A Familar Dance

Sometimes God calls someone very familiar to dance with us (see Lord of the Dance post as reference). My best friend from high school is like that. I live in Illinois and she in California. We have a relationship that transcends time and distance. Though we haven’t lived a mile apart since 11th grade, we seem to just be able to pick up and “dance” whenever we talk or meet.

It was during a visit to Janet’s this past summer that my father-in-law passed away. It was a difficult time not only for the loss of my sons’ grandfather, but of reliving the reality of death. We made arrangements to fly home early, but decided to spend that last day at the beach with Janet and her family.

That evening we stayed up late talking, knowing our time was limited. As I climbed the stairs to bed, I heard a familiar sound. You see, growing up Janet and I sang together. We sang in church quite often or would simply sit down in her basement at the piano and sing for hours (I was always secretly envious of her piano ability). As I heard her begin to play the old song “Whatever It Takes” on the piano, I turned around and headed back down the stairs.

I took my place next to her on the piano bench and we began to sing. The words came back to us perfectly—it was as if God had said “take this gift of memory”. We got to the verse “Take the dearest things to me, if that’s how it must be, to draw me closer to thee. Take my houses and lands, change my dreams and my plans for I am placing my whole life in your hands”—tears began to flow from the corner of my eyes as I thought of how God had orchestrated this moment. Yes, it sounded and felt like “old times” and that alone was enough: however, my life was equally blessed that the words to a song I had sung many times as a child had become reality in my life; a testamony to the providence and power of God in this life. My oldest and dearest friend was not afraid to take the lead and dance a familiar dance, a familiar dance partner indeed. I will forever treasure that.

This I know for sure….

Simply Being Present

What makes you connect with other people? What causes the kind of chemistry that makes lifetime bond? Instant friendship? In January, following the death of my husband, I found a Young Widows Bulletin Board on the internet. Yeah—technology is an awesome thing. I appreciated the forum of a bulletin board because, unlike a chat room, you could read and post in a more thoughtful manner. I was looking for a connection with those who understood the complexities of grief. 

Following a few months of posting and reading—I decided to take the next step and meet a group of young widows (from the bulletin board) in Chicago. This group of remarkable individuals meets once a month for dinner and fellowship. I was amazed at the instantaneous draw of the group to my heart. I found myself captivated within their varied stories of love and loss, so very similar to mine. 

Within this group of people I found no waiting for acceptance. They were simply present—arms open with unconditional acceptance to ANYONE sharing the journey. It was pure and simply absolute friendship, born out of shared suffering; a mutuality that was unshakable. 

Each member has his/her own story. Each has something to teach me, when I open my heart to learn. In return I have become captivated by their love. I want to see the world through their eyes; understand this journey through their experiences and create a new story that resonates over the pain. 

The ability to hold people in such high esteem after such a short acquaintance astounds me, but it shouldn’t. It is, after all, an answer to an unspoken prayer. God knows who I am. He knows what I need to survive and thrive. He knows that relationships matter in my life and that it is important for me to seek out and find those who share my heartsong. I have found them. 

This I know for sure….

With Courage and Conviction

I can not express to you the number of people who have said to me, “You know what the Bible says, God never gives us more than we can handle”. For the life of me I can’t seem to locate this in the Bible anywhere. The closest I can find is in 1 Corinthians 10:13b God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. This is MUCH DIFFERENT from saying that “God never gives us more than we can handle”. What a bunch of bunk!! God gives us stuff we can’t handle all the time—financial struggles, family problems, loneliness, heartache, divorce, death, health difficulties—I could go on. What human could “handle” these things without extensive emotional damage? Who, on their own, could find contentment in the midst of these tragedies? 

Though God gives us things we can’t handle all the time; I am grateful that he NEVER gives us more than HE can handle. Through Him we are not only able to “handle” anything, but are enabled to overcome difficulties and live the full life we deserve–the life God has for us. John 16:33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

He has already overcome whatever it is we face; therefore, we can “take heart”, stand tall and tackle life’s biggest challenges with courage and conviction.

This I know for sure….

Here’s to the Men in My Life!

I have been blessed with many wonderful “girl friends”. We share life’s ups and downs, joys, heartache, life and death. Each one of them has impacted my life in extraordinary ways. For that I am grateful; however… 

HERE’S TO THE MEN IN MY LIFE!

The leading man in my life was my late husband. He is responsible for giving me the measure of what constitutes a “real man”. His quiet spirit, unshakable morals and unwavering love forever is ingrained in the legacy he has left. He is liable for much of what I have become, but specifically he is responsible for my love of diversified music. Whether I hear bluegrass, jazz or Dave Matthews Band I can tap my toes, clap my hands and enjoy the gifted musicianship of whoever happens to be creating the music. Don used to say that in order to be a REAL music lover—you must appreciate it all. I would have to agree.

