Friday, December 29, 2006

A New Year's Resolution

“When we grow closer to God, we do not become more spiritual, but more loving.”

I am not sure who said this, but I have it printed on a card sitting on my desk at work. It is a constant reminder that when we are rooted in God’s love, it transforms us into more accepting, tender and tolerant people. Unconditional acceptance of others becomes effortless because we suddenly see them through God’s eyes. We are called to let God be God and we are to simply step back and embrace each other---not only as a body of believers, but as fellow travelers.

I know this isn’t an easy concept to grasp, even harder to actually live. When I look across my classroom at those 25 children, I want to see them the way God does. When I look at my family and friends, I want to see them as God does. When I look at myself, I want to see me as God does (this is a hard one). When I look at the Walmart cashier, I want to see her has God does. So, I ask myself—how can I get to this place. I refer back to the quote. In order to love people more, I must know God better.

As I look to the new year with resolve, it seems I need to bypass the “normal” resolutions and think of those which are rooted in more practical terms. I am not fond of resolutions perhaps because I am Type-A personality and feel like when I make a resolution and fall short then I have failed. So this year I am going to make a different type of resolution, one which I can perhaps attain. So here it goes: I am determined to continue on this life journey with a new resolve – to give more and take less; to love more and hurt less; to sing more and complain less; and to pray more and worry less. Most of all—I resolve to know God in a way that requires me to love more.

This I know for sure.

Monday, December 25, 2006

A Disclaimer!

Perhaps I need to take a break from blogging for awhile---seems that whenever I write a blog, it is like God says “lets see if she really lives this”. Now, I know that isn’t true, but every time I write—there seems to be a test of faith that follows. You shouldn’t write anything you aren’t able to back up---

This I know for sure….

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Season of Peace

For He himself is our peace… Ephesians 2:14

Resting in the peace that God feely gives is often difficult. The season of Christmas represents peace—peace beyond our understanding. It is at this time of year we discuss the need for peace, yet seldom do we seize it. As I travel this path that has become my calling, I have a heightened realization that I desperately need God. My weaknesses are magnified and my strengths haven’t mattered—this has made me totally reliant on the peace that God gives. Even through the desolation that accompanies difficulties, blossoms of peace peek through the desert of life. These blossoms of peace grow from the seeds of moments in our lives resembling - a kind word, a song, a new relationship, the laughter of children, hope for a future, or a feeling of self-confidence that has been long lost. We just have to be present to claim these gifts.

I have found God’s greatest work tends to be exemplified when life seems the hardest. Needing God has made me well aware of the fact that I am unable to travel alone. Even my strengths fail me through the journey without the empowerment of a heavenly father—my weaknesses seem to be magnified and my security wanes. Peace becomes a confidence I must act upon through the promises God has given.

When life seems too difficult to tolerate, when circumstances seem beyond what we can handle, when we are too tired to take the next step on our journey—Christ becomes our peace. It is at this point that we must begin to claim the promise that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:37-39). This is real peace.

Nothing in life is predictable. Life is often chaotic, but He is our Peace all we have to do -- is claim it.

This I know for sure.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Gifts of the Season!

It is that holiday time of the year. I am forced, as a public school teacher, to remain benign to the “Christmas Spirit”. Everything I send home must say “holiday” not “Christmas” and must never contain anything that might be construed as religious in nature. This got me thinking about the most wonderful CHRISTMAS gifts I have ever received. I remember getting the Chrissy Doll with hair that actually grew—of course I cut it within a week and never played with her again. I remember getting a Viewmaster slide projector as a gift from the church in St. Louis—wow, I loved that and played with it for almost two weeks before putting it in the corner of my room. There are very few gifts I have actually used or appreciated long after they were given. My husband knew that if it plugged in---it wasn’t a gift—what a smart man. The gifts I truly cherish are those not wrapped and placed under the tree, but given with love by those who have experienced this life journey with me.

Tom Paine stated in 1791 “and the slavery of fear made man afraid to think”—I am so very thankful for the gift of free thought that was not only embraced, but encouraged by my family. It is a gift that continues to give as we grow together and appreciate the thought processes we so eagerly mock within each other.

The gift of friendship so freely given, is one I treasure. When I think of Christ and his close friendships, I feel I am luckier than he. I have had friends stick by me through tremendous heartache—no one has denied me or even given up on me. I read in many books not to expect my friendships to remain in tact through the grieving process; apparently, my friends beat the odds—they have not only stayed, but loved through it all and now they share in my joys as I regain a new normal. The gift of new relationships is also something I value this year. It is amazing to me how God provides just what we need.

According to Nelson Algren, “the journey is all”. I actually appreciate the gift of “the journey”. I am grateful that there is a God who loves and cares for me and wants the best for my life. I value the one who leads me through the maze of life’s decisions. I am not sure where I would be at this point if it weren’t for extreme faith, but I DO know where I would be without it.

