Friday, November 27, 2015

Dancing In The Dark...

    It is in the dark that God is passing by. The bridge and our lives shake not because
    God has abandoned, but the exact opposite: God is passing by. God is in the tremors.
    Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by. In the blackest, God is closest, at work,
    forging His perfect and right will. Though it is black and we can't see and our world
    seems to be free-falling, and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most  present to us.
                                                                           ~Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

As the weather got worse and the lights flickered, the song "Dancing in the Dark" by Frank Sinatra just kept playing itself over and over again in my mind. It's an old song, one my Grandma used to sing out loud, especially when the lights were low or might even get turned off.  A week ago Tuesday, Frank's lyrics kept me company as the wind began to howl.

We were at home when the gigantic and ominous storm hit Spokane, Washington and we could hear the whirl of the wind gaining momentum. We had been told there would be high winds. The Mayor of Spokane, David Condon, even ordered all employees of non-emergency agencies to leave work at 3:00 pm.

Unheard of.

Those of us who live in the eastern part of Washington State are a hearty breed. After all,
we have all four seasons here. We do very hot and we do very cold. We love to tell stories
about the ice storm of 2002 that knocked out power for days. It was cold, cold, cold...but our pioneer spirit helped us to get though the challenge...together.

This windstorm would surely be a piece of cake.

Not so, not so, not so. 

Before long we could hear what sounded almost like a tornado, or what one sounds like in the movies. And then a huge cracking and crashing sound on all sides of our house. And then the lights flickered and the power went out. It was pitch black out and we couldn't see what was going on. The wind howled and howled. I walked to our front door and saw limbs of trees flying by.

I have a collection of flameless candles in unique lanterns so I went into the "get the house ready for an emergency" mode. Thankfully, we have two gas fireplaces and once those were on, their glow kept us from focusing on the ominous sights and sounds going on outdoors. 

Bert was even a bit giddy. It was like camping, he said, and it reminded him of his days as a Paratrooper in the Army. The TV and computer were off, and we reminisced about old stories. I broke out the sparkling cider and we set in for the evening and went to bed early. 

The next morning we heard reports that we had experienced hurricane-force winds of more than 75 miles per hour. Trees were down everywhere, power poles were snapped like tooth picks, huge 100 foot trees fell right through houses and over 200,000 people were without power.

We were two of those people.

Eight days later we were still without power and snow had started to fall in Spokane.
While almost every school in Spokane was closed, the college where I teach was open.
Yikes! I would need to venture out in this inclement weather and teach my classes. Many of my students would have their children at home so they were "in a pickle," as my Grandma used to say. They needed to be at school and they also needed to be at home. Besides this dilemma, we are almost at the end of the quarter and huge projects were due. Lots of choices to make and none of them seemed easy.

The question of the hour asked in classrooms, grocery stores and gas stations was ... "Do you have power?" People who never talked let down their guard with neighbors as those with fireplaces offered a warm room to sit in. Those who had generators offered a warm meal.

We all offered warm hearts. 

And to top it all off, Thanksgiving was around the corner. Our power company was completely overwhelmed by the enormity of the disaster (over 100 trees were down in our old neighborhood.) Many of those fell across roads and uprooted trees with a diameter of 14 feet wide. They called for help and a steady stream of power line workers came from Canada, Oregon and Idaho.

Neighbors surveyed the damage in walks together around the neighborhood. Everyone was quiet as we saw what our newspaper reported as a "war zone." It was unthinkable, unbelievable. It might be cause for depression and anger.

But it wasn't.

Instead something quite magical occurred.  A new and renewed sense of community sprang forth. Computers were off and families played card games by the fire. Sleeping bags got moved into the living room and everyone talked and hugged and told stories until everyone fell asleep. Students who barely spoke to those across the classroom began conversations that had depth and breadth. People at grocery stores started up conversations that had real meaning.

In the darkness, we saw God's light shining brightly. His goodness everywhere in the midst of the storm. His faithfulness in providing life when everything seems to be a disaster. We would weather this storm with prayer and hope and reaching out to those less fortunate. We would come through this war zone with new lessons about what really matters and God's faithfulness to us in every area of our lives.

While this was a real storm with visible damage, it was a reminder of other tough storms Bert and I have been through in our life time. Some of those felt like a tornado and left scars and hurts. They were as unexpected as this storm was. Other storms have left us clinging to each other and our faith in God Almighty!

We certainly sang"Dancing in the Dark" with a bit of a smile on our faces, knowing full well none of our children or grandchildren hardly know who Frank Sinatra is. Even more often we sang one of my favorite hymns "It Is Well With My Soul." 

And it was...well with our soul.

I could hear Ann Voskamp's wise words in one of my all time favorite books One Thousand Gifts... God is passing by. In the midst of feeling abandoned and alone, God is there. In those stormy, stormy moments, Christ is right there. In the blackest times, God is closest!

This Wednesday night, eight days after the storm, Bert and I were in our chairs looking out
at our back yard. I had just fixed soup, cooking it on the ledge of our gas fireplace. We were holding hands and steeped in nostalgia when...suddenly...THE LIGHTS WENT  BACK ON!

