Window on the World

IMG_1942I am writing to you from an airplane slicing through swirls of creamy clouds as light as my Mom’s mashed potatoes. I love to look out airplane windows and contemplate life. There is just something about getting above the planet and looking down on the patchwork of crop fields dotted with meandering streams that gets me out of my myopic view of everyday life. I feel like pressing my nose against this window on the world for the entire flight.

Imagine the colossal view that God has not just of Earth and all the celestial wonders, but also a close-up watch on each of our lives. The ancient Jews called Him El Roi, which means “the God who sees.” He sees all the moments of our existence from our beginnings in the womb to the end of our days and every nanosecond in between.

God sees the wrap up of our 2015 and sees ahead to the adventures and challenges of 2016. He observes what we eat, how we drive, how we work, how we interact with others. El Roi never loses sight of who we are and what we need.

But you know what? At times I pause and wonder if God has diminishing vision. Hearing about unspeakable ISIS atrocities, or violence in America, or people suffering everything from cancer to loss of jobs ruffles my faith in God’s eyesight. Is God seeing this breakdown in our world? Is He simply catching a quick glimpse of our angst or is He truly focused on us when disappointment and despair invade?

When these questions resound, I am learning to recalibrate what I know is absolutely true. And on opportunities like today, I get my head above the clouds to clear my fuzzy vision about God’s character. I am drawn to King David’s confident words about God’s watchful eye. “You know when I leave and when I get back;
I’m never out of your sight. . . . Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? To be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
to the far western horizon,
you’d find me in a minute—you’re already there waiting! (Psalm 139: 3-10, The Message).

God not only sees us now, but He’s already ahead waiting for us? That’s a mind stretcher, but it settles my doubts about El Roi’s need for His annual eye exam. Today’s flying “on morning wings” reminds me that no matter where we travel or if we hit some turbulence along the way, we will never escape God’s notice.

Before my plane descends, I want to linger above Cloud 9 just a little longer, pondering El Roi’s perfect vision and my need for His observant care in the year ahead. If you’d like to join me, I’ll switch to the middle seat so you can get your own close-up view of the creamy clouds as light as my Mom’s mashed potatoes.

How would you describe God’s eyesight?

Brave and Resilient Tip #129: No matter where you are, you are never out of God’s sight.

 

The Gift of You

As the year draws to a close, the Brave and Resilient team would like to wish you a joy-filled Christmas and New Year’s. May you be refreshed by peaceful times of rest and cherished memories with family and friends.

Ann Voskamp shares in her book The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas: “The greatest gift God graces a soul with is His own presence.” A few pages later Ann includes this reflective quote by Frederick Buechner on the birth of the Messiah:

“The birth of the child into the darkness of the world made possible
not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living it.”

 It is our prayer at Brave and Resilient that you unwrap the gift of God’s presence this holiday season and throughout the days and years to come. We are grateful for the gift of YOU!

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Two months old to the day, Beth is pictured
with her family for this Christmas photo
taken on November 1, 1959—Mom Bernice’s
29th birthday.

Brave and Resilient Tip #128: Unwrap the greatest gift from above: God’s own presence in your life.

Saying Goodbye

IMG_1186Watching the one solo tear slowly slip down 12-year-old Makena’s cheek nearly left me undone. Ugh. I knew it would be difficult to form words telling Makena and her brother Bryce that I had to put down my collie Logan—his spinal tumor was just too much to overcome. Since Logan graduated to heaven on September 24, a couple of times I’ve almost stopped by these neighborhood teens’ house to break the news of Logan’s passing. But I dreaded ripping loose another breach in the dam of my tears. My heart just wasn’t ready.

Of all the neighborhood kids, 14-year-old Bryce and Makena adored Logan the most. On my almost daily walks with Logan to the nearby park, these two friends would run full blast across their front yard to the sidewalk. “Hey, Logan, hey, buddy,” was quickly met with Logan backing into these siblings, waiting for his trademark hip massage. Hugs, hugs. Massage, massage. Logan and I saw this family at least once a week for the past year or so—even their toddler sister would waddle near and bravely tap, tap Logan’s furry side, giggling in delight.

