Welcome Home

October  27 is a bittersweet day for me. It is a day that leaves me kind of weepy, sad, and nostalgic all at the same time. It is also a day that reminds me of the joy of having Christ as my Savior and the hope of heaven. Eight years ago today my husband of 28 years woke up in a glorious new place, and sometimes I envy him for getting to experience what I long for someday. Then five years later to the day, and almost to the same minute, my Mom silently drew her last breath and was welcomed into heaven.

Tom & LindaI miss them both, and selfishly, I would love to still have them here by my side. But the reality is that life goes on without them. I have had bad days and good days, but the good ones outnumber the bad ones. I have learned I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. I have grown a little wiser and I have learned some lessons about life.

Here are some of the lessons I learned:

How you die doesn’t really matter, it is how you live that is important.

Both my husband and my mom had a big influence on the lives around them. At each of their visitations, there were long lines of people who had stories to tell of how they touched their lives.

I will never forget one man telling me of the time Tom came and visited him in the hospital when the man was sure he was going to die. He felt hopeless and defeated. Tom laughed with him, joked with him, and let him know that he really cared about what he was going through. The man told me that was the moment when he decided he was going to fight for his life. I never knew that until Tom’s funeral. I am sure even Tom never knew what that one hospital visit did for a friend. People shared story after story with me of how much they appreciated my husband.

At my Mom’s funeral one of the young men she mentored shared his story of how Mom impacted his life. He indicated that he would have been walking a totally different road filled with drugs and alcohol if she had not taken him under her wing. As he wept for her, it just reinforced our knowledge that Mom (and Dad, too) was always willing to take a chance on someone and give them a reason to be better people.

Losing someone doesn’t make them a less important part of our life.

I think that sometimes when we lose someone we are afraid that they are going to totally disappear. But I see Tom in so many ways around me. I see him when I look at our children and grandchildren (some who never had the joy of being held by him). I can hear him boasting about his garden sometimes when I pick up a huge tomato at the farmer’s market by my house. I miss him on holidays and during family celebrations, but he is always remembered. He was and always will be a part of my life.

MomIt is hard to describe the legacy my mom has left for so many people. She was tough as nails and quite the perfectionist, but she was also a great role model. She was a realist and a survivor of a difficult childhood filled with poverty and the stigma of a mentally ill father. She taught us the value of hard work, education, and family. And she made the best homemade donuts and rolls you will ever have. As anyone in our immediate and extended family could tell you, she was the very definition of the word matriarch! She was and will always be a huge influence on her family.

Grieving is necessary but it is okay to live

I think a big lesson I learned is it is okay to grieve, but it is also okay to be alive. Certainly even after all this time, grief still sneaks up on me like a thief in the night, but it is okay to keep on laughing, loving, and living. I think that is one of the things I learned from Mom. She had a lot of loss in her life, but she did not let that beat her into the shell of a woman. When my Dad died, she grieved for him, but she still let herself find joy in her family and friends. And in reality, I did not grieve in the way that someone who has no hope grieves. I have the hope of heaven and I know my husband and my Mom loved God. And so, the biggest lesson I have learned is:

Life is short, make sure you are ready for the future.

I know that I have a Redeemer and his name is Jesus. I look forward to seeing his promises fulfilled. Someday this lowly body will die and I will have a new one in heaven. Time as I know it will be no more. I do not know when that will be but I do know that the older I get, the more quickly time passes. I am not sure what heaven will be like and I kind of think it may not be anything like I imagine. But I do know that I eagerly anticipate the day I will be able to sing “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come,” along with the throngs in heaven. I get chills when I imagine that day and the anticipation of what is to come. I want to be ready when God calls my name and says “Welcome home.” And I would like to think that Tom and Mom are there, too, with arms open wide, welcoming me home.

 

 

 

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Four Things I Learned from Failure*

youre-fired-300x241When my husband and I were dating  and just getting to know one another, we shared about the various jobs we had in our past.  My husband told me that he was fired from his very first job.  He thought everyone should be fired at least once in their life because you learn many lessons from it.

