Saturday, January 31, 2015

What I Do When Life Becomes Too Hard to Bare and Asking A Favor...

"I am your strength and shield... My Presence watches over you       continually, protecting you from known and unknown 
dangers. Entrust yourself to My watchcare."
                                                     - Jesus Calling, January 31st

I can't believe that it's Saturday morning at 1:30 am and I can't sleep. This is my moment to catch up on rest. However, since my heart is so restless and my mind is so all over the map, I just decided to get up, make coffee, sit by the fireplace and pray.

Pray with all my heart. Pray with tears streaming down my face. Pray like there is no tomorrow.

I get out my Jesus Calling, it is only an arm's length away. I get out my Bible, it's looking me in the eye and whispering "there is solace in here." I get out my book Bittersweet, by Shauna Niequist and begin to put the puzzle pieces of my heart back together again. I listen to Selah or other music that moves my soul. I write in my journal and share what is on my heart.

I...find the words. Say them out loud. Process the pain and sacredness and hurt. Don't run away and hide from this holy moment, even though every instinct might suggest that hiding and isolating is a good idea.

That's different, you know, than taking a time out for self-care and self-reflection. Isolating and not letting others in can be a deadly medicine to administer. Instead, I want to push myself to be authentic and transparent.

Praying and reading and talking and journaling and listening to music that inspires me is what I do when life seems too hard to bare. 

And I cry and pace and talk out loud to God and let the enormity of it all soak in while at the same time knowing that God is here. In the midst of the mess. He, the Lord God Almighty, is here. By me. With me. By them. With them.

It's a good thing that I'm not God and I am not in the business of running things. If I were, even for a minute in control of it all, I would only give the bad, yucky people cancer. I know that sounds mean, but it's how I feel right now.

Now I know that everyone is a child of God and I get that there is goodness inside of everyone,
even though they may act with cruelty and cause enormous damage to others. I also know that God doesn't give people cancer. Cancer happens. Cancer sometimes happens to people who are wonderful and kind and loving and cancer sometimes happens to people who are so hurt that they hurt others at every turn.

So hang with me here, if you will. This is how I feel this morning. If anyone had to have cancer, I would want the yucky people to get it, not the sweetest, kindest, most giving people on the planet.

Who are some of those kindest, sweetest, most giving and caring people? Three names jump out at me this morning. My sweet hubby Bert, my dear and precious friend, Vicky Westra and now, dang it, sweet Peggy, my dear, precious little sister in Jesus. My tears are flowing for sweet Peggy today. Her diagnosis is new.

I will never forget the day Bert was diagnosed with prostate cancer. We both had tests for cancer the same week. My test was for thyroid cancer and his was for prostate cancer. Mine came back negative and his came back positive.

My world stopped. In that moment everything changed. Everything. I remember hearing my beloved Bert say..."Are you with me Jesus?" And since he knew that God was with Him, and the answer that came back to Bert's heart was "I am with you and I won't leave you," Bert knew he was fine. No matter how it all turned out. He had God there and all would be well.

But the road ahead wasn't easy. It was hard, really hard. The kind of hard you can't understand unless you have lived it. And we fought that hard battle, both of us together. It felt at times that life was too hard to bare and once again I prayed and read. Read up on cancer. Read up on resiliency. Read up on how to get through the hardest of times. And we talked to others who had been there and we shared the chapter in our lives that started with the Big C.

And because we know words have power and meaning, we renamed this illness "the little c."
Having it be the big C gave cancer too much power. cancer with a little c made it sound and feel less threatening and more manageable.

We used positive self talk like "I have cancer, but cancer doesn't have me." Or as my friend Vicky says, "I'm fine with a side of cancer." And when it all became too hard to bare in the months and months of life-changing treatment, we prayed and read. Prayed and read.

And I thank God every day that Bert made it through that journey. That he is still here. He has been cancer free for thirteen years. But it is always there. That voice that says that in a heart beat, we could be fighting for his life again.

Because now we know. We know for sure. We know because we have been there. We know that when you hear the have cancer, in a heartbeat your whole life changes.

And so many folks came along side us at this tough time. So many prayers were said in Bert's behalf.
We were held up and held in by love.

And now I'd like to ask a favor. 

If you are someone who prays, could  you please keep my Jesus-sisters Vicky and Peggy in your prayers. 

At this time could you please especially hold up Peggy as she has all these tests. And if praying doesn't fit for you, but positive thoughts and energy do fit for you, could you please send some of both to my dear friends. 

