Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Breaking Bread

Two things I love are traveling and preparing food and eating with loved ones and friends.
The traveling costs a fair amount as we dream of returning to Italy someday after two trips there and amazing memories made and food shared! So, cooking and eating food here is more realistic in my life right now.
The winter is always when my "inner cook" surfaces at our home. There's just something about the cooler temps and shorter days that make it more pleasant to be in the warm, aromatic kitchen. Whether chopping (very therapeutic by the way), baking, or stirring and sautéing, I love to feed my senses and love to feed others' senses as well.
We've exchanged the art of hospitality, comfortable "down time" around a family table for the art of entertaining and impressing others with our culinary achievements and beautiful, creative presentations.


One of my favorite memories is of having a friend over in the middle of the day and serving her leftover homemade chicken pot pie and a salad and sitting in our old, funky eating area next to the kitchen and talking and sharing for hours that winter afternoon. It warms me every time I think of it.

I need to ask her if it does the same for her.

There's so many more. Sitting with friends at our table or theirs after a homemade meal, sipping wine then, hot tea or coffee, lingering over some sort of desert and just being with one another and sharing in one another's lives, the good, the hard, and the reality. Laughter and tears and often some praying. We seldom leave the table the entire evening!
It is quite possibly one of my favorite times of the day.
Even when it's just Fred and I, I love the camaraderie of working together in the kitchen on the evening's meal, sipping a glass of wine and catching up on one another's day. Then we either sit and with music playing or we have a few lovely BBC shows that we are addicted to and we stream those often stopping them to talk about something going on in them or to clear the table and finish up our show or save the rest of it for another evening.
Shauna Niequist says in her book Bread and Wine that really communion is whenever we gather with others and share food.
"Communion is connection, remembrance" and "He's here! God is here, and he's good. Every time we eat, every time we gather, every time the table is filled: He's here. He's here, and he is good."

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

FEARFUL and Yet God...


"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Fall is here and it is my favorite time of year. It's when things supposedly slow down a bit. 
Yard work tapers off more and more. 
Outdoor gatherings are more mellow. 
School schedules dictate earlier bedtimes...quieter evenings at home.

This fall also holds fear for me.
An uninvited guest pushing it's presence into my thoughts and at times into my heart.

I DO firmly believe that we are to look at our problems through the lens of our God and not the other way around

I am a person of prayer and committed to praying for those I love and even for some I may not particularly like. I pray for myself as well and am quick to ask for prayer from those with whom I feel safe doing so.

It's not like this has never entered my life before. nor is this the FIRST fall I have found fear an unwelcome companion at times dogging my heels.


I have three friends at the moment dealing with breast cancer.
One is recovering from it and the treatment (mastectomy and treatments) and she is a beautiful woman and friend and wife and mom! Strength is what she exudes, though I know she often does not feel strong, she has endured multiple major health challenges! Sonja, I love you so deeply! 

Two are newly diagnosed and just starting treatment.

My friend Linda is a peer as far as time of life and age and is just starting radiation after her diagnosis, biopsy, and surgery in August. She has a wonderful attitude and faith!!! My heart breaks though as she endured her sweet husband's own battle with cancer several years ago and finally had to release him to the Lord. A year later she also said goodbye to his father at the same hospice center AND room! We were to get together today after her radiation treatment to celebrate our August birthdays at a local restaurant...alas, she's not having a good day and we had to cancel again.

My other friend is Rachel, a young wife and mom of two girls, who just moved far from her established home with her husband when he accepted a lead pastor position in another state. A few years ago Rachel's husband, Matt, also battled cancer and beat it! However, it forever alters your life no matter the outcome. Rachel, diagnosed in September with breast cancer, is presently starting chemotherapy and even with her tremendous sense of humor and her faith she is able to share honestly how hard this really is on so many levels.

For the past several years, I was having mammograms every six months because they found a spot they wanted to monitor. I went for several of those and then talked with my primary care doc who I trust very much. He agreed with me that since it hadn't changed and I have a history in the past of lots of Fibroid cysts and there is no family history of breast cancer that I should take a break from all the radiation exposure and mammograms and wait until after the first of 2015 to get another one.