Then there are “the brothers”—all three of them (two by blood, one by association). I am mystified how those moronic boys I grew up with have become such amazing men. When did that happen? From them, I have learned to remain true to who I am. We have always appreciated, even celebrated the uniqueness of each other. Whether we are discussing philosophy, theology, politics or last night’s episode of Boston Legal, these guys are responsible for perpetuating the “everyone is entitled to my opinion” theory. Of course, none of this is accomplished without a skilled amount of wit and humor. It’s extraordinary when the goofballs you grew up with turn into your best friends.

The most important men in my life are my sons. Each of them is satiated with promise beyond what I thought possible. My oldest son is growing into a man faster than he probably should, but with such dignity it amazes me (and most everyone who knows him). My youngest son is the “glass half full” kid who keeps this entire family filled with hope. These two are responsible for keeping me on my toes as a parent and who, when I get in bed at the end of the day, cause me to pause and thank God for their influence in my life.

Finally, there are those men who show courage, kindness, acceptance and generosity in my life. These are the men who allow me to go to dinner (or to the movies) with their families, call and check to see if I need anything done around the house (knowing full well I am electronically and maintenance challenged), minister to me and give me advice from the “male” perspective. From them I have learned that generosity and kindness should never be taken for granted. 

So here’s to the men in my life. I don’t know what I would do without you.

This I know for sure….

The Moments that Take Our Breath Away

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take
But by the moments that take our breath away”

I love inspirational quotations. I have them on little pieces of paper all over my desk at work. They have been cut from magazines and church bulletins, printed from online sites or shared with me by caring folks. So, when I came across this quotation on a large picture-type poster at a local store, I stood there for several moments taking it all in. It must have seemed strange to people walking by, but I wanted to stand there and ponder areas in my life that take my breath away. Lately there have been moments that have certainly taken by breath away.

Events such as when:

·  I read my 17 year old’s blog containing a letter he has written to his father who passed away a year ago. His obvious maturity and insight takes my breath away.

· my 10 year old waves at me as he passes me in the hall at school and in his silliest voice says “Hiya MOMMY!” His confidence takes my breath away.

· my 5th grade students clap when I deliver a particularly great lesson (yeah, I curtsy and smile) just leaves me breathless.

· my 4 year old nephew runs up to me on Sunday morning-arms open wide and yells “Aunt Sissie, I missed you!” His unconditional love takes my breath away.

· my baby brother (who happens to be 30 years old) writes the most eloquent words. His gift takes my breath away.

·  I hear on my voicemail “this is your mother, I am just checking in to see how you are doing.” Her matriarchal love takes my breath away. 

·  I feel the spirit of a God in a song as I corporately worship with other brothers and sisters in Christ. The closeness of the body of Christ takes my breath away.

·  I think of how specifically God has blessed this family in the past year. God’s faithfulness is truly breathless.

· my middle brother simply takes the time to connect with my sons. His sense of love and responsibility for us is breathtaking.

·  I am taking stock of life and find that it is rich in memories, friendships and love. I find this breathtaking.

·  I watch my father minister to folks, carrying their burdens and lifting them up. His generous spirit leaves me breathless.

There are so many aspects of this life that are breathtaking; events that occur everyday, events that we take for granted. What are some life moments that have taken your breath away? Life is too short not to acknowledge them.

This I know for sure….

BTW—I have currently changed the settings on the blog so that ANYONE can leave comments. You no longer have to register—I’d love to hear from some of you.

Grey’s Anatomy and Biblical Truths (a stretch I know)

So, I am watching an inane television program, most likely one of those of which I would never willingly admit to following. Anyway, two friends are talking about a difficult life predicament (most likely something to do with Mr. McDreamy) when one says to the other, “We don’t love the people we love because they are perfect—we love the people be love because they ARE” WAIT! Hold the show! Did some profound truth just come out of her mouth? 

OK– it is just a quote from a brainless television show—but you know what? It is the truth. We love, truly love, people in our lives because of who they are; not because of some expectation we have as to what would be acceptable. We HAVE to love them this way or it really isn’t love. 

We agree that no one is perfect. Friends are not, family is not, Christian brothers and sisters are not, why then do we think we need to be? I often think I need to be perfect to be worthy the love of others or to give it unconditionally, but that is neither pragmatic nor Biblical.

John 13:34
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

The Bible doesn’t seem to mention anything about only loving people we find palatable. It doesn’t say “Dude, if you have things in common with folks—love them.” It says to love one another as GOD, our Father, has loved us-totally and completely— simply, because of who they are.

This I know for sure….

The Elephant in the Room!

