Loving Others

There is no greater expression than living love out loud. To wear love, is an expression I start my day off with. I want every person I meet to leave our interaction feeling like I was present with them. It is hard to do in today’s world. Everyone has somewhere else to be, mind focused on the next task, barely registering the person in front of them.

That is me so many days. But when I remember, I try to wear love. It takes a lot of effort, but is worth it every single time.

Rob Bell said in a recent podcast, “Every table is an altar.” And I went through the day thinking how much I loved that quote, because it resonates so much with how I want to live my life. No matter what I do, where I go, or who I talk to; it matters. Whether a comment on Facebook, an email to a friend, or a smile at the person I’m passing on the street; it matters.

There are no throw-away conversations.

There are no moments that go unnoticed. We don’t slip through life in a bubble of isolation. When we pick our heads up, look at the person in front of us and say with our bodies, words and minds, “You matter.” That is where love intercedes.

And love makes a difference. It doesn’t matter who is in front of us, love them. Speak with love, act with love, be love.

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Inspiration for a Friday

Most of the old testament gets a bad rap. But, as a storyteller myself, I love the old testament. The stories it holds, and the personalities it reveals has me turning to the front of the bible more than the New Testament. The people in these stories wrestled. They are authentic and they mess up an awful lot.

But I relate so much more to them.

Do you know the story of Joshua? He is the guy who took over after Moses died. He is the leader God choose to actually complete the journey into Canaan.

Yep, no pressure. He is just following the guy who met God on Mt Sinai. Led the Israelites out of Egypt. And oh yeah, scared the crap out of Pharaoh.

I’m sure Joshua was totes okay and didn’t worry at all about going into a land already settled and full of people that weren’t too fond of the new presence.

Right?

Joshua led because God told him he could. I bet Joshua had his doubts, but we never hear them because God reminded him that he did nothing alone.

 

 

Is there anything in your life you aren’t sure you can accomplish? Is there a place you feel alone? Do you feel to vulnerable to live into the call you were given?

It’s okay, because God has this. All you have to do is show up, listen and believe.

What incredible inspiration for a Friday morning.

What inspired you today?

 

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Joy is . . .

Recently at my church a group of parents got together and talked about Joy. Joy is one of those tricky words. It’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it. Sure that is also the definition of obscene, but you know where I’m going with it.

I hope.

Joy is something we chase around our lives. Most times we mix up fun and happy for joy. The next big raise, the next car we buy, the bigger house, the better vacation, the manufactured family moment are things we hope will get us a few moments of joy, but the rarely, if ever do.

I have been kicking around the concept of joy for a while. How do I have joy when I am sick, how do I have joy when I fight with my husband, how do I have joy when I’m frustrated with my kids, how do I have joy when I am sad. Joy isn’t something that leaves us, but is an ever present guide in our lives. Which means when we equate joy with happiness we will always be disappointed.

Today the sky was gray and my mood was grayer. I struggled writing, I couldn’t concentrate reading and my journal was getting a workout. I needed to exercise, I needed to clean, I needed to do lots of things.

We had a lot of snow and it was one of the first days it was warm enough for the kids to go out and enjoy it. So when Margo knocked on my office door and asked, “Can we go outside?” I couldn’t turn her down.

In fact, I joined her.

So while we waited for the older two to come home from the bus, Margo and I ran through the snow. We built, we played and when Isaac and Rebecca came home we built a fort. At some point I fell back into the snow like I used to as a kid. It hurt a lot more, gravity having more of me to pull down. But when I hit the pillow of snow, I looked up into the gray sky and I felt.

Good.

Not happy, not ecstatic. Just good.

Do you know that feeling? Satisfied. In the moment. Here, where I was, instead of where my mind usually carries me. Right then I knew joy isn’t where the world is perfect, it’s where the world is. Bad things still swirled around me, but I knew no matter what, I was, am, and will be okay.

That is joy, isn’t it?

