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Growing Up With Bobby and Bebe: A Series

Agree to Disagree

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When my parents moved to Colorado 6 years ago, they drove in from Phoenix and walked in my front door into the kitchen where I was standing at the sink. I heard in my heart (when God tells me something, it’s something smarter than I could have thought of…), “They are here for the rest of their lives and your job is simply to love them, not try to change them.”

I think I literally glanced up at the ceiling trying to get eye contact with God, as well as position my ear better to hear the response to my rebuttal, “Even my Dad?!”   [Read more…]

I Choose Life

1978

Me and Bobby circa 1978-ish

Oh my, God! I just did one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I took a baton that felt prematurely passed, and I’m going forward with it, because retreating isn’t an option. Stopping and raising my fist to the sky and screaming, “WHY?!” won’t alter time or the impending outcome, it won’t make this pain disappear or life suddenly make sense.

So I’ll embrace the pain, kind of walk through the side ache, so to speak…and I will press on.

This morning I soaked my Dad’s t-shirt for the last time with tears mixed with deep grief and appreciation that he has been my Dad on this earth. [Read more…]

Hospice: An Interview, Part 3

Thoughts on marriage and cancer…

As we’ve emailed back and forth, Mandy and Jay and I have talked about how “cancer” is definitely something woven throughout their love story and how it’s affected choices they have made as it relates to their marriage, friendship, and commitment to one another. Today’s interview is a glimpse into the part where “in sickness and in health” has been put to the test. How do marriages survive hardship, disappointment and tragedy? Can they make it through?! The wisdom and insight Mandy and Jay share is priceless advice whether a terminal illness is part of the recipe or not! We’d all be the wiser for putting into practice some of the examples of unconditional love these guys display. [Read more…]

Hospice: An Interview, Part 2

On Tuesday, my sweet doctor made the call we didn’t want to make – she called hospice. Within a few hours of returning home, hospice was calling us. We scheduled the admission for Thursday. My case nurse and an administrator arrived at our home with sweet smiles and soft spirits. At the kitchen tablewhere all important discussions are required to take place – we talked about the ins and outs of all things hospice.” – Mandy Smith, from her blog post on August 19th, 2016

This is what true love looks like on some days.

This is what true love looks like on some days.

Merriam-Webster defines hospice as:

  • : a place that provides care for people who are dying

  • : a place where travelers can stay; especially : an inn kept by people in a religious organization

  • :  a facility or program designed to provide a caring environment for meeting the physical and emotional needs of the terminally ill

The word “travelers” is truly sacred here as I am reminded we are on a journey, and Earth is one of the stops on the itinerary. Personally, my experience with hospice caregivers is, if they aren’t angels among us, they are indeed miracle workers who somehow breathe life and nurture love into end of life situations. The depth of emotional care hospice caregivers provide is so profound, it’s not just for the patient but for all who are affected by the death of their loved one, too. I wonder why health care in America doesn’t first start out with them (maybe under an alias title without the premise of nearing death), solely for the miraculous nurturing they offer rather than all the scary tests and what if’s most people face in routine medicine? [Read more…]

Hospice: An Interview, Part 1

My dream job, like if I could do ANYTHING on this earth, is to hear the story of every person I come in contact with…no one is a stranger to me and everyone matters. It would be kind of like Brandon Stanton, founder of HONY, except I’d just be myself, obviously, and it would be humans of wherever (HOW?), asking questions and listening, even when, and maybe especially when, it’s hard. We would exchange stories, and in doing so, further make known God’s love, first because of what Jesus did for mankind, second because we defied the darkness and went ahead and shared our stories, all the messes included.

