Saturday, January 21, 2017

An Awkward Moment Filled With God's Grace


   God loves you just the way you are,
     yet He refuses to leave you that
     way. He wants you to be just like 
                                      -Max Lucado

The snow had piled up until it threatened to bury us. Everywhere we turned there were new and bigger piles of snow. To make matters even more challenging, just as it got warmer and the piles started to melt, we had freezing temperatures that turned the melted snow into unforgiving ice.

The evening news even showed one woman in ice skates skating down what had once been the street in front of her house. Now, it was an ice rink.

The weather teased us from time-to-time with a blue sky and temperatures that begged you to come outdoors and play.

It was on such a "teasing day" that another "life-lesson" crossed my path. Another moment where the Lord God Almighty stopped me in my tracks and gave me the opportunity to grow in Him.

As I looked outdoors and saw the sun sparkling off the ice crystals, I just couldn't help myself. I couldn't stand being indoors one.more.minute.

All of us Spokanites feel a bit claustrophobic since the really cold temps plus freezing rain have kept us indoors more than usual. We are a hardy group of souls. Yes, we are. Perhaps not as hardy as the souls in Minnesota, where my dear friend Vicky Westra lives, yet we are hardy never the less.

It may be ten degrees here, however in Minnesota it is probably 20 degrees below with a wind chill that makes it -40 degrees. 

It has felt bit like -40 degrees in my heart. While I am a raving optimist by nature, the past few months have left me a bit weary. That's not entirely true. Really weary. Lots of situations that are absolutely out of my control. And just when I started to regain a bit of my footing, a car backed into my car leaving two doors badly dented.

While the car isn't a brand new one, it is quite new to me. When I took a look at the damage I realized that I felt a bit like those doors. Visible dents and damage.

Now please don't misunderstand. I'm not one who feels compelled to look perfect, yet from time to time it's unnerving to have "my dents" become visible to everyone. Yet I know in those moments of insecurity that God loves me, visible creases and all.

Yet I also know that He loves me too much to leave
me that way.

Now, after that side note about the car, let me get back to that light-shining, hope-filled moment.

On the day I wanted to get outside, I felt particularly "stung" by an interaction that had happened with someone close to me. It was an "ouch" that left me cringing and hurt. It was, as my beloved Bert said, an "updated postcard" on this person. 

For several weeks Bert had listened and listened as I processed this hurt. My tears flowed until I wondered if they would ever stop. Finally, my beloved reminded me that the interaction that had left me quaking was more about them than it was about me.

I knew that intellectually, yet my hurt heart had a hard time catching up to that reality.

So on that sunny day where the outdoors called to me, I wanted to go out and work off physically some of the steam of this interaction that hurt my heart. It left me wondering if I could ever be at peace with this individual.

So angst in hand, and bundled up in all things warm except gloves, I grabbed the snow shovel and headed out to our front yard. More accurately, what used to look like our front yard. 

In its current state it looks like giant mounds of meringue on top of a lemon meringue pie. You can barely see the ten foot trees for the mounds of snow.

I decided to make a dent in all that snow. I'd move it around a bit so you could see our old familiar bench where we loved to sit in the summer and watch our neighbors walk by. Perhaps if I saw the bench that brought so much comfort in a warmer season, my own hurt heart might warm up too.

And then, as I was digging and throwing snow everywhere, I saw a mail man inching his way carefully down the street. This wasn't our regular mail carrier, the one we loved to exchange "HOWDIES!" with. This must have been a temporary replacement. So I kept on shoveling.

Then I heard it as clear as day. I looked up, startled, hardly believing that he had said it out loud. It felt like he bellowed it, and the sounds reverberated off the slick snow.

"What are you doing shoveling with just one hand?"
he called. I looked up, shocked. I looked around, amazed. Had this complete stranger announced to the world that  I only had one hand? 

I looked down to gather myself together, said a quick
"Help me Lord!" prayer and looked back up. At this point I was eye ball to eye ball with him as he was standing in our driveway. 

Would my reply be tinged with sarcasm or even worse would I give no reply at all? Would I try to ignore the comment and pretend I didn't hear him?

I wanted to respond the way Jesus would respond, and I knew Jesus would be kind in this moment.

I received an answer to my short prayer, and I felt God's love pulse through my heart. 

looked the mail man in the eye, walked over and shook his hand. I smiled and said, "Hi! I'm Linda. Yes, I'm shoveling with one hand. (insert twinkle in my eye here). If I had another, I'd love that but I am making due with the wonderful one hand I've got." Then I smiled and chuckled.

He looked at me and said, "Oh my God, I can't believe I just said that to you. I blurted it out. I'm so sorry. That was so rude of me."

