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Archive for the ‘life’ Category

Dear God,

Thank-you for breath today.

No matter what the day brings, if we have breath in our lungs, it is a reminder that you have purpose for us in this very day. Let us be mindful of each breath … inhale, long and slow then exhale the same … feel that breath move in and our of lungs … whisper, to remind oneself,

i

am

alive

No matter how yesterday ended … exhaustion, joy, mind-swirling, excited, sorrow-filled, joyful, meh … today is truly a brand new day. Though today is linked to yesterday, you give us the daily gift of new. The left-overs of yesterday’s blunders can be tempered by the freshness of a new day … with no mistakes in it yet (Anne of Green Gables). Today is the gift of a blank slate, a fresh start, an opportunity to change course.

God, remind us of your presence today.

We get so distracted by everything around us. Though we know that all that we have is from you, we forget you in our days. We think about what to eat, where to go … hum, I am reminded of the words of Matthew (6:25)

“… do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”

His words say it. God, remind us as we walk through this day that our life is about more than just surviving. Remind us to give our needs to you. To look to you for our needs … for all of our needs.

Lord, we know that our days of life and breath are numbered, that no one escapes our mortality. May we truly live each day, blessed by your breath in our lungs, your Spirit in our souls. May we not come to the end of our day (our days) without praising you.

Amen

“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
    Remind me that my days are numbered—
    how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.” 

Psalm 39:4-5

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Let me preface today’s post by saying that it might be too dark, too filled with questions, too real for you today. Most days I keep my focus on wonder, on the light, on hope. But, let’s be real, life isn’t always that bright. Yes, I still believe that God has a plan. Yes, I still believe that good wins over evil. And, yes, I know that because of Christ, there is hope. But … I also know that sometimes our perspective of where we are is shadowy and requires a mournful lament of our helpless state.

So … stop reading now if (in the words of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men) “you can’t handle the truth”.

It happened again, like it has happened dozens of times in the past few years. One of our daughters had spent numerous hours in the ER, looking for answers, for relief from pain, for the assurance that it was just another flare and not a bowel obstruction or kidney stones or ulcers (just to name a few possibilities … avoiding the less appropriate for public discussion).

Again, it was just a flare … nothing serious.

Again, all they could do was offer IV fluids, pain relief (in the form of acetaminophen or opioids).

Again, they headed home, still in pain.

I didn’t hear about this, latest episode, until she was headed home ’cause … what can mom do anyway? why cause her to worry? Sometimes I hear about it before they go to the ER, looking for another to help them decide if it’s worth it to sit, in pain, in uncomfortable ER chairs, for hours (though they have discovered that vomiting in the waiting room is most efficient way to fast track themselves through the process of triage).

For one it took almost two years and the other four years before diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. But the pain began (for both) years before pursuit of origin of pain and eventual diagnosis (one of their diagnosis was delayed because the specialist didn’t look in the most common area affected by the disease, delaying her diagnosis by over a year).

SO many doctors, specialists, tests, procedures and even surgery to get to a diagnosis!

Crohn’s Disease is an auto-immune condition (their immune systems fight their own cells as though they were invading cells) where inflammation affects the intestines, causing ulcers to form, thickening of the intestines and scar tissue. This is the Coles/Cliffs notes description. Suffice it to say that it is (quite literally) a painful, stomach-churning, shitty disease.

It is said that about 1/5 people with Crohn’s disease have a family member with it … our family has 2/5.

Our girls have experienced the relief of human biologic medicines that have given both measured relief … temporarily. Steroids are another (short-term) option, but … sigh … anyone who knows steroids knows that sometimes the medicine is almost worse than the disease.

Both are now currently waiting for the next help … the next (short-term) miracle.

Speaking of miracles …

I believe in them. I believe in the miracle worker Himself. The one who formed these souls, so precious to this momma’s heart. Each of their existence alone are miracles. They were prayed for, prayed over, dedicated to God, from before either took their first breath (and one of them took her good ol’ time to take that first breath).

