Saturday, October 29, 2016

Finding Light in the Dark Times...

                                 
                
                    Hope begins in the dark,
                the stubborn hope that if you
                          just show up and
                try to do the right thing, the
                          dawn will come.
                You wait and watch and work:
                          you don't give up.
                                                   -Anne Lamott


There is something about a lit candle that just speaks to my
spirit. Perhaps it's because it brings such hope in the darkest of times. And we all have dark times, times when only God can pierce the darkness. Also, my word for 2016 was "light," so all year long I have been on the lookout for hope that begins in the dark. God is faithful, and I trust and know that in hard, hard times, light and the dawn will surely come.

It has been super rainy and dark these fall days in Spokane, and all of my outdoor lanterns and white lights sparkle and remind me to choose JOY! We aren't talking a little rain here, but buckets and buckets of water, day-after-day. You can hear folks at the grocery store tease about Noah and the Arc. It rained, then, for forty days and nights. While things aren't quite that wet here, some folks have struggled not to have a gloomy attitude.

After all, the ground here is fully saturated, and we are seldom seeing the sun. So my answer is to light all of the candles, inside and out. 

Let's just bring in the light, let's not let a little sad weather dictate our happiness.

I can't control the rain, but I can certainly learn how to dance in it.

The past week saturated my heart and soul. I never imagined that doing a TEDx would bring so many wonderful and caring people into my life. So many real conversations. Very real and at times not so easy.

Yet I am finding once again that what brings light into any situation, and what cuts through the darkest hard, is God's light that never fails. His presence brings calm in the midst of the craziest of storms. So while I have great peace right now, and somehow a sense of completion, I am taking time for morning prayer and asking God to please hold me close. Please give me strength.

I am asking Him to: 
*Help me see and do His will. 
*Help me to support those I love and care about. 
*Help me to bring light to others in the simplest of ways.
*Heal my heart and the hearts of so many others, precious souls, 
  His dear ones. 
*Heal the bodies of my dear friends Vicky Westra and Joe Feryn.      

Bert is on my prayer list, too, and on my heart a lot these days.
Just being in my dear hubby's presence gives me such a sense 
of  peace. We are having conversations that warm my
soul and light up my life in any darkness.

Somehow we both know that we are in a chapter of our lives with some great joys and also great uncertainties. Bert's health is a bit precarious and tentative. We take one day at a time and have the deepest sense of gratitude for every day together. He is my beloved and I am his and God is our glue, our portion, and our hope, no matter what.

As Bert always says, with a huge smile on his face, "You know, my dearest darling, I will always be in your heart." It makes me cry when he says that, like he knows a secret that is just being revealed to me. So in the evenings we sit by the fire and talk and reminisce.
We say everything that matters to each other...every day.

No matter how dark it is outside, true love brings light, a light so strong it pierces the darkness.  We just show up knowing that no matter what, the dawn will come.

That's God's promise to us.

So today, no matter how hard and dark things may be for you, may
you know in your deepest heart of hearts that God is there.
He is the great comforter when we are scared, He is our hope in
times of great uncertainty. He is our rock, when we feel alone and
frightened, He is our sustainer when we get bad news or feel frightened about what lies ahead. He brings us hope in the hardest hard and a peace that passes all understanding.

Knowing what God can do, I am convicted to say (and sing:) 
       "This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine!"

May you know that He holds you in the palm of His Almighty hand! May you know in your deepest heart-of-hearts that His light can pierce whatever darkness is in your life.

God bless!
Love, Linda







                     

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Jaxon...

                                 May the words of my
            mouth and the meditations
                        of my heart,
            be acceptable in Thy sight.
            Oh Lord, my strength and
                         my Redeemer.

Where to start? Some months back my good friend Grace Leaf
asked if I would do a Ted Talks on Passion in Motion, specifically
how I feel about teaching. I came up with a title..."Love in the Classroom!"

At the time I said "Yes!" to Grace, I really had no idea, and I mean NO idea, what I had truly said yes to. Since I dearly love Grace, and she had asked, I just couldn't say.."Well, I'm really busy." She already knows that. I just couldn't say, "Well, I don't have much to say on this, because it is truly one of the great passions in my life.

So I prayed about it and after considerable prayer, said "Yes!" 
I felt as if I was saying "yes!" to what God wanted me to do.

I mentioned doing a Ted Talks to several family members. Several looked a bit surprised, others said, "You'll be perfect!" My grandson Jacob, while in the midst of hugging me said, "Nana, do you know that your talk will go on the internet and maybe 1.5 million people may watch it?"

