Thursday, September 5, 2019

Toil or Torment

This morning I read Genesis chapters 1-3 like I've done dozens of times in my 49 years. Today I read it slow, with intent; to quote a favorite movie line, "I sucked the marrow" from it.  I finally got to the part about the consequences and I looked down at the notes near the end of chapter three, something caught my eye. It spoke of the painful toil that mankind would be subject to because of our decision then it went on to quote Wesley, "humanity was only sent to a place of toil, not to a place of torment."  I suddenly heard the the chorus of angels in my head and it all clicked.

TOIL (hard work) 
 TORMENT  (severe mental/physical suffering)

My heart has felt a heavy sadness the last few months.  I feel a disappointment with humanity and I'm really struggling to find the light.  As a child raised in the 70's and 80's the main form of  instant communication was verbal, the spoken word. You were most often face to face with the one you were speaking with.  Regardless of how you felt about societal and political issues I never saw or heard anything more than a slightly elevated conversation that ended with the persons still friends.  Strangers didn't chime in (with hate) because they weren't there but now my heart aches with the vicious attack of words on people via social media.

Recently we had some flash flooding here in Arkansas.  A woman was caught up in the swiftly moving water and her car was filling.  Sadly emergency services did not arrive in time and the woman drowned. The recording of their conversation, and the mistakes made by the operator, has gone viral on the national level and the comments make me think of the angry crowd screaming, "Crucify...CRUCIFY...CRUCIFY!!!" when Pontius Pilot presided over the trial of Jesus.  It really doesn't matter what the headline of the hour is because the treatment is the same. I feel so much empathy for them, a few sound bites or a video clip of a moment and lives are ruined.  An angry society has become the judge and jury passing verdict on every story. The damage is done regardless of the outcome of the judicial system. We, the crowd, aren't following God's example of an appropriate consequence-toil we are tormenting causing mental suffering.

President Trump does or says something half the population disagrees with and suddenly the airwaves and social media streams are filled with scalding hate, his followers retaliate with hatred-the next day the cycle continues.  Walmart decides to no longer carry handgun ammunition and the people are divided.  The NRA is found to be "at fault" in San Francisco-both sides shouting their opinions with no discussion, only anger.  Let's take all the guns away-no we need more guns! You're either pro-life or you want to kill the babies.  I shouldn't even mention the refugee crisis debate. White people are to blame, no maybe the Mexicans, nope the Blacks, the Muslim...let's point our fingers at anyone who isn't like us or disagrees on this topic (whatever the topic)...society doesn't seem to be content to voice their opinions and have an educated discussion they only want to express negativity based on the soundbyte they hear over and over or the headline of the article they didn't read.  Again, spewing torment-no consequences, no learning simply keeping their anger on a simmer all of the time.  What ever happened to talking about it, working through an issue and both sides giving a little to come up with a reasonable compromise. The anger, the hate, it only serves to divide and make it worse because someone will always be the loser.
Click below to read an article from the Anti-Defamation League on Cyber Hate

God could have scrapped humanity that day he came in and found Adam and Eve in their fig leaves.  He could've started over again and again and again until we remained perfect clones of him with no free will.  Instead he gives us the freedom to make decisions and have opinions.  No two people are the same.  No two people agree 100% of the time on 100% of the issues!  It's just NOT possible.

If you're one of the people spewing your point of view, unalbe to discuss or consider compromise I challenge you to go back and read Genesis 1-3.  Read it several times, let that compassion that was shown to humanity sink in.  Do you have compassion?  Real compassion, the kind that is willing to look at something from all angles and work together for good (toil) or are you so focused on your way that you don't care who gets hurt (tormented)?  I'm tempted to stick my head in the sand and ignore all topics facing our society but that really isn't the answer either.  My sister was afraid about bringing a child into this world way back in 1988, she called my Dad for wisdom and his words have stuck with me, "if the good ones don't have children, the world will never get better."  People, if you claim to be a christian, one of the "good ones," then it is your responsibility to lead the way with compassion, understanding, listening and maybe changing a little from your "perfect" viewpoint so we can all work together and mend the hate.  Have a discussion!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Smoke & Mirrors

Smoke & mirrors, trickery & deception...Facebook. All ways to distort or blur the facts, something that is intended to make you believe something is being done or true when it's not.
The most unflattering picture of me-ever!
 I was attempting to take a picture of
Ted & the dogs, my camera was
the wrong way!
I'd never share this on
Facebook...or would I?

