Why I Marched

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“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.” –Zechariah 7:9-10 (The Message)

I have strong opinions; but I’m not an activist. Mostly, I just imperfectly live my life under my interpretation of how Jesus lived. However, yesterday, I marched with thousands of others–7,000 in my city of Colorado Springs. Millions across the world marched.  Some, maybe most, marched in hopes that our government will take notice of the importance of keeping civil liberties for all Americans. Some marched out of concern for health care, immigrants, social security. Some, probably most, marched because our current president scares the bejesus out of them.

Lots and lots of signs.

Some made me laugh. 

 

 

 

Some brought me joy. 

 

 

 

Some made me tear up. 

 

 

 

But the energy in the crowd was hopeful! I saw unity amidst diversity. I saw people that don’t align with some of my political, theological, and social views; but we were the United States of America in that moment.

I marched for several reasons:

  • I marched because I’ve done much soul-searching about the 1860s and 1960s over my lifetime, and I always wondered on what side I would find myself–pro-civil rights, anti-civil rights, or just plain indifferent.
  • I marched because I, and my government representatives, need reminding that I have a voice that this ‘government of the people, by the people, and for the people’ needs to hear.
  • I marched because so many in the minority groups are scared and need to know there are those in the privileged class who are allies and willing to give up some of their privilege so that they can rise.
  • I marched because orders already have been signed, and bills already have passed the House and are going before the Senate this week that sweepingly change aspects of our country, and most of us are not paying attention.

I haven’t paid attention.

That’s really why I marched. I needed see that this beautifully flawed country is made up of people from various perspectives. I marched with socialists, people who identify along the LGBT spectrum, atheists, Jews, Christians, and every other faith tradition, moms, dads, kids, grandparents, men, women, suburbanites, urbanites, homeless people, veterans, wealthy, poor, health-care providers, health-care users, every ethnicity in our city, able-bodied, ability-challenged, and some older people who remember their mothers voting for the first time.

I have forgotten our diversity, and am guilty of looking at things through my own narrow, limited view. For me, I hope this march was not just a moment. I hope I will continue with the movement to keep our government accountable.

So for any (and I’ve seen on Facebook that there are many) who don’t understand what these marches wanted to accomplish, you’re right that they didn’t change any legislation … yet. The goal was not a sprint to help people release some pent-up angst. The goal was to begin physical therapy so that those of us who have grown complacent can train for a marathon in keeping abreast of what our representatives are doing. The goal was to begin the long, difficult process of grafting in all the diverse people into a cohesive movement.  Across the board, our dissatisfaction with Congress, the Senate, and our government leaders in general has escalated over the last 6 years. I will continue to speak with my vote. But it will not stop with just that action. I will also use my voice and my presence with the offices of my senators and representatives.

I encourage all of us to do the same. Whatever gives you passion. Whatever your perspective.

Whether or not others understand or agree, marching yesterday gave me life.

**I welcome comments! Please keep them respectful and constructive.**

 

 

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Mother’s Day: A Snapshot Of Reality

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My dear children, I feel the pains of birth upon me again, and I will continue in labor for you until the Anointed One is formed completely in you. –Galatians 4:19

If St. Paul can know what it’s like to birth and raise children from a spiritual standpoint, I think all of us can celebrate Mother’s Day without shame or regret.

Mother’s Day looks great in a greeting card.  But, real life rarely looks so functional and pretty.  A friend of mine and I privately came up with ‘honest’ Mother’s Day card sentiments.  Things like: “Happy Mother’s Day to my mom who taught me to feel so guilty in life.  My therapist thanks you!”  Or: “Thanks, Mom, for exemplifying a strong woman to me.  A woman of strong character and fashion sense.  It’s not every woman who can pull off a red flowered shower cap in a motel swimming pool.  My therapist thanks you!”

…DISCLAIMER…

NONE OF THE AFOREMENTIONED SENTIMENTS HAVE ANY BASIS IN MY OWN UPBRINGING.  

I LOVE YOU, MAMA!

And now, with my 3 adult (well, semi-adult) children, they give me some fodder for ‘honest’ sentiments.  My just-married daughter has multiple commitments today and my older son has finals that he has to study for, so I’m told we’ll celebrate later in the week.  But, my 19-year-old son will live in infamy for many years to come.  Here’s the conversation:

Son: I have to work on Mother’s Day.

Me: Seriously?!

Son: Yeah.  The restaurant expects a lot of people to come in with their moms to celebrate.

Me: REALLY? Huh! 

Son: (looks at me completely perplexed) Oh, did you want to do something?

*sigh*

Yes, Happy Mother’s Day to all who nurture, sacrifice, love, and give companionship to others.

I hope for those that feel the weight of this day, you will find comfort in this prayer I found online by Amy Young.  Often, churches overlook the many stories of the Bible’s women.  At least today, find yourself a hero in one of these women who understood whatever circumstances you walk in.  May you feel encouraged that God doesn’t overlook your story.

I welcome comments!  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

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Waiting For Resurrection

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After the Sabbath, as the light of the next day, the first day of the week, crept over Palestine, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the tomb to keep vigil. Earlier there had been an earthquake. A messenger of the Lord had come down from heaven and had gone to the grave. He rolled away the stone and sat down on top of it. He veritably glowed. He was vibrating with light. His clothes were light, white like transfiguration, like fresh snow. The soldiers guarding the tomb were terrified. They froze like stone. –Matthew 28:1-4

I used to love Easter sunrise services in Arizona.  As a teenager, many from our youth group would gather in the church parking lot and climb ‘A’ Mountain (the little hill with a giant ‘A’ embedded in it for ASU–Arizona State University).  We would sit in silence facing east, waiting for the sun to rise.  We each reflected on our own thoughts.  I’m sure some thought, ‘Why did I get up so freakin’ early?!’  I’m sure I thought that at least one year.

But most of the time, my thoughts on Easter reflected how much I knew God loved us.  The gratitude inside me would well up to almost bursting and coincided with the sunrise.

I miss those Easter sunrises.  Here in Colorado, the warmth of the blankets usually keeps me snuggled and asleep at dawn.  I miss the camaraderie, the community, the connection between ‘us’ and God.  In recent years, I haven’t felt very ‘together’ with other church-goers.  Instead, I’ve felt disconnected, and at times betrayed.

Isolated and ignored. 

Dead and buried.

Our American evangelical church-system hasn’t figured out yet how to encourage once-mighty-leaders and allow us to question and expand our Sunday-school-answer view of God.  We haven’t learned how to walk alongside people and keep them company as they live their journey of faith.  In my experience, our best solution has involved putting people in their own corners and telling them that ‘we’ll be over here when you’re done with your time-out.’  

*sigh*

The disciples must have felt similarly.  When Jesus died, they must have felt a part of them died.  The part that believed like children believe in magical endings.  The part that hoped for a fulfillment of all the stories they’d heard in their childhood about God and saviors and finally putting the world right (with them on top).  The part that believed all things were possible, like Jesus told them.  The part that kept them connected to each other.

It took them less than a day to disperse and disconnect from each other.  Only the women remained together, united at the tomb, sharing their grief.  

Then, the angel at the tomb said, “He is risen.  Just as He said.”  And in a moment’s flash, hope was restored.  Mary encounters Jesus, and He tells her to gather all the disciples.  They experience Christ’s resurrection, and their own resurrection of soul.  They spend many days together before Christ’s ascension.  It’s a glorious ending to the Gospel accounts!

An ending worthy of celebration!

I didn’t go to church this Easter morning.  The thought of celebrating resurrection weighed heavy on my heart when I feel like my spirit is still waiting for the stone to be rolled away.  Faith growing-pains are arduous and take more than a few days to complete.  I see glimpses that resurrection will come.  And I wait with anticipation in the midst of fear and grieving that the poignancy of the old ways have tarnished and rusted.  Because they need to give way to a faith that’s deeper than youth’s naive heart.  Because they don’t contain the profound wisdom that comes with growing older with God.  Because Christ’s resurrection gives us maturity to be peers with Him instead of constantly expecting Him to take sole responsibility for our spiritual hunger and entertainment.

The benefits of growing up definitely outweigh the benefits of remaining as a child.  The more we choose to accept the process, the more freedom we experience.  Children think they have freedom; but their parents (if they are wise and good) keep strong boundaries so that when the children are old, they will know how and when to expand those boundaries.  

So, I wait by the tomb.

I wait for my spirit to expand enough to contain Christ’s resurrection for this season of my life.

I wait with those who no longer find their childhood church systems fulfilling.

I wait in expectation to hear ‘just as He said’ and receive the fulfilled-promise of new life, renewed joy, restored equality in Christ for everyone.

I wait for Easter morning to come.

I welcome comments!  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

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Life’s Love Letters

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I am deep in the throes of planning for my daughter’s wedding in April.  So, I will be less-than consistent with my blog each week (did you miss me last week when I didn’t post?).  I will post when I’m inspired, but am giving myself freedom to take a break when wedding details overwhelm me.

But now faith, hope, and love remain; these three virtues must characterize our lives. The greatest of these is love. –1 Corinthians 13:13

Valentine’s Day has come and gone again.  I’m not big on celebrating it–not because I’m against love or fun or chocolate; but because it just doesn’t hold any significance for me.  I never really dated before I met Jud, and our ‘dating’ life involved long-distance communication for most of the year and a half before we got married.  I still remember our phone ‘dates.’  We would both order the same pizza (pepperoni and pineapple) and talk on the phone for hours.  That was back in the day when you actually had to pay for the long-distance minutes you used.  I think we topped out at $650 one month. I nearly choked when my dad showed me the bill and told me I needed to pay it within the week….  But, with our anniversary in January and the holidays so close to that event, Valentine’s just seemed like too much work.

However, this year, I started getting really excited for Valentine’s Day–or at least the post-Valentine’s-chocolate sales.  With our daughter’s wedding in April, I need to amass some pretty chocolate hearts wrapped in pretty red or purple foil for some gift bags.  This week, they will all be on sale!  And I like the idea of not having to pay full-price for anything wedding-related these days!  As I’ve scoured some of the ads to try to find good deals throughout the city, I have thought about love in our lives.

As I’ve said, Jud and I had a mostly long-distance relationship before we got married.  A week after we started dating, the military, in all it’s wisdom, transferred Jud from Arizona to New Mexico.  We still have all the snail-mail letters we wrote during that time, since the internet didn’t exist.  Someday, our kids will find the boxes that hold those cards, letters, cassette tapes and drawings and see how our relationship developed.  But those items only hold the beginning of our love story.  Most romantic comedies confuse romance with love, and then they end at the beginning of love.  Ah, those beautiful times when love is new.  The grass has forsaken the winter snow and hibernation and has become green again.  The trees are brimming with birds singing and new leaves unfolding.  Can we take a moment to deeply sigh longingly in the romance of young love?

Okay, that’s enough.

The reality that those of us who have lived-longer-than-our-teens know is that love encompasses so much more than the shallow depths of its newness.  Love grows to depths we couldn’t imagine in the beginning–and would completely scare us off if we knew the ugly paths we’d have to traverse to strengthen love for one another.  We find an everlasting beauty and depth of love in our scars–the times others had to help us, and the times we had to shore up our own strength to help another.  I think of the parent who tries to talk a child off a literal ledge to (hopefully) save the child’s life.  The spouse who takes care of a dying partner.  The woman who courageously chooses to leave an abusive relationship, rather than have her daughter grow up thinking that love destroys the body, mind and soul.  The man who embodies integrity, kindness, gentleness when he’s at his best, and humility when he fails.  The couple who weather the decades of life-issues, children-issues, health-issues, job-issues and allow those circumstances to grow them up individually and bond them collectively.