Supportive family is a gift I am fortunate to have received. Not only am I blessed with amazing parents who, after 40+ years are still in love each other, I am also blessed with brothers who mean the world to me and sister-in-laws who are equally a part of my heart. I am fortunate that my family has loved me through these past months with intensity and resolve to see me through to the other side.

The love of my children is a gift I treasure beyond words. They love so completely and so meaningfully. I honor who they are and who they will become. They have so much of their earthly father within them that I know they have tender hearts. They have enough of their mother that I know they have some “spunk”. I am truly privileged to be their mother.

I am thankful for the promise of tomorrow. I am forever grateful for the hope of a future and an openness of love that is always there for the taking. I am opening the gift of hope—hope that our lives with be stronger and that love will one day fill our home again. God is so faithful to complete all we ask and hope for.

Finally, I am grateful for the gift of Jesus Christ. The hope that his birth represents is simply astounding. I am normally a big Easter fan (it is my favorite holiday), but if it weren’t for the amazing birth, there would never have been a resurrection and without the resurrection there would never be hope. This is the HOPE that insures all of us a future filled with confidence and anticipation.

Throughout this holiday season……

THIS I know for sure….

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Lesson in Need

It is the season for spreading joy throughout the land, right? It is the time for helping those less fortunate—I am all for that—I am all about helping others. It makes your load lighter and creates within you this awesome sense of gratitude and goodwill. Today I received an email from an organization, of which I am involved, that included the following message:

“This year we have adopted two…. families who are in need. We are collecting money as well as gifts. Below are some items we are seeking for these two families..” What you will find following is a condensed (very condensed) list of the items submitted by this needy family. Marsha commentary will be in italics and bold.

On the list were some very reasonable items including: Uno Spin, The Game of Life, earrings, necklace, Old Navy gift card etc.. I have no problem with these items. They are expected to be on the list of someone less fortunate. However, the list didn’t end there. Here are some of the “other” items on the list: Ipod Stereo that fits an Ipod Nano – seriously—they have ipods how horrible life must be since they only have a Nano and not a 30 gig video ipod?; Lion King 1 ½ (DVD full screen) – what happens if I buy the regular screen version; Mario baseball for Gamecube, NGC Pokeman TD gale (game for gamecube) – GAMECUBE are they kiddin’; Silver Ipod Nano – oh, one of them doesn’t have an ipod—ok I am going to stop here except for one other interjection so as not to become too overly sarcastic; Coach, Luis Vuitton or Guess brand purse – sure—let me run out and purchase a $400-$700 purse for the needy – seriously.

When did we get to this point? When did a family in need require an “Epson Stylus Photo R340 Printer”? Could it possibly be that we no longer have a distinguishable line between what we want and what we need? My brother related a story he heard about a father trying to instill the concept of “need” in his son. The son wanted a pair of $100.00 Air Jordan tennis shoes. His father said “Son, I have $40.00. You WANT a pair of Air Jodan shoes. Seems to me you NEED-----$60.00.” Funny as that maybe—it hits the mark. Truth be told, the son didn’t really NEED the shoes at all.

I will confess—I have not had much success instilling within my own children a sense of gratitude for what they are so fortunate to have, but you can bet that is at the top of my Christmas wish list now. I want them to understand the difference between want and need. I wish for them to know that we have far more than most folks in the universe and for that we should be extremely grateful. I also want them to know that there are those TRULY less fortunate who wake up every morning with empty stomachs and wonder where they will sleep for the evening. I want them to understand that in Jesus's words “Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God”. I yearn for them to grasp that it matters very little what we possess, but life’s riches are measured by the relationships we develop and the love we share. For myself, I desire a spirit that truly gets what being poor means and a gracious heart that is content with what I already possess. Living in the land of plenty we lack much in the way of gratitude.

This I know for sure.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Balance for Our Existence

To live a life of gratitude

is to open our eyes to the countless ways

in which we are supported by the world around us.

Such a life provides less space for our suffering

because our attention is more balanced.

We are more often occupied

with noticing what we are given,

thanking those who have helped us,

and repaying the world in some concrete way

for what we are receiving.

-Gregg Krech-

This past weekend was Thanksgiving, traditionally a time of reflection. For me; however, it was more about remaining in a state of gratitude. This state of mind began from a poetry lesson I shared with my students during writing workshop before the holiday. They were to create a poem of thankfulness from a mentor text. Following a discussion regarding the way the poem was structured, we soon began to discuss the author’s word choice. We were most impressed with the author’s ability to describe what she was thankful for without actually printing it in black and white. This became the part of the poem we wanted to emulate in our own writing.

At that point we stopped, opened our writer’s notebook and for four minutes brainstormed what we were thankful for. I asked my fifth graders to think outside the box on this one - to think beyond what the average 10-year old might write and come up with things they were thankful for from the heart. After four minutes of brainstorming, we met on the class carpet to share---and oh my goodness, it took every thing within me to hold back the tears. Let me share with you a few of the lines from these awesome fifth graders:

For the horn that lets me express my inner soul,

I am thankful. (OK she is gifted)

For the beautiful music my saxophone makes without words,

I am thankful.

