Ambushed by aging

retail-store-metal-mirror-and-footrest2[1]It happened in front of one of those unforgiving, full-length mirrors.

I had stepped into mom’s adjoining dressing room so we could show one another the clothes we were trying on.  Instinctively, I reached out to smooth the white blouse on my mother’s slightly stooped back.

I was in my thirties, and she was in her seventies.  We stood side-by-side, looking at our reflections.  I think that’s when it hit her . . . hard.

At home I noticed a tear trailing down her cheek.  Alarmed, I asked her what was wrong.  Continue reading

When nowhere feels safe

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I was standing in line at Walmart when the thought crossed my mind, “What would I do if gunshots suddenly rang out?” I knew it could happen, because shoppers in a Colorado store recently experienced it.

Driving home, I passed my church, and reflected on the massacre in a house of worship in Texas only a week earlier.

Nearby I saw the college where I work, and envisioned our regular “active shooter” drills.

It seems as if our country has become a place where we can’t buy groceries, attend church, or go to school without fear that bullets will begin flying.

Maybe like me, you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the rapid-fire succession of news stories detailing mass shootings. I’m almost reluctant to turn on my TV, computer, or smartphone, for fear of hearing about another incident. (In fact, since I began writing this blog, several more horrific gun violence incidents have been reported.)

It’s tempting to live in a state of denial, become de-sensitized to tragedy, or exist in a constant “fight or flight” mode in response. Yet none of these options are healthy over the long-term.

So, how do we keep engaging life with a sense of peace and purpose when nowhere feels “safe?”

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Recovering from sudden disaster

Not every storm has a name, like Harvey, Irma, or Maria.

Mine arrived without radar predictions or an evacuation warning.

An urgent voice on the other end of the phone said, “your house is on fire—you’d better get over here, NOW!”

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A few minutes later I found myself standing across the street from my home, watching helplessly as voracious flames consumed the roof.

The firefighters valiantly fought the blaze, preventing it from completely destroying the structure. But what remained was damaged severely by heat, smoke and water.

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For the first time in my life, I was confronted with sudden disaster, devastation, and displacement.

There’s been a lot of that going around lately. Perhaps like me, you’ve felt heart-sick over the string of calamities the past few weeks . . . hurricanes, wildfires, and earthquakes.

How do we recover when a major storm sweeps through our lives?

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A hand to hold when you need it

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Enjoying the shade of a Sycamore tree

It had been ages since I went hiking.  I was on my first visit to Arizona, and was excited to see the local flora and fauna up close.  My brother and sister-in-law suggested an easy trail in a state park nearby.

Trying to avoid the heat, we embarked on a mostly-shaded path that wound near a stream.  I marveled at my first sight of a Sycamore tree and its pale jigsaw-puzzle bark.  My sister-in-law and I couldn’t resist breaking into an old Sunday School song:

“Zacchaeus was a wee little man; a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a Sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see!”

I could visualize Zacchaeus scurrying up one of the sturdy appendages of a Sycamore tree to get a better view of Jesus.

A bit further, I posed by a massive Yucca plant, taking care to avoid its pointy leaves.  Later, I heard the grass rustle and caught a glimpse of a quick-moving lizard (I was glad it wasn’t a rattlesnake)!  As we rounded a bend, we came to a bridge and spotted several deer foraging along the creek bed.  IMG_20170522_104234 (2)

After quietly snapping a few photos, we finished the crossing.  Though it was a fairly long bridge, the sturdy guard rails made me feel secure.

The next bridge, however, was a different story. 

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Why I’m thankful for my limitations

A wave of melancholy washed over me the day of the holiday concert.   I was sad because I wouldn’t be singing with the local choral ensemble.group_5121

It’s not because the group didn’t want me.

This past fall I was honored to receive an invitation to join the choir, and began attending rehearsals.  My soul was immediately enlivened by the process of learning and making music again.

But I was simultaneously confronted with an old nemesis—my relentless battle with chronic fatigue.

The two-hour Sunday evening rehearsals were intense, with no breaks.  During each practice my body began to crash at about the half-way mark, leaving me hanging on by my fingernails for the duration.  Worse yet, I paid for it dearly for several days afterwards, struggling to function at work because of the resulting exhaustion, headaches, and dizzy spells.

Though I hated to do it, I knew I had to withdraw from the group. My health limitations had gained the upper hand once again.

Perhaps you know the feeling, even though your situation is different.  We all experience limitations of some sort—physical, mental, financial, educational, and emotional, to name a few.

It’s natural to feel frustrated or sad like I did when obstacles keep us from something we want.

But what if we could transform our view of the things that limit us (especially the things we cannot change) to a positive perspective?

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