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More or Less

The older I get, the more I …

Relate to the two main characters in the “Secondhand Lions” film. 

Become less tolerant of people that drain me.

Experience the pain of not being as important to my children. 

The older I get the more I …

Rehearse the little things like being someone else’s inspiration. 

Cherish that one last hug “goodbye”.  

Realize that mom was right. 

The older I get the more I …

Understand that Shalom does not come apart from G-d. 

Curate my life with healthy boundaries, time management and challenges. 

Choose freedom over fear, experiences over dollars, and true friends over what’s fashionable.

Lastly, the older I get the more I…

Value the little things like time with my dog, a perfect cup of cappuccino, music that stills me

and time alone with my Creator.

Shalom to all.

I’ve made it this far. 50 and blessed. 

LoriAnne

______________________

What’s your more or less?

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Heal Our Land

When Christmas passes and the New Year approaches, I start thinking about how I would like to live out the upcoming year.  I take a few days to choose a word like joy or peace as a theme and hope to discover and embody that word. At the close of 2019 though, I sensed things were going to be different. Of course, I had no idea how very different. Neither did I understand why I also had two words for the year. As we are now in September of 2020, I believe now I’m beginning to understand. 

The first word I pondered was the word faithfulness.  Being faithful, according to Merriam-Webster, also means “steadfast, strong, true to the facts, adherence to, or assurance”.  Faithfulness as I understand it means being committed to engaging in pursuits, goals and activities that require excluding other activities. My sense for the new year was that I urgently needed to become faithful in all areas of my life – including my relationship with G-d. 

The second word I pondered was restoration.  Aaaah. Restoration. After having just passed the 6 month mark of the catastrophic 2020 lockdown, I am just as ready as anyone to reach it’s fulfillment. 

Restoration according to my Greek Lexicon refers to “new birth, regeneration.”  The Oxford Dictionary states it this way,  “the action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition.” 

As I’m glancing at my calendar this week, the Hebrew Calendar announces the beginning of a new year, Rosh Hoshanah.  Rosh Hoshanah is known as the birthday of the world, the head of the year, a time of renewal.  The shofar is blown like an alarm beckoning us back to G-d. Time for introspection. Time for correction. At the end of ten days Yom Kippur is observed. It is a High Holy day. The Day of Atonement with fasting, sincerity, confession and repentance.  Repentance seems kind of appropriate this year, doesn’t it?

What I have seen this year, what you have seen too in some estimation, is the unprecedented shaking of our world. All of us have used different words and ways to explain what or why things have happened. What I have seen has saddened me. What I have seen is scorn for things once thought good, an undeniable hatred of god-fearing principles, traditions and blessings. What I have seen is the celebration of destruction and rhetoric that stagnates. What I have seen is people grieving over lost loved ones, isolated and apathetic. Fear abounds. Fires abound. Strife abounds. If you are different, you’re cancelled. If you’re not essential, you’re unessential. I see people feeling attacked, helpless, sick, tired and disrespected. People are assigned varying degrees of value. They’ve been silenced, cancelled and even murdered.

How did we get here?  

Are we just like Cain?

Is death our anthem?

Our generation has lost some amazing humans. Some of them were soldiers. Some of them were the best of us. They fought for freedoms sake, for righteousness sake and they fought their way out of hell into a peaceful place. They did not consider their own lives in their missions. How is that possible? I could spend loads of time singing their praises but the time is short for ALL of us to consider how WE will leave the generation after us. My concern for some time now, apart from senseless killing is that this generation has lost some of the goodness of the previous one. My concern is that we will become like the man lost in a desert who out of the thirstiness of his soul, drinks the sand. Thirsty souls need pure water. Do we even know the difference between a polluted well and a fresh spring? Thirsty souls drink whatever is easy and near. But this is not the way of restoration.

I wonder if the Maker of heaven and earth will so lovingly remind us of the fragility of our lives. I wonder if we like Job could brace ourselves and hear the Almighty speaking into unexpected places leaving us to know that the Awesome One is watching. I wonder if we could even begin to turn away from that which destroys and turn towards the ONE who saves. The ONE who saves is divine and restoration is His alone.

