Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Grandma Is With Jesus

Florence Marie (Hearte) Rees, my grandma, went to be with Jesus on Sunday, February 14. She has been in hospice care for a long time and suffering a great deal. But now that suffering has ended and I praise God that this Godly woman is forever healthy and rejoicing.

She was my spiritual mentor, my friend, and a Proverbs 31 woman. For 35 years I gleaned her wisdom, wit, love. Our love was as mutual as our love for gravy and lemon meringue pie (but not at the same time).

My greatest peace is knowing that when she did die there were no words left unsaid between us, months ago she had even asked me to tell her goodbye at that point in case she could not do so later. She then laid hands on me and blessed my marriage, my family, and my walk with Christ. I ask you, how often do we get such selflessness in life? She gave me all she had then so I could grieve in advance and begin to prepare myself for her death. What a gift!

She died peacefully at my parents' home. I sat by her side for a good length time before they moved her from the home. It was an honor to read Scripture, sing her favorite hymns, and sprinkle rose petals around her bed. In our culture we often think if death as terrifying, or unsightly. Yet for me this was one of the most beautiful, peaceful experiences of my life. I liken it to the birth of my children, the difference being that my grandma was delivered to Jesus' side. For a woman who saw me at my best and worst - and gave me all she had - this was the least I could do.

She will be laid to rest in Ft Meyers, Florida, with my grandpa (who was equally awesome). As her legacy she leaves behind her daughter, Linda and her husband Harold Taylor, Lisa and Eric Howard, me and Dan and 5 adorable, though delightfully silly, great grandchildren. We all adored her. Pray that her death will help bring my mother to the Lord.

The following is the Scripture I read at her bedside as I said my final goodbyes:

Psalm 116
1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave [a] came upon me;
I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the LORD :
"O LORD, save me!"
5 The LORD is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
6 The LORD protects the simplehearted;
when I was in great need, he saved me.
7 Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.
8 For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
9 that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.
10 I believed; therefore [b] I said,
"I am greatly afflicted."
11 And in my dismay I said,
"All men are liars."
12 How can I repay the LORD
for all his goodness to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD.
14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
16 O LORD, truly I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant [c] ;
you have freed me from my chains.
17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
and call on the name of the LORD.
18 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the LORD—
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD. [d]

Monday, February 1, 2010

Thursday, January 21, 2010

To Hell In A Haiti Basket

200,000 estimated dead from the Haitian earthquake.
250,000 estimated injured.

Such devastation, and yet the statistics don't end with these numbers. With the potential for infectious disease looming the death and displacement numbers will likely skyrocket. For me it's heart wrenching.

But these statistics aren't nearly as disgusting as what I've seen in some Christian circles.

Here is a glimpse into the Christian conversations I've heard and seen.

Is this God's judgement on Haiti? (due to voodoo practices) This must be their call to repent.

Why should we help Haiti now? They've been content with poverty and lack of government as their standard. It's not our job to bail them out.

This is God's mercy - bringing death - to Haiti. (That's right, they're poor, put them out of their misery. Oh, and while we're at it, my grandma is in Hospice care. Let's help her out of her misery, too...)

I've had enough of this ridiculousness. Look again at the girl in the picture. Ask her if she need our flawed human intellect. Or does she need water, food, shelter, hope?

Pick nearly any moral cause and somewhere there's sweat dripping off the brow of those fighting against it. Yet here we have possibly the greatest natural disaster (in terms of causalities and displacement) we've seen in recent history and obscured theology threatens to override action.

Regardless of who we are, or any questions we have, one pivotal issue cannot be ignored: God loves the people of Haiti. Is there corruption in that country? Yes. Is the country riddled with poverty? Absolutely. Do voodoo and witchcraft practice obscure? No doubt. While spiritually these issues are significant it doesn't change the fact that Jesus came for the sick, the ones who need Him most.

Like many I wondered, "Why Haiti?" I think that's a normal question in the face of such suffering. There will always be circumstances that prompt us to ask God, "Why?" Yet, does knowing the answer to that question change our response? I hope not. Our job as Believers is to pray, to give, to serve, to love. Entertaining judgement over the circumstance accomplishes none of these. We are to be Jesus Christ to the hurting, regardless.

Action will always outweigh reflection. While contemplation is valid and allows us to learn, if we camp out there, we can spend too long sitting on our haunches and forget to do anything. Is it wrong to want to understand what happened in Haiti? No. But if understanding is our goal we're headed to hell in a Haiti basket.

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. I Corinthians 15:58

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Defined Abs (or Yoga Plan B)

This is a Stacy From Louisville Public Service Announcement. Watch carefully.

