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The Great Boxing Ring

Two years ago in October, my mom and a couple of my friends and I gathered around a friend who asked us to pray for her. She was weary. Her marriage was tumultuous, to put it lightly, and her head and heart could hardly take it anymore.

We all knelt around her and quietly waited on the Lord before we started praying. One by one we offered love, hope, and encouragement in prayer. As my eyes were closed, I saw a vivid picture in my head…it was a great boxing ring, and my friend and her husband were pitted against one another…fists raised in protection and ready for attack.

 

I waited and prayed quietly for a moment, opened my eyes and closed them again.

There in the other corner, opposite my friend, was the Devil and her husband, and God was in my friend’s corner, behind her, rubbing her shoulders, squirting her mouth, drying her sweat. Suddenly, the opposite corner was being filled with more and more people, one by one, groups, individuals…it just kept getting more and more crowded.

And as the bell rang for the fight to resume, the look on the Devil’s face grew pridefully sinister…he was quite pleased with himself.

As we wrapped up, I told my friend what I had seen while we were praying and encouraged her how the Enemy of our hearts would have her believe she and her husband were pitted against each other, because of course, that’s how it appeared and felt and was expressing itself in reality. I brought up the point of how our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual principalities in a totally different realm, and that she could unfortunately never change her husband other than to leave the marriage, but that it’s not him who is the enemy but the Enemy of our souls.

Fast forward to one night in April, 2014, when I spent the night with my mom while she was in the ICU. We had a pretty amazing evening together, sharing hearts, reading scriptures to each other, talking about revelations the Holy Spirit had given us about this, that, and the other thing. I tucked my mom into bed, saying what she said to me every night of my life growing up and what I say to my kids every night, as well:

“Goodnight! God bless you! I love you!”

…and then I cozied up in the chair at the foot of her bed and fell asleep right away.

Suddenly I woke up and there were two people standing over me, the only light from the nurses station in the hallway. I had to get my bearings the way you do when you fall asleep, but can’t remember where you are. Some friends had gotten off work late and stopped by to bring my mom flowers. We talked in hushed whispers, then headed over to the side of my mom’s bed. She roused and wanted to pray for her friends, and pray she did…prophetically, with God’s assurance. Tears shed, hands squeezed, cheeks kissed, we said goodnight and they headed out the door. It had only been about 1/2 an hour in all since I had fallen asleep to when our friends came for a visit, but during that time, God showed me the rest of the dream from the previous October.

I told my mom how everyone in the world was in the opposite corner of that boxing ring, all ages, every demographic and ethnicity, people of every tribe and tongue…the opposite corner of the boxing ring just kept getting more and more crowded, to the point of crowding out the real opponent, the only opponent, the very place where the Devil was positioned…

…and as the bell rang for the fight to resume, the look on the Devil’s face, now nearly lost in the crowd, grew pridefully sinister…he was quite pleased with himself…his deception from the Garden had woo’ed the masses to believe that our battle is with anyone and anything other than him, other than the spiritual forces in this world.

“And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.” – Ephesians 6:10-12

 

To me it was significant that the rest of the dream came when I was with my mom near the end of her life. And, as I think of it now, funny how it happened in a hospital. When Noah was in the hospital I had a lot of quiet, late nights to sit and read scripture, pray uninterrupted, and silently listen to God’s heart…then life gets busy for the listening, I guess.

My mom and I talked about it extensively and then spent some time praying.

See, the Enemy of our hearts, in the Garden, woo’ed us into thinking that judging between ourselves was a good idea…he woo’ed us into believing that God’s GOOD for us wasn’t sufficient, it wasn’t the whole picture, that possessing the knowledge of Good and Evil was something that would benefit us, that we wouldn’t surely die if we possessed it…but God knew better…He didn’t say we couldn’t eat it, He said not to eat it because if we did, we would surely die…

we would die a death of paranoia, fear, sizing everyone else up, comparison, competition, living on the defense rather than cohesively, ready to throw a punch rather than offer a loving hand.

It’s the Enemy of our hearts, the one set to steal, kill, and destroy, who would trick us into believing that anyone else is in his corner…because we all know misery loves company.

The finale of the dream was quite profound…when the lights came on and the bell was rung, it was Satan in one corner, all alone, and opposite him was God and the rest of mankind, His beloved creation, those made in His image, the ones He said, “It’s good,” about…us, all of us gathered together, living abundantly, not fettered by fear, but loving each other through the telling of an extravagant Love Story.