If there was ever a time to sound the shofar, it is now. If there was ever a time to stand, it is now. If there was ever a time on earth to contemplate, ask forgiveness, confess and repent, it is now.

The Bible tells us G-d is watching and that He is the healer.

2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

HealourLand

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Bleak and Bright

clouds cold evening freezing
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s that time of year again. The time I start rehearsing for another set of Christmas songs meant to inspire the healing balm of Christmas during what is a seriously anyting-but- healing time of year for some people. Those who have suffered the loss of a job or relationship may have a lot more on their mind than twinkly stars, presents and Christmas carols. For some this means the reminder that they are alone. Maybe even alone for the holidays for the first time. 

Three thoughts come to my mind this year as I both process through my own life’s transitions (new job and home) and consider my Christmas music set. 

First, I have a lot to be thankful for. The things I take for granted like a house, car, job, running water, shoes, community, friends and family, are things that could literally be wrapped up in paper and presented as all the gifts I really need. See this video from 2016 created by a North Carolina church that went viral.

 

Second, I recently read a post a FB friend shared about what the Norwegians do during this time of year and may be proven useful for many of us who think we need to “endure” rather than “enjoy” winter. This article may be more beneficial than peppermint mochas and potato soup. 

https://www.fastcompany.com/3052970/the-norwegian-secret-to-enjoying-a-long-winter?cid=search

architecture building city coast
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Third, how do I bring the healing balm of Christmas to those who are suffering? It’s my job musically-speaking to do this each year when I say, “yes” to singing at the Marlatt Home Christmas Memorial service. I consider it an honor to help people experience a few minutes of joy or a moment of peace as they light their candles to “Silent Night”. What I know is,  while I often find that music is healing and spiritual, good for the brain and all of those wonderful mysteries, I know that it is only God himself that can carry a person through their own bleak midwinter. 

candles

Here is one song I intend to share at the service. It is a beautiful poem later set to music, considered a Christmas carol and written by Christina Rossetti in the late 1800s. You can find the full version in the link below but I’ve included only three verses to share here and as part of my solo performance. 

https://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/in_the_bleak_midwinter.htm

 

In the Bleak Mid-Winter by Christina Rossetti

 

In the bleak mid-winter 

  Frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron, 

  Water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow, 

  Snow on snow,

In the bleak mid-winter

  Long ago.

 

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him 

  Nor earth sustain;

Heaven and earth shall flee away

  When He comes to reign:

In the bleak mid-winter 

  A stable-place sufficed

The Lord God Almighty, 

  Jesus Christ.

 

What can I give Him, 

  Poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd

  I would bring a lamb,

If I were a wise man

  I would do my part,

Yet what I can I give Him, 

  Give my heart.

May your heart be filled with simple blessings this season,

abstract art blur bright

Love, LoriAnne

 

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Four Ways Italy changed me

 

By LoriAnne Mullins

First off, I always wanted to go to Italy but didn’t expect to get there the way I did. I imagined going there as a tourist with my mother.  Someday we may. As it turned out though, the opportunity to attend the opera, language and culture program was exactly what I needed to teach me four valuable lessons.

Lesson #1 – Don’t Worry.

“Don’t worry, LoriAnne,” is a phrase I heard several times by locals including our italian language coach, Carlotta. I think it’s because I ask a lot of questions and tend to ask well ahead of schedule so that I can be prepared. I am someone who loves learning and I don’t mind the unexpected (sometimes) but I just may cry if I get a bad grade. Yep. I’m THAT person. The thing is though, any time you are in a different country, unexpected things happen and worrying doesn’t really help. Stressing about the learning curve doesn’t either. Going with the flow does.  Shifting from the “results” mindset to “progress” mindset does.  

Lesson #2 – Enjoy life.