I always say if a smarter thought pops into your head than you could think of, that was God talking. Well, over the last few years that’s been the case with a friend from high school and his wife. I will be driving along and their names or faces will come to mind, so I pray. Some of those times I’ve reached out to his wife to just let her know she was on my heart. So, when I found myself driving around our new city of Nashville recently, coming up with full interview questions for them, I first thought, “Well, maybe Jay and Mandy don’t really want to talk about their journey, or her cancer diagnosis, or the fact that hospice is just around the bend…” Then I remembered my dad’s words, “It never hurts to ask,” and so I reached out to them… [Read more…]

Practicing His Presence: The Effects of the Wind

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Woolly sheep resting in a pasture under a bent pine atop Auckland, NZ. (photo: #loneviajera)

Right now all I can hear is a wind from the north raging and whistling the sweet tiny lake cabin where we are presently staying. I’m kind of surprised my youngest hasn’t run down and jumped into bed with me yet from the ruckus…a sign he really is exhausted playing as hard as a 5 year old does. The elements have a way of carving, forming, shaping, anything that’s in its path. I’ve stood cliff side at the ocean’s edge, dared the railing at the Grand Canyon, sat above the tree line atop the Andes as the sun beat down and the winds and height made it clear no life could live at the peak too long. And we wonder, wonder why all the suffering, why all the pain and erosion? We raise our fists to the sky, maybe to the God some don’t even believe in, but whose fault it surely is for all the agony, and no answers come, at least not ones some may care to hear. It’s amazing houses withstand northeasters, but more miraculous is the beating a tree may take day after day after day. And it’s a variety of trees, too, not just those rooted down deeply. On the shores of warm beaches spanning the globe, shallow rooted palms sustain gale force winds regularly. And some days they don’t. Some storms are weathered by all sorts of trees with all sorts of root systems on any given day. And then, one day, whether it was a storm or just the specific day and time established, it was the one, the one where the uprooting determined the final number of rings to be counted. Therefore I don’t wonder. Well, I do if we think of the word wonder in a way that conjures up awe and continued pursuit and a life of curiosity, but not “wonder” in a despairing way, because we are all only here as long as we are here. Only alive hearts feel the stretch, ache, and deep pain of being bent low in the path of the screaming wind. But the elasticity with which we are made, the brilliance and endurance with which we were created, resurrects us to our original design, rising tall, again, on our firm foundation.

(*This morning I only had 10 minutes to write, so often I just don’t because it doesn’t seem like enough time to finish a thought. But I followed the cheering and advice of my writer friends and put my butt in the chair (I stayed in bed and pulled the laptop in…) and sat with my eyes closed and my fingers on the keyboard, and this is what came of it. There are links to other posts I’ve written like this if you follow the tag: Practicing His Presence.)

NOT Another Political Rant

(*This post is an unabridged version of a comment I left on someone’s repost of some guy on Facebook, a selfie of a 50-year old male caucasian US citizen of Slovak decent with a nice SUV in the background in front of a Walmart, ranting about what he assumes is an illegal alien or recent Mexican immigrant using an EBT card, driving said SUV, and he’s been working 7-day weeks his whole life and is in debt and why doesn’t he get an EBT card?)

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Imagine the ripple effects of our words, loving or hateful…either one, there are ripple effects. What kind will you set into motion?

 I was just pondering this the other day how we compare what we see on the outside when we don’t have a clue of what’s on the inside, the deeper story of EVERYONE AND ANYONE. I was thinking about how some people say they’re successful financially because they work hard, however, my husband works just as hard at his job in the non-profit world as the immigrant farmer in southern California who is farming the organic veggies for the hipster artists in popular cities who work the same amount of hours but their work looks differently from the person who’s working just as diligently in a high pressure factory job or a white collar profession, the same amount of hours, different amounts of dollars. The truth is if the guy whose 50 year struggle still has him in heap of debt is complaining about immigrants being better off than he is, I wonder if it’s more a question of the way he stewards his money (and maybe his attitude?) and whether he lives within his means (see Dave Ramsey). Because some people around the world live on a fraction of what the average US citizen (or other first world citizen) makes in a year and are not indebted to “the man.” As are some US citizens living on way less than the next door neighbor, working just as many hours, but they live within their means.  [Read more…]

My Mid-Life Crisis, Part 1 of Many

I’ve been wrestling a little lately, though it’s not unfamiliar. To say it was foreign would be false, because drifting, floating, uprootedness, wandering and wondering, going from place to place, and being curious about this and that isn’t new to me. I’ve moved 30 times in my 43 years and 11 months and 3 weeks. That’s included different cities, states, suburbs, churches, states, and dorms, apartments, and houses.

