Friday, August 29, 2014

Reflecting back on summer....

Don't cry because it's over,
smile because it happened.
                            -Dr. Seuss

I have a pit in my stomach. Not a small pit, mind you. A big pit. 

A pit like you get just after you've eaten ten huge pickles in a row and wondered, "What in the world was I thinking." A pit like your dear, dear friend Sarah is moving and you have no idea when you will see her again. 

A pit like every time you drive down the street to your home and you see the same gorgeous, stately maple tree and you can see the tinges of yellow and orange and dark red start to creep up into its leaves, soon to leave the fresh green colors behind. And then in a wink, the leaves, one-by-one, and then in droves, will start to drop to the ground.

That tree, especially that tree, is a reminder of what is leaving and what is coming. Summer still has its kinda, sorta grip on Spokane, yet you can feel it in the air. Smell it in the earth. See it in the faces of the anxious children as they put their school backpacks together. 

Summer is almost over. We are on the cusp of fall. 

Here we go again. Again with busy schedules that stretch us and change us. Here we go again with activities so full that they won't fit into the small square given on my daily calendar. Here we go again with an accelerated life that keeps us all hopping until our feet are sore. It's life, I know that. This isn't my first rodeo. But as I look at the yellow and red sneaking up that beautiful maple tree, I find my heart grieving a bit and reflecting back on summer.

What I love most about my favorite season is time, real time, real quality time, with those I love. There is time to talk and read and dream. There is time to run through the sprinkler until you are soaking wet. 

There is time...to just be.

Initially, every June, I am very antsy when summertime descends. I am a person who nine months during the year goes at full tilt. Rack 'em and stack 'em. Be productive. Do more. Worry more. Cram in more. More, more, more seems to be the unspoken theme.

Yet when summer descends, in all her softness and gentleness and there is an invitation to pause, reflect and breath, I become so giddy and grateful I can't stand it.

Oh... I say to myself. THIS is how we are supposed to be living all year long. Ahhhhh...THIS actually feels like living instead of running to and fro. THIS allows time to be with people, really be with people in a way that nourishes our souls.

I am so blessed, as a college teacher, to not teach during the summer. While I do a bit of consulting, here and there, my calendar glares at me with days left open. And then the glaring stops and the sighing begins. the smiling begins. the fun begins.

I have some blessed, glorious, are you kidding me this is so cool... free time!!!!

Free time. I love saying it. I love how the words jump off my tongue in glee.
I love how the words feel in my heart when I say them. What a heavenly gift. Free time.

Time to catch up
Time to breathe
Time to pray
Time to see, really see, God's handiwork...right in front of me.

Case in point. Just last weekend Bert and I took several of our grandchildren and their best friends to a local hotel for an overnight. Not any hotel, mind you. One with a HUGE pool and a cool slide and waterfall. One right next to a park where there was to be a native American Pow Wow. Right next to a park with the biggest water feature ever. And so we went and we played and I went down the water slide screaming and laughing. And I went under the roaring waterfall with Jenna. And when it came time to the Pow Wow...my feet moved and my voice chanted. And then I found myself deliriously happy in the middle of the biggest water feature ever, surrounded by gleeful grandchildren as we sang...

I'm singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feeling
I'm happy again.

Gene Kelly had nothing on us. 

*****(side note for you young 'uns- Gene Kelly starred in a famous old musical called Singing in the Rain) Listen to this. You'll love it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1ZYhVpdXbQ


And then on my way home, full of a contentment and joy that made me feel fully alive, I saw that tree again. That "fall is approaching again tree". That reminder tree.

But this time, I chose to smile. Reflecting back on this summer, I decide not to cry because it's over. Instead, I'm going to smile gloriously because it happened!

God Bless!
Love, Linda



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What a Loss...Thoughts on Robin Williams

I've known Robin Williams for 38 years. He was a comic genius. I had no idea, no idea, that he was in such pain. That he was suffering.
                             
