Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Heart of the Matter

Three months after losing my Dad unexpectedly to what, we believe, was a sudden heart attack, I found myself sitting in the waiting room of a cardiologist’s office praying to Jesus that the little palpitation I was feeling was nothing. After speaking to the doctor about my family history, and my current state of being, he decided to have me wear a heart monitor for two weeks. This little contraption was strapped on and keeping track of my every move…at least it felt like that’s what it was doing! Thankfully, they have come a long way in the world of heart monitors, so I could secure it under my top with nobody being the wiser. It made me feel like I was walking around with this little secret around my neck. As the days went on, I told some people about it just in case I started buzzing due to an electrode popping off. I also told some people because I was just plain scared. It was weird. I became very, very aware of my heart. Could everyone tell I was hiding something? Should I make sure to side hug people, or not hug people at all, so I wasn’t found out? But the biggest question of all…was my heart working properly?

The day of my doctor’s appointment, I almost punked out and didn’t go. All of a sudden, the thought, “What if something is wrong?” came flooding in. Which was followed by the just as helpful thought of, “I don’t have time to deal with a heart issue right now…there’s too much to do.” That thought made me wonder if it was time to get my head checked too! There’s NEVER a GOOD time to deal with a heart issue…but deal with it I must. Especially if the issue had any chance of killing me.

As timing would have it, this journey of my physical heart issues had come at the heels of a 2-year long journey of some spiritual heart issues. In January 2016, in a moment of great transition, I received a word that my season of working with my hands would turn into a season of God working on my heart. I was also told that God was trying to show me love, but I wasn’t receiving it. At the heart of the matter, I believe my heart had grown weary. Years of unmet expectations, feelings of being overlooked and abandonment had left me believing that no matter how much I worked, or tried, or cared…I wasn’t going to have what other people have.

So, in a sense, God put a heart monitor around my neck at that moment. I had become acutely aware of all my “ish.” I began a journey of letting go. Another season of being put out to pasture. Moved out far from everything and everyone I knew. Or at least, everyone I thought I knew. Obscurity. A season of not making a move unless it was a move that God told me to make. A season that He didn’t tell me to move much, which was way uncomfortable. A journey of learning to hear Him in new ways. A season of becoming acutely aware of my rhythm…a rhythm that was beginning to beat at the same pace as His. Connected to Him in a way that I had never been connected to Him before. Just like that heart monitor I had hanging around my neck…I went nowhere without Him and was aware of Him at all times. If my heart was off beat, I pressed into Him a lot like I pressed that little button any time I had a palpitation.

Well the good news is, nothing major was found at the end of two weeks. I can get back on track of doing what I need to do…drink less coke and eat more green stuff. I can’t say I’ve been 100% successful at that yet…but I believe I’ll arrive there at some point. As far as the work on my heart that God is doing…well, I’ve learned that journey will take a lifetime to complete. I’m grateful that I have the “heart monitor” AKA Holy Spirit “around my neck” at all times. He reminds me with a gentle nudge when my rhythm is off and teaches me how to love wider and deeper.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Sinking Sand

A few weeks after my Dad passed away, I stumbled upon a story about a woman who had found herself stuck in quicksand near the Santa Barbara area. We’ve had some pretty wild weather in California. Massive downpours followed by blistering heat had created a perfect scenario for the unexpected to occur at the base of a dried out riverbed. She was just walking along and all of a sudden, she was stuck and the Earth began to swallow her up. She was rescued…but even those who came to help her began to sink before successfully pulling her to safety.

I’d pretty much had forgotten about the story as fast as I heard it, which has been kind of the norm since my world changed on June 19th. Two days after Father’s Day, I received a call at work that has changed my family and my life forever. However, there was no “wild weather.” We had just had a beautiful day enjoying the family on Sunday. It was the first time we were all in one place for such a long time. My Dad was happy and had just been told he could take a few months off from seeing his doctors. He was really close to completing a long standing business matter, and was starting to plan for what he and my Mom would do after it was settled. And then, just like that, it felt like the Earth below us began to turn to mush and swallow us up.

