Now let me be clear, most folks who walk into our wonderful, eclectic and inviting home see a very personal and warm place that tells the blessed story of our lives. In all probability, they would describe it as very clean, organized, homey, inviting, comforting and filled with art, family pictures, books, native and ethnic artifacts and love. On most days, I would concur with this observation. This is a home that speaks to our souls, who we are deep down.

Yet since Spring is around the corner, and I have turned into a bit of a cleaning and sorting madwoman, logic has no part in this discussion. I need it clean, folks. I need it de-cluttered and I need it all done... NOW.

Bert just tends to laugh and move out of the way when I get into this stage. He tries to be helpful and do his part and he'll straighten and organize as best he can. But he is a very smart man, and after thirty plus springs with me he mostly gets out of the way, smiles, and chuckles at the intensity of my desire for spring cleaning.

And all of this in the middle of Lent. 

I am trying to house-clean on the outside and heart-clean on the inside simultaneously. No wonder I am one hot mess. Praying one moment, throwing out junk, and smiling the next. Full of passion, and love, and anger, and confusion. Gospel music filling the air, I am singing and cleaning, going room-to-room.

Truly, underneath all of the activity, I am yearning for more of what matters. I am trying to declutter my house and my heart.

Lent and Spring Cleaning, from my perspective, have a great deal in common. Lent, from my former Catholic upbringing, was a time of deep self-reflection. It was the road to Easter and the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus. It was taking the time to give up something that mattered and to focus in prayer on who Jesus was and what He did for me.

Lent has always felt like a cleansing of my soul. A"Spring Cleaning", if you will, of the distractions in life that have superceded my Faith and taken me hostage.

Just as I scrub cupboards and rearrange shelves to make more order and more room, Lent (for me) is a chance to make more time for Jesus.

Truthfully, Jesus often takes second or third place as I fly through my to-do list. He is crowded out by college papers, consulting, time with great friends, reading great books, laundry, and even wonderful family moments. While my Savior is a part of all those things, and a huge piece of my consciousness every day, He could always be more front and center.

Lent is the forty days leading up to Easter. Lent puts Jesus more front and center into my consciousness. Lent is an opportunity to re-prioritize, to clean out, to revamp, to reorder, to get rid of the gunk, dust balls, and dirt in the unlooked at corners of my life.

Lent is a chance to see deep into my heart. A time:
to... stop 
to... slow down
to... pray
to...focus wholeheartedly on God.

It is a time when LESS is MORE.
It is a time to practice wholehearted living for Him
It is a time to put Jesus at the top of my to-do list.
It is an OPPORTUNITY to give more of me to my Lord and Savior.

Not once have I read in the Bible, "Jesus raced from place to place, barely catching His breath as He was so stressed from the to-do list His Father gave Him." Rather the Bible is full of stories where Jesus slowed down and ministered slowly and calmly and individually to someone. It may have been a group of someones, but the disciples do not describe Jesus as a frantic, distracted, organizing, de-cluttering, racing from here-to-there  fool.

I want to clean out my heart of all the unnecessary distractions so I can focus wholeheartedly on Jesus and my relationship with Him. I want to be like that bulb in my yard that has been hibernating in the almost frozen ground. It is pushing toward the light and its purpose...blooming in the sun!

After a time of Lent and cleaning my soul, heart and mind...headed to Easter, I too want to be blooming in the Son.

God Bless!
Love, Linda

Sunday, March 23, 2014

What I Am Hanging Hope On Today...

Once you choose hope,
anything's possible!
           
                                    -Christopher Reeve

I have always loved "one-liners", a quick, concise statement that instead of being forgettable is absolutely rememberable. I saw this quotation on a

blog I often read, and it just wouldn't let me go. Have you ever read something
that pulled at you, that said come closer...this is something made for you that you desperately need to hear? Almost a "God-Whisper", if  you will.

I don't just look at the quotation, I also look at who said it. Who's the author?
It might just be the teacher in me, but I'm very interested in the context of what was said. Was this just a brilliant saying that popped out of someone's mouth, or did they live this saying in their own life?

Once you choose hope, anything's possible!

Christopher Reeve, the author of this one-liner, is best known for his role as Superman, but there was much more to him than that. Reeve was a brilliant scholar, actor on Broadway, political activist, philanthropist, and sportsman.
He was a licensed pilot that flew across the Atlantic Ocean on two occasions. Christopher wanted to act from the age of four, was classically trained and one of his first roles was with Katheryn Hepburn. Reeves just took the Superman role to bring recognition to his name.