                                            - David Letterman

His picture is on almost every magazine in the grocery store. When I pushed my cart to the cashier at Safeway yesterday, there was an explosion of Robin Williams photos everywhere I looked. Old pictures. New pictures. Pictures of Robin getting an academy award. The tabloids are even trying to exploit pictures of his home with titles like "this is where Robin Williams died." 

And almost everyone who has every seen him on television or seen Robin in a movie shares a similar refrain...he was a comic genius. He was one of a kind. He struggled with drug addiction. He struggled with depression. What a huge, huge loss. And there is shock. Shock that he took his own life. We can hardly bare to think of the great pain this has caused his children, his wife, his family, his friends.

No one likes to talk about suicide or think about suicide. It's one of those
'hard to bring up' topics. A bit of a taboo, perhaps. And then something like this happens. Robin Williams takes his own life, and for a moment suicide is on our agendas, our lips and in our hearts. 

My heart is broken for Robin, especially. What kind of awful, awful pain must
he have been in that he felt this was the only option left open to him? What black hole must have over taken him that this was the only viable choice he felt he had left? He was so troubled. What kept him from reaching out and telling someone that he was suicidal? We may never know any of the answers to these questions, but if we don't learn from this tragedy, his death will be even more of a loss.

My husband Bert is a gifted counselor and he has worked with so many people over all the years that  are suffering, deeply suffering. He never tells me who they are or breaks confidentiality, yet I know he has helped lots of folks who were down in the same hole Robin Williams found himself in. I know this because from time to time their family members see us in Spokane, give Bert a huge hug, and thank him for helping to save the lives of their family members. Their dad is still alive because he got help. Their sister or brother or best friend or mother is still alive because they sought help. Help is available.

Yet in this culture, in my opinion, there is sadly still a stigma about going to counseling or getting help for mental health issues. It's okay to go to a dentist when you have a dental problem that hurts your health or go to a doctor when you feel so ill you can't go to work. However, for lots of folks, they feel uneasy about seeking out counseling when life throws them a huge curve or they are so down or depressed that they have lost all joy or hope. They are so stuck that it seems there is no way out.

And when someone loses hope and takes the choice to take their own life, life changes for everyone around them. It changes forever. Their loved ones never get over it. 

My grandpa took his own life when his children were young and my Mom was never, ever the same. My Grandma suffered forever, somehow blaming herself that this had happened. His two boys grew up without a Dad and that changed them for forever. Yet because my Grandpa took his own life, and suicide was a forbidden topic, I never knew this happened until I was an adult. My Mom never dealt with all the pain until my own dad died, and she was in a Hospice Grief Group. Her good friend Jean took her so they could both deal with the pain of being widows and as they talked about old hurts or feeling abandoned, my brave, sweet Mama talked publically, for the very first time, about the loss of her dad. The cost to her life that he had taken his life.

I am also reminded of losing one of my precious college students to suicide.
There was a knock on my office door and when I opened it a handsome Native
American man was on the other side. He was the husband of one of my students who had recently had a baby. I invited him in and as soon as he sat down he put his head in his hands and started to weep uncontrollably. His wife had been depressed after the birth of their child. He just thought she's get over it and didn't take her anguish too seriously. And then the worst happened. She took her life. Now she was gone and he blamed himself. He was racked with guilt and pain and remorse.

There are no easy answers in any of these cases and it makes no sense to lay blame. That would only cause more pain. Every suicide is different and the people impacted have different stories. 

Yet what I know for sure is that each time this happens, we have an opportunity to learn from the tragedy, to perhaps keep this from happening again. 

What could we learn?

1) When we feel super overwhelmed or sad or out of control ourselves, when we feel helpless and hopeless, there is help available. Tell someone, make a call to a counselor. Call a suicide hotline. There is no shame in needing help. We all do.

2) When we feel like someone we know and care about seems to be using language that expresses helplessness or hopelessness, ask the hard questions.
Are you okay? It sound like you are feeling hopeless. Are you feeling like you might hurt yourself? And if your intuition tells you they are in trouble, even though they may protest, don't drop the issue.

