Thursday, April 30, 2015

Being Fully Human, Insecurities and All...

Here's my hunch: 
Nobody's secure, and nobody feels like
she completely belongs. Those insecurities are just job hazards of being human. But some people dance anyway, and those people have more fun.
                 ~Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On, Warrior

When I was a young teenage girl growing up in Seattle, Washington, I knew I was "different."

Certainly I was visibly different. Everyone I knew

had two perfectly formed hands. Beautiful fingers where rings could slide on and perch and sparkle.
Fingernails to paint with a rainbow of  iridescent colors. 

I used to look at those girls and wonder if they really appreciated what it was like to have ten fingers.

And then I realized that most of us, myself included, often don't appreciate what we have until it is gone.

Most of us have a difference of some kind, be it physical or just inside. And along with that difference we may feel unworthy and insecure.

It's part of being human to feel like that.

Growing up I didn't talk much about only having one fully developed hand and one smaller hand that had a form of congenital amputation. For some reason the fingers just never grew properly. Only small buttons where those fingers were meant to be.

I didn't talk about it because in my family we just didn't get that real. We pretended that all was well, even when it wasn't. We pretended that we felt secure, even when we didn't.

I'm not sure how old I was before I realized that in this culture, and in most families, we long to have perfect children. All together children. Children we show off as an extension of ourselves. And if our children look good and perform well, then maybe we look even better in the process.

I spent years trying hard to look good and fit in.

I looked at other girls and thought they had it all together. I assumed that they felt secure and whole and worthy.

Looking back now, I can see that I was wrong.

In those days, no one came forth and said out loud that they were "one, big, hot mess." In those days no one said  out loud that they were scared or insecure or so imperfect that they felt  like they didn't belong anywhere.

We all  longed to talk about who we really were, to lift the veil of pretending to have a perfect life. The truth was that we were all so far, far away from perfection.

Pretending to be perfect is draining and pointless 

and unreal. It robs us of intimacy with other people. 

Yet, perfection lies to us by saying... 

"Don't let them see the real you. If they knew you   
were a phony they would get up and leave, right this very minute."

The call to perfection is like that. We are in a catch twenty two. If I leave off telling you about the messy and beautiful parts of my life, I am lonely. If I tell you about those messy and beautiful parts of my life will you stick around to hold my hand through them?

We give others such a gift of grace when we allow them to be who they really are, no matter what. 

And we give ourselves a gift of grace when we admit we are insecure and unsure and not so perfect after all.

One of the gifts of growing older is that I just don't have the energy to put up a false self any more. It's exhausting to do that. I've been there and that practice only wastes days that are precious. I don't have time, at 68, for any wasted days.

And like Glennon Doyle Melton says in her mind-blowing, authentic-to-the- core book Carry On Warrior, 

"Here's my hunch: Nobody's secure, and nobody feels like she completely belongs." Amen to that, sister warrior!

Yesterday in my Conflict Management class I had  an authentic, here's who I really am moment.

I mentioned that the most helpful thing I learned to do that improved how I did conflict management was to stop drinking. I mentioned that I had been clean and sober for over 26 years and that I would never take a drink again because it wasn't worth the risk that I might not take just one drink.

You could have heard a pin drop.

Sometimes when I am about half way through a quarter and it's appropriate with the curriculum content, I slide into first base and let out the fact that I have been through a divorce and that I don't use alcohol to make myself feel better. 

When I say those words out loud I usually get a mix of responses. Sometimes clapping. Sometimes silence. Sometimes a look of "Did she really just say that?" Isn't that awfully real for a classroom.

Afterwards, after the dust settles, almost always someone comes up to where I am sitting and whispers... 

"Could I talk to you about that...what you said about drinking? Didn't you worry that if you said that they would judge you? I'm too insecure to let it be known that I have a problem."

And I almost always say, in a corresponding whisper, the bravest thing you will ever do is to really be yourself. 

It takes great courage to set aside your fear of "what will they think?" and then go and give that fear to God. 

And then, with His grace, just be you. 

Tell the truth about who you are and where you are. We are all in that insecurity boat together.

Our very honest insecurities, and the hole they leave in our heart, are a God-sized hole that only He can fill. Pretending to be perfect certainly doesn't fill that hole. It only makes it bigger.

When we share out loud and in writing and whisper in God's ear that we are scared and insecure and feel alone, we can feel His presence and love come flooding in. And we can also feel others move toward us. Those sisters and brothers  on this same journey of being authentic and transparent.

Then we can hold someone's hand and say "You are not alone." And when that happens to me I can dance in the midst of how insecure I feel. And as Glennon says, "some people dance anyway, and those people have more fun."

And I am all about having more fun!

