With the resurrection of Jesus, we are reminded that God triumphed over death and rose to new life. Like our Lord, we will always be given the courage we need to face our greatest fears and challenges. During this Easter week, I thought I’d share a reflection that was published in The Huffington Post a few months back; a story about one of my secret fears and how I experienced healing and new life. Perhaps you will see yourself somewhere in the story.
As an author, I dread one thing: radio Interviews. Especially live ones.
I’m not sure why I’m so afraid of them. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit of an introvert. Each day, I spend at least three hours in solitude, sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop. My two daughters, both of them in their twenties, always roll their eyes when I’m writing. They know that I won’t converse or even make eye contact with them. “Mom is in the zone,” they often joke.
I’m not a researcher or a fact finder. It would be so much easier to write about how to succeed in business or where to buy the cheapest groceries. I’m an inspirational writer. I write about all the lessons that are learned from the imperfect stories of life.
Now that I’m in my “golden years” , my imperfect stories are many; raising a Down syndrome child, single motherhood, medical and financial strains, a painful divorce and the death of my handicapped child nine years ago.
When I write, something amazing happens. New insights always emerge from the words that take shape on my screen. But inspirational writers can’t always hide behind our computers. We sign contracts. We must say yes to marketing plans, speaking engagements and radio interviews.
Just last week, I was asked to do an interview for a radio station here in the Twin Cities area. The host of the morning show wanted to talk with me about a book I had just written — a compilation of stories about my transition into the second half of life. “Sure, I’d be happy to talk with your listeners.” I had said.
But on the night before the interview, I tossed and turned in my bed. Around 2 a.m., I turned on a nearby lamp and lifted my book from a bedside table. I felt so vulnerable… my private losses were inscribed on almost every page.
In chapter three, I had written about my divorce. I had spent weeks on that chapter, mostly because my ex-spouse was an equal shareholder in that story. Ten years earlier we had parted but now we shared a comfortable friendship. Before the book was published, I had given Don an opportunity to review the divorce chapter. After reading it, he called me and said: “I know this wasn’t easy to write… It’s good.”
I buried my head in my pillow. Why on earth had I written about the divorce? As a couple, we had failed at the most fundamental relationship in our lives. Now, the last thing I wanted to do was to broadcast that failure to thousands of radio listeners.
Just before I fell asleep, I told myself that if the “D” question came up, I could easily steer the broadcaster into another direction. “I’ll just be vague. I’ll talk about how change is part of everyone’s life,” I said.
The next morning, the radio station called my home at 6:45, just as scheduled. Still dressed in my pajamas, I sat at my kitchen table surrounded by notes I had scribbled on index cards.
The broadcaster began asking me all the predictable questions. What is the book about? Why did you write it? How can people in the second half of life deal with change?
Everything seemed to be going along just fine. I gave my rehearsed twenty second summary about the book. I told some funny anecdotes about growing older. I talked about some of the unexpected insights I had gained on my journey through grief.
Then, I heard the broadcaster flipping through my book. “Let’s see… In chapter three, you wrote about a reconciliation that happened between you and your ex-spouse. Can you tell us about that?”
I imagined a sea of nameless people, turning their ears to the radio, waiting for my answer.
I cleared my throat.
“After the divorce, Don and I came to a crossroads in our relationship” I said.
Even as I spoke the words I wanted to take them back. I used Don’s name… SHOOT!
I talked about some of the stresses that we had faced as a married couple. “I think raising a handicapped child may have distracted us from the erosion that was taking place in our relationship,” I said.
As I held the phone, I felt my face flush. I felt like a guilt-ridden politician who had just admitted a family secret to the public.
“Stop talking,” I told myself. But I went on with the interview.
“We both knew our marriage could not be fixed. But in the end, we gave each other the next best thing: Acceptance.”
“Thanks for your vulnerability,” the host said.
Vulnerability. The word means weak, naked and exposed.