I was good with that...we are looked at here in the U.S. in amazement by Europe as over-reactionary and needlessly scaring women and performing lumpectomies and mastectomies when the "cancers" being excised would often not create any problems for the woman and she would die a natural death before it ever impacted her life, if ever.

I WAS good with it...

However, I also have lost sweet friends to breast cancer and I have a daughter that is an oncology nurse, so I do not have my head in the sand...I know that there is real breast cancer and I am seeing these three friends deal with it right now.

My problem is that this has all triggered my own fears about my situation and I am going to God asking him to bolster my faith and to remind me that it is he alone is who responsible for each and every one of us.....I am not doing well right this moment. I do believe my fears and my problems are small in the light of who God is. I do! The more I stay in the scriptures the better I do, but sometimes I just have "a day" or  "a week" or even "a season".

I guess I just want to be real and honest about this all and in the midst of it ask anyone who just might happen across this blog to lift my three friends up in prayer and pray for me as well. I know my eternal destiny and that is truly amazing as far as dealing with my mortality. Sometimes though, in the quiet night hours I lie awake and Fear knocks, I try to see if I can feel what my mammograms see, I can't, I think of these women that I love and I do not want them to endure any more losses and then I pray for us all...and then I cry...life here is not what was intended for us...   

Friday, August 29, 2014

Earlier Blog Draft I Just Discovered :)

"When will I ever learn to live in God
When will i ever learn?
He gives me everything I need and more
When will I ever Learn ?" (Van Morrison)

(This was an entry that never got out of my draft pile...just written in the last six months or so, so here it is!)
I am sitting at my computer right now after running...literally running... to the bathroom seven times tonight! Nope, it's not my "fun night of prep before a colonoscopy". Nor is it a flu bug. It apparently is the tail end of 48 hours of hyper inflammatory issues in my gut and elsewhere....that migraine last night was a kicker. My body always lets me know when I have overtaxed my reserves and not done a good job of feeding it and resting it! I will get this resting in Him thing down more consistently sooner or later. Hopefully sooner, so I don't trash my self physically and I can stretch out the mileage on this shell that houses me for a lot more fulfilling years and not just survive to a ripe old age.

I have struggled with busy times and I have struggled with times where I am so depressed it is an effort to get out of bed. I think we all have struggled with these to a greater or a lesser degree. Either one requires letting go and letting God.
Either one requires admitting we are weak and He is strong.
Either one requires that we learn to care and nurture the life God has lavished upon us...no matter what socio-economic bracket we are in or what our ethnicity is, we need to honor the life He gave us and care for it like the precious gift it is. When I abuse myself or others with my actions, my words, or worse, my heart and attitude, I am saying to the world, "I don't value myself very much, nor God Who created me, nor anyone else." I need Him every moment of every day...every breath is a gift from him.  This is a sweet blog post on resting in Him by this woman!!! Good stuff!

Prayers for Ferguson/St Louis/Our Country
Prayers for those two families most impacted
Prayers for our hearts and motives and actions

I do not have words of wisdom, nor deep, deep insights about the recent events here in St Louis.
I have a sadness and a fear that nothing will ever change, mixed with a hope that things really might begin to change in the right direction.

I have read and seen things that have lifted and crushed my spirit at the same time by people at the scene in Ferguson, online sitting at their keyboards, and in conversations going on all over the place.

I really am hopeful that we all remember that the  lingering effects of such a traumatic event stay with people for longer than the news coverage ever does.

I am hoping that the intentional behavior of many of us to be kinder, more aware, and careful of what we say or even what we might nod in agreement with, becomes habit and not just a "crisis response".

I think that most of us would agree that there is no right or wrong 100% on either side of the coin, but there is a stalemate in our culture that is slowly snuffing the life out of many of us. It's an apathy that breeds many symptoms that at times flare up and that can create pain and suffering and even death.