Enjoying life is what Italians do best. They do it with flair, style and art.  They literally can take an ordinary thing like a tomato and make it extraordinary by flashing a warm “buongiorno”, and presenting that tomato as if it were the sweetness of life itself. Between sharing food, drink and conversation, Italians teach the world the beauty of “dolce vita”  because they create what they want, share it and enjoy it. The process itself is a work of art.  I’ve seen it in the way the shop girl will package a purchase for you. I’ve seen it in how the produce market owner talks about his fresh ‘frutta e verdura’.  I’ve seen it in the way people of all ages present themselves in their clothing or style their hair. To many, their ways may seem frivolous. To me, I saw a degree of respect for their own lives that was refreshing.  Just walking through a side street one notices the artful lives lived. Go to any government building or church, town square, or even the outskirts and there is an expression of an artful life. Being able to slow down and enjoy an artful and intentional life is a wonderful gift Italy gave me.

Lesson #3 – Embrace.

The italians know how to embrace people. Even people not from their own culture. They hug you and kiss you (both sides) and that is their greeting. How this translated for me was two-fold. First, it is wonderful to embrace people, embrace other cultures, embrace the present, and embrace the community you are in.  We do a good job at staring at our phones and tricking ourselves into believing we are connected on social media but truly embracing people isn’t exactly achieved online.  Second, I honestly felt saddened in this one regard upon my return because I could feel the disconnect around me (even in our communities of faith) and how much we’re desperately missing this enriching aspect of our lives by our lifestyles.  To simplify, the lesson I learned was how lovely life is when you connect with your community.

Lesson #4 – Live the music.

Music in itself is glorious. Learning more about my voice and being able to focus on it was a gift. Singing in a castle, taking masterclasses and becoming excited about the musical texts was well worth my time and focus. At one point in a master coaching,  I was able to access a part of my voice I had never accessed before. If I were a scientist it may be like making a new discovery while working on a theory. If I were an accountant it may mean the feeling you get when everything zeroes out.  For me, it was like riding the air unafraid, and above the noise. You could say I was able to feel, breathe, experience, sing, love and literally “live” the music while in Italy. I am grateful.

Thank you, Italy.  I salute you! You taught me to not worry, to focus on my progress, to enjoy life and on the things that bring me joy.  You taught me to embrace situations, people, community, music, and my own unique voice. You gave me permission. Permission to be myself.  My 100% female self.  After all, I may live in Lake Tapps, but I’m not a typical NW lover of all things outdoors. While I do enjoy riding my bicycle, I just may prefer to do so on afternoon “luce de sole” in a dress and heels.

Reader Challenge: What is one way this weekend you can celebrate your own progress? Where can you make new discoveries in music, art, connection or in what brings you joy?

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Wrapped Peace

peace

“Peace on Earth. And mercy mild. God and sinners reconciled.”

Sound familiar?

It’s from “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” with lyrics written by Charles Wesley (1707-88).

There are many carols that have references to peace and I think I enjoy them so much because couldn’t we all use more peace?  Peace on earth. Peace from war. Peace from chaos. Peace in the body. Peace instead of stress. Peace in relationships.

These are all things I began to consider  just before the end of last year. In fact, it became my word of the year for 2018. Do you have a word of the year?  

Just prior to Christmas, I like to start thinking about a word that reflects my new year’s goals so that during festivities I can be mindful of the things I’d like to purge in my life and household in the upcoming year.  I ask questions around my word like, What thoughts would bring me more peace? What ideas can I keep that will help me stay in peace? What things take away my peace?

During my consideration I found a word that summed up peace for me in a beautiful way.  It’s the hebrew word “shalom”. It goes further than just a simple understanding of peace.  You may have heard it as a greeting before, as it is commonly used as a greeting particularly among jewish communities and it’s more than just a hello or goodbye. It’s all encompassing.  Consider the word “shalom” to refer to a perfect soundness, completeness and wholeness. For me the word summed up means completeness of peace in the mind, body and spirit. (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance H 7965).

During my quest to remind myself of my word, I bought a large word decor and placed it on my mantel. Sure, it was gold and looked Christmassy but I kept it on my mantel for several months because it served as a good reminder and focus for me.

Next, I sorted through and challenged ideas and activities and stuff that didn’t bring me peace and guess what? I got rid of them. It’s a great feeling to do this by the way.