Yet what makes Christopher Reeve even more memorable than any acting role he played, was how he lived after a life-changing injury that left him paraylzed from the neck down. One minute he was a vital, energy-filled horse rider in a
competition, and the next he was a quadriplegic. His entire life changed.

He went from being independent to being completely dependent. He went from optimism to pessimism. He went from HOPE to HOPELESS. 

Then how in the world did he make this transition from being without hope to writing this quotation that "Once you choose hope, anything is possible"?

The operative word in Reeve's quotation is CHOOSE. He chose hope. He decided to HOPE. He was intentional about HOPE. He hung his hat on HOPE.
Christopher, after a time of deep grief about his injury and what he no longer had, decided to take his life and positive attitude back! His new focus was on being grateful for what he still had left.

He set up a Christopher Reeves Foundation for spinal chord injury research. He gave up acting and became an inspired director. He directed one of my favorite thought-provoking movies, The Gloaming, with Glen Close. It's the story of a family coming to grips with a son who has Aids and comes home to die. Reeves took on a new purpose that filled his heart and soul. 

Reeves made a turnaround in his life. He chose hope and that made all the difference. He didn't just say this quotation, he lived it!

What the heck does it mean to have HOPE?

Now, please bare with me as the college professor in me investigates HOPE, both the cultural definition and what the Bible has to say about HOPE.

The standard dictionary definition of HOPE suggests that hope is "feeling something desired may happen." Hope, in our culture, is used all the time to suggest that my life will be substantially better if this comes about. For example, I hope spring is around the corner. I hope I did well on my final exams. Hope, in this context, leaves room for the possibility that perhaps I didn't do well, but I sure hope I did. If is the operative word here, the word that makes ALL the difference. If I concentrate on the hope that something may happen, I am also spending energy on the option that it may not happen.

While I am by no means a Biblical expert, I am, since the invention of Google :),
able to find valuable Biblical info in a spit second.

According to my very quick Biblical study, HOPE means something entirely different in both the Old Testament and New Testament. In other words, God has something very different in mind when He talks about HOPE!

In the Old Testament, Psalms 33:22 says, "let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in Thee." Here, hope is the Hebrew word "yachal" which means absolute trust.  Also, in the Old Testament, Psalms 39:7 says, "And now Lord. what wait I for? My hope is in Thee." Here, the word "hope"in Hebrew, is "towcheleth" which means expectation

In other words, the Old Testament tells us, no declares to us, that the Lord can be trusted. He will keep his promises. When we hope, we can expect and have absolute trust in God.

In the New Testament, in Roman 12:12 it says "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." In Jeremiah 29:11 we read, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."

If you put all of those verses together, it seems that God is asking us to completely trust Him, that we can live in expectation. Since God is in charge,
I can embrace HOPE in Him. That's the kind of hope that discards "If thinking" and "may happen" thinking and instead embraces "expectation thinking" and  "absolutely trust" thinking.

And, with a slight and respectful adaptation to the wonderful quotation by Christopher Reeves, I would say...

"Once you choose to trust in the HOPE God offers, anything IS possible."

And that, my friends, is what I am hanging my hope on today!

God Bless and may you know that God Almighty loves you completely
and holds you in the palm of His hand!

Love, Linda





Thursday, March 20, 2014

Saying Goodbye to my Treasured Friend...Neil Lieurance

Ever since I was a little girl I hated saying goodbye. I would get a pit in my stomach that signaled that tears were not far behind. My most vivid memories of "Goodbye" happened almost weekly when my Dad, a salesman, took off in his car to go travel to Oregon and his sales job there. I remember standing at the living room window, my hand pressed tightly upon the glass, keeping the car in sight until it turned the corner...and was gone. Gone. Really gone. I just stood there in disbelief. My heart felt like it would never be okay again until I saw his precious face. My Mom used to describe that a small 'gasp" would leave my chest as Dad's car went out of sight. 

There was a silence about goodbye. An awkwardness about what now? An emptiness so hollow that there was almost an echo in the room. I hated goodbye then, and I still hate it now. I hate the finalness of I may never see you again, this side of Heaven.

I was recently in Seattle and one of my stops there was to see my dear friend, Sharon.
Both Sharon and I have known Neil Lieurance, a musical genius and teacher, in differing circumstances. When I first started teaching at Shorecrest High School in 1970, Neil was my sidekick as we put together amazing drama productions like West Side Story, Auntie Mame and the Miracle Worker. Neil was the veteran Choral Director. I was the novice drama coach and our buddy Tom Rodrique was the orchestra director. For three years, Neil, Tom and Linda were an item. We went everywhere together. We spent hours pouring over plays and helping young adults, high schoolers, learn their parts. I'm not sure whose lives were changed the most by those productions, the directors or the students.

