Tuesday, December 26, 2017

I'll be home for Christmas...if only in my dreams. Bing's version is still the best and the sappy song gets me every time it plays. 
When my travel plans were thwarted, I picked up the pieces of my broken heart and asked God to make a way for me to be in my own home, if even for a couple of days. He did not disappoint. 
It took some creativity and resourcefulness since I have open walls, no water heater and little kitchen. 
I just wanted my home. I packed up my beautiful wreath from the preschool department, my hilarious Santa from the Rogers and paper goods and baby wipes.  (Yes, a girl still has to take some sort of a bath.) I bought a butterfly chair and stool from the local sporting goods store and some comfort food.

Now I'm not kidding myself, Christmas alone in a drafty, dirty structure is hard. Ask Mary; her Christmas nursery was similar. 
But if I've learned anything these last few years, it's to embrace the hard. Move through it. Let it teach you.
Are you asking the obvious; Why would you subject yourself to the loneliness of this kind of Christmas?
A thousand times I asked the same and a lot of other questions as well. God, why do hurting people have to hurt others? Hasn't there been enough loss? Should I move?  and even, Should I remarry?!?
Truth be told, I turned down a host of invitations to share in friends' family Christmases, but I knew I'd be even lonelier, missing my people, my grand babies.
I entered this crazy idea knowing one huge truth: We meet Jesus in the loneliest places. 
The entire advent season I came to Bethlehem to see and I knew I most likely would find a lot of Jesus on this most unusual Christmas Day.
He did not disappoint me. He wrote His NAME all over his birthday. He provided memories of a home filled with His love, the kindness of a Starbuck's employee when I realized I forgot the coffee, the solace of the Scriptures.  Sometimes, He's awfully hard to find in the flurry of holiday. Oh, but in the still...
I've lived long enough to realize Christmas plans can come crushing down...unexpected illness...unexpected loss...unexpected weather, so I don't bank my joy on one day anymore. 
Christmas joy is that hidden gift mistakenly left under the tree. Waiting to be unwrapped the day after and after and after. Waiting in the hard...waiting for a home.
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
Charles Wesley

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

I remember it well. My friend and former pastor sat amid piles of wrapping paper on a beautiful Christmas morning. Christmas fell on Sunday that year and we postponed our normal routine to gather at Westbury Baptist Church. 
I paraphrase Dick's question to the congregation that morning—so what do we have left when all of the presents have been opened? 
Fast forward to this December...
There are no trappings; there are no walls. Hurricane Harvey swept away the likeliness of a familiar Christmas for many of us.  Other storms have cast a shadow over our celebrations; illness, death, brokenness shatter our Hallmark holiday.
We miss our mantels filled with shiny balls and evergreen, our stockings hung in a tidy row. Our trees no longer stand in the corner, decked with ornaments collected over a lifetime. There sits an empty seat at the table.

The premise of Dick's question still stands regardless of the circumstances.
What remains?
What cradles our souls when all seems lost?
What kindles joy when dreams never become reality?
What remains?
An infant king...a guiding star...hope found in a feeding trough and so many more gifts that lay ready to be unwrapped.  

Come to Bethlehem and see
 Replace the mountains of gift wrap for simple swaddling cloth
Like Simeon of old, let's embrace promise fulfilled

You may have your merry little Christmas, but the manger offers so much more...lasting hope and healing.
Oh, won't you come and see?
Abandon the lists and rest in His presence. This little Babe who journeyed to the Cross will not rob your joy or leave you exhausted. He promises to carry you through the loss and loneliness of this season. 
Oh, won't you come and see?
Come to Bethlehem and see...