I need to confess that I do not want to enter into the discomfort of what these events call me to do. I want to stay in a comfort zone that falsely promises to protect me and mine. 

And yet, I am weary of the ongoing heaviness that broods in our land...a darkness that requires that the light of the gospel and the love of our Lord be released into it in the ways each of us are uniquely wired by God to release it.

I am thankful for the life God has given me. I do NOT take it for granted. But, I am required by his love towards me to share that love willingly and not sparingly.

My heart goes out to all of the residents and the families in Ferguson impacted by this terrible tragedy. 
My heart also goes out to all law enforcement personnel and their families that put their lives on the line for us every day. 

I am not ignoring or discounting the fact that there are people who have done terrible things both as citizens and as law enforcement officers, but I believe that most of us want peace and unity.

As I said in a FaceBook post a week or so ago, we need to take personal responsibility for our own actions, attitudes, and words. 
Especially as we sit in the relative "anonymity" of our homes or cars or offices and type away on social media.

Words have power.
Words have meaning.
Words reflect what is truly in a person's heart.
What we choose to post or choose not to post shows more often than not what sort of person we are.

I pray that these struggling words I have clumsily written reflect God's character more than mine, I really do!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The longer I am around the more I realize so many things just do NOT matter.

Missing the traffic light...doesn't matter.

Messing up a meal...so NOT the end of the world.

Forgetting why I walked into a room...oh well.

My hair, body, outfit, voice, face does not look (or sound) just perfect and the way I think it should...no one else is noticing, if they are, "Get a LIFE!"

People doing stupid things in traffic...ummm, do I NEVER do stupid things while driving?!?!
(This is SO not worth getting into it with someone over!)

What someone else thinks of me...more often than not they are not thinking of me, but if they do and it's unkind, I have been blest with an abundance of safe, loving people in my life, I can let those others go!

Having the last word...it's exhausting, besides,  I like saying "Hmmm.." and walking away from a convo.

A clean house...sanitary, yes, squeaky clean and always presentable?...got over that years ago!
Plus I have loads of "cheater" things I do to make it presentable in under 5-10 minutes:)

Winning...WHY is this so important to so many of us? Grace and mercy and love always win!!! Big!!

Then again there are several things I have come to realize really do matter!

Time with those people that I am close to, either in person, face to face, or at least on the phone...NEVER lost time!

Lying about and doing nothing, daydreaming, and looking at the sky, or a baby's foot or sleeping face...priceless and restorative.

Reading good books...THIS is one that social media and "smart" phones have robbed from many of us!

Praying and listening for God's "voice" or direction...never enough time for this one, but we so often SQUEEZE it in!

Responding to that little impulse (Holy Spirit time?) to do something like go visit someone, or talk to that person in the checkout line that looks weary, or send a note to an old friend...or a new one...those are the moments I am sure that if I skip over them (and I have) I will miss out on getting my socks blessed off!

Sleeping...naps are a good thing and going to bed early just because you can and you are tired does not mean you are a nerd!

Doing something for someone "just cuz", especially for someone that cannot pay you back or that even knows you or that it was you that did it for them...this is one I  LOVE!!!!

Returning an unkindness with kindness...you may never know the impact of this, but the effect on others is stunning.

I am sure there are so many others, but this is a start.
I needed this today, because making mountains out of molehills is something I aspire not to do, yet find myself, at times, doing very proficiently!

Monday, April 7, 2014

DISTRACTIONS!!!.....Oh, I Forgot...Wait a minute...What was I saying, doing...?

I loved the movie UP.
I particularly related to the dog who would be focused on one thing and then his brain would register "SQUIRREL!!" and off he would bound after the elusive squirrel:)
My brain at any given time while I am on a task can look a bit like this!

 AS I sat down to write this, I was distracted by trying to figure out how to find and insert an UP arrow onto the blog text which took me down three rabbit trails.
Then a robin on our deck started fighting with his reflection in the deck windows and doors...he's still at it...and I HAD to go over slowly to observe him more closely!
And then the timer beeped signally that my tea had steeped long enough!
Anyway, you get the idea.

