Friday, October 31, 2008

The Letter

In September I was flat against the wall with deadlines, working on retreat plans for 350 women over two weekends, wanting to visit with a few friends before summer’s end, plus routine stuff. I felt frustrated enough to pour out my frustration in a letter to God. It ended up being a sacred moment with a sense of humor. Here’s exactly what happened!

"Dear God,

I look out the window at the beckoning beach and white-capped waves and want to experience you out there. But I’m too caught up experiencing you in here on my laptop, writing and planning ways to bring you to women! I don’t want to miss what you have for me here. But it’s ok with me if you want to pause in the pouring out of your insights for a second, so I can catch you on the flipside, so to speak, without being flippant!"

Of course little Bible verses popped into my head, like, “Come away with me.” The funny part was that the minute I wrote “Dear God,” this little paper clip guy appeared on the screen with, “It looks like you’re trying to write a letter. Would you like help?” He even gave me two options: Get help with writing the letter, or just write the letter without help. I’ll just write it myself; I don’t think you’d understand. Hey, you never know who’s watching!

It did help to write the letter. I left God inside with my inspired deadline materials and enjoyed Him outside on the beach, walking with friends. He can do that you know, be everywhere at once. When I got back and started working on deadlines again, sure enough, I had renewed energy and clarity. I give Him credit for that, too!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Seattle Committee

This is me, with the Seattle Ranch Retreat Committee! You can read about it in the November issue of my E-Newsletter.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I’ve flown a lot this month and aside from noticing how it isn’t like it “used to be;” i.e. all flights packed, more cranky people, no freebies, no pillows, pay-per-bag, it went well. I got from here to there and appreciated the lift! Years ago, the first time the TSA folks dissembled my suitcase and left their notification card I thought, “Hey, that’s my stuff you’re rummaging through!” After that, you find that search paper in there and you “deal.” I was tagged pretty regularly for a while. I remember my daughter-in-law feeling assaulted in Traverse City, MI (of all places) flying back to the UK from their holiday at the cottage. That rude awakening left her in tears--and she’s an experienced world traveler.

That’s when I realized TSA personalities are as variable as in any other profession. TSA can stand for 'To Secure Admirably' or 'Take Some Advantage.' Or worse. I’ve come up with some of those. This month in Seattle, the TSA gentleman checked my ticket and smiled, “Have a great day!” I told him that was at the top of my list. A few nice agents almost make up for the missing horseradish, face cream and manicure scissors I’ve forfeited. I’ve never been as bothered, though, as one woman in line behind me who had to give up her new fragrance and makeup to a TSA agent who got an earful about how she knew his wife would love it, all of it!

My least favorite is over-weight baggage. It sends sane people to the floor tossing items between bags, frantically stuffing underwear and shoes in their pockets, rushing to buy another bag for the extra pounds. I once offered to stash some college kid’s stuff in my carry-on just till we got to the destination. Her look said, “Uh, no!” Apparently timing is everything with random acts of kindness!

I compare this to my “baggage” when I come before God, which I do pretty regularly. He invites that. I lay my baggage at His feet…not literally, you know what I mean. I pour it out in words; confess it in sobs, sit there speechless. I don’t know where to toss the extra “stuff.” No one offers random acts of kindness to carry it for me. I know He puts all of it through His security check. Then I realize, there’s no long line. He does it out of love for me. His TSA stands for 'Total Surrender Accepted!' When God goes through my baggage, He doesn’t toss anything without replacing it with something better. I bring in the trials of my life. He matches me up with a way through to the other side. It’s called “The Great Exchange.” In fact, He looks through His scanner, His security check, sees my rebellion to His ways, called “sin,” and offers to exchange all of that for what Christ did for me on the cross. Jesus’ death and resurrection are the Big TSA Deal “To Save Always.” Without faith in that, also a gift from Him, I can’t get through His security line at all. But with that, I waltz through, skip through, free of overweight baggage! Helping me see the Truth of what’s going on in my life is one of His “calling cards.” Something like the long narrow TSA piece of paper left in luggage. But His “calling card” leaves relief and offers His forgiveness for the mess I’ve made or am in. Nice trade off for extra baggage, don’t you think?