They mean the world to me and I believe that prayers and hope and sending good thoughts matters. Just to know people are thinking about you and praying for you is so encouraging! And I am praying for more days and weeks and months and years for my friends. Thanks for helping support them.

God Bless!
Love Linda

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Life-Lesson That Is Life-Changing...

All holy and difficult experiences
are there to transform us.
                      - Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow.

Transformation is a word that appeals to me. 

It is a make-over from the inside out. Not the kind of "get all your wrinkles tightened" makeover, but a change that takes time and pain and thought and insight and evolution and self-reflection and other-reflection. It is not easy.

It's safe to say that most of us would like a life that just flows along smoothly, a life that has a few bumps that are easy to navigate. Few of us, if we are honest, would choose to take on one of the big ones. The earth-shaking experiences, the gut-wrenching, toss your life upside down and leave you spinning experiences.

Who would choose cancer? Who would choose going through a divorce? Who would choose having your child attempt to take their own life? The answer: No one.

What I know for sure is that real transformation, the kind that brings you to your knees, often feels like being in a tsunami  that leaves you tossed and turned, gasping for air and looking for a place to hold on to. In the end you are in the aftermath of your once somewhat tranquil life, humbled and broken wide open. Nothing is the same. Your former life is almost unrecognizable.

            You have a new normal that will last forever.

Someone once shared with me this profound wisdom- 
          Everything is a gift. It's just that some things
                        don't look gift wrapped.

Really? Everything? Are you kidding me? Yet over time, much time, I have come to embrace this notion and hold it close to my heart. In the hardest moments I whisper to God, "I'm looking for the gift, Lord. I'm open to seeing the blessing, Father."

I now believe that truly transforming life events rarely seem gift wrapped. It may take years to sort out the gift they are to our lives. To our hearts. To our souls.

Seeing those toughest life chapters now, almost as a distant vision in a rear-view mirror, I wonder a bit how I survived them. At the same time, I marvel at how they changed me.

I turn 68 in about a week. February 5th to be exact. :) This is a time of looking back, celebrating, and reflecting. Lots of conversations about the learnings, the big and the small.

One of my students asked me what had changed me the most. What had transformed me and made me over, from the inside out?

I took her question very seriously. So I've decided to share a few of those here. Those life changers that changed me forever. Those "holy and difficult experiences that transformed me" to quote Elizabeth Lesser. I have tears just thinking about these events. I am grateful even though they were hard, very hard...

Deep breath, here goes...

Going through the end of a marriage. I never, ever, ever expected  that this would be part of my life story. Making this decision was completely heart breaking. After years and years and years of trying and talking and pleading and crying and begging for certain things to change, there was a necessary ending that had to take place. 

Out of respect for those closest to my heart, I won't share the details here. It's enough to say that at the end of that journey, I was shattered and didn't know who I was any more. I had given myself away. I was lost, so lost. And I was sad, so, so sad, for my darling daughters. I would never, ever have wanted for them to go through this and  I would never have wanted this for myself or other family members either. Going through a divorce, I was painfully broken open and I chose to be transformed.

So what was the gift in a situation that looked anything but gift wrapped? 

In the long and very hard journey of coming back to me, I had a new strength, a new backbone, and a new and revitalized relationship with God. He, the Lord God Almighty, was my precious calm in the storm, my anchor. I started to know me again. And I made a sacred promise, I would never allow anyone to treat me like that again. I was and am God's daughter, and I didn't deserve to be treated like that. I promised God that I wouldn't let that happen again. And I have kept that promise. 

Another gift? A huge gift from God. If there had been no divorce I would never have met and married my beloved Bert more than 30 years ago. I would never have experienced having a husband who kept all his vows and who loved and cherished me completely. 

I also learned, truly learned, that God is good all the time and that He will never leave me or forsake me. I felt His sacred presence when I was lost, and confused and scared. His love transformed me from the inside out.

Another huge gift? Both Tim and I committed to finding forgiveness and healing for our broken family, for the sake of our daughters and our own souls. We both eventually remarried. We both wanted to be able to be at weddings together and births together and be free of rancor and bitterness. And with God's grace and internal healing, we got there.

Another transforming event...

Taking care of my Mom when she was so seriously ill broke me open and transformed me in ways I never could have imagined. Being her caretaker from afar, since she wouldn't move to Spokane, had me going in every direction. 

