Photo Credit: © 2006 Lynne Holder

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Life Lessons

My husband, Leland Holder. Where do I begin? There is so much I could say about the man I've known for 4 1/2 years and been married to for 1 1/2 years, but this is about his generous and giving spirit.

And a few life lessons.

Leland is known for giving his time and talents as a professional photographer, here and abroad; on several occasions, traveling to Eastern Europe and his heart's connection--the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and the Evangelical Church of Capljina. He has also been known to give his last dollars to people who have asked him for financial assistance.

Lesson 1: People have taken advantage of his giving nature, and that has hurt, but not anymore. Not on my watch.

He gives easily and without a thought to what is in it for him. It is who Leland is, at his core--generous.

I have been praying for some time that God will return to him what he has given, multiplied many times over. I seriously don't know anyone who deserves this more. I believe I am seeing the beginnings of that prayer being answered, and I am grateful beyond words, but it has been quite a test of endurance to run the race of faith and not grow weary.

Lesson 2: Sometimes, you feel like you've been in the waiting room so long that you consider changing your address.

Lesson 3: Sometimes, however, an act of generosity will come back to you surprisingly fast.

Recently, we were at the farmer's market in Buckhead. Leland was in line for a cup of coffee; organic something or other, from some remote region of the planet, no doubt grown by some magical people, which of course would justify the horrendous price. To me, it's just another cup of crack. But that's beside the point.

The person in front of Leland was a young mother with her baby in a stroller. She had ordered a cup of coffee, but was surprised to find out that the vendor only accepted cash. Since she couldn't use her debit card, she started to turn away when Leland told the vendor, I'll buy her coffee. Two cups, please.

The young woman told him he didn't need to do that, but in his typical fashion, he insisted. He could not let her just walk away, empty handed. The vendor was so impressed, he said to Leland, That's really nice of you, paying it forward. Your cup is on me.

I can't tell you how that small gift encouraged both of us. It was as though God was saying, Don't give up, I have heard you. Stay strong.

Lesson 4: I know, it was just a cup of coffee. But maybe God speaks in the ordinary. I think so.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Celebration of Life

Yesterday, Leland and I attended the memorial service at Buckhead Church for our friend, Kathy Marotta. We heard stories of her life--struggles, overcoming, serving others, teaching, writing, relating--from her friends and Pastor, Jeff Henderson. 

We grieved, we laughed, and we left with hope--hope in the promises of Jesus for life that never ends and eternity with Him, if we simply believe.

I have a story about Kathy that I would like to share with you now; testimony to her heart and her giving nature.

Around the time that Kathy's book, No Burning Bushes, was due to be released, she came to Leland's studio to sit for head shots. She could light up a room. She laughed and had a great time through the entire photo shoot. She was a natural in front of the camera.

As she sat in the office reviewing the pictures on the monitor with Leland, the conversation turned at some point and I was telling her about some of my recent struggles. I wish I remember the conversation well enough to quote what she said, but honestly, it was what she did that I remember.

She reached into her purse and dug around for a minute (it was a really big purse), and when her hand reached what she was searching for, she pulled it out and said, Here.

I opened my hand, and in it, she placed a tiny glass cross.

I stood there for a second, just looking at its beauty. I said something profound like, Wow, this is so beautiful! I asked her if it was Murano glass, and she told me it was, and that she had bought it while on a trip to Italy.

I started to hand it back to her when she said, No, you keep it.

Shocked, touched, speechless for a second, I looked into her beautiful eyes and told her thank you. She just smiled and said, You're welcome.

A random act of compassion and generosity; a moment between us that I will always treasure. She pointed me to the cross.

If there's anything Kathy will be remembered for, it's her heart for people and compassion for their suffering.

In remembrance of Kathy's giving spirit, her family has asked that anyone wishing to do so, donate to two charities:

  • Charity Water 
  • Global X - Bosnia: In Project Category, select Ministry Projects from the dropdown menu, then select Global X-Bosnia in the Project dropdown menu. Continue with supplying personal and payment information.
Our loss would be redeemed by these charities being supported, particularly the one closest to her heart, the Evangelical Church of Capljina, Bosnia-Herzegovina. 