If you’re in love’s newness stage, enjoy every heart-soaring, heart-breaking minute of it.  If you’re well-rooted in love, enjoy every heart-soaring, heart-breaking minute of it.  If you express your love for others as a single, enjoy every heart-soaring, heart-breaking minute of it.  If you have lost a loved one, remember the heart-soaring, heart-breaking times, and let the remembrance of deep love accompany you in your grief and allow your heart to heal, in its time.

Too much of the news fills us with the knowledge of evil, injustice, dream-squashing in this world of ours.  It’s easy to forget that God’s image in us makes us capable of brilliant acts of courage:  staring down the powerful when they forget the breaking backs upon whom they stand, gently caring for the orphans and diseased, tirelessly teaching the challenged ones who are often overlooked.  Those who vulnerably open their hearts to receive the pain and fear of others to show that God’s love really can bring hope to mirthless places and rekindle faith that God has not forgotten us.  Those are love letters we all need to find!  Those are love letters we need to live!

I welcome comments!  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

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Good News! Great Joy! For EVERYONE!

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“Suddenly a messenger of the Lord stood in front of them, and the darkness was replaced by a glorious light—the shining light of God’s glory. They were terrified!  

Messenger: ‘Don’t be afraid! Listen! I bring good news, news of great joy, news that will affect all people everywhere. Today, in the city of David, a Liberator has been born for you! He is the promised Anointed One, the Supreme Authority! You will know you have found Him when you see a baby, wrapped in a blanket, lying in a feeding trough.'”–Luke 2:9-12 (The Voice version)

I can almost hear the urgency in the angel’s voice trying to calm the shock the shepherds experienced.  The message God sent the angel to convey to the shepherds would change the way mankind related to God.  Looking through the Old Testament, man seemed to filter life events, natural disasters, outcomes of wars through a lens of a wrathful God … a God who just waited for mankind to mess up so that He could unleash destruction on every infraction … a God who enjoys setting us up for failure.  Even though that interpretation of God is misleading when we carefully read the prophets and many of the stories where God expresses His love of mankind and desire for relationship with us.  So, as the birth of Jesus unfolds, God sends a messenger so that mankind cannot miss His heart for us:

GREAT NEWS!

GREAT JOY!

GOD IS FOR US!  GOD WANTS TO SET US UP FOR SUCCESS!

‘Don’t be afraid!’ The angel declares.  Because up until that point, God terrified people.  I think most of us continue to wait for the other shoe to drop with God.  We know we can’t live up to His standards and hope He won’t notice us.  We just need to keep our heads down.  But, the angel comes and lifts up our heads to see Someone who is all smiles, warmth and delight.  Someone who wants to show us how to aim for a higher goal than ‘just don’t mess up.’  Someone who will teach us how to live freely, without shame, without fear–how to be our true selves without the false protection of socially acceptable personas.  Someone who is accessible and not so intimidating that we try to hide from Him.  Someone who beckons us to His presence.

Someone who is … a baby?

God amazes me in all of His eternally surprising ways.  Who else would have thought that taking on the form of a human was a good idea to show Himself to the world?  And not just human-form, but actually starting from the beginning of human life.  Choosing to be totally human.  Experiencing life as we experience it.  Yet showing us in that humanity a fuller way to live.

A way to access the image of God that we bear.

A way to intertwine the divine with the created.

A way to live in humility (not humiliation) and without shame.

Wow!  That is good news!  That should well up within us great joy!  Everyone gets access to God.  The angels told the shepherds that God wants everyone to succeed.  Shepherds, who had a low rank in society.  Telling the lowly of this awe-inspiring plan makes my heart pound in expectancy because God … once again … levels the playing field by entrusting the unveiling of His glorious plan to the least likely members of society.  The thought leaves me breathless.

So, as we prepare for Christmas this week, may we all experience the pulse-quickening anticipation of God’s favor in our lives.  Embrace the good news with great joy that God liberates us to succeed in relationships … in loving God … in loving ourselves … in loving others!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

I welcome comments.  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

 

 

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Desert Life

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“Imagine the wilderness whooping for joy, the desert’s unbridled happiness with its spring flowers.  It will happen! The deserts will come alive with new growth budding and blooming, singing and celebrating with sheer delight. The glory of Lebanon’s cedars and the majesty of Carmel and Sharon will spill over to the deserts. The glory of the Eternal One will be on full display there, and they will revel in the majestic splendor of our God” –Isaiah 35:1-2 (The Voice).

I remember long-time family friends from India visiting our family in Phoenix when their son came to the United States for college.  We took their son up to the mountains to escape the summer heat before he had to register for classes.  As we drove along the highway through the Sonoran Desert, saguaros stood as sentries along the highway, and prickly pears looked withered in the scorching heat.  Suddenly, Dev laughed out loud.  He said, “You call this a desert?!  There’s so much life!”  In his deserts, plants did not grow.  There was only sand.  Miles and miles of hot sand.  One of India’s deserts is called Marusthali, which means Land of the Dead.

Perspective.

Just as I focussed on how hot and miserable desert living felt growing up, I have focussed on how miserable my spirit has felt this year.  I have forgotten to acknowledge all the life growing in and around me–albeit prickly and somewhat withered.  However, just as the saguaros house the cactus wrens and keep them safe and the prickly pears bear fruit that makes subtle jelly particular to desert palates, so my spirit houses life and nutrients that I have taken for granted.

Thanksgiving.  It’s all about food, family and friends.  My favorite holiday.  I love gathering people around.  When people enjoy my food and are happy, I feel fulfilled.  My parents and brother made the trek to Colorado again this year.  Laughter and chatter filled my kitchen as everyone helped chop, mince, season, stir and mash our way into a turkey feast!  I allowed myself to sink into the enveloping warmth of familial ties.  I remembered the joy of togetherness.

We took a drive up to a roadside attraction, Bishop’s Castle.  During the drive through the mountains and small towns, my parents and brother basked delightedly in the unfolding landscape.  I began to see my world through their desert eyes.  Leafless aspens, mountains breaking the horizon, snow patches among the evergreens.  Yes, beauty encompasses me all around my life.  I remembered how I felt when we first moved here.  Wonder and awe awakened in my heart.  I remembered the joy of creation.

And I began to remember the beauty of the desert after a spring storm.  The flowering cacti, the soothing smell of washed-away-dustiness, the chirping of the crickets and desert birds.  Yes, even in the desert, beauty and life coexist with the painfully sharp cacti needles and parched-ness.  Living with the desert in my bones and the freshness of the mountain life in my present, I can live with the paradox within my soul.  And I can exclaim with the gratitude of hopeful longing and cautious expectation, “There is so much life here!” 

And I begin to remember God smiling.

I welcome comments.  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

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The Art of Loving

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Jesus speaking:  “’Love the Eternal One your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is nearly as important, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The rest of the law, and all the teachings of the prophets, are but variations on these themes” –Matthew 22:37-40 (The Voice).

Wow!  I kinda wish Jesus had stopped at loving God.  It’s easier to think I love Someone who is ethereal and theoretical and defies definition.  A Person who is nebulous that I can conform to my own ideal.  A Person who says over and over how much I am loved, accepted and cherished.  Why did Jesus have to add that last bit?  It’s not part of the Deuteronomy passage of Moses telling us how to love God.  It’s mired in a rather obscure Leviticus passage.  Why did Jesus juxtapose these two passages?  Why do we shorten His thoughts to ‘Love God and love others’, omitting the ‘as yourself’ part?  I’m growing to believe that the ‘as yourself’ part is key to how we love God and love others.

Most women understand a love/hate relationship with body image.  Some of us struggle more than others; but society has taught us well that some body types are better than others.  Every generation can look at the fashion and determine which body type is in style for each particular decade.  Women (and some men, too) tend to internalize that how we look on the outside determines our internal worth.  I believe that Jesus communicated that to the degree we love and accept ourselves correlates to how deeply we can love and accept God and others.

I find that when I dwell on my shortcomings, my view of God becomes more and more distant and judging of who I am to Him.  I begin to listen to all the negative voices in my head telling me that I am not smart enough … pretty enough … strong enough …

I am not enough.

Self-shame begins to fill my thoughts and heart.  And through that shame and loathing, I look at God and others.  I am judged by God, so I judge others by the same standard I believe He judges me.  God is distant because I am not good enough for His time and energy, so I grow distant from others to protect myself from their rejection.  I wouldn’t want them to see the truth about me.

That I am condemned by God.

Comparisons breed insecurities.  Insecurities breed shame.  Shame breeds isolation.  Isolation spirals to very dark places of our souls.  In the loneliness of isolation, we may find it difficult to crawl and scrape our way up from the rabbit hole we’ve fallen into.  Some never recover, as we see in many headlines of suicides and violence throughout the world.  I can make a case that much of the world’s horrors stem from people not knowing how to love themselves so they lash out at others.  When those people unite (as in the cases of Boko Haram, ISIS, Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups), the damage becomes globally felt.

So how do I (we) learn to love ourselves and reverse some of the damage we inflict on others?  I believe Jesus understood the cycle well:  Love God with everything in you.  How do we love anyone fully?  1 Corinthians 13 tells us how God loves us.  I love verse 12 which tells me that I am intimately known by God.  When looked at with the rest of the chapter, I discover that being so deeply known, I am loved.

I am accepted.

But not just accepted, I am cherished.

Let those thoughts sink in to your soul for a moment.  Bask in the presence of the One who looks at you as in a mirror.  You reflect His image.  Let the shame of all your perceived shortcomings melt away as God exposes you for your true self–beloved … adored … created to look like God.

Out of that knowing, my confidence rises.  But confidence that humbles me.  In that humility, I begin to see others in the same light.  They are loved.  They are accepted.  They are cherished.  Because I know the God who loves me and teaches me to love Him back, I can love well those He loves.

Quiet the voices that say you are not enough.  Let the voice of God speak louder for a moment each day.  Hear Him say that you are loved.  You are accepted.  You are cherished.  

And as we all learn to love ourselves more, perhaps we will begin to see a change in the world around us.  Perhaps others will begin to hate less.  Perhaps the world really can become a kinder place.  But, only if it starts with me.  With you.  With us.

I welcome comments.  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

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Do-Overs

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I am re-posting this one in honor of National Mental Illness Awareness Week.  If you or someone you love suffers from any mental/emotional health issues, please seek help and learn to risk opening up about the struggles.  We need to learn to support both those suffering with and those suffering with them through this hell.

‘I admit how broken I am in body and spirit, but God is my strength, and He will be mine forever’  ~~Psalm 73:26 (The Voice).

Remember, as kids, asking for a ‘do-over’ when you missed a shot or messed up a move in a game?  The older we got, the less likely requests for do-overs got positive responses.  As adults, how often would we like a do-over?  We say things we wish we hadn’t, we do things that hurt people, we don’t think far enough ahead to realize consequences.  As an extrovert, I pretty much live life out loud and wishing for do-overs.  I’ve become an expert apologizer and often internally berate myself for my words and actions.

So, when I got the news that Robin Williams died this week, I wondered what I always wonder when I hear of suicides:  Did he wish for a do-over just a little too late?  Lots of my favorite actors have died–Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Judy Garland (do you see a musical trend?).  Oh, and how could I forget Cary Grant?!  But death by suicide brings a deeper sadness with life-changing and life-lasting effects for those left dealing with the aftermath.  Life becomes more real, more sober, more heavy.  Always waking from stressful dreams.

Like chasing in vain to stop something from going over a cliff.

Like wanting desperately to stop talking so you don’t say what you know will change a relationship forever and you can’t take it back.

Like when we were young and called a ‘do-over’ in a game, only to have your friends deny the request.

