Hope, Keeping it Real

Glimpses of Heaven on Earth

I think I need to give into the fact that this is the current situation and it would make sense that when I write it would be fertile ground for sharing pieces of hope and encouragement just as much as any other set of difficult circumstances. 

If I told you about how many times in the last 72 hours I saw and felt God at work in the most amazing, profound and stunning ways you would literally just be blown away. I do want to summarize and share some pieces of that in hopes that you would see Him today in a whole new light and be reminded, perhaps, of how big He is and maybe, like myself, have kind of put Him in a limited box or space from time to time. That makes me sick to my stomach, but after these few days I can see how I have done that before, again, still and even now. 

Do you know that dying is hard work? I never really thought of that but watching it happen and how our bodies literally are either in fight or flight at all times is just amazing. We are created so intricately, so purely attached and sewn together by His hand that it is just almost too much. Watching someone inching closer to reaching for Jesus’ outstretched hand and her body say, not, not yet, is the most beautiful and awful experience all at once.  As crazy as this all seems and sounds, there are people surrounding me during this time that have witnessed pieces of all of these things for themselves. Yes, there are days and nights when I am not sure if I am dreaming or delusional but I tell you what I think that God actually has given me a clear vision of some pretty fantastic things. 

Watching a person fight like hell, watching how our body responds when it starts to die and yet goes into a place of fighting to hang on is so fascinating. Fight or flight. Hold on and let go. All at the same time. There it is again. The both/and. 

Yesterday I know that I saw a glimpse of heaven, and that my mom saw a vision of the after. Not maybe the afterlife, although that picture was definitely shared with her but the after for her children and specifically for me. .

Our day started in a quiet space. I was up really early as sleep is just hard to come by at the moment. I had some nice classical church hymns playing and the blinds drawn. The princess suite (the area created for my mom to rest) was very peaceful and serene. While mom was struggling to utter more than one word sentences, struggling to feed herself (she still tries and then we take over for her) and all of this is happening, she starts to cry. When I asked her if she was sad she said yes. I asked her if she wanted to talk about what was making her sad. She said yes and proceeded to tell me she was going to miss me.

Now, about that time, we had some visitors coming to the door to see us and while my bestie went to find them outside and bring them in I was able to say all of the things I wanted my mom to hear before she couldn’t respond at all. She might be unresponsive at some point (we know it is coming) and although she may be able to hear us, I guess I just needed to know by seeing her face and whatever response she could give that she had in fact heard me.I told her I loved her and that we were sad to see her go, but it was much harder to watch her suffer and that I knew that Jesus was waiting for her. So we cried together and then one of my other dear friends and his wife came in right as I had turned the volume down on the sound system. 

For awhile, we sat and talked about heaven and how awesome it was going to be. We visited and chatted and mom was still emotional, so I asked her if she wanted to line dance. She laughed. I changed the music to the kind of music she enjoyed and we listened to songs by Don Williams, Merle Haggard, etc. and a little sing along ensued. Stop right there. Maybe you are thinking that we have lost our minds, but I am telling you that humor and laughter is good and healthy as long as you counter that with feeling the emotions on the opposite ends of the spectrum and are not using humor as an avoidance tactic. I have experienced just about every emotion and feeling we could possibly know in hour-by-hour increments, minute-by-minute increments for quite some time now, so I am celebrating with the sense of humor, sarcasm and wit that runs deeply in this family.

As our visit started to wind down, after a whole lot of sharing faith, hope, experience and worship, I asked my friends to pray with me over my mom. And so there the 4 of us stood and we praised God and we shared our pleas for complete healing and a peaceful transition.

Do you know that I had thought about or dreamed about calling those very same people to come visit and pray with me? Do you know that I had not uttered a word about that and my person took it upon herself to call them for me and I had no idea. When she told me that they were coming out, I was stunned and there may have been more snot-crying. She thought I was upset, and I said, “No, you don’t understand. I either dreamed it or thought about it but I had already planned to call them because I had already seen us standing around mom just talking with our friend Jesus.” He knew what was going to happen and He had already shown me. She heard Him and she knew what I needed. That’s what love does. That’s how God works. 