Today I give myself permission to feel insecure. I look insecurity in the face and wrap my arms around her. That little girl with just one hand pops up from time to time. Sad. Afraid. Terrified to be real.

I remind her to just be who she is. After all, God made her, one hand and all, and she is enough.

May God bless you and keep you and hold you in 

the palm of His almighty hand!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

When My Amazing Students Make me Cry...

         I have cancer, but cancer doesn't have me.
                         -Bert Salisbury, while fighting cancer

Sometime my amazing students make me laugh so hard I fall over. Sometimes they make me cry so hard that I feel I will melt. They are so courageous and smart and inventive and loving. They inspire me to be my best self.

One of these students is Lynae Olsen. Lynae has had multiple classes from me and she and I just "click" on so many levels. I love her spirit, her smarts, her honesty and her humor. When she walks in, a bit of sunshine enters the room. She also has a huge heart.

In the past year, Lynae has heard me talk about Vicky Westra, my dear friend in Moorhead, Minnesota who has stage four breast cancer. Vicky is so much more than just that. She oozes gratitude and life and giving and compassion. She is graceful and gracious in the eye of a storm. 

She has a faith that inspires all of us as she lives every day as if it was her last. Vicky is real and doesn't minimize the pain, yet she has a perspective about loving life that teaches all of us who know her. I value every day of my life even more because I know and love Vicky. She is a writer, a photographer, a devoted wife to Rick and an amazing Mom to Nolan and Colton. She is such a supportive friend. This will be her first Mother's day without her Mom, as her Mom just passed away.

And Vicky has cancer that has spread to different parts of her body. She regularly has infusion and has had radiation and there are tumors in some places that are growing. It's a heck of a lot to take in.

Lynae has heard all of this about Vicky. It has torn at her heart, just as it has torn at mine.

So Lynae decided to do something. That is so like her. There is a run-for-the-cure this weekend in Spokane and Lynae has gathered her friends, male and female, to run in this race.

What brings me to tears is that they are running it for Vicky.

This group of crazy, wonderful young men and women have entered this race for the cure in Vicky's name.Vicky will be up on the "Wall of Honor." And to top it all off, those crazy young folks are wearing pink. Pink to fight cancer. Not just any pink, or calm and ordinary pink, pink bedazzled bras (even the guys) to send a message of love to Vicky.

Lynae just sent me the most amazing picture of her friend Randy's costume for the run, a bright pink satin bra, with lots of sparkles that says, in handwritten paint, "We love you Vicky." I sent the picture to Vicky in the hopes it would put a smile on her face. :)

As I write this post, tears are streaming down my face. Some of those tears are for Vicky. I believe in miracles and am praying for a miracle for my dear friend. Some of those tears are for Lynae. What a gift she has given to honor Vicky. And some of those tears are for others I love who have fought or are fighting cancer.

As my beloved Bert said, in the midst of his fight against cancer-

"I have cancer, but cancer doesn't have me." As Vicky often says, "I am fine, with a side of cancer."

Take that, you awful cancer! You don't win. Love wins every time and you can't take away the power of that love.

God Bless!


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Change, Growth and Opportunity...

                                               Life is change
                   Growth is optional
              Don't miss the opportunity
Truth be known, I'm a bit of a creature of habit. Okay, I am a lot a creature of habit. I take great comfort in knowing how things are going to go and having a sense of at least a modicum of control.

Oh, I know intellectually that life changes in a heartbeat. I know that I don't have control. I know that, but I don't have to like that.

At times I wish I was the kind of person who always stepped back during great change, hard change and said...

"Woo Hoo! What a great adventure. Everything is changing. I'm sure I'll learn so much." 

There are people like that. 

I'm not always one of them.

When life is great and it all makes sense and is at least somewhat predictable, I am most at ease. When the proverbial apple cart is dumped upside down and the apples are scattering all over the place, I have a great sense of dis-ease. 

Recently a few of my apples have been all over the place and I am sitting watching them go to and fro and shaking my head and talking to God big time. 

I am asking God to help me know what to do next. His will, not my will. His vision for me, not my vision for me.

And it seems like the lives of many of my dear family members and dearest friends are also in a time of hard change as well. Lots of hurt and sadness going around. Times of great adjustment and loss. Times of dreams broken and shattered and scattered.

Times of fear for what lies ahead.

What next, God? What do I do now, God?

How am I to make sense of this, God. How will I possibly get through this, God?

And truthfully, it's so hard to see my changes and their changes and know how to grapple with them.

My changes seem so small in comparison to the hard changes of others I hold dear. I almost feel guilty being rattled by them. When my sweet friend Vicky Westra, who has stage four breast cancer, has just lost her Mom and then goes to an oncology appointment and learns that three of her tumors are growing do we let the magnitude of all that sadness and fear and hard change in? 