Robin Williams’ suicide this week spotlighted the tragedy of mental illness. Many articles and blogs detail how depression, anxiety, and other debilitating diseases and disorders leave a life in constant chaos. I’ve watched friends, loved ones, and loved ones of loved ones exist in the trenches of the mental health war.  Part of the sorrow I feel over his death is my own helplessness and inability to change lives.  I’ve known personally at least 4 people in my life who committed suicide.  I’ve watched and held countless other sobbing friends (3 in the last year) live with the shock of loved ones who died by their own hands.

While much is written on depression/anxiety disorders, I haven’t found much encouragement for those of us who have to live with and watch those we love suffering from that anguish.  Needing to process all that’s going on in my soul right now, I dedicate this post to myself and to others who need to acknowledge what they rarely, if ever, admit:

If someone we love attempts suicide, but lives through the attempt:

  • We. Thank. God. Every. Day. For. Their. Life.  But we may never sleep restfully again.  Every ring of the phone, every noise at night in a silent house becomes heart-stopping for us–even though we may appear calm, happy, or to have recovered from the shock.  The elephant in the room remains.  And we’re afraid to address it.
  • We remain vigilant of where you go, how you’re doing, and are always nervous when you don’t pick up the phone.  But we try to sound ‘breezy’ and nonchalant.
  • We feel insecure with our own limits to help, fix, empathize, support.  Some of these feelings spur us on to grow and mature.  Many times the feelings incapacitate us from intimacy with you because we’re afraid of creating waves that may drown you.  We need to recognize that it’s no one’s responsibility to make someone ‘happy.’  We can’t live well with that pressure; but accepting that we aren’t big enough to absorb your pain is equally daunting.

When someone doesn’t live through a suicide attempt:

  • Guilt, shame, questions never go away.  We constantly second-guess what we could have done, could have said, could have been to you, and relive every minute detail of every last encounter with you … for years.
  • Our questions will never have answers.  You cannot assure us that it wasn’t our fault.  And believing that your death reflects how we didn’t show enough how much we loved you, shames us.
  • We cannot erase the image of you in death.  That death image is what we remember.  Even if we didn’t find you, we know how you died and our imagination fills in the sordid picture emblazoned in our heads.  It’s the last, and therefore, strongest memory we have.
  • We cannot confront you with our anger over the hell you’ve thrust upon us.  You don’t have to see the consequences of your actions; but we have to live with them every day.

So how do we blend the two worlds of people who suffer with chronic illnesses (physical, emotional, mental) and those of us who love them?  We have to live vulnerably and without shame with each other.  We have to network and create support systems.  We must de-stigmatize chronic illnesses–especially the ones that have no physical attributes.  How often have I heard people say to friends with internal challenges, “Well, you don’t look sick.”  To the people hearing those words, they feel dismissed, because if you can’t see the challenge then it doesn’t exist.  It may not be what we’re trying to communicate; but it’s what they hear.  Instead, let’s have some open communication and address the elephant in the room.

We may not be able to ‘fix’ ____ (depression, anxiety, chronic pain, recovery, etc.); but we can sit with you in it.  We have to learn how to support those we love and cherish in the midst of their struggles–read books on what they deal with, go to counseling sessions with them, just listen … patiently … endlessly.  Does it get old?  Yes.  But it’s not about our comfort or convenience, it’s about the ones we love–remember, their lives may depend on our support.  Let us into your hell and help you fight the demons.  We may make mistakes and insensitive remarks, but tell us when we do!  Don’t close off when we fail–teach us how to love you in your language.  We want desperately to learn!

Take some time for self-care and soul-care.  Loving someone with chronic issues exhausts even the best and strongest of us.  Talk to a trusted counselor, friend, pastor or priest.  Take a vacation.  I take a personal retreat every year for 4 days in the mountains.  So refreshing and rejuvenating!  Find at least one daily activity that you can do for your own joy–paint your nails, read for 30 minutes, walk a trail, finger paint, write.  Find God within and without.  Meditate on Scripture, pray, sit in quietness and feel God’s presence.  Connect with friends for coffee, meals.  Sometimes, I make a coffee date with a long-distance friend.  Even 15 minutes can lift my spirit.

And don’t forget that people are not defined by what challenges their lives.  Don’t let the challenges define the relationship.  Remember to have fun!  Remember to laugh!  Remember to enjoy the presence of each other!

Because, we don’t ever want to stand over your grave wishing for a do-over.

If you or someone you love is struggling, please get help.  The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always available:  1-800-273-8255.  

I welcome comments.  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

 

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Old Habits Die Hard

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“Like a dog who goes back to his own vomit, so is a fool who always returns to his foolishness.  Have you seen a person who is wise in his own sight?  Know that there is more hope for a fool than for him” –Proverbs 26:11-12.

My daughter and I just finished a 24-day cleanse/challenge.  My nutritionist doesn’t like to call it just a cleanse, because many ‘cleanses’ are unhealthy and focus on starvation.  We could eat well–just not processed foods, gluten or dairy (but we could have eggs and plain Greek yogurt with fresh fruit).  Within 12 hours of beginning, I texted my nutritionist and exclaimed, “I MISS CHEESE!  This doesn’t bode well for me for the next 23 days, does it?”  *sigh*

I actually ended up enjoying the process.  Challenge drives me and motivates me.  To say that I’m competitive understates my inner drive.  When I played tennis in high school, I used to go out in the Phoenix summers and practice serves … at noon … when no one was on the courts … because it was 115º.  If I started losing in a match during the season, I’d deny myself water at the changeovers.  When my body would start screaming from near-dehydration, I’d converse with myself, “You thirsty?  Try winning a game.”  I’d often come back to win.  Bonus points that it freaked out my opponents most of the time.

So, this week, the competition healthy cleanse ended.  And I won … And I feel the benefits in my gut.  I stayed committed to the regulations.  I felt better than I have in years (which makes me think that I have at least some kind of gluten-sensitivity).  I swore I would continue the habits.  Until the night after the cleanse, the thought of more hummus or salmon made me a little ill, and I remembered that I could have a grilled turkey and swiss sandwich and creamy tomato soup.  Oh, it was delicious!  But, I felt the effects in my digestion and renewed my intention to maintain some of the cleanse habits.  Until the next night.  This time, white rice sushi paired with milk chocolate chips sprinkled in a tangerine yogurt (technically, it was Greek yogurt, but looking at the sugar content on the label didn’t help make it healthy).  Then, my nutritionist texted me to schedule a follow-up appointment so I don’t lose momentum.  I haven’t told her yet about my ‘iron-will’ since the cleanse….  Today, my husband took my daughter and I out to celebrate the end of the restrictions.  We had butter, biscuits, linguine, scampi and fried shrimp (yes, on one plate … per person … don’t judge me!).  At least I learned to eat only about half of what the restaurant served us.  The rest, I packaged up and brought home for my son to snack on.  He still has a metabolism.

So, now I’m learning that old habits really do die hard.  And I really do need a support system.  And a plan to keep me on track.  My iron-will isn’t so strong without competition.

Spiritually, we need cleanses, too.  Times to assess what’s really going on inside of us; and if there are some belief systems that worked in the past, but have become unhealthy over time.  We need to work on our souls, not just our bodies, for our lives to work well with others.  I find more and more I need to evaluate how long-held doctrines affect my spirit.  Am I exhausted because I’ve too long held certain beliefs that no longer offer my spirit and soul good nutrition?  Have I lost a sense of joy and wonder because what used to satisfy my desires, my more mature system has outgrown and my needs have changed?  We need a plan for our spirit to maintain a healthy pace of growth.  We should look for a support system that will encourage us to process beliefs–and adapt or change any beliefs necessary to draw us closer to God.

Adjusting our way of handling our spirituality takes humility to admit that we can’t make those shifts on our own.  We need each other to offer grace, perspective, and support–because we will flounder, at times.  We can’t treat living like a competition where we have to ‘beat out’ someone else in the race.  Instead, we can look at life as a challenge that we train for, and try to progress beyond our last effort.  If we surround ourselves with people who have the humility to admit that they, too, need us to help them, then we can all succeed.

For now, I will contemplate how my physical and spiritual systems react to situations and sustenances; and ask for help in assessing what needs to change in me to make my whole self healthier.

I welcome comments!  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

 

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What’s Your Line?

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Jesus speaking: “‘Oh Martha, Martha, you are so anxious and concerned about a million details, but really, only one thing matters. Mary has chosen that one thing, and I won’t take it away from her'” –Luke 10:41-42 (The Voice).

This week, my almost-21-year-old son (his birthday is in a few days!) told me that his friends say I’m their favorite parent of all time because I did not ‘freak out’ over his getting his eyebrow pierced.  He’s not my first child to say this to me.  I have been the go-to parent for many activities.  My kids have never asked me not to attend one of their events (although I have refused many), and my daughter’s friends have suggested me as a designated driver (when they were too young to drive) for late night TP-ing pranks for the cross-country teams or to team events.  Since I have never been in the ‘cool kids’ group, it amuses me that the next generation thinks of my middle-aged self as a kindred spirit.  What separates me from other adults in their minds?  Am I better?  Oh, that’s just laughable.  Am I wiser?  I can bluff a good game, but I know it’s smoke and mirrors.  Am I prettier or more fashionable?  Yeah, no.  There’s a reason I don’t post my photo on my blog.  I think it’s that I remember what teen and young adult years were like.  I remember that all I really wanted was for someone to believe in me.  Someone to say, ‘You’re not crazy for wanting to follow a dream.’  Someone to tell me that the world won’t come to an end if I make a mistake or do something I would regret later.  Someone who would love me unconditionally and not let me face my consequences alone.  Someone who wouldn’t draw a line in the sand over ‘a million details.’

I wanted freedom with a safety net.

So, when my son told me that many of his friends and their parents think I’m an anomaly–the friends in awe of me, the parents thinking me crazy and too tolerant–I felt the need to offer a glimpse of what I have to offer.  In no way do I believe I have parenting figured out, nor do I believe that I’ve done the raising of my children ‘right.’  This post is not meant to shame, judge or condemn anyone.  Believe me, I have had many Psycho Mom Moments and have freaked out immaturely.  You may have another piece of the puzzle that I haven’t seen.  The point is that we stop criticizing each other and start playing on the same team!  Let’s work together to equip our children so that they will have a foundation to grow stronger and wiser in equipping their next generations.

So, here are some questions to ask yourself before you ‘freak out’:

  1. Is it life-threatening?  A piercing, a tattoo, a funky hair color or cut will not bring down civilization.  If they are 18 or older and don’t need your permission, be careful about withholding your blessing. I tend to *sigh* and roll my eyes.  My kids call me on this all the time–as they smile or chuckle.  Do you really want your line in the sand to be over something like hair? A young adult will process that thought to mean, If my mom freaked over a piercing, what will happen if I ______. We can squelch communication between us by our reactions to the little things.
  2. Is it immoral, or just embarrassing for you?  This one’s tough.  Some denominations have super-strict policies on personal modesty.  I cannot tell you what’s right for your household, only that I have researched and read all the Scriptures by myself and with others and have come to my own conclusions.  I invite you to do the same–setting aside the church party-line and really process what God is saying through those Scriptures.  Often, the choices of our young adults conflict with our own insecurities of what our friends, family and church leaders will think.  As a parent, my child should never carry the weight of my insecurity on their shoulders.
  3. Am I afraid of losing control over their lives?  You already have.  … (I’ll let that sink in for a moment) …  And if you feel that you have to resort to shaming or guilting them into compliance, you may have lost more than control over them–you may have lost them.  Recognize they are adults and will make some choices you would never dream of making.  You don’t get to live their lives anymore!  I would rather have a relationship and an open channel of dialogue with my children, than children who don’t ever want to be around me.  If you would rather prove to your children that your way is best, then realize that you may not have enjoyable family times.  You have to pick your battles–and every choice they make cannot be a battle.

