Friday, December 28, 2012

70 X 7

This morning I feel led to write about forgiveness. I don't know exactly why this subject has been on my mind lately, but it has been interlaced through many of my thoughts. What I want to say is this... Forgiving another person is not only a gift you give that person but is a gift to yourself as well. Having been  on the receiving end of forgiveness, I can honestly testify that there is nothing sweeter than forgiveness.

Forgiving others is a choice. Yes, we are commanded to forgive (70 X 7), It's not a natural response, & sometimes it takes much work. If we could forget, it would be so much easier. I have found that sometimes I cannot forgive on my own. I need God to help me. In fact, I may be so haunted by my hurt that I have to go back to God 70 X 7 times just to say, "Lord help me. I want to forgive."

A few years ago, I felt I had been wronged to my inner most being. My heart ached. I couldn't understand what had happened, but I knew if I couldn't forget, bitterness would eat me up the rest of my life. Try as I might, I relived my hurt every day of my life over & over. I wanted to forgive, but on my own, the hurt was too deep.

Daily, when my thoughts gravitated toward my hurt, when a lump welled up in my heart, when tears filled my eyes, I relived hurtful conversations. This process went on for far too long as far as I was concerned. I just wanted escape. I wanted to forget. I wanted to walk away & never be reminded of this hurt again.

So... I went back to God again & again. I had to ask Him to forgive me of my thoughts. I asked Him to forgive me for not forgiving. I asked Him to help me forgive. My ability to forgive & heal depended on Him. I believe this is why we can't forget. If we could, we wouldn't need God's help. Forgiveness would be so much easier if we could forget!

As the New Year approaches, I think forgiveness is possibly the sweetest gift you can give yourself or another person. Forgiveness brings peace. It's God's plan. My forgiveness could never outdo His. I have received the ultimate forgiveness from Him. "Lord, help me to forgive myself & others."

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Today my heart was deeply touched. One of my fb friends messaged me that she had a little something for me. This friend goes back a few years, & I've always loved her. Her husband used to be my next door neighbor, & when our kids were little, he & I tag teamed in our driveways. While the kids ran circles around us, we'd laugh at their silly jokes, referee their neighborhood squabbles, & listen to their troubles.

Yes... those were the days. Little children in high heels pushing baby buggies. Artwork in the driveway made of sidewalk chalk. Lemonade stands.  Neighborhood clubs. Wading pools & sprinklers. Running barefoot from yard to yard. Those were the days! Sometimes they seem so far away, & other times, so close.

Today we brought those sweet memories to life. It was so much fun to visit the past & share some laughs. Those days weren't easy. In fact, some of them were rather stressful. After all, refereeing neighborhood squabbles wasn't really my thing, but the memories of carefree summer days, building snowmen, & always having a playmate are invaluable.

So as we reminisced today... we remembered Jennifer & Heather, Amy & David, Nikki, Beth, & Eddie, Sarah & Nick, Haley & Dustin, & yes, my 3 little daughters. Many of their friends came to mind too. We marveled at what nice young adults they've all become. Hearing about their professions, their husbands & wives, & some of their childhood traits which still remain was truly inspiring.

I couldn't help but think of some of those little squabbles & wonder how their small troubles helped them grow. I remember their beautiful young faces with fondness. I can still see them chasing each other with the hose, selling lemonade, & yelling back & forth across the street. These days were precious.

My friend brought me a special gift today. She made me a Pink Santa. I am deeply touched & honored. She & her husband also brought the gift of friendship. We visited & visited some more. As we said good-bye, my husband & I felt so refreshed. It was truly a Christmas gift that caught us by surprise. It took me back a few years to a different chapter of my life. It was a special time. Our kids were young, &  as we listened to their little troubles, made peanut butter & jelly, & scooped ice-cream into cones, we formed a bond. Today, we got to share that priceless bond.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

carry on...

Stress seems to be finding me lately. I have not invited stress to sit on my shoulders, tighten my back muscles, cause me sleepless nights, a run down feeling, & inner turmoil. No... stress is an unwelcomed part of life. It seems to be "dogging" a lot of people during this Christmas season. I know I am not the only one feeling it.

