Believing, Loving, Thoughts

The Wet and Smelly Side of Friendship

Friendship doesn’t always mean thoughtfulness or gifts or making plans to spend time together.  Sometimes being a friend involves nothing more than water and deodorant.

I was driving home yesterday with the prospect of having unexpected free time on my hands, and I was thinking of all the things I would do with my time.  I COVET free time, probably because I don’t have much of it.  I daydreamed things like: I have photos from two trips I took this summer that are still sitting on my camera’s memory card that I could finally get off and edit and blog about, I have a book project that I need to work on, I have a dirty house that I could clean, and OH MY GOSH A NAP SOUNDS AWESOME.

I wasn’t able to do any of those things yesterday because as I was thinking about all the wonderful things *I* could do with *MY* time, I felt a tugging on my heart that brought to mind a friend that I hadn’t talked to in a couple of weeks.  So I called her just to say hi, which turned into asking her to lunch because I could tell by her voice that she was having a bad day.

Long story short, she was having an EPICALLY bad day.  She was at work, but she needed to cry and talk, so I picked her up and drove her to the bank so she could make a deposit for work.  Then we parked in the shade (big YAY! since it was in the 90’s) and just sat in the car and…cried and talked.

One of the things she was lamenting was that her back was hurting her too bad to carry bottled water up three flights of stairs to her apartment.  STOP RIGHT THERE.  Some of you may scoff at bottled water being something to cry over, but living in the DFW metroplex, I assure you that bottled (or filtered) water is a necessity of life.  If you want to drink water, that is.  DFW water tastes bad in the winter months, but in the summery, HOT DROUGHT-Y months it tastes like wet soil. Literal dirt.  It’s awful. ANYWAY – another thing she was upset about was being too depressed to take good care of herself and she was out of deodorant, and sorry if she was stinky.  (She wasn’t. Nor was her house as dirty as she felt like it was.)

My friend has a touch of OCD, coupled with not-so-ideal life circumstances, financial stresses, and PMS – she was a hurricane of emotions.  I didn’t know what to do for her or how to help her, so I didn’t do anything.  Turns out, she just needed someone to talk to, who would listen without judgment or without telling her to “stop having a pity party” (like another “friend” had done to her earlier).  ((eye-roll))  She just needed to BE with me.

So that is what I did.  I listened, I hugged her, I cried with her, and I prayed for her.  And even though she didn’t ask me to, I bought deodorant and water (and took it up to her third floor apartment) for her.  Sometimes the things we think are no big deal can mean the world to someone else.

I was glad I was able to respond to what I believe was God’s nudging on my heart.  Turns out, that ‘nudge” happened at the exact time she was taking the trash out for work, in the back of her building, where she had taken the opportunity to cry and pray and ask God for something, anything to let her know she was cared for.

I was honored that God chose to use me in that way.  I hope that you can be as blessed by friendship as I was yesterday.  Don’t ever disregard opportunities that come your way to be a friend to someone in need.  Don’t ignore the quiet urgings or gentle nudgings in your heart that are trying to move you this way or that – just do it.  You never know what effect your seemingly insignificant action can have on the world around you.

Go be someone’s blessing today!

Believing, Loving

Blessings in Disguise

To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. Isaiah 61:1

Once again, this – my life’s verse, has proven true.

God has a wonderful way of turning things around. Now that I find myself on the other side of the death of my beloved Pippa (see this post), I can see that God had His hand in so many of the events leading up it, and even during it. I am just now making sense of some of the things that happened along the way that I didn’t understand at the time.

