a little too personal…

Being a believer and follower of Christ… I have come to terms with the fact that, for now, we live in a broken and fallen world. I don’t like it, but I know that “It is what it is” (to quote my friend Bone Hampton – he says this phrase almost never follows anything good).  But because my hope is in Christ and I know that this life and these circumstances are temporary – I wait. And I hope. And I wait.

But every once in awhile. I struggle. Not with doubt, but with patience. With not understanding why earthly restoration is taking… so… stinking… long. “Why Lord, why must You delay your coming back? Why must we wait any longer for You to make all things new and right again?”

Mostly I get like this when the brokenness hits close to home. Because my occupation is one that deals with some of the most broken places and people in the world… it’s important that I learn to sit in the “now and the not yet”. Reconciling current reality with a hope for the future. But I have to admit… this is easier when I don’t have a personal relationship with those who are suffering. I am moved by their photos, their stories, their pleas. But I am not usually undone by them.

But then things hit closer to home. Suddenly friends and family are in the fire. And I don’t like it. Not one bit.

I’m a fixer by nature. And when things are beyond my scope of abilities… I’m not happy. Arrogant, I know. And I’m especially frustrated when I am “reduced” to faith and praying. I say “reduced” in quotes because I know that faith and praying are elevated callings and are by no means considered a reduction. But my sinful nature wreaks havoc on my perspective… and I feel reduced. Oh yea, John 3:30 says “He must increase, and I must decrease.” I often (conveniently) forget that verse.

These last 2 weeks have weighed heavily on my heart. Many of the people I care very much for… have been suffering. And there’s nothing I can do about it. And my ugly arrogant pride rises up and wants to take action. But I’m learning to die to that. Learning to decrease so He will increase. It’s a life-long process, I’m afraid.

Here are some of the people I am praying for if you want to join me – though, I totally understand if you already have your own overwhelming list.

  • Two young teens who I used to tutor just lost their sweet mama, Gwen, to a heart attack this past Sunday. They bury her tonight. Gwen was also an Aunt to one of the other students I tutored.
  • Another friend called me to tell me that her dad was just diagnosed with cancer.
  • Another friend’s mom passed away last week from Scleroderma.  He buries her tomorrow.
  • My own mother called to tell me her “numbers” are bad again. She has Stage 4 Bone Cancer.
  • Another friend who has cancer was told he should have those final conversations with his wife and family.
  • My oldest niece has been in and out of the hospital due to an ulcer and chest pains. She’s 23.
  • Another friend’s marriage ended.
  • And yet another friend recently gave birth to a still born.

This has all happened, roughly, in the last 10 days or so. It’s easy for me to wallow in the chaos of broken places. To dwell my thoughts in places that are dark, and even add to their darkness by obstructing the truth of hope. This can happen when I find comfort in self-pity or delight in drama.

Don’t get me wrong… I’m not getting all Pollyanna on you. I’m not suggesting that I, or anyone else, deny the feelings of the pain of our own or each others’ hard places. We are to “bear one anothers’ burdens, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). Bear… as in carry, feel, assist… and that can be wearisome for both parties. But, when we are strong enough again, it’s important to help point ourselves and each other toward the cross. Toward Christ Himself. Remember friend?  Remember self?  This is why He did what He did. He has absorbed the punishment and provided life when and where we could not.

So all that to say… I have caught myself being a little overwhelmed with sorrow and concern this week… and rightfully so. I mean, there seems to have been a land-swell of brokenness in the lives of people I care about.  Topped by my normal occupation which requires a passion for people I’ve never met…  it can be quite an emotional flood.

And my reason for blogging all this is simply to remind myself that God is on His throne… and sometimes that’s all I need to know.

Thanks for praying with me.

-Deb

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Noticing…

I’ve been on the road since Easter… which was 9 days ago… I have 4 days to go before pulling into my own driveway and becoming one with my pillow. Sometimes, on these long stretches, I can get lost in the busyness of it all… and forget to notice. I forget to look up from my computer or iphone or whatever task is at hand… and just notice things. When I don’t, I miss out on beauty and humor and opportunities to offer encouragement if someone’s down or even take note of how my own actions are affecting others. I can miss those teachable moments – for myself – and miss the chance to know where I can improve.