This is brilliant. To think, I got it on YouTube for free! Here I am, practically unable to feed my family due to pricey yoga classes, when this has been out there all along. I'm a horrible, selfish person. So I gave this a shot but all I could track down was a yellow highlighter. Unfortunately, my abs don't look as defined as much as they look like I've got hepatitas. Or stupidity. (Incidentally, there are strains of either one are incurable.)

Please make special notes of what is said at :23 and 1:33. Priceless. Kids, I'm telling you, it doesn't get better than this.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hot Yoga: It Just Might Kill Me

For me, being ridiculous really isn't hard. I don't even have to try. Like an inoperable mole, it's just something that happens. That's why I need a blog. It's my attempt to reach out to all of cyber space and say, "Hey World! Guess what I did besides leaving the parking break on and calling my husband at work to have the car towed because, 'All the tires spin but one. Something is very wrong.'" (Yeah. That really happened.) (And yeah, something is really wrong. With me.)

My latest exercise in crazy started a week ago. Bikram Yoga's the name, torture's the game. In case you're not familiar imagine bike shorts, 105 degrees + 30% humidity and body contortions that rival Cirque Du Soleil. That's Bikram. And it's aggressive.

Then there's me. Completely allergic to all exercise. Overweight. Chronic pain sufferer with a keen sass. Despite our seeming incompatibility I decided to give Bikram a whirl because my current regimen of TV, couch, Twinkies wasn't producing the results I desired. Here's what happened...

Day 1

I got yoga shorts for today. When I put them on I suddenly realized I had overestimated what size to purchase. They were huge in the waist. No big deal, I thought, so off to class. Everything is fine until I start to sweat. My yoga mat sticks to me....and I try to turn around for a sitting pose....and my pants get yanked down midway on my butt. The instructor, who apparently hasn't seen my posterior hanging out, says, "Stacy, move as quickly as you can to the resting posture!" So I'm trying to do what he says while yanking on my shorts and focusing on my breathing. (I sincerely apologize to those of you who didn't want this visual. Keep in mind, I am not attractive and I was sweating like a pack mule.) With resolve, and repositioned shorts, I 'm determined to give it another shot. Why? Because I kinda like it.

Day 2

My facebook status reads: "Bikram yoga hasn't killed me. I only wish it had." Today was my 2nd day for yoga ever. I'm in so much pain. Sure, many people do yoga and live to tell about it. What I have to wonder is did any of these people ever not want to pull their limbs from their body and beat themselves with them until they died? Because that's how I'm feeling right now. Plus, fat and out the money I paid for a month of sessions.

Day 3

I master my first pose! Standing with my toes facing forward, I breathe in. Lift right foot off the ground and pull toward my abdomen. Insert right toe into left spleen. Focus and pray for God to kill me. Stepping over my open fractures, the instructor says I'm doing very well. Interestingly, I go a full 24 hours without a headache...for the first time in over 5 years. I'm going back.

Day 4

Are you kidding me? The room is 108 degrees. The humidity is cranked. I'm beet red. But what the crap?! I've morphed into Elastagirl. A year ago I literally couldn't walk across my living room. Today I can balance on the ball of my foot while draping my other leg around my neck like an unnecessary scarf. Okay, maybe not, but still. In 4 days my abs are slightly defined, my arms are stronger and rumor has it there's muscle in my thighs. I feel healthier. Maybe that's because I've made an effort. Or maybe because I'm endorphin drunk. All I know is that Bikram Yoga is amazing. It's super hard - but I can do it. For right now that's enough.

Here's a picture of me at my last class. Do you like my headband? Or is it too much?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Water Doesn't Break

Toys break. I throw them away.

Appliances break and are replaced.

Glass breaks. Dishes break. Fingernails break. Pencils break.

Cars break down.

Hearts, dreams, and the will can be broken. Yet with resolve they reassemble.

But what about a country? What happens when it breaks? Or, better said, what happens when literally and figuratively, people break? They rip at the seams. Their bodies are crushed. They die. Or they mourn, wailing over brokenness that can't be patched up, replaced, thrown out, or ignored.

On Tuesday Haiti broke. It broke into pieces from the inside out. The earth's massive shift caused calamity, potentially the worst disaster in human history. That's right. In. Human. History.

After reading a missionary's blog (link below) I understand that driving down the street resembles the scene in Hotel Rwanda when the jeep, thought to be hitting rough terrain, was actually running over bodies strewn in the street. I saw the scene from the movie and nearly vomited. Though based on a true story it was easy to tell myself, "It's just a movie." But it wasn't. And right now in Haiti there is no pause button, no luxury of hitting stop on a remote to gather ones senses. (Visit the Castillo Family 's blog. They work with Northwest Haiti Christian Mission .)