I hadn’t thought of the story of the woman in the quicksand until I was in the midst of needing to grab hold of the only One that could rescue me during a momentary ‘sinking fast’ feeling: the Holy Spirit. I was listening to one of my favorite worship leaders sing:

I won’t win this battle with the strength of my own hands
You’re the Mountain Mover, and only You can
I won’t build my life on sinking sand
You’re my hope forever, the Rock where I stand

The one thing that has become so clear to me during the last 2 months is my complete and total dependence on God. When people ask me, “How are you doing this?” My answer is clear, “It’s not me, it’s the Holy Spirit in me.” I’ve heard people say that before. Shoot, I’ve heard ME say it! But I have never in my life felt so comforted during a time of complete and utter turmoil. And the reason I have never felt so comforted…because I’ve never in my life experienced grief this raw. The loss of a parent is hard. But witnessing the loss of a spouse so up-close and personal…I will never in my life be able to understand it until, perhaps, I experience it myself. But oh, how it has made me love my God all the more…for His Word says all throughout it how important it is to care for the widow…it’s like He “gets” it.

Hearing the words to this worship song led me to Matthew 7:24-27 which then led me to a new obsession with quicksand …so of course I googled it. I thought it was interesting that some of the tips for getting out of literal quicksand can also help when you find yourself in life with that sinking feeling.

According to Wikihow, here are some ways to get out of quicksand:
  • Drop Everything. The more you carry, the more it weighs you down and the faster you sink and get stuck.
It’s no surprise that God gave me the words “let go” at the onset of 2018. If there is one thing I have learned since my Dad’s passing is that I need to feel okay with letting stuff go so the important stuff…like getting through the next seconds...minutes…hours of the day when all hell is breaking loose, can happen. It’s made me acutely aware that not everything needs to happen right now and that holding onto some things could actually impede me in certain situations. 
  • Move horizontally. Try to move backwards. Taking a big step forward may get you stuck deeper.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to take matters into my own hands when I find myself in unfamiliar territory. Especially if that territory involves possibly being stuck somewhere. Fight or flight can move in fast...but if I can stop myself from making sudden moves, take a step back and re-evaluate, I find that I’m better able to move forwards only after taking a step backwards. 
  • Lay back and create a bigger footprint by allowing yourself to float. Yes, do the exact thing that sounds absolutely crazy. Lay yourself back and allow your body to float above the very thing trying to suck you in.
This is probably the one that is SO against common sense. You’re standing waste deep in a pool of yuck and they say to lay back into it?! I mean, this isn’t a pile of fresh cut leaves or a bath of warm water…this is laying back in the muck and mire. The thing that hits me about this is rather than it taking you over, you take IT over by not getting sucked into it’s crazy. Oh, so many times in life I either fight like crazy or try running away when all I needed to do is lay back and let myself float above the muck.
  • Take your time. Relax. Don’t make sudden moves. Don’t panic. Quicksand is not usually very deep. It’s the fast moves and the panic that makes people sometimes injure themselves. It’s very rare that someone dies from quicksand.
Like many things in life that we panic about or in…it’s temporary. It won’t kill us. It may suck for a minute, but it’s not forever. In fact, the act of panicking is what can actually injure you, or in some cases, an innocent bystander.
  • Use a stick. This is how the rescuers got the woman out of the quicksand in Santa Barbara. It makes sense…it’s better to send a stick in than another, heavy human body. You don’t want to pull someone else in and get them stuck too. The stick is wedged under you as you lean back and almost serves as a buoy.
The idea made me think that it serves us well to grab a walking stick for the journey so we are already prepared for any quicksand situation we might find ourselves in. 

This last thought is where I found myself again at Matthew 7:24-27:

24 Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.

