Saturday, April 22, 2017

Embracing the NOW..."

              "I have eyes for the here.
                For the now, and the nearly now...
                just now."
                                  -Vicky Westra, my dear soul sis

Yesterday was a beautiful mix of life's contradictions, almost like the kind of stew my Mama used to make. Every delicious bite hand-made with love, every vegetable and ingredient well-chosen. 

I'll have a dash of great joy, add a pinch of fear, relief, and concern, and serve piping hot in a gorgeous old bowl full of family history.

Just saying the word "Mama" makes me miss mine and the tears just start to flow.

I remember being in the kitchen with my Mom when she was going to make stew. My Dad and I were full of anticipation for the tastes and smells to come. Comfort, true comfort in every bite. Food made with love.

All of this comes to my mind and heart after reading a blog post from my very dear friend, Vicky Westra. If you have read this blog before, you have heard just a bit of her story. She is my soul sis, a true gift from God. She has been a teacher to me, someone who has enriched my life at every turn. There is so much goodness in Vicky, so much wisdom.

Yes, she has stage 4 breast cancer that has now progressed.
Yes, in this latest treatment her hair has fallen out, again.
Yes, she is absolutely beautiful inside and out, no matter if her hair is her own or an amazing gift from friends.

Yet what struck me most, and what I most needed to hear this week, was what Vicky said after finding out that her cancer had progressed...

  "I have eyes for the here. For the now, and the nearly now... 
       just now."     

This last week I have honestly struggled with being in the now.
I have wandered into the past and had some anxiety about the future. My beloved Bert had some medical tests this week after some pretty significant weight loss and his doctor was concerned about why this might be happening. So yesterday we spent a good part of the morning in a medical lab taking all kinds of tests. After a 14 hour fast leading into all of the pricking and poking, we were both a little dizzy.

I have wandered into "What if this happens?" "What if
that happens.." I have been in a pretty steady dialogue with God... asking for His peace, asking for His grace.

When I read Vicky's words a puzzle piece just fell into place.
An answer to prayer. He has it all, and I do mean ALL, in His Almighty hands. He knows what is in store, and He will be there in the midst of whatever comes next.

Not only was yesterday filled with a few chunks of anxiety, it was sprinkled with immeasurable JOY. Our precious granddaughter Annora Grace had her first birthday party. Bert and I could not stop smiling. Just seeing her laughing and giggling and hugging and kissing brings us such joy. Pictures to follow. :)

We were in the NOW, and we were reminded that God is with us and All Shall be Well!
God Bless!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Powerful Lessons About Forgiveness...

            Forgiveness is unlocking the door
              to set someone free and then
              realizing that you were the prisoner.

What were the chances this could happen? Totally improbable, unless you realize that God has a plan and can do what seems impossible. This week a moment at school, orchestrated by God, taught me some very powerful lessons about forgiveness. 

One of my students came into my class on Monday physically shaken. Tears were streaming down her face, her hands were moving back and forth, her body trembling like she had a high fever. It seemed as if she was having a panic attack, right there in class. 

I knew something was very wrong. I asked if she was okay and she shook her head that she wasn't. Trying not to embarrass her I brought her outside into a private part of the hall. She still could not stop crying. I asked her to take a deep breath and slowly exhale. She did.

Then, after what seemed like an eternity, she whispered, "It's him."

I didn't know who "him" was, but I didn't need to know. Whoever it was she had seen, it had brought back horrible memories. 

After minutes of keeping my arm around her and encouraging her to breathe, she started to get the words out. While it is her story to tell, and not mine, the lesson is one I can share. Long story short,  some years back someone had broken into her home. She had come across the intruder as the person was taking her son's money. She looked the person in the face, and it was a face she would never forget.

She called the authorities, got a picture of the get away vehicle and the individual was arrested. They were sent to jail. The
entire time they were in there, my student felt safe. But now that they were out, she didn't feel safe any longer.

She had put her fear on hold, and then saw the person at school. Right there and it had all rushed back, like torrents of water breaking a dam. The violation and fear had returned.