The last year since we sold our house and most of our stuff hasn’t been all I thought it would be, but also has been, on some levels. My dreams was to get rid of it all…I’m an extremist that way. I wanted the four of us to load up one carry-on each and walk out the front door of our previous lives, out into whatever and wherever God was leading. Jesus told the rich young man it would be difficult…I guess He was right...since my dad’s basement is filled with our boxes and some chairs and beds. Looking back, I wanted to run away from the reality of my mom’s absence…

The steps have only come one at a time. This is fine for my free-flow spirit, but it’s dark and discouraging and heavy for my HSP-ness, for my eyes that want to look ahead and plan for the future, to have a thumb on my “passion and pursuit” without all the unknowns. In a split second I can go from being grateful and content for where God has us, to being frustrated and distraught with zero answers to why are we “here” and “where” is next and, mostly, what the heck is my purpose, like, why did God make me?

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(A great chart and article about “Highly Sensitive People”-click here for link for a great quiz and insight into, likely, someone in your life.)

Problem is: I realize I am often waiting for my circumstance to dictate my action or obedience, when that was the point of most of the stuff Jesus said in the first place, simply, “Follow Me.”

Most days I’m selfish.

I haven’t been obedient.

I could blame not knowing HOW to do something I feel passionately about with not doing anything at all.

But I don’t want to make excuses anymore.

I’m just simply sorry.

I could write a list and check off a long page worth of excuses that carry truth in my own eyes, but the Truth is, I’ve been designed by God for this day and age, regardless of circumstance, in spite of influences and obstacles, and all He designed me to “do” is BE the woman He made me to BE, right here, wherever “here” is, right now, accountable to the one in the mirror and actively loving to the ones I encounter every day…living the Kingdom, sharing the Good News.

We just got back from a 2-week trip to Australia. The jet-lag bites and the postpartum from daylight and sunshine and warmth and sand and salty air and great food, coupled with hormones, has had me in tears off and on for a couple of weeks. Did I mention we came home to a snow storm?

Anyway, when I got back I had some messages to catch up on, a few of which included encouragement from friends to watch a 1/2 hour video clip from Elizabeth Gilbert titled, “Flight of the Hummingbird.” I sat in my office in Caribou bawling, tears streaming, muttering, “Holy cow! This. Is. Me…all of it…thank you, thank you, thank YOU, Lord…bless this woman for her faithfulness in speaking truth in the face of fear, for living without shackles, outside the box…bless Liz for throwing me this life-line, without all the cliches…bless her for doing what I know I’ve been designed to do…” I’m including the video at the bottom for you to come back to when you have a bit of time. It’s not something you’ll want to miss. Share it with friends, male and female, dad’s of daughters, brothers of sisters, too, who come to mind when you listen. Besides the fact that every word spoke to my heart; the Facebook letter from the Australian woman, Liz’s husband’s life of uprootedness, and the whole idea of a hummingbird, the specificity for me was mind-blowing.

Well, one of the squares on my check list of half-assedness living has been momless-ness. I miss my mom. I want my mom. I really could use MY mom in my life. I want to hear her wisdom spoken fresh again. I want to have her in my corner, praying over me. I want to hold her hand and watch her facial expressions, to hear her voice and prophetic heart. A great chasm has been left in me since her departure and there have been days of flailing, still.

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So when Liz referenced a hummingbird, I kind of freaked…my mom’s favorite bird in the world was a hummingbird (a close second being the sweet Gambel’s desert quail of the Southwest)…wherever we lived, she always had the feeder filled for the curious little beauties…and as long as she had food for them, they returned faithfully.

So, Lord, open my eyes to see…
I’ve been self-absorbed, worried about opinions,
wondering if I’m qualified…
questioning Your creativity,
asking, “How can I leave a legacy or step out boldly when I’m not rooted, not planted, not grown-up enough?”
I’ve looked into the mirror, but mostly at my thighs…
measuring my worth in a toxic, twisted way, rather than
greeting myself in the eyes, face to face, in the mirror, Your daughter, Beloved. Holy. Sacred.
I’ve been busy, so “busy,” I’ve allowed the concrete to set up,
and the fears begin to creep in,
and the lies, to bear rotten fruit.
It’s painful.
You don’t need my permission,
though my admission may be part of the unlocking, unleashing,
cage-opening, branch-trimming…
trim my branches, Father…
graft me into Your Tree of Life.
Open my cage, Lord…
free me from the lies I’ve believed, the un-truths I’ve told myself.
Lord, You put that man to sleep after a time in order to hand-craft woman…
that must mean You had something special in mind for Your daughters, as well…
all of us, me, and her, and every other girl, also made in Your likeness.
Illuminate the path, Lord, as You see fit, what You know is best, and and I will walk in it,
everlasting…here I am…I’m stepping out into the unknown…the place where I’m free to be me…a butterfly, a curious soul, like a hummingbird, led by Your Spirit, for Your glory, discovering Your beautiful creativity in the day to day.

