Posted in Family, Grandparenthood, Health

The EstherGizer Bunny

“What’s your reason for waking up every morning?”  (Huffington Post)

I lay in the dark, my grandson’s eyelashes brushing against my neck as I held him close.  Only moments before, I had been power-washing a fence and had heard his cries over the monitor.  “Not yet, Broden,” I thought, “I have much to do.”

This has been my cry for as long as I can remember.  “Not yet, ___________ (fill in the blank with any given human in my life).  I have much to do.”  I am a doer, a cross-it–off-my-list person, and proud of all that I accomplish in a day.  My daughter, Sarah, calls me the “EstherGizer Bunny,” hence the blog post title.  I can accomplish more in a day than most can in a week.  It’s just true.

But today, that is not to be.  I have about 10 things I could be doing, all big projects that will supposedly “save the world,” including writing a meaningful blog post, organizing Sarah and Cody’s garage, making nutritious meals for Sarah as she goes back to school this week in her new position as a second grade teacher, writing another chapter in the book I am writing (BIG REVEAL IN ABOUT A YEAR), yada yada yada.

Today, I choose what my heart truly cries for.   I choose to stop saying “Not yet, _________.”  I choose love.  I choose holding Broden in the dark.  I choose relationship over task.  I choose dancing with Allen at the wedding of a friend tonight.  I choose being present to people over checking boxes.  I actually choose myself.  Those to do items will get done or THEY DON’T HAVE TO (good news for my EstherGizer Bunny heart).

If you need more today, read my Go with the Slow (I Love Turtles) post.  It was a great reminder for me once again as I was writing this.  It puts the EstherGizer Bunny right back where she is supposed to be.

 

 

 

Posted in Charity, Homeless

I Want A New Name (Six Days and Counting) #40Days

“The poor are not a problem to be solved, but a portal to the very heart of God.”  (Richard Galloway)

I couldn’t stop crying for 45 minutes.  Tears kept streaming down my face as I tried to wipe them away pointlessly.  No, I was not watching This is Us (although that has happened many times).  I was sitting in church.  From the moment my friend, Juan Galloway, Director of New York City Relief, appeared on stage, I was overwhelmed with emotion.

You see, Juan’s prior week had looked a lot different than mine.  I had spent the week moving Jared into his new home in Pittsburgh, spending time at Target and Big Lots, and going out to dinner with family.  I had slept in Allen’s 10th floor apartment overlooking the beautiful Monongahela River, enjoying the sunrise over the water each morning.  Yes, it was very chilly, we worked hard and I was exhausted by the end of it.  But I had food in my tummy, a coat on my back, and love from my family.  Juan, on the other hand, had spent six cold days and nights living as a homeless man on the streets of New York City.  He panhandled the first day enough to buy a blanket that became his lifeline to stay warm.  He slept on the E-train, at homeless shelters, and only ate what he was given or could buy from his labor.  He wanted to find out the answers to these questions:  “What does it feel like when people look down on you all day?  What does it feel like when someone blesses you and helps you?”  He also desired to SEE those who were homeless, HEAR them, and KNOW them.  He believed that in that process, he would SEE Jesus, HEAR Jesus and KNOW Jesus.

As some of you know, Allen has been on the board of the New York City Rescue Mission for about 20 years and now he serves on the board of the Bowery Mission, as those two have joined forces to serve the poor more effectively.   Our son Jared interned one summer at the Rescue Mission.  Our daughter, Sarah, teaches second grade to children in poverty.  We do serve the poor.  We give our time and resources, go to fund-raising galas in fancy clothes and hand out meals on occasion.  However, I have always viewed the poor as a problem to be solved.  And boy, am I a problem solver.  I fix things most days from sun up to sun down and do it all again the next day.  Makes me feel good about myself.

Until last Sunday.  And then all week as tears continue to well up even this morning as I ponder what God spoke through Juan to me.  You can see by my tagline that the whole point of this blog to bring hope and healing to the heart-broken.  That’s you and me, all of us.  And God promises that healing to us.  But how?  When?  What kind?  I may have just stumbled across an answer.  I am mostly uncomfortable with “if then” statements because it seems to reduce life down to formulas, removes the complexity of brokenness and tends to create a fix-it mentality.  Therefore, I don’t take what I am sharing with you lightly.

As many of you also know, I am at the tail-end of my forty-day fast from chips, chocolate and cheese (only six days left).  I have been praying over my “Hosanna” (COME SAVE US!)  list intermittently during this time (Happy Palm Sunday, BTW!).  I have continued to ask the questions:  what is the point?  why am I doing this?  will you really come save God?  what really matters?

Enter the reading of Isaiah 58 last Sunday.