Not even 2 hours after what felt like maybe close to some final hours with the condition mom was in, to the time she started one of her comfort meds and I am sitting there watching my mom who could not communicate well, feed herself, or walk/bathe/clothe/toilet herself and had tremors so bad it rattled every hard surface she touched able to communicate with more than one word responses, feed herself, walk with her walker, toilet herself and even partially re-dress herself and her tremors were gone. For me, that was a brief glimpse of the complete healing waiting on the other side. She will be able to do all these things and more. Also, I am not even sure that clothes are an optional or mandatory thing in Heaven so who knows if that even matters. 

We had a couple of what are we seeing here? Her time is coming closer and faster than we thought.I thought maybe we were being punked in the worst kind of way. Then we see a temporary comeback and then we slide further into another territory that is similar to where the whole thing started. For my mom, last night, we were in a cabin in Montana. She was so agitated and worried and restless which, if you don’t know, is part of the pre-dying phase, and it made the entire night really difficult to manage. But at least we were in a cabin in Montana.

 As the night/morning wore on and I literally lost count of how many times we got out of bed and to the chair and back, something else happened that I had also seen or dreamed, and had shared with people. 

While we were in that cabin in Montana, mom was worried about something and I literally met her there, and we talked about it and I assured her that everything was okay, the cabin had already been taken care of and that she had nothing to think about but resting and enjoying it. I asked her if it would help if I climbed into bed with her and just rubbed her arm. She said yes, and so I did. I climbed into that bed and did what God had shown me was already going to happen. 

I am even more sure of who He is. Dying is a birth story into the next life. And so, these different ebbs and flows in the process are much like false alarms in the labor process until when God says it is time, the baby comes. We wait with anticipation and all possible emotions in the meantime as a new baby comes into the world, and the fight or flight instinct is very present there as well. 

This is just a little snippet of a beautifully painful and joyful glimpse of leaving this earth, graduating into Heaven and all of the pieces of heaven on earth mixed in to boot. 

Trust Him. Trust that He does know our every thought and need. Trust that He can see what we cannot see and sometimes, He shares a glimpse of what’s coming. Thank you Jesus!

Hope, Keeping it Real

Never Too Late

I have not been able to prioritize writing over the last few months. Oh, I have had a lot on my mind and a lot to say, but this was never really meant to be a personal journal type of blog that only contained my recent season and current experience in the first place. So I did not write, and if I am honest, probably mostly because this was not how I intended to utilize this platform, but apparently God has a better idea of what is going on and needs to happen. 

Honestly, I kept hearing God telling me that He never wastes a hurt and that someone else may hear a piece of the story that will unlock a prison, release a chain or give them hope anyway. I ignored it, and the brutally honest truth is that I was having a hard time seeing the joy in the middle of this hellish experience. It’s in there, joy has always been there because He is there and here and everywhere; I just didn’t know how to find that piece for a bit. 

And then…..

Backstory and a quick one: My mother has finally come to terms with the fact that we are not going to win this battle and agreed to start hospice care. All of that was not in a pretty little bow, but we got there. It officially started a few days ago, and I have to tell you that I feel like the cavalry has arrived. It has, I tell you. The letdown of the adrenaline and pure grit that I have been operating on for the last several months is overwhelming in the best kind of way. Just a few days into this, and not all the moving pieces in place and I feel like a ton of bricks just got dropped on me emotionally, but the physical weight has also been left. It is odd and beautiful. It is sad and joyous. It is both heartbreaking and hopeful. Just another both/and scenario. 

Jesus told us this in so many ways, and it hit me hard in the last 24 hours that He has and is still with and for me. Just as He is with and for you through any and every.little.thing. Seriously, how do we become so unaware of that? The scripture puts it right out there plain as day. 

John 13:7-You don’t understand now what I am doing, but later you will understand.

