Patiently Surprised!

I am terrible at waiting. If you asked anyone who really knows me, they would agree. Patience is not a virtue that I posses. I admire people who are patient. They seem to be satisfied with their circumstances and with life in general. Waiting is an excruciating process for me. Walmart check out lines—-just forget it- waiting for my turn is agonizing. The ugliness of my personality seems to demonstrate itself best in situations where patience is required. This lack of ability to wait seems to extend to my life circumstances as well. It appears that I am not adept to waiting on the Lord either. I want answers – now. I want to know how it will work in the end—-now. I was reading a Henri Nouwen devotional this morning and he alleges that “Patience does not mean passivity it is active waiting in which we live in the present moment to the full in order to find there the signs of the One we are waiting for.” Nouwen is speaking of waiting patiently on God in terms I had never thought of before this moment.

If I am to buy into this Nouwen idea of waiting on God, then I truly am more patient than I thought I was. Nouwen continues to write “Waiting patiently is suffering through the present moment, tasting it to the full, and letting the seeds that are sown in the ground on which we stand grow into strong plants.” Contently waiting for God is grounded in my ability to grip the difficult moments of life and “suffer” through them in order to fully appreciate when the answer finally comes. I am to experience my circumstances through the lens of how I am “wired”-meaning that each of our journeys will be unique, but I am NOT supposed to simply wait as I  would to check out at Walmart. It isn’t a passive stance. It is actively working through life’s circumstances and embracing the invitation to grow. Yes, this does require a different type of patience, one that is grounded in action and results in blessings beyond our imagination.

This I know for sure….


“The Bible talks plentifully about joy, but it nowhere talks about a ‘happy Christian.’ Happiness depends on what happens; joy does not. Remember, Jesus Christ had joy, and He prays ‘that they might have MY joy fulfilled in themselves.'”
– Oswald Chambers-

Happiness, what an ambiguous word! If you asked 100 different people the definition of happiness, you would get 100 different definitions. A couple months ago I was eating lunch with my father when he asked me if I was happy. I thought about the question for a moment and answered that I wasn’t sure if I was happy, but I knew that I was content. To me, happiness is directly connected with life circumstances (what “happens”); those conditions beyond our control. The tapestry of life we weave directly affects our temporal happiness. At that moment with my father I couldn’t say that my “life circumstances” were at the “happy” point. Happiness is fickle, it changes as we change. Fortunately, life circumstances do change. If we are at a point where happiness seems elusive, our situation could change and bring us into a happier state.

Contentment, on the other hand, is measured by the ability to rest in our circumstances knowing that we can overcome the difficulties of life and maintain a sense of self though it all. Happiness may not be attainable due to life situations at a particular time, but contentment is always within our grasp. Choosing to be content is within our control alone. The desire to live life, no matter the circumstances, with an attitude of fulfillment paves the road of contentment. For those fortunate enough to experience happiness from life circumstances coupled with contentment from a settled state of mind are then able to experience the final step – true joy.

This I know for sure….

Giving In!

There has been a persistent voice inside my head this past year that seems to have said “How can you possibly go on with your life. The love of your life is gone from this world; you have overwhelming responsibilities as a parent, teacher, friend, sister and daughter. There is nothing electronic that works in your house (sorry-had to add that one). What makes you think you can move past this hurt and pain? THIS is your new life, get used to it—buck up. Your former identity is gone and this is what defines you now. What was is no longer yours.” And, for the past 14 months, I have listened and bought into this load of nonsense. Could there be anything more self-defeating, could there anything more stifling to living life? I don’t think so. 

Fortunately along side this persistent voice there as been a softer one. It sings a much different song—it sings of hope and promise and of living a life again. It is one that is familiar, even though I don’t always listen to it. It reminds me of precious memories, which will always be a part of who I am, but also reminds me of promises made to the one I loved about going on with life and living and loving again. See, Don and I had this conversation. I think it is one that you usually have at some point if you have been married 24 years. It is the “What- would -you- do if- something- happened- to- me?” talk. I remember ours very well. When Don asked me this question, I remember saying “Well, I will NEVER even look at another man—and I will wear black every day, sit in a dark room and sway back and forth because just the thought is too morbid to even imagine”—well, IT did happened and IT was too hard to imagine, and just when I am inclined to go to that dark place and begin swaying back and forth, I am reminded of his answer back to me. In his stern, but gentle voice he said, “Marsha, remember that I want you to be happy. I want the children to be cared for and loved and whatever has to happen to meet those ends—-you have my blessing.” Then, of course I replied with something silly like – “OK—fine but lets not talk about it, because there is NO way you are going before me.”