I began seeing changes in myself when I focused on my word of the year. In fact, my health overall has improved because guess what? Running happens to bring me peace. Eating whole, nutritious foods brings peace inside my body and prayer keeps my mind and spirit at peace. All of these changes happened because my choices aligned with my word of the year.

The gold in this process for me wasn’t just because of my choices though. Sure, I am proud of my hard work and focus this year,  but the gold wasn’t there. The gold began as a whisper in my heart as a term commonly used in Christmas carols…. “Prince of Peace”. Then, the whisper became “He, himself is our peace”  Where had I heard this before? Can a person embody the word peace, the word “shalom”, my word of the year?

“The Heaven born Prince of Peace” from the carol is referring to Christ. The whisper in my heart was referring to Christ as peace. And my thoughts began considering Christ as the embodiment of my personal peace. Scripture records Him saying to His followers, “Peace I leave you. My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled. Neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27 NJKV.  

Here’s the gold, and it’s wrapped in the only perfect person ever… Jesus.     He. Is. Peace. And He is the peace of Christmas. I have to work hard for peace and we have to work hard to bring peace to our unique situations yet the perfect wholeness and completeness of the word peace is embodied in Christ AND He gives it ….as a gift. That. is. HUGE. 

So… my final holiday challenge to you could be to find your word of the year. I mean it’s a great idea. However, it’s not my challenge. My challenge is for you to consider the embodiment of peace… consider Christ.

Challenge #3

Consider Adding more “Christ” to your Christmas

I’m not talking about getting a nativity, although some may find this addition a very smart focal point. I’m not asking you to add him as an ingredient like spice for your cookies either. I’m asking you to open your bible and read in Luke about his life, his birth, his passions, his ministry, his ideas about love, healing, forgiveness, government, giving and peace. I’m asking you to open your heart to Christ’s peaceful answers that are sure to come as whispers. I’m asking you to consider accepting the gift of peace from Christ himself.  Don’t have a bible. Ask a friend. Ask me. Look it up online, in an app, or at the library. 

Bonus:  Wonderful news for my female friends… consider this about him: He absolutely loved, respected, elevated, protected and believed in women. Don’t believe me. Contact me and we can have a chat. 

What I’ve discovered in my own considering of Christ this past year was born out of my “word of the year” and the need for less stress, more joy, peace and health. What I found in my quest was more of Jesus.

Thank you for joining me in my holiday challenge. Do yourself a favor and wrap yourself up in attention and love. Give yourself the much needed time outs, letting go of things and consider embracing the gift of wrapped peace Christ offers you.

Peace, love, joy, hope and laughter to all of you this season.

LoriAnne

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3  NKJV

 

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Check the list twice

Does your list look this?

  • Cookie exchange – 13 dozen
  • Craft store boxes for ladies exchange
  • Candy canes/classroom – 29
  • Teacher presents – 5
  • Greeting cards – 25
  • 6 stocking stuffers – (don’t forget the razors this year)
  • Host – Lions Club party
  • Hang outdoor lights
  • Decorate outdoor tree
  • Gift exchange – $25 or less
  • Concerts – December 3, 10, 12, 14, 19, 21, 22
  • Tree decor – $350
  • Host – Association holiday bazaar
  • Clearance tub sale – 12/27
  • Christmas Eve party @ Jamie’s house
  • Grandma Jean’s gift

This isn’t exactly a long list, right?  Perhaps not for some. Although I would question this list for even the most organized.  For others though, this is an example of why the holidays become a dread instead of a joy. Because with 10 extra nights out in the month, 12 extra gifts to wrap, 25 cards to write, a tree, house, mantel and hall to decorate, and two extra parties to host, there isn’t much comfort and joy to be had.  It’s all been squeezed out and there’s no more room for baby Jesus at the Inn.

So how do we manage all of the demands we’ve placed on ourselves and which ones do we let go of?  I mean we want to appreciate our child’s teachers, and the Association party just won’t be the same without our help, and we can’t forget Grandma Jean or the lovely dance recital our neighbor invited us to, and…..

The answer to this question will vary greatly depending on you and your needs. But the answer begins with asking yourself,  “Why”?

Why am I baking 13 dozen cookies for the party?