3) Learn about suicide. Find out about the resources in your own community that offer mental health help. Get a pamphlet from your doctor or Community Mental Health facility. 

And on a personal note, I will so miss Robin Williams... the zany comic, the sweet actor in Good Will Hunting, the kind and humorous doctor in Patch Adams. I will miss the miracle of his humor, his one-of-a-kind electricity,
his over the top portrayal of the human condition. He will be dearly, dearly missed.

Rest in peace, dear Robin. Prayers to you, your sweet children, family and friends.

God Bless!
Love, Linda





Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Week at the Ocean...Learning about Disappointment and Gratitude

When we focus on our gratitude,
the tide of disappointment goes out
and the tide of love rushes in.
                                  -Kristin Armstrong

I have always been an optimist. A realistic optimist, but an optimist never the less. I imagine, before I go into any situation, the best possible outcome. Positive thinking, and knowing that the Lord God Almighty helps things to work for good, has helped me to love life for all of these 67 years.

A week ago, before I headed to my spiritual retreat at Cannon Beach, I imagined, perhaps even expected, that my time there would fill me with new spiritual learnings. I was prayerfully filled with positive expectations of all God would teach me. And the learnings were profound, just not in the way I expected.

My dear friend Sharon and I have gone together to the ocean for a week-long retreat for years and years. I have always, always, always left with profound learnings about myself, the Christian walk, and about my faith in Jesus. It has been a transforming time for me. 

So when I spoke to Sharon, the week before we left, and she sounded ill... a small alarm was set off. I even was so bold as to float the question that maybe we shouldn't go, that she was too ill to travel. It was hard to ask that question because we had both so looked forward to this trip. Yet I had an intuitive sense  that I might get sick, and a fear that if I came back sick and gave this to Bert, he could really get sick. He has an autoimmune illness that requires a vigilant monitoring of his health.

I just had a feeling. Looking back, perhaps that was a whisper from the Lord. But because I so wanted to go, I ignored it. I didn't want to miss out on the time with my friend, hearing a great speaker, being by the ocean, and delving into my faith with a new energy. After all I have had one of the best summers of my life. What could go wrong?

To cut to the chase, Sharon was ill and hoping to turn a corner. She even called her physician and asked for him to send a prescription for antibiotics. All seemed to be going in a positive direction. The first three days of the spiritual retreat were amazing. The speaker opened my eyes, the sun was out, I had my books ready to dive into, and the ocean spoke of God's power. I felt marvelous and on top of the world. I was so, so grateful to be there, to have this time away. All was going according to my plan and expectations.

And then it hit. In a matter of hours, on day four, I was very, very sick. Not a little sick, scary sick.  Almost immediately I had a cough so deep and painful that I could feel the onset of bronchitis or something even worse. Both Sharon and I were coughing and she was so sweet to move to a different room at night time so we could each try to get a good night's sleep. She brought tea with honey and went above and beyond to try to initiate my recovery. But it just didn't happen. It takes alot to stop me in my tracks, but this bug did that. BAM! You, Linda, are out for the count.

I didn't want to give this to someone else and knew I was contagious, so I quit going to hear the speaker and stayed in our room, facing the ocean. I wish I could tell you I was singing God's praises and being grateful for the first three great days I had already had. But as time went on, I became even more and more ill. I realized that this spiritual retreat was not going to look like the one I had idealized in my heart. I went from pissed off to sad to very disappointed. 

Lots of thoughts whirled through my foggy brain as I looked out on the ocean. One
chuckle that kept coming back to me came from a recent blog post from my dear friend, Vicky Westra. She talked about the thorny weeds in her yard and the hilarious story of her trying to pull them. I smiled thinking that this illness was a thorny weed for me. I wanted to yank it out and in the process bring back the spiritual retreat I wanted to have. Big emphasis on I here. I wanted an idillic retreat that went well and fit my expectations.

I came to a choice point. I could either be grateful for it all, even though I was disappointed in the outcome, or I could choose to be irritable and angry and ungrateful.
I wish I could tell you that I came to gratitude easily, but that would be a lie. I prayed and  
prayed. What would God have me learn from all of this. What spiritual lessons did God have in store for me when things turned upside down and didn't turn out the way I had hoped?