Yesterday, I heard my mom talking to an old friend that practices a different religion than I do. They were talking about the rapture. For me, that means ‘second coming’ and so when the friend told my mom that they did not believe that was true and that it really wasn’t in the Bible anyway I about lost my mind. I heard mom say that it was in the Bible, it was in Revelations. (Super proud and wonderful moment there.) The friend says, “We think that the book of Revelations is mostly symbolic.” Okay, well duh. The friend says, “Jesus did not say it anyway.” My heart broke for this friend and it broke my heart even worse knowing that my mom may be tempted to believe that. The truth is, that Jesus tells us throughout the Bible that He is coming again, and that if we have given our lives to Him as our Lord and Savior we will see Him face to face. There was further conversation between the two about heaven, hell and purgatory and I was annoyed, somewhat triggered, and told my mom after they hung up that it was really cool that she knew what Jesus said through Revelations and that it was, in fact, throughout the Bible that He was and is going to return. I left it at that. 

At 2:30 this morning, it hit me. I was thinking, planning, not sleeping and figuring out how to utilize the team that God has placed around me to support me and our family during this time, and it hit me that my mom was not feeling at peace about things as to where she will graduate when this time is over with. How heartbreaking. Maybe somewhat normal to not be sure, but still heartbreaking.

 I know that she was saved when she was 7 or 8 years old. I have written proof of that in my possession and I know that we don’t earn that salvation and I truly don’t believe you can lose that. Once you are a YES girl, you are a Jesus girl. Period. 

And I was prompted again to help bring her peace, and when I caught on to what He was asking me and how He was reminding me that despite the trouble, He has overcome. Despite the short season of suffering and pain, there is a pain-free, unfathomable perfect home in Heaven waiting. I must have asked Him the question, “What do you want me to do here?” And with a big, fat heavenly, straight from God answer He told me. Help bring her peace. Honor her, and help her to understand. I think I know what He wants me to do, and He has provided me the words and wisdom; the people, and the opportunity to provide her assurance and peace that she will be meeting Jesus face-to-face and in her heart of hearts she knows the truth, and the truth will set her free. She has already asked so many things that would go against what the religion she follows is absolutely against and for me, there is no more real picture than knowing Jesus and the truth deep, deep in her heart. That brings me peace!

In a step of obedience, to be an instrument in the peace process, I made the phone call to a dear friend and brother. Before I even uttered the words that I was about to ask him, he said yes. I am not even kidding. As soon as I am able to have a conversation with her about how I sense that she is unsettled about what will happen when she graduates, where she is going and whether she has truly been saved or not I will. And then, I can make that phone call and that friend will come. He will stand in the gap, answer the questions, and help me to bring some peace and assurance that PRAISE GOD she will be seeing Jesus and she will be completely healed when that day comes. I am also at peace knowing we may not get that opportunity, but I am confident and at peace enough for her. She gets to meet Jesus soon.

All of this to tell us this: there is hope, there is a purpose to every painful circumstance and experience and there is a Jesus that is alive and well working on our behalf in the middle of absolutely everything who will continue to draw us back to Him again and again and again. We are called to be His hands and feet, serving others as He would do, and helping them know peace right up until the very end. While our family manages the balance of heartbreak and hope, I pray that you will find peace, make peace or choose to renew your relationship with His peace. It’s never too late to be used by God. 

And friends, there is so much more that I am realizing and experiencing about community, faith, heartache, hope and all the things in between. The unreal phone calls and conversations, the willingness of dear friends to pray with and for me; to laugh and snot cry; to mourn and celebrate; to listen to me swing from all in Jesus girl to all sorts of anxious and slightly inappropriate Jesus girl; has been an incredibly treasured gift. All unknown to me at various points, but never unknown to Him. 

Wishing you peace today and always and the courage to do the next right, hard, nearly impossible thing that He asks of you. 

Hope

Being Upheld and Holding Up

We made it! We saw the end of a difficult year and now we turn the page for the next chapter.

I have never been the “what’s my word of the year” person or been super big on sitting down and writing down a list of goals, but I do take the time to reflect, review and look forward to a fresh page. 