The other night, I reached my breaking point. After hearing about this latest episode, from my girl, sobbing in pain … again (after she left the hospital). I uttered words that I just never imagined coming from my lips …

I just don’t see any hope in this.

I am not one who feels they deserve better than others. Nor do I think that life is without pain, or struggle or difficulty. But … this is hard, really hard … not for me, but for them. Their struggle is one that touches every other part of their life … from work, to relationships, to physical stamina, to travel, to mental health, to future dreams.

A few days later, I am still struggling to find hope in this shitty mess.

This is me, being really real today … lamenting, like the Psalmist (13:1) who cried out “how long, O Lord …”

And I do believe that hope will resurface, somewhere, sometime, “in the shadows of disappointment and darkness” (Nouwen).

“Hope is not dependent on peace in the land, justice in the world, and success in the business. Hope is willing to leave unanswered questions unanswered and unknown futures unknown. Hope makes you see God’s guiding hand not only in the gentle and pleasant moments but also in the shadows of disappointment and darkness. No one can truly say with certainty where he or she will be ten or twenty years from now. You do not know if you will be free or in captivity, if you will be honored or despised, if you will have many friends or few, if you will be liked or rejected. But when you hold lightly these dreams and fears, you can be open to receive every day as a new day and to live your life as a unique expression of God’s love for humankind. There is an old expression that says, “As long as there is life there is hope.” As Christians we also say, “As long as there is hope there is life.”

Henri J.M. Nouwen, Turn My Mourning into Dancing: Finding Hope in Hard Times

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Though it was a pickup line by the character Joey, in the television show Friends, how you doin? is a most perfect question for these pandemic days.

We need to ask and be given space to share our experience of these days … the good, the bad and the ugly.

In the past year, I have had many experiences of asking this question to people, often inserting really into the question (how you really doin?) and it has been asked of me, as well. I think we all acknowledge (no matter our perspectives on the pandemic and how it is being handled, that we are living in a time of an alternate normal and that reality has to take a tole on us.

But, there is more.

These questions are opportunities to share the hope that God gives in our lives. Not a Pollyanna hope, sugar-coating our sorrow, struggle and confusion, but hope that exists in the midst of the struggle. A hope that exists while tears are falling down our cheeks. A hope that exists in the One that will never leave us … even when we are in the pits of sadness.

” … you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.”
1 Peter 3:15

So, prepare for the question … how you doin? … and yes, share the dark and twisty times you might be going through, but share the hope of Christ in your life as well. For the world around us needs to know of Him and of the peace that He brings.

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Good food, good conversation, laughter … these are what we often think of when we imagine a family meal.

Over the past few months I have been in search of a new, bigger dining table for our home.

When we moved, almost three years ago, I sold our farmhouse table. This table that I had picked up (for free) early one Saturday morning. I re-painted the black base and legs a creamy white. Then I sanded the top to bare word, stained it a lovely red walnut and then rubbed on a protective topcoat.

I loved that table. I loved that I scored it for free. I loved that I made it ours with my own hands. At that table sat our five plus so many others, from all over the world. So many friends of our kids and ourselves. Visitors and friends from the church, the school, swimming and football and … just so many friends. So many meals … not all good, gourmet-quality ones … but they filled our tummies. There wasn’t always laughter around the table. Sometimes there were raised voices, angry tones or even blaring silence … yet, sustenance, space and time were shared. Sometimes it was just a glass of water, or milk or a cup of coffee or tea. Sometimes extra chairs were packed around and sometimes just me, staring out at the sun rising behind the ‘yellow’ tree (forsythia) with a warm cup in hand and my feet resting on the seat of another chair.

