Sunday, February 27, 2011

Escape into the pages of Rue Magazine

When I'm tired from the weight of the emotionally hard things in life, I like to escape.   
I don't escape to avoid responsibility or check-out for very long~ 
Just long enough to lift the burden and come up for air.   
A little superficial, mindless activity can do wonders for you!

This week, my little escape was this amazing on-line magazine.  
Don't miss the spread on Alison Sudol of A Fine Frenzy.  It is the sweetest photo session done in her home. And the video on the last page of the article is wonderful.

Read the on-line magazine Rue:
{Note: a cup of tea and dark chocolate are essential to the experience}

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fighting Cancer {A bittersweet battle}

Courage is fear that has said its prayers.  ~Dorothy Bernard

Today, it has been 9 years since my cancer diagnosis~ it is a bittersweet day.
Cindy and I~ High School Years

Because, just days ago, my lifelong friend, Cindy, was told that cancer had, once again, invaded her body.  As we spoke on the phone this morning, I was moved by the resolve and strength in her voice and marveled at God's Grace in her life.  

We allowed ourselves a moment to curse cancer together, shaking our fists at it and telling it off.  Then we laughed in the face of it as we confirmed our belief in the promise of heaven. Wrestling through the tension between "praying for a miracle" and "living with the "end" in mind,"  we decided there was wisdom in embracing both.  

This afternoon, Cindy scanned a few pictures and posted them on-line~ pictures of the care-free days of our youth.  Old friends began to dialogue, reflecting on memories, recalling names of friends forgotten and chuckling at the awkward fashions and hair styles.  
It was a hard, sweet, and ultimately rich day.

As I head to bed tonight, my heart is aching and tears pool in my eyes.  
I'm leaning into the deep sadness that comes when cancer invades 
the life of someone you love~ 
Cindy, you are loved, cherished and prayed for.  
Know that we are in the bunker with you, ready to take on the fight!

{Sometimes loving someone simply means standing with them when life gets hard.  
One of the most powerful things my friends did for me when I battled cancer was their  
"grab~my~shoulders, look-me-in-the-eye" speeches that went something like this:
"Do not lose hope~ I'm with you all the way."
"I think you are very courageous."
"I know you're scared. I will stay close to you."}
I am reposting my reflections from 4 years ago.  It is lengthy, but my friend Stephanie, who was battling cancer at the time said it helped bolster her in her fight.  Maybe someone you know who has cancer will be encouraged by it.  My kids have grown since this was written, and the details of life have changed, but the sentiment and truth remain the same. 

Reflections at the Five-Year Mark

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, “Wow, what a ride!”  -Unknown 

