friends, God, Laughter, Life, Love, People, Uncategorized

It Matters. (Found this in some old files of things I had written a few years ago)

I stayed home from work today.  I felt somewhat achy, was it headache?  Was it a tummy ache? I wasn’t quite sure, but I stayed home.  The thought of sitting at my desk pushing papers to and fro, and answering the endless phone calls was all too much to face.  I gave into the aches and pains that usually disappear within moments of my fifty-three year old feet hitting the floor.

After the hustle and bustle of one daughter off to college and work for the day, another daughter starting her second week of her sophomore year and my sweet hubby heading off to work, the house was at last quiet.  I sat on the couch still in my nightgown and looked around my “lived in” house.  “Lived in” is my daughters favorite line to use when I am on a rampage about the house being messy.  “Mom, it doesn’t matter, it just looks lived in?”, they will say.  They don’t understand the inner pressure I struggle with to make my home look like a Better Homes & Garden magazine, or worse, Pinterest!  “It matters to me” I will tell them and then I set off on a mission to clean every nook and cranny.

I sat there on that couch for an hour, in the quiet, just thinking.  I thought about my life and the road I have been travelling for the last fifty-three years.  It isn’t playing out exactly as I had planned.  That sounds like I am unhappy, but I am not, though I am finding myself at a crossroads.  Many parts of my perfect plan have come to fruition.  I am happily married to a wonderful man who loves me more than I ever imagined being loved.  He makes me laugh, he understands me to the best of his ability as a man to understand a woman, and he supports me.  I have three amazing daughters.  The oldest is newly married, the middle daughter is in college and the youngest is in high school.  They are strong in their faith and they are living it out.  Nothing could make me more proud. I attend a wonderful church with many longtime friends.  I have been on mission trips and I have taught Sunday School  for high school girls long enough that I am now teaching the teenagers of the students I taught years ago.  Frightening!

We have experienced hardships just like everyone else.  God has blessed us time and time again.  He has met our needs even when we probably didn’t deserve to have those needs met.  We have learned so much as a married couple and as a family about God’s grace and mercy.  All this matters.

Five years ago I went to work full time after working five years part time.  Our daughters were getting older and more expensive.  My husband had experienced a lay-off from a job he had been at for nearly ten years and had started over at a new company.  Financially it seemed the right thing to do.  Up to that point I had only worked twenty hours a week to help out our finances.  The full time employment came at a time we were really struggling.    Now five years later I am still working full time, mostly because we have become accustomed to the extra money.

This full time employment had never been part of the plan.  I was supposed to have finished my first book, become published and obtained a lucrative book deal for additional sequels.  The plan also consisted of me becoming a women’s speaker and ministering to women through conferences and retreats.  This kind of work mattered.

I got up from my place of contemplation on the couch and decided to do something that matters.  I got to work cleaning up the house.  I made beds, I washed some clothes, I organized a cabinet and I even straightened up the girl’s bathroom.  I had forgotten what it was like to be home in the middle of the day.  The house was peaceful and I was getting so much done.  The last time I had been home during the day on a regular basis was when my youngest was four years old.

At 3:00pm my fifteen year old came in from school.  We sat and talked for an hour about school, friends, homework and anything else that came to her mind.  Things got quiet for a moment and she suddenly said, “I like you being home when I get home from school.”  Then she was off to her room to take a short nap.

I sat there a while longer thinking about that moment.  It won’t be long till she is graduating and then off to college.  This is what matters.  It matters that I am there for her when she comes home.  It doesn’t matter if we have lots of extra money to spend.  Being there for her is what matters.  Preparing my home is what matters.  Serving others is what matters.  Seeking God above all else is what matters.  This is not what the world preaches through every social and public media.  It is subtle.  It is constant.  But it ways in heavy on what really matters.  We become confused about what is important.  We strive to have it all and do it all.  We push our children to be involved in everything and to maintain great grades while forgetting that they sometimes just need to be kids.  We feel like failures when we haven’t achieved some kind of recognized symbol of an extraordinary woman who is perfect at parenting, leading and achieving, all while providing healthy meals, a spotless, well designed home and meaningful moments all chronicled on social media for all to admire.

