Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ghost of Christmas Past

Sitting among the wrapping paper and admid the squeals from children as they open their gifts, I am swept away to Christmas' Past. Uncomfortable and forcing the tears back, images of cancer surgeries, incisions and hospital smells, $5 to spend on each child at the dollar store, living out of suitcases with no home of our own . . . it rubs raw a healing wound. It makes the joy of the moment difficult to feel - makes the smile on my face drop as do my eyes. Ugh. Why God? Why remind me so brutally of the Great Sadness on this day of so much giving, so much joy, so much hope?

I take five of the children to the cemetery to place poinsettas on Paul's grave. The children huddle together as they tromp through the snow. Hayley laughs as her feet sink and her exposed ankles freeze in the icy flakes. Landon hides in Ben's coat and we can no longer see his face - we can only hear the giggles from inside the down jacket. And the sun is shining.

This is Christmas Present.

The children that Paul and I blended together - all laughing together so connected - they love each other. I scan the group - the five of them so silly together. What an odd turn to find us all here this Christmas morning together . . . we were undone by the Great Sadness. We are closer because of it.

God, thank you. Thank you for giving me Christmas Present. Last Christmas I had images of Christmas Future - which would be today. I had images of me alone - wearing black - sitting in the snow before a headstone sobbing. I had no hope of sweetness. I had images of the children - separate and suffering. Desperate. Depressed. I had no fantasies of laughter or celebration. I did not see this beautiful wrapping paper, a fire in the fireplace, or the children still so connected to each other. God you are so good to take care of me when the hurt and loss has been so great. Oh how your love exceeds what I deserve and yet that is your holy character completely.

The pointsettas placed now, our chatty group walks back to the cars and we head off to the rest of our Christmas day . . . more delicious food, more games, more sillyness. And I look to heaven knowing that Paul is spending his first Christmas with Jesus Himself. Oh Paul. What is your Christmas Present like? Do you cry thinking about Christmas' Past? Or are you so whole now, so alive, and so at peace that you see everything as sweetness? We miss you, but we live better because you were here. We love you, but we love better because we all loved you. We mourn your leaving us but rejoice in your first Christmas surrounded by angels and eating at table of the King.

I kick off the snow on my boots and am thankful. My nightmares of Christmas Future did not happen. The Great Sadness is still there but the hope of Christmas lights the darkest hours.

I rejoice this Christmas. And what beautiful images I have of many Christmas' to come.

Thank you God for healing even the ghosts of Christmas' Past. Just shows how good you truly are.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Downright Uglies

In the midst of the daily grind ugliness exists. It exists in circumstances that aren't always peachy, in parts of our roles that are frustrating, and in our interactions with other human beings. It is the ugliness of expectation, failure, and pride. Sadly, in the step by step of even the best relationships ugliness comes out in each one of us that we wish weren't there.

That's what makes love so beautiful - the tranformation of the ugliness inside of us as we choose to love instead. Love holds a mirror up and asks us if we like what we see inside ourselves, our behavior, and our thinking. Is having my way the most peaceful thing? Is hurting another the best way to solve this? Am I losing more love by acting stubborn? And we search that reflection carefully to see who we really are.

Love is the most amazing catalyst - and better than any plastic surgery - love can bring beauty to even the ugliest of thinking. Grace covers ugly.

Thank you God. Grace covers the downright uglies.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Death and Taxes

After a very long wait on hold with the IRS a female voice answered. I explained the details of my call, that my husband had passed away some time back and I needed an itemized statement of what was owing for he and I. As a citizen who feels very grateful for my country, I wanted to make certain I understood and honored my obligation, and Paul's.

People always say "There are only two sure things in life - death and taxes".

Well, what an interesting thing - it is true. You cannot escape either. Death at its time will come, and taxes, even after the fact, come too.

Knowing this truth, more on a soul level than I can ever explain - I don't want to live my life waiting on joy. I will run after it like a child chasing a butterfly, giggling like I'm barefoot for the first time. I will follow love and goodness knowing that road winds and twists and sometimes meets rugged terrain. I will choose joy. There is no promise that joy will last - but it can be experienced here on earth until we meet Jesus.

If I cannot escape taxes, and cannot plan the time or circumstances of my death, than most certainly I will plan joy. For joy brings sweetness to all things - even death and taxes.

Two things are certain - but joy - joy is a choice.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Chasing Yellow

In the last six months my household has gone from 7 people to 3 people - and two of those three are only with me part time. Most of the time it's just me. Such an odd feeling after the busyness of 7 - and one with round the clock care. That change has had me looking at specific alterations that would help me feel better. One of which has been my transportation.

You see, for the last two years I've driven a 7 passenger van. A mom car. It has been ideal for long trips with the entire family (plus bags). Great gas mileage. But, when it's just me going to a business meeting I hear my thoughts echoing about the cabin - it feels so empty. Like an armoured car going to and from the banks but never carrying money. Why the armoured car?

A month ago I began looking for a smaller car. Something that would be great around town. Something that would be funner to drive than my mom van.

What caught my eye was a yellow XTERRA. Four wheel drive, a rack on top, chunky tires and smelled of adventure. I could not stop thinking about it. It was used but in great shape, price was right, and wow! It put a big grin on my face - lots of teeth showing! Fit two comfortably in back, great stereo, and I could just picture the endless possibilities - bikes on the back, tent and camping gear on top, the dog in the back . . . my adrenaline was peaking. It was a rush just thinking about it.

Until the survivor's guilt kicked in. What would people on the outside think? Here I show up in a perky yellow 4x4 with a big smile on my face . . . having so much fun . . . too much fun probably for a widow. Shouldn't I wear black for the next year and hang my head low? Even though the money was from a car accident two years ago and I've been a frugal shopper . . . would people assume I was being foolish buying a car just for me - just because the van makes me feel old?

So . . . I didn't buy the XTERRA. I let it be purchased by someone else. I stayed with the van and for about two weeks drove around with my tail between my legs and under my breath whispering to myself . . . I should be sensible. I should just not do anything silly or crazy for the next 7 months - just be steady. Not draw attention. Be mature.

Gosh that so goes against my butterfly nature. I began to feel claustraphobic. A week ago I purposely scouted out another bright yellow, chunky tires, rack on top, four wheel drive XTERRA that said "Party Waiting To Happen" all over it. And I bought it. The whole way home I kicked my heels to myself with the CD player blaring - so proud that I gave myself room to be silly and crazy and happy again. I have to give myself permission to feel joy and giddyness.

Passion is so underated. It is life. Sometimes I think honoring Paul's death means being sad and melancholy over his memory, his pain and his loss. Trust me, those moments hit me in the grocery store when I least expect it and I feel like I can't stand anymore - feel like I can't hold down breakfast. There is plenty of being sad. But, if I know Paul, and I believe that I do, he would want me driving the brightest happiest perkiest chunkiest adventurous funnest vehicle I could. It makes me feel years younger. Perhaps it's my Cobra like Paul had his.