For the pleasure of being able to be taught by a woman who has been through so much,

I am thankful. (yep-this one brought a tear)

For the tiniest surprises in life which brighten my day,

I am thankful.

For the courage to stand up for what I believe,

I am thankful.

For the pleasure of expressing my thoughts and feelings through writing,

I am thankful.

For the ability to know bad times will get better,

I am thankful.

This exercise, shared with my class, created in me a most grateful heart. I could have written these lines, but they came from those special children I get to share life with each day. I am an extremely blessed woman. I never want to take that for granted or cease to have a grateful heart, no matter my circumstances. Fortunately being thankful has become a constant state instead of one visited every now and then. Gratitude has created, not only a balance for my existence, but “less space for suffering” as well.

This I know for sure.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Patiently Surprised!

I am terrible at waiting. If you asked anyone who really knows me, they would agree. Patience is not a virtue that I posses. I admire people who are patient. They seem to be satisfied with their circumstances and with life in general. Waiting is an excruciating process for me. Walmart check out lines----just forget it- waiting for my turn is agonizing. The ugliness of my personality seems to demonstrate itself best in situations where patience is required. This lack of ability to wait seems to extend to my life circumstances as well. It appears that I am not adept to waiting on the Lord either. I want answers - now. I want to know how it will work in the end----now. I was reading a Henri Nouwen devotional this morning and he alleges that "Patience does not mean passivity it is active waiting in which we live in the present moment to the full in order to find there the signs of the One we are waiting for." Nouwen is speaking of waiting patiently on God in terms I had never thought of before this moment.

If I am to buy into this Nouwen idea of waiting on God, then I truly am more patient than I thought I was. Nouwen continues to write "Waiting patiently is suffering through the present moment, tasting it to the full, and letting the seeds that are sown in the ground on which we stand grow into strong plants." Contently waiting for God is grounded in my ability to grip the difficult moments of life and "suffer" through them in order to fully appreciate when the answer finally comes. I am to experience my
circumstances through the lens of how I am "wired"-meaning that each of our journeys will be unique, but I am NOT supposed to simply wait as I would to check out at Walmart. It isn't a passive stance. It is actively working through life's circumstances and embracing the invitation to grow. Yes, this does require a different type of patience, one that is grounded in action and results in blessings beyond our imagination.

This I know for sure.

Monday, November 13, 2006


"The Bible talks plentifully about joy, but it nowhere talks about a 'happy Christian.' Happiness depends on what happens; joy does not. Remember, Jesus Christ had joy, and He prays 'that they might have MY joy fulfilled in themselves.'"
- Oswald Chambers-

Happiness, what an ambiguous word! If you asked 100 different people the definition of happiness, you would get 100 different definitions. A couple months ago I was eating lunch with my father when he asked me if I was happy. I thought about the question for a moment and answered that I wasn't sure if I was happy, but I knew that I was content. To me, happiness is directly connected with life circumstances (what “happens”); those conditions beyond our control. The tapestry of life we weave directly affects our temporal happiness. At that moment with my father I couldn't say that my "life circumstances" were at the "happy" point. Happiness is fickle, it changes as we change. Fortunately, life circumstances do change. If we are at a point where happiness seems elusive, our situation could change and bring us into a happier state.

Contentment, on the other hand, is measured by the ability to rest in our circumstances knowing that we can overcome the difficulties of life and maintain a sense of self though it all. Happiness may not be attainable due to life situations at a particular time, but contentment is always within our grasp. Choosing to be content is within our control alone. The desire to live life, no matter the circumstances, with an attitude of fulfillment paves the road of contentment. For those fortunate enough to experience happiness from life circumstances coupled with contentment from a settled state of mind are then able to experience the final step - true joy.

This I know for sure.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Giving In!

There has been a persistent voice inside my head this past year that seems to have said “How can you possibly go on with your life. The love of your life is gone from this world; you have overwhelming responsibilities as a parent, teacher, friend, sister and daughter. There is nothing electronic that works in your house (sorry-had to add that one). What makes you think you can move past this hurt and pain? THIS is your new life, get used to it---buck up. Your former identity is gone and this is what defines you now. What was is no longer yours.” And, for the past 14 months, I have listened and bought into this load of nonsense. Could there be anything more self-defeating, could there anything more stifling to living life? I don’t think so.

Fortunately along side this persistent voice there as been a softer one. It sings a much different song—it sings of hope and promise and of living a life again. It is one that is familiar, even though I don’t always listen to it. It reminds me of precious memories, which will always be a part of who I am, but also reminds me of promises made to the one I loved about going on with life and living and loving again. See, Don and I had this conversation. I think it is one that you usually have at some point if you have been married 24 years. It is the “What- would -you- do if- something- happened- to- me?” talk. I remember ours very well. When Don asked me this question, I remember saying “Well, I will NEVER even look at another man—and I will wear black every day, sit in a dark room and sway back and forth because just the thought is too morbid to even imagine”—well, IT did happened and IT was too hard to imagine, and just when I am inclined to go to that dark place and begin swaying back and forth, I am reminded of his answer back to me. In his stern, but gentle voice he said, “Marsha, remember that I want you to be happy. I want the children to be cared for and loved and whatever has to happen to meet those ends----you have my blessing.” Then, of course I replied with something silly like - “OK—fine but lets not talk about it, because there is NO way you are going before me.”