Five years ago today, Dr. Knox told me that cancer had invaded my body.  In the moments that passed after hearing the news, my mind blew past every possibility of a cure and went straight to my funeral.  As messy as life was on earth, I loved doing life here, and the thought of missing out on any part of it was more than I could bear!
Today, I look back giving thanks to our Heavenly Father for giving me five more years. I’ve seen Blake and Emily go in and out of braces and Austin outgrow countless pairs of blue jeans.  We’ve rejoiced in first dates, district basketball and volleyball wins and jammed to the music of Blake’s band, Midweek.  I’ve stood on the continents of Europe and Africa and taken a cruise through the Caribbean.  The sweet things in life go on…
All of these things, however, are enjoyed in light of the fact that…. On Tuesday my friend, Paula, will have her second round of chemotherapy, and last year, I tucked my friend Becky’s God-honoring obituary into the pages of my journal.  My joints ache from chemo-induced arthritis and there are days when I think I’m going mad—a hysterectomy last spring robbed me of the last drop of hormones that were keeping me sane! Over the past five years we’ve had car accidents, speeding tickets and the flu.  Yes, life certainly does go on….
I’ve learned that the things that delight us—sunshiny springtime days like today, for example, are grace-gifts from the hand of God— just for our pleasure.  I’ve also learned that the hard stuff mixes into the good stuff and often feels like it’s weaving into tangled vines that obstruct our view of God.  The truth is— when life gets hard, every round of questions, every wave of anxiety, every pulse of fear, pushes us through the doors of the sanctuary, past the pews and the stained glass windows and up the stairs to the altar.   The question now becomes, “What will we do when we get there?”
           I have traveled that journey to the feet of God so many times; you’d think I’d have it down by now.  Over and over again, I return to the altar longing to hear Him say, “I have heard your cry for help. Don’t let your heart be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in Me.”—and over and over again, He has whispered the words I long to hear.  It seems that the answer to all of life’s questions involves trust, which we can only fuel by coming into God’s presence. As Brennan Manning says, “Like faith and hope, trust cannot be self generated.  I cannot simply will myself to trust.  What outrageous irony:  the one thing that I am responsible for throughout my life I cannot generate.  The one thing I need to do I cannot do.  But such is the meaning of radical dependence (on Jesus).”
In the past five years I’ve done a lot of thinking about eternity.  Honestly, I used to think that floating around on a cloud all day sounded incredibly boring compared to the roller coaster of life.  God has created an electrifying, entertaining, adventuresome world for us here—I love the thrill of the ride!  I've learned that we miss a huge blessing if we downplay the grandeur of heaven. 
Until cancer came on the scene, I had done more research for my 3-day stay in England than I’d done on my eternal stay in heaven.  John Alcorn has written a sort of “Frommer’s Guide” to Heaven, which has given me great hope.  I can safely say that heaven is now on my list of “top ten places I’d love to visit.”  On his deathbed, D.L. Moody spoke these words, “Soon you will read in the newspaper that I am dead.  Don’t believe it for a moment.  I will be more alive than ever before…Earth recedes…Heaven opens before me!"   I now imagine that as much as I delight in watching Blake ruffle the hair on the top of Austin’s head, seeing Emily flash her radiant smile or the comfort of Dwight’s embrace-- heaven will delight me even more!
   My five year celebration began when I jumped out of bed this morning shouting a big “Ya Hoo! I’m ALIVE!" Then, as the morning went on, I began to evaluate my faith. The truth is…fear still often oppresses me and, although my faith is growing, I am in desperate need of my Savior! 
So today, Jesus and I had a party.  Climbing into His arms once again, he whispered the words I longed to hear…"Sharon, keep trusting me, heaven is waiting for you, and while you wait, I will be giving you the ride of your life!"

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tired? Worn Out? {Tools for Recovery}

Dolce far niente! 
{How sweet it is to do nothing!~Italian saying}

It's hard for me to stop moving.  Okay... I'm a bit high-strung.

If I'm completely honest, I used to judge the nap-takers, those who went for massages,  
and those who set healthy boundaries by saying "no."  
Without realizing it, I had succumbed to the lie of our culture, 
a culture that applauds busy-ness and sees no value in the afternoon siesta.
Then I discovered that this way of living is in direct opposition to what God desires for us!
The culture screams, "Take control, work harder and beat your body into submission!"
...But neglects to tell you the end result:   tired, worn out bodies.

Then I read an amazing scene in 
Mark 6:30-32:

 "The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
 So they went away by themselves in a boat 
to a solitary place.

Here is the TRUTH~ 
Jesus modeled a life of 
"work / play / rest"
Played out in the world in the rhythm of His Grace.

So today, I offer you a little assignment. 
Set aside some time, schedule it in if you have to~ Just for you.
And I offer some tools for making that time sweet and UN-productive!

{There are even SHORT and LONG recommendations, so you skeptics who think this is a great idea, but impossible to implement can make no excuses!}

Unplug from technology:
Short version:
Turn your phone and computer OFF for 15 minutes and close your eyes.
Long Version:
Announce to friends and family that you are going on a "Technology Fast" and will be away from your phone for a day, or a week. 

