Tuesday, September 30, 2014

One More Day...Please read and help

Courage is not having the strength to go on,
it's going on when you don't have the strength.

Update: A HUGE thank you to those of you have donated or are considering donating! Your $10 is helping to change the life of the Westra family. If you haven't donated yet, you can still do so.
Then you can sign up for one of the amazing thank you gifts.


I will never forget when I "met" Vicky Westra. I say met very loosely because we didn't meet in person. I met Vicky on Sara Frankl's blog, or"Gitz"as we called her. Vicky was one of Sara's supporters and Sara supported Vicky. Sara passed away just over three years ago (Sept 24th) after a long and courageous battle with a horrible disease. Vicky is still here, fighting for her life. 

It's easy to describe someone by the disease they have, almost as if that illness has taken over their identity. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth with my friend Vicky. As she describes herself, she is "well, with a side of cancer." What does define Vicky however is the word COURAGE. In the midst of the greatest fight of her life, Vicky's could not be more grateful and gracious and kind. She goes on, even when she doesn't have the strength. Vicky sees life as sacred, as a miracle. And through her words that flow and sing and weave pictures, she helps all of us who love her deeply to see all the unfolding blessings that surround us. The gift of every moment, the power in being fully present in our own lives.

I feel deeply blessed to call Vicky Westra my dear friend.
She is my daily reminder that "All is well," no matter what is going on. While my shorts might be tied in a knot about some trivial irritant, she is in the middle of PET scans, chemotherapy, and MRIs, in the middle of a life turned upside down and sideways.

Yet what I know for sure is that Vicky is grateful. She is real and transparent that this journey she is on is one she never expected to take, but she is soaking in every life lesson and gift that has come with having cancer. 

She is fighting to stay alive, and yet she is one of the most "ALIVE" people I know. Vicky knows that she was formed
by God's hand and that He has a purpose for her life.
She knows that she is not alone and that God is with her in every step of the way in this fight for her life.

Yet I also know that no matter how courageous someone is, cancer exacts a huge cost in life-changes and those changes demand enormous sacrifices. Vicky's husband, Rick, her oldest son, Nolan, and her sweet youngest son, Colton, have also paid an enormous price. And as everyone who has fought cancer knows, cancer is expensive. It drains families financially.

It is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as many of you know. It is a time of gratitude and awakening...gratitude that I don't have cancer, great gratitude that my friend Eileen is finally cancer free and feeling oh so grateful to God that my precious Bert, my wonderful husband, made it through his battle with cancer.

And now, I want to help Vicky in her fight with cancer. I want Vicky to have one more day, and one more week and one more month and year and forever with her precious family. I have been praying non-stop for my sweet friend and now I want to, with another of Vicky's friends, Peggy Sue, take action. We want to help ease some of the terrible financial strain that my dear friend faces. 

To do this, Peggy Sue and I decided to set up a Fundraiser and a Fundraising blog for Vicky. We wondered what could we do or what could we make that would show our love for Vicky and be a gift to those who donated to help her. 

Peggy Sue is the most amazing and gifted seamstress. She sews every stitch with love and made the most beautiful quilt and pillows ever. I put together gorgeous fall baskets, brimming over with books and CDs and DVDs and Starbucks gift cards. By making a donation to this Fund for Vicky, to help with her cancer expenses, you can designate which thank you gift you would like to be in a drawing for. 

Vicky would never ask you to help her. So Peggy Sue and I are asking in her place. Would you take a few minutes and go to
the blog One More Day? Would you read about Vicky and pass on her story and the link to this blog? Click here:

We need your help...
Would you consider taking the money you might use for several espressos or money that might go for a special treat, and instead help our friend? Do you have children who might like to help with such a worthwhile cause? What a great way for them to learn about real courage by hearing Vicky's story.

If all of us just do a little, we can make miracles happen.

And if you are someone who believes in the power of prayer, and Vicky, Peggy Sue and I do, would you ask God Almighty to heal Vicky, to help her get well and to give her the strength she needs for this battle. Rick thanks you for helping his beloved wife. And Nolan and Colton thank you for helping their Mommy have one more day.

And I thank you for listening. And sweet Vicky, if you are reading this, I love you to the moon and back again!
God Bless!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Staying Positive in an Upside Down World...