Fast forward to November 2006 and guess what?---It has happened, and I am left with a wonderful blessing; even if I am just now figuring that out. (SIDE BAR - If you are married and reading this, I challenge you to have this conversation with your wife or husband and truly there is only one way it can or should end and that is with each of you giving the other a blessing of continued life for the one who is left behind). So I am beginning to listen to this softer voice, knowing it has been there all along. I am sure it is the promise that not only Don would want for us here, but one our Heavenly Father always has for us. Each day this voice becomes louder and resonates with hope and joy. It is a new song:

Isaiah 61:3

And provide for those who grieve in Zion-
To bestow on them a crown of BEAUTY instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness
Instead of mourning,
And a garment of praise
Instead of a spirit of despair.

I love this new song:
So I am giving in---I am accepting the blessing. This is the song I am now going to sing and hope others are able to sing it along side me.

This I know for sure

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Addendum to Simply Being Present OR A Lesson on Grief.

I just returned from a YWBB (young widow) dinner in Chicago this weekend. I found this one to be quite different from the rest. In talking my feelings out with a friend following the dinner I was able to come to some conclusions.

Grief is extremely self absorbing. It is truly ALL about you because the grief is so personal. I don’t say this in a negative or derogatory sense. It simply is. Grief is not a linear process; meaning that you don’t go through this step of grief and are finished with it never to return. No, you deal with this step of grief and may take 10 more steps forward only to find yourself back to step one in a few days. When I first started this journey I wanted to “fix it”. I am a teacher-a terrific problem solver and I looked for the formula to “fix” the grief I was feeling so that I could begin to heal. Well, it simply doesn’t work that way. I was looking for the “mark” of healing. This weekend it become apparent to me that yes, healing has not only begun, but God’s promise of becoming whole again is real.

I wish I could paint a masterpiece like DaVinci’s “The Last Supper” that would give you an idea of what the YWBB dinners are like (please don’t email me, I am in no way comparing this group to the Lord’s disciples). We sit around a table sharing a meal, but no one, not even the new members sit in the same chair for more than 20 minutes. There is a constant movement around the room that rivals musical chairs. It is as if we can not get enough of each other’s lives, each other’ stories or each other’s insights (“the church” could sure learn something from this group). For months, I ached for this attachment. I needed to go to the dinners because I was hurting and needed to be with those who “got me”. This dinner (November 4, 2006) was different. For the first time, I couldn’t wait to help another going through the initial steps of grief. I wanted to, for the first time, give and not take. It wasn’t until after the dinner that I realized that was my “mark” that healing was underway. It was no longer about me, but about someone else. It was no longer about my support, but about finding ways to give it. It wasn’t about my own self absorption, but actually WANTING to be apart of someone else’s. I believe this is a gauge of healing no matter your circumstances. When you get to the point where it is less about you and more about others—healing can begin to complete its work in your life. Healing can not only begin…….but for the first time becomes possible.

This I know for sure

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Familar Dance

Sometimes God calls someone very familiar to dance with us (see Lord of the Dance post as reference). My best friend from high school is like that. I live in Illinois and she in California. We have a relationship that transcends time and distance. Though we haven’t lived a mile apart since 11th grade, we seem to just be able to pick up and “dance” whenever we talk or meet.

It was during a visit to Janet's this past summer that my father-in-law passed away. It was a difficult time not only for the loss of my sons' grandfather, but of reliving the reality of death. We made arrangements to fly home early, but decided to spend that last day at the beach with Janet and her family.

That evening we stayed up late talking, knowing our time was limited. As I climbed the stairs to bed, I heard a familiar sound. You see, growing up Janet and I sang together. We sang in church quite often or would simply sit down in her basement at the piano and sing for hours (I was always secretly envious of her piano ability). As I heard her begin to play the old song “Whatever It Takes” on the piano, I turned around and headed back down the stairs.

I took my place next to her on the piano bench and we began to sing. The words came back to us perfectly—it was as if God had said “take this gift of memory”. We got to the verse “Take the dearest things to me, if that’s how it must be, to draw me closer to thee. Take my houses and lands, change my dreams and my plans for I am placing my whole life in your hands”—tears began to flow from the corner of my eyes as I thought of how God had orchestrated this moment. Yes, it sounded and felt like “old times” and that alone was enough: however, my life was equally blessed that the words to a song I had sung many times as a child had become reality in my life; a testamony to the providence and power of God in this life. My oldest and dearest friend was not afraid to take the lead and dance a familiar dance, a familiar dance partner indeed. I will forever treasure that.

