Friday, February 22, 2008

She Chose Us!

This is Chelsie---she is the fourth member of our family. We adopted her, but she chose us. Our life is enriched because she is apart of it. We didn’t intend to fall so madly in love with her—it just happened.

A few years ago I had to put our family pet, Divot, to sleep. It was such a traumatic experience for me that I told the family “No more dogs!” That lasted a couple of weeks. Don wanted a golden retriever—our favorite breed, but I didn’t want to do the “puppy training” again, so I contacted a golden retriever rescue to see if there was an older dog available for us to adopt.

Now, the process for adopting a dog from the rescue rivaled that of adopting a child. There was an astronomical amount of paper work; as well as home visits and background checks. When our “case worker” brought Chelsie to our house the first time, it was simply to see how we interacted with a dog. You see, Chelsie had been promised to another family. When Chelsie entered our house it was as if she were already home. We took to her immediately and she obviously loved us. She even sat at the back door and cried when Chandler ran back into the house to find a ball for them to play with.

This was not what the caseworker expected—this dog instantly bonded with us. As we watched Chelsie drive off that day, we were left with an empty feeling. Later that evening, we received a surprising email from the caseworker. She had taken Chelsie to the other family, but the visit didn’t go quite as well as she expected. She told us that she was “re-thinking” Chelsie’s adoption. Excited beyond belief, we actually prayed that we would be chosen. A few days later we got a call. Chelsie was to be part of our family—she had chosen us.

Ever since the day we signed the adoption papers, this dog has been an important member of our family. She is gentle, loving and so very affectionate. She has never run off—she doesn’t need a leash. She learned to “sit”—after her first lesson; she shakes, lies down and clearly loves us unconditionally. I laugh at the saying that “I long to be the person my dog thinks I am”, but with Chelsie it fits--if only I could be that person.

She loved Don. They spend hours together, and when he died Chelsie mourned with the rest of us. The vet even prescribed doggie Prozac for her. Now, she is closest to me. She has become my self-proclaimed protector. Wherever I am in the house, that's where you can find her. In these weeks of “counting my blessings”, Chelsie is one of God’s greatest.

This I know for sure.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Paying It Forward

I had dinner last night with a fellow widow. We first connected through the YW board and then through mutual friends. She is heading into her six-month “sadiversary”. Oh, how I remember that time period. It was perhaps the most difficult along this journey. Shock was beginning to wear off and the reality of loss seemed overwhelming. It was also the point where I was trying to compensate with material possessions both for the boys and myself. I wouldn’t want to relive that time for anything, but sure would like to have made different choices.

This week my schedule has been overloaded. I have little to no down time and much to accomplish, but when this widow called I knew that she needed a sympathetic ear. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to our visit, but was reminded that it was at my own six month mark when I connected with the Chicago widows. They were, and continue to be, a very special lifeline. So, I wanted to at least attempt to “pay it forward”. We met at a local restaurant and clicked immediately. Conversation easily flowed out of the loneliness of loss and spanning across the difficulties of raising children without their father.

When a spouse dies, you not only lose your best friend, lover, confidant…you lose your support system, your anchor and sometimes your confidence. Gaining back your self-assurance is a long road. One thing I appreciated most about my widow group in Chicago was that they were like my life cheerleaders. I wanted to be that for my new friend.

Surprisingly, it was so very easy to do. We laughed together---teared up together, but most of all we “got” each other. Here is someone I barely knew; the only thing we had in common was the loss of a spouse, yet we immediately connected.

Paying it forward is one of life’s privileges. We all have experienced heartache, pain and even joy which connects us to others. Connecting with another in a meaningful fashion not only enriches their life, but enhances our own. Living life to the fullest has little to do with “stuff”—nice houses, new cars or exotic vacations, but is about sharing with those along the journey. In the end, the legacy we leave has much more to do with relationships than with anything temporal.