If Facebook is supposed to be full of our family and friends why aren't we authentic and genuine?  Yesterday, I was a last minute invite to the American Heart Association Go Red Luncheon.  While that may not be a big deal to most people it was HUGE for me.  I'm calendar driven and I rarely do things on impulse.   But for years I've seen pictures of people I know in attendance and my inner teenager really wanted to go hang out with the cool kids so of course I said yes. I immediately knew what I'd wear and headed out the door like a love sick teenager!

It was an expo, geared to all things for womens heart health!  Heart disease is the #1 killer of women!!!  Here we were, adult women who like hungry,  greedy for more-more-more, I've got the galloping gimmees kids in the Bernstein Bears book-we picked up a bag and made the rounds to the tables.  Scribbling our names and numbers in hopes of winning a massage,  a yoga mat or some exercise equipment.  With false eyelashes and bright red lipstick in place we gathered pieces of chocolate,  stress squeezies  and other freebies that left me wondering why will we (society collectively) pick anything up for free???  Even things we'll never need or use? By the way a HUGE thank you to the sponsors yesterday, anything I don't use will be taken to the Women's Crisis Center in Rogers.

But I digress.  At the 15th Anniversary Go Red for Women luncheon I was blessed to hear Dr. Phil.  (Yes, I just typed that-never would I have ever imagined I'd be typing that I was blessed by Dr. Phil.) He spoke of how one year from today, he could GUARANTEE that our life would be better OR worse...our choice.  He then touched on something are you doing with your life today what you want to be doing or are you doing it because it's what you did yesterday?  Were you doing what you did yesterday because it's what you did the day before...not beause it's what you choose to do but because you've accepted it-not what you want to do or what you're meant to do but you do it because it's just what you do??  We generate the results in life that we believe we deserve-so if we feel we're not worthy or have a low self esteem, we generate results that go along with it AND we model it for our kids and they'll accept a "less than" life.  He spoke of the image we want to convey and how we should dress it, live it, own it.  (While wearing my funky red glasses, an exciting red dress, leggings and my 2019 Pride Converse with rainbow lades, I felt that my outside was very accurately portraying my inside.)  Again, we all make a statement and we teach others how to treat us based on that statement.  What do you believe you deserve?  If you're damaged then you need to fix it, the statement you show (consciously or subconsciously) is VERY cleary to other people.

Smoke and mirrors.
Trickery and deception.

We're all guilty.  Even when we're not conscious of our attempts to deceive our friends and family we're doing it!  We post about our victories, our personal wins.  We share about our kids high score or winning soccer goal while leaving out the hours spent arguing about studying or the tutor that costs as much as a mortgage or how much we hate spending hours at the soccer field, or maybe our kid hates it too but we keep on because it's what we are supposed to do.  We want to give the appearance of living a flawless life with no struggles but life is just not that way!!!

Yesterday I felt good about myself, really good.  I thought to myself-I should take a picture of myself because it would make a great new profile picture.  Yes.  I was actually planning a Facebook profile picture in my mind and how fabulous I'd look.  Then I saw the picture taken with my friend at a photo-op set up at the event.  It was a great picture all right-I definitely look like I've given birth to three children and not been to the gym in way too long...if ever.  There it was on Facebook for all to see in all my glory! HA!  Jokes on ya'll...I didn't beat myself up.  I looked at that picture and saw a mom who did give birth to three of the best kids you can imagine (they fight, they are sometimes mean to each other but they also forgive on another freely and generously.)  I see my favorite glasses and my Converse that are my little symbol that "I love you" just the way you are. I see my slightly ecclectic, whimsical self. a woman who loves deeply and genuinely.  A woman who sometimes feels like her world is swirling down the proverbial toilet because she is terrified that her future holds demons that can't be slain and that she's not a good enough wife, mom, daughter or friend.  A woman who sometimes cries in her bathroom, and at night in the dark when everyone else is asleep but by golly give me a few and I'll wear that mask with a smile.

