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Words of Encouragement Are Never Wasted Words

Today I attended the funeral of a sweet man. Every Sunday, without fail he would greet us at some point, whether it was as I entered church with my family, or scurried in late looking for a seat. He would walk up beside me, or one of my daughters, and give myself or them a side hug and then inconspicuously hand off a peppermint or pack of gum, then give us a wink as he moved on. He was faithful, he was enthusiastic and he was perceptive of who needed a little encouragement.

At the end of the service I was walking slowly up the aisle to leave and I spotted a precious lady in conversation who I love, respect and admire. She is a beautiful woman, full of energy and a zest for life. She is creative, and industrious and her home looks like a Southern Living Magazine. I saw her catch my eye as if she planned to say something, but finished her conversation. As I was about to pass her, she reached out and began to encourage me about something she read in my blog. I was caught off guard, forgetting that these things I write here are actually read by others…..not just me exercising my thoughts in life. She looked into my eyes and said “You are a writer, Dana. I love what you you said in your blog.”. My heart warmed. Just when I thought this silly writing dream was a waste of energy and time……that I really don’t have any talent…..or direction…..or validation for this thing I love to do. God tapped me on the shoulder and used someone I long to be like to whisper words of encouragement to this often melancholy heart. Writers are weird people who are constantly in a state of putting words and sentences together to create something that tells a story, or describes a moment or changes the heart of the reader. They long for validation, but struggle with creating something worthy to be read by others. The sad truth is the work of most writers will never see the light of day, much less make it to publication. But they keep on writing.

So today, I received a gift. Encouraging words from someone who read what I wrote and felt the emotion and meaning behind the words. Thank you sweet lady for blessing me. You are a jewel. God used you in my life today.

God is paying attention to us and He knows our hearts, our dreams, our hopes…..and He knows when we need to know that what we love to do isn’t a waste of time. He cares enough to encourage us through unexpected words from others. So don’t hesitate the next time you feel the need to inspire someone with supportive words…..God may be using you to tend a dream in someone’s life.

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What to Write?

Well. I’ve been sitting here staring at this computer for about 45 minutes….determined to make myself write something. But I haven’t written in so long, I can’t seem to muster up anything that is even remotely interesting, motivating or inspirational. This is painful. My whole life I have longed to be a writer. I was in my 40’s before I even took a deep breath and referred to myself as a writer…..even then afraid someone would ask “So what have you written.” So mostly, my brain is dreaming up stories to write, devotionals to encourage or blog posts that might inspire. Then nothing.

Former students who I have taught in Bible Study have asked me to write a devotional for seniors or college age, but when I sit to write, I choke. I have no college degree, I have no theology degree, I have no experience. I feel like I have let them down too.

I have written a children’s chapter book. It is a faith based book about a club that helps others during their summer break. I’ve sent endless queries to a long list of literary agents who politely rejected me or just ignored me. I’ve peeked at self-publishing, but something in me needs the validation of a literary agent taking me on for publication. So that story sits in a file on my laptop, and a hard copy in file on my desk, and they both taunt me.

I think the biggest hurdle is twofold: Making myself sit and write and finding someone who will help me get published. And, now I add to my long list of excuses….getting older.

So, if you are out there reading this blog thinking, “Man, she’s pathetic.” Yes, I know that. I think I have skills, and maybe a wee bit of talent…..but I think I lack drive. Respond and give me advice. Tell me where to start. Tell me how to start (and don’t say “Just start writing” please!). I need a direction. I need possibilities. I need advice.

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Old Might Be Around the Corner

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.

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Sweet Sam Moment

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.

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Cancer Part 2

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.

answers, cancer, friends, God, Life, Love, People, promises, Uncategorized

PET SCAN Day

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.

escape, Uncategorized

The Armstrong Saga Continues

So the Armstrong saga continues. Today I sit here in our recliner, right leg propped up and iced down while watching Alabama beat Ole Miss. Yes, I am recovering from partial knee replacement…..and just so you know, it’s no joke. I had unrealistic expectations of walking unassisted and already returning to my regular routine. No. The bandage is off, I can see the approximate four inch incision with pieces of tape on each end mocking me. The knee is still pretty stiff and I haven’t achieved a 90 degree knee bend yet. My right hip is complaining, so while I ice down the knee, I heating pad the hip😳😭.

I have discovered a few things about myself: I am not a patient patient. Not necessarily with others, but with my own progress. I really expected to be moving more freely at this point (9 days in). I do not handle pain meds very well. I tend to get weepy and depressed. Not a good combo with my lack of patience with myself. And I have an amazing family who takes care of me and puts up with my issues (I hope), and great friends who sacrifice in their own lives to help us out! Shout out to Keith Bradley and his mad a/c skills and servant heart. And a special shout out to my dear friend of 37 years, Dottie Hartley, who stayed with me the night before surgery and got up at 3:45am to get ready to get me to surgery by 5:00am because Lynn was already in Springhill taking chemo. Speaking of Lynn, I love this man. Even though he’s in the first week after chemo, he’s been taking care of me, amazing. I do so much better when he’s babying me and holding my hand.Our lives are crazy, but the love of our family and friends is stronger!! I’ve said this repeatedly over the last few months, and I still shout it loudly, God is sovereign, God is faithful and He will walk us through this season.

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Rest

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!!

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!