Girl Scout Cookies

I’m eating Girl Scout Cookies…and, I really don’t even feel bad about it.

Now, you may eat Girl Scout Cookies all the time, and, if so, I salute you. Me? Well, we BUY lots of Girl Scout Cookies because little people in our family that we love sell them, but I try not to eat that many. You know, sugar and all. But today is different…

Today is a hard day and I’m feeling a little down. You know, one of those days where you just have a hard time not wanting to get back in the bed and pull the covers over your head. What’s going on, you ask? Well, I guess a few things: trying to make some life changes that seem so hard, trying to navigate around obstacles in the way of a new career; but, mostly, I lost a friend.

I lost a friend to cancer last weekend and we laid her to rest today. She was a fighter whose faith never wavered, but was ultimately sold out by her body. Physical death, such terrible business, huh? And so many of us prayed, believed, and prayed some more, for three years, that she would be healed and beat this dreaded disease. And, I guess in the end, she received the ULTIMATE healing, since I believe she is standing in the presence of God as I’m writing this – whole, happy and completely pain-free. I’m honestly a little jealous.

While I am so happy knowing she is free of cancer, I am still sad. And, I have questions. You know what I’m talking about – that “list” you have of all the things you’re going to ask God when you get to heaven, except then, it really won’t matter? Yeah, I’m kinda going over that list today. Ugh.

And, you know, this isn’t the first time I’ve had questions. Nope. Not my first rodeo, as we Texans say, but still as grueling, still as painful, still as disheartening. I mean, healing is such an enigma, such a puzzle. I can’t make heads or tails of it. So, why not my friend? What happened? What didn’t happened?

Here’s the thing: I don’t have these answers. In fact, there are lots of answers about God, Christianity and why bad things happen to Believers, that I have no clue about. But more important are the answers that I DO know about God, about this life I live as a Believer. And, here is what I DO know and believe:

I believe that God is good, that He hears our prayers, that He is concerned with every detail of our lives. And, I believe He heals. Yes, even today, I believe He heals people all the time.

Do I wish things had turned out differently and my friend was still here, well and pain-free? Yes, I do. Do I understand why some are healed and others are not? No, I don’t. Is my heart broken for her husband, children, family and friends? Yes, it is. Am I angry at cancer and beyond TIRED of hearing that word and seeing the devastation it brings? Oh, absolutely.  But, while these questions will most likely be in my mind for the rest of my physical life, the experiences that I have  had with God and the way He has moved in my life, over and over again, trump these questions. Every. Single. Time.

So, I’m choosing to imitate my precious friend. I’m going to keep my eyes on God, even in the midst of the battle and I’m going to be a light in what becomes and a more and more dark world around me. I Corinthians 13:12 says,

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
That’s where my sweet friend is this very day. She sees it all – the secrets, the treasures, the answers to the puzzles, but most of all, she sees the face of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Yep, I have questions, but the bottom line is,
What I DO know as a Believer in Christ is enough for me to want to put my faith, my uncertainty and my whole life in the hands of my God.
It’s enough.
So, today I’m gonna eat these Girl Scout Cookies, but tomorrow, I’m gonna work as hard as I can to make my life count. Because that’s what my sweet friend did and she did it well.

It’s February, so I’m Sick

In keeping with my pattern of confirming that December is the most WONDERFUL time of the year, and January is the most DEPRESSING time of the year, I’d like to also confirm that February is the most SICK time of the year…wait, poor grammar there. How about February is the SICKEST time of the year? Not that much better…

Now, when I say that February is the sickest time of the year, you may think that I mean creepiest or most disturbing. But here I’m actually using the word in its most common meaning: sickest meaning illest. Except I’m not sure illest is a word, either?

Anyway, let me just leave the vocabulary lesson for a moment and explain. For the past 4 years, in a row, I’ve gotten sick during the month of February. For 4 years. In February. And, I don’t mean just a little sick, either, I mean REALLY sick. Observe:

3 years ago, in February, I got the flu with strep throat. Wow, what a bummer for me.

2 years ago, in February, I got the flu with strep throat AND bronchitis. What are the odds?

Last year, I got strep throat and bronchitis. At least, I dodged the flu.

Which brings us to THIS February, and to be very prompt, I got bronchitis/walking pneumonia on February 1. Unbelievable? I’d agree, if only it wasn’t happening to ME!

Needless to say, I get a little nervous towards the end of January. And, I know there are some really great things that happen in February, like Punxsutawney Phil making his yearly appearance, (the groundhog, for those who are unfamiliar with his real name), Valentine’s Day, which includes chocolate, date night and LOVE! Then, of course every 4 years in February, we get the winter Olympics! Ice skating, ski jumping, such excitement! And, if that’s not enough reason to love February, 2 of my children’s birthdays are also in February!

