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A Letter to Debbie in Heaven

My Dear Debbie,

It’s been so long since I talked to you or wrote you a text. I miss our daily banter so very much. These days we are getting ready to say good bye to another precious member of our family. Dad is failing fast and it is simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking to see our parents love on each other in the only ways they have left to them. For 60 years they have cared for and relied on each other. They don’t know how to live any other way.Young_090  5 x 7

I always thought you would be here with Jocelyn and me to navigate through this time of loving and loss and I miss you so much. I don’t know if this would be easier with you here but I know it would be different; we would be sharing the load and weeping together. Jocelyn and I are a good team. We are making it all work but we still miss our big sister so much.

Today I was wondering how this all looks from your side of the veil. Knowing what you know, is it still sad to watch our parents torn from each other after walking through all the seasons of life hand in hand? Or does your perspective cause the joy ahead to obliterate the present tears?

If God permits you a window on our lives, you know that Dad may join you any day. Are you rolling out the red carpet? Making perogies, orange jelly salad and all his other favourites? Are you preparing to spend the best Father’s Day ever with Dad?

What a joy it will be for you to hear him whistle a happy tune again, throw little children up in the air while he laughs that big laugh I havn’t heard for so long, and play tennis. Hey, in heaven, maybe even you are athletic enough to play with him!

I am so thankful for these beautiful thoughts. And that we don’t grieve, in the Apostle Paul’s words, “as those who have no hope”.  ray-of-hope

Give Papa a big kiss for me on Father’s Day and I’ll hold Mom for you. I love you so much!

Your Adoring Sister,

Donna

Dear Dad

Young_090  5 x 7I am keenly aware that I have a lot to lose only because I had so much to begin with.  Though I grieve in this season of profound loss, I am so blessed.  As we walk through my dad’s last moments I am so thankful for the earthly father I was blessed with.  This letter is just a snippet of how I know I am blessed.

Dear Dad,

How can I express what your steadfast presence has meant in my life?  You affirmed my femininity while instilling in me the firm belief that I could do anything I chose to do.  Your tender strength prepared me to engage in healthy, hope-filled relationships with men and women alike.  That bedrock of trust provided the foundation for the nurturing marriage Randy and I have enjoyed for more than thirty years.

 

Every day, you told your daughters that you loved us.  Having a dad who was affectionate, protective, and involved made trusting God with my life and easy leap.  Although our remaining time together on this earth is short, I will never outlive your imprint on my life.  You leave a legacy of serving God with your time, gifts and resources.  And of loving your family as well.

Love,

Donna

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What kind of legacy will you leave?

Do you ever wonder about what kind of legacy you will leave?

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You and I want to be remembered as lovers of people, changers of destinies, givers of hope.

So what’s stopping us?  For some people it’s the feeling of insignificance, of being void of the ability and personality to redemptively influence others.  It all feels so big and overwhelming.  We look at our little collection of gifts and knowledge and think, what can I possibly do to make a lasting difference?  For some people all that stops them is knowing how.

There is a strategy that every single person can do.  All you need to do is LIFT. Lift others up. Be a lifter!  It’s a simple acronym for a 4 part strategy you can use to become a restorer of the people in your world.  You have a unique sphere of influence.

LIFT (1)

L – look.  Simply look around you.  Look at who God has placed in your path.

I – intercede.  Pray daily for those God placed in your life.  Pray for the needs we know they have and ask God to use those needs to draw their attention to their greatest need: their need to know God.

F – friend.  Show your friendship to them in practical ways: bring meals, offer to host baby showers, help with a move.  It’s a choice to get involved, it’s not a short term project, but a long term commitment.

T – talk.  This isn’t about trying to shoehorn a memorized gospel presentation into a casual conversation about gardening.  It’s about honestly answering questions that arise out of the authentic quality of your life and your faith.

LIFT others.  It’s the most important thing you can ever do, and the only way to enter eternity with no regrets.

Friendship and affinity

How do you know when you share an affinity with someone?

Finding a depth of commonality with another person usually requires some investigation.  Discovering shared passions can be an uncomplicated as learning to ask open-ended questions.

