Sunday, May 29, 2016

Feeling Fear...

                             Do not fear,
                   for I am with you.        
                                                                        -Isaiah 41:10

Words usually come easily to me, yet sitting there in that meeting I was speechless. My heart was pounding, and I was looking around at my colleagues. 

One gentleman I have known for years had his head in his hands. His face was going back and forth in disbelief. He was stunned. In all of these years I had never seen him quite so vulnerable. 

Yet it wasn't the situation that had him shaking his head. After all, the news had been in the paper and there had been multiple meetings talking about it. 

This didn't come as a surprise.

What had him shaking his head was that someone in leadership would be a forecaster of fear and doom.

Yes, the circumstances are difficult, no doubt about it.
Yet we always, and I mean always, get to choose between faith and fear. Between hard work and giving up. 

Fear can sink a ship. It can cripple a country. It can stop people in their tracks almost paralyzing them.

Fear can predict hopelessness and catastrophe. It can pretend to foresee the events ahead, and it says they will be awful. 

Really awful.

Fear can give you reason to quit. Stop trying. Stop believing.

Please understand, I know that things can be so, so hard.
I know that things can turn life upside down. I know that.
I have been there. Right now I am fighting fear in several
very difficult areas in my own life.

I know that fear can take over. What ifs can rule and sap every little bit of energy we have. I know that when things are bleak and hard that we often have to dig very, very deep to find hope. We often have to dig very, very deep to find the energy to work harder.

Yet I also know this with every cell of my body. I know what God says about fear.

God says:

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
                                                 {Isaiah 41:10 NIV}

God does not say that we won't feel fear. We will. Yet He
says with all certainty... 

You are not alone when fear strikes.

I, the Lord God Almighty, the one who created Heaven and earth, am with you. Period. End of story.

He promises:
I am with you.
Do not dismay, I am your God.
I will strengthen you.
I will uphold you.

These are not iffy promises. These are not maybe I will and maybe I won't be there. These are not statements of uncertainty or wishy washy claims.

These are promises.
God's promises.
They are statements of fact!

So back to that meeting and predictions of doom and gloom.
What I know for sure is that the person saying this is fearful, 
in fact filled with great fear and uncertainty. The person may not know God's love or strength. They may not know that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. They may not know me, really know me, and that I take my working orders from the One on High. I am keeping this person in my prayers so that they might know God's love and power over fear.

*God calls me to trust Him, and that's exactly what I intend to do. 

*God calls me to fear not, so I am telling fear to "be gone"!

*God calls me to know that He is in charge and when I feel 
  fearful, He will strengthen me and not let me sink into despair. 

Fear will not win. God will win.

This morning, as I prepare to go to worship Him in His house, I am filled with gratitude. I am so grateful that I know God loves me and is here with me, no matter how hard things get. I am so grateful that when I feel fearful, and I often have fear creep into my heart, that I can tell fear to "be gone!"

The Lord God Almighty has spoken, and I believe Him!
He is the great I AM, and I am His beloved child!

Amen and Amen!!
God Bless!
Love, Linda


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Why Hope Still Matters...

       "And now these three remain:
         faith, hope and love. But the
         greatest of these is love."           
                                                             I Corinthians 13:13

Recently in a discussion that turned into a bit of a debate, a colleague of mine looked at me and said with a tone mixed with love and disgust..."Linda, you are such a hope-a-holic!"

"A what?" I asked, unsure that I had heard her correctly.

"A hope-a-holic," she repeated, looking unsure about how I might react to this labeling.

Since I teach Communication Studies at the college we both call our career home, I decided to practice what I preach. I always tell students, "When in doubt about what you heard, clarify and paraphrase to be sure you are truly on the same page." 

Okay, I'll try it.

"So it sounds like by calling me a "hope-a-holic" that you see me being hopeful when others have given up or fallen into discouragement?" I said tentatively.

She nodded, with way less disapproval than before.

I looked at her, grinned and threw my arms around her in a giant hug.

"Thank you!" I almost shouted. "That is such a great compliment. You made my day!"

She seemed stunned and then began to chuckle... and then began to have a full belly laugh where she had to hold her sides. Her laughing was contagious and I followed suit. 

"What's so funny?" I finally managed to say with my voice almost hoarse from all that frivolity.

"What's so funny is that even though I am trying to be sarcastic and critical of you, you stay positive. You keep talking about hope and faith in the midst of it all." She continued by saying, "Even when I put you down you responded with hope and optimism. It just cracked me up, that's all."

I hugged her again.

Hope-a-holic. Hmmmm....

It's not that I don't have hard days and weeks and even months.
It's not that I don't have struggles and concerns.

I do.

Yet at the center of it all is a firm belief that sustains me.
It sustains me when I am sad and worried.
It sustains me when all is going well.