I hadn't thought of it in those kind of terms. Hmmm...

I do speeches all the time since I am a college professor. As a communication consultant I have also talked to lots of large and small groups on leadership, conflict management...whatever they needed. These are all areas I am comfortable talking about. Quite academic and only moderately personal.

But teaching? Personal to the core.

Especially this year.

So I took out my trusty writing pad and pen and started writing.

What came out surprised even me. The story of my small hand and my beloved first grade teacher was what was on my heart. After all, Miss Ella Faye changed my life. She was my role model for bringing love into the classroom.

For weeks I had dreams about being in first grade and how traumatic that was. I even got out the photograph albums my Mom
had so careful put together. They chronicled it all.

And the pictures of me in first grade made me so sad. The pictures prior to that time showed a vibrant, happy and outgoing little girl.
After all I had grown up being loved and accepted. Yet when I started first grade, and was aware of being stared at and being different, the photographs told a different story.

In almost every picture I had my larger hand covering up my smaller hand. Or I had my small hand in my pocket or behind my back.

Just seeing those photographs brought back a flood of tears.

Yet the dreams also showed how Miss Faye had changed my life.
She loved me just as I was and that gave me the courage to
take my hand out and just be me, small hand and all.

And on top of that huge gift, Miss Faye showed me what a great teacher was like, and I have tried after all of these years, to remember the tips she gave me.

All these years...50 years in a classroom!

So I decided in the Ted Talks to talk about Miss Ella Faye
and to share what I had really learned and to share my heart.

Yet this was a talk with no notes, needed to be under 20 minutes in length...oh.my.goodness.

The long and the short of it is that I gave this talk on Saturday.
I opened up and let them see what I was like then and what I am like now...that I love my students and I love being a teacher.

Before I started the talk and was back stage waiting to go on, I said the prayer...

"May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, oh Lord my strength and my Redeemer."

That's the prayer I say every morning before my first class arrives.
I place my hand on the door of my classroom, and before I open it
say this prayer aloud. This prayer sets the tone of why I do this every day.

So in the Ted Talk I asked God to guide me so I let them know that when you are different, or feel different, a teacher's love and acceptance can make all the difference. It can change your life.

I know that's true because Miss Faye changed my life.

While I got a standing ovation from a big audience at the end of my talk, and lots of people coming up and thanked me for what I said and described that they cried while I was sharing...what touched me most was meeting Jaxon.

Jaxon's Mom came up and asked if she could give me a hug, and I said "yes!"She then asked if her son could talk to me. I said, "Of course!"

And then Jaxon appeared, the sweetest smile on his face, perhaps nine or ten years old. He told me that my talk was the best thing ever and that it had made him cry. He said he wished every teacher loved students like I do and that he had had a teacher who loved him like that. He talked about her and then said he wished he could be in my class.

His genuine and heartfelt "thank you" meant the world to me.

So today, Sunday, is a recovery day. There were lots of parties and receptions associated with this event and I am, as my grandma used to say, "Completely tuckered out!"

And tomorrow it's back to teaching and being at school at 5:30 am.
Yup, best job in  the world!

God Bless!
Love, Linda

     

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sunrise, Sunset...

                                   Sunrise, sunset
                   Sunrise, sunset...
                   Swiftly flow the years.
                   One season following another,
                   Laden with happiness and tears.
                                    -Musical, Fiddler on the Roof

I remember being in New York with my Nana and Mom and seeing the musical Fiddler on the Roof. It was my first Broadway musical, and I felt transported into another time, another culture, another world. While I loved all of the music, and remember the lyrics today, the plaintive song "Sunrise, Sunset," with a solo fiddler on the roof playing the tune, touched me deeply.  I clapped so hard at the end of act 1 that my ring flew off my hand, and I retrieved it during the intermission.

The message of the musical was all about change, children growing up before our eyes and seasons turning from one to another.

Real life right now seems to parallel that beloved musical.

Our gorgeous fall was slightly interrupted by pounding rain
and some nasty winds. Nothing like last November, mind you,
with hurricane-like gales, but the mere mention of high winds sends Spokane into a "go-buy-supplies and hunker down" frenzy.

Even though some of the fall foliage has danced its way down from tree branches to sidewalks, the huge maple trees that line our street still form a cover of orange and red and green and yellow. Branches are knit together from one side of the street to the other. It's spectacular!

It still feels like fall, but it also feels like winter is right around the corner.

