Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Renewing a Right Spirit Within Me...

      
      Forget not that the earth delights
     to feel your bare feet and the winds
            long to play with your hair.
                                              ~Kahil Gibran

Yesterday it was downright gorgeous. The sun was
out. Blue skies abounded. It was 61 degrees. A hint,
if you will, of times to comes. While it has been officially spring for awhile now, yesterday felt like
spring.

                         I couldn't get enough of it.

I got my hair cut. I got my car washed. And I started to get ready for our Easter egg hunt with myriads of grandchildren. Baskets everywhere. 

And I went barefoot in our backyard, swung on the swing and let the sun bake my weary skin and soak it with some much needed Vitamin D.


For a moment, my soul was listening to Rudyard Kipling when he said,


                        "Delight in the little things."


I often fall short of doing just that... delighting in the small and precious things. The little things. The simple things that are right in front of me. Sometimes I don't feel renewed because I don't slow down long enough to let the little things nourish my soul.


My word for 2015 is RENEW and this word and I have struggled with each other for the first segment of this year. Big and little things have gotten in the way of renewal. I have let that happen.


As the song says, 

            "Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and
                 renew a right spirit within me."     

That sounds great. That sounds easy. It hasn't been either great or easy for me.


My word for 2014 was "wholehearted." Now that was a word I could understand and wrap my arms around. That word felt like "home." That word had everything to do with how I already am.


Creating a clean heart and renewing a right spirit, not so homey. Not so much comfortable and easy.


In it's own way, "renew" is just perfect because it is

a huge challenge for me.

So what does all of this "word stuff" have to do with bare feet and winds blowing in your hair and delighting in the little things?


I've surmised that creating a clean heart and renewing a right spirit is tough to do when you are living life at mock speed. 


Renewal is hard to come by when you are rushing from one thing to the next. It's easier to exist and harder to renew. It's easier for me to come off with an attitude of, "My heart is just fine, so back off of Your renewal and create in me a clean heart stuff, God. Thank you very much." All said with a bit of an

all-knowing, self-righteous attitude.

"Ahhhh...how she misses the point," said with a small smile and a twinkle in her eye.

Mock speed is the end of the quarter and unfathomable hours spent grading college papers.

Mock speed is only getting half the list done because there just aren't enough hours in the day.

This week I am on spring break. Spring break is about taking a "break" from all of the roller coaster rides and just stop. Stop. Take a break. Breathe. Stop. Take a break. Slow down. Stop and appreciate. Just...stop. Take a break.


After all, it's Lent with Easter on the horizon. A crucification and then a resurrection. Oh how my soul has needed a resurrection. A re-birth. 


A renewal. There's that word again. And yes, a clean heart too.


Mother Teresa once said,


"We need to find God, and He cannot be found

in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence."

So yesterday, after doing some errands that felt renewing, I took my Jesus Calling book and sat

on the outdoor swing in our backyard. I rocked back and forth, read just a bit, closed my eyes and heard an occasional bird chirp. My eyes opened. 

I closed my eyes again. I let the sunshine soak into my weary soul. I prayed...for Vicky, for Nolan, for Vicky's Mom, for Peggy, for Sharon, for Sarah, for all of my grandchildren. I prayed for my students who left and those who will be coming on Monday.


I asked God to cleanse my heart. To remove those things that keep me from being closer to Him. 


told Him that I know that we often have a crucifixion in our lives before we see the resurrection. I asked God to hold me and renew me and to cleanse my heart.  


And when I took a long and slow breath and opened my eyes again, I could see my beloved Bert in his garden. Right there in that sunny backyard with me. Dusting the old fall leaves off of the new plants surging to come forth through the earth.


Spring plants, new growth...their unstoppable spirit...the audacious hope of things to come. Those small green plants that made it through snow and cold and just kept waiting for the right time to dig out from all that encumbered them and come forth. Just as natural as you please.


Those pushing and embracing plants, coming to the sunshine. 


Just like me. Struggling. Coming into the "Son-shine."


In that sacred moment, my soul felt renewed.