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

She had but a little oil, not enough to hold on to hope. The widow cried out to Elisha, her creditor threatened to enslave her only treasure: her precious sons. 
A mama bird does most anything to protect her chicks.
Elisha had a plan in mind; God had a miracle in store.
The widow did not just sit and wait, but obediently sprang into action. Can you imagine the neighbors' reaction as she ran from house to house, asking for empty jars?
Has she lost her mind? She has no use for them; she doesn't have a single thing with which to fill them.
Then, God sprang into action, filling every one of those jars with oil; not a drop less, not a drop more.
Elisha instructed her to go sell the oil, pay her debts and be comforted that she would have enough left over to provide for her family of three.
Crisis diverted; hope restored. 
I love this story, but I always want to finish it with this single mother's reaction. I imagine her relief, her gratitude, her amazement. Does she hug Elisha and her boys, drenching them with her tears of gratitude or does she sit quietly, soaking in the magnitude of grace?
Every widow, every single mom could spill her own 2Kings story.  We've all been in her sandals, not knowing where to turn or what to do...then we are rescued. We are gifted with grace!
This Thanksgiving I sit soaking in the blessings of the past three months. My grateful heart is overflowing.
You have filled my jars, every last one of them.
You've listened, held my tears, mucked my house, washed my dishes, and filled my mailbox. 
You've filled my belly, you've covered my nose and blistered feet, you've washed my clothes and tackled my inventory.  You've waded through chest high water to restore my hope.
You know who you are, you generous, praying balcony people who cheer, encourage, spur me. I've known some of you for a very long time; others of you are now my new brothers and sisters. 
I name each of you in my prayers.
Grace...it's an overwhelming thing. My natural reaction is to pay everyone back just like Elisha's widow, but how can one ever satisfy such extravagant love and sacrifice?  I recently received a note in the mail that was accompanied with thoughtful gift cards. The "angels" simply asked that I pay it forward when given the opportunity.  Maybe grace and gratitude is a lot like miracle jars filled with oil. But, instead of selling them, we just keep pouring them out on others in need. 
This Thanksgiving I thank the church...not a building, but a community from so many walks of life.
We are a complicated, talented, and flawed lot of jars, waiting to be filled with God's Spirit and Plan.
We don't go by an acronym, like FEMA; we are the hands and feet of the Name above all names: Jesus.
You have been my James 1:27 church and I continually offer thanks for you.
May God bless you this Thanksgiving and fill your jars!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Lately, I've been asked how I'm doing in the aftermath of Harvey. My honest response: I'm hanging by a thread, but I'm still hanging. After yesterday's senseless attack on a small town church, it's frayed even more. 
I'm having a hard time holding on like so many I know. Maybe that's the problem; I'm doing all of the hanging. I stumbled across Deuteronomy 33:12 this weary morning...
Of Benjamin he said, "The beloved of the LORD dwells in safety. The High God surrounds him all day long and [he] dwells between his shoulders."

Maybe I'm expending so much energy clinging to my own frazzled fear of unknowns, that I'm not allowing God's promise to his children to carry me instead.

Let go! Like the climber who nestles herself into a harness and trusts the belay set, I need to trust the High God, the Anchor, who surrounds and carries me like a protective Father.

His anchor line is Triune; it runs through the entire Story with crimson security. He will not let my foot slip.
His harness offers rest for the weary.

So it's time to let go, be carried, and offer a new response:
I'm dwelling between His strong shoulders!

Jesus! I am resting, resting
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
  Of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,
And Thy beauty fills my soul,
For, by Thy transforming power,
  Thou hast made me whole. Jean S. Pigott

Friday, November 3, 2017

Springer goes YARD!
We all love home runs.  If you are even an inkling of a Houston Astros fan, you have celebrated every one of those balls hit out of the park during post season play. 
Life, though, rarely offers us the opportunity to sail the bases toward home plate without fear of being tagged or stranded. More likely, we find ourselves chipping away, one dusty bag at a time. 
I often get so caught up in the final outcome that I lose sight of taking life in small manageable steps of faith. That's when frustration and fatigue tries to get the best of me and I lose hope of overcoming life's giants. David didn't hurl his whole bag of stones at Goliath; he simply took out one smooth stone. Can you imagine Noah's overwhelming state when charged with building an ark of such magnitude? I'm not sure the animals would have ever been led in for their extended stay had Noah not tackled God's project one cubit at a time.
Many of us can still see light peeking through the brick of our flood ravaged homes. Others see a long uphill battle back to health and wholeness; it's a long battle to the ninth inning. Life just isn't an easy jaunt home. 
But, base by base, chipping away at the score, victory is coming our way! God is carrying us to his finish line, step by step, trial by trial.

Yet He knows the way I have taken; when He has tested me, I will emerge as pure gold. Job 23:10 HCSB

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

My favorite photo was damaged in the flood.
It's my only copy. 
I loved everything about this picture; it represented our college years and it has been on my bulletin board for as long as I can remember.
Unfortunately, it fell into contaminated waters like so many things, but 
I managed to at least snap a picture in the chaos.
Now this photo captures my life so well.
So many sweet things are now blurred and scarred, but if I look hard enough I am able to see beauty. Rob is still visible, although not as clear as once before. 
Life is messy, I can't see all the details, but I know what once felt whole will be again.
By Him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17

Thursday, October 12, 2017

I will not waste this year!  Neither flood nor displacement will seize this year. This conviction continues to grow within me, one of the rich lessons of trauma.
Although I've lost a good portion of my stuff, intimacy will not be recorded on my inventory.  Intimacy...the desire of my heart! I'm reminded today that we were made for just that. Intimacy is not a waste of our time.
Last night, in the bustle of Wednesday night church activities, I locked hearts with another woman who too had walked chest deep through the waters. Her eyes brimming with collected tears, she poured her evacuation story in detail and I listened as if my very life depended on it. It did! Listening to the stories has become my passion; no waste in that. Whether we realize it or not, we need storytellers and ready listeners.  This is how we all will pass through the waters. 
And this is how we deepen our relationships.
The courageous both spill and absorb life's narratives.  Are you doing both?
But even more importantly, I draw near to the God who hears, the creator of intimate relationship. Jesus stops, Jesus really listens, and Jesus weeps. 
As a novice writer, I'm clearly eager to disentangle my thoughts, but my true desire is to become a good listener like Jesus. Listening will not be a waste of time.
He who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life. . . . Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies. 
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Monday, October 9, 2017

