Four Somethings…

My online friend, Heather Gerwing, hosts a monthly link up “Four Somethings” for bloggers to connect and reflect. Every month I am CERTAIN I will think, ponder, write and join.

Then the time passes and I don’t.

But today, I think I will. Today is my mom’s 79th birthday. The morning breeze is flapping the American flag on my porch. The wind chime is singing to me. My husband woke before the sun to take my mom flying in his airplane as a birthday celebration.

Here he is with our daughter and his plane…two of his very favorite things.

It is a good day to be grateful.

SOMETHING LOVED

This summer I have loved taking our jet skiis out on the lakes. This is our first full summer in East Texas–we arrived mid-summer last year–and the simplicity of having this readily available has been delightful. In California the lakes were far away, and it when you add the gas money, the cost of getting into the lake, and the time required we just did not spend much time as a family on the water.

This summer that totally changed.

It is 32 minutes from our driveway to being in the water. It is a $3 fee that we put in an envelope in a box by the ramp. SIMPLE. Affordable.

I love it.

SOMETHING SAID

Because this is the season I am living, and because this is my mom’s birthday, I am going to quote something my mom said in a text to my sister in law, thanking her for birthday flowers:

Thank you so very much. I’m 79 tomorrow! I’m so happy to make it this far; there were times, this past year, when I was unsure I would/could.

The gastroenterologist said this morning that I looked robust and healthy, and I did not look like I needed a feeding tube!

I don’t want anybody else’s life. I am happy and grateful to be living my own.

SOMETHING LEARNED

Building upon the quote from my mom, the most profound thing I have (re)learned if this: We are capable of learning new normals.

My mom, who reigned for decades as the Queen of Oversharing and who could talk the paint off a wall, can no longer talk. She cannot eat regular food or smile on command.

Something is going terribly wrong between her brain and her muscles. It could be her brain; it could be her nerves. What feels like a billion tests, ordered by a thousand doctors, in endless hospitals and offices, has resulted in several diagnoses she does not have.

We don’t actually know what she has, but her hands and her mouth don’t do what we want them to do.

We have been told it is ALS. We have been told it is not.

We have been told it is Progressive Bulbar Palsy. We have been told it is not.

We have been told by many people in several states that there is nothing that can be done.

That is our new normal.

And we are making the best of it.

 

SOMETHING READ

For so long I have read mostly non-fiction, Bible Studies, medical and educational opinions and my sweet little brain struggles to follow stories…so the summer always inspires me to try to retrain my mind.

My first novel of the summer was one I picked up at Sam’s Club specifically because of the title: The Book Of Summer. I didn’t love it, but I finished it, so YAY me.

The next book I read (finally) because it had been on my shelf for a long, long time was Everybody’s Fool, by Richard Russo. That one I really enjoyed!

Finally, my favorite of the summer, was absolutely The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer.

My sweet, precious mother in law passed away this summer. Her father, my husband’s grandfather, immigrated from Guernsey roughly 100 years ago. As a graduation gift to our teenage daughter, my husband took her to Europe. They went to Germany and Guernsey.

My daughter met her grandmother’s cousin who lived on Guernsey Island while it was occupied by the Germans in WW2. CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE how grateful I am she had that experience?

As they were flying over the Atlantic, I was at Barnes & Noble buying the book. I had wanted to read it for a long time, and this moment seemed to good to pass up. The timing was perfect…I devoured the book and loved every page.

REFLECTIONS***** In many ways the summer of 2018 was the SUMMER OF SADNESS. There were beautiful moments. But there were some hard, hard things as well that I will write about at some point. But the pause this precious morning to reflect on four things is one I am grateful for…four…

When You’re Praying This Is Her Last Mother’s Day

When You’re Praying This Is Her Last Mother’s Day

Hallmark Days can be achingly saccharine.

Mother’s Day is just such an occasion…

 

I honestly can’t remember the first time she forgot.

I love my mother in law so much.

I don’t mean that in the ooey-gooey emotionally charged way of love, but in the time spent and efforts invested way.

I have held her hand in hospital beds and stayed up all night answering “Where am I? Who are you?” over and over again.

I have made her meals and loaded the walker in the car to go on outings time after time after time.

A few short months ago all her kids came to visit. We had a belated Christmas dinner together as a family.

We rented a wheelchair, bundled her up and took her to the zoo.

A few weeks later my little family took her out to dinner for her 88th birthday. As we were leaving a sweet stranger approached me and said, “You have a lot on your plate. Your family is doing a beautiful job.”

