Day by Day

We say it all the time.

“Take it a day at a time.”

How many of you really can do that? If you can, I’d love to learn your secret.

I don’t do the “take it a day at a time” very well. I’m already focused on what I’m worrying about for tomorrow. Yet it is still today.

A gorgeous summer day. My garden seems to shout, ‘Hey, Linda, look at me! I’m doing everything you’ve asked of me and more. Today.”

But my mind goes to tomorrow. Not only because of what tomorrow has in store, but because I’ve trained myself to think worry about tomorrow more than I knew. Here’s the irony.

Each morning I remind myself that His mercies are new TODAY. 

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22,23.

Boy do I feel like a hypocrite.

I’ve never thought of myself as a Lamentations sort of girl. I’m the encourager. The one who says that every little thing will be ok. The one who usually has the optimistic sentence in her back pocket.

But, I’m feeling more like a Lamentations lady of late. That in itself feels like an oxymoron. But, tucked away is a sign of hope. A promise that His compassion is re-given to me every morning.

That was on my mind this morning as I carried my little green container to my backyard to pick raspberries. My current daily ritual.

raspberries

I spontaneously bought this raspberry bush last year at Home Depot for no reason other than I thought it’d be fun to have something to nibble on in my garden. And because my mom and I picked raspberries at our friend’s farm most summers. And because I didn’t want to plant flowers in this unseen spot.

I honestly didn’t expect much to come of them. Suburban dirt is no where near farmland dirt. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. But, when the canes shot out of the dirt and blossoms began to pop out between the leaves, I began to believe I was witnessing a miracle. I cheered for each blossom and crossed my fingers that the bunnies, coyotes, and neighborhood kids wouldn’t find the raspberry bush.

It worked.

For the past 10 days, I’ve walked to my backyard each morning to pick another pint of raspberries. I’ve watched them go from flowery blossoms to tough, tiny green balls to pale red berries and finally to deep red succulent fruit.

Day by day I’ve watched each little berry mature. I’ve shown more patience than normal in waiting for the berry to easily separate from the plant and find its way into my green basket. I showed restraint from pulling a berry too hard. I can wait until tomorrow. Let it be ready when it’s ready. If I borrow from tomorrow, it will have no flavor.

Day by day.

What does it mean to pick my trouble too soon? Does it rob my today moment? Those ‘ripe’ moments that need to be savored?

I’m writing this for me. Because my tomorrow does feel tricky. And I want to figure out my strategy for each curveball that could come my way.

How much of today have I lost because I picked my ‘moment’ too soon?

At least it’s still late afternoon, and perhaps I can focus better on the moments that are ripe for the rest of the day.

And tomorrow I can wake up and pick more ‘berries” that are ready.

Posted in Encouragement, Fall | Leave a comment

Messy

I’m a mess.

It’s summer and I should be all summery and cheery. Blooming and rested and optimistic. Isn’t that what summer is? We soak in the ‘all things that are fantastic’ during the summer. Right?

Summer used to be carefree and joy-filled and sunny skies.

roses

I’m a mess.

I’m sitting in my beautiful “nest” looking out over my garden. It’s almost magical out there given the amount of rain and abundance of the summer season. But, it is so incongruent with my heart.

I’m a mess.

I’ve spent the day trying to figure out what it means to bring my dad home from the nursing home. How to honor his wishes upon his death. I can’t even talk with him about what he wants because he gets confused or he can’t hear me on the phone. I have to wait until tomorrow.

Why do I have to be focused on the details of his will and his wishes and his finances when I’d much rather be focused on his heart and his needs and getting him home?

Nobody ever prepared me for this. Can I say that I HATE not feeling prepared?

I sit in my writing nest surrounded with bits and pieces from my mother’s life. I also sit here with the truth that my dad knows where he is going when he leaves this world. Both of those pieces need to be celebrated.

I am also playing ‘Reckless Love’ on repeat. The song proclaims that God’s love is overwhelming, never ending, and reckless.

I’d rather have it be comforting and safe and predictable. Can I get an amen?

The words of the song are great when life is great. They are sobering when life feels messy. I don’t like not knowing what shadow needs to be lit up or what mountain needs to be climbed up or what lie needs to be torn down.

But, I have to put the light on and I have to climb some mountains and I have to look at whether I am telling myself a truth or a lie.

I am a mess.

Is it just ok if He finds me weak and tired and scared and even angry? Is that ok? If He spoke over me before I spoke a word, can I say that is ok for me to feel what I feel? He’s done so much for me! Is it ok to be a mess?

Yes.

That’s what I have to believe today. This isn’t one of those neat and tidy posts. It is real. It is messy. But, He never said He’d pursue me when I got my act together. So, today, I need Him when I am a mess.

What about you?

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Messy

I’m a mess.

It’s summer and I should be all summery and cheery. Blooming and rested and optimistic. Isn’t that what summer is? We soak in the ‘all things that are fantastic’ during the summer. Right?