Take time to celebrate life today. Be grateful, be content, be hopeful.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dang Those 2 x 4s

Yesterday was an interesting day--not one of my favorites, by any means, but necessary. It was a lesson day, provided by the good old 2 x 4, strategically applied to the side of my head.

Dreamers and idealists are practically conjoined twins. You can hardly have one without the other, the way I see it. I'm a hopeless idealist, which is why I am so quickly disappointed by what set me off yesterday--This Blog.

What the author (one I respect and admire for his excellent writing) wrote shocked me and offended me. Frankly, it was an awful piece that indicted teenagers and baby boomers as guilty of creating "their own blogs — all for the sake of being heard. They’re taking up space with half-formed opinions and rants, and it’s given the blogosphere an infamously bad name." He then proceeded to say that "their content sucks", it should piss off the real writers, and "you can judge and mock too, if you really want."

It seemed so unlike him. It was smug, snobby, elitist--even if, as he says, it wasn't his intention. Intention or not, it was. His point, which was ultimately supposed to be that good writers have to be good marketers as well, was completely lost.

I commented on it. I was too nice in an attempt to gloss over how I really felt. Then I went too far and I was dishonest. When he replied to my comment and said he was sorry if he offended me, I told the author of the post, "No harm, no foul."  

I lied. The truth is, it was a huge foul and I was offended.

Somehow, I managed to lose my voice, once again.  

When will I ever learn?  
When will I ever figure out that the sky will not fall on my head if I speak my mind?  
When will I ever stop seeking the approval of others?

I understand the source of my tendency to be a sweet, easy-to-get-along-with-don't-hurt-anybody's-feelings-or-rock-the-boat person. I was trained well to seek approval.

For the most part, I think anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a caring and genuinely nice person. The fact is, it's not who I really am, at least not all the time. Some things can make me mad--justifiable mad--or sadden me, or hurt my feelings (tell me I'm too sensitive one more time--go ahead, make my freaking day).

I can say what I think and not second guess my opinion, apologize for it, or let people off the hook.

For the sake of being heard, which I think I still have the right to do as an American (dare I say baby boomer) citizen, I have one thing to say to the ivory tower Great Writers looking down on the lesser among you:


Monday, July 25, 2011

Calling All Unequipped

What comes to mind when you think of a leader? Is it someone in a management position in corporate America, a pastor of a mega church, a commanding officer in the armed forces, or a politician in public office? Okay, that last one is a bit of a stretch, but there are leaders in each of these scenarios. In my mind, these are people who drive a European import with a model name that looks like alphabet-number soup, live in a gated community in a McMansion, go about 4 people deep before access is gained (one of those might be a bodyguard), and when they speak, everyone stops to listen.  


Recently, the issue of leadership criteria became personal when Leland and I visited friends, John and Elizabeth Morgan, who we hadn’t seen in a couple of years, since they moved out of town for business reasons. We love this couple because they’re so easy to be with, so honest and transparent; spiritual family.

Over the course of the weekend, our conversation turned to small groups. We told our friends how our group had experienced some commitment issues among its members, and has basically fizzled out. Immediately, they both chimed in with, you should lead a new group! 

Us? My husband and I both laughed and agreed that we’re not leadership material.

Our friends smiled and said, well, that just proves that you’re probably the perfect ones to lead a group.

I have never, in my wildest dreams, imagined that I would be in the place of leading any group, other than in my job as mom to my little herd of 4 children.
We still weren’t sure what to think, but since Elizabeth had worked on staff in the small group ministry of our super-sized church, we had to stop and consider she might know what she’s talking about. What ensued was an eye-opening conversation about what John and Elizabeth considered to be the qualifications of a couple’s group leader.

We then proceeded to run through the reasons why we weren’t so sure:  

We’ve never done this before. 
We’ve made a lot of stupid choices in life. 
We’re not so sure we’re on a high enough spiritual plane. At one point on our paths, we've both walked away from organized religion and Leland was an agnostic for years before returning to the faith. I am someone who questions everything like a hard-core skeptic, refusing to believe everything I'm told, unlike the automaton I was; a product of a graceless church environment. 
We both struggle with prayer. 
We have both failed once at marriage.  


