Thursday, July 20, 2017

"Just Plain Hard"...

                 Stand up straight and
                  realize who you are,
                  that you tower over your
                  circumstances. You are a 
                  child of God. Stand up straight.
                                                                                      -Maya Angelou

Yesterday was hard. Really hard. All of the details don't really matter, but somehow I was just off, misdirected and over sensitive. I knew I was in trouble when the tears started to flow, and I was so missing my Mom that I couldn't stop crying. I must have said ten times, "I wish she was here to talk to. She would know what to do." I kept talking to God all day long, but looking back now, in the early morning light of today after several hours of sleep, I recognize that I might have been talking to Him, but I'm quite sure I wasn't listening to Him.

My  Grandma (Nana) used to say, with a half- stern, half-twinkling look in her eye, "Sometimes days are just plain hard and then we all just need a talkin'  to." 

What she meant was that we all get mixed up, sad, frustrated and tied in knots, and we all need a voice to redirect our efforts. We all need someone to sit us down, look us square in the eye and say... "Yes, this is hard. It's very hard. But you are not alone in this hard. I am here with you."

I don't have very many days when I feel grumpy. Almost never, ever. But I sure as heck felt grumpy yesterday. I felt a mix of sad and mad and helpless. I felt scared. I prayed continually, but not whole-heartedly. Truth be told, I was mad at God.

Yes, mad at God.

I was tied in knots knowing my dear sweet friend, Vicky Westra... who has stage four breast cancer, was in the hospital having to have another surgery on a kidney stent that was causing her a serious infection.

She has been through so much and now this.

I just couldn't wrap my heart around the suffering she has been going through. So I told God (as if He didn't know) that enough is enough. I didn't just say it. I shouted it!

I was out in the garden working and praying and my tears started to fall. So I turned to Heaven and yelled, "Enough. Hasn't she gone through enough?"

I have to laugh a bit this morning wondering if any of our dear neighbors were out in their backyards and how my talking to God out loud might have sounded to them.
Yet I truly didn't care then, and honestly don't care now, how it sounded to anyone else. I needed God to listen, to hear my heart, to hear how scared and mad I am about the suffering that Vicky has gone through, is going through.

After a good cry and some sleep, I know that not only does God know that Vicky is suffering, He was with her in it all.

* He was there to comfort her in that surgery room. 
* He was there to hold her hand. 
* He was there with Vicky and is there right this very minute.

He is here!

I wish I could say that the rest of the day went better. Outwardly it did, but inwardly I was still struggling. I felt discouraged. I just let myself feel whatever came up, and kept giving it all to Him. 

Giving Vicky to Him, no matter what. Letting go of thinking
this just can't turn out this way. 

When I get scared like this and have a "just plain hard day", I
always feel better when I read God's word, and when I go back to Jesus Calling, a simple daily devotional. I feel better when God gives me a "talking' to."

Sure enough, I found so many "gems" that spoke to my hurting heart. Reminders about who God is and reminders that He loves me and is always there for me.

Reminders that he He loves Vicky and is always there for her, too.

And then I came upon a quote by Maya Angelou that felt like a gift from the Lord. I could almost imagine Maya Angelou, in a grandmotherly tone, saying to me...

Linda Marie...

Stand up straight
Realize who you are
You tower over your circumstances
You are a child of God
Stand up straight.

Finally, after a big ugly cry, I sat down , journaled and listened to the song Even if. 

Finally, my heart felt calm.

Yes, yesterday was "just plain hard," to quote my Nana.
Super hard for my sweet friend Vicky and hard for me
as her friend. Yet I feel renewed this morning because I am focusing not on how awful things are, but how God is there in the awful.

God is here, no matter what, and for that I am deeply grateful!
Today I will remember that I AM A CHILD of GOD!...
and as Vicky always says..."All Shall Be Well!"

Amen and Amen!
God Bless!
Love,
Linda








                                            

Friday, July 14, 2017

Summertime...

Summertime... 
"Summer was our best season; it was sleeping on the back
  screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the treehouse;
          summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand 
colors in a parched landscape."
                                                   -Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird 


We just came back from ten glorious days at Diamond Lake, surrounded by family and hot days and warm nights. Splashing water and time to hold the baby of the family. Casual meals and sleeping in. Playing Pictionary and having long, catch-up talks.

