Start talking to yourself

It has recently been confirmed that I am not crazy. Well, at least “not crazy” in the sense that I am not lying in my book when I say over and over and over that “we are not alone and there is always hope.”

This confirmation has come about because I see signs and hear rumblings all around me about how people are struggling with a general sense of unrest, anxiety and irritability. Is it bad to say that I find it a little relieving that I am not the only one struggling?

To put it bluntly: sometimes it’s all too much. The state of the world. The suffering. The diseases. The arguing and fighting among our leaders. The arguing and fighting among our friends and family over our choices. The rise in addiction, depression, suicide and general angst can get to us at a soul-level without us even realizing it moved in and took over our outlook and approach to life.

Recently I have had significant discussions with friends who are feeling overwhelmed with life and its details. The pressure of the details, combined with an overarching sense of unrest in our country and world, lends itself to feelings of being unsettled. Wound up. Exhausted to the core.

This doesn’t mean that there is nothing good to be focused on. Please don’t hear this as a whine. This is where “there is always hope” enters the scene.

While looking into ways to help a friend through some of what I described above, I came across an article that suggested one of the best ideas I have ever heard of to keep our hearts and minds in check—to deflate the balloon of anxiety and frenzy in our head and hearts. It’s “simple, but not easy”, as I have heard it said. See what you think:

“The main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression (and anxiety) in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self…have you noticed that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?”*

Huh?

To unpack that in less poetic language, the author is telling us to stop listening to the lying, degrading, hopeless, faithless, blaming, negative, pathetic, accusing chatter in our own heads and start intentionally speaking words of truth, worship, blessing, grace, love, trust, forgiveness, confidence, gentleness, etc.

The Psalmist, David, does this when he says (to himself): “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? David, put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:5 NIV)

He is reminding himself of what he knows to be true, even though he is anxious and depressed. Most of us know the answer to our anxiety. It’s just really hard to get it from our head to our heart or our mind.

The answer is to stop listening to ourselves and start talking to ourselves about what we know to be true and keep our focus there.

Replace what we hear with what we say.

Acknowledge to God and to ourselves that we know that His plan is best.

We know He has things under control. We trust that He will redeem our junk if we turn to Him.

We believe that He loves us unconditionally.

We believe He loves those we are worried sick about.

We have faith that He can and will help us if we seek Him.

We receive his gift of grace and are confident in our identity in Him and Him alone.

We accept our circumstances and invite Him to navigate them.

We ask forgiveness for trying to act like we are God.

We repent for putting many other gods before Him in effort to be OK.

We relinquish our trauma and drama into His all-powerful hands.

We surrender whole-heartedly.

And we do this again and again and again until it becomes our default setting. Until the free-floating anxious feelings that once haunted us have fled—been vanquished and evicted from our head where we have allowed them to live rent-free for far too long.

* quote from Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures, 20,21. By D Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Gray days

Sometimes I get going so fast that I forget that the reason I started writing my blog in the first place was to not only update people on the status of my Leukemia but to help myself “reason things out” on paper. I had an overload of information and some life-altering circumstances going on at the time and was feeling overwhelmed. As I wrote, I could just feel the pressure valve release the tension and fear and confusion. Writing was a tool I used to replace all that junk in my head and heart with clarity and a patient serenity.

I have come to that place again. By the grace of God, it does not involve anything as earth-shattering as Leukemia, but a physical weight from the good and bad of the world and my little “world” has gotten ahold of me. I feel stuck. Tired. Overwhelmed. Aimless. Fearful. Doubting. Distracted. Restless. Anxious. Did I mention tired?

Being a productive person (to a fault), I hate to even admit that at this moment, at 10:45 am on a typical weekday, I am sitting on my couch in my sweats, just staring out my picture window. After a fairly long period of sitting here in a catatonic-like state, I finally remembered that writing—letting my thoughts rapid-fire onto the page through my fingers—has been proven to lighten my load (whether it is real or imaginary).

Why is that exactly?

Good question…more staring out the window and drooling a little…

One reason I think it helps is that it gets me outside of myself and breaks my isolation. I always say that there are dark places in my mind where it’s dangerous to venture alone. I have been venturing there for too long and have gotten myself wound up and spooked at every turn.

When I hash it out with you, I am bringing my imperfections and embarrassing lack of faith, hope and trust out into the open. Only there can it be exposed and lose its power to oppress me.

A couple of weeks ago I was with a group of people who were talking about isolation. At the time, I spoke about it in the past tense—a past-life problem. Today, I realize that maybe God was giving me a gentle nudge to examine my vulnerability level. Just being in the presence of others does not mean that I am being authentic and open with them.

The other reason I think it helps me is that when I share in the messy, before I have myself all “prettied up”, it tends to be a more powerful way to provide comfort and community with other readers who may be in the same boat. It just doesn’t have the same impact when I wait until I have identified 3 simple steps, applied them and come out the other side, healthy and happy.

I did it that way for years. Guess what? No one would have read a word of anything I wrote.

What I have learned through my cancer battle and other life challenges, is that people don’t care that I don’t have it all together yet and they like me better now that the cat’s out of the bag: I am consistently kind of a hot mess. They tend to feel like they are in good company.