Sunday night draws to a close. Even though I know I should call it a night, I fight sleep. Waking up means a new week of paperwork, endless calls and more work in a place I don't recognize as home anymore.
Another Sunday night,  finding myself in a battle to see the good in all of this...again, the joy!
I return to the counting of gifts.
I'm profoundly grateful for tenacious love! I'm girded by a small army that doesn't give up on me. They listen once again to my story, my sorting out of this ongoing chaos. They feed me with meal after meal, but even better, with helpings of hope and acceptance of my ever-changing moods. They anticipate my every need. They show up again and again. Tenacious love! They understand that love runs a marathon ; it's no easy sprint. Their talk is gentle, brimming with kindness and they push off my feeble attempts to pay them back; they want nothing from me.  Tenacious,  like our Father's unfailing love.
I'm learning to live open-handed, receiving grace instead of grasping for it. I tend to get grabby when my faith falters. How can I forget His faithfulness so easily, especially with this army of mine?
" Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Do you leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home  Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ' Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' " Luke 15

Tenacious love...

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

How are you holding up? I desperately needed to feel compassion from those closest to me. I sent out updates, hoping they would grasp the reality of the flood. I made excuses...their lives are too busy to take on my pain.  I needed them to hug me from afar.  But very few family members showed up. I never expected their physical presence, but I made the assumption that they would offer emotional support. 
I placed that expectation on them. But this week, I was able to own it as mine and release it.  It has been tearing me up, keeping me from moving forward. So I begin to grieve another loss, the expectation that my family will walk alongside me and rescue me when I think I can't take another step.
There is so much collateral loss in this flood. It often seems as layered as our piles of debris. We must name and grieve each one just like the physical loss.
But as we inventory, we must look hard for the unearthed treasures.
Just like the unexpected photos, children's artwork, slips of paper scrawled with truth found in the rubble, we have to hunt for the joy, the gifts, the purpose in our uninvited catastrophe. 
It's truly been like Thanksgiving for me each day. So much goodness to celebrate, my list too lengthy to share. Each turn is decorated with generosity, wisdom and kindness. A month ago, there was not a first floor storage unit to be found in West Houston, but one came open and a Sunday School class has funded it for several months. My spiritual family continues to show up to pack and demo. Sometimes, I have no idea what I need, but they just seem to know. Cookies, chocolate, mold spray, masks, even a needed hammer...the blessings flow. 
I wonder how many times I've failed to show when a loved one really needed me. I hope that has changed because of Harvey.  Yesterday, a motherless child on my street begged for a hug. His brother ran for his as well. Sometimes we just have to let go of our to do list and just show up in the middle of the rubble.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The trucks with the big claws turned on our street this afternoon. Our turn for the city to haul off the growing pile trash had finally come without warning. I'd left my biggest, most intimate possession for the last: the bed. That beautiful sanctuary in which we had laughed for hours, playing our own version of Name that Tune into the wee hours of the morning, the safe place to shed our tears and prayers over our children, the soft surface where I gingerly massaged Rob's swollen feet in those last days. 
Of course, we would not have kept it much longer than the "replace every eight" recommendation, and even in this situation, we would have simply run to the store to purchase a new one...together.
But this was our bed that I was placing on the rubble. Our bed is forever gone.

The grief counselor says write, write, share...tell your story over and over.
And yes, I need to so badly. I'm falling apart, feeling overwhelmed and abandoned. The people I would rely on the most to help me solve issues are just not there for me. However, God continues to bring those that want to help...my Harvey Angels.
So for my sanity, I'll write and share this journey with those who are truly interested in what it is like to go through a catastrophe on your own. 
I'll let those that don't subscribe to my blog, know when a new post is published; that will allow those who just don't want to continue to hear about Harvey to skip my story.
Interestingly, there are still two types of friends that continue to send me a personal message after a Facebook post: those drowning in their own flood and the friends who really want to pray very specifically. 
I want to connect with both of you. You can subscribe here, send me a pm or just comment on my FB notification. 
As we are all in this together. I so want to hear your story.  And don't forget, it's history.

Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Friday, September 22, 2017

I suggested to my pastor last night that we need to spill our grief on paper, so again, here I am.
Yesterday, I met with a contractor. We walked through each room and again, just as with the insurance adjustor, I felt the overwhelming task of rebuilding sweep over me. Judging the remaining piles of things to inventory and the foreboding weather, I temporarily closed up shop. I could not face another day of rain falling on debris plus the devastation of the hurricanes, the earthquake, friends' personal loss rendered me useless. 
 I needed some normal: a visit to my hairdresser, a sweet dinner with some of my favorite people, an opportunity to gift someone else.  And I needed a lot more Jesus!
So many lessons rise from this rubble. Most strikingly, I've accepted that family comes in many forms. Most of my relatives are far removed from this disaster; they can't even fathom the catastrophic effect Harvey has had on the Texas Gulf Coast. Though only a few have reached out to me, God has provided a faithful spiritual family. Most escaped the physical devastation of the reservoir release, yet, their empathy and compassion surrounds me  through each and every day. They act out of love, not survivor's guilt; they are God's lavish gift. My newfound family calls, advises, listens, provides. They truly ease the pain of being separated from my relatives. 
I'm duly learning that just as my damaged foundation needs repairs before rebuilding, so does my life's footing. As this new chapter ensues, even though unwelcome, my emotional and spiritual health must be shored so the bricks will stand firm. For me that requires respite, community, much prayer...and an occasional trip to the salon.

Monday, September 18, 2017

God sent me a team of amazing women and men on Saturday.  I was leaking hope until they arrived to divide and conquer. The men from my church tore out cabinets, sheet rock, appliances and some nasty gypsum board from my home's exterior walls. The women washed and packed fragile items that no longer have homes. Then, a sweet couple came and rescued my carload of books, saving me a trip to donate my large collection. That's after they had already washed all of my clothes.
After everyone had left, I stood in awe of the work they had completed, blown away by the sacrifice of their weekend with their families. I can't even describe the outpouring of love. Overcome with gratitude, I just wept and thanked God for this gift I could never repay. And I felt hope rise once again.

Later, I ventured off my street, surveying the rest of my neighborhood. I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of destruction. The further I drove, the greater the stench and heartbreak.  The piles look just like mine, but something about seeing it all run together helped me drop my self-pity and encouraged me to care beyond my own tragedy. 
So today was  a day to process and worship. The loss of Rob's things are taking its toll and I will need to seek counsel on how to trudge forward in my journey of grief...once again. I took some time to reflect on how I'm going to allow something beautiful to come from the rubble. As I've said before, I don't want to waste this tragedy.
Sunday night is quickly coming to a close. I'm thankful for a day off to rest my weary legs and soul, yet I feel a sense of dread.  I don't want to face  another work week of decisions, piles to pack and discard, and that ever-present and necessary MASK! But I know who will see me through the rubble.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

My new Lug bag arrived today. I'd ordered just the right one for my trip next week. I had planned a fun trip to the Northwest and possibly a surprise visit to  see my sister for her birthday.  That trip was cancelled a few days ago to concentrate on my flooded home. No whales, no little grand-nephews, no much needed fellowship with family. Harvey rained out a lot of our plans, didn't he?
 As I see photos of friends' trips and special occasions,  I wonder if I'll ever just get out of my debris-filled neighborhood.  
Life doesn't seem to have any "normal" in it.  It's packing, demolishing, pushing sheet rock dust from one destroyed room to yet another.  Right now it  seems like there are three groups of people in our city: the displaced, the exhausted volunteers, and the ones going on with their everyday lives. I must be honest; sometimes I resent the latter one,  wondering  if the reservoir casualties will ever return to their former lives.  But then my heart floods with gratitude for the beautiful army of volunteers. They have not forgotten us! They sacrifice their weekends, quietly serving in the stench,  laboring in our houses that look as if they've been bombed. They don their masks and gloves and spread much needed hope to the displaced.   
I hate being in the first group, because I desperately want to serve alongside my church family. Instead, I, like many, have no choice but to receive. That's really hard for me, but I quickly realize that stubborn pride hinders my recovery.  
The new turquoise bag's back in its original box; instead of packing this weekend for a wonderful fall trip, I'm unpacking the lessons learned by cruel Harvey: endurance, patience, gratitude and humility.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

I was on the verge of shutting down my little corner of the world here at Larksong. I'd moved far enough along in my grief of losing Rob that I thought there wasn't anything else to write.
Then Hurricane Harvey devastated the city of Houston. 
In the midst of this great loss, God has given me a new story. It's not one I would have chosen to tell.  Just a few hours after evacuating in waist-high water in the pitch black with a bag and computer raised over my head, a life-long friend asked me to tell my story of loss and restoration.  Any purpose of doing so alluded me until God whispered: Tell my story, make Me known throughout all of this. Make Me believable.
I doubt my writing will be pretty; my brain can hardly string a simple sentence together, but obedience is greater than grammar.
Fresh grief for Rob has rushed over me once again, just like this horrific release of flood waters.
I am "smack dab" at the beginning. As I sort through debris, I suddenly find a remembrance of him too contaminated to restore.  Discarding them makes me weep all over again, but then I'm reminded that nothing can erase the beautiful memories of our sweet life. And more importantly NOTHING can separate us from our great God's love for us.  Not swollen bayous, rising waters or even death of any kind.  
Nathan sang it so beautifully this morning...
I need Thee ever hour, most gracious Lord.
We need You every hour! You are the God of this city.
Chris Tomlin says it much better than I could ever.
You're the God of this city

