Monday, December 3, 2018

Do Unto Others...

We anticipate Christmas morning enjoying time with our families with gifts under the tree but what about the others????  For a year and a half, I've driven Melissa to Gentry every month for her braces (which came off today)!  One day just outside of Centerton I saw what looked like some kind of weird compound.  All new houses built in a circle, the end building had a play area for small children.  Remembering Waco, I was a little nervous.  We talked about it and went on for several months, remarking when we'd pass.  One day we decided to turn and see exactly what it was when we saw the sign:
 New Beginnings
Talk about a lump in my throat, I was floored.  We live in the Walmart bubble how can there be SIX houses full of children without families less than 15 miles from my house?  We started with looking them up on the internet-you know you want to "feel good" and "think" about doing something but you just don't get it done????  Well today when I breezed past on our way home, I turned around and went back.  By the time I spoke to a third person my heart was positively aching.  I'm having my girls work at getting rid of some clutter and honestly, I stopped to see if they wanted stuffed animals but I'm drawn to do more.  When I asked the woman what their needs were, she didn't begin listing fancy things she said, "The basics-toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, diapers, pullups and wipes...."

So while you're out shopping for presents that someone doesn't really need and more food than you can possibly eat before it goes bad please think about the 36 kids who don't have a family this Christmas just a few miles down the road.  Consider giving that friend a note explaining how you purchased toilet paper or some cleaning supplies for these kids...these kids who can see as many as 9 different placements in any given year.  Let me know if you've got something for them, I'll be glad to meet you and get it delivered!! (Click on their logo above to visit their site and learn more about their mission.)

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 man...do 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

Anchor

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!

Shalom-peace
Tikvah-hope
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!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

For you

Last fall I was crazy blessed to get to hear Nadia Bolz-Weber then to have her personally sign one of my books for me.  I patiently waited in the line then like a giddy school girl made my way to one of the reception tables while I came back to earth.  As I sat there, I spied a woman across the room sitting on a couch surrounded by some folks who obviously thought the world of her.  I shamelessly went to get more water just so I could peek at the button she was wearing.  It said boldly, "FREE MOM HUGS!" I went back to my table and worked on my courage to approach her.  I had no idea that she would become a daily influence in my life.

Sara is a driving force behind the FREE MOM HUGS movement for LGBTQ kids who need a hug.  She goes to all kinds of places and actively advocates for these kids!  She lives her passion, daily.  I admire and respect her while I have only met her once.  Today she posted the following with a  picture of beautiful "rainbow" adorned folks:
A word on the importance of a support group. Years ago when I first found a private online FB group for moms with LGBTQ kids a young mother entered the group with "I just found out my child is gay. I don't know how to pray anymore, I don't know how to breathe." 250 moms chime in saying "THEN DON'T. YOU LET US PRAY, YOU LET US BREATHE FOR YOU." Find your tribe. Let them pour into and lift you up until you find your wings.
You let us pray, you let us breathe for you.  

That sums up the life of Christ in a simple and pure way; doing for and serving one another.  I often tell friends and family members that I will pray for them.  It's not cliche or something said lightly, I pray.  Sometimes in my comfy chair or my couch and others in the shower, on my knees or driving down the road.  Most of the time when I'm quiet I'm talking to God or waiting for His word or direction.  When I ask you to pray for me, I expect that you'll find your sacred place and cry out to God on my behalf

There was a popular christian song many years ago, "Love in any Language" and it so applies today.  Love in any language, love in any color, love in any neighborhood, love in any place we inhabit.  It's so important that we mingle in and amongst the masses-the least, the last, the lost, the confused, the drunk, the abusers, the cheaters, the liars whomever they may be and show love and service for when they look at us it's not our faces they'll see but the love that He lived.  Love and service should be the real mark of the followers of Christ, not just a cross remembering where he died.  People flocked to Jesus, not for the cross on his neck or embroidered on his clothing it was for the easy way he spoke in stories and parables of acceptance, love and forgiveness.  Every day of mine ends with the prayer, "Lord help me to do a better job tomorrow being your hands and feet.  AMEN"  Sara C. you're an inspiration.  From now on when someone asks me to pray, exhausted or overwhelmed with more than they can bear alone, I will whole hardheartedly say,  "you heal, you seek your shalom and I will pray for you, I will breathe for you until you find your wings."  Beautiful, my heart feels full.  Shalom



