Monday, April 28, 2014

I'll be wishy-washy, thank you very much

Recently I read a comment on facebook about how wishy-washy pastors use the story of Thomas and the way he doubted of the story of Jesus' resurrection to condone our doubt. Even though Jesus offered Thomas the opportunity to touch his wounded hands and pierced side, he wasn't saying that doubt was okay.

Wishy-washy? Really? Do adults still use that term these days?
Do we really humiliate one another because we have doubts?
Still? Really?

The story of Thomas and Jesus is one of my favorites in Scripture, precisely because Jesus doesn't condemn or insult Thomas. Jesus doesn't wag his finger and accuse Thomas of being wishy-washy. Yes, he tells him to stop doubting and believe - after he offers Thomas the chance to touch his wounds as Thomas had requested.

And let's not forget that the disciples didn't believe the story of Jesus' resurrection until they too saw his wounds. It wasn't enough that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary and other women had seen Jesus and spoken to him. It wasn't enough that they had seen the angels and spoken to the angels. The disciples waited until they had seen Jesus with their own eyes before they believed he had risen from the dead.

Who are we kidding? We ask for proof all the time, don't we?
You want me to buy this house, show me the inspection reports.
You want me to take this job, show me what this company is about.
You expect me to believe that you love me, show me through your faithfulness and loyalty.
You want to work for me, show me your resume.
You want me to send my child to your school, show me test results.

And we do it with God too.
You want me to trust you? Then say "yes" to my prayers.
You want me to attend this church, then they had better play music I like.
You want me to obey you, then show me what the rewards will be.
You want me to tell others about you, then promise me that you will protect me.
Give me what I want. Let me do what I want.
God, you need to love the people I love and hate the people I hate.

One of the reasons I have struggled with the institutional church in the past few years is because many of the churches I used to attend seemed hell-bent on squashing questions, deriding doubters, and making us all feel dreadfully inadequate. No matter what we said or did, it wasn't good enough. We weren't spiritual enough. We didn't read the right translation of the Bible, unless of course it was the one "they" decided was most accurate. We couldn't trust ourselves to read and understand Scripture; we had to listen to what men had to say... unless children under the age of 12 were being taught. Then women could teach. To question the powers that be, to challenge their rules, to speak up in disagreement was seen as rebellious, as questioning the authority of God. It was exhausting and humiliating and painful most of the time.

I am glad I don't go to a church like that anymore. So very glad.

I taught a Sunday School class yesterday morning on this very topic. I hope you're sitting down - there were adult men in the room. Some of them even spoke up and asked questions! And no lightning hit the building. Imagine that! Gasp!!!

According to what the aforementioned person expressed so arrogantly, to honor doubt, to allow for the expression of doubt, to ask questions, to ask for proof, and to speak of the need to express our needs and questions from the lectern or the pulpit is equivalent to being wishy-washy. If that is the case, then I will be wishy-washy, thank you very much. I will gladly bear the title of wishy-washy if by doing so, I am able to help even one person be honest about their questions and fears, their needs and desires, their longing for an intimate and meaningful exchange with Jesus. If my wishy-washy teaching encourages one single person to look at the story of Thomas, the story of Mary Magdalene, the accounts of the men on the road to Emmaus, the woman at the well, the woman with the issue of blood, the prodigal son and his equally lost brother with an understanding that we all want proof sometimes, that we all need a healing touch, that we all have demons that plague and discourage us, that we all want explanations, that we have all had our hopes dashed and our faith shaken, that we all want to run away from our responsibilities and party sometimes - if anyone comes away from one of my classes or discussions or blog posts with an smidgen more hope and expectation, then my wishy-washiness will have been worthwhile.