And then it hit me, not at that moment but after some time of prayer and reflection, that the whole theme of the retreat was about how to handle the negative and tough parts of our life. The retreat was entitled...Strong Grace. The first three days the Pastor talked about how Paul was singing God's praises even though he was in prison. He wrote Timothy (2nd Timothy) trying to encourage him that even though times were tough, he could persevere. Renee, the pastor at the Cannon Beach Conference, said that just like Paul, in hard times we get to choose.... anger and disappointment or gratitude and grace. 

As I recalled, in my blur of being ill, the Pastor's list of what Paul was having to deal with, it put being so sick in a new perspective. 

This wasn't fun or what I wanted. I was disappointed and that was okay. But I could choose gratitude for having the ocean right there. I could choose gratitude that I had health insurance and got on antibiotics before I left Cannon Beach. I could choose gratitude that
I had three days of superb spiritual teaching. I could choose gratitude that a dear friend was there trying to take care of me.

What were Vicky's words?

It takes effort to turn our thoughts back to blessings.

Ah, such wisdom in those words, especially coming from someone with stage four breast cancer. And then I recalled the most important learning I received at the conference.
It knocked me down and turned me around. It was a moment I will never, ever forget.

Pastor Renee told about being at a Church Camp for People with Disabilities, some profound and some not as severe. And he told about meeting Terri, a young woman who changed his whole life. A young woman in a wheelchair since she was born with cerebral palsy and a case so severe that three of her limbs had to be secured to her wheel chair. Her body, all the time, jerked uncontrollably. She was only able to control the use of her right arm. Her speech was slurred, as often happens when someone is born with cerebral palsy. Clearly life wasn't easy, but Terri was amazing. During the Church Camp, she placed her wheelchair by the entrance to the camp meeting hall and every day welcomed every person coming through the door with a giant smile and a "Hi! I'm Terri! It's so great to see you! God Bless!"  By the end of the week she knew everyone's name and greeted them all over the camp grounds. She was the light of the camp.

And then Pastor Renee shared that to end the week, the camp was going to have a talent show. A list went around and campers signed up for what they would do, the gift they would share. Pastor saw Terri's name at the end of the list and admitted to all of us that he couldn't imagine what talent Terri would demonstrate. He told us he was a little frightened that it would be so awkward and she might feel embarrassed.

The night of the talent show came and after singing, reading poetry and doing skits, it was Terri's turn. Renee said a hush fell over the campers as Terri negotiated her wheelchair up
on the stage. With her one arm raised, she turned to the media man to play the sound track she would sing to. And you know the song she picked?

God is so good. God is so good. God is so good, He's so good to me.

And with her right arm raised, her head lifted back, and tears streaming down her face...she sang those words of gratitude with all her heart and soul. Pastor Renee said when he looked at Terri all he could see was the light of Jesus streaming through her.

And before long, everyone in the auditorium was standing, every camper with a disability
and all of the counselors and pastors...standing with tears streaming down their faces. They sang along with Terri..."God is so good to me."

There wasn't a dry eye in the Cannon Beach Conference Chapel as Pastor Renee shared Terri's story. Like, Paul in the New Testament, Terri focused on gratitude and God's love instead of grieving the fact that her life had limitations because of cerebral palsy. She had disappointments and life wasn't easy, but Terri's focus was on how good God was to her.
Just like Vicky said, Terri took the effort to turn her thoughts to her blessings.

While my time at Cannon Beach didn't turn out the way I had hoped, and I missed some of the sermons and felt truly lousy (and still do), it is time for me to do the same. I am one blessed girl. Here were just a few of the blessings of my spiritual retreat:

I saw  and heard God's marvelous ocean.
I am alive with a prognosis for improvement.
I had a dear friend who ministered to me while I was ill.
I listened to life-changing sermons, all three of them.
I remembered Vicky's words. There will be thorny weeds in life. We can focus on the thorns or take the effort to turn our thoughts to blessings.