Most of us know the story of how God called Moses to deliver the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. We know Moses came up with more than one reason why he thought he wasn’t fit for the task:

Who am I? I’m nobody special.
What if the Israelites don’t believe you sent me?
What if the Egyptians don’t believe me or listen to me?
I’m a lousy speaker.

God gave him answers to all his questions, promising to do amazing things for him in the process, and all Moses could say was, Lord, please send someone else to do it.

Moses was simply a shepherd; nothing special. Slow to speak. Totally lacking any confidence in himself, and apparently, the God in the flaming foliage he was talking to. Helloooo!

Feeling a bit Moses-ish, we promised our friends we would prayerfully consider applying for small group leadership. During that process, I remembered back to last November when I wrote a mission-related blog post.  Here is an excerpt: I am humbled. I am sorry for thinking God cannot do whatever He desires to do, through me. There are no obstacles to the fulfillment of His purpose, other than our selves.

Fast forward a few weeks, and we completed the church’s group leader application process. To our surprise, we were scheduled for an interview with a small group staffer at church. It seems the boulder-strewn, twisted, detour-filled lives we have lived might just make us relatable, and therefore, great leadership material—along with the fact that we are simply willing to put ourselves in the position of being a channel for God to pour his power through, and into the lives of those that we do life with in our small group, beginning in September.

I let John know of our decision to jump into small group leadership, via Twitter, knowing he would share the news with Elizabeth. He tweeted back, God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called. That made my heart soar.

My view of leadership has changed. True leaders are servants, not masters; channels of God’s power, not the power source.

What is your take on what makes someone leadership material?

p.s. Thanks, John and Elizabeth--we love you!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

C'est la Vie

Life is [fill in the blank]. Of course, we would fill volumes with words to describe our journeys here, from the most joyful to the most devastating of experiences.

In the last year, I can easily say that I have ridden a roller coaster of emotional experiences. Here's the year in a nutshell:

  • I thoroughly enjoyed a surprise birthday party with friends and an awesome cake. I love cake. I love my friends for celebrating with me. I love my husband for cooking up this party.
  • My fashion photographer, mentor in the modeling biz, and close friend, Michael Wray, lost his battle with cancer, on Labor Day. I sat beside his hospice bed, hand on his chest, as he breathed his last breath.
  • As a result of Michael's death, I made a new friend in Gaby Hirsch, who traveled all the way from Germany to be with her friend of 30 years as he made his transition. 
  • My son got married in September. It was a fabulous wedding and I will never forget the groom/mother dance. Happy tears welled in my eyes.
  • My nephew on my ex's side of the family committed suicide. Oh, dear God. He was so young.
  • After a year and a half at a job that was sucking the life out of me, I left with no other plans to fill my bank account, trusting in my true Source of supply to sustain me as I recovered my authentic self.
  • The week of Thanksgiving I suffered an extremely painful back injury while riding a polo pony calmly around an arena. Dream shattered.
  • After this injury and months and months of a recurring physical problem, I set about getting well, with the help of my chiropractor and his extensive knowledge of clinical nutrition.
  • My savings were completely depleted in my efforts to be well.
  • Christmas with family! My first Christmas in years with a kid and a room full of toys. Child-like wonder. Buddy the Elf. Too many yummy cookies. Tons of pictures. Lots of love.
  • In January, I sprained my left ankle. It still swells and causes me pain. I can't work out without aggravating both my ankle and my back injuries, no matter how careful I am. I find myself battling anger every day as I remember how fit I was and realize how unfit I am now. My body has declared mutiny.
  • We celebrated my middle daughter's 30th birthday with a big surprise party that her husband threw. He is a master of the sneakiness. I loved this party. Family, her wonderful friends, and yes, fabulous cake.
  • My husband and I suffered our first relationship crisis. 
  • Leland and I traveled to Florida and Virginia to attend events with his family. It was my first time meeting most of them. Truly lovely people. My youngest daughter took advantage of our close proximity to Northern Virginia to see her mom and step-dad. It's always a treat to see her beautiful face.
  • I spent 5 glorious days in Arkansas with my daughter, son-in-law, and the amazing Kate the Great, celebrating her second birthday. Takeaways: Spend time with small children, and recover your own child-likeness. Family is everything. 
  • I have had several weekend opportunities to spend time with my 2 kids and their spouses in NC, a short 4 hour drive from Atlanta. I don't care what we do, or if we do nothing but hang out in the kitchen, I never laugh so much as when I'm in a room with my kids.
  • A friend of ours died suddenly last week. Tragic, painful for so many, and difficult to process.
C'est la vie--such is life. It seems so flippant, but it is really true. We have never been promised comfort on this journey, but we have been promised trials and we have been promised that God will never leave us. He promises hope and a future. 