As I am reflecting, talking with God and thinking about what has happened and what has yet to happen, I hear Him telling me, “Take forward with you all the good, and the bad, because without one there isn’t the other.”

The recovering instant-gratification girl would really like to be able to button up the crazy 2020 chapter with a pretty little bow, but the living-in-the-moment girl knows that’s pretty much not remotely possible. 

I hear Him whisper, “I have upheld you. I have strengthened you” and I KNOW that to be true. So, when I think of being upheld and how I am holding up and how we are collectively holding up I can not only think of what I personally have faced in the last 12 months, but so many other people I know as well. Not one person I know has had a stellar year, but we have all had opportunity and reason to take some stellar lessons with us into the next one. 

How have I been strengthened? How have you been strengthened? Through trouble and hardship; mourning and loss; and division and drama. I think I am familiar with that territory. He has a great track record of holding me up, strengthening me through the stretching of faith muscles and trust muscles, and I have held up just fine. It was not painless, but it was an exercise in what to hold on to and what to let go of. 

My relationship with God is stronger. It’s being held up. My relationship with my siblings is stronger. Those relationships are being held up. My connection with my dad is stronger, and it was held up through the strain his children are experiencing facing a horrible set of circumstances with our mother-his ex wife. My relationship with my mom, the person that hurt me the most, loved me the worst, and did the very best she could do at the time is stronger. He is holding it up and I am being held through every challenging piece of the story while the book comes closer to the ending. 

My reflection is this: what do I want to carry with me, and what do I want to leave behind? I tell you, I don’t think I can leave one piece of it behind. Since He has a great way of using all things for His glory and our good, I don’t think we can just spit out the things and pieces that leave a bad taste in our mouths. Instead, we take it all forward. Without the bad, there cannot be the good. Without darkness, nobody can see the light. 

The situations, circumstances, changes and losses of this last year will always serve a bigger purpose if we let them. I will take forward the moments of hard; the times that isolation became too heavy; and the days that felt like they were years long because there was a limit placed on what we could do, where we could go and what we could do. The extra bonus complications that the pandemic brought also brought out creativity. I had to get creative many times over in how I was going to afford another special memory for my mom or with my mom. I did not always like it or see it as a great opportunity, and I bitched, moaned and complained. But being held up, helped up and held onto by my God meant that I would soon see the blessings even in the many bummers once again. I still saw 365 sunrises and sunsets. I still had love and loss and all in betweens. I had major milestone high moments and some really ugly low moments. I had a lot of BIG feelings and I didn’t hide from them. I had a lot of opinions and still managed to do what I could to keep my mouth shut in wisdom and grace. 

As a reminder for you and I, He will strengthen us. None of us truly can get through our lives without Him being the good God that He is. His strength to carry us out of, over, and through the things He knew were coming is all we have to get us through the hardest of days. 

When this period of history is written in the books, I hope that we can reflect on all the good in it. Many times before in our history, in our personal lives we have gone through dark things (addictions, divorces, child loss, death, etc.) and He has given us wisdom, peace, recovery and growth beyond our understanding. I am confident that He will continue to do the exact same thing with all of this and whatever comes next. 

So, thank you 2020 for all that you have taught us. Thank you Jesus for what you have upheld us through. Truly. We have all experienced more love for our neighbor; more creativity in difficult times; more compassion for those with less resources, less family or those that don’t even know that they belong to You as Your children; and we have all experienced the loss, rebuilding and value of community and basic human decency. 

Welcome 2021, we are stronger than whatever silliness you have to throw us, we are being upheld by the One true God and we are not just ready to hold up but to level up. 

Hope

Staying in the moment when I would rather not

It’s been awhile. It’s been a road. It’s been a challenging season with way too many things happening all at once that’s taking a heavy toll on me in every way possible.

But knowing that God isn’t surprised at all and that He will make all things right brings some comfort and peace sometimes. I am not yet angry with God. Honestly. It isn’t His doing that finds us with the reality of the end days or months of our mom’s life.

