Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Doing the Impossible...


       For nothing is impossible with God.
                                            Luke 1:37


Let me start off by saying that I am in no way a Biblical scholar. However, I am someone who is constantly stunned, and I mean stunned, by how I can read something in the Bible and it reminds me of God's power, God's greatest truths. His word
can come into my family room early in the morning, when things seem the darkest, and shed a ray of light so bright that I am left smiling and crying simultaneously.

I am reminded of life-giving and life-saving truths. Knock your socks off truths. Bring me to my knees truths.

Reading Luke 1:37 this morning brought me to my knees.
It reminded me of God's power and His love. And I am so grateful to remember this. Especially in this moment.

I vowed when I started this blog to share my truth, my story.
To quote Brene Brown, "sharing your story is the most courageous thing you will ever do." I agree with her, but that doesn't mean it is easy.

I am writing this blog as a way to process my own life learnings and to help those nearest and dearest to me know who I am and who I was, when it is all said and done and God calls me home.

Yet telling the "truth," the whole truth and nothing but the truth, is a bit daunting. That's where God comes into the picture, at least for me.

God already knows my truth, He lives my truth with me.
He holds me in times of the hardest and darkest truths.
You see, at least in my life, my faith becomes more real and more vital when the rubber hits the road in my life.

And my faith is vital now, right this very minute as I navigate each twist and turn and moment of optimism and moment of deep grief.

Let me step back and explain.

I don't know why, but I just didn't imagine that where we are today is where we would be. One minute we were navigating life and were grateful every minute, wanting to serve God and love others, and the next minute Bert had a stroke.

A life-changing moment to be sure. And then just as we began to make progress, and he was starting to feel a bit like himself, last Friday he got a very serious infection.

Bert had been out gardening, picked up some dead branches and got a thorn stuck in his thumb. He took out the thorn, put Neosporin on it and a band aid, and went about his day. He had been getting more exercise and feeling stronger. No big deal, right? Wrong.

Friday morning his thumb was swollen to twice its size and redness, from infection, was headed up his arm. Given his recent health situation, this was cause for huge concern.

So off to the Urgent Care we went, he got a shot of antibiotics,
prescribed some HUGE antibiotic pills, thumb baths, and other new meds. The doctor on call said Bert was one inch away from going into the hospital. Yikes. Very, very scary.

By the time last week was over, I was a bit of a mess. Okay, a little more than a little of a mess. I have had my heart in my
throat for weeks since Bert's stroke, watching every bite of food he has eaten and constantly being on high alert. I was and am exhausted, weary to the core. I am having a hard time sleeping. I am a light sleeper anyway and any time Bert groans or moves or his breathing changes...I am wide awake.

I have been praying non-stop for his health and trying to do it all. Normally, when things get this tough and I am this scared, I talk to Bert. He is the love of my life and my best friend. Plus, he is a counselor and a wisdom sharer.

Yet I know I can't talk to Bert about all of this. He would feel so horrible to know the stress it is placing on me. He would worry that I am getting sick.

So I have talked to God and my family and my friends.

I talk to God all the time anyway, yet I have talked to Him even more during these tough times. Tough times because I don't know how this story will end. Tough times because all I can do
is be the best helper and care taker I can be.

And I have shared everything, every feeling and fear with the Lord God Almighty. And some of those feelings aren't very pretty. I have shared feeling mad. I have shared feeling sad. I have shared feeling so scared I can't breathe. I have shared my irritation that certain people I had expected to come and help have seemed to disappear, probably in fear of how hard this is.
I have asked God to help me forgive them and support them, even if they can't be here in this.

I have shared my great delight at those unexpected people who have shown up and helped to ease this journey for Bert and for me. I have shared my deep gratitude for those caring and loyal family and friends who will be here for it all, no matter what, no matter how hard this gets. That's who they are. I can count on them. We can count on them. They are the light in the darkness, just as God's love is a light in the darkest moments.

I have shared it all, knowing God can handle every emotion I have and every feeling I feel.