I came away yesterday wondering, really-really wondering what do people see?  What image do I portray?  My real image-not the smoke & mirrors, no trickery or deception, no Facebook perfection.  Who am I?

Am I strong, confident and capable or am I just frustrated, exhausted and overwhelmed?  
Am I kind, loving and generous or am I just selfish, cynical and superior?
Is my life and family perfect? Are we actually flawed beyond belief?

Every one of those things is true, just not all at the same time.  Some days I'm broken beyond belief, we all have demons from our past or even present that creep up and bite us when we least suspect it.  I can be generous but I can also be selfish.  My family is perfect for ME but we are actually flawed (we all are you know).  I know who I want to be, I want you to know the real me.  I want you to know the real me, I'm going to use that awful selfie for my profile picture you know why?  BECAUSE IT IS ME! Perfectly imperfect, able to laugh at myself and allow you to laugh at me.  Laugh with me, cry with me, walk beside me, be real with me and I'll be real with you-we can put down the smoke and mirrors because none of us are perfect.  In one year, May 22, 2020 my life is going to be better.  I'm going to make choices to send me that direction and I'm going to QUIT doing what I did yesterday just because it's what I've always done.  I'm moving forward one crazy blessed step at a time.  Thank you Jessica for inviting me to table 54!  Thank you Debbie Alsup, Paris Presents for sponsoring the table where I was seated-it may be small to some but going yesterday was a thing I've wanted to do for years; you've got a wonderful tribe of co-workers and friends (Lisa, Missy and Kathleen)!
I actually did look pretty good yesterday!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

My Girls

We attend a small church who has tried on different occasions to have a youth group but there just weren't enough to consistently show up and it always failed.  Melissa wanted more.  She felt a strong desire to be part of a group of youth who gathered to worship, share happies & crappies, fellowship, become friends, pray for one another and love Jesus.  Wow, that sounds a little cheesie when I type it but that is honestly what she was hungry for.  (Isn't it interesting that left to her own desires it was to seek the fellowship with the "religious kids" and a deeper relationship with God???  What if every human had the ability to tap in to their "divine" needs, would they too be drawn to Him???  Bu-u-u-u-ut....that's another blog altogether.)

Like other parents, I dutifully attend the parent session at the beginning of the school year.  I then spent a year listening to her come home on Wednesday nights talking about her small group.  Honestly there were times I was frustrated because it seemed some weeks their time was just talking and not really getting to a lesson or scripture.  I wondered what the point was and the question, "is this just a waste of time" crossed my mind more than once. Guess what?!?!?!  Those nights they didn't get to a scripture or lesson, they were learning something just as valuable. They were building trust, relationships, forming bonds with their friends and learning to pray for one another! Those things will hopefully be there for the rest of their lives AND they were doing this in the best house ever-God's house surrounded with a multitude of prayers that have been filling the space for generations.  Wow, definitely NOT a waste of time!

*A quick Pomegranate AKA Squirrel moment...*

I'm what one might call a person of "spiritual fluidity."  I was born and raised a Methodist, all 49 years of my life, you could say I'm a card carrying member.  Confirmation class when I was in the sixth grade piqued my curiousity about other religions and how we all fit together.  None of us are purists you know, Jesus wasn't the first christian.  He never said GO BE A CHRISTIAN. He simply said, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.  Follow me; learn from my stories of how to be a better human, a loving member of your community NOT make rules about how you have to act, worship and believe.  Love your neighbor just like you love yourself, forgive others like I forgive you-be kind, be helpful, be nice. I don't believe any one organized religion is 100% correct in their intrepretation of the bible or the stories contained in it. I don't believe there is a single perfect person roaming this earth today nor has there been with the exception of Jesus.