I spent a lot of time writing about about that accusatory comment in my journal last night and today. I was angry. I was hurt. I was insulted. To be honest, I got rattled by it. And then I figured out why - it was the fact that his comment resurrected some voices I hadn't heard in a long time. It was an old tape of the condemning sound of the old voices. The ones that used to keep me silent. I recalled the time that someone I used to respect asked me some questions about my faith life and then looked at my husband and said, "You've got your hands full with her." I remembered the times I was excluded from leadership and teaching opportunities at church because of my gender. I remembered all the times that the only sermon examples I heard had to do with sports and war. I recalled the dozens of times that pastors spoke disrespectfully about their wives and daughters and sisters and daughters from the pulpit. I remembered the agony I felt every time I sat under that teaching - and I remember how often I felt like it was my fault that I wasn't submissive enough and I wasn't enough of a godly woman to let those feelings go and I wasn't steeped in The Word enough to handle the truth of what they were saying.

Two years ago, I met an amazing woman named Pat who is now my spiritual director. Soon after we met, she planted a thought in me that came back to me last night. She challenged me to ask myself a question when I feel my blood pressure rising over things I hear and read. When I find myself shrinking and shriveling in the face or the memory of some insulting, degrading, authoritative, heavy-handed commentary that gets stuck in my mind. She said, "Gail, you need to ask yourself - is that the voice of God I hear or someone else's voice? Would Jesus look at me and say that?"

Would Jesus look at me and say, "You're wishy-washy"?
Would Jesus look at me and say, "Be silent. You have nothing worthwhile to say"?

There are a lot of things Jesus did say to those who followed him. Difficult things.
Stop doubting and believe.
Go and sin no more.
You have so little faith.
Oh unbelieving and perverse generation. How long shall I put up with you?
Could you not watch and pray for one hour?

But more often than that, he said things like -
Bring the child to me.
Your faith has made you well.
Your faith has saved you.
Peace be with you.
Do not be afraid. It is I.
Follow me.
I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.
In this world, you will have trouble,
but take heart; I have overcome the world.

And at the very end of Matthew, just before the passage that is often referred to as The Great Commission, which Jesus gave to ALL of his disciples, we read this statement - Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountan where Jesus had told them to go. When they say him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

Even after seeing Jesus, after having spent time with him after his resurrection, after eating with him, after all of that, some still doubted. And once again, Jesus doesn't condemn them or insult them or call them demeaning names. He gave them all the responsibility and challenge to go into all the world and share the good news of who he is and why he came to earth. He doesn't command them to wait until their doubts cease and their questions are all answered. He doesn't tell them to wait until they understand the right doctrines and subscribe to the right belief system and get a seminary degree. He tells them to go and teach and make disciples  and baptize people and most important of all, he promises to be with them, with all of us, to the end of the age, to the end of all ages.

Nothing wishy-washy about that.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thankful Thursday - It's a life and death thing

 A couple of weekends ago, I drove up to Asheville to spend some time with my daughter. I hadn't seen her in a few weeks, so it was time for a road trip. On that gorgeous Saturday, we walked through the botanical gardens just outside the college campus. It is referred to as "the botans" by the students.

Such a beautiful, quiet, energizing, educational place. Although I was careful to take photos that didn't include other visitors, there were plenty of people there, soaking in the sun's rays, talking to one another, reading, standing in the stream, taking photos of each other and their children. In other words, we weren't the only people wise enough to spend some time in the great outdoors on that glorious day.

I am enormously grateful for the beauty of nature, of flowers in bloom, leaves bursting forth from heretofore barren branches, and also the beauty of the people who emerge cautiously from our wintry coccoons and are being transformed into spring creatures with color and energy and hope for a warm summer.

The smaller the flower, the more miraculous, as far as I'm concerned. So much beauty in such a small package.
How do those tiny seeds know when to send their new shoots upward, towards the sunshine?
Year after year. Season after season. They don't give up hope. They don't concede and allow themselves to be overwhelmed by winter's frigid temps and icy blanket. Nor should we.

