yes, we can.

no one has to do it all
we can share the work
you don’t have to walk so tall
especially when it hurts

submit to being led
when everything comes to a crawl
let me be your feather bed
when you need a place to fall

it’s not possible to always be strong
one day you’ll skip and stumble
feeling weak is not wrong
just don’t forget to be humble

no one’s ever flawless
everyone makes mistakes
somewhere deep in this solace
is the place our heart awakes

give grace and be open to receive
simple premise that promises perfection
dare hope and we shall believe
let this be our invocation

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Charity Begins at Home (and with Demi)

I asked a WordPress friend to speak about charity. Here are her thoughts and answers.


Demi, known as The Lupie Momma on WordPress, is turning 27 this year. She is not disappointed about getting older, she’s planning a huge 30th birthday celebration. (Get it, girl!) But she is a little sentimental about her daughter growing up so fast. Demi has a sweet, little girl who is almost 4. Demi is a wife and mother by day, working gal by night.

She’s dabbled at blogging for a few years on a few sites, but recently she decided to finish her novel. While struggling with Lupus (autoimmune disorder), she’s been working hard on this memoir. Demi is right and brave when she says “…life is too short not to go after everything.”
What do you do to volunteer or donate?
I’ve always given my clothes that are in good shape, that I’ve outgrown, to people I think can use them. Now that I have a fast growing toddler, I have started giving her old clothes and toys to other families. We have been fortunate enough to be able to afford these things, but we realize that some people aren’t as lucky.


Demi told me more about her personal giving.
They have a friend, Brandon (name changed for privacy). He’s a single dad of triplets. The mother is not involved on a regular basis. Brandon has to provide for 3 children. On his own. Demi knows how expensive one growing child can be. So. She started helping in any way she could. Brandon’s children are just 6 months younger than Demi’s girl. 2 of the triplets are girls. So Brandon is fixed for “hand-me-downs”. Brandon is truly grateful for the regular supply of girl’s clothing that Demi gives every change of the season.
Right before Christmas, Demi was preparing for the incoming onslaught of new toys for baby girl. They found an unused toddler bed and chair. She messaged Brandon right away. A few days later, Brandon posted about bills and presents; how hard it would be to provide this year. Demi had thought about buying a few small gifts, but after the post, Demi’s husband went full-on Santa. Gender-neutral toys that all the kids would enjoy. Delivered to Brandon’s house just in time for Christmas Eve. They didn’t say a word, leave a note or want any attention for doing so. They did unto others as they would want for themselves. Unfortunately, Amazon shipping included the husband’s email and Brandon figured it out. Needless to say, he was very thankful.


Why do you volunteer or donate?

We donate to help those in need because we would hope someone would help us if the shoe was on the other foot. Whether it’s to Brandon and his kids or hurricane relief somewhere else. (The state of Florida thanks you, Demi!!)
How do you feel when you give?
It’s a good feeling. Sometimes I feel guilty that I couldn’t do more, but my husband reminds me that its better I do a little than nothing at all. (I agree with your husband! If we all do some, we can do it all. <—Has someone already said that? If not, it’s so true!)

If we all do some, we can do it all!


Are you Christian or other religious affiliation? Do you give for a specific reason?

We’re Christians, but not the “we think we’re holier than others” type. We aren’t going to spit out scriptures at you or chaste you for not going to church.
No specific reason we do–except for the Lupus Foundation as that is a close charity that I personally benefit from.
I don’t know if I was necessarily taught to donate or volunteer, I just think my mother instilled in us from a young age to help others when we can. I remember being out to eat as a kid and my mom giving me a few dollars to give to the homeless man sitting a few tables away. Since then, I’ve just always kind of done it. Giving money to a random homeless man, or buying them a meal, giving my clothes to someone who could benefit from them. And now that I’m a mother myself, I want to instill that in my daughter. That not everyone is as fortunate as we are, and that it’s good to help others when you can.
How do your kids feel about your helping?
I’m not really sure she fully grasps the concept yet. She’s only three. Occasionally when we’re packing up stuff she hasn’t played with for months, we get the “That’s my toy!” but we explain that you know you haven’t played with it in a while, and there is someone else who would enjoy it. After a few pouts, she usually just drops the subject, goes and plays with something else. Explaining the Santa to Seniors, and why we were getting gifts for “old people who weren’t grandma or grandpa” was a bit tricky. But she picked out the names of the women we got, ‘all E’s because her name starts with E’ and picked out the bags to put their stuff in, she even threw in some hot chocolate packets for them. I hope that as she gets older, she’ll admire us for it. And continue to do it as she grows up.