Summer used to be carefree and joy-filled and sunny skies.

I’m a mess.

I’m sitting in my beautiful “nest” looking out over my garden. It’s almost magical out there given the amount of rain and abundance of the summer season. But, it is so incongruent with my heart.

I’m a mess.

I’ve spent the day trying to figure out what it means to bring my dad home from the nursing home. How to honor his wishes upon his death. I can’t even talk with him about what he wants because he gets confused or he can’t hear me on the phone. I have to wait until tomorrow.

Why do I have to be focused on the details of his will and his wishes and his finances when I’d much rather be focused on his heart and his needs and getting him home?

Nobody ever prepared me for this. Can I say that I HATE not feeling prepared?

I sit in my writing nest surrounded with bits and pieces from my mother’s life. I also sit here with the truth that my dad knows where he is going when he leaves this world. Both of those pieces need to be celebrated.

I am also playing ‘Reckless Love’ on repeat. The song proclaims that God’s love is overwhelming, never ending, and reckless.

I’d rather have it be comforting and safe and predictable. Can I get an amen?

The words of the song are great when life is great. They are sobering when life feels messy. I don’t like not knowing what shadow needs to be lit up or what mountain needs to be climbed up or what lie needs to be torn down.

But, I have to put the light on and I have to climb some mountains and I have to look at whether I am telling myself a truth or a lie.

I am a mess.

Is it just ok if He finds me weak and tired and scared and even angry? Is that ok? If He spoke over me before I spoke a word, can I say that is ok for me to feel what I feel? He’s done so much for me! Is it ok to be a mess?

Yes.

That’s what I have to believe today. This isn’t one of those neat and tidy posts. It is real. It is messy. But, He never said He’d pursue me when I got my act together. So, today, I need Him when I am a mess.

What about you?

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Seeing Surprises

A month ago I got one of those phone calls. You know, the ones you dread.

My 95 year old dad was being transported to the hospital and was desperately sick. So sick, in fact, that hospice representatives were meeting with my sister in the emergency room.

But, few people understand the fortitude of my dad. He was admitted to ICU with sepsis, something that few people of his age survive. Not only did he survive, he is now antsy to get home after spending over 3 weeks in the nursing home for rehab.

I spent a lot of time with him in the hospital and the nursing home and could never have predicted how some of what he thought and talked about would comfort me. I didn’t even know how much I needed it until I got it. While I am so sad that he has had this huge hurdle to leap, I am so grateful for the surprise conversations we had.

It all started when the palliative doctor met me at the elevator on Dad’s third day in ICU. She brightened as she told me Dad had told her all about my mom.

She must have seen the tears well up in my eyes because she tenderly continued to tell me all about the first time my dad saw my mom. She was a 16 year old stunning young woman playing the piano at my dad’s high school. Dad quickly devised a plan to meet this woman who lived only 8 miles away.

Meet her he did. Marry her he did. Raise three children with her he did. Celebrate 38 years of marriage with her he did. Tenderly say good-bye to her on this earth he did.

Her early death left him a widower in his early 60s. Before she died, she asked me to do something for her. Mind you, she rarely asked me to do anything for her. So when she said she needed a favor from me, I listened carefully.

She asked me to encourage him to remarry should he find the right woman.

So I did.

While I often had a lump in my throat longing for my mother, I did what she asked. He remarried and has done life with her for nearly 28 years.

But, I winced every time he forgetfully referred to her as ‘mom.’ She was not my mom. She was his wife. And while that was good for him, she was not my mom.

So, as my dad realizes that he nearly went Home a month ago, he is beginning to verbalize that my mom is waiting for him. The love of his life who was the apple of his eye. The one who encouragingly stood by him through every season of their life. The one whose loss made him want to crawl in a hole and never come out again. The one whose words to ‘leave it all up to God’ as she succumbed to cancer encourage him even today.

You know I love to garden. I’ve planted and weeded and watched my plants flourish day after day. But, this year, I had a surprise plant appear. I saw it sprout from the ground with unique stems and leaves and decided to let it grow. Even if it turned out to be a weed, I wanted to see what it would become. For some reason, I was especially eager for some surprise in the middle of a very hard season. So with the help of Facebook photos and my cousin’s wife, I found out what it was.

A swamp milkweed.

I have NO idea how it got there. But I do know that it attracts my FAVORITE insect. Monarch butterflies.

monarch

My dad helped me catch them on the farm as a little girl. My mom paused in wonder at the stained glass beauty of their wings. I played with them as caterpillars and watched them transform into butterflies in old peanut butter jars.

Could it be that God knew I needed my mom and dad to be together again in a simple swamp milkweed plant this year? I will say yes to that.

I needed to hear about my mom – even at age 58. I needed to know that in my dad’s heart, she was not forgotten. And I didn’t even know that I needed that – but God did.