I can make the choice ahead of time to build my life on the solid rock foundation of Jesus. When the winds and the waves come, I won’t have to think about the fact that I’m getting swallowed up by the world. I don’t have to panic. I don’t have to take matters into my own hands. I can literally lay back and feel what I need to feel at the timing in which I need to feel it. I can know that I’m going to float above it and eventually feel the firm foundation again.

Today’s Forecast: A new journey with the potential of sinking sand.
Silver Lining: On Christ, the solid rock I stand.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

When I Think About My Dad...

The eulogy I gave at my Dad's celebration of life.

When I think about my Dad, I think about how I always had a Valentine. Every year since I was born, he did something to remind me that I was loved, whether I had a Valentine or not.

When I think about my Dad, I think about our drives to Legg Lake when I was in grade school. He’d teach me to fish and I'd sit for hours reading my Big Book of Amazing Facts and watch the ducks on the lake. Sometimes it was just he and I – I can’t remember what we would talk about, but I remember loving to go.

When I think about my Dad, I think about summer nights at the race track. I think about the excitement of the winner’s circle and the long walk back to the car. I can remember running to catch up to him to grab his hand. I wonder if he knew I pretended to fall asleep by the time we got home so he’d have to carry me to bed?

When I think about my Dad, I think about all the business picnics we went to throughout his career. I think about how everyone he worked with enjoyed being around him. He seemed to be able to get even the most unlikely people involved in the fun. As an adult, I realized he was a “head honcho,” but you never would have guessed it back then. He never treated anyone differently because of his position. It was probably because he had held every position imaginable – he worked his way up and he did it without a 4-year degree or family connections. Many of his co-workers felt like family – I believe that’s what was special about how he managed people. He stayed in contact with some of them even after he retired. A win for them and their families was often shared with us. He was proud of them.

When I think about my Dad, I think about how he hired and empowered women. I remember hearing that he had a workforce of women under him, which was sort of out of the norm for his field and that time. I think about the 10+ years I was blessed to work alongside him. I learned a lot watching him then…I understood why he was successful. He never sugar coated things, even with me. He looked at problems as opportunities. He could have taught a master class in the art of motivating people. I don’t know anyone who could speak to people the way he did. They wanted to be around him. They wanted to be better because of him. They believed THEY could because HE believed they could.

When I think about my Dad, I think about holiday family dinners. I remember him driving to pick up my Great Uncle Tommy so he’d be included. And mind you, this drive wasn’t down the street. This was a good 1 hour trip into Los Angeles before and after everyone came over. As an adult, I realized what a sacrifice that was because he often had work the next day. But he’d do it because family was important, and the alternative was that Uncle Tommy would be alone. And he didn’t do it just for family. I remember going with him to drop off food for an elderly woman, a former work associate who’d become family, because she was alone during the holidays and couldn’t leave her house. I remember when he bought the bank teller’s kid a camera because they shared stories about their children when he’d go in. She was a single mother, and he knew she was in need. There were a lot of things he did when no one was looking…but he often did them without a second thought and was so genuinely happy he could.

When I think about my Dad, I think about the many people who have come forward to tell me how special he was to them. How their lives were changed because of him. He was a man of influence in the fun ways of getting us back stage at concert events, or VIP treatment at the casino. I mean, this man talked his way into a meeting with Norman Lear because he had an “idea” for a show! But he was also a man of influence because of the special things he did like: Remembering someone’s name. Remembering their story. Remembering the things people like. Treating people with respect. Always, always being kind and courteous to the front desk of any establishment and tipping our waiter or anyone who provided a service. And sticking up for people who couldn’t stick up for themselves.

When I think about my Dad, I think about how much he loved his wife, his kids, and his grandkids. He also loved our friends. He included them on trips and family get togethers. And if I had a friend who needed advice, he’d be the first to offer it. And the thing is, he didn’t learn how to be a dad from his dad. But he taught his sons how to love their wives and their kids. We got to see our parents married for 56 1/2 years and I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to actually witness “til death do us part.” I realize not everyone gets to have a dad like that on earth.