One of the best lessons Paul taught me - chase yellow!!!!!! Passion is life. Give yourself permission to feel the joy - chase your dreams - chase your passion - and soak it up til your heart overflows with it. Passion is life.

Baby, put your yellow on!!!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Healing Is Not Linear

People ask me, "Tiffany how are you doing? How are you getting along these days?" I know they mean how am I doing - specifically - after Paul's death. Well, specifically, I think it will take a long time to get over losing Paul. And still, I am moving forward in very good healthy ways.

This week we did a home makeover and had crazy late hours, out of control chaos, and overwhelming excitement and joy. We blessed a family in a way that only our home makeover addicted team can. It was great to be back in the swing of things that were a significant part of my life and my passion.

I'm getting back to work and meeting with clients again - and I'm feeling momentum behind my computer work, graphic design and writing. My day-to-day life is feeling more routine and I'm getting used to the circumstances.

Sadly the other night I awoke after a nightmare - dreamed that cancer was eating away at my lower leg and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Seemed so real that I felt death was coming for me. I woke shaken and terrified all over again. And I was alone.

My sweet friend Marty found out this week that the cancer is now in both lungs. Talking with his wife Terry my heart sank to that very very sad place and all I could do on the way home was weep. So unfair. What will they go through? And their children?

I guess what I wish people knew most is that healing is not linear. In one area there can be wholeness, the ability to function, the ability to move forward. Yet, there are areas of brokenness that will take years - if ever - to address. The loss of a spouse - the death of dreams together - the pain of seeing someone suffer so intensely - that is so deep a wound with so many layers . . .

No one can judge what healing will look like or the process or path that healing takes. But for certain it is not a strait line - it is more like a mountain range with plenty of hills and drop offs. What I am grateful for are the people in my life that are steady - when the healing isn't.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Loves Like A Hurricane

Yesterday I blogged about mature trees. It was a magical day as I took a drive into the mountains to enjoy the fall colors before the snow comes. It was spectacular. The palette of ambers, yellows and greens were breathtaking. Especially though, the Aspens. With every whisper of the wind the leaves trembled and shook - evidence that there was movement in the air. Theirs was the evidence of invisible motion and direction. It was so hypnotizing that I could have sat for hours letting the fall breeze wash over me like a river.

When God puts something on your heart - whether it is a vision for the future, a person's name or their personal circumstance, or a cause, a calling - that "burden" He places begins to weigh on your mind. Like the river of invisible wind that was witnessed in the Quaking Aspen yesterday - that movement creates a response in us. And we change. Our thinking is incrementally redirected, our balance shifts, our perspective changes and if we are truly listening to God Himself, we bend.

The greatest growth we have is when we allow God to introduce an idea - plant a seed - and then we listen and let the burden fall on our hearts knowing that God wants us to be vulnerable to Him. We begin to pray for others (real prayers outloud with real tears) - we begin to sense conviction and a desire to restore relationships (and our pride melts) no matter the cost - and we yearn to see the face of God manifest in the darkest parts of our lives.

I invite you to let God place a burden on you - what has He created you for here on earth? What does He need you to change in your life to get to His path, His plan? And will you bend? Will you yield to what the Creator has in store for you?

Let God rush in like the wind - let Him love you like a hurricane. You can trust what He is doing in your heart even though you can't always see it.

Listen for a minute - close your eyes and listen to where God wants you to bend . . . never heard it quite so beautifully as in "How He Loves" by David Crowder. Close your eyes and feel the rushing wind through the Aspens in your heart. The colors will bring tears to your eyes.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mature Trees

Lately I've been spending a lot of time thinking about landscaping. It's the harvest season and - I've thoroughly enjoyed the boxes of apples and peaches and the baking that is associated with an abundance of fruits and vegetables. As I flip through pages of Home & Garden I am drawn to the images of settled, thriving, abundant trees. Not only are they fruitful, but they are strong enough to resist the wind and elements - deep enough to thrive in difficult seasons.

I'm drawn in to the pictures of two wooden chairs beneath a weeping willow - sheltered by the shade in a pristine carpet of grass. Vines reach around and through, creating a net of grapes and beautiful fanning leaves. Wysteria clusters hang like friends bending an ear to an interesting topic and evergreens stand tall and courageous even in the threat of approaching snow.

As I look around in my world I see I am also drawn to people the same way. Drawn to those who make me see deeper, assess my life more profoundly, and yearn for maturity and wisdom. As my circumstances force me to stretch, I search for those who have also weathered difficult storms. What fruits have they produced? How do they stand tall and courageous? And what does it feel like to stand with them?

There is a season when the thrill of the first radish sprouts can bring a smile to my face. There is a time of excitement and beginnings. Today, I yearn for stability - that force - that steadiness - that comes from mature trees. Deeply rooted, unmoving, protected.

That is where I will pull up my wooden seat and rest. That speaks peace to my soul.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Know Thyself

Walking in to the medical office the young PA noticed the book under my arm - The Color Code. As I laid it on the counter he was even more intrigued, reading the subtitle sideways and even cocking his head to see the letters straight. "So, what color would I be?" he questioned. "Well, I don't know, tell me about yourself." He began with descriptions: "I am a hardworker - sometimes bossy. I don't really care what other people think. I can be insensitive sometimes. But, I set goals and achieve them and that's really important to me. " From his descriptions and the answers to some questions I told him he sounded like a red personality to me. (out of four colors - yellow, white, blue and red)

The information peeked his curiosity and he wanted to learn more from the free test - He was excited to know himself better.

Later in the day I was talking to a girlfriend about love languages. If your spouse does not understand what you perceive as love, he may be sending you affection all day long but you will never feel it. If you never articulate what love looks like to you, how can you and your beloved create that shared vision? It is not only significant to know your love language, but also know the words to ask for what you want and need. Can you articulate what love feels like? Do you feel loved completely? Have you ever? And what do you need most in a loving relationship? How do you show love best?

Too much self-absorbtion can reflect self-centerness. Too little can reflect a marytr. Self-awareness and self-knowledge can ultimately be the map that gets you to the ultimate destination - loving and being loved for who you truly are.

Know thyself -

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

There Is Hope At The Bottom

I knew it was in those boxes somewhere. The stacked brown packages were four high in my garage. They have been there since Paul died. All of the things I could not bear - I set them aside quietly and carefully knowing in the days and months ahead I would have more clarity to address them. Papers, photographs, pressed flowers . . . ten years of a life together folded up and stacked in a cold garage. And I needed to find one thing. Ugh.

Fighting the nausea I opened the first, rustled through the items and closed it, setting it aside. Not there. Opening the next, finding the obituary. Then the cards from family and friends - some even unopened still. Then prescriptions that never got filled - recommendations from specialists, appointment cards for appointments that never happened - Paul passed away before the dates even came. Before I found what I was looking for my garage floor looked like it had snowed recycling . . . and I was a sobbing mess sitting on top of it.