Is not this the kind of FASTING I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

 

I naturally want self-preservation and self-advancement.  I spend a lot of time and energy on those two things.  Just look at my to-do list and my calendar.  Thank God His heart is the opposite.  He joyfully gives Himself to me.  He doesn’t need to preserve or advance Himself.  He knows those things only enslave me and He wants to gently move me into the place where He lives, the best place of all, the place of healing and freedom.

But how am I moved there?  The “treasure map,” as Juan calls it, of Isaiah 58 makes it plain.  There just doesn’t seem to be anything complicated about it.  One true path to my healing includes the poor, the downtrodden, the outcast, the oppressed, the broken.  Of course, when we see how Jesus lived, He seems to have clearly understood this unpopular path.  He engaged with and loved those who were on the fringes.  He spoke of the poor, the prisoner, the needy, the sick, the outcast and their value to Him.  He believed that the poor are the portal to the heart of God because as we see, hear and know them, just like Juan did, we see, hear and know Him, the one who reflects this best.  They are the portal to the heart of God, not because they are a problem to be solved, but a people to be loved.  I am not God’s gift to the poor.  They are His gift to me.

I want as much healing for MYSELF as I can get in this lifetime.  I want my heart to be fully and deeply satisfied.   I want to remove the “pointing finger” of judgment from my life and replace it with the loving hand of grace.   I want to hear God’s inner voice of love on this journey rather than my own voice of condemnation.  I want supernatural strength for my human frame as I am approaching the next years.  God promises all that and more as I take the uncomfortable journey towards the poor.   I’m not sure how it works, but I am hopeful to take another step towards compassion and connection.

I also want as much healing for OTHERS as they can get in this lifetime.  I want that for you.  It’s my overarching goal.  I want my personal inner garden to be well-watered so that I can be a place where other can come and drink deep the love of God, especially those who are thirsting for meaning and hope.  And mostly, I want a new name.  I want to be called (and Allen, take note for my  grave headstone) REPAIRER of Broken Walls and RESTORER of Streets with Dwellings.  I want the broken to be healed and their true homes to be found in God Himself.  REPAIRER.  RESTORER.   What really can be better than this?  Nothing.  And God promises this to me.  I’m counting on it.

This is and is not about the poor.  This is about God.  This is about your healing and mine.  This is about hearing God’s words of love to my heart.  There are broken, hurting, poor people all around me.  I don’t have to travel far to see them and to go after them in their brokenness.  God came after me in mine.  This is the best stuff!  Right now, there are people who are just waiting for me to come to them.  I want more of God.  They are the portal.

REPAIRER.  RESTORER.  It has a nice ring to it!

(If you would like to hear the talk from Juan that changed my heart, please click HERE.  You won’t regret it!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Friendship, Prison

Dear Kim (my letter to prison about what might really matter),

What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important. (Dwight Eisenhower)

Hey Kim,

Hope you are doing well.  Thank you so much for your letters.  Seems like your life is full of crazy stuff in the prison system, things I have no understanding of, nor comprehend how you tolerate, work through and actually still have peace and joy in the midst of them.  I can’t believe you’ve sent me four letters and I have not responded to any of them yet.  It makes me sad to think about that.  I wonder why I haven’t and why I’m sad.

I could give you the “excuse” that life has been a bit crazy lately and it would be true.  In the past month, I’ve spent time with my mom during her surgery, helped Sarah with the baby, had a power outage for a week from a major winter storm, helped Jared move into his apartment, looked for a new place to call home within the next two years (we need to downsize–our taxes and this big house are killing us), along with the normal things I do like manage our home and rental property at the beach, have some kind of exercise regimen, lead my women’s group and stay committed to our small group (both of which provide grounding and love), spend time in our marriage mentoring ministry while keeping our own marriage from falling apart, make time to write and keep up with my blog (that also keeps me processing and grounded) and try to maintain some kind of close relationship with God (my lenten fast being a huge thing right now – click HERE and HERE to find out more).

Just seeing all of that in print makes my head spin and I’m not surprised that I am a little exhausted and stressed.  My Word of the Year is “TEND” (for those of you reading my blog, I will be having an update right after Easter) and I’m not sure how it’s playing out in my life.  As I perused your latest card this morning, your words struck me right between the eyes of my heart.  I paused and re-read all four of your letters, reflecting on what might really really really matter and what I might need to “tend” to.  As I sit here and process, two huge things jump out.