While Demi regularly donates old clothes and toys, she was moved to go above and beyond this holiday season. She said, “…it felt nice buying gifts for other people that probably actually deserve the gifts.” Every year, people feel burdened in buying gifts for extended family members as an act of obligation. Holiday gift exchange can feel like a pressure cooker of negativity and resentment, boiling over by Christmas. And at the end of it all you may, like Demi, wish you had helped someone who actually needed (not wanted) something.
Demi left me with this thought from John Bunyan:

You have not lived today
until you have done something for someone
who can never repay you.


Let us know how the book is coming, Demi. I can post a link in an update. Thanks for sharing!

Please consider donating to the Lupus Foundation or to Demi’s personal fundraising goal.

Christmas

Christmas isn’t special.
Christmas is just a day.
Christ wasn’t born on the 25th
In a lighted ornamental display.

There wasn’t any tinsel.
There was not one flake of snow.
There wasn’t any cocoa.
There was no electric glow.

Mary and Joseph
And a little baby God
Sharing time and space
With travelers abroad.

No one cared who they were.
No one even knew
What on Earth was happening,
Except for a special few.

Shepherds watched.
The stars flew close.
Entertaining angels bowed
And played Heaven’s host.

No food or present can capture joy
No movie or card can free
Tomorrow you’ll find your pretty box
Is empty under the tree

The only thing empty to find
Is one important place–
The tomb in the morning with Jesus’ clothes
Replaced with amazing grace.

Light the tree and sing your songs,
I won’t begrudge your choice.
Just don’t forget the simple birth
Of your freedom to rejoice.

Kathryn, Rachel, Irma & Torrence

This will be the fourth in a series of 5 short articles.
Irma blew through on September 10, 2017, the eye-30 miles east of our location.
We met Torrence just 1 day before Irma.

Previous articles:
Kathryn
Rachel
Irma

Torrence-#4


Torrence is tall. Intimidating. Large build. Emotionless face. Stone-cold stoic. Big guy. His face is like a smooth rock with dark gems shining from behind his modern frames. He is Navajo.

His voice, though. His voice. Soothing. Simple. Soft. Un-panicked. Unhurried. Reassuring. Masculine and strong, but sweet as a baby’s breath on your cheek. Ten thousand harps plucked at once. I’m sure Torrence has been trained to speak this way, but if you’re an angel, it probably comes naturally. Torrence was our voluntary angel.

We met Torrence during Irma. Sitting on a tile floor in a school cafeteria, staring up at towering Torrence. I felt like a scared, little kid. Looking for hope. Terrified that my apartment (just a town away) and all the tiny scraps of my life were about to blow away. Or drown. Or even worse, my life and the lives of my husband and daughter were in immediate danger from the impending storm. No one knew how bad Irma would be, but the weathermen all guessed (for days) it would be the worst storm in this century.

Torrence, however, gave us peace, information and cookies. 🙂 Cookies do help make a person feel normal somehow. Thank you, Cookies. But really, thank you, Torrence.

Torrence wore his Red Cross vest, cargo pants, sturdy boots and an invisible pair of wings. He took care of everyone around him. Without sleep. Without comforts.

While we all lounged around on the floor, trying not to complain about school lunch, hard surfaces or sharing bathrooms with 2,000 people, Torrence attended his flock. He would make his rounds with pertinent information, handing out treats and tranquility.

Torrence spoke so frequently with our family that I began to feel bad. Unworthy of such care. Our cafeteria floor neighbor even remarked at his attention.

“Do you know that guy?” she asked.

“No. We just met him. He’s Red Cross. He’s just nice.”

Torrence embodied Christ. All of my childhood and adult education about Jesus and his intention were summed up in Torrence’s actions. Christians all talk about being more Christ-like, but Torrence is doing it.

He’s calm. He’s caring. He puts others first. He had a pregnant wife at home and he’s 1,000 miles away helping strangers in a dangerous situation. When other people are leaving the state entirely, Torrence is rushing toward the storm. Thank you, Torrence. Thank you for your time, your dedication, your sacrifice and your skills. But most of all, thank you for your gracious care and protection. You were there in case things got crazy. I’m sure we didn’t see the full potential of your capability, but I’m so thankful to have met you.