As I rocked back and forth crying, unable to even put the items back in the boxes, I remembered the story of Pandora's box. Greek mythology - the Greek god Zeus gave Pandora (the first woman) a box. Within that box held every misery and evil that could afflict mankind. Against his directions Pandora's curiosity overtook her and she opened the box - releasing misery into the world. When all of the demons and evil and misery had escaped only one thing remained at the bottom.


I panned the stacks and trinkets and journaling - it was as if my Pandora's box had been opened. It is now time to address these very painful issues so that I can move into the next season of my life. The loose ends. The memories that need a home. The chaos that needs order. It is honestly quite miserable and painful and devastating.

Still, I look to God for healing. "He heals the brokenhearted, binding up their wounds" Psalm 147:3 He does send hope. It's right there at the bottom when everything seems lost.

Trust me . . . its there waiting for you to look. It won't be in the chaos, the misery, or the evil . . . but it will be in the quiet, in the stillness, in the emptiness . . . waiting for you to be ready.

Are you ready to hope again?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Spoonfuls of Happy

There is a poster at my favorite yogurt shop which reads "A spoonful of happy". Something about that always makes me smile. I love that yogurt shop. Very cool seating, super healthy frozen yogurt, and a warm fire going. When I'm there even my toes are happy.

Life gets tough some days. Harsh realities, losses, grieving, seasons of change, relationship strains, financial pressure . . . we all feel it. It's good to have places of refuge. Life is a buffet filled with many things - thank heavens for the sweet spots.

My bible, a hug from my kids, my crazy dog, silly girlfriends, loving texts from my parents . . . and even a new crush that makes me giggle when my phone rings.

Mmmm. Among the difficult there is some sweetness. A soft place to land.

Thank you God - for giving me spoonfuls of happy.

Friday, October 2, 2009

You Can't Argue With That

"It's like I knew this couch in a previous life" my girlfriend jokingly explained. "It's like we were meant to be together! It cost me $2,000 but I just had to have it!" The rest of us ladies burst out in laughter. It was hard to take Micki seriously. Trailing off I couldn't argue with her. There are just those things in life with which we feel an affinity. And, it's the gravity, its the glue, its the pulse that then seems to orchestrate "one-ness" - a feeling of coming home - even if it is with a silly comfy cushy couch.

You just can't argue when someone has those kinds of feelings for something. You can talk til you're blue in the face, you can reason with facts and details, and you can promote a million other possibilities, but when someone has an affinity for something - a compulsion - a confirmation - well, it's like telling them to change their favorite color or their favorite dessert. Just not going to happen.

But then there is the bright side - where there is affinity there is passion. There is hope, there is fun, there is creativity, there is comfort. It's like slipping on your worn in sneakers and that faded pair of blue jeans. You may never be able to describe it or explain the way it makes you feel - but you know it. It's tangible. You just can't argue with the way that makes your soul sing. describes "affinity" in a chemistry term as "the force by which atoms are held together". Scientists don't even know why they do - they just do. Affinity. Like the heart's gravity. Draws things, holds things, strengthen things . . . orchestrating things coming together.

A couch that you knew in a previous life - the love of a mother to a child - the stuff of atoms - the strength that binds - that feeling of coming home - a favorite color . . . affinity in the shallowest term or affinity in the deepest . . . the stuff that make your soul sing. You just can't argue with that.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Finding What You Don't Want

Standing in front of the glass counter my eyes pan the mounds of chocolates - pecan chocolates, raisin chocolates, pretzels dipped in chocolate, rice krispy treats with chocolate . . . "Uh, m'am? What can I get for you?"

I'm not certain what I want really. It confusing. When you're standing there they all look good. How to decide? It's overwhelming. I start defining what I don't want. OK, no cinnamon gummy bears with chocolate. No butter brittle with chocolate . . .

Finally I walk away happy with my bag empty of "don't-wants". Yes, life is like a box of chocolates. It's tasting and knowing the "don't wants" from the "do wants". Opportunities, friendships, careers, health choices . . . sometimes it is just separating the "don't wants" from the "do wants" one incremental decision at a time.

Relationships and habits are painful and difficult - chocolate is easy. But ultimately paths and destinies are formed by choices. As difficult as it is, you cannot take all paths simultaneously.

I don't want cigarettes. I don't want alcohol. I don't want to be in unhealthy relationships. I don't want my children growing up without God. I don't want to be loved half-way. Don't want to be less of me. Don't want to be taken for granted. I don't want to be stagnant in my life. I don't want to make foolish mistakes. I don't want to hurt people. Don't want to be prideful and blind to my own shortcomings. I don't want to lose my passion for good and right things. Don't want to lose hope.

In the don't wants is a whole lot of information about the do wants. Life will present a lot of chocolate - know thyself. Even if it begins with knowing what you don't want . . . it will ultimately bring you to what you do.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Time To Move Forward

Paul's parents gave us a grandfather clock on our first Christmas. The clock has a beautiful chime and has always taken a prominent place in our home. Walking and crying through the somber house after Paul' passed away I looked at the hands of the clock on the wall - quietly moving - incrementally rolling forward - and I could not bear it. I opened the glass door and reverently moved the hands back to the very minute Paul passed. 12:45 am. July 21, 2009. I stopped the pendelum from swinging and dropping my eyes, closed the glass. Nobody knew but me.

Time stopped at the moment he died.

Every day for the last 2 months I have walked passed that grandfather clock. 12:45 am. That moment will forever be etched in my soul. That was the moment that Paul met Jesus face to face - that was the moment I sobbed on his chest and prayed with his mother at his bedside. That moment was undoubtably a moment of complete surrender for Paul and I. We'd fought a fight together and won. He was free.

Today though is a new day for me and in a very private way I need to be free as well. Today I will buy a new battery and with all of the respect and admiration and gratefulness in my heart, I will again put the pendelum in motion. Not to dishonor the moment Paul died - but to honor the moments he lived.

The clock on the wall tells me it is time to breathe, it is time to laugh, it is time to love, it is time to grow, time to set goals, time to create. The clock is of little use if it does not keep time.

In all reality we cannot still time. For in all of our pain, God's character proves faithful - time continues to flow like a river - as does the graceful healing that sets us free.

It's 10:13 on September 25, 2009. And it's time to move forward.

Where is your clock stuck? Where were your moments of surrender - where were your moments of loss? And what hands do you need to put back in motion? It is time.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Living On A Prayer

My adorable 2 year old nephew woke up at 6:00 am yesterday. He stood at the side of his crib happily singing "Oohh, living on a praayeh" - Bon Jovi meets Pampers. The words and his cheerful disposition had my sister chuckling. Over and over he repeated the theme, all the while with a chubby grin and twinkle in his eye. "Oohh, living on a praayeh". What a great way for the entire household to wake!