I started to sing another one of the song I had sung for a week..."And All the People Said Amen!" We both threw our arms up thanking God that we had made it through this bump in the journey that renewed some of our most important life lessons. 

What was the the greatest blessing of all, as I look back at this event? Bert is still here, following his stroke, to go through the storms with!

Once again we were reminded that even in the darkest times, where the trees crash and there seems to be no end to the destruction, we are not alone. Not for a minute! God Almighty holds us close and is always with us...no matter what. We are grateful, so very, very grateful, that we are still here...together. Holding hands, no matter what! My beloved and I.

And we are grateful...Blessed beyond measure by that knowing!

And all the people said Amen!

May God bless you and keep you and hold you in the palm of His hand!
Love, Linda
















Sunday, November 15, 2015

One More...

            You'll never truly understand how
             beautiful everything is until you
              are near the end of your journey.
                                     -Archie Grabor, Bert's friend

I wish that God had a bartering system where you could
come to His throne and say, "Could I give you this and then You give them that?" Sort of a green stamps system, if you will. I could purchase things for others with the stamps left in my own envelope.

It doesn't work that way, but I sure wish it did.

I wish that all of us who have been so blessed and lived long and healthy lives could come to God and say, "Okay Lord, how about you shorten my life by two years so I can give these two amazing people an extra year on their lives."

Just one more year, each. 

It doesn't work that way, but I sure wish it did.

I am sixty eight years old and while I have had a few ups and downs with my health, like so many do, I have never had a major illness like some of my dear ones have struggled with.
I have had challenges, certainly. Super challenges, no.

Now you might dispute that statement by saying, "Linda, you were born with one hand that is normal size and one small hand, your "luck fin," as the grandchildren affectionately call it."

"Isn't that enough challenge?" you might add.

Certainly some of my greatest life-lessons have come from being visibly different. Certainly I have had to tie my shoes in my own special way, learn how to water ski and snow ski in my own special way, and learn to play the chord organ in my own special way. I have even had to navigate some awkward moments with others when they first see my hand.

"Yes," I would tell you with a smile on my face, "there were some inconveniences in all of that. Yet inconveniences are very different from life-bending health challenges that turn your life upside down and shorten your years."

I have been blessed beyond measure.

You might, out of pure kindness, bring up the challenge I faced going through a divorce. "Isn't that enough?" you might ask.

And I would answer, "Yes, many years ago I went through a divorce that broke my heart and changed everything in my life.
Yet I still loved God and my daughters, and thanks to the Lord and His grace, was able to make a new life. Also, I never would have been married to Bert all these wonderful years if I hadn't gone through that."

I have been blessed beyond measure in each of these challenges partly because I still had my health. I am grateful to God, oh so grateful to God for that health, yet it leaves me wondering.

Why me?Why have I been so healthy and others struggled so hard? I know God doesn't give people illnesses, and I know He holds them close when they are sick. I know that He can cure people. Why, when so many are praying, hasn't that happened?
At least not yet. 

That's a question I'll ask the Lord when it is my time to go to my heavenly "home."I'll also let Him know that while I don't know His bigger plan for their lives, I am just a little passed off about my dear ones still being so sick.

You might wonder if that isn't just a little too bold for me to be questioning the Lord God Almighty, let alone tell Him I am pissed off.

I would reassure you that bold is how He made me and that the Lord can surely stand to hear my upsets, tears and pissed offness.

But back to the bartering system that I'd like to suggest to the Lord Almighty.

I would like to give up two years on this wonderful earth He created if He could please take those years and give them to Vicky Westra and Joey. Both of them have stage four cancer.

They so desperately need just "one more" day and week and year to be with those they love and adore.

One more day and week and year to raise their children and
love their husbands.

Just one more.

And since I have already had these gifts, and lived such a full and amazing life, I'd like for them to have what I have had.

More time.

And to my dear friend and soul sister Vicky, I so wish I could take your weekly, awful taxol appointment for you so you could rest up and start to feel better.

It doesn't work like that, but I sure wish it did.

Yet while God doesn't have a bartering system, He has told me that what I can do is pray. I can also love and support my dear ones in small ways that ease their burdens and help to heal their hearts. I can let them know they matter. They matter so much.

So I am praying without ceasing. Praying God will do what I can't and I am loving them in their hard times. And here is my prayer, "Please God, heal them and give them one more day and week and year."

Would you pray that prayer along with me?

And may God bless you and keep you and hold all of us in the palm of His Almighty hand!

God Bless!
Love, Linda






Thursday, November 12, 2015

Food For Thought...

                  Forget about yourself,
                     serve others!
                                     -Julie Garmon, blogger

I absolutely love the insights that women share with each other. Not to exclude men from this discussion of brilliance, however some of my greatest life lessons come from my soul-sisters.

These are women who are reaching out to learn more about life and faith. These dear souls are  blossoming into who God meant them to be.

Some of these women have been life-long buddies and friends. We have been through so much together and know each other backwards and forwards.

Other women are part of my family and extended family. They have been some of my greatest teachers.

Some of the women are former students (Hi Myia and Lynnae) or current students.