Is the party really something I love? Do I love baking cookies? Do I enjoy the people at this party enough to bake this many cookies?

If your answer is a resounding “yes,” and this both gives you great joy and you like why you’ve chosen this then by all means keep this activity as something necessary this season. But if it isn’t, then it’s time to cut it off your list.

The same goes for tree decorating, hosting parties, giving presents, and buying candy canes.

Friend, it may be too late to back out of some commitments now and if that is the case I hope you will at least make note of what you can actually let go of for next year but if you have not yet made a commitment to some activities then please do yourself a loving favor and check some things off your list.

And I know it can be so difficult to let go of our stuff, our ideas, our traditions, our _____________ but let me share with you a wonderful memory from last year that we created because we let go of what we’ve always done.

We had a very busy year with transitions in our household, as our oldest son was far away in college and not going to arrive home until December 23rd. He was possibly going to miss our outing of getting a tree and decorating it.  We decided to wait for him before we decorated which meant we wouldn’t have our tree for the usual 3 weeks we had it in previous years.

Additionally, because of the busyness we had during the year, we felt a traditional tree was going to feel more like a burden than a joy so we switched gears… let’s get the tree that needs the most love. It could be a symbol of our Christmas and what our hearts were being drawn to so, as I went shopping for our tree… I searched for the little tree that needed the most love.  There weren’t many to choose from. Yet, as I glanced at the three or four still available, there she stood…… sort of. Actually, she was bent and leaning like the leaning tower. We started calling our tree, “the leaning tower of Christmas”.  It was a point of humor but everyone got into the spirit of that little tree last year.

On December 23rd, the afternoon our son arrived home from college, we all sported our Christmas pajama bottoms, hopped into our van, and headed to the dollar store where each of us bought three ornaments and once home, placed them all on our little leaning tree. There was such laughter and light-heartedness in those moments and the joy that filled the room was truly better than some of our past years of decorating much larger and more perfectly-shaped trees.

leaning tree

Our take-away from last year is that we let go of what we did before and created a much more pleasurable and loving experience.  Now, it’s your turn….

Challenge #2

Check the list twice…

What can you let go of that will allow you to create something a little different or a little more enjoyable?

AnnaGracie tree
Christmas 2017 ~ Anna laughs while Gracie adorns our tree with a garland.

 

kyleisaac tree
Kyle and Isaac decorating our leaning tower of Christmas.

 

Challenge #3 is for tomorrow and it’s going to be good….

 

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Timeout for Christmas

Photo by Nubia Navarro on Pexels.com

red lighted candle

Do the songs you hear during the season light you up? Some of them are quite simple, yet brilliantly composed songs that have had almost miraculous histories. Some of them have lit the path for faith built on Christ’s love and kindness.  Others speak of joy and family and cocoa around a fireplace. All of these are reasons to embrace the songs of the season.

Let’s be honest though. Some of the songs we hear on the radio make us feel annoyed. Maybe they seem corny or monotonous. There’s only so many hundred times you can hear ding-dong after the 4th day of Christmas and realize you just want your true love to bring you the stress-free holiday you promised yourself.  Maybe you are like a few of my friends who lost a true love this year so just celebrating anything feels a bit daunting and sad and stressful.

What if you could be your own true love this season though and take a time out to discover the stress-free holiday you crave. Let this be your permission to do just that. Some people thrive on events like tree-lightings and church services and they light up with all the wonderfully composed songs of the season. Others are more introverted and need to dial it down. Maybe their idea of a great holiday is spending time alone with a good book curled up without distractions. “There’s no judgement here,” as a friend of mine would say.

So, to my few dear readers, I don’t want you to go through another year wishing the stress of the holiday  would  go away when you have within yourself the power to choose the best things of this season. I want to be clear that I love Santa, reindeer, silver bells, lights, desserts, stories, concerts, music and all the trimmings but for me, in order to experience the best of the season I choose challenges like scheduling time-outs and letting go of unnecessary things. Are you ready to join me the next three days as I challenge you too? Here we go…

CHALLENGE #1:

Schedule a time out. This is absolutely not an option. Scheduling a time out gives you the opportunity to discover the very best of the season. Sound boring? It doesn’t need to be.

