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.
God is faithful. He is. Really. Even when I am not. I am not faithful to remember all He has done for me when I am in the midst of an overwhelming circumstance. It’s easy for me to say those words to someone else who is crumbling beneath a difficult situation or an overwhelming state of mind. But then just moments later, it seems, I am sitting here, throat constricted, my mind chaotic with possible answers to a problem, instead of taking a deep breath and releasing my burdens into His capable outstretched arms.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”. Matthew 11:29-30
It’s interesting to me, that given this word from the Lord, we still take our burdens to the feet of Jesus, lament and cry and beg for answers or resolutions or even for Him to take them from us, but then we promptly get up, pick up the burden and walk away. I want to learn from Him, I want to lay my burden at His feet and trust His hand. But I am a control freak. I am a dweller. I hold the situation or issue in my hand, study it, dwell on it and try to figure the best way to resolve it. I’m not so good at releasing my burdens into His hands. The crazy part is this: after I’ve struggled over it, lost sleep over it, tried my ideas on it, I finally come to His feet and just fall in a puddle of tears with my hands still clinching the burden. And, just as He promised in these verses, He pries my sweaty hands from the burden, brushes my hair back from my tear stained face as I relax and release it into His capable hands. He comforts me and calms my spirit and I finally rest. I wish that I could say I do not repeat this process very often, but it isn’t true. I am stubborn and willful. I am a child of God still learning that I am not in control. He is. Still learning that life is easier when a burden comes into my life if I instantly snatch it up and race to the feet of Jesus and quickly place it in His hands.
What burden is weighing you down today? Release it dear friend into the Savior’s hands and then pick up His yoke which is about peace and rest, and the. watch Him do His thing in that situation!
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.
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.
Well. Today’s the day. We’ve come full circle in this cancer journey as we sit waiting, in a room full of other cancer victims, to have another PET SCAN. This one even more important than the last. This one will tell us the cancer is gone….or not. But our gut feeling is this cancer monster has been conquered! Our lives have revolved around that frightening “C” word for seven months. 2018 will be our year of woes that was filled with blessings. 2018 will be our year of victory over cancer. I am not as anxious or feel like a deer in headlights this time. I am not afraid. My big guy has faced this giant with courage, with determination, with soldier like strength and I believe he will walk away a conquerer. Some say they are cancer survivors, but i think they should call themselves cancer conquerors! Fighting this beast is an all out battle both physically and mentally! God has sustained us and will continue to sustain us. He is worthy to be trusted. He will hold you up when you feel you are crumbling. He will provide when you aren’t sure where it will come from. He will send one of His children to wrap loving arms around you or to hold your hand and let you cry. He will provide humor to get through difficult moments and He is faithful to walk every step with you. I knew this before….but I am absolutely certain of it now. I trust Him…..no matter the outcome of today.
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.
I listened to the quiet. It was summer and my children lay in blissful slumber. I slowly got up and walked to the bathroom. Stopping in front of the mirror I looked at the woman before me. “Who are you?” I thought, leaning closer to get a better look. “Who are you?” I asked out loud this time. The sleepy face in the mirror stared back at me confused.
I looked down at the counter at the photos I had found the night before. Staring up at me was a fresh faced eighteen year old. “Who are you?” I asked the girl in the photo. She smiled, her hair perfect, skin flawless, eyes full of expectation. Aspirations of becoming a famous writer sought after by every agent in the publishing industry flooded through my mind. I looked back at the woman standing in the bathroom mirror and back at the girl in the picture. Were they the same person? Twenty-five years had changed everything. The woman in the mirror had hair sprinkled with gray….highlights, she jokingly told her friends. Freckles covered her face from sun exposure. Eyes now surrounded by little creases, looked very tired. Weight gain from pregnancies had not disappeared as hoped, and her face had become rounder. “Who are you” I asked her once again, agitated that no answer came. Suddenly I heard a voice “You don’t know either, huh?” Did I say that? Did she say that?
Where was that girl in the picture from twenty five years ago? Marriage, babies, potty training, laundry, ball practices, school projects, dinners, the list was endless. It had been years since I had sat down to put words on paper. “When did you get so old and fat?” I asked her. She frowned this time. Then I heard the words “Are you writing?”
Tears filled my eyes. Memories of dreams, tucked deep in my heart came flooding back. A dream that might not be worth removing and dusting off, I thought. “Tend your dreams” the words of a writer friend rang in my ears.
Then, as if someone was standing next to me, I heard “Dana, your real excuse is fear. Fear that you won’t be good enough, fear that you will fail.” This was too much, I backed up and sat down on the side of the tub and began to cry. I was afraid. Afraid that it was just one of those dreams never realized. The voice returned “What are you going to do about it?” I sat there for some time thinking, then from somewhere deep within, a renewed passion began to stir and a renewed strength found its voice and declared “I am going to write. Good or bad, I am going to write. Talent or not, I am going to write. Published or not, I am going to write.”
Joy bubbled up from somewhere. I stood and looked at the woman in the mirror. There was new sparkle in her eyes, her cheeks were flushed and she had a smile on her face. Walking closer to the mirror, I looked intently at her and introduced myself, “Hello, I’m Dana and I am a writer.”