Archive for June, 2020

This morning, someone I love will begin to emerge from a valley of shadows.

Chemo and radiation treatments come to an end. It is a day that signals the faint but growing light at the end of this dark tunnel … this valley.

Just three months after our dad died unexpectedly, the oldest of my two younger brothers was told that he may have cancer. A month later that possibility was confirmed. Another month later, treatments began. Now, nearly two months later, he will walk out of radiology, hopefully for good.

In the midst of all of that, he had to have all of his teeth removed (due to the radiation treatments). Covid 19 introduced the world to social distancing, eliminating the support of his partner at medical appointments, counselling and making it more challenging to get transportation to medical appointments. It also restricted the freedom to travel (how I would have loved, would love to be there to help his family).

It was a solitary valley of dark and menacing shadows.

The side effects of the ‘cure’ were dreadful for him … for them, for his family were also subjected to the effects of such powerful treatments. They had to endure his physical exhaustion, the emotional rollercoaster and vile sores in his mouth and throat that made even drinking water an agonizing torture. They have watched his body mass decrease by over 15%.

It is as though, the completion of his treatments are the first signal in over seven months that our hearts can begin to emerge from the valley of shadows.

I have heard many whispers of Psalm 23:4 :

“Even though I walk
through the darkest valley …”

Some versions say, “yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” …

Death is what one thinks of when we hear the word Cancer. It doesn’t matter our age, our situation in life, the type of cancer … we all know of someone who had cancer, who died, So, when we hear it as a diagnosis our minds rush to that scenario … contemplating what we will miss, who we will miss.

I am certain that for our entire family, who were still wandering in the shadow of our father’s death, for whom death still had a presence, a personality … his diagnosis caused fear to raise it’s ugly head.

What a season it has been for him, his partner, his kids, mom and all the rest of us who cheered him on from the sidelines. It has not been easy. As he said to me just yesterday, “it was a good cancer, because it is so treatable.” Yet, a good cancer makes me think of the impossibility of being kind-of pregnant … it’s still cancer. And this ride has been so rough and in this time of pandemic, it has been made even more challenging.

Yet, here he is … walking through this valley, taking in the poison that is his medicine, enduring agony to eliminate the pain. Utilizing every bit of strength to get through each day, while this valley takes everything out of him.

Congratulations, brother! You made it to the end of this leg of the valley. You’re not at the very end yet, and there will still be a bit more stumbling in the dark, but the light is shining in.

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 23:4


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Just words on a screen, yet they were so much more.

I read then, over and over again. Making effort to fully understand exactly what was being communicated. Hearing those words said through my mind’s re-creating of the writer’s voice. After reading them, I would turn from the screen, shake my head in amazement.

I love words. Direct words, spoken sincerely. I grew up in a home that was a combination of direct talk and stone silence. Much of the time, the direct talk was probably too direct, for it was often not always delivered with the needed amount of vulnerability.

Vulnerability of the speaker (writer) makes words come alive, giving them the power to infect the listener (reader), making them their own. To read words written directly, sincerely and with vulnerability is to feel as though the writer knows who you are, what you need to hear.

This particular day, I had awakened to a message from a student. A farewell and thank-you you message, from one who now graduates on to the rest of their life. The words were shocking … for they were kind, generous and vulnerable. The words were live-giving … for they indicated an awareness of efforts made, acknowledgement of contribution, of care.

Those words on a screen filled my cup.

They eased the struggle of adjusting to online schooling. Erased the moments of frustration, anxiety and concern. They overrode the events of discouragement, dismay. They patched and mended the times when it seemed efforts were in vane.

Those words, shared voluntarily, spoke volumes into my heart … they will be the fuel for the year to come …

but they will also be my final, positive and vulnerable communication from a young man who simply dared to share them.

We all have such words within us … words others need to hear, whose souls would be lifted higher and for longer than it would take for us to share them.