And just as the seasons change, so do our grandchildren. Our
grands are taller and older and maturing in such wonderful ways, right before our eyes. Jacob is about 5'11" inches tall, and he loves to put his chin on the top of my head. Just a little reminder to me that yes, he is taller than I am. Sihin is a freshman at Whitworth University, Jenna is in 4th grade and in gymnastics, Emma is in her last year of Middle School and in swimming, Owen is in pre-school and Annora Grace is starting to eat a little solid food.

Oh my. 

And our conversations with each of our beloved grandchildren deepen as they ponder and wonder about all that is going on
in their world....

How this election is being played out.
How we should treat one another.
How God is in the middle go all that is going on.
How He is there in the great times and the hard times.

And just like the song says, this season has been laden with some happiness and tears.

So today, as a bit of sun peeks out from the clouds and illuminates the gorgeous fall foliage, I am so grateful
for every blessing that God has bestowed on us. 

I am so grateful for His love and grace.
I am so grateful for beautiful fall trees.
I am so grateful for my wonderful family.
I am so grateful for each change, even though they may not be easy or comfortable.
I am so grateful for dear friends who love and pray for our family.
I am so grateful for reminders that God is in control.

May you know today how deeply God loves you.
Much love,
Linda









             

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Showing Up...A progress report...


                              
          "Change doesn't happen in the middle. 
          It only happens when we venture 
                  over to the edge and take
              one small step after another."         
                                                                     - Karen Sheridan           

Books have always fascinated me. I especially love old, well-worn books with underlinings and notes and marked pages where the corners are turned down. 

A reminder that some gem is there, waiting to be discovered...
again and again.

I love books by women who dare to tell their story, their courageous walk in this life. Women who don't just share the
"perfect moments" where they look good, but share the mess and the learnings.

I collect those books and look back and read such wisdom that it makes my eyes weep and my mind go spinning off into adventures and possibilities.

On almost every trip that Bert and I have ever taken, one of my greatest adventures is to read and read and read. These reading marathons give me such peace and joy. After all, I can soak in all that a book has to offer, has to teach me. On our last Hawaiian vacation I read 14 books. It was such a luxury to start a story that drew me and just take it all in with only a few sustenance or potty breaks.

Granted it didn't hurt that we were by the ocean, the sun was warm and the smells exotic.

Good books feed me the way a great and well-prepared meal gives me delight.

One such book that I have recently carried around and soaked up its gems, is I Am Her. Since I love "one liners" and use them all the time as teaching tools in my classroom, this book's simple reminders in one line (or maybe several) give me food for thought.

This is especially meaningful as I approach my 70th birthday... this next February 5th.

70! What adventures will this next decade hold?

In honor of that upcoming birthday, I have been working on life-changing goals in answer to the question in this tiny book...
         
      "At the end of your life, what will you wish you had done?"

I thought and prayed long and hard about my answer. What came up over and over again was to take better care of my body, the one God gave me for this precious journey of mine.

* To eat in a more healthy way.
* To get some exercise when it feels right to do so.
* To slowly but surely lose some weight that has snuck
   up on me in recent years.

In other words, simplify my life in ways that take care of me
and glorify Him.

So my adventure to wellness started this summer with
going to Weight Watchers, with my daughter Amy. Amy just had a baby and wanted to lose some of the pregnancy weight she had gained.

Going together and encouraging each other has made all of the difference.

This adventure was not about "dieting," it was about cooking and eating intentionally. Savoring and tasting every bite. Cooking with healthy in mind and creativity and flavors as the backdrop to my desire for real food, eaten because I was hungry.

I practiced "showing up" when it came to healthy eating, and that didn't mean leaving chocolate out of the equation. :)

Not only was I starting to simplify my life around food, I was wanting to simplify every nook and corner of our home. What was just renting space and needed to be discarded or sent to a new home?

The theme of  "taking one small step after another" has led to cleaning out and organizing closets and sharing my wardrobe with the folks at Goodwill. Now, when they see me pull up, they just smile and say "Hi Linda!"

And that book I spoke about, I Am Her, well almost every page and every quote has reminded me of who I really am and how I want to live my life.

You see it simply doesn't matter what decade you are in, you still get to decide that you will live your life by showing up...
again and again and again.

You will still decide, no matter the challenges, to be fully present for all of the lessons life has to offer.

Today, following the start of Weight Watchers this sumer, I have lost another 15 pounds. I feel lighter, and not just because of the weight loss.