When I was staying overnight with Sharon on March 8th, we decided to call Neil and see if we could drop in to see him. We knew he had pancreatic cancer and Hospice was taking care of him. We called him and it was so obvious he was in great discomfort, each breath seemed to drain his energy. While we would have loved to kiss his cheek in person, we decided that a phone visit was the best venue for reminiscing. And we did. Neil laughed, I laughed. Neil cried, I cried. Almost in symphonic response like an orchestra with a conductor or two dance partners in complete accord.

I could hear his breathing and the effort it took to connect, yet I somehow felt like this conversation was life-giving to both of us. I knew, deeply in my heart, that I would never see him again. So I took a breath, said a prayer, and asked his permission to tell him "goodbye." He was quiet for a moment, and you could almost hear the tears coming down his tired cheeks, and he said so sweetly that yes, it was time for that. 

I didn't hold back. I told him how much he meant to me, how much I loved him and that I would miss him terribly. I told him how much he had mattered, what a HUGE legacy of love of music and people he had left with thousand of students. I told him that he was a treasure and that I would miss him forever.

Just like when I was little, I felt almost like my hand was on that window watching my friend go around the bend and soon out of sight. I said everything that was in my heart.
Our tender goodbye filled me up as Neil told me he'd see me again in Heaven.

I flew home on Sunday and Neil died that day. I could hardly believe the blessing it was to have spent time with him on the last night of his life. This goodbye was sad, but it was closure. This goodbye didn't leave a pit in my stomach, but rather a song in my heart.
This goodbye was filled with sweetness and hope, caring and knowing. My buddy was leaving, but he wasn't going around the corner and out of sight. He was going home to Jesus. And when he left, a dear friend was holding his hand and singing him into the hands of His Savior.

Goodbye, old pal. Thank you for all the grace you shared, the encouragement you gave, and the warm and wonderful memories you left in my heart. Thank you for the tears we cried and the prayers we prayed. I will miss you forever.

God Bless!
Love, Linda

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Sun and The Moon...Letting God Use Me, Just As I Am!

                   Like 
              the moon,
           come out
                 from behind
               the clouds.

                    Shine!
             
                                             -BUDDHA


Years ago Marlo Thomas and Harry Belefonte produced a TV special called
"Free to Be You and Me."  One of the poems in that production has surprisingly stuck with me since 1974. That's right. I'm not making this up. It was so impactful to me that it got etched into some deep recess in my brain.

It was called  The Sun and The Moon and it was written by Elaine Laron. It went like this: 

The sun is filled with shining light
   It blazes far and wide
The moon reflects the sunshine back
   But has no light inside.

I think I'd rather be the Sun
   That shines so bold and bright
Than be the Moon, that only glows
   With someone else's light.

I remember clearly having a rush of emotion when I first heard this poem. I felt like God had created all of us to be like the Sun, filled with His shining light. 
I didn't feel like He intended for us to have no light inside or be like the moon, hiding behind the clouds. I remember feeling strongly that I  wanted to shine like the sun, not reflect like the moon.

Yet sometimes it just isn't easy to shine for God, as much as my heart wants to.

I don't know about you, but lately I have wondered if I fully shine the light of Jesus in all that I say and do. It has been a tough few months with both of us battling first a horrible flu and bronchitis and then me ending up in the Heart Trauma Unit. Truthfully, I haven't felt much like a blazing Sun filled with shining light. I have felt more like the moon behind a bank of endless clouds. It probably hasn't helped that Spokane has been either snowed in or has barely seen the sun for what seems like weeks and weeks.

Yet yesterday and today there was a brief glimmer, a few sun rays poking through. A sign of new beginnings, a sign of HOPE. A crocus, here and there. Just starting to poke through old, soggy, boggy fall leaves, left as compost. Fertilizer for a new season. Those few rays of sunshine were an instant reminder of God's Grace and Love. A reminder that Jesus loves me no matter what. Healthy or ill. Happy or sad. Courageous or scared.

I am so grateful for the steadfast LOVE of Jesus. I am grateful that He NEVER, EVER leaves me. I am grateful that when I have been emptied by life's lessons,
or a yucky illness, that He fills me up again. I don't shine on my own power, but He shines in me and through me. It's a blessing to glow with His light and to reflect His love. It may not be so bad to be a moon after all.