Then, unexpectedly, I leaned toward him and gave his flustered self a quick hug. "No need to be embarrassed," I said. "I love how kids are when they are honest and see my small hand. They tell it like it is too."

And in that moment, that interaction of give and take, of embarrassment and apology, we connected.

Human heart to human heart.

It truly was an awkward moment filled with grace.
Grace for him and grace for me.

After he left, and I continued to shovel snow, I noticed that I felt a lot lighter. I started to hum some of my favorite gospel tunes. The hurt I had carried, that only moments before had felt like a boulder, now felt like a small pebble on the beach.

Thank you God! I felt loved and free.

God Bless!
Love, Linda

Saturday, January 14, 2017

I Will Miss Her Forever...

                   Love the people God
                             gave you,
                   because He will need
                      them back one day.

I knew it was coming. After all, she was 94 years old and had been in ill health for some time. Yet knowing her death was coming, and now having her gone, are two entirely different things.

Elaine Seppa was like a second Mom to me. I met her
years and years ago when I was friends with her son, Tim. I was in high school at the time,  and had only recently given my heart to Jesus at Malibu, a Young Life camp in Canada. The minute I met Elaine, I could tell something was very different about her.

Elaine loved Jesus and that love radiated from her like the warm sun in the sky. Karl, her husband, was like that too.

I remember standing at the sink in her kitchen as she washed dishes after a meal. She wanted to know about my new faith in the Lord and shared just tid bits of how much her own faith meant to her.

Here was a woman, so many years older than I was,
who knew and loved the same Jesus that I knew and loved.

I was totally overwhelmed with gratitude to God that
He had placed Elaine in my life.

Years came and went and amazingly her son, who had been my friend, became my husband. Elaine was officially now my mother-in-law, but I never thought of her like that. 

She was always "Mom."

Calling her this revered title meant no disrespect for my own beloved Mom. I adored my Mom, Dolores, and my Mom adored me. While my Mom had always been a Catholic, her relationship with God was more a matter of tradition than a matter of the heart. My Mom struggled a bit when I kept talking about my faith as being something real and alive.

Elaine's faith and relationship with God was very personal and it helped so much that she could share that faith with me. She was a child of God and Jesus was her Savior. He was at the center of her life. He was the root of her strength. 

When I was around Elaine I could see God working and her faith in action. That was the kind of faith I wanted to have. Also, as an only child, I was hungry for having a family with sisters and brothers.

So besides marrying Tim, I married Steve, Dave,and Kathy (affectionately known as Bazz.) I was in love with all of the Seppas. They were such a great addition to what family meant to me. They were all people of faith and sharing faith was as natural as passing the bowl of mashed potatoes at dinner.

So it was a shock to absolutely everyone when Tim decided, about six months into our marriage and six months into medical school, that He no longer believed in God. 

It broke Elaine's heart to hear her son say those words. How could this beloved son who had been choosing between being a doctor and being a minister no longer believe in the very God who had created him? She still loved Tim with all of her heart, and I'm sure she prayed a million prayers for Him to know the Lord again. 

Not only was Elaine's heart broken, my heart was broken too. She and I talked about this, and prayed about her son finding God again. Her heart broke even more when she learned how my marriage to Tim was unraveling and that after years of struggle, Tim and I were getting a divorce.

It was a shattering time for everyone.

Yet like a true Mom, Elaine never stopped loving me
or thinking about me as her daughter. She never ever, not even for one moment, loved Tim less because he struggled with his faith. He was her "Timmy" and she adored him. And Tim was an amazing son to Mom, attentive and caring. She loved us both, even when it wasn't easy to do so. She prayed for us both without ceasing.

I have a picture of Elaine on a post I wrote on this blog on December 9, 2007. After Karl went home to God, after a courageous battle with cancer, from time-to-time Elaine would visit Spokane. The picture on that blog post shows Elaine at a soccer game that one of her great grand children was playing. In the photograph,  she and I are talking and smiling.

We look completely at ease with each other.

Years later, as Elaine's health declined and she had a series of strokes, Mom was in nursing care at the Hearthstone in Seattle. When I came to Seattle, I visited her there. 

While she sometimes wasn't as coherent as usual, at other times she was completely lucid. She'd say, "Oh honey, you have come to see me. I love you so." And then we would visit. Often, when I was ready to leave, we would sing and hum "Amazing Grace," one of her favorite hymns. It is one of my favorites, too.

On my last visit with Mom, a few months ago, I knew, just knew, deep in my heart that I was saying goodbye to her. My wonderful friend Sharon, a long time friend who lives in Seattle, dropped me off at the Hearthstone. Mom was lucid but it was getting harder and harder to hear her.