After Mel's first year when I attended the obligatory year beginning parent meeting, I was asked if I would consider helping on Wednesday nights.  All the alarms went off in my head-I'm a homeschool mom and I don't really *like* other kids.  I really wasn't interested in being with a bunch of hormonal, over dramatic, petty and somewhat obnoxious teenagers but like so many times God had different ideas.  After much prayer and litteral wrestling with the answer I kept getting I hesitantly said yes.  Me, Dana Hope...I said yes to meeting weekly with a group of teenage girls, 7th & 8th graders you know the ones full of drama and boy problems, trying to find their place in the world, arguing with their parents and full of so much love they are about to burst at their proverbial seams.  These girls quickly became "my girls."  I know, I know...I have three daughters, I have girls but they are my daughters.  Each of my Wednesday night ladies are and will forever be My Girls.

My first year I was full of ambition and I would work hard to find things to fill our time.  We learned about the strong women in the bible-Ruth & Naomi, Esther, Mary & Martha, Puah & Shiphrah and of course, Sarah.  At the end of the year, the girls selected stories and parables-voted on the ones we would learn about and we did.  It was a great year but a lot of work.  I spent hours each week preparing and not nearly as much time as I wanted praying for those girls.  When it came time for year two, my personal life had changed a litte and I knew I wouldn't have the hours each week to research and study so I asked for some curriculum and the Lord, through Brooke-youth pastor, provided exactly what I needed!!!

Two years of material that would cover the bible in three lesson topics.  From the first sample, I was thrilled with it and knew it would be perfect. My 8th graders and Allison moved on to high school and a new crop of 7th graders moved in.  We had a new classroom and brand new couches, a television I could cast video clips to but best of all a new group of young ladies who were eager to become...each and every class a teacher has is special to them. I know I'm particularly emotional this morning because these girls are so fresh on my heart and next Wednesday is the last time we will gather as our Wednesday night group.  These girls have fed me, my faith, my belief, my relationship with God more than I ever thought possible.  Each week we all share things, sometimes something as important as cellulite or the cheer girls being particularly "cheery."  Other times someone will ask timidly, this will stay with just us, right???  And it always does.  Our room is a safe place, no words or thoughts are off limits because I am a firm believer that they all have a place and time if addressed properly and used appropriately.  (If you doubt my belief on words just ask a certain someone who let the f*bomb fly inappropriately during class and another who referred to someone appropriately as sh!tty.)

Sometimes I feel like a secret holder.  Sometimes I feel like a gift giver.  Sometimes we don't get to a lesson at all.  Sometimes I read a poem.  We've imagined flowers, we've learned about love, friendships, doughnuts, chocolate...I've encouraged them to talk to their parents and give them the gift of talking to them.  I've even heard about relationships bloom where hate once grew.  I've watched girls come in with problems, work through them and grow.  I've seen the bonds of their friendships strengthen not just within the walls of our classroom but at home and at school (even when someone slips on the food in the cafeteria or hates bandanas).  I've heard them encourage one another when they're nervous about a grade, performance, competition or presentation.  I've seen them support one another and share with me places they have gone together-even their walks from school to the church!  I hear them congratulate one another on jobs well done and be there for one another when something goes wrong.

Last night something new happened.  I was speechless. Those of you who know me understand the rarity of that ever happening.  We were sharing how our weeks had gone-happies & crappies, glads & sads, joys & concerns-we often refer to them in different ways when Brooke peeked her head in the door.  She told me to close my eyes, put down my pen and hold out my hands. She told me that I "love hard" and the girls love me back-they wanted to do something for me.  I opened my eyes to find a Converse box, colorful writing on the lid.  As my eyes teared up and I focused, I could see the names of my girls and several scriptures.  I removed the lid to see the sidewall text showing through the tissue paper FIERCE FEARLESS FEMALE I pull back the paper to see pastel tie dye and gold eyelets then the real kicker...Be Salt my favorite scripture and phrase I always tell the girls when they're going somewhere with friends, 4-H or church!  Speechless.