Every other weekend for two and a half years I traveled to Seattle to coordinate her health care. Mom had emphysema from years of smoking and was constantly on oxygen. Our roles changed and that was a bitter pill for her to swallow. Yet I felt like I was part of a sacred moment, a full circle holy gathering. I had the honor of taking care of the Momma who had taken such good care of me. Yet, it was hard to conceive of the cost to me in that process. As an only child, there was no one to share that with, no one I had grown up with to come along side me in one of the hardest times of my life.  I was exhausted and weary, very weary. I was stretched so thin that I hardly knew who I was any more. I was simultaneously raising my daughters while taking care of my Momma. It was a "new normal" for sure.

And the gift in the midst of the chaos?

As Elizabeth Lesser says, in her must-read book Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, we have a choice. A profound choice. A life-altering choice. 

When life brings us to our knees we can become resentful and bitter or we can choose to have the shattering be the very thing that grows us into who we were meant to be. 

True, we never would have chosen this journey, but it is the very thing that 
makes us a fuller, deeper, filled with compassion when the lives of others are in transition with a life full of change. If we let it, the very event we would have given anything to avoid, becomes our greatest teacher. We have a new depth and breadth to our lives that we could not have gotten any other way.

So as I approach 68, there is so much I am grateful for. So many blessings that
mark me and bring such enormous JOY to my soul. I am Blessed Beyond Measure! And as I look back over all these many years, I also embrace and feel so grateful for being in a day-to-day transforming process. My life-story has had some very difficult chapters I would not have chosen, but I truly believe they have molded and sculpted me to be who I am now. Those holy and difficult times have changed me for the better. In a way I never could have guessed, those oh so tough experiences have been my greatest moments of  breaking open that led to personal and spiritual transformation. 

I also know that there will be tough life moments ahead. While I may be heart broken as I go through them, those holy and difficult life-changers, I know in my deepest heart-of-hearts that God will see me through them. He will be along side me as I grieve them, accept them, and allow them to transform me.

May your holy, broken open and difficult moments transform you as well.
And may you know, in your deepest heart-of hearts, that no matter
how difficult your life gets, how scary and out of control it feels, that 
God Almighty holds you in the palm of His hand. He is there with you, by you, holding you up when you cannot hold yourself up any more. He will never leave you or forsake you. Never. Never ever.

God Bless! I love you to the moon and back.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Saturday's Saying on HOPE...

Hope begins in the dark... 
stubborn hope that if you 
just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. 
You wait and watch and work: 
you don't give up.
                                  -Anne Lamott

There's a knot in the back of my neck and shoulders,
right where I cannot reach it. It has been tightening all week long. I can feel it as I try to stretch in a way that will release it and get some relief.

Ah...relief. I just love the sound of that word.
Especially this week.

It's dark here in Spokane at this early morning hour.
I am so grateful it is Saturday and I can take a moment to breathe and let hope, again, find its way into my heart.

I'm glad that Anne Lamott, bless her quirky and brilliant soul, believes that... 
               "Hope begins in the dark." 
That saying, and repeating it what feels like ten times an hour, is what allowed me to do this week with some grace. 

Not a lot of grace mind you, just a little grace.

Some weeks are just plain hard. Some weeks my faith and hope and belief are put to the test. Some weeks leave me wondering, leave me asking questions into the darkened Spokane sky...

*Why in the world did it take ten hours to deal with a very difficult
   situation with a student, make a plan, agree to it, and then they didn't show    
   up the next day? Why?

*Why in the world did I plan for a very tough meeting for the last two
  months to have it cancelled the day of the meeting with an excuse that
  seemed unbelievable?

*Why in the world did a beloved group of students I work with not know
   that what they did hurt my feelings? Do they not know me at all?

By Friday late afternoon the questions had mounted,
the knot in my neck had tightened, and I longed
for a more simple life where everything just goes...
well, just how I would like it to go.

And I was irritated at myself that even with prayer
and breathing, I just couldn't seem to shake what felt like a cross between worry, sadness and irritation. I had let truly little things get under my skin. I know better, intellectually. Yet sometimes my emotions get the better of me.

And then the rest of Anne's saying became more clear...

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.

My hope all week had truly been "stubborn hope."
The kind of hope you cling to when you have tied
a knot at the end of your rope and are hanging on with one hand.

