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“I Love Her More…”

free photo courtesy: pixabay user/emrahozaras

free photo courtesy: pixabay user/emrahozaras

 

I can’t sleep.

I’m not sure if it’s the hormone expressions of a 46 year old woman, the fact that I had to use the bathroom, a text from a friend in the middle of the night asking for prayer, or the fact that my 7 year old son has been sleeping with me for the last week and periodically throughout the night I get a heel in my side or an elbow to the face. We call him a sleeping octopus.

Either way, I just had one of those “Love You Forever,” moments and so now I have been awake since 3:54am.

Parenting isn’t easy.

[Read more…]

It’s a Beautiful Day

Kissing Noah Goodbye, Audrey Imfeld, NILMDTS photographer.

Kissing Noah Goodbye, Audrey Imfeld, NILMDTS photographer.

Eleven years ago, it was bitter cold in Denver, Colorado. 2 or 3 degrees, if I remember right. The chill is still part of my memory, though most of me felt numb.

Jason went out to the parking garage of Children’s Hospital to pull up the car and let it warm up for a few minutes. I stayed behind on the 4th floor where I bundled up our 7 month old son, Noah, for a short drive across town. He had only gone outside one time during his 5 month stay at the hospital… [Read more…]

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

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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…]

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.

It’s The Smallest Gestures

SD friendly

Did you know that in South Dakota, USA, drivers on rural roads wave to one another? They greet each other on the approach, essentially saying, “Hello! I see you…have a good day!”

The gesture is friendly and reminds me how we are all connected and share a desire to belong. It reminds me how we are part of a bigger family, a big, beautiful, diverse one that’s messy and dysfunctional all at the same time.

I’ve adopted the wave even outside rural settings, kind of like a smile to a stranger on a sidewalk, or a simple “hi!” to a fellow human at the store. I even like to wink, so I hope someone doesn’t take it the wrong way…Anyway, it’s easy for me to be busy and focused, determined to cross off my “to-do” lists in an attempt to feel a sense of accomplishment on any given day. But this one-finger wave, or two on the days I’m coordinated, allows for connection and acknowledgement, on the road to wherever it is we are going. It’s more like, “Hello! I see you…I wish you well…Godspeed.”

Clearly I read a lot into things. My counselor says I am a “highly cognitive thinker”…it’s the empathizer and peacemaker in me, wanting to connect all the dots, making sense of the non-sensical, hoping there is a reason or purpose in the day to day, knowing deep down in my heart how much God is in love with every one of us…when we strip everything down and see each other as souls created in God’s image, kindness to a “stranger” driving by, someone we may never meet, may go farther than we might imagine with a simple flick of the wrist. Love can be spread in a zillion subtle ways.

The locals don’t wait to see if I know the wave or not, they just wave because it’s their practice, their nature…and as I “reply,” as modeled in the picture above, I’ve come to feel a sense of belonging…crazy how in a place that’s so freaking cold, I can feel warm and invited. 

“Christians” Need To Stop Talking

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Stop talking.

Stop talking.

Shhhhh.

Stop.

Zip. Shhhh, shhhh, shhhhhhh.

Please. Stop talking…

Stop boycotting stuff because people believe different things than you.
Stop quitting clubs and making your own clubs.
Stop telling others to boycott things you want to boycott so you won’t be alone in your stand against evil.
Stop using the word “Christian” while making blanket statements and actions for the rest of us.

Let’s read the book of Daniel.

Let’s all just stop talking and start implementing and practicing love…practicing empathy…putting into practice the lifestyle Jesus modeled…one that went something like: loving the whole world, no exceptions.

In the world, not of the world, but love the world.

“Love our neighbor…”

Stop talking about quitting Starbucks® because they ditched the dove for the holidays, because it’s not even a thing, and because we all know you aren’t going to, because, well, it’s your cliche schtick, so you can’t, anyway…plus, the lady in accounting at Caribou® corporate likes “Moonlight Path” by Bath and Body®, the guy in shipping at Gloria Jean’s® eats his guacamole with GMO corn chips from Tostitos®, the CEO’s assistant at Peet’s® is a lesbian who wears Avon® and incidentally has breast cancer, the guy in marketing at Lavazza® donates his time to freeing slaves in foreign countries where they worship idols, the social media girl from Dunkin’Donuts® always posts pictures of her cats and we all know real Christians like dogs because G-O-D and D-O-G, the people in the village where your beans were harvested practice voodoo, and then there’s the barista at Tim Hortons!® whose great, great, great, great, granddaddy started Macy’s® so you can’t watch the parade now, either…

Besides…are you kidding? “Red cup?” It’s kind of brilliant. Like, at a party, Red Cup™, get it? But that’s maybe the point? Maybe Solo® really should get some royalties for the inspiration?

“Love our neighbor…”

So, there aren’t any other options…unless, of course, you have one of those thing-a-ma-jiggers, oh…what are they? Let’s see, they are these things that make coffee for us right at home…oh, yeah, coffee makers. And there we can choose our very own mug…it’s crazy stuff. Oh, and, since none of the alternative coffee chains will suffice, all the money saved can be applied to a community service project or family mission trip, instead. But only get the coffee makers and beans and filters and mugs from, well, sources where you know every. single. one. of the beliefs of every employee.