It was going to be too big for our townhome, so I sold it. I was rather picky about who to sell it to, because that table wasn’t just word and paint and stain … it was a treasure chest that held our memories. Eventually I chose a lovely young family. After picking it up, the lady messaged me to say that their kids were already making a puzzle on it … new memories with our dinner table.

I still remember times of laughter over a meal around that wooden structure.

But now I have found a new (used) table. One that comes with it’s own stories, it’s own memories (the owner said she chose me as didn’t want it to go to just anyone, but someone who would see the treasure of it, who would treasure it. I have to do some work, because it’s a little rough around the edges … much like those who will eventually sit around it for a meal.

sharing a meal (be it pizza from a box or turkey dinner with all the trimmings),

sharing conversation (be it whispers of affection, silence, shouts of anger or laughter straight from the belly),

sharing space … inhaling and exhaling the air … together.

In Isaiah 25:6, we read :

“In Jerusalem, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat.”

This is prophesy, for the future. But, this is also our great hope … and it is all about a gathering around the table. A gathering, prepared by God himself, for people from around the world (Jews and Gentiles). At this banquet God will serve the best there is to ingest, from wines to meats, to everything in between. It will be the ultimate family meal.

This is God’s plan. Christ is the treasure at this table. This is our hope in Him.

Imagine the joyful laughter around the table.

“He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me was love”
Song of Solomon 2:4

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To serve is to submit, help or do for another … another group, another person or to God. Basically service is submission of me for another.

To be in service can mean that there is a payment for such acts, but the act of service is always, always an act of the will.

In recent days the word service has been used more than in months previous, added together. The death of Prince Philip, husband to Queen Elizabeth, has heralded the use of the word service in news articles and social media posts in the most honorable of ways.

Just yesterday, scrolling through Instagram I came across a post referring to the decades-long service of Philip to his wife and Queen. Following that was a meme about how we deserve better. I paused my scrolling … and sighed.

To serve is selfless, to speak of our deserving more is quite a different thing.

I think we humans, in this age, struggle to serve others, for we are constantly told that we deserve more, better. Serving takes on the connotation of being low, personal sacrifice without recognition, being in the shadows. No one wants to live in the shadows when the spotlight is so shiny.

This perspective can be exemplified when the culture around us has a pattern of looking down on those who serve others. The current pandemic has done some repair to this perspective, acknowledging those who serve others in hospitals, care homes, grocery stores, schools, on ambulances etc.

Our human choice to focus on what we deserve as opposed to how we can serve others means that we lose out on the joy of serving, of understanding how our strengths and gifts might be used in our service to others. To serve others is to live our life walking more closely with Christ, for he himself came to serve.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve,
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:45

What we deserve … would not be IG meme popular today to our eyes and hearts. For there would not have needed to be a cross if what we deserved was socially marketable. What we deserve is why Jesus had to die … his body broken, his blood spilled, his father’s back to him … he did this because of what we deserve. Thus we have John 3:16 (the Carole Wheaton translation)

“For God so loved the world,
that he GAVE his SON,
that whoever SERVES HIM,
will not get what they deserve.”

Romans 3:24 does give us hope in regards to what we deserve,

“God treats us much better than we deserve,
and because of Christ Jesus,
he freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins.”

His is the example of service to us, for through his sacrifice, we get far more than we deserve. May we focus our lives on what the example of Christ’s serving rather than on what the world says we deserve.

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Happy birthday to our West Coast girl! Born twenty-four years ago … about nine months after we arrived here, to this place we now call home.

But it has always been home for you. The addresses may have changed, the occupants too, but home for you is the west coast, it is where you belong.

I associate your birth with spring, blooming magnolia trees and Easter … these are parts that are always part of your life, your home.

Though you do not live at my home anymore my mother heart will always think that my home is yours too.

I will eagerly make a place at the table, have a blanket ready to cover you as you snooze on my couch or bed, invite you to help trim the tree … all because your moving out on your own does not make you less a part of my home.