Such is life: Joy, pain, tragedy, sickness, comforting, healing, birth, death. 

As I look toward celebrating another birthday in a couple of weeks, I don't think I feel like having a party; surprise or otherwise. Birthdays are shiny-happy events and the shiny has dulled a bit this year.

On the other hand, maybe it's exactly what I should do. I need to make my c'est la vie not so much about shrugging my shoulders at life's pain, as about celebrating life's joy in the midst of sorrow.

You're invited.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

In Memory of Kathy Marotta

Kathy Marotta was a stranger to me when, in the fall of 2009, we became members of a team of 7 people from North Point Community Church, whose purpose was to minister to the people of the Evangelical Church of Capljina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the surrounding community.

 She was not a stranger for long. Her easy smile, wonderful laugh, and genuine heart for people drew others to her.

 The October '09 mission team to BiH, in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
From left: Kathy Marotta, Lynne Holder, Nancy Smith, BJ Burggaller, Sandy Balmer (not shown are the 2 brave men on our team: John Morgan and Leland Holder)

Kathy wore her heart on her sleeve. She was open about her own struggles and what God taught her through all of them, hoping that her own story would shed some light and encouragement on someone else's path.

On Friday evening, July 15th, 2011, her journey here ended as she passed into eternity and the love she longed for--straight into Jesus' arms. 

Kathy formed many very special connections with the people in BiH and they quickly became her overseas family. There are many people there, as well as here in the US, who grieve her loss, but with the knowledge and comfort that our separation is only temporary.

In my mind's eye, I see my friend in the heaven of my dreams-- joyful, that fabulous smile, surrounded by light and love--at peace.

Save us a place at the table, Kathy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What a Gem

Years ago, I subscribed to Notes from the Universe, from Some days, there arrives the gem among the ordinary sand and stones that makes me smile a mile wide. Today was one of those.

The time will come, Lynne, and it will be sooner rather than later, when your greatest admirers and protégés will look at your life - your achievements, possessions (especially your successful career), and passions - frown a little and sullenly say, "Yeah, but for you... it was easy." At which point you should conceal any yearning you may possess to either object or laugh hysterically. Instead, lovingly look them square in the eye and say, "Yes, and it can be easy for you, too."

Get used to it,
    The Universe

Lynne, you have much to teach. 

Yes, I admit to dreaming this scenario, but whatever path my life takes, that post-script is true for all of us.

We each have much to teach. Don't doubt it. Your path is for a purpose, so share it.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Not Just a Dream--An Event

I realize that the promise I made in my last post to share my experience was not done "soon", for which I apologize. I ran into the brick wall of resistance--make that RESISTANCE. The battle is over, however, and here I am.

After I read Heaven is for Real and realized how encouraging and way off the typical human experience scale the story is, I wanted to share my own atypical story.

Why? Because God doesn't always fit in our ridiculously small box. We can't pronounce that we've got him figured out. There are plenty of mysteries left because we're not as smart as we think we are, and here in the physical realm we see spiritual things dimly.

In 2005, I moved to Atlanta to start a new life after surviving a string of losses: Divorce, the house was sold, empty nest, to name a few. I was shell-shocked, but God was good and provided beyond my dare-to-dream plans. Still, there were challenges that come naturally with moving to a city where you don't know a single person and start your life over. It was lonely at times.