“Words satisfy the soul as food satisfies the stomach;
the right words on a person’s lips bring satisfaction.”
Proverbs 18:20 

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He hasn’t been ‘daddy’ since I was quite young, but I will still always be a daddy’s girl.

He chose me … not really knowing who I would become, the choices I would make, or even if I would chose to love him back … that is father love that parallels the love offered to us all, through Christ, in our God.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:1

God, the father to all, the father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5) will love us when there is an earthly absence of a father … of a good father. God is a father who loves with an unconditional love. He can fill the void that some feel on this day of celebration of the love of a father … the void of who we were because of a father’s love.

A few months ago I wrote of the grief of loss as not only that they are gone, but so is the part of you that was loved uniquely by them. It is the loss of a person, a relationship, a part of who you have always been … with them, in them, through their eyes.

I have always been his daughter … cared and sacrificed for, taught about life and living, chosen and loved as his own. It is hard to explain how it feels to have always known that you are so loved, to have been confident that there is no one and nothing that could ever change that love … not driving the car in the ditch, not even moving to the other side of the country.

Today I will feel it … the absence of it all … his presence, his voice, his acceptance, his unconditional, chosen love. The void leaves me aching with memories and missed opportunities.

Most of all, today I will miss who I was in his eyes, in his presence.

I was his daughter …

Though I am loved beautifully by my husband and kids, my mom and others who I hold dearly, today I remember, with thanks, the man who loved me enough to call me his own …

Today …

I ache for who I was in the eyes and heart of my dad …

every part of my life changed because of his love …

and every part of me is lonely for him, for my identity in and through him.

I am still just a dad’s girl and I miss him so.

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Evil Thoughts

Do you ever have … evil thoughts?

Well, maybe not really ‘evil’, just … thoughts that, if you carried them out, would be so against your nature, and so vile and nasty to the recipient of your actions or words.

I am mature enough to tell you that I am guilty of having … evil thoughts.

This revelation began  w  a  y  back into my childhood, when I was old enough to know better than to do what the ‘little voices’ (oh man, now I am revealing that I hear little voices … now it’s in print, and could be used against me … to the ‘home’ they will send me) in my head were telling me to do … with my brother (I don’t remember which one, but that doesn’t really matter … I’m sure I had this thought about both, at one point or another). I was carrying him, and, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, there is this evil thought in my head … Carole, throw him down on the floor … Yikes! Now, depending on what he had done recently to my Barbie dolls, I might have contemplated that a bit longer than I should, but, let me assure you that I did not do it … but I thought about it.

Then, the other day, I was out walking my beast. We walked near our home for a change, along the road, past other more rural properties. My beast, at the beginning of the walk, had a poo (and, yes, I did have a poo bag) … now this is strange, because she normally ‘goes number two’ at the end of our walk. So, I had to carry the full poo bag on our walk. Then, out of nowhere, there is this evil thought in my head … Carole, put the full poo bag in one of the mailboxes …. Yikes! We passed  m  a  n  y  mailboxes on our walk, and the temptation was great! (and just to let you know, especially if you live near me, I did not put the poo bag in any mailboxes … just sayin’)

Not long ago (okay, yesterday) I was at a movie with my girls. And when I returned to the theater I almost went to sit with the wrong person (it was a very dark theater). Then, out of nowhere, there is this evil thought in my head … Carole, just sit beside him anyway, and eat his popcorn … Yikes! Okay, that one did make me giggle (and my daughters heard me, so they could direct me where to sit … and to ‘be quiet, mom, you are sooooo immature … imagine if I had told them why I was giggling)!

Then, there’s the parking lot … any parking lot. And the lot is jam packed, and I cannot find a spot. Then, just as one comes available, someone else gets it before me, and I have this thought … heck, just play the video!

And, NO, I am not guilty of actually doing this … yet (I do fear that the onslaught of … getting older, might make me susceptible to actually fulfilling what, lets face it ALL of us have had evil thoughts about doing).

