Wednesday, June 22, 2016

I Wear Jewelry Everyday

 Her name was Lorna.  She was full of vitality and  lived life with abandonment.   She was beautiful,  grace-filled   and  loved her family relentlessly.   Bold, fierce,  passionate, soft and incredibly humble.  Lorna was teeny tiny in stature but a  grande giant in character.

  I visited her almost everyday and we  laughed about crazy things and cried about sad things.   She would send her kids down to the corner  store to buy something - anything that would taste good in muffins-  then she  transformed all those random ingredients into the most yummy muffins right before my eyes.     She got that wooden cutting board out and cut  thick slices of cheese and we sat at the table and shared our dreams and our secrets and our hearts.

Then one day it all changed.  I woke myself up in the middle of the night crying.  My body was shaking like a leaf and I was sweating.  I dreamed that I was sitting beside her bed in the hospital and she looked at me with those piercing, loving, demanding eyes.  She was dying and there was nothing that I could do.

Two weeks later, she invited me to her house and told me that she had been told that she had breast cancer.  It wasn't very hopeful.   But she was hopeful.  Suddenly I remembered the dream and my stomach got instantly sick.  I stared  straight into those beautiful eyes of hers and said that I would pray until she got better.  That she might get sick but she wasn't going to die on my watch.  She was going to live and see her children get married and hold her grandchildren.

I hated the dream that haunted me.   In fact, I don't think I have told anyone except for my husband.  I screamed at  Satan to let her go.  I screamed at God for allowing her to go through this and allowing me to even dream a dream that was so evil and I screamed at life for being so very cruel.

She got sicker.   She put up such a valiant fight and  went to church every time her body would let her walk and breathe and sometimes even when it didn't.  She went out with her friends until getting to her front door was too difficult.  Then I would visit her when she was very ill.   We held hands and prayed.     We prayed for her but only for a short time because she just really wanted to use the limited breath she had to  pray for her kids.    We prayed for our daughters because they were best friends.    We prayed that they would always understand the Father's love,  that they would always passionately serve the One who made them; that they would always know their purpose in life and walk in that purpose.  We prayed that they could always see their worth and that they would grow up to have beautiful families.    Even at the end of her life her grasp was  always strong.  Her hands were like a thin layer of skin separating me from her bones and at first glance I was worried that I would break her.  Then she would take my hand in hers and the grasp would take my breath away.  She loved nothing more than her family and her God and the passion was displayed in the strength of her grasp.

Then one day she told me something I will never forget.  Lorna told me many things that I will never forget but this one thing stuck with me; almost haunted me.  She told me that no one would talk to her about death.  She couldn't talk about death.  She couldn't talk about her fears; about her unknowns about what would happen to her kids; her family.  She had to go through death alone because all of her friends wanted to hold onto the fact that she would live - that God would heal her.  It broke my heart.   God loves healing.   God loves freedom.  But for whatever reason there are times that he doesn't grant it no matter how hard you war, no matter how hard you claim the scripture and you believe that he can move mountains.  He just does not move this mountain.    Sometimes we need to walk with our friends and our family no matter what they are going through in honesty and simply say,  "I don't know but I am here for you."  She told me that day through her gasps and coughing fits,  "I know what Jesus' book says.  But the doctor's book is very convincing right now."

Soon after that she was transported to the hospice.  One day I walked in there and walked to her bed side and held her tiny hand in mine.  I pleaded one more time that God would free her of this vile nasty disease of cancer.  I cried and my body shook and I felt all sorts of emotion that I couldn't contain in my body.  Then I bent down and kissed her forehead goodbye.   She looked up at me and said something.  I think she was trying to say "I love you."  I am not sure.  The next day she died peacefully in her sleep.

While she was alive she taught me so much.  She taught me how to pray, how to clean my house,  how to entertain and use those beautiful napkins so that company felt wanted and loved.  She taught me how to hug those big massive bear hugs that say,  "I think the world of you."  She taught  me about friendship and honesty even when it hurt.  She taught me how to earnestly and creatively love and how to fiercely stand up for my kids and to protect them.  I learned so much from hanging out with her. 

But in her death she taught me something else.  She taught me to love everyday.  I remember one time when she was helping me go through boxes and I came across some lovely  embroidered napkins.   I told her I was saving them.  She told me that life was too short to save anything.  She gave me a beautiful candle for my birthday that year that had little treasures in it as the candle burned down.  It was such a cool gift and when I opened it,  she made me promise that I wouldn't save it. That I would deem a day very close to that day special enough to burn a candle just for me.

One day, shortly after she died,  I stood at my jewelry and I looked at my beautiful pieces of jewelry that I only wore on special occasions.  Some were tucked away and I had never worn them.  I remembered Lorna saying,  "why don't you wear those everyday?"  

I looked at the exquisite jewelry, I picked up one of my chains and held it up to my neck.  I had never worn it on an ordinary day.  It was a special piece.  But I decided that day that even ordinary days were extraordinary.   I was aliveI was breathingToday warranted jewelry.  Today deserved my stamp of approval.

I wear jewelry everyday.   I wear jewelry on my day off and sometimes even in my jammies when I have not gone to bed yet.

 Every. Day.  

Because everyday is a special occasion.

Monday, June 13, 2016

It's Okay if it's Not Okay

I believe in living a life of gratitude.  I absolutely know that it’s important to look around you and to be thankful for the things that you have.