Try to see things more and more from My perspective. Let the light of My presence so fully fill your mind that you view the world through Me.  When little things don't go as you had hoped, look to Me lightheartedly and say, "Oh, well." This simple discipline can protect you from being burdened with an accumulation of petty cares and frustrations.
                                 - Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

I can almost hear her as if she was in the next room, my Grandma, that saucy, say-it-like-it-is role model for my life. Every once in awhile she would stop in her tracks, sigh, look up and talk to God out loud and say, with a highly exasperated tone of voice, "Lord, what is this world coming to?" My Grandma Florence had a very clear vision of how things were supposed to be and how people were supposed to behave and when things appeared "upside down," as she used to call it, it was clear that her frustration had reached a point of no return. She was letting us know that behavior and decorum had reached such a new low that she could hardly stand it. What were we coming to? Where had the old values gone? How had things reached this new low?

I remember now that even though I found her exasperation a bit dramatic as I grew up, that you didn't argue with Grandma nor try to explain that cultures change, people act differently, things now just weren't the same as when she grew up. What she called, "old-fashioned values"seemed to her to be sliding down the hill, perhaps never to be heard from again. And when I would hear her exclaim, "What is this world coming to?", with anguish and pain in her voice, I thought to myself that she was just too old school and a bit overly dramatic. I remember promising myself that when I got to be her age (she was in her 60s then) I wouldn't be so old-fashioned. I wouldn't be caught dead howling into the air my high pitched distain for those young people and their misplaced values.

Well truth be told, I was wrong. I owe my Grandma a big apology. I now get it.

Some days I can barely listen to the news without feeling like this world has gone crazy and that the bar of what is good and decent in human behavior has slipped to such a low that I want to cover my grandchildren's ears so this new low doesn't impact them and taint their view of the world.

Yet truthfully, some of those "upside down issues" I get howling about these days are, on a scale of one to ten (ten being of high importance), a one or a two. Sometimes I get ranting about little things in life that I can't control. Can I hear an "Amen" on this ? When certain things don't go as I had hoped, I can, in an instant, make truly small things into bigger things. I can waste time and energy with the small shoulda couldas. I forget to see those "problems through the eyes of Jesus" and what matters to Him." I find it difficult to look at the little things and say"Oh well. This didn't go as I had hoped." Sadly, viewing small things "lightheartedly" has not been a strength of mine. It's very easy for me to dwell on little things and make them major things and not see them as God sees them. I don't think I'm alone in struggling with this.

However, not everything is small. There are more serious Upside Down issues that seem to warrant my time, thought and attention. They speak to the core of who we are, how we live our lives and the kinds of role models we are for young people today.

What am I referring to? Here are just a few of the bigger "upside down" things that make we want to sit right down with Jesus this morning and apologize for the mess we are all in.

1) The entire Ray Rice domestic violence issue: How totally sad, how awful that this young man made this choice. And how sad that his then fiance didn't see that they both got help before she married him. And then the whole rash of other football issues dealing with domestic violence and child abuse. One football player smashing his wife in the face because she didn't want to have sex with him. Yuk! How sad for everyone involved. How sad that it took an uproar of public opinion to get the NFL to do something. Domestic violence hits every culture and every economic level. It isn't new, yet hearing about it daily makes me think we are all a mess. 

If I reflect on the message of this morning's Jesus Calling and seeing Ray Rice, and others currently in the news, through the eyes of Jesus, what do I see?

Seen through the eyes of Jesus, I can imagine Jesus sitting down with Ray Rice and having a very hard, heart-to-heart talk, just like He did with the woman at the well. I can imagine Him talking to Ray with compassion and saying "Go and sin no more." I can imagine Jesus telling Ray that the children of God, sadly, all do hurt and violence to each other. We, as His children, are all sinners and broken, so broken. I imagine Jesus not for one minute condoning what Ray did, but also seeing him as a very broken young man who is so, so off track and lost and needing help. Lots of help. What I LOVE about my Jesus is that Ray Rice would be exactly the kind of lost soul He would seek out, the kind of hurt man He would hold. The kind of sinner Jesus came to save, not reject. True the world, in some very serious issues, feels upside down and it's so sad to see and hear about the hurt that we who are so lost inflict on each other. 
Yet what I know for sure is that Jesus embraces us, seeks us out
and loves us, even when we are at our very worst.

2) For me, another upside down mess is the latest Jennifer Lopez video where she is singing about and displaying her "booty" in public. Okay, I have lost my mind with this. What I see as very poor taste, I imagine Jesus would also not be happy about. But perhaps, if I look at this upside down mess through the eyes of Jesus, my sense of indignation would at least have an edge of compassion for how lost J-Lo must truly be. Jesus would not exclude Jennifer, but hold out the gift of His salvation to help her hurting heart. No matter what Jennifer does, she is a child of God. I may not like the video she made, but I hope I remember clearly that just as Jesus loves me, He also loves her.

