Sunday, July 30, 2017

What I Know For Sure...Deep Waters

             When you go through deep waters
                             I will be with you.
                                                - Isaiah 43:2

I love having a great conversation with a dear friend.
The back-and-forth, the sharing and intense listening, 
the genuine interest and the thought-provoking questions. 
The even though I know you, I want to know more 
about you...moments.

Those moments of true intimacy feed my soul.

Recently I had coffee with a long-time friend. One who knows 
me through and through. One who loves me, just as I am. 
One I can laugh with or cry with.

Even after years and years of knowing each other, we still 
discover "aha!" moments about each other. 

One of those moments came recently in a summer-time,
lemonade in the back yard, kind-of-moment.

She looked me straight in the eye and said...
            
               "Linda, what do you know for sure?"

Now her non-verbal communication looked at once 
deeply interested and slightly amused, since she thought 
she knew how I would answer that question.

My actual answer left her, as she said afterwards, thoughtful
and introspective.

What she thought I would say is... 
         
        "What do I know for sure? I know that God loves me." 

While that is something I do know for sure, that wasn't the 
answer on my heart at that moment.

What I really said was... 

"I know there will be deep waters and I know that God is there in those deep waters."

She paused, said nothing, and finally quietly, knowing she was on tender ground, said, "What deep waters, honey."

"The kind of deep waters where God is the only life preserver 
we have. Those waters are so deep, and we are so tired from fighting them, that we just stay present in the moment and cling 
to Him."

There was a long silence and finally I just picked up the ice-cold lemonade and took a long and slow sip. When I looked back at her face, a big tear was streaming down her cheek.

She looked at me with so much love and concern and finally found the words to whisper, "Are you in deep waters right now?" 

And without pausing or thinking or taking a breath I said, 

"Yes, I am. I'm there, in deep waters, with my beloved friend, Vicky. I am there with my beloved husband, Bert. I am there with several family members who have been through so, so much this past year. But I am not the one holding them up. God is."

My dear friend gave me a giant, knowing hug and said quietly..
                       "I just love that about you."

And then, sometime later as God would have it, I went with my daughter Amy to a super fun, vintage store in Spokane called "Paint in Her Hair." It is made up with venders who use chalk paint or make signs or personal remembrances. I went over to the sign section and lo and behold, there stood two medium sized crosses, rugged, hand-made with a saying clear as day, typed there, a gift for me....

The first one said...
                        "Lord, no matter what today brings, 
                                      my trust is in You."

The second one said...
                         "When you go through deep waters,
                               I will be with you."

And the tears started to flow, right there in Paint in Her Hair.
Now, if you are a regular reader of this blog you may be thinking...
Hmm, wasn't she recently crying in the Carousel store in Sand Point, Idaho? Yup, I was. And here she was in another store, crying? Yup. Also, true!

While no one every told me that when you reach 70 you get to laugh, smile and cry whenever or wherever you want, these days I let the tears flow whenever they want to flow. They remind me how rich life is, so full of joy and love and sorrow.

Even as a little girl I always had deep feelings. I cried when other children were hurt or when I learned one little girl, I went to elementary school with, lived in an orphanage. I told my Mom all about her and insisted we needed to do something as she came to school with the same dress on day-after-day and had not had a haircut. 

So my Mom, God bless her soul, contacted the orphanage, and we took Charlotte to get a haircut, some new clothes, and lunch out. She almost became a part of our family, at my insistence, because I couldn't bare to think of her having less love than I did. I cried every day when I saw Charlotte at school and we gave each other knowing hugs.

Guess I'm still that same Linda today. If my beloveds are in deep water, I love them whole-heartedly and I just can't sit on the safe bank and watch them struggle. I don't want them to feel alone.

Jesus taught me that when He gave His life for me. I was in deep water and He saved me.

Those hand-made crosses will stay at our home for now, a remembrance of my trip to that store and how God reminded
me of His presence. Then...they will find a new home as a reminder that He never, ever, ever leaves us in deep water by ourselves. In the darkest moments, when we feel the most alone, He is there. He is our life-preserver, our deep-water companion.

And for that, this 70 year old Nana is so, so grateful.

God Bless!
Love, Linda









Monday, July 24, 2017

"Dirt Therapy"...

                                         Planting a seed
                         is believing
                         in tomorrow.

I absolutely love summer in Spokane! 