I love the pace of summer, mostly because it is such a huge contrast to the rest of the year. I love taking the time to let in all of God's love and grace. I love taking the time to read books that suck me in and turn me around and challenges my thinking. My grandchildren always like to ask me, especially at the end of a vacation, "How many books did you read this time, Nana?" And my answer this vacation was "Five amazing books, sweetie." These were books that I heard about and loved to read (or re-read in some cases). Books that made me think and 
books that helped me better understand love and loss, especially the 
loss of a child. Here are a few of those titles:

and Still She Laughs: Defiant Joy in the Depths of Suffering by Kate Merrick
 colors of goodbye: A Memoir of holding on, letting go, and reclaiming joy in the wake of loss
by September Vaudrey
bittersweet: thoughts on change, grace, and learning the hard way by Shauna Nyquist
HALLELUJAH ANYWAY: Rediscovering Mercy by Anne Lamott
Goliath MUST Fall: Winning the Battle Against our Giants by Louie Giglio

All of these stories talk about faith in hard times, finding peace in times of unbelievable hardship and loss, and trusting God in the very worst moments of our lives.

I not only read books for me, I also read books to my dear, sweet grand baby, Annora Grace. Two of her new favorites are:
Bears on Wheels (with sound effects for the wheels) :) and 
God Bless You and Goodnight!

This time away was also a chance to sit by the water and pray, to thank God for so many blessings and to ask Him to heal those I love who are struggling with health issues, especially my dear friend and soul sis, Vicky Westra.

It was a time to look out at gorgeous sunsets and hold Bert's hand.
It was a time to watch the 4th of July fireworks as they reflected on the lake. It was a time to sleep in and sip coffee and have early morning chats.
I am so grateful to God for this time away, a time of refreshment
and renewal!

I hope that you, too, are having a blessed summer! 
Enjoy these pictures of our special time!!
God Bless!
Much love, Linda


 
















Friday, June 23, 2017

Moxie...

"MOXIE: It's a street-smart spirit that's as old as recorded history and as new as the rising son. David had it; Goliath didn't. It can jump oceans and move mountains. It's a spirit of being that says, "I was born to do this!"

Recently one of my students came to me and asked if I had time to talk. My answer is always the same. "Of course I do. How much time do you need?" She is someone who has been struggling, struggling for a long time. She is bone-weary and spirit sore. She feels tired from the "fight of just surviving." She wonders if there can be another day that is rich with meaning, instead of being full of fear and trauma.

I met her at school, early one morning when we didn't have classes, and she came with two cups of Starbucks coffee. She had heard me say in class, when asked what my favorite coffee was, that I liked an iced mocha, but it had to be decaf. She remembered the specifics and her whole face lit up when I said, "Look at YOU. You even remembered what kind of coffee I like. That's a real deposit for me. Way to go and pay attention."

Now mind you, she has been in my Gender Communication class where we learn about bids, and deposits and withdrawals from our emotional bank accounts. We learn about turning toward others and the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse. We learn about John Gottman and the sturdy relationship house. 

So when I said, "that's a real deposit for me," she knew exactly what I was talking about. A grin slowly spread across her face.

After a few dibs and dabs at conversation, I call them that since they are the precursor to what someone really wants to talk about, she began.

"I don't know where to start. I am so messed up. I feel like who I am is just slipping away, right in from of my eyes."

Big tears started to cascade down her cheeks, cheeks caked with makeup to hide anything that might look like an imperfection. She looked down, almost as if that was the only place she belonged. Under the radar. Out of sight. Not visible. Not worthy of looking someone straight in the eye.

"How do you do it?" she said as the tears started to roll. Almost like the ocean, wave-after-wave of tears and sobs.

I let her cry and just stayed in that very sad moment with her.
What an honor that she could be so real with me.

Finally, when the time seemed right, I reached out and took her hand and then, with my small, left hand, I gently raised her chin up so she could look at me.

Again she repeated the question, this time with even more energy, "How do you do it, Linda?" she added, "You are always so positive, so full of life and spirit. I have been watching you. Day-after-day you come in here filled up. My Grandma told me that some people have "moxie," this deep sense of spirit and purpose. You have that," she said, barely able to look at me. 

"How do you do it?" she said, sounding more frustrated this time, as if how she was going about life just left her depleted.

I let her question rest in the air. I knew the answer, but wanted to share it gently. When I was ready, and had sent God a fast, "Help me Lord, help me to honor You with these words," I said, almost in a small, quiet whisper...