Jesus Calling also goes on to say, "If you practice this diligently  (seeing things more from My perspective) you will make a life-changing discovery. You realize that most of the things that worry you are not important. If you shrug them off immediately and return your focus to Me, you will walk through your days with lighter steps and a joyful heart. When serious problems come your way, you will have more reserves for dealing with them.

I think my "life-lesson" this morning is to let go of the small and meaningless issues that are just not important. They are in fact small irritations. Seen through the eyes of my Savior, they deserve an "Oh well" and then let them go. Don't hold on to anger and irritation about things that truly don't matter.

And when things do matter, and they seem so "upside down" 
that I can barely stand it, my life lesson is to also see those things through the eyes of Jesus. The Jesus who stood his ground about what was right and what was wrong. The Jesus who showed compassion, especially to all of us who make BIG mistakes. To see Ray Rice as a lost child of God and pray for Him. To pray for Jennifer Lopez that she might know God's love and attention for her so clearly that she feels no need to make a video like this. And to be grateful, truly grateful, for the compassion Jesus has shown to me when I make horrible mistakes. To be grateful, truly grateful, for the hard talks Jesus has had with me. The "get it together, Linda" moments that have not been easy to listen to. The mix of hard truth and loving compassion I get from Jesus has been soul-saving for me.

Bottom line, I want to let the light of God's presence so fully fill my mind that I view the world through Him, the God that I know and love and serve. 

I also want to keep my eyes on Jesus, on all the good news that is right-side up (more on this in my next post :), and keep my focus and attention on those who are kind, loving, show gratitude and are teaching me to "walk like Jesus walked and talk like Jesus talked." And finally, when we all stumble and make a mess of things, and we all do, I want to show compassion and be less judgmental and more prayerful and loving. 

God Bless!
Love, Linda

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

When I Feel Troubled...

             We are not troubled
                    by the things 
               that happen to us, 
               but by our opinion
                      of the things
                  that happen to us.

Some weeks I just struggle. A sense of unrest wanders in and perches
in my heart and soul. I feel off balance and as if I'm holding my breath.
I reach out and talk to God almost endlessly. As Ann Lamott says, one of my three most important prayers is "HELP!"

This is that kind of week.

I'm in that in between place where almost everyone has gone back to school
and starting again for me is right around the corner. And my heart is heavy. Even though I know God has a plan and that everything works for His good, 
I am scared. Lots and lots of things are changing right before my eyes.

My conversations with God go something like this:

"Is it just me, Lord? I feel so little and scared and like I can't breathe. I know You are in charge, so could You please let me know that everything is going to be okay? I'm not sure if I'm misinterpreting things and seeing people and circumstances the way you would want me to see them. 

Okay, so I know the answer to that. I know I'm not seeing them that way. My opinion of things is leaving You out of the picture. I have the biggest lump in my throat. 

Could You please help me to trust You more?"

Probably the biggest, most scary, most 'I have no vote on this' and how it turns out...thing that is happening is that my precious friend Vicky Westra
has had a PET scan this week. Yesterday to be exact. Vicky has stage IV breast cancer and the test will give the doctors information about where active cancer
still exists in her body (from the neck down). It's a this is where you really are kind of moment.

I have been on my knees this weekend praying and praying for a miracle.
Tears have flowed. I believe in the power of prayer and I know Vicky's
prayer warriors are all doing the same. 

Beseeching the Lord God Almighty...
Please give my special friend Vicky two more weeks and two more months and forever to be here with her precious family.

And I wonder, in the early morning hours, how this must feel to her amazing husband, Rick, and to her two sons Nolan and Colton, especially Colton.
Perhaps the two boys don't know the magnitude of this test.

If I'm honest, I've been a little mad at God. You see I've been here before. Praying and beseeching for sweet little Daisy Love Merrick, just a little girl, who fought cancer so, so hard. Who loved God with all her heart. And she went home to Jesus. It broke her Mommy and Daddy's hearts. And it hurt so much to lose her. And when that happened I wondered to God, silently and out loud, why He didn't answer all of those prayers to make her well again.

I know, in my mind and heart, that Daisy's little-girl faith impacted thousands and thousands of people, but I am still so sad that she isn't here. Yet I am pulled back to what it is I know to be true about the God I know and love and serve...

I still know, no matter what, that prayer is powerful and that God hears our prayers.

I still know that God does miracles every day.

