Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Confused With A Side Of Anger...

I don't know why life isn't constructed to be seamless and safe, why we make such glaring mistakes, things fall so short of our expectations, and our hearts get broken. I don't know why it isn't more like it is in the movies, why things don't come out neatly and lessons can't be learned when you are in the mood to learn them, why love and grace often come in such motley packaging.
                             -Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith



Okay, straight out let me just say that I am so confused and pissed off and angry and sad that I can hardly keep my fingers on the keys of this computer. From day one of my life, I have been a passionate person whose faith and relationship with God mirrors my real life. 

When I am confused and sad and angry...I let God know.


I am often around others who talk about their faith and discouragements in such gracious and glowing terms. Sometimes I wish I was like that. More rational, trusting, gracious and laid back. 


However, if I am being truthful, from time to time and under dire circumstances my faith has always been laced with what I call my "Okay, I'm pissed!"... talks with God. 

I talk to God all the time. I talk to God when I am happy and content. I talk to God in the car and when I take a walk. I talk to God when I hit a snag in a classroom and when I am so confused and so pissed off that I can hardly breathe.


Today is one of those confused, sad and pissed off days, and I am working minute by minute to trust God Almighty with all of what is going on.


I am listening to the gospel song "Be Still and Know That I Am God"...yet I am struggling to be still.


If you are looking to read wisdom laced with grace, I'd stop reading this post right now. This is me when I am close to the end of my rope. Praying alternately with tears and asking God to help, please help.


"Help!" is the only prayer that makes any sense today.


What you may not know about me is that when you mess with my children and you hurt them, you mess with me. 


I was like a mother bear when they were little. I knew they would have to experience pain and disappointment in life and I had no trouble letting them learn those skills. They are all adults now, and they are all fully capable of managing life's ups and downs.


Yet when someone or something of undo proportion and power makes ridiculous decisions that  truly hurt them, well... then my blood boils.


I somehow feel relieved that Jesus also experienced anger when he was in the temple and the money changers were defiling something sacred. Jesus got pissed. He yelled. He let everyone know that this is not how things should operate.


Case in point, a Health System and insurance company that decides to "change their policy" and in the process eliminates the one procedure that brings relief to my youngest daughter's neck injury.


And they didn't even bother to let her know they were doing it.


As she set up an appointment with the doctor who does a "nerve burn", a horrible procedure that eventually gives relief to unimaginable pain, she was told that Group Health has a new policy. The new policy states that you can only have three of these procedures in your life time.


My daughter needs four of these each year to sustain anything close to a normal life.


Now don't imagine that I am not grateful to God that she survived  being hit by a car when she was running along side a road. I am grateful beyond belief. 


She could have died or been paralyzed. Yet she lives with pain so intense, and headaches so awful, that almost every part of her life is impacted daily by what happened to her in that accident.


This "nerve burn" procedure is all that is left to help her quality of life.


For those who have dealt with health insurance and important life-saving options that are "not covered" by insurance, you know how I am feeling right now.


It is unthinkable. To me, it is unethical to withhold treatment because it costs the insurance company money to do the procedure.


And the appeal process, to get them to change their minds, may take months.


So I feel a little bit like Jesus in that temple.


Underneath that anger is a deep fear and sadness.

I know that. I get that. And I am asking God to help me work through that.

Like Ann Lamott says, " why isn't life constructed to be seamless and safe?" It just isn't.


What I know for sure is that we are all holding on to Jesus in this latest unexpected turn of events. 


We are praying for help. We know that prayer is powerful. Would you join us in prayer? Would you ask God to have Group Health reverse this decision

or help my daughter find an insurance company that will cover this procedure for her. Or...for God to just heal her, here and now. Heal our Amy's neck.

I know God can make a way where there seems to be no way. And that's what we are asking for today.


Thanks for listening and praying.


God Bless!

Love Linda



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Face of Forgiveness...

Forgive everyone, everything.
Do it now.
                          - Morrie Schwartz, Tuesdays With Morrie

The paper is full of it. The internet discussions go on and on.