This past week I had a conversation with someone who is graduating from college soon.  She is anxious about stepping out into a new world and having to make it on her own.  Her biggest question to me was, “What if I fail?”  My reply was, “What if you do? Most people fail at something.  It’s how you handle failure that’s important.”  Failure happens to most of us at one time or another and in our culture we consider failure as something to be avoided at all cost.

My contention is that we need failure in our lives occasionally.  It is through failure that we learn. When a baby is learning to walk she doesn’t automatically take off.  She fails a few times first.  She takes a step and falls down, but as she learns to take the next steps she figures out what works and what doesn’t.  She may learn so well that she may eventually even learn to run.

There are many things we can learn from our failures, but here are four key things I have learned from mine.

  1. Humility

Sometimes we fail because we are unwilling to listen and learn from others.  I have seen this play out on multiple occasions.  It is pretty humbling when we fail, especially if we have neglected to let the wisdom of others guide us.  I have to tell you, I have “eaten crow” on more than one occasion.  But if we learn humility we are far more likely to succeed in our endeavors.

  1. Perseverance

When I was learning to drive, I was ready to quit after my first time behind the wheel.  It was a disaster.  But with encouragement from my instructor, I persevered and eventually was able to drive on my own.

Henry Ford said, “Perseverance is a positive attribute we need to learn as we mature. Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Sometimes we initially fail in our attempts, but with practice can succeed. The saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is apt for most of us.

  1. Adaptation

Sometimes we experience a huge failure, such as a failed marriage, a failed career, or any other of a myriad of things.  But we learn that even though we fail, our life goes forward.  We may experience the pain of failure for a while, but to survive we must make adjustments and adapt to our new environment.  Individuals who have learned to adapt to new circumstances thrive more quickly than those who can’t get past their moment of failure.

  1. Courage

Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  It takes courage to get back on our feet after a failure.  When we can get up and try again, we grow stronger.

Peter had a colossal failure when he denied Christ three times prior to Christ’s crucifixion (John 18:15-27).  Yet he grew to be a key figure in helping spread the gospel in the world around him.  While the source of his courage was the Lord, the fact is that his failure taught him a valuable lesson about faithfulness.

There is no doubt that I have failed many times in my life.  And, to be perfectly honest, there will probably be times in the future that I also fail.  But I can’t let my failures define who I am and what I do.  When I fail, I try to put everything in the proper perspective, learn from my failure, and find the courage to move on.

How do you handle failure in your life?  Do you let it define who you are?  Do you become so bogged down by failure that you can’t move forward in your life?  When we put our failures in God’s hands, it’s amazing what He can do with us.  I want to be like Peter, who after a huge failure, regrouped and let God use Him in mighty ways.  What about you?

*This article was originally published on August 30, 2011 on my cwrn blog.

 

Heartaches and Hope

If you have lived any time at all, you already know that in this life bad things happen.  No matter who you are, or where you live, or what you do, at some point pain and heartache will touch your life. Whether you are rich or poor, young or old, male or female, you are not exempt from this thing we call life.

sorrow 1Sometimes days are just hard. The heartache that comes seems unbearable. Continue reading “Heartaches and Hope”

Sometimes Life Is Hard

tearsSometimes life is just hard. My heart has been full of sadness for some of my friends and family lately. I cannot tell you how many of them have been going through crisis mode.  The loss of a family member, the loss of a job, the loss of a child, the heartbreak of a broken marriage, the pain of broken confidences, a diagnosis of cancer, and the list goes on.  Each one of them are precious individuals who are reeling from their hurt and pain. I wish I could fix it for them. But I can’t. Continue reading “Sometimes Life Is Hard”

Being Enough

Sometimes I struggle in life with the futility of being enough.  I want to stop being “ordinary” and do something special with my life. You may know what I mean. I think if I am just a better person, or if I work just a little harder, or if I do just a little more, or if I am just a little smarter–I can be loved more, recognized more, rewarded more, respected more . . . and, you get the picture.  In all honesty, that kind of thinking is futile and leads to discouragement and disappointment.  Because I am searching for significance in the wrong things and the wrong people.