As you wait on this Easter, may you too have a renewal of spirit and body and hope.


God Bless!

Love, 
Linda











Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday's Favorite Quotation About Wishbones and Backbones...

                  Stop wearing your
                         wishbone
               Where your backbone
                        ought to be.
                           
                                             ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love 

It is not always easy to stand up for ourselves. At least it hasn't always 
been easy for me.

Years ago, when Bert and I were teaching an adult Sunday School class at our church on "Appropriate Boundaries,"  a woman came up to me after a class session and asked a question that resonated with my heart. She said,

    "Will they be mad at me if I stick up for myself?"

Since Bert is the counselor in the family, and usually has a perfect way to word things, I just looked at him to field her question. 

Bert looked at Paulette and said,
"Healthy people may have a little discomfort when you say "no" and take care of yourself, however ultimately they will respect you because you showed respect for yourself and stood up for what is right for you." 

Paulette nodded in agreement at Bert's comment.

Bert then paused and waited for that to sink in. Then he said, very softly,
"And if they are not healthy, they may make you pay a price for telling your truth and trying to take care of yourself."

There, in that church classroom, our friend Paulette had a giant "AHA!" moment, as we like to call them. She had a 17 year old son who refused to go to school, work, or even help around the house. She had asked nicely, for six months, for him to get a job or go to school or both. She had begged for help around home. She had threatened, but not followed through. 

     Nothing changed. She wasn't taken seriously and 
      she wasn't taken seriously because she gave in. 
                               Time-after-time.

It's such a vicious  cycle. We know what needs to happen, but we don't want 
someone to be mad at us so we don't "Rock the boat" by standing up and insisting that things change. We don't hold someone truly accountable for disrespectful behavior. We allow ourselves to be a doormat. That's our part in this cycle.

To say I have been there is an understatement of giant proportion.

I allowed myself to be a doormat in a previous marriage and while I talked and cried and begged, certain very important things did not change. I gave myself away and I threatened to leave multiple times. However I didn't follow through. The stakes were so high. I so wanted my marriage to work that I stayed to keep the promise I made. I didn't want people to know what was going on as I was sad and embarrassed. I wasn't taken seriously because I eventually gave in. Over and over again, I gave in. Just like Paulette.

And then I went to grad school to get a second Masters degree and took a long look in the mirror. I learned so many new skills. My self esteem returned. I started to take responsibility for my part in a failing marriage. People often don't respect people who don't respect themselves. It wasn't a pretty sight.

          As Elizabeth Gilbert put it so perfectly...
          I needed to stop wearing my wishbone 
             where my backbone ought to be.

Just like Paulette, I needed to stop begging and start insisting. I needed to
insist that I be treated respectfully. I needed to get help to understand that
just because I was a Christian it did not mean that I should let someone take
advantage of my big heart and walk on me. God would want me to stand up for what was right. God would not ask me to stay in a situation that was abusive to my heart and soul.

And truth be told, I was a huge part of the problem.

                   Sadly, we teach people how to treat us.

Unhealthy people may take advantage of that. Healthy people will make adjustments and care about the boundaries we set in our lives. As hard as it was, I found my spine again. I started to stand up for me.

             I read the book Boundaries and that book
              was literally a life- saver!

Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud, the Christian authors of Boundaries,
offer an amazing glimpse into what healthy boundaries look like and why they are so important. Their "how-to" book gave me a starting point for better taking care of me. That's my job, not someone else's. 

It is my job to: 
* stand up for myself and insist on being treated with dignity and respect
* voice my needs and thoughts and feelings in an appropriate manner
* care about the other person's needs and try to find compromises when 
   that is possible          
* never compromise on my "core values," the values I hold most dear and
* never allow anyone to abuse me verbally, emotionally, physically or
   spiritually.

As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "No one can take advantage of you without your permission." 

While I couldn't control how someone wanted to treat me, I could control whether or not I allowed that to continue.