I cannot compete with the ideal that floats around in my head of how I should be doing everything.  It’s too exhausting.  I will never live up to my expectations.  The realty of life is that my house is not always clean, I do not have a particular set of skills that allows me to have every room decorated and looking magazine worthy.  I am not a great cook!  There I said it.  I have go to meals that are no longer considered healthy or “Keto friendly” or any other kind of healthy friendly.  I don’t have a deep desire to be a chef.  I probably won’t be the granny cooking up amazing treats and creating lasting memories.  I will probably never be a published writer.  As of this writing, I have yet to have the children’s book I wrote achieve even one request for further chapters.

Loving, talking, laughing, hugging are things that matter.  Nurturing is what matters.  Encouraging faith in a God who loves unconditionally and who sacrificed His Son just so we could spend eternity with Him matters.  Cheering each other on matters.  Calling a friend matters.  Writing a note matters.  Listening matters.  Spending time with our sweet Savior matters.  Not measuring ourselves against the world’s standards matters.

Our family is FAR from perfect.  We are loud.  We laugh inappropriately sometimes.  We may be a little judgmental at times.  No one is brilliant.  No one is incredibly talented.  Not one of us will be famous.  We are not rich.  But what matters is we love each other.  We talk about everything.  Our girl’s poor fellas probably find the constant conversation overwhelming sometimes, but we all know what everyone else thinks about everything!  We share meals, we share vacations, we share last minute road trips.  We support their activities, we beam with pride at their accolades.  We go to church together.   I love how my youngest daughter once told us, “Not all families are like ours!  We are freakishly close.”  If freaky means we love each other and we are in constant communication with each other, that  we talk a lot, we laugh, we cry, we fight.  We hug and make-up.  Then yes we are freakishly close.

There is one thing that matters.  Love.

Uncategorized

Radiating

So we’ve reached another hurdle to jump in this cancer journey. Radiation. It started with a doctor appointment on December 13th. We heard many new medical terms and explanations of radiation procedures. We were again in information overload, but, we left confident that this would be the final kick in the butt of this cancer that has been an uninvited visitor in our lives for the past nine months. It took the programmers, physicist, doctor and who knows who else a month to configure and calculate the big radiation machine (I’m assuming it is a big machine at this point but have not seen it). All this for 22 prescribed visits of 15 minutes of a laser type of radiation to be precisely shot into my big guys body, carefully dodging his kidney, aorta, pancreas and spine while basically frying the shrunken mass. Literally from entering the room to walking out of the building only takes 15 minutes! I am praying they clearly have that mass in their sight before they pull the trigger. I am sitting in the car right now waiting, looking at Springhill Hospital and thinking about how much time we have spent at this facility over the past months and feeling thankful that God created people who have the knowledge necessary to treat people who have been shocked by the word “cancer”. God is so good. I am not oblivious to the countless sweet people who are still struggling for answers and successful treatment. I am thankful He has walked every step with us and blanketed us in peace and the security He is with us. I am thankful that Lynn’s treatment seems to be working. I will never take our time together for granted, and will continually thank Him for letting me grow old with my big guy.

Uncategorized

If you say it out loud…..

A very long time ago…I had a friend who told me “If you say it out loud, it will happen.”  I don’t know if that is true or not.  I’ve been known to say “Speak it into being…”  And I don’t know if that is possible either.  But I’m hoping, if I say what has me all anxious and excited, that these two thoughts could be true and it would become reality.  But here goes….my friend, Summer, who I have known for 22 1/2 years but have never met face to face, have decided to write a book about our friendship.  The circumstances put in place by God to even initiate our friendship are unique.  I have followed her via snail mail, email and now texting over three continents.  We have laughed together, cried together, rescued each other and encouraged each other through having babies, overcoming marriage struggles, lifting each other up in prayer and supporting each other through whatever life event overwhelms us.  We have raised 5 girls between us and understand the ache we each have to see these girls God has put in our care to become amazing women of God passionate about changing the world.  Yes, we are kindred spirits.  We somehow always know exactly the right moment to write a note, send a card, or make a phone call to the other.  We each have some sense of when the other is at a low point and needs to be lifted up.  We do not judge.  We only love and encourage.  And we have never stood in each other’s presence and hugged and cried at the miracle God gave each of us in this friendship nearly 23 years ago.  I hope the journey we share in this book will give those who think God isn’t listening a new hope and faith knowing that He is always listening. 

Laughter, Life, People, Uncategorized, Writing

Who am I? Who are you?

