30 Days of Thanksgiving: November

2Nov2017 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

Driving home from school today, the kids and I were talking about how much we like this time of the year. I was surprised to hear them say things similar to what I shared in this post two autumns ago, Saying Yes to November.

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The teenagers mentioned how much they can’t wait to eat turkey, but agreed that November is a nice pause between holidays. As you may have guessed, I am not a fan of jumping straight into Christmas after Halloween, though many of my friends are already listening to Bing Crosby crooning about a White Christmas.

(AND the Hallmark Channel has already started a steady stream of their holiday movies! Really, Hallmark? I count on being able to watch The Golden Girls, Frazier, Cheers and I Love Lucy when insomnia strikes. Now I’ve got nothing until January. Hmph!)

TV aside, I’m just so thankful to live where there are four true seasons, punctuated by a stunningly gorgeous autumn.

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November is so blessedly cool here in Georgia, and so lovely. The juxtaposition of brilliant leaves against bright blue skies never ceases to thrill me.

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And when God’s handmade confetti falls, it’s perfect for piling up and playing in!

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I am grateful for every cool, peaceful, golden November morning that brings to mind this verse:

“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” -Psalm 118:24

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30 Days of Thanksgiving: Simple Faith

1Nov2017 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
Jesus Loves Me

I must admit: sometimes I think these “30 Days of Thankfulness” posts in November are kind of cheesy.

I mean, shouldn’t we be thankful every day of the year?

We should, of course. But lately, I’ve realized that I’ve fallen away from that discipline. The negativity of life has been so heavy lately that it’s been hard to look for the silver linings behind all the clouds. So I’m making myself find them in November, in the hopes that this focus on gratitude will help me recover some of the joy that’s been missing from daily life.

I truly believe that gratitude is one of the primary keys to happiness, even if my own behavior fails to reflect that sometimes. When I was in my early 20s, I had an elderly Christian friend who exuded this kind of simple joy. We called her Sister Lowman, and she led the hospital ministry I volunteered with at our church. She barely came up to my shoulder, a rounded, gray-haired widow who needed a cane to get around her tiny, government-subsidized apartment. I used to kind of chuckle to myself over how often she would exhale little prayers of gratitude. We’d be driving down the road in her massive Pontiac Bonneville and she would just randomly sigh, “Thank you, Jesus” or “Thank you, Father!” One time, I asked her why she always did that. She said, “Because He’s gotten us safely down the road so far!” as if that was the most obvious thing in the world to be grateful for in that moment.

My younger self found her behavior eccentric, but now I understand the concept she was teaching me: no matter what is going on, there’s always something to be thankful for…even if it’s just driving five miles and arriving at a destination safely. Or just reflecting on the fact that Jesus loves you.

So, that is what I want to be grateful for on this first day of November: the gift of faith. Just the basic privilege of being connected to a God so much bigger than I, so much more powerful than anything life throws at me.

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.” -Hebrews 12:28

Thank you, God, for the privilege of plugging into your unshakable kingdom.

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Memorial Stones

6Jul2017 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
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In the Old Testament of the Bible, people were encouraged to make memorials at places where God did miraculous things. Often, these were made of stone and meant to be permanent reminders for future generations of what God had done in that place.

I think we are wise to create similar memorials in our own lives, whether tangible markers or written words, spoken tales or photographs. It is good to go back to places we have been and say, “This is my story. This is what God did for me. Let me talk about this, so that we never lose our sense of awe and wonder over the amazing things God has seen us through.”

July 6th is a memorial stone for our family because one year ago today, I almost lost my oldest son Zach. He was in a serious motorcycle accident in Melbourne, Florida. He lost control and hit the corner of a house–with his head. If he hadn’t been wearing a helmet, he’d have died on impact. We later found out that the first responders were told to prepare the scene for an investigation. I don’t remember the exact terminology my EMT friend gave me, but it was something used only when they expect a fatality.

We’re wrapping up another Florida vacation now. I made sure that we took a detour around Melbourne. I have no desire to ever revisit that stretch of highway that I sat on for hours, stuck in traffic, trying to get to my injured son, my husband and other kids who had all been visiting a relative when the accident happened. I don’t ever want to go to Melbourne again.

I don’t need to rehash how horrifying it was to see my son unconscious, blood-soaked and intubated. What it was like tag-teaming at the hospital so far from home, and seeing your child struggle so hard to regain what he lost. It’s been a long, hard year in many ways. I’m not going to go into all of that, either.

What I will do, though, is focus on the awe and wonder of God sparing my son. Life is so dang fragile, so short. Yesterday, a man was lost at sea, almost directly in front of our resort. A friend’s husband died of a massive heart attack yesterday, too. They all woke up yesterday thinking it would be a normal day. Just like I woke up July 6th, 2016 expecting a normal day on vacation. We just never know what the next minute holds. This moment–this one–it’s all we have.

I think about how different all my moments would’ve been if we’d lost Zach a year ago. It’s really unimaginable, though I see it in the lives of those around me who are trying to find a new normal with a huge piece of their hearts now gone. I’m so grateful that isn’t me, not now, not today. I feel absolutely terrible for saying that, but I know how it feels to come so close. None of us deserve the blessing of being spared that pain.

All we can do now is say thanks to God by the way we live our lives, living the remainder of our days through Him and for Him.

For if there is one thing I can say about my God, He is a good, good Father.

Finding Neverland

17May2017 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
Christine Dwyer as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and Billy Harrigan Tighe as JM Barrie in Finding Neverland Credit Jeremy Daniel IMG_3083

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s never really a bad night at Atlanta’s Fabulous Fox Theatre.

(Except for Evita…which would’ve been awful anywhere!)