This I know for sure.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Simply Being Present

What makes you connect with other people? What causes the kind of chemistry that makes lifetime bond? Instant friendship? In January, following the death of my husband, I found a Young Widows Bulletin Board on the internet. Yeah—technology is an awesome thing. I appreciated the forum of a bulletin board because, unlike a chat room, you could read and post in a more thoughtful manner. I was looking for a connection with those who understood the complexities of grief.

Following a few months of posting and reading—I decided to take the next step and meet a group of young widows (from the bulletin board) in Chicago. This group of remarkable individuals meets once a month for dinner and fellowship. I was amazed at the instantaneous draw of the group to my heart. I found myself captivated within their varied stories of love and loss, so very similar to mine.

Within this group of people I found no waiting for acceptance. They were simply present---arms open with unconditional acceptance to ANYONE sharing the journey. It was pure and simply absolute friendship, born out of shared suffering; a mutuality that was unshakable.

Each member has his/her own story. Each has something to teach me, when I open my heart to learn. In return I have become captivated by their love. I want to see the world through their eyes; understand this journey through their experiences and create a new story that resonates over the pain.

The ability to hold people in such high esteem after such a short acquaintance astounds me, but it shouldn’t. It is, after all, an answer to an unspoken prayer. God knows who I am. He knows what I need to survive and thrive. He knows that relationships matter in my life and that it is important for me to seek out and find those who share my heartsong. I have found them.

This I know for sure.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

With Courage and Conviction

I can not express to you the number of people who have said to me, “You know what the Bible says, God never gives us more than we can handle”. For the life of me I can’t seem to locate this in the Bible anywhere. The closest I can find is in 1 Corinthians 10:13b God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. This is MUCH DIFFERENT from saying that “God never gives us more than we can handle”. What a bunch of bunk!! God gives us stuff we can’t handle all the time—financial struggles, family problems, loneliness, heartache, divorce, death, health difficulties---I could go on. What human could “handle” these things without extensive emotional damage? Who, on their own, could find contentment in the midst of these tragedies?

Though God gives us things we can’t handle all the time; I am grateful that he NEVER gives us more than HE can handle. Through Him we are not only able to “handle” anything, but are enabled to overcome difficulties and live the full life we deserve--the life God has for us. John 16:33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

He has already overcome whatever it is we face; therefore, we can "take heart", stand tall and tackle life's biggest challenges with courage and conviction.

This I know for sure.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Here's to the Men in My Life!

I have been blessed with many wonderful “girl friends”. We share life’s ups and downs, joys, heartache, life and death. Each one of them has impacted my life in extraordinary ways. For that I am grateful; however…


The first man in my life is, of course, my father. I would still call him daddy today if it wouldn’t make me sound neurotic. This is the man who hurts when I hurt, weeps when I weep and laughs when I laugh. He’s the one responsible for my appreciation of sports. If I wanted to spend time with my dad—it most likely would be while sharing a football, baseball or basketball game. I know what a “safety” is; the difference between “zone and man-to-man defense”; and what a “K” means when keeping a scorecard in baseball – knowledge attributed to hanging out with dad. So, whether it is watching the St. Louis Cardinals play baseball or the Nebraska Cornhuskers play football; whether it is giving encouragement to someone who has gone through a rough time or seeking what God has for me; I get it, because of dad.

The leading man in my life was my late husband. He is responsible for giving me the measure of what constitutes a “real man”. His quiet spirit, unshakable morals and unwavering love forever is ingrained in the legacy he has left. He is liable for much of what I have become, but specifically he is responsible for my love of diversified music. Whether I hear bluegrass, jazz or Dave Matthews Band I can tap my toes, clap my hands and enjoy the gifted musicianship of whoever happens to be creating the music. Don used to say that in order to be a REAL music lover—you must appreciate it all. I would have to agree.

Then there are “the brothers”—all three of them (two by blood, one by association). I am mystified how those moronic boys I grew up with have become such amazing men. When did that happen? From them, I have learned to remain true to who I am. We have always appreciated, even celebrated the uniqueness of each other. Whether we are discussing philosophy, theology, politics or last night’s episode of Boston Legal, these guys are responsible for perpetuating the “everyone is entitled to my opinion” theory. Of course, none of this is accomplished without a skilled amount of wit and humor. It’s extraordinary when the goofballs you grew up with turn into your best friends.

The most important men in my life are my sons. Each of them is satiated with promise beyond what I thought possible. My oldest son is growing into a man faster than he probably should, but with such dignity it amazes me (and most everyone who knows him). My youngest son is the “glass half full” kid who keeps this entire family filled with hope. These two are responsible for keeping me on my toes as a parent and who, when I get in bed at the end of the day, cause me to pause and thank God for their influence in my life.

Finally, there are those men who show courage, kindness, acceptance and generosity in my life. These are the men who allow me to go to dinner (or to the movies) with their families, call and check to see if I need anything done around the house (knowing full well I am electronically and maintenance challenged), minister to me and give me advice from the “male” perspective. From them I have learned that generosity and kindness should never be taken for granted.

