grateful amazement

finding wonder…everywhere.

You Inspire Me. Yes, YOU.

I didn’t watch much of the recent Winter Olympics.
I wanted to…intended to…but just never found the necessary time to slow down, sit down, and take in any of the events.
I know there were many fascinating, inspiring, slickly-produced backstories of athletes making wild sacrifices for their chosen sports – sacrifices of time, energy, even comfort in the hopes of achieving the human equivalent of perfection.
The perfection to which gold, silver, and bronze offer their shiny, precious-metal testimonies.

And, while those stories – stories of passion-driven sacrifices (oftentimes made also by the athletes’ families) – are inspiring, I find what truly inspires me are the equally brave, passion-filled acts performed on a much smaller stage, for a much smaller audience, with a much smaller budget, on a much smaller scale.

Plain and simple, for me, it’s people – everyday, ordinary people – who discover, pursue, and walk in their God-given gifts and talents that inspire me.
Inspire me beyond words.

Maybe it’s because the people I’m thinking of are not those cut from larger-than-life, I-could-never-do-that cloth, but the ones who quietly glow and shine as they walk purposefully and courageously (which, incidentally, does not mean without fear) in their truth.
The truth of who they are – who God created them to be.
People who do the hard, gritty, often uncomfortable work of unearthing.
Unearthing those seeds planted by their Creator that often lie deep – sometimes hidden in painful, trying, even scary circumstances and situations.
People who push through the pain and peril to find their purpose.
People who then, with the tenacity and strength of character equal to Olympic proportions, intentionally practice that purpose, that passion…with no promise of shiny medals, lofty accolades, or million-dollar endorsement deals.

People like that – and we all know them – truly inspire me.

Maybe it’s because when I look at them, I think…’There is hope for me’…’I can do that’…

After trying to master the bunny hill at a ski lodge just a couple months ago – trying quite unsuccessfully while providing side-splitting amusement to my fellow skiers – there is no question in my mind that I will never, ever aspire to the heights of the Olympians I saw in the replays from Sochi. (Especially when I could hardly even walk in those darn ski boots!)

But, when I look at the beautiful, intentional way I’m welcomed by greeters at church – or when I interact with the local business owner whose smile sparkles brighter than any gold medal as she visits with patrons – or when I read a beautifully written blog post, or see a remarkable piece of work take shape under the careful hands of an artisan, or witness the joy on the face of a children’s ministry worker…
I. Am. Inspired.

Inspired to dig deeper in my own life to find that purpose-bearing seed.
Inspired to do the work of quietly honing and honoring what I find there.
Inspired to walk in the passion God’s given me.
Inspired to leave it to Him to decide whatever impact – or inspiration – my own messy, stumbling, imperfect, honest pursuit may have.

Who inspires me?
You, brave friend.
You, creative friend.
You, honest friend.
You, real friend.
You, passion-filled friend.

You and your life inspire and challenge me to be a better me – the me God’s called me to be.

Thank you for that.

{Linking up with Holley Gerth and Jennifer Dukes Lee again today – and so very thankful for the inspiration those two beautiful, brave ladies give me and so many others as they passionately pursue their purpose.)

Coffee for Your Heart 
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Joy in the Deep

{So very grateful to be linking up again today with Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart and Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStoryThere is so much joy to be found and so many stories to discover. I do hope you’ll click on through!}

‘What brings you joy?’
On the face of it, it seems a simple question.
A small, four-word query.
Scratch the surface and it shows itself to be a bit bigger.
A more loaded, harder-to-pin-down inquiry.
Dig deeper still and, if you’re like me, it takes on a life of its own.
A big, bouncy, ever-changing riddle…like some sort of amoebic punch balloon.

‘What brings you joy?’
On the face of it, my simple answer goes something like this:
‘Sunshine. Music. Flowers. Color. Dark – really dark – chocolate.’
Scratch the surface and bigger things emerge in my reply:
‘Family. Friendships. Home. Creativity. Accomplishments.’
Dig deeper still and…well, there are all kinds of things that live in my response…each of them shape-shifting from Light to Dark to Light again.
‘Faith. Truth. Love. Hope. Survival.’