Kind words are so generous.

But the clock of dementia is not easy on an already addled brain. We are two decades into the journey of memory loss, and these last months find us in places I don’t want to be anymore.

She can no longer walk, so the adventures and outings are over.

The increasing holes in her thoughts are filled with fear and sadness. I have never known her to be anything but delightful…but now we have to medicate the screams and the tears.

Several weeks ago we took her to the ER for dehydration and a suspected UTI. Listening to her as she was getting catheterized ripped my heart out. I never want to hear to shriek in pain again.

It was time to acknowledge that Hospice was the biggest grace, and treating illnesses that we would have to do invasive tests to diagnose was no longer the best choice for her.

For years she had no memory but still enjoyed her days. My daughter has never known her as a grandmother who could remember who she was, but they love each other dearly.

Whether it’s because her brain is too far gone or her medications are too strong we don’t know, but sometimes she doesn’t even wake up to visit her. There are days when keeping her eyes open is so. much. work.

When she cries because she’s afraid of dying, we talk about heaven and how beautiful it is. On one particularly dark day, when looking at her made us wonder if she was going to make it through the night, my hubby asked her, “Mom, are you ready to go be with Jesus?”

“If He wants me,” she replied.

The celebration of a life well lived includes the willingness to let go at the end. And so, this Mother’s Day weekend, we are asking God for the strength to end well and the courage to allow her to do the same.

Not every Mother’s Day wish will go on a greeting card.

 

Sitting Down and Standing Up


Part of me is afraid to sit down at the keyboard and begin typing.

Afraid of oversharing.

Afraid of too much emotion.

Parenting a teenager in today’s world stirs vulnerability that is new and raw. I hate it.

Being a daughter to aging parents thrusted me into situations I never, ever wanted to be in.

Several times over this last year I sat down at a table (or in a room) thinking my life was one way, and stood up from the same table with everything changed.

These moments have defined my marriage, determined where I would live, involved a terminal diagnosis and altered relationships. I have stood up without saying a word, silent in a new resolution; I have declared “I won’t fight about this,” and walked away; I have repeated over and over “we will be okay”, not really believing the words as I spoke them.

I am constantly reminding myself of this truth: God sees the whole story while I am living in this minute. My perspective is not His, and I have to choose whether to trust Him or trust me. I am remarkably untrustworthy.

I sit down attempting to soak in His word and stand up desperate to believe Him.

  • Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
  • “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans for welfare and not calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
  • And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation builds perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope. Romans 5:3-4

Hope.

 

 

More and more I am convinced that the actual miracle I need is not necessarily the thing I am praying for, but the courage to believe in God’s goodness no matter what happens.

That is where the hope will come.

One foot in front of the other, I will go through my day remembering to do the things I know bring wisdom. I will pray. I will read my Bible. I will look for the good and praise it.

I will sit down and seek Him and stand up choosing to believe Him.

I will do the same thing again tomorrow.

In that, I will find the hope I desperately seek.

Torn Between Two Sides

Torn Between Two Sides

I LOVE to be inspired.

Good recipes, great decorating, creative parenting or insights to the Scriptures all move me closer to how I crave my life to feel.

I flip through magazines, read books and scour the internet looking for scraps of connection. I want to connect to the hope of better through seeing great things in others.

Then I get distracted, wondering why my jeans are so tight (again), forlornly wrapped in the mundane.

Eventually, I go back and pursue more ideas. My life is a cycle of being pulled between my ideal and my real.

Sometimes I love what I see. One one side there are people doing UH-mazing things. They are feeding the hungry and articulating the plight of the oppressed. They post pictures of fabulous and funny times with their families. There is no talk of perfection. They make me realize people with bad tempers and mental illnesses lead fulfilling lives that dig in to hard places.

It thrills me.

And then they start talking about the Bible and what their opinions of what it means to be a Christian are, and the air from my emotional balloon escapes.

On the other “side” are women whose Biblical exegesis calls me to deeper understanding and love for God’s word. They help me realize what a difference the principles in 2 Kings can make in my life, and want to share it.

But it sometimes feels like their primary ministry is to criticize others. Even though I often agree, I am uninspired. Their lives look sterile and unapproachable.

Once on a video study the teacher talked about sin that sneaks in our lives. I was totally on board with that. Sin sneaks in our lives all the time.

Her transparent moment of sharing? Unintentionally collecting pens from businesses in the bottom of her purse. What a thief. I wanted to get up and walk out.