My word for 2014 is WHOLEHEARTED. I want to live my FAITH, every day, all in, with all of my strength, courage, and energy. Yet when those qualities of strength, courage and energy seem far away, and I feel weak and scared, today my prayer is that I rely on God to give me the strength that I need. I will trust Him to use me... just as I am. :)

God Bless, dear friends! 
I love you to the Moon and back! :)
May you know, in your deepest heart of hearts, that the Lord Almighty holds you in the palm of His hand.
Love,
Linda

Friday, March 07, 2014

Friday's Favorite Quote...Less and More..and a Surprise Hospital Visit

Fear less
Hope more
Eat Less
Chew more
Whine less, breathe more
Talk less, say more
Judge less, love more
and all Good Things will be yours.
                           -Swedish Proverb

If someone asked me how this week has gone, and I answered honestly, my response would be, "Well, it has been an eye-opening one, that's for sure." The unexpected happened, and I got a mighty wake up call. A blessing truly, but not a happy reminder. A wake up call that might just save my life.

Let me back up. For years I have had times when out of the blue my heart has started racing full speed ahead. I get a little light headed, feel a little faint, and physically feel as if 
I had just run a race. Over the years I have developed a set of "tricks" to get my heart rate back where it belongs. I use yoga positions, breathe a certain way, cough or use ice around part of my face. I've considered this just an inconvenience since I've always been able to make my heart stop racing. I knew I had something called "tachycardia." I've mentioned it to my primary care physician, but never made a big deal about it.

You see in truth, I am much better taking care of those I love than in taking care of myself.

This last Wednesday night I had some of those same symptoms appear and my heart started racing. I went through my usual set of "tricks", but nothing worked. It just wouldn't stop racing. My beloved husband, Bert, came home and asked how long this had been going on. I told him over an hour. He took one look at me and my almost-never-gets-demanding husband said, "Linda, put your coat on, we are going to the ER." I started to tell him that we should just give it more time when he looked at me, pronounced he loved me, and said we were going NOW. 

I've heard that tone before, and he means business when he says it. I agreed he was right and off we went. The ride from our house to Sacred Heart Hospital is only 5 minutes top.
When I get nervous, am a bit scared, or am really scared, I talk more, not less. I was talking like I was headed to a fun Christmas party. Bert was absolutely quiet. And then I started to sing my favorite hymns, that's also what I do when I am scared. I started to belt out "What a friend we have in Jesus" as if I was now part of the Bethel Church Choir. That's the gospel choir my beloved husband is a member of.

When we arrived at the ER, we signed in and when I told them what was going on, we were asked to come directly into the intake room. They got my information and took me directly to the Heart Trauma area. I was still humming, singing softly and looking at a sea of faces who looked back with serious stares. It was only moments before they had all kinds of equipment out and Dr. Dan Hagerty showed up. What a reassuring, gentle and articulate
doctor. He asked questions. "How long had I experienced these symptoms. Was this the first time?" I replied that I had been dealing with this for twenty some years. Here's what I usually do when it happens, but this time it didn't work. He spoke slowly and said softly,
"Twenty years? You have had to deal with this for twenty years?" I mentioned that it might be a bit more than that. He asked me my weight and I didn't lie. He asked me what I did for a living and I said I was a college professor and a Communication consultant. There was a long pause before he said, "Ahhhhhhh." I asked as sweetly as I could muster. "What does
Ahhhhhhh mean?" He replied that teachers often take care of lots of people and forget to take care of themselves. He came over, took my hand, and gently asked, "Linda, could that be the case with you?"

All of this took less than 5 minutes, but time seemed to stop with that question. That's when the tears started to flow. You see it seemed to me that Dr. Dan was almost like Jesus.
Jesus gently asking me why it is so easy to take care of everyone else, but so hard to take care of me. 

Since tears were running, no flowing, down my cheeks and I couldn't utter a word or I'd have a HUGE big.ugly.cry right there in the Heart Trauma unit, I just nodded my head.

They started to hook me up to every machine imaginable, and I started greeting folks who walked in like I was the hostess at a party. Fairly soon everyone knew I taught communication, specialized in customer service, and wondered what their grade was going to be.

Some hours later, and after a procedure that took six doctors and nurses to do, my heart
started back into a regular rhythm. They had told me that the procedure of pumping this medicine in often made people sick, but by this point I was softly singing Jesus Loves Me
and had a big grin on my face. I felt immediately better. After several more hours of observation, and a diagnosis of Supraventricular Tachycardia, I was released with the next step being to fill a prescription and see a cardiologist.

