Where are your roots planted? What do they cling to for nourishment? according to Psalm 1 the man who plants his roots in the living water is blessed and will see fruit in his life, and no matter the season, his faith and joy will not diminish or waver, but will find abundance in what he does as unto to the Lord. The Lord provides and meets our needs, we do not need to worry, or seek what the world offers. Our delight, our contentment, our fulfillment is in the truths of His Word. God will guide us if we only will seek Him for guidance.
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.
Last night something was confirmed about me that may surprise many of you. I am not a rocker. I know you are shocked and surprised. I’m not even a poser. (I had to look that term up, fyi) It was evident by my lack of knowledge about the music or words to the signature songs of the band. I spent more time entertained by the people in attendance than the actual concert. My husband and I were given tickets by sweet friends to a concert by The Black Jacket Symphony: A Night at the Opera and The Best of Queen. My big guy was very excited about hearing favorite songs of his younger years. I confess that I wondered what kind of opera the symphony would play. I honestly expected an orchestra. I was wrong! I am not completely in the dark, I do know who Queen is, but I didn’t realize it would be a real deal rock and roll night! You may not believe this, but I’ve never been to a rock concert. It’s true! I know I’ve surprised you again.
Parking was the first step to getting to our night of rocking and rolling….obviously not an easy task in downtown Mobile when a rock concert is about to happen! We finally parked in a church parking lot with a sign that said “Private Parking for…(and I’ll leave the church name out here just in case someone wants to report two rebellious fifty somethings!): Violators will be ticketed or towed at owners expense. I was a little anxious as we got out of the car and proudly walked toward the theatre, impressed by our night of living on the wild side. I secretly asked God to forgive us and please allow the car to still be there when the night was over!
As we entered the door of the Saenger I was asked to open my purse for security. I looked at my big guy and asked, “Are these people famous?” The security guy asked him if he had any weapons. He confessed to a pocket knife and suddenly the guys hands went up and said “You can’t enter with a weapon, sir.” I looked around at the other security people standing ready to pounce, beginning to wonder if the real Queen was in the house. My sweet husband informed me later that the lead singer died in 1985. He handed over his knife, it was obvious to me that it was worth the sacrifice to hear the band! We then walked to another security checkpoint and were scanned with a wand for any other concealed weapons. This didn’t make me feel comfortable about the obvious possibilities of events that could happen if there was this much concern for what people would carry into the concert hall! We finally got to our seats and waited. We were in the balcony, third row, dead center. Perfect view of the stage. I noted the massive speakers hanging from the ceiling, both sides angled right at us. This wasn’t going to be good. There was an atmosphere of excitement all around me. As I watched people, which I love to do, I realized the average age in the room was somewhere in the mid fifties. But the energy was more like a crowd of twenty somethings! I noted the lights, the instruments and party like atmosphere. Suddenly the lights went down and the band ran out. The crowd went crazy. The lead singer belted out lyrics and people were screaming. I looked hard at the singer trying to recognize him. I did not. But then a familiar tune came, Bohemian Rhapsody. I looked at my big guy and said “I know this!”, but my words were lost somewhere in the midst of the screaming crowd and the blasting music. He leaned down and I got as close to his ear as possible and I repeated my words. He smiled and nodded. I still don’t think heard me….but I saw the smile on his face as he took in the loud music and I knew he was having a good time. I found myself watching people more than the concert as they got lost in the music, reliving the moments of the 70’s and 80’s when they first heard the songs. People were standing and dancing, hands in the air and singing at the top of their lungs. These people knew every word. Then I heard a familiar beat….the crowd began to stomp, stomp, clap, stomp, stomp, clap. I looked at my man with shock, it was my high school senior class song! I found myself following along and singing “We will, we will, rock you”. I was no longer a fish out of water. A square peg in a round hole. I was a rocker! They sang Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Another One Bites the Dust. I suddenly felt cool because I knew these songs. I didn’t know all the words, but I knew the songs. At the end of the night, my ears were numb and I honestly was glad to be headed home. I observed something as I left. It was 10:15pm and the crowd that had just been jamming out for two hours were leaving in an orderly manner, laughing and chatting as we exited the nearly 100 year old Saenger Theatre. Forty years ago, these same people would have been jumping up and down demanding an encore still full of youthful energy, demanding to be blown away by the rock band, Queen. We made it back to the church parking lot (along with many other concert attendees) and our car was still there and no ticket on the windshield. Prayer works! We drove home and I listened to my sweet man talk about the band and how good they were and how fun it was to hear some of his favorite songs. I listened and thought how thankful I was for the gift of tickets for us to enjoy a non -typical night out for this “square” chick, and to sit next to my man who has had such a difficult year. All I can say is…..rock on!