I AM angry though. I am fighting not being resentful of her because a good portion of this she did have control over and chose not to change habits or lifestyle. And then there’s the financial choices she made and didn’t which leaves us to figure out to not only pay for her basic needs but her cremation or services when the time comes. In my heart, I know that day is far more near than we would hope it to be, and at the same time I ask God to take her home.

When the anger and resentment comes I am reminded of “thou shall not judge” and have to look in the mirror.

And so, trying to live in one moment at a time is stupid hard when we also have to make decisions that are best for her when there’s so many if/then scenarios in play.

So, I keep praying. I keep trusting. I keep doing. I keep feeling. I keep struggling to accept the love, care, and offers of help in various forms. I forget how to love others and let others love me. I do.

What we are dealing with isn’t uncommon. It’s not any harder than what other families go through. There’s no chapter in the playbook that explains how to deal with making the best decisions possible during a deadly virus outbreak. There’s no chapter that adds in our very special set of family dynamics. There’s just not.

Mixed in with total hell is absolute joy and amazing grace. I have a lot to talk about and yet nothing to say. I’m exhausted and cannot sleep at the same time. I’m in the middle of both/and. We are in the middle of a storm and a miracle.

Whenever I start to wonder what the next day looks like let alone the next few months I am assured that He is already there.

Hope

A Vision Check

There’s always an opportunity to find the blessing in the bummers. I say it a lot, I mean it a lot and I know it a lot but sometimes I have to repeat it over and over again until I believe it a lot. Even more than that, God has to keep reminding me a lot. 

I cannot say that I love this seemingly never-ending season we are all living in, but what I can say is that I love that the God I love and serve is reminding me again and again and still to keep digging, keep seeking and has continued to prove that He is rock steady in every struggle and is in this one, too. 

I wish we could stop talking about it. I wish we could stop living in it and I wish that it was just a temporary time of change. I hate that it is the new normal and it feels like there is nothing normal about it. And then, I see that it appears to be another time to recognize, remember and have our vision redirected. 

In a matter of hours today, He took me from a place of asking the what and why questions, to hearing Him say, “Seek and You shall find me.” to a message that almost brought me to my knees in gratitude. Well, actually it DID bring me to my knees.

Friends, we cannot grow tired of what He wants to teach us. It is not happening to us, but it is happening for us.

Joy Junkie

We have most likely seen the same story in our lives already. I know I have. The times when we were asking things like why does this person not love me like they said they would, why did you take that job away from me or what plan or purpose is there in this mess? Been there, done that, came out of that and have been restored from that. Right? Our hindsight vision is 20-20 and we can see clearly now the why and the what. 

I know we are weary. I know we are tired. I know we have more questions than answers. For some of us, we are questioning the validity of our own faith and allowing ourselves to be tempted to believe that our feelings are facts, that God has suddenly forgotten or forsaken us and maybe this season is full of way more challenges than just avoiding a virus. 

I know that our first draft stories about all of this are not likely to add up with what God has planned in the middle of this mess or any mess we have been brought through or what mess He will lead us through next. 

In our weakness and tendency to do or believe the wrong things, He is not done with writing the story. Maybe our vision is a little blurry, but I know that He makes blind people see. He made this blind person see once or twice or forty times before and He will do it again. 

There’s a picture of this miracle and truth in Mark 8. There’s so much power and so many lessons in the middle of this scripture. Read it and let it sink in. Don’t miss out on how relevant this miracle was then and how it is true today. 

And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.” (Mark 8:22-26 ESV)

On the days that we forget that we have felt His touch before, that our blindness was once restored and can be restored again; let’s remember that we have the tools for a vision check. We have people, we have the truth in His word and have first-hand knowledge of His power to restore us.

Our vision may be blurry, but His is not. He can see what we cannot see, He knows what we do not know and He has a plan and purpose for all the things in our lives. Check your vision, check in with your people, and watch Him clearly do His work in all of it. 

