Sunday, September 27, 2015

Finding Thanksgiving in the Speechless Moments...

                    You defeat your dark    
            when Thanksgiving is your default. 
                                                                - Ann Voskamp

It is Sunday morning and almost 3 am here in Spokane. I have been up for an hour and I finally made coffee, set the fireplace to going, and wrapped myself in a quilt made by my grandma.

I look at that quilt so lovingly made and see the threadbare pieces. It once was so carefully sewn together with meticulous precision. Now it is time-worn, but not worn out. It's starting to fray. 


I feel like that quilt. 


Wonderfully made by my Heavenly Father, yet frayed at the end of a week that left me speechless, tossed, torn, scared and barely able to breathe. 


Perhaps I was just naive and unsuspecting at the start of this week, not totally prepared to imagine what was to come. 


Yes, it was the first week back with students. Yes, the college had instituted a new computer system that impacted every, and I mean every, aspect of college life for everyone. Yes, I attended a soul-grabbing memorial service for a former student on Monday. Yes, we had a birthday dinner on Friday night and Bert got ill once we got there. Yes, many students who desperately needed financial aid appeared to be without it all together. Yes, many faculty didn't get a pay check because of a "new system" glitch. The list goes on and on.


Individually, these life-events don't seem to be an undoing.

Yet combined, and somehow left vulnerable and tired and discouraged, by bedtime Friday night I was one. hot. mess.

I was very worried about Bert and I couldn't seem to shake the fact that the upcoming MRI on his brain might not give us the news we were hoping for.


I was very worried about the students whose lives are in pieces because of all that had fallen apart at the college. Sad students.

Crying students. One I even took over to an administrative office and begged for help for him.

And the help came for Tony in the nick of time, like a ray of light and hope.


I found myself in my office at the college in tears filled with great relief that he could stay in school.


All week I prayed continually, "Lord help me know what the next step is. What would you have me do?"


I know God is faithful. I know He was there and is there.

Yet sometimes the dark moments, even when I know God is there, are still dark and hard and uncertain. I am hunting for grace and thanksgiving like the needle in the haystack.

Thanksgiving is there, somewhere, I just can't see it.


I went to bed Friday night and awoke with a start at 3:00 Saturday morning. It was still dark outside and still dark in my heart.


I felt so, so scared.  I went to the family room, the same one I am in now as I write this. I turned on the same fireplace and wrapped myself in the same quilt.


Only one word, one prayer, came out.


"Help!"


Then slowly, minute-by-minute, I felt like God reached down at 3 in the morning on Saturday, put His Almighty hand on my heart and said, "It's okay to be scared and unsure and worried, but you don't have to stay there, Linda. My dear daughter, it's okay to have tears. I gave you tears." 


And the tears came. I cried and cried. And then my cry turned to a sob. 


I held the quilt over my mouth, hoping not to wake Bert up.

No such luck. He came out to the family room, took one look at me, came over and encircled me in his arms and held me tight.
And I cried and cried until I cried out the hurt and pain and scared that was all bottled up.

I put words to it so it couldn't engulf me. Piece by piece I took the week, brought each piece out from the scary darkness and shed Gods's healing light on it.


And as I did that, God's grace and healing turned my speechless fear and worry into thanksgiving.


Not a whole banquet of thankful, mind you. But at least some

appetizers to sustain my soul.

God's like that, you know. 


Just when you feel the worst, the most hopeless, the most helpless... He can take the dark and bring His grace to the table. He can turn a week around and help me focus on my blessings.


The blessings mixed in with all of the scared and worry and overwhelm, and hurt.


He can help me to defeat my dark when Thanksgiving is my default, what I turn to next. What I go to instead of fear.


I just have to turn to Him and let Him help me.

Thanksgiving at 3 in the morning when sleep seems impossible.


Thanksgiving when my husband wakes up and encircles me with his love.


Thanksgiving when God promises that All Shall be Well, no matter the results of an MRI.


Thanksgiving when He is there in my sobs and most speechless

moments.

Thanksgiving when a loving Pope Francis shows us all what kindness really looks like... when he stops a motorcade, gets out and kisses the head of a disabled young man in a wheelchair.