For a late lunch/early supper we went to a Spanish restaurant called Curate. I'm not sure if this is the meaning they intended, but that word means, "heal yourself." And after that meal, I certainly felt healed and whole. Buzzing with activity, the kitchen sent out dish after delightful dish. It was by far the best Spanish food I've had since moving down to North Carolina.

The two empty dishes pictured here previously held grilled bread on the left and gambas al ajillo on the right - that is, shrimp cooked in garlic.

We had the most amazing pulpo a la gallega with a potato puree and sea salt. This dish caused my eyes to roll back in my head. Oh me, oh my. I wanted to order a second plate of this deliciousness, but I refrained. I will definitely order that one again sometime soon. And I won't be sharing it with ANYONE!!!

For dessert, we had crema catalana con frutas del bosque, essentially a take on creme brulee with berries under the cream. There is a layer of candied sugar laid on top of the cream, a layer that had to be broken with our spoons.

It was the best meal I had had in months.
I was full and grateful. So much bounty. So much beauty.
Great food and even better company.
I love that daughter of mine, blue hair and all.

At the other end of the spectrum from the vibrant, lively time I had with my daughter was the time I spent in Arlington, Virginia, earlier this week. I went with a dear friend to the funeral of one of her dear friends, a woman who had served as a nurse during World War II. She was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery near her husband.

On Tuesday morning, there were ten funerals planned. Apparently, it takes months from the time of death before the burial can take place. In this case, it had been about five months since this brave woman died.

The pomp and circumstance was impressive, somber and precise.

They handled her casket with reverence and honor.

Then the caisson left to go carry yet another fallen American.

Marines stood guard nearby, maintaining focus and attention before, during and even after the brief service ended.

The eight who had carried her casket to the gravesite, stood and held the flag above the casket during the entire ceremony. I kept wondering how hard it must be to remain at attention during services in the heat of the DC summer, clad in tight, heavy uniforms. But there they stood, unmoving, listening, waiting.

After the soldiers folded the flag, the chaplain approached the daughter of the deceased, handed her the flag and repeated what a chaplain said to my mother thirteen years ago at the national cemetery out at the end of Long Island after my father's passing - "On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Army, and a grateful Nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service."

It's difficult to listen to those words and watch that presentation without crying.

Once all the guests had left the area, the Marine who had stood guard at the head of the casket walked somberly away. It was a spectacularly beautiful morning, sad, tear-soaked, but so very memorable. Over 400,000 people are buried there at the national cemetery in Arlington. So much life and so much death.

There is so much to be grateful for. I am grateful for - 

Life and death. Part of the same story. Part of all of our lives. 
A place to be buried, to be laid to rest.
The miraculous and life-giving story of Easter, reminding us that death is not the end.
Being invited to translate a funeral at church tomorrow - I never thought I'd need my Spanish at this new church we've been attending. But here I go.

Loved ones who show up as life winds down and death approaches.
Loved ones who show up at the end of life to remember the good times with survivors.
The ones who don't wait until the end, but show up all along the journey.
The opportunity to show up in other people's lives to encourage them along their own rocky journeys.
Reconnecting with a friend I met during my first year of teaching, a friend in need of prayer and support as she faces the challenges of parenting teenagers.
Laughing through our tears as we talked. 
Honoring the fact that, "Parenting is no joke."

Eating, drinking, walking, and enjoying the beauty of life. 
Women and men who learn to cook so well and are willing to share their gifts with the world.
Sharing time with family and friends.
Celebrating health, academic success, friendship, and love.

Road trips. Safety in travel.
My courageous friends who are in Haiti right now.
Trips planned with Steve and the kids. 
Solo trips yet to be planned.

This awesome video, reminding us that every little bit we do can make a difference. 
Jen Lemen, who provided the link to that video and so many links to so much joy and courage over the years.