Let’s be clear. The sins that sneak into my life are far more dramatic than that. I convince myself that winning the lottery will solve all my problems (because God’s provision is not enough). Laziness is a plague that consumes me. My temper is so, so much better than it used to be, but I still have some weak moments.

In the small group after the video I complained about the pen-sin and was immediately chastised. Someone pretended to be repenting for her own previous grumble, but then quoted me directly as the example of what we should not be doing. It was silly and cowardly.

Apparently, in her world, Bible study is only for people who love every word of every study ever done. We can just check our brains at the door and nod our heads in pious bobble-head agreement.

Have you met me? Like that’s gonna happen.

I once read a blog by someone whose theology and lifestyle are SO far away from what I believe. But as I read the blog I could totally understand why women loved her. Several times I brought a paper copy of the blog to circles of women who I am on the same side with and asked, “What is great about what she is saying?”

You might have thought I was asking people off the street to explain the theory of Quantum Physics. It was nuts. Woman after woman was unable or unwilling to see what was being offered by this person as praise-worthy. They were all willing to dissect the theological points they know are wrong and assume the very worst about intentions. In spite of my pleas not to focus on the Biblical disagreements and discover what we could learn from her, the conversation always turned to what the Bible really says or that she was looking for money and attention. I was apparently asking too much.

I regularly find myself torn. This group of women over here, who I could not disagree with more politically and Biblically, have lives I admire and walks with Jesus that compel me to think about others more. They seem like they are parenting with passion and facing hard things boldly.

But the Jesus they refer to is not necessarily who I see when I read the Bible.

On the other side my brain can engage in conversations about hermeneutics. After time together I love my Bible more and am invigorated to study; but the lack of transparency in their lives leaves me hollowed and wanting. I am not certain I have any desire to be as polished as they look. They assure me they are doing the work of the Lord outside of sharing their discernment but I have no idea what that means. Their sticky sweet language can leave me shaking my head and asking, “What does that look like in real life?”

And I find myself wondering, if knowing and loving the God they are teaching me about does not compel me love others more, what is the point? Furthermore, if they talk in a language that has no practical understanding, how can I share with others?

Years and years into this faith journey, I am yet to hear someone explain what it actually mean to die to yourself.

This summer I hopped on a plane to meet a gaggle of friends in Austin, Texas. Brought together by the mission of launching books, this rag-tag group of widely varying ideas, priorities and beliefs, has enriched my life immensely–even though I disagree with many (if not most) on some pretty big things. My life is bigger and more vibrant because of them. Couldn’t that be the work of the Lord?

Does God move in spite of, or because of, differing views?

In some things I am achingly black and white. In others, not so much.

Once, in a Women’s Ministry leadership meeting, a woman on the team took a book I recommended and threw it on the ground. Then she stomped on it. Then she looked at me with hate in her eyes and said, “Nothing we do will matter until we get the anti-Christ out of this ministry.”

It was a book on time management.

I clearly told everyone it was not a Christian book. I simply thought that it could help us get organized so we could serve with greater efficiency and excellence. Guess what?

I still love that book.

Recently, I decided to leave a book launch team because the divide between beliefs was too much for me to navigate with clarity and integrity. I posted in the Facebook page what I was doing and why. While it would have been easier to slip away, I believe in the power of conversation. 

The author was gracious and engaging. The women in the group covered the spectrum of agreeing and understanding, trying to talk me into believing a different way, and disagreeing but understanding. It was the kind of conversation we should be having more of. Restoring civil conversation has to become a priority.

Ultimately, I do believe that Biblical truth matters more than anything.

The women with the lives are leading people in their Biblical direction, which I disagree with. They have Christian audiences, speak at churches, regularly talk about God and have book contracts to build followers and share ideas. I don’t dispute that. I have tremendous concerns about it. This highlights real questions that should be wrestled with.

  • God created the Bible. Do we believe that or not?
  • There is a consequence for sin. Do we believe that or not?
  • The Bible clearly calls many things sin. Do we believe that or not?

I concede the arguments from other viewpoints are boring to me. They claim the Bible was written in a different time. It was for a different culture. We have progressed beyond that. Seriously, if one more person talks about putting God in a box, I may vomit.

As if we can. If God is not omniscient then He is not the God of my understanding. God knew about 2017, when the Bible was written before the birth of Christ. Do we believe that, or not?