Changes seem to be everywhere. I want to be grateful

for all of the life-lessons that accompany them. I want to choose to grow and absorb the opportunity provided to me!

That said, while I consider myself an optimist, I am also a realist. Some of these changes are gigantic and may not have a happy ending, by my definition of how it should all turn out. 

My plan may not line up with God's greater plan.

Yet I still believe in miracles. I believe in hope. I believe in faith and trust that God has got this, no matter what. No matter what it is or how hard it is.

I believe that each change, especially the ones that require the most faith and trust, is an opportunity for new growth. I believe that the Lord God is in the midst of each change, no matter how large or small, and holding the dear one going through it. I believe we are never alone, even when we feel we are.

Change and fear and resistance and belief in God and a ray of hope all seem to be braided together, woven like yarn on a loom. Where does one stop and the other start?

When things seem scary, and hard changes seem everywhere, I have a ritual of sorts. I talk and process and pray and read and pray some more.

I cry and cry and talk and grieve and pray. 

And then I read...the Bible and some of my "go to" books.

When I remember...

                     "Fear not for I am with you.
                My rod and my staff, they comfort you," 
I feel the power of that ray of hope, God's hope.

When I read my "go to" book, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, and the entry for Saturday, April 18th says,

                    "I have designed you to need Me 
                             moment by moment" 
I am comforted. That's so true, Lord. So, so true. They need you. I need You. Every moment. 

And when I also read another of my "go to!" books, Elizabeth Lesser's

                               Broken Open
                 How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow,

I start to make sense of  how times of hard change

help to transform us. We may feel like we are going through a "Phoenix Process," as Elizabeth calls it.
The Phoenix Process is...

"surrendering to a time of great difficulty, allowing the pain to break us open, and then being reborn-

stronger, wiser, and kinder. We can come through the shattered pieces of a difficult time. Our lives ask us to die and be reborn every time we confront change- change within ourselves and change in our world. " 

So this morning as I write this and the sun is not yet up, I take a breath and say a prayer. I am asking God Almighty to be there with us when the apples are in the cart and when they are rolling all over. I am asking Him to give us a sense of His peace, a peace that passes all understanding. I am asking Him to help me and help my dear loved ones surrender to the time of difficulty, the Phoenix Process, that we might be transformed. And I hold tight to HOPE, His hope, a hope I can trust. And I believe. Above all, I still believe.

And could I ask a favor? If you believe in the power of prayer, would you please pray for my soul-sister Vicky Westra. Please pray for strength and hope and support and that she would know how deeply she is loved. Thanks!

Amen, Amen and Amen!

God Bless!


Thursday, April 09, 2015

A Hard Week for My Dear Friends...

                                      Death ends a life,
                    not a relationship.               
                               ~Morrie Schwartz, Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Tuesday I was just in shock. Things coming around the corner, unexpected things. Some expected things, but the timing kept me off guard. 

turned to my Jesus Calling book at the end of the day for a bit of guidance and solace. The overriding question?

What would God have me take away from all of this?

Here's what  Jesus Calling said for April 7th,

"I am the Potter; you are My clay. I designed you before the foundation of the world. I arrange the events of each day to form you into the preconceived pattern. My Everlasting love is at work in every event in your life..."

This morning I am so grateful for His everlasting love. I am so grateful that He is at work in every

event in my life. In my life and in your life, He is at work. 

Even the hard events.

Yesterday I found out that two of my dear friends, Vicky Westra and Roberta Green, lost their Moms.

Vicky on Sunday and Roberta on Monday. Vicky's Mom had been ill and recently put into palliative care. Roberta's mom was 100 years old. And even though in both cases you might imagine that they would leave at some point, you are never, ever ready to have it happen.. today.

No matter your relationship, it is a huge loss to lose a parent. In both cases, my friends have now lost both parents. I have been there. It's a shock and a hole and a sadness and a relief for your parent because they were ready to go Home, even if you weren't ready to have them leave.

One of my favorite quotations says...

            We are all just walking each other home.
                                                            ~Ram Dass 

What a privilege and honor to be there when someone is born. You witness a miracle. 

And what a privilege and honor it is to be there when someone goes Home to God, whose spirit leaves their body behind and they move on to the spirit world. Again, you witness a miracle.

In my own experience with being there when my Mom went Home, it was as breath-taking  and miraculous as the birth of my two daughters. While it was also laced with great sadness and great loss, it was a making of triumph for the life she had lived. 