When you come to visit, I send you back to your place with food or flowers or goods … because I want to share a little of my home with you.

I plan and plot when I know that you are coming, hoping that you feel at home when you are here.

Honestly, it is never long enough and my selfishness bristles when you’re running late, or have to leave early. But, that is my problem, my expectations and I remind myself that to have you for a little while in my home is blessing. And I am thankful that you’ve come.

You see, when we parents have a home that we have built for our loves we want them to love being here as much as we do. I guess we parents have to learn from nature, from the birds that encourage and even push their birds from the nest they’ve made … because that is the way.

Just days before your birth we celebrated Easter and your presence inside of me brought me different and intimate understanding of the Spirit within us. Though we are the residence or home of the Spirit, it is the risen Jesus who gives us home feels like none other. I remember reading (just days before your birth) “when everything is ready, then I will come and get you, so that you can always be with me where I am” … this is the home without me needing to do any of the preparing, the cooking, the cleaning … I just have to show up, and I will be home.

The magnolia trees outside our home are beginning to prepare to bloom in the warming spring sun. They whisper to me your name, remind me of your pink skin … they remind me of when we brought you home.

May today be the budding of spring in your life. May you know the security, the warmth, the nourishment and the love of home. May you know this, your original home, with your dad and I, always has a door open, a place at the table, a room to rest your head, a warm hug …

love lives here for you.

Happy birthday my west coast girl.

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One of our daughters spent many hours working at swimming pools. Phrases like extend your reach, keep your head above water and throw a lifeline were commonly heard in that water world.

Lately, I have been reminded of lifeguard strength, mentality and the necessity for everyone to have a lifeguard-type person in our lives. As a matter of fact, I think we are all lifeguards.

To throw a lifeline (according to freedictionary.com) is :

“to give someone help 
or a means of dealing with 

a problematic or dangerous situation, 
especially if they are desperate 
or are unlikely to succeed on their own”

Who doesn’t need a lifeline at different times in their lives?

Maybe it is a phone call, assistance with a task, a card, or flowers brought to your door. Maybe it is childcare, or a visit, or a meal delivered. Perhaps it is just (as if just is appropriate when one is in need) a kind word.

Such expressions of help are like lifelines to safety and security. They can be just the best examples of us as the very hands and feet of God.

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It’s spring!

Is it just me or does it seem that winter lasted an entire year?

Though Easter came and was celebrated, last spring. Though the days got longer. Though the weather warmed. Though we experienced vacation time and even a bit of (more local) travel. The restrictions and cautions connected to this Covid pandemic have made it feel as though, like in Narnia,

““It is winter in Narnia,” said Mr. Tumnus, “and has been for ever so long…. always winter, but never Christmas Spring.””

This year, as the calendar, the news and even Google’s search bar announces the start of spring … it actually feels like we might get to experience the hope that spring heralds.

Many have already received one (or two) shots in the arm of vaccination against the Covid virus, with many of us awaiting our turn at, what I like to call,

the arm jab to a more normal existence

With this rollout of the vaccine, we feel a spring in our steps, hoping that things like travel, concerts, sporting activities, church services and hugs will soon come back to us, to our open arms.

This past year has been the liminal time … between what was and what is to come.

And I wonder what is to come …

The experts on business are discussing the probability that working from home will be around long after the globe is vaccinated. That online ordering and curb-side pick up of various goods will continue to increase in popularity. That people will continue to make more meals at home. That online meetings will continue to be utilized. That shopping local will carry on.

Will churches continue to offer online services, realizing that they are not just an opportunity in a pandemic, but an option for distanced connection? Will school districts and private schools consider how beneficial distanced education was for the students who struggle with anxiety, or who simply learn better with less distractions? Will restaurants, pet food stores, grocery stores and pharmacies continue to offer home delivery and curb-side pick up? Will doctors keep a few appointments available for online patient care? Will we continue to look at nurses, doctors, grocery store employees, emergency workers and delivery drivers as cheer-worthy?