Finding affinity with someone is what makes diving into the friendship a pleasure rather than a duty.

If you are blessed enough to experience the “click” early on, be sure to act on it right away.  Schedule time together and see if the connection grows as you get to know one another better.

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If there is no immediate “click”, but you feel the potential for affinity is there, take the risk of exploring the possibility and be attentive for a confirmation echo from the other side.  When your newfound affinity confirms the friendship is worth the investment of your time, that is an invitation to employ the quality of availability.

“I’m here for you.” This phrase is often heard but seldom translated into action.  What a rare and precious gift is the presence of a friend who is always there, steadfastly standing by through the ups and downs of life: times of elation, grief, rage and confusion.

Romans 12:15 captures the essence of an available friend:

“When others are happy, be happy with them.  If they are sad, share their sorrow.”

It is a terrible disappointment to be let down by a friend who promised to be there but wasn’t.  And it is an unexpected comfort to enjoy the presence of one who never said the words but showed up, just the same.

 

Excerpt from Friend Me: Turning Faces into Lasting Friendships.

Stumbling Blocks to Satisfying Friendships

A lack of satisfying friendships often revolves around our emotional health.  Some women are particularly fearful of letting themselves be truly known.  Others avoid relationships because they are afraid of rejection and abandonment.  Still others are crippled by comparison, either feeling inferior or superior to the women they might otherwise have befriended.  And the majority are simple too busy to put in the time it takes to cultivate a deep friendship.  These issues and others prevent many women from taking the risk of allowing other women to walk into their lives and leave footprints on their hearts.

Of all the barriers to genuine friendship, the biggest is probably the reluctance to take off our masks

12894the fear of being known, because of the possibility of our being found wanting.  

If we insist on wearing a mask and playing a part before the world, rather than letting our guard down and being vulnerable, we will never experience the joy of unqualified acceptance.

God created us for relationship, with Him and with one another, in spite of the risks involved – from exposure and rejection to arguments and bruised egos.  It is only in community with Christ and His people that we receive the love, acceptance, emotional healing, safety, nurture, and comfort we need to be all Jesus intends us to be.

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How do we move from a place of self-protective hiding into the openness of genuine community?

By deciding that the only worse than the intense pain of being known and rejected is the certainty of the low-grade, long-term pain of never begin known by anyone at all.

 

“We are joined together in his body by his strong sinews, and we grown only as we get our nourishment and strength from God.” Colossians 2:19

 

Excerpt from Friend Me: Turning Faces into Lasting Friendships.

 

Amazing Love – Good Friday

It’s amazing what some will do for love.

What a bold risk. What incredible carelessness.

Whoever heard of a God who loves

so passionately,

so recklessly?

A god who demands and rages? Certainly. But a God who loves enough to lower Himself to be one of us? To embrace poverty and helplessness? To play by His own rules to the point of dying, because He would rather die than live without us? Who every heard of such love? Until Jesus, no one!

Why would God take such a risk and so recklessly endanger His one and only Son?

It was for love.

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It was because God’s great heart yearns for your friendship and mine, like an abandoned lover, a heartbroken father, a grief-stricken friend. And as long as there is any hope of restoration, He cannot rest.

This is why he launched the most extreme rescue mission ever attempted with no guarantee of a positive outcome. Having risked so much, still He allows us the dignity of choice. We can choose to accept His offer of friendship or not. God places His great heart in our corrupt and careless hands. We have the power to grievously wound the heart of almighty God. We can reject Him. The choice is ours. Yet His desperation to restore His relationship with humanity drove Him to hazard the risk. Jesus temporarily resigned His rightful position as God of the universe and walked away from wealth and worship to participate fully in our experience by becoming one of us. He entered a world of pain and poverty, of death and despair, of hunger and hopelessness.

Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as god. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross.
Philippians 2:6-8

The baby Jesus grew up into the God-man who laughed and loved and cried, but never sinned; the Galilean carpenter who swung a hammer, healed the sick, and washed feet.  The splendour and safety of heaven were left behind – God wagered it all in the wild hope that His love will be returned, not rejected.  But in God’s sovereignty and wisdom, the danger, the dark side of Christmas, becomes Good Friday.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13).  “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” 1 John 3:16.