So, I have come to realize that sometimes we just have periods of time, in spite of the fact that on the surface things are great, where we feel all the ways I described myself above. Often, during these times, there are fewer stressors than at other times in our lives when we seem to thrive.

Our souls are funny like that.

There’s a lot going on under the surface that gets loosened and uprooted when we least expect or want it to be. It’s important to reflect on this unrest in our spirits. Sometimes there are lessons to be learned or jobs God has for us to do.

But sometimes, we are unsettled for no particular reason and we just need to wait it out for a few days. It’s probably not necessary for one to write a blog about it either, because in a couple of days the gray may lift and this will all sound like a silly rant (which may well describe many of my blogs!).

For now, I will sit and pray and simply ask for God’s help. I’ll ask Him to show me if there is something I need to do or say to ease this heaviness, otherwise, give me the strength to keep walking/getting out of bed and the faith to trust that “this too shall pass.”

Jerk for Jesus, pt. 2 | 10:1 Ratio

Psychologists tell us that for every one negative message we deliver (or receive), there should be 10 positive messages for counterbalance. That goes for teachers, parents, spouses, bosses, etc. That makes us all sound a tad on the emotionally fragile spectrum when you put it that way, but let’s just unpack that truth for a minute. I think we will find it to be pretty accurate.

I mentioned last time I wrote that I was planning to do a whole series on “Jerk for Jesus” (If you missed it, go back and read it now so this will make more sense). I think the fact that I can pull 3 or 4 posts out of that one incident proves the truth above: one negative interaction often outweighs a good amount of positive ones.

Think about some of the ways that truth has rung true in your life. Do you ever latch on to harsh words, a hurtful exchange with a loved one, an act of betrayal from a friend, or a critical review from a boss? Even if it is one tiny blip in an otherwise lovely day or relationship, I too often find myself ruminating on that blip for days or weeks. It can affect my job performance, my self-esteem, my emotional stability, my confidence, and my general outlook on life and relationships.

And yet…And yet….

The fact that I am still thinking about that interaction and writing a blog series on it, highlights another important truth (one that I don’t particularly like): We learn best and grow most from the hard stuff.

If we choose to.

The only reason I started writing is that I got Leukemia. And the only reason I am still writing is that I have a chronic disease of the soul—Common Plagues of the Heart, as I call them—that will provide me good material until I take my last breath.

If we don’t let God redeem the mean, yucky, horrific, stressful, hurtful, painful stuff of life, we are going to be pretty miserable. But God can and will help us use the punch of those experiences to help us grow up and use our life-lessons and perspective to encourage others who are going through the same.

I always say, “we go through what we go through so we can help others get through what we went through”. That’s a catchy paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 1:4 (ESV) that tells us that God “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Negative, hard, and hurtful conversations and actions are rampant these days. In that 10-1 ratio, the “1” really packs a powerful punch.

But if we let Him, God can use such situations to remind us that what He thinks of us is the only opinion that ultimately matters (and in case you have been misinformed, He loves you unconditionally), and that He can use situations/words/interactions that someone meant to harm us and turn them into opportunities for growth in us and encouragement to others.

So I say a hearty thank you to “Jerk for Jesus”. I don’t plan to waste this chance to learn a couple of things. More to come. 😘

(Don’t Be A) Jerk for Jesus

I just returned from a wonderful event called CPE (Christian Product EXPO). In a nutshell, this is a time for retailers to view new potential products for their stores. My goal, as an author representing my new book, was to do everything in my power to get a book in their hands, hoping and praying they will either read it and order more or just stick it on their shelf and see if anyone buys it (then, in theory, they order more to replace it).

Over three days I managed to have meaningful conversations about my story and gave away 150 books. My favorite part was when I went rogue and left my booth, giving my books away to anyone who hadn’t already stopped by. I met several people by divine accident who had a cousin, a friend, a granddaughter, or a husband who was battling cancer. Sometimes it was even my particular brand, leukemia. These people would then receive not only my new book but my first book, signed specifically for that person.

It was a beautifully exhausting 3 days. So many poignant conversations. Too many to tell you about and it would take way more than the 1,000-word max I am able to focus on in one blog.

But I want, I need, to tell you about one of them.

I don’t usually talk about specific people in my blogs, especially when I am telling you some less than flattering details about them. But let’s just use what I took away from this particular person to help us understand some attitudes and behaviors that might prevent us from being “that guy”.

I worried a little at first that he might read this and feel embarrassed. But as I thought more about it, I realized he probably would not be reading this, and here is why:

I approached this particular retailer as he and another couple of retailers were chatting casually. I had two books in my hand and asked if I could give them a book. Two of them said they had “already received one, thanks so much”. The other guy looked me straight in the eyes and told me bluntly, “No, I don’t want one”. I think he could see that his curtness took me aback so he explained himself; “I mean, I guess I could lie to you and tell you I want one and then go home and throw it in the trash…”.

He actually said that to me. About my book. “Throw it in the trash.”

I laughed a bit nervously, trying to save the conversation, so I said, “Hey, you never know! It could change your life!”