After the interview, I felt all the above.
As the morning light streamed in through the kitchen windows, I opened my laptop and began composing an email to my ex-husband.
I just had an interview on the radio. I talked about our divorce and I used your name. (I didn’t mean to, sorry.) Anyway, I mentioned that we were still good friends. I hope that’s okay.
He wrote back:
If your interview brought hope to even one person, then it was a good thing. Thanks for the heads up. Have a good day.
I closed my laptop. On the screen of my unedited thoughts, a new insight emerged.
“It’s okay to be vulnerable…”
I started thinking about the interview.
I had shared a deeply personal failure with the world. But it was a failure that fifty percent of the population go through.
Like so many couples, Don and I had ended one chapter of our relationship. Yet, in the pages of our imperfect story came a lesson of acceptance and a gift of unexpected friendship.
It was okay to be vulnerable, to share that story aloud, and to offer it awkwardly to my unnamed radio friends. Because if the interview brought hope to even one person, it was a good thing.
Ash Wednesday- March 1, 2017
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. Matthew 6: 1-6
I begin most mornings working out on a treadmill at the local gym where sixteen television screens flash before my eyes. Each channel is a beam of news, weather, and captioned commentary. My gym-mates talk on their cell phones while pedaling bikes and lifting weights. Meanwhile, rock music blares and I keep running.
Screens, ringtones, noise, and movement are part of our modern culture. But as we begin Lent, Jesus beckons us to un-plug ourselves from the flash of life.
In our readings for today, we are invited to slip away to our “inner room” and “close the door.” It’s an invitation to meet Jesus each day, in the solitude of prayer. But for most of us, this is easier said than done. How do we begin to un-distract ourselves?
Consider creating an “inner room” in your home. Try removing all clutter from a spare room or corner and set up a small table with a cloth and pretty candle. Consecrate the space to the Lord and let it become your sanctuary from sounds and screens. Decide on a prayer time that works for you, even if it’s only a few moments a day.
In the silence, perhaps you might ask: Lord where are you leading me? What doors do you want to open? What changes do I need to make? Ask for what you need, and pray for the needs of others. When it’s totally quiet, you might hear yourself say: Thank you Lord…
In the inner room of your heart, there won’t be any flashy commercials or ring tones. Your only distraction will be God.
Lord, show me what an undistracted life might look like. Lead me to the pastures of your presence. Let me find peace in you.
March 2, 2017
Moses said to the people:
“Today I have set before you
life and prosperity, death and doom”
Deuteronomy 30: 15-20
The word doom, per Webster’s thesaurus means “ruined, cursed, sentenced or wrecked.” When a loved one passes away or we face a financial or health crisis, it’s natural to say: “What have I done to deserve this? I’m ruined!”
When I speak to grief groups, many of the folks who listen to my message are newly bereaved and the feeling of doom is palpable. Having lost a child myself, I begin my presentations by sharing some simple ways to make it through the first year of grief. Since I’m not a psychologist, I simply encourage the participants to make an important choice each morning: Choose to get up. Drawing from my own story, I offer this humble advice: “Take your first step, and then another and another. Even if you only walk to the kitchen, each step is a proclamation of hope.”
During these Lenten weeks, it’s important to remember that we are not a doomed people. When it’s hard to rise from our pain, Jesus gives us strength to carry our cross, even if it’s a short distance. As we move forward in faith, we are never cursed or wrecked. On the contrary, we are beloved children of God and the cross we carry is hope.
Lord, help me to choose life and prosperity, not death and doom. In the soft light of hope, let me carry my cross. Move me forward in the power of your grace.
March 3, 2017
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke, sharing your bread with the hungry. Isaiah 58 1-9
Each day, we are given opportunities to “set free the oppressed.” Recently, I was presented with one of the opportunities at the mall.