 

* My prayer is this: Father, You told us to love our enemies, and to pray for them…but it’s confusing who is our enemy and who is our friend…Lord, be gracious with us as we simply love and pray for everyone in our paths…we trust You who sees the bigger picture…Amen.

Taken for Granted: A Series on Grief

Never in a million years did I imagine that this season of “The Graveswolds”, aka, life without a home, traveling some with Jason’s job, and basing out of my Dad’s house or my Mother-in-law’s house, was about me, so much. Sure, some of it…like the part where I’d be freed up of some grown-up responsibilities like mortgage payments and tons of cleaning, but I’ll admit that in my “Hey, I’m in my 40’s, strong as an ox, learned a lot about life already-ness” it didn’t occur to me God had something for MY heart. I thought I had oh-so-much-to-offer others, like, taking care of widows and orphans, and whatnot.

Last weekend God showed me one of the orphans, and, you can take it or leave it, but one of those “orphans” was…me.

Gasp.

Wait. What?

Um, Lord, this all hurts deeply. I’m kind of a mess…and by “kind of” I mean…There is no such thing as a secret, therefore You know every thought, ache, pain, cry, every ounce of longing on any given day that drains my day-to-day life energy from living fully now…because I wasn’t ready and so I’m stuck. You two may have been ready, elated even at her arrival, but I wasn’t ready to live one single day on this earth without my mom in it.

And, so, last weekend, I sat at a table where four women gathered to break bread and drink wine, and deep into the heart of our conversation, each of us living here and now on earth without one or both parents, one looks into my soul and says to me, my face hot and tears uncontrollably streaming by then, “Did it ever occur to you that what you thought was a season of being available to help your widowed parents (houselessness and living in South Dakota) might be about healing to your grieving heart?”

Wait. What?

The ever-so-quickly approaching Mother’s Day has me pausing to take in long, hard breaths every day, every so often, more often than not. I’ve done “firsts”…had 8 1/2 years of them already, having lost Noah. People email me, call, text, take me to lunch and coffee and ask me questions about grieving and death quite often. I’m kind of seasoned in death-stuff, not afraid of it, clearly realistic in the whole part about none of us being able to avoid it…

…but apparently Mom’s die. And I wasn’t ready for one of those moms to be mine.

She was my spiritual compass. We spoke often, for sure daily, many days a few times here and there, just checking in with one another, sharing little things and big things, spiritual insights, life dreams and frustrations, prayer requests, asking questions, learning from one another…her sharing years of wisdom, discernment, and life experience, me helping her embrace what was, and was not, important to get up to speed on in this generation. We spoke candidly about her journey, yet we never spoke about dying…

News. Flash.

And so here I am, one week away from my first Mother’s Day without my Mom to call or make a beautiful meal for. I can hear my heart beating in my chest as I type, and each beat is marked with an aching of the tremendous and profound loss I feel. And I’m not the first woman on this earth to ever lose a mother, and I wasn’t the last.

It’s one month shy of one year and I haven’t even scratched the surface of my grief. In fact, I haven’t really even gone there. I pulled up my big girl panties, because crying doesn’t bring her back, and kept on truckin’ on, “to make her proud”…except for the part where my soul is crying out to bask in healing, my memories need space and time to come and go as they may, and the part where losing a son is different from losing a mother…not one better, easier, harder, quicker…different, and equally necessitating TIME to heal and TIME to breathe and TIME to wrestle and reflect and dig in and release and whatever else.

A few practical things I’m taking up on this grief journey to healing is I took Facebook off my phone. It’s still on my computer and a way I love to see what’s going on in other people’s lives, but it’s a distraction on my phone, and really, not a necessity on this journey. This blog has always been a sanctuary of healing for my heart, even when arrows fly from readers, as writing is an outlet for my soul. I will be here more often, sharing bits of the grief, because we talk about all sorts of other losses, but the loss of a parent is so accepted in society, so when one grieves longer or more deeply or in an ugly, painful way that others deem too lengthy or inappropriate, well, they move on. My Mom was a Baby Boomer. There are millions of women (and men) like me (and my sisters) who, if they have not yet, will be losing their parents in the next couple decades. Death is expected, but the pain which accompanies it is something we need to talk about with one another. I hope my processing can help your processing one day…

Another thing, I’m reading “Nobody’s Child: How Older Women Say Good-bye to Their Mothers” by Diane Sher Lutovich, “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom, “Final Gifts” by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley, another one about pain and suffering, and doing a soul-care Bible study by Ortberg and Willard.