Every year, my daughter has a Christmas party for the high school girls she mentors and several of her close friends.  They come over for a tree-trimming, homemade soup, Christmas movie evening.  Last year, a 15 year old opened a soda bottle and it exploded all over my kitchen counter and floor.  I looked over, laughed and got out towels to mop it all up.  All the girls helped, and the embarrassed girl was able to laugh … eventually.  One girl looked over at me like I was an alien.  She solemnly said, “My mom would not be laughing at this.”  It was soda!  Just a mess.

No one should have to live anxiously about making a mess.  Lighten up with each other! Lighten up with yourselves!

Have you figured out yet that this post isn’t just about parenting, but about how we treat others?  Do you recognize yourself in the parent or child role?  If we freak out over the smaller things in life, will we have credibility with the really intense things that come our way?  I’ve had hard conversations with teens and adults.  People tell me their dark secrets all the time because they say they know I will show them compassion.  I will hold them accountable, but I won’t make them confront anything alone.  If another person is involved, I offer to go with them to have the conversation.  Most of the time, I help them see the situations as a growth curve.  It may be life-altering, but no moment has to become your life identity.

If you must have a line in the sand, let it be over abusive ways, integrity issues, ignorance and prejudice.  Because we should freak out over character flaws that determine our world’s culture.

Certainly, we all need people to watch our backs and keep us from destroying ourselves and others.  I pray that you find your security in God so that you recognize when you or others truly need wise help.  

I welcome comments.  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

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Prisons and Pardons

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‘Certainly Your faithful protection and loving provision will pursue me where I go, always, everywhere.  I will always be with the Eternal, in Your house forever’ –Psalm 23:6.

I love Psalm 23–especially in The Voice translation.  It’s poetic, gentle, comforting, vivid.  As I experienced trauma at young ages, I would go to passages like Psalm 23 and find comfort that God is on my side.  Somehow (over the years I’ve lost sight of when exactly this happened) I became responsible for God’s faithful protection.  I will not insult soldiers struggling with PTSD and pretend that my version of PTSD compares to the atrocities that veterans have experienced and continue to have haunt them; but counselors tell me that traumatic abuse is traumatic abuse across the board–regardless of the circumstances that create it.  When I describe the hyper-vigilance that I experience in life–my brain GPSes office buildings for escape routes, notices people in restaurants who look out-of-place and tracks their movements, and categorizes everyday items that can change to weapons at a moment’s notice–therapists say that is a trait of PTSD.  All of this is done internally while I am joking, conversing, and seemingly carefree.  This post may be the first time most (if not all) of my friends and family have heard this.  Sorry.  Love you all!!

But this post is not about abuse and PTSD.  At least not directly.

This week, Acts 29, a church-planting ministry, removed Mark Driscoll and his Seattle-based Mars Hill Church from their registry.  Why was this a big deal?  Mark Driscoll co-founded the ministry and Mars Hill is a major supporter of Acts 29.  I’m no fan of Mark Driscoll.  Many have reported his character flaws and theology that … well … doesn’t exactly call to mind Jesus and how He treated people.  You can read one of his former colleague’s concerns here.

But this post is not about Mark Driscoll and his abusive ways.  At least not directly.

I write this post because tremendous healing has taken place in my soul over the past several years.  I haven’t had flashbacks in many years, my homicidal sleep-walking events have significantly lessened, and I feel more relaxed and at peace than I remember ever feeling.  Traditional counseling, non-traditional counseling, and spiritual direction have allowed me to see what God intended and what He never intended us to experience.  It takes a village to heal a person’s brokenness.

So, in saying all of that, hearing that an organization has the courage to stand up to a powerful bully and abuser helped me breathe a little more deeply.  We, the hyper-vigilant and self-designated protectors of all things unjust, don’t have to fight by ourselves.  God really does have others to raise up–and they really are beginning to listen to His voice–to take some of the pressure off us.  It doesn’t matter that my internal life has me believing that I’m really a super-hero–MaggieWoman–my reality knows that it’s all smoke and mirrors.  When I hear stories of people taking a stand against injustices, especially when whole organizations change policies to right wrongs, something in me heals a little deeper.  My hyper-vigilance relaxes just a little more, and I see less of the potential threats and enjoy more of the beauty around me.  I never would have guessed how much freedom I’ve missed throughout my life.  When we allow our hearts to heal and embrace freedom, it doesn’t mean we are less protected.  In many ways, I feel more protected these days because the fear of trauma has diminished.  Before, I had no control, but I had to try to control the safety around me.  Now, I know I have no control, but I’m not afraid of not being strong enough … smart enough … careful enough … enough ….

Unhealed trauma teaches us to not take risks–to not allow others to take risks.  We become our own bullies and abusers by shaming ourselves, or those we love, into our protection.  All in the name of love.  Protection born from shame is a prison.  We need a village to surround us so we learn the key is our own humility.  Humility brings safety and freedom.  Humility releases us from the emotional blackmail of lies our wounded souls use to keep the pain inside and us away from others.  Humility frees us to live our truest selves without fear of backlash–because the backlash we may experience comes from those trapped in prisons of their own making and it cannot overshadow the joy of releasing the God-designed life waiting for us … waiting for us to embrace … waiting for us to believe … waiting for us to recognize …

…Unfailingly waiting.  Just outside the unlocked prison doors.  Un-crouch from the corner shadows and look outside to the light.  Your pardon is signed and freedom is yours for the taking.  Many of us are beckoning for you to come out and play!

Please join me in praying for humility in our lives and in the lives of leaders.  I pray for Mars Hill in Seattle–for the congregants that are trying to understand all that’s going on in their church, for Acts 29 that God will bless their decision to stand for integrity, and even for Mark Driscoll that he will allow God to humble and transform him.  Statistics are not on his side; but God is on the side of his heart.  

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Just As He Said

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“After the Sabbath, as the light of the next day, the first day of the week, crept over Palestine, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the tomb to keep vigil. … A messenger of the Lord had come down from heaven and had gone to the grave. He rolled away the stone and sat down on top of it. … The soldiers guarding the tomb were terrified. They froze like stone.  The messenger spoke to the women, to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, ‘Don’t be afraid. I know you are here keeping watch for Jesus who was crucified. But Jesus is not here. He was raised, just as He said He would be’“–Matthew 28:1-2, 4-6 (emphasis mine).

CHRIST IS RISEN!  How can we not feel the thrill through our hearts?  As I reflect on the heart-stopping awe that all the Marys in the various resurrection accounts must have felt, I rejoice with them and all the others that paved the way for me to celebrate today!

For many years (and probably decades) I have reveled in the angel’s words, ‘just as He said.’  Because Jesus told all the disciples outright that God would resurrect Him.  None of them believed it at the time He said it, let alone once He died.  The women watched and remembered at the tomb; but they seemed to believe that He would stay physically dead.  The whole exchange between the women and the angel fascinates me.  In that culture, women were not considered credible eye-witnesses.  Yet, the angel does not address the soldiers; the angel addresses the women.

The women who worshipped.  The women who financed Jesus’ work.  The women who waited.

The women who believed what Jesus said.  

Yes, God gave one of the highest honors in history–proclaiming the resurrection of Christ–to the least valued voices of the culture.

Humbling.  Validating.  Awe-inspiring.

In life, Jesus brought honor to women and other less-than people in His society.  In death, the Gospel writers honor the oft-forgotten women.  In resurrection, the angel commissions the lowly women to proclaim Christ’s new life!  A beautiful picture of healing the power struggle between genders.

In the beginning, when the world was innocent, God created all humanity in His image.  A balance of power.  We created the power hierarchy.  We needed Someone to free us from the shame environments that hierarchy created.  Only He could show us how to embrace that image once again.  Only He could rescue us from ourselves.  Only He could invite us to join His way of life.  Only He could teach us how to risk without shame and live bravely, even when others don’t approve of the freedom we gratefully receive from the unconditional love and grace of God.  Only He could show us how to die to the facades we’re told we have to exhibit so that our truest parts can resurrect and bloom!

Christ’s resurrection life created a better way–one where everyone gets to play.  Just as He said from the beginning.

I’d love to hear from you!!  How can use your voice to proclaim freedom in Christ to others?

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The Forgotten Disciples

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“And then, starting at noon, the entire land became dark. It was dark for three hours. In the middle of the dark afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘… My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ … And then Jesus cried out once more, loudly, and then He breathed His last breath.  … So Joseph [of Arimathea] took the body, wrapped Jesus in a clean sheath of white linen, and laid Jesus in his own new tomb, which he had carved from a rock. Then he rolled a great stone in front of the tomb’s opening, and he went away. Mary Magdalene was there, and so was the other Mary. They sat across from the tomb, watching, remembering”–Matthew 27:45-46, 50, 59-61.

I wish churches would focus on the women who followed Jesus more.  The women of the Gospels play an often overlooked role in showing us today what it means to follow Him.

The disciples scattered.  The disciples doubted.  The disciples missed so much.

The women worshipped before Him.  The women financed His work.  The women waited.  The women watched and remembered.

No, this post is not idolizing feminism or women.  However, what we have focussed on is the humanity of the male disciples without balancing those thoughts with the spiritual intelligence of the women who also followed Jesus.  Yes, we all scatter, doubt and misinterpret.  BUT, the women show us that we can reflect and grow into steady, focussed, faith-filled Believers.  We need both examples; but too often we glorify the earth-bound humanity of the disciples without challenging ourselves to become Jesus’ other disciples.

The overlooked disciples.

The forgotten disciples.

The female disciples.

As we ponder the wonders of the final moments of this Passion Week, let us also honor the women who followed Jesus by waiting, watching and remembering.  Let us allow God to fill our hearts with hope and faith that will help us process the confusion, tragedy and fear in our lives.  Because the story is only beginning …

I pray that we will learn equally from those who walk with Jesus, regardless of gender, social standing, identity or background.

 

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Voices In The Heart

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“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” –Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

Dear Weary One,

I know you have heard many things spoken against you and people you love in My name.  

Those words assault Me also.

Some people speaking those words love Me and desperately want to know that I am proud of them.  So they speak words that they think are Mine because others with authority in their lives have said they are My words.  I know those words hurt.  

They hurt Me also.

Hear My words.  I speak healing over you.  I speak grace over you.  I speak acceptance over you.  I speak love over you.

I speak the same words over them.

Does that shock you?  Offend you?  If it doesn’t, it should.  I came to bring unity and accessibility back to God.  For everyone.  Not just you.  You are not the only wounded one I see.  Remember, your words have also brought pain–sometimes unintentional … sometimes with great intention.  I spoke healing, grace and acceptance over you then, as I do with them now.

So learn from Me how I lived without shame before all the ones who tried to kill Me … how I live now.  Let Me remind you of all the exciting adventures we’ve experienced together.  Let Me give you a glimpse of the future as I see it.  Have you forgotten the breathtaking awe of walking alongside someone who didn’t know how much I love them?  Have you missed the joy of watching the light bulb go off in a person’s soul as we work together to show how life could be?  Remember all the times you wept and prayed and didn’t know if I saw what was happening?  Remember how you laughed when you realized I did see and accomplished what you thought impossible?  Remember and learn from our past encounters and take heart now … laugh now … because you must know I see now and am working now.

The other voices have grown strong in your mind.  You have exaggerated their power.  Come away with Me.  I will show you a place that silences them.  I never meant for you to fight their war.  I never meant for you to live on their terms.  I created you to live like a child–freely, joyfully … including anyone who would play.  