After all, He made me this way. He gave me a huge heart and wide range of emotions that I am not afraid to share, even though it is not always easy for others to hear my feelings (she says with a smile :))

And I rest in this...what I know for sure is that God can do the impossible and that with Him all things are possible. 

Miracles are possible. Yet I also know that tough things happen to great people and sometimes things don't go the way we want them to, the way we desperately need them to.

Yet He is there. Through it all. He gives us hope in the storms.
When all hope seems lost, He is a hope-giver. No matter how this chapter in our lives ends up, He is there in the midst of the great and the midst of the hard.

And even though I don't know how He will do it, He will equip me for this part of the journey. This unexpected chapter of Bert being ill, the Lord God Almighty is there in it all. I am trusting God to do the impossible because with Him it is all possible.
He can give me the strength I don't have on my own. He can
help me to rest in Him and get the sleep I need.

So today I am leaning in to His strength, His hope and His love.

I am holding His hand as my beloved and I navigate this latest
part of the story. No infection is too big for God. No illness is too big for God. No circumstance, no matter how hard, is impossible for Him.

And He is there for you, no matter where you are today!

And knowing that gives me a blessed peace beyond all understanding.
Amen and Amen!

God Bless!
Love, Linda


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Autumn Leaves...

"The trees are leaking leaves."
                                -Bert Salisbury, October 2015


I have to laugh each time I walk outdoors. Our beautiful neighborhood is lined with two sets of gorgeous, truly gigantic maple trees. During the spring and summer the tops of the trees form a canopy as they almost touch each other across the street. Those trees identify our neighborhood and visitors come from all over to ooh and ahh at their grandeur.

Today, those ancient reminders of God's glory are shedding by the minute and a cushion of orange and red and yellow and green leaves covers our sidewalks and lawns and flower beds. It's truly a  sight to behold.

When you live where there are four distinct seasons, you get to see God's glory shining in Mother Nature's antics.

After a stark winter and snow, I wait each year with baited anticipation for the very first green leaf to present itself. It's like waiting for Christmas morning... seeing first one then ten then twenty leaves appear again. The barren trees, one more time and for one more season, give birth to a fresh newness.  

I always give a sigh of relief when I see those first leaves peak out after a tough winter. Ahhh...I think to myself. All is right with the world again. If there is spring then surely there will be a summer! 

To everything...turn, turn, turn...
There is a season...turn, turn, turn...
And a time for every purpose unto Heaven. 

Truthfully, since Bert and I are gardeners, fall is a bit nostalgic as we tuck our gardening tools away for another time. We compost old leaves and ready the plants for the colder temperatures. 

It's a bit like nesting before a baby is born.
It's getting ready for the unseen. A sense of wonder in all that God has created and restored.

Life is like that right now. Seasons are changing in our lives. It's a time of nostalgia and a time of anticipation.

We are choosing JOY and GRATITUDE at every turn. Even when that isn't easy to do.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that my beloved Bert suffered a TIA stroke not long ago.
While the stroke was a mild one compared to what it might have been, it has been a life changer and re-arranger.

There is a new normal going on at our house. In a blink of an eye, life changed. It does that sometimes you know. And those life changes give us a chance to move toward fear and anger and resentment or move closer to God, to rely on Him.

To choose to see His grace in our lives. To choose to
open up instead of shutting down. To choose to talk about the blessings and the fears.

To choose to be fully present and alive in this moment, no matter how hard this moment is. 

While some days I am a complete emotional mess, and cry all the way to work as I listen to my Christian 
CD, I find that instead of being depleted, I am more real and more open and more vulnerable.

And on other days I am marinated in happiness just by the fact that Bert is still here. That I can kiss his sweet face and hear him tell me he loves me.

That is  enough, and all is right with my world.

This isn't easy, yet what I told our adult children is that we didn't sign up for easy. Bert and I signed up for living each day to the fullest, no matter what.

We signed up for loving the life God gave us, even when that life is turned upside down.

We signed up for "better or worse" and those sacred words really do mean something important. They are a promise. Given to each other, sacred before God.