First, the urgent often takes the place of the important.  The urgent are the things that supposedly need immediate attention:  endless “needs,” work, house stuff, emails, the “fires” of life, etc. etc. etc.  Many times, I have to respond quickly or they don’t get “fixed,” “checked off my list” or I have disappointed someone.  I’m not saying they shouldn’t be taken care of, or they aren’t good things, but oftentimes my focus needs to be shifted.  In all the flurry of the urgent, the truly important gets neglected:  my relationships and heart connection with people (people like you), my dream to bring hope and healing to myself and others and figuring out the avenue to do that best, and most importantly, a vital and deep relationship with God.  I miss what’s best for what’s good.

Sometimes I envy you in prison (click HERE and HERE to read more about Kim).  You take the time to make what genuinely matters matter.  I know you have great loss in not having external “freedom,” and I don’t take that lightly, but you seem to spend your time and energy on the larger things of life, not being encumbered by all the seemingly urgent things it takes to make life keep “humming along,” whatever that even means.  I would imagine you really miss the normal  parts of life and are envious of me at times as well.  As I read your letters and am getting to know you again, it seems like you just “get it” and see life through the lens of the important and not the urgent.  You’ve caused me to pause and listen to the cry of my own heart today.

Second, your encouragement from prison is baffling and beautiful.  Your letters remind me that it’s not our outer circumstances that dictate our inner life.  Nothing can touch our true selves and the hearts God has given us.  He is continually healing and bringing us into closer touch with His own heart, the best place of all (not the Women’s Correctional Institution or Stirling, NJ).  You penned that the SAME God who has consistently “held you in his loving arms as you have suffered the consequences of your own actions also holds” me too in all the things I am journeying through.  I was mildly taken aback.  What kind of person says those things (and more importantly believes them) in your situation?  The answer does not surprise me:  you are someone who understands the deep heart of forgiveness, mercy and grace of God like no one I have ever met before.  Your words today healed my own heart further and placed me right in the palm of God’s most loving and generous hand.  Thank you.  Thank you.

I am making plans to visit you (I am sorry they were thwarted this past time by your illness) because I want to take some time to set aside the urgent for the important and continue the path of relationship with you, one that we both believe has been one of the most redemptive and healing of the past year!  I miss you and can’t wait to see you again.

Much much love,

Esther

P.S.  To answer your question about being a grandma, it’s truly amazing!  Broden Bear is a fun little guy!   I love that your daughter sent you 265 pictures of your sweet granddaughter!  Yay for us!

 

Posted in Faith

Hummus and Hosanna (#40days)

“The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior, who will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love.”  (The Bible)

Love, loss and lent all collided on Wednesday.   The very best part of being human, our deep love for one another, was celebrated.  Another horrible and murderous act showed one of the worst parts of being human, our collective and individual brokenness and the tragic loss we all feel in our very bones.  Ash Wednesday couldn’t have come at a better time, marking the beginning of a period of human reflection, repentance and renewal.

Oh how we need it.  I need it.  When I hear “hard-to-understand, out-of-my-control” things on the news or from a friend or family member, or experience these things in my own life, I tend to move quickly toward fear and anxiety.  All the “what-if” thoughts come careening into my head and heart.  I go through all the natural “lizard brain” (as I call the amygdala) reactions:  flight, fight, faint or freeze.  Sometimes, I run the other way and pretend it doesn’t exist.  Other times, I get angry and try to come up with a plan to fix it.  I seriously just take a nap or watch mind-numbing television many times.  However, to be honest, my reaction oftentimes is to become completely paralyzed, unable to do anything.  One thing I certainly don’t do often enough is to take the time for the spiritual:  reflection, repentance and renewal, what I actually need the most.

That’s why I am so thankful for the season of Lent, this specific time marked on the calendar that shouts to me to do things a little differently than I do every other day of the week, month, year.   Take a break from the status quo.  Carve out time to shake things up in my every-day life.  Exchange the natural for the spiritual, the outside for the inside.

About a year ago, a difficult, out-of-my-control, situation reared its ugly head in my life.  In fact, it was something that kept coming up over and over and no matter what I tried, the problem just wasn’t getting fixed or even getting pushed in the right direction.  It wasn’t for lack of effort on my part.  I had tried all four methods of fleeing, fighting, fainting and freezing along with better tools like counseling, prayer, you-name-it.  That night, in the dark, on my knees, a last ditch effort at telling God I was super serious this time, the word “Hosanna” flooded my mind and also my mouth.  I wasn’t sure why.

Of course, I had to check it out.  What did this word that I had heard so often in my churchy life even mean?   Thanks to ever-helpful Google, I found that “Hosanna” was originally an appeal for deliverance, a cry that shouted “PLEASE SAVE.”  Over time, it developed into an expression of joy and praise for deliverance that was anticipated and would be granted, an oral burst of hope in God, an “anchor for your soul” kind of hope.