Stop talking and read the book of Daniel and look at the life he lived.

We are all connected, we belong to each other, like 6 degrees from Kevin Bacon, but much more personal…and we need to learn how to get along and love, love, love.

“By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.”

Listen, boycotting World Vision International and dropping the child sponsorship of 10,000 children in devastating living situations around the world because you differed on views about homosexuality speaks volumes…in fact, it’s so loud, the children and I can’t quite make out the message you were trying to send…except that “Christians” eat their own.

“By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.”

There are 7 billion people on earth, all created in God’s image, uniquely designed for a display of His creative love and artistic work, some don’t believe this yet, but loving them well as Christ instructed will reveal it. There is no way we will ever all believe the exact same things about every single thing…so, I mean, that’s fine if you want to boycott such and such a company because of certain core values you don’t share and support other organizations with your monetary investment, but then it’s probable you’ll need to boycott every. single. organization and product on the face of the entire earth because if we get really into it, and dig deep enough, we may just discover that someone in accounting at your favorite “Christian” store has a cousin who is your barber’s sister’s husband’s best friend’s daughter and she said, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” to a patron at Starbucks the other day when she handed them their plain old red cuppa joe.

Seriously. Let’s stop talking.

And let’s start doing THE THING.

LOVING. LOVING EACH OTHER IS THE THING.

“By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.”

 

LORD JESUS, PLEASE FIND US DOING THE THING…

In Which I Tread Into Politics

Oh dear. The yelling on both sides is deafening.
Meanwhile, I’m over here, all, “Hey, I’m totally voting for Kid President!!!”

So, I am a grown adult. Like, I’ve been voting for 25 years now. Originally I registered with the same party my parents did, because, hullo? In my young mind, Reagan and my childhood were idyllic. Familiarity, the fact that voting was scary and bore weight and responsibility, and if my parents had identified with one party and I respected and loved them, well, that must mean I should vote the same, Doesn’t it?

Plus, a subliminal message at the time from my “community of faith” (not my parents), was implied, “You’re only a real Christian if you are a conservative Republican.”

Well, I sure as heck wanted to make sure I didn’t lose my way following Jesus on account of my earthly political affiliation…because that can happen, right?!??

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The years passed. One day at church I invited a couple of girls to meet at a coffee shop so we could get to know one another. It became an every Monday night date as we spent hours sharing our stories and what following Christ looked like for us. One of my friends shared about her journey of being a Jesus-follower and how it included loving people different than her.

“Of course,” I thought. “Of course you love people who are different from you…you are a Christian…that’s what Jesus modeled for us. I do, too.”

And then she told me she was a registered Democrat.

I was like, “Wait. What? How can you be a Democrat and a Christian?
What about the babies?”

She shared her heart about how she follows Jesus, not a political system where people are trying to set up laws in the land to influence people’s moral choices. “Only God can know our hearts,” she had said. She told us she doesn’t agree with killing people, babies or in wartime, but trusting in laws set up by a government cannot minister to the heart and soul of a person created in the image of God. That’s heart-to-heart work that has to be done in laying down our lives for others, not fighting through a system for our own rights at the expense of another.

And this made sense to me. It sounded Jesus-esque. It sounded like the Good News I remembered loving and pouring over ‘til late hours of the morning as a new believer and follower of Christ. It reminded me of the Red Letter Words in the New Testament, spoken by Jesus, rather than the human-tainted messages that had been filling up my head ever since.

I decided to explore what I believed, rather than only accepting what others and my circles of life, preached. I started paying attention more, not just to politics, the local news, and world happenings, but mostly to my heart and the pursuit of living a life that more closely reflected the Life of the One I claimed to follow…I started filtering ALL OF IT THROUGH THIS THING: Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself…like a litmus test of fruit-bearing for myself, checking my heart with the way Jesus treated people, not buying into man’s political systems and polarizing camps.

I started paying attention to peoples’ stories rather than their stereotypes.”

I’ve been reminded of Daniel and his friends in Babylon, living as exiles because God allowed it, for years living there, yet not trying to change the system, but rather praying for the people there, praying for, and serving, the leadership, for their well-being as in Jeremiah 29:7, and reaping the benefits of what happens when you pray for your enemies.

A few months before my Mom died she said, “You are a hippie, aren’t you?” This she said with a smile and in love. Her words had life, the part about “hippie” that bears the Free Love of God, not the acid and bellbottoms.

I had just told her, “Mom, we are ALL souls, made in God’s image…every single one of us. How can we keep walking around labeling each other and boxing one another into stereotypes, trying to make laws and cast votes to feel better about our moral choices when God calls US ALL His beloved? That can’t be politicized! He showed us how to love radically. Jesus didn’t come through a political system then, and He’s not returning that way either.”

I don’t have all the answers, but I know my identity, value, worth, and eternal grace from God, are not found in a political system or by aligning myself with a political party. I identify as a child of God. People on both polar extremes of our political spectrum also do, as well as millions of those in between…and there isn’t a law in the land that can know the heart of a person, but there is a loving Creator who does, and He is big enough.

 

 

(photo credit: pixabay user/dweedon1)