Wednesday, March 30, 2016

It's So Hard To Say Goodbye...


                            "Farewell isn't far away..."
                                         -Traci, Donna Phinney's daughter

Note: Tonight I just heard from Traci that her Mom passed away. They are heart broken, and I am heart broken,  but we know Donna is in God's Almighty arms.

It's spring break at the college, the sun is out and there are harbingers of spring everywhere...small baby daffodils poking up,
buds for leaves forming, and the warmth of the sun penetrating our sun-starved bodies. Yet the weather is volatile, one minute it is in  the 60's and the next minute it is freezing. Not surprisingly, Easter day had hail falling, and the Monday after Easter it snowed. Lots of the expected and unexpected reminders of this time of year.

Similarly, spring break has mirrored the weather. It has been full of some ups and downs, huge blessings and some deep sadness, very deep sadness.

The very deep sadness involves my dear friend, Donna Phinney.

Donna and I have known each other for over 30 years. She is a very special colleague where I teach. A year ago Donna was fine and as always loving her life. Then she gradually started to have a few stomach problems. Initially she thought it was nothing, but when she started to lose weight she went to get the problem checked out. After multiple tests and reassurances that it wasn't cancer, it turns out that she has a rare genetic stomach cancer that is very aggressive. Because it is in the lining of the stomach, she could have chemotherapy, but radiation wouldn't work.

Donna has been so brave and such an optimistic trooper, even when things have taken a turn for the worse. Truthfully, the past few months and now weeks have been heart-breaking. My dear friend is being taken off of all the machines that have kept her alive in the past two weeks. It's hard to know exactly when she'll go home to Jesus, but it's soon.

Let me tell you a bit about my dear friend...

My friend Donna Phinney is just one of those amazing bright lights
that makes the world such a better place by her being in it. She has been the head of our Dental Assisting Program at the college for years and her passion for teaching and mentoring students makes me grin from ear-to-ear. Donna is a dream maker...the kind who finds the best in every student. She believes in them, even when they don't believe in themselves. Over all these years she has positively changed the lives of thousands of students

Not only has Donna been a great teacher, she is one of the most empathic listeners I have ever known. Because she is so selfless, when she listens to me she is completely attentive, her face just echoes such love and concern for whatever I have to say. Donna loves Jesus and I can't help but believe that Donna listens to folks just the way that Jesus did. 

Donna is also so dang funny and such a hoot. She found humor in the craziest things, yet she never found humor at the expense of others. I have never, in all these thirty year of being her friend, ever heard her say an unkind word about anyone. She just plain loves all of us, and she loves us deeply. She counts us as precious, a gift from God to her that we are in her life.

And she loves her family, no...she adores her family, her special husband and her son and daughter. Traci, her daughter, has been keeping us all posted about how her Mom is doing on Caring Bridges. She has been reading her Mom all the posts from so many of us who love Donna and have been praying for her nonstop.

Last night the title of Traci's Caring Bridges post read..."Farewell Isn't Far Away."

How amazing that her dear daughter, in such grief herself, communicated with all of us who love Donna so much. She asked that we write a final message to her Mom so she could whisper those messages of love in her mother's ear. Traci wanted to be sure that her Mom knew she was surrounded by love. 

So I did just that. I tried to put into words all that my dear friend means to me. I said my goodbyes and reminded her that God loves her and so do I. My heart broke as I typed each word.

And my tears just started to flow. They haven't stopped since.
Donna has fought such a tough fight against cancer. She has bravely been poked and prodded and she tried everything the medical experts threw at her. All the medications gave her some extra time, but they made her so sick in the process that it was hard to have the quality of life that she so longed for.

Finally, after being put on life support measures, her family has decided that enough is enough. Her organ systems are failing. The machines that breathe for her will be turned off. It may be days or weeks before she sees Jesus face-to-face.

That's what Donna would have wanted.

Yet while she lives in Spokane, her family took her to Mexico for some last possible turn-around medicines and because of an emergency, Donna was taken to a hospital in San Diego.

She is away from home as all of this is going on, yet surrounded by her dear husband and adult children.

And Donna is surrounded by the thousands of prayers that have been prayed for her. All of us asking God to give her more time. 

What I know for sure is that God is there in that ICU room with my dear friend, holding her close in her transition to her heavenly home. Donna believes that and I do too.

I miss her already. It is so, so hard to say goodbye to my dear, sweet friend. She is the very essence of the title of this blog...
               Live Every Day As If It Was Your Last! 

Love you Donna. I will miss you forever.

God Bless!
Love, Linda

Sunday, March 27, 2016

We All Need A New Beginning...

                          I am a broken person 
          and a resurrection person.
                                                                        -Anne Lamott

It's Easter Sunday and I am up to my hips in Easter baskets, stuffing Easter eggs and getting ready for our annual Easter dinner and Easter Egg hunt.

I can't wait.

Yet I have been restless most of the night and sleep 
did not come easily. It hasn't come easily during much of Lent.