This simple reminder that life is not meant to be simply one chore, one obligation after the other. 
There is room for happiness, joy, grace, love, and laughter. 
There is room for food, for drinks, for movement, and for faith.
There is room for choice, for choosing life, choosing forgiveness, choosing peace.
There is also room for sorrow, crying, suffering and death.
In fact, since we will inevitably deal with this last bit, then we have more reason than ever to make room, time, and energy for all the goodness of life that comes before it. 
It is a life and death thing, a life-then-death thing - so let's live with the greatest joy and deepest gratitude that we can muster. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Solemn Saturday

In between the darkness of Maundy Thursday, the sorrow of Good Friday, and the glory of Easter morning is this day that almost never gets talked about. Solemn Saturday. Silent Saturday. Sad Saturday. The healer, the miracle worker, the one who walked on water, the one who fed thousands, was dead and buried. Gone.

Mary Magdalene and some of her friends had prepared to go back to the tomb the following day in order to properly deal with the body of their slain leader. One question they had was, "Who is going to move the stone from the entrance of the tomb?"

Which makes me ponder all the times I've asked a very similar question.
The times we all have.
Who is going to roll away the stone of fear?
The stone of disappointment?
The stone of disillusionment?
The stone of difficult relationships?
The stone of financial hardship?
The stone of divorce?
The stone of children in crisis?
The stone of unemployment?
The stone of bankruptcy?
The stone of kanswer and other illnesses?
The stone of loneliness?
The stone of bulimia and anorexia?
The stone of addiction?
The stone of perfectionism?
The stone of expecting that all those stones will be rolled away once and for all?

I've spent far too many days and nights sitting outside of the tombs of dead things and dead relationships in my life. Shed many tears. Pleaded for mercy and healing and grace and strength. And hoped and prayed for someone to come along and move the stone. I am fully aware that I can't move the big ones. I can't even budge them. Solemn days. Solemn nights.

But I am grateful that I can sit outside of those tombs with family and friends and other co-travelers on this life journey of mine and wait together for the One who was laid behind the stone 2000+ years ago to show up again and move the stones that are separating me from all that I am meant to have and be, all that I am meant to experience and rejoice in, all that He is and all that He has in store for me, for you, and for all people everywhere.

Somebody said, "Sometimes all you have to do is show up at the tomb with burial spices in hand in order to see a miracle."

Good, terrible, holy Friday has come and gone.
Solemn, silent, sorrowful Saturday is upon us.
But, hallelujah, Sunday is coming!
Hope is coming.
Love is coming.
Peace is coming.
New life is coming.
Just a few more hours until the celebration will begin again.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thankful Thursday - the saddest Thursday of all

Just got home from church, the Maundy Thursday service. It is a somber remembrance of the night when Jesus shared the Passover Feast with his disciples, washed their feet, prayed to be delivered from the horror of the cross, but ultimately laid down his life for those he loved. Which is all of us.

As the service progressed, as readings were done and songs were sung, the lights in the sanctuary and the candles on the communion table were extinguished. By the end of the service, we were sitting in utter darkness and complete silence. Somber indeed.

And yet, even in the darkness, even in the silence, even in the loneliness of abandonment and the shame of betrayal, even when hope seems to be extinguished along with the candles, I am thankful.

I am thankful for the community of faith of which I am a part.
I am thankful for the gift of communion, and the relationships that exist around the table.
I am thankful for the bread and the cup, the simple and profound reminders of that terrible night.

I am thankful for the silence of the tomb on Saturday, the day on which I will spend time in silence, remembering, praying, reading the stations of the cross, and preparing for the happiest day of all.
I am thankful for the promise of new life, of eternal life, and I am grateful that it has already begun.

I am grateful for the fact that a year ago tomorrow (Friday, April 19, 2013), I went in for surgery and came out boobless, wombless, and kaswer-free.
I am grateful for how great I feel right now.
I am grateful for the ways in which kanswer has awakened me to the glory of life and love, the gift of friendship and family, and the luxury of laughter and good health.
I am grateful for every day that I have ever lived and every day I am yet to live.

