Old favorites. New traditions.

Old favorites. New traditions.

Christmas has finally arrived at our house! 

My husband and I decided to wait to turn in our final Capstone project. Yesterday afternoon the SEND button was pushed, and after 3 1/2 years, we have completed the work for our MA in Global Leadership degree. That is cause for celebration!

So we jumped in the car and drove to Hollywood Studios to see the (literally) millions of lights that “dance” to music for the wide-eyed, joy-filled, shoulder-to-shoulder packed-in-like-sardines, crowd in the street. It was truly impressive and a first time experience for this Orlando transplant.

… and so begin the new Christmas traditions.

This is our first year in our Florida home, so decorating requires new decisions… with the old favorites. Many plastic tubs of strangely-out-of-place snow and evergreen themed treasures, a life long of collected ornaments, and beloved hot chocolate mugs have exploded in my living room. I love the transformation that warm candles, white lights, and years of collected nativities bring to the home.

We are bringing all of our children to Orlando to celebrate this year – another new experience with “old” favorites. This Christmas will include Disney parks, warm weather, and lots of crazy people filling every inch of floor space in a small townhome and every moment of the days with silly insider jokes, laughter, music, adventures, hugs, stories, pictures, memories, and love. We need to buy more food, warn the neighbors, and make sure the camera batteries are charged. I can’t wait!

This morning, as I anticipate the craziness, I also reflect on my every-year desire to keep one constant in this season – a quiet, peaceful, heartfelt connection with the One who gives true meaning to this holiday. Jesus is my favorite part of all life, and each year I have the opportunity to create new “traditions” that keep us close.

Here are a few of my special traditions for CHRISTmastime perspective. 

Pentatonix a cappella cover of  “Little Drummer Boy”

The Piano Guys “Angels We Have Heard on High”

(an older favorite) A Social Media Christmas

What are some of your Christmas favorites? What new traditions are you starting this year?

power in forgiveness

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What is it about forgiveness? 

What is it that makes forgiveness so hard to ask for, so hard to give, and so life-changing when it happens authentically?

In my memories, my parents fought through all of my childhood. Different personalities, life and work pressures, insecurities and immaturities all added to the fire, and alcoholism added fuel. Eventually, they divorced after 25 years of marriage. It was not pretty. It was not amicable.

For almost 30 years they have lived in the same city, but never saw each other. At first, we could not even mention my mom’s name in front of my dad. We arranged every holiday and every family event around which parent we would visit when, or which one of them would be invited to attend. It could never be both of them at the same time. They will never know how many hours of planning, debate, maneuvering, and heart anguish accompanied each special occasion through the years.

This Thanksgiving, something amazing happened. My parents agreed – for the first time in almost 30 years – to give thanks…. together. The death of a spouse, terminal cancer, and many years passing finally cleared the way for reconciliation, acceptance, forgiveness, and peace.

There were a few uncertain and awkward moments (mostly by the siblings who were orchestrating the event), but all in all, it was one of the most significant and inspiring holidays that I can remember.

It was a powerful, healing moment for everyone – even the grandchildren – to watch my parents greet each other at the front door… both very frail, very tired, and finally… very at peace.

Neither could eat very much, but the meal was sacred. They did not talk of anything substantial – dementia has stolen that opportunity – but their interaction was deeply meaningful to all who were there.

My parents’ reunion after all these years does not change much at this point in time… and it changes everything.

Their willing hearts were a testimony to hope.

My family watched the life-end desire for peace overcome long-guarded anger and separation. We experienced genuine humility vanquish pride, regret, and deep pain. stubbornness lost to prayer, patience, and perseverance over time.

There is a new freedom in our lives – and in our children’s lives. A freedom won by broken lives restored and divided families reunited. A freedom earned by barriers torn down and destroyed. A freedom gained by letting go of bitterness and grabbing on to forgiveness. A freedom that carries a belief in the impossible, because we saw it happen with our own eyes.

Forgiveness is powerful.

Is there someone you need to forgive today? You don’t have to wait.

one night stand

empty airport

I looked forward to the family wedding get-together for months. All of my children would arrive from different locations for a few precious days of fun and celebration. We arranged for my two daughters’ flights to arrive close to ours for convenient pick-ups at the airport. We planned connecting flights with an hour between – just enough time to make it to the new gate; not too much time waiting around in airport lobbies. All details considered. Everything under control.

Ha! I should have know better. It is never that easy…

My husband and I departed on our first flight 20 minutes late. We ran to our next gate – we are too old for that – but sprinted on our flight just in time. Our luggage was not as fortunate.