It's simple...God loves me and my HOPE is in Him.
I have HOPE because of God's promises to me.
I have hope because God speaks about HOPE, the expectation of how things should be. 

No matter how things are working out, and sometimes that means there is pain and hurt, I still have a small seed of hope, just like a tiny mustard seed.

"If ye but have faith as of a mustard seed, nothing shall be impossible unto you."

Yup, faith brings hope and hope brings miracles.

I have always believed that hope was the starting place for
resilience and rebounding after hard and catastrophic things happen. And then I heard about a book called...
Fostering Resilience and Well Being In Children and Families in Poverty: Why Hope Still Matters. Valerie Maholmes is a 
hope-a-holic too.  I'm not the only one, that's for sure.

So I'll go on believing and praying and hoping. I'll go on expecting God to do miracles when all seems lost. I'll go on singing one of my favorite songs from the musical Annie.

May today be a day filled with HOPE for you!
God Bless!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Today is a New Day...


        This is the day the Lord has made;
         let us rejoice and be glad in it!
                                     -Psalm 118:24

It's Saturday. Thank you dear Lord that it is Saturday. I am rejoicing and being glad in this day!!!

This has been quite a week with putting on a conference for over 1600 people. A conference that was six months in the planning. A student-led conference. The topic was: 
Intercultural Communication: Bridging the Gap Between Cultures. 

Let me back up just a bit. This is year number 49 for me as a teacher, 39 of those at the college level. I love my job, adore my students and have worked tirelessly to provide vibrant and exciting and thought-provoking experiences for my students. I'm a believer in experiential education. The kind of education that is not just about memorize and regurgitate, but rather get in, learn about it, live with it, do it.

For example, this quarter I am teaching a Business and Professional Communication class. There is lots of theory involved- norms, building a personal mission statement, leadership development, team building, the ten top business and professional communication skills, conflict management and more. I do teach these principles, but I also take it to the next step.

This class puts these principles into practice by putting on a conference for our college. The students pick the theme, select speakers, do all of the internal and external marketing, do facility design, do hospitality (select food, order food, greet participants), technology work (create a video to show at the conference). They dress professionally, as if they were going to be interviewed, and meet and greet the guests coming to the conference. They take ownership in the conference because it is their conference. 

What we have also done for the last several months is pray and pray about how to do this topic of diversity as God would want. To let the words of our mouth be acceptable in His sight. Praying for empathy and compassion and wisdom. This is a hot-toic right now.
Perhaps that's an understatement.

The learnings are profound.

Especially this week.

The topic of diversity and cultural gaps is all over the news. It's in the political debate of certain candidates. It is in the relationship between the black community and law enforcement. It is in the paper and on television and on the internet.

The keynote speaker, plus four separate workshops of which I took part in one of them, tackled this tough topic from many directions. There were courageous conversations between Muslim and Christian students, between African American students and caucasian students, between older students and younger students. We started to look at our stereotypes, our biasses, and our assumptions about each other. A small start, mind you, but a start nevertheless.

It wasn't easy. It wasn't always pretty. But it's a start in "loving one another as I have loved you." It's a start in "love your neighbor as yourself."

It's a start.

The Conference was on Wednesday, and the post-conference activities were on Thursday and Friday. On Friday a sea of students came to my classroom, or saw me in the hall. One Muslim student said, "Thank you. I have felt so alone here, so misunderstood." She cried and I cried.

And today is Saturday.

Thank you God for this Saturday and a good night's rest. As my Grandma used to say, "I am bone weary." Yet I feel peaceful that we followed God's lead and made a start toward reconciliation and understanding. I am thanking God over and over again for every tiny step that we took toward one another. We made a start toward understanding each other better.

Not a huge start, but a start.

And tonight is prom night for our amazing Granddaughter,
Glory Sihin, who felt it important to wear a prom dress that was a bit modest.

Not always easy to find in 2016.

Bless her heart, I love that girl.

May you have a blessed Saturday too!
May you rejoice and be glad in it, no matter what comes your way.
And to that I say...Amen and AMEN!!!

Love, hugs, and prayers!

Monday, May 09, 2016

What a Day Brightener!...Pictures of Sweet Annora...

We just couldn't love her more! A true gift from God!
Thank you to all of you who prayed for Amy and Annora
during Amy's pregnancy. We are so grateful for every prayer!
Please keep praying.

Sending loves and hugs and prayers!
God Bless!

Sunday, May 08, 2016

About Being a Mama...Happy Mother's Day!

               The handprints of our
            children will be captured
                on our hearts forever.

"Blink!" and they are grown up. "Blink!" and they have a job and a family and everything you dreamed for them to have. "Blink!" and those small babies you held close are now teenagers and then young adults in college and then adults who are holding babies of their own.

Whew! It happens so fast. 