You're the King of these people
You're the Lord of this nation
You are
You're the Light in this darkness

You're the Hope to the hopeless
You're the Peace to the restless
You are
There is no one like our God

There is no one like our God
For greater things have yet to come

And greater things are still to be done in this city
Greater thing have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city

Sunday, August 20, 2017

I carry your heart with me
I carry it in my heart.
Anywhere I go you go, my dear...
I want no world
for beautiful you are my world, my true.

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart.)
                                                            e.e. cummings

Thursday, July 20, 2017

I'm dressed for the pool when out of nowhere, one of our summer afternoon thunderstorms hits, delaying  my lap session. So I wait, determined to work in my mid-week exercise. I later realize, exercise is not the priority, Jesus is! I finally slip into the water an hour before closing, as a young substitute lifeguard from a distant pool arrives and takes the stand.  Just Qaazi and me... It's clear to me that he wants to tell his story and because I'm the only one in the pool, I'm the obvious audience. I swim a few laps and while resting, he shares details. Qaazi, a bright  Pakistani teen, tells me about his school, his college plans, his secret girlfriend. More laps and rest. He shares about his whole family and BOOM, announces that he's an atheist! And for a second punch, is all for abortion. (But rejects the Big Bang ???) Perhaps, he is testing me for a reaction,  which he does not receive.
I swim a few more laps, praying for an opportunity to share my faith. Qaazi softens. He pours his complicated relationship with his family and religious leaders; He hates the rules, he hates the hypocrisy. There's my opening. So I agree that I too would have to reject his parents'  Allah and the burden of earning my after-life. I speak tenderly about my Jesus who also detested the hypocrisy of Pharisees and who lovingly came from Heaven because following the rules could not get us one inch closer to life with our Creator. Relationship not religion...my only message. Qaazi listens without debate. There are no more laps on this day, just love for a young seeker.
Lessons learned:
God ordains our days. An earlier trip to the pool? No conversation!
A new appreciation for immigrant students making sense of two cultures
One must cast off false gods in order to fully embrace the love of the One and Only.
Like my pastor always says, the world has come to our city. We are "foreign" missionaries on our own soil.
I probably will never see Qaazi again on this planet, but I'm praying I'll see him in Paradise. I ask God to reach him whether by ordinary or miraculous. Qaazi is on a journey and I want him to know my wonderful God
Perhaps you will join me in asking.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Credit: Steve Schroeder
      I'm surrounded by growing paper piles this rainy Monday afternoon. New policies need to be compared, supplemental ones considered...my concentration wanes. All I can think about is life before cancer, the sweet, easy time when we compared restaurant options and travel destinations...together! 
I took care of my duties and Rob tackled his. Now that I'm responsible for both, I'm deeply grateful for all that he shouldered, especially the business decisions. Rob was a selfless provider who made life better for his family.  I added to our income, but without Rob we would have starved.  Because he fought the Katy Freeway traffic and accumulated frequent flyer miles most every day of his adult life, I was able to enjoy my children's lives without the added exhaustion of another full-time job. It's only now that I realize the length of his list. It was very long and he completed it without a word of complaint. (I can't say the same for myself.) I'm forever thankful for his devotion to his family's needs. Not one child left college with a debt burden, when the economy declined, he worked wherever there was opportunity, and he made sure we would live comfortably if "in the event."  Rob laid down his life for us.  On this rainy day, I'm reminded that his kind of love is rare; I shall not forget.  
Rob, I'm so proud of you!  I love that you are resting from the hard things of life. Thank you for caring so much about us.