Thanksgiving when I hear the words, "Thank you for not letting Tony fall though the cracks."

Thanksgiving when I get a phone call from my daughter asking how Bert is doing today.

Thanksgiving at the sunrise, sunset, and beautiful fall leaves God has adorned our world with.

So this Sunday morning I am more calm, after a Saturday spent praying and napping and talking and processing and allowing glimmers of Thanksgiving to come to the forefront. 


There's so much I don't know and don't have an answer to. Yet what I do know is that I have so many blessings in the midst of the mess.


And those blessings are what I am counting this morning.


May God Bless you and keep you and hold you in the palm of His hand. May you know that even in the dark, He is there.


Love,

Linda

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Some Things Hit So Hard You Can't Breathe...

 
                May the road rise up to meet you.
        May the wind always be at your back.
        May the sun shine warm upon your face.
        And the rains fall soft upon your fields.
                  And until we meet again,
         May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

School started yesterday, and I welcomed all of those new and eager and expectant faces into my classroom. There was Starbucks coffee for them along with oranges, apples and
muffins of all shapes and textures.

It's a tradition, after all.


New beginnings.


Yet in the back of my mind I just couldn't forget.


At 3:00 we would be attending the memorial service of a former student. Thirty nine years old. A young daughter and husband left behind. Grieving parents. A grieving brother.


So much unspoken.


The message left on our phone broke my heart.


Her Momma barely able to speak.


How do you lose a child and even breathe.


We went to the memorial service, and I clutched Bert's arm during most of it. A Catholic mass steeped in tradition. I looked at her picture. In the same church six years ago this month we were at her wedding at this very place.


I just couldn't stop crying and I am up early this morning just praying and crying. 


Oh how we love them, those children of ours. Those students of ours. All the love in that church. All the huge loss. All the investment into someone. All of the memories flooding back.


She is not the first student I have lost over 49 years of teaching. I have been to many weddings and many funerals. It always, always hurts to lose them, those dear young folks gone way, way too soon. They steal my heart, all these wonderful young students I spend hours and hours with. 


I wouldn't have it any other way. The connecting process that makes them know for sure that I love them. And I do...love them.


It's a broken open moment for sure.


A day of new beginnings mixed with very sad endings.


And this morning I will go back into my class for day two of teaching. I will take a deep breath and say a prayer, probably many prayers to get through today.


It will take time for this to heal, even a little bit.


As I hugged her Momma in the reception line I told her we were heartbroken and that we had loved her. She, looking so frail hugging back, barely able to speak. I hugged her daughter and her husband and her brother, all so sad, so confused.


And all I knew for sure in that moment of deep loss and love and grief was that God was there. Right there. 


In the middle of all of it.


He is always there, right beside us when we feel like the bitter has swallowed up the sweet. He is there when our tears flow and we're not sure we will ever stop crying. He is there, the Good Shepard, to hold His flock when we feel we just can hardly go on. He was there when she took her last breath and He is there to hold up everyone who is grieving.


And He will be there and hold me up as I walk into that classroom this morning. And I am so grateful, deeply grateful, that God loves me today and every day. 


When things hit so hard that I can't breathe, He is there.


God Bless!

Love, Linda


                                         

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Change...Truths to Carry With Me Through Life's Transitions...

Our reactions to change shape our life.
                                           -The Nester

I am sitting here this morning, sipping on coffee, a furry blanket thrown over me, and our fireplace is on. 

Yes, the sunny and 90 degree days in Spokane have been replaced by a bite in the air, 65-70 degree days and trees starting to turn at every corner. It's sweater weather and fall is upon us.

Ahhh...what a huge change in life style a change in seasons can bring.


I already miss the days of warm sumer evenings and swinging with Bert on our old swing in our back yard. "Sky-gazing," we call it. Heads up, taking in all of God's grandeur in the clouds and treetops and sunsets.


I already miss the more relaxed schedule of coffee together and "lalligagging" with my grandchildren, as my Mom used to call it.


Just being.


That was then...summer.

This is now...fall.