As she told the story I wondered, what can we do? After all, our college is open and a healing place for many who have made mistakes. She had been wronged in the worst way, but the person who had wronged her had been held accountable, paid the price, and had the right to be in school to make a new life.

Yet all of that rationality aside, when you have been violated as she was, seeing the person who wronged you brings it all back.
All of it. Years and years of hatred and fear and pain.

Gradually as I talked to her I realized I had a pickle on my hands. I wanted to help her, and I wanted to help the person who had wronged her. 

How in the world could this be made right?

So I did what I always try to do in situations that seem hopelessly mired in pain, confusion and fear. 

I prayed.

I prayed right there in that hall, while I was holding her hand. I prayed off and on all day between classes. I asked God to ease the hurt and to let forgiveness and reconciliation flow. I told the good Lord God Almighty that I couldn't "fix this," but I knew He could. Finally, after praying, my own heart rate started to settle down.

The next day she again came to class. Again tears were streaming down her face. She could not stop crying. I knew
instantly why she was upset again, and I took her back to the private place in the hall.

Slowly, through sobs, she got the story out. She had seen the person again and just couldn't walk by, pretending not to know him. She had stopped him, asked if he knew who she was, and when she told him her name... his face fell and he looked down in shame. His own tears came as quiet sobs. 

He was visibly shaken as he confronted the victim of his crime, Yet instead of being angry or defensive he said, over and over again, " I am so, so sorry. I was such a mess back then. I did an awful thing to you. Please forgive me. I am so, so sorry."

And there, in that hall in the college where I have taught for over forty years, she hugged him, and he hugged her back. 

She said, "I forgive you. I am proud of you for being in school and getting your life together. You can show me you mean what you say by always being in class and living your life not hurting others."

There in that hall she forgave him. There in that hall, he apologized from his heart. 

Forgiveness happened right there in that hall at SCC. 
Profound forgiveness. The kind of forgiveness God asks of all of us.

Forgive one another as I have forgiven you.

It was not lost on me that this profound act of forgiveness
freed him of the shame of making a huge mistake, but it also freed her of the anger and fear.

It was not lost on me that this act of forgiveness took place 
during Holy Week. It took place on the week when those of us who love God and Jesus mourn that He was placed on a cross, through no sins of His own, and was crucified for my sins. Your sins.

Everyone's sins.

Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.

Forgive them as they are nailing you to a cross? Forgive them after they have dug thorns into your head and mocked you and
yelled obscenities at you?

Forgive them for turning their back on you and denying that they even know you?

Yes, after all of that, He still forgave us.

Just like my student in that hall, God puts his arms around us and hugs us when we are truly sorry for what we have done.

Jesus is my absolute model for forgiveness. For making the ultimate sacrifice. For taking the sins of the world on himself
so that I might have life and have it more abundantly.

And this young lady, who forgave her intruder, put her arms around him and asked him not to do this again, she is a role model to me of living her faith. 

Really living her faith.

Today is Saturday, the day before Easter, the day before a resurrection, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

This morning as I share this lesson I learned about forgiveness from my student, I realize that she was my teacher about how to really forgive. 

She had been a prisoner to anger and fear, and as she forgave she unlocked the door to set the other person free. Yet in all truth, in doing that, she also became free herself. Her forgiveness was the first step in her own resurrection.

What a profound lesson in forgiveness. What a gift she gave him and what a lesson in forgiveness she taught me. 

As Easter approaches, may you know in your deepest heart of hearts that God loves you, just as you are. May you know
the gift of His deep love and forgiveness.

Happy Easter, dear friends! Amen and Amen!


Saturday, April 08, 2017

Hurrah! At last...

                         The day the Lord
                      created HOPE
                    was probably the
                        same day He
                       created Spring!
                                                                                    - Bernard Williams

It has been a long, long, l-o-n-g winter here in Spokane. We have had record-breaking amounts of snow and ice and record-breaking amounts of rain and flooding.

Almost every time the sun came out you could hear an audible sigh of contentment from all of us Spokanites.