Well, then, what’s not to love about February? I’ll tell you what: fever, coughing, excruciatingly sore throat, headache, sleepless nights and an over-production of mucus!

So, here I am, February 2018, sick again. But, hey, I’m not going to let this get me down, no way! 2018 is going to be a great year, full wonderful times with family, laughter over coffee with great friends and the favor and faithfulness of God.

I’m not sure what you’ve got going on today, hopefully it doesn’t involve kleenex, thermometers and fever reducers like what I’ve got going on, but remember this: life may try to knock us down, but, like the old song says,

“I get knocked down, but I get up again, you are never gonna keep me down.”

That song was popular the year my son was born, 21 years ago, so you youngsters may not recognize it…born 21 years ago yesterday, during February, the sickest month of the year, or the illest, or when I’m the illest or, uh, I don’t know, my head’s a little fuzzy.

 

 

 

The Fudge is Gone

Well. The fudge is gone.

Yep. I ate the last piece yesterday, washed the Christmas tin, put it in the drain board…with a long sigh.

OK, some of you are thinking, so big deal. Well, it is kind of a big deal. And it’s not just about the fudge.

See, I make fudge every year about half way through December and eat 1 piece every day all throughout the holidays. OK. I cut it into small pieces and actually eat more than 1 piece a day, so sue me. Anyway, I make it last as long as I possibly can. Just like I do with the holidays.

See, I totally love Christmas! I mean, I love everything about it: the lights, the decorations, the tree, the beautifully colored wrapping paper and bows, the music, the fresh, clean smell of pine. And, I love the people – people everywhere, the shopping, looking for the perfect gift, gathering together, feasting together, enjoying family from out of town, neighbors from across the street, the smiles, the laughter, the sharing. And, obviously, I love celebrating the birth of Jesus: the absolute reason for my freedom, my forgiveness, my forbearance in this fraught-filled life.

But, there is a down-side to Christmas: it comes. And it goes. Just like that, after weeks of preparation, I go to bed late on Christmas Eve and, despite my excitement, one little defiant part of my heart can’t help but think, “It’s almost over.” And, then it is over and the hardest month of my life begins: the it’s-January-and-the-holidays-are-over grind. Oh, it’s a grind, my friends.

The out-of-town family leaves, the gorgeous wrapping paper is in shreds, the ready-made bows don’t stick anymore, the Christmas radio stations go back to playing regular music, I eat that last piece of fudge, the tree begins to wither and so does my spirit. But, why?

Songs have even been written about it, like “Why can’t we have Christmas all through the year,” etc. Why do we want Christmas all year? I mean, who can afford Christmas all year, right? But, I think it’s much deeper than that. We love the spirit of Christmas, don’t we? You know what I mean, that spirit of generosity to those in need, selflessness toward friends and family, kindness to strangers. We value time with family more, the sweetness of just being together.

But then Christmas comes and goes, reality sneaks back in, the house is put back in order and people like me are practically in tears by the time the tree is thrown to the curb.  And, unfortunately, joy is often replaced with sadness, time with family is exchanged for the busyness of life, kindness snuffed out by self-absorption. Yep. If December is “the most wonderful time of the year,” January must be “the most depressing time of the year.”

Maybe I’m all alone in my funk, but I doubt it. So, what do we do? How can we de-bunk the January funk? Here’s what I say: we need to remember that the spirit of Christmas is really the spirit of Christ, who actually lives INSIDE of us! Absolutely, yes! Right there with us, in the middle of this sadness, is Jesus, and guess what? He’s actually available after the Christmas tree dies and the black plastic bags filled with the wrapping paper are put out in the trash can! And, newsflash: He wants us to continue to be filled with joy, with wonder, with the simple kindness and compassion that our world desperately needs to see. He wants us to be filled with HIM.

Look, we’re only a few days into 2018 and it’s already very rudely pulled a few punches on me. Oh, yeah, I’m already licking some wounds, thinking, “Oh no! Easy, 2018, please be gentle, please play nice.” I suspect some of you feel the same. There are real needs, true trouble, the kinds that can make us lose our breath at times, let alone our footing. If we look around at our circumstances long enough, it’s easy to just settle into the blahs and blues of this after-Christmas-season. But I want more from 2018, don’t you! 2018 may try to play hard ball with me, but I’m going to keep my eyes, my ears, my heart and my mind on the One that has already conquered 2018 and its best shots. Why?