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Hokey Pokey

This summer I happened upon a really neat bumper sticker. By the time I found my camera, the guy had driven off. So no visual, but here’s what I saw: “The Hokey Pokey…What if that’s really what it’s all about?”

With so much seeming hocus pocus surrounding the economic issues of the day - the talking heads, the Fannies and the Freds, the locals and the Feds - it’s apparent some of the ladders we climbed were leaning against the wrong wall. So do we give up climbing? Don’t think so. No matter what mess we’re in now, this sets us up to be so much wiser in the next round.

Ready to push the panic button over your 401(k) or your mortgage crisis? Before you hit that button, please seek good counsel and take it to the Lord in prayer. (Stay tuned to Woman to Woman® in the weeks ahead for this. For now, go back and listen to the calm of Mary Hunt’s voice of experience on living below your means. She could have wiped out when she was over $100,000 in debt, but she turned it around in small, simple ways, as she shares with us.)

The Bible tells us that with Christ, all things are like new. I’m not saying Jesus will kiss it and make it better or turn your Kleenex into fresh dollar bills. I just know from personal experience that waiting on the Lord calms me down and drives me to think more clearly about my dilemma. Gather the data you need to make the wisest decision possible, trust the Lord with the outcome, and take the steps necessary to right the wrongs; that’s a winning combination. So much better than the panic button!

Remember, you’re not in this alone!

Monday, October 13, 2008

My First Mammogram

Breast Cancer Awareness Month brings back memories of my first mammogram. I pretended this was no big deal, routine baseline and all of that. I chalked it off as worth it and checked it off as done. The doctor would call if he saw anything out of the ordinary. I was quite content to be “ordinary.” With no family history of cancer, I promptly forgot about it and threw myself into November, including Thanksgiving dinner for 15 a few weeks later. Plenty to be thankful for….Nannie, age 90, all the way down to our Sarah who was 3. We each placed a kernel of corn into the dish passed around with our statement of thanks. I had a whole cob of thanks; my life was so beautifully full as a wife and mom and community and church volunteer!

Each guest left full of good food and fellowship and a generous helping of “leftovers.” With the last dish finally put away, I sank into my pillow happily exhausted, knowing I could “sleep in” the next morning! The phone next to the bed rudely changed that plan! It was my doctor. “Good morning, Phyllis, how was your Thanksgiving?” Now my doctor and I have never chatted about Thanksgiving nor any other holiday, and I’m kind of wondering if this is a dream…but I come up with, “It was wonderful…, yours?”

This was weird. Instead of the questions I usually rattled off for him, we’re talking about Thanksgiving. It was short lived. “I have some bad news for you. I’m looking at your mammogram and I don’t like what I see.” “WHY are you calling me the day after Thanksgiving? I had those tests weeks ago.” “I didn’t want to ruin your Thanksgiving.” “Ok…now what?” I would take the huge x-rays (yes, this was some years back) to a breast cancer specialist. I had lined up the highly acclaimed surgeon he recommended to address a women’s group about early detection that fall. That eased my angst somewhat.

My “wake up” call opened a whole new world, one into which many of you have ventured even further than I. The x-rays, the doctor told me, revealed a “highly suspicious mass.” What does that mean? He had worked in this field for decades and said it looked like cancer. I would need a breast excision. I was fairly stoic, not just because I don’t like to cry in front of strangers, but because the doctor didn’t seem too upset and his nurse had come with him to my women’s group and was very sweet and encouraging. I walked out to the car holding up the big brown x-ray envelope to block Niagra Falls and drove straight to my husband’s office where he said a prayer. I was pretty scared. This was all relatively new to me. One out of 10 women at that time were experiencing the same thing. But I didn’t know them.

Little did I know how many doors this dilemma would open. My pastor suggested “laying on of hands” to my women’s Bible study group. It’s not something we do all that much in our church, but he knew about it because years before he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. His church-school kindergarten teacher had shared her insights on the Biblical concept of “laying on of hands.” The day before surgery, they took the final x-rays. The tumor was gone. Of course, that got his attention!