My oldest daughter learned at check-in that her flight was re-routed to another city, and her connection would arrive a few hours later than planned. Not that big of an inconvenience – just an unplanned additional trip to the airport. We would be going to pick up our luggage anyway.

It was my “baby” who had the hardest time. Her first flight also departed late for some unknown reason. Although she and two others from her flight rushed through the airport for the connection and arrived with 10 minutes to spare, an impending storm motivated the crew to take off 10 minutes early(!)… and leave those three passengers behind.

IMG_0678My girl called out-of-breath and frustrated as she waited in line for a seat assignment on the next flight out. So began our saga. The plane was supposed to take off in a few hours, but as a dark, windy, torrential rain came down, the flight was delayed… and delayed… and delayed again. Finally, a gate change, new pilot, and many hours later, she texted me that she had boarded her flight. (Sigh of relief!)

But… a few minutes later, a call confirmed the worst. The pilot announced on the plane that he already had too many hours for the day. He could not fly that night… and neither could the passengers.

Everyone grumbled as they packed up belongings and left the plane to form long, angry lines at the gate desks to check on options… for the next day. By the time my daughter received a seat on a flight – for 6:00 PM (!), it was the middle of the night. Many others were stranded. Every nearby hotel was full, and I did not want her leaving the airport alone.

The airport would be her refuge. Grateful for a few piled airport blankets in the empty halls, my sweet girl made a bed in a corner that she assured me was lit and safe. I promised to keep the phone by my ear. I could “only” pray, nothing more. I don’t like that. Neither of us slept much. Morning could not come fast enough.

IMG_0681Around 6:00 AM, a fellow McDonald’s patron warmly greeted her with, “You look like you slept here last night too”.  At least she had company, and food, and a list of stand-by flights to attempt before the evening.

Once again, we tracked each flight with apps and text messages and emotion until – miraculously – she boarded the second stand-by flight and was on her way to the party!

I was thrilled to meet her at the airport with a big hug! I was also very proud of her level head, stable emotions, good attitude, and instinctive wisdom in adapting to the change of plans.

I wish I could say I always respond that well!

How do you handle changes and out-of-control situations?

like a girl

Procter and Gamble did an awesome commercial about moms for the Sochi olympics. They’ve done another great one with this challenging and inspiring video about the comment “like a girl”.

What does “like a girl” mean to you? How can you help rewrite the rules?

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You might also like to read: moving toward advocacy, do nice girls finish last?

celebrate life

mom bdayHave you ever wanted to ignore a birthday? Or downplay the attention to yourself? Ever wanted to go into denial about getting older? I have. For a good number of years, I would have just skipped over my birthday without any fan fare at all.

I think differently now. I have come to realize that not many people get to celebrate as many birthdays as I have. I have known too many young people who had too few years on this earth. I have cried too many tears and questioned too often “why????” when a life was cut short.

When I was younger, I didn’t think much about death. I felt invincible, and life was full of promise and opportunities. Today, I am much more aware of the fraility and brevity of life. I long for more time with my mom who has terminal cancer, and I grieve the empty places in my life where other loved ones once lived.

flowersSo… I am learning to celebrate more! Each year – each day – is worthy of a celebration. Not to put more focus on the person, but to express gratitude and understanding of the value of life. I do not want to waste the opportunity to make a memory with my family or cherish time with a friend or enjoy the little special treats that life brings to me (like the cheerful flowers my awesome husband brought in now – just because…).

I may not have that opportunity tomorrow… but I have it today!

My mom just celebrated another birthday. I am so very grateful for that special day and for each additional day of life she can enjoy. Her life is a continual reminder to me to live each day to the fullest… and to celebrate life!

How do you feel about birthdays? How do you celebrate life?

a shout out

March 8th is International Women’s Day! You may not have known that. It is not a high-profile holiday here in the US, maybe it is where you live.

You may not have planned any extra activities or special menu items for the day. If you forgot to invite your family and friends over for the celebration, that’s OK. I thought we could celebrate here!

shouting-for-joy

Since living almost 20 years in Latin America, I know that you do not need an official reason to have a party. It can always be fiesta time! When I read that March 8th is International Women’s Day, I immediately began to have a party in my heart as I reflected on the amazing women who have been on my life journey with me.

