Tuesday, March 28, 2017

36 years

Thirty-six years ago today,
my mommy went to Heaven.
I have learned that we are never old enough
to stop needing our parents.
And I have learned that we never stop missing our loved ones
and grieving their loss.

But that's not what this post is about.

This post is about the woman I grew up with
and the one who entered God's presence
just after midnight on March 28, 1981
and heard those wonderful words,
"Well done, good and faithful servant."

My mama was a unique woman.
She was incredibly shy and insecure.
She was brilliant.
She was fun and funny -
she loved playing practical jokes and was really good at them.
She had a beautiful voice.
She had a beautiful face.
She was compassionate and loving.
She was kind.
But she had that Irish temper and could be dangerous when provoked.
She loved her family passionately.
She was a nurse in the newborn nursery and she loved her babies.
She was gentle but when angry, she could make a sailor blush.
Like most of us, she was very complex.

My mom did not have an easy life.
She was a child in a single parent home,
the result of divorce,
in a time when that was shameful for the entire household.
Her marriage was a bitter disappointment.
At 34, she was diagnosed with cancer.
She spent the last nine years of her life having surgeries and chemotherapy.
Over the years, she had become understandably bitter and cynical.
She expected the worst from life and was not often surprised.

My mother was raised in church and,
in the early years of their marriage,
my parents were in ministry.
My mother spent years loving and serving God.
But the stress of her life took it's toll on her spiritually.
Her emotions and weariness began to take over
and she came to believe that she was a disappointment to God
and there was no point in trying any more.
She worked nights and slept days.
It was a convenient excuse to give up going to church.
And she settled into a sad and lonely existence.

Then cancer.
Now, one would think that would have made her more bitter,
would have made her more distant from God.
It didn't.
Cancer changed her.
I believe it gave her the ability to allow herself
to become the woman God created her to be.
She lost her bitterness.
She became a woman of great forgiveness.
She became a new creature.

The last nearly nine years of her life were physically hard.
Facing death, the knowledge that she would not likely
get to finish raising all her children was emotionally difficult.
But she thrived spiritually.
She began to trust God.
She trusted Him to take care of her children.
She trusted Him to take care of her mom and family.
She trusted Him to take care of her friends.
And she finally, finally began to trust that He loved her,
just as she was.

My mother and I are emotionally similar.
And God has taken us on a similar journey spiritually.
He has chosen a different learning tool for me.
But I am learning.

Thanks, Mama, for being a good example!
I miss you!

Sunday, March 26, 2017


Yesterday afternoon,
my Lanny Love and I
spent a couple hours in deep,
theological conversation.
I won't go into the details of our discussion
for it is too intimate and personal to share publicly,
even with you, my therapist readers.
It had to do with God, growing, learning.

If you are a regular reader,
you know that I experienced a frustration a while back
and made the statement that I was tired of learning
and just wanted to "be" for a minute.
That feeling has persisted over the weeks
despite the fact that I have continued to feel
that God has me in a growth spurt.

Now don't get me wrong!
I want to grow!
I want to be all that God asks and expects of me!
But I feel weary of being put in my place.
And I think that may be what the Lord is trying to get across to me.

I don't have to wear myself out
trying to learn what He is trying to teach me!
He will teach it to me in His own time and His own way.
And my frenzied search to correct what is wrong with me,
my constant quest to discover how to better myself,
my time and energy spent trying to learn where I have failed,
wastes my time - and His!

You may also remember my revelation a few weeks ago that

I am a gift!

But in my realization of that,
I have continued to seek out the faultiness
of the gift
has given 
to my Lanny Love
and the others in my life.

Oh, I have faults all right.
We all do.
But, despite what I have believed about myself
for all the years of my life,
I am not a disappointment to God.
And while I have certainly disappointed people,
I am not, at my root, a disappointment.
This is hard for me to swallow.