Friday, June 8, 2018

Living

The last week has brought us two celebrity suicides.  The world was shocked that Kate and Anthony both suffered in silence with depression.  I read a blog today that eloquently expressed the words I was searching for in my own heart...this woman knew so many things about Kate Spade yet she didn't know she suffered from depression.  "Why is it any of my business or yours to know?  It doesn't have to be, of course.  But I knew when Patrick Swayze was battling pancreatic cancer.  I know that Cynthia Nixon is a breast cancer survivor.  I know that Selena Gomez has lupus and recently had a kidney donated. I know that Dave Letterman suffers from heart disease.  I know that Lance Armstrong is a testicular cancer survivor....somehow society has made it more acceptable to talk about breasts and testicles than about the mind and the chemicals and hormones it releases and controls and the messages it relays." ~Claudia Herrara

I was horrified when Robin Williams took his own life  died due to complications from his disease, depression.  He died because the medications, the counseling, the therapy, the success as an actor, the house, the wife, none of it spoke louder than that part that said, "you're not good enough," or "you're not funny enough," or perhaps it screamed to him "you're a failure."  The stigma that runs rampant in our society is that only those who are weak suffer from depression and/or if they really tried they could just "snap" themselves out of it.  We run to the doctor with every sniffle, scrape and ache but we want to criticize those who admit or we ourselves deny that we too suffer from depression.

Eleven years ago I was in a bad place mentally.  A really bad place that found me in my backyard with a butcher knife pressed against my wrist wishing I had the courage to draw it across and drain the life from my worthless body.  I had made some bad decisions and felt trapped like the only way out was death.  Fortunately, I have an incredible husband who chooses every day to love me, in spite of my many flaws.  Through his anger, he arrived like my knight in shining armor and held me in his arms.  Forgiveness and healing came slowly.  Medications, therapy and lots of work to cancel out the demons that had seeped into my mind.  The brain isn't like the other organs in your body, there is so much the doctors just don't understand.  They can identify the areas of our brain responsible for body functions but the *thing* the *spark* that makes us human is still a mystery that belongs to God.

This morning, a dear friend who has overcome unimaginable things in her life shared this:
my gut reaction was horrible guilt.  Guilt because I am guilty of putting on a face and pretending like everything is just fine when in reality I'm falling apart inside.  Pretending to participate in a conversation when in reality I am so consumed and overwhelmed with my own "stuff" running through my head I can't even think straight let alone follow what the conversation is saying.  I am often embarrassed  and avoid groups because I don't want them to see exactly how stressed I have become.  I pretend to my children, my husband, my parents, my friends....on the outside I have a smile, the cutest Chaco's, an adorable dog and kids who are just about as close to perfect as any kids can come but inside I am a swirling mess of emotions.  I doubt myself as a parent and homeschool teacher, I doubt myself as a wife, I doubt myself as a caregiver and as a friend. 
I.am.depression.
I.AM.depression.
I.AM.DEPRESSION.
There, I've typed it and published it on the internet so it must be true, it IS true.  I don't look for your sympathy, or for you to say, "poor Dana, she's got a mental health problem."  NO!  I want you to say, "look how strong and courageous Dana is, she's got so much shit to deal with in her life and here she is LIVING it!  She has depression and she's facing it head on.  She has sought out help from her doctor (thanks Lauren) and has learned skills and looked for help to cope with the challenges she faces."  Let's start applauding people for LIVING, for opening up about their depression.  Let's celebrate the fact that while LIVING is absolutely the hardest things to do most days people with depression are still doing it.  Let's give them a party for their strength, courage and conviction to fight their demons, the ones no one else can see but are still oh so real!