Weight Watchers, and prayer and loving support are a mighty combination! Slowing down and feeling gratitude for this life I love and this body God gave me...well, it has awakened a new and dormant part of my spirit.

I can't help but imagine that God must be smiling and chuckling. I imagine He is thinking..."Well, finally she is getting it."

So today I send this profound question your way...
    "At the end of your life, what will you wish you had done?"

*May you cherish every day and choose joy in the journey now.
*May you find lessons in the challenges and a hope and peace that passes all understanding.
*May you know that God loves you, just as you are, and He is there with you in every good time and every hurt and challenge.

Have a blessed day!
Love, Linda










Saturday, October 01, 2016

Looking for Good News...

                                   My invitation never changes...
             Come to Me, all you who are weary
                   and I will give you rest!
                                       -Jesus Calling for Oct 1st


I am so grateful that it is Saturday morning. Just knowing that one was on the horizon brought smiles to my face all week long. 

Time for my weary heart and soul to recharge. 
Time to go walk in the cascade of fall leaves, their bright orange, red and yellow hues reminding me of God's glory.

So today I sit here with my warm cup of coffee regrouping and reflecting on the weeks gone by. I am taking a much needed breath as I try to find the words to express where I am right now, how I am feeling right now.

The last four weeks have been gut-twisting and heart- wrenching for my beloved family. I have been silent on this blog as I have sorted out sadness, great sadness. As I have sorted out betrayal and anger.  As I have sorted out..."how do I ever forgive this person who has hurt my loved one so deeply?"

I have been on my knees praying, asking God for the strength to support those who are hurt the most. And God is faithful.
He has held us up, held me up as we walk through the hard and very hard.  We are giving the grief over to Him so we can start the healing process.

And in this last week, the fog of pain has started to clear just a bit so pure JOY and PEACE could start to seep into our lives again.

We are choosing to focus on JOY and Good News in the midst of the hard. I love how author Ann Lamott puts it...
        
        "It's there. It's always there. Sometimes it peeks out
          just when you need it the most. There is always 
          good news right in the middle of the hardest times."

So drum roll please...we are rolling out and celebrating some good news!!!

*Our dear friend, Joe Feryn, has been battling leukemia.
He has been fighting for his life. Praise God, Joe is in
remission. How we love that word! This fall Joe will still 
be having a bone marrow transplant, yet hope abounds for his future. Joe credits God for pulling him through and is so grateful for every prayer that has been prayed for him and his family. 

Please keep praying for Joe, Angie, and their boys.

More good news...

*My dear soul sis, Vicky Westra, who has stage 4 breast cancer, has been having severe back pain.  Praise God it is not more cancer! Dr. P, Vicky's amazing oncologist, thinks it may be pain from nerve damage from radiation. Vicky will be during chiropractic and acupuncture. 

Please continue to pray for Vicky that these treatments will completely take away her pain. Also, please pray that all of
the cancer spots in her recent scan will be gone after the chemo
she is taking!

More good news...Vicky's dear friends rallied around her and got her the absolutely most darling wig made from real hair.
Vicky is so cute, no matter what, but this gift lifted her spirits so!  

More good news...

*School has started for me and while life has been super hectic,
I just have the most wonderful students this quarter. They are eager to learn, and I love being their teacher! What a blessing every day it is for me to teach. While I am back to grading oodles and oodles of papers, it is all part of the learning process. This is my 50th year as a teacher and I have loved every minute of it! Also, I have been invited to do a Ted Talks on my passion for teaching and I'll be doing that on October 26th.

More good news...

*While our garden is winding down as it prepares for winter, all of the colorful leaves and bright mum plants just bring us such sweet JOY. Amy's sweet dog, Daisy, has been staying with us and Bert, Daisy and I love taking walks to see this glorious display of God's artwork.

More good news...

* And most important, our "Good News" is that when we are weary and troubled and are in the midst of the hard and very hard, God is there. He welcomes us and invites us to bring our weary selves to Him. He promises to give us rest. When we are broken and shattered and scared, He is there with us, never leaving us. God meets us, every time, right where we are. He gives our weary souls rest. He holds us up. He is our anchor in the storm.

Please continue to hold my beloved family in your prayers
as we ask for strength in this hard journey and that we would know that All is Well!

*May you know peace and love and joy.
*May you seek and find "Good News" to celebrate.
*May you know that no matter what, you can take your weary heart to God Almighty!

God Bless!
Love, 
Linda   





"Just Plain Hard"...

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