For instance, I wondered why my Pippa didn’t die from pneumonia after Thanksgiving. He was hospitalized two different times before being sent to a hospice care facility. However, when he “improved”, he had to leave; too well to stay, yet too sick to return to assisted living. I was upset at the thought of him lingering in a bedridden state, and wondered why God would let him suffer in that way. I see now that I was only focusing on his physical state. A blessing I missed at the time was that because he was too sick to return to the assisted living facility where he and my Neana had been living in for the previous 18 months, he was able to move back to his home. Given the choice of him going to a nursing home or his home where he lived for 50+years, my family chose to take him home with around-the-clock care. We moved him out of hospice and my Neana back home the day before Christmas. His getting to live his last weeks in the comfort of his own home with my grandmother by his side was a huge blessing for him and for for her. The fact that she didn’t have to go back to the assisted living facility alone was another blessing. Thank you, God, for always providing what we need, sometimes even before we need it.

Another blessing I missed at the time was the way that I was prepared for the possibility of not seeing him “one last time” before he died. I got a call around 6:00pm on Thursday, February 9th, telling me I’d better go to Arkansas soon. I knew I couldn’t make the 5 hour-trip until the next morning after I dropped the kids off at school, so I went to bed praying that I’d be able to see him before he died. Looking back, I know that was a very selfish prayer, but it was all I could think of at the time. Later that night, at 3:21am (I know this because I looked at the clock on my phone), I was awakened by what I thought was lightning outside my window. When I kept my eyes open but saw no lightning nor heard any thunder, I closed my eyes to try to go back to sleep. As soon as I closed my eyes, a fantastic light show went off behind my lids. It was like fireworks! Every time I opened my eyes, the lights would disappear. This “show” lasted awhile before I was able to eventually fall back to sleep. The first thought I had the next morning, was, “What if my Pippa died and that was the celebration going off in my mind’s eye?” I told my husband as much, and also said, “I know if he did die, my family wouldn’t tell me because I have to drive 5 hours today.” In a strange way, my heart and mind were prepared for the thing that eventually did happen – I wasn’t there when he died. I had gone to bed desperately hoping I’d make it in time to see him before he died, but I had woken up with an unexpected sense of peace that it would be OK even if I wasn’t able to. Thank you God, for preparing us for the future while we are yet living in the present. Thank you for going before us and planning out the way we should walk in.


The very coolest blessing in disguise is something I didn’t even find out about until a week after it occurred. During my drive to Arkansas that Friday morning, I experienced a myriad of emotions. I made my way through the usual suspects – sadness, guilt, regret, and shock, when out of nowhere a strange emotion hijacked my senses: I was overcome with excitement. It was such an odd thing to be feeling, and I remarked as much to the person with whom I was talking on the phone. She agreed that it was strange and asked me to try to explain. I said, “All I know is that I feel really excited to see someone who is about to see Jesus.”. That is the feeling that carried me through the rest of the trip, and I could hardly stay below the speed limit. When I arrived home around 1:00 and found out that my Pippa had passed away, the first thing I did was run in and take his face in my hands and say, “You’re already there [in heaven]!” I felt more joy than sadness and spent the next few hours holding his hand just feeling very peaceful. I did cry tears of sadness later on, but for that moment in time, I was just happy for him. What I didn’t know until a week later was the timing of that unexpected feeling that overcame me, and I had forgotten who I was on the phone with at the time to ask her more about it. As it turns out, the same friend I had been on the phone with going to Arkansas called me as I was getting back to my home in Texas. She asked me how the week was, and when I was telling her that my Pippa had died at 11:30, and that I wasn’t able to see him until 1:00, she asked me if I remembered being on the phone with her that day and telling her about the strange excitement I felt at seeing him. I said, “Yes I do! That was you?” She said it was, then asked me again what time Pippa died. When I told her, she said that she called me that day when she was leaving an appointment she had gotten out of a little after 11:00. She reminded me that we talked for awhile and were likely on the phone when he died. I got chills when I realized that the feeling of excitement that came over me out of the blue AT THAT EXACT TIME was likely from God. I think that my Pippa was excited to see Jesus – after all, he spent most of his days on earth with his eye on the prize that Paul talked about in Acts and 2 Timothy:

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8 NIV)