All it took, was “slowing down the torrent of time and being all here.” I love that line by Ann Voskamp. Too often we are trying to press our whole life through the one tiny minute we are in.

But joy, is being fully present in the now. And that feels really good.

What brought you joy today?

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My Grandfather

I have been thinking a lot about living recently. My grandfather passed away just after midnight on December 26th. He lived a long, good life. He was a person like any other person. He made mistakes, he had regrets, and he had stories he probably wouldn’t want me to know.

As I sat at his service, I watched all the people he had touched in his 50 years of ministry. People he had helped change, people who felt his love, people who had stories about him, and people he had led into ministry. I never really knew my grandfather well. He was a silent farmer type. Who he was as a grandfather was different than who he was as a pastor.

But all around me I saw his light. He spent his days loving, and there was a church full of people who were bathed in his light. And although I didn’t know my grandfather as much as I wished I had, I could see who he was in that room.

And instead of regretting that I didn’t get to see that side of him often, I was grateful for the glimpse of who he was. The part of him I hope I carry on. Because what greater legacy to leave behind than love.

A few weeks before he died, I visited him for the last time. I knew it would probably be the last time I saw him. He was sick, he was tired, but stories spilled from his lips that I had never heard. He told me about his time as a gunner in Patton’s Third army. His “free” trip around the United States and Europe. The time he arrested the mayor of Vienna. The fact that he wished he could see Vienna again. In that brief hour and a half, I learned a little bit of who he was. And although I wished I had more of his stories, I can’t help but be grateful for the grace of a moment. Where I got to see a side of him I never knew was there.

I could wish I had more of those moments, or be thankful for the moment I had.

Sometimes I think it is our habit to live in regret. Our human condition, isn’t it, always to be wishing for the thing we didn’t do. I wish I had made more of an effort to get to know my grandfather. I wish I had asked him more about his life. I can wish a lot of things, and I have to admit I spent a little of the past two weeks in regret.

But today, my perspective changed, I was reading the story of Jacob at his death at the end of Genesis. There Jacob was with his sons gathered around him. All the mistakes he had made with them, his humanness on display. But his story didn’t end there. It continued in the hearts of all those who came after him. The light didn’t end with Jacob, it continued on through his sons and their sons. It continued with the people they met and interacted with. The light reaches all across the generations and centuries and millenniums. It reaches to you and me.

We don’t remember Jacob and his sons for the mistakes they made, we remember them for the light they shared.

Just like my grandfather’s light reaches me. And the good thing about light, is it goes everywhere. And although my grandfather isn’t here anymore, his light still burns.

In me.

In my dad. In his brothers and sister.

In my grandfather’s friends.

In the people they share their light with.

I don’t regret anything now, because I learned what I needed to know from my grandfather. What matters in this life is who we share our light with.

And it should be everyone, shouldn’t it?

How will you share your light and spread love.

 

 

 

 

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An example of light

Last week I wrote about how my light is spent. And then Sunday morning I sat down in my seat at church and I knew something was wrong. A woman was missing, but her two sisters were there, and then I read the bulletin and saw that this dear woman had passed away suddenly last week.

She was sick, and it wasn’t great, but I don’t think anyone expected her to pass away so soon. I had just seen her two weeks before, touched base, gave her a hug, and said I would pray for her.

Her light is now gone and it was an incredible light. For two years she helped me every month prepare meals for families in transition at a local homeless shelter. She always had a smile, a joke, a story. We worked side by side with our sleeves rolled up, decades stretched between us, but that never really mattered. Two years ago we took a roadtrip to Pennsylvania for a women’s retreat. You learn a lot about a person when you ride in a car with them.

The hardest thing about her death, for me, is survivor’s guilt. This is the third time I have known a woman who didn’t get better from cancer. Theirs had spread, theirs couldn’t be cured.

Mine could.

Each one of them taught me something in the way they handled their prognosis. One taught me it is okay to be a little angry with the hand we were dealt. There is nothing wrong having a Job-like dialog with God. She and I also shared the distinction of being lit up from the inside with a little radioactive iodine. She is the only person who understood what 5 days of not being allowed within 10 feet of another person feels like.