When I think about my Dad, I’m not going to lie…I have thought about the things he won’t get to experience with me now. Meeting my future husband. A walk down the aisle. Any other grandkids or great-grand kids. However, I recently remembered a quote my Dad would use during a few of the eulogies he had to give over his lifetime: It’s from Robert Fulgham’s “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten” and it says:

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge

That myth is more potent than history

That dreams are more powerful than facts

That hope always triumphs over experience

That laughter is the only cure for grief

And I believe that love is stronger than death.

My pastor recently said that our lives preach louder than any sermon ever could, and I think he’s right.

So when I think about my dad, I’ll choose to think about the things he taught me with how he lived his life:

to imagine more…believe more…dream more…hope more…laugh more and finally, but most importantly, to love more.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Moms and Band Aids

I decided not to do the bouquet of flowers for Mom this year. I figured I’d buy her some flowers that would last a bit longer and brighten up the backyard she looks out on as she washes the dishes at the kitchen sink. The first few months of 2018 have been rough on our family, and probably roughest on her.

Growing up, Mom has been the constant source of encouragement. Even when we royally screw up, she’s often finding a reason this-or-that happened. Or when I’m sure I’ve been hit with the plague, she’s calming me down from an emergency trip to Urgent Care or coaxing me off of Web MD. Yep, Mom has always been the band aid “put-er-on-er” and “boo boo kisser.”

However, so far this year, it has felt like one big ripping off of the band aid. No warning. One moment I'm on the road to ultimate healing from something and then the next moment…rip!! Exposed. Tender. And I’m sure the first layer of skin and some hair is in there too!

So what do you do when you’re a Mom and the expectation of healing has been deferred? You do what my Mom does: You cry a little. You get mad a little (or a lot, especially if someone has hurt your man or your child.) You may even ask God, "Why?" And then you brush yourself off and you make dinner. You do the laundry. And you tell your daughter she doesn’t have pneumonia because of a slight cough. You don’t have time to wallow or wait or wonder because there are people who are depending on you. There are people who are looking to you to say, “It’s going to be ok.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve been through Celebrate Recovery, Grief Recovery,  Freedom, and Spiritual Coaching…I am a HUGE advocate of it all and the biggest advocate of going to God with your "ish." Because if you are harboring resentment, unforgiveness or anger, you might as well tear off some band aids and pour salt on them. Angry, bitter Moms don’t usually have a positive effect on their children. And if you haven't dealt with your own wounds, it'll be really hard to relate to someone in their hurts.

I’m just recognizing that God needs me to walk through some stuff I don’t really want to walk through. And there are days I have worried and wallowed and wanted all the way out. There’s some band aids that need to be ripped off of myself and some people close to me…and my Father in Heaven is telling me, “I know this may hurt a little…but I promise it will be quick.” Now if there's one thing I've learned: God's "quick" and my "quick" are never the same. But He needs me to learn how to be a Mom from Him, and then be a Mom to others. To trust Him in this process of hurting and healing and then helping others to do the same.

In the throes of my early 40’s, single and no prospect of having a biological child of my own, God had given me a word that I’m just now really understanding: “You’ll be the mother to many.” I remember being moved to write about the realization that I was a mother. And in the last few years, I have had many opportunities to “kiss a boo boo” here and there for people I’ve come across or situations I've been put into. And if you ask me for a band aid and I don't have one in my purse...well, I forgive myself eventually but it takes a minute.

The thing that I recognize about Moms are that they have faith. Things can get ugly and hard and hurt. But Mom’s can be the ones in the family that keep you going even in the sight of situations that seem will never change or are getting worse. They can be the constant one. The one who's face is at rest during calmness and chaos (oh..He has SO much more work to do with me on this one! #NoPokerFace.) They are the ones who can keep you fed. Wrap your wounds. Listen to your uncertainty and speak truth over your situation. Don't have any kids of your own? No problem. You can be a "Mom" to that young girl at your job who just broke up with her boyfriend, or the older woman at the bus stop who just lost her husband and needs to be heard. All you need to do is listen for that person in your life looking for a band aid and let them know you hear they are hurting, you'll be there for them in there hurt, and that the hurt doesn't have to last forever.