Steve's original photo is stunning. My attempt to scan it does not do it justice. Thank you, friend, for this beautiful treasure. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Larksong has been quiet lately. I've never written regularly; it seems silly to write when there's  nothing worthy to record. I'm still keeping a journal of lessons learned, just refraining from making them public.
Four years ago our cancer nightmare began. Ever since I've been fighting to keep going, even as the losses continue to mount. (There's a lot of collateral loss with the death of a dear one.) Currently I find myself flat on my spiritual back; one too many losses.
I hurt...I hurt deeply.
I keep trying to pick myself up, but it's always a futile, temporary fix.
I found myself sitting in an old Catholic Church in the country the other day, staring at a plaster statue of Jesus, asking for this crazy pain to STOP!  Imagine, pleading with a statue. Well, my eyes were opened. Sitting in the silence, I realized  I've been running to the temporary for a very long time.
I've been ashamed, too proud to bare my weakness, my growing grief.  I've wanted others, including Jesus, to see a brave, strong survivor; I've tried to shield myself from pity. But it's been a lie; I've been wearing a huge, crumbling mask. I'm not brave or strong. Not at all!
 There is only one place to really run with my pain. Straight to Jesus, the real Jesus, not a substitute icon or activity or dream.  Is there anyone else out there, struggling with a heap of hurt? If so, I gladly risk embarrassment or disapproval. Join me in disowning it; let's hand it over!
So the real lesson I'm learning this season...
Pain is real.
It might last a lot longer than we want.
Leave it in the hands of Jesus.
We may find ourselves continuously releasing our hurt; it's not a one time thing.
I am not really sure what giving over looks like at this point. I just know that my arms can't hold all of this loss.
But I know the One who wants to carry my pain.
I'll be sitting in the quiet a lot in the days to come, letting this hurt leak, trusting Him as He wipes away every tear.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Friday, May 19, 2017

After a very bumpy week....
Things I have learned this week: Wisdom is trusting God even when most of the puzzle pieces go missing,* God permits what He hates to accomplish that which He loves,* and after yesterday's scary brush with a disturbed woman breaking into my car, now I can breathe and I feel Grace rush over me!**
*Joni Eareckson Tada, **vintage Plumb

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Things I've learned this week: faith is really a lifetime of deliberate, sometimes scary steps of trust, I'm learning to resize my giants*, and on a lighter note, I'm hopelessly untrendy and okay with it. 
"Your giant may be big, but your giant is not bigger than Jesus." Louie Giglio

Monday, May 8, 2017

Things I've learned this week: the struggle between "what if" and "what is" continues, my failure is not fatal *, I never want to be in a single generational fellowship!
* from a Duane Brooks's Sunday sermon
Struggling with failure is really an issue of pride, an area of my life I've lately asked Him to reveal to me. He's doing a pretty good job. What if I look like a total idiot? Pride!
 I've been pondering about the blessings of serving with multiple generations. Littles have a lot of hugs to give, their parents crave encouragement, seniors (oh that's me!) need to be wanted...and hugged by littles!

Monday, April 3, 2017

It's the word I borrow from Chris Martin to describe that mixture of sadness and joy that comes from having something (or someone) really wonderful in your life, but now that it's over, you move forward filled with the sweetness that ever glows.
Today, I'm left with the everglow of my favorite weekend of the year, my church's annual family retreat. I wish I could recapture the weekend through photos, but family privacy is always a priority. 
Every year, I pause at the chapel and relive a thousand memories of past camps, retreats, July 4th weekends, thanking God for so many wonderful times with family and church friends. I always laugh at the time I sat on one of the old concrete benches and it broke in half.  It took a long time to live that one down! I smile at the thought of sweet Autumn babysitting our littles in one of the old musty motel rooms while we laughed until we hurt with our precious group of young marrieds. And like an old family movie running through my mind, I can almost see Rob leading our kids on horses around the corral, teaching them to jump into the lake from a rigged up rope, and playing the piano in the little white chapel during our Sunday morning worship time. 
Camp Tejas 
Each year I have the privilege of teaching the pre-K/Kindergarten class during breakout sessions for the adults. It's always so fun and a lot crazy. This year they loved making their own expression of Love.
My favorite activity was a sensory walk to help them understand how "dirty, stinky, smelly, yucky" the disciples' feet would have been after traveling dusty roads by foot and just how beautiful it was for Jesus to kneel before each of his closest friends, washing their battered and repulsive feet before eating their last supper together. Oh yes, you guessed it; we knelt before each little eager learner, called them by name while wiping their pint-sized feet, and by example, taught them this extraordinary love story.
This is Love
The weekend was full of fun: kids ziplining with their moms, friends romping in the mud pit, lathering shaving cream on each other, eating picnic style, and most importantly, families of all ages drawing closer and making lasting memories.
I'll admit, it was hard to come home to a quiet, empty house after such a lively time, but I packed all those priceless memories to keep me company.
Do you ever have one of those moments when you know without a doubt that God created it just for you? Saturday night was one of those gifts.
We were enjoying family movie night, featuring the animated version of Beauty and the Beast on the big screen, complete with ice cream floats. I had not watched this classic in years, but found myself singing along. 
Lights raised, credits rolling, I was caught! Tears just streaming down my cheeks. My dear friend, Mark B.,  locked eyes with me and smiled, and in that beautiful pause, he affirmed that tears after a love story are a gift to treasure. We both knew; the message of transformation and sacrificial love brings deep gratitude. 
But he didn't know of the many nights we gathered around Rob's piano to sing our assigned parts as Rob played the score he so loved. I didn't realize the power of those family memories.  