Breast cancer took her.

The other woman, I didn’t know as well. I met her a handful of times at church. Once, we were in the kitchen making freezer meals for families who were experiencing a death, new birth, or life change, she did this even though she was sick herself. I witnessed her struggle with cancer from afar, but I have never seen someone with so much strength and dignity in the face of such sorrow.

She died of bone cancer.

And lastly, this woman lived a life of service. She saw people around her and helped. Never complaining, always jumping in. She tutored, she made meals, and I’m sure there is way more I never knew about her.

She died of endometrial cancer.

It is hard to process some days why my cancer was not a big deal, while theirs consumed them. Some days I feel lucky, other days I am scared, but most days I feel grace. Grace that no matter how my story ends, I won’t ever be alone. I can have joy facing the biggest tragedies. The why doesn’t matter, how I live does. All these women lived into their light and spent it to the fullest all their short days.

When I talk about how I choose to spend my light, I think about these ladies, and what they did with their lives. How they chose to spend their time, how they fought, how they mourned, and how they lived.

None of us is guaranteed a long, happy life. But we can choose joy regardless.

I know this post has take a dark path this Christmas Eve, and while I mourn the lives lost, they also give me such hope, which I think is a fitting message for Christmas.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  (John 1:5)

Sometimes we Christians focus on the wrong thing. We focus on sin, and sacrifice and not love. But when I read that passage in John, I feel light. We can be the light in the darkness and outshine the bad.

We all have a choice on how to spend our light, our days. We can choose to follow paths that numb us, or we can choose to walk in the light we have. Our lives become a force of change in a world that seems random, full of sadness and grief. I am not a firm believer in the phrase, “Things happen for a reason.” But I do believe that when something happens, we can choose to wake up and live a life fully present, or we can be consumed.

I choose the light. I choose to live in joy, love, and peace.

Thankfully my survivor’s guilt doesn’t stay long and I can instead focus on all the wonderful gifts these women gave me while they were alive. Their journeys have changed me, and for that I will be forever grateful to them.

This Christmas how will you live your light?

 

 

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How is my light spent?

Do you ever hear a quote that brings truth slamming into your face?

That happened to me today. I was driving down the road, rushing to an appointment I was sure I would be late to. And the podcast I listened to delivered this line:

When I consider how my light is spent

John Milton

Doesn’t that line take your breath away? Milton lost his sight at age 46, and he wrote this as his eyesight failed him. His response was to choose to spend that time wisely, carefully, intentionally.

Wow.

Do you consider how your light is spent? All of our time is precious, none of us has life infinite. It isn’t a depressing thought, it is an empowering thought. What will I do with the time I have? We all have a choice.

Doesn’t it make your time more precious?

Fill your days with more meaning?

Dash away the pestering problems and help you hold on to the real, the tangible, the present?

When I consider how my light is spent, I know I want to spend it leaving someone with joy and not a bad taste in their mouth.

When I consider how my light is spent, I want it to be done fully awake and alive, I never want to wonder where the days have gone.

When I consider how my light is spent, I don’t want it to be tainted with regret, but always moving forward towards a different future.

If we don’t consider how our light is spent, we end up wasting life. Unintentionally going through days like there are more where that one came from.

How will you spend your light?

 

 

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Seven Months Later . . .

If you want to know how long it took me to recover from a full marathon, the answer is seven months. Almost as long as it took me to train and that is probably why I’ll never do another full. My sister pumps out marathons like they are a walk in the park but me? I’ll take my 13.1 any day over another full. Everybody has their distance.

Dear faithful readers, you heard me complain about the training, more training, and all the training. By the time I laced up race day I was so glad the training was over I didn’t care if I finished.

Okay, that’s not true, but I would like it to be true.

Running a full marathon was a bucket list item. I checked it off, have the t-shirt and don’t feel the need to punish myself like that ever again. There are a lot of things you learn about yourself running a marathon, how far you can push yourself, how much confidence you truly have, and how much pain your body can handle.