But this is what I am learning these days in my life.  I am learning that it’s important not to ignore the dark places,  in place of the words “I should be thankful for...”  It’s important not to stuff the pain in the pockets of my soul because I have a beautiful family, a beautiful life and a job I love.  It’s important to be able to stand, look around and say,  “I really don’t like this.    My heart is breaking.  I am depressed.  I am angry.  I am so so sad.   I don’t like what I am seeing or feeling.”  So many times we deny ourselves the negative emotions, the emotions that are hard to face because we SHOULD be feeling much better about the world around us.  We decide to “tough it out” and “man up” when we look at parts of the world that don’t have roofs over their heads or fresh water to drink or proper food to eat.  We are rich, we have life easy and we are spoiled in many ways where we live.   Yet still there are seasons in our lives where everything in our own  tiny world is not okay.  There are seasons in our lives where our hearts are aching with loneliness or heaviness.  I am here to say that it’s okay to recognize that.  In fact,  it’s harmful for your body to ignore the pain like an enemy or throw it out the window like a piece of garbage to be disposed of later.   Pain has a way of haunting you and if you won’t accept it in your emotions, it tries to come back to you in your physical body.

Why do you think that Jesus saves your every tear in a bottle?  He cares passionately about your pain.  He doesn’t flush it down the toilet and tell you not to bother about it.  He doesn’t tell you to move on; pull up your bootstraps.  He cares and your pain deeply matters to him. 

Long before I had meningitis, I was leaking brain fluid through my nose and the doctors didn't detect it.   It was so bad,  I couldn’t do anything with two  hands. One hand did the work I needed to do while the other plugged my nose with a tissue.   I had to do everything with one hand - loading the dishwasher, setting the table, making the bed.   When I put my shoes on, it was crazy...

  I remember crying out to God and my husband many times in desperation because I felt truly handicapped for almost a year.   But I had no pain.  None - my nose just ran.  And I was exhausted.  Truly more exhausted than I had been in all my life.  But because I felt no pain,  I felt so so so guilty for complaining; so guilty for being frustrated at my plight.  I kept reminding myself of all the good I had in my life.  I kept reminding myself of those that don’t have a quarter of what I have.  And instead of feeling full of gratitude,  I felt a smidgen of gratitude and FULL of guilt.  This isn’t the purpose of the gratitude lifestyle and it isn’t what God wants. 

You are not weak if you are in pain. You are human.  You aren’t ungrateful if you are lonely.  You are human.  You aren’t whiny if you are depressed.  You are human.  Let your self be human. 

Recognize the season that you are in.   When we have the physical season of winter,  we recognize it.  We have our coats and our mittens and our shovels for the snow.  In the same way,  we need to recognize our pain.  We need to live through the season instead of ignoring it.   We need to be prepared for it; armed for it even. 

What does this mean for us -  for you and I?  How do we recognize how we are feeling?   Does this mean that we get onto facebook and tell the world about every little pain and obstacle in our way?.  Does it mean we complain every day about every little thing and throw ourselves a pity party?

Absolutely not.  The Bible teaches about being in an attitude of thankfulness and gratitude. It also teaches us to be truly honest with where we are at in healthy ways.

There are three things that you need to make a part of your life as you navigate through your life's winter.

1.  Admit  your weakness and your pain to yourself. 

First of all it means that we admit it to ourselves.  We admit it and we give ourselves permission to hurt.  Give ourselves permission for a season of pain.   Give ourselves permission to not always be helping the other guy; not always be the strong one.  I have learned the hard way that we are not designed to always be the strong one; always the reliable one; always the one helping others.  We need to jealously guard our own hearts and be completely honest with ourselves when we need extra self care.  This is so important.

2.  We admit it to God.

He knows it all anyways but somehow it just helps to talk or shout or cry.  It helps to be brutally honest with Jesus even if we are mad at Him.   Let's not pretend that we can hide our feelings or thoughts.  Let's not try to be strong in front of God when we feel so weak.   We aren't in the business of earning brownie points with God.  He isn't interested in our competition of trying to be good enough,  strong enough, hard working enough.  He loves us no matter who we are.  There is nothing more that we need to do to earn his love.  Ever.  Let's put that type of harmful thinking behind us and move forward in total and complete honesty.

3. We admit it to one of our praying, non judgmental friends. 

 This is an important step.  If you are normally a strong person, if you have been the one who has been depended upon,  it is easy for us to hide behind a cloak of shame.  We shouldn't feel weak; we shouldn't be in this difficult spot.   One of the biggest ploys Satan has is for us to hide behind some kind of fake mask so that we don't have to admit our weakness.  His greatest desire is for us to be isolated and ashamed.   If he can isolate us; if he can fill us with trepidation, take our friends away; take our support systems away,  he has been successful in building us a prison of shame.  Don't buy into this.

If you don't have friends that you can confide in, find them.  Find them.  Life was never meant to go at  alone.  Jesus always believed in friendship, he always believed in people shoulder to shoulder,  going forward into the destiny that God has for them.  Find those friends that you can journey with.  Find those friends that you can trust and that love you.  Then invest in them.   Carve out time for them.  Make them a priority. 

Lastly,  this is what I want you to remember most of all.  Close your eyes tightly and grasp onto this truth with the deepest part of your heart.  It won't be winter forever.  After the harsh winter is the breath of spring.   One day you will feel the warmth of the sun dancing overhead and  smell the sweetness of the flowers around you.  One day you will feel the grass growing beneath your toes and hear the birds singing their love songs in the graceful trees nearby.

One day...