After lots of work and counseling and learning and praying and mistake-making, I started to discover the inner strength that God has always given me. 
I started to take responsibility for my part of the problem. I had allowed disrespect to go on. I had turned into someone I no longer knew, recognized or even liked or respected. My own behavior was way off base. Time after time I would get upset and then back off. I was so afraid to lose something that was already lost to me. I was so afraid of what this would do to my children. That was my part of it. Just like Paulette, in our Appropriate Boundaries class, I didn't want anyone to be mad at me. I was willing to keep the peace, even if it meant giving up me. Yuk, yuk and double yuk.

I then, thirty five years ago, made a sacred promise to myself and God, that I would stand up for His daughter. I would lovingly and firmly stand up for me, the me He had created. I started to understand that I taught people how to treat me. And some thirty five years later I am walking tall. I found "me" again. I replaced my wishbone with my backbone. Thank God, I did that. It wasn't easy. It wasn't popular. But it was worth it to rock the boat. 

I never would have found my beloved husband, Bert, had I not stood up for me and made the hardest decision of my entire life

If you struggle with being a doormat, check out the book Boundaries.
Another book by Dr. Cloud, Necessary Endings, also was a life-saver for me.

And by the grace of God and lots of hard work, and the support of loved ones and family, at long last I truly believed that my life was worth saving!

God bless!
Love, Linda


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Embracing the Goodbye Moment with Joy and Tears...

          "What day is it?" asked Pooh.
          "It's today," squeaked Piglet.
          "My favorite day," said Pooh.
                                   ~A.A Milne in Winnie the Pooh

I love the notion of embracing the day. After all the title of this blog is "Live Every Day As If It Was Your Last!" 

I also know that some days are easier to embrace than others.

When the sun comes out  in Spokane, that's a day everyone wants to embrace!

When the Gonzaga Bulldogs go to March Madness
and win against North Dakota State in their first game, that's a day to embrace! GO ZAGS!

* When it is the last day of school and summer fun
is right around the corner, then that is a day children everywhere embrace!

Those are days when it is easy to thank God and be "joyful in all things." 

I get that. I truly do.

Yet Thursday was a day so rich in joy and sadness and deep sorrow and amazement that at this writing 
I have not fully embraced all of it or recovered emotionally.

It is only now, in retrospect, with a cup of coffee and a moment to look back that I can say I am thankful.

That every day, especially days like last Thursday, are a day to hold up in gratitude.

"What happened on Thursday?" you might be wondering. Thanks for asking. I will try to find the words to tell you.


When God made me, one of the gifts He gave me was the gift of being a teacher. From the first grade on I knew this is what I was made to do. My first grade teacher, Miss Ella Faye, was my inspiration. She changed my life and I wanted to do what she did.


Be in a classroom. 
* Teach important things. 
* Believe in students and motivate them to believe in     themselves. 
Make learning fun and challenging and engaging.
* Give of yourself every day, 110% every day, until you are left exhausted and spent.

And most importantly...

Never, ever, ever give up on a student.

Yet one of the things they don't mention in education classes, and teachers often don't discuss, is a well- kept secret about being a teacher.


They leave out the part that in this sacred job of being a teacher, you will fall in love with your students. You will see who they are and who they can be. You will invest in them and root for them. You will challenge them and remind them that they have it in them to do great things.


Even when things go south for your students, you will be one of the people there to help pick up the pieces.


Good teachers are dream makers for students.

We are in the job of helping our students to formulate dreams and move toward them.

I have been a teacher for a long, long time 

(48 fantastic years) and I have had over 10,000 students in my classrooms. I have taught at the high school level, the inner-city middle school level, the University level and for 38 years at the community college level.

I have won lots of teaching awards over all these years, but those plaques and trophies and articles on the front page of the paper don't come close to telling what teaching means to me. How God made me to do this. He created me to be a teacher.


And those articles could never, ever capture

the great JOY teaching as brought into my life.
And the awards could never express what it is like when a quarter is over and it is time for those students to move on.

"Move-on moments" are necessary.

"Move-on moments" are celebratory.
"Move-on moments" are at the very least heart breaking.

I have had lots of "move-on" moments in my 68 years of life. I embraced many of those moments with exuberant joy. Other "move-on moments," like my daughters going away to college, left me joyful, empty, sad, excited, exhausted, confused, grateful and humbled.