My body can handle a lot, just in case you wondered. What I didn’t expect, however, was how much I learned about myself afterwards; how my body needs rest, how sometimes jumping back in the saddle isn’t the best solution, and sometimes recovery is more than just physical.

There were a lot of weeks I just couldn’t fathom running again. It took all I had to run miles 18-26.2 and I wondered if I had used up all my running for life in those last 8.2. When I did run, it hurt. My hips, my plantar muscle, my calves, shins and back all groaned as I slogged through slow miles.

A lot of days I didn’t run.

Disney 2014 RabbitBut, every February I run a race in Florida with my sister. We started four years ago to celebrate my 5 years cancer free. It being December I needed to kick my training up a notch or the fairy godmother is going to have to use her fairy dust to get me to the finish line. And this year I celebrate 9 years cancer free. I can’t really wimp out on this.

Today, seven months out from that marathon, I ran my 4th fastest time. Ever. I pushed myself, I felt like crap, but I ran. I focused on breathing, moving my legs, and the music in my ears. I have been edging closer to my pace pre-marathon and all it took was for me to stop trying so hard.

I didn’t just rest my body, I rested my mind these past seven months. A lesson I need to learn in more than just my running. Because I can see the parallels in my life after cancer, and after weight loss, in parenting and marriage. Rest isn’t just something we do for our bodies, it’s something we do for our souls.

 

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Revising

I may be deep in editing mode. I just spent ten minutes reworking my husband’s email to a teacher.

Ten minutes.

Not because what he said was wrong, but because it could be said better.

That is how my brain is working right now. Every morning and afternoon I sit down and comb through my writing. I look for places that could be clearer, the tension more active, the dialog more engaging. It is a slow slog through the pages. Two weeks and four chapters, which is funny considering I just wrote 50k in a month.

Revising is a whole different animal. Since I am not much of an outliner, there is a lot of work ensuring the story makes sense. I love revising though, there is nothing better than going through a section and finding a better word, or a better way to show something.

“Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.”
― Raymond Chandler

That about sums up my writing process.

The tricky thing about revising, is it is hard to shut off my brain. The rest of the day I have one foot in the present and the other is stuck somewhere on page 40 of my manuscript. Or I spend 10 minutes arguing with my husband about the clearest way to communicate with a teacher.

The kids, my poor kids, will get a lecture on how to tell a story to make it more effective, or I chuck the book I am reading to them across the room because the author got lost in their own brilliance.

Revising is the thrust of writing, for me, it’s where the story comes alive, the words dance, and the plot grows. The road is uphill and rest is out of sight, but I know when I get there, it will be worth it.

If I don’t annoy everyone in the process.

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Do What Lasts

 

It took cancer for me to learn to live life this way. It didn’t happen overnight, but it was a long journey towards what really matters. Everyday I fight against the tide of what the world says is important. Somedays I lose and I get caught up in the wave and crash against the shore. The days I live for are the ones where I don’t get lost in all the junk of life.

We only get this one life, and this life matters. Start treating it like it does.

The above quote is from Bob Goff, who I heard on a radio show. He impacted me because every Thursday he quits something good, to make room for something great. It took a while for people to understand what he was doing and why, but the power he demonstrates in creating space in his life is one we should all embrace and own in our lives.

We spend a lot of time, especially as parents, doing things we think matter. We sign our kids up for lessons, sports, enrichment classes; chasing the American dream. All of those things keep our eyes on the future instead of the present, and when we live in the future, we miss people who need us right now.

When someone asks us to spend a few hours volunteering, we say no, because we are too tired from all the other things; activities that keep us circling our tails and believing we are going somewhere.

But what matters more?

The sporting practice we take our kids to, or the food bank we volunteer at?

The scouting event, or spending time with someone who is lonely?

Dialoging about race relations or finding people who don’t look like your neighbors and sitting with them.