He explained this was not twisting God’s arm, demanding special privilege, but rather pulling out all the stops, as it were, asking for strength for me to trust Him for whatever it would be, for the doctor’s hands and mind to be guided, etc. Just a few women were comfortable enough to place their hands on my head or shoulder to say a Bible verse and pray as I sat in a chair in the front of the room. I didn’t “feel” anything. But I was thankful to be prayed for, that’s for sure.

The next week I entered the hospital for outpatient surgery, chose local anesthetic and spent hours in the very cold section for pre-op procedures. This was not my favorite part. After having four children, you’d think I’d be used to exposing myself to people in white. Not. I was assigned a nursing instructor and one of her students from the minute I entered the process to the minute I left the building. This was a surprise, but then I had no choice and the whole thing was a surprise, so bring it on. I actually paid no attention to these two women as they pleasantly took notes and observed. I thought of it as kind of donating your body to science, but beforehand.

I was on pins and needles while having pins and needles put in place to pinpoint the incision location. Each room, each technician, each long wait in such a cold area seemed interminable. I was somewhere between “I can’t believe this is happening – Get me out of here- and Lord, you promise to be with me always….this would be a good time for that, right here and now.” I repeated Bible verses I had memorized, especially “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love and of power and of a sound mind.” My mind needed that verse more than any other part of my body.

Time for surgery. They wheel me in on a table, give me the local, surround the area with a tent-like apparatus and I am aware of the doctor doing what he does. In a while he says the mass does not look malignant after all, but that tests will tell. I’m back in my dressing room, receive post-op recovery instruction and am told my husband is waiting. I’m free to go home. But not before the nursing instructor and her student stand before me wide-eyed. I’d nearly forgotten they were there, except to feel them in an ethereal sense, almost like white garbed guardian angels. “Thank you for allowing us to be with you,” the instructor spoke softly. “Oh, thank YOU, for accompanying me,” I replied. She continued, “We’ve done this many times for the class we’re teaching right now and we’ve never seen anyone so calm throughout the experience. Most women break at some point, which is normal. You never wavered.” “Oh dear, if you only knew,” I told them. “I was very frightened, actually. I just kept taking my fear to the Lord in prayer. So what you saw was what He did with and for me. I’m glad we were all there to see it!”

It did turn out to be benign. I have faced other situations even more fearful than the breast cancer scare. Into each one I’ve carried the lesson I learned from those moments: to trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding. He directs me in the way I should go. Whatever you’re facing right now…, illness, weakness in another area of your life…my prayer for you is to take it to Him, lay it at His feet. He comes to you with answers, with options, with hope and comfort and peace. You can read about my friend Gigi’s breast cancer story this month in my E-Newsletter. You can also get additional breast cancer resources here. Do you know what I’m talking about? Send me your story. Do you want to know more? Send your request.

Remember, you’re not in this alone!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Breast Cancer Resources

Be sure to check out the Stories of Hope about breast cancer. You can find other resources and also read an article here about how breast cancer can run in families. Check it out!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Write it Up! Your Thanksgiving Story, That is!

Here's a chance to share your thankful heart with me and perhaps with people around the world. Send me your favorite Thanksgiving story by Oct 30. The November issue of my E-Newsletter is about living in Thanksgiving mode.

Have you had an experience or encounter with something or someone that’s transformed your thinking on thankfulness? Now, rather than take things for granted, do you receive things with gratitude? What makes you thankful and why? I’ll enjoy reading your memories and insights. Be sure to let me know if I can publish your story in the E-Newsletter; and if I can publish your name or if you'd prefer to remain anonymous.

Write it up!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Meeting the Author

Kori Sosnowy Voorhees, who wrote God Loves Lucy and So Do I! met me at Cupcakes Royale on California in Seattle for a cup of tea and, but of course, cupcakes! Delicious eats...icing to write home about...and a great visit with Kori, about whom you'll hear more from me! Stay tuned.....