I’m also going to shell out some serious money to meet with a counselor who is supposed to work miracles…because some things in life are worth the investment, like hearts and souls…

Physically, I breathe. I’ve been spending time doing Yoga breathing. I breathe strategically when I swing kettlebells and do pull-ups at the gym. I breathe and use my legs to lift heavy landscaping rocks when the grief necessitates manual labor. I breathe when I sit lakeside in my Mother-in-love’s hammock, listening to the rhythmic waves lap up on the shore, pairs of ducks drifting by, listening to the effects of the wind through the pines.

There's nothing like nuggling lakeside in the hammock with my Little Lover...nothing.

There’s nothing like nuggling lakeside in the hammock with my Little Lover…nothing.

I breathe in and wonder what Heaven must be like. Then I exhale knowing it’s not yet my turn. I inhale God’s Spirit of healing and then exhale the burdens I so daftly thought were mine to bear and inhale the truth that His yoke is easy and His burden is light…His power is made known in my weakness…and I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

I wear her ring on my right hand, one she got in the early ’70’s, sterling with red coral…a Thunderbird made by Arizona local Navajo. An Arizona kid, a Phoenix or a Thunderbird, I think of the two interchangeably as I look at it each day, regardless, they both carry mythological symbolism of strength and life and renewal…one just has to rise out of the ashes in order to draw its strength.

So many memories include this ring on my Mom's hand.

So many memories include this ring on my Mom’s hand. It was made by Navajo artisans.

I’m working on that…

Either way, I know my strength and healing are found in the work Christ did for me at the Cross. It’s there I need to sit and face this loss, because trying to run from it has only caught up with me.

I wasn’t ready to lose her…which is why I wasn’t ready to grieve, either.

So, I step out, one foot in front of the other…and one day I will rise.

Still Practicing His Presence: Advent

When my Mom died this past June, to say my world was rocked would be an understatement. I was flailing. My Mom and I used to talk on the phone AT LEAST once a day, if not more, and this just 6 miles apart across town. Sometimes my Mom made me crazy. I didn’t always understand her wisdom, discernment, and prophetic insight. I still don’t entirely, even looking back. My Mom had a very close knowing of her Lord, the way two best, heart-to-heart friends would sit…that’s how it was with my Mom and God. Why? She was liked and loved by everyone who knew her, so it would be safe to say God loved her, too, but that’s safe to say about all of us, so I’m not certain it’s a favorites thing.

I think they were close because she drew near to Him.

She knew better than to trust that just by simply reading the Bible, she’d “get to know Him,” though she read it over 30 times in her life. People read books about other people every single day…it doesn’t make them BFF’s.

No…she sat still. She listened, because He speaks. And I observed her doing this day after day and year after year. She also candidly let Him into the deepest parts of her heart and let loose all the good, bad, and ugly, willing to accept His ability to see and know all things. She never bought into the cushy American gospel with its frills and whistles, abundance and sought out manifestations. Even if surrounded by it. Even when it was preached from the pulpit. Even when she and my Dad were kicked out of their “church” because they wouldn’t financially invest in a Ponzi scheme...in the name of Jesus.

Nope. My Mom drew near to Him. She called Him and asked Him if He wanted to hang out…just as friends do…and, not a big surprise, there was always room for her.

She didn’t allow ever-changing circumstances to change the God of the Universe. The ebbs and flows of trends and mood swings and popular famous Christians throughout our American Christian journey did not sway my Mom into believing the God who made her and loved her was as fickle.

My sister gave me a FaceTime tour of our parent’s house the other day, how beautifully she had decorated it for Christmas. I cried as she narrowed in on some of my favorite ornaments from childhood, red velveteen birds with nests full of clustered eggs, clipped among the branches. The whole tree reminded me of my Mom…not really what a Christmas tree is supposed to conjure up if you think about “The Reason for the Season.” But I’m grateful it makes me think of my Mom because above all else and anyone else, she was in love with Jesus, her dearest, heart-to-heart friend…and it brings it all back around for me.

This ornament was sent from my Grandma to my Grandpa while they were young teenagers in love...it is from the 1920's.