My Pippa and I weren’t just physically bound by flesh and blood because of shared genetics, we are bound spiritually because the same God lives in us both. Although I wasn’t physically present when my Pippa died, my soul was there with him. I think that God allowed me a glimpse of something that couldn’t be seen with human eyes. My soul saw and shared the same excitement that I’m certain my Pippa experienced at seeing Jesus face to face. I had never experienced the death of a loved one before he died, and I used to imagine having to actively seek out little spots of joy and happiness in the dark, deep midst of sorrow and loss. What I have found to be true, though, is that I don’t have to find joy – it finds me. Thank You, God, that Your peace truly does pass understanding. Thank You, God, for Your unwavering pursuit of me. I know that You will find me wherever I am and draw me closer to You. Thank You, God, for loving us all the crazy/beautiful way You do. Amen.

Believing

Death is Nothing at All

Neana holding Pippa’s hand

Beloved friends, thank you so much for your prayers today. I have felt the peace that only God can bestow.

My Pippa died peacefully at home today at 11:30am. When I got here at 1:00, he was still warm and looked just like he was sleeping. I had the honor of sitting with him for about three hours until the funeral home came for his body. I sat across from my Neana on one side of his bed and held his hand – the hand that held mine all these years. I stroked his hair the way he would stroke mine as a child. I patted his bald head and it reminded me of a funny memory:  When I was a child, he would take a quick after-lunch nap, and I would shuffle my feet across the carpet and give him a little shock of static electricity on his head.  It woke him up but he always laughed.  That time and that memory are blessings I will cherish for the rest of my life.  Looking at his body, now just an empty shell, weathered and bruised by 86+ years of living, and knowing that now he is in heaven with Jesus, filled me with indescribable joy.

Another wonderful blessing I’ve discovered today is that not only can sadness and joy coexist, but joy outshines sadness.  It doesn’t erase it completely, of course, but joy comes alive amongst the tears and alleviates despair by reminding us that the hope of heaven awaits us some day.  I know that I will hug and hold and talk to my Pippa again some day, and he will hug me and hold me and talk back. The death of our human bodies is only a temporary separation of a love that will continue for all eternity when we meet again in heaven, and there is comfort in that.

My Pippa finished his work here on earth. He won the prize.  I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he heard the words we would all be so blessed to hear at the end of our lives: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

*the title of this post is taken from part of a sermon given by Henry Scott Holland in 1910.  It is what my Pippa wanted included in his funeral bulletin. Here is the whole excerpt:

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I, and you are you,
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you for an interval,
somewhere very near, just round the corner.
All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

***This was the sunset tonight as seen from the backyard of the house where my Pippa took his last breath.  The house where he raised his family.  The one constant home I’ve known.  The circle of life is a beautiful thing.

Believing

2012 Started Out With a… Fizzle?

Hellooooo strangers!

I feel like I need to re-introduce myself, it’s been so long since I’ve written…

So much happened during the “silent” weeks that I can only talk about them after the fact.  And I am SO thankful I can tell you about them in the past tense.

Anyone who knows me, knows I am not a negative or pessimistic person.  Can I get an amen?  But I have got to say, I have been through the proverbial wringer since, oh, about Thanksgiving.  I am just now on the other side of it all.  Praise Jesus!  Hallelujah!!  Can I get another amen?! (HAHA I had bible study today and I’m still a little “high”) 😉

I am not going to go through allll the details of the drama that went on in my life but I will list some of them just so I can keep an account of what I’ve been through and how I’ve triumphed in some of those areas.

1.  My Pippa (technically my “grandfather”, but the only earthly father I’ve ever known) has Alzheimer’s and was hospitalized right after Thanksgiving.  Although he is home now, he is in need of 24-hour care and is likely bedridden for the rest of his days.

2. My Neana (my grandmother, and the woman who raised me alongside my own mother) is worried about how to take care of the man who has taken care of her since she was 17 years old.