So I’ve tried to be better at it this week… tried to take notice and notes. Here’s what I’m seeing around me, experiencing in others and learning about myself:

  • I have sincerely taken for granted the ability to flush paper down the toilet. Welcome to bus life.
  • I didnt realize how I have missed the beach. My soul welled-up just stepping onto the sand.
  • The Carolina’s are deadly in the Spring but the second a good rain washes away the pollen… it’s breathtakingly lush and green…
  • There are a lot of churches with concessions in their lobbies. I don’t just mean coffee and donuts. But popcorn, candy, smoothies, soft drinks. I’ve even seen a churro machine. Are we really a society that can’t go 2 hours without a beverage or snack?
  • I love a contagious laugh. My friend Chonda Pierce, who’s the comedian I’m traveling with has a laugh that fills the bus and our souls. And she laughs a lot. It’s very good therapy.
  • I also love the way many black men laugh. Deep, hearty, falling back with their fist covering their mouth like they just can’t take it anymore kinda laughter. My friend Bone Hampton, also on the bus with us… keeps me totally entertained just with his laugh. It’s a roll back on the couch hold his sides fist to mouth barely breathing kinda laughter. It’s intoxicating.
  • Young people continue to energize me. I keep thinking that as I get older, they may start to wear me out. But just the opposite. I have a youth group helping me tonight. And I’m loving every single minute. They are wide-eyed and invincible. I pray no one tells them otherwise.
  • Southern women amuse me. I love their sultry accents and their wiley-ways. I’m nothing like them… but I can admire a good North Carolina drawl and a sweeping of the hand that gestures for another mint julep.  Okay, I may have romanticized this a bit.
  • And I do love Southern men… that sweet buttery drawl just makes them sound so gentile. I mean, in a manly kind of way. Actually, I’m drawn to any man with just about any accent. It’s enough to make me swoon.
  • When someone starts irritating me… and I mean, really irritating me… like when they just have to one-up every single thing I say… (think Penelope from SNL) … it helps to take a deep breath and ask myself why they need to out-do even the smallest thing I mention (Me: I love being on a boat  Her: I built a boat once. Me: My favorite color is orange. Her: My mom invented the color orange.)….and realize that she has a deep need to be valued and heard and recognized… and for some reason she feels the need to fight for it. Someone has stolen that dignity from her and probably didn’t give her a voice and so I exhale and ask her about the boat she built and listen intently and hope she feels valued even for just a minute. I’m still a bit irritated… but I’m making progress.
  • I really really really like fried pickles.
  • I’ve made a new friend on the road. Sandy, the tour manager. She is incredibly nurturing and has an impeccable attention to detail… like when someone’s glass is empty or someone looks tired or the toilet paper role is empty or whatever the need… she’s quick to meet it. Everyone says she has a servant’s heart. I think she has a mother’s heart… maybe those are one in the same.

That’s it so far… but I have a few days to go. It’s hard to be present when you are exhausted. But I’m up for the challenge. I want to know people to a greater level. Because everyone has a story. A history. A present. A future. Entering into someone’s story is a privilege. If you’re lucky you become a part of it, and they a part of yours. It’s the art of sharing life together. I don’t want to leave a set of solitary footprints in this world. I mean, I don’t necessarily want it to look like I had the Verizon Network behind me or anything… but I do want a good solid family of footprints. Ones that are facing toward each other… and that are near each other… so you know there’s been embraces and hand-holding and long looks in the eyes. So you know that we knew each other.

That’s what I’m hoping for…

Mi Mejor Amiga (aka my BFF)

I’m dedicating it to my forever friend, Ms Diana (Guajardo) Nill. Mi Mejor Amiga. My BFF.