When you meet someone who acts the way you want people to act, how you aspire to be? It’s a good feeling. It’s meaningful. It’s important.


From the first moment I met Torrence, I couldn’t shake the feeling that he looked exactly like my German grandmother, Kathryn. I mentioned it to my husband. He just looked at me like, “Huh?”

They look nothing alike. He’s a tall dude. She was a short white lady with blue eyes. He’s nice. She was a hard-edged crone. But I had this ethereal, wispy connection to her spirit through his rugged features. I don’t know why. I just don’t. But she was there in his face. Strange how we connect the dots.

And as I thought more about his face, he reminded me of my friend Rachel from high school. But in my mind, she’s a petite African-American teenager. Torrence is in no way feminine. But these two women from my life are there in his face.

All completely different. All there together. What does it mean?

It’s In the Knowing

We all know loss
We all know pain
We all know hurt
All are soaked by the rain

God knows loss
God knows pain
God knows hurt
God gave all for All’s gain

If you know hurt, loss, pain? Love?
Then you know sacrifice.

If you know sacrifice?
Then you know God.

From the moment God created, he knew.
We were known.

He knew what he would have to do.
And created us anyway.

To be known is to hurt.
And also to be loved.

No one lives anonymously. Thank God.

The Rock

Psalm 91:1
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow
of the Almighty.


If I am the immobile mountain, move me.
If your love is the mountain, then I shall be the one to climb.
If your summit is unknowable, then let me dangle from your shadows and shelter.
Let me live at the foot of your love.

Christmas is Temporary

From 2014:

Christmas is fleeting. All year long, we wait in anticipation of the holidays and then we complain the whole time. It’s too crowded, cold, busy, expensive, gluttonous, hurried. I didn’t get what I wanted. I gave everyone a present and now I’m broke and alone.

The spirit. The spirit of the holidays. The joy of Christmas. What is it? Is it lights? Is it cocoa? Is it candy, presents, cookies? Is it the promise and hope of magic? But it never comes. We wait all year and it never comes. And then the lights fade and the tinsel is taken down.

Christmas is temporary.

But it’s not. What is it we are waiting for? What is it that we miss every year and chase after time and again? It’s Christ. That’s what we are really looking for and we’re looking in the wrong places. Is it in this tin of cookies? Is it in this neatly-wrapped box? Is it at the bottom of my second cup of cocoa? Is it at my 2nd, 3rd, 7th Christmas karaoke party?

An entire season is dedicated to what started out as a celebration of giving and hope. Hundreds of years have come and gone, each renewing the tradition of Christmas. But each year some family grows further apart. Each year some person grows more jaded, cynical, greedy and Scrooge-like. Each year our eyes grow more narrow and short-sighted. Each year we try to chase our pleasure, fulfillment and that indescribable magic that only caught us as children because we were bright-eyed and open.

Years ago, at the Blue Ridge Mall, they had a display. I don’t remember now if it was all the time or just at Christmas, but I remember it at Christmas. We were in line for Santa and the line snaked by a huge oil fall. It’s a waterfall except they used oil on strings. It’s like a waterfall in slow motion. It was magical, beautiful and a wondrous summation of the holiday experience for me. I lost myself in the endless strings dripping with glowing, hypnotic oil. I felt warm, silly and excited. I drank in the luxury of it all as I waited for Santa. I don’t remember Santa exactly, but I remember the strings. I wanted to reach out and grab them. But instead I swallowed my fingers and excitement over and over again at simply being near them. At that point, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I remember Mom and Dad close by. I remember my siblings there too. I remember the sounds of cheerful shoppers as they shuffled by and their muffled packages swaying back and forth in their clasped hands. I remember the soft mall lighting and the quiet aromas of furniture, leather shoes, popcorn, clothing, carpet and mall food. I remember feeling safe, happy, joyful. The mood was love. And everyone felt it.

Now, I’ve begun a tradition with my family. We try to see Longview Lake Lights. We’ve been coming off and on for a few years now. And the best part. They have a field full of trees made from lights. Those are my favorite. They remind me of the oil fall. Delicate pearls of light suspended in the darkness, soft purple and blue, hanging on invisible strings melting into the night. For the last couple of years, it’s the most peaceful and the most child-like capture of innocence and wonder I’ve known. I’m five again. I’m eight again. I’m me before all the bad. I’m in Christmas up to my neck and in love with the world.