Last Thursday was a "move-on" moment for 120 of my precious students.


Last Thursday was the last official day of class for

my four classes. A goodbye and "move-on day" for 120 students. All in one day. That's right, a 120 move ons... hour-after-hour.

I always bring kleenex. This quarter I brought

several boxes, especially for my first class.
That group became a family. Each hour was so profound and fun and exhausting. As one male student said, as he left class each day, "Well that was the most amazing and completely emotionally exhausting hour of my life." And then Brennan smiled. I will always remember his comment and his smile. I will always remember his hug and his words,
"Just so you know, you changed my life for the better."

We had a potluck in each class on Thursday.

We told stories and talked about what we wanted to take away from our time together. Students hugged each other and hugged me. Tears flowed. 

It was the hardest and best day ever. Each of those students has a place in my heart. I will always be their teacher. Always. They have blessed my life in ways they could never imagine.


Yes, Pooh and Piglet were right. Every day is my favorite day. Last Thursday was my favorite day too and I embraced every moment of it with joy and tears. 


God Bless!

Love, Linda




                     

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Don't Try So Hard...

                           EVERYTHING 
                          YOU WANT IS
                         ON THE OTHER
                           SIDE OF FEAR
                                    ~Jack Canfield

Note: To my two precious daughters. This blog post is for you. May you always remember the words in this song!

God works in miraculous ways. I know that in my deepest hearts-of- hearts. 

As I rush and rush to the end of the quarter, grading and caring and anticipating goodbyes...some fear seeps in. Where it's from I'm not quite sure. Old messages? Old insecurities? Old questions? Have I given all I can to those I love and cherish? I am wired to please others and so sometimes I get scared that what I have to give just isn't enough.


And then...God stops me in my tracks.


I get His messages and clarity and jaw-dropping LOVE as I read the book Jesus Calling. It's as if He knows just what I need to hear. Oh that's right, He does! (said with a smile). :)


And as if that isn't enough, this week I am on my way to work at 5:30 am, with my Christian music CD playing, and the CD skips to song #15. That's right, skips. All on its own. Somehow, I have not heard this song before.


I am sipping on an espresso, thinking about my students when a simple melody comes floating in. Amy Grant's voice singing God's message to me.


The tears start to flow. At once I am listening and crying the big ugly cry. So touched that I play the song again and wind my way to work, tears flowing. Almost unstoppable. It's hard to get my breath.


For the first time in my 38 years of teaching at this college, I find myself in my vehicle in the SCC parking lot overtaken by emotion... tears streaming down my face. My sides heaving. Every bit of makeup gone. Eyes puffy.


This may not be "the song" for everyone. I'm quite sure it isn't. But it is "my song", the song I need

to burn into my heart.

The title is....Don't Try So Hard.


It's not a new song, but it is new to me. 


How does it fit with my life? How many hours do you have? I was born with a "feel the fear and do it away" kind of mentality. A "give everything a 110%  effort" state of mind. I've always wanted to make people happy and been a people pleaser. That's not always the exterior people see when they see me, but it's what goes on deep inside. Inside the "she's tough and confident exterior," there is still the little girl with one hand who is scared she isn't enough.

I don't talk about her very often, but she is there.

When I gave my heart to Jesus, she started to be healed. And every year after my ninth grade year in school, His love has been the healing balm for my fears. Yet at times she peeks around the corner, that girl who tries and tries and tries again.


I'm not always sure if I keep trying and trying because it is instinctive or because my fear is that if I stop trying everything, and I mean everything, will fall apart.


When something is clearly over...I am still trying to make it work.


When all has been said and done..I am still hanging on and not giving up and trying to bring it back to life.


There's a lot to be said for perseverance and hard work, but there is also a time to give things over to God and know His reassurance and love.


Truth be told...I can't fix everything.


I can't fix most things. But God can.


I can't take away Vicky's cancer or heal Peggy Sue's heart. 


I can't take away the pain my daughters have experienced from accidents that impacted their neck and brain. Their pain breaks my heart. I would take on what has happened to them in a heartbeat, but it doesn't work like that.