To which he responded, “The Bible is the only book that can change your life.”

I was pretty stunned and didn’t stick around to say the dozens of quippy remarks that have come to me since then, so I simply said, “Alrighty then!”, and walked away.

Don’t think that this negative conversation was my biggest takeaway from the event. But, it does give me some phenomenal bullet points and I will enlighten you with one of them now. 🙂

1) Being is JERK FOR JESUS is not a thing.

Yes, we are all broken and flawed and will probably struggle with many of our character defects for the rest of our lives in some form or another. I think God understands that and so do most humans. We have to give each other grace.

However, above all things, God calls us to be loving and kind. Do we sometimes have to speak hard truths to people? Yes, but even then, it should only be done out of pure love and without judgment. Harshness, arrogance, and rudeness have no place in the demeanor of anyone who claims to be living out the calling of God.

Have you ever met, or have you ever been, the guy or girl who seems to think it is their job to be a “truth-teller” for Jesus? No matter the side effects on other people?

Quit being a jerk in the name of Jesus shirt

One slogan I love involves a list of questions about what we should and should let come out of our mouths. Before you say it ask yourself:

  • Does it need to be said? (Yes or No?)
  • Does it need to be said by me? (Yes or No?)
  • Does it need to be said by me right now? (Yes or No?)
  • Does it need to be said by me with a judgmental, harsh, rude, arrogant, self-righteous, self-seeking attitude or tone? (No. No it does not. Not ever.)

One question a mentor of mine always asks me when I point out someone else’s behavior that is akin to the response of “that guy” from the convention is, “Do you want what they have?”

Naturally, I absolutely do not want whatever type of faith or religion “that guy” has. But as usual, God is using the, “if you spot it you got it” principle on me.

I have to ask myself that same question as I live out my particular brand of faith. “Would others want what I have?”

When I worry and fret and refuse to turn over my fears to God, would that make someone want to investigate and embrace the kind of life I live?

When I talk about someone behind their back, yet right in front of the God who created them and loves them fiercely (even “that guy”), do I demonstrate that I see people with God’s eyes of grace?

When I freak out about the state of the world and our government and bash or avoid people who don’t think like me, am I drawing people toward a God who unifies and desires peace among His children?

You get the picture.

I remember talking, well, more like ranting, about people, places, and things beyond my control and people who were infuriating me and causing me distress. He said, “don’t you go to some type of recovery program?” I told him that, yes, I did (I attend a program that is designed to help me focus on myself and not be codependent on others’ behavior for my serenity). He said matter-of-factly, “It’s not working.” (I told him that unfortunately, it is…this is me, better than I used to be! Scary truth.)

I am now exceeding 1,000 words and I am pretty sure you, and especially me, have a hard time listening much past that threshold. So I will stick to this one lesson for today. Maybe “that guy” will become a series, because I have many more lessons we can learn from him.

So, just for today, pay attention to yourself. Would others want what you have based on how you treat and talk to and about others? Would your sweetness, patience, and humility cause a family member or even a perfect stranger to wonder how they could live more like you? Would it prompt them to seek God or run from Him (or at least His people)?

Don’t kid yourself. All the Bible studying (I think “that guy” might not have gotten to the gospels where we see the compassion and gentleness of Jesus) and “truth-telling” in the world will not draw people to surrender to a kind and loving God if we are jerks.

DON’T BE A JERK FOR JESUS.

I Need An Interpreter

When I took my test to get my real estate license, I went in pretty confident. I had aced every practice test and felt even a smidge over-prepared. All I had to do was pass with something like 75%. It wasn’t like this grade was going on a report card or anything.

After 3 hours of confusion and sweating, without even a minute to spare to review any answers I was unsure of, I hit submit on the computer. I was stunned at the lack of understanding I had after all I had studied. The questions were all different from the ones on the practice tests and were more like the dreaded story problems that might be on a math test.

I was 100% certain I failed. I wondered, “what am I going to do for a job now?”. I had zero hope that I could ever pass this test.

So, I did the only thing I could think to do: I laid my hands on the computer itself and prayed, “God, please do a miracle and fix my wrong answers so that I at least pass this test. Please, please, please, please…”.

I got up and walked next door where the proctor would immediately tell me my fate. I stood at the door dejected and on the verge of tears.

“Congratulations! You passed.”

I sincerely thought I was going to pass out. I knew I was in the presence of a full-blown miraculous intervention. No doubt in my mind.

That was in 2014 and I have been working as a semi-successful realtor for the past 6 years (remember, I took a little time off in 2015 to work on recovering from Leukemia). So, why is this story on my mind today?

I am getting ready to publish my second book—Soul-selfie: #NoFilter—that will be coming out in October. I am feeling exactly like I did when I took that test. My mom, my mother-in-law and I have been editing, I paid a professional editor and have had smart friends edit my book so I can get it to publication in time for the Christmas rush (now you know what to buy all your friends and family for Christmas 😉). But up until the final deadline, there were still minor edits that needed to be done.