And the guilt that went with that hope? Look at the burdens some others are dealing with right now. Look at how little these exasperations of yours really are. "Get a grip, Linda. Get some perspective!"

And  then the last lines of Anne's marvelous saying...

"You wait and watch and work: you don't give up."

So this morning as I drink my coffee and say my prayers, I am clinging to stubborn hope...
the kind that begins in the dark. 

I am showing up with all of the faith and love and grace I can muster. 

I am trying to do the right thing, even when it isn't easy and 

I am waiting for the dawn to come

And with that dawn I am trusting and anticipating I will know a new sense of hope and encouragement and wisdom about what matters, really matters.

I will wait and watch and pray and work, and I won't give up!

Sending you some HOPE this morning along with

a heaping of love and prayers.

God Bless!


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Finding That Something You Always Yearned For...

              Faith makes things possible...
                         not easy.

I always wanted a sister. Oh a brother would have been okay, but a younger sister... couldn't imagine anything better. When you grow up like I did, as an only child, you long for certain things, "hanker after," as my grandma used to say. It's like when you look at a menu and the perfect entre' is way out of your price range. You have a 5 star appetite on a one star budget. You look at that item on the plate, but you don't get to taste it. However, you can see that others do. And because they can, they don't always appreciate what they have.

So like any self-respecting young lady, age six, with my go-for-it- personality, I started adopting siblings. Not formal adoptions, mind you, informal ones sealed with love and joy and respect and hope. Some of those adoptees seemed startled when I suggested that we really were meant to be family, even if there wasn't a biological connection.

After all, sometimes "chosen family" feels more like family anyway.

Can I hear an "Amen" to that? And so it started, my family-building exercise. Never one to be daunted by a challenge, I often went into friendships wondering, "Is this the one?" Sort of like you do when you are looking to date someone. Not in a stalking manner, mind you, just a highly inquisitive would-you like-to-be-connected-forever type of wondering.

And those in the running came in all sizes and colors and ages and locations. Because yes, I firmly believe that love stretches, and bends, and flows across miles and obstacles and typical dimensions of being family.

If there is a "soul-connection" I don't care where you reside, how much you weigh, the color of your skin or any other data about you that might go on your resume.

One dear soul-brother, Scott Finnie, is a colleague of mine at the college where I teach. He has a heart as big as all outdoors, a passion for social justice, a love for teaching and helping students succeed that brings me to tears, a deep love and commitment to Jesus, and I knew instantaneously that he was my little brother. 
No matter that his skin is a gorgeous brown hue, and his hair is even more kinky than mine... he was it!

When I told him with great flair, 'cause that's how I roll, that he was now my "little brother," he grinned, hugged me and said "You're my sister from another mother but the same Father."

I love that guy!

Now understand, if you will, that I am a very protective older sis. When Scott was up for tenure, I visited the college President's office, just to be on the safe side. Since I had taught with Scott, and knew he was an A+ teacher, I wanted to be sure that nothing kept him from getting the tenure he had earned. I ended up jokingly telling the President that if Scott didn't get tenure I'd have to hang myself naked from the flag pole. 

Dr. Williams, also an esteemed and beloved gentleman of color, stood up, hugged me, made a full-belly laugh and said that Scott was blessed to have such a loyal friend and colleague like me. Someone who would stand by his side to see that the right thing happened for him. 

I smiled and then gently corrected Dr. Williams. "He's my little brother." I said with a hushed and shaky voice, trying not to cry. President Williams circled me with a hug. He said words that were a balm to my soul. "You are an amazing big sister,"he said. And grinning from ear-to-ear I left his office.

So where is this leading, and why am I sharing my search for siblings? You know the journey to find the sister or soul-sisters that I had always longed for, yearned for? 

You have to understand that while it's awesome to have Scott right here where I can walk into his classroom and hug him in front of his students (and I did just this last Thursday), I have still been on the look out for soul-sisters as well. I love Scott wholeheartedly and I always will, and I am so, so grateful to God for bringing Scott into my life. 

But he isn't a sister.

I told God in my 600, 593 prayers about a younger sister, that I wasn't picky about where she lived. And I casually mentioned to the Lord that  I was happy to have two... or even three soul-sisters. You see at almost 68, I am making up for lost time.

I do, however, need to admit that there was a small addendum to my prayer request. "If it works for you, Lord, could she love You? Could they be God lovin'sisters. Believers. Someone (or ones) to share my faith with? Kindred spirits on a journey with each other? Both of us eager to share our life-learnings?" 

