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You will always be in my heart!

In the last blog I talked about how diversions in our path can shake up our plans. The day I was going in circles trying to find my destination for the conference, also began one of the most painful detours of my life.
That night I returned to my brother and sister-in-law’s house where I was staying, and found out that Leo, my brother, had fallen while unloading his commercial truck. He hit his head and was knocked out. An office worker found him and called 911. He was taken to the hospital and had stitches in his head and given one day off work.
My reaction was very adamant. “You need to go get a CT scan!”
Leo laughed, “I’m fine.”
“How long were you unconscious?” I began quizzing him.
“Not sure.”
“What did they tell you about the concussion?”
“No one mentioned a concussion.”
I was getting very…uh…motherly. “How could you be knocked out and NOT have a concussion. It may be weeks before you feel the effects of that, when the brain swelling starts to go down.” My voice may have gone up some. “You can’t go back to work after only one day. How is that safe?”
Our conversation did drift to other topics. The next morning, I playfully, and seriously, left for my conference with, “You need your head examined.”
Three weeks later I received a phone call to tell me Leo had an accident with his truck and he did not survive his injuries. To the investigators it appeared he was unconscious before the truck left the road. When I learned that his truck drifted off the road, I knew in my heart that it was from his resent head injury.
Natural reactions set in. I wanted someone to blame. I wanted to tell someone “I told you so!” I wanted to go back and change how he was examined. Nothing could be done. As I struggled with finding fault, I realized no one had the power to effect Leo’s life outside of God. He had given his life to Christ, who can intervene in human errors. I accepted that God had chosen to take Leo home.
I don’t know the answer to “why now?” Trusting God doesn’t mean that I don’t hurt. It means that I am not bitterly or angerly looking for someone to blame. Leo is with his Lord and that is a great comfort to me at this time. Knowing that he was a good person, doing what he loved, and that he had a large network of people who loved him eases my pain a little. I am proud of the man my little brother became.
You may be reading this and have never asked Jesus into your life. I would strongly suggest that you do. You may not be concerned about your eternity right now, but you have no hold on tomorrow. Eternity may be sooner than you think. What about the loved ones you leave behind? Would you want them to anguish over losing you to an unknown eternity?
The best way to make the best of your life is by following Jesus.
Life may take many turns, but with Jesus by your side you will have peace in knowing you are not alone. And you won’t miss enjoying forever in heaven.

Lost or Re-directed

Have you ever been lost? So lost that you feared you may never find your destination? I recently attended a conference in Portland. I drove each morning from my brother’s house in SE Portland to the Jantzen Beach area for the meetings. The first morning, I left early, giving myself time with the morning traffic. Which was a good plan as I had to creep along in rush-hour traffic. Almost to the conference location, I began feeling proud of myself for my seldom-used-skills in heavy traffic. I was even patting myself on the back for remembering that the Hooters restaurant was the exit before the one I needed…or was it?
Then I saw my destination below me, at the end of the exit ramp that I failed to take. After crossing the Columbia River and circling through downtown Vancouver, I was again on I-5, this time headed south. At 8:30 AM southbound traffic into Portland was at a near stand-still. I knew where my destination was – just across the river. Since I would be getting off at the first exit, I remained in the outside lane where I could marvel at the distance to the water below. Creeping across the bridge activated my fear of heights. My fingers tapped the steering wheel.
It felt like an eternity before the first exit was in sight. Finally, I was off the interstate with my destination near. Only I turned wrong at the first light and ended back on the freeway! Tension quickly rose as I inched along with traffic to the next exit. Once off, I zipped under freeway anticipating the northbound on-ramp. There wasn’t one. I was headed east into an unknown area. I pulled off on a side street to re-vamp my plan and asked a construction worker how to get on I-5 North. “Turn left at next block and go a mile or so and follow signs.”
“Left! That takes me south.” I would be headed away from my destination!
Eventually, I found the freeway, the correct exit and the convention. Relief. I survived the ordeal and was safely at my destination. Though arriving at the conference didn’t put me at my goal of publishing my book. I talked with several agents and publishers. No one was begging me for the opportunity to publish it. One agent said that if I made some changes she would take another look at it. Yes! On to another “destination.”
Looking back, I realized that morning was much like my life. Sometimes I was on the right track and other times not. Two years ago, I had a destination in mind. I could see it clearly. I wanted to help others who have felt worthless and hopeless, so I helped write a plan to expand the Soup Kitchen. I was part of a board applying for funding to build a transitional housing project where, eventually, I would be able to teach lessons from my book, which by then would be published. I joined the Homeless Coalition for the city, determined to tackle problems in my community. I could see my goals. It would all work out because I was doing it for God.
Or was I?
Two years later and I feel no closer to the dreams I had. It appears I am circling my destination but not arriving.
Again, life imitates my travels. I thought I could predict how each goal in my life would work out. God didn’t agree with my plans. I had to circle around and take another look at what, or maybe why, I was so passionate about each of my endeavors.
I began writing my blogs months ago with enthusiasm. After going to a class on blogging, I discovered I had a lot of details that needed improving. So, my blogs stopped. While I work through the changes, they may continue to be sporadic rather than scheduled. I am back on the “interstate,” moving slowly. It may not be a straight path. But I am traveling toward my goal and, with God’s help, I will get to where He wants me to be. The same is true with my volunteer work. I will let God guide how each should go.
What I thought was my destination was only a stepping stone. But that’s a thought for another time. Keep your eye on your dreams, but be flexible to God’s guiding.