It seems like only yesterday we were celebrating each new green leaf we saw. Now, they are turning vibrant colors, the last "hurrah!" before slowing circling back into God's earth.


What a metaphor for life. 


Change is everywhere. Children walking to school with their parents holding their hands, headed to  Hutton Elementary, only blocks away. A time-honored tradition. A harbinger of fall and all of the changes to come.


Our buddy down the street, Aiden, was headed to the first day of school. He casually announced, over his shoulder to Bert and to me, that he was now in 4th grade. Cynthia, his devoted Mom and our dear friend, was clutching him a bit too close and Aiden squirmed to have a bit more space from her. After all, when you are in 4th grade, it may not be as "cool" to have your Mom holding your hand on the way to school.


Another change...


Those of you who know me well know that I am not
a huge fan of change.

While I know it's inevitable, at times I dig my heels in and protest a bit. I love the comfort of knowing how things are and having a sense of security, a knowingness I can depend upon. 

Inevitably I come back to have a small talk with myself. It goes something like this...


"You know you can't control anything. Right? You do get that, don't you?"


"Yup. I get that , but I have never been one to jump up and down with glee when change happens."


"What are you afraid of?"


A long pause here..."Losing things I guess. It seems like when things change, some things get lost in the shuffle."


"Have you ever considered that change, while uncomfortable at times, is also a gift?"


And the conversation continues. 


Dear neighbors leave and move to the east coast.  
A dear friend dies.
* School starts again for me. 
* An entirely new computer system is installed at the   
   college.
* A friend in great health takes a routine test and
   finds out she has cancer.

                               A gift? Hmmmm....


I recently read a quote that has circled around in my brain ever since, kind of an "Aha!" moment if you will...


"Change is something God uses to get our attention." 


Well I'm letting the Lord God Almighty know that I am all ears. This year, as changes unfold almost minute-by-minute, I am paying attention.


I am more aware than ever that how I approach change makes all the difference in my quality of life.

Clinging to old ways and old habits and old comforts can sometimes leave me exhausted.

Perhaps it's time to change how I see change.:)

Perhaps as I trust God to lead me through each change, I will feel less anxious.

What I do know for sure is that what doesn't change is God Almighty, the creator of Heaven and earth.


He doesn't change and His love for me doesn't change and that is the anchor in any storm or change that comes my way!

I ordered the book Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You Through Life's Transitions. The author, Kristen Strong, has some gems to offer that I'm sure will be life-lessons for me as I seek to embrace change with a new attitude of gratitude.


I'll keep you posted about what I learn.


And in that spirit, I'll finish my coffee and get ready to  go back to SCC! School awaits! And today, after thought and prayer, I'm going to try and anticipate this change with a grin on my face.


How do you feel about change? Do you embrace it or struggle with it? How do you include God in seeing change from His perspective?


Sending you loves and hugs and prayers!

Linda






Saturday, September 12, 2015

When You Want to Shout "Praise the Lord!" in the Checkout Line at Target...

Be on the lookout for miracles. God answers prayers at every turn. And when you see a miracle, shout your thanksgiving from the roof tops!
                                                           
                                                              -Anne Lamott, Wow! Thanks!, Help!


I have been holding my breath for some time. I have also been praying non-stop for those I love who have been facing huge challenges. I believe in the power of prayer and when people I love are up against it, I pray. I pray on and off all day long. I pray in the shower and when I start my car. And I contact all of the prayer warriors I know and ask them to pray.

Some of you might think this is overkill, but when the Bible says..."when two or more of you gather together...pray." Well, I take that seriously. I have a prayer list and every morning I thank God for all of His blessings and then I say, "Help!" "Please help!"


This past week was a time of reckoning for several people...medical tests and then results. 
In both cases, the previous results had not been what was hoped for. Both people are dear to me, sisters in Christ. Since I am a "feeler" I walked around all week just feeling grateful for God's love and while I trust God, I was honestly scared about the ..."What ifs?"

One of these folks that I love so much has had several miscarriages and was pregnant again. She had an ultrasound set up.