So here’s to the men in my life. I don’t know what I would do without you.

This I know for sure.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Moments that Take Our Breath Away

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take
But by the moments that take our breath away”

I love inspirational quotations. I have them on little pieces of paper all over my desk at work. They have been cut from magazines and church bulletins, printed from online sites or shared with me by caring folks. So, when I came across this quotation on a large picture-type poster at a local store, I stood there for several moments taking it all in. It must have seemed strange to people walking by, but I wanted to stand there and ponder areas in my life that take my breath away. Lately there have been moments that have certainly taken by breath away.

Events such as when:

· I read my 17 year old’s bog containing a letter he has written to his father who passed away a year ago. His obvious maturity and insight takes my breath away.

· my 10 year old waves at me as he passes me in the hall at school and in his silliest voice says “Hiya MOMMY!” His confidence takes my breath away.

· my 5th grade students clap when I deliver a particularly great lesson (yeah, I curtsy and smile) just leaves me breathless.

· my 4 year old nephew runs up to me on Sunday morning-arms open wide and yells “Aunt Sissie, I missed you!” His unconditional love takes my breath away.

· my baby brother (who happens to be 30 years old) writes the most eloquent words. His gift takes my breath away.

· I hear on my voicemail “this is your mother, I am just checking in to see how you are doing.” Her matriarchal love takes my breath away.

· I feel the spirit of a God in a song as I corporately worship with other brothers and sisters in Christ. The closeness of the body of Christ takes my breath away.

· I think of how specifically God has blessed this family in the past year. God’s faithfulness is truly breathless.

· my middle brother simply takes the time to connect with my sons. His sense of love and responsibility for us is breathtaking.

· I am taking stock of life and find that it is rich in memories, friendships and love. I find this breathtaking.

· I watch my father minister to folks, carrying their burdens and lifting them up. His generous spirit leaves me breathless.

There are so many aspects of this life that are breathtaking; events that occur everyday, events that we take for granted. What are some life moments that have taken your breath away? Life is too short not to acknowledge them.

This I know for sure.

BTW---I have currently changed the settings on the blog so that ANYONE can leave comments. You no longer have to register---I’d love to hear from some of you.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Grey’s Anatomy and Biblical Truths (a stretch I know)

So, I am watching an inane television program, most likely one of those of which I would never willingly admit to following. Anyway, two friends are talking about a difficult life predicament (most likely something to do with Mr. McDreamy) when one says to the other, “We don’t love the people we love because they are perfect—we love the people be love because they ARE” WAIT! Hold the show! Did some profound truth just come out of her mouth?

OK-- it is just a quote from a brainless television show—but you know what? It is the truth. We love, truly love, people in our lives because of who they are; not because of some expectation we have as to what would be acceptable. We HAVE to love them this way or it really isn’t love.

We agree that no one is perfect. Friends are not, family is not, Christian brothers and sisters are not, why then do we think we need to be? I often think I need to be perfect to be worthy the love of others or to give it unconditionally, but that is neither pragmatic nor Biblical.

John 13:34
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

The Bible doesn’t seem to mention anything about only loving people we find palatable. It doesn’t say “Dude, if you have things in common with folks—love them.” It says to love one another as GOD, our Father, has loved us-totally and completely— simply, because of who they are.

This I know for sure.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Elephant in the Room!

Have you ever been burdened with “the elephant in the room”? According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, this idiom pertains to:

The elephant in the room is an English idiom for an obvious truth that is being ignored, for various reasons. It is based on the fact that an elephant in a small room would be impossible to ignore.

I seem to be the queen of ignoring the “elephant in the room”. I have prided myself on being forthcoming and straight with folks, but somehow this ability has disappeared—I am not at all straight forward and tend to overlook the obvious “elephant in the room”. The "elephant in the room" could pertain to relationships, job futures, personal “issues”, memories even POSSIBILITIES —it matters little. There is no way around the fact that this is an example of cowardice—of the inability or choice not to “deal”. Why do I do this? What am I afraid of? This isn’t like me—not who I was, but apparently who I have become. Is this something that comes with age? life experience? or have I simply become lazy?

What is the elephant in your room? What is the big “issue” in your life you are choosing to ignore? I believe we all have them---

This I know for sure

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dr. Phil and ME!

I often tease my students that we need to invoke the Dr. Phil philosophy “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge” Is that true? If so, here are some things I need to acknowledge:

1. I am no longer the person I was.

2. I am not yet the kind of friend that my close friends have been to me.

3. I am inadequate at installing, maintaining or repairing ANYTHING electronic.

4. I should win an academy award for “best performance of a person pretending to have it all together”; yet, there are more times recently when I have been truly content and acting is not necessary.

5. "Life is like a fan, when it blows one way it is a breeze. When it blows the other way it sucks"
(Thank you Brad for that quote)

6. Happiness and contentment are two different things. One relies on circumstances and one on the state of the heart and mind: I long to experience them both.