After one typical, nothing out of the ordinary day, I dropped into bed for a good night's sleep. I don't think I stayed home that night, however. I had a dream--no, an experience, really--that was absolutely stunning.

I knew I had fallen asleep, but suddenly, I found myself in a very different place, surrounded by brilliant, nearly blinding golden light. I remember squinting to see if I could make out any objects or people. I couldn't see clearly but I knew I wasn't alone. I was familiar with feeling alone and this was the polar opposite.

My attention was diverted by the sounds I began hearing. They were so incredibly beautiful and soothing. It was music, but not from any instrument, and there was singing, but there were no words. It was music I had never heard before--the voices were the instruments, I think. No accompaniment necessary.

The feeling was indescribable. Love, warmth, fellowship, and incredible, unstoppable urge to worship God. JOY flooded my being and spilled out like a dam had burst inside my soul. All I saw was brilliant light, but I felt others all around me in the same state of utter joy and lightness--all praising the Creator of the Universe.

I remember thinking, This is almost too much to bear.

I woke up, eyelids popped open and breathing as though a syringe full of epinephrine had been shot into my veins. I couldn't do anything but lie there awestruck for a few minutes.

Was that a dream? No way. I couldn't have thought that up in my wildest imagination.

That was an EVENT, and one I will never, ever forget. It was an incredible gift. Whenever life seemed overwhelming. I always remembered my glimpse of heaven, and was reminded not only that I was not alone, but that the suffering we endure in this physical realm is temporary. What a future we have to look forward to!

Later that year, I would realize how God had not only meant that for my present encouragement, but to prepare me for what was going to be one of the challenges of my life.

That's another post for another time. Right now, to sleep--perchance, to dream.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Dreams and Questions

Anyone who sleeps has dreams. Either you don't dream much, or you dream every time you sleep and forget what it was all about when you wake up. I have a feeling the latter is the case.

I love dreaming. I don't remember my dreams often, so when I do, it's an event. In some of those cases when I don't, I wake up feeling as though something incredibly significant has happened, or I feel as though I've been busy all night long and waking up is like coming home after a long day at work. I really wish I could remember those dreams.

And then I wonder, were they dreams, or were they reality?

I have entertained questions over recent years that I realize I will not have answers to, at least not in this realm.

What if--what if, when we fall asleep, we enter reality? What if, when we fall asleep, we leave our physical shell and our spirit travels? What if, when we're "awake", that state is really a dream?

I recently read Heaven Is For Real, by Todd Burpo; the account of his 4-year-old son, Colton's, emergency surgery and time spent in heaven while under anesthesia. Colton was near death because of a misdiagnosed case of appendicitis that resulted in peritonitis. The surgery was necessary to remove several large abscesses in his abdomen.

The story is beyond fantastic--heart wrenching, fascinating, and encouraging. It really got me thinking, maybe I'm not too far off in my theory that we're not always "home" when we sleep.

Colton's parents carefully reviewed every word of the surgical procedure that was transcribed and placed in his medical record. Nowhere did it state that Colton had stopped breathing or that his heart had stopped beating. He never died. His spirit left his body and spent a few minutes in heaven meeting his great-grandfather, his sister that he never met because his mother had miscarried early in pregnancy, and sitting in Jesus' lap having a little chat. And he did homework. Homework?

This leads to another question I've entertained over recent years. Is time as we know it just an illusion? Colton says he spent a few minutes in heaven, when clearly, what he experienced would have taken much, much longer. I'm thinking the answer is "yes", and I believe this is clearly validated in Scripture. Earth time is not heaven time.

As for the question of whether our "awake" state is really a dream, I believe that we exist as parts of 2 realities: heaven and earth. We are primarily spiritual beings. The body is just the residence for the journey in the physical realm. We are here, and there--in the world, but not of it.

As I stated, I don't believe I will have a definitive answer to my questions until I make my transition from physical limitation to free spirit, but I have had my own interesting experiences of heaven, outside of the OR, and not under general anesthesia.

I promise, I will share with you soon.