The other, my dear friend Vicky Westra, has stage four breast cancer and has been doing chemotherapy, the kind that makes you so sick you can barely live your own life. 
Both women love God and inspire others with their courage. Yet faced with test results, everyone has had a lump in their throat. Quite honestly, I haven't slept very well all week.

Waiting. Asking God for healing! Praying some more.


Wednesday night...a text...they could see the baby and hear the heart beat. I was so thrilled knowing how relieved their whole family must be. I kept thanking God for this huge blessing.


One down, one to go.


If you have followed my blog you have read about my dear friend, Vicky Westra. Vicky is battling Stage Four breast cancer and has had signs of cancer in so many places in her body. She even has had two tumors in her brain. Her beloved oncologist, Dr. Panawalker, recently put her on a horrible, unthinkable dosage of chemotherapy. Vicky has been so sick and so drained. This week she had a Pet Scan to detect cancer and an MRI to look at the brain tumors.


Vicky is truly an inspiration to so many people. She has a team of prayer warriors and I'm just one of them. However Vicky feels like a soul-sister to me. I have been praying 24/7 for a miracle, for 
good results and progress in this fight for more time for my dear friend.


Wednesday Vicky and her husband Rick were to meet with 

Dr. P to get the results. I was so relieved about the news for my other dear friend, and I just kept asking God for good news for Vicky!

And God answered my prayer and the prayers of so many others. In some cases where a previous PET scan had shown cancer, there was no sign of cancer at all. In other cases the cancer was minimized or reduced. Praise God! And Vicky's MRI brain scan shows that the two tumors in her brain are shrinking.


It's working. All of the awful side effects of these rounds of chemo are horrible, but the chemo is helping to kill the cancer. Yet Vicky is realistic. She pays a huge price to take this chemo. It is taking a huge toll on her body and energy. More prayers are needed. Yet what a VICTORY! Vicky will have more time with her beloved family- husband Rick and her sons Nolan and Colton.


When I started to read Vicky's latest post about her "Results..." I found myself stopping and saying a prayer. My heart was in my throat as I read the words aloud.


And amidst a flood of tears I just kept saying "Praise the Lord!" All day long, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. "God answers prayers!"...oh yes He does. Sometimes...not always the way we would like. This time...truly a miracle!


Later in the day I was at Target getting some supplies for the start of the school year.  One of the checkout folks is always so cheerful and I love to go through her line. As I had been going around the store I found myself both humming and singing some of my favorite faith songs. The song Amazing Grace kept coming back to me and I was quietly singing those words as my cart coasted into Annie's checkout line.


Annie took one look at the grin on my face and said, "Wow! It looks from your smile like you won the lottery!"


"Even better," I said. I told her a short and summarized version of the miracles...the baby's heartbeat and Vicky's story. I told her about the latest PET Scan and MRI results.


Annie kept checking out my items, you could hear each one being price checked, and simultaneously she was crying. She is a faith-based gal who loves God and shares His love and glory and grace right there in that checkout line.


"Oh my mercy," she said grinning. "Isn't this just a 'Praise the Lord!' moment!"


I told her that I agreed completely. "To God be the Glory!," no matter where you are.


So right there, at the South Hill Target checkout stand in Spokane, Washington, Annie and I looked at each other, grinned and let out a "Praise the Lord!" And then we started laughing and smiling.


It was our way of thanking God Almighty for His love and kindness. It was our way of saying...

"Thanks, Lord, for Vicky's miracle. Thanks Lord, for that baby's beating heart!"

And yes, as Vicky reminds me... All Shall be Well!...and it is!


God Bless!

Love Linda

Monday, September 07, 2015

Letting Go of Trying to Be Perfect...

                    Want to be happy?
                  Stop trying to be perfect.
                                       -Brene Brown

I love it when someone asks a thought-provoking question and then listens intently to the answer. One of my dear friends did that recently. We sat down for coffee, holding our cups for warmth, and she cautiously asked if she could ask me a personal question.

That's not like her. Usually she just throws her truth out there and has no hesitation in saying what she needs and feels. So as I looked up, I really looked at her. I saw sadness in her eyes. That surprised me. It was like looking at someone I knew really well and loved dearly and discovering that something was going on that I had no idea about. My heart knew to tread softly and gently.