We grew up together. My family moved in next door to hers when we were each about 6 months old. I’ve never not known her. We’ve been best friends, and often more like sisters, for 45 years.  We’ve shared so much with each other: dreams, clothes, fears, bicycles, double popsicles from the ice cream truck, school plays, teachers, injuries (Little League), boyfriends, heartaches, recipes, crushes, tragedies, victories, advice, holidays, and our families.  Her mom calls me Mija (mee-ha) and my mom calls her Sweetheart (sweet-hart). I’m Tia Debbie to her kids. We plan on being in each others lives until the very end. “Diapers to diapers” we like to say… “but of course, that all Depends”. Heh heh… yea, we’re corny like that… but we like it.

So, I guess the best way I know how to verbalize why I adore this friend of mine… is to make a list of why I think she’s so great. This is a compiled list of reasons I am thankful for her, admire her, am amused by her, want to be around her, want to be like her…and will always be her friend.

Here goes…

Diana:

  • She is quick to laugh and slow to anger.
  • She knows how to give a compliment or timely word of encouragement, and does so with great generosity.
  • She, without hesitation, will welcome you into her home and her family.
  • She will, at the last minute, stand in for you when you get the mumps and can’t be in the 5th grade Christmas play (seriously, it was like a Brady Bunch episode)
  • She is fiercely loyal to her family.
  • She will do crazy things with you like Mannequin Modeling for Sears even though you’re in Junior High and are supposed to be too insecure to do those kind of things.
  • She’s an amazing mom. Just ask her kids. They rise up and call her blessed.
  • If you’re with her, you have her full attention and she makes you feel like you’re the only one that matters.
  • She’ll thoroughly enjoy your antics, your mishaps, your klutziness and your inability to pronounce Spanish words… and never make you feel inadequate or inept. ( Vamos Y’all! )
  • She will not just remember details like your favorite wine, how you like your coffee, or that you like it really cold at night… she’ll make sure you’re provided for.
  • She will randomly take your hand, squeeze it and say, “I’m so glad you’re here”.
  • She will always have your back, sing your praises and defend your honor.
  • If she disagrees with you, it will be done gently, humbly and without judgement.
  • She’ll listen intently when you ramble on and on about cooking and recipes and photography and East Nashville and your church and your community and… and she knows just where to “ooh” and “aah” and make you feel heard.
  • She will make you feel like the most talented person she knows, even if you’re not.
  • She will embrace your passions and believe in the work you do, even though your careers and dreams are different than hers.
  • She will always greet you with bear hugs and cheek kisses.
  • She will share her kids with you and allow you to become Tia Debbie.
  • She will giggle with you into the wee hours of the night… even though you’re well over forty, thirty, twenty.
  • She throws caution to the wind and knows how to play and be silly… and will be a safe place for you to do the same.
  • She will share her heart honestly… and trust her fears and her dreams with you.
  • She will challenge you, though unintentionally, to be a better person. To love with abandon. To laugh loud and often. To encourage others freely. And to trust God because you can, not because you should.

So there you have it. My best friend Diana.

Don’t be jealous.

Mama’s Girl

I’ve been battling a head and chest cold for a couple of weeks now.  I’m not a very good sick person. I’m not one of those women who can be sick as a dog and still just pull up her boot straps and carry on. She can be running a fever, coughing up a lung and her head can be so congested it feels like an elephant is standing on it under water. But she still gets up, feeds the kids, irons her husband’s shirt, runs the carpool, grocery shops, does the banking, unclogs the toilet, cuts the grass, prepares dinner and wins a Nobel Peace Prize all by 6:00 pm.

Yea, that’s not me.

I blame it on my mom. When I was a kid… I was pretty healthy. I didn’t get any of the typical childhood illnesses. I’ve still never had the Chicken Pox or Whooping Cough. I had one mump in 5th grade.  Just one. On the left side. It was no big deal, but it did keep me from being in the school Christmas play. So my best friend, Diana, got to be the winter fairy and toss snowflakes made out of shaved soap instead of me.  It was a Brady Bunch special in the making.