What did you pray for when you rose this morning? When the sun came quietly creeping in across your floor - what was the greatest desire of your heart? What would you wish for if the Creator of the Universe to gift something sweet in your life? What would heal you, what you bless you, what would move you? And do you believe that the God who loves you is powerful enough to prove Himself faithful? Do you believe that God can restore what the locusts have destroyed in your life? Do you believe that God can restore broken relationships, heal broken dreams, forgive great rebellion? Are you willing to courageously walk around the seeming impenatrable emotional walls, with the trust that the God who parted the seas will bring even your heaviest stones crashing down? And do you trust that you can have imaginable joy and happiness if you let God lead?

This little 2 year old sang in sheer joy and childlike faith. His happiness was contageous. "Oohh, living on a praayeh" - His white teeth against his dark skin showed the grin of a soul ready for the adventure of the day. He fully expected loving arms to greet him and protect him. A child at peace - a child bubbling with joy - excited that goodness is coming.

Sweet child, are you?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Compelled To Love

My sister and her husband had 3 boys. She homeschooled, led in church groups and participated in neighborhood and community activities. It seemed a perfect picture. Until one day God put it on her heart . . . become a foster parent. At first it was a whisper. Then the whisper, a tiny stream, became a river. Soon the current swept she and her husband into a foster parent class and they placed their names on the list.

A call came. Would you take one child? What if there was a sibling? And then, what if there were 3? And what if the youngest was a baby? And what if they were not the same race as your family? And what if they had been abused . . . with each question the love compelled her heart to open. God eased the door open wider. She and her husband said yes.

She calls her family her 6-pack of boys. From 22 months to 15 she has 6 rugged, playful, busy, growing and challenging boys. Some days she is delighted at the chaos. Some days she weeps. Her life will never be the same. It is a risk to open her home but a bigger risk to open her heart. What if she cannot adopt these boys? What if they cannot overcome what they have experienced in life? And in her darkest moments, what if she is not enough, enough?

There is only one answer to all of those questions. Do you LOVE?

Not do you have love. Not do you believe in love. But DO you LOVE? It is a verb - it is a choice - it is a response - it is a decision. Once you decide that one thing every thing else falls in place.

For every chaos can be tamed by love.

Our roads often bring us to chaos we did not anticipate nor wish or foresee. What we desire and what we hope compels us to love and we choose to open our hearts completely. We risk because we cannot NOT - it meets our greatest longings. It changes us.

Our enough IS enough . . . truly . . . there is only question we need to ask. Do you LOVE?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Right and More Right

Going to the eye doctor the silly lense presto change-o test always gets me laughing. First this. Now this. Which is better? Wait, show me again. OK. This or this. The goofy metal glasses swing like a switchblade in front of my eyes. I'm instantly intimidated. I can hardly see the difference and I'm getting uncomfortable.

This or . . . this? OK, now I see!

I didn't see just a minute ago - and now, what seemed right before seems more right now.

God does that. Really to help us see more clearly what He saw all along.

This or . . . this? Basically, your way . . . or . . . this . . . My way.

And we sit back in the large lab chair rubbing our eyes - amazed. God, how did you know I would see so much better with that change? I didn't know it was possible. Thought I was seeing everything just fine. What was right before is more right now.

God. 20/20 vision. His one goal is helping us see He was right all along.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In The Quiet

Candles burning, kids sleeping, I walk through my clean and quiet small home and am thankful. Thankful for the bustle and busyness that keeps me going through the day, but also thankful for the calm that comes when the dust settles.

The path of my life has been rocky at times. There have been moments of great tragedy and great victory. There have been moments of incremental growth as well as moments of instant awareness and surrender. In all of these moments I realize I have not been alone - ever.

Friends change, congregations change, interests change and even love changes - but never have I felt that God has left me alone. In fact, it has been just the opposite. In my moments of greatest rebellion I have felt God pursuing me - chasing after my heart.

When the dust settles over my life - the greatest love I have ever had - has been God. And in my alone times, my quiet times, I realize that's everything I need to be me - to achieve my purpose here, to meet my goals, to dream my dreams. When everything changes - God stays the same. And when everything changes - God stays.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Blinders On

Talking the other day with an acquaintance a prejudice statement was made. Immediately the comment stung as if it had been said about someone in my own family. I listened more closely. A second comment was made confirming the first. I had not known my associate had negative feelings towards people of a different skin color. It surprised me. As the conversation ended and I walked away I thought about blinders such as racial discrimination. How real those blinders are when we feel we're right about people, groups and situations. And when we are right we stop listening.

I would not consider myself prejudice based on race. However, when I believe I am right I can be very blind. I stop looking for clues that would conflict with my philosophies. I close off my opinions to a certain chosen few, and I tend to be less empathetic to anyone who is "wrong". I wish it were not so, but it is. Do you do the same thing? Put up walls around your truth?

So, here's to taking off the blinders. Here's to expanding the view, looking at other possibilities, other sides of the same issue. Here's to giving others equal talking time.

God let me see the truth of things even if it makes me uncomfortable. Take the blinders off so I see the big picture. Though I have eyes - help me really, really see for the very first time.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Standing Corrected

There are times when it seems God is standing alongside of us like a compassionate parent, giving us a much needed lecture - all in love of course. Conviction hits us square in the face and our hearts sink. "God you are right," we say with our heads bowed. "You know my foolishness, you have a front row seat to my pain. You are right in your chastising."

At that point we may sink into despair falling to our knees weeping in our shame.

That is when the greatest of all God's compassion shines - God asks us to stand. Stand and walk a different walk. Now with a different heart. A different vision. A new song. A song of victory and freedom.

Psalm 51:10 "Create in me a pure heart O God. Renew a right spirit within me."

The truest character of God is love. Love that witholds the justice we deserve - extending mercy. Love that pours grace freely - that gives us back our dignity. Mercy and grace - like two open hands stretched out to us lifting us up to our feet again when we've fallen or been off course.

Truly through God's love . . . we STAND corrected.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Beautifully Precarious - God's Perfect Balance

Hiking has become my new addiction. Having a day out with my girlfriends on a 4 hour hike up the mountain, I came across a purposely placed stack of rocks. They immediately captured my attention as I realized the methodical diligence of the person who placed them.

The stones were beautifully precarious and inspired great strength and peace. How could something so simple swell within me a feeling of power and clarity? It was a message to my soul.

In the movement of life, the busyness, the noise, there are moments of clarity that speak to us of God's timing, His big picture, His wisdom in placing and orchestrating the little and big stones in our lives as to create the pillar He wishes in our character. Often the world views it as ridiculous, small minded and foolish - and yet, to witness God's hand in your life on a personal level so deep and so rich - it is a peace that cannot be explained.