Now please understand that while I have lots of wonderful and fabulous and amazing friends and family members to share my life with, and I adore doing that with my whole heart, this little sister thing is just a bit different. It's hard to explain. Yet I knew, I just instinctively knew, that they were out there. 

                 And guess what? I found them.

Two younger women who both feel like the soul-sisters I have wanted to unofficially adopt. Two younger women whose journeys and lives and challenges and love for God and their families... resonate with mine. Kindred souls, if you will.

And who ever, ever ever would have guessed that by blogging I would meet them. Me... not a huge advocate of the internet for communication. However, I set up a blog to share my authentic journey with my blessed family... my daughters and their children. I wanted them to know who I really was and what mattered to me. And somehow, some other people got interested and started to read and then, amazingly, I connected with two Jesus-sisters...

                               Vicky and Peggy. Minnesota and Missouri. 

Two younger sweet friends whose lives matter to me. Two women I will go the extra mile for. Two women I pray for every day. Two women whose pain breaks my own heart. Two women I "get" and who get me. Two faith-sharers who understand that.. 

               Faith makes things possible, not easy.

Both of them are going through huge changes and challenges right now. Vicky is fighting cancer for one more day and week and month and year. Peggy and I rallied across the miles from Washington to Missouri and put on a fundraiser for her, just like Jesus-sisters do. After all...

  Soul-sisters are there for the best moments and the dark valleys.         

When you are a faith-sharer and sister-of-the- heart, you show up. Praying and encouraging is part of what you do. Automatically. Gladly. 

You come along side for the breath-taking moments of joy and triumph and the toughest moments someone dreads with their whole heart. So when Peggy emailed me and said "God put it on my heart to do a fundraiser for Vicky in her battle with cancer, would you like to do it with me?" I didn't hesitate for a nano-second. Both of us were "all in" knowing that whatever we could do to lighten Vicky's load, we would do it gladly. So hand-made quilts and pillows and baskets and websites and face mail messages later...we were able to step up for Vicky. That's what you do for a soul-sister. Period. End of story.

Now you might cast that off to coincidence or a nice across the miles connection, but I am here to tell you that it was God in action. It was "Love does," to quote Bob Goff. 

And sweet Peggy? Peggy has made some huge and very difficult life-changes as she comes into God's light wanting to be all He means for her to be. Peggy and I also have a special connection. I have been where she is. Such tough, heart-breaking decisions. Some of our path to wholeness has familiar trails. We have shared some of the deepest hurts knowing that if I got through this, you can too. Knowing that God is there, no matter what. 

Her love for her family and the Lord touches my heart. She is a Nana to grandchildren just as I am. Do I think for a second that the internet somehow connected us? The internet was the vehicle but God was the connector. Yup! That's what both Peggy and I believe. 

God put all three of us into each other's lives because He has a plan about all of this. The three of us are reminders to each other of how dearly we are loved, how God created us to be His daughters, and that He loves us and holds us in His almighty hands.

We pray for each other and those prayers are heard by God Almighty.

So my dear Vicky and Peggy, if you read this, and I know you will... know that I am praying for you both this morning. 

Vicky, I am praying for you to have a peace beyond all understanding, His peace about your MRI results, not what you had wanted. I am praying that you would know that He is there, no matter what.  And so are we. So are we. And that as you take each curve in the road and fall in love with everyone of His sunsets and sunrises, that your heart would be peaceful and full of the joy of living every day as if it was your last. That you would know that you and Rick and Nolan and Colton are all in His almighty hands. He has got this! All shall be well, my friend.

But I also want you to know one more thing, in your deepest heart-of-hearts, Vicky. You are amazing and courageous and inspiring to all of us, but we love you just as much if you are sad, or mad and scared and confused in all of this. You are God's miracle and we wouldn't change a things about you. Thank you for loving me and supporting me.

And Peggy, kindred friend, I continue to be amazed at how we are on the same wave-length. I pray for your continued confidence in this path and journey the Lord has you on. May you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you are amazing and smart and beautiful and that you deserve to be loved and cherished. You are His daughter. Just be are perfect just as you are. Thank you for loving me and supporting me.

I truly believe that God brought the three of us together, as unlikely as this would seem. He knows what we need and when we need it.

             God's like that you know, with us soul-sisters.