However, I see the women with the theology repelling people. Not all people, but some people. The people who love the discerning voices (those people who are warning against the loose beliefs of others) often already agree with the pointer-outers. Confirmation bias makes the words comforting to those already in line, but not effectively convicting to those who are not.

Is that the point?

 

From where I sit it looks like in order to reach the people who don’t already love God’s word and crave its truth we must live lives that matter.

  • Can we talk about your faults? Can you tell me which Bible verses helped you with that? Will you share when you believed God was moving you to change and to grow so that thing maybe wasn’t so dark in your day to day life?
  • Does loving God and His word draw you in to serving and helping? How and where and why?
  • Will you help me to understand how the words on that page apply to my life?
  • Will you share with me enough of you that walking with God can feel real AND vibrant AND hard AND beautiful?

It is easy to pick apart other people. It is easy to say how other people are failing and doing things all wrong. It is my second nature. I believe it is Andy Stanley who says flaws are much easier to see looking out a window at other people than they are looking in a mirror at one’s self. I live that truth daily.

Balancing that with a passion for Biblical truth is gentle ground. I want to gather a group of women who are willing to sit in the discomfort of differing opinions and examine them closely in the light of Scripture. It thrills me to unpack how Korah’s rebellion or 1 Kings Chapter 22 speak directly to some of the biggest issues that divide the church today. I want people to stop rolling their eyes when I say, “I know I disagree. I don’t believe that is true, but I absolutely believe they love and serve Jesus.”

This is going to be tough. The divide is wide and getting wider. There are moments when it feels like all hope is lost, but GOD IS STILL GOD. His word is still good and true. His people are still here. I am one. Please, Lord, let me live this life for You with excellence and passion with and alongside people I agree and disagree with equal love and respect.

 

 

 

No, I Won’t Unite. And Know, That’s Not My Right

No, I Won’t Unite. And Know, That’s Not My Right

The rain pummeled the East Texas ground on a humid, August evening. The lightening was the most spectacular display of electric sky I have ever seen in my life. I was awe-struck by its power and beauty.

These last days have been full. We got the keys to move in to a rental house.

At the same time my husband’s brother and sister brought my mother in law out from California. We moved her from one memory care unit to another. In California she was an hour away, in Texas ten minutes. We were busy with details and caregivers and the grief that comes with decades old dementia.

But that doesn’t mean the rest of the world doesn’t matter.

Earlier this summer my hubby took our teenager and grown son on a tour of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. Their precious feet walked on the ground that hosted hatred and violence this weekend.

I don’t know everything that took place during the riots, but I know enough.

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When I get a friend request on social media from someone I have not seen for years, I generally send a message that says something along the lines of, “I am a right-wing, religious nut. Ignore any political posts you don’t like but know that I do post other funny things and pictures of my kids, who are adorable.”

I am pretty darn comfy my own political skin.

Most people who know me know that I am a right leaning conservative. It is a secret to no one.

But if anyone saw the horror that was called “UNITE THE RIGHT” and thought that might be what I believed, I would be sick to my stomach. That is not the platform of anyone seeking political solutions to real problems. They promote and espouse ideas that are not even rational.

What happened last weekend was terrorism. It was vile, putrid poison in souls spilling out to infect anyone it came in contact with. My son told me there were swastikas and Nazi salutes. While I was unpacking Depends and walkers, he was watching the news and keeping me informed.

We were disgusted.

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I saw a picture online of men carrying “torches”. My first thought was, “Did they order those from Oriental Trading Company?” Seriously, I have used those tiki torches for luau-parties in my back yard. Who does that? 

Then, I looked again. I gazed past the angry expressions and saw people who look just like those I have known my whole life. They could have been my brother or my son. They appear the same as friends and neighbors. People who look like that have sat at my table, in places I work, in the stadium of the football field at the local high school.

I want hatred to be obvious, so that it can be singled out, dealt with and shunned. I don’t want it to look like the average guy sitting at the movie theatre next to me. It is so hard to change what we can’t even recognize. 

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I know I live in a bubble. While people I know may look like the terrorists in Charlottesville, I don’t know anyone who thinks like they do. At least, I don’t know anyone who would admit it to me.

While I can be a delight, I am not known in far and wide circles for my ability to hold my tongue. If any one I knew held the vile opinions spewed a few days ago, that person would likely hide it from me. Seriously. (All who know me are nodding in agreement.)

I was in my 40’s before I’d ever heard someone use the “N word” in real life. I was working at a restaurant and a regular customer said it to someone else in conversation.