And we are so grateful, because this could have been way worse. Yet it still is a life-changer. It isn't easy.

The life lessons come down each day, almost like those leaves leaking from the trees, and we are focusing on being grateful for each one.

We are so grateful for every prayer and kindness shown to us. For cards and calls and meals. It's humbling to accept them, yet we know that they sustain us much more than the giver could imagine.

They remind us that we matter.

And so do you... matter. You matter to me. You matter to God. No matter how hard your own journey is right now, you matter. The Lord God Almighty loves me and He loves you. He is here in every minute, every breath. And how good it is to know that He will never, ever, ever leave or forsake us!

God Bless, 
Love, Linda


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Cherish Your Life...Every Single Moment!

And when I give thanks for the seemingly
microscopic, I make a place for God to grow
within me.
                                -Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

We have been cherishing the smallest moments all week
long. In the midst of barely breathing at times, we have
been so deeply grateful for every blessing.

As my friend Vicky said, "We are cherishing our life, every single moment."

One evening, when the sun was starting to set, Bert and I
took some sparking cider and sat on the bench in our front yard. We held hands, not saying a lot. There was no need to put words to what has been a wonderful and very hard week.

Having a stroke, even one like a TIA, is a game-changer.
(for more details, see last post).

We are adjusting to the changes. Bert has retired from counseling after 30 plus years helping people. He may do some counseling informally, but he felt the time has come. This isn't a small change, given all of the other changes.

Recently we were at a restaurant eating breakfast after church.
When it came time to pay the bill, the waitress (who feels like part of our family), smiled slyly and said, "Your breakfast has been paid for." We looked around and Bert saw a client. The gentleman stood up and in a booming voice thanked Bert for all the people he had helped and for helping to save his marriage. The folks in the restaurant beamed and clapped.

That's just how Bert is. He loves people for who they are and his loving and caring presence helps people grow.

Bert has been God's hands and heart in healing so many others.

We are taking life one step at a time and the greatest priority is Bert getting his strength back. Lots and lots of doctor's appointments. So many times I have thought of my dear friend Vicky Westra and my friend Jackie in Georgia and all of the appointments they have had.  

Yet we are focusing on how blessed we are to have Bert here and hope these appointments will be part of his healing process.

Truthfully, I have been emotionally and physically exhausted, not sleeping very well yet. I'm back to teaching and juggling lots on my plate. I know that God will calm my heart and I am trusting in His plan for our lives. It just isn't easy, that's for sure. Yet what I know for sure is that God is right there with us in every cherished moment and every hard moment.

Thank you for your prayers, your cards and well wishes.
We are so grateful for each prayer and for your support, especially right now.

May you know in your deepest heart-of-hearts that God loves you and holds you in the palm of His Almighty hand!

Love, 
Linda


Saturday, October 03, 2015

The phone call that changed my life...

                      Fear not for I am with you;
                Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
                          I will strengthen you. 
                            Yes, I will help you. 
                 I will uphold you with my righteous    
                              right hand.
                                                                                                                  - Isaiah 41:10
                 
I'm not sure I can write this post. I'm not sure that I can get the words out through the tears that won't stop coming. I'm not sure.

What I am sure of this morning is that God loves me. He loves Bert. He is here. Thank God, He is here. And Bert is still here. By God's grace, he is still here.

I'm not sure I will ever get that phone call out of my head. I hear it when I go to sleep. I hear it when I wake up. I hear it in my dreams.


Let me back up to Thursday afternoon. After teaching I went to a club meeting at the college where I teach. I am an advisor to these students. We had just had our first meeting of the year.

I turned my phone off because I hate it in meetings where someone's phone rings. It's a distraction. 

After a meeting that followed the first meeting, I started to head home so I turned my phone back on so I could call my beloved husband, Bert. He loves "checking in" moments about where I am and when I'll be home. We have two busy schedules to coordinate and knowing my schedule helps in planning.


There were two missed phone calls. I decided, thank God, to check them before I called Bert. They were both from my home phone. Bert doesn't use a cell phone. He just plain hates them. I tease him about being the "last of the land line lovers."