The television shows the pictures again and again.

We can hardly believe it. We are all in shock.


What has left an indelible mark on my soul is seeing the faces of the grieving church goers at Mother Emanuel, AME Church  (African, Methodist, Episcopal) in Charleston, South Carolina.


They were having a Bible Study on a typical Wednesday night. Most of them were African American and in walked a white, young man.


They welcomed him. Without hesitation, in the name of Jesus they welcomed him.


And then, as we all know, at the end of the Bible Study he stood up, uttered unthinkable comments to his hosts, and slaughtered nine of them. Evil incarnate. This mixed up, young man took the lives of some of my Christian brothers and sisters.


And my tears flow.

The tears of our nation flow.
And we are stunned at the violence.

But even more than that...

we are awed and amazed at how Jesus lives in these amazing folks who embrace and love the Lord. 

The same Jesus I know and love and serve.


We are stunned and shocked and horrified at what that young man did. 


Yet his act of violence is nothing compared to seeing

what love and reconciliation and forgiveness can do to mend broken hearts and a broken nation.

My brothers and sisters in that church are the face of Jesus, the face of forgiveness.


We see the photographs... black and white hands intertwined and black and white hearts breaking.


All of us. Broken. All of us sinners. Some white, some black, some yellow, some brown, some red. 


As the song says...


Jesus loves the little children, all the children

of the world. Yellow, black, and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.

This hits close to home for me. 


Mother Emanuel AME Church is part of my church family. My home church is Bethel AME in Spokane. Most of our congregation is made up of a rainbow of colors, yet as a white person I am by far in the minority.


Yet I have been warmly welcomed from the first day, seven years ago, when Bert and I walked in that door. Loved on. Prayed for.  Embraced... just like Jesus would embrace me.


These folks I see most Sundays don't just talk about Jesus, they walk the walk of Jesus.


Last Sunday we cried and cried. We came to church and saw police cars around, just in case a copy cat situation might take place. There were news cameras and lights and the press.


Mind you,  we are a tiny little church. A tiny church with huge hearts and so much love.


So on Sunday we sang and cried and read all of those names

that were cut down at the Bible Study in Charleston. We hugged and held each other and prayed for all of our church "family" in that Charleston church. One of our church members, my friend Roberta Greene, went to elementary school right across the street from Mother Emanuel.

Forgiveness and reconciliation and love...that's what I felt this Sunday at Bethel AME. 


And then, after I got home from our church service, I saw the pictures of Charleston on that same Sunday, when the church doors at Mother Emanuel had opened again.


After church thousands and thousands of people from Charleston crossed a bridge, together. Blacks and whites, together. Christians and Jews, together. Old and young, together. Holding hands, together. Walking and singing, together. 


They would stand together against this horrific act of violence, together.


They reminded us all that... 


                                 Love always wins. 

God's love always wins, and maybe that's the biggest lesson we have all learned from this horrible, heart-breaking tragedy.


God Bless!

Love, Linda


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Please pray...

" I have been driven many times upon my knees...by the overwhelming conviction I had
nowhere else to go."         
                                   -Abraham Lincoln

This post will be short as I am shortly headed off to an
Awards Banquet at the college where I teach. It is finals week and graduation is this Friday.

Yet tonight my heart is heavy and I wanted to ask any of you who believe in the power of prayer to please pray.
I believe that God hears our cries and I am asking Him to please hold and be near to two people who are hurting so badly.

The first is a student at our college who has considered taking their life. I won't use their name, but God knows who they are. They are in a huge amount of pain and feel hopeless and helpless. Please pray that they will see all of the outstretched arms of help that are right in front of them. Please pray that God would give them a deep sense of hope and they would take the help being offered.

Second, my dear friend and soul sis, Vicky Westra, got some horrible test results regarding her cancer. She is one of the most amazing, gracious, grateful and grace-filled people and must now undergo some very aggressive chemotherapy. Please pray that God gives her the strength to do this. She knows that living well beats cancer and that cancer cannot steal her joy. Please pray that she has time...days and weeks and months and years... with her beloved husband Rick and her two precious sons Nolan and Colton. Please pray for hope and peace of mind as she starts this next part of her journey.


Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers!

More later.
God Bless!
Love, Linda

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Man in the Yellow Truck...

Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.
                                 -Mother Teresa

He's there... every day. The man in the yellow truck.

The shiny, polished yellow truck that literally sits in the drive through lane at Jacob's Java. He is there at 5am when the espresso stand opens. 

You can almost feel his loneliness when you drive up behind him.


It's in his face. He's probably in his fifties, but his face looks well-worn and somewhat expressionless.


 He seems desperate for human companionship.


I have gotten to know Casey, the barrista at Jacob's Java, as I am one of the early customers too. She is an attractive, late twenties type of gal with a big heart. She reminds me of many of the young women in my college classes. 


Casey makes coffee on the go and is also a part-time counselor to the lonely.


Just like a hairdresser who listens to people's stories as they cut and style hair, barristas are often part coffee peddlers and part compassion givers. They mix complicated espressos and they listen intently, often to people's heartaches and dreams. They listen to the small details you might share with a friend on your phone. They are often magnets for human contact, the kind of connection Brene' Brown says we are all wired to have.


While it's hard to know if that part of their job is what they love to do, or if instead it increases their tips to show personal interest, in Casey's case she has a legitimate caring for those who appear at her window. 


She too can feel the loneliness almost oozing from the man in the yellow truck.


On one recent morning when I pulled up to the coffee stand on my way to work, the man in the yellow truck was already there. Not a surprise as he arrives before the window opens. 


This morning Casey was deep in conversation with him. I was parked at the opposite window and could see his non verbal communication, even if I couldn't hear the actual words he articulated. He was on a roll and glanced at me in irritation as if I was interrupting his session with a therapist. Casey was nodding and trying to talk and yet backed up toward the espresso machine. She knew without asking the drink I ordered. 


And then I saw the tear. The tear that escaped his

eye and slowly made it's way down toward his chiseled, unshaven chin. Then he glanced up, looked guilty, and started his vehicle. He pulled forward and then, for just a brief second, glanced back at Casey. She gave him the smallest wave, almost like a child gives a parent as they head off to work.

At once Casey apologized to me for the delay and I reassured her that all was well. I said, "It must be an interesting part of your job to at once be a coffee maker and a listener to other people's stories. He looks so lonely." She nodded. Casey gave a brief synopsis of his story and said quietly and almost reverently, "It's just a little scary. He said he was alone and no one wanted to even know him. I just try to be kind in the few minutes I see him each morning."

A cup of coffee. Human kindness, overflowing, like the old song says... 


www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H9HEyjzog4

Seeing the man in the yellow truck brought back some vivid memories of my own Grandma who lived in California. My Nana, a former teacher, lived in an apartment by herself just blocks from her sister. For some strange reason, she was estranged from her youngest son, Bob, who lived not too far away. Bob's wife didn't really like my Grandma. 

Yet he was her only child to live within several thousand miles of her home. My Mom lived in Seattle and my Grandma stayed with us every summer. Ken, her oldest son, lived back East. And Bob, who lived within five miles of my Grandma with his wife and five children, drove by my Grandma's apartment almost every day, even though he never stopped to see her. He never brought the grandchildren by.


It broke my Nana's heart. It brought on a loneliness that permeated every minute of her life.


Nana used to ask my Mom, "Why won't he see me? Why won't he stop by? Doesn't he know how lonely I feel?"


So what my Grandma did to curb her loneliness was to get dressed up, go to nearby shopping centers, get to know the sales people, buy articles and items she didn't need, bring them home and then never open them. When we moved her out of her way-overfull- apartment, we found hundreds of things she had purchased and never used. 


She saw the sales folks as her friends, people she could visit with to curb her loneliness and then out of courtesy for taking their time, she bought something so she wouldn't be a "bother," as she used to say.