I am thankful for tears and sorrow because they cause the joy and celebration to be that much more profound.
I am thankful for pain and illness because they cause me to take my health more seriously.
I am thankful for darkness and silence because they draw my attention to the Living Word and the Light of the World, in whom there is no darkness at all.

Years ago, I heard a sermon given by Tony Campolo in which I heard for the first time:
"It's Friday, but Sunday's coming."
In this case, it's almost Friday, but thanks be to God - Sunday is coming!!!

Grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The End of the Journey

Earlier today, I read on facebook about a beautiful woman named Gwyn who recently left the hospital to go spend her last days on earth surrounded by family and friends in the comfort of her own bed. I hope and pray that she isn't in pain or afraid.

I hate reading stuff like that. We all do.

I don't even know Gwyn or Steve, her husband, but I know someone who does. The someone I know asked us to keep Gwyn in our thoughts and prayers - and of course I will. Even without knowing her, I am sad that she is coming to the end of her life journey.

Whenever any of us hear that someone is near the end, we are stunned a little and saddened a lot. We all know we're gonna die sometime and we know everyone else is gonna die too. But the younger the person affected or the closer the person is to our age, the more "real" it feels, the more devastating, the more sobering.

I can't decide if I think it is a good thing or a bad thing to know the end is so near, to go through a series of "lasts" - this is the last time I will go to the supermarket, to ride in the car, to see this friend, to eat this meal. This is the last time we will make love or celebrate our birthdays, our anniversary, and go to church. This is it - and I know it.

I hope that knowledge would make me embrace and enjoy every day with greater attention and alertness. I hope it would make me more grateful for all the days I have lived, all the love I have known, and all the joys I have experienced.

This week is the most important week of the year for me on my faith journey. This is the week that I will focus on the end of the journey of Jesus of Nazareth.

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, the day of the parade given in Jesus' honor. The pastor at church described that parade in a way I'd never heard before: the formerly lame people that Jesus had healed were probably dancing in the crowd. The formerly blind people were making eye contact with the one who had restored their sight. The former lepers mingled freely in the crowds. The girl who had been raised from the dead was probably there, celebrating and welcoming the one who given her new life. To that list, I would add Lazarus, also recently raised from the dead. And some of the people he had recently fed were feasting on his presence and the praise that he so richly deserved. I bet those people were thinking about all the days they had spent with their Teacher, the meals they had shared with their Rabbi, the miracles their Healer had performed in their lives and in the lives of those they loved.

And all the while, he knew what was coming. He knew he was less than a week from the end of his life. That he was soon going to be taking his last walk through the garden of Gethesemane. His last time in the temple teaching. His last conversation with his mother. His last supper with his disciples. His last moments - carrying the cross, being nailed to that cross, bleeding and dying. The end of his journey was not going to be surrounded by friends, sipping cool water, numbed to the pain by morphine and sleeping pills in the comfort of his own home and bed.

I shudder with every reading of the story of what happened to Jesus during his last week. The betrayal. The denial. The arrest. The mockery. I hated watching The Passion of the Christ and seeing such a graphic depiction of what happened this upcoming weekend. So much pain, so much suffering, so much disdain, so much sorrow. Even though I know that "the end of the journey" was not the end of the story, I still weep when I ponder the horror of that final day.

Sometimes I still cry when I think about the dark and painful moments I endured during kanswer treatment. Sometimes I cry when I ponder the possibility of kanswer returning and having to go through another round with that dreadful disease. I know that I too will someday be in my final week. It may be due to kanswer or some other illness. I may be an accident or a fire. I do not have any idea. But the time will come when I will take my final walk up the street, my final trip to Spain, my final time with friends, and my last supper.

But I also rejoice, truly I can smile through my tears, when I think of the countless blessings I have had in my life, when I list the many things I am grateful for, when I think of all the people I have loved and have loved me, and when I think of all that is yet to come, between now and my own walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Most of all, I rejoice when I remember that, if God is true to God's Word (as I have come to understand it), then the end of my journey will not be the end of the story.