I"m going to do better about being an actor.  Two things happened in the last two days that almost sent me into a tailspin.  Fist, I blog here at Always Crazy Blessed and another at Damn Dementia.  Someone laughed at me for blogging then really laughed at the title of my other blog.  I very calmly responded with why it's called Damn Dementia while inside the self doubt started...the negative thoughts about what a fool I am to even attempt to share my thoughts and feelings here and really, really foolish on my private blog.  The next morning at breakfast I was met with a "how are your parents?"  Really?  My Dad suffers from vascular dementia & Alzheimer's and my Mom suffers from Alzheimer's...slowly, one memory at a time they are leaving.  With each turn of the calendar pages I see changes and lose pieces of them that I'll never see again.  The puzzle that is their life will never again be complete.  They slip away and we wait...we wait for the inevitable during which we suffer their loss, they become different people and we are strangers to the people who were the heroes of our youth...our teachers, our mentors, our parents who loved us unconditionally and now yell at us, belittle us and treat us like trash.  The people speaking to me couldn't have know because I always am a talented actor, I put on my happy face and pretend that everything is okay.

I went to my 70's style room and slept...around 4 hours yesterday and another 1 1/2 today.  I blogged on my DD site, went into Little Rock and did some walking around stores then came back feeling incredibly refreshed and capable of living and maybe just maybe I might be up to some socializing and conversation tomorrow!

For many reasons, I will not post this blog publicly.  After they are gone, perhaps I will be able to make it public and share...for now, if you've read this message please know YOU are important to me.  I value my relationship with you and I'm honored to count you as a strong member of my tribe family.  Thank you for reading this and thank you for always praying for me and for just being you!!!

Shalom

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Solidarity with Jesus

A few weeks ago I had a normal Saturday in the Hope household.  The four of us headed out in different directions as I ran my Mom in another! Our lives are generally a whirlwind so today was no exception.

As the Mom, my wants and needs are something I generally put squarely underneath the wants, needs and demands of everyone else. Between running for everyone, I had the opportunity to spend a whopping TWO HOURS at a ladies UMW spring retreat. I hadn't read the book, I didn't even know what it was supposed to be about because I knew that I want going to attend.

Living as a covenant community.

What's that even mean?  How about some modern day English?  I know God made covenants with us like the whole rainbow in the clouds thing and not flooding us to oblivion again but what does it mean today?  I'm pretty sure community is all of us. I remember singing a song as a little kid, “red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight-Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

Then Reverend Pamela began saying some things that I feel really strongly about.  Specifically, “Jesus came in the flesh so we can learn to be fleshy people...fleshy people who love everyone!” I quickly opened a note on my phone so I could remember the things she was saying. (I hope she didn't just think I was texting!)

"Nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus, so nothing should stop us from loving everyone!”  THIS!! This is exactly what we need to be yelling from the rooftops.  Loving everyone should be the easy part because that's really the bottom line of why Jesus came and what he has tried to teach us.

We get so caught up in rules.  You should do this, you shouldn't do this.  As Methodists we have a rule book called the Discipline but you know what?  None of us can "do" all the discipline any more than we can "do" all the bible...but you know what we can all do? We can forgive, we can love. Solidarity with Jesus.

Being together whether as a family, neighborhood, church or community, being “in covenant” means we learn to give a little sometimes. When we just take and expect our way all the time the covenant is broken. Learning to give is just the right thing to do. Give doesn't just mean things to others it also means, as John Wesley said, "we don't have to live alike to love alike..." seeing past our differences to find common ground.


The covenants from Jesus were written in the nail scars through his hands to the community NOT the Christians. Through his parables he was trying to show us how to forgive, how to love how to get along with one another. As a people, our covenant should be with one another and also with the community. Jesus' primary covenant is, “I love you," we should strive to have solidarity with Jesus by saying I love you to the least, the last, the lost, the conservatives, the liberals, the republicans, the democrats, the LBGTQ, the divorced, the Muslim, the Jew, the Christians...everyone.