Enjoy a relaxing Yoga session:
{Although Yoga doesn't line up with my theological views, 
the benefits for the body cannot be denied!}

Short Version:
Wonderful "Relax at your desk for 5 minutes version":
Long Version:
Enjoy the 60 minute version here.

Spend time with Jesus:
Here is a lovely, straight forward reminder from a man of authentic faith.  Read everything you can get your hands on by Brennan Manning (Start with The Ragamuffin Gospel~ you can read the first chapter here.)
When you begin to grasp, really grasp, how deeply you are loved by God, you will stop trying to please the culture, and simply want to love Him more.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

When a friend is hurting~ "Just Say SOMETHING"

"A friend is someone who walks in 
when the rest of the world walks out."

This couple I know went through a hard time when their teenager got into trouble. 
As a result, the teenager suffered some very public consequences.  
This "thing" their teenager did spread through the community like a grass fire fueled by rumors and wrong information.  People were talking about it under their breath at Starbucks, 
in the check-out line at the grocery, 
and at the gas pump.  

I didn't actually know these people well, but my heart ached for them.  
Several times I considered reaching out to them, but I dismissed the impulse
because it felt awkward and uncomfortable.  
 I said to myself, 
"I don't think I've earned the right to speak to them, I don't know them very well."

Soon after that, as I was sitting at the local pharmacy waiting on a prescription, 
the mom of the teenager sat right next to me.   After a few diverted glances, 
I pointed out the "elephant in the room" and asked how things were going.  
It was then that I learned that very few people had reached out to their family, 
and they had suffered great humiliation, loneliness and shame.  

It was fear that kept me from contacting this mom in the first place.  
But when God put her in front of me and gave me the opportunity to tell her just how sorry I was about the whole situation, 
her eyes filled with tears.
What a precious serendipity!

I learned a tough lesson and now I try to follow this rule when it comes to interacting with hurting people: 
Just. Say. Something. 

There truly is an art to saying just the right thing to someone in a time of crisis, 
and that art can can be developed.  

One of my favorite books for developing this skill is:

This book should be on everyone's shelf as a reference.  It covers everything from personal crisis to grief.  
You can see the first pages here.

May I suggest that you buy it before the crisis hits so you'll be ready when it happens~ 
 I discovered that even though I'm scared, awkward and uncomfortable,  its always better when I drum up the courage to say something.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Good Life: A Sweet Demonstration of Love and Grace

Kelley Copeland of the Hidden List introduced me to the work of Chris White.  He is a budding film maker who created his first project using Kickstarter.  The result was Good Life, a sweet story about the interaction of a father and daughter.
In spite of the pain of divorce, this film reveals the desperate love a father, 
as he tries to make his daughter's 10th birthday special.  
Their sweet interaction at dinner draws you into their lives.  
And the sweet sacrifice the daughter makes at the end of the film 
will leave you teary-eyed.

GOOD LIFE from Chris White on Vimeo.
You can help Chris make his next project by donating here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

They're Watching: The Power of Modeling Love.

"Many are the stars I see,
but in my eyes,
no star like thee!
 The power of loving well over a period of time became very real to me
 when I read, my son, Blake's blog this morning~ never forget that your kids are 
watching, considering and modeling your acts of love.
Mr. Wonderful is a man who loves me well with great intentionality.
I got a little weak in the knees when I saw my mirror on Valentine's morning... 
What a sweet, simple, powerful way to win my heart forever~ again.  
You can read more about it here.

We have used Dry Erase Markers on bathroom mirrors for special 
messages in our family for a long time.  
But I have never gotten one so sweet.

If you are raising sons, the time to start teaching them about loving their future wives is now. 
No doubt, their wives will thank you for it when they wake up to find 
poetry on their vanity mirror! 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Pack and Chat"~ Making College Care Packages with LOVE.