"Of course," I said. "You can ask me anything. I'll tell you the truth as I see it, if you want to hear it."


There was a long, unexpected pause. A small tear overflowed her eye and slowly moved down her cheek.


I said, treading on tender ground,"Oh sweetie. Tell me what's wrong."


Quietly she said, "How do you do it? How do they do it? How do those women be such a great mom and wife and friend and daughter and employee? How do they do it all and do it so perfectly?"


She said that she just felt all "dried up,"as if the life force that had always been so vibrant inside her had just faded away or died when she wasn't watching. She said she felt like an absolute failure. She works full time and has small children. And she's tired. So very tired. All the time tired. She has put on five pounds. Her house is a mess. She is a mess. She doesn't feel pretty, let alone sexy. 


She also voiced that she felt guilty. After all, she loves God and shouldn't that be enough? She said she kept making mistakes

and hardly recognized the person she was becoming. She had no patience for anyone or anything.

I just listened and nodded my head.


The one tear became several and then a flood let go and her words became sobs. We were at Starbucks and there was lots of hustle and bustle so she wasn't too conspicuous. I asked her if she wanted to come to my house, have the rest of her coffee and we could talk there. She just nodded.


When we got to my home and she sank into the sofa, I put a big comfy throw around her. I exchanged her coffee for some chamomile tea, got some chocolate (my answer to every problem in the world) and we picked up our conversation once again.


"Look at your home" she said with a dash of self-condemnation. My house is a disaster all the time."


I held my cup of tea and slowly looked up at her. "You have small children, sweetie. Of course your home is a disaster. It's supposed to be. Our home was once too when we were raising children. It's just Bert and me now so most things stay clean.

But we miss having all that fabulous commotion. So when our grandchildren come over, we look forward to the mess. It reminds us of when we were your age."

And then I said, as softly as I could, "When did you start beating yourself up this way, being so hard on you?"


And more tears flowed.


As she finally found the words she shared how she wasn't skinny enough, or smart enough, or pretty enough. She didn't fit a model she had in her head about being a perfect wife, perfect Mom, perfect friend, perfect employee, perfect daughter. 


Ahh... so much pressure.


I share this story (with her permission) because I have been wondering lately about how so many women are hard on themselves, feel so sad about being imperfect and beat themselves up non-stop.

I have been there.

I hear it all the time from women who have struggled all their lives and women who are extremely accomplished and you would think had better self esteem.


Not only as women are we hard on ourselves, we may be extremely hard on each other. Silent and not so silent judgements and criticisms about the kind of parenting you do or the imperfect role model you are or the size of jeans you wear.


*Thank goodness for Jesus and His love and forgiveness.

*Thank goodness for getting older and wiser and letting go
  of those unrealistic expectations that just weigh heavy
  on our hearts.
 *Thank goodness for those women who are so authentic and
   vulnerable and can chuckle about being imperfect.

Like many women, I grew up in a family where pretending to be perfect was the order of the day. It took lots of energy for my Mom to hold up the facade. Often times the pretense led her to depression and sadness. What a relief it was, after my father died, to see my Mom be more vulnerable and more open about her thoughts and fears. More open about her imperfections.


As she allowed herself to be more human, and showed her imperfections without shame, she became more attractive and open and authentic to everyone around her.


What a huge relief, a breath of fresh air!


And at 68, I am on the journey of letting go of the desire for perfection. I am so genuinely happy to be around authentic women who can be who they really are. We can laugh about our imperfections and we try to no longer put ourselves under a daily microscope. We are learning to be more content, more genuinely happy about who we uniquely are, who God made us to be.


Even though God is in our heart, we can be grumpy or impatient or want to scream our bloody heads off. Even though

we pray and ask God to help us, we may still want to drop kick someone to another state. And then we find ourselves humbly telling God that we are sorry, truly sorry. We pray for patience
and to walk like Jesus walked and talk like Jesus talked.

I not only love being with women who know they are imperfect, I love reading the stories of women who share their imperfections and tell it like it really is.