I’ve had some quite sobering moments this week. The realization that if I live as long as my grandmothers did, and if there is nothing unexpected in the near future health wise, I may only have 20-30 yrs left. Quite sobering when I know how quickly the last 30 flew by. The English ancestry in me leans toward the whole stiff upper lip attitude, while my Irish blood wants to put up a good fight, and with those two ancestory bloods coursing through me I stick out my chin and choose to press on. Mostly I just want to fall into the Father’s arms and beg for a do-over, or declare I’ll do better. I wish I had done more with this life He gave me….why do we realize this when we are older and the clock is tick tick ticking away? This week has been an emotional one in my head. I sat in my car and cried a few days ago. I know I’ve said this before but this year has been more difficult than I realized emotionally. So many layers to the life experiences that occurred in the last 14 months as I now understand the concept of PTSD to some degree. Delayed reaction is sometimes more painful than immediate reaction. It has time to swirl in the back of your mind, churning and building like some low category hurricane in the gulf until suddenly it gains unexpected strength and barrels into the coastline surprising everyone in it’s path. There were warning signs that were ignored or waved off as minimally important, but still the storm churns and builds. Then suddenly you’re in the middle of it struggling to contain the possible surge that threatens to burst forth. Out of nowhere there is a hand reaching towards you and you desperately grasp it, finally willing to listen to the wisdom that will follow. The answer to the storm was always there. Trust Him.
“Trust in Him with all your heart and lean not into your own understanding”.
I’m just going to let that sit there for a moment.
That verse has new meaning for me. Trust Him. Don’t try to figure out how you could have done it different or better or not at all. Don’t lean into my own understanding of what time is and how much or little I have left. But face forward. Remember the truth: I know that I am His child and He cares for me. He doesn’t see me with critical, judging human eyes, He sees the heart of me and He sees the plan He has for my life. His unconditional steadfast love wraps around me like a warm blanket calming the storm swirling inside and I rest peacefully. I will choose to walk closer with Him. I will choose to take joy in every day I have left with confident expectation of what He has planned for this mess of a human He created and loved enough to send His Son to die for in order that my eternity would be spent with Him. Yes…..I trust Him.
Tomorrow I wake up to the 30th Valentine’s Day with the man God gave me. But this year it is different. This year I will be mushy. I will kiss him every chance I get. I will tell him I love him every hour of the day. I will give him his favorite peanut M & M’s and maybe go have a spur of the moment lunch somewhere. Things could be so different. This past year made the fragility of life so real to me. It gave me a reality check that we are getting older and we need to cherish every day, even the ones when he is driving me crazy and pushing my buttons. Because the truth is I love this man. I know the lengths God went to to orchestrate the events and people to have our paths cross. Even the back story to us meeting is an amazing logistical undertaking. His plan for us to meet was two years in the making! We knew from the beginning that what we had was special and we wasted no time in starting our life together. I love this man because he sees me. Not the fat girl I see in the mirror every morning. Not the failure I think I am. He thinks I am beautiful and smart, and he tells me often. He values my opinion on everything. He calls me friend. He is not perfect, but neither am I. He has held my hand through giving birth and through miscarriages. He has put up with my strong opinions. He has encouraged me in my writing. He has held me close and let me cry when my Mom died. He has told me many times that everything would be okay, when I was shaken over circumstances. He has worked hard to take care of me and his baby girls. He has taken care of me when I have been sick and when I have had surgery, and been so sweet when pain meds made me whiny and weepy. He has made me laugh so many times when I wanted to be mad at him. He has held me close when I needed the security of his arms around me. He held me up and gave me strength to walk through difficult family situations and then the death of my Daddy. This man loves God and has learned to trust His hand this past year. He is the spiritual leader of our family. I love him and I am so proud of the man he has become in the last thirty years. I could not have survived without him walking by my side. My daughters are so blessed to have grown up with a Daddy who was at every event, said yes a thousand times, helped pick out prom dresses and even knows what pantaloons are and all the other parts of a Trail dress. He can brush hair into a ponytail and can cook up some amazing potato gravy and biscuits when his baby girls come asking. He has taken them on motorcycle rides and played with them in the surf at the beach. He has laughed as hard as they have on every ride at Disney. He has given them an amazing example of what a father is supposed to be like. They are strong, opinionated young women who can hold their own with any boy because of him. I love this man and tomorrow I will kiss him and tell him that I am blessed because God gave him to me.
This morning I had a sweet moment. I snuggled with my grandson as I rubbed his little back and hummed the same tune I had sung to his mama as a baby. My grandson. Those two words still fall awkwardly from my lips. When I say them, I still feel as if I’m practicing words that are not yet real to me. He’s been here for over ten months and I’ve kept him three days a week since August and still I’m surprised that I am a grandmother. I often think of my Mamaw Bessie when I am holding him close. She had such a kind and gentle spirit. I remember the softness of her skin and the safeness I felt when she hugged me or I just sat next to her resting my face against her shoulder. As I held him and took in the sweetness of his eyelashes resting on his cheek, I continued to softly rub his back and pat his bottom. Without opening his eyes he slid his free arm up my arm and rubbed it slowly back and forth, then rested it there and slowly patted my arm. What a treasured moment of love. He is my grandson, my first precious grand baby and I love him so much.