Come.

 

hummingbird photo courtesy: pixabay user/omissivart

When Life Throws Us Curve Balls

1978

1978 was a good year…my Dad, watching over me as I take a swing. (How awesome is that International Scout in the background?!)

Sometimes being brave means taking a swing at it, even with our eyes closed. We may or may not hit a home run, or even hit the ball, but either way we can look back and know we tried, know we rose above our fears, know we gave it our all.

And then what happens the next time life throws a curve ball? Well, this time we pay attention a bit having learned a few things from the last time, we open our eyes, ground our feet, and realize, “Hey…it’s still a curve ball, life has thrown many of these, but we are still here, stronger than before…and look at that…our Father always has our back, is watching over us, and sees this WHOLE THING from a different perspective.”

I love this picture of me and my dad, taken by my mom when I was a kid in Ohio in 1978. It’s a visual reminder of something that can never be taken away from me: faith. The scariest and most tragic things, or incredibly unbelievable beautiful things, can be behind us, ahead of us, or coming at us from every direction, but faith is a deep down peace that has no explanation and it isn’t contingent upon circumstance…it’s a trust that defies surroundings, and a hope for what is grace and what is truth and what is good. All the dangers, threats, fears, and terrifying things in this world can never, ever remove our faith. Faith simply remains.

And when faith is coupled with love, there is no measurement to its impact.  

Every day has potential curve balls. Will we live in fear of the “what if’s?” of the unknown, or will we live by faith, like superhuman, superpower, cape-wearing, faith, in a God who sees the bigger picture?

This Thanksgiving I want to say “Thank you” to EVERYBODY! This is a really hard, beautiful life, and allowing everyone else glimpses of your stories inspires bravery. I’m blown away by the stories I encounter everyday! Your bravery makes me want to be more brave. Our stories matter, every single one of them. Not stories of perfection, but stories meant to be lived, and in order for that to happen, we must show up, each day, breathe deep, and press on. I’m so messy, I don’t do this well most days…heck, you saw the picture…I swing with my eyes closed…so I’m writing this to myself, too. Some days will be excruciating, others exhilarating, most days somewhere in between…but every day we are still here on this earth I suppose means it’s a day meant to be lived and shared with one another. Thank YOU for living out your bravery on any given day…every time you choose to live by faith, you shine more and more of God’s light into this dark world, exposing the Enemy’s lies for what they are…and that’s the biggest brave there is!

“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

 

I Used To Think _________, But Now I Think __________.

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*The lovely, wise, tea-sipping truth-teller, Sarah Bessey, has just released her latest book, Out of Sorts: Making Peace With An Evolving Faith. You can head to her website and read posts from bloggers linking up  to share their stories of, well, feeling out of sorts, too, and how they used to think one thing, but now maybe think differently. Here’s a little of my own sorting out…


So, what does “out of sorts” mean to me? Well, first, according to Merriam-Webster, it means, “somewhat ill; grouchy or irritable.” It’s fair to call me an optimist, someone who tries to see the good in people and situations, a peacemaker at heart. So, grouchy and irritable are words I try to avoid, but instead, these sentiments I’ve embraced like old friends for several years now…even the somewhat ill…and who likes feeling sick?

Early in my journey of faith I attempted to define myself, the parameters in which I believed and practiced and trusted God, even who I did, or did not, most closely associate with. I felt it was important, or more accurately, mandatory and essential, that I clearly defined these things and made them crystal to others, mostly as a way to assure myself I was following the right Jesus. (Who on earth did I think I was?!)

I remember one day in high school, shortly after a church shift from my childhood organized Catholic roots to a “more free, non-denominational, charismatic church”, when a Conservative Southern Baptist who said she was a born-again Christian asked me if I was, too:

“Nah, girl…I’m not only that…I’m a born-again, Spirit-filled, tongue-talking, holy-rolling, demon-bashing Christian…”

BAM.