Because God loves me! He adores me! He has an amazing plan for me and as long as I stay with Him, He and all of His goodness will come out on top. Is it going to be all hot chocolate, snow and “chestnuts roasting on an open fire?” Heck, no! But, we are promised victory where it counts.

I don’t know if you saw the children’s movie, The Star, that came out around Thanksgiving? If not, try to see it, it was wonderful (good for you, Sony Pictures,) but Casting Crowns did a beautiful rendition of His Eye is on the Sparrow. Check out these words:

Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come? Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home? When Jesus is my portion, a constant friend is He. For I know His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me. HIs eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

‘Let not your heart be troubled,’ His tender words I hear. And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubt and fear. When Jesus is my portion, my constant friend is He. For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

And listen to this:

I sing because I’m happy! I sing because I’m free! His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me! His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me!

So, I’m going to dig into God’s Word, stay connected with friends and family, and believe for those dreams that God has given me to happen this year. I’m gonna go ahead and put that fudge tin away, for now, and believe that 2018 is going to go down in the books as a life-changing and fantastic year for me, no matter what happens! Who’s with me!

The After

There is something about vacations that no one ever really talks about. It’s a difficult subject, but, because I care about you, the reader, I’m going to talk about it. And, honestly, someone needs to.

It’s THE AFTER.

AFTER the vacation is over, AFTER you get home with mounds of laundry, AFTER every minute is no longer consumed with fun, AFTER you have to tackle, or at least put on a list, all of the things you put off BEFORE the vacation, because you were busy getting ready for said vacation.

It’s the AFTER.

Now, this can be a very trying time, complete with exhaustion, disorientation, disillusionment. CRYING, even crying. It’s also a time when you feel that you need to make certain statements, to the NO ONE at your house who is listening, like,

“Why on earth were we gone so long? It’s not normal to be gone that long. We must be crazy…”

and…

“Was that vacation worth all this work? Ha! I think not…”

and, finally…

“I’m NEVER taking another vacation as long as I live!”

And as the words are leaving your lips, you know in your heart, “Yes! I really will take another vacation, I want to take another vacation, I could be ready in 30 minutes…” It’s a real low.

Yep. AFTER a vacation can be a grueling time, and my AFTER has been just that. My AFTER has looked something like this:

  1. sick for a week
  2. contractors at my house daily working on our bathrooms
  3. unpacking all of said bathroom things and finding a new home for them
  4. deciding on/purchasing new items for said new bathrooms
  5. July 4th
  6. doctors appointments
  7. NORMAL LIFE, (which can be difficult enough)

Now, I don’t know about you, but I suffer from this condition called PERFECTIONISM, maybe you’ve heard of it? Perfectionism in my life strikes when I pound myself mentally because I only got 22 of the 23 things done on my “To Do” list. It pushes me to do more than I know I can do. It haunts my sleep, it causes me to go all day without resting or eating when I need to. It’s exhausting.

So, here I am, tired, stressed, irritated, which all lead to me being DISTRACTED. Distracted to the point to where I’m in the shower, thinking about the KA-ZILLION things on my “To Do” list, and I have this conversation with myself,

“Did I shave under my arms? I don’t know. I thought I did, but maybe I didn’t. Oh well, who cares? But, what if I wear a sleeveless shirt later? AM I wearing a sleeveless shirt later? If I am, I really need to shave under my arms. What’s happening later? What day is it? Oh, I’ve got so much to do, I need to shave under my arms and get going.”

So, I shave under my arms, only to realize about 30 seconds later, yes, I DID already shave under my arms. So, basically, I start my day with razor-burned under arms, and a razor that’s getting dull quicker, all because I’m so distracted.

Ever been there? Maybe so.

I finally get to the place where I have to ask, “Why am I pushing myself so hard? Is there a cash award waiting for me if I complete my “To Do” list? What’s going to happen if I DON’T complete my “To Do” list? Will my husband pin a badge on me that says, ‘World’s Worst Wife?’ Will the world come to an end, for crying out loud?”

No. None of these things will happen. Then why is it that I, and I suspect some of you, strive for perfection? The answers are hard to find sometimes. What I do know is that it’s not good for us and God never intended for us to strive at all. Look at His words in Psalm 46:10a,

“Cease striving and know that I am God” NASB

The truth is, trying to do anything in our own strength doesn’t go well. God is the one that accomplishes things through us and His word says that when we are WEAK, He is STRONG! And, us making ourselves crazy by trying to be perfect, doesn’t get us “brownie points” with Him. Why not? Because we don’t need them! He loves us just as much when we lay on the couch in our PJs all day, watching Hallmark Movie Channel, as He does when we complete our entire “To Do” list. Mind. Blown.

I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a pretty sweet gig. And, my arm pits are so relieved…