But still...

I wish Gwyn traveling mercies on this final leg of her life pilgrimage. I will pray for her and her family, for peace, for comfort, for love, for everything she needs and wants from now until the end of the journey. I will pray the same for you and for me too.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Do you see what I see?

As I look around me these days, I see signs of new life. The sun is rising earlier and staying up later, warming both the earth and its inhabitants. Flowers are in bloom. Trees are sprouting leaves of all colors and sizes. I've been able to get outside to take long walks, to listen to the birds, to stare into the bright Carolina skies, and to take deep breaths of pollen laden air.

Speaking of pollen, until about four hours ago, my car was covered with it. Last Wednesday night, as I stood and talked to a dear friend, she nervously tapped her fingertips on the hood of my car. A couple of days later, her fingerprints were eerily visible, highlighted by the pollen that seemed to fill every ridge. Today, I finally washed her fingerprints and that film of flower sperm from my car. And then I had a serious sneezing fit.

As I sneezed and blew my nose, I also gave thanks for the fact that all that pollen and all that sneezing are signs of transformation, of resurrection, of new life. Winter is behind us. The dried, cracked earth has softened and baby buds are breaking through. Worms are making their appearance after rainy days. Trees that were barren and brown for the past four months are now pink and white and red and green. Shadows fall over previously uncovered sidewalks and streets. Tiny yellow-green inch warms are bungee-jumping from branches down onto passing vehicles and pedestrians. My little doggie doesn't run for the garage door as soon as she's done "doing her business" anymore. Nor do I.

What else is in bloom around here? Hope. Hope for a strong finish to the school year for my two children. Hope for longer days and quieter nights. Hope for healing for a woman I know who was recently diagnosed with kanswer and will begin chemo afte Easter. Hope for a dear friend who is dealing with her step-father's death and her mother's grief. Hope for a rekindled friendship. Hope for answers to the questions my soul keeps asking. Hope for an inspiring and encouraging visit with my daughter this weekend. Hope for good health and a long life. Hope for strength and grace and the ability to forgive. Hope for new and deepening friendships. Hope for laughter, love, joy, and peace for all people everywhere.

Joy is also in bloom. Joy at the news of one baby's safe arrival and another one on the way. Joy at the news of a friend's daughter who is overcoming her anxiety. Joy at the birth of a book now available in paperback. Joy because of a married couple's reconnection after years of marital malaise. Joy at the frequency of academic breakthroughs and the growing confidence in his study skills. Joy at being discovered by distant and long-lost friends on Facebook. Joy at making new connections through this blog. Joy at setting up dinner, lunch, and coffee dates with friends. Joy at a lively communion service on Sunday night. Joy because Easter is only eleven days away.

Newborn hope.
Newfound joy.
Newness of life.

In the yard, in the trees, in the flowers,
in life, in love, in friendships,
in conversation, in connection,
in prayer, in silence, and in gratitude,
there is so much beauty.

Do you see what I see?

Monday, April 07, 2014

This Little Life of Mine - My Messy Beautiful

So there's a huge thing happening over at Momastery these days. She has invited bloggers to share stories of their "Messy, Beautiful." Their messy, beautiful lives, that is. And a lot of women have posted links to their blogs and to their stories. I've peeked at her wall of writers a few times today - a lot of messiness and even more beauty. Cuz like I've said for years, "Everybody's got something."

There's something wrong with my daughter's car, something I don't want to pay $400 to fix, but I realize that that's a far cheaper price than buying a new car.

There's a crack in our kitchen counter - and water is running down into the wood of the cabinets beneath.

The umbrella on our deck table broke in the last snow storm, and the broken pieces are still out there.

The wood of the deck is rotting... again.

We need to paint and replace and repair and renovate many baseboards and walls and window sills and the kitchen back splash and the tiles in our shower.

The carpets need to be replaced, but I may have to settle for just getting them professionally cleaned. I'm a little bit afraid to rip it up... only heaven knows what the floorboards look like underneath.

