Sunday, July 31, 2011
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
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 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.
Take time to celebrate life today. Be grateful, be content, be hopeful.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
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
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.
p.s. Thanks, John and Elizabeth--we love you!
Thursday, July 21, 2011
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.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
She was not a stranger for long. Her easy smile, wonderful laugh, and genuine heart for people drew others to her.
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
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,
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
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
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.