So when I took a quick walk on Monday past their house, Bryce bolted from the front door first, then Makena. Before they could ask “Where’s Logan?,” I blubbered through the explanation. That’s when Makena’s single tear wiggled down her left cheek. Looking toward the setting sun to steady his emotions, Bryce exclaimed, “I knew something was wrong! We’ve been looking for Logan and you out the window.” Gulp. Bryce gave me a big hug and added, “I wish we could have said goodbye.”

Sigh. I wish there had been time for goodbyes, but my world narrowed considerably after that Tuesday tumor diagnosis and Logan’s final vet appointment that Thursday. I made it through several “I had to let Logan go” conversations in the past 11 weeks, but Monday’s was one of the toughest.

Let’s face it: final goodbyes just rot. My last words to my two dogs were right up there as painful as watching my parents die. Death is brutal and not part of God’s original design for this earth. I do think that when we endure the loss of a loved one, resilience buds anew in our heart. We may not notice for awhile the fresh strength immerging from our sorrow, but our overcoming spirit is there mixed in with the tears and bumbling words.IMG_1469

To ease the news of Logan’s death, I excitedly told Bryce and Makena about my being near the top of a waiting list for a new collie puppy to train for pet therapy, to visit people in senior homes, hospitals, schools, etc. “How soon will get the puppy?” Bryce blurted. “Can you come to our school?”

Before they returned to their homework, I smiled and assured these young friends, “I know Logan is up in heaven and he’s one of the main greeters with his “Hey, hey everybody” personality. He welcomes people and then backs into them for a hip massage.”

That made us all chuckle and Makena’s tear stop.

P.S. Late this afternoon I stopped by Bryce and Makena’s house with photos of Logan and a thank you note for them being so kind to my collie boy. They were not home, but I talked at length with their older sister Taylor, who also was a Logan fan. Now I can’t wait for these neighborhood friends to help me name my anticipated puppy. I will definitely keep you posted on this new bundle of joy!

Brave and Resilient Tip #127: Saying goodbye can be a hello to fresh resilience.

”Pray for Us”

I’m overwhelmed and my words feel as if they are tumbling out and sliding off my keyboard. Another multiple-victim shooting in our country? Earlier today the horrors unfolded in San Bernardino, Calif., where I lived for more than a decade post-college. Last Friday just about eight miles from my home in Colorado, another mass shooting ripped into our collective psyche. “Close to home” reaches a deeper meaning for me.

prayer - candle in handsThe words brave and resilient are increasingly intermingled in news reports and interviews with government and community leaders. Now is not the time for me to share my opinions on these tragedies in America and around the world. Instead, I am dedicating this brief message to ask for us to pause and pray. Would you join me in praying right now for all the people affected by these senseless murders? One of the women in today’s shootings sent a text to her father: “Pray for us.”

Her three short, tangible words remind us to put our busyness on hold for even just 20 seconds and ask for healing and help for those injured and those traumatized by these merciless shootings. May the grieving loved ones right now sense the closeness of the “God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3) and may we never let these troubled acts become normal to us.

Bless you for blessing countless others through your heartfelt prayers.

Brave and Resilient Tip #126: Your prayers matter!

Leaving a Little Extra

IMG_4999On a recent trip to America’s Heartland, I sunk my hiking boots into the rich soil of a just-harvested cornfield. Scanning the remnants of the cornrows, I discovered a number of “missed” corn ears scattered across the ground. These ears didn’t quite make it to the grain elevator, but they will supply the local wildlife with nourishment over winter. I love how life invites us all to leave a little extra for others.

We read about this in the story of Ruth, the widowed Moabite who collected leftover crops in the fields of Boaz, a wealthy landowner. In her arduous work called gleaning (see The Gleaners oil painting by Jean-François Millet), Ruth followed behind the servant harvesters, picking up any grain pieces they missed. Boaz noticed Ruth’s dedication and learned of her sacrifice to sojourn with her mother-in-law to Bethlehem instead of remaining with her own people. Boaz directed his workers to look out for Ruth and make sure she could gather sufficient grain.