My Grandma's face looked a great deal like the face of the man in the yellow truck...the toll of being unwanted and alone was palpable.


After hearing a bit of  the life story of the man in the yellow truck, shared by Casey, now when I pull into the coffee shop line, I say a prayer. I say it out loud.


"Dear God. Fill his heart. Help him to know you.

Help him know You are His Father and you are always there. Even though he doesn't know it now, He is never alone."

And then when I catch  the man in the yellow truck glancing my way, I look him  right in the eye, and give a small knowing wave. A touch of human kindness. A small knowing smile that says, "It will be okay. You are okay."


And we both go on our way.


May we all remember, every day, to take a moment and share human kindness that's overflowing to everyone we meet.


And all the people said, "Amen!"


God Bless!

Love 
Linda



Saturday, June 13, 2015

Being Kind to Ourselves...

                    Talk to yourself
                      As you would
                         to someone
                          You Love.
                               -Brene' Brown

One of my dear, dear friends recently asked me why I take the time to write a blog. Why would I bother to sit down with a cup of coffee, in the quiet of a morning, and record my thoughts in words? Why would I type them out and, heaven forbid, let the world see them. :)


She asked the question with a genuine sense of curiosity, not a hint of judgement.

Being an extrovert I could have easily come up with
a quick and witty response. Instead, I paused and decided to look deep.

I am doing more of that these days.

With the space my contemplation provided, she asked quietly if it was daunting to look at other blogs with all of their, as she put it with a chuckle, "bells and whistles." Their gorgeous photographs, their amazing backgrounds, their beautiful use of technology that at once casts a spell and is esthetically compelling. 

She went on to say, "Yours is so simple, yet I can feel who you are in every word you write. Who are you writing for? Why are you writing? Do you ever feel intimidated that your blog isn't "good enough?"

I love that she asked. I love that she knows me well enough to know that for me these are the kinds of gut- level and heart-felt conversations that knit a life long connection between people. Make people closer. These are the kinds of conversations that make my heart sing. They are a chance to really get to know each other...at the deepest level.


You can give a pat answer, and hold back who you really are. Or you can risk telling your whole truth.

At 68, I'm a whole truth kind of gal.

For much of my life I played the comparison game. 
And I truly believe that whenever perfection becomes our benchmark, we always fall short and beat ourselves up.

I recently asked my students, in my Conflict Management class, "Who beats themselves up on a regular basis?" Every single student had their hand up. Some raised both hands. Some tears started to fall down those tired end-of-the-year cheeks.

I quietly said, almost in a whisper, "I used to do that too. But then I realized I robbed myself of life's joys every time I did." 

There will always be someone faster, smarter, more artistic, more technology savvy. There will always be someone younger, skinnier, more beautiful.


Where I am now, after lots of hard work and soul-searching, is...

                 
                       I am enough, just as I am.

Tears flow as I write those hard-won words.


Oh, there are still moments, when my guard is down or I'm tired or sick, when I unknowingly slip back to negative self talk. Where I talk to myself with my "worst critic voice." 


Where I don't talk to myself the way I would to someone I love.


One of them happened just a few days ago. A dear friend was reading a blog post and she wished there were pictures. A simple honest statement from someone I know cares about me. She also clarified that my words created pictures for her.


Yet almost instantaneously I thought, this blog would be so much better if I took photographs and put them on here. 


And then I paused and chuckled. My life is so full and just taking a moment to record my life lessons, for me, my adult daughters, and for my grandchildren, doesn't have to be any more than words flowing from my heart.


Do I love the photographs my dear friends put on their blogs. You bet. Have I had photographs on my own blog years ago? Yes, when my daughter put them on there for me. Is photography my form of creative expression? No, it isn't. Might I use photographs again the the future? I might. Do I need to do that now? Nope, I don't.


I am enough. This blog is enough. Just as I am. Just as it is.


There would have been a time when I beat myself up after reading that, even when it came from someone I know loves me, was not being critical, and was just being real.


But not any more.