I still know that God's timing is almost never my timing. 

I still know that God loves me and He loves Vicky and He will be there no matter what the results of the test show.

I know that I have an opinion of what God should do and when He should do it.
And I am troubled because I am struggling to just let go and truly turn all of this, all of my life and all of my fears, over to Him.

And so this morning, I will do just that. Pray for Vicky and pray that my heart finds rest. As it says in today's entry in Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

Walk with Me along paths of trust. The most direct route between point A and point B on your life-journey is the path of unwavering trust in Me.
...As soon as you realize you have wandered from your trust-path, look to me and whisper, "I trust You, Jesus."

And to that I whisper those exact words and say, "Amen and Amen!"

Could I please ask a favor? Could you please keep my dear friend Vicky in your prayers? Thanks!

God Bless!
Love, Linda

Monday, September 01, 2014

Learning, Again, About Saying No...

You have to decide what your highest
priorities are and have the courage-
pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologettically,
to say "NO" to other things. And the way you
do that is by having a bigger "YES!
burning inside.
                                          -Stephen R. Covey

Since I was little I have been a people-pleaser. It has always felt good to be positive, to help others and to go outside of myself unselfishly. I wanted to give rather than receive. 

On the other hand,  I also quickly learned that if you took care of others, even at the expense of what might be good for you, that there would sometimes be fewer conflicts and fewer feathers ruffled. As I looked around, I had countless role-models of "good girls," many of whom were positive and  other-centered. I also saw other women who sacrificed themselves to keep the peace. The latter said "YES!" to everything and everybody, even when it wasn't healthy for them to do so.

Some of them went so far as to sacrifice their dreams, their hearts and even their self esteems.

When awful things happened, they kept quiet. When they were verbally or physically abused, they couldn't imagine that people would believe them over the abuser. When their plates were over-full and they were stressed to the max, they said "yes!" because they didn't want to let God or anyone else down. To keep their own lives from unraveling. Even when the unspeakable happened in their lives, they learned to put on a "all is fine" exterior. 

That's just how it was. Back then. With some of the women that I looked up to.

They were a bit like Ariel in Walt Disney's The Little Mermaid. She gave up being a mermaid, and even gave up her voice, to get Prince Charming. Ariel, an unsuspecting role model for young girls, had unhealthy personal boundaries.

And truthfully, having healthy boundaries has, at times, been a HUGE struggle for me as well.

After all I learned that it wasn't considered polite to say "no", not even say "no, thank you." It wasn't friendly or kind or lady-like or Christian. Having personal boundaries, and asserting them at church or home or work, might come across as too selfish, bold or unfeminine. After all, how could I say "no thanks" when asked to be on another church committee. On top of that, even some of the Christian community, the churches I attended, talked about women being "submissive" to our husbands. Submissive in general. Real women gave and gave and gave. Not so much to themselves, but almost always to others. Gave out and gave in.

Now please don't misunderstand me here. I am not suggesting we should all be on a journey of selfishness where we only take care of ourselves. I am not suggesting that at all. However, I am posing a question and here it is:

Why do I often feel so guilty when I say "no!"?

Even when I say it politely, and the circumstances warrant a no, if I say "no" I feel like I have let someone down.

Does anyone else feel like that besides me? Can I hear an "Amen!" please?

I'm not sure when I first read the book -
Boundaries- When to Say YES, When to Say NO- to Take Control of Your Life. 

This life-changing, sanity-bringing written word comes from Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. These two Christian men, who are psychologists, speakers, and writers, have brought biblically based answers to questions about setting healthy boundaries in marriage, in parenting and at work. Their practical wisdom has been so, so helpful for me as I journey toward my own healthy relationships at home, work, and church.

This book has been a God-send to my life. It'a a must read for those of us who feel guilty when we have to set a boundary.

This walk isn't easy, the walk of developing healthy boundaries. At least it isn't easy for me. I love to say "Yes!" I love to be unselfish and put others first. I love to be helpful, even if there is a huge cost to me. Yet in this time of still being ill after being at Cannon Beach, I am more aware than ever of how important it is to start taking care of me. Sometimes that means I just can't. And that is so hard for me to admit.

So I am working on, as Stephen Covey says, "having the courage, pleasantly, 
smilingly, unapologetically, to say "No"

The bigger "YES!" that is burning inside of me is to be healthy in ALL areas of my life and that takes intentionality and time. And I am also praying that I can love and respect the "No!" that I may hear from others.

God bless!
Love Linda 

Soul Work in the Deep Waters...

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