Being the “doer” that I am, I came up with a Hosanna list (that now exists on a pink sticky-note on my computer and I have a feeling you are going to try to see if you are on that list…that’s why I made it blurry…LOL), that being at the very top.  I eventually added people and situations that seem completely out of my control, the ones that seem hopeless, the desperate, only God-can-fix-this, things.  I only have one word for them:  Hosanna.  Please save.  I repeat this often to myself when I see that pink note, “When you don’t know what to do, pray Hosanna.”

So what’s with hummus (see title of blog post)?  Starting on Monday, I am participating in a partial fast for forty days during Lent, ending with a celebration on Best Friday (as my friend Jody has named it since she is getting married that night).  I’m taking a break from some of the foods that I love:  cheese, chips, and chocolate (to name a few) to make room for what’s better: hummus (along with veggies, fruit and nuts). 

Forty days from now, I probably will be a little thinner and a lot healthier (great perks of this fast).  But I want it to be much more than that.  I am combining Hosanna and hummus.  You guessed it.   I want to take a break from my go-to, very natural methods of controlling and fixing (which I also love) to make room for what’s better for my soul:  reflection, repentance and renewal.  When I want to reach for the natural, I pray that I will instead be reminded to reach for the spiritual, the super-natural.  I am asking God to “please save!  Please save!”  Speaking words of hope to my own heart that He is the BIG GOD who hears my deepest cries and can truly save and renew even the seemingly impossible in my life and the lives of those I love and even some that I don’t even know personally.

Today, I invite you to take this journey with me.  You don’t have to give up what I’m giving up.  This is personal.  Along with this,  I would be honored to hear what or who might be on your Hosanna list (click HERE to get in touch with me privately).  If you want, I can add them to my pink list for the next 40 days and as I am eating my hummus, I will be quietly shouting “HOSANNA!”

By the way, it’s my birthday today!  What a great way to start of my new year!  I wonder how God will show up!  I can’t wait to find out!

As always, I would love for you to sign up for my email list so that you never miss another post.  And feel free to share this with anyone or any way you’d like!  

 

 

Posted in Health, Marriage

Go With The Slow

“And the turtles, of course…all the turtles are free, as turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.” (Dr. Seuss)

In the tale of the Tortoise and the Hare, I am the Hare. In fact, my daughter calls me the EstherGizer Bunny.  I move at break-neck speed much of the time: my brain, my feet, my hands, my heart and my mouth. When I was a young mom, our elderly neighbor, and whom my young children called “Grandma,” said to me, “I watch you out of the window heading to your car and I don’t think your feet ever really touch the sidewalk.”

I was wiggly, energetic, smart and super-speedy as a kid. I did my first three grades in two years and then skipped right over fourth grade, landing me in fifth grade when I was just eight years old. Break-neck speed. “Can’t sit still.” Lots of childhood memories of those words from the adults around me.

I’m a fast thinker, typer, talker, mover, decision-maker. Probably most of the reason I have tended to be on the thin side during my life is that every cell of my body is wiggling.   Other people get tired thinking about what I do during a day.  You get the picture.

For some reason, though, I have always loved turtles. I was fondly known as the “turtle rescuer” for quite some time.   I loved “helping “ them get where they needed to be. After all, I am much speedier than they are. (SIDENOTE: If you find a turtle in the road, move them in the direction they were heading. Never turn them around. The turtle is on a mission, and if you turn it around, it will simply go back across the road when you drive away. —the Turtle Rescue League)

Little did I know, in my young and “rescuing” years, that turtles didn’t really need my help.  I needed their help.  I loved the Turtle in that tale I mentioned.  I remember the moral of the fable so clearly: “Slow and steady wins the race.” But I am not slow and steady.  I am fast and wobbly.  Why does he win?  Doesn’t the fastest always win? However, somewhere deep in my heart, I knew this was profound truth.

Several years ago, I began to read an author by the name of Dallas Willard.  I actually heard him speak not too long before he went to be with His Savior.  He seemed kind of “turtley” to me.  Slow and steady.  In fact, deeply steady.  “Why is he like this? What does he have that I don’t have? I want this.”  As I got to know him better through his writings and videos, I found that he only had one piece of advice for those who would ask him: “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

Slowly (intended thought) I have found, even though I don’t act on it nearly enough, that my very well-being (emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental), depends on following his prescription.   Stay-tuned for more on this in the future.

But for now, go with the slow.  Be a little more turtley!  As they said in one of my all-time favorite movies, The Master of Disguise, and I ask myself on many days, “Are you turtley enough for the turtle club?”   (Click HERE for quick look at the movie clip and a good laugh!)

Are you a turtle or a hare? Would love you to just write a one-word answer below letting me know. I don’t mind being a hare, but I certainly want to be a hare that has learned the lessons of a turtle. Maybe a turtley hare!