“As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, ‘Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don’t embarrass her. Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her’” (Ruth 2:15-6). Boaz modeled leaving a little extra for others. Of course, the kind and perceptive Boaz won the heart of this peasant gal and their love story led to their being ancestors of Jesus, but that’s a remarkable story for another time.IMG_4995

I wonder if we are all called to leave a little extra, so others can glean from our insight, our possessions, our finances, our time. Maybe we share our abundance so that other people can benefit and be encouraged. Or maybe we offer more of a listening ear when we are tired or give another the last piece of chocolate.

Are we leaving just enough with the people or projects on our to-do lists or are we willing to let more of ourselves spill over a bit? Our world could use a few more Boaz types who are generous with extra grain, wisdom or dessert. Dare we be one of them?

Brave and Resilient Tip #125: Be brave and leave a little extra for others.

Slowing Down

IMG_4793“Do you know why I pulled you over?” Gulp. Squirm. “Uh, I’m not exactly sure,” I half way mumbled back to the rural highway patrolman. I suspected I was speeding, but hoped I had a taillight out or something. Such wishful thinking! Gratefully, I received a warning from the officer and he kindly advised, “Be careful and watch for deer out here.”

Since my recent traffic ticket warning, I find myself noticing speed limit signs . . .

IMG_4536and slowing my driving. When I shift my own life into a lower gear, I notice not just the faces of people, but also their eyes and their wrinkles when they laugh. And I notice more of Nature’s beauty and the simplicity of the moment.

While I am taking some days off to rest and downshift my normal pace, I thought I’d share photos of my more peaceful moments. What can we do to slow down on purpose . . . each day? What helps us live at a steadier pace? I welcome your ideas. Because, well, I’m the one who recently needed a warning from the law to slow me down.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.” (Psalm 23:2)

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Brave and Resilient Tip #124: Choose to slow down…on purpose.

Imprisoned by Fear?


IMG_2448 - Version 2

Fear, it seems, has taken a hundred-year lease on the building next-door and set up shop. Oversize and rude, fear is unwilling to share the heart with happiness. Happiness complies. Do you ever see the two together? Can one be happy and afraid at the same time? Clear thinking and afraid? Confident and afraid? Merciful and afraid? No. Fear is the big bully in the high school hallway: brash, loud, and unproductive. For all the noise fear makes and room it takes, fear does little good.

Fear never wrote a symphony or poem, negotiated a peace treaty, or cured a disease. Fear never pulled a family out of poverty or a country out of bigotry. Fear never saved a marriage or a business. Courage did that. Faith did that.

People who refused to consult or cower to their timidities did that. But fear itself? Fear herds us into a prison and slams the doors.

Wouldn’t it be great to walk out?

Brave and Resilient Tip #123: Courage and faith set fear prisoners free.

From Imagine Your Life Without Fear, Max Lucado, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2009), pp. 11–12.

More Than Along for the Ride

Last weekend I hopped on my aging mountain bike and soared down my hilly paved street several blocks south to neighborhoods with flat, meandering asphalt. Of course, my ride back is an uphill challenge, but it’s always worth the expansion of my lungs and a slight burn of my calves.

A few minutes into my warm fall exercise, I turned a corner to find a little girl in a bright fuchsia helmet wobbling along on her coordinating pink bike. A few feet behind trotted her proud father. The training wheels were nowhere in sight and this excited grade schooler looked at me in my burgundy bike helmet on my coordinating burgundy bike and started yelling

My sweet friend, Maris, in her  early training wheel days.

My sweet friend, Maris, in her
early training wheel days.

“Hey, I ride-ED my bike! I ride-ED my bike! I ride-ED my bike!”

Talk about a moment of pure joy. As I passed by this beyond enthused big-girl- bike rider, I grinned and shouted to her, “Way to go! Congratulations!” Instantly, I flashed back fifty years to the memory of my first attempt without training wheels. I can still clearly see my mom and brother, Dan, trotting behind me on the soft dirt track at our local sports field. (I’ve been riding bicycles for five decades??? Get out!)