Want a great read, a great chuckle, a great heartwarming look at being a woman and Mom today? 

Read Amy Wilson's 
                    When Did I Get Like This?

Oh my goodness. In her own words....

" Over the last seven years of long days with little children
   I have had many moments of joy, calm, and peaceful reverie.
   This book is about the other moments..."

As I read Amy's words, and laughed until my sides were sore and cried loads of tears at her pain, so many memories popped back. And she spoke about embracing our imperfections because we all are imperfect. 


And finally I have to agree with Brene Brown, in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, when she asked this question to women.

                            
                              "Want to be happy?
                                   Stop trying to be perfect!"

Well said, Brene, well said! Yes, I do want to be genuinely happy and I am working on embracing my imperfections.


God Bless!

Love, Linda

Thursday, September 03, 2015

And in a blink, summer was over...

       Autumn seemed to arrive
       suddenly that year. The morning 
       of the first September was crisp
       and golden as an apple.         
                                          - J.K. Rowling

For weeks and weeks we have had ninety degree days of smoke-filled skies. And then it rained. Not a lot of rain mind you, but just enough to bring the silhouettes of the pine trees back into a clear view.

And in that moment, we all took a deep breath, even a sigh.


The air cleared and with it the hot days vanished as if a dream and seventy degree days that were autumn brisk descended.


Bert was in his cozy reading chair and I was in mine and I looked out one of the huge windows that overlooks our back yard, trees filled with luscious leaves. 


And I said in an incredulous whisper, almost afraid that saying it out loud would make it so...

             "Honey, look. Look at the leaves. There are
               tinges of orange and red and yellow in them."

And just like that, in a blink, it felt like summer was over.


I've always been convinced that summer had unthinkable expectations placed on its shoulders.


"Ah," we say. "This summer I'm going to..."and we make a list of all the fun and frolic we can muster.

"Let's..." and the dreams erupt and a  bucket list begins to form in our hearts.

Yet this summer, in Spokane, has ended on a note of terror and sadness and nervousness. Those thirty plus wildfires have had us all on edge. The earth is scorched and over 390,000 acres have been burned and 150 homes lost. Three precious fire fighters lost their lives trying to keep us all safe. And it's not over yet.


Not the summer of our dreams.


We were all so ready for some stability, some 'this feels like how it is supposed to be in life' moments.


Thankfully, the start of school was on the horizon. And that event brings with it a feeling of normalcy. This year, however, there may be a teacher's strike after just one week of school.


Ah...the life lessons abound.

We are learning to practice flexibility and adaptation to events we wish weren't happening. 


We are learning to find gratitude in the midst of sorrow.


We are learning that we are not in charge of anything except our attitude.


We are reminded, once again, that we get to choose. 


We can choose to complain or we can choose joy.

And choosing joy in the midst of sorrow takes courage.

We can choose to remember that God is here in the midst of the hardest moments. When the fires in our lives rage and seem to scorch our dreams, He never leaves us.


Never.


His love is a constant in a changing world and every changing season.


Through everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING...

He holds us in the palm of His almighty hand.

So today, I am choosing JOY! Teaching college hasn't started for me yet so I am relishing a few days of "nesting" at home.


I am choosing to take a few more moments in prayer time as I sip my first cup of coffee.

I am choosing to slow the pace of life down so I can
let gratitude seep into every corner of my heart.

I am choosing to text my loved ones at the start of their day to remind them that they are deeply loved.
God loves them and so do we.

I am choosing to put on my sweater and scarf as I take my walk and smile as I see the trees starting to turn. As I see the edges of leaves with a hint of yellow and red and burnt orange.

I want to remember to smile and say a prayer of "thanks!" Thanks for it all. The hard and the easy.

The heart-breaking and the glorious.

Summer is gone and autumn is just around the corner.


Perhaps William Cullen Bryant was right on when he described fall in this way...

            
         "Autumn...the year's last loveliest smile."

And we anticipate its smile and arrival with

confidence and JOY!

God Bless!

Love Linda 
























A Reminder of What Matters...

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