3. I got sick for a week at Christmas, which forced me to miss going home and visiting my family.

4. Dealing with migraines a couple of weeks later prevented me from visiting again.

5. Both my kids’ birthdays are in January so I’ve been busy with all the stuff that goes along with that.

6. I am going to the chiropractor 3x/wk for my neck.  I am pretty much out of commission the rest of the day after my treatment, because of icing on/off every 30 minutes and pain.

7. I need to schedule a hysterectomy.

8. My mom and sister are going through personal trials, and I hurt for them.

Whew.

For a period of about 8 weeks, I was in a fog, maybe even clinically depressed.  I was gripped by something, almost trapped inside myself, and I just “didn’t feel like me”.  I have never struggled in that way before, so I’m not sure what it was, but I’m calling it a fog, because one day it lifted as suddenly as it set in.  Praise the Lord! Hallelujah again!!! 🙂

I am thankful to be free from that and back to my old self, and now I am reflecting on how this relates to God, now that I can see past my own eyeballs.

But I am saving that for another post.  Really, more than anything, I just wanted to say HI! 🙂  See you soon!

Believing

It’s Not Clean Until It’s Mr. Clean

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done”

–Genesis 50:20

To me, one of the loveliest things about being a child of God is knowing firsthand His ability to restore beauty to ugly things.  I am a walking, breathing example of God’s grace.

The verses above were spoken by Joseph to his brothers years after they wished him dead but instead sold him into slavery.  When Joseph spoke those words, he was a very powerful man who was in the position to punish his brothers for what they did to him all those years ago.  He chose to forgive them.

I think the ability to forgive someone for atrocities big and small requires a person to take their focus off of the act itself and place it on their life in general.  God will work ALL things together for good for those of us who love Him. (Romans 8:28)  Of course, you have to allow Him to do it, so it’s not His fault if you are stuck in a mire of despair or resentment.

Just because something bad happened to you once doesn’t mean your life is paused at that moment in time.  Moving forward requires not dwelling in the past.

He wants to take the ugly in your life and make it over into something new and beautiful and valuable.  All you have to do is say, “Yes, Lord”.

Since I make a mess of myself on a daily basis, this isn’t a singular acquiescence.  I don’t just take one shower a week.  I get dirty every day, and some days I get dirtier than others.  Fortunately, it isn’t possible to max out God’s Power Cleaning capabilities.  Thank the Lord!  Cuz I get awfully grimy sometimes, going days or weeks without a spiritual cleansing.

There is no better feeling in the world than being clean after having been dirty.  When is the last time you felt really, truly clean?  All you have to do is ask Him and He will do it.

And you don’t even have to get naked.  😉  So whaddaya waiting for?

Believing

Writing, Interrupted

{I interrupt this blog to share a quick, random thought.}



There are some posts I want to write.


There are other posts I feel like God is telling me to write.


The difference between the two is very apparent to me.


When God wants me to write something, the seed of the subject that He plants in my mind grows and grows until it becomes so large I can’t ignore it.  I am compelled to write until the thought is out, roots and all.  Even when I don’t know what I’m going to say, once I sit down at the computer, my fingers begin to type and the words start flowing.  Once I see the finished product, I am amazed at what just happened because I know that although those are my words, they are not my thoughts.  At least, they weren’t until I put into writing what God put on my heart and mind.  Rarely do I re-write these posts.


If any of the words and thoughts in my blog resonate with any of you it’s not because I am such a great writer; rather, it’s because I let God do the talking and my fingers do the walking.


On the other hand, when I write something that I want to write about, the words don’t flow as easily, and it seems I am forever re-writing it even after it’s been published.  It’s not that I have trouble coming up with ideas to write about.  It’s more like it is a tremendous effort for me to turn my thoughts into words.  At the very least, words that when strung together, make sense to other people.


I don’t understand why my blogging efforts seem to work this way.  The only thing I can attribute it to is the verses found in Isaiah 55:8-9, which pretty much sums up a lot in life: 

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

So for now, instead of trying to understand it, I just go with it.