"I am not the one who does it, sweetie. God does it. I am just His vessel. What you see is His spirit in me."

This is what I love to call a "sacred moment." It is really why, after 50 years, I am still teaching. This is really what gives me grit and "moxie," as her Grandma used to say.

"Moxie" is a word that doesn't get used very much anymore.
Yet I love that word, enough so that some years back I purchased a small book and that word was the title. The book is filled with quotations, one liners as I like to call them.

I love the sayings. They are full of sparkle and pazzaze. They resonate with what I call "grit" and courage and resilience. Yet as much as I love the sayings, they leave me just a tad empty and asking the same kind of question my student was asking.

Where does genuine "moxie" come from?

My take is that if you see what looks like "moxie" or courage or grit in me, well it comes from the God I know and love and serve.

I would have "burned out" years ago if my spirit just came from me. At the first and fifth and twentieth tragedy or trauma, by myself I most likely would have folded.

Now please do not misunderstand me. When God made me, He made me to jump oceans and move mountains. He made me to shine and share His love. He didn't make me to live life quietly, although He did make some folks to do that.

When He made me, He gave me a "go get um' spirit!"
He infused me with a deep, deep love for others and a brimming-over passion for life. He made me to live "out loud" and to share my passion for living with others. 

Yet, most of all, He made me to live with Him at the center of my life. Not me at the center, Him at the center. That's what my student saw. She saw God at work in me.

So back to the coffee conversation...

She slowly looked up and squeezed my hand. "Really, it's God in you that I see?"

"Yup. You got it," I said." This 70 year old wife and Mama and Nana and teacher and friend, relies on Him. Who you see is God at work in my life."

And that, my friends, is why I keep teaching. That is why I am still in the classroom where He wants me. So many of my students are so thirsty for life. They are amazing people, yet many of them feel really empty. I am there to share His love with them, for them to perhaps, if I get out of the way, see Him shining so brightly that they will want Him in their lives.

And she did, want Him. And right there, in that classroom waiting to be moved to a new location...filled with old boxes ready to go downstairs for fall classes...we talked about God's love and how He is a God that never leaves us or forsakes us. He is a God, that if we let Him, fills us up day-after-day. He is the God who is the Alpha and Omega, the one we can lean on when life throws us unimaginable curve balls. 

I asked her if I might share her story on my blog, as long as I didn't use her name. She said, "Yes, of course. Maybe someone will want to know Him because of my story."

She picked up her heavy book bag, and I gave her a big hug. As she started to leave she turned around, this time with a big, old grin on her face. "Thanks!" she said. "I won't ever forget our talk." And I replied, "Neither will I, sweetie. Neither will I."


God Bless!
Love, Linda





Friday, June 09, 2017

A Bright Spot in a Very Hard Week...




"The most precious jewels you will ever have around your neck are the arms of a child!"

This week a very dear friend, and teaching colleague of 25 years, passed away in her sleep. Totally unexpectedly. She wasn't even ill for one day. 

Karen Clark was such a bright light, such a caring soul. She lived her life with love, kindness and quiet dignity. She was an amazing teacher and a steadfast friend. Even in the darkest of moments, Karen was a reminder of pure goodness. While Karen loved God, she didn't broadcast her faith. She just lived it. She spread love, His love, everywhere she went.

We are heartbroken, those of us who knew and loved Karen. Her students are grief-stricken. 

We are all in shock. 

* We are reminded that you can be here one day and gone the next. 

* We are reminded that life is short, often much shorter than we want it to be. 

* We are reminded to tell those we love that we love them, and to do it today!

So many reminders...so many life-lessons.

And in the midst of this profound grief, this little girl, sweet Annora Grace, has had her arms around my neck. Hugging me. Reminding me that "All is well"... even when it isn't. 

Her hugs have been a reminder of God's love, even in the midst of pain.

As I look at Annora's pictures posted here, I am also reminded of my very dear, forever friend, Jackie. For Annora's first birthday, my thoughtful and sweet friend got her several darling outfits, all monogramed with Annora's initials. 

Annora, or "Kissy" as we call her, is wearing one of our favorite outfits in this picture. 

Thank you, dear Jackie, for your friendship and love and your prayers for sweet Annora Grace! You are such a treasure!

And this week, this little sweetie of 13 months is taking steps all on her own. Look out world, she is on her way!! Annora, and her hugs, have been been a bright spot in a very hard week.