Last night when I went to bed, my husband told me to focus on the dog. I chuckled to myself but decided to take his advice. After all "Otis" had just had his Christmas bath & was snuggled up next to me. I put my hand on his soft head & let him comfort me. As I stroked his soft ears, I began to relax & drift off into a calm sleep.

I have found that time spent with loving people also helps refresh my spirit. Laughter is the best medicine. Just knowing someone cares helps immensely. Having something to look forward to seems to take my focus off unpleasant thoughts. Of course, music is a wonderful reliever of stress. Sometimes, a scripture will come to mind which soothes my weary soul...

"Cast your cares upon Him for He cares for you" is one of my favorites. Knowing I can lay my burdens down at the feet of Jesus at anytime is a gift from God. When things are out of my control, prayer offers me comfort. It is both the least & the most I can do. It's the least because it's the easiest thing to do. It's also the first action I should take. It's the most because God has the whole picture & can miraculously touch his healing hand upon any situation or soul.

Sometimes just carrying on is the only option. Knowing that we don't carry on alone brings peace. God's presence is the most I can hope for & is better than any outcome. So when things are out of my reach, when there is nothing I can do to change a situation, I must rest in Him. Once I realize this, I always feel better.

Monday, December 17, 2012

It doesn't matter that it's Christmastime.

To say the least, it's been a rough couple of days... I don't want to forget the tragedy at Newtown, CT. It just makes my heart so downtrodden. It seems like this season brings out the best & the worst in people. As I continue to read articles & see news coverage, I learn new things that take my breath away.

This evening I read a report about a man that met 6 kids at the end of his driveway. They told him they couldn't go back to school, their teacher was dead. I just cannot wrap my head around 6 & 7 year old children running past their slaughtered teacher, running for their lives. I cannot fathom the toll this will take on their young lives. What will the lasting effects be? How will this evil manifest itself in their lives?

Today I was at the mall. I thought a woman was finished with the cell phone man, & I asked a simple question. He & I began to banter back & forth about his phone cases. The woman who stood there smiling peacefully, turned to us & said she was leaving. The young man apologized saying he didn't realize she wasn't finished. I apologized for intruding on her purchase. She walked away in disgust. The damage was done.

I'm finding myself a bit more hesitant about life. After all, who knows when someone's rage will turn into a rampage? I don't have a crystal ball to foresee how my words & actions may effect another person. I try to be kind.  I'm finding myself causing grief without even knowing it. I hate that.

I realize there is no way for me to second-guess how a person will take what I say to them. I don't know where a perfect stranger is coming from or what he/she's been through today. I don't know what makes people react the way they do. But today... I have been taken aback. Not only by the disturbed young man that took 20 young lives but by others too.

There's so much in this world I cannot comprehend. I feel short sighted. People are hurtful on so many levels. Sometimes trouble comes your way, & you did nothing to bring it on. After all, most people do not seek out trouble. So... there you are, suddenly thrown in the thick of things, having to deal with life. No... you didn't ask for it. That doesn't matter. It's yours to behold, & dealing with it is your only viable option.

It doesn't matter that it's Christmastime. It doesn't matter that you meant no harm. It doesn't matter...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

sweetly & forever...

As a beautiful blonde hair blue eyed little girl seemingly prematurely went home to be with Jesus, a hero came forth. His name is Robbie Parker. He is her Daddy. A hero is a person who in the midst of an unspeakable crisis reaches out to others. As he spoke, his body trembled. He is still visibly shaken. Yet, even as he is still absorbing his own tragedy, he has chosen (with tears) to speak.

He adored his little girl. He was so proud of her because she was always reaching out to encourage others. She always carried her pencils & markers, so she could make someone a card at a moment's notice. Wow! Extraordinary for 6 years old.

Her Daddy said her caring spirit didn't come from his or his wife's parenting. No, it was how her Heavenly Father gifted her. Wow! Extraordinary for a Daddy who just lost his precious baby girl to a violent inexpressible death.

He says he is not mad. In fact, he wishes to reach out to other hurting families & to the family of the sick young man who committed this heinous crime.  Again I say, "Wow!" This 30 year old man said that he is empowered by helping others. He knows it will be the best way for his own healing to take place.

He sees his little girl's 6 years of life as a gift from his Father in Heaven. He said her life impacted others. She was a blessing, & he was blessed by her. My heart goes out to Robbie Parker. He wants his legacy to be that of a loving Daddy. His sweet baby girl had 2 little sisters who will deeply miss their big sister. She mentored them. They looked up to her. The 3 of them were very close.