So, I sit on my patio and write this with the swamp milkweed in my sightline. This year, it is my precious surprise.

 

 

 

Posted in Encouragement, Good-byes | 4 Comments

The ’empty nest’ thing

My dad and I have been talking about watching children leave the nest in recent days. He told me that when I headed off to Wheaton College, he was left with a broken heart. Perhaps that’s why he and my mom flew to Florida that fall for the opening of Epcot?

Vantage points change as time continues to march on. If he had talked to me about how he felt when I went to college then, I would not have been able to relate. At all. But, time once again proves to be a valuable teacher.

Learning more about birds as I write my book reminds me of how precious life together in a nest is. And how precious it is to continue welcoming our children back into the nest that will always be their first home. Doing that is one of my favorite things these days!

The video that my brother-in-law sent me a few years ago got the ’empty nest thing’ right when it comes to birds. But we have to be careful to not assume that people act like a bird. I’m a firm believer that children (including me) usually want to be able to fly back to their first nest. Birds rarely do that.

So whether you are in the very full nest stage, the emptying nest stage, or the empty nest stage, your children still need both you and the safe place you provide.

No matter how full or empty your nest is, I hope you enjoy the video Fred Margulies created on June 13, 2011.

“A robin built a nest in a hanging basket on our porch and laid four eggs. That kept mom and dad busy for the next four weeks. Here’s what happened.”


Every time I watch this I’m struck with the baffled expression on the face of the mother bird at the end of the video. I can relate. Can you?

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For He is Good

It’s one thing to hear my dad proclaim that God is good when the feed lots are filled with hogs and the corn stalks wave in the summer breeze. When his hands are dirty with honest labor and his arms are ready to hug my mom while she stands over the kitchen sink. When a long day ends with a root beer float sitting in his favorite recliner. When he can walk anywhere and lift anything.

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It’s a more powerful thing to hear my dad proclaim that God is good when my sister and I pull the covers over him as he begins a night in a strange bed in a place he never wanted to sleep. A battle with sepsis at age 95 took a toll on his strength, and he’s found himself in a nursing home for rehab.

For a man who is independently rooted on the farm, not being in his home is devastating. Hearing the new voices of those who want to help him is almost impossible even with the strongest of hearing aids. He wonders when he will get home again. If he will get home again. He wonders what happened that caused all of this. He wonders why his wife went to Florida. His questions begin to swirl out of control, and for practically the first time in my life, I see fear in his eyes. He lays his head on the strange pillow and his mind is racing. His body is tense, and I am so sad.

My sister locks her eyes with his as she stands at the foot of his bed. She slowly and loudly begins to recite the table prayer that was the prelude to every meal we ate as a family on the farm. With red, teary eyes and a strong voice, my dad begins to join her. Word by word, truth is ushered in his tiny, strange nursing home room. He calms. He smiles weakly. He begins reciting it once again.

“Oh give thanks unto the Lord FOR HE IS GOOD. His mercies endure for ever and ever. Amen.”

Yes, it is one thing to hear my dad proclaim that God is good when life is good. It is quite another thing to hear my dad proclaim that God is good when life is really hard. All those years of storing up what he sowed is coming back to calm him right now. What an honor to see the goodness of God touch my dad.

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Lasting Love

I had every intention of letting my third little rose bush try to survive this summer. I’d just committed to cheering for my struggling rose bush, so I felt guilty in admitting defeat. In admitting the truth.

Here I was standing in my favorite garden center with every intention of capitalizing on my $50 credit. I stood face to face with very alive and thriving rose bushes. I knew that I should find a new rose bush to replace the one that hadn’t survived the winter.

I hate losing. More importantly, I hate loss.

Ron had accompanied me and tried to help me make a ‘safer’ choice this time as we surveyed the landscape of roses. As he studied the information about ‘Knock Out’ roses, he suggested that I should try those. The risk would be minimized if I took the safer route. He, better than anyone else, knows that is usually the way I like to travel. But for some reason, I wanted to continue trying to master the ‘real’ challenge of ‘real’ roses.

I looked and looked through the many rows of rose bushes. I kept returning to one called “Lasting Love.”

“Nope,” I said. “I wanted to try the REAL roses.” So I picked one. Not for the color or the scent or the shape. For the name.

Lasting Love.

Even though it fit my criteria for color (red) and type (tea), it was the name that grabbed me.

The people in my heart as I wrote my last blog have children and husbands who they value more than all the gold in the world. Their love is lasting.

So in the springtime, I root for LASTING LOVE. I needed to stand my ground for love. Mothers who have empty arms. Wives who have lonely homes. Anyone who has said an earthly goodbye and faces a springtime with tears on their hearts.

We all need the springtime hope of Lasting Love.

Planting flowers is much more than creating beauty. Planting flowers is all about creating hope. For all of you who need hope, this rose bush is for you.

Lasting Love

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