Not long ago, my hubby had declared his 50+ pound weight loss, in our church, to much praise and congratulations (I’m so proud of him, too). After the church service, someone (whose identity God has been gracious to wipe from my memory), came up to me and said, ‘I see you’ve been finding all the weight that your hubby has lost’. And out of nowhere an evil repertoire of words came to mind, but … yikes … Gods omnipotence struck my vocal cords, and I was unable to respond (and, I have to say, I am a bit bitter about that one!).

Then there is that email … you know the one. It talks about fun things to do, to other people, while shopping (so many ‘evil thoughts’ in that one email)? Like slipping boxes of condoms into unsuspecting shoppers carts, hiding in a clothing rack and, when someone is looking, yell out ‘pick me’, or setting all of the Tickle Me Elmo’s off, then scooting out of the aisle, just as hubby walks into the aisle … oh wait, I actually did do that one … but not the condom one … yet 🙂

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The sun is pouring in … bright and warm yet it is still over an hour before my morning alarm.

What a welcomed start to the day.

I sit here and a song plays through my head,

The sun’ll come out
Bet your bottom dollar
That tomorrow
There’ll be sun!

It is a song that my mind and memory go to … once the clouds have moved apart to remind me that the sun does still indeed exist.

I wish the song would play when it’s still dark and grey and …

It’s been dark and grey here, in the Pacific Northwest. June can be that way here. It is as if nature is giving us that last reminder before July to not complain about the heat. To take joy in the cool, in the pause before the drying comes.

We need these bright and sunny dawns … even if they are soon followed by low cloud cover that blocks the sun’s existence. We need to remember that it is always darkest before dawn.

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It is not a naturally comfortably thing to be ok with making mistakes, being wrong. It feels like sand in your shoes, that rough tag in your shirt … it makes us itch, squirm. Maybe it even makes us blush, embarrassed, humiliated. Sometimes it even makes us angry … committed to prove ourselves right, never admitting that we made a mistake.

is simply the name we give
our mistakes.”
Oscar Wilde

Yet, learning to be ok with our wrongs, our mistakes … learning to get up after we fall and trying again … learning to say, I blew it, then learning from our mistakes … that is normal, real-with-skin-on life.

“A person who never made a mistake
never tried anything new.”
Albert Einstein

As an EA (Educational Assistant) in a high school, I work with students who have been wrong so often, they often will do anything to avoid making mistakes. They would rather get in trouble for not doing assignments, than to do them and receive the same old critiques …

  • it’s late
  • you didn’t complete it
  • this is not what the assignment was asking for
  • check spelling next time
  • you didn’t submit it in the right way, the right date, the right font, the right … notice that the message a student often receives is that what they did do isn’t right … and sometimes, for a number of students, their best is not good enough.

“Mistakes are always forgivable
if one has the courage to admit them.”

Bruce Lee

Often the students who I work with have weak ‘head math’ skills. They struggle to understand numbers confidently, resulting in poor addition, subtraction, multiplying and dividing skills. Though they can use calculators, once they know me a bit, I like to ask them if they can do equations in their heads … but in a classroom, where their peers might hear them, they often are so fearful of making a mistake that they won’t try (or maybe, more accurately, they can’t try it, given the anxiety produced).

“If you want to grow,
you need to get over any fear you have
of making mistakes.”

John C. Maxwell

After over two months of online learning a bit of miraculous development has been occurring … they are trying hard things, risking the making of a mistake … they are comfortably trying head math! And their skills are improving!

“In the real world,
the smartest people
are people who make mistakes and learn.
In school,
the smartest people don’t make mistakes.”
Robert T. Kiyosaki

But this new development came from being in an environment where their peers are not right beside them. In this context, they are safe to risk being wrong, and having the confidence in themselves that, if they make a mistake, they can just try again.

“We don’t make mistakes,
we just have happy accidents.”