So, I have been meeting with a lovely small group of women for six weeks growing together in five areas of our lives. They are Food, Fitness, Faith, Focus, and Friends. My main goal area to grow in was...F-O-C-U-S. Ha!
The idea is if you have these areas in balance and are pursuing improvement for the glory of God with the added benefit of an accountability group that is full of grace and on the same wavelength, you WILL improve! It has been amazing and so good for me. It has reset my thinking a lot!

This is all part of a bigger journey I find myself pursuing at this time in my life.
Eliminating those things that are distractions so that I don't get bogged down by details that drain me and the always "urgent" sirens that also deplete my drive and narrow my vision.

I will say that I have been aware of, as I think we all have for years that we are in a culture and so is a lot of the rest of the world in some way or another, that we have increasingly become distracted from living full meaningful lives. We are trading that off for instant connectivity to every technology and screen enhanced item we can fit into our lives, our pockets, purses, or onto our bodies.

Really, the industrial revolution started this "snowball rolling down the mountainside" effect and even though we see the effects of it and lament it we act as if we are powerless over allowing it into our lives and into our peace and serenity and relationships.

So, I am trying in my own little way to step back, for a time and then from time to time, from social media, emails, web-surfing, youtubing, and multiple other distractions.
I just did this for almost an entire week getting off of FaceBook with a couple of "drop-ins" to promote a musician reunion worship service at our old church and to check on the status of a friend's child that is once again in the hospital and I am committed to praying for. (By the time of this post he has been home for a while!!!)
The email fast was the same as I had to access it to reply to a vendor and also a medical appointment mix up, but for the most part it's been much "quieter" inside of me!

I filled in the rather, embarrassingly LARGE blanks with other things.
Some were good, some were not worth spending my time on, but it's a learning curve that I will embrace.

One of the main reasons for limiting FaceBook is it sucked my writing energy and any creativity I have right out of my brain cells. Speaking of those brain cells, I also know that the less screens and "blue light" exposure my ever changing, ever adapting brain is exposed to the better. The brain is an amazing gift from God and I feel I have abused and disused it often.

Yes, yes, I am sure hormones, stages of life, and a host of things contribute to memory loss, brain fog, insomnia, etc. but since I have become so much more plugged in, I feel there has been a real shift in my ability to process and deal with anything from "Where are my keys, glasses, etc.." to "Why am I so unable to deal with certain things and emotions that are no big thing or that should NOT be a big deal?"

SO, in addition to eliminating the clutter of an overstuffed closet, over-stocked pantry, too many books on shelves that will NEVER be used again, and in general,  just the clutter of a consumerist culture, I am trying to unclutter what my eyes and my thoughts are focused on for more time than need be.

We'll see how this pans out and how effective it is over time as far as getting back on the wagon of writing and pursuing those things that are nearest and dearest to GOD's heart and not my immediate gratification meter.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Saying Goodbye to the Blazers

Telling people goodbye is hard and feels more awkward than natural. It's not my strong suit, never has been and I have done it poorly in the past and probably won't get better at it over the years.

It's after two in the morning and I have been tossing and turning and of all things thinking about Matt and Rachel Blazer and their family of two little girls and their pets.

I lay praying for them for a time and then images just kept drifting in and out of my thoughts until I knew I had to get up and put some of these elusive thoughts down on paper as it were.

I remember early staff meetings at the Greentree offices in Kirkwood sitting around that big table in the conference room. I remember wondering what am I doing here and who are these people really? I knew Anne Simon pretty well from her years in my life already as Jessi's friend and Erin's classmate, and the many days and nights she was in our home and lives. I was getting to know the two pastors and the interns, but thought that the youth guy was sort of hard to figure out and somewhat intentionally enigmatic.