Never would I have ever-even in my wildest thoughts-would I have imagined that I could love someone elses kids as "hard" as I love My Girls.  We've caught glimpses together of Genesis-Revelation, shared our *hopes*dreams*fears*, wondered in awe at Gods creation, Jesus' sacrifice, learned to forgive ourselves and others together.  When I was a kid in the 70's my Mom faithfully taught a high school Sunday school class every week, she lovingly recalls stories about many of them; a few even stay in touch.  My hope, my prayer is that these girls, My Girls, will know a few things for certain and remember for the rest of their lives:
  • Jesus loves you-just like you are because you are a wonderful, dynamic, unique masterpiece straight from his Dad!  When you ask for forgiveness (and really mean it), he forgives you as far as the EAST is from the WEST.  He doesn't hold on to it and remember it, grumble over it or hold it against you.
  • Dana loves you unconditionally, you can never mess up bad enough that I won't.  You may annoy me but I'll forgive you every time.  You can talk to me about anything, I won't judge you; your secret is safe with me as long as you're not harming yourself or someone else.  I encourage you to ALWAYS keep communication open with your parents, seek out their advice because they love you.
  • Each one of you have created a very specific mark on who I am (whether your fingerprint is above my head each night when I sleep or not).  
  • Forgive freely, you'll feel better in the long run.  Just because you forgive someone doesn't mean you have to maintain a friendship or relationship with them.   Holding onto a grudge when someone wrongs you only festers in your heart, spoils your life and affects you.  Forgiveness is about you, your heart, your mental health and well being-not theirs. 
  • Lastly, love and respect yourself--always!  
Before we close in prayer, I ask for requests and I pray for them; they pray for me and for one another.  In case they ever forget, this is how it goes:

God thank you for bringing these
 wonderful, dynamic, unique masterpieces
here this week...
Help us remember through the week that we 
are His hands & feet, 

PS Brooke, I'm all in for 7th & 8th grade girls next year-if you'll have me.

Friday, April 26, 2019

The other side of the fence

Dear Backdoor Neighbors,

We bought our home in August 2000. It was brand new with sodded yard, no trees, no fence; it was truly a blank slate.  Year by year we painted our vision of the place we would raise our children-home.  Our first year, we added a sturdy 6' stockade fence so kids could play without worry and to help shape how, in our minds eye, our large yard would become our own private oasis.  We added a landscape curb in the front for a flower bed, trees, eventually had the small patio expanded into a huge one and added a storage barn.  The kids have a swingset, Handsome a 300 gallon stock pond of fish and lillies and me I have a huge fenced raised bed garden, lilacs, wisteria, crepe myrtles and even an elderberry bush.  Slowly but surely this home and the yard that surrounds it have woven the story of our lives.  Our yard has grown rich with memories of our family, friends and even a few furry animals.

We've seen houses built, neighbors come and go but one has particularly touched our hearts.  We call him Bean.  As a homeschool family we are home most days.  Having a dog, a few ladies (what Jessica calls her pet hens) and a fish pond we are in the backyard several times a day.  We knew you had a dog-about the same age as Rosie.  We've watched him grow from a little puppy to the big dog he is today.  Not much attention was paid to this dog until he started jumping. When Jessica would go out to visit her ladies or play with Rosie he would jump and peek over the fence as if he wanted to come over.  She would always talk to him and he would have the hugest smile.  Eventually he would run to the fence and jump to say hi when we opened the back door.  Jess started calling him "Bean" because he looked like a jumping bean!  Now the story really begins, the dog behind our house now had a name and just like that, Bean became family.

When one of us walks out the door, he would jump and we cheerfully say, "Hello Bean!"  After Rosie goes out the last time each night we say "Goodnight Bean!"  Eventually that one picket, nearing 19 years of age, became loose.  An old pool ladder was drug to the fence so the girls could stand on it and scratch his head.  Bean is a real lover of head scratches!  Months flew by and Bean continued to jump and we fell more in love with his adorable self.  A few weeks ago that loose picket fell to the ground.  I'm not sure who was the most excited-Bean, Rosie or us! Being a responsible neighbor, I put one of my garden hog wire panels by the fence so Rosie couldn't go into your yard.  The two dogs stick their heads through and seem to almost "hug" one another.  When Rosie heads out the door, she heads straight to that gap in the fence to say hello to her friend, Bean.