This morning, our preacher talked about our perceptions
and how who we are, our life experiences,
color how we view things.
Three people, sitting next to each other, watching a play,
will have completely different views of what is going on around them.
One, a drama teacher, will notice the lack of enunciation in a spoken line,
the misplacement of a prop,
the poor interpretation of a scene,
and will think it a wasted evening.
The next, a lawyer,
will notice the lack of railing on the stairway prop,
the missing declaration from the author
of the book upon which the play was adapted,
to use the story,
and he will miss the entire first act thinking about the possible lawsuits.
The third person, an accountant,
is busily counting seats and multiplying in his head
the number of seats by the ticket cost,
the number of program sales by the cost of the book,
and speculating the cost of the theater rental.
He thinks the evening's performance highly successful.
[Loosely translated from
Allan Stanglin,Preaching Minsister
 Central Church of Christ]

Well, how we view
and ourselves,
comes from our perspectives as well.
Where and how we grew up.
What we were taught about God.
What we experienced from our parents and others who love us.
What we experienced from those who didn't love us.
How we experienced school and church.
All these experiences, regardless of how far past, affect our perspectives today.
And none of us can fully understand the perspective of others.
I can sympathize with my sister Rhonda, my friend Nan, and my Uncle Paul
all of whom have lost children whom they have nurtured and cherished for years.
But I do not understand the depth and breadth of their grief.
For I have not experienced it.
They can sympathize with me and with my Lanny Love and others who have been widowed.
But they cannot understand the depth and breadth of our grief.
For they have not experienced it.
A child raised in the United States of America,
even the poorest of children,
cannot understand the depth and breadth of poverty in third-world countries.
A child raised to adulthood by good, kind, loving parents,
cannot understand the lasting affects of a child raised in abuse and neglect.
And that person cannot understand that the friend raised in goodness
also has issues that must be dealt with.

So, my view of God, myself, and others
is based upon my life's experiences.
From the moment of birth through my current breath,
who I am is built upon not only what God built into me,
but upon the environment in which I have lived.
And yours is too.

Well, that's about enough to chew on for today.
Stayed tuned for where this is taking me.

Now may God Himself, 
the God of peace, 
make you pure, 
belonging only to Him. 
May your whole self - 
spirit, soul, and body - 
be kept safe and without fault 
when our Lord Jesus comes. 
You can trust the One who colls you 
to do that for you. 
                                                       ~~ I Thessalonians 5:21-24 NCV ~~

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Growth Spurt

Do you remember them?
When you were a kid 
and you had a growth spurt?
Your legs ached.
Your arms hurt.
And neither one cooperated with you!
That "gangly" stage...

do you remember 
when you began to "develop"?
How your chest hurt!
How "in the way" it was!

It seemed those growth spurts lasted forever!
But they didn't!

things slowed down for a bit,
your body rested 
from all the sudden changes,
you began to become accustomed 
to the new sizes,
and things began to work 
as they should.

Well, I am in a growth spurt.
A spiritual growth spurt.
And spiritual growth
feels very similar
to physical growth.
It's uncomfortable.
Sometimes downright painful.

The larger understanding
gets in the way!
And it feels never-ending!
But it's not!

And just as 
when it was all said and done,
your physical growth spurts
resulted in a grown-up you,
spiritual growth spurts
result in maturity
in Christ!
unlike physical growth,
spiritual growth 
does not come to an end 
with a finished product that,
just when it is completed,
begins to decay.
spiritual growth
continues for a lifetime
with respites 
in between spurts
and completion in Eternity!

So here I go again.
Come on along for the ride!

Monday, March 20, 2017

March 20

Today is March 20.
The first day of spring.
The season of new beginnings.
The trees are budding.
The flowers are blooming.
The temperatures are warming.
The sun is shining.
Everything is growing and changing.
It is a soft, happy time of year.

It is also my wedding anniversary with Al.
Today would have been 41 years.
We were married for just six weeks shy of 37.
We always celebrated our anniversary.
I am a romantic and Al was careful to feed that part of me well.
So we celebrated.
It was spring,
celebrating new beginnings and love.
It was a happy day.