The full definition of the word joy, according to Merriam-Webster.com, is ‘the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.’

I like that.
It covers the Simple, the Just-Below-the-Surface, and the Deep.
Well-being? Got it. Answered in the Simple.
Success? Good fortune? Check. Covered in the Just-Below-the-Surface.
The prospect of possessing what one desires? Um…well…
…could it be that’s the rejoinder in the Deep?

For me, identifying those joy-full things – Faith. Truth. Love. Hope. Survival. – and the prospect of possessing them is the epitome of joy

When my world threatens to shatter, say, from the diagnosis of very aggressive breast cancer, to say I possess Faith is joy.

When lies and all kinds of crazy swirl inside – and around – me, to say I possess Truth is joy.

When hard people disregard and disrespect and damage, mostly out of their own hurts, to say I possess Love is joy.

When addictions and disorders menace precarious peace and crack tender trust, to say I possess Hope is joy.

When abuse, illness, and other forms of shadow jeopardize life and limb (and sanity), to say I possess Survival is joy.

There is One who makes the possession of each of those Deep Things possible.
One from Whom all those Deep Things flow.
And to think…to know…to live out the fact that I am possessed by Him…

Well, for me, that is the ultimate joy.

Possession = Joy
I really like that.

How would you the question ‘What brings you joy?’ today, friend?
Here’s one more thing I really like…the joy in the sharing.
Feel free to share your joy-full answer(s) with us here!

Coffee for Your Heart 
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That Whisper

{Linking up today with Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart and Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory. Be sure to click through for whatever your heart needs today: encouragement, comfort, soothing, strength, hope, connectedness.}

Today, I am anxious.
Anxious about writing this.
The kind of Anxious that occasionally finds me reaching for the doctor-prescribed pill bottle that holds tiny little Promises of Peace in the form of chemicals that claim to calm butterflies.
Like the pterodactyl-sized butterflies that have decided to take flight in my stomach at the mere thought of writing this.
It strikes me as odd, though.
Odd that I would be nervous to write this.
After all, I’ve lived it.
And I’ve even written it before…told the story before.
Writing it won’t make it any more ~ or less ~ real, right?
I wonder why now, today, this has me so tied up in knots?
{That’s a question to pull apart at a later date, I think…}
Today, I am going to write this, despite the anxiety.

Three years, six months, and twenty days ago, my life was changed.
Unalterably changed.
The There-Are-No-Words kind of changed.
Three years, six months, and twenty days ago, I had a mammogram.
It was a mammogram I had procrastinated in scheduling for about half a year, until a friend – who happened to be a two-year cancer survivor herself – pressed me (no pun intended) into getting it on the calendar.
It was a mammogram I didn’t really give much thought to as I drove to the medical center the day of the appointment.
That day, three years, six months, and twenty days ago.

I wasn’t a bit nervous, freaked out, worried, or concerned that day.
It wasn’t my first time at the Flatten Your Pancakes Rodeo.
It wasn’t a big deal in my mind.
Just another item to cross off my To Do List once it was done and I was back home.

And then, as I was in the changing room, neatly folding my clothes after I’d gotten myself into the delightfully stylish hospital gown I’d been given, Somebody whispered.
Yes, Somebody with a capital S.
And, yes, to my ears, it was an audible whisper.
An. Audible. Holy. Whisper.

‘They are going to find something, but you’re going to be okay.’

Hearing That Whisper didn’t scare me.
It didn’t freak me out.
Didn’t even cause the smallest catch in my breath.
For some {supernatural} reason, I was calm.
Accepting, even.
If memory serves, my internal response was something like, ‘Well, okay. Let’s do this then.’