To be able to whisper to her, "Mom, we are all here. We love you so much. We will always love you and miss you. But it's okay to go. We will be fine. You don't have to worry. Daddy's waiting for you so you don't have to be afraid." As the girls stroked her hair and put lipstick on her so she's look "just right" (she never went out without her lipstick on), she took one last sigh and and went home to God.

Yet the on-going mystery and great comfort for me, is that I was so afraid that when she died, I'd lose her. She would be gone. 

What I didn't know then and do know now is that...

     Death ends a life. It doesn't end a relationship. 

The walking home process isn't easy. My Dad had already passed away, and shortly after that my Mom became ill. For two and a half years she slowly slipped away. Inch-by-inch. I held her hand. I walked her through it. Our roles changed and I became the caretaker. It wasn't easy for either of us. But we did it together. I miss her every day and talk to her all the time. I tell her the things her granddaughters are doing and smile as I recount moments to her by saying... You would have loved this, Mom.

So as I see my two dear friends go through this transition of a Momma going home, I hold them tightly in prayer.

Will you join me in praying for their strength and comfort?

If you believe in prayer, would you please pray for my two special friends Vicky and Roberta. For peace and love and hope and understanding. Both have been attending to their Moms for some time. They have both been great daughters. Please pray for healing in their hearts.

And all the people said...Amen!

God Bless!

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Happy Easter...and all the people said "Amen!"

                                      And in our own lives...
                we often have a crucifixion  
            before we can have a resurrection.
                                               ~ Glennon Doyle Melton

Friday night Bert and I went out to dinner at
"Thai Cuisine," one of our favorite restaurants.
The owner, who is from Thailand and over the years has become a personal  friend, came over to our table bearing the usual hot tea for Bert and water for me.

No one else was in the restaurant.

She asked where everyone was and I told her it was Good Friday of Easter weekend and that this is a sacred time for lots of Christians. Perhaps they were at church?

Very respectfully she said she was Buddhist and didn't really "get" this Christianity "thing," as she called it. Who did we think Jesus was?, she asked looking me straight in the eye. And did we, like some Christians who came to Thai Cuisine, judge Buddhism?  

She almost whispered, just in case someone walked in, that she didn't tell most people she was Buddhist because they might stop coming to her restaurant. Did we possibly hate Buddhism too?

There, in that little hole-in-the-wall restaurant, I got to tell the story of  what Jesus means to me and how I feel that all of God's children, no matter their religion, are divine. That for me the bottom line is simple. 

The God I know and love and serve is inclusive not exclusive. That we are all His children. That He loves us and cares for us deeply, no matter where we grew up or the religion we have. For me, God's deep love goes past those differences and embraces all of us, no matter what.

We are all invited to the party. All of us. No exceptions.

While I celebrate Good Friday and grieve the death of Jesus, I long for Easter morning and His resurrection. 

That out of hurt and pain and hatred...

                       love always wins. 

Always! Love wins on Easter morning and love wins every morning.

I told her that we are all broken and hurting. We all make mistakes and are so far from perfect, but that the God I know and love and serve is a God of new beginnings and new chances, every day. 

The God I know doesn't keep score of my mistakes (thank heavens) but loves me in spite of all my goofs and problems.

And then a tear rolled down her cheek.

I got up and gave her a hug. I told her that I honored her and her faith of being Buddhist.

I wished, sometime, that she might share with me how God works in her life, how Buddism feeds her soul.

She hugged me back and very quietly said, "I can see God in you, Linda. Your Jesus must love you a lot." She thanked us for listening and not judging her faith.

And then she left to go get our food order going.

I just looked at Bert, who was sipping on his tea,

and I started to cry. I've been doing a lot of that lately as it seems so many things touch my heart so deeply. 

He smiled, took my hand across the table and said,

"I see God in you too, sweetheart."

I managed to ask between the tears, why life seems so hard and off-center sometimes. Bert, in his usual humble wisdom replied, "It wasn't off-center at this table. How beautiful to see two women share two different faiths and get that the commonality of each is LOVE." 

He went on to say, "She walked taller when she left the table. Proud of who she is, her faith, and how God made her." 

And then, in usual Bert fashion he said, "Ok, now let's eat."

And we did.

Happy Easter to all. No matter what you believe.

May you know that God loves you and adores you
and holds you in the palm of His almighty hand!

And all the people said, "Amen!" Just like this amazing song says, "His love never ends...and all the people said "Amen!" 

Don't miss this amazing, Easter morning celebration song!

This Easter morning may you know in your

deepest heart-of-hearts that God loves you just as you are. Rich or poor, tall or short, black or brown or white, gay or straight...He will never leave you or forsake you. He loves you just as you are.

No matter how broken and unworthy you may feel this morning, YOU are His child are YOU are invited to the party!

God Bless!


Finding Comfort in Kindness...sharing from the heart

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