This ornament was sent from my Grandma to my Grandpa while they were young teenagers in love…it is from the 1920’s.

You see, 8 years ago we spent Thanksgiving and Christmas at Children’s Hospital of Denver with our son, Noah, and with family and friends who gathered…and I still look back on that year and think of those two holidays, plus my birthday, as among my favorites. It was when my heart died to the First World dream of a Christmas tree filled with toys made in China under more toys made in China, and it came alive to what ANYTHING, not just Christmas, but LIFE really means!

We can try as we will to draw parallels between the original Christmas story and our very abundant First World Christian lives, but I’m long over that. It’s not about trees or Santa or a church Christmas play or gifts or lights or choirs or gingerbread or candles or parades or wreathes or any other beautiful holiday season token…none of these bad in and of themselves.

Specifically, in my heart, anyway, these days of Advent leading up to the celebrated birth of Jesus long ago are about the question: Is there room? Is there room at the Inn? Is there room for God’s unconditional love in my life? Is there room at our tables and margin in our calendars? Is there space for others to feel welcomed and loved? Is there room for one more, or two, or three? Is there room for generosity and warmth and sharing and grace? Is there room on my shoulder? Is there room in my heart?

This Advent season, and every day, is there room…?

 

Bedside with Bebe, Literally

(*I started writing this the morning of June 19th)

It’s all surreal, carpet burns on my knees as I position myself to be helpful to my Mom, rubbing her back while playing worship songs in her ears, reading Scripture over her, telling her how very grateful I am that she would call me her own, wishing I could have her here longer, whole and healed, and wishing I could hurry her to the other side, knowing it’s not my timing call but His and the two of them will work through this labor of love through death on their own…I’ve tried to be a helpful daughter, all three of us have been in our own ways.

Vigils look many different ways. Death is something we all will experience personally, but it’s not something any of us should go at alone.

If it is essential to live in community then we should also die in community. No one should die lonely.

Yes, each one of us has personal, deep down ways of expressing grief, sadness, disappointment, heartache, and many of them are so raw, we protect them as if they are unique, solely our own. Yet anytime I talk about death on my blog or in person, people reach out to me and thank me for sharing so openly, question how I can be so strong, and are grateful I shared, because it resonates…because we will all walk through this with someone we love and preparation is important. We are grieving what we see but when we trust in an unseen God, the grief is different, hopeful rather.

This is a hand I've held for 42 years...

“Chosen & Dearly Loved”, this is a hand I’ve held for 42 years…

It’s a shared experience, though parts of it so very private. I don’t share EVERYTHING, but I’ve been so very close to death, watched the process, touched the cold it leaves behind, and felt my heart gulp for breath and hope, knowing the part about being physically in God’s presence is more real to me as the days go by than this stretchy, burned skin on my knees.

It would be awesome to be in amazing health and then one day get my glass of water, head to my room, brush my teeth and wash my face, read a bit, pull the light chain, settle into my pillow and somewhere between a dream and the dawn, meet my Savior face to face…but that doesn’t always happen and with the loved ones I’ve sat by as they have neared the Throne, it hasn’t looked like this at all, except my sweet boy…his was quiet and tender and quick, yet not if you include a lifetime in a hospital.

We have to talk about death and debunk the fear of it. We must talk about it, not because we’ll understand it, but because it’s a shared human experience and so it levels the field for all of us. It also demands our attention. Not to live life in fear of death but to live a life with purpose and passion, wherever we are, in whatever circles of life we’ve been called to, being found “doing” what He told us to do.

“Life is short” isn’t a cliché, it’s actually true in the measurement of time and the vastness of the Universe.

Who we are and what we do with these brief lives matters. We all have stories and God desires us to live them out faithfully each and every day, in the day to day.

As we have thanked our Mom for giving of her life to our Dad and to us over the years, she has said, “It was easy for me, it’s how I was made. I enjoyed being your Mom…raising you girls has been a joy for me,” and it leads me to believe she is onto something…

I’ll leave you with this video with Bebe’s final commission to us, as it sums up everything…everything!

Bebe’s final commission

Why Wait?

“I’ll run a marathon when I lose 50 lbs.”

“We’ll travel when the kids are out of the house.”

“I’ll go back to school once my kids are through school.”