7. I am weak on my own---I need others to survive

8. I don’t openly cry enough.

9. I don’t openly laugh enough (although probably still more than most, just not as much as usual, but it is getting better).

10. I don’t always deal with my pain in healthy ways.

Now that I have acknowledged all of these things, what next?

It is time for change—time for action-- time to take back my life. So, I made a list—what to do next? You know what, you began to complete the list---I met with my financial advisor, joined the YMCA—realized that I don’t have to do it alone. Acknowledge that I needed help with "stuff" — and asked for it.

Dr. Phil is right---you simply CAN'T change what you don’t acknowledge.

This I know for sure.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Path of God's Choosing

There is truly nothing random about life. We are on a journey: on the path of God’s choosing, yet subjected to the limitations of time and circumstances. Fulfillment of this journey lies in Christ alone. He is the author and finisher of not only our faith, but of our life circumstances. He works in and through our lives, defining who we are and who we can become. God is greater than our heart. He surpasses our ability to think, to make decisions, to breathe.

When I am tempted to question the path-- when I want answers I know I can’t have or when I simply can’t breathe, God remains authentic---real---enough. It seems so simple, but it isn’t always easy to live. I wish I could say that I live as if I believe this every day. I don’t. I am riddled with questions, doubts and even times where I think I won’t be whole again—but through my limited vision, I know that God has chosen this path for me and not only can see how the journey ends, he doesn’t allow me to walk it alone.

This I know for sure.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Grown Up? Me?

“Maturity is a high price to pay for growing up.”
- Tom Stoppard

How do you know when you are a real “grown up”? Is it when you sign your first mortgage, buy your first car or get your first job? Is it when you wake up and realize you are responsible for another human being? Or is it when you graduate from the “kids table” at Sunday dinner? I used to sit at the “kids table” during large family or church dinners which my parents often hosted. I would dream of the day I could graduate to the “grown up” table. Now, I long to be back sitting with the children at the short table, partaking in animated conversation, and devouring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I must admit, being a “grown up”, at times, is highly overrated.

At 44 I feel I am who I am. I have a friend whose mother recently handed out kindergarten report cards to each of her grown children. Each child opened his or her report card and read aloud what the teacher had written about them at the age of five. In EVERY case, the kindergarten teacher’s comments perfectly described these grown children. Is being grown up simply maturing in who we were to begin with?

I have made choices in my life to extend my ability to participate in childish behaviors. My profession (a teacher) allows me moments of silliness. Children often respond to silly over serious-especially when learning prepositions. My friendships require that edge of wit-not taking anything too seriously, but being present when life turns that way. My family, well, I believe lunacy is not only acceptable, but a requirement. So perhaps a conscious effort has been made on my part to maintain acceptable levels of immaturity.

Most of the time I do not feel “grown up”; however, I must admit there is security in realizing and accepting that, like it or not, I have become seasoned with maturity. I can, accept delayed gratification, I often take pride in keeping a secret rather than telling it and I face difficulties head on instead of evading them; yet, I still make silly mistakes, laugh at off-color jokes, and over-indulge at times. Most of all, I cringe at the fact that, like it or not, I have become a “grown-up”.

This I know for sure.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Transcending Cicumstances

“Peace Does Not Depend on Our Circumstances, but in Our Willingness to Allow God to Use the Events of Our Lives to Create a Dependence on Him” –Henri Nouwen-

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

One thing I have learned is that I don’t have to “get it”. Peace will transcend my circumstances. Dependence is something new for me—I am, if nothing else, independent; however, my circumstances have forced me to be more dependent upon others and upon God. Bending my will to God’s has taken a type of surrender that is difficult. I have begun to look at my plans as tentative-knowing God may have something totally different in mind. So, peace is often found in living in God’s present, while being open to an alternate plan if one is revealed.

God grants us peace for the present when we learn to depend upon Him. He designed us to need him. It is the way we are wired. As we become aware of our neediness, we become aware of His sufficiency. HE can meet all of our needs without ever tiring or running out of resources.

God directs us toward contentment. All things around us can be in turmoil and peace can still be found. That is a promise. “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will keep your hears and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

By spending time with God, I begin to gain His perspective on my life. I love that. He longs for me to find peace. Not the peace the world gives, which is dependent on circumstances, but real inner peace which transcends circumstances.

This I know for sure….

Eternity Begins Here

I used to think of eternity in terms of some spiritual resting place, some euphoric existence after my life had ended. I have come to believe that eternity begins here. How I live my life, who I choose to share it with, and activities I involve myself in profoundly affects this eternity. The people I experience life with today are the very definition of my eternity. They are the congregation of the ages.

So, what does this mean for me daily? Does it cause me to look at life with a greater sense of community? You bet it does.

Creating a living legacy becomes paramount. It forces me to become less concerned about how I will be remembered and more about the impact I am making right now.

What is our responsibility to a living legacy? Do others see purpose reflected in our lives? When folks are with us do they want to know, just by being with us, what makes us whole?