Who am I?  Or who do people think I am?  I ask myself that sometimes and ponder deeply who I am and what I am here for, or I wonder what people really think of me.  I wonder myself sometimes about other people.  Who are they really?  Have I just determined who I think they are because of their actions or their relationship to me or what they tell me?  Do I look beyond the chatter and actions and see the person behind the mask.  Because believe me, people wear masks!   I am beginning to believe that I do not really know anyone!  I only know the person they want me to see, the person they present to me. Which brings me back to my to my first two questions of who am I or who do people think I am.  Better yet, who is the person I let people think I am.  Complicated, huh!  We seem to present a different persona to different people, depending on the environment and situation.  It’s true!  We want people to like us.  We want people to respect us. There are those rare individuals who are the same, whether at work, home, church or at play.  But, I think they are rare.  I want to be that person.  And I think I am that person.  But I can’t be certain.

Among believers, the people who I worship with, the people who I see several times a week at church whether in worship or in service, the people who have been walking this walk of faith with me for years, these people are the people I seem to be most susceptible to believe they are who they say they are.  But, I am wrong.  It has a deeply disturbing effect on me when it turns out they aren’t who they say they are!  I chew on it for days!  I lay awake at night searching through memories trying to figure out how I could be so gullible!  I ponder on how they could go in a direction that is so contrary to the words I heard from their mouths over the years and I try to figure out a plan of action to bring them to their senses!  I waver between getting them alone and talking sense into them or throwing a bag over their heads, taking them to a secluded location and beating some sense into them!  But, sadly, that is not my job.  How do I know that, God told me so!  I can’t fix everything.  He can use me but I can’t make them change their path.  That stinkin’ free will thing always gets in the way!!!  But God knew what He was doing when He created us this way, and I don’t want to go second guessing the Creator!

But seriously brothers and sister in the faith, be who you really are!  Quit trying to fake people out!  Quit trying to play some stinking Shell Game where we have to pick the right shell to see the real you!!!  Life is hard enough in this world without having to be suspicious of every person calling themselves a Christian.  If you are a Christian, you should walk, talk, act and make decisions like a person who believes the ENTIRE Word of God, not just the parts that are convenient.

Who am I?  I hope when you answer that question you would say “Dana is a woman who believes every Word in the Bible.  She loves the Lord with all her heart.  And she tries as hard as she can to live a life that honors Him.  She is loyal.  She is compassionate.  She is merciful. (no snickers from anyone!).  She speaks her mind sometimes when she should be quiet and ponder. If you don’t want her real opinion, don’t ask her.  She is fierce when it comes to her family, her children, her friends and the students she teaches.  She tends to be self-condemning, but she knows it and is working on that.  She believes people can turn around and do great things for God.  She believes people can make a difference in other’s lives and in this dark world.  She tries to see the positive, but is sometimes anxious and overwhelmed by the ugliness of this world, but likes to reclaim the truth that GOD IS IN CONTROL!  She wants to make a difference in this world but is not always certain as to how that looks for her.  She is sometimes unrealistic. (but thanks to her loving husband of 23 yrs she has learned to overcome some of that) She believes in marriage between one man and one woman (it’s in the BOOK people, read it).  She believes there is a positive side to everything (except sin).  She loves family vacations with her hubby & 3 girls with no fussing!  She believes we are all called by God to do something specific.  She gets more frustrated with believers who know right and do wrong than she does with lost people who do wrong.  She struggles with wanting everyone to like her and believing that most people don’t.  She struggles with feeling like she is invisible.  She gets mad at herself when she does the right thing even when she doesn’t want to do the right thing. (what is that about!)  She hates being overweight, and hates that as hard as she tries she just can’t lose the weight.  She wants to be a published writer, but thinks it will never happen.  She does not struggle with “gray areas” contrary to some peoples opinion (because you guys, there aren’t really that many gray areas).  But I hope people would mostly say, she is not a fake.

So, friends, if you are still with me and still reading, ask yourself the same questions.  And if you are really brave, and want to know what other people think about you, ask me, I’ll probably tell you.

Laughter, Life, People, Uncategorized, Writing

So…I was reading through old posts and old short stories I have written and found my self amused, and yes, empowered by this story I wrote a year ago….Please comment if you read!

Coolness Does Not Always Trump Experience!