So as Emilie Parker's little body is laid to rest, a hole is left in the hearts of her sweet family. Her photo catches your eye. She could have been a model. Her blue eyes sparkled. Her blonde hair was striking. Her radiant smile leaves a lasting impression. She melts your heart. Her Daddy's words melt your heart. A hero comes forth as his beautiful baby rests sweetly & forever in the loving arms of Jesus.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Unopened presents.

Tears are shed today for unopened presents under the tree. These sweet gifts represent lives that will not be fully lived. They were bought for little ones, too young to know that Santa isn't real. These young lives, like the presents under the tree, will never know their purpose on this earth.

Parents will sadly put these treasures away as the Christmas season passes, not really knowing what to do. Their broken hearts will never fully mend. A part of their own heart died today. Lives forever changed. How will they go on? Only God knows...

Tragedies befall us without warning. Aftershock is painful. Sometime it never goes away. Our greatest blessings are taken away, & we are left with empty hearts that seem beyond repair. The crime was senseless, absolutely so unnecessary. Innocent little souls taken up to Heaven long before their time.

Our greatest fears become our realities. How do we cope? Knowing our little ones are safe in Heaven is our only hope, but still... we must grieve. Our grief will know no bounds. We will suffer more than we knew possible. Our broken hearts will hurt for years to come. We will cry tears even when our eyes are dry.

There is no understanding because there is no answer. Today, people were robbed of  lives that can never be replaced. They will always wonder how their babies suffered, what unbearable fear went through their little minds. Was someone there to comfort them, or were they just scared & so alone?

They never got to say good bye. They weren't even allowed to hold their little ones as their spirits left their  bodies & ascended into Heaven. Left with empty arms, unopened presents, unanswered questions, unconsolable grief, hearts that cannot be repaired, they wish they could awaken from this heinous nightmare.

God, we pray... Please comfort these hurting hearts. Let them know your presence. Help them know this life is only temporary, & one day, they will be reunited. In the meantime, you will hold these precious little souls safely in your arms until their journeys bring them back together. One day... there will be no more tears & no more suffering. That's a promise. 

Bananas & Jelly Bellies

It had been a long day. Her mood was somber, almost cross. She seemed like she had little joy left in her life. All day, I wished for a smile, maybe even a little laughter. Nothing. Very little conversation. Just existing seemed difficult.

As darkness came & the Christmas lights began to twinkle, her grand son sat down at the piano & began to play beautiful soft music. He just played what came to mind. I realized her spirits were quietly transcending to a different place. I could see a soothing effect as her facial muscles began to relax. Her head even swayed slightly as the beautiful chord progressions permeated her soul.

It was as though Heaven came down & sweet healing took place, at least for a moment. As her grand son said good night, I hugged him. What peace he had brought to her troubled mind. She headed for her bedroom to dress for bed. As I was tucking her in, she decided to come back out to the living room.

We sat on the couch & listened to classical music. Again, I noticed peace & even a little joy. Her foot began to sway with the beat. She began to come to life. We ate Jelly Bellies & shared a banana. We talked about Mozart & Beethoven. She even asked for some Rachmaninoff. She said to tell my brother she didn't get to hear Prokofiev.

Her highlight came when the Mormon Tabernacle choir sang "O Come All Ye Faithful" (her favorite of the night). As we picked out our different flavored Jelly Bellies, we laughed because we both knew we shouldn't be eating them. The banana we shared? Well... in the morning I offered her a banana, & she informed me she doesn't like bananas. Really?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


In truth, I wanted to find a little Christmas devotion that would be be very special. I searched for a specific miracle to share only to have it shot down by Snopes. I was mortified. I didn't know a miracle could be dissed. Really?

As I began to recover from my disappointment, I started to ponder the brilliance of Christmas. Honestly, no other miracle compares. I decided I needn't look any further...

But then... the problem arose... which angle of Christmas, which beautiful lesson should I use? The  solution seemed simple, I would use them all. Next problem... my devotion was cluttered. So, I asked God for His divine guidance, & here's what He gave me...