Don’t listen to the other voices.  Mine is the only one that matters.

I love you, My beloved–Jesus

Have you given your heart over to discouraging voices that want to engage you in a war you don’t feel equipped to fight?  Is God calling your heart to live like a child? How can you focus on the ones who want to play, and ignore the bullies on the playground?

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Snapshots

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“For now, we can only see a dim and blurry picture of things, as when we stare into polished metal. I realize that everything I know is only part of the big picture. But one day, when Jesus arrives, we will see clearly, face-to-face. In that day, I will fully know just as I have been wholly known by God” –1Corinthians 13:12.

“We had been hoping that He was the One—you know, the One who would liberate all Israel and bring God’s promises”–Luke 24:21.

This week, many events occurred which felt like bullets hitting my soul.  Sometimes the snapshots of our lives bring us to our knees and we find God.  Sometimes we just fall to our knees with the wind knocked out of us.  Either way, we need to find the strength to get up, dust ourselves off and learn from the wounds of the soul.

  • Jud’s mom died this week.  So many emotions to process–I wish I could say the emotions evoke warm, fuzzy memories.  Not much of that going on.  Just tough processing.
  • A woman I met last week died suddenly, tragically.  My daughter talked with her daughter in a park several months ago and started mentoring her.  The woman, her daughter and the woman’s mother had started coming to church a few weeks ago and seemed to have hope, joy and renewal.  Now, Spring Break will have an ugly edge for the 16 year old who mourns her mother.  More tough processing.
  • World Vision changed their hiring policy to accomodate gay marriages.  Then a day later, under pressure, changed the policy back to the original one of not allowing committed gay relationships.  The tension and sadness overwhelmed me.  Each side felt victory and defeat.  Once again, an issue became about winning and losing instead of treating people well.  Too much tough processing.
  • Having inside information on a church’s upheaval that a friend attends weighs heavy on me.  Hearing the ‘public’ side of a person and knowing the ‘private’ side creates sadness and a cynical environment for me.  Enough of the tough processing!
  • All the world problems of Russia vs. Ukraine, the Malaysia flight, the mudslide in the state of Washington.  The processing continues.

Of course there’s more … because there always is more to every story.  But not all the ‘mores’ are meant for sharing.  I struggle to find the beauty and joy in weeks like this one.  How do we take the snapshots of ugly stories and turn them into a bright-colored collage with witty captions in a photo album of life?  Where are the pithy sayings that wash away the deep scars left in our souls?

Let us choose to not allow the story of our lives, our world, to end with the tragedies we experience.

Let us not allow discouragement and sorrow to imprison our souls.

Let us remember Easter and the message of Jesus’ resurrection–the story hasn’t ended yet!

Perhaps weeks like this one serve to remind us of the searing reality of the ‘not yet’ that Paul mentions in his letters.  Perhaps weeks like this one can serve to remind us of how the disciples felt in the last hours as all their hopes came crashing down, and they dispersed as Jesus died.  As we journey through Lent and look toward the promise of Easter, may faith, hope and love remain in us until more of Christ’s life is revealed in us.

I’d love to hear from you!  Are you weary with the heaviness of your life?  What has encouraged you when all hope seems lost?  

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High-Five Thankfulness

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‘So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind’~1 Thessalonians 5:11.

We need to high-five each other more.  Almost a year ago, I felt God ask me to offer a weekly ‘blessing’ to our pastor.  Sending an e-mail each week to him letting him know that something he said resonated with my heart.  This exercise is not easy for me on several levels–especially given my track record with pastors.  Most of the time I feel like I’m the ‘sheep’ in the flock that pastors want to sell to market….  Fear sometimes grips my soul as I write out a piece of my heart to him.  In some ways, I feel healing coming to areas where hurts lie deeply from church experiences.  He has told me how much he looks forward to the e-mails, because he questions if anything he says in his sermons has value to someone.  Insecurities haunt the best of us.

We need to high-five each other more.  A friend has been incapacitated a long time.  At times, she expresses feeling failure that she isn’t well yet.  I encouraged her that she is moving forward and healing.  It just takes time.  As she takes baby steps and wills herself to accomplish her physical therapy, I see great courage and at the same time fear in her eyes.  What if her current state is as good as it gets?  Her insecurities give her one more obstacle to overcome on her quest toward health.  Her husband spear-headed a campaign to have 7 friends take a day of the week to text her encouragement.  I look forward each week to my day, and I text her ‘Praying for you’ on other days, as I think of her.  She has said that those messages all of us send help give her courage and feel less alone.

We need to high-five each other more.  I read an article giving statistics of what a mother’s job is worth (about $60,000/year).  The comment section was brutal.  A lot of people out there have ‘mommy issues’ or just plain ‘woman issues.’  I felt personally attacked as I kept reading (stupid mistake) the vitriolic discussions that claimed that being a mom is a cushy way of life.  Wow!  My insecurities about the choices I’ve made in life seem justified when I read some of those comments, and I’m tempted to feel like a failure with my life.  Thank you, Jud, for thinking more highly of what I do for our family than that!  A friend recently moved and said some really wonderful parting thoughts to me.  She was shocked (after reading my first blog post that explains the title of my blog) that I think of myself as an ‘extra’ or ‘supporting character’ in life.  Her words still encourage me to think kinder thoughts toward myself.

We need to high-five each other more.  Our insecurities may remain hidden, but they affect our lives and how we relate to people.  All of us need to know there are people who think the best of us and hope the best for us.  Are we willing to be brave and open with someone about what their life means to us?  A couple of lines in a text, email or note go a long way.  A sentence or two face-to-face or in a phone call can strengthen someone more than we realize.  In this world where people judge and convict others based on gender, sexual identity, political convictions, race and many other prejudices, may we learn and teach others to give kudos just as loudly when we see the face of God in someone’s character and acts of compassion.

In the approaching holiday season, let us take some time to give gifts of encouragement to others who need to know someone values them.

Have you experienced someone ‘high-fiving’ you?  What did that mean to you?  How can you ‘high-five’ someone this week?

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Remembering Veterans

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As a retired military dependent, I have a view of Veteran’s Day that not everyone gets to see.  Jud retired after 20 years in the service (plus 4 years before that at a military university).  I spent 17 of those years supporting his part in protecting our country.  Many people question the need for the kind of military we have, and many question the ethics of war.  I, too, question many of those things–especially since my boys reached the age that they have to register for Selective Service.  However, today I put that inner and political debate aside and want to honor those who offered themselves up for our country.

Jud, I choose you to represent how I feel about all veterans.  You epitomize all the best attributes of who we want to serve our country.  You have ethics, integrity, empathy, courage.

I remember arriving as your new bride in Alamogordo, New Mexico.  I can still feel the shock when you had to deploy a week after we married.  Those twice a month deployments taught us both to value our relationship and carve out regular ‘date nights’ from the beginning of our life together.  I remember the ‘bomb me’ vehicles in Germany (the license plates that American military families had with a prominent USA on them).  I remember the ‘bomb me’ shiny officer ranks you had to wear on your hat.  The joking helped ease the stress of knowing how real the threat of death could be.  I know firsthand the long hours, the family’s sacrifice, the delayed holidays, birthdays and anniversaries that come with a 24/7/365 job.  I have seen the conflict in your soul as you participated in war and training that pushed the boundaries of sanity.  I love you for that conflict and hope that other leaders feel the same.  Although most of your military career you participated in top secret missions, as those declassified over the years I’ve had a renewed sense of pride for the lives you saved in issuing warnings.  As your career progressed and you began teaching and training younger men about space power and military ethics, my gratitude for veterans increased.  We need more people who have digested the ugliness of war and grown in wisdom to come alongside the next generations of soldiers.  They need mentors who will help them process what military life shows them.  The lectures I got to hear made me see how incredibly gifted you are at communicating philosophical ideas in tangible language.  When you took your cadets each class on a ‘field trip’ to the Air Force Academy’s cemetery so that they would think about the legacy of military service, and you showed them Mark’s grave, I wept with you at the end of the day.  I remember the 9 months you worked construction after retirement so that you could ‘beat the military out of you.’  After 20 years serving in the military, transitioning from that world to the civilian world created challenges that you faced courageously.

While you served with focus and responsibility, you never insisted that your family conform to a ‘military mindset.’  Thank you for separating your service to our country and your service in your home.  Thank you for letting me be your wife and not a military wife.  Thank you for letting us always be a team and letting me be your support through those years and beyond.  Thank you for making us a priority and embracing our home as your place of refuge from the craziness of bureaucracy.  Thank you for recognizing when those bureaucratic rules began to impinge on our family.  I love you, respect you, honor you.

I read a statistic a couple of days ago that every 65 minutes, a veteran commits suicide.  22 suicides a day.  We need to feel the weight of gratitude toward our veterans.  Many of them have sacrificed physically, mentally and emotionally for our country.  Many of them leave the military broken physically, mentally and emotionally as they have seen things no one was created to see.  Many of them struggle to lead ‘normal’ lives after their service.  I am thankful that our healthcare system is dispelling the stigma of mental health issues.  We need to dispel those stigmas outside the medical community so that shame does not keep us from vulnerably sharing the struggles with depression, anxiety, PTSD and all the other disorders that our brain develops as we try to cope with severe trauma.

Our veterans continue to define ‘heroic’ when they seek help and healing.  If you know a suffering veteran, encourage them to exemplify heroism to us all by humbling themselves and using the health benefits they have earned.

Thank you to all veterans for your service and sacrifice to our country.  We owe it to you to support and encourage you and your families when you transition out of military service and back into the civilian world.

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Beloved Gift of God

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My darling youngest son, you turned 18 today.  How can that be?  How can this young man before my eyes be you?  Your name means ‘beloved gift of God.’  And you live up to that name.

I prayed for joy with all of you.  Joy flows out of you and is all around you.  I remember telling you recently that often I would send you to your room after you had disobeyed to wait for your consequences.  You thought it was because I was incredibly angry with you and needed to calm down.  Most of the time, you waited because I couldn’t stop laughing.  You all are the joy of my heart.

I remember Gammy marveling at you when you rolled over the day after we brought you home from the hospital.  I’ve never stopped marveling at you.  You astounded Poppa with your sports ability–especially throwing and catching.  And now you are a top shot putter in the state.  I remember your energy far surpassed mine, so you motivated me to exercise and improve my energy and stamina so that I could keep up with you.  I remember when you were 2 and we all went to one of Dad’s work functions at a home with a lot of land.  You walked away across the field, never looking back, and sat down just before you got to the trees …  with your back to us.  I wondered what you were thinking.  I would wonder that a lot through the years.  We kept our eye on you and Dad finally went and sat down with you before coming back to the group.  I remember lunches at Village Inn–chocolate chip pancakes and club sandwiches–when you were in kindergarten.  I remember dancing at the dentist office to the elevator music, singing and praying before bed and you dancing to the songs Dad would play on the guitar.

Before each of you were born, Dad would poke my stomach to see what you would do.  Em kicked back–no one was going to take up her space!  We knew she would be a fighter, a challenger.  J just rolled over and repositioned himself to accommodate the new normal of his environment.  You didn’t move.  You didn’t kick.  You just blew it off.  Our concern began….

Instead, what we’ve found turned out to be a free-spirit in terms of peer pressure.  You have always been well-liked; but you never seemed to care what others wanted you to be.  Because of that attitude, you are a leader.  Your teachers all have said how kind you are.  Parents of classmates would wax  lyrical about you and smile warmly at me when they found out you were my son.  A couple of teachers commented how inclusively you treated all your classmates.  In gym classes, you wanted everyone to have a turn and would even toss or throw the ball to the girls to give them a chance to shine.  Other classmates said that you would stick up for them and protect them.  You make others feel good about themselves by embracing them in your world.  