Bob Ross

It is a good reminder that one way education does not work best for all students. But it is also a good reminder that applies even more broadly to life. Making mistakes is part of life, it is our most helpful tool in learning, but we must have confidence in ourselves, in our environment as a safe place, to be willing to risk those errors, failures. Once we feel safe, within ourselves and our surroundings (and those we share our surroundings with) we are free to to learn from our failures, rather than shrink from them.

“All men make mistakes,
but only wise men learn from their mistakes.”

Winston Churchill

Maybe, if we are more aware of those around us, we could be more intentional at creating environments where others can be confident to try, to do things where they are at risk of making errors. That way we can be agents of growth and change in others … and in ourselves.

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What a year to graduate!

Last evening was the graduation ceremony of a number of pretty special grads (one, in particular … she knows who she is). There are many, similar, or quite different graduation experiences going on all around … all around the world.

You, grads 2020 have worked for years to get to this end of the road … except … no one told the end of a road was an overgrown trail through the bush!

are the root of all heartache”

And what were your expectations at the beginning of this final school year, grads? Adventurous school trips, field trips, retreats and over-nighters? A ceremony with your friends, family and fellow grads in an event center, a church, an auditorium, a gymnasium? An evening of formality … dressed to the nines, with a special someone at your side as you walk into a room decorated to take you away to a dreamland-like destination? How about group photos? Caps through in the air in unison? The dances? The many opportunities to gather …

all together, for one last time

These were the September expectations …

and then, the pandemic …

Everything stopped.

School stopped.

Events cancelled.

Plans turned upside down.

Grad everything in question.

Initially, everyone hoped that this pandemic would end and things could go back to normal again, that graduation events would go as planned. But … pandemic comes from the Greek pandēmos meaning all people. Covid 19 has affected, infected our world, leaving a trail of disappointment and destruction in it’s wake … so long expectations of what was to be.

are the root of all heartache”

Those words are attributed to William Shakespeare, but … grads, have you ever heard Shakespeare speak so clearly? Those words are a translation of what he wrote in the play All’s Well That Ends Well … now there is a theme for grad 2020!

Did it end well? Did you walk a stage, in cap and gown? Did you get to share graduation with friends and family? Did you get to dress up? Did you find creative ways to take group pictures while respecting social distancing? Did you graduate?

The expectations you had were not met, the losses are very real and there is no way to make up for those losses. It is okay to mourn the expectations of what couldn’t be.

There is no way to to redo this ending. This ending, though, also marks a beginning. High school is completed (or will be in just days) and a door to your future awaits you.

As you walk through this next door I leave with you words from the book of Isaiah, to hear from God of his compassion and hope for your future, if you trust in him.

Comfort, comfort my people,
    says your God …
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:1, 28-31

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This season of our lives, this Covid pandemic, in so many ways is surreal. Many of us continue our work, school,  lives as always, just at home. Yet, there is this invisible cloud called change and I wonder if it might be affecting us all, more than we are aware.

Our lives have changed, been altered by this pandemic that has touched every corner of the Earth.

Our work, school, places of worship and social lives have changed. How we shop, spend our time do recreation and entertainment has changed. Now, as summer is just around the corner, how we vacation has changed.

Graduations, weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and so many other special events have changed.

Though things are ever so gradually opening up, officials are quick to remind us that we are not going back to what we knew to be ‘normal’ but we are moving towards a new normal …

and, well … we can’ see or envision what that looks like, because it is still enfolding. With this, even our ability to dream or foresee what the future looks like has changed.

There are those who are eager to leap into what is opening up, those that are more cautious, or even more fearful. Fear has been on the rise over these months … and it will destroy even more than Covid 19.

Change is hard. Change without knowledge of what is to come … that can be destructive.

My thoughts go back to this invisible cloud called change and I wonder if it might be affecting us all, more than we are aware.

“Before we had airplanes and astronauts, we really thought that there was an actual place beyond the clouds, somewhere over the rainbow. There was an actual place, and we could go above the clouds and find it there.” – Barbara Walters

I wonder if Barbara Walters knew something of that place above and beyond the clouds. I wonder if she understood that what was, what is beyond our troubles, is a place and a person to put our hope in, when the heaviness of life weighs us down.