This I know for sure.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


I made it up today by 5:15 AM (yes, AM) and headed to the YMCA to work out as part of my new routine. When I arrived in the locker room, there was Marge. She sitting on the bench in my locker area; confidently changing her clothes to get into the pool. I assumed she must be around 75 or so and in fairly good shape. Her sassy spirit was quite evident in our banter. She wanted to know if I was one of the "new girls". I hadn't been called a girl in so long, I quickly responded that I was indeed a "new girl". Apparently miffed that I was in her space, she went on to tell me that she drives all the way from Monticello three times a week to workout and that there were already four women in our section who come religiously and have for years. Of course by this time I was bound and determined to win her over—the challenge was simply too hard to resist.

I assured her that I would not be intrusive; that I simply needed to grab my headphones and would be out of their way. She seemed relieved. I expressed that I was impressed with her dedication to fitness and that she looked amazing. "Well,” she explained, “besides coming to the YMCA on a regular basis, I never drank, I never smoked and I had a lot of sex. That is why I am in such good shape. I am almost 90 years old." NINETY!!! WOW!! What a recipe for longevity.

I introduced myself and she politely reciprocated. She told me that she lost her husband 15 years earlier. I told her I had lost my two and a half years ago. There is an instant bond between widows—camaraderie that time and age transcends. Immediately, her spirit softened. We traded a few more pleasantries and I headed for the locker room door. Behind me, I heard her say, "Ah, a new friend."

With a grin on my face, that she never caught sight of, I responded, "You bet, Marge. Thanks for the advice and I'll see you Thursday."

Blessings come in different packages, in countless circumstances and through a multitude of means. We must be receptive when they present themselves. Today, Marge was my blessing…

This I know for sure.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Keeping a Holy Lent

I Kings 19:1-8

I am not sure of the theological history behind "giving up" something for Lent. I am sure it is rooted in penance of some sort, but for me, this simple act of self-sacrifice has brought focus and discipline I have long needed. I feel as if God is calling me to open myself up to the possibilities he has in store for me.

When I choose to give up something in preparation for a spiritual awakening, I am consciously taking steps to that end. It gives action to my beliefs. I don't think God cares that much what I am giving up as much as he wishes for me to experience what life has for me without the desired behavior.

The journey from chaos to clarity is not about doing what we're told. It's about searching for the voice of God and finding it deep within who we are. It isn't about the reward but about the journey..

This I know for sure.

If you want some great suggestions as to how to memorialize this Lenten season—this is a great web site:

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Even Through the Desert

During my quiet time this morning I read today’s Lenten devotional from Matthew 4:1-11. It is the passage concerning the temptation of Jesus in the desert. It made me realize that we all are tempted in different fashions, but usually in a productive manner. I personally believe that evil typically enters our lives in subtle fashion. I am no longer tempted by the same things I was when I was a teenager. For me, evil can manifest itself in my life through attitude and a critical spirit. When I studied this scripture this morning, it had little impact. I even thought, “Gee, what will I blog about.” But God is always faithful when we truly seek Him.

I have grown up in the church I now attend. I believe its theology, mission and purpose. There are times when many of the local aspects of the church cloud my attitude and it is as this point--within the confines of my heart-- that I am tempted. Today was one of those days. It is easy to critically view the physical church. Finding fault with the programs, leadership and worship style can cloud my heart and before I know it that critical spirit stagnates my spiritual walk. I become an ineffective Christian.

I entered worship this morning with a less than stellar attitude. Those insignificant irritants listed above were in the forefront of my mind and I began to feel my attitude sliding into that abyss of negativity. This is the desert where temptation can try my heart and mind if I allow it to do so. Remembering the scripture in Matthew and our Lord’s temptation, a sudden peace swept over my being. I came to the re-realization that God’s Church is NOT this local one. Praying for strength to see past myself, I was able to enjoy what God had to say to his people through the words of our pastor. I was being transformed—

Even this short lesson in trusting God, had its own speed bump. The evil one didn’t let my spirit go quite so easily. Three quarters of the way through the sermon the pastor interjected what seemed to be a very insecure and unnecessary comment about our church before his ministry. In that moment, I could feel my heart transform immediately to that critical nature as though everything God had shown me was clouded. But it was as if the Holy Spirit would not allow my heart to remain in this state and I was reminded that my pastor, though ordained by God, is only human. Because he has revealed much of his heart though ministry, my heart was assured that he would never knowingly say something to hinder anyone in his flock. I witnessed my pastor in a more human light.