"A child enters your home and makes so much noise for twenty years that you can hardly stand it: then departs leaving the house so silent that you think you will go mad"
– John Andrew Holmes

When your high schoolers leave for college, you not only grieve the loss of your kids, 
but you miss seeing all the moms you've been doing life with through the high school years.  
No more cheering the team on from the sidelines together, 
PTO meetings side-by-side, 
or rubbing elbows at the band concerts.  

My friend, Donna Cauley, found an amazing solution 
to this problem called the "Pack and Chat."  
A party for moms to make care packages for college kids~ genius!

10 moms were invited and asked to bring:
10 identical items for the girls care packages
and an appetizer to share 

Donna provided:
the beverages
supplies we might need (tape, pens and scissors)
notecards to sign
priority shipping boxes (free at the U.S. Post Office)

We created an assembly line on the kitchen table and 
each mom created a care package for their daughter. 

All the moms signed a card sending their love to each girl.

The moms enjoyed a wonderful time catching up!
So far, we've gotten together once each semester to send a package of love to our girls. 
We've decided to add a Pack and Chat for finals week...
Truth is...we love an excuse to get together!

No time to PARTY, PACK or CHAT?
Order a pre-made package for your college student here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Technology Crush Leads to Second-Guess-Chat!

Technology is a great way to send a word of encouragement, remind someone about a lunch date, or ask a question about homework.
But when it comes to "saying what you really mean,"
Consider all that is lost when you can't SEE the expression in someones face, INTERPRET the pauses in their dialogue and HEAR the inflection in their voice.

I wonder how much love has been lost or totally missed out on because of the events of conversations like this one! 
Getting a glimpse into what was happening behind the scenes in this video makes me feel giddy for these two~  wonder if they ever "found" one another?

Just a reminder for those of us desiring to love well...

Call or sit down with the ones you love when you have anything of importance to 
communicate~  especially LOVE!
(If you have a hard time seeing this tiny embedded video, double click the video 
to see it at You Tube)

Thanks to the Hidden List for sharing!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Indie" Love Song CD = Coolest Mom EVER!

Holly and Cody in their engagement picture:
My "Cool Consultants"
Loving college and high school kids in a creative way sometimes requires that I seek outside help.  By this, I mean a kind-of "Hitch" for moms, you know, someone who can increase my "cool" status by holding my arms down when I try to do the Q-tip dance in order to look cool; or by reminding me to refrain from saying things like, "Make sure you eat your green beans" to my 21 year old. 

For this kind of consulting, Holly Holland is my go-to girl.   Holly is my young, totally hip friend who lives in California with her adorable husband Cody (the fact that she lives in California gives her an extra measure of "cool"!).

All three of my children LOVE music, and are frequently burning mixed CD's for their friends, so I decided to make them a mix CD to put in their Valentine's care package.  Problem is, my kids listen to music by bands I've never heard of before, independent bands that they find on Itunes~  And James Taylor is not on their list of favorites! 

So I consulted Holly and she put together a list of songs for me to use, and I added a couple more of my own for good measure.  Can't wait for my kids to listen and exclaim, "How'd my mom get to be so cool?"  Thanks, Holly!

A Little Love Song CD

"Everything You Do" by He Is We
"Something's Got a Hold On Me" Etta James
"Swoon" by Imogen Heap  
"Pea" by Rabbit
"Love Me" by Justin Bieber
"Chocolate" by Snow Patrol
"Love Lost" by The Temper Trap
"Friday I'm In Love" by Dean & Britta
"I Want to Hold Your Hand" by The Beatles
"Cherry" Tulips by Headlights
"Live Forever" by Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors
"Magic" by Rabbit
"Anywhere But Here" by Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors
If you have college kids, you might consider contacting your "cool" consultant.
(if you don't have one, find one!).  
Ask them to suggest love songs for your playlist. If you know what genre of music your kids enjoy most, start there, or use the ones I've listed for you.

A little stamp on the CD Sleeve, a little 'Sharpie' note on the CD, 
and in case you've missed the mark on the music... add an itunes card!