Fast forward to November 2006 and guess what?—It has happened, and I am left with a wonderful blessing; even if I am just now figuring that out. (SIDE BAR – If you are married and reading this, I challenge you to have this conversation with your wife or husband and truly there is only one way it can or should end and that is with each of you giving the other a blessing of continued life for the one who is left behind). So I am beginning to listen to this softer voice, knowing it has been there all along. I am sure it is the promise that not only Don would want for us here, but one our Heavenly Father always has for us. Each day this voice becomes louder and resonates with hope and joy. It is a new song:

Isaiah 61:3

And provide for those who grieve in Zion-
To bestow on them a crown of BEAUTY instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness 
Instead of mourning,
And a garment of praise 
Instead of a spirit of despair.

I love this new song:
So I am giving in—I am accepting the blessing. This is the song I am now going to sing and hope others are able to sing it along side me.

This I know for sure….

Addendum to Simply Being Present OR A Lesson on Grief.

I just returned from a YWBB (young widow) dinner in Chicago this weekend. I found this one to be quite different from the rest. In talking my feelings out with a friend following the dinner I was able to come to some conclusions.

Grief is extremely self absorbing. It is truly ALL about you because the grief is so personal. I don’t say this in a negative or derogatory sense. It simply is. Grief is not a linear process; meaning that you don’t go through this step of grief and are finished with it never to return. No, you deal with this step of grief and may take 10 more steps forward only to find yourself back to step one in a few days. When I first started this journey I wanted to “fix it”. I am a teacher-a terrific problem solver and I looked for the formula to “fix” the grief I was feeling so that I could begin to heal. Well, it simply doesn’t work that way. I was looking for the “mark” of healing. This weekend it become apparent to me that yes, healing has not only begun, but God’s promise of becoming whole again is real.

I wish I could paint a masterpiece like DaVinci’s “The Last Supper” that would give you an idea of what the YWBB dinners are like (please don’t email me, I am in no way comparing this group to the Lord’s disciples). We sit around a table sharing a meal, but no one, not even the new members sit in the same chair for more than 20 minutes. There is a constant movement around the room that rivals musical chairs. It is as if we can not get enough of each other’s lives, each other’ stories or each other’s insights (“the church” could sure learn something from this group). For months, I ached for this attachment. I needed to go to the dinners because I was hurting and needed to be with those who “got me”. This dinner (November 4, 2006) was different. For the first time, I couldn’t wait to help another going through the initial steps of grief. I wanted to, for the first time, give and not take. It wasn’t until after the dinner that I realized that was my “mark” that healing was underway. It was no longer about me, but about someone else. It was no longer about my support, but about finding ways to give it. It wasn’t about my own self absorption, but actually WANTING to be apart of someone else’s. I believe this is a gauge of healing no matter your circumstances. When you get to the point where it is less about you and more about others—healing can begin to complete its work in your life. Healing can not only begin…….but for the first time becomes possible.

This I know for sure….

A Familar Dance

Sometimes God calls someone very familiar to dance with us (see Lord of the Dance post as reference). My best friend from high school is like that. I live in Illinois and she in California. We have a relationship that transcends time and distance. Though we haven’t lived a mile apart since 11th grade, we seem to just be able to pick up and “dance” whenever we talk or meet.

It was during a visit to Janet’s this past summer that my father-in-law passed away. It was a difficult time not only for the loss of my sons’ grandfather, but of reliving the reality of death. We made arrangements to fly home early, but decided to spend that last day at the beach with Janet and her family.

That evening we stayed up late talking, knowing our time was limited. As I climbed the stairs to bed, I heard a familiar sound. You see, growing up Janet and I sang together. We sang in church quite often or would simply sit down in her basement at the piano and sing for hours (I was always secretly envious of her piano ability). As I heard her begin to play the old song “Whatever It Takes” on the piano, I turned around and headed back down the stairs.