And she was all, “There’s no such thing as tongues…those gifts of the Holy Spirit only happened at Pentecost and died out with the Apostles.”

And I was all, “Oh yeah? Nuh-uh…bottahyndaishouldabottageo!” Because, not only was I super mature and in need to feel officially not “religious and organized” anymore, but I wanted to put her not Spirit-filled-ness into a category other than my officially, official “Christianity”, you know, the one with the ACTUAL corner on the market on Jesus. OH, you better believe I pulled the tape out of my secular music, didn’t serve alcohol at our wedding, and got involved in any and every form of Christian leadership in order to delineate just how committed I was to following God. Church was every Sunday morning, Sunday evening for the seriously devout, and Wednesday nights for youth. (*Disturbingly, this is where it could have all led…)

Thing is…I was, and am, in love with Jesus and knew He was in love with me. He told me as much, my spirit was alive. That part was sacred and tangible and drew me in like nothing I’d ever known. I knew this love and calling and acceptance to be much bigger than me, and that’s what has kept me in it this long…in spite of my faith shifts, in spite of all the American Evangelical white noise…His Spirit remains in me.

In total honesty, I thought I had to be right. I wanted to be right. I needed assurance of some sort of definitive in order to give my whole life to something. I didn’t want to believe some of the people I trusted on this earth who had told me certain things and taught me certain ways, could possibly have anything other than my best interest in mind.

Isn’t that how it is with anything? We want to know and believe we made the right choice with our time, hearts, energy, even how we spend money. No one wants to believe they bought a lemon in good conscience, just like I didn’t want to believe that years of spiritual training and discipleship could be anything but worthy of my soul investment. I wouldn’t knowingly consume garbage! I used to think if a person held a Bible, stood at a pulpit, and said the Lord had told them something, then, indeed, the good Lord had…now I think God gave me a mind and the discernment of the Holy Spirit to think critically and experience God personally, discerning light from darkness.

Experience God

 …

I’m thankful for the day in chapel my freshman year of college when a popular, famous healing preacher came to town. So many things were going on around me, people having encounters with God, and some of it seemed chaotic and forced. I closed my eyes and reached out to heaven,

“Father, I’ve seen a lot and You alone know how messed up and perverted my church background is…I don’t want to throw away the baby with the bath water…LORD, I WANT YOU. Lord, I want to take away from this day and my time here at college all that You have designed for me…and I want to forget and forgive the rest…I don’t want to get crusty over the names of “famous” Christians, I just want to know You powerfully and intimately…fill me with Your Spirit so I may follow You…”

This pivotal conversation became a catalyst for me, a new filter through which I’ve been looking at God, myself, and others, over the last 25+ years. I mess up. I’ve gotten it wrong. There are days when I’ve been irritable and grouchy and sick to my stomach by, one, feeling like the Church is totally blowing it, and two, being labeled and lumped into certain “sects” of Christianity. I used to believe I was different and special…now I believe I need more work on my heart than the next guy.

For 15 years now I’ve been reading one chapter of the Bible pretty consistently. I named my radio show after it, started a women’s ministry in the same name, helped fundraise for wells in foreign countries, and have spoken quite a bit on the topic of God’s Spirit and Living Water. It’s about a woman at a well who meets Jesus. A lot of people have read it or heard of it. The most beautiful part: she becomes her true self, her child-of-God self, upon this encounter with the living God.

BUT, before the story begins, before she even comes on the scene in verse 7, there’s a story and context that leads up to the encounter at the well:

Jesus realized that the Pharisees were keeping count of the baptisms that he and John performed (although his disciples, not Jesus, did the actual baptizing). They had posted the score that Jesus was ahead, turning him and John into rivals in the eyes of the people. So Jesus left the Judean countryside and went back to Galilee. To get there he had to pass through Samaria…”

(*color and emphasis, mine…)

I used to think this chapter was only about a woman at a well and her induction into real living…now I know it’s also about graciously walking away from what seemingly divides us, right into the middle of what seemingly divides us, and embracing that, because of Christ, we’re all on the same team, even if we are a little all out of sorts.