We are waiting….yet again. Cancer is not only a life altering experience in the life of the patient and their loved ones, but it’s a game of waiting….always. Waiting for diagnosis. Waiting for tests to be done. Waiting for diagnosis. Waiting for a treatment plan. Waiting for results. Today we are waiting for yet another CT scan so the radiologist can them create a formula of treatment for radiation. In theory, we think this will be easier than the last eight months, but we are no longer hanging our hopes on unrealistic expectations. It will take a week for them to do their thing and program the monster radiation machine that will shoot pin pointed radiation into my big guys body. Then, according to the consultation…a month ago….he will take 20-23 treatments that last 15 minutes (I find this hard to believe) and will happen Monday through Friday until he reaches the prescribed number between twenty and twenty-three.
Sometimes it feels like this cancer journey started yesterday and other times it feels like it has been going on forever. I wonder if we’ll ever get past life with cancer. Will we be able to walk through each day without the “what if” of cancer imprinted on our subconscious? Will the affects of the last year of life’s storms ever slip away and return to normal? I hope so.
I cried yesterday. If you know me, you know I don’t do that a lot. It came out of nowhere. Completely unexpected. I have fought back the tears for a month….trying to be positive, encouraging and strong. Strong for Lynn, strong for my girls and strong for me. One word from my friend, which I can’t even recall what that word was right now, and the tears welled up and spilled down my cheeks. She quickly closed the door to her office and pulled a chair up next to me and took my hand in hers. She let me cry and try to get out the words that I had been pushing back for some time. She listened and held my hand tightly in hers, then gently rubbing it between her hands, it was comforting and personal and needed. Then she began to softly speak truth to me. I felt the flood of emotion begin to relax and recede. I felt my spirit fill with peace and my heart stopped aching. I knew everything she said was truth and was whispered to me in love. I felt myself breathing normally and I knew I was going to be okay. I trust God, but that doesn’t mean I won’t have to deal with fear. I don’t have to be strong all the time. I believe in His sovereignty and I know that He walks with us through whatever is part of His plan for our lives. We are not alone. We might not “see” Him, but He is with us in the hug of a friend, He is in the sweet whispers of encouragement, He is in the contagious laughter of my girls when they are together, He is in the warm meal brought to my door, He is in the beautiful sunset that takes away your breath, He is in the smile of my precious man-cub, He is in the quiet as I sit with my sweet husband finally sleeping quietly in His recliner, He is in the kindness of a friend riding by to see if our grass needs cutting, He is in the warm laughter of dear friends as we share breakfast, He is in the words of a song at the right moment, He is in the profound words of Psalm 46 as it reminds me that He has already won the battle and He is with me.
I am floundering around in a new place in my life. I became unemployed the first of September. That experience alone is it’s own blog entry. For a month now I’ve been trying to figure out what my next steps were. God has allowed me to be thrown for a loop, left standing empty handed staring up at the heavens. I’m 56 years old. I have accomplished no great earth shattering feat, nor have I written some great masterpiece that touched the hearts of all who read it. Even yesterday as I drove down the road, I was pondering the thought that I don’t sit and write anymore! Not even to blog. My soul is still. My heart thoughtful. My mind is chasing so many thoughts that I am struggling to settle on one path to walk down. I have felt lost….not knowing what direction is the right one. I have felt guilty for not pounding the streets to find a job. I have sat in front of my laptop trying to decide if I pound that super highway for a job, or put words to a word document expressing this strange season I have stepped into… and then done neither. I have sat quietly thinking about what I want to do…. and been clueless! I took a road trip to the island to get clarity from the sounds of the waves and the beach. As I sat there, feeling awkward sitting on the beach in the middle of the day in the middle of the week, I cried out to God. Out loud! Thankfully I was enjoying solitude on my portion of that sandy heaven. I heard only one word in that moment “rest”. I said “What?” I stayed there for an hour, both confused and a little agitated that this was all He gave me. I needed more explanation. I needed clarification. I needed Him to elaborate!
I wish I could tell you seven days later that I get what He was saying. But I do not. Does He even see my life right now? Does He even see my financial situation right now. He is an amazing God. I love Him. I desire to know Him better. I want to glorify and honor Him with my life everyday. But God, could you just be a little more specific! And just for the record, you and I both know I am not good at this “resting” thing! Instead my thoughts are: Why do I need to rest? What’s coming down the road? Isn’t resting also being lazy? I don’t know! Now I’m more uptight than before!!!
So. This blog post will have to be continued” as I chew on this while “rest” thing, and try to understand what He is telling me!!
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.