Other women I have never met personally, yet we are connected as if we had grown up together. We share an authenticity and vulnerability about our lives. We can talk about anything...parenting, careers, children, illnesses or God. Or all of the above in some cases. We often pray for each other.

When I hear from these women, or read their blogs,  it is like a warm, bright light comes into the darkness. They are truly angels whose genuine care and concern and love and prayers seem to keep me afloat, even when I am bailing from the life raft.

During this time of change for me, following Bert's stroke, they have stepped up over and over again to offer care, love and support.

And most of all, and what means the most to me, is that they are praying for my beloved Bert and for me.

What an honor it is to know that they come to the Lord God Almighty and whisper my name and Bert's name. They are faithful and trustworthy in doing this. What a gift to my spirit!

And they are on the four corners of the globe, these women...Washington, Montana, Minnesota, Georgia...all over.

Their life-lessons are life-changing for me!

These women share their "tidbits" of wisdom, food for thought as I have come to call it.

What's so fun and meaningful right now is that as the holidays approach, many of my buddies are sharing their memories of holiday traditions and meals.

Yesterday, Julie Garmon, a wonderful writer and faith sharer from Georgia, talked in her blog about Thanksgiving...all the fun, expectations and at times push for perfection.

I know Julie through a mutual blogging friend, Vicky Westra,, and when I have a moment to spare I love to soak in Julie's authenticity and wisdom. God's love shines through her words.

In talking about Thanksgiving Julie reminded me  that many of us have the perfect meal in mind, what the table should look like and how everyone should get along just perfectly. Some of us (I say, smiling) tend to put ourselves and others into a high stress mode in the quest for the perfect holiday meal.

Julie shared the story of  her young granddaughter having a tea party for her toys. The focus was all about simplicity and just being together.

And then Julie shared this line that blew my socks off. A "keeper" as we call them in my family. A "take-away" lesson that is simple and profound.

She said, in a Thanksgiving that captures gratitude and love, we should...

                   Forget about yourself, serve others!

Oh my dear Jesus, how I needed to hear those words.  It hit me that when I do this, serve others, it won't matter if the table is perfect or the gravy has lumps.

           True perfection comes from loving God and     
                                  serving others!

Julie said, so perfectly, that she learned from her grand daughter that what was truly simple (Thanksgiving dinner), she had made complicated.


Me too, Julie. Me too.

Thanks for this marvelous life-lesson!
Read Julie's message for yourself on her wonderful
blog:

           http://juliegarmon.com

And to that I say... Amen and Amen!!
God bless!
Love, Linda

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Making Time for What Matters...

            Picture you upon my knee
            Just tea for two
            And two for tea.
            Just me for you
            And you for me...
            Alone, dear...
                
                                       -Irving Caesar from the 1925 Musical, No No Nanette

Fridays are our date night. They always have been and always will be. 

Friday, a week ago, Bert and I spent our "Date Night" at Urgent Care. At one point, between tests for his infection, I turned to him, held his hand and with a chuckle said, "Well, happy date night, honey!" He burst into a smile and some welcomed laughter and said, holding my hand, "Wherever I am with you on a Friday is a date night for me!"

We are like that, you know, a little mushy topped with lots of kisses and "love you sweethearts."

While we have been together more than thirty four years, and married thirty one, we do not take this marriage for granted.

Not now, not ever.

He is my beloved, and I am his beloved.

This Friday night, after finishing up a regiment of the largest antibiotic pills I have ever seen, we opted for a more charming  and exotic date night ritual.

Baskin and Robbins ice cream and a drive to see the fall leaves.

It just doesn't get any better than that!


And Saturday was full of living our moments to the fullest as well. Lunch at Lindaman's, with a table by the window, decorating for Halloween with lights and pumpkins and our Halloween "sound machine" that makes scary noises, but not so scary as to make the little ones cry.


Moments full of walking by and giving a "love you sweetheart!" kiss. Moments of seeing my beloved instead of just going past him.


Precious moments, fun moments, moments of

deep conversation and laughter.

Fantastic moments of putting on our Halloween head gear. I'm a bear and Bert's an alligator, and seeing the facial expressions of the trick-or treaters as they came to our door gave us pure delight!  


One little man said, "Hey Mister, do you know you have an alligator on your head?" and then all of the children broke out in giggles. 

As we closed the door I gave my alligator hubby a huge hug. We are more aware than ever that he might not have been here for this Halloween. 


We are determined more than ever to not let his stroke steal our joy!


We are more committed than ever to make time for what really matters.


Earlier in our marriage we used to go grocery shopping and play basketball getting the items into the cart. And if there was music by the meat department we were known to just start dancing, usually a swing step, right there. In front of whoever

happened to be there. Some folks starred, some laughed, some clapped to the beat. Almost everyone
was joyful because we were joyful!

So this enjoying every moment to the fullest isn't entirely new to us. Yet, it is sweeter than ever.


No matter what lies ahead, no matter how easy or hard it gets, I am holding on to my date's hand, and he is holding on to mine.


And what we know for sure is that because of that, and God's love and grace.....

                         All Shall Be Well!

God Bless!

Love, Linda












A Reminder of What Matters...

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