As I continued on my Saturday ride, I sensed a fresh lift in my soul (and no, it wasn’t my gasping for air on the incline home). I wondered about the things that keep me from cutting loose with the thrill of accomplishment or the joy of discovering new adventures. I pondered: What is holding back the adult me from childlike glee? How have I let the cares of being a grownup crowd out my celebrating even the little, everyday moments?

How about you? Are you ready like me for bravely tossing aside the training wheels and pedaling ahead with exuberant abandon? I challenge us both to be more intentional about adding some fun and freedom to our days and instead of just going along for the ride. Even if that means a bit more endurance on the hills home.

Brave and Resilient Tip #122: Break free and be brave celebrating new adventures.

The Best Is Yet to Come

IMG_3792This past weekend I joined thousands of other leaf watchers in Colorado and ventured the twisting mountain highways and even a few off-the-beaten paths to see the state’s beloved aspen trees sport their golden finest. I truly enjoy this annual tradition, and even though I’ve peered at and photographed some of the same grove a trees before, I still eagerly oooh and ahhh over the yellow and orange hues. And I am not alone in my admiration of Nature clothed in such vivid colors.

But this year I noticed something for the first time through a different lens. Last Thursday I had to part with my beloved Collie and he typically rides along on these mountain treks. (More on Logan in a future blog, but I do welcome your prayers for my grieving heart.) I used my drive to Cripple Creek Saturday for some tears, reflection and photography. I was driving behind dozens of other cars on the drive home, I noticed scores of people out of their cars along a wide turnout in the lane heading toward the hillsides of aspens. Grandparents holding hands to steady each other in the gravel. Dads zooming in with their cameras. Moms scurrying after kids.

All of a sudden, I wanted to roll down my window and shout at them, “Hey, keep going another mile or two. The best leaves are ahead. You ain’t seen nothing yet. The best is yet to come!”

IMG_4564The best is yet to come. I’ve always loved this phrase, but Saturday it took on a deeper meaning for me. What if we keep going and just around the bend, life gets even better? What if the best is yet to come in our relationships? Or in our work? Our in our enjoyment of everyday life? Really? Wow! And for me thinking of my Logan romping in the fall leaves of heaven’s meadows, I know the ultimate best is yet to come.

Brave and Resilient Tip #120: Keep going no matter where you are in the journey. The best IS yet to come.

 

Beautiful Yet Overwhelming

A 9/11 Widow Shares How She Finds Hope

Last week I interviewed Shelly Genovese again. The last time we talked was two weeks after her husband Steve was killed in the terrorist attack on New York City’s North Tower on September 11, 2001. I wanted to know how Shelly and her daughter Jacqueline (16 months at the time) have fared over the past fourteen years.

rememberThe most difficult question for me to ask Shelly was: Were you involved in the identification process? “Steve’s brother did that,” Shelly explained. “Steve was identified by his dental records.” How sobering. How does someone keep going after the only thing that remains of your spouse are portions of his teeth?

Initially in the months and years following Steve’s death, Shelly filled her emotional void with traveling and shopping and on-the-surface distractions. But nothing brought continual relief, except one thing. Her trust in God to give her “a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

“There were times when I felt I would never be happy again. Or no way that I could ever feel safe and not hate the world for what’s happened to me. But God restored all that,” Shelly affirms. “There is still hope after something so horrible happens in your life. When you don’t see that hope in the present, it comes down to trusting that God’s got a plan for you. I always knew to trust in God’s Word and to rely on that in every aspect of my life, but now I have lived it.”

Every November Shelly who moved home to Texas and has remarried, travels back to New York City with Jacqueline. Twice so far they have visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, which Shelly describes as both “unbelievably beautiful” and “overwhelming.” That’s how I’d describe seasons in my own life. I’m sure you can relate. And when we can’t yet see “hope in the present,” Shelly reminds us to bravely keep trust when life feels both unbelievably beautiful and overwhelming.

Brave and Resilient Tip #119: Keep trusting when life feels both unbelievably beautiful and overwhelming.