That’s why I love God’s grace. Continue reading “Being Enough”

Sick and Tired of It!

I am tired of it.  Utterly, dismayingly, (that’s my big word for the day), totally sick and tired of it.  I can’t tell you how many times in the last few days I have seen posts from both my conservative and liberal friends attacking each other and accusing each other in totally inappropriate and misleading ways.

Take today for instance.  I read a facebook post about Carrie Underwood standing up for her baby as a person and how the liberal media criticized her for it. The article went on to say “liberals” are even willing to have children under the age of 5 killed because their brains have not fully formed consciousness.  Really, people?  Quit using scare tactics and mistruth and twisted statements to further your agenda.

The fact of the matter is that Carrie Underwood had a very nice conversation with Jimmy Fallon about singing to her baby.  It wasn’t even remotely about “defending right to life.” It was just a conversation about singing to her baby. One of the statements made in another article was an accusation that someone referred to it as “her unborn baby” instead of a life.  REALLY?  Do you know how many times I referred to my child as “the baby” when I was pregnant?  It didn’t in any way diminish my child’s life.

I confess, there are times I post articles that are about issues that get to me. Such as government research on farm animals in Nebraska, or Illinois’ new law giving schools access to social media passwords if they feel it is warranted.  But at least I checked Snopes first or verify it from other sources, before posting it.  And yes, I realize Snopes isn’t always the most reliable source, but I have found it to be generally helpful.

I guess my biggest concern is that as Christians we need to be loving, kind and respectful to others, even those we disagree with.  Yes, there are people out there doing wrong (some of them may even be us.)  And yes, I do believe that there is some mainstream media bias against Christians.  But what do you think Jesus’ response would be? I don’t see him getting on a political bandwagon to make his points. And, somehow I don’t see him going on Facebook and posting about all the big, bad people out there.  Instead I envision him loving on them and sitting down to meals with them, and listening to them. (Oh wait, I think he DID do that.)

What about you? How will you respond to people you disagree with? Will you treat them with love or disdain? Will you be honest with your concerns or blow things way out of proportion to make a point? Al I ask is that you think before you post.

Matthew 5:43-48–“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (NIV)

http://qpolitical.com/carrie-underwood-reveals-secrets-jimmy-fallon-making-liberals-furious/

http://tellmenow.com/2014/12/liberals-livid-after-carrie-underwood-says-this-about-faith/

Leaving a Legacy

Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking at our annual ladies’ tea and talked about leaving a legacy.  This was actually prompted by the recent death of my mother and knowing what a wonderful legacy she has left. She has touched more lives than anyone can possibly know and the ripple effect will continue on for generations.  As I thought about this, I also thought about how my life is being lived and what kind of legacy I am leaving for my family and friends.

Here are some of my conclusions on leaving a legacy. Shannon Adler said, “Carve you name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” We want to leave a positive legacy. But how do we get there? Here are some areas we need to think about.

Continue reading “Leaving a Legacy”

Goodbye . . . for now

100_4237A few years ago for Mother’s Day, I wrote the following blog post about my mom.  Today my heart is aching and my emotions are raw, as I prepare to say my final goodbye.  Her death has left our entire family devastated.  My mom was a unique, one-of-kind woman. and it is hard to even comprehend the impact she has had on multiple lives.  It would take an entire book to share the kind of life she lived, the kind of example she set, and the kind of love that she showed. She was a mentor to many, an extraordinary friend, and an awesome mom. Continue reading “Goodbye . . . for now”

Safe Haven Friendships

As a women’s ministry leader I have been reminded over and over again that people want true authenticity from their leaders. However, in reality, that is much easier said than done.   While many women are social and friendships are important to them, it is rare to have those true “safe haven” friendships. You know the ones—the ones where you can truly be yourself, with all your flaws, all your doubts, all your hurts and all your disappointments. Those friendships are few and far in between.

I consider myself extremely blessed because last weekend I was able to spend time with two of my safe haven friends. They are women I trust implicitly with my secrets, my hurts, and my dreams. They don’t judge me. Continue reading “Safe Haven Friendships”