I remember praying for each of you and asking God to reveal what part of Him you contain.  With you, I see a pastor’s heart–I don’t know if you will ever be a church pastor; but you have a deep caring and empathy for others.  I remember one Sunday, you were about 8, you came to me with your Bible open and said that you’d been reading about how the Israelites had hurt the heart of God so often.  You continued that it made you think of how many times you had done things that must have hurt the heart of God and it made you sad.  We prayed for God to reveal more of His heart to you and the ability to live out His way of life.  You trotted off and all was well with the world.  I pray now that you will not let others shape your identity.  You are big and strong.  You have a protective nature; but I pray that you will allow yourself to need protecting sometimes.  People look to you as a role model; but I pray that you will embrace God’s humility so that you can use the power others give you in their lives to point them to Him.

When I see you all grown up, and yet behind your beautiful blue eyes I also see the little boy who still lives in you, my whole being swells with pride.  I’ve often said that as a mom, my goal is to work myself out of a job.  I’ve done my job well.  I know you don’t need me like you used to when you were little young.  You are confident and appropriately independent.  My role in your life has changed through the years.  I miss the ‘little boy’ years; but I look forward to where God takes you through life.  My mama’s heart still worries, still panics, still wants control.  But as with these first 18 years, we will grow together and figure out our changing roles with each other.

I know one thing will not change.  I will forever love you and be proud that you are my beloved gift of God.

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Life Poetry

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‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.’ –Psalm 34:18

My daughter has a close friend who found her brother’s body several months ago.  He committed suicide.  I often see on Facebook that she’s having a tough day–trying so hard to be strong and keep her faith; but, having a hard time processing horrific life circumstances at 21 or 22.  My heart aches for her heartache.

I cringe at times when I hear people say, ‘Time heals all wounds.’  In my experience, time heals nothing.  Time distances us from circumstances, but cannot guarantee healing.  I suppose it depends on how we define ‘healing.’  I define it as being without hardness and callouses–but we may limp, figuratively.  Often when we expect time to heal our hearts, we become hardened, cynical and calloused.  I do pray for my daughter’s friend that she gives her heart time for healing–makes space in her life to feel completely the spectrum of emotions without shame, trusting God to heal the brokenness.

I love the book of Psalms.  I love the raw honesty of emotions in its poetry–the joyful passion of praise and thanksgiving, the expressions of anger at injustices, blaming God for circumstances and not acting the in a desired way, the unabashed worship, the stillness of a resolute heart clinging to faith.  I love that the people who canonized the Bible recognized that God can consider poetry holy.  In these poems, we experience the life they lived from their perspective, even though they lived thousands of years ago.  I love seeing that the human heart hasn’t evolved much in thousands of years–we still feel deeply all the heartbreak when life doesn’t live up to our expectations, soaring joy and invincibility when things go well, deep awe and reverence when something in nature stops us in our tracks.  I remember my grandma saying that when she saw a plane in the sky for the first time, she whispered, ‘And I will shew wonders in heaven above’ (Acts 2:19, KJV).  She stood awestruck that God would allow such a miracle.

I love that having this holy book of poetry means that emotions cannot condemn us–no matter how long it takes for perspective to come.  Perspective can come.

I’ve written a few of my own psalms throughout life–some more ‘raw’ than others–and have discovered that the writing can release the power of the emotion more quickly than stewing over whatever creates the emotion in me.  I’ve burned a few as a symbolic act of letting go of the things beyond my control and allowing them to lift and float to God.  I’ve ripped a few to shreds in anger.  I’ve kept a few that still make me weep because the wound that caused the emotion hasn’t quite closed yet.

I have learned that we don’t have to write a poem to create a psalm.  Sometimes our lives become living psalms when our heartache is public.  My daughter’s friend creates a living psalm when I watch a few tears silently roll down her cheek in church before she brushes them away and breathes in new composure.  How many ‘psalms’ do we miss each day as we focus on our agendas?  How many opportunities do we miss to hear someone’s exuberant excitement, painful heartache, glorious revelation about life or love or God?  Will I learn to open myself to others’ vulnerable story and view their poetic life as holy?  Can that simple act begin to bring peace to our neighbors?  Our cities?  Our nation?  Our world?  Selfless understanding can create a bond of unity.  I wonder if that type of understanding could facilitate negotiation in governments?  But, the government shutdown is for another day, another post.

Today, my heart breaks for Eleah.  Today, I pray that the labyrinth of grief, with all its twists and turns, will give her peace as she continues to put one foot in front of the other and follow the path that has dead-ends and u-turns and seems to have no end.  Today, I pray for people to walk that path with her, at her pace and  join in her heart cry.  Today, I pray that all of us will find others on the labyrinth path of life who will help us turn our eyes to God and feel God’s presence in the midst of our own grief, joy, anger, peace, confusion–even when those emotions come simultaneously.

What is on your heart today?  What type of ‘psalm’ are you living?

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The Lonely Places

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‘But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.’ (Luke 5:16, NIV)

I used to wonder … a lot… about Jesus choosing the lonely places.  As a flaming extrovert who sucks in all the energy from a room and has about 500,000 words to release on a daily basis, I could not comprehend Jesus seeking out ‘lonely’ places.  Oh, I know that in translation, the ‘lonely places’ are really just out-of-the-way, no-one-around, I-need-solitude-to-recharge-because-I’m-an-introvert places.  But, I love the Bible translations that call those wildernesses ‘the lonely places.’  Now that I’m not as much of a flaming extrovert and crowds can actually tire me out, I appreciate solitude more.  Now that I’m older and have more awareness of the bigger issues and cultures in our world, many of our debates in the political, social and religious realms leave me exhausted.  I find, more and more, that I crave solitude when my heart breaks over others’ pain.  I actually enjoy feeling lonely when the alternative involves entering the fray of treating people like issues.

I loved Pope Francis’ quote this week:  “The proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives…A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality, I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person” (emphasis mine).  Pope Francis had to have come to that wisdom from time in his own ‘lonely places.’   That level of compassion and grace are forged in our loneliest times when it’s only us and God.

So this self-acknowledged extrovert begins to ask, “How do I steer conversations about gut-wrenching subjects–gut-wrenching because they involve people’s lives, souls and spirits; yet, people try to debate them at only an intellectual level–back to the humanity of people?  Back to how God views their existence?  Away from the issue and back to the person?”  I find those answers away from the noise of society and in solitude, in the lonely places.  In the lonely places, I understand that these ‘issues’ are not issues, they are people.  In the lonely places, I focus not on the intellectual arguments, but on the heart of God.  In the lonely places, my attitude and responsibility become clear:  Jesus emerges as my standard of how I relate to everyone–with respect and awe that we are all created in the image of God.

I have felt lonely often this year, and definitely haven’t appreciated it most of the time.  Now, I have a different perspective.  I may make Luke 5:16 one of my ‘life’ verses and say, “Maggie often withdraws to the lonely places and prays.”

Have you encountered God in the lonely places?  How have those experiences influenced your perspective?

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Birthday Blessing

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My Jason–

20 years ago this week, you popped out into the world, and you haven’t stopped amazing me.

I remember Dad being so sick that last trimester before you were born.  I thought he might die; but I couldn’t think about that.  I had you to think and take care of inside me.  I remember a friend praying over you and me and just giggling as soon as she touched my belly.  She said, “I don’t know if you realize it or not, but this baby is FULL of God’s JOY!!”  She went on to say that she believed you had the heart of ‘Timothy’ from the Bible.  She didn’t know that we had picked out ‘Timothy’ as your middle name.  I remember the Alabama years and your lispy, nasally twang that is long-forgotten by everyone but me.  I remember the time you rode Jon’s much smaller bike around the BMX track and looked like a professional as you flew into the air … until gravity slammed you into the ground.  Thank God, no bones broke, and we got to watch Fear Factor for the first time as I snuggled you.  I remember soccer, hurdles and relays.  I remember experiments, breakfasts and errands.  I remember conversations, late-night papers and movie nights.  I remember you.

So, this week, as you end your teen years and enter your 20s, I think about how much you’ve grown and matured through the years.  I’m so proud you are my son–my eldest son.  You’ve never lost the joy, the piece of God, that He put in you.  You’ve never lost your sense of adventure and curiosity.  I hope you never do.  You are one of the bravest people I’ve met and one of the most secure in who you are and who God created you to be!  I love it that you’ve cliff-dived, challenged yourself with new hobbies like unicycling and learning to play the saw, travelled to various places in Colorado just for the adventure.  You still make me smile and bring me joy.

My prayer for you (and all in your generation) is that you will continue to find yourself in Christ.  Continue to see the world through His eyes.  Continue to live with His ABUNDANT LIFE in pure abandoned joy.  My prayer is that you and others will see God’s grace, love, hope and faith as you journey toward the prize in Jesus.  I pray for you, my treasured child, that what you have to offer the Body of Christ, people will embrace with gratitude.

So I celebrate you and give you this blessing for your life.  HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!  May it be filled with adventure and joy!!

Love you, Sug–mama

My prayer for all of us is that we encourage and validate this next generation as they go out to change their world!

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Dreams

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In second grade, I  read a book about Francis Scott Key and his poem that has become our national anthem.  The book enthralled me.  I remember telling my teacher, Mrs. Lash, all about it … for about 10 minutes … without taking a breath.  Finally, I paused a moment and she said, ‘Maybe you should write a book report about it.’  Whew, I’m sure she felt great relief.  Until I actually turned in the unassigned book report a day or two later.  From then on, I knew I wanted to be a writer.

Over the years, the dream of writing adjusted as I realized the likelihood of paying bills with that desire.  My plan entailed that I would write in my spare time and work in publishing.  After college, I would work at a small press in AZ, learning publishing from the ground up while getting my masters degree.  After that, I would apply (and, of course, get the job) as an editor at a big house in Chicago–Doubleday, Random House, Simon and Schuster–and work my way up to a senior editor position.  But wait, the dream didn’t end there.  I planned on applying (and getting) a transfer to a London office where I would work in the crime novel division developing new authors.  Of course the huge pipe-dream (because we all have those unrealistic hopes) was to win the Pulitzer by the time I hit 35 and the Nobel Prize for Literature at 50.  No one can accuse me of selling myself short….

In high school, I added winning Wimbledon to my list of dreams.  Never mind that while I won most of my matches for my team, I really hated practicing and did not have the desire to commit my life to the sport.  Regardless, my doubles partner and I would half-heartedly practice in the blazing Arizona sun, then break for a Diet Dr. Pepper (the just-developed soft drink at the time–yes, I’m that old.  I even remember when Diet Coke came on the market) and talk about life, love and dreams.  But, the writing dream continued and became a sort of ‘happy place’ for me.  I would have a winter vacation home in Montana–a large cabin by a lake with a huge overstuffed chair, lots of legal pads for writing (pre-computer age) and lots of books to while away the snowy weather.

So what happened to those dreams?  I fell in love with a man in the Air Force, we traveled to exotic places like Alamogordo, NM, and Erzenhausen, Germany.  Space Command didn’t send us to Chicago or London.  Jud worked mostly shift work and the high demands of military life didn’t afford much home stability when we had our kiddos.  So, I volunteered to stay home and give our children stability.  Now, everyone is grown and mostly independent (even though they still live in our home) and I can explore dreams again.

Except my dreams at 48 take a different slant than they did at 16.  But those childhood dreams help me remember my passions.  While I probably won’t win the Nobel in a couple of years and have yet to write anything worthy of it or the Pulitzer, I have discovered other outlets for those dreams.  Not working at a publishing house hasn’t stopped me from editing projects for friends and family.  Not winning prizes hasn’t stopped me from writing and growing in my ability to communicate through that medium. Just the narcissism has calmed down (I hope).