I turned and told him to stop. He apologized and said he would never say it in front of me again. I said, “That’s actually not good enough. It is a word designed to incite hate, and you should never say it again.” He got up without eating and left the restaurant.

But here’s the thing I am keenly aware of: He was not going to burn a cross in my yard or poison my pets. My life was not in danger. My boss would NEVER be angry at me for losing the customer. My bubble insured that would be a two minute interaction with no lasting consequences to my life, except on my own personal values.

Had I said nothing, a tiny part of me would have atrophied.

I am all for a debate of conflicting ideas, but not all ideas are debate-worthy. Loving this nation and being of European descent does not make one a White Nationalist. I am numb that white supremacy is still a thing. How on earth?

**********

In my bubble there is little, if any, thought to race in my daily life.

In California my mom, who began slurring her speech five years ago and has gotten progressively worse, had a general practitioner and neurologist. In Texas she also has a general practitioner and a neurologist.

In California we had five years with no help. In Texas we had one appointment and a diagnosis.

All four doctors have different ethnic backgrounds.

On the list of what matters to me regarding medical care for my mom, race is nowhere to be seen. I couldn’t care less. All I care about is who is going to help.

That, I have been told, makes me a racist.

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I have been told the only way to view these current events is through the lens of America’s 400 year history of oppression by the white man.

I have been told pockets of racial ease are part of the construct to actually oppress, and that it is more complicated than I know.

I have been told that the only way I can be a part of solutions is to spend extended time with people of different races and cultures.

Meanwhile, I am just trying to find where I packed my family’s socks and figure out if I left the ^%@#** new silverware in the basket at IKEA. How many meals can we share washing our one fork in between servings?

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Where is the place for me in this conversation?

I love this country. I believe it is flawed in history and execution and yet is a beacon of hope for generations far and wide. On our very worst day, the freedom experienced here is unfathomable elsewhere.

Somewhere, today, a woman will be imprisoned for being in public alone. Someone will be executed for being gay. A Christian will spend another day in prison, perhaps with no decent food or restrooms, because of an unwavering belief that Jesus died on the cross for all mankind.

Does that minimize genuine struggles of minorities here? Of course not. But it goes through my head anyway. If the only way to bridge the divide is to think the worst about this nation, I am not a part of the bridge.

What do you do when the people shouting the loudest about solving the problems make you want to hide under the table and excuse yourself by saying, “I am just trying to homeschool my special needs kiddo and visit my mother in law in the memory care wing of the assisted living facility where she lives.” 

The conversation is painted in terms of two sides, each side achingly monolithic in the eyes of the other. According to some on the left, hating Obamacare makes me a racist. Voting for Trump makes me a racist. Failing to live my days with constant apologies for my white privilege makes me a racist.

With that the conversation ends.

I am stuck here feeling lost and out of sorts, spent and weary by what is already on my plate to deal with, but also devastated and disgusted by what is happening; and exhausted and unsettled by the solutions people offer. One thing, however, is incredibly clear–no, I won’t unite with your hatred and I want the world to know, that is not the Right that I vote for and believe in.

 

 

In The Meantime

I was excited to begin what I thought was going to be our tiny house season. 

We packed our family up and moved across the country in the hopes of a better life. Sometimes muddled dreams twist my hopes and convince me that better must be bigger.

In the process of getting ready to someday drive across the country to a new life we began to peel back and get rid of layers of stuff.

  • Books we’ve already read, goodbye.
  • Book we’ll never read, go–be enjoyed by someone else.
  • Old clothes, now gone.
  • New clothes can be worn by someone else.
  • Papers in the trash.
  • Old magazines recycled.
  • Decor from another era, adios.

So. Many. Things.

Things rob our energy, time and attention and drain the life out of things that matter…creativity, relationships, memories with people we love.

I let go of cosmetics I purchased when I lived in our first and only apartment.

I prayed for forgiveness for the layers of distractions that weighted down my days…each tiny level seemingly harmless. But day after day, thing piled upon thing, waste after waste morphed into a soggy, grey cloud of depression.

It wasn’t a pit, but a weight keeping me from color and vitality and passion.

Through dozens of loads to the thrift store, truck beds full taken to the dump, we freed space in our thoughts and home to search for the best version of us.

This family is my greatest treasure from the Lord.

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Here we were. One month living in another state, waiting for paperwork so we could move into a one thousand square foot house. Our tiny house. I envisioned leaning in to family time, forced by proximity, with our new little puppy scampering on the rental worthy tile.