All that to say, on the rare occasion that I did get sick, Mom would thoroughly dote on me.  She’d make a special little bed on the couch and prop me up on big fluffy pillows. She’d make me a mug of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, put a cold wash cloth on my forehead and stroke my hair saying things like, “My poor baby feels icky”.

It’s no wonder I become such a big baby when I’m feeling sick. Instead of rationally thinking about beefing up my Vitamin C, downing Airbourne and sucking Zinc tablets… my first thought is simply, “I want my Mommy”…

But because Mom lives 2500 miles away… being sick is not nearly as enjoyable as it used to be. So I’ve had to

seek out other means of comfort when under the weather (aka “on death’s doorstep”… I’m not dramatic or anything).  I’ve tried many a home remedy. I’ve gone the holistic natural route. But the only joy I’ve found comparable is in that beautiful emerald green liquid called, “NyQuil”.

Yes, the NyQuil magic that causes your toes to tingle moments before entering into an unconscious bliss. Sure, there’s a few seconds of gag reflex immediately after downing a little plastic cup full. But a quick gulp of Diet Coke as a chaser and you’re good to go.

Within about 20 minutes that warm fuzzy feeling starts to wash over your body and the next thing you know you are in a lovely NyQuil Coma. Lovely.

There’s really no point to this post other than I wanted to whine a little about feeling sick. I wanted a little sympathy since Mom isn’t here to stroke my hair and spoon-feed me soup. But I am grateful for friends and community who reach out when I don’t feel well. I’m thankful for my neighbor Miss Josephine who popped in on me to see how I was feeling. And thankful for the people in my Neighborhood Group who covered for me and ran things without me. And thankful for my friend Missi who stealthily left lemons for my tea and Whole Foods chicken soup on my porch. And for my roommate Meghan – who lets me drink her all orange juice (wait, she may not know about that)…

Anyway, Mom is always the best source of comfort. But when she’s not available, I am so very grateful for my friends who love me well.

And for NyQuil… yes, really grateful for NyQuil.

Distractions

So sorry friends, for the lack of blogging lately. I’ve been caught up in a few things that have kept me distracted. One being, my crazy travel schedule starting up in full force. Another, playing with my newly potted vegetable and herb garden.

And of course, I love being distracted with experimenting in the kitchen so I can post on my Recipe Blog… and not to mention wanting to spend the rest of my down-time sitting on my porch enjoying some of these amazing summer nights (and afternoons!)…

But the most important, and probably the most understandable, distraction has been walking through Mom’s cancer and hip surgery… and currently, her barrage of treatments and evaluations. It’s been overwhelming at best. But as I’ve continued to say throughout this time, “The Lord is on His throne… and that’s all I need to find rest at night”.

However, a couple of weeks ago, I was in Rochester, NY for a Women of Faith weekend. It had been a crazy time of trying to do my World Vision job on the road and squeezing phone calls in to doctors, nurses, family, mom’s friends, etc… After a typically hectic travel day on Sunday… I got home and collapsed in bed. Only to be wakened early the next morning with an onslaught of more phone calls.

(Content Warning: TMI below…)

After dealing with what I needed to… I decided, for mental health purposes, I needed to give myself a break. So I turned off my phone and headed out of the house to run some errands. Bank, post office, gas station… and then the fun part… Target! I needed a few things like shampoo & conditioner, toothpaste, Advil PM… and well, a bra. It had been awhile, after all, since I’d purchased a new one, and it was high time.

So, I found myself meandering through tall fixtures that displayed all sorts of frilly things on little plastic hangers… and though I was enjoying myself, my mind kept wandering and thinking of all the people I still needed to call and I was just worried about my mom. She’d been on heavy pain meds for a week, making her incoherent and I had been unable to talk to her. And I really missed my mom.