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It’s amazing what some people will do for love.

Learning to be Compliant Clay

“And yet, O Lord, you are our Father.
We are the clay, and you are the potter.
We all are formed by your hand.”
  ~Isaiah 64:8

Nelson Mandela has long been a hero of mine. On the flight to South Africa five years ago, I read Mandela’s lengthy auto-biography, Long Walk to Freedom. The context the book provided made my speaking tour there fascinating. I recognized the street and building names as comrades and prison mates of the great man.

100_1704 (2)Recently, as I have been reading everything I can get my hands on about his redemptive life, I can’t help think of parallels with the life of Joseph. Both began as young, arrogant men with big dreams. Both suffered hardship as the result of convictions they couldn’t deny. Both spent years in the crucible of prison and both emerged with 24 carrot character and the moral authority to lead. There is one other thing they share: Joseph and Mandela chose forgiveness and reconciliation over vengeance once power was in their hands. They allowed the hardships of prison to bring out the best in them. To harness passion into self-discipline. To distill frustration into patience. To refine anger into love.

As a result, Joseph saved his nation from starvation. Mandela saved his from bloodshed. Both left a legacy of grace.

When we enter a new year we tend to do it with optimism and hope. We are going to lose weight and save money. Have a regular quiet time and work out. Eat sensibly and travel. It’s going to be better than last year.

We should set goals to accomplish noble things. But in many cases we have no control over our health or wealth. We can’t avert economic recessions or corporate restructuring any more than we can prevent a tragic accident or diagnosis. We can’t control the infidelity of a spouse or the betrayal of friends.

What we can do is allow even the huge injustices of life to make us compliant clay in the Potter’s hands. We can determine that whatever comes our way in 2014, we will humbly submit to our Father’s leadership in our lives and allow him to use all things to mould us into the likeness of Jesus for the good of our family, our church, our nation and our world. He is still in the business of restoration. He still tenaciously twists every cruel plan of the enemy into a redemptive outcome. God will never waste our pain or our tears. If we will let him, He will use them to lead us to our place of highest influence and fulfillment.

Lay your hopes and plans for 2014 at the feet of your Father. Consciously submit to his will in all your relationships and endeavours. And claim his promise: And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

~Romans 8:28 NLT

For Unto Us A Child is Born…..in the City of Spokane???

What could be more exciting than a Christmas baby? I have often heard my mother-in-law, Alice Carter, tell of getting the turkey in the oven one Christmas Day just before heading off to the hospital to give birth to her first son, my husband Randy. New life is exciting anytime, but there is something special about Christmas beginnings.

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I had the privilege to partner with Life Center Church in Spokane this Christmas season to share how we can enter into life transforming friendship with the one who was the first ever Christmas baby. Clearly God had been preparing hearts. There were close to 400 women present on that Friday night and 300 on Saturday. When I gave the invitation to invite Jesus into their lives, so many responded, there was no way I could count. Many others made the decision to return to a friendship with Jesus after having allowed painful experiences to create distance between themselves and God.

One woman found me in the restroom after the event. She told me how the Holy Spirit had worked in her heart through my talk. I had accurately described her situation. She was disappointed with God for allowing a profound loss in her life, but that night, she had decided to go back to him and allow him to walk with her through her pain.

Many of us suffer deep grief at Christmastime. We need more than a touching story to warm our hearts for an hour or two. We need a hope with which to anchor our hearts to God. We need to take lean in to intimate friendship with Jesus and grab hold of the hope of Immanuel: God with us. My recent grief journey, along with the message of Friend Me have uniquely equipped me to deliver this message with passion and authenticity. God is redeeming my pain to draw women to himself.

My most accurate guess is that 60-70 women were reborn in Spokane that weekend. This is the first Christmas they will grasp the true meaning of Jesus’ birth on this planet: the promise of His presence. We are not alone. God is with us. Life’s struggles, hurts and losses cannot crush us. Those of us who share a deep friendship with Jesus are never without hope. Thank you for partnering with me to share this hope with others, and celebrating with me the new birth of many Christmas babies.

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