Look around you today and witness the stones that God is placing for your strength - a purposeful message that He is building something peaceful and something good in YOU. And understand that in His timing YOU are beautifully desperate for HIM - beautifully purposed, and beautifully precarious.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Staying Open

I love listening to Anthony Robbins. I'm amazed by his sense of passion and purpose as well as his logical clarity about life. I enjoy listening to his audios as I'm doing graphic design, folding laundry or getting ready in the morning.

The other day I listened to a link about finances and success. So powerful!!!!
Anthony Robbins explains that the biggest major hurdle in being truly successful (he was talking financially but I'm going to refer to emotionally) is learning to manage rejection and frustration. That's the pivitol factor in being successful. Learn to manage rejection and frustration. Because here is the kicker - when you feel rejection and frustration what do you? You give up. You stop trying. You stop investing yourself. You become cynical. Your self-discipline stops - your drive stops. In the case of a salesperson - when a customer rejects your product you may quit selling, quit cold-calling, quit attempting to sell all together.

On a personal level - emotionally - relationally - when we have been hurt by romantic love, family, friends, business partners, when we have been rejected - we may close ourselves off to the point that we no longer can let love in at all. It is the ultimate self-sabotage. We quit taking care of ourselves, we lower our goals, we lose hope, and we self-destruct. Talking from personal experience here, we close ourselves off to the very thing we want so badly.

People who are truly emotionally satisfied in life are the people who can love big - forgive big - risk big - and hope big. They know that love is out there in so many different forms and they know that love heals every brokenness. Keep your heart open even if you've been rejected in the past. Because you never know the love that waits . . . and the power it has to change your world. Stay open and let love in.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Life Make-Over Steps

Filming a segment for a national award based on the non-profit Heart 2 Home, the interviewer asked me why we (our Heart 2 Home team) we do what we do? How do we do it?
Reflecting on why our team sweats, prays, begs and dreams the way we do . . . its because we can't see suffering and not feel moved to action. We hurt when we see others hurting. And, because we know our actions create solutions, we stay the course until circumstances are healed.

There is a powerful courage that is developed over time as this pattern becomes a concrete process. Feel compassion, assess the need, pray for healing and inspiration and finally, take action.

In your relationships, in your business, in your family - are YOU taking that same course of action? Do you have a burden for the people in your life - do you FEEL them? Are you moved by compassion for them? What do they NEED? When was the last time you asked them?

Are you praying for them - praying for your kids (rather than preaching to them) - praying for your spouse, your parents, your friends. Are you praying for inspiration as to how to help them in their pain, their hopes and their struggles?

And then lastly, are you taking action to assist them - support them - reaching out to them? Make the call, give the encouragement, change the circumstances, help carry the load . . .

The process has built homes for needy families here in Utah since 2004 - but its also built a mobile medical unit, spurred bone marrow donor testing across the US, and now the annual Laughing At Cancer benefit concert here in Utah. But it doesn't just work for our non-profit foundation - it works in life and love.

Looking for the steps to a life makeover?

Feel compassion outside of yourself
Assess true needs
Pray for inspiration and healing
Take action

Its the way to make-over your heart and win in life and love.

Monday, August 31, 2009

In Love Everyone Wins

Talking to my friend this morning about love - "two times failed" he said about former relationships. It made me reflect - how often we determine the value of love or relationship by how long it lasted or the current status.

You see, in reality, if you opened your heart twice that says you believed and were willing to be vulnerable twice. You risked big twice. That says a lot.

Even just doing the right thing in relationships when it means being honest, kind and good - that is success.

Often Hollywood paints a picture of love that loses its real beauty. The Bible says it best:
1 Corinthians 13:4 "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."

In love everyone wins. Because when you truly love you want OTHER people to win. You pray they do and just by praying that . . . and by keeping your heart right . . . you win too.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Destiny or Both?

A sweet friend of mine reminded me of the opening scene to Forrest Gump. A white feather floating along in the wind, spinning, twirling and finally landing at Forrest's feet. My friend told me, "Some of life is destiny, some is luck. And sometimes things happen that change the course completely and you don't even see it coming. "

Is it destiny where we land? I've thought that to myself so many times over the last two years. Cancer treatments and finally Paul's passing . . . was it his destiny to die of cancer? And if it was, what is my destiny now without him? It has been a prayer on my heart offered so many times. "God, help me understand how much is my destiny, my path determined by you, and how much is my choice. How much is my part?"

My life feels very much like a river now - moving, changing, finding a new path. It's scary and exciting to see a life open up with new feelings, new hopes and new dreams.

And as I sat by myself recently - a tiny white feather landed next to me. God is good. Some of life is destiny, some is luck. And sometimes wonderful things happen that change the course completely . . . and you don't even see it coming.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Can't Go Back - Only Forward

Another day over. It's dark outside and the children are getting to bed. I look at tomorrow's schedule.

The reality sounds so trite - can't ever go back - only forward.

I look back at images that are so familiar. But they are only paper images now. I look at my planner and the calendar pages dictate the days, months and years ahead. I've had quite the education watching Paul go through cancer treatments.

Paul was gifted at choosing joy. He chose laughter when he certainly could have complained. He chose adventure when it certainly wasn't convenient or comfortable. He chose love, friends, kids, and singing when he could have isolated and became cynical.

What a great example to myself and our children - there is a choice. We all get to decide our future mindset and how we will face new circumstances. Can't go back - only forward. Forward thinking joy, forward planning joy, forward envisioning joy.

The future seems a whole lot better deciding that's my plan : )

Choose joy.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Coming Up For Air

So much has changed in my life in the past two weeks. I hardly recognize my life anymore. A huge darkness engulfs me many times a day and the tears seemed endless. Small things still must be addressed - Paul's clothes folded from the laundry, his toothbrush, his phone . . . reminders that he will not be coming back. It is heartwrenching.

Planned months ago, a trip had been scheduled for me to go back to North Carolina for a book conference. When the date came I could think of a million reasons to stay home - who wants to go out into the world after the passing of a spouse? Then again - who wants to be home in the silence of the loss of a spouse? Here or there - I felt neither would be better however, doors to the future might open through a conference like that.

Charlotte North Carolina brought so many things into my life. Amazing, special people. New strength. New vision. New courage. New possibilities. It was truly like coming up for air. In fact, Paul had very much wanted me to go on that trip - and in so many ways it was like breathing again.

Sometimes its hard to see how deep you're sinking until you come up to the top gasping. Then you realize you've been holding your breath for an awfully long time.

Life is about the breathing and the living. Thank you Paul for teaching me that.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Blog In A Blog? Yup. It's that good.

I was so moved by Crystal and Greg Adamson's blog that I wanted to share it. If you love Paul it is a "must read". Even has some great pics.