We do everything else first, because we mix up what lasts with what doesn’t. Sure, we have good intentions, but we never find joy, because there isn’t any in busyness.

What lasts, what really lasts, is life-giving not life draining.

I challenge you this Christmas season to quit something that doesn’t matter for something that does. You won’t just change your life, you’ll change someone else’s as well.

 

 

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The Santa Myth

The day I knew was coming is here.

Rebecca and Isaac don’t believe in Santa.

Rebecca has had her suspicions for a while. Last year I found a book she made with pictures of the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and Santa, and underneath the words, not real. She never said anything to us about her suspicions, but at some point she said something to Isaac because he ambushed us a month ago and asked point blank,

“Is Santa real?”

Michael and I looked at each other and took a deep breath. Our plan was to ask, “Do you want to believe, or do you want to hear the truth.” We asked the same question when Rebecca started to vacillate and it worked well. She wanted to believe, so we continued.

So we asked, and the Isaac said, “Truth time.”

And we told the truth.

This is a good reminder that not all kids want the truth.

Rebecca took it in stride. She’s older and has been thinking about this for a year, but Isaac is devastated. His 6 year old world just crumbled around him and last night he came to me in tears and said, “If Santa isn’t real, that means the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Jack Frost and the Sandman aren’t (Thanks Rise of the Guardians.)

“Why did you lie to us?” he cried.

And I don’t have a good reason other than, because that’s what people do.

I want to blame some 19th century overachieving mom, think pinterest elf on the shelf mom but via 1800′s, and that woman said,  ”You know that St. Nick tradition we have? Why don’t we fluff it up some and pretend he comes down our chimney, eats our food and watches us like the government. The kids will love it. In fact one article said, it was akin to a viral video today.

Here we are a few hundred years later lying to our kids about the presents we give them, pretending that some fat man in a red suit breaks into our houses, and gives us exactly what we see on the shelves at Target. It’s a lot of work to perpetuate this tale;  all to have the kids realize at some point you are a big fat liar.

Can we have the same joyful spirit without all the lies?

It’s the question I have been asking myself because Margo is just hitting her Santa stride. This is the year we push it and continue the story or find a different way to handle the holidays. And after Isaac’s reaction to the truth, I’m not so sure I want to do the same to Margo.

This blog post, Santa:Innocent fantasy or harmful lie has some great ideas. I don’t truly think the Santa story is a harmful lie, but I do agree with the author that our kids, especially young ones, need a concrete world. And there is a way to bring make-believe into the world with care and consideration. So this year I think we are going to be real with the whole Santa myth and treat it like it is. A myth. A myth that we all enjoy, but recognize that it is still make believe.

The problem begins when we pass the story off as truth.

The kids can still celebrate the joy of Christmas, including Santa, and not feel lied to at the same time. We all recognize it as a story, but one we choose to act out. Christmas is one of my favorite childhood memories and I want to make sure how we handle the whole Santa myth enhances Christmas this year instead of ruining it.

Yesterday I tested the waters with Margo and we talked about the story of Santa and how Mommy and Daddy like to pretend to be Santa by hiding gifts and surprising them on Christmas day.

And she was totally fine with it.

All these things we do for our kids to preserve the sanctity of childhood and sometimes the best thing we can do is be honest.

The kids still wake up to gifts of grace, they get to set out cookies, sing carols, watch Christmas movies, and spend time with family. None of that is ruined by saying Santa is a fun story we like to reenact. They are all fine with it.

And if they are fine with it, so am I. It sure makes Christmas a lot less crazy. And makes it easier to explain why we buy gifts for kids whose families can’t afford Christmas. In fact, the kids are excited to be Santa Claus for others.

That’s pretty cool.

I always wanted the kids to believe in Santa, because I wanted them to believe in magic. I wanted them to understand there is an element to this world that we can’t understand, can’t contain, and can’t predict. Now I understand disbelief doesn’t lead to a disbelief in a world of magic.

It enhances it.

 

How have you handled Santa and the other make-believe characters of childhood?

 

 

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