So happy Mother’s Day to all the Mom’s doing it day-in and day-out. Looking over their kids by blood, by marriage or by choice. Whether you are the Mom of your house or your neighborhood or your job – your role of Mom is important.  I’m continuing to ask and challenge myself to walk into situations like a Mom would, believing the best of her children, facing uncertainty by keeping the faith and encouraging others along the way.

Today’s Forecast: This may hurt a little…

Silver Lining:  …but I promise it will be quick!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Let Go

I used to carry a towel, beach chair and a kite in the trunk of my car. I had it there just in case. For the spontaneous getaway to feel the wind brush my skin, to hear the crash of the waves and the flutter of the kite tail.  It was my way of disconnecting from the world…the problem is the world was often waiting for me as soon as I got back in the car. The memory just came to me as I was sitting here waiting for my car to be serviced, sifting through work reports while intermittently being interrupted by a salesman’s pitch to a little old lady about the car he just knew she needed. And I’m irritated and trying to remain a good human being although I’ve been sitting here for 4 hours.

I’m a few days away from my birthday and wonder if I’m knocking on the door of a mid-life crisis. So far, 2018 is not going as expected. I’m not sure what I expected, but I certainly did not expect this. I feel like I’m knee deep in a swamp of responsibility, endless commutes and lonely nights. Surrounded by people talking about weddings, babies, retirement and vacations. And all I want at this very moment is to find that towel, beach chair, kite and a moment where I can run away and disconnect again.

My word for 2018 is “let go.” It came at the end of last year as I felt God gently deal with me during several “bratty” prayer sessions. It was around September that I thought I’d start preparing HIM for what I believed was the end of a season. “You know, I did tell you I could do anything for a year…well a year is up Pops, now whatcha gonna do?” And when I found myself in November in the same situation as I was the year prior…well, the prayers got a little more turnt up. “MOVE ME, Lord!” “Where are you, God!” “Please! Please! Please! Show me what I’m supposed to do…MOVE ME!”

He answered, “You first.”


What does that mean? Quit my job?! Move closer to work?! Take that job offer?! Go back to school?! I honestly had no clue as to what He was saying, but I did know He wasn’t telling me to do any of those things just yet. It was later as I was speaking to my good friend Jennifer that I realized my next step was to let go. After having that conversation with her, and watching her walk that out so well, I realized it was the word being repeated in my head and every place I turned. Let go of expectations. Let go of the need to know. Let go of uncertainty. Let go of trying to understand why people do what they do. Let go of my time table.

Let. It. ALL. Go.

And what I’m learning is letting go is a lot different from disconnecting. Letting go for me doesn’t mean to grab the beach chair and run from everything that is trying to vie for my attention. It doesn’t mean to drown out the thoughts and feelings temporarily only to find them pop up again at the most inopportune time. For me, letting go is starting to look like a dance with God.

I’m realizing that there were some things in my life (a heart’s desire, some relationships, my next move, etc) that I’d been holding onto for dear life to either control or figure out. Kind of like that really harsh Tango where you are thrown around and it is set to that totally dramatic music. Now, letting go is starting to look more like an ebb and flow of the most peaceful dance. Think Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers floating through the air “Cheek to Cheek.” Recognizing that something is causing me to want to hold on for control only to come to that natural place of letting go as an act of surrender, so that “thing” can dance with God…and if it’s meant to come back, it will, but only after God does His thing to release it back to me. When and if it does come back to cut in…it’ll hold onto me different.

Today’s Forecast: Learning to let go and let God.

Silver Lining:  He’s the best dance partner.