{Now, before you’re tempted to pat me on the back and tell me how very ‘brave’ that response was…how very ‘trusting’…how very ‘admirable’…I have to let you know that it is my belief that God ran interference that day with That Whisper because He knew that if I first heard that something had showed up on the mammogram when the technician decided to ‘bend’ protocol and tell me that there was ‘something there’, I would have TOTALLY FREAKED OUT. I believe that He was showing me that He knew me – and my tendency to catastrophize things in my wildly imaginative thought life – and that He cared enough to want to show Himself intimately involved in each and every detail of the path on which I’d suddenly found my feet.
My response was not really ‘brave’, or ‘trusting’, or ‘admirable’ at all.
It was just my way of letting God know I heard Him.
My way of letting Him know that I was going to let Him take this one…instead of employing my usual I’ll-Try-Everything-I-Can-Think-Of-And-Get-Back-To-You-If-Nothing-Else-Works approach…instead of begrudgingly unclenching my fingers from around a problem I just know is my responsibility alone to untangle…instead of turning the circumstance over to Him then taking it back, then turning it over and taking it back again and again.
Maybe I’m not the only one to use these approaches sometimes?}

I left the medical center that day, hearing in That Whisper – and in the words of the technician – that there was more to come.
More appointments, more tests to undergo (at least one of them I’m convinced was designed in the dark, dank, dungeoned torture chambers of the Middle Ages), more waiting for results, more decisions to be made, more medical professionals to see, more second opinions to get, more medical jargon to decode, more learning curves to be clumsily scaled.

Due to all those ‘mores’, it was almost a month before I heard the surgeon say those words no one ever wants to hear: ‘It is cancer.’

The wait seemed to take on that odd speed that characterizes most surreal situations…it took forever and went so quickly.
And, even though I had That Whisper tucked safely into my heart, the wait wore on me like an itchy wool sweater – rubbing me raw, making any and all movement uncomfortable at best.
It was twenty minutes before getting the call from the surgeon that I had the biggest meltdown of my entire Cancer Journey (aside from the day the chemo took my hair and exchanged its familiar presence for a decidedly UNfashionable Cue Ball Look…that was a really, really hard, tear-filled day.)
In that twenty minutes, I was letting God know, in no uncertain terms, that this waiting was NOT FAIR.
That I DESERVED to know.
That I had waited LONG ENOUGH.
I was working myself up into quite a tizzy…and felt COMPLETELY ENTITLED to it.
In the middle of what can only honestly be termed a tantrum, another Whisper came.
(Although, because of the volume of my pout-filled protests, it was closer to a ‘Stage Whisper’…you know, the kind the audience in the back of the theater is supposed to be able to hear.)

‘Why are you so worked up about not hearing from that doctor? I am your Doctor. And you already know the answer.’

As you can probably imagine, That Second Whisper served as my call to Stop. Breathe. Remember. Trust.

And I did.
And I have, mostly.

In the last three years, six months, and twenty days, since the day cancer was discovered in my body, I have had five surgeries, fifty-two weeks of chemo, countless medical appointments and follow-up tests, and many opportunities to find, develop, work, and grow the muscles of Faith, Memory, and Trust. Honestly, more opportunities than I thought my life could hold.

But, today, looking back from here, I see God’s promise in That Whisper and the walk that has followed as hard evidence that, no matter what, because He is Who He says He is and I am who He says I am, namely His, I will always be okay.

So will you, my friend. Whatever your ‘no matter what’ is today or tomorrow or the next day.
Because He is Who He says He is and you are who He says you are, namely His, you will always be okay.
Let That Whisper fill your heart.

{And, in the spirit of full disclosure, while I will always be beyond grateful for That Whisper thirteen hundred days ago, there are times when I wish I would’ve thought to ask Him just exactly what He’d meant when He said I’d be okay. *smile}

**PS – I blogged throughout the first three years of my Cancer Journey here. Please feel free to visit to get more backstory and/or to share with someone in your life who may need to know they are not alone in the fight.**

Coffee for Your Heart 150

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On the Hard Days: Coffee for Your Heart

The alarm didn’t go off.
Or maybe it did, but in my exhaustion, I didn’t hear it and it gave up on waking me.
There goes my quiet time and my journaling and my 10-minute meditation…again.
My To-Do List is about a mile too long – but it is MY handwriting…what was I thinking?!
I race from one appointment to the next, never fully present and not even able to catch my breath.