Crystal what you wrote was so thoughtful - yup. More tissue please. Box #34 this week. : )

Click here to go to Crystal and Greg's posts about Paul (2 entries July 21st and July 19th))

Where He Is Not

“I go east, but He is not there.
I go west, but I cannot find Him.
I do not see Him in the north,
for He is hidden. I turn to the south,
but I cannot find Him.

But He knows where I am going”
(Job 23:8-10 NLT).

I keep looking for Paul. Expecting to get a phone call or see him shuffle down the hall - habit. Expect to look up and see him tapping the ivories or catch him hard at work refinishing the old piano in our garage. The growing emptiness is deafening.

So yesterday I went to where he last was. I went to the cemetery. Gasping I stared at the yellowing strips of grass that had been carefully replaced over the grave - and a handwritten temporary marker "Paul Berg". The reality hit me hard in the chest and knocked the wind out of me til I landed sobbing on my knees. The brutal reality: Paul as I knew him is not here. He is with Jesus. He will not be coming back.

I could not fix his pain. I had tried with every ounce of research, doting, hovering, caregiving, humor, and prayer. What a terrible terrible reality. I'm trusting that God was able to set him free. And Paul who was always a risk-taker, always an adventure seeker, always pursuing life . . . Paul knows where I am going someday too. May the walk of my future be inspired by the courage I learned from him.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Note From Paul

(this was taken from Paul's blog on Monday, May 12, 2008 after learning that cancer was again creating tumors in his body)

What Now?
The Bible says to petition the Lord in everything... to make our requests known. God also said we need to bring our requests boldly to the throne. My prayer is for life. Complete healing. A miracle. What is yours? I pray always and glorify God in all I do. He is the healer. He can do anything. He is not uncapable of a miraculous healing. With a word He created the heavens and the earth. I put my faith in Him, the Creator and the Healer.Pray with me starting now. Hide in your closets and pray. Pray with a loud voice. Pray with a whisper in your heart. Pray in a song. God knows your heart and the Holy Spirit intercedes where there are no words. Cry out loud and bring your requests to the Lord. I am.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Broke Down

Laying in my bed sobbing I remembered a scripture Psalm 147:3 "He (God)heals the brokenhearted". That word "broken" seems to fit the very essence of my heart right now, my life, my family, my future. Other words - crushed, shattered, destroyed . . . it is a sense of being lost like no other I've felt.

Nothing could have prepared me for the pain I felt holding Paul in the hours and minutes as he slipped away. In all my desperation I knew I had to let him go to God. To this point we had fought hard - so counter intuitive to pray for release from his mortal body and pain.

Sobbing, thinking on that verse, I had to laugh out loud at the echo of Paul's voice saying, "Hey how long you gonna be broke down?". Years passed as he worked delivering trusses in the construction industry that was a common question. When the long trailers would get stuck in the mud, or when trusses would need to be re-secured along the way, or when a tire would go flat . . . the boss man would ask, "Paul, how long you gonna be broke down? How long til your rig is up and running?"

I can almost hear Paul lovingly asking me . . . "Honey, how long you gonna be broke down?" With my hope and faith in a God that heals the brokenhearted, and memories of a man who laughed in the face of cancer, I will look to the heavens with peace. God will help me heal. I'm brokenhearted but not broke down forever.

Paul Berg - Paper Houses

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Paul Berg Funeral

Paul Berg passed away peacefully in his sleep on July 21, 2009. His final days were filled passionately surrounded by his friends and family. Paul was a gifted musician and songwriter. He loved auto racing and cars - especially his 65 Cobra. He was an Eagle Scout, professional water-skier, and accomplished jazz pianist. Paul has enjoyed charity work with the Heart 2 Home Foundation since 2004. Paul is the devoted husband of Tiffany Berg and loving father to Kaylan, Ben, Hayley, Hannah and Landon. Services will be held Wednesday, July 22, 2009 at The Adventure Church, 352 W. 12300 S., Draper, Utah. Viewing 1:00 PM Funeral 3:00 PM. Interment held at Lehi City Cemetery.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sweet Surrender

More often than not life presents us with circumstances which are less than ideal. Sometimes we are handed heartache, pain, loss and disappointment - in ways which torment us - and in ways that feel could break us completely.

We want to kick and scream and escape . . . and yet, after the yelling, the fighting, the denial, the anger, we find ourselves weeping as a child . . . and all we truly need at that time is for God's arms to hold us.

That sweet surrender is a sacred place. To come to the throne of God as a child - quiet, meek, willing to be submissive, willing to lay everything down . . . that is peace.

"God, no matter the pain, I am willing to lay it all down because I trust that you will make it good." When you walk with God and trust Him, it is all good.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Friends and Family -

Paul has had a rough week. About ten days ago he began fainting and having seizures. His speaking has become strained and his breathing very difficult - especially at night. Wednesday new scans were taken. Saturday we took him to the hospital as his breathing had become very constricted. A specialist was brought in to meet with Paul and I in the respiratory ICU. We anticipated they would need to surgically place a trach tube - something we had discussed previously with doctors and knew would be needed at some point.

Having not received the results yet from the scans that were taken earlier in the week we were not aware of the progression of the cancer after chemo treatments. We only knew we were seeing new problems surface.

Sadly, new tumors have grown - resistant to the chemo. They are now affecting Paul's vocal cords, airway in throat and creating the seizure activity in his brain. The specialist shared with us that if Paul chose to do the trach surgery it would be problematic at this stage; he would be in the ICU perhaps indefinately with no promise of speaking again as his voice box is quickly being lost to the cancer. In addition the seizures would continue - and with other ramifications. We were told the natural process of the cancer would only give Paul a matter of days.

The doctors believe his breathing will become more and more restricted, he will become more and more tired, and will quietly meet his Savior in his sleep.

With family surrounding us in the ICU on Saturday night, Paul chose to come home to spend his last days peaceful and able to visit. We are so very very sad.

We thank God for the promise of eternity in a place with no more pain. There are no words to express our loss and what we are trying to process as a family. Please pray with us that this is a loving, tender process.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Prince And The Princess

Headlines of the same week cover the loss of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. Two celebrities - very different in their talents and very different in the mark they leave. One seemed so blessed with talent and skill, yet lived out a peculiar isolated lifestyle - the other read like an open book, a familiar friendly face, sharing her faith and courage in her greatest battle. The world has lost two amazing people.

It's an interesting thing to try and sum up the influence of one life. An interesting thing to see the flood of photos over the years, the roles played, and the friends made. One knew she was leaving this life. The other was completely unaware.

Live as if you know - live like life is temporary - because this life really is. We all leave a mark on the world. What will your mark be? How will people remember you? It's not a corny trite saying friend. You get to choose your mark on the world. Really. Everyone chooses.