God Bless!
Love, Linda 


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Hallelujah Anyway...



           "Kindness toward others and radical kindness
         to ourselves buy us a shot at a warm and 
         generous heart, which is the greatest prize of 
         all. Do you want this, or do you want to be 
         right? Well, can I get back to you on that?
                                             -Anne Lamott
                                                                      Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy


I have not been able to hold back the tears. Lately, it seems, my tear ducts have been working overtime and they overflow with hope and sadness and feelings. Just as the Spokane River has been near flood stage for months, as the snow in the mountains starts to thaw, my heart seems unable to hold back a flood of emotions.

Raw emotions.

Emotions laced with hope and fear and joy and pain.

When life gets like this, when I get like this, I always turn to Jesus with the same prayer. A one word prayer, which given that I am an extrovert and never say things in a succinct sort of way, is amazing.

HELP!

That's the prayer. It's quite ironic, really, to say that to God as I know He is more than one step ahead of me. I imagine Him hearing that prayer, looking at my broken heart, and thinking to Himself something along this line...

"Well, good for her. It's about time. I've been waiting for her to stop rushing around long enough to realize that she is a bit of a mess."

Now, just to be clear, I am not all together certain that God would use that kind of language, but I am pretty darn sure that He gets my call for HELP! No matter what tongue or language I say it in.

Now, you see the God I know and Love and serve is
a God that heals broken hearts. He's a God that takes me where I am and helps me move to a better place.
He is a God that never, ever, ever gives up on me, even when I have thrown in the towel and have given up on myself.

Did anything of a huge magnitude happen that broke my heart? Not really.

It was simply one nasty, mean email laced with passive aggression that threw me for a loop. It shocked me. It left me wondering what had I ever done to her that she would throw so much clear bitterness my way.

After reading the email, I did what I almost never do.
I didn't respond right away. Instead, I just let the tears flow and I prayed. I asked God, what would You have me do? And I waited for a reply, a clear direction from Him.

I waited for a whole week and felt vulnerable and sad all week long. Amazingly, I didn't try to bury those feelings. I just sat with them and owned them.
I didn't try to run away from them.

And then one early morning, after my usual prayer time, I picked up Anne Lamott's latest book... 
             
            Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy

Anne and I go way back. Not way back  like old friends go back. Not like Linny Wise and I go back. But Anne and I go back like a reader and an author go back. :)

Anne whose words and vulnerability and authentic spirit gave me hope that I, too, with all of my humanness could  be a Christian. Anne, with her dreadlocks and gut-level honesty, who shared her journey to God and Christ...with side trips to Buddah and the Jewish faith. In her writing she introduced me to the kind of faith, the LOVE is at the center-of-it- all kind of faith.

Anne just spoke authentically to my "I grew up a Catholic and met Jesus face-to-face at a Young Life Camp called Malibu" kind-of-self.

You see I had wondered if being a Christian meant that I needed to know God just like everyone else did.

Was there really only one way to know God, I wondered when I was in 9th grade? Did I have to pray using words like Thou and Thee or could I just let it all spill out...in my own words, knowing He would love me anyway? 

What I have come to know and believe with all my heart after all these years since 9th grade may sound radical to some folks and that is okay with me.

It boils down to this... 

* God loves me, no matter what. 
* He is there for me, always
* Even when I am the biggest mess, God does not leave me or   forsake me.

That was good to know and remember when the mean email hit my mailbox.

I cry easily these days and as I read each word, which may or may not have been written with hurt in mind, well... I just lost it.

I felt like my heart had been torn in pieces. I knew some day that I would be able to better understand what was behind this, or what I had unknowingly done to provoke this. 

Yet on that day when I got the email, I felt like a first grader on Valentine's day with a heart on your desk waiting for your friends in class to leave you a Valentine. Reading them one-by- one, and smiling with the kind messages...

I then opened a mean one.

Words are powerful. Words can hurt, no matter what grade you are in.

I prayed and prayed about what to say. I asked God to give me a humble heart. In my return email I apologized if I had done anything to hurt her. Not my intent. With God's help I restrained from arguing back or saying something like "Are you kidding me? Why in the world would you say something so mean, so accusatory? Why would you even suggest that I was not telling the truth?"

After getting the return email from her, laced with
more passive aggression, even though a less hostile 
kind, I just gave up replying. I realized that perhaps what was going on had little to do with me.