I dealt with kanswer a little over a year ago.

My daughter had a serious health challenge of her own a few years back.

My father died of lung kanswer, and my mother still mourns for him, thirteen years later.

One brother is dealing with the devastation left in the wake of chronic illness.

My other two brothers still live with the fallout of divorce.

Their children wonder what the heck happened and why???

Broken bones. Fractured bones.

Broken promises. Broken hearts.

The list goes on and on and on. I've seen a lot of pain and suffering wash through my own life - and everybody else's as well.

But here's the thing - this little life of mine still shines.
There's lentil soup simmering on the stove on this rainy Monday afternoon.
There are bananas, lemons, limes, clementines, mangoes, and a cantaloupe on the counter.

My husband is talking to his colleagues on the telephone.
My son is upstairs watching English premier league soccer on television.
My daughter is working her way through her university studies with determination - most of the time -  and tears - some of the time. (But isn't that the way we are all making out way through our messy, beautiful lives?)
My kids still like to talk to me and hang out with me - even though they are 20 and 17 years of age.

My double mastectomy scars are smooth and straight.
The lump that my chemo port used to create under my skin has disappeared.
My hair won't stop growing - now that I want to keep it short.
I'm getting more flexible with yoga and stronger with jogging.
My bifocals are helping me see a world I didn't know was out there.
The folks at my church welcome me with open arms every time I darken the door.
The seniors at Plantation Estates keep inviting me to come back and tell them more about what I understand about the Bible and to cry in front of them.
Some lovely latina ladies also seem to like watching this Americana use her Spanish-from-Spain lisp to share stories of this life journey of mine and how I've been turned upside down and inside out by the craziest story of virgin birth, miracles, love, life, death, and resurrection the world has ever heard.

Cuz if Jesus really was God and came to earth to live and die for us, if Jesus really did restore sight to the blind, talk to that lonely woman at the well, reach out and touch lepers and dead bodies and cast out demons from one of my favorite Bible characters, Mary Magdalene, then there is a really good chance that Jesus loves me too. That Jesus isn't afraid to reach out and touch me through the hands and words of doctors, nurses, friends, neighbors, as well as my husband and children. That my story isn't yet over, that joy and hope and peace and healing and wholeness and love will eventually win. Love always wins.

The truth is that I've faced down a few demons of my own - the demon of the fear of thunderstorms (I no longer hide in closets or crawl down the hallway to check on my children as I used to), the demon of the fear of death (we're all gonna die, so who am I to think I might be the exception to that rule?), the demon of worry about my husband and children's health (we've had so many great years together in mostly excellent health, so why do I worry about the future?), the demon of wishing I could live someone else's life (I would choose Mirka Federer, Roger's wife... except for the rumor that she is currently pregnant with a second set of twins), the demon of jealousy (did I mention that SHE makes all of her own clothes and SHE makes such awesome artwork and HE gets to travel all over the world whenever he wants to), and the demon of comparison (look at all HER blog readers and all of HIS friends and all of THEIR money in the bank) to name a few. Plus if kanswer isn't a demon, then I don't know what is! Certainly, those demons still lurk in the corners of my heart. As long as I'm alive, there will be battles for my heart and mind, body and soul; it's a part of this life's journey.

Yes, this little life of mine is raw and fragile,
broken and cracked,
lovely and lonely,
faithfull and doubtfull,
hopeful and joyful,
scarred and healed,
perfectly imperfect,
evergreen and also on its way to its inevitable conclusion,
messy and beautiful.

This little life of mine, it's the only one I will ever have,
so I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it SHINE.

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

Saturday, April 05, 2014

It's Saturday - how could I not be thankful?

This morning, I woke up without an alarm and lingered in bed for a while, looking at the ceiling, enjoying the prospect of several hours without any plans or any company. Steve left early this morning to drive up and visit Kristiana for the day. Daniel spent the night at a friend's house. So I was left alone with the little doggie to find ways to enjoy this glorious spring morning.