And most of all, I heard about Terri. Her display of absolute gratitude in spite of
her limitations physically, is a ray of hope to my soul. A reminder of how truly blessed I am.

So today, surrounded by medications, an inhaler and on antibiotics, I am singing...

God is so good. God is so good. God is so good, He's so good to me!

God Bless!
Love,
Linda

Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Power of Saying "Thanks!"...

'Thank You' is the best prayer that anyone
could say. I say that one alot. Thank You expresses extreme gratitude, humility, and understanding."
                                                  - Alice Walker- Author of the Color Purple

It was a complete surprise. Not the usual moment of "It took me off guard because something happened and I didn't quite expect it" sort of feeling. No, I mean the "Oh my goodness! This took my breath away and changed my heart forever" kind of event.

Let me explain. Since I'm not teaching summer school at the college where I work, I occasionally call in and check the messages on my voicemail there. Usually not anything out of the ordinary. It's a moment to get the pen and paper and write down the numbers of those folks I need to call back. Just routine.

This time, not so. There were three messages and the first two were fairly standard. I jotted down the information and the action I needed to take. However the third message took my breath away. 

I immediately recognized the voice, a student from waaaaay back, perhaps ten plus years. While I love all of my students and am grateful for all of them, some students I just "click" with. They are so happy to be in my class and so eager to soak up everything I have to offer that they become unforgettable. They have etched themselves into a part of my heart. This was one of those students.

This voice from the past came from a young man I had made a huge investment in. He knew where he was going and since I teach Communication Studies classes, he realized that he needed everything I had to offer. His dream was to become a nurse, work in a hospital, and eventually become an ER nurse. He married the love of his life and I heard about her all the time. He struggled a bit with being overweight and since I teach effective goal setting he paid attention to how this might apply to his life. I asked him, as I ask all of my students, "How good do you want your life to be? It's time to get "all in" with your own life and become your best self. It's time to wake up. This is not a dress rehearsal. You only have one today. This day will never be here again. Live it as if it was your last day on earth." And when I say those words to my students as they leave my classes, I usually cannot contain the tears. I mean every word when I tell them that I will ALWAYS be their teacher. Always be there for them. 

And then the class is over, they leave, and many don't stay in touch.

That's why this phone call, ten years later, shook me to the core. I recognized his voice when he said, "You may not remember me (and gave his name) but I was in your class almost ten years ago. I wanted to call you and update you about my life. And I want to say "Thank You!" for everything you taught me.

Sidenote: He got me at "Thank you!" At this point I am holding back sobs so as to hear the message. 

In short, he became a nurse, worked in several hospitals and now just achieved his dream of becoming an ER nurse. He told me how communication was everything when it came to good nursing and how he utilized daily everything I had taught him. He also mentioned the goal setting unit in my Interpersonal class and how he used those skills to lose 60 lbs and his wife had lost 70. He wondered if he might take me out for coffee, to catch up and say 'thanks.'

I cannot even keep from having tears stream down my face as I type this blog post. I can hear his "thank you" in my heart. His 'Thank You!" touched me to the core. His gratitude gave new life to my attitude. He probably has no idea how his 'thanks' restored my soul.

I am not the same because he took the time to say "Thank You!"

Not a quick obligatory "Thanks!" but a heart-felt, here's what you mean to me "Thanks!"
A life-giving "thanks!"...a keep-on-going "thanks!" A you really did make a difference expression of gratitude.

I was so taken off guard, so not expecting this that my heart was completely wide-open so I could receive it. It was a balm for my soul and it reminded me to do the same. To take the time to open my heart to those who have touched it with so much grace.

So today, it is my turn. I want to say "thanks!"While I am so grateful to so many, here are just a few expressions of gratitude that may be long overdue:

1) To my cherished husband, my Bert. Thank you for loving me so well, for so long. You are my hero every day. You are the one I turn to to share my greatest joys and my deepest hurts and fears. You are the love of my life and I can't imagine one day without you.