The 3 Wise Men & the Shepherds both came to the Manger Scene by Heavenly appointment. The star in the East led the Magi. An Angel appeared to the Shepherds. So... in a very Godly fashion, the lowliest of lows & the wisest of the wise were present. Hmmnnn... this pattern is not new to us.

God sent His son for all people. Yes, the richest of the rich & the poorest of the poor & everybody in between. It matters not how others see you or how you see yourself. He came for you!

Just look at the treasured gifts the 3 Wise Men brought the Christ child. Obviously, they'd done their homework. They knew the scriptures, & with excitement they followed the star in the East. With them, they brought gold to crown a king, frankincense (that is incense for a Deity), & myrrh which was used for embalming.

Both the Shepherds & the Wise Men were overcome with joy. The Magi bowed down & worshiped Him. The lowly Shepherds spread the good news. They returned glorifying & praising God. All responded with awe. Without question, they recognized the brilliance of the moment. Do we?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Busy Busy Busy!

Today I visited a preschool. It brought back memories of my old teaching days. In fact, I felt like I fit right in. I even had the desire to be a part of the teaching team. The children were so beautiful. Their eyes sparkled. You could tell they were glad to be at school. Their teachers were dedicated. The kids greeted one another. It was sweet!

I enjoyed conversing with the lead teacher. Her program amazed me. My favorite room was the sensory room. This room had a small tent filled with colorful balls (kind of like the old McDonald's play land). It had a neat swing that allowed the kids to develop balance. There were a few preschool size trampolines & a whole host of other adventures. My favorite was the rocking boat. Reminded me of my own little Sunday School days.

We discussed the growing number of children in need of programs similar to the one I visited today. My conclusion: the family life style has changed so much that our children are suffering. It takes so much to nourish a child. Sadly, some children spend the majority of their lives being drug from one place to another.

Children need to spend time in their own home with their own parent(s). When they are little, they need to be read stories, have snuggle time, & be allowed to play. Too much fast food really isn't the answer to our busy lives. Signing them up for one more activity has its downside too. Both children & parents need time to breathe.

It seems that when children are allowed enough time to have their needs met, they feel better, are generally happier, & better behaved. I would describe it as being more centered, more secure. In the short time I was there, I was pleased to see how the children looked out for one another. The atmosphere was peaceful. What a nice place for a child to flourish!

As their school day came to a close, I could hear them singing "Ho ho... ho ho ho" to the tune of Bingo. Little faces were smiling. Their day began with a positive start. They even go to put up Christmas decorations. I don't know how their day progressed from there, but for that moment, all was right with their small world. My heart went out to both the kids & the teachers. The teachers can't fix a child, but I believe the time & love invested in the lives of these precious children is making a difference.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

How do you live life with cancer?

Recently, someone asked me if I still had cancer? My answer was... I don't think so, & I hope not. But until the next test, how do I really know? That is the truth, plain & simple. Right now, I live with a daily reminder of my past year. My radiated skin is shrinking. It's been said that radiation is the gift that keeps on giving. Seems to be an understatement.

Every night, I awake about 3:30am & frequently cannot go back to sleep. My left side, the radiated side, never feels quite right. Sometimes, I imagine lymphedema. Other times, it's just discomfort, but it scares me. I worry about the tightness & wonder at the longterm effects of that frightful day when my world was forever changed. My life was turned up. side. down.

As I reenter my world, I am constantly reminded of how my life has changed. If it's not someone asking me about my cancer, it's a dear friend hugging me for dear life. If I haven't seen someone in a while,  I can tell by her hug, she is rooting for me, praying for me, cheering me along on my journey. It still takes people a little time to recognize me. After all, I have a new do.

Of course, there's the frequent flashbacks. Something will trigger a memory, & whoosh, I'm reliving the early days of my journey. Perhaps it's somebody else suffering. It might be a TV show. Christmas, of course, marks a reminder of how far I've come. Then... there's the sadness that comes when you hear of someone passing from this heinous disease. It makes my heart ache the most when I think about the family suffering as they walk this journey with their loved one.

So... how does one carry on when their physical state & their memories keep slapping them in the face? Going back to our life prior to cancer sometimes seems like the best answer. At least, that's what we would do if we could. But... of course, that is not an option, so how do we live our life from this day forward?