Here are some of my ideas for accomplishing this:

DRIVE:  If you like driving, then fill your gas tank, grab a hot drink, find a place you would like to drive to or that you can safely park at and ask yourself these three questions.

  1. What do I enjoy?
  2. What steals my joy?
  3. What gift can I bring to the party that has nothing to do with buying a present?   (For those resistant to this question ,think of your personality traits like listening, humor, light-heartedness, kindness, hospitality, friendliness or flexibility as a start. You get to decide this year how you want to show up to the party and it doesn’t begin with the present you bought. It begins with you.)

These may be tough questions to answer, especially if you are used to functioning on autopilot but if you answer them and commit to adding more of what you enjoy and less of what steals your joy, your timeout will have been absolutely worth it.

JOURNAL: Find a quaint coffeeshop, bookstore or quiet place in your home, light a candle and find a topic to consider for the holidays.  You are welcome to create your own journal topics. This may be helpful for those who have lost someone this year because you may want to write about your loved one. However, I’ve put together a few general prompts for your consideration. Here they are:

What is the best memory I have of the holidays growing up?

What is the biggest winter storm I’ve experienced?

What if the only people I had in all the world were the people I lived with? What would I do? What would I say?

What can I give myself permission to do more of this season?

SING: Yes. Sing. Make a date with yourself, find a holiday song you enjoy and sing it. This can be in the shower or the car or even with friends. The challenge isn’t to worry about your sound or to rush through the song so you can check this time-out challenge off your list. The challenge is to find a song you love, find the joy in singing it and even learn more about it too. Look up the lyrics, study them if you wish, find out who the composer is and why they wrote the song. Buy a cd with your favorite song on it, or download various artists singing the same song.  You will certainly find great joy in this time-out challenge. Trust me.

 

Challenge #2 comes in tomorrow’s blog post. Don’t miss it.

 

 

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Life goes

candlesIt was 5:00  a.m. when the phone rang and…

I knew.

People just don’t call you that early in the morning unless it’s bad news. It was my mother.

She was choking back tears trying to form words that could only mean one thing….

  My dad was dead.

I’m not sure what she even said to me. I just know that I’ve decided since then that telling someone their loved one has died, passed, or is gone, is the most excruciating thing you could ever have say to another person.   It must have taken my mom some time to call. Did she think about what she was going to say first? Did she even have anyone with her? All I know is she must have stores of courage that others don’t. She had lived long with the knowledge that Dad’s passing was imminent but even with acceptance, the shock of someone’s passing is still too much for a soul to bear alone, let alone speak about.

I don’t remember much about the next day or two but on the third day, I remember going to the funeral home to see my Dad’s body in a casket. It was my birthday, so my mom and brothers and I met up for my birthday dinner.  Didn’t feel much like eating but we did anyway. My mom still wanted to celebrate my birthday. I guess she just carried on for all of us.  She always has been that kind of mom…. amazing.

The moment came for us to enter the room where my Dad’s body lay.  Do you know the feeling you can get when you really don’t want to go into a room? Your body tenses, you sweat and feel nauseous like you could faint?  It was like that for me only worse. I felt my soul was going to bottom out much the way I felt the day I turned around for just a moment and then couldn’t find my son…. That sinking, anxious, panicked feeling where I barely knew how to breathe.   I just know that nothing could ever have prepared me for that moment. GOD…. NO!!!!

My dad is NOT dead!!!!!

Of course I couldn’t let the others see me not being brave so, I walked up to where my dad lay and touched him like, “Hey.. he’s not here, so can we go…?  

I didn’t want to be there. Yet.. here I was. Here we all were celebrating my birthday (yep… weird) and here was my dad laying there in that thing.   He was just laying there.

The next day was the actual funeral and most of it was a blur except I think I squeaked out a song to sing acapella. I’m pretty sure there was a pastor who talked about the afterlife and about my dad and his life here on earth. He said I was the “apple” of my dad’s eye.  I guess that means something special but I’ve never completely understood it.

I had nightmares about my dad both before and after he died. I used to wake myself up crying which if you have never experienced that before, it’s almost frightening and really quite astonishing how your sleeping body can cry for you when your waking body can’t seem to.