I wish I could take that with me. I wish I could visit the lights every night. But I can’t. The lights are even closer now that we live here, but even so, I can’t see them every night. But I can look for Christ. I can look for him every day and celebrate his birth. I don’t have to wait for “the day”. And I can try to capture his joy, his love, his intention, his gift every single moment, all year long. I can look for it as I drive, shop, eat and talk. I don’t have to wait all year and miss it. I can look and find it. I just have to be bright-eyed and open. His love is hanging right in front of our faces on an invisible string of light, dripping down and mesmerizing us with the delicate, graceful fall and we just have to reach out and grab it.

Merry Xmas! Happy Holidays! May you find many joys and love.

1st Amendment or: Why I Celebrate Thanksgiving

US Constitution, Bill of Rights, Amendment 1
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.


Plain-talk pilgrims punished for passion
Simple ways and modest fashion
Boiling it down to what’s important
All things under Heaven subordinate

Lost forever to their motherland
Radical devotion to the Father’s right hand
Known for their annoying zeal
But, oh, to have an ounce of the fervor they feel

Concerned for the future, they left for the wild
Believing to be the obedient child
They lost half, nothing but an epitaph
Yielding to Divination and the Shepherd’s staff

And yet they endured.

On to 1776, our fathers feared for rights
Fought fiercely for freedom beneath the rampart lights
By 1787, we agreed to the essential list
No government should ever rule by sword, or gun, or fist

We may speak and worship how we choose
Humbly honor each other’s views
Gather where we will and please
Carry the jangling links of Liberty’s keys

So today I celebrate the birth of religious choice
I am thankful to live in a country where I can raise my singular voice
I will honor that by being kind and listening to others sing
And rejoice with Thanksgiving at the sound of Freedom’s ring

And yet we endure.

I acknowledge the bloody history of the past, the almost-elimination of the Native American, the withholding of rights for minorities, but on this foundation, we can strive for something better. Uphold the spirit of the law, if not the letter. And the spirit is to offer freedom to everyone, the way in which Christ offers freedom to me. Amen.


Happy Thanksgiving from sunny Florida! Enjoy.

Gratitude

November has officially become a month-long thankful pack of sticky notes on Facebook. That’s great. Truly. But what about the other 11 months? 🙂

So I hesitate to join, but. I will.

I am thankful for so much. But this Thanksgiving, I am deep-down, toes-to-tassel thankful for my life.

Since 2012, and really before that, I have been sick. Heart failure. Twice. Thyroid cancer. Gastric bypass. Gallbladder failure.

And now, 226 lbs lighter, I feel better than I’ve ever felt in my entire life. Even when I was young. Mainly because I also feel emotionally better. It feels like all the sickness is finally gone. I can just tell.

For years I struggled with a failing GB. Probably a decade, in hindsight. Also, I probably had a thyroid issue my entire life because I have been overweight from a young age.

Mom always said, “You were born hungry.” A mother knows. Just wish she could have told or shown the doctors where to look. Nonetheless, this was my destiny.

I am thankful for my trouble. It has taught me endurance.

James 1:2-4 NASB

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

(Perhaps missing/lacking a few organs, but otherwise, lacking in nothing. LOL)

It has also taught me humility. Patience. Joy. Peace. Understanding. Wisdom. Tolerance. So many things.

Under any other circumstances, would I be the person I have finally come to love entirely? I don’t know. God didn’t do this to me. But he knew how far I could go. He knew the traps. He knew the joys. He knew how strong I could be with him.

I truly did not think it was possible. To see 287.6 lbs again. That’s what I was yesterday afternoon, on the scale. I did not think it was possible to live past the age of 50. I did not think it was possible to ever feel right again. Out of pain. Able to walk. Able to work.

One year ago, I was preparing for surgery. High-protein diet to shrink my liver. Thanksgiving was the last day I could eat. I savored it. Thinking it might be my last tasty morsel before a lifetime of bland, tiny meals. Or worse. My last meal before operation table disaster. Dying.

But I made it. I made it to the next Thanksgiving. How wonderful to be on the other side. Maybe that’s what it’s like to go to Heaven. Thankful to be done and home at last.

Home again, home again, jiggity jig.

Maybe this is what I needed for this ultra-thick head. Maybe this was my come-to-Jesus moment. Maybe this was my “fall on my knees because I have nothing left.”

I’m by no means done. I am just beginning again. And I am so thankful just to be alive. And 287. 🙂


Only 87 lbs to goal!!! 😀