I began thinking about family first… My brave Mom who is battling cancer and just lost her husband but continues on loving me and others. My sisters who have each fought their own personal battles through the years, but are growing and learning and giving sacrificially to others. My daughters who make me so proud as they become thoughtful, generous, sensitive, creative, strong, caring women.

shout Newsbie

I could never list all the special women who have been friends, coaches, mentors, and inspirational examples for me, but as their faces flashed through my mind, I remember life-changing conversations and experiences together, and my soul feels refreshed and ready for any challenge life may bring.

Friends also came to mind… friends from all stages of life and all parts of the globe. How they have brought laughter, adventure, comfort and challenge to my world! We have talked for hours, worked side by side on eternally valued projects, and cried and hugged through pain. I am a better person because of their investment in my life.

Jimmy Jack Kane / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

I thought, too, of the women I have never met, but I have read about them or read their books or blogs. Women leaders and those who have suffered great tragedies. Women who advocate for women to find their place in powerful divine alliance with men for good and change and hope in our world.

And speaking of men, I cannot forget to mention the ones who have believed in me, sponsored me, and always ensured that I found the stairs to the unique platform God designed for me. My incredible husband, Steve, is the first one on this list.

I have written about some of these special people through the years, but I can never do them all justice. Their influence is engraved in my mind, heart, and soul. So this week, I am taking advantage of International Women’s Day to give a shout out to these special ones. I am so grateful for paths that crossed and lives that intersected.

Will you join my fiesta? Who would you like to honor on this International Women’s Day? Name your special people in the comments… I’d love to celebrate with you!

tribute to a lover

IMG_5818 smallJesse loved abundantly, creatively and sacrificially. A man with normal human faults and frailties, he gave her his whole heart when he married my mom. There was never any doubt – His love was great. It might have been his greatest testimony on this earth – his unquestionable love for her.

It always impressed me that he did not leave the house without kissing my mom good-bye. They enjoyed time together – family holidays, planting flowers, travels to the beach, meetings with long-time friends. Simple pleasures filled their later days – easy walks to see the ducks at the nearby pond, watching sports on TV, a day at the casino.

He bought her anything he thought might make her happy. He wanted to spoil her and would return and re-buy items until they were just what she wanted. My mom was not always easy to please, but he never stopped trying.

He cooked her favorite foods. New Mexico favorites – enchiladas and green chile stew – were delicious specialties. Jesse kept Mom’s ice cream bowl and coffee cup filled.

As happens, there were impatient, angry words at times, but there was also recognition of the wrong in that and quick apologies and forgiveness.

Jesse not only loved my mom, but he loved her family too. He always made us feel warmly welcomed in his home, greeting us and saying goodbye with a hug. He asked about our children and rejoiced in their accomplishments.

When Jesse was very sick in the hospital, he told a friend he had to get home to take care of my mom. He wanted to care for her until the very end.

God had other plans. He took Jesse before my mom, even though she is the one who has stage-four cancer. My mom ended up caring for him, tenderly cleaning, soothing, accompanying him at his side. It was not the “plan” for him to go first, but it gave my mom a chance to sweetly love him back in his last days. She will miss him very much.

Jesse has set the standard very high. I know I could do a lot more to show love to others every day.

When I am gone, I wonder what people will say about how I loved them…

Do you demonstrate an abundant, creative, sacrificial love to others? 

a Valentine’s Day Grinch

sunset holding handsI admit it. I’m a Valentine’s Day Grinch.

I don’t like the commercialization of love or the marketing scam that says that you can somehow make up for months of relationship neglect by spending a big wad of money at Zales. I do like chocolate (dark), but the last thing I need is a huge box of it around my house. I’m no big fan of heart jewelry or stuffed animals or lacy lingerie or cut flowers that die and have to be thrown away in a few days. I really don’t like doilies or ruffles… and I especially don’t like PINK anything!

I’m not your typically “girly” girl … and I have struggled with that much of my life.

Especially in my marriage, I have often felt pressure to squeeze into a mold that does not fit me. Thankfully, that pressure does not come from my husband – just the opposite (!) – but it does come from others who assume – and promote – that certain generalities and stereotypes are – or should be – true for all. Some of the pressure I have put on myself.

Some seem to believe that there exists a sort of all-inclusive pink, ruffled, girly way that make all woman feel loved… and some definite blue, rugged, manly ways for all men to love.

Similar to how Valentine’s Day is sold as the perfect version of love for all:
boy buys sweet card and pink flowers + girl feels loved = happily ever after. ♥ ♥ ♥ 

It’s just not like that for everyone – and certainly not for me or my marriage. After many years, I’ve finally realized that it’s ok not to fit into all the generalities and stereotypes. God has created me uniquely and perfectly the way I am. Pink ruffles and jewelry and heart shapes are truly GREAT love gifts for some… just not for all women… and definitely not for me.