Look up!

Turn your eyes toward Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace

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Almost two years ago we moved to our current home, a townhouse.

It was a bit of an adjustment, moving from a single family home, on acreage, to a townhouse on a busy road. The lack of privacy, the noise from the road, the sounds of people’s voices as they walk by, when the windows are opened, the absence of the sound of the coyotes calls in the quiet of the night.

Now, I quite love our home. I love how every square foot is so well utilized, I love my more modern kitchen, the spacious shower in the master bath, how perfectly our basement family room is for watching movies, how close we are to everything we could need.

Our home is lovely to us … just like our neighbors. They moved into their townhouse a year after us. Like ours, theirs is an end unit. Like us, they have made it their own … painted walls, planted flowers … it is a shelter from the elements, a place of refuge. Their home is like ours in so many ways, except that our homes are reversed … basically theirs is the mirror image of ours … exactly the same features and value, just opposite.

If I was cooking dinner and saw smoke coming from my side window, I would stop what I was doing. I would run outside to see where the smoke was coming from. If, when I got outside, I saw flames coming from my neighbor’s home, I would call 911, I would bang on their door to make sure they were not in the house, I would scream “fire” to alert other neighbors.

I would not be occupied about what color to paint my bathroom, or if I should replace the carpet on the stairs with carpet or wood, nor would I stop to change the lightbulb on the outdoor light fixture. Because, in that moment, if my neighbor’s house was on fire, their home would need the attention.

So, moral of the story …

Yes, ALL lives matter, in that they all have equal, God-given value, but when a specific group is at risk, well that’s where our attention should be.


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No words.

Just sadness.

No response.

Just heaviness.

No answers.

Just … lament.

God, I know you are there, I know that you are faithful and true and trustworthy.

I know that you have been with all of humanity since before time began. That you are in us, that you have shaped us and molded us in the inmost place. I know that when you look on all that you have created, you say, with parental pride, “it is good” … every one of us.

But I ache.

For humanity does not treat each other as good, with grace. Your creation has demeaned, devalued and degraded some in society, to the point of death.

I … I am called fair, for my skin is pale, but those who are called this fair … have not been. We have been anything but fair. What can I say or do to help those who have been subjugated by the fair … like me.

Like Moses in Egypt, like Tubman in her Underground Railroad, like King in DC, the heart cry of “Set My People Free” … free from discrimination, free from threat of harm, free from the looks, free to do and to have as the fair people do … has interrupted our our lives. The volume of the protesters could not speak as loudly to our hearts as the whisper,

I can’t breathe

God, those words, that scene … it destroyed a part of us all … red and yellow, black and white … (Jesus loves the little children of the world).

Can I still sing those words? Not that you love the children, but naming four (inexact) colors? God, I don’t know the rules … I don’t know the words to say, I don’t know how to be the support and hands and feet of you and I just want to say,

I am with you.
I am so sorry for the hatred.
I am so sorry for the pain and struggle and fear that you live with,

simply because those of us who are fair … are anything but.

This week has been significant, Lord. The white elephant in the room of humanity has been seen. People have raised their voices, told their stories, demanded change from leaders, from … the fair who are not. Social media has been full of #BlackOutTuesday, #blacklivesmatter, lists of organizations and businesses to support (or to avoid), lists of how those of us who are fair might help, support … be fair.

But, some of it, Lord, is contradictory. One person posts this, another posts the opposite. One posts the blacked out screen, another says #BlackLivesMatter matters more.

God, I want to be the help, the change the arm around the shoulders of others. I want the people who I love, who are not as ‘fair’ as me, to know that I weep with them, that I don’t see their color so much as the life within them (is that okay to say?) and …

I hope they don’t see mine.

For, God, the fair have not been.

O Lord my God, I cried out to You,
and you healed me our world. 
Psalm 30:2

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