We are sun hungry, that's for sure.

I have been waiting desperately for signs of spring. Truth be told, I have even been a tiny bit grumpy because spring seems to be taking its own sweet time to get here. It is clearly not on my schedule.

I am so, so ready for the grass to turn green, the soggy lawn to show life and the carefully planted daffodils to start blooming. I am ready to have temperatures higher than 40.

I am ready for new life and new beginnings.

My beloved Bert might be just a bit tired of my exclaiming with horror (just today) "Can that really be rain and SNOW falling? Are you kidding me?"

On top of my evaluation of the weather, I must ask Bert almost daily..."Have you seen one yet?"

Quietly, knowing how anxious I am for spring to get here, 
Bert just nods and slowly shakes his head sideways.
He knows, especially after being married to me for 34 years, that I am not going to love his answer. 

So he looks away and says, "Not yet."

Then, knowing that my word for 2017 is HOPE, Bert looks up, smiles, winks, and proclaims...

        "It won't be long, honey. I'll keep watch for you.
           The minute I see it, I'll run and get you."

With quite a dramatic sigh, I manage to say, "Ok."

This saga of waiting and anticipating brings back several old memories...

As a young girl I could hardly stand it until Christmas got here. I would count the days until Jesus was born and Santa finally came down the chimney at our house

I figured that old St. Nick would be awhile since he had to bring presents to all the children world-wide.

I also couldn't wait until my birthday got here. The anticipation often kept me awake at night as I imagined just how it would be. My mind anticipated every detail, even down to the taste of the icing on my cake.

I've never been great at waiting...wasn't great then and I am still not great now.

Bert actually loves that part of me, the part that anticipates positive things and can hardly wait until they get here. The part of me that just holds my breath until  football season, or Christmas or even the start of school.

Yet what have we been waiting for these days, you might ask?

Simple answer: The first green leaf

Not just any green leaf, mind you, but the first green leaf on a tree in our yard.

Yesterday, as we were backing out of our driveway, I happened to look up  and caught a glimpse of color.

Much to Bert's amazement, I stopped the car, flung
myself out the door, ran across the lawn and started to jump up and down in sheer glee!

I yelled, "Hurrah! At last it's here. I knew it would come!"

Bert, a tad dazed by my hasty exit from our vehicle,
decided to come take a look at what was causing all the ruckus.

He looked up, saw that tender bud of a leaf ( I promise you could see just the smallest bit of greenand grinned from ear-to-ear.

He said, "Well isn't that perfect, honey. Here it is our 34th anniversary and God gave us a present. And He must have known what a sign of HOPE that present would be, especially for you."

Yup...exactly. The most perfect gift ever!

So there you have it. After we returned from our errands, and some Baskin and Robbins ice cream (after all it was 46 degrees out), we started to do detective work all over our yard. 

We were on the look out for more green leaves.

Yes, a sign of HOPE. A sign of God's love. A sign that
"all is well!"

A sign of fresh beginnings. A sign that in times of change and tension, that God is still here, right where He belongs, doing what He has always done...bringing new life.

Not only have I been searching for the first green leaf, the past weeks have been a time of searching my heart about my relationship with my Lord.

During this season of Lent, I take lots of time to look at the hard things in life, the challenges that take your breath away. I take time to ponder and look, really look, at how I am living each day. How am I living for God? What sacrifices am I willing to make for Him? 

Lent isn't easy, but it marks the anticipation of a sacrifice and much needed resurrection. 

Lent reminds me that just like searching for the first
leaf of spring, I need to search my own heart. Lent
leads me to Easter.

Spring and Easter are all about HOPE and SACRIFICE and RESURRECTION and new beginnings. They are about focusing on what really matters.

Just as I exclaimed about spring,  "Hurrah, at last. 
I knew it would come," I can also exclaim about Easter "Hurrah, at last. I knew He could come."

God Bless, Happy Spring and have a blessed Easter!

Soul Work in the Deep Waters...

              Entrance into another's soul                   is always a sacred honor. It is a gorgeous day, here in Spokane, Washing...