I cried for Haiti - three days ago, two days ago, yesterday, this morning. I cried for people I don't know, but love, because Christ in me is compelled to do so.

As I would look for news reports on websites I was stunned to see advertising along the borders. Companies selling jewelry, weight loss, entertainment news. And just like when I watched Hotel Rwanda I wanted to vomit.

Broken Haiti. Can you imagine? Heat, dust, stench, and no clean water. Not just a drop, but gallons heaped upon each other is what I pray for these people. Biblically speaking, water is symbolic for the Holy Spirit. In both ways, Haiti, may it be available to drink in. Drink it in deeply.

To ask why this happened, for me, isn't the point. What I'm more willing to pray is, "God, show me how to focus my prayers for Haiti because I'm at a loss." Then God confirmed my instincts.

Water. Give them water.

So, for Dan and I, that's what we're going to do. Some friends of ours who provide water for poverty stricken areas are headed to Haiti to provide permanent clean water solutions. We are backing them financially.

Ironically, water in itself, doesn't break. Just like the Holy Spirit, it is poured out to saturate whatever it touches.

Figuratively speaking I've been drenched in the water of Haiti. Maybe it's the tears of God. Regardless, my broken heart is a constant reminder to pray. With every pang that sears my chest it's a reminder to beg God for mercy.

For water for dry throats, for life.

For water of the Spirit to reign down, now and always.

God is with you Haiti. Today, may there be water, fresh and clean. Because water doesn't break.

How are you praying for Haiti?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Breathe Deep

In interest of simplicity, take this in. Then, breathe deep. (Turn up your speakers & don't let the intro throw you.)

How do you think you'd be different if you were willing to just breathe Him in? I'll go first. I'd be calmer. Just before I yell, get angry, or generally lose it, I'd stop. I'd stop and say no to the nastiness that makes me anxious or depressed. I'd stop, calm down, and breathe Him in. It's something He's teaching me right now.

How about you?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Monday, January 4, 2010

Resolutions, SFL Style

(for Lana and Leslie, thanks for the advice)

Since the Mayan calendar says the world will end in 2012 I figure I only have 2 years to go out in style. So this year I have made some resolutions that seem to suit me. I'm putting my best Christmas Shoes forward and here's what I've decided.

My resolutions include:

1)HOT yoga. Who wants to pay $150 to sweat like a pig? Me! I'm going to be Elastagirl, only much more sarcastic, with the only sequin yoga pants in the room. There are some compromises I have had to make for this to happen. The greatest sacrifice: bike shorts. It has been a life long theory that spandex is a privilege, not a right, and that any clingy clothing should come with a disclaimer (read: weight limit). As someone who could stand to lose more than a few pounds I am not a proponent of the big is beautiful theory. The idea that ultra tight clothing makes me more attractive is a lie from the pit of hell. Believe this: if it bulges, shakes, ripples, or cottage cheeses it will be covered, bound and moo-mooed. Period. Until now.

2) Raw foods. I bought a juicer. Why I haven't thought to start my mornings with a fresh glass of kale, garlic and beet juice is any one's guess. The bonus about beginning my day this way is from now on, no one will knows for sure if I have brushed my teeth in the last Milena. Sure, I could be juicing apples, oranges, pears, etc. but what's the fun in that? To be healthy I am choosing sweat(as mentioned above) and vowing to drink pungent vegetables that smell like puke in a bottle. So far, so good.

3) No pets this year. We thought about getting the kids a Guinea Pig. But then figured they probably taste like chicken so decided it was a waste. This will be a pet-dander free home for all of 2010, given that I don't forget to shave my armpits in July and August. Someone remind me.

4) More Bible, less TV. For years I have been trying to find the hidden Biblical meaning in "Desperate Housewives" but have failed. I'm thinking C.S. Lewis could have helped me but as of late he is still dead. I hate when that happens. In all seriousness, media is too prominent in my life. What if Scripture molded my thinking instead of Mario Lopez? Sure, there won't be as many delightful erectile dysfunction commercials but I think I will survive, but just barely. I'll let you know.

5) Less ignoring of children, specifically my own. Given that as I write this they are in the living room doing only heaven knows what with Sharpies, but still. When I'm not wrongly annoyed because they are "in my way" I find they are awesome. I enjoy their company more than the distraction I put before them. This is not a hard resolution, or at least not today anyway.

So there you have it. It's 2010 and I'm already on my way to being a better person. God inspires it and meets me right where I am when it seems like drudgery. For most, resolutions are fleeting, which is understandable. But if being sick of sin is motivation to keep going, then I'm going. Surely I'll mess up along the way but I'm good with it. It's all a process.

What are your resolutions?

Speaking of ED commercials, here's one for the road....