Then Al died.
And March 20 was no longer happy.

The first year after his death,
I was still in shock.
March 20 didn't hurt any more than any other day -
they were all excruciating.
The second year,
the shock had worn off,
and it was an exceptionally painful day.
But the third year was different.
My Lanny Love and I had been seeing each other for a few weeks.
That night, we had a dinner date.
I recall that I was a little more quiet than normal.
After dinner, he took me home.
We sat on the sofa in my living room chatting.
Then, several seconds of quiet.
Then, he slipped to the floor in front of me,
took my face in his hands,
and kissed me softly.
He pulled away and, looking me in the eyes, said,
"I told myself I wasn't going to say this yet but I love you!"
I replied,
"I love you, too!"
And just like that spring came!

Oh, I knew he was falling in love with me.
He had said a few days earlier that he thought he was.
And I certainly knew I was falling in love with him!
So I wasn't surprised by the declaration or my response.
But I was surprised by the restoration.

New beginnings,
good beginnings,
don't always start out that way!
Sometimes they come from great loss and grief!
But God!
He brings beauty from ashes!
Riches from rags!
Love from loss!
Only God could have restored a day destroyed by death
to one filled with hope.

I don't know why I was surprised.
He had done it before.
That Sunday morning,
you know the one,
following that terrible Friday.
Following the loss.
Following death.

So, today is March 20.
And I think of Al and miss him!
And I think of my Lanny Love and celebrate!
And I think of that Sunday and rejoice!

But God!
Welcome spring!

Sunday, March 5, 2017


It is unfortunate.
There is a lot of similarity
In the names
And it is unfortunate.

I'll be honest with you.
There are advantages to seconds.
The first child is born.
We learn to parent.
The second child is born.
We are still learning,
but we start off a better parent
than we started with the first.
It's the nature of things.
We learn as we go.

It's the same with marriages.
We learn in that first love.
And in grief, we learn some more.
And if God so blesses us with a
Chapter Two
as He has blessed my Lanny Love and me,
we are better spouses
because of the lessons learned before.
But one of the disadvantages
of having more than one child
is name confusion.
You know,
And it's the same with marriages.
It's bound to happen.
It is not one of the advantages of being second in marriage.

The first time it happened between my Lanny Love and I
was at dinner at my place one night
a few months after we started dating.
He called me Judy.
He blushed!
Stammered an apology.
I said,
"It's okay. It was bound to happen."
Then I laughed and said,
"I'm just glad you did it first!"
A short time later,
I called him Al.
I have done it twice more
that I am aware of.
After our marriage,
I sometimes used my former last name.
It has been quite some time
since either of those things has happened.
As far as I know,
none of my friends have ever
mixed my husbands' names.

But the similarities between my name and Judy's,
makes it happen relatively often with me.
And not just with my Lanny Love.
Other people who knew Judy
frequently get the name wrong,
usually together with my Lanny Love.
You know,
"Lanny and Judy are here.
Lanny and Gina are here!"

Recently a friend commented to my Lanny Love
how gracious I am when that happens.
But can I tell you something?
Sometimes, I may be gracious
but I don't feel gracious.
I feel like saying,
My name is Gina!
G. I. N. A.
Today was such a day.

Perhaps because this incident was a written faux pas.
Perhaps because we've been a couple for more than two years now.
Perhaps because we've been married for 15 months.
Perhaps because it has happened several times recently.
Perhaps because I'm just coming out of my winter depression.
Perhaps because this has been a week of spiritual revelation and growth
and satan always attacks at such times.
Perhaps all of the above.
Perhaps none of the above.
I don't know.
I just know that today,
it was not an eye-roller.
it was more than irritation.
it was more than a sting.
it really hurt my feelings.
And it made me feel not just second,
but second best.
And that is something within myself
that I am working with the Lord
to correct,
feeling second best.
Or third.
Or last.
If you read my last post,
you know what I am talking about.