Every one of those miraculous, amazing, challenging moments.

Every one of those heart-bending, heart-breaking, heart-swelling moments of being a Mom.

What a miracle from God, this gift of being a Mama.

Today is Mother's Day and I am reminded of the lyrics from one of my favorite old musicals- Fiddler on the Roof...

       "Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset....
         Quickly flow the years
         One season following another,
         Laden with happiness and tears."

I have loved every day of being a Mama, and I am grateful every day that I had the most amazing Mama ever. I miss her every day. I get her a Mother's Day card... just because.

What a joy, what an honor, what a mystery being a Mama truly is. I am so glad that God blessed me with my children, my teachers!

Yet this morning I am reminded of and praying for...

*Women who so desperately wanted to be a Mama, and it just didn't happen.
*Women who lost babies before they were born.
*Women who have lost their own Mama and are in grief today. *Women who are adopted and may not know their Mama who gave birth to them. 
*Women who have had children and lost them and Mother's day celebrations cut deep for them.

This morning I woke up with a dear friend on my heart. Recently she lost both her best friend, her Mom, and her son. I sent her an email just letting her know she was on my heart and in my prayers.

Prayers that God would comfort her today and give her His peace that passes all understanding. May she know a sense of gratitude for all the good memories she has with both her Mama and her son.

And today when our family gathers and we celebrate the Nanas and Grandmas and Mamas... my own heart will be full. I am grateful for them all and very aware how fast it all goes.

Yes, in a "Blink!" they are grown!

God Bless and Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Getting Real...

                Meet Me in morning stillness,
            while the earth is fresh with the
                    dew of My Presence.     
                                              -Jesus Calling, May 4th

I remember those days way too well. 

The days when I could put on the face of pretense and get away with it. 

The days when no matter what was going on inside, my outside demeanor didn't give away the truth of how I was really doing.

Those days are gone, long gone.

I'm not sure if it comes with age... 
this innate desire...
this almost compelling sense of urgency...
this I just don't have the energy...

to fake it any more.
pretend any more.

Truthfully, it's a little scary how it can sneak up on you, this need to be authentic.

Maybe it's remembering that the cost of pretending, and putting on a mask, just becomes too costly.

The price of pretending that everything is fine when it simply isn't, is a cost we are no longer willing to pay.

A cost I am no longer willing to pay.

The cost is too great and the reward is too small.

Actually, there is no reward at all for pretending to be something you are not. Or pretending to be fine when you are not.

So now, at 69, I find myself in a quandary. I have so much to be grateful for. And I am...grateful, very grateful.

Yet  the past few weeks have felt like a mix of miraculous, amazing, traumatic, overwhelming and gut-wrenching.

So much has gone on that I haven't had the time, or taken the time, to process it all.

It feels like it's sort of sitting in a big 'ol ball in the center of my stomach. Like it's hard to take a full and relaxing breath. 

It feels overwhelming right now. Really overwhelming.

Feels is the operative word here. I'm a feeler and I feel deeply, really deeply. That's how God made me and it's not always easy to feel things with such intensity.

I love deeply. I cherish deeply. I celebrate deeply. I get scared deeply. I commit deeply.

Yet in the midst of the overwhelm, some things remain the same. The anchors in my life when the waters are choppy.

What I know to be true remains the same and I believe this with all of my heart. I come back to this knowing almost hour-by-hour or when needed, minute-by-minute.

I know that God loves me.
I know that He is right here with me.
He is here in the midst of the hard and very hard.

All of the details of the "hard" do not belong on this blog. Those of you who know me, really know me,
know exactly what they are. I have been scared and frightened and confused and barely breathing the past few weeks.

I just keep asking God to be here with me, to be with my loved ones, ... to help us know what is the next step to take.

I am trying to quietly listen to His answer.

Often the still small voice inside that I know is His
message for me says...

Be still and know that I am God!

Be still,
Be still, Linda.

It's not a "please be still" message or a "sometimes be still" message.

In fact, it's not just a message. 
It's a commandment.

And the "know that I am God!" part is a commandment, too.

It's a reminder about who is really in charge here.
And it isn't me.

For those of us who wish we could control outcomes, this is a tad bit hard. 

Okay, really hard.
And I keep asking God this question...
What am I to do, Lord? What am I to do?

And His answer comes through loud and clear..

Be still. Know that I am here.
Know that I am at working in every situation.

I am here in the hard and very hard!
I hold You, Linda, and all of your loved ones, in the palm of My Almighty hand!

I will not leave you nor forsake you.

So this morning I am letting go of the need to know the outcomes of it all and seeking my Heavenly Father in the morning stillness. I am resting in His arms and trusting in His love. I am being still and knowing in my deepest heart-of-hearts that He is God and all  is well!

And this morning, friends...
that is enough.

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              ...