2) To my precious daughters Jessi and Amy. Do you have any idea how much you mean to me?
Everyday you are on my heart, in my thoughts, and the focus of my prayers. When God brought you to me, you were my greatest gifts. I love you both so, so much! I love you just as you are, God's unique and precious daughters. Thank you for loving me, as imperfect as I am and for sharing your lives and families with Boppa and me. 

And Jess, if you are reading this, thanks for all of your thank you cards and expressions of true gratitude. They mean the world to me. Thank you for the time and care you are putting into our relationship and for your prayers. I love you sweetie! And Aim, if you are reading this, I am so grateful for your fresh start, so grateful for your new home :) :) and beyond grateful for your example of courage and trust in Him! Thanks for loving me, just as I am. I love you both to the moon and back!

3) To my cherished grandchildren, near and far, I am so grateful for all of you. You are my angels, as Boppa likes to call you. To Sihin, Jacob, Emma, Jenna and Owen, who live in Spokane, you bring light to my life every time I see you! It was so fun to go school shopping with you yesterday Sihin, Jacob and Em.  Seeing each of you with your Target carts, filling your school check lists and pouring notebooks, and paper and pencils into them...well it made my day! As Boppa said, "Nans, you'll remember that forever!" And he's right! Thank you to all three of you for expressing such genuine gratitude for our time together. Yesterday was the best of what it means to be your Nana!

4) To my dear church family, thank you for loving me, pouring blessings on me with your prayers, and for welcoming me with open arms. Thank you for showing me God's love and for being there when Bert was so sick and in the hospital. You are the hands and heart of Jesus made real by your love.

5) To my precious blogging friends, Vicky and Peggy, it is no accident that we found each other. I know in my heart-of-hearts that God found a way for us to become friends. Your caring and love and comments mean the world to me.

6) To all of my precious students who might be reading this, I am so, so grateful for each one of you. It is an honor to have been your teacher!

7) To my precious life-long and soul-connection "sisters"- Linny, Sarah, Sharon, Eileen,
Deby, Colleen, Roberta and others...where would I ever be without you? As I travel this week to Cannon Beach for a yearly retreat with Sharon, I am reminded that "girlfriends" make so much difference. I adore you all and am so rich because of your love and support. Thank you for being in my life.

8) To the firefighters in Spokane County, who have fought endless fires during this awful season of forest fires all over Eastern Washington where we live, thank you for putting your lives on the line for all of us. I'm especially thankful and touched that you raised money, and gave your own money, to buy Amber, an 8 year old Spokane girl, an air-conditioning unit. Amber was having heat-induced seizures and you took action to help her out. You are a reminder that there are so many good people out there who are unselfish and loving. You have touched our whole city by your generosity of spirit!

9) To the exhausted Avista Utility workers who tried to restore power to my daughter's home, who sent out a special worker, Erik, so she'd have power after those trees fell in her yard during our latest storm, I am so grateful to all of you. You are all working around the clock to restore power after two huge storms. You are a treasure and our whole city and county is grateful for your help and dedication. "Thanks!" from one grateful Nana.

10) To people from all over who have read this blog, folks from Australia, Canada, the Ukraine, Japan, India, Spain,  and so many other countries, along with all over the US, I am so blessed by your presence here. A warm HELLO! to all of you! Thank you for reading the words from my heart. I am honored you look in and share in my life lessons. I would love to know you better, so please feel free to comment. I am grateful and want you to know that your presence means the world to me.

11) And to Martha from Kansas...your comment yesterday touched my heart. Thank you for saying "thank you!" Your comment and my student's voicemail were the impetus for this blog post.

12) And above all, I am grateful that God loves me and never leaves me. He is my fortress and my strength. He is the healer of my soul. I am blessed beyond measure because He loves me.

So today,  my heart is full and I am grateful beyond words. As I head out tomorrow morning for my yearly ocean retreat with my dear friend, Sharon, I know God has a great deal in store. We are headed to the Cannon Beach Christian Conference Center and will be there for seven days, soaking in all of His glory!