Shaking my head in an attempt to “snap out of it”… I grabbed the first bra in front of me. “Huh, it’s my size and it’s pretty and made of that stretchy lace I love”, I thought. “Sold!”, I actually said allowed. No need to try it on… thanks to Target’s great return policy. Besides, I’m exhausted and now I’m thinking I need to get home and get back to the phone calling. So I hastily grabbed the other things I needed and checked out.

Once home and once my calls were done for awhile… I decided to try on my purchase. “Wow, this thing is really comfortable! It fits like a glove! This may be the most comfortable bra I’ve ever had…”. I was quite pleased with myself. So pleased that I wore it every day for 3 days.

On the 3rd day… I came home late in the evening and decided to get undressed and shower before bed. As I was removing said purchase… I looked down and saw this little clasp thingy on the front of the strap. And another thingy on the other side. “Huh, what are these for?” I asked myself as I unclasped one…

Yep. You guessed it.

I had purchased a nursing bra.

So there you have it. Fatigue, distraction and shopping don’t mix. This I can attest to. But I must say… since I’ve never had children and don’t ever plan to (at least not in the birthing sense)… I may never have intentionally purchased a nursing bra. And I would have never known just how very comfortable they are… I mean, they’re really comfortable.

In spite of my sudden embarrassment, I was so taken with the humor of it all that I burst into a fit of laughter. Seriously, I still laugh when I think of it. But I’m so grateful to the Lord for giving me a little comic relief in the midst of such intense drama going on in my life. And I’m glad that it’s at my own expense and not someone else’s. And I’m grateful that He allowed such a hasty purchase to still turn out okay.

Because yeah, in case you’re wondering…

I’m still wearing it.

Out of Control…

Now, I would never classify myself as a “control freak”… freak might be a little harsh… maybe just a “control fan” would be a more accurate description. But nonetheless, there are times when I do not like letting go of the reins and trusting the ride I’m on. Now, is one of those times….

Finding out that my sweet mama has breast and bone cancer… and as of this week… finding out it’s at Stage 4… leaves me feeling helpless, uncertain, scared, frustrated and well, out of control. I’m a ‘fixer’ by nature. I’m resourceful, creative, a problem solver, a manager, a take-the-bull-by-the-horns-kinda-gal. If I see something gone awry… I don’t mess around. I whip out my proverbial tool belt (even though the tools are pink and kinda girlie)… and I get to work. I am a true McGuyver.

I can’t fix Mom’s problem.

Sigh.

Because this is all in God’s hands. The Maker of the Universe. The Creator of all that is good and right and holy. My Father. My Savior. Mom’s Father. Mom’s Savior. The Lover of both our souls.

So why do I think that my abilities and wisdom and love for my mother would be a better resource for her? I mean, I don’t really think that. But… I really do. At least I act like I do when I think I’m her better option. When I panic and worry and struggle with my lack of control. When I try to dictate to the Lord how to solve these issues and I try to wrestle Him into submission. When I advise the Creator of the Universe as to how He should answer my prayers. “All ya gotta do Lord is…

It’s one thing to pray in faith and believe that God can and will do miracles and to know that He has my best interest in His heart… it’s another thing to take back the reins (reign) and hope He jumps in on my agenda.

So, as you pray for me, my mom and our family… pray also that my faith would increase. That my ability to trust the One, who is the only One worth trusting, would increase and that my desire to McGuyver my way through life would be what’s wrestled in to submission.

Thanks friends.

You’re not the boss of me. Ok, maybe you are…

I was talking to my friend & roommate, Meghan, yesterday and confessing that I still get tremendously nervous when having to “perform” in front of people who have positions of authority over me. Whether performing my job, speaking, executing a plan, or sometimes just answering direct questions… I get instant dry mouth, my jaw will subtly quiver, and the normally fluid phrases & words in my head will become fragmented and erratic. Now this doesn’t happen when I’m around said authoritative figures during just our normal daily interactions… just when it’s time for me to be “on”.

Monday night, our new pastor/elder in charge of developing our church body through teaching & education… showed up unexpectedly to my Neighborhood Group. He and his wife came to sit in and observe and get to know my group. And to observe my leadership and my teaching of the series we’re going through as a church. Ugh.