It was going to be perfect for this small season.

But it fell through…for reasons that are lame and didn’t need to happen. We tell ourselves this is still a part of His plan for us. This family.

We are shifting into a possible medium season–Lord and potential land lord willing–of a slightly larger house. There is a room to home school, a large yard for a puppy to roam and a patch for a vegetable garden. We can walk to the library. There is a Rib Master restaurant around the corner, just a family bike ride away. Greasy fingers and easy meals together over tables in the Texas heat sound like progress.

I believed I was moving to find a house to buy, but am now praying for a house to rent. Life is wild and funny.

These days are numbered. College is coming for one child; the achieving of milestones calling for another. The third, who is actually the first, is always on our minds and the financial ability to visit more is a vital hope for this new life. In His time our house in California will sell. Someday we will buy a new home here. In the meantime, we are praying to do life more simply.

 

 

4 Times Is CLEARLY Not Enough

I went to yoga for the fourth time in two weeks.

Okay, one of the times was a relaxation/stretchy/destress-y thing and not so much a strength building thing. It was my favorite of the four.

When it comes to actually doing yoga, I strongly resemble a walrus on a tread mill. It is just not pretty. Seriously, I cannot now, nor have I ever been able to touch my toes while my legs were straight. The only way I can put my palms on the ground is sitting on my rump.

Midway through every class I have absolutely no idea what in the love of all that is sane I am doing there.

Something is certain, however, and that is after 4 times at yoga I am not stronger. My clothes don’t fit better. I don’t love it.

CLEARLY it will take more than this to achieve my goals.

At the stretchy/relx-y yoga thing I loved, the instructor said the foundation of her life is her relationship with her Lord and Savior. HE spoke directly, through this perky teacher, to the nagging voice in my head whispering yoga and Christianity were not compatible.

I can assure you, as I am holding my aging body in Downward Dog AGAIN, I am praying to the Lord. When I am breathing at the beginning of class, I am praying for His will and strength to become. 

I am overwhelmingly convinced that for my life to move forward I must become who HE wants me to become; and exercise is part of the discipline in doing that.

This morning the instructor mentioned over and over that yoga is a practice. I hate practice.

I love to do things that come naturally. I don’t want to have to work hard or get better. This is likely why I am middle aged, soft around the middle and less affluent than I wish I was.

Lying on the mat, my mother on one side and my daughter on the other, I must face that life is often delicate and sometimes broken. My mom (who has been losing her ability to speak clearly from a yet-to-be-diagnosed issue) and my daughter (who has not yet learned to over come her disability and still can’t speak) remind me time is fragile. So is hope.

I want 4 times to be enough with every fiber of my being. Enough to get my mom’s brain to start sending signals to the right side of her body; enough for my daughter to fully engage in the practice because an amazing speech therapist once said, “What you see in the body, you see in the mouth,” which means that becoming proficient at yoga poses may help her learn to talk; enough for me to be comfortable in my own body.

Although it may not be enough to arrive, today was a step forward. Forbidden from evaluating results for 6 weeks, I am focusing instead on breathing in His grace. I am practicing focus on Him. Breathing deeply I am praying silently, asking and listening, when conviction washes over.

Slowly the thoughts create an unmistakable picture in my mind, showing me a pattern desperate for change: Rather than asking God what His plans are for my life, I am coming to Him asking for blessings on my plans.

Sigh. Of course four times is not nearly enough. I have to keep coming back…to yoga, to prayers, to listening, to a place of repentance…and remind myself that God’s ways are better than mine.

THAT is going to take practice.

 

 

 

Epiphany Day

Epiphany Day

Epiphany is my favorite word.

Long before I became a Christian epiphany, defined as an “illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure,” meant learning and wisdom. Epiphanal moments were cherished.

I had them watching Oprah, laughing with friends and reading good books.

Decades later, I learned there was actually an Epiphany Day. What a beautiful discovery.

It was a long time after I discovered Epiphany Day that I learned it is actually deeply rooted in the birth of Christ:

noun
  1. the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12).

The original epiphany was the beginning of the story for those of us adopted into God’s family.

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Just this week, 20 hours between midnight and dawn have found me awake and caring for a sick kiddo. Warm baths, cleaning up sick messes, dosing out medicines night after night stood in the way of precious sleep.

In addition, there have been a dozen hours in emergency rooms and doctor’s offices with my mother in law and my little peanut when I was finally convinced she was not almost better.