Life goes on though. That’s what people want to happen anyway. For me my life did in so many ways. I mean, I was a married, stay-at-home mom, doing well and then about 10 years after Dad’s passing I remember hitting a wall, and feeling so ripped off. My dad missed everything. He. Missed. Everything!

Isaac’s birth. Anna’s adoption.  Kyle’s shows. The kids’ concerts, events, celebrations and …what about my opera singing?  Dad missed my singing. The opera he spoke about for years before I actually ever sang an aria… He missed it. He is still missing things. All the amazing things I’d like to share with him about one of my kids. He’s not a part of it… not really.  I sometimes try to convince myself he is but the truth is, I haven’t felt him for a long time. Unless you know someone that has passed away, that idea may not make much sense to you but many people think there is a period of time when you feel like your loved one is still with you. I haven’t felt that way for a long while. I also lost dad so early in life that the memories I have of him regrettably are so few.   I used to purchase a Christmas ornament in memory of him every year. I would make my selection based on something we did together. I feel like I’ve run out of memories.

This thing called “death” took so much away,  and just exactly how does life go on after “death” anway?  How do I answer that? Especially since I believe in life after death. I believe with all my heart that I will see my dad again. I believe the scripture that says “He that believeth in me though he were dead, yet shall he live.” But to answer the question about how to go on, is another thing.

The truth is, there is not an easy way to answer how life goes on.  There is no minister on earth that has the “message” that will save you either. I don’t mean the gospel message. I mean the one message that tells you exactly how life will go on for YOU. That message is something you so badly want to hear from the one who is now gone.

I’ve been one of the lucky ones. I’ve had a mother who choked back all life threw at her and still managed to find a way to celebrate, and even celebrate me in the middle of all the excruciating details.  I miss my dad. I’ll always love and miss him. But I have been so blessed with the kind of mother who shows up for all our families events, hosts all our holidays, swallows tears to be brave for us and after 25 years of carrying on without my dad, has shown all of us how to live, how to live well and how sometimes life isn’t about having answers to questions like how to go on living… sometimes the answer lies in the gentle  “this is the way life goes”.  

 

 

mommetea

 

 

Lori Anne and Lenora, celebrating life, tea and Downton Abbey at Lenora’s lovely home on Lake Tapps. 

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Shame. On. Me?

“What a shame.”
“Shame on you!”
“Shame on me!”

”Shame on….me?”

Have you ever heard any of these “shame” phrases?
Have you ever seen what a child does when they are shamed? During the immediate moments of experiencing shame, the child might yell, throw something, hide, tell a lie, cry or run away. Other times a child may do nothing except sit in silence. As time passes though, when shame has a chance to work, suddenly a behavior never seen before manifests itself and everyone around, including the child, is unsure of what just happened or why.

Sometimes, as adults we may act out of shame too. It might not look the same as a child’s acting out but some of us have witnessed behavior in an adult that has baffled us. Perhaps their behavior isn’t all that baffling. Consider, could they be reflecting their own feelings of shame? Maybe that person is you. Maybe your feelings more closely resemble embarrassment. But what do you do with those feelings? Are you kind to yourself or do you hide or say mean things to yourself? Do you hold on to negative feelings or act like you are the embodiment of a title like, ‘Miss What-a-Shame’ or ‘Mr. Shame-on-me’? This embodiment has long term effects and must be challenged since shame is almost always accompanied by an inability to accept all aspects of yourself.

In “Secrets: Good or Bad?” I challenged readers to take their first step in dealing with a secret by acknowledging it and asking it to live somewhere else. If you have done that, I applaud you. You are courageous. Now, I’d like you to imagine all the accompanying feelings of shame, embarrassment, fear, pride, guilt, or blame being packaged up in a suitcase. Imagine the secret is inside the suitcase along with all those feelings. Those feelings and that secret is something you have been carrying around. Guess what? That suitcase feels heavy. My challenge to you this week is to lay that suitcase down! It’s kind of like the example we’ve heard before about laying down your baggage because baggage in this instance represents “emotional weight”. If we can lay this down a while, we can do the work to analyze it, separate it from ourselves, and work on processing through it in a way that heals. Is it easy? Nope. In fact, it’s hard work. Is it worth it? I think so.