Eternity begins here---This I know for sure.

Lord of the Dance!

“And when we become present to God and God’s people, we find our lives richer. We come to know that all the world is our dance floor. Our step grows lighter because God has called out others to dance as well” Henri Nouwen

Psalms 30:11 “You turned my mourning into dancing”

I am a Nazarene girl—born and raised. I didn’t go to my high school prom, or to school dances but now—I love to dance. I am not great at it, but I love the reckless abandonment that one feels when they are truly dancing. The thought of actually being able to dance to the music in my head, at this point, seems like an impossibility. The thought that amid pain, joy can be found is a bit overwhelming; yet I take comfort in knowing that it is possible.

Dancing was meant to be a shared activity. It just isn’t as fun to dance by yourself. Dancing with others requires one to take the lead and another to follow. Friendship is like that, companionship is like that and love is like that. Dancing at this point is difficult. It is my belief that God has deliberately sent people my way to dance with me. Some have come to dance out of obligation—this could be family, yet they move in time with the circumstances. Some dance out of choice –these can be friends, both old and new that join in. Some dance seemingly out of chance – a chance meeting that creates a beautiful waltz. As I am learning to dance, I need these different partners, each one perfectly fits their particular dance and we move graciously to the rhythm of life that God has orchestrated.

As we learn to dance, at times we are called to partner with others. Not long after Don died, some friends lost a young grandson to sudden death. This grandfather had been the physician in the emergency room the night Don was taken in-the man who danced with our family and brought about calm amidst the storm of the evening. Now, he was in need of us. My brother, Marc, created a beautiful memory video for my husband’s memorial service, so to this great physician friend I offered the only dance I knew and that was the ability to create a similar video for his grandson. As Marc and I worked on and created this video I could not believe the healing that began to take place within me. The dance was sustained as it gathered in more partners.

By allowing the Holy Spirit to call us to dance and heeding that call, at some point we realize that we don’t have to remain where we are; whether it is in grief, depression, difficult life circumstances etc… We can actually move beyond the point of self-absorption. We can make room for others to enter the dance with us to minister and be ministered to. Our load will become lighter because we are no longer dancing alone.

Total fulfillment, however, lies in Christ alone. He is the author and the finisher of not only my faith but of my life circumstances. He works in and through my life with people and situations that define who I am and who I can become. God is greater than my heart. He surpasses my ability to think or feel. He is the perfect dance partner. Dancing in time with the Lord of the Dance- to the rhythm of His plan is where the focus becomes fulfillment.

This I know for sure...

“To heal is to let the Holy Spirit call me to dance, to believe again, even amid my pain that God will orchestrate and guide my life.” –Henri Nouwen-

Now Choose Life!

On September 29, 2005, my life, as I knew it, changed forever. I haven’t wasted much of my time with wanting to know WHY my 45 year old husband and father of my children was taken from me. I am not sure any answer from God would be sufficient anyway. The why is of little importance at this point. It is the journey from here which will create character and give definition to who I become.
Eleven months ago I lived through the darkest days of my life. When Don was taken from us I wasn’t sure how I would even begin to breathe again let alone begin to heal. Little did I know God was preparing me for an amazing journey of healing and hope. Healing became a deliberate choice.
It has taken this year to realize that Don was never ours to begin with. We were blessed to have borrowed him for those short years. Not that our grief has past, as I suppose it never will completely, but we have the promise that the God who blessed the bright days of our past is longing to be the author of the bright days of our future.
Deut. 30:19-20
"I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now CHOOSE LIFE so you and your children may live and you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life."
My identity changed in a blink of an eye. I was no longer married; I was no longer someone’s wife and the secure identity I had owned for 24 years, was no longer mine to claim. A new identity defines me. I am now a single parent, I am a widow. I am left with an identity that is awkward. It is uncomfortable yet as I meet the challenges this "chapter two" brings, I know that it is about choice----choosing life.
It has not been an easy choice to make. There have been many days that I would have rather chosen to lie in bed and bask in my misfortune – it would have been easier. My reality is that at 44 years old I am a single, working mother. It is not the plan I had for my life and though my plans have been forever altered I know God’s plan remains intact. I grab and hold on to the reality that my God is big enough to see me through raising two boys, educating 25 children each year, and paying the mortgage on time.
I can’t change my life history. I can’t change my circumstances, but I can change how the story continues from here. I am choosing the life mentioned in Deuteronomy 30. How do I do this - by seeking the voice of God in my life. I have become so aware of how God speaks to me. I have never been one of the fortunate ones who have audibly heard the voice of God, but I believe He speaks so clearly to me through His Word, through music and through relationships with people in my life.
The choices I make now, how I choose to live directly impacts those around me—especially my children. Though my children are making the same journey, we are on varied paths. I want to lead by example – I want them to know that God really is enough. I want them to know that “stuff” matters little compared to relationships, friendships and love. I want them to know that in the midst of it all—tragedy does not define you—how you choose to live does. I want them to also, CHOOSE LIFE.
This I know for sure...