So if you have stuck with me this far, here's my weekly list of lessons.
Things I've learned this week(end):
Family is not always blood, sometimes the best worship is climbing tall towers with two little boys, and always model kindness.

Family Retreat 2018
Save me a place!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

And with the stroke of a pen, my husband's name has disappeared from the final account...no trace. I thought I was ready, but my hand shook as I scrawled my messy signature across the form...and I fought back a tsunami of tears once again.
The day was filled with hourly giants, waiting for their slaying. It was stinking hard today and new enemies are always poised! Does anybody grasp how this feels?
But at the end of this gut-wrenching day, my youngest son cradles my heart from 2000 miles away.  If he only knew, he would cup carefully with both hands, corralling every single shard. If he only knew, he would see the magnitude of his evening gift.
I'll weep tonight and then hoist up my flimsy bravery all over again tomorrow.
Rob, if you can hear my heart tonight, please know you cannot be so easily erased. 
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart) 
e.e. cummings

Monday, March 27, 2017

Things I've learned this week: If the water rises higher, I think I might just have to swim, you're with me wherever I go; the light that you left me will everglow, sometimes you have to push the pedal to the ground and watch the world around fly by.
Thanks, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Coldplay, and Mat Kearney, my Oregon boy, for this week's lessons.
 I started this little writing experience a few weeks ago and I'm amazed at the lessons I'm learning. They are all around us if we will just look for them. Kind of like gratitude. I carry a small notebook with me throughout the day; it's already half full of new lessons and old reminders.
Along with this new discipline, I started a new morning routine (thanks to my friend, Maurine.) I'm only two days in, but already I'm loving it.  Here is the list that gets me going every morning.
1. Deeply breathe in and out the beautiful name of Jesus.
2. Write down three acts of gratitude.
3. Journal one positive experience from yesterday.
4. Express kindness through a text or email.
5. Read a portion of a praise Psalm.
6. Exercise for about 15 minutes.

This daily routine is supposed to increase my productivity and positivity, which I need, but honestly, I really desire to begin my day with praise on my heart. I've altered it from the 5 step secular format; let me elaborate.
Years ago, my dear friend, Jerome, challenged our youth team to start each day with speaking the name of Jesus...first name off our lips. He said it would vastly change the entire focus of our day.
I decided to add a Psalm reading as a sixth exercise, but not just any one. For this purpose, I want only positive words from David, the greatest song writer I know. The Book of Psalms is also filled with instruction and darker emotions; I just want to focus on His character in these short moments. I've added One Minute Praises by Steve Miller, which includes short scripture from the psalms and an uplifting prayer.
I'm putting together a playlist of uplifting music to accompany my exercise. I've chosen dance to get me going.
Seriously, the steps take 2 minutes each and I combine my 15 minute dance with brushing my teeth, emptying trash, making my bed. 

May I challenge you to join Maurine and me?   I've got to run and catch up on this week's Bible Study homework, Gideon by Priscilla Shirer. Oh, that's another post for another time. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Things I've learned this week: there's quite a difference between moving on and moving forward, I need to allow my life to reflect the joy and happiness I felt in my marriage, there is always a second half!

Friday, March 10, 2017

This week I've learned...

For years I've recorded my gratitude...in worn journals, on scraps of paper, on my palm! It's helps me to worship God in good as well as bad times. 
But recently, I've wanted to remember the important (and not so) things that I've discovered throughout the week. It started as a writing experiment and quickly turned into something much more intentional, a means of making sense of the input that bombards me on a given day. Perhaps you've seen Mom's Five Second Memory Journal or One Line A Day...similar concept.
I choose three things and as a challenge, I list them in succinct sentence.  Only in my journal do I add extra details of what led me to record them, but publicly, I don't want to rob the statement of its simplicity and symbolism...kind of like a well-stated "tweet."  
I'm planning (oh, those well-laid plans) to add them here on a regular basis. How fun it would be if you would send back your own "lessons" in a sentence in the comment section below. You don't need to sound like a writer; just be honest and if you like, anonymous.
As you'll see below, I added a reference to a song I downloaded several weeks ago. (For the over 50 crowd to whom I belong, Chainsmokers is a band.) I really like their song, Don't Let Me Down and the lyric, right now I need a miracle. My simple statement about chain smokers is actually multi-layered. I'm reminded of  the following: even those with whom we disagree need God's grace, I'm daily begging for His intervention, I wish Rob was here to help me make the important decisions, and even deeper, my relationship with my mom, who died because of this gripping nicotine habit, remains complicated.  There's no way you could have caught all of that, but that's the idea; you make it your own "lesson."
So here goes...

Week One
Things I've learned this week: After 2 eye surgeries, 2 eye procedures and a ton of eye drops, gently tilting the bottle improves the aim (no need for a vertical dive bomb to the pupil,) The Guess Who's "These Eyes" is still very relevant, and fixing my eyes not on what is only temporarily seen, but rather on what is unseen and eternal is great Truth. 