So... as this amazing Sunday wakes up and my sleeping granddaughters raise their heads after an overnight at Nana's, I am so happy and filled up with JOY. Yup, God is good and He answers prayers. Scott, Vicky and Peggy are all a testament to that!

Love you all to the moon and back!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Beacons of Courage...Eli, Daisy and Vicky!

            "God, give me guts."
                Prayer by Eli Mygatt as he defended his town as the British were
                                    burning Danbury during the Revolutionary War  

Some days it takes great courage to get up and face
circumstances that are unfathomable to most of us.
For some of us, we have had a journey that has rocked us to the core, tested our faith, and made us weary and sore and uncertain. 

Fear, that awful visitor to our souls, can leave us shaking in our boots. So much is beyond our control. We can pray and pray and try and try, but we just can't "fix" lots of things. There isn't an easy plan or a "How To" list or a problem solving technique that will
put some things right.

Seriously, it is in those moments of despair I turn to God and have a one word prayer, "HELP!"

Help me, Lord. Help them, Lord. Please come near, Lord.
I don't know what to do, Lord. HELP!

Truth be told, I am often guilty of turning things, problems and difficulties over to God and asking Him to solve them, and then not ten minutes later taking them back again. I feel almost desperate for a solution, an immediate one, thank you very much. My middle name is not patience. I'd like God to fix things in line with my prayer requests and I'd like them fixed now. Please.

I can spout the words that God has a plan and I trust Him completely, but I'm not sure my inner worried mind always lines up with what I want to believe.

That's why I love Eli Mygatt's prayer during the Revolutionary War. Here he is a Colonel and trying to desperately defend Danbury, Connecticut as the British are trying to burn it to the ground. He is losing hope. He is out of resources. He can't imagine that things will turn around. 

And in the midst of this awful, awful situation, when personally he is all out of fuel and energy and stamina, he pleads with God to give him courage. More vividly put...GUTS! He needs courage so deep, so profound that it will literally save his life. Only the word GUTS has the right ring to it. Eli is my kind of guy.

This many years later, Eli Mygatt is one of my beacons of courage. His prayer inspires me to say that same prayer and to know and expect that God will honor my prayer too. Even when it all seems awful, God will be with me. He will sustain me. He will give me the courage I don't have on my own. He will give me the GUTS to do that which seems impossible.

I believe this with every fiber of my being.

I too have felt, even though the circumstances may have been very different, that the enemy was at my door and only God could give me guts to face it head on. I have felt so scared that hope seemed a dim light.  

I couldn't imagine how even God, in His infinite wisdom,
could make things better. My faith was put to the test.

And I have argued with God, while trying to be polite, about why in the world some things turn out as they do. Why oh why is there not always a happy ending for some lovely and wonderful folks who so deserve things to turn around, who so deserve to hear good news.

Why oh why didn't He save the life of Daisy Love

Merrick, that sweet little girl with cancer. Thousands had been praying. How could this possibly happen to this sweet, darling, Jesus-loving little sweetheart? Daisy had GUTS. She loved Jesus. Her faith was a beacon of courage to me. 

In the midst of... it.just.can't.get.much.worse.than.this...

Daisy rallied others with her hope and joy and faith and deep, deep love for God. And when she went home to Jesus, we wept and wept for missing her sweet pixy face, her giant heart. But we were and are not the same because we knew her.

Thousands of us prayed for Daisy, and I believe those 

prayers were heard. Daisy's faith, so poignant and real
changed lives and her guts, even in the face of death, while so sad, told a story of her deep faith. Daisy is one of my beacons of courage.

And this week my dear sweet friend Vicky Westra, who has stage four breast cancer, had an MRI on her brain.

And you know what Vicky, my  precious beacon of courage, asked to do during the time of the MRI?

Vicky asked for prayer requests from those of us who love her. How could she pray for us? Lighten our load? Be of service? When her focus could have been on fear, and she probably in all honesty had some anxiety about the procedure, she chose to ignite her faith and trust in God. 

She chose to BELIEVE...her word for 2015. 

* Believe in one more day and week and month and year. 
* Believe that God was right there with her. 
* Believe. 

And her belief is a candle in the dark for so many others who are struggling. Her faith, in these tough, tough circumstances, gives a beacon of hope and courage to the rest of us.

While I don't as yet know the results of Vicky's test, what I DO know is that her courage is contagious. Her faith, like Daisy's, inspires others to believe and find deep down the GUTS God gave them. Guts for the toughest moments. 