“When I’m feeling better I’ll do such and such…”

“When I have more money I’ll be able to do (whatever ‘it’ is…)”

You and I could sit for hours and write out lists of passions we have not only deep in our hearts but likely kept just at bay or beneath the surface, all things which are powerful, necessary, even how we are wired, yet things we have told ourselves there is “time” to “one day” accomplish such things.

Why wait?

Unless God Almighty has specifically asked us to “wait” on the timing of something, if the waiting is for “so many reasons” or because we are afraid, then the waiting is self-inflicted, and not “holy” at all.

And I’m not sure what I’ve been waiting for. Oh, wait, yes I do. I’ve tied into the lies that I need anyone’s permission to do or say or act on anything the Lord puts on my heart. And this “waiting” has been disobedience.

I’ve waited for bloggers to “network” to believe  I had worth as a blogger. I’ve waited for groups to ask me to come speak to believe I have worth as a speaker. I’ve even waited to write a book to believe I have worth as a writer.

And by “worth”, all of the above things imply the granting of worth from others over me. Have you ever done that? Have you ever waited for the permission of another to believe your worth? I have, though I do not do it in all things. Yet, I have done it and there is no time or circumstance like the present to give me the swift KICK I need to step out into deep waters and walk a life of complete faith and trust that it’s only God’s worthiness I seek.

God has been telling me for years…YEARS…to SPEAK. I have boxed in what I’ve believed that to look like and therefore have waited for the permission of “man” to get going…Sure I’ve used this blog at times to share, but I’m talking SPEAK, like sharing everything He has ever put on my heart with whomever is hungry to listen. My Mom’s current tenacity to preach in spite of her circumstances has stirred up in me a desire to be obedient, as well. Obedient to the tug at my heart and the words He has shared loudly in my head.

And not to care what people think about me, but to just live and share and love the best I know how.

So, that’s just what I’ll be doing. And whatever it is The Lord has put upon your heart to do, don’t look around and throw out declarations that you’ll do it once such and such is completed. If He is asking you to do something, He will provide the time and space and way for you to make it happen.

My friend posted this on her Twitter the other day and I’ll leave you with it: “I’m not a product of my circumstances. I’m a product of my decisions.”

What are you waiting for? There really is no time like the present! GO FOR IT! With God on your side, there is nothing you CAN’T do!

*Below are some study notes for some “Bedside with Bebe” sessions she was unable to share verbally. One is about the Holy Spirit, and another the Deep Waters of the Holy Spirit. Our Mom sent them to me last week as attachments and asked me to make them public. They are meaty! I pray they will bless your heart and draw you closer to the Heart of God:

 

Bucket List

This entire post is prefaced with this truth: God is good, He knows the number of our days, death is nothing to be feared when we trust God’s love and word over us, the only ones hurt by death are the ‘leftovers’ aka, us, the Devil really does exist and his whole purpose is to steal, kill and destroy but God, as Jesus, has come to give us life and life to the full, and God is still and always has been a really BIG and LOVING God and He still does miracles, every. single. day.

So, with that in mind, doctors have given our Mom  less than 2 months to live. We are not in denial, but trust God with the number of her days. That being said, time is of the essence in our little world with our one and only Betty Biebel.

 

Bebe & Bobby in Fiji

Bebe & Bobby, in love for over 50 years, here in Fiji/YWAM, renewing vows, 2007

We asked her what her “Bucket List” was (secretly hoping it entailed a trip around the world or something…) and she asked us to make a YouTube channel and video tape her sharing everything God has ever placed on her heart, so we’re doing it. The channel is “Bedside with Bebe” and here is a link to the first video.

There are several things God has put upon her heart to share, but if you have a topic you’d like to hear about, please leave it in the comments section.

As a family we are praying for our Mom’s miraculous healing on this Earth. And we know many of you are, as well. But here is what is even bigger than all of that…our Mom and Dad are so grateful for the prayers being prayed over them, but more so, are in awe of all those who are praying and talking to God in general. You see, what is happening when we seek God on the behalf of another person is we are in communication with God, and at that moment, it’s intimate, between the Creator of the Universe who loves us more than we can fathom, and our very own heart. He sees every part of our hearts and knows our thoughts and desires to be part of our daily lives. But how can we know that or get to know Him unless we build a relationship with Him? And relationships take time, tweaking, sharing, listening, misunderstandings, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

So whether the outcome of the prayers we pray are all we have conjured up in our limited earthbound minds or too great for us to conceive, dialogue and relationship with God are what He designed all along.