I'm not sure if you've noticed the tennis ball or sticks near your deck but those came from Jessica.  When she plays fetch with Rosie, Bean begs to join in the fun.  She has gotten in the habit of grabbing something to throw at the same time for both dogs.  We have a flashlight that has a red pointer light that Jess sometimes plays laser chase with Rosie after dark.  She realized Bean was trying to get it so she stood on the ladder and pointed it around the grass in your yard-Bean looked like a puppy chasing the light.

I guess you could say we have fallen in love with a dog that's not ours.  We were on the verge of tears when a "For Sale" sign was placed in front of Beans home.  Our hearts cried at the thought of Bean going away.  We started to joke within our family that perhaps Bean could just stay and live with us.  The kids friends (all the way to Montana) have met Bean and love him.  Then yesterday the real tragedy struck, a giant SOLD sign was added.  We actually put a chair by the picket and were loving on Bean when Handsome said, "just go ask them...."

It took me a while to work up the courage.  I mean seriously, how strange is it to go up to a neighbors door that you really don't know and profess your love for their dog.  Hand in hand, Jessica and I walked around the block; we marched up to the door and rang the bell....knocked on the door....but no one was home.  We felt defeated, would we ever work up the courage to ring their bell again?  Would we be too late?

I spent some time on the swing that hangs from our Earth Day 2001 Loblolly twigs which now tower 25+ feet tall in our back yard.  I'm scrolling through pictures I had just taken; they always say a picture is worth a thousand words so here.  Here are the thousands of words we'd like to say-we don't know what you call this sweet face but we call him Bean. My kids, my Handsome husband and I are going to be lost when he moves.  So if there is a chance that he doesn't fit with your new home or if you'd like to start fresh with a new puppy we're here for you.  We'll be glad to love Bean forever more.

With much love,
Your Backdoor Neighbors

☆☆Tissue Alert☆☆
Years ago I saw a movie called "Serendipity" and I became a lover of that word!! It turns out our love for Bean is very serendipitous.
Beans owner tearfully conveyed that they couldn't give him what he needed and had been looking for him a home. He will now be residing at Hopes_Home_for_Wayward_Pets (you can follow our pet family on Instagram). He will meet Dr. Hooper on Monday at 2 and will be royally snipped on Wednesday. Please whisper a prayer or blessing that he adapts quickly- he's a lady (chicken) chaser.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Simple Gratitude

Advertisers and marketing gurus know that an important key to sales is a great catch phrase.  I grew up in the generation of "have a Coke and a smile,"  "everything's better with Bluebonnet on it," and some chicken that was "finger lickin' good!"  My kids are more likely to ask for "the snack that smiles back," or "slip into a slim Jim," or maybe I should "break them off a piece of that kit kat bar."  Maybe I need an advertising and marketing guru to give me a few catch phrases!!!

I'm at a proverbial rough patch in my life. I've been trying to get the words down on Damn Dementia but somehow the emotions are to raw and my heart doesn't want to give them light.  So I come back here to where I strive to remember that I'm Always Crazy Blessed.  Last week, my Handsome husband catered for a charity golf scramble; as the wife I'm blessed with the opportunity to work right by his side!  On that Thursday I played the part of server and must have told 200 people, "today we have hamburgers, hot dogs and grilled chicken breasts...would you like a bun?"  At a slow point in the day a rather tallish 60-something man appeared with a hat on his head.  There was a white blob on it with some writing.  As I was blurting out my spiel, I was struggling to read what it said, through squinting eyes and what must have sounded like gibberish from my mouth I finally got it!

Simple Gratitude

I literally stepped back and gasped!  The night before as we were preparing for this particular job I expressed to Handsome that I did not want to do this job...I would but I wasn't looking forward to it.  I promised that I'd be positive the rest of the time and not grumble but I just ha-a-a-a-ad to give it a voice.  Those two little words Simple Gratitude hit me in a way I needed.  In my frustration, in my self pity, in my desire for "me time" I had forgotten what was really important- Simple Gratitude.