Before I left, Dr. Dan asked me if I knew that stress and caffeine contributed to this happening. I told him I knew it did. That's why my coffee is decaffinated and I don't drink
pop. He asked me if I had been under much stress lately and what my top three stresses might be. I immediately knew two of the faces that I was struggling with. I felt a big internal sigh take place.  I had let them both upset me. I had allowed myself to get super frustrated with both of them. Both of them were at the college. I had to make some changes and I had to make them now.

On the way out the door of the Trauma Center, Dr. Dan looked at me, gave me a huge grin and said, "You are one tough lady!" I smiled back and said, "You bet I am!"

All the way home, at 11:30 at night, I kept saying to Bert, "This is such a blessing! This is such an "AHA" moment. I have to make some changes." Bert quietly agreed.

Before I went to sleep that night I got out my journal. I keep lots of quotations in it and
when I opened it up the Swedish Proverb (see it at the start of his post) about less and more floated out and landed face up on my lap, almost like a present from the Lord. After reading it, I wrote the following...

"One of my goals is to live more intentionally. I really believe that I just need to slow
down so that I am truly paying attention to what God has in store for me. What direction does He want me to take? 

I want to schedule less and be fully present more. 
I want to  get less frustrated and smile more. 
I want to to hurry less and stop and smell the roses more."

It's time for some radical changes, and I can feel God's gentle nudging and his
almost audible whisper, "Linda Marie, you are my precious daughter. It's time for you
to take care of the gift of your body."

And I am singing with new vigor,
"Jesus loves me..
This I know...."

God Bless,
Love, 
Linda


Saturday, March 01, 2014

Saturday's Saying...Food-for-Thought

IT IS NOT GIVEN US
TO LIVE LIVES
OF UNDISRUPTED CALM, BOREDOM,
AND MEDIOCRITY.

IT IS GIVEN US
TO BE EDGE-DWELLERS
                               -Jay Deacon

I love this quotation, I really do. It speaks to my heart about life being an adventure and taking risks. Yet another part of me wishes to argue with the author, and having been on the Debate Team of the University of Washington I can swing a fine argument.

I don't know Mr. Deacon, and I am sure he is a fine fellow. Yet I want to say to him something along the lines of...

"Edge-dwell, really?" "You want us to not live lives of undisrupted calm and dwell on the edge?" 

"Well see here, Mister. I HAVE been dwelling on the edge and a little undisrupted calm sounds pretty great to me right now!"

 "No, I don't want mediocrity either, yet some boredom might help me regroup."

I'm like that, you know. Chatting back in my mind to people, and even sometimes chatting back with God. I'm good for at least five, loud, in-my-head,

"ARE YOU KIDDING ME?" comments per week (all said in a semi-loud, whiny voice)...

Are you kidding me that the temperature is going to be 7 degrees the first week in March? 

Are you kidding me that there is so much snow in Spokane that you can hardly 

get out our back door and it feels like spring will never get here? 

Are you kidding me that no one is going to vacuum my classroom at the college
so I need to bring my own vac to school?

My "Are you kidding me?" retorts are all laced with impatience. Yes, my very own, ugly, sinful, prideful impatience. The kind of impatience that I see in a toddler who stomps their foot when they don't get what they want, when they want it.

Yet, and I may be rationalizing here, I think..

IMPATIENCE MAY COME FROM A BIT OF TOO MUCH EDGE-DWELLING

When I am fearful, and don't fully trust the Lord, I can turn a situation into a fear-based trauma that catapults me to edge-dwelling while holding my breath.

Edge-dwelling that is self-created, fear-based and leaves Jesus out of the equation just doesn't work for me. And the Lord knows I've tried it. It is all about trying to get things to happen in a way that works for me and a request, no a demand, that it happen in my timing. If I'm edge-dwelling and seeking to somehow control the uncontrollable, then that is pure misery and poorly extended energy.

Edge-dwelling as an adventure, with Jesus in the center, looks quite different. 
I am breathing, trusting, and knowing that this Adventure God has me on is guided by Him.
If I sit on the edge, breathe, listen to Him, read His word, and TRUST His plan for my life, the view from the edge is breath-taking, guided by Him, and full of a spirit-of-adventure.
On the "edge" means I am lovingly confronted with my growing edges. He is patient, knows who I am, and knows my heart. He is my patience and my reserve. He loves me exactly as I am and loves me too much to leave me on that edge without helping me to change.

And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is food-for-thought that I can easily swallow! :)

Sending you warm, joy-filled weekend hugs, no matter what the temperature is where you are.

God Bless!
Love, Linda






A Reminder of What Matters...

                   "We are all just walking                       each other home."                                             ...