When it all is said and done, becoming a vital member of the "church our world needs" means constantly taking stock of our own spiritual status. It means understanding the ways in which temptation can test our hearts and create less than effective lives. It does NOT mean being bound to the building we enter every Sunday, but instead to the folks who journey together with us.

There are no words to capture the conversion of my spirit today. So, the journey continues, even through the desert…

This I know for sure…

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Called to a Different Fast

Today’s Lenten devotion was take from Isaiah 58:5-12. I really thought I was doing this right—the Lent thing that is! I had the right motives; I chose to “give up” something that was difficult for me to do without. But low and behold, Isaiah calls me to a different fast, one that requires a bit more consideration. (vs 6-7)

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

What is my role, as a Christian in social consciousness? My son just wrote a paper about young people and their tendency to be so self- absorbed that the social injustices of the world don’t seem to be of much concern to them. Well, after today's devotion I have found the need for my own self-reflection in this area.

I have believed that as long as I didn’t knowingly purchase items known to be harmful to the environment or shop at places that are less than fair to their employees I was being socially responsible, but what if that isn’t true? What if, as a Christian, it is my responsibility to place a portion of my energy into "loosing the chains of injustice" in a more significant way and if so, how is this accomplished?

Perhaps it isn’t enough to simply recycle or give to “Feed the Children”. Maybe I am called to genuine action—to become aware of social injustices and do my part to bring them to an end. I don’t mean carrying picket signs or radical action (unless I am lead to do so), but taking small steps to bring social consciousness into my life.

Taking that first step, for me, begins with education. You can’t take a step, if you don’t have a clue where to go. I often view organizations like Greenpeace as being too radical. But God has given me a brain and a fair amount of discernment, so I could examine the information these types of organizations publish, do some research, pray and unearth (on my own) significant ways that I can take the first steps to fasting differently.

My views need to become more global and yet; on the other hand, my eyes and heart must become more attuned to the social ills right here—in my own community. After all, a journey of a thousand miles truly does begin with a single step.

This I know for sure…


Love is patient, love is kind. It always protects... Always hopes... Always trusts... Love never fails!

May your Chapter Two be filled with much hope and happiness!!!

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Journey Begins...

It is the Lenten season. As I reflect on my last few posts, I have come to the realization that this is the perfect time to actively seek the clarity I long for. I love Easter. It is by far my most favorite holiday. I love everything it represents spiritually. I love the promise, the hope, and the expectation of the season. The idea of a 40-day preparation for Easter intrigues me. Our church observes lent, but not in the same way the Catholic Church or Greek Orthodox do. I like the concept of self-sacrifice during the Lenten season. The idea of giving something up that I find pleasurable as outward evidence of an inner work, strengthens my spirit. Perhaps it is because self-discipline often eludes me. I think that by committing to "giving up" something and in its place creating time to pray, reflect, and serve; one can’t help but grow. By observing and participating in the Lenten season I can begin to find clarity in my life as well as prepare my heart and mind for the Easter celebration. So, over the next 40 days (yes I know it is less than 40 by now), I will take you along on the journey with me.

The decision has been made as to what I will relinquish for the Lenten season. I am not going to publicly acknowledge what it is I am giving up because I believe it to be a contract between God and myself. Guess you will have to trust me on this one, but I am committed to "giving up" this pleasure until Easter. Since whatever one chooses to give up for Lent is supposed to be something pleasurable, I imagine that giving up exercise and vegetables isn't exactly what theologians had in mind.

I also want to embrace the idea of replacing what I have sacrificed with something of value, perhaps in a service for others fashion. I will have to think about this one, but will actively explore ways to serve during the season.

I know I am getting a late start on this lent thing due to a major "act of God" (see post below), but I really don't think God will mind since it is sort of His fault anyway and He knows where my heart lies.

Tell me, are you doing anything to commemorate this Lenten season? If you are, share your stories. I love hearing from others walking the same path. The journey begins…

To change and to change for the better are two different things.
German proverb

This I know for sure…

Thursday, February 07, 2008

It Just STINKS!!!