During these weeks of restlessness, I have been mindful of  God the Father, mindful of Jesus, and I have been especially mindful of His Mama, Mary.

I've been mindful of the HUGE gift I was given
and how completely unworthy I am to receive it.

After all, I am such a broken person, someone who makes mistakes every day. I long to walk like Jesus walked and talk like Jesus talked...but I fall so short.
I make so many mistakes. 

While some don't like this language, it fits for me. I am a sinner! No doubt about it. I mess up.

Yet here is what just blows me away, while I was messed up, broken and a sinner, God sent His son Jesus to die for me.

Seriously. For me.

God gave me a do-over when He sent Jesus to die for my sins. God gave me a fresh start and forgiveness beyond measure.

Love so unspeakable, peace so unbelievable.

Unconditional love. The gift of Jesus was a gift of unconditional love.

God loved me so much that He gave me a clean slate.
I was and I am... forgiven.

What a gift!

Mind you, I LOVE gifts. I love giving just the right gift that will "knock your socks off," as my Grandma used to say.

I love having my beloveds look at the gift, well up in tears, and know that I know them so well that the gift fit a perfect spot in their heart.

I am so keenly aware today that this is exactly what God did in the gift of Jesus.

Jesus is the ultimate "knock your socks off" gift.

*He knows me (check).
*He sees inside my heart and knows what I need.
*He gives a gift freely out of love(check).

But this gift, yes THIS gift, wasn't wrapped in pretty paper with a big red bow. 

This gift was wrapped in pain and sorrow and betrayal and a cross.

"Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul my life my all" the hymn says.

Jesus, who was fully human and fully God, was the gift, the sacrifice. 

Plain and simple, He died for me and He died for you.

And oh how His Heavenly Father must have grieved
to give up His son and see His son on that cross.

And oh how sweet Mary, the earthly mother of Jesus, must have wept to lose her beloved son and see Him on that cross. How could she bare it. Her heart so broken.

And oh how awful and painful and heartbreaking it must have been for Jesus to die on that cross, His last words being "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do."

And oh how God was glorified when Jesus rose from the dead and was resurrected. A new beginning.

So this Easter morning I am so acutely aware of ALL these gifts, gifts for me.

Gifts for you.

And as I sit here this morning crying as I type out each word, what I know for sure is that we all need a resurrection, a new beginning, forgiveness, a do over.

We all need the gift that God gave us in Jesus.
the best present ever. The gift that keeps on giving.
The gift that cost everything. Priceless.

And I am so grateful that my heart will almost explode. To be loved like that...well, it takes my breath away.

The hymn was demands my soul, my life, my all.

God Bless!
Happy Easter!
Love  you all to the moon and back!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Mama's Tears....

             There is no greater warrior
        than a mother protecting her child.

It started out like any conversation. She was walking her dog, Mia, and Bert and I were doing some pre-spring gardening in our front yard. There's a "For Sale" sign on their home, and it won't be long until these special neighbors move back east. After all, both of their daughters are now there, one in college and the other starting graduate school. 

Moving is a sentimental experience for most of us. You can pack up all your "stuff," but homes hold precious memories, dreams that came true and those that didn't.

The day before she had just heard her oldest daughter play her piano in their home for the very last time.

She talked about this funny feeling she had been having, almost a grief had taken over her heart. She mentioned feeling sentimental about everything, and she voiced feeling confused about the intensity of her emotions. Her eyes watered up, tears at the surface as she talked about her girls growing up and leaving home.

I knew exactly how she felt.

No one can explain it. Unless you have been there,
and had your children leave home, you can't get
the deep range of emotion you feel.

Happy and elated for their goals and success.
Sad to the core of your being that life is changing in ways that you can never quite understand.

While you will always be their Mama, and love them with your whole heart, part of your job of raising them up is completed.

Yet, when most jobs are over, you might get a certificate or reminder of service. Not this one.

As I saw our dear neighbor's tears forming, I remembered how many tears I have cried over our precious girls. Tears of joy, tears of laughter, tears of distress, tears of frustration, and tears of grief.

What a complete and total honor it has been to be their Mama all these years.

Yet I remember so well when they both went off to college, became teachers, got married, had their own homes and their own precious children.

It seemed like in a blink that part of raising them and going to every activity was gone.
Now we go as a cheering crew for our grandchildren's activities. Pure JOY!

So as our neighbor's eyes welled up with tears as she talked about her daughters and how fiercely protective she is of them, I knew.

My heart lurched as I heard her talk... reminiscing at my own days gone by.

Like so many Mamas, I have been there. I have cried those same goodbye tears.

I love being a Mama. Then and now.
And I wouldn't trade a moment of it, not one.

God Bless!
Love, Linda

Saturday, March 12, 2016

An Important Reminder...

                                                   God Bless 
                     The Whole World,
                         No Exceptions!

It's as if the pillow spoke to me. We were at Mel's
Nursery and as I circled around I couldn't forget the message I read. It seemed as if God had put that message there, on that pillow, just for me. 