Guts to know that God is there with us. No matter what. He is on the front line beside us when we are scared and desperate. 

I am so grateful to know Daisy and Vicky. My life has been so enriched by these beacons of courage. And no matter what, I will always be praying, always. And always telling their story. Just like I love telling Eli Mygatt's inspiring story.

Give us guts, God. Please, give us guts!

God Bless!

Love you to the moon and back! 


Saturday, January 10, 2015

What a great day...I am so grateful!

                       Delight in the
                         little things.
                              -Rudyard Kipling
I just love days like this. In fact Saturday is one of my absolute favorite days of the week. On a usual work day I am up at 3:00-3:30 am, getting ready to grade papers from my college students and leave the house at about 5:00 to go teach. I stop at Safeway, which opens at 5:00 am, and get food to take to class, usually oranges, apples and granola bars. After all, college students are always starving. 

Then, a much anticipated stop at Jacob's Java...getting a huge treat...a mocha (single shot decaf) and saying good morning to Emily, another early bird like myself. This is all part of the weekday ritual. A well orchestrated, well planned "hello" to Monday through Friday.

You see I have a 7:15 Intercultural Communication class, which is filled with exceptional students, and then three more classes  in a row. All of my class preparation happens from the time I get to school at 5:30 until 7:15. I love it, but it's busy and there's hardly a moment to breathe. This week was the first week of a new quarter, and we are all relieved to have those first awkward days behind us. However, Monday through Friday of this week there was even more pressure and a fast-paced schedule to boot.

And then comes Saturday, like a gift wrapped with a huge red bow. Saturdays,
for me, are always amazing, almost delicious, like a mini-Christmas morning filled with delight and anticipation. Especially this one. 

Saturdays are a complete change of pace and life-rhythm.

This morning I slept in until 7 am, yes, 7am, which is unheard of for me. I took some extra time for prayer and journal writing while enjoying the most delicious cup of coffee in front of a roaring fire. Since Bert was still sleeping, I headed to the grocery store. Everything just seemed light-hearted and fun. Getting a mocha, planning a scrumptious winter dinner, buying groceries, seeing a sea of blue and green Seahawk balloons by the checkout stand, greeting Cindy who bagged my groceries, and going to Great Harvest for their freshly made cinnamon rolls, a reminder of a recent Hawaii ritual Bert and I enjoyed on our vacation. 

It's amazing how a little extra sleep plus time for prayer changes my perspective on the whole world!

A day full of laundry and catch up and paying bills, just the usual, brought me so much happiness. Making a dinner of leg of lamb with baked veggies, squash and apple, so good! I felt grateful to make dinner and be alive to do even the smallest task.

And part of my joy, always, is sharing even the smallest moments with my beloved Bert. Today I would do a project and he would come over and "ooh and ahh" and I would do the same with his accomplishments. Holding hands, small smooches here and there. Thirty plus years of marriage and I still adore that man. 

And now, another fun moment. I  am writing this post while watching our beloved Seahawks play in the playoffs. To top it all off, my thirteen year old grandson Jacob and I are texting after the huge plays. Chancellor just intercepted and went 89 yards for a touchdown!!! How good does it get!

It really is true that when we take delight in the small things, our gratitude is overflowing.

My word for 2015 is RENEW and I feel like today is a step in the right direction for refreshing my life and "renewing a right spirit within me."

Perhaps that restoration comes from rest and prayer and also seeing God's blessings through new eyes, eyes that are looking to truly appreciate each little chore and task and encounter with others. A new persecutive, if you will. 

I truly want to live every day as if it was my last, cook every meal with fun and anticipation, as if it was my last, and hold my husband's hand with gratitude, as if I would no longer be able to do that. Today helped me to appreciate it all.
As I took each moment in, I could feel gratitude quietly invading my soul.
Almost a whisper from God. This is a miracle, this small thing. Don't miss it.
And today I didn't mis it. What a great day, filled with small delights, and I am so grateful.

May your days be filled with small and large joys. And no matter what, even on the days it is hard to delight in our lives, may we know in our deepest heart of hearts that we can change our perspective. We are still here. We are still blessed. We still have one more day. Everything is a gift, even those things that don't look gift wrapped. And as my friend Vicky reminds me... All Shall be Well!

And most importantly, for me, a daily focus...God holds me in the palm of His Almighty hand. Today I remembered that.

God Bless!
Love, Linda

PS. The colors on today's post are SEAHAWKcolors! And we won the game! Woop Woop!