I took my place next to her on the piano bench and we began to sing. The words came back to us perfectly—it was as if God had said “take this gift of memory”. We got to the verse “Take the dearest things to me, if that’s how it must be, to draw me closer to thee. Take my houses and lands, change my dreams and my plans for I am placing my whole life in your hands”—tears began to flow from the corner of my eyes as I thought of how God had orchestrated this moment. Yes, it sounded and felt like “old times” and that alone was enough: however, my life was equally blessed that the words to a song I had sung many times as a child had become reality in my life; a testamony to the providence and power of God in this life. My oldest and dearest friend was not afraid to take the lead and dance a familiar dance, a familiar dance partner indeed. I will forever treasure that.

This I know for sure….

Simply Being Present

What makes you connect with other people? What causes the kind of chemistry that makes lifetime bond? Instant friendship? In January, following the death of my husband, I found a Young Widows Bulletin Board on the internet. Yeah—technology is an awesome thing. I appreciated the forum of a bulletin board because, unlike a chat room, you could read and post in a more thoughtful manner. I was looking for a connection with those who understood the complexities of grief. 

Following a few months of posting and reading—I decided to take the next step and meet a group of young widows (from the bulletin board) in Chicago. This group of remarkable individuals meets once a month for dinner and fellowship. I was amazed at the instantaneous draw of the group to my heart. I found myself captivated within their varied stories of love and loss, so very similar to mine. 

Within this group of people I found no waiting for acceptance. They were simply present—arms open with unconditional acceptance to ANYONE sharing the journey. It was pure and simply absolute friendship, born out of shared suffering; a mutuality that was unshakable. 

Each member has his/her own story. Each has something to teach me, when I open my heart to learn. In return I have become captivated by their love. I want to see the world through their eyes; understand this journey through their experiences and create a new story that resonates over the pain. 

The ability to hold people in such high esteem after such a short acquaintance astounds me, but it shouldn’t. It is, after all, an answer to an unspoken prayer. God knows who I am. He knows what I need to survive and thrive. He knows that relationships matter in my life and that it is important for me to seek out and find those who share my heartsong. I have found them. 

This I know for sure….

With Courage and Conviction

I can not express to you the number of people who have said to me, “You know what the Bible says, God never gives us more than we can handle”. For the life of me I can’t seem to locate this in the Bible anywhere. The closest I can find is in 1 Corinthians 10:13b God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. This is MUCH DIFFERENT from saying that “God never gives us more than we can handle”. What a bunch of bunk!! God gives us stuff we can’t handle all the time—financial struggles, family problems, loneliness, heartache, divorce, death, health difficulties—I could go on. What human could “handle” these things without extensive emotional damage? Who, on their own, could find contentment in the midst of these tragedies? 

Though God gives us things we can’t handle all the time; I am grateful that he NEVER gives us more than HE can handle. Through Him we are not only able to “handle” anything, but are enabled to overcome difficulties and live the full life we deserve–the life God has for us. John 16:33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

He has already overcome whatever it is we face; therefore, we can “take heart”, stand tall and tackle life’s biggest challenges with courage and conviction.

This I know for sure….

Here’s to the Men in My Life!

I have been blessed with many wonderful “girl friends”. We share life’s ups and downs, joys, heartache, life and death. Each one of them has impacted my life in extraordinary ways. For that I am grateful; however… 


The leading man in my life was my late husband. He is responsible for giving me the measure of what constitutes a “real man”. His quiet spirit, unshakable morals and unwavering love forever is ingrained in the legacy he has left. He is liable for much of what I have become, but specifically he is responsible for my love of diversified music. Whether I hear bluegrass, jazz or Dave Matthews Band I can tap my toes, clap my hands and enjoy the gifted musicianship of whoever happens to be creating the music. Don used to say that in order to be a REAL music lover—you must appreciate it all. I would have to agree.

Then there are “the brothers”—all three of them (two by blood, one by association). I am mystified how those moronic boys I grew up with have become such amazing men. When did that happen? From them, I have learned to remain true to who I am. We have always appreciated, even celebrated the uniqueness of each other. Whether we are discussing philosophy, theology, politics or last night’s episode of Boston Legal, these guys are responsible for perpetuating the “everyone is entitled to my opinion” theory. Of course, none of this is accomplished without a skilled amount of wit and humor. It’s extraordinary when the goofballs you grew up with turn into your best friends.