Matt Blazer. How often I would shake my head and say, "Matt, you are so weird sometimes." I just didn't get you or understand some of your reasoning or how you would get from "point A" in a topic to "point B". I would've maybe stayed at that comfortable distance, not really getting you, making a "cardboard cutout" of the real Matt. However, God knew better. He began to let me really hear your heart behind some of those random ways you communicated and I saw something in your eyes that belied the depth to your soul and feelings, no matter how the words tumbled out. You became my friend and in the process, unbeknownst to me or you you became my pastor. You wormed your way into my heart and shepherded me well before I realized it.

I remember the afternoon you came by the house when our daughter Jessica was in town. She saw you sitting on our furniture I had set out front to dry after hosing it all off and cleaning the the front porch. She said, "Mom there's a guy sitting out front on the drive in a chair with a dogsmoking a cigar." Fred and I both smiled and said, "Matt."

We invited you to come around to the side yard and sit on our deck. You said you were worried that someone would think the furniture was for sale or worse for free. It was fifty feet from the street up our driveway in the turnaround, but years later as I realized Rachel's love of "rescuing abandoned furniture" I got your concern.

We got a bowl of water for Ron, and the four of us humans proceeded to have cigars. I chided you about smoking as you were just getting ready to have treatment for your cancer. You assured me that the docs said it was fine this "one last time". I wondered how many of those you had :-)

I also remember our staff retreat. What a strange thrown together group of people for a weekend retreat at the lake in someone's beautiful condos! It was fun and even though we drove Scott mad (he asked for our thoughts on the different name options for the church...remember?) I believe it may have actually been somewhat productive.

Once the church moved to our new offices I began to get to know you better and so did Fred. So often you would say what you thought I was getting at or trying to say to the pastors and you were most often spot on! You seemed to have a much deeper soul than I had originally given you credit for. I began to see empathy and compassion and a desire to know and better understand people and what they were about. I guess I was being given the gift of watching God grow you...what a gift!

You were who we came to and let know we were leaving Riverside. It just seemed the natural thing to do. You shepherded us well and you loved us well,  we are honored to call you "friend".

Rachel, I did not have the privilege of knowing you as well as I got to know Matt, but I remember going to a baby shower at the Dames condo banquet hall or whatever you call those. I remember watching you become a person in your own right and yet always you were very much Matt's wife. You complimented him beautifully!

I was in one study (or maybe two?) with you and always loved your enthusiasm for the word and how it fit into real life for us as women, or actually how our lives fit into God's story. I watched as you deepend in relationship with so many women over time and so gracefully wore many hats throughout your years at Riverside. You dealt with the seminary years, the early days of motherhood, and some difficult parenting challenges with grace and dignity...and honesty. Thank you for that.

I have always loved your sense of humor...that is one of my love languages and you speak it well!

I think what I love too about you is your transparency that just sort of happens, it doesn't feel forced or for show, but genuine. I treasure that as much as a good sense of humor:-)

Both of you have a tenacious love for the Lord and his word, but more impressive is how it is lived out in your love for those around you that have been blessed by your friendship and your leadership.

I know the road ahead is scary, exciting, unnerving, and that you are as ready for it as you will ever be. I also know that while Matt acclimates to being a head pastor (which he will do beautifully!), Rachel, you will be charged with helping your girls adjust and getting your home established all without the "right there" support of your besties and friends here in the Lou.

Just remember you guys, take it ALL "one day at a time". You only have to be and can be in the present moment and then the next one and then the next, but not any more than that. You also still have your support network back here just a call, text, email, tweet, or whatever away.

Fred and I will be in Connecticut to visit Matt and Erin in April and the plan is to come spend a couple of days at the retreat place there and hang out with you guys. We'll see, but I like the sound of it.

Matt, you are tearing my husband's heart apart...he has deeply loved his time with you and it is so hard for him each time someone leaves. There has been lots of that over the years as we have been the ones to stay behind. As much as you sought insight and advice and wisdom from him, know you impacted his life and heart just as much!

Thank you both for allowing God to let your lives "bump up against" ours over these years. None of us ever really realizes the full impact our lives has on others, but it's nice to get glimpses of it once in a while. You have impacted our lives and many others...we love you both!