Hope

Holes Made Whole

I just returned from an extended trip to the home country. I had four glorious weeks at H O M E in Montana.

One would think that in all of that beauty and serenity, that words would have come to me like a firehose but that is not what happened. Since returning to the desert, the words still have not been there. So weird for someone th at is constantly thinking and pondering and wondering and seemingly has a lot to say-sometimes too much to say.

While I was reading Bible scriptures and trying to get back in the groove today, I was thinking about the feeling of home and all that it was and all that it is. I was thinking about where God has me in this moment and season and seriously wondering why I could not feel Him. As if He has gone anywhere.

Maybe I was so focused on praying about my daughter’s return to health from having contracted COVID-19 that there was no room for any other words.

Part of the issue is that I am still recovering and reflecting on all that I was able to see, do and experience while at home with family in the places I love most. The other part, I suddenly realized, is that He is not gone away but my heart and soul are so at peace that I am not sure what to do with myself.

I know that He has filled so many holes in my heart over the years and that He has and will continue to do so. I just realized today that He was doing just that while I was on my little adventure. I was so filled up in His presence and surrounded by His glory that the holes were made whole. Even if for just a little moment in time, I was completely at peace and totally in a place of calm and serenity.

As a recovering codependent that tends to thrive in chaos, find chaos and create chaos when things become too calm (i.e. too close to making room for feelings and vulnerability) I am not looking for chaos but definitely not settled in calmness. So weird how that little itchy spot still tends to itch without me even realizing it. No surprise to Him, I am sure.

John 3:17 says this: “Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”

No truer words apply for this day. No greater hope for what that scripture means for the one day that He returns or even for tomorrow.

The words are coming, He continues to fill the holes and make me whole, and I am full of gratitude and hope even when I don’t understand.

So how are the holes in your heart? Are you feeling them or are you filling them? What are you filling them with?

Hope

Get up and Grow

Somebody besides me needs to know this today: He loves you. He really, really loves you.
 One of my very first life-verses years ago was this one in Romans that says “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rules, nor things present or things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

I have experienced a lot of skinned knees in my lifetime so far. I am sure that there will be other times as well. What I know to be true is that on skinned knees I can still kneel at the foot of the cross.

Ever had one of those moments or days where you keep hearing cute little sayings, quotations, motivational thoughts and even scripture where you just go “yeah, yeah, yeah” and sort of blow it off? Me too. 

What about the days where you HEAR them and you go, “YES! YES! YES” and brace yourself for impact? It’s these moments that bring me to my knees and also invite me to get up and grow. 

 There was a time when my mistakes or choices defined me; where I took on the brunt of the pain and responsibility for other people’s mistakes or choices as well. Then Jesus, and recovery and intentional choosing to not get caught up in the shit show of lies bouncing around in my head happened.

I have a tendency to overcompensate for just about everything, if I am honest. That used to be a coping mechanism used to avoid rejection, to avoid feeling anything and to avoid vulnerability. So when the opportunity comes up, I still once in a while find myself holding myself super-super-accountable to the point of self-sabotage. And then, I hear myself and the words of encouragement I share with other people about saying things like, “When are you going to give yourself some grace in this?” or “When are you going to forgive yourself for this?” and I am reminded.

Failure is not final. Falling down is not a sentence. Grace wins if we allow it. It’s not wise to sweep things under the rug, but once it is out from under the rug there’s no reason to keep beating the dust out of the rug. 

I consider myself to be mostly self-aware and also humble enough to know the difference when God puts me in a place to remember that on skinned knees I can kneel at the foot of the cross and still choose to get up and grow. 

At first light this morning, God continued to pursue me relentlessly to a point of wanting to scream at Him to stop loving me. That’s absurd, but it is what I was thinking. Him lavishing you and I with love is all He wants to do. 

So, wherever you are today, let me remind you of one other thing that I have to remind myself way more often than I thought I would ever need to: Repairing the damage starts in our own heads and hearts. Making amends will help. Self-loathing will not. 

Get up and grow, people. He loves you. He really, really loves you.