So now, I am resorting (which probably should have been my first resort, rather than my last) to once again laying my hands on the computer and the book itself, praying for a miracle; asking God to “fix my wrong answers so that I at least pass this test.”

I am standing at the door, just as I did in 2014, feeling dejected and on the verge of tears. Only this time the ramifications and results or so much greater. My soul has been poured out in these blogs.

“Please Go! Don’t let bad grammar or misplaced punctuation or poor wording distract readers from the root of it all. Don’t let my mistakes prevent people from hearing the message of hope for their broken places or from knowing that they are not alone in their struggles.”

I don’t think it is a coincidence that yesterday, as I was preparing to hit “send” to my publisher, I came across this Instagram post from Shauna Niequist, one of my favorite authors:

“There is always a point in the editing process where you hate every word you’ve written, you fear you’ll never write a decent sentence again, and you fantasize about throwing the manuscript out the window and getting a job that does not require the use of words of in any way. [sic]

I AM AT THAT POINT. TODAY IS THAT POINT. (Please send snacks).”

First; Amen! I couldn’t agree more. Second; did you see it? The typo? In the middle of a rant about editing she typed, “the use of words of in any way.”

I find that comforting. After all, she is a “real writer” with several published books, a podcast and rubs shoulders with other “real writers”. I have read all of her books myself and even been in a book study where we read her book out loud. And guess what? I don’t remember if there were misplaced modifiers (whatever the heck that means!) or a comma missing or if the word “principal” was used instead of “principle” or the word “heal” was used instead of “heel” (those are actual examples that Grammarly and other humans missed the first time around in my book! ).

What I heard from her was her heart. Her honest, raw, and vulnerable shares about how she copes with life and where she falls short. I felt a kinship because I needed to know that I wasn’t alone in my struggles.

As you know, that is the primary purpose of why I write: to let readers know they are not alone in their brokenness and that there is always hope. My prayer to God will forever be, whether it’s through my writing or through my daily life-example, that He will be my Interpreter. I will ask him to get in between what I say and what I do so that what needs to be communicated is clear and sweet and pure, even though I often lack those characteristics.

God knows my heart and my intentions. I am not perfect. My words and my actions and my writing (Lord, help me!) will never be perfect either. I hope as you read, you look past that and look to the God who sees us as perfect because of what He has done through his Son and what he does in us as we surrender ourselves—our flawed and unedited selves—to Him and His will for us.

Everything for my book has been submitted and is out of my hands now. It’s all in God’s hands, where, now that I say it on paper, I realize it has always been and forever should be.

What a relief.

Off the Emotional Sobriety Wagon

In the past month, since my father-in-law passed away on June 19th, 2021, it has been a whirlwind. We spent a few days in Vegas when he passed, came home, and I left 3 days later for a work trip in South Carolina. A week after I returned, we left for a memorial service in Arkansas. We came home for 10 days, during which time my mom visited from California (which I absolutely loved, but is a steady stream of play-time). We then flew back to Vegas for a second memorial for the west coast crowd. This all took place in a little over a month’s time.

I tell you this prepare you for the insanity and dare I confess, idiocy, of what I am about to tell you.

Ya know how they say (or maybe my family just made this up last month) that you have to forgive/forget anything that is said at a funeral? Well, regardless of who said it, it holds true.

Emotions are high and the motions you force yourself to go through in order to honor and memorialize a loved one cause you to postpone the processing of what has been lost. The grief is hovering—sometimes threatening—awaiting the unpacking of it after all the hugging, hand shaking and smiling has been done with hundreds of people who also loved your lover or father/mother or friend.

All of this can contribute to rash, harsh or ugly words said to perfect strangers, or regrettably, those you love as much as the one you just lost. During this time, it is natural and normal for us to fall off the wagon and lose our emotional sobriety. Rational thought flies out the window and reactive juices are bubbling and bubbling until they burst through the surface of it all, often without ample warning to those around us.

What happens when we fall off said wagon, is that any work we have done on ourselves in the past to become more mature, wise, and gracious and less egocentric, selfish, and defensive gets overshadowed by our grief. Our old default settings come raging back and we react as we used to. These reactions are embarrassing in hindsight but at the time feel appropriate, legitimate and honestly, pretty darn satisfying.

Until the moment passes and we step away, letting our adrenaline come back down to normal levels and maybe run or scream or, in my particular case, ride a terrifying roller coaster at Silver Dollar City approximately 4 times in 20 minutes (I really need one of those nearby for future freak-out-therapy).

I won’t bore you (or embarrass myself) with every ridiculous encounter that took place during this stressful month, but hopefully the confession of this specific one will be a hardy example of why it is imperative to protect your emotional sobriety (through solitude, prayer, phone calls, and more prayer) during any intense or heartbreaking time of your life.

While we were in Arkansas for one of the memorials, we went to Silver Dollar City. We all love that place but my father-in-law, Ron, really loved it. He loved the funnel cakes and watching people blow glass and make horseshoes at the blacksmith shop. We always hand-dipped candles at the candle store and then he would go next door to the bakery and have a loaf of fresh-baked bread and some apple butter sent to the front of the park for pick-up. We went to Silver Dollar City to honor his memory and enjoy it together as a family.