Not after years and years of reframing how I talk to myself. Not after years and years of allowing myself to marinate in God's grace.


As Oprah Winfrey once said, 


"Negative self talk is poison. It sits in your brain and heart and can do horrible damage to your soul."

Brene' Brown, one of my life-time mentors, is a researcher and story teller who has studied "shame." I'll save her findings for another blog post. However, the gist of overcoming shame, and not feeling like we are enough, is taking the risk to be vulnerable. To say what is on our hearts. To learn to love ourselves and not beat ourselves up. 


It's not an easy road to take. Yet talking to myself as I would to someone I love changes everything. It allows me to hear God's voice in my heart and to

see myself through His eyes.

Today may we all be gentle with ourselves and with the words we use to describe ourselves and describe others. May we remember to stop comparing ourselves to others. God made each of us and when He did, He made a miracle. 


You are enough. (said emphatically!) :) :)


I am enough, too! (said with an ear-to-ear grin) :) :)


And all the people said, "Amen!"


God bless!

Love, Linda 










Saturday, June 06, 2015

To Everything...Turn, Turn, Turn...

                              To grow a garden 
           is to believe in tomorrow.
                                   -Audrey Hepburn
                                    
My precious husband and I are gardeners. While I always tell others that Bert is a "Master Gardener," this is the first time I have ever named and claimed that title myself. I'm not a Master Gardener like Bert, yet I love gardening as it feeds my soul.

If you saw our garden you would understand.

Gardens are really a metaphor for life. At our home we have perennial plants and annual plants. The perennials faithfully come back year after year. The annuals, for the most part, only have one season. 

All too quickly...they are here and then they are gone. 


For any non-gardening folks who might be reading this, petunias are annuals. Tulips may be perennials.


Bert and I have different roles in our garden. He is the compost guy, the keep-the-soil-regenerated fellow. He is the one who designs the landscape with rock sculptures and garden art. Bert will look and look at the curve of the grass or the way rocks are placed and he fine tunes everything with such brilliance that it takes your breath away.. 


He's an artist in the garden just as he is an artist in loving people.


Our garden in our front yard right now has the remnants of giant rhododendron bushes, some blooms purply pink and some blooms white. If you look carefully enough, there are surprises everywhere. Bert will take old and rusty steel pieces and turn them into a water reservoir for the birds. Our garden along the walk is a mix of hydrangeas and moss and rocks with words like hope and faith. And gorgeous ferns waving in any breeze. There's a magnificent bench that even has pillows. It's surrounded by giant pots that are brimming over with every flower imaginable.  That's the bench where we often have coffee and greet our neighbors and take a breath. 


Huge maple trees line our streets, so the gardens in the front

have lots of shade. That bench is a perfect place to read a book
on a hot Spokane day.

On the other hand, the garden in our back yard has lots of sun and grass and flowering trees. That's where giant pots hold

herbs that I use for cooking...basil, rosemary, chives, you name it. I can go out my back door and gather herbs for a chicken and artichoke dish. What a blessing!

The back yard has the flowering trees... dog woods, cherry trees, hemlocks and others. And there's a rotation of plants...first the crocus, then the tulips. then the iris, then the lillies...what a parade and kaleidoscope of colors.


 An old-fashioned swing, lounge chairs and adarondack chairs

are in the middle of a sea of lush lawn. Almost every chair has a
comfy bunch of gorgeous multicolored pillows, tucked perfectly to fit in the small of your back as you ease on in after a busy day. That swing is really our favorite. We love to be out there in the evening and talk and rock, talk and rock.

And lights. Small lights everywhere. And lanterns hanging from branches high and low, each one a work of art and holding a flameless candle. And twinkling white lights like you might see on a Christmas tree. They are everywhere.


When the sun starts to go down, and the air catches a bit of briskness, we gather a big, old throw, wrap ourselves snuggly in it and rock in that swing. The coffee has changed to tea, hot cocoa or decaf. :)


Our grandchildren love to rock in that swing with us. Back and forth as we hold their hands, caress their hair and tell old stories about when they were babies.


