Touched by an angel?

I read this book so often to my kiddos that I almost had it memorized.

“Although I cannot see them, I know that they are there, for God has promised angels to be with me everywhere.

When I rest, when I stand, when I swing and slide, angels all about me to comfort, shield and guide.

And when I venture forth to do something on my own, how wonderful to know that I am not alone.

When I run, when I swim, when I laugh and play, angels share my every move throughout my busy day.

Through the night a watch they keep, while I rest and dream and sleep.

And when the sun peeks in my room, and I rise to dress and play, I thank you God for angels that you have sent my way.”

Angels

It’s easy to read about angels. It’s another thing to actually try to wrap our brains around the promise we read in Psalm 91.

A few years ago, I was in a dark, dark hole working really hard to believe that God was still at work in what was burdening my heart.

As I headed out on my morning run, a woman was standing alongside the bike path facing me.

Moving past her, this is what she said.

“You’re doing great. You’re almost at the finish line. Keep going!”

Those were the exact words my heart needed to hear that morning. I turned around to thank her for her encouragement.

But, when I turned around, there was no one there. No one.

I know that path like the back of my hand. It is where my most holy of moments occur. She should have been visible to me. But, she wasn’t. It was as if she had vanished into thin air. Shaking my head, I continued on my run. No. She couldn’t have been. Or could she? Did it really matter?

Her words echoed through me for days and weeks to come. They were just what I needed. Even to this day, I get goosebumps when I pass by that holy spot on the path where a ‘stranger’ gave me what I needed.

Today, I went out to the same path to run. I had some questions bundled up in my heart about how to put some order in the book I’m writing. I begged God to show me what would be the best for people who would one day read it.

I headed east toward the crystal blue sky dotted with billowy clouds. My eyes were eager to see the new day just like these sunflowers along the side of the path. Toward the sun

While I had no clarity to my questions, I was enjoying the journey. Summer was surrounding me!

Stunning Soldiers

I love my little path on this huge planet. I love that I have eyes to see what He’s planted all along the way.

But, I still had nagging questions. And I was looking for answers in a rather urgent way.

The rumblings of thunder behind me broke through my musings. I turned around. The sky was black and had changed without my knowing it. My weather app had guaranteed me at least 75 minutes of clear sky. Boy, it was wrong.

So I turned around and began my trek toward home. Before the raindrops began to pelt my unprepared body, I saw something in the western sky that I’d never seen before.

rainbow

Yep. A rainbow.

Sure, I’ve seen rainbows before, but always after the rain. You know. When the sun comes out and the drops are still falling.

This time, the rainbow was contained in the coming storm. A promise of “I Am who I Am” from the God of the universe even before the rain began to fall. It’s as if He reminded me that “I’ve got you. I hear your questions. And you’re well on your way to doing just what you should do.”

I tucked my phone away to protect it from the rain and headed home. I was getting drenched under the storm, but I didn’t even care. I felt the childlike exhilaration of playing in the rain. I had my answer in the most concrete of ways for this kinesthetic learner. Getting wet was worth it to have the clarity and confidence I needed this morning.

It gets better though.

Up ahead, I saw a woman with her arms outstretched toward the sky. I ran quickly to catch up with her. Once I was alongside her, I matched her pace and asked her what she thought of the sudden storm.

Her response soaked into my soul. She answered me with a question. Something like Jesus would have done.

“Were you out here today looking for something you needed?”

I think so?

“Did you see it in the rain? In the rainbow? Are you ready for your day now?”

I am.

Is this really happening, I wondered? How could her words be so perfect for me?

I honestly had nothing to say so we walked in silence and awe for a few yards.

At the crosswalk, we parted ways after exchanging our names and ‘hope to see you out here agains.’

I turned back to see if she was still there. She was. But in ways that I’ve yet to describe, she was still like an angel to me today.

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Off the boat?

“Who are you and what did you do with my mom?”

That’s what Josh posted when he saw this picture of me on Facebook.