Have you ever been burdened with “the elephant in the room”? According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, this idiom pertains to:

The elephant in the room is an English idiom for an obvious truth that is being ignored, for various reasons. It is based on the fact that an elephant in a small room would be impossible to ignore.

I seem to be the queen of ignoring the “elephant in the room”. I have prided myself on being forthcoming and straight with folks, but somehow this ability has disappeared—I am not at all straight forward and tend to overlook the obvious “elephant in the room”. The “elephant in the room” could pertain to relationships, job futures, personal “issues”, memories even POSSIBILITIES —it matters little. There is no way around the fact that this is an example of cowardice—of the inability or choice not to “deal”. Why do I do this? What am I afraid of? This isn’t like me—not who I was, but apparently who I have become. Is this something that comes with age? life experience? or have I simply become lazy? 

What is the elephant in your room? What is the big “issue” in your life you are choosing to ignore? I believe we all have them—

This I know for sure….

Dr. Phil and ME!

I often tease my students that we need to invoke the Dr. Phil philosophy “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge” Is that true? If so, here are some things I need to acknowledge:

1. I am no longer the person I was.

2. I am not yet the kind of friend that my close friends have been to me.

3. I am inadequate at installing, maintaining or repairing ANYTHING electronic.

4. I should win an academy award for “best performance of a person pretending to have it all together”; yet, there are more times recently when I have been truly content and acting is not necessary.

5. “Life is like a fan, when it blows one way it is a breeze. When it blows the other way it sucks”
(Thank you Brad for that quote)

6. Happiness and contentment are two different things. One relies on circumstances and one on the state of the heart and mind: I long to experience them both.

7. I am weak on my own—I need others to survive

8. I don’t openly cry enough.

9. I don’t openly laugh enough (although probably still more than most, just not as much as usual, but it is getting better).

10. I don’t always deal with my pain in healthy ways. 

Now that I have acknowledged all of these things, what next?

It is time for change—time for action– time to take back my life. So, I made a list—what to do next? You know what, you began to complete the list—I met with my financial advisor, joined the YMCA—realized that I don’t have to do it alone. Acknowledge that I needed help with “stuff” — and asked for it.

Dr. Phil is right—you simply CAN’T change what you don’t acknowledge. 

This I know for sure….

The Path of God’s Choosing

There is truly nothing random about life. We are on a journey: on the path of God’s choosing, yet subjected to the limitations of time and circumstances. Fulfillment of this journey lies in Christ alone. He is the author and finisher of not only our faith, but of our life circumstances. He works in and through our lives, defining who we are and who we can become. God is greater than our heart. He surpasses our ability to think, to make decisions, to breathe. 

When I am tempted to question the path– when I want answers I know I can’t have or when I simply can’t breathe, God remains authentic—real—enough. It seems so simple, but it isn’t always easy to live. I wish I could say that I live as if I believe this every day. I don’t. I am riddled with questions, doubts and even times where I think I won’t be whole again—but through my limited vision, I know that God has chosen this path for me and not only can see how the journey ends, he doesn’t allow me to walk it alone.

This I know for sure.

A Grown Up? Me?

“Maturity is a high price to pay for growing up.”
– Tom Stoppard

How do you know when you are a real “grown up”? Is it when you sign your first mortgage, buy your first car or get your first job? Is it when you wake up and realize you are responsible for another human being? Or is it when you graduate from the “kids table” at Sunday dinner? I used to sit at the “kids table” during large family or church dinners which my parents often hosted. I would dream of the day I could graduate to the “grown up” table. Now, I long to be back sitting with the children at the short table, partaking in animated conversation, and devouring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I must admit, being a “grown up”, at times, is highly overrated. 

At 44 I feel I am who I am. I have a friend whose mother recently handed out kindergarten report cards to each of her grown children. Each child opened his or her report card and read aloud what the teacher had written about them at the age of five. In EVERY case, the kindergarten teacher’s comments perfectly described these grown children. Is being grown up simply maturing in who we were to begin with?

I have made choices in my life to extend my ability to participate in childish behaviors. My profession (a teacher) allows me moments of silliness. Children often respond to silly over serious-especially when learning prepositions. My friendships require that edge of wit-not taking anything too seriously, but being present when life turns that way. My family, well, I believe lunacy is not only acceptable, but a requirement. So perhaps a conscious effort has been made on my part to maintain acceptable levels of immaturity.

Most of the time I do not feel “grown up”; however, I must admit there is security in realizing and accepting that, like it or not, I have become seasoned with maturity. I can, accept delayed gratification, I often take pride in keeping a secret rather than telling it and I face difficulties head on instead of evading them; yet, I still make silly mistakes, laugh at off-color jokes, and over-indulge at times. Most of all, I cringe at the fact that, like it or not, I have become a “grown-up”.

This I know for sure….