In the middle of a lovely day, my husband and I got into a scuffle over a water bottle. There were more details and actions that triggered several core issues we tend to battle like anyone married 29 years might, but the root of it was a lost water bottle.

woman and man sitting on brown wooden bench
Photo by Vera Arsic on Pexels.com

We proceeded to stand face-to-face screaming (in that subdued but dramatic way one would when in a public venue) at each other about how this misplaced water bottle represented everything wrong in our marriage. We were like Frank and Estelle Costanza in Seinfeld who regularly flipped out on each other declaring, “You want a divorce???? You got a divorce!!!!!!” and then went calmly back to whatever they were doing before the outburst.

There we were, two grown-ups (which is debatable) having a colorful yelling match in the middle of sweet, innocent children at a family-friendly theme part. Not one of our finest moments.

But, and I can only speak for myself and my personal conclusion (my husband may very well think I am a lunatic still), but I know that at its core that fight was not about a water bottle. I don’t even believe it was about my marriage at all (not that it’s perfect).

I believe it was a result of the sadness and grief combined with a pretty long stint of deprivation —deprivation (some self-induced and some unavoidable) of solitude, regular time with friends who can give us perspective, routine (bed-time, workout-time, prayer-time, reflection-time, healthy-eating-time, rest-time) and maybe even a twinge of anger or resentment at God for letting this kind of thing happen to us—to our loved ones.

Maybe we were subtly ignoring God or pretending we didn’t realize He was standing right there while we kept our back to Him.

Emotional sobriety is the best term I can think of to describe what is essential, yet excruciatingly hard to hold on to, when times are tough. I wish I would have done a better job of it. Some days I felt like I was a 2-yr-old, just trying to get what I want out of life and throwing a tantrum when it doesn’t work out the way I want it. Sometimes I felt as if I had no other solution, even though deep down I know better.

So, even though I clearly have not mastered the art of handling myself maturely and graciously in crisis, I am grateful that God has given me some insight so that maybe next time I can be more intentional about protecting the practices that might prevent future flip-outs at the next family theme park.

Where’s Ron?

For the past 30 years I have been traveling to various locations with my in-laws. During these trips, my father-in-law, Ron, regularly went missing. You can imagine how the hunt for Ron was exacerbated by the absence of cell phones in the earlier days. Without them, how exactly does one find a missing Ron at Disneyland? The common refrain from the family was “Where’s Ron?” I used to joke (though I was actually dead serious) that we should all wear t-shirts that said, “Where’s Ron?” (Like “Where’s Waldo?”) and have Ron wear one with “RON” in bold letters written all over it. Then at least strangers could be on the lookout and let him know, “Hey Ron, your family is at the Haunted Mansion ride and they are looking for you!”.

As of June 19th, 2021, we won’t need to ask that question anymore. The final answer has been given and we know exactly where Ron is: he is with his Father. His divine Daddy. Exactly where he longed to be for years. He talked about Him in this way regularly, especially during his battle against cancer that had been trying to take him out for a year. He never wavered in his faith and never doubted God’s plan for him. He knew that no matter how it “ended” he was in the palm, the bosom, the arms of his sweet heavenly Father.

There is so much more I could say about Ron, but I just want to share with you some of the divine moments I personally experienced leading up to his death (I sincerely hate even typing that word as it relates to him) and since.

God had gone ahead of us and we were all scheduled to go to Vegas to see Ron while he was still healthy and lively. Only God knew that he had gathered us to be with Ron as he went home to Jesus. My husband Blake and my sons Bennett and Berkeley all arrived on Wednesday June 16th. Ron had suddenly been admitted to the hospital for what we thought was a small infection in his feeding tube and was expected to get out sometime on Thursday. Wednesday turned out to be the last day he was able to communicate. God’s timing in their arrival was perfect.

But, I was still home and couldn’t arrive until Friday. I don’t remember how I came across this song or how I ended up in my basement with it playing at full volume on You Tube. But I remember it with fondness and tears. It was a profound soothing balm to my fear and anger and resentment at death. I wept and danced and fell before God as I sang the words that are still “rattling”a round in my heart:

Dry Bones Rattling (Steven Furtick)

Saturday was silent
Surely it was through
But since when has impossible
Ever stopped You

Friday’s disappointment
Is Sunday’s empty tomb
Since when has impossible
Ever stopped You

This is the sound of dry bones rattling
This is the praise make a dead man walk again
Open the grave, I’m coming out
I’m gonna live, gonna live again

This is the sound of dry bones rattling

Then they scream the word, “LIVE!!!” Like a metal band for the next 3 or 4 minutes.

I texted this song to my husband and said, “this is your dad’s song, now.”

When I got the hospital, I was able to talk to Ron, along with the rest of the family who was in the ICU room. Waiting. Dreading but desiring. We knew where Ron was going and wanted to get going to, but what about us? It’s so hard to be a grown-up and set aside our own selfish wishes to keep those we love in our presence, even when we know their spirit has all but left the building already.

