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.

lessons from a wreck

accidentSomeone hit our car last night. It’s the second time in a few weeks that the poor car is in the shop for repairs through no fault of our own. Bummer.

On the other hand, I am so very grateful that there were no serious injuries, and we have a great insurance company that is taking care of the details. A few inconveniences and hours lost, but it could have been so much worse.

After the adrenaline coursed through my veins, I had opportunity for reflection and perspective since my life was (literally) shaken up a bit that night.

First, one more reminder of the frailty of life. My mom’s cancer is a frequent reminder, but this hit even closer to home. My husband and I are finally in the process of renewing our will. We are not going to put that off. We want to prepare to make the process easier for our family… just in case. (How about you? Do you have your will and important papers in order?)

Second, friends make a big difference. We were on our way to dinner when the wreck occurred. Instead, our friends came to join us on the side of the road for the four-hour mostly-waiting-around process. Their presence and companionship was soothing, entertaining 🙂 and encouraging. We are so grateful for them and their gift of time.

Young kids can act foolish. Two young men racing down the road by our house caused the accident. They lost control, hit each other, ricocheted into us, and skidded into a grass median yards ahead. One car totaled; the other banged up, and they stumbled out of the cars laughing. They are not the car owners; they probably do not think about the inconvenience, the increased insurance rates, the diminished vehicle values, the possible harm they could have caused. Someday they will.

Family is important. Ten or more vehicles arrived over time to check on the guys and offer concern, care, and community. There may have been frustration or anger too; we didn’t see that. It was good to see the support that rallied for the young men. They made a mistake, but they have a better chance to learn from it when people care about them.

Forgiveness is key… even for little things. My emotions swung first from concern for the young men to frustration with their apparent lack of concern. I could have let that frustration simmer into a distrust of all “young people” for their immaturity and foolish choices. But that would serve no purpose. Plus, it would be unjust, since there are many young people who are careful drivers, responsible, and making choices to better our world every day. I’d rather focus my emotional energy there.

Have you been in an accident? How did you respond? What have you learned from that experience?

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? 

in tune with CHRISTmas

starOther people started a long time ago… singing, shopping, decorating.

I’ve been trying very hard to avoid it. I haven’t thought about it much at all. I have been focusing on the present.

But now it’s right around the corner.

I felt stressed this morning.  

No more pretending.

No more ignoring.

No more procrastinating.

It’s CHRISTmas!

I so often wish that Thanksgiving and CHRISTmas were separated by various months in the calendar instead of back-to-back with only weeks in between. I actually enjoy both holidays very much, but I don’t like feeling that either one overshadows the other.

So I did my best to focus on Thanksgiving until we had celebrated completely… and now I need to re-focus. This year, I have a great desire to spend more time in tune with the Person of the season and less time tuned in to the commercialism and the consumerism that bombards me from all angles.

So far I have thought of a few things I can do…

Daily Reflection – I have already downloaded two new free Advent resources, and I am sure there will be others available. Starting each day with my mind and my heart on the right track will help me remember what is most important during these weeks.

Personal Focus – I greatly prefer experiences and memories over gifts, so rather than shopping alone, I plan to spend more time with the people I love. There are many special activities available during this season. I hope to revisit some old favorites and discover some new ones too.

Say “NO” to Stress – So much of my stress is self-imposed, because I don’t schedule well or I take on too many things without leaving any margin. I’m going to try to choose well according to my priorities and say NO when I feel like I need “down time”.

Take Care of Myself – I have already found that the cold and festivities are wreaking havoc on my exercise, sleep, and diet habits. I know I need to rest, work out, and control my calorie input in order to fight off seasonal “bugs” and have energy for all the extra fun and people.

Practice Grace and Forgiveness – Speaking of people, I often spend time with lots of people during this holiday… some are dear, cherished family and friends… some are more difficult for me. In addition, there is something about the high expectations of special activities or once-a-year visits that set me up for frustrations and hurt feelings. This year I am going in with the expectation that I will most likely have to give and ask for grace and forgiveness numerous times.

What do you do to make CHRISTmas more meaningful for you or your family?

who do you trust?

Easter is one of the most reflective seasons of the year. Many people consider faith options during this time, searching for truth, peace, and purpose. When I was in college, I found these things for my life in a personal relationship with God. I took time to investigate options, ask questions, study further… eventually I trusted in what Christ did for me on the cross, rather than in my own efforts. That decision changed my life; it gives me hope for each day and security for my eternal future.

If you are searching, questioning or studying… I offer you this video as part of your process. Our ministry, cru, created these four minutes of powerful visual images to help people understand God’s love and forgiveness, and the reason we celebrate Easter = Christ’s death and resurrection for us. I hope you enjoy it and that it is helpful for your own personal journey. Let me know what you think!


bitter is not better

dark chocBitter may be OK for dark chocolate, herbs, or ales, but it is not good for people.