I can't make a church turn disgust for gays to loving kindness toward everyone.


I can't help students finish the quarter strong and complete their work. They have to do it.


I can't fix hearts that have been broken by people who should have been loving and caring and trustworthy.

I can't make aging brains young again.


I can do what God asks me to do, and do it the best I can, but somehow letting go and giving it all over to His care, is so hard for me to do.


So...I just keep trying harder, and praying more and working harder. That's how God made me, a go-getter. Yet He also asks me to stop and trust in Him and that's a lesson that is hard for me to learn.


This song speaks to the people-pleaser in me. I thought I'd share it this Sunday morning, just in case you, too, needed a reminder about God's love and grace and that He holds you in the palm of His hand.


He's got us, no matter what. No matter how big the burden or the hurt. He holds us. He loves us.


And for some of us, we need to remember that fear is what keeps us working so hard. Everything we want and need is on the other side of that fear.

He is on the other side of that fear that we are not enough.

We all have scars and hurts and broken hearts and our lives are a mess. God reminds us that we are lovely, scars and all.


For me, relaxing in His grace is my gift for today.
Don't miss this song. It is life-changing!

www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfGvXfe9LK8&list=RDofGVXfe9LK8

May we all know His peace and grace and rest in Him.
God Bless!
Love,
Linda

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Ahhhh...PAUSITIVITY...

"If, then, I were asked for the most important
     advice I could give, I should simply say:
                            in the name of God,
                             stop for a moment, 
                               cease your work,
                               look around you." 
                                                       - Leo Tolstoy

Sometime during this week I just stopped breathing. I was going so fast

I felt a little dizzy. The wonderful, busy and vicious cycle looked something like this...

Teaching, teaching (which I love), 
Grading, grading (which I don't love)
Meetings, meetings...
just a little sleep
Rush, rush...
teaching, grading, oh remember to pray,
did I have lunch? (I can't remember)
"Hi, Bert! Love you!"
laundry, cleaning
and the cycle would begin all over again.

It's almost the end of the quarter, but that is no excuse.

Will I ever learn that being productive and getting three thousand things done does not bring happiness or peace of mind?

I would remember from time-to-time, while driving to and fro, the quote  from Ann Voskamp that says
                          "hurry and more hurry empties the soul."
                          Well, my soul has been running on empty.

Didn't I just write a blog post a little while ago on this very topic?
Is it possible that I still have not learned this lesson? (bangs head ever so gently on table) :)

While I loved 95% of what was going on, some of it is simply a blur.
Yuk!

And then, while in my home office last night, I saw "it."

A small, unassuming book I purchased while Bert and I were in Hawaii in
December. Seeing the cover peeking out at me brought back the moment I saw the small, easy to hold in your hand book. It was so inviting with the beautiful Japanese drawing. Pussy willows.

The title of the book said it all...
                                              PAUSITIVITY
                      take a moment to nurture yourself

No, that's not a spelling error. This small and elegant life-giving reminder
is not spelled with the usual  POSITIVITY, as in having an uplifted attitude.
While the words are pronounced the same, this is about pausing to take care of you.

                              PAUSITIVITY is a noun. 

It means the feeling of JOY and OPTIMISM that comes when you stop to take a moment to restore and nurture yourself. 

So today is Saturday. Praise God! I have no papers to grade. Bert and I
went out for coffee and he is working in the yard as I type this. The sun is out
in Spokane. It is supposed to be about 55 degrees. This afternoon we will go to a Granddaughter's swim meet.

I can start to feel the tension leave my shoulders as I write these words.

As one of the quotes in this sweet book says,
                   "Leave room in every day for calm and joy to grow."

And as I take a deep breath, and thank God for another day, I am slowing down, pausing, smiling and expecting to see calm and joy right around
the corner. May you too be blessed with moments where you stop a moment, cease work, and just look around you!

God Bless!
Love,
Linda
                        













"Just Plain Hard"...

                  Stand up straight and                   realize who you are,                   that you tower over your               ...