That afternoon, I was shopping at a large department store. I had just painted my bathroom and I wanted to find a few new accessories to brighten up the space. After rummaging through a bin of towels, I laid a couple of small rugs out on the floor. A young woman in her twenties was working nearby, her hair pulled back in a ponytail.
“Thanks so much for all your hard work.” I told her She looked a lot like my daughters and maybe that’s why I was drawn to her.
“My mama used to say that blessings can be found anywhere, even at work.”
“You must have a good mom.” I told her.
Tears began welling up in her eyes.
My mom died two months ago, she had cancer…
Private prayers rose within me and for a moment, it felt like she was own child. I hugged her and let her cry. “It’s okay” I whispered.
After a few moments, she regained her composure and dutifully began stocking sheets on a shelf.
“I like the blue rug the best.” The young woman said, pointing to one of the rugs I had spread out on the floor.
“Me too.” I replied.
As I left the store I felt grateful for our encounter. Like so many people, that young woman was oppressed by a very deep and private pain. My role that day was to share a mother’s love. Nothing more. In doing so, she was freed, at least momentarily, of carrying her pain alone. The blessing was returned as I never grow tired of being a mom.
In today’s readings, we are reminded to “set free” the oppressed. As we go about our daily errands and schedules, let us be open to the people we meet on our journey. Someone may need to be set free.
Dear Lord, help me to recognize that every moment has the potential for holiness. Lead me to those who are most in need of your mercy. Let my daily plans be interrupted with yours.
March 4, 2017
He will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails. Isaiah 58: 9-14
Renewal often happens in our weakest moments. I discovered this years ago, on the night before our first child had open heart surgery. While praying in a hospital chapel, a quiet terror rose up inside of me. What if something goes wrong in surgery? What if she dies?
Any parent who has surrendered their child to surgery knows that it’s a feeling of complete helplessness. Mothers are especially vulnerable to this unique brand of fear. We are like protective bears and when we can’t rescue our children, we defy an instinct to shield and protect our cubs.
“I will be with you…” I heard the Lord say as I knelt in the chapel. In the silence, I took a deep breath. Imagining the Lords arms outstretched to me, I could only utter a one-word prayer: Help…
My baby lived through the surgery and I learned an unforgettable lesson that remains with me all these years later. When we are weak, God will renew our strength.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a perfect example of this. When her son was crucified, the scriptures tell us that she “stood” before his cross. I don’t know about you, but I probably would’ve collapsed into a fetal position. How could any mother endure what she endured? Yet, in Mary’s weakest, darkest, scariest moment, her feet remained firmly planted. At the cross, she was given the strength to stand.
If your faith feels weak and unsteady, consider repeating these five words like a mantra: He will renew my strength. Think of our Blessed mother and trust that God will help you to stand.
Lord, when life gets hard, let me stand on the hallowed ground of faith. In times of weakness, be my strength.
March 5, 2017
The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground
and blew into his nostrils the breath of life,
and so man became a living being. Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Minnesotans are a hearty people. During our long winters, wind chills often dip to twenty and thirty below zero. Though we live in a land of frostbite, we call ourselves survivors. We know how to dress in layers and most of us pack blankets and jumper cables in the trunk of our cars. When the wind howls, we aren’t alarmed if our eyelashes turn to ice or our breath freezes into a white mist. In frozen solidarity, we inhale and exhale the frigid air of life.
Sometimes, the season of Lent can feel like a long winter. During these weeks, we must journey through the cold winds of sin and repentance. As we shiver at the cross, God wraps us in a blanket of forgiveness. There, he blows the “breath of life” into our “nostrils” and we inhale his mercy. We are survivors, alive and forgiven, waiting for Easter joy.
Today, imagine the Lord filling you with the breath of life. Close your eyes and take a deep, full breath. Quietly, reverently, exhale. Do this slowly for five to ten times. As you become more aware of God’s presence, invite the Lord to guide you in prayer.
Lord, Revive me. Let me inhale your presence and the peace that passes all understanding. Fill me with the promise of new life.