I've always been a positive person, my entire life.  I don't only see my glass as half full but as refillable.  Gratitude has always been "simple" for me.  When I began forgetting to practice Simple Gratitude I fell into a slump, one could almost say I was bitter, dwelling on what I thought I was missing or lacking rather than focusing on all that I have.  Over a week ago, I hit the deactivate button on Facebook.  I was feeling rather sorry for myself and was exhausted with feeling like I had to pretend to be happy, full of joy and Miss Susie Sunshine but you know what???  Simple Gratitude doesn't require any of those things because it is giving glory, honor and praise for the small stuff, the little victories.  It's about accepting exactly where I am today and making something beautiful out of it instead of wishing that I would be delivered out of  my own personal Babylon (thanks Heath).  God is giving me the opportunity to shape my own future by opening myself up to all the blessings in my life today.

A huge shout out of thanks to the stranger with the hat at the recent Caring & Sharing golf tournament, I think he may have been an angel because I really needed to see his hat.  And another thanks to Julie, the random stranger from the parking lot at Sam's yesterday, who felt the tug to give me a bottle of wine because she said it was "National Do Something Nice for Someone Day," I paid it forward and used your kindness and smile to teach a lesson to my Wednesday night girls group at church then we walked to the Square and I treated them to ice cream!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Doubting Dana

Thomas, doubting Thomas..........................................
\..........................................Dana, doubting Dana.

Grape Koolaid and animal crackers at vacation bible school in the 70's, an angel costume fashioned
from a white sheet, tinsel and cardboard wrapped with aluminum foil for wings, kneeling for communion of hard little crisps and a shot of grape juice, my Dads green bible and the Certs in his pocket.  Church was as much a part of my life as breathing, not to be questioned it was a place we went every Sunday.  Those of you who are regular readers know what an example of faith my Mom lived with her prayer life, ladies bible studies in our home, and teaching the high school Sunday school class through the 70's in Weatherford!  I learned all the stories from the bible from Mrs. Smith and they were reinforced with my record player which played the stories as I followed along in a little book.  My Mom had a cassette player and tapes with camp like praise music that were often playing while Dad was at work.

For several years during Holy Week, our preacher would do a service where he would set up a table with 13 goblets for communion-one for each disciple and one for Jesus.  He would tell about each disciples calling to follow, ministry and death.  He would then invite us to take communion from the cup we most identified with; most years I placed myself with Thomas.  If I have such a firm foundation in faith, then why do place myself with Thomas?  Now don't get me wrong I pray, I believe and I long to have no doubts.  But this has even crept into my sleep...last week I woke during the night, fumbled for a pencil and paper feeling like I had to write some words down so I could blog about them later.  It looked like this, can you make out my notes?

There's a fresh clean notebook on my headboard now because deciphering this was not easy but somehow my heart knew.  It's been a frequent doubt, concern, frustration....that nagging feeling that festers and continues to create a discord for me spiritually.  My gibberish notes reflected a conversation from a couple of weeks ago in the car with my parents, we were talking about a lifelong family friend who recently passed from brain cancer.  My Mom said, "we can't understand why God called her home..."  Janet was there with my parents in their bedroom when I was born, she babysat us and even though we weren't really related her family always has been "family" to us.  She was diagnosed with brain cancer a few years ago, we've all been praying-for healing, for a miracle, for her life to be spared.

I read and watched the Shack, I get free will.  I understand that sometimes bad things happen to good people but still I can't help but wonder do I not believe enough, do I lack something?  This is my struggle with my faith-am I the only one? God, the almighty, omnipotent, created the world, sent his son to live as I not pray enough, earnestly enough, is my faith lacking?  God can heal.  I believe this will all my being.  I don't believe in "miracles," I believe in God's ability to be divine.  If eternal life with God is the ultimate then why do we pray for healing?  Is it just a selfish desire to have our loved one here with us longer?  Why are some healed while others fight, suffer and die?  Am I not a good enough christian because I have these doubts and questions????

I sent my draft to my minister...he responded and I feel so much better now!!! He reminded me that even though it often seems that faith comes easier for others that what we see is their "public presentation.   Even those who are confident and certain have doubts and questions but they may feel they can't be honest about what they're feeling or thinking.  From now on I'm going to heed his advice and see my identifying with Thomas as an asset!  Thanks Heath.