So when I read about the 3 Chinese girls who died because of the Asiana Flight 214 crash earlier this week, I connected with them.  Two of them were 16 (the age of the third girl wasn’t released; but she was a part of their group, so I’m guessing she was also a teenager)–the age when I believed I could be a rising tennis star.  I wonder what they hoped and dreamed for their futures?  What they hoped and dreamed the summer camp they were traveling to would bring to them?  What did they believe was within their grasp that at age 48 would seem utterly ridiculous?  They won’t have the chance of looking back at their lives and laughing at some of their impossible dreams.

Feeling the need to memorialize those girls and feeling nostalgic for my own dreams from youth, I drink a Diet Dr. Pepper in their honor.  Being 48 and responsible for my health, I’ve given up sodas (diet or otherwise) this year (my mom will think ‘I told you so’ when she reads this, yet, I throw her the bone anyway); but I break my decision this one day in honor of those girls.  I raise my glass of Diet Dr. Pepper and drink to their memory and all the lost dreams of youth.  I may even go out and hit a few tennis serves this weekend and dream of winning Wimbledon someday–just because I have life and can still dream.

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Leading By Example

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My goodness!!  Sometimes I wonder if we truly live in the 21st century?  I’ve read several articles about the Voting Rights Act, Paula Deen (and several other ‘celebrities’ who have let loose with racial and offensive slurs) and Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman over the past few weeks.  I can’t say that I understand much about the Voting Rights Act issue.  Being from Arizona and born in the mid-60s gives me little frame of reference for racial prejudice (illegal immigration didn’t really touch me back then).  Visiting my mom’s stomping grounds in Texas and living in Alabama for 4 1/2 years in the 1990s give me some perspective.  As a child, I remember the days-long road trips to Texas and staring out the car window in boredom.  I saw many signs on restaurants that read ‘Members Only.’  When I asked my parents what that meant, my mom responded, “Only white people can eat there–it’s how they get around the laws.”  Once, when I felt overly-bored of the car and hungry, I said, “So we could stop and eat in one of those places?”  Both my parents stiffened and said, “We will never go to a place with one of those signs.”  At 7, I began to understand prejudice and where my family stood.

Because of those experiences, I understand, from an ideological view, why the Supreme Court overturned the Voting Rights Act.  However, in order for that view to be just and fair, I believe we must repeal the electorate, have each individual vote counted and the majority vote of the people decide our elections.  “Our country has changed,” explained Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.  I want to believe that theory.  But, how can I?  I’ve also read many articles about Texas immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision putting into effect a voter identification law that previously had been blocked.  I read articles about egregious racism by international chef and personality Paula Deen.  The Trayvon Martin case breaks my heart.  And, so my friends from the South don’t think that I’m picking on them, a contestant from Philadelphia on one of my favorite summertime shows (MasterChef) tweeted some really offensive, racist remarks.  Don’t get me started on Alec Baldwin, Mel Gibson or the many other celebrities who while inebriated or just in rage have let loose indefensible insults.  Has our country changed?

Transitioning takes so much time.  I think of all the moves we’ve made with the military.  It took about 3-6 months to feel settled.  It took about 3 months to adjust to our first child, 6 months to adjust to our second child and 18 months to feel like we had control with three (notice I said ‘feel.’  I’m not sure we ever had control….).  Changing a whole nation and culture takes decades; but it does happen.  I look at South Africa, where we have dear friends, and how far they’ve come in 30 years since apartheid and how far they still have to go.  Our friends have said that they are not sure what will happen when the ailing Nelson Mandela actually dies.  He symbolizes grace and forgiveness in a volatile state, much like Gandhi did for India.  Much like Martin Luther King, Jr. in our country.  My heart grows weary and heavy when I think that many of our ‘symbols’ become martyrs.  Mandela’s long life is an exception to that rule.

So, I worry over the implications of not having the Voting Rights Act to protect minority voices in our nation.  I worry that our country’s stability rests on laws and not in the hearts of its people.  Discouragement surrounds my heart at all the injustices I see and feel.

But, I do have hope.  I read multiple articles about the first integrated prom in Wilcox County, Georgia.  How students at the high school went against the adult views of having a ‘black prom’ and a ‘white prom’ since the 1970s and organized their own prom.  My heart almost burst with pride at the courage and tenacity of these students.  I know so many youth and young adults who protect their peers who are bullied.  I cheer on the multitudes who will not accept another suicide in their towns and have befriended the ‘fringe’ kids in their schools.  May we learn by their example how to ‘work at living in peace with everyone … [and to] look after each other so that none … fails to receive the grace of God’ (Hebrews 12:14, 15).

Our country has a long way to go before we see stability with all the transitions.  We won’t know if overturning the Voting Rights Act corrupts the democracy process until we have an election.  But, I know our youth and young adults can accept the challenges that our generation gives them.  We have raised an incredible generation of young adults capable and willing to take ownership of their culture.  Let us celebrate our children and our children’s children as they learn to lead our country and our world.  Let us encourage their efforts to build bridges and seek to live in peace.  Let us stand confidently alongside them as they discover that the foundations we laid are actually springboards for them to go farther than we dreamed possible–just as we have grown past our parents’ and grandparents’ expectations (and perhaps desires).  Power and control are hard to give up; but for us to move forward, we must make room for the next generations to show us where to go.

 

 

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HAPPY MANHOOD DAY!!

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Since I did a post celebrating all women and how we ‘parent’ regardless of our biological child status, it seems only fair to do the same for men.  I’ve had many men in my life who represent true manhood.  Let me define ‘true manhood.’

My father grew up in Manchester, England, with a father who typified Northern English manhood.  He was stern, distant and unemotional.  He died when my dad was 8.  My dad lived through WWII in England and survived the aftermath before immigrating to the United States.  He could have become a stern, distant man.  Instead, he embodied compassion to me when we visited relatives in Texas one year.  We always stopped in my mom’s childhood town to visit Elizabeth who cleaned and cooked for my mom’s family.  This one year, Elizabeth wanted to buy a used car and asked my dad to check it out for her.  Elizabeth needed a better car to take her ailing mother to doctor’s appointments.  My dad gave his ‘okay’ after looking over the car, then before we left Elizabeth, he gave her the rest of the money she needed to buy it.  When he and my mom discussed it, he said that he didn’t want Elizabeth to wait until she could save up the rest of the money–she had already made a couple of payments to ‘hold’ the car from the woman selling it.  My father embodies ‘true manhood’ with his compassion.

John Mark pastored a church in Alabama.  I’ve mentioned the congregation in a previous post–‘holiness’ people on one side of the aisle, AA people on the other side.  I can’t imagine how John Mark walked that tightrope and led such differing people!  He tempered the ‘holiness’ people with grace and gave the AA people boundaries.  Two pastors remind my heart that God really does make His home with us.  Tom, who married Jud and I, and John Mark.  Having the ability to make both ‘holiness’ and AA people feel accepted and at home while defending truth and grace, John Mark embodied ‘true manhood.’

My sons remind me that youth, also, man-up.  Both J and Jon have hearts that break for injustice.  I’ve watched them both stand up in different ways for people that society disapproves.  My heart swells with pride when I hear their stories and they don’t know how much their efforts mean.  Their hearts make their actions natural and without arrogance.  Their humility and natural way of living embodies ‘true manhood.’

And, of course, Jud.  His respect of all people and cultures, his openness to new thoughts and his desire to always grow in character, knowledge and wisdom makes me want to be a better person.  His ability to speak kindly and steadily has helped my impetuous nature become a little more intentional (no small task on his part!).  I remember one time, a friend asked several of us to offer counsel on a job opportunity he was considering.  All of us had vocal opinions.  Except Jud.  For about an hour, we all dissected the options from every angle.  It reminds me of putting a puzzle together.  We all had our pieces, but didn’t know where to put them–or even what the puzzle picture looked like.  Jud listened.  Especially to our friend.  After the lengthy discussion where nothing showed our friend clarity, we needed to leave.  But, before we left, Jud spoke amazing wisdom to our friend’s character and then proceeded to put all the puzzle pieces from the discussion together.  The rest of us, our mouths gaping, sat in silence and awe until he finished.  His ability to assess situations and speak wisdom into them embodies ‘true manhood.’

So, for all the men out there who have ‘fathered’ others–biological children, step-children, adopted children, teens, adults, and those of us who have yet to outgrow the sophomoric phases–I honor you!  Those of you who are unsung because you live your life quietly, with integrity and compassion, I applaud you.  Those of you who don’t fit into the ‘stereotypical’ mold of what a manly man is and haven’t always felt respected, yet you keep living your life by respecting others, I weep in gratitude.  For all the unsung men and all the sung men who strive to make our world a more just, kind, generous place for the coming generations, today is your day!  May you feel CELEBRATED!!

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Thank You, Wayne Brady

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Way back in the day, our family used to watch ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway,’ an improv show with a brilliant comedic ensemble cast of Drew Carey, Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles and Wayne Brady (others, also great comedic improvers, joined; but these four were our favorites).  All of those guys are on the permanent invite to Thanksgiving.  That’s a special honor in our family.  Ellen Degeneres, the cast of Modern Family, Maggie Smith, my kids’ dermatologist all grace that list.  It’s the way our family describes people we don’t really know but consider them family.  And, by the way, I make an outstanding Thanksgiving spread!

Recently, I saw Wayne Brady on a talk show.  He’s still every bit as funny and fun as he was on ‘Whose Line.’  But, how he answered one of the questions posed to him made me respect him as a person and not just a performer.  The host asked, “What kind of woman do you want.”  Wayne said that he really wanted to find a woman who is intelligent.  Now, a lot of men say that–especially when they’re on a national platform.  No one (who’s intelligent themselves) is going to admit that physical appearance drives their relationship radar.  However, Wayne Brady went on to say that yes, of course, he wanted someone attractive to him; but at the end of the day, he’s a single dad to a daughter and what kind of message would he send her if he went out with women who were just physically beautiful but not much else?  He said that he couldn’t tell his daughter to develop her mind and then bring home a woman who couldn’t discuss relevant issues.

Now that’s a real man.  A man who thinks about what he’s teaching his children.  A man who lives out his principles and doesn’t just say the politically correct rhetoric.  A grown-up man.

I’ve mentored several women as they traversed divorce, dating and remarriage.  Many of them wanted the ‘bad boys.’  ‘Bad boys’ are exciting.  ‘Bad boys’ are edgy.  Most of the ‘bad boys’ reminded them of previous love interests in a relationship’s beginning when everything excited them and the possibility of adventure loomed.  ‘Bad boys’ excite the fantasy that comes with many of the insipid ‘chick flicks’ which glorify relationships where men treat women badly, but the women change them in the end.

*sigh*  Can we all take a moment and bask in the glory of stupid, I mean ‘young’ love?

Okay, back to reality.  The only time ‘bad boys’ work well in relationships is in fiction.  When someone else takes charge of their plot, everything works out splendidly.  When someone else writes their dialogue, they wax poetic and actually grow to empathize with the love interest.  When someone else develops their character, they don’t cheat or stray.  All of this relates to ‘bad girls’ too; I just haven’t had as much experience mentoring that arena.

Can we all take away a bit from Wayne Brady?  Can we strive to be role models for the next generation?  Can we leave behind the whole ‘do as I say, not what I do’ philosophy?  Can we work toward thinking about future generations and how they will process what a man or woman is, then live in such a way that they can springboard from our examples and become real men and real women? Perhaps if more of us embodied that character, the world could become a kinder, gentler place.