Jordan and me

Totally fair question, Josh. I’ve only been tubing once for about 34.2 seconds.

I’m not at all comfortable in the water. Even letting the spray from my shower hit my face is a bit of a stretch.

I do love being on our boat, however. It is strong and safe and Ron is the perfect captain for me. I trust him implicitly. (Internally at least. I do ask a lot of questions when I hear funny noises).

We took Jordan and his family out on the river a couple weeks ago. Jordan doesn’t go anywhere without gear for fun. His trunk is typically filled with anything he’d need to begin a sport game of anything.

We weren’t surprised that shortly after we bought our boat, he bought a pair of water skis and a tube.

This day was a day to tube.

As I sat comfortably on the boat, I had a ball watching him hold Riley (who definitely wanted to be the first son out on the water with his dad) as they soared back and forth over our wake. Our 3 year old grandson is made for adventure, and he had a ball!

Jordan and Riley

He looked so little out there, yet so safe in the arms of his dad. Our voices began to get a little hoarse as we cheered for the little guy soaring across what he thought was a very vast river filled with foxes!

Then it was big brother, Carter’s, turn. While a bit more experienced at all things adventurous at age 5plus, he tends to hold back and make sure all is well before he dives in. He’s competitive enough, however, to not let Riley trump his own ability to be a little dare devil.

Jordan and Carter

His delight was almost palpable. Carter and his dad giggled with delight as they got splashed and felt the whiplash of our captain’s quick turns.

But when Carter was done, I expected that we’d tie the tube to the back of the boat and head to a little beach for more splashing and a picnic. A place where I could stand on the bottom of the river and get on my good old terra firma. You know. Where I’m comfortable.

My husband had another idea. He suggested I try the tube. You can’t even imagine how quickly I said, “I’m good. No need to do that.”

In a split second, I knew that I had to let go of my fear and take a risk. A safe one at that, given I could touch bottom almost everywhere on the Fox River. And Jordan would be on the tube with me helping me hold on. Or holding on to me – whatever was necessary. And Ron was a safe and wise captain who wouldn’t let anything happen as long as he could help it.

Before I knew it, I tightly secured my life vest on, and Jordan ushered me onto the tube. We strategized about who should hold which handle and how we should lean when Ron did his sharp turns on the boat. My laughter probably sounded a bit forced.

Midway through the ride, Jordan just happened to mention that it was an honor to get to do this with me. I don’t remember if I said this or not, but my thoughts at least were so grateful to have him along with me. I wouldn’t have wanted to be alone.

Without the help of my glasses, the boat looked so big, blurry, and far away. I felt so tiny with only a single line connecting us to them. Yet, I told myself over and over again that I was safe with Ron at the helm and Jordan at my side. In fact, at one point as we rounded a bend, Ron alerted us to a dock on our right to make sure we didn’t swing out too far toward it. Jordan said that he always warns him when we get to that spot. He reminded me that his dad was a great captain.

Strangely there was also comfort in knowing little Riley and Carter along with their very pregnant mom, Jacqui, were cheering for me from the boat. They all knew what I was experiencing and were thrilled to watch me move so ‘bravely’ through the water.

Yesterday at church my eyes were glued on Jordan as he played guitar on the worship team. He was passionate, focused, and eager to help people see Jesus. My ride on the tube flashed through my mind.

Is going through this life a bit similar to riding on a tube? On the Fox River? Am I holding on to a ‘tube’ being tossed back and forth over both rough and smooth waters? Do I trust who is captaining? Do I trust who is right by my side? Do I feel people cheering me on? Yes. And yes. And yes.

I’m more wired to be the cheerleader. Thus, my love of watching Jordan take his sons out on the tube. But, I’m also getting more comfortable being a risk taker. I just will have to remind myself who is captaining my boat, who is alongside me on the tube, and who is cheering me on.

Perhaps that is my own personal formula for being brave enough to take a risk. What about you?

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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?

cropped-mirror.jpg

 

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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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