"...doubts and questions can be difficult to handle at times, they are not "bad." Without doubts and questions, we would never grow or deepen our understanding. Doubts can actually serve an important role in making us more useful to God and others. They can keep us humble and open to others who have deep doubts about religion. If you had all the answers, you would likely be an annoying person who pushed people away from God! 

So, I would encourage you to welcome your doubts and give them a seat on the bus. You don't have to let them drive the bus, but just let them go along for the ride. If you are constantly trying to kick them off, you will likely never get to where you are headed.  I just hope you'll consider seeing your doubts as an asset, not a liability."  ~Heath

Monday, August 6, 2018


I can't remember when I saw my first words written in Hebrew, perhaps it was around 1982 when my confirmation class from Wesley Methodist visited a Jewish synagogue in Oklahoma City.  I remember how beautiful it was and how much I wanted to learn more about their faith.  Anna even had a kids sing a long cassette tape with a song to learn the Hebrew alphabet!  Shalom became the word that really resonated to me, I've used it to sign letters for years and used it as a personal prayer...shalom...breathe in contentment, breathe out completeness; breathe in wholeness, breath out well being; harmony, complete peace.

There's a scripture, Matthew 11:29 & 30 where Jesus offers us his yoke which is "easy" and his "burden light."  For a while now, my yoke has seemed anything but light.  Daughter going to college, Jim Bob getting sick and dying, learning to live with the changes in my parents health. I wear a necklace daily that is a cross, I find myself using it as a touchstone as I utter "shalom" over and over.  I began to think about the word I was praying and what it must have looked like when Jesus saw the Hebrew, it was beautiful.  I started thinking about what those letters would look like as a tattoo.  Just the  simple Hebrew letters שלום

I thought and thought about it, deep inside before ever uttering a word.  I finally started talking about my crazy thought to Handsome and the girls.  When I got in the habit of checking out Pinterest for shalom tattoos, my incredible husband said, "if you're really going to do this it needs to be art, not just Hebrew letters."  At first I was irked because I really wanted just the letters and then one morning a site I'd never seen appeared in my Google search.  Hebrew Tattoos.  I knew I found the place to design my tattoo.  I immediately sent the link to Anna.  She encouraged me to email them.  I did.

The rest you might say is history.  From my first message introducing myself to them, David (who is working on his PHD in Jewish history and linguistics) seemed to understand exactly what I wanted.
"...indeed the word "Shalom" shares its grammatical root with the word "Shalem" ("whole" or "complete") and with the verb "Sheelem" ("pay").
Would you consider a piece where the word "Shalom" creates the shape of an anchor? Or maybe both "Shalom" and "Tikvah" (=hope)?"
The artist he suggest was Gabriel, I have to admit I was hoping for Neomi (my Mom has always loved the book of Ruth) but since I really felt like someone bigger than me was handling this journey I simply responded with the anticipation of an eager child and continued my prayer of shalom, feeling that deep peace surrounding this art.  After what seemed an eternity, but was actually the next day, Gabriel messaged asking some questions one of them being if I was certain that I didn't want a "green lazy-boy recliner!!!"

We emailed back and forth for a few weeks until Gabriel felt he had a firm grasp of my desire and vision for a tattoo.  I got on his drawing schedule and received my artwork as promised on July 3rd.  Talk about excited, it is perfect!!  During my wait, I looked at the portfolios of several tattoo artists.  Anna strongly recommended Connor Humphrey, owner of Super Nova Tattoo in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  Connor generously worked with me on scheduling a time that all three girls could be there and my Handsome husband.

Today was the day I had been waiting for since I first sent that email on April 15th.  Four months of praying, anticipating, wondering if it was the right decision...YES!  I walked in this afternoon and the first thing I saw was a beautiful American Bison mount, a sign sure as anything as it's my favorite animal.  Connor's shop was filled with curious items, things I remembered from my childhood and even an "asswatch" taxidermy!  We had a fun filled afternoon and I know this beautiful anchor will be my touchstone for the rest of my crazy blessed life!

Anchor-the christian symbol for hope
Handsome-my hope, my love, my rock, my true anchor

It hardly hurt at all!

So relaxed I think I could've fallen asleep!

After with the beautiful bison!
PS I got to share my day with Anna,  she got a little sentimental ink with me!