Oh, and Wayne, if you ever read this, you and yours have a standing invitation at our Thanksgiving table!

 

 

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HAPPY WOMANHOOD DAY!!!

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To all women who have influenced lives and helped shape the next generation, HATS OFF TO YOU!!  Today, may be called ‘Mother’s Day,’ but all women should be CELEBRATED (whether they conceived a child physically, through fostering or adopting, or mentored someone and helped the journey through life)!!  If we are friends, family, teachers or leaders in youth organizations, we have all ‘mothered’ children, teens and adults.

Thank you to all the women in my life who have made me the person I am today.  Thank you for your wisdom, your nurturing, your ability to challenge my thinking.  Thank you for your courage, your character and your depth of soul.  Thank you for showing those you influence how to have grace under pressure, how to grieve loss, how to rejoice with others and how to live every season of life with joy.

‘Mother’s Day’ doesn’t begin to encompass my wonderfully varied gender.  So I am changing the name to include all the ones who have mothered people in generations past and present, given a legacy to future generations of what it means to be a woman and have gone unsung and unnoticed by society.

YOU ARE NOTICED!  YOU ARE WORTHY!  YOU ARE LOVED!  ALL Y’ALL HAVE EARNED THE TITLE ‘MOTHER’!!  I CELEBRATE YOU!!

 

 

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It’s The Small Things

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Coffee with friends.  Diet lemonade from Chick-fil-A.  Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  Cary Grant movies.  When life throws me a curve ball, these things give me comfort and make me believe that I can make it through almost anything.  As I write, there is a bag of Reese’s Mini Eggs that I just bought at the store for 50% off in the Easter clearance.  I’ve eaten 5 today and feel at peace with the world….

In my stocking at Christmas last year, Jud gave me 10 miniature Christmas-themed (on the bottles) bubbles.  As I blew bubbles to my heart’s content in our family room (and at my kids) and squealed with delight, our kids, a little horrified, asked, “Dad, why would you give her bubbles?!”  Jud just smiled contentedly and replied, “Look at her.”

The Peanuts clock that plays Christmas tunes on each hour just ‘chimed.’  I didn’t remember it until I put away all the Christmas decorations around January 1st.  Since I didn’t get to enjoy it during the holidays, I put batteries in it and set it up in my bedroom.  In February, my daughter rushed in my room and panic-stricken asked, “Do you hear that?!  Is it real?!  I’ve been hearing music for a week and I don’t know where it’s coming from!!”  We laughed (me laughing so hard I cried) when I showed her the clock.  Yes, I know it’s April; but I plan on keeping the clock around until it stops making me smile (or until Jud can’t stand it anymore).

Jesus told us to look to the small things–sparrows, lilies, birds, finding lost things, mustard seeds–and let them build our faith, build our joy.  He told stories like the one about the talents.  He said that if we are faithful with a little, God will trust us with more.  Then he says, “Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

Hiking with Jud, laughing with my kids, cleaning while listening to Beach Boys, sharing with friends what God seems to be doing in our lives, mocking news items with friends that have the same sense of humor that I do all invigorate my heart and soul.  Sometimes, I forget how the little things in life recharge my psyche.  God seems to have built in ways for us to enter His joy today; we just have to look for Him in the everyday.

It’s the small things that make life not just bearable, but joyful.  I hope you find that joy revealed in your life today.  As for me, I think I’ll go get a diet lemonade and see if my son and Jud will watch Grimm (a favorite show) with me.  Life is good!

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A Birthday Letter

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My dearest Em–

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! 

Today is Palm Sunday–just as it was 22 years ago.  The whole ‘triumphal entry’ theme resonates with me afresh in Palm Sunday sermons.

Kusel, Germany, 1991.  Desert Storm had left the military hospitals gutted in preparation for wounded, so I, along with everyone else in our Lamaze class, prepared to deliver in a German hospital.  My OB/GYN hailed from Greece, but studied in the US.  The OB who actually delivered you came from France.  Your half-Japanese dad dutifully and sensitively held my hand.  Diversity in action, it felt apropos for our ‘melting pot’ family.  I’ve heard it said (from mostly men) that women forget the pain of childbirth when the doctor or nurse puts their beautiful baby, all snuggled and clean in a blanket, into their arms.  *sigh*  How magical childbirth is in their world….  Reality check:  Those people lie…. However, with the pain comes great joy.

I hope I never forget the beautiful European years of raising you to toddlerhood.  Going to the park down the street, strolling to the Greek restaurant past the cows, gasping with awe as the shepherd helped birth his sheep in the springtime.  The fields of saffron flowers blooming gave me such joy.  Oh, I wouldn’t call it idyllic (I’m not that naive).  I also remember dad almost dying when I was 9 months pregnant with Jason, and our little church community completely falling apart and relationships destroyed.  But I remember the pace of life.  I remember quietness and peace.  I remember church bells echoing through the villages.  I remember old people oooh-ing and ahhh-ing over you in your stroller and giving you candy while we shopped, traveled and ate in the German cities and towns.  And I remember letting you eat the candy that I would throw away if a stranger in America gave it to you.  I remember feeding the ducks in the village next to ours–and you stuffing the bread in your mouth while throwing some to the ducks.  A different culture.  A different life.

I loved the beginning of our family and the treasury of those memories.  I’ve loved raising you to adulthood, and although there have been many bumpy years as we grew and learned together, pride fills my heart as I see you pursuing your passions and learning to fly.  I still see that little girl in Germany who brought such joy and wonder to life.  I see her when your excitement and effervescence lights up the faces of the girls you mentor.  I see her when life is hard and tears fill your eyes at injustices.  I see her when you hope for a better tomorrow.  I see her when you curl up in a blanket and watch a Disney movie.  I see her when you courageously face the critics, once again, and fight for righteousness.  I see her when you see chocolate milk in the refrigerator and all is right with the world.  I see her when Jesus shines through you and gives grace to a soul who believes itself undeserving.  I see her when you worship God–with music and the sacrifice of your life.

You are my beloved child, in whom I am well-pleased.

Love you–‘madgey’

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Memorials

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In about a month, I will go cat-sit for my parents while they travel to Texas for my aunt’s memorial service.  Aunt Vivienne grew up in northern England.  Being 11 years older, she treated my dad more like a doll or plaything.  My dad remembers as a small child his sister and her friend sticking pins in him–they wanted to be nurses and practiced giving shots on my dad.  Ah, youth….

My dad remembers charmingly fun times in his town outside of Manchester.  He has always declared that there is no finer place to be than England at Christmastime.  After living in Germany for 3 years, I have to admit that European Christmases  transported me back to childhood.  But, those idyllic times intersperse with surreal ugly times.  My grandfather died when my dad was about 8.  He had been gassed in the trenches during WWI and doctors believe that’s where his stomach cancer originated.  The men of the town spoke to my dad in reverence about my grandfather.  Whatever my grandfather did during WWI to evoke that respect will never come to light.  Then WWII came and Manchester received the second most bombings next to London.

My dad remembers ‘double-daylight-savings’.  The factory workers needed light when they got off work to tend their gardens–without that produce, they would have starved.  He remembers bombs exploding and air raid sirens.  He remembers being thrown from his bed when a bomb exploded about 2 blocks from his house–he has tinnitus in his ears from that event.  He remembers after the trauma of war, being sent away to boarding school because my grandma didn’t have enough food for him and figured if there was food in England, the government would see to it that the children got it.  He remembers and the memory haunts his sleep with nightmares that he doesn’t share.

Aunt Vivienne married an American soldier whom she met at a USO dance, and she moved to Texas with my Uncle Harry.  Devastated in England, my dad and grandma eventually emigrated to America and joined Aunt Vivienne and Uncle Harry in Texas.  My dad was 17.  He’s never been back to England.  But his gratitude for my aunt and uncle, my uncle’s family who gave him a job and took him in as their own family and all the people who made his transition to America joy-filled and community-loving remains constantly in his heart and life toward others–part of my heritage.

So with the passing of my 91 year old aunt, I reflect on legacy and lifespans.  She saw so much history in her life.  She kept so many thoughts on those events sealed in her heart.

All of us do.  We have life events that many may know; but how we process through those things, very few experience with us.  Part of my dad’s grief is that Aunt Vivienne’s death closes a chapter of my dad’s childhood.  The last person who experienced (or was allowed to experience through memory and sharing) that part of his life is gone, and she took with her the piece of my dad’s memory that she shared with him.  He lost his sister and his last connection to his childhood in England.

The three years that Jesus spent with his disciples must have felt so full of life.  Good times, bad times, mundane times as they walked all over and lived life together.  And not just any life–Kingdom Life.  God’s life coming down.  The glorious entry into Jerusalem.  Shared story.  WOW!  And then he was gone.  Yes, he resurrected, but then he ascended.  As they waited for the Holy Spirit to come to them, I wonder if they grieved Jesus not being with them physically?  They remembered.  They had each other.  They remembered together–and perhaps the remembering sustained them. Then, the Holy Spirit came, they finally got Jesus’ message and the world changed forever.  Now that’s a legacy!!  But what if they had kept all that memory sealed up in their hearts or only shared amongst themselves?  What if they hadn’t understood that sharing the remembrances would propel faith in others and light a fire of expectation that the kingdom of God really could be here and now?

I take my friends for granted…often.  I don’t always fully appreciate sharing life with each other.  I overlook opportunities to reveal my heart.  I don’t want to remember times past when that sharing took place.  I want to learn by failure and success how to open up more of myself–thus starting the blog.  I don’t want to memorialize around a grave.  I want today to celebrate life, love, relationship and shared stories of God at work in our lives!

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Digging Up Bones

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I’ve watched dogs dig, dig, DIG for something they remember burying–a bone, a toy, a sock (you know, the match you can’t find to your favorite pair).  They have buried it to save for later.  They have buried it to savor for later.  They have buried it so that they can remember and be like a kid tearing into presents at Christmas.

And it is a little like Christmas when we find something we put away and forgot.  My mom bought me a little Fozzie Bear, from The Muppets, one Christmas.  It was perfect for my stocking, and she knew that Fozzie was my favorite.  Problem:  She bought it in July and put it ‘away.’  Christmas Eve, after everyone had gone to bed, she filled the stockings–but no Fozzie.  She tore through her closet (her go-to hiding place).  She looked in every cabinet (and my parents’ house has many).  Nothing.  I remember her disappointment Christmas Day.  Of course I had no idea anything was amiss, so everything in my stocking thrilled me.  Then she told me about Fozzie and how she was sure she’d find him in the next day or two.  Twelve years later  (I had graduated high school and college, had been married a few years and had a child), she found him.  Celebration ensued!!  I received a package in the mail a few days later, and all my childhood memories of The Muppets flooded me.  In that moment, I returned to Christmas Day twelve years previous.  I was a teen again and relived the magical moment of the surprises of Christmas morning.  Fozzie became a toy for our baby, and I always smiled when she would hold him and teethe on him.

Recently, growing pains have darkened my spiritual zeal.  Life events, life maturity, life revelations and reflections take a toll on our passion as we navigate, process and reinterpret things we thought unchangeable.  Our souls, thinking they were on solid bedrock, suddenly discover a sinkhole opening up and we panic our way to safety.  But in the midst of the confusion and anxiety of what the future holds, there is something long-buried in my spirit that I’m trying to dig up.  Not sure of what I will find, I keep digging, deeper and deeper, knowing that I will discover something I hid away for just this time.  I keep asking God to ‘throw me a bone’ and give me a little respite; but I believe now that He did throw me a bone long ago and I buried it, because I didn’t need it yet.

So I dig.  I dig with anticipation.  I dig with hope.  I dig with confidence.  A joyful surprise waits a little deeper.

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