The most important men in my life are my sons. Each of them is satiated with promise beyond what I thought possible. My oldest son is growing into a man faster than he probably should, but with such dignity it amazes me (and most everyone who knows him). My youngest son is the “glass half full” kid who keeps this entire family filled with hope. These two are responsible for keeping me on my toes as a parent and who, when I get in bed at the end of the day, cause me to pause and thank God for their influence in my life.

Finally, there are those men who show courage, kindness, acceptance and generosity in my life. These are the men who allow me to go to dinner (or to the movies) with their families, call and check to see if I need anything done around the house (knowing full well I am electronically and maintenance challenged), minister to me and give me advice from the “male” perspective. From them I have learned that generosity and kindness should never be taken for granted. 

So here’s to the men in my life. I don’t know what I would do without you.

This I know for sure….

The Moments that Take Our Breath Away

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take
But by the moments that take our breath away”

I love inspirational quotations. I have them on little pieces of paper all over my desk at work. They have been cut from magazines and church bulletins, printed from online sites or shared with me by caring folks. So, when I came across this quotation on a large picture-type poster at a local store, I stood there for several moments taking it all in. It must have seemed strange to people walking by, but I wanted to stand there and ponder areas in my life that take my breath away. Lately there have been moments that have certainly taken by breath away.

Events such as when:

·  I read my 17 year old’s blog containing a letter he has written to his father who passed away a year ago. His obvious maturity and insight takes my breath away.

· my 10 year old waves at me as he passes me in the hall at school and in his silliest voice says “Hiya MOMMY!” His confidence takes my breath away.

· my 5th grade students clap when I deliver a particularly great lesson (yeah, I curtsy and smile) just leaves me breathless.

· my 4 year old nephew runs up to me on Sunday morning-arms open wide and yells “Aunt Sissie, I missed you!” His unconditional love takes my breath away.

· my baby brother (who happens to be 30 years old) writes the most eloquent words. His gift takes my breath away.

·  I hear on my voicemail “this is your mother, I am just checking in to see how you are doing.” Her matriarchal love takes my breath away. 

·  I feel the spirit of a God in a song as I corporately worship with other brothers and sisters in Christ. The closeness of the body of Christ takes my breath away.

·  I think of how specifically God has blessed this family in the past year. God’s faithfulness is truly breathless.

· my middle brother simply takes the time to connect with my sons. His sense of love and responsibility for us is breathtaking.

·  I am taking stock of life and find that it is rich in memories, friendships and love. I find this breathtaking.

·  I watch my father minister to folks, carrying their burdens and lifting them up. His generous spirit leaves me breathless.

There are so many aspects of this life that are breathtaking; events that occur everyday, events that we take for granted. What are some life moments that have taken your breath away? Life is too short not to acknowledge them.

This I know for sure….

BTW—I have currently changed the settings on the blog so that ANYONE can leave comments. You no longer have to register—I’d love to hear from some of you.

Grey’s Anatomy and Biblical Truths (a stretch I know)

So, I am watching an inane television program, most likely one of those of which I would never willingly admit to following. Anyway, two friends are talking about a difficult life predicament (most likely something to do with Mr. McDreamy) when one says to the other, “We don’t love the people we love because they are perfect—we love the people be love because they ARE” WAIT! Hold the show! Did some profound truth just come out of her mouth? 

OK– it is just a quote from a brainless television show—but you know what? It is the truth. We love, truly love, people in our lives because of who they are; not because of some expectation we have as to what would be acceptable. We HAVE to love them this way or it really isn’t love. 

We agree that no one is perfect. Friends are not, family is not, Christian brothers and sisters are not, why then do we think we need to be? I often think I need to be perfect to be worthy the love of others or to give it unconditionally, but that is neither pragmatic nor Biblical.

John 13:34
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

The Bible doesn’t seem to mention anything about only loving people we find palatable. It doesn’t say “Dude, if you have things in common with folks—love them.” It says to love one another as GOD, our Father, has loved us-totally and completely— simply, because of who they are.

This I know for sure….