The mornings are cool, the afternoons heat up and gradually the heat gives way to evenings that are just down right gorgeous.

Lots of folks have irrigation systems, but my favorite sound is an old fashioned sprinkler that brings back memories of my childhood. As children we raced through those sprinklers screaming and laughing. So much old-fashioned fun!! 

While I love summer's slower pace of life, the relaxed family time, 
and water activities, my happy place in the summer (or one of them anyway) is in our garden.

It all starts in the early spring and spring brings its own list of garden activities. Cleaning up from a long winter with snow and ice, composting our soil, weeding the beds, and getting ready for the planting process. It really feels like a sacred process to me since I truly believe that we are tending to God's earth, not just our own yard. 

Our home is situated in one of Spokane's oldest neighborhoods and the streets have huge trees on both sides that create a canopy of touching branches up above. While there are lots of huge and regal homes in our neighborhood, our little one story home is sandwiched in and has such a unique personality. We just love living here.

The gardens in front of our home are exquisite, thanks to all of Bert's hard work and creativity. There is an island of plants along the sidewalk that truly looks like Hawaii. There are so many huge ferns, giant hydrangeas, five different varieties of hostas,  lilies and lots of coleus plants.

Not only are the plants breathtaking, the front yard garden is filled with garden art...a large Japanese concrete temple, aged with moss, unique lanterns everywhere you look, and there is a huge, much- loved bench tucked in near the back of the front yard.  That concrete bench with a wooden seat is filled with gorgeous, colored and comfy pillows. It's a perfect place for a morning cup of coffee or a glass of lemonade with mint from our garden.

The grass weaves in and out of the gardens. We love to sit on that cozy bench, have coffee and chat with our neighbors and those who walk by. "Love your yard" starts many a conversation.

Those huge trees that line our street give us lovely shade in the front so as the day heats up, we often move from the back yard to the front to escape the heat. When you stop a minute to watch the sun coming through the leaves on those gorgeous and gigantic trees, it brings about such a sense of peace and wonder.

While the front yard is shady, the back yard is filled with sun-loving trees and plants. Our cherry and pear trees both flower in the spring, and there is lush foliage everywhere. The back yard is sunny all day long. We have two dining areas back there. One on the lawn for the two of us, and then a larger table in the back of the yard for more diners. 

At the very back of the yard is Bert's studio and shed.
Their walls, facing the yard, are filled with art. Lanterns hang from the trees and an old-fashioned swing, with comfy pillows, is surrounded by multi-colored adirondak chairs. That area is the center piece for many a conversation. 

Colorful, huge umbrellas echo the colors in the cushy pillows we sit on, and the trees come alive with a breath of wind as gorgeous chimes in the trees share their music with slightest breeze. 

The tinkling sound from the chimes is almost angelic.

And at night? Oh, at night both the front yard and back yard become a fairy land of small twinkling lights and lanterns that come alive with a warm glow that melts your heart. We love to sit in the old-fashioned swing, with Daisy (our doggy) between us and quietly just take it all in. 

There is even a prayer corner in our garden that brings me such peace each time I sit down there. It helps me remember whose garden this really is. 

It helps me remember that everything we are enjoying is a gift from our Heavenly Father!

Our garden, and all the love and work that goes into it, is not just a show place. It is really a sanctuary for Bert and for me. As I dig in that dirt, it is therapy for my soul. The feel of the dirt, the smell of the plants, the aroma of the chives and lavender and mint, well, they all remind me of God's goodness. And there is just nothing like popping a cherry tomato in your mouth straight off the vine.

My dear friend, Jackie, once called gardening dirt therapy, and she is so, so right about that. Thank you, dear friend, for sharing that insight with me. Gardening is therapy for my soul, my mind, my heart and my physical body. It is couple's time for Bert and for me. Strolling with coffee cups, and looking at how our plants are doing, is a little bit like watching our children grow.

It also makes me so, so happy to get a vase from my potting table
and cut flowers from our garden and share them with our neighbors and family. All this beauty is so fun to share!

So today, after a day of gardening, my soul is at peace and
I am grateful beyond measure for the garden beauty that surrounds us. It's surely a reminder that God is good, all the time!!

God Bless!
Love, 
Linda
PS- Garden pictures to follow in a later post! :)

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


 
















A Reminder of What Matters...

                   "We are all just walking                       each other home."                                             ...