Lots of buggy things got in the way of my lists and my peace of mind.

But what has poison churning in my soul is none of those things, but rather what I see in the world of my teenager and the teens around the world. It is infinitely harder to raise high schoolers today than just ten years ago. Chatting with my pediatrician about the craziness and uncertainties in the culture and the world, and lamenting my ineffective search for answers, he said, “There are a lot of people to claim to have answers, but at this point they are really just opinions.”

Drugs, graphic images available 24 hours a day on hand held cell phones, distresses taunt and haunt from every visible corner. Not to mention a gazillion “sexual identities” available and supposed to be acknowledged and accepted.

I am a very simple “In the beginning God created them; male and female He created them” kind of a gal. While our doors are open wide to teenagers of all beliefs and walks of life, I yearn for simpler days and less pressure on our kids.

Social media bombards endlessly.

Pressures mount daily.

Already pondering and praying about these things, I was forced out of complacency in early December. A friend across the country asked for prayer when her son was in lock down at school. A young man hung himself in the gym and when the paramedics came to get him to the hospital, no one wanted the students scarred by the image. The boy in the gym was taken off life support a few days later. Within 24 hours of praying for that another friend across the state asked for prayers for her dear friend whose son had been killed in a car accident.

Sometimes it feels like filling my lungs deeply with fresh air is impossible, because the strain and fears I have for our kids has me so constricted…

I decided I would revive a practice I have used before of fasting on Fridays. I know what specifically I am fasting and praying for…sometimes I choose a Bible verse to pray when I runout of words…I allow myself drinks and break the fast at 6:00 pm. I use the pangs of hunger to remind me to pray and look to the Lord.

I threw it out on social media and some friends will be joining me in January, to fast on Fridays and pray for our kids.

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I want to be obedient to God. Obedience to His word and His nudgings matter to me, but this life of growing in Him is not always one with clearly defined edges. In my world it can be a bit fuzzy.

Is that what He is asking?

Am I sure?

I committed to praying on Fridays…fasting and focusing on freedom for teenagers everywhere, mine included.

By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; And by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches. PROVERBS 24: 3-4

I know this is a good practice, but imagine my thrill when I looked on the calendar and the very first Friday of January is, of all things, Epiphany Day.

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And so tomorrow, Epiphany Day, I will begin my January commitment to fasting on Fridays. I will be praying for victory for our kids. I will be praying for joy in our families. I will be praying for a cleansing in our culture and a rise in God honoring ideas and principles.

Join me? You can join our little Facebook group here.

It is time. The need is huge. If you are a parent, friend, grandparent, aunt, teacher or concerned citizen, you are welcome to join us. For some of the stories that drove me to this there will be mourning, but my cry is that by the end of the month we will start collecting stories of victory.

“Even now,” declares the LORD,  “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

Joel 2:12

 

 

 

 

The Begining of the Story

The Begining of the Story

Fatigued, full of family joy and a political hangover, I watched the WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR at Disney’s California Adventure the night after the election and the tears rolled down my cheeks.

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I thought about people I adore who were genuinely grieving.

It seems they believe, somehow, that this election means their stories don’t matter. They do.

The same way my story still mattered two years ago when things (politically) impacted my family negatively.

Friends who see things differently than I do stopped liking pictures of my kids on Facebook months ago. I suspect I have been un-followed and un-friended numerous times. I have un-followed some myself.

The next day I sat in one of my favorite places in the world: THE ANIMATION STATION. In the Animation Station scenes from the stories that become Disney movies are played to the music that makes them classics, the songs and the scenes of triumph and struggle; of conflict and restoration.

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While the familiar melodies in the background and the hypnotic moving pictures remind me of these stories of my children’s history on the huge screens, next to them come still shots in waves. Some images are directly from the movies themselves, other are drawings of ideas and future story lines.

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Tucked away in the air conditioned room of imagination it hit me: The beginning of the story is ALWAYS sketchy. The colors and the shading have not been filled in yet.

The stories that have meaning always have conflict. Without it there is no change; no growth; no victory.

My victory will be different than yours. My peace may come a different route. But the beauty and wonder of STORY is still here. The grief; the joy; the connection and the distance between people will always weave their way through our days. BUT NO MATTER WHAT OUR STORY WAS ON TUESDAY NIGHT, this is just the beginning. We do not know the ending.

May we pray for kindness and grow our capacity to see facts clearly, to distinguish the difference between them and feelings, and to give people the benefit of the doubt and the space to be heard with kindness whenever God gives us the chance and wait hands wide open for what is to come as the story unfolds.