Honor Your Parents

Recently, I was editing a chapter in my new book and was thinking about a section on forgiveness. We all know we should forgive anyone who has called us names, hurt our feelings or offended us. Then I remembered the ten commandments. I was taken back by, “Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)

How can someone honor their parents if they were abused or neglected? For myself, I can forgive them because they did the best they knew how. That is an excuse that doesn’t justify my, and my siblings, feelings of neglect and worthlessness.

But how does someone who was beaten, abandoned or tortured, honor their parents? I ached inside trying to make sense of the commandment. Then I realized that “honor your father and mother” was not about your parents. It is speaking to you, the child.

You aren’t going to change what has happened. You can’t change anyone, except yourself and how you want to move forward. In order for you to heal you must first respect the fact that they are your parents. But you don’t have to carry any of their actions with you. Put them in the proper perspective of the past. Carrying bitterness and anger will only feed the pain and kill any chance for your joy.

The commandment is about you and how you react to something that was done to you. Is it an easy solution? By no means! But once you take that first step to honor you parents’ place in your life and give your future to God, you will find strength to grow away from the negative impact and toward the abundant life you were promised.

Honoring your parents doesn’t mean putting them on a pedestal or giving them praise they don’t deserve. It can mean seeing them in the light of broken people and not continually complaining about their actions. Honoring may mean not picking fights or arguing when you feel mistreated. Honoring may be letting go of what they did and focusing on what good you can do.

Don’t overlook professional help if you are struggling. Your mind can twist and turn thoughts until you don’t know what is accurate. Counseling may help you straighten out some of the confusion.

Proverbs give us advise on seeking wisdom and finding peace. If we fill our minds with meditation on God’s word, we will have less room or time to be angry over past injustices. Chapter 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)

“Honor your father and mother” can become your first step in becoming the person you want to be.

Be Grateful for Strangers

People come into our lives in many different ways. I met Mary at her friend’s yard sale. In only a few minutes we connected with a common threat – growing up with no self-value. I have no idea how we got to the subject but I told her about the memoir I am writing titled I’m Nobody. She said she wanted to title her book Erased. She told me something she had learned and I marveled that it was also one of mine. I told a story from my journey and she understood the pain. We took the next step in our new-found friendship – we became Facebook friends!

Each day I look forward to seeing what nuggets she has posted. She writes what is on her heart: “There’s a special place in my heart for the ones who were with me at my lowest and still loved me when I wasn’t very loveable.” I can relate and think of those friends I have like that.

She posts sayings from other posts: “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.” Oh, if we could all live by that.

Mary posts spiritual thoughts: ”at my lowest, God is my HOPE. At my darkest, God is my LIGHT. At my weakest, God is my STRENGTH. At my saddest, God is my COMFORTER.” This is so true. I hold it dear.

She makes me laugh, “I am on the 12-step chocolate program: to NEVER be more than 12 steps away from chocolate!”

Some of her posts may have a moral statement: “Smoking is not a sign of maturity…it is, however, a sign of rebellion and self-destruction.”

Once she posted the old saying “people come into your life for different reasons…” I think we bumped into one another to become light and encouragement to each other. Only I am sure that she provides much more encouragement to me than I do to her. I may not even recognize her on the street, but often I see a post and say, “that sounds like Mary!”

You don’t have to be best friends and share your deepest secrets to be encouraged or comforted by someone’s words. You can bring joy to strangers when you share positive words, just as I Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Encourage one another and build each other up.”

And be grateful for those who bring you encouragement. Like Mary.

Batting Average

Following the College World Series, I was reading the records set by OSU. One in particular caught my attention. Adley Rutschman hit the ball 17 times in 30 at-bats which is a batting average of .567. Rutschman set a record for the series by hitting the ball 56.7% of the time.
Even a batter that hits the ball less than half the time is considered a good batter. He may not cross home plate but can earn the team points. He may not even make it safely to first base or he may be tagged out at second or third. But he hit the ball. Rutschman’s 17 hits earned the team 13 runs. His hits allowed other members of his team to safely make it to home.
Neither the batter or the team worried about the 43.3% that Rutschman did not hit the ball. They focused on the amount of times something was accomplished and ignored the rest.
When a batter faces a 90-mile-an-hour fast ball, he can’t afford to think about the percent of times he struck out. His focus must be on the ball coming at him and the ability he has to connect with it at that time. Off the field, he may study the films of how he batted. He analyzed them, worked on improving and focused on the future.
That is a good lesson for all of us. How many times are we happy with ourselves for doing something correctly only half the time? It is more likely that we scold ourselves for anything less than perfect. We have a tendency to focus only on the failed attempts. That focus can cause us to miss handle the next challenge that comes our way.
What we focus on is important. Would we keep our child’s or grandchild’s disappointments on our refrigerator? So why do we emphasize our own? If we concentrate on that which we do well, it may surprise us as to how often we achieve goals that we had previously dismissed.
“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11. This was my favorite verse when I was learning to live a new lifestyle after I developed an autoimmune disorder. I held firm to the Lord’s promise that I had a future. His plan was not to harm me but to prosper. My body could not do what it once had, but He filled my spirit so full that I felt gratitude for the change. I was grateful for the blessings and cherished the memories of all the things I had once been able to do. With God’s help I focused on the things which built me up and not that tore me down.
Focus on your hits and be ready for the next challenge.
And don’t forget, God bats 1000!