Bitterness is so ugly.
Amy Heckerling

The last few weeks, I heard numerous times about the need to fight against becoming a bitter person. I’m not sure if people were seeing the tendency in me, but I have decided to take the counsel seriously. We all have the ability to become bitter people; life is hard, but we choose how we will respond to the hits that life brings our way.

We start out life very naive and optimistic. We believe that we can do anything if we work hard enough, and we live our days with a (false) sense of immortality and invincibility. We erroneously think we can easily choose our career path, change our spouse, and control our children.

Somewhere between 30-50 years old, we discover that life did not turn out like we thought it would. Individuals and families struggle with terminal illness, unemployment, prodigal children, tragic accidents, incurable medical disorders, loved one’s early deaths, long-term singleness, separation and divorce… unexpected, unplanned, and unavoidable chips to our perfectly manicured world. We get hurt in relationships that cause conflict, under-appreciate and undervalue our work, misunderstand and overlook our contributions. Life is hard – really hard.

It is a simple but sometimes forgotten truth
that the greatest enemy
to present joy and high hopes
is the cultivation of retrospective bitterness.

Robert Menzies

If we focus on negative circumstances, compare our life with others’, or refuse to forgive wrongs, we harden our heart and pave a path toward bitterness. We find ourselves critical, complaining, angry and discouraged with life. It is natural and easy to do.

On the other hand, if we practice gratitude, contentment, and peace with others – even during the hard times – we can pass through our struggles singed by real life, but not burned and destroyed. The pain is real, but it does not have to define us.

Bitterness imprisons life; love releases it.
Bitterness paralyzes life; love empowers it.
Bitterness sours life; love sweetens it.
Bitterness sickens life; love heals it.
Bitterness blinds life; love anoints its eyes.

Harry Emerson Fosdick

I do not want bitterness to control my life. I am praying and asking others to help me process the hard experiences in my life so that I respond with love instead.

How do you fight bitterness? Do you need to ask someone for help?

tips for long-lasting friendship and marriage

A few weeks ago I celebrated 27 years of – almost entirely 🙂 – blissful marriage to my best friend.  That same week some of my children struggled through heart-breaking roommate conflicts with long-term friends.

Making a friendship, marriage, or other relationship last requires certain fundamental basics… and lots of hard work. These are a few of the aspects I appreciate in a friendship.

partnership

In a healthy (adult) relationship the two people are partners. There is mutual respect, shared responsibilities, and lots of together experiences. In a sense, we need each other. My husband and I are advocates for each other. We encourage each other and help each other be the best we can in all life areas. I support his dreams, and he supports mine. I point out errors; he does the same for me… so that we can grow. We speak well of each other and do whatever we can to strengthen each other. Partners are stronger together.

believe the best

Every relationship goes through mis-understandings, false impressions, erroneous assumptions. When I believe the best, I don’t guess at motives or intentions, but instead look to communicate honestly, try to understand, and attempt to clarify the situation. In the past, I have sometimes feared looking foolish or naive by trusting someone, but I would rather believe the best in people until they prove unworthy. More often, I am the one who doesn’t have the full picture.

shared interests

Great friendships are often welded strong through lots of important time together… Intellects read and discuss together. Athletes play together. Musicians jam together. Others eat, craft, camp, travel, pray, create, or go to movies together! For my husband and me, our faith is the most important shared interest we have as a couple, and I am really grateful for all the adventures we have enjoyed together. Shared interests are a glue.

forgiveness

I make mistakes all the time. I say the wrong words, do the wrong things, have really lousy attitudes… every day. I need to apologize and receive forgiveness… all the time. I have hurt my husband. He has hurt me. If we weren’t willing and able to forgive, we would not still be together. Forgiveness is easier when we recognize our own imperfections and have realistic expectations of the other. Forgiveness happens when we value being together more than we value getting even.

communication

Healthy relationships require healthy communication skills. Through the years I have had to learn to control my “explosive” discussion style while my husband has learned to talk more freely and not “stuff” his feelings and opinions. One of us sometimes needs a bit of time before beginning a difficult conversation, but an “I’m not talking to you” escape is not an option. We have also sought help from others when conflicts were really bad. Honest, vulnerable, respectful communication can resolve a lot of problems.

What about you? What aspects of a friendship/marriage are most important to you?

remembering 9-11

No matter who we are or where we were during the 9-11 attacks, we remember and were affected. I pray that God will continue to redeem that horrendous tragedy for good, showing us once again His power and love in the midst of pain and suffering. I also pray that we learn from that sad day and grow into leaders who reflect His grace, forgiveness, and hope to a hurting world…

Here’s a tribute video – (You may like it more if you are a country music fan!)