The first message from Bert sounded strange. He is a counselor and had left after his last appointment feeling "wobbly" and not like himself. I thought, hearing those words, that his on and off case of vertigo might be flaring up again.


I listened to the second message.


He said, "Honey, I think I might be having a stroke."


My world stopped. I literally ran through the parking lot, dialing at the same time. He talked about taking a cab to the hospital. I wondered why he hadn't called 911.


There is one lane construction going all the way up to the main street I take to get home. I prayed aloud, "Please God, let Him be okay. Let him be alive. Let help get there. Your help, Lord. Be there with Bert. Please God, let him live."


I have never in my life felt so scared and desperate.


Bert is the love of my life, my soul mate, my life partner. We have been married for 31 amazing years and together 34. We have been through cancer together, blending families together, everything together. I adore him and he adores me. We are best friends.


And because of slow traffic I couldn't get to him. I called and talked to him for a second. I told him I would be right there.


I called back seconds later and he didn't answer the phone. I had forgotten to tell him to call 911.


So I did. As I raced down 29th, I called 911. I told the operator our address, that my husband thought he was having a stroke, and that I was racing to the house. She told me help was on the way.


The minute I got home and saw Bert I knew we were in trouble.

Not one minute later, the paramedics arrived, took vital information and rushed him off to Sacred Heart Hospital, only five minutes away.

One paramedic took a look at me, a complete mess, and said wisely, "We will have the lights and sirens on. You are NOT to follow us and go through the red lights with us. You might have an accident. Lock up your home, call your support folks and then head down to Sacred Heart." And then he said the most important words of all. "I can see how much you love him. I promise you I will personally be with him and take care of him

in the ambulance."

Looking back, I felt like that paramedic was God's messenger

in that moment.

Do not fear, I am with you.

In the deep storms, I will comfort you.

I listened and I didn't argue. I locked up the house and hugged several neighbors who came over terrified to see an ambulance and fire truck at our house. 


You see they all love Bert. He is counselor and healer to so many lives, not just mine.


And then I called our daughters. We are a team when there is a crisis. I could barely get the words out as the phone call went to voice mail. How do I say this so I won't scare them to death, but also tell them the magnitude of what has happened.


Long story short I raced to Sacred Heart, praying aloud. 

"Dear God, please save him." I was crying so hard I could barely see the road.

My youngest daughter arrived in what felt like seconds.

I called our police officer son in Seattle and told him to call his brother, who lives in Texas. 

I told everyone to ask people to pray. Now. In this instant. 

Pray.

I waited in the heart trauma waiting room to hear the news. And then a gift from God... Amy, my youngest daughter, came. 


What a blessing to have her there. Jessi arrived later and the two of them stayed late into the night, interpreters of medical information when my critical thinking skills were completely clouded by fear. Terror was more like it.


I kept telling Amy that I couldn't fall apart. 


Finally, after what seemed like hours but was only minutes, I was allowed in to see my sweetheart with wires coming out of him everywhere. He was hooked up to machines and monitors with their lights and lines and beeping sounds. 


The doctors and nurses were working feverishly, trying to figure out what had happened. The word stroke was thrown around constantly.


Bert was pumped full of what later came to be described as an aspirin compound and taken in for an emergency MRI and CT scan.


I started to breathe again a bit later when someone found Amy and me and said, "It doesn't look like a major stroke, but we have to figure out what has happened and what caused it." I clung to those words. It was probably some kind of stroke, but not major.


In final analysis, Bert had a TIA which is a mild stroke. There are stroke-like symptoms yet Praise God no permanent damage to the brain. After talks, and reading the literature, I now know that after having a TIA you are more likely to have a stroke. The real, hard, awful kind. It is a huge warning.


As if this smaller stroke wasn't bad enough.


We are back home, as I write this, and truthfully we are dazed and scared and exhausted and making a plan. Bert has three new medications. It's complicated because he has a digestive, auto-immune disease (crohn's disease) which can easily flare up. Bert also needs to be on a diet to gain weight (needs to gain ten pounds), and a diet that doesn't aggravate his crohn's disease, and a low cholesterol diet. I have spent the morning trying to coordinate all of these dietary requirements.