I prefer to use I Corinthians 13 as my love model:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant,
does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own,
is not provoked,
does not take into account a wrong suffered,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness,
but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.

(1 Cor 13:4-8a NASB)

No lace or doilies or stuffed animals mentioned. 🙂

My husband has worked very hard for almost 30 years to love me this way – kind and not seeking his own interests first, patient and not arrogant, forgiving and believing the best… and I try to do the same for him. Now that speaks love to me!

Have you ever felt pressure to fit a stereotype or role that didn’t work for you? 

What demonstrates true love to you?

How can you use your uniquely perfect self to show love to someone today?

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Originally posted 2-2013 in MissionalWomen.com – Check out their great site!

What’s my $1 million wish?

money
This is the question posted on the TED blog today: What’s your $1 Million Wish for the World? They are taking nominations for their 2015 TED Prize, a $1 million award to a visionary with a great big idea for creating change in the world.

Before March 31st you can nominate a mentor, a hero, a co-worker, even yourself. TED wants to give $1 million to someone who has a great wish and the track record that suggests they could accomplish it. It will be very interesting to find out who they pick.

I tried to think about a great wish today, but honestly my heart and head is full now with sad and painful emotions. My mom’s husband of the last 30 years (not my dad, but a very special man) has been in the hospital for weeks and has only deteriorated. They will move him by ambulance back to his home tomorrow. This is very difficult for my mom who is already fighting stage-four cancer. It is very hard for my family who live close by and do the daily care.

My great wish today is for no more sickness, death, and suffering.

I pray faithfully for a lot of people who are sick and dying… some days I get very discouraged and frustrated because I don’t get the answers I want. I would rather take it on myself to protect the ones I love from pain. I want to make the hurt and illness and tears and fear all go away… but I can’t do that.

$1 million won’t get me my wish.

We live in a broken world. Disease and death are not the only hardships. There are so many more. Some injustices make me mad. Some hurtful actions break my heart. Sadness will never end here on earth. The only place without pain is our eternal home.

I can offer hope.

It would be easy for me to settle for resignation and depression since I can not cure the ills of this world. I am often tempted to give up. However, there is much I can do. Like the TED nominees, I can create change in the world. It may be a very small change… a hug, a word of encouragement, a prayer, an offer to help…  What I do may not win me a $1 million prize, but it may earn me a smile. Maybe I can’t take away the heavy burden, but I can help to lighten the load.

While I am here, I can give. Maybe that”s why I am still here for now.

What is your $1 million wish? Where would you create change in the world?

(Do you know someone to nominate for the TED prize?)

emotional roller coaster

roller coaster
I have always loved roller coasters – the bigger and the scarier the better! I love the sense of risk and adventure and speed… all while feeling safe and secure by the buckles or bars that hold me safely inside the car. I enjoy the views and sites from above the highest peaks… and I never mind the flying-stomach sensation as the car dives down to the lowest levels or squeals around the curves. Wind in my hair, screams in my throat, hands lifted high… I intentionally look for that kind of fun at the amusement parks.

…but I do not want that same experience when I get back home.

Somehow when life’s happenings have the same character of risk and speed and change, it does not feel like fun anymore.

The last few days have felt like an emotional roller coaster to me. I have been on the high peaks of new friends, stimulating and encouraging work, and progress towards settling in a new home. Within hours, I have also traveled to the low valleys of family struggling with death-at-the-door illness, fear and exhaustion, carrying the guilt that I can not do more, and grieving the loss of my once-vibrant father who now hardly recognizes my voice when I call.

These ups and downs also affect my stomach, but now it is groaning and aching rather than flying, and I do mind it, and I wish it would go away.

I spoke at a retreat this weekend about how much we need to invite others into our life adventures and look for something to appreciate even in the hard times. The heart attitude and the help of others make a big difference for me when my life is twisting and spinning in all directions on short notice. I feel more secure on the wild journey when my faith holds me tightly and my friends sit in the car beside me.

I recognize that the peaks and valleys will be part of my experience until the ride ends. Sometimes I will slowly chug along on a mellow straight path, but adrenalin-pumping crazy tracks are often just ahead. I am learning that if I consider life’s challenges as an adventure, as an inevitable opportunity to grow and trust, and if I do not attempt the ride alone, it is not as scary for me. It is even fun at times.

Do you like roller coasters? How do you ride the emotional roller coasters of life?