Live . . . on purpose. At the end of the day . . . it will matter.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Growing Old Separate

Sometimes I see them at Walgreens buying cough drops. Or driving together; both seated low in their seats, eyes fixed on the road. Sometimes I see them at the hospital; waiting at the doctor's office holding hands. Together. A man and a woman . . . a couple . . . growing old together.

As I look over at my husband Paul seated at the clinic, IV in his arm delivering chemotherapy, I realize we are growing old separate.

Only two years ago he was throwing our children over his shoulder, hoisting large boulders into place on the jobsite, and doing vigorous bench presses daily in our home gym. We exercised together, danced together and planned our lives together. Today everything is different.

We joke about the physical changes - and weep at them in less funny moments. It grieves us both to see . . . his body is tired and weak. It's like a time machine making him older quickly - and it's accelorated - but not me. A sad turn in the life you plan together . . . growing old separate.

Now I look at couples - elderly couples - and I think how lucky they are. To grow old together - at the same speed - on the same path. You can miss it because it is so incremental. What a blessed privelege . . . to grow old . . . TOGETHER.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

God Thank You For The Village

I've always heard the saying, "It takes a village". A trite statement that seems like a blanket response - just words - blah, blah, blah. Today I am thanking God for that village.

As a mom of five precious children, I see clearly where my energy, my wisdom and my influence ends. I see how limited is my influence right now given my main priority of taking care of Paul. I see how much is left undone with my kids - and I also see where grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, our church family, and friends are stepping in to support the needs of those children who are so important to me. Other adults are speaking peace and truth into the lives of my children at a time when I feel so lacking.

And in the life of my husband - to see a gift so significant to him - the completion of his replica 65' Cobra - there was yet another village. A village of excited, tool-turning, macho angels that banded together to assess, strategize and complete this massive project.

Every day now Paul and I see signs of his body changing in the way of the cancer. It is shocking and desperate and cruel. Tears and sobbing come at moments unexpected - dreams ripped away far too soon. Pastors and our church family pray with us and give us spiritual strength.

It takes a village. It takes a village because in situations like this the strength of one or two falls miserably short of being capable to stand. It takes a village because united we are stronger - more powerful, more focused. It takes a village because as a force we are marching - together - as a team.

And as I sit alone in the dark weeping in sadness and grief as my husband struggles through the night . . . I am thanking God for the village. The village reminds me . . . I am never alone. And neither is my sweet husband. God thank you for the village.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

For A Time Such As This

The story of Esther. Girl grows up, picked from a slew of others to be groomed into a princess. King meets girl and marries her. New queen from a culture under threat. Her people will be put to death. Queen breaks law and approaches King. Pleads for her people. People saved because of Queen's bravery.

When trouble came to Esther's people she was told (paraphrasing) "you are where you are for a time such as this". Her positioning directly impacted what she was able to do for her people.

Different scenario. It's Sunday morning. We hear the roar of not one, but two 65' Cobra engines outside of our door. The door opens and David Kirkham (and Dave #2) step in. "We heard about your health situation Paul, and we'd like to take you for a ride." Anyone that knows my husband knows he has been working on building a 65' Cobra - his dream car - and has been too sick to work on it for quite some time. Anyone who knows Cobras knows David Kirkham builds some of the most incredible Cobras in the United States - with a factory right here in Utah.

Needless to say, my husband was speechless. We drove side by side down the freeway - he in one Cobra with David Kirkham and I in the other (with Dave #2). Then up the canyon to Sundance and back - grinning all the way - squealing and laughing - taking pictures and soaking up the moment of freedom and life.

Think on Esther. Her path brought her to a position to make a difference in a way no one else could. David Kirkham did not save "a people" - but given the dire circumstances in Paul and I's world right now, he saved the day for my husband with that ride. Because of his positioning, his expertice, his vision, David was able to do something profound - "for a time such as this" - for us it was a ray of hope - a celebrity visit - for David it may have been a simple ride with a stranger who was suffering.

What is God positioning you to do? What arena is God asking you - compelling you to step into - because of work only YOU can do? What lives can you uniquely touch because of the road you've travelled? Trust me - there is a reason. Ask God - "for a time such as this" - where do you want me God? Today I want to stand up for someone. Put me in a position to do that . . . .

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Look For The Pony!

Wow. Things have been pretty rough the last two weeks. Paul had a major surgery and then pneumonia. The lack of sleep, the juggling children to and from school while sleeping at the hospital, worrying about Paul's breathing . . . it has been more than a bit desperate times in our household. Hard to get a handle on things when it's been going so cruddy.

My mom has a saying, "When there is a lot of poop and things look really crappy . . . look for the pony. With that much poop there's GOT to be one!"

So, with that enlightened saying on our minds Paul and I have consciously been "looking for the ponies" in our situation. Dinners lovingly made and delivered for our family. People to pick up our kids from school. A new group of angels helping Paul finish his dreamcar. Phone calls, emails and prayers our way from loved ones close and far. A benefit concert planned on Paul's behalf. I'd say that's a lot of ponies!

How about you today friend? What kind of day are you having? A one pony day? A two pony day? Just how much poop is going on in your life right now? Remind yourself there's got to be a pony in all of that. And then look for it. Perhaps today you could choose to be the pony in someone else's cruddy situation riding in on a white steed to save their day?

Life can get pretty dang heavy. Remember . . . count your ponies. There is ALWAYS a pony when there's a truckload of poop!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Cancer Is So Limited

Cancer is so limited...

It cannot cripple love
It cannot shatter hope
It cannot corrode faith
It cannot destroy peace
It cannot kill friendship
It cannot suppress memories
It cannot silence courage
It cannot invade the soul
It cannot steal eternal life
It cannot conquer the spirit

Thank you Annette for reminding me . . . cancer is so limited!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Just What I Needed

Right about now I feel like we're just getting by. There is enough, but just enough. There isn't a surplus of anything but we have food, we have shelter, and we have our kids. It's good. Except when it doesn't feel fair. Then it gets rough.

I see the black Escalade passing me on the freeway, I flip through the decorating magazine at the doctor's office, and I see the "For Sale" sign on the dream house I don't own . . . and a pain seizes me and brings me to tears. Having been fed the whole notion from childhood that "The American Dream" looks like prosperity and STUFF . . . well . . . right now I don't own any of that stuff and it gets to me. I'm not a materialistic person but there is an aching for things we owned before the cancer came . . . and it hurts.

Reading in the Bible a story jumps off the pages. The children of Israel were tired of manna from heaven - they were tired of the same old, same old. They missed the meat back in Egypt. Even though they were slaves back then, they did have meat. So they grumbled and complained to high heaven . . . literally. So God sent quail. Lots of quail. And the ones that ate the quail instead of the manna died.

They named the place of the quail "The Valley of Craving" for it was their craving for more that ended in destruction.