And so, today,
I am being put to the test.
I am learning again that I am a gift.
I am not second best.
In this case, I am second to be sure.
I am different, most certainly.
But I am not second best,
less than.

Do you ever want to just say,
"I'm tired of growing!
I'm tired of learning!
Can I just have a break and be for a minute?"

I'd just like to be for a minute.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Middle Age

I am a middle aged woman.
So I claim.
You may have seen my formula
justifying my claim
in an earlier post.
Some businesses disagree with my formula
and offer me a senior discount.
I accept the discount
and discount the senior status.
My next birthday
is a "significant" one.
More businesses will offer me a discount.
I will still accept it.
And I will still discount my status as a "senior adult".

That said, I have lived a number of years.
I have lots of, ahem, experience.
But sometimes,
I find that I am still an infant,
still learning the ins and outs of life and living in this fallen world.
As a grown woman,
I still sometimes touch base with my inner two year old,
I stamp my feet and shout
"NO FAIR!!!"
or the myriad of other emotions my two year old self wants to express.

One of the things that my two year old is consistent with
is the past.
She often confuses the past with the present.
She often thinks that because that was the response then,
that will be the response now;
that because that was how she/he behaved,
that is how another she/he will behave.
Now, my two year old experienced a lot of hurt in her young life.
So did my adolescent self.
So did my teen self.
So did my young adult.
And so now,
my middle age self has trouble hearing
over the chatter of all those other selves.
Sometimes my middle aged self
hears what is said
rather than what is meant.
And it can be a problem.

You see,
sometimes my past expectations
confer attributes onto my present circumstances.
And I have to remind myself that my present
and my past
are different.
I have to remind myself that
the people are not the same.
I have to remind myself that
I am not the same!
I'm still learning the new me to some degree.
And this past Sunday,
in the wee hours of the morning,
as I was up reading my Word and praying,
I had an epiphany.
A revelation.
I am important.
And more,
I am a gift to my Lanny Love.
He is not merely a gift to me,
I am a gift to him.
In all my quirkiness.
In all my neediness.
In all my brokenness.
in all my talents and gifts -
for I have talents and gifts -
In all my failures.
In all my successes.
In all of who and what I am,
I am God's gift to him.
This is something he has said often
but which I have failed to internalize.
And which I am still struggling to internalize.

Not only to my Lanny Love,
but to my children.
And grandchildren.
And church.
And friends.
And even to some of you who read and relate to this blog.
I am a gift.

And here's the other part of that epiphany.
It's sinful for me not to recognize that,
not to accept that,
not to internalize it!
It diminishes intimacy with my friends and family.
It confers the past onto them if I fail to recognize my worth
because of the words and actions of "then"
and that is grossly unfair!
And most importantly,
it diminishes my God!
For God created me!
Just as I am.
Just as He intended.
And He gave me to these people of my life.
And when I take the gift He has given them
and bang it on the ground,
scratching and denting the surface,
cracking and crumbling the internal workings,
I am saying that He did it wrong!

So, as we all do,
I continue to learn.
I continue to grow as a person
and as a Christian.
I won't always do "it" right.
And neither will "they".
Because, though God created us in perfection,
mankind chose his own way
and imperfection invaded us.
But God works within the bounds we have given ourselves.
And He is working within me.
And I am grateful!
May I never squander the gifts He has given me -
nor the gifts He has given others in me.
May you see your own importance
as a gift of God to your people,
and may you never squander or diminish
His placement of you in their lives.
May we all learn to enjoy the person He created in us!

So go eat your food and enjoy it;
drink your wine and be happy,
because that is what God wants you to do.
Put on nice clothes
and make yourself look good.
Enjoy life with the wife [husband] you love...
...enjoy the work you do here on earth.
Whatever work you do,
[wherever God places you],
do your best...

                                                                 ~~ Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 NCV ~~