And in the back garden there is garden art peaking out, many of it made by local Spokane artists. One of my favorites is a steel cutout of a Mom with her two daughters holding hands and running together outdoors. It's tucked next to a giant hosta along with a water bowl and statue of Mary.


And bird feeders hanging for our friends the birds to drop by, tweet a bit and fly off again.


People come from all over to see our garden and sit awhile. 

And when we chat about the garden, we also talk about what it teaches us about life. 

Life is short. Life has seasons. You look up in total awe as the pink dogwood blooms itself silly. It relishes it's "season", its moment in the sun. And then when you turn your back, and before you are ready for that season to go, it starts to drop its flowers and lose its color. 


And then it's all done, for now.


Recently, while looking at our backyard trees, most of them past their flowering season, I wished I had taken a bit more time just to soak in their glory. A bit more time just to relish

how precious they are. A gift from God.

Their time was over way before I was ready for them to go. 


And as I sat rocking on that old swing, I started to hum the old song:

          To everything, 
           turn, turn, turn.
           There is a season,
            turn, turn, turn.
            And a time for every purpose under heaven."

And the tears and life-lessons began to flow. 


Enjoy it all, now.

Live it all, now
Soak it all in, now
Be grateful for it all, now
Tell them you love them, now
Forgive everyone, everything...now

Yes, a garden is a metaphor for life and I am paying close attention to each life-lesson it is teaching me.


God Bless!

Love Linda






Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Gratitude, A Wedding And Making Memories...

It may all seem chaotic today
the going to and fro 
the busy schedules that just don't quit. 

Yet remember these days. 

I promise that some day you will look back and truly miss them.

I have no idea, and I mean no idea, how we pulled off this last weekend. I am an organizing fiend and can take on huge projects, make a game plan and get it accomplished. Yet at first glance the agenda for this weekend looked almost impossible to pull off.

Yet we did it! (she said with a huge smile on her face.)

Our sweet granddaughter, Emily, was getting married in Tacoma. There was no way we could not be there for her special day. However getting the airplane tickets, the rental car set up, the hotel set up and the logistics of meshing our schedule with that of the wedding party...well on paper it looked pretty daunting.

Add to that that we would be taking two precious granddaughters from Spokane with us. 

Yikes.

Add to that that packing all his necessities to go anywhere is a challenge for my beloved husband.

Double yikes.

Add to that that I took a significant spill the morning we were leaving and landed on my knees that have had multiple surgeries.

Add to that my schedule at the end of the school year.

Add to that that God is in charge and He can pull off miracles when I can't...

And you have a recipe for so much fun and frolic and tears and joy.

The morning of the wedding Bert and I had coffee
in the hotel breakfast area. Our granddaughters were still sleeping in a room that was attached to ours by a door.

The gist of our conversation was that it is always easier to say no and just stay at home. Especially as we get older, traveling takes a bit more out of us.

Yet we both agreed wholeheartedly that memories are made from times like these.

We would always remember and reminisce about Emily's wedding.

We would always picture the bride in her amazing wedding gown on the arm of our son and having her father-daughter dance with her daddy.

We would always remember the getting ready for the wedding process with our Spokane granddaughters.
Neither of them had ever been to a wedding and their excitement was contagious.

We would always remember the look on Emily's face when we saw her for the first time and her words, "Oh, it makes me so happy that you came!"

Somehow, all of the chaos and schedules and planning and expense faded away in that moment.
This was so much more than just a trip.

This was a memory-making moment.

And there in lies the life-lesson. Even though it is easier to not live a wholehearted life that involves travel and change and busy freeways and driving new cars and getting plane tickets...


I never  want to forget that making memories that last a life time is worth all of the hard work and chaos of the moment.


Our beautiful granddaughter got married. And we were there to help send her off. For that I am filled with a deep sense of joy and gratitude.


God bless!

Love, 
Linda


A Reminder of What Matters...

                   "We are all just walking                       each other home."                                             ...