I see the shiny black Escalade pass me on the freeway and I thank God that I have a vehicle that holds my beautiful family. I flip through the pages of the decor magazine and thank God that I have a strong roof over my head. And I see the sign on the dream home for sale and I pray, "God - one day I pray to be in YOUR home - your mansion - and I pray that I will be ready. Take away my obsession for more. Give me a gratitude and a satisfaction for what is right and good. And let me see the truth about my appetites and my motivation. "

Enough IS enough. I am alive and sustained with enough. I trust God has given me just what I've needed.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Know You Can't. I Barely Can Myself.

It's been an interesting thing diseminating the news about Paul's health situation. To some friends and family I have felt the need to email medical details so as to clarify the doctor's concerns and the treatment schedule. Some friends and family have emailed or called. Others . . . nothing.

I know those emails have brought people to weeping at their computers. I know. They have been so very hard to write. And I know many are speechless. There are no words. I know.

If you are one who is troubled and teary with the news, I know. If you're having a tough time talking about it, thinking about it or imagining it . . . I know. If you can't bring yourself to accept it, Paul and I both know. We can't either. And if you can't get things done during the day without falling into a heap of sobs, I know. If you're not able to handle the news - it's ok. I barely can myself.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Paul's "F _ ck-It" List

The doctors have told us that it is not a matter of "if" but a matter of "when" in regard to Paul's cancer situation. So, as time is becoming a priceless commodity, Paul sat down to write a "Bucket List".

Over a period of days the reality of the circumstances has influenced Paul's list. Things that never had been options or desires in the past are now becoming signficant and do-able. In fact, the very name of Paul's list has changed. He now lovingly refers to it as my "F _ ck-It" List. (pardon the bluntness!) Anyone who knows my husband will understand.

See a real ice-berg. Drive the Cobra across the country. Eat more bacon. He has even talked about getting a tattoo. Why? Well, time is short. "F _ ck-It" Paul says. Why the hell not get a tattoo? : )

From this perspective so many things look different. The "why" and "why nots" of life just do not have the same arguments anymore. Some things are just stupid given a short timeline. Some things are no longer important.

And then there is God. Then there is our family.

Yesterday Paul sat and played poker with the kids - betting chips with no regard to consequence - and all of them laughing and squealing with abandon. The dishes sat in the sink. The dust accumulated on the furniture. The IRS called and the phone just kept ringing.

I'm grateful that Paul has his priorities straight. He reminds me when to say to hell with things - and when to say to heaven WITH them.

Friday, February 20, 2009

What If The Answer Was "No"?

My son came home from school excitedly chatting about a get together later that day with friends. Unaware of that plan, I told my son there were other priorities today. "But Mom! This is so important! We want to finish this cool thing we've been working on and I want to go so badly! You just HAVE to take me! I just HAVE to go today!"

Seeing our priorities collide through the lack of planning (and oversight of a teenage boy) I told him I needed to think about it and see if it could work. "Mom, I just haaaaaaaave to go today. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeez?" I sat on the couch with my daytimer moving things around like a rubics cube. If I move this here then we could do that errand on the way to . . . "Ok son. I can make it work." His face lit up and I honestly think his huge body skipped a few steps before he turned and said, "Thank you Mom! I love you."

"Would you love me if I said no?" I called out as he rounded the corner.

From a couple steps down the stairway I could hear his feet land solidly and stop at my question. After a short silence he called back humbly, "Mom - I would love you even if you said no. But maybe I just wouldn't say it outloud."

Hmmm. With news this week that my husband's cancer has advanced farther than what medical tools can stop, and the encouragement of the doctors to now put things in order with the time we have left, I feel like God has told us "no" to some pretty big requests. We, alongside our church family, our friends, siblings, and parents, have begged and pleaded . . . and the answer is "no".

There are times when my answer to my children is "no". My children do not always understand why I give that answer. They do not see all of the variables I see. And I understand that every "no" brings frustration and sadness into their lives.

I'm sure on an elevated level God is the same way. To our begging sometimes He must say no. God, I know you are listening for my response . . . and I am saying this outloud today - "I love you even with the 'no'."

Friday, January 30, 2009

Call It What It Is

Yesterday my husband Paul had yet another surgery - a lump removed from the left side of his neck, as well as a small growth removed from his upper right jawline. He is a good sport even though this is one of a chain of surgeries he's been through. Just a week ago 3 spots on his back were removed as well to stay ahead of cancer. At this point everything must be removed and pathology done.

He told his doctor that "oncology" was the wrong term for this type of cancer treatment. "Off-cology" would be more accurate because they keep taking things OFF! Poor guy. Like Mr. Potato Head they keep removing this and that like they were interchangeable parts!

Through all of the ins and outs of my husband's surgeries I feel like God is doing just as much "Off-cology" in my soul. Removing ego here, taking away pride and selfishness there. Don't feel like anything I knew for sure last year I know for sure today. Don't feel like any front I could hide behind before is solid or protecting now. Everything is up for scrutiny before God and is subject to His scalpel if it is not healthy or essential.

I'm not the only one going through soul evaluations and cut-backs; my husband is in his own ICU with God and so are many, many others today. (Intensive Care University) Job losses, home losses, injuries and accidents, premature babies born, those desparately seeking bone marrow matches, a roof over head, reprieve from war . . . it is raw and real.

This afternoon I will speak to the women at the prison. What do I tell them about God's goals for them as they contemplate choices of the past, remorse for decisions, and possibilities that lie ahead? What do I tell them about what must change in their inner lives to be whole and healthy in the future?

The same thing I tell my husband and the same thing I tell myself.

"I know it is awful, this cutting away of parts of you. There is pain. But unless those sick parts are cut away you cannot live. Keep your eye on life - on God's will for you - on His goal. Do not fear His scrutiny or His scalpel. He will not cut away what is essential. He will however cut away those parts of you that must be healed. He wants success for you. Eternal and real. He is the Good Physician. The Good Doctor. He has a future and a destiny for you that you may not understand - and it is good."

Off-cology. The removal of the bad for the life of the good. Call it what it is.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Funky Place

This morning I sat with a new friend Kathi at a fun upbeat bakery sipping my mango smoothie and talking about life's challenges. Kathi's first husband died of cancer six years after they were married. She was a young mom with two small children. He was ill for almost two years. Now eight years later Kathi is remarried and is a step-mom and a child with her new husband too.

We talked about the bumpy road that comes with cancer. We talked about being step-moms. We talked about God and staying fit, about having a Plan B, Plan C, Plan D when treatment A doesn't happen perfectly, and we talked about the gift of peace when life is precarious.

Nothing has changed in my life since 9:00 this morning, but I do FEEL better. Kathi gave me permission to be in this funky place. She said she'd been there too. "They never tell you your going to feel certain things so you wonder what's wrong with me? Then you talk to others who go through long term illnesses, and you realize everyone feels these things."

I guess the best gift Kathi gave me today was knowing I can be in a funky place but I'm never alone. Somehow that makes the funk FEEL much better : )