I’ve done it to myself again…spread myself too thin…overbooked my schedule…and I have no one to blame but myself.
So, on top of my exhaustion, I’ll heap some shame and some guilt: Why do I always do this? Why can’t I just get it together? Why can’t I stay on top of everything?

Unfortunately, for the people who share my address, it’s days like this that tend to be filled with much flailing and gnashing of teeth…MY limbs and MY teeth.
My movements are filled with tension, my responses come out sideways, and feelings are hurt…THEIR feelings and MY feelings.

On days like these, there are a few things I need to hear…

‘Be gentle with yourself.’
I need to know that my Default Settings when things are crazy – Shame, Guilt, and Lashing Out – are not helpful to my heart or my soul (not to mention the poor souls closest to me). I need to know that what IS helpful is finding and offering myself grace…grace to slow my pace and breathe deeply, grace to create some margin in my schedule, grace to pencil in some rest, grace to reach out and ask for help. When I am gentle with myself, I am able to give my heart the calming words and actions I would offer to a harried friend. I’ve learned that there are times when I am the best person to minister to me.

‘It’s not a competition.’
…or a race or a contest. There are some situations (and even people) that trigger in me a need to ‘prove’ my worth, to ‘earn’ my value. If I find that I have filled my list with things that don’t fill my soul, I need to check my motives. It is so easy to fall into the Comparison Trap…and so disorienting to find myself in a crumpled heap at the bottom of that pit. For me, the rope ladder up and out of that Crazy is to repeat ‘It’s not a competition’ over and over and over…until my heart absorbs it.

‘Think on the Truth.’
Sometimes when I am having One of Those Days, it’s because I’ve forgotten who I am and Whose I am. I’ve lost sight of the Truth. And the Truth is, I am an unrepeatable miracle, deeply loved, tenderly cared for, passionately pursued, and divinely created to be a Human BEING, not a Human DOING. (pssst…so are YOU!) I belong to a King. I am His beloved daughter. He is my faithful Father. (pssst…He is YOURS and YOU are His, too!) There is peace that passes my limited understanding when I grasp these Truths like the Lifelines they are…and that peace produces in me hope for tomorrow.

‘Remember.’
I am more and more convinced of the power of the Discipline of Remembering. When I am living through a day that seems trouble-filled and never-ending, I can change it – and myself – from a hot mess just by exercising my memory. The word ‘remember’ is found 166 times in the Bible (NIV)…and I’m certain it’s because we humans are so quick to forget. Remembering is key for me in properly framing events, interactions, situations that tend to cause my blood pressure to rise and my spirit to fall. Remembering the specific ways God has shown up for me (in the changing room just before the mammogram that discovered cancer cells in my breast, whispering to my heart, ‘They are going to find something, but you’re going to be okay.’), provided for me (when the doorbell rang and the only thing there was an envelope filled with the exact amount of money we needed at a time when finances were a struggle), comforted me (through various channels – friends, books, music – when I thought all hope was gone) works like nothing else in calming my clamoring thoughts, slowing my racing heart, and lifting my downcast soul. I just need to be reminded to remember sometimes.

The next time you’re in the middle of a hard day, friend, be gentle with yourself, repeat ‘It’s not a competition.’, think on the Truth, and remember.

Your mile-long To-Do List may not get any shorter, but it is my prayer that your heart will be buoyed and your spirit bolstered.

{{hugs}}

{Installment #5 in Holley Gerth‘s Encouragement for Your Heart Challenge!! Remember to click through for even more encouragement On the Hard Days.}

{Also, feeling brave and linking up at #TellHisStory…even if I’m not sure how to center the #TellHisStory badge.} *nervous smile*

Coffee for Your Heart 150

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