Friday, February 20, 2015

A little hero among us.

"And though she be but little, she is fierce."
-- William Shakespeare

See this little girl? She's my hero.
Her name is Patricia (or Patrycja in Polish) and she is a brave warrior princess.

This week, Patricia completed her last round of chemo. Can I get a "YES!" "Hallelujah!" and a happy dance? :)

Patricia -- aka my Little Person -- is the 3-year-old daughter of my best friend Joanna. In May 2014, doctors discovered a tumor in her right lung, which turned out to be a rare form of childhood cancer. Through surgery and nine months of chemo, my Little Person has persevered. But no surprise there. She's been a fighter since birth.

So thrilled to be celebrating my strong, brave little one today.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Adopting the Reverse Lent Challenge

Hat tip to my friend Michael for turning me on to this wonderful idea to reverse Lent.
Instead of giving something up, why not take something on?
(Or in my case, why not do both?!)

I love the idea of sending a different person a random handwritten note everyday for the next 40 or so days between now and Easter. Challenge accepted!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Some stuff I'm learning about love

With it being Valentine's Day weekend, my thoughts naturally turn to love.
I started out wanting to write some profound blog post about love. But over the last few days, I've heard others say it far better than I could so I'll let them speak.

"Love is denial of one's self for the sake another, expecting nothing in return."
-- Andy, my mentor, truth-teller and butt-kicker.

"Love is a choice. It is the action of persevering through hard times. Putting someone before yourself. It's choosing the hard, good path instead of the easy, selfish one. You don't have to know someone to love them. You just have to choose to. Who can you choose to love today?"
--Nicole, a very wise 18-year-old friend.

"The real romantics know that stretchmarks are beauty marks, and that different shaped women fit into the different shapes of men souls, and that real romance is really sacrifice."
Ann Voskamp, writer.

Their words challenge me. Powerful stuff. And hard. But so good. And so needed.

I want to be loved unconditionally and sacrificially. Yet, I sometimes find myself struggling to love others the same way. (It seems the "me! mine! my way!" thing I had when I was 3 never really went away.)

Valentine's Day is a great reminder that I am cherished and I cherish another. But there's plenty of life to be lived the rest of the year. Loving people well -- offering grace and forgiveness; overlooking a fault; consistently putting others before myself; allowing others to make missteps and mistakes; thinking the best of others -- is how I want to live this one life.

I'm finding that much of life is lived in the routine and in the mundane and mostly out of view. It's in these every day places that I want to put feet to my love, and where the battle to love well is fought and won. It's one thing to say I love someone. It's entirely another to walk it out through my actions.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

When is God still good?

It somehow seems unfair that pain, grief and suffering are already present just days into the new year. These unwelcome guests have showed up in the lives of those dear to me and plan to stick around for a while.

Thursday night, I received a call that a precious friend whom I love deeply has an aggressive form of cancer that has spread. The man who taught me how to fight now has quite the fight ahead of him in the days to come.

Also Thursday, another friend and former co-worker was taken off life support and all medications and we now wait. Wait to see if she makes a miraculous recovery even with no brain activity. Or wait to hear the unthinkable. How a stomach bug became a heart attack makes absolutely no sense to me.

I don't get it. It's in times like this that I wonder: is God still good? Is he still kind? Can he still be trusted?

Some hard truths I've discovered over 30-some years of living:

We live in a broken world.
Bad things happen to good people for no reason.
Good things happen to bad people for no reason.
We pray for people and they live.
We pray for people and they die.
Life is a beautiful mess of pain and suffering and joy.
We are all going to die -- a realization that should prompt us to live in a way that matters.
Life sometimes doesn't make a lick of sense.
Losing people sucks.
Life is hard.
Life is good.
Life is still worth living and fighting for.
God doesn't promise us a pain-free life.
Photo by Suzanne Stelling

I don't know many things right now. But here's what I do know and have experienced from 20 years of being a Jesus follower:

God cares and weeps with us.
He is near.
He *loves* us extravagantly.
He uses family and friends as tangible expressions of that love.
He holds us when we can't hold on.
It's OK to be angry and confused.
God is with us in the midst of the mess.
He comforts.
He carries us.
He is kind.
He sees.
He is faithful in the hard places.
He meets us exactly where we are.
He can still be trusted.
Weeping and sorrow may endure for some time. But joy WILL come.
God is still good even if the worst happens. Even if.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

New Year, New Focus

Happy 2015, y'all.
Suddenly, the years are zooming by the older I get. Crazy!

My theme for 2014 was "Be Free." I learned how to live more authentically and honestly. I learned (and I'm still learning!) what it meant to be free of and not be ruled by my own expectations of myself, my expectations of others and their expectations of me. (As a people-pleaser, this was huge and hard to do but so good!)

In the midst of all that living last year, some big things happened: I finished grad school; I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania; I met a good man.

I've been thinking of what I want my theme to be for 2015. It came to me as last year drew to a close: Be Aware. This year, I want to be more aware of God's presence and what he's up to in the world; to be more aware of the people around and in my life; to be aware and really *see* with new eyes the wonder in the mundane and routine things, in spite of the hard and crazy things life may throw my way.

I also want to use my words well this year. Use my words to breathe life into people and not death; blessing and not cursing; healing and not destruction. I want to say hard things in love when the situation calls for it. I want to love people well. I want to live more authentically. I want to love Jesus fiercely.

I have great anticipation in my heart as I wait to see how this year will unfold. I have a sneaky suspicion it’ll have its share of joys, uncertainties, hard things and adventures. To these I say, bring it! Because however the year shakes out, I know one thing will remain true: God is still good.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Mt. Kilimanjaro and other life stuff

Day 3 on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania; Courtesy of teammate Michelle D.
Life has been full, y'all.
One moment I'm writing about how I'll be hiking East Tennessee trails all summer. The next thing I know, I'm getting off Mt. Kilimanjaro in October. And now, we're eight weeks from the end of 2014. Um, what? Not sure what happened there but there's been a lot of life-living in between.

My inner writer over the last few months has often lamented my neglect of this blog. I meant to write and all. But a strange thing has happened: I haven't quite figured out how to distill into bite-sized chunks all the good and hard and beautiful and strange and amazing things that have found their way into my life these last few months. So, I just...stopped writing. Publicly, anyway. But I've been journaling. A lot. And processing. And learning. And living.

Lots of stories to tell and posts to be written. For now, I'll leave you with what is perhaps my favorite photo from this fall. The above was taken on Mt. Kilimanjaro. I climbed the mountain with 23 other Americans in early October as a way to raise money for a Compassion International water project to bring clean water to a community in Arusha, Tanzania. Definitely not your average fundraiser. It was one of the most butt-kicking and awesome experiences of my life. Here's a bit more about the trek.

Thank you for stopping by. I'll be back again soonish.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Tennessee, how I love you!

Seen tonight at State Street Garage in downtown Knoxville
Favorite definition of nekkid: naked with intent.
(Hat tip to my friend David for this definition!)