Will we continue to look into the eyes of people passing by?

Like the season of spring heralding the switch up of weather, plant growth, daylight, activities and wardrobe changes, the vaccines can lead us into the time after the pandemic … from the liminal to whatever is to come.

And this puts a spring into my steps.

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Soon I will turn fifty-two … Still in my early fifties (this is my indirect pointing out that I am not that old yet), still very much an active mom (does that ever change?), still very much in love with my guy (I hope this doesn’t ever change), still experiencing the close relationship with my own mom, enjoying my work, my (socially distanced) church, friends and activities.

I am still very much alive.

I have reached that stage of middles … though I do not expect that fifty-two is the middle of my life, that I will live to be called a centenarian.

I am in the middle of adult children and parent, loving my job yet looking forward to days when I don’t have to rush out the door, anticipating retirement and considering further education and a career change, purchasing (a new home, stuff) yet purging, planning for the future yet seeing the future’s end, loving my guy and fearing he might die before me (my plan is me first).

I am stuck in the middles …

and (much of the time) I absolutely love it!

From this vantage point, I have learned that my life needs to have more of two things and less of one.

More doing …

At this stage of life I know that I am on the other end … awareness of the brevity of this life tends to remind one to make the best use of this time. I need to be doing more with my time (this might be something I need to focus on this coming year). As an introvert I can make up so many excuses to not be doing things (other than making a puzzle, watching a British Crime Drama, etc.) … but I have this niggling in the back of my mind that I now have time and energy and ability that might not always be at my disposal. I need to move, to do the things I might not always be able to do, now.

Less speaking …

Greek philosopher Epictetus is noted as having said,

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

In our world today, with social media posts, tweets, sound bites and bloggers (ahem … preaching to self here) it is all too easy to speak our truth and not take time to hear from others (other than their social media posts, tweets, sound bites and blogs). The beauty of being in the middle is that you have opportunity to hear from the past and the future … the struggle is to remember to do listen and listen twice as much as we speak.

Love more …

To love others costs nothing, but reaps the greatest of rewards … a regret-free existence. Actually to love more does cost, but it’s cost is my pride and to reduce my pride is to be more in the black than in the red. I want, when I die, not for people to say I spoke the truth, but that lived the truth … in word and in action. I want to leave this world and those around me, better … less damage, more healing. I have seen what damage can be done when there is an absence or withholding of love in generations … love is the better way.

I will show you the most excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:31) … the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

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It doesn’t matter how tired I am, time off always means that I struggle to get to sleep on the eve of my first day off. My brain is whirling a twirling around, trying to come up with a way to squeeze everything I have been dreaming of doing in the days and weeks leading up to the break.

One would think, at my age, I might have grown beyond this sort of anticipation, but alas I still spend my first night tossing and turning, counting sheep, cows and kittens and trying every trick in my getting to sleep book!

In my over-excitement of what is to come, I lost out on the sleep, the rest that my body and mind so needed.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Sometimes we (okay, I) think that the (above) text has to do with the fearful anxieties that take over our minds, but we can also be excited to the point of anxiousness … to the point that our excitement and anticipation can take over our thoughts wholly, interrupting a healthy balance in our lives.

The apostle Paul, in this clip from a letter to the Philippians, reminds us all that prayer is the key to peace in any and every situation. That this peace will be out of this world (perhaps even allowing sleep to come to us).

According to Paul:

Prayer is the conduit to peace.

Though I remembered this truth after the fact, it is one I need to remember.

When my anxious thoughts are on the dire, the sad, the fear-laden, the dark and twisty things of life … I always remember to take them to God in prayer.

But, when my heart and head are full of joy and excitement that bubbles over, filling my thoughts only of what I anticipate, I am slow to remember to share those joy-filled thoughts with Him.

Perhaps, if I did, I would sleep in a heavenly peace.

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