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Somewhere Over the Rainbow...

             There's no place like home.
                            -The Wizard of Oz

It's fair to say that I love old musicals. As a young child I
would listen to the songs on my phonograph (yes, I know,  a phonograph) that sat by my bed. Or I might even go to the fancier version in a beautiful wooden cabinet in the living room. There I would magically put on a record and sing to my heart's content. I adored the characters, felt as if I knew each one intimately, and revisited them like they were old and dear friends.

When my Mom, my Nana and I went to see Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway, a whole new world opened up to me. I was smitten forever. And when musicals became movies, I would go, sit, and absorb and be sucked right into the play.
No wonder one of my Mom's nicknames for me was "Sarah Bernhart," an actress who was very dramatic.

It is only fair to say however, in due respect to my beloved family members, that you might want to think twice before sitting next to me in a production. If I know the lyrics, and I probably do, I am one of those sing along type of gals. I try to be reserved, really I do, but it just ain't a happenin' any time soon. Nope. Not me.

All that being said, not all musicals are equal in my book.
I especially love, in no special order, Brigadoon
South Pacific, Flower Drum Song, Fiddler on the Roof, Mame ("yes we need a little Christmas, right this very minute"), The Lion King, and The Sound of Music. Just yesterday, when Bert and I were unpacking my Christmas presents mailed from Maui, some amazing lanterns from Bali, I broke into singing the song...Bali High from South Pacific, all four verses, sung with emotion and vigor. 

It always cracks Bert up when I do this, and he firmly contends that I did not let him know I had this talent when we were dating. Yesterday he was laughing so hard as I was recreating that scene from South Pacific that he almost fell off of our sofa. He'll even, on occasion, hand me a large spoon or hairbrush to act as my microphone. 

I know he loves this quirky part of me. However, he did refuse to sit next to me when we took all our grandkids to the Lion King when the production came to Spokane. :)

While I adore more than twenty musicals, and know that like children you are not supposed to have a favorite, I am especially enamored with The Wizard of Oz. There are so many life lessons in this production. For example, if you are really yucky to lots of people, karma may take over and a house will fall on you. Another lesson... sometimes the most blustery folks who yell the loudest are just like Oz, a small man who feels inferior, lives behind a curtain, and just makes a blown up scary picture of himself so everyone will do what he wants. His cover is blown at the end of the movie.

The lyrics in this  production are stick-to- your-ribs kinds of quotations that come back to you and remind you
of truths that sit in your soul. Those lines may appear at just the right moment and ring so true that they knock you off your feet. 

One of my Wizard of Oz favorites  is:
             Everything you were 
                       looking for
    was right there with you all along.

So true. And after a day of getting reoriented
at home after three weeks away, my absolute favorite Wizard of Oz quotation came to mind...

                There's no place like home.

And Bert's favorite, favorite song...Somewhere Over the Rainbow comes from the Wizard of Oz.

(This is one of our favorite adaptations to the original song by Judy Garland. This one is sung by IZ, a huge Hawaiian legend, complete with many photos of the gorgeous rainbows we saw on Maui.)

We both love the The Wizard of Oz, songs and quotations alike. Last night after unpacking, doing tons of laundry, sorting through mail, and watering plants, I took a deep sigh and uttered that  "There's no place like home" phrase to Bert. I stopped and looked at my adorable husband. He was up to his hips in bubble wrap, UPS boxes, and I hadn't even fixed dinner and it was 9pm. He nodded an all-knowing and quiet nod of agreement about that quote and looked up no doubt a bit relieved that I didn't bring out my ruby red tap shoes and start dancing at the same time. (I kid you not about those shoes.) :)

You see while we both loved our Hawaii trip away, we were both so, so glad to be back. I went over and gave my beloved husband a big, big smooch. He looked up at me and said smiling, "What was that for?" Tears started to flow as I tried to get out the words. What came out with some tired sobs and a big sloppy cry was... 

"I just want you to know that home for me isn't a house or a city. My home is wherever you are."

Yup, everything I have always been looking for has been right
there with me all along. Dreams really do come true.

And Bert, if you are reading this, I want you to know...
you are my soul mate, the love of my life and the best husband ever. You are home to me.
I love you Bops, to the moon and back!
Your Nans

Finding Comfort in Kindness...sharing from the heart

                                If every person made it a rule that                          wherever you are, whenever you              ...