We went to see Finding Neverland tonight, and I have to confess: it wasn’t my favorite play. But I really think that’s entirely MY fault, for not doing my homework.

I didn’t know anything about the story itself. I never saw the movie, didn’t read up on it before accepting the tickets, and didn’t know what to expect. I think I was expecting something like a fun trip through Disney’s Peter Pan ride, not a really long story about author J.M. Barrie and the life events that led to the famous tale of Peter Pan.

It was a sweet story, to be sure. The singing was lovely and there were lots of hilarious jokes. The glittery confetti scene pictured below was gorgeous. As a writer, I related to the theme of trying to recapture the playfulness of youth to add new life to your work. But that’s where my sense of connection ended. I didn’t feel moved through any of the more emotional parts of the story. I mean, you should feel something during a scene where a child is mourning the loss of his parent. But the play never did a great job of connecting with my emotions (which could possibly be attributed to the overabundance of drama in my own life lately). It just felt like it all went on a lot longer than it needed to.

Christine Dwyer as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in Finding Neverland Credit Jeremy Daniel _IMG_4741

My 15-year-old son disagrees with my review. I thought he might have gotten bored, but he said he loved it! Maybe because he’d seen the movie, and knew what to expect, he was able to enjoy it more?

Don’t get me wrong–it’s not a bad play, at all. I don’t regret going (unlike Evita…LOL) although I think seeing it one time is enough for me.

It’s playing here in Atlanta, for seven more shows through Sunday. If you like a love story, with a lot of laughs and a whole lotta singing, you’ll enjoy yourself, I’m sure. The rest of the audience seemed really into it.

 

 

 

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The Truth About Chronic Illness

3May2017 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
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A friend announced on social media this week that she has cancer.

She prefaced her post by saying “I’m not sharing this for pity or sympathy, but to ask for prayer.”

It bothered me that she even had to include that disclaimer. Have we become so insensitive to the sufferings of others that we’d assume a person is sharing a cancer diagnosis just to receive pity?

Sadly, I think we make wrong assumptions about one another far too often these days. As someone suffering for over 10 years with one of the “invisible” diseases –lupus (and its sidekick, subglottic stenosis)– I can attest: most people aren’t very concerned about what you’re going through. And even sadder? This is true both inside and outside the church. And in my opinion, it just shouldn’t be this way.

I have another friend who recently underwent a major surgery. I’ll spare the details to protect her privacy, but she also posted recently on social media about people judging her for everything she is/is not doing during this season of recovery.

Stuff like that just makes me so mad!

The beauty of being almost 50 is that your love for honesty begins to trump your concerns over what people think about you. So, I’m just going to throw this out there, and you can take it or leave it or unfollow me or whatever:

People who are hurting and scared and sick all the time want to complain 1000x more than they actually do.

So when they DO say something…when they do ask for prayer…just send a little encouragement back. Pray for them. Let them know you’re praying. Ask how you can help and then if you’re able, show up.

Don’t judge what you do or do not see them doing.

I get this all the time, having lupus. All. The. Time! I have to back out of a commitment on a Tuesday and I get judged because they see me posting a picture of something I did a day or two later. They’re all, “Well, apparently she isn’t that bad off because she was able to do X-Y-Z on Thursday…Hmpf!”

The truth is that Thursday’s commitment happened because I got lucky on Thursday and woke up feeling like I could handle it. And maybe I woke up feeling stronger on Thursday only because I honored my body’s need for rest on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Think about how difficult it would be to balance all the demands of motherhood, a career, and a social life when nearly every day feels like the first day you’re coming down with the flu. That’s often what lupus feels like. Does that help you understand why some activities just cannot be accomplished?

If you knew what this deep-bone, never-ending pain is like, or how it is exacerbated by simple things like going grocery shopping…if you knew how utterly exhausting even the most simple things can be…maybe you’d understand that my erring in saying “yes” to too much, too often, is just me trying to regain some sense of life as it used to be, when I actually could do all the things I wanted to?

Maybe you didn’t know me when all this began, when my husband was deployed for a year and I worked full-time and raised two little boys by myself? Maybe you didn’t know me when I was the one who always showed up, who served on every committee, who led bible studies, who volunteered to clean and set up and break down, who would always babysit and cook for those who couldn’t. Maybe you weren’t around me when my house was (mostly) clean and uncluttered and I still had the energy to go for long walks after work.

I still am that person inside. But now I’m stuck in a body that too often says, “Sit your fat butt down…we’re not doing any of that…or anything at all.”

So, now, scheduling things is always a gamble. I might feel great when that day rolls around on the calendar. Or I might be like I am today, aching all over and regretting the anti-inflammatory painkiller I took even though I knew it would set my stomach aflame…because in the moment, dulling the other pain felt worth the trade-off.

I can have one bad day and then, not another one for months. Or I can muddle my way through months in a row of feeling like poo. And I never know what it’s going to be. But I can’t stop scheduling stuff, or trying to say “yes” to things because if I stop, that means I’m letting lupus win, and I absolutely refuse to let it.

The same is true, I’m sure, for my friend with cancer and the one recovering from surgery. They don’t have health-related crystal balls, either. But they’re also mentally determined to keep life as vibrant and active as ever.

So if you care about them –particularly if you call yourself a Christian– they should not feel like they have to apologize for being vulnerable, asking for prayer, or asking for help. Because I can promise you –there are dozens of other fears, worries, pains and concerns that they are keeping to themselves. And the more people respond negatively to them, the less they will open up.

And the less they share, the heavier the burden they carry alone.

Please don’t be the one who makes them do that. God never meant for us to do that to one another.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”-Galatians 6:2 (NKJV)