On the way to the hospital, I asked myself if there was anything I still needed to say to Ron. Was there something that I would regret after he passed if I didn’t express it? After thinking for a bit, I only came up with one thing. Well, two things if you count that I told him that if he wanted to be more like me, there were certainly better ways to do it! He had been intubated and looked like a picture I keep of me on my phone from when I was intubated in ICU (I refer to this when I start feeling sorry for myself in any way-especially about my body). I told him he was such a copy-cat!

The other thing I told him was, “Thank you. Thank you for moving your family to Napa where I met Blake and have the exact life and kids that I have now.”

That night, after a couple hours of sweet reminiscing and laughing and crying from his family (me and Blake and our boys-Emma had the privilege of seeing him a couple weeks earlier and having tender closure-and Blake’s sister and her husband and children and of course Blake’s mom, Pam. The Rock of us all), all but Blake’s mom and sister went home to sleep. The precious hospice nurses had made Ron comfortable.

The next morning I arrived and Blake and his mom and sister were in the cafeteria. I asked if I could go up and talk to Ron alone for few minutes. I had a couple songs that had been haunting me for the past 24 hours that I wanted to play for him. I knew he was heading home to his Father and both of these songs felt sacred to me. Let me share a few of the lyrics with you…

My Father’s house (Cory Asbury)

Sometimes on this journey, I get lost in my mistakes
What looks to me like weakness is a canvas for Your strength
And my story isn’t over, my story’s just begun
Failure won’t define me ’cause that’s what my Father does
Yeah, failure won’t define me ’cause that’s what my Father does

Ooh, lay your burdens down
Ooh, here in the Father’s house
Check your shame at the door (ooh)
‘Cause it ain’t welcome anymore (ooh)
Ooh, you’re in the Father’s house
Arrival’s not the end game, the journey’s where You are
You never wanted perfect, You just wanted my heart
And the story isn’t over, if the story isn’t good
A failure’s never final when the Father is in the room
A failure’s never final when the Father is in the room

Run to the Father (Cody Carnes)

I run to the Father
I fall into grace
I’m done with the hiding
No reason to wait
My heart needs a surgeon
My soul needs a friend
So I’ll run to the Father
Again and again
And again and again
Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh

I played these songs for Ron and told him, “It’s ok to run to your Father. He’s waiting for you. We are all going to be OK down here until we see you again. Go ahead.”

When they came back up to the room, after accusing me of faking time with Ron to hopefully “run across” the hunky cross-fit competitor doctor Voscopolis they had been telling me about, we took him off the oxygen. A kind nurse had gently advised this if we didn’t want the process of letting go to continue for longer than Ron needed to stay with us. Or we needed him to stay with us.

Blake’s brother-in-law Patrick arrived not long after that. When he came in Ron’s monitor started to fluctuate. I lovingly pointed this out to him and told him that his very presence was stressing Ron out! He argued that on the contrary, Ron was merely excited to see him. We all laughed and cried a bit and in the midst of this, Blake, who was sitting off to the side and keeping an eye on his dad and on the monitor, interrupted with the words I will never un-hear, “he stopped breathing.”

When I was in the hospital, there was a dry erase board where the nurses would write your status and it also had little faces drawn at the bottom that you would circle, Indicating how you feel (sick, sad, happy, etc). As we left that day, I erased it all and wrote: “Gone Home to Daddy” and circled the Happy Face at the bottom. As someone commented on our post about Ron’s passing, “Gone home to Daddy. Indeed.”

Since that day, I have been having what I affectionately refer to as “Rontings”. They are moments when I feel I am being haunted by Ron, when I know Ron is near, or God is assuring me that Ron is with Him. I don’t claim to know exactly how it all works. I am not that spiritual or smart or omniscient. I just know that when I get in my car and the very first song that starts when I turn on the radio is “Run to the Father” or “My Father’s House” or “Dry Bones Rattling” or “There was Jesus” (the song we chose for his Memorial service) over and over and over, that is not a coincidence.

When Blake and I were at a little church in a town of like, 20 people, this past weekend, out of hundreds of hymns they could have closed the service with, we sang with tears in our eyes and a reverent, spooked spirit if I am being honest, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” This is the one song Blake’s mom chose to be led by her niece at the graveside service we are having in Carthage, Missouri this coming weekend.

My husband’s work sent a wonderful and thoughtful condolence gift to us. It’s a set of wind chimes. I just love this! Something to help you think fondly of your loved one each time they ring. We hung it in the doorway of our guest bedroom until the dumb rain stopped and we could decide where to hang it outside. But ya know what? I think we will leave it there for awhile.

Almost any time someone walks down the hall we “rattle” it.

I am sure we each remember different things about grandpa Ron. Yesterday, on the 4th of July we remembered that he always saved us the absolute best spots at any firework show, often showing up an hour or so before the event and fighting people off so we could just saunter in at our leisure and have the best view.