I badly need the reminder.

At the time I was struggling with the behavior of 
a young man who had hurt our family, his behavior
almost unspeakable. I knew it was God's job to judge, not mine. It didn't matter. My heart was full of hurt and resentment.

I didn't need a pillow, just any pillow, but perhaps
this pillow would act as a reminder of an important life-lesson. Its message might jog my heart when it started to harden toward people who had hurt my loved ones.

I bought that pillow and it is staring at me right this very minute. 

Good thing. It's message is straight and clear...
    God Bless the Whole World, No Exceptions!

That's right... NO exceptions! No one is left out of being blessed by God!!

My word for 2016 is "light." That word has so many meanings and reminders for me.

Jesus is the light of the world!
I want to let my little light shine!
Let the light come in to scare away the darkness!

My little light can't really shine if my heart has resentment in it. That's just how it is. 

My human heart, when I turn to God, reminds me to "love one another as I have loved you." It reminds me that God is blessing the whole world, no exceptions.

One of the things I love the most about Lent is that it helps me to get back on track. God asks me to look at my own heart and to let Him in, fully. Into every inch, every crevice.

He reminds me that there are no exceptions to His love and forgiveness and there should be no exceptions to mine either.

Tall order for us humans. To love everyone, even those who have hurt us, just like God loves us.

I'm pretty darn sure that the only way that will happen is because of God's grace and endless patience with me.

And I am so grateful that my Heavenly Father loves me with a love that is endless and not dependent on
me perfectly getting all of His lessons for my life. Yet He is here, with me and with those I struggle with, through it all. Whether we are loving or we mess up.
He never leaves us or forsakes us.

And I am grateful for Lent, as hard as some of the learnings are. Lent is opening my heart so God's light can shine through me.

Just as spring is coming to Spokane, and flowers are beginning to bud and blossom, there can be a new beginning and light in my heart.

God is not done with me yet, and I am grateful.

God Bless!
Love, Linda 

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Taking a Breath...Lessons in Lent...

                           It is not easy, this road I am on...
                     Yet I would never choose easy. 
                 would choose knowing and loving
                          and serving my Lord!
                                             -Linda Seppa Salisbury, March 2016

When all is said and done, and I let God's love wash over me, I am filled with a deep sense of love and care and gratitude and compassion and joy. This season of Lent is full of surprises and unexpected twists and turns. It is truly stretching me in new ways I never could have imagined.

Honestly, along with the joy and learnings, I find myself  tired to the bone, a kind of weary that has me in tears. A kind of weary that has me turning to Him, the God I know and love and serve.

I am on my knees with the knowings, some so hard and raw. Others gentle and new, forming as I go.

Every morning, on my way to school, I am listening to the latest Casting Crowns songs, a birthday gift from a dear friend. The first two songs, played over and over. It's as if God himself is speaking to me in those words...

"You're a good, good Father
That's who you are, that's who you are
And I am loved by you,
That's who I am, that's who I am."

And the tears just flow when I really let in what a good, good Father He has been to me. I am stunned by His love and His faithfulness. My gratitude is overflowing.

Especially this week.

This week I feel like He is literally holding me up and Bert up after one of the hardest weeks since Bert's stroke in October. 

When you have a major health crisis that almost takes your life, it leaves in its wake lots to process. There's a change, one that's sometimes hard to grasp.

The old passes away and the new can be a big change, a big, big change. 

Before... life was like this. Now... life is like that.
Not better, not worse just very, very different.
Sometimes the "easy" passes away and there's a new depth to life that is truthfully much harder to navigate gracefully.

Sometimes surrendering to that "new life," that's "different,"takes your breath away. It's scary.

At least it was this week.

My dearly beloved, my Bert, my best friend was struggling with some of the "after-stroke" changes and truth be told, so was I.

Yet through that struggle we clung to each other and to Him. It felt like we were "living Lent" and the lessons Lent has to offer about surrendering more to our Heavenly Father.

For He is a good, good Father, that's who is...
And I am loved by Him, that's who I am.

And while Tuesday ripped us to the core, Wednesday we were holding on to each other and to His hand.

It isn't easy, but I didn't sign on for easy.
I signed on for loving God with all of my heart and mind and soul and strength.

And I signed on, with all my love, to love my sweet Bert with all that I am. Through the easy times and hard times, no matter what.

Even though it doesn't seem possible, I love Bert even more. 

We are surrendering together to our "new normal"
knowing that we will get through this together, hand-in hand.

Lent's lessons abound and we are so grateful for each one.

Our biggest lesson? Our biggest reminder this Lenten season?

God is here, in the midst of it all, holding us up, holding us close. Loving us with the deepest love we will ever know. He will never leave us or forsake us, but will walk through the hard with us. He is here.

No matter what, no matter how hard it gets, He is here!

And we are so grateful to God that Bert is still here
and that we still have each other. My dearly beloved and I. We do not, not for one moment, take that for granted.

God Bless,
Love, Linda

Finding Comfort in Kindness...sharing from the heart

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