God Bless! Live every day as if it was your last!
Much Love and Gratitude, 
Linda 








Friday, August 01, 2014

CHERISHING the little moments because before you know it, they are gone

As I watch him, I stand stunned.
Where has the time gone?
How have I missed cherishing even the littlest of these moments?
                                                                             -Toni Morrison

One of the rituals in our family is "who is taller?"
It has been going on for years, these comparisons.
The conversation goes something like this...

Jessi (age 13): "I am too tallest," as she stretches her spine out like an accordian so as to be a millimeter taller than her younger sister. Trying to reach to the sky to win the ever-present contest.

Observer of this stretch-until-you-hurt ritual: I (their Mom) say "Jessi, get your heals on the ground."

Amy (age 11): "No, you are not tallest, Jessi.
I am just as tall as you are. Quit standing on your toes. That's cheating."

(giggles heard everywhere as they both collapse in pure JOY and never reach an agreement of who wins the "I am taller" contest)

Today Jessi is 37 and Amy almost 35. If you want to get them started, just ask who is taller and it will all repeat itself, just like when they were little.

Now their children, without benefit of the prior scenario, copy-cat the exact same routine. Only this time cousins are comparing and sharing and giggling and exclaiming.

This week I was blessed to be over at Jessi's house to do some swimming with her children Emma and Owen. Their cousin Jenna was also there. It has been hot, hot HOT in Spokane with temperatures up into the 100s. Once we were back inside with drops of pool water marking our trail on the carpet, we started to talk about the fact that the start of school is just weeks away. It's a family ritual for me to take the children school shopping for supplies, back packs, and a new school outfit. Yet in the midst of talking about pencils and paper, we also talked about growing and changing sizes. Suddenly, almost nothing in their closet is big enough. And then I heard a familiar refrain...

Emma: (Jessi's daughter, age 11, at hearing that her seven year old cousin wears the same size pants she just got out of.)"Mooooooom" (all of you Moms know exactly how that sounds :)) "Jenna cannot wear almost the same size I wear. She's only seven. Mooooom, how can this be?" (Looking shocked and held in disbelief)

Jenna : (Amy's daughter, age 7, with a twinkle in her eye) "Emma, I do too wear size 8 and I am almost as tall as you are."

Emma: (Looking even more shocked and in greater disbelief)"Moooooooom, she is not almost as tall as I am. This isn't fair."

Side note: They get up and almost mimic perfectly their mother's scene from years before, and the stretching and grumbling brings laughter to my heart and tears to my eyes.

Jessi (Emma's Mom and my oldest daughter) "Emma, have you seen how tall Jenna's Daddy is?
She's going to be very tall."

Jenna (just to rub it in) "And my sister and brother are already tall, Emma!"

Side note: Once more the girls get up and the measuring ritual begins again, the banter begins, the it's not fair she's growing so fast begins, and then the giggles and sighs begin.

I have been the observer of this with my daughters
and now their daughters and I am almost doubled over with laughter. Is this genetic? Are these comparisons part of their DNA?

Oh how I LOVE the relaxed days of summer where the go-go-go pace is replaced by moments of talking and swimming and measuring and reading and being. The call of "we need to leave in three minutes, I mean it, three minutes" is replaced with days of more sleep, more fun, more giggling, and more feeling fully alive. 

This summer I have been taking the time to cherish the littlest of moments, the family rituals that make us who we are. I have seen them with new, fully-present eyes. I know in a blink these sweet grand babies will be grown up and the moments will be gone. I am loving every minute I spend with those I love with all my heart.

And my hope and prayer for you? May you stop, look and listen. May you absorb all the goodness and grace that surrounds you. May you cherish even the littlest of moments. May your heart be filled with gratitude, no matter what comes your way. May you be "all in!" in every area of your life. And may you know, in your deepest heart of hearts, that God loves you, just as you are. You are His cherished son or daughter. No matter what may happen, or the hardships you may face, He will never leave you. Never.

God Bless!
Love, Linda

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