How much “clarity” can a person take in a 24-hour period? It was as if God said, “Marsha, you want clarity, then here we go girl!” I am almost positive that’s the way God speaks, by the way. Anyway, upon arriving home last night from work, I started downstairs to greet the boys. As I crept down the stairs I noticed water seeping into the basement through the window casing and the floor of the basement becoming saturated with water. Nervously, I pulled back the curtain and to my horror saw my entire window well (all 57” by 40” of it) totally filled with water---gallons and gallons of water!!!!

Now, I tend to overreact initially. I panic---for a moment—yell---scream and then it is over I can then engage in whatever action is needed to rectify the situation. So, I ran upstairs to phone my father when I heard an incredible glass-shattering crash (followed by more screaming—this time it wasn’t me). The window had shattered and water --- gallons and gallons—was pouring into my basement. The three of us ran, frantically, through the house grabbing anything that would hold water---nothing was large enough—water was everywhere. In the midst of cleaning, calling for help and procuring professional assistance I found that I was amazingly calm. Yes, I cursed the fact I was facing this by myself, but was thankful for my father and brother in law (who came to my rescue).

SOOOOOOO—after hours of cleaning, millions of phone calls and LITTLE SLEEP, here is where we stand. It will cost $3,000 to dry out my basement (this doesn't include replacing the carpet) and the insurance company says --- they will NOT cover it, oh but don't worry---they WILL pay to replace the $186.00 window. We will appeal the decision (so anyone with good ideas to this end, let me know), but… it doesn’t negate the fact that it is more stress than I am ready to expend… at this time. This just stinks--literally and figuratively!

This I know for sure…

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Through the Fog

My widow sister Alicia posted about clarity this week (Clarity). Her post resonated with me. I was reminded of her words as I was driving home from school on Monday. The fog in Central Illinois was unbelievable. I couldn’t see ten feet in front of the car and had to travel a highway to get home from school. I asked Chandler to be my second set of eyes and to keep me informed of familiar landmarks so we could navigate our way home a bit easier. I was sure I could keep my bearings if I could identify those familiar landmarks, but the fog was so dense, that familiar markers were unidentifiable. I became overwhelmed with the feeling of helplessness. I was a slave to the weather. It is very easy to become lost without “clarity” and that sense of helplessness can become oppressive.

My life has been clouded in thick fog for the past two (plus) years. Since Don’s death I have had a general since of losing site of some important aspects of who I am and what I need to do to continue life in a productive manner. Some of my “life landmarks” have been clouded in fog and I have done what any young widow would do, I have kept on “driving”: hoping that someday I will wake up and everything will be clear again---praying that I don’t get totally lost or worse.

Don’t get me wrong, one aspect of my existence that is perfectly clear is my relationship with Kent, but other facets of my life are unrecognizable. Other things, like finances, simply elude me. Now, I was never all that stellar in this area anyway, but through the fog of my life—it seems worse. Taking care of myself physically, seems to have taken a back burner to, well, everything. Through the fog, it has been impossible to be motivated anyway.

The lack of vision may be the biggest consequence of this life fog. I seem to simply be living for the moment—the day at best. I have a wedding to plan, two households to join, a new life to create and what have I accomplished to that end? I have a dress to wear and that is about it—no flowers have been ordered, no caterer has been hired, no stringed quartet has been procured—where is my vision as well as my energy? I am teaching with an administrative master’s and no plan to use it—where is my vision? OH, and did I mention I need to get to the gym in order to fit into “the dress”? I need clarity.

I long for someone to point out life landmarks through the fog. You know, those milestones that keep life clear when circumstances get muddled. There is but One who can be that visionary. Turning over the driver’s seat of my life fog to a God who loves and cares for me, should be one of the easiest things I could do. Then why isn’t it? Why am I so unwilling to allow Him to create clarity which naturally leads to the energy and wisdom I need to regain control of my life? All I have to do is ask—and the fog will begin to lift-the helplessness would ease. Yes, I will be required to take action as well, but I need clarity in order to move ahead with confidence and for that, I pray. On the road to clarity…
…this I know for sure.