I am thankful for -

* the sandwich made of an egg, whole grain bread, pesto veganaise and spring mix that I made myself for breakfast
* the green tea latte with coconut milk
* the brief walk I took with Maya
* talking to a neighbor for a few minutes at the end of the block
* the long walk I took to the library
* the many prayers and thoughts that passed through my mind as I walked
* phone conversations with my daughter and my dear friend as I walked
* how patient the librarians were with the mentally disabled man who was talking to them as I entered the library and was still talking to them when I left fifteen minutes later
* watching these two videos of the cutest and funniest couple I think I've ever seen (one and two) (I so wish I could be their friend.)
* Mimi, the woman in those videos, and how she inspires me to sew simple and beautiful dresses and skirts
* a green smoothie with mixed greens, mango, watermelon, almonds, flax seeds, water, and orange juice
* vegan chocolate chip cookies
* final preparations for a talk I will give tonight for a women's gathering at a Spanish-speaking church
* an invitation to speak at a conference for Spanish-speaking women this August
* the fact that both my husband and my daughter (in separate conversations) laughed heartily when I told them that I've been asked to speak on being a submissive woman
* the knowledge that I will NOT be giving the talk they expect me to give cuz submission is not the same as obedience or silence or weakness or inequality - and that is what a lot of women, myself included, have heard for most of our church-going lives
* remembering the brief time I spent on my church's women's retreat last weekend (where there was absolutely NO discussion of submission!)
* having nearly four months to get ready for that talk
* the warm weather during these past few days
* fans, air conditioning, and dehumidifiers
* irises beginning to grow and daffodils already fully grown
* my son getting the green light to get back to playing tennis after having to take five weeks off due to the beginning stages of a stress fracture in his wrist
* Dr. Rainbow, the sports medicine doctor that we found on our health insurance website, who treated Daniel and the fact that she herself played college tennis so she understood the rigors of his training and how difficult but necessary it was for him to take time off
* her bubbly, humorous, and gentle spirit - how can you be anything but sunny and kind when your last name is Rainbow?
* how well she and Daniel got along during his visits
* being asked to make someone an infinity scarf and finally finding a fabric I think she will like
* the birth of a son to a friend of mine out in Arizona - YAY, Mel, Andy, Liv and Locke!!!
* the wedding invitation that arrived this week - it would appear that my nieces and nephews are full grown adults.
* how clicking on the wrong box on the template of my blog turned into a new look once I realized that I couldn't figure out how to go back to the previous look
* how many times my mistakes and bad choices have worked out in the end
* the hope that those that haven't been resolved or worked out yet eventually will
* so many opportunities to live vicariously through other people's photos and stories - friends who recently went to Rome and London, someone who is wedding planning and shopping in Atlanta this weekend, Pinterest, others who are working on their second books, someone who is about to go back to work as a flight attendant after taking time off, and also the great stuff I find on youtube
* tear-soaked conversations sealed with hugs and kisses
* the awesome quote I found this week that said something like - "the percentage of the time that I have survived terrible days is 100%."
* being able to look back at where I was a year ago right now - awaiting a date for surgery, watching and waiting for my hair to regrow, being thrilled that chemo was behind me - and having my eyes still fill with tears of gratitude for life and health, for hospitals and operating room dance parties (why didn't I think of doing that?), for celebrations of life even at the moment of facing one's mortality
* memories of this week's miracles: coffee dates, dinner dates, an invitation to the theater, going for a walk with a neighbor, walking through Target with my husband, walking through the mall with my son, fantastic sales going on at Harris Teeter (I do love going to the supermarket), much laughter, many times of prayer, hours of writing and reading, and lots of delicious food
* for Easter morning sunrise services and Easter hymns
* for the power of resurrection, new life, surprise visits, and hope in the wake of darkness, fear, silence, and death