Yikes!


Yet what is amazing in all of this, and not a surprise, is Bert's attitude of Thanksgiving, humor, grace and praise. He has told me over and over how much he has to live for, how much he loves his family, how much gratitude he has that God brought him through this scare. He isn't resentful about any of it, but is adjusting to how will he get to his poetry class now if I can't take him. He appreciates life even more, if that is possible.


And now on to the adjustments...


That is the best update I can give at this time. 

Please pray for Bert and his health. Please pray about how to figure out all the changes and curve balls thrown our way (can't drive right now, what to do about work...the list goes on and on.)


Today, in this moment, we are leaning into His everlasting arms

as we sort this out and make plans for healing. We are filled with so much gratitude for each day God gives us. We are so grateful that Bert is still here.

Thank you for praying.


May God bless you and keep you!

Much love,
Linda



       

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Resting in Him...

         Come to me, all you who are weary and 
          burdened, and I will give you rest.
                               -Matthew 11:28

It's 3:30am here in Spokane and I've been up for an hour. 
The early morning school ritual begins. Make the coffee, read Jesus Calling, have my prayer time and grade papers.

Yet somehow this back to school routine is a comfort. 

All day long yesterday I just felt so grateful to be doing what I am doing. I looked at my students and saw their hearts. I was
delighted they were in my class and that I would get to share
in twelve weeks of their lives. What an honor it is, since I teach Communication Studies, to get a look into who they really are.

The morning/afternoon schedule looks like this:

Get to school at 6am (instead of last year's 5:30), teach four classes in a row, do office hours, help advise a club on campus, and committee work (which I am choosing to do less of this year).

As long as I focus on God and know that this is His plan for me, the energy and love is there to be fully present during those hours.


I'm working on getting more rest, a bit more sleep. Taking a nap after work is a true pleasure.


Yet focusing on God, truly focusing on Him, is not always an easy habit for me. Turning over the hard parts, really letting them GO, is a challenge. And there have been some tough  challenges lately.


Not everything this week has been easy. There have been some very scary moments. Some of my dearest ones are struggling with some tough health issues. 


However, as my friend Robynn said in a blog post, "I'm learning I am not God and I can't fix everything." When I read those words she wrote on Vicky's blog I thought..."This lady is a soul sister of mine!"


Me too, Robynn. Me too! Amen and Amen again! 


It's not easy to give up trying to be in charge, trying to fix things for those who are nearest and dearest. Trying to make right that which just won't fall into place.


But the older I get, and hopefully wiser too, the more I realize that trying to "fix things" for others can take me down a slippery slop. It's exhausting to take it all on.


Truth be told, it's impossible and it's not my job anyway.


I'm not sure when I took on the job of trying to fix things and make them right for everyone. Clearly only God can do this and trying to do God's job, instead of relying and trusting that

He is fully capable of doing His job, is almost humorous.

I may get on my knees, ask for His help, tell Him my worries,

turn them over to Him... and then not five minutes later, take them all back again.

And what comes with this worry, worry, worry cycle is spiritual, physical and emotional exhaustion.


Worry + more worry = no rest at all.


That's why I have always loved Matthew 11:28. When I read it and say it out loud I almost always let out a big sigh.

Audible relief! 

It's His promise and God is a trustworthy promise keeper.


"Come to me all you who are weary and burdened." And what He is kind enough not to say is that I am more weary and more burdened because I don't always truly trust Him to fix things.


"And I will give you rest." Ahhhh....the sound of that promise soothes my weary soul.


So today my prayer for me, and for you, is that we rest in Him, not ourselves. That we truly turn over our burdens to the Lord God Almighty. He can hold them. He can fix them. He can handle them.


The One who made the heavens and the earth can surely take care of all of my worries. And He can take care of yours too.


What is worrying you? Do you have burdens that you need rest from?


God Bless!

Love, 
Linda





     
             

"Just Plain Hard"...

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