I have observed that people are not really interested.  Interested in what, you are probably asking at this point.  I am beginning to believe, that in general, people aren’t really interested in other people.  I spent 4 days last fall at a National Youth Workers Conference, in which our small band of youth workers were jumbled together with some 8,000 other youth workers and youth pastors from across the nation.  After congregating together in the “big room” for worship and a speaker, we quickly dispersed to various seminars on a myriad of subjects.  We tried to spread ourselves throughout the seminars in order to gather as much information and knowledge as possible.  I found myself in a couple of classes alone, well not alone, but sitting among strangers.  I had tried hard to read name tags as people passed me in the convention center and in the classrooms, curious to see where all these people who must love working with students were traveling from to learn more about ministering to youth.  I noticed that we band of eleven from the heart of the south, the belt buckle of the Bible belt, were in the minority.  Most people seemed to hail from the north and west to California, then the East Coast, and a large group of mid-westerners.  I tried engaging some people in conversation by asking “Where are you from?” and usually I was given a short, quick answer.  I started to think my southern twang was hindering our ability to converse.  As I sat in one seminar, the instructor asked us to turn to the person sitting next to us and give three words that described our Middle School experience.  I shuddered inwardly, not wanting to remember those three years of torment.  I glanced at the young woman sitting one chair away from me, waiting for her to glance toward me to follow our instructions.  She continued to look forward for a moment, and then slowly looked toward my southern (albeit awkward) smiling face.  I saw her forehead give just a slight crinkle as if she was suppressing the urge to frown.  With no expression, other than the brief crinkling of her perfect brow, she uttered three words in a distinct Midwest accent, “They were great.”  Then she turned her face back toward the speaker, never waiting for my response.  Was she trying to be amusing, I wondered?  Did she misunderstand the assignment? I sat there staring at the side of her perfect face, examining her perfect make-up, her perfect long thick hair twisted into a perfect bun and clipped with some chic hair accessory.  She wore a long dark fitted top with a gray lightweight coat and one of those wonderful scrunchy scarfs that only people with long necks can pull off.  Her long legs were crisscrossed and covered in dark tights and riding boots.  Her arms were crossed across her waist, adding to her air of superiority.  I was 49 years old and this 30 something young woman had just dismissed me.  Her body language and actions revealed her apparent belief that the activity was beneath her or that communication with me was unnecessary.  I was still disturbed by her response and by the fact that if you stood the two of us before a group of teenagers, she would be their obvious choice among the younger generation.  She was young and hip (that word alone ages me!), she was tall and shapely (I am not), she was beautiful, she seemed educated, for all accounts she was visually more appealing than myself.  I could see the scenario play out in my mind.  She would be surrounded by giggling girls and hormonal teenage boys.  I would be left standing alone, rejected and cast off.  I shook my head, clearing the scene from my mind.  I became determined not to be ignored.  I had worked with youth for over 20 years in many different aspects.  I had seen and heard things that would have left this young woman speechless.  I had held the hand of many a crying teenage girl as she blubbered about a broken heart.  I had been roused in the middle of the night by a phone call from a student to come and pick them up or just because they wanted to talk.  I had endured sleepless nights at camp and retreats and the most feared – lock-ins!  I had had my house rolled and forked so many times that at one point I had decided to leave the yard décor left by students to make it easier for the next go around.  My car had been painted and saran wrapped on many occasion – no small feat when you drive a mini-van!  I had convinced many a student to come clean with their parents over secrets they were keeping or to reveal an unplanned pregnancy.  I had prayed over and with students about small and big decisions as they looked forward to life after high school.    I had taught the truths of God’s Word to every age from 12 to 18.  I had earned my stripes and the sprinkle of gray that was shining in my auburn hair!  I was not going to be discounted as some short, fat old lady trying to be cool by attending a youth leader’s conference.  I smiled my most charming southern smile and tapped the young woman on her shoulder.  She slowly turned her face toward me annoyed that I was trying to engage.  “Excuse me; I am sure you were wondering what three words I would use to describe my middle school experience.  And yes, in my day, it was called junior high, but nevertheless it was middle school.  The three words I would use to describe that time are Challenging, Abstruse and Empowering.”  I smiled at her again and turned my attention toward the speaker who had resumed her lecture.  I felt the young woman still staring at me but mustered up the most pensive expression I could and pretended to be engrossed in the speaker’s content.  I felt a sense of victory at having trumped her aloof manner.  She might be young and pretty, but I was old and experienced!