Yet when I leaned over, she said those same welcoming words...
     "Oh honey, you have come to see me. I love you so."

We did what we always would do, talked and chatted and sang Amazing Grace and a few of her other favorite hymns like How Great Thou Art.

Just a few weeks ago, Elaine's health took a sudden turn for the worse. Family gathered, knowing that they wanted to be there with her and surround her with love. Jessi, my oldest daughter, went over with her Dad while Amy got all of the children together, including darling Annora Grace, and drove in awful, snowy weather to be with Grandma. 

It was time to say goodbye. It was time to let her know, once again, how much she meant to everyone.

And it was Elaine's time to go home to God. On my last visit with her I whispered to her that when she was ready, and it was God's timing, she would go home to be with Jesus. She would see Dad again as well and she would be wrapped in God's loving arms. She looked at me with such a knowing smile when I said that to her.

And some months later, as she took her last breath, that's what happened. She went home to God and Dad.

I can't stop crying buckets of tears as I write this.
How blessed I was to have Elaine and Karl, my second Mom and Dad, as my "faith angels," as I liked to call them. 
How blessed I was, and am, to be part of their special family.

One Sunday at our church, about a year ago, we were asked to bring a picture to church of those folks who had been our "faith angels," our guides in our Christian faith. Those folks whose own faith had helped to keep our faith alive. Those folks who lived for God and Jesus.

That next Sunday, when the pictures went on the church wall, my granddaughter Sihin and I walked up and placed my photograph of Elaine and Karl up there. Underneath the picture, I wrote the words...My Faith Angels...Karl and Elaine Seppa. 

After church that Sunday, Sihin and I talked about how Elaine was my second Mom and I started to get chocked up. I explained to Sihin that what I had learned from my second Mom was all about loving God with your whole heart and mind and soul and accepting Jesus as your Savior. She taught me about faith and hope and love and that the greatest of these is love.

I will miss her forever.

God Bless!

Love, Linda

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Brrrr.....Baby It's Cold Outside!

                                              Annora Grace, bundled up in the cold, cold weather

This song by Natalie Cole and James Taylor reminds us of living in Spokane right now :)

After being gone for almost three weeks, how grateful we are to be back in our "Home Sweet Home." Initially, we just wandered around appreciating every photograph of our dearies, our art work on the walls and our comfort chairs by the fireplace. We had to get reacquainted with our home, just as we would with a dear friend we hadn't seen for some time. 

Bert and I have found ourselves gazing out our windows at the amazing winter wonderland that once was our front and back yard. We have made gallons of hot chocolate to sip by the fireplace and held hands as we made our way tentatively down icy sidewalks.  

As Dorthy said in the Wizard of Oz...
      "There's no place like home. There's no place like home."

We just spent almost three weeks in temperatures hovering around the low eighties, so as you can imagine the below zero and high of 7 degrees temperatures are a bit of a shock to our system. We have exchanged flip flops for snow boots and light sweaters for down parkas. Like us, all of our grands are dressed in multiple layers so they can stay warm in their short visits outdoors.

Even our youngest Grand, our beloved Annora Grace pictured at the start of this post, is a snow baby. I may be a bit biased, but she is the cutest little bundled up kiddo we know!:) :)

As always, Bert and I seek to be grateful in every situation we are in. So while the cold weather isn't easy, one of the blessings of this frosty season is the chance to have cozy fireplace conversations with our loved ones. 

One of the topics of late has been about hope and kindness.

It seems that we cannot turn on the news without a report of violence and more violence. It hurts my heart to see all of this anger spilling out all over and the disregard for the value of human life.

What I know for sure is that hurt people hurt people, and
there are lots of hurt people acting out right now.

In my prayer time I have been asking God this question:
    "Lord, what would You have me do right now to make
      the world a kinder and more hopeful place?"

The answer is right out of a book by Bob Goff...
                               Love Does

While I can't change the whole world, I can show kindness, love and hope to those folks I intersect with every day.

While I can't undo all of the hurt that has been done, I can sit along side those who are hurt and pray. I can be present in their lives so they know they are not alone.

While I can't  change everything, I can change some things
as I bring the joys and hurts of others to God in prayer.

Yes, it is cold outside because of the temperature and because of all
the hurt spilling out from so many people. Yet as 2017 begins, my
prayer is that I will do what God asks me to do and that is love one another as He has loved me.

That's a heart-warming love for sure.
God Bless and Happy New Year!
Love, Linda


Finding Comfort in Kindness...sharing from the heart

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