It might be much better than you think…

Less Than A Week To Go…

Praise the Lord.

My family has a tradition to spend Halloween at Disneyland. This year we are changing it up. We will vote on November 8th and head down south.

No matter what happens on election day, the day after we will be in the HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH.

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Smartest decision I’ve made in a while.

This election season has been caustically dividing.

I realized the other day that only once during my adult life have I cast a presidential vote and gone to bed that night with my candidate declared the winner. I am not sure WHY I allowed myself to get so twisted up this go around, but I did. Praise the Lord I don’t have TV. I would likely have needed to be institutionalized…

As we round the corner into the final(ly) stretch, legitimate concerns on both sides about character are no longer what matter. We are here with these candidates. It will be one or the other. It is time to accept it and look at policy and the future.

Over and over again, during these contentious times, I have asked Never Trumper people what would have to happen for Trump to be a good president.

Not one answered my question.

Before we get too far, I should say that I watched Hillary’s entire convention acceptance speech. For the first time–ever–I did not agree with a single thing the opposing nominee said. Never once did I nod my head in agreement and think, “That’s a good idea.” Lest you think I am completely closed minded, I am the same person who thought that Al Gore’s VP speech at the ’92 Convention was fabulous. (“It’s time for them to go…”) So, I am capable of appreciating things from various sources.

From my perspective the only way Hillary could succeed as President is to fail at her stated agenda. Bummer.

Now I want to think through and articulate how Trump could succeed as President of the United States.

Pass a budget every year. In 2013 President Obama submitted a budget to Congress. Every single Senator and Representative who voted, voted against it.

He got zero votes.

That pretty much sums up how well things have gone for the last 8 years.

If Donald Trump can work with Congress enough to get SOME support that would be a step forward. But this is the greatest nation of the face of the earth, and it is unacceptable to NOT have a budget to work from.

Let’s start here. With the basics.

Repeal and replace Obamacare. I like what this article has to say about his plan. Obamacare has been a disaster for my family. Relief and hope for better medical care would be a welcome result of this grueling election process.

Increase the GDP. The third quarter GDP growth in this country was 1.4%. An article from 2015 in the Washington Post says, “Quarterly GDP growth or decline reflects real economic activity.” Low growth means low economic activity.

If you increase the GDP, you increase opportunities for a variety of walks of life. From the investors to the people working in manufacturing, higher numbers mean good things. Things have stagnated for years, and if Trump can get the GDP to 3%-4%, that would mean he is effectively leading.

Reduce the number of people receiving food stamps. Under this administration food stamps recipients are up 42%. I want to see every one who needs them getting them, while seeing the number of people needing them drastically reduced.

Make sense? I would love the solution to be two-fold. First, better jobs that come from reducing regulations, removing the Obamacare burden on small businesses (which leaves more revenue for investment), and tax incentives for job production.

Second, I would love to see the church play an even greater role in temporary aid for struggling families. I don’t have all the answers as to how this would happen, but I often think that most of the issues that divide the left and right of politics could be solved by a Christian community that took responsibility for solutions.

Make a significant change in the VA. I would like to see Veterans with easy, affordable access to medical care and counseling–counseling that helps and doesn’t just hand out medications.

I would love to see a reduction in suicides.

The VA offices in colleges are often woefully underfunded and provide no real help for veteran students.

Again, I don’t know what all the solutions are, but I know progress needs to be made.

I know this will make me a terrible Christian to some, but Roe v Wade is not my hill to die on. I care far more about the need for abortions than the legality of abortions and I see the solutions as economic in most places. Let me illustrate that for you:

Often women turn to abortion when they can not envision a decent life they can afford as a single mom.

Often men bail on fatherhood when they fear they cannot even pay their bills.

When moms and dads are working all the time and come home exhausted, families don’t get the intentional nurturing they need to thrive.

When dreams die, families struggle.

Let the politicians battle it out for legality of killing babies. The moral imperative on the church is the same regardless of what is legal, we must do a better job helping people know God and live Him out in daily life. If God is IN YOU, abortion is no longer an option.

My dream is not to take away abortion, but to take away the need for abortion. The only way I know to do that is to vote for economic policies I have the most hope will actually help people, and live out the Gospel that is the only hope to heal people.

There you have it. My somewhat measurable standard of what Donald Trump could do to preside well over this nation. And, of course, choose silence more often…