Each time we rattle the chimes, I don’t remember any resentments or frustrations over his idiosyncrasies like quadruple checking the door to make sure it is truly locked or driving in my car without a lid on his coffee or going to Walmart for an item and being gone for hours (we used to ask the “where’s Ron” question when he came for a visit also, and would joke that he said he was running a quick errand so he’s probably at Walmart-for the past 2 hours. :). )

What I do remember is how fiercely he loved and served God and because of that he also fiercely loved and served his family and God’s bride, the church. He built into countless men and women who went on to lead churches with thousands of members or a handful of members. He inspired people to be brave and leave their worldly wealth and status and become Missionaries to Russia and the like. He encouraged my kids to dream big and assured them they could do whatever they wanted to do in life. He challenged my husband and I to work through marital baggage and let God work. He is part of the reason we are still married after 30 years (he married us by the way, so I suppose he felt extra invested!).

When he died, even though he didn’t even so much as cough it was so peaceful, I half expected there to be some sort of earthquake or the sky to go dark like it did when Jesus took his last breath. Because this man has influenced more people in their faith than we will ever, ever know about this side of heaven. All we do know is that the number is a big one.

This is why we are having two separate Celebrations of Ron’s life. One for anyone who can make it from the places he lived and served in the Midwest (Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois) and the West Coast (Napa, LA, Arizona, Los Vegas). People want to come and give homage to a man who poured himself out to them so they they too can keep the faith until the day they go home to see their Daddy.

So, I guess we are done repeating the question we have been asking for years. Where is Ron? We finally know exactly where Ron is and where he will forever stay.

-In loving memory of Ronald Winston Carter

“What you think of me is none of my business.”

  1. What other people think of me is crucial (good or bad).
  2. Other people’s success is a threat to mine (especially in areas that I wish to be successful).
  3. If I am not “as good as” someone else, I am inadequate.

If you read my blog about a month ago (A Beautiful Beatdown), I listed a few lies that I have allowed to outline my life–lies that have seeped in and taken over my mind, subtly, darkly and deviously. I have have written 2 other blogs about the lie of not being “enough” and about the lie that multi-tasking is admirable and the mark of successful people. 

Today I am ready to talk about the three lies listed above. They all seem to overlap. My readiness today comes from where my mind has been camping for quite some time and has finally hit its proverbial “bottom”.

You can see the obvious theme: over-concern about someone else. Someone else’s approval or disapproval of me and someone else’s successes or failures compared to my own. 

When I am consumed with how I am perceived and how I compare with other people, there is little room left over for love, serving, and compassion, which are the markers of the genuine and vulnerable woman I long to be. I write about this longing repetitively in my blogs and pray for it often. 

I sign my books with the tag line “…in this together”, and reiterate the message that “you are not the only one” who struggles with signature defects like control, worry, fear, jealousy and judgmentalism–the diseases of the soul that keep us sick.

And yet…when I view myself as either less-than or better-than others, there is zero chance that we can be united in our struggles. Comparison in any form results in isolation. It fosters a pedestal-posturing or bottom-dwelling life. 

Lately I have allowed my mind to be overtaken by the need to please and perform at my peak in order to feel validated–in order to feel worthy.

When I live with that mindset, it becomes my overarching purpose for existing. I slowly forget that “I am here for a good time, not a long time”, as my daughter always says. And that “good” time is defined only by God, who gives all good gifts to me so that I might in turn share them with others. It is not about me (revelation!). 

One of the good gifts God gave me is the gift of writing. And, as we have established, I don’t have to be a “real writer” to get my message across that you are not alone and that there is always hope. I do, however, have to be, at the very least, “real”. 

Real means that I have to give up being concerned with what you think of me, and allow God to help me be raw and vulnerable so that by His grace, something I say might prompt you to seek Him on your own, embrace his love and tenderness, and receive his grace and mercy so you can finally take a deep breath and let out a sigh of relief because he holds you in the palm of his sweet and mighty hand.

I saw a t-shirt once that read: 

“What you think of me is none of my business.”

Only what God–who loves me unconditionally and doesn’t compare me with the “someone elses” of the world–thinks of me matters. 

House of Fear

Lately, I haven’t sat down long enough to write anything except contracts. I am a Realtor in Springfield, Illinois, a small midwestern city. Lately, I feel like I live in California (minus the perfect weather and beaches and healthy restaurants). I feel like this because the real estate market is in crazy-mode right now. I feel like if I don’t schedule a showing within a few hours of a home being listed, we will miss it and even if we get there, we will most likely end up in a multiple offer situation, paying thousands over asking price and waiving inspections and appraisals. Never seen anything like it. I am eating, sleeping and breathing homes right now. 

All this running around to show houses morning, noon, and night combined with trying to investigate alternative ways to find listings that are not yet listed, makes for an unsettled brain and body. I have been letting finding-other-people-a-home dominate my own ability to embrace and enjoy my own home.

Actually, being in my physical home is something I am missing, but not as much as I miss being at home in my head and heart. 

I didn’t even realize, until I forced myself to sit still and read/pray/reflect this morning, that I have been avoiding going “home”. Home to myself. Avoiding the sitting, the reflecting, the accepting of some personal circumstances in my life that I don’t want to be true. 

It’s just so much less painful to run around showing other people homes.

This is a symptom of the lie I have been believing: “If this happens/or doesn’t happen….THEN I will be happy/content/serene/free.