All God really wanted me to do was to offer her kindness, especially in the midst of whatever pain she was feeling. And He wanted me to give her radical kindness, especially since she had not offered that to me.

He wanted me to forgive her, just as He had forgiven me.

I felt like saying..."seriously, you want me to do WHAT?
Offer her kindness? Forgive her?"

It was a small to large miracle that I  set my own hurt aside to show her visibly that I cared for her, no matter what she had said to me. I am still working on the forgiveness part.

I love what Anne Lamott says about not forgiving...
   "Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and waiting  
      for the rat to die."
                       - Anne Lamott- Traveling Mercies


And I am doing just that. Little step after little step.
I did something nice and unexpected for her, and every day I am asking God's help in forgiving her.

It isn't easy, but then doing what God wants me to do, and not what I want, usually is never easy (or at least not easy for me).

And after it was all said and done, I picked up Anne's book again and looked at the words in the title...
                         Hallelujah Anyway

Praise God... anyway. Even when you get mean emails.
Praise God... anyway. Even when you have cancer.
Praise God... anyway. Even when you are at your lowest low or highest high.

Even when it is the hardest hard, ever... Praise Him anyway.

Amen and Amen!
Love, 
Linda




Sunday, May 21, 2017

Resilience....

         
             "Resilience is bouncing back
                   from personal adversity."
                                     Option B- Sheryl Sandberg     

I really don't know where to start. It seems like forever since I have written on this blog. And so, so much has happened.

In the midst of a very busy quarter, and planning for a huge Spring Communication Conference at the college, I realized that I had committed to do a talk at the conference. Granted, I do a talk at every conference, yet this time it was about a topic that wasn't a topic I generally am asked to speak on. Comfortable topics abound. Conflict Management- check. I teach a class on it and love sharing about it. Gender Communication-check. Same scenario.

Yet this time I was asked to speak on Resilience...
a topic I knew very little about from an academic perspective. I was a new learner when it came to the topic of resilience.

Yet God always has a way, doesn't He! He knows what I need to know before I even know I need to know it.

When I was asked to speak on resilience, by a group of college students, amazingly I was smack dab in the middle of reading Sheryl Sandberg's amazing book:

         Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience,
        and Finding Joy.       

I was simultaneously reading another book about The Science of Happiness that had a major section on resilience.

After starting both books I could hardly breathe since the topic was so close to home, so close to my heart. I remember saying to Bert, you know that resilience thing? You know how I have always thought of myself as resilient? Well, I pretty much have decided that I know nothing, or at least very little, about this topic. And I think it's fair to say that it is very important."

And then as God (not luck) would have it, students
honored me by asking me to talk about that which I need to learn.

Perfect! (and I am not being sarcastic here).

And so I read and talked and read and cried. I knew
there was so much I needed to learn, for my students, for the conference goers, for myself.

Here are just a few of  the things I took in and talked about at the conference:

1) Resilience is bouncing back from personal adversity.

2) There are several "myths" about resilience:

* Myth #1: People are either born resilient or not
born resilient. Resilience is personality based.
In truth, while some people have what we call
"resilient personalities," anyone can be taught to be more resilient.
* Myth#2: Only young strong people are resilient.
In truth, resilience is not age-dependent.

3) There are six tools to help you "grow" your resilience:
* Feel your grief, do not stuff your feelings.
* Have active optimism (where you not only think positively, but make a plan for how to achieve the result you want.)
* Positive self-talk 
* Finding support from others
* Get help from others-faith, counseling, journaling
* Reclaim your joy

I then talked about my resilience "role models"-
those dear folks who have taught me so much about resilience. 

They are:
Bert (my beloved hubby), 
Vicky Westra (my dear friend and soul sis), 
Mattie Stepanik, and 
my students at SCC.

I could hardly get through talking about both Bert and Vicky, and seeing their pictures on that huge screen, without falling apart. So I just let the tears flow.

I am not done learning about resilience, but I am so grateful to God for leading me in this direction. His mighty strength is what has held me up the past few weeks as the health of one of our dearies has been tested. His strength has held me up as I have heard about Vicky's latest medical procedure. 

And as I journal and pray and ask others to pray, I am reminded that even in the toughest adversities, I can build resilience and find joy because of His love!

God Bless!
Love, Linda

"Just Plain Hard"...

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