I think we take one day at a time. We put one foot in front of the other, & before we know it, we are moving forward. I believe it's important to take time to mentally process our journey, & yes... to even embrace it. At first, that seems ridiculous, absurd. However, as your feet move forward, & your mind looks back, you begin to see beautiful treasures with eyes you didn't have prior to this journey.

I marvel at how my life has been so richly blessed this past year. The friends I've made on this journey have enriched me beyond measure. My faith has deepened, & that's the most precious gift of all. My relationships have more meaning. Wow! I didn't know that was possible. I welcome my flashbacks because they keep me in touch with the new me.

I love to embrace this journey. God has given me an opportunity to see life from a new perspective with   a keener eyesight. I don't wish it away. Going forward takes facing my fears. Looking back gives me strength. It melts my fears & renews my faith. I love my life, & I am grateful for each day. When  fears creeps up on me, when anxiety blows in like the wind, I must consciously put myself back in the arms of my loving Father. After all, only He knows the number of my days. The rest really doesn't matter.

Friday, December 7, 2012

I'd like to change a few things about myself.

What Christmas memory will stick in your mind the most this year? Will it be a gift you gave away, or perhaps a gift you received? It might be the little program at church, or perhaps the Christmas concert at school. Maybe you'll go Christmas caroling or bake a batch of cut outs. You might get to spend much needed time with loved ones or quietly celebrate without much ado. Whatever your circumstances, a few memories will be made. Christmas tends to be a mile marker.

As I flash back through my own Christmas memoirs, I always begin on Christmas Eve with the anticipation of Santa Claus. We went to a candle light service & gathered with cousins for a fancy dinner. I never could completely enjoy myself because I was worried I wouldn't fall asleep. Santa would pass me by.

Somehow, I always fell asleep & awoke to some delightful little Christmas gifts. It was almost always a doll... Baby First Step, Mrs. Beasely, Chrissy, to name a few. I always got a new nightgown. My stocking was filled with apples & oranges, a few candy canes, & some chocolate covered cherries. I could count on that.

Christmas was magical for me. It was a time to enjoy friends & family, go Christmas caroling, maybe sledding, & ring in the New Year. I loved being free from school for a few weeks. I loved having my cousin spend the night. Playing with my new doll kept me busy for hours. Life was simple. Little things meant a lot.

Every year as Christmas passed, I was sad. I still feel that way. I want to savor every moment. Before I know it, the music will stop, the bell ringers will be gone, Santa won't be in the mall, & all that will remain of the gifts that were opened will be balled up wrapping paper & empty boxes. The weather will be chilly. The kids will go back to school. My heart will feel bare.

As we ring in the New Year, resolutions will be made. Some will be meaningless. Some foolish. A few will be sincere, but most will go by the wayside. I like to write mine down & see how I did the following year. Sometimes I don't even remember what it was. This year my goal is to reach out more to other people. I want my resolution to be of eternal significance. Yes... I'd like to lose a few pounds & change a few things about myself, but more than anything, I'd like to do something that will allow God to use me.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Just. being. honest.

Just. being. honest. There are so many things in the Bible I don't understand. Truth is, I probably never will this side of Heaven. Try as I might, it's hard to sort through much of what is written. Some of it seems so confusing, but I am sure it's just my inabilty to understand, my own shortcomings.

Just when I think I have something figured out, a curve comes my way. What seemed black & white suddenly becomes gray, & I have to question my own thinking. I try to take things in the Bible in context. I try to look at the Bible as a whole. I try to understand the stories & apply them to my life.

I try to see who the passage was written for or why it was written. What issues were being addressed? Were the words written to last through eternity or were specific problems of the time period the reason for the divine words breathed by God? How am I to know? How can I, a mere reader of the word, discern what the Bible is saying to me?

How is it that people who read the same words can have different interpretations? Why does one person discern one thing while another discerns something else? How is it that the Holy Spirit directs one person one way & the other person another way? People come to odds over these differences. People stop going to church because of these disagreements. People hurt because others see things from different points of view.

Sometimes it doesn't matter. As with most things in life, we can agree to disagree. Other times, it matters. It divides. It hurts. Sometimes we cannot overlook our different interpretations. I think the best we can do is realize that we are called to love one another. The Bible says we will be known by our love. Clearly love is the best testimony we have.