Now don’t get me wrong… I love Tom and I’m thrilled he’s taking this position with our church. It’s very much needed and I think he’s an amazing gift to our church, at just the right time. That said…

I went instantly into nervous-mode the second I saw them walk into the room… especially since I was not feeling very well that night, had just come off the road and was exhausted, and… and… I know, I know…

Excuses. Excuses.

But I felt off my game nonetheless.

It’s just amazing to me that with all my growing and maturing over the years… I can still be instantly transported back to a quivering, knock-kneed child. Granted, I’m not nearly as bad as I was as a kid. I remember spending almost my entire 2nd Grade year in tears. My mom paid a lot of visits to the Principal’s office that year. Not because I was in trouble… but because of how often I came home sobbing. And just FYI – I wouldn’t recommend asking my mom about it. To this day, her blood pressure goes through the roof at its mere mention…

My 2nd Grade teacher, Mrs. Guest, was large and scary and always seemed to be looming over me (think Sybil’s mother). Her tightly-pulled, ashy-white hair knot and chunky white eyebrows were a stark backdrop to the thick ebony-rimmed glasses that balanced on the tip of her nose. She wore her standard charcoal-gray woolen shift-dress everyday, paired with thick opaque support-hose that always fell shy of her dress hem and sagged at her ankles above chunky black shoes.

Mrs. Guest could reduce me to instant tears with her fierce, chastising look. Hand on hip and finger pointed, she nicknamed me “Hippie” because (yes, it was in the early 7o’s) my mom dressed me in some pretty happenin’ outfits, and she did not approve of my “style”. More often than I care to remember… she would raise her voice and bellow complicated questions at me like, “Ms. Hippie, what is the answer to problem number 12?” But all I could see on my paper was a swirl of numbers and blurry figures that seemed to mock me and then run pell-mell all over the page (although numbers still do that to me – but I digress). Unable to mutter a sound, my tears would flow and Mrs. Guest would shake her jowly face with a tsk tsk tsk of her tongue and say… “That’s what I thought. Yes siree. Not a clue.”

I grew up in a home with no outward conflict (key word: outward). And my first two years at school were delightful! So, neither my family, nor Kindergarten or 1st Grade had prepared me for handling the wrath of the 2nd Grade Gestapo.

Mrs. Curren was my 1st grade teacher. She was sweet and kind, gave frequent hugs and smelled like apples.

Sometimes she would stick a little daisy in her blond up-do. She had bright flowers on her dresses and a lilting voice that drew you in and made you smile even when she was asking you about a math problem. She drew cute little faces on our homework and clapped her hands and jumped up & down when you got the answer right in class. She never scolded. She always encouraged. I raised my hand a lot that year. It’s how I think 1st Grade should always be remembered.

Mrs. Guest had the unfortunate lottery of following one of my favorite heroes in all of Elementary School… and though 2nd Grade felt like a prison camp in comparison to my blissful year under the tutelage of Mrs. Curren… I’ve always wondered if I had just demonized poor Mrs. Guest because she couldn’t live up to the likes of Saint Curren. I mean, Mrs. Guest wasn’t a good teacher. She wasn’t kind. She said and did some pretty mean things to me that year. And I’m pretty sure that much of my still becoming a blithering idiot in front of authority-figures was a result of my spending a year being molded by Heir Commandant. But maybe, just maybe… her knuckle-wrapping, name-calling, spirit-crushing ways were how she thought 2nd Grade kids would respond best? Maybe she… she…

Oh forget it. Even I can’t find the silver-lining in this one.

Needless to say, I am still working through childhood dramas that continue to affect me today. I’m assuming we all are. Fortunately, the good things from childhood still affect us, as well. I will always believe that the Mrs. Currens of the world exist, because well, they did once. And thanks to her example, I will always believe that love does cover a multitude of sins (including math)… and that kindness is possible in authority… and smelling like apples is a good thing.

Thanks Mrs. Curren.