Here is an example from my life that I have told several people about and will share here so you can get an idea of how shame manifested itself in my life and how I chose to rid myself of the accompanying feelings.

When I was a little girl, about 6 years old, my family and I were gathered with a large group of relatives for probably a family reunion. Two of my distant cousins (boys about 14, whom I will call “Bob’ and “Al”) approached me. They wanted to take me for a “walk”. Of course everyone thought that was a great idea including me. So we set off on our walk and I was rather excited about having two older boys (kind of like brothers) pay so much attention to me. When we got to a secluded spot – I think it was a barn or shed, one of the cousins decided we would play a game. It was a game called “sex”. One of the cousins, “Bob”, came up to me and started to unbutton my top pant button. I resisted and said I didn’t want to play that game. I knew in my 6 year old brain this was not my kind of game. My innocent mind actually thought they were calling the game “six” not “sex”. They corrected me. They also said a whole bunch of stuff that didn’t make any sense at all to me. “Al” looked completely out of it like he was using drugs and he started smoking something. Finally Al said to Bob who was still trying to unbutton my pants …. “Ah, leave her alone.” We soon (much to my relief) started walking back to where everyone else was but not before both of them made me so afraid to tell a soul about the game or about the smoking. I felt shame almost instantly. I was afraid and for years never told my family because I felt dirty for almost letting someone take off my pants.
Continue reading “Shame. On. Me?”

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A secret. Good or bad?

If we take a moment to recall the days of our innocence, a secret could mean the surprise our Aunt has waiting for us after school, or the sparkly present under the tree that has our name stretched across the gift wrap. It could mean your best friend leaning over to whisper, “I want to tell you a secret,” and the secret is about a boy she thinks likes you. This kind of secret may cause anticipation, but generally feels good and can even cause a burst of laughter.

But the other kind of “I want to tell you a secret,”  is the kind we think can’t be spoken in a sentence, or even told over a cup of coffee. It’s the kind that may take years to talk about. The kind we’ve carried throughout our lives that feels like a whisper of our personality, the dark parts we don’t wish to reveal. This secret can lock you into yourself and may rarely be noticed by us until one day it pops into our existence even though we were completely convinced we had buried it. It’s the kind we don’t speak out loud for fear we will end up being swept away by it’s persistence or else we think if those close to us knew, they just may walk away. This kind of secret feels bad.

So what do we do with the bad secrets then? If there was an easy answer to this question there would never be any need for counselors, pastors, priests and other people helpers. If the answer was easy, it would mean all the bad secrets could be spoken out loud without fear.

Friend, has your secret been making you afraid? Has it been showing up as the bully of your current existence? Has your secret been tearing at your soul making you wander or feeling like you’re unable to find the whole person you used to be?    

For a moment, I’d like you to imagine the “you” before the secret. What was that person like? What if you asked that person to tell you about how you used to like to play? What are the things you enjoyed? What adventures did you look forward to? Did you like to have many friends or just one?

Now imagine going to a remote place, one that is full of things you love and the things you surround yourself with to relax.  When you are ready, think about the secret you’ve been carrying so long. Unwelcomed, it’s popped into your existence. It’s uncomfortable and scary but you are safe. Your secret has snuck it’s way out for a reason.  It’s not trying to be bad or good. It’s just that it doesn’t serve you anymore. It doesn’t want to live deep in your soul. Your secret needs a different place to live.

Friend, can you give yourself and your secret the gift of having its own place to live? You don’t have to provide or protect it anymore. In time you may want to share it with someone. It doesn’t have to be today. It doesn’t have to be this week. The big challenge in this moment is to acknowledge your secret. It’s lived with you a long time. It’s brought up a lot of bad feelings. You may need time in this moment to be alone, to write, or cry, or pray or listen to music. Whatever you do, just acknowledge it and if you are feeling brave,  thank it for sneaking out and kindly ask it to live someplace else.

Give yourself time today to really think about this and if you want to, journal your experience.