If the good things happen that I wish to happen, then I will be happy. If the bad things don’t happen, then I will be content and serene. 

All of these states of being are desirable to me, but are precariously hinged on what may or may not happen in the future. They are 100% conditional. 

That is not what I claim to believe about God or his grace. It is anti. 

When I live in the “if-then” mindset, I am living in a constant state of fear. 

When we are constantly asking ourselves, “What if I lose my job? What if I get sick, if my marriage doesn’t work out, or an accident happens? What if tomorrow a natural disaster or global pandemic changes all my plans? What if I don’t get the promotion? What if I can’t pay my bills? What if…..? 

Brennan Manning tells us in his book, “The Ragamuffin Gospel” (148), “Once these questions guide our lives, we take out a second mortgage in the house of fear.” 

I love that image, especially as a realtor. I know God was asking me to listen up when the few pages I read today were talking about homes and houses! He beat me at my own game! I love that he meets me where I am at.

Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

“Jesus says simply, ‘Remain in me, as I in you’ (John 15:34).

‘Anyone who loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make a HOME in him’ (John 14:23). Our world, our cities and offices and churches are inundated with homeless people. They are vagabonds who are in flight, who never come home to themselves. They seek a safe place through alcohol or drugs or security in success, competence, friends, pleasure, notoriety, knowledge, or even a little religion. They have become strangers to themselves, people who have an address but are never at home” (Manning p.148). 

“To those of us in flight, who are afraid to turn around lest we run into ourselves, God says, ‘You have a home. I am your home. Claim me as your home. You will find it to be the intimate place where I have found my home. It is right where you are, in your innermost being. In your heart.’” (Manning p.148)

Call off the home search. Stop scrambling and stressing and searching. You are home. You are the home. Let God reside. 

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My MultiTasking Mind

I find it comical (and telling) that from the moment I decided to address the second lie from my post “A beautiful beat-down”, I have been nothing but distracted. The Lie: ” Multi-tasking (read: living in two or more places/realities at once) is the productive and responsible way to live.”

This morning, I have definitely not been living in the present. Usually I am done writing by 10:00 in the morning because that is when my brain works best. For the past two hours I have been hopping up from my writing perch to clean this, arrange that, check my emails, answer quick texts, dust, take vitamins, comb out my hair, and read from 4 different books.

If I ever needed evidence that this is indeed an issue for me, I am golden.

In one of my books, Courage to Change, I went to the index and read all 7 entries under the topic “living in the present”. Because seriously, this is a real problem for me. A word used in one of the readings jumped out at me and defined my problem succinctly: Preoccupation.

I have a tendancy, actually, more of a strong magnetic pull, toward dividing up my attention. I may look focused and gathered on the outside (though that’s debatable), but my insides are in a frenzy. I am thinking about what I did or didn’t do in the recent or often distant past or what I need to do in the future (today/next week/month/year).

More often than not, and this is embarrassing to admit, I am talking to people I care about while answering emails and texts to clients I don’t even know. When others talk I am frequently thinking about who I need to reach out to or what chores I need to do later. Sometimes I am stewing, worrying, fretting, regretting and fearfully anticipating things that may or may not happen in the future.

Need any more examples? I am sure you have a few of your own.

The lie I have believed about how I am just being efficient and smart by multi-tasking, both literally and in my head, has robbed me of many opportunities to be present with those I love and learn from what is happening in the here and now. It’s very difficult to hear God’s prompting or gently nudging about how to handle the present when I am never there.

This week my husband and I have both seen some signs that our head is not with our hands, as they say. One day he got all the way to work without his lap top and as he was venting to me about it while I was at work (and after I gave him some very spiritual advice about being distracted in his brain and not living in the moment), I realized that I had left my purse at home.

We both are considering much about our new empty-nest life stage and as a result, our minds are preoccupied what a variety of dreams and opportunites and our excitement, fear and anticipation of all of them. Our kids also have a lot of changes happening, and as a parent, isn’t it my responsibility to worry about them and try to help them figure things out? When a situation disturbs me, with a coworker/friend/family member/enemy do I chew on it over and over in my thoughts when my attention is needed elsewhere?

Do you ever go a day without really noticing what was happening around you because your attention is on everything but what’s right in front of you to enjoy?

Since one of my biggest distractions from the task at hand is social media, emails, texts, etc., I believe it is no coincidence that when I looked up verses in the Bible about living in the present, the New King James Version says:

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for their is not work or device 🙂 or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.”

Also, Colossians 3:23 implores us: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.” In a nutshell, live “wholeheartedly”. Not simultaneously giving a quarter of your attention to your kids and a quarter to work and a quarter to your phone and a quarter to rehearsing an offense that happened earlier that day or 20 yrs. ago.

I know it’s a big ask and a somewhat daunting task. But if we, or should I say I, am not intentional about this, I run around (inside my skin) like the Tasmanian Devil. I stir up dust and create havoc but don’t actually land long enough to embrace the current treasure that is my one and only life.

It’s vital that I give myself permission to let Today be then focus of my life. Or better yet, let each tiny point be the focus of my life. Realistically, that’s my only option anyway.

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