Week Two
Things I've learned this week: Even chainsmokers need a miracle, we need not always keep our "broken" so unspoken, young widows will look heavenward for what seems a lifetime.

Week Three
Things, I've learned this week: we can take a good thing and turn it into an ultimate thing*, there are no shortcuts to sanctification, and when in doubt, just show up! (*Tim Keller's Counterfeit God)

Well, now you have it: a great big run-on explanation from someone who rarely puts down her pen.  

Your turn...

Monday, February 6, 2017

I must be progressing. Oh, I still wiped away a few tears, but I bet a few of you did too if you watched last night's Super Bowl LI. Watching President Bush and Barbara wheeled out on the field for the coin toss, an aging quarterback's eyes glisten with victory, and young, hard-working athletes lined up to kiss their Lombardi Trophy...well, I admit, it made me misty-eyed. 
But this year I didn't cry my eyes out because of my broken heart. Oh sure, I missed watching the game with Rob, but I actually enjoyed it alone this year. Alone is not always lonely...as it has been in the recent past. 
Lady Gaga! I'm not a big fan and could not even name one of her songs, but I know enough about her career to recognize the evolution. I thoroughly enjoyed her half-time performance; she showed the world a newfound maturity with her toned-down image, yet, she hasn't lost an ounce of her creative expression. I believed her when she reminded us, pointing to the heavens,  that we are "one nation under God." The girl's got some moxie, for sure...lots of courage! It got me to thinking; do we need courage to change or does courage come from the change? 
Three years ago, I skipped the Super Bowl all together. Too painful without Rob at my side, but the next two years, I eased back into it as well as the other things that made us happy as a couple. Yes, it took some "moxie" and seemed unlikely to ever bring back joy, but I set my mind on recapturing the good parts of our life, albeit solo.
Last night wasn't a party, but an evening filled with contentment. I loved the patriotism, the spirit of family and my hometown, catching myself smiling a lot!  I munched on delicious homemade nacho dip and chips, occasionally chatted online with family and cheered like crazy for the best comeback in Super Bowl history. 
You know, I think I'm making a comeback as well...

Thursday, February 2, 2017

I care deeply about current politics, but I love my country and its people far too much to enter into futile dialogue any longer. I've tried to have thoughtful conversations about policy, listening to the concerns of both sides of our divided country. I've attempted to be the voice of reason, but to no avail. Too many people, even those close to me, refuse to listen to any argument that differs from theirs. And no one, on either side, likes to be "preached at."  Social media is no longer my friend; I don't want to sit on the sidelines and watch good people war with their words or the opinions of talking heads. It grieves me to see God cheapened by our sarcasm and hate talk.  I even find myself dreading family and church gatherings; the tension is just too great!
 I personally believe that most of us just don't have a handle on all of the facts. Each issue is complicated and cannot be solved with a knee-jerk solution or a hard ideology. True wisdom understands this; true wisdom humbles our response.
Have I given up? Will I crawl under the covers for the next four years?  Of course, not! I just will not publicly discuss politics any longer! Instead...

I will offer kindness and prayer.
I suppose to many I sound like Pollyanna, but I'm actually more concerned with God's opinion of me. 
This morning I spent time digesting a passage from Proverbs 16.
 The wise are known for their understanding, and pleasant words are persuasive.
 Discretion is a life-giving fountain to those who possess it, but discipline is wasted on fools. 
 From a wise mind comes wise speech; the words of the wise are persuasive. 
 Kind words are like honey— sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. 
 There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. 
 It is good for workers to have an appetite; an empty stomach drives them on. 
 Scoundrels create trouble; their words are a destructive blaze. 
 A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends. 
 Violent people mislead their companions, leading them down a harmful path. 
 With narrowed eyes, people plot evil; with a smirk, they plan their mischief. 
 Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life. 
Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.
 We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall. 21-33 NLT

Look at how many times our speech is addressed and look at the last verse; the LORD is still in control! I don't believe that scripture discourages our freedom of speech, but instead, reminds us that we should recognize the responsibility that comes with freedom. So...
I will speak kind words.
If they are not life-giving and healthy to the body of humanity, I'll remain silent and... 
During the last administration, I studied Paul's letters to young Timothy. I was not in the practice of daily praying for our leaders, but the first three verses in 1Timothy 2 completely changed that.
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, NIV
It's pretty simple; if it pleases God, just do it! It's pretty hard to hate someone for whom you pray each day. Prayer changes our hearts, even for our enemies. And most importantly, I believe prayer changes even the direst of situations.
I know this isn't articulate or earth-shaking, but something I needed to write down as a contract with myself. Replace politics with kindness and prayer.  That's all, folks...